Films and Books

ROCK TORCH: Book Review.

Rock Torch: THE BOOK

Volume 1

Music Recommendations From The Artists You Love

by Randy Abramson

About Rock Torch:

Rock Torch has been one of my favorite - and 'go to' music websites for years. I found it after Alex Chilton died. I was up all night, seeking anything I could find on the web to connect to other Big Star fans. I came across an article Randy Abramson posted with Paul Westerberg's commentary on Chilton. Perfect. Someone who 'gets it'. I was a follower.

As a music reviewer, I want a glimpse of the creative thought process of the artists when they wrote their music or chose a form to play it. It doesn't matter if I like a certain type of music. I review music I don't like all the time. What matters is that I 'get' what the artist is trying to express with their songwriting. What matters is the understanding of the context from where is originated. The history, the dialogue, the soul of the artist, I think, must be known, before a piece of music can be understood.

When Abramson publishes a new article on Rock Torch, I read it. I am afraid not to, because I might miss out on something that someone really cool in music has said - or is about to do. Rock Torch is not a 'music news' website. It's a music referral website. This is better than music news, to me, it's much more useful. I can find out which rocker is mad at which drummer, or got married, or involved in a scandal, or decided to become a politician, on many other AP pasting websites. Abramson has a Rock Torch 'filter' that selects musicians from such a wide variety of bands, that is it always current and has the 'news' that I'm curious about ... What's good in music. The rest is for the viral networks, they have their place, but I don't seek them out the way that I look for sites like Rock Torch.

Abramson has the website set up to accomplish one thing: To get the musicians to talk about which other artists they would recommend fans listen to. Then both the musician and the recommended band get featured on the site. Win-Win! Abramson pulls the musicians in as 'guest authors'. They talk to him in their own words as interviews or essays. So reading what they think about certain artists that inspire them is like hanging out at a cool party and just chatting about music. This lowers my geek meter just a few bars, at least temporarily. The great thing is that he does this same process again and again, and must have hundreds of entries by now from artists of various genres. Flipping through the web-pages of Rock Torch is always fun and a great adventure musically. So when Randy announced that he was taking the pages of his site and making it a book, I really looked forward to its release.

Rock Torch Book Review:

The paperback version of this book is well done. The publication of it is unlike something I've ever seen. Every article has its own page, and there are beautiful color paper stock pages between the artists' interviews. This creates 'space' between the readings, which is important for letting the artists' opinions be their own island. The illustrations are interesting and timeless. The colorful, real life drawings are accurate, yet casual and accessible. The pages aren't flashy gloss, which speaks to how understated this whole project is. The focus are truly the artists and the music they want to share.

You can flip through this book and quickly become addicted to scanning for an interesting pairing of author/artists each day. Or you can read it page by page, cover to cover and delve into a wealth of tunes. The great thing about having it all in a book, is that it is easier than managing the navigation of a website, plus, you have the reference when you are settling in to buy some music.

Some examples that are noteworthy for me are:

Marissa Nadler's recommendation of Patti Smith and Kate Bush. I've been a long time Kate Bush fan since her work with Peter Gabriel and follow her solo career as well. Kate's 'individuality' just glows from her performances, indeed.

Peter Phythian of the Guilded Palace of Sin's recommendation of Dr. John is just brilliantly written. Gris-Gris "flows like a spirit battle between the dark and the light. The first two tracks are pretty voodoo, then 'Mama Roux' seems like he's just woken from a bad dream and needs to forget what it was about before the dark magic takes over again. 'I Walk On Guilded Splinters' the last track is one of the best album closers ever, like he's accepted he is what he is...."

Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult's recommendation of Jurgen Knieper, John Barry and Peter Gabriel. He chose these songwriters because of their musical scores in movies. For Peter Gabriel's pick, he mentioned "The Last Temptation of Christ" soundtrack, "Passion." I'd go a step further and suggest the original artists on the album before it was produced, 'Passion Sources' (Real World Music). Peter Gabriel was always careful to bring as much credit to the individual artists from other countries as he teamed them up to work on the collaborative projects.

Kevin Bowe has become a household name in my circles and here on BBR because of his love and recordings with The Replacements. Bowe is also a master musician and song writer who has penned music for Etta James, among other famous recording artists. Rock Torch has him historically bound to their pages forever now.

And then there is Van Morrison, The Psychedelic Furs, Thin Lizzy and The Blind Boys of Mississippi, not to be confused with The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Stones, Lucinda Williams, American Music Club and Nico, all up for discussion. The list of recommendations from great bands goes on.

Once the book is in your home, it seems like it has been there all along. It belongs on a shelf that holds music. Be it your ipod/sound cloud player, CD rack or stereo record stacks, Rock Torch seems to be alongside the history of songwriting for the journeyman's ride.

Final Note:

Randy Abramson is a trusted name in music. I know this because before I stumbled across his website, I was in New York City and shopped at the House of Oldies for some vinyls. The shop is a cornerstone at the hub of understated clubs in the West Village. The store was floor to ceiling full of vinyls. No CD's, no cassette tapes, no fillers, just stacks and stacks of boxes - vinyls. The owner knew every record in this place and directed me to my searches without hesitation. Purchases as wide as The Ramones, Dean Martin, XTC and Jimmy Page/Outrider were filled without an eyebrow raised. What a happy day, mid-January, to spend a good part of the afternoon with my groovy music friend, hanging at the House of Oldies, browsing stacks, sitting on the floor and then fleeing with the sun on my face, holding my bag of (very reasonably priced) LP's. Years later, I was on the Rock Torch website and discovered The House of Oldies was on Randy's list of favorite websites. I wrote to him and asked him about this connection. "That's my Pop's shop!" he said.

The walls of a record store are talking, listen up!


Out On The Tiles

Boston Music Awards 2011 New Artist of the Year : MOUFY !

Photos by Micah Gummel.

The Boston Music Awards is an exciting event that has been running for over 25 years. It was at the Liberty Hotel and the magnificent venue encapsulated a wide range of great artists that night. For complete coverage and venue photos click here.



While researching the local bands on the nominee list, Moufy was an artist that stood out to me among the other nominated greats in rap and hip hop. I just loved his sound and energetic spirit.  I have been following rap since it started with Sylvia Robinson's label on Sugar Hill and genuinely mourned her death this year. With the history of rap and hip hop still ringing in my head, I was aware that this young artist came from a region that was not well known for this form of music. However, listening to Moufy gave me hope that the sound which had made its way through the urban streets for decades would continue to be true to the roots, because he puts his own spin on it, which ironically, brought it all back to the start.

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We watched the announcement of the awards and the experience was like witnessing the ball drop in Times Square. The excitement built up and the Moufy win brought cheers throughout the swank brick hotel that collected music lovers from all over New England. Once the announcements were done we ran to catch this rising star.

While waiting for Moufy to arrive, DJ Hustle Simmons was set up with old school funk and disco. Stevie Wonder's, Sir Duke, Earth, Wind and Fire's, Got To Get You Into My Life, Prince's Wanna Be Your Lover. Deep house music from the 1980's blared a familiar mix of club music and ended with Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, Michael Jackson, tunes that kept people moving and targeted a wide range of ages in this crowd.

Jam'n 94.5 Boston announced Moufy and plugged their show 'The Launch Pad'. Moufy was gracious and then tore into all Boston related songs as a celebration for tonight. Twist It and Light It, Throw My 3's, Boston Lights and more.

The Liberty Room was packed. Moufy mixed with the crowd with non-stop energy that was infectious. We sung the lyrics to the point where you could barely hear Moufy himself. He was down and serious with getting his message of loyalty to New England and Boston. He raised us up to join together in unity as New England-ers. It was a wild party with positive vibes that did not stop. Most importantly, as serious as he is about the message, he smiles and emits that he just loves this music to the core. I can't imagine him doing anything else, he was completely in the zone. I sent his music to my writer friend Stephanie Hussey and she said the best line of "We In The Building" is 'It just feels so good to be us!'

At age 20, this man is just looking at the start of his career. My hope for him is that he keeps on track with what he is doing best, bringing people together with regional music that obviously means a lot to him. Lyrics that reflect the stories that are important to life. Music is the universal language that unites us and artists who reach for the higher ground will find it, as long as they don't give it up to the hype.




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