Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

Like the past couple years, this has been another sad one for losses in the musical world. None leaves larger shoes to fill than Aretha Franklin. Her powerful voice, piano skills, and willingness to stand up for civil rights are unmatched. Thanks to her gospel-fueled upbringing, every song she sang was like a trip to church (in a good way), whether its subject matter was religious or not. And while she didn't record many songs that could be considered Halloween-worthy, today's is an exception. It not only fits the bill of this blog, but also covers one of Aretha's favorite subjects--female empowerment. In "Evil Gal Blues," she wants her fella to provide caviar for breakfast, champagne every night, and a midnight snack for any other man she might invite. And if her guy doesn't like it? Well, he can't say he wasn't warned.

Check out Aretha performing "Evil Gal Blues" in 1964, a couple years before her signature song and first smash hit "Respect" was recorded. She's evil and proud of it!

It's the greatest day of the year, so let's join Aretha in singing its evil praises! Here's hoping I see at least one Ms. Murphy out there tonight tearing up the trick or treat trail. Until next year, Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Turn on the pumpkins!

The highest highlight of 2018 for me was seeing the original Misfits play on their homeground of New Jersey. I have loved them for almost thirty years and never thought they'd reunite, let alone in a place that's only a short train ride away. The show was everything I'd hoped for--they played all my favorites, the stage looked like a Halloween explosion, and even the crappy sound hearkened back to the lo-fi recordings all Misfits fans have loved and subsisted on since the original line-up broke up in 1983.

The band makes all concert goers put their cell phones in a locked bag at the door, so precious few photos or videos exist from that wicked night. However, the original line-up has already scheduled another show in Chicago for next April, so maybe there is hope this will become a regular occurrence? Since the reunion itself already proves that hell has frozen over, perhaps it's not too much to hope that a live album/video could materialize in the near future. Or even new songs?!? We will probably have to join forces in doing quite a few extra deeds for the devil in order to make that happen, but I'm willing.

Since there isn't any new Misfits music on the horizon yet, today's song is the newest one available, which came out in 1997. "In the Doorway" appeared nineteen years after it was first recorded, on a reissue of Static Age. The lyrics are a bit inscrutable (no B-horror films get name-checked like in many other Misfits songs), but I think it's about the ancient problem of vampires needing an invitation before they can go through a door. Remember: if you're cold, they're cold. Let them inside.

Monday, October 29, 2018

If you like, Jack the Knife.

Saturday's post was the first time Judas Priest has appeared on this blog, which is embarrassing, unjust, and probably criminal. To remedy the situation, today we're going to span the Judas Priest spectrum. Saturday's song was from their most recent album, so today's will come from a much earlier time: 1976's Sad Wings of Destiny. 

Judas Priest had only released one album prior to Sad Wings of Destiny, and they hadn't yet found any commercial or critical success. Nor had they solidified their sound--the chunky, singalong hooks of "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight" were still a few years away. The slower and sludgier influences of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were still coming through loud and clear, as were the more operatic leanings of Queen. Rob Halford has called Freddie Mercury his ultimate hero, which makes sense considering their similar vocal talents. Today's song is one of Judas Priest's most Queen-like. "The Ripper" chugs along with heavy guitar riffs and layered vocals, but the fact that it's told from Jack the Ripper's point of view gives it Judas Priest's definitive stamp.

"The Ripper" became a fan favorite, so he still rears his evil head at many of Judas Priest's concerts. Check them out performing it just last year! Forty years may have passed since they first recorded it, but clearly Judas Priest's metal superpowers have only increased with time.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

(Still) living after midnight!

None more metal!
A few months ago, Judas Priest released their 18th album of bludgeoning new songs, Firepower. Although they've been hammering out slabs of pure metal since 1974 (!!!), their chops and talent haven't aged a bit. Firepower is not only a great Judas Priest album, it's a great metal album. It combines the hard-hitting power of classic Judas Priest with modern production, plus Rob Halford's Metal God voice still reaching those low growls and high howls. Considering the beating this guy has given his voice for years on end, how does it still sound so freaking fantastic??

The most Halloween-worthy song on Firepower doesn't yet have an official video, but I highly recommend checking out the videos for "Lightning Strike," "Spectre," and "No Surrender" to get the full aural and visual assault of Judas Priest. But first infect your ears with the unholy metal majesty of the Necromancer!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Master of Menace

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of Vincent Price. It's hard to imagine what Halloween and horror films would be like without his sinister contributions--just his "Thriller" monologue would have been enough to make him an icon, yet he left his indelible stamp on dozens of fun and terrifying films as well. 

I was lucky enough to see his daughter Victoria Price speak twice this week about her father's legacy and the role of horror films in people's lives. On Monday she gave a talk at the United Palace of the Cultural Arts, which was prefaced by an adorably amazing "Thriller" dance routine performed by zombie children. Tonight she hosted a triple feature of her father's films at the Quad Cinema: The Oblong Box, Madhouse, and one of my favorites, Witchfinder General. The thing that struck me most about her take on the enduring appeal of her dad's characters and films was the innate kindness that is so detectable even in his nastiest portrayals (which definitely includes Witchfinder). She believes that is what draws people to her father and his films, and I would have to agree. We can feel safe in the clutches of a Vincent Price movie because we know that whatever scary things happen, there is a wellspring of kindness behind that maniacal cackle.

Today's song is Deep Purple's 2013 homage to the Master of Menace, simply called "Vincent Price." The video conjures scenes from several of Vincent Price's classic films, as well as classic monsters in general. It does such a good job of capturing the look, sounds, and atmosphere of those films that it left me hoping for a sequel. Dr. Phibes rose again, so can't Deep Purple's Vincent Price homage do the same?

Vincent Price was a friend to Deep Purple and even appeared in a concert performance of bassist Roger Glover's album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast. Here he is narrating "Magician Moth" in 1975:

Since "Thriller" is almost as ubiquitous (or maybe even more so these days) around Halloween than "The Monster Mash," I've been reluctant to include it on this blog, but check out Vincent Price performing his "Thriller" monologue live on The Tonight Show!

Mind of Metal

Last year we heard quite a bit from various Wicker Men, but not directly from the OG Wicker Man firestarter, Christopher Lee. With his rich operatic voice, he did what any such gifted person should do when they are approaching their 90s: begin a career as a heavy metal singer. He started out providing vocals for Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar, but moved on to fronting his own project with the release of 2010's Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. The album delivers Christopher Lee's own brand of symphonic metal that tells the story of Charlemagne, from whom he was (of course) descended. 

Hail Dracula! May you shred in peace.
Proving himself a legend in any art form he attempted, Christopher Lee's first metal album won high praise, including a Spirit of Metal award from Metal Hammer. It also engendered an even metal-er follow-up album: 2013's Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, with arrangements by Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest. An EP of metal Don Quixote songs came after that, as well as annual metal Christmas singles. If you seethe at the encroachment of Christmas decorations onto the Halloween aisle earlier and earlier every year (get out of our month, Santa!!!), then do yourself a favor and download Christopher Lee's "Jingle Hell" and "Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing" to blast from your home, car, and clip-on blue tooth speaker each Christmas season.

It seems Christopher Lee only made one video for any of his metal albums, so that's what we're going to see/hear today. "The Bloody Verdict of Verden" is from his first Charlemagne album, and features an old and young Charlemagne dueting from across the ages. The production is fairly lo-fi, but who cares, Christopher Lee is in it! And after a minute or so of symphonic build-up, this song truly rocks. Raise those devil horns and hail the king!


Before Christopher Lee found metal, he experienced a short but fun disco phase. Check out his back-up work on Kathy Joe Daylor's "Little Witch"!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Barfly #2

This gem is streaming on
Prime, check it out!
Yesterday the world lost one of its most special inhabitants when poet/DJ/punster/environmental activist/concert promoter/campground proprietor/wild-haired mountain man Jim Webb (a.k.a. Wiley Quixote) passed into the next realm. I met Jim in 2007 at a meeting of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative, and looked forward to every interaction I had with him thereafter. He was funny, kind, strange in the best way, and always unforgettable. Among his many claims to fame (or infamy?) was a small speaking part in a Troma film called Invasion of the Space Preachers. Upon request, he would proudly recite his one line from the film: "Not getting enough sleep lately, Charlie?"

His voice was probably best known as the long-time host of "Ridin' Around Listening to the Radio" on eastern Kentucky's excellent radio station WMMT. His eclectic tastes favored folk, Americana, and classic country and rock, with the occasional oddball track thrown in. Today's song comes from one of the oddball groups he liked to play--a rock 'n roll accordion band called Those Darn Accordions. To keep things in the Halloween spirit, check out their love letter to Japan's loveliest monster, Mothra. Mothra has a loving heart and always fights fiercely for her land and people, just like Jim did. Rest well, friend.