Saturday, February 9, 2013


I love talking about the GRAMMYS; I've written about it often on my blog, talked about it on the radio, and covered the show for VH1 and, this year I'll be covering for  As longtime readers also know, I'm a voter. Except this year, I'm not - I forgot to pay my dues.  Duh! Normally I keep my votes a secret - I know NARAS frowns upon anyone sharing their votes. But since I'm not voting this year, I figured I'd share what my ballot would have looked like (and why). Enjoy, because I'm never forgetting to pay my dues EVER AGAIN.

Record Of The Year
Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger"
fun. - "We Are Young"
Goyte + Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used To Know"
Frank Ocean - "Thinkin' 'Bout You"
Taylor Swift - "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

Really tough category. The Black Keys are my favorite artist in this category, and I love the way their whole El Camino album sounds. Is a stripped down garage rock sound the work of a great producer?  Well, to be minimal is a production choice, and in their case, it's the right one. I also love Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" - straight up, great pop song. fun. I don't buy into them as much, and I actually think their song "Some Nights" is a better song and a better sounding song than "We Are Young," so that gets eliminated. "Somebody That I Used To Know" is an incredible production. It's like a Peter Gabriel song, it's amazing.  Taylor's song is great, too, and the production made it her biggest hit yet.  Just when you thought she couldn't get any bigger, she got bigger, mostly because of the production on this song.
My Vote: Frank Ocean Like I said, minimalism is a choice, and in the case of this song, it really brought out the heart, and the hurt, in this song.  I don't buy into Frank Ocean the way everyone else does - I think his Channel Orange is a bit overrated - but "Thinkin' 'Bout You" is probably the best song of the year (and I can't believe it wasn't nominated in that category).

Album Of The Year 
Black Keys - El Camino
fun. - Some Nights
Mumford & Sons - Babel
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange 
Jack White - Blunderbuss 

First off, I produced a series of "Inside The Album Of The Year" video packages around these albums. See them all here, or follow the above links. Secondly,  Bruce Springsteen got ripped off. This isn't as egregious as 2007, when Bruce's Magic wasn't nominated, but lesser albums by Vince Gill and Herbie Hancock were.  All of these albums figured heavily into the conversation about pop music this year.  fun. was a huge band this year, but they feel more like a singles band than an album band. As I mentioned, I don't think Frank Ocean's album is a classic, but I'm in the minority there. And I didn't think Mumford & Sons' album held up to the first one.  But whatever.  For me, it breaks down to the Jack White/Black Keys rivalry. Blunderbuss  was my second favorite album of the year, after Bruce's Wrecking Ball. El Camino was my 4th favorite album of 2011 (it came out in December of that year).
My Vote: El Camino by a teeny, tiny margin. It just felt like it was The Black Keys' year.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Norah Jones is continuing to get her hipster on.  I'm not mad!  She has a new EP of remixes from last year's Little Broken Hearts album, which was my 7th favorite album of the year.

Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio remixed "Good Morning," "She's 22," "Take It Back" and "After The Fall."  I think he did a great job on them.

Jose Padilla, a dance music DJ who has been playing Ibiza since 1975 (!) according to his bio had really cool takes on "Say Goodbye" and "Travelin' On."

But Peter, Bjorn & John - probably most well known for the whistling song hit "Young Folks" - did a really upbeat take on Norah's darkest song, "Miriam."  It makes it kind of sinister - instead of being "holy s***" while listening to the lyrics, you're dancing and having fun while listening to Norah singing about taking revenge on the woman who stole her man (and did it in Norah's house!).

I don't think that this EP has gotten too much hype - and really, neither did the album. Which is too bad, the album was great, and this is a really cool remixes EP.


photo credit: Maria Ives 
2012 was a great year for me, for many reasons. You can look around at my recent "Catching Up" posts of the shows I attended (there are more to come).  And - bonus! - I got to see Primus twice! Once in the spring and then again in the fall. The fall show was a bit different because they started using 3D effects and quadrophonic sound, for a truly psychedelic experience.  Read my professional review of of the show on KROQ's website.

Just like with movies, 3D doesn't always work for me. Sometimes it adds to the experience, other times it just seems gimmicky.  Some of the effects in this show worked better than others.  But I have to give Primus credit for putting a lot of effort, and a lot of money, into creating an experience.  As for the musical performance, it was spectacular.  To me, they combine the best elements of the alternative/heavy rock scene of the '90s with the very best elements of improvisational rock (aka the jam band scene).  They stretch their songs out, but they don't get too long or too boring.  At this point, I think that the band's current lineup - Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde and Jay Lane - is the best lineup they've had.
"Ler" / photo credit: Maria Ives

The Pig Mask / photo credit: Maria Ives

photo credit: Maria Ives 
Anyway, I took photos the last time I saw them, but this time I had a pro shooting, so enjoy all of these photos Primus fans.  And if you steal them, give her credit at least and link back to my blog!

Drummer Jay Lane and Les Claypool are a great rhythm section. Photo credit: Maria Ives

on the dobro bass/ Photo credit: Maria Ives
photo credit: Maria Ives

Saturday, January 26, 2013


photo credit: Maria Ives 
I guess it was just a matter of time before Greg Dulli decided to reunite with the Afghan Whigs for a tour.  I don't know what went into the decision to reunite the band, but I'm glad they did it.  They were one of the best bands during the '90s.  The rock critic types seemed to really like them, MTV gave them a good shot, but they never seemed to catch on in a big way.  Radio wouldn't play them for some reason. And I'd read that Dulli could be his own worst enemy.

photo credit: Maria Ives 
I've enjoyed Dulli's work with The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins.  But nothing touches the Afghan Whigs.  When I saw them back in the day, I thought Dulli was Springsteen-esque. So I'm glad to report that he's just as great today, and so were the rest of the band.  It was an amazing show, and I hope the tour wasn't just a one-off.  But even if it was, I'm glad I got the chance to see them one more time.
photo credit: Maria Ives

Friday, January 4, 2013


Seeing Roger Waters at Yankee Stadium this summer was incredible. It was the exact same Wall show that I saw in 2010, it was just bigger.

I wasn't reviewing the show for work, we didn't have a photo pass (unfortunately) and we bought our tickets, which were expensive and totally worth it.

I found the show even more moving the second time around, especially during "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)," where young children were break dancing on stage wearing shirts that read "FEAR BUILDS WALLS." I think the meaning of the album, to Roger, has changed since he wrote it during his days in Pink Floyd.

It was obviously a very personal album when he wrote it. But now, I think it takes on a more global message.  He paints in broad strokes - during "Mother" when he sings "Mother, should I trust the government?" the answer is scrawled on the wall: "No Fucking Way."  That's an easy way to get cheers (especially from the formerly mulleted classic rock crowd who may watch a bit too much Fox... but then again, I would probably have enjoyed that line a bit more during the bu$h era). Still, the performance seems to not emphasize his unsuccessful relationships with his exquisite wife and mother, and more on the effect that war has had on him (and many others, making it an album that seems less about himself and more about the rest of the world).

Still, I walked away from the show elated at the incredible production I'd just witnessed.  And also moved. Still moved after thirty years, by this incredibly powerful and durable work of art.


photo credit: Maria Ives
So, it was a bit weird to go to see Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper one night, and Norah Jones the next. But that's how we (my talented photographer wife and I) roll. I reviewed both shows for CBS New York.

Norah's Little Broken Hearts was one of my favorite albums of 2011, but I was curious how it would come off live, since it's a Danger Mouse production,  which often incorporates a lot of studio elements. No problem: it was great, and Norah showed a lot of confidence in her new music and her band, playing 10 of the 12 songs.

I give her a lot of credit for not being trapped by the success of her incredibly successful debut, Come Away With Me. She doesn't spend the night at the grand piano (in fact, she barely plays it at all, sticking with electric piano or guitar), and just plays a few songs from the album. Well, I think she always knew that she wasn't likely to match the sales of that record no matter what, and she hasn't let the album "own" her career. Anyway, obviously she's gone through some stuff lately, and that's what she's singing about.

The band did a great cover of The Grateful Dead's "It Must Have Been The Roses," and I hope she releases that at some point.  The only disappointment of the show, for me, was that her Little Willies bandmate Jim Campilongo opened the show and they didn't play together.  I really dug the Little Willies' album from last year, For The Good Times, and would have loved to heard a song (or three) from it.  But I can't complain too much - Norah sang what she wanted to sing, and she was awesome.


photo credit: Maria Ives
Here's another really fun show that I reviewed over the summer: Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper at Jones Beach. It had been years since I've seen Maiden in concert.  On this tour, they seemed to concentrate on the first Bruce Dickinson era: from 1982's Number Of The Beast through 1992's Fear Of The Dark, and there was definitely an emphasis on 1988's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.  

They were awesome. As I mention in my review, Dickinson does not seem to have aged.  And the other guys look a bit more like old metal guys, but they play with serious ferocity.  Guitarist Jannick Gers doesn't seem to fit in with the band at all.  Dickinson brought him into the band in the '90s after he'd played on Bruce's solo debut. Adrian Smith quit and Gers replaced him. Years later, Bruce quit, and a few years later, Smith joined his solo band. Then they both rejoined Maiden, and the band opted to keep Gers, giving them three guitarists.  Not totally necessary, but I guess it's cool that they didn't just ditch the guy. Still, he really looks more like he's in Poison or something. But the sound is what's important, and Maiden still sound brutal. If you love Maiden and go to see them, you definitely won't be disappointed.  Steve Harris is still one of the best bass players in metal. 

photo credit: Maria Ives
Also, as mentioned in the review, we didn't get there early enough to catch Alice Cooper, which was a huge bummer.  When you have a photo pass, you have to get to the show early so they can escort you to the front of the stage.  Our ride from my office in midtown to Long Island took more than 2 1/2 hours.  Hence, no Alice photos.  We hung out outside during his performance, but he sounded incredible, and I hope to go see him soon. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


photo credit: Maria Ives 
I'm trying to bring my blog up to speed, and I'm going to post links to some concerts that I reviewed over the past few months, with extra bonus photos and my more personal takes on the shows.

Over the summer, I saw the Allman Brothers Band/Santana tour, which was pretty great. My review for work is here.

This was a true co-headlining tour, with the band's switching the order each night. The night before I went, the Allmans played last, and apparently, Gregg Allman didn't sound great. The night I went, Gregg was still a bit rough, but I thought it was a really good show... if not as transcendent as the one I'd seen earlier in the year, when they opened their annual string of shows at New York City's Beacon Theatre. The band really is powered by their incredible guitar team of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.  They blow my mind every time.

I hadn't seen Santana for a really long time.  I like his new singers, but I'd love to see him reunite with original singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie (and Gregg told me he'd be into it). Still, his current band is great, and he gives them all space to solo and contribute; I thought it was a cool show. The highlight was when Derek and Warren joined them, although the jam went too far into Dead-like jam-band territory after a while. Still, I really liked the show, and am getting ready to see the Allmans once again when they play the Beacon again this year.

photo credit: Maria Ives

photo credit: Maria Ives 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Over the past few days, I've posted about some of my favorite albums of the year. But there were a lot of great songs that weren't on any of them, so I'm gonna do one more quick list. Ready?  Here we go:

Frank Ocean - "Thinkin' 'Bout You": I kind of feel like I have to justify why Ocean wasn't on my top albums of the year.  So here it is:  I really wanted to like his album. A vote for him seemed to equal a vote for a world where being gay is no big deal. I'm all about it. But I just don't love the album, it doesn't keep my interest at all.  And that said, "Thinkin' 'Bout You" might be the best song I heard all year. It's so moving, it gets me every time.  Just based on this song, I'll pick up his next album.  The guy is clearly talented as hell.

Solange - "Losing You": My boss turned me on to this song, and he's a tough crowd, so I checked it out. What an amazing song.  If it's possible for her to get out of her sister's shadow, this is the song that should be able to do it.  

M.I.A. - "Bad Girlz": Unfortunately, the headlines M.I.A. made in 2012 were all about her little moment of  giving the finger to the camera at the Super Bowl. It was dumb and goofy.  But at least she put out a great song, and the video for this was pretty cool too.

Santigold - "Disparate Youth": She's always interesting. This song is a bit more "new-wave-y" than her prior songs.  It actually reminds me of New Order for some reason.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood - "Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go": I'm not very familiar with Chris Robinson's solo stuff, although I have certainly enjoyed his music with The Black Crowes. But wow, what a great song, it sounds like something that would have been on a Sam Cooke record or a very early Motown single.

Ryan Shaw - "Morning Noon And Night": Actually, I need to check out his album.  I heard his song in Starbucks, Shazam-ed it, and downloaded it.  It's one of the best things I've heard all year and also kind of Sam Cooke-ian.

Leonard Cohen - "Going Home": I can't really get into entire Leonard Cohen albums, but I do love some of his songs, and this one is a classic.

Willie Nelson - "Just Breathe": I liked Willie's album, Heroes, but not enough to include it in my top albums of 2012.  But this Pearl Jam cover was incredible.

The Beach Boys - "That's Why God Made The Radio" I'm fascinated that it even got made. And I love the fact that there's no acknowledgement of anything current.  This is a 100% authentic Brian Wilson creation.

Van Halen - "Stay Frosty": This was also an unlikely, and solid, reunion.  David Lee Roth had lots of great lines, Ed Van Halen sounds inspired and Alex and Wolfgang are solid. This song is the highlight, and actually can stand up next to some of their earlier stuff. 

The Rolling Stones - "Doom And Gloom"/"One More Shot": Basically, they kicked everyone's ass with these songs.  

Led Zeppelin - "Good Times Bad Times (live)": I could have picked any song from Celebration Day, really.  But this is the first song on the album and the excitement is tangible.  I have to do a separate post about this album, I can't believe how great it is. 

Aerosmith - "Oh Yeah": I wish I liked their album, Music From Another Dimension, more than I do.  We had to wait so long for it! But "Oh Yeah," which Joe Perry wrote, is 100% classic Aerosmith. 

Paul McCartney/Dave Grohl/Krist Novoselic/Pat Smear - "Cut Me Some Slack": Rocking.  

The Wallflowers featuring Mick Jones - "Reboot The Mission": Basically a Clash tribute.  In the best way. 

Joey Ramone - "New York City": It holds up to the greatest Ramones songs.  I love it. 

Gaslight Anthem - "45": I thought this should have been the song to bring them to the "next level." 

Iggy Pop and Bethany Cosentino - "Let's Boot And Rally": a great song from True Blood, written by the show's music director, Gary Calamar. Calamar wrote the song for them, and he told me about it. And this is where I get to include Best Coast (the band Ms. Costentino sings for; I like them, but not enough to include them on this list). 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

BEST OF 2012 - TIE FOR #11

There were a lot of great albums that came out this year, and I'm not going to write an entry about each one that barely missed the top 10, but here's a roundup of what other records I liked in 2012. 

Bettye LaVette - Thankful N' Thoughtful: I've enjoyed everything she's done since her amazing 2005 comeback I've Got My Own Hell To Raise, which I thought was one of the most underrated albums of the '00s. Her label, Anti- Records, gives her room to make great records, and she's done it again.  There's lots of great songs here, including Dylan's "Everything Is Broken," The Black Keys' "I'm Not The One" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."

Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again: I talked and wrote about him early in 2012, and I was really looking forward to this record.  It doesn't disappoint, although I would say that it could use a few more upbeat songs.  Like Gary Clark Jr, the Grammys totally slept on Michael Kiwanuka.

Jamey Johnson - Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran: Jamey's last album, The Guitar Song, was my third favorite album of 2010.  This one didn't hit me quite as hard, but it's a bummer that it didn't get much attention in the press. Maybe because it's a tribute, and because it's all duets (Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson are all on the album).  But it's a really cool album, and has made me want to pick up a Hank Cochran collection.

ZZ Top - La Futura: Why didn't they work with Rick Rubin before this? It's a really really great album, easily their best since Eliminator.  The first single, "I Gotsta Get Paid" is a sort of cover of a obscure '90s hip-hop tune by DJ DMD (I'd never heard of him).  It doesn't come off gimmicky at all.  And it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album.  It's such a shame that this didn't get too much lip service this year.

Green Day - Uno, Dos y Tre: Essentially a triple album released in three parts.  There's a little bit of fat, but not much.  This kind of has everything they do from punk rock raveups to over the top Broadway-like productions to ballads.

Soundgarden - King Animal: A really great comeback/reunion album... but not quite as good as their pre-breakup material.  Still, there are some amazing songs here, like "Non-State Actor" and "Taree."  But the best might be the weirdest:  "Rowing," which sounds like something that may have been born, oddly enough, in Chris Cornell's ill-fated collaboration with Timbaland on Scream: the song is built around a loop of Chris singing, and a very funky bassline by Ben Shepherd. It's actually become one of my favorite Soundgarden songs ever.

Alabama Shakes - Boys And Girls: They got a lot of buzz this year (and, I'm glad to say, a nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammys)... it's good to see a rock band getting that kind of hype, and these guys deserve it.  I like their album, I don't love it, but wow they have lots of potential.  And they were rockin' when they opened for Jack White earlier this year.

The xx - Coexist: a cool album to chill out to. I was turned on to it by a colleague from work.
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...: A lot of people put this high up in their year-end countdowns.  I liked it, but didn't love it.  Her last album, Extraordinary Machine, was probably my favorite album of 2005, and I thought it was one of the most underrated albums of the '00s.