Justin McGuinn (Justin Ploof) is pictured here.

Review: Justin McGuinn’s “Love Songs & Other Strangers”

It’s fair to say that Justin McGuinn (you may also know him as Justin Ploof) knows a thing or two about music.

If you live in or near Central Minnesota, you may have run into this St. Cloud Tech grad at an area festival, or caught one of his shows. And if you love great music from the 1960s and 1970s, you may have caught some of his tribute shows too.

That’s how I first heard him.

I think it was back in 2005 or so, I was invited by good friend Mick Hatten to catch a George Harrison tribute show. It was a stellar mix of Beatles tunes and solo gems, peppered with incredible guitarists and excellent singers (special props to Billy Scherer, whose vocals on the majestic “Isn’t It a Pity” almost brought tears to my eyes and may have been the defining performance of that song for me). Throughout it, Justin and his dad shared stories and kept the mood festive. This wasn’t a night of mourning George, it was a night of celebrating him.

Since that show, I’ve seen Ploof tackle The Monkees and Creedence Clearwater Revival, too.

The dude obviously has range.

But there is more to Ploof/McGuinn than covering the great songs of obviously incredible artists.

He has his own music to share, his own words to sing.

Continue reading “Review: Justin McGuinn’s “Love Songs & Other Strangers””

Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled effort released in 2007 was the last studio release to feature Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan on all the songs.

Dec. 28: Remembering Dennis Wilson, Lemmy and The Rev

I think we all can agree that the year 2016 has seen way too many of our heroes pass away. Actors, actresses, musicians, authors, time claims us all. But 2016 seems to have claimed more than its fair share, including the recent passing of George Michael and Carrie Fisher.

Today is Dec. 28, and so far I haven’t seen any notices of new deaths to add to the list … Something for us to be grateful for!

But over the years, this day has seen many notable (and sad) deaths. With this posting, I’d like to focus on the lingering losses of Dennis Wilson (singer, songwriter, drummer and more for The Beach Boys), Lemmy Kilmister (singer, songwriter, bass player and frontman for Motorhead) and Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan (singer, songwriter, drummer and inspiration for Avenged Sevenfold).

Three very different musicians from very different eras, but so key and moving in their own ways.

Continue reading “Dec. 28: Remembering Dennis Wilson, Lemmy and The Rev”

I show off some of my "Pet Sounds" swag after seeing Brian Wilson perform the classic album on Oct. 2, 2016, in Minneapolis.

Remembering to be thankful: Holidays and counting our blessings

I don’t know how it’s been for the rest of you, but 2016 has been one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking years of my life.

And here we are, it’s late in December, the year is almost over. Why wait until New Year’s Eve to look back? I’m going to use that day to look forward.

So, for this entry, I want to look back at the year and count the blessings. To talk about being unemployed or to talk about the major music deaths won’t accomplish anything.

Sometimes it’s understandable to dwell on the things mounting against you. Politics, health, loss, bills, etc. Life’s pressures can build up and become too much at times. I certainly understand and appreciate that. I’ve been there (many times), even recently.

I don’t want to sound like one of those folks who always tells you what’s best for you, but I’ll say this: I’ve learned that dwelling in the darkness does you no good. Sometimes counting your blessings helps turn things around, at least mentally.

Continue reading “Remembering to be thankful: Holidays and counting our blessings”

The sleeve to The Beatles' single "Can't Buy Me Love" b/w "You Can't Do That," released in March 1964. Courtesy of www.thebeatles.com

B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles

When I look at my favorite bands and artists across the years, I recognize the many great singles they’ve released.

These singles are the songs released that gave them the radio hits, prompted tours, helped sell albums, etc.

More often than not, artists from at least the mid 1950s through the early 1990s would release singles where the “A” side was the attempt at a hit, the strongest candidate, the song the artists or producers or record companies thought were the strongest efforts. The flip sides, the “B” sides, would sometimes be filler, or live versions, or songs from older albums. In general, this was content that didn’t have a lot of thought put into it.

Obviously, this isn’t 100 percent true for every single or every artist. Plenty of artists put out killer singles that were great on both sides. Heck, The Beatles and The Beach Boys often put out great double-sided hits (like “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” / “God Only Knows,” for example).

This got me to thinking not just about the hit singles, or the singles that had hit B-sides, but also about singles where I actually prefer the B-side over the A-side of the single. That has happened for many of my favorite acts with some regularity.

Continue reading “B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles”

Paul McCartney's "New" album was released in 2013. This cover is the deluxe version variant.

Career renaissances, revivals, etc. We keep on swinging

Though the year has been hard for its deaths, 2016 also has brought to us a lot of great music. And some of it has come from older artists, not just current favorites.

Take The Monkees, for example. “Good Times!” has been a heck of a return to form. A Tribe Called Quest also came back with the knock-your-socks-off “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.”

If you haven’t heard Ian Hunter’s latest record, “Fingers Crossed,” go track it down. It’s excellent. David Bowie had “Blackstar.” Leonard Cohen had “You Want It Darker.”

The list goes on and on.

Continue reading “Career renaissances, revivals, etc. We keep on swinging”

A cropped photo of the "Slip on Through" b/w "This Whole World" single by The Beach Boys. Courtesy of http://www.beachboys45.nl/

Thoughts and memories of The Beach Boys’ “This Whole World”

For most fans of The Beach Boys, “This Whole World” is a well-known track.

The song is the second entry on the beloved “Sunflower” album from 1970, and it was the B-side on the “Slip On Through” single (talk about another great song, penned by Dennis Wilson). Brian Wilson, author of “This Whole World,” revisited the song on 1995’s “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” video and soundtrack.

Have you heard it? Let’s take a minute and listen to it together.

Have you finished? It’s only 2 minutes, but wow, what a marvel of song construction in that brief amount of time. I remember my first listen, pretty clearly.

Continue reading “Thoughts and memories of The Beach Boys’ “This Whole World””