Thursday, March 27, 2008

COOL NEW MUSIC

I always say that I am a big fan of the album format: a bunch of songs recorded together, released in a specific order. But I also love the freedom that singles offer. Back in the day, I used to love 45"s, then "cassingles," then CD singles. These days, I love iTunes, and being able to just buy a few songs here and there. Here are some singles that I recently purchased that I've been enjoying.

The first two are from Randy Jackson's Music Club album. Yes, that Randy Jackson. Back off, son, he played with Bob Dylan. OK, it was on Under The Red Sky. And with Bruce Springsteen. On Human Touch. Both underrated albums, stop hating. Anyway, his album features him producing (and probably playing bass on) tracks for other artists. One is with Joss Stone: "Just Walk On By" (not to be confused with "Walk On By"). People also hate on Joss, I like her, and this is a nice pop song. The second track is a cover of "Wang Dang Doodle," written by blues god Willie Dixon. It features keb'mo, whose voice I always love hearing, Angie Stone, who I'd love to hear more blues from, and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave (Randy produced his comeback album two years ago). Not the grittiest version, but still fun.


Next: Duffy. I first read about her in Mojo, which is the most credible music publication in the world, in my opinion. She is a soulful, white British girl from Wales, whose record has a very modern-slash-retro feel. Like a certain Ms. Winehouse. But Duffy is better looking and less angst ridden: better for the record label, but it automatically puts her at a big disadvantage when it comes to music critics. People are definitely gonna pile on. I just heard this one song, "Mercy," offered as the free single of the week on iTunes. I like it.

Jim White's "Crash Into The Sun": this one makes me want to hear more of this guy. He reminds me a bit of James McMurtry.




Kaki King's "Pull Me Out Alive": I know of her because NPR Radio stations play her a lot. And she played guitar on on the new Foo Fighters album's "The Ballad Of The Bakersfield Miners." This one also makes me want to hear more.




Ashton Shepherd's "Taking Off The Pain": Very mainstream country. She has her wedding ring in one hand and a beer in the other. You can figure out the rest. I don't love modern country's conservativism - politically and musically - but on the plus side, most of the artists are just about songs. Even the most mainstream country singer can land a great song, and this is a good example.


Kathleen Edwards reminds me (and probably other people) of Lucinda Williams. That's as much of a double edged sword as being called "The New Dylan." Big compliment, impossible to live up to. She has written some great songs, though. I love "In State" from her last album. She just released a new album, Asking For Flowers, and I like the new song "Buffalo."



I bought two tracks from an album by a guy named Jeffrey Lewis, 12 Crass Songs. In this case, "Crass" is a noun, not an adjective. Actually it's both. The album is 12 covers of songs by anarchist punk band Crass. "Do They Owe Us A Living?" and "I Ain't Thick, It's A Trick" are worth hearing. I don't know much about Crass, but the album's folky sound delivers the lyrics in a much different way than the originals (I've heard a few of the original versions). It's at least thought provoking.


The Black Keys' "Strange Times": They're a dirty sounding gritty blues/rock duo, but they sound nothing like The White Stripes. Apparently, Danger Mouse used them on some Ike Turner recordings that he was producing, and then they decided to have them produce thier new album. Pretty cool song. Speaking of Danger Mouse...


Gnarls Barkley has a new album, The Odd Couple, and I got "Run" and "Going On." I tend to think that Danger Mouse is a bit overrated. That said, that "Crazy" song was pretty great, as was their cover of The Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone." I like both of the new songs that I picked up, but I don't know if I'd buy the album based on them.



The Kills' "Cheap And Cheerful" makes me want to hear more from this duo.






Justin Townes Earle's "Far Away In Another Town": Yes he is you-know-who's son. Sounds a bit like him. As if that wasn't enough pressure, he's also named after Townes Van Zandt. That's like being named "Jakob Marley Dylan" or something. Anyway, this song is pretty cool, and I'll be checking out more of his music for sure.



That's it for now. I'm looking foward now to hearing the new R.E.M. which comes out next week, along with the latest live album from The Rolling Stones. But if you trust my musical taste and want to check out some lesser known artists, you should try some of the above (not that Randy Jackson is lesser known, but you know what I mean).

NOT "SO WRONG" - NEIL YOUNG

There's a new book out called So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq by a writer named Greg Mitchell. It's mostly about how the mainstream media cowered before the Rove/Cheney/Bush II administration though much of the current gulf war. The book cites a few journalists who didn't back down, you can read an article by Mitchell here.

Alongside real journalists, noted conservative commentator and ice cream flavor Stephen Colbert was mentioned, as was Neil Young, mainly thanks to his Living With War album. Which reminded me, I really am looking forward to Neil's doc from Crosby Stills Nash & Young's 2006 tour, Deja Vu. I wonder if any of the people who criticized/booed/damned him now realize that, hey, he had a point. I recently read an interview with Serj Tankian of System Of A Down, a very well informed artist and humanist. In the days after 9/11, he wrote an essay called "Understanding Oil," and was called a traitor, and several radio stations dropped his music. (Read the essay here.) Now, he says, people apologize to him and admit that they were wrong to attack him.

Back to Neil's Living With War: I don't think it holds up as well as, say, "Ohio," or even "Rocking In The Free World," but I'm glad he said what he did.

FOXBORO HOT TUBS UPDATE

The mysterious band called The Foxboro Hot Tubs who I wrote about a while back have announced that they are releasing their debut, Stop, Drop and Roll on April 29. I'm looking forward to it, I've liked what I've heard so far.

In totally unrelated news, I'm also looking forward to new albums by The Network and Green Day.

RONNIE WOOD TO AMY WINEHOUSE: LET'S DUET!







British music website Gigwise says that Ronnie Wood is thinking about doing a duets album for his next solo effort, and would like to collaborate with Amy Winehouse. I guess at this point, everyone wants to collaborate with her if she can get her act together. Here's hoping she does.
She's obviously a great talent, it would be a shame if she threw it all away. And Ronnie could probably give her some advice on that. He's been there, done it and lived through it.

LEMMY: ACTION FIGURE/AT&T JINGLE WRITER

Check out this AT&T commercial featuring a guy who wishes he was Jack Black singing Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades."

Like a lot of other rock fans, I used to absolutely hate seeing "my" music used in advertising. But, a few years ago, I talked to Iggy Pop about it. I think "Lust For Life" was being used in a commercial at that point. He basically said that radio had never supported him, solo or with The Stooges, and if this was the way people were finally hearing his music, he was OK with that. I mean, you have so-called "rock" radio stations playing Journey or REO Speedwagon but not The Stooges! Plus, he always hears about how influencial he is to other artists... artists who mostly make way more money than he has. Tough to argue with a guy like that about cred.

It's cool that guys like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have never had to play that game, but for someone like Lemmy, it's hard to argue. Why shouldn't he get paid? Hopefully the commercial will turn more people on to Motorhead.

GUITAR HERO: AEROSMITH - OPENING ACTS

Last month, I wrote about Aerosmith's special edition of the video game Guitar Hero. Now Aerosmith easily have enough of a catalog to fill up a game with just thier own songs. Add some of thier covers, you have about 100 great songs.

But it turns out that the band are using some other artists on the game. Some of thier influences, like The Kinks and Mott The Hoople will be included, as well as some bands who have opened for them, like Cheap Trick and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. This is according to Gaming Today.

To me, this brings up an interesting question: is curating a video game the new "guest DJing" for superstar acts? For sure, it's a good way to hook up bands you love, or bands you are friends with, with nice royalty checks.

I'm not a gamer, but I might check this one out.

GEORGE MICHAEL AND MARY J. - NICE "AS"

A couple of years ago I was in a store somewhere, and over the soundsystem I heard what is maybe my favorite Stevie Wonder song ever: "As." It was a duet by, quite obviously, George Michael and Mary J. Blige. I found out it was only available as a very expensive import. I was like, "I want it, but not that bad."

Years later, I asked George Michael about it. I like his solo cover of Stevie's "I Believe When I Fall In Love (It Will Be Forever)," and told him so, and asked if "As" would ever be released. He said he hoped it would be in the U.S. at some point. So, now it is coming out on a new best-of that he has coming out.

I watched the video at VH1.com, and I still like their version of the song. It's not nearly as good as the original, but how could it hope to be? Still, if it brings more attention to the very underrated "As," and more people get turned on to it, then great.

GET WELL SOON, GREGG

Today, The Allman Brothers Band announced that thier annual residency at New York's Beacon Theater is being postponed indefinitely. Usually dubbed "March Madness," this year it was scheduled for May. But according to the band's website, Gregg has been getting treatments for Hepatitis C for the past six months. The virus is now out of his system, but he is recovering from the side-effects of the treatment, and he won't be in shape to play by May. They still have a handful of summer gigs that haven't been postponed, so that's a good sign.

I've seen the Allmans a number of times over the years, and they're pretty much always great. I caught them twice in 2007 - once at their own show at Jones Beach, and once at Farm Aid - and they were so good it's just ridiculous. Gregg is one of the great blues/rock singers of all time, but I think he really benefits from guitarist/singer Warren Haynes being in the band, so he doesn't have to sing every song.

Anyway, here's hoping that Gregg recovers and the Brothers return to the Beacon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

AL GREEN, ROOTS, BOTH HAVE RELEASE DATES






















I've already written about Al Green's upcoming album, which was produced by ?uestlove of The Roots. Now the album has a date: it's called Lay It Down, and it's due on May 27, according to Billboard. I actually liked Al's last two albums, both of which were produced by Willie Mitchell, who produced his classic '70s stuff. But I think ?uestlove will be able to update his sound a bit, without being pandering about it.


Meanwhile, The Roots' own album, Rising Down, comes out on April 29. Here's hoping that they can do some shows together. ?uestlove once told me that he studied Phish, and would like to see The Roots become the Phish of hip-hop. Meaning a band that doesn't need to cater to a scene, can tour regardless of whether or not they have radio hits, etc. I think they're on their way. But I can also see ?uestlove as a Rick Rubin-esque great producer in the future as well.

VH1 ROCK HONORS TO HONOR THE WHO

I was glad to hear that this year's VH1 Rock Honors will be honoring just one band this year: The Who.

As far as I'm concerned, the band can't get enough accolades. I'm not sure what Rock Honors means to The Who, though: the ceremony seems to be more about bands that are popular with the fans, but lack critical respect, clearly not the problem with The Who. The show will air on July 17. I'm looking forward to it. I imagine it will be kind of like VH1's old Divas show - lots of younger artists paying tribute, and then the honoree performs as well. Let's hope that they book artists who are worthy.

KISS was one of the bands honored in the first year (along with Queen, Judas Priest and Def Leppard; Ozzy Osbourne, Genesis, Heart and ZZ Top were honored last year). I bet Gene Simmons is pissed that he didn't think of this - a show just dedicated to honoring one artist.



A NEW GUNS N ROSES ALBUM - JUST WHAT THE DR. ORDERED

Lots of big companies - especially soda companies - spend millions of dollars on looking "cool." For me, it never really works. Maybe not never, but rarely.

Enter Dr. Pepper. I've never enjoyed that kind of soda, and I don't feel like they're in your face all the time, like Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, etc. But what a genius idea they had.

They are claiming that, if W. Axl Rose releases the new Guns N' Roses album in 2008, they will give "everyone in America" a free soda. Except for former Gunners Slash and Buckethead. I'm not kidding: you can read the press release here. And follow thier progress in their endeavor to get a new album here.

It's really a funny idea, but I wonder if their legal department is sweating it out right now: "How are we going to do this?"

And I wonder if this will become a trend: "Red Vines will offer everyone a piece of licorice if Amy Winehouse can stay off of drugs and release a new album this year."

Anyway, it's nice to see a huge corporation using its power for good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MARLEY FILM VS. MARLEY FILM?


Two films about Bob Marley are now competing with each other. One is a documentary that Martin Scorsese is working on (Marty, who recently directed the excellent Bob Dylan doc, No Direction Home, and The Rolling Stones concert/doc Shine A Light, out this week, is also working on a George Harrison doc).
The other is the latest in a long line of biopics. The Marley family is involved in both films, but it is getting messy, which is a shame. Bob Marley is probably the most universally loved musican ever - more than The Beatles, Dylan, or anyone else.
It's kind of a bummer. But to read more about it, check The Playlist - a cool blog about movies and music.

LEMMY ACTION FIGURE - IT'S ABOUT TIME

Lots of rock stars, from Jerry Garcia to KISS, have gotten their own action figures. It's about time that that honor has been bestowed upon Motorhead frontman Lemmy. You can find out more at Lemmyfigure.com.

Lemmy, to me, is like a heavy metal version of guys like Willie Nelson or B.B. King. His life is on the road: he puts out new albums every so often, but he doesn't really need to. His life is on the tour, he's a road warrior.

But unlike Willie or B.B., I think Lemmy is pretty underrated. Take any cool metal band. They are probably influenced by Black Sabbath, KISS, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, etc. But if they play at breakneck speeds, the reason they do that is because of Motorhead. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, all those guys will admit that. In my mind, it's no stretch to say that Motorhead belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 24, 2008

GO DOLLY!

Quote of the year so far comes from Dolly Parton: "Now the major (labels) are what they used to think I was: history." 

She was interviewed about her new album, Backwoods Barbie, which she just released on her own Dolly Records label, and which debuted at #2 on the charts, her best showing in a long time. Not that having a #2 record is what it used to be, but more to the point, Dolly probably makes a lot more money off of this record than off of her prior ones, even the ones released on indie labels. 

There's a few reasons why people often don't take Dolly Parton seriously: the big hair/big boobs thing being one. Her theme park Dollywood being another. Her persona just isn't one that you would associate with a serious artiste. 

But, to me, it looks like she knew what she was doing all along: with all of her money, she can make any kind of album that she wants to, without a record label telling her what to do, or telling her that her time is up.  I think her time is up when she says it is. 

It's like Madonna in a way: if she hadn't branched out into acting, her record label, and other stuff like that, her entire career would have been dictated by a record label. Diversifying allowed her to call her own shots.  Same with Dolly.

And say what you want about Dollywood, "9 To 5" or The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, the woman still wrote "Jolene" and "Coat Of Many Colors" and you didn't. 

BJORK SPEAKS HER MIND

I can't front and act like I'm the biggest Bjork fan in the world. I kind of like some of the songs on Debut and Post, but that's about it. But I do respect her as an artist - hell, she's practically her own genre. She doesn't conform to anything, and always follows her own muse. And she speaks her mind. 

Which seems to have gotten her a bit of attention lately (although internet reports have probably blown this a bit out of proportion). She recently performed in China, and, apparently, said, "Tibet, Tibet," from the stage. I saw Bjork at the Tibetan Freedom concert a few years ago, and those concerts were really great, not just for the music, but for really educating and informing Americans about the plight of Tibet. Read more about it at FreeTibet.org

Anyway, the Chinese government got all bent about it of course, but here's what Bjork told The Lipster about it. 

“When I said "Tibet, Tibet", I whispered it three times. There was no fuss in the room. It happened afterwards on websites. It shows more than anything that China has become the next superpower in the world. And the issue is: how are they going to deal with Western moral issues like freedom of speech? China said, ‘It's obvious Bj√∂rk planned a trip to China with the purpose of political propaganda gathering… and I was like, no! It's not true! It's a question of [them] sensationalising it.”

This isn't a political web site, but Bjork asks a good question here. And that, in my opinion, is what artists should be doing. 

X TOUR

X is one of those bands that I've always wanted to see in concert, but never have. I think I first heard them via a 120 Minutes compilation, I think the song was "Burning House Of Love." Pretty good song, but their first album, 1980's Los Angeles, is the true classic.  

Here's hoping I catch them this time. They have a cool garage rock band, The Detroit Cobras, opening, which sweetens the deal.  

MIKE NESS SOLO TOUR

Mike Ness is going on a solo tour. You can get the dates on his myspace page. I was wondering for a while if he was going to do solo stuff any more. Since the death of Social Distortion guitarist Dennis Danell in 2000, it has pretty much seemed like Social D. is more Mike Ness' band than ever. In fact, the guy who played drums in his solo band, Charlie Quintana, now plays in Social D. 

But Mike Ness doesn't play his solo stuff, which is more country oriented, during Social D. shows. His two albums, Cheating At Solitaire and Under The Influences (both released in 1999) are these sort of forgotten gems. I'm looking forward to seeing him revisit those songs (many of which were covers, but Ness kind of owns a song once he sings it).  But I'm also looking forward to the next Social D. album, which is supposed to come out this year. Their last album, Sex, Love and Rock & Roll, from 2004, was pretty great and yielded at least one classic, "Reach For The Sky." 

Sunday, March 23, 2008

YES!

Coolness be damned, Yes has always been one of my favorite groups. I've had the privilege to work on some of their reissues.  The other day, I bumped into singer Jon Anderson and showed him my work on one of their box sets, and we started talking. He told me that when Yes do something again, keyboardist Rick Wakeman won't be with them - again. I think this is the fifth time he's left the band! It seems to be partially about his health, and this doesn't seem to be an angry split, as Rick is being replaced by his son, Oliver Wakeman.  Rick's other son, Adam Wakeman, plays keyboards in Ozzy Osbourne's band, and also on Black Sabbath's tours. 

Anyway, the tour is called the "Close To The Edge And Back" tour, so hopefully, they'll be playing all the songs on the Close To Edge album (only three songs anyway, of course they're all long). They're also having a contest with VH1 Classic, where fans have the chance to join the band onstage for "Give Love Each Day," a song off of their last album, Magnification. That'll probably end up being their final album: it costs a ton of money to record a Yes album, and the fans aren't really dying for new music from them anyway. But here's hoping that they tour for a long time. 

MUDCRUTCH REUNION UPDATE

So I thought that, because Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers will be touring this summer, there wouldn't be any activity with his former band, Mudcrutch

Nope, turns out that their "reunion" album, which is kind of their debut album, will be out on April 29, and they kick off a brief tour of California two weeks earlier. Here's hoping that they do a NY date. Three fifths of the band - Tom, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench - are in the Heartbreakers. But it must be weird for the other two guys - guitarist Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh - to be doing this tour.  They haven't been in the music scene for a long time, now they're touring with their ex-bandmates who are millionaire rock stars. 

Anyway, I'm hoping to get tickets to Tom's NY area show this summer. 

DANNY'S BACK (SORT OF)

Last week in Indianapolis, Danny Federici joined the Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on stage for the first time since leaving the tour due his melanoma treatment

He didn't play the whole show, just a few songs, but it's good to know he's in shape to perform. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery soon, and that he is with the band when they play Giants Stadium this summer. 

(Photo from RollingStone.com

THE GUTTER TWINS: TOO MUCH COOL FOR ONE ROOM?

I saw The Gutter Twins earlier this week, it was pretty great. It reminded me of the old Marvel Two-In-One comics, where The Thing teamed up with someone else each month, or DC's Brave & Bold (Batman teamups). It was like having Marvel's Wolverine and DC's Spectre. Or to make a more musical comparison, if a guitar playing Otis Redding was in a band with Jim Morrison. 

Their debut album, Saturnalia, is pretty cool. It's very cinematic, and it came off pretty well live. They also did some stuff from their respective back catalogs, but nothing from The Afghan Whigs, unfortunately. They did I think one Screaming Trees song, but a bunch of Mark Lanegan's solo songs, including one of my favorites by him, "Hit The City" (originally a duet with PJ Harvey). 

If you're a fan of either artist, I recommend the album and I recommend seeing them live. I know Lanegan has a new album coming out with Isobell Campbell (from Belle & Sebastian, they've done an EP together). I'm looking forward to that, but I hope The Gutter Twins do another album. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

LITTLE STEVEN: "DANNY'S DOING GREAT"

RollingStone.com (where I got this photo from) has a great interview with the great Little Steven. Most importantly, he says that keyboardist Danny Federici is "doing great." He says that Danny will hopefully be back in the band within a month or two. I gotta think that he wants to be on stage when Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play Giants Stadium this summer.

He also says that this tour will probably go through at least October, but I think that they'll tour through the election.

APRIL 19 - RECORD STORE DAY

It's probably no surprise that I'm a big fan of record stores. Yes, I love the iTunes store, and I frequently use Amazon.com. But nothing takes the place of a cool record store, and sadly, there are not many left. April 19 is Record Store Day, though, so support your local (or not local) indie retailer.  As for me, I don't actually live near any indie record stores, sadly. But I recently started buying full CDs from Newbury Comics, one of the few record stores who are currently thriving.  

Lots of record stores are planning in-store performances, meet-and-greets and big sales for that day. Amazingly, the mighty Metallica is going to be performing at Rasputin Music in Mountain View, California. 

In other "record" news, apparently at a panel at the South By Southwest convention, there was a discussion on vinyl making a comeback. In fact, someone from Sony was talking about re-issuing the label's catalog on vinyl.  That's hard to imagine. I think vinyl still is the best sounding format. But I think in this mp3 dominated world, people don't care as much about fidelity as they do about having thousands of tracks at their fingertips.  But good luck to them: if they want this to have any effect, though, they can't charge ridiculous prices.  

ONLY ON BLOGS: THE NEIL YOUNG/BOB DYLAN DEBATE

Who is better, Neil Young or Bob Dylan? It's a weird question, but a few blogs, including the great Neil fan site Thrasher's Wheat and a funny blog called Eight Track Mind have both been hosting the debate. Eight Track Mind is written by someone who is named Jaded Bitterman.

Neil and Bob are two of my favorite artists of all time. It's like, them, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and a few others. Does it really matter who is "better?" What does that even mean, anyway? 

I have seen both of them a number of times over the years, and I have most of the albums in both catalogs. When it comes to touring, they have pretty different philosophies. Dylan tours all the time, whether or not he has a new album out, and even when he has a new album, he doesn't lean on it too heavily. The members of his band change, but the format remains pretty much the same: guitar, bass, steel guitar, drums and Bob (used to play guitar, now plays more piano). Neil, on the other hand, has a vision for his albums and tours: he uses specific bands, brings back specific songs from his back catalog and always plays a bunch of new songs. 

Although Dylan's shows were pretty amazing in the '90s, I don't think they've been as good in the past eight years or so. Neil plays every show like his life depends on it. I'll never miss a Neil tour, but I don't catch Bob every time he passes through town. But I wouldn't put Neil's albums over the past ten years up against Time Out Of Mind, "Love And Theft" and Modern Times

EVEN MORE ZEPPELIN RUMORS

The latest rumor making its way around the internet is that, should Led Zeppelin decide to tour, Velvet Revolver have been offered the opening slot, according to bassist Duff McKagan. Of course, singer Ian Astbury of The Cult last year claimed that they would be offered the gig.

If Zeppelin do indeed tour, do they really need an opening act anyway? I would have a hard time believing that The Cult would get the call, and it's hard to imagine Velvet Revolver, although that seems a bit more likely. Anyway, as many huge bands have learned opening for The Rolling Stones (or even Jimmy Page & Robert Plant), you may be able to sell out an arena on your own, but that doesn't mean that Zep (or Stones) fans will care at all. But you do get free tickets for the shows, and I guess that's its own reward.

THE RACONTEURS BIG SURPRISE!

Today, The Raconteurs announced on their website that they are releasing their next album a week from today.

I remember when I was a kid, in the pre-internet era, you often had an idea that an album was coming out, but you weren't usually sure when it would happen. You might hear a song from the album on the radio, or even see a video on MTV, but you wouldn't really know if it was out yet, or about to come out. Although I obsess over release dates, there's still something pretty cool about an album just popping up like that.

The guys in the band supposedly just handed it in to their label, and the label is working overtime to make this happen. Jack and the guys must enjoy not having to sit through months of "set-up" and doing marketing meetings, etc. Of course, only a band with a following could do something like this and expect to sell any records. And, yes, I do think that they will sell some records (or at least downloads).

All that stuff aside, I can't wait to hear the new album. And I only have to wait a week.

Monday, March 17, 2008

FLEETWOOD MAC'S NEWEST MEMBER?

After doing one album and tour as a four person band, Fleetwood Mac is now looking to replace singer/keyboardist Christine McVie according to internet buzz (which I think started at Spinner.com).
Yep, Sheryl Crow says she may be working with the band in the future, although she didn't really word it the way the media has been spinning it - she didn't say she's "joining."
I actually predicted this a few years ago. Sheryl did a great speech for the Mac at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - and by the way, she came off as a big fan of the pre-Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks version of the band, even mentioning that she had seen Peter Green perform in Europe.
Sheryl has also collaborated with Stevie a few times, including on the criminally underrated "If You Ever Did Believe," off of the 1998 Practical Magic soundtrack. Sheryl also produced on a number of tracks on Stevie's 2001 album Trouble In Shangri-La, which for my money is Stevie's best solo album (even if lacked a monster single). On that tour, Sheryl sat in with Stevie's band on a few shows: I went to one, and they have great chemistry together. It will be interesting to see if this will actually happen: I think it would be great for both Sheryl and the Mac.

COPING VIA MIXTAPE: IRON MAIDEN

Over the weekend, I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden. They played a sold-out arena show on Friday night, and I couldn't go. So, yes, it's time for Coping Via Mixtape.

Maiden is on a tour that is adopting, for the most part, the setlist from thier 1985 tour for Powerslave, and even the stage set. I saw them on that tour at Radio City Music Hall, it was the third concert I ever attended and my mind was blown.

Iron Maiden was one of the first bands that I considered to be "mine." I got into them around the time of 1982's The Number Of The Beast, which was their third album, meaning I didn't have to do a ton of going back to find their old music (as I did with, say, Rush , who had been around for a long time when I first got into them). In fact, I was aware that Number was their first album with singer Bruce Dickinson, and I somehow wasn't interested in hearing the stuff with the original singer, who I was told wasn't as good.

Of course, later on, I ended up getting all of their albums (and I actually prefer original singer Paul Di'Anno, with no disrespect to Bruce). They were also the first band I knew of who had cool B-sides to thier singles, so after getting all of thier albums, there was more stuff to discover. Plus, they had super cool imagery, courtesy of the great Derek Riggs, and of course, they never seemed to "sell out." Even when they started using synthesizers on 1986's Somewhere In Time, they never seemed to be pandering to get a hit single.

Bruce Dickinson quit in the early '90s, and by then I had lost interest in their new music. But around '99, he rejoined (as did guitarist Adrian Smith) and I saw the band's reunion tour at NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom (I think it was renamed the "Hammersmith" for the night). It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. People were just so happy to see them back together. I've seen them a few times since then, but that show kind of took the cake. So, I missed them this week at MSG, but they're coming back to the area, so hopefully I'll catch them in a few months. Now, for my mixtape:

From their 1980 self titled debut: "Prowler," "Remember Tomorrow," "Transylvania," "Strange World," "Sanctuary," "Charlotte The Harlot" and "Iron Maiden." For b-sides from the era, the live version of "Drifter," and their cover of the Montrose song, "I've Got The Fire."

From 1981's Killers: "The Ides Of March," "Murderers In The Rue Morgue," "Another Life," "Genghis Khan," "Innocent Exile," "Prodigal Son," "Purgatory" and "Twilight Zone." And the b-side "Invasion," not to be confused with the Number Of The Beast track, "Invaders."

From the live Maiden Japan EP: "Phantom Of The Opera," "Wrathchild" and "Running Free."

From The Number Of The Beast: "Children Of The Damned," "The Prisioner," "22 Acacia Avenue," "The Number Of The Beast," "Run To The Hills" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name."

From 1983's Piece Of Mind: "Revelations," "Flight Of Icarus," "The Trooper," "Still Life," "Sun And Steel." And the b-side cover of Jethro Tull's "Cross Eyed Mary."

From 1984's Powerslave: "2 Minutes To Midnight," "Aces High" and "Powerslave."

From the live 1985 album Life After Death: "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "Los'fer Words (Big 'Orra)."

From 1986's Somewhere In Time: "Wasted Years"

From 1988's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son: "The Evil That Men Do"

From 1992's Fear Of The Dark: "Fear Of The Dark" (I didn't really like any of the songs on the previous album, 1990's No Prayer For The Dying)

From the 2000 reunion album Brave New World: "The Wicker Man" (I didn't really like any of their albums with Dickinson's replacement Blaze Bayley)

From 2003's Dance Of Death: "Dance of Death"

From 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death: "These Colors Don't Run" and "The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg"

Well, if it were a "mixtape," it would be a few 90s: all these songs together add up to nearly four hours. So it's a few workouts in a row. But back in my high school days, these songs (through Somewhere In Time) were my boombox tracks of choice on many a Friday and Saturday night. Long live Iron Maiden. Up The Irons!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

TOM PETTY RARITIES

I'm making a friend of mine a collection of rare tracks by Tom Petty, with and without The Heartbreakers. It's 2 CDs long, and could be longer, but here are some of the highlights. What tracks do you think I'm missing?


"Honey Bee" Recorded live on Saturday Night Live in 1994. It was as Tom was promoting his second solo album, Wildflowers (although, as always, he performed with The Heartbreakres). This was right after founding drummer Stan Lynch quit the band - and also not long after Kurt Cobain's death. Dave Grohl filled in on drums, and Tom allegedly offered him a spot in the band. Apparently, Dave was a bit tempted: it would have allowed him to get away from the Nirvana thing, and play for an audience that wasn't there to hear Nirvana's drummer. Of course, he ended up not joining (Steve Ferrone has done a wonderful job as the drummer) but has done quite well with The Foo Fighters.


"Lost Highway" A Hank Williams cover recorded in 2006, I think during the Heartbreakers' 20th anniversary tour.


"Shadow Of A Doubt" The live version recorded by Tom at a solo acoustic performance at one of Neil Young's Bridge School benefit concerts.


"Since You Said You Loved Me" Released on Tom's Playback box set, it's a kind of Hall & Oates-sounding track.


"You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)" Another Hank Williams cover, this one recorded solo (Tom played all the instruments on this, I think) from the Hank tribute album Timeless.


"Girl On LSD" The b-side to the "You Don't Know How It Feels" CD single.


"Waiting For Tonight" Somehow, this song didn't make the Full Moon Fever album. The Bangles are the backing vocalists, and I think this is the last thing they did before breaking up.


"Licence To Kill" A Bob Dylan cover, from the Dylan 30th annivesary tribute concert from 1992.


"Taxman" and "I Need You" Two Beatles covers from the George Harrison tribute concert.


"I'm Walkin'" A Fats Domino cover, from the recent tribute album Goin' Home.


"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" From a Sun Records tribute album.


"Heartbreakers Beach Party" The perfect soundtrack to your beach party.

"Cracking Up" written by Nick Lowe. This is a great song I hadn't heard before Tom covered it.


"Psychotic Reaction" Recorded live on the tour for Into The Great Wide Open, this is a cover of a song by The Count Five. On most nights, Stan Lynch sang it, but I only have a recording with Tom singing (which is probably just as well). I remember seeing them do this, and thinking it was a cool song (I'd never heard this one either).

"I'm Tired Joey Boy" A lovely Van Morrison song I'd never heard before.


"Lonely Weekends" A live cover of a song written by Charley Rich. I think Tom Petty is one of those guys who really helps to keep older forms of music, like rockabilly, alive.


"Gator On The Lawn" Maybe their most Florida-ish song.


"Somethin' Else" Another early rock and roll song, Tom and the boys do this kind of thing so well.


"King's Highway" This is a stripped down acoustic version of the Great Wide Open track. I won't diss that album's producer, Jeff Lynne (enough people have taken care of that)... but I like this version better (even though the original is great).

"Baby, Let's Play House" another great rendition of an early rock and roll song.


"The Apartment Song" The version of this song that made it to Full Moon Fever is one of my favorite songs on the album. But I like the demo version, featuring Stevie Nicks, even better.


"Big Boss Man" A Willie Dixon cover. I think the Dead did it, but Tom does it better.


"One More Shot" and "Restless": both songs are by the great Carl Perkins backed by Tom and the Heartbreakers. They are both from Carl's last album, Go, Cat, Go!


"Give Me Back My Job" Also from Go, Cat, Go!, this features Carl Perkins and Tom along with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Bono.


"Picture Show" This is John Prine, featuring Tom. It's from John's great album, The Missing Years, which was produced by the late Howie Epstein, who was the bass player in The Heartbreakers at the time. What a waste that he died. He wasn't just an important part of The Heartbreakers; judgint by The Missing Years, he also was a very good producer.


Three songs by Tom's former band Mudcrutch: "Depot Street," "I Can't Fight It," and "Don't Do Me Like That," which Tom later had a hit with.


Roger McGuinn's "King Of The Hill" This is from McGuinn's comeback album from 1991, Back From Rio. He'd been away from the music scene for a long time, and in that time, the music of The Byrds was super influencial: huge artists like Tom, Crowded House and R.E.M., to name three, were citing him as an influence. This song really helped to bring him back to the masses. On an unrelated note, Back From Rio was the first album I ever reviewed, it was for my college newspaper. On a slighty more related note, I've written about the great Tom Petty doc, Runnin' Down A Dream: one of the highlights is a scene when Tom and Roger are in the studio with two A&R guys from the label trying to get Roger to record a song that he doesn't like and Tom practically kicks them out of the studio.


OK, what did I miss? I'm thinking, for starters, the stuff Tom and the band did with Johnny Cash on 1996's Unchained album (which Tom cites as the best thing he and the Heartbreakers ever did). What else?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CAN HE KICK IT? (YES HE CAN!)


Black Eyed Peas' leader will.i.am has a "hit" youtube video with his pro-Barack Obama clip "Yes We Can." But now Q-Tip may actually get the hopeful future prez to contribute to his upcoming album.
Well, according to something called "page six" in the New York Post (no, I'm not linking) anway. Not the most accurate source for any information.
I know having rock stars, hip-hop stars, or other celebs endorsing candidates in public forums really bothers some people, but tough nails, I say. "How are they qualified to talk about politics?" they'll ask. I just say, our current president isn't really qualified to talk about politics either. They pay taxes, and even if they're not American, everyone is affected by the outcome of our elections.
So, here's hoping for another "Vote For Change" type event this year. I'm glad to hear that Tom Morello of System Of A Down's Serj Tankian are doing an Axis Of Justice tour this year.



DO REVIEWS MATTER (part 2): TROUTS AND BATS




I recently asked whether or not music reviews matter, after Maxim magazine was busted reviewing albums by The Black Crowes and Nas... albums which they hadn't heard. England's Times Online has gone one further, posting a list of the top 20 albums critics love that the public hates, and albums that the public loves that critics hate. They cleverly called it "Trouts and Bats" because number one on the critic's list is Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, and topping the public's list is Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. While I have both albums in my collection, I rarely listen to either. Mr. Loaf's is a bit overplayed and over-the-top, although there are songs that I have an affection for. While Capt. Beefheart's... well, I bought it after reading Kurt Loder's review of it in his book, also called Trout Mask Replica. I just couldn't get into most of it.


I've been paid to write my opinion of music a few times over the years, in books, liner notes, web sites and even magazines, but I've always felt like more of a fan than a critic. I'm never gonna miss a Rush or Yes tour, and I could care less about many critical faves. On the other hand, I'm not a fan of bands that have sold millions and millions of records like Journey or REO Speedwagon, yet I love The Velvet Underground and The Ramones. I like to think that I can ultimately think for myself and decide what I like.

So, I wasn't surprised that I have (and love) albums on both lists. On the critics list (which isn't really albums the public "hates" - most of the public probably hasn't heard much of it) is, shockingly, Aimee Mann's classic Whatever. Whatever indeed! It's as accessible as anything I've ever heard. Also, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (I thought that this album was from his popular era) and Love's Forever Changes.

At #3 on the public's list, was Norah Jones' great debut, Come Away With Me. I've always thought that if she recorded it more indie-style (instead of with the great Arif Mardin) and it didn't find an audience, the haters might have been appreciaters. But "F" the haters any damn way. Billy Joel's Greatest Hits was at #9, and even though I'm down with the Piano Man, some of those songs are so overplayed, I get it (and he might agree). At #15: Genesis' We Can't Dance. Yo, it's no Invisible Touch, but I still like some of the songs, I'm surprised that Phil Collins or Mike & The Mechanics didn't make the list. The biggest surprise was at #16: Pearl Jam's monster classic Vs. I thought that if there was an album that critics didn't like it was Ten. That one threw me. On the other hand, not to hate too much, I was OK with some of the other albums on the list by James Blunt, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Shania Twiz-ain, to name a few.

COPING VIA MIXTAPE: STEVE WINWOOD AND ERIC CLAPTON

Yeah, I really wanted to see one of the Steve Winwood / Eric Clapton shows at the Garden. But I just didn't have it in me to pay those insane prices (although since they sold out all three nights, I guess they charged what many considered to be a fair amount). The last day of the show a ticket was available behind the stage in the upper level. It was $75. If it was a benefit for Crossroads, maybe. Maybe. So, this calls for Volume 2 of Coping Via Mixtape, where I share a mixtape (actually an iPod mix) that I would have used to get psyched for the show, had I actually been going (and which I enjoyed listening to anyway).

By the way: A friend of mine hooked me up with a bootleg of the show. I'm normally not a bootlegger, but I really wanted to hear what the show was like. And the minute they release a live album of the shows, I'll happily fork over the dough.

So, anyway, my Winwood/Clapton mixtape:

Of course, lots of Blind Faith, which made up much of their set: "Had To Cry Today," "Well All Right," "Presence Of The Lord," "Sleeping In The Ground," and "Can't Find My Way Back Home."

Years before they played in Blind Faith, Clapton and Winwood recorded two tracks together as "Eric Clapton's Powerhouse." They recorded "Crossroads," so that version made the mix.

The Yardbirds: "Smokestack Lightning"

The Spencer Davis Group: "Dimples" and "I'm A Man"

Jimi Hendrix: "Voodoo Chile" (Winwood actually played Hammond on the original, and was performing it on his last tour - and they actually did play this. "Little Wing," which Clapton and Winwood played at The Rainbow Concert in the early '70s (Clapton's "comeback show, organized by Pete Townshend and which also featured Ronnie Wood). Amazingly, this song also made the MSG setlist.

Cream: "Rollin' And Tumblin'" and "Badge." Having reunited with Cream a few years ago, Clapton veered clear of the Cream songbook.

Traffic: "Pearly Queen," "Glad," "Freedom Rider," "Empty Pages," "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "John Barleycorn." A bunch of these made the set.

Derek & The Dominoes: "I Looked Away," "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Tell The Truth."

Winwood: "Freedom Overspill," "Split Decision," "Back In The High Life," "Roll With It," his cover of Curtis Mayfield's "It's All Right," "Different Light," "Final Hour," his cover of Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together," and his new single, which features Clapton, "Dirty City" (which he surprisingly didn't play).

I would have been happy with much of the setlist, so hopefully they will do it again... and this time, wait until after I win the lottery.

Clapton: "All Our Past Times," "Hello Old Friend," "Sign Language," his cover of Elton John's "Border Song," his cover of Leadbelly's "Alberta," his cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," his cover of Curtis Mayfield's "You Must Believe Me," his Hendrix covers "Stone Free" and "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp," his cover of Stevie Wonder's "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It," his cover of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues," and his recent collab with J.J. Cale, "When This War Is Over."

"GLAD ALL OVER": THE DAVE CLARK 5's MUSIC AVAILABLE FOR LEGAL DOWNLOAD!

I've previously lamented the fact that, these days, you can't find any of The Dave Clark 5's music (legally). Last night, as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this was still true.

But today, I'm happy to say that it isn't anymore. I just downloaded The Dave Clark 5: The Hits from the iTunes store. 28 songs: 12 bucks. (Congratulations, music industry, you got it right.) I'd still love to see a label physically re-release their music, but at least it's now available in some form. I've enjoyed listening to these great songs, "Bits And Pieces," "Any Way You Want It," "I Like It Like That," of course "Glad All Over," and a bunch more. A very worthy $12.

On another note, Tom Hanks' great speech about the DC5 from last night really resonated with me, I was thinking about it today. The thrill of hearing music that you love on a tiny speaker on a clock radio. Or paying to hear that one song in those mini jukeboxes that used to be at the boothes at diners. I can relate. You can probably find Mr. Hanks' speech on youtube, but he really was able to describe the wonder of hearing a band that can bring genuine joy to your day, or to your life.

THIS YEAR'S ROCK HALL INDUCTION CEREMONY

I've already written about being a bit mystified about the significance of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Dave Clark 5. Although Steven Van Zandt makes a good case for them, I daresay that Tom Hanks really brought the point home at tonight's induction ceremony. The country was in a dark place in the early '60s, and The Dave Clark 5 (among other great British bands) helped to bring a smile to peoples faces. That might be a simpistic way to look at it, but Mr. Hanks seemed to feel passionately about it. Sometimes non-musicians show up at these events because they have a movie to promote, or just because it makes them look cool. But you get the impression that Tom actually took the time to write his own speech and that the DC5 really meant a lot to him. It's just so sad that singer Mike Smith died just a few days ago. And I didn't realize, until tonight, that sax player Denis Payton died earlier this year. It's too bad that people can't really hear their music anymore: it's out of print, and you can't even download it (legally). Mr. Van Zandt and Wicked Cool Records, I'm looking at you!

Billy Joel made a great speech about John Mellencamp: he didn't tip-toe around John's reputation as being difficult, but also pointed out that, more importantly, John is a voice of discontent that just won't be shut up. Mellencamp is often compared to Bruce Springsteen. I found it interesting that, a few years ago, Bruce stood on that same stage, pointing out that there have been so many horror stories in the music industry, many told in prior years on that same stage. He was grateful that he hadn't experienced too much of that kind of thing. Mellencamp, on the other hand, has had a much more difficult ride. I'm glad to see that he's still on it, and as he pointed out, he still has work to do. And his performance was (as usual) great.

It was cute that they got Justin Timberlake to make the speech for Madonna, but let's face it, the minute she got on stage, you forgot all about it. It was really interesting to hear her speak. Without saying so much, it was sort of her "goodbye" to Warner Brothers, the label where she has spent her entire career. But her next album will be her last for them, after that she's signed to Live Nation, which isn't a record label (at least not in the way that we think of them). The Stooges' performance of "Burning Up" was brilliant, "Ray Of Light" less so. But come on Hall of Fame, these guys deserve their due!

Lou Reed's speech about Leonard Cohen was cranky and rambling, but Mr. Cohen was classy and elegant. I loved his line, "Jon Landau said, 'I've seen the future of rock and roll and it isn't Leonard Cohen!'" He recited the lyrics to "Tower Of Song" after that.

John Fogerty's speech about The Ventures was cool, and it was nice to see that they're still performing.

Ben Harper looked a bit nervous at the podium during his speech about Little Walter, and I thought it was sad that no one accepted on Little Walter's behalf. After that, Ben performed with James Cotton and the Letterman band. When they did "My Babe," Ben killed it.

And it was great to see Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who don't seem to get their due credit, be inducted .

Oh yeah, and Joan Jett's peformance of the DC5's "Bits And Pieces" was great, and made me want to find the original.

P.S. To the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: stop embarassing yourselves, and elect The Stooges next year. While you're at it: Jeff Beck, Alice Cooper, KISS, Dr. John, The Meters, The Faces, Tom Waits and Peter Gabriel haven't been inducted yet. And neither has Bill Withers.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

THE COWBOY JUNKIES RETURN TO (THE) CHURCH

One of the greatest albums ever is Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Sessions.  The band recorded it in Trinity Church in Toronto twenty years ago. With one microphone.  You read that right: they just crowded around one microphone and recorded the album like that. I guess sometimes the magic is just there. The magic was there that day in that church.  

The group have done a lot of great albums since then (Miles From Our Home is one of my favorites) but The Trinity Sessions remains their landmark. 

So, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, they returned to Trinity Church to perform the album for an audience, with some friends, including Natalie Merchant (who was fronting 10,000 Maniacs when Trinity came out) and Ryan Adams, who was probably a teenager, if that. The performance was recorded for a live album and DVD called Trinity Revisited. Of course they used more than one microphone this time. I've not yet watched the DVD, but I am enjoying the recording. Of course, you can never top the original, but this project is certainly one to be proud of. 

The period that yielded the original album, twenty years ago, was a cool one. It seemed to be an era where lots of women were releasing great albums, and it didn't matter what they looked like. Not just the Junkies and 10,000 Maniacs, but Tracy Chapman, Aimee Mann was starting her solo career, Lucinda Williams was just getting semi-popular, Victoria Williams, it was a good time for music. Before things started too crass. Trinity Revisited sort of reminds me of that time. Of course, the album is completely timeless, in a way that most rock or pop groups can't begin to approach. 

It's inspiring that the group has been able to keep touring and releasing albums and DVDs outside of the major label system.  I know I've probably mentioned that about a few other groups, but there's something to be said about a group that just needs to notify its fans that a new album is out, or that they're coming to your town, without having to rely on marketing. That's a No Expiration band for you. 

LEVON HELM'S MOVING RAMBLE

 I was fortunate enough to catch Levon Helm's recent concert at the Beacon Theater, thanks to a good friend who hooked me up with a ticket. It was a great show, and one that was inspiring in a few ways.  After facing down throat cancer - which threatened not only his life, but also his singing voice  - and bankruptcy, now he's playing great, singing wonderfully and pulling in huge crowds.  He's playing music that matters to him, without any nods to whatever is current or "hip," and he went from a guy who couldn't pull huge crowds to a guy who can sell out two nights at the Beacon, and he did so without the help of the music industry. 

Friday night's show was great. His band includes a number of great musicians, including guitarist Larry Cambpell (who produced Levon's excellent new album Dirt Farmer) - like Levon, a former member of Bob Dylan's band, and guitarist Jimmy Vivino of The Max Weinberg 7. The horn section was great, and more New Orleans-y than Late Night-y. 

They played a bunch of Band songs, but didn't rely on just those songs. They opened with "Ophelia," and also played "Rag Mama Rag," "Chest Fever" and "The Weight," along with a few others. Plus some Dylan covers like "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" (one of my favorites) and "I Shall Be Released." But over the course of the night, blues, country, folk, R&B were all represented. I was really blown away by the show. I think I've got to get up to Woodstock to catch one of his Midnight Rambles. 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE TO TOUR THIS SUMMER?

The great website Thrasher's Wheat, my favorite source for all things having to do with Neil Young, says that Young Neil has some European festival dates lined up this summer, and that they may not be with his current touring band, but with Crazy Horse.

Neil's current band, which includes Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, along with Neil's longtime collaborator Ben Keith on steel guitar, piano, guitar and other instruments, and bassist Rick "The Bass Player" Rosas, are a great and diverse combo. As I mentioned in December, I loved seeing them perform.

Neil and Crazy Horse haven't toured since the Greendale album, which was an interesting experience, but wasn't a real Crazy Horse show, since so much of the concert was about the concept album and the actors on stage. And, plus, Frank "Pancho" Sampdero played more keyboards than guitar (since he wasn't on the album).

So, if Neil and the Horse are touring, hopefully they'll hit the U.S. as well. Now all we need is a release date for the Crosby Stills Nash & Young film Deja Vu. And hopefully there will be a soundtrack. And hopefully Neil will start releasing his series of boxsets. And hopefully he'll start working on a new album. Oh, yeah, and I'm looking forward to his other documentary. It's never boring being a Neil Young fan.