Sunday, March 30, 2008

Maze Of A Mess

In my area, I have a few small record stores, but their prices are too high. I get better bargains buying used online. But for newer releases, I have no choice but to get them the week they come out, and that means heading to a Target or Best Buy. I used to go to Circuit City, but customer service is so poor there, that it's always last on my stop. The best time to buy new CD's is the week they're out. You can find, not at Border's mind you, but at the retail stores one for under $10. Today, while looking at the CD section at Target, a woman was asking a poor, clueless youngster where the new Jack Johnson and Sheryl Crow CD's are located. She was looking through the new releases and gave up. You can feel their pain. The poor kid finally tracked them down, but this is the future of music retail. If you're lucky, you live in an area that has good independent stores. I'm not knocking these places. For me their prices are too high, but for you paying a couple of extra dollars might help steer you clear of the future mess that will be record buying.

I Wanna Go Back

Moby's Last Night and REM's Accelerate attempt to do what many artists always do: go back to their roots after dropping disappointing albums. I'm thinking of Neil Young's Freedom, a return to his late 70's sound after spending the 80's releasing dud's. Or Elton John's Songs From The West Coast, drenched in his piano rock of the early 70's after spending years teasing his fans with mediocrity. For Moby it's a return to his club sound after years going ambient. For REM, it's a return to short, quick albums that crank up the guitar's and soaring refrains after years of getting all pretty on us. REM's album is better than Moby's but there aren't a lot of classics on either. Moby's peters out at the 2/3 mark by going back to his ambient/new age sound. REM are more determined to make you forget Up and their other recent ho-hums by rocking out. It's better than the grunge influenced Monster, and Stipe's lyrics are back to making little sense. But Peter Buck's guitar's are the saving grace. How these albums will stack up with Play or Murmur only time can tell. But for now longtime fans can be comforted.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Playlist for 3/27

Elvis Presley - His Hand In Mine
James McMurtry -Just Us Kids
Mando Saenz -Bucket
Avett Brothers-Emotionalism
Freedy Johnston - My Favorite Waste of Time
Waybacks - Loaded
Waifs - Sundirtwater
Songs of America - Various
Dropkick Murphys - Meanest of Times
Joe Ely & Joel Guzman - Live Cactus

Monday, March 24, 2008

Underground 60's Soul Classic or Something Else?

There are two ways of looking at the Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley. If you think of it as a long lost 60's psychedelic Soul recording then you'll be in for a fun listen. If you view it through then lens of 2008, then you'll hear a half-baked 40 minute CD that with songs that sound like they were tossed off. Cee-Lo's paranoia can be fun, but sometimes I'd like to know what he's scared off. There is no "Crazy" here. The first half of the CD is the best, channeling the same Soul sounds that Amy Winehouse does. By the end it gets tiresome, and at 40 minutes that's saying a lot.

Book Update

I really should read more books, but they can be just as expensive as CD's, and promo copies re hard to find. The following are ones that I've read since January, and all are recommended.

Mystery Train - Greil Marcus (2008 5th ed. Plume)

Song Man - Will Hodgkinson (Da Capo)

The Road - Cormac McCarthy (Vintage)

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell - Tucker Max (Citadel)

To Live's To Fly Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt - John Kruth (Da Capo)

Portable Atheist - Christopher Hitchens, etc (Da Capo)

Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Various (DK)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dancing On The Edge, Again

Before it starts to lose steam near the end, the B-52's Funplex accomplishes what the band always did: nervy, dancey energy for a world on the edge. Only this time it's not the Cold War of the late 70's/early 80's that drives their beats, it's the post 9/11 uncertainty of today that does. They have their usual political moments, but you'll be dancing too much to notice. And that's always been the beauty of the B-52's.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

End Of Emo

Panic at the Disco's Pretty.Odd is a bold, albeit not altogether successful, shot at the Emo crowd that eventually everyone grows up. I see this album the same way that the Monkees tried to break from their teen idol image. Panic try to leave their emo days behind by going Beatlesque and 60's Pop. Other bands of their ilk could learn something hear. Your audience is growing up, so why can't you?

Friday, March 21, 2008

B Level Albums By A Level Artists

I recently purchased two used CD's that aren't even the best CD's in their respective artist's catalog. Randy Newman's Land Of Dreams and the Cars' Heartbeat City. I'm no completist. I don't have every album by these people. Yet, these B level albums by A level artists have always interested me. It was in a way the last hurrah on the charts for both of these people. Newman's single "It's Money That Matters" got airplay on Rock radio and the Cars had a lot of hits of theirs. After, the Cars made one album that sucked and while Newman dropped a good one in the mid-90's, Bad Love, it got little notice. He gets more airplay for his Soundtracks. There are other albums like this that fascinate me. Mild or weak catalog sellers. I'm just keeping the catalog biz alive, I guess.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Playlist for 3/21

Dixie Bee-Liners - Ripe
Tabe The Band - Pulling Out Just Enought To Win
Eli "Paperboy" Reed - Roll With You
North Mississippi All Stars - Hernando
Avett Brothers -Emotionalism
Paul Thorn - Long Way From Memphis
Kathy Mattea - Coal
Now 27
Daft Punk - Allive 2007 and Musique Vol. 1
Elizabeth Cook - Balls
Chuck Brown - Bustin' Loose

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Missed Promotion

29 million people watching American Idol singers doing Beatle songs. If you're young and have heard these songs for the first time you'll either ask your parents to burn some of their songs on your Ipod or you'll go to Itunes and download Beatle songs instead. Only one problem: the Beatles aren't on Itunes. Their solo stuff is. But not the group. 2 weeks worth of Beatle promotion and all you can do is either borrow or buy their high-priced catalog in the store. But this is 2008 and while their catalog will eventually surface on Itunes, it's another missed opportunity for the record industry. Or the stupidity of the remaining Beatles to work out a deal with Apple. More reasons why the biz is becoming a laughingstock.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eclectic Again

Lately I've making a big effort to get caught up on Bluegrass/Americana chart releases. Most of these titles I'm familiar from KPIG's playlist, but their albums are another story. A lot of these are on small labels, and are willing to send out promos. But I haven't given up on Guilty Pleasures, and although I rarely listen to Top 40 radio in the car, I do listen to Sirius on my Dish. A lot of one hit wonders there, and many albums not worth checking out, but it's important that I spread the wealth as far as my eclecticism is concerned.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It Just Gets Worse and Worse

Harp magazine, which covered alt.rock/mainstream rock but mostly slanted alternative is also closing. It was a good read, with a good review section. What does that leave, Paste? Things are indeed thinning out at music section in Borders.

No Good Country Music Magazines Anymore

Another magazine I used to subscribe to is going all digital, The Journal of Country Music. This used to be a rather scholarly look at Country Music history, and then in the 2000's started to cover more mainstream artists, with middling results. It was still a good Country music magazine, which is hard to find these days. Are there any good Country Music magazines anymore? I remember the long lost Country which folded years ago. All digital formats are the wave of the future for specialty magazines like JCM. It's not the same though, is it. A magazine like that deserved to be read page to page. Things are changing in the music business, alright. Music sales and magazine sales. Get it all for free online.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

No Sale

So, why aren't people buying records like they used to. Is it illegal downloading? Lack of good product? Bad economy? Or high CD prices? I say the latter. While you can pay $9.99 for an Itunes album download, you'll could pay 3 or more dollars higher at a music store. The outrage over not being able to buy a new CD or an older catalog title for under $10 seems to grow by the minute. Friends tell me if it's not on sale they won't buy it. And if they can't find it used they won't buy it, and don't get them started on paying less for an Itunes download. Best Buy has had the last Levon Helm album sitting on their shelves for $13.99. I've tried to get a promo copy for months, but no go. I'd consider buying it if was under $10. Used copies are but the shipping brings it back to $13. So, it may be months or years before I buy the damn thing. People aren't buying records anymore because the price is too high. All CD's should sell for under $10. Older catalog even less. If you're one of the lucky ones who can afford to go to Borders and drop $15 bucks on a CD, I envy you. The rest of the Country is looking for a deal. If we don't get it, we don't buy it. And nobody is buying CD's like they used to.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where Have You Been Freedy?

Freedy Johnston hasn't put out a new studio album in 7 years, but 2008 looks like the year the drought ends. A new one is being worked on, and to whet your appetite how about a covers album. But if you're thinking Johnston's idea of a cover is stuff everyone else does, forget it. How about these titles: "Let 'Em In", "Listen To What The Man Said", "Bus Stop" or "Sad Cafe", the latter an Eagles song. One can't be sure if Freedy likes these oddball songs or is playing with your mind. He's one for humor, you know. But My Favorite Waste Of Time is everything you could want in a covers project. The strange choice, the obvious one and the one you thought nobody would ever cover.

Looking for Bluegrass

I took a peak at the Billboard Bluegrass charts one day and realized I need to catch up. Although it gets scant play on television, GAC's Grand Ole Opry does showcase a lot of these artists. I was particularly interested in Rhonda Vincent. She started in the early 90's as a straight up Country act, and when she didn't hit big she crossed over to Bluegrass. You could say she's in direct competition with Alison Krauss and both have good voices. Vincent sounds an awful like Patty Loveless, but that's not a bad thing. Her latest, Good Thing Going, is almost Bluegrass and a little Country. Kind of like what Krauss and the Union Station put out. I don't hear anything revolutionary for the genre, and Vincent is too close to Country than Bluegrass.
Her brother, Darrin, coproduced her album and his debut with Jamie Dailey. The surprise is that this is the best Bluegrass album I've heard in 2008. A fresh, joyful take on sorrowful songs. Two other Rounder releases: Blue Highway's Through The Window Of A Train is from a band that adds some Rock elements to its sound. They stretch Bluegrass with songs of War and rhythm guitars. The Steeldrivers' debut is more Bluegrass and gets by on strong vocals and songs.
The genre is in good shape, even if it gets treated as Classic Jazz: an antiquated genre stuck in the past. But there are some moving it forward.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Best Pop Book Ever?

Oh, small wonders still exist. The best book on Pop music ever written? One can argue, but one wouldn't deny that Greil Marcus' Mystery Train is in the discussion. Now in its 5th edition (Plume), the 2008 edition has seen its Notes and Discography section updated. Boy, I wish all music books followed Marcus' lead with that section. Written in 1975, this is the first update in 10 years. Marcus' original pieces will make you think that Harmonica Frank is as important to the canon as his definitive essay on Elvis Presley.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Playlist for 3/13

Dailey & Vincent - s/t
Blue Highway - Through The Window of A Train
Steeldrivers - s/t
Rhonda Vincent - Good Thing Going
Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
Alan Jackson - Good Time
Michael McDonald - Soul Speak
Bodeans - Still

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


There are a lot of fat cats sitting in the front rows of the RRHOF induction ceremonies. Hey, it's Clive and Jon Landau and a bunch of managers and industry big shots. No wonder the biz is in trouble. Where are the real fans? Oh, that's right they can't afford the $1000+ ticket. There was probably no lower moment during the 2008 ceremony than Jann Wenner's welcome speech. Was he clueless when he mentioned that the Hall has plenty more people waiting to be inducted. Or was he clueless when he said that the Hall inducts acts in the Early Influence category. Doesn't he know that no one has been put in there in years? Nominating members insist that Wenner has no major influence over who they choose. But as we've seen with their choices in recent years, they are as clueless as Wenner.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Blog Changes

I've added a links section to this blog. Most of these I visit every day, some occasionally. Some of these sites have links within their site, which makes it easy for me to move to other pages. Either way, some of these links I rarely see on other blogs. I've also included my street address in case any Record Companies or any one else has something they want me to read or hear that I can't get access to from the internet.

Going Indie

The best records to pass by my stereo recently have been mostly Indie. There's the white soul of Eli Reed's Roll With You (O-dee), the indie rock of the import only Autumns and Joe Perry's kids who make up Tab The Band and specialize in bringing back the 70's classic rock. The forthcoming James McMurtry CD, Just Us Kids has album of the year potential. There are others that I've yet to spin, and my attempts to listen to more Indie product in 2008 is turning out to be fruitful.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Not Joking

The week leading up to the Hall's Induction ceremony is a good time to read what other critic's and websites are saying about the Hall, its future and its problems. Future Rock Hall has done a fab job of keeping up with it all. One name I've seen come up in my reading's that I've never given serious consideration to is Steve Miller. He's had a long career, for sure. Doesn't make records anymore, or hasn't in ages. His best work was bunched up in the mid-70's, although he has fans of his early 70's work. Kind of like Bob Seger, right. Seger didn't hit big until the mid-70's, but has fans of his earlier work. Seger's hit days lasted a few years more than Miller. Like Seger, Miller made one classic album, Fly Like An Eagle, and some decent catalog items. I'm on the fence, for sure, but if his name came up on the ballot, I wouldn't scream. After all, they did nominate the J. Geils Band.

Buried In Pages

Since cancelling my Billboard subscription last November, I've been giving serious consideration to every magazine that now comes up for renewal. The latest are Relix and Dirty Linen. The former isn't a bad Jam Band rag and the latter has a lot of reviews but they're weak. I'll probably pass on both, and just skim through them at Border's. I used to get 2 Blues Magazines, but cancelled because I found the reviews were weak and overly positive. I was one of the first to subscribe to Vibe, but it quickly grew to be a mediocrity. Most of the political mags I get, I've let go as well. Those include Atlantic, Harper's, Nation. I like the latter but it's getting expensive. Like I said you can go to Border's or Barnes & Noble and read most of these mags in a few minutes. That's what I do with Time, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly.
But other magazines are worth buying or renewing. Some I read more than twice. So below are the magazines I subscribe to followed by the ones I buy at newstands.

Rolling Stone, Blender, Harp, Paste, Performing Songwriter, No Depression (r.i.p.), Guitar World (on my chopping block because it no longer covers classic rock like it used to), Under The Radar, Goldmine, JazzTimes, Down Beat, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Details (chopping block)

Mojo, Q, Uncut, Record Collector (all 4 are British imports), American Songwriter, Wax Poetics, People

I think that covers it. Unless you count my local paper. I'm always on the lookout for a good magazine, whether old or new, that's worth picking up. The Brit mags are good but run you $10 a piece.

Off The Cuff RRHOF Induction Rant Pt. Infinity

The big question that arises now that the 2008 RRHOF is about to be put to rest is what will the Nominating Committee do about 2009. Will they bow to the pressure of the "Hall should be for Rockers only" and put out a mostly Rock oriented ballot, or will they continue to play hard ball and do whatever they want even if it makes little sense to anyone, including them. Dave Marsh, who is a member of the Committee basically blames all the problems on the ignorance of the 600 or so voting bloc. But he also mentions that sitting in a room full of other members means you have to compromise to get names on the ballot. It all seems like a stalemate to me. But I still wonder why the Hall and whoever can skip over worthy names year after year. Regardless of whether someone in the room (Marsh, a noted Kiss hater) doesn't like the group, how can you have a Rock Hall without them. These members hate prog-rock, but millions of people still buy that genre's records. Marsh is right that Disco gets short-shrift, even though Chic and Donna Summer are mostly R&B acts. But I was also surprised to see him diss the induction of Leonard Cohen because Marsh is big on singer-songwriters.
This year's most controversial induction is of course Madonna, much like last year it was Grandmaster Flash. For me she was a no-brainer, and I'm glad the rest of the voting bloc felt the same. But because she was product of the MTV generation, old school Rock critics are using her as this year's whipping post.
I've often wondered if the Rock Hall should change its name or thought of something different when it first bandied about names for its Hall. The Music Hall of Fame would've put to rest all this talk of whether Disco, R&B, rap, Country or the Jazz-Rock era of Miles Davis belongs in a Hall that has "Rock and Roll" at its head.
Oh, and speaking of Marsh, I emailed him asking him about his comments and what R&B acts he thinks should be in the Hall (it's a sore spot with him). Unfortunately, I forgot what a pain in the butt he is to correspond with, surprising considering how long-winded Marsh can be, and he gave me a one sentence reply basically saying no comment. No wonder the RRHOF, the nominating committee and the voting bloc is so ripe for critical disdain.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Gamble & Huff Get Their Due

While Rock fans bemoan the absence of Alice Cooper, Kiss or Yes from the RRHOF, for years I did the same with Gamle & Huff, the genius architects of the Philly Sound. So, I was thrilled when they finally got the nod in 2008, and say FU to the Hall for skipping over them all these years. Two comps came out the week before their induction: the too short Gamble & Huff's Greatest Hits (TSOP years only) and the more revelatory Conquer The World (Lost Soul Of PIR). The latter is all Gamble & Huff productions and has none of their A-list talent pool, but features below the surface names lie Frankie & The Spindles, Johnny Williams and Bobby Bennett to name a few. In this day and age of forgotten Soul labels like Eccentric exhuming their catalog to fine effect on CD, this is indeed a useful artifact of a once monumental label. The Gamble & Huff hits collection is a solid sampler, but should've used the single-not album- versions and included "Wake Up Everybody" or "Love TKO". Still, these are useful documents that will only enhance my argument that Gamble & Huff shouldn't have had to wait until 2008 for induction.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Playlist for 3/6

Ella Fitzgerald - Complete Ella In Berlin
Bee Gees - 1st
Robert Plant - Pictures at 11
REM - Reckoning
Janet Jackson - Discipline
Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie
Autumns - Fake Noise From A Box Of Toys
Human League - Dare

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Testing My Rock Crit Credentials

I recently played ELP's 1978 Works Vol. 2. It's been reissued, but don't tell anyone. I don't want to get my Rock Crit credentials revoked. Oh, and on PBS I watched a James Taylor special. And this week I also spinned the latest Michael McDonald CD, Soul Speak. All of these reasons could get my license stripped. But I don't care. ELP were part of a promo package, and that odds and sods volume has always interested me, although I admit I was never a big fan. It's funny to think that Blender (I think) picked them as worst band ever. A lot of critics blame JT for the wimpy singer-songwriter era of the 70's. And McDonald isn't thought of much today, no matter how brilliant "What A Fool Believes" is. Now he's a cover artist, but his latest has a few good new songs sprinkled. But it's easier to sell covers to McDonald's fan base.

Monday, March 03, 2008

What's Not On My Ipod

I enjoy these magazines that let artists say what's on their Ipod. But I'm suspicious. Most never list guilty pleasures. I mean, if I was an artist, would I tell a magazine that I have "Mandy" or "Make It With You" on my Ipod. Bruce Springsteen's Ipod has been listed at USA Today, but I didn't see any surprises there (besides missing any Elvis Presley songs). Still, with most artists telling mags that they are filling up their Ipod's with 5000+ songs, there has to be a GP in there somewhere. Right?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Alan Jackson Wants To Go Back

Good Time is not the best Alan Jackson album. I'd go with Here In The Real World, Drive or Don't Rock The Jukebox, but its the most idiosyncratic. For one, there are 17 songs, and all were written by Jackson. Second, Jackson, like the rest of the Country (or Country music), wants to go back to the days before the high gas prices, endless wars and high unemployment. And he's written two songs about it: "1976" which might be the first Country song to mention a Democratic President (Carter), and the equally simplistic " I Still Like Bologna", which will be a future hit. Both will get the most press from this album. Beneath the uptempo and love songs that Jackson has rode to the top of the charts, there's always been something deeper in Jackson's psyche that keeps me interested. A certain stubborness about where his career should go. He's had marriage problems, and its eluded to here, and with that he also is the only Country star who writes his own stuff who understands the complexities of marriage. On the hilarious "Nothing Left To Do", he's fashioned the best 21st Century Country love song with good humour. At 17 songs there are enough clunkers here to keep it from being his best album, but many albums later it's good for now.


Add to Technorati Favorites