Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Flatbread Phenomenon Continues

This is an actual email from work. I found the "Flatbread phenomenon" line humorous. For those of you not familiar with it, about two months ago, the cafe began offering flatbread pizzas. You can go to the salad bar, grab some veggies (if desired), bring the bowl to the area that does made to order stuff, and have them make you a flatbread pizza. Admittedly, they are quite good and the line to get one is quite long, particularly when the rest of the menu sucks dick.
For someone like me who doesn't have a lot of time dicking around waiting for a pizza, the phenomenon is relatively an envious glance from me as I suffer through a ham sandwich.

Next week's menu for the C street Cafe is attached. We have some new soups from Au Bon Pain (sounds like "pan") that we will be introducing into the menu next week. Tomato Bisque, Wild Mushroom, and Cream of Chicken are all reduced sodium soups.

The Flatbread phenomenon continues....steak and egg flatbread sandwich will be featured for breakfast on Wednesday next week. Try it and tell us what you think!


Because our menu is "subject" to change, we have a few changes to TODAY's menu.

We will be having the "Second Helping Thanksgiving Buffet" on our 3rd island today. For only $4.95, load your plate with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, baby carrots, and a piece of pie. Don't forget your fountain beverage! Sliced bread will be available to build your own feast of a sandwich.

Maybe you just want dessert? We are offering pie by the slice for only $0.85 each.

We also have whole pies for sale for $6.29 each. This special price is only available this week. Pies are limited, and come pre-cut. They are available in the cafe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Record Jumps On A Scratch

I plugged in the turntable last night.
First time in years.
Members of the family did join me for the occasion and the first song played that evening was “Carolyn’s Fingers” by Cocteau Twins. It had been years since I heard it, but thanks to a bunch of video links that a friend recently sent to me, I was reminded at how awesome the Cocteau Twins were. I’d say “are” but I haven’t heard squat from them in many years. It’s amazing how a band…particularly in this day and age…can still come up with something totally novel and unique and, to that point, Cocteau Twins fit both of those adjectives.
My wife didn’t seem impressed with my trip down memory lane, except when I played the 12” single to “Personal Jesus.” Ethan spent most of the time trying to show off and compete for the our attention, who spent most of the time focused on how cute Calli was.
Yes, Callista danced to pretty much every song I played, spinning, raising her arms and sticking out her butt to such songs as “Safety Dance,” Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” remix, and some compilation of Brazilian music. She started laughing when I put on the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving To Florida.”
After dinner, I went back down to the basement for some additional trips down memory lane and the only person to join me was Callista. When Ethan heard her dancing with me some more, he came down again to make sure his baby sister wasn’t getting all of Dad’s attention.I think both kids will be music lovers, but for some reason, I think that Calli might be a little more contemplative about it. Ethan likes to laugh and goof around to the music while Callista seems content with dancing and walking over to the records and cds to take an active role in the process. When I showed her the colored vinyl of one record, she let out an impressed "Whoa hoah!”
She held out her hands to grab it, but she has to learn how to hold it from the edges before she’s let anywhere near my records.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy

The last time Guns ‘N Roses released an album, people lined up in front of record stores at midnight and got their copies early. I waited, which was a good thing as it turned out because Use Your Illusion sucked ass (What? Did you think I was talking about The Spaghetti Incident?) and the videos were even worse. I loved how at first everyone declared the double release set such a landmark album, but now has had sixteen years to figure out that is was nothing more than an overwrought Queen handjob, the first steps in making the musicians of G’n’R irrelevant while Axl began assuming control of the brand name.
If sixteen years seems like a long time between albums, consider that the distance between Chinese Democracy and Appetite For Destruction feels and sounds like a lifetime. I don’t need to tell you that there isn’t a modicum of similarities between those two albums, so how Axl can get away with calling Chinese Democracy a G'n'R album is beyond me.
But it’s here now and the best thing about it is you can get yourself a free Dr. Pepper.
Oh, I’m sorry. Is this the part where I’m supposed to be nice to Axl now? Is bashing Chinese Democracy so overdone that we're starting to hear a chorus of supporters who actually praise for this album?
Get the fuck out of here! Chinese Democracy is a piece of shit and the only reason that it’s getting released now is because Axl has officially run of money, ideas on how he can tweak it to make it better, and hard drive space that he could even put that extra overdub.
If I’m being a bit harsh…it’s probably because this has the G’n’R name on it. It’s obviously Axl’s solo album, and a farely lame one at that. Besides, for me to believe that it was a Guns album, I would have to be able recognize some of the players. On Chinese Democracy, I can only recognize Axl (even that is hard to do in some tracks) and the occasional Buckethead guitar solo.
It’s filled with lengthy ballads…hell, everything on it is lengthy, or at least appears lengthy…and huge arrangements that are unnecessary and give the album a pointless cinematic sheen. It would have been a very contemporary sounding album were it released in 1995, but now it sounds woefully dated. Chinese Democracy is a perfect follow-up to the Use Your Illusion set and there is nothing on it that can adequately explain why it took sixteen years to finish.
With all of the ballads…particularly the ones tacked on at the end…the album takes sixteen years to finish. Seriously, these are not tactful and emotive ballads like “Patience” or even “Don’t Cry,” they are epic in scope with Axl just throwing in a bunch of bullshit lines like “You like to hurt me/You know that you do.” That line, from the worst song on the album called “Sorry,” finds Axl hidden behind a bunch of processing, sounding a little like Frank Zappa on “I Have Been In You” from Sheik Yerbouti. The difference being that Zappa was being funny while Axl is dead serious.
There are two fair songs on the album, the title track and “There Was A Time” and one obvious choice for the lead-off single, “Better.” When I say “fair,” I mean that I could have gone forever without hearing them and not missed a goddamn thing while the other eleven tracks, I actually wished that I had gone forever without hearing them.
So why now? I seriously think it’s because Axl is running out of money and, more importantly, out of options at this point. There is an increasingly small window of opportunity with each passing year that enables him to even release an album. Essentially, he would have been forever dicking around in the studio, making a bunch of irrelevant edits, remixes, and overdubs only to have the entire thing leaked onto the internet where a decreasing audience would have downloaded the shit for free.
Which is exactly how I would recommend acquiring Chinese Democracy. But I expect there are still a few hardcore fans that will trek out to Best Buy and shell out whatever is being asked. There will be enough to make this album debut at number one, but very little to sustain it beyond the new year. It will go down in history as a stiff instead of a punch line, but it would have been a hell of a lot more intriguing to just sit on the album forever.
It’s here now, sixteen years of endless discussion that will soon reach the end. Regardless of what I say, you’re probably curious enough to seek it out by whatever method you choose and formulate your own opinion.
And to that, Axl himself addresses it right out of the gate with a line from the title track:
“It don’t really matter/I guess you’ll find out for yourself”

Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant

This is the time of the year where I admit that I owned not one…but two different Arlo Guthrie albums. For those of you not familiar with Arlo Guthrie, he is the less talented son of Woody Guthrie, who pretty much singlehandedly inspired Bob Dylan to travel to N.Y.C. and, as a result, change the course of rock history.
Now Arlo himself is a talented guy, it’s just that he’s not talented enough to draw unknown lyrical geniuses from the Midwest out to his deathbed so that they can run some new material by him before he croaks.
No sir, Arlo was just good enough to get signed to Reprise records in the late 60’s, get really baked and play Woodstock high as a motherfucker, and land a tune in the Billboard Top 40 charts (“City Of New Orleans”). The weed he smoked at Woodstock was apparently strong enough to maintain a buzz all the way to 2008: most recently, he endorsed Republican candidate Ron Paul because he was too stoned to know better.
I had Guthrie’s Hobo’s Lullaby. It contained “City Of New Orleans,” a song he didn’t even pen from an album that featured mostly covers to begin with. It wasn’t my cup of tea and I have no idea where it is today.
But I do know where my other Arlo Guthrie album is, because I think about it every year around Thanksgiving. Alice’s Restaurant was released on this day in 1967. It was Arlo Guthrie’s first album…still arguably his best…and it became a fixture of progressive rock stations who braved the song’s 18 minute talking blues storyline for at least one day each year.
The story itself is quite humorous. It’s the kind that you can probably only tolerate once a year, but when you do hear it, it’s as satisfying as watching the Cowboys/Lions game after Thanksgiving dinner and then wondering why they don’t show The Wizard Of Oz at 6:00pm like they used to. And like both of those other events, you’re content and don’t need to see it again for another year.
Since the story is over 18 minutes long and since you’re probably familiar with it, I don’t need to explain the details. For the novice, Arlo and his girl are arrested for littering on Thanksgiving Day, the ensuing “trial” for the crime, and the end results that Carlo’s criminal record has on his ability to be drafted to go to Vietnam. Of course, nobody really wanted to get drafted to go to Vietnam, so Arlo capitalized on his exaggerated-but-true tale of how people could use his tale of Thanksgiving misfortune into a form of social protest. If you’re having trouble comprehending all of this, all you need to understand was that is was the work of a hippy, so that should explain the incredible leap between littering and protesting the Vietnam draft.
In other words: you have to hear the song before it makes sense and, surprisingly, it’s a good listen.
While the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” took up all of side one on the Alice’s Restaurant album, side two features a half-dozen Guthrie originals that are easily forgettable but fairly pleasing folk tunes whose only problem is that they’re stacked behind such a major offering like the epic on side one. The one exception may be “The Motorcycle Song” which manages to rhyme “pickle” with “cycle” and, because of this novelty, was one of my favorite songs before going to kindergarten.
That’s changed now, of course, but “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” still remains one of my favorite songs around Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is It Live?

No news to report. So let's let Jim Gillette have a word.

Is that a fucking sock stuffed in your jeans, dude?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bruce Dickenson Joins Iron Maiden

On this day in 1981, the members of Iron Maiden quietly excused lead vocalist Paul DiAnno and replaced him with with none other than Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson had been the vocalist of Samson before agreeing to front a band that featured a huge, walking mummy as a mascot.
And the world was good.
The decision not only worked, it produced the band's finest moment right out of the gate: The Number Of The Beast. But what became of Paul DiAnno? He went on to front a bunch of band's you never heard of (Lone Wolf, Battlezone, and the aptly named Killers) but left a pretty good (albeit brief) track record with Iron Maiden. In fact, the first Maiden album I ever got was a cassette copy of Maiden Japan, the live release just prior to Number. I stole it from K-Mart and played it until the little pressure pad fell out.
So while this may be the day in which Maiden gained additional notoriety for sacking their original lead singer, I'm giving a nod of respect to DiAnno.

Now take a look at DiAnno today. Looks like someone needs some extra royalty points and a good dental plan.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Humanistic Freakout In My Mailbox

What do you do when you have $50 in your PayPal account that’s been burning a hole in your pocket for months on end? You piss it away on a limited edition package for The Flaming Lips Christmas On Mars, that’s what! Look, I’m fully aware that the thing may indeed be a piece of shit…all signs do indeed point to “Yes”…but I’ve been following this project for so long now that I can’t just give us. No sir, I’ve got to buy the deluxe limited edition version.
So today, when I noticed a box from Warner Bros, I knew what to expect: The DVD of the film, the cd of the original score, an “Eat Your Own Spaceship” popcorn box complete with real (icky) popcorn, Flaming Lips “trading” cards, a replica of the original Christmas On Mars screening tickets (pieced together like tabs of acid), an “Eat Your Own Spaceship” bumper sticker, and a Christmas On Mars t-shirt.
No, my package did not contain the “Golden Ticket” providing me with backstage access to the band’s New Year’s Eve performance in O.K.C.
And I didn’t get the popcorn box signed by the members of the band, which totally pisses me off as I ordered the fucking thing the first day it was available.
Now I am forced to stalk them.
How do I know it’s going to be a piece of shit? I don’t, but when it takes several fucking years to put the Goddamn thing together, you know there’s sure to be holes the size of Tulsa asphalt in the plot and filmed scenes.
I’ve never been to Oklahoma, so I can’t really speak for their infrastructure, but it sure sounded good. Plus, I just saw Wild At Heart for the millionth time, so I ripped that line (kinda) from Laura Dern.
I remember being totally stoked about the project when I first heard about it some seven years ago. Without knowing what the hell it’s about (I still don’t, b.t.w.), I was intrigued that a band like The Flaming Lips were undertaking a science fiction film project. The more the band revealed, the more I began to think that the project was Wayne’s own Lifehouse project, something that would assuredly fall over on the weight of its own magnitude.
One of these days, I’ll file a report on it. For now, I’m just content with all of the crap I spent my PayPal money on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nick Lowe - Jesus Of Cool

When you think about it, Nick Lowe deserves the holy title that he bestowed himself on Jesus Of Cool. Christ uttered “Forgive them Father,” as he hung upon the cross while Lowe merely shrugs “So it goes” as he spun his wheels in the pub circuit for half a dozen years with no real commercial success to show for it. Both men are fine examples of patience and grace and both men have prompted more than a few disciples.
It wouldn’t be enough for Nick to lay down a few tirades about his experience. Instead, he channels his bitterness and his well-honed chops into a timeless solo debut that’s been thankfully re-issued and wonderfully expanded, paving the way for another generation of power-pop Gideons.
Nearly every facet of the industry receives a witty nod: from the record label (“They always ask for lots of songs/Of no more than 2:50 long/So I write ‘em some”-“I Love My Label”), to the press (“They cut another record/It never was a hit/’Cause someone in the newspaper said it was shit”-“Shake And Pop”), to radio (“He got fifty thousand watts/And a big acoustic tower”-“So It Goes”); at no time does Lowe sound bitter, even when it’s quite apparent that he’s often speaking from personal experience.
What makes Jesus Of Cool so refreshing is how passionate the performances are, even as Lowe tackles just as many genres as he parodies on the cover. These are the chops of a well oiled bar band member, perhaps one that was requires to stop on a dime and change course depending on the venue, the crowd, or the amount of alcohol involved. He does it here, passing by the British Invasion, glam, punk, ska, and even disco with a carefree authority.
One of the best examples of Lowe’s carefree attitude is when Columbia records signed on as the American distributor and then immediately balked at the “controversial” title. While most artists, particularly younger ones during punk’s beginnings, would have easily decried such a request, Lowe viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. After years of not landing a record deal, here he is with two (one of which is perhaps the largest record company on the planet) and they’re giving him an offer so nice that he gets to name it twice.
On that point, the CBS version (Pure Pop For Now People) is actually on par with the original British version. There’s a few notable difference, but each one is worthy of the critical praise that it’s followed it/them for thirty years and all of the material from both versions (along with the English e.p. Bowi and a few extra compilation tracks) are found here on this re-issue.
The other element that makes Jesus such a force is Lowe’s production strategy. It alternates between his “basher” persona to more polished craft when the song requires it. This ebb and flow of low and high fidelity make for a very interesting listening experience while never hinting that nearly every track was recorded at the same, tiny eight-track studio. It’s a credit to Lowe’s ability behind the board and it explains why he became such a sought after producer during this time.
Speaking of: Jesus Of Cool is one of those rare albums that absolutely transcend its era. This is an album as vital today as it was thirty years ago and, more to the point, it’s an album that’s just as original as it was back then. Lowe takes liberty with a few chapters from the rock and roll holy book and sprinkles just enough of his own righteous abilities to remind us it’s not how long you’ve been paying your dues, it’s what you’ve learned while playing them.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

R.I.P. Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell died today. All members of the Experience have passed. Even Buddy Miles is gone, so most of the Band Of Gypsies are gone too. Stay safe, Billy Cox.
The stories are that Mitchell was the only real drummer for Hendrix. The only one that actually challenged him musically. Miles was more of a powerful player, more groove oriented, but Mitchell came from a jazz background and gave Hendrix the freedom to explore. Thanks to some shitty business dealings, Mitchell was close to broke in the seventies and was forced to part with a Hendrix guitar just to make ends meet. He died on the road today, in Portland, apparently of natural causes.
Here’s hoping they’re all doing a killer version of “Red House” in Heaven tonight.

Otis Redding - Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

I can’t understand why classic soul artists are frequently utilized for soundtracks and various compilations while their full-length albums are allowed to fall out of print. I understand that the era focused a lot of attention on singles, but surely there were more than a few soul artists that had twelve-inches worth of good material.
Otis Redding is one of those artists, and unfortunately his catalog is often spliced to benefit those aforementioned soundtracks and compilations. As good as those collections might be, they merely provide a brief reminder that recalls the movie scene or the nostalgic memory. What they fail to do is to provide a picture of the artist, which is something that a decent album has the ability to do.
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul provides a snapshot, one day in 1965, but the music from that lengthy session provides a lifetime of emotion and an eternity worth of enjoyment. As amazing as the productivity of this session is, what’s even more shocking is the quality of what was produced. It’s the kind of album where you lament why we haven’t been able to find an artist of equal caliber since his death over forty years ago before comprehending that Otis Redding may indeed be one of those once in a lifetime artist. And this is what makes his untimely death such a tragedy.
Rhino’s recently issued collector’s edition not only demonstrates that, yes, these legendary soul artists could deliver an album’s worth of impeccable work, it also points to the embarrassing fact that the record companies let one of America’s premier recording of deep soul fall out of print while providing expanded re-issue treatments on lesser material from more forgettable artists.
Otis Redding is an unforgettable artist. The piece of the plane that carried him to an early passing can be found at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland was an emotional artifact for me as anything else in the exhibit. It’s a physical reminder of what was unfairly taken from us while Otis Blue is a document of how fully Redding must have lived his life. Each song is filled with so much gut-wrenching feeling that it’s hard to comprehend how a man so young at the time of the recording (26) could dig so deep within himself to keep bringing it over and over, take after take.
Ponder that for a moment: the Otis Blue sessions started in the morning, continued on until the evening, when members of the band had to stop to play a few gigs in Memphis for some extra dough, before resuming again after the gigs to wrap up the recordings. You hear no evidence of diminished returns from the band, no bitching about the long hours in the liner notes, and no change in the quality of Redding’s delivery as it fluctuates between heart wrenching ballads and roadhouse rave-ups with ease.
In the middle of this session, Otis needed to visit the doctor for a check up as required by his insurance company who were providing coverage for his upcoming tour. Seizing on the break in the action, the band visited a nearby record store, picked up a copy of the new Rolling Stones hit “Satisfaction” and returned back to the studio to listen to it.
While still continuing to wait for Redding’s return, the band learned the chord changes, scribbled down the lyrics and handed them to Otis when he arrived back. Briefly glancing over the lyrics, Otis and the band laid down the track. Never mind that Redding pronounced “Satisfaction” as “Satisfashion,” what transpired in the studio that afternoon was a new version, practically surpassing the original, fueled entirely by the passion of a new groove.
And never mind that the majority of the tunes here are covers (3 of them penned by his idol Sam Cooke); Redding adds his grits ‘n gravy to each one. It seems that, with Cooke out of the way (he died less than a year before these sessions took place) Redding makes a conscious decision to step up and claim the soul throne, a title in which he is awarded as evidence by every track on Otis Blue.
That throne means that Redding, who had his share of R&B hits up to this point, would have to make a move towards the predominantly white audience that made up the pop charts. The song selection on Otis Blue demonstrates this shift in direction but, remarkably, Redding doesn’t shortchange the very elements that brought him to the crown. There is no whitewashing here, just a careful selection of material meant to raise the curiosity of a wider audience, and once that audience hears it (meaning: you), there is absolutely no question why he and this album are vilified.
The bonus offerings are generous to the point that you’d expect from Rhino. Rounded out with era singles and b-sides, this edition of Otis Blue contains a pair of live sets that duplicate many of the songs while managing to sound nothing like each other. This is the way expanded editions should be addressed: paying close attention to the performance of the material rather than the collectibility of it, while ensuring the legacy of the original pressing remains.
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul was already one of the greatest soul albums of all time before Rhino got their hands on it, but thankfully, they treated this collector’s edition with kid gloves. They’ve preserved the original document, added some very telling and relevant bonus material, and in the process, provided Redding with the proper treatment that he’s deserved and been neglected on for far too long. This is an album that only took Redding one day to make your entire life just a little more fulfilling.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Andy Partridge

Look who's 55 today: Andy "Stagefright" Partridge, the elusively reclusive frontman for XTC that spends way too much time playing with toy trains instead of doing something more important: like making fucking records.
There are numerous examples of Partridge acting like an asshole (the conflict with Todd Rundgren during Skylarking, guitarist Dave Gregory leaving, initiating a "strike" against Virgin records) but even more examples of this asshole putting out some pretty awesome music.
Undoubtly one of my favorite bands of all time, XTC put together a string of albums that I would consider to be vital additions to anyone's record collection.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Neil Young - Arc Weld




Here was my train of thought one week in 1991. I was still on the high that was Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Ragged Glory and I caught wind that Uncle Neil was getting ready to release a live album of the Ragged Glory tour. And I heard that the album would feature an initial limited edition offering called Arc Weld, a three-disc box set that contained the proper live release and a third disc featuring nothing but Neil’s guitar feedback. For some reason, I thought “Hey, that sounds awesome!” and put my name on the list for that first-come/first-serve 25,000 copy release.
I’ve listened to the feedback disc Arc probably two or three times since then.
It’s the equivalent of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music or so I’ve been told. And after hearing Arc two or three times, I have no interest in hearing Metal Machine Music.
As far as the real musical selection of this release, Weld features Neil and the Horse at their most raucous. There’s plenty of feedback, plenty of grit, and plenty of repetitiveness. I remember going into this release looking forward to the Arc section because so much of Weld had been done before on other releases. The moment I realized that Arc was a piece of shit, I was forced to tangle with Weld.
It may be the most guitar-oriented release of Young’s career and most of the songs feature endless soloing and shenanigans. I still prefer Live Rust to it, but it was hard for me to believe at the time that a man of Neil’s age could return to fuzz in such fashion. But my absolute favorite part of the album comes during “Welfare Mothers” when guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro repeatedly yells “Mom! I’m hungry!” Poncho’s a big dude, so the visual in my head is quite humorous.
Arc Weld was released on this day in 1991. It was the first Neil Young album that didn’t crack the Billboard 100 charts in 22 years. You can get Arc as it’s been re-issued as a single disc offering, but you’d be a fucking retard if you did.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boston - Third Stage

My first radio gig came right around the time that Boston was getting ready to release Third Stage. For those of you not familiar with all things Boston, the band released two very successful albums in the seventies and then spent a prolonged period in legal battles with their record company. It took them eight years to finally release Third Stage (on another record label, of course) and people were extremely excited about it. It’s not terribly unusual for bands to wait for long periods of time before releasing something new, but 8 years back then meant that the band was pretty much done for.
The campus station…a weird blend of AOR and the then emergining “college radio” format…received an advance copy of the first single from Third Stage, “Amanda.” There was a playlist at the station, but people seldom followed it, choosing instead to play whatever the fuck they wanted. The big shots at the station (meaning the program directors, which essentially meant “the juniors and seniors”) attempted to curtail such shenangians and one such attempt came at the hands of “Amanda.”
You see, people…including college kids raised on classic rock…were totally stoked that there was a new Boston album coming out. So much that they played “Amanda” at least once on every shift. And since shifts usually were three hours in length, that meant that you heard “Amanda” every three hours.
Not on my shift (Sundays 9pm-12:00am). I didn’t play “Amanda” because it sucked balls. Instead, I began pulling a bunch of albums from my own collection and spinning them during my shift. So when I saw signs that read “NOTICE! PLEASE PLAY ‘AMANDA’ ONLY ONCE DURING YOUR SHIFT!” I ignored them.
Just like I ignored the rest of Third Stage.
Have I heard it? About a million times, hoss! Yes, the same people that got boners for “Amanda” also got hard-ons for the entire album. They bought it. They played it. I got annoyed. Third Stage is unmistakably Boston, if Boston intended to make a polished, bland album that attempted to remove itself from the hard rock direction of it’s first two albums. In other words, Third Stage shows the band (by then consisting only of Brad Delp and Tom Scholz) growing up and getting a bunch of new studio toys in the eight year downtime. The lack of a real “band” called Boston also neuters Third Stage from any humanity. The entire album sounds like it is the result of some newfangled Tom Scholz invention. It appears that not only did the time off strangle most of the humanity from Third Stage, it also strangled most of the band’s passion.
Boston’s third album was released on this day in 1986 and was the first album to post gold sales in both vinyl and compact disc sales.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Duran Duran - Rio

I don’t have that ninth grade review of Rio, but I vaguely remember enough of it to paraphrase one of the “money shot” lines. I referred to the song “Hungry Like The Wolf,” noted the song lyric’s strong sexual imagery and declared it to be something that may to “too risque to find it’s way on to the Solid Gold show.”
For those of you that were too young to remember (read: all of you), “Solid Gold” was a television show where people would come and lip-synch their songs in front of a phony audience. It was very lame and not very many “cool” bands played on it.
Anyway, our town didn’t have MTV and, therefore, I didn’t really have too great of a visual image of the band. I probably saw the video to “Hungry Like The Wolf” once or twice, but I really thought that Duran Duran would turn out to be this highbrow new wave band and eventually get heroin addictions and record albums in Berlin with Eno.
So I write that bitchin line and what does my English teacher write on it? “I just saw them play this song on ‘Solid Gold’ last week. A-“
Let me return the favor, Duran Duran, and award you with my own ‘A-‘ for your best album, one that remarkably holds up better than expected and isn’t as embarrassing as my review of it. There, I said it.
I’ve concluded that Duran Duran owes a ton to Roxy Music. And while they couldn’t touch some of Roxy’s best work, Rio comes close and certainly bests the band’s late 70’s output like Flesh & Blood, the era that D.D. most resembles.
Unlike other Duran releases that are only as good as their singles, Rio’s lesser known tracks are not only noteworthy, but are on par with their more famous counterparts. What makes the album work so well is the band’s rhythm section of John and Rodger Taylor. John provides some nifty bass work full of funky slaps and pops while Rodger works both acoustic and electric drums with great precision. Make no mistake, it’s very white Anglophile funk, but there’s enough legitimate booty shaking thanks to Duran’s rhythm section to make their dance floor antics plausible.
The hits are concentrated on side one, but side two is fucking better. Slick, atmospheric and fuck-ready, the four songs on the second side of Rio are the best thing this band has ever done.
In closing, this is better-than-good pop music that, unlike the band’s other releases, is able to transcend the moment in which it was created and sound timeless when other contemporaries sound dated. And thanks to the success that Rio bestowed upon them, Duran Duran were never quite able to recreate the impeccable blend they achieved here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Duran Duran - Seven And The Ragged Tiger

The first record review I ever wrote was for Duran Duran. It was for a Freshman English class where we were instructed to write a review…pro or con…on a movie, album, or any other form of entertainment. I chose the band’s second album, Rio.
I loved it.
I thought it was so awesome that I went out and bought the first album, thoughtfully repackaged by the folks at Capitol records who were out to make a buck off the band’s new fans like me. I didn’t like it as much as Rio and the band’s subsequent saturation caused a certain backlash in my mind.
They turned from a slick post-Bowie new wave band into a band that became excessively merchandised to young teenage girls. This may have already been happening before I knew it as it wasn’t until 1983 that our town finally got MTV. But at that time, right when the band released Seven And The Ragged Tiger, the “fab five” movement was in full swing. And I hated the band for it.
Even though I had this ability to float around various rock genres, there was nothing about Seven And The Ragged Tiger that could remotely pass as cool. Unless you had it in your collection to impress a chick with (there were people that did this), no heterosexual teenage boy would be caught dead with this album in their collection.
So how did I manage to hear it? Funny you should ask, by a friend of mine who happened to adore Duran Duran and who didn’t mind the band’s minor change in direction for album number three.
He also happened to be gay.
Looking back on it now, Seven And The Ragged Tiger is a pretty shitty attempt at an icy-sheened Roxy Music record. Which, in turn, makes it a tolerable Duran Duran record.
I had forgotten how successful this album was back in the day: with no less than three top ten hits (“The Reflex,” “New Moon On Monday,” and “Union Of The Snake,”), this record was keeping teenage girl’s vagina moist both on the way to/from school and in the seclusions of their bedrooms. It’s the remaining tracks that really suffer from the lack of visual stimulations. Seriously, there’s very little on cuts like “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In The Pavement” or “Shadows On Your Side” that will get you hot ‘n bothered. But throw in the image of an androgynous Nick Rhodes putting his index finger on a synthesizer key, and then I’m ready to get down to business.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Coverage

DirecTV had this nifty little thing during the election. It was a channel that had about 10 different networks on at the same time, enabling you to highlight one network and hear the audio while keeping a visual eye on the others in case they broke with news that the other network didn’t seem to be carrying.
Because of this, I got a chance to seamlessly switch from one network to another without really switching channels. Admittedly, I did end up going to those channels as the small picture within a picture feature made it hard to see anything, particularly when results came in.
Here’s a rundown of the different networks and their “unique” coverage.

Fox News-Brit Hume is an annoying fuck. I know, so is everyone on Fox News, but for some reason they put this mush mouth on like he’s some fucking vital news relic. Aside from his mumbling, Hume is more annoying when he’s waxing poetic on shit that he really hasn’t thought all the way through. Hume brilliantly observed that the reason Obama won is that he effectively sold the “idea of Barack Obama” rather than his ability to sell any real ideas. Then there’s Juan Williams, an occasional NPR journalist that I had respect for until I noticed that he also shells for Fox News. With such a decision, he’s compromised everything that I ever trusted in him. He’s proven a good journalist, but the moment he starts acting like a pundit is the moment he starts looking stupid. Example: Williams gave a resounding “meh” after Obama’s nomination speech while everyone else with a pulse seemed to agree that it, like Obama’s acceptance speech last night, was very eventful. For a dude that’s covered many elections, could Mr. Williams name a candidate’s speech that he declared “eventful?” Methinks that Juan is another pawn for Murdoch’s conservative machine and it really came to fruition during this campaign. By the end of the night, it didn’t matter who was talking as everyone at Fox News looked like someone had just killed their family pet.
CNN-And the award for most embarrassing coverage goes to CNN. Motherfuckers had holograms. Let me repeat: they had HOLOGRAMS. When they weren’t providing viewers with visual novelties, they had expert panels. The panel members each had “CNN” laptops and they would all talk over each other. After getting a headache trying to decipher one goddamn point they were trying to make and getting freaked out by holograms, I switched to another network.
BBC-“Finally!” I thought. “Some legitimate coverage by stuffy English reporters with their pretentious accents.” But no. The piece I saw featured a classy blonde talking to two bloggers in the studio, one representing each party affiliation. The host would ask the bloggers something, and the bloggers would repeat some things that they saw other bloggers type on the internet. It’s nice to know that British media outlets are just as fucking stupid as American ones.
MSNBC-I didn’t stay here too long as I normally enjoy MSNBC’s blatant liberal bias. During the brief time I did watch, they just let the video footage roll. I needed mindless talking heads talking shit, and MSNBC just wasn’t giving it to me.
NBC-The old standby. I loves me some Tom Brokaw. I’m not a big fan of Brian Williams. Other than Williams throwing some utterly softball questions to Congressman John Lewis (“Who are some of the people you’re thinking of right now after this historic election. Specifically, who are some of the names?” I mean, fuck dude, just come right out and ask: “So Congressman, were you thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. when you witnessed this election?”) NBC filled the screen with an inordinate amount of visual clutter. When I considered grabbing some out-of-fashion glasses just so I could read it, I realized that it would be easier to stay on the couch and try another channel instead.
FOX/CBS (local)-Swear to God, the news anchors announced that they were about to join their sister station for “dual coverage.” They ran a little “Election 08” bumper and then joined the same two anchors. If it wasn’t the same two anchors, then CBS and Fox in Cedar Rapids have hired four people that look suspiciously alike.
NBC (local)-Ron Steele has been doing the same folksy anchor bullshit for so long now that it’s annoying. You would think the guy could do a little better at ad-libbing (see Tom Brokaw), but he’s such a wishy-washy fuck that seems so concerned at offending anyone that he actually is offending. The only time he looked excited is when he announced that his former co-worker, the weekend news anchor Tami Wiensek (she was the fat one) was actually winning her election bid (she eventually lost).
Through it all, I began to wonder if all of these media choices were really worth it. It seemed that there was less bullshit, clutter and novelty back in the day we only had three major networks. I suppose I could have drifted by C-SPAN…I have in the past…But whenever I do, the coverage is so dry that it becomes mundane. Besides, I didn’t have C-SPAN programmed into my remote, and figuring out how to program the thing would have meant that I could have missed potential holograms.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Election Day. Probably America’s best day and the worst single by a Duran Duran sideproject. I’m intentionally not watching the election returns…that will come later when the real data starts to come in…but am cautiously optimistic that America will figure this shit out. The last two elections were mindboggling as to how uncomfortably stupid American voters can be, or at least half of them.
The first election I ever participated in was 1984. I went to the caucus and supported John Glenn. Walter Mondale got the nomination, and I got out of school to go around the ward of my hometown and doorknock. Mondale won in my hometown, but got blown away in the national election.
This would have been around the time that Duran Duran released Seven And The Ragged Tiger.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

George Harrison - Wonderwall Music

If you’ve ever joked about the Oasis song “Wonderwall” with that rhetorical question “What’s a ‘wonderwall’ anyway?”, you’ve proven that you’re not really a Beatles fan. And as every Oasis fan knows how they’re obsessively indebted to the Beatles, a true Beatles fan know that “Wonderwall” stands for Wonderwall Music, as in the very first Beatle solo album from George and is the very first release on the band’s imprint, Apple Records.
To be fair, this is fairly obscure trivia as Wonderwall Music is essentially a film score for Wonderwall the movie, a score in which George doesn’t even play a note. It was released 40 years ago today, a time when Harrison was pretty obsessive about Indian music. To be fair, he did compose the score, and while I’ve never actually seen how the score holds up against the actual movie, it’s about as exciting as you can imagine when listening to a movie score without the actual visuals on top of the notes.
While far from being required listening, Wonderwall Music is an interesting foray into avant-garde instrumental music that provides no hint of Harrison’s pop side or underrated guitar work. Aside from your own soundtrack for a psychedelic induced comedown, there is very little here in terms of repeated listening pleasure or exemplarary musicianship.
It’s a curious side note, most notable for its place in Beatle history and the bands that use Beatle trivia for their own creative expression.