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Starting on a Tear (01/07/2000) Write to CD Shakedown
Shrine 69Fleetwood Mac, Shrine 69 (Ryko 1999) - Before Mick Fleetwood and John McVie catapulted Fleetwood Mac into the record-selling stratosphere with a West Coast line-up that included Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac was one of England's best regarded blues bands.

Shrine 69 captures this blues sound on a January 1969 live performance at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles. Recorded by legendary sound man Stuart "Dinky" Dawson, the album captures the pure blues sound of the original Fleetwood Mac. The new master was sequenced and approved by Mick Fleetwood himself.

Dinky DawsonProducer Dinky Dawson worked with a number of famed 60s and 70s acts, including the Byrds, Steely Dan, Lou Reed, and the J. Geils Band. Look for Dinky's autobiography "Life on the Road," in which he recounts such stories as the notorious Grateful Dead drug bust in New Orleans and drawing extra amps from the electric chair at Sing Sing prison for a Joan Baez concert.

The lineup on Shrine 69 included Peter Green on guitar and vocals, Mick Fleetwood on drums, John McVie on bass, Jeremy Spencer on slide guitar and keyboards, and Danny Kirwin on guitar and vocals. Green, Spencer and Kirwin were all first rate blues guitarists, as captured on such great studio recordings as Then Play On.

The original bandShrine 69 finds the band in a loose, extended blues groove on songs like "My Sweet Baby" and the uptempo "Before the Beginning."

Yet the musical heritage created by this blues outfit runs deep, as "Lemon Squeezer" is a direct precursor to the sound embraced by Led Zeppelin on its early recordings (see especially the "Lemon Song" on Led Zeppelin II).

The good old daysAnd the real treat comes at the end, with covers of "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes." In particular, Green (who was a fine soul shouter) gives a raunchy reading to "Blue Suede Shoes" that will change how you remember this song.

Shrine 69 captures a Fleetwood Mac sound that is largely unknown in America. Yet the pre-Lindsey Buckingham Fleetwood Mac was a potent lineup. Prepare for a surprise on Shrine 69.

Shivaree CoverShivaree, I Oughtta Give You a Shot in The Head (Capitol 1999) - Shivaree is a threesome fronted by Ambrosia Parsley. With breathy vocals, found sounds, and uncompressed recordings, the album displays the hand of producer Joe Henry.

While there's pop overtones on I Oughtta Give You a Shot in The Head (for Making Me Live in a Dump Like This), the album solidly infuses experimental elements and dark undertones.

The bandShivaree is rounded out by Duke McVinnie on guitar and bass, and Danny McGough on keyboards and "gizmos." The roster includes a revolving list of drummers, including Jim Keltner, Tony Mangurian, Danny Frankel, and Joey Waronker.

Hailing from the San Fernando Valley, Shivaree is not your usual combo. According to the press materials, Duke found himself in a studio run by a friend, where Ambrosia had been tracking earlier in the day. Bored and restless, Duke decided that Ambrosia's work might benefit from a little contribution.

Ambrosia ParsleySo the next day, Duke introduced himself at the studio. According to the notes, "Ambrosia reacted just as you'd expect, but after calming down enough to listen, she had to admit the asshole wasn't half bad."

Keyboardist Danny McGough is said to be a "close personal friend and musical accompanist of Harvey Sid Fisher. Danny looks like a televangelist, plays like Sun Ra, and has a very large collection of rally weird music. Further, Danny's wife, Sonia, makes Danny's pants."

More AmbrosiaDoes that tell you anything about the band? Not really. But as soon as you learn that the bulk of I Oughtta Give You a Shot in The Head was recorded in Joe Henry's backyard, you get the picture.

Many tracks (such as "Arlington Girl") are frankly doleful. Yet there are brighter, more accessible moments, such as "Good Night Moon" and "Pimp" (which, however, are quickly balanced by downer tracks like "Ash Wednesday").

Shivaree is a 180-degree turn from the Valley Girls and the Go-Gos. Fans of experimental, genre-bending music will find something in I Oughtta Give You a Shot in The Head.

Eye II EyeThe Scorpions, Eye II Eye (Koch 1999) - Hailing from Hanover, Germany, the Scorpions have enjoyed huge success in the metal/hard rock arena, with worldwide sales in excess of 50 million albums. Eye II Eye finds the group continuing to pound out hard-rocking riffs and pulse-grabbing melodies.

While the band has undergone several lineup changes, the core trio remains lead guitarist Matthias Jabs, vocalist Klaus Meine, and rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker (the brother of Michael Schenker, who also played with the band for a time). The current lineup is rounded out by bass player Ralph Rieckermann and drummer James Kottak.

The ScorpionsFor the follow-up to their 1996 recording, Pure Instinct, the band recruited producer Peter Wolf, who has recorded with such acts as Wang Chung and Heart, and who also was the keyboard player in Frank Zappa's band for a number of years.

Tracks like "To Be Number One" and "Mind Like a Tree" find the Scorpions recording very well-crafted hard rock songs. And ballads like "Obsession" and "Ten Light Years Away" find the Scorpions in the same vein that produced the giant singles, "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Winds of Change."

Core ScorpsSays Klaus, "To be honest, working on this new record was something of a painful process . . . As a writer, I sometimes try to avoid really deep feelings, because they can hurt so much, but Peter was always encouraging me to tap into these, to lay my feelings bare, which is something I did on the album's title track, where the lyrics are all about my father, who died last year."

Adds lead guitarist Matthias Jabs, "The way I see it, if you're not prepared to take any risks, then you've already lost."

While Eye II Eye doesn't boast big risks, its polished sound stands comfortably atop most of what passes for contemporary hard rock.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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