Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'ard of 'earing - AC/DC with Axl Rose at Wells Fargo Center - 9/20/16

I haven't posted in a while, wanted to get this in while it was still fresh in my head. Will get pictures up ASAP. Some observations from tonight's show at the Wells Fargo Center:

  • Have seen AC/DC a few times, don't ever remember there being so many empty seats
  • Not sure if that was because of the rescheduled date, it being a school night, or Axl having played here in July
  • I wonder how much profit there is on the light-up set of devil horns they sell? I'm betting a lot.
  • Setlist looks like it has been the same for all the shows with Axl/DC as the kids call it, think they are doing a few more Bon Scott era songs than they did with Brian Johnson as they fit Rose's voice a little better in my opinion
  • Never thought I'd see Axl Rose sing "Whole Lotta Rosie" complete with 300 lb hooker balloon
  • Isn't it time they retire the 300 lb hooker balloon? Although, no pun intended, I'm sure it's expensive
  • Glad they dropped"The Jack" from the set, I don't miss the song or watching a man in his 60's strip
  • Like the Rockettes/showgirl style leg kicks Axl threw into "Sin City"
  • Thought Axl sounded good, better than I expected, made me wish I'd seen Gins N' Roses when they were here
  • Not sure what comes next for AC/DC but an album with Axl would be interesting, if it doesn't take years to complete that is, not sure with Cliff Williams retiring after this tour that these guys have many left in them despite what Angus (the only original member left) says
  • They clearly aren't kids anymore but I felt pretty spry looking around at the crowd
  • I remembered my ear plugs! I remember seeing them in 1996 (20 years ago, really?) and having my ears ring for days after the show, it's when I started carrying ear plugs to shows and probably when my tinnitus started
  • Why do they close every show with "For Those About To Rock"? I understand the pyro and the cannons but we just rocked for 2+ hours ya know? Maybe it should be an opener
  • Saw them in August last year with Brian Johnson and thought he sounded pretty ragged but didn't think it'd be the last time I'd see him
  • Speaking of, I didn't think a couple of Sundays ago would be the last time I saw my girlfriend but it was. As Johnny Cash said "I don't like it but I guess things happen that way." I miss her.
  • I found a piece of confetti under my seat leftover from the Adele shows a few weeks ago, it says "We Could Have Had It All," indeed, still could. Like you said she sings "We're not kids anymore" but you also said we're pretty good for a couple of 40 year olds
  • Sorry you couldn't make it Holly!
  • Never thought it'd be so difficult to get rid of a ticket

Thursday, September 1, 2016

#460 – Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

this one stands on its own
Gang Of Four is one of those band’s that I’ve always heard about but until now had never actually listened to. Usually it is with a bit of reverence or spoken about in hushed tones along with a quote along the lines of "That band or album changed my life."  I’ve read plenty of other interviews, books, and liner notes with bands and musicians of all kinds that list Gang Of Four as one of their influences. Their influence is far reaching and varied as evidenced by the quotes from from Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tad (of TAD), and R.E.M.’s  Michael Stipe included in the liner notes. The book’s review also mentions The Chili Peppers and The Rapture. Kurt Cobain listed this album among his personal Top 50. The short lived Henry Rollins/Rick Rubin label Infinite Zero issued a version of this album. After just a couple of songs I immediately thought of Joy Division, Sleater-Kinney, and Mark Of Cain. After I listened to the entire album I was thinking of Fugazi and a little Jane’s Addiction (I also couldn’t help but think that this would most likely be classified as punk and is about as far as you can get musically from the music of Paul Revere And The Raiders). I’d recommend “Ether,” “Natural’s not in it,” and “Anthrax” if you were looking for a sample of the band’s sound (Gang Of Four that is, you’re on your own for Raider’s recommendations). As the book’s review points out “Entertainment!’s groundbreaking sound is due to the tight funk rhythms laid down by bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham, and Andy Gill’s scratchy staccato guitar…the gaps are filled with jagged guitar and feedback.” I cutout the part about Jon King’s vocals but rest assured he is a crucial part of the mix. However, the rhythm section’s refusal to take part in their mid-90’s reunion is listed in at least one review I read as a key reason the band’s sound was never the same. The band has undergone a number of line-up changes since their reunion but the lne-ups had been built around Gill and King until recently when King decided to leave the group. I found this copy at aka music for $3.99. It had previously been purchased from Repo Records although I can’t tell for how much but it looks like $8.99. It’s the 1995 EMI reissue which includes 3 bonus tracks which were released originally as singles. I do kind of wish I’d known there were other versions of this one as the 2005 version includes a live cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” and I can never get enough versions of that song.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#461 – Paul Revere & The Raiders – Midnight Ride

“…They’re five happening gentlemen from the northwest of America who’ve captured the hearts of a nation as stars of television’s Where the Action Is. They’re musical minutemen who are breaking records wherever they go as the hottest attraction in America!” – Original album liner notes

be a Raider Rooter!
With a description like that who could resist? Plus there's an ad where for just $2.00 ($2.50 outside of the US) you could've ordered a “Raider Rooter” kit that included your very own tri-corner hat! And I think The Beatles are over-marketed, right? The book’s review claims that “Their lean punk sound has never dated, and is still every bit as gritty as it was 40 years ago.” Really? There is nothing here that sounds very punk to me (the ballads maybe bring to mind The Ramones and perhaps some of Joey Ramone's solo work? I'm thinking of “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”) and the band’s sound instantly dates the music to the 60’s. If you played this album for someone who had never heard it and asked them when it was recorded 100% of them would say the 60's. That sounds pretty dated to me. The book’s review concludes by saying “Pop-punk just does not get any better.” And I just have to disagree because it’s a stretch to call anything here “punk.” The album to me echoes The Monkees much more than The Ramones and pop-punk to me brings to mind Blink 182, Sum 41 and the like. While bands like this clearly inspired pop and punk music for generations to come calling this pop-punk is a stretch to me. The band, much like The Monkees, (who the review says “have more cred” based on The Raiders daily appearances on Dick Clark’s aforementioned show along with their Revolutionary War stage costumes) started by doing covers and this was their first foray into originals. When I found my copy of the CD it was at aka music and I skipped over it as it was accompanied in the rack by several other Raider releases and I wasn’t entirely sure which one I needed. I picked it up on a subsequent trip (surprisingly, or not, no one had bought out the collection) and it cost me $7.99. While I disagree with calling this punk that doesn’t mean I dislike the album entirely. Their cover of 60’s staple “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” isn’t bad and the other cover, the anti-drug anthem “Kicks” is OK as well (and is advertised on the album cover). Their originals aren’t bad but fail to make me think of mohawks, piercings, leather jackets or three chord blasts I associate with punk. I can’t think of any pop-punk outfit that would use an organ as group namesake Paul Revere does either. Album closer “Melody For An Unknown Girl” hearkens back even further to the 50’s as it is a basic dancehall ballad, sans lyrics but with a heartfelt spoken intro to the song’s muse, which isn’t entirely surprising since that’s how and where the band began their career. This CD version is rounded out by a couple of essays, photos of The Raiders in their Revolutionary War wear, and 4 bonus tracks. They include the Italian version of “Little Girl In The 4th Row” since I guess it sounded more sincere. Also included are studio jam “Shake It Up” a surf inspired tune that had me thinking of Dick Dale, Beach Boys rip-off “SS 396,” and generic comparing a car to a girl song “Corvair Baby.”  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#462 – The United States Of America – The United States Of America

only in America, only in the Sixties...
I had seen a copy of this CD at the annual Thanksgiving rock expo a few years ago (it's a CD/record collector show I try to attend annually) and I think it was $10. I wanted to see what else was available at the show and never came back to dealer who had a copy. It took a while to find another copy but I tracked this one down at Positively Records for $7. I bought a reissue of the album which includes another half hour of unreleased material including B-sides, demos, and outtakes which nearly double the album’s length. It’s one of the more unusual listens I’ve had in a while. I didn’t have any expectations going in but I’d read the book’s review, which includes a quote from the album’s liner notes, and it notes that the group’s founder Joseph Byrd was a Communist and got the band signed without ever playing a gig. He had studied under “avant-garde legend John Cage” (the book’s wording not mine) and recruited his ex-girlfriend Dorothy Moskowitz to sing vocals. In case you haven’t guessed that this may be an odd sonic adventure by now the book’s review surmises the group’s history nicely by saying “Only in the Sixties.”  The album opens with “The American Metaphysical Circus” which starts with a blast of calliope music and then piles on top of that repeatedly. That cacophony runs for over a minute before Moskowitz’ icy vocal kicks in and saves the tune. In fact her vocals are easily the album’s saving grace as evidenced by the demo version of “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar.” I much preferred that version to the album version where Byrd takes the lead vocals. It takes a much creepier tone with his vocal. I also would’ve opened the album with a more traditional song, and I use that word loosely, like “Where Is Yesterday” which features a Gregorian chant like beginning before turning into a round. I think it would be a gentler way to ease the listener into the experience. There are some nicer moments like “Cloud Song” and “The Garden Of Earthly Delights” which are not as far out as some of the other sonic experiments on the album like the closing suite of “The American Way Of Love.” Byrd notes that he listened to the original playback on giant speakers and when he brought the advance album back to the band they hated how it sounded on record. Perhaps this would benefit from more volume but I’m not sure I’m up for sitting through the whole album again just to compare and contrast the listening experience. It’s not all bad and it certainly has its moments but this album may be best experienced while under the influence. It’s certainly not something I would be giving frequent listens to but if avant-garde music, sonic experimentation, or just plain weird is what you’re looking for than this should be on your playlist for sure. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Lost Art of Listening to Albums...

tunes for days...
I know I have not written in here in some time. My summer didn't go exactly as planned and I'm finally getting caught up and back to normal. One of the things that happened was, for the first time in 5 or 6 years, getting a new laptop. So if you've been following along for a while please note this is the first entry that wasn't written on my old laptop. You probably won't notice a difference except there will probably be more typos than usual as I get used to the new keyboard layout since it, despite being a larger laptop, has a more compact keyboard layout than my old computer. This new layout lead to me misspelling my own name when I was rushing through the set-up for this new computer (If you know how to fix that clue me in, won't you?). Despite being more of a Columbus-typer (find a key and land on it) my fingers apparently knew my old keyboard pretty well. I did however make sure that the new computer had a CD player so I could continue my journey through the remaining 462 albums from the book. In light of these changes I'm going to try and clean-up some older entries and give the blog another facelift as I'm not in love with the current layout. Also bear with me as I'm trying to determine the quickest and easiest way to transfer all of my old files over to this computer (and hoping the other laptop doesn't die in the process). I also want to clean-up the index and get started on some of the longer pieces I'd been writing that have been sitting in the old computer's hard drive. I was reading another blog the other day and the author mentioned making mixtapes and finding songs that fit and how once upon a time you had to listen to entire albums to find songs that fit a theme, a mood, or just the remaining space on one side of a tape (kids, ask your parents).One of the things it brought to mind was the whole reason I started this blog in the first place, the fact that no one really listens to entire albums anymore. So one of my goals as I go through the rest of the list, is to revive the lost art of listening to an album. Hopefully I'll inspire someone to do the same and dig out an old record or CD they loved and put aside an hour or so to just listen from beginning to end. I know that vinyl has made a comeback and people are buying records again. My hope is that they are actually listening to those records and not just buying them because it's something quaint for hipsters to do. I know I've got several hundred hours of album listening to do before I'm done here. I think the idea I'm going for is best summed up in this quote from the liner noes of Gil Scott-Heron's "I'm New Here":

"There is a proper procedure for taking advantage of any investment.
Music, for example. Buying a CD is an investment.
To get the maximum you must


Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset.
Take it home.
Get rid of all distractions, (even her or him).
Turn off your cell phone.
Turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.
Make yourself comfortable.
Play your CD.
LISTEN all the way through.
Think about what you got.
Think about who would appreciate this investment.
Decide if there is someone to share this with.
Turn it on again.
Enjoy yourself."

I read those notes the first time I opened the CD and knew I needed to put them in this blog. I have not however listened to the album yet. I bought that disc a while back and read that (it's on the back cover of the booklet if you're wondering) and with instructions like that I want to make sure I give it a proper first listen. It is how I feel about this blog so I hope some of that comes across when you're reading. I do listen to a lot of music in the car as I am frequently in mine and it gives me a chunk of time to get through an album fairly uninterrupted. I try to focus as much as possible when doing these reviews on the album at hand but occasionally the mind does wander or I get distracted by something else. Despite having a more free time than most putting aside an hour or two to just listen to music without doing anything else (some of the ways I multitask while listening to music include reading, watching the game with the sound down, or paying bills) really does become hard to do in this day and age. I know I don't plan on not listening/writing for months at a time but it has happened several times over the last few years. I'm hoping to avoid lapses of more than a week or so but my schedule is fairly fluid. I spent most of the summer working full time and then some on a political convention. I thought there'd be more free time but it didn't work out that way. I'm not here to discuss politics but now that I'm back I thought something patriotic would be appropriate for the next review. So coming soon will be a review of the self-titled album of The United States Of America followed by "Midnight Ride" by Paul Revere And The Raiders. Then I hope to get into a Week Of Wonder and give the four Stevie Wonder albums on the list a spin. As always that is subject to change but that's what's on top of the blogpile right now. I might try to squeeze a jazz entry or a Must 'ear in there somewhere too. As always thanks for reading and feel free to comment here or follow on facebook or twitter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#463 – TLC – CrazySexyCool

I know I’ve been slacking on blog updates lately but my work and personal schedules have been packed lately. It has left precious little free time for blogging. The fact that this album was next on the blogpile didn’t help matters much. I wasn’t looking forward to listening to it and have mentioned on more than one occasion that it was halting progress on the blog. I’m not a huge fan of modern (post 70’s – for reference consider that The Who’s boxset is called “Maximum R&B”) R&B to begin with and honestly I was surprised this CD was included in the book. It sold a lot of copies and won a Grammy but to me it wasn’t something I needed to hear before I died. You can probably find a copy for $5 in the budget section of Target. I almost bought mine there but figured with over 11 million copies sold I could find one cheaper and I did at Princeton Record Exchange for $1.99 a few months ago. I took a blopping trip there Sunday as I figured it would put me in the mood to fire up the CD player later. When I returned I’d bought myself a few albums but the only disc I bought for the blog was a mistakenly purchased second copy of Echo & TheBunneymen’s “Porcupine.” A few weeks ago, while trying to work, my computer decided it was time I had Windows 10 and automatically downloaded it. I wasn’t a huge fan as I don’t find the layout particularly friendly or the fact that they renamed programs apps which seemed unnecessary. However I didn’t have much choice since I couldn’t stop the download once it started. So not only did it cost me almost half a day of work I’ve found a bunch of things that don’t work since the update. First it was the scroll bar on my touchpad. I tried a few different fixes to no avail. It also changed where a bunch of my files were and I now have a completely useless intro screen, although admittedly some of the photos are nice. It just so happened that the update occurred shortly after my last entry in May. I knew I had another entry written up and figured I would post it yesterday. I also figured since I had some time I’d update the index and clean-up some other stuff. So I opened the laptop and went to click on the folder where I keep my entries and         IT           WAS      GONE.  No trace and a search found nothing. It was then I realized the pictures folder I use for this blog was gone too. I searched for both and found nothing. I had a minor panic attack. I tried a few different search methods and could not find anything. All of my files from this blog, five plus years of entries and pictures, were no were to be found.

oh, there you are...
I tried the search again in vain and looked up some possible solutions online. After I calmed down a little I resigned myself to the fact the files might be gone. Then I remembered that fearing a crash I had backed up my files on a separate hard drive a while ago (no, I don’t trust the cloud, sorry) so I figured worst case scenario I’d only lost a few months worth of stuff. So I dusted it off (literally) and plugged it in and had the files up to September of 2015 in there. And then somewhere online I found another search option and found that Windows may have hidden them somewhere in my C drive. The fact that Windows hid them there would be fine if it was easier to search the whole C drive or the search feature was easier to navigate. So with a little doing I found the files although I wonder now what else is missing that I haven’t needed yet. I got the last entry posted and a while later decided to finally give this one a spin. And found that my Windows Media Player doesn’t play CDs anymore (or at least doesn’t think there’s a music disc in the drive, and I thought I was being tough on this album). So I had to put it on the home stereo, and yes I still have one of those. I took out my copy of At The Gates’ “Slaughter Of The Soul” and put in TLC's “CrazySexyCool” (I’m sure that sentence has never been written before). Listening to this album may not have been the soul-crushing endeavor I’d feared but it isn’t something I’m ever going to listen to again. You have the hit “Waterfalls,” a cover of Prince’s “If I was Your Girlfriend,” (which the book liked a lot more than I did), and “Switch” which I only note for its sample of “Mr. Big Stuff.” There are no less than five interludes which bring the running time of the album to just under an hour (I don’t know why they named one “Sexy – Interlude” when I think “Sexy Interlude” would’ve been funnier, even if the track itself is not). It’s an hour of my life I won’t be getting back but now I can move on to other albums. Here’s hoping my laptop decides it will play them.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

#464 – Soft Machine – Third

Machines and I haven't been getting along lately...
Have you ever been at a show and the band started jamming on a riff and you thought you recognized it? For a second your brain tries to figure out if they’re going to go into a cover or just play a snippet of one of their other songs and before it can figure out which it’s gone. It’s like having a word on the tip of your tongue. I experienced it for a moment last month while watching Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. They played “Faded” and went into a jam that turned into a call and answer between the guitar and bass and it seemed like they were going to go into another song or a cover (sounded like a Zeppelin tune to me) before just going back into the jam and then the song itself. Well, that all went through my head while listening to “Facelift” the opening track of Soft Machine’s most popular album, “Third.” The song says it was recorded live while the limited liner notes list two different dates of recording so one presumes it’s spliced together from those performances. At times it’s proggy, others jazzy, and still others it sounds like a film score. At times it threatens to go in one direction and then it veers widely off course. Sometimes it sounds like it’s going full on heavy metal and then it goes back to a quiet passage. It’s quite schizophrenic but not completely unpleasant introduction to the band’s music. The book says it’s “the most challenging, intriguing, and amusing” of the tracks on the album. “Slightly All The Time” opens with a more straight ahead jazz feeling which reminded me of Weather Report. The book says that the group wanted to take a jazzier approach while drummer Robert Wyatt didn’t feel the need to get jazzy but did feel the urge to keep singing, apparently much to the group’s chagrin. “Moon In June” is, according to the book, “the last real Wyatt piece for Soft Machine, and it is quite possibly the group’s masterpiece, as much as the members other than Wyatt did not really like it.” I’ve got to side with the other members of the group as I could live without anymore of Wyatt’s singing (having heard plenty of it on “Rock Bottom” and “Shleep”). I wrote that and realized I was only halfway through the 19 minutes of the song, there was a brief respite from his vocals but he returns at a higher pitch a couple of minutes later and as a bonus it’s mostly free-form scatting. I must admit I prefer the instrumental version of the band although probably not enough to track down a release sans Wyatt. All of the songs here stretch over 18 minutes in length so I imagine it’s a challenge for many listeners to get through this one. Despite it being their best selling album tracking a copy down proved to be quite a challenge. I paid $6.99 for this one at Long In The Tooth Records. It was one of those trips that yielded several titles I’d been unable to find elsewhere. Funny how it happens that my first trip to a new store yields albums I’d been unable to find while subsequent trips tend not to yield as many new things. Then again I’ll be downtown more this summer so maybe another trip is in order.