Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Each decade after the 70's has had a rock sub genre that supposedly contains the purity and creativity of the art form. In the 80's it was college rock, the 90's alternative and in the 00's it's indie. Indie has become a sort of catch all term for any rock music that is different from the mainstream in an arty sort of way, so I'm using the term in that same way. Now, on with the show this is it.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Foreigner. Lou Gramm. Since the beginning of time...or 1987...these two forces that once stood proudly together became destined to fight for gravelly throated melodic rock superiority. This came to mind (in much less overblown dramatic fashion) while I was reorganizing my CDs and decided to redo my homemade greatest hits discs. I put Gramm's solo tracks on the same discs as Foreigner because to me there isn't a lot of stylistic difference between the two - some difference but not a lot. Then I noticed of Gramm's three solo releases, they all coincide with timing of a Foreigner release. He even matched the fifteen year gap from 1995 to 2009 by waiting to release a new solo disc until this year (Foreigner's last album before this year was 1994's Mr Moonlight - the last Foreigner album with Gramm singing also). Gramm's new album is called Lou Gramm Band (creative titling there!) while Foreigner (with singer Kelly Hansen) has put out Can't Slow Down (not the Lionel Richie record).
So here we are, 2009 as Mick Jones and Lou Gramm duke it out in the music scene once again. One ring to rule them all! Lou has upped the ante this time by calling on the big man (not Clarence Clemons) to help out as he has recorded a Christian rock album. Jones, not to be outdone, has called on the all powerful Wal Mart to back him up. Both sides are loaded for bear, as Khan said "To the last I will grapple with thee. With my last breath I will spit at thee..." He probably would have said more but Khan died at that point just before the Genesis device exploded (not the band Genesis). So here we go Lou Gramm's song "Baptized By Fire" against Foreigner's "Can't Slow Down" locked in a chart battle that doesn't really exist anymore since neither have been on the pop charts for decades. But hopefully it made for a fun post. And then for even more fun, a video clip from the classic Jones / Gramm years of Foreigner in the form of the awesome "Break It Up". The video is pure Foreigner magic.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Today's my birthday, I have successfully survived another year. It wasn't a great year in the sense that I've been laid off, but I am still alive eatin food and have a roof over my head so that's still going for me :). A lot of sad news out there in the entertainment world which inspired this post. On the upside, one of my action movie faves is attempting a comeback.
The Last In Line - Ronnie James Dio has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, certainly sad news. He's an iconic singer and as a fan I wish him well.
Standing On Higher Ground - While reading the blog Holland's Comet I found out that Alan Parsons Project singer Eric Woolfson passed away due to cancer. The Parsons Project was a favorite of mine in high school, particularly the Vulture Culture album. His vocals on the songs "Games People Play" and "Time" (not from Vulture Culture) were extraordinary.
The Samoan Bulldozer - Former WWE wrestler Umaga died of a heart attack at age 36. He was an effective heel who had a good gimmick, a big guy who could move quickly. No more Samoan Spike :(
Taken To The Wood(s) Shed - It was not a good week to have that last name, as both the golfer Tiger and the Rolling Stone Ronnie ran into high profile domestic issues. Maybe they should swap lives on a reality tv show just to make things that much more overblown.
Overexposed Movie Of The Week - Speaking of overblown, can we go five minutes without a tv advertisement for Armored? Like Grand Theft Auto: The Movie, it looks like Matt Dillon and some other dudes steal an armored car and then kill each other for possession of it. All I get out of the repetitive commercials is steal the car, some guy locks himself inside, Matt Dillon gets mad threatens dude's family and then someone is running away from the armored car threatening to run him over. I've been playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the past week and have found this scenario much more exciting on my outdated PS2 than watching these commercials. Someone please turn these losers in for stealing too much tv time.
And The Grammy Goes To... - The list of nominees this year don't interest me too much, just for fun I'll pick my favorite of their top selection list:
- Record Of The Year - I'd go with Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" not that I like the song, it's just the most memorable to me. P-P-P-Poker face.
- Album Of The Year - The only one on this list I have heard is Dave Matthews Band, I liked that album so I'll vote for that.
- Song Of The Year - I realize there are different criteria for this versus Record Of The Year but honestly I never saw the point between the two.
- Best New Artist - I don't know most of these names. The Ting Tings would be my choice. Now shut up and let me go.
The Awards show usually has a good song performance or two so there's that to look forward to, otherwise this year's model seems kinda dull.
Shields Up! - This week I got to go to a Star Trek exhibit and sit in the Captain's chair on a replica of the Enterprise bridge. Oh what a feeling!Out For Justice - I watched the first two episodes of Steven Seagal: Lawman on A&E. Seagal doesn't do a whole lot of actual law enforcement compared to his fellow deputies and the phony editing to make it seem like he has a sixth sense to spot crime which is ludicrous. What's more, Seagal starts every sentence with "In my years of martial arts training, I..." to the point of annoyance. Yet like everything else Seagal touches, the hubris is backed up with mad aikido / gun fire skills (even if it is only displayed in training) and I've got to give it up to a guy that does this as a side job. His commitment to law enforcement is commendable and comes across as sincere. Though nothing can top the liquor store fight at the start of Hard To Kill. "C'muh cut mah hart oute! Come uh kut my 'eart out!!!" (The scene, one of my Seagal favorites, is below)
Friday, December 04, 2009
I watched the AARP, um, I mean Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert on HBO. The Hall of Fame is often a bone of contention in the blog world, probably because it presents what I would consider an elitist view of rock music. It follows a doctrine that considers R&B and hip hop as part of rock and favors punk and alternative (i.e. critics darlings) over commercially successful bands in the 70s and 80s. Only recently have groups that didn't start out as music critic favorites (Van Halen and Metallica) begin to make it in, presumably because they are running out of people they would prefer to let in before them. I'm sure if they could induct Bob Dylan every year, they would.
- Hey it's Jerry Lee Lewis at the start, I saw him play at a concert a few years ago he still can put on a show.
- So that's what Steven Stills looks like sober. I saw CSN&Y play at the same concert as Jerry Lee Lewis, Stills was so wasted he barely performed and spent most of the set wandering the back of the stage that evening. Here he's blasting through his vocals and reeling off burning guitar solos. I feel cheated.
- Jackson Browne, one of my favorite artists singing one of my favorite songs "The Pretender"! With Nash and Crosby on background vox!! Holy crap, Browne has had plastic surgery and his face doesn't move!!! It's like Phantom of the Opera, his eyes and mouth moves but nothin else!!!!
- Stevie Wonder pays tribute to Michael Jackson by performing "The Way You Make Me Feel", is it a crime that I like Wonder's version better than the original?
- Sting, give Jackson Browne his raggedy beard back he needs it more.
- Stevie Wonder is smokin' through his set, everyone brought their "A" game to this show.
- Jeff Beck shaves his arm pits? Is this for more aerodynamic guitar solos?
- The Spectre of Spector is all over this Brill Building montage as I don't remember him getting named in this segment.
- Dion gives Paul Simon a fist bump. You know a trend is about to die when you see the elderly adopt it. Give them both Boost mobile phones while they're at it.
- During Simon & Garfunkel 's set, my wife reminds me of that Flight of the Conchords episode where one of the Conchords is made over by a woman into the image of an Art Garfunkel sex slave. Too funny!
- Oh cool, "The Boxer". Freakin love that song.
- Aretha Franklin slays 'em in Madison Square Garden.
- Sisters are doin' it for themselves again, Annie Lennox joins Franklin for "Chain of Fools"
- Metallica! Finally some actual rock music in this show. Wow, is James Hetfield losing his hair? Never thought I would see that happen to a guy that used to look like the Lion King. "For Whom The Bell Tolls" sounding good. The audience reaction reminds me of when I saw Metallica open for The Rolling Stones, not a lot of movement out there just polite applause.
- Metallica backs both Lou Reed and Ozzy. Guess with their legal battles there was no way Ozzy would show up with the rest of Sabbath?
- I wonder if Ozzy saw Dave Matthews make fun of him on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago?
- Ray Davies jumps a lot through "All Day And All Of The Night" with those awesome crazy split leg poses that you used to see in mid 60's photographs like he's Austin Powers. Groovy!
- "Enter Sandman". F*ck yeah!!
- U2 follows Metallica? I've got "Vertigo".
- U2, Springsteen and Patti Smith charge through "Because The Night" with spectacular results.
- I like how Bono worked in a bit of Springsteen's "The Promised Land" at the end of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
- Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas steals the show from Jagger on "Gimmie Shelter". Though they can't top the fiery rendition Keith Urban and Alicia Keys gave at Live Earth.
- It's a "Beautiful Day"!
- For some reason Jeff Beck's bass player looks like Chelsea Clinton or Fiona Apple to me.
- Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck deliver some serious six string sting.
- Jeff Beck plays a very cool instrumental version of "A Day In The Life"
- Sam of Sam and Dave jams with Bruce and the E Street Band, PBS is going to have a field day when they get their hands on this. Pledge now!
- I ain't no For-chew-nate-uh. That's John Fogerty speak for "Fortunate".
- Tom Morello kickin' ass with Springsteen on "The Ghost Of Tom Joad".
- Wow, it's "Jungleland". I did not see that coming, generous of The Boss to play a song that highlights his band :)
- Billy Joel's limping, that's a bummer. "New York State Of Mind" trading vocals with Springsteen sounds great and Joel even brought sax man Mark Rivera with him. Joel sounds killer on "Born To Run" too.
- The big finish! All hands on deck.
All in all, this was a good show. Each performer gave 110% in their performance (but wait, it's mathematically impossible to give more than 100%). If you're a fan of rock and roll or old school R&B, its worth seeing.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The Grunge and Alterna Rock boom of the early 90's was the last significant movement in Rock music that would hit on a mass scale in my book. When the 2000's rolled around many of those flannel wearing acts had broken up or gone back to the underground. At the same time there were artists who did persevere, gliding into the second stage of their career proving they still had some potency left past their 20s. Of those that survived, here are my favorites:
All That You Can't Leave Behind...Luggage!
U2's 2000 release All That You Can't Leave Behind is my top pick from this genre, though technically they were an 80's band. Top flight songs (the hits "Beautiful Day", "Stuck In A Moment", "Elevation" and "Walk On" all stem from this disc) broadcasting a weary, melancholy sense of hope became my soundtrack to the feeling after 9/11. It also brought guitars back to the band's sound after spending the 90's tinkering with electronic noise. A great album.
With The Lights Out, It's Less Dangerous
The Smashing Pumpkins kicked off the new millennium with what was supposed to be their swan song, Machina/The Machines Of God (2000). While the album is a little abstract (it was the remnants of a planned concept disc that didn't go through) there is some good stuff here. Not the greatest Pumpkins disc, but not an embarrassment either. Anyway, it was Pearl Jam's return to anthemic songwriting that pushed their self titled Pearl Jam (2006) to the top of the ex flannel heap. Scorchers like "Life Wasted" or "Big Wave" exploded on impact. Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl led his Foo Fighters through Echoes Silence Patience Grace (2007), a decent disc highlighted by two outstanding jams "The Pretender" and "Long Road To Ruin". Coming in at the end of the Grunge era was Weezer, who sat out the last part of the 90's only to return armed with an inspired set of compelling nerd rock on 2001's Weezer (the green album). "Island In The Sun" still gets my head bopping.
It Is The Distant Future, The Year 2000
Like the album cover, Green Day caught everyone off guard with a masterstroke pop punk concept album American Idiot (2004) going off like a grenade. An artistic triumph, Green Day spoke to the disaffected with a strong set of songs that hung together thematically. American Idiot was one of the discs I played the most within the last couple of years. And no one saw it coming from a trio that was written off as lightweight has beens.
Radiohead has been the barometer for everything considered great about rock music following The Bends in 1995. Many Best Of The Decade lists I've seen rate Kid A (2000) near the top, an album I could not get into. Electronic doodling in rock music is nice as an additional extra, like buying an accent piece of furniture, but I hate when rock bands remove guitars completely in favor of blips and bloops (lookin' at you U2 and Radiohead!). The Radiohead album I did get into was the famous freebee In Rainbows (2007). A sturdy bunch of songs packed with that whiny croony thing Thom Yorke does so well. Along similar lines, Coldplay became one of the few new stadium bands of the 21st Century thanks to a string of polished, glossy U2/Radiohead style balladry. A Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002) was a compelling listen evoking a sort of post modern yearning for something more. It's a mellow ride through a mildly tortured soul. The lone downside is that "Clocks" threatened to become as ubiquitous in montages as Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" was five years before it. Once I heard "Clocks" used in a scene from ER I saw there was no getting away from that song. Ever.
Not to be left in the past, alternative techno rock icon Trent Reznor served up the pretty good With Teeth (2005) for his Nine Inch Nails. It wasn't as inspired as his best work, instead it was consistently good with "Only" becoming my favorite NIN song.
Shiny Happy People Marching
R.E.M. spent most of the time making mediocre albums to a fanbase that kept wondering - when was R.E.M. going to be great again? What happened to those sublime post punk songs with the riddle filled lyrics? In 2008, R.E.M. took a shot at regaining their own title back as jangle rock kings on Accelerate and came damn close to succeeding. On its own terms, Accelerate powers forward by embracing the bands past but not copying it.
R.E.M. had their roots in college rock or what's now called Indie rock which will be the next genre on my list here. Because that's me in the corner, that's me in the spot. light.
December 8th Add On
There were two CDs that I went back and forth on including and ultimately I decided to tack them on. The first is Pearl Jam's latest Backspacer (2009). I didn't think much of this disc when I first got it but since then it has grown and resonated with me strongly so I am adding it on. Also, power pop ace Matthew Sweet generated Kimi Ga Suki (2003) should have been included for its pure chimy catchiness.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The first decade of the 21st Century is almost over, makes me feel like I'm Buck Rogers living in this space age of microwave ovens and high definition sunglasses. And with any landmark of time there must be Best Of lists because hell, if you can't list things you like in an arbitrary order then why have an internet? So this is my list, in order of genre, of my favorite CDs of the past ten years. I wish I could say every album on my list is a flawless gem but I'm old, most new music (even by old artists) don't hit me like that. This is part 1 of a series that I'm naming after a Janet Jackson album because as she would say, what have you done for me lately?
We're at the stage of life for 70's / 80's rock bands to discover that sadly rock and roll does not come with a pension plan. As a result these groups keep chugging along on the road to make dough for their IRA. Or maybe they just plain love what they're doing and meant it all those years ago when they gave interviews saying "I'll play live til I die whether it's to 20,000 people or just one guy in the room." In any case, these road warriors hit the stage to rock out annually and occasionally release new material to keep things fresh. Here's my favorite Arena rock releases of recent past.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Not Chucked - Tv advertisements for the new season of Chuck is finally starting, promising a January return to action. Just bring it!
The Big O - Oprah has announced an end to her long running daytime talk show, ending in about a year or so from now. No Oprah don't do it! I don't want to see the desperate attempts to capture your large existing audience with weak carbon copies of the original, daytime tv is crowded enough already. Meanwhile, Jenny Jones sits in a dark corner with her hands clasped together and hisses "So...it begins..." followed by maniacal laughter.
Suck On This! - I can't get into the current Vampire fad, with its recasting of the ancient movie monsters into teenagers with teen angst problems. At least that's what I've gotten from the advertisements and the rip off tv shows that's arisen it Twilight's wake. I haven't watched any of these shows due to their perceived lack of bite. Oh that's bad. Somebody put a stake in this thing.
Overexposed Movie Of The Week - Ninja Assassin, a CGI Fu movie starring popular Asian actor Rain (well, popular in Asian countries and with my aunt but I digress) apparently being born to be a ninja and whipping out chains with blades on the end or some kinda thing to kill ninjas. 'Cause if you're named Ninja Assassin you damn well better have some ninjas to kill. My impression is your usual kid learns something against his will becomes the best in the world at it yet broods over it because it never made him happy. The tortured killer schtick, "Wah I behead my enemies with almost no thought but I coulda been an accountant or something if I wasn't raised with these frickin' Ninja reflexes." So he maims and kills thousands of martial artists then acts all sad over it. Am I wrong? Maybe, I don't care because I'm not seeing it anyway. CGI induced martial arts is lame (not counting the first Matrix movie.) :p
Lady You Bring Me Up - Country group Lady Antebellum surprised me by dishing out a first class AOR duet called "Need You Now" for their upcoming album. There is still some twang in the voice and steel guitar so it can be labeled Country, though at it's sappy core it's not far off from the pop rock of Starship's "Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now". Lady Antebellum's new song is better than anything I heard off their debut, nice tune.