Saturday, April 26, 2008

Almost As You Remember Them

Madonna's Hard Candy and Tom Petty's reunion with his first band Mudcrutch will be heartwarming reminder's for die-hard's of those 2 80's icons. With a triple assist from the Neptunes, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, Madonna's 50th birthday album is pure, well ear candy. But there are some ominous break up lyrics lurking beneath the dance grooves. You'll be dancing too much to care. If, like me, you think Madonna's music is better when she thinks less and dances more than you'll hear Hard Candy as it's supposed to be. One listen to Mudcrutch, which features 2 members of the Heartbreakers, and its clear that the rocking "Refugee" days are over. There's not much Rock here, but there is plenty of bloozy Country Rock a/la the Dead. Remember, Petty's band started just as the jam band era was at its peak. Why is this better than Petty's albums of the last decades. For one, even on the mid-tempo stuff Petty sounds more inspired than when he's sleepwalking through them on his own albums. It's odd that Petty no longer want to rock out, but not uncommon for someone who's 58. Think about other rockers his age: Springsteen still rocks but it usually sounds stilted. McCartney can still get off a good Little Richard imitation but not much else. Elton John? No. Bob Seger's 2006 comeback included very few rockers of any distinction. The drive is lost as you get older, and the rock and roll begins to sound forced. No wonder most of these acts find their new stuff ending up on AC channels and shunned by Classic rock ones.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Willie's Last Bio, Until He's 80

Joe Nick Patoski's Willie Nelson (Little, Brown) may be the last bio we'll need on him for a while. Willie turned 75 in 2008, so look for another view of him when he's 80. Patoski is definitely a fan, but he's also critical and cuts Willie no slack with his womanizing and drinking. But I do have a bone to pick. How could he run through Nelson's last 10 years of so-so albums and not give a sentence or two to 1999's all instrumental Jazz/Country Night and Day? What's weird is that he mentions it in his Discography section on his 40 favorite Nelson albums. It's a forgotten gem in Nelson's catalog. But when you have a catalog as big as his there's bound to be some that even a nearly 500 page bio will miss.

Phil Collins Wakes Up

Phil Collins said he was retiring from music today. He'll still write but he's done with making records. So, will he be a Billy Joel, pimping his old hits on endless concert tours. Maybe he'll be a Paul Simon who makes a record every 10 years and claims it'll be his last. It took Joel 14 years before he make a new single. A horrible love song to his new lady. Why did he bother? Collins falls in and out of love so often, it won't surprise me if a new love inspires more cheesy love ballads. Then there's the lure of scoring films or writing a theme for one that could easily snare Collins. No, what's bothering Collins is the same thing that bothers all the older singers. They don't sell records anymore. Simon's last album didn't top 300,000. No one downloaded Joel's single, Elton John's last album flopped. So why keep making records for only a few devoted fans? Collins is past his hit making days. Any of his new songs might make a dent on the AC charts, but without a plug from an American Idol appearance, his new stuff wouldn't make the Itunes Top 100 singles. Time rolls on in the music biz. If you're a Bruce Springsteen or a Tom Petty you still believe people will buy your new stuff. If you're a Jackson Browne or James Taylor you repackage your old songs with gimmicks like "Solo Acoustic" or "One Man Band". But you haven't given up hope that some new listener will latch on to your songs and spread the word. Phil Collins now knows it's no longer 1986.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Playlist for 4/24

J.D. Crowe & The New South
Ricky Skaggs - Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass
Jamie Lidell - Jim
Smokey Robinson - Timeless Love
Foreigner - Double Vision
Police - Ghosts In The Machine
Police - Compilation
Roger Miller - King of the Road (box set)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Texas, Not Nashville

In my rant about how there are no good Country Music magazines now that No Depression has folded and the Journal of Country Music has gone all-digital, I forgot about the quarterly Texas Music, which, yes focuses on that state. But if you believe that Texas today is producing as good a sound as Nashville then this isn't a bad read.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

End Or Just The Beginning of The Conchords

We won't know until 2009 when Flight of the Conchords comes back whether or not they've shot their load on their first full length CD. If you've seen the show, you've heard these songs. That might disappoint some who were hoping that they would hear new stuff. But this is still prime comedy/parody/satire. But you do wonder, because it's so hard to maintain brilliant beginnings when it comes to this type of stuff, will they have anything left to write about. And will they approach it with the same fervor?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Real Showtime

There's a video on Youtube that's been seen over half a million times of Pete Maravich's greatest hits. Pistol by Mark Kreidler does for Maravich what his Namath did for Joe Namath. Paints a human portrait of a superhuman athlete. When my Dad was stationed in Germany in the early 70's, Maravich came to a basketball clinic on our military base. I never forgot it, got an autographed ball, and remember him hitting every shot (trick or otherwise) that he attempted. From then on, I was hooked, and he turned out to be my favorite player. But like Namath, injuries caught up to him, and he didn't get to play as long as he wanted. He died too early, but NBA fans didn't forget him. He was rightly placed in the Top 50 players of all time. Long before Magic, there was Pistol Pete. Kreidler's book and youtube videos help keep him alive.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Will There Be A National Record Store Day In 2020?

April 19 was National Record Store Day, where you were supposed to go to Independent stores and help them survive. I don't know it this will be an annual thing or one-off. But as long as consumers keep tight with their record buying money, it could be a yearly event. A noble idea for sure, but what to do if didn't live in an area with many Independents Where I'm at there aren't many of these, and if you're like me and like to buy cheap or used, independent stores can make choosing difficult. I did buy 2 CD's yesterday, but they were online. Used and cheap. Not every city has a Rasputin or Amoeba that stocks lots of cheap used CD's. The stores around here have a middling selection. Make no mistake, there's nothing like going to a record store and being surrounded by voices you've heard and have yet to hear. Independents and major record stores are faltering because of price and in the case of the latter, selection. Support your mom and pop? Yes. But in this day and age of just getting by, music lovers will go for the bargain at any cost.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Everybody's Got A Heavy Heart

You grow up with the E Street Band, like the generation before you did with the Beatles. So, when a member of a band you love , keyboardist Danny Federici, dies at 58, you grow a heavy heart. And spend the night looking over album covers, album photos and album credits. His organ anchored Bruce's first Top 5 hit, "Hungry Heart". And now you have a heavy heart.

Playlist for 4/17

Black Keys - Attack & Release
REM - Accelerate
George Strait - Troubadour
George Michael - 25
Roger Miller - King of the Road Box Set
Willie Nelson - One Hell Of A Ride Box Set
Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer
Ross Johnson - Make It Stop

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No Peace, No Love, No Soul

When Soul Train ended in 2006, it went out with a whimper. Don Cornelius had already quit and the show was a shadow of its former glory. A combination of MTV, BET and Hip-Hop killed the audience that was watching Soul Train. That audience from the 70's to the mid 80's had grown up and Hip-Hop was not for them. And then neither was Soul Train. The kids who now dominated the record buying had no use for an old relic, not when they could see clips on BET or MTV. Soul Train's annual awards shows startled to lose steam as well. So bad that in 2007, most of the big names didn't even bother to show up. No respect for the Don? Now that awards show, along with the TV show are long gone. You can still conjure up nice memories by going on You Tube and seeing old Soul Train clips. It's possible that Cornelius never got his due. He got a special Grammy, but he has disappeared along with his shows legacy. You can't buy old Soul Train TV shows on DVD. The Soul Train web site hasn't been updated in 3!! years. If Cornelius no longer cares, why should we? But if you grew up with the sounds of Old School Soul, and Soul Train was the only place to see acts sing and dancer's dance the latest moves, then you have to feel a twinge of sadness for Cornelius and his signature brand.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Book Update

Seems like a good time to clear the cupboards of books that I've read recently.

Rock On - Dan Kennedy
Prime Green - Robert Stone
Kill All Your Darlings - Luc Sante
It Came From Memphis - Robert Gordon
Where Dead Voices Gather - Nick Tosches
Boy Who Cried Freebird - Mitch Myers
Ace Records - David Stubbs

Friday, April 11, 2008

Best Reissue Label Of All Time?

Quick, what's the world's foremost reissue label? If you said Rhino, you probably live in the U.S. If you said Ace you live overseas. A new book on how Ace became one of the best reissue label's is out now on Black Dog Publishing. Ace Records by David Stubbs is part bio, part picture book and such a great concept and read that I wonder why no one has thought of doing the same for Rhino Records. In fact Ace Records beat Rhino by several years, even if they rarely covered the same turf. For those of us living in the States, an Ace label reissue had to be found with import prices. The first ones I remember buying were by B.B. King, Jackie Wilson and King artists like Little Willie John. Like Rhino, Ace is still going strong. Some might say it's overtaken Rhino, which has slipped in recent years. But either way, a quick look through Ace Records and you'll be glad both of them are still around, putting your memories down on disc.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Captain Consistent

Troubadour is George Strait's 25th album (not counting greatest hits or live ones) since his debut in 1981, and it plays to his strengths because Strait has been one of the best at picking the right songs. That doesn't mean that over the course of his 25 albums (no, I haven't heard 'em all), that he doesn't fall prey to the Country music tradition of filler. On Troubadour, there are bound to be some that only the die-hards will savor, "River of Love" yuck. But because he's so consistent in his song quality a song called "I Saw God Today" comes off better than the title. Of his contemporaries only Alan Jackson is near his equal in album quality, and unlike Strait, Jackson writes alot of his stuff. If Stait's latest isn't one for all time, don't fear, in 2009 he'll drop another one. A couple classics, a few keepers, some filler and his core audience will eat it all up.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Playlist for 4/10

Earth, Wind & Fire - All 'n' All

Isley Brothers - Heat Is On & Go For Your Guns

O'Jays - Family Reunion

Lost Soul Of Philly International - Various

Gamble & Huff's Greatest Hits - Various

Keyshia Cole - Way I Am

Underground Rockapsychabilly

Unless you read about him in Robert Gordon's It Came From Memphis or heard him on the companion soundtrack knocking out the immortal "Wet Bar", then the name Ross Johnson means nothing to you, unless you're a Rock fan who lives in Memphis. Or an Alex Chilton fanatic. Johnson played with him, but in the course of the 30 years that Make It Stop (Goner) covers, he would've played with anyone who passed through Memphis. To describe Johnson's records would be a disservice to him. It's unlike anything you'll ever hear. But where someone said a psychotic Jerry Lee Lewis, I'm thinking Big Bopper on acid. He's Memphis and he loves Elvis and Sun records, and the best of these do early Rockabilly/Psychabilly justice. The instrumental covers are superfluous. There are people like Johnson in every big city. Loving early Rock 'n' Roll and recording one-off records to show to their friends. Few get them released. You may never want to hear this University of Memphis librarian's stuff again after one listen. But you'll never forget it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rock Crit Anthologies

I'm a sucker for anthology books by rock critics. I'm thinking of the ones by Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches, Robert Christgau, etc. Two new ones I've added to that list are Luc Sante's Kill All Your Darlings (Yeti) and Mitch Myers' The Boy Who Cried Freebird (Harper). I have to admit that I've not heard of either of these two writers. I'm sure I've read their stuff in the magazines and newspapers they write for, but the names didn't ring a bell. Sante isn't really a music critic. He does art, book and movie reviews. But his essay on the blues is the best since Robert Palmer wrote Deep Blues. Makes me wish their were more music stuff in his collection, but he has a keen pen for all the things he sees. Myers is more observer than critic. There aren't a lot of criticism's in his book. In fact some of these pieces are music fiction. There's a great chapter on Doug Sahm and his "Requiem For A Cowbell" is now part of rock crit lit history. They may not be household names for music nuts like me who think they have all the Rock critics memorized, but it's good to add two more names to the list.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

LIttle Steven Whacked Out

On my They Deserve To Be Inducted, I list Kool & The Gang as an artist that should be inducted. This usually gets strange stares. In this April 2008 interview, Little Steven Van Zandt lists Herman's Hermits for induction. I'll match my Gang against his Hermits, and you can tell me whose choice is debatable. Herman's Hermits!? Little Steven is a member of the Nominating committee. No wonder the committee is so ripe for trashing.

Why Gamble & Huff Still Resonate

In the same week that Barack Obama gave his "Race" speech, Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Listening to their induction speech and listening to Obama's, I began to see how G&H's music still hits me years after they've written their last great songs. At their best, G&H's political songs were rarely preachy (although in later years it wasn't always so), undeniably catchy and usually right on. Obama's speech hit me the same way. As Jon Stewart said, a politician speaking to us like adults, how about that? But the message in their music was always what drove the Philly sound's politics. You could dance to it in the clubs, but when you got home and put it on your turntable, the lyrics spoke to you. Their induction into the Hall was too long in coming. But how important a role their music played in our lives is parallel to how important Barack Obama's run for President has been.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Don't Cry For Him

The Elvis fan in me is not really crying over 2 Billboard chart activities that occured this week: Mariah Carey passing E for 2nd place in #1's and Madonna doing the same for most Top 10's. Records will be broken whether its sports or music charts, and these were bound to be had. But Carey's #1's aren't as iconic as Elvis'. But Madonna's Top 10's are at least more memorable.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Playlist for 4/3

Gnarls Barkley - Odd Couple
Jeb Loy Nichols -Days Are Mighty
B52's - Funplex
Tom T. Hall - Sings Miss Dixie & Tom T.
Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
Randy Newman - Land of Dreams
Cars - Heartbeat City
Moby - Last Night

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Laughing To Stop From Crying

Dan Kennedy's book, Rock On (Algonquin) will be the first of many books on the follies of the Record biz as it struggles with the Internet age. Kennedy doesn't dwell much on the industries failings, he's more a bemused observer as was his stint at Atlantic records as a "Director of Creative Development". Which basically meant trying to make something of a Fat Joe or Jewel recording. Kennedy's tome is more humorous than what we're likely to get from future musings on the sorry state of Record Companies. Consider this the laugh before the inevitable sad ending.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Boxing Willie

Did somone really wait until 2008 to do an all-encompassing box set of Willie Nelson? Sure, there was a previous box, but it only covered his Columbia Years. So, we finally get One Hell Of A Ride, and at 4 CD's, it surely is. No, not every Willie album gets a nod. You say you're a fan of forgotten Willie like Healing Hands of Time or Tougher than Leather? Sorry, but when you think of all the album's he's done you could put out a 6 or 7 CD box. But 4 CD's covers it pretty good. The first 3 disc's hit the "hit" years, when Willie was still charting on the Country singles charts. By disc 4 the hit's are disappearing, and all that's left for Willie to do is follow his heart: you got your Reggae Willie, Blues Willie, Jazz Instrumental album Willie and Daniel Lanois produced Willie. Oh, and Children's album Willie. In fact disc 4, which will infuriate Willie purists who only like his hard Country, might be the most cohesive disc in the set. As I'm writing this, Willie has no doubt just cut 2 more albums. He's a recording machine, but this Box slows him down just enough for everyone to enjoy him one more time, before he pops out another CD.
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