Friday, June 29, 2007

Playlist for 6/29

Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
Frank Zappa - Apostrophe
Santana - Essential
Clash - Sandanista
Clash - s/t UK
Social Distortion - Greatest Hits

Thursday, June 28, 2007

BET As You Remember

The moment I stopped watching BET was when they fired Donnie Simpson and Tavis Smiley. And then got rid of their nightly news or anything having to do with news. It was out with the old VJ and in with the new. But the new ones were hopeless and so was BET. It began to skewer younger and younger. I often wondered if black people watched the network. But there BET awards show is interesting because it represents all that BET used to be. A smart mix of old school and new beats. But get a load of these names that showed up at the '07 show: Diana Ross, Eddie Levert, Bootsy Collins, Public Enemy, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle and Jennifer Holliday. None of these will ever show up on BET again. I'm 99% sure. But they all outclassed the newer class. Like MTV, BET used to be required viewing for a certain populace. But while VH1 and VH1 Classic took up MTV's older demo, BET has no such outlet other than BET Jazz. A channel that represents the community? African-Americans are still wating for one.

What We Want

What do we want from Greatest Hits albums? Well, the hits of course. Keep your alternate takes and live cuts for your box set. I've spent a lifetime discouraged by compilations. Most artists don't stick to the script. So, my favorite collection of 2007 will no doubt be Social Distortion's Greatest Hits. Eleven songs from all their albums. One new one, but no live cuts, alternate's, remixes. Just the facts, from a band that never strayed from their love of Rock n' Roll. Makes you wonder when Rancid will ever drop a compilation. And if it'll be this tight.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why Clive Complained

Clive Davis was right. There are no smashes on My December, Kelly Clarkson's 3rd CD. But Clive was wrong. There are good songs on it. Clive is a hit man. The best ears in music history. He wants hits. It does make you wonder why he never told Taylor Hicks his CD had none. Anyway, Clarkson's CD is lacking the big crossover smashes. There are songs that will dot the Itunes singles charts. And with repeated listening's might get in your brain like the best of her previous album. But I hear minor chart hits. Even "Never Again", which is the closest to a smash, loses steam because Clarkson screams too much. But near the end of the album (whoever sequenced this thing should be fired) things pick up. So, what will Clarkson do next. If the album tanks, Clive will demand a return to songwriters-for-hire and want airplay. If the album sells decently(and it won't as much as Thankful), she can say Clive was wrong. Or maybe she'll jump labels and make an anti-Clive song for her followup. Clarkson has the balls. Clive has the ears.

Oh The Waiting...

Five years shouldn't be too long a wait for an album. But if it's by one of your favorite artist, the waiting... Between her last and her latest, Translated From Love, Kelly Willis was busy. She had 3 kids. Willis' voice has always triumphed over her material, and this one is no exception. Still, after 5 years I wish it were stronger. But it's good to have her back, even if she's titlting too pop for me on this one. It's hard to believe that some acts take forever to drop new material. How long have I been waiting for Maxwell to come out with something? Or Randy Newman?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Playlist for 6/22

White Stripes - Icky Thump
Brad Paisley - 5th gear
Chairman Of The Board - Best of
Dan Hartman - Instant Replay
Ohio Express - Golden Classics
LTD - Something To Love

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ryan Adams' Dilemma

Once he left Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams stormed the gates with two excellent albums, Heartbreaker and Gold. But an album a year wasn't enough. Adams became a recordaholic. Wanting to drop more than one a year, and in 2005 he did just that. Dropping three. The problem was, after Gold, his albums were as scattered as his attention span. His latest, Easy Tiger, is better than recent ones because it has the feel of a whole album, rather than a scattershot of songs. But it's still nothing classic. I like Adams best as a Neil Young alt/Country singer, and find his Rock songs forced. Easy Tiger, thankfully, has more of the former. And for a guy with a lot rolling in his brain, the songs are rather short. With planned box sets of unreleased stuff, there may be a holy grail of genius in Adams recent work. But will anyone be around to find out?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Do We Want From Jack White?

Just what do anti-Jack White critics want from him? As the White Stripes unveil their latest, Icky Thump, the only mediocre reviews harp on what White hasn't done in his career. What critics don't like about White, is his albums don't reveal who White is. Most of his relationship songs are abstract and his songs about life don't dig deep enough. But he rock's like a mother. Didn't Zeppelin have the same kind of career? What people want from White are some straight-up anti-War or anti-Politician songs. But White hasn't gone that route. Some of us are enjoying the ride. Icky Thump gets over on guitars. Less so on trumpets and such. White still wraps his songs with enough hooks to overcome his lyrics. Someday he'll go all serious on us. Is that what you want?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Too Much Is Too Much

Until Garth Brooks, Country music treated albums as filler for singles. Pre- 1980's Country albums had 2 singles at the most then it was on to the next album. In the 80's 3 or 4 singles wasn't out of the question. But still, albums were an afterthought. Brooks changed all that. His albums were thought out and every song was made to last. There were exceptions to pre-Garth. You'll find smatterings of them throughout Country history. But even those exceptions: Willie, Waylon, Merle, Dolly, Gary Stewart, and for sure, George Strait would dump 2 albums a year thanks to filler. Today, most Country acts take a couple of years to drop new stuff. But product is still key in Nashville. With summer touring comes summer product. Which is why Greatest Hits and live albums pad out in-between albums. On his fifth secular title, Fifth Gear, Brad Paisley still treats the album as album. But he's running short on new ideas. This is one of his least intersting albums, but it's still worth it because Paisley's humor ("Ticks" a great single) is more wry then any other Country act. This was supposed to be a Greatest Hits album, but Paisley convinced his label he had an album in him. Just a year since his previous, and best one. Like Toby Keith, Paisley's non-stop studio albums are gonna run dry. On Fifth Gear, he's showing signs. His next album will be a keeper, though. It'll be a Greatest Hits one. He deserves a break.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moments In Time

The reason the sequel to the first Traveling Wilburys wasn't as good is that sequels are rarely as good. Just like movies, albums with all-stars casts fail to recapture the glory. Listening to Vol. 3 (as it was called) again, I come away thinking it's a Dylan album produced by Jeff Lynee with guest appearance by Tom Petty. George Harrison is rarely heard. Eric Clapton tried and aborted a Derek & The Dominoes followup. And in Country music, Parton/Harris/Ronstadt who were billed as Trio, made an inferior followup. Try and turn back the clock? Sometimes there's no recapturing that initial moment.

Monday, June 11, 2007

They Go On And On

Tony Soprano is flipping through a mini-jukebox at his dining table. The camera gets up close with a 2 Tony Bennett songs. He'll pick 'em. No, he comes up on a Journey song, "Don't Stop Believin'". Surprise. But that's what made the Sopranos work. The never-knowing. That Journey song has been a thorn in the side of Rock critic's for years. Because the Rock press never liked them, Journey has let their songs do their bidding. "Don't Stop" has shown up on TV, movies and was even the subject of a David Fricke post 9/11 piece in Rolling Stone. As co-writer Jonathan Cain said, Journey aren't going anywhere. The public has voted. We won. The Rock crit-press who had to endure Journey at the end of the Sopranos? They lost.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

All Day All The Time

If labels can be blamed for lagging behind the download revolution, what about artists? I'm not just talking about the ones who won't give up their catalog to Itunes. As I've stated before, any act that won't shouldn't complain when their stuff is cribbed for free from the Internet. My favorite AOL stations are the ones that play 24 hours of the same music by the same artist. I've heard all Yes, James, Taylor, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, etc. But I can never figure out why the artist's themselves don't do this. When you go to their website, there should be a player that streams their catalog. Why the hell not? What a great promotional tool for their back catalog. It's 2007 why can't the industry (labels and artists) step up to the times.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Playlist for 6/8

Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior
John Anderson -s/t & 2 (reissues)
John McLaughlin - Devotion
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full

How Do You Upgrade?

After being out of circulation for years, the first two Traveling Wilbury's CD's are being released next Tuesday. But, for now, not individually, but as a double CD. And at full price at that. What do you get if you upgrade your former CD's? A few unreleased tracks and a DVD. The first Wilbury's was a moment in time. The second was a sequel. Not as good. And missing Roy Orbison. So, I don't know if I'll upgrade. This is a problem with a lot of music fan's. Today, labels recycle their biggest selling catalog titles daily. When to upgrade is a big problem for me. Some of my CD's from the 80's still sound good and some flat. I recently bought the remastered Silk Degrees because the 80's version was flat. One only has so much to spend, so buying your initial catalog for the second time can induce headache's. Rhino will eventually split the two Wilbury's and sell them separately. I only want the first one. Maybe I'll wait. Maybe not.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lost But Not Alone

Where did I first become aware of rock criticism? My local library. In the late 70's. I would scour the music section, and it was there that I found books by Dave Marsh and Robert Christgau and other's from the golden age of rock critics. I also found a book called Stranded (Da Capo). A collection of essays with a simple premise: what one album would you take to a desert island. A desert island disc, if you will. At the time of its 1979 publication, this was as close as I got to one book containing article's written by a future Music Critic Hall of Fame class. It's author's were Marsh, Bangs, Christgau, Paul Nelson, Ellen Willis, Nick Tosches, Jim Miller and others. What a cast! The book is still in print, and worth your while for a look at pre-1979 choices. Stranded had choices by the New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Little Richard, Ronettes and others.
So, now comes 2007 and we get an updated version edited by Phil Freeman called Marooned (Da Capo). Starring a group of up-and-coming rock critics. Thanks to blogs and such, most of these names are familiar. But some weren't. The choices here are mostly post-1979 ones. Of the 20, more than half are 1980 and beyond. A lot of 'em I never heard, but some I'm familiar with. The writing is solid, but I wish the Elton John piece wasn't so defensive. At the back of the book is a section called Return To Treasure Island, a sequel to Marcus' look at pre-1979 recordings. Freeman does an admirable job, but it's missing some guilty pleasures essential to understanding post-'79 ("I Want It That Way") and the whole book is missing anything from Country music. But Marooned and Stranded were made to start these types of arguments. I still believe the latter is the most essential of the two. But Freeman deserves props for getting the ball rolling again. As for me, my own DI disc would be Elvis' Sun Sessions. But the original 1976 RCA LP. One of the few vinyls I have left. That LP was never reissued on CD. But the subsequent repackages of Sun stuff had too many alternate takes. I'll take the vinyl. And hope the island has a turntable and an electric outlet.

How Do You Like Your Macca?

Nice and pleasant, but the critical hype didn't elevate Paul McCartney's 2005 Chaos and Creation. Too bland for me, McCartney needs at least a rocker or two an album. Memory Almost Full is better because it's less labored. Most of the tracks were started before Chaos, but you wouldn't know it. The two leadoff tracks are the singles and you can hum them like the best of Wings. After that McCartney a couple of winning rockers and a suite about the end of his life. When McCartney doesn't care his albums are flat. On this one he generally likes his material, and for once so can we. It's probably his best album of new stuff since Tug Of War.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Just Wondering

With space getting tougher in retail stores for deep catalog titles, I wonder if, eventually, some obscure titles will be digital only. Outside of the internet, what's the purpose for some titles to be given the whole jewel box-liner note treatment. Me, I like the physical over the bandwidth, but I can see the change-a-comin' for some labels.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fighting For The Right

It's funny what a guilty pleasure show will do to some bloggers. VH1's Soft Rock Countdown was good, but a lot of bloggers who specialize in talking about such matters still have a problem admitting they love a lot of those songs. This is what I found out searching the web for conversation about the show. While bloggers struggle, posters on message boards are more direct. Me, I love a lot of those songs and will fight for the right to love a guilty pleasure when I hear it.


Having watched VH1's 40 Softsational show twice, I've finally come up with some songs that could replace ones that are on their List.

Take out:
Key Largo
Don't Give Up On Us
Peace Train
Angel of the Morning
Lonely Boy
Tonight I Celebrate My Love

and add

How Much I Feel
Time In A Bottle
Sunshine On My Shoulder
Just The Way You Are
Baker Street
Your Song

I'm a little bit iff about that last one, but I like some of my other choices. In the end the VH1 List is good, but I wonder why they just don't do a whole show counting down the Greatest Guilty Pleasure Acts ever.

Friday, June 01, 2007

40 Years On

So, is Sgt. Pepper the greatest Beatles album of all time or just their most important. Since it's reached its 40th anniversary, I've been thinking about it. Certainly, the album is a turning point in musical history. But some critics think that it was for the worst. Concept albums suddenly became the norm, even the Stones released one (and it was mediocre). Artists saw what the Beatles did and got on the creative bandwagon. That is the album's legacy. And above all, it's a damn good album. Is it their best? I still think Abbey Road, Revolver and Rubber Soul appeal to the Beatlefan more than Sgt. Pepper. The above 3 feature more songcraft and less daft novelities. Even if you're on the fence, you've got to admire the audacity of it.
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