Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summerteeth


"Love Is The King" is the new solo record from Jeff Tweedy. Once again, Tweedy sounds as if he is being propped up with sticks and pillows. I understand that somewhere inside the 40 minute record, there are some really great songs. Right? But it's all becoming a chore. Each new Wilco record has become more difficult than the last. Live, Wilco is still a force to be reckoned with. But, if Tweedy, either alone or with his band, doesn't deliver something a bit easier to digest soon, I am going to completely forget why I loved this band for so long.

There are a few songs on "Love Is The King" that stand out, like "Guess Again" and "Bad Day Lately," though neither will get your heart beating. The country tunes like "Opaline" and "A Robin Or A Wren" sound forced and uncomfortable. But it's the title track I dig most. It's hardly a rocker, but I am strangely attracted to the guitar solo which sounds a bit like it was lifted from The Youngblood's "Get Together," both in sound and attack, and pasted into the song, even if it doesn't really fit. Odd praise, I know. But it's the best I can do with this one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

What's Up, Chuck?



My friend sent me a message regarding Chuck Prophet's song "High As Johnny Thunders." It said, "I like the one without the horns." 

Horns? Was there a dance remix?

Confused, I asked, "What horns?"

She sent me a link to Spotify of the version you see up top. 

It's gorgeous. There's no saxophone. As much as I love this song and this album, the sax solo on "High As Johnny Thunders" does remind me a bit of the ten second, "just back from a commercial before our musical guest" sax on SNL. But this version is beautiful and simple, with just acoustic guitars and strings. 

I now "like the one without the horns" better than the album version, which is below.

How does this happen? Was the strings version a demo? Why is it on YouTube and Spotify? Did it come out first? How did I miss it? Why didn't it make the record? Did no one else in the Chuck Prophet camp think the strings version was better for the album? Was it up to Chuck? Do you like the album version better? Who won Best Supporting Actor in 1967?

Answer any one of these questions if you can?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Few More Words on "Letter To You"



I've read more reviews of "Letter To You" over the last week than the amount of times I replayed Bruce Springsteen's new record. Every review is the same. They are all raves. They all mention loss, mortality and death. I don't disagree with any of them, and I am not about to throw my hat into the ring regarding the lyrical content. What I want to do is point out the importance of the music, the sound and the production, details that are so often absent from record reviews.

I wonder if the exact lyrics of "Ghosts" were sung word for word, melody for melody over the brutal twin guitar attack of Judas Priest with a double-bass kicking out 16th notes if the same people would get just as emotional as they did listening to the E Street Band. We could talk about lyrics all day long, but I'd bet dollars to donuts, if every song on "Letters To You" was covered in a reggae style or electronica, no Bruce fan would give a crap. That's because you need the glockenspiels, the saxes, the false endings, the Max fills, Steven's harmonies, The Boss's growl and the "ya ya yas!"

But even The Boss makes mistakes.

Take "Real World," a fantastic song when you hear it played solo from the 1990 Christic Benefit, but godawful all dolled up on 1992's mediocre "Human Touch." Same lyrics, bad arrangement. 

I personally know people who don't really like "Dancing In The Dark," the synth-heavy monster MTV hit. But they changed their minds once they heard the solo acoustic version from the 1986 Bridge Benefit. Suddenly, lines like "You sit around getting older, there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me, I'll shake this world off my shoulders, come on baby, the laugh's on me" hit home a lot harder when not being sung by a guy in a sleeveless t-shirt dancing like an idiot at your cousin's wedding.

"Letters To You" is indeed personal. It packs an emotional wallop, more so now, as we all sit around getting older, wondering if we are ever gonna get outta this place alive! But "Wrecking Ball" packed an emotional wallop, too, especially for those suffering through hard times. I'm thinking some Bruce lifers dismissed it because it sounded more like The Pogues at times than "Kitty's Back." The words were there, and so was the recordmaking. 

"Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust
And all our youth and beauty, it's been given to the dust
When the game has been decided and we're burning down the clock
And all our little victories and glories have turned into parking lots
When your best hopes and desires are scattered through the wind
And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
Yeah just
to come again
Bring on your wrecking ball"

I can't speak for you, but I'd probably get less emotional if it wasn't for those four extra "hard times come and hard times gos."

Never underestimate the power of good, solid recordmaking. It's a lost art and something that is a huge part of why my taste in music does run rampant. It's a huge part of why my taste in music is catholic.

I don't know if I'd love "Letters To You" as much as I do if it was released before the pandemic, or if Bruce recorded it with just Patti. The timing is perfect. Maybe...hopefully...we will get to hear these songs live, both as full on E Street arrangements and solo acoustic. Let's see how they drive. I do love "Letters To You," but I'm not sure it's a better album than "Magic" or "Wrecking Ball." I just know it sounds more like what we want to hear from Bruce Springsteen than "Magic" or "Wrecking Ball" did. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Definitely not this year.

Songs Of The Week, 2020: 10/17- 10/23



West One (Shine On Me)- The Ruts
Jokerman- Bob Dylan
It Starts & Ends With You- The London Suede
What In The World- David Bowie
Abandon City- Utopia
Hip Hop Is Dead- Nas
Amethyst Realm- The Claypool Lennon Delirium


West One (Shine On Me)- The Ruts
If I had to make a list of my 25 favorite punk rock records, The Ruts would not be on it. Why? I have no answer. For some reason, I just don't recall much from the band. But thanks to the trusty ol' iPod, this track popped up on shuffle from the various artists "Harmony In My Head" boxed set, and I loved it. Time to get into the Ruts.

Jokerman- Bob Dylan
I love "Infidels." Really love it. And though I'd rather not get into a "Dylan can't sing" versus "Of course Dylan can sing" debate, I'd like to say, "Jokerman" is one of my very favorite Dylan vocals.

It Stars & Ends With You- The London Suede
A brand new London Suede collection was just released in various formats and sizes. I bought the 2-LP set and was surprised to find out that I liked a whole lot more by the band than I thought. 

What In The World- David Bowie
Reading through Elvis Costello's article in The Quietus on his favorite music, this song came to mind after he mentioned that the Iggy/Bowie Berlin collaborations were some of the only records he and the Attractions could agree on while they were on the road. It's a great article and you should check it out. Thanks to Scott, there is a link to the article in the chat box.

Abandon City- Utopia
As I continue to not write up The Buyer's Guide To Todd Rundgren's Utopia, I continue to listen to the music. Spoiler Alert: "Oops Wrong Planet" would rank very, very high. This track is from that record.

Hip Hop Is Dead- Nas
I don't always listen to Nas, or "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," for that matter, but when I do, I like to do it at the same time and this track makes it easy.

Amethyst Realm- The Claypool Lennon Delirium
Sean Lennon has been in the news lately after curating his dad's 80th birthday box, as well as interviewing Paul McCartney, Elton John and Julian Lennon for the BBC. This album was a favorite of 2019 and I had played it so much, I needed to give it a rest. I took it off the shelf recently and it still knocks me out. This one seems like a good way to go out.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Vinyl Rant For Vinyl People



I received two records in the mail yesterday, vinyl copies of the new Bruce Springsteen record and the new Gillian Welch & David Rawlings record.

The Bruce record is on the Columbia label, housed in a thick gatefold jacket with what feels like fancy rice paper inner sleeves and includes a booklet of photos and lyrics.

The Gillian and David record was recorded at home and the jackets were hand made, with title cards glued to a plain white cover.

The Bruce LPs are covered in marks, nothing feelable, but still an eyesore. The inner sleeves don't fit properly into the cover. The vinyl, for the most part, plays clean, but there is some light noise on the intro of "If I Was The Priest" and there is inner diameter distortion at the end of "Rainmaker."

The Gillian & David record is one of the cleanest and most beautiful sounding records I have heard in ages.

Both records cost exactly the same.

Where is the quality control? 

The cost of new vinyl by a major artist averages around $20 for a single LP and around $30 for a double LP, and more often than not, the pressings are inferior. Records come out of the shrink wrap covered in sleeve marks, occasionally with specks of dirt. They don't play clean. What gives?

All the bells and whistles--the colors, the weight, the etchings--don't mean shit to your old school vinyl lover. A record used to be a slab of vinyl in a sleeve and those records survived wars and still sound great. Now, places like Vinyl Me, Please charge $45 for a $10 Al Green record just because it's housed in a "tip-on style" jacket, which is code for, "too tight to remove the LP with ease." 

The new Gillian Welch & David Rawlings is a standard weight piece of vinyl, with a white label featuring a tracklist, and a plain white jacket with two pieces of oaktag glued to the front and back, respectively. The fidelity is stunning, not a snap, crackle or pop. Clean as a whistle. If they can do this in their living room, so can every one else, especially Columbia Records.

One last point regarding "Letters To You." The album runs appoximately 60 minutes. Why waste a side of vinyl for a useless etching? How much better would the record have sounded having four 15+ minute sides instead of three 20+ minute sides?

That is all.

Carry on.

Friday, October 23, 2020

"Friday I've Got Covers On My Mind": THE WEEKEND MIX



Until I get The Jaded Hearts Club record out of my system, and/or write up a post on my favorite covers albums, I thought I'd share some individual favorites. Some of these sound natural, like Allen Toussaint & Leo Nocentelli covering Lowell George or Steve Earle taking on NRBQ. Some are terrific reinventions like the Scissor Sisters covering Pink Floyd or Louisiana's Traveling Wilburys, L'il Band O' Gold taking on Tom Waits. A few I know I've shared before because I just dig them, like Little Junior Parker's brilliant and trippy take on George Harrison's Beatles b-side "The Inner Light" or the gorgeous version of Neil Young's "Harvest" by Rufus Wainwright & Chris Stills.

There are 20 cover versions here and I stand by all of them. I hope you have some fun with the mix.


Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)- Arctic Monkeys
Two Trains (Lowell George) - Allen Toussaint & Leo Nocentelli
Stoned Out Of My Mind (The Chi-Lites)- The Jam
Sleeping On The Sidewalk (Queen)- Los Lobos
The Inner Light (The Beatles)- Little Junior Parker
Saturday Night Special (Lynyrd Skynyrd)- Galactic
It Don't Matter To Me (Bread)- Matthew Sweet
Return To Me (Dean Martin)- Bob Dylan
A Foggy Day (George Gershwin)- Lyn Collins
Outdoor Miner (Wire)- The Grays
Shot In The Dark (Ozzy Osbourne)- Tim Christensen
A Girl Like That (NRBQ)- Steve Earle
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)- Scissor Sisters
Clothes Line Saga (Bob Dylan)- The Roches
Beautiful (Christina Aguilera)- Elvis Costello
Woman (Make You Feel Alright) (The Easybeats)- Neil Finn
That Feel (Tom Waits)- L'il Band O' Gold
Harvest (Neil Young)- Rufus Wainwright & Chris Stills
The Last To Die (Bruce Springsteen)- Pet Shop Boys
Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who)- Richie Havens





Thursday, October 22, 2020

Your Thursday Breather



Stuck between two side long jazz fusion workouts on Donald Byrd's 1972 Blue Note release "Ethiopian Knights" is this lovely three minute piece of music called "Jamie." I love the whole record, but I really love how something this pretty becomes such a shock to the system when breaking up two raucous funk sessions. Seems like it should be the other way around.