Ranking every Beach Boys album and song: “Surfin’ USA” LP (by Songwriter Jim Fusco)

Originally posted 2008-02-08 10:56:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

ALBUM – SURFIN’ USA

Farmer’s Daughter – 6 (early promising song)
Surfin’ USA – 6 (catchy, but also a stolen melody, so it loses some points)
Lana – 5
Lonely Sea – 7
Shut Down – 7
(this is a great bluesy song)
Finders Keepers – 6 (endearing)
Let’s Go Trippin’ – 4 (filler)
Stoked – 3 (see last song)
Misirlou – 2 (because at this point in the album, I am sick of instrumentals!)
Noble Surfer – 6
Honky Tonk – 1 (why all the instrumentals!!)
*The Baker Man – 1 (probably the most ridiculous song they did next to Ding Dang)
Surf Jam – 1 (we get the idea)

** Here’s another album I like, but I think it’s a step back from their first. I know they were trying to make music people could dance to at parties, but the instrumentals don’t stand up now. They come across as a lack of effort. They have so much vocal talent- it’s a shame there’s not more songs with vocals! **

The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER FOUR is Jack Johnson

Originally posted 2010-02-18 13:56:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the second in a five part series dedicated to the top five rock artists of the decade, 2000-2009.  The criteria used to determine this list were: (1) Quality of Music, (2) Quantity of Released Material, (3) Diversity of Media, and (4) Roles of Artists/Band Members.  Look for new posts coming soon!

By Chris Moore:

For an artist whose entire recorded career is contained within this one decade, Jack Johnson has compiled an expansive and impressive catalog.  He has matured quickly, enough to form his own record label and to gain the respect of some of the biggest names in rock music.

As I type this, I’m listening to the live En Concert version of “Constellations,” a duet with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, performed as comfortably as if they were buddies jamming in their parents’ basement.

Most notable of all is the manner in which Jack Johnson has achieved success — namely, by recording chart-topping albums in an age when singles are all the rage and illegal downloading has cut many artists’ sales.  In a mere nine years, Johnson’s repertoire extends across four studio albums, a soundtrack, three concert DVDs, and a live CD.

Without a doubt, Jack Johnson is one of the top rock artists of the decade.

AN ALBUM GUY, AN ACOUSTIC GUY…

Just to recap:  singles ruling the music kingdom, illegal downloading killing sales, music stores closing their doors.

Well, you wouldn’t know it by the way Jack Johnson has built his career.  Thus far, it’s gone down something like this…

2001: Brushfire Fairytales, a mix between conventional (read: acoustic) and catchy/quirky, a debut album that manages to crack the top forty in the U.S., rising all the way to number 34 despite the fact that the only single released faltered on the fall line, forty slots lower.  Songs like “Inaudible Melodies,” “Flake,” and “Losing Hope” were already outstanding, while others shared the promise of thematic (“The News”) and lyrical (“Posters” – “Here comes another one, just like the other one”) material to come.

2003: On and On, a darker, more lyrically interesting album, a follow-up that skyrockets to number three in the U.S. and manages multi-platinum sales globally.   You wouldn’t know it from the U.S. singles charts, but there are some tremendous songs here — “Taylor,” “The Horizon Has Been Defeated,” “Gone,” “Holes to Heaven” — the list goes on…

2005: In Between Dreams, a veritable “best of” collection, an instantly classic album with a crystal clear sound and a beautiful sense of atmosphere, a true masterpiece.  It hit number two in America, and in a rare case of the UK being behind, they finally caught wind of Johnson as he topped the charts there.  It’s all here — the carefree, relaxing (“Banana Pancakes,” “Better Together”), the serious, politically-charged (“Crying Shame,” “Good People”), the good love songs (“Do You Remember?) and the jilted love songs (“Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”).

2008: Sleep Through the Static, billed as “Jack Johnson gone electric,” an even calmer, lower-key record than he had ever produced before, one that takes some time to grow into.  This is a case of each individual song being great — played in order, the “chill” factor is too much at times.  Not the strongest note to end the decade on, but it leaves us with some wonderful tracks like “All At Once,” “If I Had Eyes,” “Go On,” and “They Do, They Don’t.”

JAPAN, THE GREEK, AND EN CONCERT

His career as a professional athlete — surfer — may have been brief, but Johnson hasn’t stopped moving in this career, either.

And there are the films to prove it.

Live in Japan is more than just a concert DVD; it is a documentary of the On and On tour.  Then, as if that wasn’t enough, comes A Weekend at the Greek, an even more interesting, visually stimulating documentary of two concert dates on the In Between Dreams tour.  I’ve seen a good number of rock documentaries and live DVDs over the years, and believe me when I say that the latter (The Greek) is perhaps the best I’ve seen.

En Concert, released last year, was the final Jack Johnson release of the decade, and his first CD/DVD combo.  Excellent, colorful booklet?  Check.  Great setlist?  Double check.  Some great guest duets?  Triple check (J Radio, Paula Fuga, and Vedder).

In any rock artist’s career, the ratio between studio albums and live albums must be carefully balanced.  From the outside, three live CDs and/or DVDs may seem excessive when held up against four studio recordings, but Jack Johnson somehow managed it.  He was smart to release Japan as a bonus disc with The Greek, and he held off on a companion CD until En Concert.  This was a rare circumstance of the overlap between smart marketing and an affordable, fan-friendly strategy.

WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS — COLLABORATIONS AND OTHER VENTURES

If this was all Johnson produced this decade, it would be more than enough.  However, he wasn’t content to stick to these traditional products alone.  He took on the task of recording the Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George soundtrack, involving others like G. Love, Matt Costa, and Ben Harper.  This was not only a strong release, but also featured some of the strongest tracks of his career — “Upside Down” (his highest charting single at #38), “Broken,” “Wrong Turn” — as well as some of the silliest, albeit catchiest — “The Sharing Song” and “People Watching.”

Meanwhile, he continued his interest and involvement in independent films (he did graduate as a film major, after all!), contributed to numerous high profile tribute releases (“Mama, You Been on My Mind” for I’m Not There, “Imagine” for Instant Karma, “Someday at Christmas” for This Warm December), and nurtured the careers of the several artists on his Brushfire Records label.

My respect for Jack Johnson is multiplied when I consider how he accomplished all these things on his own in less than ten years.  He is a unique voice and sound in modern rock music, as well as a prolific artist, and as such, I was not surprised to hear that, a mere month into the new decade, he has already returned to the studio to work on his fifth album, due out in June 2010.

Even with my disappointment after Sleep Through the Static, I can already feel my anticipation building!

“Two Of Us” (The Beatles Cover)

Originally posted 2009-09-08 23:52:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

I swear we didn’t plan this… I’m sure by now, if you’re a rock music fan, you’ve heard about the Beatles Rock Band game that’s coming out tomorrow, Wednesday, 9/9/09.  Everyone in the gaming world is excited about this new release, and you better believe I am, too!  You see, it’s very rare we get an official Beatles release (any more “interview” discs floating around?), and it’s great to see the Beatles music brought to a whole new generation of youngsters that are sure to fall in love with it just like the rest of us did.  I’m excited about the new Rock Band video game for Playstation 3, but I’m especially excited about the entire Beatles catalog (including the collection of singles in Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2) being remastered and re-released.  I’ve wanted the Beatles albums remastered for as long as I remember hearing them.  The original tape transfers sound so tinny- the discs they were selling on shelves all the way up until today were made in 1986 and have just been duplicates.  Go ahead- check your CDs- they all say 1986 on them!  That’s back in the time where they had to tell you the “great sound quality and fidelity” you get with CDs…  Anyway, as I am happy that they’ve remastered the original two-track masters of the Beatles albums, I’m a bit disappointed in two things:

First, they’re not remixed.  Not to say that they weren’t mixed great for the time, especially because (next to Brian Wilson, in my personal opinion) George Martin was the best producer ever.  But, now you listen to these songs and many leave a lot to be desired.  Imagine if you heard some of the songs on “HELP!” without all the vocals to the right channel and the music in the left.  Imagine if the drums in the early records were panned more towards center so they don’t cut through the mix (especially the tambourine).  As tacky as the “Love” CD from Cirque de Soleil is, it’s still pretty cool to hear the songs in such lush stereo, as opposed to the duophonic sound that they achieved before the late 60s.

And second, there are no bonus tracks.  My father is quick to point out some key missing tracks that were left off the Anthologies (“The extended version of “Dig It”!”, he always yells) and we’re left with nothing more than the albums that we’ve already bought on LP, 8-track, cassette, and original CD.

So, there’s Beatlemania in the air and I love it.  It’s been WAY too long since the fervor of the Anthology series and it feels great to say, “Oh yeah, well I’m only 25 and I’ve been a fan ALL 25 years!”

Which brings me to tonight’s Beatles cover song video.  Let me tell you, folks- prepare to be blown away.  Along with my mystery guest Steve and other off-camera guest Chris (not Moore) (from my new cover band, the Traveling Acai Berries, also featuring Bill, who couldn’t be at the session), we play a completely effortless version of “Two of Us” from the “Let It Be” album.  Chris appears on-camera in the video I’ll be posting next week, but Steve, by request of his college-age daughter who would commit social suicide if her friends found out her father was on YouTube singing Beatles songs with a 25 year old :-) , decided that he would just show his guitar skills on camera.  Actually, that’s Steve singing with me on this one, too.

And that way I described the performance: effortless.  That’s what makes it different from many of my past collaborations.  Whether it be getting the chords right, remembering the words, or remembering harmony parts, past duets have always been troublesome.  But Steve, Chris, and I play this like we’ve been playing for years, and that’s what I love about this video.  You can barely hear Chris in this video- he’s playing mandolin away from the microphone, but at times, especially late in the chorus, you can hear him plucking away.  His sight reading was impressive.  On next week’s video, you can definitely hear him, though.  Steve’s playing is great, as he took the time to learn all those parts I don’t on guitar, which is just so great knowing that I can just sing and play rhythm.  Steve reminds me a lot of my father- not only in his love for the Beatles music, but in how he can sing harmony parts without having to teach him every note.  Somehow, he just knows.  And that’s where this familiarity comes from- it really shows through in the video.

I sincerely hope you enjoy tonight’s performance- one’s that’s been in the works for months now.  It was a lot of fun and I hope they’ll want to do more, especially when they see all the good reviews we’ll get!  I’ll be back next week and hopefully I’ll be enjoying the new Beatles Rock Band game, too.  I’m going to wait until Christmas for the Beatles remastered albums, though- in stereo, of course.  And don’t even get me started on the new “mono” box set… :-)  Until next week!!


The Weekend Review New Music Report: 2010 Edition

Originally posted 2011-01-17 10:00:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

In the past, before the Weekend Review was officially a segment on the Laptop Sessions blog and my articles had the oh-so-clever title of “Music Review” — and I know, I know, “the Weekend Review” isn’t all that much more clever — I have been accused of writing reviews that were positive to a fault.

This may well be true, as I have found it challenging these past couple years to define and refine my voice as a music critic who is also a singer/songwriter.  After all, it has been difficult to find a comfortable middle ground between praising music simply because someone labored over it and pointing out flaws to bring others down a notch.

Being an “amateur” has allowed me the opportunity and relative privacy to hone my craft.

I’ve come a long way from the every-so-often, knee-jerk nature of my early “CD Reviews,” articles that I typed and saved on my computer long before the Fusco-Moore Productions blog — now known as the Laptop Sessions blog — was launched.  I’ve also come a significant way since the aforementioned “Music Reviews.”  And, I’d like to think that I’ve progressed as a writer over the past year of “Weekend Reviews.”

So, this being my fifty-second and final Weekend Review of 2010, I decided to dedicate it to laying out a table of contents of sorts for the fifty-four reviews I’ve written this year (including “Yes, No, Maybe So?” one-sentence reviews).  They’re arranged below in descending order from my one five-star rating down to my handful of one-star reviews.

What it all amounts to is a lot of music from a diverse range of artists that run the genre gamut.  The one common denominator here, the one solid link between all subjects of the Weekend Review, is the presence of the singer/songwriter.  With the exception of a couple of cover song albums, these are albums of original music released in 2010.

The best I can offer as an overall statement for the year’s music is that this was, overall, an excellent year for new music.  The range tended to follow the bell curve (1 five star, 14 four stars, 23 three stars, 13 two stars, and 3 one stars), but this should not undercut the fact that there were fourteen very strong, interesting, entertaining albums released this year.

In all fairness, what the year was lacking was any albums that really blew everything else out of the water.  Although several have argued this point with me, I do not hesitate a moment to give All in Good Time (BnL) the full five-star nod.  That being said, I do not consider it their best album, not by a long shot.

So, where does that leave us?

In my opinion, it leaves 2010 as a very strong year with at least fifteen strong reasons to buy new albums, but it also leaves a gap for those attuned to and awaiting the next, best classic albums for the ages.

I hope you’ll check back for my final post (at least for a while) on the blog tomorrow and that you’ll consider checking some of these albums out while they’re still available on the ever-increasingly trend- and contempo-centric CD shelves.

54 New Albums, 2010: Arranged in descending order of star ranking (out of 5).

All in Good Time (Barenaked Ladies) – 5 stars
Bad Books (Bad Books) – 4.5 stars
Be in Love (Locksley) – 4 stars
Broken Bells (Broken Bells) – 4 stars
Heaven is Whenever (The Hold Steady) – 4 stars
Kaleidoscope Heart (Sara Bareilles) – 4 stars
Lonely Avenue (Ben Folds & Nick Hornby) – 4 stars
Mines (Menomena) – 4 stars
Mojo (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) – 4 stars (4.5 w/o “Candy” & “Takin’ My Time”)
Night Work – (Scissor Sisters) – 4 stars
Sea of Cowards (The Dead Weather) – 4 stars
Suburba – House of Heroes – 4 stars
The Grand Theatre Volume One (Old 97’s) – 4 stars
The Suburbs (Arcade Fire) – 4 stars
Volume Two (She & Him) – 4 stars
A Postcard from California (Al Jardine) – 3.5 stars
A Singer Must Die (Steven Page with the Art of Time Ensemble) – 3.5 stars
American Slang (The Gaslight Anthem) – 3 stars
American VI: Ain’t No Grave (Johnny Cash) – 3 stars
As I Call You Down (Fistful of Mercy) – 3.5 stars
Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (Brian Wilson) – 3.5 stars
Brothers (The Black Keys) – 3.5 stars
Dark Night of the Soul (Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse) – 3.5 stars
Death to False Metal (Weezer) – 3 stars
Destroyer of the Void – (Blitzen Trapper) – 3.5 stars
Easy Wonderful (Guster) – 3 stars
Everything Under the Sun (Jukebox the Ghost) – 3.5 stars
High Violet (The National) – 3.5 stars
How to Destroy Angels (How to Destroy Angels) – 3 stars
Hurley (Weezer) – 3.5 stars
Light You Up (Shawn Mullins) – 3 stars
Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights (Broken Social Scene) – 3 stars
Page One (Steven Page) – 3.5 stars
Sigh No More (Mumford & Sons) – 3.5 stars
Something for the Rest of Us (Goo Goo Dolls) – 3.5 stars
Stone Temple Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots) – 3.5 stars
To The Sea (Jack Johnson) – 3 stars
Transference (Spoon) – 3.5 stars
Court Yard Hounds (Court Yard Hounds) – 2.5 stars
Crazy for You (Best Coast) – 2.5 stars
Eureka (Rooney) – 2 stars
Everything Comes and Goes (Michelle Branch) – 2 stars
Familial (Philip Selway) – 2.5 stars
Forgiveness Rock Record (Broken Social Scene) – 2 stars
Heligoland (Massive Attack) – 2 stars
Infinite Arms (Band of Horses) – 2 stars
National Ransom (Elvis Costello) – 2 stars
Realism (Magnetic Fields) – 2.5 stars
Women & Country (Jakob Dylan) – 2.5 stars
Write About Love (Belle & Sebastian) – 2.5 stars
Y Not (Ringo Starr) – 2.5 stars
100 Miles from Memphis (Sheryl Crow) – 1.5 stars
Clapton (Eric Clapton) – 1 star
Interpol (Interpol) – 1 star