Review: Live at The Rat – A Tribute to Boston’s Music Scene

Live at the Rat is an essential document of the Boston music scene, a double lp of the place that was our hangout back in the day.  About a decade or so ago I reviewed the LP for All Music and – voila – the re-release due next week has my words as liner notes.  I’m surprised, actually, and quite honored.

Jimmy Harold, the owner of the Rathskeller (now the Commonwealth Hotel), showed up at the amazing Rat Beach Party and we had a great conversation.  I’ve known Jimmy – all us “regulars” have known Jimmy – for about 40 years now.  The Beach Party was a huge success and the bands – 30-40 years later – were crisp, exciting and sounding like fine wine (if fine wine had a sound) – youthful enthusiasm combined with the wisdom of the ages.    Maybe Scott Baerenwald of Robin Lane & The Chartbusters (playing with Cadillac Heart on Sept 15) doesn’t want you to know he toured with The Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”), but it is a mod cool that few of us musicians have!  Jody Moore was singing Robin Lane’s “When Things Go Wrong” with the Kenne Highland Clan (or their new name) I thought it was Robin herself.  Robin’s dad wrote “Everybody Loves Somebody” for Frank Sinatra, and – as pianist for Dean Martin – participated in the two Dean Martin versions on record.

This is the chic cool of our friends and colleagues that have survived into the new millennium.  Sadly, people like John Kalishes (one of the original producers of Live at the Rat and a long-time dear friend) and Stephan Lovelace and so many others are gone, but with the Rat Beach Party we gave a tribute to those who have left us (Lord Manuel Smith and Bobby Hebb got the thanks from me when I performed Bobby Hebb’s “Proud Soul Heritage”).  When people walked up to me and said “How are you” instead of my usual “I don’t know” it was “still breathing.”  It was no joke…and people understood it was a somber kind of “we’re here, good to see you” quip rather than attempting to be smart. In honor of this classic’s re-release I’m going to review the disc track by track here on Patch in the coming weeks.

Live at The Rat – “Circling L.A.” – Marc Thor

Along with Willie Loco Alexander’s “Pup Tune” this is one of my absolute favorite tracks on an album with many favorites.  For those of us who lived it, were at the club for the recording and who knew all the participants personally, this was part of the soundtrack to our lives, quite literally.  “Circling L.A.” is the two-chord rock to the “Three Chord Rock” of Unnatural Axe, and prior to Unnatural Axe.

The sparkling guitars at the beginning and the melancholy lament of Marc’s vocal caught in a repeating pattern, a merry-go-round circling the Los Angeles International Airport with the guitars venting the frustration.  Awesome pounding …tribal beat leading up to the words “I’ve got records to make/I’ve got contracts to sign” but instead he’s just “circling, circling, circling, circling”…the pensive middle-8 and the exploding back and forth make for one classic track reminiscent of the Velvet Underground (if John Cale took vocal duty)…

Next up for review from the CD: I Want Sex by The Boize, order Rat T Shirts or the Rat CD here:

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for,, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.