Sunday, November 30, 2008

3 Reasons Why The Spinners Aren't In The RRHOF

I'll say it a million times: The Dells get in but not the Spinners!

Here's 3 reasons why they've never even been nominated.

1. Too many Soul groups already Inducted
2. No one's lobbied for them like they did for the Dells
3. Weren't part of the Atlantic/Motown stable of vocal groups

Those 3 may be kind of weak, but that helps the Spinners. If you can't think of many reasons for them not being there, then I guess they should be there.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vatican Forgives John Lennon

Did you hear the one about the Vatican forgiving John Lennon on his comments that the Beatles are bigger than Jesus? Well, that's what they've done, and I have no doubt that if Lennon were here he would get a big chuckle over the Vatican playing Rock critic. An English newspaper doing a 40th anniversary article on the White Album, got the Vatican to say that Lennon was just a young man who didn't really know what he was talking about. In other words, snooty adults know better than young mature adults. What Lennon said, and was widely misinterpreted, was the for some people the Beatles meant more to them than Jesus did. He was right, but it didn't really affect their popularity, and the ones protesting weren't real Rock and Roll fans anyway. Lennon, when he made those comments, was no kid. He was 26, and was growing out of his young Beatle phase. That the Vatican or any other stodgy institution would think that he was talking from an immature youthful heart only goes to show that in the end Lennon and Rock and Roll are alive and well. And still getting under people's skin.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Xmas Pt. 1

I cruised by the Target Xmas section and noticed a slew of new Christmas albums (Rick Springfield!). None really tempted me, but the Elvis P. fan in me had to hear RCA's latest experiment with the purists called Christmas Duets. It really should be called Elvis Duets with Country Women because that's what it is: 10 redone tracks with Elvis' original vocals done by nothing but (mostly) Country women. Like I said, purists will howl, like they did with "A Little Less Conversation", but the rest of us will give it a try. Of the 10 the youngsters win out easily: Carrie Underwood, Leann Rimes are the best. Old pros Anne Murray and Olivia Newton-John are in the middle and Wynonna Judd doesn't get there. Also, Gretchen Wilson gets lost trying to keep up with Elvis' 2nd most dirty song of the 70's, "Merry Christmas Baby".

George Strait's Christmas Classics is his third Holiday release and kind of bland. No new titles to add to the Country Xmas playlist. The only one that works for me is "Up On A Hilltop" a song you don't often see on other releases.

The other Xmas release I've heard this year is from Yo-Yo Ma, Songs of Joy and Peace. YYM is cool classical if you like the genre, and this isn't really an Xmas product. Look at the album title for clues.

But it's true isn't it, we always go back to the classics when it comes to Christmas, or we like to see the classics reinterpreted. The new Xmas songs just go right by us.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Playlist for 11/27

This should be a Turkey Shoot. Remember those Village Voice Consumer Guides from Robert Christgau? Thankfully, I've been able to avoid a lot of bad albums in 2008. Here's to my good luck in 2009.

Note: these are not Turkey albums. So, this is not a Turkey Shoot.

Beyonce - I Am Sascha Fierce
Taylor Swift - Fearless
Christina Aguilera - Decade of Hits
Chris Knight - Heart of Stone

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fresh Mac

Right, so you're expecting some sort of ambient dreamscape sound from Paul McCartney's 3rd project under the guise (with Producer Youth), Electric Arguments, because that's what the first two were. And then comes the opener, the fabulously titled "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight", which is Macca's most crunching song, well, in decades. Nothing else here matches it. But the other 12 songs, thanks to Youth's experimentation, manage to make for his best solo album of new material since Tug of War. McCartney did 13 songs in 13 days, and free of any record company contracts, sounds like he's under no pressure to replicate his past. One could argue that without Youth, this would be a drab solo album. Youth does here what Brian Eno or Rick Rubin do for their artists: take standard stuff and lift it to something better. Scattered throughout the rest of the songs are typical McCartney fare, but the sounding inspired has been his problem since 1982. Only on his 2 cover albums has McCartney shown enough interest over a whole album.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Steve Perry's Winning Streak

What's that sound you've been hearing since last Summer? The sound of old school music critics crying and whining over the resurgence of Steve Perry and Journey into our daily musical lives. First "Don't Stop Believin'" is anointed #1 catalog download of all time. Before that the Sopranos used it at the end of their final episode. And the show I've just seen on VH1 Classic on the 10 greatest Male singers lists Steve Perry at #7. Oh, and Rolling Stone listing him in their 100 Greatest Singers Issue. I love it, because it's true. Journey and Perry just won't go away, no matter how much critics who despised their so-called faceless corporate rock in the 80's wished they would. But these stodgy crits don't understand what the rest of the public has known for a couple decades now: Journey were a great singles band (who made one great album Escape). That's why their Greatest Hits album is over 10 million and counting. We won and they lost. I can't wait for Steve Perry's comeback album.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Axl Goes For Perfection

The hype surrounding Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy is nothing compared to the one that ensued in 1991 when they released the separate double albums Use Your Illusion I and II. But like those 2 albums, Chinese Democracy falls short. It's no disaster, for sure. And it's also not a pure group album. It's Axl Rose's decade+ long quest for perfection solo album. The problem with Use Your Illusion were that they would have made a great single album. The problem with Chinese Democracy is that Axl Rose, even after 17 years of fiddling with all the studio knobs for perfection has nothing new to say. Musically, the roots of the original band are there, but lyrically Rose is reduced to talking about himself. And for a recluse, Axl Rose is not a very interesting person. You'll find some things hear for your Ipod. I like the 2nd single "Better" and also "If The World". One shouldn't fault Rose for seeking perfection. Who cares if it took him nearly 2 decades to come up with what his head was telling him should be a masterpiece. But where Rose, and Chinese Democracy fall short of his past, is the simple fact that the album is just okay. And after 17 years of waiting, shouldn't I have been able to come up with a better word?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beyonce Grows Up

On her 3rd solo album, the strangely titled I Am Sascha Fierce, Beyonce wants to grow up. There's a ballad side and an uptempo side with the ballad side winning in a split decision. It's on these songs that she sounds more comfortable. Although she hasn't even reached age 30, the uptempo stuff seems to be boring her. Overall, the album would have been better served the old-fashioned way by mixing everything up. Beyonce is growing more mature, and the trick will be bringing the audience that grew up on her Bootylicious beats along with her. The ballads show she can, but I don't hear a definitive song on this album. Maybe "Ave Maria", which is not the standard. She needs an "Unbreak My Heart" and then she won't have to shake it much longer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Okay, I'll Bite ....

Because who can resist another list?So how did Rolling Stone come up with their Top 100 vocalists. Well the gave artists and critics a ballot and told them to write down their Top 20. As a critic I was disappointed I didn't get a ballot. So, below are my Top 20 vocalists of the Rock era. Mind you, these aren't my Top 20 favorite artists of all time, but my fave vocalists. And yes, it was tough cutting it to 20.

1. Elvis Presley
2. Sam Cooke
3. Aretha Franklin
4. George Jones
5. Paul McCartney
6. Ray Charles
7. Marvin Gaye
8. Rod Stewart
9. Smokey Robinson
10. Charlie Rich
11. Elton John
12. John Lennon
13. Merle Haggard
14. Stevie Wonder
15. Jackie Wilson
16. Michael Jackson
17. Daryl Hall
18. Teddy Pendergrass
19. Tom Jones
20. Bob Dylan

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Playlist for 11/20

Jolie Holland -Living and the Dead
Now 29
Mavis Staples - Live
Roy Orbison -Soul of Rock and Roll
Adele - 19
Seal - Soul
Clash - Live at Shea Stadium

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Broken Instruments

Watching Aretha Franklin sing "Respect" and "Chain of Fools" on Dancing With The Stars I've come to the cold realization, which has been brewing for years, that her voice is shot. Watching George Jones on a recent Grand Ole Opry show, I've reached the same conclusion. This is similar to what I felt when watching Frank Sinatra in his later years. All 3 have something in common, too. They were the best in their genres. Aretha the best Soul singer. Jones the best Country one. And Sinatra the best Pop singer. To all 3 their voice is their enduring legacy, an instrument on a par with anything anyone is playing behind them. It's hard to say just where Aretha's problems begin. It could be her weight gain, but when she goes high the notes aren't there. Jones has the same problem. Both do alright on their lower register, and Aretha tries to compensate for missing notes by talking and growling. You might notice some of this on their studio recordings, but the studio can mask many things.
But how important is all this to those of us who love these singers? The overweight Elvis was a travesty on stage, but fans forgave him because he was Elvis. Sinatra fans must have done the same. While both Aretha and George's performances made me cringe, the moment they started their signature songs my ears perked up. It was only for a moment, but the nostalgia can carry many performers over the finish line.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't You Love Lists?

Didn't Rolling Stone already do a 100 Greatest Singers List? They've dropped a number of these things recently that, between them and Blender, it's getting hard to keep up. I've got no problem with the names on the Rolling Stone one. I could quibble about rankings, but it's not a bad list. Give them credit for charting Steve Perry, and realize that he never would have made it without the Sopranos. But I could get rid of some names right away. Jeff Buckley, Christina Aguilera, Steve Tyler, Thom Yorke and Ronnie Spector need to take a seat. I'd add Daryl Hall, Aaron Neville, Dionne Warwick, Levi Stubbs (or Teddy Pendergrass) and Alison Krauss. Oh, and Paul Rodgers gets ranked ahead of Roger Daltry. Lists, don't you love 'em?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Soul Vs. Covers

The difference between Seal's Soul and James Taylor's Covers isn't that they both cover old chestnuts, more so on Seal, but the production. Taylor's sounded generic and while David Foster might make you cringe, he let's Seal sound more soulful here than on any of his solo albums. Having said that you won't need to replace your Sam Cooke and Al Green records (the latter covered twice). And I must admit that my favorite cut is "Free", Deniece Williams Old School classic from 1976, not exactly a much covered song, which means I wish Seal hadn't went for the tried and true. This is the 2nd cover of "Free" I've heard in 2008 (another was a Smooth Jazz version). But if your a sucker for covers albums like me, than Soul is alright.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Xmas Problem

A request by a friend to make some Christmas CD's made me realize more than ever that there are no new classics. But maybe I'm not looking hard enough. Yet, the newer songs that pepper Xmas airplay charts are pretty dull. And I don't think I can stomach listening to any 24 Holiday channels in November to find out, though.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christina and Taylor

Christina Aguilera was once what Taylor Swift is now: a teen pop princess on the verge of womanhood. Both released new albums this week. Swift's is a followup to her debut, and Aguilera's is a Greatest Hits with a couple of new songs. Listening to them back to back, Swift's first, I wondered if Swift will be where Aguilera is now. For Aguilera shook off the teen idol tag and was able to find songs (some of them she co-wrote) that let her mature. Now she's a respected singer, and the teen years are long gone. Swift is only 18, but has been writing her own songs since she was in middle school. On Fearless, she's like a running diary of her years up to 2008. The best song is "Fifteen" about, well, being that age and its cusp of adult life. Notice I described Swift as a Pop singer, because there's very little Country about her. Like Carrie Underwood she crosses over because her songs lack that Country twang. Swift is half the singer that Underwood and Aguilera are, but what will keep her around are her songs, which are getting better. By album #3 I expect she'll sing more about life after 18, and that for a young woman could make for even less songs about growing up and more about growing older.

Friday, November 14, 2008

5 Reasons Why Yes Belong In The RRHOF

Prog-Rock gets no love. And Yes have gotten a big No from the Hall. Here are 5 reasons they belong.

1. Most Popular Prog-Rock Band
2. Fragile
3. Their album covers
4. The Yes Album
5. "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Purists And The CMA's

Purists cringe at Country Music awards shows. "That ain't Country" can be heard coming from many old time Country fans. The 2008 CMA show was no exception. Kid Rock and The Eagles aren't Country. And, well, neither is Taylor Swift or that Martina McBride song or any of the other songs we heard. But purists need to realize that Country music has always added Pop elements to its sound. There was the 60's Nashville Sound, 70's Countrypolitan, 80's Urban Cowboy and the 00's Pop/Country which now dominates. Yes, George Strait is the exception. Boy, sing a song about God or Jesus(Carrie Underwood) and you're bound to get some sort of an award in the Country community. Country music is in a stretch now where even the most Country of voices back up their music with Rock flourishes. The purists will always squirm, but the days of Hard Country songs charting at a regular rate are at an end.

Playlist for 11/13

Erroll Garner - Essense of
Tom Rush - Circle Game
Tony Williams - Emergency
Little Beaver - Party Down
Brad Paisley - Play

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brad Paisley Flexes His Clout

When you're at your peak in Country or any other genre you can persuade your record company to let you do anything. Country's Brad Paisley does this with Play, 11 of 16 songs are instrumentals, because Arista told him they wanted some vocal stuff to market. But what Paisley does here isn't new as far as marketing. Merle Haggard in the early 70's did concept albums about Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers. Willie Nelson did one on Lefty Frizzell. Loretta Lynn did a gospel album. All of these were done in their peak years, when they had the clout.
Paisley's album is good, though. He shows his guitar influences well: Don Rich, Chet Atkins, Mark Knopfler, James Burton and yes, even Eddie Van Halen. It's true, instrumentals blunt Paisley's best asset which is his humor. But he gets by that with a surf instrumental and a hair metal romp.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

De-Circuited

When Circuit City first opened in my town it was the place to be. Bustling products and many employees who knew their stuff. But as the years passed so did Circuit City. When we got a Best Buy, Circuit City was finished. I couldn't remember the last time I bought something there. In 2007, they laid off their best employees and kept the ones who didn't know anything about the store. Now that they are on their last legs I feel sorry for people losing their jobs, but not for the company itself. They sold their soul and paid for it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not A Magazine Update

I just realized that I used to subscribe to a lot of magazines, but lately have been dropping more and more of them. Not just music ones, but political or just all-around contemporary ones. It's not that I'm not interested in reading things, it's just that there's a repetitiveness to most of what gets published.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rite Of Summer

It's a rite of summer. The Oxford American , which comes out every summer is essential reading, not just for its take on Southern music but for its generally excellent writing on music period. I don't subscribe to the magazine, but I always buy the music issues. So, I'm glad to come across The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing, which whittles the magazine's 10 Summer issues down into a compilation of articles. They've done a good job of cherry-picking the best moments: some of mine include Nick Tosches' brilliant undertaking of the Emmett Miller mystery, a hilarious take on a Joe Tex disco song and 3 takes on Southern Rock. There's more and it's all worth a read because we just don't get this kind of careful consideration from today's music magazines.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Too Much Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams records too much and gets criticized for it, which to me is kind of funny, because if he was an artist in the 60's/70's we wouldn't even care. You remember all the product Elton John pumped out from 71-76, well Adams can just about match that. Adams' latest, Cardinology, is good, just like his album from 2007 Easy Tiger, because it sticks to what for me he does best: Alt-Country and singer-songwriter material for our generation. But here's the funny thing. When Ryan Adams is knocking out 3 albums a year he's not very good because he loses focus. But give him 1 shot a year and he keeps the best songs for one solid release. In other words, the less Adams the better. Wonder if he's figured that out.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Playlist for 11/7

Buddy Miller - Best Of Hightone Years
Dave Alvin - Best of Hightone Years
Kaiser Chiefs -Off With Their Heads
Bloc Party - Intimacy
Love Train - Ultimate Sound of Philadelphia
Waylon Jennings - Waylon Forever
Ryan Adams - Cardinology

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How I Like My Lucinda

I still like my Lucinda Williams in the romantic dumps department. I just think she writes better songs when her love life isn't so great. And I don't buy her when she's so positive about a relationship. So the news that Little Honey would be uptempo and uplifting wasn't what I was waiting for. It turns out that only half of this album is like that, and the rest, barring an AC/DC cover is good old Lucinda doing what she does best. Qrenching, why did you mess with my heart albums. You hate to wish bad love on anybody, but with Lucinda it does her art much good. And I know some people are glad for the big uptempo songs here, which are 2 of her best by the way, "Real Love" and the adult only title track, but I have my own preferences.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama And The Country Music Community

For 8 years the Country music community hitched a ride with George W. Bush. Any negative comment about him was greeted with a blacklist. So, what will happen now that his fake Country accent is no longer around for them to rally with? Will they embrace Obama? What happens to Toby Keith or the annoying John Rich? Will they be free to slam Obama in ways they never did Bush?

Scary Title

Scariest Greatest Hits title I've seen all year:

Rascal Flatts - Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Monday, November 03, 2008

People All Over The World

As great as The Philly Sound Box Set was, it stopped at 1976, missing Teddy Pendergrass' solo career, the O'Jays last hits and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now". So, Love Train: Ultimate Sound of Philadelphia may sound like overkill, but it isn't because it goes all the way up to 1983, and ventures outside of PI Records for some of Thom Bell's, Gamble & Huff's non PIR records and a few other non PIR and Thom Bell records. One can overdose on this stuff, but the fact remains that the Philly Sound was the Soul sound of the 70's, while Motown declined. This latest box supercedes the previous one and is certainly the one document you'll want to have to prove once and for all that these guys responsible for this sound were geniuses.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Should Read More Books Update

I've been doing a lot of online reading lately, so books have taken a back seat. But there are a few that I've enjoyed in the last few months. David Wild's love letter to Neil Diamond, David Browne's Sonic Youth bio, Tom Moon's 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die is worth some arguments but worth a read, Steve Martin's bio and an updated version of a bio on Crosby, Stills & Nash that is a little too nice to their recordings.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

6 Reasons Why Neil Diamond Should Be In The RRHOF

In honor of Davil Wild's book He Is...I Say, I give you the latest installment in my Why They Should Be In series. In my review of Wild's book, I laid out my reasons why Diamond isn't in the Hall. But here are 5 reasons he should be in:

1. The Bang era singles
2. Hot August Night
3. He wrote "I'm A Believer" and "Red Red Wine"
4. His underrated serious early/mid 70's singer-songwriter phase
5. His 2 Rick Rubin produced CD's
6. His stage shows (see #2)
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