Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bob Dylan - Blind Willie McTell

A quick post due to continuing holiday madness. I just started watching the documentary of Bob Dylan called No Direction Home that was shown on PBS in September, unfortunately I was in Europe so I couldn't watch it and just got a copy on dvd that I borrowed.

Blind Willie McTell is a flat out brilliant song that for some reason wasn't on the Infidels record, which is a record that I think is quite good, but it would have been even better if this had been on it along with a few other songs that were left off it as well. Dylan isn't his own best editor which is obvious after Foot Of Pride and Lord Protect My Child were not on the record, apparently Mark Knopfler who produced the record and helped put the band together wanted them on the album. A simple song with Bob on piano and Knopfler on acoustic guitar it features some really good singing and some wonderful, evocative lyrics that look at racism while using some iconic imagery of the old south. It is probably the best song he did in the 80's.

Buy it here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Persephone's Bees

You will be hearing from this bay area band very soon. I actually saw their very first gig on a halloween night in a small town on the coast of California, where it looks like you live in a postcard it is so beautiful, but not much really happens there. Unless you consider tourists visiting something happening. Signed to a major label now and they went over to England to make a couple of videos for the big push and I can tell you they are worth it. A mixture of sixties music, new wave, cabaret and singer/songwriter/keyboard player Angelina's Russian roots thrown in to the blend and you have a fun group who write melodic and well arranged songs with a different vibe to them. Tom is an amazing guitar player very tasty and inventive and can play in any style you can think of. They used to play an old Russian folk song with just Tom on electric guitar and Angelina singing in her native language and it was very beautiful... about a blue moon and or blue ice in winter if I remember correctly. If you go to their website you can hear two songs and see a video clip if you are so inclined.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they kick ass live!

I will write more about them at a later time. The album will be coming out in April 2006.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ours - Distorted Lullabies

Ours is like Nine Inch Nails in that it is a band in name only and in this case a guy named Jimmy Gnecco is the wizard behind the curtain. Blessed with a very good voice that is similar, I repeat similar to the vocal range and style of Jeff Buckley, but not as good as his in my opinion, which is interesting because apparently Buckley had worked with him.

Dreamworks signed Ours after a bidding war started over who could sign them and then they took 3 years to make the debut record Distorted Lullabies. A rather tortured album that is not written from the brightest point of view in the universe, but what it has is sweeping, melodic “alternative rock” songs with soaring vocals, tight arrangements and good production, much of it courtesy of Steve Lillywhite. The first part of the record is more up tempo rock that mellows in the second half with more ballads and acoustic guitars.

Here is Sometimes and my favorite song on the record I'm A Monster which has some very evocative lyrical imagery.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Love And Rockets - Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven

Love And Rockets is as different from Bauhaus as night is from day, but since all three members of the band had been in both groups, it was inevitable that they would be thought of as “gothic” before anyone heard the music, which could be called new wave, but is really so much more than that narrow definition. Love And Rockets had a very big psychedelic sixties influence musically while the lyrics had an eastern philosophical/spiritual outlook to them. They weren’t writing silly love songs or about getting laid on the road but were touching on themes about the human condition that had some meaning to them.

Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven is the debut album by the band and the first of three records they made in a row that are some of the best stuff to come out of the 80’s in my opinion. Their songs are very well written, melodic and simple in structure but heavy on impact. Extremely well produced by the group and John A. Rivers in an ultra widescreen style with masses of overdubbed vocals, guitars, keyboards and huge sounding drums on many of the songs. They definitely used the studio as an instrument during the process of making the record.

If There’s A Heaven Above is full of keyboards, synthesizers and sound effects, over a simple drum pattern with stinging guitar fills that scream in and out of the song..."throw the world off your shoulders tonight Mr. Smith". While there isn't a song on this record I don't like my absolute favorite is A Private Future which sounds like two songs melded into one, because it is and they work so well together and build to a fantastic finish. I just love the lyrics to this one ...."live a life you love, use a god you trust and don't take it all to seriously". Both David J and Daniel Ash's lyrics are really good and as anyone who listens to the radio knows most people can't seem to do that very well.

Buy it here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Deep Purple - Machine Head

If you went into any self respecting rock fan’s house at the end of 1973 there were certain records they would have in their collection: Led Zeppelin-4, Black Sabbath-Paranoid, The Who-Who’s Next, Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon and Deep Purple-Machine Head which is probably the least appreciated of all those classic albums but absolutely belongs right beside them. After listing these records I just realized that they are all from British bands which makes me wonder if there was something in the water over there in the early 70’s!

At this time in their career Deep Purple were a hard rock outfit with one of the best guitarists around in Ritchie Blackmore, a wonderful organ player in Jon Lord, the great pipes of vocalist Ian Gillan and the hard driving rhythm section of bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Pace. This album made them one of the biggest groups in the world and while in Japan on tour in support of this record they would record one of the classic live albums of the decade called Made In Japan which did nothing to slow their popularity down.

While Smoke On The Water is the song everyone knows from this record (I can’t listen to it after escaping the 70’s with my life) it is not, however, the best song on the record. Highway Star(Roger Glover remix) is a fantastic hard rocking up tempo number with a killer riff by Blackmore and Lord and a dueling solo between guitar and the pumped up tricked out organ that doesn't sound like it belongs in any church that I know of unless it is the church of holy Rock and Roll! The much slower and melancholic b-side When A Blind Man Cries (Roger Glover remix) has very tasty, subtle playing by Blackmore with a showcase for a bluesy vocal by Gillan with some of his best lyrics.

The 25th anniversary edition contains the original mixes plus a second cd of remixes by Roger Glover that are what he had in mind originally. He thought the originals were too sterile or dry sounding and I happen to agree with him.

Buy it here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Reggae Friday: Aswad - Finger Gun Style

Aswad is one of the biggest and best British reggae bands and the first to sign with a major label. The song Finger Gun Style (extended version) is an obvious anti-gun throw your weapons down tune. Which can never be stated too much in this world, especially now. I like the mix of dub and soul influences, the horns and the percussive keyboard attack. This is from the remastered/extra track edition of New Chapter.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chris Cornell - Sunshower

The first solo outing by Chris Cornell after Soundgarden broke up it was originally released on the Great Expectations soundtrack in 1997. Sunshower has an obvious Led Zeppelin influence to it in parts, with a great vocal by Chris, lots of acoustic guitars, a little percussion & drums and a wonderful vibe to this near epic ballad.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love-The Debut Album

Love were a great L.A. folk-rock, psychedelic band of the 60’s that never got beyond cult status. Arthur Lee was the leader of the band, main vocalist, brilliant songwriter and led one of the first integrated rock bands. Love had an obvious Byrds influence, which is not surprising considering rhythm guitarist/vocalist Bryan Maclean was originally a roadie for the band, but they were more than that incorporating flamenco, jazz, blues and folk music into the mix. Sometimes though, they just sounded like a great garage rock band as on the classic explosive single 7 And 7 Is which ends with the sound of an atom bomb going off!

They should have been huge but apparently Arthur didn’t like to tour, do publicity and in general was not interested or perhaps able to do what was necessary to go “big” although it sounds like it was just his unique personality and nature from what I have read. Love was the first rock band signed to Elektra Records and Arthur recommended The Doors to the owner of the label who eventually signed them and they went on to eclipse Love and all the other L.A. bands of the time.

Recorded in only 21 hours over four days here are two tracks from the debut album. First is My Flash On You (mono mix) a garage rocker with fuzzed out bass, crunchy guitars and a defiant vocal. Signed D.C. (mono mix) is a haunting folk song about the perils of drug addiction with a beautiful and soulful vocal by Arthur.

Buy it here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor Dead At 65

A sad day.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Supergrass - Life On Other Planets

I have never been a big Supergrass fan before, I have heard their first two records a couple of times but nothing really grabbed me, until Life On Other Planets, that is. The influences are easy to spot, such as T. Rex on Seen The Light for example, while others are not quite as obvious although early 80’s English post-punk and new wave seems to infuse their sensibilities along with some of the early British invasion groups. This is joyful power pop, full of energetic playing, great songs, lean arrangements, nice tight production and wonderful melodies to top it all off.

Here is the fuzzed out pop rocker Rush Hour Soul and the mellow, name dropping Prophet 15 which is one of my favorite tunes on the album.

Buy it here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

Here is Working Class Hero and God from his stark, harrowing first solo album called Plastic Ono Band.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Instrumental Interlude: Jeff Beck - Beck's Bolero

I have always loved this song ever since I was a kid and first heard it on the radio in the.....uh...70's. Seems like yesterday. Supposedly written by Jimmy Page I have read where Jeff Beck claims he actually wrote it. All I know is it a great tune with John Paul Jones on bass, Jimmy Page on guitar and the one and only Keith Moon on drums. Check it out here.

Jeff was the second lead guitarist in the Yardbirds after Eric Clapton left and then Jimmy Page joined and he and Jeff were in the band together for about six months before Jeff left the group. I consider him better, more interesting and definitely more versatile than either Eric or Jimmy. But that is just my opinion.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Echos Of A Bunnyfan

Here is an enjoyable article written by a fan of Echo & The Bunnymen that was in the entertainment section of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle.

I like the first paragraph quite a bit.

“In seventh grade, I wrote an essay titled "Why Echo & the Bunnymen are the Greatest Band in the F -- World."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles

Echo & The Bunnymen were one of the best groups to come out of England from the late 70’s/early 80’s scene but don’t seem to be held in such high regard now like some of the other post-punk bands such as The Cure, The Smiths or Siouxsie & The Banshees. I am not one of those however, to me they were the best of the bunch and since I am going to see them in concert tomorrow night, for the first time since 1988, I thought I would post a couple of tracks from their debut Crocodiles.

Influenced by psychedelia, 60’s garage bands and the mid 70’s English punk explosion The Bunnymen made one of the best debut records to come out of England in the 80’s. The most visible member was vocalist Ian McCulloch who was blessed with a great voice, wrote oblique lyrics, plus he had a very unique hair style! He wasn’t shy when it came time to be interviewed and the press loved him for it but to me the band was made by Will Sergeant one of the most under appreciated guitarists of the time. His playing is tasteful, interesting and never boring, plus he came up with some great riffs. The rhythm section of Les Pattinson & Pete De Freitas were solid and imaginative and a good foundation for the band. Unfortunately with Pete dying in 1989 the real band could never reform.

After their debut they made three more classic albums in a row topping it off with the glorious Ocean Rain, which is quite a good run for any band and then they released the worst record of their career to that point, a self titled over produced recording, so naturally it sold the most! Then they broke up and didn’t reform until 1997 and the "comeback" record Evergreen was released. Which I like but it is a bit mellow.

Here is All That Jazz and Simple Stuff (early version) for you to check out. Their first five records have all been reissued, remastered with extra tracks by Rhino and are well worth having in your collection.

Buy it here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Woody Allen Turns 70

Happy birthday Woody although I bet he is like me and doesn't really care about celebrating birthdays too much. What are you favorite films of his? My favorite is Crimes And Misdemeanors, I think it is the best thing he has ever done. I was blown away when I first saw it. Brilliant. I like Zelig, Hannah And Her Sisters also, although I haven't seen all of his films I have seen about 2/3 of them so I am no authority on his body of work. Manhattan really doesn't do anything for me, I recently saw it and had the same reaction as the first time. Annie Hall I enjoyed but it has been so long since I have seen it that I will have to watch it again. I notice some films you don't get as much until you get a little more years on you and then you see them again and its like a whole different world. Which isn't surprising.