Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bob Dylan - Beyond Here Lies Nothin'

The band steals the show and makes this single a joy to dance to. The lyrics are pure nihilism, but done in a loving way. If that sounds like a contradiction, you’ve just discovered the magic of Dylan. “Beyond here lies nothin’, nothin’ but the moon and stars.” And a great rock and roll band. Bob Dylan

It was 40 years ago today:

It was 46 years ago today:

Neil Young – Get Behind The Wheel

Three American pastimes, rock and roll, driving, and double entendres are on masterful display here. “You know she loves those long, slow curves, so take her for a spin.” The guitar drives, the band rocks, and Neil is practicing his bar pick-up lines. Shoutouts for Light A Candle & Just Singing A Song. Neil Young

It was 40 years ago today:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand (CD)

Waking up in 1965 to brand new music is always a great pleasure for me, and I mean that as a great complement. Everyone who knows me here at home knows my love of and pride in the garage band collection I have circa 1963-1967. Anytime I discover another group from that era, I am grinning from ear to ear and driving everyone crazy with the loud tunes. What I love most about that era is the idea of rock music was still developing & everything didn’t sound “perfect”. It has energy, often high-energy, pre-Monkees rock and roll. They were willing to let what some players would consider mistakes stand, because recording was both expensive and immediate. What’s even more intriguing about this CD is it was recorded in the 21st century. I love it, and can’t recommend one individual cut because they all have special qualities. For example, I’m listening to “No matter what they say, he can’t be the Jack Johnson of today” with the drummer and rhythm guitar keeping a garage beat, while the lead guitar sends aural enhancements that fit perfectly in the 1965 groove. Many groups try to sound like this, Black Lips make it sound natural. I’m in heaven. Black Lips

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Booker T Jones – Potato Hole (CD)

A long-time dream of mine is to find rock players who have a small enough ego to release instrumental rock albums with other players the way jazz players do. Perhaps because jazz has always been about the music, with small audiences, that limits the rock players who have the tendency to think “big arenas”. It does happen occasionally (Santana comes to mind), but not often enough. Booker T has played as a session for many great artists, as well as fronting his own band, so he has the mentality I’m talking about. My dream has come true here. We have Booker T Jones with the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young playing to their hearts and my hearts delight. No vocals necessary.

This CD has everything one would want from a great rock album. Pound It Out does exactly that – opening the album loud & proud. She Breaks brings in the funky side of rock with a dancing bass line. Hey Ya is a straight-ahead guitar/drum dance with the organ taking on OutKast’s melody. Native New Yorker returns to the loud riffing rock that gets us up and moving with a steady stream of aural candy. Nan is a slow down and look at the world through the eyes of love tune, beautiful and dreamy. Warped Sister is the sole filler. Get Behind The Mule is an instant favorite, perhaps because we’re all familiar with the Tom Waits tune. It’s this tune that makes me wish for more rock players tackling instrumentals. I get a lot of instrumental albums here playing rock tunes, but they usually recreate rock as easy listening elevator music. This group plays it for real, for those of us raised on rock and roll. Reunion Time is simply wonderful, instantly reminding me of 1967 era rock with tons of soul. I hear everything from Jimi starting off the tune to Otis sitting on the dock of the bay, with a touch of little green apples thrown in for good measure. The title tune, Potato Hole is blues funk with the distinct purpose of filling the dance floor and sweating Woodstock 69 style. Space City ends the CD with a promise of more to come, either in this life or the next because Booker T reaches the heavens with his organ on this exquisite tune from the Trucker’s 7th album. 12 stars out of 10 for a Sunday afternoon bbq/dance. I’m hoping this is the first of many rock-based instrumental cds by true rock musicians. Booker T Jones

Philippe Saisse w/ Angélique Kidjo - Assante Sana

Jazz with a full dance beat, extremely tasty! Angélique fronts the ensemble with vocals moving through the spheres. Her back-up singers sway the tune and the players even further beyond the stars. Half way through the tune the guitar starts bringing us back to earth gently. Definitely a 3 minute trip worth recreating over and over. Shoutouts for a sublime sweet tea tune entitled Billy’s Blues and an exciting, rollicking jam called Roppongi Blues. Saisse the composer of all the cuts on this CD, which is exciting because each track has its own distinct flavor, Saisse does not sit still waiting for us to catch up with his stylings. Philippe Saisse

The Rippingtons – Pastels On Canvas

The smooth jazz of this classic ensemble is enhanced by some brilliant acoustic Spanish guitar work on this track. Tasty playing for some delicious relaxation. Every member gets a chance to add their own flavor which creates a true feeling of improvisation. Shoutout for the beautiful I Still Believe.
The Rippingtons

Matthew Montfort - Michelle’s Star

Matthew plays a scalloped fretboard guitar, a new instrument for me. It’s sound is similar to a sitar, and many of the tunes on this CD sound as if they were from India. I am choosing to highlight Michelle’s Star because it brings the same tonality to a western-sounding melody in a beautiful way. The CD is good for relaxing with a cool drink, perhaps even Sangria (another tune from the album) after cleaning up after a loud raucous bbq. Matthew Montfort

Michelle’s Star live:

Wynton Marsalis - Sassy

Wynton nevers fails to win over my soul with his playing. Sassy is my favorite track because of its playfulness. It also plays with themes established elsewhere on the CD. I will admit to taking the 12 instrumental tracks and reburning them as a single 65 minute CD. As much as I enjoy poetry, it was distracting for my enjoyment of the music. Perhaps it will work better as a live performance. Shoutout for A Train, a Banjo, and a Chicken Wing, which has some masterful slow blues trumpet singing. Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis - Cornet Chop Suey:

Wynton Marsalis – Portrait Of Louis Armstrong:

Wynton Marsalis Septet - The Holy Ghost

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wynonna Judd – That’s How Rhythm Was Born

“Ooh wee!” The sheer joy in the phrase is obvious, and the Texas Swing of her backing band allows Wynonna to give me a full meal of Boswell Sisters music in three minutes. “They praised the Mighty Forgiver. They washed their sins in the river. Cold water made 'em all shiver. That's how rhythm was born!” Wynonna doesn’t stop in Texas, tho. She’s willing to share another full meal, from New Orleans; Women Be Wise (“don’t advertise your man”). She doesn’t sit still, in a few minutes she returns over the border to Texas to revisit the fun of Stevie Ray in full party form with a truly hot band to make a tasty dessert of The House Is Rockin'. Wynonna Judd

Melody Gardot - Who Will Comfort Me

The finger snapping and sweet moan make me ready to hear “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, but Melody takes it a step further. She’s not walking out, she’s walking inwards to her weary soul. “Got a hold on my heart that keeps me bound when the whole wide world is free.” The band keeps the music from getting weary, with some hot bass and trumpet keeping everything afloat. “My home is a wreckage, a family drowned, implied in poverty.” Visiting the depths while being raised high – so high in fact, that by the end the blues have raised the narrator to laughter. Excellent composition. Shoutouts for Your Heart Is as Black as Night,
Melody Gardot

Indigo Girls – The Fleet Of Hope

“The fleet of hope is so pretty when she’s shining in the port
and the harbor clings to the jetty for protection and support.” The narrator is looking up at the horizon on the beach, and shares her poetry with music and beautiful harmony. “Though I stopped breathing I still believe I should try. Maybe a boat in search of lost treasures will pass by.” There is a deep hope in this song, a prayer almost for a continuance of all that the narrator has experienced. I love the opening vision of the fisherman standing like the narrator, he with a pole, and her with a book, “we will have caught on to something by the end of the day, but mostly we think about the one that got away.” Along with the deep hope is also a subtle look at the apparent despondency of it all. “Out in the choppy waters the sharks swim and play. You’re all washed up when Poseidon has his day.” Honest and beautiful poetry, with honest and beautiful music to bring the poem life. Shoutout for the great playing and vocals Second Time Around (“I’m just a little bit off these days”). Indigo Girls

Lisa Ekdahl – Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile

If you woulda told me just 5 years ago that’s I’d enjoy songs that had whistling in them, I woulda chuckled and asked you to find someone else to bug. I think of whistling and songs and I’m back in Mayberry territory in my head. Kinda funny that I ended up living in a town that looks and acts a lot like Mayberry. I digress. Point is, Lisa starts this CD off with a whistle, and it fits perfectly. Been a few others this year like that, so I’m going ahead and accepting the kiss-shaped whistle as a serious instrument in modern music.

“I’m on my hands and knees searching every corner for my lost heart and soul.” Lisa’s pouring out her pain while at the same time knowing that there will be people scoffing at her search. That’s what this song is about – not her personal pain, but the scoffers. And she does it with some wonderful musicians. The bass playing dueting with the organ player is sublime, and the percussionist knows how to hold back and when to let loose. Dreamy. Shoutout for the more acoustic flavors of One Life (“I don’t care if someone says I’m foolish, cause while I’m here I’m singing from my heart”). Lisa Ekdahl

Nicole Hart – Heart Trouble

The upbeat blues music sparkles out of the speakers with joy and solid emotion when this cut begins. I was prepared for some bleeding blues, and was instead treated to a full-throated belly laugh when Nicole began ripping into this old Martina McBride song. “The way you treat me baby, cheat and tell me lies. Guess I shouldn’t care at all, still I sympathize, ‘cause you’ve got heart trouble.” Now, read that again, and replace it wth “Hart trouble.” Great fun. You don’t wanna be carryin’ on married to a woman who’s promising trouble. That’s a bit tongue in cheek, ‘cause I imagine most women are promising trouble to their wandering philanderers. But you just need to hear the way she slowly pulls out the double-meaning “heart” to enjoy the artistry of Nicole and her great band. Good work. Shoutout for the slow riding Percy Mayfield duet You Were Lyin' To Me. Her partner on this tune is Albert Castiglia, who also adds some tasy guitar pickin’. Nicole Hart

Jenny Gillespie - Shells

“I wouldn’t ask you to wonder about God. So we watched the planes take off over the ocean. And the waves, docile until punched by the wind.” Beautiful images planted against a strumming guitar and a voice. The story is about trying not to look back as plans are made for a future the narrator is not looking forward to at this point in time. All the thoughts are kept in her head as she walks with the person she should be talking to. Perhaps is, about more trivial ideas. What I like about this song is how true it is – we keep our deep thoughts to ourselves even while hanging out with those we care deeply about. Jenny Gillespie

Tara Simmons - When You Say That I Don’t Care About You

“When you say that I don’t care about you I just turn the light inside me out.” Blunt, but powerful. In short, stop being an emotional cripple, life is too short. Put that to music and you have Tara Simmons, who also has no aversion to getting me to get up and dance around the room. Eccentric background music makes for a bit of fun at a party. Somewhere between a ticking clock and a glockenspiel. The melodies of her songs are pure pop, the background seems to be whatever is handy at the time, but always feels appropriate. Shoutouts for the wonderful Shake (“silly girl, you should have known this would all blow over fine”), and Silent (“I can’t speak or sing”). For more fun, look for some of her older tracks, like Ballet and Everybody Loves You. Tara Simmons

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Killers - Spaceman

"It's all in my mind!" When the CD came out last year I listened once and nothing stood out. My fault for not listening closer. This single (which includes 2 new cuts) stands out and makes for a fun mix in a Friday night party. The songs starts off in the ether, and soon the rock bombardment starts with a short story. “I thought I could leave this star-crossed world, but when they cut me open I guess I changed my mind.” Intriguing story & a lot of fun to dance to! A big thanks to The Killers for releasing the song as single to bring emphasis to it. “The public don’t dwell on my transmission ‘cause it wasn’t televised.” LOL!!! I like the way they make the frivolity so serious-sounding. The single does make me want to go back and re-visit the CD (as soon as I can find it). The two b-sides are fun to shoutout; another fast dance Four Winds (“squatters made a mural of a Mexican girl”), and the cool-down dance Tidal Wave (“on Saturday night they’re running for the shadow”). The Killers

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Alex Ray and the Last Place – Between The Stars

“I’ll lie here, a dream between the stars. I’ll imagine we’re not that far away.” Whimsical, just like the music. Light and easy to listen to, these guys have allowed me to relax for a few before I set down to the busy task of preparing everything that needs to be done tomorrow. “I’ve got a head that’s full, a mind that won’t sleep, and one trick left inside.” Would go good with a glass of wine, but I settled for tea and it was just as good. “I’ve got a grin that I can’t hide.” Alex Ray and the Last Place

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prince – Lotusflow3r

What a show! You will seldom hear me complain that a song isn’t long enough, but the guitar work on some of these cuts is just so dang tasty I hate to hear them end. But end they do, and a few songs later another great guitar lick comes up. Dreamer, followed by Back to The Lotus, perhaps fulfills the thirst most of all, and these two cuts end of the first CD in this 3 CD set. Before going on about the music, I have to say that it’s very cool of Prince to be offering this set to his fans at the low cost of $2 for 3 CD’s. Maybe because of the low cost, the set is only available at Target. No matter, it can be ordered from target’s on-line store.

Okay, to the meat. The album opens with a fun party starter, From The Lotus, an instrumental jazz-tinged ditty with otherworldly effects followed by Santana-like guitar and some funky bass. The leads directly to Boom, a slow rock and roll cut that would fit right into an arena show. This is the song I mentioned earlier that I hoped would continue longer. Seamlessly followed by The Morning After, the first cut that has flavors of Prince’s hits from the 80’s, this jam is just as tasty as any of those. “We can jam, baby, all night long”. The song ends too soon and melds directly into a slow soul-funk beauty called 4Ever. Colonized Mind slows us way down with wailing solos “genetically disposed to rule the world.” We also get a peek into Prince’s spirituality at this point in the party; “without God it’s just the blind leading the blind.” Wonderful, slow build to some great solo efforts. The dance floor is lit up again with the pure funk of Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful. Love Like Jazz follows with a bachelor-pad jazzy beat tune, real easy to dance to. 77 Beverly Park is even quirkier, with an almost acoustic trip down a river in Italy or Greece with guitars inviting the sun to settle on the kisses of lovers. Wall of Berlin brings out the funk-rock side of Prince with “reality is only in my mind.” Philosophy while dancing, why not? The party comes roaring back to life with $. And I’ve already discussed the guitar flavorings of Dreamer. All in all, a totally fun album – every song has its own flavor, and we are treated to many flavors here. “It was just a dream – call me a dreamer too.” I have no problem recommending this as a set to purchase for your next party.

And the above only covers the first set. Set 2 goes by the nickname of Mplsound, and starts right off pulling people up to the dance floor with (There'll Never B) Another Like Me. Big ego? Maybe, but who cares? The music is great. 3 high energy dances in a row, then a beautiful, slow, soulful dance U're Gonna C Me. The second hour of the party is just as much fun as the first, with a shoutout going to Better With Time. Aren’t we all? The second set ends with fast popping pure pop of No More Candy 4 U. Half way through he announces “too many haters on the internet”, but don’t worry, it’s still done in fun.

The third set continues the party with the same production values and perfectly performed music and brings on a new vocalist, Bria Valente. “Spiritual humor”. Another good balance of dance floor show-off styles and slow dances. Amazingly, all tasty also. My favorite composition is Immersion, “welcome to the place much faster than time. True reality is the only peace you’ll find.” It’s nearing the end of the party, so these beats give us time to reflect on how great the party has been. We end with Elixer, the title tune of this 3rd CD. It’s a slow ending to the party, performed with harmonic perfection. Prince

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peter Buffet and Akon – Blood Into Gold

“When I go to sleep at night, I wonder why I don’t feel the pain from where the sun is shining bright.” This song will receive it’s official debut at the UN tomorrow night. Blood Into Gold is a socially themed song that talks about the human slavery and bondage that is going on in every nation in the world. I love the line that asks me to look at “all that you own through the blood of another.” So much of what we are able to buy here so cheaply is because of the sweat-shops around the world. How often do we stop and reflect on that fact?

The UNICEF produced video shows just how far-reaching and severe the problem is, and is being performed to bring attention to the predicament. March 25th is being called the ‘International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.’ The day will culminate with a full concert directed by Nile Rodgers in the United Nation’s General Assembly Hall featuring the talents of Akon, Peter Buffett, Audrey Babcock, Angela Brown, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Izaline Calister, Toumani Diabaté, Danny Glover, Gilberto Gil, Bill T. Jones, Sarah Jones, Salif Keita, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Emeline Michel, The Marley Brothers, CCH Pounder, Stephanie Benson, Phylicia Rashad, Noah Stewart, Randy Weston and others with choreography by Gabri Christa.

“Can you open your heart, will you give me your hand? Can you look in my eyes? Will you see who I am?” The theme for the concert is Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum. “Who will hear when someone cries?” Peter Buffet and Akon


Monday, March 23, 2009

Peter Bjorn and John - The Feeling

“Been waiting for signs. Last time we got high we thought we had the puzzle worked out.” Been there. A bit of wine brings clarity to everything. Until the next morning. These guys capture the moments with humor and enough loudness to make this a fun Monday morning wake-up song, hungover or not. Some parts of the song are percussion-based, other parts are vocal harmony based, all parts are done with joy and energy. Shoutouts for It Don’t Move Me (“please put Chester’s books and magazines away”) and Living Thing (“I usually aim to please”), which both boil over with energetic dance beat performances. I Want You and Blue Period Picasso are slower dances. I really love the creative lyrics of Blue Period Picasso, which takes on the persona of a painting looking out at its audience. 4 out of 5 is a dirge, which I usually don’t like; but the harmony of this attracts my ears to re-listen over and over. The CD as a whole has a different sound than anything else out there, which is most likely what makes it so attractive. I know it will sit by my player for a lot of fun this summer. Peter Bjorn and John

Instant Recall (where have I heard those guys before?):

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Sunday Dinner With Jazz Flavorings

Sara K. - Gypsy Eyes
André Fernandes - Caixa de Madeira
Mark Whitfield - Send One Your Love

Steve Forbert - Stolen Identity

The song moves along with the topical subject of having your identity stolen, and Steve uses humor to make the best of a bad situation, but send me rolling on the floor giggling like crazy with the last verse. I don't feel free to quote the lyrics here because it would steal from your fun of discovery. Suffice it to say Forbert is at his ironic best here.

As usual, Steve travels around several different flavors of music, and does a great job on all of them. Write Me A Raincheck is a serious jazz-tinged composition, and The Beast Of Ballyhoo (Rock Show) is a hilarious rock flavored travelogue through a modern concert. Shoutouts for the fun of Labor Day '08. Steve Forbert

Chuck Loeb - Let's Go

Let’s Go is a funky rock-flavored jazz instrumental, delicious. Featuring the talents of trombonist Brian Culbertson and saxophonist Eric Marienthal, this track is an up-beat introduction to the newest from Chuck. The CD takes a stroll around many flavors, including smooth jazz and Brazil. My other favorites are the rock flavored jazz compositions Mittens and Let’s Play. Good for a relaxing Sunday afternoon on the porch listening to the birds of spring sing along with a master guitarist. Chuck Loeb

Oh Happy Day! (CD)

This CD is a celebration of the 1969 hit Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. Full of spiritual songs that managed to creep onto the pop charts over the years, this CD feels like church. I Believe, People Get Ready, Redemption Song, A Change Is Gonna Come, and Oh Happy Day all with stand-out and stand up with arms raised performances. Pop artists paired with great gospel choirs makes for an exciting morning of praise. Angelique Kidjo steals the show. Shoutouts to powerful performances by Queen Latifah, Jonny Lang, Joss Stone, Al Green with Heather Headley, Aaron Neville, and Michael McDonald. The choirs all deserve a huge shoutout also; The Fisk Jubilee Singers, West Angeles COGIC Choir, Mt Zion Mass Choir, Jubilation Choir, and the Washington Youth Choir. One of those rare albums that after you buy your own copy you’ll want to purchase as gifts for loved ones. Oh Happy Day!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Putumayo Presents ¡Salsa!

The challenge is not to get up and dance. Fugget it. Impossible. Ay Valeria! by Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca has one major purpose – to get me up off my couch and move. The story is a forlorn one, the narrator is going around asking people, including a gardener, what happened to his lover. The poetry is that his love is his “flower of Eden”, and therefore perhaps the gardener has seen her. He has fertilized her with tenderness, “and above all love”. In true Putumayo fashion, Ricardo was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and grew up loving the music of Cuba. His heritage allows him to truly place the elements of Africa that people talk about when discussing South American dance music. Works for me. He’s done an excellent job working with Makina Loca to make me want to listen over and over. A shoutout to Juanito y la Agresive for introducing me to the fascinating ¡Salsa Cali! scene in Columbia with the tune Angoa. Great party CD!

Putumayo Presents ¡Salsa!

Putumayo on Eartaste

Looking back in history:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hey Ocean! - Alleyways

“I’ll take the alleyway today. No need for streets, I’d just compete with other people.” Fun introduction to a character who likes to be alone, but the band – well, you’ll see them in the videos, they love life, and love being able to share themselves with the world. Their music is addictive, and their energy is enthralling.

It’s funny how I was introduced to these folks. I was on the beach on Mustang Island, just south of Corpus Christi, looking at the Gulf of Mexico and the oil rigs on the horizon. I was contemplating how beautiful the oceans off California were without the rigs on the horizon when some music brought me out of these thoughts and I got to visit with another music lover. He had two singles, and was quite willing to share, so I have listened to them over and over. He also told me about a page where I could listen to them live on CDC radio. Click here to here the concert. The ‘irony’ is that here I was on the Gulf of Mexico listening to a band from Canada called Hey Ocean singing a song about California while my mind had been contemplating the oceans of California. It’s a small world after all.

Which brings me to the shoutouts, A Song About California (“can’t think of a single thing to sing about this place”) & Fish (“I felt so at ease slipping in and out of the ocean breeze”). The bands strongest point is its ability to delve into many styles and make them sound naturally their own, be it rock, folk, reggae, jazz, pop, or singer-songwriter. It is also very exciting that they have different singers taking on the tasks of different songs, and beautifully harmonizing with perfect pop sensibilities. They look and sound young, have managed to get two albums under their belt, and have top-notch musicianship that will carry them in the music business for many years to come.

I have not heard their albums, but I have listened to the live show and the singles many times. I am confident that the albums will portray the same love of life that these folks so willingly share on their singles. Check ‘em out.

Stop Looking Like Music (2007)
It's Easier to Be Somebody Else (2008)

Hey Ocean - A Song About California

Hey Ocean! on MySpace

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ida Maria - Louie

“I know I’m always drunk. As drunk as can be. And I wonder, Louie, have you got room for me?” An open pop song about a character that admits to having a twisted soul, and wondering why some people are ‘different’. The lyrics are thought provoking but it’s the music that attracts me to this collection. In the very next song, “I Like You”, the character says “I only smoke when I’m with you”, entering again into the questions of who we are and why we hang onto traits we don’t like about ourselves. The chorus says “I like you so much better when you’re naked, I like me so much better when you’re naked”, and it’s obvious we aren’t talking about sexual nakedness, but open souls. I get the feeling the narrator is attempting to use pop music to explain a philosophy of complete and total honesty among humans. I’m all for it. Tough to accomplish, but what a world that would be. And if we can keep the dance beat, what a wonderful world that would be. There are many delicious flavors on this CD. More shoutouts for Forgive Me, Morning Light, and Queen Of The World. “I spin around in circles, and I’m singing. Why can’t I stay like this? Oh please let me stay like this.” You have my permission. In fact I’ll join you. Let’s make this a mission for all mankind! =:-) Ida Maria

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

General Fuzz - Comfort Zone

I’m still hanging around the beach at Corpus Christi, and it’s great to have this CD as a companion. I’ve played it with the clear night view of the milky way, and I’ve played it as a walk-along the shore at 10 AM picking up shells soundtrack. Sitting on the veranda sipping margaritas while watching the sunset at the hotel, heaven is this good. The wonderful mood pieces fit both extremely well. The theme is relaxation, and the mission is accomplished. The tune has two violins wandering through the atmospheres created by the keyboardist. Beautiful. Shoutouts for Four Prophets and Mellow Drama, both of which include some fine, fluid guitar work. Thanks! General Fuzz

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sway Machinery – Anim Zemiros b/w P'sach Lanu Sha'ar

Press releases don’t really mean anything to me. About 20 arrive here every day, 90% with the variation of “the next Beatles”, or “the next Bob Dylan”. Occasionally a creative one will say “the next Beastie Boys”. Whatever. I glance at ‘em and toss ‘em, and wait for the CD to arrive. Point is, I always glance at ‘em. The other 9.999% I save in my memory, and anxiously await the arrival of the CD because their authors have chosen to ignore the sound-alike phase of the press release. Let’s face it, a true artist sounds like themselves and no one else, so those are the ones I wait for with open ears. But that 1 in 10,000 arrived this week.

The press release said “Hidden Melodies Revealed showcases pieces based on text taken directly from the Jewish prayers and reconfigures them in a startlingly new musical landscape.” Now, that caught my eye. Updated music for Jewish prayers – I’m intrigued enough to visit the website. Once there I found a lot of interesting prose describing what was going on, but wat really caught my eye was "in the Cantor’s balance of artistic authority and spiritual humility I see a perfect stance from which to speak to the emotional needs of the contemporary world. Together with my colleagues, I am revisiting the work of my heroes of Chazzanus, particularly the music of my grandfather, the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg. In this way I am hoping to return to that place of childlike awe that he opened to me and share it with the world."

Now there’s something I didn’t want to wait to hear. Some more research led me to the website of their record company, which allowed for the download of a tune from their last EP , and the download of several tunes from their forthcoming CD. Usually at this point I would contact the publicist and ask for the CD because I like to preview a full CD before telling you guys about it. This couldn’t wait – it is exciting and fulfilling music. Think John Coltrane in the studio with James Brown’s band with Ike Turner directing alongside Bootsy Collins and Tito Puente while Bobby Zimmerman sings the prayers of his Bar Mitsvah. It’s definitely a Hebrew sounding narration with the joy of trance-filled musicians talking the music of the spheres. I am transported, which is the purpose. Will the CD fulfill this promise? I’ll let you know when/if it arrives, but you owe it to yourself to visit the jdub records website and download the sample tunes for yourself.

Could this be a hoax? Have I been spoofed? Doesn’t really matter. I’m loving the two tunes whether it’s real or not. In fact, the only reason I even question it is because there’s a third tune to download in which the narrator mumbles with John Lennon echo on his voice talking about a cell phone. Somehow that doesn’t speak to me of ‘spiritual humility’. But, maybe that’s just me, and I’m failing to see the ‘artistic authority.’ Plus, what the heck, you can download and preview that one too. Maybe you’ll find what I missed, especially with the sax player’s grasping for Coltrane’s soul there near the end.

I am looking forward to hearing the final product, apparently coming due in April. Keep an eye out at the myspace page of Sway Machinery.

Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery:

Seven Sweet Sunday Singles

Greg Copeland - Diana & James b/w The Only Wicked Thing
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Mason Jennings - I Love You And Buddha Too b/w Fighter Girl
The Bittersweets - My Sweet Love b/w When The War Is Over
Verra Cruz - Put The Weapon Down
Fog In The Shell - Thin Line Vibrations
The Blow Monkeys - Travelin' Soul

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ian Gillan - One Eye To Morocco

“I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m doing. But it feels alright.” The narrator croons with a beatlesque string quartet with the pure flavors of a psychedelic dream state. “Your lips are moving but I hear no words.” The mind is traveling and experiencing Morocco through the third eye of the soul while “sitting alone in my room waiting for no one to call”. Tastily crafted music. Shoutouts for the rock blues of Change My Ways (if we don’t get moving we’ll be roasting in hell”) and Texas State Of Mind (“ain’t this the life, sipping rum in the middle of the day out in the sun”). Ian Gillan

Ian Gillan on eartaste

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Charlie Winston - Tongue Tied

Charlie gets extra points for making me laugh. The narrator is tongue-tied trying to say love words, I guess. And he rambles off in several languages, convincing me that a guy who can usually ramble on non-stop for hours is actually tongue-tied in the face of intimacy. “I got a whole lotta loving on the tip of my tongue.” Fun. Shoutouts for Generation Spent (“everybody is someone else’s opinion”) & Like A Hobo (“what would life be like without a few mistakes?”). Charlie Winston

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bell X1 - The Ribs Of A Broken Umbrella

Dancing with a short story, very cool. The beat is perfect for dancing while ordering a hump-day margarita and some chips with very hot salsa. The story is an old one presented with fresh imagery making for a delicious meal. We are introduced to a guy carrying around a photo in his pocket of an old lover he knows is somewhere, and he’s holding out the dream of meeting her again to regain their intimacy years later. In the tale he’s afraid to go to sleep, and he calms himself by tying a string to his toe while he sleeps in case she stumbles in while he’s sleeping. The string is pulled from a broken umbrella in a bin near a door, across the room to his bed, giving the title image life. When awake, his mission is to keep his mind and eye open for her. “He wondered how close he'd ever been to her in this ebb and flow of the distance between us. Maybe she got the same bus.” The narrator does not romanticize, and in fact tells us of the deep self-deception of the character when he says “if I could only make her smile, then she’d be mine.” The narrator shares a thought that the character is “bare, stripped of his skin.” Shoutouts for the slower dance beats, but just as intriguing prose of Amelia and the pure pop fun of The Great Defector. Bell X1

The rock & roll side of the dance band:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ben Kweller - Fight

“You gotta set your sight on the Lord in your life.” Doesn’t matter if it’s 1949 or 2009, some music styles never go outta fashion. And getting the Lord involved in the nitty gritty of your life has always been the fun way to approach music, love, and gambling. Especially if you have the Lord, a truck driver, some cards and grandma in the same song. Great fun. “I'm like my grandma, short but I stand tall, playing every single card that's dealt to me. You know some days are aces and some days are faces, and some days are twos and threes.” Shoutout for the different flavors Ben and the band offer up in the gentle awareness of the inner life of a child with Hurtin’ You. Ben Kweller

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fernando Viciconte - Word From The Inside

“You can sleep, sleep, sleep. Sleep all you want. Don’t worry now, I won’t wake you up!” You gotta be kidding me! You going to sing this loud early Monday morning & not wake me up? Give me a heart attack why don’t you? A good, jolly, dance out loud screaming rock and roll heart attack of music! I love it – no better way to start the week. “I hope you don’t think that I don’t know what you’re doing!” Joker, this guy. What I was doing was sleeping till the dance started! “The word from the inside is that you fell down!” Pretty close, I jumped up, and fell outta bed. But only for a second. Was up on my feet dancing within seconds. Well, as much as you can dance without any coffee when the alarm goes off and the music starts blasting. “You can spend all my money, if you want.” No thanks, the dance is fine. “When you talk, all I hear is a whisper.” Ha! No wonder, I could shout and you couldn’t hear me past the guitars. Great fun! Even if the song is really about the “saddest girl in town.” My bet is he’s outside singing on the sidewalk to put a smile on her face. Shoutout for the polar opposite flavors of a modern take on Angel Of Death, the great Hank Williams tune. And the best news? Fernando is sharing these with his fans for no cost until the hard copies are available. Remember, tho – although no financial cost is involved, nothing is free. Be prepared to become a lifetime fan by listening to these cuts. You’ll find yourself dancing, crying, laughing, and singing along. Downloads available at: Fernando Viciconte

Many thanks to Alex Steininger for the introduction.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Teddy Pendergrass - Oh Happy Day

Easy listening gospel for a Sunday. The vocals are great, and the choirs superb. Teddy’s contribution to this CD is sublime. The brief appearance by his grandchild is comfortably distracting and keeps in mind that sharing love is truly a family experience. Teddy Pendergrass

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Oxygen Ponies - Love Yr Way

“I sold my soul for education, every day I pay the debt. My entire generation better find a tourniquet.” A reminder, but a powerful one, of what young people are facing these days when the government bails out the rich, It can only get worse, unfortunately. “I don't know why I even bother, one black sheep can't kill the herd. Now I understand why father drank and drank without a word.” The narrator reminds us that times have been rough before, and he can see is father through new eyes. Is there any hope? “I'm alive and my hearts still beating, should have stopped so long ago. I'm so tired of retreating, all this movement takes its toll.” That’s slender hope, but as the poet says, “at least my heart’s still beating.” Wait! Wait! Is there more? Can it be? Is there a person who can bring the narrator out of the depths of despair? “Then there's you Miss Sugarsunsmile, coating me in heaven's light. Almost makes it all worthwhile.” Ouch! Keyword, “almost”. But that almost speaks volumes. “I don't know how to build no palace, if I did you could be queen. You and I would raise a chalice to everyone who dared to dream! God I love your way - it brightens up my day! Will I ever say the words to make you love me?” The narrator, though still not quite reaching unconditional love in his plea, at least recognizes that love will see us though whatever financial straits the rich and the government force upon us from their lofty heights. Because there are loftier heights they will never know that we are able to experience because our love is not of money. Can I hear an amen?

The party continues with lots of great shoutouts. The Oxygen Ponies delight with Fevered Cyclone (“we live like clones in our suburban homes substituting plastic to get by”), The War Is Over (“if God made models of his best creations you'd be on display”), Harmony Handgrenade (“nothing's worse than a land where the free are enslaved”), and Grab Yr Gun (“Faith, she's the mirror I lose myself in. As the image gets clearer the struggle begins.”)

The CD won’t be out for awhile yet, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. It’s definitely one to add to your wish list or simply pre-order. Oxygen Ponies = rock and roll with a message of love for the world. “Grab your gun, choose your side. Let your love be your guide.” The Oxygen Ponies

Sweet Soul Music - Just Because - Enjoy!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lisa Hannigan – Lille (Sea Sew CD)

"He went to sea for the day. He wanted to know what to say when he's asked what he'd done in the past to someone that he loved endlessly...now she's gone, and so is he..." A bit melancholy, but the beauty with which it’s presented makes this a pleasure to listen to. The song is delicious. Four short stories which resemble each other in tone and mood – for me the thought is of walking along the beach and sharing stories with four different people. The final story in this treasure trove is "We went out to play for the evening and wanted to hold on to the feeling and the stretch in the sun and the breathlessness as we run to the beach endlessly as the sun creeps up on the sea..." Delicate wordsmithing. I love admiring the poetic craftsmanship evidenced by comparing the verses.

This entire album is filled with very listenable stories, and is definitely one I would highly recommend purchasing this first solo CD by an artist who has found the perfect medium for sharing her poetry. I am shouting out the entire CD, which has been moved to my stack of best CDs of 1009 so far. I plan to listen to it a lot. It has helped solidify my spring break plans. Though I prefer the rocky beaches of the Big Sur area, I will more likely end up at the gulf of Mexico in the next few weeks just so I can play this on my headphones while walking on the shore. Lisa Hannigan

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Michael Zapruder – Ads For Feelings

“Couldn’t sleep. I was watching the night throwing little pebbles at the back of my head.” Little vignettes of life, short stories really, put to music. Written in an existential stream-of-consciousness manner, it’s fascinating to peek into the minds of the various storytellers. The narrators of these anecdotes are people who populate upper class drama and share details we mere mortals would never be privy to were it not for the occasional rebel willing to share the lurid details. The marvelous thing is Michael brings some fun music along to develop the tension in the tales. From light acoustic operettas to full blown psychedelia, he finds sounds that add perfect spices to the words. Shoutouts for the worlds of Black Wine (“there were half-hearted gestures like really weak tea, they intensified the chips and the dip”), Happy New Year (“I felt like a small, mistreated pet”), Harbor Saints (“may the tango of your footsteps lead you where you feel at home”), Bang On A Drum (“it’s hard to make paradise, killing people is good business, it’s just a drag”), and Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (“the hot suits and the fashion crimes, it’s you and me somehow”). Michael Zapruder

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Raquel Bitton - Toda una Vida

”Toda una vida estaría contigo. No me importa en que forma ni como ni donde, pero junto a ti.” Bolero is pure romantic dance, and was fairly popular in the 50’s and 60’s. Popular enough that the Beatles even made a few boleros, as well as rhumbas and cha-cha-chas. This song is especially romantic for a Wednesday break from the working week because of the fantastic back-up band, especially the guitar player who enhances the romance in Raquel’s voice. The guitar work is by Ramon Stagnaro of Peru, with a shoutout to Rebeca Mauleón, with the lightest of flourishes on piano keeping the erotic flame burning here on earth rather than traveling through the stars. The CD pays tribute to several Bolero writers, and the composer being focused on in this cut is Osvaldo Farrés, native of Cuba. Beautiful. Raquel Bitton

Rebeca Mauleón on KQED TV

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Nocturnal Flowers - Waterfall

So many official releases sound like demos nowadays that it’s refreshing to receive a CD clearly marked as a demo. I’m writing about this set because of the innocence so proudly on display, and because when these guys fine-tune their music and release it officially I’m betting some of the innocence will disappear from the performances. On this cut an acoustic guitar is soon met by a violin to introduce a narrator mournfully describing his thoughts on love. “I used to be in love like you, like a waterfall disappearing into nowhere.” He’s joined by a chorale of angels describing the waterfall “so high”. Shoutouts for When I Believed In You (“it’s really no great surprise that the look on your face is just a disguise”), and Why Don’t You Tell Me (“rain will was away those memories – secrets in my heart”). A copy of the demo is available to purchase. Contact the band at their MySpace page: The Nocturnal Flowers.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

The poetry is fully American. This could have been from the pen (blog?) of Walt Whitman were he alive today: “I am a nation, a worker, a pawn - my debt to the status quo. The scars on my hands are a means to an end, it's all that I have to show.” The musical composition starts with an acoustic piano soon joined by a drummer, until a wall of guitars blasts me out of bed and say shout wake up! It’s a new week! The promise of a new world is still reverberating in the air, though quickly diminishing. “My generation is zero. I never made it as a working class hero.” It’s hard to even think back a few generations ago when people could actually work at a job long enough to retire and be working class. That position in society is no longer there, it’s difficult to find a business that’s been around 30 years, much less a job position that will be around that long. And to be honest, I’m glad I don’t have to live long enough to deal with the bills and horrible pain that today’s deficit spending will create. I feel really bad for my children and grandchildren – and hate the fact that my fellow boomers, who used to be peace loving hippies, want everything NOW – bail out the rich and give them future taxes NOW so they can keep their bonuses at $500,000 a year and dribble pennies ($65 a month according to Obama) to keep the poor ‘pleased’ with the fact that we’re robbing the future to enjoy ourselves today. “I once was lost but never was found.” Optimistic pessimism reigns. “From Mexico to the Berlin wall – homeland security can kill us all.” Symbols, yes; but relevant ones. The military industrial complex uses crisis and threats of crisis to keep the wars moving on. I’ve been alive 54 years, and realized when Obama announced he’s changed his mind about bringing the troops home (well, to be honest, he’s saying that he never really said that), that there has never been one day since I’ve been alive that my country has not been at war somewhere in the world, declared or not. In truth, since I’ve been alive Congress has never declared war. It’s always the “commander in chief” who does it Clearly against our constitution, which means it’s clearly illegal. And all the artists can do is declare their angst loudly. Keep at it Green Day. Maybe we can’t change the path the military has chosen for us. But we can keep on rocking and rolling and shouting along with you. “I think I'm losing what's left of my mind” Thanks! PS I love the break. Bring on the revolution of being able to think critically, even if you must express it ironically! “Oh dream, American dream, I can't even see the rainstorms 'til dawn. Oh bleed, America bleed, believe what you read from heroes and cons.” Green Day