Friday, March 22, 2013

It Will Go Over Like a Lead Balloon

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Led Zeppelin is the 14th best musical group of all time. NBC news ranked them #6 all time in a piece by Eric Olsen. AVR ranked them #1 overall.  Polls and lists created by most musical sites and publications have ranked this band close to their top ten, and for good reason. It is, after all, a hard rocking, blues based band that has influenced countless musicians since their debut, as well as many of their own contemporaries. I, like many people who like music, have a few of their albums.


Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin II
1969, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
Robert Plant - vocals, harmonica
Jimmy Page - guitars
John Paul Jones - bass, organ
John Bonham - drums, percussion

singles -
  • Whole Lotta Love/ Living Loving Maid
  • Heart Breaker/ Bring it on Home
  • Living Loving Maid/ Bring it on Home
The Brown Bomber album is my favorite Zeppelin album. This is one of those albums I picked up when I was younger because I wanted to know more about a band that everyone talked about.  My dad didn't really play Zeppelin in the house, and I heard stuff on the radio, but radio play only gives a little window into a band.  So, I asked for this album, and received it as a gift, for a birthday or Christmas, or something.

This album made me appreciate Jimmy Page as a guitar player. Many people talked about how great he was, but discovering things for myself was always the best plan.  I still don't think Eddie Van Halen was such a great player, since I haven't heard a shred of evidence to tell me otherwise. There has been no "holy crap" moment like I've had many times listening to Page.

The bluesiness (I'm sure that's a word) on this album has made it my favorite. Whole Lotta Love, of course, is an epic song, full of rocking guitar rifts, and a crazy feedback induced breakdown in the middle. The Lemon Song, Ramble On, and Bring it on Home are my favorite tracks.


Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin III
1970, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
singles -
  • Immigrant Song/ Hey Hey What can I do?
I think, the biggest issue I have with this album, is the best song was left off. Hey Hey What can I Do? still gets radio play, more than the A side of the single. Anyway, this album is good regardless, I suppose.  Most of the album has a softer, folkier type of sound to it, which is a contrast to other Zeppelin stuff of the past, and future. This album is definitely worth buying, if only for the song Tangerine. There are a few traditional cover pieces done also. This album incorporates the band's folk influences, and starts to show their weird wiccan/occult/mythology psuedo religious beliefs.  Live Magazine called this album "the best of all time" in 2007.


Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV
1971, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
singles-
  • Black Dog/ Misty Mountain Hop
  • Rock and Roll/ Four Sticks
Some people refer to this album as Zoso, or the four symbols album, or whatever. I think these people are dumb. The whole point of the album was to not call it anything, not even the name of the band appears on the cover. It is Led Zeppelin's fourth album, though, and since the last three were numbered, and the Zoso symbol refers to Jimmy Page only, I call this one Led Zeppelin 4. Deal with it.

This is probably the hardest rocking, most well known album by the band. Most tracks receive radio play, and it incorporates just about everything the band was and had been into. There is blues, there is folk, there is traditional Celtic/Wiccan mythos, and there is just good loud rock.  

It is amazing to me what one can be subjected to without even realizing it. I saw Wayne's World back in the day, before I really understood who Led Zeppelin was... and that scene about not being allowed to play Stairway in the music shop was funny, but I didn't know what Stairway was. At least, I didn't think I did. But when a friend played it for me, I realized that I had heard it before, a lot, on the radio. Radio doesn't always tell you what they play, you know.

Speaking of knowing things I thought I didn't know... Battle for Evermore features Sandy Denny. I knew who she was before I heard this album, because I knew Fairport Convention and their album Liege and Lief. This was the first time I realized that musicians from different genres can and do hang out together.

I learned so much when I was 12 because of music!  
As a side note, my favorite track on this album is When the Levee Breaks.  


Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
1973, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
singles - 
  • Over the Hills and Far Away/ Dancing Days
  • D'yer Maker/ The Crunge
This album is so strange. Comparing it to the four previous albums, it is just plain weird. First of all, it is the first album they release with an actual title. Second, where did the blues go? The entire album is different than anything else the band has done before. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes it is just strange. And sometimes, when you realize where the band goes after this record, it isn't really that big of a surprise. This one is worth it, if only for the funkiness of certain tracks, and the melodic song writing. I still can't find that confounded bridge, but I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Freeze is Coming

Many Batman villains are highly intelligent with severely warped psychosis.  Mr. Freeze is a good example of a highly intelligent scientist bent to extreme measures, making him turn to crime to fund his obsession.



Created in 1959 by David Wood and Sheldon Moldoff, Mr. Zero is a prime example of the thematic camp villains of time that committing crimes based on their theme. Mr. Zero's name was changed on the Batman television show to Mr. Freeze, which was then changed in the comics to match.

Mr. Freeze has a few origin stories, all of them resulting in his body chemistry changing, requiring his need to wear a supersuit that keeps his temperature below zero. Originally, Mr. Zero was researching cryo-technology, weaponizing it. His freeze weapon backfired and turned him into a sub-zero freak.

Paul Dini re-imagined the character as a brilliant scientist whose wife Nora became terminally ill. Dr. Viktor Fries cryogenically freezes his wife until he can find a cure.  An accident during research gives him his peculiar body chemistry. He goes on crime sprees to fund his research for a cure for Nora. This is usually the origin mostly used for Mr. Freeze, and often leads to sympathy for the character, as he does everything for love. This, of course, doesn't really fit with the deranged, obsession filled lunacy of the rest of the Gotham villains.

I never felt Mr. Freeze really belonged in the same category as other Batman villains for this reason,  and figured eventually he would become an anti-hero, like Catwoman. In Arkham City, for example, he is instrumental in finding a cure for Batman's ailment. For a character so lame and one dimensional, he is one of the more famous characters.

Scott Snyder recently changed the origin again in the 2012 Batman Annual #1 as part of the Court of Owls storyline. Snyder's origin is far more interesting and twisted, and definitely gives Freeze another darker dimension, putting him higher on the Batman villain hierarchy. The origin story begins much the same way, Dr. Fries is a scientist specializing in cryogenics and devotes his career to finding a cure for Nora. An accident with the crygenic chemicals turns Fries into the cold suit wearing criminal. However, Snyder twists the story, making Nora not Fries's wife, but a famous crygenically frozen terminal patient. Dr. Fries writes his doctoral thesis on Nora and becomes obsessed with her, believing in his mind that she is his wife. This, of course, erases any sort of sympathy or nobility linked to the character in the past. There is no longer an ambiguity to the character. Freeze is no longer just a petty criminal with a theme and super weapon, but also an obsessed psycho with delusions who belongs in Arkham.  

Snyder's origin makes this so much creepier

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Defusing the Weapon: Context is Everything

An interesting thing happened this week, and I figured this would be a good place to post and share. Unless you either haven't been paying attention, or just don't care about social politics, you've probably heard about how conservative Republican Rob Portman from Ohio has flipped his views on marriage.

Click me, I link to a New York Times article
Portman has a son who recently came out to his parents. Knowing who his father is, and his stance on certain socially conservative platforms, this act in itself must have been difficult. However, showing his true character, Portman accepted his son, and revised his belief system. It is a little shameful that the issue had to hit so close to home for Portman to shift his platform, but he ought to be commended for revisiting an issue and reforming his opinion based on personal experience, rather than through political soundbytes, and platforms. Another GOP pal of his, Dick Cheney, sent his regards, by the way, which I also thought was interesting, as Cheney has also dealt with the political nature of marriage equality.

I saw this as reported on CNN, and of course, in order to seem fair and balanced, they interviewed Newt Gingrich on what he thought about it, and of course, he did his best to make this whole thing seem unimportant. His reason was basically, no matter what anyone's personal views were about who is allowed to marry whom, marriage will always be a religious definition, and politics wont change it. But, I'm pretty sure politics helped make this whole thing an issue to start with.

This brings me to another thing I wanted to share. I found this doo-dad on the internet today.


The Leviticus chapter and verse is often used as an argument against marriage equality, claiming that, due to this passage in the Old Testament pertaining to one of the 613 commandments of Jewish law, marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman. I won't even go into the theological implications of Christians using old Jewish law to prove dogmatic points, or the fact that there are only certain sects of Judaism that even follow most of these 613 commandments.

What I will do, is clarify this argument better. William's argument, and point is this... if man lies with another man as he does with a woman, then that man is acknowledging that men and women are equals and deserve equal treatment. Since the rest of Leviticus makes several claims that men and women are not equal, and women are subjective to men in a variety of ways, treating another man like he is a woman would not only be disrespectful in the biggest way to the man, but would also undermine all of these other commandments that establish this patriarchal system.

Things that the religious right and hard line conservative Christians say to back up policies of anti-gay sentiment often lead me to think about a pretty famous Canadian evangelical preacher. Charles Templeton left the ministry in 1957 after 20 years as a devoted and moving evangelical preacher. Templeton had been studying scripture at Princeton at the time, and denounced the faith abruptly.



Many many years later, Lee Strobel interviewed Templeton, and although Templeton had been a self imposed recluse and a staunch atheist, when asked about Jesus Christ, Templeton had this to say:

"He is the most important thing in my life... I adore him.  Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus".

There is more about that interview here. What I take from this, is not an example of Christianity "winning" one against atheists, but rather, an example of how the religion has moved so far from it's original intent, purpose, mission. Clearly, Templeton did not privately denounce his spirituality, but rather turned away from this religious propaganda machine that he helped make strong. Mr. Portman, like Templeton, discovered that sometimes those things we learn from Jesus: compassion, love, ethics, are far more important than politics, social agendas, and phobias. Jesus had, in effect, undermined the old Judaic system, which is something that the conservative right have been clinging to, regardless, ever since.

The best part of William's post is the last line when he states, "the bible is used as a weapon". The best way to stop this is to be educated about what the text is actually saying, and to whom it is actually speaking. What would Jesus do, indeed? God, and the people at the time had specific reasons for commandments, and it is irresponsible to not take those factors into account when attempting to use certain passages as a basis for oppression.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Actually Two White Dudes

There are a few bands that make it huge commercially, but not right away.  REM, NoFX, and Green Day come to mind.  This next band discovered that selling out isn't necessarily a bad thing, when the money is right, and it doesn't compromise your musicianship.


The Black Keys
The Big Come Up
Alive, 2002

Patrick Carney- drums, percussion, producer
Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Gabe Fulvimar - moog bass on selected tracks

singles:
  • Leavin Trunk/She Said, She Said


The Black Keys
Thick Freakness
Fat Possum, 2003

Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Patrick Carney - drums, percussion, producer

singles:
  • Set you Free/ Hard Row/ Evil
  • Hard Row/ Evil
  • Have Love, Will Travel
My brother actually discovered this band for me, and I received the first two albums together, back to back. Chuck Klosterman stated that The Big Comeup was one of 21 high quality albums to be released between 2002 and 2005.  I instantly loved the raw blues rock sound, and agreed with the idea that they were a more talented White Stripes with a better drummer.  The cover songs on these two albums are fantastic, preserving the classic songs without being total rip off copies.  The Beatles, Chuck Berry, and Junior Kimbaugh are done severe justice.


Black Keys
Rubber Factory
Fat Possum, 2004

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion, production
Dan Auerbach - guitar, bass, fiddle, lap steel, vocals

singles - 
  • 10AM Autmatic/ Stack Shot Billy/ Summertime Blues
  • Til I get my Way/ Girl is on my Mind/ Flash of Silver
I think this may be my favorite Black Keys record.  It is named after the abandoned building that they recorded it in, in Akron.  10 AM Automatic has a music video, which is well worth watching.  Also, it features a great Robert Pete Williams cover, Grown So Ugly.  They also cover an Ed Davies song.  A few tracks ended up featured in a few movie soundtracks like Black Snake Moan, Live Free or Die, and The Go Getter.  


Black Keys
Attack and Release
Nonesuch, 2008
produced by Danger Mouse

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Dan Auerbach - guitars, vocals, banjo, lap steel
Danger Mouse - Hohner bass, moog and korg synthesizers, piano

singles:
  • Strange Times/ Something on my Mind
  • I Got Mine/ Here I am I Always am
  • Same Old Thing
  • All You've Ever Wanted
This is the first album the Black Keys did outside of a basement, or the rubber factory, in a professional studio with a producer not named Patrick Carney.  I was pretty disappointed with this release at the time, as it is a departure from the crunchy DIY blues sound of the first few albums.  It is far more professional sounding than the other releases, which I thought took away from the charm of the band, one of the reasons I liked the band so much to start with.  Also, the fact that it was a two person band and all (most) of the sounds heard were just from two guys was pretty incredible.  But now, there were more sounds, synthed sounds, keys, backing vocals, a duet even.  This is actually not a bad record, but their other stuff prior to this was way more interesting and rocked harder.


Black Keys
Brothers
Nonesuch, 2010
produced by Danger Mouse and Mark Neill

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Dan Aeurbach - guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards

singles:
  • Tighten Up/ Howling for You
  • Next Girl
  • Ohio
  • Howling for You
It is about this time that the Black Keys were heard everywhere.  Car commercials used their riffs, tracks popped up in the soundtrack of television shows on a regular basis.  And then... radio play!

A little bit about what happens between this album and the last album before we go on... things I learned while reading and listening to interviews... Dan Aeurbach recorded and released a solo album Keep it Hid without telling Carney, which I bought.  Patrick Carney started playing in another band called Drummer and released an album without Auerbach (I didn't know that until now, actually).  The pair had grown apart due to Carney's rocky relationship with his wife.  But when they split up and divorced, the Black Keys got back together.  Seems the Yoko Ono situation worked itself out.

This album is the aftermath of events that could have kept the band apart indefinitely.  This album is what Attack and Release wished it was.  Breakout hit singles propelled the album to number 3 on the Billboard top 200, and the single Tighten Up spent 10 weeks at number one on the Alternative Songs chart.  The songs speak of love lost and found, brotherhood, and a reconnection with classic genres of the blues and country.  Even the album cover is an homage to Howlin Wolf.


The Black Keys
El Camino
Nonesuch, 2011
produced by Danger Mouse

Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Brian Burton - keyboards

singles -

  • Lonely Boy/ Run Right Back
  • Gold on the Ceiling
  • Dead and Gone
  • Little Black Submarines
Danger Mouse was brought back as a producer for this record full time.  The album expands on the success of Brothers and continues to move the band further from the roots blues of their past, and closer to a more mainstream hard rock band.  They also used a keyboard player full time for the first time.  The influences of bands like Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Ramones, and The Cars can be heard throughout the record.  Of course, the band continued to receive attention, radio play, and their music used in television, movies, and advertising.  This band will definitely be one to watch as they continue to evolve and grow.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pelicans: a Follow Up

Apparently, about a week after I posted about the New Orleans Hornets proposed name change, the New Orleans franchise released this press release showing their new logo and colors.

They look like this:

Nicely done, New Orleans.  Nicely done.

Also, they have an alternate logo that looks like this: