Sound Man by Glyn Johns (Blue Rider Press)


If you grew up listening to music before the digital age made packaging obsolete, you’ve probably seen the name Glyn Johns on the back of some of your favorite records. He’s recorded, mixed or produced just about all the big names in rock like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and The Eagles, to name a few from his fifty-year career behind the boards. Based on his accomplishments and the characters he’s crossed paths with, Johns’ autobiography should be an indispensable treasure trove of great stories and anecdotes from rock’s most vital period. Instead I find it dull. Yes he was there, and yes, he played an important role in shaping the sound of classic rock; but his way of recounting events is so dry and emotionless that it’s hard to care. Johns wrote Sound Man – the title perhaps a play on his “normalcy” in a field dominated by insane characters – by himself, which was probably a mistake. It won’t take readers long to figure out he’s not a professional writer and that a co-author could have added some crucial spice to an otherwise bland read. They also could have recommended a normal-sized font instead of the squint-inducing one we’re stuck with. Johns also errs by only focusing on his best known musical activities, condensing the last thirty-five years down to just 40 pages. True, his output from that time was weak compared to the albums he worked on in the ’60s and ’70s, but this is supposed to be a biography, not a ‘greatest hits’. It might have been interesting to hear what it was like for him, given his extraordinary resume, to work on albums by forgotten C-level bands like Summerhill, Jackopierce and The Warm Jets. Unfortunately he doesn’t let us in on that…or much else.

Dirty Streets – Blades Of Grass (Alive Records)


Classic rock is sounding real tired these days – the thrill of those great songs killed by endless radio overplay –  but once in a while a new band with youthful energy makes it sound exciting again. Memphis trio Dirty Streets are one such group, and their third album Blades of Grass is the perfect remedy for people who love the harder-edged side of classic rock but are sick of hearing the same few Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and James Gang songs over and over on whatever corporate station rules your local airwaves. Drenching boulder-heavy riffs in southern soul grease isn’t a particularly revolutionary idea, but combining these elements in short punchy tracks at a time when few bands are making straight-ahead rock records make Dirty Streets something of a revelation. Opener “Stay Thirsty” is the band in a nutshell, with a durable riff (from Justin Toland), a funky rhythm and pleading vocals (also from Toland) all well recorded at their hometown’s famed Ardent Studios. Elsewhere, “No Need To Rest” is “Funk #49″,”Mississippi Queen” and “Over The Hills and Far Away” blended into a tasty rock smoothie, “Movements #2” is their previous album’s title track reworked, and “Keep An Eye Out” has some crackin’ Meters influences lurking beneath the hard surface. It’s a strong record, but there’s room for improvement, liked the clichéd “world-gone-wrong” lyrics that make “Talk” an awkward foray into Sly and The Family Stone-style “message rock”. Even flawed, I’ll take a well-executed album of long-haired rock’n’roll over forgettable flavor-of-the-month records any day.

 

The Dirty Streets – Movements (Soul Patch Records)


Do you miss the old days when power trios ruled the earth? Do you yearn for the era when long-haired bands played high-energy blues, soul and psychedelia at intense volumes, inventing hard-rock in the process? If so, do yourself a favor and get acquainted with this young Memphis trio right away. Their debut, Movements, may not be the most well-recorded album ever to hit my stereo, but lo-fi sound isn’t a big problem because the band are infectious and rocking. They’ve got raw energy and accomplished musicianship that might recall classic rock, but also sounds totally vital in the here and now. You want some specific reference points? No problem. I can hear bits of The Who (circa Live at Leeds), very early Aerosmith, The Black Keys (before they hooked up with Danger Mouse) and even distant hints of Booker T. and The MGs (albeit a much heavier version). Movement’s ten songs all smoke, but the opening trio of “Broke As A Man Can Be”, “Clouds Of Strange” and “Felt” are where The Dirty Streets strike the perfect balance of muscle and melody. I’d love to hear what these guys could do with a bigger recording budget somewhere down the line, but they’re off to a ripping start.

Stream the whole damn thing right here: