Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Alanis Morissette will probably not earn many new converts with Havoc and Bright Lights, but she will keep her devoted fan base pleased with this smart, sturdy collection of tunes.

In the four years since 2008's Flavors of Entanglement, which set a high water mark in Morissette's catalogue, the artist has experienced marriage and motherhood, resulting in a decidedly less anxious set of tunes.

Her new perspective is at times deceptively unengaging and soft at the core, revealing lyrical and melodic treasures upon repeated play. Morissette invokes themes of interconnectedness and universality, rewarding listeners with poetic ears.

She still rocks hard when she wants to, blistering with righteous anti-misogyny, proving Morissette can still make men cower if the spirit so moves her.

The production proves to be a flaw of the record that seems to make Morissette's voice border on bland, burying it down in the mix and giving the songs an unwelcome slickness and sheen.

Those looking for a retread of Jagged Little Pill will not find it here, but long time fans probably won't be disappointed.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012



In the wrong hands, the blues can become too much of a cliché, but in the right hands, the artist is able to tap into something elemental.

The latter is the case with Johnny Sansone's The Lord Is Waiting And The Devil Is Too-the album’s themes demonstrate his understanding of the world's dark side and the eternal struggle to find the light of salvation. The ten tracks provide a raw look at life near the crossroads, where the choices one makes shape the future for a long time to come.

Sansone teams up with Anders Osborne (producer, guitar, background vocals and other instruments including cowbell, which there probably needs to be more of) and drummer Stanton Moore, compiling ten stripped down and disturbing songs that initially seem too dark and primal for casual listening, but if you stick with it, the album’s songs paint pictures of characters who are at once fragile and strong and how circumstances make them do desperate things.

Musically, the album goes from a raucous New Orleans romp to slow-cooked blues, with Osborne’s production creating space for Sansone’s growl and harmonica, foregoing a bass guitar, resulting in lean and hard arrangements.
The mix showcases Sansone’s excellent harp playing skills, equally adept at both diatonic and chromatic and willing to get dirty with them when appropriate. The harp rips and shreds when it takes center stage-on one instrumental (“Corn Whiskey”), his harp has the aggression of a bare knuckle punch, at times feeling like a frenzied guitar feedback solo, at others literally criying the blues.
The lyrics set the album’s tone, with bleak imagery and undertones of menace-it is probably for the best that Sansone get this stuff out of his system, and we all get the benefit of his exorcism.

This is blues-influenced roots-rock at its finest, and sadly the record seemed to come and go without getting its due.

Saturday, November 17, 2012




In 1972, Ian Anderson wrote and recorded the Jethro Tull Progressive Rock classic album Thick As A Brick . The lyrics were credited at the time to the fictitious child character, Gerald Bostock, whose parents supposedly lied about his age to enter him in a poetry contest. The record instantly became a number one Billboard Chart album and enjoyed considerable success in many countries of the world.

So, forty years on, what would Gerald Bostock aged fifty in 2012 be doing today? What might have befallen him?
The anniversary part two album will examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life through alter-ego characters with song-section identities illustrating the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity.
Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.
This is a hard album to review in any objective way. Most people who are likely to buy the album are also likely to think it should have never been made in the first place. However seeing as it actually HAS been made, the main question that people should be asking is how good is it?

In my opinion it is actually pretty good, but only if you allow yourself to get really objective about it. It in no way lives up to its predecessor,  a beloved classic of the genre, that doesn't really need a sequel both because it worked on its own and because it was a deliberate send up of concept albums themselves. But then no one realistically expected it to.

With moments energetic and heavy, there is a mixture between tasteful moments, humour and whimsical silliness and a lot of flute work. Structurally, the album does not follow the same formula as the original album, specifically it isn't just one giant song from start to finish, although as it is still a concept album it does flow together a bit more than just a standard album would.

Overall; if just being related to the original Thick As A Brick isn't enough for you, or if you don't feel too upset about the lack of Martin Barre, then by all means give it a shot.



THICK AS A BRICK 2 (excerpt live)



Wednesday, November 14, 2012



INXS has confirmed that it's calling it quits.

The Australian group announced on Monday night that it had decided to bring the curtain down on a career that's lasted 35 years and 11 studio albums, including six that sold platinum or better in the U.S.

"We understand that this must come as a blow to everybody, but all things must eventually come to an end,"  founding members Tim, Andrew and Jon Farriss, Kirk Pengilly and Garry Beers said in a statement. "We have been performing as a band for 35 years, it's time to step away from the touring arena. Our music will of course live on and we will always be a part of that. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the friends and family that have supported us throughout our extensive career. Our lives have been enriched by having you all as a part of the journey."



In the statement, Jon Farriss noted that Inxs took pride in continuing after the tragic loss of frontman Michael Hutchence in 1997: "It's been 35 years for Inxs as a live touring band and unbelievably it's been 15 years ago since we lost Michael. We lived for each other in the trenches and we loved each other. It was the six of us against the world and then suddenly and inexplicably we were but five. We were lost right at the moment we were on top." But, Andrew Farriss added, "We never took a soft option, it was the adversity, the challenge and the struggle that forged us into the live working band we became. And this was as big as it could possibly get when it came to a challenge, and in the end we decided for a whole bunch of reasons to march forward. To us there was no other option, families always move forward."

 Inxs manager Chris Murphy added that, "They believed unconditionally in each other and they also believed unconditionally in the music. People fade, sometimes way too early -- that is life whether we like it or not. To live to 80 plus is a life well lived. To lose Michael so young was a tragedy for all of us. But with this band, their legacy, their music was just so damn good, it was always destined to live beyond all of us."
Inxs has worked with several singers since Hutchence's death, including Canadian J.D. Fortune, who was chosen during the 2005 TV reality show "Rock Star: Inxs." The group was most recently fronted by Ireland native Ciaran Gribbin, and Andrew Farriss had declared that "this particular lineup of Inxs is really -- we're on a winner, I think, with this one. It's looking really, really positive."


Tuesday, November 13, 2012



Someday maybe someone will explain to me why  Ben Folds Five only has three members. I would have thought that after a thirteen-year hiatus the band would have found those two prodigal sons.

But the North Carolina based piano-based, indie-rock trio are back with a new album after more than a decade, and this fourth record fits neatly into the combined "Five" and solo catalogue very nicely, with songwriting that is a  natural evolution from the most recent solo record and a sound that picks up right where the third album left off.

Folds has always been the main songwriter, arranger, lyricist, and producer of the "Five"'s records, so it's no surprise that the songwriting on this album feels very much in the vein of his last solo record.

What bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jesse really bring to the table is a rough, powerful energy that brings a certain edge to Folds' songwriting.

The songs on this album are deep, from the lyrics to the arrangements. There's a certain charm to the less developed ideas that songwriters are willing to put on their records in their early years, and The Sound of the Life of the Mind is far more polished than those earlier efforts, rarely letting loose and going elbows-to-keys on the piano.

This is no longer a trio in their 20's, and while the album would have benefitted from more high-tempo songs, the album reflects the band a decade older rather than a repeat their first record for the sake of nostalgia and records sales.

All in all, well worth checking out!



Saturday, November 10, 2012



After having teased us for so long with the Bright Lights EP, Gary Clark Jr drops Blak and Blu, his first full-length proper album.

Sadly, in his attempts to appeal to a broader audience, the long awaited full length disc is a tangled genre-bending affair that slides back and forth between blues, slickly-produced pop and urban music. If you liked the EP, some songs will certainly appeal to you, but about half of the album sounds to me to be a bid for radio airplay and commercial success.

I am not judging Clark for wanting commercial success,  but the result, while well done, does not work together well as a cohesive album. This album makes a strong argument for downloads. The thirteen songs, a potpourri of different genres, does not appear to have put together with continuity or much of a running order in mind.

What was great about Bright Lights was Gary’s amazing guitar playing and clean mixes, as opposed to this collection, heavily produced with many backing tracks and a little too much of everything.
While Gary is first and foremost a blues artist, with this album he is marketing a more accessible style of music, more reminiscent of a Bruce Springsteen album than someone who has the chance to be this generation's Hendrix.

Having listened to the EP extensively, my expectations for this album may have been set too high. There are tracks on this album very much worth listening to, and new listeners will probably be impressed by the skills on display. For me, the album falls victim to the heavy handed production and pop-radio influences.

The variety does showcase Gary as a multi-talented artist, and there are some great songs here but instead of trying to appeal to every taste Clark shoud stick to the formula that got him here.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012


With a new James Bond movie starting this weekend, the debate will start again on who is the best actor to play James Bond.

Since music is the point of this blog, I thought I would do a piece on the best James Bond theme song.

But I decided I'd rather hear your comments on your favorite Bond song.

So since it was far too late to try to set up a linky tool and get the word out, I'm going to write my piece, and hopefully you'll leave a comment with your favorite, and maybe even a word or two explaining it.

For the record-my favorite is number three on the list below.

The list below represents the top ten James Bond theme songs.

Before you start the debate, this top 10 ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart through the tally dated Oct. 13, 2012.

Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least.


1. "A View To A Kill" Duran Duran, Hot 100 Peak: 1 Peak Year: 1985 from the Bond film "A View To A Kill"

2. "Nobody Does It Better" Carly Simon, Hot 100 Peak: 2 Peak Year: 1977 from the Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me

3. "Live And Let Die" Paul McCartney & Wings, Hot 100 Peak: 2 Peak Year: 1973 from the Bond film "Live And Let Die"


4. "For Your Eyes Only" Sheena Easton, Hot 100 Peak: 4 Peak Year: 1981 from the Bond film "For Your Eyes Only"

5. "Goldfinger" Shirley Bassey, Hot 100 Peak: 8 Peak Year: 1965 from the Bond film "Goldfinger"

6. "Die Another Day" Madonna, Hot 100 Peak: 8 Peak Year: 2003 from the Bond film "Die Another Day


7. “Skyfall” Adele, Hot 100 Peak: 8 Peak Year: 2012 from the Bond film "Skyfall"

8. "Thunderball" Tom Jones, Hot 100 Peak: 25 Peak Year: 1966 from the Bond film "Thunderball"

9. "All Time High" Rita Coolidge, Hot 100 Peak: 36 Peak Year: 1983 from the Bond film "Octopussy"
10. "You Only Live Twice" Nancy Sinatra, Hot 100 Peak: 44 Peak Year: 1967 from the Bond film "You Only Live Twice"
I was a little surprised that "Goldeneye" (Tina Turner) did not make the list over Madonna (although it did chart well in the UK).
What about you? Any surprises that did not make the list, or in the order? What's your favorite Bond song?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



Ry Cooder’s Election Special is meant as a wake-up call as the United States heads into the fall election season. Sadly, Cooder has served up a pro-Obama, anti-Republican rant that I would expect from a college student, not from someone eligible for Medicare.

Ry Cooder came to fame as a supreme `guitar technician' reinterpreting old folk and R&B but his last four records have seen him concentrating on writing his own songs to express his political views, although I find these views a bit naïve and over-simplified, often resulting in subpar lyrics that detract from the music.

On "Mutt Romney Blues," Cooder spells out the evils of the Republican candidate, but on "Cold Cold Feeling" he looks for sympathy for the devil....I mean the incumbent. In his own words in an interview with American Songwriter, Cooder says " The president, alone in the dark, walks the Oval Office floor. Before you criticize and accuse, walk a mile in his shoes."

The mystery to me is why Cooder is so willing to accept Obama as a savior, but so confident that every Republican deserves bile? How can he not see how adept both parties are at mistruth, and more importantly, that there are times to be liberal and times to be conservative?

More from the same interview where he comments on each song on the album::

”Where did Mitt Romney learn that hollow laugh of his? He sure scares me, I don’t mind telling you."  (Mutt Romney Blues)

"As a mother, will Sarah Palin lead the Republican convention in a prayer for Treyvon? Will “Stand Your Ground” stand? Don’t forget your bed sheet and keep your money in your shoes." (Going To Tampa)

"A lament for this guy Zimmerman, and all the many Zimmermans. Too late, they find their masters have given them gun rights and new “Stand Your Ground” lynching laws instead of good paying jobs and secure futures. They drank the Kool-Aid, they really drank it down." (Kool Aid)

"The 90 and the 9: A possible political discussion between a father and child. Here in Los Angeles, they allow military recruiters in public schools. If you speak against it, they come down hard on you. I don’t even know what name you give to a criminal conspiracy like that." (The 90 and the 9)

So if you haven't figured it out, I am not thrilled with the lyrical content on the disc, and this disc will be collecting dust on a shelf for years to come. Musically I have to give credit where it is due-Cooder is a master of his instrument, which sometimes shines through all the liberal rhetoric.

Cooder produced the album and wrote all of the songs, save for one co-written with Joachim Cooder. He sings and plays mandolin, guitar, and bass on the album, with Joachim on drums.

So if you are a fan of Ry Cooder and like your roots music servied with a side of Marxism, this is for you. Wanna buy my copy, comrade?

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Move over, Adele, there's a new queen in town!

Although the title of her new album is Red, it looks like it's all platinum for Taylor Swift. The 22-year-old sold 1.2 million copies of her latest album in its first week — the largest sales week for any album in a decade.

The last album to sell more than 1 million copies in its debut week was Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which sold 1.1 million copies last year. However, that album was deeply discounted on Amazon.com in its first week.

Before last week, the year's biggest seller was Adele's 21, a 2011 release which had been the only album in the US to sell over a million copies this year.

Keep buying those CD's kids!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I know that band reunions never really capture the magic of their heyday, and I don't know that even had they stayed together, Graham Parker and the Rumour would have even been able to touch their masterpiece Squeezing Out Sparks.

But I am still looking forward to the GP/Rumour reunion disc coming on November 19.

Alright, so what hair he's got left is grayer. Same with me! And I'm sure he's not quite as angry as he used to be, but I still can hardly wait!

He's getting a new album in with his old backing band just before the end of the world on December 22.

You downloaders can get the single from iTunes, but I'm gonna wait for the album. And I'm getting it old school- on vinyl!