September 2019

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

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Place your bets on rock at Inn of the Mountain Gods

If you are all in when it comes to ’80s metal, you are guaranteed to win this month at Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino. They are dealing a pair of that decade’s very memorable acts. One much more than the other but they both had some hits. Opening the show Sept. 13 will be Vixen, the all-female quartet who started out in 1980. They only have half their original members but recently acquired the lead vocal stylings of Lorraine Lewis, who’s the perfect fit as she formerly fronted another all-girl group, Femme Fatale. The headliner of the night is still riding high from the Netflix Mötley Crüe biopic “The Dirt.” Although he may no longer be touring with his band, frontman Vince Neil is still going strong. He has a well of hits to draw upon with his former gang plus a few new cuts from the movie soundtrack. He also had a few solo discs that were laden with cover versions, so we may get some Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aerosmith, Scorpions and even a little Elvis Presley being channeled through him, since they all made appearances on those previous releases. So head to the casino, put it all on ’80s metal and come out a winner.

National: The Minus 5, “Stroke Manor,” Yep Roc Records

After creating new Christmas tunes in 2017, which they did with flying colors on “Dear December,” The Minus 5 leader Scott McCaughey (originally of Young Fresh Fellows) had a brand-new challenge to overcome. This one had a more dire consequence; He had suffered a stroke and doctors predicted he would never play music again. He not only proved them wrong, he did it in record speed: He began to craft this LP three days after his incident in the ICU. The new disc, aptly named “Stroke Manor,” once again features band mainstay Peter Buck of R.E.M. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy makes another appearance, and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney gets initiated to the gang on this one. The CD doesn’t shy away from its stroke inspiration. The song “Beatles Forever” comes from a playlist guitarist Peter Buck made to help spark Scott’s musical memory, and the album cover art features an image of his brainwaves. In what might be best described as another worldly premonition, “Pink Bag for Rip Torn” shines a spotlight on the actor who passed away this July, ending with the line “Rip will rest in Peace.” It turns out this was just a misunderstood statement by a nurse, not a premonition but who knows? Either way we are glad Scott made it out all right and has left Stroke Manor.

Collective Soul, “Blood,” Fuzze-Flex Records

After teasing us a about a year and a half ago with the incredible “Right as Rain” (the then-new cut from their live release that very appropriately appropriates the Tom Petty “Jammin Me” guitar riff), they have added nine others to it and created one of their strongest records to date. Who has created this masterpiece you ask? It is the band that does straight forward rock’n’ roll better than most anyone. It isn’t over-seasoned with layers of punk, alt country, Goth, hardcore, or any other flavor, it is Collective Soul. This band has always managed to deliver the goo loosening ds and maintain a high standard of albums. Their new disc “Blood” is self-releasing; perhaps that record company pressure valve explains how they have taken their game to a new level of excellence. The slick production and extraordinarily hook-laden arena rockers are churned with proper quantities of soloing, pop and glam, while still managing not to be overcome by them. The outstanding result proves that their special formula is sure to procure a few more hits. They are a quarter-century in, so if you haven’t already, I think it is time to get some “Blood” on your hands.

Donnie Vie, “Beautiful Things.” Deko Music

When it comes to guilty pleasures sometimes you try to scratch that itch any way you can. If involves getting your ears on some new music, I strongly recommend branching out into side projects. This one is more than simply supplemental, this is now the whole ball of wax when you are talking about Donnie Vie. He’s the main songwriter and vocalist for pure power pop masters Enuff Z Nuff, a band he left in 2013 after almost three decades. He is waist-deep in his solo career with several records of live, demo, cover version, re-imagined tracks, but has just released his third disc of all new material titled “Beautiful Things.” For those fans of his past work, you know the power pop bliss you are in for, but there are a few more ballads and some countrification a foot that blend seamlessly. He also gets a helping hand from Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big, Matt Walker of Garbage & Morrissey, and fellow power pop enthusiast Roger Manning of Jellyfish, and that is a very beautiful thing.

Collectibles: The Replacements, “Dead Man’s Pop,” Rhino Records

Although The Replacements only kept it together for under a decade, they squeezed out an impressive eight albums worth of material. Some of the reasons for their mythical status were their debauchery, constant infighting and a penchant for pilfering their own material from record company claws. The final bit of that is what the amazing Rhino Records box is all about. The brand new collection “Dead Man’s Pop” features 60 tracks, of which 58 have never been heard before. The set focuses on their biggest-selling release, 1989’s “Don’t Tell a Soul.” As they finished production on that disc, they stole the remaining reels of material from Paisley Park studios that didn’t make the final cut. This work is finally seeing the light of day with a reimagined and remixed version of the album as they initially intended, along with a collection of previously unheard cuts, and a classic concert from 1989 that until now was only available in an extremely truncated version given away a radio station promo. This very impressive archive comes with a 12”x12” hardcover book with dozens of rarely seen photos, and a vinyl LP and cassette. There’s also an outtake, and an instrumental with unused cover art for the original album. When it comes to The Replacements nobody have ever really been able to replace them.

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at

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