Saying Farewell to the Monkees

Some time way back in 2019, we bought tickets to see Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith play a concert as the two remaining members of the Monkees. Scheduled for May 2020, the concert never happened. It was re-scheduled twice and then finally re-scheduled for September 11th. Last night Lorri and I were there.

The show was at the Moore. The Moore is one of my very favorite venues. It’s smallish and relatively intimate. Proof of vaccination and masking were required. The latter was a bit challenging because it seemed quite warm in the theater but we managed. The audience was mostly aging boomers so we felt quite at home, but there were some younger fans as well. The audience was knowledgeable and well-mannered, which is more than I could say for the last couple of shows I attended pre-Covid.

Mickey Dolenz

The Monkees were a weird man-made creation. Really never envisioned as a band or musical act, the members were seen as TV stars who would make NBC plenty of money as an American knock-off of the Beatles. Their story was pretty well told in the 2000 movie Daydream Believers. Featured in that movie was the ongoing conflict between the members of the band/TV ensemble who wanted to perform as musicians and write their own stuff at a remarkable time in pop culture history and the network brass who wanted a weirdly entertaining program that would attract a young audience, sell lots of ads and keep ratings high. That conflict was as much a character in the concert as Mickey and Mike.

Mickey is 76 years old and Mike is 78. Neither are young by any measure. Mickey still has that easy high voice, seems sprightly and while I wouldn’t say he jumps, dances or runs around the stage, the man can still perform and sing the songs. Mike underwent a quadruple by-pass in 2018, moves with difficulty and the voice, always a bit swampy, has lost range and strength.

Michael Nesmith

The show was really fascinating in terms of the song choices. You can access the set list here. Aside from “Last Train To Clarksville” the boys did their best to avoid the big Monkees hits in the first half of the show. They went on to share their unhappiness with the way their desire to be treated as serious artists was treated by the network and “Music Surpervisor” Don Kirshner. While they didn’t name Kirshner, and he has the good sense to be dead, dead, dead, it’s clear to anyone who knows a little bit about their story knows who they’re referring to. There were some Monkees songs in that first half, but they aren’t as well known, and they tend to be songs Michael Nesmith wrote. Peter Tork’s “For Pete’s Sake” that closed the show after season one jumps in at number 12. Lorri turned to me during the show and noted they sounded very country. True, and Nesmith had pretty deep country roots. Today I’d call his music Americana.

The second half of the show continued in the same vein, and the audience didn’t seem to be complaining. A couple songs from the movie flop Head led things off, with more Nesmith songs to follow. It wasn’t until song 27 from the set, “Daydream Believer” that the band powered through five well-known popular Monkees tunes to wrap things up. That includes the Monkees.

In my opinion, this was still a solid show. Dolenz and Nesmith have been trying to complete this farewell tour literally for years, and I got the distinct impression they are happy to be wrapping up. They were professional, the show was good, but it wasn’t joyful. I remember having the same feeling when I saw Robin Trower in 2019. I think when performers reach a certain age a certain there is a certain joie de vivre that is missing. It isn’t surprising. Everything is just a tish harder with age.

Favorite moments: The very brief interlude between the end of the second half and the encore which ended with Mike walking out with his guitarist son Christian. The affection between the two was obvious. Mickey supplied with a kettle drum to play “Randy Scouse Git.” The passle of great Mike Nesmith songs, including: “The Door Into Summer,” “You Just May Be The One,” “Papa Gene’s Blues,” and “Sweet Young Things.” Finally, the decision not to cover any lame, overwrought Davy Jones ballads.

Least favorite moments: Anything from Head, and the intro and performance of “While I Cry.” Ick.

Amos

July 6th began as a fairly normal morning. Well, normal for me at any rate. Rusty woke me up at 4:20 to be fed. And that was it; I was awake. I read my morning news feeds and continued reading David C. Roll’s wonderful biography of George C. Marshall. Lorri was up at 7:00, I did some morning chores, had my morning check in with the missus.

By 8:30 I was out walking the Rusty, Lola and Amos. Nothing amiss. Back home, off to the grocery store. More chores around the house. Lunch for the Aussies at noon. But when it was time for dinner at 5:00, it was clear something was wrong. Amos refused dinner, something that hadn’t happened in nine years. He became increasingly lethargic. At 8:00 I found him collapsed under the dining room table. Though we rushed him to Sumner Animal Hospital, by the time we got there he was giving his last breath, and was gone. Our beautiful boy was gone.

Amos had a tumor that burst a blood vessel. He died of internal bleeding in a matter of hours. The tumor was only visible on ultrasound. That we didn’t know doesn’t stop the hurt and sense of loss.

Amos was our special boy, the third of our line of five miniature Australian/American Shepherds, and the first of our second generation. He came to us through Marilyn Gadsbury’s breeding program. After Jack passed away in 2012, she offered him to us. Amos carried a gene for blindness, and was inappropriate for breeding, so she and her husband Randy offered to meet us at a mid-point between their home in Sand Point, ID and Puyallup, so we settled on Moses Lake. We packed Lucy, our sweet 11 year old black tri in the car and set off across the state.

We weren’t prepared for what we found there in the city park. Mostly white, with beautiful light brown patches and dark red markings set off his blue and brown marbled eyes. Amos was really something, and we were thrilled to get him. Needless to say, Lucy was non-plussed.

The only other opinion that mattered was Amos’ and he was not happy to be driven halfway across the state, away from his home and his childhood friend Evie. Marilyn said Evie and Amos would play out in the field all day. Amos never formed with that kind of attachment to any other dog, rarely played and early in the months after he came to live in our little house on South Hill hid under the computer table, coming out only for meals. We called him our “back-up dog” because he often seemed so fearful. While Lucy was quiet and sweet and Jack had been fierce and mischievous, Amos was just afraid and I feared he would never trust or love us.

Amos was so anxious that when I left him out of his crate to run out and pick up food with a friend, he chewed up our nearly new leather couch. Ugh.

In October of 2012, Lorri sent word of an Aussie in Olympia in need of adoption. He was 2 1/2, a red one. His name was Rusty. We decided that maybe a second male would get Amos to play, so Rusty came to live with us. The boys never became buddies, though they formed a part of the pack. We had a lot of fun. Lost Lucy a year later, but got Lola seven years ago (2014) and all together they became the Smyth Pack with me as their leader.

Eventually Amos came to accept his surroundings and found a way to fit in as the tragic middle child. He suffered allergies with the change of seasons, for a while. He had a dumb accident with the vet and a badly slipped scalpel that damaged his foot.

But mostly he became Amos, Protector of Smythland. No visitor, delivery man, mail carrier or family member was safe from his snarling bark that sounded a little like the scream of a six-year old girl. On daily walks, in which he was usually the most compliant of the three, any dogs spotted on the horizon became immediate targets for his outrage, which sister Lola was happy to accompany.

Amos hated the water.

Amos hated driving in the car. He was sure we were taking him somewhere to be killed, shook and cried ceaselessly. In the end we were always going somewhere he didn’t like such as the groomer or the vet, because going elsewhere was such a pain in the ass.

Amos was a prolific shedder. The greatest shedder of all time, period the end. If I wore black I’d better equip myself with a lint roller.

Amos was not a kisser or a face washer. He didn’t know how to jump in my lap, and unless I grabbed him and plunked him down in my lap he had no clue.

But he was also a sweet loving boy. Though a visitor might be the target of Amos-ire for five minutes, within fifteen he would become best friends, snuggle up on the couch and beg to have his tummy rubbed.

He loved our big back yard and loved to roll in the grass on a warm day.

I’ve never had another dog, or even seen another that ran and jumped with our Amee’s grace and beauty. At night he was poetry running in the night, his white fur glowing in the moonlight. I will miss that.

When Amos was happy he smiled like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

My favorite Amos trick occurred each day at about 4:00. We kept a cloth cover on the couch to protect it from Amos sheddery, and he would spend ten minutes rolling in the cover, pulling it off the back of the couch only to emerge with his Groot smile as if to say-“Didja see that?” We did. We laughed, we cuddled and now we cannot. I loved him so.

For Amos, the Covid year was a blessing. I was here each day, and Lorri worked from home too. Times in his crate were few and far between. He could usually be found each day at Lorri’s feet, listening in to calls and offering suggestions on Zoom meetings.

But he’s gone and we are broken-hearted. There will be no Amos replacements, no new Aussie stand-ins. He’s left a hole in our hearts and our little mixed family of Aussies and senior citizens no other pooch can fill. We know full well when we sign on as pet owners these moments will come, but it just doesn’t make it any easier

Steve Winwood’s Greatest Hits Live

I am an unapologetic Steve Winwood admirer. From his time with the Spencer Davis Group as a teenager, to his days with Traffic and brief sojourn with Blind Faith, and his days as a solo pop star in the 80’s, I just enjoy it all.

Even as a 15 year old in the Spencer Davis Group, Winwood had a wonderful blues/rock voice that he showcased throughout his career. As a multi-instrumentalist, he was able to record all his 80’s albums in his home studio. He’s one of those early Brit stars that is often overlooked.

In 2017 Winwood released this wonderful live set that Lorri was kind enough to get me for Father’s Day. Pretty much all his work in bands and as a solo artist are covered.

Winwood works in a live setting with a pretty talented band. My favorites like “I’m a Man,” “Low Sparks of High-Heeled Boys,” and “Can’t Find My Way Back Home” are nicely covered. Most of the songs are a little looser and jazz-influenced than the originals, but the musicians know their work and all are quite recognizable. I think at this point in his career Winwood is content to find a groove and just follow it.

Winwood is still a great listen. He’s coming to the White River Amphitheater next May with whatever remains of Steely Dan. I think it’s on my to do list.

The State of My Collection

I’d like to say the year-plus of Covid has stalled out the growth of my record collection. It hasn’t. I would say it stalled out the accurate record-keeping in my collection, but albums continue to make their way through the front door and into my den.

How many? Well, by my count the year that’s passed since we officially moved to a pandemic in March of 2020, I’ve added about 60 records or about five per month. In fact, things were pretty quiet until November of 2021 and I’ve been actively pursuing new stuff since then.

Some have been hole-fillers or band-completers. They are albums I think I should have in my collection. An example of the former would Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. I wrapped up my Doors collection by adding Waiting For the Sun and The Soft Parade.

I’ve kept some fairly small lists and tried to stick to them. I added Aerosmith’s eponymous first record, because, well everybody needs a copy of “Dream On.” I took a chance on Billie Eilish’s first record, and it’s a delight. Lorri bought me a copy of a Greg Lake anthology released in time for Christmas, and it really hit the spot. I followed up with a recent copy of his first solo album from 1981, and it’s great.

My next target is Randy Newman’s Faust. Why? Well, it’s a completer and I love it. Almost nobody else does. It will have to come from Europe. Sigh.

Randy Newman’s Faust, never pressed in America, will be my next record purchase. I love it. Nobody else does. I’ll have to order it from Europe. Pressed as an LP in the Netherlands in 2013.

I’ve really valued hitting the used record stores. I usually go with a plan and a budget. I can usually stick to both–unless the record(s) I want are unavailable. I’ve made my way to Rainy Day Records in Olympia, Georgetown Records in Seattle. I even went to Quimper Bay Records in Port Townsend and enjoyed each of them thoroughly. I always like to go, find my main purchase and have a few bucks left over to try something really different. For example, in my recent trip to Georgetown, I found my “from my list” record, The Soft Parade, and had enough left over to pick up All-TIme Hits of Hugh Masakela. So I’ve had a chance to slightly explore the music of the South African great who appeared at Monterey in 1967.

I’ve also made some recent orders on Discogs. If one has the patience to wait 8-10 days for shipping, this is still a very reasonable way to order records at a reasonable price compared to the sometimes inflated market that is the Puget Sound region. I’ve taken to adding an interesting title to orders to take advantage of cheap or free shipping for multiple records. Example: I added Mason Williams and Mannheim Steamroller’s 1987 album Classical Gas for five bucks and free shipping in my last order. You know how I feel about “Classical Gas.”

The long and short of it is that my collection is live and well, and not without new additions. The only thing that threatens further growth is space and the lack thereof, but I’ve said that before.

Elton John by Elton John: 50 Years On.

In 1970 I was fifteen and a sophomore at beautiful Carlmont High School in Belmont CA. I played soccer, though not very well. At my alma mater, soccer is a winter sport. We’d play in the rain and the mud, which is what the football players left us after their season was over. What I mostly remember is rain, mud, and dark by the time practice was over.

I couldn’t drive, so my understanding mother was tasked with picking me up from practice that winter of 1970-71. She’d show up in the ’64 Mercury Comet that remained in the family a long time, pick me up in the parking lot and drive me home in time for dinner. There were two songs on the AM radio I remember well from those soccer practice pick-ups. One was “If You Could Read My Mind” by folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. To this day I remain a fan of the great Canadian folksinger and I have many of his records.

The other song was “Your Song” by this Briton named Elton John. It was a weird name with last name first and first name last. But the song was beautiful and breathtaking. I loved it then and love it still. I bought the album Elton John 50 years ago and I still have my original copy. Certainly, Elton went on to be much more than the quiet piano-playing songwriter of 1970.

The album begins with “Your Song,” which became the big single on that album. It’s one of those tunes that is timeless. It’s a song that has been covered and made it’s way into at least two movies, Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge, and John’s autobiographical Rocketman. It may be my favorite Elton John song together with “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” I suppose it isn’t odd that the best song on a fifty-year-old record has the most noise and most pops from repeated playing.

But there are plenty of great songs on this record. Continuing on side A there’s the lovely “I Need You To Turn To,” and the commanding “Take Me To the Pilot.” I used to think that the country-influenced “No Shoestrings On Louise” was strictly a throw-away song, but tonight I thought it was great. It seemed like a very Jagger-influenced tune, but Elton always enjoyed a great country song on his albums, so it set the stage for more.

Side B featured a pile of less well known but great songs. Beginning with “60 Years On,” in the vein of “My Generation,” but a bit more palatable to adults, it’s followed by the wonderful gospel-influenced “Border Song.” The songs that follow-“The Greatest Discovery,” “The Cage,” and “The King Must Die” are all solid if unspectacular.

This album, John’s second after the earlier release of Empty Sky in 1969, has a bunch of good songs written with Bernie Taupin. Sadly, with the exception of “Your Song,” they were largely forgotten as John’s star rose and exploded into a solid string of singles and albums that followed over the next five years. The seeming shy and reticent piano player was replaced with the flamboyant performer in platform shoes, gigantic glasses and costumes bordering on the ridiculous. In 1987 John revisited many of them in his Live In Australia album.

In many respects this is a remarkable record. While the singer/songwriter movement was already underway with Jackson Browne, James Taylor and others announcing their arrivals, John was among the few to appear behind a piano. He joined the likes of Randy Newman, whose first release was in 1969, and ahead of Carole King’s first release, Writer in May of 1970, and almost a year ahead of mega-smash Tapestry. The album also features a Moog synthesizer in “The Episode On Hienton” and “The Cage,” which was still pretty unusual in 1970.

Though the album certainly has some songs better than others, I still think it holds together pretty well. If it has a weakness, I would point to the production by Gus Dudgeon. There was a very heavy-handed use of orchestral backing in some of the songs that really wasn’t necessary. Today, I find it distracting.

Still worth a listen after all these years.

Coda: Led Zeppelin’s Finale

This is a tough record to write about. I think if you tackle Led Zeppelin, with all the Zepheads out there, you gotta know your stuff. I freely confess that I know some, just not enough. I was really a album One, Two or Four guy, the stuff after, not so much.

Coda was the end. In 1982, when the record was released, John Bonham was dead. The band was split up. Robert Plant was releasing his first solo record. The band had one album required to fulfill its contract with Atlantic, and Jimmy Page stepped in to make sure that happened. Page selected eight songs to fill out the album, and while it was dismissed at the time, it’s a solid record.

If Coda has a problem, it’s that it is eight songs that didn’t fit on previous Led Zeppelin albums. They are solid, they are enjoyable, but in the end they are eight songs don’t fit together very well, while on the classics LZ albums there is a usually something thematic in the styling or storytelling.

For me, the show-stopper is “Darlene” on side two. it’s a great rocker that features excellent solos by Page on guitar and John Paul Jones on piano. Old-fashioned, rollicking and fun.

Two more songs that really resonated with me are the Willie Dixon blues number “I Can’t Quite You Baby” and “Bonzo’s Montreux.” The former is very much a reminder of the blues-based first Led Zeppelin offering. Very much fun. The latter is very much a paean to the late drummer. Though I often find drum solos a waste of time, the combination of Bonzo and some interesting synth get it just right.

The rest of the songs are good. If you like Led Zeppelin, you’ll like these songs. It’s hard to listen to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, with John Bonham and John Paul Jones in support and think the music sucks. There’s some rockers that just tear it up. There’s a little Plant-powered folk-rock. It’s a real mix of style and genre. These aren’t half-finished takes that Page has tried to piece together. My criticism is that as a whole they don’t seem to fit together super well, and that is Coda’s weakness

NIN: Pretty Hate Machine-How Do I Love Thee?

I love Ken Burns documentaries. Just do. Ken Burns could make a doco on late term abortions and I’d watch all 17 hours. His style is riveting and his research is incredible.

As I was watching Vietnam for the third time, I took greater notice of the soundtrack’s throbbing background. I watched for the credits and noticed it was scored by Trent Reznor. I checked a mental box. The same year as the Vietnam release Nine Inch Nails was nominated and then voted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Another box checked.

Honestly, what I know about Nine Inch Nails and industrial music broadly you could stick on the head of a pin. Flip that pin, over, what I know you could stick on the pointy part-you know, the part where there aren’t any angels dancing. I knew that I needed to find out a little more.

Sorry, I’m not a cheater. No free streaming for me. If I’m gonna find out I’ll be sure the artists get their fair cut. So when I zipped out to Tacoma to grab The Dirty Knobs’ first release, I was poking through the “Indie” records and found Nine Inch Nails. I was really after Downward Spiral, based on the Allmusic review, but–no such luck. But there was a copy of 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine which drew national attention to the band, so despite the silent weeping of my wallet, I grabbed it up with the Mike Campbell opus and took it home.

I finally got around to listening to it the last couple of days, and I must say it’s different. Not different in a bad way, just different from what I’m used to listening to. Nine Inch Nails was always one of those bands my edgier students listened to, and I kind of walked away from.

The first listen through I was drawn to the synth and the beats, Reznor’s powerful voice bawling out the lyrics. I liked it, but it’s music I would have rejected at its birth. Something like this (synth + beat) =disco=bad. Of course I was wrong and dumb. It is neither disco or bad. It’s good, really good.

A second listen made it a little clearer what draws me to the album. Reznor is an expert at using his sounds to create moods and textures. Most of the songs are angry, are about grievance, or alienation. “Head Like a Hole” is a great song and a super example of this. Another song I really enjoyed is ballad-like, only angst-like instead of love lost or fulfilled and that is the lengthy “Something I Can Never Have.” Both are grim tales of betrayal and separation. There’s also some sex to relieve the pain that Reznor takes some trouble to share in “Sanctified.” Tipper Gore would not like this record.

But I thought it was terrific, something much different from the guitar-driven music I listen to. Interesting enough that I’d be interested in exploring the next two NIN albums, The Downward Spiral and Fragile.

John Lee Hooker: I’m John Lee Hooker

When I was teaching my history students not all that long ago, I would occasionally get a question I couldn’t answer. Imagine that, your teacher doesn’t know something. The questioner might be shocked, some were even outraged. “How could you be our teacher and not know that.”

My response was always the same: “Kid, you can’t know everything.”

So it is with my music collection. One genre my knowledge is particularly barren is the blues. It’s sad, but I don’t lament it too long. I know what I like. A little Muddy Waters, a little more Howlin’ Wolf and it’s way downhill from there.

A few years ago I was at Mississippi Records in Portland and I saw a reasonably inexpensive re-pressing of I’m John Lee Hooker. While I knew who Hooker was, and had even heard his music and seen him on Saturday Night Live many years ago, I knew next to nothing about him. I budgeted carefully for the visit-cash or check only, Mississippi Records doesn’t take cards-so it joined the nice stack of LP’s I snarfled at that delightfully different shop.

I took it home and there it sat. Until yesterday when I listened to it twice.

I’m John Lee Hooker was originally pressed in 1959 from a collection of recordings from 1957-59. 14 short that are first rate. There are no wasted tracks.

Hooker’s voice is strong and the accompaniment is spare. A couple of songs have a full band-even a trumpet makes its way on “Boogie Rambler.” There’s a piano solo on “Little Wheel.” But for the most part, the sidemen’s work is spare. And the best songs are just Hooker, his guitar and his foot keeping time.

Yep, my favorite tracks are “Blues Hobo,” “Boogie Chillen,” and “Crawlin’ King Snake” that pretty much feature John and nobody else. They are dark and kind of dramatic in their spareness. But for sure the most memorable. The guitar is very rhythmic and uptempo, very distinct in its sound.

Terrific song. John Lee Hooke with his foot tapping as accompaniment. This song was covered by The Doors on LA Woman in 1971.

The rest of the songs are great too. Some, like “Dimples” and “I Love You Honey” are just great songs. You could even call them pop. “Mambo Chillen” and “Baby Lee” lead the rest of the songs, but they’re all terrific.

This is a super record. Re-pressed in 2015, with extended liner notes, it should be available at a reasonable price. If you are interested in the blues but are a relative know-nothing like me, it’s a good place to start.

Day well, whatever: The Viceroys-The Viceroys at Granny’s Pad

For the last couple years of my teaching career I really wrapped my interest around Northwest rock and roll in the early 60’s. The Fabulous Wailers, the Sonics, were prime exemplars plus the piles of singles that bands released during this time period. The style of music was unique to this region-stong instrumentals featuring guitar, bass, occasional piano and a raging saxophone. This was the music that was featured at dances from high school hops to Pat O’Day’s weekend dance extravaganzas from Bellingham to southern Oregon, from Seattle to Boise.

What set the Wailers and Sonics apart is at least the part time addition of distinctive voices to change things up a bit. Rockin’ Robin Roberts and Gail Harris dropped in to sing with the band in studio or ballrooms on weekend nights. The Sonics took off when the inimitable Gerry Roslie added his own unique vocals to the Tacoma band’s instrumental stylings.

The Viceroys were a band from the Lake City neighborhood of Seattle. They began playing together in 1959, the same year the Fabulous Wailers went back to New York City to record their first record. Their lineup included Jim Valley (guitar,) Al Berry (piano,) Mike Rogers (sax,) Fred Zeufeldt (drums,) and Bud Potter sax. The band played lots of local venues, chiefly dances. During the Worlds Fair in 1962, The Viceroys broke through, appearing on a daily television show called Deck Dance broadcast from the liner Dominion Monarch moored in Elliot Bay. They garnered enough interest to be approached by local label Seafair-Bolo Records to record an LP.

Named for a character on Pat O’Day’s primetime radio show, Granny Peters, the band recorded The Viceroys at Granny’s Pad. the album includes ten tracks. For more information about the band, its coming and goings, be sure to read the incomparable Peter Blecha’s blog post “The Viceroys-Seattle’s Rock Royalty 1958-56.”

A couple of listens to the album really puzzled me about how to begin. First, nine of ten tracks on Granny’s Pad are instrumentals. There is only one number with a vocal track and that is “Mary Ann.” I don’t know if it’s surprising the most memorable track, for me, is “Mary Ann.” It is kind of strange the vocalist, or for that matter the musicians, are not credited on the album cover.

Tiger Shark is one of the more memorable tracks on side A of The Viceroys at Granny’s Pad.

The rest of the songs have a dance beat with really solid soloing across all the tracks. Valley, who would later go on to play lead guitar with Don and the Goodtimes and Paul Revere and the Raiders, usually adds something interesting to each song. Berry often chimes in with some great piano. However the most consistent contributor is Potter who simply rocks in the best Northwest tradition.

Look, they’re talented and consistent, the songs are melodic, but there aren’t a lot of the instrumental pieces that are memorable. I listened to the album twice and there aren’t any pieces that sent me searching for the album cover to get more specific information. Maybe Tiger Shark which owes debts to surf bands and maybe Link Wray stood out as a distinct sound. The last song, a medley including an instrumental version of “Louie, Louie” on the B-side really interested me and that’s because it was recorded with a live audience.

And perhaps that’s really the thing to remember is that this a collection of dance songs that would be played in a ballroom full of teen agers. It feels like the LP struggles to capture the electricity The Viceroys might have offered a room full of fans.

There is something I found positively irritating and that is the persistent references to Granny’s Pad on three of the tracks. It was done in a sophomoric shout, and honestly I felt like I was on the wrong side of an inside joke.

I’m not sure this album wears well after nearly 60 years. However, it is a valuable artifact of Northwest Rock from a certain time. Not as good as some bands, but it certainly seemed to be what the kids wanted way back when. Who am I to judge.

Day Three: The Dirty Knobs-Wreckless Abandon

Anyone who knows me and the music I really enjoy, knows my passion for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or just Tom Petty, or The Traveling Wilburys. I admired his gift for songwriting, his singing style, and his respect for rock and roll traditions. His death in 2017 left a huge hole in my heart.

Mike and Tom in earlier times. Sigh

I also had a huge fondness for Petty’s guitarist and chief collaborator Michael Campbell. Campbell is a terrific guitarist. His work always supported the song, avoided excessively noodling, and his solos were short, powerful and memorable. Whether it is the searing solo in “The Waiting” from Hard Promises, or the brief interlude in Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” the statements are brief but unforgettable. There are no wasted notes.

It is no surprise that Campbell, three years after Petty’s death and following a successful stint filling in as guitarist on the recent Fleetwood Mac tour, released Wreckless Abandon with his band The Dirty Knobs. Apparently they’ve been working together in a fairly unstructured way the last 12 years, playing between Heartbreakers tours and albums.

The first I’d heard of the band, a friend had seen them slightly pre-Covid in Long Beach. That grabbed me, and there was word of a planned album. I waited patiently, but no sign of a record. Then the word appeared on the High Voltage website in Tacoma. I was off the next day to acquire it.

The Dirty Knobs are Campbell on guitar and lead vocals. Jason Sinay sits in on guitar does backing vocals. Lance Morrison plays bass, while Matt Laug handles drums and percussion. No synth, or keyboards, though longtime Heartbreaker bandmate Benmont Tench drops by for piano on one song. This album, my friends, is about guitars. That is a very good thing in my book.

Allmusic reviewer Mark Deming describes this record as “noisier, dirtier and sometimes heavier than a Heartbreakers record . . .” and I don’t think I’d disagree with him. I think the inevitable temptation is to run out and compare Wreckless Abandon with Tom Petty’s work or a Heartbreaker’s album. I think it’s incredibly unfair to judge a first effort against a 40-year career of one of the best bands of all time.

Though Campbell and his mates have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of with this record, there are songs that sound like they belong on a Heartbreakers record. Maybe that’s all the years of collaborating with T.P. Beyond that, while Campbell as a lead vocalist is a great guitarist, he’s also not bad. It isn’t as polished as Petty, but it follows the same kind of phrasing and cadence. It’s unavoidable that there will be comparison.

This is a two album set, with only twelve songs, none of them particularly long-so I’m not clear about the need for two discs. However, there are lots of thoroughly enjoyable tracks, beginning with the title track. “Wreckless Abandon” sets the tone for the record and is a terrific rocker. “Irish Girl” is another really good song. I didn’t expect to like “Fuck That Guy,” which shares of examples of the guys we all love to hate, but I thought it was fun. “Don’t Knock the Boogie” is an old-fashioned blues boogie that is really good. “Anna Lee” is a wonderful acoustic ballad that Campbell and crew pull off nicely

The only song I don’t care for is “Pistol Packin’ Mama” Though it guests Chris Stapleton, it just doesn’t do anything for me. Different listeners may differ with me and I’m okay with that.

At age 70, I don’t know how many more records or how many tours Campbell and his Knobs have in them, but this album is solid, maybe better than solid. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Though it has some very Pettyish elements, this band is different. It has a fundamentally harder sound, a bit rougher around the edges. But in these days of pretty pop, that’s a good thing.

Wreckless Abandon is highly wreckommended.