Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pleased To Meet Them

Jim Walsh's Replacements: All Over But The Shouting (Voyageur) should be a cause for celebration. The Replacements in their prime were Rock 'N' Roll like you want to remember it: messy, scruffy and daring. Told as an oral history the bio had the opposite effect on me. I found myself saddened by the whole Replacements history. By the time they dumped their last 2 major label albums they had shot their load. Lead 'Mat Paul Westerberg had lost what had made his songs so memorable in their mid-80's peak, and the rest of the band (what was left of it) were bored with courting the mainstream. You come away wishing they had sold the units that their soundalike's did later on. The Replacements are fondly remembered. Peter Buck thinks they should be in the RRHOF. I've got no problem with that. But it's a legacy unfulfilled. Paul Westerberg's DOA solo career doesn't help their cause, either. But a glorious stomp it was.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Darkness Of An Opry Clown

There was always a darkness beneath the lovable persona that Porter Wagoner displayed at the Grand Ole Opry. It was there in some of his hits, but more prevalent if you dig deeper in his catalog. The Country Music Hall of Fame was late in inducting him. And his rhinestone suits and good 'ole boy charm obscured some of his recorded legacy. But it's there. From discovering Dolly Parton, to his own TV show and to the records that hopefully will be rediscovered, Porter Wagoner deserves a place in the upper echelon of Country icons.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Future of Reissues?

I got some reissues in the mail yesterday from the Shout label. There were 4 CD's from the Vee Jay vaults: Jerry Butler, Staple Singers, the Dells and Jimmy Reed. They're all good, but they did make me wonder. What is the future for reissues here in the States. With the demise of the CD, digital will be the reissue of the future. And some labels are already going that route. It used to be if you were looking for archival reissues you'd look to Rhino. But that label now concentrates only on big names and big themes. There are still some albums that haven't been released on CD. Will they go digital? Probably. Cheaper packaging saves labels money. These Shout reissues won't sell to anyone but collector's of that genre. They focus only on the Vee Jay years of these artists. But they serve a purpose, don't they. If all you want are Jerry Butler's big hits, you can find them. But what about an obscure early 60's track?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Playlist for 10/26

Sara Evans - Greatest Hits
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Moby Grape - s/t
Three Tenors of Soul
Salt n Pepa - Best of

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Eagles Time Machine

Long Road Out Of Eden is the best song from a very long double album by the Eagles. It's their first in 28 years, and it will please you but won't thrill you. What I hear are solo cuts, spliced in with backing vocals. Henley's songs are the best and then there's Timothy B. Schmit. What's missing here is a sense of one band. As I said the Henley songs sound like they could've come off his solo stuff. "How Long" the non-Eagle write from the pen of J.D. Souther may be the closest this album comes to a full on collaboration. Even though there are Henley-Frey co-write's none but the title song, a 10 minute exploration of War gone wrong, will get to you. I was thinking that most of these songs would be throwaway's on their best 70's albums. You're going to hear a lot about how the Eagles have sold out by giving Wal-Mart an exclusive distribution until 2008. Certainly, Henley' rants about consumerism ring false when you think of how much an Eagles ticket cost or where you have to go to buy this CD. Selling out has never bothered me, but I wish the finished product was stronger.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Country or Pop?

When Carrie Underwood did pre-press interviews saying that her latest album, Carnival Ride, was not going to be Pop, I took notice. Most of what I hear today on Country radio is Pop music with Country voices. When Underwood says her new album is going to be Country you wonder what she means. I hear straight Pop. But today's new generation Country singers have not grown up with Loretta Lynn or George Jones, they've grown up with Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. Both of those artists used Pop flourishes to liven up their twang. So, one can forgive Underwood for mistaking the two genres. On Carnival Ride, she sounds more assured than on her rather hesistant debut. The best song is "Last Night" about a one-nighter in Vegas that is the musical sequel to "Before He Cheats". Like Martina McBride, who's gotten swallowed by the Big Ballad Syndrome, Underwood is always going to oversing on some cuts. Big voice women always do.

Shooter Finally Gets It

Shooter Jennings first album tried to position him as a new Outlaw, just like his Dad in the early 70's. But it was to reverential to the past and Jennings himself sounded unsure about staking his Dad's turf. His followup was more of the same. But I'm glad to report that on his 3rd album, The Wolf, Shooter finally realizes that to being an Outlaw in today's Nashville means you won't get radio airplay, but you can still make music your own way. That's what he pulls off here. The nods to the past are still there, but less obvious. And after 3 albums, Jennings sounds more assured of where he's going to take his music. It'll be Outlaw but on his terms. If radio don't play it, then expect him to end up on an indie doing the same thing. It what Outlaw's do. Just like Dad.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Year End Lists Are Only 2 Months Away

As October comes to a close, I've been looking over my potential year end lists. The album section will be easy to fill up. But this has been a terrible year for singles. And as for reissues, all I see are more Country ones than I remember buying.

Sleeping Good

I've had a few days to think about it and in no way do I feel guilty about stealing Radiohead's new album for free. I burned it on a CD-R and filed it. Artists are cruel creatures. They'll sell you a CD and 4 months later try and re-sell it with bonus tracks. I'm thinking of recent releases by Beyonce and future release by Paul McCartney. Are the artists to blame or record companies? No wonder people don't buy CD's anymore.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Well, I guess I might as well confess. I paid nothing for Radiohead's pay-what-you-want download of their new album In Rainbows. But I have an excuse. I've never cared for Radiohead. So, why should I give them my money? But then I thought about it. What if Springsteen's new album were free. Would I pay for it? Hmmm. Tough call. As someone who buys a lot of CD's, I feel I'm owed a freebie once in a while. Record companies (mostly indie labels) send me review copies, but only if I ask.
But Radiohead have never moved me. To me their best song was "Creep". Which predates their supposed masterpiece, OK Computer. That last one is rapidly moving up the all time great album charts. But it never did much for me. I figure my problem with the band is Thom Yorke. His lyrics about alienation go right over my me.
But I admit I like the band's music. Jonny Greenwood plays good guitar on In Rainbows, and Yorke throws in a love song or two.
Since there going to release this in stores anyway, I asked myself would I go and buy the physical copy after hearing a free download. The answer is no. But as a freebie, you could spend a worse 45 minutes listening to music.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Confounding Expectations

The best way to describe Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' duet album Raising Sand is eerie. The album, produced by T. Bone Burnett has a spacey, ethereal, rustic quality. Befitting an album that is all about celebrating forgotten Country/Bluegrass/Folk songs. When you first heard about this collaboration it brought a chuckle. Will Krauss Rock? Will Plant go Country? No and No. Plant has no intention of doing a Country album. His love, if you've followed Plant's 90's and beyond career has been Roots music. And another interesting thing is that this is not a duets album. This ain't George and Tammy. In fact, Plant and Krauss go solo on some songs. On others, both singers just complement, but not duet. But when they do sing together, it works. Plant doesn't over sing and Krauss is right in her element. Zep fans will find more to shrug their shoulders about than Krauss fans will. But give both a chance and you'll hear a loving tribute to an era of music that should always be resurrected.

Records You Don't Know Exist

If it wasn't for Robert Christgau's review in Rolling Stone, I would've never known that there was a CD out called The Three Tenors Of Soul. And that doesn't make me happy. If you're a fan of Philly Soul, then this is a must. It's not on a rinky-dink label. Shanachie is pretty well known. But since its release in mid-September, I've seen no press on it. The three tenors here are Russell Thompkins Jr. (Stylistics), William Hart (Delfonics) and Ted Mills (Blue Magic). Thompkins is the legend of the 3 and has a bigger catalog. Both he and Mills still sound pretty good. An reader review tipped me off that Hart's falsetto is shot and it could be. He's the only one not to get a solo shot and he's barely heard throughout. This isn't a pure collaboration. Of the 10 songs (all but 1 are Old School classics; the new one is a duet and new song written by Hall & Oates), 4 feature all 3.

Produced by Philly Soul veteran Bobby Eli, this will bring back falsetto memories of old. Having spent years wondering how the laggards at the RRHOF can fail to induct Gamble & Huff, this keeps me satisfied knowing that Old School legends are still recording and touring.

Playlist for 10/12

Merle Haggard - Bluegrass Sessions and Working Man's Journey
Matchbox 20 - Exile on Mainstream
Mick Jagger - Very Best of
Reba McEntire - Duets
Commodores - s/t
Faith Hill - Hits

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Flop, But Not A Flop

One of the things people forget about Moby Grape is that their 1967 debut wasn't a flop. It peaked at #24 and spent a decent 27 weeks on the album chart. But Columbia Records had bigger ideas. They hyped it to be the greatest album in years. Five, count 'em 5 singles released at the same time. So, while Columbia expected a million seller they only got a fraction of that. But wait, they were right about one thing. Moby Grape is one of the greatest albums of 1967, and as it turns out, ever. A perfectly timed Sundazed reissue on its 40th anniversary, what we have here is the perfect mix of late 60's Rock: Country, folk, pop, rock and garage all stirred up. After it, nothing. Interestingly, their second Wow made it to #20, but it's Sgt. Pepper sound has dated. And everything else they did can't compare. But what a debut.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mick Jagger Does Not Rewrite History

My favorite Mick Jagger solo song isn't on his Very Best of. "Hang On To Me Tonight", taken from his only good solo record, Wandering Spirit. In fact the title song from that album is also missing. But Jagger, who picked these songs, shows you his solo warts and all. Most artists, when they release compilations, try and skip over the bad parts of their career. They're looking for a redo. But what we have here are some of Jagger's worst: "Just Another Night", "Let's Work", "Lucky In Love", all coming from his first 2 albums. If their are good songs on those albums, they were drowned by 80's drum machines and synths. The best moments on this CD are the unreleased's. Why didn't Jagger release his 1992 dates with blues act the Red Devils? The one track included here is a revelation. There's the lost John Lennon track, the dancey "Charmed Life". Jagger's solo career hasn't been much. He could've rewritten it with this Best of. Nice that he checked his ego, and let's you decide if it matches up to even the most average Stones music.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Playlist for 10/5

John Fogerty - Revival
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Bettye Lavette - Scene Of The Crime
Sharon Jones - 100 Days 100 Nights
Chaka Khan - Funk This
Marc Broussard - S.O.S.
Reba McEntire - Duets

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hey Ladies

This has been a good month for R&B lovers. Particularly, R&B women. I haven't gotten around to Jill Scott, but I've played the latest from Bettye Lavette, Chaka Khan and Sharon Jones. And what different CD's they are.
Jones' heart is in 60's era Soul. With her superb backing band stealing the show, 100 Days 100 Nights is a quick 30 minute listen. The songs sound old, but they're new. This type of Soul can get too studious at longer lengths. So, 10 songs is just about right.
Lavette is early 70's Soul. Grittier and bluesier. Scene of the Crime is the most interesting of the 3 records, chiefly because of the backing band: Southern Rocker's Drive-By Truckers. A strange pairing, but Lavette's earthy vocals holds it together.
And then, Chaka Khan, is Old School Soul. Her Funk This, is a too long for its own good. But for the first time since the 80's, she sounds interested in making new music. Some covers (Jimi Hendrix, Michael McDonald) and a fiery duet with Mary J. Blige keep you interested. Overlong, but a return to form.

Remember Jazz?

Reading NY Times Music Critic Ben Ratliff's view of John Coltrane's music and impact in Coltrane, I began to think of my own Jazz CD's. Along with John Coltrane, Miles Davis is the only other Jazz act who rule my CD collection. Ratliff's book isn't a bio, but a look at what Coltrane's music did to the Jazz world. It's enlightening to read the same hatred of Coltrane's Free Jazz period as Miles would later encounter in his Jazz Fusion period. The book is short but pointed. Something Coltrane's last recordings weren't. Ratliff wrote a Jazz essential's book in 2002 that is worth checking out if your new to the genre.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Everybody Don't Dance Now

Roger Friedman isn't the only one who is ticked of at the RRHOF. A whole bunch of magazines and newspapers are blogging about how bad they feel this year's nominees are. And I've figured out why. Not Rock Enough. Madonna, Beasties, Cohen, Summer, Chic, Afrika B. Nope, not Rockers. Dave Clark, Ventures. Not quite. Mellencamp, check. But the latter has never been a crit fave. But he is Rock. So, 1 out of 9 is not good. This year's nominees are just too Dance oriented for Rock fans.

The big question is what's going to happen if Mellencamp isn't inducted. The probable DC5 induction won't satisfy the Rock elite. Nor would a Ventures nod. My own prediction is Madonna, Beasties, Mellencamp, Chic and DC5.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sonny Burgess?

Roger Friedman's latest anti-RRHOF hits some good notes, but he needs to research his material better. Among the acts he says aren't in the Hall, Ben E. King and Al Green, are there, and while I appreciate his exposure of the Hall's fraudulent voting procedures (of which I've mentioned many times before), he's another one of those knucklehead's who believes that only "Rock" acts should get the nod. Well, why else would he diss Madonna, Chic and Donna Summer. But then, he can't make up his mind, because he picks the Spinners and Mary Wells for induction. In his narrowmindedness, they wouldn't be classified as "Rock" either. Say what you will about the Hall, let's give a round of thanks to their definition of Rock and Roll. Sure, Kiss and Yes and Alice Cooper belong in there. But the Hall's definition of Rock is in keeping with the 50's explosion of the "Rock Era". Speaking of research, he's wrong about Madonna. She has co-written most, if not all of her hits. But why should that be a criteria for induction? And he's so busy naming non-inductees that his own version of a RRHOF starts to become a parody of the Hall itself.

Sonny Burgess, Ringo Starr, Turtles, Carla & Rufus Thomas? Sounds like he's adopted the dreaded, "Let's induct everyone who's ever made a good record" syndrome.
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