Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: The Weight Band “World Gone Mad”

The Weight Band, a band that has several connections to the late, great Levon Helm, has taken influences from that musician/songwriter and created music with his influence. The Weight Band is currently on tour in support of their newly-released album entitled World Gone Mad.

It was back in 1964 that an established band would set out on their own, create their own direction, and create a legacy that would lead them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was after being the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins that the members of what had become known as The Hawks would continue on as The Band, a group that would gain their own notoriety as the backing band for Bob Dylan and would gain a large following in their newly-adopted country of the United States.

As The Band, they had a nice run after racking up a large amount of hits, which included the Number 1 Hit “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. But the band would be relatively short-lived as the members would go their separate ways for good in 1999.

While The Band would no longer continue on as a group, drummer and lead singer Levon Helm would gather together a group of musicians and the Levon Helm Band was born. The Levon Helm Band would continue to produce hits for Helm. But in 2012, Levon Helm would pass away as a result of the throat cancer he had.

The legacy of both The Band and The Levon Helm Band continues today. It was because of Jim Weider (formerly of The Band who had joined that group as the replacement for Robbie Robertson on lead guitar) and some other musicians got together to perform some of Helm’s songs as part of a tribute to Helm. Eventually, The Weight Band (a group that takes their name from “The Weight,” a song originally recorded on released on The Band’s album Music from Big Pink. The current lineup of The Weight Band consists of: Jim Weider (guitar, mandolin & vocals) of The Band, Michael Bram (drums & vocals) Brian Mitchell (keyboards & vocals) (current member of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band), Matt Zeiner (keyboard & vocals) Albert Rogers plays (bass and vocals).

Having created a band around musicians that spent time within The Band and The Levon Helm Band as well as The Midnight Ramble Band, a musical outfit put together as a Tribute Band of sorts to Helm, it should come as no surprise that the resulting sound that is created by The Weight Band can be described as being “picking up where The Band left off”. That truly does describe the sound and feel of World Gone Mad, the first official album from the supergroup. After spending a few years on the road touring, The Weight Band released their first album. That album is entitled World Gone Mad. And “picking up where The Band left off” is quite possibly the best way of describing the feel of the album.

World Gone Mad by The Weight Band begins with the title track off of the release. “World Gone Mad” finds the band combining elements of Folk music and Rock and Roll to create a Folk-Rock track. The mandolin from band founder Jim Weider is the focal point to the music that contains a strong, driving pace to it. The use of the electric guitar near the middle of the track adds a lot of Rock and Roll influences to the otherwise laidback feel to the music. Although it contains more of a Folk flavor to it, “World Gone Mad” has the same type of feel as “Losing My Religion” from R.E.M.

It is on the track of “Fire in the Hole” that a rather familiar feel hits the listener. The track combines Blues, Rock and Folk influences together to form a sound that is unmistakable reminiscent of something that would have been released by The Band. In fact, you could almost imagine the vocals on the track being handled Levon Helm himself. The track’s lyrics deal with the current political feel of the world as they deal with talking to the president about the state of the world. Because of the political feel to the lyric and the music reminiscent of The Band, you could easily see this track having been created The Band back around the time of the Woodstock Music Festival.

The Weight Band continues their new release with the track “Deal”. While the first two tracks have Folk or Folk-Rock feel to them, “Deal” comes across as more of a Rock and Roll track that could have created by another Rock Hall inductee Bob Seger. In fact, “Deal” feels very much in the same vein of music as Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. That easily could have something to do with the retro feel of both “Deal” from The Weight Band and Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. The track features the playing of ex-Black Crowes guitarist Jackie Greene who adds guitar to The Weight Band’s cover of the track that was made famous by Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead.

Much of the new release from The Weight Band consists of original tracks. But the group does take a few moments in their album to explore other writers. One particular track on their World Gone Mad release that comes from a different source is the track “I Wish You Were Here Tonight”. Having been recorded by Rock Hall Inductee Ray Charles, the new version of the song by The Weight Band doesn’t stray too far from the original version of the track. While the version from Charles was Soul-based, the new interpretation by The Weight Band adds a little more Blues feel to the music. The new version of “I Wish You Were Here Tonight” by The Weight Band is a nice updating of the track.

Speaking of adding more Blues feel to their music, the track “Common Man” finds The Weight Band bringing back a bit of the feel from their song “Deal” for the track. And just like “Deal,” there’s a definitely Roots feel to the music. The track seems to also bring some of the mindset found on “Fire in the Hole” back again. Just like that track, the lyrics on “Common Man” contain a certain amount political feel to them.

After an entire ten tracks of studio tracks, The Weight Band brings World Gone Mad to a close with “The Remedy,” a live track. The track features the band playing the track, which again brings to mind the feel of a Bob Seger tune, live in concert. The way the track feels, you would think that the song was recorded in the studio with how solid the playing by the group is. The only telltale sign that the track was actually recorded live in concert is the sound of the audience at the end of the track, which brings the release to a close.

On their new album entitled World Gone Mad, the individual members of The Weight Band each show off their individual influences. And since many of the players in the band can claim to have played with The Band’s Levon Helm in one band or another, it is easy to see why the influence from Helm has made such an impression on the music of The Weight Band. And with that being said, if you have ever been a fan of the music from The Band, this collection of songs from musicians who used to play with him in one manner or another help to expand upon what has come before. While this is not a tribute album in any way, the influence from Helm is more than apparent.


For More information, check out Michael J. Media, the PR firm for The Weight Band. 

To experience some of the music from The Weight Band, check out the title track off of World Gone Mad. 


16-year-old soul, forty-five years later

Most of us first met this latest in a long line of Fifth Beatles on or soon after April 11, 1969 with the release of a self-described little “song to roller-coast by” called “Get Back.” Never before, you see, had the Fab Four shared sacred label credit with anyone other than themselves. But there it was, printed right atop that bright green revolving Granny Smith: “The Beatles… with Billy Preston.”

However, much prior to his musical roller-coasting, William Everett Preston already enjoyed a proud and prodigious career, launched from his mother’s lap where, at age three, he began playing the family piano. Soon he was performing with James Cleveland, Andraé Crouch and Mahalia Jackson, and in 1958 portrayed W.C. Handy (alongside Nat “King” Cole) in the film St. Louis Blues. Barely into his teens, Billy was on the road with Little Richard (first running into the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany) and Ray Charles when he was hired in 1963 to perform on the Sam Cooke album Night Beat. His organ work throughout those sessions – on the version of “Little Red Rooster” therein especially – lead to his immediately being signed, on the spot, to Cooke’s fledgling SAR label.


PIGSHIT: A Clearer Than Ever Portrait of a True Legend

Most every single time the 20th century’s greatest singer-songwriters find themselves getting lionized or even litanized, it seems one towering figure is strangely, sorrowfully AWOL. Despite this man’s myriad accomplishments both on the stage, behind the scenes, in the control room or, of course, in front of the microphone, his name is all-too-rarely uttered alongside those of Lennon, Smokey, Dylan, Aretha, Holly or even Hank.

Nevertheless, January 22, 2011 would have been Sam Cooke’s 80th birthday and I spent it the only way I knew how: with lights low and relaxed beneath headphones filled with ABKCO Records’ newly-upgraded Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964.


Deep Manalishi and Manalishi Purple were considered, but Black Manalishi was born

Black Manalishi are emanating, illuminating and blasting out of the Northwest corner of the U.K. They have a classic/heavy rock style shaped by many great influences such as Black Sabbath, Cream, Crosby, Deep Purple, Free, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynrd, Nash & Young, Pink Floyd and a great many more.

I recommend you check out their tunes, as these guys have got everything that a true classic rock fan is looking for, in triplicate. The band members are Nathan Moore on guitar, Adam Ward on vocals, Lee Gallagher on drums and Sean Gallagher on bass. Yes, you may have guessed the fact that Sean and Lee are brothers, which must add so much to the bands synergised, taught sound. Black Manalishi stimulate your mind, body and soul with an amazing wall of guitar sound and vocals backed up so well with that brotherly rhythm section. I recently threw a few questions at Nathan…

Q: How did Black Manalishi come to form initially and what inspired the choice of name?

A: I met Adam Ward through a mutual friend when forming a cover band for fun. I decided to form a new band and continue writing and performing original material, something I had done since first learning to play. Being a great vocalist, with a style reminiscent of some of my favourite rock singers, Adam was the perfect choice for vocals. The other members have always been auditioned to find the best musicians when needed.

Artists and Bands Record Labels

Alive and Rocking: Part 2

This is the second part of this round-up review/label profile so let me repeat:

Let me tell you, I get a decent bit of music in the mail thanks to this gig right here and although every day brings a package with a little bit of melodic lovin’ inside, there are days where the bounty is just so fucking cool it makes me glad I decided to become a music writer. The day I received this fat package of music from the Alive label was one of those great days. Alive is one of the few labels left which is dedicated to keeping rock and roll…ahem…alive in many ways, but most importantly in spirit. The label is a throwback to the days when substance meant more than anything else and sticking by your bands while they grew and matured was more important than milking them for one monster hit. I mean, while I am sure Alive would love to sell a ton of records and have a huge fat hit on their hands, they seem incredibly loyal to their bands and are nurturing their roster as each band builds their own reps and fanbases which will eventually help the label as a whole. As it is, the label has one of the best young rosters out there and will soon be able to compete with any other label out there is the discs contained in this package is any clue. Since they sent me so many wonderful releases, I am splitting this article into two parts so I don’t hit you with too much good stuff at one time. This is, of course, the second part!

Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Ray Charles – Ultimate Ray Charles Collection and – Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music (Concord Records)

ray_charles_smokingA true music legend in every respect, the late Ray Charles released a ton of classic discs in his near 50 year career as an American musical icon. These are but two of them but thankfully the wonderful folks at Concord have decided to give Charles’ extensive catalog the love and respect it deserves and has an aggressive reissue plan in place to bring Charles’ music back to the marketplace with bonus tracks and better sound than ever before. These two albums are just the most recent installments in that plan.

The first album, a new Greatest Hits comp, is simply a must-own if you are interested in Charles’ music and are looking for one great disc to sample his work and get your collection off to a great start. Just about every one of Charles’ biggest hits is included and, being a big fan of Charles’ work, I have bought a lot of comps featuring Charles’ music and this is the most comprehensive yet, The sound of the CD is also excellent and whoever re-mastered Charles’ music for this release went the extra mile for sure.

On the other hand, if you are wanting to build up a collection of noteworthy albums by Charles, you can hardly do better than to start with the albums many consider to be his best: Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music Volumes 1 and 2 which have been gathered and reissued on one CD thanks to the fine folks at Concord. I could go on and on regarding the many characteristics of this all-time classic which make it one of the best albums of all time, but suffice to say one of the most important is the fact Charles recorded this as an album-length statement at a time when singles were the accepted musical statement from artists. Another would be Charles being known as primarily an R&B/rock singer who was African-American and recording an album full of country songs, a genre of music most accepted by and listened to primarily by whites. In other words, there were a lot of ways in which this project was doomed to fail but only by the sheer talent and business savvy of Charles did it succeed and succeed mightily, spawning many singles and just about cementing his position as the pre-eminent American musical icon second only to Elvis in terms of longevity.