Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Simple Minds - Street Fighting Years

After hitting the top of the charts with the single Don't You Forget About Me from The Breakfast Club soundtrack and releasing the album Once Upon A Time which contained a couple of hits in Alive And Kicking and Sanctify Yourself believe it or not but Simple Minds were one of the biggest bands in the world. Yes, even bigger than u2 who were only a mid level band at this time in the mid 80's before the Joshua Tree record turned them into a huge band. After the obligatory world conquering tour they released a live album and then two years after that saw the release of Street Fighting Years. A dense politically charged record with state of the art production courtesy of Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson it contained less immediate songs than its studio predecessor and naturally it didn't sell nearly as much and the band never recovered. At least commercially they didn't.

While not their best record by far, it is an interesting one however, that grows on you after repeated listening. Street Fighting Years is my favorite track, a slow building synthesizer heavy epic written in memory of Chilean folk singer and political activist Victor Jara who was killed after the coup against Salvador Allende in 1973. Yes the U.S. government was involved; just ask Henry Kissinger when you get a chance. Take A Step Back is a mid temp rocker that has no particular deep meaning but I like it anyway. There is an interesting version of Peter Gabriel's Biko covered on here that is not that different of an arrangement from the original version but it does give you an idea of how poltical some of this record is. Which isn't a bad thing in my opinion.

But it here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Aldo Nova - Fantasy

What can you say about Aldo Nova and the song Fantasy an early 80's pop metal classic except that it is a guilty pleasure? A crossover hit that went to number 25 in the pop charts it has hooks, synthesizers, good guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. Sure he writes and produces songs for the likes of Celine Dion now (a fellow Canadian) but what is a one hit wonder to do? I should point out that his first record went platinum and his second went gold so he technically isn't a one hit wonder although I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who knows another song by him.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

Stevie Wonder was in the same position as Marvin Gaye when the 1960's turned into the 1970's both were big stars for Motown and both wanted to break out of the factory system that Berry Gordy had established and which had become a straightjacket artistically for them. Gaye of course made the very socially/politically aware classic album What's Going On which broke open the dam at Motown and allowed Stevie to eventually to strike off in his own personal artistic direction to make Innervisions and a string of other great records including Fulfillingness' First Finale and Songs In The Key Of Life. Not only was it great music but it sold very well which I am sure made Berry very happy. I know many people consider Talking Book one of his best but for some reason I have never sat down and listened to the whole album straight through so I only know a couple of songs on it.

Innervisions is filled with soul, funk, R&B and pop with state of the art production, quite a bit of synthesizers, fantastic musicality and songs of hope, despair and wisdom. But at it's heart his music is filled with humanity and that is his genius. Too High is about the peril of drugs with a wall of voices over a funky, jazzy tune. He's Misstra Know It All is a mid tempo ballad like song apparently about Tricky Dick Nixon or perhaps just politicians in general but that is not surprising considering the Watergate scandal unfolding at the time of the albums original release date. A cautionary tale for us all and certainly extremely relevant at this time with George Bush in office. Good art is like that. It is one of my favorite tunes by Stevie.

Buy it here.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman As Capote

What a great performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the movie Capote which focuses on the six years it took him to write the book In Cold Blood and his relationship with one of the murderers of a Kansas family named Perry Smith. Hoffman is one of the best actors in the world right now and he reminds me of a young Robert DeNiro in the way he is so able to inhabit a role and his almost chameleon like ability to change. Amazing. If he doesn't win the Academy Award it will be a travesty. I can't imagine someone doing a better performance this year.

The directing of this movie is very, very good and unobtrusive. You just get sucked into the film and never get jolted out of the movie with a bad edit or camera move or a performance by anyone in the cast. Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith is very good as well, but really not a missed moment in the film by anyone. Go see it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My Top Ten Favorite Science Fiction Films

Just for fun I thought I would list my top ten sci fi movies at this time. It would probably be different next week and yes I could have easily picked another ten movies without breaking a sweat. Look forward to seeing your top ten lists.

These are in no particular order.

Blade Runner
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Matrix
Planet Of The Apes (Original)
Empire Strikes Back
The Andromeda Strain
The Thing (John Carpenter Version)
Soylent Green
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (Orginial)

Due to the fact that I am leaving town for Thanksgiving I will not be posting anything until Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chris Whitley - Living With The Law, Is Dead At 45

Just read today that Chris Whitley is dead at 45 from lung cancer so I will post a couple of songs from his debut record Living With The Law. Highly influenced by the delta blues which is the foundation to this soulful, moody and atmospheric record, Chris plays great acoustic slide guitar and has a wonderful bluesy, soulful voice to go along with these really good songs wrapped in a great recording by Malcolm Burn who worked with Daniel Lanois on many records. This record got great reviews and Chris opened for Tom Petty on tour, which I saw him on and I met him after his opening set through a record company meet and greet. He seemed very down to earth and maybe a little shy but then those things are kind of strange anyway. He was poised to be a star but took four years to record his follow up to his debut but it was a noisy mess with tunes that weren't very good. It never did anything for me. But by putting that record out he was staking his own ground to do what he wanted and being a "star" wasn't it.

I can highly recommend this record though and here is Big Sky Country which is the most pop oriented tune with tasteful keyboards, some slide guitar, great multi tracked vocals and a subdued lusty vibe to it's late night atmoshpere. Phone Call From Leavenworth is a straight acoustic country blues type number with nothing but pure stark emotion and it's not hard to figure out the subject matter.

Buy it here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Link Wray - Father Of The Power Chord Is Dead

Read about him here.

Long live the power chord!

Republicans Refuse To Honor Bruce Springsteen

Speaks for itself doesn't it? Do you think this political party ever forgets? Your either with us or against us. Read about it here.

Shane MacGowan - The Snake

Shane MacGowan is the former leader, vocalist and songwriter for the Pogues who was (is) known for having the occasional drink as well as a few illicit substances. And bad teeth! After getting kicked out of the Pogues he floated around quite a while (although he did cut a duet with Nick Cave of What A Wonderful World) until releasing The Snake his debut solo record with his band the Popes. Featuring a great set of songs with a traditional Irish music influence and some more straight ahead rock songs all played with a take no prisoners attitude by his backing band and as usual they all are infused his life of hard knocks poetic lyrics. What a great songwriter even if he does appropriate the occasional riff once in a while.

The Church Of The Holy Spook is a ram rod of a song about whiskey, women, rock and the traditions you can fall back on after all the temptations (maybe) while Aisling is an upbeat tune about longing to go back home with traditional instrumentation and an attitude. A very good record and if your a Pogues fan a must have if you don't already own it.

Buy it here.

I Walk The Line - The Movie

I saw the movie last night and really enjoyed it. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are both great and yes they both do their own singing. Witherspoon has the better voice and in some ways she has the better part because June was a more upbeat and bright personality, plus it is very hard to fill the shoes of Johnny Cash. I can't imagine anyone could have done it better than Phoenix though. They probably will both be nominated for Academy Awards.

Naturally after you see this film you think of the recent Ray Charles movie and I think Ray is a little better movie but not much. The really interesting thing are a couple of the parallels that run between these two men which you will find out about when you have seen both of the films.

Now when is someone going to make a Bob Marley film? He was even more of a long shot to make a huge splash in the music world and become known all over the planet and his story is perfect to be captured on the screen. At one point I believe Ron Shelton was doing research on a movie about Bob a few years ago I wonder what happened?

Depech Mode - Playing The Angel Tour

Arena concerts are by the very size of the venue and the fact that many of them are in sports arenas hard places for musicians and fans to connect. Depeche Mode seems to have particular trouble with this. But it is especially hard when the band has a front man like Dave Gahan who looks comfortable on stage and then you have Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher who quite frankly do not. In fact, I am not sure what Fletcher really does except clap his hands a few times and appear to switch on some programmed synthesizer, apparently he likes taking care of the business details. I suggest he stick to that.

Martin Gore is another matter, he has a wonderful voice and can actually sing just as Gahan can, which in this day and age is saying something since so many people can't. But at one point he was singing the lead vocal on a song and quite frankly I can't remember what it was when there came about a minute long instrumental passage and he looked lost, so what he did was venture out onto the part of the stage that jutted out into the audience and just jumped up and down in place for about twenty seconds and then sort of jogged around on stage holding his fingers up in a peace sign. I felt embarrassed for him. But just because you are a great songwriter doesn't mean you’re comfortable on stage. It takes a certain "personality" to be the focal point of the group and Gahan is one of those people. Gahan tries to make up for this lack of "stage presence" by rest of the band by doing what most front men do to reach the cheap seats and that is exaggerate his movements to be seen and really roam the stage all the time. He works his ass off to do this and is drenched in sweat by the end. He saves the band in a live setting.

The sound was absolutely atrocious it was badly mixed and way, way too loud. At one point I went to the bathroom and I could still hear the concert perfectly well through the closed doors of the arena and the layers of concrete that seperated me from the sound. I find it hard to believe the band would like this live mix if they heard it from the floor like the audience does since their records are so well balanced and clean with every detail so well thought out in the mix.

Now after seeing this show I remember why I don't like arena tours and this just reinforces my desire to see bands live in theatres or smaller venues only.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Most Popular Post

Apparently the Joe Jackson-Look Sharp! posting is the most popular so far if you go by downloads. I have to say I am a little surprised. I will be adding more late 70's "new wave" and "power pop" in the future. Gotta spread it out a little. More comments would be nice though!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison

I am not going to go into any great detail about this particular record. It was a huge hit and kicked Johnny's career into another gear. With the film coming out on Friday I thought it would be appropriate to put this up especially since I read the film ends at this point in his life with this concert. The only review I have read was extremely favorable. His 90's output with Rick Rubin is really, really good and I will post about it at some later date, but for now you will have to make do with Folsom Prison Blues and Jackson a duet with his wife June Carter.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fishbone - Truth And Soul

Truth And Soul is an 80's classic and my favorite record by Fishbone, it is a fantastic mix of ska, punk, rock and funk. The opening track, a cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic Freddie's Dead, is a hard rocking ass kicker version that sets the tone for the rest of the tunes. Most of the songs are of the political/social commentary variety with quite a few addressing racism and all are very well written, arranged and played by this tight band. Ma And Pa is a ska inflected number concerning the breakdown of the family, while Subliminal Fascism is a short little rocker whose subject matter should be self evident and is probably my favorite song on the record. Now if Sony/Legacy will just remaster and reissue this on cd with bonus tracks I would be very happy. They can hire me I will be happy to work on this project and the many other records in their catalog that should be given the proper treatment also.

Buy it here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!

Entering through the door that Elvis Costello kicked open, you know the one that allowed those nerdy and talented young men who did not look like "pop stars" to get to actually make an album like Joe Jackson's Look Sharp. Helped along by the hit song Is She Really Going Out With Him the record made Joe a star right out of the gate. Most of the material is from the outsider, cynical, broken hearted and a little more than pissed off point of view not unlike his fellow countrymen Costello or Graham Parker. Well written, catchy songs that tap into the energy of the punk movement this is one album from the late 70's New Wave era everyone should have in their collection.

One More Time is a bristling with energy track that is full of romantic frustration and loss while Sunday Papers is a great, wry social commentary on the public fascination with trashy gossip. Backed by a crackling, tight three piece band these guys really do justice to Joe's songs. A & M records has reissued and remastered the cd with a couple of b-sides as bonus tracks. Highly recommended if you are even remotely interested in music from that era.

Buy it here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lindsey Buckingham - Go Insane

Lindsey Buckingham is obviously very well known as the guitarist, vocalist and producer with Fleetwood Mac who helped guide them to selling what may seem like billions of records but on his own he cuts very quirky, elaborate, studio pop recordings that are way more left field musically than the Mac are. Like Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney he has made some records almost entirely by himself as he did with this one. It would be fair to say he likes the creative process of slowly building up a track in the studio laboratory without much help.

Go Insane is his second solo record that was released in 1984 it is filled with obvious New Wave and dance pop music influences and I think it's a lost power pop classic of the 80's . Filled with restless, frenetic energy, a slightly paranoid and lustful theme running through it, with lots of synthesizers and drum machines in the mix this is definitely a product of the time but it still holds up very well due to very melodic songs and the busy arrangements. I Want You is a fun song with a nice little intro keyboard riff, massive multi-tracked backing vocals by Lindsey, a great guitar solo ( he is very underated and has a unique for rock finger picking style) and believe it or not, the tasteful use of a cowbell! Queens Of The Stone Age aren't the only people who appreciate this under used "instrument". With a slight moderate dance rhythm, whip lashing percussion and more massive backing vocals Slow Dancing continues the yearning desire you might say.

Memo to Rhino Records: Remaster and reissue his solo catalog.

Buy it here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Luna - Penthouse

The cover for this record is a perfect match for the music inside which has this late night laid back kind of vibe to it. You definitely hear traces of the Velvet Underground and Television (especially that early 90's reunion album) in here but that is a good thing in my mind. I like the simple, dreamy but very melodic songs and the production is really clean and minimal but it still sounds very lush which is an interesting trick. Dean Wareham's vocals are very mellow in the Tom Verlaine or Steve Kilbey kind of way with a "personality" to them.

The opening track Chinatown is a good introduction to the band with its clean guitar playing and quirky backing vocals. 23 Minutes In Brussels is a more upbeat number that features Tom Verlaine on lead guitar and some nice jamming instrumental passages. How could you not like a band who would write something like this "Heading for Tacoma/and driving too fast/Nixon's in a coma/And I hope it's gonna last".

I saw Luna at the Great American Music Hall on this tour and they did a cover of Donovan's Season Of The Witch which fit in quite well with their original stuff...."You got to pick up every stitch"....yes, most certainly, you do.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Charles Mingus - Blues And Roots

Made in 1959 the same year as the classic albums Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty, Blues And Roots is a wild recording that is as much a gospel and blues record as it is a jazz one. Using a large nine piece band featuring six horn players (four saxophonists and two trombonists) who dominate the songs as they play lines across and sometimes seemingly against each other. Mingus drives the band with his powerful bass playing as he shouts his joyful encouragement in the background on this unique and earthy record.

My favorite track is Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting a heavily gospel influenced shout along track that could melt even the most hardened soul. E's Flat Ah's Flat Too is a bluesy free for all and another of the best tracks. If you aren't familiar with Mingus this is recording is a good place to start. He is considered one of the best composers in the history of jazz and had a very individual sound. This is the first record I ever heard from him and was very impressed as I think most open minded music fans would be if they listened to it.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tears For Fears - Everybody Loves A Happy Ending

While there has been a trend of bands getting back together and doing a reunion tour and putting out a new album I don't know of any that have succeded as well as Tears For Fears-Everybody Loves A Happy Ending did. After The Seeds Of Love album in 1989 and the great single of Sowing The Seeds Of Love Curt Smith left the group and Roland Orzabal carried on with the band name, although he was always the main songwriter and vocalist, he never hit the heights artistically or commercially they did as a duo.

Fifteen years later who would have thought that this new album would be this good an obviously Beatles influenced neo-psychedelic pop record. Full of well written songs with good arrangements, great singing, wonderful harmony backing vocals and that seemingly rare thing lacking in the music of today called melody are in abundance in these hook filled tunes. The opening track Everybody Loves A Happy Ending is filled with so many ideas it sounds like four songs in one and actually mentions kitchen sink in the lyrics which is very appropriate. One of my favorites is Who Killed Tangerine? with its insistent chorus of "and when you think it's all over, it's not over, it's not over" driving you to the end of the song that seems to go on too long but I just love it. As far as I am concerned this is the best thing these guys have ever done.

I saw them this past summer on tour and they were very good. Previously I had seen them in '89 at the Cow Palace and had vague memories of the show being good but this was a much smaller venue and I really enjoyed it. One of the things you notice is that these guys can really sing and don't need studio tricks to "enhance" them.

Buy it here.

Syriana - Movie Trailer

There is a trailer up for the movie Syriana that looks very, very good. Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright it is written and directed by Stephen Gaghan who wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for Traffic. It is based on the book See No Evil by former CIA agent Robert Baer who worked in the middle east for twenty years. The movie probably has a touch of authenticity to it one would think. Here is an interview of him for you to check out.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pete Townshend - All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes

This record brings back memories of my senior year in high school where, you could say, I listened to it quite a bit. After his previous album, Empty Glass was a hit powered by the single Let My Love Open The Door, it seemed Pete wanted to throw a curve to his fans and release this collection of synthesizer heavy, strangely angular and densely lyrical songs. While Empty Glass was a pretty straight forward record that even sounded at times like The Who this is a whole other animal. It has a very emotional pull to it and part of the fun is to try and figure out what he is really trying to say in some of these obtuse songs. Unless you can easily explain the chorus of "face dances tonight/fate chances moonlight" from Face Dances Part Two!

Obviously affected by the "New Wave" music of the time you get the feeling that it made him free to take this left turn. The irony is that middle age seems to be the underlying theme of the record. You could say it was "over" produced by Chris Thomas with a very slick sound but it has to be on purpose because he produced the previous record also and it was a very "normal" recording . Bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki played on this record and would go on to be the rhythm section for Big Country right after this. One of my favorite songs is Exquisitely Bored probably because it nails the atmosphere of southern California so well and being from the north it has always felt so alien to me down there. It seems I am not the only one to have this reaction to the place. All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is an interesting record by one of popular music's best and most self examining artists. It is still a favorite of mine.

Buy it here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Good Night, And Good Luck

Went to see the film Good Night, And Good Luck tonight with my wife. It is a very powerful film that is, quite frankly, a damning indictment of the current mainstream media. Only someone as dense as a rock couldn't see the parallels to what is going on this country right now even though it is about events from over 50 years ago. David Strathairn is fantastic as Edward R. Murrow as is everyone in this film. George Clooney should be commended for co-writing and directing this movie. He did a great job.

Go see it now.
I have this funny feeling that Ann Coulter won't be going to see it any time soon with her being such a Joe McCarthy fan(atic).

The Church - Priest = Aura

The Church had a fairly big alternative/college radio hit with the glorious Under The Milky Way off the great Starfish album from 1988, the song still gets radio play and finds its way on to 80's compilations, which was the bands peak commercially but not artistically in my opinion. They followed that one up with Gold Afternoon Fix from 1990 that stuck to the formula of the previous record including using one of the same producers but wasn't quite as good. I have always liked this recording and have had it on cd ever since it came out.

It is a sprawling neo-psychedelic album featuring the tasty playing of guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes with Steve Kilbey's patented soft, drugged out vocals and stream of consciousness lyrics in a great widescreen soundscape that is perfect for this band. The drumming by Jay Dee Daugherty (original Patti Smith Group member!) on this recording is really propulsive and creative giving good energy to many of the songs. Not really a commercial album, with quite a few slow building epic songs like Aura or Ripple which are a couple of my favorite tracks and coincidentally the first two songs in order on the cd, although it does contain some more pop oriented songs like Feel also.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nick Cave - Abattoir Blues

Having been a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds fan since I was exposed to the Tender Prey record in 1987 I was very anxious to hear his first double album or double cd if you want to be more specific in this digital age. I thought Nocturama, the previous album, was a weak effort after No More Shall We Part which was a very good record. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus did not disappoint, broken up roughly into a more uptempo "rockin" side called Abattoir Blues (slaughterhouse blues) or the more subtle and "mellow" side called The Lyre Of The Orpheus, it was even on many critics year end best of lists who seem to take Nick for granted in my opinion.
Using the London Community Gospel Choir as backing chorus on songs like the blistering opening track Get Ready For Love or the name dropping There She Goes, My Beautiful World from Abattoir is a perfect match that really gives the songs they are used on a unique call and response vibe. Powerful stuff. My favorite song from the seond cd Lyre is Breathless with its out of tune sounding drunken flute opening to its beautiful acoustic pastoral like backing track and a great vocal from Nick.

Nick makes music that isn't based on fads or trends and he doesn't make records that bear the mark of a certain age either with the playing or the production style. I have read that he admires people like Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon because they are arists first whose past work hasn't dated. Although some of Leonard's eighties stuff might have! Decades from now you could play this recording which would sound fresh and yes it would still sound timeless.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Peter Gabriel - "Rain on Car" debut

Peter Gabriel left Genesis after the Lamb Lies Down On Brodway tour in 1975 (why that tour was never filmed is beyond me) and disappeared for a couple of years until releasing his solo debut in 1977. It is a confident and bold album and no it does not have any African influences on it those wouldn't come until the third or "melting face" album in 1980. There is a wide variety of material here such as the apocalyptic tribal rhythm of Moribund The Burgermeister, the barbershop quartet on Excuse Me, all out rockers such as Modern Love or the orchestral rocker Down The Dolce Vita and even a "blues" number called Waiting For The Big One. The FM radio hit Solsbury Hill a metaphorical tale about Gabriel leaving Genesis which I think is still played in concert.

Remastered in 2002 under Peter's supervision the sound is vastly improved over older cd versions but I was disappointed there were no bonus tracks issued but there is a nice booklet with all the lyrics and some photos from recording and from tours supporting the record. Produced by Bob Ezrin who did the production work on all the early hit Alice Cooper records, Lou Reed's Berlin album and co-produced Pink Floyd's The Wall. Helping out on this record are guitarists Robert Fripp, Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner (the last two played on Lou Reed's Rock And Roll Animal) and a couple of guys who would become longtime associates Tony Levin on bass and Larry Fast on synthesizer. Here is Humdrum which is a melancholy loner song about hanging out in JFK airport watching people and the uptempo rocker Slow Burn for you to check out.

Buy it here.