Music SkeletonPete Says

Byrd is the Word: Rock N Roll Lifer Releases First Solo Album

Ricky Byrd's debut solo album Lifer on Kayos Records
Ricky Byrd’s debut solo album Lifer on Kayos Records

Ricky Byrd
Kayos Records
On his first solo album Lifer guitarist/songwriter Ricky Byrd wears his musical heart on his sleeve. An unabashed student of rock and roll Byrd mines 60’s AM and 70’s FM radio gems for his outcomes and offers up a personal take on his favorite facets. That’s a good thing when you have his impeccable taste and the chops to back it up.

Put Another Dime in the Jukebox…
As a member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts Ricky got to live the rock and roll lifestyle touring the world in support of the 1980’s mega-hit “I Love Rock and Roll.” In the ensuing years he’s played behind many of his favorite artists including Roger Daltrey and Ian Hunter. I remember seeing him on stage at The Bottom Line covering The Yardbirds during a 60’s tribute show. The Hit Squad is his high-end cover band in cahoots with other top NYC session players like vocalist Christine Ohlman and drummer Liberty DeVito.

What It Is…
Lifer opens with the sound of foot falls on stair-steps and a guitar cable engaging an amplifier input. It sets the stage for “Rock N Roll Boys” a rollicking reminiscence of Max’s Kansas City. Dressed in the sonic glitter of Mott the Hoople the tune spins out Byrd’s teenage autobiography, crowned with the chorus “the girls all wanted rock n roll boys,” a truism that enticed so many of us to strap on a guitar and learn-those-chords.

If you’re a rock n roll “lifer” as well, part of the album’s charm will be catching where Ricky slyly slips in a familiar aside (“I’ve been wanting to do this for years”) or guitar lick. I hear Don Covay via The Rolling Stones on “Wide Open” and the white-boy garage R&B of The Young Rascals through J. Geils Band on “Things To Learn.”

There’s a Stax style horn arrangement on “Ways of A Woman” and it might be Bowie mimicking The Yardbirds mimicking Muddy Waters on “Let’s Get Gone.” Along the way both “Small” and “Ooh La La” era Faces are referenced, while the subtle and touching 9/11 rumination “Turnstile ’01” is the kind of tune you wish Bruce Springsteen would write again.

It’s His Life…
To his credit Byrd puts his own stamp on this mountain of musical homage with a solid set of personal lyrics and unaffected vocal style. This unpretentious crop of tunes makes for a really enjoyable listen that is bound for repeat on your playlist. Though stylistically diverse Lifer makes sense the same way AM radio made sense in the 1960’s. That is, you can play any kind music right next to any other kind music as long as it was created with honesty and heart. Check out any Billboard Top 40 chart from 1965-67 to see what I mean.

SkeletonPete Says…
Whether those opening footsteps are taking you upstairs to Max’s Kansas City 40 years ago or downstairs to The Bowery Electric 40 minutes ago the message is the same; the mighty long way to rock and roll is never ending. Guided by loving aficionados like Ricky Byrd it’s a sweet journey.

Music SkeletonPete Says

King Midas In Redux: Brit Invasion Series Adds The Hollies

Eagle Vision & Reeling In the Year's Newest British Invasion Offering

The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
184 Minutes, NTSC, 4:3 Screen Format
Release Date: October 4, 2011

A delicious dollop of ‘sixties pop confection will be offered up on Tuesday, October 4 as Eagle Vision and Reeling In The Years add another British Invasion title to their catalogs. Previous films documented Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and The Pacemakers, with my favorite being a mind blowing DVD of Small Faces performances. This time The Hollies are the focus of attention with “Look Through Any Window, 1963-1975”. As the title suggests, the group – most noted for their tight Everlys-esque harmony vocals – had a worldwide string of hits spanning more than a decade. The 22 songs represented here include era defining tunes like “Bus Stop”, “Carrie Anne” and “The Air That I Breathe”. In many cases (mostly with the mid-sixties hits) we are treated to live performances from European television appearances. Hearing The Hollies’ recreate their exceptional vocal recordings in a live setting makes this disc a real treasure.

Long Cool Career
Presented in chronological format the DVD views the band from its origins in the childhood friendship of Graham Nash and Allan Clarke and includes newly filmed interviews with both as well as guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. Chats feature interesting anecdotes on song origins, recording sessions and the inevitable personnel changes. Most famously we all know that Nash left his band, his country and his wife in December of 1968 and within three days of the up-rooting was recording the first CSN album. Keep in mind that the first single from that ground breaking Laurel Canyon/Woodstock generation album was Nash’s Hollies transplant “Marrakesh Express”.

Particularly exciting are the 1967 clips from EMI studios capturing the band recording “On A Carousel”. The soloed vocals on that session make one wish that the producers had been able to offer vocal only bonus tracks as they did on several of their Motown features. Abbey Road fan-boys will melt at the sound of the famous in-house echo chamber, as produced by the late Ron Richards. A clip of Tony Hicks tracking his guitar part from the same session reveals him as the quintessential mod poster boy; a blueprint for Blur and Oasis decades later. Additionally pristine color footage of the band at their most “fab” lip synching “Baby That’s All” and “Here I Go Again” from the 1964 pop music flick U.K. Swings Again will you leave you “gob-smacked” by its clarity. Catch the holly sprig on the front of Bobby’s bass drum.

This DVD’s overview ends in 1975 but the band continued to pull some radio play into the early 1980’s. Allan Clarke, to his credit, attempted to draw attention to a young Jersey boy by the name of Bruce. During his solo hiatus in the ’70s Clarke recorded “Blinded By The Light”, “Born To Run” and “If I Were the Priest”. They were stalled for release by record company dallying until well after his prescience would be valued. The Hollies did manage a lovely take on “The Boss’s” “Sandy” so it was no surprise when E Streeter Miami Steve Van Sant inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010. Hicks and Elliott continue to tour under The Hollies moniker to this day. They couldn’t be at the HOF induction; they had already booked a Hollies’ gig in London.

The DVD comes packaged with a 12 page color booklet that features a thorough biography by Ben Fong Torres extolling the virtues of this often overlooked band. The center spread highlights a staggering array of album covers, 45 RPM picture sleeves and concert posters. All of the songs featured during the course of the film are available as complete performances in the bonus section, no chat, no voice-overs.

What’s Missing…
As mentioned above, vocals only bonus tracks would have been a revelation based on the snippet of “On A Carousel” we do get to hear. I’ll venture that the source being EMI this would have been a prohibitive task. On the interview side, some current words from Terry Sylvester, who joined on Nash’s departure, would have been welcome also. His vocals added so beautifully to the lush arrangements of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “The Air That I Breathe”, “Long Dark Road” and kept the band’s classic sound intact in their latter days. He also recorded an excellent self-titled solo album in 1974, produced by Ron Richards and engineered by Alan Parsons.

SkeletonPete Says…
Classic music clips like these now packaged in Director David Peck’s beautifully mounted series were once solely the mainstay of fan conventions like BeatlesFest. We were thrilled to sit in a hotel ballroom once a year for the chance to glimpse even the most beat to heck 16mm copies of these gems. Unlike some of the slap dash compilations of disparate styles and varying quality you’ll find on the DVD bargain shelves, Reeling In the Years and Eagle Rock serve them up with historical context, fresh interviews, and nice packaging at a “how can you pass it up” price point. The four previous British Invasion titles can be found in a slip cased package which includes a bonus DVD loaded with additional goodies.