Monday, May 28, 2007

New Music Monday - Rush

God, I’ve been so damn busy lately there’s been precious little time to post anything. I have, however done something I haven’t done in about 27 years. I went out and bought a new album by Rush. Back in high school, I was a huge Rush fan, seeing them perform live numerous times, including a show on Easter Sunday, 1980, much to the dismay of my parents (but how cool they were for letting me go).

From 1979-81 or so, Rush was at the top of their game, releasing their best albums in Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Hemispheres. A simple formula has always worked for this trio; virtuoso musicianship, literate lyrics, and Geddy Lee’s distinctive voice. Their music is not as complex as it sounds, as my high school garage band was able to play convincing covers of many Rush classics. As much as I loved their music, college came around and my musical tastes drifted to U2, REM and Talking Heads, and I left Rush behind.

27 years have passed since their heyday, over 30 since they formed, and miraculously the Canadian trio just keeps plugging on. On Snakes & Arrows, there’s nothing new under the sun, but it’s satisfying, well written and exceptionally well played rock music. Critics have always found Rush music to a little pretentious, with weak melodies and egg-head lyrics, they consider Rush to be the last dinosaurs of ‘prog-rock.’ I’ll agree with some of that, but these guys believe so strongly in what they’re doing you have to respect them. They are honing their craft to perfection. In many ways, I find this much more interesting than what the Stones are doing, for example.

At this point, Rush is probably playing to die-hard long time fans, and not winning many new ones, although I was pleased to see the new album in the Top 20 for a few weeks, right up there with Daughtry and Nickelback. Let’s see what those bands are up to in 35 years. Rush is on tour this fall and I think I’m going to take my 12-year old son (not surprisingly, he loves the 2112 Overture). Bring on the dry ice and drum solos.

One of two great new instrumental tracks: The Main Monkey Business


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dylan at 66

No time to gush forth today on my favorite artist and the greatest songwriter of the 20th century, just birthday wishes. Still going strong at 66 and not showing any signs of letting up, the life of Bob Dylan is truly something to celebrate. Do yourself a favor and catch him on tour this summer. We can't take the Never Ending Tour for granted anymore.

A great, great song that was cut from Blood on the Tracks: Up to Me


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dead at Cornell

The Spring 1977 Grateful Dead Tour is widely regarded as one of the best tours of the band's long history. Night after night of stellar playing, and fortunately for us, all preserved on tape. Today happens to be the 30th anniversary of the band's legendary performance at Barton Hall, Cornell University, often considered to be one of the best live dead performances ever. Ask any deadhead about 'Cornell' and you are likely to get a broad smile and a gushing description.

Typically, Cornell was one of the first tapes added to a fledgling collection. Back in the day, analog cassette tapes were traded at shows, or through the mail using trader's networks. With the advent of e-mail, tape trading expolded in popularity, and tapes were eventually replaced by DAT, CD, FLAC and MP3. For a while, a huge number of high quality recordings were available at Internet Archive, before the band put the kibosh on that last year (see one of my early posts on this subject). Today, other sources are available. Go to Deadpod and you can download a weekly podcast featuring some wonderful shows (you can also do this through itunes). Currently, Deadpod is featuring Cornell in all its glory. If you are a newbie or a tie-dyed-in-the-wool fan who hasn't heard this show in a awhile, go check it out.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

New Music Monday - Dr. Dog

The blogosphere is all a-buzz these days over a little known band from Philly named Dr. Dog. I heard a review of their latest album We All Belong on the Musicheads podcast recently, and I liked what I heard. A local Philly favorite since 2001, Dr. Dog is clearly enamored with 60’s and 70’s pop, even using primitive recording techniques to reproduce that nostalgic sound. It’s refreshing though, that the band can rise above mere derivatives of their influences and create some truly memorable music. Dr. Dog were noticed a few years ago by Jim James of My Morning Jacket and toured with them in 2002. Since then, word is spreading. Chief songwriters Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken could be considered classic rock-pop revivalists, but there is more going on here than simply rehashing the past. Loaded with talented songwriting, catchy hooks, vocal harmonies and interesting orchestration, the music manages to remind me what was so great about 70's popular music without slavish copying. Who thought echoes of the Bee Gees and ELO would sound so welcome in 2007?

We All Belong was recorded on a 24-track tape, a step up from the 8-track method used on their previous albums. Expect to hear more about these guys, and see this album on best of 2007 lists.

Listen: Ain't It Strange

Buy: We All Belong



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