Thursday, July 31, 2008

Playlist for 7/31

Band of Heathens - s/t

Girls Guns & Glory - Inverted Valentine

Drew Emmitt - Long Road

Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville (reissue)

Prince Fatty - Survival of the Fattest

Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere- Nudge It Up A Notch

Sugarland - Love On The Inside

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

60's Meets 70's Meets Indie Twee

Seattle's well-reviewed self-titled Indie debut, Fleet Foxes, is typical of the genres releases, except for one thing. Like a lot of Indie the vocals are twee, quaint. Kind of like the lead singer of My Morning Jacket. And like a lot of Indie bands they are influenced by Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. So, I thought, what's the big deal and why should I give the album a spin even though I know it'll end up on many year end lists, judging by the reviews I've seen. Well, unlike a lot of Indie bands they mix their Beach Boy chorales with 70's Classic Rock. At least they do on half the album. So, while groups like the Imperial Teen and Apples In Stereo have been mining the 60's Pop sound for years, Fleet Foxes have mixed it up and made it all the more interesting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Abba Opens Old Wounds

The film version of Mamma Mia, which my wife, but not I (I'll wait for DVD), saw must have opened some old critical wounds in regards to how the critical elite view Abba. They were never a Crit-fave in the States. And they were never as big here as they were in overseas. But the new film has brought out some snarly comments from film critics, not music critics. The old allegations are still there: the music is "sugar candy", "silly", "ridiculous" and any other old phrase that was used to describe Abba back in the 70's. It's just this type of music that critics like to blow off. But time was Abba's winner and while some old time critics still balked, they have been given a decent revisionist upgrade. But like Journey, Abba's Gold CD continues to sell because the music was catchy and memorable. Unlike Journey, Abba has a slight chance of getting in the RRHOF. Don't laugh, and remember, that in 2002 they were a nominee. It was their only nomination, but I remember that there wasn't a lot of outcry of them being on the ballot.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sugarland Come To Entertain

I wasn't going to buy Sugarland's Love On The Inside. I bought their first album and thought, good, but so what. I streamed their 2nd and thought the same thing. By the release of this 3rd album I'm thinking like I do about a lot of Country singles artists that I can wait for a Greatest Hits release. But Love On The Inside is a surprise. The "Deluxe" edition has 17 songs and the best thing about the album is not Jennifer Nettles' singing which can get a little overbearing, but how the duo never fail to entertain. I hear a truckload of singles here, and they are all better than the first single, which is cute and I've grown to like, but the better songs here stick out more. You got good ballads on the order of their breakthrough "Stay", Pop-Rock stuff left over from the mid-80's and twangy Country. It'll be the most fun you'll hear all year on any album, Country or Pop/Rock. The latter is a crucial point here. Sugarland may come from the Country but they're not really Country. Nettles' Georgia twang gets her on the County charts, but like a lot of today's Country artists, they grew up with the CHR format of Top 40 radio. That's why the songs on the album could come from that era. It's just that their songs are much better than the other Country acts that are mining the same territory.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not Muzak Anymore

Why is it that you hear the strangest selection of songs when you're at a Grocery store or a fast food restaurant? These places often play better music (which they pay to receive from those non-stop Music services) than landline or satellite radio. t used to be Muzak coming from their speakers, but not anymore. Years ago the Burger King in my town had a killer selection of 50's and early 60's that didn't include the obvious hits. Or maybe I mean they play the strangest songs that you would never think of hearing. I'm thinking of Sly & The Family Stone's
"I Want To Take You Higher" which stood out amongst the usual soft rock that you hear. I could do a post about every weird choice that I've heard.

Garth As Songwriter

Maria Muldaur's Yes We Can (Telarc) (guess who she wants to be President) is not as she says a protest album but a pro-peace one, but the real reason I wanted to listen to it was for her cover of "We Shall Be Free". Yes that one, by Garth Brooks. There aren't many recent songs on her CD, but this cover caught my eye. It turns out to be pretty good, with Muldaur sharing vocals with Folk icons Odetta, Joan Baez and Holly Near. Muldaur's voice is a lot smokier than when she started, and its that voice that keeps most of these performances afloat. The album is a little flat musically, not keeping up with all the guest Women. Still, seek out her cover of "We Shall Be Free". Garth Brooks isn't exactly a critic fave, so it would be interesting to see what some of the reviews will say about this cover.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Playlist for 7/24

Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Randy Travis - Around The Bend
John Mellencamp - Life, Death, Love and Freedom
Chris Rock - Cheese and Crackers
Roy Ayers - Best of
Al Green - Greatest Gospel Hits
Esperanza Spalding - Esperanza
James Hunter - Hard Way

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Any Good Country Music Articles Out There?

Da Capo's Best Music Writing 2008 is another good summation from 2007's various outlets. This year's edition is edited by Nelson George, who doesn't do much musical criticisms anymore, so it's good to see his name on anything musical. My only quibble with this and 2007's book is the lack of anything Country Music in the featured works. You would think that the departed No Depression would be good for an article, but there is no Country works to be found here. Outside of that there are good articles, and a few duds: the Saturday Night Fever recap adds nothing, the defense of Contemporary R&B doesn't sway me and there's a long article taken from New Yorker about a Finnish Classical composer that could've been substituted for something else. Like a Country one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Unearthing 90's Lo-Fi Classics

Just how many great albums were there in the 90's. I've been wrestling with this for the last couple of years thanks to reissues. First, Pavement's reissue of 1992's Slanted & Enchanted and now Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville gets the same treatment on ATO Records. Phair's 1993 album, as rightly pointed out by Alan Light's liner notes, doesn't sound very Lo-Fi to our 2008 ears. Hell, it's pretty straight forward Rock and Roll. Sure, its minimalist: Guitar, Drums, Bass, maybe a synth, but compared to today's Indie Rock its downright rocking. And Phair's future Pop leanings are more on display than what I remember. ATO has tacked on a Docu DVD and 3 bonus tracks, only 1 I like, but as I wrestle with how many good albums the 90's gave me compared with the other decades, reissues like the Pavement and Phair ones give me hope that there may be more of 'em that I underrated.

Monday, July 21, 2008

But Should You Pay For It?

Lil Wayne has dumped so many mix tapes on the market that now that he has a new officially released one, you wonder why anyone should pay for it. 2007's Da Drought 3 was one of the most acclaimed mix tapes, and a freebie it ended up on a lot of year end lists. At 2 CD's it was good but lost steam by the end of disc 2. This is no different than most double CD's, and Lil Wayne's raps get tedious after awhile. His 2008, Tha Carter III is only one disc and is made to move units. Wayne is smarter than you think. He knows how rap records are supposed to be sold in 2008: you got your hardcore, throwaway single, slow jam, a political statement and a whole lot of me, me, me. It's a big old entertaining statement, but if you don't like rap you won't be swayed. This is made to hit all the urban radio markets, and the language can be crude. It's a rap album , after all. But if you can get over that, Lil Wayne will likely keep you amused for an hour.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mashing Zevon

I'm no big fan of Kid Rock, but I'll give him his props for letting me add a new Summer song to my Ipod Summer song playlist with "All Summer Long". But what really makes me happy about it being a hit is that the Warren Zevon estate gets a piece of the pie. The Skynyrd estate gets a lot of royalties for "Sweet Home Alabama", but while "Werewolves of London" is the breadwinner for Zevon's family, he doesn't sell as much catalog as Skynyrd. So, I'm always happy to see that the kid's who are listening to Kid Rock will be turned on to Zevon. Maybe they'll even download "Werewolves". Zevon would have a sinister smile on his face if he heard Rock's final product.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Call It Country or Southern Rock

I've probably listened to more Country/Rock artists in 2008 than in any previous year. Making an effort to keep up with the Americana charts will do that to you. The year started strong with the latest from the Drive-By Truckers. Two Summer releases from Austin's Band of Heathens and New England's Girls, Guns & Glory keep the winning streak alive. I'm not gonna say that either band offer anything original. I tend to like the BOH album a little bit better because the singing is better. GGG's 3rd album, Inverted Valentine will definitely put a smile on your face if you like a mix of Ryan Adams meets Dwight Yoakam. BOH are more for us Drive-By fans. It's self-titled debut is Country-Rock done 2000+ style.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Playlist for 7/17

Steinski - What Does It All Mean
Beck - Modern Guilt
Doc Watson - Best of Sugar Hill Years
Ricky Skaggs - Best of Sugar Hill Years
Jack Johnson - Sleeping Through The Static
Leona Lewis - Spirit
Grascals - Keep On Walkin'

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tough Times For The New Traditionalists

You don't hear Country voices like Randy Travis on Country radio anymore. Hardcore traditional, it could only been successful in the 80's and 90's. But Country radio is more Pop/Country now and a 49 year old Old School guy like Travis has little chance of getting played unless he has a killer single. And even then the followups won't connect. Travis hasn't had a hit single since his last #1, "Three Wooden Crosses" in 2002. Part of it is Travis' fault, since he's made a bunch of Gospel records and hasn't courted Country radio in years. No other singer in the 80's took George Jones' vocal tics and ran with 'em like Travis did when he first appeared. Keith Whitley, the only other singer Travis' equal, was in the Haggard/Frizzell league. But Travis was all swoops and such when he sang.

On his first proper Country album in years, Around The Bend, Travis uses all his props to prop up an album full of average material. He's so good it almost works, even though the end result is a middling album in his catalog. Oddly the best song is a Bob Dylan cover. But without a clear cut classic this has little chance of getting played. Maybe "Dig Two Graves" can get on the air, and I hope I'm wrong about his radio blackout. Like another reviewer said, Travis just isn't getting pitched the songs that a George Strait is. Times are tough for the new traditionalists. They saved Country music in the 80's, but in the 00's the kids rule.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beware Mellencamp Fans

John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love and Freedom will not win back the fans who want to hear "Hurts So Good" and nothing else from him. Mellencamp has been on this road for the past decade, willing to perform his old hits in concert because that's what pays the bills, but making albums that have nothing to do with his 80's heyday. This is as stripped down and dark as Mellencamp will probably ever get. It's a tough synopsis of today's world, but Mellencamp does find some love and hope for us all. His voice is craggy and T Bone Burnett's production is typically rural. There's an out of place song in "My Sweet World" that is there to please radio programmers. If you've tuned him out since his last chart success in the early 90's then this won't please you either. But I've always fell for Mellencamp's midwest ruminations whether they were dressed up in pop hooks or stripped down to their bare essentials.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mix It Up

There aren't many officially released mix tapes. Copyright hassles are the big problem, but you can find many online. I listened to 3 of these this week. Two by Girls Talk and the compilation What Does It All Mean by Steinski. Steve Stein wasn't the first DJ to create mixes. Grandmaster Flash and other early DJ's beat him to it. But he was one of the first to cut and paste samples into a coherent piece. His compilation's legacy are the "The Payoff Mix" and "Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)". These revolutionary pieces set the stage for down the road mixes that hip-hoppers took and ran with. So, when you hear DJ Shadow or a Girls Talk mix tape, you'll hear Steinski's influence. What he did back in the day may sound primitive to what these guys are doing now, but mad respect to one of the first.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Best Good Old New Classic American Rock Band

Stay Positive might not be the greatest Hold Steady album. I'd still go with Separation Sunday. This is their fourth album and leader Craig Finn is at the crossroads of trying to figure out what to do next. There are still nods to the bands previous meat and potatoes rock. Everyone hears Springsteen but I hear Thin Lizzy. But Finn tries to mix it up a little here, and the lyrics hint at something darker in his mind. But just when things veer off course, along comes one of those classic rock moments that Finn loves so much. Regardless of whether this is the best Hold Steady album, it's a good one. And with it they just might be the best Good Old New Classic American Rock Band going.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just Like Buffett

I've heard enough of Jack Johnson's various songs that buying one of his CD's never crossed my mind. But I ran across a decent price for his Sleep Through The Static and I've come to the conclusion that it wouldn't have mattered which one of Johnson's CD's I bought-they all would've sounded the same. Johnson has his tuneful moments and a Greatest Hits album would be all you'd need. He's also one of those artists that you know what you'll get ahead of time. The laid-back vocals and easy-going melodies. With his growing cult he's a '00 Jimmy Buffett. With Buffett you also knew what you were getting when you bought one of his albums. The laid-back vocals and easy-going melodies. Johnson is a new era Soft-Rock artist. At this stage Johnson has yet to pen a classic like "Margaritaville". Years from now when his album sales dry up it won't matter if he sells records anymore. He'll always have his cult, and they'll sell out his shows. Just like Jimmy Buffett.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Playlist for 7/10

Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis - Two Men With The Blues
Willie Nelson - Stardust (Reissue)
Billy Joel - Stranger - (Reissue)
Journey - Revelation
Girl Talk - Night Ripper
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rush In Rolling Stone Magazine

I wish I could tell you that I would vote for Rush in the Rock Hall, but I can't. Longevity is nice and Rush's fans at least deserve to see their idols on the ballot, but I just can't check them off. But I wouldn't be surprised if they got in on the first ballot. It's not that I don't like them. Moving Pictures surprised me when I revisited it for this article and a lot of their songs hold up better than the albums from where they came. But I had to chuckle when I saw a feature on the band in Rolling Stone. It got a lot of people thinking that maybe Rush's time for the Hall is soon. I mean, Jann Wenner green light's an article on a band that the magazine has ignored since their inception. So, good for Geddy and the boys. I won't cringe if they are on the ballot. But a band I liked better got a 3 star review in the same magazine, albeit with a new lead singer: Journey.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Every Album Every Year I Was Born

A post goint around the net during the 4th of July was to name your top albums for every year you were born.

64 Hard Day's Night
65 Out Of Our Heads
66 Rubber Soul
67 Sgt. Pepper
68 Electric Ladyland
69 Abbey Road
70 Layla and Other Assorted
71 Every Picture Tells A Story
72 Honky Chateau
73 Spinners s/t
74 Court and Spark
75 Blood on the Tracks
76 Songs In The Key Of Life
77 Saturday Night Fever
78 This Year's Model
79 Off The Wall
80 London Calling
81 Hi Infedility
82 Thriller
83 Can't Slow Down
84 Born In The USA
85 No Jacked Required
86 Indestructible Beat of Soweto
87 Sign O The Times
88 Traveling Wilbury's Vol. 1
89 Three Feet High and Rising
90 Mama Said Knock You Out
91 Nevermind
92 Slanted and Enchanted
93 Exile In Guyville
94 Superunknown
95 Endtroducing..DJ Shadow
96 House of Music (Tony Toni Tone)
97 Dan Bern s/t
98 Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
99 Play
2000 I Am Shelby Lynne
01 Love and Theft
02 White Blood Cells
03 Welcome Interstate Highway
04 Grey Album
05 Steady Separation
06 St. Elsewhere
07 Back To Black
08 Pending...

Monday, July 07, 2008

We Want The Funk

There was a post on another site about the lack of Funk titles released on CD. There are some Rick James titles missing and I've noticed 3 of the Commodores 75-78 titles missing on CD. Two of the latter can be downloaded on Itunes as well as a Harold Melvin 1975 title, To Be True. I had to download Chuck Brown's 1979 album on Itunes, Bustin' Loose, because it is now out of print. I'm not big on downloading albums. I like CD booklets and artwork and making my own CD of a download is just too long. I'm old school. Anyway, I want to applaud Shout Factory for reissuing Gladys Knight & The Pips 1974 Curtis Mayfield produced Claudine Soundtrack as a twofer with the inferior Pipe Dreams. Knight's catalog is a mess too, with many missing titles. But the Mayfield release is an overlooked gem in a big catalog. This is the reality of 2008. I wouldn't say that a lot of the R&B titles I want on CD will ever come back in physical form. Most likely they'll stay digital. You have to search, and for old school people like us that may be our only hope.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Corporate Rock Lives

Arnel Pineda sounds just like Steve Perry. That's no revelation. But the latter is the title of the Pineda led Journey's Wal-Mart sold CD/DVD. A freakin' bargain at $12, it has one disc of new songs the other of old songs in which Steve Perry gets his props via Pineda. Oh those new songs! They do sound just like old Journey ones. Neal Schon can bitch about Steve Perry all he wants, but he's learned much from his old nemesis. While Perry wrote the words, Schon was writing the melodies and with Revelation he's studied Perry's knack on how to craft radio-made songs. And Jonathan Cain fills in for Perry's ballads by writing a new one that could be taken from an old Perry lyric sheet. This album won't change anyone's opinion on Journey's legacy. Although it's funny to see it get a 3 star review in Rolling Stone, a magazine that used to hate these types of bands when they were top of the charts in the 80's. And remember the post 9/11 issue in which David Fricke waxed positively on the power of "Don't Stop Believin"? Corporate Rock lives.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Billy Joel's First Laugh

There are 9 songs on Billy Joel's 1977 breakthrough, The Stranger, now out as a 2CD Legacy set. And I can hum every one of them. Including the 2 songs that end the album as filler. This is what makes great albums. Can you sing every song on it? Joel went for it on this album. After Piano Man, sales were average. And all his best instincts are on view here. The New York Piano, the New York Characters and Joel's popcraft. He'd get close with 52nd Street and Innocent Man, but here he was most tuneful. He doesn't do "Just The Way You Are" anymore, and that's too bad. It's an evergreen, for sure, but it's still soft-rock gold. Legacy has added a June 1977 concert as a DVD and it includes "Songs From An Italian Restaurant" and "Just The Way You Are". It's an interesting artifact. It's Joel right before he's about to blow up. By the end of the year The Stranger is selling and Joel never looks back.
I'm always amused that some critic's hated Joel. I think they were reveiwing his personality more than the music. How can you resist an album as tight as this? Or maybe they just hated the big ballad single. Joel hasn't made an album since 1993 and they one new song he did for his new wife was a dud, so his catalog hasn't grown from "Piano Man" upward. Maybe he has nothing more to give. He doesn't seem that interested in Pop music, but still sells out his catalog on tour. In the end he's got the first laugh at all those who wished he would've gone away 31 years ago.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Playlist for 7/3

Martha Wainwright -I Know You're Married...
Yaz -Upstairs At Eric's
Johnny Osbourne - Truths and Rights (reissue)
Elton John - Jump Up
Heart - Little Queen
Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust (Reissue)
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