Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Half Million at 65? What's The Problem?

Paul McCartney is 65 years old and gets no airplay for his new songs. But the Lefsetz Letter is obsessesd with Soundscan numbers and considers that because McCartney's latest is selling as much as his previous one that it's a failure. But how many other 65 year old singers can sell half a million copies without air or video play. Unless you use the gimmick of a duets album, like Tony Bennett, artists McCartney's age just aren't going to sell many copies of their new stuff. People only want to hear the oldies. No amount of publicity like McCartney did is going to get his core audience into a record store or Starbuck's to buy his album. James Taylor is going to try that route, but will play it safe with a live album of hits. Joni Mitchell is going there too, but with new material. And it won't sell. But, so what. I don't believe any of these artist's expect to sell records like they did back in the day. Those of us who still buy their stuff only want it to be good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Falling Into Year End Polls

As September 1 comes crashing in, I begin thinking of my year end ballots for both the Village Voice and Idolator. Albums, as usual, are no problem. If ballots were due today, I could come up with a Top 10 easily. But singles are still a stall. There are some that will be easy choices, but most of what tops the charts doesn't appeal to me. Still, I'll have no problem coming up with a Top 10, but with singles the field is wide open.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When Ringo Was Fun

Photograph:The Very Best of makes a better case for Ringo's post Blast From Your Past career than the woeful Starr Struck. Picking up on the former's 1976 output isn't easy, but in the 90's and beyond Starr has actually made pleasant Beatle-lite albums, and the new comp picks the best songs. Of course he can't sing, but Ringo was all about personality. The best songs are at the top, but even non Beatleholics will find something to smile about by the end. Ringo was all about smiles.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Playlist for 8/24

Rilo Kiley - Under The Blacklight
New Pornographers - Challengers
Junior Senior - Hey Hey My My
Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart
MIA - Kala
Teddy Pendergrass - Teddy

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some Good News

Of course I'm happy that HBO has renewed Flight of the Conchords. No show has made me laugh more in 2007, and not just because it's a music one. It's a cult show with a cult following, which means that not many people are watching it, but those that do are obsessed by it. I'm not obsessed, but I do try and pass the word. Hopefully, between HBO's reruns, first season DVD sales and the 2008 season, others will find it just as good.

Monday, August 20, 2007

2 (maybe 3) Things That Will Get Under Someone's Skin

It's great to see "In The Ghetto" get into Itunes' Top 100 song download chart. But it's not so great that it's the version with Lisa Marie adding her vocals. Her voice isn't very distinctive, which just means that Elvis ends up outsinging his daughter.

A new Eagles album will elicit howls from the critical elite who always hated the band. The surprise is that the first single, "How Long" is a cover of J.D. Souther song from 1972. It's classic Eagles, Country-Rock this time, so those that always cringed at the mention of their name will keep cringing.

Garth Brooks can make critic's wince too. Brooks' ride in the mid-90's was as much fun as Elton's ride in the mid-70's. Back then critic's had a love/hate one with Elton just as they did with Garth. Brooks' personality wasn't as humorous as Elton, so his ego was as big as his Central Park concert. After he "retired", he sold-out to Wal-Mart for exclusive distribution of his CD's. Now he's dumping Wal-Mart and getting his product back in all the stores. This is being bookmarked by a new Compilation. But what really annoys me is that Brooks still has no plans to put his catalog on Itunes or any other download site. But remember this: Brooks is Country Music's most astute businessman. He says he wants his music to be album only downloads. Sorry, this is 2007 and that won't cut it. Eventually, Brooks will cave when he sees dollar's to be had.

The return of Garth Brooks and the Eagles. All in the same year. On your TV and radio. Music crit's will have nowhere to hide.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

War Still Not Good For . . .

Can you imagine any Countdown host (pick your genre) introducing a song like this:
"What this song says is that war is bad, and no one can argue with that".
Quote from Casey Kasem. Week of August 29, 1970.

The song: War by Edwin Starr

This Was Elvis

On the 30th anniversary I watched the first DVD release of This Is Elvis, a 1981 biopic/docudrama that is still the best overview of Presley's life. I first saw this in the theatre's and coming just 4 years after his death was struck by the amount of material that I'd never seen before. I think most people felt the same. Since 1981 a ton of documentaries and movies have been made, but not in the same film. Ral Donner's from the voice narration as Elvis is so good that it's better than any of his own records, and the staged sequences are only used to supply footage of events that no camera caught (Elvis visiting his mother in the hospital, Elvis as teenager). What makes this an essential buy is the inclusion of the 1983 video rerelease that had 40 minutes of extra stuff, including one that skipped by me over the years: Elvis in 1960 on the Sinatra Special giving a raw early '56 type performance of "Stuck On You". This is the way it is for us die-hard's. Still mining for nuggets.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Indie Sellout

Is it possible to sell out and still make the best album of your career? Indie fave Rilo Kiley have done just that with Under The Blacklight, their 3rd album. Smartly letting Jenny Lewis ride her muse from last year's solo album, Rilo Kiley have gone all Pop here. Hell, this is the best pure Pop album of 2007. Hooks that remind you of Mirage era Fleetwood Mac and Lewis ditching any resemblence to her Indie roots for Pop stardom. These type of sellouts will infuriate fans, until they put on the finished product. Inside the comfort of their own listening device, their hardcore fans will embrace, while new fans will wonder why other Indie bands don't sell out this joyously.

Playlist for 8/17

Flight Of The Conchords - Distant Future
Ohio Players - Honey
Roots of Jazz Funk Vol. 1
Against Me - New Wave
Jackie Wilson - Whispers

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sound vs. Songs

I've never been a big fan of Critic faves who are more interesting for the sound of their records than their vocals. I'm thinking of Tricky or PJ Harvey. But when you're as effervescent as M.I.A. you can get away with it. On her second album, Kala, she's all sounds and few songs. People who read music mags will be curious as to what the fuss is about, and most will be turned off by the potpourri of sound M.I.A. comes up with. A planned Timbaland collaboration never got past one song here, but I have a feeling she's going to go Pop on her next album. But the first two are for the critic's and the fringes of pop stardom that she's now on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Not Thinking Music

Less pretentious than the Scissor Sisters and without the grasp of the Electric Six, Junior Senior are a Dutch duo who keep their Disco/New Wave so light and frothy that you can taste the cream off your player. Released in 2005, but now just getting here, there 2nd album, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, is all you need to know about what to expect at 36 minutes. After their debut, I thought they would be import only forever. You would think in the interent age, you could download any band regardless of Stateside distribution. So, I was thrilled to get this. If you want heady dance music, pass this. But, jeez, why not have a perfect party album in your collection. Tacked on to this is an 7 song EP that is more New Wave than Disco and less entertaining. Just in case you thought they were touched by genius. They're not. But dance anyway.

Joe Strummer's Heart

This has been a good summer for Joe Strummer fans. A new bio, a documentary and he had the lead song on HBO's awful "John From Cincinnati". The latter got cancelled but Strummer's song knocked me off my couch when the show premiered. And in Against Me's New Wave, Strummer's great Rock and Roll heart lives in the persona of Tom Gabel, the lead writer and singer of the punkish band. Never having heard them before, I was expecting a full blown punk outing. But this is just good old rock and roll. There's politics here, but it doesn't smash you over the head. Babel is smart enough, like the boys in Rancid, to know that without hooks his message gets lost. This was the best rock record of the summer 2007. It's for anyone who still believes in the word and of course for Joe Strummer fans.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tne Year Elvis Listened

From the moment he began to taping his 68 Special to the moment he stepped on stage in Las Vegas for the first time in nearly a decade, Elvis let people outside his inner circle make his decisions. Had it been up to the Colonel the 68 Special would've been an all Christmas affair. Had it been up to Elvis' song handlers, his post Special recordings would've been his usual late 60's fluff. But Elvis let Producer Chips Moman pick the musicians and most of the songs. And he let the TV producers do their thing without the Colonel's meddling. Sadly, one year is not long and it couldn't last. If you look at Elvis' set list in 69 and early 70 it's strong, but by late 70 the rut had settled in, both on stage and on record. Moman only got through the 69 Memphis sessions to be replaced by overmatched Felton Jarvis. Elvis got less interested in concerts and phoned it in until he died. But for one year at least, Elvis was back where he started. Surrounded by people who saw his potential, wanted to guide him and in the end held his hand as long as they could, until he left home again.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Small Miracles In Elvis Week

August 16 is the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death. So, there's been a lot of activity the last week or so on the King front. This is good news for me. Every once in a while, usually at this time of year, I need my Elvis fix. So, I was glad that my local (well, syndicated) oldie station is having an Elvis weekend, and that TV Land of all stations is making August Elvis month. Why is this all good? Sometimes, I wonder if Elvis' music and legend will die with the generation that grew up with him. So, any sort of recognition (American Idol's Elvis night) is an education to young kids. But what really put a smile on my face was a Sunday commentary in my local paper by a local musician who is of Elvis' age, praising him and praising the explosian of Rock. It's small things like this that keep me inspired and tuned in to the musician more than the Icon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Playlist for 8/8

Raspberries - Live On Sunset Strip
Peter, Bjorn & John - Writer's Block
Doug Kershaw - Country Classics
Bob Dylan Radio Playlist CD From August Mojo Magazine

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hall Right

In one brilliant move the Country Music Hall of Fame made itself relevant. In 2001, after years of inducting one, maybe two acts, the Hall inducted 12! in one shot. Seeing that they had a backlog of deserving artists, they did the right thing. Since then, they've been inducting 3 a year in 3 categories: Pre -1975, Post-75 and non-Performing artist. This year's nominees are all deserving. Vince Gill might seem too young, and I'm surprised that in the post-75 category he got more support than Reba McEntire, who seems a shoo-in. Mel Tillis? Great songwriter before he began having hits. And Ralph Emery? Not a fan of his smugness, but he has been a champion for Old Time Country. So guess what? Like any Hall it's missing some good names. My focus is on pre-75. How about Tom T. Hall? Or Johnny Paycheck and Charlie Rich? Maybe even Barbara Mandrell and Jean Shepherd. I have a feeling that Hall and Mandrell will be in someday. Paycheck was too much the outlaw, Rich pissed of the CMA in 1975 by appearing onstage drunk and Shepherd has been forgotten by all but Grand Ole Opry fans. But RRHOF critics should look at the Country Hall for inspiration. How about in one year the RRHOF induct a boatload. Yes, Hall critic's will have a field day. They already complain that there are too many inductees. But they're wrong. Like the Country one the Rock Hall has a big backlog of names. Do they have the guts to do it?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Legendary Prices

Here in my neck of the woods we have 3 concert theatres and one mini-stadium in 3 cities. But these aren't big theatres, in fact 3 of them hold 1000 or less and the stadium 10,000. But the latter is a rodeo one and rarely gets booked, leaving the other 3 for booking. Acts do come to town, but rarely do I go. I prefer our annual Blues Festival. I like the prices and the options of moving around the grounds seeing who I want. But when someone does come to town, it's usually at a price. People around the country are going to concerts. But I wonder how often and where they get the money to see big name acts. If you live in a medium sized market you must be like me and pay through the roof. In October B.B. King is coming. This caught my eye. King is getting up there and who knows if he'll be this close to my town again. But then I saw the prices and that was it. The lowest ticket was $85. No opening act, just B.B. for $85. Yes, the smaller the venue the higher you'll pay for big names. But this is why I rarely go to concerts. And when B.B. passes through, I'll wonder how anyone else does too.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

When Cult Artists Die

Lee Hazlewood was one of those artists that whose albums are always on the fringe of my buying habits. British magazines seemed to love him. A couple of years ago, I almost bought one of his early 70's albums. But in the end the only stuff I have on him is on a Nancy Sinatra comp. He was a cult artist, for sure. Indie heads latched onto him, the way they do with others like him: Fred Neil, Serge Gainsborg, Scott Walker. People I've kept an eye on, but have never added to my collection. Hazlewood was an interesting character. He wrote "The Boots" and "The Fool", but I'm guessing his work with Sinatra was his peak. I may be wrong, but that's the way it works with cult acts.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Culture Clash

There's a new 30th anniversary edition of Culture's Two Sevens Clash out. This is one of Reggae's great albums, released during a period where the genre was putting out quality albums to go along with singles. Since it's album heyday, reggae has become a singles genre. But the sound I like has been replaced by dancehall. The latter has never moved me. There's still good reggae out there, but I've kinda lost interest. So, I veer to the classics of yore, and not just Bob Marley. Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Jimmy Cliff and Bunny Wailer to name a few. That sound is still alive in today's reggae, but it's hard to find. And what was the last reggae album I bought? Damien Marley's Welcome To Jamrock. Old family names never die.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Please Download Them For Free

And the stupid Artist/Record Company digital deals continue. In seeing that AC/DC have put their catalog up on Verizon, except for one track, as album only downloads, I checked out Itunes for my monthly who's still not available for download. No surprise, the usual suspects are still absent. Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, AC/DC, most Bee Gees, Bad Company, Garth Brooks and the Beatles. When will these artists learn. Nobody is going to follow the Verizon way of downloading. So, just as I've always done, I beg you to go those free P2P websites and download all of their free music. All these artists and their record companies deserve no less for not stepping into the new world order.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Keeping Your Wallet Sane

Looking for ways to fill up my wife's R&B/Smooth Jazz fused Ipod, I've been scouring Itunes and cherry-picking tracks from albums that I may never buy. Because there's so much product and so little money, people are doing the same thing. The tracks from these albums may get a full album purchase, but most of these I'll probably pass on. I usually keep to a schedule of albums I have to have and then think about stuff I might buy. This process has kept me from buying lousy stuff and downloading only the best song or two from so-so albums.
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