Elvis Presley

Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight


PresleyThe King finally has a box set fit for a king. After years of such multidisc compilations as “I Believe — The Gospel Masters,” “The Complete ’68 Comeback Special,” “The Music of Elvis Presley — The 1950s,” “Elvis at the Movies” and “The Country Side of Elvis,” Legacy Recordings commemmorates what would have been the Mississippi Tupelo Flash’s 75th birthday with a career-spanning chronological sampler of 100 songs (incorporating the entire “30 #1 Hits” release) that keeps the singer’s forays in proportion to his artistic success.

An excellent perq to “Elvis 75 – Good Rockin’ Tonight” is the sessionography included in the 80-page booklet, which makes it possible to group tracks according to their respective guitarists, such as:

Original guitarist Scotty Moore. Beginning with the Sun single that gave birth to rockabilly, “That’s All Right,” Moore barnstormed through a 14-year parade of flat-out rockers including “Mystery Train,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.”

Hank Garland, quintessential Nashville studio guitarist. Garland got the call several times to come in for sessions from 1958 to 1961, when Presley was looking to expand his sound. It wasn’t long before Garland and Moore became a double-guitar team, exemplified by cuts such as “It’s Now or Never,” “Reconsider Baby” and “Little Sister.” Unfortunately, in 1961, a near-fatal car accident ended his career.

Southern soul guitarist Reggie Young. Before settling in Nashville, Young played in former Presley bassist Bill Black’s combo and then became house guitarist at Chips Moman’s American Studios, where the legendary single “Suspicious Minds” and the comeback LP “From Elvis in Memphis” were cut.

James Burton, “chicken pickin’ ” guitarist. The former Rick Nelson guitarist couldn’t play on the “Comeback” television special because of a prior commitment to Frank Sinatra, but a year later he agreed to assemble the Taking Care of Business band to play Vegas and ended up staying with Presley until the end. Some of The King’s best Americana is from this period, including versions of Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Joe Babcock’s “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water,” Mickey Newbury’s “An American Trilogy” and James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues.”

Sprinkled throughout the box are performances by Jerry Reed, Grady Martin, Harold Bradley, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey and others.gnm_end_bug

DISC ONE (1953-57)
1. My Happiness
2. That’s All Right
3. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
4. Good Rockin’ Tonight
5. Baby Let’s Play House
6. Mystery Train
7. I Forgot To Remember To Forget
8. I Got A Woman
9. Heartbreak Hotel
10. I Was The One
11. Blue Suede Shoes
12. My Baby Left Me
13. One-Sided Love Affair
14. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
15. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
16. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
17. Hound Dog
18. Don’t Be Cruel
19. Love Me Tender
20. Love Me
21. Paralyzed
22. Too Much
23. All Shook Up
24. Mean Woman Blues
25. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
26. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
27. One Night
28. Jailhouse Rock
29. Treat Me Nice
30. Blue Christmas
31. Don’t

DISC TWO (1958-62)
1. Hard Headed Woman
2. Trouble
3. King Creole
4. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
5. I Need Your Love Tonight
6. A Big Hunk O’ Love
7. (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
8. Stuck On You
9. A Mess Of Blues
10. It’s Now Or Never
11. Thrill Of Your Love
12. Such A Night
13. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
14. Reconsider Baby
15. Doin’ The Best I Can
16. Pocketful Of Rainbows
17. Surrender
18. Crying In The Chapel
19. I Feel So Bad
20. There’s Always Me
21. Judy
22. Can’t Help Falling In Love
23. (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame
24. Little Sister
25. Good Luck Charm
26. Suspicion
27. She’s Not You
28. Return To Sender

DISC THREE (1963-69)
1. Bossa Nova Baby
2. (You’re The) Devil In Disguise
3. (It’s A) Long Lonely Highway
4. I Need Somebody To Lean On
5. Viva Las Vegas
6. It Hurts Me
7. This Is My Heaven
8. Adam And Evil
9. How Great Thou Art
10. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
11. Guitar Man
12. Big Boss Man
13. Too Much Monkey Business
14. U.S. Male
15. If I Can Dream
16. Memories
17. Don’t Cry Daddy
18. In The Ghetto
19. Suspicious Minds
20. Stranger In My Own Home Town
21. Kentucky Rain
22. Only The Strong Survive

DISC FOUR (1970-77)
1. Polk Salad Annie (live)
2. The Fool
3. Funny How Time Slips Away
4. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
5. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (live)
6. I’m Leavin’
7. An American Trilogy (live)
8. Burning Love
9. Always On My Mind
10. Steamroller Blues (live)
11. Loving Arms
12. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
13. Promised Land
14. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
15. For The Heart
16. Hurt
17. Way Down
18. Unchained Melody (live)
19. A Little Less Conversation (JXL radio remix edit, 2002)

Total time: 4:35:03

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I See Hawks In L.A.

California Country

Western Seeds

For several years, I See Hawks in L.A. have been filling the void left in the Los Angeles country-rock scene by (the hopefully only hibernating) Beachwood Sparks.

On their third album, ISHLA have found confidence, maturity and their own identity. Considering the diverse backgrounds of the members and how they fell together so happenstance, the group stands poised to bring the dormant genre back.

They’re not alt country, psychedelic country or cowpunk, nor are they retro. But they’re ready to pick up the movement where it left off 30 years ago and run with it.

Friends such as Chris Hillman (mandolin), Rick Shea (various guitars) and Tommy Funderburk (background vocals) make sure a good time is had by all.

Whether cranking out rock-hard tunes like “Slash From Guns N’ Roses,” “Jackpot!” and “Barrier Reef” or mixing it up with introspection (“Midnight in Orlando”), geography (the title track), romance (“Golden Girl”) and documentary (“Byrd From West Virginia” — as in in Sen. Robert C. Byrd), ISHLA is a group to keep an eye out for.

1. Motorcycle Mama
2. Raised By Hippies
3. Midnight In Orlando
4. Slash From Guns N’ Roses
5. California Country
6. Golden Girl
7. Byrd From West Virginia
8. Jackpot!
9. The Donkey Song
10. Houston Romance
11. Hard Times (Are Here Again)
12. Barrier Reef
13. Take My Rest 

Total time: 1:02:14

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El Capitan

What Ails You


Poco meets Pink Floyd?

El Capitan, a San Francisco-based group of modern-day space cowboys, are on to something. After all, David Gilmour used a pedal steel on “Dark Side of the Moon’s” opener, “Breathe.”

Or is it Grateful Dead meets Yes? “What Ails You,” El Capitan’s first full-length, features a generous dose of fuzzed-out lap steel, sounding somewhat like Jerry Garcia’s “American Beauty”-era pedal steel; and its lyrics are esoteric enough to earn the Jon Anderson Seal of Approval. Get a load of this slice from “Silo Song”:

Salt wind dash along a pastel plain
On the feathers of an immigrant constellation
Over the siren flyways of the mariposa lane
Above an outta-place silo for the alpine grain

Rounding out the group’s well-thought-out, much-practiced sound are electric, resonator and acoustic guitars; banjo; harmonica; keyboards; accordion; violin; bass; and drums. But don’t let the rustic lineup fool you: This is about as far from bluegrass as possible.

Whatever planet El Capitan is from, rest assured they come in peace — to grab listeners with a tractor beam of solid musicianship, rural themes and laid-back melodies, and transport them to the far corners of the cosmos. At least until the CD ends.

1. Manzanita I
2. Osage Orange
3. Bonny Doon
4. May
5. Metronome
6. Cat’s Cradle
7. Silo Song
8. Key Of K
9. Manzanita II
10. Fare Alone Sound
11. Clementine Bells

Total time: 35:47

External Tracks
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Miles of Music

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Dog Days


After deconstructing and reconstructing itself not once but twice, BR549 is back as a leaner unit, with an album recorded differently than the others and a fresh outlook.

Opting to reunite as a quartet rather than a quintet, the remaining three original members (including the prodigal multi-instrumentalist who had left to be Bob Dylan’s pedal steel player) recruited a new bassist and started from scratch in the studio, without the usual new songs already broken in on tour.

All the personnel changes and time off seem to have been beneficial, as “Dog Days” is an invigorating batch of songs. The retro shtick has been toned way down, and there’s some genuine experimentation in the arrangements.

“Poison” sounds like it could be a damn good “O Brother, Where Art Thou” outtake. “Lower Broad St. Blues” is a perfect song for Dan Hicks to cover on his next album. The piss-and-vinegar “Leave It Alone” has some of the tastiest twang this side of Duane Eddy — but with all the verve of a classic Webb Wilder tune. Special guests the Jordanaires lend a gospel flavor to “The Devil and Me.” And any album that covers a Dave Edmunds song, in this case “A-1 on the Jukebox,” has got to be hip.

1. Poison
2. After The Hurricane
3. Lower Broad St. Blues
4. Leave It Alone
5. Bottom Of Priority
6. The Devil And Me
7. I’m Goin’ Down
8. You Are The Queen
9. Cajun Persuasion
10. A-1 On The Jukebox
11. Let Jesus Make You Breakfast

Total time: 37:04

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Carlos Guitarlos

Hell Can Wait


While some of the songs on his two solo albums undoubtedly are blues, the music of Guitarlos (aka Carlos Daniel Ayala) is unclassifiable — so much of it falls into the rock ’n’ roll, country, boogie-woogie, swing, R&B, Cajun, doo-wop, soul and Tex-Mex domains, as well as grey areas between. Like the one-sheet says: “File under roots/Americana/blues.”

His first solo album, 2003’s “Straight From the Heart,” was hailed as comeback of the year. To make a long story short: He went from member of Van Halen-immortalized 1980s L.A. punk-blues group Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs to down-and-out San Francisco street musician before pulling himself up by the seat of his pants and getting his act together.

Needless to say, this guy plays and sings with the conviction of someone who’s, well, been to hell and back. This is cut-the-crap, real-deal stuff — no posing, no corporate-dictated schlock.

Helping Guitarlos out with his sophomore effort (again released on Nomad, a label started by his nephew) are kindred musical spirits David Hidalgo and Gene Taylor, with occasional background vocals from Marcy Levy (who also duets on “I Found Someone”). Returning for production duties is Marc Doten, of Double Naught Spy Car fame.

1. Love Me From The Start
2. Got No Time
3. Get Back
4. Shake My Blue
5. Save A Dance
6. I Found Someone
7. Here I Come
8. Drinkin’ Again
9. Say You Love Me
10. Keep Me Satisfied
11. Woman On My Mind
12. My Old Dead Body
13. Baby’s Coming Back Home
14. Shake With My Baby
15. Making Better
16. I Feel Love
17. Sure Is Good
18. Hole In My Pocket
19. I’ve Been Dead Since You’ve Been Gone

Total time: 53:19

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