Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm a Little Bit Country....

John Prine
John Prine
1971, Atlantic
produced by Arif Mardin


  • Illegal Smile/ Quiet Man
  • Spanish Pipedream/ Illegal Smile

John Prine...  I love John Prine.  Before Bob Dylan single handedly killed American Folk, John Prine was a contributor to a booming contemporary American Folk culture along with other heroes of the genre like Joan Baez, Kris Kristopherson, Paul Anka, Steve Goodman, Jerry Jeff Walker, Cat Stevens and Arlo Guthrie.  If you like the aforementioned artists, and don't know John Prine, first, shame on you, and second, you'll like this.  

This album is his first, in 1971, and is highlighted by Angel from Montgomery which would be later covered by Carly Simon, Bonnie Koloch, Bonnie Raitt, John Denver, the Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, Gretchen Wilson and others.

I enjoy the sound of the album, a quiet genuine storytelling sound, sometimes playful and bouncy, sometimes contemplative.  Other good songs of note are the single Illegal Smile, Donald and Lydia, and Your Flag Decal Wont get you into Heaven Anymore, which has a message that has continued to be relevant today.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Joe, Say it Ain't So

The James Gang
Yer' Album
1969, MCA
produced by Bill Szymczyk

Joe Walsh - guitar, vocals, piano
Jim Fox - drums, percussion, keyboards
Tom Kriss - bass, flute


  • I Dont Have the Time/ Fred
Joe Walsh, possibly best known for his singles Life's Been Good, and Rocky Mountain Way, and his work with the Eagles, was in a band before that.  The James Gang was pretty funky, bluesy, and rock and rolly.  Yer' Album is their first, and most fun.  

Recorded in 1969, it features some of the unnecessary experimentation expected from the late '60s, such as an intro that features the band tuning up for 40 seconds, and two intermission pieces of noise and feedback.  However, the band proves it can rock out the blues and jam with the best of the iconic bands of the period and proved, much like Cream had earlier, that a three piece band can have a huge sound.

Don't judge Joe Walsh by his decision to join the Eagles, but instead buy this and other James Gang projects, and then wonder what the hell happened?  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Well... they can't all be Homeruns

Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures
2009, DGC
Produced by Them Crooked Vultures

  • New Fang
  • Mind Eraser, No Chaser

Let me start by saying I was very excited for this album.  I love Dave Grohl, it seems everything he touches turns to gold.  Josh Homme from Mark Lanegan Band, Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age has shown he is pretty awesome in his own right, and of course, John Paul Jones is the badass bass player from Led Zeppelin.  On the surface, this appeared to be a musical orgasm just waiting to happen.  In reality, this combo proved to be a let down.

Although the album does rock out unabashed, nothing truly jumped out and grabbed me the way songs from the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, or Led Zeppelin do.  Basically the sum doesn't match up to the greatness of the parts.  Which is too bad, because I really do want to see John Paul Jones succeed.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Want my Band Back!

2006, Interscope  
Produced by Brendan O'Brien

Chris Cornell - vocals
Tom Morello - guitar
Tim Cummerford - bass
Brad Wilk - drums

Singles -
  • Original Fire/ Set it off/ Gasoline
  • Original Fire/ Doesnt Remind Me
  • Revelations
This is the third and last offering from Audioslave, which is a pity, because it seemed to me that finally they had found their own sound.  Rage Against the Machine was a pretty tight rhythm section fronted by a rapper/singer.  When they broke up, the tight rythmn section decided they could just get another front man and continue making music.  The first two albums sounded just like you would expect, Rage Against the Machine, with a singer, instead of a unique band.  This album saw a departure from that and began to sound like a cohesive band, a single sound, not a band and singer separate and sharing a track.  I was always frustrated with Audioslave, after being such a huge Rage fan.

Ideally, Audioslave could have been what was good about Rage Against the Machine's music and sound, and what was good about Chris Cornell's range and vocal ability.  Instead, we got mediocrity from both parts of the equation.  Chris Cornell never seemed willing to play well with the politics of the other three quarters of his new project, and Tom Morello seemed like he just wanted to produce as much music as possible in as little time as possible, going for volume over quality.  There are a few tracks on here that do address current events and borderline politics, the most obvious is Wide Awake about New Orleans and the Katrina hurricane.  And there are a few tracks that sound like there was more thought and time put into the song structure.  This is the better of the three Audioslave albums.  The album is well crafted, listenable from beginning to end.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Superest Super Group

Taveling Wilburys
Vol. One 
1988, Warner Brothers Records 
Produced by Otis and Nelson Wilbury

Nelson Wilbury - guitar, vocals
Otis Wilury - guitar, vocals
Lefty Wilbury - guitar, vocals
Charlie T Wilbury, Jr - guitar, vocals
Lucky Wilbury - guitar, vocals, harmonica
Buster Sidebury - drums

  • Handle with Care/ Margarita
  • End of the Line/ Congratulations
This is quite possibly the best musical accident of all time. Starting as a project to record a B-side for a George Harrison single that was so good they just had to record an entire album. This is the way every supergroup wishes it could behave. These guys loved playing together, and egos never got in the way, which is usually how the supergroup project falls apart (see Audioslave, Velvet Revolver).

The songs are fun to listen to, you can sing to them, which is always a plus, and even though you can hear the different individuals in the group, they play well together. Dylan wrote some tracks, however, only one definitely sounds like a Dylan song. Also, this is probably the first time I, as a young kid, realized that sex was something you could sing about, and not get yelled at by your parents.  

The death of Lefty Wilbury was truly a tragedy, and even though the remaining Wilburys released another album a few years later, his contribution was sorely missed. This album was rereleased after the death of Nelson Wilbury in a box set compilation with the second album, and the band reunited to play at a show in his honor with his son Aryton Wilbury sitting in.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Always Tip the Delivery Boy

Jerry Garcia/ David Grisman/ Tony Rice
The Pizza Tapes 
2000, Acoustic Disc
Produced by David Grisman

David Grisman - Mandolin
Jerry Garcia - Guitar
Tony Rice - Guitar

Jerry Garcia is famous for being the Grateful Dead front man, as well as leading his own band named after himself, however, he also played with New Riders of the Purple Sage, Legion of Mary, and Old and in the Way. David Grisman was one of his better friends and also one of the best mandolin players in the genre. They played together many times, and when together, referred to themselves as Grateful Dawg. This album is a great example of crime benefiting everyone.  

The fact that this would probably not be produced and released as an album if it were not for a thieving pizza delivery boy makes it pretty damn interesting. This particular jam session with Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice, and David Grisman was recorded, which we're all truly grateful. But then the tapes were stolen by a pizza man and bootlegged, becoming a much sought after recording. David Grisman then recovered the stolen masters and released it professionally through his own bluegrass label. It is one of a long list of posthumous Garcia releases, and probably opens this conversation up to the ethics of releasing material  featuring a dead celebrity... 

The informal session gives a glimpse into the relationships of these three artists that wouldn't necessarily come across in a more professionally produced album. Plus, this is the only known recording of Garcia playing Amazing Grace. Although not the finest piece of Garcia related recording, it is still worth a listen, especially for die-hard fans.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

You Make Me Want to Cry Alone in the Dark

Alkaline Trio
2005, Vagrant.  
Produced by Jerry Finn

Dan Andriano - bass, vocals
Matt Skiba - guitar, vocals
Derek Grant - drums


  • Time to Waste/ We can Never Break Up/ Dont Say you Wont
  • Mercy Me/ Buried
  • Burn

There was a time when I was into horror punk.  Punk with a creepy dark edge to it, like the Misfits, the HorrorPops, AFI, and Alkaline Trio.  

I want to start out by saying that I like this band, probably more than they deserve.  They're from Chicago, I have family there.  They have a cool three-piece band with two singers whose voices compliment each other.  And for the most part, they are capable of writing pretty decent poppy punk songs.  

The album prior to this is called Good Mourning, and I cant say enough good things about that album.  Perhaps it will make an appearance on this blog in the future.  As far as pop-punk goes, Alkaline Trio definitely knew how to do this right, catchy tracks with singable melodies and angsty lines, but with some maturity, unlike Blink 182 who still thinks they're 16, and they did it without going too far into the woe-is-me-emo-hipster-realm.  

However, Crimson let me down.  The first track, also the first single, and the first video, Time to Waste, is fantastic!  and then the rest of the album disappoints.  I probably should have known just by looking at the cover.  Alkaline Trio had fallen into the same trap as Blink 182!  They became sentimental and slipped into the trendy emo void, as evident by the black and white cover of half a woman's sad face, and half of a nicely dressed, but miserable looking dude.  Suddenly I was listening to a morbid version of Jimmy Eat World.  I hated every track on here except for Time to Waste and Back to Hell.  Potentially good songs like Sadie are ruined when they stop the flow of the song to add spoken word nonsense.  

Even the title of the album is lame.  I heard that it was almost titled Church and Destroy.  They should have gone with that, way more interesting than Crimson.  

Skip this one...  but buy Time to Waste and Back to Hell on iTunes or something.  Agony and Irony (2008) is better.  Good Mourning (2003) is the best.  and if you can find the BYO split they did with HotWaterMusic, get it.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Boss of Americana

Bruce Springsteen
Ghost of Tom Joad 
1995. Columbia  
Produced by Chuck Plotkin

Bruce Springsteen - guitar, keyboards, vocals, harmonica
Danny Federici - accordian, keyboards
Gary Mallaber - drums
Garry Tallent - bass
Jim Hanson - bass
Marty Rifkin - pedal steel guitar
Soozie Tyrell - violin, vocals
Lisa Lowell - vocals
Patti Scialfa - vocals

  • The Ghost of Tom Joad
This is the second album in the acoustic folk trilogy from Bruce Springsteen, following his 1982 Nebraska and preceding his 2002 Devils and Dust.  This is my favorite album from the Boss.  It may be because I stumbled into it in 1997 after hearing Rage Against the Machine cover it in their Metal/HipHop style, and it might be because I have a thing for acoustic country/folk songs.  The overall sound could be summed up as full of despair.  However, I believe this is an over simplified and unjust judgement.  True, the subject matter of the songs is modern dustbowl Americana, but I think under all the dust and grime and sense of despair, there is a message of hope, and beauty in the plain and mundane.  And I like that the most.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Punks Not Dead... its still twitching

Agnostic Front
Somethings Gotta Give 
1998, Epitaph  
Produced by Billy Milano
Roger Miret - vocals
Vinnie Stigma - guitar
Rob Kabula - bass
Jim Colletti - drums
Tim Armstrong, Lars Fredericksen, Jimmy Gestapo - backing vocals

  • Gotta Go (Punkorama 4)

Roger Miret had some success after this with the Disasters, and of course, Tim and Lars from Rancid and Jimmy Gestapo of Murphys Law add their vocal talents.  This album has become a time capsule... 

Agnostic Front started in 1980, a band from that American Hardcore scene that Paul Rachman, Henry Rollins, and Fat Mike like to talk about.  After that scene fell apart, they continued on and eventually helped start the NY/HC era in the late '80s and early '90s along with Ray Beez from Warzone.  

This album was their return to the sound and scene that they helped create in New York, and sadly, one of the last good examples of a genre that petered out by the end of the decade.  The punk/metal fused genre with socially conscious overtones bridged the genre of Victory Records with that American Hardcore scene from the early '80s.

The street punk hardcore sound on this album is fantastic, no one does it better, I believe, and no one has been able to do it as well since.  Something for every punk rock kid's collection.

British Folk Girls are Cute

Laura Marling: 
I Speak Because I Can 
2010. Virgin Records 
Produced by Ethan Johns

Laura Marling - guitar, voice
Marcus Mumford - drums
Winston Marshall - banjo
Ted Dwane - double bass
Tom Hobden - fiddle
Ruth De Turberville - cello
Pete Roe - keyboards


  • Goodbye England
  • Devil's Spoke
  • Rambling Man

I bought this album after I heard her cover of The Blues Run the Game on the radio.  I actually searched pretty hard to find out who she was and then which album has this particular song on it.  I discovered that the recording was done for an EP that I couldn't get a hold of.  So, I bought this album instead.  Laura Marling may be familiar from her work with Jonah and the Whale, or Mumford and Sons.  If these don't sound familiar, congratulations, you aren't a hipster, or indie music douche.  Marling is British folk.  There isn't anything else to say here.  The beauty of sound is simple, her voice needing not much aide.  This reminds me of Steel-eye Span, and Fairport Convention, only without excess instrumentation.  If quiet yet strong folk is what you desire, look no further.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A new project

I recently have a lot of time on my hands.  I've decided, after staring at my piles of CDs in my living room, that I ought to give them all a listen.  Partly because I have nothing better to do, and partly because, I think I've forgotten what I actually have.  So, from now on...  or at least for quite awhile, I will be listening to, learning about, and giving reviews for the music I find in my pile.
Everyday, I plan to pick out an album from the pile, give them a complete listen, and then add a post concerning what I've heard and perhaps some personal bits I can remember from purchasing the album, or whatever.  Enjoy.

Spin Doctors.  
Pocket Full of Kryptonite 
1991, Epic records.  
Produced by Peter Denenberg/Frankie LaRocka

Chris Barron - vocals
Aaron Comess - drums, percussion, Hammond organ, vocals
Eric Schenkman - guitar, piano
Mark White - bass
featuring John Popper on harmonica and John Bush on percussion

  • Jimmy Olsen’s Blues/Little Miss Cant be Wrong
  • Jimmy Olsen’s Blues/ Yo Mama’s a Pajama
  • Little Miss Cant be Wrong/ What Time is it?
  • Two Princes/ Yo Mama’s a Pajama/ Little Miss Cant be Wrong
  • Two Princes/ Off my Line/ Rosetta Stone
  • What Time is it?/ Two Princes
Part of the jam band emergence from New York in the '80s and '90s, The Spin Doctors, fronted by Chris Barron, debuted their sound on this album.  A mix of blues and funk, and classic rock frames Barron’s great big voice.  Despite some silly uses of sound effects like ringing alarms clocks and phone tones, which were the fad at the time (early '90s), the album as a whole is excellent.  The singles are catchy, and proved that this particular music scene was radio worthy.  This is a complete album, no filler, and deserves to be in every rock collection.  It seems to pop up in just about everyone’s music pile anyway.  It has become a classic.  The downside is realizing that, partly due to Chris Barron's battle with throat cancer, the band disappeared after such a strong debut.