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Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Andrew Fink. Andrew is a member of the Michigan House of Representative (District 35 -- Branch & Hillsdale Counties). Prior to that, he was the district director for Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewFinkMI.Andrew’s Music Pick: Otis ReddingLadies and gentlemens, we are so happy to be here with the Love Crowd tonight because we gotta gotta gotta gotta turn it loose about soul giant Otis Redding, a man whose recorded legacy looms large not just in the history of soul and R&B but in modern popular music as a whole. Redding is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest R&B vocalists of all time, and as a "soul giant," but what is far too less appreciated about him is that he was the first truly modern African-American popular musician, a man self-consciously carving out a sound, pushing sonic boundaries and the traditions of his genre, and working self-consciously to craft albums as complete statements at a time when absolutely no other black artist in the country outside of jazz was thinking along those lines.Redding's early singles established him, simply on their own terms, as an early Sixties soul great. ("Pain In My Heart," "Mr. Pitiful," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "I've Been Loving You Long," and "Security" are the sorts of timeless Redding soul belters that went immediately into the working books of countless English R&B bands, notably including The Rolling Stones.) His mid-Sixties albums demonstrated that he, alone among all major soul/R&B artists of his era -- long before Stevie or Marvin moved for their artistic freedom -- had a sound and vision that belonged to something more than a series of singles. And the music he was making before he suddenly died (in a December 1967 plane crash while flying between shows) was mutating both into chart-topping contemplative folk-pop ("(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," his only #1 single) and forward-looking hard funk ("Hard To Handle"). Four albums of posthumous Redding material were released between 1968 and 1970. Much of it is great work. But one can only imagine where Otis would actually have been by 1970. He was growing so quickly as an artist.Join us this week, as we open with a long discussion of Stax/Volt and the nature of its "sound," and then engage in a celebration of one of the greatest popular musical artists of the Sixties -- and perhaps the most heartbreaking loss of modern musical history, in terms of what we likely missed when that plane went down on a cold winter's day in December 1967. Hail to The King of Soul.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Noah Weinrich. Noah is director of communications for Heritage Action, the grassroots and advocacy arm of The Heritage Foundation. Check him out on Twitter at @weinrich_noah.Noah’s Music Pick: WeezerWhat kind of a band starts its career with two stone-cold classic albums, takes a nearly five-year hiatus, and then returns to mixed results for a 20+ year tail? We're about to find out. Covering the good (Maladroit! Everything Will Be Alright In the End!), the bad (Make Believe!) and the ugly (Raditude!), we try to lend some perspective on what made the band great, why perceptions have changed over the years, and what keeps them going.Of course, we spend a huge portion of the show discussing Weezer’s twin pillars of excellence: the debut (Blue) and Pinkerton. One beloved from the moment of release and the other taking years for fans and critics to fully appreciate. The response to Pinkerton clearly changed the trajectory of the band and influenced musical decisions for years to come.The second self-titled (Green) album heralded a comeback in 2001, but it was a different kind of band, divorced from much of what made the first two albums so consequential. Regardless, fans, some new and some old, embraced most of these sonic moves. There’s lots to discuss about the last 20 years and how Weezer should be considered so long after the early success.There’s also Rivers Cuomo’s lyrical journey from sharing ultra-personal thoughts and desires to crafting pop songs from spreadsheets and syllable counts. It’s . . . weird. One of the longest-lasting rock bands of the 1990s, but should it be considered one of the best? That question and many more get tackled on this Political Beats.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Jesse Walker. Jesse is books editor at Reason and author of two books, The United States of Paranoia and Rebels On the Air. He can be found on Twitter at @notjessewalker.Jesse’s Music Pick: Willie NelsonIn Part Two, we pick up Willie’s story at his commercial breakthrough, Red Headed Stranger (1975). This opens a window in which Willie records frequent number one albums on the country charts and often dents the pop charts with his records, as well.What’s changed? Well, Willie stops writing music for himself for an awfully long stretch. It’s somewhat ironic that his biggest successes in this era will come from other people’s songs after Willie’s writing helped so many artists move product in the years prior.Near the height of “Outlaw Country,” Willie takes a sharp left turn by recording an album’s worth of compositions from the Great American Songbook. Stardust becomes a huge hit and allows Willie to do what he wants. Specifically, that means a series of tribute albums and duet albums in the late '70s.The '80s would bring a string of crossover hits like "On the Road Again," "To All the Girls I Loved Before," "Pancho and Lefty," and "Seven Spanish Angels.” Always on My Mind was a HUGELY popular album at the time but signaled the end of a certain creative era for Willie. He writes again on Tougher Than Leather to mixed returns and the rest of the decade would see occasional hits among a plethora of releases.The 1990s kick off with Willie’s tax trouble and a pretty great release meant to raise money to pay back the government. We dive into Who’ll Buy My Memories and other highlights from an interesting decade of music, with Across the Borderline, Moonlight Becomes You, Spirit, and Teatro (with Daniel Lanois producing) among his best work.Willie has continued his firehose release schedule to this day, with a new album on the shelves just a couple months ago. We skim through the latter portion of his career, stopping to shine a light on a few of the more worthwhile albums.Over two parts and more than six hours, we hope to give both die-hard Willie fans and those new to the artist an overview of what made him so great.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Jesse Walker. Jesse is books editor at Reason and author of two books, The United States of Paranoia and Rebels On the Air. He can be found on Twitter at @notjessewalker.Jesse’s Music Pick: Willie NelsonSure, in the past here on Political Beats we have dabbled in country-ish music. We've dipped our toes in the water of alt-country and country rock. But this, friends, is a full-fledged belly flip into the world of COUNTRY. Welcome to Willie Nelson, Part One. The show may never be the same.In Part One, we take Willie from his early songwriting days up through Phases and Stages. That’s right -- it’s 3+ hours and we don’t even get to Red Headed Stranger. That’s how much we have to say about Willie.We discuss much more than the music in this one. For example, we ask why country music's greatest albums are not considered among popular music's greatest as well? Why do we cabin them off to one side? How should we consider the songwriter versus the performer? Why would someone like Willie, early on at least, successful at one but not the other. And the voice. The delivery. What makes Willie truly Willie?From Liberty to RCA to Atlantic, all of Willie’s record labels are represented on the show. It's a straight-up crime that some of these records aren't routinely listed among the greatest American albums of all-time. However, that's the silo country music finds itself in, at times. We try to bust through that silo.It’s an exciting mix of styles and eras with entertainment and information for newbies and hardcore fans. Relax in any way you see fit, grab a bit of yesterday’s wine, and be amazed at how time slips away when you listen to Political Beats. You can even stay in your underwear, if you like.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Steve Miller. Steve is a veteran journalist and a reporter at RealClearInvestigations. He's also the author of Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City. Steve's Music Pick: Mott The HoopleDo you remember the Saturday gigs? We do, we do! Mott The Hoople are known outside of specialist rock audiences these days either as "one of those weird bands from That Weird Era with one of those memorably weird names" or as a putative 'one-hit wonder' performing a song most people associate with David Bowie. So that's where you're wrong, kiddo. Mott The Hoople was a band that managed to set Britain (and particularly London) afire during the early Seventies, even as they consistently eluded chart success. They were brought together by famed rock & roll madman/record-jobber/A&R man/heavy drinker Guy Stevens, who realized his dream of creating a band that sounded like both The Rolling Stones AND Bob Dylan simultaneously by pairing a chubby Dylanesque vocalist/pianist (Ian Hunter, hiding his insecurity behind enormous shades) with a workaday gigging band that hailed from within spitting distance of the Welsh border (the Doc Thomas Group, with Mick Ralphs).  From that fusion came Mott The Hoople, and their 1969 self-titled debut album. The pure rock & roll energy -- gruff, with zero pretensions, utterly available to the fans and the audience, yet strangely literate and aspirational as well -- was there from day one. The only question was whether Mott could ever properly harness it in the studio. The gang argues that they actually did quite a good job during their pre-Bowie years (especially on Brain Capers, an album of such loopily memorable hard-rock ferocity that it must be heard to be believed), but the record-buying public certainly didn't agree.Which is where David Bowie stepped in, rushing to save the band after they'd announced their own dissolution in the UK music press. His song "All The Young Dudes" became their most famous number, and yet on this episode everyone is at pains to argue that neither the song nor its namesake album are the real highlight of Mott's career. So let us explain to you how a band you've more or less never heard of recorded one of the greatest albums of the entire decade after their involvement with David Bowie as we sing you the ballad of Mott The Hoople. And if it seems we've lost just a little bit on the journey, then please treat us kindly. 
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Andrew Heaton. Andrew is a comedian and political satirist you might know from Reason TV. He is the host of The Political Orphanage, a funny policy analysis show for people tired of tribalism. You can find him on Twitter at @mightyheaton.Andrew Music Pick: “Weird Al” YankovicYou should know a few things about Al before we start. First, Al is super smart. He was two years younger than all the other kids in grade school and was going to be an architect before music intervened. Second, Al is super nice. There are no bad stories (that we know of!), no scandals. He doesn't even do a parody unless the artist gives the "Okay," even though there's no particular reason for him to do that. Three, Al is a super-good songwriter. You might think of parodies when you think of “Weird Al,” but a goal of this show is to convince you that his originals & pastiches are even better. The short Al story begins with the “Dr. Demento” radio show. Al was a fan. He passed him a cassette tape with some songs when the Dr. visited his high school, one of which then was played on the show. After that, Al continued to contribute and people took some notice. Well before the first album was released, he got national airplay with the singles "My Bologna" and "Another One Rides the Bus" -- the latter was recorded live on Demento's show and not even re-recorded for the debut. That '81 performance also is where Al met his long-time drummer. The rest of the band was put together in '82 and they've been together since.Not bad when it comes to longevity and loyalty.There are essentially four types of "Weird Al" songs:1. Straight parodies (think "Eat It," “Fat,” “Smells Like Nirvana”)2. Pastiches (song in the style of REM, Devo, Talking Heads, Cake, Bob Dylan, etc.)3. Pure originals4. Polka medleys of current or past hitsThere are certain recurring themes – food, TV, movies, the sad sack in love, lyrics with escalating comedic situations -- but through Al’s lengthy career, he’s shown the ability to adapt to whatever is in front of him, both musically and culturally. There are ups and downs to be sure, but his last album, Mandatory Fun (2014), was Al’s first number one album, a sign he still commanded a sizable fanbase of nerds and weirdos. Of which all three of us are, of course.Join the crowd, shout it out loud! Dare to be stupid with Political Beats and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Scott Immergut. Scott is the CEO of and the Ricochet Audio Network. He is the long-time producer of the Ricochet Podcast and the GLoP Culture podcast with Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, and John Podhoretz. He’s also the Executive Producer of The Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson andGood Fellows, with Niall Ferguson, H. R. McMaster, and John Cochrane. Scott’s Music Pick: SqueezeThey might do it down on Camber Sands and at Waikiki, but in the mainland U.S., Squeeze was mostly a rumor for much of the band’s career. Highest charting album? #32. Just two Top 40 singles. Squeeze, unfortunately, was destined to join the long list of very British bands that never quite crossed over to the States.If you know Squeeze at all, it might be because of the placement of “Tempted” on the soundtrack for Reality Bites. Or, perhaps a roommate at college had the Singles 45's and Under collection on CD, as most roommates seemed to in the 1990s. But there’s a heck of a lot more to the story.This is, of course, where Political Beats steps in to solve the problem. Because the truth is you won’t find music any better than what Squeeze produced, particularly at their peak from 1978-1982. The highly literate lyrics of Chris Difford, filled with sharp storytelling and British allusions, paired perfectly with the beautiful, melodic, and sometimes quite complicated music written by Glenn Tilbrook. Tilbrook’s soulful tenor took most of the leads (except, famously, on perhaps the band’s best-known song, “Tempted”) while Difford’s deep croaking voice contributed backing vocals.The duo were called the heirs to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting throne, though the comparison never really fit and actually harmed the band’s output, as we discuss on the show. But they were something special, producing some of the finest pop songs of the era, like “Another Nail In My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels,” “Up the Junction,” and “Is It Love”.The band broke up in 1982, making way for a pretty awful Tilbrook/Difford duo album that was a naked reach for the charts. Squeeze reunited in 1985, fell apart in 1999, got back together in 2007 and remain a recording and touring entity to this day. Pick up almost any album from their collection and you’re going to hear at least a handful of well-crafted, melodic, memorable tunes.If nothing else, you’ll learn about a whole bunch of British slang, like “argybargy,” “up the junction,” “that’s not cricket,” and “slap and tickle.” But we’re pretty sure you’re going to love this music, as well. It’s not just an East Side Story, it’s one everyone can enjoy on Political Beats.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by Eli Lake. Eli is a contributing editor at Commentary, and fellow at the Clements Center at UT-Austin. Follow him on Twitter at @EliLake.Eli’s Music Pick: Prince, Pt. 3 (1992-2016)Eli rejoins the gang as they resume their discussion of the career of Prince Rogers Nelson, or as he was known for a significant part of this period covered during this episode, "[unpronounceable symbol]." Yes, this is the era where long-simmering tensions finally boiled over and Prince went to war with his record label Warner Brothers, resulting in his infamous decision to change his name to an unmarketable, unpronounceable "love symbol" ("The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" is the best people could do back then) in order to diminish the commercial impact of his work.What the gang are at great pains to explain here, during this final episode of our Prince spectacular, is that even though Prince was willfully obscurantist or difficult during this period, the music remained every bit as good as it had been during the earlier phases of his career. You never heard most of this music on the radio, and unless you were already a Prince fanatic at the time you likely didn't purchase it either, but up through 1999 or so, at least, there was no perceptible diminution in his talent. Welcome to the part of our Prince journey, where you'll be hearing music you had no idea even existed.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by Eli Lake. Eli is a contributing editor at Commentary, and fellow at the Clements Center at UT-Austin. Follow him on Twitter at @EliLake.Eli’s Music Pick: Prince, Pt. 2 (1985-1991)Join us once again as we deepen our Strange Relationship with Prince! Eli rejoins the gang as they pick up their discussion of the amazing career of Prince Rogers Nelson in the aftermath of Purple Rain and Around The World In A Day and Eighties megastardom. Having conquered America his own way, yet endlessly restless and ambitious, Prince proceeds to wander through an ill-begotten movie project (Under The Cherry Moon, with the wildly underrated album Parade attached) and a period of indecision and various scrapped projects until finally he emerges with Sign O' The Times in 1987. Now widely hailed as his greatest achievement, it didn't sell at the time and inaugurated a period where Prince would increasingly go to war both with himself and his record label. Hear the early results on this episode, as we discuss the fascinating narrative that leads to Lovesexy (a CD he insisted be released as one single 44-minute-long track, to prevent listeners from skipping around), then Batman, then another unfortunate movie tied to a fantastic album, and finally his great commercial revival with Diamonds And Pearls. Yes, the dire rhymes of Tony M. are discussed. Yes, all the outtakes and discarded projects are discussed. And the story will only get stranger in our final episode, next time.
Eli’s Music Pick: PrinceDearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life. Electric word, "Life," and it's a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell you, there's something else: Prince Rogers Nelson. Known to the world by his first name, Prince was a self-made musical polymath who performed the singular trick of somehow altering the world to accommodate his eccentricity and musical genius rather than the other way around. We know Prince in our cultural memory as one of the classic 1980s MTV megastars alongside Madonna, Michael, and Bruce, but what is less appreciated is just how remarkable it is that he managed to vault himself so easily into that rarified company despite being so unapologetically weird.A Minneapolis kid who refused to ever give up his roots, Prince was so determined to carve his own path through the musical world of the late Seventies and Eighties that he recorded nearly every single note of all of his albums during this era. From his origins as an upstart in the R&B charts (as an heir to the autonomous tradition of Stevie Wonder, with crossover ambitions to match) to the avant-garde outrage of Dirty Mind  and Controversy, to the world-conquering success of 1999  and Purple Rain, Prince moved with such method and purpose that the gang is almost in awe of the scope of his growth from 1978 to 1985. Join us for Part 1 of a three-part series where we celebrate the transcendent genius, and oddness, of The Purple One, his Royal Badness. We're living the pop life over here on Political Beats for the next few episodes.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Mike Long. He wrote the sort-of-bestselling book The Molecule of More and he teaches writing at Georgetown University, but mostly he writes things for other people to put their name on. He’s on Twitter at @mikewrites.Mike’s Music Pick: Robbie FulksThis is almost certainly the most obscure artist we've ever covered on Political Beats. Yet, when the three hours are up, we think you'll also consider him one of the best. Ladies and gentlemen, please say hello to the incredibly talented Robbie Fulks, an artist who would be a household name if there were any justice in the musical world. Scot has been a fan for more than 20 years, dating back to finding one of the artist's CDs in a stack he was to review for his college radio station. Jeff’s new to the music, but hit on something by describing Robbie as “the country Elvis Costello.” Like Elvis, Robbie has an encyclopedic knowledge of multiple decades of music and isn’t afraid to jump from genre to genre in his work. And like Elvis, his lyrics and stories can often take center stage with creative wordplay and rhyming.Whether you are a rock (Let’s Kill Saturday Night), folk (Upland Stories), bluegrass (Gone Away Backward), country (Country Love Songs, Georgia Hard), pop (50 vc. Doberman), or, in Jeff's case, post-punk fan, there's going to be something here for you to grab a hold of. And we haven’t even mentioned what might be his best album, Couples In Trouble. No, none of them have been hits on the charts, but the consistent quality of the music will impress any listener.Robbie has a keen ear for creating stunning instrumentals and picks wonderful partners for occasional duets. He can make you laugh out loud during one song while moving you to cry in your beer over the next song. He’s adept at road songs, love songs, murder ballads, and cheating laments. And if you’re not careful, he’ll even turn you on to some of the underloved classic country artists of the past.If you’ve never heard of Robbie Fulks, we’ve provided the perfect introduction. Join us and you’ll soon be a fan.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Rory Cooper. He’s a partner at Purple Strategies, a corporate reputation and advocacy agency in Alexandria, Va., a former George W. Bush and Eric Cantor aide, and a longtime Republican strategist. He’s on Twitter at @rorycooper.Rory’s Music Pick: Paul SimonHere comes rhymin' Simon, right onto his own edition of Political Beats. This is the rare episode in which neither of your two esteemed hosts were intimately familiar with the artist’s music before preparations began for the show. Thankfully, Rory Cooper is here to fill in our blanks and guide us through Simon’s career.We begin with an overview of Simon’s partnership with Art Garfunkel (though the music itself largely will wait for a specific S&G episode) before the break-up which led to the self-titled solo debut (Ok, Ok, there was a Paul Simon album in 1965, but that really belongs to the S&G story) , an album that immediately engages the listener and highlights the artist’s firm grasp an the American musical songbook.As Jeff points out early in the show, Simon’s music is largely about rhythm and finding different places and sources to get that rhythm. His second effort, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, features one of the best and purest slices of '70s pop in “Kodachrome”. Following a Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Still Crazy After All These Years, Simon took five years off before returning to mixed results, though Jeff makes the case for Hearts and Bones as a minor classic. Simon’s career renaissance would come via a cassette handed to him by an artist he was supposed to be helping. Instead, he fell in love with the music and stole/borrowed the idea to compose and record an album inspired by the sounds. This would be Graceland, a miracle of an album that still holds up well today. Yes, we discuss the circumstances surrounding the recording, the accusations of “cultural appropriation,” and much more.That album served as a template for much of the rest of his career (though the less said about Songs From The Capeman the better). Simon continued producing quality albums every five years or so with a handful of gems and no real embarrassments up until what appears to be his final new studio album in 2016, Stranger to Stranger.Hop on the bus, Gus, and come along for the ride. There is a need to discuss much about Paul Simon on Political Beats.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by Andrew Prokop. Andrew is Senior Politics Correspondent for Vox, and you can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter at @awprokop.Andrew's Music Pick: Kate BushWho? Unless you're an art-rocker, Englishman, or Lisa Simpsonesque girl-poet-dreamer, the name "Kate Bush" quite likely means nothing to you. Bush is something close to a beloved institution in the United Kingdom, where she has grown up in public to become the nation's officially designated Eccentric Bookish Aunt, but in the United States she is almost a pure cipher outside of music fanatics, a weird lady with a flute-like voice who occasionally shows up on '80s-era Peter Gabriel singles.Well get ready for a massive course-correction then, because this is an episode of Political Beats that has been brewing since the day the show began. And it doesn't take a psychic to figure out which of your hosts has been quietly lying in wait, ready to explain the deeply committed art-rock genius of Kate Bush to you for four years now. Bush began her career as a downright creepily preternatural child prodigy (she was writing at age ten, recording by age 13, professionally recording at age 15, and released her debut LP at age 18), swiftly gathered up complete creative control into her hands, and went to work from 1980 onwards shaping a career that stands for so many things, but perhaps most of all for the miraculous idea that gallery/exhibition-level art and "pop music" can still coexist within the same skin without shedding representation altogether. Instrumentally, this is piano-based music, but the real instrument here is the Fairlight CMI, a synthesizer program set that allowed her to retreat into near-complete isolation and play every single note of any instrument herself; Bush, more than nearly any other rock or pop artist with mainstream success during the 1980s, is the sound of Virginia Woolf's A Room Of One's Own made good.Ah, but it's not just about art! It's about love and beauty! Bush balanced all of her arty instincts with an achingly pure lyrical vision that magpied from every influence imaginable to take form in her own unique style: a literary fascination with artifice -- with the self-construction that knowledge and imposture makes possible -- combined with an elementally deeply fascination with men and the inscrutable mysteries of masculine anxieties, ambitions, and inchoate needs. So here we go! It's coming for us through the trees! Take your shoes off, throw them in the lake, click play, and before you're 20 minutes in, hopefully you'll be two steps on the water as well.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Bruce Edward Walker. He’s Midwest Regional Editor for The Center Square. He has written extensively on popular culture, literature and public policy for reference books, newspapers, magazines, and websites. He’s on Twitter at @bruceedwalker.Bruce’s Music Pick: Warren ZevonThe show begins its 2021 finishing kick with a long-requested episode featuring the music and career of the great Warren Zevon. Zevon is an artist with passionate fans who, at the same time, also can prove to be difficult to grab onto for newcomers. We hope to provide a path.As a singer/songwriter, Zevon can be difficult to pigeonhole. He’s a cynic, yes. He writes about portions of society -- outlaws, sociopaths, drug dealers, villains -- that many others might like to forget. He’s full of humor and wit. He writes biographical songs yet also has a wonderful way with literary narratives. He was a drunk. He recovered. He was a drunk again. Personal demons often got the best of him. Yet the work stands up.As Scot mentions on the show, a trip through his discography is like a series of mini “We Are the World.” Zevon, for most of his career, was able to attract the biggest California rock stars and the best session musicians around to contribute to his albums. Hey, there's Bonnie Raitt! Lindsey Buckingham! Leland Sklar! Ben Keith! Don Henley! David Lindley! Jackson Browne! Linda Ronstadt! Jeff Porcaro! Steve Lukather! J.D. Souther!The three of us have very different opinions on various portions of Zevon’s career, so this one can be a spicy listen. Send lawyers, guns, and money … and get ready for Warren Zevon.
Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by our old friend Charles C. W. Cooke. Charlie is a Senior Writer for National Review, and you can find his work wherever quality Charles C. W. Cooke products are sold (i.e. mostly right here on this website). Follow him on Twitter at @charlescwcooke.Charlie's Music Pick: Fleetwood Mac"Oh sure," you think as you read what artist we're covering this week, "I know them. Everybody knows them." Well yes . . . and no. You know the hits (everyone does -- new generations of teens have been "rediscovering" Rumours since the early 1980s at least), but what you might not know about is the sheer artistic drive of this, the latter-era version of Fleetwood Mac. That force came from the addition of none other than guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist/songwriter Stevie Nicks. Buckingham and Nicks were also a long-time romantic pair just then slowly beginning to come apart at the seams when they joined Fleetwood Mac, a fact that would have certain consequences for their music and their career.   Even though the story only covers a handful of albums, the journey is vast. From the 1975 self-titled album (a fitting title for a true rebirth of the band) to the world-dominating pop-rock perfection of Rumours to the willful obscurantism of Tusk and the retrenchment from Mirage and onwards, the Buckingham/Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac is populated with landmarks of modern music, and attests not only to the restless studio genius (and technical perfection as a guitarist) of Lindsey Buckingham but of an entire group. They were a three-headed songwriting behemoth backed by the finest and most organically creative rhythm section in all of popular music. The soap opera is the stuff you probably already knew -- though you might not have known the Stevie Nicks cocaine factoid Jeff lays on the audience during the show -- so come and stay for an appreciation of the greatness of this music. We'll save you a place.
Scot and Jeff discuss the first part of Fleetwood Mac’s career (1967-1974) with Charles C. W. Cooke.Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by our old friend Charles C. W. Cooke. Charlie is a senior writer for National Review, and you can find his work wherever quality Charles C. W. Cooke products are sold (i.e. mostly right here on this website). Follow him on Twitter at @charlescwcooke.Charlie’s Music Pick: Fleetwood Mac“Oh sure,” you think as you read what artist we’re covering this week, “I know them. Everybody knows them.” Well yes . . . and no. You know the hits (everyone does) but what most who only started paying attention with 1975’s chart-topping Fleetwood Mac album fail to realize is that the Mac had been together for a full eight years of legendary madness and great music prior to finally breaking big in America.From a hardcore electric blues band to a preternaturally self-assured and professional pop-rock act, from the East End alleys of London to Los Angeles, from a five-piece band featuring three separate lead guitarists to a shellshocked husk of a group without a single one . . . the story of Fleetwood Mac is one of the wildest, most improbable, least believable stories in rock history, and that’s all before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks join the group. This is a band whose manager once sent a fake version of the band out on tour to impersonate them, for crying out loud.And the music is utterly superb. Early Fleetwood Mac feels somewhat schizophrenic due to their rapid mutations and personnel changes, but every era of this band up to the 1990s brought something of value and there are few treats more pleasurable than the sound of founder and original bandleader Peter Green’s blues-guitar playing. From blues, to art-rock, to ’50s pastiche, to prog-rock, to solid Fleetwood Mac-style pop, this was a band that could play in pretty much every style due to the versatility of its rhythm section. Come along and join us on an exploration of the wonderful forgotten years of Fleetwood Mac — back when their secret weapons were a songwriter whose favorite lyric to use in songs was “la,” a balding SoCal post-hippie burnout, and a woman who was literally born Perfect.
Scot and Jeff discuss Michael Jackson with Daniel Gullotta. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Daniel Gullotta. Daniel N. Gullotta is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in American Religious History at Stanford University. He is completing a dissertation on how religious politics influenced the rise of Andrew Jackson and the formation of the Democratic and Whig parties. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Bulwark, The Hill, National Review, The Critic, and many other publications. He is also the host of the Age of Jackson podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @danielgullotta.   Daniel’s Music Pick: Michael Jackson In this episode the gang tackles the discography of none other than The King Of Pop himself, and we refuse to stop ’til we’ve gotten enough. After the requisite throat-clearing (yes, you can’t talk about Michael Jackson without addressing the bizarre circus that was his life or the allegations of abuse that dogged him later in his career and after his death) Political Beats turns its attention to what our show always focuses on: the music. And what an incredibly rich career it is! From his earliest days as the biggest child star of the pop-music era (Jackson had four #1 singles, three with his family group the Jackson 5, before he even reached the age of 13) to his post-adolescent emergence with the explosively danceable Off The Wall, to the biggest-selling album in world history and all that followed, Jackson always focused his singular talents on conquering the world commercially, and pretty much succeeded. (As the gang jokes, 1/6 of the entire United States bought Thriller back in the mid-1980s, and the remaining 5/6ths correctly calculated that if they wanted to hear it all they had to do was turn on the radio, which was playing every single track.) The myth, the media, and the mess all have tended to obscure the power of one of the biggest and most influential artists in the modern era of music, so this week we want to take you back to how it felt to listen to someone sing a love song to a murderous pet rat, or explain to you why a solid 25 percent of American kids were wearing one white glove and a white fedora for Halloween during the late ’80s. Get up, get out on the dance floor, and let Political Beats burn this disco out with you.
Scot and Jeff discuss John Mellencamp with Matt Lewis. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Matt Lewis. He’s a senior columnist for The Daily Beast, author of the book Too Dumb to Fail, and host of the podcast “Matt Lewis & The News”. Follow him on Twitter at @mattklewis. Matt’s Music Pick: John Mellencamp In an episode with the biggest singer name confusion since our Pixies show, Political Beats takes on the music and career of Johnny Cougar/John Cougar/John Cougar Mellencamp/John Mellencamp. This is one that Jeff was not necessarily looking forward to, but an episode we hope many of you are excited about. Scot and Matt do their best to convince Jeff of the worthiness of Mellencamp’s catalog, while Jeff begrudgingly admits yes, there are some outstanding albums to be had. Mellencamp’s career began with a series of albums that stiffed (except in Australia!) before finally hitting paydirt with American Fool. He followed that with a run of classic LPs, Uh-HUH, Scarecrow, and The Lonesome Jubilee, in which his lyrical focus jumped from a being a tough-guy ne’er-do-well to bemoaning the state of American farms and the living conditions for many lower-class people in the U.S. In that transition he also moved from a Stones-meets-Springsteen presentation to introduce fiddle, banjo, dobro, and many other folk/country instruments not usually heard on rock tracks. An argument is made that while Mellencamp is not the greatest lyricist, he is a great storyteller and is able to convey the feeling of his songs effectively. Even in his more “protest”-minded songs, he’s able to craft a narrative that avoids finger-pointing (for the most part) and focuses on the problem at hand. And he has a knack for writing melodies that are hard to forget. You can’t tell the story of 1980s and 1990s rock without including multiple songs by Mellencamp. One word of caution: if you’re a fan of his output for most of this century, well, you might be disappointed. All of us have tried to get into the recent albums that feature a more stripped-down folk sound but, unfortunately, we have very few compliments to throw around concerning that music. Whether you’re from the big town or a small town, John Mellencamp’s music likely resonates on some level. Check it out . . . and check out this episode of Political Beats.
Scot and Jeff discuss The Allman Brothers Band with Andrew Fink. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Andrew Fink. Andrew is a member of the Michigan House of Representative (District 58 – Branch & Hillsdale Counties). Prior to that he was the district director for Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewFinkMI. Andrew’s Music Pick: The Allman Brothers Band Have the risers for the twin drum set-up been properly double-bolted? Have all the lines into the amps and board been checked? Is the organ plugged in? Then there’s no need for a soundcheck as we move through the dog days of August with a trip to Hot ‘Lanta! Today we celebrate the greatness of The Allman Brothers Band, a little group originally out of Jacksonville, FL (and later Macon, GA) put together piece by piece during the late Sixties by brothers Duane (the elder) and Gregg (the younger). The Allmans are regularly described as one of the greatest “Southern Rock” or “jam” bands to have ever existed. The irony, of course, is that they disdained both labels: on the one hand, “Southern Rock” didn’t even exist as a genre until these guys invented it, and was a reductivist label that put them in a box they didn’t properly belong to. And on the other hand, in the words of Gregg Allman, “we aren’t a jam band, we’re just a band that jams.” What the Allmans were really about was incredibly hard, sweaty electrified blues-rock, electrified in a way nobody had ever heard prior to their emergence onto the scene in late 1969. With a twin-guitar attack (Duane and co-lead guitarist Dickey Betts), a double drum engine-room churning away behind them (Butch Trucks — perhaps the most quintessential “southern rock” name ever — and Jai Johanny Johanson), eloquently melodic bass counterpoint (Berry Oakley), and Gregg Allman on organ and lead vocals, what the Allmans came up with was a fusion of blues, rock, and jazz that took three old and hallowed genres and somehow managed to create something new out of them. Join us this week as we travel through the prehistory of the Allmans (all those early bands, Duane’s amazing career as a session guitarist, etc.), their glory years (including one of the greatest live albums in the history of popular music), and their extremely “tabloid drama” decline (yes, Cher is somehow involved). For the first five years of their career these guys never set a foot wrong despite having to survive not one, but two tragic motorcycle deaths, and if you aren’t already familiar with the music then don’t keep yourself wonderin’, just dive in and eat a peach for peace.
Scot and Jeff discuss Traffic/Steve Winwood with Randy Barnett. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Randy Barnett. He’s the Patrick Hotung Professor of Constitutional Law at the Georgetown University Law Center where he directs the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. His most recent book, The Original Meaning of the 14th Amendment: Its Letter and Spirit, will be published by Harvard University Press and is now available for preorder on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @RandyEBarnett. Randy’s Music Pick: Traffic/Steve Winwood We return after a lengthy lay-off with a look at the career of one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever covered on the show, Steve Winwood. Joining The Spencer Davis Group at the age of 14, Winwood had a voice well beyond his years and was more than proficient at multiple instruments. After a few years and a couple of hits, he left to form Traffic, the band at the heart of this episode. Traffic’s blend of folk, rock, jazz, and soul were driven by the partnership of Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood, along with the talents of Chris Wood. Dave Mason became the Rachel to the band’s Ross through the years, joining and leaving multiple times.  Beginning in 1967, the band first turned out eclectic pop singles flavored with psychedelic influences. Traffic emphasized Winwood’s organ and piano and the reed instruments played by Chris Wood. After a first break-up, members reconvened following Winwood’s trouble crafting a solo album. In its second iteration, Traffic developed into a band that favored extended jams, leaving room for jazz-like improvisation. Perhaps best-known in the States now for “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” the band frequently touched the Top Ten album charts during the 1970s. On this episode, you’ll hear music and discussion involving Spencer Davis, Traffic, Blind Faith, Steve Winwood, and Dave Mason plus special appearances by The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. It’s a veritable Rock and Roll Stew around here. Jump in and enjoy the program. You’ll be feelin’ alright in no time flat.
Comments (4)


Excellent podcast on Kate Bush! I am a huge fan and have been for 30 years since I first heard her in college.

Feb 4th

John Kee

Seems like I can no longer download episodes of Political Beats on Castbox. I’ve switched to Apple Podcast to be able to listen. I’m wondering if there’s something incompatible about the file or encoding.

May 15th

stinky rex

like so many others, I've been waiting for a Rush episode since the beginning. just wish it was under better circumstances. thanks to Jeff and Scott and Brad.

Jan 22nd

stinky rex

excellent episode about a band I'd never heard of but now can't wait to dive into their stuff!

Oct 3rd
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