Monday, April 07, 2014

20




Have you ever dropped a ton of bricks on a carton of eggs? Swung a ball peen hammer at a rice-paper wall?

This is the impact that Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl had on the soporific musical landscape of 1991.

If you did happen to be alive and have functional ears at this time, here's a little reminder of some of the shit that clogged the charts:

Bryan Adams (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
Color Me Badd I Wanna Sex You Up
C+C Music Factory Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
Paula Abdul Rush Rush
Timmy T One More Try
EMF Unbelievable
Extreme More Than Words
Hi-Five I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)
Surface The First Time
Amy Grant Baby, Baby
Boyz II Men Motownphilly
Stevie B Because I Love You (The Postman Song)
Mariah Carey Someday
Bette Midler From A Distance
Whitney Houston All The Man That I Need
Jesus Jones Right Here, Right Now
Color Me Badd I Adore Mi Amor
Janet Jackson Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch feat. Loleatta Holloway Good Vibrations
Madonna Justify My Love

"Oh, fuck you, Spirit, please show me no more! I cannot bear it!!"

All apologies to Charles Dickens.

No, wait! Fuck him, too!

Without wading into a quagmire of editorializing around Cobain's exit from this dimension and the brief explosion that many of us are still aware of at the 20 year mark of his aforementioned acceptance into the choir invisible, there are some important items to ponder, namely:

1) In fusing the Beatles with Black Sabbath, he created a very intoxicating hybrid for folks that enjoyed melody intertwined with an anvil being dropped on their skulls.

2) Hearing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in 1991 did something for me (and countless others) that no other contemporary noise had done for ages: It gave me goosebumps and I wanted to hear more.

3) The raw, screaming visceral attack of this music also carried a careful plan along with its subversion. The guy behind it was a hell of a lot deeper than most would suspect.

4) Few knew at the time that it would all end in spectacularly macabre fashion.

I remember where I was and who informed me of Cobain's death back in the spring of '94.

I was pissed.

Being roughly the same age as him, I felt that this was a missed opportunity. He could have done much more and taken his vision/music in an interesting direction. More importantly, rather than feeling envious of those who had experienced the golden era of musical creativity first hand(the sixties), there was hope that something relevant, vibrant and exciting could happen in our time as well.

A bright comet attracts much attention before flaming out.

On a positive note, he left some exceptional material for listeners to take up and draw inspiration from, though it's always tough to think about what may have been.

Or not. Oh well, nevermind...







Tuesday, April 01, 2014

PROGRAMMABLE ANIMAL: TOGETHER



Brand new EP release by Chicago based band, Programmable Animal. This is a taster in advance of the full length disc that they plan to unleash this summer. It is quite an adventurous, five track odyssey to embark on as a listener and one for which you must be prepared to commit. While the interplay amongst the instruments in the mix trades on ambient, "found" sounds, the six piece ensemble keeps the aural sands shifting throughout. Embracing the frenetic, double-bass drum attack of metal on one hand, the tunes also turn on a dime to allow a wash of synth-driven textures to take over the space between your headphones. Production values are high with a dark mood pervading the arrangements. At times the vocals are purposely wrapped in gauze only to break free at critical moments in startling fashion. All parts are extremely well thought out, while the technical aspects of the performances are first rate.

Warning: This is not a soundtrack for the morning, nor should it be approached in a casual manner. Rather, it demands serious listening as purple twilight gives way to night time. Introspection mixes with raw emotion, yielding plenty of great turnarounds and sonic rewards when you drill down to listen with a generous ear.

Highlights are "Together", "Dark" and the epic closer, "Fall Eye".

Pretty cool spin. Get it for yourself here

Find out more about Programmable Animal

Join them on Facebook and stay tuned for new music!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-ROD STEWART: AN OLD RAINCOAT WON'T EVER LET YOU DOWN



Years before regrettable forays into disco and bland, MOR pop pandering tarnished the otherwise decent track record of Rod the Mod, this very solid first solo effort quietly appeared.

Quite good it is, with a supporting cast of musicians who would figure prominently in his next steps as an artist. Two of these characters, Ron Wood and Mick Waller, had shared a spot with Stewart in Mach I of the Jeff Beck Group. Organist Ian McLagan, who lends his nimble fingered talents here, would become a band mate and remain so into the mid-seventies, as Wood and Stewart had recently joined the Small Faces following the departure of Steve Marriott. This lineup change prompted them to re-brand themselves as The Faces.

Did you get all of that?

Good.

Having honed his signature larynx dipped in whiskey 'n' ciggies vocal delivery during his time with Jeff Beck, the voice is in fine form. Eight songs comprise the disc, four of which are his own compositions, title track included, while the remaining selections are well chosen covers. The first of these interpretations received the distinction of kicking off the proceedings. Turning the Stones' "Street Fighting Man" inside out, the arrangement here bears no resemblance to the version that graced Beggars Banquet. Quirky and extremely well executed, the musicians toy with every aspect of the tune. Ron Wood adds tasty slide and bass runs with exaggerated "eyebrows" that follow inserted full stops after each chorus. Following a brief instrumental detour, everything stops on a dime and does a 180 degree turn. Suddenly, the listener is now back in familiar territory as the lads faithfully reproduce the melody line and feel of the original. This doesn't last. In a moment of inspiration, we are treated to a brief bass solo which dives straight into a direct quote of the hammered, introductory piano figure from "We Love You". My assumption here, though the last bit is likely a tip of the hat to Brian Jones who had passed away the previous summer and whose composing fingerprints were undoubtedly all over the aforementioned, trippy piano part. If Mick and Keith were not impressed by this homage, if not somewhat envious, then shame on them. Only a comatose individual would fail to appreciate the humor and invention that went into this stunning rendition.

It gets even better...

Before we continue, one observation must be made by your humble scribe.

This disc is a treat because it is unpretentious and the musicianship is first rate but loose in an incredibly relaxed sounding manner. Human beings, not machines, are swept up in a joyous act of playing, yet there is focus with an end result that is very easy on the ears.

Why do we not hear this type of production today? Have we become so soulless in the pursuit of achieving a homogenized product that we can't accept a more adventurous approach to music making? Just take a listen to the robotic, auto-tuned, plastic, repetitive garbage that is being pushed on the masses. No taste, very little thought and zero personality. It is disposable, icy digital noise made for people who secretly hate music.

Worse than that, this mediocrity is expertly marketed to cover all aforementioned shortcomings and make the perpetrators seem as if they have produced a work of genius. Another tag that is tossed around far too liberally and applied to people who would be hard pressed to name a chord, let alone find/shape one on any instrument.

You have a choice as to what you put in your brain.

Well, look at the time! Let's get back to what Rod, Ronnie and friends lovingly cooked up for your listening pleasure.

Decorative instrumental touches abound, our session crew reimagines "Man of Constant Sorrow" in such a way that words fail to do it justice. Listen and find out for yourself, if this hasn't already been taken into your purview. There's no greater evidence of what made the rhythm section so special on Jeff Beck's Truth than what Waller and Wood bring to the title cut. Don't know about old raincoats, but this is three minutes of bluesy groove with barrelhouse piano courtesy of McLagan that won't let you down.



All told, this gem sails by and makes its statement in a mere half hour. Closing with a delicately different take on Ewan MacColl's oft-covered standard, "Dirty Old Town", it provides classy finish to an eclectic, understated set. For all that, it is Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells a Story that seem to garner all of the attention in terms of Rod's early solo ventures. This one never manages to escape the long shadow cast by those projects, both of which fared much better in the sales/chart sweepstakes. Lacking a an obvious single that could be extracted for radio exposure, this fine project was destined for the back of the dusty closet, joining the ranks of unjustly forgotten music from that era.

Trivia time! This LP was released in the UK on the same date as Black Sabbath's self titled debut (Friday, Feb 13th, 1970) by the same label (Vertigo Records). Curiously, it was issued in the US in the fall of 1969 as "The Rod Stewart Album" with a different cover. Regardless of what iteration you encounter, it is well worth having in your collection.

Friday, February 07, 2014

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY...

Flashback to February 7,1964. The Beatles land at JFK in New York for the first time and are greeted by thousands of screamers. Shortly after that, it was time to play meet the press.



The questions were pretty terrible, though some of the answers were priceless.

Two days later they would make their inaugural appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show". 73.7 million viewers tuned in to get a look at the band and popular music changed radically from this point on.

Cost of living at that time?

Average yearly income $5,880
Gallon of gas .25¢
Gallon of milk $1.06
Loaf of bread .21¢
1st class postage stamp .05¢
Pay phone (local call) .10¢
Look Magazine .25¢ an issue
Life Magazine .35¢ an issue
Movie ticket $1.25
Emerson 11" portable TV $139.95
Admiral 19" portable TV $139.95
Emerson transistor tape recorder (reel to reel) $79.95
Best Homes-(pre fabricated houses) $8,990-$17,990
Rolls Royce Silver cloud III sedan $16,655
























Sunday, January 05, 2014

PHIL EVERLY



John and Paul, Paul and Art, Graham and Allan are just a few of the singers that were inspired out of their skulls by Phil and Don Everly. DNA cemented that beautiful pairing of voices, with Phil's harmonies walking a few feet off the ground, perfectly tracking his brother.

Countless hits, banned in Boston, twin Jumbo Gibsons, Two Yanks in England, decade long estrangement, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors...like so many others who have been captivated by their sound, I never tire of listening to the Everlys.

They crossed genres effortlessly, making some of the most influential music of the 20th century. Phil Everly retained that pure, golden voice right up to the end. His exit from this realm on January 3rd deprives the world of a true talent.



Monday, November 25, 2013

THE LAST WALTZ AT 37



Weary, moribund with a touch of alcohol/drug fueled dysfunction thrown in to make things interesting , the five members of The Band decided to make their exit in grand fashion by serving up one big musical Thanksgiving feast at the Winterland on November 25th, 1976. Bringing a host of famous faces to perform alongside the quintet was an added bonus to those who secured a spot in the audience. Ask Martin Scorsese to capture everything on film? Now it becomes a momentous evening.

Despite having weathered the steady decline of their LP sales as the seventies progressed, internal interest in the group dynamic was waning. The spirit of communal creativity and work ethic that had fired their first two records had all but disappeared. Northern Lights/Southern Cross was a surprising return to form but that disc had to be squeezed out of them, taking a long time to complete. Uninspired in general, Islands could have been just as easily titled "Contractual Obligation". Robbie Robertson did not have much to say at that point, left unsupported by certain players whose debilitating habits had gained control of their calendars. The decision to pull the plug was met with a mix of consternation and relief.

Moving ahead with their plan to stage a monster send off, booze flowed, lines were chopped, turkey dinners prepared and consumed. Whispers that Dylan would show up were abound.

The resulting film is a gripping document, slightly pretentious in places and an unintentional wake for sixties attitudes that were swept away by what Tom Wolfe would christen as the "Me Decade". Given theatrical release in 1978, it remains a very stylish farewell.

Big time, Bill!

Musically, this is an incredibly tight affair with plenty of highlights. Having watched the footage many times over, it still retains a freshness that can mainly be attributed to the timeless quality of the songs. Joyous abandon can be witnessed on the faces of the musicians as they get swept up in moments that we are very fortunate to have etched in celluloid. From this vantage point, all of the big names that grace the stage are still young and in full command of their power as performers. Flashes of brilliance as Dr. John tickles the ivories in an extended solo piano outro to "Such a Night", the wicked grin of complicity that Neil Young and Rick Danko exchange during "Helpless" with Young wired tighter than an E string thanks to a buffet of coke that he had availed himself of before stepping out on stage. Clapton's guitar strap giving way and his neat recovery as both he and Robertson play like madmen, Levon's powerful reading of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" putting 100 years of southern anguish into a perfect few minutes. Van the man, resplendent in his sparkling purple suit, blazing through "Caravan" after a few whiskeys. Joni Mitchell? She turns in a stunning version of "Coyote". It's all there along with a sense that this isn't simply a loud, happy celebration of one of the most understated and influential musical aggregations that ever was. You are watching the spirit of a bygone era making one last, flickering appearance. Mr. Zimmerman strolls out toward the end to cap an amazing night. Drained and exuberant, all of the players assemble to join him and lend their voices to "I Shall Be Released".



With the three main voices of The Band no longer with us, The Last Waltz gives contemporary listeners a chance to experience the ragged, soulful beauty of the music. Make no mistake, these guys were top drawer in every respect. If you do own a copy, throw it on and turn it up really loud. That's what birthdays are for, after all.

Monday, September 02, 2013

JOSEPH BRIDGE- MR. WATERPUMP



Joseph Bridge has another teaser for listeners to check out in advance of his album release.

"Mr. Waterpump" bears the stamp of the adventurous, psychedelic songcraft that colored the work of certain UK artists in the mid sixties (Syd Barrett era Floyd, early Traffic). There is great structure here with a clever, wordless hook built in to the chorus. Radio Caroline in the UK has embraced the tune, where it has been heavily aired and requested. Refreshing in its austere arrangement, the song embraces an element of eccentricity coupled with a fine pop sensibility that makes it wholly accessible. Impossible to dislodge from the brain once you have taken it in, "Mr.Waterpump" is inspired.

From what I have heard of the tracks that will comprise the full length disc, there is much to be commended. Stellar set that is highly anticipated. Enjoy this gem for now...