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””

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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”