April 4, 2014
April 11, 2014
Without the Sin
April 18, 2014
Will to Win
First Step’s a Start
April 25, 2014
Angel at the Door
These are some relatively new discoveries that are all very highly recommended.
Tom Waits - Bad as Me
Dead Can Dance - Aion / The Serpent's Egg
Patty Griffin - Flaming Red
The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues
Moving Hearts - Live in Dublin
Flogging Molly - Swagger
David Bowie - Low / Station to Station
Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
Younger Brother - Vaccine
Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
Skeletonwitch - Breathing the Fire
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
Joanna Newsome - Y's
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
Cloud Cult - Light Chasers
Massive Attack - Blue Lines / 100th Window
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes
Opeth - Blackwater
Porcupine Tree - The Incident
Low - I could live in Hope
Metric - Fantasies
Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself
Heaven or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins
Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild
Peter Murphy - Deep
Traditional Irish Music:
Pecker Dunne - (Wexford / Sullivan's John)
Christy Moore - (Ride On / Welcome to the Cabaret)
The Wolfe Tones - (Joe McDonnell)
Songs I love but have not purchased the entire record yet:
Regina Spektor - (All the Rowboats)
Boy and Bear - (Lordy May)
Afro Celt Sound System - (Release)
Rodrigo Y Gabriela - (Santo Domingo)
Down Like Silver - (Wolves)
Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Tom Waits Glitter and Doom Tour
6.26.08 Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO.
Alas friends, comrades and fellow musicians â€“ I can finally check off one item on that long list of things to do before I die: Last Thursday night â€“ my longtime friend, co-worker and music aficionado, â€˜Titoâ€™ and I witnessed Tom Waits in concert at the beautiful Fox Theatre in St. Louis.Â It was everything we could have hoped for despite the flood waters thatthreatened our journey as highway closings were narrowly avoided towards the Iowa / Missouri border. Thankfully Mother Nature let us pass without so much as raindrop â€“ or what could have amounted to an incredibly longdetour.Â (Though the black murkiness of the mighty Mississippi loomed ever so near the road the entire distance of the trip â€“ and partially submergedfarm buildings made the landscape a grim site to behold.)
But back to Mr. Waits â€“ who made us wait patiently (well almost patiently) in our seats until 9 pm before taking the stage. This – a minor inconvenience â€“ as the Fox Theatre is lavishly decorated in an Indian motif that rendered the atmosphere breathtaking. With all the velvet carpet and marble pillars â€“the winking ruby-eyed lions sculpted out of bronze and intricately cut stone ornaments carved right up to the sky-lit ceilings, one was never at a loss forpassing the time in quiet observation. We soaked it all in and conversed with the friendly folks around us as well. (Side note: Waits attracts a crowd unlike any gathering I have been a part of before â€“ there were oddball representatives from every niche of society. This is a topic unto itself.)
Tom took to the stage under eerie lighting one part moonlit night, one part junkyard spotlight and two parts jukebox barroom glow. It was as surreal asBlue Ruin tobacco and Crows-Wing leather playing cards. The Fox Theatre is not a smoky roadside grease-barn on the outskirts of L.A., but Mr. Waits took great pains to make it seem as if he had just stumbled in off the desert highwaycaked with dust and in need of a whiskey sour. He quenched redemption in the form of a boot-black microphone all the while stomping on a contraptionthroughout the show geared up to set off the mechanical clang of a school-bell â€“ one ring per stomp. For the next two-plus hours â€“ we were treated to theglitter and doom that is Tom Waits.
As you can expect â€“ his band was a crew of sublime musicians you probably never even knew existed. Omar Torrez dazzled with beautiful flamenco-styled guitar intros built into traditional Waits material. Vincent Henry had an arsenal of so many woodwind instruments surrounding him one never knewwhich he would summon at a given time â€“ except that any of the numerous unidentifiable sounds being laced throughout the music was more than likely coming from that side of the stage. The stand-up bass and drums chugged along like a belching steam locomotive through mountainous terrain. (I alsonoted that the drummer put away his brushes for much of the set list â€“ a little unusual â€“ but effective in delivering a crack to the usually bristlingswagger and swing of the material.) The band assembled rehearsal-style â€“ in a circle â€“ Mr. Waits revolving like a drunken marionette center-stage â€“ ringmaster of a deranged carnivale`.
There was no shortage of enthusiasm â€“ both onstage and in the crowd â€“ but seldom have I witnessed such polite and keen listening as at this show. The audience almost never stood â€“ but held unwavering vigil in their seats stage-side as though deep in the grips of a fever dream. Waits barked out tune after tune â€“ often using his voice as the singular percussive instrument that it doubles as. It was well into the set before the stories came â€“ but you knew they would â€“ and as Tom frolicked about at the piano he treated us to somebiting anecdotes like the cantankerous old man at the bar who wants to show you his own twist on the quarter and shot-glass trick â€“ for a dollar.
I generally never make a concentrated effort to remember the set-list â€“ but I decided this time to give it a try. What songs I didnâ€™t recognize â€“ I named with an appropriate lyrical reference to look up later. (â€˜Lucindaâ€™I had titled as â€˜William the Pleaserâ€™ right off the bat as I couldnâ€™t recall the first song.) I later compared my mental notes to someone who postedthe nightâ€™s set-list online-and I fared pretty well.
Some notable standout songs: Falling Down (Tom taking this one back from Scarlet Johanssen and Bowie who covered it recently â€“ and a very good rendition they did too, I might add.) Get Behind the Mule â€“ which was unrecognizable for the longest time â€“ nearly a jam of guitar and banjo.Cemetery Polka â€“ The song that instantly made a Tom Waits fan out of me from the very beginning. I hadnâ€™t counted on him to pull this one out of his eight-ball bowler. Lost in the Harbor â€“ because of the complex butbeautiful passages of this song I wouldnâ€™t have thought it could be pulled off live â€“ but what the hell do I know? It was delicious. Whatâ€™s He Building? As creepy and disturbing as the studio version â€“ possibly more soâ€“ because we were witnessing the weirdness. The encore featured Anywhere I lay my Head- as intimate a version as if we were all in Nitengaleâ€™s (2ndave â€“ NYC).Â Waits invited the crowd to sing along on the closer Innocent when you Dream and that alone was worth the price of admission. (A sing-along to Tom Waits??? Yes â€“ it happened, I kid you not.)
When the lights went up â€“ Tito and I knew we had witnessed quite a spectacle. Glitter and doom indeed.
***Footnote: Though some fans did not appreciate it â€“ I welcomed the anti-scalping approach to selling tickets for the show. 2 tickets max per person â€“and for will-call pickup, ID and the credit card used to purchase the tickets had to be presented at the box office. This approach served the dual purpose offoiling the money-grubbing scalpers and allowing fans to secure seats thatcouldnâ€™t camp out at the box office or sit online to wait for tickets to go on sale the day of the show. I had all but resigned myself to the fact that the show would sell out in seconds â€“ when in fact over a week later there were still some left for the taking. Cheers to that!
A big thank you to Tito for supplying the vehicle, taking care of the gas and ensuring we had plenty to eat and drink before the show â€“ (the sneaky bear even picked up the tab for that). All I had to do was drive and show up. The eight hours of our road-trip conversation ended far too soon and bookmarked the 24 total hour trip duration â€“ almost to the minute.
And of course thanks also to my lovely wife for securing the tix and a nearby hotel. Sheâ€™s the bomb when it comes to that stuff.
Big smiles all around! â€“ joe
Tom Waits â€“ Glitter and Doom Tour â€“ 6.26.08 Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO.
2.Way Down In The Hole
3. Falling Down
4.Black Market Baby
5. All The World Is Green
6. Hi Ho
7.Get Behind The Mule
8. Day After Tomorrow
9. Cemetery Polka
10. Hang Down Your Head
11. A Little Rain
14.Lost In The Harbour
15. Make It Rain
16. Lie To Me
17.On The Other Side Of The World
19.Dirt In The Ground
20.Whatâ€™s He Building?
21. 16 Shells
22. Rain Dogs/Band introduction
1.Goin Out West
2.Anywhere I Lay My Head
3. Innocent When You Dream
Monday, November 12th, 2007
Wilco – Iowa Memorial Union; October 14th 2007.
Wilco is one of those bands Iâ€™ve been on the fence about for years. It seems to me that they can be astonishingly great or surprisingly dull. Years ago – a musician friend of mine loaned me a copy of their double disc: Being There. He swore it was brilliance – musical genius – nearly the best thing ever recorded. Had he not so highly recommended it, I wouldnâ€™t have listened to it in its entirety over 50 times trying to figure out what he thought was so great about it. To me – it was forgettable mediocrity from the first listen to the last.
So, when Wilco followed up a few years later with critically acclaimed Summerteeth CD, I disregarded it as well as my musician friend who was formerly so hell-bent to impress on me the glorious musical heights Wilco had climbed to. I wanted none of it. I had given them a shot already – I was resolved that they simply were not for me. Wilco and I were oil and water.
Not long after relating this story – a co-worker of mine handed me a copy of A.M. He assured me that it would win me over by virtue of itâ€™s â€˜twangâ€™ appeal. I gave it a listen right then and there and found he was right. It was no Copperhead Road – but the songs resonate a road-worn vibrancy and before long I was tapping along with the likes of Casino Queen and Passenger Side.
With the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco would officially stand up and be counted. With the buzz surrounding this record, you’d have to have lived in a cave to brush off the magnitude of its impact. Hell, even if you hate Wilco – you have to admire any band that goes toe to toe with their record company over creative license. (And gets shit-canned by them, no less.) Ah, will record company execs ever truly understand music, musicians and marketing? Could they really not have foreseen that dumping Wilco and refusing to release YHF would only result in a mass exodus of music fans clamoring to hear it? And smartly, Wilco went right along with it – making it available online before being snapped up by another label only too happy to release it.Â (Radiohead was most certainly taking notes.) The bittersweet irony of this story is the label that pounced on YHF was actually a spin off of the label that dumped them in the first place. So in effect – the label paid twice for the same product.
Media blitz aside – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot exemplifies true brilliance indeed; testing the bounds of production experimentation while maintaining the integrity of its well written and arranged songs. The songs are truly stars – and no matter the bells and whistles, rhythm shifts, loops and the constant dropping in and out of various instrumentation – the material shines throughout it all – an unequivocal testament to their greatness.
Wilcoâ€™s following release â€“ A Ghost is Born, is also very good â€“ particularly considering how it came on the heels of YHF. (How do you top that?) For all intents and purposes â€“YHF is Wilcoâ€™s Sergeant Pepper. The band buzzed through town during this tour â€“ and sadly I missed them. I suspect what kept me away was the fear that my now upbeat admiration for the band would be spoiled by a less than stellar live performance of those same YHF songs which had held up so gracefully under the jagged blade of its out- on-a-limb production.Â
So despite these two very wealthy contributions to my music collection â€“ I wasnâ€™t completely convinced that Wilco and I had put our oil and water days behind us. After all â€“ there was still the memory of that confounded double disc. And for that matter â€“ I was never all that taken with the Wilco-tempered renditions of Woody Guthrieâ€™s lost songs on Mermaid Avenue. (Billy Bragg, however â€“ did not disappoint â€“ but then, does he ever?)
The mixed reviews of Sky Blue Sky were enough of a deterrent for me to steer clear. (Pitchfork tagged it as â€˜dad rockâ€™- yikes!) Notwithstanding, when they rolled through town this time, my wife picked us up some tickets.
The IMU is a great venue â€“ small enough to be intimate, big enough to provide charm for the heavy hitters to come in and thoroughly rock the joint. To our great satisfaction, Wilco did just that. They hit the stage and racked up song after song (Iâ€™m assuming from the new record) for the first half-hour, then settled in and played nearly everything off of YHF and A Ghost is Born. The rave in this review is that they preserved to a T the integrity of the intricately produced material off of YHF. All the ringing alarm clocks, sfx, percussive drop ins and outs and radio static etc were rendered sonically beautiful and in their respective positions. I expected Wilco to be good â€“ but admittedly, I didnâ€™t expect them to be as good as they proved to be. Not to mention â€“ they rocked a lot harder than I thought they would. The often quiet, under-emphasized gems off of A Ghost is Born were driven home soundly like spikes into rails.Â (Rich attributes their newfound punch to the addition of Nels Cline-and I have to concur.)
Whether or not Wilco can or will deliver on their records is a moot point â€“ one, which will continue to be debated. But on this night in Iowa City â€“ the band unquestionably served up piping hot rock and roll…and we feasted.
Friday, October 19th, 2007
Time for a new post. How about a brief synopsis of a few concerts attended lately?
Part One: 09.08.07 – Rush – Tinely Park, IL
Say what you will about these aging art rockers â€“ Rushâ€™s live show certainly doesn’t show any signs of weariness after 30 + odd years together. I first saw these cats way back on the ‘Hemispheres’ tour in 1978. (Notably, it was the first concert I ever attended.) In light of that, my sweet and lovely wife thought it would be nice to treat me to a 2007 version of the band and so purchased some very expensive front-row tickets for a show in a small amphitheater just outside of Chicago. (Named after some bank Iâ€™m sure).
In anticipation of the event, I went out and bought a copy of their latest album (can I still use that term these days?) â€˜Snakes and Arrows.â€™Â As much as I consider myself a fan, I have not purchased anything by the band since 1984, that being â€˜Grace Under Pressureâ€™. Admittedly, I could not stomach much of the material after that â€“ as they seemed to be going in a musical direction more synth-based than the sonic overtures I had become accustomed to in their earlier days. (I challenge even the staunchest Rush fan to tell me they actually like â€˜ The Big Money.â€™)Â All that aside I was more than willing to listen with fresh ears. (A front row seat will do that for you.)
I was happy to find â€˜Snakes and Arrowsâ€™ a return to form. Iâ€™ll give you a quick CD review â€“ if you like Rush even just a little, youâ€™ll love the new disc. If you never really got into Rush â€“ thereâ€™s nothing new here that will make a fan out of you. Love or hate them, the lyrics are stylistically recognizable Neil Peart musings â€“though with touches of politically charged sentiments reflecting the dark state of the world that ring fresh. And as always â€“ Geddy, Alex and Neil simply put on a clinic of unrivaled musicianship, scorching their way through the tracks as though they have something to prove. (They certainly donâ€™t â€“ but it sure is nice that they care enough about what theyâ€™re doing to release quality material.) Hereâ€™s a newsflash: Rush are as comfortable with orchestra-like arrangements, wickedly perverse time signatures and key changes as emo bands are with eyeliner. Nothing has changed over the years in that respect.
The live performance this night in Tinley Park was exemplary. No opening band â€“ just two full sets of Rush dedicated to showcase the new songs and brush the dust off of the old songs â€“ a pleasing combination of stage show effects painstakingly choreographed to follow the set-list down to the most precise details. Whoever put it together knew they wouldnâ€™t have to worry about the band failing to hit their marks. With the addition of HD technology on three huge screens it really didnâ€™t matter what seat you were in â€“ the band members were figuratively and literally in the faces of the crowd.
I found myself elatedly cheering the ever-understated genius of Alex Lifeson â€“ alternately soaring through breakers of riffage and seat-planting power-chords to the soft spattered notes of rain-drop acoustic guitar. He can and does spin out these changes of sound on the turn of a dime â€“ hail him.
It was often difficult to know whom to pay attentionâ€“ Geddy â€“ effortlessly pulling on the strings of his bass as though they were nothing more than big rubber bands, delivering enough thick black booms to level the place; or Neil Peart who is â€“ simply put: Neil Peart. I realized mid-way through the event what a tremendous impression this band made on me way back when…I mean my freakingÂ PIN number is still 2112! (Oops – did I just knowingly reveal that?)
Needless to say it was a great night. Ah yes, the front row seats were great â€“ but I donâ€™t think anyone left there without feeling like they got more than their moneyâ€™s worth. Color me rocked out!
There may be those who turn up their nose to the apparent loftiness of Rush (and that in itself is pure irony). But these cats impressed me as plain old down-to-earth rockers who are just damn good at what they do.Â
Saturday, May 12th, 2007
hgl played their last show on new years day 1988- concluding their set with a version of the rites of spring song â€˜drink deepâ€™- â€œdrink deep/its just a taste/and it might not come this way againâ€.
no one expected the band would last. rites of spring only played 14 shows before breaking up so hgl couldnâ€™t be expected to do more.
there are no proper studio recordings â€“ i try to imagine what could have happened if they had managed to record. and i come up blank. but, shortly after the band ended, guy released a 6 song ep on his peterbilt label (actually distributed by amanda mackayeâ€™s label at the time.. name escapes me..) the record was all live recordings. the sleeve was a manila envelope with a picture glued on the envelope. not all the people in the photo were in the band. the insert was merely a business card with the song titles and a list of names (those in the band and others) not quite written in a way that made immediate sense.
outside of washington, dc we heard rumors of this bands existence but we werenâ€™t prepared for the sheer perversity of it all. i recall at the time maximum rocknroll compared them to flipper which i do not think was accurate at all. â€“you have to understand where iâ€™m coming from here, and in these days of the internet where everything is available at the click of a mouse it may be hard to comprehend. (there are no rumors anymore. myth is dying.) i never saw RoS play (til live videos showed up on youtube) but heard rumors that both the band members and the audience would be moved to tears by the power of the music and at the end of the set the stage would be littered in flowers and broken guitars. and when the RoS lp came out, it seemed to support this. the woodcut artwork, the deeply passionate, emotional songs â€“â€˜deeper than insideâ€™, â€˜hains pointâ€™, â€˜end on endâ€™, â€˜persistent visionâ€™ and â€˜theme (if i started crying)â€™ where guy sang â€œand if i started crying/would you start crying?â€. so this is where i stood. iâ€™d heard from those in the know that one last wish was a similar affair only more pop (it was til the early 90s that i managed to score a copy of it from guy picciotto). so when i put the needle on this strange looking hgl record â€“ looking more like a piece of art then an ep â€“ i was pretty stunned.
Thursday, May 10th, 2007 i think any written piece on the relatively obscure washington, dc band Â happy go licky must be written in fragments cause that is how their music sounded. art damaged pieces of something thrown and pasted together. wooley bulley.
there was an article/interview with them posted at the washington city paper website (i believe) but my google search has come to naught. i have a printed copy of it at home but i canâ€™t seem to find where i put it. when i do iâ€™ll re-transcribe it along with a couple brief email exchanges w guy picciotto and mike fellows.
a backwards history would go something like… guy (gtr/vocals), mike (bass/vocals), eddie janney (bass/vocals) and brenden canty (drums) were in rites of spring together in 1985-86. the revolution summer era. they broke up after 1 great lp and a really good (though poppier) posthumous ep. after RoS, guy, eddie and brendan joined up with mike hampton (ex-embrace) and played shows and recorded a demo under the name one last wish. OLW was poppy, seemed to be following the direction charted on the RoS ep. OLW didnâ€™t last very long. they broke up, and guy, eddie and brendan went back to the basement to start practicing again. soon they were rejoined by mike.
read something the other day that compared hgl to â€˜document and eyewitnessâ€™ era wire. as iâ€™ve never bought that album iâ€™m not sure what to say.
during this 8 month or so period in time the band fugazi was forming. brendan was sitting in on drums for them until they could find a permanent drummer. once hgl ended his seat became permanent and guy joined the fold as well.Â mike started little baby with 3 ex-soulside (and future girls against boys members) and eddie i believe went to art school.
Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
In other news, it appears that R. Kelly was so moved by the Virginia Tech tragedy, he wrote a song and is dedicating 100% of the profits to the Hokie Spirit Memorial fund. While I initially found this commendable, I was then treated to a sneak peak at some of the lyrics in his tribute song: “Rise Up.”
“Rise up, when you feel you can’t go on, rise up, and all of your hope is gone, rise up, when you’re weak and you can’t be strong.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the next verse, in which he will undoubtedly rhyme “fire” with “desire.”
The victims and their families deserve better than this trite, cliche’ ridden publicity stunt.
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007
i remember the first time i went to cbgb’s. suicidal tendencies headlined. i can’t remember the other bands. but walking in it was really packed. it was dark and smoky and scary and as i looked to my leftÂ and saw joey ramone and jim jarmusch sitting at a table. up to the front there were no tables, just that dance floor and lots of mohawks andÂ i think a slam dance pit had already formed. i was scared but i kept walking as the music was hitting my straight on. i got to the where the slam circle was and I saw the people at the front not slamming were picking the slammers up as the fell down. I looked around at all the “scary” punks and realized they weren’t so scary after all. they were all like me and were just there to hear the music and commune with their fellow punks. i suddenly felt part of something.
Friday, December 29th, 2006 This one is fitting.. Back to Ian MacKaye for some more words of wisdom from Revolution Summer era (1985) Washington, DC…
Â End of a Year by Embrace
I don’t like parties
They avoid the truth
In search of a good time
We smile avoid
Put it off, maybe
It will go awayCome together, divide by ages
We’re always talking thought
But nothing changes
It’s the end of a year…
There’s another one coming
There will be no victory
No progress made
If we do not stand apart
From the enemy
Oh weak foundations
That we’ve laid
Melt with the years
You are nothing
We don’t move forward
We distance ourselves from
We justify it with cheap cliches
We’re just scared of dying
Words are not enough
Time, I absolve myself of your vow to vanquish me.