“Ok now. Corner of Ignacio Vallarta Blvd. and Suarez. Quickly!”
Steve stared out the cab’s window at the clear San Diego night and smiled; it wouldn’t be long now. That son of a bitch Schon was going to pay…dearly. And it wouldn’t be quick, either.
He cracked his knuckles in quick succession, starting with the thumb on his right hand.
Steve Perry, former lead singer of rock band Journey, closed his eyes and imagined what he was going to do with his ‘friend’ Neil Schon when he arrived at his apartment. He wouldn't kill him, no. Too easy. Make him suffer, absolutely!
Exactly how and with what 'instruments' would he carry out his plan had yet to be determined.
Violent, absurd scenarios were being played out in his mind when the cabbie started to drift over towards the soft shoulder of Highway 805 North. The sound of gravel spitting from the tires and crashing into the wheel well was enough to startle the cabbie awake and he jerked the wheel left, hard.
That single act of overcompensation by the driver was enough to send the Lincoln Towne Car straight into the concrete median. The airbags deployed with a ‘whoosh’, probably saving the cabbies life. Steve Perry, sitting in the back, wasn’t so lucky; his head was slammed forward into the drivers seat head rest and his nose, that famous bird-like nose, shattered.
“At…least it’s…insured…” mumbled Steve as he drifted off into unconsciousness.
A blinding light and the sound of low, indistinct utterances, the 'clinking' of bottles and an unplugged electric guitar being strummed.
What the hell?
In his blindness he fumbled for his nose, found it, and starting squeezing.
It wasn’t broken!
As his eyes started adjusting to the light, Steve thought he saw…nah, it couldn’t be. He closed his eyes, rubbed them, and looked straight into an hallucination from the past…
...to be continued
Thursday, January 31, 2008
“Ok now. Corner of Ignacio Vallarta Blvd. and Suarez. Quickly!”
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
There are some bands that, when they first came out, were critically scorned but adored by millions (in most cases) of fans worldwide. Some have been releasing albums under the radar to little or no fanfare, some have maintained their popularity and others have faded away. History, for the majority of these bands, has not been kind and many are currently residing in the "Where are they now and who cares anyway?" files.
I believe that some of these bands deserved a little better.
Perhaps now that enough time has passed we can re-evaluate and listen with different, less biased ears. Perhaps these bands deserved their fate. I have my own opinions, so I'll let you be the judge.
Electric Light Orchestra
Alice Cooper (up 'till 1980, anyway!)
Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Well...what say you?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
In the spirit of full disclosure I am about to reveal to the world what happens when I hit "SHUFFLE SONGS" on my iPod. There's over 12,000 now, and some could be, well...a little shocking. I solomnly swear that the following list is absolutely true and random. This is an experiment, one that may REALLY backfire on me, but I'm willing to risk it for the good of Musickind!
OK, no turning back now, here I go!!!!!
TRACK #1: Greenacre Bay, China Crisis. Not bad, good start...
TRACK #2: Sunday Buttermilk, by The Black Crowes. A little retro, but still ok.
TRACK #3: Lonesome Town, by Ricky Nelson. Fine. Credibility still intact.
TRACK #4: My Father's Gun, by Elton John. From Tumbleweed Connection. Philbert will hate this one, but I'm still ok as far as I'm concerned.
TRACK #5: Untitled Instrumental, by Television. A surfy bonus track from the remastered version of Marquee Moon. Phew! I'm sweatin' here!
TRACK #6: Calendar Girl, by Stars. Excellent!
TRACK #7: This Must Be The Place, by Pet Shop Boys. Very undervalued, great band.
TRACK #8: 3-Speed, by The EELS. Off Electro Shock Blues, a 'deep cut'. Home stretch now...
TRACK #9: Pledging My Time, by Bob Dylan. Blonde On Blonde, that should get me back in Philbert's good graces!
TRACK #10: My Melancholy Blues, by Queen. So everyone knows I'm a fan of Queen, so...
My God, that's a little bit like Russian Roulette. Very frightening indeed! Not that I have anything to be ashamed about on my iPod.
I'm just really glad Mr. Roboto didn't 'pop' up! Or Da Da Da by Trio...or Boston...or.............................
Supergrass, Diamond Hoo Ha Man
The ‘Grass are at it again for 2008 and if it’s anything like their last album, 2005’s Road To Rouen, it will be something to cheer about. They remain the last great active Brit-pop band, churning out great albums since their debut I Should Coco in 1995.
Billy Bragg, Mr. Love And Justice
Mr. Bragg has been doin’ his thang since 1984 (nineteen-freakin’-eighty four!), and he’s only released 6 proper albums (plus two with Wilco interpreting Woody Guthrie--Mermaid Ave. #1 and #2). It’s obvious the man waits until he’s got ‘A’ material, which makes this 2008 release so exciting. The old communist is still vital!
Trip Hop mavericks Portishead are set to release an album sometime mid-2008 after an 11 year absence. The million dollar question is, can they meet the expectations of their rabid fan base (what’s left of them, anyway)? We’ll have to wait and see…
Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
These psychedelic art house weirdos escaped the carnival and jumped straight into a David Lynch movie for last year’s excellent 'Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?', so one can only guess where Mr. Kevin Barnes and his euphoric indie popsters will end up for their new one.
The Cure, TBA
Hey, forget the fact that Robert Smith is now a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor; a new Cure album is ALWAYS cause for celebration!
My Bloody Valentine, TBA
There is no way in HELL that Kevin Shields can match the sonic innovation of Loveless. Perhaps that’s why he waited a full 17 years to record the follow up. This, above all, is the most anticipated new release of 2008. Expectations are high!
If the rumors are true, Damon Albarn and company will be re-forming for a full length sometime this year. Damon has been a busy camper since Blur’s last album, releasing two highly successful Gorillaz albums and forming a band with former Clash bassist Paul Simonin. Like My Bloody Valentine, the release of this new album will be an event, but the jury’s still out whether or not they can recapture the magic of the early days.
This band has never disappointed me. This is the one release I feel confident will exceed my expectations.
My Morning Jacket, TBA
Probably my most anticipated new release of 2008. I became a rabid fan after hearing their remarkable follow up to ’It Still Moves’, ’Z’. They released an excellent live album (OKONOKOS) which kept us fans satisfied, but now it’s time for the boys to release their follow up. Can’t wait.
M Ward, TBA
Oregon troubadour M Ward’s last offering (Post War) was one of the finest releases of 2006, and included the folk-rock gems ’Chinese Translation‘, ‘Magic Trick‘, ‘Poison Cup‘, ‘To Go Home’ and ‘Requiem‘. In a just world this guy would be HUGE, but for those of us lucky enough to have discovered him, he’ll no doubt remain a cherished secret.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I humbly offer you Uncle E’s picks for the greatest debut albums of all time. I will no doubt leave off your favorite, so rant away in the comments section!
In no particular order:
The Clash, The Clash
Joe Jackson, Look Sharp!
Nick Lowe, Jesus Of Cool
The Who, The Who Sings My Generation
Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
The Stooges, The Stooges
The Doors, The Doors
ABC, Lexicon Of Love
EELS, Beautiful Freak
A3, Exile On Coldharbour Lane
The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground and Nico
Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy
The Stone Roses, the Stone Roses
Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
The Cars, The Cars
English Beat, I Just Can't Stop It!
The Specials, The Specials
Pink Floyd, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Massive Attack, Blue Lines
The Smiths, The Smiths
AIR, Moon Safari
Moby Grape, Moby Grape
Oasis, Definitely Maybe
Miles Davis, Birth Of The Cool
Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Television, Marquee Moon
Supergrass, I Should Coco
Big Star, #1 Record
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
XTC is a band that has been around for over three decades, has released a consecutive string of nine outstanding albums, has two of the best songwriters of the past 35 years (Colin Moulding and especially Andy Partridge) at their core, yet most people are familiar with but two of their songs: Making Plans For Nigel (from Drums and Wires) and Dear God (a single, later added to the album Skylarking after it became an unexpected hit). Some of you may not even be aware of those two, who knows?
Whatever the case, like the mighty and underappreciated Nick Lowe, this band warrants some serious attention.
XTC has evolved over time from a jerky new wave explosion of a band into a lyrically sardonic and lushly orchestrated pop music machine. Their first two albums (although decent they are not included in the nine I mentioned earlier), were all nervous energy, no doubt inspired by the punk movement at the time.
Drums And Wires, their third proper album, contains their biggest hit to date in Making Plans For Nigel, an outstanding hybrid of modern technology and ominous new wave jerkiness. Their humor and quirky wordplay remained intact, but the bigger sound on the album proved a turning point for the band.
Black Sea and English Settlement, their next two albums, see XTC rocking harder than ever before, but a shift in direction towards mid sixties British Psychedelia was becoming evident, especially in the excellent tracks Respectable Street, Towers of London and Generals And Majors (from Black Sea), Ball and Chain and Senses Working Overtime (from English Settlement).
After some good critical attention and massive touring took it's toll, it was kind of obvious that Andy Partridge would suffer a mental breakdown (given his well documented stagefright 'issues'), which ultimately led to the bands retirement from touring. It has been said that Mummer, their next album, is very much the work of an “eccentric in isolation”, with Partridge writing 13 of the album’s 16 songs. A much more subdued and uneven affair than it’s predecessors, it is awash with some truly excellent acoustic music full of inspiration and pastoral English imagery, sounding not unlike another undervalued songwriter from England (I’m talking about you, Mr. Ray Davies!)
1984’s The Big Express saw yet another stylistic change in the bands direction, this time utilizing the extra time away from the road to take full advantage of the studio, and from the first listen it certainly becomes apparent that something has changed, and for the better. Painstakingly detailed and sonically lush, this albums innovations would inspire Partridge and Moulding to go even further with the next album,Skylarking, their undisputed masterpiece.
Released in 1986, Skylarking was a revelation. The band totally and unapologetically jettisoned it’s new wave roots in favor of the sounds and sonics of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, circa 1965-1967. Produced by Todd Rundgren , who tightened up XTC’s sound considerably for this album, it contained the classics Summer’s Cauldron, Grass, Season Cycle and Dear God (as mentioned earlier, this was a late addition, but fit’s the albums mood and flow perfectly.) The detailed, sweeping instrumentation coupled with improved songwriting (some would say perfect songwriting) make this XTC’s Magnum Opus, no question.
Oranges and Lemons is where the band fully embrace psychedelia (just look at the cover, for God’s sake!), and Nonesuch (1992) is simply a massive, lovingly crafted record almost the equal of Skylarking, becoming especially evident while listening to the 17 tracks back to back. Although not as thematically coherent as Skylarking nor quite as goofy or eclectic as Oranges and Lemons, this album maintains it’s position with me as their 3rd best album. Their 2nd best album, in my humble opinion, came next…
After a seven year sabbatical (!) the band return in 1999 with Apple Venus Pt. 1. This is a beautiful and ambitious record, although it certainly has some very dark moments as well. On the lighter side is “I’d Like That”, a song in which Partridge channels McCartney to great effect, and on the darker side is “Your Dictionary”, probably the most bitter sounding lyric Partridge has ever penned. Here's a sample:
Is that how you spell love in your dictionary?
Pronounced as kind
Is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?
Black on black
A guidebook for the blind
Well now that I can see my eyes won't weep
Now that I can hear your song sounds cheap
Now that I can talk all your corn I'll reap
I'm not so sure that Joey wed a Virgin Mary
There are no words for me inside your dictionary
Is that how you spell kiss in your dictionary?
Pronounced as care
Is that how you spelt me in your dictionary?
You led 'round everywhere
Lush and melancholy, exuberant and sad, Apple Venus Pt. 1 will stand the test of time. Even though it contains shades of the old XTC, it stands out as probably being the most unique album in a catalogue full of unique albums.
Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Pt. 2) is more…normal. Sharp, witty, classic XTC songs are all over this album, and although it is very, very good, it kind of pales in comparison next to the grand statement of Apple Venus Pt. 1.
Even though the band has done many interesting and competent side projects over the years, it is their alter ego as Dukes Of Stratosphere that is worth searching out. This was an opportunity for the band to really indulge in their love of psychedelia, cranking out the fuzz guitars, sound effects and trippy lyrics to great effect. If you can find it, get the collection Chips From The Chocolate Fireball, which contains the “band‘s” entire output.
XTC are the great lost pop band, tragically ignored by the majority but followed obsessively by fanatical lovers of great music all over the globe. It is impossible to have only one XTC album in your collection, but if you're a newbie go with Skylarking. Then get all the rest, including the ultra rare "K-ROCKING IN PASADENA", an in-studio live recording and re-interpretation of classic XTC tracks my friend Dave was kind enough to introduce me to.
Friday, January 25, 2008
When Steve Perry awoke in the middle of Avenida Revolucion Blvd face down in a puddle of…well, he wasn’t really sure what the puddle contained, nor did he really want to know. What he DID know, however, was that he didn’t want to end up in “La Ocho”, (Tijuana’s infamous jail) where Sammy Hagar was recently booked and subsequently violated by two guards named Omar Ramirez and Pancho Salazar (Sammy fingered them in court but they were freed due to an ‘Hermanos de la Frontera’ clause their lawyers leveraged.)
The sound of sirens and the thought of ending up bull legged and incontinent like poor Sammy Hagar was enough to motivate Steve and he quickly got to his feet and started moving, North to the border.
Much to his chagrin he crossed without any interference or trouble from the San Diego Border guards.
“Back in America.” he thought. "Thank GOD."
Remembering that his so-called friend and Journey lead axe-man Neil Schon lived in Chula Vista, he thought that the first thing he should do (after he ate first, of course) is to hail a cab and go pay Neil a little…visit.
It was becoming clearer, now. Neil was the one who suggested the road trip, just the two of them, to Tijuana. Neil was the one buying the drinks. NEIL was the one who shoved him through the door of the brothel and left him there, saying he would be back in 'a little while'!
And, now that he thought about it, that Mexican whore looked awful familiar…
…to be continued.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Last year I knew two things about Nick Lowe. One, that he wrote ’What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace Love and Understanding?’ made famous by Elvis Costello. Two, that he had a massive hit with the impossibly catchy “Cruel To Be Kind’ in 1979.
That’s It. That’s all I knew.
Then about a year or so ago fellow music connoisseur and wacked out cartoonist Philbert burned me Jesus Of Cool, Nick’s debut album of 1978. Somehow sensing that I was a newbie to the guy, Phil kindly composed a nifty Biography to assist in my assessment. It helped pique my interest greatly and I feel compelled to share some snippets of it with you. Phil, even though everyone knows you’re a litigious sort of fellow, I ask that you spare me another writ of summons to appear in court just this one time, yes?
“Nick Lowe’s solo LP was spawned at the height of the late 70’s ‘New Wave’ mania. Lowe was a veteran of the British music scene known as the bassist and chief vocalist/ songwriter for the well known (by some) ’Pub Rock’ group Brinsley Schwarz (later to become the Rumour and back-up for Graham Parker).
In 1978 Lowe was primarily known as a producer having worked on Elvis Costello’s first album as well as seminal releases from the Damned, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker and the Pretenders (Stop Your Sobbing).
Lowe made no bones about producing radio-friendly rock and roll and was unashamed to churn out quirky, funny singles in an era when the trappings of anything ‘pop’ was deemed very uncool. This sense of humor and the in-your-face irony is evident on ‘Jesus Of Cool’. Lowe never took himself too seriously, which was refreshing in 1978. For example, when David Bowie released his album ‘Low’, Nick countered by releasing an EP called ‘Bowi’…I mean, that’s just funny!
Lowe’s solo work was heavy on bass and heavy on wit. ‘36 Inches High’ is just flat out brilliant while Marie Provost was lifted straight from the pages of Hollywood Babylon (really!), the story of a forgotten silent film actress who died in her apartment and whose corpse was eventually eaten by her pet dachshunds (‘She was a winner/ who became the doggies’ dinner/ she never meant that much to me/ poor Marie.)
And ‘Nutted By Reality’ may just be the best purely twisted pop song in history. Last, but not least, is the closing track ‘Rollers Show’. A Sarcastic tweak of the then chart-topping Bay City Rollers, or is it a tip of an admirers hat to some fellow popsters? Does it matter?
I Think you’ll like this record!”
Phil couldn’t have been more on the money, and I have been semi-obsessed with him ever since. I mean, the man is, quite frankly, a pop genius! No foolin’, even after 30 years of solo recordings the guy still retains the ability to write a damn fine song. I recently purchased ‘At My Age‘, Nick’s 2007 release. It’s a sublime grower, I assure you. He sounds extremely confident, and his pop chops are as sharp as ever. The day after I got it I walked into Phil’s cell...I mean office... and said, “I think I need to revise my ‘Best Of 2007’ list, Phil." A couple of days later, he agreed.
More people should know about this underrated artist, and there’s something very comforting in listening to a Nick Lowe record. Once he gets under your skin he spreads through the rest of your body like a virus, a virus you’re happy to be stuck with the rest of your life.
It’s the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘Jesus Of Cool’ this year. I suggest you celebrate by getting your hands on a copy.
Monday, January 21, 2008
*Yet another totally fictional band bio, #4 in our continuing series.
It should be noted that each band I attempt to skewer with these entries deserves to be skewered for one reason or another.
In the case of the STYX story it was pretty much due to Dennis DeYoung's broadway leanings in addition to the whole Mr. Roboto thing. Easy target.
For Supertramp it was just the fact that they took their music WAY to seriously. That, and the fact that Rick Davies used to look like Gimley from the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. For the record (blush! blush!), I actually enjoy Supertramp!
For Jeff Lynne (and I enjoy some ELO stuff, also), it was his obsession with UFO's and outer space imagery. Coupled with his ridiculous afro, of course.
Though I attempt to write these as absurdly as possible (for example, Tommy Shaw calling Ted Nugent a "fellow homosexual and animal rights activist" in the STYX bogus bio), some readers of this blog have taken serious 'hombridge' to me poking fun at their favorite band (especially the Supertramp one; you Supertramp fans are some real serious mofo's!!).
So please, remember that these wacky posts are NOT REAL. They are fiction.
I don't need any people clicking on the "Flag this blog for objectionable content" button!
Now that that's out of the way, LET THE MOCKING CONTINUE!
JOURNEY: Who's Crying Now?
As Steve Perry stumbled out of the Tijuana brothel, a small boy wearing a “San Diego Padres” baseball cap approached him and tugged on his pant leg.
“Cheeklets, meester? Cheeeeeklets?”
Drunk, ashamed and very tired, Steve stuffed his hand into his pocket and eventually handed a crumpled dollar bill to the boy.
“Gracias, Signor!” shouted the boy, and skittered off into the shadows. Steve popped a Chickelet out of the pack and into his mouth and attempted to make his way back across the border. At the entrance to the border tunnel he suddenly felt light headed, and more than a little sick to his stomach.
'How did I let this happen?', he mused.
Thinking it would help his nausea he awkwardly dug for his flask of tequila, eventually finding it in his left hip pocket. He unscrews the cap, throws it into the street, takes a large swig and swallows hard.
"Shit," he says. "Where am I? And where the Hell's my band?"
The last thing Steve remembered before he passed out was the sound of breaking glass and the smell of urine.
…to be continued.
In addition to being a self described music geek, I'm also a little obsessed with MAD Magazine, especially the art of Don Martin, R.I.P. Put the two together and I'm in absolute Heaven!
I came across this poster Martin designed as a giveaway for one of the "MAD Super Specials" in the 70's and thought it worth sharing. You gotta see the details, so click on the image to enlarge.
Philbert, you oughta enjoy this one!
Electronica, (music that emphasizes the use of electronic musical instruments or electronic music technology as a central aspect of the sound of the music),
can include "dozens of stylistic fusions" ranging from danceable grooves to chill out music meant for headphones. It is a much maligned musical genre, often referred to as ‘soulless’ or too repetitive.
I say NAY!
I submit that electronic music can evoke great emotions in the listener. Just listen to the background music for the movie Bladerunner, as an example. The score by Vangelis is so emotionally affecting it becomes one of the main stars of the movie!
But electronica cannot be relegated to movie soundtracks alone, no. Allmusic.com identifies over 75 different ‘sub-genres’ of electronica, ranging from ‘ambient’ to ‘trip hop’ to ‘techno’ to ‘experimental dub’, and the genre itself is only growing more diverse everyday.
There’s electronica for rock fans (Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Underworld, LCD Soundsystem), stoners (AIR, Future Sound Of London, The Orb, Tangerine Dream), ravers (Primal Scream, Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk), and fans of hip-hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Coldcut).
And then there’s the pioneers of electronica: Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Gary Newman, Brian Eno, Suicide and even David Bowie.
I have switched my audio player at right to reflect a variety of electronic sounds, and I think the selections make a pretty good case for themselves.
So listen, enjoy (or not), and let me know what you think.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Formed after the breakup of celebrated indie band Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker is the brainchild of David Lowery, former lead singer and main songwriter for C.V.B.
Cracker achieved almost immediate success on alternative rock stations with their self titled debut, but it was their second album, Kerosene Hat, that got the critics to take notice. Lifted by the college radio hit LOW, it contained more blues and country stylings than the debut, and their finest hour in the song Eurotrash Girl. Apparently the band couldn’t sustain the momentum and they ended up releasing three more mediocre albums and one live effort that went largely unnoticed. I had written them off, but decided to give them another try with Greenland, as it was getting good reviews in the press. I’m glad I did. Easily their best effort since Kerosene Hat, it contains the same type of roots-rock content coupled with solid songwriting. Lowrey sounds invigorated, and even experiments (successfully, I might add) with prog rock in the masterful tune Sidi Ifni.
Califone, Roots And Crowns
Drawing musically from blues, folk, and Appalachia music and mixing it all in a blender with modern production techniques (feedback, noise and various electronics), Califone have created pretty, yet somehow unsettling, otherworldly soundscapes on their 8th album. They sound like no other band, and this particular album rewards repeat listeners with a weird and accessible release that just gets better over time.
Bill Drummond, The Man
Former founder of the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front), this little known album is a much more subdued affair than his later work. More singer-songwriter on this one than the techno terrorist he eventually became, it includes songs such as ‘Julian Cope Is Dead’, ‘I Believe In Rock And Roll’ and ‘Ballad For A Sex God’. Acoustic and slide guitars dominate, as does Bill’s thick Scottish Brogue accent. Most notorious for his burning of 1,000,000 pounds of English currency as a commentary on the state of the art world, he is certainly one of the most interesting artists of the last 30 years. This release is a small gem of a record and is certainly worth seeking out.
Friday, January 18, 2008
This week I traveled over 5,000 miles by plane for an ‘Interactive University Training’ development thingy for work. I endured two full travel days (about 12 hours each), took six planes and four taxi’s, ate some of the most god awful airport food I’ve ever had the misfortune to swallow, AND I drank too much. The conference itself was fine, as a matter of fact it was pretty damn productive, but those travel days could have been downright life threatening had I not had my music. Being able to tune out the unwashed masses at public places such as an airport with my tiny little portable audio device is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s a great way to pass the time.
On the plane it’s even better, because you can actually relax; just shut your eyes, forget about the grossly overweight insurance salesman sitting next to you smelling of cabbage and ass, and enjoy the sweet sculptural sounds of Miles Davis or AIR emanating from those little white head phones. All is well with the world, until...
...some song about death comes on.
I already have an irrational fear of flying and hearing some song about death or dying during some intense turbulence can be, to me anyway, quite unnerving!
So next time my job sends me somewhere by plane, I’m gonna create a ‘Happy Playlist’ on my iPod. Here’s some I’m thinking about putting on. If you have any suggestions, let me know.
No Kenny G, please.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice, by The Beach Boys
Here Comes The Sun, By The Beatles
Live Forever, by Oasis
Guess I’m Doing Fine, by Beck
Stayin Alive, By The BeeGees
Grin, by The Wonder Stuff
And songs I need to DELETE from my iPod before I fly:
Tombstone Blues, by Bob Dylan
Dear God, by XTC
Nightmare at 20,000 ft, by PWEI
Stop Breathin', By Pavement
My Dark Hour, by Steve Miller
Why Would You Wanna Live, by Wilco
Watch Me Bleed, by Tears For Fears
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, by Spiritualized
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, by The Smiths
All Dead All Dead, by Queen
We Have Explosive, By Future Sound Of London
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
...the birthplace of Rock & Roll, home to Sun Records where the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Redding and Wilson Picket were launched!
Of course Memphis is located on the opposite end of the state from where I'll be, Knoxville, but oh well.
So comment all you like on the older posts, I truly appreciate the feedback (except for Philbert's stuff, he's just downright weird!) and I'll see you in about 7 days!
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
There has been a plethora (a veritable cornucopia, if you will) of really good Canadian rock bands lately; The Arcade Fire, New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Fiery Furnaces and Stars, to name but a few.
It wasn’t always so.
There was a time, not too long ago, when saying you were a ‘fan of Canadian music’ was like saying you were a ‘fan of Canadian food’. People didn’t know what you were talking about. SO I thought it would be fun to poke fun at…oops, sorry…trace the history of...Canada’s contribution to rock music.
The stars of note for this decade include, but are certainly not limited to, the following: The Four Lads, Guy Lombardo, Moe Koffman and, but of course, the smooth lounge stylings of Mr. Robert Goulet.
Getting better, here. Let’s start off with Chad Allen and the Expressions who’s only hit was a cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Shakin’ All Over”. Then along came some actual talent with Leonard Cohen, members of The Band, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot , Neil Young, John Kay (Steppenwolf), the Guess Who and, erm, Andy Kim (of Rock Me Gently, fame). Wow, not bad, eh?
Here’s where it starts to get ugly, folks!
In mid-1970 or so, the Canadian government introduced new ‘Canadian Content’ regulations, requiring AM radio stations to devote 30 per cent of their musical selections to Canadian content. This led to a flood of new bands; some were decent, most of them were sub par and others quite laughable.
The drum roll, please!
Canada’s very own songbird Anne Murray came to prominence during this decade, and her soft rock would echo in elevators across Canada for decades.
The Irish Rovers were kind of fun, albeit kind of throwaway and a bit of a novelty act, in my opinion.
Other bands of note from this decade: April Wine, Triumph, Trooper, SAGA, Prism, Chilliwack, Max Webster, RUSH (hey, I STILL like these guys! Just not anything past 1982.), Bachman Turner Overdrive.
Nearing the end of the 70’s, artists such as Brian (or is it Bryan, I can never remember) Adams, the male equivalent of Anne Murray, pranced onto the scene, as did Nick Gilder, Doucette, Dan Hill and…Sweeney Todd.
The punk explosion in the late 70’s actually inspired some talented kids to release some albums. Teenage Head, Forgotten Rebels (talent debatable, great energy, though!), Nash The Slash, D.O.A., Spoons, Men Without Hats (say what you will, these guys knew how to write a pop song!), Blue Peter.
Some of the embarrassments of the decade are (and there were many):
Platinum Blonde, Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, Cony Hatch, Helix, Sheriff, Corey Hart, Barnie Bentall, Frozen Ghost and, of course, Sass Jordan and the Cowboy Junkies.
Actually, the Cowboy Junkies weren’t all that bad, were they?
In 1990’s England, the underground rock explosion was kicked off by bands like the Stone Roses.
In America it was Nirvana.
And up in the Great White North it was the Bare Naked Ladies! Makes sense, eh?
Seriously, Canada produced some decent talent in the 90’s. Bands such as the perpetually annoying Crash Test Dummies, Sloan (REALLY good band, by the way), Doughboys (ditto!), Alanis Morrisette, Rufus Wainright, Sarah McLaughlin, and the Tragically Hip were all very popular bands in their native land and some, like Alanis Morissette, made a huge dent here in the US.
It was during this decade that Canada produced their biggest abomination since Anne Murray, however. She is the ANTICHRIST, and she goes by the name of Celine Dion. There is a Canadian folk tale which states that those who listen to Celine Dion for more than 2 hours will develop a Stigmata.
Well, we’ve come full circle, folks. Hope I haven’t pissed off too many of my Canadian allies. Canadians have always had a good sense of humor aboot themselves, eh? The people, the beer, the comedy, the scenery and, yes even the music, make Canada the wonderfully unique and proud (somewhat, anyway) country it has always been.
Plus I have the right. I'm half Canadian.
So take off, eh?
Monday, January 7, 2008
A while back while surfing Amazon.com I came across a review of one of my favorite albums, The Stone Roses, and decided to look at the comments to see what folks thought about this amazing record in the 2000's (still don't know what to call this decade!). Mostly 5 star ratings (no surprise there), then a…GASP!…ONE STAR REVIEW! I was horrified, horrified I tells ye, that someone could give this magnificent slab of plastic a friggin’ one star rating. As I read on my face became more flush and I could feel my blood pressure rising to unsafe levels.
The man’s name is Allan Williamson and here’s his review:
“When Mike & The Mechanics ushered in the `Madchester' scene with The Living Years it was only a matter of time before these jokers attempted to jump on the bandwagon. If you want to be adored you should write some decent songs lads!
Verdict: don't waste your money.”
Mad as hell, I could not let this freak get away with this…travesty. So I replied to him thusly:
“Mike and the Mechanics ushering in the Madchester scene? You must subscribe to Roling Stone magazine, 'lad'. "The Living Years" was just soft adult fake prog pabulum, created (or should I say, manufactured) by a bunch of aging second rate hipsters with graying ponytails who couldn't usher in their own garbage tin from the street much less a pop scene! In addition, they weren't even from Manchester, where you had to be from, to usher in the MADCHESTER scene. Get it? The Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses were the real progenitors of the Madchester scene.
Bottom line, it is a great album by a great band whose flame burned out quicker than their ambitions and a wonderful and important part of late 80's early 90's pop music scene.
So then I decided to search out more of Mr. Allen Williamson’s reviews, just to see what other 'classics' he was mangling.
Here's what I found:
PURPLE RAIN, BY PRINCE: “Nobody likes a show-off, particularly one who falsely refers to himself as a prince and who produces trash like this. When Doves Cry is an unashamed rip off of MC Hammer's excellent Pray and the title track is far too long for my liking. Save your money.”
ASTRAL WEEKS, BY VAN MORRISON: “ Astral WEAK, more like! You'd have to be an absolute idiot to enjoy this. It doesn't even have Brown Eyed Girl which is the only half decent thing Mr Morrison ever did. And what sort of name is Van? Stick to Ronan Keating for that bit of Irish soul.”
THE HOLY GRAIL (movie), MONTY PYTHON: “ This isn't funny! If I went around saying "Ni" thinking I was some kind of great comedian rather than laugh people would point me towards the nearest lunatic asylum! Try some comedy which actually makes sense like the Vicar of Dibley.”
LEGEND, BY BOB MARLEY: "Most of the songs here are pleasant enough but Mr Marley is no Chaka Demus and Pliers. It is also disappointing to note that Mr Marley reportedly took drugs during his lifetime."
ALL MY BEST, BY PAUL MCCARTNEY: "Well played, Mr. McCartney! When compiling this retrospective 'best of' compilation Mr McCartney wisely ignored all of his output from his ill advised stint with the Beatles and selected songs purely from his solo career and his other band Wings. Let 'Em In, Mull of Kintyre and of course the Frog Chorus are true classics not to be missed. Get it now!"
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, BY HANSON: "When these lovely ladies burst onto the scene with Mmmmbop back in the nineties it was obvious they had a classic on their hands. The other songs on this marvellous album stand up just as well and I think people will still be talking about Middle of Nowhere 100 years from now. Verdict: very good indeed
And, my personal favorite, a review on the Beatles Revolver, which is when I came to the obvious realization that this cat was brilliantly putting me, and the rest of the so-called ’serious’ reviewers, on:
REVOLVER, BY THE BEATLES: “Who buys this? This is bad even by the Beatles standards. Not even Yellow Submarine or Ringo's excellent drumming can save this one I'm afraid. Verdict: avoid.”
Hey, it happens to the best of us, eh?
Look his other reviews up on Amazon, if you’re feeling bored. Freakin’ hilarious!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
So, here’s the thing.
I’ll be turning 40 in February, and it got me to thinking; at what age does one, SHOULD ONE, stop listening to ‘new’ music?
Is my passion to discover new bands going to wither away like my eyesight or is my interest going to continue to expand like my once 32 inch waistline did?
When I was 20 there was nothing more pathetic than seeing a ‘middle aged guy’ (read: 30 years old) blaring AC/DC in his Volkswagon Jetta out of his Blaupunkt speakers . Or seeing some ageing hipster with a grey ponytail wearing a “Neds Atomic Dustbin” tee shirt under his brown, corduroy sports coat. When you’re an arrogant little punk in your teens or early 20’s, you think that music, really good kick-ass subversive rock & roll music, should be reserved for the ears of youth.
My question is: is that true?
Do I have the right, only 15 years away from getting my AARP card in the mail, to enjoy new bands like The Arctic Monkees or the new Of Montreal album? Or do I resign myself to listening only to the tried and true standard bands and albums from my past.
I suppose it’s not too late to switch gears and seek out some Adult Contemporary stuff, nurture my barely-passing interest in Sting’s lute excursions. Perhaps I could buy an antique rocker, sit in my backyard and learn to play the pan flute. I mean, NPR’s ‘Echo’s” program isn’t ALL bad, right?
Nah, I think I’ll just keep on keepin’ on.
I still love the feeling of discovering a really great album, and I feel confident in the fact that that will not change for me. I also have two small daughters, and I feel it is my duty to expose them to truly great music, and shelter them from the bland, sugary processed crapola being force-fed to teens these days.
Good music is good music, you know?
No matter how old you get.
First things first: I believe that you should live with an album for a bare minimum of one month before you can critically and objectively score/ rate an album. Most of the ratings from consumers (on Amazon, itunes, etc) are tossed off without really thinking about it, and are usually biased based on the consumers fanaticism, or lack thereof, for the band as a whole. The already converted will usually give grace to a sub-standard album by their favorite band, and ‘professional’ critics are not immune to this phenomenon either. Neither am I. But I have come up with a system that works for me, and I try to be objective about it.
That being said, I offer you my mathematically based, very anal retentive album rating system, probably useful only to me. But, here it is anyway. At least it’s in writing…
First, divide the number of tracks of the album into 100, to get an ‘individual track percentage’. For example, if there are 12 tracks to an album, each track represents approximately 8% of that album.
Second, rate each track’s percentage on a 1-100% scale (track #1 is good, but not THAT good, I rate it at 80%). Once you rate the track at 80%, take 80% of the 8% (which would be 6.4%) and BINGO! You’ve got the individual track percentage!
Do this for each song, then ADD UP all the individual song percentages to get your OVERALL album percentage.
And lastly, if you’re using a 5 star rating system, then each star represents 20% of the whole. So, if your individual song percentages total up to, say 80%, and remembering that each star equals 20%, you’ve got yourself a FOUR STAR album!
Just for kicks, lets take a supposed ‘5 STAR ALBUM’ and dissect it using the above system, and see what happens.
ACHTUNG BABY, BY U2
12 tracks, each track is worth 8%
Zoo Station: Great opening, my favorite track on the album, earns a full 8%
Even Better Than The Real Thing: Another winner, earns a full 8%
One: They’re on a roll, another 8%
Until The End Of The World: Good, not great, a little overblown. 70% of the 8%, therefore the track earns 5.6%
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses: A little sappy, but a good tune overall. 85% of the 8%, therefore the track earns 6.4%
So Cruel: Great atmospheric number, 95 % of the 8%, the track earns a 7.6%.
The Fly: A masterpiece, the song earns 8%.
Mysterious Ways: Back on a roll, another 8%.
Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World: Decent, if a little maudlin, 65% of the 8%. Song earns 5.2%.
Ultra Violet: The albums most underrated track, 95% of the 8%. Track earns 7.6%.
Acrobat: Great guitar atmospherics, good vocals from Bono, 90% of the 8%. Track earns 7.2%.
Love Is Blindness: Way too fey for my liking; trying to be serious and sounding like it. Because of the guitar, I give it 40% of the 8%, therefore track earns 3.2% .
Now on to the totals!
The album as a whole earned 82.8%. And remembering that each star represents 20% of the total, you’ve got a 4 STAR ALBUM!
Saturday, January 5, 2008
As half Canadian (the GOOD, half, Mum!), I was saddened by the closure of the best damn music store in the world a few month's back. I have many fond memories taking the GO train to Yonge Street, walking to Sam's and spending HOURS upon HOURS just browsing through their bins. Even if you've never been to Sam The Record Man, I'll bet that you've had a favorite 'brick and mortar' record shop that has recently bit the dust. Just insert the name of that store in place of 'Sam's' in the below article for maximum empathy.
I've been meaning to post this 'obit' from the Toronto Star for a while now, but oh well, better late than never, right?
"It was an iconic landmark in Toronto – both culturally and musically. Everybody who was anybody in Toronto went to Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. to get the latest music, hang out and, if you were lucky, maybe catch a glimpse of a burgeoning music star.
But as of the end of June, Sam the Record Man is finally closing its doors – a victim of the vagaries of the retail record business and declining CD sales thanks to the Internet.
"We are making a responsible decision in recognizing the status of the record industry and the increasing impact of technology," said Bobby Sniderman in a news release.
Sniderman is one of the present owners of the store and one of the sons of Sam Sniderman, the man who built the record store dynasty that rivalled many around the world.
"But there is a wonderful story to be told here, not about the current state of the industry, but about a family business that operated for 70 years in record retailing. Throughout that time our family has made significant contributions to the music industry, for Canadian artists and to the community as a whole ...
"This is about more than just bricks and mortar; Sam the Record Man is the most recognizable name in the Canadian music industry, an iconic legacy that will forever endure ..."
Sam Sniderman first began selling records out of his brother's radio shop in 1937. The flagship store on Yonge St. – with its garish neon signs of spinning records – was opened in 1961. Over 40 or so years, Sniderman turned it from a one-shop operation into a successful chain of 130 stores across Canada. The Yonge St. store covered 40,000 square feet. In 2002, it carried 400,000 titles.
Sniderman took pride in his business as baby boomers and music lovers flocked to his Yonge St. music shrine, famous for its Boxing Day lineups and discounts.
"That was the point where I knew every record in the store," he told the Star's Mitch Potter in 2001. "Sometimes I got stumped. But more often than not, you could ask me for the most obscure record on the planet and I would disappear for a few minutes and come back with it in my hands."
Along the way Sniderman also helped Canadian performers, including Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray and bands like the Guess Who. His contribution to the music business earned him an Order of Canada.
But the company ran into trouble in 2001, filing for bankruptcy in October and closing its doors in late December. Competition from music superstores such as HMV and discount retailers like Wal-Mart, coupled with Internet downloads, all spelled trouble for the Toronto record retailer. A&A Records two doors away also closed in the 1990s.
At the Boxing Day sale that year (sidenote to Americans: the day AFTER Christmas), consumers were upset that Sam the Record Man was closing. "I used to come here as a kid to buy 33s for 66 cents," one Hamilton man told the Star. "I would buy early Beach Boys, the Beatles. It has been my life tradition."
The legendary flagship store opened again in January 2002, however, as a new company owned by Sniderman's two sons, Bobby and Jason Sniderman.
The two brothers had big plans. But the popularity of the Internet and music superstores proved too much.
Despite valiant efforts, the brothers just couldn't make it work. Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. will close its doors on June 30."
Album art and liner notes.
The smell of new music.
Spending (wonderful) hours at independent music shops, simply browsing.
Rolling, ahem, cigarettes, ahem, on gatefold sleeves.
Scrounging for milk crates, most often behind convenience stores, to store your albums (LP's).
Organizing your albums alphabetically, chronologically, by genre, whatever.
Buying new albums based solely on artwork or band name and, occasionally, finding a real treasure.
The experience and excitement of searching for months (or years!), and finally finding that rare CD or record album.
Trading in old albums you no longer listen to for something new.
Bragging rights on the size and diversity of your collection.
The big record companies(thankfully).
CHILLIWACK (in B.C., Canada)
BAY CITY ROLLERS
BUSH (Named after Shepherds Bush, England)
HALIFAX (Canada, yet again!)
LITTLE RIVER BAND
THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER
…and DECENT Bands Who Don’t SUCK named After Chunks Of Geography
SOUNDGARDEN (named after a real place in Seattle)
I’M FROM BARCELONA
NEW YORK DOLLS
MC5 (Motor City--Detroit--5)
THE E STREET BAND
CABARET VOLTAIRE (named after a night club in Zurich)
THE BLUE NILE
ALABAMA 3 (A3)
Did I leave any out?