Sunday, February 27, 2011


So, I don't write too much about movies here, but since I've seen all ten films nominated for Best Picture, I thought I'd give this year's Oscars a post on No Expiration.  (Also, I'll be on SiriusXM OutQ's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick talking with Larry and Keith Price about the Oscars tomorrow morning).

But I'll start with music. The one category where I really want someone to win is Best Score, which is a really tough category. I am definitely a fan of A.R. Rahman, who previously did really well at the Oscars with Slumdog Millionaire.  I love his score to 127 Hours. And Hans Zimmer is one of the greatest film scorers of all time, and the music in Inception was incredible. But my vote (if I were a voter) would go to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. They already won the Golden Globe for it.  I love the classic Hans Zimmer type score, and actually yesterday I watched Inception and Social Network back to back: I just think Trent's score did a bit more for Social Network than Hans' did for Inception.

Best Song, I go with A.R. Rahman's "If I Rise" from 127 Hours, which he co-wrote with Dido and her brother/Faithless bandmate Rollo Armstrong. I always like Randy Newman's songs, and he did a nice one for Toy Story 3, but I'm with Rahman on this one.

Here's my rundown of Best Picture nominees:

Black Swan: I didn't know that I'd be that interested in a film about ballet, but it was incredible. Darren Aronofsky is a master director at the top of his game.  Lots of hype over how much Natalie Portman prepared for the role of a ballerina, but what impressed me more was how she portrayed a woman slipping into madness.

The Fighter: really gripping film based on a true story about a boxer who had to weigh his career against his (dysfunctional) family ties. David O. Russell is a great director, and I think it's Mark Wahlberg's best role ever (I think he's kind of one-note in many of his movies, he showed more depth here). Great use of Boston music in this Beantown-based film, by the way.

Inception: Loved it, but it's not for everyone. Director Chistopher Nolan is one of the best there is. A real head trip of a film.

The Kids Are Alright: Wonderful smaller film. Loved everything about it. Except one thing: how did they not use The Who's song?

The King's Speech: The kind of movie the old-guard loves. Yeah, we make millions of dollars a year on exploitative, cynical, pandering, dumb movies.  But hey, sometimes we can get our "masterpiece theater" on and be all high culture!  Uplifting message! Historical! True story!  Helena Bonham Carter! My cynicism aside, it was a very good movie, but not one I'd vote for against the rest of these.

127 Hours: Amazing movie, and I'll never watch it again! Danny Boyle is another unbelievable director, and James Franco, one of the best young actors out there. And A.R. Rahman's music is its own character.

The Social Network: some have said that it will age quickly and not well.  I don't know about that. David Fincher, another one of the greats, took what could have been a dull story, and made a thrilling movie. And Trent Reznor's music it its own character.  I think a lot of young voters may vote for this - but there's more older voters, so I bet King's Speech wins.

Toy Story 3: just a wonderful film.  Everything worked, and this is one people be watching as long as they are watching movies. It easily wins Best Animated Film, don't think it wins Best Picture.

True Grit: great western. The Coen Brothers are back in No Country For Old Men mode, after last year's really really boring Oscar nominated A Serious Man. A brutal, badass film. Jeff Bridges was incredible, and so was Hailee Steinfeld. Someone asked me how could possibly be in a western, but he did well.

Winter's Bone: has the least amount of hype, no stars, and I bet 75% of people watching the Oscars tonight haven't even heard of it.  Hopefully that changes.  It's a phenomenal film, and the star, Jennifer Lawrence was incredible.

If I were a voter, I'd probably be deciding between Winter's Bone, Social Network and The Kids Are Alright, but I think The King's Speech will probably win.

Best Actor: Javier Bardem from Bituful (which I've also seen), Jeff Bridges from True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg from Social Network, Colin Firth from King's Speech and Oscar co-host and 127 Hours co-star James Franco are nominated. I have no idea how I'd vote for this one, they were all incredible, but I bet Firth wins.

Best Actress: Annette Benning from The Kids Are Alright, Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman are nominated along with Nicole Kidman from Rabbit Hole and  Michelle Williams from Blue Valentine (I haven't seen the latter two). I predict Benning wins, and she would deserve it, although I also loved Portman and Lawrence.

Best Supporting Actor: The Fighter's Christian Bale, Winter's Bone's John Hawkes (who I'd never heard of), Mark Ruffalo from The Kids Are Alright, Geoffrey Rush from The King's Speech and Jeremy Renner from The Town. I really liked Ruffalo, but I'd probably eliminate him, but I don't know how I'd vote for the other four.  As for my prediction, I think Rush will win, but Bale could take it.

Best Supporting Actress: this is the only easy category for me, I'd go for Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit, other than the fact that she was really the star of the film and should be up for Best Lead Actress.  The Fighter's Melissa Leo and Amy Adams were both really intense. I like Helena Bonham Carter too - I haven't seen the other film, Animal Kingdom, whose Jacki Weaver was nominated.

Best Director: don't think I could even decide here, it's a bunch of my favorite directors all at the top of their respective games: Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky, The Fighter's David O. Russell, The Social Network's David Fincher and True Grit's Coen Brothers.  The King's Speech's Tom Hooper is also nominated. I have no idea who will win this one.

I've only seen two of the Best Documentary features.  I liked the well-hyped Exit Through The Gift shop, not least because it skewers "cool."  It shows how easily hipsters are duped. That said, I hope Restrepo wins, it is a doc about what American soldiers go through in the Middle East.

Adapted screenplay is 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter's Bone. And original screenplay: The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech and Another Year (which I want to see).  I think Social Network and King's Speech win, respectively. I'd probably vote for Social Network and The Kids Are All Right.

As I said, I'll be talking about the Oscars tomorrow on The Morning Jolt; I'll also be tweeting a bit tonight at @noexpiration.

Friday, February 25, 2011


DJ Kool Herc is one of the founding fathers of hip-hop music. In the early '70s, he started the practice of finding the "break" on records - the part that got people most excited - and extending it. He did this by having a sound system with two turntables.  He'd have two copies of the same record, so he could keep repeating the same part of the song.  He also yelled stuff at the crowd over the music - later known as "rapping" - and referred to the dancers as b-boys and b-girls.

He influenced some of the major early hip-hop DJs, like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. But unlike those guys, he didn't really start making records, so although he influenced the creation of hip-hop, he didn't do anything that would create an income stream for him through his life.

Unfortunately today, he doesn't have health insurance, and due to illness, he's been dealing with spiraling medical costs that he really isn't able to pay (like many Americans). So, there's a movement to raise money to help him pay.  Of course, someone like Diddy or Jay-Z could probably sell one of their watches or rings and have enough money to help out Herc. You can contribute at Herc's website if you want.

I had the privilege to film the "Hip-Hop For Herc" event on SiriusXM Backspin recently: Chuck D. hosted, and Treach from Naughty By Nature, Dres from Black Sheep, Doitall from Lords Of The Underground, Kangol Kid from UTFO, Dana Dane, JDL from The Cold Crush Brothers and Lil' Fame from M.O.P. all took part.  During the show, some of the artists did impromptu performances of their big songs.  Here are two of them: Treach doing "O.P.P./Uptown Anthem" and Dres doing "The Choice Is Yours."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


If you've been reading No Expiration for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of The Drive-By Truckers. So I was really excited to see the doc about the band, The Secret To A Happy Ending (it's a quote from one of my favorite Truckers songs, "A World Of Hurt").

It goes into the story of frontman Patterson Hood and his father, David Hood, who played bass at Muscle Shoals studio, playing for the likes of The Staple Singers and Otis Redding. Hood and Mike Cooley's relationship gets a lot of time, including their former band, Adam's House Cat. It also goes into, but without much detail (appropriately) former guitarist/singer Jason Isbell and bassist/singer Shonna Tucker's divorce. It also looks at why the band have connected in such a strong way with fans (I feel like they are one of very few bands that have connected in a really strong way in the past decade or so).

The DBTs seem to be coming into their own now, and they seem to be getting new fans every year.  This is a great film to watch to learn about them, whether you've been a long time fan or you're just starting out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The Lemmy documentary is finally out on DVD and BluRay. Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch covers his early life, his days in Hawkwind and of course Motorhead, as well as his status as an icon, his fixation with nazi memorabilia, his love of rockabilly and early rock and roll, and the many women he has had trysts with.

You know me, I really only care about the music, and this film is a great argument for Lemmy and Motorhead's incredible influence. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujilio, Jason Newstead, Dave Grohl, Henry Rollins, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Slash, Mike Inez, Mick Jones of The Clash, Peter Hook of Joy Division, Lars Fredericksen of Rancid and many others gave testimonials to the band's impact. I definitely believe that heavy metal would be different had Motorhead not existed. But, Lars Fredericksen and Rollins and members of The Damned point out, his influence extended well beyond metal into punk rock as well.

I have to say, I find his nazi stuff collection off-putting. He says that he's the farthest thing from a nazi, using the fact that he's had eight black girlfriends as proof.  I don't know that that's a really great argument, and I'd really like to know why he is so into that stuff, but on the other hand, Lemmy doesn't really need to explain himself to anyone.

I haven't gotten around to watching the extras - what I really want to see is Metallica's set of Motorhead covers as "The Lemmys" for Lemmy's 50th birthday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


For those of you who are new to No Expiration, you can hear me (almost) every Wednesday morning at 9 am ET on the SiriusXM Channel OutQ on the show The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick. Every week I talk about music. Surprise!

The last few weeks, I've been pretty Grammy focused. Tomorrow, I'm talking about older music.  I mean, hey, if you still have those Amazon or iTunes or Barnes & Noble gift cards, you wanna use them, right?  (And if you have a Borders gift card, you really want use that one sooner rather than later!). Here's some ideas on what to use them on.

Last year, Sony Legacy released a new Jimi Hendrix box set, West Coast Seattle Boy. 4 CDs and a DVD, but it's mainly for the aficionados, I wrote a review of it here.  It's mostly hard-to-find stuff (disc 1 is all music from his days as a sideman) and alternate versions.

Bob Marley & The Wailers' Live Forever on Universal, is a recording of the man's final concert, recorded in September of 1980, just months before he died. It's pretty powerful stuff, although the sound quality starts to crap out towards the end.

Sony has also just re-released George Michael's 1987 album, Faith. Because of many reasons, people have forgotten that in 1987, he was really big - he was a peer of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson. This reissue reminds you why.  Disc 1 features the album, Disc 2 is B-sides and dance remixes and Disc 3 is a DVD with an interview from the era, a doc on his Faith tour and his music videos from the album. If you're a George Michael fan, you should definitely pick this up.

Finally, it seems that Sony has acquired the Phil Spector catalog, and they are releasing single CD compilations from some of his artist.  Tomorrow I'll have best of albums by The Ronettes and The Crystals.


Late last year, Sony Legacy and Experience Hendrix released a new Jimi Hendrix box set, West Coast Seattle Boy.  Sony signed a deal with the Hendrix Estate for the Jimi catalog, and to put out more unreleased recordings, and create new box sets.  There's lots of deleted box sets from Warner Brothers and Universal, so what can Sony Legacy offer that we haven't gotten? (And by the way, I'll state here that Legacy provided me with a promo copy so I can write about it for you).

Well, one cool thing is that on disc 1, it's all music that pre-dates Jimi's solo career. It's hard to believe that there hasn't been a (non-bootleg) collection like this before, but it's cool to have all of this stuff together in one place. There's well known artists like Little Richard and The Isley Brothers, lesser known artists like Don Covay and King Curtis and people I'd never heard of (Rosa Lee Brooks, The Icemen). As a liner notes writer myself, I appreciate the liner notes - they really explain all of these groups and detail Jimi's involvement with them. Although Jimi's virtuosity isn't the focus of any of these songs, it's interesting to hear him try and get some shine even though he's a hired hand. I would say disc 1 is the main reason to get this.

Another part that I loved is on disc 2, there's six songs recorded in Jimi's hotel room in New York in March of 1968.  It's just Jimi on electric guitar and singing, accompanied on two songs by Paul Caruso on harmonica and vocals. Raw but stripped down versions of Bob Dylan's "Tears Of Rage," "Hear My Train A'Comin'," "1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be)," "Long Hot Summer Night," "My Friend" (which I hadn't heard before) and "Angel." The rest of the box features lots of outtakes, unreleased versions and unreleased mixes. It's not quite essential, it's pretty much for completists.  But, seeing how Jimi died at 27, it's understandable that people would want to hear every last note.

The other cool thing about this box set is the DVD, which contains a documentary, narrated in Jimi's own words, from his interviews and letters to his father.  Bootsy Collins reads the narration as Jimi, and is surprisingly sedate and sensitive.  It's a cool approach and it works well. It you're a big Jimi fan, you've probably read most of the interviews that the doc draws from, but this puts it together in an interesting new way.  Which is, I guess, what Sony does with Jimi's material on this box set.

If you're new to Jimi, my advice is get the three studio albums that he released during his lifetime: Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. After that, go for First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (the studio album Jimi was working on at the time of his death), BBC Sessions and Band Of Gypsys. Then Live At Monterey and Live at Woodstock if they are in print. Those are the essentials. But you can't go wrong with Jimi's outtakes, they are better than most band's greatest hits!


Bob Marley is, by far, the most famous reggae musician of all time. He's one of the most influential songwriters ever. And arguably, the most universally loved musician in the world - I'm talking the whole world, not just the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. So, it's no surprise that his estate puts out a generous amount of new titles and reissues.  But I have to say, almost every Marley title I have is worth owning. (And I think there's some rule or law saying that I should point out when I get something for free to review - and I did get a copy of this from Universal Music).

And that's true of Live Forever, recorded on September 23, 1980 at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. It was the last concert he ever performed.  Recorded on the tour for his final album (or at least the final album released during his lifetime) Uprising, the show took place a few days after he collapsed while jogging in Central Park. You can't help wondering, while listening to the album, did he know?  Did any part of him realize that this would be his last concert?  I really wonder that during "Redemption Song," which he plays solo acoustic (backed by a percussionist).  And during the last song, the anthem "Get Up, Stand Up," which turned out to be the very last song he ever performed in public (I should mention here that, for some reason, the sound quality radically declines toward the end of the album).

If you're going to get one live Marley album, is this the one to get?  I don't know.  I would maybe go for Live! or Babylon By Bus first. But this is a great album (the sound quality towards the end notwithstanding). The songs that have been sticking out to me most, other than "Redemption Song," are "Burnin' and Lootin'" and "Them Belly Full." At this point, Bob was as far from the streets of Jamaica as he would ever be, but he never lost touch. But those songs obviously apply to what is going on today.  Now, as then, our leaders would do well to listen to the lyrics, especially of "Them Belly Full." I think if Bob was still with it, he'd still be singing these songs, and they'd be as powerful and relevant as ever.


Over the weekend, music exec Steve Stoute bought a full page ad in the New York Times to post an open letter to Neil Portnow, NARAS and The Grammys. You can read it at The Huffington Post. Stoute is a hip-hop guy, and cites some embarrassing Album of The Year gaffes, including 2001 when Steely Dan beat out Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP and 2008 when Herbie Hancock's Joni Mitchell tribute album beat out Kanye West's Graduation. Clearly he thought that Eminem's Recovery should have won this year, and it was beaten out by Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.

In 2001, I was not yet a NARAS member, but I remember being embarrassed anyway. Steely Dan's Two Against Nature was a surprising nomination to say the least, there was some excitement around the album as it was the group's first in 20 years or something. But I bet if you go to a Steely Dan concert today, their fans aren't calling out for songs from that album. Paul Simon's You're The One was also nominated. That was a really boring album, but I remember thinking that they would split the boomer vote. Also nominated was Beck's Midnite Vultures and Radiohead's Kid A. I figured those would split the white hipster vote and Eminem would win. I don't know how that didn't happen, but it certainly was an upset, and I have to think it was an embarrassment.

But not was bad as 2008. I doubt many people even knew that Herbie Hancock had released The Joni Letters. I don't really care about sales, but the record didn't feel like something that was important, and even jazz fans that I know didn't like it.  They felt that the "victory" was actually bad for jazz - the fact that people would be getting the album would ultimately be a turn-off to jazz neophytes, because the album wasn't that interesting. It beat out The Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (a solid record, but not an Album of the Year type album), Vince Gill's quadruple album These Days (a bit too niche) and, shockingly, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black. I could see Kanye and Amy canceling each other out, but I don't see how Herbie beat the Foo Fighters or Vince Gill. A real gaffe.

This year, Arcade Fire beat Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Now, I voted for Eminem, but I'm not that upset about Arcade Fire. They sort of symbolize the mainstreaming of indie rock, and their album seemed pretty solid. Since Album of the Year was given out at the end of the night, and Arcade Fire was the last performer, Stoute felt it was a set up of some kind. Maybe the producers of the show knew who the winners were, and I agree it's cheap to schedule the show like that. But it's not that big of a deal.

Where I really (respectfully) part ways with the guy is when he makes the case that Justin Bieber should have been Artist of the Year over Esperanza Spalding. He says, "Justin Beiber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist," and says "His cultural impact and success are even more quantifiable if you factor in his YouTube and Vevo viewership - the fact that he was a talent born entirely of the digital age and whose story was crafted in the humble method of being 'discovered' purely for his singing ability (and it should be noted that Justin Bieber plays piano and guitar, as evidenced on his early viral videos)."

I'll add that he also plays drums! There's no doubt in my mind that he's a talented kid. But none of those points make me feel like I should have voted for him as the Best New Artist. Sales are their own reward. So are views on YouTube and Vevo. I won't deny the kid's cultural impact. But I don't think that "biggest" = "best." Although I'm not an "anglophile" I was torn between Florence + The Machine and Mumford & Sons. Both artists have unique sounds, they ignore trends, and both were success stories with impressive sales in 2010. But I have no problem with Esperanza winning - she is also unique, clearly isn't motivated by commercial concerns, and is a good enough musician to have been an instructor at Berkley at age 20. Putting her in a category with Bieber (much less Drake and the other nominees) seems weird, but I have a hard time thinking that she somehow "robbed" Bieber. Agreeing to perform at the Grammys shouldn't be some kind of back-room deal that you are going to win anything, so I disagree with the point that Bieber was somehow "exploited" (the network decides what part of the ceremony they are going to advertise, and using Bieber to get viewers was a no-brainer). I submitted my ballot before I knew who was performing, and I think that was probably the case with most voters.

As Esperanza said in the press room, Justin will probably be fine, and if new people were exposed to her music, then I think the Grammys did us a service. Unless you think her album was bad (as opposed to just "irrelevant" based on sales), I don't see how anyone could have a problem with her victory. At any rate, her next album is going to be produced by Q-Tip, so hopefully people will be more open to hearing that one.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


So, it's been a week since the Grammys.  There were some people who deserved to win who won, some big upsets, some great performances, some bad ones. But the thing I keep thinking about is the tribute to those who have passed away in the past year.  They forgot to mention Guru from Gang Starr, who died in April of 2010.

By the way, this isn't a post to complain about how the Grammys ignore hip-hop, I don't really think that that's the case anymore. Mainstream hip-hop stars like Jay-Z and Eminem got a lot of recognition at the Grammys this year (and probably split a lot of votes by being pitted in some categories against each other).

Guru is one of the greatest MCs of all time, but Gang Starr never really sold tons of records.   Maybe because their music was a bit too complex.  Maybe because they weren't doing whatever was commercial at the time.  Maybe because their record label didn't know how to market them.  Most likely it was a combination of all of the above, and other reasons too. Maybe this is why they forgot about him.

It's not just that Guru was a great MC, although he certainly was. Another important point is that he is exactly the type of artist who worked to bring traditional forms of music to younger audiences. In the Gang Starr song "Jazz Thing," he named dropped (or referred to) Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman, all while giving a brief history of jazz music. This is the type of thing NARAS normally loves younger musicians to do.

And Guru wasn't just giving lip service in a song, either.  In 1993, he started his Jazzamatazz series of solo records (he ultimately released four volumes), which brought jazz music to a younger audience.  They weren't gimmicky made-for-TV-award-show-collaborations.  They weren't contrived duets albums, dreamed up by marketing departments and booked based on who owed who a favor. These albums were true collaborations, based on love of jazz and mutual respect. Vol. 1 marked the first time (I think) that a hip-hop artist did an album backed by a jazz band.  Over the series, he collaborated with Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Courtney Pine, N'Dea Davenport (from The Brand New Heavies), Jamiroquai, Angie Stone, Macy Gray, The Roots, David Sanborn and Herbie Hancock, among others. It's hard to imagine that these collaborators were really based on commercial expectations. It was all artists who wanted to do what jazz does: to make music that goes somewhere new.  And maybe take jazz to a new audience. That's what NARAS should always do, particularly with genres like jazz, blues, "world music" and classical.  Keep it alive, keep it from being a museum piece. That's what Guru did. I'm not even focusing on his positive messages in songs like "Tonz O' Gunz," either, this post will go on forever. But suffice to say, this is a guy who should have been celebrated by the Academy during his lifetime.  It's too bad that they couldn't pay tribute to him, even in death.

Another interesting point is the controversy around the winner of Best New Artist: upright bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding. If she fits into any category, I guess it would be jazz. She seems like exactly the type of artist who Guru would have collaborated on Jazzamatazz V, if he were still alive to record another volume. And an interesting postscript to all of this is two tweets from Q-Tip (another hip-hop artist who really brought jazz music to the hip-hop audience) posted the night of the Grammys. One, asking people to complain to NARAS boss Neil Portnow about the exclusion of Guru from the memorial segment. And also this one: which said, "I happen 2 b producing esperanza's next Lp. She is a sweet talented woman I wish the haters wld be more careful w/ comments". If Guru were alive, I bet he'd echo the same sentiment.


First off, the picture here is from Prefix, which I recommend you check out. I took pictures at the gig on my Droid phone.  I dig my Droid, but the camera lens isn't great - as you may have noticed by some of the other pictures I've posted from concerts!

Secondly, sorry for posting  a review days late!  Got home late Thursday, went out Friday night and saw five movies yesterday!

So, on to the review.  I was really looking forward to the show after the last time I saw the band at Brooklyn Bowl. It's interesting how different venues can change the vibe of a show. Brooklyn Bowl was a really rocking, general admission place, and the show was right before New Year's Eve. The show I saw this week was at the Paramount Center For The Arts in Peekskill, New York, a lovely theater that was about 55 miles upstate from NYC. Totally different vibe, but the thing about Drive-By Truckers is that they have several modes. They can play to the beer-y New York rock crowd (their cover of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" was perfect for that show) and also for an older, more sit-down crowd.

I loved the show in Peekskill.  I will say that one main difference from the Brooklyn Bowl show was that it was a bit more laid back - which makes sense, it was at a sit-down venue that hosts concerts by Robert Cray and B.B. King and folks like that. The show started a bit mellow, with Mike Cooley leading the band through "Carl Perkins' Cadillac." Cooley was amazing - I think he is a bit underrated because Patterson Hood is so much more high profile, but that's fine, the fans know that both guys are essential to the band's greatness.  "Ghost To Most" and "Marry Me" and "Self Destructive Zones" are incredible songs.  But Patterson had a great night too.  One of the highlights of the show was their cover of Warren Zevon's "Play It All Night Long" (" 'Sweet Home Alabama,' play that dead man's song...") sung by Patterson.  But my favorite part of the night was "Let There Be Rock" - no, not the AC/DC classic, but a song about the AC/DC classic (it's actually really about loving rock music, and also names Blue Oyster Cult, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads). It's one of those Patterson Hood "sermons" that damn near moves me to tears ("18 Wheels Of Love" and "A World Of Hurt" are the others).

The other highlight was their cover of a sort of obscure song by a guy named Eddie Hinton, "Everybody Needs Love," which is the centerpiece of their great new album Go-Go Boots. I'll do a separate post about that album, I'm still not sure if I love it as much as last year's The Big To-Do.  But I predict that that will be my favorite song of 2011, early as it is.  I'm an optimist, and I love songs like that.  I think it may be my "You Are Not Alone" for this year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I just read an article at called "Why Indie Rock Continues To Ignore The Drive-By Truckers, and What It's Missing."

Although The DBTs have recorded for indie labels, and handled themselves as an indie band, it never actually would have occurred to me that the super-anglo meek-seeming scene that has championed Pavement, The Strokes, Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend would have an appreciation for The Drive-By Truckers.  OK, that's a bit condescending, and I just posted a comment on the article that was a bit snide.  I guess The White Stripes came from the indie scene, sort of. The Afghan Whigs used to have indie support, sort of. I mean, when I think of independent music, I think of Ian MacKaye or Ani DiFranco. But that's not what people are referring to when they talk about "indie" music today.

Really, part of it is that they, like Bruce Springsteen or Bob Seger, honor the lives of everyday folks who work for a living and survive by the seat of their pants (sometimes only barely). That won't ever be "cool" to most of the people who worry too much about "cool." For the rest of us, thank god there's a band like this still around today.  I can't wait to get their album (on vinyl - that's pretty indie, right?) and the DVD of their documentary The Secret To A Happy Ending in the mail this week, and I'm looking forward to seeing them on Thursday. On Tuesday, they are playing the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. Thursday I'm going to see them at the Paramount Center For The Arts in Peekskill, NY.  I'm glad I'm going to that one.

Part of what the article, which is well written, postulates that, is that because they are so southern, notherners find it a bit off-putting. I would agree with that, except for the fact that Kings Of Leon came from the indie scene (to be fair, KOL has always seemed puzzled by this, and don't seem to care about indie-ness at all). I would be curious to hear indie types explain why the scene hasn't embraced The DBTs.


I always look forward to the Grammys, and, for the past few years, I've enjoyed watching the pre-telecast at This year, I'll say that the pre-tel (for me) may rival the tv broadcast: there will be performances by some of my favorite nominees, including Buddy Guy, Cyndi Lauper, Trombone Shorty, Mavis Staples and Betty Wright. I wonder if they'll all perform together - that seems like a lot of performances for the pre-tel, and they are all nominated in similar categories. But I'll definitely have it locked, I'm excited to see this.

For the past few years, Tia Carerre hosted the pre-tel (she is usually nominated for Best Hawaiian Music Album, and she is again this year). This year it's Best New Artist nominee Esperanza Spalding with Bobby McFerrin.

Back when I worked at VH1, I used to look forward to covering the Grammy Awards.  This would entail not just covering the regular show, but also the pre-telecast.  Over 100 awards are given out at the Grammys every year, but only about 1/10 are actually on the TV show - the rest are done in the pre-telecast.  For years, you would find out who won some of those awards during the show when they said, "Earlier this evening, so-and-so won the so-and-so Grammy..." and show a picture.  But lots of the coolest awards are given out at the pre-tel.

When I started covering the event, we had an interview room that we shared with (which back then wasn't as much of a priority to NARAS as it is now) so I interviewed anyone who won a Grammy who came through our room, regardless of whether they were of interest to VH1. So, besides getting to talk to some really cool musicians like Steve Earle and Lemmy, I also interviewed Tibetan monks, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Lord Of The Rings score composer Howard Shore. You'll see lesser known jazz, bluegrass, blues, gospel and classical musicians, and they often appreciate the accolades more than the huge stars that win during the regular broadcast. So, if you're around, log on and  catch the pre-tel!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Johnny Cash has been gone for a seven years, but he still looms large.  "Ain't No Grave," the title track from his final album (released earlier this year) is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Short Form Video category. It's a pretty extraordinary effort - it was created through an online project where people got to contribute frames to the video. Over 250,000 people contributed. Well, watch the below video - it explains the project and then shows the entire video.

"Ain't No Grave" has stiff competition: Eminem and Rihanna's "Love The Way You Lie," Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You," Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Gorillaz/Mos Def/Bobby Womack's "Stylo." I really like all of those, but I'd love to see "Ain't No Grave" win.   


I just wrote about what was probably my favorite music documentary of the past year, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage.  Another one that deserves mention is The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights. It's nominated against Rush in Best Longform Video at the Grammys tomorrow.  While I prefer the Rush flick, I think that Emmett Malloy did a great job on this. Ostensibly, it documented The White Stripes' 2007 tour of Canada, and instead of just doing arenas, they did lots of last minute performances in strange locations, including an old age home, a bus, and a Y. It showed a lot about Jack White's commitment to music and making it something that isn't just easy to get. The special shows were announced usually at the last minute, it wasn't the kind of deal where you buy stuff online via a presale from the comfort of your own home. Jack doesn't make it easy on himself either - he mentions that he plays old guitars that are difficult to keep in tune, he keeps his picks at the back of the stage so if he drops one, he has to rush to the back of the stage and not mess up the song, stuff like that. It's really part of Jack's entire aesthetic, it comes through in his music and also in the way he runs Third Man Records.

But the unspoken heart of the film is the relationship between Jack and Meg White, a relationship that seems too complicated to explain or describe in words or pictures. And we now know, that the film documented part of what was their last tour, as they just announced their breakup earlier this month.

If you haven't seen the flick, stop here.

The interviews with Jack and Meg tell a lot of the story: the relationship looks like it's getting uncomfortable. Of course, it's to be expected: while Jack always sticks with the storyline that they are brother and sister, everyone knows that they are ex-husband and wife. The fact that they are in a band together - a duo at that - is pretty amazing. It's a complex relationship, too: she encouraged him to date the woman who is now his wife, Karen Elson, and he hired her husband Jackson Smith to play guitar on Elson's debut album. Meg and Smith were married in a ceremony at Jack's house; Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs was married at the same ceremony. It's complicated.

But you can kind of see things coming to an end in the last scene. Jack and Meg are sitting at a piano, with Jack playing "White Moon," and Meg swaying and watching him.  There's one little moment, where she looks at him and then at the camera and then away.  Soon after, tears start flowing from her eyes. It kind of says everything. It really is a cool doc, and watching it for the second time, with the Stripes now in the rear view mirror, it takes on a lot more weight. It's rare that documentaries about music groups have such raw moments of honesty, and few of them are this poignant, lovely and sad at the same time. I was really sorry to hear that they were breaking up... but after watching this again, I kind of understand why.


There are 109 categories at The Grammy Awards, and number 109 is Best Longform Music Video. That's basically where concert videos and documentaries get their nominations.  I was really glad to see that directors Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden got a nomination in that category for the documentary Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage. I just watched it for the second time (I wrote about it in July when I first got the DVD).

Longtime No Expiration readers know that I'm an absolutely huge Rush fan. But before seeing this film, I really had no idea just how influential they are among other musicians. It's funny, I usually think that inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be voted in based mainly on influence on other musicians.  I wasn't sure they should be voted in based on my criteria, I actually thought they were a bit too left field for the hall.  But now I've changed my mind about it. Guys from Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, Pantera, The Foo Fighters... even Death Cab For Cutie! I was surprised not to see anyone from Pearl Jam, Living Colour and Soundgarden, I know guys from those bands are also fans.

It's interesting to see that in the past few years, rock critics have come around at least a bit to Rush. I remember a few years ago, Rolling Stone did a big piece on Rush, and that in itself was a big deal. I read that it was one of the most-read articles ever on the magazine's website. It was cool that they did it, but: sort of too little too late. While rock critics were condescending, there was a culture of fans being built around this band, and this film is a celebration of that. I'd love to see it win the Grammy. Even if it doesn't, I'd like to thank Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden for honoring something that has been so close to my heart for more of my life, and I bet a lot of other fans feel the same way.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Sade's 2010 album Soldier Of Love didn't seem to get too much attention from the media this year. but Sade's fans don't really need the media to sell them on records.  It was their first album in a decade, and the fans were ready for some new music.  But it did hit #1 on the charts, and it was one of the top ten selling albums of the year.

I'm glad that Sade got two Grammy nominations: "Soldier Of Love" is up for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and "Babyfather" is up for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals (Sade is a band, it doesn't just refer to the singer, Sade Adu, but also guitarist Stuart Colin Matthewman, bassist Paul Spencer Denman and keyboardist Andrew Hale).

I actually thought that the album might have gotten a ton of nominations, but I believe that that didn't happen because it came out so early in the year, and also that it didn't much media hype.  That may change next year when Sade hits the road with John Legend opening.


So, tonight I went to the Neil Young tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. This is part of a series of annual tribute concerts organized by promoter Michael Dorf, they are fundraisers for a number of great organizations that you can read about here.

The show was pretty good, not great. Admittedly, it's tough to get momentum for a show when every artist plays just one song. The source material was great, obviously, and most of the artists selected songs that really worked well.  But it was a bit like live band karoke night.

Not to say there weren't highlights, the easy #1 being The Roots' performance of "Down By The River." Supposedly, they stole the show a few years ago when the concert paid tribute to Bob Dylan with "Masters Of War," and tonight was their amazing return. Black Thought wasn't with them, guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas sang lead, with the ladies from Dirty Projectors (who guested on The Roots' How I Got Over) singing backup vocals. They also went into "Hey Joe," (another song about "taking out" your woman).  Incredible.

The other highlights for me was the Cowboy Junkies' performance of "Don't Let It Bring You Down" and Bettye Lavette's "Heart Of Gold," which she actually recorded in the '70s. Other cool moments came courtesy of Joan Osborne ("Old Man"), Aaron Neville ("Helpless") and Pete Yorn (the acoustic "Rockin' In The Free World").

A lot of the performances were very polite and reverent, but didn't really stand out. Throughout the show I was thinking that it would be so much cooler to see Neil performing these songs. To be fair, most of the performers would probably agree with me on that one.

I wonder when I'll get to see Neil perform these songs.  But the good news is that Neil's next tour is rumored to be a Buffalo Springfield reunion. Neil, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay performed as the Springfield at the Bridge School Benefit concert a few months back, and now word is they're going to tour next fall, which is awesome news: they broke up before I was born!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I had the hardest time voting in the Americana field, but Best Contemporary Blues Album was difficult also.

I was glad to see Solomon Burke's Nothing's Impossible nominated. It's a tribute to two great artists who are no longer with us: Solomon and also produced Willie Mitchell (who produced most of Al Green's greatest records). Willie died before the album was released, Solomon shortly after. This was one of my favorites of 2010, I was even kind of OK with his cover of Anne Murray's "You Needed Me." But what is most haunting about the album is the last song, "I'm Leavin'." I'm glad that the Grammys are paying tribute to Solomon at the ceremony (via a performance by Mick Jagger and Raphael Saadiq).

Dr. John is having a good year: he's getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month, and he has Grammy nominations for his contribution to The Princess and The Frog... in this category though, he is nominated for his album Tribal. I've got to check it out a bit more, but I love the song, "Manoovas," which features Derek Trucks (the Dr. digs The Allman Brothers Band I guess: he's the piano player on Gregg Allmans'great Low Country Blues album).

Buddy Guy's Living Proof was another of my favorite albums of 2010. The man is just badass. There's no cute hook or big name producer on the album. There's guest spots by Carlos Santana and B.B. King, but other than that, it's just Buddy and his band and they cook.

Talk about badases: Bettye Lavette is as bad as they come. Her album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook shows her taking a lot of iconic songs and making them her own. I don't mean to sound all "American Idol," but it's true. My favorite track on the album is her cover of Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy," and she would know!

The last nominee is Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who I am not as familiar with. I know he's an incredible guitar player, and I'm glad he is one of the guys out there really bringing the traditional blues to younger fans. But I haven't heard his album so I can't comment on it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Out of all the categories in this year's Grammy Awards, the most difficult for me as a voter was the Best Americana Album category. All five of the albums are incredible.

First is Rosanne Cash's The List, which came out in early 2010. The title is a reference to an actual list that her father, Johnny Cash, made for her of some of the greatest songs of all time, like "Long Black Veil," "Motherless Children" and "I'm Movin' On." It's mostly a solo album, but there are duets with Bruce Springsteen, Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Tweedy and Elvis Costello. It's a really great and moving album (and kind of seems made for the Grammys, I was kind of surprised it didn't get more nominations, but the fact that it came out so long ago probably worked against it).

Los Lobos' Tin Can Trust was one of my favorite albums of 2010, I've written about it before. I'll just say that Los Lobos never seem to get their due. I love this album, I love the band. In 2011, I'm planning on completing my Los Lobos CD collection. I've never seen them live, this year I hope to change that. It shouldn't be hard, they seem to tour very frequently.

Willie Nelson's T-Bone Burnett-produced Country Music was another album that I loved, and I'm sorry that it didn't get more attention. I guess part of Willie's problem is that he is so prolific, people can hardly keep up with all of his albums. Country Music really was great... of course, it wasn't "country" in the current mainstream Nashville sense, but it did have great songs like "Dark As A Dungeon," "House Of Gold," "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and "House Of Gold." Willie and T-Bone's regulars cooked up a great brew (among other things, probably) of amazing music.

Robert Plant's Band Of Joy was another of my favorite albums of 2010. I listen to it all the time, and am still amazed by it. Also amazing is the strength of his vision and his commitment to it. At this point, he's not only turning down lucrative Led Zeppelin tours to do his own thing, he's turing down the follow up to his multi-Grammy winning collab with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand.

Ultimately the album I loved the most was my second favorite album of 2010, Mavis Staples' You Are Not Alone... the title track was my favorite song of the year and one of my favorite songs of all time. Also - I don't vote based on this - I was surprised to learn that Mavis has never won a Grammy! This is a career record for her, and I'd love to see her get the recognition, so here's hoping she wins on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Tomorrow on SiriusXM OutQ's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, I'll be back after a two week absence (thanks relentless snowstorms!). With the Grammy Awards coming up this weekend, we'll discuss our predictions in the top four categories - Record, Album and Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. I'll also talk about some of my favorite categories (Best Americana Album, Best Contemporary Blues Album, Best Longform Music Video) and some of my favorite nominees (including Sade).

UNFORTUNATELY, I won't be able to stop by the show Monday morning, as I usually do the day after the Grammy Awards.  Because I have jury duty Monday. I'd make a joke about it - I always look forward to discussing the show the day after with Larry and Keith Price - but given what has been going on in the world lately, I'm grateful for our democracy, and one of the responsibilities of EVERYONE in a democracy is jury duty.  I don't want to soapbox, but I'm grateful for the opportunity, I just wish it wasn't this Monday!


Over the next few days, I'm gonna be posting about different Grammy nominees, who I don't think are getting much attention in the press. Obviously everyone knows about all the nominations for Eminem, Bruno Mars and B.o.B. But there are a lot of other artists that are nominated who deserve some shine. This series of posts is inspired by the fact that, when I worked at VH1, I covered the entire ceremony, and had the privilege of interviewing lots of artists who weren't part of the "big story," from Lemmy to Tibetan monks, from Lord Of The Rings score composer Howard Shore to The Blind Boys Of Alabama.  I also interviewed Beyonce, but sometimes the artists who aren't quite as big seem to appreciate it a bit more.

I don't know what awards will be given out on the national broadcast (you can see the pre-telecast at the Grammys website). But Best Hard Rock Performance probably won't be on TV, and if there is one win I'm really hoping for, it's that Alice In Chains wins in that category. "A Looking In View," which opens their comeback album, Black Gives Way To Blue, is nominated.  It is a really intense song.  I remember going to an album preview event, and hearing that song, and being kind of blown away. I hadn't seen the reunited Alice yet (although I had seen William DuVall singing their songs as part of Jerry Cantrell's solo band years earlier, and he was amazing). But I was still skeptical about whether the band could credibly go on, post-Layne Staley. Midway through "A Looking In View," I knew they could. It's a great song.

Also, AIC have never won a Grammy, and while I'm kind of against voting based on that criteria, it would be a shame for them not to win this one. They are up against some great competition: I love Ozzy Osbourne's "Let Me Hear You Scream," and Them Crooked Vultures' "New Fang." Also in the competition is Soundgarden's "Black Rain," which shouldn't even be there, as it is an outtake from about twenty years ago. I love Soundgarden, but that's my opinion. And I'll keep my opinion on STP to myself. I think AIC deserves this one, hands down.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


So, as the entire music world knows by now, The White Stripes announced that, as of today, they are no longer a band. I don't want to overstate how bummed I am - there are a lot of worse things going on in the world to be sad or upset about.  On the other hand, you almost can't overstate how great they were.

I had a hard time immersing myself in bands after the Lollapalooza thing started to fade in the mid '90s.  After that wave of incredible bands of the late '80s and early '90s, I had a hard time really "buying into" many bands or artists (I'm not limiting this to just artists who literally played Lollapalooza, I'll include Faith No More and Helmet and Nirvana here, as well as less testosterone-y groups like Cowboy Junkies or Cake).

Part of it I attributed to my age: I graduated college in the early '90s, and stayed interested in new bands for a while, but pretty soon I couldn't find anyone new who I'd  be willing to go to see in concert.  There was also the sort of "indie rock" element, and obviously I don't mean "indie" as in independent artists like Fugazi or Ani DiFranco.  I mean the whole sort of slacker thing, which I often feel like comes from bands like Pavement or Sebadoh.  I won't say that those bands don't have good songs or talent, but they just don't hold my interest, and they don't seem to care about being great. In fact, the idea of trying to be great seems to be sort of embarrassing to them. That was my take.  You can have that sort of attitude if you are, say, Dylan or Lou Reed, but few bands are that awesome.  So: they don't care = I don't care.

And then The White Stripes came along. They had the old-school/punk rock "rust never sleeps" attitude, but at the same time, there was definitely a reverence for the past. They were hip but populist. They wanted their music to hold up to the legends, but they didn't want to get lazy. They were disciplined, they had a vision, they definitely cared and most importantly, they wrote great songs. Like a lot of other people, I got into them in 2001 around the time of their third album, White Blood Cells. To me, they were the band of the '00s (The Drive-By Truckers, Pearl Jam and U2 would also be in the running). (Last year, I named Jack White as my Artist of the '00s). After White Blood Cells, I picked up their first two albums, and by the time they released Elephant in 2003, I was all in.

They occasionally collaborated with other musicians (a horn section on "Conquest," Holly Golightly on "It's True That We Love One Another." But really, it was about the power of two people, Jack and Meg White. Three colors (red, white and black) and three instruments (guitar - or keyboards or marimba, drums and vocals)... I guess maybe they ran out of ideas.  Part of the discipline of the band was sticking within their confines, and to change that would be to change what was so great about the band. On 2005's Get Behind Me Satan I thought they were maybe running out of juice, but on 2007's Icky Thump, they had some of their finest moments (including the classic "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)".  That's a good way to go out. Their final performance was on Conan O'Brien's (first) last show (ha ha) doing "We're Going To Be Friends."

Of course, Jack has been making music outside of the Stripes anyway, with The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and more recently with Wanda Jackson. Whatever Jack does, it has a particular sound, but none of his other projects had what The White Stripes had. I'm sad that he, or they, feel that they have nothing else left to say, but I respect that they know what they're doing, and they don't want to ruin what was a great band by putting out music that doesn't hold up to their legacy. That's admirable. Thanks for the awesome music. (By the way, you can read their parting statement at their official website).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Last week, due to scheduling conflicts and bad weather, I didn't get to make my weekly appearance on SiriusXM OutQ Radio's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick.  I have a bunch of records to talk about, first of which is Wanda Jackson's The Party Ain't Over, which I wrote about last night.

Larry sometimes tires of my seemingly endless supply of reasons to bring in records involving Jack White: Wanda's album was produced by Jack, who plays guitar on it, and he put it out on his Third Man Records label.

I've often pointed out on Larry's show that Jack deserves credit: most macho-seeming loud guitar rock guys seem to have a problem treating women as equals, artistically or otherwise. But Jack has produced great records from two older female legends - Wanda and Loretta Lynn - and Third Man has put out 7"s by a number of women, including Laura Marling, The Smoke Fairies, The Secret Sisters, The Black Belles and Karen Elson. All of this was pointed out in a recent article in the UK's Guardian. What the article didn't point out was that women figure heavily into two of his three bands: Meg White in The White Stripes and Alison Mosshart in The Dead Weather.

Anyway, tomorrow we'll also talk about new releases from many other talented ladies, including Corinne Bailey RaeNicki Minaj, Duffy, Adele, and a new-ish band called Warpaint.

Of course, if the weather stays the way it's been (here in the tri-state area), I may not make it in for the second week in a row!