Friday, September 30, 2011

MO' BETTAH BLEWZ...OR NOT

KEB' MO': THE REFLECTION



Having won three GRAMMY Awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Keb Mo has established himself as one of the most dynamic blues musicians working today, and no one could fault Kevin Moore for playing it safe and releasing an album that sticks to the formula for which he has had such success for so long.

In fact, based on the title, The Reflection, one might assume that Moore's new disc is a greatest hits collection.


On his first album for new label Rykodisc, Moore takes a different musical path, and if you listen to The Reflection expecting to hear the usual soulful blues approach, you might be disappointed.

Gone are the down-home blues-folk leanings, the new album is a fusion of influences from across Moore's career featuring twelve songs that display the same songwriting craftsmanship that Moore is renowned for, with beautiful melodies and meaningful lyrics.

The results are phenomenal, with incredible vocals that blend pop, R&B, soul and jazz elements with catchy grooves and lush arrangements.

Moore's acoustic guitar is scarcely to be heard in this collection, and the blues are a fainter influence. Every song on is expressive, infectious, and well written, and the production is crisp and fresh.

The mix allows the various layers of instruments and voices enough space for each element to be fully heard without an overdone feeling.

Moore handles or shares lead vocals on every track, and plays lead guitar on a majority of the tracks drums and electric piano on occasion as well.

The album features an all star list of guest musicians which include Vince Gill, India.Arie, Marcus Miller, Dave Koz and David T. Walker.

Because Moore takes a different approach on this disc, long-time fans may struggle with the new musical territory.

I would recommend giving this disc a listen-Moore still plays the guitar like he was born to it, and the brilliant songwriting will win most skeptics over.


ONE OF THESE NIGHTS (Eagles cover)
 
THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
 
 
 
 
MY BABY'S TELLIN' LIES
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

THE GREAT PIG IN THE SKY


London commuters were bemused Monday morning when, as promised, a new pig was floated above Battersea Power Station to mark the launch of the 'Why Pink Floyd?' campaign of 2011 remasters and collectors' editions.



The Animals sleeve was recreated with the 2011 version of 'Algie' (the original has been put out to pasture) successfully inflated under grey skies, to amaze and astound passers by.

As noted in my May 13 post RETURN TO THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON,  EMI's massive Pink Floyd remastered edition campaign kicked off Tuesday in the US and  includes basic “Discovery” editions of the band’s 14 studio albums in digipacks with original album art  and expanded booklets, as well as a box set of all 14 albums.

Also released Tuesday are an expanded two-disc"Experience edition' of  Dark Side of the Moon, as well as a 180 gram vinyl pressing.

Finally, for you crazy diamonds, a six-disc “Immersion” CD/DVD/Blu-ray/memorabilia super-deluxe box set was released containing unreleased tracks, alternate takes, restored live concert screeen films and a live recording of the band’s 1974 “The Dark Side Of The Moon” performance at Wembley.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BETTER THAN OK COMPUTER

RADIOHEAD “THE BENDS”



It seems like on every list of great albums of the last twenty-five years, Radiohead's "OK Computer" gets the nod. Somehow, "The Bends" gets lost in the shuffle. I know you're supposed to rave about "OK Computer" if you want to seem cool and hip, and it is a good album, but it's not the best introduction to the band.


In my humble opinion, "The Bends" is Radiohead's most accessible album. Dare I go against the conventional wisdom and say it surpasses the Grammy-winning "OK Coputer?" Dare I say it is their BEST album? I double-dog-dare it!

The album is a richly textured collage of swirling guitars and multi-layered instrumentation that tips it's hat to the seventies' progressive bands with a modern twist.

This album is a classic, with Yorke's lyrics at their most comprehensible and his singing at it's most passionate. Songs like "Fake Plastic Trees" and "High & Dry" soar to heights that would make U2 a little dizzy. Greenwood makes excellent use of spacy guitar and keyboard effects to add mood.

All in all, this is a great rock album that makes an excellent first listen to Radiohead for the new listener. For die hards who spent $80 on the "In Rainbows" discbox (I did), listen to this one again for old times sake!

FAKE PLASTIC TREES
 
 
 
HIGH & DRY
 
 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

LIVE FROM DARYL'S HOUSE MAKES BROADCAST TV DEBUT


Born on the Internet four years ago as a “light bulb moment” for Daryl Hall, Live from Daryl's House, the Webby and MTV O Music award-winning webcast, will make its broadcast premiere nationally with two back-to-back half-hour episodes featuring Train and Fitz & the Tantrums, on Saturday, Sept. 24. The show will be syndicated nationally by Good Cop Bad Cop Productions in association with Scott Sternberg Productions and distributor Trifecta Entertainment & Media. Executive producers for the show include Hall and Scott Sternberg along with Daryl Hall manager Jonathan Wolfson.

Live from Daryl's House marks the first full-length music web show to successfully cross over into the television syndication marketplace. LFDH has been a hit monthly live-performance web series since 2007, featuring Daryl Hall jamming (and cooking and drinking) with friends, musicians and guest artists. The 30-minute broadcast version is a performance reality series which takes place in the intimate setting in Daryl Hall's home.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Daryl. “When I first had the idea for this series four years ago, I was hoping to reach a wide audience, and this is just another step in that plan. We're all raring to go.”

“It's been a delight and a reward for me to work with the legendary Daryl Hall, who has truly reinvented himself in the digital age,” said Sternberg, CEO of Scott Sternberg Productions. “Other than the regular late-night shows, there isn't a weekly performance series currently on the air where the top bands, artists and musicians can perform their songs and reach audiences nationwide. We look forward to helping fill that void, and we thank all of our station partners who are on board for the premiere.”

“I am amazed at the metamorphosis of the show. From being able to go from a small flip cam operation to an 8 camera, High Definition production that has marquis talent jam in Daryl's living room is incredible. We've been able to establish this series on the web thanks to the fans, and now to cross mediums, represents a tremendous opportunity,” added Wolfson. “We couldn't ask for better partners in doing so than Scott Sternberg and Trifecta Entertainment & Media.”

Added Tribune Programming President Sean Compton: “Live from Daryl's House is the perfect blend of new and classic acts bringing music programming back to broadcast television. Tribune's stations provide a great environment for LFDH on weekends.”

Live from Daryl's House has been cleared in nearly 80% of U.S. homes in the nation's top 200 media markets, as well as all of the top 10, including New York (WPIX), L.A. (KTLA), Chicago (WGN), Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH). The show has also cleared in such key markets as Philadelphia (CBS-owned KYW), Boston (KBIN) and Atlanta (WATL), and is set to premiere on a number of NBC, Fox and CBS-owned affiliates across the country. Most stations will air a full hour with two original shows back to back on Saturday nights.

“My time at Daryl's House was incredible,” said Train lead singer Pat Monahan about the experience. “Daryl's bandmates were super-seasoned pros and Daryl was gracious and right on with what I hoped such a legend would be like. Thanks all!”

“To get to play with one of my biggest influences and idols was a dream come true,” raves Fitz's Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. “Daryl and the guys put it down and we all left it on the floor! We went pretty deep into the Daryl Hall catalog to sing the first song Daryl ever recorded. It was a day we will never forget!”

Live from Daryl's House made its broadcast debut on WGN America last year to impressive ratings, which spurred interest in syndication. The past four years have marked a steady stream of superlatives and recognition for Live from Daryl's House, with Hall receiving a Webby Award for Best Variety series at the 14th annual ceremony at N.Y.'s Cipriani Wall Street before garnering an O Music Award from MTV earlier this year. The shows have been edited into two 30-minute-long episodes which, in most cases, will air back-to-back.

Hopefully, the two shows teaming up the Philly Boyz (Daryl and Todd Rundgren) will be aired at some point.

Episode 23 (September 15, 2009)

Episode 40 (March 15, 2011)

And here's the cover of Daryl's new CD, which drops on Tuesday!



Friday, September 23, 2011

OUT STANDING IN HIS FIELD

FISH: FIELD OF CROWS



Poet, actor, singer, musician... Fish has not been content simply to milk his reputation from his days fronting Marillion, now more than two decades past. It is ironic that Steve Hogarth, who replaced him in his former band, is still referred to as the "new singer." The giant Scotsman left some large shoes to fill, but he has long since given up looking back.

Field of Crows was released in late 2004, and is certainly one of the most complete works Fish has produced as a solo artist. The album sees him merging traditional and progressive rock influences with Celtic leanings and a modern edge.

Working closely with former Big Country guitarist Bruce Watson, Fish delivers and album that manage to rock hard and embrace his Scottish roots, a rich and complex album with songs that scream 'epic' from start to finish. It's one of those albums that are impossible to adequately categorize, with blues influences and progressive elements all effortlessly woven into the melancholy mix.

The band are adept at their respective instruments and their seasoned experience comes through with startling clarity on these eleven new tracks. Joining Bruce Watson (guitars) is his fellow BC cohort Mark Brzezicki on drums, along with long time off and on members of Fish's bands of the past: Frank Usher (guitars), Steve Vantsis (bass) and Tony Turrell (keyboards). The music on "Field Of Crows" is tightly played and the pedigree of these performers shines through the entire operation.

Fish has one of the more unique and powerful voices in rock music, instantly recognizable, soft when it needs to be but managing to convey a sense of menace and edge when the song warrants it. Fish's voice may not be quite as strong as in past efforts, but it has taken on a mellow smoothness that works very well on this mature offering.

Fish's hand is evident in the production and songwriting at every level. Although I would not call this a concept album, there are certain themes that arise again and again (ambition talent and the gulf often between them; failure and fear of failure). Musically the album covers a wide array of styles, from rock anthems to tender ballads.

I think this album is a big step up from Fellini Days (its predecessor), and is as good as Sunsets On Empire.

Field Of Crows is highly recommended to anyone who misses the Fish of old, and for the uninitiated, if you simply want a good, solid rock album with a bit more thought in the grooves than usual, give it a try.

THE FIELD



SHOT THE CRAW



THE ROOKIE



MOVING TARGET



EXIT WOUNDS




Tuesday, September 20, 2011

JUST ALONG FOR THE RIDE

PERRY DESMOND-DAVIES: SWEET RIDE



Perry Desmond-Davies performed on the New England coffeehouse scene as a teenager, then after a hiatus to focus on family, signed up for an open-mike performance, and returned to her music roots, delivering her newest release, the full length studio album Sweet Ride, a blend of folk, blues, and bluegrass, with fourteen original songs that touch on universal themes like life, love and relationships.


Musically, this is a folksy singer/songwriter affair, although there are some tasty blues stylings mixed in to keep it interesting. Lyrically, Desmond-Davies plays working class hero on the album, her distinctive voice tying the words and music together with a vocal styling tone that shares the same origins as artists like Tom Waits and Pete Seeger-tender, lyric and melodic, touching those emotions we usually keep well-guarded.

There are songs about enjoying life in its simplicity, fighting a debilitating disease, letting go, starting over and finding a place that feels like home, all wonderfully woven with Desmond-Davies' rootsy melodies. There are no huge triumphs or epic tragedies in these stories, only the little victories and subtle defeats of everyday life.

That's what Desmond-Davies does best on this album-a songwriter telling stories about themes that we all can relate to. Truly a sweet ride, down to the last groove…or whatever the CD equivalent of a groove is!



SWEET RIDE (live)




Sunday, September 18, 2011

A WIZARD GETS THE TRUE STAR TREATMENT

Edsel Rolls Out Todd Rundgren Catalogue Overhaul




Todd Rundgren is one of music’s most enduring iconoclasts. Not merely content to rest on his early career laurels as a purveyor of top-tier AM pop (“Hello, It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light”) the restless musician has followed his muse from one direction to another over 40+-years, taking in soul (of the Philadelphia and blue-eyed varieties), pop, prog rock, jazz, funk, arena rock, avant-garde experimentalism, a cappella, musical comedy and even operetta!

And that’s just naming a few of the styles Todd Rundgren has mastered as an artist.

As a producer, he’s helmed some efforts for Daryl Hall and John Oates, Badfinger, The Band, The Tubes and XTC, not to mention a little album named Bat Out of Hell for the oversized talent of Meat Loaf.

Last week, he released the follow-up to last year’s Todd Rundgren’s Johnson (which notwithstanding the um, unfortunate title, is a ferocious collection of hellraising blues from the pen of Robert Johnson!) with another new LP, [Re]Production.

This one reinterprets classic songs produced by Rundgren (including “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Dancing Barefoot”) in a slick, electronic modern dance setting. Yes, it’s safe to say that one can always expect the unexpected from Todd Rundgren.


But for the full picture of the eccentric genius of Todd, you’ll want to delve into Edsel’s recently-announced series of expanded reissues of Rundgren’s Bearsville Records catalogue.

An arm of the Demon Music Group, Edsel recently announced its acquisition of rights to reissue the Bearsville library, kicking the series off with Norma Jean Wright’s CHIC-produced debut.

Five 2-CD sets of Rundgren material are coming on October 3 in the United Kingdom, covering a total of nine essential albums (the 1972 classic Something/Anything is a double-disc album) including a duo of albums from Utopia.

Almost all contain rare and unreleased bonus tracks, making these the definitive reissues for this storied catalogue. From 1970’s debut Runt to 1977’s Utopia LPs RA and Oops, Wrong Planet!, these albums truly represent the crème of the Rundgren crop.



After learning the ropes as part of the Philadelphia rock group Nazz, Rundgren spread his wings as a solo artist in 1970 at the age of 23. Runt introduced the irresistible if sometimes misunderstood hit single “We Gotta Get You A Woman,” which epitomized the pop/soul sound of the LP. Still, Runt wasn’t without its experimentation, pointing the way towards the future, like the nine-minute rock opus “Birthday Carol” and the haunting, wordless exercise in harmony vocals, “There Are No Words.” Fresh from The Band’s Stage Fright, Levon Helm and Rick Danko joined Rundgren for “Once Burned.” Edsel’s reissue appends the entire November 1970 mispressing of the album for the first time ever on CD, including alternate takes, different mixes and two exclusive songs, “Say No More” and “Baby Let’s Swing (Complete Version).”

1971’s Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren furthered the Runt persona and honed the Laura Nyro-style songcraft of the debut album. In addition to the single “Long, Flowing Robe,” Ballad introduced more lush ballads like “Be Nice to Me” and “A Long Time, A Long Way to Go.” Edsel’s edition adds four live radio broadcast bonus tracks.

As good as these first two LPs were, the third time was really the charm.



1972’s Something/Anything was, and is, unlike any other album in the rock canon. The multi-hyphenate artist recorded three of the album’s four sides himself, playing all instruments and singing all vocal parts. The fourth side was a kind of mock autobiographical operetta, aided by a rock ensemble.

Something/Anything would have been an instant classic if only for its two hit singles, the Carole King-inspired “I Saw the Light” and the remake of the Nazz track “Hello, It’s Me,” with a new, more upbeat sound. But those were just the tip of the iceberg. The impossibly lush ballad “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” rests comfortably alongside the heavy metal anthem “Black Maria,” while “Cold Morning Light,” “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” and “It Takes Two to Tango” show off the singer/songwriter’s effortless mastery of the pop song form.



Comic relief was also in abundance, with “I Went to the Mirror,” “Piss Aaron” and Gilbert and Sullivan-style “Song of the Viking.” A truly original voice had announced itself. Edsel’s reissue is bolstered by the inclusion of a demo of “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” plus six radio spots for the original album.


Rundgren’s follow-up was eagerly awaited. Like clockwork, it arrived one year later. But nobody could have predicted the modestly-titled A Wizard, A True Star? Rundgren responded to his commercial breakthrough by creating an album so singular that few knew what to make of it.

At a lengthy 56 minutes for a single LP, AWATS was a psychedelic aural stew of electronica, metal, jazz, pop, soul and showtunes. Patti Smith wrote in Creem, “Blasphemy even the gods smile on. Rock and roll for the skull. A very noble concept. Past present and tomorrow in one glance. Understanding through musical sensation. Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation.” So “Never, Never Land” from the stage musical Peter Pan is joined by a soul medley of Thom Bell, Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield oldies, and bona fide Rundgren classics “Just One Victory” and “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel.” If the audience didn’t know what to feel, either, Todd seemingly didn’t care. In “Just Another Onionhead,” he opined, “You want the obvious/You’ll get the obvious” before launching into anything but.

1974’s Todd took the avant garde approach a bit further, with more synthesizer/electronic journeys plus the ravishing pop of “A Dream Goes On Forever,” humorous commentary “An Elpee’s Worth of Toons,” hard-rocking “Heavy Metal Kids” and another theatrical showstopper, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song” from Iolanthe. Edsel has added live performances of “Ooh Baby Baby,” “A Dream Goes On Forever” and The Move/ELO’s “Do Ya” to these already-packed albums.



The 56 minutes of AWATS weren’t enough for the wizard himself, so with 1975’s Initiation, he delivered the longest-ever single LP at 68 minutes’ length. Side One led off with the Philly-influenced “Real Man” and took in the jazzy title track with sax solo by David Sanborn, as well as “Fair Warning” with guests Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and Dan Hartman. Side Two, though, broke all of the rules with the unorthodox 36-minute single track, “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire.” The treatise welcomed future Utopia keyboardist Roger Powell into the fold, and found Rundgren taking his skill at the synthesizer a giant, progressive-rock step forward.

1976’s Faithful was perhaps the most ambitious project of Rundgren’s career to date, in which he note-for-note reproduced songs from some of the most individual artists in rock history: The Beatles (“Rain”), The Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”), Jimi Hendrix (“If Six Was Nine”) and Bob Dylan (“Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine”). The second side was a triumphant return to straight-ahead pop songwriting, with remarkable songs that remain concert staples today like “Cliché” and “Love of the Common Man.” These two very different LPs have been expanded with one bonus track, a 1975 live recording of the Who-influenced Nazz nugget “Open My Eyes.”



Finally, Edsel brings together the third and fourth albums from Utopia, the rock band formed by Rundgren in 1974 as a complement to his solo career. (The label promises that the first two albums from the band will arrive in a later wave in the Rundgren reissue series.)

Both dating from 1977, RA and Oops! Wrong Planet feature the line-up of Todd (guitar), Roger Powell (keyboards), Kasim Sulton (bass) and John Wilcox (drums).

The former was full-tilt prog rock, with its centerpiece the 18-minute “Singring and the Glass Guitar.” RA remains Rundgren’s highest-charting UK album.

Its follow-up nine months later was a wholly different work of twelve short songs, though the genre lines were, as usual, blurred. Its lasting contribution to the Rundgren oeuvre is the life- and love-affirming “Love is the Answer,” which England Dan and John Ford Coley took to the U.S. Top 10 in 1979. No bonus tracks have been added to these two albums.

All of Edsel’s reissues feature liner notes by Paul Myers, adapted from his definitive Rundgren chronicle, A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio. Lyrics and rare photos are also promised for each title.

The first salvo in the Todd Rundgren reissue campaign hits stores in the U.K. on October 3 (Amazon has 'em available for preorder).

Edsel’s series is simultaneous with a program from the Cherry Red arm Esoteric Recordings. Reissues of Rundgren’s late-period albums The Individualist and No World Order are due from Esoteric on October 31. Future releases will round up the remainder of the artist’s Bearsville output.

All of these releases epitomize the singer’s credo, as he wrote in Bearsville promotional materials circa 1981:

“I’m not looking to be in any one place for too long. A lot of people’s whole idea of making records is to arrive at an acceptable style and exploit it until the crows come home. I’ve been more intrigued with finding out what I can do.”

If you’ve missed out in the past, here’s your chance to find out, too.



Read the original article HERE.


Another article can be found HERE.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A FIT LIKE YOUR FAVORITE OLD PAIR OF JEANS

JOHN HIATT: DIRTY JEANS AND MUDSLIDE HYMNS


Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, John Hiatt's 20th solo album, is the latest addition to a 37-year musical career that spans five decades.

The album has an incredible collection of musicians which include Kenneth Blevins on drums and percussion, Doug Lancio on electric guitars, mandolin and Hammertone and Patrick O'Hearn on bass guitar.

Hiatt's raspy southern drawl narrates his rough-edged stories with raw emotion against the beautiful musicianship as a backdrop.


As always, Hiatt combines excellent song writing and story telling with an ability to connect with people of all ages and walks of life with his universal themes.

It remains a mystery to me why this seasoned veteran is still one of popular music's better kept secrets, but if you are one of those in the dark, this album gives you a chance to hear his signature blend of angry blues, soft country and good time rock n roll in a classic voice that emotes a lifetime of paying songwriting dues.

Sadly, most of Hiatt's recognition has been generated by covers of his work by other artists.

The prevailing mood is serious, with world weary ballads and slow burning laments, full of lyrics telling a menacing story of the decline and the need for the anchor of tenderness.

Hiatt has set the expectation for powerful albums sung with real heart and infused with impeccable musicianship, and he delivers here. This formula will probably not cause Lady Gaga or Katy Perry concern over their position on the charts, and there are no great departures on this album, but it is a good opportunity for you to find time to kick your feet up, break open a bottle (or pour a couple fingers of bourbon) and digest it from start to finish

If you're a fan of his earlier works, or if you simply want to try something new, you can't go wrong here.

DAMN THIS TOWN

 
 
WHEN NEW YORK HAD HER HEART BROKE
 
 
 
 
I LOVE THAT GIRL
 
 
 
 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ALRIGHT GUY

from the Charleston City Paper (link below)



Todd Snider's the guy in the back of your high school math class cracking wise. A real smack-talking, dope-smoking free spirit with a folk-singing patois, lined with satirical asides, lighthearted irreverence, and self-deprecating wit. Along the way, he's grown into one of our finest Americana artists, though he'd be the last to cop to that.


Snider grew up in Texas, but after accompanying his father on a visit to Beaverton, Ore. (near Portland), he refused to come back. He surfed couches throughout his last two years of high school, then eventually took a construction job with his brother in Austin, where he saw acclaimed country songsmith Jerry Jeff Walker and decided to become a singer/songwriter.

Snider landed a major label deal with MCA and in 1994 released his debut Songs for the Daily Planet with a last-minute addition, "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Blues." It's a Dylan-esque spit-take on the burgeoning movement about some flannel-wearing wannabes who come up with the ultimate gimmick: "We decided to be the only band that wouldn't play a note under any circumstances. Silence, music's original alternative." (The album also included "Alright Guy," which Gary Allan would take to #1 in 2001.)

Songs for the Daily Planet created a small stir, but Snider's next two albums didn't make any commercial hay, and he ended up with John Prine's Oh Boy Records for four more, culminating in 2004's East Nashville Skyline, which reignited his career. It's arguably his finest moment, chock full of great songs including his paean to censorship, "The Ballad of the Kingsmen," an ode to Mike Tyson ("Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request"), "Age Like Wine," (in which he notes, "It's too late to die young now"), and his signature bit of political skewering, "Conservative, Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight White American Male."

"I had overdosed a few times. My best friend died [2000 heroin overdose victim, guitarist Eddy Shaver]. You might say I lucked into having that 'Kingsmen' song being in my life right at the same time. That was a pretty painful time," Snider says. "I'm the kind of guy that if I move to an island and sat there, I would make up a record, and when you turned it on, it'd be, 'Sitting on the island. Still sitting here. Still sitting here,' and they'd be 'This isn't a good time for you to be cutting stuff, man.'"



Snider followed it two years later with The Devil You Know, another politically tinged album highlighted by his take on George W. Bush's early life, "You Got Away with It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)." It maintained the last album's momentum and multiplied it, thanks in part to the charged political atmosphere of the time.

"I had not expected that kind of attention in my life. I had totally resigned myself to the idea that those days were behind me," Snider says.

It spooked him a bit, and he wanted to leave the political songs behind. "I wasn't sure if I thought I was into that so much," he says. "By that time, I was like, 'Oh politics, everybody's doing politics.'"

In the end, he collected those political songs on 2008's eight-song Peace Queer EP, and then returned a year later with a collection of more upbeat songs, The Excitement Plan. Though not a bad record, it lacks some of the previous discs' bristle and bite. "I had left out all that angst, put it on this EP, and separated the emotions," he says. "This is in hindsight, of course."



In February, Snider released a double-disc titled Live: The Storyteller, which functioned both as a kind of greatest hits album and cleared the deck of his prior between-song stories and humorous banter.

"Right now I'm working on new stories and hoping to have a whole brand new band, sound, and everything by then," he says. "I don't know. I'll probably go to the show and someone will be, 'Goddamn, you wore that last time. Is this that rope swing thing? Jesus Christ, is he on drugs again? I hope so, because that looks painful.'"

Snider is working on a new batch of songs largely related to his dysfunctional family. He believes it will be a bluesier album than anything he's done before. He hopes to hit the studio in October then release it early next year.

"I'm calling it Agnostic Hymns. It's anti-country, anti-religion, anti-family. I feel like it's really going to really tank for me," he says. "It's still a big huge mess. I'd tell the story, but I'd also want the part. I'd want that to be the end, but it's actually really awful, and a lot of why I ran away from home."

In the meantime, he's still working. "I've never written a song and not rewritten it 50 times. I don't trust a lyric that's less than 11 months old," says Snider, explaining that he's looking forward to opening a new chapter in his career. "I'm coming into my Fred Sanford years and trying to make music that sounds like the way I'm starting to walk."



Read the original article HERE.

Check out Todd's website.

Todd performing "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues"


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

TODD RUNDGREN: (re) PRODUCTION




Todd Rundgren is as well-known as a producer as an artist.

His work on Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell pretty much paid for his property in Hawaii (which is a long way from Upper Darby, my friends), and he's produced such acts as Patti Smith, The Band, New York Dolls, XTC, The Psychedelic Furs, and a plethora of others.


As an artist, although Something/Anything? is regarded as the hallmark Todd Rundgren album, I am partial to 1989's Nearly Human.

It features introspective and mature songwriting, and where most of his studio output had seen Todd play studio wizard and perform the whole album himself, this album used the "live-in-the-studio" technique that had been missing since side four of S/A?, but with material and themes reflecting a mature perspective.

I have heard Todd admit that being part of a band makes him a better musician. In my opinion, he has not come close to matching Nearly Human in the two decades since its release. Although 2004's Liars received critical acclaim, it was mostly electronic music (not my cup of tea). Since the songs were TR originals, after a few months of constant rotation, they did grow on me. 2008's Arena featured lots of guitar and arena-rock anthems, and may be my fifth-favorite TR/Utopia disc-I still play that one frequently.

2011 is a bonus year for Rundgren aficionados, with two new discs released in a span of five months. Sadly, both are covers discs. April's Todd Rundgren's Johnson covers songs from the Robert Johnson canon, albeit rather electrified in an Arena-fashion. And in September, we are treated to (re) Production, which covers selected tracks from the albums he has produced over the past four decades.

I almost did not buy this disc.

In March, the record label had a release party, but since the release date was half a year away, they pressed a three-song sampler to give away at the event. Since I could not fly across the country for the release party, I e-mailed the label (Gigatone Records) and it's CEO Mitchell Koulouris five times asking if I could purchase one and got no response.

On e-mail number six, I mentioned how ignoring a customer who wants to buy music with the current state of the music industry might not be the best strategy.

Mr. Koulouris sent me a scathing e-mail saying how people like me were never satisfied no matter what he did. Interesting, because he really did not know what kind of people I was like, and since he didn't do anything, why would I be satisfied?

I mentioned both of these facts to him, pointed out that I'd purchased his Eddie Money and Dwight Twilley releases and let him know that I'd start looking for Gigatone product used. And I did-both the Mickey Dolenz and Mickey Thomas released came from the used racks at Zia Records. The only thing more satisfying would be if they were promotional copies I bought used.

I considered waiting for a used copy of Todd's latest….but my support for my Upper Darby compatriot trumps my disappointment in the maturity level of Gigatone's management, so I preordered a copy from the Todd site, and the rest is history.

Is it here that this review takes an unexpected turn.

Here come the seven words I never though I'd say.

Seven words that may very well be a sign of the Apocalypse.

These are not the words George Carlin warned you about, but here they come….are you ready?

I...don't...like...Todd...Rundgren's...new...album.

There. I said it. I have NEVER said that before. Not about any Todd album. I came close with one (With A Twist), but I think I used to just say "it's not one of my favorites."

In the liner notes Todd describes how during his "tenure" at Indiana University, he got into a discussion with his students regarding the mereits of new music versus old music. Lady Gaga was brought up, and Todd realized he was unfamiliar with her music. He decided to brush up on modern music, and found that it emphasized dance fundamentals. He saw this project as a way to record a modern sound with better material than most modern artists have to work with. 

Why that inspired him to create dance versions of these songs is anybody's guess. Most of these songs are good in their original formats, and I would have loved to see Todd tweak them, but the "driving beats designed to bring new dance energy" do not work for me in many cases, and over fifteen songs it is overdone.

Followers of my blog know I am not a fan of covers albums, but I like the Robert Johnson album a lot. I like the covers on Faithful. Heck, Stephen McCarthy declared war on me once when I said I might like Todd's version of "Good Vibrations" better than the Beach Boys (and it's a note-for-note remake). He may still be looking for me by the way, so don't tell him I'm here.


Todd recognizes that if you cover a song you ought to do something different with it (although he did not approach his 1975 album that way, hence it's Faithful title), but did he have to do them all the same way?

The whole effort begs the question why? We already had to live through an album of dance-remixes of his own songs-haven't we been punished enough?

It's not all bad, but the track order doesn't help, as it opens with three tracks that I find unlistenable. Here's my take, song by song, in case you're interested. Where I was able to find sound clips, I attached them.


"Prime Time"-since the original had a little synthesized dance beat, this should have worked. However the key does not suit Todd's voice, the songs works better as a duet, and the rap Todd throws in makes this sound like a gag song. No amount of spinning will make this grow on me.



"Dancing Barefoot"-this just will not work as a dance song-all of the passion of the Patti Smith original has been washed away. Todd may have been better off reworking "Frederick." Singing the PS poem at the end is akin to nails on a chalkboard.

Todd's cover of Patti's song


And Patti Smith's original, as produced by Todd



"Two Out Of Three Aint Bad"-another bad choice, to try to take a passionate ballad and make it a synth-pop song. However, if you make it through these three, it does improve a little.

"Chasing Your Ghost"-since I am least familiar with this song (the What Is This album was never released on CD, and I haven't listened to the record in years), this one is not bad.


"Love My Way"-there's no reason this song shouldn't work (since the original from the Psychedelic Furs was heavy on the electronic instrumentation) but it doesn't. I think Todd went to for too high a voice here, and he really hasn't had that kind of range the past decade or so.

"Personality Crisis"-another one that is not so bad-some of the vocal stylings I could do without, but the dance groove is not overstated and the material suits Todd's voice. The New York Dolls still did it better.




"Is It A Star?"-this may be the second best song on the album, and is the only example where I like what Todd did with this better than what he produced for Hall & Oates back on the War Babies album. The arrangement is a little faster than the original, and the dance groove fits right in. Todd is in fine voice, the background vocals actually add to the listening experience (on many other cuts they take away from it) and this is an enjoyable interlude in the midst of sonic chaos.

"Tell Me Your Dreams"-while I won't say I like this rehash of the Jill Sobule track, it does at least lend itself to the treatment. So I guess I can say it works, but it's not my kind of music.

"Take It All"-my third favorite track, and while I still prefer the Badfinger version, I do like this one. Again, light on the dance treatment.

"I Can't Take It"-the arrangement is interesting, and I guess I'd say it works, but I like the original so much better. The marriage of Cheap Trick with producer Rundgren was this power-pop fan's wet dream, and making a dance version of this song is to a power pop fan kind of like what making a peanut butter sandwich out of the communion wafer would be to a Fundamentalist Christian.

"Dear God"-this one is not bad, but if Andy Partridge feuded with Todd during the making of XTC's Skylarking, this version must have him declaring all-out war.

"Out Of My Mind"-another one that is not bad, but not an improvement over the Bourgeois-Tagg original.



"Everything"-one that could work musically but does not suit Todd's voice at all.

"Walk Like A Man"-my favorite song on the album, because this Grand Funk track plays to Todd's strengths and does not use the synth-pop cliches. This is the song that the "My Record Fantasy" attendees were included on. The clip shows one of the sessions from "My Record Fantasy."




"Nothing To Lose"-not bad, but not really much of a departure or an improvement on the Hunter song.

Overall, out of fifteen tracks, I like three, seven are not so bad, and five are songs I'd play as punishment for captured terrorists.

I'd gotten the CD in advance, and had it with me on my drives to Tucson and Vegas (see my post HERE if you want to read that story) but kept pulling it from the player.

In 1997, Todd released With A Twist, an album of bossa-nova versions of some of his singles. That album was retired from my CD player in short order, but (re) Production may have set a new record for being stuck up on a shelf. The combination of the electronic arrangements, the dance mix and lack of original TR compositions did me in.

Maybe Todd has forgotten that his fan base has aged with him-we need glucosamine and hip replacements, not dance versions!

Die-hards will want this no matter what, but if you're a casual fan looking for "Hello It's Me," might I suggest Rhino's 180 gram LP reissue of S/A?

If you're not a die-hard and are unfamiliar with Todd's productions, I'd recommend looking for a copy of 1992's An Elpee's Worth Of Productions, which was the same compilation idea but used the original songs by the original artists.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

KING ME!

THE JEFF GOLUB BAND: THE THREE KINGS




Jeff Golub made his name in rock n roll, touring and recording with Rod Stewart for seven years, and then performing similar duties for Billy Squier across seven albums and three world tours.

As a solo artist, however, Golub has returned to his first love, the blues. Golub's most recent album, Three Kings, pays tribute to music of Albert, B.B. and Freddie King. Golub is joined by Henry Butler on piano and vocals; Andy Hess (Gov't Mule) on bass and Josh Dion on drums, percussion and vocals.

Special guest appearances by Robben Ford and Sonny Landreth augment a dynamic musical experience that was recorded live and accentuated with very few overdubs. Three Kings was produced by Golub and Bud Harner and recorded in Brooklyn, New York.


To call Three Kings a blues album isn't as descriptive as it might be. This is a solid mix rhythm and blues album, mixing vibrant instrumentals with rollicking numbers that are blues in form but rock n roll in spirit. The highlights of the album generally involve Henry Butler on vocals ("Let The Good Times Roll", "Born Under A Bad Sign", and "Three Kings").

Sonny Landreth's slide guitar work on the instrumental "In Plain Sight" is brilliant, as is dual guitar work of Robben Ford and Golub on "Side Tracked". Butler steals the show on piano in "I'm Tore Down", but the entire ensemble is hot on what turns out to be the standout track of the album.

Jeff Golub hits mostly golden notes on Three Kings. His guitar work is outstanding throughout, even if the energy on a couple of tracks falls a bit flat.

All new students of blues/rock should include Three Kings in their early education, as The Jeff Golub Band knows their craft and interpret the numbers here with pizzazz.

SIDETRACKED
 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Living the Blues: An Interview with Todd Rundgren



By J.C. Sciaccotta 1 September 2011
After four decades-plus in the music business, you’d think you’d have seen it all from the “God named Todd”.
But, in his usual Rundgren-esque manner, he’s thrown the listening audience yet another curveball—this time in the form of a collection of Robert Johnson covers (appropriately titled Todd Rundgren’s Johnson).
Long a hidden gem amongst rock guitarists, Rundgren uses his considerable chops to turn Johnson’s acoustic sketches into pure balls-to-the-wall blues-rock, in the raw style of classic 60s records by John Mayall and Paul Butterfield.
PopMatters talks with one of pop’s foremost iconoclasts about his Johnson, the legendary bluesman’s influence on his music, and his new project that’s sure to blow even more minds ...



Todd Rundgren’s Johnson. That seems like an appropriate title…

(laughs) Well—it is for the music it contains, certainly. That was probably the simplest part to come up with.

Correct me if I’m wrong—but I believe this is the first time since 1976’s Faithful that you’ve done any sort of covers record. Why Robert Johnson? And why now for this particular record?

A couple of years ago I was finishing up a solo record called Arena. And after its completion, we were looking for someone to distribute the record—that’s just kind of the way it works nowadays. You don’t really have a record label that fronts you the money anymore. (laughs) You usually have to—somehow—get the record made and then find someone to put it out. And we found a label willing to put it out, but they had a condition, and that was: that I do a record of Robert Johnson covers.

Ah, I see.
And the reason they had me do that was they had recently acquired the rights to the publishing of the songs, but they actually had no recorded versions. So it was a way to make sure there was some publishing revenue, I guess, behind their new acquisition. But also, they suggested the possibility that if they had some recordings, they might be able to license them for TV or movies, or something like that. So that was the rationale at the time.

Then I did the record, and delivered it something like three years ago, and it took them about two-and-a half of those years to finally put the record out. A lot of this involved them looking for a worldwide distribution deal as well, so they kept putting it off and putting it off until that deal got resolved. And it took until this last Spring for that to happen, and that’s when they released the record.

The irony being, that I had been touring behind the record with the expectation that it was going to be released at some point. So, for two years I played the greatest hits of Robert Johnson to the consternation and confusion of my audience. And then finally, when I said, “I’ve done this enough,” the record finally comes out. So, I don’t really play much of that music anymore. I’ve moved on to other things.

I can only imagine the collective expression of puzzlement strewn across [your fans’] faces.

Well, they’ve been conditioned not to expect the expected. But this was pretty confusing for them. I had to explain every night exactly why I was doing it and why they weren’t hearing the greatest hits of Todd Rundgren.

So does Robert Johnson have any type of influence on either your songwriting or guitar playing, then? You’re not exactly the first person I expected to come out with a record like this ...

Well, it’s not that unusual. When I got out of high school I was in a blues band. It was the kind of music I was interested in, and listening to, mostly because it was becoming a vehicle for a generation of guitarists—like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Mike Bloomfield. And that’s what I wanted to be, principally, a guitar player. So, my first gig out of high school was in a blues band.

But Robert Johnson didn’t really have a direct influence on me—I was listening to the guitar players who were listening to him. And many of them had multiple influences, they weren’t influenced by Robert Johnson alone. There was some B.B. King influence in there, or, in the case of Jeff Beck, maybe some Les Paul, which is pretty much as far away from the blues as possible.

So it was great music to play, because it featured the instrument so much. But, I never attempted in the old days to sing any of it. That’s probably the significant difference, that I’m actually singing some blues at this point.

There’s a very down-home, juke joint type vibe to this album. It almost sounds like it was recorded live in the studio (yet there are only two credited musicians). I’m assuming this was intentional?

The sound, yeah. It’s kind of supposed to be this fairly raw, fairly live kind of sound that a lot of the seminal records that influenced me had about them. Particularly, there was a record by John Mayall called Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, and that was a great influence on every guitar player I knew. But one of the great things about it was kind of the liveness of it, it had a crackling quality to it. You could hear a lot of the subtleties of what the players were doing.

So I tried to keep it fairly simple, not loading up on a lot of background vocals or additional instrumentation, just keep the guitar in the foreground and just deal with the bigger challenges of trying to craft melodies out of what essentially are a lot of improvisations.

Robert Johnson, like a lot of blues players, never sang the exact same thing twice, mostly because they were so drunk most of the time they couldn’t remember what they had sang the last time. (laughs) So, it was something of a challenge to go back and listen to the songs and pick out significant melody lines and themes to build these new arrangements around.

How do you feel about covers in general? It seems to me, with newer bands at least, that there are negative vibes associated with doing covers. Is this fair?

I think there’s ways to do it, and then there’s ways to screw it (laughs). On occasion I hear a rearrangement of a song that really makes me reevaluate it, in a way. So, I think there’s nothing wrong with that. At the same time, I saw Sisters of Mercy at a festival recently, and for some reason in the middle of the show they decided to play the Peter Gunn theme. You know, what’s that got to do with anything?

So I think there’s a time and a place for that sort of stuff. I just finished an album that’s coming out, in a month or two, that essentially is new versions of songs that I produced for other people, and they’re mostly all dance versions. So I had to do arrangements that were completely unlike the originals; there was simply no point in me aping what I had done already. So all of the songs have some twist, or unique approach to them that makes them not necessarily recognizable at first.

What are some of the songs you’re covering?



Oh, a lot of the bigger hits, like “Love My Way” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”... “Dancing Barefoot”. I tried to hit most of the high points.

In some cases, it was a bit of challenge to find a song that was apropos for this kind of arrangement. And in other cases, there were artists that I wanted to cover but just couldn’t figure out a way to reframe their material.

I did two albums, for instance, with Pursuit of Happiness, but for some reason I couldn’t find a song to turn into a dance song, mostly because the themes in the lyrics were all so furtive that it sounded burlesque trying to turn them into dance songs (laughs).

Now when you day “dance”, do you mean like modern club music, or more classic rock ‘n’ roll dance music.

I’m thinking more like how records kind of sound like nowadays. I didn’t decide that I wanted to do a “dance record”—what I decided was I wanted to make a contemporary record.

I then did a study-up on what was on the charts and things like that, and it turns out that everything is dance now. And it has to do with the fact that there is no prevailing alternative style. Every once in a while we have some sort of movement in music that everyone suddenly wants to work in, like grunge, or rap, or disco, or some other musical phase and then suddenly that’ll be the thing to do.

But we don’t really have one right now. What happens is when the waters recede, the thing that was always there suddenly becomes apparent again, and that was dance music. There are parts of the world where it never goes away, particularly in Europe.

So I just thought it would be an interesting challenge, never having done a dance record. Or, for that matter, never doing a record that was supposed to be in the pocket of what everyone was listening to. So it’ll be interesting to see how people respond to all that.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the dubstep version of XTC.

(laughs) Well, I don’t know if it’s exactly that, but “Dear God”... it’ll take you a little while to recognize it.

Speaking of contemporary music, many groups nowadays are armed with laptops and very little else (and this has been going on for some time now). What are your feelings regarding the way music is being created in 2011 from a production standpoint, performance standpoint, etc.?

Well, the more hands-on artists are, the less work I have. (laughs) So, I guess there is a downfall for me in the sense that the whole DIY movement in music doesn’t often need the kind of expertise I would bring to a production.

At the same time, there are bands that care about their playing. Like Coheed and Cambria, or someone like that ... bands that obviously spend hours upon hours upon hours honing their craft, and being able to reproduce it live. So, it’s not as if the idea of musicianship is entirely gone, it just isn’t necessarily de rigueur at the moment.

But I think there are always people, who when they get the bug to play an instrument, they want to get as good as they can with it, rather than just be simply adequate at it. You run into them every once in a while—some kid who wants to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, for whatever reason, and plays exactly like him. And that’s something that everyone can aspire to. The desire to be able to command an instrument is still there in a lot of musicians, I think, so I don’t really despair.

You’ve recently taken some of your classic albums—including A Wizard, A True Star, Healing, and Todd—on the road. First, how has your experience been doing that? And second, is it safe to say we’ll have some sort of Something/Anything? performance for that album’s 40th anniversary next year?



Well it’s never safe to say what I’m going to do. (laughs) I think that is potentially in the future ... I decided this year to kind of take a year off from these reproductions, these theatricalizations of whole records, because they take so long to put together, and yet they only seem to last, like, a week or two. (laughs)

Months of work goes into presenting something that only gets presented for a week or two, and I decided I just didn’t want to invest that much time on working on another theatricalization. It doesn’t mean that I won’t do it again, it’s just that I decided to take a year off and have a labor day to myself, to put it that way.

God knows you’ve toured enough—

That doesn’t mean I’m not on the road, it’s just that these things ... the nature of them is that they have this theatrical aspect about them, so there’s a whole lot of other production and expense that goes into them. They’re not giant moneymakers, but they do please the fans, and that’s why I continue to do them. But I have to do a more stripped-down presentation when I’m actually playing for a living. Gotta keep the expenses more in line. (laughs).

You’ve obviously had a long, varied career. But if you can, looking back, is there a particular record you made, or a band you worked with, that you wish had been more successful? Or you feel has been overlooked?

Oh, that kinda happens a lot. I’ve worked with a lot of acts that weren’t able to survive the long haul of the music business. I suppose one of the most disappointing was the Pursuit of Happiness, the band that I mentioned a little earlier.

They were everything that you kind of looked for—they had a sound of their own, they had great songs, they were really exciting live. And they made great records, but for some reason, even in Canada, they never achieved the success that everybody expected. And often, it’s just because you get involved with the wrong kind of label ... a label who puts their priorities elsewhere when it’s time to promote your record, and squanders the opportunity. Then you wind up, years and years later, on some critic’s Top Ten list, long after it could have done any good.

And I can say, from that standpoint, while there’s not as many opportunities to get signed to labels, artists have many more tools at their disposal to make up for the fact that no label is spending a lot of money to promote them. Unfortunately for the Pursuit of Happiness, when they were making their records, there was no YouTube or internet or anything like that, so they would be able to just promote themselves.

So that’s always disappointing, when a band can’t really reach their full potential, even though they have everything necessary to do it. There are a lot of great artists who kind of get overlooked when some really big, bright commercial light is shining and everyone’s got their eyes on that. But that’s kind of the nature of this business—and I don’t know if there’s any solution to that.

Read the original article here:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/146650-living-the-blues-an-interview-with-todd-rundgren

And don't miss my review of (re) Production, coming on September 13. It may just surprise you!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

IS THIS THE REAL LIFE?

QUEEN: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA




Queen's fourth album, A Night at the Opera, was originally released in December of 1975. This was the band's "last chance" album, the label expecting the band to deliver of the promise of the success of the "Killer Queen" single. Had the album flopped the label would have probably dropped the band.


When this album was released, it went to #4 in the US and became Queen's first million seller, and the rest, as they say, is history. Although lead singer Freddie Mercury died in November 1991, and the band's popularity had lagged in the 1980s, sales of Queen albums went up dramatically in 1992, the year following his death. In fact, half of the 32.5 million Queen albums sold in the United States have been sold since Mercury's death.

Not a bad legacy for Farrokh Bulsara from Zanzibar!

The surviving members of the band and the label have gone all out on the 2011 edition of this classic Queen album. The audio is crisp and deep - the quiet passages are actually quiet instead of being filled with hiss and digital noise like on the original EMI imports. More to their credit, they didn't mess with the mixes, song lengths, or do any of the other shenanigans that bands/labels often do when they do this kind of comprehensive update of their back catalog.

The album holds up well, kicking off rocking hard with "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)," an ode to an ex-management company, lightening up with the vaudevillian sounding "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon," before thundering into Roger Taylor's superb rocker "I'm In Love With My Car."

John Deacon's ballad "You're My Best Friend" slows things down, a song written for his wife that was a US Top 20 hit in the summer of 1976 (peaking at #16).

The album's biggest hit and Queen's arguable greatest moment, is the nearly six minute "Bohemian Rhapsody." The song is Mercury's magnum opus, a song unlike any in rock history, with an operatic section achieved by overdubbing voices until the master tape almost deteriorated. This song would be Queen's first US Top 10 hit (reaching #9 in 1976, and later reaching #2 in 1992 thanks to being featured in "Wayne's World".

There is a bonus CD, and one could argue the merits of the additional disc when the extras could have easily fit onto the main disc.

 
DEATH ON TWO LEGS
 
 
 
 
YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND
 
 
 
I'M IN LOVE WITH MY CAR
 
 
 
 
 
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
 
 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

THE RECORD COLLECTOR’S MARATHON (SOUTHWESTERN DESERT STYLE)

This is a harrowing tale of a feat of Olympian proportions. This is not a story for the weak of heart.

I had a week off, and had initially planned a trip to Los Angeles for a few days, but decided to stick closer to town.

The deferral of a LA trip was allegedly to save money, but I ended up on a marathon shopping spree that took me every Zia Records location and probably cost me as much as the LA trip would have. But LA will still be there in a few months. Heck the earthquakes appear to have migrated to the East coast!

For any record and CD collectors left out there, Arizona has quite a few excellent stores.

I know what I am talking about-my job has enabled me to scrounge used CD stores all over the US, in Canada, in several European cities and even in Seoul, Korea.

How didja think I ended up with so many? Sorry UPS guy, you're only delivering a piece of this mess!



Zia Records is an eight location independent chain with four stores in the Phoenix metropolitan area, two in Tucson, and two in Las Vegas. I have been a shopper there for more than twenty years, and they have been in business for thirty. They rank among the best I have seen. It's been almost a decade since I've been to the East Village stores (9/8/2001 was my last visit), but the Zia chain was a close second to the village for selection and equal in value.

There are a lot of other stand out independent stores in Arizona (Revolver Records, Twist And Shout, to name but two), and an avid (read:lunatic) collector could round out his southwestern trip by visiting Bookman’s (four locations in AZ) and Hastings (three AZ locations).

You really could spend a week CD shopping. That canyon is just a hole in the ground, anyway!

To visit all of those stores would have involved trips to Prescott, Flagstaff and Bullhead City, and I’d recently been to all three, so I decided to be the first addict to hit every Zia location in the chain in a week.

Eight stores….three cities…two states…and more than fifteen hours behind the wheel.

Monday-Tucson

I got into the car a little after eleven and drove south towards Mexico.

South towards Tucson as well.

Stopping once for water when I hit the northern outskirts of Tucson, I made my way to my first location…




Since I only get to the Tucson stores once a year, I always manage to find something. As the CD list prices have dropped, so have used prices, although as my collection has grown, what I’m looking for gets more and more elusive.

I’d read an article about Barclay James Harvest in a recent progressive magazine, and was looking for a used title to check them out. Not in the cards, although I did find a Hot Tuna title I’d been looking for and a couple of B.B. King cd’s I did not have. Not to mention a James Brown disc I didn’t realize I was searching for, and for good measure, I bought the in-store playing copy of a CD by Michael Grimm (it kind of grew on me).

For the record, I was going to stop at Twist And Shout, an indie store I'd read about, but they're closed Mondays. I still had not come up with the thought of hitting all the Zia stores-I was just killing time so far.




On a normal Tucson trip, I'm also hitting two Bookman's stores and Oracle is the last store of the day. And as tired as I am of going through CD bins, I always find something.

But since I got a late start, Oracle was store number two, and the last one.

Finding something today was no problem, I had a bunch of lower priced CD's in my hands that I had to put back. After all, I had decided against the LA trip to save money, so I still had to maintain some feeble semblance of a budget.

Highlights here were three Radiators discs for $2.99 each, and a Jack Bruce solo disc.

Back to the highway and back to Phoenix.

Tuesday, I had some errands to run, and wanted to get my car waxed (detailed sounds so pretentious, and essentially they're waxing it), so no CD shopping. While waiting for the car, I came up with the bright idea to drive to Vegas.

Wednesday-Las Vega$

It's more than a four hour drive, and it's a hot one in the summer. With the mercury topping 113 degrees, it was a hot drive. It was on the drive up that I came up with the idea of hitting all the stores-after today I'd be half way there, and I thought that the odds were good that no one had ever done it before.

Vegas traffic always seems to be bumper-to-bumper. I wish I'd have been able to visit in the seventies. That show with Robert Urich always made Vegas look like a town with casinos, nowhere near as busy as it is in the new millennium.

Fortunately, the Zia locations are off the strip, so at least the traffic moves.



This is only the third time I've been to the Vegas locations, but like Tucson, I seem to manage to find something each time. Since it was later in the day and I was hot and hungry, I was a little less dedicated than in Tucson (I think I flipped through every CD in stores there), but wouldja believe I still found a few items of interest, including three John Mayall titles, a Steve Howe disc of Bob Dylan covers (guest singers) and the tenth anniversary edition of the Pete Yorn debut (a second dfisc collects b-sides and rarities).

I was a little disappointed when I got home-the cashier made it a point to look at every disc as if examining it for condition, but did not tell me that two of the John Mayall discs were pretty scratched up. Fortunately, they play without skipping (although I am sure one of the AZ stores would have buffed them up for me.




By this point I was pretty hungry, so the Sahara store got a quicker pass through than I normally would have made.

I did find two Barclay James Harvest titles (remember I said I was looking for them?) and a couple more blues titles. For some reason, blues discs can be elusive used, but this was a good week for them.

The cashier at the Sahara store was excellent-she identified two of my discs that were scratched and buffed them. She even let me bum some scotch tape to put my temporary tag back in place for the drive back to AZ.

I have never explored Las Vegas' other indie stores, although I have read about a few. There was one I tried to visit last year, but it was closed Saturdays. Since it was after five, and I was hungry and wanted to shower before I ate, and since the hotel was close, I gassed up the car and beelined for the hotel.

I was staying a few blocks away from Zia at the Palace Station casino. $20 for a room, $15 for an "amenities" fee, which still gets you a cheap room.

It all evens out, though. I got heartburn at the $15 buffet and did not sleep well.

The up side to that is that I was on the road by 6:30 and got to drive with the top down for a few hours. Vegas traffice was a lot less hectic at dawn...I guess every city has to sleep sometime.

Once the sun was up, it was hot, and the top went back up.

The effect of the sun through the windshield was negating the five hour energy drink and the caffiene in the two diet cokes I had consumed to keep me alert.

After making a pit stop (read: bathroom break), I drank another five hour energy. I managed to make it back to Phoenix around eleven am, and bummed around the house the rest of the day.

Friday-Phoenix

Friday arrived with a lot of cloud cover (cooler temperatures) and more errands to run, but I still managed to hit two of the Phoenix-area stores.





Close to the ASU campus, and usually a treasure trove. 
Today not so much, but since I’d already scoured four other Zia locations this week, I was being less thorough and more choosy.
I found John Hammond and Nazareth titles that had been on my search list.
The cashier, a very pretty young lady, made me feel really old.



I spent more than I’d planned to here. Someone must have sold their blues collection because I found a few Jimmy Thackery titles that had been eluding me, and also found a Joe Henry disc and another old Nazareth title.
The Syd Barrett and Peter Banks finds were just plain excess.
I got a raised eyebrow over the Hanson Christmas CD, but it was two bucks and I collect Christmas CD's.
I toyed with stopping at the Thunderbird store, but since that is the store I shop at every week, I thought it fitting that I finish there.
Two more stores left...and two days left in the week.

Saturday-Phoenix

The timing of this adventure was not the best. Zia has a Labor Day weekend sale (buy four used, get one free) that I was unable to take advantage of in the six stores I'd already visited.


However, since it would have been far less enjoyable to do all this in a three day weekend, I'd live with having to pass on a few free CD's. Maybe I'd reap the benefit of the sale today.
 
 
 
 
The Chandler store is a long drive, so I usually get there every couple of months. I usually leave with a stack of stuff, but had just been there a month ago, so did not know what to expect.

As luck would have it, I did find five titles, and so was able to get one free.
 
The most interesting title was Roy Rogers' Blues On The Range. By now, you have figured out I often buy things without having heard them first but have pretty good luck at it. I also found Paul Shaffer's debut CD and The Outlaws' live album, Bring It Back Alive.

Good hunting-I'd been looking for both of these.
 
 
 
It was fitting that my "marathon" end here. This store is almost home for me. I see these people more than I see my family.

My family all live in Philadelphia, so it's not really as wierd as it sounds.

This is the store I hit every week. I remember once seeing our old CFO in here on A Tuesday night. She asked me what I was doing here, and one of the employees said, "he lives here."

I said, "it's true-they have a cot for me in the back."

Stephen T. McCarthy and his brother Nappy find it odd that they have NOT run into me in this store. I ran into my friend Mike here once, and his reaction? "Figures."

Once again I ended up spending more than I planned (sorry, Visa card) because I found a plethora of blues titles.

This was a really good week for my blues collection, bad week for my retirement fund. I also found a solo disc by John Paul Jones (if it's not the guy from Led Zep I'll feel pretty silly).
 
As you can tell from the artists I've mentioned, Zia really has a deep selection. I barely looked at their country section, and not at all at their metal and rap/R&B sections.
 
Now I could have done this in a shorter time frame. If I really pushed it, I could have been done in three days-Zia stores are open from 10 am to midnight, and had I planned this out, I'd have hit two of the Phoenix stores that first day, leaving the last two for the day I drove home from Vegas. But I was on vacation, and had nothing but time on my hands.

If anyone does it in less time, be sure to let me know. It would be nice to know I'm not the only one who needs therapy. I'd recommend the months of November through March for the best weather conditions.

To anyone who is not a collector, this is insanity. To many collectors, it may be odd as well. But you gotta be doing something, and with the exception of breaking my solemn vow to cut back on CD purchases, this is a pretty harmless pasttime.

To any CD collectors out there who happen upon this, please post a comment and tell me about the stores in your area. The more of us who talk about the hobby, the better chance we can keep it alive.
 
Listen, most retails stores are gone, and the ones that are left have less floor space devoted to CD's than I do to my cat's litter box. Goldmine is down to a monthly magazine. The only way to get the younger generations back into this hobby is to hear about it from us old-timers!
 
Record collectors could have had just as much fun with this as I did-Zia stocks a lot of vinyl, although you do not want to leave vinyl in your car in Arizona and Nevada in late August.
 
So there you have it. A journey no less epic than the one Frodo embarked on...as historically significant as the expedition made by Lewis and Clark.

Now I gotta go re-alphabetize my collection...