The J. Geils Band – Sanctuary

The J. Geils Band is one of the most underrated bands in the US; except in Boston and Detroit. Boston is understandable. Geils after all, comes from that city. You always love your hometown hero. But Detroit was equally, if not more enthusiastic about The J. Geils Band’s combination of blues, rock, funk, soul, and pop from day one; and Geils loved them right back. They even at one point during an interview, referred to Detroit as their home away from home.

Geils was first and foremost, a live band. If you never saw them perform live, you have no idea what they were all about. Perhaps the album that came closest to capturing their live sound and energy in the studio was their tenth record, “Sanctuary”.

I can’t even pick a favorite song on this album. Every song is my favorite off of it. “Sanctuary” is one of those albums that, when I ignorantly thinned down my record collection, converting everything to compact disc, I never considered parting with. Yes, I eventually bought it on CD, but I was never not going to own this album.

To me personally, “Sanctuary” is memories from my ignorant teenage party days, the album I took refuge in during my early adult years when I felt down and betrayed, and the record I always pulled out when I just needed to f’ing crank it up and jam out.

Musically, it has been and will always be my “Sanctuary”.

Journey – Captured

It’s funny how you never forget your firsts. Journey was my very first concert and I remember it like it was yesterday. My two best friends and me, the legendary Cobo arena, my favorite band at the time at the height of their popularity, and a foot-long “torpedo” of contraband that was fired up when Journey took the stage (thank you EZ Wider Unrolling Papers).

Now that I think of it, I’m kind of surprised I remember any of it at all; but I do. Vividly. It was musical experience I will never forget and still ranks as one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Some of songs on this album were “Captured” at Cobo Hall, so I just might be on this record.

Yeah, I think that’s me right there! ūüėÖ

I guess I’m on a live music kick, I just realized this is the third album in a row I’ve chosen to listen to that is a concert recording. Oh well, I always felt rock and roll is best when it’s performed live.

Fillmore: The Last Days

Today, the Fillmore is a pretty popular concert venue in Detroit. Maybe that name is used in other cities now days as well. I don’t know. What I do know – and what a lot of the younger music lovers around today may not know – is that the name “Fillmore” was taken from a couple of legendary concert venues from the ’60s and early ’70s that were run by a man who was perhaps the greatest concert promoter who ever lived: Bill Graham.

Bill Graham was a German holocaust survivor who fled to France and later immigrated to the United States. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who more than anything, respected artistic expression; and believed in the power of music. To help promote the emerging music scenes in the ’60s he opened The Fillmore concert hall in San Francisco. It became the premier venue for bands to play in the United States. Without the Fillmore, the world would probably have never heard the music of Santana, Janis Joplin, Bos Scaggs, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and many more performers who are hugely influential in pop and rock music today.

Bill Graham is also responsible for the one other thing I collect besides records and CDs – concert tour posters. He would commission local artists to create unique artwork for promotional posters advertising specific shows at his venues. Along with a 32 page historical book, This three record box set also includes a replica of the poster that was used to promte the final shows at the Fillmore.

Bill Graham was a man who believed there could be a balance between financial success and artistic expression. Unfortunately, following the Woodstock festival in 1969, the record companies realized that rock and roll was big business and the intimacy of moderately sized concert halls like the Fillmore gave way to the larger arena rock shows. Knowing the smaller venues couldn’t compete, Bill Grahasm threw in the towel and made the business decision to close the Fillmore in 1971. He continued to promote bands and concerts into the ’80s. In 1985, he and Bob Geldoff organized Live Aid, a series of concerts that were perrformed and broadcast around the world to raise millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.

“Fillmore: The Final Days” captures the music of the bittersweet days that marked the end of a philisophical and musical era. It is a memoir of a unforgettable era in music.

Kiss – Alive!

Kiss is known as much for their looks as they are for their music, maybe more. Although their music was pretty much straight forward hard rock, their concerts took pyrotechnics and stage theatrics to a whole new level in the ’70s.

Even though Kiss had one of the most devoted followings in rock and roll, there were still many who wrote their music off as simple three-chord rock and roll. And when you get right down to it it is. But Kiss was all about presentation. And on “Alive!”, they proved that their concerts weren’t only about the presentation of visuals and theatrics. They were about the presentation of the music. Fairly basic songs? Yes. But it’s all in how they’re performed that makes “Alive!” one of the greatest live albums ever.

Being from Detroit, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the picture on the back cover of “Alive!” was taken at Detroit’s legendary Cobo Hall. Many of the songs on “Alive!” were recorded at Cobo Hall the night that picture was taken.

Greta Van Fleet – Black Smoke Rising (EP)

Frankenmuth Michigan, about an hour and a half drive north of Detroit, has for as long as I can remember, been known for its German cultured shops and the infamous chicken dinners served at Zehnder’s and The Bavariarian Inn restaurants. But in late 2017, Frankenmuth became known for something else – Greta Van Fleet – one of the hardest rocking quartets since … dare I say … Led Zeppelin.

The comparisons between Greta Van Fleet and Zeppelin come with no apologies from the band members who are huge Zep fans. But they are also quick to point out that they are not by any stretch, a Led Zeppelin cover or tribute band.

Still, if you like Led Zeppelin, and wish there were more bands around today that recorded that kind of music, well, you need to pick up either “Black Smoke Rising” their debut four song EP or “From The Fires”, their first full length LP.

Right now, my vinyl collection only includes the “Black Smoke Rising” EP, but trust me, that will soon be rectified.

…Stay tuned…

Blackfoot – Strikes

Released in 1979, Blackfoot’s third album, “Strikes”, was one of their biggest commercial successes. The band had two big hits off the album, “Highway Song” and “Train Train” the latter of which was written by lead guitarist Rick Medlocke’s grandfather Shorty Medlocke, who also played the harmonica introduction to the song.

“Train Train” wasn’t the first time the then 69 year Medlocke had appeared on a Blackfoot album – he had played banjo on their debut album in 1975. It wouldn’t be the last either, nor would it be the ‘Train Train” be the last time he would write songs for Blackfoot. Shorty co-wrote “Fox Chase” on the band’s follow-up album “Tomcattin'” and wrote “Rattlesnake Rock ‘n’ Roller”, on Blackfoot’s fifth album “Marauder” The song was another hit for the hard rock/southern rock band. Sadly, Shorty would pass away in 1982.

Although they were from Jacksonville Florida, Blackfoot’s third album had a couple distinct Detroit connections. First, the album was recorded in Ann Arbor, near the Motor City and home to the Universty of Michigan. Secondly, the harmonica heard within the song “Train Train” was played by Cub Koda, a former member of the Detroit band Brownsville Station.

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

Alice Cooper was a band, and later a solo artist (but that’s another story I already talked about earlier) that was known not only for their music, but also for their stage theatrics. To record collectors, they are also known for some pretty cool album packaging – an art form that totally lost its impact with the smaller CD format.Billion Dollar Babies was a prime example.

Alice Cooper’s sixth album was styled to look like an oversized alligator skin wallet. Stored inside it was an oversized billion dollar bill that featured the band’s picture in the center. Also, the inside left side of the gatefold cover was perforated so you could punch out trading card sized cards of the band. The album credits were hidden behind the punch-outs.

The album theme was focused around the band’s amazement that in only a couple years, they had gone from being a totally broke and struggling band to one of the most successful acts in rock and roll at that time. The album packaging was one of the most unique and memorable by Alice Cooper, or any other band, yet it was not their most iconic (but that’s another story I will talk about sometime later).

The Look – We’re Gonna Rock

There once was a time when radio stations weren’t interested in a homogonized sound, and even promoted local bands by playing them during prime listening times. That was how I discovered The Look.

After the release of their debut album, “We’re Gonna Rock” in 1981, The Look seemed poised for national, even worldwide fame. They had a national hit single with the title track from their debut album. The video for that same song was getting regular airplay on MTV, making¬†them the first Dxetroit area band to be played regularly on the fledgling cable TV station. They were getting lots of local radio air time at Detroit radio stations WRIF, WABX, and WWWW (W4). And they were opening concerts for the likes of¬†Cheap Trick, The Kinks, John Cougar Mellencamp, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Joe Cocker, and the¬†J. Giels Band. It looked like they were going to be the next big thing from Detrtoit.

Unfortunately, that never happened. Because of the shifting focus of local radio stations to have a more nationally familiar sound as they were bought up by large broadcasting conglomerates, their playlists started catering to national hits, with very little emphasis on local talent, and The Look faded away nationally after only a couple incredible albums that never achieved the recognition they were worthy of.

The Look was inducted into The Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2016. It was an honor they well deserved.

But they alsdo deserved so much more.


I first heard Madonna on a radio station from Clarksville Tennessee, and was immediately intrigued. I could tell she wasn’t common to the rock and roll that I grew up with, and still listened to almost exclusively at that time, but that is what I was looking for – or should I say, listening for – at the time.

The different musical tastes that many of my friends in the Army had were making me want to branch out and experience new styles that I HA previously ignorr d. Reggae, country, jazz, pop, funk, electronic, and even disco (but that was pushing it for me) started to influence my musical tastes, and consqueently, my record collection.  I suddenly realized how much I had been limiting my musical palette, so I decided that every now and then, I would buy an album by an artist that was outside of my comfort zone.

“Borderline” was the first song that I ever heard by Madonna. When I did, I somehow knew that she was not a one-hit-wonder. I could tell that she was someone who was going to to be a big star. I had no idea at the time, just how big.

Madonna’s debut album became my record collection’s point of entrance into ’80s pop and dance music. In all honesty, I don’t think I could have picked a better entry point. Although the music on it was blatantly designed for the dance floors in the New York club scene (and consequently dance clubs across the U.S.) it offered up so much more than that of its peers. With only one album under her belt, Madonna had already changed the music industry forever. A trend she would continue with her future records.

When I first heard Madonna, I thought she was from New York. After all, that’s where she first hit it big – in its club scene, where her songs quickly became some of the most popular.¬† It wasn’t until a year or two after I owned this album that I learned she was actually, like me, from the suburbs right outside Detroit. She had to move away to New York in order to get the break she deserved. I always thought it was somewhat appropriate that I discovered her music while living far away from our the Motor City which we both called home.

The Rockets – Back Talk

The Rockets share a story that is unfortunately common with many rock bands.  They were a band that was loaded with talent but just never got that one big break.

Made up primarily of former members from Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels and Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes, The Rockets’ first independent album, “Love Transfusion” was noticed by the major labels and they signed a record deal shortly after its release.¬† Their self titled major label debut was a hard rocking record that recieved little promotion from the record company.¬† Still, it sold exceptionally regionally around the Detroit area and was played regularly on the local radio stations but only had moderate success nationally.¬† It was the same story for their second album, “No Ballads”, although it fared slightly behind their debut in sales. For their Third album, “Back Talk”, The Rockets employed Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas to sit in the control Room. The album should have been a huge success for them. However After again receiving no promotion, its sales were minimal outside of the Detroit area.¬† They would release one more studio album after “Back Talk” and also an incredible live album recorded at the Royal Oak Theater, near Detroit, before throwing in the towel.

All of The Rockets’ records had a gritty and aggressive yet soulful sound that made them stand out and really embodied what Detroit is all about.

I picked this album up¬† while I was¬† In the Army, stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I had no idea at the time that The Rockets had even come out with a new album. I immediately bought it.¬†¬†When I played it for the first time in the barracks, I was surprised when a couple buddies who weren’t from Detriot, asked me if that was “The Rockets” and commented that they thought the were great,¬† One of the guys had first heard them when he was stationed in Germany. He said they were pretty popular over there. That made me feel proud for my favorite ho.etown band.

I listened to The Rockets a lot when I was in the Army. Whenever I felt homesick, they reminded me of Detroit.