Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Robert & Alison

One of my favorite albums of 2007 is the basis of a highly anticipated tour this summer. Last weekend Robert Plant and Alison Krauss kicked off their highly anticipated tour in Louisville to rave reviews.

Although some Zeppelin fans will probably blame this tour for delaying a dream Zep reunion tour, the Plant-Krauss collaboration is so good that it would be a crying shame not to hear it live. One would guess that a few of acoustic Zep tunes might find their way into the set, and Plant did not disappoint, bringing out Black Country Woman, The Battle of Evermore and an acoustic version of Black Dog. Other setlist reports include Hey Hey What Can I Do and the blues classic When The Levee Breaks, redone famously by Zeppelin in 1971. This bodes well for the tour, and I'll report later this summer when they hit the Chicago area.

I'll be on the lookout for some live recordings to share.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

For obsessive compulsives

If liner notes and record reviews are not enough for you, turn to the 33 1/3 series of books from Continuum publishing. 33 1/3 is a series of pocket sized books, around 150 pages, that focus in detail on great albums old and new. Written by scholars, critics, and musicians the series has attracted a fanatical following. They have been around for a few years, and up until now I have resisted, thinking I'd rather spend 10 bucks on a CD. But the music geek in me has recently prevailed. I also have a weakness for collecting small things of identical size (there's a psychological condition for this, but I don't know the name). I love reading about music, and chances are if you're reading this blog, you do too. In some ways the books I've read are like graduate thesis papers; intriguing, but not always the best writing. Detailed footnotes and bibliographies are provided for further obsessing. Here are brief reviews of the first two I've read, to help you decide if you're ready to take the plunge:

#17 - Led Zeppelin IV - Author Erik Davis tackles one of the greatest albums of all time. Davis is an expert in mysticism and the occult, and delves into the hidden symbolism pretty heavily, maybe more than most readers care to read about. He does make a compelling argument for the overall meaning of the album, though, and balances the occult theory with a good knowledge of all things Zeppelin. He also offers a really insightful review of all the things we loved about the 12-inch record and the concept of creating an 'album' of songs, notions that have fallen by the wayside in the digital era. I was hoping for more detail on the recording sessions at Headley Grange, but there are other sources for that.

Conclusion: A must-read for Zeppelin fanatics. Casual music fans may be overwhelmed.

Buy It

#37 - The Who Sell Out - Written by John Dougan, a Who fan with a PhD in American Studies, the book is really more of a history of the Pop Art and pirate radio era in mid 1960's Britain than an intense analysis of the album. Sell Out is an overlooked masterpiece, and I found the discussion of cultural climate that led to the music very worthwhile reading. I didn't know much about the pirate radio movement and this book provides a complete history, which of course is instrumental in the concept of Sell Out. If you're looking for 120 pages on the Who though, you will be disappointed.

Conclusion: Anyone with an interest in 60's rock music should read it. If you're a Who fan that has forgotten about Sell Out in favor of the Who's more well-known albums then you should definitely read it.

Buy It

More to come as I continue to read. There's 56 in the series and counting....

The 33 1/3 Blog

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Cover Who?

Paste Magazine reports that the Who (or the Two, as they are now sometimes called) is planning a covers album for their next release. I have a mixed reaction to this news. A covers album is often perceived as the easy way out, a way to inject new product into the market without the burden of songwriting. I can't imagine Pete Townshend resorting to such tactics, although he has admitted difficulty in writing new 'Who' material in recent years. Pete is such a superb songwriter that I'd rather have a disc full of Pete throwaways than half-assed versions of old R&B tunes. On the other hand, the Who cut their teeth on R&B, and Pete doesn't do anything half-assed. This might be an interesting way for things to come full circle. Either way, it's a new Who record in the works, so let's be grateful for that.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Like sands through the hourglass....

Time to get back on track here, as I've had another extended lapse. Work/life burdens and a trip to Costa Rica have absorbed my blog time. I think the key is shorter, more frequent posts, so here we go...

Lately I've been really digging the new record by Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Real Emotional Trash. I missed the heyday of Pavement, in fact I missed a lot of the indie rock scene in the 90's for a variety of reasons. Fast forward to I think his fourth solo record and I'm getting drawn in. Although this doesn't really sound anything like the Pavement songs I have heard, it's hard to ignore. Malkmus caught my ear recently with his Dylan covers on the I'm Not There soundtrack. Malkmus is not for everyone, and this is not the most accessible music you'll run across, but if you like great guitar work, quirky songwriting and absolutely surreal lyrics, this is for you. The music reminds me of Cracker and at times, Lou Reed. It's uniquely American. I like Malkmus because he's in his 40's, a father, and he's just trying to break some new ground.

Speaking of unique, I'm also digging the debut album by Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals. This music is hard to describe. It's indie rock with a tribal undertone,containing Eastern, African and even Native American influences. No debut album should be this adventurous and this good. These guys are a quartet from Brooklyn, which makes it all even more surprising. The only down side to Yeasayer is their name, which reminds me of 70's pop artist Leo Sayer (if you remember 70's you know why this is bad).

2080 - Yeasayer

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