Sunday, May 31, 2009
So I'm digging through a pile of vinyl the other day and stumble across Y&T's "Mean Streak". They had their hayday in the mid 80's with that LP as well as a hit single in "Summertime Girls". (Terrible song, by the by). But I'm reminded of a better time, long before the "hair era", circa 1976 when Y&T went by their original moniker, Yesterday and Today. Their self-titled debut came out that year, and to me, I think it's far superior to what came after.
The best thing about the debut is the lack of production. Unlike a lot of hard rock bands of this era which seemed overproduced and uber-polished, this LP has a raw edge that makes it more enjoyable, especially compared to Y&T's later glossy efforts. Dave Meniketti's strong voice still packs some pop, but it sounds rougher and more urgent than what most are used to from the band, and that adds to the almost demo-style charm of the record.
The album starts off with "Animal Woman" a strange choice to kick off the record being one of it's weaker cuts, and featuring rhythm guitarist Joe Alves on vocals. Not a real attention grabber. The record remedies that faux pas with the second cut, "25 Hours a Day", an anthemic rocker that much like "Beautiful Dreamer", the pretty love ballad that closes the record, is still played by the band to this day.
To me, the strongest offering on the record is "Fast Ladies (Very Slow Gin), a song that begins misleadingly with a flowing lead run backed by a jogging bass line from Phil Kennemore, before kicking into a nasty galloping riff rock chord jam. It leads to a nice verse and catchy chorus. Almost as good is "Game Playing Woman", a song with a start and stop riff structure, that folds into a jazzy bass-backed bridge, before launching into a Zeppelin style chord jam behind a nasty lead by Meniketti.
This record holds up against the best of the era along with Nugent, Aerosmith, and the rest of the sweaty arena rockers, but it will never gain that notoriety.
Another plus is Leonard Haze's drumming which is a double kick style slightly ahead of it's time. Sadly in the late 80's, Haze was ejected from the band for not fitting it's aesthetic. In the "Summertime Girls" video, a comedy disaster still seen on VH1 Classic, Haze is the guy popping up out of the trash can at the very beginning. A very good drummer as well as a founding member, he deserved better. Although the only other weak cut on the record is "Alcohol", a paean to drinking that made the rounds in the midwest in the late 70's as a juke box regular, is sung poorly by Haze himself, and he doesn't come off well.
"Yesterday & Today" was released on the very small London label out of New York in '76, and I think it's only available on cd as a japanese import, which is a shame. It's a very good album and deserved a better fate.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Last Season, after 45 games in the minors with the Brewers AAA affiliate, the Nashville Sounds, Russell Branyan, the every day third baseman there was absolutely raking the ball, hitting over .340 with a pile of homers and RBI. With the Crew's regular 3B Billy Hall and his backup, Craig Counsell, lacking offensive punch, the GM Doug Melvin made the call up.
Prior to last year, Melvin signed Branyan off the scrap heap to Nashville, because Branyan wanted to play close to home, and the Sounds needed a corner infielder. Match made in heaven. After just over a month into the season, voila, he was needed.
After several starts and stops from the minors to the show over the years prior to Nashville, Russell "the Muscle" Branyan was back in the big leagues. I rooted for Branyan big time. I always loved that comeback story, that against all odds kind of deal. Hey, I loved "The Rookie"!
Up to the point where my Milwaukee Brewers called him up, Branyan had served stints with Cleveland, Milwaukee (once prior), Cincinatti, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Inarguably, a fantastic amount of stops in a career of a 32 year old. Why so many opportunities?
Raw friggin' power.
Russell Branyan is one of those guys that just comes around so often. Not a particularly huge dude, doesn't take giant lumberjackesque haymaker swings. Just a relaxed stroke and the ball absolutely JUMPS off his bat. No team can take just one look, they always do that double take. Yeah, he strikes out a lot, but DAMN, the pop! Rany Jazayerli, a writer for the Baseball Prospectus has more or less declared him todays best representative of the TTO, or "Three True Outcomes" philosophy of baseball. You either strike out, walk, or drill one into the cheaps. Branyans HR per At bats statistics are off the charts, always have been. So you factor his massive launching pad of a bat, more than passable skills as a hot corner man, his versatility in being able to play corner outfield positions as well as first, add that to a change in his stance down at Nashville which had caused his battng average to skyrocket, and you've got a pretty safe callup.
All he did upon being called up was hit around .260 with 12 homers and 25 RBI in 132 at bats before his back started bothering him just as the season was tailing down. In December, free agency struck, and Seattle picked Branyan up for a middling amount.
Sad to see him go anyway, that feeling is elevated now as I watch the bench of the current Brewers doing not a lot more than striking out and seeing Russell Branyan hitting .344 with 6 homers and 14 RBI on the young season. I think we might have missed the boat on this one.
Still, I wish "The Muscle" luck. It's been a long road, and his persistence is pretty amazing in this day and age. They say he works pretty hard, too. It's a refreshing spin in today's baseball environment. I just wish he was still swinging the bat here for Milwaukee.