Saturday, January 31, 2009


MTV has lost 23.9% of its core audience, and what we old-timers who were there at the start of the channel want to ask is, that's all? MTV stopped being the channel anyone stopped at first for music or culture right after the boy band era ended. So, for the last 5 years the only time people care about the channel is when the have one of their award shows. But even those are lacking enthusiasm. It is only MTV by name. Don't be fooled by the impostor now taking up cable space.

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's An Anniversary

Rock and Roll has reached quite an age. It seems every day there's some sort of anniversary. The cover of the March 2009 has Guitar World feting the 40th of Led Zeppelin's II album. And of course 2009 is the 50th for Motown. But you could never stop could you. has a daily this day in rock history page. We're all getting older, and what were once 10 year celebrations are now turning into 40 and yes, 50th ones.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guess The Springsteen Super Bowl Setlist

You get 12 minutes. Do you do all hits? Throw in a new song?
Springsteen could be unpredictable. He thinks his new rockers measure up to his old ones.
But I'm going to guess he plays it straight with 4 songs. The last one may be a stretch, but it would probably be the biggest crowd pleaser -subject matter be damned for a Super Bowl show.

Glory Days
Born To Run
Hungry Heart
Born In The USA

More Moon

Some music critic's, so taken with Tom Moon's 1000 Recordings book, might think it's a good idea to want to hear every one of his selections. For awhile, I was thinking the same thing. But then I nixed most of the classical and opera and show tunes. I have some of those any way, in different versions. Moon's book had me thinking that I should listen to most of his Jazz suggestions. But then I checked Ben Ratliff's and a Penguin Jazz guide and now will only go for some of them. The Rock/Soul stuff will be easier to sort through, and I haven't found many there that I didn't already have. On some of his titles, I've found used and cheap, but others are tougher to get a decent price. I may be sitting on those for a long time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My All Country 2009 Pazz & Jop Ballot

Since I complained about not enough Country albums or singles getting into Pazz & Jop, I feel personal pressure to back all this up by listing nothing but a Country-oriented ballot for 2009. But since I vote in the Nashville Scene poll, I don't know if its necessary, unless the 10 best albums I hear in 2009 turn out to be Country ones. In fact my own Voice ballot had 3 Country singles but only 1 Country album (okay, 2 if you want to count Alejandro Escovedo, who seems more Rock than Country to me). I couldn't vote for Raphaal Saadiq in the Scene Poll, but I could in the Voice one. Yet, I hear enough Country and non-Country to make out a ballot with no problems (and a lot of exclusions) for both polls.

Billy Powell R.I.P.

People complain about hearing "Layla" on Classic Rock radio all the time. But I never get sick of Duane Allman's slide guitar. Screw 'em, and the ones who whine about "Free Bird". Possibly Billy Powell's most famous take of it is from One More From The Road. Powell died today at age 56, but his keyboards played a big part in Skynyrd's sound.
Here's an interesting link:

Swampland: The Greatest Keyboard Players of The Southern Rock Era

Playlist for 1/28

Rockin' Memphis (Proper box set)
Kid Creole - Going Places
Los Van Van -La Coleccion Cubana
Derek Trucks Band -Already Free
Albert Ayler - Spirtual Unity
Carl Stalling - Carl Stalling Project

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wrapping Up 2008?

Two year end lists I'm just now getting to. Robert Christgau used to put his up when he was at the Village Voice. His Dean's List is now at his URL above, but I didn't find much there that I haven't got or streamed already. Looking over the 1-50 rankings on the Chuck Eddy Rhapsody page (he goes up to 150) , only 1 CD jumped out at me. Outside of the Ross Johnson, which I already have, and maybe the Donnie Iris reissues, the only CD that I forgot to check out in 2008 that appeals to me was the Rick Springfield one. A fan of his 2004 Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance, I meant to stream it upon release. Eddy's initial review never got me running for a copy, though, yet his high ranking has me interested. I'll look for a used copy. As I'm doing with the Erykah Badu from 2008 which placed 5th in Pazz & Jop. Usually, I have a lot of catching up to do, but leaving it at those 2, I feel pretty good about giving 2008 a rest.

Digging Up Pazz & Jop Names

One thing I do every year the Pazz & Jop results are posted is check out the ballot section. A lot to go through, but I usually always look for familiar names first. Sadly, 2008 brought no Nelson George ballot. But I did see J.D. Considine, Rob Sheffield, Jeff Tamarkin, Chuck Eddy and a few others who can now all be called veteran critics. And Amy Linden. I've had a soft spot for her ever since she wrote the liner notes to some Rhino KC & The Sunshine Band reissues in the 90's. Her ballot is always R&B influenced. It's also cool to see who else voted for the same album you did. So, here's to you Carol Cooper, we both thought the Darius Rucker single was pretty good (even though I foolishly forgot to include it on my Nashville Scene ballot).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Somebody Picks On Billy Joel In 2009

I thought this piece was satire The awfulness of Billy Joel, explained. - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine, especially the comments about "Only The Good Die Young" and "Movin' Out", but it appears to be legit. It's also lazy and stupid. Picking on Billy Joel? In 2009? I don't know who this guy is that wrote it, but what musician will he pick on next? James Taylor?

Non-Stop Springsteen

Be wary of artists who say their recent stuff is on a par with their classic material. I usually cringe when I see interviews with people who say their newer albums can match their older ones. It's pride, alright. And ego, and the lack of people who are willing to tell them that their new stuff is okay but not great. Bruce Springsteen is one of those. His 3rd studio album of new material since 2005. Or 5th album since then (counting the Seeger studio and a live album), has Bruce feeling that these recent ones will match his past triumphs. Stating that his recent 3 can match any of his previous 3 in his catalog. Working On A Dream, coming just a year and a half after Magic, sounds like typical latter day Bruce. Lots of acoustic stuff, mumbled vocals and the occasional pop sunshiny song. Oddly, even though the album is getting some of the worst reviews of his career, I find it better than the downbeat Magic, but missing the lyrical insight of 2005's Devil and Dust. But it's no great one, and like Magic I don't hear anything hear that Bruce hasn't done before, and now his lyrics are really sounding tired.
Springsteen is on a recording roll, so it's possible that he'll drop a great one in the next few years. But this one isn't one of them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Motown's Greatest Acts

Another Motown 50th Anniversary list. Below My Top 15 Motown acts.

1. Stevie Wonder
2. Marvin Gaye
3. Smokey Robinson
4. Temptations
5. Supremes
6. Jackson 5
7. Commodores
8. Four Tops
9. Rick James
10. Debarge
11. Gladys Knight & The Pips
12. Marvelettes
13. Martha & The Vandellas
14. Jr. Walker
15. Mary Wells

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Down Beat's 75 Greatest Jazz Guitarists

DownBeat's Feb. 2009 issue has an article on the 75 greatest Jazz Guitarists. They don't rank them, but the list is interesting. Of the 75, on 5 are in the DownBeat Hall of Fame (the only Jazz Hall of Fame that matters). The 5: Wes Montgomery, Django Rheinhardt, Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa. Take away the non-Jazz leanings of the last 2 and you have only 3 guitarists.
Looking at the issue I came up with some names that belong in the Jazz Hall. Grant Green, George Benson, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Earl Klugh. Okay, my list is lousy on historic figures and mostly goes 70's/80's. But seeing some of the Jazz names that they've inducted at DownBeat, I'd say those above all merit discussion.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Country Gets The Pazz and Jop Shaft

This is not a sour grapes post, but just stating the facts. In the past, Country music hasn't always fared well on Pazz & Jop, but there was always at least 1 or 2 Country albums that would chart. Albums by Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert have all charted in the Top 40. In 2008, a year that produced 2 of the year's best Country albums, Jamey Johnson's That Lonesome Song and Hayes Carll's Trouble In Mind, only the Drive-By Truckers were able to chart Top 40. Johnson went #56 and Carll #60. Even Taylor Swift, who probably got more play with music critic's than the average Country singer, only got to #51. Hell, once critic proof fave Lucinda Williams stalled at #52.
Most Pop music critic's don't seek out Country titles, unless they cross over, like Taylor Swift, or get so much buzz that they can't avoid listening to it, like Loretta Lynn's Jack White album.
But still the showing this year was pretty poor. Not one Country oriented single got above #32.
I'm not surprised because it's like this every year. Unless the Voice gets more Country critic's to vote, it will always be like this.
Right now I'm listening to an Otis Gibbs CD called Grandpa Walked The Picket Line. Actually released in 2008, it's now getting a more proper one in 2009. As of this writing its the best Country album of the year. What do you say music critics? Want to push this into the P&J Top 40?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2008 Pazz and Jop Ballot

My Village Voice Pazz and Jop ballot is now up.

Tom Lane's Village Voice 2008 Critic's Ballot

As for the final results, no surprises, outside of a #4 Erykah Badu appearance. The Voice is the last of the 2008 polls to come out, and with so many websites now challenging magazines for year end poll supremacy, it's capacity to shock is not there anymore. That and the fact that many critic's who vote in the Voice also vote in other polls.

Left Field Love Songs

Every January labels comb their archives and release Valentine Day themed collections. The big 2 it seems are Motown and Sony who always find a way to rename things that they've already released. That's why this year, looking at the VD releases the one that caught my eye was by the Marshall Tucker Band. What a left field choice. Love Songs (Shout) may seem like a strange choice until you think of it. You could do a million of these types of collections on Rock bands that you wouldn't normally think of as having written love songs. The Tucker love song has 12 songs and half are from the band's peak 70's period. The other half from recent vintage. The newer stuff is good but lacking Toy Caldwell's guitar and songwriting chops. It's mostly generic Country that they do now, but the 70's stuff is prime and rescues long lost album cuts that your woman (or man) will remember and bring back memories. In fact this album's main buyer would appear to be someone who loved this type of stuff in the 70's. A perfect Valentine Gift for your very older significant other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Playlist for 1/21

WOW Gospel Essentials
Supertramp - Crime of the Century
Return to Forever - Light as a Feather
Mother Love Bone - Apple
Jazz Divas Gold
Ne Yo - Year of the Gentleman
Peter Gabriel - 3
Caravans - Very Best of
Mos Def - Black of Both Sides

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rock Hall's Elvis Connection

I was just thinking that the reason the 2009 Rock Hall inductees didn't upset me like before is that 3 of the inductees have an Elvis connection. There's Wanda Jackson who once toured with Elvis in the 50's and through his encouragement went from a Country singer to a Rockabilly one. She later went back to Country. And then Bill Black and DJ Fontana who backed Elvis on his greatest recordings, the Sun ones. So, what the hell, maybe 2009 was a good year for the Rock Hall, despite the awful 2 acts they chose (and you know who I think they are).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Best performances from the Obama Sunday (18th) Washington Mall concert:

Bettye Lavette & Jon Bon Jovi - Change Is Gonna Come
Garth Brooks - 3 Song Medley
Bruce Springsteen/Pete Seeger - This Land Is Your Land
Beyonce - America The Beautiful

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Motown's 10 Greatest Albums

2009 marks Motown's 50 anniversary, so a good time to come up with Motown lists. Motown was a singles factory, and not until the 1970's did albums matter to the company. So, making a list of my 10 favorite Motown albums is really a Stevie and Marvin affair with a few strays.

1. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
2. Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life
3. Stevie Wonder - Talking Book
4. Smokey Robinson - Quiet Storm
5. Rick James - Street Songs
6. Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
7. Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On
8. Temptations - Sing Smokey
9. Marvin Gaye - Here My Dear
10. Lionel Richie - Can't Slow Down

Saturday, January 17, 2009

R.I.P. Circuit City

Circuit City was a force when it first opened in my town. Great service, good selection. Well stocked music section. Finally, I thought, a decent music store. But then things began to change. The CD section was a mess, rarely stocked with new releases on Tuesday mornings. The rest of the store was a search for someone with knowledge. A ho-hum attitude prevailed amongst the workers.
Now Circuit City is gone, and while I feel for the 30,000 workers now unemployed, I don't mourn the loss of the store. In the past few years, I rarely ventured inside it. On the few occasions that I did, nothing changed my perception about the place.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Not Induct The Whole Class

Why didn't they just include Chic and the Stooges? 6 out of 9 got in. You know these groups will be on future ballots and will one day get in. Why not just get it over with. As for War, they may be this year's Abba, Conway Twitty or Cat Stevens. One time nominated and that's it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2010 Rock Hall

The good news for acts that can't get inducted or nominated is that the 2010 class of newcomers is pretty woeful. And let's not talk about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'd rather vote for Whitney Houston, who is also eligible and had more impact than the Peppers. But can you believe the idiots at the Hall. They've now let Chic be nominated 5 times and the Stooges 7(!) without getting in. Let's see, couldn't they have done what they did with Wanda Jackson. Move 'em around. Chic could be in the sidemen category. Remember their albums with Diana Ross, and Nile Rodgers playing on David Bowie's album. And the Stooges could be in as Early Influence. I mean they did influence punk, right?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Soul 2008 Style

Ne-Yo writes 'em better than he sings them, although listening to 2008's Year of The Gentlemen I was surprised at how melisma free it was. Obviously, he wasn't influenced by Brian McKnight. Nor was he by Babyface, who he often gets compared to. Ne-Yo does want to bring back the sound of Quincy Jones' late 70's/early 80's productions. He's best when he's vulnerable, and that's commendable in a 21st Century Soul singer. "Why Does She Stay" is the album's best song, and an example of reverse machismo. "So You Can Cry" and "Miss Independent" right behind. This is a better album than Usher's, but it does grow wearisome. Eventually, Ne-Yo's beats begin to resemble each other. I was surprised to see some critic's list this as the best Soul album of 2008. What Ne-Yo's doing, by trying to give us Off The Wall era music is fine, but I'll take Raphael Saadiq's tribute to 1960's Soul. And he's a better singer. Although Ne-Yo may have him beat as a songwriter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When Voices Don't Matter

Bono's NY Times editorial tries to make the case that some singers' voices get better with age. Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Pavarotti and the subject of his article, Frank Sinatra. But it's only partly true. Tony Bennett's voice still sounds good, but George Jones' is shot. And Aretha Franklin's vocals don't seem that hot to me anymore. Merle Haggard sounded good last time I heard him sing live, but Frank Sinatra's was shot by the time he did that dreadful Duets album. We don't care that Bob Dylan's voice doesn't sound that great in his 60's, because he sounded that ragged in the 60's. But when you make a living off of the legend of your voice like Sinatra, Jones, Franklin or Pavarotti (who got booed in the last years of his life when he couldn't hit the notes anymore), the slightest hiccup comes through. Willie Nelson can't compete with George Jones' vocals, so the fact that he sounds almost the same as he did when he started doesn't alarm anyone when they hear him sounding a little craggy on his recent record.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pitchfork 500

It's not until MTV blossoms that the Pitchfork 500 book becomes interesting. Punk, disco, rap just isn't them. Pitchfork's a website that specializes in finding the new music. And no amount of collaboration on a book is going to help the early entries. The Thelma Houston entry is a prime example and is an embarrassment and why they included a sidebar on Yacht Rock makes no sense. Oh, and they got the year wrong for "Don't Fear The Reaper". It was 1976, not 1978 which makes the whole entry on it irrelevant. Sticking to Indie Rock and it's a good read. Get 'em out their comfort zone and let the squirming begin.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Most Disappointing Purchase of 2008

There were a lot of candidates for this post. But I decided not to include any promos, which discounted my most disappointing album of 2008: Black Keys Attack and Release. Instead I began to think of only albums that I bought with my hard earned money. And then I narrowed it to 1, yes one.
And it is:

James Morrison - Songs For You, Truths For Me

Morrison, a UK singer, had a good debut album. Blessed with the best sandpaper Soul voice since Rod Stewart, his blue-eyed Soul songs were indeed fresh.
But the followup eschews the Blue-eyed for glossy Pop and tried to reach an American audience with songs that were just plain weak. I won't give up on that voice just yet, but the tepid response to this album, even overseas, hopefully means that Morrison go back to the blue-eyed styling of his debut.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Forgotten Country Soul

A 1000 recordings in Tom Moon's book, but 2 stood out as seeming to come from nowhere. Minnie Riperton's 1975 Stevie Wonder produced Perfect Angel and Narvel Felts' Bear Family Retrospective from 1996.
Riperton's album may have defined the future Old School genre. Even in 1975, the melodies and words sounded like the genre would from 75-80, the peak years of Old School. Riperton died at a young age, and she followed up this album with a pretty good one, but there's a reason why "Lovin' You" sounds ahead of its time.
Outside of Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty, no one sang Country-Soul better than Narvel Felts. You want falsetto in Country, he had it. Or he could go low like Conway. Felts' biggest hits were cover songs, usually of Soul hits, but he gave it his all in each performance. The Bear Family collection is the only one out there that does him justice.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Book Update

I don't do enough of these updates, but I do read books. Here are 7 from the last quarter of 2008.

1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die - Tom Moon
I Hate New Music - Dave Thompson
Old Roots New Routes - Fox and Ching
Best Music You've Never Heard - Nigel Williamson
Lou Reed Collected Lyrics
Pitchfork 500
Skydog Duane Allman Story - Randy Poe

Thursday, January 08, 2009


That's how old Elvis would have been today. Anyway, in celebration my list of 3 overlooked and underappreciated Elvis songs as of this moment. 3 from each decade. And all covers.

50's - "Blue Moon" 1954 Eeerie, perfect for late night listening. And one of the only times (the only time?) Elvis sang falsetto (at the end of the song)

60's- "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" 1966 What looked like a throwaway on the Spinout soundtrack turned out to be the definitive version of this Dylan song

70's- "Promised Land" better version than Chuck Berry's. From 1974 and proving that when the mood struck him he could still get it up

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Every newspaper, magazine and Internet site having to do with music had year end articles about the precarious state of the music industry. Lil Wayne's album was the year's best seller at 3 million which is monumental, but others are limping toward him. Stores are closing, people are finding ways around high CD prices and continuing to download illegally and the RIAA finally gave up trying to sue everyone who's doing it.
It seemed to me that in 2008 nothing stuck for long. You remember the days of the big blockbuster albums: Born In The USA or Sports. Albums that hung around, continued to sell and launched a bunch of singles. Now an album from Beyonce or Maroon 5's last one have such a short shelf life that they are forgotten by the end of the year, no matter how many singles get released from them.
All signs point to 2009 as a big year for land stores. I still buy at Best Buy and sometimes Borders, but do most of my spending online. It's cheaper and the deals are better. The Music biz will always survive, but this year something must change.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Playlist for 1/6

Rolling Stones - Singles Collection (box set)
Stanley Brothers - Complete Columbia
Mississippi Sheiks -Best of
Alison Krauss - I've Got A Feeling
Darius Rucker - Learn To Live

Monday, January 05, 2009

Most Overlooked Album of 2008

Paul McCartney's Electric Arguments (released as The Fireman) came and went and nobody bought it. Only die-hard's heard it. But that's not your fault. It's McCartney's for not promoting it. Which is sad, because the album was his best solo album since Tug of War, which means when McCartney is long gone historians will look back at his catalog and pick albums that were overlooked. And Electric Arguments will be the one. My guess is that McCartney himself will forget about it, and go back to crafting his carefully constructed late period albums. But you need to hear this album, before it's relegated to the history bin.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

You Tube

It wasn't until I picked up a paper (remember those?) and saw an article, that I had my answer as to the 00's most important invention. You Tube. Yes, that was it. Seems like its been around longer, but it didn't start un til 2005. And we all go there now. For sports, music, Hell, anything.
So, that's my winner. You Tube as the big cultural invention of the 00's.

Axl Wonders What Year It Is

I didn't think Chinese Democracy was bad, but it just hung there. But the album might have sold better had Axl Rose let people know that he was still alive. Rose seemed to think this was 1988 not 2008, and that the brand name of Guns 'N Roses would carry him through. Where were the exclusive interviews or television appearnces? The music public's attention span is shorter now than it was back then due to the Internet. Not promoting his own record killed its chances. You could say that the album tanked because it just sucked, but had Rose let people see him talking about it might have given it a better shelf life.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Heavy Mod

Well, good, the best reissue of the year is taken from a British music magazine, Mojo. Alright, it's only 2 days into '09, but the January 2009 issue has Heavy Mod, from the Mojo editors, is the best Mod collection I've heard. Admittedly, their haven't been many Mod collections, but this one hits all the high notes. No Who or early Kinks, but if names like the Creation, Caravan or Bubble Puppy ring a bell, then you know you've hit a good Mod comp.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

No Pledge

One time back in the early 90's I told my wife I wouldn't be buying many CD's anymore. I figured that I was caught up with all I ever wanted. What was I thinking? And why is it so hard to back off? Because when you're a music fan/critic you're never caught up with anything. Catalog titles, new titles, curious titles, they all come at you all year long. Now I never make that pledge anymore. At the beginning of a new year or in the middle of it. My wife understands. I think.
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