Little Steven is Releasing “Soulfire”

Little Steven

Steven Van Zandt rose to fame as “Miami Steve” during his work with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  But on a hiatus from that band, the guitarist and singer released several outstanding albums as a lead singer in the 1980s under the name “Little Steven.”  Now, after 18 years, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul are returning with a new album, Soulfire.

Soulfire features a collection of songs written for various purposes throughout the years.  The album features some of Little Steven’s versions of songs he helped write for Southside Johnny, such as “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” the latter of which Van Zandt wrote with Springsteen.

The music sounds like the rock and soul of his earlier albums. Van Zandt explained to Rolling Stone:  “I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”

I have always been a big fan of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. I first listened to his work because of his association with Springsteen.  But one listen to his first album made me a Little Steven fan.

Little Steven’s 1982 album Men Without Women was a great debut. Yet, 1984’s Voice of America is one of my all-time favorite albums. Voice of America included fantastic songs like “Out of the Darkness,” which appeared as a video on MTV, and “I am a Patriot,” later covered by Jackson Browne and by Pearl Jam.

I also liked Little Steven’s Freedom – No Compromise (1987), which  continued building upon Van Zandt’s political voice with songs like “Trail of Broken Treaties” and “Bitter Fruit.”  His 1989 album Revolution flew below my radar.  Perhaps folks paid less attention because it digressed from the sound of his earlier albums, embracing even more of the electronic sound of the era.  Similarly, when Little Steven finally returned in 1999 with a new album,  Born Again Savage, the garage-rock sound disappointed me a bit.

Soulfire, however, finds Little Steven returning to the soul sounds of his early great albums. So, I cannot wait for the release.

The first single from Soulfire is “St. Valentine’s Day.” Van Zandt originally wrote the song for Nancy Sinatra but she never got to record it so he helped The Cocktail Slippers record it originally. Check out the version on Little Steven’s new album.

Soulfire will hit the Internet stores on May 19, 2017.

What is your favorite Little Steven song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

Sgt Pepper Documentary

Sgt Pepper

A new documentary celebrates the classic 1967 Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond, focuses on the 12 months around the recording of the album.

The movie, directed by Alan G. Parker, features archival video and interviews with people like John Lennon’s sister Julia and former Beatles drummer Pete Best. Check out the trailer for the movie.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond will be in U.K. theaters on May 26, 2017 followed by release on DVD later in the summer.

Also, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the album, a new box set special edition is being released of the album featuring 34 bonus tracks of outtakes.

For more about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, check out the video of “Things You Didn’t Know” about the album below.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then

    Dylan 30th

    Our video for the day is the performance of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” at The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.  The concert — held at on October 16, 1992 at Madison Square Garden — celebrated Dylan’s 30 years of recording.  And this performance featured Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

    It is an amazing collection of legends onstage doing on of Dylan’s great early songs.  “My Back Pages” originally appeared on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

    What is amazing about this performance is how at the time of the concert, the singers were already legends and they seemed old at the time.  But looking at it now, they all seem so young.  Or maybe part of that is because I am so much older now.

    Check out the video, which begins with Roger McGuinn singing the song, which he had previous recorded with The Byrds and released in 1967.  Then, the others follow until Dylan takes the lead himself.  In the meantime, one may watch Dylan’s face to make any guesses about what he is thinking as the others sing his song.

    There are various interpretations of “My Back Pages,” although most read it as Dylan’s rejection of his younger idealism.  But like many of his songs, listeners may find their own meaning and a little of their own life in the song.  And, more than two decades ago, we found a little more connection to the song through many of the rock legends of our youth.

    What is your favorite version of “My Back Pages”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Classical Gas and 3000 Years of Art

    Mason Williams

    One of the coolest videos on YouTube combines a hit instrumental with fast-flashing works of art.  The story of the tune, “Classical Gas,” and the video, “3000 Years of Art,” go back to the Smothers Brothers in the 1960s.

    The Creation of “Classical Gas”

    Mason Williams, who was born August 24, 1938, was a comedy writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  The show began its first season during the winter of 1967.  After the show completed its first season, Williams began to work on some other projects.

    Following a two-week tour with Dick and Tom Smothers in Las Vegas, Williams returned home and picked up his guitar.  He had missed playing the instrument and decided to write something he could play for friends.

    So, Williams started on a piece he called “Classical Gasoline.” He got the idea for the title from his thought that the piece would be “fuel” for the classical guitar.  He continued working on the tune during the second season of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968.

    At one point, the Warner Bros. music label asked Tom Smothers for suggestions of new artists to add to its label.  And, one of the artist he suggested was Mason Williams from his show.  So, Williams began working on The Mason Williams Phonograph Record for Warner Bros.

    One of the songs featured on the record was the finished version of “Classical Gasoline.”  But the music copyist made the mistake of writing the name as “Classical Gas.” The new name stuck.  As Williams later explained, “It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized most people were thinking ‘Gas’ as in ‘Hey man, it’s a gas!’

    Below, Williams performs “Classical Gas” in 1968.

    “3000 Years of Art”

    After Williams premiered the tune on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the song climbed the charts.  Then, Williams contacted a filmmaker named Dan McLaughlin.  McLaughlin had made a student video putting together Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with a montage of art works.  Williams asked him to do the same with “Classical Gas.”

    So, McLaughlin created “3000 Years of Art” with the tune, using fast images in a visual effect that is now called kinestasis. The images purport to show a history of art in three minutes.

    The video premiered on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968. Check out the really cool video of “3000 Years of Art” below.

    In 1969, “Classical Gas” went on to win three Grammy Awards. The awards were for Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary-Pop Performance, Instrumental, and Best Instrumental Arrangement.

    And that is the story behind the song.

    What is your favorite instrumental pop tune? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Final UK Concert of Rod Stewart & The Faces in 1974

    Faces Final Show

    On December 23, 1974, Rod Stewart led the Faces in their final concert in the UK, giving a rollicking show at London’s Kilburn State Theatre.  Although the band would tour the U.S. in 1975, this farewell concert is often listed as their last performance together.

    The Faces, which had grown out of the dissolution of the Small Faces in 1969, created great music during their time together.  But by the time of their performance at the Kilburn, the end was near for the band.

    The show featured lead singer Rod Stewart, keyboardist Ian McLagan, guitarist Ron Wood, drummer Kenney Jones and bassist Tetsu Yamauch.  Yamauch replaced founding bassist Ronnie Lane, who had left the band the summer of 1973.

    Rounding out the show was a guest appearance from Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on for “Sweet Little Rock’n Roller,” “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Twistin’ The Night Away.”

    By the time of this show, Stewart had already established himself as a solo artist with Every Picture Tells a Story (1971).  He had already had the massive hit “Maggie May,” which the band plays at the show.

    For the 1975 U.S. tour, Wood played with the Faces and also toured with his new band, The Rolling Stones.  With Wood and Stewart finding other work, the writing was on the wall for the Faces.  But it was a great run.

    The show ends with a short “We’ll Meet Again,” a song the band closed with since 1971.  But, despite various forms of reunions, London would never see the Faces like this again.



    What is your favorite song from The Faces? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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