Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Country Hall's Family Affair

I like Sonny James, but I've never considered him a Hall of Famer. Nominees Announced for 2006 CMA AwardsA borderine choice despite his credentials. Among the people missing in the Country Music Hall of Fame I keep hoping to see Tom T. Hall or Ray Charles' name come up. But neither has been inducted. James had a truckload of hits, 63 Top 40 and 23 #1's, so why not put him in there. For the Country Hall you don't need critical respect to get in. Alabama were never loved by Country critics. And sense fellow inductees get to vote, you know they'll vote for people they view as family.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lost Dylan Albums That Influenced Dylan

Just when did Bob Dylan start feeling his oats again? After those crappy albums in the 80's and early 90's, came 1997's Time Out Of Mind. Murky and eerie, to my ears. But it's that album that critic's cite as the one that got Dylan interested in making records again. But they're wrong. The albums that did it for him were 1992/93's Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong. Both cover albums of old folk songs. The type Dylan did when he first picked up a guitar. Neither album sold well. My Billboard Joel Whitburn Album book says neither one was even certified gold. But the praise given those records is what made Dylan step up for Time Out Of Mind. Five years after Love and Theft, he drops Modern Times. I don't find it as immediate as the former. It doesn't rock out enough. And there are one too many slow dirges here. But it kicks in just enough to make up for its slow spots. As a sequel to Love and Theft, Modern Times is like that Billy Bragg/Wilco followup to Mermaid Avenue. Not a classic but worthy. And in 2006, isn't that all we can ask of Bob Dylan.

Playlist for 8/28

Prince - Ultimate
Luther Vandross - Ultimate (2006)
Ray Lamontagnet - Till The Sun Turns Black
Bob Dylan - Modern Times

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Never Liked Nick Drake

I usually don't get off on the hushed musings of singer-songwriters. Nick Drake never did anything for me and Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has moments but not for an entire album. So why have I latched on to Ray Lamontagne. His debut mined early Elton John with Cat Stevens and subtle hints of modern day indie singer songwriters. It was good. But the followup, Till The Sun Turns Black is better. Lamontagne has a soul side to him. A couple of songs show hints of it, and "Three More Days" should be covered by someone someday. I wish he'd explore it more. The rest of the album finds him sticking to the debut's formula. And I agree with those that say his words aren't his strongest suit. There's the usual relationships gone bad stuff here. But for now he's my favorite newbie singer-songwriter.

A Crumbling Tower

I used to make a monthly pilgrimage to Tower Records. The nearest store was an hour's drive, but that was a cinch on a Sunday morning. For me, Tower was the place to stock up on catalog titles. This was pre-Internet and their were no Border's or Circuit City's-hell, basically anything in this town. It was either Tower or mail-order catalogs. Tower Records was one of the first stores I remember being in. I subscribed to their Pulse magazine, before they axed it. But eventually reality set in for them. The Costco's, Target's and Wal-Mart's of the world priced their stuff lower. And I began to notice that Tower never did. For me, it's high prices were the end of my monthly trips. I always felt bad about it. Eventually, we got a Border's and all those other stores, and I rarely think about Tower anymore. Now that it's on it last legsTower Records files for bankruptcy again , I've only begun to think about it. Tower and Border's (who I believe will one day vastly reduce their own catalog titles) are too pricey for today's consumer. Why pay more when I can walk a few feet and get it for a lot less. Or find it cheaper online. Now that I think about it, I do remember the first LP I bought there: The Isley Brothers Go For Your Guns in the Summer of 1977.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Curse The Knack?

The Knack's drummer dies and the lead singer has brain tumors removed. It all reminds me of 1979 when seeing and hearing "My Sharona" race up Billboard's singles chart I went and bought Get The Knack the week it came, thinking that it would be a keeper. And it kind of was. But by album #2 they were wasted. Bruce Gary, the drummer went on to do a lot of other things. Read here Rock drummer Bruce Gary of The Knack dies. Reading that obit, I wasn't aware that he co-compiled the excellent Jimi Hendrix Blues collection. So I double checked the CD and yep he did. So, props to someone you never heard of who did good with his post Rock star life.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Completists Wanted

Two R&B icons released CD's with the title Ultimate. Prince and Luther Vandross. The latter is the second Luther title with the word Ultimate in it. It's a good representation of Luther's work. Covering more ground in a single disc than his other comp's-all of which only focus on his Epic years. There will be plenty more Luther comps in the future. This is adequate. As for Prince, this is the third try at Prince's Warner years. And still the best is the first one-the double disc The Hits. Disc 1 of this latest one has some hits, but is missing more. Disc 2 is for the completists. 12 inchers that you had on vinyl. Nice to see someone opening the vaults at Warner, but an all career comp is needed. Both of these guys need their Warner and Epic catalogs remastered.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Outkast and Boring In The Same Sentence

This is what I thought listening to Idlewild: Andre 3000 is certainly going through the motions. Big Boi is into it, and his "N2U" is a keeper. That and "Morris Brown" would fit neatly on a Hits package. That they no longer collaborate isn't the only thing that's dragging them down musically. Their name is just a brand, not a band. But on their breakthrough each came hard with original ideas. Here they're just recycling Bored with Outkast? Outkast sound bored with themselves.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Playlist for 8/20

Paul Carrack - Suburban Voodoo (import remaster)
Who - Odds 'n' Sods
Pete Townshend - Empty Glass
Al Green - Belle (remaster)
ZZ Top - Tres Hombres (remaster)
Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs - Under The Covers
Simply Red - "Holding Back The Years 05"
Cassie - "Me & U"
Cherish - "Do It To It"
Paris Hilton - "Stars Are Blind"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Haven't Forgotten Paul Carrack

Is there such thing as a minor gem? If there is then Paul Carrack's Suburban Voodoo from 1982 is one. Produced by Nick Lowe it has 12 quick songs that not only showcase Carrack's R&B tinged voice, but Nick Lowe's writing and production-which was just peaking. Finally reissued as an import on Acadia, Voodoo was Carrack's best solo album. It's that perfect mix of R&B and 60's era Rock/Pop. The Carrack story is well known. He's a journeyman. But one you root for. I haven't heard anything recently by him that sticks. But his website promises a Compilation in October (21 Good Reasons is out of print). Until then scoop this one up. And wonder why no one has reissued Lowe's Labour of Lust and Pure Pop For Now People.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Indie Kids Remember An Elvis Song

Although Elvis made his best album in the 60's, From Elvis In Memphis, and a single that ranks in the top of his canon, "Suspicious Minds", most people barely recognize the records he put out. And that's because of the soundtracks. So, when I heard about Pitchfork, the indie music zine, putting out a list of the Top 200 songs of the 60's I had to do my Elvis check. Something I always do when I see a list of 50's and 60's songs. And jeez, a nice surprise. There's "Suspicious Minds" at #82. There won't be any others. But at least the kids remember something he did in the 60's besides Clambake.

Good Mailbox Week

In the same week that Entertainment Weekly gives a rave shout out to Rick Springsfield's reissue of Working Class Dog (they did this a few years ago with a Guilty Pleasure issue), the August Spin has a surprisingly respectful article on why Hall & Oates, America and even Bread are winning over new bands and fans. It's actually easy. The latter 3 made great singles and Springfield's is a power-pop gem. But let's not alert the Rock Crit elite who would laugh at us for our good taste. Oh and Spin now has Chuck Eddy doing some reviews. Maybe the magazine can survive after all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Playlist for 8/13

CMT's Cross Country with Randy Travis & Josh Turner
Todd Snider - Devil You Know
Buck Owens - 21 #1 Hits
Steely Dan - Definitive Collection
Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere

Randy Travis Teaches The New Old Tricks

CMT has changed the name of Crossroads with Cross Country. Why, I don't know. The concept is still the same. Hook up new act with older act they closely resemble. The new title's premier is a keeper though, thanks to Randy Travis. Travis hasn't done a straight up Country album since 1999, instead he's dropped 4 Christian Country ones. But on this show he teaches young Josh Turner a thing or two about vocal tricks. Travis is this generation's George Jones when it comes to bending his voice for the song. Turner may eventually have the goods. He's got Travis' baritone and uses it, although his overall package is kinda bland. But they used to say the same thing about Travis. It's good to see him back on CMT and doing hardcore Country.

A Different Elvis Inspired Book

Elvis has been dead for 29 years but books about him continue to come. Ken Burke and Dan Griffin's Blue Moon Boys (Chicago Review Press) isn't about Elvis but his presence looms large in this bio of Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana. Even though it focuses most on that trio, Elvis is always there in spirit. So, while Burke offers no new insights into him, he does give Moore and Fontana their due. While the look at Black who died in 1965 isn't as compelling. Burke's love of this group is evident but he's also critical when need be. If you're an Elvis fan or just a fan of early Rock 'N' Roll then Blue Moon Boys should satisfy your Rockabilly thirst.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Last Holdouts

A friend of mine asked me to add some songs to his Ipod. I was glad to see these names on his list: Beatles, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Bad Company. Yeah, you know why. They are some of the last Itunes holdouts. Since Metallica has come aboard and Bob Seger is next, I hope one day to a post proclaiming that every music act is now online for downloading. But these fools who want Itunes to ante up are only kidding themselves. My friend sure is happy to have "Dr. Robert" on his Ipod.

Joel Whitburn's All-Year Xmas Gifts

Once or twice a year I order a new book from Joel Whitburn. This summer came The Billboard Albums. Each new book by Whitburn is like an early Christmas gift. It's not just the charts that make them great, it's the bios and end-of-the-book charts make them read like a great music book should. Whitburn updates these every 3 or 5 years, so opening up a new one is so much sweeter.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why Randy Newman Isn't In The RRHOF

Did you know that Randy Newman hated Rock and Roll. Well, that's what Barney Hoskyns gets from a 1972 Rolling Stone article about Newman from his Hotel California book, in which he says that he's "kinda outside" rock music. Those are vague words which could mean anything. But even if he didn't love Rock, I don't think that's why Newman isn't in the Hall. Nat "King" Cole hated Rock and Roll and he's in. It's Newman's soundtracks and sarcastic humor on his records that have hurt him with the Hall voters. He was nominated once in 2004 and Robert Hilburn, a member of the Nominating Committee is a supporter, but it's been a struggle to get him inducted. At least he's in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Playlist for 8/6

Love - Forever Changes and Love Story (compilaition)
Country & West Coast Rock (Big Beat Import)
Barney Hoskyns - Hotel California (book)
Hacienda Brothers - Wrong To Be Right
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
Adam & The Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
Tom Petty - Highway Companion

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Cure Are Not Hall Of Famers

We're about 6 weeks away from the RRHOF announcing this year's nominees. This article Deserving dozen: some eligible acts worthy of inductionfrom the Cleveland Plains Dealer isn't bad. As usual when it comes to these things it's too heavy on Rock acts. Take away the Cure, Devo and Tom Waits and add the Spinners, War and Hall & Oates and I'd be happy. But you know how it is with lists.


A while back I read an article as to why KISS aren't in the RRHOF, and there was a quote by Dave Marsh stating that as long as he's on the Nominating Committee they'd never be nominated. But the quote in this article Shouting out loudby Terry Stewart gives me some hope.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why Isn't Gram Parsons In The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame?

Barney Hoskyns wastes too much time in his look at the L.A. Country rock scene, Hotel California, on the romances of all these musicians that I wish he'd had included a graph of who did whom. And the early part of the book is a whirl of name-dropping that you wonder if Hoskyns will dig up any obscure Country Rocker that comes to mind. But thankfully the book settles down and gives a decent if somewhat redundant look at Country-Rock, a genre that gets confused with Southern Rock but is not the same thing. Some of his tales are overly familiar (the fighting Eagles, CSNY's childish fighting or Linda Ronstadt loving every man she ever met). And then there's Gram Parsons, looming over the whole thing like the Father of Country Rock that he is. For proof of the Left Coast's Country Rock greatness check out the import Country & West Coast (Big Beat), a 24 track almost-kinda-companion to the book. Both projects stick with Los Angeles as their starting point for the genre, even though not everyone was a Californian. The CD has many of the same names that the book does. Although dissing the Eagles for their token post 70's Country-Rock act of choice, the Pure Prarie League, is stretching the latter's non-influence.

Fight To The Finish

Like a lot of musicians with too many thoughts in their head, Arthur Lee dies in Memphiswas always fighting himself. A classic case of being ones own worst enemy. It seemed their was always a recent story about Lee getting ready to live up to his late 60's burst. But it never happened. As for Love's discography obviously start with Forever Changes. But most people forget the warmup, Da Capo. And the 2 disc Love Story (Rhino) is still their best compilation.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

MTV When It Was MTV

You know how some music critic's rag on MTV for giving us video stars when we want music stars. Well, I was never one of them. The early MTV was fun stuff. A premiere video was a major event and the MTV playlist was one that I looked at weekly in Billboard. But along came the 90's and MTV got bored with videos because we got bored with videos. All good things end, right? Then they gave us MTV2 and I thought good nothing but videos. But then MTV2 got bored with videos and now has become a reality show channel (but do check out Subterraneium on Sunday nights-before that leaves). Now that I think about it, VH1 got bored with videos, too. But at least they play more music related shows. The last time I watched a video on MTV was during the boy band phase, so no I don't want to sound like an old fart just because I don't fit their demographics. But I tell my kid that MTV was the place to be in its infancy. Now that its grown up, it's like your kid who went to college. You know it will come back, and you'll always love it, but things were never the same once it moved on.
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