Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Top 3 albums of 2014 (one bored music nerd's opinion)

Full disclosure, I am mostly a classic rock, classic alternative rock fan. I really don't hear a lot of new bands or new music that hits me. Sure ,once in a while I'll here a cool song from a current band. It's just rare I check out the whole album...

I really had a hard time thinking of 5 great albums of "NEW" music that came out this year! Songs popped up in movies or on Sirius I would like and find they are a few years old...There are always cool reissues, but I am not counting them...

 One of the big hypes, this year, of course, was the new U2 album released for free by Itunes/Apple. I've listened a few times and would give it 3 out of 5 stars. 
My main problem with it is they used a couple of current trendy producers to , I guess, sound current! but to me what it'd done is generisize (is that a word?) the music. It sounds like maybe what a Bono solo album would sound like(?) Producers like Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite have been an integral part of U2's classic sound and their success. Their touch is missing here...


Elsewhere in former Superstar world, Prince released not one but two albums! I confess I have not had the patience to wade through them...
 His Saturday Night Live performance was energetic but the songs were unfamiliar and somewhat unremarkable...

Pink Floyd released the much-hyped "Endless River" only containing 1 mediocre song with vocals.  I confess I am a "Gilmour" guy in the battle of Gilmour/Waters. He always had stronger melodic instincts than Waters who is a limited musician but a fine lyricist. 
I've heard bits and pieces of the rest of the album, but I think I have to be in the right mood to digest this mostly instrumental album...

John Mellencamp used to be a favorite in the 80's. His sound has basically evolved into "Americana", folk and blues. Having said that, if you can accept that change, his "Plain Spoken" is a decent release. The lyrics especially show a maturity and braveness in confronting the aging process.


I did like "Milwaukee" by The Both (Aimee Mann and ted Leo). I confess I haven't listened to the whole album... 

Bryan Adams put out a fine album of covers of some of his favorite old songs as well as putting out a 30 annv. deluxe issue of "Reckless", but I wouldn't count those as "new" music..


AC/DC returned, against the odds, to release "Rock or Bust". I haven't listened to the whole album , but what I have heard, I already like more than their 2008 over-hyped "Black Ice" release.

Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham returned from the ashes of the excellent hard rock band Black Country Communion to form California Breed. I must admit, I was disappointed with the release. I'm a "melody" "hook" guy and there is a dearth of them here. The music is mostly riffed based; more aggressive than BCC but lacks the catchiness of those BCC songs. Bonham has already left the project apparently over the lack of potential income...

Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers released an album of covers of classic Stax/Volt songs. Recorded with some of the original musicians from the originals. It is a good album, but not one I listen to repeatedly.

 Robert Plant released a new album as well and his "Rainbow" single ishis catchiest since "29 Palms" in 1993. I havent fully investigated the full album so I can't include it here.


This brings me back to my original premise. 5 great new albums! but I can only really name 3!

Chrissie Hynde returned with the excellent "Stockholm". While her first actually "solo" album, she has stated this was one of the more collaborative experiences she's had.
 Chrissie is a rare artists that still writes songs as good or even better than when she started! 
The last "Pretenders" album was released in 2009 and was a mixed batch of ballads, aggressive rockers and even a little country sounding material. Martin Chambers didn't play on it but Nick Wilkenson and James Walbourne did. They are now in her current band. (Confused? I guess no "Martin Chambers"= no "Pretenders"?)

I think the roots of her current style were laid in her excellent collaboration with singer JP Jones and their "JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys" release. 
If you missed it, go back and check it out. Lots of great, catchy tunes. I was lucky enough to see the tour and they were great. 
Collaboration seems to suit Chrissie these days. The proof is in the songs. Guests on the "Stockholm" include Neil Young and John McEnroe (!). I caught her current tour and she was great (when she wasn't yelling at people ,who paid $80 to see her, for taking pictures).






Billy Idol is not a name you would think of sounding "vital" in 2014, but his latest "Kings and Queens of the Underground" is one his strongest albums and maybe his best overall since "Rebel Yell". Combing some of his original aggressiveness with a more reflective, introspective sound. Some of the lyric subject matter was brought on by the writing his autobiography. 
Legendary producer Trevor Horn does an excellent job with combing all of the sonic elements. Horn also plays bass on the album and brought in his old Buggles/YES bandmate Geoff Downes to contribute some fine, subtle keyboard work. Steve Stevens is still a great guitarist. Here, he shows some restraint to mix in with all of the other elements of the music.


I couldn't remember if Circa Zero's "Circus Hero" came out this year or last. They had done some early press in 2013 but the album came out the Spring of 2014. 
They then did a few promo appearances and disappeared! The group, Andy Summers of the Police and Rob Giles from the Rescues, combined to write and perform an excellent album that mixed elements of the Police with, say, some more modern elements of groups like the Foo Fighters. STING has not put out a solo album this consistent!
The guys even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel
In interviews, they sounded ambitious and committed to the group; even speaking of doing a second album! 
I was hoping for a tour, but they talked about finding the "right opportunity" and not wanting to play "clubs".  (uh-oh)
I would assume this would mostly be Summers reservations. (His last tour was the Police reunion tour, one of the biggest of all-time.)
They really should have reconsidered and played this past summer at some of the popular clubs in the US (here in this area, the 9:30 club would have been good). I think they were hoping to get an opening slot with a current big band on a tour of arenas or outdoor sheds. Obviously, this didn't happen. 
They stopped tweeting and updating their website.. (not a good sign).. I thought they had a lot of potential... Maybe they will surprise and continue on...



Those are the 3 essential albums from this year, to me.

some "Honorable Mentions" would include:

 Spandau Ballet, have returned with a documentary and a career spanning compilation that included 3 new songs produced by Trevor Horn (him again!). 
"This is the Love" is in the fine tradition of "Gold" and "Soul Boy" reminds me of a good ABC-type track (think "By Default By Design" meets "The Night you Murdered Love").

Also, Bryan Ferry released, to me, his best solo album in a long time. I hear elements of classic, late period Roxy and also his "Bete Noire" era. I would recommend, and if this were a "Top 4" list I would include him...

Hopefully 2015 will bring us some more good stuff

Cheers and Happy New Year.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Seconds and minutes...5 songs: Human League, U2, The Outfield, John Mellencamp, Don Henley

Heard this one on Sirius today. The Human League had a few really good deeper cuts (also check out "louise" and "life on Your Own").
 Phil Oakley has a great voice and I think really sings with honesty and conviction.

Human League "Seconds"


        Pretty much every song on "War" is a winner. 
      The Edge shares lead vocals with Bono on this one.
                                                   U2 "Seconds"(live)



  Yes, we still constantly hear the ubiquitous "Your Love", but these guys had some other decent songs....
Producer/Engineer William Wittman had a recognizable sound.
He also worked with The Fixx,  Patty Smyth and Scandal, The Hooters and more.

                                          The Outfield "61 Seconds"

 I admit, as a person that was a big John Cougar Mellencamp fan in the 80's, I've been disappointed as he has been moving away from Rock into Folk and Americana styles of writing and performing, but I've realized he's older and it's his choice... He's probably not going back to the "Crash boom bam" anytime soon. 
Upon acceptance, his new album has some very thoughtful lyrics and gentle tunes running thru it. 
He often performs older hits in this style(with mixed results). Here's a 2014 performance of  an old fan favorite/album cut from the "Scarecrow" days. The song does lend itself to the folky arrangement

                              John Mellencamp Live 2014
                     "Minutes To Memories"


In this song, the protagonist has loved and lost; won and been defeated..but ,the song has hope.... Just as things can go bad in a "new york minute", things can turn around for you just as fast. You have to hang in and be open to new opportunity....

                           Don Henley "New York Minute"
                 (live 1994 with the Eagles)

The Eagles - New York Minute by 0Ztaylovic0

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Orignal Vs. Cover(s) "Rosalie" Bob Seger vs Thin Lizzy, Andy Taylor

"Rosalie" is an obscure old Bob Seger song from his "Back in '72 album. I say 'album" because, strangely it has NEVER been released on even though it contains the studio version of his beloved "Turn the Page"


Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy covered the tune on their 1975 release "Fighting". The Lizzy boys add some distortion and speed the song up a little.


Ex- Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, always a rocker at heart, covered the tune live and even thru in Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" for good measure. Taylor has always professed his love for Lizzy and is essentially covering their version.

Phil Lynott's raspy voice  really captures the energy needed to sell the song, so I think you've got to give the "win" to Thin Lizzy for dusting the song off and making it a great rockin track.

"Do these songs sound alike?" Aerosmith "Jaded", John Hiatt "My Baby Blue"

 There has always been litigious activity when it comes to songwriting. There are only so many chords and notes..

I tend to notice when songs have the same chords or melodies, etc.

So these songs are in different keys but the chord progressions are the same to my ears. Not complete throughout, but there are enough similarities. The "Jaded" chorus goes from A-F#m-C#m-D
"My Baby Blue" goes from F-Dm-Am-C
 When transposed to the other key, the progressions are the same. Those who know theory could explain better (Major to relative Minor to ?, etc..)

The Aerosmith song came out first. Hiatt's song came out in 2003. I think it is entirely possible John Hiatt heard this song and unconscionably "borrowed" from it.

Even taking the "my baby blue" from the chorus of "Jaded"! He seems to take the chord progression from the chorus as well and use it for the verses and choruses of his song.

You be the judge:

                                  Aerosmith "Jaded"

                                            John Hiatt "My Baby Blue"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Are the EELS Steve Perry's oddest collaboration?

So Steve Perry has emerged from laying low to perform live for the first time in 19 years.
It seems strange that he has befriended a not so well known alt-rock band to do it.

They are certainly not in the same genre as Journey/Perry (arena rock/AOR)

But this is not Steve's first odd pairing...

He guested on novelty rock act "Barnes and Barnes" album. (remember their Mtv hit "Fish heads")

Steve sings some backing/harmony vocals on 

                      "Don't you Want to go to the Moon"

In another odd pairing, Steve also sang some vocals with Clannad.

                                      "white Fool"

More in line with the Journey sound was Steve's Duet with Kenny Loggins back in 1981. Probably the most rockin thing Kenny Loggins has every recorded.  No "yacht Rock" here.
Produced by Neal Geraldo from Pat Benatar's band, this was one was kind of a precursor to Journey's "Escape" (melodic rock sound with edgy guitars) Neil really rips on guitar as well.

                                                "Don't Fight It"


Steve with the "We are the World" folks.


               various takes    "We are the World"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rock n Roll Tonite- TV show 1983

So does anyone remember watching a late night concert show called "Rock n Roll Tonite" that started in early '83?