Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers - Tomorrow People

David Nesta "Ziggy" Marley was reggae legend Bob Marley's eldest son, and he built a career in the industry after his father's untimely passing in 1981.  Along with several siblings, he formed the Melody Makers in 1979 -- named after the British music trade rag, by the by.

The group released three independent albums in the 1980's and built enough of a fan base to get signed by Virgin Records.  Their first major label release was 1988's Conscious Party, and it became a surprise hit.  The album climbed to #23 on the charts, while "Tomorrow People" broke into the top 40 (barely) at #39.  The sound was undoubtedly helped by the production team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (both of Talking Heads fame), who helped find the pop side of the strong material.

The video for "Tomorrow People" is a well-crafted performance piece that seems to suit the song well.  The upbeat clip with the reggae-pop sound even went into heavy rotation for a time at MTV.

While Ziggy's time as a pop star was brief, he remains a major figure in the reggae scene and has continued to record and perform to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers are a one hit wonder, as only "Tomorrow People" broke the top 40.  However, that is one more top 40 hit than Bob Marley had.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Forever

Yesterday, The Universe requested another video for the blog, and as per usual I am only too happy to oblige.  In this case, the rare and exceptional "Forever" by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul made an appearance on my radio while commuting to work.  A quick google search (after safely parking the car) confirmed it an an Eighties Rare Video; and so here it is.

Steven Van Zandt (aka Little Steven or Miami Steve) is one of the most colorful personalities in rock.  He got his start in the Jersey Shore scene of the early 1970's, most notably with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (their later song, "New Romeo" was previously posted on ERV).  After helping Bruce Springsteen with the horn arrangement on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," he became a member of the E Street Band, where he remained until 1984 (and from the late 1990's on).

By the early 1980's Little Steven was looking for additional creative outlets, and was also becoming increasingly political (more on that in a moment).  This led to several solo rock/soul albums; 1982's Men Without Women was the first (and best in the eyes of many critics).  For readers who like rock and classic R&B (think late 1960's Motown), this LP is highly recommended.

Sadly, the album never quite found its audience.  The LP peaked at #118, while "Forever" hit #63.  I remember hearing it on New York rock radio back in the day, but do not recall ever seeing the video -- which is full of NYC 1982 goodness including Times Square, old cars and at least one Mohawk.

In addition to Little Steven's solo records, he was instrumental in the formation of the Artists United Against Apartheid "Sun City" effort which has also been posted on ERV.  In 1999 he landed an acting lead in The Sopranos TV show, and has continued his work as a musician and DJ (Little Steven's Underground Garage) to the present day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gregg Allman - I'm No Angel

Although "I'm No Angel" and the album of the same name represented a solid comeback for Gregg Allman, they have become somewhat forgotten over time.  In part this is due to the fact that classic rock stations tend to focus on his earlier (and frankly stronger) work with The Allman Brothers.  Additionally, the production on the I'm No Angel LP sounds a bit dated, and its focus on synthesizers doesn't help matters.

In spite of its flaws, the album represented a surprising success for Allman, who had not released an album in the previous 9 years due to personal problems and substance abuse.  The "I'm No Angel" single hit #49 on the pop charts (and #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart; it was everywhere for a time).  The album also sold well, and reached #30 on the charts.

The video is a nice performance piece involving an old saloon (that happens to have a full set of instruments) and a flashback to a version of the west where only female cowgirls exist.  But just like the song, the video seems to capture of part of Allman's personality, and it mostly works.

In the aftermath of his success, Gregg Allman continued to have substance abuse problems, though he did clean up his act by the early 1990's.  He remains active in the industry to the present day, but with a reduced schedule due to some health issues.

Cool trivia fact:  While "I'm No Angel" has become something of a Gregg Allman theme song, he did not write it -- two Brits (Tony Colton and Phil Palmer) wrote the song.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The John Hall Band - You Sure Fooled Me

Long time readers may (or may not) recall that we posted The John Hall Band's "Crazy" video way back in January, 2012.  That song became a minor hit, and picked up some airplay in the early days of MTV.  While researching "Crazy," we discovered the video for "You Sure Fooled Me" and put it in the bullpen, where it remained until today.

"You Sure Fooled Me" is a totally solid rock song -- as an aside, why wasn't The John Hall Band bigger?  Sure, they aren't exactly breaking any new ground here, but the music is surprisingly good.

At any rate, this early video includes old cars and a girl, as the band brings the song to life, in a charming, yet low-budget sort of way.  In spite of their efforts, I don't recall ever seeing the vid or hearing the song, and it doesn't appear to have charted.  As we noted on the "Crazy" post, the group released a second LP before breaking up, though Hall would remain in the industry as a songwriter before embarking on a brief career in Congress (yes, really).

Oh, and as previously mentioned, John Hall is not related to Daryl Hall (or John Oates) and got his start in the 1970's band Orleans (of "Dance with Me" and "Still the One" fame).