Sunday, August 6, 2017

Todd Rundgren Live @ The Fillmore

A Wizard

A True Star

                                    December 9thLive @ the Fillmore

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren may be one of the most misunderstood icons in modern rock music. In a career that spans 50 years Rundgren is known as a producer as well as an artist. At age 16 he developed a passion for music and memorized Gilbert & Sullivan songs. He knew their entire libretto and became an outcast at the very same time he began to dig guitar-based rockers like the Beatles, Stones, and theYardbirds as well as the cool Philly sounds of The O’Jays and Delfonics. His first stab at fame was with Woody’s Truck Stop, it was a gig that lasted about eight months. By 1967 Rundgren formed the Nazz as way to open Pandora’s Box and become America’s answer to the Beatles. Along the way he had a spectacular alpha dog hit entitled Open My Eyes. It was covered by Roy Wood & the Move  and every other bar band across the stretch of the globe. Pretty soon he caught the eye of Albert Grossman who built Bearsville Studios near Woodstock and managed the careers of Bob Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin and others. At the time I didn’t care a hoot about al this and that but I dug this quirky little song entitled We Gotta Get You a Woman. It was deliriously stupid in a cool man-cave way. Nobody took it seriously because it was off the hook. I loved it! But when Todd’s 1971 masterpiece Something Anything hit the stores I was there, it was a stoned masterwork for the Todd-O-Matic . It contained Hello It’s Me, I Saw the Light, Couldn’t I Just Tell You and a whole box of other gems. And just as I thought Rundgren hit his power-pop stride, he switched gears with a Wizard, A True Star (one of Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time). It was psychedelic and soulful and totally whacked. I loved it. During this time Todd toured as a one man show followed by a full band treatment. He also took his new band Utopia on the road. I was lucky to see both versions though I never quite got into Utopia’s long and drawn instrumental excursions. When I mentioned this to the owner of my favorite record store, he simply stated that I did not understand more progressive music. He was probably right. Rundgren was known as an in-demand producer turning the knobs, bringing in big monitors, limiters, compressors even the kitchen sink. But one of his most amazing accomplishments was helping Grand Funk to become more serious about songwriting and musical craft. It was total genius to bring Donny Brewer out from behind the drum kit to lend another voice to the saga . We’re an American Band, Walk Like a Man, Some Kind a Wonderful were stone gems that kept the Grand Funk name up front up to this day on oldies stations across the planet. But now I’m on the cusp of seeing my hero Todd Rundgren one more time at the Fillmore in Detroit, can we still be friends?    
Prairie Prince

A full house greeted Todd Rundgren as walked onto the stage. It was a true love fest between the artist and his disciples. The show opened with an immaculate reading of I Saw the Light. Rundgren was in good voice though he sings at a lower key that when he first released it. Back then, he sounded like a brassy Carole King, now his baritone is strong and convincing and there is no chance for any cool falsetto. The background harmonies were heavenly with all five of the musicians adding their vocal parts. The crowd was ecstatic.
Kasim Sulton 

A full house greeted Todd Rundgren as walked onto the stage. It was a true love fest between the artist and his disciples. The show opened with an immaculate reading of I Saw the Light. Rundgren was in good voice though he sings at a lower key that when he first released it. Back then, he sounded like a brassy Carole King, now his baritone is strong and convincing and there is no chance for any cool falsetto. The background harmonies were heavenly with all five of the musicians adding their vocal parts. The crowd was ecstatic.
The band consisted Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals), John Ferenzik (keyboards, vocals), Jesse Gress (guitar, vocals), Prairie Prince (drums, shades) and Todd Rundgren. It was an economical outfit who could do more with less, a small band with a big band cluster of sounds. Rundgren tipped his hat to his Philly roots with a powerful execution of Open My Eyes, the great power pop chestnut by the Nazz, it was one of the highlights of 1968.
Rundgren enjoyed bantering with the crowd especially with his version of kidding on the square, mocking his own long career in the business.
“This is the walking dead star for those that have been in a coma for 45 year.  Do you think something is wrong with Detroit; nothing is wrong with Detroit! If these songs are what you hoped for, a greatest hits list, then the show is already half over!”
The next song was a popular track on Something/Anything entitled, It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference. Todd sang without his guitar, the tempo was slowed down, soulful and passionate. It’s about love gone wrong.
Buffalo Grass is an incredible rocker about truth revealed. It has a big throbbing bassline, keyboard trills and syncopated rhythms that sound like Buffalo crossing the trails. It got real, aided by an existential guitar workout with an exquisite interplay between Rundgren and Gress. This segued into Can We Still Be Friends from the Hermit of Mink Hollow LP…the piano led trip was followed by brilliant accapella harmonies.
Todd continued the rap;
“Now we are actively defying the 45 year old coma…and I just did the setlist back stage. Who is here for Trump... President Sphincter Head.”
Todd changes course with a rap about sex police, the separation of church and state and getting the fundamentalists.
You think your messing with sweet clean and guilty.” It was all done tongue in  cheek. At one point Todd intoned, “This is the Kasim Sulton Show.“
Fascist Christ is down in the playlist but it strikes a chord with Rundgren’s devotees. Todd does a bit of accapella singing “Old time religion, it’s good enough for me” and gets the crowd worked up and singing along.
Bang the Drum is a goof but it’s a durable and loveable ode to childhood memories, using music to drift away from the boredom of the classroom. Rundgren has sung it at several of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band concerts, they remain good friends to this day..
Prairie Prince deserves special mention, he’s a superb drummer and a founding member of the Tubes and a founding member of Journey and he’s performed with Todd Rundgren on many occasions. Tonight he was in great form, dressed up in white cardboard glasses tinted with a pink lens. It was his alternate rebellion; like a woman dressed to the nines but she’s wearing boxer shorts underneath.
Rundgren starts another rap near the end of the show, “Yes, I was from Philly”, then shifts to a 12 bar blues, followed by a funked up big bottom soul music reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone. Rundgren’s guitar work is phenomenal, I forgot just how powerful he was and how form and technique give way to his uncommon harmonics. He can play it soft and cool as well as hard and wet. He is truly a heavy metal rocker, an unappreciated  guitar god!
Todd funks up the show with the spectacular Sometimes I Don’t Know How to Feel. It is an ode to revelation and conquering fear. The next big treat was Todd’s homage to soul music. He conjures up the colorful images of soul music in the sixties; lots of color and big bad afros.  He recalls the days when The Impressions, Miracles and Marvin Gaye created these incredible harmonies and big messages about freedom. Todd created a winning triumvirate of soul music that included I’m So Proud, Ooo Baby Baby and I Want You. He finished up the night with two of his greatest songs, Couldn’t I Just Tell You and Hello It’s Me. He also encored an anti-war epoch with the lyric, “I Won’t Go to War.” It was filled with rage, anger and truth. The night was a flawed masterpiece, a triumph that incorporated good vibes, great songs and social consciousness. It was perfect!
Peace & Love
Bo White

John Sinclair In Amsterdam - The Interview


John Sinclair Interview by Bo White

Responses @ 420 Café, Amsterdam, February 7, 2011

John will be performing @ White’s Bar Saturday November 3rd with the legendary Blues Creators.  Sinclair’s DVD Twenty To Life will be screened throughout the evening

“To be literate in today's world is a political statement."

  - John Sinclair

John Sinclair

Affiant Sayeth Not

At 69 years of age John Sinclair shows no signs of slowing down. Besides touring the world with a loose and ever changing aggregation of Blues Scholars , Jazz masters and Rock & Rollers, Sinclair continues to release CDs, books, articles and programs and produces podcasts and internet radio programs. John has performed in Saginaw several times and possesses a historic grasp of Michigan culture from an international perspective. Sinclair is a sweet man of peace who is also a realist. From his early days at Trans Love commune, managing the MC5 and befriending John Lennon, Sinclair has kept his hand on the pulse of our crumbling empire. He is quick to point out that that America, like ancient Rome, has lost sight of its democratic principles and given the ruling class carte blanche to rob our coffers. He is also a man of the earth, a happy and contented grandfather who values love and friendship above all else

 John – what have you been up to since 20 to Life was released?

The film was released in 2007 and quickly faded into media oblivion. Since then I have continued my travels, performing around the USA and in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Genoa, Rome, Santiago, Tokyo, Seville, Barcelona, Madrid and wherever they will have me. I’m based in Amsterdam and London when I’m not in Detroit, where I just completed a two-year Poet in Residence term at the Bohemian National Home and am now based at the Trans-Love Energies Compassionate Care Center at 1486 Gratiot in Detroit. I now write a bi-weekly column for the Detroit Metro Times called HIGHER GROUND.

 It must have stirred up renewed interest in your life and times?

Not so much. The filmmaker made a bad deal to get it completed and the distribution was a big let-down, plus there were no theatrical screenings & very few festival screenings, so not much notice was attracted to the film nor, by extension, to myself.

Have you released any new music, poetry or writings?

As a performer I continue to work with diverse bands in Amsterdam, London, New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Mississippi. Some of them play my arrangements, some improvise jazz to my texts, some play straight-out blues to my poems. In the past three years I’ve performed in ensembles with David Kimbrough, Afrissippi, the Black Crowes, Marshall Allen, Elliott Levin, Daniel Carter, Ras Moshe, Sabeer Mateen, 101 Runners, Pinkeye Orchestra, Planet D Nonet, Carlo Ditta, Dr. Prof. Barry Kaiser, Tom Worrell, Vincente Pino, Leslie Lopez, Steve Fly, the Dirty Strangers, Gary Lammin, Charles Shaar Murray, Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, Primal Scream, DKT/MC5, Youth, Mark Ritsema, Angelo Olivieri, Raskolnikov, and people I can’t even remember right now. I have bands of Blues Scholars in Amsterdam, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Oxford, Mississippi.

I’ve issued two books—IT’S ALL GOOD: A JOHN SINCLAIR READER and SUN RA INTERVIEWS & ESSAYS with Headpress in London. SUN RA has just been translated into Spanish and issued by Libertos Editorial. My “underground classic” book, GUITAR ARMY, was reissued in a 35th anniversary edition by Feral House/Process Books in 2007 and has been translated now into Italian, Spanish and French. BookBeat in Detroit will be bringing out my poetry & prose collection SONG OF PRAISE: HOMAGE TO JOHN COLTRANE, and Ecstatic Peace Press is planning to issue the completed first half of my Monk work in verse, always know: a book of monk. And Dotty Oliver in Little Rock is publishing my New Orleans prose collection, MARDI GRAS TO THE WORLD, later this year.

I’ve issued three CDs since 2007—TEARING DOWN THE SHRINE OF TRUTH & BEAUTY with the Pinkeye Orchestra (LocoGnosis Records); DETROIT LIFE with the Motor City Blues Scholars (No Cover Records); and VIPER MADNESS with the Planet D Nonet (No Cover). My new record is called LET’S GO GET ‘EM by John Sinclair & His International Blues Scholars and will be released by No Cover in March, and I’m just now completing a new album project with a producer in London known as Youth that I’m calling BEATNIK YOUTH.

I’ve also completed a work begun in 1982: a book of blues verse titled FATTENING FROGS FOR SNAKES that’s in four sections, each one set to music and recorded with a different ensemble in New Orleans, Detroit, Oxford and Clarksville, Mississippi. I’m assembling the package into a box set as we speak

 Are you still involved in radio? Do you see radio as an effective medium to get your message and your poetry and music to a wider audience?

I also program & produce regular podcasts for two internet radio stations, Radio Free Amsterdam and Detroit Life Radio, including weekly installments of the John Sinclair Radio Show, Sinclair On The Air and Jazz from the Hempshopper. I also collect and edit for broadcast blues & jazz programs by deejays present & past that I enjoy. I post one one-hour program each day on each of the two stations.

 With the advent of file sharing do you see a shift in the relationship between record companies and artists like yourself?

Yes: basically there is none in terms of what used to be, i.e., with the possibility of getting paid. My best experience is to be able to make the records and get someone to press some of them at no cost to myself.

Last time we talked you seemed to paint a bleak picture of our future based on the ascendance of powerful business-led coalitions and the financial Institutions that control our government. In the past year Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine, has written several articles and a book Griftopia that has exposed Wall Street’s culpability in destroying America from within. Are you familiar with Taibbi’s work? Why aren’t people in an uproar over the theft of our country? 

That’s a question I’m unable to answer. I know exactly how fucked up this country is, but the white people love it this way and they won’t change for anything.

You had a bleak outlook on Detroit's recovery in the BBC documentary Requiem for Detroit. Do you still feel there is no hope for Detroit and other cities that were built on the auto industry?

I don’t know about the other ones, but Detroit is not going to come back. It’s over. What becomes of the fabulous ruins of Detroit may be something interesting but it will not be economically viable again.

 What keeps bringing you back to Michigan?

I have a beloved daughter & granddaughter in Detroit and hundreds of friends made over the past 50 years. My estranged wife Penny Sinclair lives in Detroit and I like to see her when I can. Also, I can work in and around Detroit and use it as a base to tour different parts of the country and make enough dollars to maintain my very frugal lifestyle while I’m in Amsterdam & London.

 What role could music/poetry play in the recovery of Michigan….the country? Are established artists important to our culture? Should they look for success elsewhere? Can our artists, poets and musicians be heard over the din of mass produced and disposable music that dominates the corporate airwaves?


Over the past ten years, Europe has shown an interest in the downfall of Detroit and the auto industry. Documentaries have been filmed, photographers have come to document the urban decay. Do you feel that their interest is based in aesthetics, or are they sincerely concerned with what seems to be the end of an era? Are they infatuated or concerned?

(A) Aesthetics. (B) They are documentarians.

Do you keep in touch with any of your friends from the days of the MC5 and Trans Love?

Yes. An astonishing number of us are still alive, although we’ve recently lost people like James Semark of the Artists Workshop, Stanley the Mad Hatter of the Grande. Eastown and Second Chance Ballrooms, Bruce Cohen and others. I consider Wayne Kramer of the MC5 one of my closest friends, ditto for Charles Moore of the Detroit Artists Workshop, Pun Plamondon of the White Panther Party, Marton Gross and Johnny Evans of the Urbations, Cary Loren of Destroy All Monsters, and many others whom I see in Michigan and around the country on my travels.

 Do you see any signs that our counter culture/peace movement is growing and establishing a wider base of support?


 Do you still collaborate with your ex-wife Leni?

I remain a terrific fan of her photography and often recommend her work to people publishing various projects of mine.

Any last comments?

I’m happy to be alive in an old age I never anticipated nor expected, I’m ecstatic to be a grandfather, I only do the things I want to do and don’t do the things I don’t want to do, I’m borne along in life by my hundreds of friends all over the western world and generally speaking I’m happy as a clam. Further, Affiant sayeth not.

Mick Furlo is BACK!

                                        Our Greatest Bands

                                           Mick Furlo is Back

Old Friends & New Beginnings

Mick Furlo is a legendary presence in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. In an interview with Review Magazine, Mick lays it all out from the rush of success in the eighties to the brush national exposure in the nineties to the insouciance of brought on by the new millennium squeeze. Nothing mattered anymore when tea parties and stock markets crashed and our dreams became smaller. We were taken in by the dark knight of the senses and the rot set in, even our music could not feed us. In the digital world, songs became spare change. We were all drifting. Mick Furlo knew it instinctively; he’d seen it before, it was the rot that opened the wound… but lens had changed again. Mick gave up the poison nectar and his vision cleared and he was aware of an inner “presence” of something or someone and it felt like love and healing. This led to Mick Furlo’s Old Friends and New Beginnings show @ White’s Bar on October 10th with special guests The Crofton, Stoltz and Nash Band.

Mick did a phone interview in anticipation of the event. Here’s his story.

The Mick Furlo Band was one of the top draws in the eighties alongside, the Flies, My Dog Bob and the Burdons. The musicians were incredibly gifted; Donny Brown, drums and vocals; Rick Brown, bass guitar and vocals; Bob Merrill guitar and vocals (later replaced by Dean Vanston); Iris Furlo, violin, keyboards and vocals. Mick was the singer and guitarist and he wrote many of their original songs.

 Mick explained the dynamics of the band. “Everyone sang and had a good ear which made the vocal harmony easy. Donny was especially good at arranging vocals. In those days we liked to cover modern rock, the type popular among college students. We also knew we had to be in touch with the top 40 charts to play in the tri-city area.”

The band’s popularity soared almost immediately. They could play and perfect different styles of music from country rockers like Charlie Daniels Marshall Tucker to classic rock to power ballads and old time rock & roll rock & roll. Iris’ incredible versatility allowed the band to stretch out and take chances.  She had a great voice with a powerful range. Mick knew that Iris was a strong presence in the band. He explains, “Iris’s voice was a strong point  at the time so I started to write a few  for her to sing. The songs went over pretty well and we kept them in the playlist.” 

The band was on a roll between 1983 and 1990. They mixed originals with covers of Joe Jackson, The Tubes, the Motels, the Police, Heart and the Pretenders. However, things changed when Iris left the band. Mick explains, “When Iris became pregnant with our son Cory, we knew we had only a short time to revamp the song list, knowing we could never replace her we remained a four piece and that’s when we decided to put more of a focus on original material.”

In 1988, the band wrote over a dozen songs and went to Chicago to record their first album. To this day, Mick recalls that time fondly. He recorded at the Chicago Recording Company on Dearborn Street. Tom Hanson recorded the band. CJ Vanston (Dean’s brother) was part of the recording process. Mick recalls, “CJ added keyboard parts to about half of the songs. He’s been living in Chicago doing session work for the huge advertising market out there. At one point CJ said I never listen to anything and then he put his rig up on the control booth and blew everyone’s mind. He’d tell the engineer what to do – a little more ambience please, more bottom etc. He was fabulous. It was a graveyard shift – 8pm  to 3 or 4 in the morning for a couple of weeks, it cost $10,000!”

Shortly thereafter Donny and Dean decided to move on so Mick replaced them with two excellent musicians, Brad Silverthorn on drums and A.J. Dunning on guitar. It brought different points of view that helped the band find its own mark. Mick felt the band was different but still very good. They recorded a mini album of original songs that enabled them to do a few showcase gigs in Chicago. The promoter was Prism out of Ann Arbor. “We opened for a few national acts and my favorite was opening for Adrian Belew in East Lansing.” Marty Essen from Twin City Talent was Mick’s manager and he did get Mick and the band on a tour in the winter of 1990. They had a big stretch van and toured several southern states. Mick recalls it as a great experience but then the rot set in. Mick recalls, “We never got a deal. We were told that we were being shopped around. Kelly Millionis was part of it. He made contacts with the Chicago Recording Company, MTV and then he bounced to Los Angeles. He knew a lot of people like the Rapanos family who were prominent in Midland. Kelly had a flat in the Town House in the Marina Towers and worked from there. Millionis Industries produced, manufactured and marketed Invisible to You, a great album chuck full with great singing gorgeous harmonies and lyrical sophistication. The song list included:

Dream of Our Own, When Will We Learn, Let It Rain, It’s a Beautiful Day, See You Walk Away, Calling Out Your Name, I Feel Good, Starting All Over (Again), Say Goodbye, and Invisible to You.

Several of those songs are on You Tube. Check it out and astound to the great harmonies, musicianship and Mick’s incredible vocals.

 On the cusp of something bigger, the band fell apart and went their separate ways. Mick took like a boxer who got sucker punched. He could only say,  “All things come to an end and we were done by 1990.”

Mick was devastated; his dream had become a distant dark cloud in his horizon. In his mind’s eye, he looked for salvation, music was his life,it coursed through his veins like blood to oxygen. Gradually he regained his his focus to developing the club scene through his time at Zinggers and other clubs. He brought in national bands and had a great time getting swapping stories with Rick Derringer who gained fame from  his hit making years with the McCoys (Hang on Sloopy) and Johnny Winter (Still Alive and Well and Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo.

CODA: Mick Furlo has something to say…

Now some 25 years later I started writing again. Being much older now I figured do it now so I’m not sorry later. The people I’m working with are a joy to be with. I want to introduce the band; My old friend and Bro Mark Krawczyk, bass; Jeff Coty drums, Tim Borocko, guitar, Maye Donovan (vocals), Cheryl Lyons, vocals, percussion and guitar. The material is a bit different than anything I’ve done before. It’s a sort of blues funk. It’s the Mick Furlo Band!

Bill Crofton also weighed in with his thoughts…

Jack Nash and I had mutual friends dating back to junior high and Daniels Den in the mid 60's. We were never in the same band, but knew each other, had mutual respect and a friendly relationship. As our careers blossomed and we both raised our families we would see each other at civic functions and events, our conversation would always gravitate to music. We both had cruised in and out of the music scene at 5 and 10 year intervals as family and business obligations would allow.
  In the Fall of 2003 Jack and I put a little combo together to do some fundraisers and I just was not going to take no for an answer. We were fortunate to have two other very talented people in the mix, Donna Taylor and Tom Dolson, who are real pros. They elevated us to where that band took a life of its own.
  Jack, however, continued to tour and record with the Mysterians and Robert Lee Jazz Band but about  three months ago Jack called and said it was time for “another tour“ and he wasn't taking no for an answer.  We were fortunate to have all our lives intersect at this time with a chemistry that is infectious.

 I’ve known Mick Furlo since I was in about the 6th grade. His older brother Tony was the lead singer in my first band. We played outside Montgomery Ward for their grand opening in about 1963. Mick was there with his mom, dad and all the Furlo boys. Mick went on to tour professionally and has written and recorded many songs. This event is a coming out party for The Crofton Stoltz and Nash Band and we are looking forward to open for Mick Furlo. He is doing a show with all his new original material. This is an event, a story of old friends and new beginnings.

All of My Stories - Michael Roberts Hits the Seet Spot

All of My Stories

Michael Robertson

Michael Robertson is one half of a great brother team that includes his younger sibling Scott Robertson. Michael has a powerful contralto that hits the pocket with nuance and fire; he’s a perfect lead singer. Scott can sing lead or harmony. He’s one of the great tenors in rock & roll. I first got to know them as the Robertson Brothers and within a year or so they caught fire as Maybe August, supplementing the band with Roscoe Selley a harpist extraordinaire and a great singer. Keith Carolyn became the bass player and he laid down the bottom like a wrench putting the torque on a nut. The drummer was cool and laid back. But that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone. Now Michael is older and wiser. He’s eschewed the pomp and circumstance of a travelling band and decided to focus on lyrics, tones and the language of the country born of heart, hearth and struggle. The cover has a perfect black & white hue in sepia tones, Michael’s hair is windblown and impervious to the overgrown grasses and haggard trees.

The disc opens with the title song All My Stories. This is the plugged in version with Don Rich country style pickin’, the musicians let the instruments breathe and stretch out. The unison vocals of Robertson and Honesty Elliot shine softly above the instruments. This is a mature song cycle that speaks to loving as opposed to lust and loss for what is inevitable.

Highway Song is a precious diamond in the rough. The cry of the lap steel sets the tone in sepia color with Dylanesque charm and Al Cooper organ splashes. Robertson builds those stately notes big and beautiful and Selley’s lonely harp sings to the night.

Sirens hijack my attempts to fly

Those days we swore we’d never come back

Truth was fiction and fiction was fact

Big screens and real estate

How’d the hell did we get here

We drank to the future and pretended we didn’t know

We laughed as the bridges burned

And the lessons we learned

Take your maps and pictures and throw them away

Old Man sounds like a Rolling Stones outtake on the Honky Tonk Women sessions. Michael is doing his Keith Richards, lurking in the shadows with and bemoans his lost youth while looking back on his career. He’s still a rebel. This is great singing and great playing. Everyone in this project is a monster musician!

It wasn’t so long ago

We were young men

Frisky and ready to take on the establishment

Lines on our face don’t stop us from digging it.

Old man I don’t give a goddam

We all look into the mirror eventually

Sale on Salvation is a Maybe August song excavated and put in its proper place and time. Michael strums the acoustic and begins to sing as the organ splashes the backdrop. The lyrics are clever and the singer’s voice is road hard. There is a couplet within the song that was quite controversial back in the day, “shoot any more liberals” use to contain a naughty word.

We got a sale on salvation all of this week

So they‘re flying out the door as fast as we speak

If I can just keep my tongue out of my cheek

I might not be condemned to eternal damnation

But the song ends well enough with a rendition of Amen

Its Not What You Think is simply incredible. It opens up with Robertson’s lap steel and mindful strumming. Michael’s voice has aged well like a fine whisky and it parrells his wisdom for the ages. It’s our only time, our only life. It’s a song of sepia tones and ugly truths; a woman with a baby and a boss with a libido.  Robertson plays the lap steel and it whines in tune with the sadness and suffering. He reaches for the heavens. It’s a cry for life.

Michael inserts …

There once was a man from Nantucket

Kept all his dreams in a bucket

One day he woke up and said

Its funny how there is no one to blame

It is what it is and

It’s not what you think

Blame on You has a tightened up percussion, punctuated drum beat like Archie Bell & the Drells on steroids. Acoustic/electric guitar flourishes ring out.  Robertson is at his angriest best when he sings about his pain and getting away from words. The holes in your hands lyric appear to be a reference to Jesus or to suffering.

Get from your head to a place I understand

Get down from the mountain where you stand

Maybe I’ll just turn and walk

Like I don’t give a damn away

Little Man opens with a sweet circular riff followed by Michael’s voice – the drummer is in the pocket and the slide guitar soars like an eagle in flight. This is an ode to a father and son, a true agape, in the vein of Cat Stevens’ Over Young.

Little Man, Little Man

Look at you now

Before you know it

You’ll have stories like me

Little Man Little Man

You won’t know how fast it will be

Somedays you’ll wake up and outshine the sun

Little Man,  I already know

Shut Up and Go to Sleep has a great guitar riff that repeats and brings it all home. Incessant drums and high hat lead the charge, great energy and a lot of fun. This involves kidding in the square, underneath it all are some very serious issues.

I left the Misses to Mr. Right

Hand cut to the Camaro

Parked out of sight

She was screaming out something

And I was trying to steer

There’s got to be someplace I belong

But I know it ain’t here

All My Stories (acoustic) is a masterpiece similar to Van Morrison’s You Stoned Me (like jelly roll). This alternate acoustic take is the most incredible song I’ve heard in years. Now I know for sure there is a spirit of heavenly love and bliss. It is in those soft voices that reassure us. Michael Robertson is the seeker and he knows true love can last way past the heat.

Tonight I lie Down on my bed

Escape the mantra in my head

The voice outside sounds just like you

Saying some dreams still come true

But you know all my stories

Some day the voices just won’t leave

They come to me and say…just breathe

Take me now for what I am

The shadow of a better man

Waiting here for you to save me

Take me now for what we’ll be

A better you and a better me

Michael Robertson and Honesty Elliot teamed up to create a musical landscape of harmony and peace. This is adult music and adult thoughts. What’s next, old How will we wear it?

Peace & Love

Bo White

Sean Forbes Landmark CD Perfect Imperfection


Sean Forbes

Perfect Imperfection

Sean Forbes grew up in a musical family. His father Scott and Uncle Dennis founded the iconic Forbes Brothers Band giving country rock new meaning and substance. Both Scott and Dennis are Michigan rockers at heart and have compiled impressive songwriting credits. Dennis is the techno wizard of the clan and engineered some of Bob Seger’s best recordings from the seventies. Given the Forbes family history Sean was destined to become a musician. It was in his blood like oxygen is to breathing. He’s been charting his path since toddlerhood when he showed an affinity for beating on the drums. For Sean it was the roar that lies on the other side of silence. It helped him to defeat the dark solitude of being deaf. At times it could be heavy like living in a cave and not being wanted. Yet he was loved dearly and his parents helped him go beyond those moments in which he felt small and frail. As his keening senses evolved, he could smell the air of the house he was born into. Sean has an uncanny power to feel voice tones and unearth vibrations hidden from others. He could feel the phantom buzz and for him it was an elegant surrender to his musical heritage.  Sean learned about love from his parents and he became a champion of those who are not loved. It is no small coincidence that Sean founded the Deaf Professional Artists Network (D-PAN). It is an organization that supports the arts and sciences to people who are deaf. D-Pan has created a network of services and learning opportunities for anyone interested in pursuing a dream

Sean’s first full length CD Prefect Imperfection is the culmination of a life long quest for the lost chords, beats and rhythms derived from the universal note. In making the music in his mind, Sean has created an entirely new genre of musical expression. There is nothing past or present that can compare to what Forbes has dished out on his platter, a feast for the gods; a search for the Holy Grail. Forbes is an alchemist forging an innovation never imagined; a disciple of Mary Shelly imparting the secrets of love and immortality. Forbes has created a new living/pulsating work of art. He is a lone genius crafting rhythmic patterns, music for the soul. Pay attention, this just may be the last great musical innovation in our lifetime. Forbes may be a post-modern Robert Johnson standing at the crossroads between sound and silence. Forbes is beginning to understand that he is not the sum of other people’s prescriptions and that dialectical dilemmas exist in the music biz; rebel versus slave; to dominate versus being victimized. He is on a moral high ground, making choices to help others through D-PAN. His heart reaches out and touches a deep well of love and peace that still exists for humanity. It is a brave new world in which a very literal culture takes more stock in material acquisition and the cult of celebrity over deep moral interests. It can prove to be unsatisfying. In this world water is only H20. Forbes is the exception to the rule. He is deeply aware of his longings, his selfdom. You can feel it in his beats and read it in his lyrics. Scott now lives in a complex web of relationships never before imagined from Eminem and Stevie Wonder to actress and mambo queen Marlee Matlin. Yet through all this buzz of fame and notoriety, Sean has kept his head on straight. It’s deeply imbedded in his genetic code.

His music tells a story of struggle and triumph.. Forbes is able to bring his head and body together and move from the heart. The message is transcendent

We Interrupt This Program

The disc opens with a statement by Franklin Delano Roosevelt recorded at his First Inaugural Address in 1933…

“So first of all, let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

This is a catchy mid-tempo rap with rock steady beats with light percussion and synthesized clips and washes

I’m Deaf

Deafer than Def Jam. This is a love song, a message to everyone who is hearing impaired and anyone who misunderstands the needs and strengths of people who are deaf. The emotions run high and are not sugar coated or minimalized. Sean’s message is not all about peace and love. It’s about frustration, communication and do-gooders who invalidate differences. Sean admits that he isn’t about to let anyone discount his intelligence or his craft. He admits that his hands talk dirty, so do mine, like a middle finger salute. But Forbes shifts gears and lists of people who have inspired him such as Jim Abbott, Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder. The cat on the keyboards pounds out minor chords and fills out the soundscape. At the Coda he plays a more intricate phrasing that conveys a deeply felt emotional valence

Crazy About You

The music is sophisticated minimalist phrasings reminiscent of early 10CC. Forbes vocals are up front in the mix. Female singers enter the song with a sultry chorus

Crazy About You

Crazy About You 

Crazy About You (I can never get enough)

Love the line about the struggles of maintaining a deep love relationship –

Building a foundation

But there’s no furniture in the house


Do You Know What I Mean

Forbes handles the 100 mile an hour breakneck speed verses. His vocal is stylistically adroit and powerful, almost breathless. The sing/song chorus has the hooks. Howard Kaylan would be proud and smilin’

 Do you know what mean

Watch These Hands

 This song has a 59 second interlude (chill out) motif that has an unmistakable Stevie Wonder vibe. It’s a song about real communication, not the newspeak and doublethink predicted by Orwell and others so many years ago. Forbes attempts to communicate deeply, almost religiously instead of obfuscating and attempting to control thinking. He has hands that talk, lips that move and eyes that see. He leads us by the nose to rediscover the non-verbal ways of telling a story. Whew this is a double plus good belly feel.

Def Deaf Girls

Forbes is signifying about more than recognizing the sensuous delights of deaf girls; this is loin bumping, tongue-twisting and deep throated eroticism. It is an ethological imperative; our instinct to be social and merge with others. This is a cultural coming of age statement, a signal that the train is coming down the track and speeding through the tunnel; hopping in the backseat for some homegrown lovin’. Forbes gets that familiar groove pulsating with the beat. It’s vice tight and fits just right, like jellyroll rockin’ my soul. Lord Have Mercy.

Bob Dylan was the First Rapper

Great song with a stolen verse from Dylan’s apocalyptic Subterranean Homesick Blues. The chorus with unison singing just sloppy enough to make it real


Gordy Garris has a great New CD - Never Give Up

Gordy Garris

Acoustic strum

Garris learned the hard way, feeling his way through a thicket of popsters from Andy Reed, the Legal Matters, Chris Zehnder and Donny Brown. They own the crown of creation in the backwoods of the Great Lakes Bay Region even when people are not listening closely. This writer has heard the word and bows down to the great wealth of music in our own backyards. Andy Reed is an icon to me and his productions are incredibly intricate. The delicate soundscape he creates is right on par with Alex Chilton, Big Star and the early power pop of The Frost, an incredibly gifted band that included Dick Wagner, Donny Hartman, Gordy Garris, and Bobby Rigg.  As fate would have Gordy Garris Jr. has inherited his father’s gift for music, harmony and lyricism. This document is a testament to the abiding craft that has emerged in the hills and valleys of Bay City, Midland and Saginaw.

Let me in is a great opener. “It’s you – you will let me in”.  Garris has a fine tenor that can reach the high notes without any squawk’s and strain. The drum brings in a subtle backbeat, followed with electric guitar, bass, piano, and Maiya Kauffman’s understated violin. Nice Riff. Garris intones “No one there to save you now, just to find your way.” This is a song of recovery and hope. The message is powerful. “When your dreams all fail and you lost your way, don’t give up on your dreams”.  Good times open with a reggae beat and a throbbing bass guitar the singer becomes the song and his lyrical scripts convey hope even when it is painful. “If you waste your life thinking then you’ll miss out on the good times. Don’t miss out”.  In all that I want – Moving faster than the speed of light but you can’t catch her. She’s out of sight; she’s all that I want. Garris is in a funky Jones. He’s got it bad. The drummer provides a vocal counterpoint; creates a colorful landscape with Reeds red hot guitar clips.   Nobody’s there opens with what sounds like a church organ or a piano and violin. It has an eloquence that is captivating;

“Through the mist I saw nothing at all until I saw you standing there.

You’ve come along way – just to say – I’ll be there for you”

Garris has a sweet tenor and he sings like a bird. He’s grown in Leaps and Bounds as a singer/song writer. Andy Reed is hovering over it all, his engineering is fabulous. He positions the bass guitar for a thumping good bottom with a cool synth/guitar workout.  Stole my heart. Gordy’s piano trill is spare and tight; it gives Garris’ vocal space to breathe. I wrote the song for you and it’s the only thing I can do to let you know, know the truth you stole my heart. Garris’ tenor is strong and evocative. Garris piano and Maiya Kaufmann’s violin gives it substance and a major chord ambiance. Move me has an acapella intro. “Give won’t give in.” Acoustic strum is followed by tight drums and vocal aside, “The way you move me, the way you feel me.” His wondrous vocals are up front, he’s loose and ready to riff. Reeds command of the vocal harmonies is exquisite, incredible.

 Space – Scratch picking opens the song. It has a heavy bottom with a cool electric phantasm that leads to a heavy metal power pop eye opener. There is a nice E-string workout in the middle. Dick Wagner must be smiling up in those clouds. Garris goes environmental like Al Gore on an iceberg that’s melting. He’s worried about this crazy life. He surrounds me. Can’t you see (sings), what’s become of me?”  Wasted Man starts with a riff that sounds like Carlos Santana praying to the Heavens. Reed sings counterpoint to Garris and builds the harmonies with tremolo guitar accents and Kaufman’s wall of sound violin is exquisite, brilliant. Remember me; Garris opens with acoustic strumming and vocal harmonies with Reed. Garris recalls a past courtship that didn’t work out. Tears were over the memories. He won’t give in but he’s sitting on the fence. It doesn’t bode well. His tears were about fading memories. He does not want to give-in though he’s sitting on the fence afraid the egg will crack. It doesn’t bode well.

 Out of my mind Garris opens the song with electric guitar and a cool acoustic workout. The blended harmonies are exquisite. The drummer does a powerful double time riff like Mick Fleetwood pounding out the beat on Green Manalishi. There’s anger in the vocal. It’s about a failed relationship. Garris sings, “I must be out of my mind”.

The Coda:

Believe me. Sweet Piano trills and softened bass bring the song into context. The singer’s righteous tenor scaffolds the musical landscape of young love. Garris sings his heart out, “Don’t ever give up on me no matter what you do, I won’t give up on you”.

Gordy Garris has written great material that fits perfectly in this saga of love and loss . His singing is powerful. His tenor is strong. His writing is accomplished. He was able to build lyrical castles in each moment of this incredible song cycle. Garris is on his way up!


Take One! Arian Kerridge Book Review

                                               Tape’s rolling,

                                           Take One!

                            The recording life of Adrian Kerridge


Adrian Kerridge is an obscure English producer, hardly known outside of Great Britain despite his six decades of recording, arranging and producing rock & roll television scores and movies. Kerridge fashioned 14 chapters from 319 pages of his remembrances of the music industry. He first hit pay dirt in 1954, working as a young lad at IBC studios. He learned his chops and eventually bought Lansdowne Studio and through his ascendance, Kerridge solidified his ranking in the new British aristocracy and became a true musical icon. He initially befriended Joe Meek who taught Kerridge about close mic placement, multiple over-dubbing, direct placing of bass guitars, the compressor, and effects such as reverb and echo as well as sampling. Kerridge felt that Meek was a genius and that his life style as a hidden homosexual was cause for arrest and imprisonment. It made him a target in polite society. Kerridge and Meek became close friends and they collaborated on many of the sessions at the IBC studios. At high recording levels, the one quarter inch tape noise was in significant and it allowed Meek to create several composite overdubs with only a negligible loss of sound quality. This technique allowed singers such as Petula Clark and Shirley Bassey to belt out the lyrics. On February 3rd, 1967 Meek killed his landlady, Violet Shenton and then shot himself. At the time of his death, he possessed thousands of unreleased recordings that later became known as the Tea Chest Tapes.

Denis Preston owned the Lansdowne studios and it was an approved studio on the Musicians Union “fair list.” Though Kerridge never understood why it existed for studios and for what purpose.  However, Preston wanted to make Lansdowne the best-equipped studio for sound recording in London and in Europe. Denis conceded that George Martin (Beatle Producer) and Geoff Emerick (balance engineer who recorded the Beatles. Kerridge feels that they changed attitudes at Abbey Road, making more accessible

Chapter 9 was the most interesting part of the book as it was exclusively about the Dave Clark 5.  Kerridge first met the Dave Clark 5 in 1962 when they came into the studio for demo work. It turned out that Lansdowne was the first proper studio they experienced. Kerridge recorded several mono demos by the band and he told the group that he liked what they were doing. He felt the DC5 had a good sound and that the material “was there.” Mike Smith and Dave Clark were able to re-create their live sound. In an interview with Kerridge;

Clark explained, “When we first started we were writing songs and playing at American bases in the UK, at dance clubs and on the Mecca ballroom circuit which featured over 200 bands and catered to a million people a week throughout the UK. We were recording demos of publishers’ songs because they gave us free studio time to do our own songs.” The DC5 music, with that heavy upfront live sound became their audio signature was  that was eventually called the Tottenham Sound.” The first release was Mulberry Bush on EMI but as Kerridge said, “it lacked balls.” However, by 1963, the DC5 recorded Do You Love Me and it was stunning! Kerridge used a U47 for Mike Smith’s voice, three Mics on Dave Clark’s drums. It enabled Kerridge to place the dynamic mic inside the drum off center using equalization to achieve that thumping sound. Ther were double or triple tracked overdubs..

Dave Clark:

Mike was the most underrated great rock & roll singers. Mike didn’t really realize how good he was. There was no ego. We were all friends from way back. When we got the Tottenham Royal contract we were playing to six thousand people a night. It blew us away! Clark recalled, “I said to the boys that we will only go professional if we get two top-five records and we go out as the top of the bill act. We will stop while it is still fun and that is what we did in 1970. In 1964, the DC5 were selling 180,000 copies a day!

Freddie Mercury told Clark that the DC5 sound was his inspiration for Queen’s We Will Rock You with the stamping, clapping onto 20 tracks to get that stadium sound. It was DC5’s hit Bits and Pieces that inspired it all. In the sixties, Kerridge had a call from the Daily Mirror and the journalist asked,

“You record the Dave Clark Five.”

  “Yes, I do, I replied”

“He doesn’t play drums on his records

Kerridge retorted, “I have news for you, yes, he does and please don’t ring me at home again!”

The relationship between Lansdowne and the DC was immensely productive:

·        From 1963 to 1970 all the DC5 records and albums were recorded at Lansdowne

·        23 albums

·        over 30 global hit singles

·        100 million records sold

·        Over 100 Platinum, Gold and Silver discs awarded.

Kerridge described his experiences in Germany’s 60’s and Belgium in the mid 70s, recording material the new KPM Music Library and other libraries. He also describes with humor the numerous and artistic challenges, the variety of material from albums to commercial TV shows and musicians and artists that came through Lansdowne and the consequences of a rapidly expanding business. He paved the way for a generation of sound engineers. He is one of only two people to ever be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Professional Recording Services. The other was awarded to George Martin. Kerridge is meticulous in defining his golden moments throughout this incredible document, 319 pages that chronicle the life and times of this gracious yet humble man. Stay tuned for Volume Two. It is scheduled for publication in 2017 and is available at Barnes & Noble.


Robert White