31 March 2010
30 March 2010
If you are one of the newer generation that hasn't been exposed to the whip-smart pop of Crowded House, we highly recommend starting with one of the better greatest hit compilations in the music catalog, Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House. You can thank us later.
To whet your appetite for Intriguer, here's a cut from the album, "Saturday Song," performed live by the boys on New Zealand's 3 News:
29 March 2010
28 March 2010
25 March 2010
James Patrick Page is first in line. With flowing white hair and sporting a stylish long gentleman's coat, the Londoner takes on the appearance of royalty, striding through the halls of the Headley Grange Estate that Led Zeppelin used to record some of its most famous songs. Alone with a guitar strapped on like a natural appendage, Page runs through the chord progression of "Ramble On" and describes his playing as a combination of techniques: "From a whisper to the thunder." [Think of all the rock music that flows from the 1970s to the present due to that one phrase.]
Page is attracted to the instrument by accident: a guitar was left behind at the home that he moved into as a child. He really becomes enamoured when the skiffle craze hits England in the 1950s. The young prodigy constantly strums his Stratocaster; he brings it to school and plays it at recess. Appearances on amateur shows lead to commercial work in professional studios at the age of 15. Soon disillusioned with playing rote jingles, Page breaks free and joins other musicians to find his own "voice" on guitar ("pop music was rubbish so I wasn't going to play that"). Most know the rest: noted rock sideman; Yardbirds ace; legendary lead guitarist with Zeppelin.
But the charm of It Might Get Loud lies with small moments captured with each of the three subjects. For Page, it is the invitation for the viewer to enter his special room chock full of vinyl. He picks out the 45 of Link Wray's "Rumble" and puts it on the a turntable. Page is transformed; the song is still a seminal moment in his development as a guitarist. As he grooves to it and pantomimes the chord progression, Page raves about the "profound attitude" of the instrumental hit.
Dave "The Edge" Evans recounts the magic of seeing his first guitar in the window at Stuyvesant Guitars in New York City while on vacation with his family. He still covets the Explorer he bought on that day. Then there is the visit to the Dublin school where The Edge found a bulletin board advert for a guitar player authored by one Larry Mullen Jr. U2 is born with a geek so taken with the instrument that he builds a guitar with his brother from scratch as a teen and starts a lifelong search for elusive sonic landscapes that no one else hears. [The Edge is even sport enough to jump up on the school's loading dock to recount the band's first gig.]
In a parallel to the muzak threat to Page's world, The Edge decries the fatuousness of the self-indulgence of rock in the mid-70s ("we knew what we didn't want to sound like"). Paired with the social and economic upheaval in Ireland, it is natural that the young Dubliners would be attracted to the punk sounds of The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Clash and The Ramones. It was freeing to The Edge: "My limitation as a musician was not a problem because I knew I could do that."
Some of the most interesting sequences in the movie center around The Edge's fiddling with his endless array of sonic toys in a Dublin warehouse. It is here that the music lover learns how much time and dedication it takes to glean a "sound" that is like no other. Say what you will about The Edge's guitar prowess, especially in comparison to Page or White; when you close your eyes and hear his style, it is like no other in rock. And that's saying alot.
We also meet John Gillis, born and raised in an economically depressed Detroit. But our first glimpse of "Jack White" is on a farm in Franklin, Tennessee. Using a piece of wood, a wire, an old Coke bottle and a simple electric pickup, White creates a make-shift guitar and slides a few blues notes for the camera crew. Ironically enough, the guitar isn't his first choice: he is instead drawn to the drums, probably due to predominance of hip-hop and house music in his neighborhood. But when working as a furniture upholsterer, White has his eureka moment when he sees hard-driving drum/guitar group Flat Duo Jets perform.
From there, things tend to get a little murky. It is almost like White has created a Dylanesque persona to meet his own musical - and commercial - goals. The famous Montgomery Ward Kay guitar is obtained at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, "as payment for helping move some stuff." The formation of The White Stripes is choreographed to the nth degree, from the ruse of identifying his wife Meg as his "sister" right down to the red, white and black marketing colors.
But while this act can be a bit off-putting at times, White's self-described immersion in the roots of rock and roll can be very interesting. His rumination on the guts of the blues (and devotion in particular to Son House) rivets the viewer - "A freight train in the minor key, representing antiestablishment, pain and tension: I found that this is where my soul rests too." Guggenheim then shows some live footage of White literally shredding his fingers on his guitar strings, blood smeared on the instrument's shiny body. White clearly is in love with what he does; from his rerigging of a Gretsch to appreciation of all music Americana, he is clearly a logical successor to the musical tree that spawned Page and then The Edge.
The much hyped super summit at the end of the film is almost anti-climatic. Why was a sterile Hollywood set chosen as the centerpiece after nearly 75 minutes of intimate visits with the three principals? Why a ragged performance of "The Weight" as the credits roll? Luckily, two minor moments, both courtesy of Led Zeppelin, leave us fulfilled: The Edge, standing at attention, and Jack White, literally putting down his guitar, both visibly in awe of Jimmy Page while he plays the coda to "Whole Lotta Love; and all three joyously playing "In My Time Of Dying" as a slow blues and then each soloing briefly, highlighting own their unique styles of playing the guitar.
It Might Get Loud proves once again that rock and roll is most affecting when it is simple and primal. And that's why every generation still finds its way back to Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry for true inspiration.
24 March 2010
Here's the track listing:
06 Love like a sunset
23 March 2010
The Newport Jazz Festival takes place August 6, 7 & 8. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 26.
To whet your appetite, here's Jamal, accompanied by Idris Muhammad on drums and James Cammack on bass, performing "Poinciana" in 2005:
20 March 2010
The Teletype's been clattering away here at TNOP World Headquarters, so we bring you this news . . .
Iranians Ash Koshanejad and Negar Shaghaghi are the twin songwriters of Take It Easy Hospital. They star in a new documentary called No One Knows About Persian Cats, which takes the viewer on a fictionalized account of the underground music scene in and around Tehran. The Guardian profiles the duo - who have since sought asylum in the UK - and previews the film, whose director has been arrested and jailed.
Jack White's a one-man PR machine. This week, he gave a lengthy interview to the New York Post and vigorously defended detractors of Meg White. "Her femininity and extreme minimalism are too much to take for some metalheads and reverse-contrarian hipsters," White told the paper. "She can do what those with 'technical prowess' can't. She inspires people to bash on pots and pans. For that, they repay her with gossip and judgement." He continued by saying that Meg has the last laugh over her critics. "In the end she's laughing all the way to the Prada handbag store," he said. "She wins every time." Then entertainment.ie reported that The Dead Weather's second LP will be released on May 7. Oh, and he's done a record with Shawn Carter, better known in music circles as Jay-Z, according to GQ.
Neil Young has teamed with Jonathan Demme again, this time resulting in Neil Young Trunk Show: Scenes From A Concert. Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune offer their separate perspectives.
Smokey Bill Robinson was the deserved keynote speaker at SXSW Festival in Austin. Then he headlined a bill with this killer line-up: Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and Mayer Hawthorne. Phew. If you were there, leave us a comment!
And speaking of soul, The Times of London share the curious story of UK group Mama's Gun, sensations in . . . Japan. Give 'em a listen.
Uncut talks to Big Star bassist Ken Stringfellow, who says that he's trying to put together a tribute to Alex Chilton to conclude SXSW. Looks like Chuck Prophet, M. Ward and Cheap Trick are in, with others to follow.
Dirty Projectors stopped by a radio station in Australia and pulled out a cover of Bob Dylan's "Dark Eyes," the fairly obscure closer on Empire Burlesque. It's a beautiful arrangement and performance.
Here's some cool news: one of the more revered rock films - but up till now seen by only a handful of fans - has been refurbished and will be released this Tuesday. The T.A.M.I. Show from 1964 featured Marvin Gaye, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, The Supremes, The Beach Boys and Smokey Robinson - all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. But the most memorable performance is by The Godfather of Soul, The Hardest Working Man In Show Business, Mr. Please, Please, Please: James Brown. USA Today gives us an inside preview.
In coordination with the release of their new album The Big To-Do, The Drive-By Truckers are profiled in The Village Voice.
The A.V. Club presents a fine seminar on Pub Rock.
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim's project centering on former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love, comes out 6 April. Check out the track listing, snippets of the songs and a promotional video here. Guests include Santogold, St. Vincent, Nellie McKay, Sharon Jones and Roisin Murphy.
Beck has formed his latest "Record Club" group of musicians. This time they are tackling the INXS album Kick. Their first effort will be "Guns In The Sky." Let's watch INXS' original live in
1991 at Wembley Stadium.
18 March 2010
Chilton then began a polarizing solo career and eventually moved to New Orleans. At one point in the 1980s he worked a variety of jobs and stopped playing music publicly.
17 March 2010
by Celtic Ray (TNOP Correspondent, County Clare)
Our periodic review of up-and-coming Irish music artists reveals four more contenders for your consideration:
The Holy Roman Army
Chris and Laura Coffey, a brother and sister team from Co. Carlow, are starting to make their mark. Their brand of trip-hop "indietronica" is quite affecting. Their self-produced 2009 CD, How The Light Gets In (Collapsed Adult), yielded some fine and interesting moments, in particular "Stagger Gently Home":
Now, The Holy Roman Army has stepped into the limelight again with an EP of covers titled Desecrations. But the pleasant surprise is the project is not your typical stop-gap between records. The song selection is inspired and the interpretations are truly unique, particularly Bon Iver's "Skinny Love." Even better, you can download all five tracks for free! A great little EP for the iPod.
And So I Watch You From Afar
Don't be surprised if this Belfast instrumental quartet breaks out after storming SXSW in Austin, Texas this week. ASIWYFA released its EP The Letters to local acclaim about a year ago and have been trekking across the UK and the Republic crafting their trade since with thrilling live shows, much to the delight of fans like BBC Radio 1. A lengthy tour of Europe will commence at the end of this month, starting in Dublin and Derry.
Galway singer-songwriter Crowley rang the bell this past month when he was named recipient of the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. Season of the Sparks is his fourth proper release and continues a soft, spell-binding style accented by deft playing of hollow-bodied electric guitar. Ryan Adams proclaimed in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2005 that Crowley was "one of the best songwriters no one's has heard of."
One of TNOP's favorite albums of 2009 was Hannigan's Sea Sew. (It was nominated for the Mercury Prize as well as the Choice Music Prize.) The Co. Meath multi-instrumentalist made her bones through her pivotal singing role on Damien Rice's classic O. The combination of Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone influences result in a winning style.
Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!
16 March 2010
TNOP has mixed feelings every year around this time when the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inducts new members. Something having to do with suits cloistered in a private ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria. Anyway, here's our unsolicited take on the festivities this time around:
15 March 2010
12 March 2010
Into this weird breach steps The Velvet Underground, an ensemble probably no one could have dreamed up, even on paper: Lou Reed, an English literature student from Syracuse University; Welshman John Cale, classically trained viola player, influenced by musicians Erik Satie, John Cage and Aaron Copeland as well as the Fluxus movement; Maureen "Moe" Tucker, a former IBM keypunch operator who didn't start drumming until she was 19 years old (and then with quite an unconventional style); and Sterling Morrison, a guitar playing former classmate of Reed's who would later earn a PhD in medieval studies.
10 March 2010
b/w "Passing The Time"
Written by Robert Johnson
Produced by Felix Pappalardi
Atco Records 6646
Released July 1968
On 10 March 1968, the British "supergroup" Cream was at the end of a 10-night live stand in San Francisco at Winterland Ballroom (the band had also played a couple of nights at The Fillmore as well during this span). Captured on tape was arguably the greatest single live track in rock and roll history. But the man made internationally famous by the song, Eric Clapton, never liked to talk about it, and reportedly said the performance was inferior because the trio got the time disjointed a bit in his third solo chorus.
Cream (originally christened The Cream) consisted of Clapton on lead guitar, Jack Bruce on bass guitar and Ginger Baker on drums. Bruce assumed the great majority of lead vocal duties for the band; Cream had burst onto the scene with the smash single "Sunshine of Your Love" and the top five album Disraeli Gears in 1967. But from its inception, the focus had been on the blues and the band's unique "heavy" sound in transposing that traditional genre.
At Winterland on this particular night, Cream launched into "Crossroads," a staple of their set. The song was an amalgamation of "Cross Road Blues" and "Traveling Riverside Blues," both penned by legendary (and mysterious) bluesman Robert Johnson in the 1930s. While Clapton's guitar playing was already being lauded by fellow musicians and the average rock fan (the latter scrawling the now famous screed "Clapton Is God" on the walls of the London Underground), the young guitarist found Johnson's sound very hard to re-create, because it often sounded like more than one guitarist was playing. In Clapton: The Autobiography, he talks of Johnson's fingerpicking style that had him "simultaneously playing a disjointed bass line on the low strings, rhythm on the middle strings, and lead on the treble strings while singing at the same time."
Maybe the story of Johnson's deal with the devil at the crossroads rubbed off on Cream on stage, because they surely caught lightning in a bottle here. Listening to previous or subsequent live recordings of this song by the group, the level of ferocity of Cream never comes close to this single, later included on the double LP Wheels of Fire. Clapton takes the mike on lead (rare enough that Bruce - or is it Baker? - famously remarks at the end of the recording, "Eric Clapton, please . . . the vocal") and more notably fills the air with phenomenal guitar licks emanating from his solid body Gibson SG. But what is overlooked is the
incendiary bass playing of Bruce, at his very best here, keeping beat for beat with Clapton while Baker provides fills at every opportunity.
"Crossroads" was never released as a single in the UK. But it became a staple on the emerging underground FM scene when included on Wheels of Fire, which became the first platinum selling double album. It is the prototypical example of Clapton's genius on the live stage and the recording is always listed at the top of any lists of greatest live performances in rock history.
Listen to "Crossroads" here.
09 March 2010
08 March 2010
And looking back on PiL's career, that was exactly the point: not to be pinned down and identified with any particular genre. Of course, this type of approach won it only a small -albeit vociferous - fan base, because most listeners want more of the same on successive records, or at most a measured move away from a recognized sound. PiL played with Jamaican dub, industrial, Krautrock, drum and bass, and a number of other varied influences. In this age of obsession with labels - it's not good enough simply to be called a rock 'n roll band anymore - the only one that fits PiL would be "post-punk."
Anyway, after a hiatus since the early 1990s, Lydon has resurrected PiL, the time with Lu Edmonds, Scott Firth and Bruce Smith. The band played a handful of shows in the UK in December and now will embark on a tour of the US and Europe, starting with a prize appearance at Coachella on 16 April. And you can get a preview of the boys on 7 April when they appear on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Hit or miss, TNOP was always fascinated with the band and the free form it adopted on record, obviously at the expense of popularity on the music scene. But as Lydon likes to say, "Let's not get too excited about it all. It's just entertainment."
04 March 2010
Produced by Dego & Marc Mac
Raw Canvas Records
Released 29 January 2007
Here's an irresistible pop confection that hit the charts hard in the UK but only made a blip in the States. 4hero is an electronic music collective from North London that has been producing records since the late 1980s. The leaders are Mark "Marc Mac" Clair and Dennis "Dego" McFarlane. This drum and bass crew cycles vocalists through their work resulting usually in danceable grooves.
"Morning Child" is no exception. The ringer on this record is Carina Andersson, who sounds like she's channeling a post-Motown Diana Ross. The lyrics are simple, celebrating the wonder of a new child entering the world and the promise it always brings. The beat is solid and the tune soars, staying with you to the end of the three and a half plus running time. It's a great song to blast in the car, one that can always bring a smile and tapping fingers on the steering wheel, mimicking the drum line.
On January 12 & 13, 1972, Aretha Franklin entered the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and sang spirituals, just as the "Queen of Soul" had done since she was a youngster growing up in Detroit. The result was the double album Amazing Grace, which is still the biggest selling gospel record of all-time (it went double platinum and won a Grammy in 1972).
Given the box office success of Woodstock and Gimme Shelter, Warner Brothers (owners of Aretha's label, Atlantic Records) was keen on producing a documentary of the performances. The studio hired a young director named Sydney Pollack for the job. Pollack was an up-and-comer in the film game, with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? to his credit.
Footage was captured by Pollack and three other cameramen and the job of editing was set to begin when Warners pulled the plug on the project, claiming audiences would not turn out for such secular subject matter.
More than 20 hours of film was vaulted away for 38 years. Only snippets have been seen by the public at large (in an "American Masters" episode on PBS in 1988). Pollack tried to have the project resurrected a number of times, as did famed Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler. Both passed away over the last two years.
Fortunately, Pollack - who would go on to be an Academy Award winning director - left copious notes with regard to the 16mm footage, and the end result will be soon released on DVD, labeled "a film by Sydney Pollack." Noted author David Ritz (who co-wrote Aretha's autobiography and also authored the definitive biography of Marvin Gaye) has apparently seen most of the canisters of film. "It's the perfect music, an artist at her height, everybody there to make her feel confident and loved, the music of her childhood and the encouragement of the African-American church," says Ritz. He reports that Rev. Alexander Hamilton is seen conducting the gospel choir and is accompanied on the piano by his boss, the gospel giant Rev. James Cleveland. In the audience is Aretha's father, Rev. C. L. Franklin and her mentor, Clara Ward. And Mick Jagger is in one of the pews clapping along.
The song selections are mainly spiritual standards, with a couple of modern compositions (Gaye's "Wholy Holy" and Carole King's "You've Got A Friend").
Hamilton says he's happy the film may finally be released: "Maybe because it's history now. Here is one of the most famous artists in the world, as she was then, doing something that nobody had ever done, or has really done since. So I think the film is going to find a wider audience, not just because of its gospel roots, but because of its historical value."
No release date as of yet, but here is the trailer to Amazing Grace. We dare you to sit still.