The Weekend Review: February 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-05-28 12:24:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Go Fly A Kite (Ben Kweller)

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Jealous Girl” & “Mean to Me”

When I saw Ben Kweller open for the Barenaked Ladies a couple years ago, I was floored by this performer who managed to blend a wide variety of influences and crossed the genre lines while maintaining a coherent, high adrenaline rock show.  For months afterward, as I picked up his albums, I struggled and largely failed to find anything to match what I had experienced live.  Now, with Go Fly A Kite, Kweller has finally recorded an album that properly expresses all his strengths, alternating between electric rockers and softer acoustic tracks, all the while maintaining a power pop energy that works to his strengths.  Mainstream music critics will largely ignore this album.  Nicholas Moffitt of VZ Magazine went so far as to call it “likeable,” but not before qualifying even this statement with “fans of Kweller and power pop.”  Is Go Fly A Kite the next great rock album?  I’m not arguing that, but it is one of the few albums in recent memory that relies only upon instrumentation and vocals for its energy.  There are no computer tricks employed here: only good, old-fashioned human performance.  There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, and the track listing steadily unfolds larger ideas and themes (not to mention the diorama-style CD packaging, which is one of the most imaginative I’ve seen).  Forget Moffitt’s qualification: if you’re a fan of rock and upbeat, energetic music, Ben Kweller’s latest is a must-hear.

 

 

 

Kisses on the Bottom (Paul McCartney)

Producer: Tommy LiPuma

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “My Valentine” & “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”

A confession before I commence: I’m admittedly predisposed to a bad taste in the mouth upon hearing a well-established artist has decided to record an album of covers.  (I know, I know: I write reviews predominantly for a cover songs music video blog.  But, to be fair, we post them for free and for practice in between our regularly-scheduled albums of originals.)  A brief history of just a few of the cover albums that should compel a roll of the eyes: Michael McDonald’s Motown (2003) and the following year’s oh-so-creatively titled Motown Two, all five volumes of Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook series (2002-2005, 2010), and perhaps the most disappointing fall into the valley of covers: Eric Clapton’s Me and Mr. Johnson, a follow-up to 2001’s excellent Reptile album, followed in 2010 by a disappointing album of covers – Clapton – masquerading as his latest solo album.  So, when it comes to albums of this ilk, I approach with caution.  In this case, it is not so much that McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom is a bad album.  It clearly is a very well-thought-out, passionately rendered record.  And yet, on the heels of a string of masterful solo releases – Chaos & Creation in the Backyard (2005) and Memory Almost Full (2007) being probably the best of his career – this collection of traditional pop could do little else than fall short after five years without a new McCartney album.  For what they are, the songs are really done quite well.  It is clear from interviews with McCartney and his producer Tommy LiPuma that this was a labor of love, and it was even revealed that he held off on this project out of desire to avoid any allegations of jumping on the covers train (he even referenced Stewart’s Songbook series).  In the end, the clear standout is “My Valentine,” which just so happens to be one of two McCartney originals on the record.  Coincidence?  I think not.  He has referenced his next album as being along the same vein as the Foo Fighters’ analog, garage rock Wasting Light (2011), so I and others like me can rest easy on that.

 

 

 

Deep Space [EP] (Eisley)

Producer: Eisley

Released: February 14, 2012

Rating:  2.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Lights Out” & “Laugh It Off”

This pretty much fits the archetype of the EP: not bad, not great, just a little something to fill the silence between records.  If you enjoyed last year’s outstanding The Valley, then you’ll most likely enjoy Deep Space [EP].  Or, you could save yourself the five bucks and return to The Valley for more songs and a more fulfilling experience.

 

 

 

 

Sounds from Nowheresville (The Ting Tings)

Producer: Jules De Martino

Released: February 24, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Hang It Up” & “Guggenheim”

Don’t let the modern production qualities fool you: there is more here than the extensive list of “engineers” and “mixers” in the credits would have you believe.  The critics have called the Ting Tings out for this and any number of other criticisms: the album is too short, too frivolous, inane, etc.  What they have missed – and what most tracks on Sounds from Nowheresville have to offer – is energy and ambition, subtle touches in the harmonies beyond what is more readily apparent in the synthesized sounds, not to mention the centrality of Katie White’s guitar (yes, that is a real instrument in the mix and it is the female lead singer playing it; if only for that, I have reason to respect this album).  “Hit Me Down Sonny” and “Hang It Up” are as bright, cool, and catchy as you would expect, and yet other tracks like the passionately delivered “Guggenheim” and the tender, acoustic-based “Day to Day” and “Help” express the range the band has to offer.  While this is definitely not a development I would have expected, I have to admit that the Ting Tings have put out one of what will probably be the best albums of the year.

 

 

 

Rooms Filled With Light (Fanfarlo)

Released: February 28, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Shiny Things” & “Lenslife”

On Rooms Filled With Light, Fanfarlo have done a nice job of bringing a certain bright quality to the domain of oft-introspective synthesized music.  Aside from channeling a bit too much Ric Ocasek in his vocals at times, Simon Balthazar and company have recorded and sequenced a cohesive and purposeful record that boasts elements of artistic intention while maintaining pop-ready hooks, riffs, and overall production quality.

Barenaked Ladies SET LIST – 11/20/2010 at the Klein Auditorium, Bridgeport CT

Originally posted 2010-11-21 10:43:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

CLICK HERE to read the Review!

1)  “Who Needs Sleep”

2)  “The Old Apartment”

3)  “Falling for the First Time”

4)  “Jesse, Ben, and Tommy saw my balls” rap

5)  “Every Subway Car”

6)  “Leave”

7)  “Moonstone”

8)  “Another Heartbreak”

9)  “Maybe Katie”

10)  “Sound of Your Voice” (acoustic)

11)  “It’s All Been Done”

12)  “Too Little Too Late”

13)  “Brian Wilson”

14)  “You Run Away”

15)  “Four Seconds”

16)  “Big Bang Theory Theme”

17)  “One Week”

18)  “Pinch Me”

19)  “If I Had $1,000,000” (w/ “Raisins” by request)

20)  “Magic” Medley (“California Gurls,” etc.)

ENCORE:

21)  “Alcohol”

22)  “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”

23)  “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel”

The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

Originally posted 2010-12-28 10:00:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

This category isn’t  populated by music technically from 2010, but it belongs here all the same.  After all, with all the unsatisfactory, unimpressive remasters and reissues that are being released every year, it’s important to salute the solid ones.

Number one hails form the ever-impressive — and ever-overpriced — “Deluxe Edition” series.  As with the DE treatment of the Blue Album, Pinkerton is dressed up with gorgeous multi-fold packaging and accented with a booklet that includes a note from Rivers dating back to 1996, handwritten lyrics to the core songs on the album, an essay by insider Karl Koch, and a veritable scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia in between.  The music itself is quirky, dissonant at turns, and harmonically pleasing at others.  The only criticism to be leveled at the plentiful bonus tracks is the repetition.  I mean, I love “Pink Triangle” as much as the next guy — probably more — but are five versions really necessary?

The next two on the list are Clutch re-releases.  True to form, Clutch is not simply going through the motions here.  The packaging for both are beautiful recreations of the originals with nice accents added.  The live DVD with Robot Hive/Exodus was a nice touch for fans like myself who will buy their CDs but not necessarily spring for other releases, like their recent live DVD.  There are few booklets so thoughtfully produced as that with From Beale St. to Oblivion, and I can’t imagine any lover of albums and packaging not appreciating this one.

The Fables of the Reconstruction box is indisputably one of the coolest packaging designs of the year, though it would have been preferable to downsize the poster in favor of a longer essay with more insight into the making of the album, etc.  The bonus tracks — the so-called Athens demos — will surely thrill longtime fans fascinated by the songs in their rough forms, though to my unseasoned ear the demos don’t sound all that different from the final studio versions.

The final addition here comes with a caveat.  The four Badfinger remasters are excellent candidates for receiving more attention from modern music listeners, and the packaging comes through in terms of adding several bonus tracks and liner notes that are more than sufficient to outline the context, either forgotten or unknown to those purchasing these albums.  And the remasters are significant, adding volume that was simply impossible on the original CD versions.  However, as a good friend pointed out, there is something lost when the reverb falls away from the drums and the other aural artifacts of their early seventies production disappears.

The honorable mentions are included here, as I’m uncertain of where else to place them.  The ever-excellent Bootleg Series should go without saying.  Even a non-fan could appreciate the rich experience that is to be had by listening to and reading one of these releases, this being the ninth installment.  The other mention is for Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, a double-album of unreleased tracks from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions.  The packaging is beautiful and the music, particularly for the Springsteen fans out there, is comparable to stumbling upon buried treasure.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, and then Thursday and Friday for the best lists yet: the Best Songs and the Best Albums of 2010!

1)  Pinkerton – Weezer

2)  Robot Hive/Exodus – Clutch

3)  From Beale St. to Oblivion – Clutch

4)  Fables of the Reconstruction – R.E.M.

5)  The Badfinger remasters (Magic Christian Music; No Dice; Straight Up; Ass)

Honorable Mention:

The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (1962-1964) – Bob Dylan

The Promise – Bruce Springsteen

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Electric Ladyland” (1968) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-02-14 23:30:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  2.5 / 5 stars

Let me begin by saying I love and have the utmost respect for Jimi Hendrix’s music, as much if not more than the average music fan.  Although many simply know a couple hits (and are, even from that sampling, able to acknowledge the fact that he was a guitar legend), I have heard all of his albums multiple times — hits, misses, deep tracks, and all.

Although Electric Ladyland is widely considered the pinnacle of his recording career, I must adamantly argue that it is not.

There is no denying the mastery that Hendrix demonstrates on the third and final studio release of his brief career.  Even on a track like “Little Miss Strange,” his guitarwork is intricate, interesting, and unsurpassed.  “Voodoo Chile” is a testament to his mastery (and his justification for moving beyond) the blues.  And his production on “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” is nothing short of expansive and impressive.

And yet, great songs do not in and of themselves a great album make.

To be fair, there are some excellent tracks on this album.  In addition to those aforementioned gems, the highlights of Electric Ladyland are certainly to be found in the brilliant rock’n’roll of “Crosstown Traffic” and their electrified take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a version that redefined the way Dylan himself approached the song in concert.

On Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience is tighter and yet more relaxed than on any previous release.  Hendrix is more experimental stylistically and vocally, Noel Redding’s bass parts are even more manically masterful, and Mitch Mitchell’s drums are both an anchor and a vivid instrument unto themselves.  There’s something compelling about a band that can run through a fourteen minute blazing blues epic like “Voodoo Chile” and go on to construct such a melancholy opening as you find on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland" (1968)

Where this album begins to fall short is in all the nooks and crannies, all the self-indulgent jams that stretch some wonderful tracks out beyond a reasonable length, all the inferior, overly-simplistic tracks that never would have found their way onto a previous Experience release.

From the opening, Electric Ladyland is a unique and exciting album.  “…And the Gods Made Love” is a forgettable, albeit tone-setting album opener.  “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” is a warm, inviting, and promising number.  “Crosstown Traffic” and “Voodoo Chile” make good on that invitation, putting an outstandingly tight, single-worthy track back to back with a jam-based track that takes its time — a quarter of an hour, to be more precise.

After this is where the album loses some of its focus.

The Redding-penned “Little Miss Strange” suffers from the same assessment as Axis: Bold As Love‘s “She’s So Fine”:  it’s okay.  Nothing more, nothing less — neither the track you’ll run to first, nor the track you’ll skip.

Then comes a trio of tunes that are not terribly impressive.  “Long Hot Summer Night” is good, “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” is an excellent, unique take on this cover, and “Gypsy Eyes” has its moments.  If this is the best that can be said about these tracks, then they have no business being at the heart of a Jimi Hendrix Experience album.

I can even look beyond the ho-hum nature of “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” if only for its thematic, lyrical tie-in three tracks later on “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” but it never ceases to amaze me how, depending on the artist and on the general trends in music criticism at the time, an album that has strong ties to what has come before can either be a masterful sampling of genres or a derivative romp in mediocrity.  In this case, the former was decided upon, as evidenced by the slew of five-star ratings the album has accrued.  Still, I find it difficult to view some of these reviews as unbiased.  Is Electric Ladyland a breakthrough effort, an album that took the ways we view genres and recordings and turned them upside down?  Yes.  But is that to say it should overshadow the cohesion, uniqueness, and beautifully tight arrangements of Are You Experienced? Should it cause us to set Axis: Bold As Love aside as a sophomoric, somewhat forgettable effort?

No!

Let us not forget that this is an album with a track like “Moon, Turn the Tides… gently gently away,” a song with no content and with no discernible purpose as anything more than a transition between tracks, perhaps a tone setting device.

By the time “House Burning Down” comes, I often find myself suffering from jam fatigue.  This is an excellent track, and yet I have a hard time getting fired up for it, or for the album-closing “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).”

I do find myself seeking sweet refuge in the track that comes between them… “All Along the Watchtower.”

This is what Electric Ladyland lacks — others may praise the jazz mentality of this record, but I find myself yearning for the rock’n’roll mentality that Jimi Hendrix practically created on his first two releases.  Others see the expansive and the interpretive as mastery, but I long for the tightness and originality of those early Jimi Hendrix recordings — hits like “Purple Haze,” “Stone Free,” and “Bold As Love” and deep tracks like “Love or Confusion,” “51st Anniversary,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” and “Little Wing.”

It is no wonder that John Mayer has gone to the Hendrix well thrice for covers — an excellent version of “Wait Until Tomorrow” for the Experience-imitating John Mayer Trio, an okay take on “Bold As Love” on Continuum, and “The Wind Cries Mary” live in concert.  After all, his career has generally followed the patterns I see in Hendrix’s: a mind-blowing debut, a strong follow-up, and a critically acclaimed, if inferior third release.  Say what you will about Mayer — channeling Hendrix, however criticized a move it may be in some circles, has worked as planned.

So, I will continue listening to Electric Ladyland and loving it at times.  For me, it can’t compare to what came before, and to what may have come after…