Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Those among us who take great pride in riding all year are sometimes looked upon as nuts by the rest of the cage-dwelling society. It makes one wonder how the cowboys, who certainly traveled slower and had to depend upon horses, ever made it West to the Promised Land. Perhaps that’s what gave birth to the singing cowboy? Lord knows; that was way before Robert Johnson hooked up with Mr. Satan out on Highway 49. What these early minstrels discovered is that the road and music are made for each other. Riding across long stretches of this country gives motorcyclists the unique opportunity to relate to this country’s musical nomads.
It also makes one wonder how bikers—at least those with grey hair—ever endured years of in-dash eight-track and cassette decks. Who hasn’t littered the road with endless reams of unspoiled audiotape? Remember those days? Now we get to take our entire “record collection” (another term one hardly hears anymore) along with us on the road, courtesy of any number of digital gizmos. Then there’s satellite radio, where we can avoid the endless sophomoric cacophony of morning drive time DJs. Just dial in your favorite genre of music and prepare to be entertained. So yeah, the riding goes better with music, even if one has to travel slowly. Or endure the cold.
Savoy Brown has to be one of the hardest working bands in the biz. During the blues-rock movement of the late ’60s, the band played in nearly every venue across America. If you’ve never heard their classic albums Blue Matter, A Step Further, Street Corner Talking, Looking In, A Step Further, or Raw Sienna, then you have some homework to do. Despite myriad personnel changes, one of which gave birth to Foghat, founding member and lead guitarist Kim Simmonds kept the band alive and cooking. This is a feat that compares to riding that vintage kick-start-only Harley. Or, imagine Clapton and John Mayall still playing as the Bluesbreakers. Think about it: Savoy Brown has outlasted disco, punk, new wave, and grunge. So now we have the band’s 45th anniversary, an achievement no American Idol winner will surpass. How about a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Under “biker friendly” bands, Savoy Brown is near the top. So when the mailman dropped off a copy of Voodoo Moon, off I went to add it to my iTunes list; no auditioning necessary. Featuring Joe Whiting (vocals/sax) and Garnet Grimm (drums), this latest SB model is one of high adrenaline blues-rock with Simmonds showcasing super-octane guitar licks throughout. Even the songwriting exceeds whatever passes for rock ’n’ roll these days. “Meet the Blues Head On,” “Shockwaves,” “She’s Got the Heat,” “Natural Man,” and the title track are standouts. Better yet, at only nine tracks, there’s no filler material detectable.
The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays
Kay Kay and the Rays
Just when you thought it was safe to wade into the blues, along come artists like Kay Kay and the Rays. Yes, we know the album cover looks a little dated and cheesy. And when was the last time you heard a “best of,” but couldn’t recall hearing one of those songs on the radio? And try as hard as you like, you won’t find an office for Catfood Records anywhere in Manhattan.
And these are all good points.
The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays is an amazingly awesome album that compiles three previous albums’ worth of authentic and soulful down-home R&B-injected blues-funk. So what makes this “biker music?” Well, to start, if you were riding through Texas and needed a fix of the three Bs (beer, blues, and BBQ), this CD satisfies at least one of those. It’s raucous, loud, and makes you wanna move. While major pop artists like Adele and Joss Stone may dabble in this same field, they are like visiting the House of Blues as compared to a real roadhouse somewhere in Texas. The latter is genuine and you get the real deal—from home cooked meals to gritty bands that’ve spent years perfecting their craft. One is the best money imitation can buy. Kay Kay Greenwade and company are the other.
The story goes like this: seems there’s a large club in Odessa, Texas, called Kay Kay’s Blues Club where the band earned a widespread reputation for serving up boogie-fied house-rockin’ music. The group’s second album, Texas Justice, was the one that earned them national recognition as they embarked on playing some of the best blues clubs and festivals in the nation. Be forewarned: many of the songs are both socially and politically charged; as in many great tunes, there’s a message in the music. Their third album, Big Bad Girl, was produced by multiple Grammy winner Jim Gaines and received even more critical praise. By then, Kay Kay was being described as a cross between the late great Koko Taylor and Aretha Franklin.
So if you crave a little horn-infested musical slice of Americana, this album’s for you. Unfortunately the band has broken up due to personal, health, and family tragedies that make a reunion unlikely. A darn shame because many more blues and R&B music fans ought to be exposed to music like this. Turn it up and spread the word…
Dark Side Of The Moon, The Wall, Wish You Were Here
While it may be hard to hear the sonic nuances in Pink Floyd’s music from your bike’s speakers, things quickly change with headphones. The music of The Floyd is probably best reserved for long stretches of deserted backroads, without the ambient road noise of 18-wheelers.
Most of you out there should be familiar with these albums and probably have them downloaded in your iPods. But just as Harley entices us into buying our bikes all over again—piece-by-piece, due to constantly updated parts, so too have record companies discovered that they could sell the same albums over and over again. And that’s what EMI has done with Pink Floyd’s catalog with all-new remastering and added bonus content in several newly configured versions.
This review is just for the remastered versions. The super-deluxe editions are nice, but configured more for home use with all the bonus material, liner notes, and pretty pictures. Yeah, that’s neat to show off to your friends but less important to bikers who need only the music.
So, is it worth it? We can unequivocally state, “it all depends.”
If you’re a Pink Floyd nut, then “yes.” Yet, even casual fans will find that the music is somehow made cleaner and brighter. Dark Side of the Moon was a perfect album, and like most of Floyd’s works, the songs were intended to be listened to in a specific playing order as one full work, a la The Who’s Tommy. Sure “Money” was the hit single but it’s nowhere near as nifty as some of the album’s trippier tracks. In fact, Dark Side was the culmination of all the Pink Floyd albums that came before it, selling something like 75 bazillion copies. It was, and still is, the pinnacle of rock composition, strangely appealing to almost every segment of society. So if you just have one or two songs from the original album downloaded, now here’s an excuse to get the whole album. There’s also a second CD containing a previously unreleased 1974 live version of the entire album from beginning to end.
Wish You Were Here was the follow-up to Dark Side. It’s another concept album purportedly inspired by the group’s mysterious founding member Syd Barrett. The album takes a while to get going, but once underway it makes for mesmerizing music, probably best for the after-ride unwind—especially if you listen via headphones. It’s also a great way to park your bike at the top of a hill—with the sound system switched on—and take in a sunset. This remastered release has one CD and it’s probably never sounded better.
The Wall is arguably band member, and bass player, Roger Waters’ greatest contribution to the band. Some considered it the band’s pinnacle of achievement, but in truth it tends to wallow in its own production values, made even better in this latest remastering effort. The album is about an emotionally crippled rock star and many songs poke fun or ridicule the very idea of rock stardom. If you haven’t heard it in a while, you may discover that there are a lot of subtle nuances that could serve as contemporary social commentary. And one can even imagine Dr. Feelgood’s all over the country cooing the words of “Comfortably Numb” to each patient they dispense “legal” drugs to. Makes ya think, that’s for sure.
It’s hard to imagine any band today reaching the creative zenith of Pink Floyd. Perhaps it’s that we no longer have the patience to actually sit and listen to music anymore—everyone wants that catchy hit single. And that’s what makes music like this so enjoyable on the road devoid of videos or even illegal substances. All you need is a full tank of gas and no particular place to go. These albums, particularly Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, can be a great way to unwind after a long, hard day.