googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners

Gregory Shane Piper's First Solo CD, BORN TO YOU

The current President of the United States uses Twitter the way the rulers of medieval kingdoms used pages of parchment nailed to a post in the town square. Before Twitter it was Facebook that served as the way people could communicate the thoughts that were on their minds, complaints, or whimsical musings. Before Facebook there was My Space but going back even farther, to the dark times before the Internet, ladies would write in diaries and men in journals.

Back then, in the 1980s, a popular form of expressing one’s feelings without having to actually write anything, was the mixtape. This was an audio cassette that featured a collection of popular songs that expressed the feelings and thoughts of the person who assembled the tape and usually was created to be given to someone in particular. One very interesting mixtape was created by L.A. musician Greg Piper (The Tooners, Womanizer, Just Imagine) who used his four track tape recorder to record original songs that expressed the emotions and thoughts he was experiencing at the time.

During a two year period, he wrote songs about meeting his future wife, Jacki, their developing relationship and subsequent breakup. Two years after their breakup they reunited, eventually married and this September 19th was their 30th wedding anniversary. To commemorate, Greg has pulled these old songs out of mothballs and rerecorded them in a ten song CD titled Born To You. Listing the songs in chronicalogical order does a very good job of telling the story of the life cycle of a love affair and in real time, as it was happening. Unlike other CDs of songs about lost love, Born To You is especially sad since the first half tells the story of the excitement, hope and joy of the beginning of a new relationship before descending in the second half into the misery of loss and heartbreak.


 Ultimately, Born To You isn’t a sad story after all as Greg and Jacki are still together after thirty years, have raised two beautiful daughters, one an accomplished musician herself, and can look back at this time in their lives not as a failure but as a challenge they overcame. Born To You is rare in that it is a real and sincere record of events that actually happened, written while they were happening. A musical Twitter.

Born To You is available on iTunes and CD Baby HERE:

Channel Dark's El Wire Pacifier

Rock and Roll used to refer to a particular style of popular music typified by its beat and instrumentation. Now it seems Rock and Roll means anything that isn't performed by a symphony orchestra or a Peruvian pan flute group. Case in point is the new EP, El Wire Pacifier by Channel Dark which is the stage name of one Jonathan Maxwell. Jonathan is an electrical engineer and his music sounds like the kind an electrical engineer would create. This style of atmospheric electronica used to called "New Age". He claims his debut EP "falls somewhere between the trance-like vibes of Aphex Twin and the soothing ambience of Tycho". I don't have any idea what that means.

I've heard New Age before, Yanni, and of course, Vangelis, whose Chariots OF Fire soundtrack music is iconic even though wildly anachronistic since it's synth music for a story taking place decades before the first Moog was ever dreamed of. As this sort of thing goes I suppose El Wire Pacifier's lead off single, Feather, is okay but never having done Ecstasy or been to a Nineties rave I don't really see the appeal.

The other tracks that have vocals fare better and I could see the crowd at a disco dancing the night away to the catchy track Don't Care About It or the vocoder heavy Taller Skies. Like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Techno Disco, Disco isn't dead, it's just hanging out in the clubs all night. If they were to remake the movie Scarface, this CD would make cool background music in the shootout in the Miami nightclub scene.

Boy, and I though the music was repetitive...

But take out the heavily effected vocals and what you basically have is Ambient Music. Ambient Music does have its following these days, I guess it's the 21st Century version of Musak (elevator music for you youngsters) and sometimes I do listen to this sort of thing but it's always late at night when I'm trying to fall asleep. The track from El Wire Pacifier, Feather, is too uptempo to be relaxing though. It's more Trance Music where you might use it to dance to, keeping your body in a rhythmic pattern that helps you clear your mind and attain a nice Alpha state like the Whirling Dervish like to do. Music and dance has always been used in religious ceremonies and to achieve meditative states. Feather, although it sounds soft and light, has more of a groove with a BIG, throbbing bass and textured synth lines. It has been described as 80s Synth Pop and I suppose that might be because the synth sound like synths as opposed to synthesized acoustic instruments.

I'm guessing Channel Dark doesn't want to give away it's best tracks for free but giving only the instrumental, Feather, as an example is really cheating itself. Feather gives you an idea of the music but only as far as the backing tracks go. Most of the El Wire Pacifier EP is a bouncy, catchy and yes, melodic CD of positive, upbeat and very competent singing. See if you can find other examples online since I've had my hands tied.

Free Willy says "Remember The Alamo"

If you are a reader of Rock & Roll Rehab you'll know my feelings regarding Country Music. If not, you can find out HERE. If not, then I'll assume you either are never going to read this anyway or won't care one way or another how I feel about Country Music. It should suffice to say that this is the ROCK & ROLL Rehab blog and if I mention any other kind of music here it's because I've been asked very nicely to mention it or I feel it has some merits that may give it some appeal outside of its base audience, Thus is the case with the new CD from Free Willy, an Americana / Alt Country / Bluegrass group from Texas. It is titled Remember The Alamo which is about as unoriginal a title as a band from Texas could conceivably conceive of. 

Hearing that phrase, "remember the Alamo", always makes me feel bad, not for the men who died in that battle, but for the Texans who fought and actually beat Santa Ana and won independence for Texas from Mexico. Why aren't they remembered? They actually won! I'm also wondering why the band named itself "Free Willy". It couldn't be because of a movie about a killer whale could it? I don't think Orcas travel as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Or could it possibly be a plea to free Willy Nelson? I didn't know he was in prison but that does seem more likely than the whale theory. Maybe the band's lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist, W. B. Jones is named William and Free Willy refers to him. That's possible.

But I digress...

 From what I gather from Free Willy's press materials, the album is a collection of songs written over the past forty years by W. B. Jones. W. B. therefore, is no kid and that's a big reason I don't mind talking about him. You see, I feel that with age comes authenticity and in this age of computers, samples and beats, good old fashion old fashion-ness seems new and refreshing.

Free Willy may not be an actual band in the sense that they've played together for years (they first got together in Nacogdohes in 2016 at The Mixing Room recording studio), but they're real people who have been actually playing actual instruments for years, decades. Real people such as Spence Peppard on lead guitar, drums and harmonies, Kevin Carter on fiddle (that's a Country violin for you Rockers), and mandolin, and Steve DeVries on banjo and harmonica. That's a pretty Country sounding instrumentation lineup. According to old W. B. what gives Free Willy its unique sound is that the soloists play "over the top of each other" rather than "taking turns". Sounds like my High School band when we did Cream covers. I've been a fan of dueling and duo guitar solos since Cream's Politician and Buffalo Springfield's great Bluebird.

 An accomplished audio engineer who started his career after college as the sound tech for Don Williams, Jim Taylor, produced Remember The Alamo, sings harmonies and plays bass on the album. A fine job of producing it is too, showcasing the excellent musicianship and W. B.'s fine vocals with pristine, textured and layered sounds. I'm always leery of the term "Alt", as in this case "Alt-Country", as it implies not really the real thing. Like Country-Punk is not really country, it's really Punk. but in this case Remember The Alamo doesn't sound like an alternative Country, it sounds like Country. Modern Country maybe? Then again, I'm a ROCKER, so what do I know about Country. It sounds like it to me.

The Further!! From Revolushn

My old friend, fellow cartoonist and former band member (in WOMANIZER) Corey Harris recently released a CD of songs he compiled over the last twenty years. I mention this because Corey was influenced by New Wave bands such as Oingo Boingo, Talking Heads and especially DeVo. I mention this because the new CD by San Francisco Psych Rock collective Revolushn titled Further!! is also influenced by New Wave Art Rockers DeVo, also The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Clash and a couple of bands apparently too hip for me to have heard of. I assume the title of the CD was inspired by The Merry Pranksters' bus which is not too hip for me to have heard of.

 The DeVo connection runs a little deeper since the song writing credit is attributed to David Kendrick (DeVo, Sparks) and NO. Does that mean Kendrick was in DeVo or wrote songs they recorded? NO is the other songwriter's name and their lead off single, Dinosaurs, recently made the Hot 100 Next Big Thing List on Spotify.

The CD was recorded at Cypher Sound Studio in Kansas City by Aaron Conner (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Ed Sheeran) which may be an interesting story. Why would a San Francisco band record in Kansas City? If it was my band the answer would be "for the BBQ". Last time I looked there were still plenty of good recording studios in California.

Revolushn: sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Musically, Revolushn is upbeat, poppy, New Wavish-psychedelic (very Corey Harrisish) and fun with a very well produced sound. Asked about the band's message, NO recently said to the Fresh Committee "BE FREE. We want to say you can do anything you want because the universe is larger than shit. We sing about space and life in this fluid world. You never know what will happen so be happy and nice to other humans and animals." 
According to their press kit: "Revolushn began as a studio band that played songs written by No (guitar) and Dekay (drums). The group recorded enough songs to put out the album The Freshman, which received critical acclaim, airplay, and modest sales. Several personnel changes and dozens of shows later, the band got serious, stopped playing shows, and began the writing and recording process for the next album. From that point, it took 16 months to get to the release of the second Revolushn album called Further!!. The songs on Further!! range from the heavy, guitar-based psych rock to the beautiful waltz tempo of You Will Go. Revolushn has a range that in lesser hands would dilute the bands style, but Further!! sounds like one band playing at one show and crushing it. The live feel of the album is refreshing and intimate. Connor's production is a marvel that somehow found the balance between chaotic and precise. The songs are at times jarring and the lyrics can make you want to look away while at the same time drawing you in". 
Not my words, but you get the idea. My words; Further!! by Revolushn is a fun, arty CD with humor helping to round out some serious subject matter. A party record for thinking people. 
Or, fun to listen to when you're stoned.

Staring Into Nothing's Power

I love Prog Rock. I've seen Seventies Prog Rockers Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Gentle Giant live. Prog is a hard genre to describe but you know it when you hear it and despite the trio called Staring Into Nothing's bio describing them as Prog Rock, I just don't hear it. Granted, the link to their album on Soundcloud didn't work so I only have the lead off single, Big Brother from their new cd Power, to judge them by but to me they sound like a pop rock band in the basic style of bands like Keane. Melodic, but standard structure pop with a rather lush arrangement. There is none of the structural complexity or shifting time signatures, or multi-instrument solos that are typical of the Prog Rock genre.

Staring Into Nothing features Steve Rodgers on keyboards and lead vocals along with guitarist Savannah Rogers and bassist and guitarist Kurt Barabas. The CD, Power, was produced by Mark Needam and Matt Chamberlain helped out on drums, David Levita on guitar, Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards and Pop Levi and Andrea Meli on background vocals.

The first single, Big Brother, has an overtly political narrative which is always timely but even more so these days. The term, "Big Brother", originally from George Orwell's apocalyptic futuristic novel, 1984, written in 1948, has always been one of dread and impending doom, not one of a reassuring presence. A big brother that's a bully who will stomp you if you don't do what he says. This musical version is one more warning but delivered with a pretty piano intro that breaks into an uptempo pop toe tapper. It's almost insidious for a song to make us want to singalong and bounce our head when the lyrics are so dark and serious but I guess you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.
I wish I could hear more from this band and it may not be the band's fault I can't access their Soundcloud account, I'm often technologically deficient, because the single is catchy, melodic, well sung and performed and well produced. Again, I'd place it in the Pop Rock category, not Prog but that's a good thing as Prog isn't exactly a hot genre these days. At least I'd like to see a photo or two of the musicians themselves rather than stock images as it's always nice to see that there are real people behind the music and not a computer deciding that this is the next big sound. Which is kind of what the song is warning us about after all. Maybe Staring Into Nothing is a Prog band and this first single is their "commercial" calling card. Maybe the rest of the Power CD is full of guitar and synth solos or mellotron washes and each song lasts eight minutes. If not, and the single is typical of the rest of the album, that's perfectly fine. It just needs a different audience, that's all. Now I'm in the mood to listen to my King Crimson CDs.

Freddie Nelson's Shake The Cage

Okay, now we're talking. If it was another time Freddie Nelson's new CD would be a Rock Radio hit. That's not to say he sounds dated or his musical style is from another time, it's just that these days straight ahead rockers aren't getting signed and if they are they aren't selling records because in the Here and Now, no one buys records. Lucky for me I get to hear this kind of stuff because it's sent to me. When I first saw his video Hey Doll I thought what is this guy, a wiseguy from the 1940s? Who calls a woman "doll" anymore? And he looks like Shaggy from Scooby-doo. But now he looks to me like Shaggy if Shaggy could sing great, rock out and play hot guitar.

I haven't heard such a good, commercial voice in a long, long time. A lot of both his vocal style and his song writing does sound rather retro to me but that's because it sounds like what we back in the day used to refer to as "good".

Freedie's press kit says he's from Pittsburgh, PA and that his influences include Queen, Muse, My Chemical Romance, The Killers and The Beatles. You can hear echos of The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) in his song Keep Running. Yeah, this is my kind of music.

His new album, Shake The Cage, is available for pre-order on iTunes, Amazon with instant gratification track, limited edition hard copies are available for pre-order on and his single Hey Doll is available on all digital retail outlets so I'd highly recommend you check it out. The single is what a single should be which is a good representation of the album. There is high quality throughout.

Normally I don't like just quoting an artist's press kit but in this case I'll let it speak for itself:
Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer Freddie Nelson came to international attention in 2010 when he collaborated with virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert (of Racer X and Mr. Big) on the album “United States.”  Together they wrote, performed, and produced the recording that was released on Mascot Records and toured Japan and Europe shortly after.

After the success of “United States,” Freddie began fielding interest as a solo artist. In 2015, he started writing and recording songs for “Shake The Cage.”  During this time, he was again approached by Paul Gilbert to help arrange and write songs for Gilbert’s latest solo release, “I Can Destroy,” produced by Kevin Shirley.  During the course of the recording sessions in Los Angeles, Nelson met world renowned drummer Thomas Lang who, after hearing Nelson’s solo material, volunteered his skills as a drummer for the project.

Nelson, who played his first professional show at age 11, grew up as a working musician in numerous established bands in the Pittsburgh region, including famed east coast hard rock band Triple X.  During this time, his main focus was as a guitarist & songwriter, but in 2001 he stepped in front of the microphone and formed the rock band Too Tall Jones with Rusted Root bassist Patrick Norman.  As a front man, Nelson’s stage presence is unrivaled and his vocal timbre continuously draws comparisons to the iconic Freddie Mercury.  In 2001, Too Tall Jones released “BiPolar,” an eclectic mix of rock songs ahead of its time, which ultimately caught the attention of Paul Gilbert leading to their initial collaboration and international spotlight in 2010.

Personally, Freddie Nelson reminds me of Billy Squier and some other 70s /early 80s rockers and I'm going to be very curious how far he gets in a business where talent like this seems no longer appreciated. Would Queen have hit records if they were a new band today?

All of the songs on Shake The Cage were written & produced by Freddie Nelson who also provided lead vocals, guitars, bass, B3 and percussion. Thomas Lang is the drummer with Nina Sainato on piano and other keyboards. The VD was engineered by Freddie Nelson and Robby Breckinridge and mixed by Rob Hill at X Music Studios, Los Angeles, CA. It was mastered by Mazen Murad at Metropolis Studios, London, UK, photography was by Tara Bennett with art Direction by Nina Sainato and graphic design by Sean Montgomery.

Now for the bad news; Shake The Cage is a real solo effort (see above credits) meaning you may not see Freddie Nelson performing live on tour anytime soon. Hopefully I'm wrong and whoever is bankrolling this very professional project will assemble a crack band behind him and send him out on the road. I don't know how people find out about artists like this without live local shows. Hopefully, you'll now send a link to this page to all your rockin' friends. They'll thank you for it, this time.

World Ignition by Alarma

This is Rock & Roll Rehab not World Music Rehab so I'm a little surprised I got sent the new CD titled World Ignition by the Los Angeles alt rockers meets World Music band Alarma. However, since I really like this CD I'll talk about it a little. This sounds more World Music than Alternative to me and I'm not really sure of the correct terminology but it's very Latino, or salsa, or Hispanic, again, I apologize if I'm getting the terms wrong but you get the idea. Very East L.A. if that makes sense.
Alarma are, at its core, Pedro Martinez on lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Alessandro Morosin on guitars and back up vocals, Greg Panos and Eduardo Sandoval on drums and are joined on this CD by Richard Esparza on bass, Rito Fonseca on drums, Ulises Rodriguez on accordion. The song writing is credited to Martinez and Morosin except Negra Tomasa which was written by Guillermo Rodriguez Fiffe with the English translation by Pedro Martinez.

 The production is first rate by Pedro Martinez and Jaff Rayl and was mixed by Jeff Raly at Raylz Studio in Orange, CA. It was mastered by Digiprep Mastering in Silverlake. These are local SOCAL boys. Their press kit says they're from "Northeast" Los Angeles which could actually mean Santa Clarita (neighbors of mine). They describe their music in probably a lot more accurate terms than I could as Latin Cumbia, Reggae, Ska, African and with some middle-east influences. It is very rhythmic but also extremely melodic. Good solos on top of soothing but invigorating acoustic base and clear and pleasant vocals.

Alarma began as an experimental Latin Rock project along the lines of Santana or Los Fabulosos Cagillacs. They performed live on Fox 11's Good Day LA and have released two full length CDs; Ripe Condition and the new World Ignition. They're not really Rock at all but more Pop and traditional although traditionalists would surely take umbrage with that. Imagine if Santana was a Pop band rather than a Hard Rock band and maybe you'll get some kind of an idea. Really, I'm not the person to review this except to say the vocals and instrumental performances are very good as is the overall production and sound quality.

What I find interesting is whenever a conservative government takes power (or whatever this is we have now), it seems to invigorate the arts and activism. In the lyrics of Alarma's music you can hear that call to action that has been silent for the past eight years (no reason for it then). A great example is a line from Indignados from their previous CD Ripe Condition that goes, "If you don't let us dream then we won't let you sleep". Now Alarma isn't as rockin' as Santana and has some Modern Rock touches like bands like fun and some other recently popular hit makers but its Latin roots are always front and center while still Top Forty Radio ready. They also seem like a really fun live act.

Groupoem's DIRT CHURCH

Here's the kind of band that we created Rock & Roll Rehab for. They're called Groupoem and they originally formed in Toronto in 1983 at the height of the New Wave / Punk era. Their influences include Husker Du, Nick Cave, Morphine, P.I.L., Butthole Surfers and King Crimson whose Adrian Belew / Robert Fripp guitar style is clearly evident in guitarist Terry Robinson. Their press kit claims the various band members have performed with bands such as No Means No, DOA, Dayglo Abortion, GWAR x 3, SNFU, Poison Idea, Painted Willie, Victim's Family, The Mentors and Psychic TV. Psychic TV is one of the "related acts" on my band The Tooners' iHeart Radio channel so I've heard them before. These aforementioned band members beside Terry Robinson who is the chief songwriter are Marph, aka Mr. Science on vocals, Christopher "Flea" Lee on drums and Darren Katamay on bass.

Watch Groupoem's documentary promo film HERE.

After being part of the Toronto music scene in the 80s when they released an EP and toured North America in 1987, they recorded a ten song album which is only now being released.  Apparently the big time lag between records is because the band broke up for twenty-five years. According to their press kit: "Groupoem band began its journey of regrouping with all original members and began rehearsals working on brand new material from Terry Robinson's vast repertoire of songs in 2014 after over a 25 year separation. Ironically, all four members of the band separately had migrated from Toronto to the Vancouver, BC area. Thus, the reunion was complete."

I don't know how "ironic" it was that all the band members just happened to move from Toronto to Vancouver since Vancouver has become known as "the Amsterdam of Canada," if you know what that means. Listening to the music of Groupoem you can easily understand why they would all be drawn to the West Coast.  
Now that they've reunited they're going back into the studio and hopefully back out on tour. These guys aren't kids and have some real life experience (see above documentary) and like a lot of us they have chosen to spend whatever time they have left doing what they wanted to do when they first started out. More power to them. They're serious about it though and their DIRT CHURCH CD has some top notch production. It was recorded at Farm Studios and Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver BC. It was recorded and mixed by Tim Crich whose resume has included working with David Bowie, Gene Simmons, Billy Joel and Mick Jagger and it was mastered by Craig Waddell from Gotham Studios.

Groupoem's Crimso Red era sense of time and complex guitar rhythms and textures may not be the sort of sound that "the kids" can really dig these days but the patients hanging out in one of Vancouver's "pharmacies" (dispensaries) or maybe hanging out in a smokeasy would soon understand and quickly learn to appreciate where these guys are coming from (not Toronto). The vocals are sincere and intense (The Mentors influence no doubt) and it is because of their age, not in spite of it, that they reek of authenticity which is getting harder and harder to find (much like finding live music venues to hear original music like this). I'm hoping one of the perks of the growing International 420 Movement will be a resurgence of live music and small, local clubs where the joy and excitement of discovering new music can be something the young folk of today can experience as did I and guys like the members of Groupoem.