August 2017

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Social Distortion rides again

I am firing the flare gun early, because this concert is coming at us fast in September. El Paso has been a favorite venue for Social Distortion, and Tricky Falls will once again be the playground for this punk legend’s classic sound. They’ve been at it for over 30 years, but have never sounded better with the grunts and growls still slathered over catchy riffs and dripping twang permeating the proper spots. It should be of no concern that there won’t be any new material this round, since their catalogue is ripe with crowd favorites, and their notoriously brilliant cover versions are worth the price of admission alone. Here is hoping for a retelling of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and the Rolling Stones “Backstreet Girl.” Mark your calendars now for Sept. 5, and use a Sharpie because attendance is mandatory.

Cheap Trick, “We’re All Alright,” Big Machine Records

In 2016, original drummer Bun E. Carlos left Cheap Trick and the band was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It is hard to determine which of those almost polar-opposite events sparked the creative lava flow that has come out of Cheap Trick since then, but either way both incidents created some of their best music in close to a half-century. For those who have forgotten about these legends, one listen to the latest will quickly have you reacquainted with their sweet power pop, brash arena rock power chords, and harmonies like no other. Robin Zander continues crafting hauntingly beautiful melodies, only to take a 180-degree turn into a raucous growl. Lead guitarist and resident clown Rick Nielsen ices the cake with dramatic power chords, followed by enough hooks to hang the world’s largest curtain. “We’re All Right” is their sophomore effort with the bizarre label pairing of Cheap Trick with Big Machine Records, home of Taylor Swift and many American Idol alumni. Fortunately that is all that is odd, because they’ve created a masterpiece that brings us back to their heyday. The band knows they have captured lightning in a bottle as the disc’s title pays homage to their 1978 hit “Surrender.” “We’re All Alright” … no truer words have ever spoken as long as we’re all listening to the latest by Cheap Trick.

Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, “Native Heart,” Emma Java Recordings

This guy is so far into his rebranded 2.0 version that we might forget where he came from if the original model wasn’t so incredible. No I am not speaking of Dave Grohl, (go ahead and hate but I have taken up residency in the Foo Fighters compound much more than I ever did in the Nirvana camp) but I have gotten off track. I am speaking of Roger Clyne, the man behind the mid-’90s band The Refreshments. After their demise there was a time when we scratched our collective heads and wondered if we might not hear that brilliance again. Before long Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers were born and now are very close to hitting a dozen LP’s. The backbone of the new release “Native Heart” still remains primarily southwestern rock mixed with a strong slant on honky-tonk, and a tremendous amount of anthem, radio-friendly pop hooks. They try and throw us off our game out of the gate and hit us with some dance floor beats, but somehow they pull it off and we are having a good ol’ cantina sing along by the second chorus. This disc is full of heart and is a must have, whether you’re a native of the desolate desert rock scene or come from lands far and away.
Collectibles: Eagle Rock hits it 3 times with the Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones vaults continue to get raided with Eagle Rock Entertainment doing most of the legwork. The first three up are “Some Girls Live in Texas ’78,” “Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones Checkerboard Lounge live Chicago 198,” and the seminal concert film soundtrack “Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones.”
• “Live in Texas” captures the band in fine form in Fort Worth in 1978. The band was already known for their gargantuan productions, but this time it was all about the music. The bulk of the 17 selections are from the “Some Girls” LP. The show wasn’t laden with late ’60s hits although a few make it in as encores. This was an intense high-energy performance from top to bottom and everywhere in between. “Live in Texas” helps heal the wounds for those of us who weren’t ever fortunate to catch the Stones in the ’70s.
• “Muddy Waters & the Rolling Stones” features the very man whose own song inspired the name of their band. The setting is a small club on the South Side of Chicago. It kicks off with Muddy’s band warming up the audience; the man himself then gets the evening into full swing with a few cuts and then calls for participation by the superstars sitting in the audience. Mick Jagger is the first to join in on one of the finest and most extended versions of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” He is subsequently joined, by way of table top crowd surfing, by Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Mick and Muddy continue for several cuts, then the frontman takes on the spectator role until the show closer, “Champagne and Reefer,” while “Keef” and “Woody” stay on for the entire show. If you are in search of Stones hits, look elsewhere, but if you want a piece of history, kick back in the “Checkerboard Lounge” and see what inspired 50 years of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band.
• “Ladies & Gentlemen” in many people’s eyes is the band at the pinnacle of their career. The energy is palpable as soon as the announcer utters those magic words, “Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones.” This was recorded over four nights in Texas during their 1972 “Exile on Main Street” tour. The set list is primarily performed at breakneck pace, with “Gimme Shelter” maybe losing some of its luster, but this casualty is worth it to hear the band firing on all cylinders. Not to worry, “Love in Vain,” “Sweet Virginia” and “You Can Always…” are all at their proper pace. Guitarist Richards’ standard show cut even gets a very strong backup vocal by Jagger (now he can’t even be found on stage while Keith takes the mic). The extended 12-minute take on “Midnight Rambler” is not to be missed. The night is capped off with a gold standard version of “Street Fighting Man,” after which it might be recommended to wait at least 30 minutes before hitting repeat to avoid cramping.

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

El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings,
stories and columns

Feature story
Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Becoming Bicultural
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk

Copyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.