Sunday, October 24, 2010
Heart is one of those bands that have definitely earned a victory lap and after all these years it is nice to hear them make a disc that reflects their original concept clearly. Red Velvet Car is a nice reminder of how great they are and in terms of performance they are as sharp as ever, if only the songs had been beefed up a little more they probably could have turned out a classic. So good stuff yet still a missed opportunity.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Okay, I haven't posted in a month's time so I got a backlog of stuff to write about. Here's to hoping I can keep it up this time. Some of the music I've listened to feature two aging British rockers taking their music uptown to the symphony.
I'll start with the erstwhile Peter Gabriel's album Scratch My Back. This disc started as a project where Gabriel would cover another artist's song and then that artist would cover one of his songs. As time went on, the covers became a bit one sided with Gabriel doing most of the covering so it looks like he just decided to release his set as a full album. Lots of tasteful folk get the Gabriel treatment like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Lou Reed and others. Usage of a symphony harkens back to Gabriel's prog rock roots and is a marked departure from his standard polyrhythmic antics. The orchestral arrangements take a straight nod from Suftjan Stevens with strings that stir and go twinkle-twinkle at the end. It's all done with forethought and artistry, too bad the end result is a snooze. After the opening version of Bowie's "Heroes" I find it hard to pay attention to this, it's like sitting through a science class - you know the information is useful and helpful but it still puts your ass to sleep.
Sting and his strings fare better on his album Symphonicities. Ever notice if you add an "r" into the third letter of Sting you get String? The Stingster covers his own material, giving fresh reworkings to both hits ("Roxanne") and album cuts ("We Work The Black Seam"). Unlike Gabriel, Sting doesn't straight jacket his songs with stuffiness instead opting for what must be the Disney music orchestra. The orchestra swings and grooves in a way that will give figure skaters background tracks to at least ten different routines. Best moments include a version of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" that would sound appropriate in The Little Mermaid, a slowed down "Roxanne" and a fired up "She's Too Good For Me". Favorite cut was "We Work The Black Seam" which originated from Sting's first solo album, "Seam" is given new life and relevance in it's muted meditation on world peace. As long as you don't think too hard (like asking what's the point of this project?) Symphonicities is a pleasant effort with some high points.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The set list:
I Believe / Only Time Will Tell / Holy War / Never Again / Through My Veins / Don't Cry / Steve Howe solo / The Smile Has Left Your Eyes / Open Your Eyes
Go / Time Again / An Extraordinary Life / End Of The World / The Heat Goes On / Carl Palmer Solo / Sole Survivor
Days Like These / Heat Of The Moment
I've been to a lot of concerts and it's rare that there is one that I felt was perfect, but Asia got pretty close to perfection on a warm Sunday evening. In the remodeled Uptown Theater in Napa, I sat mere feet away from the four British gentlemen whose music I worshipped through my formative years.
The band came blasting out with a set list that mixed classic Asia with a fair amount of tracks from their past two reunion albums Phoenix and Omega. It's rare to see an "oldies" band play more than two modern songs in a show, let alone six cuts. This is the type of set list you would hear bands in their prime play, inspired by recent material and trying to push their record sales via live performance. Thunderous tracks like "I Believe" and "An Extraordinary Life" flew high on the backs of these talented guys. And who would doubt the total awesomeness of "Only Time Will Tell" or "Heat Of The Moment".
There were some amazing surprises in store as well, with two post Steve Howe tracks "Go" and "Days Like These" getting play. "Go" is one of my fave Asia songs and I was ecstatic to hear it live. "Days Like These" was also great, it had been so long since I'd heard it I didn't recognize the song until the chorus. Two Alpha songs got fine treatments with just keyboardist Geoff Downes and vocalist John Wetton on "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes". The latter cut blew my mind when the ending switched from Wetton / Downes to a full band reprise. I'd dreamt of hearing a full band version of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and now there it was.
Steve Howe's acoustic guitar solo (that included his classic "Mood For A Day") was mesmerizing. Howe was the most fired up I'd ever seen him, pulling out all the spastic awkward stage moves he's known for. Carl Palmer remains a beast on the skins even post heart surgery. His epic drum solo had me flashing back to Asia in Asia. Keyboardist Geoff Downes got short shrift from the soundman, his twinkling synths were buried under a wall of sound. Meanwhile, John Wetton sang excellently and impressed me with his nimble bass work.
Anyone who doubts Asia's ability should check out "Time Again", the old guys nailed the fancy instrumental interplay with gusto.
In terms of record sales Asia's time is gone, but in terms of inspired arena rock their time is now.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Wow, The Other Guys, it looked so promising from the advertisements. Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg in a buddy cop movie sending up buddy cop movies. The commercials made me laugh with Farrell playing against type as a fuss budget to Mark Wahlberg's tough Boston dude gimmick. Plus, it was going to have The Rock and Samuel Jackson as hot shot cops who rule the streets while "the other guys" do the paperwork. As they say on Flight Of The Conchords, all systems were go everything was perfect...
Except Rock and Jackson die off quickly (and humorously) towards the start of the flick. And with them goes much of the energy this movie had, even an Ice T voice over narration can't keep things up for long. Farrell and Wahlberg go through the standard buddy cop motions we've seen before in tons of films before but their attempts at irony/satire fall flat. Leaving a generic police thriller flooded with bad jokes spiked with a couple of chuckles in their wake. Meaning we're watching a bad action movie that isn't even trying to be good.
Not to completely deride The Other Guys, in a supporting role Michael Keaton kicks ass as the stereotypical aggravated police chief with an obsession for an old hip hop group while moonlighting as a floor manager with Bed Bath and Beyond. And Farrell dodges some of his usual gross out humor to milk laughs out of intellectual prissiness instead (such as bragging about having 6 Cds of the Little River Band in his car). Which means he's not as funny as he can be, yet I respect him more as an artiste'. Though it's no accident that the few laugh out loud funny bits involve Farrell's character unleashing his trademark bull in a china shop approach to comedy. Such as delving into his past as a college pimp named Gator. And bad cop / bad cop? That's classic.
Surprisingly dull past the first ten minutes, The Other Guys does little more than prove why the people who stand in the background of action films are back there - it would be boring as hell to follow them around.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 02, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
First song you're gettin' it on, next you're dealing with a dangerous woman. It really is James Bond! I didn't dig this tune until I saw it performed on Live Aid. As quickly as I had been surprised by the formation of Power Station I was equally shocked when I tuned in to find out Robert Palmer had been replaced by Michael Des Barres. At the time I rejected the Des Barres version for being a hollow replacement. Watching now, I can see Des Barres was a decent fit. A bit more Jagger swagger than the suave Palmer but good enough (Palmer had left the band to record his breakthru solo album Riptide). How sad that both these singers are no longer with us. Oops, just looked up on wikipedia that Des Barres isn't dead. Sorry bro.
Interestingly, "Get It On" is the most identifiable song from the Des Barres era. The DB version of the group performed this one at Live Aid and also on Miami Vice. It's hard for me to believe this version was originally intended to back ex Playmate Bebe Buell aka the mother of Liv Tyler. Turns out John "bangs in the face" Taylor was dating Ms Buell at the time. Which is not to say that John Taylor was banging Bebe Buell in the face. I have no knowledge of that. I was referring to his hair!
A side note, Bebe Buell is one of those names that repeatedly pop up in rock history. She has been with several rock stars in addition to Taylor and Tyler, a list that includes Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren.
And now the moment you've been waiting for, the Michael Des Barres version of "Get It On" from their appearance on Miami Vice!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
I didn't dislike Judas Priest, I just didn't care. A few years back that began to change, my wife had some Priest Cds and they sounded good to me. A song here or there would catch my ear. Then VH1 made them the Rock Honors or something and featured their music for an hour or two. Godsmack was one of the bands playing tribute to Priest and they came storming out with-
Hell Bent For Leather from the album Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
Godsmack's performance sold me on this song, the pithy verse delivery that led to the near operatic chorus killed.
Eventually I got The Essential Judas Priest which included this track, giving me free reign to play that bad boy to death :)
The song is also noted for being Rob Halford's entrance song where he rides his motorcycle onto the stage.
Such an awesome song, that's why it makes my favorite tune list of all time!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Next time...the Governator!
Friday, July 09, 2010
Monday, July 05, 2010
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
Some random things came up today so here I am to pontificate on them. I said pontificate, not...forget it. No Cleveland Steamer.
McDonald's Billboards Are Dumb As Hell - First I saw some McDonalds billboard that said something like "This cup of coffee is not Joe, he's Joseph" and then today I saw another one that said "These hotcakes are selling like" with a picture of a hotcake. It's like they hired a third grade class to run their freakin ad campaign. What's the next dumbass slogan going to be? "Childhood obesity live the fantasy?" "Are you stuffin' that egg mcmuffin?" "The French don't want you to have these fries, but we do?" Can I be an ad exec now? Am I hired?
Annoying Bullllllhorn - And the overexposed movie commercial of the week is: Inception. Some crap about Lou Diamond Phillips - no wait, it's Leo DiCaprio - living in dreams and stuff blowing up while upside down and who cares. Watch it's going to be the next Matrix and I'll end up eating my words. All I know is when this commercial hits the tv gets busy and a loud bullhorn blows. Blows like this movie.
A Swaggering Angle Lock - So I was watching Friday Night Smackdown for the first time in months. Jack Swagger is wrasslin Big Show and he's got Show on the ground. Next thing I know Swagger picks up Big Show's foot and applies the Angle Lock (a move where you grab the guy's foot, hold the ankle against your chest and twist the foot). Wow, they gave one of Kurt Angle's signature moves to the new guy. I'm sure Kurt Angle didn't invent the move or anything, he's just the guy I associate the move with the most. Consider me blown away.
Theresa Started It - As much as Danielle on the Real Housewives of New Jersey is a psycho, it was bankrupt diva Theresa that provoked an altercation on a recent episode. After months of no face to face contact between the two, Theresa confronts Danielle at a fashion show to say "hi". It was like when a guy throws some punches and as he gets pulled off the other dude he says "What? I just wanted to talk to him!" There's also a supposed sex tape out there of Danielle in all her plastic surgery altered self and all I can say to that thought is...ewwww No. Hell No! Gotta give props for these gutter trash, you gotta fight for those ratings points!
Not Very R.A.D. - Remember when Motley Crue's Vince Neil crashed a car and killed his friend resulting in a slew of hypocritical rock against drugs adverts? Well, Vince doesn't and so he was arrested for drunk driving again. Right after proclaiming his long term sobriety.
Electric Goof - 80s mall queens Tiffany and Debbie Gibson are gonna battle in a tv movie. Gibson will have to watch out for Tiffany's trademark Egyptian darting hand move best seen in the "I Saw Him Standing There" video. Look out Gibson, she'll take your eye out!
I'm Too Old For This Sh*t - Mad Mel Gibson makes a PR mess again this time throwing around racial insults. Hard to believe once he was so cool, now he's a prime douche.
That's all I got, until the next time.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
When music videos gained popularity in the early 80s, there was a lot of talk about how this was a new art form and would be like "mini-movies". After a few years that trend died and music clips were reduced to various performance miming bits. Now, in 2010, there are two music videos that are essentially "mini-movies" the first one directed by Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn) no less. As Mel Allen used to say, "How about that?"
The first video I got as a free download from ITunes this week by a guy named Bob Schneider. I got the name confused with Fred Schneider of The B 52's and thought "Cool, I loved that song about the monster in the pants and it does a dirty dance" so I clicked on it. Turned out to be a pleasant sort of polished indie singer songwriter deal. The video is like the ultimate 3 minute rom com, just missing the oh-no-they-might-break-up second act. What makes this better than say The Proposal or She's All That is if you don't like the flick, it's only three minutes of your time. That's modern efficiency!
The embed code isn't working so you can click here to see it.
The second video is by Free Energy whose album overall I was disappointed with but I liked this tune "Bang Pop". This video is in the ever popular setting of high school (see She and Him "In The Sun") and has the early 80s teen sexploitation flick look down. You can't watch this video and not think of Porkys or Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Awesome! Totally awesome.The embedding is disabled so to see it you can click here. Sort of like that old Porky's tv ads, "We can't show you what happens on tv so you'll have to see the movie". Or something like that.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Sure it helps that The Spinners had a number of hits, although going in I only knew maybe one or two by name. But even with that this show could have been horrible. When the band opened with "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" as one of the two surviving original members barely croaked out the lead vocal, I thought I was in for an hour of serious pain.
Yet this guy and his other original member dude (both are in their 70s) were smart and hired a crack backing band. The rhythm section wasn't just professional, they were smokin'. R&B isn't often a musician's showcase, yet the supple bass rhythms and sharp drums gave The Spinners some muscle. And the three younger replacement Spinners seemed to truly enjoy live performance, energetically tackling their vocals and dance moves. the original member was right to call the trio "stimulus packages" as they provided most of the firepower on the front line.
And in a move that I can only describe as pure Barry Manilow, The Spinners have retained the type of canned stage patter and gaudy costuming that surely existed in the 70s (canary yellow suits!). There was a knowing silliness to it all as if to say "We know this is a joke with no credibility so get over it and enjoy the ride." They say the key to moving pictures is the "suspension of disbelief". Same goes for The Spinners of 2010. Once you accept this is not a true creative force but a mock up no different than say Mamma Mia or Lynyrd Skynyrd, there is some enjoyment to be had. Even with the lazy choreography (didn't R&B vocal groups have to train to spin at the same time once?).
By the time the group pounded through their smash "Rubberband Man" complete with a psychedelic strobe light dance featuring giant rubber bands, there was no denying that this version of The Spinners could do well on the fair circuit. Is it better than the real thing? Hell no. But for cheap live entertainment, you could do a lot worse. And if you squint your eyes real hard, maybe you could find yourself back in 1973 for a second.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
- All right, it's Iron Maiden!
- Bruce Dickinson runs around a lot. And jumps a lot. He's more active than David Lee Roth!
- Wow, that blond hair guitarist got those poser moves down. Playing while standing on one leg? Cool!
- Hey, I didn't realize they had three guitarists before.
- "Wrathchild"! I know this one. Interesting how Dickinson does this snake like move with his upper torso and arms while singing.
- The other blond guitarist is playing, funny how the one guy looks hair metal while this dude looks Bachman Turner Overdrive. And the non blond guitarist moves with courtly gestures like an English gentleman.
- Their new album The Final Frontier isn't out yet so the sci fi staging doesn't make total sense, but it sure looks awesome!
- Why is it I can hear Bruce Dickinson loud and clear when he does stage patter but he gets buried in the mix during song performance? WTF?
- Gotta take a monster whizz.
- Is Dickinson skipping to the drum kit during guitar solos? Is that allowed? I've never seen skipping by a member of a hard rock / metal band.
- We're getting to the slow songs, kinda cool and medieval sounding.
- Dickinson pays tribute to Ronnie James Dio, huge crowd pop and "Dio" chant follows. Nice lead in to the song called "Blood Brothers".
- I like it when the bass player aims the neck of his guitar out at the audience and pretends to strafe them with a gun.
- The audience is getting drunker if that's possible. I've had people fall out of the aisle into me twice now. That first dude had serious b.o., he hit me for a second and his stench lingered the whole song!
- Speaking of smells, there has been a lot of medicinal herbs stinking up the place.
- All right, back to the fast songs!
- The Bunny looks cute head banging.
- Should I put up some devil horns at the end of song? Should I? Yes! Feels so good :)
- Dickinson's shirt says Psycho Ward. I kinda miss the Medieval warrior look I used to see him wear in Circus magazine all those years ago.
- The guy in front of me keeps getting blocking my view at random by making out with his chick. Damn he's got a big head. Now they're leaving to presumably do it in the bathroom.
- Awesome, the blond guitarist with the poser moves has added two new moves: slinging his guitar up and down his shoulder like a military rifle mixed in with some around the worlds.
- It's the song "Iron Maiden". I've heard this one before! A giant alien looking Eddie is onstage and the band members are doing battle with him. Cool!
- The Pavilion looks totally sold out. The main part of the set is over, time to go. Don't want to get caught in a drunken traffic jam.
- I can hear "The Number Of The Beast" play as we walk to the car in the distant parking lot.
- Time for some Dennys!
Considering I didn't know most of the songs, I had a great time at the Iron Maiden part of the show. The size and spectacle was impressive, as was the tight performance of their music. Maiden is one of those groups where if you like one song, you're gonna like them all. Sound mix could have been better but it wasn't horrible. I left thinking I was going to miss "Run To The Hills" but it turns out they didn't play that one. All in all, a fun concert.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Mr A. had a love of sports and he really loved the local teams from San Francisco. Of my assorted memories of Mr. A., my strongest memory is a collection of moments where I didn't even see him. When baseball or football season came around, every warm Sunday you could hear Mr A. listening to a sports game on the radio as he relaxed on his back porch. I could hear him talking and the radio playing over the fence from my own back yard. There was something very pure about his passion for sports and listening to him luxuriate to a game had an infectious sort of contentment to it.
The best media tribute I can think of for the man is the moment that every 49ers fan in the 80s cherished. "The Catch". Goodbye Mr. A., you will be missed.