Saturday, February 28, 2009

BONO AND THE EDGE BRINGING SPIDER-MAN TO BROADWAY?

The headline reads like a dream for a U2-hating critic. But it's true, Bono and The Edge have been working with Julie Taymor, who did the great Beatlesque film Across The Universe, on a Broadway musical version of Spider-Man. I only wish that that was the worst U2-related news of the week. But the new album, No Line On The Horizon, hasn't been getting great buzz, and worse than that, they're being accused of "taking money away from the poor" in their native Ireland because they moved some of their business operations to the Netherlands where there are easier tax laws.  Bono and The Edge did discuss this a bit recently. I just hope that Bono doesn't also join a few other big artists (like The Eagles) who are speaking in favor of the pending Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BLACK SABBATH'S PARANOID: THE DELUXE EDITION

I read about this at the great Black Sabbath unofficial website:  a three CD reissue of Paranoid is coming out in March. It's 3 CDs: the original album, the "rare quadrophonic sound" version and a third disc with instrumental versions, or versions of songs with alternate lyrics. I myself am cool with the remastered versions of the Sabbath albums contained in The Black Box (which I was privileged to work on). But I thought that you might want to know about this! 

COVERED: WARNER BROTHERS CELEBRATES ITSELF

Warner Brothers Records is celebrating its 50th anniversary by having current artists on the roster cover older songs. It's interesting that they are doing this, as the current Warner Brothers Records has very little in common with the label's storied past. Some of the ideas, however, are kind of inspired: Mastodon is covering ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid" and The Black Keys covers Captain Beefheart's "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles." On the other hand, Avenged Sevenfold covering Black Sabbath and The Disturbed covering Faith No More is just depressing.  Yes, I sound old. 

This has, of course, been done before.  In 1990, Elektra Records celebrated its anniversary with Rubiyat, which famously yielded Metallica's cover of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy," as well as The Cure covering The Doors' "Hello I Love You" and The Gipsy Kings doing The Eagles' "Hotel California" (used to great effect in The Big Lebowski).  

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: WHEN CHARITY COMPILATIONS GO WRONG

A lot of people groan at the idea of tribute albums. I'm not one of them. I enjoy hearing artists attempt to reinterpret someone else's work.  When done well, it can be as creative an endeavor as writing a new song. 

A lot of people groan at the idea of charity compilations, and are quick to mock "rock stars" getting involved in "saving the world."  I'm not one of those either. If I were a rock star, I like to think I'd try to use my position to help others to the extent that I could do so. 

All of that said, I can't totally recommend Dark Was The Night or War Child Presents: Heroes based on their music. You know that I rarely go negative here, but I just don't love either collection. 

Dark is the latest edition of the Red Hot series, which has also included Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute To Cole Porter, No Alternative, Red Hot + Country and America Is Dying Slowly. The series has encompassed "alternative rock," country, hip-hop, jazz, Latin music, dance music and more. Dark, organized by members of The National, features mainly current indie rock.  There's a lot of what I call "beard rock" -- guys with thick beards doing remotely folky music.  Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, etc. There's also contributions by music for the beret wearing museum crowd: David Byrne and Kronos Quartet. I have enjoyed songs by many of the artists on the compilation, but I can't seem to get too into Dark Was The Night. But don't let me discourage you from contributing money to the Red Hot Organization, who fight AIDS through pop culture.  You can buy their older compilations from their website.

War Child Presents: Heroes has a theme. Older artists request to have younger ones cover their songs.  So Beck does Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" at the request of The Bard,  The Hold Steady does Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" because Bruce told them to, and so on.  I don't have much else to say other than, on paper, I was really psyched to hear the album, but haven't really enjoyed listening to it. But War Child is a wonderful organization who works in countries all over the world to help children whose lives have been ravaged by war. You should check them out, and contribute to them at their website.  

ARE FAITH NO MORE IN CAHOOTS WITH EUROPEAN TRAVEL AGENTS?

An odd question, but why would Faith No More be reuniting to play European festivals with "absolutely no plans" to tour America? It's payola!  Travel agents are bribing them, so that their American fans will have to cross the pond for a last chance to see the group. 

Apparently, this reunion was mentioned in a press release, billed second behind the fact that frontman Mike Patton has scored the upcoming film Crank 2: High Voltage. No word on what festivals the band is playing, or who will be playing guitar, but supposedly it will definitely not be original six-stringer Jim Martin, who I've read is now a competitive pumpkin grower.  Wikipedia says that he was responsible for the 235th biggest pumpkin ever, which weighed 1,064 pounds. Anyway, here's hoping that FNM tours America. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

LITTLE STEVEN'S NEW LABEL, AND MORE NEWS ABOUT THE E STREET BAND

I'm always willing to tell anyone within listening distance about how cool Little Steven Van Zandt's Underground Garage channel is, and how many great bands he puts out on his Wicked Cool Records label. I recently talked about his Halloween compilation and his even better Christmas compilation. I don't know if the label makes money, but Steven does it because he genuinely cares about rock and roll.  His label gives bands like KO & The Knockouts, The Cocktail Slippers, The Charms, The Woggles The Len Price 3, The Contrast and many more an outlet for people to hear their music.  They aren't metal or emo or indie, and there isn't much interest at major labels for bands that don't fit into those categories. But I was surprised to read in a Billboard interview that Steven is setting up another label, this one for hard rock bands. The first band he's signed is Crown Of Thorns, who I think are not new. I would have thought that if he started a second label, it would be more in the Outlaw Country vein. He also hinted that he might re-release his solo back catalog on Wicked Cool.  I'm not an expert on Steven's solo career, but I love "I Am A Patriot" (which Eddie Vedder has covered) and "Native American" (a duet with Bruce Springsteen). 

Steven has also denied reports that Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band would be playing one classic album in its entirety on their upcoming tour, as has been rumored. In a separate interview, he addressed rumors that Max Weinberg might not play on all of the dates on the summer European tour, since the new Conan O'Brien show starts during the summer. It seems like they may have to use a different drummer on some dates. 

Other cool Bruce stuff: he has a video for "The Wrestler" that you can buy on iTunes. Also: a bunch of indie-ish artists have covered Bruce songs as part of a program called "Hangin' On E Street," which was, oddly, initiated by indie blog Pitchfork, and the results are at Bruce's website. You can see clips by members of Gaslight Anthem, Bouncing Souls and Against Me among other cool bands. 

JOSH FREESE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE A DEAL

Josh Freese is one of the best drummers out there: in recent years, he's played for Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Sting, Devo and Paul Westerberg, among others. Now, he's releasing a solo album, and taking a cue from Trent Reznor, he's offering it in several different formats and packages, ranging in price from $7 to, uh, $75,000.  You read that right. For $7, you get a a digital download of the album (including three videos!) and for 75 grand, you get a signed CD/DVD, a t-shirt, you go on tour with Josh for a few days, Josh will write/record a 5 track EP about you, "take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from Tool 's Lamborgini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board," "Josh will join your band for a month," if you don't have a band, he'll be your personal assistant for a month ("4 day work weeks, 10 am - 4 pm"),  "take a limo down to Tijuana and he'll show you how it's done (what that means exactly we can't legally get into here)," and a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin from NIN. There are several other packages more expensive than $7 and less than $75,000. I wonder if anyone will get the $75,000 option.  But it's an interesting way for an artist who comes from the punk scene (he was in The Vandals) to cater to audiences capable of paying more, while still keeping it real and affordable. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: I'M BRINGIN' THE PARTY

I'm tired from the Ben Harper show I just got home from, so, I'll keep this short. Tomorrow I'll be talking about this interesting DJ combo called N.A.S.A. -- their album has an insane guest list that includes David Byrne, Chuck D, KRS-One, Metold Man, Tom Waits, M.I.A. , Kanye West, George Clinton and John Frusciante, among others. N.A.S.A.'s album, The Spirit of Apollo, reminds me of Mark Ronson's 2007 album, Version, so I'll be talking about that also. And finally, even mopey Morrissey is in a upbeat (for him) mood on his new album, Years of Refusal, so I'll be talking about that. I also have Ben Harper's new single "Shimmer and Shine." And hopefully I'll have a minute to talk about the tour of the summer: Nine Inch Nails with Jane's Addiction.

BEN HARPER AT ELECTRIC LADYLAND: HE ROCKED

I actually got to see the great Ben Harper perform twice today: once at the SIRIUS XM studios (his performance aired live on Jam_ON and will be rebroadcast a few times if you missed it) and then tonight at Electric Ladyland for WFUV. He has a new band, Relentless 7 (it's actually just four guys, including Ben) and it's much more of a rock thing than his other band, The Innocent Criminals. I thought it was really good. As good as the Criminals? I don't know yet. But I do know that Neil Young & Crazy Horse benefit from the fact that Neil doesn't always play with them; ditto for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. I look forward to hearing their album White Lies For Dark Times, it comes out on May 5. (Hey, if anyone has a picture from Electric Ladyland, I'd love to post it, I'll give you credit!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NINE INCH NAILS AND JANE'S ADDICTION TO TOUR THIS SUMMER!!!

Apologies for the extra exclamation points in the title, I'm not
an "all caps and exclamation points" type guy. But seeing the photo of Trent Reznor in the studio with Dave Navarro was exciting enough, and not Trent is confirming the rumors: he has produced a new Jane's Addiction album, which will include founding bass player Eric Avery. Trent actually did one better: on his website he posted a note called "A Note From Trent and a Wave Goodbye," and said that Nine Inch Nails will be touring with Jane's. Both bits of news are mindblowing. Trent also mentioned that after this tour, he would be hanging up NIN, at least for a while. Probably a good idea: he's been so prolific with NIN in the past few years, I think he may benefit from doing things like producing other artists, and getting out of his own "comfort zone." At any rate, this is pretty much the must-see show of the summer.

Friday, February 13, 2009

SONIC YOUTH RETURN WITH THE ETERNAL

After spending decades on Geffen Records, Sonic Youth will release their next record, The Eternal, in June on Matador Records.  Although I like to make fun of indie rock sacred cows, I'm a fan of Sonic Youth's.  One of my first dates with my wife was Lollapalooza in 1995, which SY headlined.  They were playing songs that were going to come out on the Washing Machine album, and they were awesome. I don't love everything they've ever done, but they are a great band who deserve all the credit that they get, and then some. 

They are now a five person band again: their newest member is former Pavement member Mark Ibold. They say the album is very rocking, and I'm looking forward to hearing it. 

STILLS, YOUNG AND FURAY COMMENT ON DEWEY MARTIN

Buffalo Springfield's Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay finally released a joint statement about the death of drummer Dewey Martin. You can read it, and read a lot of stuff and see some cool Springfield videos at Thrasher's Wheat

YES CANCELING MOST OF THEIR FAKE TOUR DATES

I'm not the kind of guy to wish ill health on anyone.  But I am glad that Yes, featuring a singer from a Yes tribute band that the group found on myspace, is cancelling most of their upcoming tour dates. They say that it's due to "an unseen medical condition." Hopefully everyone is in good health, and the "medical condition" is a combination of well deserved poor ticket sales and a case of "tail between the legs."  Bring back Jon Anderson, we'll all feel better.  

BLIND FAITH REDUX... AGAIN

After playing three nights together - as one band, not co-headliners - last year, former Blind Faith bandmates Eric Clapton and Steve Winood are hitting the road together for a few weeks in June. They're also going to release a live album and DVD of the MSG shows from last year. Both of these guys are so huge, they never need to be in a "band" ever again.  But I think that they both know, unless there's someone with the skills and/or starpower to challenge them, they kind of coast a bit. So, while I wouldn't pay to see either of these guys alone, I would, in theory, be willing to pay for this. Of course, the ticket prices will probably be outside of my ballpark. 

OK, NOW I'M REALLY NOT WATCHING THE OSCARS

Dissing Bruce Springsteen by not nominating "The Wrestler" for Best Song (when there are only three nominees in a category that usually has five) wasn't enough, now The Oscars are having the three songs that were nominated -- A.R. Rahman's "Jai Ho" and "O Saya" from Slumdog Millionaire and Peter Gabriel's "Down To Earth" from Wall-E -- are going to be performed as a medley. Gabriel has said in a video on his web site that he'll attend the ceremony, but he's not going to perform. I think everyone is a winner in that category, and they should be allowed to perform their songs in full.  At any rate, I will be curious who wins in the major categories -- but I'll wait to read about it the next day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TOMORROW ON OUTQ

I'll be talking about The Fireman.  Who?  It's sort of like Paul McCartney's Traveling Wilburys. Not really: it's Paul with Youth, the bassist from Killing Joke who has produced and remixed tons of bands, including Depeche Mode and The Verve. Anyway, The Fireman's latest album, Electric Arguments (their first with vocals, the others were instrumental and more ambient) has gotten great reviews, which Paul's albums don't always get. 

Also, Willie Nelson's new album with Asleep At The Wheel, Willie & The Wheel. And Lily Allen's new album, It's Not Me, It's You. Larry Flick likes the album a lot, he made a copy for me, and I'm enjoying it too.  She's Joe Strummer's goddaughter, so she deserves a listen. 

Also the latest stuff from (RED)wire: This week I got Jakob Dylan and Elvis Costello covering The Clash's "Straight To Hell." I was also going to talk about The Beastie Boys' 20th anniversary reissue of Paul's Boutique. You can get a free download of a "director's commentary" track.  But don't bother, it's pretty boring. Instead, you should check out the 33 1/3 Paul's Boutique book, which is the whole story behind the classic album. I'll also be talking about the 33 1/3 series, and I have a few editions to bring in and discuss if time permits. 

BLACK SABBATH'S MASTER OF REALITY: THE BOOK

Have you heard of the 33 1/3 series of books? Each book is based, somehow, on a different (ostensibly) classic album. Oftentimes they are extended liner notes-type stuff, basically the making of the album. Other times they are more of a testimonial of the effect an album had on the author's life.  Still other times, they can be fiction inspired in some way by the album in question. 

The 33 1/3 book based on Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality falls into the latter category. It's about a metal fan whose parents send him to a mental institution, where they have him write a journal.  The first half of the book is the journal entries to the guy who runs the boy's ward, they are all basically pleading to let him listen to Master Of Reality. I don't want to give much away, but the second half are letters to the same guy, ten years later, from the boy (now a man) telling the guy how he was affected by the incidents described in the first half. (It also makes a good argument to check out Black Sabbath's Born Again, their single album with Ian Gillian.) 

Although I've never spent time in a mental home -- or maybe because I haven't -- I was a bit alarmed by how much I related to parts of this book, and how moved I was by it. It doesn't matter if you like Sabbath, you don't have to like them or really know much about them.  It's really about being that age, loving a certain band or form of music, and identifying so much with it, it seems like it means the world. If you've ever loved a band that much, no matter what kind of music they are, you should check this book out. 

THE SWEET STORY BEHIND CHRIS CORNELL'S NEW SONG

Chris Cornell has posted a new song on his website. It doesn't sound like the Timbaland produced tracks that he put on sale at iTunes last year. The story behind "I Promise It's Not Goodbye" -- which you can read about in more detail at Chris's website -- is that his music was a huge influence on the life of a fan named Rory Delarosa. Mr Delarosa lost his daughter to cancer, and afterwards found out that he had cancer as well. He wrote a poem and sent it to Chris, who put it to music. What can you say about that?  It's moving. 

Meanwhile, Chris is about to go on tour again, and if you pre-order tickets, you will get to download the Timbaland-produced Scream for free when it (finally) comes out on March 10. 

A VERY INTERESTING PHOTO ON NIN.COM

This photo of Trent Reznor and Dave Navarro was posted on NIN.com. Could Trent be producing a Jane's Addiction reunion album?  I wonder if Eric Avery is playing bass? I think that Trent is the perfect guy to produce them, and I think that this could have the potential to be a great album. 

U2'S LETTERMAN RESIDENCY

U2.com says that U2 is going to do a week's worth of nights on Letterman the week that No Line On The Horizon comes out. Sometimes you have to deal with Joaquin Phoenix, and sometimes U2 plays five nights in a row on your show! 

OZZY: WORKING ON ALBUM, CANCELS OZZFEST

While his Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are preparing to release their first album as Heaven & Hell, Ozzy Osbourne is in the studio working on the follow-up to Black Rain, which was a pretty cool album. He's announced that he isn't going to tour until the new album is out (probably in November), so he's not doing any concerts until then. Which means no Ozzfest this summer.  Weird decision: the Ozzfest could go on without Ozzy, it's such a strong brand name at this point. But I wonder if, after Metallica played last summer, they felt that there was nowhere to go but down after that. But anyway, the Osbournes are also working on their variety show, so maybe Sharon didn't want to deal with organizing the festival. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S SUPER BOWL JOURNAL

Hey, I haven't written about Bruce Springsteen in over a week! I was really surprised to see that Bruce posted his "Super Bowl Journal" to his website. He usually keeps his communications to fans to his songs, and a few onstage comments; maybe some liner notes, and a very rare message on his site. But his Super Bowl Journal was fun to read, check it out.

YOU, TOO, CAN SOUND LIKE T-PAIN

This weekend's Saturday Night Live digital short, "I'm On A Boat," by Lonely Island and T-Pain made hilarious use of the autotune gimmick that (a) helps keep singers in tune and (b) makes them sound like a robot singing from underwater. And if you can't get enough of that effect, get everything you can find by T-Pain. And if that's not enough, get Kanye West's 808 and Heartbreak. And if that's not enough, hold on, help's coming: T-Pain is working on an autotune app for the iPhone.

But know this: if you do rock the autotune, you're steppin to Death Cab For Cutie, and they go hard. The members of the band were all wearing blue ribbons to the Grammys to protest autotune! Frontman Ben Gibbard says, "Auto-tuning is a digital manipulation, a correction of a singer's voice that is affecting literally thousands of singers today and thousands of records that are coming out. We just want to raise awareness while we're here and try to bring back the blue note... The note that's not so perfectly in pitch and just gives the recording some soul and some kind of real character. It's how people really sing." Believe me, you don't want to mess with Death Cab, so be careful before you download that app!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DEATH CAB'S BASSIST KNOWS WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT

Death Cab For Cutie have been doing some shows with Neil Young, and in a recent interview with Austrailian website The Vine, bassist Nick Hammer talked about touring with Neil. They asked if Neil belongs on the Big Day Out festival lineup, which mainly features younger bands:

"He's a force to be reckoned with for sure. Anyone who says he's not relevant or somehow too old to be sharing a stage with current bands have got it all wrong, and really underestimate the power of his music. And really, the spirit of his music. I mean, what's at the core of Neil Young is at the core of so many rock n roll bands and so much music that I don't think audiences can really make a difference. On stage he's incredible live. He sounds wonderful, his voice sounds great. He fuckin shreds guitar more than...I mean he's just a force to be reckoned with. There's no doubting the cultural icon that he is, once you see him do his thing. It's fantastic."

Well put.

LEAVE COLDPLAY ALONE

I'm not the biggest Coldplay fan, but it's weird how many people hate on them. My friend and host of The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick show on SIRIUS XM OutQ -- Larry Flick -- hooked me up with their latest album, Viva La Vida and the follow-up EP, Prospekt's March. I think that they are both very good, and definitely as good as most of the stuff that the indie world goes nuts over (and then forgets about).

It is interesting that many of the same people fall over themselves praising Jay-Z, who joined Chris Martin onstage at the Grammys (it was pretty embarassing I thought) and who is just as mainstream, and way more pandering than Coldplay ever could be.

But I saw an interview with Chris Martin before the Grammys on 60 Minutes, and he's such a likable guy. During the interview, Chris Martin showed a list of Coldplay's rules for making an album, which I loved. And during the show, I loved that they apologized to Paul McCartney for nicking The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" outfits. Finally, when the band played "Viva La Vida" thankfully without Jay-Z, Chris Martin threw in a bit of Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream" (a very Bono move). Nicely done, boys.

HEAVEN AND HELL'S THE DEVIL YOU KNOW DUE IN APRIL

I'm fine with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler working with Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice, as long as they aren't called "Black Sabbath." To me, that name will always evoke the sond of Tony, Geezer, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward, and you don't want to be compared to that -- with all due respect to Ronnie, Vinnie and Ian Gillian.

But I'm glad that Tony, Geezer, Dio and Vinny are about to put out a new album as Heaven & Hell: The Devil You Know is coming out in April. I know they're going to be touring. I wonder if Black Sabbath will ever work together again. The last time they appeared together was at their long-overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years back. They looked like they genuinely were enjoying each other's company, and the accolades. If it was the last page of their book, it was a good last page. I'm glad Tony and "Geez" are playing a completely different repertoire with a completely different band.

GREEN DAY'S 21ST CENTURY BREAKDOWN

If you told me in 1999 that that one of the albums I would be looking forward to most in 2009 would be a new album by Green Day, I would not have believed you. I liked Dookie and some of their other songs, but I didn't consider myself a big fan, I even found them a bit annoying. And it seemed like they were on a slow decline artistically and commerically.

Then came a somewhat underrated album called Warning in 2000. I loved the title track - although it was a blatant rip-off of The Kinks' "Picture Book" - but the song that converted me and made me a fan was "Minority." And then came American Idiot in 2004, a classic, their best album ever. And if that wasn't enough, last year, under the alias Foxboro Hot Tubs, they released Stop, Drop and Roll!!!, my favorite album of 2008.

I was glad to see the guys from Green Day at the Grammys (they presented the Album of the Year award to Robert Plant & Alison Krauss). I can't wait to hear their new album, 21st Century Breakdown, produced by Butch Vig. It comes out in May!

Monday, February 9, 2009

ROBERT PLANT & ALISON KRAUSS' GRAMMY WINS

Predictably, lots of people have been criticizing the fact that Robert Plant & Alison Krauss won five Grammys last night, over the likes of Lil' Wayne, Radiohead, Coldplay, M.I.A., Leona Lewis, etc. I've heard complaints like they aren't as "relevent," their album wasn't talked about as much, that thier win for Album of the Year was "anticlimatic," etc. I've heard from that Wayne's Tha Carter III was really the "album of the year." Plus, it was the year's best selling record! (An arguement I doubt these same people would have used to defend, say, the Titanic soundtrack.)

Full disclosure: I'm a Grammy voter, and I voted for Robert and Alison for all five categories that they were nonimated in. After last year when Herbie Hancock won Album of the Year, the Grammys really do need to try not to seem totally out of touch. I like Herbie Hancock, but that was crazy. On the other hand, no one minded that Amy Winehouse won a bunch of Grammys, and who knows, maybe in a few years she'll be the star of "I Love The '00s." I predict that the 2008 Grammys will be seen as pretty embarassing, but in 2009, they got it mostly right (Bruce Springsteen's lack of nominations in major categories for "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" notwithstanding).

But here's the real deal: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss mainly let their album speak for itself. I think MTV must have had a story about Lil' Wayne every day for the past year. Wayne's a young guy: he does mixtapes. He collaborates with anyone who asks him to. He's young. He does drugs and courts trouble. He needs to do this to sell records, and MTV, Vibe and everyone else need constant Wayne stories to make themselves seem "relevent." To a lesser extent, many of the other artists in the running for big awards kept themselves in the news cycle, or at least their publicists did it for them. They are part of a conversation that Robert and Alison stay far away from, by choice.

Robert and Alison seemed to do interviews as a favor for thier record label, Rounder (who did a incredible job with the album that other record labels and marketers should really take note of), and were happy to let Raising Sand speak for itself. Of course, Alison collaborates with artists nearly as much as Lil Wayne does: but no one really wrote about the fact that she guested on Yo-Yo Ma's new album, Songs Of Joy and Peace, or that she put out a Plant-less DVD, A Hundred Miles Or More, featuring other collabs with the likes of Brad Paisley, James Taylor and John Waite. Yes, "Missing You" John Waite. I actually love the fact that she doesn't know (or care) that when you have a certain amount of cred and you work with Robert Plant that you don't also work with Yo-Yo Ma or John Waite. Robert Plant did occasionally entered the news cycle: mainly because he wouldn't reunite with Led Zeppelin. If you want to talk about "cred," the guy turned down tens of millions of dollars (maybe a hundred million) to do that tour, to stick with Alison Krauss, and to do the music that he believed in, instead of trying to relive 1972.

If you had any awareness of popular music in 2008, it was impossible not to know that Lil Wayne had an album. Or Coldplay, Radiohead or Leona Lewis. You may have not heard about Raising Sand. To find out about it, you had to look a little harder, you had to listen. Same deal if you wanted to appreciate it: you couldn't just play a hook from a song, you had to actually listen to the whole thing. The fact that an album like that, that was made outside of any real commercial considerations, that didn't pander or beg to be noticed, made by adults who know their age, to win six Grammys (it actually won one last year) seems like a miracle in 2009. And one we should be thankful for.

RICK RUBIN: PRODUCER (NOT RECORD EXEC) OF THE YEAR

Rick Rubin won Producer of the Year, non-classical at the Grammys. But today, The New York Times has a story (based mostly on hearsay) that Rick may be on the way out from Columbia Records, where he is co--something, chairman, president, CEO. He doesn't want to have a title. 

It's telling that some of the biggest album that he produced this year - Metallica's Death Magnetic - is on Warner Brothers. I think he produced a Linkin Park album for the label also. He also produced tracks for U2 (on Universal) which they decided not to use for now: their upcoming album, No Line On The Horizon was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois

But the fact that he won't work in an office, yet had the label's offices redesigned, produces albums for whoever he wants to (he is working on upcoming albums for ZZ Top and Crosby Stills & Nash, which is probably not what Sony had in mind for him) made him a weird choice.  In the high rollin' '80s or '90s, it might have been cool to hire someone like Rick to help run a major label. I'm a huge fan, and it didn't make sense to me. Of course they must be paying him tons of money, and if he walks away with all of it and no "full time job," I doubt he'll lose any sleep. 

Meanwhile, Epic (another Sony label) has just hired singer/songwriter Amanda Ghost as their president. This industry just gets crazier. 

RUSH OR ANIMAL COLLECTIVE?

A lot of people in blog-land spend lots of time thinking about "indie" bands, and what it means if you say you like them, or if you say you don't like them, or if you used to like them but don't anymore, or you just don't "get" them. Exhibit A: this piece about the band Animal Collective, who I don't "get," and not in any musical Rorschach way. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes when you say you don't "get" a band, you really just don't get them. I read somewhere that this band was practically "invented" by the internet. People enjoy talking about them more than they enjoy listening to them. That's a generalization, but they seem like one of those bands that people just love to talk about endlessly.

I would much rather read this: Alex Lifeson of Rush discussing his three favorite solos (from his own career by the way). He is a kind of funny guy, and probably realizes that there's something a bit silly about this kind of list. But that doesn't mean that it devolves into meaningless sacrastic nothingness. This next comment will send indie rockers through the roof, but I have begun to regard that kind of music, in my mind, as "mainstream." Not in the Nickelback or Three Doors Down way (I don't like those bands either), but in the sense that the media falls all over these guys. By contrast, Rush gets very little media attention, the attention they do get isn't as serious as what, say, Pavement would get, and yet they sell out arena tours year after year. By the way, I'd put the average IQ of a Rush concert up against that of most indie rock shows. Maybe the Rush fans wouldn't have as trendy clothes, but I bet they are having more fun, and not having a problem admitting it.

HENRY ROLLINS REMEMBERS LUX INTERIOR

There's a great piece in the LA Times where Henry Rolllins explains what was so great about Lux Interior and The Cramps. Check it out

Sunday, February 8, 2009

THE GRAMMYS: "NOT A BAD WAY TO SPEND A SUNDAY NIGHT"


It's the easiest thing in the world to complain that the Grammy Awards is a boring show. But I tend to like it, and I think this year's show was really well done. For the most part.

I was glad that Al Green performed, but I wish he got to do something from his new album, which got a bunch of nominations and won him two Grammys tonight. I like Justin Timberlake, but it would have been more appropriate for Al to have been backed by ?uestlove and the guys who played on his album, and maybe performed with Anthony Hamilton and John Legend. That said, I liked his performance. It turns out that it was a last minute addition to the show: two performances were cancelled: Chris Brown and Rihanna both pulled out the show right before it started. You can read about that all over the web at this point.
On a similar note, if Neil Diamond's new album is so great, why didn't he perform a new song instead of "Sweet Caroline." That was cheesy as hell, I don't know if a new song would have been any better though.

I don't listen to Carrie Underwood that much, but I liked her performance, and ditto for Taylor Swift (whose performance would have been better without Miley Cyrus). And how could you not be moved by Jennifer Hudson's performance. The Jonas Brothers looked a bit out of their league with Stevie Wonder. It was sort of cute that he played with them, though. U2 was great as always, that goes without saying. Kid Rock was good, I like that "All Summer Long" song. Am I the only person who never heard that Katy Perry song? I never did; it was pretty good. It sounds like her biggest influences are Gwen Stefani and P!nk.

I loved the Four Tops tribute with Jamie Foxx, Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson and Top Duke Fakir. The Bo Diddley tribute with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mayer and Keith Urban was a bit messy.

Hip-Hop provided some of the best moments of the night: the "Swagga Like Us" performance with Jay-Z, T.I., Lil' Wayne, Kanye West and a very pregnant M.I.A. (who may have been lip-synching); T.I.'s performance with Justin Timberlake was great, and so was Lil' Wayne's. I didn't like Kanye and Estelle's as much, and Jay-Z joining Coldplay onstage was a bit goofy.

I liked seeing Paul McCartney, but again, "I Saw Her Standing There"? I think he should have done a new song. It was fun to see Dave Grohl playing drums for him though. Radiohead 's performance was interesting, and probably confusing to most of the crowd. Was the whole band there, or was it just Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood and the huge marching band?

My favorite performance was Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' medley of "Rich Woman" and "Gone Gone Gone," and I was glad to see them go five for five, winning all of their nominations, including Record and Album Of The Year. I loved Robert's comment that in the "old days," being at the Grammys would have seemed like "selling out," but "It's not a bad way to spend a Sunday night." I'm sure there's going to be a lot of bitching about "old" artists beating out the likes of Lil Wayne and Coldplay, and that the album wasn't as ubiquitous in the culture. Whatever: it was a mature but totally credible album that didn't pander that was released on an indie label. It deserved all the accolades it won (it also won a Grammy last year) and more. That's my final word!

THE GRAMMYS PRE-BROADCAST

When I used to cover the Grammys for VH1, I was lucky enough to cover the pre-telecast awards. I would be in our special press room, watching on closed circuit TV. I know that sitting through three hours of awards given to non-celebrities for music genres like classical and world music doesn't sound like fun, and it definitely isn't totally thrilling, but some parts are great. I got to interview the Blind Boys Of Alabama, and Lord of the Rings score composter Howard Shore, and Steve Earle, for instance. People who would never really make the telecast. A lot of the people who get their awards during the pre-tel, it really means a lot to them: they aren't just celebs on the award show circuit. These are often people who really have to think if it is worth it to pay for a fairly expensive trip to L.A. to maybe win an award in a non-televised award show where they may get two or three minutes to give a public thank you.

This year I watched the "pre-tel" on the Grammy's finally improving web site, and there were some great moments. George Carlin's daughter accepted his fifth career Grammy for Best Comedy Album for It's Bad For Ya. Dweezeil Zappa had a moving speech to a nearly empty house when his group Zappa Plays Zappa won Best Rock Instrumental for thier version of "Peaches en Regalia," which his father Frank Zappa wrote for him when he was born, 40 years ago. This category was a bone of contention between my wife and I: I wanted Metallica to win for "Suicide & Redemption," and she wanted Nine Inch Nails for "34 Ghosts I-IV." But I was glad that Dweezil won, it meant more to him. Apparently, someone who co-wrote a song for Lil Wayne died, and someone accepted for him and that was sad too.

Other cool awards: The Blind Boys winning thier fifth career Grammy, Weezer winning for their "Pork and Beans" video, Peter Gabriel winning for the Wall-E song "Down To Earth," B.B. King winning his 15th for his great album One Kind Favor, Alicia Keys winning her 12th for "Superwoman," Al Green winning his 10th and 11th for songs from Lay It Down, Duffy won one, Rick Rubin won Producer of the Year, and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss won their first two of hopefully many tonight (they won one last year also). Other than the Blind Boys, none of these people were there though. In fact, the only big names there were Carrie Underwood and Robert Trujilio of Metallica (who won Best Metal Performance for "My Apocolypse").

Other cool awards: Juno took best soundtrack, They Might Be Giants won for a children's record, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers won long-form video for Running Down A Dream, Pete Seeger won in the folk category for At 89.

Some lame upsets: John Mayer's "Gravity" beat Bruce Springsteen's "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" for Best Male Rock Vocal (I don't really think of Mayer as a rock singer), the Kings Of Leon beat AC/DC in a rock category, and country singer Jamey Johnson didn't win anything. But on to the main show! Good luck to everyone... but especially Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.

DEWEY MARTIN 1940 - 2009

Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin was recently found dead in his apartment by his roomate. He died of natural causes. The Springfield were a great band, which of course launched the careers of Neil Young and Stephen Stills, as well as Richie Furay (who joined country soft rock band Poco) and Jim Messina (who went on to a big pop career with Kenny Loggins).

Martin, who played with legends including Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Faron Young, The Everly Brothers and Charlie Rich, among others before founding The Springfield, never really got his career off of the ground afterwards. He formed different bands here and there, but mainly tried to revive Springfield, often with bassist Bruce Palmer, leading to legal battles with Stills and Young, who didn't want them using the band's name. But it must have hurt to see those guys with such stellar careers. There were often rumors of a full-on Springfield reunion, but it never happened. Even in 1997, when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there was talk of a performance, but Neil ducked out at the last minute, when he found out that the show was going to be televised (which shouldn't have come as a surprise: when he was inducted a few years earlier as a solo artist, the show was broadcast on MTV).

I don't know too much about the guy, but the Springfield made great music. If you want to check it out, pick up Retrospective, a single CD compilation. They only had three albums, all of which were great (I like the first one best): 1966's Buffalo Springfield, 1967's Buffalo Springfield Again and 1968's Last Time Around.

GRAMMY PREDICITONS

As promised, here are my Grammy predictions in the big categories, as well
as predictions by Keith Price, the ebony, chunky, funky co-host of The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. On Monday morning, we'll see how well we did, and discuss the show.

Record of the Year
Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”
Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”
Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”
M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ “Please Read The Letter”

No Expiration says: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss should win, it was a phenomenal track from an incredible record that gave two career artists a new career highlight. Record of the Year is also an award for the production: Robert Plant recorded the song ten years earlier with Jimmy Page, produced by Steve Albini. The new version, produced by T-Bone Burnett, casts the song in a new light. I also think it will win, this is the kind of record that Grammy voters love, and all of the younger artists will cancel each other out.

Keith Price saysAdele should win, but Leona Lewis, a favorite of Larry Flick, will win.

Album of the Year
Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter III
Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand
Radiohead’s In Rainbows

No Expiration says: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, again, should win, although Radiohead’s album is great and Coldplay’s is the rare “rock” record to have a long shelf-life with lots of single, and Lil Wayne’s sold over three milli. But I think Wayne and Ne-Yo cancel each other out, and Radiohead and Coldplay cancel each other out.

Keith Price says: Coldplay will win, but Robert Plant & Alison Krauss should win.

Song of the Year
Estelle featuring Kanye West: “American Boy”
Adele: “Chasing Pavements”
Jason Mraz: “I’m Yours”
Sara Bareilles: “Love Song”
Coldplay: “Viva La Vida”

No Expiration says: there’s no clear cut winner here, but Jason Mraz shouldn’t have been invited to this party, with all due respect. I liked a lot of these songs, but I voted for Coldplay, and I think that is who will win (which isn’t why I voted for them).

Keith Price says: “American Boy” will win, but “Chasing Pavements” should win.

Best New Artist
Adele
Duffy
The Jonas Brothers
Lady Antelbellum
Jazmine Sullivan

No Expiration says: Duffy should and will win. Yes, The Jonas Brothers sold tons of records and film tickets and concert tickets and deserve recognition for that, plus they write songs and play instruments. But the Grammys don’t want to become the American Music Awards. Duffy’s album is a great debut by a career artist that had the old-fashioned slow build, and she never seemed like she was getting overexposed.

Keith Price agrees!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TOMORROW ON OUTQ

First of all, my new day and time on OutQ is 10 am ET Friday mornings. Welcome to all of the new XM listeners (this week OutQ made its debut on XM).  Tomorrow, I'll be talking all things Bruce Springsteen: the new album, Working On A Dream (which I liked at first, but am starting to love -- it rewards repeated listenings), the Walmart controversy, the Springsteen/KISS connection, and his Super Bowl performance. Also, I'll talk about Willie Nelson's great new album, Willie & The Wheel, and hopefully play a bit of the new U2 single, "Get On Your Boots." 

In the next day or two, I'll be posting my Grammy picks, as well as Larry Flick's: who should win, and who will win in the big four categories. And Keith Price's if he's game. On Monday morning, I'll be in the studio talking about the Grammys (which air Sunday night). 

Finally, for people new to No Expiration (or longtime readers): here are some recent stories or links to stories that you might enjoy:



TICKETMASTER APOLOGIZES

Irving Azoff, legendary record label dude and artist manager turned Ticketmaster CEO wrote an open letter to Bruce Springsteen, his management and his fans over the recent fracas over Bruce tickets. It's posted at Bruce's website, Backstreets, and a few other places. He said, among other things, that they would no longer provide links to Ticketsnow (Ticketmaster's scalping site) without the consent of the artist and the venue, if offering to refund fans the difference between the price of tickets they purchased at Ticketsnow and the face value (but asked not to abuse it - it is only if they inadvertently bought the tickets not realizing it was from a scalper.  As if anyone will feel guilty about ripping off Ticketmaster!).  And they say that scalpers don't get preferential treatment.  Hard to believe when they were reselling tickets 15 minutes after they went on sale, for up to $1000. It's a mess, but it's cool to see an industry giant grovel. 

CRAMPS FRONTMAN, LUX INTERIOR, 1946 -2009

Cramps frontman Lux Interior, aka Erik Gustin died today; he is survived by his wife and bandmate Poison Ivy, aka Kristy Wallace. I'm not an expert on the band, but they influenced some of my favorite bands, definitely The Reverend Horton Heat, and also The White Stripes.  Read more about them here

U2 PLAYING THE GRAMMYS

I'm always glad to see U2 on TV, but it's a bit weird that they're playing the Grammys, seeing as they have no nominations. I guess it's just that, well, they're U2, if they want to play, who is going to say no.  I just think it's odd that Bruce Springsteen isn't playing, as he has a few nominations; you'd think he'd have the same "anytime" card that U2 does. Still, it should be a great show: there's going to be tributes to Bo Diddley and The Four Tops, Paul McCartney is performing with Dave Grohl on drums. Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil Wayne are performing "Swagga Like Us" (I actually dig that song), and best of all, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. It should be a good, if long, show. 

ETTA JAMES: NOT FEELING BEYONCE ANYMORE

When Cadillac Records came out, Etta James seemed OK with endorsing Beyonce's portrayal of her, vocals and all. But as anyone who has any access to news now knows, Ms. James seems fuming mad over Ms. Knowles' rendition of her signature tune, "At Last," at one of  Barack Obama's inauguration parties.  Etta recently ranted onstage about the performance (and unfortunately, about the President as well). 

The press generally fall all over Beyonce, but that's partially because you're probably not allowed near her unless you are guaranteed to not saying anything negative, or even ask any difficult or uncomfortable questions. So, it's interesting that, about a year after Aretha Franklin ripped B. for calling Tina Turner "The Queen of Soul" at last year's Grammys, Etta James is going on blast also. Or maybe it's just that the real legends aren't buying into Beyonce. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

BEING #1 DOESN'T SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS

Unsurprisingly, Bruce Springsteen's Working on a Dream is the number 1 album in the country. Following the Super Bowl Half Time show, there wasn't much doubt about that. But not all of the excitement post-Sunday night resulted so well. Bruce tickets went on sale on Monday morning for most of his U.S. tour, and lots of fans weren't able to get tickets.  Worse, there were lots of technical breakdowns in Ticketmaster's system. And worse still, Ticketmaster's website redirected a lot of people to their scalping site, TicketsNow, which had tickets for the sold out show, minutes after it sold out, for up to ten times the ticket prices. Bruce addressed this on his official website. Bruce slammed Ticketmaster and warned against the effects of their proposed merger with Live Nation. 

In another p.r. headache for Bruce, some sources are saying that the E Street Band's performance at the Super Bowl was canned and only Bruce's vocals were live. Last year, I remember rumors that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers lip-synched also. The thing is, these bands are so good that they only sound like the music is pre-recorded.  That's my opinion anyway. 

VAN HALEN TO ROCK ON

Eddie Van Halen told Rolling Stone that Van Halen will continue on with David Lee Roth.  It's great news, but, man, is it going to be tough to come up with new material that will hold up to the classic Van Halen stuff. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

WILLIE & THE WHEEL

Willie Nelson just released his latest album, a collaboration with Asleep At The Wheel, Willie & The Wheel. It's all covers of classic Texas swing and honky tonk music. "Classic" being the operative word. The album is a lot of fun, I love it. I hope he tours with the Wheel. If I had to compare it to anything, it might be Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions band.

I'm a big fan of lots of Willie's recent music: I enjoyed his collaboration with Wynton Marsalis last year, the live album Two Men With The Blues, and I kind of enjoyed the Kenny Chesney-produced Moment Of Forever, which also came out last year. I thought that might take him back to the commercial country mainstream, but no such luck. I also kind of liked 2007's collaboration with Ray Price and Merle Haggard, Last Of The Breed. Ryan Adams has bitched about Songbird, which he produced for Willie in 2006, but I liked some of the songs on that one also. I loved 2006's You Don't Know Me -- The Songs Of Cindy Walker, and 2004's It Will Always Be may be my favorite Willie album.

FOR A GOOD TIME, FOR A GOOD TIME CALL...

eBay is auctioning off the phone number 867-5309. In the (201) area code, I'm proud to mention. As I'm writing this, the current bid is over $400,000. You have until February 9 to top that! I wonder if Tommy Tutone gets a piece of that.

DIDDY SAYS HIP-HOP DOESN'T TAKE ENOUGH RISKS ANYMORE

I couldn't have made that one up. You can check out the interview at MTV. I just gotta say it: Diddy calling for more musical risk taking... who woulda thought? Of course, the interview was to plug his new cologne. Having to support a brand that crosses into restaurants, clothes, cologne, etc. probably doesn't leave much room for musical risks!

READ ABOUT ACRASSICAUDA

Acrassicauda is a heavy metal band from Baghdad. Check out this story about them from The New York Times.

SPINAL TAP TO RETURN!

The BBC says that Spinal Tap is in the studio working on a new album. Yes! Here's hoping for a tour. But I'm not volunteering to sit in on drums.

HOW HAS THERE NOT BEEN A JAMES BROWN BIOPIC YET?

You would have thought that by now, someone would have made a film about James Brown's life. But nope. That's about to change, and with the most perfect director to tell the story: Spike Lee. That's according to Variety.

People might be getting burned out on biopics (but I'm not)... but I think there will be interest in this no matter what due to how compelling the story is, and the fact that Spike Lee is directing. You know Spike isn't just going for the tabloid stuff, either.

RUN-D.M.C. BIOPIC IN THE WORKS

Now that Notorious, The Notorious B.I.G. biopic is out, screenwriter Cheo Coker is looking to adapt the Run-D.M.C. story to the big screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Too bad the movie isn't coming out now: it would be really timely, since Run-D.M.C. are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, and rightfully so I might add.

It's true, rap/hip-hop isn't rock and roll, but in the early days, it was like rock and roll being played on a different instrument: the turntables. Run-D.M.C. had more of the spirit of rock and roll than half of the bands that get played on classic rock radio. And plus, they had cooler guitars. I look forward to seeing Run and D.M.C. performing together for the first time since the tragic death of Jam Master Jay at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. I wonder if they'll use a different DJ. I would think that he's pretty irreplaceable; maybe they should just use a band. I'm sure lots of musicians would line up to be their backing band.

STEVIE WONDER TO RELEASE LIVE AT LAST DVD

I've missed Stevie Wonder twice in the past two years, but at least now I'll get a chance to see what the shows were like: he's releasing his first concert DVD, Live At Last, on March 10. It features mostly big hits, and the last song is my personal favorite, "As."

Stevie's next album is supposedly a duets album with Tony Bennett, and will feature a number of Marvin Gaye songs. I'm not a Bennett fan, but I might check that one out. But I hope if Stevie tours, it's not with Tony Bennett.

PRINCE'S LATEST MOVE

I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say about Prince here: I know the man gets touchy about it. But the web is buzzing about a small party he had at his mansion last night where he debuted some new music and also played a bunch of covers. The party was to launch his new website, Lotusflow3r, where you can listen to one song from each of the three albums he's planning to release this year.

The song which I presume is from the "rock" album, "Colonized Mind," is pretty incredible. I also liked the more funk/pop one, "Discojellyfish," and his protege Bria Valente's song, "Another Boy," was sweet also.

"THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED"

This week is the 50th anniversary of the fateful day often referred to as "The Day The Music Died" (a reference to the lyric in Don McLean's "American Pie").

On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a small plane crash (along with the pilot, Roger Peterson).

I became a fan of Buddy Holly when my mom took me to see The Buddy Holly Story on Broadway, I think I was in college at the time. I don't remember if the show itself was great, but I was struck by how many of Buddy Holly's songs I already knew, and also by just how incredible his songs were. You can sort of take someone like him for granted: his songs are part of the culture, it may not be apparent that you need to have some of his records in your collection. "That'll Be The Day," "Rave On," "Everyday," "Words Of Love," "Maybe Baby," "Not Fade Away," the guy just had so many incredible songs, he was only 22 when he died! Do yourself a favor if you haven't already: pick up The Buddy Holly Collection, or just Buddy Holly.

I'm not as familiar with Richie Valens, but "La Bamba" is obviously a classic and so is "Donna" and "Come On, Let's Go." I think he was 17 when he died! So he didn't have a vast catalog, but anyone who was there at the beginning of rock and roll... it's not about the amount of classic songs, it's about the impact of the songs that they had, and Valens' had a big impact.

I think that The Big Bopper was more of a novelty act, but that's cool: "Chantilly Lace" was a classic.