Monday, September 24, 2007


There's a new Ramones DVD, called It's Alive 1974-1996, coming out October 2. It will have a bunch of rare footage. I think the definitive doc on the band is End Of The Century, which tells the kind of crazy story about, among other things, how Joey Ramone and Johnny Ramone just couldn't stand each other. It's sad that they died without making peace with each other. Then again, if you see the doc and/or you know the story, you know that their rift ran deep.

Forgetting all that for a second, it's amazing that this band isn't a staple of "classic rock" radio. I put it in quotes, because from listening to those stations, you'd barely know that The Ramones existed, or you'd think they were a one or two hit wonder. And you'd think that, like, Journey or Foreigner ruled the land. I'm not one to "hate" on bands, but that's ridiculous. History will tell a different story for sure.

Thank goodness for Little Steven. You should check out his Underground Garage thing. It's a channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, but it's also a syndicated radio show. Someone told me about it when it first launched on the FM airwaves - long after I thought it impossible for FM (at least commercial FM) to recapture my interest. I got hooked, and soon after subscribed to SIRIUS because he has a whole channel there. Anyway, the point is, the Underground Garage kind of centers on The Ramones, the way Steven explains it. It's about The Ramones, their peers, anyone who influenced them, and anyone who they influenced. You can listen to his show or the channel for a while and say "Hey... wait a minute, they probably weren't an influence on The Ramones!" But for the most part, the formula works, and it's probably the best radio you'll ever hear. I like to think that Little Steven would be cool with my blog - although I know he's not that into hip-hop or heavy metal (I'll be writing about the almighty Black Sabbath soon enough) and I'm sure he'd mock Rush and Genesis. That's OK: he plays Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond and the strokes. But I like to think that No Expiration shares a spirit with what Silvio does.

Oh yeah: Long live The Ramones.


I've heard about an upcoming documentary on The Who that's coming out soon called Amazing Journey. The Who aren't short on DVDs, and of course The Kids Are Alright is a pretty cool film, but I'm looking forward to this one. Basically, it tells the story of the relationship between Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, and it has footage of The Who back when they were called The High Numbers, and it finishes with a performance of "Tea And Theatre" from their latest album, Endless Wire.

Lots of people have been cynical about every Who reunion since they originally split in 1982 or 1983, whenever it was. I saw them for the first time on their first reunion tour in 1989. In retrospect, I realize that the real reason for the tour wasn't just the anniversary of their classic album Tommy, but that John Entwistle needed the money. And, in retropspect, the whole idea of them touring with a horn section and backing singers seems a bit over the top - Pete even called it "The Who On Ice" at the time, if I remember correctly. All I knew at the time was that I was getting to see The Who, a band I never thought I'd have the opportunity to see. I loved it. All the same, I didn't go to the next tour, which celebrated the anniversary of Quadrophenia, an album I wasn't a huge fan of. (That was also probably for John, too.)

But a few years later, a friend who worked at their label offered me a pair of tickets to see the band at The House Of Blues in Chicago. The Who in a club! And, if that wasn't enough, Eddie Vedder was opening! Financially, I had no business going, but I went anyway. It was unbelievable. Actually the most moving part of the night was when they performed Roger's solo hit, written for him by Pete, "After The Fire." But the whole thing was great. They still had it. But one of the reasons why they are still so great, it must be said, is drummer Zak Starkey.

I've seen them once since then - the summer that John Entwistle passed away. They were way better than I hoped they'd be. It was really exciting that they finally released a new album last year, even though I didn't love it, and I haven't seen them on tour for it. But, they're still The Who, and to paraphrase Neil Young, long may they run.



Thursday, September 20, 2007


So, today tickets for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's "open rehearsals" sold out in five minutes. I got through to ticketmaster right after they sold out. The shows are taking place at the Convention Center in Asbury Park - I got to see Bruce and the Seeger Sessions Band rehearsals there a year and a half ago, and Bruce with The Max Weinberg 7 a few years before that for a Christmas show. So, I was fortunate to see both of those, and you can't get tickets to every show, but still, what a bummer.

On the other hand, I'm really looking forward to seeing the great patriot Steve Earle next week when he performs at Town Hall in NYC. If there was any justice, Steve would be a staple on both country radio and rock radio. But to those of us who are fans, he's just one of the greatest songwriters ever, and I can't wait for that show.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Zach de la Rocha has finally wrapped up his solo album, according to Billboard. I wonder what will be on the album: in the years since Rage Against The Machine split, Zach was rumored to be working with Trent Reznor, ?uestlove, and a couple of other people. So there could be tracks from a whole bunch of different producers. Zach's only actually released one track, "They Want It All," from the Farenheit 911 soundtrack (that song was produced by Trent).

I was lucky enough to see Zach with Rage this summer at the Rock The Bells festival, and they were a force of nature . Just incredible. Tom Morello seems to be enjoying doing his folk thing as The Nightwatchman... but it would be great if Rage stuck together - at least touring and recording singles, if not full albums - allowing the members to concentrate on their own projects. But, come election time, it would be great to have Rage on the road.

Meanwhile, I already wrote about the Into The Wild soundtrack, which is essentially Eddie Vedder's solo debut. I hear he may do a solo tour for the album. I've seen Eddie solo twice - once at the Tibetan Freedom Concert, and once opening for The Who. He was great, and I think it was fun for him - as it would be for anyone in a band for such a long time - to do something a bit different. At those shows, he pretty much mixed covers with a couple of Pearl Jam tunes. It would be cool to see him do some of the songs frmo Into The Wild, it's a good album.


Coming right on the heels of my post about Genesis, here's one on Rush. For those of you who are new to No Expiration, no, this isn't a prog-rock blog. Rush was my first favorite band as a kid, and although I don't rate them as my #1 anymore, I still love them. And I say that without any sarcasm at all. Not everything they've done has aged well... but a lot of their music has aged really well.

They played Madison Square Garden the other night - I couldn't make it, although I did catch their show earlier this summer at PNC Bank Arts Center, and they never change their setlist anyway (one of the things that bugs me a bit about them). While their new album, Snakes & Arrows, isn't their best, there are some great moments, and "Far Cry" in particular made me proud to be a fan. It's one of their best. If you're the type who would go to a Rush concert and not know any of their recent material, I recommend at least going to the iTunes store and downloading it, along with "The Way The Wind Blows," and some other recent songs, like "One Little Victory" and "Resist."

"One Little Victory" is a song from a few years ago, and is especially powerful and moving. As with all of Rush's songs, the lyrics were written by drummer Neal Peart, who lost his only child a few years back. About a year later, his wife passed away. You can read about it in his memoir Ghost Rider. But the guy knows something about "one little victory" - if you read the book, you can see what a struggle getting through the day was (and even if you haven't read the book, you can only imagine).

Anyway, when I saw Rush over the summer, I was blown away by how powerful they were. I'm sorry I couldn't see them this week, but I hope they do another summer tour in '08. These guys have always charted thier own course, never followed trends and yet they still headline arenas. You've got to respect that.

GENESIS: "THE BIGGEST TOUR YOU HAVEN'T HEARD MUCH ABOUT"? used that as a headline the other day. It was interesting: the dude acted suprised that anyone cared about the Genesis reunion tour. Of course, Genesis have always been one of the bands that critics hate, but they're also critic-proof.

Genesis has, like, four audience cliques. The prog-rockers who also like Yes and King Crimson. Of course, a lot of these guys hate everything the band has done since Peter Gabriel left the band. Those who stuck around dig songs like "Home By The Sea" and "Domino." Then you have the classic rock fans, who love the radio hits like "Turn It On Again" and "Abacab." Then, there's the adult contemporary folks, who also love Phil Collins' solo stuff, they're into "In Too Deep" and "Hold On My Heart." And, finally, the '80s kids, who got turned on to them via big video hits like "Land Of Confusion" and "That's All."

I don't love all of their stuff, but I do enjoy some of their music from all of the above categories. I'm fortunate in that I liked them before I knew it wasn't cool to. I mean, yeah, they weren't threatening in any way, but I felt they were creative, and they sort of grew up in a logical way - I know, not cool, but I respected (and still respect) them. That said, they're really asking a lot of their fans this year: they've released two box sets that cost over $100 each, and tickets for the shows are pretty steep. Still, I'm going to somehow get to the Giants Stadium show.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


#1 on my list: the Into The Wild soundtrack, which is essentially an Eddie Vedder solo album. The film, directed by Sean Penn, is (I think) based on a true story about a guy who left life behind to live in the wilderness. It would be worth seeing without the music, but Eddie's music makes it an "event" movie (at least according to my definition of the term). I heard a rumor that the other Pearl Jam guys were pissed that Eddie did a solo record, but I doubt that that rumor is true: Pearl Jam has been kept vital thanks to the fact that all the other guys have had solo projects. I've always been a huge fan of the band and of Eddie, although he seems a bit obsessed with being accepted by indie-rock fans, which is a bit silly because (a) most of them aren't going to like him/Pearl Jam based on critieria that has nothing to do with music and (b) most of the big indie rock bands of the moment (and few of them last more than a few moments) are lame. Yes, Fugazi were an indie band - but they put an incredible amount of effort into their music: most indie bands sound like they can't be bothered. Anyway, I'm really excited to hear this album.

There's a DVD coming out featuring segments from Johnny Cash's TV show from the '70s, including performances by Louis Armstrong, Neil Young and Ray Charles. That will be worth whatever they charge for it.

There's an(other) Emmylou Harris box set coming out. I remember one came out over ten years ago: but this one is more about rarities, with some of her album tracks thrown in. I became a huge fan with her 1995 classic, Wrecking Ball, she is truly one of the greats. I'll probably have to splurge on this one.

There's an(other) Nuggets box set coming out. The first one, of course, was an expanded version of the 1972 compilation, that collected out-of-print garage rock songs from the '60s. The box set re-release came out in 1998 - Rhino Records did an amazing job with this, giving lots of people (myself included) a great education in garage rock. They soon followed with Nuggets II - the first one was all American bands, II was all non-American bands (mainly from the U.K.) and that was an awesome collection as well. Two years ago they put out Children Of Nuggets, which was basically garage rock from the '80s. I still haven't gotten that one: box sets cost way too much. It's on the top of my list. This week, they're releasing San Francisco Nuggets, which seems more hippie music than garage rock, so I don't think I'll pick that one up.

Here's one not to miss: Mary Gauthier's new album. Her last album, Mercy Now, was extremely powerful. The woman knows the blues. Actually, I'm looking forward to her album as much as I am Eddie Vedder's. She's not well known, but rest assured, based on her last album, she belongs in No Expiration.

Oh yeah, and a new album of songs from The Simpsons. It always amazes me that they come up with such catchy songs for the show. But then again, it is like, the best comedy of all time.


I caught Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals last night at Radio City Music Hall. Incredible, as always. I've seen Ben probably 20 or so times since the first time I saw him in 1994. But I hadn't seen him in about three years - the last time I saw him, he played the Apollo Theater with the Blind Boys Of Alabama, which was one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. It was the only show that Ben and the Blind Boys did to promote thier classic collaboration, There Will Be A Light. There was just a real special vibe to the show.

Last night wasn't quite that good, but close. He opened the show with "11th Commandment," a solo instrumental piece from There Will Be A Light, and then went into "Well Well Well" from the same album: just him on his slide guitar with the Innocent Criminals gathered around a mic behind him. Pretty powerful moment. He played most of his already-classic new album, Lifeline, which came off great live, as well as a few songs off There Will Be A Light, which I didn't expect. He always picks some cool covers and last night was no exception: he did Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War" as a duet with his opening act, Piers Fucini. The show didn't feature many of Ben's more political songs, so I was surprised at the cover, but it was super powerful. He really gives Eddie Vedder a run for his money in the "best version of this song" race. He also did a song by one of my favorite singers, Bill Withers: "Use Me" (some people might remember Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz did a great cover of this a decade ago or so). Really great. I advise anyone with any taste at all to check out Ben Harper in concert. If you haven't been impressed by any "new" artists in the past 15 years or so, check out Ben. I can't wait until the next time he plays NYC: I definitely am not letting three years go by until my next Ben Harper show.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


This is the cover of Neil Young's upcoming album, Chrome Dreams II. I wrote about it in an earlier post. I've read that you get a free copy of the CD if you buy 1-3 tickets to his shows, and two copies if you buy 4 tickets. That's a pretty good deal, it will ensure him some sales, and - probably more importantly to him - will also ensure that people coming to his shows know that he has a new album out, and hopefully they'll have listened to it.
Of course, the true fans know all about the album: I just listened to the first single, "Ordinary People." Calling it a single is a bit funny, as it's 18 minutes long, but it's a classic track. In fact, I think it was recorded almost twenty years ago by Neil and The Bluenotes (the band that he used on his This Note's For You album). Ben Keith, who is playing dobro and steel guitar on the rest of the album and on the tour, played sax in that band, and Rick Rosas, who is playing bass on this tour (and played on his last two albums) was the bass player in that band. His current touring band is rounded out by Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina. I was really hoping for a Crazy Horse tour, but this lineup should be really interesting as well. Anyone know when tickets go on sale?


I read today that Bobby Byrd passed away. As you can see by the album cover to the left, he was one of James Brown's musicians. I don't know much about his life - but then I don't need to. He is the other vocalist on "Licking Stick Licking Stick," "Sex Machine" "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" and probably a bunch of other songs. He was in James' early group, The Famous Flames, who created lots of timeless music.
Reading one of his obits, I learned that he had a pretty big hit single as a solo artist: "I Know You Got Soul," which Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Eric B. & Rakim all sampled. I gotta check that one out. Anyway, rest in peace, Mr. Byrd.


They've gone and done it: "Led Zeppelin" - that's Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, along with Jason Bonham - will be playing a "one-off" gig at London's O2 Arena on November 26. It's a fundraiser for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, and is a tribute to Mr. Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. There's going to be a raffle for the chance to buy tickets for the show, which will also feature Pete Townshend (who was signed to Atlantic as a solo artist), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones Records used to be distributed by Atlantic), and, er, Foreigner. It seems odd that any other artists would be necessary with Zeppelin on the bill.
But I wonder - are Plant/Page/Jones going to go through all the work to rehearse for just one gig? From there, it's not a big stretch for them to say, "Well, we could raise even more money if we do a second date..." And from there it's not a far leap for them to consider how much they could make for themselves by doing a few more dates. Of course, there's been standing offers for the three guys to reunite for years - but they've never gotten as close as performing together since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over a decade ago. And that was on the eve of Page and Plant's tour (which didn't feature Jones).
I wonder how good they're gonna be: like I said in an earlier post, as much as I love Zeppelin, I'm more interested in seeing Robert Plant in 2007 touring with Alison Krauss for their new duo album.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Something's up with Led Zeppelin: there's been rumors swirling for a while that they've got something planned, more than just their upcoming two CD best of (which I can't imagine will be much different that the Early Days & Latter Days collection) and the Song Remains The Same reissue.
Their website just displays the four symbols, and the date 11.13.07... and, most tellingly, you can sign up for email updates.
I've heard that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, along with Jason Bonham, will be doing something. I've heard it's going to be a one-off show at London's O2 venue, as a tribute to the late Atlantic Records exec Ahmet Ertegun. I've heard that they may also do two U.S. shows as well. Of course, there's got to be millions upon millions of dollars on the table for them to reunite. But that money has been there for years.
Led Zeppelin are one of my favorite groups of all time, maybe second only to The Beatles, but I don't know how I feel about them reuniting. I think there's a mystique to them, having ended when they did. That said, I'd probably go to the show.
Personally, I'm much more excited about Robert's upcoming album with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss. I think it makes sense that that's what he'd be doing at this point in his life. I guess I hope they do two or three Zep shows, and Robert moves on and tours with Ms. Krauss.


All right, so it's 32 years later than the show advertised in this poster, and they're playing larger places than the late Bottom Line. But Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band are still as great as they ever were, I think. Do they play like 20-somethings? No, they're all in their 50's (at least). But I went to see them seven times on their tour for The Rising (once at the Garden in 2002, then in 2003 five times at Giants Stadium and once at Shea). They were unbelievably great. And they changed the setlist up every night. I saw Bruce once on his solo acoustic tour for Devils And Dust and it was amazing (way better than his Ghost Of Tom Joad tour from 1995, which was pretty dry). And Bruce's tour with The Seeger Sessions Band last year was a blast.

But I'm glad he's back with an electric guitar and ready to rock. Today, tickets went on sale for two nights at the Continental Airlines Arena and two for the Garden. They all sold out in 23 minutes. I nabbed a pair - top level, almost the last row, behind the stage - but at least I'll be there. I can't wait. I expect he may add some area dates, and that he'll come back and do ten (or so) nights at Giants Stadium next summer. I have so many friends who say "I've always meant to go see him..." If you have the chance, go see him. You won't regret it. He doesn't just rely on past hits - of course, he plays a bunch, but there are no songs that you're guaranteed to hear, it's not like the Stones with "Satisfaction" or something. He also pulls out some rarities, and he also challenges his audience politically. He has some pretty Republican fans (I've never really gotten that) who hate some of his recent music and some of the things that he's said on stage and in the press. You've got to give him credit - he doesn't have to do any of that, but the man wants to use his status to do the right thing. I hope he endorses someone in 2008.


Farm Aid was great. Great bands, great cause, great day. A few things I took home from the day:
  • Neil Young still rules.
  • The Allman Brothers Band members are great individually, but together they are truly awe-inspiring.
  • I'm psyched to hear John Mellencamp's new album.
  • It's worth going through the extra effort to use organic or locally grown foods. I am definitely going to try to search out locally grown when and where I can. I could write more about this, but you can get all the info you need at Farm Aid's web site.

  • The music: unfortunately, I missed The Supersuckers. Fun band, but I think they only did three songs, and I've seen them twice this year. When I got there, Matisyahu was playing. That was OK. Then The Derek Trucks Band went on. Although I was blown away by Derek's guitar playing when I saw the Allmans earlier this summer, I didn't think I'd like his own band. I thought it would be a bit too show-offy and not song based enought. His band didn't play for long, but it wasn't like that at all. His wife, the excellent singer Susan Tedeschi joined him for most of his set, and it was really good: they did a great version of the blues classic "Key To The Highway." He also has a great singer in his band.

    After that was some band called Guster, who didn't really capture my attention much. Then another Allman Brother, Warren Haynes, came on for an acoustic set. He opened with a super-obscure Elton John cover, "Indian Sunset" (from Madman Across The Water). Honestly, I recognized it, but couldn't place it until I read someone else's review. He also did U2's "One" and his own classic Allman/Gov't Mule song, "Soulshine."

    Counting Crows tried to throw some "Thunder Road" into one of their songs. Nice try. Then Gregg Allman came out. His set was billed as a special set with Willie Nelson and Dave Matthews. It wasn't quite that: first Gregg and Willie did "Midnight Rider," which was rough but cool, then Gregg, Warren and Dave did "Melissa" which was great. They should put those on iTunes, I'd buy 'em. Then the rest of the Allmans came on: phenomonal. I know there's people who will scoff at them for having young guys who weren't born when the band started (Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge, percussionist Marc Quinones), or because they're a "jam band," or because they're "old." Or for firing former guitarist/singer Dickey Betts a few years back. The latter I get: but the fact is, the band sounds incredible, and they probably wouldn't be around anymore (at least not with Gregg) had they not fired Dickey. I'm not saying that I was glad he was fired, but I am saying that the band's current incarnation is incredible. I imagine in a few years, Gregg and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe will retire - I expect that Warren, Oteil, Marc and Derek will keep the music alive in a dignified manner (but they probably will change their name).

    Dave Matthews did a duo set with Tim Reynolds: I'm not a huge Dave follower, but I'd seen him with his regular band, once with his "Dave Matthews & Friends" group and at last year's Farm Aid, he played solo acoustic. Last night was really good. I like Dave, I don't love him, but I think he handles his fortune and stature with incredible humility and grace. And he's written some very good songs.

    John Mellencamp has become something of a hit machine in recent years, although at last year's Farm Aid he opened with a then-unreleased song, "Our Country." This set was a bit adventurous. He opened with a song from his next album, "Troubled Land," and he did another one from that album, "If I Die Sudden" (with Derek Trucks). He had a small tight band - guitar, upright bass, organ, drums, and they did tightened, rocking versions of "Rain On The Scarecrow" and "Paper In Fire," which were great. John did two solo acoustic songs: "Our Country" and "To Washington." He noted that "To Washington" got him booed at Farm Aid a few years ago, because it calls Bush to task for the war. In New York, it was a different story: we know the deal, and the song got cheers. Well done, John.

    I've seen Young Neil many, many times, but last night's set was a different thing: just Neil, his wife Pegi on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and his longtime sideman Ben Keith on dobro. Other than "Heart Of Gold," he avoided hits as usual: an unusual move for a concert like Farm Aid, but that's Neil. He also did "Human Highway" (from Comes A Time), one of my favorites - "Too Far Gone" (from Freedom) and "Silver And Gold" (from the album of the same name). Willie and his harmonica player Mickey Raphael joined him on stage for "Homegrown" (a song originally about... well, anyway, now it's about organic farming) and a cover of Ian & Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds." I recall Willie joining Neil for the same songs last year, but Neil had a much bigger band, it was a different deal.

    I have to confess, I left before Willie went on, but I've seen many Willie performances and hopt to see many more.

    GO, WEST!

    I know that people are coming to No Expiration to avoid artists that saturate the media, and I get it, so you may be surprised to see this particular entry. But I like Kanye West. I got to interview him years ago - it was at the Grammys. I don't know why he was there, because he wasn't nominated for anything, and his awesome debut album The College Dropout wasn't coming out for a few weeks. I knew him from the "Slow Jamz" single and video - it was an artist named Twista and it also featured Jamie Foxx singing the hook. Honestly, I didn't think much of the song, although I thought Jamie Foxx had a good voice.
    Anyway, Kanye shows up at the Grammys with a guy dressed like the mascot, as seen on the cover of College Dropout. As this was a television interview, that was, well, funny. I wasn't even sure what I'd use the interview for, since I was there to shoot a package about the Grammys, not some guy who hadn't yet released his debut.
    So, before we roll, Kanye tells me about his debut. I say, "Great, I'll ask you about 'Slow Jamz,'" it was a huge hit at the time, I didn't realize that it was also going to be on Kanye's album "and then we'll talk about the album." Great, roll tape.
    I ask him about "Slow Jamz," and he's like, "Y'all know I got a new album coming out, right?" I just rolled with it, but I thought he was a pretty arrogant guy, which he was/is. At one point, he busted into the lyrics of "Spaceship" from the album: "if my manager insults me again, I will be assaulting him..." But, I felt, man, if he's really this confident, I'm willing to throw down $13 when the album comes out. I wasn't disappointed. I liked his followup, Late Registration, and I'm looking forward to Graduation, which hits tomorrow. I hope it does well, with all due respect to Mr. Cent. But if I had to put money down, I bet Kenny Chesney will win the day and have the #1 album.
    Earlier this year, Kanye was on what I think will be the hip-hop track of 2007, called "Classic (Better Than I Ever Been)," it featured Kanye, Nas and KRS-One, and was produced by Rick Rubin exclusively for Nike sneakers. But the even better version was the remix by DJ Premier and which also featured Rakim for good measure. Weird that it was basically a commercial, but hey, if a sneaker company funds a better record than "record companies" are able to put out, what are you gonna do?

    Friday, September 7, 2007


    Rick Rubin is one of my favorite producers ever, and I think he is a positive force for music. His partnership with Johnny Cash yielded a bunch of classic albums and introduced The Man In Black to a new generation. He helped redefine The Red Hot Chili Peppers with their classic BloodSugarSexMagik album, and he's produced all of their albums since then. He had a good run working with Tom Petty - and even though he didn't work on Tom's last album, he released it on Rick's American Recordings label. He was the right guy at the right time for The Dixie Chicks. He's produced some of my favorite albums by L.L. Cool J and Run-DMC, he even coaxed a great solo album out of Mick Jagger, and he's done great stuff with Slayer and Audioslave among many others. I can't wait to hear the new Metallica album that he's producing. Everyone should be so open-minded as Rick Rubin.

    That said, not everyone loves the guy. I got to interview the members of The Bangles once, and they talked about working with him on their cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade Of Winter" for the Less Than Zero soundtrack. They sort of mentioned that he wasn't in the studio that often, and when the band came up with the synth heavy intro to the song, Rick didn't like it, and took his name off of the production credits for the track. Which was fine with the ladies.

    I've also had the opportunity to interview Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC's Angus Young: I think Rick was supposed to be producing an album for Oz and it didn't work out. Ozzy isn't used to Rubin's lay-on-the-couch-and-listen technique. Rick did produce some stuff for AC/DC (who he's said is his favorite rock group), but I didn't get the impression that they thought much of the experience. Still, Rick Rubin's pluses outweigh his minuses by far.

    But can he save the music business as this issue of The New York Times Magazine asks? I don't know about that one. I mean, it's great an actual music guy is being put in charge of a record label (he's co-president of Columbia Records). On the other hand, he doesn't ever have to go to the office, he can still produce records for artists on other record labels (and they aren't small records - he's producing Metallica, he'll probably do the next Chili Peppers album), and he seems to disdain coroporate culture (who can blame him, but still). Can you imagine going on a job interview and saying, "Well, I'm not ever coming to the office, I can do as much freelance work as I want for your competitors, and don't try to define what I do." And then the interviewer saying, "Great! Can we pay you a ton of money?" But the man has earned his place - it will be interesting to see what he does with the label.


    Al Green is one of the greatest singers of all time. I just love the sound of his voice - and back in the '70s, his music was, like, perfect. He wrote great songs. He chose the perfect songs to cover. Willie Mitchell was the perfect producer for him. Check out Let's Stay Together, as well as I'm Still In Love With You, Call Me and even Al Green Gets Next To You.
    I've been hearing for months that ?uestlove - the drummer for The Roots - is going to produce his next album, and "bring him back to 1974." Besides being an incredible drummer, I think ?uestlove is a solid producer, having done albums for D'Angelo and Common. He says D'Angelo will appear on this album, as will Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton -in short, some of the best talent in R&B today. I think that this will be a cool album.
    The only thing that bugs me is ?uest's comment that he's bringing Al back to 1974. That sort of ignores the fact that Al reunited with Willie Mitchell a few years back, and they recently did two albums together - 2003's I Can't Stop and 2005's Everything's OK. But I'm a big fan of
    ?uestlove's, and I look forward to hearing this.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2007


    OK, I know it's early to make such a big statement, and I've really dug albums by Lucinda Williams and The White Stripes this year (and I haven't heard the upcoming albums by Neil Young, Mary Gauthier [who I will write more about], Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, PJ Harvey or Steve Earle - to name just a few cool albums yet to come out this year). But I love Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals' Lifeline.
    I first saw Ben perform at Maxwell's - a small bar in Hoboken, NJ - in 1995. He was opening for Alejandro Escovedo. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I'd always heard stories from older people about seeing Springsteen at bars before he got famous, or Tom Petty, or Bob Marley on his first U.S. tour, etc. I never really expected to see someone who would go on to that kind of greatness playing at a small joint. That night, I thought, "Wow, that was it. I think I just saw it." Of course, people will argue that point, and silly rock critics tend not to give much love to Ben. But the guy has organically built a pretty intense following over the years, and he's done it on his own terms. As a fan since (almost) "Day One" (in the parlance of our times), I've never felt embarassed by anything he's done, and I've always been proud to be a fan. It's been cool to see him go from opening act at Maxwell's to headliner at Jones Beach. Later this month, I'll see him at Radio City Music Hall. I can't wait - if you're not familiar with him, well, I can't recomend him enough. Back in the day when he just had one album out - Welcome To The Cruel World - I must have bought that album 10 times, and just given it to anyone who I thought had good taste. If you are looking to check him out for the first time, you almost can't go wrong with any of his albums, but I'd say start with Lifeline or Cruel World or Fight For Your Mind or Diamonds On The Inside. Or his great double live album, Live From Mars.


    By now, everyone has heard that Bruce Springsteen has a new album coming out in October, and it will be with The E Street Band. There's a lot of Bruce fans who just don't like to see him do anything other than tour with E Street, which is silly. It makes it more exciting - for him, the band, and I think the fans - if he does different things. Although I didn't love the Devils & Dust album, his solo acoustic tour was incredible. And The Seeger Sessions Band album and tour were mind-blowingly great. But, it's great to see him back with The E Street Band.
    So, the new album, Magic, will be out October 2, which is when the band's big tour kicks off in Connecticut. You can get the dates at Bruce's official site, or at the awesome fan site Backstreets.
    Of course, Bruce is all over Patti Scialfa's new album Play It As It Lays, which came out this week (which also features E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren).
    But you may not know that Bruce has some lower key songs coming out before Magic's release, and both are collaborations with Pete Seeger, of all people: the guy who inspired Bruce's last album. Both releases are on Appleseed Recordings - the label that Bruce recorded "We Shall Overcome" some years back... which was the recording that led to Bruce's doing the whole Seeger Sessions deal in the first place.
    The first release is on September 11: Sowing The Seeds: The 10th Anniversary. Pete and Bruce recorded a new version of Bruce's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" (during what Seeger reportedly called "The Springsteen Sessions"). Other interesting tracks on that album include Pete with Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg and the great patriot Steve Earle on "Bring Them Home," and Eric Anderson with Wyclef Jean doing Phil Ochs' "White Boots Marching In A Yellow Land."
    The second release will come out two weeks later on September 25: Give US Your Poor. This one raises funds for Give US Your Poor, a national fund- and awareness-raising initiative established by the University of Massachusetts Boston to end homelessness. Bruce and Pete recorded "Hobo's Lullaby" for that one.
    By the way, earlier this year, Bruce released an instrumental track, "Once Upon A Time In The West" for the We All Love Ennio Morricone tribute album, which also featured tracks by Metallica and Roger Waters. His track is very un-Bruce like: it's him on electric guitar backed by an orchestra.
    Anyway, tickets for Bruce's NY/NJ shows go on sale September 10. I can't wait for these shows!

    Tuesday, September 4, 2007


    I kick it "old school," as you may have figured out by now. I go to the record store (yes, there is still one near me) on Tuesdays (new release day). Then, when I come home, I check out the iTunes store.

    So, today I didn't buy any full length CDs, but I tried a bunch of things out on iTunes: I bought two tracks from Patti Scialfa's new album, Play It As It Lays, "Play Around" and "Run, Run, Run." Her voice is polarizing: her obvious influence is the great Ronnie Spector and some people love her voice, and some don't. I think that, at least on these songs, she reigned in her her tendency to sometimes oversing, which is good. That's what I'd do with her if I was her producer. Of course, it's understandable that she would oversing, given her dayjob (which I'll be writing about soon enough).

    If you have a taste for something different, and don't mind lyrics that aren't in English, you should check out Manu Chao. I checked out his song "Rainin' in Paradize" which actually is in English. I may pick up the album instead of buying more individual tracks.

    I don't think that anyone benefits from the term "neo-soul." It translates to "soul music for Starbucks" or something. But that seems to be what Jill Scott has been lumped in with. I don't care what you call it, she can sing - check out her new single, "Hate On Me."

    I'm not a big fan of Ronnie James Dio - his dungeons and dragons thing doesn't really appeal to me. And to me, Black Sabbath is four guys - Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. That said, I was glad to see Tony and Geezer get back together with Dio this year - and I was glad to see that they called themselves Heaven & Hell. I think it's cool that they can do their own thing while Ozzy doing his solo thing. They released a live album. While Dio's era in Sabbath pales compared to Ozzy's "The Mob Rules" is a great song, so I "grabbed" that.

    The Dropkick Murphys combine punk rock with Irish music - they've been around for a few years, and got a big break last year when Martin Scorsese used thier song "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" in The Departed. Their new song, "The State Of Massachusetts" is rockin'.

    Right now I'm really looking foward to Robert Plant's upcoming album with Alison Krauss. I'll write more about that later.


    In my humble opinion, John Fogerty is an American treasure. I'm not saying the dude is perfect, but he certainly has written some perfect songs, if you're reading this blog you don't need me to list them.
    Anyway, I heard one of his new songs on the radio the other day - I think it was "Don't You Wish It Was True," and it just made me smile. I liked some of the songs from his last album Deja Vu, and I thought his prior album, Blue Moon Swamp was a strong comeback. But I have really high hopes for this one. Its going to be called Revival - which is no coincidence, considering it is his first new album since he re-signed with Fantasy Records, the label that he famously beefed with for decades. Needless to say, the label is now owned by new people, none of whom are Saul Zaentz. The thing about John Fogerty is that his anger can get the better of him (lawsuits and bitterness at the label, his ex-bandmates and probably other stuff too) kept him from recording for a long time. I'm glad he seems to be over that. There's even a track on the album called "Creedence Song."


    Some people really hate on tribute albums: not me. A worst... well, they can be pretty bad, but it's not like they're hurting anyone. At the very least, they probably turn on new fans to older artists. And, if you're lucky, there will be a couple of great cover tracks that put a new spin on a great song. In the pre-iTunes era, I was a real sucker for buying tributes, soundtracks, and other various compilations: it seemed like they all had one song I had to have: these days, iTunes makes it so much easier.
    This Fats Domino tribute album is obviously well-timed and well-deserved. According to amazon, the album "will help raise desperately needed funds specifically earmarked for instruments to be donated to New Orleans public school children. Monies raised from the sales of Goin Home will also go toward the rebuilding of Fats Domino's home and to create a community center in the Crescent City s still ravaged Lower 9th Ward. Proceeds of Goin Home will fund additional community related programs." I'm not planning on making this blog too political (check out Product Shop NYC for a good mix), but this addresses two tragdies: the bigger one being the fact that New Orleans is still ravaged by the effects of Katrina. The other being: Fats Domino is one of the architects of rock and roll and pop music. It wouldn't take most contemporary stars over two years to rebuild thier homes, but obviously Fats isn't in their tax bracket. What an injustice. With artists like Fats Domino, I've always felt that you just can't overstate their importance to music. Of course, "importance" helps you to appreciate music, but not necessarily to enjoy it. Fats Domino's music is beautiful, everyone should hear it. I was actually turned on to it by a 1994 tribute - it was the soundtrack to Fast Track To Nowhere, which featured Iggy Pop, Sheryl Crow, The Smithereens, The Meat Puppets and Los Lobos. That turned me on to some of his stuff other than "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't That A Shame."
    Anyway, I'm looking forward to buying the album, which will feature Neil Young (doing "Walking To New Orleans," which he recorded for a New Orleans fund raiser post-Katrina), Robert Plant, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Ben Harper, Toots & The Maytals, Willie Nelson and Los Lobos, among others.

    Saturday, September 1, 2007


    Between new releases and stuff from the archives, it’s an exciting time to be a Neil Young fan. The "NY Times" reports that Neil is going to release Chrome Dreams II - the sequel to an album that was never actually released. Chrome Dreams featured a bunch of classic songs that later surfaced on other albums - "Hold Back The Tears" and "Like A Hurricane" from American Stars 'n' Bars, "Pochahontas" from Rust Never Sleeps and "Too Far Gone" from Freedom. Chrome Dreams II is going to have some songs that were written previously, and some new ones as well.
    According to the great Neil fansite Thrasher's Wheat, Neil's new album will be out in October, and different retail outlets will have different exclusive tracks - all taken from an early live Neil performance known as "The Riverboat" tapes - a solo acoustic gig that was recorded soon after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. The complete performance will be released on The Archives Volume 1 box set, allegedly due out next year - featuring 8 CDs, 2 DVDs and a 150 page book, covering 1963-1972. Of course, a lot of times with Neil, "next year" means "never." I first heard about this box set when I was in college, which was a while ago. By the way, when is that documentary film about last summer's Crosby Stills Nash & Young tour coming out?
    Supposedly Neil will be kicking off a tour with Crazy Horse this year, even though the album isn't a Crazy Horse record, although it does feature drummer Ralph Molina (along with steel guitarist Ben Keith who plays on lots of Neil's stuff, and Rick "The Bass Player" Rosas, who has worked on some of Neil's recent records (and worked with him in the '80s on his Bluenotes record and Freedom).
    Not enough Neil for you? He also plays on his wife Pegi Young's debut album, and is developing a comic book based on his Greendale album/film. I've got my ticket to see Neil (along with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, The Allman Brothers Band, the mighty Supersuckers) and more at Farm Aid this weekend.