Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reggae's Gone Country

The idea is simple: Create a unique album of country songs as interpreted by today’s current reggae notables.

The problem is thus: Who are today’s reggae “notables.”

I’m guilty of it too. My appreciation of reggae is deep-seeded. There is no logical explanation for it, other than one of my favorite joys in the summertime is to open up the sunroof in my 4Runner and just blare old-school reggae for no other reason than just to pretend I’m not in a landlocked state.

But the reality is that when Reggae began to shift to more dancehall vibes and to incorporate more rap elements into the arrangements was the day that I left the island for good. It’s a genre where I’m merely trying to tie up the final requirements. I’m looking for Bunny Wailer’s elusive Liberation, there’s a few Peter Tosh records that I need to acquire, and I still haven’t been able to find a digital source for Lieutenant Stitchie’s “Body Body” 12”, so my vinyl copy will have to suffice.

What I’m admitting here is that I haven’t bought a new reggae album in over twenty years and product like Reggae’s Gone Country is an attempt to turn people on to this vital genre and an attempt to win me back by exposing new artists for me to consider.

While it’s obviously just a blatant marketing attempt, the producers try to associate the two genres with tales of similarities which don’t seem to go beyond much more than the subject matters of their respective songs.

What’s curious is that I view reggae as a rebellious outlet, particularly for all of the struggles that the country has felt within its urban centers and the island’s strong ties to Afro-centric cultures.

And for the life of me, I can’t remember Kenny Rogers’ singing about Marcus Garvey.

When Busy Signal comes to return the favor with his version of “The Gambler,” we get a tepid reggae beat underneath an out-of-place steel guitar and a completely uninspired and auto-tuned vocal that merely recites the lyrics.

They even grabbed Larry Gatlin for a reggae version of “California” which, again, is nothing more than a wimpy reggae beat over a re-recorded version of the original.

In fact, Reggae’s Gone Country manages to neuter both genres pretty effectively with every song included. It completely ignores any similarities that the press-kit tries to convince you of and it even goes a step further.

It is bad enough that it will do exactly the opposite of what it’s designed to do: prompt you to dive deeper within the genre, finding a hidden affection towards the music and the new artists that are supposedly carrying the torch for a new generation.

Maybe these artists would fare better by listening to the genre’s groundbreaking revolutionaries instead of the record labels who believe shit like Reggae’s Gone Country will attract tourists.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, G.G. Allin

It's G.G. Allin's birthday today.

Who knew?

Aggronautix, the fine company that brought you items like the Roky Erickson bobblehead and the Johnny Winter bobblehead are digging back into their catalog of G.G. Allin shit and celebrating the poop-eater's birthday.

They're even having a sale!

So if you're in to this sociopath and his shitty music, you may want to act quickly as this shit sells out fast.

Maybe because they only make three dozen copies of the stuff, which is just about the number of fans that G.G. Allin still has.


Here's the press release bullshit:

Kevin Michael Allin, born on this day 55 years ago as Jesus Christ Allin, would become known to the world as G.G. Allin - the most infamous Rock and Roll icon of all time.

AGGRONAUTIX is celebrating his legacy this week by offering some new G.G. items and discounting all other exsisting items.

First, the new item... a G.G. Allin portrait by John Wayne Gacy. This is an 18 x 24 replica poster of the G.G. Allin portrait that John Wayne Gacy painted for the HATED's original theatrical release. This was painted in Gacy's jail cell on death row, two years before his execution. A must have for any fan or collector. Only about 30 or so left!

Next, we are discounting the ever-popular G.G. Allin - 1991 Condensed Carnage Throbblehead to just $10. This ghoulish effigy is a smaller version of the original G.G. "1991" limited edition throbblehead that quickly sold out. The figure stands at 5 inches tall and is made of a lightweight polyresin. Displayed in a window box, here GG is accurately sculpted right down to the tattoos, blood, and filth. Mount him on your dash or on your hood, carry him in your your pocket, take him everywhere!

We are also discounting the G.G. Allin Latex Mask by $10. This is the officially licensed unlimited DISPLAY ONLY 2nd edition latex mask by SikRik. The 1st edition, limited to 35 numbered copies, sold out in less than 24 hours.

Other G.G. items include G.G. Allin HATED Special Edition DVD (discounted to $15), the G.G. Allin & The AIDS Brigade - Live In Boston 1989 DVD(discounted to $15), and the G.G. Allin - Freaks, Faggots, Drunks and Junkies VINYL (discounted to $15).

And as a bonus treat, here's an awesome animated video for "Die When You Die"...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peter Frampton and his Band Live In Riverside, Iowa

Peter Frampton and his Band
Live at Riverside Casino, Riverside, IA
Saturday, August, 27, 2011

“Do you want me to get you a ticket?” I asked my wife as we pulled into Riverside Casino earlier this summer. Neither of us are gamblers; the visit was specifically designed to purchase Peter Frampton tickets at the venue to avoid any additional fees and extra charges.

My wife wasn’t even born when Frampton Comes Alive was released. In fact, Frampton was already old news when she first arrived. But for me, as a 10-year-old who witnessed the rise and fall of Peter Frampton firsthand, I understood the significance of what was the greatest selling double live album of all time.

I don’t know if that distinction still stands, but I do know that the vinyl document is a ubiquitous piece for a certain generation, a generation that my wife acknowledged she wasn’t a part of when she told me that she wasn’t interested in a ticket.

Frampton Comes Alive wasn’t my first recorded obsession; it came after Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys and before Queen’s News Of The World. But I’m not so fickle that I no longer acknowledge Frampton’s impact on my rock and roll upbringing.

This is why I immediately jumped at Frampton’s casino stop, particularly after I learned he would be performing the album in its entirety as part of its 35th anniversary.

Nobody under thirty was there willingly. The casino’s outdoor stage area was filled with middle-aged fans, and I overhead such comments along the lines of “This is the second time I’ve seen him! But the first time, he had long, curly blonde hair!”

Frampton celebrated his 60th birthday this year, so those long, golden locks have gone-literally-and what hair he has left is short and grey. What remains is his toothy grin and an unbelievable talent at playing the guitar.

It’s something that he focuses on now. In fact, during the second set of more recent material, he performed a lot of instrumental songs that showed how he’s developed a wide range to his playing that goes far beyond the amplified Humble Pie boogie that kicked off his sing-stringed talents.

Frampton tackled these late career efforts with smooth ease and eloquent playing. While nowhere near the aggressive rock playing of Comes Alive, it retained a feeling of a fine artisan who’s still working hard to deliver performances of impeccable aptitude.

He seemed to understand that his days as a pin-up, which is actually how he began as a teen idol with The Herd, are long gone. He’s now completely focused on life as a guitarist, knowing very well that he needs to dish out a bit of F.C.A. during every performance, anniversary or not.

There’s no disputing that the crowd came for Comes Alive, and while the video screen behind the band displayed appropriate-era photographs of Frampton and his band, there was no hint that he was going to make the show a Polaroid copy of that landmark release.

“For those of you familiar with the vinyl version of the album, you may have noticed that the songs are out of order…I can see a worried look in some of your eyes.” Frampton noticed. He went on to explain that they were playing the same set as they did on that night at Bill Graham’s Winterland that night in 1975 and not the edited sequence vinyl release.

While that may have disrupted the audience members who came to hear the song-by-song rendition of the double album, for me it worked wonders. The arrangement of the real setlist was perfect, and I later discovered that Frampton would continually experiment with the nightly setlist, adding and deleting titles based on the crowd’s reaction. While the vinyl track listing has no flaws itself, the real setlist that night shows a killer one-two punch (“Something’s Happening” into “Doobie Wah”) followed by a segment of light and bouncy cuts, into an acoustic portion, before giving way to the flashing and heavier material by the end of the set.

Whatever formula he used, the original set list trumps the vinyl version and is as close to perfect as you could get.

“We’re well into side two now,” he reminded us, acting as almost a tour guide throughout the entire release, gingerly acknowledging that he understood how Frampton Comes Alive meant to a lot of those in attendance.

Speaking of side two: on the acoustic song “Winds of Change,” it sounds like someone lights a firecracker in the background during this quiet number. On Saturday night I could have sworn that on this same song, someone has dialed up a pre-recorded sample of that noise and placed it into the live mix at the exact same moment as what you’d hear on the record.

That freaked me out a little bit, not from being startled, but at me thinking about the noise from my old vinyl version and then hearing it live, wondering if it was real or if I was just hearing things.

Most of the performances in the set were performed at a much lower intensity than the original recording, but as the ticket stub reminded everyone in attendance, this was 35 years after the fact.

Instead, he replaced the hunger of the original performance with expert execution and stunning virtuosity during the extended solos. You could tell that songs like “Baby I Love Your Way” are in the set because of their obligation, but that doesn’t stop Frampton by checking out new directions during the solos.

By the time he has reached “I Wanna Go To The Sun” and “(I’ll Give You) Money,” the solos are reaching epic performances, causing even the most sedentary of audience members to raise from their seats-or lawn chairs as the case was in my back section.

Say what you want about casino shows, but for me they’re good fun for a number of reasons.

In Frampton’s case, the Saturday night show demonstrated decent numbers of well-intended Midwestern folks who thought nothing of downing a few beers and getting lit up on a beautiful August night.

At a casino show-or at least at the one I visit-there aren’t teenagers prowling around the parking lot hassling you to get inside to enjoy an $8 tall boy that they’ll loving pour into a plastic cup for you.

Instead, the Class of ’76 flowed around the outdoor stage, into the adjacent casino, past the indoor/outdoor smoking section, stopping to high-five a fellow graduate or to sneak a quick dance to “Show Me The Way” with a divorcee.

All of it looked remarkably similar to the shows that they probably attended back in ’75, where domestic beer and Pepsi were the only two beverages provided and retired Navy guys did a half-assed job at security.

For Saturday, it wasn’t ole armed service fellows or the excessive meatheads that our modern venue security force. Instead, it was casino workers looking for some extra overtime after their shift, politely pointing you towards the smoking section and reminding you of the seafood buffet after the performance.

Throughout it all, Peter Frampton smiled and shook his head at the three-hour time machine he had just created, crab legs not included.

That’s right: three hours. And during the entire thing, it didn’t look like there was any other place that he’d rather be.

Sure, there were those that chose to pack up an leave after the Comes Alive set, but not as many as I originally thought. There were several people who considered leaving, only to hang around when they heard something vaguely familiar.

Like an instrumental version of “Black Hole Sun,” where Peter solo’d Chris Cornell’s part and then whipped out the talkbox again to actually go into the chorus at the end of the song.

Or the set closing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” where the audience stayed out of respect to the source material, while probably not even knowing that Frampton learned about the talkbox while visiting Harrison’s sessions for All Things Must Pass.

Speaking of, my grin widened and I literally started giggling during the solo during “Do You Feel Like We Do.” Frampton would do a little scat and ask the appropriate questions a phrases (“I can’t hear you!”) while occasionally cracking up at some of the silly sounds he could get from the guitar effect.

“Now this is the time when we would have gone off stage for a few moments…and did drugs.” Frampton admitted, asking the audience to clap really loud, just like the would have had it really been the end of the set. “We don’t do drugs anymore,” he mentioned with a long pause before adding, “Well, we still do prescription drugs!” probably noting the inevitable pill count that seems to come with age.

It was the music that was timeless, however, taking on different nuances over the course of Comes Alive’s thirty-five years. Frampton delivered the record and his new material with the grace of someone who has seen both feast and famine in an impressively long career.

Frampton Comes Alive was released to serve fans as an introduction to Peter’s catalog, none of which managed to reach the heights of that live compilation.

Saturday’s show also served the same purpose in a way. It was a re-introduction to Frampton under the guise of his most notable effort. But we already knew the songs before we even bought the ticket, so there was indeed something higher going on.

Rather than merely revisiting the past, Frampton showed that even after his lowest points, he’s emerged levelheaded, sane, and with a better appreciation of the talents that put him on the roller coaster to begin with.

For lack of a better word, Peter Frampton's recent tour is merely an update example of him coming alive again even after things looked d.o.a. for many years in between.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Xray Eyeballs Release New Single,

An interesting bit of scuzz pop with a KILLER bass guitar grind which inexplicitly fades out at the minute thirty mark.

It's a great entry in your next mix tape, provided you still have a TDK dealer.

Count the pill popping references below from the label's own press release:

Hardly Art is pleased to announce the first new material from Xray Eyeballs following the release of their debut LP, Not Nothing, earlier this year on Kanine Records. "Sundae" is a chugging, relentless number that wastes no time, carried all the while by O.J. San Felipe's increasinly anthemic vocals, while b-side "Deja Vu" (produced by Chris Coady) showcases a dancefloor-ready version of the band, filtered through a snare beat and synth line combo that insistently wanders through each stereo channel.

Listen to the A-side, "Sundae," here.

Both tracks are brand new and exclusive to this 7". A first pressing of 500 on translucent blue vinyl will be released on August 30, followed by a brief East coast tour in September.

About the band:

Xray Eyeballs began as the brainchild of guitarist O.J. San Felipe and bassist Carly Rabalais, who, while playing in Brooklyn garage-rock juggernaut Golden Triangle (Hardly Art, Mexican Summer), sought a release that would sate both their sweet-toothed desires and their darker impulses, like a candy-coated Vicodin.

The resulting sound features the distinctive vocal lines of San Felipe accentuated by the lilting voice of Rabalais amidst a miasmic musical whirl where guitars pulsate with turgid sexuality, bass-lines throb with Factory-style control, and the eerie synthesizer atmospherics of Rop Vazquez (Necking, The Pee-Chees) float around like impossibly cool ghosts you only dream of meeting.

The debut record, Not Nothing (Kanine Records), leads listeners on a skuzzy, love-buzzy trip, a mood-altering experience akin to those offered by The Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground. Like those musical antecedents, Xray Eyeballs proposes deliverance from the day-to-day by creating a world of their own. Low-lifes, night-walkers, pill-riders, and other sordid characters populate the band’s world and their songs entice the listener to follow them around until the early morning light

Xray Eyeballs - Sundae by hardlyartrecords

Tour dates:

09.06.11 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl *
09.08.11 - Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch Festival
09.09.11 - Richmond, VA - Strange Matter #
09.10.11 - Washington, DC - Comet Pizza and Ping Pong #
09.11.11 - Philadelphia, PA - Danger Danger Gallery #
09.13.11 - Brooklyn, NY - Death By Audio #

* - w/ Hunx and His Punx, Coathangers
# - w/ Grave Babies

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yngwie Malmsteen Reminds Everyone How Good He Is With New Album and North American Tour


That was the introduction in bold print, announcing Yngwie's newest album. Just look as some of his comments below and behold how self-absorbed they sound.

That's because Yngwie is an awesome guitarist.

And he knows it.

He's like the Ron Burgandy of guitarists, "He everyone! Come see how great I am!"

And there will be fans who do exactly that.

Sure, you can make the argument of the claim of how good he really is or question the soul of what he's really doing inside all those notes, but let's not forget the first time you heard Yngwie, marveling at the speed in which he was shredding.

The cynicism came later-and is probably deserved-but you can't deny the jaw-dropping method you witnessed on first glance. For a brief moment, you were willing to admit that Yngwie was one of the greatest guitarists ever.

The moment he opened his mouth to agree with your thoughts is the same moment you looked for reasons to disagree with him and put his ego in check just a bit.

Here's the press release:

(New York, NY) - It's been a long wait for American and Canadian fans...but come this October guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen will make his triumphant return to North American stages with a Fall headlining tour. In support of Malmsteen's latest release, Relentless, the trek will kick off on Thursday, October 13th at New York City's Irving Plaza. Please see below for the itinerary, more dates will be announced shortly. Of the upcoming dates, Malmsteen commented, "I am very much looking forward to playing new pieces from Relentless, as well as Malmsteen classics. Fans can expect the unexpected...I raise the bar with every performance I do and this tour will be no different."

Released late last year, Yngwie Malmsteen's aptly-named latest album, Relentless, contains more than 60 minutes of new material and showcases the guitar great at his best with the signature virtuosity and mind-blowing technical speed for which he has come to be known. The album also features striking vocals from Tim "Ripper" Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth), who first collaborated with Malmsteen on 2008's critically-acclaimed Perpetual Flame (Malmsteen's first album for the Rising Force Records label). Relentless has received rave reviews from both critics and fans alike. Malmsteen recently graced the February cover of Guitar Player, with the magazine avowing, "Relentless continues the guitarist's long string of insane, epic and jaw-dropping releases."

For nearly three decades, Grammy-nominated Swedish guitar icon Yngwie Malmsteen has been amazing audiences with dazzling technical speed and ability. Malmsteen's signature style of playing, which combines elements of seemingly disparate styles of music - metal and classical, spawned the now commonplace genres of heavy metal known as "shred guitar" and "neo classical" and earned Malmsteen the title "the Paganini of heavy metal". Malmsteen was the first guitarist to have his own Fender signature guitar model (even before Eric Clapton). He has graced the cover of more than 200 magazines worldwide, has won every guitar award imaginable and to date, has sold millions of records. Time recently named Malmsteen one of the "Top Ten Greatest Electric Guitar Players", an honor he shared with the likes of Les Paul, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. "Guitar Hero" enthusiasts know they have arrived when they are bestowed with the Yngwie Malmsteen award in the Xbox 360 version of "Guitar Hero 2". The award signifies a 1000+ note streak in succession.

Yngwie Malmsteen North American headlining tour:


13 New York, NY Irving Plaza

15 Silver Lake, MD Fillmore

18 Montreal, QC Club Soda

19 Toronto, ON Phoenix

21 Chicago, IL House Of Blues

23 Denver, CO Bluebird Theatre

26 San Francisco, CA Fillmore

28 Anaheim, CA House Of Blues

29 Los Angeles, CA Club Nokia


1 Houston, TX House Of Blues

2 Dallas, TX House Of Blues

5 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Guy From Toto And Another Guy From Survivor Get Set To Release Something

First of all, I wonder how they determined who's name went first.

"J" is before "K," so did they go by album sales instead, thinking that Bobby was more popular with Toto than Survivor?


That IV album was a monster.

Or at least a monster-sized turd, if you're like me and remember how-at the height of their fame, nobody could identify a single member of Toto, let alone remember who the fuck Bobby Kimball even is.

Did Toto have the guy with AIDS, or was that Styx?

Look, I'm not trying to be flippant. Anonymity was one of the biggest complaints about Arena Rock band members, and since Toto was essentially a collaboration of session players anyway, how does this pairing even come about?

And with Survivor's Jimi Jamison, a guy who incidentally replaced the original lead singer (the guy that sang "Eye Of The Tiger"), how many people really give a shit?

The press release considers this a "super-group."

Read on:

Vocal legends Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Jimi Jamison (Survivor) team up for forthcoming album due out in October.

"Hold the Line", "White Sister", "English Eyes", "Goodbye Elenore", "Rosanna", "Is This Love", "Burning Heart", "The Search Is Over", "High on You", "I Can't Hold Back"... These songs from Toto and Survivor are true musical evergreens and are still played on radio stations all over the world. Each band has sold sold millions of records, respectively and have created a legendary melodic rock sound. The soaring vocals that kept these melodies in so many fan's minds come from two amazing singers: Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Jimi Jamison (Survivor). For the first time in their career, Bobby and Jimi have joined forces together for a "duets" album, which will see the light of day on Frontiers Records on October 14th in Europe and October 18th in North America.

"We always talked of doing something like this, musically we like the same stuff and we've been in the same kind of bands and when the opportunity arose we jumped on it" said Jimi Jamison. "I've always wanted to do a CD with Jimi because he is one of my best friends, we work well together and we have fun together" added Bobby Kimball.

The album features Kimball and Jamison's signature vocal styles in a familiar musical environment created for them by such esteemed songwriters as Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Jim Peterik (Survivor), Randy Goodrum (Steve Perry, Toto), John Waite, Erik Martensson (W.E.T.) and Robert Sall (Work of Art), among others, and directed by the expert hands of German producer Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner, Kiske Somerville). While not exactly a "supergroup", the Kimball-Jamison alliance is not just a one-off studio project, as the main motivation behind this album is an ongoing collaboration between the two singers who have been singing live together with the "Legends of Rock" and the "Voices of Classic Rock", both ensembles featuring singers and musicians from very popular classic rock groups.

Kimball-Jamison is a labour of love & friendship and is set to become a true classic among melodic rock fans.

The Kimball-Jamison album will include the following songs:

Worth Fighting For; Can't Wait For Love; Sail Away; Chasing Euphoria; Find Another Way; Get Back In The Game; I Did Everything Wrong; Shadows Of Love; Hearts Beat Again; We Gotta Believe; Kicking And Screaming; Your Photograph.The album will be released exclusively in a glossy digipak edition featuring a bonus DVD which includes: The Making of the Album (approx. 30 mins. documentary); Worth Fighting For (videoclip); Can't Wait for Love (videoclip)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Questioning The Legitimacy Of Katy Perry's String Of Number One Hits

I’m speaking to a headline I noticed today, while not bothering to research further.
Katy Perry has apparently tied Michael Jackson's string of number one hits from a single album.

For the King of Pop the album was Thriller and for Katy Perry, Teenage Dream.

I needed to search for that album title, something that ultimately helps prove my point: If the headline is that Katy Perry is somehow on the same level of notoriety as Michael Jackson for this statistic, then shouldn't I be able to recite the name of Ms. Perry’s release without resorting to a Google search?

Shouldn't I be able to identify at least a few of those “hits” that Ms. Perry has given us?

The knee jerk reaction is simply to decry me as “old” and to suggest that I’m not in touch with the outlets that enable the “hitmakers” to reach their audience.

I’m used to the accusations of being old, and it impacts me as much as the label of Obama being a “socialist.” It’s convenient. It’s easy. But it really doesn’t address the defense that I haven’t heard/can’t name the aforementioned “hits” that Katy Perry has delivered, which caused the press release that she has somehow matched a similar feat that Michael Jackson accomplished over two decades ago.

Turning back to that period of time when Thriller was still residing high on the pop charts, I’m confident that even my parents were able to identify at least a few of Jackson’s hits through sheer osmosis.

I understand why that is. Radio was the dominate platform with MTV as another delivery method for my generation and younger. There were fewer outlets than we have today, and with such consolidation it was harder to escape the impact of Top 40 music, regardless of your age.

And when you’re face with the kind of sales that Jackson had with Thriller, it was nearly impossible to escape the hits that came from that record.

As a matter of fact, I have never owned a copy of Thriller ever because nearly every song was a hit and I became so tired of them that I didn’t need a copy. Thanks to its exposure, the songs are ingrained into my fiber and I have no desire to hear them again.

Sidenote: I recently got a copy of George Michael’s Faith reissue and immediate was disappointed with it after playing it. Not because of anything to do with the quality of the music, but because it reminded me of the record’s overexposure (it too, if you’ll recall, featured a huge number of hits when it was originally released) and after one play, it brought me back to the moment where something from it was played every hour.

Where I’m going with this is that Katy Perry’s accomplishment is not something we should even consider in terms of prior accomplishments. There will never be a superstar that is able to reach the same caliber of Michael Jackson's success with Thriller, so why pretend that Ms. Perry's feat somehow matches it.

The Billboard charts are a joke, a weak facsimile of what they once were and a tally of some strange Turkish blend of sources that manage to point to a long tail culture where even niche artists can make the top 10.

And like a box of Camels, it's all a smokescreen for a dying database.

In today's world, Katy Perry is a star.

But in Michael's world, she wouldn't even hold a candle to baby sister's Rhythm Nation.

So let's tone down the comparison rhetoric a bit. Give Ms. Perry her plaque and move on, but please don't try to put her accolades on the same level of Jackson's domination from Thriller.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet The Emperors Club

There are some good things happening in Iowa City involving a new music collective called Emperors Club.

Featuring Adam Havlin from Deathships, San Diegan and Colin Ritchie from Trixter and Baby Animals respectively, Emperors Club is set to release their first e.p. entitled The Castle.

Of course, I'm kidding by suggesting that some members hail from failed 90's hair metal bands, and I'm joking if this comes across like I know any of those aforementioned members.

I've seen the name Deathships around town, but I rarely go old because I'm old with kids and anyone under thirty frightens me somewhat.

But I enjoy the title track that they have up at Soundcloud. It's a nice shot of unexpected Iowa power pop that sounds more Merseybeat than Midwest.

The Castle (preview) by Emperors Club

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Moody Blues - A Question Of Balance

I had this album on 8-track as a kid, and even with the limited visibility of A Question Of Balance, the cover art freaked me out.

I don’t know how well you can see it here, but look at it. That dude with cloud hair used to freak my shit as a kid.

What freaks me out now is how much I used to appreciate what was inside that 8-track cartridge instead of what was on the outside.

Like Days Of Future Passed, the Moody Blues were early favorites in my musical upbringing, but they were the sort that began to fade from my appreciation as I got older.

A good example of this is a strange encounter I had with a girl I met at community college. I used our local campus to take advantage of a better student-to-professor ratio for subject matters that I wasn’t extremely proficient in. As a result, my first year of college was spent studying crap like math and science, living at home, and frequenting local bars.

On one day, the professor was late to our class and I struck up a conversation with a nearby student who seemed nutty, but not crazy enough to pursue an intimate encounter with. I started off with a typical “What kinds of music do you like?” introduction and was completely unprepared for her excited devotion to the band The Moody Blues.

It was around this time when I began to question the Moody’s place in rock and roll’s hierarchy, but the girl came off as such an obsessive that I wasn’t going to get into a philosophical debate on the merits of the band.

I did find it strange that she related so much to them, so I inquired where it began.

It started with her father, who filled that blank slate daughter with a trip to a Moody Blues concert and the rest was history.

She went on to voice her love of Justin Haywood in the same manner that girls voiced attraction to Duran Duran, and that is where I bowed out.

As a young adult navigating higher education while examining the rock and roll road I had arrived on, I began to question the landmarks of that road, asking “Were they worthy of further consideration?”

For the rest of the semester, I avoided any meaningful contact and the strange encounter placed further doubts on my opinion of the Moody Blues.

For A Question of Balance, my concerns again rested on the lyrics.

Drummer Graeme Edge returns with the stupid “Don’t You Feel Small” where he attempts to make us appear insignificant by the unlikely method of whispering his lyrics.

Flautist and mustache man Ray Thomas delivers “And The Tide Rushes In,” a nice ballad that attempts so hard to so significant, but ultimately fails with Thomas’ inability to carry a linear thought throughout the tune.

None of this should be surprising for a band that allows such democracy in their creative process. The reality is that probably only two members should be allowed next to pen and paper-Justin Hayward and John Lodge-as everyone else manages to come up short during their lyrical output.

Hayward walks away with the blue ribbon for “Question,” the album’s lone hit and most well conceived song.

The last place award may go to Mike Pinder for the abysmal “Melancholy Man” which manages to be even more morose than the title suggest. By the end of it, Pinder is yelling “I’m a really lonely man” in between pleads of “Pity me! Pity me!” A slow-fade at the end makes it seem like it’s going on forever.

How ironic is it that an album originally designed to show the Moody Blues in a stripped down fashion manages to sound just as bloated as its mellotron-heavy predecessors?

And that is the ultimate failure of the Moody Blue’s legacy. It relies too much on the notion of the band’s importance in relation to Days Of Future Passed-an album that really benefited more from when it was released than what was in it.

Future albums came at a rate of a record a year, and with that kind of schedule, flaws in the band member’s contribution became audibly evident.

A Question Of Balance is no exception.

With one stellar cut, a handful of tolerable tunes, and an even larger percentage of eye-rolling progressive bloat, it follows a pattern that poses a bigger question: do the Moody Blues deserve the perception of challenging art rockers, or are they merely treading water and barely staying afloat.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Moody Blues - Days Of Future Passed

As a child, I fell in love with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed.

They played with an orchestra, so you know it’s good.

Or at least, that’s what I thought as a child.

When I got older, I bought Days Of Future Passed (again) on cd.

After listening it to it again on that digital platform, I didn’t feel the same way.

In fact, I disliked it so much that a few years later I sold it back at a loss.
During that time in my bedroom as a kid, I studied the liner notes. If I recall, they had the transcript of the intro/outtro that bookends Days with an embarrassingly bad bit of prose. Bongwater made fun of it on their version of M.B.’s “Ride My See Saw,”, reading a bit of the monologue at the end of the song before Ann Magnuson lets out a sarcastic “Wow” after the “We decide which is right and which is an illusion” part.

I’m really not doing it justice, but trust me when I tell you it’s awful.
And there should not be any “cringe-inducing” moments on an album that likes to refer to itself as a “classic album.”

There are, however, two wonderful songs-both of which are part of the rock and roll vernacular-that are just great enough to put Days Of Future Passed into a category a notch above dismissing it.

Those songs, “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin,” are perennial favorites and rightfully so.

But are they “rock songs?”

They are not.

They are wonderfully executed pop songs that just happen to be the focal points of an album that’s referred to as the first effort to combine classical and rock music.

Never mind that rock and roll by nature is an art form that puts the power of musical creativity into the hands of the common man, the very notion of a classical/rock album devoted to the everyday life of the common man is in itself an oxymoron and an event that shouldn’t be praised very loudly to begin with.

But the Moodys left their previous role as R&B purveyors to focus on a concept album with their new members (Justin Hayward and John Lodge), taking advantage of their label’s request to help Deram market stereophonic platters.

And since nothing says “in living stereo” better than an orchestra, they hired the London Festival Orchestra and conductor Peter Knight to create orchestral arrangements that blended the songs together.

The strategy works great on the aforementioned hits and “Dawn Is A Feeling,” but when the Moodys can’t match wits lyrically, the combination sounds forced.

Nothing, however, is as forced as the pretentious malarkey that fills member Graeme Edge’s “Morning Glory” intro and “Late Lament” outro.

Ironically, for an album originally developed to coincide with “Deramic Sound” (Deram Records’ version of what you and I call “stereo”) the label did a shitty job of securing the results. Subsequent generations were forced to listen to this “landmark” release on hissy safe copies as the original tapes were lost or destroyed.

Even attempts at patching together a definitive re-issue has been plagued with shoddy techniques and lazy research, hinting at the possibility that perhaps the label heads never really took this project seriously from the beginning.

And after listening to Days Of Future Passed, maybe you shouldn’t either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black Flag - Who's Got The 10 1/2

One of my greatest regrets is not taking the trip to my future public university community to see Black Flag in concert.

Shortly before I attended the University of Northern Iowa, I heard that Black Flag was playing in Cedar Falls. Me and another high school friend entertained the idea of the three hour drive just to see the band, but both of us chickened out.

You have to understand, this was before the days of the internet. Our information on punk rock in Iowa was limited, and as far as we knew, Black Flag was still churning out live shows that ended in riots and police clubbings.

This was something we weren’t used to in my small town surroundings, and as silly as it seems, Cedar Falls looked like a big city in our small town eyes.

Of course, once I finally moved there, I saw how small the community really was and I endured countless recollections by older college students of “the time Black Flag played at the boathouse.” Additionally, Joe Cole’s posthumous book referred to the city in fairly uneventful terms, but the referral itself was enough for me to be envious.

The other reason for not attending was because I wasn’t a fan of the band that Black Flag had become later in their career. I’m sure I’m not alone on this, and I now am able to appreciate what they became, even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy it as much as the life-changing effort Damaged.

This all came to an end, and my failure to travel to the Cedar Falls gig was recalled the day my cousin brought a tape of a live Black Flag show from a few years prior to my missed date.

The tape-only release (at that time) was Who’s Got The 10 ½, an inside joke that reportedly caused bassist Kira to end her tenure with the road dogs.
Upon first listen, you can hear what guitarist Greg Ginn must have been attempting to achieve with its blend of punk rock, heavy metal, and free-jazz chaos.

Throughout the hour long effort, Ginn hits his solos with manic abandon, caring little for melody or proper structure. It sounds like he’s going off the rails in many parts, only to get back on course in time for the next verse which Hank Rollins obediently barks out.

“I must admit” Henry states at the beginning of “Slip It In” “This feels mighty good” before launching into the definitive version of what I formerly considered to be a weak entry in the Flag’s catalog.

Who’s Got The 10 ½ also contains the definitive version of “Drinking & Driving,” “Loose Nut,” and a simply killer version of “Louie Louie.”

Kira and new Flag drummer Anthony Martinez are Black Flag’s hidden weapons here, with Martinez providing incessant propulsion, demonstrating that what may have been missing from the lamer studio renditions of the set’s newer material is someone who had a pair of double bass drums.

Who’s Got The 10 ½ not only serves as the best way to fully appreciate the band’s later material, but it’s a good way to witness the stage prowess of a band who’s moments in person were typically remembered for the way they were cut short by police thugs and contentious audience members.

But for me, the album serves as an example of what I missed for not journeying up to that college town to see the band on their final tour before imploding under their own inner tensions.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Emerson Lake & Palmer Release 40th Anniversary DVD and Betamax

Next Tuesday, Emerson, Lake & Palmer are releasing a 40th Anniversary DVD next week, giving you yet another chance to see Keith Emerson stab his keyboard for the 4000th time.

Seriously, I think he started that thing in Nice.

I'm going to admit that I probably only like the two rock radio songs that most people know, "From The Beginning" and "Lucky Man.:

I think the rest of their output is hot air.

And if you read the comments on You Tube by a couple of former roadies, it sounds like Emerson was a real prick as late as their Emerson Lake & Powell line-up.

So here they are at a festival that seems to feature a Midway and a funnel cake stand.

Karma's a bitch.

The press release:

EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (ELP) reformed for the first time since 1998 for their final show to headline the HIGH VOLTAGE FESTIVAL on Sunday, July 25th 2010. And what a show it was!

2010/2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of Emerson Lake and Palmer. ELP was a predominant force that laid the foundation for all progressive rock. The band consists of Keith Emerson, the explosive keyboard who came from the Nice, the sultry vocals and extraordinary bass of Greg Lake from King Crimson and the theatrical and extraordinary drumming of Carl Palmer, who emerged from Atomic Rooster.

ELP became the first true prog-rock Super Group and defined an era.

This is a show that brings back the same theatrics that the highly creative and unsurpassable combination of Keith Emerson's legendary keyboards, Greg Lake's extraordinary voice, and the dramatic drumming of Carl Palmer to their core fan base and to the new generation that hails the musical and technical virtuosity that ELP delivered at every performance, and recorded in every album

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chad VanGaalen October 2011 Dates Announced, Infiniheart Vinyl Re-Issue

Sub Pop sends word of a small American tour by Chad VanGallen, the Canadian weirdo that dopped a badass elpee of nice tunes, the full review can be found here.

Or you could simply download a pair of MP3s courtesy of the label, with the understanding that you will see Chad in the flesh when he arrives in your locale.

Here's their spiel:

Chad VanGaalen is a wildly talented artist, illustrator and animator from Calgary, but you probably already knew that. What you may not have known is that starting October 6th, Chad will head to the states for a week’s worth of shows touring in support of his new full-length, Diaper Island. As with all of his albums, Chad is single-handedly responsible for all of the artistic efforts that went into Diaper Island—from album art to music videos and everything in between. The new video Chad made for the song “Peace on the Rise” (click title to watch) is ample supporting evidence for the "wildly talented" claim above. 

In other VanGaalen news, because we always aim to please, we thought it was time to repress Chad’s 2005 Sub Pop debut, Infiniheart, which has been out of print for the last 5 years. This is a double LP pressed on Pink vinyl and includes a digital download code to accompany this release. eBay-ers be warn, Ininihart is back in action. Click here to purchase your copy.

Tour Dates:

Oct 06 Holocene, Portland, OR
Oct 08 Crepe Place, Santa Cruz, CA

Oct 09 Echo, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 10 Soda Bar, San Diego, CA
Oct 11 Cafe du Nord, San Francisco, CA

Oct 13 Sam Bond's Garage, Eugene, OR

Oct 14 Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA

MP3 "Sara"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fleet Foxes Fall Tour 2011

It's still in the short list for Album of the Year, and while my concert budget is completely knocked out until next year, that shouldn't prevent you from checking out Fleet Foxes if they're near your area.

From Sub Pop:

On May 3rd, 2011 Fleet Foxes released their highly anticipated sophomore album, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop/Bella Union)to rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Since then, the band has been touring North America, the UK and Europe with FIVE new US dates announced today! For the complete list of tour dates see below or visit the band's website or artist page.

Fleet Foxes 2011 World Tour Dates

*w/Alela Diane and Wild Divine
**w/The Walkmen

09/06/11 Seattle WA @ Paramount Theatre**
09/07/11 Seattle WA @ Paramount Theatre**
09/09/11 Fri - Reno NV @ Grand Sierra Theatre
09/10/11 Sat - Berkeley CA @ Greek Theatre**
09/11/11 Sun - Big Sur CA @ Henry Miller Library**
09/13/11 Tue - Santa Barbara CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl**
09/14/11 Wed - Los Angeles CA @ Greek Theatre**
09/15/11 Thu Phoenix, AZ @ Comercia Theatre**
09/17/11 Sat - Tulsa OK @ Cain's Ballroom**
09/18/11 Sun - Austin TX @ ACL Festvial
09/20/11 Tue - Jacksonville FL @ Florida Theatre**
09/21/11 Wed - Raleigh NC @ Raleigh Amphitheater**
09/23/11 Fri - Columbia MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion**
09/24/11 Sat - Brooklyn NY @ Williamsburg Waterfront**
09/25/11 Sun - Holyoke MA @ Mountain Park
09/28/11 Wed - Cleveland OH @ Masonc Auditorium ** On-Sale 7/29th at 10 am
09/29/11 Thu - Ann Arbor MI @ Hill Auditorium
09/30/11 Fri Chicago IL @ Chicago theratre** On-Sale 7/30, Pre-Sale 7/29 at 10 am(password: cascades)
10/3/11 Mon Birmingham, AL @Alabama TheatreOn-Sale 8/5 at 10 am
10/4/11 Tue Asheville NC @ Thomas Wolfe AuditoriumOn-Sale 7/29th @ 10 am Pre-Sale 7/28th at 10 am (password: BLUES)
10/5/11 Louiseville KY @Louiseville Palace On-Sale7/29th @ 10 am Pre-Sale 7/28th at 10 am (password: BLUES)
11/10/11 Copenhagen, Denmark @ Falconer Theatre
11/11/11 Weissenhauserstrand, Germany @ Rolling Stone Weekender
11/14/11 Zagreb, Croatia @ Tvornica
11/15/11Vienna, Austria @ MuseumsQuartier
11/17/11 Rome, Italy @ Atlantico
11/19/11 Bologna, Italy @ Estragon
11/ 20/11 Milan, Italy @ Teatro Smeraldo
11/21/11 Zurich, Switzerland @ Komplex
11/22/11 Fribourg, Switzerland @ Fri-Son
12/01/11 Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy
12/02/11 Butlins, Minehead, Somerset, UK @ All Tomorrow’s Parties

Blitzen Trapper Release New Album "American Goldwing"

I'd do a review of the new one, if Sub Pop would have forwarded me a copy.

So out of complete affection towards the last album, I'll merely give the band the honor of reminding viewers that Blitzen Trapper have a new album today.

I make this short and let the press release do its thing.

Sub Pop Records is proud to announce the new album from Blitzen Trapper entitled American Goldwing. Available today, American Goldwing is full of the introspective and striking storytelling that countless critics have fallen in love with.

With subjects ranging from fighting to falling in love, drug running with the good old boys and the final high school dance, American Goldwing is a freewheeling collection that balances the roughness of rock ‘n’ roll with fateful heartfelt loss. “It’s me trying to evoke a true American nostalgia” explains lead singer and songwriter Eric Earley.

“My vision and focus while writing our new album was on the inescapable past” Eric adds. “It’s about those feelings of being trapped in a small town. That fine line between the rural and the suburban settings that define much of America, that line between love and loss that occurs when you find yourself taking it too easy and sticking around a lonesome town for far too long.”

American Goldwing is “us letting our loves and early influences hang out for all to see. We entered into the sounds we grew up with - the hard guitar rock and country picking of our younger years mixed with glimmers of our usual space-aging technology and pawn shop Casios. Heavy guitar riffs and blasting drum fills live side-by-side with plucking banjos, wailing harmonicas and muddy slide guitars. The earthiness of these songs will make you want to get loaded and get in a fight, or find a girl and fall in love forever, simultaneously.”

Don't get too excited about the video below. It's just a 30 second trailer. That's right. They pieced together a trailer for a new album rather than give us a reason to fall in love with a song from the album.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jen Oliver - I Say Love EP

Visit Jen Olive’s website at the moment and you’ll see it’s “under construction.” Behind the announcement, visitors will see a variety of spinning mushrooms with the occasional UFO spinning into view.

You can forgive her site’s maintenance schedule, as Olive’s been busy working on what counts: the music. And during that creative period, she’s picked up the attention, support, and record label of one Andy Partridge.

The former XTC frontman sees something in Olive, and it’s not hard to understand why. She approaches the pop dynamic with a very angular approach, molding fingerpicked acoustic patterns with off-kilter vocals and ever-changing time signatures.

I Say Love is a six-song Polaroid of Olive’s idiosyncratic approach, kicking things off right out of the gate with the awesome 5/4 time title track that weaves its infectious arrangements into the repeat button in your head.

Surprisingly, the Partridge arrangements are restrained, bringing a sense of minimalistic folk within the song blueprint. And as quickly as you’re comfortable with this approach, Olive starts fucking it over with a different key, a new tempo, or a captured loop that makes the whole thing change direction.

She’s not at the point where we can place Olive on the same level as her left-of-center influences, but in the hands of mentor/supporter Partridge and her own penchant for lysergic daydreams, she’ll rise to the occasion in no time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tori Amos Really Wants You To Consider Photography

First of all, there's a tour.

And I suppose that this is what most Tori fans will be gabbing about.

Here are the dates for the Night of Hunters U.S. 2011 tour, along with a tour photo competition with Lomography where the fans take photos representing select cities to be included in the official tour program.

Nov 29
Atlanta, GA US
Dec 1
Philadelphia, PA US
Dec 2
New York, NY US
Dec 3
New York, NY US
Dec 5
Washington, DC US
Dec 6
Boston, MA US
Dec 8
Toronto, ON CAN
Dec 10
Chicago, IL US
Dec 13
Vancouver, BC CAN
Dec 14
Seattle, WA US
Dec 16
Oakland, CA US
Dec 17
Los Angeles, CA US
Dec 18
Los Angeles, CA US
Dec 21
Austin, TX US
Dec 22
Dallas, TX US

I don't know if you noticed the line above that says "a tour photo competition," but here's the skinny on that because it's quiet unusual and somewhat exciting. The news:


The Lomographic Society Proudly Presents:

The TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ Box Set

True Icon: The legendary Diana F+ especially designed for Tori Amos, limited to 2000 pieces

Treasure Chest: Box Set includes camera, lens set, unreleased and autographed double CD From Russia With Love…, Special Edition book, photo taken by Tori Amos and 120 film roll

Global “Inspiration City” Competition: 100 TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ Box Sets and one big prize for every city are waiting to be grabbed

Here's more detailed information on the items offered:

True Icon
When it comes to music Tori Amos is a true icon and so is our Diana F+. Combined these two are the perfect match for a Special Edition Diana F+ Box Set that will put tears of joy into the eyes of fans all over the planet. Referring to Tori Amos’ sound friend, the Bosendorfer, the TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ is dressed in glossy black and elegant copper while an autograph is labeling this unique camera. To add some more eye candy, we bedded this sleeping beauty in a delicious box set that combines design, music and creativity.

Treasure Chest
To bed this special camera with style the TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ comes in a wonderful Bosendorfer inspired box, that, once opened, turns out to be a surprising treasure chest full of little goodies. Besides the classy TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ camera you will find the exclusive China Lens Set, a custom cover Diana F+ book, a 400 ASA 120 film roll and two very special treasures: A photo taken by Tori Amos herself with her very own Tori Diana F+ while she was playing in Moscow that will boost your creativity and the unreleased and autographed double CD From Russia With Love… What more can a Tori Amos fan ask for?

Global Inspiration City Competition
In anticipation of the upcoming ‘Night of Hunters’ world tour and album release, we want you to get inspired by one of ten exciting cities that will be tour stops: New York, Moscow, London, Philadelphia, Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Chicago and Amsterdam.

"My fans are some of the most creative people I know, so with their help I want them using their own analog photography to represent some of the cities on the Tour. The best photos will then be featured in my program that will be available at all the shows on the Night of Hunters Tour,” said Tori Amos. “We have chosen just 10 of the many great cities we will be visiting to take inspiration from and I am really looking forward to seeing the results and having some fun picking the winning shots.”

No matter where in the world you are, a little bit of one of these cities can be found everywhere. Get inspired by the characteristics of these cities and take part in the global Inspiration City Competition which will take place from July 5th – August 15th on the Lomography website. 100 exclusive TORI Limited Edition Diana F+ cameras will go to the best 10 submissions per city while the lomographers with the best individual inspirational city photos will have their image published and credited in the Tori Amos tour book. Additionally, grand prize winners will take home a personally signed copy of the tour book, the ‘Night of Hunters’ album, and a tour t-shirt.

Packaging Content

Tori Amos “TORI” Edition Diana F+ camera
Special Edition “China” Lens Set:
(55mm Wide Angle “Distance” and “Close” Close Up Lens)
Exclusive & Unreleased “Live from Moscow” Double CD” signed by Tori
Glossy Black Flash
Limited Edition Tori Photo taken in Moscow using her “TORI” edition Diana F+
Roll of 400 / 120 Color Film and custom cover TORI (Diana F+ Book)

What the hell is Lomography?

We, the Lomographic Society International, are a globally active organization dedicated to experimental and creative analogue snapshot photography. Lomographic pictures are moment-catchers; characterized by vibrant colours, shadowy framing, surprise effects and spontaneity. Boasting over one million members across the world, we seek to document the incredible planet around us in a never-ending stream of images. The Lomo LC-A+ camera was the first member of the huge Lomographic analogue camera family. It confidently takes a seat at the dinner table alongside our other innovative and quirky Lomographic products – La Sardina, LC-Wide, the Sprocket Rocket, Spinner 360°, Diana Mini, Diana F+, Lomo Lubitel 166+, Fisheye camera, the Colorsplash camera, the Supersampler, Horizon, Pop 9, Actionsampler, Holga as well as many other bags, lenses and accessories, books and stationery.

The Future is Analogue!

Ha! I read that in the liner notes of Big Blacks Songs About Fucking! I wonder what Albini thinks about Tori's camp stealing that slogan?

Stooges Raw Power Live: In The Hands Of The Fans DVD

Hopefully, this will be better than the first reunion DVD release, Live In Detroit.

Then again, do you really need a DVD of the reunited Stooges?

If you do, the following promotional copy is for you.

Iggy & the Stooges Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans is the visual document of the reformed Stooges' (Iggy Pop, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt) Raw Power performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival on Friday, September 3, 2010.

Of the performance, Ben Ratliff of the NY Times writes, "Iggy Pop, now 63, knew that his body language translated into still photographs resembling Mannerist paintings...The Stooges attacked the album's eight songs, in a different order, just about perfectly."

Iggy and the band sound flawless as they rip through the archetype riffage of "Search and Destroy," "Raw Power," "Gimmie Danger" and more.

"Getting this top-notch performance of the entire Raw Power album by The Stooges realized a life long dream," Iggy Pop "This shit really sizzles and we are so obviously a crack band in a class of our own."

MVD Entertainment Group, an industry leader in producing and distributing music-related audiovisual content, launched the In the Hands of the Fans series with the intention of utilizing the energy and talents of fans, who by means of an online video submission contest, win the opportunity to film a performance of their favorite band in HD and then interview the band members after the performance. The result is a high quality, low cost, unique program that is part concert film and part reality TV show.

And here's a link to a review of the cd version of Raw Power Live: In The Hands Of The Fans that pissed off a few Stooges fans.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Death Row Greatest Hits

“I held a copy of Death Row Greatest Hits for you.” Brad told me bluntly over the phone. His tone suggested that I had ordered this from the record store he worked for in Iowa City.

The thing was, I hadn’t ordered Death Row Greatest Hits at all.

The record itself was already a few years old, and I had aligned myself with the “East Coast” faction of rap music, or as least as much as a middle-aged white guy from Iowa could.

Sure, I was entertained by many of Death Row’s hits, especially when you heard them played on a loud system in a club.

It was hard not to resist them.

But I wasn’t motivated enough to really seek out their output beyond The Chronic. Snoop seemed more of a character to me, the stoner trash talker who was more of his environment than a legitimate threat.

And Tupac too. With every bit of bravado, I was old enough to remember that he was in the Digital Underground at one point, thereby neutering any bit of gangsta shtick.

Then, things started getting weird within the Death Row camp, and you could watch the artists initiate their mass exodus from the label. You’d hear rumors about the label head, Suge Knight, and you’d chuckle over the visual of Vanilla Ice hanging out a window, ankles held by Death Row thugs until he signed over the rights to “Ice Ice Baby.”

Snoop got arrested for murder. He delivered “Murder Was The Case” on some awards show like he meant it. You could see his stoic demeanor change to a scared man as he pleaded “I’m innocent….I’m innocent” at the end of the song.

Tupac got shot.

And guess who was by his side when the bullets entered?

I remember flying back to Iowa from Arizona after he was murdered. I sat next to a white kid with a huge folder of cds (this was the 90’s), all of it rap music. His jaw opened when I told him that I had walked by the place where Tupac was shot just a few weeks before. It was obvious that this guy had more of an impact on our youth than just some simple ruffian.

This meant the same thing to them as the death of Lennon or Cobain did for me.

And then there was Dre himself, certainly the main contractor of Death Row’s sound, who just walked away from the nonsense completely, leaving the rumblings of Suge’s inner circle to cast him out in the only way they could. I imagined that Dre heard the static of “faggot” and “pussy,” and I also bet that he beefed up his security in preparation for something more than just words.

It’s hard to fathom now, but all of this shit was going down in clear view of everyone. You’d watch MTV News breaks on the hour about these kinds of shenanigans.

Suddenly it all fell apart.

“Meet the new boss,” Pete Townshend said, “Same as the old boss.” And this was true at Death Row.

Before long, Suge was in jail himself.

Other staff members too.

And then Death Row was overtaken by white guys.


Just like before.

Iowa City was about an hour-and-a-half from where I lived at the time. It was a place that I’d frequent maybe once a month to get the collegiate oddity. But my job had placed my travels from the southern most tip of the state to the southern half of the I-80 line, so it wasn’t unusual for me to visit the I.C. at least once a week. The time made perfect fodder for the “I’m gonna stop by a record store” kind, and since Brad’s place was close to the interstate, what the hell.

But I swear to God that I never ordered Death Row Greatest Hits even though he had assured me of its awesomeness. I never debated the statement either, because a legitimate greatest hits compilation of Death Row Record’s best singles would undoubtedly be awesome.

Without question.

So with that being said, Death Row Greatest Hits does contain every hit the label presented during the label’s incredible rags-to-riches-to-rags story and it is undoubtedly awesome.

Without question.

Yeah, some of the songs have been tinkered with a bit and a few songs repeat through the 2-disc set as a result, but you could simply hit play on disc one, let the seventeen tracks run through, reach the end and wonder how an hour-long jam like that could be any better.

Side two-although a bit weaker track by track-is still pretty close to perfect, which makes Death Row Greatest Hits a nearly flawless compilation that’s hard to stop once you hit play.

And I can’t think of another label compilation of similar composure that rates as consistently good, something where you can set it and forget it without worrying if a dud is going to affect your audio decorations.

“G Thang,” “Gin & Juice,” “Dear Mama,” it’s all in here. Even the hardcore shit-the kind when it wasn’t embarrassing to say “Ice Cube,” out loud. It’s in there too.

Back to the story: Even though I never asked him to hold a copy of Death Row Greatest Hits, he saved one for me anyway. For nearly a year, he had reminded me that D.R.G.H. had fallen out of print because of all the legal wrangling of the label’s C.E.O., Suge Knight.

I’d always assumed that the release would be a cornerstone to that label’s catalogue. But evidently, they had temporarily let this classic record fall out of print. There was no telling what whitey would end up doing to this label that had its credibility firmly on the streets that they promised to uphold, so yeah, it was entirely believable that this album could have been forgotten, especially if someone else was running its getaway car.

They would have chopped it up into box sets, setting categories for each disc (“No Vaseline” for Disc Beef while “Murder Was The Case” fell with Disc five-o).

They would have added bonus tracks or ‘recently found’ 2Pac rhymes.

They would have removed that awesome family portrait painting from the fold-out cover.

Although I’m sure that the record found its way back into print, thereby ending Brad’s theory of a rare commodity (who knows, comment if you know if this record is worth anything in its original state) while leaving me with an unequaled cornerstone, not just for Death Row, but for any self-respecting record collector looking for square one when it comes to West Coast Rap of the 1990’s.

It’s a bargain even at full price.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Jesus Lizard Release 'Club' DVD In Two Weeks

A Strange curio, considering that you almost want to start with watching a younger Jesus Lizard and then work your way down to the reunion shows that show a much older David Yow performing many of the same stunts that he did before.

Because, yes, he was older back then too-comparitively speaking-and the only time I remember Yow young was when he was in Scratch Acid.

Here was a small man, full head of hair, tight blue jeans, unbuttoned denim shirt and mouth that would continually spit on the floor.

Nobody was there, and I remember being scared to get too close to the stage because there didn’t seem to be something right with Mr. Yow.

A half-century later and he’s still at it, at least he was a couple years ago as this upcoming release showcases.

Here’s their spiel:

Directed by Matthew Robison (producer, Silver Jew - director, We Fun: Atlanta, GA Inside/Out) and produced by Henry Owings (Chunklet Magazine), The Jesus Lizard Club is the exclusive document of the The Jesus Lizard reunited for their first American performance in over a decade.

It was a tour that was heralded the world over, with stops at festivals and clubs all over the world. Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker writes, "It may have been the only reunion show I've ever seen where I forgot almost immediately that the band hadn't played together in more than a decade."

Featuring the entire evening's performance, The Jesus Lizard Club goes inside a fan-favorite set list for over 90 minutes of an incendiary performance from one of the greatest bands of the modern era. The release will also include individual mp3 downloads for each track performed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

AD/DC Monopoly

Growing up, there was a group of kids in my school that regularly supported AC/DC shirts.

None of them demonstrated an aptitude for realty or a desire to make legitimate money.

As a matter of fact, none of them seemed to be the type that would enjoy board games.

But here we are, the AC/DC Monopoly game is now available to Stevie, Thad, and any other West K thug who wants to become the next Donald Trump.

Here's the spiel.

There's Gonna Be Some Rockin' when you experience one of the world’s best-selling bands teaming up with the world’s most popular board game bringing you the ultimate AC/DC experience. The AC/DC Collector’s Edition of MONOPOLY® celebrates The Rock N Roll Dream with some of the greatest rock music of the 20th century and beyond. This completely customized game features the band’s most popular albums and locations including Black Ice, Stiff Upper Lip, AC/DC Lane and more, allowing fans to build their own AC/DC empire.

Includes 6 custom tokens: Cannon, Bundle of Dynamite, Bell on Fire, Lightning Bolt, Angus’s School Boy Hat, Stacks of Cash


2-6 players

Available now, directly from the official AC/DC store. We’ve also put together an exclusive AC/DC Monopoly/Live At River Plate Bundle (DVD or Blu-ray) with commemorative t-shirt. Each order will also include a limited edition 2x3' poster, available exclusively to fans who order through ACDC.com. Poster supplies are limited, order now and reserve yours!

AC/DC Live At River Plate is the definitive live concert DVD documenting AC/DC's massive Black Ice World Tour. Shot with 32 cameras entirely in HD in December of 2009, AC/DC Live At River Plate marks AC/DC's triumphant return to Buenos Aires where nearly 200,000 fans, and 3 sold-out shows, welcomed the band back after a 13 year absence from Argentina. This stunning live footage of AC/DC underscores what Argentina's Pagina 12 newspaper reported by saying "no one is on the same level when it comes to pure and clear Rock 'n Roll."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oh The Guilt: Passing On Brian Wilson's Tour

Here’s the way a rock fanatic works:

Earlier this summer, it was announced that Brian Wilson would be performing live at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

For those of you not familiar with what should be required knowledge of any rock ‘n roll fan, the Surf Ballroom is the last venue that Buddy Holly played. His airplane crashed outside of Clear Lake’s city limits after he performed there in 1959.

It still looks the same and it still continues to book bands there, despite the fact that the Clear Lake, Iowa’s population is a mere 10,000 residents.

Brian Wilson wasn’t on my bucket list.

Paul McCartney was.

So as the summer started with the intention of checking out Brian Wilson at this legendary venue, it ended when Paul McCartney announced that he was playing at another legendary venue.

And since Paul was on the bucket list-and since he was charging an arm and a leg for his show-the entire Brian Wilson performance was ditched.

Guilt began creeping in, particularly when Brian announced that this tour might be his last and that he’d probably retire from touring sometime soon.

I also began to consider how he created Pet Sounds, an album that McCartney voiced as one of his most influential recordings, the creative muse that prompted The Beatles Rubber Soul and Revolver concepts.

And since “The Beatles” name was derived from “The Crickets,” the band that supported Buddy Holly who last played at the Surf Ballroom, well then, maybe you can understand my rock ‘n roll dilemma.

Maybe you can tell that these rock and roll gods were expecting me to visit Brian Wilson’s performance too.

Yet it was not enough for me to invest five hours of windshield time (both ways) to make the drive to Clear Lake to see his performance.

The cost was an issue, and while ticket prices were modest, gas prices were not.

I waited until the very last minute, my cousin pumping me full of considerations at the moment of judgment.

“He’s not playing much Gerswin.”

“He’s doing a lot of Beach Boys.”

“The reviews of this tour have been good.”

Like a sap, I mowed the lawn instead.

I came up with a number of excuses, but the reality was Brian Wilson just wasn’t my bucket list.

And what sealed the deal for me was a review of a show a few weeks ago where the reviewer declared that the performance was great. He encouraged nobody to miss it. He also admitted that Brian Wilson shuffled on stage, sat in front of a keyboard, barely played that keyboard, and read the lyrics of the songs he created forty-odd years ago from a teleprompter.

In other words, I’d be paying not to see Brian Wilson, but a shell of him backed by an incredible band.

I had a problem with that.

I couldn’t justify adding to my depleted finances with a trip down memory lane, fronted by someone with limited capacities.

What I can justify is a purchase of the Smile re-issue when it comes out this year.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paul McCartney Live In Chicago

Paul McCartney and his Band
Live at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois-2nd Performance
August 1, 2011

I’ve seen the power of rock and roll at a concert before, but I may have witnessed a true, full-on miracle happen at the Paul McCartney show in Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Now I know the very idea of Paul McCartney performing at such a legendary location would qualify as miraculous for some, and indeed, the venue combined with the prospect of seeing Sir Paul performing there did prompt such a religious fervor in me that I devotedly shelled out a few hundred dollars at the opportunity of attending worship.

But while I may have forgone all common sense when it came to ticket pricing, I’m referring to an even higher power that McCartney may be channeling.

I’m speaking to Benny Hinn types of miracles, and the making of the one that I witnessed involved an elderly woman who was wheel chaired to a section directly in front of me. The seat they placed her in was in the back row of the section, rendering her with the worst view possible for someone who would be sitting down for the rest of the night. From her vantage point, she would have to negotiate through a couple dozen rows directly in front of her, all of which featured standing fans, trying to barter for their own decent sight lines.

The music wasn’t an issue for her, though. Paul McCartney’s band provides attendees of all sections with a perfectly tailored replica for each decade of Macca material. They strayed little from their research, providing just a few moments of spontaneity to show their chops.

Which each passing song (there were nearly three dozen of them performed on Monday night) the elderly lady moved and shook.

By the end of the main set she was standing, and during the first encore she began dancing. It was during “I Saw Her Standing There,” a song that I would list as an early Beatle classic that I had “outgrown,” had somehow transformed her from a spectator with limited mobility into that young girl who just flipped over “I Want To Hold Your Hand” for the first time.

That’s right: Paul McCartney is a performer of such holiness that even his friggin’ b-sides can cause the lame to walk. He can also cause the venue’s sanitation department to sing along while they clean the trashcans, regardless of the shift, the personnel, and the d.o.b, of said personnel.

It was a cross-generational event, delivered by a man who is quickly approaching 70.

And this near septuagenarian provided the young and old alike with nearly three hours of immediately recognizable music.

Well, almost immediately.

There was a mass exodus for the beer or bathroom line during “Sing The Changes,” Macca’s most obscure song for most of the audience. The song, culled from Paul’s partnership with The Fireman, remained just as anthemic as some of the other songs on the setlist, but it was immediately disqualified as “too unfamiliar” because it was recorded during this century.

There was movement during the lesser-known Wings material, who threw up that corny Wings hand signal, a gesture that ranks between Ronnie James Dio’s devil horns, and Sammy Hagar’s stupid Van Halen symbol that he made up when he should have been writing better lyrics for V.H.

Actually, there was quite a bit of Wings material, most of which pulled from the Band On The Run material. This is probably due to the record’s re-issue last year, one that shows the record in a very favorable light while none of the members on stage with Paul on Monday night had anything to do with B.O.T.R., except for going through the transcriptions until they could reproduce every note perfectly.

I’m fine with that, actually, because my focus was entirely on Paul for most of the show and I’m quite confident that during the most spontaneous moments, you could tell that he was definitely working hard and having fun while waiting for his paycheck.

The moments came at the strangest times too: a guitar solo (!) during an out-of-nowhere segue from the awesome “Let Me Roll It” into Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” And while it wasn’t the same caliber as Hendrix’s version, it was a testament to McCartney’s talent and knack for name-dropping. Of course, he ended “Foxy Lady” with the story of how he personally suggested that Hendrix be added to the Monteray Pop Festival and howd drew a corallation between his suggestion that Hendrix should be added to the Montery Pop Festival’s ’67 concert. And with that story camewith the a story of the night he saw a show where Hendrix asked Eric Clapton from the stage if he would come up and tune his guitars for him.He finished the song with quick story of his relationship with Hendrix.

You got the sense that there was something to these moments of recall. Yes, there were more: the stories about the members of the Beatles (alas, no Ringo ones!) and other hints of nostalgia projected on the screen, with each moment there was a sense of melancholia.

The song “Here Today” was a touching tribute to John Lennon, but even with such a heartfelt gesture, he brought his fallen friend up with a quick take on “Give Peace A Chance.”

Even George Harrison was mentioned. Paul told us of a time when he was visiting George and the two were having some fun with one of Harrison’s favorite instruments: the ukulele. McCartney sang for George a rendition of “Something,” and Paul brought back that version for this tour, complete with a full band reprise during the “I don’t know!” parts.

Could it be that McCartney himself is feeling a bit of his own mortality and is considering the end of the line?


He’s been doing it for a while now, from the cherry-picking venues to the album titles like Memory Almost Full, McCartney knows he’s getting older and know that he won’t be able to handle this kind of road schedule for much longer.

All of this was part of the reasons why I unleashed the amount of money that I did on this concert. It also could have added up to a complete disaster had Macca decided to simply treat the shows as a cash cow.

He didn’t. He performed forever, without breaks, and he touched my heart with recapturing the same work ethic that he demonstrated with The Beatles while playing in Hamburg.

And he also demonstrated that if you do something good for long enough, a few miracles may indeed pop up.


Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles
Junior's Farm - Wings
All My Loving - The Beatles
Jet - Wings
Got To Get You Into My Life - The Beatles
Sing the Changes - Paul McCartney
The Night Before - The Beatles
Let Me Roll It>Foxy Lady – Wings/Hendrix
Paperback Writer - The Beatles
The Long and Winding Road -The Beatles
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five - Wings
Let 'em In - Wings
Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
I'm Looking through You - The Beatles
And I Love Her - The Beatles
Blackbird - The Beatles
Here Today - Paul McCartney
Dance Tonight - Paul McCartney
Mrs. Vandebilt - Wings
Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
Something - The Beatles
Band on the Run - Wings
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da - The Beatles
Back in the USSR - The Beatles
I've Got a Feeling - The Beatles
A Day in the Life>Give Peace a Chance - The Beatles/John Lennon
Let It Be - The Beatles
Live and Let Die - Wings
Hey Jude - The Beatles


Lady Madonna - The Beatles
Birthday - The Beatles
I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

Encore 2:

Yesterday - The Beatles
Helter Skelter - The Beatles
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End - The Beatles

Differences between both nights

“Magical Mystery Tour” replaced “Hello Goodbye”
Bonus in my book. MMT is one of my favorite McCartney penned Beatles tune from early in my youth. What turns out to be a corny television special produced a killer post-Pepper glow opening song. Macca had a few noticeable struggles getting out that big “Roll on!” during those first belts, but we didn’t care. To do “Hello, Goodbye” during the opener on Monday night would have been a little punch in the gut, reminding us that Paul would be here today, and gone in a matter of hours.

“Got To Get You Into My Life” replaced “Drive My Car”
It was a real trip back during our country’s Bi-Centennial celebration to hear this decade-old Beatles track enter the American top 40. It was bright, poppy, and perfect for summer. Now that I’m older, I like “Drive My Car” better. It’s clever, which gives it a nod over Paul brass blast. I blame shit like Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears on this song.

“I’m Looking Through You” replaced “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”
I probably like “Face” a bit more, but I wasn’t complaining. I will take any amount of “Rubber Soul/Revolver”- era Beatles that Macca dishes out.

“And I Love Her” replaced “I Will”
Gotta give the nod to Monday night’s show. “I Will” always sounded out of place for me on the White Album, even more than “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” or “Wild Honey Pie.” “And I Love Her” is one of those early Beatle tracks that began demonstrating that their arrangements and songwriting crafts had grown by leaps and bounds since they delivered “Love Me Do.”

“Birthday” replaced “Day Tripper”
I’ve been burned out on “Birthday” forever, so I’d favor the ubiquitous guitar patterns of “Day Tripper”. But out of respect for “anyone celebrating” as Paul put it, I did not pout during the “I would like you to dance!” verse.

“I Saw Her Standing There” replaced “Get Back”
While I respect the Beatles’ early material, there’s nothing offered that would convince me that this band got a helluva lot better as they got older, more experienced, and a lot more competitive. I remember singing as a small child to “Meet The Beatles,” but I also remembers wondering what the hell Paul meant when he described Jo-Jo as a man who thought he was a woman. Inappropriate for a child? Maybe. Better than “I’ll never dance with another?” Absolutely.

Nitpicking moment:
Would it kill him to throw out a quick “Her Majesty” at the end of the “Abbey Road” trilogy? It would have been so cool to have him whip out an acoustic for an impromptu, and technically accurate, ending.