Monday, June 30, 2008

Not A Review Of The Monterey Bay Blues Festival

Every year I go to the Monterey Bay Blues Festival. It's not that the lineups are full of household names, it's just to soak up the atmosphere. Isn't that what Music fests are about? Anyway, I went on a Sunday and stayed from 10-6. So I didn't see any of the main stage headliners (B.B. King) because I was too cheap to splurge for the extra cash. But the free entertainment was decent.
Here's a quick recap of what I saw for 8 hours:
Heard 3 versions of "Born Under A Bad Sign"
Heard 3 versions of "Got My Mojo Workin'"
Heard 2 versions of "Give Me One Reason", this must be a new blues standard
Also saw a lot of Obama t-shirts

Best band I saw were aged 16, 14 and a young girl drumming who was 9. And they were from Mississippi. Their name wasn't that good, though: Homemade Jamz Band.
But their youth! Maybe the Blues is in good hands after all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Piped In Vegas

I had big plans in Las Vegas of seeing a concert or a broadway show, but the prices drove me away. What did interest me was the music being piped in the the Hotel casino's soundsystem. Mostly uptempo, what a programmer would call "Bright Sounds". But I give whatever company does the music for these casino's credit for throwing in the odd song admist the big hits. There was Seger's "Beautiful Loser" or Van Halen's "I'll Wait" or how about Ian Gomm's forgotten 1979 "Hold On" (remember Stiff records?).

Friday, June 27, 2008


Sony/Legacy has come up with some interesting reissues of classic albums. Midnight Oil's Diesel and Dust, Carole King's Tapestry and Willie Nelson's Stardust have all been expanded to 2 CD's. All 3 CD's were transitional moments for those artists. King was known as a songwriter than a singer but Tapestry (like Sweet Baby James) gave birth to a whole slew of singer-songwriters (and ushered in the sensitive 70's). Willie threw another bone to the Nashville snobs by going the standards route. Using Booker T. Jones as a producer he showed that Jazz and Country did have a meeting place. Midnight Oil's album took off on "Beds Are Burning" and gave the band its biggest hit single and album. It too was a peak in a catalog that was growing. But it was also a remarkable glimpse into a region few Americans knew anything about: Australian Aborigine's and their treatment by their Government. A one hour DVD documentary rounds it out, as does a live DVD for King and an interesting best of the Songbooks for Willie Nelson that I suggest Legacy release as a stand alone.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Playlist for 6/26

Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue
Coldplay -Viva La Vida
Rihanna - Good Girl Gone Bad Reloaded
Dan Tyminski - Wheels

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nashville and BET

Nashville Star and the BET Awards shows are train wrecks, of course, but it's the why that has me wondering. You get more future country stars from American Idol than you do Nashville Star. The audience is 100% more for Idol, but at least the winner of NS gets a quick one album recording deal. The first year winner, Buddy Jewell, went on to have some hits and then faded into oblivion when his record company stopped promoting him. Oddly enough it was that year's 3rd place winner, Miranda Lambert, who has gone on to something special. But the fact is that all the other winners sucked or got sucked through the Industry hole known as lack of promotion.
The BET Awards '08 was pretty terrible. It really should've been called the BET Hip Hop show as there was little Soul music. But wait. Two hours in and a tribute to Al Green wakes up the audience. Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton and for the first time in 7 years, Maxwell. Did I say 7 years? That was the last time he put out an album. Neo-Soul strikes BET! Scott and Hamilton are good, but Maxwell brings a buzz to the crowd. "We have his albums, we know him and where has he been?", must have been the words coming out of the audience. His 1972 Al Green cover "Simply Beautiful" is just that, and then Green takes the stage. His voice is hoarse. He can't hit the notes like before. But his moves and the way he works the crowd. Amongst amateurs he's a God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Not Heart?

Heart have been eligible for the Rock Hall since 1991, but haven't gotten a sniff from the nominating committee. This is surprising, but this is not a post about how the Hall needs to induct more women. Myself, I'd been on the fence about Heart until this year, but am now seeing the light. A new book by Jake Brown , Heart In The Studio (ECW Press) will open your eyes, but its Heart's place in the Rock pantheon that swayed me. There is an influence there. You see it with the young women on American Idol. There best album was their first, but the singles hold up as well. So, why haven't they gotten a look? Probably, because of their 80's singles which aren't "Classic Rock" enough for the Hall's committee. Those singles are now part of the Hair band days of the 80's, a decade the Hall will barely recognize. The 70's singles should be enough to give them an edge. As the next set of nominations come to light, I'll have more posts on bands that just need to get on the ballot for their inevitable induction (Kiss, Alice Cooper). They just need to get past the Neanderthals on the committee. Add Heart to that list.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Comedy as Classic Rock

They were Rock stars and are now our version of Classic Rock. Those 70's comedians that not only sold out concerts but sold records. They went Top 20, they went Gold, they even had hit singles. This was the era of Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Cheech & Chong and George Carlin. Carlin's heart finally gave out at age 71, but the boundaries he pushed in his early 70's material was like a band or singer pushing the boundaries that we now revel in. There was a time when comedy records occupied a place on the upper reaches of the album chart. You don't get that anymore. The comedy albums made now barely make a blip sales wise, if they are even released at all. But that was our Classic Rock era-the 70's. And George Carlin was one of our favorite Classic Rock artists.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What Chris Martin Craves

I've grown to like Viva La Vida, but don't love it, and find it funny that the same critic's that blasted their previous one are now singing the band's praises just because they hired Brian Eno and have made their "serious" album. You see all artists eventually succumb to this temptation. For most, the years of being given scant critical respect makes them ditch the frothy singles and go for big statements. Chris Martin is feeling the need for a pat on the back. At a scant 45 minutes you have to give him credit for not indulging one's ego by padding this out for over 70 minutes. Like R.E.M.'s latest, Coldplay keep their songs quick and to the point. But does it add up? I like the lead singles, and hear "Lost" as the best song on the album. On second spin I liked it better, but it's not their best work (I'll go with their first), and like R.E.M. it will be admired by the critic's more than the die-hards.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Playlist for 6/19

Willie Nelson - Yesterday's Wine
Thelonious Monk -Big Band and Quartet In Concert
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
Carole King - Tapestry (2008 reissue)
Gladys Knight & The Pips - Claudine/Pipe Dreams (2008 reissue)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Melisma Tops The Charts

Chris Brown, Ne Yo, Rihanna, all the young black girls on American Idol. Melisma is still running rampant in today's urban market. I only mention this because I finally bought Rihanna's year old Good Girl Gone Bad. But I bought the "reloaded" version with 3 extra tracks. The big hit from the 3, "Take A Bow" is a melisma marked clone of "Irreplaceable". Beyonce herself has dabbled in melisma, but its become less pronounced. Keyshia Cole mostly avoids it. I've got nothing against the songs these people are singing. Most of them are good. But the singing has become so bad that I can't stomach them for more than a few songs at a time. It's too bad that these clones still persist. I believe every thing rolls in cycles. But this has been going on for a few years and I'm starting to wonder.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cold Hard Rules

The rules are simple, and it ticks me off when artists don't want to follow them. You say you wanted to stream the Coldplay album before buying it? If you were lucky to got to their myspace page on June 7 at a certain time ( I can't remember the time) you could listen to it. Or if you lived outside of the U.S. last week you could stream it on their main website. But what a pain in the butt. My rules are simple. I don't care how big an artist you are or think you are. This is 2008 and your new album should be available a week ahead of time for streaming. You say you're worried about illegal downloads and sharing? Well, guess what, I could go on Limewire the day your album comes out and find what I want anyway. Streaming is an effective tool. I've listened to may albums to my liking and bought because of what I've heard. Yes, I was going to buy the Coldplay CD regardless of whether I streamed it or not. But in 2008 bands should give us the option.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Catalog Prices

Shouldn't catalog prices by all artists be priced below $8. I use that price because that seems to be the average price for used CD's in good condition. I was thinking about this because BMG/Sony recently reduced prices on a ton of catalog. But the choices of which ones get priced below $8 and which ones are still priced above make little sense. Sure, you can see what they're trying to do. Lesser known titles get priced low and continued sellers are still above-budget price. But why? In 2008, shouldn't Billy Joel titles like 52nd Street be priced the same as Storm Front? Record companies don't understand. If someone wanted the former they would go to a used CD store or website and find it cheaper than the company price anyway. So why not keep all catalog prices where consumers are buying them anyway.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bowie's Space

It wasn't until the Flight of the Conchords parodied David Bowie that I looked at my Bowie collection and realized that I was missing his "Berlin Trilogy". Low, Heroes and Lodger were co-produced with Brian Eno and along with two Iggy Pop albums represented a creative peak for Bowie that he couldn't sustain. A detailed and finely done book by Thomas Jerome Seabrook called Bowie In Berlin (Jawbone) is the best summation of this period to date. Seabrook's a Bowie fan but this isn't a fan book. Bowie gets no pass for his drinking and drugging (along with Pop) during this era. After the Conchords, I bought all 3 (used, of course) and my own rankings differ with most people. I like in order Lodger, Heroes and Low, and was most disappointed by the latter, which is almost an E.P. But if you factor in Lust for Life and the Idiot, Pop's best solo albums that Bowie produced than this was Bowie's last great moment of critical acclaim. By the time of Let's Dance, he's in need of a hit. Everything after that album has been a mess. Bowie was a mess himself during the Berlin period. But his creative juices were at their peak. Seabrook puts you right there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Selling The Beatles

I've read more books about the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan than any other acts. When I go to Borders the Beatles and Dylan sections outnumber the Elvis one, but all three still reign. There's a reason for this. All of 'em were cultural icons. The Beatles and Elvis transformed the way the music business marketed itself and Dylan changed the way words can be used for meaning. There's been books about Elvis being marketed, and now there's one (at least that I've read) on the Beatles. Beatles For Sale by John Blaney (Jawbone Press) looks at how the Beatles were marketed and while it offers no startling revelations (at least if you know the history of the Beatles, and who doesn't), it still makes some points that can be used for today's music acts. The Beatles were marketed to the masses, alright, but never had complete control over their images or products. Everything around them was coming at such a fast pace that they couldn't keep up with all the extra stuff. Beatles For Sale is rather clinical. Blaney won't get you to fill the music. He's not a music critic anyway, and a lot of numbers and percentages are thrown at you. But it should be read by all artists who wonder what goes on around them while they're busy creating the music.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Playlist for 6/12

Stanley Clarke - Bass-ic Collection
Daryl Hall - Soul Alone
Prefab Sprout - Two Wheel Good
Return To Forever - Romantic Warrior
Howard Hewett - Best of
Free- Fire and Water
Merle Haggard - Okie From Muskogee (live)
Commander Cody - Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas
Nat King Cole -Very Thought Of You

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tortured Soul

Dennis Wilson's only officially released album from 1977, Pacific Ocean Blue, finally gets the CD treatment in 2008. And it's definitely going to be a much talked about reissue. This is a haunting piece of work. Wilson was full of drugs and alcohol by this time, and also in and out of love, and it all shows up in the lyrics. The music is not entirely a departure from the Beach Boys. But I hear more Elton John piano and California mid-70's sound than Beach Boys. But it's the lyrics that will haunt you, and Wilson's voice, sounding a lot like ZZ Top's Billy Gibbon's, is tortured enough to bring it off. If you're expecting songs of Cars, Girls, Beaches and good times, this isn't for you. Also included in the reissue is Bambu, the never-released followup, becasue Wilson couldn't get his act together to finish it. This is less tortured and a more straight-forward pop-rock release. But what's here is good enough. Because this music hasn't been heard from in years, unless you have the vinyl or a bootleg or a stolen mp3, this will be an eye-opener for all first-timers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indie Sellout's Get A Book

How do you review a book by a band that you're not totally enamored with? That was the crisis I contemplated while looking at a review copy of David Browne's Sonic Youth tome, Goodbye 20th Century. It's not that I hate their music, but I've never gotten behind the critical acclaim for them. I do like Sister better than Daydream Nation and have a soft spot for Goo. But their 90's and beyond stuff I've barely paid attention to. Browne's book is best in the middle when the band is navigating the Indie world of the mid-80's. But it's funny, for a band that is so revered by critics who despise corporate Rock, they went Major in the early 90's and have never looked back. Guitar Hero, Juno, Geffen Records and now a compilation at Starbucks. Selling out to pay bills. If you're a fan, you'll eat up Browne's book. I like 'em at a distance, and this book, no matter how good, hasn't changed my opinion.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Even More Stupid Music Biz Tales

Did you know that since 2002, webcasters can't broadcast more than 4 songs by the same artist in a 3 hour period. Landline radio stations are different, but since just about every station now streams everyone is in the same boat. Big deal you say. Well, I was listening to Sirius' Dave Marsh show and he wanted to play more songs by Bo Diddley but couldn't. After he reached his limit, he could only play samples. Remember when Elvis died and stations played his stuff for hours. Or John Lennon. Or Sinatra. Apparently someone is monitoring this stupid rule because Marsh wouldn't violate it. Tribute show should be given a pass. When Bo Diddley or James Brown dies stations should be able to give us all we want in remembrance. More stupid music biz tales. Will it ever end?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More Stupid Artist Tales

Looking for new Summer songs to add to my Ipod, I came across "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock, which is not a remake of the Beach Boys song, but a mash of "Werewolves of London" and "Sweet Home Alabama". Good fun summer song. Not interested in buying his album I go to Itunes and decide to was 99 cents. But Kid Rock's not there. And then it dawned on me that Rock is managed by Bob Seger's team and they don't believe in cherry-picking singles, but want you to download whole albums. Thus, Seger and Kid Rock aren't on Itunes. But the stupidity of these people is startling. Here's what I did. Loaded up Limewire and searched for the Kid Rock song, and surprise, tons of files. Just when I get tired of blogging about stupid artists like Garth Brooks and AC/DC who don't want you to buy their songs or albums from Itunes, along comes another. But all I could think while on Limewire was, Kid Rock's not on Itunes. Kid freakin' Rock!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

UK Lists Vs. US Lists

Eclectic would be a lightly used word to describe the British published Classic Tracks Back To Back Singles/Albums (Thunder Bay). It's always interesting to read British Magazine lists and then read one from a U.S. one. This book is surprisingly light on obscure British albums. By the way, the book doesn't rate these albums/singles, but presents them chronologically. The surprise, considering that Country music isn't king in the U.K., was to see albums by Lucinda Williams, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam and the Dixie Chicks. The singles section is more British oriented and some obscure (to these U.S. ears) stuff. This is a big colorful read, and interspersed throughout are little music history lessons.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fooling Themselves

Whenever I go in to Borders to buy a magazine, I go to the CD section and am always depressed. Not because it's not stocked with stuff you can't get at Best Buy or Circuit City, but because the CD prices are too high. Which makes me think that one day Borders will go the way of those two stores and only stock greatest hits albums and new releases by select artists. Who would buy a catalog Country title for $18.98? But that's the price I saw on many releases. This is 2008 and if you're not downloading then you're going online to buy used product. In my cart I've got about 15 titles that I'm waiting to buy used, when the price is right. At Borders the latest releases by Usher and Madonna were "sale priced" at $14.99. Admittedly, the clientele at Borders is supposed to be less bargain oriented then the one who goes to Target, but music stores and the industry is playing themselves for fools if they think that people don't price hunt, even for one CD.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Playlist for 6/5

Al Green - Lay It Down
Elvis Presley - Separate Ways
Elvis Presley - Burning Love and Hits From His Movies
Daughtry - s/t
Now 28
Ashton Shepherd - Sounds So Good
Radiohead - Best of

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why Bo Was Ticked Off

Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs has no Bo Diddley songs. Surprised? No wonder Bo was pissed off about being forgotten. But Tool and Weezer are represented. Tool?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bo's Box

Reading the book, Machers and Rockers, and the death of Bo Diddley got me thinking about those great Chess Box sets of the early 90's. I scooped them all up, and Diddley's was the revelation at only 2 discs. MCA put out a Definitive one CD collection in 2000, but that Chess box is the one to get. Along with the ones on Willie Dixon, Muddy, Howlin's and Chuck Berry, these boxes were what made investing in Box Sets so worthwhile back in the day. I'm glad I got them all.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Big Beat

One would hate to think that Bo Diddley, who died today at 79, went to his grave bitter about his placement in the Rock canon. On our end their was no denying that he was at the forefront of the Rock era. But Diddley wanted more. He called himself the originator, and felt that while white artists, like the Rolling Stones, got all the glory, he got nothing. There's truth in that. Like a lot of Black artists from the birth of Rock, Diddley didn't reap the financial windfall's that white artists did.
But the reality is that Diddley will be remembered for two things: the Bo Diddley beat and the Bo Diddley boasts. The latter influenced rap, even though I've yet to hear a rap artist say it, and the former influenced a ton of English rock bands of the 60's. So, Diddley was bitter near the end. The last article's I read from him showed that he was still full of pride but he also wondered when he'd ever get his full due. Death has a way of elevating even the most minor of musicians. Diddley wasn't minor, and the tributes that will pour in hopefully will give him the peace of mind that he never got in the real world.
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