1/02/2020

Dave Coutts - "Saturday"

The dude had been seemingly AWOL from the music business after his tenure as vocalist/frontman of the one-off late '90s Stone Temple Pilots side project Talk Show. Turns out Coutts had indeed left the biz and started a family with his wife Tracy. But the death of a former bandmate in his pre-STP band, Ten Inch Men, brought him back to making music, and in 2018 he released a couple of tracks, including "Saturday", written during his Talk Show days but left off the band's lone self-titled album.

12/31/2019

2019: THE YEAR IN REVIEW (sort of)

Despite this being not just the end of the year but the end of the decade, it's adios to 2019 with the briefest, shortest recap in the history of 5 and leaving whether to ponder the decade perhaps some other time. But truth be told the first two decades of the 21st century are sort of one big blur ‘round here, anyway, so… (The ‘00s review can be found here.) 
So, here we go...

FAVORITE ALBUM: 
THE CLAYPOOL / LENNON DELIRIUM South of Reality
[Prawn Song]
A proggy alt-rocker with a fondness for the weird and absurd and a melodic singer/songwriter with a taste for psych does not sound like the most auspicious musical combination. But these two talented gentlemen have made the most of their common ground, namely that sweet spot where Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd meets John Lennon in “I Am The Walrus” mode with a dash of early ‘70s King Crimson.

FAVORITE REISSUE:
THE BEATLES Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Edition [Apple]


Giles Martin does his old man proud on this remix of the Fabs’ best sounding album—and arguably their best—giving it the proper sonic treatment it deserves. That it practically explodes from your speakers without sacrificing clarity or nuance is quite the triumphant achievement, indeed.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: 
The Kominsky Method
(season 2) [Netflix] 

Watching Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas share scenes is nothing short of delight. This is the kind of show that, as I go through each one, inevitably makes me sad to acknowledge I’m counting down the episodes. Yup.

Runner up:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel [Amazon]
A little to precious at times and a bit demanding in the suspension of disbelief department, but a winner nonetheless.

BIGGEST HYPE:
The Overwhelming Return of Vinyl and the Death of the CD 

Despite CD players being eliminated from cars and computers while vinyl enjoys quite the resurgance, the pesky shiny discs refuse to die: they outsold vinyl records by more than twice as many units in the first half of 2019, 18.6m vs 8.6m units. And Discogs notes that while vinyl is their most popular format, CDs saw the biggest sales increase on the noted online music database/marketplace. So hold off, will ya?

GOODBYE

Drummer Andy Anderson (The Cure, Steve Hillage, Peter Gabriel); the incomparable Ginger Baker; Silver Jews frontman David Berman; Alabama 3’s Jake Black; the great studio drummer Hal Blaine; South African singer and apartheid activist Johnny Clegg; the legendary Dick Dale; Germs bassist Lorna Doom; The "Captain" in Captain and Tennille, Daryl Dragon; American psych godfather Roky Erickson; The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint; Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson; Brazilian legend Joao Gilberto; co-founder, lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Talk Talk, Mark Hollis; Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter; rapper Nipsey Hussle; the great Dr. John; singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston; rocker Eddie Money; The Meters and Neville Brothers’ Art Neville; singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer Ric Ocasek; singer/songwriter Leon Redbone; multi-instrumentalist and Big Black bassist Dave Riley; English Beat and General Public’s Ranking Roger; Kim Shattuck of The Muffs and The Pixies; Shawn Smith of Brad, Satchel and solo fame; The Monkees’ Peter Tork; the one and only Scott Walker; singer/songwriter and Bridge School founder Pegi Young.

10/21/2019

New York State of Jazz


LARRY CARLTON
The Iridium
Times Square, NYC
10/19/19

E. J. DECKER
Bar Thalia @ Symphony Space
Upper West Side, NYC
10/20/19

Yeah, NoLa and KC...but we’ve also got that jazz magic here in NYC. Every single night. Whether it’s legends or local heroes, we’ve got it covered. And this weekend was just another reminder.

Closing out his 2-night Iridium stint, Saturday night’s late set by the legendary Mr. 335 was simply pure delight. Backed by an excellent 5 piece band—which included the astoundingly impressive playing of his son, bassist Travis Carlton—he ripped thru choice cuts from his catalog and a smattering of Steely Dan faves including “Black Friday”, “Josie” and “Kid Charlemagne” for an intimate but adoring crowd who celebrated every note and every nuance of his 90 minute set.

[Decker flanked by Bryant (left) and Greene (right)]

On Sunday, the rainy October night was the perfect backdrop for the deep, mellow groove of the great Mr. Decker, a singular jazz vocalist and local treasure. (Full disclosure: Decker is a professional colleague and dear personal friend.) Performing alongside the brilliant guitarist Freddie Bryant and outstanding upright bassist Hill Greene for a small but enraptured audience of uptown jazz fans, Decker’s velvet smooth baritone was every bit as impressive as on his multiple critically acclaimed albums. But among a night of gems, like the standard "Come Rain or Come Shine" and a series of wonderful originals, there was an unexpected curveball: a bossa nova-flavored take on The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows”, making it clear the old dog’s not averse to showing us his new tricks.

6, 9 or Both?

It has become customary for the last couple of generations to bemoan the cultural prospects of the one immediately following them, decrying falling standards in art, cinema, literature, music and even television. (Although the latter has enjoined an undeniable renaissance since the last days of the 20th century.) And while some of this might legitimately be ‘back in my day’ nostalgia, it’s no less true that from the vantage point of a Kardashian world in which the US is run by an unfit, former reality show star turned president, it seems practically unfathomable that MTV not only used to air music videos but also—and during prime time, mind you—short films recreating scenes from literary classics like “The Metamorphosis”.

Which leads me to ponder the following: what is in fact more surreal—that approximately 20 years ago a for-profit pop culture TV network purposely included Kafka in their programming or our current reality?

9/09/2019

A Brief Appearance Before The Court Of The Crimson King (1969-1974)

Inspired by the short takes (props, JD Considine) I did for each of the albums in the Joni Mitchell box set covering her first decade of studio releases, I thought I'd do the same for Messr. Fripp and co.
In this case, however, there was no album release to serve as a catalyst and it's actually half a decade (1969-1974) I'm "covering" here. (I was actually gonna focus on the '80s quartet but that'll be for another time.) Also, curiously enough, they released seven studio albums during that half decade span...which is the same amount of studio releases they've put out in the almost 45 years since. Hmm.
Btw, these aren't really reviews but brief impressions I wanted to share of albums that, in some cases, I had not heard since the 20th century. So, here we go...

In the Court of the Crimson King [Atlantic - 1969]
50 years later still a masterpiece. But you all knew that. The title track still gets to me. And "21st Century Schizoid Man" is still the shit.

In the Wake of Poseidon  [Atlantic - 1970]
Probably the "nicest" record in the band’s catalog. Oh, and the Lake-sung version of “Cadence and Cascade” should’ve been included instead of Gordon Haskell’s. Speaking of which…

Lizard [Atlantic - 1970] 
I like his bass playing but Haskell’s singing is not my cup of tea. Neither is this record, to be honest.

Islands [Atlantic - 1971]
A little more bite than the previous two but, like them, it’s still a bit too precious.

Larks’ Tounges In Aspic [Island - 1973]
With new additions John Wetton and Bill Bruford on board they really start going somewhere, especially during part 2 of the title track, which brings back some of the attitude sorely lacking since the debut.

Starless and Bible Black [Island - 1974]
Now we’re cooking! And it would only get better.

Red  [Island - 1974]
Fripp, Wetton and Bruford were about to go their separate ways but you can’t tell from the badass music on here. And so, the Crimson story ends (or so it was thought at the time) like it began: on a magnificent high note.

6/18/2019

Right Back Atcha

EVEN TWICE
This Is Boomerang
[Bandcamp - 2019]

As anyone who has witnessed their pummeling onslaught live knows, this Brooklyn-based fireball of a duo pulls no punches. But the most recent release by Even Twice (vocalist/bassist Robert Hait; vocalist/drummer Pat O’Shea) makes it clear these gentleman are not just your run-of-the-mill loudmongers but also posses a gift for nuance they are none too shy about flaunting.

On the 7-song EP This Is Boomerang, the band’s trademark post-punk/prog is effortlessly blended with elements of psych and catchy melodies, resulting in an interesting hybrid that manages to cover much ground while retaining all the power and focus of the Even Twice experience. It’s also a treat to hear both of these distinct but similarly expressive vocalists exhibit their wares in this context, adding another layer to a sound that, taking into account the sonic limitations inherent in a duo format, could come across quite monochromatic in lesser hands.

Bravo. What’ll these crazy kids cook up next?

6/01/2019

Mr. Jones’ 5 Fave Songs About Fellow Musicians

[in alphabetical order by artist]

CHRIS CORNELL “Wave Goodbye”
Dedicated to Jeff Buckley, this soulful tune is from Cornell’s debut album ‘Euphoria Morning’ [A&M-1999] and alludes to Buckley's demise with a clever pun as its title.

CPR “Morrison”
Oliver Stone’s 1993 movie about The Doors was the inspiration for the first song David Crosby wrote with his long lost son, keyboardist James Raymond, for the self-titled, debut CPR album, released in 1999. Key lyric: Croz puts aside the poetic imagery of the verses and sings bluntly about Stone's characterization of his friend in the song’s chorus, “I’ve seen that movie / and it wasn’t like that”. Yikes!

PAUL McCARTNEY “Here Today”
The John Lennon tributes are plentiful and include high profile ones by George Harrison and Elton John, but I’m most partial to this heartfelt track from his old writing partner.

THE REPLACEMENTS “Alex Chilton”
It’s the only one from this bunch that was written while its subject was still alive and the lone uptempo rocker here. If not their top song, one of the band’s very best. Oh, and the implied advice to "never travel far / without a little Big Star" is one I have always adhered to.

TEMPLE OF THE DOG “Say Hello 2 Heaven”
Wrapping up this quintet as it began with another song written by Cornell, this time a moving tribute to his old friend and roommate, the late Andrew Wood, frontman for the bands Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. In a career full of them, this is arguably, Cornell’s finest recorded vocal. (Btw, Alice in Chains' “Would?” is also about Wood.)


Honorable Mention:
SONIC YOUTH "Teenage Riot"
It's not clear whether it's about an alternate reality where J Mascis is President of the United States (we’ll take it!!!) or president of the alternative dream but, regardless, it's a longtime fave that ALWAYS makes me smile.

4/14/2019

No Sheep Allowed

VAN HALEN
Diver Down
[Warner Bros - 1982]

Much-maligned by the band's titular siblings—despite the presence of their beloved dad, the late Jan Van Halen, playing clarinet on “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”—the existence of this album was not just a fluke but also another reminder of a time in which major labels exerted undue pressure on their artists, even the multi-platinum selling ones.

Coming off the Fair Warning tour, the band was in real need of a break but wanted to keep their fans engaged, so they released "(Oh) Pretty Woman" as a one-off single in early 1982. But when their cover of the Roy Orbison classic blew up the charts, Warner Bros. smelled blood in the water and forced the band back into the studio, mere weeks after returning from the road, to record a new album.

Misgivings aside, a sunnier and recently regained sophomoric disposition—evidenced in the album’s title, and the band dubbing its attendant concert schedule the “Hide Your Sheep” tour—was present this time out, perhaps due to Fair Warning bearing a bit of an overcast vibe and not having as strong sales figures as its predecessors.

This was ultimately the catalyst for 5 of this album’s eleven tracks being covers—including another stroll through the Ray Davies songbook with “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?”; the aforementioned “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”; the awkwardly out of place Motown classic “Dancing In The Streets”; and a Roy Rogers tribute, closing track “Happy Trails”—a move prompted by their label. The originals do stand up, thankfully, especially the vintage VH rockers “Hang ‘Em High” and “The Full Bug” along with the more pop-oriented singles “Secrets” and “Little Guitars”.

The end result was their most diverse album with DLR and one that, although not a classic, should be revisited with fresh ears when in the mood for some fun, ballsy rock and roll.

Released April 14, 1982.

4/12/2019

Talking 'Bout Their Generation: What Popular Music Means Now

Music, as we've come to know it, immerse ourselves in it and love it, does not hold sway in the same manner with today's music fans: it's part of the package, not the be-all-end-all.

To them, an instrument is an archaic, inconvenient vehicle to express music; a song is a disposable means of conveying a temporary sentiment; a concert is not a place to commune and bask in the glow of performers making a joyous sound but a measure of exclusiveness, status and cool meant to be bragged about on social media.

So, the people who interact with that paradigm are, in so far as this subject is concerned, unlike us, and thus the music is not for us.

4/09/2019

Karma Police Arrests The Fans

Concert ticket prices are going thru the roof and have been for sometime now. Promoters, scalpers, third party ticket vendors and even unscrupulous artists (ie. the ones who scalp their own tickets) are all part of the problem.

With few exceptions, like NiN, who make it very difficult to scalp choice tix for their shows, in order to give true fans a fair chance at landing them for a decent price (not to mention Trent Reznor blowing the whistle on artists scalping their own tix), all everyone cares about is making loot. Whoever gets screwed, too bad.

Aside from a friend getting ripped off, there's not much sympathy for the price gouging of concert goers 'round these parts, particularly since that time when Pearl Jam waged war on TicketMonster and NO ONE, not fellow artists, not fans, backed 'em up. Plus theft, um, file sharing.

Exorbitant ticket prices is karmic payback, so...