Just Say Uncle

The Smithereens, Diana Panton & Crossword Smiles

The Smithereens

The Lost Album (Tollie)

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Album-Smithereens/dp/

I refuse to let The SmithereensLost Album to be a bittersweet realization. As a diehard fan of these Jersey boys, I claim it as nothing short of a miracle. It’s a gift that 99% of Smithereens’ fans thought was an impossibility, a new album with original frontman Pat DiNizio’s distinctive baritone, front and center.

In between record deals with Capitol and RCA, in 1993, the band headed into the studio on their own dime. The twelve tracks we’re treated to here, are power pop gold. Slightly less-produced than 1989’s 11 and1991’s Blow Up, it’s chock-full of the meat-and-potatoes rock the quartet is famous for.

Out Of This World and Stop Bringing Me Down, find the band in their Marshall crunch mode, while Monkey Man and I’m Sexy are pure pop fun. The real standouts, however, are some of the more quiet numbers, where DiNizio lets his inner Buddy Holly take over. A World Apart and Face The World With Pride are among the best material The Smithereens have ever produced. Dammit, this is wonderful!

*

Diana Panton

Blue (SRG)

https://www.amazon.com/blue-Diana-Panton/dp/

As a critic, I listen to a massive amount of new music, for the purpose of reviewing it. More often than not, though, the cursory consideration is more of a task that needs to be completed, and less, a moment of musical enjoyment. In a very small fraction of those instances, I am quite literally awe-struck by what I’m hearing. This, is that.

Diana Panton is an award-winning jazz singer, blessed with a voice that softly enters the room and then the ears, with a whisper that cannot be ignored. It is as similarly-captivating as the emoting of classic singers like Mindy Smith and Madeleine Peyroux, you simply hear it and want more.

The opener, a medley of Where Do You Start? and Once Upon A Time, is exquisite. Heartbreak has never sounded so good. Panton’s version of Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday, is relevatory, with an arrangement that bends the familiar melody into new shapes and sizes. There are many other really savvy song selections here, like a wonderful reading of Armando Manzanero Canche and Norma Winstone’s classic, Just Sometimes. Very highly recommended.

*

Crossword Smiles

Pressed & Ironed (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pressed-ironed

Big Stir Records gives us the debut from Crossword Smiles, a new collaboration comprised of Tom Curless and Chip Saam. These two gents are well-known in pop circles, a place where Pressed & Ironed will doubtlessly be embraced.

The opener, Feet On The Ground, is a nifty Gin Blossoms-styled rocker, followed by the somber October Leaves, which feels like more 90’s-inspired alt-rock, in the absolute best way. In fact, a lot of these tracks conjured up images of my own life, pre-marriage and responsibilities, when I was completely unattached and gigging around Chicago with my band.

My fave of the set, however, is the power-popping Lotus, which takes off like a jet engine, buoyed by crunchy guitars and a wide-open, unforgettable chorus. Though I prefer the faster-paced numbers, Curless & Saam are equally adept at switching into other gears, as evidenced by the atmospheric folk of Walk Softy, and the Zombies/Doors-inspired Parallel Lines, which is pop music at its ethereal  best. Very well done!

By Dan Pavelich

Just Say Uncle

Just Say Uncle

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For K (Music Edition)

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

KLAATU

I heard the Are-they-The-Beatles? hype long before I heard the music. A DJ on WOUR dismissed the rumor on-air with a sneering, They aren’t The Beatles! I may have heard Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” contemporary to its release, and I definitely heard The Carpenters‘ cover version. It’s within the realm of possibility that I heard the Klaatu tribute album Around The World In 80 Minutes before ever hearing much of Klaatu’s original recordings. I picked up a CD reissue of Klaatu’s debut album, 3:47 e.s.t., on a visit to Brockport some time early in the 21st century. “California Jam” became my immediate favorite.

THE KNACK

Probably read about The Knack in Bomp! magazine before “My Sharona” was released. I had a love/hate relationship with The Knack, in the sense that I kinda liked them, I guess, but resented them for having the success I thought The Flashcubes deserved more. “Good Girls Don’t” and “That’s What The Little Girls Do” were my initial favorites on Get The Knack, but I like “Your Number Or Your Name” even more now. I have all of The Knack’s albums in either LP or CD format, including their reunion albums, so I guess I must have finally gotten The Knack.

THE KNICKERBOCKERS

Easy one! I heard “Lies” one afternoon in my dorm room during the fall of 1977, as I was listening to Brockport’s WBSU-AM. Listening to this incredible explosion of ersatz (but convincing!) Britboom, I wrote in my journal, They sound more like The Beatles than The Beatles do. In the spring of 1978, I bought a cutout copy of the Nuggets anthology just to get “Lies,” so The Knickerbockers were indirectly responsible for introducing me to the concept of ’60s psychedelic/garage/punk, and I thank ’em eternally. Much, much later, I’d discover that The Knickerbockers released a lot of other tracks that were nearly the equal of “Lies.” There is often more than just one side to a One Hit Wonder.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

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THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Personality Crisis

Based upon an earlier piece, this was prepared for inclusion in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not part of that book’s current blueprint.

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE NEW YORK DOLLS: “Personality Crisis”

Written by David Johansen and Johnny Thunders

Produced by Todd Rundgren

Single from the album New York Dolls, Mercury Records, 1973
Blame the New York Dolls for KISS. Blame the New York Dolls for the Ramonesthe Sex Pistols, and all of ’70s punk and whatever it lead to. I guess we should blame the Dolls for ’80s hair metal, and probably for Guns N’ Roses, too. The New York Dolls bear at least a share of the responsibility for all of that.

God bless ’em. Maybe not for the hair metal, nor really for Guns N’ Roses, and one’s mileage may vary in the subject of KISS. But the Ramones? Pistols? Punk itself? Oh yeah. God bless the New York Dolls.

I was in middle school and high school when the Dolls existed in the early to mid ’70s, and they completely escaped my notice. I doubt they ever got any AM radio spins in Syracuse. I’ve read that the group played at The Lost Horizon sometime during this span, so maybe there was a local FM station playing with Dolls, but if so, I missed it. I never even heard of the New York Dolls; I didn’t hear ’em on the radio, didn’t see ’em on TV when they appeared on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, didn’t read ’em about in the few rock mags I perused prior to their combustion and implosion in 1975. All of that would come later for me.


The first time I remember seeing the name “New York Dolls” was in the tabloid pages of Phonograph Record Magazine in 1977. No. Even as I type that, a sudden memory warns me away. The Dolls were referenced (in derogatory terms) in a rock history book that I read some time before that; the book’s snooty British writers dissed the Dolls in no uncertain terms, with no less an authority than Mick Jagger hisself stating that the New York Dolls were like Stones contemporaries the Pretty Things, only prettier. I’m grateful to that largely-forgotten book for stoking my nascent interest in the Kinks, but still resentful with how casually its myopic pundits slagged the Dolls and the Monkees.

The take on the Dolls in Phonograph Record Magazine wasn’t necessarily positive either; a report on the New York scene mentioned Big Apple advocates and scenesters who “still think they were right about the New York Dolls.” “Right?” Wait. What..?! But there was also an underlying sense that at least some of PRM‘s scribes had some affection for these gaudy, glittery enigmas. 

Meanwhile, back in the suburbs, I wondered: who the heck were these New York Dolls?

I was the last of my siblings still living at home. For Christmas of ’77, it was decided that my parents and I would travel to see each of the robins who’d already left the nest. That meant visits to Albany, Nashville, and Cleveland. In Nashville, a stop at a J.C. Penney store revealed an LP cutout bin that included the New York Dolls’ eponymous 1973 debut.

It seems unlikely that I’d never seen a Dolls album before. Surely there’d been one in the racks at Gerber Music or Camelot or Cleveland’s Record Revolution during the many, many times I’d rummaged through, seeking sounds. But if so, I’d never payed it any mind. The New York Dolls weren’t on my radar until punk put them on my radar. I stared at the record in Nashville. Something like three bucks, maybe three-fifty, maybe. I turned it over and back over, examining the graphics of this strange group in their makeup and mascara, uncertain….

And I put the record back on the shelf. On to Cleveland!

It didn’t take long for me to regret that choice. I’m not sure why I hesitated, nor why I opted out. I guess, after all I’d read, I was still unsure if I’d care for the Dolls. In that moment, I was unwilling to take the chance, even at a discount. But yeah, regret came soon thereafter. I still hadn’t heard the New York Dolls, and I’d just blown my chance to hear ’em at a lower price.

Meanwhile, the Dolls’ mystique grew in my mind. Now, I read about them in Rock Scene, I learned a greater appreciation of their influence on the punk rock I loved, and I cringed the next time I saw a Dolls album available for sale: a 2-LP import set, priced outta reach like a 2-LP import set should be. Oh, the humanity…!

In January of 1978, I saw the Flashcubes for the first time. I saw the ‘Cubes as many times as I could, whenever I was back home during school breaks. The Flashcubes had great original songs, great energy, and great taste in covers. Via the Flashcubes, I heard my first New York Dolls song: “Personality Crisis.”


I recognized the title from Rock Scene. Awrighty. The Flashcubes proved to me that “Personality Crisis” was magnificent, and I further kicked myself for my folly in Nashville.

It would still be almost another year yet before I’d finally hear the Dolls themselves, courtesy of a compilation album that included “Personality Crisis” and “Who Are The Mystery Girls” by the mother-lovin’ New York Dolls. 

In July of ’79, the Flashcubes opened for former Dolls frontman David Johansen at The Slide-Inn in Syracuse. I’d heard a bit of Johansen’s eponymous solo album, and was blown away by his live set. Before that show, I’d tried to describe the New York Dolls to a friend who hadn’t heard them, and I settled on saying the Dolls were a cross between KISS and the Sex Pistols. Inaccurate, I guess, but best I could do at the time. Johansen included a trio of Dolls favorites in his setlist: “Babylon,” “Personality Crisis,” and Bo Diddley‘s “Pills.” And we saw that it was good.

“Personality Crisis” remains the New York Dolls’ signature tune. It’s trashy and messy, a puff of smeared mascara and loud guitars, a six-string catfight on high heels and just plain high, Eddie Cochran with lipstick, the British Invasion in fishnets, the Pretty Things, only prettier. Jerry Nolan pounds, Killer Kane plonks, Sylvain Sylvain plugs in and plays, while David Johansen preens and pouts, a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon. And guitarist Johnny Thunders? God knows where his head was or what it was doing–one suspects he may not have known where his head was or what it was doing–but the result is riveting, out-of-body, a noise that couldn’t possibly have been made anywhere amidst the green or gravel of this lonely planet, boy. It’s almost a parody of the strut of ’70s rock, but it’s either too self-aware to be accidental or too oblivious to be premeditated. In truth, it is both. Lookin’ fine on television! A personality crisis indeed.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

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