Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blue Day

There's been a lot of buzz about the Heartless Bastards, a three person band from Cincinnati with a very unique sound. The lead singer is husky voiced Erika Wennerstrom, who reminds me of Chrissy Hynde, Alison Moyet, even a little Deborah Harry. The most recent release All This Time came out earlier this month. The sound is a whirlwind of garage rock, soul, and blues, but there's this underlying ethereal quality running through the music that's really appealing. It's somehow raw and refined at the same time. There's some heavy riffs, engaging melodies and strong lyrics, all good things in my book. The band signed to Fat Possum Records after they sent a demo tape to the Black Keys. This is some really good stuff, people.

Check out the free tunes on their mySpace link above, and this one from the new album: Blue Day



Monday, August 28, 2006

Jack's love sick

A little more on the Dylan Covers. I found this great footage of the White Stripes doing Bob's Love Sick from his 1997 album Time Out Of Mind. The Raconteurs are opening up for Dylan on some of the dates of the upcoming fall tour. Seeing how Jack White worships Dylan, that could be really interesting. Tapers, be ready with those microphones!

Also, Dylan's new album Modern Times is released tomorrow. Expect a review by the end of the week.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Under the Covers

I’ll get to the music momentarily, but first a quick update on the Death Cab In Lakeview saga I posted last week. Monday the jury found the accused passenger guilty of second degree murder of 62 year-old cabbie Haroon Paryani. It didn’t take long. Defense attorneys argued self defense for passenger Michael Jackson, saying the cab driver went ballistic and threatened Jackson’s life after Jackson identified himself as a city employee and planned to report him for reckless driving. This was apparently not enough to excuse Jackson from running over Paryani with his own cab. The sentence could be as much as 30 years in prison.
Secondly, check out the excellent blog Locust St. for an outstanding post on all things blue. You won't be disappointed. One of my favorite blogs.
On to the music. Today’s topic is the cover song. What is it about an artist performing another’s work that is so intriguing? Is it an homage, an acknowledgment of influences, or laziness? Probably a little of all three. Jam bands like Phish raised the cover to an art form, sometimes filling a third of their long sets with other artist’s material. Nirvana was clearly acknowledging their muses with the numerous covers on the Unplugged in New York set. At concerts it's a sure crowd pleaser when the band takes the stage for an encore and plays some classic rock song, or some obscure cover. In certain genres like folk music the cover is seen as a way of passing down a legacy. Some of the best loved Grateful Dead songs performed live are old folk and blues songs passed down through the generations. As the Dead tribute bands carry on and play their music, the circle remains unbroken. Then there are the recorded covers, which sometimes eclipse the original artist’s version.

Bob Dylan has covered dozens, maybe hundreds of songs in his career, and he has had his own material covered extensively. Back in the day, bands like the Byrds covered his songs at nearly the same time as Dylan’s own recordings, and had huge commercial success. Some might say their versions of Mr. Tambourine Man, My Back Pages and All I Really Want To Do are more well known than Dylan’s own versions. And the mother of all covers, Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower, is even preferred by Dylan himself.

I’ve got a collection of Dylan covers that I’ll dig into as time goes on. I’ll be focusing on the more obscure tracks, hopefully stuff you’ve never heard before. Bob’s songs are ingrained in my mind; when I hear a cover version, it opens my mind to hearing a song I’ve heard hundreds of times in a different way. And, it has introduced me to some great artists, too.

Dylan Cover #1 – Pink Nasty – It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

Pink Nasty, aka Sara Beck, is an Austin based singer in the vein of Neko Case and Lucinda Williams; folk/country with a sweet-sexy drawl to her voice. She seems to be a favorite of the local Austin music scene, but I'm not sure she's well known outside the southwest. That lurid name could be a problem.... Check out therealpinknasty for other free downloads. Bob's original version is a slow acoustic blues on his 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album. A more rollicking electric version can be found on The Bootleg Series Vols 1-3.

Dylan Cover #2 - The White Stripes - One More Cup of Coffee(Valley Below)

The White Stripes of course need no introduction. This cover has been often featured in their sets, and suits Jack White's guitar style and plaintive vocals nicely. The lyrics, about a dark and mysterious lover, also fit right in the Stripes oeuvre. Bob's original is on the excellent 1975 Desire album, the follow-up to Blood On The Tracks and somewhat overlooked by the mainstream, except for the famous song about Hurricane Carter.

Buy the White Stripes


Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Forgotten Records #6 - Vienna

In the continuing saga of forgotten bands we have Ultravox; nearly a one hit wonder in the States, and today cast adrift in the sea of 80’s New Wave bands. Formed in 1974, it wasn’t until 1980 and the addition of lead singer Midge Ure that Ultravox would carve their own niche in the New Romantic off shoot of the New Wave movement. Their crowning achievement is probably Vienna, a lush, synthesized record released in 1980 and the first with Ure. The title track and All Stood Still were hits on both sides of the Atlantic. But who remembers the subsequent records? Rage In Eden, Quartet, Monument? Anyone? Their sound was calculated and at times orchestral, and although the songwriting was strong, the tunes were not as interesting (or as danceable, which was pretty important in the early 80’s) as Depeche Mode or New Order. At a time when there were dozens of bands cut from the same cloth and records seem to come out weekly, there was not enough to distinguish Ultravox from the rest. After the song Reap the Wild Wind in 1985, Ultravox faded into obscurity.

Believe it or not, I saw Ultravox in Chicago, probably in 1982, at the Aragon Ballroom. I honestly don’t remember a damned thing about the show. Concerts ebb from your memory quickly, but there are always little bits you remember from the good ones. I can recall lots of things about U2 and REM at the same theater, around the same time. Nevertheless, Vienna is a great song, a defining song from a pop music movement and one that you never hear anymore.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Death Cab In Lakeview

While the world reels from the developments in the JonBenet case, we have our own murder trial in Chicago that’s caught my attention. Here’s the scenario: On February 4, 2005 a man takes a short late night cab ride to an affluent residential area in Chicago. He is employed by the City of Chicago as a communications specialist for the Public Health Department. He is also apparently HIV positive, and to make things weirder, is named Michael Jackson. The fare is $8. During the cab ride, something happens. Tempers flare, and an argument ensues outside the man’s residence. Screaming turns to physical confrontation and during the scuffle the cab driver, Haroon Paryani, is thrown to the ground. The man flees the scene in the cab and runs over the cab driver, at least twice, before striking a parked car. The cab driver is killed.

As the trial began this week, Jackson claims his life was in danger the moment he entered the cab. Paryani drove erratically, verbally attacked his sexual orientation and religion and tried to strike him while driving when he questioned the route and the fare. When he refused to pay the fare, a fight ensued; Paryani threatened his life, he struck the driver in self defense, and tried to flee in the cab for his own safety, not realizing Paryani was in the way. Defense lawyers claim the driver had a history of belligerent behavior towards passengers. Several eyewitnesses describe the deliberate way in which Jackson entered the cab, accelerated and repeatedly ran over the driver. The prosecution of course paints Jackson as an enraged, drunken aggressor.

How things can go so awry in such a short time is amazing to me. An $8 cab ride can’t be more than 15 minutes. Yet, it was enough time for pure unadulterated rage to boil to the surface. “The state is suggesting that Jackson went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. On that day, Jackson got into Mr. Hyde’s cab,” says the defense lawyer. Jekyll and Hyde, Stephen King’s Christine reanimated as a taxi, or just plain old hatred, evil walks amongst us, even in Lakeview.

More Raconteurs: A live version Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, Cleveland August 6. Not the best quality, if I find a better one I'll post it. More on Death Cab soon.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Steady As She Goes

Give the people what they want, that's what I always say. Judging from the web searches that land at this blog, most people are looking for the Raconteurs, and Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. There's also some really weird search queries, but I'll get to those some other day for a laugh.

So here's the song of the summer done acoustically. Ok- the song of the summer is probably Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, which ironically the Raconteurs covered at Lollapalooza. Steady, As She Goes is a good hard pop song, and I like this acoustic arrangement quite a bit.

I'll see if I can get to some Theme Time posted in the near future, but I'll have to clear some bandwidth.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Left Coast Hiatus

Yet another long spell between posts. Finding time these days is difficult. We just returned from a trip to the Left Coast, and what a long strange trip it’s been. Here’s a few blurbs to sum it up: Body surfing at Venice Beach – Hollywood Wax Museum – the Baja Cantina, Marina Del Rey – Santa Monica Pier – the War of the Worlds plane crash movie set at Universal’s back lot (wow) – A hot pink Beach Bomb Hot Wheel that someone paid $70,000 for at the Petersen Auto Museum (see photo) – Highway 1 - UCLA – San Simeon – Monterey – Golden Gate Bridge (we think we saw Raven Simone here in a stretch Hummer limo. If you don’t know who that is, ask your kids) – Muir Woods – Fog City Diner – Alcatraz – Powell-Mason cable car (I got to cling to the outside rail) – the Metreon, where we played Hyperbowl – and finally, Napa. We did this all in 2 days. Just kidding. All I can say is I'm glad we're home and not faced with having to deal with the airports, which just went to hell in the last 48 hours.

On to some music. Two favorite early Who tracks were covers of songs by Mose Allison, a jazz/blues musician that appealed to the emerging 60’s rock scene, particularly in the UK. Having heard the Who versions innumerable times over the years I’ve often wondered what the originals were like. Thanks to e-music I picked them up for 49 cents each. Allow me to share them with you for a few days:

Eyesight To The Blind – Covered by the Who for the Tommy album, 1969. The song was actually written by Sonny Boy Williamson.

Young Man Blues – A concert staple for the Who in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The blistering version on Live At Leeds is what it’s all about.

View My Stats