Quote of the Day

He can play 15 instruments. I can’t play Lotto.

- Chuck D on his Public Enemy bandmate and musical prodigy, Flavor Flav.


Milestones: 'The Futurist'

The Futurist 

The haunting piano instrumental that Robert Downey Jr. plays at the end of the movie Two Girls and A Guy [1997] piqued our interest in his then-unbeknownst to us musical side. Scanning through the film’s end credits we were even more intrigued when we learned it was one of his own compositions.

That particular song, "Snake", is not included in The Futurist. What can be found on this album is mostly piano-driven singer/songwriter material reminiscent of Elton John’s "I Want Love", in whose video Downey Jr. appears as the protagonist. 

Sadly, due to The Futurist not doing too well sales-wise, Iron Man decided to put the kibosh on his music career. Too bad: this is a moving full-length debutone that should appeal to an audience looking for mellow, more adult-contemporary farefrom a talented musician better known for his day job and run-ins with the law. Guests include former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson on "Your Move" first half of his old band's "I've Seen All Good People" medley; and legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, who performs on a heartfelt cover of Charlie Chaplin’s "Smile", appropriately enough.

"Kimberly Glide", "Little Clownz", "Your Move", "Details", "Hannah", "Smile".

Coming Attractions: Joni Says 'No', Cobains Say 'Yes'

Last year we commented on a rumor that Taylor Swift was to play Joni Mitchell in an upcoming biopic. Well, it turns out it was more than a rumor: the pop songstress was indeed chosen to play the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer [class of '97] on the big screen in an adaptation of Girls Like Us, a book written by Sheila Weller which focuses on the influence of Mitchell, Carole King, and Carly Simon. The great John Sayles was hired as screenwriter with Kate Jacobs set to direct.

But Mitchell put the kibosh on the project. "I said to the producer, 'All you've got is a girl with high cheekbones.' It's just a lot of gossip, you don't have the great scenes."

Meanwhile, HBO will air Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, an authorized documentary about the late Nirvana frontman which has the blessing of Cobain's family, in 2015. Montage of Heck was written, directed and produced by Oscar-nominee Brett Morgen.

Victims of Revisionism: '90s U2

Interesting how U2's experimental/ironic '90s were welcomed and lauded at the time; the band celebrated for leaving behind their earnestness and breaking from its past. It was a new decade and U2 were supposedly discarding the trappings of their collective '80s persona, embracing irony and fun, their reinvention hailed everywhere. Yet 20 odd years later, it seems like a 'what-were-they-thinking?' revisionism has started to take hold. Hmm...

Truth is, those guys wrote great songs AND lackluster songs before, during and after Achtung Baby [Island-1991],  Zooropa [Island-1993], and Pop [Island-1997]. Our only beef with them is they let critics and not their own vision dictate their path. As none other than Bruce Springsteen himself stated in his speech at U2's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, "[H]old the McDonald's arches on the stage set, boys, we are not ironists. We are creations of the heart and of the earth and of the stations of the cross -- there's no getting out of it."



'Death Metal Angola'

An award-winning rockumentary that casts the music against the backdrop of an African nation devastated by war. Directed by Jeremy Xido. (In Portuguese with English subtitles.)

A Tale of Two ECs: Clapton, Costello and Racism

We've always found selective judgement both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. (Actually, more of the latter, to be honest.) How two people in the same field could commit a similar act and yet be viewed drastically different is a trait we find deplorable, and one we've encountered everywhere from the public life of celebrities to the private life of family, friends and associates. And of course, it happens in the music business as well: We firmly believe that if the vast majority of those who complained about finding a free copy of U2's recent album on their Apple device had instead encountered the latest release by some unknown, they would've treated it like spam and simply erased it, with no further to-do. But it was U2, so they had to pour on the hyperbole and bitch and moan endlessly about the whole thing. Haters, yo.

But here's a much more touchy scenario: alleged racism. Let's start with Elvis Costello.

Costello caught much grief when a March, 1979 drunken argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett at a Columbus, Ohio Holiday Inn bar, devolved into Costello making racist remarks about James Brown and Ray Charles. Costello held a press conference in New York City a few days later in which he apologized for trying "to outrage these people with about the most obnoxious and offensive remarks that I could muster." Costello was forgiven by Ray Charles who declared "Drunken talk isn't meant to be printed in the paper." (James Brown never weighed in on the subject.)

Eric Clapton, on the other hand, fared much better despite a much more damning outburst.

On August 5, 1976, Clapton said the following from a Birmingham concert stage:

"Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch [Powell, conservative politician infamous for his 1968 anti-immigration "Rivers of Blood" speech] will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking [indecipherable] don't belong here, we don't want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don't want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck's sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he's a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he's our man, he's on our side, he'll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he's on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!"

How much flak did Clapton catch for that? Zilch. Has he apologized for it? Nope.
This was his immediate response:

"I thought it was quite funny actually. I don't know much about politics. I don't even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don't even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don't know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing... I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There's this rock group playing on-stage and the singer starts talking about politics. It's so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin' listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking 'oh dear'".


So, why the double standard? Why was Costello eviscerated and Clapton been the human embodiment of Teflon? Sure Costello gets to make albums with The Roots these days, but he apologized profusely for his drunken outburst. Clapton, on the other hand has recently reiterated his support for Powell and denied that the late politician's views, or Clapton himself, were racist. Sold.



Song of the Day: "Song for the Orca"

An animal revenge fantasy set to a catchy melody, today's Song of the Day comes from The Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison's solo album Travistan [Barsuk-2004].


One from the Vaults: 'Secaucus'


One of the most underrated and lesser known quality rock acts of the ‘90s, The Wrens’ full-length debut is one hell of a ride. Let's put it this way: if The Replacements’ main influences had been the angularity of Wire and Sonic Youth crossed with the melodic gifts of The Raspberries, Secaucus is what they may have sounded like.
When post-Secaucus the new owners of their label, Grass Records, offered the scrappy New Jersey quartet a new $1m deal to stay in the family, provided they actively commercialized their sound, our heroes decided to pass on the 7-figure payday, thus entering into a 7 year limbo from which they eventually emerged with the critically acclaimed The Meadowlands album [Absolutely Kosher] in 2003. (Btw, Grass became Wind-Up, home of Creed and Evanescence. So, that’s what they had in mind, huh?)

Highlights: "Yellow Number Three", "Rest Your Head", "Dance the Midwest", "Hats off to Marriage", "Destruction/Drawn", "I Married Sonja".

Music News

- Reverberations from Taylor Swift's decision to remover her catalog from music streaming service Spotify are being felt industry-wide, as evidenced by statements made by Sony Music Entertainment CFO Kevin Kelleher at an investor conference in Tokyo this week.

A lot of conversation has taken place over the past week. What it all really comes down to is, how much value is the music company and the artist getting from the different consumption methods?  We are very encouraged with the paid streaming model. The key question is whether or not the free ad-supported services are taking away from how quickly and to what extent we can grow those paid services.”

- Music Key, YouTube's new music streaming service is now out in beta form and is being praised for its ease of use. Subscribers will need to sign up for a six month trial period attached to a payment format/method of their choosing and immediately have access to the service.

However, Global Music Rights, a music clearing house similar to ASCAP and BMI, which represents dozens of writers including Bruno Mars, Pharrell Williams and Smokey Robinson, has asked YouTube to remove some 20,000 songs by GRM affiliates. YouTube has acknowledged the request but has not acted on it as of yet, as required under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal protecting websites that host copyrighted content from third parties.

- Apple will be bundling its recently acquired Beats Music with their next iOS. According to industry analysts, the company wants to make sure it does not lose ground to YouTube's Music Key service.

- Starting next month the Billboard 200 chart will take into account downloads and sales of individual songs. The chart lists the best selling 200 albums of the week and will count the sale of 10 songs and/or the streaming of 1,500 songs as the equivalent of one album sale. Billboard feels these numbers are "accepted industry benchmarks."

- Idris Elba is releasing his first album, titled mi Mandela. “[M]y music is so much more truthful...than my acting is. Music comes from my soul. I can connect with you more through my music,” stated the acclaimed 42 year old actor, who is also planning a hip-hop album for future release.

"...stay calm, eat a peach and carry on..."

We're probably not alone in this, but every March there seemed to be a certain happy, mellow vibe in the air here in NYC. A feeling we've always ascribed to one thing: the Allman Brothers were in town. It’s not like we were big fans or anything—never had the pleasure of seeing them live, unfortunately—but there was just this…you know. And “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” seems to capture it perfectly.
The Brothers disbanded three weeks ago after a 45 year run, playing their last show at their beloved Beacon Theatre where, for 10 consecutive nights or so every Spring, they held court for more than 20 years. Gregg Allman once said that while Georgia was no.1 in their hearts, NYC was a close second. Right back at'cha.

This is a little tribute to them and to Duane Allman who would've turned 68 today.