Monday, June 30, 2008


I love Lucinda Williams' song "Side Of The Road," where she sings about a brief hiatus from someone she was in a relationship with. I actually took a hiatus of sorts from Lucinda, who is one of my favorite artists of all time, after the last time I saw her in concert.

But I am hoping to see her when she opens for John Mellencamp later this summer. I've been listening to her a lot lately, especially Car Wheels On A Gravel Road and her 1988 self-titled album. I'm glad I took a break, and her amazing songwriting hasn't lost any of its effect on me. She is still one of the all time greats.


I've already written about Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville. Last week, I picked up the much-hyped reissue. I actually wasn't aware that the album has been out of print for a few years. How in the world does that happen? It's such an awesome album. So, thanks to Mr. Dave Matthews and his ATO Records for having the vision to reissue it (and sign Liz for her next new album).

I hadn't listened to this in a while, but when I did, it sounded just as good as it did when I (and many others) first fell for it 15 years ago. If you don't have this album, get it.

As a reissue, though, it's not essential if you still have the original (which I guess is a collectors item now?). I mean, can you really do a kick-ass job remastering a "lo-fi" classic? There are three bonus tracks that aren't essential. I'm not complaining, the album is a stunning work, and she cut off the songs that didn't fit. I did take some issue with the DVD documentary. Liz: I get the whole "lo-fi" thing, but couldn't you have used better microphones for the interviews?

Whatever, I still think she's great. I loved a recent interview she did which I quoted on Leaving 30s. And I'm looking forward to her new album: I bet she'll be more comfortable working with ATO than with a "major" label. Here's hoping she springs for an engineer and some good mics though!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I've been writing a bit about some big magazines - Rolling Stone and Time. A smaller magazine that I've enjoyed over the years is No Depression, which covers the alt-country, or as I'd call it, the Outlaw Country scene. Sadly, their latest issue is their last.

I was glad to see that they used the opportunity to name their "Artist Of The Decade." Emmylou, Lucinda or Earle all would have been good choices, but I'm glad that they gave the honor to Buddy Miller. Buddy has worked with all three of the aforementioned, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen the guy on a magazine cover. He's a great singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer. I've written a bit about Buddy - he is in Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' backing band. He has recorded a bunch of great solo albums, and duo albums with his wife, Julie Miller, and he's worked on Julie's solo albums too. He also produced a great Solomon Burke album: 2006's Nashville. But I first discovered him as the guitarist in Emmylou Harris' backing band, Spyboy.

A few years ago, I went to see Emmylou at the Bergen Peforming Arts Center in Englewood New Jersey (a great venue). My wife was away, so I went to the show myself. It turned out that Buddy was opening for Emmylou, as well as playing guitar for her. I happened to be sitting next to Buddy's mom! I kind of knew some of his songs, because a great local station, WFUV, played him sometimes. His mom was like, "That's my son!" I said, "I love his guitar playing on Emmylou's albums," and she was glad that I knew who he was. But I really dug his performance, so right afterwards, I went to the merch table and bought a few of his CDs, much to his mom's delight. Months later, I got to interview Ms. Harris herself, and shared this story with her. She said, "Bless your heart!" Not everyone gets their heart blessed by Emmylou Harris! But the albums were really good, so it was worth it.

I'm sorry to see No Depression go away, but I'm glad that they gave their cover to Buddy Miller. He's a great artist that I think people would really like if they knew about him, but he doesn't seem like the type of guy to go hiring publicists and look for attention. Which is cool, but it just means that it's a bit less likely that people will hear about him.


OK, so I'm catching up on writing about some stuff I'd been meaning to get to. I really enjoyed the recent Rolling Stone issue with the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs. Of course, no list will ever please everyone, but I personally enjoy reading these types of things anyway. I have to admit some surprise that it was so classic rock heavy, and also heavy on some really overplayed songs like "Purple Haze" and "You Really Got Me." But I guess those songs get overplayed for a reason. I made an iPod mix with most of the songs, and it sounded great (mainly because I've completely ignored classic rock radio for many years).

I also love when Rolling Stone does interviews with a historical bent, so that it's not just about the artist plugging their album/tour/etc. There were some great moments in the interviews. My favorite quote was by B.B. King, talking about the first time he saw an electric guitar. It was in his church: "It was heaven! Heaven! It was unusual to even have electric light in the area, and there he was plugging in an electric guitar." Well, that puts stuff in perspective a bit.

I've had the pleasure of interviewing Carlos Santana a few times, he always says interesting stuff and has a cool take on the world. His interview didn't disappoint. On his early influences: "I had my ear on Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley, on B.B. King and T-Bone Walker. There was nothing plastic about those guys. They went deep, and each note carried something important." How many artists can you say that about now? And then on the blues: "I still love the blues. You need to marinate yourself in that music daily. It's like putting syrup on pancakes. If you don't have any syrup, the pancakes are not that cool. If there's no blues in it, I won't listen."

John Mayer is also a really interesting interview, and he didn't disappoint here. He is hyper-self-aware: he discusses the importance of guitar to him: "For me, it's my floatation device, becuase now I exist in this celebrity sort of world. But I don't feel like anybody's been able to truly knock me off my legs, because I have a trade. You can't just walk onstage and start playing guitar 'cause you thought it looked neat."

There's lots of other great stuff in the issue, but the cover alone - a picture of B.B., Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta, Carlos, Kirk Hammett, Mayer and Buddy Guy - is worth the cover price.


Since I'm writing about magazine issues, I remembered that I've been meaning to write about Time magazine's recent issue dedicated to the 100 most influencial people in the world today. I recently mentioned this in a post about Peter Gabriel.

Of course, I was glad to see Bruce Springsteen included. It's too bad that his latest classic album, Magic, hasn't recieved the acclaim that, say, The Rising did back in 2002. But it shows him to be as relevent as ever. Sean Penn wrote a pretty cool essay about the man for the issue: back in the day Bruce wrote "Dead Man Walking" for Sean's film of the same name, and Sean actually directed a video for "Highway Patrolman" or "State Trooper."

Other people I was glad to see: The Dalai Lama (I wish he was even more influencial, the world would be a better place), Barack Obama, Peter Gabriel (not as an entertainer, but as a "pioneer"), The Coen Brothers, George Clooney and Chris Rock. I was surprised that Radiohead was included in the "Builders and Titans" section but good for them, and that Mariah Carey was included. Sorry, not to hate, but I was just surprised by that. I guess she's proven that she has an enduring career, I gotta give her credit for that. And even if I don't, millions of others do. There were lots of inspiring stories about people who I'd never heard of, like Randy Pausch, a guy with cancer and limited time left to live - so he's been giving lectures about following your dreams and having fun. And Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee who is a world class sprinter. A GREAT read, you should check it out.


I don't usually review magazines, but I was pretty psyched to see Barack Obama on the cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone. I like the clean look of the cover. I know it runs counter to marketing but I just think a clean cover looks cooler than an image with copy all over it telling you every single thing that's going to be in an issue. I wish that the subscriber issues looked like this one. I'm looking forward to reading Jann Wenner's interview with the man.

I hate the spin that the press is taking on "what's on Barack's iPod" though. I've seen a few headlines that say "Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Bob Dylan and ... Sheryl Crow?" Stop with the hatin'! Then again, her body of work will outlast most or all of the indie artists that these "journalists" probably adore. And also she's been a hardcore supporter of the Democratic party. When was the last time the Firey Furnaces tried to make the world a better place?

Another great thing about the issue, which I was surprised to find (since I didn't read about it on the cover) was a huge feature on Rush. They've been one of the bands that Rolling Stone has ragged on forever, and unlike former targets Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath they've never done a 180 on their stance. I haven't read the feature yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Of course, Rush don't need Rolling Stone or any other magazine, but it's still nice to see them getting a feature. I wonder if there's an equation to figure out the ratio of how many concert tickets Rush has sold compared to the amount of coverage they've gotten in corporate media. I'd love to compare their ratio to that of, say, Pavement. I think it would make Pavement look like a fairly unsuccessful (*ahem*) corporate rock band.


I'm not a huge fan of much of the stuff David Byrne has done since Talking Heads broke up. But I've got to give him credit for always being ambitious and rarely looking back. He defintely deserves props for his latest project: turning a building into a musicial instrument. Check out this article in a recent issue of The Village Voice.


If you're a Neil Young fan, it always pays to check out the great blog Thrashers Wheat. Some of their latest is stuff that I'd written about, but they also note that Ralph Molina isn't on the European leg of the tour (Chad Cromwell, who played on Living With War and Prairie Wind is back in the band), and they are covering "A Day In The Life." Thrasher also says that Crazy Horse may work with Neil again next year.

In other news, I've seen the tracklist to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young film Deja Vu soundtrack, and it's a bit disappointing. Just one CD. I like the songs on it, but I wish it could have been a double with more songs - considering that fans have been waiting for an official live document of a CSNY tour since they reunited in 1999, this would have been a good opportunity to release live versions of songs like "Carry On." Oh well, that's Neil, I guess.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I'm a big fan of Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys. I mostly like the sense of humor he's shown as a video director, and I give him tons of credit for his activism, particularly his work with Milarepa.

I'm glad to see him moving into film. I look forward to seeing Gunnin For That Number 1 Spot, his Hoop Dreams-like documentary. His production company, Oscilloscope, will also be distributing Flow, a documentary about how corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestle try to privatize the world's dwindling fresh water supply. The film debuted at a film festival that was co-sponsored by Nestle, which wasn't psyched when they found out. Fight The Power indeed.


I'm not kidding. Check out this article from Billboard about John Oates' (of Hall &) newest venture. At least it ain't selling stuff on late night TV, which I heard he was doing at one point.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE (and remixed)

I'm a huge X-Files fan, and I can't wait to see the movie. One of the details that the show always put a lot of care into was the music. So, I was glad to read that UNKLE, aka DJ James Lavelle, will be "reinterpreting" the X-Files theme. I have the first UNKLE album somewhere, I thought it was cool (there was one song that featured both Mike D of The Beastie Boys and Jason Newstead, then still of Metallica).


England's Independent has an interesting article on the death of the live album. They are probably right in saying that there will never be a live record that launches an artist's career like KISS Alive, James Brown's Live At The Apollo and U2's Under A Blood Red Sky. I just think that it's a different era; thanks to YouTube, you can pretty much see any artist performing. I think that artists like Pearl Jam or Gov't Mule, who release every concert on CD and mp3, will always do well with it, but I don't think that those releases are "live albums" in the way that Alive was. It's an interesting article though.


Bands have been increasingly creative with different ways of exposing their music to the public. But Devo, as usual, has upped the ante. You can only get their new song, "Brush It," with the official Devo toothbrush. I imagine that Brooklyn dentists won't be happy with this development, as all the indie rockers may start brushing, resulting in less cavities and less business. I KID!


Our seats were just as good for night two of Pearl Jam's two night stand at Madison Square Garden. This time, instead of being behind the stage, we were in front, but a little farther away: in the 13th row. From a photographer's point of view, it's probably better to be in front, and my lovely wife had a great time taking photos: see above. I was surprised that they played quite a few of the same songs as the night before, but there were enough different songs to have made it worth it.

They opened with "Release," which was great, and other great songs that they added included "World Wide Suicide," "Severed Hand," "State Of Love And Trust," "Garden" and "Rats." "Rats" has always been one of my favorites, and I wish they'd do more funky stuff like that. "Suicide" and "Severed Hand," both from their latest album, are classic. The backup singers were once again on hand, as was CJ Ramone. One notable other guest was Ace Frehley, who joined them for Kiss' "Black Diamond." That was pretty cool: the backup singers joined for that one, Eddie Vedder actually left the stage, Mike McCready actually sang the first line (as Paul Stanley does on the original), and Matt Cameron sang lead from behind the drums (as Peter Criss did back in the day).

It's funny: back in the '90s, Pearl Jam was seen as the anti-KISS. Their look wasn't typically rock star, and they seemed against flashiness. But, watching the band jam with a member of KISS and a member of The Ramones in the same night, you realize they were equally influenced by both bands. I wonder what Gene Simmons would think? He used to bitch about Pearl Jam all the time.

I could write about how mind-blowingly great Pearl Jam were all day, but I think you kind of get it. This is a band you should see if you get the chance. And, hopefully, you'll get lots of chances. I wonder when we'll hear from them next. I know Stone Gossard's other band, Brad, have a new album coming out. I also hear that Stone is working on his second solo album. Matt has a new jazz group called Harrybu McCage, they played Bonnaroo, and they just released their debut. But, hopefully the guys will get back together for a new album in the next few months. I can't wait to hear what they'll come up with next.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

PEARL JAM PART 1: 06/24/08 MSG

I'm a bit behind on my concert reporting: the last two nights I went to see Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden. Both shows ended at about 11:30 pm ET and I got home closer to 1 am.

Both shows were incredible: at the first show, we had tickets behind the stage, but they were in the 4th row, so it was actually pretty great. My lovely wife took some pretty cool pictures. The picture on the left is of course Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, and the other one is Mike McCready playing a face melting solo during "Evenflow" -- all behind his head, Hendrix-style. No disrespect to drummer Matt Cameron or keyboardist Boom Gaspar - we didn't have a great sight line to them from our seats .

They opened with a pretty rare song: "Hard To Imagine." Right there you knew it was going to be a pretty special show, it usually is when they open with something so unusual. Four songs in, they did something really unusual: they added three backing singers. One of them, Fonzi Thornton, was a guy who I knew of: he sings backup for Aretha Franklin, and has worked with tons of other people, like Luther Vandross, Chic, Debbie Harry and Mick Jagger to name just a few. I'm dying to know how Pearl Jam met up with these guys. Actually two guys and a girl. Anyway, they did a song I'd never heard before, "All Night," which was pretty cool. Later on, they returned for "Who You Are" and "W.M.A."

Another cool guest was C.J. Ramone, who joined for a cover of The Ramones' "I Believe In Miracles." But the show wasn't about guests, and Pearl Jam rocked for about 2 1/2 hours: other highlights were "Down" (a b-side), "Unemployable," "Whipping," "Present Tense," "Do The Evolution," The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," "Spin The Black Circle," Eddie's solo performance of "No More," Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary," "Present Tense," Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower," and the closer, "Indifference." But the show was like one long highlight. Eddie was in great spirits, and so was the rest of the band.

MSG was totally sold out, and the rafters literally shook several times during the concert. I do think Pearl Jam are well on their way to Grateful Dead/Springsteen type status: where they can tour whenever they want, whether or not they have an album, and sell out multiple nights. And not have to rely on any hits. There is no song that they "have to" play every night. Which is pretty extrodinary.

A few years ago, Eddie Vedder seemed frustrated by being in such a big band. He seemed to resent the songs from Ten, and just didn't seem to be enjoying himself. I think he's grown up a bit, and seen almost all of his early '90s peers struggling to keep their audiences. Pearl Jam still play by their own rules thanks to the loyalty of the fans, and he seems to appreciate it now.

So, to summarize, great show. But the following night was even better. I'll write about that one, and post more of Maria's pictures, tomorrow.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Tomorrow, I am doing a mini-triathlon for the first time, I've been writing about it in Leaving 30s. It's a 1/4 mile swim (harder than it sounds), a 15 mile bike ride and a three mile run. I rarely run without an iPod, and while I usually just listen to something like "Neil Young Mix 5" or "Lollapalooza '93" mix on the pod, I felt like this occasion deserved its own soundtrack. Not for the swim (duh) or even the bicycle part (I've seen people with earbuds while riding, but I think that's crazy). Just for the run. I also figure, this isn't my usual run, where I go to the track to run a few miles. I'm probably going to be pretty tired when I start the run, so I need something that will really kick my ass and motivate me. Of course, I could make a mix that last hours - the three mile run shouldn't take me more than 40. So I kept it to just a few songs. Back in the day, I probably would have had a creative name for this like "running mixtape." I know you want to know what's on the mix, so here's the tracks:

R.E.M. "Living Well Is The Best Revenge"
Rancid "Maxwell Murder/The 11th Hour"
Social Distortion "Reach For The Sky"
Bruce Springsteen "No Surrender"
Public Enemy "Harder Than You Think"
Eric B. & Rakim "Don't Sweat The Technique"
The Clash "London Calling"
The Red Hot Chili Peppers "Can't Stop"
The Stooges "Search & Destroy"
Black Sabbath "After Forever"
PJ Harvey "Long Snake Moan"
Pearl Jam "Corduroy"
The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter"
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Born On The Bayou"

R.E.M. - KEW-ELL! ("cool")

I got this photo (of R.E.M. at their recent Toronto show) here. I've got to start bringing a camera to shows.

Anyway, I just got back from R.E.M.'s SOLD OUT concert at Madison Square Garden. As I mentioned the other day on the OutQ show on the radio, I've found it easy to ignore R.E.M. concerts in recent years. Concerts just cost so much, and I haven't been into the last three albums. But the idea of not seeing them perform the awesome songs from Accelerate was really bugging me, so I'm glad my good friend Ben got us tickets. I'm so glad I went.

It was probably the best R.E.M. show I've ever seen. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills seemed to actually be enjoying playing together -that may be a first since the Monster tour. In the past, I've felt that they've had sort of an attitude about playing older material. But this is the first time I've seen them where they had a new album that holds up to their legacy (actually, they may have felt that way on the Monster tour, since they'd never toured behind the Automatic For The People and Out Of Time albums). I wondered if they'd seen any U2 shows lately, or if they were influenced by opening for Bruce Springsteen on the Vote For Change tour. But they finally seemed OK with using the songs that get an arena to its feet and get 10,000 people singing along. But I really gotta stress that the new songs really held up to the old ones. I gotta give props to their drummer Bill Rieflin, formerly of Ministry, who is great, and brings some muscle to the songs. Multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughy is great as well - I think Peter likes having him, as they play in two or three other bands togther, obviously they have a bond.

Anyway, great show. Lots of highlights - I'm tired now, but off of the top of my head, "Disturbence At The Heron House," "Fall On Me," "Living Well Is The Best Revenge," "Man Sized Wreath," "Houston," "Horse To Water," "Bad Day," "The One I Love," "Supernatural Superserious," an acoustic "Let Me In," and "Don't Go Back To Rockville," featuring Mike Mills on lead vocals. If you're an R.E.M. fan who has blown off their concerts in recent years, I don't blame you. But catch them this time around, you'll be glad you did.

(Oh yeah, I didn't go in to see the openers The National and Modest Mouse. But Johnny Marr of The Smiths is now in Modest Mouse, and he joined R.E.M. on stage, which was cool).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It's a bummer that Stevie Wonder is playing a local venue tonight (Jones Beach) and I'm not there. He really is one of the greats, and he's still doing it. I saw him 13 years ago at Radio City Music Hall, and it was just awesome. Back when I worked for Video Hits 1, I got a lot of free tickets, but I suspect even if I was still there, tickets would be hard to come by. Record labels aren't buying tickets for industry people anymore, which probably makes sense. 

Last year, I wrote about Stevie when I missed his Madison Square Garden show. Next time he comes to the area, I'm not going to miss him. Meanwhile tonight, one of his disciples, Alicia Keys, headlined MSG. I've never seen her in concert, but I'd love to. Of course, she will probably play MSG many more times in her career. You just can't go to every show. Tomorrow night, I'm going to see R.E.M. at MSG. The Cure play MSG and Radio City this week, but I'm not going. Next week, though, we're going to see Pearl Jam twice at MSG.  You've got to pace yourself! Although, next month, I'm doing something I'm calling "Seven Nights To Rock" - going to concerts seven nights in a row. I'll write more about that soon. 


One of my favorite lyrics is from The Traveling Wilburys' "End Of The Line": "Well it's all right/Even if you're old and grey/Well it's all right/You've still got something to say." I liked it when I was in college, and it means more to me now that I'm leaving my 30s

And I was really psyched that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers did that song last night. In recent years, they've been doing "Handle With Care," which is great, but I was happy to hear a different Wilburys tune. 

Anyway, the show was incredible. Lots of hits, but it didn't feel like a retro thing to me. I only wish Tom did some songs from the new Mudcrutch album.  It's like, if the Heartbreakers can do a Wilburys song, why not a Mudcrutch song (considering 3/5 of Mudcrutch are in the Heartbreakers). Aside from the hits, they did a pretty rocking song - "Mystic Eyes" by Them (thanks to some friends to clueing me in to that) and a song called "Sweet William" that they did for a European EP ten years ago. I have to track that one down! Plus, opening act Steve Winwood joined them for Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Back Home" and The Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin.'" Even the latter song, which is so overdone, really came to life on stage. It really showed just how great of a band they are. 

Some of the songs have probably showed up in every Tom Petty show for a decade: "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "You Wreck Me," "Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," "American Girl," "Runnin' Down A Dream," etc. But they attack them with such energy and enthusiasm that it never feels rote or forced. They are truly one of the best bands in the world at the moment. 

Winwood was pretty good, but he lacks any kind of connection with the crowd. He's a better singer than Petty and probably a better musician than any of the Heartbreakers, but opening with "Different LIght" from his very good last album, (2002's About Time) and following that with three new tunes... bad idea. When he played Blind Faith's "Had To Cry Today," followed by Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy," it was awesome. When he played "Higher Love" it wasn't, and most of his newer songs just weren't working .  I saw him a few times on the About Time tour, and he was great, but he was doing more balanced setlists.  His band is funky and great, but they should keep away from "Higher Love." 

But overall, an incredible show, and one that is definitely worth the money (although I got my tickets for free, I would have paid if I had to).  

Monday, June 16, 2008


It has a name! Metallica is calling the new album Death Magnetic. Supposedly their recent shows, including Bonnaroo, have kicked ass. You can buy "official bootlegs" of their shows at their website. Here's hoping that the album is great. If there's one thing producer Rick Rubin is really good at, it's weeding through a band's songs and getting rid of the ones that aren't up to par. So, hopefully he was able to do that with Metallica, so we won't have a Load, Re-load or St. Anger on our hands. 


This weekend, I listened to a lot of R.E.M. and a lot of Iron Maiden.  Weird combination, I know. But I was thinking about what each band meant to me throughout my life. More practically, both bands were playing outdoor concerts on Saturday night and I was thinking about going to one. 

While I was deciding what to do with myself that night, I had the cartoon-like experience of one imaginary friend telling me to go to one show, and another imaginary friend telling me to do the opposite thing. Well, they're not imaginary friends, they're guys I know in real life, and both of them have read No Expiration on occasion. One guy is like the quintessential R.E.M. fan, and the other is the most hard core metal dude I've ever met. I guess to over-simplify the issue, the Maiden dude would be the devil, and the R.E.M. fan... well, I don't know if you could call R.E.M. angelic, they did force Around The Sun and Reveal onto their fans. 

Maiden were one of the first bands I ever got into. I got into them around the time of Number Of The Beast, their third album, so they weren't one of these groups where you had to find all of their old stuff and spend tons of money. But they did always release cool singles with b-sides, and they always had the cool Derek Riggs artwork. They had nothing to do with the goofy hair metal of the era, they seemed serious as hell, but with a sense of humor. They seemed like the heaviest band in the world for a few years, and yet they were ambitious. Some of their songs, like "Run To The Hills," "The Trooper" and "2 Minutes To Midnight" showed a sort of social conscience that I could get with. 

R.E.M. I discovered in college, around the time of Document. It took me a while to really get into them, but once I got into them, I really got into them. They always just seemed so unusual, yet they wrote great songs. I remember being surprised whenever I heard them on rock (or pop) radio. And yet, eventually, they became a huge band, and totally on their own terms. And (like Maiden), they often released singles with cool b-sides. (I've always appreciated bands that do b-sides: it's like giving a little bit extra to the hard core fans). After Bill Berry left, I just didn't like the band as much; I wanted to, but their albums didn't really move me. I loved a few songs - notably "The Great Beyond" and "Bad Day" - but their albums left me cold. Until Accelerate. It's easily their best post-Berry album, and one of the best albums of the year. I'm actually moved whenever I listen to it. 

I guess R.E.M. is more like wine, and Maiden like beer. I love both, for different reasons. I run to R.E.M. and lift weights to Maiden. So, which show did I go to? Well, the answer is very un-rock and roll, but as I've mentioned, I haven't been able to buy all the concert tickets I'd like to, and I don't get freebies like I used to. Plus, it was raining that night (I would have hated to be at Jones Beach for R.E.M.'s show) and I'm training for a mini-triathlon, which takes a lot of time and keeps me away from my wife for a few hours a day.

So, I decided to stay home. R.E.M. is playing MSG on Thursday though, so I'll have another shot at catching them. But I'm pretty sure I'll be listening to both for as long as I'm listening to music.  

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Lots of great albums came out this week: I'll write about them individually another time. But a quick rundown: 

Solomon Burke's Like A Fire: Mr. Burke's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago seemed to re-ignite his career, and he's done three great albums with three great producers: Joe Henry, Don Was and Buddy Miller.  This one was produced by Steve Jordan of Keith Richards' s X-Pensive Winos (he's also played with tons of other artists). Ben Harper and keb'mo are among the guests on the album. 

I've always been a bit skeptical of My Morning Jacket. But a pal of mine gave me a burned copy of their new album, Evil Urges, and I dug it on first listen, and decided to buy a copy. 

James Hunter (age 45 1/2 according to his liner note) is one of my favorite new artists of recent years - I can't believe this is the first time I'm writing about him. His last album, People Gonna Talk, was excellent, and I really like the new one, The Hard Way, already. His music is unaffected by pretty much anything that happened in the last, say, four decades. The British Invasion, punk, new wave, hip-hop ... none of that figures into what he does. He's like a Sam Cooke disciple with a mean guitar.  

Jakob Dylan has just released his solo debut, Seeing Things, which was produced by Rick Rubin. I was surprised to see a Jakob Dylan solo album - it's not like The Wallflowers is a democracy - but without keyboardist Rami Jaffe (who has been playing with The Foo Fighters lately), it has a different sound. 

Last, but definitely not least, is Emmylou Harris ' new album, All I Intended To Be. (I listed this in reverse alphabetical order.) Very different from her more modern-sounding recent albums. This one reunites her with her ex-husband Brian Ahern, who produced her first 10 or so albums. A downbeat and sad album, but still beautiful. My favorite will always be Wrecking Ball, but this is a good one, too, and I just love Emmylou.  

Next week, my wallet will get a breather - yes I know the Coldplay album comes out, I like them, but I don't think I'll buy that album. 


I'm going to see Pearl Jam twice later this month, and I can't wait. I've been listening to lots of their official "bootlegs" from recent tours: they are a great live band. This time around, they are releasing the recordings on CD, which is cool - on the last tour, they went with just downloads. I prefer CDs. They're also offering mobile downloads, which doesn't appeal to me, but if the kids like it, then cool. Get more info at Pearl Jam's website


A few weeks ago, I mentioned that you could listen to the new Hold Steady single, "Sequestered In Memphis" on their myspace page. 

Well, now they are streaming their entire album, Stay Positive. I predict that this will be one of the best albums of the year. I've just started listening to it myself. It sounds great. Of course I'll buy it the day it comes out. I think of the free stream as a courtesy. Don't worry guys, you didn't lose any sales here. 


Just days after the announcement that Wolfgang's Vault struck a deal to sell live recordings by Universal Music artists, EMI and the BBC announced a similar deal

There are no details announced yet, but this gist of it is that live TV and radio performances by Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and David Bowie (to name a few) will be made available as digital downloads, CDs and DVDs. I just hope The Beeb makes similar deals with other labels (and ditto for Wolfgang's Vault). 

I think this is a great deal. Fans of classic artists tend to have all of the legit recordings by them, and look for bootlegs, which often have inferior sound. And catalog departments of record labels have probably re-released just about everything twice. So this is a good way to give fans material by their favorite bands - and often it may be material that they are more than willing to pay for. I know I'll be buying a bunch of Beeb recordings when they go on sale. 


(I got this image from the great blog Brooklyn Vegan). 

At the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss concert at the Wamu Theater at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, Robert Plant said that this tour was the first chapter in a long story, and I can only hope that that's true. This is a guy who turned down about $100 million to tour as Led Zeppelin in favor of touring with Alison Krauss for their already-classic album, Raising Sand. I can only hope that it's true: I'd love to see this tour again, and I hope Robert and Alison record more albums together. I mean, I love Zeppelin, and I'd love the chance to see them again, but this is exactly what Plant should be doing. 

They did nod to Zeppelin, though: first with a hilarious new arrangement of "Black Dog." Possibly Plant's most macho "Golden God" moment ever, the "Mighty Re-arranger" came up with a quiet but creepy new version that really showed him "taking the piss" as the Brits are wont to say. "Black Country Woman" and "The Battle Of Evermore" were also great, as was Robert's solo hit "In The Mood." 

What was so striking about the show was how Robert wasn't hogging the spotlight. There were points in the show where he faded to the back of the stage, singing backing vocals behind Alison. Who would've thought that the ultimate frontman would be doing that? By the way, Alison Krauss was incredible, what a singer. Her records almost don't do her justice. It was a near perfect show - although I wasn't that into T-Bone Burnett's mini-set. He produced their album (and he also produced upcoming albums by John Mellencamp and B.B. King, and will likely produce The Who's next album) and has a new solo album. I really respect the guy, but I wasn't digging his own material. 

The two things I would have changed about the show: (1) I thought Robert should have played some harmonica. It would have fit perfectly in many of the songs. (2) I wish guitarist Buddy Miller - an amazing musician - got to do one of his songs. In fact, I think he'd be a great candidate to produce the next Robert/Alison album. He knows how to work with legends, since he recently produced a Solomon Burke album called Nashville

In conclusion, a great show. I couldn't recommend seeing them enough. Long may they run. And if you don't have their album, go get it. 

Monday, June 9, 2008


The Foo Fighters just played  England's Wembley Stadium, and were joined by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for two Led Zeppelin songs. Drummer Taylor Hawkins sang while Dave Grohl played drums on "Rock And Roll," and then Taylor got behind the kit and Dave got back out front for "Ramble On." While neither of them approaches the awsomeness of Robert Plant, it must have been pretty cool to see. Apparently Page said backstage that Zeppelin may rise again after Robert's current tour ends. We'll see. 

Meanwhile, apparently Dave performed at a concert in Liverpool with Paul McCartney recently. And later this summer, the Foos may jam with The Who at the VH1 Rock Honors

But what's cool about Dave Grohl is, he's probably just as psyched to jam with Lemmy or H.R. from Bad Brains. He's about the music, not about the fame. 


You've got to check out this interview that New York magazine did with Lou Reed about his new SIRIUS Radio show on SIRIUS Disorder. Classic Lou! Did the interviewer really think he was going to get Lou Reed to comment on the SIRIUS/XM merger? 

My Lou Reed story: in 2004, while working for Video Hits One, I covered a benefit concert for WEDRock, an organization that was working to legalize gay marriage. It was a cool concert: Moby performed, so did Bob Mould, Le Tigre and Margaret Cho. Lou Reed did a spoken word performance, and let me tell you that "Walk On The Wild Side" is funnier without the music. 

Anyway, I was there doing interviews, and I was told not even to expect Lou Reed. Then, some publicist asks me if I'd be interested in speaking with Lou. I was like, I thought he wasn't doing interviews, but I'd always wanted to interview him. I turned around, and there he was. It was a noisy club, so I figured maybe he didn't hear me. But he probably did. Or maybe he was looking at me like that because, you know. I was from VH1. 

I remember it being one of the very few times I'd interviewed someone whose music I loved, but yet I wanted the interview to end as soon as possible. I didn't get intimidated much, but the fact that I was taken off guard by the opportunity to interview him, plus him hearing me being a fan, plus... well, he's Lou Reed, not Mr. Friendly, I wasn't on my game. So I guess I asked him a few questions about gay marriage, and wrapped it up. Then, as he was getting up, I asked him about a lyric from the song "The Last Great American Whale," from my favorite Lou album, New York

"Is it true that 'My painter friend Donald' is really John Mellencamp?" I thought I even remember Mellencamp saying that in an interview. 

Lou turned around, and I was like "Uh-oh." I won't say he smiled. I won't say he grinned. But one corner of his mouth raised maybe a half millimeter, and the shape of his eyes changed just a little bit. 

"No. 'My painter friend Donald' is actually my painter friend Donald." At least he didn't call me an asshole though 


I was bummed to hear that there are now two Marvin Gaye flicks in the works. I'm a huge fan of Marvin, but I think that two films will cannibalize each other. Although word is one film, which will have the rights to his Motown catalog (90% of his career) will be about his life, and the other, which has the rights to his post-Motown stuff (notably "Sexual Healing") will be about his decline and death. 

I hope both films are great and introduce a new generation to his incredible music: outside of Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and maybe John Lennon, few artists excelled equally when writing about the state of the world and about love. I discovered Marvin's music fairly late, but better late than never. 


AC/DC's next album is going to be available exclusively at Wal-Mart. It's a good move by the band. The Eagles have done really well with Wal-Mart, and I bet AC/DC will as well. One difference between The Eagles' deal and AC/DC's is that AC/DC is still signed to a major label - Sony - while The Eagles did the deal on their own. 

But what does it say when a major label takes one of the best selling bands of all time, and decides to sell their albums only at Wal-Mart? 

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I'm a fan of reissues - and not just because I've made decent money writing liner notes for them. As long as there is a decent reason for the upgrade - mainly improved sound or bonus tracks - I'm into it. My main personal preference is to do them as two disc sets.  I like to have one disc that is the exact same songs in the same running order as the original, and the second disc can have all of the extras. 
Elton John's second and third albums - Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection, both released in 1970 - have just been reissued as two-cd sets, and they are worth the money. (FYI, most people think Elton John is his debut, but in fact, 1969's Empty Sky was; but like his big influence The Band, self-titled his second album.)

Tumbleweed is my personal favorite Elton John album. I remember Rolling Stone doing a '70s issue, and Bruce Hornsby did a list of his favorite Elton songs. Most of them were from this album, none of which I'd ever heard. I looked for the CD in the store, and didn't recognize any of the other songs, I don't think I'd even heard "Burn Down The Mission" at that point. But I bought it anyway, and I was blown away. It's Elton at his most Band-influenced, and I'd say that Elton and Bernie Taupin's songwriting was a match for Band leader Robbie Robertson's. 

Anyway, I think lots of Elton's greatest songs (not necessarily greatest hits) were on these two albums. Which leads me to the bonus tracks. There are Elton's piano demos for almost all of the songs, which is amazing. You're so used to thinking of Elton as a rock star, a celebrity. But when he was recording these demos, that destiny wasn't yet set in stone: he was hungry, and really going for it. I'm not saying that the piano versions should replace the studio recordings, which are phenomenal. But it's really cool to listen to them. If you're an Elton fan, you've got to pick these up; you're really in for a treat. 


As I've mentioned before, I'm not a huge Neil Diamond fan, but I do respect what he does. His music means a lot to my parents, Rick Rubin, and my good friend Ben. I was glad to see that he had a #1 album a few weeks back. I bought the album, Home Before Dark, and we listened to it at dinner, and it sounded pretty good. 

But his quote in the new issue of Blender (not a magazine that I read too often, but I like some of their articles) made me like him a bit more. In the "Dear Superstar" feature (where fans get to email questions in, they copied it from the British magazine Q, and I'm sure the editorial staff plants some questions that they want answered), someone asked his definition of "cheesy."  His answer:

"Something flimsy. Faux. Fake. I wouldn't consider myself cheesy, if that's what you're getting at. But given a choice, I'd much rather be cheesy than 'hip.' I think hipness is for poseurs. It's presenting a superficial facade that I don't really care for. I always try to be as open and as honest and as real as I can be." 

I guess that's the magic ingredient, the secret sauce for artists with longevity (or at least most of them). Some guys are fortunate to always be considered hip, but hell, even Bowie did Never Let Me Down, not to mention that movie with the fraggles or whatever that was. Labyrinth

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Sony Legacy just reissued Midnight Oil's Diesel And Dust album. I have to admit, when this first came out, I liked the single, but never sought out the album. But the reissue has really made me really respect this band. I'd like to say that they were as radical as Public Enemy - but I'd just be copying what the great blog Aquarium Drunkard already said. So, I'll just recommend that you read AD's post about the album. And that you pick up the reissue, which doesn't add bonus tracks but does come with a DVD with a tour documentary and some music videos. 


It's not really like me to be bummed over a corporate store closing, but I am a little sad that the Virgin Megastore in Times Square is closing. Over the past few years, I've enjoyed being able to walk to the store during lunch and buying CDs and magazines from there. Although, increasingly, I've been buying music from Newbury Comics, or sometimes, Amazon. I guess I'm an old-school type of dude, though: I really like going to record stores, and that just seems to be a thing of the past these days. 


This idea is so Aimee Mann. She's having fans upload videos of themselves singing her new song, "Freeway," to a youtube page. She'll choose a winner, who will get to perform the song live with her at one of her shows. She's even posted a free instrumental download of the song on her website. I wish I could sing! 


I had a great time again on Larry Flick's show on SIRIUS OutQ yesterday. We discussed the sad death of Bo Diddley, as well as great new albums by Aimee Mann, Al Green and The Raconteurs. I was on for about a half hour, but could have talked about any one of those topics for a half hour. But there's one thing I really wanted to mention about Bo Diddley that I forgot to mention, and I was bummed afterwards. Here it is: as I mentioned in my post on Bo earlier this week, there's a lot of reasons why Bo is so important to the history of rock and roll and popular music. But that isn't why you should go out and buy his records. You should go out and buy his records because they are some of the very best records ever made. Like a lot of early rock and rollers, he doesn't have a hugely extensive catalog, and it doesn't take a lot to get the essentials.  I'd recommend the 2 CD Chess Box, or the His Best collection. You won't be sorry, I promise. 

As for the Aimee Mann album, "Fracking" Smilers, we discussed it but I didn't give an opinion on it other than the awesome first single, "Freeway." I haven't lived with the album enough to have a strong opinion.  I'll write a review later on. 

Oh yeah, I look forward to talking about more cool music, new and old, next Wednesday morning (at either 9 or 9:30 am ET). 


  Lots of artists talk a good game about doing things like changing the world, or at least changing the music industry. One of the things I love about Peter Gabriel is that he puts his money (and his time) where his mouth is. He's worked extensively with Amnesty International, and also helped to found Witness, an organization dedicated to using technology to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. He also has put lots of time and effort into W.O.M.A.D., which is dedicated to turning on people to music from other parts of the world. 

Now, he's just launched The Filter, a sort of social networking site dedicated to help people discover music and films that they like. I just started creating a profile (my first social networking profile ever!) but I'm having some Adobe issues, so I wasn't able to "rate" things. I expect to spend more time on that site. 

Peter Gabriel was recently included in Time magazine's Time 100, their list of the 100 most influential people in the world.  And, oddly, he wasn't classified with artists and entertainers (as Bruce Springsteen was), but under "Innovators." It's amazing that, with his incredible catalog of music, his biggest contribution may not end up being his own records. That's pretty stunning when you think about it. 

And it's almost enough to get you to forgive him for taking a decade to make one album. Or for not doing one last reunion with Genesis. C'mon, Peter, you're not gonna lose your cred at this point.