Sunday, March 25, 2012


I was a bit surprised to hear that T-Bone Burnett was producing the "soundtrack" to the film The Hunger Games. I know that the film is based on a series of books that are aimed at teenagers, and based in some sort of futuristic world. Didn't seem like his beat. My understanding was that The Hunger Games was meant to appeal to the Twilight crowd.  Again, T-Bone's greatest film music has seemed aimed at an older crowd: O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski, Walk The Line, Crazy Heart. Generally folk, bluegrass, country, a bit of classic rock. I wasn't so surprised that T-Bone would do it as I was that he'd be asked.

But then I found out that none of the songs are actually in the film (I think one or two play during the closing credits).  What would be the point of getting a well-known (and probably well-paid) producer to put together a group of songs for a movie, but they won't be used in the film?

Well, it turns out that it worked quite well! Having seen the movie, I now know that the "District 12" referred to in the subtitle to the soundtrack is the coal mining territory where the main character, Katniss Everdeen, comes from. The music that T-Bone specializes in completely works among that backdrop.  And while none of the songs are heard during the actual film, all of the songs are actually based on the original novel.

I saw the movie this weekend and thought it was great. Pretty dark for a book for young people, but I respect that it doesn't pander to kids.  The soundtrack doesn't either.  Taylor Swift is on the soundtrack (and her collaboration with The Civil Wars works quite well)... but if they had the budget for her, that means they had the budget for Katy Perry or Drake or LMFAO.  It would have been really easy to fit those acts into some of the scenes in the film.  So I tip my hat to the producers for coming up with an idea that is much more cohesive, and will age well.

Other than the Taylor/Civil Wars track, I really liked Arcade Fire's "Abraham's Daughter," The Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Daughter's Lament," The Pistol Annies' "Run Daddy Run" and the one hip-hop track on the album, Kid Cudi's "The Ruler And The Killer" (which is more of a Nine Inch Nails vibe than an appalachian sound).

The packaging seems to have two slots for CDs even though it only contains one.  Any guesses as to why?

Monday, March 19, 2012


I was surprised when I realized that Mark Lanegan's Blues Funeral is his first solo album since 2004's Bubblegum (a really underrated record).  Of course, he's kept busy over the past decade: he joined (and then left) Queens Of The Stone Age, he's done records as a duo with former Belle & Sebastian member Isobell Campbell and he had The Gutter Twins band with Greg Dulli. He's also collaborated with Soulsavers on two LPs, and I think that the latter experience influenced the sound of this album.

Soulsavers is a British dance music/remix team with a big rock, gospel and country influence.  Lanegan went in some new directions with them; he sang on two albums and also performed with them. The Soulsavers don't appear on the LP, but Lanegan kept a contemporary (but not pandering) sound here, thanks to his "Band," namely multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes and drummer Jack Irons.  In other words, 2/3 of Eleven.  Johannes produced the record as well, and I'd love to get a copy of this to The Edge: U2 should sign this guy up immediately. I feel like this is the album they were trying to make last time.  It is definitely the kind of album Chris Cornell was trying to make on his last solo joint (and since Johannes has worked with Cornell on his solo albums, it's a shame that they didn't come up with anything this incredible).

"Bleeding Muddy Water" is a classic blues or soul song: I'd love to hear Gary Clark Jr. covering this one.  "St. Louis Elegy" sees Lanegan and Dulli singing together again: it's a potent blend, and I'd recommend that Greg consider working with Johannes on the next Twilight Singers LP. "Riot In My House" is as close to metal as Lanegan's gotten on his own records; unsurprisingly, Queen Josh Homme is wailing away on the track. "Ode To Sad Disco" is definitely a song U2 would wish they wrote if they heard this, and ditto for "Quiver Syndrome." (by the way, I realize how off-putting my U2 references are to Lanegan fans. Apologies).

I can't think of many examples of an album that sounds so cutting edge, while maintaining a kind of warmth.  It rocks, it swings.  A couple of years ago, if you told me that Lanegan would do a fresh sounding, electronic-tinged record that would blow my mind, I may not have believed it. But it's kind of like Johnny Cash singing on U2's "The Wanderer" (them again).  It shouldn't work, but it works.

The year isn't 25% over, but I have to think that this will make my top 10 of the year.  If it doesn't, it will have been an amazing year for music.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I'm new to Storify, and I'm using this to experiment with it. I wasn't able to go to opening night of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's tour for Wrecking Ball, so I have been following the show on Twitter and Instagram. Storify allows you to use people's public social media posts to tell a story, so this is how I'm telling the story of the concert I wish I'd attended tonight!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Amnesty International recently released Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honouring 50 Years Of Amnesty International. I wonder if it started out as a single CD.  It's a 4 CD set.  And you could probably fill four more CDs with amazing songs that aren't on this one, and artists who couldn't have been included.

I really dig it, and was glad to discuss it today on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick -- it was my return to the show after more than a month away.  It was great to hang out with Larry and Keith Price again.

Anyway, I'm not reviewing Chimes right now: instead, I'm going to tweet a review of a different song each day for the next 72 days.  Follow me at @noexpiration, or search the hashtag #chimesoffreedom.  I'll probably aggregate all of them in a post when I'm done.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball is, I guess, to the financial crisis as The Rising was to 9/11. Does it hold up to The Rising?  Tough to say, time will tell.  This Rising is a classic.  It also dealt with an event that was much more cut and dried than the meltdown. We were attacked by terrorists, people died that day. Despite that, Bruce sounds a bit angrier on Wrecking Ball, because, of course, this time we were attacked from within.  This time the attackers aren't on the run hiding in a cave; they're giving themselves bonuses, paying non-union workers to clean their yachts, bending the rules, and generally being celebrated by a large portion of the country.

I just painted in broad stroke, and that's what Bruce is doing on this album, he's not being too subtle. "Wherever this flag's flown/We take care of our own" is very slogan-y, but it works for me. We need rallying cries right now. And, in this era where people are calling basic heath care and retirement benefits "entitlements" (while arguing against any government regulation to any business, regardless of the harm certain businesses do to the environment, economy or our health)... I think reminding people that in America, some of us do want to take care of our own is a lovely, strong and ballsy sentiment. It's one that might have been echoed by a pretty high authority, as Bruce points out on "Jack Of All Trades": "We'll start caring for each other, like Jesus said that we might."

When I listen to the album, I think of the guy from "Factory," off of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. In that song, there was no real sense that things could get better, but it's shocking how much worse that they've actually gotten.  I think that that is sort of the theme of the album.   The mansions of fear and the mansions of pain are tough enough, now you're tellin' me they might not be here tomorrow, because you can get someone to work the working life for even less money? And if I get cancer, I'm out of luck?

Throughout the album, fat-cats steal money and party. It's not too thinly veiled, and it seems like some critics lament this lack of nuance.  I get it: but at the same time, sometimes you fight with finesse, and other times you're just so enraged you go for the roundhouse punch.

I do love that he ended the album with "American Land," which he first started playing on the Seeger Sessions Band tour, and is the one song from that era that he's brought to the E Street Band. It's one of my favorite Bruce songs, and, in my mind, a modern day folk classic. It ends the LP on a somewhat upbeat and optimistic note, which I think we needed.  It reminds me of "Reason To Believe" closing Nebraska.

Sonically, the album is a bit different for Bruce.  I was surprised that he didn't make the LP with producer Brendan O'Brien, who produced The Rising, Devils & Dust, Magic and Working On A Dream. Instead, he went with Ron Aniello, who produced one of Patti Scialfa's albums, and is more known for mainstream pop like Guster, Sixpence None The Richer and Jars Of Clay. Bruce and Ron recorded most of the tracks themselves, with a number of musicians helping out, including some members of The E Street Band. Max Weinberg plays drums on three tracks, Little Steven plays mandolin and sings on "American Land," Patti is all over the album, and there are even two solos by Clarence Clemons (on "Wrecking Ball," which the band performed towards the end of their last tour, and "Land Of Hope And Dreams," which they've been playing since the 1999 reunion tour). Extended E Street Band members show up: keyboardist Charlie Giordano is on a number of tracks (but Roy Bittan isn't on the album at all) as is violinist/singer Soozie Tyrell.  There are other familiar names including Steve Jordan, Lisa Lowell and even Bruce fan #1 Tom Morello. Bruce combines the big-band-party-like-it's-1939 sound of the Seeger Sessions Band with the anthemic power of E Street.  I suspect that if this was 10 or 15 years ago, he may have thought about using a different band on the road, but with the passing of Clarence and Danny Federici, I don't think Bruce wants to take another band on the road, and push back the next E Street tour a few more years.

He knows that to bring his most powerful messages to the people, he needs the E Street Band. Doesn't matter if the band didn't make the music, they are the best band to deliver it.  And really, who else is bringing it the way Bruce does, and has been doing, for decades?

These days, "selling out" and not "selling out" are almost antiquated ideas.  The very idea of worrying about it seems quaint. But I'm glad Bruce is still out there not selling out and keeping the faith. Since he did "41 Shots" on the reunion tour, Bruce has been expressing his beliefs and standing behind them, no matter what the cost in fans, dollars or headaches, and I'm glad he's still doing it.

Monday, March 12, 2012


The Allman Brothers Band 3/9/12 credit: Brian Ives
On Friday night I saw opening night of The Allman Brothers Band's annual March Madness at New York City's Beacon Theater. I actually went the first year that they did it, 1992.  It was great then, and they were positively mind-blowing Friday.  I wrote a review for my new job at CBS, but I can't editorialize much in that role.

I brought this up in the article, but I think there's a serious argument to be made that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should update the Allmans' membership.  Right now, the founding members are in: keyboardist/singer Gregg Allman, drummer/percussionists Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, the late lead guitarist Duane Allman, the late bassist Berry Oakley, and guitarist/singer Dickey Betts, who is no longer a part of the band.  I think that guitarist/singer Warren Haynes, percussionist Marc Quinones, guitarist Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge and late bassist Allen Woody should all be in as well. I've been thinking this for a while, but after Friday night's show, I'm sure of it. I cannot think of any other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band who developed that much in the years since being inducted.  I can't think of any other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band that I think should have an "updated" lineup of inducted members.

Despite the fact that they don't record much anymore, this band is as vital and as alive as any that you'll see.  Yes, Gregg, Jaimoe and Butch have been playing many of these songs for decades, but Warren, Derek, Oteil and Marc give them new life.  You never watch Derek and feel like you're seeing a nostalgia act.  It's real, it's in the moment, it's vital, it breathes.  Those of you who have read No Expiration for a while, you know I'm not a "jam band" guy per se (although I respect the scene).  The thing about The Allmans, their music has a punch and a power that most jam bands don't have. Yes, some of their songs get a bit too long (I don't want to hear "Mountain Jam" ever), but many of their long songs work incredibly well. Don't believe me?  Well, there's eight nights left to this year's March Madness, why don't you go check it out?


I've seen Bruce Springsteen in concert 20+ times, and it's still exciting every time.  On his last tour, two of my friends went to see him for the first time. I thought that it was so cool, after hearing people rave about Bruce for decades, that they finally got around to seeing him.  So, on this tour, I'm looking for people who are going to see Bruce for the first time to guest blog, and write about the experience.

First up: a former SiriusXM colleague Cristina Palumbo. She is a on-air sidekick on two SiriusXM shows: The Alex Bennett Program (hear it weekdays 7-10am ETon SiriusXM Left)
and The Jay Thomas Show (weekdays 3-6pm ET on SiriusXM Stars Too). You can follow her on Twitter (and I recommend that you do) and follow her hijinks on Facebook. First time I met Cristina I was producing a shoot where people were trying out to be on a reality show on Playboy TV. Everything Cristina said in the control room was hilarious. She's made me laugh many times since then, and one of these days, someone is going to give her her own radio show.

Anyway, she was fortunate enough to attend Bruce Springsteen's concert at the Apollo Theater last Friday night and was generous enough to offer to review it for No Expiration.  So, here's what she said:

"By no means have I ever considered myself a die hard Springsteen fan. If I had to choose sides of the never ending new jersey battle I was always half way there and living on a prayer. All that changed Friday night when I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live at the Apollo for the 10th birthday of SiriusXM. I've been to a handful of concerts in my life including two of Cher's many farewell tours (go ahead and laugh but you haven’t lived until you have partied in a stadium filled with gay men in sailor hats) but I have never seen a show like this before.

Growing up my parents were fans of different types of music and exposed me to all of it. As an only child I kept myself occupied by 'choreographing' dance routines and 'hosting' radio shows in my bedroom for hours. I would tap into my parents collection of music which introduced me to Bruce for the first time. I can remember spotting the iconic Born in the USA cover art preserved behind the cloudy cassette plastic cover. I put it in my duel cassette player, envisioned myself in a stadium at halftime and performed the number of a lifetime. At 31 years old I remember this like it was yesterday, and Friday night's concert put my awesome bedroom performance to shame.

Once I got over the fact that I was getting drinks from the same bar as Paul Rudd I found my seat and was prepared to sing 'Born in the USA' louder than any real Springsteen fan. To my disappointment it's not 1984. No 'Born to Run' or '57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)' either. To be under the same roof doing the same thing as Tom Hanks only 5 rows behind him was an experience in itself. Turns out there is way more to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band than terrestrial radio ever told me. Only a few songs rang a bell, I only knew four of them. I know, that’s a total disgrace, but my appreciation for Bruce and the band has certainly changed dramatically!

The energy in the room was electric. The space at the Apollo was so intimate that the sound from the horns bounced off the walls and into my intestines. Bruce was up every aisle, hanging from the balconies and at one point basically singing in Ben Stiller’s lap. The energy coming out of this 62 year old man makes me want to drink green vegetables three times a day. From start to finish the show was incredible and at times inspirational as Bruce told little anecdotes of how the band got their start, through the years of being on the road and giving people along the way a chance to show their talents. If I don’t leave my seat at least once to use the restroom, chalk it up to awesome.

I can honestly say I walked into the Apollo with the appreciation any regular person would have of someone with a very real gift. I left the Apollo a fan.

P.S.  iTunes, you're welcome for my most recent purchases."

So there you have it!  Thank you Cristina for taking the time, and hopefully there's a couple of more accounts of first-time Springsteen concert goers to come.   (and by the way, the photo is Cristina's as well.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


After months of not going to concerts, last night I went to my first show since the fall, and boy did I pick a good one.  The Robert Johnson tribute concert at the Apollo Theater, celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday. As you can see by the image to the left, it was a pretty great bill, with lots of my favorite acts there.

I already wrote a review, which you can read here: but it was very classic rock-oriented, as I wrote it for that format. But to reiterate, Living Colour killed it. They kind of reminded everyone just how exciting, explosive and vibrant it can be when the blues is brought to life with LOUD electric guitars.  But I have to ask how it is that Corey Glover seems to age in reverse?  His voice is amazing, and he seems to have more control of it now than he did two decades ago. Vernon Reid is just a monster on guitar. Their performance by themselves was great, as were their collaborations with Shemekia Copeland and Sarah Dash.

The Roots were amazing as always: Black Thought wasn't with them. Instead, guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas took the vocals on "Milkcow's Calf Blues."  I love Black Thought, but they could have a parallel career as a rock band if they wanted to. Macy Gray did a great take on "Come On In My Kitchen." Taj Majal and Bettye Lavette were commanding presences every time they hit the stage, and what a treat to get to see both Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) and Allen Toussaint perform.  Most of these artists wouldn't be who you'd expect at a Robert Johnson tribute, but that's what made it cool. It showed that his influence extends far beyond "blues rock" artists.

It was also nice to see some younger artists:  The Dough Rollers are a traditional country blues-ish duo who were amazing, and The Pedrito Martinez Group were pretty exciting also.  I plan on checking them both out. Proof that, as I often say, the blues is alive and well.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Forget the antics, and some of the stuff she's said in interviews.  M.I.A. has made some of the best music since the turn of the millennium.  You can never box her in: she's hip-hop, she's dance, and at least in spirit, she's punk rock. But she doesn't conform to the rules of any of those genres.

Her 2005 debut Arular knocked the music world on its ass.  The song "Galang" (co-written by her one-time roomate, Justine Frischmann, formerly of elastica) just sounded so different. 2007's Kala featured the Clash-sampling "Paper Planes" (itself sampled by Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil Wayne on their hit, "Swagga Like Us"). That album brought her to another level, especially after "Swagga" (and her memorable performance at the Grammys, while incredibly pregnant).

I thought 2010's Maya would bring her to the next level, especially because her song "XXXO" seemed like a huge hit (it wasn't). It probably should have been the first single, but instead she went with the Suicide-sampling "Born Free" (which had one of the heaviest videos you'll ever see).

I don't think her Super Bowl antics will ultimately help her out too much, but I for one am looking forward to her next album, and I hope that people can hear it with an open mind.


First off, I've been away from the blog for a minute.  Sorry about that.  I have a new job.  More on that later.

Secondly, it's been a while since VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music countdown ended, but my other posts are still doing pretty well, so I'll write a few more.  It's always exciting, and a true honor, to be asked to be on a VH1 show.  The way this one turned out, I didn't get to comment about some of my favorite artists.  Not that I'm complaining!  But I'm taking to my blog to say what I would have said, if I was in those segments.

So: The Indigo Girls. I love them. I saw them open for Neil Young on his solo acoustic tour in the summer of 1989, when he was trying out songs that would later end up on Freedom. I caught the end of their set, and I thought they were great.  At the time, they had a semi-hit single with "Closer To Fine" from their self titled LP from that year (it wasn't their debut, but it was their major label debut).  I picked it up, and loved it. After that - it was album after album after album of great music.  I bonded with some women who used to frequent the bar that I DJed at in college over our shared love of The Girls.  Fans definitely identified with one or the other.  I love Emily Sailers, but I definitely identified with Amy Ray more.  She's much more punk rock.  I love both of their guitar styles, both of their songs (they never really wrote together, I like Amy's more), and their politics. They definitely put their money where their mouths are.  They have never sold out, or even approached selling out. They don't get enough credit for that.  The rock critic types tend to make fun of them, I guess because they are ernest.

Years after becoming a fan, I got to meet them on a number of occasions:  I interviewed them a bunch of times, and even wrote their record label bio (twice!).  If any of their hard core fans are reading this, they should know: Amy and Emily are as cool in real life as you'd think.

What albums would I recommend?  If you had to pick one, you should go with the double live album, 1200 Curfews from 1995. I think it's one of the best live albums ever, it really gives the vibe of what their shows were like.  It's almost like they weren't a part of the music business.  They had nothing to do with anything that was ever going on around them, they were always themselves.  The fans loved them for it, and you really hear it on this album.  As far as studio albums go, wow... start with The Indigo Girls and go forward from there. 1994's Swamp Ophelia is one of their most popular records (it had two hits, "Power Of Two" and "Least Complicated").  I remember the somewhat bizarre experience of seeing them on that tour at a Z100 Christmas concert.  1999's Come On Now Social and 2002's Become You are both really great also.  My favorite might be 1992's Rites Of Passage.

I gotta give VH1 credit for including them in the countdown.  No one would have yelled at them if they didn't.  The Girls really do exist outside the mainstream these days, they aren't with a huge management company or label.  The VH1 folks (and yes I used to work there) included them because they deserved to be there, and that's based on how great their music has been over the past (almost) 25 years.