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Dopers Drunks and Everyday Losers

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Album Review

Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen laid down one of the most important combinations of roots rockabilly, country, swing, blues, and boogie from the late 1960s through the middle of the '70s. They combined humor, expert musicianship, a sense of the outrageous, and tremendous showmanship. (They also recorded one of the great live albums of all time.) But that was a long time ago. Since then, some of its members have gone on to solo careers, while others have languished in the shadows, stepping out only for a couple of reunion gigs. Billy Kirchen, the band's lead guitarist, has been on the scene constantly, touring non-stop and issuing a handful or so of terrific records. The band's namesake, George Frayne, the Commander himself, has been far more erratic. After some early success with his single and hit video, "Two Triple Cheese, Side Order of Fries," (from Lose It Tonight at the dawn of the MTV era), he's recorded sporadically, putting out some great tracks alongside some real drek.

This set, Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers, issued by Blind Pig, fares a bit better than most of its predecessors, but not for the reasons one might expect. For starters, there are a slew of Lost Planet Airmen covers here — and if anyone has the right to do them, it's the Commander — such as "Wine, Do Yer Stuff," "Down to Seeds and Stems Again," "Semi Truck," "It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights," and "Lone Ranger" (from Frayne's second solo album Flying Dreams), and a couple of others. While he pulls off most of these, one cannot help but miss the Lost Planet Airmen's great lead vocalist Billy C. Farlow's trademark baritone leading the pack. "Lone Ranger" comes off the best, and "Semi Truck" is a close second. The others fall flat, and that's putting it kindly. The traditional tune "Down and Out" is done here as a hard rock & roll swinger with great pedal steel work by Chris "Tiny" Olsen and fine B-3 work by Professor Louie alongside the Commander's great honky tonk and barrelhouse boogie-woogie piano. Frayne's terrific novelty number, "Seven Eleven" (off his debut solo effort Rock 'n Roll Again) with hip guitar work (Mark Emerick) and more boss B-3 and whining steel from the Prof and Olsen, makes for a charged jumping blues-rock stomper. The traditional "Last Call for Alcohol" and a cover of Hoyt Axton's "No No Song," fare equally well. So the reason the record works (mostly) is simply for the newer material, and not for the rehashes of his former band faves. This one is basically for hardliners only, through most of the set makes an enjoyable listen.

Biography

Born: 19 July 1944 in Ann Arbor, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were equally adept at stripped-down basic rock & roll, R&B, and gritty country-rock. Commander Cody's country-rock rocked harder than the Eagles or Poco — essentially, the group was a bar band. Much like English pub rock bands like Brinsley Schwarz and Ducks Deluxe, Commander Cody resisted the overblown and bombastic trends of early-'70s rock, preferring a basic no-frills approach. Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen never had the impact...
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Dopers Drunks and Everyday Losers, Commander Cody
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