Friday, December 31, 2010

THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS AT BKLYN BOWL - LET THERE BE ROCK!

I have seen the present of rock and roll, and it is The Drive-By Truckers.  I'm not even kidding.  They're not punk, metal, "alternative," "indie" or anything else.  They are rock and roll. There aren't too many bands like that today.

But anyone who complains about that state of things -- I often hear people ask "whatever happened to rock and roll music?" -- should chill out. It's not being spoon fed to you.  The mainstream media, ironically enough, seems obsessed with "indie" music.  But you can find great rock and roll these days  - you can tune into Little Steven's Underground Garage or another SiriusXM channel that he oversees, Outlaw Country. Outlaw Country is where I discovered The Drive-By Truckers, who have become one of my favorite bands.  Their latest album, The Big To-Do, is my favorite album of 2010.  Tonight, I saw them in concert for the first time. I had big expectations, and I was not let down. Even though they didn't play some of my favorite jams, including "This Fucking Job" from The Big To-Do, and "Let There Be Rock" from their 2001 classic, Southern Rock Opera. Maybe they are saving some of their big anthems for their Terminal 5 show tomorrow night, a big New Year's Eve bash. You can hear the show live on Outlaw Country (and this is where I say, "full disclosure: I work at SiriusXM").

Tonight, however, they played Brooklyn Bowl, an actual bowling alley. I'd never been there before, it is one of the coolest venues I've ever been to. (I'll write more on the venue in a separate post.)

There were so many highlights - "After The Scene Dies," "A Ghost To Most," "Birthday Boy," "Women Without Whiskey, "Self Destructive Zone," and one of my favorites, "Three Dimes Down" (which quotes Bob Seger's "Rock and Roll Never Forgets"). Patterson Hood played some of his narrative epics, including "18 Wheels Of Love" and "A World Of Hurt," the latter of which nearly moves me to tears every time I hear it. Those songs are usually followed by one of Mike Cooley's more simple stripped down songs.  Sometimes it seems like you have Springsteen and Petty in the same band.

There were some great covers: Patterson's father, David Hood, the house bassist for Muscle Shoals back in the day, joined the band for a cover of The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" (he played on the original) and also Eddie Hinton's "Everybody Needs Love" (which they recently recorded for a 7" Hinton tribute single). Both performances were amazing, as well their final encore, Jim Carroll's "People Who Died."

In my recent post about the band, I wrote about singer/guitarist/songwriter Patterson Hood's liner notes, where he discussed the effect that rock and roll had, and still has, on him. That comes out of him throughout the whole show, whether he is singing a song, or one of his bandmates (singer/guitarist/songwriter Mike Cooley or bassist/singer/songwriter Shonna Tucker) are singing. And that passion comes out of them as well - and the other members of the band - guitarist/steel guitarist John Neff, drummer Brad Morgan and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez. They're not pandering, and they're not messing around. This music means something to them. It comes out in lots of aspects of the band: they keep concert tickets down (tonight's show was $20), ditto for their merchandise (t-shirts were also $20) and yet they treat their crew really well.

I've been having a rough week - I had to get rid of my Prince tickets for last night's show. I'm grateful that I was able to go to tonight's show. And during the show, I was able to forget everything else. That's worth a lot - even if they didn't play "Let There Be Rock."

Monday, December 27, 2010

RUSH - CLASSIC ALBUMS 2112 AND MOVING PICTURES DVD

I've written before about the Classic Albums DVD series: I really dug the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Damn The Torpedoes edition, as well as the Black Sabbath Paranoid episode. Now, I've just watched another one that focuses on two Rush albums, 1976's 2112 and 1981's Moving Pictures.

The timing for this seems a bit weird, as it has only been a few months since the DVD release of Beyond The Lighted Stage, the only real Rush documentary, and certainly the only real authorized one. I am pretty sure that some of the interviews from that film were used here.  And the guest list on that one - there were interviews with Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Les Claypool, Gene Simmons, Tim Commerford, among others - isn't improved upon.  The big name commentators here are Taylor Hawkins of The Foo Fighters (who was in Lighted Stage) and Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies. The one notable addition - and to me, a very surprising one - was Rolling Stone writer David Fricke. Rolling Stone has traditionally written off Rush, so I was surprised to see one of their best, and most high-profile, writers speaking positively about them.

Of course, both of these albums were pretty well covered in Beyond The Lighted Stage, but they get a bit more detail here.  The Ayn Rand influence on 2112 has been well documented, but it was interesting to hear more of the band's explanation about it.  Particularly where Geddy Lee reacts to accusations that the band are "nazis" - given that he is a child of Holocaust survivors.  And Fricke rightfully points out that just because drummer/lyricist Neil Peart was influenced by Rand, he doesn't necessarily agree with everything she ever said.

As with all the Classic Albums discs, there is fun footage of each member of the band explaining their parts of the songs, and the producer of the album (in this case, Terry Brown) isolating different tracks from the master tapes in the studio, which is always fun to watch. Some of the extras were fun also - I love watching the band talk about their influences (although there was nothing really new there) and they went in depth about the 2112 track "Something For Nothing," which is also a bit Rand-ian, and definitely (and defiantly) anti-hippy-ish, which makes sense, as so many rock critics (particularly of the Rolling Stone ilk) really were a part of the hippy scene.

As No Expiration fans know, I'm a huge Rush fan, and I love seeing any interviews with them. If you were going to watch one non-concert DVD, I'd have to recommend the more comprehensive Beyond The Lighted Stage, but if that's too long for you, or you (like me) just can't get enough Rush, I'd recommend this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BUDDY GUY - LIVING PROOF (TIE FOR #11)

Well, today on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on SiriusXM OutQ, I listed my top 10 albums of the year.  Of course it took me all weekend plus Monday to decide what LPs I settled on. And there were a lot of great albums that almost made it, so it's a big tie for #11.  One of those albums is Buddy Guy's latest, Living Proof.

It's the best "blues" album of the year, but I don't want to categorize it like that. There aren't many other blues artists anyway, Buddy is one of the last true bluesmen standing, hardly anyone holds a candle to the man. And Buddy could coast now if he wanted to: he has nothing left to prove. He is universally regarded as a legend, and a few years ago, he finally got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (many years too late, but better late than never). Everyone knows that his style was a huge influence (not just an influence, but a HUGE influence) on Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, Page, Townshend, and through them, legions of other guitar players. The odds of him making a landmark album at this point is against the odds, but guess what, this is a pretty awesome album.  It's nearly as good as 2001's Dirt Floor, which is my favorite thing by him since maybe the Chess era.

He starts off totally badass with "74 Years Young."  It begins as a country blues number, and then hits the gas and takes it to Chicago, where Buddy rips your head off with some of his hottest playing EVER. "Got a few scars, from all the battles I won, I'm 74 years young...Tonight I feel like I'm 21, I'm 74 years young!" Dude is still heavy as hell, he means it when he sings. It's the truth.

I don't want to beat up on wimpy bands too much, but after listening to this, it's hard to listen to, like, Vampire Weekend.

The album isn't just for blues people or guitar players, at least not in my opinion.  You don't have to have tons of blues records to dig this. It's a great album. I'm glad that it isn't (yet another) all-star collab album, but there are two guests on the album. Carlos Santana - who loves Buddy - plays on "Where The Blues Begin," which is sort of what you would expect.  A hot blues workout with Santana's very identifiable sound. It's my favorite thing Carlos has done this year too.

But my favorite part of the album may be Buddy's duet with B.B. King, "Stay Around A Little Longer."   I don't think anyone would argue that B.B. is the biggest living blues legend.  That's sort of by design: in one of the Scorsese-produced blues docs from a few years back, old footage of B.B. shows him saying that he wants to be the biggest blues artist ever, and he actually made it happen. Anyway, I'd say B.B. is the biggest, Buddy is the second biggest. They've worked together often, and they've known each other for decades, and "Stay Around A Little Longer" sees them reflecting back on the years and being thankful for what they've got. It's one of my favorite songs of the year. I love when Buddy sings, "There's more songs to be sung.  We've come a long way, but we're a long way from being done!"

I hope that's true.  But if these giants decide to retire, this is a fine curtain call. B.B. is still doing it, and judging by this album, Buddy (who is younger than B.B.) in fact does have a lot of songs left in him. After all, he feels like he's 21.

BEST OF 2010 - #1! - THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS "THE BIG TO-DO"

When I first got The Drive-By Truckers' The Big To-Do in February, I didn't think any album this year would top it. I was right. The Truckers were one of my favorite bands of the '00s, and they are dominating this decade so far as well (I'm looking forward to their next album, Go-Go Boots, which comes out in February of 2011!).

I've written a lot about the band and this album, but I'll add to what I've said by saying that I think that singer/songwriter/guitarist Patterson Hood has an eye for detail on par with Bruce Springsteen or Steve Earle. He is really one of the greatest. He tells the greatest stories in his songs.

That said, some of my favorite songs by DBTs are by singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Cooley, who reminds me a bit more of Tom Petty - he doesn't show as much detail.  Although "Birthday Boy" is really detailed. But I also love when singer/songwriter/bassist Shonna Tucker takes the mic.

Hood seems to be the band's main spokesperson though, and in the liner notes to the album (he writes liner notes!) he says, and I quote, "I grew up worshipping Rock and Roll like a religion. I know its shortcomings and strengths but have loved it unconditionally all the same since I was eight years old... I'm still as obsessed as I was as a boy.  I'm not a kid anymore but I still remember how it felt and it doesn't really feel all that different to me now." That's kind of what I've been trying to say for four years on this blog. Thank you Patterson.  I'm going to see my first Drive-By Truckers show later this month, and I can't wait. It'll be the first of many.  A lot of the artists who I love, who I follow, and who I write about, are slowing down.  And so am I. But as long as the Truckers are on the road, I'll be going to the Rock Shows.

BEST OF 2010 - #2 - MAVIS STAPLES "YOU ARE NOT ALONE"

I love this album. When Mavis Staples was planning a follow-up to her Ry Cooder produced We'll Never Go Back, it must have been a bit daunting. But she hooked up with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and the resulting album, You Are Not Alone, is one of the highlights of both of their careers.

The title track, written by Tweedy, is the best thing he's ever done, in my opinion.  It's my favorite song of 2010, and one of my favorite songs of all time.

I wrote about this album a few months ago. I like it even more now than I did then.  I think the album had a great marketing hook - indie rocker produces gospel legend (and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as a member of The Staple Singers, thank you very much). But I think this album transcends any of that - and I don't think Tweedy wanted to just be part of a contrived project. This actually adds a significant chapter to the legacy of a truly legendary artist. And by the way, it also adds to one of contemporary music's best writers.  What else do I need to say about this album?  It's a classic.

BEST OF 2010 - #3 - JAMEY JOHNSON "THE GUITAR SONG"

With country music, artists usually appeal to either the Nashville establishment, or to non-country fans.  On one hand, you have George Strait and Alan Jackson, huge stars in country music who sell millions of albums. On the other Willie Nelson or Lucinda Williams, who are considered country, but they don't seem to be too popular with country music fans. Jamey Johnson seems to appeal to both sides. I don't think he even thinks that when he writes his songs and records his albums.

A lot of people (myself included) first took note on his 2008 album That Lonesome Song (which included the incredible song "In Color"). His latest, a double album (!) called The Guitar Song, really blew me away. He curated a great album where all 25 (!) songs ring true. He co-wrote most of them, but he also does some well selected interpretations, starting with the first song, a cover of Keith Whitley's "Lonely At The Top," were he kind of pokes fun of his own complaining about stardom.

Dude is really way too badass to fit in with the Nashville establishment (I am not trying to talk smack about Nashville, but he just ain't Kenny Chesney) but he certainly isn't rolling with NPR (he smacks down blue states a few times on the album, notably on "California Riots" and "Playing The Part").  I think he's always going to be a loner, which means he'll always be singing from the perspective of an outsider.  I think this guy is going to be around for a long time, and hopefully he'll be able to top this album. But it won't be easy.

Check out: "Lonely At The Top," "Cover Your Eyes" ( I can imagine James Hetfield covering this), "Poor Man Blues," "Playing The Part," "Baby Don't Cry," "The Guitar Song," "Macon"

BEST OF 2010 - #4 - KANYE WEST "MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY"

I was really knocked out by this album. I wrote about it recently.

BEST OF 2010 - #5 - ROBERT PLANT "BAND OF JOY"

People asked, how could Robert Plant possibly walk away from his collaboration with Allison Krauss to do another solo album? Their album Raising Sand, won six Grammys over two years, sold over a million records in the US and was highly acclaimed. It even seemed to accomplish what Robert couldn't do on his own for over two decades: take him out of Led Zeppelin's shadow. It must have been tempting to do a second duo album.

The thing is, they did try, and it wasn't working. Keep in mind, Robert Plant is the guy who turned down probably well into the eight figures for a Zeppelin reunion tour to work with Krauss.

I interviewed Plant eight years ago or so, and he told me "I ain't got much time, I can't mess around," meaning he didn't want to waste time on projects if he wasn't 110% behind them. So, rest assured, when he does an album, he means it. If it were about the money, he'd be singing Zeppelin songs and making millions of bucks. He follows the muse these days, period.

So when things didn't work out this time with Krauss (he has said the door is open to work together again), he put together a new band with an old name: Band Of Joy, the group he and John Bonham played in before Zeppelin. He collaborated with the great Buddy Miller (who played guitar in Plant/Krauss' touring group) for the Band Of Joy album.  Where Raising Sand was almost a reverent museum piece of semi-obscure Americana, Band Of Joy sees Robert bringing his west coast psychedelic influences to the party. The touring band features Buddy and also the incredible singer Patty Griffin.  I saw one of their first US shows.  The show floored me. The album does also. I know some of the source material on the album (like Raising Sand, it is mainly covers). Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zant. But there's lots of really obscure songs, that Robert really brings to life. Like Raising Sand, this is an album you don't have to be a Zeppelin fan to enjoy.

Check out: "Angel Dance," "House Of Cards," "Silver Rider," "Falling In Love Again," "Monkey," "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."

BEST OF 2010 - # 6 - THE ROOTS "HOW I GOT OVER"

I love both Roots albums that came out this year: their collaboration with John Legend, Wake Up, is great. But How I Got Over is a classic. I wrote about it over the summer, and I still think it is an incredible album. I am a big fan of the band and their drummer Questlove, but I don't always love their albums.

If you've seen them on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, you know what a great and diverse band they are. They can go from backing Bruce Springsteen to Black Star to Christopher Cross.  They have always been a great band, but I would argue that working on the show has made them an even better band (I wonder if they would agree).  Their guest list on the album includes Jim James of Monsters of Folk/My Morning Jacket, John Legend, the ladies from Dirty Projectors and a number of underground hip-hop artists. It never seems forced or gimmicky, it's just that they can work with anyone, and really make it work. And they make it hip-hop.  I wouldn't have thought you could do that with such an unfunky group as Dirty Projectors.

The underground MCs they work with (Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Phonte, Blu) are great, but none are as great as The Roots' lead MC, Black Thought. He doesn't get enough credit, I think it's because he's a quiet guy when he's not rocking the mic. But listen to dude's lyrics, he really is one of the best.

Check out: "Walk Alone," "Dear God 2.0," "Radio Daze," "Now Or Never," "How I Got Over," "The Day." Really the whole album though!

BEST OF 2010 - #7 - THE BLACK KEYS "BROTHERS"

I wrote about The Black Keys' Brothers back in May, and I haven't gotten over the album yet.  The other day, my wife and I listened to it in the car, I couldn't believe how badass and funky it was. I've been getting into the band this year thanks to a friend who works on SIRIUS XMU (SiriusXM's indie rock station) and another friend, a very young fan of blues music.

The Black Keys were compared to The White Stripes at first (probably because they are both guitarist/singer + drummer blues rock duos) but I think the Keys have their own thing going on.  That's like saying you don't need The Who because The Kinks were there first.  At any rate, these guys write amazing songs and are funky as hell.

I'm not sure these guys will ever sell tons of records (although you never know) but they have been on lots of tv shows, movie soundtracks and commercials because they are so cool. What puzzles me is why the indie rock kids like them so much, they don't seem to fit in with most of that music (and in a recent Rolling Stone interview, they try to listen to Band of Horses and turn it off after about ten seconds!). But if people are listening to them, then great. If you don't buy albums by post 1990 bands and you want to try one, this is one you might dig, they really bring a new energy to the intersection of blues and rock and not many other bands can make that claim these days.

BEST OF 2010 - #8 - ELIZABETH COOK "WELDER"

I recently wrote about Elizabeth Cook's great new album Welder, but I'll write a bit more about it. I am making up for the lack of attention she is getting from bigger outlets, who should be giving some of that Gaga love to Ms. Cook.

I mentioned that both Paste and Rolling Stone named Welder one of the best albums of 2010 (which I agree with). I'm glad that Rolling Stone has come correct again: they've named "El Camino" as one of the best songs of the year. It is such a funny song, and I've said it before, but the line about "if I wake up married, I'll have to annul it/right now my hands are in his mullet" is so funny.  The thing is, she's not just light-hearted fun, she is what I call a "Saturday night/Sunday morning" singer. She sings without judgement about people who many would be quick to judge, notably on "Heroin Addict Sister."  I actually filmed her singing that song in a radio interview, it was hard to be in room, the song hurts that much. I don't know if it is about her sister or someone else she knows.  But it's about someone's sister.

She also sings about love, sex and relationships in an honest and frank way.  On "Yes To Booty" she tells her dude to leave those beers alone until later ("when you say no to beer, you say yes to booty") and  on "Girlfriend Tonight" she sings "honey I know I am just your wife, but I want to be your girlfriend tonight" which hits hard. More than anyone else, she reminds me of Loretta.

Another note about her album: a quick look at the backing vocalists shows you the respect she commands among artists: who else uses Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell and Dwight Yoakam as backing singers on one album? She's a DJ on the amazing SiriusXM channel Outlaw Country and she's a character on the video game Red Dead Redemption. She's like, one break away from being a big star. But don't you want to say you knew her before she became a big superstar?  Right!  Pick up Welder now and be the coolest country fan on your block!

Check out: "All The Time," "El Camino," "Heroin Addict Sister," "Girlfriend Tonight," "Rock N Roll Man"

BEST OF 2010 - #9 - KAREN ELSON "THE GHOST WHO WALKS"

Yes, she's Mrs. Jack White.  But I don't want to insult Karen Elson by suggesting that her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, is great because of her husband, but it's easiest to get that fact out of the way first.

She has an eerie, dusty voice that sounds like it's coming from decades in the past.  She reminds me at times of Margot Timmins of The Cowboy Junkies or Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. And she's a great songwriter. It's worth mentioning that she wrote most of the songs on her excellent debut, and the ones she co-wrote were not with her husband.  That said, he produced the record and plays drums on many of the songs, and it sounds like it.  But without the great songs at the core of the album, it would be a great sounding, but not memorable album.  That's not the deal, this one sticks with you. Here's a great review of the album by Bill Bentley, who knows what he's talking about.

Check out: "The Ghost Who Walks," "The Truth Is In The Dirt," "Pretty Babies," "Stolen Roses"

BEST OF 2010 - #10 - LOS LOBOS "TIN CAN TRUST"

I've written about Los Lobos' Tin Can Trust earlier this year, urging you not to sleep on them. I hope you took my advice.  Back in the day, critics used to pay a lot of attention to Los Lobos.  In the '80s, How Will The Wolf Survive? got a lot of attention and great reviews, and in the '90s ditto for Kiko and Colossal Head. Sometimes I'm not really sure if reviews actually help a band, but with Los Lobos, I bet they did.  I know that's how I got into them.

So let me urge you to check Los Lobos out, and if you're unfamiliar, why not start with this album, it's really great.  This album makes me want to have a few beers and sit on my porch, that's the vibe they bring, but they've got some bite to them as well. One of my New Year's resolutions shall be to listen to more Los Lobos.

Check for: "Burn It Down" (featuring guest backing vocals by Susan Tedeschi), "Yo Canto," "Tin Can Trust," the instrumental "Do The Murray," "All My Bridges Burning" (co-written with Robert Hunter of The Grateful Dead) and "West L.A. Fadeaway" (a Dead cover, it's better than the original).

WEDNESDAY MORNING ON OUTQ - MY TOP 10 OF '10

For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning at 9 am ET, I go on SiriusXM OutQ to talk about music.  Tomorrow morning, I will be discussing my ten favorite albums of 2010.  I'll also post them here in the morning, so in case you can't listen, you'll know what my picks were (feel free to comment and tell me yours!).

There were a lot of great albums this year, and I'll probably post 11 through whatever afterwards, but I don't want to give away the top 10 - although if you've been reading my blog over the past year, you probably have a good idea of what albums I like best. It took me a long time to come up with ten, and I may change my mind tomorrow.  But I'm pretty sure I'm sticking with my #1. What is it?  Tune in (or check the blog in the morning) and find out.

PAUL DI'ANNO AT B.B. KING'S IN TIMES SQUARE

Well.  If you transported me to B.B. King's in Times Square tonight in the middle of this show, it would have taken me a minute to figure out what I was watching.  A few minutes.  Original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno looks a bit different these days, and he sounds different too.  By the way, thank you to my friend Neil for the photo.

Of course, who doesn't look different and sound different than they did a quarter century ago! But Di'Anno wasn't trying to cover anything up.  He admitted throughout the show that he's "too old for this shit" but he gave a spirited performance, backed by opening band Icarus Witch (which kind of gave the gig a heavy metal Crazy Heart vibe, if you get the reference). The band were more Queensryche than Iron Maiden in my opinion, but they did a good job backing Paul, who gave 110% - he even came back after a stage diver crashed into his leg, causing him a lot of obvious pain (and forcing him to stop "Phantom Of The Opera" - luckily, he started over when he stopped seeing stars). He reminded the audience that he's been making lots of music since leaving Maiden in '81 - he played a number of songs from his post-Maiden career.  And the crowd were with him.

But what everyone was there to hear, mostly, were the songs from the first album, 1980's classic Iron Maiden. The show was advertised as focusing on that album, and it did (as well as a few songs from the follow-up, 1981's also classic Killers). Paul's voice isn't as preserved as well as, say, Rob Halford's; he's more like Ozzy Osbourne: it's not about being technically perfect, it's about having a lot of heart, and Paul does. What struck me during the show was that he could have just as easily been in a punk band as a metal band: he seems as influenced by Johnny Rotten as by any hard rock singer. Some fans looked annoyed when he spit out the lyrics to "Murderers in The Rue Morgue" hardcore punk style. It's hard to imagine him staying with Maiden much longer than he did. I could maybe picture him singing the songs on Number Of The Beast, but after that, no way.  Powerslave?  No way.  This dude would sooner kick your ass than sing "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner."

So, anyway, the show: was it as great as Maiden were in the early '80s? I doubt it. But it was probably more satisfying to the fans of the old stuff than Maiden's recent tour, where they focused on material from their last decade. And much cheaper: tickets tonight were $15 and $20. And hearing "Running Free," "Remember Tomorrow," "Killers," "Murderers In The Rue Morgue" sung by the guy who first did the vocals for them all those years ago, it was worth the price.

A bittersweet moment of the show came when Paul dedicated a song to original Maiden drummer Clive Burr, who now suffers from MS (Maiden have done fundraisers to raise money for him to help pay his medical bills). Apparently Clive isn't doing very well, but Paul talked fondly about always getting into trouble with with him and founding guitarist Dave Murray (who is still in the band).  Perhaps more surprisingly, he talked about Maiden's bassist and boss, Steve Harris, saying that he doesn't hate Steve, and in fact they are still great friends. Although he did mention that this tour was to say thanks to the fans  "because my old band aren't doing anything for the 30th anniversary."

He also mentioned that next year, he's doing one last album and one last tour (where he'll play his solo material, not Maiden music) and then retire to his home in Brazil and run his tattoo shop.  I can see why he'd do that - it can't be easy to do these kinds of tours, it probably isn't super luxurious and he was tired by the end of the night. But I was glad to have had the chance to see one of my favorite metal singers doing some of my favorite songs ever, so thanks Paul for making this last go-round.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

THE COCKTAIL SLIPPERS NEW SINGER IS...

The other day, when I was making my weekly appearance on SiriusXM OutQ show The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick, I played the latest single from The Cocktail Slippers, "It's Christmas." Longtime readers of this blog and listeners of Larry's show know that I am a huge fan of The Cocktail Slippers.  St. Valentine's Day Massacre was one of my favorite albums of 2009.

But the ladies recently announced that their singer was leaving the band, which is always tough for a group.  I was wondering what the deal is, and I know guitarist Rocket Queen a bit, so I asked her.  Here's what she told me: "The new Cocktail Slippers lead singer is the talented Ms Liberty. Till now Liberty has been playing keys in Cocktail Slippers. We are extremely excited about her doing the lead singing and we are so much looking forward to touring lots in 2011. The release date for the new album has not been set yet by the way..."

I can't wait to hear new music from the new lineup. For those of you who have been reading No Expiration for a while, you know that I generally write about well-known groups. The Cocktail Slippers really aren't that well-known in America, but that should change. They are one of the best new bands I've heard in the past decade.  Forget about all that animal collective stuff, and whatever else rock critics are going gaga about. The Cocktail Slippers are more fun, more rocking and better than most of the bands who are getting tons of hype these days.

Little Steven produced their last album (hopefully he'll work with them on this one also), and I read where he said it was one of the best records he ever worked on.  To remind you of what else is on his resume... Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town and Born In The U.S.A. to name just three.  But I don't think he was exaggerating.  It is a really great album, please check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

COOL ALBUM ALERT: MUMFORD & SONS - SIGH NO MORE

Hopefully by now, you've heard of Mumford & Sons.  They are a sort of traditional folk quartet from England who remind me a lot of a smaller, British version of Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions Band. And I'm not sure how this happened, but they've become huge in the past year. Nearly 775,000 people "like" them on Facebook, and they have nearly 14,000,000 views on their video for "Little Lion Man," a huge hit that I've heard on top 40 radio and which will be on VH1's Top 40 Videos of 2010 tomorrow night.

Actually, scratch what I said before, I do know how they've been so successful.  They write great songs, they sound like they are absolutely committed to what they do, and they aren't trying to conform to any trends. I imagine a lot of other bands watch them with envy and admiration. It's clear that they've stuck to what their original vision was, and they are very successful doing it, despite the fact that they don't resemble any other top 40 artists these days (or this decade, or the last few decades).

I'd heard that there was a huge buzz around this band, but I didn't get around to checking them out, until I found out that I would be filming a performance by the band at my day job. So I figured I'd pick up the album, and I was pretty blown away the first time I heard it. Great songs, great playing, great arrangements and great singer. In some ways they actually remind me of The Dave Matthews Band. Not sonically.  But when I first saw The DMB on one of the small stages at the H.O.R.D.E. festival years ago, I thought they sounded great, but didn't think the public would buy into them en masse. I mean, a violinist, a sax player, no electric guitar, bi-racial... it's too much for people to understand. But Dave wrote great songs, and really didn't care about any trends, he has always been true to himself, and we all know how that turned out. Who knows, maybe it will work out that way for Mumford & Sons.  Which will make this session that I filmed all the more special.  Check it out: this is a performance of a song called "Sister" which they have yet to release. The entire performance blew me away, but this unreleased song seemed to be a really cool moment.

FRIDAY NIGHT: NO EXPIRATION ON VH1 - TOP 40 VIDEOS OF 2010

For the second year in a row, VH1 invited No Expiration to be a "pundit" on their year end video countdown. Full disclosure: I worked at VH1 for years, and they would occasionally ask me to comment on one of their shows, generally when a "real" pundit cancelled at the last minute and they had already paid for a crew. But I got good at being an interviewee (mainly because I was usually the interviewer, and I knew what they were looking for).

Last year, there were lots of rock bands on the countdown, which is why I got the call, but they used my comments on lots of pop artists too.  This year, the list is much more pop-heavy, but I had a great time being interviewed.  Thanks again Rick H and Rob N for thinking of me, and Riley M for two fun interviews.

For some reason, they've posted most of the videos (but not the top five) here, and people who watch VH1's countdowns (or the pop charts) can probably make good guesses of what topped the list. As seen above in a graphic created by VH1, Adam Lambert, Katy Perry, Kid Rock and Bruno Mars have made the cut. There were a lot of questions about Katy Perry's anatomy in the interview.

I was glad that Mumford & Sons' "Little Lion Man" is on the list, I've written about them before.  They are one of my favorite new bands (even though they sound like they're from 1945). Also on the list: Muse, whose "Resistance" is one of he best songs of the past two years. One of the best videos of the year is Jack Johnson's "At Or With Me" which features Saturday Night Live's Andy Sandberg, I'm glad that made the cut.

Not that I only enjoy the more "rock" artists on the list.  I definitely dig P!nk's "Raise Your Glass," which is a great 2010 anthem (despite the lazy lyric "if you're too school for cool"), and also the Lady Gaga/Beyonce duet "Telephone." Also the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys classic "Empire State Of Mind" and both Eminem tracks, "Not Alone" and "Love The Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna. Anyway, tune in and find out what song is #1!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: CHRISTMAS SONGS AND LAST MINUTE GIFTS

For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning I go on the SiriusXM channel OutQ as a guest on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick (and co-host comedian Keith Price) and talk about music. Well, today was Wednesday and I spent my time on the show talking about the 2011 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tomorrow I will be making a rare Thursday morning appearance to talk about some important stuff. Namely, some new rocking holiday jams!  And speaking of jams, some last minute gifts that may get you out of a jam if you've been procrastinating on your shopping!

First off, and most importantly to me, The Cocktail Slippers. They have a new digital single, "It's Christmas," which is a tribute to the great Wall of Sound Christmas songs (and holds it own next to those classics).  No Expiration readers know that I love this band, their last album, St. Valentine's Day Massacre, was one of my two favorite albums of 2009. They've gone through some lineup changes, but I think this single features the same people who were on St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Changing members is scary, but I definitely look forward to hearing their new music, it will be one of the albums I most eagerly anticipate in 2011, along with Social D's new one.

It turns out that David Bowie and Bing Crosby's incredibly uncomfortable looking "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" made a big impact on comedians. I have a new version of it by Jack Black and Jason Segel. See a cartoon video here. Meanwhile, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did a new version for Funny Or Die.

Annie Lennox has a new album called A Christmas Cornucopia. For some reason I can accept this kind of thing more from her than I could from Sting. It's like, she's hard to criticize, and she does a great job on the songs I've heard so far.

I've been a fan of The Indigo Girls forever, but I was surprised for some reason to find out about their new album Happy Holly Days. It's cool.

Shelby Lynne is a great singer, despite winning a weird Grammy a few years ago (Best New Artist, although she'd released a number of albums by then) not a lot of people know about her. Or not enough people. I like her song "Ain't Nothin' Like Christmas" from her new album Merry Christmas (most of the  album is covers, but "Ain't Nothin'" is an original).

Paul Simon just released a new single, "Getting Ready For Christmas Day." It's actually a great song, it reminds me of his upbeat but still very lyrical '70s stuff. It's modern sounding, because it features samples of a gospel preacher recorded decades ago.  It's a great song, and I haven't enjoyed much of his recent material.

If you're a scroogy type, you may love Corey Taylor's single "X-M@$." He's the guy from Slipknot and Stone Sour, but this song sounds more like The Reverend Horton Heat. Watch the video here.

But let's end this on more of a positive note, kind of.  You know I love me some Ms. Sharon Jones. She has a new single, "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects."  She's just great, and this is a really fun song. Check it out!

Even though Hanukkah is over, I have to give it up to Matisyahu, whose music I don't generally enjoy.  But his Hanukkah single, "Miracle," is fantastic, and so is the video.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ALICE COOPER, TOM WAITS, DR JOHN AND DARLENE LOVE - CONGRATS

Well, congrats to the next class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees:   Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love. And Neil Diamond.

I'm glad that Alice Cooper is finally being inducted, and it is the band and not just the man who are being included. It was one of the greatest bands of the early '70s: the late Glen Buxton on guitar, Michael Bruce also on guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass and Neal Smith on drums.

Alice (the band) doesn't get enough credit because Alice (the man) kind of "sold out" early on, in the '70s, when it wasn't cool to do so. He did Hollywood Squares, The Muppet Show, etc. and more recently has shilled on commercials for office supply chains. But facts are facts, the original Alice Cooper (the band) influenced everyone. Not just heavy metal and glam rock, and yes, their silly bastard son hair metal. But also punk rock: The Sex Pistols, The New York Dolls and The Ramones, to name a few. Alice (the man) never felt the need to follow the orthodox rules of rock and roll, he also loved show business and decided not to sweat it. Listen to 1971's Love It To Death and Killer, 1972's School's Out and 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, all with the original band, they're amazing. Even Alice's first "solo" album, 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare, is great. I like some songs since then, and I won't front like I don't love the hair metal-ish "Poison" from 1989's Trash. And his recent anthem "Keeping Halloween Alive" is awesome. Alice Cooper would have been my #1 choice on my ballot if I were a voter.

Tom Waits is one of the only artists who has gotten weirder as he has gotten older, instead of the other way around. I've said this before, but I think that "weird" is an important part of rock and roll, and Tom Waits brings the "weird" like no one else. Of course there have always been a lot of artists who try and get by on "weird." But the thing about Tom Waits is, he has an incredible catalog of great songs. Artists from Rod Stewart to Sarah McLachlan to Bruce Springsteen recognizes this and has covered his amazing songs. Trends? If he's even aware of any, you wouldn't know it. Although he occasionally works with younger artists (notably kindred spirits Primus, on their classic collab "Tommy The Cat"), he's not really looking for what's hip. He seemed old even when he was young, and only seems to occasionally intersect with rock music. But he is sort of a big part of "alternative rock" in my mind. Not "alternative" in the marketing sense of course. But as an artist who rocks, but is going in a different direction than everyone else. Tom surely would have been on my ballot. A lot of people who love Tom, their favorite album is something from the '70s or '80s. Mine is 1999's Mule Variations. If I were a voter, I would have absolutely voted for Waits, and I would have done it long ago.

New Orleans is always cited as a big influence on early rock and roll, but other than Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint, I don't think there are many New Orleans artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the good doctor isn't getting in as a token for the proud city. Don't believe it? Start with his debut, Gris-Gris, it is bad ass. He is combining more traditional R&B with psychedelic rock, kind of like a New Orleans version of what so many other rock acts were doing. Younger fans may recognize the song "I Walk On Guilded Splinters," which was sampled by Beck on "Loser." Another great one to check out is 1972's Dr. John's Gumbo, which has one of his more famous songs, "Iko Iko" (like most of the album, it is a cover). The album is a great introduction to New Orleans music, and I imagine that it did, in fact, introduce lots of people to these songs, just like Eric Clapton introduced people to the blues. He still makes great albums: 2008's The City That Care Forgot and this year's Tribal both are rockin'. If I were a voter, I would definitely have thought about voting for Dr. John.

Darlene Love, well that's an interesting one. You hear her a lot these days, because in December you hear lots of Christmas songs, and she sang one of the best ones ever: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (later covered by U2). She was an important part of Phil Spector's "wall of sound," singing on "Da Doo Ron Ron Ron," "He's A Rebel" and "Today I Met The Boy I"m Gonna Marry." Artists love her: she's sang backing vocals for Elvis, Cher and U2. Some people know her best for her acting: she played Danny Glover's wife in all four Lethal Weapon movies. Little Steven loves her, and I'm pretty sure he campaigned for her this time around. Well, good for him and good for her. Artists like her who were around at the beginning don't need to have a huge catalog, but when the songs they did count as much as Darlene's did, I guess that makes them Hall of Fame caliber. I look forward to Little Steven's speech about her!

Neil Diamond? I won't put the guy down, and I don't contest that he belongs in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I just don't think he's rock and roll.  I'm sure Robbie Robertson campaigned for this, and while I really admire Robbie, I don't usually agree with his taste.  Yes, Neil plays guitar and is backed by bass, drums and etc. But for my money, LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys are way more rock and roll, and they should have been voted in. Well, maybe next year.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers should get in next year also, so maybe it will be a rocking ceremony.

Monday, December 13, 2010

PAUL McCARTNEY AT THE APOLLO - AWESOME!

I had the great privilege tonight to see Paul McCartney's amazing concert at Harlem's Apollo Theater. It was an invite-only event put on by SiriusXM in honor of hitting the 20 million subscriber mark (I am an employee of the company, but the event was, rightfully so, for subscribers). (By the way, I didn't take this picture, my friend Jon, who is a subscriber, and won a ticket to the show, took this picture).

It was an incredible show (for a full setlist, check me out on Twitter, I tweeted each song as he played it). Ostensibly, he is promoting the 30th anniversary of what is maybe his greatest post-Beatles work, Wings' Band On The Run, and he played a bunch of songs from the album ("Band On The Run," "Jet," "Let Me Roll It" and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five"), but the setlist had tons of his songs from when he was fab. The opened with a very muscular version of  "Magical Mystery Tour," followed closely by "Drive My Car," "All My Loving" and even "One After 909."

Paul is one of the greatest songwriters of all time, even his detractors have to admit that. But he is also a great showman, and knows how to write a setlist.  He goes from totally rocking with songs like "Back In The U.S.S.R." to really quiet songs like "Blackbird" (which he said was inspired by the racial injustices in America). He can go from a pretty angry song ("I'm Looking Through You" is one of his meanest, it always seemed a bit out of character to me) and then the very next song was the tender "And I Love Her." And it's all believable.  I don't think he gets enough credit for the diversity of styles he has mastered, both musically and lyrically.

My highlight of the night, though, was his cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitchhike." He did it as a tribute to all the great performers who had played at the Apollo.  It was a bit messed up, the sound on the vocals went out during the song ("now you know it's a live radio broadcast," he joked afterwards) and he had to start over.  But it was a great performance and it featured go-go dancers, rocking it '60s style (if I had to guess, I would say Maureen Van Zandt, wife of Steven, was the choreographer). There were other guests - a children's choir - on "Wonderful Chrismastime," one of my least favorite Paul songs, but it was sweet. I loved when Paul put on the mandolin for his semi-recent classic "Dance Tonight." Another great moment was "A Day In The Life" which went into John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance." And, finally, the ending medley of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" which went into "The End."

Like Bob Dylan and Ozzy Osbourne, Paul couldn't do it without an incredible band.  These guys love Paul, and they love and respect his music. Keyboardist Wix has been with Paul since 1989 (the first tour I saw Paul on, Flowers In The Dirt), the other three guys have been with him since 2001: guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray and especially drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., who is not just a monster behind the kit, but also has a charisma and sense of humor that everyone love (especially, it seems, Paul). It doesn't just come off as the Paul McCartney review, these guys really make it rock and come off like a band.  Paul ended the night saying "See you next time," and I can't wait until "next time" comes around. At 67, the guy rocked for two hours, if you ever have the chance to see him, you should definitely go! He really works it: besides playing his main instrument, bass, he also switched to electric and acoustic guitar, piano and even mandolin. All these years later, he still rocks.

Oh and by the way, "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" was a hell of a lot of fun, I know people make fun of that song, but get over it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

CHECK OUT: ELIZABETH COOK - WELDER

Readers of No Expiration know that I'm not really the blogger writing about tons of artists that no one has heard of. I'm not trying to one-up everyone with my knowledge of obscure music! But I realize that not a lot of people know who Elizabeth Cook is. That's got to change, people!  Maybe it is changing: I read that both Paste and Rolling Stone named Elizabeth's Welder as one of their top albums of the 2010. I gotta represent and do my part, so I'm here to tell you that it's in my top 20 also (I'm still working on the whole list, but Welder is a lock, yo).

I discovered Elizabeth via SiriusXM's Outlaw Country (full disclosure, I work for the company).  Outlaw Country happens to be one of the reasons I subscribed to SIRIUS, before I worked there. I advise you to check it out, if you don't totally suck.  Anyway, Elizabeth's music gets played on the channel, but she's also the weekday morning DJ, and she's just awesome to listen to. Some musicians have a great personality, but it doesn't translate to their records, somehow.  That isn't the case with Elizabeth, Welder is great. She is one of the greatest country singers of our era.  She definitely belongs on Outlaw Country, which means that she's not mainstream Nashville, which means she's a bit harder to promote than the big country music stars you always hear about.  I don't knock them: I just think she's better. Her music rings truer. I don't know if all of her songs are about her, or if some are about her, it doesn't matter.  They all sound like they are about her when she's singing them.

On one hand, she's hilarious.  In "El Camino," she sings "if I wake up married, I'll have to annul it/right now my hands are in his mullet" and then there's "Yes To Booty," ("It's common knowledge 'round hree, when you say yes to beer, you say no to booty"). On the other, "Heroin Addict Sister" and "Mama's Funeral" are as sad as they sound, and you feel the hurt. But isn't that how life is?  There's fun, there's sex and there's also death.  She tackles all of it and doesn't flinch. She's a sexy chick who takes on life's less sexy realities.  And the songs are all tuneful (it's not just about the lyrics). She reminds me a bit of Loretta Lynn. She's funny, but her music also cuts really deep.

Not to make too big a deal of this, but Don Was produced the album. It sounds like he just backed off and let Elizabeth and the other musicians do their thing, that's what a good producer does sometimes.  But the guy has produced The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop and Willie Nelson to name a few, he knows his way around a great album. There are a few guests on the album - Buddy Miller (one of my favorite artists of the '00s), Dwight Yoakam and Rodney Crowell all show up as backing singers.

Anyway, if you trust me - and when have I led you wrong? - check out Welder, I bet you'll like it. I recently had the good fortune to be able to film her when she stopped by SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking studio, here's her performance of "Heroin Addict Sister." It was moving to be there. I still don't know if it is actually about her sister, but if felt like it was.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: CEE LO GREEN, KANYE WEST AND MORE

For those of you who are new to No Expiration: every Wednesday morning at 9 am ET (ish), I contribute to the SiriusXM OutQ show The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, where I talk about music. This week, I will discuss some of the last releases of 2010, also known as "Q4" records.  These are often albums that record labels have huge commercial hopes for.

First off is Cee Lo Green's The Lady Killer, his first solo album since forming Gnarls Barkley with Danger Mouse. I think there were high expectations for this album, based on the popularity of Gnarls, and also the huge success of the first single, "Fuck You," a huge viral hit over the summer. It doesn't seem to be doing that well, unfortunately.  I like it, but don't love it - there certainly aren't any songs as catchy as "Fuck You," and that song obviously isn't an easy hit.  Although it was nominated for a bunch of Grammys.  One great song on the album other than the single: his cover of Band Of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You." That was one of my favorite songs of the '00s, but Cee Lo owns it now.

I wish I liked Cee Lo's album as much as Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  Kanye's album is one of the best things I've heard this year. It is an incredible album. 

Also on the list for tomorrow: new albums by Kid Rock, Rihanna, Shakira, My Chemical Romance, Black Eyed Peas, Robyn and The Zac Brown Band.

KANYE WEST MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY

It's a great album, period. 

I recently tweeted that it's easy enough to ignore Kanye West's interviews and public outbursts, just enjoy the music. Besides his own records, he's produced great music for John Legend (who he pretty much helped to become a big star), Common, Mos Def and a bunch of other people. That's the way I feel.

I don't like the way he acts - I actually had my own run-in with him before his debut album came out. But it doesn't take away from his music. At the same time, his great music doens't excuse (to me) his lesser efforts.  On my Kanye scorecard, I really like his first two albums, 2004's The College Dropout and 2005's Late Registration. 2007's Graduation was ambitious and I really liked some of it, but overall, it didn't do it for me. And I just couldn't get into 2008's 808s & Heartbreak. Going into this album, I really dug the King Crimson-sampling single "Power," and didn't really like "Runaway." So I figured there was a 50/50 chance that I would like it or not. But I definitely really like it.

The opening track, "Dark Fantasy," produced by The RZA, pretty much announces that this isn't another synthy, autotuney 808s type album. But I think the second track is where it takes off: "Gorgeous," featuring Kid Cudi and Raekwon (who are both great, but the song would stand without their verses). It's a song that a rock band should re-work.  It features a cool sample of The Byrds' "You Showed Me." "Power," like I've said, is amazing. "All Of The Lights" is pretty wild, it features a ton of guest vocalists, including Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Elton John, John Legend and Fergie, among others.  

The centerpiece of the album, to me, is "Monster," a classic collab track, featuring Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and... Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Minaj kind of steals the show with a classic verse, but the real star is Kanye's track, he produced it. Another rocking track is "Hell Of A Life" which borrows liberally from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" (and in fact gives Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward songwriting credits). There aren't really any weak points on the entire album, and there are just so many highlights.  Yes, Kanye's attitude gets annoying, but it doesn't really ruin anything.

And by the way, even after listening to "Runaway" (the one that toasts "the douchebags and the assholes") I realized that it's actually a really good song (and would have fit in better on 808s).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

OZZY OSBOURNE 12-3-2010 : HAPPY 62ND OZZY!

Last night I went to see Ozzy Osbourne with Rob Halford at New Jersey’s Izod Center, hosted by SIRIUS XM Liquid Metal dude Jose Mangin (a friend of mine, I work there also). It was a special occasion – other than the fact that two of the most timeless icons of heavy metal were performing, it was also Ozzy’s 62nd birthday. What a great time.

The last concert I went to was Bob Dylan at Terminal 5, and in some weird way, last night’s show reminded me of that one. Here’s why. Bob Dylan, who was never a great singer in the classic sense of the word, has a voice that takes some getting used to. Some would say it hasn’t aged well. The Wall Street Journal, a respected publication in the world of the arts, suggested that Bob’s recent shows haven’t been very good (although their recent Bob article ends with someone blown away by the same Terminal 5 shows that I went to). Do I think Bob’s singing voice sounds great? No. But it’s what he sounds like at 69. The reason his shows are great, other than his ridiculous catalog of timeless songs, is that he happens to have a band that loves that catalog and does it justice.

Back to Ozzy. Ozzy also has never been a great singer in the traditional sense, and really, who cares. I don’t want to hear some opera trained metal show-offy singer doing those classic Black Sabbath songs (I hated hearing most of the post-Ozzy Sabbath singers doing his songs, no disrespect), or the songs from Blizzard Of Oz or Diary Of A Madman. Ozzy is the perfect singer for those songs, and for my money, they are some of the greatest songs of all time. As I said on TV – on Bio’s Black Sabbath documentary – Sabbath’s “War Pigs” is as good a protest song as anything Dylan did (credit goes to Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyrics). Another way Ozzy reminds me of Dylan is that, OK, his voice isn’t as strong as it used to be. But back off, he just turned 62! I appreciate and respect the fact that he’s singing live, not using autotune, etc. My seats last night were so good, I was watching carefully to see if anything wasn’t kosher. Ozzy didn’t hit everything perfectly, but he had a lot of heart, that’s what *I* care about. And he wasn’t faking it.

The last way I’ll compare Ozzy’s show to Bob’s is the backing band. Like I said, Dylan’s band loves his songs and they kind of carry the show. Dylan mostly stands behind his electric piano for most of the night. Ozzy does more heavy lifting, so to speak, but his band reveres him, and the material, just the way Dylan’s band does with Bob’s songs. Gus G. is a great guitarist, albeit not totally my style: he is totally a lightning fretboard pointy guitar guy. I’m glad he used a Les Paul for the Sabbath songs! I have to give it to him, he was great. Blasko (formerly of Rob Zombie’s band) has been with Ozzy the longest, and he is a badass bass player. The “new guy” is drummer Tommy Clufetos, who was an absolute demon on the drums. He also used to play with Zombie, as well as Alice Cooper. He looks like a young Bill Ward and is just a sick player. The band is rounded out by Adam Wakeman (son of YesRick Wakeman, and he also plays in Yes these days) on keyboards and guitar. The band love Ozzy, and they love his songs and bring real power to the performances.

The performances were great. I haven’t seen a solo Ozzy performance in years, I think it was Ozzfest 2000 (featuring another great band: Zakk Wylde, a pre-Metallica Rob Trujilio and Faith No More’s Mike Bordin), but he was way more intense last night. I think he is healthier than he has been in a long time. He opened with one of my favorites, “Bark At The Moon,” and the crowd was going crazy from the first few notes. He only played one song from the new album, Scream, the title track. I actually would have loved to have heard “Let It Die,” which opens the album, and maybe another song also. I was surprised that he skipped the new album, especially since it wasn’t an all “greatest hits” type set: he played some unexpected things, like “Fire In The Sky” and “Killer Of Giants” (both of which I could have done without – I also wish he played some more stuff from Diary Of A Madman), I would have loved to hear something from Black Rain and I also really dig “Gets Me Through,” which is one of my favorite Ozzy tracks. Of course for me, the highlights were the Sabbath songs, and I’m always interested to hear how Ozzy’s band interprets them. Since Gus G. put down the pointy guitar for the Sab tunes, I was cool with it – plus, they did some stuff I was surprised to hear: “N.I.B.,” “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Into The Void.” As well as “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.” It was a great show.

I have to mention Rob Halford, who opened with his band Halford. Last time I saw Halford, it was kind of Rob’s return to classic metal after the more modern metal sound of Fight and the techno-y sound of Two. Halford were playing his classic Judas Priest songs. But since Priest is now back together, Rob avoided any original Priest songs – sticking with Halford material, plus two songs that Priest have covered: Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” and the original Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi.” It was a great performance, and Rob’s voice hasn’t lost any of its range or power. By the way, I know I sometimes criticize operatic metal singers, but Rob is a different deal. Yes, he probably could sing for the opera if he wanted to, but he sounds so scary when he sings, it appeals to me, where many other technically proficient metal singers don’t. He was the perfect opener for Ozzy, I had a blast.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: STUFF YOU MAY HAVE MISSED - MUMFORD & SONS, SECRET SISTERS, GREENHORNES

For those of you who are new to No Expiration: every Wednesday morning at 9 am ET (ish) I can be heard on the SIRIUS XM OutQ show The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick. This week I'm talking about music you may not have heard yet.


The first artist is Mumford & Sons. Actually they are pretty huge, their music video for "Little Lion Man" has been viewed 13 million times or something on YouTube. But lots of people are just finding out about them now.  I describe them as a smaller, British version of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions Band. I had the opportunity to film them recently (I'll hopefully post a video soon) and was knocked out by how great they were.  Their debut album, Sigh No More, is probably one of the best albums of the year.

Another new group is Secret Sisters, an actual duo of sisters. They sound like they are straight out of O Brother, Where Art Thou, so no surprise that their self-titled debut album was exec produced by O Brother music supervisor T-Bone "Him Again" Burnett. I first heard the Sisters on a Third Man 7" single, produced by Jack "Him Again" White, and it has a much heavier, edgier sound than the album. But the album, which features originals, but also covers by Hank Williams and George Jones, is really good.

Speaking of Jack White and Third Man, they've just put out the first album in eight years by the great garage rock trio The Greenhornes, called ****. The reason the band were away for so long is because two of their members, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, played with Jack in The Raconteurs (and Lawrence in Dead Weather).

Black Dub is a new band led by the great producer Daniel Lanois and featuring singer Trixie Whitley, daughter of the late, great Chris Whitley. I just got this album, and it is really good. I'm going to write more about all of these albums, hopefully soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: REISSUES AND BOX SETS

Polish your debit cards, ya'll!  Later this morning on SIRIUS XM OutQ's The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick, I'll be talking about great gift ideas: namely reissues and box sets. 

Three of them I wrote about earlier tonight: Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town box set, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' deluxe reissue of Damn The Torpedoes, and David Bowie's deluxe reissue of Station To Station.

Also:

* The new Jimi Hendrix box set, West Coast Seattle Boy. A lot of it seems to be live and alternate versions of stuff. But it also has lots of recordings of Jimi as a sideman, before he went solo.  So you get to hear Jimi with The Isley Brothers, Little Richard and more. That's worth the price right there.

* R.E.M.'s reissue of their classic Fables Of The Reconstruction. Classic album, no question. But the bonus disc contains demo versions of the album.  Nice to have for fanatics, but for everyone else, the regular album should suffice.

* The latest installment of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, Volume 9. The Whitmark Demos features imperfect demo recordings from 1962-1964.  Some pretty cool stuff there, but not essential (I much prefer Volume 8, which covers 1989 - 2008).

* An Introduction To Syd Barrett is a single CD collecting Barrett's stuff with Pink Floyd and as a solo artist.  It's a great gift for people who don't know who he is - anyone who likes Floyd should be familar with this stuff, and if they're not, get this and help them out!

* And two Duran Duran dexlue reissues: they've re-releeased their Notorious and Big Thing albums, both with tons of extra stuff.

DAVID BOWIE'S STATION TO STATION REISSUE

Earlier this year, I spent an entire episode of my weekly "rock report" to SIRIUS XM OutQ's Morning Jolt with Larry Flick talking about David Bowie archival releases, and mentioned that a big Station To Station reissue would be out later this year.  Well, it's out!

Station To Station was a transitional album for Bowie, bridging the gap between the funky Young Americans and the more experimental Low, Lodger and "Heroes". I think Bowie has said that he barely remembers working on it, but that doesn't take away from its greatness. The 10 minutes + title track is awesome, but he also has shorter hit singles like "TVC15" "Golden Years."

I don't have the super dexlue version - it has vinyl and lots of collector item stuff.  The regular deluxe version has the album along with a 2 CD live album from the tour, and is really rocking.  Even if you have a remastered version of Station To Station, I recommend getting at least the deluxe version, if not the super deluxe one.

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS' DAMN THE TORPEDOES REISSUE

Earlier this year, the Classic Albums DVD series put out a really cool documentary on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' amazing album Damn The Torpedoes. Maybe that gave his former label the idea to reissue a deluxe version of the album. Unlike, say, Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town, there weren't a hell of a lot of extra songs.  But like Darkness, perfect at 10 songs, Torpedoes is perfect at 9.

Still, this deluxe reissue is fun: it has a few outtakes that we've heard before (like "Casa Dega") and at least one that I'd never heard ("Nowhere"). A couple of demos and some live tracks rounding it out. It's cool stuff, but really, I'll probably always just want to reach out for the album itself.  It's classic perfect, and doesn't need anything added or subtracted.  And that said, the reissue and DVD make a great gift for the Petty friend in your life!

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - THE DARKNESS BOX SET

It's worth every cent.

Well, let me mention that Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite artists of all time, and Darkness On The Edge Of Town is probably my favorite album by him. But the box set is really worth the bucks if you love the album like I do. Here's what the deluxe version contains:  first of all, the album remastered.  Bruce has never allowed a remastering of his catalog, other than Born To Run which got the box set treatment a few years ago.  Two more discs contain all songs that didn't make the album - this collection is called The Promise, and is available seperately as well. And there are some great things on that, including Bruce's previously unreleased studio versions of "Because The Night" and "Fire."

One DVD (or blu-ray disc) features the documentary on the making of the album which really enhances your appreciation for the record (much like the doc in the Born To Run box set did). Another disc shows a stripped down version of the E Street Band performing the album, in order, to an empty theater.  It's Bruce, Little Steven Van Zandt on guitar, Gary Tallent on bass, Roy Bittan on piano, Clarence Clemons on sax and Max Weinberg on drums with Charlie Giordano on organ. Basically the guys who played on the record, plus Charlie sitting in for the late Danny Federici.  No Nils, Patti or Soozie, no backing singers. It's a lean, mean, rock album. The performances on this disc, beautifully shot by Thom Zimmy (who also shot and directed the documentaries, and most of Bruce's video stuff in general) show how well the music has aged, and how well the band has aged.  This was shot a few months after the last tour ended. Hopefully it's not the last thing they do together. The disc also features archival footage of the band from '78. And another disc features a full concert from the Darkness tour.

The package is a replica of Bruce's notebook from the era. It really feels voyeristic going through all of this sometimes. But what I learned from it is that, on top of everything else, Bruce has great instincts. Yes, there are great songs on The Promise, but none of them would really fit in on Darkness. Yes, "Because The Night" is one of the best songs he ever wrote... but the truth is, Patti Smith's version is better. "Fire" is awesome, but The Pointer Sisters did it better! All the extra stuff on this box set just proves how perfect Darkness was without anything more than those ten songs! And still, going through all this stuff is a great trip. I imagine Bruce's next move will be a new album (I'd bet it will be without The E Street Band) before he hits his vaults again. But I hope we don't have to wait five years for The River box set (or ten for Nebraska!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BOB DYLAN BLOWS MINDS AT TERMINAL 5

Unbelievable.  A few montths short of his 70th birthday, Bob Dylan rocked a club right off of New York City's West Side Highway, Terminal 5. T5 doesn't make it easy - if you don't get there early enough to get a great spot, you have to work hard to see the stage. It's no secret that Bob has a spotty live reputation, and in fact, I stopped going to see Dylan shows at some point in the '00s, after seeing some "eh" Dylan concerts. But in the summer of 2009, I caught a show that renewed my faith, and a few months later, I went to see him again, and was knocked out again.  Tonight it was the same deal. He and the band made it worth the effort.

Like last time, he opened with a rocking version his gospel classic "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking," and he and his excellent band never let up.  Guitarist Charlie Sexton rejoined the band about a year ago now, and he definitely brings a new energy to the shows. I could take some flak for this, but I think Bob's current band is one of his best ever. Sexton is amazing, and bassist Tony Garnier is badass. I love the way Bob makes his setlist: lots of '60s classics, but lots of music from the past decade (Bob was one of my favorite artists of the '00s). "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," "Masters Of War" and "Like A Rolling Stone" work alongside "Things Have Changed," "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and "Jolene" (I actually wish he played more songs from my favorite album of 2009, Together Through Life).

Bob only played sixteen songs, and there were so many highlights: "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking," "This Wheel's On Fire," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Things Have Changed," "Workingman's Blues #2," "Thunder On The Mountain," "Jolene" and "Like A Rolling Stone." My favorite parts, though, were his impassioned vocals on "Hard Rain," "High Water (For Charlie Patton)," "Masters Of War," "Highway 61 Revisited" and most of all "Ballad Of A Thin Man." The fact that it's so hard to come up with a highlight of a 16 song set by a nearly 70 year old performer kind of speaks for itself. Well, I hope this tour really is "neverending" - I'm definitely on board next time the man comes to town.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FISTFUL OF MERCY AT THE APOLLO - AMAZING!

Last night I went to the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Fistful Of Mercy. I've written about them before: they are a supergroup that features Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison. They also feature violinist Jessy Greene. Longtime No Expiration readers know that I'm a huge fan of Ben's, but it was interesting to see him in this different context: he wasn't the bandleader, he was one of three singer/songwriters. Actually, this was my second time seeing them: I had filmed an in-studio performance with them at my day job a few weeks ago (see below).

Radio performances are cool.  But there's nothing that compares with a group playing in front of an audience, and add the mojo of the Apollo to the mix, and you have everything you need for a great show. Fistful definitely delivered on that! They played mostly songs from their recently released debut album, As I Call You Down, including my two favorite songs "Things Go 'Round" and "Father's Son." The highlight of the show, for me, may have been their cover of PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love." That was a trip for me, since (a) it is the title track of one of my favorite albums, and (b), I saw Ben and The Innocent Criminals open for PJ at the Beacon Theater when she was touring for the album of the same name. Fistful's cover really knocked me out.  I also loved their cover of Bob Dylan's "Buckets Of Rain" (from Blood On The Tracks).  I don't want to write much about Dhani's resemblence to his dad, but watching him sing a song by his dad's good friend and bandmate gave me chills.  I also loved their cover of The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes," maybe Lou Reed's finest moment. They did one of Ben's songs, "Please Me Like You Want To" and also the one Joseph Arthur song that I really know, "In The Sun."

Maybe even better than those songs was the album's closer, which ended the show, "With Whom You Belong."  It was a super powerful moment, they unplugged their instruments and went to the edge of the stage, and played them unamplified. The song isn't a hit, but the words are easy enough to remember, and everyone in the audience sang along.  It was really powerful and also really fun. I think this is what they will close their shows with in twenty years.  They seemed to enjoy performing together, I bet they'll be doing Fistful off and on for a long time.  Here's hoping they do.