11/30/2009

Mr. Jones' Favorite NY-based Movies

And another list...

We were inspired to put this one together by a group of LA-based film critics who, last year, made a list of 25 movies filmed in their hometown over the previous 25 years that managed "to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience,” while allowing “only one film per director…on the list."

But that’s where we diverge from the exercise: there are no deep meanings attached to our criteria, nor did we purposely exclude any director from being on the list more than once. Some of our favorites that didn’t make the cut, in our opinion, don’t show enough NYC or were actually filmed elsewhere despite the story being NYC-based. Also, since we’re not film geeks and, for the most part, have very little knowledge and/or interest in older films, the movies listed here do not go back further than 1972. (Yeah, go ahead, sue us.)

In alphabetical order:

A Bronx Tale (1993)
Chazz Palminteri wrote and starred in this loosely based, autobiographical, coming-of-age tale adapted from his one-man show, and directed by Robert De Niro.

Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986)
The film version of Neil Simon’s acclaimed play has been often skewered for various reasons—to us, the acting resembles too closely the exaggerated mannerisms of actors from 1937, the year in which it is set, as opposed to people from the time—but it’s a nice story, nonetheless, about a Jewish family from Brooklyn on the eve of WWII.

Carlito’s Way (1993)
Sort of like a brown Goodfellas. Some of the plot twists seem a bit forced in order to fit the ending but it's still great, nonetheless. Underrated, actually. (Bonus points for having a scene filmed at our F train stop.)

City Hall (1996)
An intriguing tale of New York politics and corruption with Al Pacino, John Cusack, and Bridget Fonda. In other words, a legend, a favorite, and a big crush, respectively.

Coming to America (1988)
Ah, when Eddie Murphy—alongside Arsenio Hall—was still funny. The “Good morning, my neighbors!” line—and the exchange it elicits—still cracks us up. Every time. (Look out for the Samuel L. Jackson, Ralph Bellamy, and Don Ameche cameos.)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Dialogue king David Mamet and his soundtrack-deprived masterpiece about cold-selling real estate agents is just awesome. (The Al Jarreau tune played during the closing credits is the only production-included music in the entire film.) An all-male, star-studded cast in which Alec Baldwin’s cameo alone is worth the price of admission. Damn!
Trivia: the Jack Lemmon character was the basis for a recurring Simpsons character.

The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather part 2 (1974)
Arguably, the two greatest American films ever. Period.

Goodfellas (1990)
Never been keen on real life Mafiosi but a huge fan of the celluloid ones. This delivers in spades. (Also gets bonus points for having scenes filmed in our Brooklyn ‘hood. Not that it needs any bonus points.)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
It’s common knowledge that nobody does NY like Woody Allen; his avid location scouting is legendary. Hell, people have come to live in Gotham inspired by scenes in his movies. Oh, yeah: we dig this one. Props to the Woodman for shooting scenes in two now-gone NYC music landmarks: CBGB, and the Lincoln Center-area Tower Records location.

Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
Director Paul Mazursky’s tale of a Russian circus musician (Robin Williams) who defects while shopping in Bloomingdale’s turns from breezy, light-hearted comedy to a dramatic telling of an immigrant’s experiences in NYC. Solid.

New Jack City (1991)
Long before it was de rigueur to cast rappers in movies, Ice-T joined director and star Mario Van Peebles, Chris Rock, and Judd Nelson—that was some inspired casting!—in an undercover drug unit trying to bring down Harlem crack kingpin Wesley Snipes. Cheesy, but fun.

Nueba Yol (1996)
A flawed but wildly popular Dominican indie that has many genuine moments, both comedic and tender. "Yo te e'ploto, Fellito!"

Sleepers (1996)
The scene where Robert De Niro first hears about the sexual abuse at the reform school has got to be among his best ever. Set in Hell's Kitchen. Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Minnie Driver and Billy Crudup also star.

El Super (1979)
A cold, grimy, and rough late-'70s NYC as seen thru the eyes of Latino immigrants, featuring actress Elizabeth Peña's debut on the big screen. Directed by Leon Ichaso (Selena, El Cantante).

When Harry Met Sally
(1989)
We might have to double check, but we’re pretty sure this Billy Crystal-Meg Ryan rom-com is the only chick flick we are fans of.

Milestones: Speed


[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]

Laugh all you want but this 1994 Keanu Reeves and then-fresh face Sandra Bullock flick just might be the most intense action flick ever. Think about it.

Mr. Jones' Top 25 Albums of the '70s

Fellow blogger, musician, and music geek GodIHateYourBand recently asked for our list of the 25 greatest albums of the 1970s.
We complained about there already being a pretty much agreed upon canon of Anglo popular music for that particular decade and, more importantly, that we're too lazy to objectively put together of a list of the 25 best discs of the '70s. He made us do it anyway, but we won't bum rush him and post it here. That wouldn't be cool.
(We'll let you know what he eventually ends up doing with it.)

So, instead, you get the original list, with our favorites in alphabetical order by artist—many of which are tops, regardless. Anyway, here we go:


1. BIG STAR
#1 Record

[Ardent-1972]
One of those records that made us wonder where it had been all our lives when we finally discovered it.

2. BLACK SABBATH

Paranoid

[Warner Bros-1970]
The first four Sabbath records are the metal blueprint. This one still rocks our world.

3. THE CARS
self-titled
[Elektra-1978]
One of the great debut records of the ‘70s from a band with an unmistakable and influential sound.

4. CHEAP TRICK
At Budokan
[Epic-1979]
Ballsy, crunchy, tasty power pop; like it oughta be.

5. NICK DRAKE
Pink Moon

[Island-1972]
Pop music’s Vincent Van Gogh could be a bit twee at times, but his last musical statement was a haunting, powerful record ignored at the time but deserving of all the accolades it’s gotten in the 30+ years since its release.

6. EMERSON, LAKE and PALMER
Trilogy

[Atlantic-1972]
Love us some prog-rock. And this one, still…it turns us on.

7. PETER FRAMPTON
Frampton Comes Alive!

[A&M-1976]
Maybe a guilty pleasure for some but a significant part of our musical DNA and an album we listen to on a regular basis to this day.

8. GEORGE HARRISON
All Things Must Pass

[Apple-1970]
D
espite the filler, the best of all the Beatles solo albums is still awesome.

9. MICHAEL JACKSON
Off the Wall

[Epic-1979]
This, and not Thriller, is his main claim to fame for the “King of Pop” title in our book.

10. THE KNACK
Get The Knack

[Capitol-1979]
Catchy, sleazy, and rockin’.

11. LED ZEPPELIN
Physical Grafitti

[Swan Song-1975]
The record that proved to us that listening to Zep under the influence was no joke.

12. PAUL McCARTNEY
McCartney

[Apple-1970]
Band on the Run gets all the props, but despite the lo-fi production and laid-back approach, his first was Macca’s best.

13. STEVE MILLER BAND
Fly Like an Eagle

[Capitol-1976]
A stereotypically ‘70s disc. In a good way.

14. JONI MITCHELL
Blue

[Reprise-1971]
There are two kinds of ‘70s singer/songwriters: Joni Mitchell and the rest.

15. PINK FLOYD
Dark Side of the Moon

[Harvest-1973]

A masterpiece that still holds up.

16. THE POLICE
Reggatta de Blanc

[A&M-1979]

“White Reggae”, huh? Forget the faux translation of the title, this is the one on which their rep—and sound—is based.

17. TODD RUNDGREN
Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren

[Bearsville-1971]

Something/Anything? is impressive but there’s a bit of filler on there, whereas, IMHO this is Todd’s finest collection of songs.

18. ROLLING STONES
Some Girls

[Rolling Stones/Atlantic-1978]

As the ‘70s were coming to a close and the punks were painting a bull’s eye on the “dinosaurs” the Stones fought back and won.

19. SANTANA
Abraxas

[Columbia-1970]

You know what’s commonly referred to as an artist’s sophomore slump, right? Here’s the exact opposite: their single greatest achievement.

20. SEX PISTOLS
Never Mind the Bollocks…Here’s the Sex Pistols!

[Warner Bros-1977]

Not really a punk record, but a great bunch of hard rock tunes that sound a whole lot less dated than its contemporaries.

21. VAN HALEN
self-titled
[Warner Bros-1978]

An undisputed classic which also heralds the arrival of the six-string’s atomic punk.

22. THE WHO
Who’s Next

[MCA-1971]

We all might be somewhat tired of hearing ‘em, but these are Pete Townshend’s best dedicated batch of tunes.

23. STEVIE WONDER
Songs in the Key of Life

[Motown-1976]

He was huge during the ‘70s and this is the pinnacle of when Stevie was king.

24. XTC
Drums and Wires
[Geffen-1979]

Franz Ferdinand, we’re on to you.

25. YES
Close to the Edge

[Atlantic-1972]

The quintessential prog-rock record and one of our all-time faves.

11/29/2009

Anvil is The Real Spinal Tap (really)

Anvil are a Canadian metal band who've been together for 30 years and despite some brief notoriety in the early '80s, sink to the crappy club circuit due to bad management and worse personal music business acumen, struggle to rise above it all, with the attendant lifetime of battle scars and mishaps to show for it. The 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil is their story.

Having watched it over the weekend amongst friends, we can tell you this much: it did not provoke in us any sympathy for these guys. Their music is not that great (despite what Anthrax's Scott Ian, Metallica's Lars Ulrich, Motorhead's Lemmy, and Slash have to say about them); are dumber than a bucket of sand; and for people who've been gigging and recording for over 30 years, they make some of the most dumbfounding rookie mistakes ever.

Seriously, why would anyone who's been doing this for some time now, book a European tour with a novice booking agent--we're being kind here--who does not demand guarantees, and arranges international train rides as transportation? How about paying a has-been producer some $25,000 to record an album in his tiny London home studio? Or showing up, unannounced and without appointment, looking for a record deal at the offices of major labels in Los Angeles and expecting to be taken seriously? Based on what? Pure "yeah man, we're gonna be rock stars 'cause we deserve to be" drivel? Give us a fucking break.

Luckily, for these bumbling gentlemen, one of their former roadies is filmmaker/journalist Sacha Gervasi, whose doc--and their old high profile friends in the metal world--have garnered Anvil enough attention to be back in the spotlight for a bit. Good luck to them; they're nice enough folks. Just not worth our time and money.

11/28/2009

Branca Is on to You, Music Industry

Of course, we could all just listen to all of our old albums, CD’s and mp3’s. In fact, nowadays that’s where the industry makes most of its money. We could also just watch old movies and old TV shows. There are a lot of them now. Why bother making any new ones? Why bother doing anything new at all? Why bother having any change or progress at all as long as we’ve got “growth”?

I’m just wondering if this is in fact the new paradigm. I’m just wondering if in fact the new music is just the old music again. And, if that in fact it would actually just be the end of music.

Avant garde composer Glenn Branca, "The End of Music", NY Times, 11/24/09.

Nicks and Petty: Not Your Typical '80s Tune

Definitely one of the great singles from the 1980s and one of the few Stevie Nicks solo songs worth listening to, 1981's "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was the first single off her first solo album Bella Donna, and a Mike Campbell/Tom Petty composition, with the Heartbreakers providing backup.


11/27/2009

Hendrix Forever

Nov. 27th, is the birthday of one James Marshall Hendrix.
He would've been 67 today. Here is Jimi performing one of our faves, "Foxy Lady", months before his 1970 death:



[Also, happy birthday to drummers Charlie Benante of Anthrax,
and Mike Bordin (Faith No More/Ozzy Osbourne), both of whom
turn 47 today.]

11/26/2009

Happy Thanksgiving

One of the non-music blogs we read on a regular basis reminded us that guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges died 12 years ago in a tragic car accident on Thanksgiving weekend.

Commonly referred to at first as "the Eddie Van Halen of the acoustic guitar", Hedges was not only an immensely talented instrumentalist but also a gifted composer who quickly made a name for himself and was held in high regard during the decade-plus we was in the public eye.

As a tribute to him, we'd like to share with you one of our favorites,
"Rickover's Dream" from the landmark album Aerial Boundaries [Windham Hill-1984], performed live at New York City's Bottom Line in 1990. Happy Thanksgiving.

11/25/2009

Open Letter to Mickey Dolenz

Dude,

Listening to the music of The Monkees lately we got a not so-crazy idea: why don't you put together a four piece band and do theatre shows performing all the great tunes you sang with your old band. You know: "An Evening of Monkees Music with Mickey Dolenz" or something. No need to do the reunion thing. You've had way too many of those already. Plus, nobody wants to hear Davy Jones' corny, show bizzy, Broadway musical lameness; Peter Tork is sick; Papa Nez has bigger things on his plate; and it's not like you're that busy, huh?

People still want to hear those songs and, to your benefit, you sang the vast majority of the best ones. C'mon: "Last Train to Clarksville", "I'm a Believer", "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone", "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Porpoise Song", "As We Go Along", "Randy Scouse Git", "Goin' Down"...we could go on and on.

But if you decide to do this, don't book any casinos or other cheesy joints of that ilk. No, play the venues the current rock bands are playing and get some young'uns in the crowd. Trust us, you won't regret it. It might actually be awesome.

So, think about it, will you? Not a giant step, you know.

Cheers,
-KJ

11/24/2009

NYT Review: Fela! (the musical)

Ben Brantley raves in the paper of record about the Broadway musical focusing on the turbulent life and times of the influential and revolutionary Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

As brought to the stage by [Bill T.] Jones—the show’s venturesome choreographer, director and, with Jim Lewis, its book writer—“Fela!” doesn’t so much tell a story as soak an audience to and through the skin with the musical style and sensibility practiced by its leading man. That style is Afrobeat, an amalgam of diverse cultural elements that will be parsed and reassembled during the show by its performers and the wonderful Antibalas, an Afrobeat band out of Brooklyn.

Not only is Fela Kuti a musical giant that should be discovered and embraced by music lovers who may not be familiar with his groundbreaking workoften called "the African James Brown", we'd also venture to say Brown is the American Felawe can't think of a better musical surrogate than the great Antibalas to be performing his music for this particular play.

In the meantime, here's the title track from Fela's 1977 album Zombie [Mercury] to get you started or perhaps reminiscing:

X Does Not Mark the Spot

Fellow blogger Xmastime, had this to say about a particular point in Spin magazine's "16 Myths Debunked" (a feature we recently assailed for its dreadful numbskullery):

...FINALLY someone agrees with me that this smug, idiotic "Nirvana ENDED hair metal!" nonsense people have always tried to tell me is complete nonsense.
I don't now why, but it's very important for Nirvana's fans to place them on some strange artistic-cleansing level of "greatness;" it's not enough for them to think Nirvana was a perfectly good band, they also hafta somehow make them the righteous slayers of what they see as a "fake" music. The thinking of course is the second Poison fans heard Nirvana they realized which music was "real" and ditched Poison, and probably sat around their bedrooms being ashamed of ever having loved such "fake" music in the first place. Which, of course, didn't happen.

Nirvana was a good, if not original, band that sounded like tons of other bands but was at the right time/right place like any band that blows up. Nirvana fans want you to believe that people were led to the music shops to buy
Nevermind by some strange desire for "real music" in some weird "if you rock it, they will come" happenstance of zen-ness. Nirvana fans cannot accept that the same machinery that was in charge of making, say, Warrant bigger than Huey Lewis was the same machine that put Nirvana on every radio and tv across the land. No no, they want you to think, THEIRS was a real "grass roots" movement. Hmm.

Like any other music genre, grunge had it's day, and then ran it's course. One final thing for these "Nirvana killed hair bands!" idiots to consider is that if it can be said of Nirvana/hair bands, couldn't the same be said for boy bands and Britney/grunge? OUCH, right guys?
X, in agreeing with the contrarian retard who wrote the piece—who, for the record, once pontificated to us on the greatness of Poison at a party a few years ago—you have missed the boat completely, sir. (Note: We're not calling YOU a contrarian retard.)

A few things to consider:

- An album by a band whose previous releases were mostly confined to specialty shops—along with Tower Records which always catered to indie rock as well as the big ticket items (as opposed to the likes of Sam Goody, The Wiz, etc)—and was initially ONLY played on college radio and MTV's 120 Minutes, eventually went on to dethrone a mega, mainstream star's album from the top spot of the Billboard charts. That, my friend, is a fact. Pure and simple. No need to dis.


- No person in their right mind could ever claim that a motherlode of bands on major labels—regardless of their indie origins—was a "grass roots movement". That's patently absurd. We've never heard anyone who even remotely has a clue utter such idiocy.


- Sure, much of the hairband-loving flock resisted the Seattle/grunge/alt-rock wave. Absolutely. But the hordes of frat-boy knuckleheads that didn't—which Kurt Cobain would subsequently and bitterly complain about—did not come out of nowhere. These—along with your average, every day, Top 40 radio-listening folks of the day—are the ones who latch on to "the new thing", whatever it happens to be at the time. Poison and Warrant weren't "it" anymore; Nirvana and Pearl Jam were. Period. Was it because the latter were awesome and the former were not? We'd like to think so, but that can be construed as a matter of taste and not entirely the reason why.

What happened? People were tired of the flamboyant, glam nonsense—it's a cyclical thing—and they went for the new, cool thing which was different. And no one who lives or dies by these silly definitions wants to be left behind. Yes, Nirvana were at the right place and the right time. We agree. But it doesn't make Nevermind any less great, or Appetite for Destruction—another beneficiary of the "the right place/right time" scenario a few years prior—for that matter. If you recall, in the late '80s many fans of heavy music did not fully appreciate the intensity of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, etc and were turned off by the antics of the Winger-Warrant-Poison contingent, which they very much deemed to be "fake". These people went for Guns 'n' Roses in a really big way.

(Speaking of which, years ago, while over at a friend’s house, we sat in the living room chatting while MTV blared in the background. As some Poison video came on, one of our friend’s older brothers—and not a fan of rock music—walked in to get a bite to eat, looked at what was on the TV and chided us for watching “that crap”.

We told him truthfully that we weren’t paying attention. Moments later, as he came out of the kitchen with a sandwich and a drink, the video for
GnR’s “Sweet Child O' Mine” was on, and in between bites he managed to bellow, “See? Now that’s music!” and left. So, there is something to the idea of people latching on to what they feel is "real". But we digress.)


- Check your calendar: at the time the Britney/boy band avalanche hit, the Seattle/grunge/alt-rock thing had run its course: La Spears' first single was in '98; so was N'Sync's. Christina Aguilera's debut single was in '99. (Only The Backstreet Boys, of that new teenybopper wave, had a single prior to that: their first came out in 1995.)

By then, Cobain had been dead a few years; Soundgarden had broken up; Smashing Pumpkins had fizzled; and the rest—along with the one-hit/album wonders—had already had their day in the sun by '96, '97. Eventually, for the masses, as someone brilliantly once stated, the flannel shirt simply didn't fit anymore. So, what the boy bands and co. did was fill a mainstream chart vacuum, not slay any grunge dragon. It was already dead. Sorry, Charlie. (We're not pointing fingers but so called nü-metal may have blood on its hands, tho.)


In conclusion, "grunge" did kill hair metal. Not because of quality or authenticity necessarily, but because the fickle mainstream wanted something else, and moved on. (Quite a few hairbands themselves cut their hair, de-tuned their guitars and moved to Seattle in hopes of joining the bandwagon, btw.) However...

That a certain lack of artifice and pomp—and choice of wardrobe, lifestyle, and causes to support—made these new artists seem more "real" than the party-all-the-time hair farmers, is a distinct possibility for many if not all who embraced them. But you knew that already.

And if we mock these Nirvana haters, Poison apologists and Lady Gaga whores who "write" the kind of gibberish found in that Spin article, it's not because they dis a fave band of ours; it's because they are lazy hacks and two-bit clowns who don't bother getting their facts straight and who should know better. You know, the same fools that branded Wire-retreads in this decade with having a fresh new sound.

Yours in rock,
-KJ

Milestones: MTV Unplugged

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]



Although decidedly far removed from the enormous influence and popularity it once had, MTV Unplugged is still around, two decades after its 1989 debut.

Originally hosted by singer/songwriter Jules Shear (who wrote Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night" and The Bangles' "If She Knew What She Wants"), it was a simple affair and not the big production showcase it became at the height of its popularity. During the program's humble beginnings the format consisted of 2 artists separately performing acoustic, stripped down arrangements of their chosen songs with minimal accompaniment--Shear would occasional participate on guitar--then both would join the host in a finale.

As Unplugged grew in stature it became practically a must to appear on the show, and many artists saw fit to release their appearances as live albums. But the show eventually got bloated and strayed from its modest origins and purported raison d'etre--certain artists bringing on a small army of backup musicians was not very "unplugged", as it were--and after 8 seasons, Unplugged was moved from regular program to special feature status in 1997.

The show had many memorable moments; for us the following stand out: the Stevie Ray Vaughn/Joe Satriani episode from the first 13 which were hosted by Shear; LL Cool J/A Tribe Called Quest/De La Soul/MC Lyte, all backed by Pop's Cool Love; and of course, Nirvana. The network's Spanish-language sister, MTV Latino, also featured great individual performances by Café Tacuba (Mexico), Robi Rosa (Puerto Rico), and Los Tres (Chile).

In 2009, MTV returned the show to its regular programming schedule with a six-episode run including a controversial turn by pop starlet Katy Perry, and indie darlings Vampire Weekend. Oy vey!

SRV:




LL Cool J:




Nirvana w/The Meat Puppets:




Café Tacuba:




Robi Rosa:




Los Tres:

11/23/2009

What We're Listening To

DINOSAUR JR. Where You Been? [Warner Bros]
DURAN DURAN Seven and the Ragged Tiger [Capitol]
MICHAEL HEDGES Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos [Windham Hill/BMG]
PAUL McCARTNEY McCartney [Capitol]
ELLIOTT SMITH Figure 8 [Dreamworks]

What are YOU listening to?

Milestones: "Heart of the Matter"

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]

One of our all-time favorite songs, "Heart of the Matter" is from Don Henley's 1989 album The End of the Innocence. This version is from The Eagles' 1994 reunion tour. Enjoy!

Spin Debunks Myths Already Discredited

It must be rough being a once vital magazine turned irrelevant rag.

In a feature titled "16 Rock Myths Debunked" Spin magazine writers--including Poison apologist and overall master of the erroneous, Chuck Eddy--divide their entries between lazy rips at Radiohead (they "kinda blow"); defending hacks like Lady Gaga (whom Eddy refers to as "a brilliant songwriter"); and rehashing tired ass rock rumors and urban legends (Marilyn Manson was a sitcom actor, The Wizard of Oz and The Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin and the mud sharked-groupie, etc etc etc.).

People get paid to write this drivel? Seriously?

Forbes' List of Most Overpaid Movie Stars

Money is their bag over at Forbes magazine, and the have published the latest installment of their annual list of Hollywood stars whose salary least boosts their respective project's bottom line.
In other words, how much has each of their last three films combined brought in for every dollar of salary they received? Here are the 10 main culprits with their per-salary-dollar-draw in parentheses:

1. Will Ferrell ($3.29)
2. Ewan McGregor ($3.75)
3. Billy Bob Thornton ($4.00)
4. Eddie Murphy ($4.43)
5. Ice Cube ($4.77)
6. Tom Cruise ($7.18)
7. Drew Barrymore ($7.43)
8. Leonardo DiCaprio ($7.52)
9. Samuel Jackson ($8.59)
10. Jim Carrey ($8.62)

11/22/2009

Milestones: 'Kind of Blue'

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]


MILES DAVIS 
Kind Of Blue
[Sony-1959]

Ah, yes: a landmark record which we happen to love more and more with the steady passage of time. But what can we truly say about the giant that is Kind Of Blue that hasn’t been already said seemingly over a million times and rightfully so? Absolutely nothing.

But we’ll say it anyway:

A work of pure genius that is cerebral yet accessible; largely improvised but played in a very cohesive manner by a stellar lineup of jazz greats in their prime; loved by neophytes and jazz scholars alike. Kind Of Blue is arguably—actually, the dissenters number as many as the dodo bird—the greatest of all jazz albums. Adding to its stature is the fact that as recently as the early years of this century, generations after its original release, it was known to sell at a rate of 5,000 copies a week, making it the biggest selling jazz album of all time.

So, to summarize, what is it about this 50 year-old album that still captures our hearts after uncounted repeated listenings? 
Is it that:

a) as musicians we can appreciate the artistry of Miles and the cast of heavyweights on it (including John Coltrane and Bill Evans)?
b) as music fans it speaks to us so profoundly?
c) its presence brings an added reflective quality to any situation: from conversation to romance to bliss?
d) perhaps, all of the above?

Answer: d), silly.

[Cover art courtesy of Wikipedia.]

11/21/2009

The 21st Century Music Business: Today is Yesterday

We've been harping on and on for the longest about how the new state of affairs within the music industry was going to affect the way new artists went about their business. The fear of these up-and-comers being subjected to the rules of the old record labels of the 1950s and '60s, who controlled every aspect of their professional lives and paid off artists they continually pilfered from with shiny new Cadillacs was always on our minds. Well, guess what? It's on:

Early last year [Adam] Young’s Web success came to the attention of scouts at Universal Republic Records, which had already had success with another MySpace phenom, the singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat. Avery Lipman, the label’s co-president, invited Mr. Young to New York for discussions and found him completely unschooled in the ways of the music business.

“It was the most bizarre meeting I’ve ever had,” Mr. Lipman said. “I actually had to discuss and explain the record business 101. I had to explain to him what a record company is, the need for a lawyer, a manager, a booking agent. It was actually kind of tough.”

For management, the label recommended [Steven] Bursky, whose first client was the jam band Dispatch, an early Web success story. With this new representation Mr. Young signed a long-term contract with Universal Republic.
Adam Young aka Owl City, is the Postal Service doppelganger who, as the above NY Times piece clearly indicates, knows so very little about the music business he committed the kind of mistake one thought artists did not succumb to anymore: that of heeding the advice of your label in hiring the people whose job it is to represent and--more importantly--protect you. It's akin to asking thieves
looking to rob you what kind of lock you should have on your door.

Where is Moses Avalon when you need him? Unbelievable.

11/19/2009

Milestones: 'Mothers Milk'

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]


We'd heard quite a bit about the Red Hot Chili Peppers during the '80s but didn't pay much attention. In 1989 Mother's Milk changed that--as they used to say at the time--with the quickness.



Recorded after the OD death of guitarist Hillel Slovak and departure of drummer Jack Irons, Milk introduced what is the band's best-known and most durable lineup: vocalist Anthony Kiedis, and bassist Flea, alongside guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith. (However, Slovak and Irons appear on a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Fire" and Fishbone drummer Fish plays on "Taste the Pain".) It's also their last album for the EMI label--they would subsequently sign to Warner Bros and remain on that label for 2 decades--and one that benefits from the perspective of listening to it two decades removed from its original release. (A remastered version with bonus tracks, and liner notes by Flea, was issued in 2003.)

Going back to this one, what becomes readily apparent is how much boundless energy and humor these punk rockers with a deep love for Hendrix and P-Funk displayed back then, as well as how far from their eventual superstardom--if not chronologically--they seemed at the time. (The chorus for "Pretty Little Ditty" begs "put us on MTV / all we really need / begging on our knees / please, please, please, please, please" and the song itself ends with the guitar intro from Guns 'n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" to seemingly prove both their desperation and commitment.)

Like every RHCP album, Milk is an uneven affair. And while the production isn't hair-band dated, it hasn't aged that well. (Seriously, what was up with all that reverb?) Regardless, there's a bunch of fun tunes on here than more than make up for it. Among them: lead-off track "Good Time Boys"; a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground"; a humorous ode to their favorite b-baller ("Magic Johnson"); "Sexy Mexican Maid"; and the aforementioned, excellent "Taste the Pain", which was used quite effectively during a post-party driving scene
in the classic teen movie Say Anything, also released that year.

For better or worse, depending on your taste, Mother's Milk is both the blueprint for the Peppers' massive success--it was followed by the blockbuster BloodSugarSexMagik album just two years later--and undoubtedly, one of the touchstones of what was to be the alt-rock boom of the following decade.

11/17/2009

New Releases: Them Crooked Vultures


THEM CROOKED VULTURES
self-titled
[DGC/Interscope/Universal]

After embarking on a series of summer dates to garner some notoriety for the band and their unreleased music, the self-produced debut by this newest supergroup arrives in the wake of much hype and lofty expectations. Does it deliver? For the most part, yes.

Unsurprisingly, Them Crooked Vultures is definitely the sum of its parts: it's hard not to hear the individual talents and characteristics of vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer Dave Grohl, as well as the bands in which they made their respective names, namely Queens of The Stone Age, Led Zeppelin, and both Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. It's also not much of a revelation to discover that the music included herein owes a big debt to the hard-nosed, blues-influenced late '60s/early '70s rock and roll that these guys have seemingly always worshipped or, in the case of Jones, helped popularize in the first place.

As for the songs themselves, it's quite a thrill to hear the trio gel on tracks like the quite excellent "Mind Eraser, No Chaser", the greasy groove of first single "New Fang", the monster stomp of "Elephants" and the Cream-influenced "Scumbag Blues". Not all of it works, though: "Reptiles", "Warsaw", and "Caligulove" are decent but, individually, rarely rise above a collection of cool riffs; the QOTSA-like titled "Interlude with Ludes" is a nice change of pace but not much more than that. Meanwhile, the Nine Inch Nails-meets-Masters of Reality "Gunman" is the band's lone concession to anything resembling modern rock music and yields about average results.

History has taught us that often times supergroups never turn out as well as they do on paper, reducing a possibly interesting collaboration to a vanity exercise meant to give its participants a holiday from their day jobs. Them Crooked Vultures is too good to rank anywhere near that low. But while they are not the pinnacle of this kind of project either, the promise of their debut album is enough to warrant and expect more music from them in the not too distant future.

Highlights: "Mind Eraser No Chaser", "New Fang", "Elephant", "Scumbag Blues"

Idolator, RIP

One of the music/pop culture blogs we check out on a regular basis, Idolator, has gone thru what looks to be--in our opinion--a quite detrimental transformation, from an across the board, interesting read to mainstream pop, chart-chasing/gossip guide. With the reduction in contributors a few months ago and the recent resignation of editor Maura Johnston, we had a feeling something fishy was up. We were right; and it sure does stink.

Good to look to Johnston in her future endeavors. And as soon as we find out where their list of the worst song of the decade pops up--Idolator has discontinued it--we'll be linking to it.

11/11/2009

Steven Tyler Walks 'That' Way?

This should be the perfect opportunity for Aerosmith to break up, having long ago ceased being a truly creative entity and just a touring money-printing machine. And now that Steven Tyler wants to take a sabbatical, why don't they make it permanent?

A new singer would be an oh, so sad turn of events, no matter how good the guy turned out to be. One thing we have learned over the years is when the singer wants to chill and the band wants to tour, the latter always get their way. For better or for worse; mostly the latter. Right, Journey?

11/10/2009

Darius Rucker's Dubious Acheivement

So, the former Hootie and the Blowfish vocalist has been nominated for two Country Music Awards, and could be the first African-American performer identified as a country artist to win in the Best Male Vocalist category since Charley Pride won in 1971.

Good for him. But if not exactly a hollow victory, it would be a bittersweet one: Rucker's brand of country--as clearly evidenced by his most recent, platinum-selling Learn to Live [Capitol] album--is just more of the pop-rock with a twang that passes for country music these days.

Happy 40th, Sesame Street



What We've Been Reading: Wareham's Bummer

DEAN WAREHAM
Black Postcards: A Memoir
[Penguin Press-2008]


When we finally got round to sifting thru our pile of promotional copies of books from last year, we got to reading the purported memoir by the Galaxie 500/Luna front man, and remembered something a dear friend and fan of the latter once told us:

"You know, one of my favorite bands, Luna had a bunch of albums, very loyal fans, got to travel outside the U.S. quite often, had their music on NPR, movies, the Late Night show and yet kept complaining about how difficult it was for them. I had a problem making sense of that but then I got it. They wanted to hit it REAL big and big is so subjective.

I think Luna was wrong. They were successful in my eyes. It seems that where so preoccupied with making it real big that they forgot to enjoy the ride. That's too bad."

Yeah, there's plenty of that in Black Postcards, which reads more as a tour diary+ than as a memoir. Throughout, Wareham moans and gripes about a lack of success; rags on artists he dislikes, while delving into his fair share of hypocrisy (calling Guns 'n' Roses "pigs," but later has Luna cover their "Sweet Child O' Mine" in the hopes of landing greater exposure for the band); and sprinkles in relatives--particularly his drug-addicted brother Anthony--as phantom characters in a futile attempt to make things a bit more engaging.

In the end, Black Postcards reads like the written word version of much of Wareham's music: not too loud, not too intense, rather whiny and only of interest to anyone who has a predisposition to liking it. Not a bad read, but not a terribly stimulating one, either.

11/05/2009

Song of the Day: "Godzilla"