The Bob Dylan Starter Compilation – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-05-01 16:56:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

I’ve been wanting to kick this off for a few months now, but the time has finally arrived…

One of my goals for 2010 is to review every Bob Dylan studio album before New Year’s Day 2011.  This will include both one-sentence reviews in the “Yes, No, or Maybe So” series and full-out segments of “The Weekend Review.”  Unless he surprises us again, Dylan’s total studio album count is at thirty-two (I don’t count Dylan or Christmas in the Heart as studio albums), so I figured that I’d better get moving on this goal.

The Bob Dylan “Starter Compilation” is a playlist that I assembled with my girlfriend Nicole a while back as I continued to introduce her to the massive catalog of my favorite singer/songwriter of all time.  For anyone who knows me, it will come as no surprise that she had heard quite an array of Dylan songs already, most of them via the CD player in my car.  As we sorted through my iTunes software, she pointed to songs she loved and I played her songs that she hadn’t heard yet.  After a great deal of listening, discussing, arranging, and rearranging, we came up with a seventeen track layout.  I just updated it to eighteen tracks to include a sampling from his 2009 album Together Through Life.

So, without further ado, here’s the playlist.  Thanks to iTunes and other such services, you could easily download these tracks and start listening today.  For anyone unfamiliar with but interested in Dylan’s music, I’ve included the album that each song was originally released on, as well as a ranking for each album.  The 5’s are albums you should listen to right away, ranging down to the 0’s which are only for the true Dylan fanatics.  And there are some great albums that aren’t represented here (Desire being perhaps the most notable), but I had to make some hard decisions to make this the best playlist for a first-time listener.  Don’t hesitate to comment, criticize, etc. below…

See you tomorrow for the Weekend Review!

TRACK LISTING

1)   “Someday Baby” From Modern Times (2006) 3

2)   “Maggie’s Farm” From Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 5

3)   “Like A Rolling Stone” From Highway 61 Revisited (1965) 4

4)   “Simple Twist of Fate” From Blood on the Tracks (1975) 4

5)   “Political World” From Oh Mercy (1989) 3

6)   “Blowin’ in the Wind” From The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) 5

7)   “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” From The Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Soundtrack (1973) 0

8)   “I Want You” From Blonde on Blonde (1966) 5

9)   “Lay Lady Lay” From Nashville Skyline (1969) 1

10) “Sweetheart Like You” From Infidels (1983) 2

11) “All Along the Watchtower” From John Wesley Harding (1968) 1

12) “Honest With Me” From Love & Theft (2001) 5

13) “The Times They Are A-Changin’” From The Times They A-Changin’ (1964) 2

14) “I Feel A Change Comin’ On” From Together Through Life (2009) 1

15) “Just Like A Woman” From Blonde on Blonde (1966) 5

16) “Tangled Up In Blue” From Blood on the Tracks (1975) 4

17) “Down in the Flood (New Version)” From The Masked and Anonymous Soundtrack (2003) 0

18) “Forever Young” From Planet Waves (1974) 2

(Album Ratings: 0-5 – “5” for the albums you should hear first, down to “0” which are for fans only!)

Weezer’s “Death to False Metal” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-15 11:00:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  3 / 5 stars

Didn’t I already write a Weezer review this year?  And last year?  And the year before that?

Yes, on all three counts.

So, allow me to begin with the disclaimer that Death to False Metal, though it receives only a half star lower than the rating I granted Hurley, is not as cohesive an effort in comparison.  The individual songs shine in places and come up short in others.  It is, after all, a collection of songs that, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut on their previous studio albums.

What is fascinating about this release — and what grants credibility to Rivers Cuomo’s stance that this should be considered Weezer’s ninth studio album proper — is that the songs haven’t simply been culled from studio tapes, digitized, and hastily thrown together.  As the official press release reads, “The album was created using the basic tracks of 10 previously unreleased recordings — nine never-before-heard songs plus one cover — to assemble a brand new and truly modern-sounding record.”

This is what is most striking about the album on first listen: that it sounds like an album.  Considering that the tracks hail from periods as diverse as Pinkerton, Maladroit, Make Believe, and The Red Album, this could very easily have sounded like your typical “Greatest Misses” compilation.  Some, like Bob Dylan, have pulled off this brand of release, largely due to the fact that their vaults are populated by excellent cuts.  Most, however, release these compilations for the enjoyment of only the most fanatic segments of their audience.

On Death to False Metal, Cuomo and company have introduced a third option: remake the songs as one might restore a car, balancing a faithfulness to the original design with an attention to more contemporary sensibilities.

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

As could be expected, even with a band with as characteristic a sound and feel as Weezer, there is still a sense that these tracks have been compiled.  The transition from the grunge of “Everyone” to the glittery pop/rock of “I’m a Robot” is particularly noticeable.  What’s more, both of these tracks fall firmly under the “I-see-why-they-were-scratched” category.  Still, there is an energy to them that is infectious, and if you enjoy this band’s style, you will find yourself turning up the sound.  Although these two songs have the potential to become grating, they also clock in at well under three minutes each.

Elsewhere, the simplicity is appealing, as it is on “Trampoline” and “I Don’t Want Your Loving.”  And “Turning Up the Radio” is yet one more reminder that, simple or not, Weezer are the kings of the epic chorus.

The decision to work from the basic tracks up is what sets this release apart and what makes it a solid album.  If you want to split hairs about the quality of individual songs, even in comparison to other Weezer tunes, then you could lose yourself in the criticism and find, in the end, that you’d missed the point of the album.

The point, as supported by the opener, is to turn up the volume and enjoy a set of songs that have been filtered through the Weezer of 2010, which — contrary to what critics (myself included) were concluding as recently as a year ago — is actually saying a great deal.

The packaging itself is impressive as it so very rarely is with this band.  Much of the obvious has been stated and restated as concerns the cover, but little has been noted about the presence of lyrics, pictures, drawings, and other elements of intelligent design within the booklet.

The fact that two staples were required for assembly is, in itself, pleasantly surprising.

So, if you’re tired of what passes for rock on mainstream radio, pick up a copy of Death to False Metal.  It won’t change your life and it probably won’t make your end-of-year top ten list, but it will be an album you’ll crank up and enjoy over and over again.  Even the Toni Braxton cover that concludes the disc is surprisingly consistent with the tenor of the previous tracks.  And, if you manage to block out all memories of nineties radio and half-drunken karaoke nights at your local bar, then you might even think it’s a decent song.

After a questionable 2009, Weezer has returned with two of the most enjoyable and respectable releases of 2010.  Death to False Metal may be an “odds and ends” album, to borrow the language of early band chatter, but it holds its own against the very strong Hurley.

Reflections on Rock Music: The Subtleties of the Playlist

Originally posted 2009-06-22 23:50:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

For those who don’t know me, it can safely be said I’m a music dork for the ages.  And so, with that distinction clearly in place, it is with great honor that I present to you an article for the Laptop Sessions new music blog dedicated to what is perhaps my favorite digital innovation:

The playlist.

For anyone that owns an mp3 player and certainly anyone that uses iTunes, playlists offer new and unique ways to group your songs.  Whether you’re making one for yourself, a friend, or significant other, there are countless formats you can use.  Here are the major categories:

1.)  The Artist Compilation

This is the ultimate test of your knowledge and love for a given artist:  Can you create a compilation of a band or artist’s best songs?  Here’s the added twist:  In my personal opinion, I think compilations should adhere either to the length of a CD (about 74 minutes) maximum, or 20 songs at most.  Giving yourself a boundary to work within forces you to nix some songs that just shouldn’t make the cut, even if they do remind you of the first time you kissed your significant other, or whatever.

The trick here is to compile a set of tracks that are both comprehensive and satisfying in one grouping, taking care to order them in an interesting manner that gives the compilation a life of its own.  Sometimes, chronological is okay.  But if you’re just going to choose tracks and throw them randomly into a playlist, then please don’t even try.

These are valuable playlists to have, particularly for more under-the-radar bands like Ben Folds and (until last week’s “Best of” release) the Wallflowers, as well as artists whose greatest hits come in multiple and/or unsatisfying formats, like R.E.M. and (until recently) Bob Dylan.  Even when you love albums like I do, you may just want to hear a mix from time to time.

2.) The Artist Catalog Playlist

Similar to the artist compilation, the artist catalog playlist focuses on one band or artist.  However, this is for true fans only.  The playlist comprises a chronological collection of any and all tracks you can get your hands on.  Oh yeah, I’m talking about all those demos, live tracks, and soundtrack cuts you’ve accumulated over your long career as a fan.

Personally, I drop all the studio albums into the playlist first, ordering them by release date, and then I add all other tracks around those mainstays.  Even when a track has technically come out previous to a studio album during the same year, I put the tracks after the album.  My reasoning?  Hey, the albums are — hopefully — the first, best source for great tracks and provide some great structure to what could be an exhaustive (and exhausting) playlist.

This works very well for bands with popular, lengthy careers — like Pearl Jam — or more under-the-radar artists, such as Wilco (I spent more time than I should have compiling my “Wilco, etc.” playlist, which includes a ton of Jeff Tweedy solo work, Golden Smog, Loose Fur, and more) and Jim Fusco (don’t even ask — of course I included such great rareties as “Parody Writer” and all the bonus tracks on releases like My Other Half and the enhanced CD section of Formula).

3.)  The Themed Playlist

Perhaps the most popular of all playlists, I think anyone who considers him/herself a fan of music or of life in general should have to make at least one themed playlist for someone special, or at least for personal use.  Just last night, my friend Dana Camp was describing the track listing of a “Date Playlist” that he has.

Recently, I’ve made playlists for the drive to the beach, rush hour traffic, the unfortunate bank overdraft/identity theft crisis of a friend, and you better believe that I had a downright melancholy compilation prepared and put to good use while I was broken up from my girlfriend last year.  These sorts of playlists are the most versatile, and the degree to which you take the song choice and track order into consideration say at least as much about you as the tracks say about the artist/band.

4.)  Long Format Playlists

Last but not least we come to the long format playlist.  Similar to the artist catalog playlist (which can be played straight through in chronological order if you prefer), this list is most often played while your iPod or other mp3 device is in shuffle mode.

My favorite examples of this type are the “Albums by Year” compilations I put together recently.  On my iPod, I have playlists titled “Albums – 1990,” “Albums – 1991,” and so on up to the still-expanding “Albums – 2009.”  Because I’ve been spending a lot of time working recently, each day I choose a year and just let it play.  This is fun and fascinating because you can laugh and say, “Wow, I haven’t heard that song in FOREVER!,” as well as begin to appreciate in retrospect the songs and albums that came out during the same years.  For instance, I didn’t really fall in love with albums and music in general until the turn of the millennium.  Now that I’m listening to the 1991 playlist, I’m coming to appreciate the juxtapositon of Tom Petty’s more straightforward Into the Great Wide Open with the more alternative Ten (Pearl Jam) or Temple of the Dog (by the one-off band of the same name), as well as the atypical acoustic format and vocal clarity of R.E.M.’s Out of Time.  What will it be today?  Maybe I’ll go back to the hey day of my early musical roots, circa 1997 or 1998…

…and then remember why I came to love the Sixties music of bands like Bob Dylan and the Beatles!

Seriously, though, I hope you have enjoyed my breakdown of playlist formats.  If you have any of your own, please comment — I would LOVE to be able to think of more ways to effectively utilize the playlist functions of my iPod.