Wednesday, June 28, 2006

This is my Country

Generally speaking I dislike country music. I like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and the 'old school', but most contemporary country music I find to be ridiculous,uninteresting and often, poorly written and repetitive. Dixie Chicks and that red-necked woman? Spare me.

Recently though, I heard some music by a guy named Dave Alvin, and it struck a chord. More country flavored than anything else, Alvin has a rich, smoky voice that just draws you in, and the music has strong blues overtones. When I realized that Alvin was a member of the great roots-rock band The Blasters, it all came full circle. His new album West of the West is a collection of songs written by California artists, such as Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson and Jerry Garcia. He also did a cover of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited on a recent compilation album that just smolders. I've since purchased the new album (RIAA take note: it was an audioblog that turned me on to Alvin). Alvin's vocal style may be an acquired taste, but it's worth sampling. The poignant version of Surfer Girl on this album is reason alone to pick it up.

Listen: Loser, by Jerry Garcia, lyrics by Robert Hunter. This song is from Garcia's debut solo album, and be a Grateful Dead concert favorite for years. About a hopelessly addicted gambler, the song suits Alvin to a tee, and Hunter's lyrics are superb. It's impossible not to like this track, even if you're lukewarm to country music and the whole Deadhead thing.

Buy It: Dave Alvin, West Of The West

I do like bluegrass music, usually in small doses. What happens when you combine some talented bluegrass bands and the music of Van Halen? Some pretty enjoyable music, I'd say. Like other good tribute albums, the renditions make you appreciate the original versions all over again, and at times realize just how good some of the songwriting really is. I don't think I need an entire album of bluegrass Van Halen, but that's what eMusic is for.

Listen:Runnin' With The Devil

Buy It: Strumming With The Devil


Sunday, June 25, 2006

See the Who live on your computer

Photo by Ross Halfin

Alert: Log in to Who Live TV later today. For 99 cents (goes to charity) you can see live footage of the performance tonight at the Wireless Festival in Leeds. Nice set list from Brighton on 6-19, with some different songs from the first Leeds show.

Set List: Who Are You/Can't Explain/The Seeker/Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere/Wire & Glass/Sound Around/Pick up the Peace/Endless Wire/We've Got a Hit/They Made My Dreams Come True/Mirror Door/Baba O’Riley/Drowned/Behind Blue Eyes/Relay/Mike Post/Cry if You Want/Pinball Wizard/Amazing Journey/See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You
Substitute/The Kids Are Alright/Won't Get Fooled Again

Great to see a track from Quadrophenia for the Brighton show.

Note: I promise this will not turn into a Who only blog. I'm just a little obsessed right now. Back to some originally scheduled blogging early next week.....


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Still Alive At Leeds

I don't care if he looks like my grandfather. The mere thought of Pete Townshend and his trusty sidekick Roger back on stage at Leeds University is reason for hope. By all accounts, the show was a killer, attended by both teenagers and 60 year old men. Imagine these guys tearing into Who Are You to start the show, in a 2,000 seat hall, where they made history on February 14, 1970. It leaves me breathless.

Set List: Who Are You/I Can't Explain/The Seeker/Substitute/Wire & Glass/Sound Around/Pick Up The Peace/Endless Wire/We've Got A Hit/They Made My Dreams Come True/Mirror Door/Baba O'Riley/Let's See Action/Relay/Behind Blue Eyes/Mike Post Theme/Pinball Wizard/Amazing Journey/See Me/Listening To You/ Encores: Eminence Front/Naked Eye/Won't Get Fooled Again

Clearly this is not a oldies tour, a 'circus act', in Pete's words. There's new music to played, and we can all be thankful for that.

Go here for lots of press reviews of the show. Reviews


Friday, June 16, 2006

Everywhere At Once

Another long pause between apologies to you faithful readers. Pretty hectic month, with an overload of work and personal obligations, so much in fact that it caused me to miss the Springsteen show near Chicago a few nights ago. Yikes. On the plus side, my daughter graduated with honors from middle school. Bruce will be back.

One of my favorite bands from the 80's has regrouped and played at a Irish pub in Chicago last night (missed that too). The Plimsouls are forever linked to the immortal movie Valley Girl, but the truth is they were a fantastic band, full of raw energy and more power pop hooks than they knew what to do with. Singer/leader Peter Case went on to pursue a solo career that explored his interest in folk and blues (I highly recommend his record Sings Like Hell). The Plimsouls studio records blistered with live energy; Everywhere At Once almost sounds like a live recording. The title song pretty much sums it up for me right now: Graduation ceremony? Springsteen show? Little league game?
Soccer game? Dance recital? Health club? Office? Home???

Listen:Everywhere At Once

Buy it

"That techo-rock you guys listen to is gutless." Randy (Nicholas Cage) in Valley Girl


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Forgotten Records #5 - XTC

The day I heard Senses Working Overtime for the first time, on WPGU in Champaign, 1982, my ears perked up, and I immediately walked to Record Swap and bought the double vinyl album, English Settlement. I thought that song was so clever and so catchy that there must be a least a few other good tracks on the record. It turned out that English Settlement is a stellar album, one that rightly deserved to be a double album. No filler here, like many other double albums tend to be. I gradually amassed all of the recorded output of XTC, including every 7 inch single with the ‘previously unreleased’ B-side, the 12-inch EPs with one single and three rare tracks, and various imports.

At their peak, XTC cranked out impeccable and irresistible heavy pop music at a Beatlesque pace. The band released 7 albums between 1978 and 1986, including the essential Drums and Wires, Black Sea, English Settlement, and Skylarking, and quite a few individual singles. So why aren’t they a household name? Surely their audience would have expanded exponentially if they had consistently toured, but due to Andy Partridge’s extreme stage fright, the band never played live after 1982, seriously hampering their exposure. Truth be told, their particular brand of intellectual pop rock is an acquired taste, and one that American audiences might not have fully embraced anyway.

In 1989 the band toured radio stations in the US, playing short live acoustic sets to circumvent Partridge’s stage issues. This medley of Senses Working Overtime-Grass-Love On A Farmboy’s Wages comes from a WXRT compilation CD. The track was recorded on May 22, 1989. Once I start to convert my vinyl to digital, I'll post a few other rare gems from this great band.

Buy: You can’t go wrong with any of the albums mentioned above, but it you want a solid cross section of their catalog, try Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992


Friday, June 02, 2006

A Momentary 1/2 Floyd Reunion

It was thrilling to see the Floyd back on stage for Live 8 last July, even if it was only four songs. A full blown Pink Floyd reunion tour would really be something. I get the feeling Waters is open to it, and I'm sure Wright and Mason would go along. It's up to Gilmour, who says absolutely no. Gilmour was just in Chicago on a solo tour, Waters is bringing the Dark Side of the Moon to a venue near you this summer, yet the two men can't seem to bury the hatchet. In the meantime, we have little tidbits like this video, recorded May 27, 2006; Gilmour and Wright performing 'Arnold Layne' a psychedelic pop masterpiece and the Floyd's first single. They are old men now, but I do believe they enjoyed themselves here. Maybe there's hope....

The video is from a UK television program and also features Phil Manzanera on the 2nd guitar, Guy Pratt on the bass, Steve DeStanislao on drums and Jon Carin on keyboards.



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