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New Jersey's Original Alt-Weekly

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    Lords Of Mercy – Hard Rock Sentries Pave The Way In The Garden State

    Lords Of Mercy might be in the fledgling stage (they formed as a band in 2011), but their experience and history go back years with their involvement in the North Jersey music scene. Several members are forever tied to the fan-based muscle of the legendary Old Bridge Metal Militia and the “call to arms” grassroots support that has paved the way for the country’s largest metal preaching names. OBMM was allegedly responsible for the early successes of Metallica, Anvil, Overkill, Slayer and Anthrax, just to…


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    This is the first day of 2014, and what better way to chime in the New Year than with a new musical discovery? Spring Lake, NJ resident and schoolteacher Karen Phillips fits that bill in a very pleasant way.

    Coming Home is a 10-song endeavor of rather large proportions. Phillips’ core group consists of over 16 distinct musicians ranging from backing vocalists and horns to violas, banjos and even cajons. This is texture extraordinaire and Phillips’ producer Steve Jankowski has left no stone unturned in his search for a luxurious, dynamic backdrop to showcase Phillips’ storytelling prose and vocal…


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    Whenever I hear recording titles that release clues to the artist’s deep-seated individuality, I tend to enjoy finding the parallels that tie meaning to the music. Accidental Seabirds are a viable mystery that link body of work to composer history and background. Their new recording, The Greenpoint Spill, is an extraordinary look at an artist intent on shedding light on the darker points of our ragged reality, and the hard-earned extension of the physical activities that beset them.

    The Greenpoint Spill incident that this record was named after took me back many decades to the Brooklyn neighborhood that was…


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    As I look back over the years and think about the individuals that paved the way for New Jersey musicians and fans, multiple memories come rolling in. I fondly recall the opportunities I had to meet and associate with guys like Emmy Award-winning songwriter Billy Chinook, a phenomenal guitarist and Tom Dowd protégé. Chinook took the time to talk to me about music at a career timeline when he could have just blown me off. The same went for the iconic Clarence Clemons, a world-famous musician that offered pointers and encouragement back in the days of Big Man’s West…


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    Jean Mikle and Stan Goldstein are back with their latest in an open-ended series of musical and historic timelines that took place here on the New Jersey waterfront region.

    A number of books have been written about the escapades of Bruce Springsteen and his brethren, but Goldstein and Mikle have hit a unique pace with this tour edition, laying out a broad and engaging array of fun facts, little-known accounts and a diverse range of locations that make up the impressive harmonious Mecca of New Jersey.

    The book itself is visually gratifying, combing 196 pages of acquired details with…


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    Tara Elliott is a singer that doesn’t just walk into a room. Elliott explodes into it, letting you know in no uncertain terms that it’s her brand that you should be paying attention to. It’s not uncommon to watch Elliott outcuss and outdrink most men, and her penchant for over-the-top sardonicism is local music scene lore. That colorful and self-confident attitude splashes and spills over the rim on her new record, Drop A Needle On The King.

    This is Tara Elliott And The Red Velvets’ second album, following her self-titled 2010 release. There are several differences between the two…


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    From the first notes chopped and shoveled on the Asbury Lanes stage, I knew that this was a band that catapults honest musical barbs straight through the analog soul. Comprised of Adam “Devil Hands” Falzer, bassist/producer Gerry Griffin, drummer Jonathan Riordan and guitarist/singer Alan “Sucia” Smith, The Porchistas barrel down free-form routes of American folk rock like few others can hope to.

    The Porchistas have endured long enough to create their own flourishing cosmos of multi-genre music. The evidence of this is exemplified by the band’s many ardent fans. This is a fanbase that mixes stage diving daredevils with…


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    On Friday, February 21st, Thomas Wesley Stern will be sharing the Asbury Park Yacht Club stage with Belmar’s ambassadors of “aggressive folk rock,” Ed Tang & The Chops. With the energy of The Gaslight Anthem and the authenticity of The Pogues, Ed Tang & The Chops have a rawness and spirit that could brighten up the darkest pub on a cold winter night. Their folky roots and do-it-yourself attitude blends perfectly with the Piney, indie-folk sound of Thomas Wesley Stern, winners of Asbury Music Awards in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Come on out, there will be no shortage of sing-along,…


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    Seaside Heights And The Polar Plunge – Freezin’ For A Good Reason

    Every winter people all across the country partake in one of the most bizarre traditions known to mankind. It’s been called many things, but around here, we know it as the Polar Plunge. Yes, people travel from all over to run down the frigid beaches of Seaside Heights and into water so cold it takes your breath away. Well I’m happy to say that this event, which was displaced last year due to Superstorm Sandy damage, is back and expected to be bigger than ever. I was…


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    Boyd USA – 7:am

    I met Sal Boyd a few times and remember a seasoned demeanor and a knowledgeable musician who held his own when it came to talking music with jaded guys like me. So I was unquestionably acceptable when I was asked to attend a show at The Saint recently. While I was sure Boyd would be able to play, what I didn’t know was that he would be able to wow, and I ended up seeing one of those surprises that keep me doing this job.

    Calm and reserved when standing about off stage, Boyd takes…


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    Arlen Roth is a master guitarist known for more stellar achievements than I could hope to list in this column. From his very first award-winning album, Arlen Roth: Guitarist (which won “Best Instrumental Album” at Montreux in 1978), to his days on stage and in the studio with greats such as Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Pete Seeger, Duane Eddy, all three Taylors (James, Livingston, and Kate), Janis Ian and many others, Roth has continued in the limelight and at the head of the regiment when it comes to guitar star discernibility.

    His intuitive skill for teaching…


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    Creeptones – Toms River Just Got A Little Bit…Creepier

    Toms River has been no sluggard when it comes to cranking out talented folks. The drowsy tiny Twilight Zone borough has remained a never-ending origin for gifted performers, writers, and even sports idols. Highly visible recording artists such as Rachel Bolan from Skid Row and the immensely successful River City Extension, to pro ball players such as former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Andy Messersmith and New York Yankees pitcher Al Leiter, as well as models and actors like Leigh Lezark and Brian Geraghty (Hurt Locker), all hail from the odd…


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    Johnny Cash is a legend that will forever live within our imaginations. From his early beginnings with Sun Records, to his Hollywood biopic, Cash has always been the larger-than-life “Man In Black.” His baritone voice told famous tales of tough, steel-driving men and gun-blazing sons of anarchy, and the Arkansas-born Cash carved his own rough-hewn legacy out of a granite-hard life.

    Cash was famous for his close, family-oriented lifestyle. Shunning the insincere party crowds early on in his profession, Cash was an artist that became a deeply religious man, preferring to spend time with wife June and his small…


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    Bake is the family unit of Joe and Pat Baker. The exciting center of attention of these performers is that I’ve examined them as part of early Bake projects, as well as solo independents. And the main remembrance that stands out is that both are profoundly imaginative and musically instinctive when it comes to presenting fresh compositional information.

    The brothers’ history is another relevant tie-in here, as they were the originators responsible for founding the industry alt darlings, The Semibeings, along with high school friend and Shoreworld alumni Keith Monacchio. The Semibeings released Sickness And Health on producer Kramer’s…


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    Mike Montrey Releases Song By Song By Song

    Mike Montrey is back with another organic concept that rolls music and art into one big groovy picture. Mike and I first discussed his idea about a year and a half ago. We talked about the method of time-releasing new music in conjunction with partnered visual pieces that would give listeners (and viewers) a unique and separate experience for each presentation.

    To achieve this abstract composition style of presentation, Montrey engaged the help of various art fans, producers, musicians and specialists, bringing each individual’s rich expertise and input to the rock…


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    Wreaths are a band long celebrated in the closed door, secret fellowship of the Asbury domain. Circling the legend and lore of all things cultish, this is a band that has been the darlings of college music columnists and gaggles and gaggles of hipster debutants since their 2011 debut on the local Jersey circuit.

    Founded somewhere in the 2007 neighborhoods of Chicago, Illinois, Wreaths took earthly-minded shape through the perceptions of guitarist/vocalists Shaun Towey and Ralph Nicastro. Mixing the stylistic methods of psycho-jamming and groove-fed 1970s trip continuum, Wreaths carry their flag of scene supremacy high in the sky…


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    Deena Shoshkes is back with another fresh dozen of quirky, hook-laden rock and roll gems. Combining genres and crossing boundaries, Shoshkes continues her streak of offering something different from what’s being done in pop music today.

    Deena is probably best known as one of two essential elements of the seminal group, The Cucumbers. Shoshkes and guitarist hubby Jon Fried burst onto the scene in the early 1980s with the wildly triumphant song, “My Boyfriend,” an ingenuous little piece that propelled them into millions of living rooms across the MTV nation.

    Immediately recognizable, Shoshkes’ little girl chirp and soprano flush…


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    From its angry birth in the dirty ’80s, through its current fifth generational phase of evolution today, New Jersey hardcore has been the method of communication for rebel-rousing evangelists across the Garden State and the world beyond. Hardcore comes from the continued evolution of the original punk and heavy rock era, which also came from the same type of musical and cultural unrest. NJ punk was extremely prevalent and groundbreaking, boosting many famed bands such as Glenn Danzig’s original Misfits. Born from the same corporate greed that would eventually resurface and kill heavy metal in the late ’80s, punk…


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    When you bring up the name Gedeon Luke to the stranger on the street, the first thing usually discussed is his role as a semifinalist on American Idol. Luke, a Memphis, Tennessee, native, is well known for the style in which he made his own way to the mega-show destination, his longevity and eventual surprise show elimination. Even the usually uber-cynical Simon Cowell was rooting for him and was said to be floored at his dismissal from that 2006 season. But once you scrape away that common, everyday media image, you come to understand that there is much more…


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    Surf music has always been a curious entity in the world of popular sound. Way off to the side of the commercially acceptable ilk, this red-headed stepchild came into the world twisting and screaming. Sealed within its own embryonic cocoon of popularity, the genre formed an actual way of beach blankets and bonfire life. Passed from knowing hodad to every hang ten bunny on the beach, surf-styled music was, and is, the language of members only. From its early and rebellious beginning in the early 1960s, to its continued resurgence throughout the years, surf-inspired music is always a surprise.…


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