Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Genesis - Trick Of The Tail

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about the Yes album Close To The Edge a favorite of mine from the group and now I will write about another of my “progressive” rock favorites….Genesis.

When Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975 after completing the tour for the groups most successful album to date, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, most people expected the band to not do very well without their gifted lead singer, but unexpectedly with the release of the Trick Of The Tail record in early 1976 they surprised everyone with how good it was.

After spending a long time auditioning hundreds of singers to replace Gabriel they finally decided their drummer, a guy named Phil Collins, was a good replacement. Like most everyone else I am not a big fan of his solo material or the post Abacab stuff either, but he is a great drummer and did a very good job on the first five Genesis records he sang lead vocals on. I suspect part of it is that he wasn’t the dominant songwriter on those recordings with keyboardist Tony Banks and bass player Mike Rutherford providing most of the material. A great sounding record produced by David Hentschel and Genesis with lots of acoustic piano, moog synthesizers, acoustic and 12 string guitars and on a couple of songs some pounding drums, it is a favorite of many fans.

Here is the aggressive album opener Dance On A Volcano and the lush acoustic song Ripples about how it’s not fun growing old, which has some of the best singing Collins ever did.

Buy it here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Random Thoughts On Some Recent Movies

A couple of weeks ago me and my wife went to see Brokeback Mountain on a Sunday night and the next day we went to see Matchpoint. Yeah, we are gluttons for punishment, it was the equivalent of getting a punch to each side of your face two days in a row and then last weekend we saw The New World. There are spoilers after this so only read if you have seen the movies or don't care if you learn certain things.

Brokeback is getting all the headlines and I think with good reason, it is very well written, directed and the acting is all top notch with characters that stick with you. But as a gay friend put it there is nothing happy or gay about it. What is done with this movie is a subversion of the iconic cowboy character in Hollywood films. The two male leads get in fights, swear, drink and keep many of their feelings hidden and don't express themselves very well. Oh and they ride horses too and they do all this while being in love with each other and married to women. Which of course isn't supposed to happen in Hollywood films. Ang Lee is one of the best directors in the world who manages to get great performances out of actors and knows what structure and narrative are which is no small thing these days. He picks good material obviously, but he has made two westerns so far, a martial arts film, a character study of 70's upper middle class east coast ennui and a period piece. All have been very good films and that is no accident when you are working in so many different genres. I know he made The Hulk also but his batting average is still very high.

Many people are talking about Match Point being Wood Allen's best film in years, I can't say because I haven't seen all his recent films, however it is the best one I have seen since Crimes & Misdemeanors which I viewed again about 4 months ago. I love Crimes more than his new one which in a certain way reminds me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. In both movies you watch a character do things and you are thinking don't go there but they do and then they keep making the wrong move over and over again. It is very hard to watch but you are glued and sucked into it now matter how horrible it gets. Match Point fits perfectly with the William Goldman statement that "movies are structure". The direction by Woody of this movie is the best that I have seen in any of his films, it is extremely tight, with no fat. Luck had nothing to do with it to use a word that pops up quite a bit in the movie. You could call it the theme. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is very good in the film, as is everyone else, but I think this is going to give his career a big boost.

Terrence Malick films on the other hand are not structure or narrative but rely on images, editing and music to get the audience to an emotional, psychological place which is very hard to do. The characters in The New World in my opinion are not well defined and are part of the environment of the movie but not at the foreground and the movie lags for stretches at a time that are very hard to sit through. But when it works such as the opening sequence when the ships carrying John Smith arrive in The New World it is fantastic. I personally enjoyed The Thin Red Line more than this film even though it has some of the same problems but with multiple story lines going on in the film it's weaknesses were easier to digest. I have seen all his films so I knew what to expect but I could tell some of the audience we saw the movie with didn't have a clue that this film wasn't going to hand everything to them on a silver platter and were quite disappointed. My wife enjoyed it but didn't think it was great and unfortunately I didn't either.

I did see the teaser trailer for Mel Gibson's new film Apocalypto coming out this summer which is about the collapse of the Mayan civilization from what I have read. Apparently the cast is native and they are going to speak the Mayan language with subtitles, which makes me very happy. It doesn't look like your usual brain dead summer flick.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Devo 2.0

Thanks to Silence Is A Rhythm Too for the tip you can check out an article about the new Devo hand picked by the old Devo.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gotta Love The British!

“In the programme, called Manchester Passion, a character representing Jesus will sing the legendary Joy Division anthem Love Will Tear Us Apart before dueting his arch-betrayer Judas on the New Order hit Blue Monday, according to senior church sources involved in the production.
Mary Magdelene, the penitent whore of the New Testament, is also getting in on the act: she is being lined up to sing the Buzzcocks hit Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn't have) accompanied by a string band.”

Words don’t do justice to this except to say could you imagine this happening in the U.S.? I would love to see it.

Elvis Costello - This Years Model

Elvis Costello emerged from Britain in 1977 and he was lumped in with the punk movement enveloping the country at the time, probably because he wrote cynical, edgy and very wordy songs sung with an anger, fury and intelligent bite that few of the punks could actually match. He wasn’t a punk though, he was much more ambitious than that and armed with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history he made his mark from the start.

His debut My Aim Is True is a good record but it pales in comparison to This Years Model in my opinion. A large part of it has to do with Elvis having his own band the Attractions backing him instead of a country rock outfit from California as was the case for his debut. They blast their way through this album providing a firm foundation for some of the best songs Elvis ever wrote with Steve Nieve providing really great keyboard parts with Pete Thomas and Bruce Thomas (not related) a propulsive rhythm section. Produced by label mate Nick Lowe who would go on to produce the next four albums also this is a very basic recording with minimal overdubs and no fat in the arrangements. I remember having a disagreement with a boss of mine who thought these early albums sounded like demos to him and I of course didn’t agree at all. He had a gold record of the first Berlin album hanging on his office wall so maybe that had something to do with it! He was a co-manager of the band almost until the point they recorded their debut and told me a few interesting stories about the early days of the band that I will write about in the future. Sorry about the short detour and on with the show.

Here is a “love” song from Elvis called Lipstick Vogue. You can see why his next album was originally going to be called Emotional Fascism! Plus the outtake called Big Tears with Mick Jones of The Clash on guitar. God knows why it wasn't on the album.

Many people consider Elvis to be up there with Bob Dylan as a songwriter. That is debatable, but the interesting thing about both of them is....they never sold many records. Costello only has a few gold records in the U.S., Spike and Armed Forces are a few of them to reach that status. While everyone thinks Dylan sold many records the fact is not as many as his stature would lead you to believe. Talent has nothing to do with record sales as the last decade or so has made abundantly clear.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Donovan - Sutras

After Rick Rubin revived Johnny Cash’s career with the stripped down American Recordings album in 1994 he went looking for another artist who needed a shot in the arm. He signed Donovan, that psychedelic folk rocker who wasn’t heard from much after 1970, to his label. Sutras was the result of this and it is a very good record but unfortunately it didn’t garner quite the attention or sales as Johnny’s did.

Rubin used the same concept as he did with Cash in that it is a very simple recording with acoustic guitar and Donovan’s voice being the center on which all the tracks are built with some bass and keyboards added on some tracks and only a few feature drums or percussion of any kind. Many of the songs have a mellow, spiritual/introspective tone to them and Donovan’s voice sounds almost exactly like it did in his heyday and his guitar playing is very good as well. I saw him perform many of these songs in a small club around the time the album came out and I was extremely surprised at how good a performer/storyteller he is as I really didn’t know what to expect.

Here is the song Eldorado with the words of Edgar Allen Poe put to music by Donovan. The Way is the closest the album comes to sounding like his old 60’s psychedelic pop songs.

Now Rick Rubin has done the same thing with the new Neil Diamond record called 12 songs and apparently it is getting good reviews!

I wonder who the next one will be?

Lou Reed? Joni Mitchell? Leonard Cohen? Just thinking out loud.

But it here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If You Have The Stomach For It

There is an article on the Guardian website called White Off The Scale about Nazi Hate Rock. They mention that someone named their kid Dresden. Why not just go all the way and name her Auschwitz and get it over with? Me and my wife visited there last year when we went to eastern europe and it is something you never forget. I can close my eyes and still feel what it was like when I was there, almost like ice cold water thrown on you...in the dark. Why anyone would want to "worship" that is beyond me. But then we humans are a very strange species.

Herbie Hancock - Sound-System

Herbie Hancock had quite a hit with Rockit from the Future Shock album and he followed that album up with Sound-System a year later. Co- produced with Bill Laswell/Material it was also mainly a funk, r&b, techno/industrial type record that was filled with drum machines and synthesizers with some guitar, percussion, turntable and horns thrown into the mix. Most of the songs are based on rhythm not melody while a couple of the songs have quite an African influence and sound almost like some strange kind of hybrid that almost seems like it won't work but it actually does. Jazz this is not, however interesting it may be. Nothing wrong with that I don't need music to fit into easily labeled boxes. Do you?

Here is Metal Beat for you to check out.

Buy it here.

What Were Some Of The Best Concerts You Attended?

I will be posting tonight, I hope, but in the meantime thought I would ask what were some of your favorite concerts.

Here is some of mine in no particular order:

Peter Gabriel's Security Tour in 1982 at the SF Civic. How well known was he at this time? I bought tickets for this show 2 weeks after they went on sale and got seats halfway down on the floor. The whole band walked through the audience playing drums and percussion instruments that sequed into the Rhythm Of The Heat....awesome. Peter rode the audiences hands they held up out quite a way from the stage and then they took him back. When he tried it in '86 it was not so pleasant when he played two nights in a row at the Oakland coliseum. You could say the audience was quite different four years later after the Sledgehammer video. I was happy for him but sad at the same time.

Shiva Burlesque at O.T. Price's in 1988.

Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order & Gene Loves Jezebel at The Greek Theater in Berkeley 1988.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Catalyst in 1990. This is a club that holds about 800 people and Neil somtimes plays "surprise" gigs there. This one came about because he was rehearsing for the Ragged Glory tour. Played 3 hours took a couple of short breaks and played all the classic Crazy Horse electric material.

T J Kirk at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in 1996? Played the music of James Brown, Thelonious Monk and Rashaan Kirk. From jazz, to funk to nearly heavy metal, sometimes in the same song. I wish I had a recording of that show. I bet the person running the soundboard does.

Grant Lee Buffalo at Slims in 1993 or 1994.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the Warfield in 1990 on the Good Son tour. Unbelievably good show. I can still remember Nick sitting on a small stool in the middle of the stage and reading the lyrics to the Carny from a book as he sang them. A few times he jumped up off the stool to emphasize a part of the song then sat down and kept singing. Sounds strange but it worked.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 1996. Last show of a two week run of dates at the Fillmore. Played for about 31/2 hours and kept dragging the band out for another song after it appeared to be over. This happened for quite a while. The show went on forever...but it was really, really good and I was really, really tired and had a 3 hour drive home...I think I almost fell asleep at the wheel. I am sure I would now.

Those are a few that come to mind at the moment. Will add on more later as they.....come to me...slowly.
Now what are yours?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Blue Oyster Cult - Agents Of Fortune

I was recently thinking about the first concert I ever went to back in the foggy (now literally) surfing days of 1979. Blue Oyster Cult was the headliner with Gamma opening me and my brother went to the early show which featured lasers, dry ice and all of the band members at the end of the show playing guitars which was part of their finale. I seem to remember we saw them again when they came through the next summer but my fuzzy, somewhat faded memory of the show is that it wasn’t nearly as good. I’ll have to ask my brother what he remembers, if anything, about it the next time I talk to him.

Which brings me to Blue Oyster Cult and their breakthrough album Agents Of Fortune which went platinum on the strength of Don’t Fear The Reaper in 1976. No cowbell jokes, please it really is a great song! They were considered a thinking man’s heavy metal band although only if you believe a group like Led Zeppelin fits that “classification” would you use that term, now Black Sabbath…..that’s some heavy metal of the era! Lyrically they had somewhat of a sci-fi/fantasy bent to some of their songs and they didn’t write about getting laid and partying until the dawn. Which actually might have helped their career sales wise. Album opener This Ain’t The Summer Of Love is a rocking kiss off to the 60’s with a great little riff played above the rhythm section and lots of multi-tracked background vocals. The Revenge Of Vera Gemini was co-written by drummer Albert Bouchard and Patti Smith. Patti does some guest vocals on the song….”your boned like a saint, with the consciousness of a snake”…..now that’s an opening line.

Back in 2001 Sony/Legacy reissued their first four studio albums remastered with extra tracks and liner notes by Lenny Kaye guitarist with the Patti Smith Group and originator of the first Nuggets compilation in the early 70’s. Now if they would just do the same thing for the Fire Of Unkown Origin album I would be happy.

Buy it here.

Old Grey Whistle Test

I didn't post anything last night because I was watching the first DVD of The Old Grey Whistle Test. I really enjoyed it and even though I know it has been out for a couple of years (always ahead of the curve!) I would recommend viewing it if you get the chance. It is a very ectlectic mix which isn't surprising considering the performances range from 1972 to 1984.

The highlights for me are:

Randy Newman doing Political Science with his eyes closed the whole time!
Captain Beefheart doing Upon The My O My.
The original Wailers with Stir It Up.
Talking Heads-Psycho Killer.
XTC and a manic Statue Of Liberty.
Iggy Pop and a subdued I'm Bored...just kidding!
The Specials and Message To Rudi.
Bill Withers with a beautiful and sweaty! Ain't No Sunshine.

The only thing I thought was a bad performance was The Damned doing Smash It Up/I Just Can't Be Happy Today. Couldn't really play but they can destroy instruments pretty damn well as "peformance".

A really wonderful highlight is an interview with John Lennon filmed in New York City in 1975. He is open, honest, playful and funny. It made me really sad when it was over.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hump Day Reggae: Burning Spear - Social Living

Sometimes in the middle of winter I like to play some reggae to forget about the cold and the darkness outside. Just hearing some makes me think it is warm. You could say I have a very active imagination and you would probably be right. So here is the Social Living 12" mix by Burning Spear for you to enjoy.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bryan Ferry - Frantic

Bryan Ferry is nothing if not smart and tasteful as can be shown by his choice of songs to cover and the musicians he collaborates with. On Frantic, his last record, he co-wrote songs with Dave Stewart and Brian Eno as well as producing with Stewart, Robin Trower and Rhett Davies. He also has good taste in clothes, album covers and videos plus he still looks great and has a full head of hair. If we could all be so lucky!

No need to mention that band he was in that put out all those classic albums as everyone should be familiar with them. This album doesn’t sound as produced or slick as most of his records of the last two decades it has a more “dry” sound to it. Like most singers his voice isn’t quite what it used to be as he has gotten older, it has a more husky sound to it now but I still like it.

He does a really nice Cajun arrangement of the Leadbelly classic Good Night Irene featuring fiddle and accordian. My favorite tune though is I Thought which he wrote with Eno, a simple and beautiful song filled slightly quirky production featuring a great vocal by Bryan and backing vocals by Eno, Bryan does nice harmonica work on it also.

Buy it here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sisters Of Mercy Synchronicity

I had been thinking about doing a post for the Sisters Of Mercy for about a week or two and I finally put it up Friday, so what do I see when I open the paper today? They are going on tour. Strange.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Interesting Article On Music Blogs

Check the article out by Rob Horning. I agree with him on most of his points made although my motiviation for doing a music blog is not that complicated it is not black and white either. What do you think?

Sisters Of Mercy - Floodland

I remember when I first heard The Sisters Of Mercy : Floodland record from the first few moments of the first cut I was hooked. I know the band (Andrew Eldritch?) is considered “gothic” but I personally don’t care about labels or the fad or style connected with music but only what it does for me as I listen to it. Having said that I really like the cover! I just love the songs and the orchestral, majestic and industrial dance “vibe” of this record and it has to contain some of the most badass drum machine tracks ever recorded. They sound like they could knock brick walls down!

I remember reading a review of this record at the time it came out and the basic premise of it was that if Jim Morrison had lived and had continued making records into the 80’s this is what he would have sounded like. Not a bad take on it. The production on this album is unbelievably great with layers of instruments and voices that just build up to a fantastic intensity especially on the two epic songs Dominion/Mother Russia and This Corrosion. You could almost say they have a Phil Spector wall of sound like style, slightly harder edged though! Now if only Rhino would remaster this record and Vision Thing I would be very, very happy. It would be wonderful to really hear all the detail put into this recording.

Here is Dominion/Mother Russia and Lucretia My Reflection for you to check out.

Buy it here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Steve Earle - The Mountain

Steve Earle has had a great second act to his career after spending some time in jail in the early 90’s for his intake of illicit substances. Never really a country artist even though he lived in Nashville and made records there he is closer to a roots rocker like John Mellencamp or John Hiatt in my opinion. A great songwriter with an independent, defiant “outlaw” streak who follows his own muse and in 1999 it lead him to record The Mountain with the Del McCoury Band backing him up.

Made before the current bluegrass and Americana “revival” sparked by the soundtrack to O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? this record is a jewel filled some of the best songs Steve ever wrote. As indicated in the liner notes this record was filled with ambition and a shot at immortality because he wanted to write at least one song that would played by at least one band at every bluegrass festival long after he has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Apparently he ended up parting ways with Del McCoury after this album because Steve used to much “blue” language and had an attitude to boot! It doesn’t matter because the music is great on this album as you will hear for yourself on these two up tempo numbers Texas Eagle and Leroy’s Dustbowl Blues which are probably my two favorite tracks from this record.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tone Def - Bushwack

From 1992 comes the track Bushwack featuring the first president Bush on "guest" vocals. The current Bush in office feels he is above the law and can do anything he wants in his "war on terror". Serfs shouldn't complain about things they don't understand like how to line their rich friends pockets with money by cutting taxes of the wealthey while plunging the country into debt and invading another country. Remember those WMD? Laughing all the way to the bank. Corrupt philosophy. Corrupt party.

The evil genius of it is how they get poor working class people to vote against their own interests.

Truly amazing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Instrumental Interlude: Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead

From the classic Curtis Mayfield album Superfly comes this instrumental version of Freddie's Dead available on the deluxe 25th anniversary edition from Rhino Records. The second disc contains some demos, alternate mixes and quite a few instrumental versions of songs from the original record.

Blacksploitation films were very big at this time after the huge success of Shaft and the soundtrack by Isaac Hayes. A deluge of films followed with the accompanying records but none were better than this one by Curtis.

Buy it here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Yes - Close To The Edge

The decade of the 70’s was quite a strange time with many genres of pop music emerging from the ashes of the now dead 60’s and one of the most reviled, now at least, is “progressive” rock. A guilty pleasure for me is some of the bands from this era which include Genesis and Yes. I guess I have must still have a glow from childhood memories of sitting with headphones on listening to some of those “epic” songs on albums such as Close To The Edge and trying to figure out what Jon Anderson was singing about. It turns out most of the time he wasn’t saying anything but the words sure must have made sense to him at the time I have to assume.

Influenced more by classical music or jazz fusion with many songs long in length and quite often made up of smaller “songs” or sections strung together to form the above mentioned “epic” which must have sounded far out to most of the stoned hippies listening to it in 1972. Close To The Edge is considered by many fans of the band to be their best record with the title song made up of four distinct sections as mentioned above. This band had very good musicians at the time with Steve Howe on guitar who was voted Guitar Player magazine guitarist of the year many times in the 70's while Bill Bruford was a very imaginative drummer who had a jazz feel to his playing and went on to join King Crimson after this album and eventually made jazz records and still does. Rick Wakeman was obviously influenced by classical music and used everything from a grand piano to moogs and other early synthesizers and Chris Squire was just a monster bass player who really drove the band with his great riffs.

Here is the song for you to check out for yourself.

Buy it here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ed Harcourt - Here Be Monsters

I really liked this record when it came out. I had read about Ed Harcourt and Here Be Monsters online somewhere and it sounded intriguing so I checked out some clips of his music at a site and was hooked.

His music is very over dramatic and extremely emotional in a good way where it can go from gloomy and introspective ballads on one song to bursting with pure pop joy on the next. Lots of piano, keyboards, drums and percussion along with some brass sprinkled in there on this one which is a perfect late night listen in my opinion. It just has that vibe to me.

Here is God Protect Your Soul and Wind Through The Trees for you to check out.

Buy it here.