Well thank you Johnette for the birthday wishes but most of all thank you for making me go back and listen to the first two Concrete Blonde albums. Happy Birthday appears on Free, their second album released in 1989. The third album Bloodletting (1990) was the first Concrete Blonde album I knew well and although I have the first three albums on vinyl (and CD’s of all the others) I feel like the first two may have been slightly neglected – by me at least.
If you are not aware of Johnette Napolitano and Concrete Blonde you’re in for a treat. First album was released in 1986 but before that Johnette had been in Dream 6, signed by IRS records, releasing an EP and then changing their name allegedly suggested by Michael Stipe.
If you don’t know Concrete Blonde, think of The Pretenders when they are being a R’n’R band – great singing, different to Chrissie Hynde but raw and authentic with an amazing guitar player in James Mankey (who was also with Johnette in Dream 6). With his brother Earle, James played on Sparks’ debut album A Woofer In Tweeters Clothing (1972). At this point James played bass and Earle guitar, Earle became an Indie producer and James developed a special guitar style, you can always tell it’s him but I wonder what he did between Sparks and Dream 6? Practice guitar perhaps, because he’s so good.
Although information on James Mankey is sparse, if you check out Johnette Napolitano’s Wikipedia page and website you can find out about what she’s been up to with solo records and collaborations.
Last but not least Johnette Napolitano is playing on my birthday in Oakland, not for me unfortunately. Go here for details: