Monday, October 31, 2011

Where Have all the Piano Players Gone?

Billy Joel
Storm Front
1989, Columbia
produced by Mick Jones

  • We Didn't Start the Fire/ House of Blue Light
  • Leningrad/ Goodnight Saigon/ Scandinavian Skies
There hasn't been another Billy Joel, and probably won't be ever again.  The closest you can get, I think, is probably Ben Folds, as he is also a piano player, but Folds could never match up to Billy Joel's list of hits, media exposure, or talent.  This album showcases Joel's ability to create a pop hit.  We Didn't Start the Fire was a number one hit when released.  However, it is definitely not the best track on the album, and has over shadowed many of the better songs.  Mick Jones of Foreigner produced, and definitely delivered.  My favorite track is the last one, And So it Goes.  Joel's ability to write is astounding, and it puzzles me that he just all of a sudden stopped.  Such great talent can't possibly just disappear, and since he's not dead yet, where has he been?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is that a Mutant Pineapple?

Jorma Kaukonen and Tom Hobson.  
1974, Grunt
produced by Jack Cassady

Jorma Kaukonen - guitars and vocals on all but Blue Prelude and Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine
Tom Hobson - guitar and vocals only on Blue Prelude and Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine

This album is so very cool.  Not only is it nearly perfect (including Tom Hobson tracks at the end nearly ruin it, he kinda sucks), but the producer is the other half of Hot Tuna, Jack Cassady.  RCA (Grunt's parent company) nixed the idea of a Kaukonen/Hobson split record because they didn't think Hobson would be accepted by the public.  And they were probably right.  Hobson's two tracks are pretty bad, he can't sing at all.  However, despite Hobson's shortcomings, the rest of the album is incredible.  Acoustic guitar awesomeness combined with a occasional cool string section.  This is not the usual blues standards Kaukonen is known for, if you like good acoustic guitar picking, check this one out.  I used a lyric from Hamar Promenade in my high school year book.

yellow vinyl!  #1131/2500

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Other Minor Threat

And Out Come the Wolves
1995, Epitaph
produced by Jerry Finn

  • Root Radicals/I Wanna Riot
  • Time Bomb/ Wars End/ Blast Em
  • Ruby Soho/ Thats Entertainment/ Disorder and Disarray
One might ask what could be better than Operation Ivy, or So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes? The answer, of course, is this album. Tim Armstrong and Matt Freedman from OpIvy and Lars Fredericksen united to bring us a ska influenced street punk band which would become my favorite punk sound.  

After finding NOFX, Rancid would be a next logical step, followed by countless other Epitaph signed bands, including the legendary Bad Religion. From a 14 year old's eyes, this was epic. I borrowed this album from my buddy for weeks. I also have the Time Bomb single/EP/ 7". Sometimes they still play it on the local radio station.

The cover art may look familiar. It is a homage to the Minor Threat EP cover, which is actually a photo of Alec MacKaye. I'm pretty sure this photo was taken by Henry Rollins, but I can't find any proof.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fat Mike, I Think I'm a Sofa

So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes
1997, Epitaph
produced by Ryan Greene

Fat Mike - vocals, bass
Smelly - drums
Eric Melvin - guitar
El Hefe - guitar, trumpet

singles --
  • All of Me/ Desperation's Gone
  • Timmy the Turtle/ The Plan
This band was pretty much my first look at punk rock.  Not a bad initiation.  This album is the height of their Ska era and fit right into the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less than Jake, Rancid trend.  I had seen friends wearing the t-shirts and decided to give it a shot.  I liked the rebellious fuck you attitude (I was 14, this was angsty and cool).  The album cover is neopolitan and the title is borrowed from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and references NOFX fans that throw shoes onstage, lost by crowd surfers, skankers, and assholes in the pit.  

The music has a ska influence.  In fact, it is different than anything else they have done since.  Musically diverse, lyrically clever, I would argue this was, and continues to be, their best album.  Shortly after, they released a song called We Don't Play Ska Anymore, but they were pretty good at it.  Murder the Government, and I'm Telling Tim are reworked tracks from their Fuck the Kids EP, which was released the year previous.  

The band photos for the album are pictures of other guys from other bands.  Howard Stern is included at the end of the album telling his DJ that they should be called No Talent.  The liner notes are pretty clever too.  

I love this album, and it's definitely on my top punk albums of all time list.

punk can be pink too

Friday, October 7, 2011

No, It's Not a Metal Band

Death Cab for Cutie
2003, Barsuk
produced by Chris Walla

Ben Gibbard - vocals, guitar, piano
Chris Walla - guitar, keyboards
Nick Harmer - bass
Jason McGerr - drums
Mike Kezner - sitar


  • New Year
  • Sound of Settling
  • Title and Registration

If hipsters gave out awards, this band would get one just for their name...  you see, it's not a goth emo metal band from Pittsburgh, it's a folksy rock band from Washington state.  That's irony!  I like this band.  They don't rock as hard, but the Pixies and Radiohead can definitely be heard as influences.  Ben Gibbard helped give rise to the new folk rock scene and hipster/indie music explosion in the early part of the new millennium, a refreshing change to the staleness of pop punk bands and post grunge rockers of the previous decade.  
It is fun to mention that Chris Walla is a band member and producer.  And Ben Gibbard divorced Zooey Deschannel, the prettiest girl next door on television. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

He also has Diamonds on the Soles of his Shoes

Ben Harper
Diamonds on the Inside
2003, Virgin
produced by Ben Harper

Ben Harper - guitars, vocals, organ, bass, drums
Nikki Panicci - guitars
Greg Kurstin - keyboards, pianos
Leon Mobley - drums, percussion
Juan Nelson - bass

  • Diamonds on the Inside

This is my favorite Ben Harper album so far. This is the first album Ben Harper has produced by himself without JD Plunier. I've always been amazed why established artists need producers, most of the time the musician has a shared producer credit anyway. Why not just cut out the middle man altogether?

Diamonds on the Inside appears to be Ben Harper's homage to Paul Simon's Graceland. Not only is the title track reminiscent of Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (and an inversion), but both albums share similar rhythms and harmonies. Also, The Ladysmith Black Mombaso makes an appearance on Picture of Jesus, just like they appear on Simon's Homeless.

There is an obvious Christian theme to this record, as seen on several tracks, including Amen Omen, Blessed to be a Witness, and Picture of Jesus. This album is fantastic from start to finish. No song is skippable. Each track has its own beauty, and while some may be turned off by religious messages, I believe that regardless of your belief system, some lyrical messages are more about being a good human, rather than a good Christian/ Muslim/ Buddhist/ or whatever. Plus, it would be a gross denial to not understand how much of an impact religion has made on social norms, personal morals, and shared cultural experience, even among those who don't practice or worship any theological expression. The gospel influence in Ben Harper's music separates it from other neo-blues forms. 

On a side note, this is another one of those Ben Harper albums that I no longer own. I have to stop loaning things to bitches.  

An adendem 12/26/17: I did pick up a second copy of this record, replacing the one that was stolen.