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Posted: July 29, 2009

George Thorogood, Rod Stewart and Phish reach Denver

Bands touring behind grab-bag new and classic material, reissued hits and live concert film

Mike Cote

GEORGE THOROUGHGOOD AND THE DESTROYERS The Dirty Dozen (Capitol)

In George Thorogood’s way of doing math, six new tracks with six taken off the shelves equals a “dirty” dozen.  Back on Capitol/EMI, the company that launched him to the masses in 1982 with Bad to the Bone, the guitarist and singer treads familiar territory, covering the same brand of blues and early rock that has fueled his albums since the ‘70s. He comes to Denver on Saturday on a bill at the Fillmore Auditorium with Jonny Lang. (Click here for tickets.)

Thorogood has hardly altered his sonic recipe over the years so if you like his rough-and-ready brand of good-time blues rock this one likely won’t disappoint unless you already have the “fan favorites” grouped on the second half of the disc.

Howlin’ Wolf looms large on the album, with a boogie-fueled cover of “Tail Dragger” kicking off the album, and two Wolf songs showing up among the previously released material: the Wolf/Willie Dixon tune “Howlin’ for My Baby” done up ZZ Top/John Lee Hooker-style (among three cuts that had fallen out of print) and “Highway 49,” which resembles the Elmore James songs Thorogood covered in the early days, driven by that rip-roaring slide.

Thorogood’s greasy slide work also shows up on Sleepy John Estes’ “Drop Down Mama,” accented by long-time member Hank Carter’s saxophone work and borrowing from the arrangement used by John Hammond.  Slide guitar and Carter’s sax also drive a version of Muddy Waters’ “Born Lover.”

Less familiar is the Holmes Brothers’ “Run Myself Out of Town,” a welcome change of pace with a good harmony vocal on the chorus. Also coming from the more obscure record pile is Mickey Bones’ “Twenty Dollar Gig,” a roots rocker that seems custom-cut for the Destroyers.  The half-dozen new recordings end with Bo Diddley’s “Let Me Cross,” an up-tempo that Thorogood arranges as a country rock song.

Among the remaining cuts are versions of the country standard “Six Days on the Road” and Chuck Berry’s “Hello Little School Girl” (both until now out of print in the U.S.)  Because of Thorogood’s stylistic vision has remained the same, this grab-bag approach holds together good enough for an album timed to coincide with his recent tour with Johnny Lang.

ROD STEWART Atlantic Crossing: Collector’s Edition (Warner Bros.)
ROD STEWART A Night on the Town: Collector’s Edition (Warner Bros.)

It’s easy to forget Rod Stewart didn’t leap straight from bluesy folk rocker to leopard-print wearing disco boy after the Faces broke up in the early ’70s. For his first two albums with Warner Bros., the Brit with the whisky-soaked voice worked with producer Tom Dowd (Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin), who brought along his old friends from Stax Records, the MG’s.

That’s why Atlantic Crossing and A Night on the Town, newly released as limited-edition, double-disc editions, have aged well even as they represent Stewart’s transition toward a slicker sound.  And you can bet Stewart will be drawing from these albums when he performs at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre tonight (July 30) -- click here for tickets.

Atlantic Crossing spawned the modest hits “Sailing” and “I Don’t Want to Talk About” while the multiplatinum A Night on the Town included the No. 1 “Tonight’s the Night,” Stewart’s cover of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest” and the tragic tale ballad “The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II).”  Stewart had plenty of swagger here, too, on “Stone Cold Sober” and “All in the Name of Rock ’N’ Roll” (on Crossing) and “The Wild Side of Life” (on A Night).

The bonus discs feature alternate, demo and early versions of the finished albums tracks plus studio outtakes, most notably three songs cut with the MG’s, including a smoking version of the Elvis hit “Return to Sender” (on Crossing) and Stewart’s blues-laced cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back” (on A Night).

PHISH The Clifford Ball (Rhino)

OK, so you either couldn’t get tickets to Phish’s four-night stand at Red Rocks (an instant sellout that begins tonight) or you’re past the age where you want to hang with several thousand jam-band hippies grooving to “Sample in a Jar” and “Chalk Dust Torture.” 

This seven-disc DVD set – chronicling two days at a New York Air Force base in 1996 -- allows you to take in the scene from the comfort of your living room couch. And if you’re new to the joys of guitarist Trey Anastasio and company’s instrumental prowess, note the band’s exceptional taste: covers of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and Edgar Winter’s instrumental left-field hit “Frankenstein.”

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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