Saturday, February 20, 2010

432 Sleepless-The most recent album on the countdown.

Album: Sleepless

Artist: Peter Wolf

Year: 2002

Genre: Rock.

  1. Growin' Pain
  2. Nothing But the Wheel
  3. A Lot of Good Ones Gone
  4. Never Like This Before
  5. Run Silent, Run Deep
  6. Homework
  7. Five O'Clock Angel
  8. Hey Jordan
  9. Too Close Together
  10. Some Things You Don't Want to Know
  11. Oh Marianne
  12. Sleepless

There are lots of bands kicking around the planet who people compare to the Rolling Stones. Groups like Primal Scream, The Black Crowes and more recently Jet and Silvertide have been tagged with the label “Stones Clones” for the Jagger/Richards quality of their music. They earned this label because their songs are riff-based rock that reminds the listener of Brown Sugar and Jumping Jack Flash. There are lots of bands ripping off the feel of these great songs, not least of which are the Rolling Stones who have been doing it for the past 20 years or so. While I’ve often listened to an album or song and thought- very stonesy, this is the first time that I’ve heard an album and been instantly reminded of a Rolling Stones ballad.

The second track on Sleepless is called Nothing But The Wheel which as a title makes no sense until you realise he’s talking about a steering wheel and singing “I’m holding onto nothing but the wheel”. The opening acoustic guitar and the way the other instruments come in on cue is very like a Rolling Stones ballad. When the vocals begin you’re immediately reminded of all those great slow songs that Jagger and co used to effortlessly conjure up. I knew nothing about this album before my first listen but immediately I thought of the Stones when this track came along. Imagine my surprise when a few lines in Wolf was joined by one of the most distinctive vocals in rock and Roll.

Mick Jagger sings backing on Nothing but the wheel and later in the track takes a verse on his own. It’s right and proper that he does. In fact I suspect he wasn’t actually invited to the studio he just appeared there as if summoned by the sound of someone capturing his writing style so perfectly. It’s as if he was generated in front of a microphone as soon as the opening chords were played. It’s worth pointing out how great it was to hear him. I love Mick’s voice, I love the stones and I love him. He’s a true Rock icon and capable of turning a dud track into a great one. Not that this is a lemon by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually a well written song that Jagger himself would be proud of. The other half of the Stones double combo crops up later in the disc when Keith Richards staggers into the studio to lend his weight to Too Close Together. The Ragged One lends his voice and his guitar to the album’s rockier number which definitely benefits from his considerable presence.

I have to confess when I first heard this album I thought it was recorded by some new rock hero. One of the brand of young turks who is proud of their classic rock influences and rather than trying to rail against established acts like the Stones considers it a huge honour to open for them. In fact Wolf is what you'd call an established musician and a contempory of Jagger and Richards. For many years he was the lead vocalist isn the J Geils Band which have had some minor hits in their time but are hardly a household name. Mention them to most rock fans and they'll claim they've heard of them but can't name an actual member other than the blindingly obvious J Geils himself. Far from being a young turk Wolf is one of those artists who is in a happy place where his back catalogue sells enough to keep him supplied with Jewel-encrusted cocaine dishes and he only needs to put out new albums in order to satisfy his urge for creative output. When you listen again with that in mind it's clearly that kind of release- tunes written by a seasoned professional with nothing to prove but no hunger to hit the top of the charts either.

It's also the kind of release that can attract a collection of impressive sessions musicians to play on. Most notably a gjy named Tony Garnier who for over twenty years has made a living as Bob Dylan's bass player and tours constantly with the great man as his musical director. Multi instrumentalist and Dylan player Larry Campbell also lends his considerable talents to this release as does Divinyls member Charley Drayton and someone named Magick Dick who is apparently a former member of the J Geils band and not an actual enchanted penis, which I think is a pity.

Sleepless makes for a pleasant listen and it's novel to hear someone capture the sound of a Stones ballad so well. But it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression and you can't help but wonder how well it will age. When Rolling Stone magazine released it's best albums of the decade list at the end of 2009 Sleepless was no where to be found.

Influenced by: The Rolling Stones
Influenced: Far Too early to say

Highlight: Nothing but the wheel
Lowlight: Five O Clock angel.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Well another surprise from the Woofah Goofah."

-Definitely a candidate for best rock nickname ever. Peter Wolf, better known as The Woofah Goofah

So are you afraid of the big bad wolf or are you sleepless with anticipation of his next release? Let me know below.


  1. I've never actually heard this album, but, though I would assume that it is an alright album, there were WAY more great albums released in 2002 (like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" by Wilco [which they did {lazily} include on subsequent lists], "Turn On the Bright Lights" by Interpol, "You Forgot It In People" by Broken Social Scene, "Kill The Moonlight" by Spoon [which I actually think you would enjoy quite a bit btw], "Original Pirate Material" by The Streets, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips, that untitled album by Sigur Ròs, Songs for the Deaf" by Queens of the Stone Age, and so on and so forth) that would warrant a spot on this list, as opposed to this album.

  2. I've heard some of the albums you've recommended (I'm a big fan of QOTSA and enjoy Yoshimi and Wilco) although I never understood the attraction in The Streets I have to confess. I'll try and give your other suggestions a listen at some stage.

    It's interesting to note that this is one of the albums Rolling Stone dropped when the list was redone for it's 2012 upgrade.

    Thanks for the comment and the suggestions.

  3. And if you listen any of the suggested albums (or any other albums from the early 2000s), feel free to comment.

    As to the band Spoon, I said that I think that you would like them because I think you would like their style, at least on "Kill the Moonlight" and the previous one "Girls Can Tell" (2001). Those two albums in particular are very minimalist in their approach, and emphasize tight instrumentation with strong melodies. They also feature very spacious production and rely on a tight economy of sound, while using the space well and spending the notes wisely. It actually turns out to be very unique, stylistically-speaking, and not only do I highly enjoy listening to them, but I also believe that at least Kill the Moonlight should have definitely been on the list. Very highly recommended.