Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
It's not the normal type of song that I listen to, it's a modern pop kinda hip hop song. It was arguably the biggest pop hit of the Summer, it's Rihanna's "Umbrella". I didn't think much of it all Summer and it went away until the year end countdown shows kicked in. Now my thoughts often end in ela ela ay ay ay.
Speaking of Bond, the video features the singer in what looks like silver body paint. A little like Goldfinger! -finger -finger -ay -ay -ay. It actually has a bit of that Bond movie sound too. Maybe the song will lead to world peace as well? Geez, I really feel like I have to justify liking a song brought to you by Covergirl. I guess I really can't other than to say I like the song. So, six months after it was a hit, my song of the moment is "Umbrella".
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The CD made more headlines for how it was sold than what the music actually was. Rainbows finds Radiohead making their most accessable album in years with guitars, song structure and a bit of warmth. Kid A this is not.
The Stripes made a surprising return to guitar rock and laid emphasis on 70's hard rock on their recent release. An absolutely thunderous album. Love that bull fighting song "Conquest".
Arcade Fire made a fan out of me with their dense, almost orchestral sound and lyrics of spiritual discontentment. A near classic album that holds together in individual songs or as a whole.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
With the end of the year comes the inevitable Top whatever lists of things from the year-and I love those lists. So, to kick off my series of lists is my Top 10 songs from the year. I'm going to include links to songs not featured previously here so hopefully it will all make sense.
Number 10: Spoon "Don't Make Me A Target"
The first song on their recent album wasn't a single, but still was my favorite song on that disc. It holds to Spoon's "less is more" aesthetic and has an edgy tension reminiscent of classic Police. I also liked how it was included in NBC's Chuck as it fits in well with the spy motif. Spiky riffs and choppy beats marked with a laconic vocal makes for a great song.
Number 9: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings "100 Days, 100 Nights"
Old school R&B made a slight comeback in 2007, mostly thanks to tabloid queen Amy Winehouse. But it was Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings who delivered the goods with a great classic Soul record. The title track, "100 Days, 100 Nights" starts like Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and then shifts gears into an heavier groove midway. Sharon Jones may go by the nickname "Queen of Funk" but she can definitely give the Queen of Soul a run for her money.
Number 8: White Stripes "Icky Thump"
Just when Jack and Meg White seemed like they were going to get lost in the ether of their artistry (Get Behind Me Satan), they returned to guitar rock with a vengence. Not just any guitar rock, but 70's stadium rock a la Led Zep or Bad Company. The lead single, "Icky Thump", was Led Zep 101 with cutting guitar riffs, high pitched vocals and hammering drums. And also like Led Zep, I have no idea what the song is about.
Number 7: Arcade Fire "Keep The Car Running"
Arcade Fire won comparisons to Bruce Springsteen with their Neon Bible album and on this track deservedly so. But this isn't a regurgitation of Springsteen, the song has its own distinct style with the quavery vocals and stilted sense of melody. The song received the Boss's official stamp of approval by performing the song live with the Fire and Foo Fighters covered it as well.
Number 6: Bruce Springsteen "Radio Nowhere"
The Boss returned to clean house armed with a Tommy TuTone riff and the truth. Easily his hardest rocking song since the Human Touch album, Springsteen's lament of radio and the bygone era of personal connection it represents charges through the speakers like a bull in a china shop. Plus, Clarence Clemons gets an actual solo to boot! When I saw him perform this year, they started the show with this song. The image of Springsteen spitting the lyrics into the microphone, his head swinging like a dog knawing a bone, is burned in my brain.
Number 5: Weird Al Yankovic "White and Nerdy"
Weird Al hit the bullseye on parodying a rap song by adding lyrics about the cool of geekdom. My Space, Star Wars, Star Trek and anything else geeky gets a shot in his best parody record in ages. Both fun and funny.
Number 4: Corrine Bailey Rae "Like A Star"
Bailey Rae's second single was this luxurious, languid ballad. A wonderful song filled with aching longing, "Star" was one of the few new songs I liked during the dearth of good music in the first of the year. A real thing of beauty, this one is.
Number 3: Peter Bjorn and John "Young Folks"
Whistling folks had something to rejoice about with Peter Bjorn and John's tune about young folks. The song has been featured in commercials and shopping malls, a song that brings happiness and comfort to anyone in range. The best video of the year also helps Folks make its case for greatness. If I could whistle, I would whistle this song.
Number 2: Rilo Kiley "Silver Lining"
Jenny Lewis and Co. sold out to the mainstream, lost indie fans, garnered rave reviews and ended up with buzz that lasted for about six weeks. But during those six weeks, "Silver Lining" came out and provided the trump card to ensure people remembered Rilo Kiley put out a CD this year. "Lining" moved to a handclap beat and a George Harrison lick to go with Lewis' resigned vocals. It was the one track on the Under The Blacklight disc I put on repeat and outshone anything on the otherwise superior previous disc.
Number 1: Foo Fighters "Long Road To Ruin"
After 2002's One By One album, I was ready to write off the Foo Fighters as a band past its prime. Then the Foos returned with the one-two punch of "The Pretender" and "Long Road To Ruin". "Ruin" had a spectacular video to support a sturdy piece of almost Tom Pettyish pop rock. My favorite song of the year proves you just can't keep Dave Grohl down.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Following Fargo, the Coen brothers came up an oddball comedy of David Lynch proportions. The story of a slacker named "The Dude" and his loser bowling friends getting caught up in kidnapping, ransom and sex. A movie that finds its humor in odd moments and character interaction, Lebowski was the funniest movie I've seen in some time. And just when you think you have a fix on the plot, a surrealist dream sequence kicks in to ensure you get lost. Great stuff and John Goodman kicks ass as the comical code of honor war veteran.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
LRB - "Don't Blame Me"
Sunday, December 16, 2007
MVP vs Rey Mysterio for the US championship
Rey always seems a little bit of a challenge for other wrestlers to work with because of the amount of selling they have to do for his moves to work. Having said that, MVP is doing a reasonably good job. Rey dominates the first half of the match with hurricuranas and corkscrew jumps both in and out of the ring. Rey hurts his leg and that allows MVP to work a hard hittng ground game. The match ends with MVP intentionally taking a ten count outside of the ring. Rey wins the match but not the belt and delivers a 619 for revenge.
Kane and CM Punk vs Big Daddy V and Mark Henry
I missed some of this match, but predictably with this many big guys in the ring it's filled with hard hitting combat. CM Punk impresses with his agility and keeps the match moving so the fight doesn't become a big Sherman tank battle. Big Daddy V catches CM Punk in mid air for a Samoan drop and the win. Wow, Big Daddy V needs a bra! And no, I would never say that to his face.
Vicki Guerrero is in a wheel chair talking to her boyfriend Edge. The room is filled with balloons in anticipation of his victory.
Mr Kennedy vs Shawn Michaels
One of the best of the new breed of superstars, Mr Kennedy comes to the ring. Love this guy's entrance, he can definitely talk. Kennedy....Kennedy. HBK comes out now to a huge pop from the crowd.
Kennedy dominates the early going but Michaels is starting to chop away at Kennedy's chest. Ate some dinner during this match, it became a very physical match. Kennedy works Michaels' back while Michaels works Kennedy's left hand. Michaels scores Sweet Chin Music with a great sell by Kennedy. Michaels wins the match but Kennedy gains the momentum careerwise. Both men sell like crazy to get this match over.
Jeff Hardy talks about going to the next level in his career. He still isn't great on the mic.
Triple HHH vs Jeff Hardy
Boring match as Triple HHH dominates the entire match. Some great character moments particularly for HHH showing his intelligence during the match in scouting Hardy's moves. Hardy wins with a surprise pin. Hardy wins a Championship match at Royal Rumble!
Great Khali cuts a promo. He has a translator which helps. As I was commenting to my wife, Khali's nipples are as big as his translator's head. He's huge!
The Great Khali vs Finley
Fightin for the honor of Hornswoggle, it's pretty much a squash match while Bradshaw works as many Irish metaphors as he can think of. Hornswoggle and Finley sneak a couple of shots to Khali's presumably massive balls with a shalaleigh to get the win. (I bet Khali's balls are so big that hitting them was like batting a pinata). The second "against the odds" victory in a row. Boorriing. Yawn. Oh Jeez, they're Irish square dancing now.
Randy Orton vs Chris Jericho for the WWE Championship
Break the code Jerky! One of my favorite wrestlers has returned and gets a title shot. And Lillian Garcia looks great in her robe...I mean dress. This match has the potential to be great, both performers are young and uninjured.
Pretty solid match, both did a good job of working the emotion as it's clear the audience wants Jericho to win after his comeback. During the match, Orton throws Jericho into the announce table and JBL. Later, Jericho has Orton in the Walls of Jericho when JBL attacks Y2J. Orton wins by DQ and Orton delivers a RKO to add insult to injury.
This brings back some of the energy to this event overall, but it still needs more to catch up with the opening matches.
Beth Phoenix vs Mickie James for the Womens Championship
Jillian Hall interrupts to plug her "music". Her awful singing follows until Mickie James skips out. Now Phoenix comes out, easily the most muscular woman since Chyna in the WWE. The match goes back and forth, James demonstrating almost Mysterio like agility. But in the end, Phoenix powers out a victory. Pretty good match, keeping the energy of the event at a low simmer.
Edge vs Batista vs Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship
After the third or fourth rerunning of the clips telling the story of what's led to this match, Batista comes running out. Tazz has replaced Bradshaw at the Smackdown table to announce. Now the Rated R superstar makes his entrance with added Kurt Angle style fireworks. Undertaker makes his classic entrance.
This match brings the energy back as Undertaker and Batista duke it out with each other for the Championship and the right to bash Edge. Edge utilizes several tricks including decoy Edges to score the victory. A strong match filled with good moments as the opponents go back and forth in momentum. Clean story telling with Edge playing the fearful opportunist as Batista and Undertaker chase each other like meatheads. Edge is World Champion!
This wraps up Armageddon. Overall, I'd rate this PPV as decent with some high points. The opening match of Rey Mysterio vs MVP was the best match, both wrestlers got to show off their strengths and the match moved quickly. Shawn Michaels vs Mr Kennedy ran a close second, a surprisingly brutal match. Chris Jericho entered with the most momentum and leaves with it intact. A fun PPV though when I think of past Armaggedons like the six man Hell in a Cell, it seems a little on the low budget side.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
For my birthday, my parents bought me Guitar Hero 3 for the Playstation 2 game system. Now I can see what the big deal has been about. The game takes the template from the Dance Dance Revolution games and has you use your fingers instead of your feet. With this game, now you can play "Mississippi Queen" or "Barracuda" with your guitar and rock out. Best of all, no actual musical talent is required!
I tried for a while to learn to play an actual guitar and only got as far as picking notes. I found I lacked the ability to form chords or hold down precise fingerings on the fret board. But I can press big plastic buttons real well, so with Guitar Hero 3 I can finally excel at playing. And now I know why rock stars sweat so much, it takes a lot of energy to rock out. All these years, I thought it was just the hot lights that caused the flood of perspiration.
So thank you Mom and Dad for the great gift. Although it's not on the game, I thought the most fitting song to place at the end of this post is Nickelback's "Rockstar"
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Well, those hopes have been crushed under the weight of a god awful trailer for Speed Racer. This movie is looking so bad that the Thunderbirds movie from a few years ago might look better in comparison. The car racing looks unbelievably phony, the actors dramatic tone doesn't match the superficiality of the visual style and there seems to be a lot of karate. Instead of adding any kitsch factor for adults who remember the series, it seems to be intended for a five year old audience.
I can't believe I'm alone in this opinion because it really looks bad. Expect the usual "it's not done yet" excuses and watch for reshoots, but unless they change a lot I'm planning on skipping Speed Racer. When a trailer's best moment is the first 3 seconds when you hear the Mach 5 engine rev, that's something so bad even Racer X can't fix it.
Speed Racer Trailer
Saturday, December 08, 2007
To experiment more with this new fangled internet technology, I've added a Van Halen news section as well as CNN and VH1 headline news. I'm trying to increase my laziness by making the sites I go to come to me!
To close this post out, I'm including my wife's favorite Van Halen song "D.O.A." (it's just the song with the VH2 logo visually) along with a recent video of "Unchained". The "Unchained" video may be the best fan audience shot video I've ever seen, this person seemed to be really close to the stage as they performed at the Staples Center this year.
Van Halen - "Unchained" live at the Staples Center in LA
Friday, December 07, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
In other media news, Journey has announced that Arnel Pineda is now an official member of the band and have begun recording new material. Pineda is easily the strongest voice in terms of power to join the band since Steve Perry's departure and brings some much needed soulfulness to the songs. I'm looking forward to hearing brand new songs with Pineda and am happy Journey did not back down from racist pressure from some fans to not hire him. Of course, I still think Kevin Chalfant would have been great or they could have gone a different direction by trying to nab Michael Bolton but Pineda sounds great as well.
Well, my birthday is almost over. It's been fun!
I was going to review the new Radiohead, but felt a different CD would be more suitable (Radiohead tends to be a little mopey sometimes). Who better than one of my highschool faves, Loverboy?
Now to be accurate, they should be Lovermen or Lovergeezers because these guys stopped being boys a long time ago. I think one of them has white hair now while onetime teen idol Mike Reno has gotten beefier. Still, that's not slowing down the Canadian quintet who have released a new disc, Just Getting Started.
Like many veteran bands, they are at the stage where they no longer want to sound exactly like they did 20 years ago but still retain enough of their original flavor to hold on to their longtime fans. It's a difficult balancing act and most bands err on change to the point you don't recognize who's playing. Loverboy gets close to that point but wisely keeps from teetering over the edge. Fortunately, their focused performance and the fact that Reno's voice has aged better than any other arena rock singer helps amp up the power.
Just Getting Started takes the classic Loverboy sound of tight playing, party atmosphere and fired up enthusiasm and layers on a sheen of modern pop rock. Some of the grooves and particularly the choruses are reminiscent of what you would hear on a Kelly Clarkson or Rascal Flatts (in their less twangy moments) CDs. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but once Loverboy passed Get Lucky (1981) their music wasn't terribly individualistic anyway. What easily could have been stiff and forced comes across as a natural progression in their music.
In one aspect, Started is reminiscent of Get Lucky in the crisp, fresh approach to their material. The band sounds energized and excited on their first album in a decade. Half the album is rock, the other half ballads. On the rock side, the title truck burns with modern guitars and a vintage 80's Loverboy melody. "One Of Them Days" is a bluesy swaggering rocker like Aerosmith while "As Good As It Gets" stomps like Hysteria era Def Leppard.
For ballads, the band comes up with a range of midtempo tunes like "Fade To Black" and "I Would Die For You" which are pleasant and effective. But it's the towering power ballad "The One That Got Away" that kills. Done in the classic power ballad format with an almost Modern Country chorus, this is easily the best song on the album.
This late in the game, the band can't be relying on album sales to drive their career so this is music they really wanted to put out there. It could have been a sad joke, but instead Loverboy sounds as vital as ever. It makes for the perfect CD to put on Mr Mike, because like them I'm Just Getting Started.
Loverboy - "The One That Got Away"
Monday, December 03, 2007
The song "100 Days, 100 Nights" has been stuck in my mind for weeks now so I decided to get the album titled after the song. And what a treat it is, an old school Soul record with a heavy Stax and Motown influence. Live instruments play, the background vocals are of the call-and-response variety, horns sway and charge while Jones holds down the middle with her commanding rasp.
It's hard to pick out highlights because every song sounds like a classic hit that could easily stand beside Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin on the radio. Regardless of what 70's subgenre of Soul they're mining they deliver an honest appreciation for this style of music. What could easily be contrived comes across as effortless and exciting. 100 Days, 100 Nights is a great record worth a listen.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Continuing my favorite CD countdown is this masterpiece of So Cal rock from 1976...
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Evel embodied a type of reckless behavior that could only exist in the 70's. In doing this he became a rock star in popular culture, an icon of American machismo and rebel spirit. Probably more famous for the crashes he survived than the landings he sticked, Evel's no fear attitude and willingness to lay everything on the line carried weight because, well, he jumped things people shouldn't jump to earn a living.
In searching Evel Knievel online I came across some toy commercials I hadn't seen since the Carter presidency. My friend had the Evel Knievel stunt bike with the ramp bus and I've seen the actual toy in action. The rare toy that could live up to the reputation of it's character. I'd see that toy Evel Knievel fly off the toy motorbike on the landing and think "Just like the real thing!"
Evel seemed to take a low profile after a failed attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon. As a tribute, here's two videos: the toy commercial from Ideal and his most famous bike crash. Rest In Peace Evel Knievel, you were crazy to do the things you did and amazing for pulling it off.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Foo Fighters - "Long Road To Ruin"
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Kevin Dubrow of Quiet Riot found dead
Lead singer of Quiet Riot Kevin DuBrow was found dead in his home a few days ago. He was only 52 years old. Like many teenagers in the early 80's, I bought Quiet Riot's Metal Health album based on their big hit "Cum On Feel The Noize". Though they didn't receive full credit, that remake of a classic Slade song was the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" of that decade ushering in a wave of hair metal on MTV. Other songs like "Bang Your Head" and "Slick Black Cadillac" also stood out. Quiet Riot was sort of the doorway band to Metal for me, the first Heavy Metal band I had ever listened to. I also liked the fact that it was a multicultural band as half of the lineup was Hispanic.
Despite having a very successful album and a recognizable mascot, Quiet Riot quickly faded out. They would occassionally show up as a minor blip on the rock radar with their followup Slade remake "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" or the stomping "The Wild and the Young" but could never recapture their initial heat. Which is too bad, because they were a good band.
DuBrow had an outsized persona of a rock and roll crazy man that didn't translate well once the Hair Metal bands got pretty and sang power ballads. While I can't claim to be a die hard Quiet Riot fan, I liked the band and think it's sad that he's gone.
Rosanna Arquette seen with Paul McCartney
Normally I don't think much of McCartney's love life but being seen with Rosanna Arquette is news. She is the muse that has inspired some great songs (Toto's "Rosanna" and a lot of Peter Gabriel's songs). For some reason she's more inspiring as a musician's girlfriend than as a actress. Go figure.
Saga auditioning new singers on You Tube
The Canadian progressive rock band Saga is auditioning for new singers through their website at http://sagaontour.moonfruit.com/theband/4519368536 . You can download an instrumental track to two of their biggest hits, "On The Loose" and "Wind Him Up", and then record yourself singing to it and upload it to You Tube. Then you can e-mail them your You Tube link. Pretty cool, if I could sing I would try out myself.
Asia announces intention to record a new album
Finally, after many decades the original Asia will be recording a new album. With the current feeling of good will among the band and an emphasis on the debut album when playing live, hopefully the new disc will have more of the instrumental interplay they had at the beginning. Meanwhile, the John Payne version of Asia appears to be continuing as well which could result in one of those Survivor style battles (is Survivor Jimi Jamison or Frankie Sullivan?).
Led Zeppelin tour rumor
Could it be? This would be a blessing and a curse if it happens, it would be yet another high priced reunion tour. But it's Led Zeppelin!
Van Halen plays tonight in Sacramento
Finally gonna see them live with DLR. And unlike when I saw Rush, I plan on not drinking at all so I can remember what I'm seeing and hearing. Yes!
To close this out, I'm going to include a link to "Mama Weer All Crazee Now"
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Way back when, back when I was in high school in 1984 I decided to skip seeing Van Halen live. The other kids came to school wearing the T Shirts and saying they had seen a great show, so I thought the next time they came around I would see them. Little did I know the next time they would appear with Diamond Dave would be 23 years later! Van Hagar was great, don't get me wrong, but the band was more distinct with glory hogging Roth up front. They were a freewheeling explosion of rock and roll excess.
So, like with Springsteen I'll commemorate this event by making a list of my favorite lesser known tunes from the Roth era. And aawwayy we go!
10. In A Simple Rhyme from Women and Children First
On Women Van Halen decided to lengthen the average song times of their recordings allowing the group to stretch out musically and adding a lot more David Lee Roth speeches. It is the album that comes the closest to capturing early VH live, minus the drunken rambling, odd pauses and slurring. "In A Simple Rhyme" takes advantage of the changes by alternating between hard charging verse sections and a soft, slowed down chorus. There are brief moments that are almost Beatleish slapped in between Eddie Van Halen's guitar pyrotechnics.
9. I'm The One from Van Halen
A slam-bang rocker from the first album, "I'm The One" provided the template for future high speed shuffles that would be the highlight for many albums. The song has a few unique features, such as EVH cutting loose with dive bombing guitar runs during the verses and pulling back during the solos. An a capella doo wop break in the middle of the song reflects Roth's odd ball humor. And the sound of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Mike Anthony pounding the beat while Roth screams "I'm the one / the one you love / c'mon baby Show Your Love!" seals the deal.
8. Me Wise Magic from Best Of Vol 1.
One of the most recent tracks from DLR Van Halen came with their first Greatest Hits set in 1996. From the reunion that should have been in 1996 until Roth pissed Eddie Van Halen off backstage at the MTV awards. Although this may have been a single, it was not a big hit and I never heard it on the radio.
The song has some of Diamond Dave's most direct lyrics about being back in the fold with the Van Halen brothers and a killer high flying chorus. It went "Do ya believe / Aw don't you trust me?/ Me Wise Magic / Yeah yeah, yeah yeah!" Plus, it has some of the intricate and windy guitar patterns Eddie Van Halen got into just before Van Halen 3. For a hot second, the original Van Halen was back together and rocking! Then they split up again for another 11 years.
7. Let's Get Rockin' from Bootlegs
Before Van Halen (the first album), the band recorded a 25 song demo that features most of the first album plus many tracks that would show up on later albums. It also had a few choice cuts that didn't make any album ("Babe Don't Leave Me Alone" and "Young and Wild" come to mind). One of those tracks was "Let's Get Rockin", a classic VH anthem if there ever was one. Alex and Mike lay down a fast groove to allow Eddie and Dave to cut loose in a manner equal to "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love". It's a shame this didn't make any regular studio release because it contains everything great about this band.
My wife went through a lot of trouble to get me this CD. Thanks honey!
6. Women and Children First from Women and Children First
Admittedly, when I think of Van Halen I don't think of campfire singalongs. Which is what makes "Women and Children First" a great surprise. Eddie Van Halen strums on the acoustic guitar while Roth leads a sing along to an original song with humor. I love the part about sailing away with some one's daughter.
5. Somebody Get Me A Doctor from Van Halen II
Another song from that legendary 25 song demo showed up on Van Halen's second album. An explosive rocker with a memorably heavy guitar riff and Roth screaming like a banshee. Live the band would stretch out the midsection of the song to a slower pace while Eddie Van Halen delivered some inspired guitar noodling. A fan favorite, almost every member of the band has revived this song for live performance even on solo outings. Somebody get me a shot!
4. Cathedral from Diver Down
This song ranks with "Eruption" as one of all time favorite guitar solos. Eddie Van Halen fiddles with his guitar to get a sound similar to a woodwind instrument (I want to say clarinet but could be wrong) for a solo that is both soothing and stimulating. It makes me feel like that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where they stare at the paintings in the art gallery. I remember the first time I saw Van Halen live, when this solo came up I just sat down and took it all in. And no, I was not drunk! (not that time, anyway).
3. Push Comes To Shove from Fair Warning
If you blink you'll miss it, the only time in the band's career where they get a little funky. Mike Anthony anchors a pumping bass groove while Roth coolly rambles on top. In a different band's repertoire it wouldn't make an impression, but hearing these hard rock heroes try something this different got my attention. And it's not half bad funk either. It's not Ohio Players, but it doesn't suck. I consider this to be their lost porn movie jam (ironically, last year Eddie Van Halen recorded an original song for a porn movie and it wasn't remotely funky at all. I saw it on You Tube).
2. Drop Dead Legs from 1984
A prototype strutting rocker for the Sammy Hagar era that would follow, "Legs" had one of those "Holy Crap that's amazing" guitar riffs that keeps a mid tempo pace while Alex Van Halen's ringing percussion builds up the power. Diamond Dave goes way over the top with his misogyny on this track to the point of overblown humor. Future Hagar tracks like "Cabo Wabo" and "Summer Nights" owe a debt to this song.
1. Hang 'Em High from Diver Down
After I bought 1984 and loved it, my friend said that it was their pop album and I couldn't handle their earlier stuff. To prove him wrong, I bought Diver Down and was blown away by the second song "Hang 'Em High". It became my favorite Van Halen song (until I heard "Unchained") as it hit hard with a low slung groove, EVH's zippy guitar blasts and Roth's cool low toned vocal. I ended up liking Diver Down enough that I went out and bought the other records they had released up to that point.
That's my list of 10 great unsung Van Halen songs. I hope to hear these songs live but won't be surprised if I don't. It looks like the new Roth tour is going to make it to my town before a breakup so I'm more than satisfied. All right! Let's Get Rockin!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Well, it wouldn't be a Mr Mike entry without media to compare the trip to. So here it goes!
Family Guy - Wrong Sounding Muppets
I hate flying which reminded me of this joke from TV's Family Guy about taking chances.
Jackson 5 - "Never Can Say Goodbye"
The morning we left my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin brought out old home movies from the early 70's that included me falling off a chair, terrorizing my brother and doing my Michael Jackson dance in front of the record player. My Jackson 5 record stood out in the foreground, fittingly titled Never Can Say Goodbye.
Jimi Hendrix - "Angel"
This song played on the IPOD on the way home. Flying is very stressful and my wife was very supportive to me thorughout the flight, so of course I thought of her as this song played. Love you honey!
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Coming Home"
There's probably irony in thinking about Skynyrd following a safe plane ride, but I thought of this song on the way home from the airport. Or maybe it's a residual aftereffect of wanting to yell "Freebird" at the wedding organist during the ceremony.
And that was the trip. My Aunt and Uncle were very nice to let us stay with them and we all had a great time. Dixie ate her bed while at the kennel. Do you love him, Honey?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Apparently, many other people liked it too including the Country band Sugarland who took to performing the song live at their shows. This has culminated in a suprising collaboration between Sugarland and Beyonce at the American Music Awards. The show looked really boring so it sucks I missed this, but I caught it on the web and all I can say is...Wow. It's not a perfect team up as some of Beyonce's soulful vocal runs roughshod over the bluegrass beat but it still kicks ass. A fun example of When Genres Collide!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I've only seen her once in the past few years, but I am definitely saddened to hear of her passing. She was a special person and will be missed. Her daughter informed my wife and I of her passing today, while visiting her daughter I could see a lot of Peggy in her. Peggy also had grandchildren, I'm sure she would be happy that a part of her still lives on.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
It's time for another Artist Spotlight and with winter and rain here it seems fitting to cover my favorite band to come from the Seattle grunge scene. Pearl Jam rode in following Nirvana's wave of popularity that made alternative rock and specifically the downbeat, punky hard rock bands of grunge popular. From the beginning, Pearl Jam stood out as, well, being the grunge band with the most commercial sound while still retaining a strong sense of integrity. Unlike some 90's band that took a little time to grow on me, Pearl Jam I liked from the start. In someways they were the soundtrack to my 20's. Who knew this great band would start with a surfer and a demo tape?
Ten is one of my favorite albums as they unwittingly made a great Arena Rock album. The thrashing "Alive" became the bands breakout song. "Even Flow" rocked harder and showed the band could pull the loud/soft dynamics was part of Nirvana's sound. " The surging "Jeremy" became an MTV standard as everyone tried to guess if the boy in the video shot himself or shot the classroom (the song was based on the true story of a boy who shot himself in front of the class that tormented him). The Stonesy ballad "Black" demonstrated Vedder's melodramatic delivery to strong effect.
Pearl Jam at this point managed to recall the greatness of other classic hard rock bands but wore enough flannel to seem current. It was a group I enjoyed listening to for their fire and honest approach to BIG RAWK glory. At the time, I was trying to wrap up college and with many of the bands I liked before breaking up was looking for something new to listen to. One album into their career, Pearl Jam had already generated a classic.
Singles soundtrack (1992)
Probably stunned by their own success, Pearl Jam was determined to break their "one trick pony" label of grungified Arena Rock. Tired of their own omnipresence, they quit making music videos particularly after being unhappy at the acclaim "Jeremy" received. At the same time, they loaded up some familiar sounding songs to avoid completely losing their audience. The result was the enervated but scattered Vs. album. Originally titled Five Against One until the media took it as a shot at their most famous critic, Kurt Cobain, Vs. finds the band upping the punkiness at times and introducing a new acoustic element. New drummer Dave Abrusezze had an even more Stuart Copeland feel to his playing but clashed with Vedder in terms of personality. The Southern rock anti-gun rant "Glorified G" is written as Vedder's response to Abrusezze buying a firearm.
Pearl Jam's career continued to fly high and succeeded in expanding their sound. On it's own terms, Vs. is a fun ride but not much more. Personally, I could relate to the need to make a step forward in life at that time and was dating my wife when she bought this CD. We both liked Pearl Jam and still have this CD in our collection, I often think of my wife when thinking about Vs. but that's more due to timing than anything else. There's really nothing sentimental on the album.
You're not a rock star until you make an album complaining about the rock star trip and with fame phobic leader Eddie Vedder it was inevitable. Vitalogy finds the band continuing to stretch their sound sonically with consolidating the overall approach so it all fit under one roof. Wild experimentation such as the White album era Beatlesque "Tremor Christ", accordion driven "Bugs" and the sound collage "Hey Foxymophandlemamathat'sme" broke new ground. Elsewhere, they built on the approach of the first two albums with the hyper punk "Spin The Black Circle", the swaggering Stones styled "Not For You"and the dark folk of "Immortaility".
The lyrics do their best to show Vedder and the band trying to keep fame at arms length, whether it's spiteful ("Not For You"), rueful ("Corduroy") or fighting it's attraction ("Satan's Bed"). Vitology was a darker album than the previous two (and with Pearl Jam that's saying something) but the band was able to keep their roll going . "Corduroy" and "Nothingman" weren't the singles but still made a huge impact on radio. Best of all, "Better Man", a song Vedder had from his Bad Radio days, proved to be a smash and is one of the best in their catalog.
My wife and I were just married and didn't have much money, I often associate this disc with living in our first apartment. The apartment was in a noisy neighborhood next to a hospital and the complex was shaped like a pill box. Vitalogy was one of the few CDs I bought at the time, so fortunately it was really good.
By the next year many changes took place that helped Pearl Jam dismantle the fame that had come the first half of the decade. They got into an extended battle with Ticketmaster that resulted in very little touring in the US. At the end of Vitalogy, drummer Dave Abrusezze was fired and replaced with Jack Irons. Then they recorded an album backing their hero Neil Young called Mirrorball (1995). Two left over tracks from those sessions, "I Got Id" and "Long Road", became Pearl Jam songs released on a two song EP called Merkinball.
"I Got Id" was another big radio hit, a midtempo anthem stamped with a stark guitar lead. The second song "Long Road" has become a minor PJ classic of sorts, a soft meditative song with a healing tone. Years later, the band used "Long Road" for the 9/11 tribute for one of that evening's best performances.
For me, I had started a new job and heard "I Got Id" as I drove home almost daily. So I always think of work when I think of this song.
No Code (1996)
Although it sold well initially, No Code was the first commercial setback for Pearl Jam. And they seemed unfazed by it. They actually seemed to prefer it.
Since they weren't going to break up, Pearl Jam continued forward but with a new attitude. Yield to me is the career album, not in greatness but instead a band deciding their in it for the long haul. As a result, much of Yield comes off as workmanlike. Where No Code showed the band's various songwriting elements pushing for more individuality, Yield yields a slightly homogenous product.
The Led Zeppelin "Going to California" influenced "Given To Fly" was the first single and most memorable piece from the album. Another strong rocker, "Do The Evolution" was very listenable and showed a rare flash of humor from an otherwise stern band. "Push Me Pull Me" was the next step in developing the groups spoken word / sound collage style. "MFC" was a nice little bit of stomping garage rock.
The rest of the album sounds great as well, but there is a sameiness to much of the disc. Like Pearl Jam, I had settled into a long haul with my work and could relate to it. Still, Yield is one of the lesser favorites this band has done and I rarely play it.
Later in the year, the band recorded their annual Christmas single that included a cover of a 60's R&B hit called "Last Kiss". The song became Pearl Jam's biggest hit single of their career much to their chagrin.
Pearl Jam continued their commercial slide, intentional or not, with Binaural. Produced with that distinct murky touch producer Tchad Blake brings, PJ went into the new millenium with a different drummer. Jack Irons dropped out and was replaced by ex-Soundgarden stickman Matt Cameron. Cameron made his presence felt on the prior live album Live On Two Legs (1999) where he brought muscle back to the rhythm section. Expected to do the same here, Binaural was a bit of a disappointment for fans like me waiting for Pearl Jam to really rock again. As on No Code and Yield, there was an intentional shying away from playing anything remotely catchy to be sure no one outside of the immediate fan base liked it.
In contrast to their prior work, the musicianship and playing is tight and professional while the atmosphere is remote and mysterious. The songwriting was still more on the rote side with a touch of underwritten material despite inspired moments like my favorite track, the acoustic strumming "Thin Air". Vedder's ukelale backed "Soon Forget" is another memorable flash of humor. The Who styled opener "Breakerfall" was a rocker that would have made John Entwhistle proud. Taken in full, Binaural does effectively create a mood of communication breakdown.
The band witnessed a tragedy when a concert at Rockskilde resulted in the death of many fans during their set, almost resulting in the band breaking up.
For me personally, Binaural came at a time when the band I looked to for rock were mellowing out. I listened to it a bit at the time but usually forget the album when selecting music to listen to.
Riot Act (2002)
Despite the refusal to sell out, Riot Act features tunes more accessable than the previous few discs. The lead single "I Am Mine" received radio play and was somewhat catchy in a seaside shanty kind of way. The oddly titled "Love Boat Captain" (not Captain Stubbing) was the catchiest thing they had released since "Better Man". My favorite on the disc, "Green Disease", rocked with fervor and of course a message.
In contrast to Binaural, this disc is practically glowing in delivering a real flesh and blood band. All of the songs are well written and thought out but not to the point of staleness. Riot Act isn't meant to sell millions of records but is a baby step towards re-establishing them in the public eye.
For me, Riot Act came at a time shortly after we had moved into our current address. I remember sitting on my relatively new couch listening to Riot Act play on the stereo so it is tied to these memories of getting used to a new place.
While on tour, the band starting to play the Bush /war bashing "Bushleager" at live shows generating a lot of heat for the group. Done at a time when the country was on the verge of war and President's Bush popularity riding high, Pearl Jam became the target for all liberal bashing pundits. Everyone, note to self-listen to Eddie Vedder next time.
Lost Dogs (2003)
Pearl Jam has one of the strongest cult followings in rock today and are a strong generator of bootleg recordings as a result. So much so, PJ took to recording and releasing just about all of their concerts. In the studio, rarities were all over the place so they decided to clean up with a two disc set. Lost Dogs brings in the Odds & Sods of their career, filling in the blanks with B sides and soundtrack cuts. The early Hendrix styled ballad "Yellow Ledbetter" finally gets an official release. The hit "Last Kiss" also gets the full CD treatment.
The set is uniformly good except for the deletion of lyrics from "Brother". For me, the Who cover "Leavin' Here" is a rampaging bit of good rockin fun. Because much of it was previously released or bootlegged their weren't any stand out tracks but succeeds in setting the band up for the next phase.
Pearl Jam (2006)
Effectively off of Sony and now free to make music on their own terms Pearl Jam returned to the Big Rawk. Easily their hardest rocking disc since their debut, Pearl Jam shows a band ditching their restraint and finally writing catchy songs. "Life Wasted" written following the funeral of a Ramone is one of their best ever. Thematically, Vedder has Iraq on his mind with "Marker In The Sand", "Army Reserve" and the excellent rocker "World Wide Suicide".
At this point, Pearl Jam was sort of forgotten about to me but this disc brought it all the way back. The band is alive and rockin again with an abandon not seen in years. Pearl Jam stands out as a whole more than the actual songs as I can't remember all of the tunes but recall being impressed with it as a whole. With newly restored vigor and relevance, Pearl Jam found themselves being censored on an online concert by AT&T.
For me, the album mirrored my own life in that it came at a time when new energy and a new approach was needed. One of my favorite discs of 2006, I rate this one as a welcome return to form.
In 2007, the band recorded a cover of the Who classic "Love Reign O'er Me". To hear it, just click below: