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Showing posts from January, 2014

Remember The Ramones - The Fleshtones

from the forthcoming album Wheel Of Talent (2014)

At this year's Grammy Awards, there was great hubbub over 2014 marking the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  For good reason.  Nobody was better.

However, 2014 also marks another important anniversary: the formation of The Ramones in a Forrest Hills, NYC garage.  Long before The Clash or The Sex Pistols, there was a tiny room with Dee Dee yelling 1-2-3-4.  It blows my mind that this happened 40 years ago.  It equally blows my mind that this happened only ten years after Beatlemania.

When thinking how revolutionary they were, just consider that The Billboard Top 10 Songs of 1974 were:

1.  The Way We Were by Barbara Streisand
2.  Seasons In the Sun by Terry Jacks
3.  Love's Theme by Love Unlimited Orchestra
4.  Come And Get Your Love by Redbone
5.  Dancing Machine by The Jackson 5
6.  The Loco-Motion by Grand Funk Railroad
7.  TSOP by MFSB
8.  The Streak by Ray Stevens
9.  Bennie And The J…

Catalunya - Tinsley Ellis

from the album Get It! (2013)

Will the blues survive?

Although it sounds like a silly question, go to a blues club.  The audience looks like a casting call for a Viagra commercial.  Middle aged white men trying to look young, with a couple of blues mamas hanging around for support.  Will they still be out in the bars ten years from now?  If not, will the next generation of Viagra poppers still listen to the blues?  If not them, then who?

I have become convinced that the future of the blues is for it to find a new life and new audience by injecting influences of more modern genres.  Blues meets Hip-Hop.  Blues meets Electronica.  Purists call it sacrilege.  This gigolo considers it the survival of America's musical DNA.

I feel for all the great bluesmen out there today.  They are incredible musicians marginalized by a perception that they are no longer relevant.  Take a listen to Catalunya by Tinsley Ellis.  Listen to the way he plays the guitar.  Can you hear the echoes of Carlos …

Good Times - Matt Costa

from the album Matt Costa (2013)

Good times are coming
Those good times are coming
Those good times are coming to an end

One of the shitty things about life is that the chorus above is all too true.

In my world, there is a close relationship that is about to be severed.  It is going to cause hurt and hardship.  Probably some resentment.  But that is the way it goes.  So tonight, I'm sipping Coté De Rhone and thinking about the good times.  And man, we really had some.  Stories I'll never forget.  It sucks.

So when the song Good Times by Matt Costa popped up on my latest mix, I lost myself in the chorus.  It is fun to sing along with.  The vibe is reminiscent of the songs John Lennon made with Harry Nilsson back in the 70's.  The happy and catchy melody perfectly juxtaposes the sad lyric.  I dig how songs like this let you reflect on something negative and walk away feeling positive.  The power of music…

So, here is a toast to those past relationships.  May the brilliance of o…

A Button On Your Blouse - Drowners

from the album Drowners (2014)

For any band, there is nothing like that first album.  That first statement to the world.  A proclamation.

For this gigolo, there are few things I dig more than listening to these albums.  They are a source of renewal.  A rebirth.

This Tuesday, Drowners release their eponymous debut record to the world.  It is quite a statement.  Both post punk and commercial, it has an energy that I enjoy.  You hear it in the snap of the snare drum and the sense of comradeship in the choruses and musical breaks.  It is the stuff of rock and roll dreams.

My favorite track on the album is The Button On Your Blouse.  This song has an 80's sensibility from the opening guitar hook.  Along the way, more modern alternative groups like Arctic Monkeys come to mind.  But for me, I dig that this is a Brooklyn band playing music from a different NYC era.  The Dinkins days, when things were dirtier and a bit more dangerous.  Am I really reminiscing about filth?

This band also ha…

The Gig That Matters - Amy Ray

from the album Goodnight Tender (2014)

In the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray is noted for her rockin' sensibility.  But that does not do her justice.  She is the consummate musician, capable of producing high-calibre product across many genres.  This month, she released Goodnight Tender, which is categorized as her first "country" album.  But for me, it is just another angle to view an incredible talent.

I have locked into The Gig That Matters.  Recorded in the North Carolina mountains, this song revives the ghosts of nameless Appalachian musicians playing music with their family and friends.  It sounds superb.

The central theme of the song is that all the time working on her craft here on earth is preparing Amy for "the gig that matters" up in heaven.  Cool stuff.

But for me, this song begs the question "What is the gig that matters here on earth?"  What is my calling?  How do I choose to measure myself?  Are the things I dedicate myself to the things that re…

Hey Joe - Charlotte Gainsbourg

from the single Hey Joe (2013)

When most artists cover a rock and roll classic, they pick up the tempo.  Louder, faster.  Faster, louder. After all, it shows their toughness.  Their edge.  But I dig it when they slow it down.  Way down.  Sing Blitzkrieg Bop as slow as you can.  I dig that.

Charlotte Gainsbourg crushes Jimi Hendrix by going soft and slow.  We've all heard Hey Joe a thousand times.  We know every nuance.  So why not slow it down at and shine a light on every note in your musical memory?

How hard must it have been for the drummer to keep such a downtempo beat?  How fun must it have been for the bass player to lay down the line and runs in slow motion?  How hard did the guitarist work to get the tone just right?  How low were the lights set when the backing vocalists sang like heroin entering your vein?  What a thrill it must have been for the band to build their intensity while still sitting back in the groove?

And how good is Charlotte Gainsbourg?  Her vocals, hushe…

I Only Fucked You As A Joke - Childbirth

from the album It's A Girl (2014)

Rock and Roll becomes art when it is a short, emotive outburst.  As The Clash said in Hitsville UK, "The band walked in and knocked them dead in 2 minutes 59."  Nobody did this better than the punks. Think about The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and Richard Hell.  It was raw and honest and sometimes left you a bit uncomfortable.  Sometimes it made you smile.

Hats off to Childbirth.  This three piece all-female punk band from Seattle blows the lid off contemporary restraint with I Only Fucked You As A Joke.  At 1 minute 45 seconds in length, it is short, loud, and on message.  It is also the best song title I have heard in ages.

Smacking down some guy who was probably a jerk, this song is infectious.  The central riff, the drumbeat, and snarky vocals all add to the charm.  My favorite line is "I thought it would be funny, but it wasn't."

I hope you enjoy this song.

Click Here to listen to this song on SoundCloud.

Baby Shake - Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound

from the album Fine Rude Thing (2014)

Once upon a time, three local bands ruled the bars on Milwaukee's Brady Street.  They were the Violent Femmes playing angst fueled soon-to-be classics, like Blister In The Sun, The BoDeans with Sam and Kurt playing a roots rock that captured the heartland's emptiness, and The R&B Cadets with a brand of blue-eyed funk and soul that made you feel good about being alive.

Thirty years later, Paul Cebar is the last man standing from that magical time, laying down his hip-swayin', funky groove with new players now, but with the same result as he did with The Cadets.  On his latest release, I am drawn to the song Baby Shake.

It is a little more rock & roll that usual, largely due to the horn arrangement and lead guitar tone, but the groove is pure funk-laced soul.  It is cool how you can feel effect of the bass line and drum beat even though they are sitting back deep in the mix.  Part of it is Paul Cebar's vocal delivery, part of…

Stranger To My Happiness - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

from the album Give the People What They Want (2014)

I have an affinity for independent record labels.  The idea of a small business dedicated to making great music striking gold when the right act combines their talent with the labels determination is the stuff that dreams are made of.  It is a romantic notion that I am drawn to.

As a result, I follow a few dozen of these labels from different places around the world.  Wah Wah 45 in London and Sub Pop in Seattle rank among my favorites, but it is the Brooklyn labels that I am most drawn to.

Daptone Records is a small Brooklyn label that continually puts out the best Soul, Funk, and AfroBeat music being produce in the world today.  It is yet determined if they will reach the glory of a Stax or Motown, but their stable of artists - including Charles Bradley, Antibalas, and The Sugarman Three - blow me away with every new release.

Their latest is Give The People What They Want by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.  I really dig the recor…

North - Blackie & the Rodeo Kings

from the album South (2014)

One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs is Get Rhythm.  The central character of the song is a shoe shine boy who "gets rhythm" in order to cope with his mundane job.  He accomplishes this by creating rhythms with his horsehair brush and cloth.  I dig that kind of optimism.

Johnny Cash takes it a step further by creating a rhythm to the song that sounds like it could actually be coming from that shoe shine boy.  Geniuses do things like that.

North by Blackie & The Rodeo Kings is an alt country tune about riding a train to the north country.  Train songs are almost always good, but what makes this song special for me is how the rhythm sounds like a locomotive.  It is steady and sure, chugging along, made possible by brushes on a snare and some light percussion.  As the song progresses, the brushes give way to a stick, with the rhythm never losing a beat.  Cool stuff.

The rest of the song also grabs my attention.  I really like the gravel vocals and…

I Know That You Know That I Know That You Know That I Know… - The Ploctones

from the album Ploc (2013)

The Ploctones are a jazz from the Netherlands.

Before any of you anti-jazz bigots stop reading, you need to listen to these guys.  They make great music that has moments of avant-funk meets mayhem that I really dig.  Credit this to their expanded vision and their musicianship.

Guitarist Anton Goudsmit blows me away with his fearless use of abrasive use of tone and technique.  Sometimes he sounds more like Jimi Hendrix than jazz.  Drummer Martijn Vink also helps differentiate this band by rocking out at times, switching to African polyrhythms at others, to playing the perfect jazz ballad.  No wonder he has played with greats like Herbie Hancock and John Scofield.

The song I Know That You Know… is a fascinating listen.  Bass and heavy saxophone lay down the central riff for cacophony and mayhem to explode from.  Within seconds, you are treated to wild, avant-garde horn playing over the riff.  It is maddening chaos.  Then enters the intense guitar playing, chop…

Thru The Field - Memory Tapes

from the EP Grace / Confusion (2012)

A few days ago, I put together a playlist of recent tunes that have an 80's new music vibe.  There is no shortage of them and it is amazing how great they sound.  I have friends who are still listening to their 30 year old Echo & The Bunnymen vinyl, convinced that it is the apex of modern music.  They are not aware of this newer, alternative universe.

Last night, I was listening to this playlist on a flight back home and one song particularly caught my ear,  Thru The Field by Memory Tapes.

What makes this song different is that - rather than sound like a modern take on 80's new music - this song makes you do a double take to convince yourself that this wasn't actually recorded in the 80's.  The tones and arrangements are that accurate.  It is a credit Dayve Hawke that he has pulled off such an accomplishment.

The keyboard introduction, the little cowbell hook, and the higher register vocals are straight from a distant time.  The…

Why Write A Letter That You'll Never Send - The Drones

from the album I See Seaweed (2013)

Every once in a while, I come across a tune that I can't get enough of.  One containing a thousand hidden truths, slowly revealed, like Salome and the Dance of the Seven Qualudes.  Why Write A Letter That You'll Never Send by The Drones is one of those songs.

This song is a  9:17 smack down of the world we live in, put to music that reminds me of a cross between David Bowie's Life On Mars and The Rolling Stones' Memory Motel.  But it is ooh so much more.

What I wouldn't give to have drinks with the lyricist !!! I hang on every word.  After painting a picture of despair - with hook lines that include the song's title and "everyone's hurting and their needs are always stark" - the song swells into a rant that includes:

And who cares for their survival
And who cares about the Yanks
Who cares if they get overrun
By Chinese nukes and tanks

Who cares about the holocaust
Man we didn't learn nothing there
And all its memor…

Songs She Sang In The Shower - Jason Isbell

from the album Southeasterner (2013)

Songs She Sang In The Shower is the song I most regret not writing about in 2013.  On first listen to Jason Isbell's splendid album, I became enamored with the song Super 8.  However, as the year wore on my preference slowly shifted.

This song haunts me.  As Jason Isbell sings about losing a woman, you feel his genuineness and remorse.  I am touched by the little things that he misses, like the songs she sang in the shower.  But I am knocked out by his storytelling, where each vignette offers a slice of emotion that feels so real.  Like these:

And in the car
Headed home
She asked if I considered the prospect of living alone

With a stake
Held to my eye
I had to summon the confidence needed to hear her goodbye

But above all, there is one line that always causes me to think:

And the frost on the ground probably envy's the frost on the trees

What a great original thought!  I do not recall ever hearing despair expressed so elegantly.

This song, with its…

The World Of Art - The Bonaventure Quartet

from the album Lost And Found At The Clermont Lounge (2013)

Once upon a time, I played bass guitar for some country-rockabilly hipsters who rambled around the southeastern United States.  During those days, The Star Bar in Atlanta, Georgia stood at the center of the "redneck underground" as the premier venue to catch great music stretching from raucous rockabilly to retro lounge to western swing.

One Saturday night, we were opening a Star Bar show for The Lost Continentals.  They were largely considered the best act in town.  Around 6pm, we unloaded our gear and did our soundcheck. Aside from the staff, there were a handful of musicians hanging out at the bar.  This included the headliner's frontwoman, Amy Pike.

We began playing the Dinah Washington classic Evil Gal Blues.  By the end of the first verse, Amy Pike stood up and began swaying her hips from side to side, singing along.  You could tell she was digging' it.

Afterwards, she came up to me and complimented ou…