Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Making Waylon Proud

Jessi Colter's first album in 20 years, Out Of The Ashes (Shout), is a good companion to the Rosanne Cash album. But Colter is never looking for your sympathy. There's a great cover of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" to make that point. Sure, she's got her share of Waylon-missing tunes, but this is a strong comeback for a strong woman. And now is the time her back catalog got reissued. Never on CD, her 70's stuff is ripe for revision.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Now Hag, Later George?

Capitol does a good job with their Merle Haggard 2fers. Although, it would be nice if it went in some sort of order. There's no Okie or Fightin' Side albums in the mix. My fave is the early 70's Hag/Someday We'll Look Back, followed by the late 60's Mama Tried/Pride In What I Am. These batch of reissues had me thinking about George Jones' messed up catalog of 70's Epic titles. Most out of print or available in expensive import prices. I'm hoping somebody does something with Jones' catalog, besides putting out more compilations.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Playlist for 2/27

Rhett Miller - The Believer
Hank Williams III - Straight To Hell
Blue Magic (Collectables reissues)
Wilson Pickett - Sound of/The Wicked (Collectables reissue)
Stacy Lattisaw - With You (Collectables reissue)
Gary Stewart - Steppin' Out/Little Junior (Raven reissue)
Neville Brothers - Gold
Derek Trucks Band - Songlines
Johnny Cash/June Carter - 16 Biggest Hits

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Ray Davies Puzzle

There's a telling quote from Dave Davies in the March Mojo:"I've always thought there was a conspiracy at work to prevent The Kinks being the top band in the world..". The quote goes on with mention that whenever the Kinks were doing well they would fall flat on their butts.
The Kinks have always been a question mark. No one doubts Ray Davies genius songs of the 60's. They paved the way for more British and singers who wrote about England than anyone but the Beatles. But they've been overlooked forever. Mention the titans of 60's British rock and you get the same answers: Beatles, Stones and the Who. Mention the Kinks and it's a "oh yeah, they were good, too." Ray Davies didn't help the Kinks legacy by releasing a string of duds in the mid-70's, and going all Arena rock in the late 70's. Albums that got them in the stadiums, but are mildly efficient as a whole.
So, what do we have in Ray Davies first studio album. The early press for the album has focused on nothing but his shooting in January 2004. But most of the album was in the can before then. Other People's Lives is a good addition to the Davies canon. It's not the great solo album that I think he has in him. Some of this stuff sounds like unfinished demos. But at its best, it chronicles the life of a grump and a comic all rolled in to one. Davies has been the former for too much of the 80's and early 90's recordings. Let's hope that the followup has more of the latter. But it's nice to see him get back in the Rock press, at the same time as the Stones and McCartney have.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sit Back Relax and....

It's going to end, you know it will. So why not enjoy it while it's here. The Brit Rock scene keeps pumping 'em out. In fact, some aren't even available stateside (Art Brut), but they're better than what passes for Amercian Rock these days. The Arctic Monkeys are as good as the hype. But eventually, a backlash will ensue. Just as it did during the dawn of Punk in the late 70's, the New Wave of the 80's and the BritPop of the mid 90's. But what did that era leave us with? Yeah, good music. And so has this one.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Without Black History Month....

We wouldn't get AOL Radio's excellent Martin Luther King channel. The good news is that you'll hear speeches, lots of Civil Rights era stuff, old timey gospel, modern soul and old school as well. There's a lot of stuff here that has passed me by. I wonder how long this will stay. After Feb. 28, it may be gone. But the idea on a Radio station playing 24 hours of Inpirational Soul/Gospel is an idea whose time has come.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Playlist for 2/21

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am
Ray Davies - Other People's Lives
Anthony Hamilton - Ain't Nobody Worryin'
Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Long Walk To Freedom
Subways - Young For Eternity
Mary J Blige - Breakthrough
Jamey Johnson - "Dollar"
KT Tunstall - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
Beyonce - "Check On It"
Move - Message From The Country

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Blige Spawns A Pupil

Mary J Blige's Breakthrough follows a similar path of all her studio albums: too long and too reliable on generic R&B sounds. Boy, I wish she'd just knock off a 45 minute all live instrument album. Blige was supposed to release a Greatest Hits album in 2005, but that got pushed back. "Be Without You" and "Baggage" would make nice supplements to that package. 1999's Mary and 2000's No More Drama are her best studio albums, but to really hear Blige in her element, try 1998's The Tour, which is a forgotten gem in her catalog. 22 year old Keyshia Cole grew up under tough times in Oakland, and her debut The Way It Is doesn't have much time for straight up love songs. Like Blige, she doesn't have a classic R&B voice, but she knows how to sell her (mostly) co-written songs. Happily free of Rap cameos, it's as straight as ladies Soul can get in the 00's. Cole could be the next Blige, who at 35 is now the standard bearer of Hip Hop Women Soul.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Now About That Junior Senior

2 of my favorite acts from 2003 put out albums in Europe in 2005, but only 1 has been released stateside. Junior Senior lanquish in the Import section. Too bad. Judging by the reviews on Amazon, it sounds like it would be worth a listen. But not at huge import prices. The Electric Six's sophomore release finally gets a U.S. one, but it seems that the label has screwed them over on any momentum they had from Fire. Senor Smoke is worth your trouble. Dance, rock and humor collide again. A Detroit band that's more popular in Europe than here. So let's hope that album #3 won't die on the overseas shelf.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Max Martin as Mike Chapman

The best song on the Veronica's debut was co-written by Swedish hit man Max Martin. Martin reached his peak when he was penning and producing hits for Britney, Backstreet and N'Sync. Now that those 3 are in remission, he's not quite chart bound. But his name still pops up on albums. Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" was co-written by him. And in Sweden he still Produces like crazy. I've often thought that Martin was my generations Mike Chapman. You remember him, he produced Blondie's breakthrough hits, and co-wrote/produced a truckload of hits in the late 70's and early 80's ("My Sharona, "Hot Child In The City" a bunch of Suzi Quatro, etc). He had a distinctive sound, much like Martin, and his songs still sound good today. Much like Martin's will 10 or 20 years from now.

Barry Back To Torture Rock Critics

It's Valentine's Day and my latest Billboard arrives. Who's got the #1 album? Yeah, Barry Manilow. Moving a 150,000 units of old 50's love songs isn't bad. Pulling a Rod Stewart, with the same help from Clive Davis, Manilow next will tackle the 60's. I've always liked Manilow. Love songs, and some of his, have never hurt my ear. A good one is a good one. Rockers from Elvis to the Stones to Led Zeppelin have done them, even though they get a bad rep in the "Rock and Roll" community. I don't know how many interviews I've read where someone says how much they hate love songs. But I bet when their home alone or in their car they're singing along to "Unchained Melody". Maybe even an old song by Barry Manilow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Playlist for 2/14

Daniel Powter - "Bad Day"
Nick Lachey - "What's Left Of Me"
Morningwood - S/T
Los Lobos -Best of (Rhino)
Veronicas - What's Left of
Hip Hop Essentials Vol. 8 (Tommy Boy)
Curtis Mayfield - Very Best Of (Rhino)
AOL's Martin Luther King Radio Station (AOL Radio but only limited time)
Toure - Never Drank The Kool Aid (Picador Book)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hip Hop's Nelson George

Smack dab in the middle of what I thought would be a Hip-Hop retrospective on Toure's writings for various magazines, comes a Tennis article on Jennifer Capriati. And later one on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hey, we all have to make a living. But make no mistake. The best parts of Never Drank The Kool-Aid (Picador), are the ones on hip-hop. Covering Tupac and Biggie Smalls' death and hitting on most of the 90's biggest hitters. I've often felt that Toure was that genre's answer to Nelson George. George is great when writing about R&B, not so when he touches on Rap. Which is where Toure is strongest.
Some of the best articles are the ones where the subject isn't as well known: an XXL Dick Griffey one, an unpublished Andre Harrell look at radio and a 2003 New York Times piece on gay rapper Caushun. I wish he'd stuck some of his record reviews in this book. And do we need 2 pieces on Lauryn Hill, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jennifer Capriati? No. But at its best this book reveals Toure to be someone interested in more than tight confines of an edited magazine or newspaper article.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why He's The Boss

You tune in to the Grammy's for the performances, not the awards, right? Well, I do. And the 2006 version had some moments: weird Sly Stone, Alicia Keys like John Legend, Mary J stealing "One", the New Orleans and Pickett tribute. But the best performance was by Springsteen, who at the end of "Devils and Dust" uttered "Bring 'Em Home". On a night when few went political, it was as close as protest music got.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Big Bangers

While a lot of people hated the Stones' Super Bowl performance, I thought it was a fine 12 minutes of straight rock 'n' roll. "Start Me Up" gettting censored? Didn't bother me, because I knew it would happen. And yeah, I could've done without "Rough Justice", (note to people who do halftime shows: stick with the hits), but Jagger was in fine form, the others pounded away and what more could you ask for at this late date?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Playlist for 2/7

Dave Edmunds - Tracks On Wax (Wounded Bird Reissue)
Lewis Taylor - Stoned
Bobby Bare - The Moon Was Blue
Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
Damien Marley - Welcome To Jamrock
Concert For Bangladesh
Animal Collective - Feels
Rolling Stones Super Bowl Halftime Show

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Warren Zevon The Love Man

Every January, labels drop more of those Love Songs collections just in time for Valentine's Day. You know the usual suspects will be out there: Mathis, Miles, Zevon. Wait how'd he get in there. But it's no joke. Or maybe it's one of Zevon's on us. A Love Songs collection by Mr. Doom & Gloom. But any Zevon fan knows that his albums always had some relationship songs. As the liner notes say, his weren't sappy ones, but like the best ones by Springsteen, they were pretty anyway. Reconsider Me: The Love Songs is top heavy with songs by the label reissuing it, Artemis. I miss his early cover of "A Certain Girl", and yes I miss the sometimes hated "Hasten Down The Wind". But go ahead, surprise your honey this Valentine's with something different. Zevon would've loved the whole spectacle.

John Anderson's Wild & Blue catalog

John Anderson's Warner catalog is a mess. Which is why the S&P reissue of his biggest Warner album, Wild & Blue, makes me happy. Of course, since the album has his biggest single, "Swingin", it was an easy choice for S&P to reissue. But it's hard to believe that Anderson's Warner records haven't been remastered or compiled properly. The 2 Greatest Hits albums on Warner are great, but they sound muddled compared to the sound on Wild & Blue. There is no compilation on the market that combines his Warner and RCA tenure (or his brief stints with Mercury and Sony). Rhino, who have stellar reissues of Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam and Emmylou Harris must not think Anderson is worthy of compiling. In fact, checking Amazon, only 4 of his studio albums are now in print, and RCA has a ton of reissued hits compilations. So, let's prey that Raven, Collectables or somebody gets on the ball. And scoop up Wild & Blue. I still prefer Anderson's first 2 Warner albums, but this is still prime Old School Country.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Reggae The Underappreciated Genre

In the early 90's, I used to subscribe to The Beat, a montly Reggae magazine. It was at this time, I started to update my reggae cd section. But once I did this, I lost track and interest in the genre. I've often felt bad about this. But just glancing through a copy of the magazine, made me realize that Reggae musicians pump out albums at an incredible pace. The only reggae album I bought in 2005 was Damien Marley's. It's good. And I wish the music magazines I read would devote more space to reggae. One day I'm gonna keep the reggae channel on Sirius on all day and get caught up. One day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Musings on Pazz & Jop 2005

I promise not to spend too much time musing on the 2005 Pazz & Jop ballot. But here's a few quickies: Of my Top 10, 5 made the print version Top 40 (Bloc Party, Sufjan, Hold Steady, Art Brut and White Stripes). The rest made the lower 40's and beyond. I was surprised that the Kaiser Chiefs and Kings of Leon didn't rank Top 40, but that's the way it goes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

No Dead Months Anymore

It used to be that January was a dead month for new releases. Even February. But in the last couple of years, not the case. In fact 3 CD's that I bought last month will get serious Pazz and Jop Top 10 consideration: Jenny Lewis, Rosanne Cash and Lewis Taylor ( a late 2005 reissue of a 2003 album). And February has Rhett Miller and the Arctic Monkeys on the schedule.
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