California Rocker

Award-Winning Online Music Magazine

Hammons: With New Album, ‘Back From The Grave,’ The Sloths Connect With Young Audience

Tom McLoughlin: ‘Fifty Years Later We Are Living The Dream’

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Sometimes you find rock and roll and sometimes rock and roll finds you.

I got up early on this Sunday morning, grabbed a cup of coffee and checked my Facebook page.   I saw a listing for the Muscochella Music and Arts Festival at Chapman University and as I scrolled down I saw The Sloths were playing at 2 P.M.  The Sloths are a band whose reputation precedes them and has never left them for almost 50 years.  I have heard so much about The Sloths and now I will have the chance to see them live in Orange County on a Sunday afternoon.  I was freaking out and was ready to rock.

Sloths original frontman Tommy McLoughlin has a way with the gals - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

Sloths original frontman Tommy McLoughlin has a way with the gals – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

When I got to the festival a light jazz band was playing some funky grooves while everyone leisurely relaxed on the grass between the two stages.  Next up was a folky cat that was playing a George Strait song which forced me to evacuate the area for a short time.  As I wandered back I saw the Sloths setting up.  I went over to the stage and saw my buddy Rik Collins (Wooly Bandits, Motobunny, and The Seeds) who is now playing guitar and bass for The Sloths.  I told him how excited I was to be able to see a band that was part of the early rock and roll revolution of the ’60s.  He said “You are in for a really good time”.

The Sloths have a new album, 'Back From The Grave' - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

Tom McLoughlin: Frontman, professor and film director – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

The stage was set as these rockers came out of the garage to play in the broad day light to us eager and privileged fans.   The Sloths started with “7 and 7 Is,” a song that paid tribute to one their early influences Arthur Lee and Love.  Next up was the toe tapper “A Cutie Named Judy” originally done by Jerry “Boogie” McCain.  Lead singer (as well as film professor and director)  Tom McLoughlin was already in full tilt rock and roll mode working the stage like it was 1965 and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.   The next song “Never Enough Girls” was originally written for Joey Ramone.  The Ramones did record a version but Joey was never able to lay down the vocals.  The song was offered to The Sloths and they made this infectious track their own.  Once you hear this song you will never get it out of your head.

 

The Sloths: American Rock N Roll to the core - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

The Sloths: American Rock N Roll to the core – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

New Album ‘Back From The Grave’

The Sloths played most of the songs off their new album that was 50 years in the making titled, The Sloths: Back From the Grave.  It was now time to take this party to the people and Tom McLoughlin jumped into the audience to sing their song “Lust.”  We all started dancing around him in sort of a hippie communal kind of way, feeling the music inside where it feels so good.

Tom, who also teaches film at Chapman University returned to the stage to address the crowd of almost all college students.  He said “we all have dreams and what happens after you all get out of this place is to never give up your dreams, sometimes you do a bunch of other stuff like get married, have kids, get a crappy job and then somehow by God’s crazy sense of humor it turns around and you get to get to do what you always wanted to do.  It happened to us up here 50 years ago we had the dream and 50 years later we are living the dream.”  Tom should do the commencement address for this year’s graduating class.

Glad I got to connect with The Sloths - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

Glad I got to connect with The Sloths – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

The Sloths are all solid musicians.  Original founding member Michael Rummans (singer, songwriter, guitar and bass) has never left the garage and plays with a vengeance and appreciation of the music that mean so much to his life.  New lead guitarist Ruben De Fuentes has played with Blue Cheer and Steppenwolf took some incredible leads.  He may be quiet on stage but unleashes supreme shredding when it is time to shine.  Drummer Ray Herron keeps the beat going and keeps these boys on track.  We are all blessed that after all this time these 60’s rockers found each other to reunite the passion and power of The Sloths.

Professor Tom McLoughlin: 'Never Give Up Your Dreams' - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

Professor Tom McLoughlin: ‘Never Give Up Your Dreams’ – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

The clock was ticking and it was now time to play the song that first put them on the map “Makin Love.”  This song is considered a true 60’s classic and has just been re-released on 7 inch vinyl for record store day.  The crowd ate it up even though most probably never even heard it before.  Without stopping they went right into their closing number “Gloria” by Them. The Sloths had one more number to do but due to time restraints had to close out their set.  The small but mighty crowd cheered as these 60’s icons said “goodbye.”

The Sloths connect across a broad swath of fans - Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

The Sloths connect across a broad swath of fans – Photo © 2017 Craig Hammons

This is the dawning of the age of The Sloths.  They are back after all these years and deserve all the respect and recognition that comes their way.  Go buy the new album, go see them live, go online and read their story, dance and have fun.  You can thank me later.   But most of all remember to live your dream.  The Sloths did and you can too.

Hammons Review: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Still Amazes the Fans Almost a Half Century Later

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Still Crazy, Arthur Brown - Photo by Craig Hammons

Still Crazy, Arthur Brown – Photo by Craig Hammons

When growing up one of the first records I ever bought that changed my life was The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.   Little did I know that almost a haft of century later I would be witnessing an amazing night of theatrics, psychedelic blues and the compelling showmanship of the man himself Arthur Brown.  He goes through more costume changes than Cher and has better dance moves than Jagger.

The evening started out with a quartet from Ohio name Electric Citizen led by the very dramatic and animated lead singer Laura Dolan.  Their brand of heavy rock was well received by the crowd and was a perfect opening for what was to be an epic night.  Most of the songs they played were from were from their latest release Higher Time.

Next up was White Hills who have been around since 2005 playing their brand of fuzz heavy psychedelic rock and roll.  The two members Ego Sensation (bass) and Dave W. (guitar, keyboard and vocals) led us on a trip into space filling the room with sonic sounds of ethereal heaviness.  But as their set progressed we just wanted what we came for the mighty and majestic Arthur Brown.

The moment we were all waiting for had finally arrived the man, the myth and the legend was now ready to grace the stage.   The band started things off with an instrumental introduction while we all waited enthusiastically for our leader into the crazy world we were about to visit to take the stage.   Once Arthur Brown arrived he was greeted with a thunderous round of applause from a very excited crowd.

They opened with the title track from their latest release Zim Zam Zim.  They then went on to captivate the audience with their classics and tracks from their vast catalogue of releases.  Arthur Brown’s singing ability at 74 is in fine form.  He can hit the high and low notes with ease and sing the blues like a true bluesman especially on his fine cover of Screamin Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You.”

Arthur Brown at The Regent Theater - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

Arthur Brown at The Regent Theater – Photo by Craig Hammons

The show moved at a brisk pace while Arthur Brown mesmorized the audience with costume change and riveting vocal power.  One of the craziest costumes of the night was him dressed in a coat of LED lights during the song “The Unknown.”

With each song the energy got higher and Arthur decided to go out into the audience to touch the fans that were worshiping a power of passion they could have never imaged.  As he passed by me I patted him on the back and felt some of the electricity he was generating.

The Regent was ready to explode as the God of Hellfire lit his headdress on fire to sing the song we all know “Fire.”   To see this man at his age dance, sing and entertain the way he does is nothing short of an experience that will live on in our minds forever.

The band then played their last two songs of the night leaving the audience in total awe.

I feel very lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest rock acts of all time.  Tonight was rock and roll history.

This was a short run of only eight dates but from what I understand there will be another run of shows in September.  Do not miss this undisputed master of mayhem next time.

Legendary Alice Cooper Goes from Kid’s Playhouse to Fantasy Springs and Still has Time for His Golf Game

Review of Alice Cooper at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Alice Coooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

Alice Coooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

By CRAIG HAMMONS

The first time I saw Alice Cooper was in the gymnasium of Cal State Fullerton in 1969. He was on the bill with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  Spirit was the opening act.

The only real prop he had at that time was a small kid’s play house that he would go inside and stick his head out the window and sing “Nobody likes me.”

There have been a lot of changes over the years and now this is a big-time rock and roll show full of lights, dancers, costume changes, snakes, monsters and guillotines.

Alice had a legion of fans that came out to this desert oasis to see the man who has entertained them for most of their lives and showed us all that rock and roll can still be fun.  Alice once said “From the moment I leave my house or hotel room, the public owns me.  The public made Alice Cooper and I can’t imagine ever turning my back on my fans.”  Alice is a true master of his craft and takes it to a level that cannot be matched.  He has influenced many but no one can touch him.

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Hitting the Links

When I was checking into the hotel I saw a group of golfers who had just come in from playing 18 holes.

I joked to the attendant that I bet Alice will be out on the course today and she said “He just finished up about an hour ago” and that was at 10 A.M.  Not many rock stars can golf before breakfast and then rock before dinner.

Tonight Alice Cooper would welcome us back to his nightmare full of monsters, madness and mayhem.  Anticipation was running high as the Alice look alikes, families and hardcore followers of the master of shock rock were ready for their idol to take the stage.

The curtains were a close-up of Alice’s eyes.  The lights went down and the voice of Vincent Price came on introducing the “Black Widow.”  As the curtains dropped, sparks started flying and Alice draped in a black hooded cape was front and center.  Just his presence on stage made us minions feel we’re not worthy.  Alice Cooper came fully loaded with his triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and the mighty Nita ‘Hurricane” Strauss.  Off went the cape and he went right into “No More Mr. Nice Guy” prowling the stage like a venison of the deep.

‘Under My Wheels,’ ‘Billion Dollar Babies’

Rockin' the Casino with Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Rockin’ the Casino with Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice kept the pace lively reaching into his bag of tricks bringing out some classics like “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”

They spend no time in between songs talking to the audience.  This is a well-oiled rock, well timed rock machine full of energy and chemistry.

Alice may be the main attraction but the rhythm section of long time bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel kept this wild rock and roll train roaring down the tracks.

Alice brought out his boa constrictor Julius Squeezer to help him sing “Is It My Body.”  I once saw his boa constrictor get sick and throw up on stage.  He must have had stage fright.  Next came “Woman of Mass Destruction” that led into Nita’s fierce guitar solo.  She is a force of nature shredding the fret boards with her long blonde mane flying in the breeze as she finishes to a huge ovation.

‘Doctor Alice’

During “Halo of Flies” Glen Sobel’s drum solo mesmerized the crowd with skill and intensity.   But before we knew it good old Doctor Alice was back in a full length, blood splatted lab coat, gas mask and strapped to an electrical gurney that ignites into “Feed My Frankenstein.”   Entering stage left is a giant monster roaming the stage while everyone tries to stay out of its way.

Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Patriotic Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

The show only slowed down once when Alice came out and sat down on a trash can to sing one of his beautiful power ballads “Only Women Bleed.”  He was later attacked by a frightening naughty nurse who gave Alice a shot and put him into a straight jacket to sing the “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”  As he is later lead to a giant guillotine and beheaded at the end of the song.   The crowd eats is up and the band goes into “I Love the Dead” with an audience singing along.

Alice who is a member of the Hollywood Vampires then paid tribute to some of the rock and roll legends we lost this year.

Gravestones of David Bowie and Lemmy were on stage as the band ripped into intense versions of “Suffragette City” and “Ace of Spades” with bassist Chuck Garric on vocals.  It was a great gesture from a master showman and made for a very memorable moment in the show.

Now the energy in the room was at an all-time high as they kicked into two of rock and rolls biggest anthems “Eighteen” and “Schools Out.”   With confetti, bubbles and giant balloons flying, Alice then introduced the band and only once did he ever break character when he said “playing the part of Alice tonight is me.”

For the encore, he brought out Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to beat each other up until they finally kissed during “Elected.”   Alice wearing a red, white and blue jacket in front of an American flag backdrop said “we got problems all over America and personally, I don’t care.”  This two hour, 25-song set full of energy and excitement left the crowd filtering out into the casino happy and proud to be a fan of the one and only Alice Cooper.

Hammons Reviews: Thievery Corporation Still Keeps The Fans Dancing Under the Black Moon

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Thievery Corporation celebrates 20 years - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation celebrates 20 years – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation brought their hypnotic grooves, intricate rhythms and mystical funk to the Santa Barbara Bowl on this cool summer evening.  This is the 20-year anniversary of a band that continues to inspire with their broad canvas of styles and sounds.

Opening the show was Mexico City’s favorite band of muy loco rockers Café Tacuba.  These guys really know how to get the party started.  Lead singer Ruben Albarran and guitarist Jose Alfredo Rangel got the audience up and dancing to their various styles of espanol rock and roll.  The band’s flashy costumes and energy won over the early arrivals and set a festive tone for the evening.

As sun was setting and the black moon rising the anticipation was running high as most of the audience I talked to had seen Thievery Corporation before.  The lights dimmed and the familiar sounds of sitar, bass and percussion jammed out on the opening instrumental “Facing East.”

As the song ended out comes the first vocalist of the evening Lou Lou Ghelickhani singing “Take My Soul” a song with lush textures and sweet vocals.   The set had a caravan of rotating vocalist for each song.   Next up was Jamaican vocalist to get us fired up and grooving to songs such as “Blasting Through” and “Radio Retaliation.”   Before the song “Culture of Fear,” the vocalist said he was afraid of the police.  The opening line “seems to me like they want us to be afraid, man” touches on what is going on in our world today.

Set List of Crowd Favorites

Rob Myers rocked out on sitar - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Rob Myers rocked out on sitar – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Thievery Corporation has the mighty DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton sitting high above the band knocking out the beats mixing them with their many different cultural styles.  This tour being their 20 Anniversary had a set list full of crowd favorites and even a few covers.

About half way thru the set they did a version of Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” and later the percussionist came forward to sing a rocking version of the Door’s “Strange Days.”

The quality of the musicianship and vocal power of all the singers highlight their vast changes in musical styles.  Ashish Vyas the bass player never stops moving while high stepping across every square inch of the stage.  Rob Myers the sitar / guitar player rocked hard on both instruments.  My favorite singer of the night was the mighty and majestic Natalia Clavier.  Her soft and sexy vocals styling on such songs as “Lebanese Blonde” draw you in to her seductive charm.

Rob Garza on Guitar

ruben-cafe-tacuba-california-rocker

Ruben Albarran of Cafe Tacuba – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

They heated things up again with two live show staples “Vampires” and “Heart is the Hunter.”  They created such a bond with the audience we all forgot about out problems and were fully engaged with their rhythms, beats and intricate electronic music.  Rob Garza came down from his DJ booth to play guitar as they closed with “Warning Shots.”  Everyone was dancing to the heavy bass riff and rap reggae vocals.   Rob then stepped to the mic and said “we weren’t going to do this song” but he said he wrote it while he was roaming the hills above Santa Barbara and they went in to the sweet and sensual “Depth of My Soul.”

As this sweaty hippie groove party was about to end they came back out and jammed on the instrumental track “The Forgotten People” before bringing Lou Lou back to sing “Sweet Tides.”  But it would not be a Thievery Corporation show without doing “The Richest Man in Babylon” from there 2002 album of the same name.  After shaking my suitcase for two hours with this band of incredible musicians and the two beautiful songstresses I felt good to be alive.  A band of this caliber should not be ignored.  Every person there was a delighted fan or was converted by the sweet melody, atmosphere and vibe only Thievery Corporation can provide.

%d bloggers like this: