Saturday, August 27, 2011


I'm a huge fan of A Tribe Called Quest, and I was looking forward to seeing Beats Rhymes & Life for a long time... while kind of being skeptical over whether it would come out at all. It was no secret that there were serious issues between director Michael Rapaport (an actor, he's in one of my favorite films, Copland) and the band, particularly Q-Tip. Which is a real shame: Rapaport was clearly doing this for love, not money, it's too bad things got so messsy.

I saw an early trailer on YouTube - it was actually called "Beats, Rhymes and Fights."  I can see where Tip took issue with that. Yes, there were lots of personal issues between Tip and Phife Dawg.  Lots.  But to take a group like Tribe - visionaries who never sold out, never dumbed down, sold lots of records and made a big impact on music - and reduce them to interpersonal issues does a bit of a disservice.  To his credit, Rapaport got lots of testimonials from other artists like Questlove, Common, The Beastie Boys and Pharrell Williams, as well as other members of the Native Tongues, including De La Soul and The  Jungle Brothers (but no Queen Latifah!). Personally, I would have liked to hear more details about how Tribe influenced all of these groups, and maybe hear from more of the band's peers who weren't part of the Native Tongues (for instance, I would have been interested to hear Ice Cube's take on them).

I also would have loved to hear more about the making of the early albums.  They were so different, it's hard to explain how weird and interesting they sounded in the context of the late '80s or early '90s.  Call me old, but that was a great era of hip-hop which I definitely miss.

As you can see in the film, Q-Tip is definitely and absolutely the group's leader.  Is he a control freak?  Maybe. But he is also super concerned with quality control, and if he doesn't take responsibility for that, who would? Also, no one else in the band really steps up the way he does.

I was curious about religion, which is hinted at in the film.  Phife refers to growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist, while Ali Shaheed Muhammed is Muslim.  I know that at some point during Tribe's existence, Q-Tip converted to Islam. I would have to think that that changed things also.  But maybe the group didn't want to discuss that. I can respect that, I guess.

As a group, I give A Tribe Called Quest an A. They are one of the greatest, and deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day.  But I give this doc a B-.  I think in some ways, Rapaport was too close to the subject matter, and also isn't an experienced documentarian.  Still, I enjoyed it, and will definitely get the DVD.  If I were Sony Classics (the distributor), I'd hire a new director for the outtakes -  to get the real story behind the drama behind the film.  But I'd also get someone to go through the footage and come up with bonus features that focus on the making of the early albums, a la the very cool Classic Albums DVD series.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


(This picture is from the L.A. Times' music blog, "Pop & Hiss."  Read their review of Adele's recent L.A. show here).

I'm really excited to have a guest post from my friend Lori.  I met Lori a long time ago (I worked at a sleep away camp as a counselor, she was a camper!). A couple of years ago, I bumped into her again when we both worked at MTV. More recently, she oversaw the team in charge of booking talent at Lopez Tonight – they had a pretty awesome guest list every night, and everyone from Prince to Slash played the show. In my experience, people in these positions get a little jaded over music – understandably, as they are inundated with it as part of their professional lives.

When it comes to Adele, Lori is the most vocal and enthusiastic fan I know. That’s the effect Adele has on people. I get it: there’s something about her voice that makes you forget about other singers. She may not be doing anything really new, but it feels new when she sings, because she is such a great singer (and at such a young age!). She’s going to be around for decades. So anyway, Lori, who generally rolls V.I.P. due to her industry status, braved general admission for Adele's show at The Greek in L.A., and here’s her report (thanks Lori!).

"I have to admit that I was cranky on the night I've been most looking forward for the past 7 months. All I could hope for was that the minute Adele hit the stage I was going to forget about the fact that I was crammed into general admission with little to no air as if it were a crowded Bikram class. All I could focus on was the sweat trickling down my back until the lights went dim and she stepped onto the stage.

From the first  note she reminded me why I was there.

To hear this amazing voice and these poetic lyrics that I've sung at the top of my lungs in my car for months.

To be introduced to her charming personality... a bonus (though I should have known better after reading that Rolling Stone article that left me with a girl crush).  From her goofy yet infectious laugh to comments like "I know that song was pretty sad. This next one is even sadder. But that's why you're here isn't it?!" And she's right. That's why we were and will continue to be.  While we all sang along to our favorites, I noticed it was one of those shows where nobody wanted to sing too loudly for fear of not hearing Adele's voice.

The way in which she so humbly thanked us for being there and making her a pop star in a world where she might not seem like the most obvious choice.  NO ONE left until the very end of the show. Rare.

And lastly, this has to be mentioned, her dress!! Gorgeous.  Sure she tugged it down quite often and dreaded walking past the onstage fan for fear of showing more than she'd like, but how beautiful she looked in it. A true inspiration in talent and poise.

I am sure everyone feels as I do in wanting to meet up with her for a pint... as if you're already friends.

Special kind of night. Special kind of artist."

So there you have it.  Lori has seen it all, she's worked at MTV, Fuse, Kimmel and Lopez.  She was blown away by Adele's performance. I don't think *I* have anything to add to that, but I think I'm gonna try and check Adele out next time she comes to NYC! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A lot of people have been searching the internet about rumors of a Black Sabbath reunion.  In fact, traffic to a post about Sabbath that I wrote a year ago has spiked.  So I guess people are looking here for info.

The deal is that some UK journalist interviewed Tony Iommi, who didn't rule out a Sabbath reunion.  This guy apparently loosely interpreted that, and blew it up into a story about a new tour and album. Tony posted a comment about it at his website, and apologized to Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward.  By the way, one thing that Tony definitely is doing is releasing his memoirs, Iron Man, which comes out in November.

A couple of years ago, I had the honor of writing liner notes for The Black Box, which compiled all of the albums from the Ozzy era. I interviewed all four members.  At the time, the band had done a few reunion tours, but they weren't sure if they'd do any more (they did a few more tours since then).  But Geezer told me that if the band never performed again, and never recorded another note, he was OK with it. He was glad they were all friends again, and that they had done some pretty incredible reunion shows. I have to say, I'm with Geezer on this one.

They did a lot of tours since reuniting in 1997, and haven't recorded much.  I think there's a reason for that: when Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master Of Reality, Volume 4, Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath are what you are measuring new music against, it's gonna be awfully hard to live up to that.  So what's the point? All good things must come to an end - and to me, the story of Sabbath ended on a great note. The guys are friends, they did do some great concerts, they all lived to see their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a huge fan of Sabbath, I'm cool with that.

On the other hand, Ozzy sounded great the last time I saw him in concert.  So maybe one more Sabbath tour...


Right now, I'm pretty excited about this Gary Clark, Jr. guy. I was turned onto him by a music exec from VH1 - in fact, she's the same person who turned me on to Charles Bradley a few months back. He is a bluesman who I feel can appeal to people outside of the blues crowd, and even outside of the mainstream rock and jam band scene, and outside of guitar players. I think he may be that type of artist, who comes along once in a generation, who can turn younger kids onto the blues.  The last guy like that was Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The Bright Lights EP is available on iTunes, check him out. I have to give props to Rolling Stone, by the way, who gave him the lead review in their current issue (even though the guy from Pavement has a new solo album).  Check out the review here.

Monday, August 15, 2011


The other night I watched The Big Lebowski for maybe the 50th time.  I lent out my DVD, so I bought it on iTunes so I always have it on my computer. It's a perfect film on every level: it's fun, funny, holds up to repeated viewings, has a great story, it's quotable, the acting is great. Even Tara Reid shines.

But it struck me how great the music is. The Coen Brothers definitely know their music (further proof of that is O Brother Where Art Thou). The often use T-Bone Burnett to be music supervisor, and he did an incredible job here.

Bob Dylan's "The Man In Me" which opens the film sets the tone perfectly.  Kenny Rogers & The First Edition "Just Dropped In" during the freakout sequence: genius. The Gipsy Kings cover of "Hotel California" during Jesus' bowling scene: awesome. Especially given that The Dude hates The (fuckin') Eagles. Also the choice of fairly obscure artists: Captain Beefheart, Moondog and Meredith Monk is cool.

The Dude's music choices make sense: he loves Creedence Clearwater Revival. He's listening to Elvis Costello at the doctor.  But sometimes he just listens to tapes of bowling.

The movie rocks even more with its choice of cameo actors. Aimee Mann as the nihilist who cuts off her toe. Flea, another nihilist with a ridiculous accent.  Jimmie Dale Gilmore as Smokey, did he really step over the line? Jeff Bridges as The Dude is just perfect, and he's a rocker in his own right (he actually releases his second album tomorrow. It's produced by... wait for it... T-Bone Burnett).

I've often talked of my respect for music supervisors who do their job really well.  So, I have to tip my hat to the Coens and T-Bone for this one.


I have mixed feelings about My Morning Jacket.  On one hand, I really respect their ambition: they seem to be one of the "indie" bands out there who are really ambitious creatively.  At the same time, they don't seem to have a problem with being successful and playing large venues.  Another thing I respect about them is that they appeal equally to hippies and hipsters.  This band is at home at Bonnaroo or Coachella.

Sometimes they strike me as musical health food though: I know it's good for me to listen to them, but I don't really enjoy it. I'm starting to realize that they are a great band, and are a taste you develop.  Also, they're not the kind of band you're always in the mood for.

That said, "Victory Dance," which leads off their new album, Circuital, is a perfect song for a sundown. The other day, I ran six miles.  When I finished and walked a bit to cool down, the sun was actually setting and I put this song in. Perfect.  I don't smoke, but people who run know the sort of high after you finish a long run, and experiencing that, a beautiful sunset and "Victory Dance' was an incredible combination.

The other song on the album that really stands out to me is "Holdin' On To Black Metal."  With a choir of young girls and a horn section, it's not very black metal.  It's not very metal at all!  But it is a great tune.  It's funny to me that a hippie indie band would sing a song about black metal. I wonder how many non-indie rock bands would sing songs about indie rock. I'm OK with it though: it doesn't sound like they are mocking metal.

Anyway, I'll recommend the album, but only if you have time to listen to the record a few times to absorb it.  As I mentioned, I respect the band (I also named frontman Jim James one of the best artists of the '00s) and they are at least worth checking out.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I haven't seen Steve Earle play with a band for a while (other than when I filmed this brief performance at the SiriusXM studios for Outlaw Country)... his shows over the past few years have been acoustic deals, where he is occasionally accompanied by a DJ or his wife, the incredibly talented Allison Moorer. On this tour, however, he reactivated his long-time backing band The Dukes (bassist Kelly Looney and drummer Will Rigby), but now they are called The Dukes and Duchesses. Allison plays piano, all kinds of keyboards, accordion, guitar, I think she played mandolin and maybe tenor guitar and of course she sings.  Also in the group is both members of The Mastersons, a cool husband-wife duo.  Chris Masterson played guitar, pedal steel guitar and bass and sang, while Eleanor Whitmore plays that tenor guitar, mandolin and violin and sings also.  As for Steve, he played acoustic guitar, a bit of electric, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and bouzouki ("But don't call it that in an airport"). The band was phenomenal.

Adding character to the show was the venue: The Tarrytown Music Hall.  This is a room with a vibe: it is 126 years old. Yes, it opened in 1885.   It has a small capacity - less than 1000 people. It seemed that everyone who worked there was a volunteer, and they all loved the room. Rightfully so. You're never far from the stage, and the sound was great.  Later on in the tour, Steve is playing New York's Town Hall and Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg, so he didn't have to make this stop, way out in the suburbs, but it was cool that he did. It was certainly a different crowd from the ones that I've seen at some of his other shows.  Music Hall "members" get free tickets for all the shows, so a lot of people were at the show probably because it was free for them. I think that's great: Steve Earle shouldn't just be about preaching to the converted, as it were.  But for a small room, there were a few people who didn't seem familiar with him, and especially not with his new album, I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (one of my favorites of 2011).

So it may not have helped those people that Steve opened with five new songs: "Waiting For The Sky," "Little Emperor," "Gulf Of Mexico"(after the song, he added "Fuck BP!"), "Molly O" and "Every Part Of Me." I was stoked: I love his album, and like Springsteen and Dylan (who I found myself comparing Steve to throughout the night - not as a disciple, but as a peer) his recent albums hold up to the rest of his stellar career.

Steve's musical performances are always great, but his spoken interludes between songs always add to the experience. He talked about how America *is* its immigrants before "City Of Immigrants" and about the story of the miner who he wrote about twice, in "Harlan Man" and "The Mountain."

Steve definitely has fans who prefer his pre-jail era (his '80s albums) and he took care of them with some of his classics like "My Old Friend The Blues," "Someday" (a favorite of my wife, who is also the photographer for this post), "Guitar Town" and "Hardcore Troubadour" (which is also the name of his weekly radio show on SiriusXM Outlaw Country - yes I work there). I love that stuff, but I'm equally a fan of his Bu$h era protest music - he was saying what needed to be said, when few others had the balls to say it.  So thanks Steve, for playing "Jerusalem" and "The Revolution Starts Now," songs that surely had Springsteen jealous. Thanks for writing those songs.

Steve was generous with his band: he gave Allison a three song set, including the stunning "Easy In The Summertime" and a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," which floored the room. Kelly Looney switched from guitar to bass to sing one of his songs, and The Mastersons did one of theirs as well.

There were so many highlights for me. But I loved the story he told about "The Devil's Right Hand" (maybe my favorite song by him).  When he wrote it, it wasn't a gun control song, but years later - after his 14 year old son stole his gun and wouldn't tell him where he'd hidden it - he sort of changed his mind.  

I also loved his covers: Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper" (which he's done on live albums before, and anyway, when in [or near] Jersey...) and Bob Dylan's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," which I didn't know Steve ever did.  I know Steve was really influenced by both of them. But what I think is so cool is that he's become their peer, I'd daresay that he's on their level. Now if the rest of the country (and world) figured this out...

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I didn't pay for my tickets - but I would have (and I  certainly have paid to see Steve in the past).  And while I was there, I bought two of Steve's live albums.

And on another note, my wife took a lot of great pictures, there will be a Zenfolio album and I'll update this post with a link to the album when it's ready.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


About a week ago on July 31, Queens Of The Stone Age played a gig at Seattle's famous Showbox Market.  They're promoting the reissue of their self-titled debut album, originally released in 1998 on Stone Gossard's Loose Groove Records.  My good friend Tom was there and agreed to email me an account of the show (Tom is a true rock and roll dude, and was even thanked in the liner notes of Bruce Springsteen's Promise box set).  Tom went above and beyond as usual, and here's his report.

The first show that Queens of the Stone Age ever played was in downtown Seattle in November of 1997 so it seemed fitting they would perform their debut album in its entirety, for what was supposed to be a “secret show” here in downtown Seattle last Sunday night.

Queens of the Stone Age – Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, backing vocals), Joey Castillo (drums, percussion), Michael Shuman (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar) – took the stage at roughly 9 pm.  QOTSA are not from Seattle but Homme certainly has enough of his own history here.  Homme became part of the local scene after the dissolution of his former band Kyuss, when he briefly joined Seattle legends Screaming Trees, as their touring guitarist, before forming QOTSA.  On stage Homme made sure to pay homage to Trees’ frontman Mark Lanegan (a one-time Queen) and former label boss Stone Gossard.  Homme mentioned that the first show QOTSA ever played was nearby at the OK Hotel – a bar/music venue located under the viaduct in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district – Homme laughed that it was one of their worst performances ever.  But tonight, the Queens played like heroes, performing the entire album from start to finish.  This album was the brainchild of Homme, who wrote all the songs and played guitar and bass guitar to the record, but his band mates (none of whom were in the band at the time) played these songs like they had been performing them for years. It was a real treat, especially if you never got to see Homme and crew in the old days.

The Queens opened with the debut's first track, “Regular John,” a stoney tune with a Kyuss feel, which seemed to have more life than the album’s studio version.  The guitars were brighter and more prominent too, compared to the steady mix on the album.  I actually had to go back and listen to the album after the show, in order to recall what Homme was doing live on these songs during the live show.  You couldn’t tell if the band re-worked any of the songs’ parts because they seemed so fresh and exciting.  Josh has become a totally solid live performer and this show was on-par with anything else he has ever done, (including Them Crooked Vultures).  The energy level was amazing and the band was having a blast.

Homme’s button down blue dress shirt was soaked with sweat as he continued to play some of the best lead guitar I’ve ever seen and he moved around the stage pushing the audience harder and faster.  He was ribbing us in the crowd (good naturedly) and invoking the whole point of rock n roll…"we just want all of you to have a good time."  Homme spent equal time facing each band member as they performed instrumental sections of "The Bronze," a bonus track on the re-issue.  At one point during “Mexicola,” Homme turned to drummer Joey Castillo who Homme later called “the only Mexican in Seattle,” and Joey started playing amazing drum fills that were different than that of the album version.  Joey was an absolute monster on the drums.  He didn’t miss a beat all night.  Michael Shuman, same thing - he just had head-splitting energy that drives the dynamic range of QOTSA over the top.  His harmonies were on point and you were able to see the skills this kid has on the bass guitar.  He makes you forget about how great Nick Oliveri was when he was their bass player.  Troy Van Leeuwen looked cool because he had a cool pinstripe suit on with a fancy tie to boot.  He was rocking... and you know that the rhythm guitarist never gets enough credit.   Dean brings in the bits and pieces that put the tunes over the top.  Reaching back to tear through some Mark Lanegan tunes all the way to the insane tease of “the polka song.”

You got the feeling Queens of the Stone Age were really excited to play this show not only because they had a chance to play an entire album worth of songs that aren't part of the usual repertoire.  The crowd was equally excited to hear live renditions of some of their favorite old school QOTSA songs.  After bout an hour they finished playing through the entire first album, so Homme and the band came back out and said they were having a great time and would play anything the crowd wanted for the next 30 minutes.  The crowd went nuts and then Homme proceeded to take requests and you just knew that someone was going to request “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” Before going into it, Homme simply said: “let’s get fucked up,” and then the crowd sang along with him the entire song and if they didn’t know the lyrics beforehand, they certainly did by the end of the song.

One of my favorite moments was when Josh told this guy down in front, who was wearing sunglasses, that he wanted to suck his dick “because he was so cool.”  Homme also pointed out some girl sitting on top of a guy’s shoulders, who was apparently at the Soundgarden show the previous night at the Gorge Amphitheater where Queens of the Stone Age played third on the bill, as she flashed him and flipped the crowd off when Homme said: “My sister is fuckin’ crazy right?”

In keeping with their reputation, Queens of the Stone Age killed in Seattle last Sunday night.  Performing every song from their self-titled debut album made the show extra special, but taking requests from the crowd really made this a classic and unforgettable performance.  Their stage presence was attention grabbing and the quality of their live performance – in my opinion – surpasses their studio work. Plus, Josh Homme never fails to make you laugh.  This show overall was definitely an over-the-top performance.  It made me wish that I had been able to see them when they started out in Seattle to be able to compare.  I can’t wait to see them again.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I've had some time to digest Eddie Vedder's latest solo album, Ukulele Songs. I really dig it.  Is it a classic?  I don't know - I need some more time on that one.  But I have to say, I didn't know if his first record, the Into The Wild soundtrack was a classic when it first came out. When he played those songs in concert, though, some of them held up to some of the Pearl Jam classics that he performed.

Of course, the singer of an incredibly successful rock band doing an album of songs written and performed on the uke could be seen as a bit indulgent.  I get that, but Eddie has earned the right to do whatever he wants.  For me, the real deal is, are the songs good?  They are.  And does it seem different from his day job?  Definitely. I think it's a really good album that makes a great argument that Eddie Vedder has a legitimate solo career that can run parallel to Pearl Jam (and long may they run).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Tomorrow SiriusXM OutQ's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, I'll be talking about some of the best music since 2007, when I started No Expiration.  My last post listed my favorite albums, but I may also touch on some of my favorite songs as well - i.e. songs that aren't from regular albums, or songs that I love from albums that didn't make my list.   Some of those songs include

  • KRS-One, Nas, Kanye West and Rakim - "Classic (Better Than I've Ever Been)" 
  • Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining" 
  • Alicia Keys - "No One"
  • Rush - "Far Cry" 
  • Band Of Horses - "No One's Gonna Love You" (with a shout-out to Cee-Lo's version) 
  • Jack White and Alicia Keys - "Another Way To Die" (which I won't be bringing up on the show tomorrow)
  • AC/DC - "Rock and Roll Train" 
  • Raphael Saadiq - "100 Yard Dash" 
  • Jay-Z, T.I. , Kanye West and Lil' Wayne - "Swagga Like Us" 
  • Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You" 
  • Radiohead - "Reckoner" 
  • Mudcrutch - "Scare Easy" (that's Tom Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band) 
  • Sade - "Soldier Of Love" 
  • Public Enemy - "Harder Than You Think" 
  • Jamey Johnson - "In Color"