Friday, April 22, 2016

RIP Prince

This is probably my favorite Prince song, I love Sinead's version too. As I mentioned before I had a chance to see Prince a few years ago and declined because I'm dumb. A few years passed and he became my bucket list leader. He was the one artist I hadn't seen live and now he's gone. I can't believe it. I try to go as many shows as possible because you just never know when the last time you'll see an artist is. I was reminded of that last year when I passed on seeing Motorhead because of work. I should've toughed it out and made it happen and I regret it now, even months after the fact. So celebrate Prince's music and legacy but don't forget to enjoy those who are still here. Go buy a CD or see a band tonight. It's good for the soul.

Price rated 3 albums in the book, you can check out the reviews here:


Purple Rain

Sign O' The Times

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#467 – Aerosmith – Rocks

It's still rock n roll to me...
The opening notes on “Back In The Saddle” brought back a ton of memories. I know the song from a cassette copy of Aerosmith’s “Greatest Hits” that I had in high school if I remember correctly. I used to play that one a lot and it logged many miles in the tape deck of my Mazda 626. One particular memory of the song was when I had a friend staying over and he refused to get out of bed the next morning. So I got a boom box (remember those?) and let the intro play right up to the horse whinny at 27 seconds then I cranked it. It woke him up but I’m not sure he jumped out of bed as I had anticipated. Regardless the song still, ahem, rocks. All these years later and the remastering gives it some bottom end I didn’t remember. Then again Metallica's "Black Album," also on cassette, did those speakers in around that time. I had forgotten, until hearing this album, that “Greatest Hits” also contained “Last Child.” I instantly recognized it when I heard the opening notes. I am amazed all these years later that somewhere my brain had filed away those notes and still remembered the song. The book says that this album “for many is their magnum opus.” Outside of the aforementioned tracks I don’t think it has the hit singles of the other Aerosmith albums in the book but for 34 minutes it’s a solid album. I bought this with “Toys In The Attic” at the same time for $3.99 at aka music. If I had to pick one of the three albums from the book I would probably stick with “Pump.” This one does offer a bit of a “rawer” feeling than either of the other two however. It wasn’t surprising to find that it has inspired a ton of hard rockers to pick up a guitar however as the playing of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford stood out on most of the songs. The book mentions Stephen Tyler recruiting a singer from the Metropolitian Opera to help with the vocals on “Get The Lead Out” but none is credited, nor are the contributions obvious, unless you listen really closely, and even with headphones it’s not the throat shredding experience the book’s review alludes to. Granted I have a slight case of tinnitus so maybe it’s much louder than I think. I mentioned the ringing in my ears to a friend recently and blamed using headphones for this blog, since I hadn’t used them much in the years prior to starting the blog. He said, “Yeah and seeing Slayer a dozen times had nothing to do with it? Touché. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

#468 – Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

This is the second of three Aerosmith albums included in the book’s list. I reviewed “Pump” a while ago and set out to find copies of the other two albums. I knew there remastered versions so at some point I decided to get those versions although I can’t remember any particular reason for it. I did eventually find them at aka music for $3.99 each. Obviously someone had had enough of their Aerosmith CDs. The remasters don’t include any bonus material or expanded liner notes, although I have seen stickers that claim there is added artwork. It looks like what was probably included in the original vinyl release but that’s me. I mentioned previously that I rather enjoyed Aeromsith when I was in high school as they had begun a career renaissance in the wake of the crossover success of “Walk This Way” with RUN-DMC. The original version is included here and still sounds good even minus the rapping I’ve since become familiar with. Sometime shortly after discovering Aerosmith I saw The Rolling Stones live for the first time in 1994. I quickly decided that Aerosmith were pale imitators and apparently I’m not the only one who made that comparison. The book’s review states: “…their first two albums failed to make an impression as the band struggled to define itself amid unflattering comparisons to The Rolling Stones.” I’ve since lightened up slightly on Aerosmith but I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. I might even consider adding them to my list of band’s I should see in concert. When I was in high school I can remember a friend getting tickets to see them but his mother insisted on going with him and asked him if she should bring a book to read while they waited for the band to go on. How do parents learn to be so embarrassing? Anyway, what’s here is not bad at all, a solid 37 minutes of rock n’ roll that the book credits with creating “cock rock.” It is defined by the book as: “a subgenre that reveled in sex, drugs, and double-entendre to a level that made Led Zep’s “The Lemon Song” sound like something from a church hymnal.”  So no, subtlety is not the album’s strong point especially on tracks like “Uncle Salty” or the not so cleverly titled “Big Ten Inch Record.”  The book’s review points out four songs as key tracks. The high points are obvious, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” The book also likes the title track but I found it to be rather bland and “Big Ten Inch Record” probably would’ve been a lot funnier to teenage me. For something different I would’ve gone with “Round And Round” since it’s still rock n’ roll (to me) but the production adds a little flavor to the proceedings. Album closer “You See Me Crying” offers a glimpse of all thos ballads that would help fuel the band’s second “soccer mom renaissance.” I’m curious now to hear the follow-up, “Rocks” which will be my next review although I am still puzzled by the book’s choice not to include their comeback album, “Permanent Vacation,” a title I may now just be inspired enough to add a copy to my collection.      
ummm...attics are at the top aren't they?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

RIP Layne Staley – Alice In Chains – Facelift

Every year I dedicate an entry to Layne Staley who was found dead in early April of 2002. Previous tributes can be found here:

2011 - Layne Staley Tribute
2012 - Mad Season - Above
2013 - Mad Season - Concert Chronology
2014 - Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies
2015 - Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2

I saw Alice In Chains with Staley on Lollapalooza in 1993. I always thought I’d get a chance to see them again with Layne but they didn’t tour much after ‘93/’94, save a few dates in 1996. I can still remember hearing the news of his death on the radio and it hitting me hard. And so it is that at this time every year I dedicate a review to his memory and ask that if you can, support his memory at the foundation named in his honor.

say what you want, I like it

This year I’m listening to Alice In Chains’ 1990 debut “Facelift.” Their 1993 album, “Dirt” is included in the book’s list but I would’ve put this one in as well. Every bit as gloomy as it’s more well known follow-up it’s worthy of inclusion on its own. Grunge hadn’t yet entered the popular lexicon but this album is every bit as responsible for the term as any other. Opening with the far too prophetic “We Die Young” Staley’s vocals and harmonies with Jerry Cantrell are quickly evident. Cantrell’s churning guitar riffs and the heavy, sometimes dirge like, rhythm section of Sean Kinney and Michael Starr (RIP) take the music past metal troupes into different sonic territory. There are also plenty of head-banging opportunities here, “Man In The Box,” “Seas Of Sorrow,” and my personal favorite “It Ain’t Like That” (the band can be seen playing it in the movie “Singles”). The band explores slower territory on “I Can’t Remember,” “Confusion,” and “Love, Hate, Love.”  They even touch on Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque funk on “I Know Somethin (Bout You).”  While their best may have been ahead of there is no reason, in my opinion, to skip their scintillating debut. Critics, especially the one in my "Trouser Press Guide To 90's Rock," did not care for the album but it had an instant impact on me. It lays the groundwork for the unique sonics of the band and the stunning vocals of Layne Staley.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#469 – Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor

sequel? sure why not?
I found this CD at Long In The Tooth Records on one of my first blopping trips there. I don’t know why it is that it seems the first time I shop in a new store they often have a title or titles that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere (I also found The Adverts album on this trip). I paid $5.99 for it after seeing other Lupe Fiasco albums in other places including the sequel to this one cleverly titled “Food & Liquor II.” A friend told me years ago that this album was really popular with his students (he’s a music teacher and reviews many of the albums his students listen to). Despite his positive review I generally tread lightly in regards to most hip-hop albums listed in the book, especially anything after the 90’s. I’m just not as familiar with the material and often times I find the albums a chore to listen to as they’re filled with needless skits and a couple of worthwhile songs mashed into an 80 minute album. Then again your mileage may vary. This album eschews skits but does include an “Intro” and “Outro.” The “Intro” wasn’t bad but the “Outro” is little more than an extended awards speech in which Lupe sends out shout-outs and thank yous for 12 agonizing minutes. If you think some Grateful Dead or Phish tracks go on forever without going anywhere this certainly gives them a run for their money. Outside of that misstep many of the tracks here are catchy and the first line that caught my ear is: “I’m Cornell West-side” in “Just Might Be OK.” He released a video for the song in 2015, nine years after the release, and here I criticized Kayne for taking too long to make albums. The book calls “Kick, Push” “irresistible” and notes it’s “self-help meets skateboarding” and I have to agree, it’s quite a catchy tune. It has a sequel, cleverly titled “Kick, Push II,” but it’s not nearly as catchy as its counterpart despite similar lyrical content. He raps “My temperature is tempura” in “I Gotcha” and I wonder if that means he’s lightly battered and fried? The song closes with something that sounds suspiciously like a melodica. Despite its title “The Instrumental” is not. It was written with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and his touches are instantly recognizable (twinkling keys over a robotic beat in case you didn’t know). “Daydreamin’” features Jill Scott and offers a unique perspective on hip hop troupes. He visits these themes again on “Hurt Me Soul” which was an unexpected treat. “Pressure” features Jay-Z but musically, at least to me, sounds like the opening credits to an 80’s action comedy show like a big city Dukes of Hazzard. While this isn’t something I’m going to have in my heavy rotation or pick up the sequel to I will say it held up better than many of its contemporaries.  However I think it will always i probably teeter on the verge of being cut from future versions of the book’s list.

Monday, April 4, 2016

#470 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

who's down on Green River?
I was looking for my copy of “Chronicle – The 20 Greatest Hits” (they've since issued several other Greatest Hits compilations) to compare the tracklists but I seem to have misplaced it. Luckily the internet told me that this album is represented by four tracks, the title track, “Commotion,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Lodi.” I bought that album in college, I imagine from Columbia House. I imagine most people have heard at least one of those tunes, even if it’s just for the often misheard lyric in “Bad Moon Rising” (no, there is not a bathroom on the right). They’re classic Bayou flavored rock n’ roll as done by a California based band that most people would guess was straight out of Louisiana. The book’s review says that with this album “…defined their vision and sound – clipped, clean, and direct.”It contains the aforementioned hits, which I suggest you hear if you haven’t already. This album also contains a couple of overlooked songs in my opinion. They cover “The Night Time Is The Right Time” (made famous by Ray Charles and also covered by The Sonics whose version I just heard recently). John Fogerty’s voice gives that one just a little bit of snarl that makes it worth a listen.  The other song I was familiar with was “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” which Mavis Staples covered on her album “You Are Not Alone.” I was going through a Jeff Tweedy/Wilco phase when that one was released and I liked their version so much I picked up a copy of the album. I wonder if other people do that or do they just add the song or artist to the streaming service? Am I the only person who still keeps a CD wantlist? Or hears something and says, “I gotta buy that album!” And by buy I mean an actual physical copy of the album and not a download. Some days I think I am. When I was looking for a copy of this one I knew there were 40th Anniversary editions since I’d gotten one for “Cosmo’s Factory.” I found it at Princeton Record Exchange for $5.99. It includes five bonus tracks, two outtakes and three live tracks. It’s a solid album and a quick listen. The album tracks as well as the hits all showcase Creedence’s smooth blend of Southern infused rock n’ roll. I’m still searching for the third Creedence album in the book, “Bayou Country.” I’ve seen copies but so far I have not been able to locate the anniversary edition. When I do I’ll share my favorite Creedence Clearwater Revival story in that review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#471 – The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics

If you’ve ever heard Little Steven’s Underground Garage then you have a pretty solid idea of what this sounds like. I don’t listen to the channel often, as I let my satellite radio subscription lapse a few years ago, but more often than not it’s playing in one of the record shops I frequent. As the book’s review notes “a ‘garage band’ was not exactly new before The Sonics…” but they were one of the first to score a local record deal and some radio airplay. The original album covers a dozen tracks in just under a half an hour so this also had a lasting influence on punk rock too. The copy I found at Princeton Record Exchange for $7.99 includes four bonus tracks. One of those tracks is “Don’t Believe In Christmas” which was my introduction to The Sonics. Pearl Jam covered it on their “Live At The Showbox” DVD, and I believe the performance also made one of their holiday singles. That show occurred a few weeks before Christmas 2002 and was the first time I heard the song. I don’t think I ever bothered to look up the original version but I definitely noted that the song was by The Sonics. Three of the four bonus tracks added here are Christmas themed, the aforementioned jingle, “Santa Claus,” and “The Village Idiot” which is played to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Also scattered throughout are covers of 50’s rock n’ roll including Little Richard (“Good Golly Miss Molly”), Chuck Berry (“Roll Over Beethoven”), and Ray Charles (“Night Time Is The Right Time” – made infamous by Rudy Huxtable – at least to me). So on first listen you will instantly be familiar with a large chunk of The Sonics’ material. They also have a few notable originals like “The Witch,” “Psycho,” and “Strychnine.” Singer Jerry Roslie has an impressive howl and he’s not afraid to use it. While not as impressive as Little Richard’s wail he does their version justice. There’s no real room for filler here so I found this be a quick and enjoyable listen. It has been said that everyone who bought The Velvet Underground’s first album formed a band I’m sure this album had a similar effect on the Great Northwest and beyond.  That was borne out shortly after I listened to the album. As has been my habit of late before turning in for the night I watch an episode of The Foo Fighters’ “Sonic Highways.” I'm sure the title was a tribute to the band (or you know, not). It just so happened I watched the Seattle episode a few hours after listening to the album and low and behold it contains an interview with Sonics’ guitarist Larry Parypa. He notes the influential career of the band and how they felt like outsiders. It also mentions that after a long period of inactivity the band has started touring again.