Monday, March 31, 2008

Mick Jagger - The Very Best Of Mick Jagger

We get the paper on the weekend, which is pointless for the amount of money we pay for it compared to the actual reading time we devote to it. It’s not that we don’t like reading the paper, it’s just that there’s very little in terms of shit we find to read in it.
It’s gotten better since that douchebag Mike Deupree retired, but nonetheless, I always consider the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an also-ran Des Moines Register that (thankfully) avoids that paper’s pretentiousness while leaning a little too right of center for me to find completely pocketbook worthy.
Anyway, the wife goes directly for the Parade insert which should make advertisers ejaculate because it’s painfully obvious that the Parade is totally geared for the ladies of the house.
In this weeks edition, there’s a completely pointless interview with Mick Jagger that essentially asks the same questions over and over, typically a slight deviation on the age question along with complements about his physique, considering his, you guessed it, age.
The Parade also features the antics of that loveable, non-Marmaduke dog, Howard Huge.
So catching up on Mick Jagger reminded me that a recent interview with Keith Richards was much more revealing in the latest edition of GQ.
It also reminded me that the “best of” Mick Jagger from last year was inexplicitly decent, when one considers how much he can suck at times when trying to stay relevant and hip.
News flash Mick: doing interviews with Parade magazine does nothing for your street cred.

Mick Jagger
The Very Best of Mick Jagger

The idea of a best of Mick Jagger solo album is a bit laughable; out of the seventeen songs included on The Very Best of Mick Jagger, only four tracks actually made the top forty singles charts. Out of those, one of them featured another superstar (David Bowie) and a well-publicized cause (Live Aid) to help lift it into the top ten while two others (“Let’s Work” and “Lucky In Love”) barely cracked the top forty at all.
Now consider this with the notion that the idea of a Mick Jagger solo album actually started when tensions between Mick and Keith reached a point to where the Stones were considering a life apart.
Yes, there are tremendous holes throughout the solo albums that he recorded out of spite and those that he recorded out of a need to express what he couldn’t do with the Stones. All of this means that a compilation of highlights from Jagger’s solo releases is actually a pretty good idea and The Very Best of Mick Jagger is actually a pretty good record
The biggest disappointments are Jagger’s entire 80’s output. Back in the day, a record like his first solo effort, She’s The Boss, sounded misguided. Today it sounds both misguided and incredibly dated. Things got even worse by the time of Primitive Cool, a record that actually prompted me to question the entire notion that the Stones were the greatest rock band on Earth and how illogical it was for the frontman of said behemoth could allow it to self destruct and release out-of-step solo material instead
And in between those two mid-80’s relics was “Dancing In The Street,” an off-the-cuff-and-it-shows collaboration between Jagger and Bowie. As the highest chart topper on the set (#1 in the UK and #8 here in America), its inclusion is required even though it’s positively painful to listen to again.
But the rest of the track listings found on The Very Best of Mick Jagger are surprisingly enjoyable. It seems that when Mick tries to come across as contemporary, he sounds just as embarrassing as you could imagine. But when he lets loose and stops worrying about sounding too much like his main source of income, Mick Jagger’s solo work is worth compiling and worth examining.
There are two wonderful 70’s selections, the Performance solo version of “Memo From Turner,” the mismatched-but-decent duet with Peter Tosh “(You Got To Walk And) Don’t Look Back,” as well as the obligatory “I just found this lying around” unreleased cut which happens to be something brewed up with John Lennon. “Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)” is anything but revelatory and, truth be told, there’s not a hint of Lennon to it. At the same time, but it’s hardly worthless and it’s become the story that Mick’s been focusing on during the publicity run for Best Of.
The other unreleased material, including a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz and a guest appearance by Bono, is quite nice too, with the nod going to a 1993 recording of “Checkin’ Up On My Baby" with The Red Devils. Jagger needs to consider doing an album consisting entirely of Chicago-blues numbers as a future solo record because, no matter how trendy he’d like to appear, his voice is (rightfully) affixed to the electric blues paradigm
The collection pays particular attention to Jagger’s excellent Waundering Spirit release by giving four spaces to that overlooked jem. It remains as your first choice for “best Jagger solo album” in terms of overall consistency while Best Of would be your first choice if you simply want to examine the Jagger “oeuvre.”
For whatever reason they’ve given for now releasing a Jagger solo collection, The Very Best Of Mick Jagger stands as a flawed but fairly entertaining glimpse at what rock’s greatest frontman does when he’s trying to step away from the ominous shadow of his day job.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Paperback Reader

I totally stole this idea from Music Critics website because I think it’s awesome: pictures of the reviewer’s own bookshelves obligatorily filled with music books ‘n prose. There have been a few occasions when voyeuristically peeping that I’ve gone “Ooh! I’ve got that one!” typically when it’s a copy of an older edition of something that you have no idea how you acquired it. Example: I used to have a copy of the book Urban Blues that suddenly started to make its way in every single house move since high school. How it got there, I have no idea.
It’s the same thing with Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! and Soul On Ice, but 1.) Those aren’t music books and 2.) They sure look cool in my collection. So does Doctor Faustus, but I have no fucking idea what that’s about other than I stole it from the old man along with On Liberty and The Communist Manifesto. That was around the same time I wore a t-shirt that had a picture of Gandhi on it with the caption "Another skinhead for peace."
I was so fucking clever in college...
So let me be honest for a moment and declare that I probably should get around to reading On Liberty or something, but no, if I’m faced with that and, say, Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries, well sir, I’m going to go with the guy who wrote “Home Sweet Home” every fucking time.
To defend myself, I wouldn’t consider myself as intellectually shallow as Rob in High Fidelity, but I could totally identify with what he was saying in terms of literature. There are moments when I’ll curl up with an obligatory literary classic, but you’ll typically find a Rolling Stone (don’t ask), a Vanity Fair (ditto) and a rock book near the toilet instead of a legitimate novel or book.
I actually should post a pic of my “real” books just to impress you, but I won’t.
You might catch glimpse of an embarrassingly complete catalog of Steven King books that are, I swear to God, all my wife’s.
It started with a hand-me-down copy of Lillian Roxon’s Encyclopedia Of Rock, a comprehensive A to Z style compendium of a (then) relatively young genre. It was released in 1969, but I probably referred back to it countless times for years after, sadly lamenting that there weren’t any updated versions available.
But it was also a great reference for bands at that moment that hinted at enormous potential but failed to go anywhere. I vividly remember dozens of these bands (Autosalvage anyone? How about Mrs. Miller?) but I can’t remember a goddamn thing from high school algebra.
I still refer back to these books, although the internet has taken a bigger role in my investigative quests.
There is, however, no replacing those biographies that put you a little closer to the band/artist’s world or events.
Particularly when they used to be in Motley Crue.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thurston Moore - Trees Outside The Academy

For a dude who’s been jamming shit in between the strings and pickups of electric guitars and then testing the results under ear-damaging amplification, you’d think that you’d be able to blueprint what a Thurston Moore solo record is going to sound like before you sit down with it. So imagine how unsettling it is on that initial spin of Moore’s second “proper” solo effort when the first instrument you hear is the long drone of a violin.
Seconds after, the other musical consistent enters: an acoustic guitar. Now, I know that may frighten some and I understand why. After all, there’s about a million other organic offerings out there that merely use the gimmick to try and cover up every half-baked idea still “in development.” Moreover, who wants to hear a solo album comprised of material that isn’t ready for making the leap from bedroom rehearsal to the Sonic Youth rehearsal space?
Thankfully and impressively, Thurston Moore’s Trees Outside The Academy doesn’t sound like leftovers, also-rans, or not-quite-there’s. The hollowbody feel is both conversational and full of purpose; these aren’t final run-throughs before Moore feeds it through a Marshall and brands it with a Sonic Life stencil. Instead, it’s a well-intended document that feels complete even in this unadorned state.
Moore’s understated delivery (he seldom works up from a “just woke up” stance) gives the album a personal feel even when he’s not divulging a damn thing. So aside from the acoustic guitar, there is very little here that hints at why this would all qualify as “solo” material. But whatever: I dig the light and airy feel of this album to the point where I’ve reached for it on more than a few occasions.
There are moments of lively electric current, but they feel appropriately placed and well intended. While his first solo effort, Psychic Hearts, came during a period of personal growth (literally), Trees Outside The Academy seems constructed of an urge to let us in on an incubatory creative spark during a downtime in S.Y.’s schedule. And speaking of: Academy stacks up against some of S.Y.’s most recognized efforts and it continues with the band’s more recent critical upswings.

This review original appeared in Glorious Noise

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Crazy Diamond

I just finished reading the biography Syd Barrett: Crazy Diamond-The Birth of Pink Floyd. It’s been out for a while, recently updated after Syd’s passing in 2006, but I ignored it over the years figuring that I knew all there was to know about the Madcap anyway.
To a point, I had; Crazy Diamond didn’t reveal much information other that a few interesting tidbits of Syd encounters, behavioral quirks, and eyewitness accounts of some of his more notable incidents. Barely revelatory, but an interesting read nonetheless.
The other thing that the book does is almost entirely dismantle the romantic notion about Barrett’s illness and the suggestion that he left behind some lost fragments for us fans to discover. It appears that the Gilmour find, “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” will indeed be the last new offering in the Barrett catalog and any rumor of a lost session, either during the 70’s or during his reclusive years, are completely out of the question.
Repeatedly, Barrett’s relatives declare that there was not even a hint of Syd considering music, other than occasionally listening to old Stones records and, his main love, classical selections.
Every notion of a Floyd reunion or a casual recording of a living room recording were quickly dismantled by the family, even after being offered a large sum by various interested parties. Tim Sommer, the notable N.Y.C. punk broadcaster (“Noise The Show”) and former Hugo Largo member, became an A&R exec at Atlantic Records during the 90’s and made a very handsome offer to the Barrett family over $200,000 for any new recordings, regardless of how incomplete.
The offer was politely rejected.
Halfway through the book, after Barrett had slowly started to remove himself from the record industry, you begin to realize how downright boring and common he’d become. It’s fascinating to think of that bald, overweight and underwhelming chap walking down the street as being one of the architects of modern psychedelia. His anonymity was only disrupted by the consistent parade of fans looking to meet with him. Even the authors of the book only managed to meet him once, through the closed door of his Cambridge home, where they were quickly advised that Barrett was “away” and that the person they were speaking with was only the caretaker. Some family members did try to ask Syd if he’d be willing to participate in disclosing some information to the authors. Barrett quickly dismissed the notion, declaring that we wouldn’t be able to remember any stories to tell.
I’m revisiting (again) the Barrett catalog and find it just as satisfying as I did when I first discovered it. I make no illusions that it wasn’t Barrett’s infamous breakdown that brought me to the discovery and made the music, particularly the loose and barely together selections of his songbook, all the more tolerable. It wasn’t until later on that I began to see how his desire to color outside the lines made it possible for those since to work with a larger palette of colors.
Syd Barrett: Crazy Diamond is merely the black and white document of his life, but it’s his music that provides the full spectrum of colors.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

John Cale - Guts

It went like this: Lou Reed into Velvet Underground and then into John Cale. And the first John Cale album I was exposed to came from a dubbed copy of Guts that I nabbed from the former Assistant Manager at Disc Jockey Records who learned how to play the acoustic part of “Wish You Were Here” in his basement.
Not that this has anything to do with John Cale, but…you know, K-Town was kind of a fucked up place growing up and the musical tastes of others kind of reflected this fact.
I knew that Cale was in V.U. and I knew he played the unrocking instrument called a viola, so I wanted to try before I buy’d.
He may have had other Cale selections, I cannot remember, but I remember being intrigued with Guts because the cover featured him in a hockey mask, just like Jason Vorhees, playing a Flying V guitar. It was badassed and, unlike a cover of John Cale playing a viola, it looked totally rocking.
It was totally rocking: the very first line on that album, the title track “Guts,” was “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife/Did it quick and split.” Cale then weaves a tale at how he blew him away “like parrot shit” before encouraging us to “kill all you want/But make sure to do it right.” Terrifying stuff, and I began to think that perhaps everyone associated with the Velvet Underground was somehow mentally deranged.
From start to finish, even with covers of “Pablo Picasso” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” Guts is impeccable. So imagine my surprise that when I eventually got around to buying a real copy for me that 1.) the fucking thing was out of print and 2.) the fucking thing was a compilation album.
Apparently, Island records let their John Cale catalog fall out of print almost immediately after the initial pressings ran out. Then, Cale got a little bit of notoriety for donning a goalie mask and killing a chicken on stage, which caused Island to think “That kind of press is sure to sell records!”
Hence the release of Guts.
So I have tried to locate Guts and, because it was a chicken-killing marketing compilation, I’m having trouble finding it. And since John Cale hasn’t killed any poultry for nearly thirty years, it’s no longer in print. The other reason I’m having trouble finding it is because the rise of cds brought the retarded idea that you had to fill every nook and cranny with shit. So that means the 40 minute long Guts has been replaced with the 140-minute long compilation called The Island Years which has itself probably been replaced with John Cale’s Greatest Hits and Now That’s What I Call John Cale’s Music.
Actually, 140 minutes worth of John Cale probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but my point is: Why fuck with a good thing, particularly when Guts is a great thing. Start to finish, it wonderfully captures Cale’s productive mid-70’s period where he was consistently delivering better albums than his more notable V.U. nemesis.
Part of the reason is because Cale seemed to embrace the harder elements of the young punks, using their amplified power to cut through all the melodramatic bullshit of art rock. For the record, I like Cale’s melodramatic art rock stuff too, but I also like it when he just straight-out rocks like a nutter, advising us that we can “feel safe like Sharon Tate” (“Leaving It Up To You”). Guts is a near-perfect collection of his heavier moments that all subsequent Cale compilations have a tough time matching in terms of power, consistency, and overall enjoyment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yes - 90125

There was a time, perhaps a year or two in the 80’s, when producer Trevor Horn seemed like he could do no wrong. But perhaps the biggest hat trick that he ever did was to transform Yes into a cobweb inducing progressive rock band into a slick little new wave outfit like he did with their 1983 effort, 90125.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a Yes fan. I’m proficient with their A.O.R. staples, but I lose interest quickly when I see that longhair Rick Wakeman or strange-tooth Steve Howe approach their instruments with the intention of blessing us with a full half hour of noodling with classical overtones.
I’m all about the noodling, mind you, but when you start moving more toward Beethoven and away from Berry (Chuck), then I get a little nervous.
I was a little intrigued once when my uncle told me that the loudest concert he ever saw was mid-70’s Yes.
The band also created a minor dispute between my dad and me once, ironically on a trip to see that aforementioned uncle. On the car ride up, I threw in a cassette of Yes’ Drama, thinking it would be a nice compromise between my growing eclectic tastes and dad’s growingly conservative ones.
I was wrong.
He made me hit the eject button about halfway through “Machine Messiah,” declaring that the music was “too loud” and distracting him from driving.
If you’re keeping score, two people in my family have now referred to Yes’ volumous performance.
Understanding that I’m fairly underwhelmed with Yes, nothing prepared me for the first time I heard “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” on the radio. With Horn’s trademarked orchestral stabs and ultra-sheen rhythms, this sounded nothing like the Yes that I’d heard before. And before too long, everyone and their dog seemed to be picking up copies of 90125.
Even with the noticeable forays into commercial appeal, something still managed to sound unmistakably “Yes.” Even with Horn’s updated production values, there remained hints of progressive elements and Yes’ (particularly vocalist Jon Anderson) trademark vocals.
Strangely, the aforementioned production sounded wonderfully futuristic at the time of 90125’s release, only to be relegated to that 80’s time capsule by the time the next decade rolled around. It still sounds like a product of its decade, but the remastered version restores the full spectrum of sound where ever instrument is shown, revealing some intricate arrangements. There’s some new bite to it, particularly with Alan White’s drumming, and everything seems washed in gated reverb. Horn seems to have spared nothing in terms of utilizing every studio trick available to him in 1983 and, as a result, 90125 encompasses all that was wrong with 80’s production techniques while quite possibly becoming that decade’s most important reference point. Seriously: this is the album one consider when examining the recording strategies of that decade.
Song-wise, there is not a dude to be found. The remastered version does include some nifty bonus tracks of extended versions and different mixes, all of which (again) highlight the amount of time and energy that must have taken place in the studio. I do remember a few fans actually purchasing the 12” remixes of this stuff back in the day and, although repetitive, they’re all reworked to a point where some actually sound different.
Actually, the bonus cut of “It Can Happen” sounds different because it’s an example of the origins of the 90125. The project actually started when former members of Yes were considering retiring the moniker and using the name Cinema instead. That all changed when Jon Anderson came back to the fold during the recording process and, as the early version of “It Can Happen” demonstrates, his inclusion makes a world of difference. If the other versions were the same as this, Cinema would have become a forgettable document of that era, limited in appeal and relevance.
Thankfully, someone had the good sense to press forward and make 90125 into an important record, not only within the Yes catalog, but also in terms of one of the 80’s better releases.
Before you dismiss such a notion, consider that there were a large number of people that also dismissed Yes when they originally released 90125. What changed that perception back then was the songs. And since they’re still good now as they were back then, perhaps your own indifference is ripe for a new deliberation.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Enter Sandman

In college, I enjoyed a few albums by the band Treat Her Right. They had a nice retro-rock/blues feel that was a welcomed relief in the overproduced world of the late 80’s. I had complete forgot about them for years until recently.
I’ve just finished Jen Trynin’s book Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be, a nice detailed account of her mid-90’s major label bidding war and the subsequent fall from grace when the result failed to make her the next Alanis Morissette.
The book also manages to namecheck a few of her Boston, Massachusetts peers like Aimee Mann, Juliana Hatfield, and one Mark Sandman.
The name rung a bell, but I needed to learn more about Mr. Sandman. And upon my discovery, I learned that he was the lead vocalists and guitar player for one Treat Her Right, another band that got some regional fame, which also lead to a major label bidding war, which then lead to the band to being dropped after they failed to sell jack shit.
The research also showed that Mark Sandman then started a group that managed to get a little more national attention, Morphine. To be honest, I never quite got that band, but I must admit that I never really went beyond the few tracks that I heard on public radio or whatever. Maybe it’s time to discover them, as I would consider myself a fan of Sandman’s prior work.
But what really blew my mind was the discovery that Sandman frigging died of a heart attack during a Morphine show in Italy in 1999.
I also learned that Sandman was quite a contentious figure, occasionally battling wits with interviewers and revealing just enough about his past to figure out that the dude went through a lot growing up and into his early adulthood.
What’s cool is how he transformed all of that into a nifty little enterprise that allowed him to, as one of Morphine’s album titles puts it, find a cure for pain.
It still blows my mind how I still manage to discover new things in rock and roll. My score on the RMATs and discovery of Mark Sandman’s resume keeps my elitism down to a minimum.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Open Letter To Iggy Pop

Dear Iggy:
I got a chance to see you and the rest of the Stooges the other night on the 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. You looked good, I mean you always look good, but you looked better than usual for some reason. Did they put some make up on you? I’m just asking.
Anyway, I originally thought the idea of Madonna inviting you, a fellow Michigan badass, to perform on stage instead of her was kind of cool. It was like she was acknowledging that you should have been inducted before her, which I totally agree with.
But I started to feel differently. She lives in England, which shouldn’t mean anything I know, but I get this incredible feeling of pretentiousness when I see Madge lately. And when I placed that feeling with the vision of you on stage singing her songs, it looked like she was pleased with her selection of white trash minstrels, punking up the festivities like it was somehow relevant.
It isn’t anymore, and you above anyone else should understand this.
So I’m not sure of the motivation here, because Madonna’s past has been littered with people who have served her well before getting disposed of after they’ve served their purpose.
I’m not suggesting that she’s some kind of succubus and, having read I Need More, I’m confident that you can handle yourself around the ladies. I just think the idea was a poor one and the performance itself was shitty.
I’m starting to worry about you.
It started with that album that you did with Good Charlotte or whoever, and then it really magnified itself with that piece of shit Stooges reunion album that shouldn’t have gone beyond the drawing boards or at the very least, the obligatory reunion tour.
The last few years have started to feel like that incredibly awful dry spell that was most of the 80’s with you and I’m concerned that you’re thinking about calling up Don Was again for another round. With that being said, even that album is better than The Weirdness.
So if you need some free career advice Jimmy, I’m your man. Let’s face it: you’re not getting younger and there is a shelf life to all of this as I’m sure your body is beginning to tell you. It is critical that you start exiting with a keen eye on your legacy instead of potentially ruining it with ill-advised reunions, frighteningly bad late-period albums, and just plain silly cameos for institutions that haven’t even acknowledged your greatness yet.
It’s only a matter of time, probably this year in fact, when you’ll finally make the cut. But really, who gives a shit at this point? Fuck Jann Wenner! Get your head out of the Carnival Cruise Line and back into the trailer!
Your pal,
Todd Totale

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm Right 71% Of The Time

I’m ashamed. I’m just an average, run of the mill musicologist. That score represents my final tally at Rhino Records’ Rhino Musical Aptitude Test; 300 questions encompassing the full gamut of musical shit brought to my attention by someone that’s too punk to comment here.
And to that person, I will confess that I did not know Darby Crash’s Christian name.
Embarrassingly enough, I did get the one that identified Vanilla Fudge as the band to cover Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” To be fair, only a band as shitty as Vanilla Fudge would even consider covering a Sonny & Cher song.
Three hundred questions that you only have an hour to answer (that’s less than 12 seconds per question) it tough enough; it’s even harder when you’re feeding the baby with one hand while clicking on the multiple-choice answers with the other.
But that’s exactly what I was doing, occasionally using the internet to search for jazz bass players that weren’t Jaco Pastorius before realizing that I didn’t have time for such nonsense.
Fuck it: ignore the jazz questions.
I’d get on a roll before stumbling over something like “Who Sang ‘Run Joey Run’?” or “Which songwriter isn’t one of the composers of ‘Mack The Knife’?”
Holy shit.
Calli spits up her pears.
Ethan wants me to put in Hercules.
I feel an urge to defecate.
Thank God it’s multiple choice.
The battery on my laptop is dying.
So it goes without saying that I didn’t get through all the questions, which is probably not impossible if you pace yourself appropriately. I didn’t, and I knew about a half hour into the test that I wasn’t going to finish it. Particularly when, towards the end, when you really need to boogie for time, the creators of the test start throwing matching questions in. Like “Match the lesser known siblings with their more famous ones.”
I never even knew Prince had a brother.
When it was over, I had gone through 241 questions and missed 69 of them, posting an unremarkable 71% or C- average.
I’d be content with that test score in college, but in rock ‘n roll, I always wanted straight A’s.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Kings - Amazon Beach

If you’ve never heard The Kings “Switchin’ To Glide/This Beat Goes On,” you’re missing one of the greatest pop singles of all time. High praise, I know, but I’m very serious about it and the shame is that there are a ton of people (and perhaps you’re one of them) that have no idea what I’m talking about.
The Kings were never able to turn that incredible song into a hit and the album it came from, The Kings Are Here, never got off the ground either. Truth be told, “Switchin’ To Glide/This Beat Goes On” is the best thing on The Kings Are Here, despite Bob Ezrin’s best intentions.
Yes, the man who helped make Pink Floyd’s The Wall could not save this quartet of Canadians from the undeniable fact that they suffered from a complete lack of decent material, sans that aforementioned single, of course.
It was great enough for me to notice The Kings follow-up, Amazon Beach, albeit only for the reason that it was in the cutout bin at Woolworths for just a buck. To be completely honest, the debut was mediocre enough for me to cut my losses, but a buck-a-record ain’t a bad deal, particularly if it contained a tune half as good as that first single.
Ezrin had nothing to do with the weakness of the Kings’ debut, but he sure had a hand in the second one. Fresh off the clusterfuck of Kiss’ Music From The Elder, Ezrin furthers his coke-fueled dissent with Amazon Beach. Since The Kings aren’t known as notably consistent tunesmiths, Ezrin trims the material down to a mere 8 songs and fills every nook-and-cranny of the band’s power pop sensibilities with retarded sound effects, production tricks, and overwrought arrangements that curiously try to wipe away the garage-rock upbringings that made them such a refreshing joy on the radio.
With this strangely out-of-place and unwarranted production values, Amazon Beach feels incredibly long despite its brevity. And the lyrics make the time pass even slower, with regrettable phrases like “I’ve got dual exhaust on my automobile/I use a twin blade razor cuz I like the feel” (“Got Two Girlfriends”) abounding.
The Kings were quickly dropped after Amazon Beach, and little was heard from them until the obligatory reunion shows many years after most people cared. But even during the time when people did care, it was because of that landmark first single. Amazon Beach showed us that, not only were The Kings a one hit wonder, they were a one-trick pony too, no matter how much window dressing Bob Ezrin throws on them.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Kiss - Music From The Elder

“We’ve done a lot of ‘fuck me suck me’ songs and we thought we might go a slightly different route.”
-Paul Stanley
It was a time in which Kiss’ commercial appeal was at an all time low and, curiously, a time in which the band chose to make a dash towards critical respectability. To assist them in their quest, the band enlisted the help (again) of Bob “Freebase” Ezrin, Lou Reed, and a new costume designer that took their image into a more new wave approach.
They also ignored guitarist Ace Frehley’s pleas to try a heavier approach after enduring flirtations with disco (Dynasty) and blatant commercial cocksucking (Unmasked).
Almost as an afterthought, Kiss then decided it was time to concoct a concept album, loosely constructed on a storyline about a boy recruited by the council of Elders who belong to the Order of the Rose in order to...ah, fuck it...The story only makes sense under the influence of a tremendous amount of cocaine or after completely frying your synapses on repeated viewings of Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park.
The result was Music From The Elder, the first Kiss album that failed to achieve an RIAA certification and the first Kiss album in which members of the Kiss Army started to feel embarrassed at what their band had turned in to.
Music From The Elder is beyond an embarrassment. It is an atrocious effort that should have been shelved had there been any sane or sober people working at Casablanca records when the band delivered the album to them.
Any hint of the band’s prior heaviness is erased by Ezrin’s overbearing production strategy that included symphonies and choirs.
The album gets at least a half star on the notion that there was actually more than one person that managed to keep the apparition moving forward to the point where it was released to the public. It is frightening to consider that Kiss’ world, even at a point of low commercial appeal, continued to be a very insolated place, one that didn’t contain a sole person to stop them and offer some brutally honest feedback. Something along the lines of “Fellas, maybe we can whip up a few more ‘fuck me suck me’ songs and get back on the right path.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

Stunning. A neck-craning collaboration of proportions that you’re immediately drawn to investigating the idea of Robert Plant/Alison Krauss pairing. Then, almost as soon as you hear the two efficiently work their voices together, you realize that such a pairing is one of the reasons you’re so obsessive about music to begin with. Yes, this is soul enriching stuff, the type of album that you’d stay alive to hear again. And, coincidentally, the type of album that you need to make sure you don’t live another day without hearing.
Raising Sand is a ribbon microphone document of several genre-jumping passages (some are masterfully completed in a single song) delivered with incredible authenticity. The opener, “Rich Woman,” sounds straight out of the Louisiana bayou with a gritty little guitar solo secretly positioned only in the right channel and a pair of perfectly matched harmony vocals that don’t even begin to prepare you for stunners you’ve yet to hear.
If you’re not keeping track right now, we haven’t even reached the second song.
Track 2 is another winner: “Killing The Blues” comes wrapped in a beautiful steel guitar and dressed to the nine with the pair’s sorrowed harmonies.
By track 3, Producer T-Bone Burnett introduces the duo to one of his wife’s (Sam Phillips) originals, “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us.” Kraus takes the song to enormous heights both vocally and with her mood-stirring violin work. Plant, meanwhile, graciously allows Kraus to take the spotlight for this moment, allowing Burnett and Krauss to unleash a subtle masterpiece.
To remind you again: we’re only three songs into the album.
By now, you’ve figured out that there’s another incredible talent working behind the two headliners. T-Bone Burnett has done an impeccable job with Raising Sand’s conscientious recording strategies and vintage gear line up. Akin to Lanois work with Dylan, Burnett subtly moves from feeling to feeling, depending on the song, rather than Lanois’ tendency to make the song’s fit the album’s underlying atmosphere.
“Please Read The Letter,” the album’s lone original (Plant is one of the co-songwriters) is also perhaps the album’s lone stumbling point. It seems markedly out of place and you can hear Plant try to muster up some semblance of excitement at the end when he starts implementing a restrained Zeppy vocal embellishments (“Uah! Uah! Uah! Uah!”) towards the end.
Still, it’s not enough of a setback to have you reaching for the skip button and it surely doesn’t take away from the glaringly obvious fact that Raising Sand will go down as one of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s best work. Considering the incredible record of accomplishment that these artist already have, that’s enough worthy praise to having you seeking out this wonderful effort of surprising beauty.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dead Zeppelin

As much as I would be stoked to see them, and as much as I think they’d be able to pull it off, I’ve got to confess that I’m proud as fuck that Robert Plant took the high road and nixed the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion.
John Paul Jones said yes.
Jimmy Page said yes.
Robert Plant said no.
All three were set to pocket a cool $100 million pounds if they were to agree to a reunion tour.
I don’t know if I’d be able to turn down such an offer, but then again, I haven’t accumulated the amount of wealth that those three already have.
Nonetheless, it’s pretty badass that Plant was able to stand firm and stick to the bet that he had with Peter Gabriel (concerning a possible reunion with the original Genesis line-up): Which one would be the first to sell out.
It appears the ball is now in Pete’s court.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Bakers Dozen Greatest Rock Drummers Of All Time

For no apparent reason, here’s a Glam-Racket's Bakers Dozen of the Greatest Rock Drummers Ever. The list is non-negotiable and, as always, if you have differing opinions you are completely wrong and should be embarrassed that you’re reaching for the comment button to add your own two cents.
  1. Keith Moon
    Essentially, a kid with ADHD that thankfully found the perfect position for him (on the drum throne) and who thankfully didn’t listen to anyone who advised him that a drummer is merely a timekeeper. If you watch Moon’s kits develop over the years, they just kept getting bigger and bigger. And in typical Keith Moon fashion, he played the piss out of every new tom, snare, or cymbal he added.

  2. John Bonham
    Like Moon, Bonham didn’t seem to play with much regard for traditional technique. Instead of laying down a backbone with the bassist, Bonham seemed to follow Jimmy Page’s guitar work, thereby creating this most awesome groove that was completely unique. Thousands have tried to imitate him, but very few “get” some of the clever nuances in his performance, even down to the squeaky pedals.
  3. Neil Peart
    Every fucking drummer in my high school band would have gladly sucked the dick of Neil Peart just to be able to play with a quarter of the man’s ability. Positive: He can play the piss out of the drums. Negative: His virtuosity sometimes negates any hint of improvisational skills. Positive: He’s a master of technique. Negative: Technique doesn’t necessarily give you soul. But whatever, the dude is awesome and he gets bonus points for being the greatest living drummer in the world and still taking lessons from another teacher to avoid getting comfortable with his own drumming.
  4. Clyde Stubblefield
    Get’s a little higher nod than fellow James Brown alumni John “Jabo” Starks because Stubblefield laid down the most sampled drum lick in history, “Funky Drummer.” For that song along, a syncopated, lock groove that is funk, this motherfucker shouldn’t have to work a day in his life again. Yet he still does, weekly in Wisconsin and he continues to follow Brown’s advice: “Don’t turn it loose…Cuz it’s a mother!” For all you white folks, this is what’s referred to as playing “in the pocket.”
  5. John “Jabo” Starks
    Here’s a guy that can give you a boner just by playing his kit. Yes, the man who’s responsible for propelling “Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” and a host of other songs that make your penis erect, is good enough to not be “rock” drummer, yet still manage to be in this Baker’s Dozen list.
  6. Phil Rudd
    When you listen to AC/DC, what do you think of? Angus Young’s guitar solos? Brother Malcolm’s punch rhythm licks? Brian Johnson’s “I’m being dry-anal-raped” vocal stylings? I think of those too, but I also think, “My God, that drummer is so fucking subtle that it’s brilliant. Robert “Mutt” Lange is notorious for having bands, particularly drummers, re-record their shit until it’s perfect. For the making of Back In Black, Rudd used no click tracks and typically nailed his part on the first take, causing Lange to work with Bryan Adams.
  7. Stewart Copeland
    Lightning fast on those fucking hi-hats to the point that whenever I try to emulate his technique, I look like a retarded kid banging on a timpani with a dust broom. He amazes me at his ability to go from soft and restrained rhythms to powerful cracks in mere seconds. I totally expected Copeland to be a big star after the police, but the names Oysterhead and Animal Logic don’t seem to be household names, do they?
  8. Cozy Powell
    Cozy’s been described as having a “wet” drum sound, which translated means, “Let’s make the drums really booming.” Powell’s a highly sought after session player that’s done time with Robert Plant, Michael Schenker, Rainbow and even E.L.P., which required them to change their name (briefly) to Emerson Lake and Powell. Regardless of that questionable decision (working with Emerson and Lake, that is) he’s still one of my favorites.
  9. Charlie Watts
    Old Mr. Reliable. Seriously, can you imagine one single Rolling Stones song without Charlie behind it? A jazzman who understood that there’s little money to be made in actually playing jazz and ended up being the timekeeper (emphasize keeping time) for the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
  10. Ringo Starr
    Ringo likes to remind everyone that he’s the best drummer in the world. We all smile politely, nod, and secretly say under our breath “Dude, you were the drummer for the best band in the world…Big difference.” Or is there? Ringo may have a point; like Watts, can you imagine a single Beatles song if it were backed by anyone other than Ringo? There’s a good chance it might really suck, and to that point, Richard Starkey may be right.
  11. Tommy Aldridge
    Fucking dude can play. I’d never really listened to Black Oak Arkansas before, but then I saw the video below and was blown away at how good they were, particularly the drummer. He may have been (like Cozy Powell) too good for his own good as Aldridge always seems to be jumping from gig to gig with total disregard for the notion that the guy probably needs to settle down with a band and develop a legion of followers like Neil Peart has.

  12. Kenny Arnoff
    I want to know how many snare drums this guy has broken in his career. With every “snap” of that thing, I start to feel sorry for it. And then I think of all the trees that Arnoff must have demolished just to replace those sticks that he’s gotta be running through. Bald and relatively ugly, Arnoff is best know for his session work, starting with a great run during John Cougar Mellencamp’s mid-80’s run. That’s right, I said John Cougar Mellencamp.
  13. Terry Bozzio
    Has Frank Zappa ever hired a shitty musician? I’m not that big of a Zappa fan, so I will let those that are answer that. But from what I’ve heard, Bozzio’s got the goods. I’m lying somewhat, because when Missing Persons started and I saw the video for “Words” I declared “Hey, that’s the drummer for Frank Zappa!” immediately after saying, “Hey, that lead singer’s got some nice breasts.”

Honorable Mentions:
  • Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
  • Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground)
  • Scott Travis (Judas Priest)
  • Damon Che (Don Caballero)
  • Mitch Mitchell (Jami Hendrix)
  • Ginger Baker (Cream)
  • Marky Ramone (Ramones)
  • Topper Headon (The Clash)
  • Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)
  • Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth)
  • Dave Groh (Nirvana)
  • Alan “Reni” Wren (Stone Roses)
  • David Robinson (The Cars)
Dishonorable Mentions
(revered drummers that I’m not particularly impressed with)
  1. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre)
  2. Peter Criss (Kiss)
  3. John Densmore (The Doors)
  4. Alex Van Halen (Van Halen)
  5. Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer)
  6. Travis Barker (Blink 182)
  7. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)
  8. Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
  9. Carter Beauford (Dave Mathews Band)
  10. Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins)
  11. Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n Roses)
  12. Chris Slade (AC/DC)
  13. Mick Shrimpton (Spinal Tap)

Glam-Racket Would Like To Recall The Last OCD Chronicle Entry...

Because I just found an unbeliveable remake of the song, written and self-released by Sophie herself, that lends it support to Hillary Clinton in this year's election.
It's not even because I'm an Obama supporter and Sophie isn't; I can understand how a bisexual cougar like Hawkins would tend to lean towards Hillary.
No, it's because this version is completely retarded.
I don't expect Sophie B. Hawkins to be Joni Mitchell, but can't she come up with something that doesn't sound like it was penned by a Clinton staffer? It's almost as embarassing as the "Hillary Quit The Band" video.
Also, could you make something that doesn't sound like it's a karaoke version of your own fucking song, albeit with dumber lyrics.
And to prove that I'm not playing favorites here, I thought the entire Obama via Will.I.Am thing was completely stupid, but it's not as bad as this.