Sunday, January 29, 2012


Well, I do anyway.  Rush recently released Time Machine, their ninth live album, and their fifth in the past decade.  What makes it different? Well, not too much.

But it does feature the band performing their greatest album (arguably) Moving Pictures, start to finish. And yeah, there are plenty of live versions of "Tom Sawyer," "Red Barchetta," and "Limelight" out there (although this "Barchetta" is a bit different, they go into a surf version of main riff). But I don't think the band ever performed "The Camera Eye" on tour before, and longtime Rush fans (myself included) were excited to hear them play it.

They also played two songs from their upcoming album, "BU2B" and "Caravan." Supposedly that album is coming out this year.  There's also a new Neil Peart drum piece "Moto Perpetuo" which has more of his jazz/swing influence. What else is different about the album?  They add a bit of reggae (yes, really) to "Working Man." So, really, it's not a totally essential to have.  But for Rush fans, well, anything new is fun to have. That's how we roll.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am a big fan of The Little Willies, the group featuring
Norah Jones and some of the musicians who backed her on her debut album, 2002's Come Away With Me.  My understanding of how the band got together is that, after all the hype from the first album got too crazy, Norah just wanted to go out and play Willie Nelson covers, and just be a band member, not necessarily the frontwoman. I think it developed a bit from there, to the point that they played other people's songs, and even wrote a few new ones.

I'd heard rumors about Norah and The Little Willies.  When I interviewed her for VH1 on the day that her second album, 2004's Feels Like Home came out, she told me after the interview that she was doing a gig that night with The Little Willies, and that it was like $5 cover or something. I was amazed.  On the day she releases the followup to one of the most successful debut albums in history, she's playing a bar with her undercover covers band. The following year, The Little Willies released their self-titled debut album, and I think they toured a bit too.

Last year, they announced their second album, For The Good Times. I was kind of surprised: Norah and bassist Lee Alexander were a couple and split up a few years ago.  So I didn't think that they'd get the band back together.  But it makes sense that the album was named after the classic Kris Kristofferson track: it's about looking back at the good times of a now-defunct relationship.  And anyway, it sounds like they had a blast making this record.  Songs like "If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time" and "Foul Owl On The Prowl" show Norah letting her hair down a bit, as it were.  She doesn't always sing lead: "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves," (featuring her on supporting vocals) is definitely one of the highlights.   So is the cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  They also do Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," but it's hard to imagine her holding someone by the hair of their head and lifting them off of the ground.

It's interesting that I'm writing this the day that Norah's record label have announced that her next album, coming out later this year, will be produced by Danger Mouse, with whom Norah collaborated on the Rome album. I've got to think that that will be a lot different from The Little Willies, it's certainly not going to be straight up roots music.  But I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Well, there's nothing like it.  The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique didn't sound like any record that came before it, or anything since.

I remember buying it when it first came out, but I don't remember why I bought it.  I liked a bunch of songs on their debut album, Licensed To Ill. But it seemed like a novelty album, and it's appeal was... I'd describe it as douche-y.  Also their style was very derivative of Run-D.M.C.'s (understandable as they were a big influence and both groups were produced by Rick Rubin).

I think I may have heard "Hey Ladies" and thought that they didn't sound like they'd progressed too much. But the music was so much... thicker. I was intrigued.  So I picked it up.  When I first listened to the record, I was puzzled.  What the hell?  I know a lot of other people had the same experience.

But every time I came back to the album, I liked it a little bit more. I was always catching new references in the lyrics and in the music.  In fact, there is an entire website that explains every reference and lists every sample.  And there's a great book about the album that tells you just about everything about how it was made - it's part of the excellent 33 1/3 series.  You couldn't make an album like this today without a multi-million dollar sample-clearance budget and probably an army of lawyers.  I mean, they sampled The Beatles! You just couldn't do that today, but back then, there were no rules about it.  It was a cool era: other hip-hop LPs like Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and de la soul's 3 Feet High and Rising were similarly dense with samples, but no one can (legally) release albums like those today.  It's interesting to note, though, that this album was about the time where hip-hop's mainstream started losing interest in the Beasties.  On Licensed, they were signed to Def Jam and were managed by RUSH (both owned by Russell Simmons).  On this album, they left New York for L.A., ditched Def Jam and signed to Capitol (who didn't really have a hip-hop team in place), left RUSH management, and moved on from producer Rubin to The Dust Brothers.

Today, it's one of my favorite albums, and unlike Licensed To Ill, it's aged really well, and still sounds ahead of its time.


I saw Chris Cornell on his solo tour last year, and was blown away, so I was glad when I heard he was putting out a live Songbook album. Like Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell is making a good case for having parallel careers with a band, and as a solo acoustic troubadour.

The album starts and ends with brand new songs that he hadn't released before this. The first two tracks "As Hope And Promise Fade" and "Scar On The Sky" show that he still has lots of great songs in him. It's hard to imagine Soundgarden (or even Audioslave) doing "As Hope And Promise Fade." I would imagine this is the direction his solo career will go in.  He sings really honestly about some of his issues.  The line "You're never more than two drinks away from crying" kills me. "Scar On The Sky" sounds like it could be a classic Soundgarden slow tune. I just wonder: can he still write rockers?

The LP ends with "The Keeper," a studio track (not from the live performances) that he recorded for the film Machine Gun Preacher. It's an amazing song (I haven't seen the film) that somehow lost to Madonna's "Masterpiece" (cough) from a film she directed W.E. I like Madonna, but Chris's song is way better (and so is Mary J. Blige's "The Living Proof" from The Help).

Back to Songbook: most of the album is solo versions of Chris' songs from Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple Of The Dog and his solo records. He does great versions of these classics.  Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell On Black Days" sound even more black, and the Audioslave tunes are just as soulful, stripped of their (amazing, face-melting) arrangements.  I love "Doesn't Remind Me" and "Like A Stone." Of course, the Temple songs are incredible. And the album points out that Chris has had some great solo songs - and (sorry) that maybe his much-mocked Scream album would have been better with a producer other than Timbaland. I love lots of records that Timba has worked on, but I just don't think that that combo worked. Maybe someone like Flood or Danger Mouse could do a great, modern-sounding Chris solo record.

My only "complaint?"  Well, I would have loved to hear the Bruce Springsteen covers that Chris performed when I saw him: "Atlantic City" and "State Trooper." And the "bonus tracks" on the album are "different" versions of "As Hope And Promise Fade" and "Call Me A Dog," that aren't much different from the non-bonus track versions of those same songs, on this same album. But I'm not a negative guy, so I'll just hope for a Songbook Vol. 2.  But let's get that new Soundgarden record first!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Late last year, without much hype, Willie Nelson released another album, Remember Me Vol. 1. The LP sees Willie covering some of the biggest classic country hits of all time.

Which is sort of similar to what he did on his last album, Country Music, which was one of my favorite albums of 2010.  That album was produced by T-Bone Burnett, and featured lots of timeless songs.   This one was produced by James Stroud, It doesn't have the sense of occasion that a T-Bone production, but I think it's a cool album.  You really can't go wrong with Willie singing songs like "Remember Me," "Why Baby Why," "I'm Movin' On," "Sunday Morning Comin' Down," "Satisfied Mind" and even "Roly Poly." The album won't change the world or expose Willie to any new fans, but I like it.

I know that there's a Volume 2 coming out later this year, and I've also heard that he's writing new songs for a new album (his last few albums haven't featured his own compositions).  That's what I'm looking forward to: new songs by Willie Nelson.  For now, I'm enjoying this one, if not as much as some of his other great albums like Country Music and Willie & The Wheel.


I've heard a lot of people arguing that Guns N Roses is getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based on one LP, 1987's Appetite For Destruction.  Normally I'd agree, that no band should get in based on one LP.  I'm cool with it.  I don't really have a problem with The Sex Pistols as Hall of Famers (even if they do), and they only had one album.  (But as Larry Flick rightfully points out, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols kicked off a movement in a way that Appetite didn't).

That said, I think AC/DC could have been inducted just for Back In Black*, and the only other hard rock album with the impact of that classic is Appetite For Destruction**.

I remember the first song I heard by Guns was "Welcome To The Jungle," and I'm pretty sure I first experienced it on MTV's Headbanger's Ball.  At the time I was in a very "death to false metal" mode.  There were the cool bands, like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies and Megadeth. And then there were the lame (hair) metal bands, Poison, Warrant, Motley Crue, etc***.  Guns seemed to fall somewhere in between. They certainly weren't thrash.  They had a lot more of a Stonesy groove than the thrash bands (or the metal legends like Maiden and Priest) that I loved.  But they also seemed to have a little in common with the pop metal scene. I wasn't hugely into punk rock at the time, but I knew they had a punk influence going on.  They didn't sound totally original per se, but they definitely sounded different.  I got Appetite right after that Headbanger's Ball episode.

I was BLOWN AWAY. I could not believe how badass this album was.  The guitars were amazing, but never annoying like the shredders who were all the rage at the time. The bass was funky and cool. The drums swung (even though the drummer looked like he could fit into Ratt). And the singer: I'd never heard anything like this guy.

Most of the songs were like a fist to the face.  But then there was "Sweet Child O' Mine."  It was tender, but not wimpy, and had one of the coolest riffs I'd ever heard.  The only song I didn't like was "Paradise City," with it's synthesizers and chorus that kind of sounded like something Bon Jovi would do. To this day, I don't really dig that one, but I can tolerate it, and it doesn't ruin the album.

I don't listen to Guns as much these days, I don't know why.  I think Axl has lowered their status in my eyes, by turning the band into his solo project.  I don't mind when Trent Reznor does that with Nine Inch Nails, because that group was always Trent's project.  But I think Guns without Slash and Duff McKagan just isn't Guns.  I was OK with Gilby Clarke replacing Izzy Stradlin', and totally OK with Matt Sorum replacing Steven Adler. But no Slash and no Duff?  That's a dealbreaker.  I wouldn't buy into Guns without Axl either, of course. I know Axl's current version of Guns is touring and playing all of the Appetite songs, but I just can't imagine it sounds nearly as good as it would the original guys.

Anyway, I'm listening to the album as I write this, and it is still incredible.  Even, I must admit, "Paradise City." If you haven't heard it in a while, check it out.

* That said, I prefer Bon Scott-era AC/DC to Brian Johnson's era, but you just can't deny Back In Black.
**By the way, I'd argue that Guns did have a good handful of classics from after Appetite: certainly "Patience" from Lies, and "Dust N Bones," "Bad Obsession," "Civil War," "14 Years" and especially "You Could Be Mine" from the Use Your Illusion albums.
*** I've mellowed a bit on the hair metal thing.  I don't own any of their records, but I can definitely acknowledge that most of the hair metal bands had some good songs.  And, full disclosure, I wrote liner notes for some Warrant reissues, the younger me would have considered that a major "sell out."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Tomorrow night I'll make my first appearance of 2012 on The Busted Halo Show on SiriusXM's Catholic Channel. It's always fun to hang with Father Dave, Robyn and Brett. Now they have a new board op, a good friend of mine named Christian.  I hung out with Christian at the Rock The Bells festival two summers ago, and we've worked together a number of times since.

Anyway, I'm dedicating my appearance to a friend who is no longer with us.  She was a huge Dave Matthews fan, so I'm playing some Dave songs in her memory.  It's all songs with The Dave Matthews Band, not from his solo stuff or his live material with Tim Reynolds.

A lot of people blow off Dave: in some ways, he combines two things that are very "uncool" in hipster circles: his roots are in the jamband scene, and he has huge appeal with soccer moms.

To me, Dave is a bit different than the rest of the jam band scene in that his lyrics are pretty important (and I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for being pretty heavy and dark). Also, he keeps the songs relatively short (at least in the studio) and tuneful... hence, he has a ton of hit singles. Hence, his appeal to soccer moms. He isn't a metal dude or a punk dude or an "alternative" dude or an indie rocker. He's a regular guy with a kind of awkward sensibility. I'm not the hugest fan: I have most of his studio albums and some live ones.  I don't need to have every one.  I rarely see his concerts - the long jams just aren't my thing. But I have a ton of respect for the guy, he deals with his stardom as well as probably anyone.  He enjoys it, but doesn't let it dictate what he does creatively. I've had the pleasure of interviewing him, and he seems to be a great guy.  

I had two songs that I definitely wanted to use - "Ants Marching" and "Everyday."  "Ants Marching" was the first song I ever heard by Dave.  I was at the H.O.R.D.E. tour and I heard this weird riff coming from the small stage.  I went to check it out.  This band featured black and white guys, guitar, violin and sax.  I thought, "man, this is great, but they'll never get big, they're too different." Oops! I think of that every time I heard the riff.  "Everyday" is a rare instance of a video really enhancing the song.  If you've never seen it, check it out.   I "crowdsourced" the third song on my personal Facebook page, and if you want to hear what song it is, well, you gotta tune in.  If you have a subscription, great! I'm on The Catholic Channel at 7:20 pm-ish.  If not, go here to get a free online trial subscription.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Trent Reznor has always been great at combining music with visuals, from his disturbing Nine Inch Nails videos, to the soundtracks of Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway (he produced both), to last year's Oscar/Golden Globe winning score to The Social Network to this year's score to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I know that Dragon was nominated for a Golden Globe the other night and lost to The Artist (a movie I want to see, although there is some controversy about that film's score), and I'm sure it will be nominated for an Oscar.

I loved Trent's score for The Social Network last year (by the way, I should mention that he works on his scores with Atticus Ross, they are also bandmates in How To Destroy Angels).  But Dragon is on a whole other level.  I haven't read the book, but when I do, I will be playing the score -- it really adds to the film, and is almost its own character.

I also loved that Trent had Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's cover Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" for the opening sequence of the film.  I thought that Trent didn't even like Zeppelin, but I'm glad he choose that song, it really works well.  I wonder if Trent (and Dragon/Social Network director David Finch) will work together on the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. The film worked on every level: the music, the cinematography, the acting and of course the great Steig Larsson story. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

And I'm also looking forward to the new How To Destroy Angels album, supposedly due out this year. Trent has even said that he's considering doing more Nine Inch Nails music as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012


With very little hype, Metallica released the Beyond Magnetic EP at the end of last year. Made up of four songs that didn't make the Death Magnetic LP (produced by Rick Rubin), they played all four of these songs during their four night, 30th anniversary celebration at the Fillmore in San Francisco. (I'll be writing a separate post about that: all four shows are available at Metallica's website as paid downloads, and so far, they are worth the money).

This EP is like Reload to Death Magnetic's Load.  From the same sessions, but a bit more expansive, more jams.   I like the songs, especially the last one "Rebel Of Babylon." Like Death Magnetic, it recalls Master Of Puppets, but (sadly) without any songs that are quite that classic.

Still, it is well timed, coming shortly after the release of their double album with Lou Reed, Lulu. After that rather avant-garde project, it's good to remind everyone that Metallica is a metal band. (That said, I think Metallica made a great backing band for Lou on his Velvet Underground classics "Sweet Jane" and "White Light/White Heat.")


There were so many great releases towards the end of 2011, so if you have missed this gem I'll give you a pass.  But it's time to catch up!  (Ahk-toong Bay-bi) Covered is a tribute to U2's classic Achtung Baby LP from 1991. The original is one of my favorite albums ever, so I was a bit worried about this... but the talent lineup on it is incredible.

By the way, this was originally available only in the UK, it came with an issue of Q magazine. In the US, you can download it at iTunes, with proceeds going towards Concern, an organization dedicated to working with the world's poorest people to improve their lives.

The album starts out with Nine Inch Nails covering "Zoo Station," which is surprising on several levels. One, I thought Trent Reznor was done with NIN.  I guess not?  Second, I thought he didn't like U2, although I guess if he liked any of their albums, it would be this one (when it came out, I thought it sounded like U2 were influenced by NIN's debut, 1989's Pretty Hate Machine). Third, NIN's versions is so different.  It's much more subtle, and a bit creepier than U2's.

Patti Smith, one of U2's biggest influences, honors them with her piano based cover of "Until The End Of The World." Accompanied by her sons on piano and guitar, and a bass player, it's much different and more sober, and maybe more sad, than the original.

Garbage, who opened for U2, makes their return to active duty with "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?"  Like U2 during this era, Garbage wrestle with getting soul into the intersection of humans playing instruments and programmed computer music.  Few do it well, but U2 and Garbage both did. I look forward to hearing Garbage's comeback album.

Depeche Mode, a peer of U2's, picked the perfect song for themselves with "So Cruel." It's interesting to hear them cover something from this era, since Achtung Baby (and Zooropa and Pop) are the closest U2 came to Depeche Mode's electronic sound. I've always thought that this is one of U2's most underrated songs (if I remember correctly, it's the only song from the album they didn't play on the tour).  Depeche Mode really put their own spin on it.

Friend of U2 Gavin Friday takes one of my favorites, "The Fly," and makes it sound a bit sneakier.  It's a bit more electronic, and like NIN's "Zoo Station," mostly strips The Edge's badass riff from the song.  It almost sounds like he's covering a remix. It's very cool though.

One of my favorite artists, Jack White closes the album with a very emotional "Love Is Blindness," the closest thing to a blues song U2 has ever done.  The Edge wrote that one when he was going through a divorce, and sadly, Jack just went through one. He brings a lot of sorrow to the song,  it's the highlight of the album for me, and one of the best songs of 2011.

I don't love every song on the album, and of course you can just buy the songs you like, but because the money goes to a worthy cause, I downloaded the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Tomorrow morning on SiriusXM OutQ's Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, I'm going to be talking about some music that you may not have heard yet.  Of course, most of it sounds like it's old, even though it's new.  Larry is on the air weekdays from 7 am - 11 am ET, and he hosts a music show Feel The Spin Sundays at 2 pm.  If you don't have a SiriusXM subscription (yet), go here and get a free online trial .

First off, Vintage Trouble.  Even though they are from L.A.'s famed Laurel Canyon, their music isn't available here in the U.S. (although it is available in the U.K.).  I don't know why. They are a classic soul band.  I read about them in Mojo magazine, which is where I discover most of my music.  These guys have an amazing video for "Nancy Lee" (shot on iPhones and featuring one of the Pussycat Dolls). I really think that this band will make a lot of noise in 2012, but I don't care if they do or not: I'm buying their album and telling people about it. The singer, Ty Taylor, has a great voice (apparently, he was a contestant on the show Rock Star, which attempted to find a new lead singer for INXS).

Jonathan Wilson is also from Laurel Canyon, and seems to be the center of the new scene there.  Apparently he has built guitars for the likes of Jackson Browne, and has worked as a studio musician for Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice. He's also produced records for Dawes.  It's not just that the guy is from Laurel Canyon, he sounds like he's from the Laurel Canyon of the late '60s and early '70s: like he could have been jamming with Jackson Brown and Crosby Stills & Nash back in the day.  I "discovered" him in either Mojo or Uncut

Michael Kiwanuka is a British singer (but he's from Uganda).  As much as the two artists above don't sound like they're from this era, MK really doesn't sound like he's from the 2010's.  He sounds like the '60s or '70s.  I don't know how to describe him. He sounds like Bill Withers but also like Otis Redding, if they were making an album like Van Morrison's Moondance.  Another Mojo discovery.  I think he's great, but I don't know if he'll catch on here. But Adele loves him: he opened for her in the U.K.

Gary Clark Jr.  Well, if you've been following me, you know of him.  I talked about him last week on Larry's show, his Bright Lights EP was my 5th favorite release of 2011. I am really looking forward to his full length album that comes out this year.

We may also get to some other new(ish) names tomorrow, if we do, I'll write about them at a later time.


I like a lot of contemporary country singers, but Miranda Lambert is one who I am an actual fan of. This chick is a badass.  The cover of the album kind of says it all.  Cute girl walking (not running) away from a car on fire as the sun is rising (or setting). Her latest solo album, Four The Record, nearly made my Top 10 of 2011.

"Fastest Girl In Town," co-written by Miranda and Angaleena Presley (from Miranda's group The Pistol Annies), is my favorite from the album. It is a rockin' track that I could hear a metal gal, or a female R&B singer, pulling off. It's not about the genre, it's about the attitude.  Another song that she didn't write, but seems perfect for her, is "Mama's Broken Heart," where she explains that when her heart gets broken, she doesn't fix her makeup like her mom would have done.  Nah, she cuts her bangs with a rusty scissor, numbs the pain "at the expense of my liver" and is "holding the matches when the firetrucks show up."   On the other hand, she writes and sings "Safe," a lovely ode to a guy (likely her husband, country singer Blake Shelton).

One of the things I like about Miranda is that she can totally rock out (as on "Fastest Girl"), she can do traditional country ("Dear Diamond," "Same Old You") and then go into left field (playing with autotune on "Fine Tune").

As I mentioned, Miranda also has a new group, Pistol Annies, with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe (who has collaborated with The Raconteurs and also worked with Jack White on Wanda Jackson's album). I like them also, and I hope it's a long term thing, not just a one-off.  I just liked Miranda's solo album better, but both records are definitely worth hearing.

Monday, January 9, 2012


It's crazy to think that Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were all once members of the same band, The Yardbirds. Not at the same time, of course!

Clapton actually replaced original lead guitarist Anthony "Top" Topham early on in the band's career. The material they did with Clapton is among the best rock/blues/R&B you'll hear ever, their covers are up there with what the Stones were doing at the time. For my money, it's some of the best stuff Clapton has ever done. Clapton split after the band's big hit "For Your Love" (which he claims not to have played on) because it was too commercial (ironic, when you consider some of the things he's done in his solo career!).

He was replaced by Jeff Beck, ushering in a much more creative era for the band. This is when the band began moving in more jazzy and psychedelic directions.  It's my favorite era of the band.  Soon, Jimmy Page joined - as the bass player - but soon moved to guitar.  And then, Jeff was canned. Page's version of the band was pretty cool, but pretty much overshadowed by what he turned the band into - The New Yardbirds, later known as Led Zeppelin.

For years, The Yardbirds' legacy wasn't well tended, it was hard to figure out what albums to get, and even which guitarists were on which album.   But in 2001, Rhino combined all the eras of the band's career into one very well annotated collection, The Yardbirds Ultimate! I recommend this so highly.   I just listened to the whole thing, and was amazed, once again, by how great this band was.  What a tragedy that frontman Keith Relf is no longer with us - a Yardbirds reunion with Beck and Page, with Relf singing, that would have been amazing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I've been listening to Anthrax' Worship Music lately, their reunion with singer Joey Belladonna.  To me, it was the best metal album of 2011, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way.

It got me listening to what is probably the band's best album, Among The Living, which was released in 1987, the year I graduated from high school, a time when I was really into thrash metal. This album blew my mind. As everyone knows, they were part of the "Big 4" of thrash metal, along with Metallica (the album was actually dedicated to the then-recently departed Cliff Burton), Slayer and Megadeth. But those other bands were from the west coast, Anthrax definitely brought a lot of east coast flavor and culture. I wasn't familiar with hardcore punk at the time, but the New York's hardcore scene was definitely an influence on the group, as was hip-hop music, which was exploding in New York at the time, and in my opinion (I know, I'm old) was much cooler back then.

They seemed really different from other metal bands: they kind of had more of a sense of humor (as seen in their "NOT" mascot), they dressed differently (Run-DMC style training jackets, boarder shorts) and had really cool lyrical influences that I definitely related to: comic books (I knew that Scott Ian was a bit fan of Frank Miller's Batman Returns) and Stephen King. There were also songs with some kind of consciousness to them: "Indians," like Iron Maiden's "Run To The Hills" was about how Native Americans got screwed over. As I mentioned, I didn't know much about punk rock at that time, so the idea of having a social consciousness in heavy music was a new concept to me.  Also, "N.F.L." about the stupidity of John Belushi's death: not many metal bands sang about the real pitfalls of drug abuse like that. In "One World," they sang about "Russians - they're only people like us!" and "Americans: stop singing 'Hail To The Chief!'" A lot of the metal audience is more politically conservative today, I wonder how it would go over.  But man, what a ballsy move. Even "Imitation of Life" really resonated with me.  It was about phony people, and it also ripped on hair metal bands (even though years later, Anthrax would agree to open some shows for motley crue).

The above is all well and good, but when I listened to the album, it still sounded so great, so powerful, and that's what matters. I'm not always the biggest fan of Joey Belladonna's voice (I prefer John Bush, who replaced him), but I had to admit, he sounded great on last year's Worship Music, and he's perfect on Among The Living. The other thing that separated Anthrax from the other Big 4 bands was that their singers didn't sing, they were shouters.  Which is fine.  But Belladonna gave Anthrax a connection to other metal legends with great singers, like Maiden and Judas Priest.

I always felt that Anthrax didn't ever really get their due, but they have achieved a kind of legendary status.  This album explains why.  By the way, I was listening to the 2009 expanded reissue, not a bad package.  The liner notes by metal fan/comedian Brian Posehn make it worth the price of admission.  The bonus tracks really don't.  But the bonus disc is the "home video" (as they called it back then) Oidivnikufesin (N.F.V.) on DVD, which is cool.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I was so happy to hear that The Beastie Boys will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. What makes that more amazing is the fact that they are still putting out great records, as evidenced by Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.  Unfortunately, the album didn't get much attention. A lot of that is because they couldn't do too much promotion, since Adam Yauch is still battling cancer. But you really wouldn't have guessed that by listening to the album.

It's a straight up hip-hop record. There's no instrumental funk jams (which they probably got out of their system last time, on the instrumental album The Mix-Up). There's no hardcore punk, or hard rock jams.

That's a risky move for a bunch of guys in their mid to late 40s.  The current commercial hip-hop community probably aren't paying attention to them (although they get respect from the people who have a sense of history... and the fact that Nas guests on "Too Many Rappers" doesn't hurt either).  The production doesn't sound like it has an ear to 2011, or even 2001.  It's kind of timeless: on one hand, it sounds like old-school electro hip-hop.  On the other hand, it's very futuristic, but not in the Black Eyed Peas Euro-rave-Blade Runner way. They don't work with outside producers - they produce the tracks themselves.  Not many other hip-hop acts produce their own albums.

One thing that hasn't changed is that they still make great videos.  There's a half hour video "Fight For Your Right Revisited" (which is based on the banger "Make Some Noise") and also a Spike Jonze directed clip starring action figures for "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win." You can catch them here.   But as for the album itself, it's a great one.  I'm sure some people will say that they aren't "relevant to the hip-hop community" anymore.  But shit, I'm 40+, I don't care about "relevant" I care about "great," and this is a great album.


Charles Bradley's debut album No Time For Dreaming has a great story behind it. First of all, he's over 60 years old... probably one of the oldest people to release a debut. He spent much of his childhood in the streets, his life was changed when he saw James Brown in concert in 1962. He started singing after that, but didn't get his big break until recently, courtesy of Daptone Records (home of Ms. Sharon Jones).  You can read his whole bio at his website.

As I often say, context is great, but how's the music?  Well, on No Time For Dreaming, the music is great. Daptone Records kind of fetishize the soul music of the '60s, but can you blame them?  It was a great era.  Mr. Bradley is perfect for the label: he isn't just a James Brown disciple, he also has a lot of Otis Redding in his voice as well.

The album's main single, "The World Is Going Up In Flames," is a song for 2011 (or 2012), and it would have worked equally as well in 1962. But there's lots of other great songs on the album.

The backing band on the album is phenomenal, and I have to give a lot of credit to the label for signing Mr. Bradley, and really getting behind him. This is a soul album. It's not R&B, and it doesn't make any references to hip-hop.  Which makes it a tough sell in 2011 and 2012. If you put some of these songs on a playlist of Stax songs from the '60s, they would fit in. It's not just the sound, it's the songs.  If you love soul music, check this album out.