Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guilty Pleasures Live On

VH1 has another one of those music countdown shows on, but this one, like their One Hit Wonders set, is geared toward the Guilty Pleasure crowd. Called 40 Greatest Softsational Soft Rock hits, I couldn't find many cheesy hits or artists that were missing. Get a load at the Top 40. It's probably one of the few times you'll see the Carpenters, Bread and Leo Sayer on VH1 or even VH1 classic. A good list to shove down all those Guilty Pleasure Music Critic Hater's that still roam our planet.

Induct Gram Parsons Somewhere!

I got an email to sign a petition to induct Gram Parsons. But not into the RRHOF, but the Country Music Hall of Fame. As one of the inventor's of Country Rock, I say, why not. I remember Emmylou Harris (who also belongs in the Country Hall) once saying she believe that Parsons should be in. But here's the funny thing, Parsons isn't even in the RRHOF. He's been nominated 3 times (2001, 2003, 2004). When the Byrds were inducted, he was left off the list of names included. Parsons' chances of getting into the Country Hall seem remote to me. This is a very conservative Hall that values traditional artists. It took them forever to induct Elvis and the Everly Brothers. And Jerry Lee Lewis isn't that Hall, either. Parsons' chances for the RRHOF should've been better, but are getting tougher as the years pass. So, yes, it's another embarrassing slight by the RRHOF.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

McCartney On Itunes

McCartney's solo catalog appeared on Itunes today. He finally woke up and realized that it's a new world. Downloads are as important as brick and mortar. McCartney's store catalog consists of a newer title and a greatest hits one. But what about older stuff. As someone who once owned a lot of his LP's, but now only has the cream of his solo career on CD, I was most interested in stray cuts. Singles that have never appeared on any of his compilations. So, I downloaded these 4 songs:

Girls' School 1977
Put It There 1989
So Bad 1984
I've Had Enough 1978

Three of these charted love Top 40 and "Put It There" went nowhere but I think it's one of his best songs. Interestingly, his 1976 #1 live album Wings Over America is not online, even though it contains a #10 live version of "Maybe I'm Amazed". And that's the way it is with the catalog's of McCartney or an Elton John. There are gems scattered even amongst the lousy albums.


Robert Christgau once wrote of a Creedence album, "Ho-hum another Creedence album". He gave the album an A-, but fatigue was settling in. And it's true, one can get complacent when an artist is consistently good. Take Richard Thompson. He's had a steller solo career, and his latest Sweet Warrior, is no exception. His usual array of dark romance, dark world and on this, a dark political overtone are on display. And he's a great guitarist. But I doubt you'll see it on many year end lists, because Thompson long ago crossed that "ho-hum" moment. I would lump some of these favorites of mine in that same category: John Prine, Los Lobos, Steely Dan (or Donald Fagen solo), Prince, Pet Shop Boys. All have put out good albums recently that can't get any critical traction beyond their fan base. But it's us die-hards that keep these people recording. So, when I saw some initial positive reviews for Thompson, I went for it. And it was money well spent. Which hopefully means that he'll pop out another one in a couple of years.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Stop Making Records?

Should older artists, who no longer get radio or video play, keep recording? I've been reading the Lefsetz Letter since the beginning of the year (because he's made some RRHOF observations), and he usually has a column about older acts that shouldn't record. I find this interesting and disturbing. His point is that the fans who see these acts in concert don't want to hear their new songs, and that the new songs miss the inspiration of the old ones. And on that I agree. Most acts don't realize that premiering your new album in lieu of your hits at a concert is asking for a twitchy audience. As long as they announce ahead of time that it'll be an all new music show, then no problem, other than that I want to hear some hits and maybe one or two brand new songs. It cost good money for concerts, and the fans want memories. But, wait, should a Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones stop making albums because they won't sell like before? I say no, and most artists agree. People like Elton John (whose last studio album was good but bombed) still love the process of making records. Just as they did when they were younger. So, who cares, if they don't go platinum. All four of the above named people have put out good albums in the last couple years. Die-hards only buy them, but for those of us that do, it's a well worth it catalog addition.

Feel Sorry For Record Companies?

They charge ridiculous prices for CD's and they never could figure out what to do about downloading, but all this talk of how the CD is dead is enough to make an anti-label guy like me want to stick up for those sorry folks. I own Ipod's and I download music, but I also buy CD's. But I'm a smart buyer, and am always looking for sale prices. The industry, of course, is killing themselves by pricing any single CD above $9.99. Today, the NY Times had another article about how the CD and the music biz as we knew it is dying. The kid's today might get a kick out of downloading albums, but I still like to hold product in my hands: lyrics, artwork. The suits are getting what they deserve from the public. They've screwed them for so many years, that now people have found a way to get back at 'em for overpricing inferior one-hit wonders. There's no turning back, but I'm holding on to my memories.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Debuting at ...

I wish I was home more on Saturday. XM plays Casey Kasem's American Top 40 from the 70's and 9 am pacific. I like the 70's show better than the 80's ones. The single's were better from that decade. It's just weird to hear songs that are debut's that you know will go on to be big hits and stay with you forever. On the latest show, debuting at #33, "Love Will Keep Us Together". Talk about your polarizing future #1. A lot of rock crit snobs hate the song, but I think it was a perfect Top 40 AM Single. And I love the shout out to co-writer Neil Sedaka at the end. "Sedaka's back" sang Tennille and with AM radio at its peak, and Sedaka in the Top 40, all music possibilities seemed endless.

Crumbling Fences

I've been warming up to the idea that Heart belong in the RRHOF. I can see some influence, and it was apparent in the 2007 VH1 Rock Honors show. But critics were iffy about them, so there chances still seem slim. I'm not totally committed to their induction, but my fence is bending. Another group honored on that show were Genesis. Big sellers who also weren't loved by the rock press. Phil Collins as a solo artist definitely belongs in the Hall, but his chances are pretty much zilch, since he too wasn't loved by anyone if the journalistic elite who control the Hall's nominee system. So, Collins is a yes, Genesis a strong maybe, and Heart getting closer. See, I'm more open-minded about this than the Hall's nominating committee. Now, about Rush.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Billboard or Itunes?

I've been a Billboard subscriber since 1977, but each year I waver as to whether to renew. It's not that I don't enjoy the magazine, but most of its article's can now be found at their website, and its charts are easily found. In fact ®R&R - Radio & Records, Inc. has tons of charts to access and mirrors the Billboard ones. Well, one other thing that's been bugging me is how infrequent the magazine arrives. Customer service for such a highly paid subscription is not a Billboard option. But my biggest reason to not renew would have to do with the charts. Just whose chart is more reflective of the public interest: Billboard's Top 100 or Itunes Top 100. Critic's say Billboard because it reflects airplay and Itunes only sales. But whenever I watch a video countdown or listen to CHR stations, things seem out of whack. As a snapshot to what the kid's like, go with Itunes. Billboard's Top 100 seems behind the times.

Playlist for 5/25

Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon
John Anderson - Easy Money
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Not A Peak Year

"It's a singing contest, not a talent contest", you'll hear the judges on American Idol say. But what they should tell you is that it's also a personality contest. And this year's crop were sorely lacking. I still like the show, and it's dip in the ratings doesn't mean that it's on the wane. But another year of these type's on personalities and the show will slip even more. Melinda and Lakisha were the best singers, but had no charisma. But I'm looking forward to what they can put on record. I'm looking less forward to Idol winner Jordin Sparks. Too Disney for me. But with the right songs she could surprise, like Carrie Underwood did. As for Blake Lewis, he was one note all right, but there was something bad-boyish about his behavior. You look at him singing that horrible final number and you know he wants to break out laughing. So, the 2007 edition included only one name with any sort of national interest: Sanjaya. Who at least laughed at himself. Who's to blame for the lame crowd on finalists this year. How about the judges who pick the final 24. From there it's up to the audience, but the judges are putting forth mediocre names for us to vote on. In the annals of Guilty Pleasures, American Idol still looms large, but it's a television show, and when was the last time you tuned into a show that had drab characters?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Adam Levine Struts

Big and bright coming out of your radio, "Makes Me Wonder" reminded me of Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes". In fact the latter used to make albums like Maroon 5's It Won't Be Long when they were early 80's hit machines. Adam Levine follows up a mega-seller with just the right amount of future hits and passable filler that H& O used to do. There's now a cocky strut to Levine's music, and the R&B flourishes help drown some of the tough-love breakup songs. But thanks to a crackling band, Levine gets away with it this time. He doesn't have Daryl Hall's voice, but he knows how to write hits. Critic's may not love them, just as they didn't crave H&O, but fans will be too busy singing along to care.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Country's Bland Nominees

Watching recent Country Music award shows, I'm starting to worry about who will emerge as a future Country Music Hall of Famer. There are good acts, but few legends. Take a look at these names. All have had tons of hits (which can get you in the Country Hall more than the Rock Hall): Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill. Do any of these jump out at you and cry Hall of Famer. None are original and like most of today's Country hitmakers, pretty bland. But it's this generation of artists that will make up the Country Hall once they induct Reba, Garth, Randy Travis and a couple other 80's acts. The 90's ones will be tough to judge. Having a lot of hits will help, because none will reach greatness. Me I'll vote for Miranda Lambert.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

John Anderson Hangs On

There are hardly any of John Anderson's 80's Warner CD's in print, so my suggestion is to grab his first one in 6 years, Easy Money, before it too fades. It's not that it won't sell. With production help from John Rich, it's getting more publicity than any Anderson CD since the early 90's. But radio won't play an oldie like Anderson, even though there are some radio-made's here. I've long felt that he's one of the most overlooked Country singer's ever. Which is why when he does drop something new, I add it to my Anderson collection. He's still singing great, putting every drop he can in these 11 songs. Try his co-written 6 minute jaw-dropper "Bonnie Blue", to find out why he's still valuable.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Artists and Record Companies Still Suck

American Idol has a Bee Gees night, exposing songs to a young generation brought up on Itunes and downloads. And you know what? None of the Bee Gees classic songs are available on Itunes. Is this why the music business (artists and record companies) is in such bad shape? It's 2007 and artists can't figure out that the kids want immediate fixes for their Ipods. They won't be going to their local record store to look for a Bee Gees Hits compilation for 10, 12 or whatever ridiculous price catalog is selling these days. But download a few songs they heard on a TV show? I've long advocated that artists that don't want to sell their songs on Itunes should have their songs lifted for free from MP3 sites. Will anyone ever learn?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Another Will Bon Jovi Get In The Hall Post

Bon Jovi was on American Idol this week, and once again I got to thinking about their chances for the RRHOF. I've posted about this before, when they got inducted into the British Hall. There's something about their chances of getting in that intrigues me. Frankly, I don't think they have a chance, because they weren't critic favorites. And if you can't get by the nominating committee then you'll never get on the ballot. This has infected Chicago, Rush, Kiss and the Moody Blues to name four bands that critic's don't love but fans do. None of those have ever been nominated. Bon Jovi, like Rush, may have a chance because they still sell out every concert and have had the same lineup. There not eligible until 2009, but I'd say no to being inducted. But I'm intrigued.

Playlist for 5/4

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand/There's A Riot/Fresh (remasters)
Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
John Mellencamp - Lonesome Jubilee
Graham Parker - Squeezing Out Sparks
Hall & Oates - H2O
Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Don Williams - Definitive Collection
Talking Heads - Little Creatures
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