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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 5/31/2009

2 Dolls survive to rock another decade

Who d a thunk it?

The quintessential purveyors of glam and punk who are old enough to be the grandparents of every eyeliner-wearing kid rocker on the planet are out with a great new album.

The fact that the lone survivors of the original Dolls David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain are still alive is impressive enough considering their track record of excess. But given that their first album was in 1973 and they ve released just four studio discs since then, it s kind of a miracle that they re still kicking.

Ah, but they are, and Cause I Sez So is a fun release with a giddily diverse mix of Stonesy rockers, girl-group pop, reggae, a pair of what can only be described as classic rock style epics, and goofy dance rock.

Kicking off with two look-what-the-cat-dragged-in rockers that feature Johansen weighing in on world events with Muddy Bones, and a rant against surveillance cameras on the title track, the disc builds momentum to the climax of Making Rain and Drowning. The two songs are back to back and they re both dramatic and dynamic enough to, gulp, take seriously.

Fortunately in the middle of Drowning s desperate take on the obsession of love, Johansen tosses in this line, I m drowning/I m not waving hello/I ain t clowning around wit cha, mama that adds a little levity to the proceedings.

And that s the kind of touch only a canny veteran can provide. Listen up, kids, the Dolls ain t clowning around.

ROD LOCKWOOD

A 1968 Rolling Stone cover story had this to say about Johnny Winter when he was 24 and a hot item during a golden era for both rock and roll and the magazine itself: Imagine a 130-pound, cross-eyed albino bluesman with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest blues guitar you have ever heard.

Yes, that Johnny Winter the lanky bluesman from Beaumont, Texas, who occasionally played with his younger brother, rocker Edgar Winter. Neither of the Winter brothers has been a household name for years, if they ever were, even though for a brief time the brothers were one of the top concert draws in America both as individuals and when playing together.

This rollicking, two-disc anthology represents 40 years of music culled from at least six recording labels. It is a reminder of Johnny Winter s Southern-fried fury on guitar and his raspy vocals, the kind of stuff that takes you back to when rock was more about sweaty, blues-infused guitar solos and less about finesse, choreography, or pop.

Included is a 1970 studio version of one of Winter s signature songs, Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo, though it actually is much tamer than his live version of that song, and live covers of such hits as Jumpin Jack Flash and Johnny B. Goode.

Whether he s reinventing classics from the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, or Chuck Berry or jamming to his own material, Winter gets down and dirty with a lot of extended solos. He had a distinctive, gut-bucket style and was a strong, though somewhat overlooked and underrated Made in the USA counter balance to the British Invasion.

TOM HENRY

Horn-drenched Chicago blues infused with steady rhythms make the 11 tracks on this collection a potent treat. Horn power is not uncommon on the blues scene, but is most often featured in the jump blues style. Here the horns add lowdown oomph and a steady groove to accent the workmanlike if unexceptional vocals by James.

The instrumental work is all solid and tight, with eight originals by James. It s mostly high energy with a heaping helping of funk throughout and a touch of rap on one track.

Already honored with awards from Living Blues magazine as Most Outstanding Horns for each of the past four years, and recipient of three nominations from the Blues Foundation, this 47-minute package should net a few more accolades.

KEN ROSENBAUM



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