The Weekend Review: March 2013 Report

Originally posted 2013-07-21 02:55:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

The Next Day (David Bowie)

Producer: David Bowie and Tony Visconti

Released: March 8, 2013

Rating:  4.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” & “The Next Day”

After releasing albums at breakneck speed for over three decades until 2003, David Bowie returns from a ten year studio album silence with The Next Day, a masterful accomplishment that serves to reestablish his place in rock music.  Here, Bowie offers up heartfelt vocals across a range of songs from fast-paced to downbeat and heavily produced to minimally rendered.  His work continues to demonstrate dominance, particularly in the realm of quirky atmospherics, and the first three tracks quickly suggest the diversity to come across the record.  From “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” the most single-worthy standout on the album (despite the fact it was chosen as the second single) to well-paced yet laidback “I’d Rather Be High” to the balladic, smooth, bittersweet tones of “Where Are We Now?”, Bowie’s range is what is perhaps most impressive on The Next Day.  This is a project on which all of the songs share a common sound and feel, yet defy any criticism of uniformity.  This is not to mention the lyrical content, which is worthy of uninterrupted time spent listening while reading along to a lyrics booklet.  With this all established, we can only hope that Bowie won’t wait another decade for a follow-up.





Old Sock (Eric Clapton)

Producer: Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II, Justin Stanley, & Simon Climie

Released: March 12, 2013

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Every Little Thing” & “Gotta Get Over”

The last truly dominant, dynamic, and original Eric Clapton album was released in 1998.  It was titled Pilgrim and featured all Clapton tracks with only a couple exceptions.  The ratio of originals-to-covers fell to 2:1 for the still outstanding Reptile in 2001 (an album equal to if not better than Pilgrim) and the uneven Back Home (2005).  His 2010 solo release, strapped with the fittingly unoriginal title Clapton, saw him boasting a credit on only one track and a co-writing credit at that.  Now, three years later, Old Sock continues the trend as his first solo album to feature no original compositions, blues-cover albums like From the Cradle, Riding with the King, and Me and Mr. Johnson notwithstanding.  The most frustrating part of this realization is that Clapton is clearly still deserving of his status as legendary guitarist, teasing licks and riffs here and there that are distinctly a style and delivery all his own.  It is difficult to blame him for taking this relaxed route in the latter days of his career, as his recent covers compilations have tended to net reviews equal to or greater than those awarded his recent original efforts.  It is also difficult to listen to Old Sock and not feel the nagging desire to switch over to Pilgrim or Reptile sooner rather than later.





Earth Rocker (Clutch)

Producer: Machine

Released: March 15, 2013

Rating:  4.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Crucial Velocity” & “D.C. Sound Attack!”


After a foray into more blues-based work, Clutch returns with resounding and resonating rock that is not only instantly accessible but also worthy of repeated listens and further study.  The pace rarely lets up as, track after track, the band continues to rip into full-throttle rock.  Indeed, the first five tracks are among the strongest opening sequences they’ve presented: from the infectiously catchy laugh refrain in “Earth Rocker” to the allusive “Unto the Breach,” the pace doesn’t let up until the well-placed, hauntingly stripped-down “Gone Cold.”  Lyrically, Neil Fallon’s words are by turns forceful and poetic, direct and open for interpretation.  The commentary is perhaps sharpest on “Mr. Freedom,” the blend of vocal and instrumental energy screams forth from “D.C. Sound Attack!,” and the vocals never seem quite so driven as on “Unto the Breach,” yet it is on “Crucial Velocity” that a near-perfect fusion of all the strengths of this album is achieved.  From the dead-on-target guitar work to the razor sharp lyrical commentary, it is difficult to understand why this track was held back as the second single.  Regardless, Earth Rocker provides further evidence that Clutch can still render loud, relevant rock on a level beyond most other bands.  The first six tracks are essentially perfect, and the second half presents gems – “Book, Saddle, and Go” and “Cyborg Bette” to name a couple – that may be overshadowed initially but will offer up more over time.  In short, Earth Rocker is an essential rock album for 2013.


Originally posted 2010-12-31 19:31:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


At long last, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of the best albums of the year, in order, as selected by the Weekend Review.

Okay, so the Weekend Review is really just me, but it sounds so much more official when I write it like that…

If you read my Best Songs list yesterday, then you also read my reaction to the “anti-top ten list” post made by musician/writer John Roderick earlier this week.  If not, suffice it to say that I think the end of year music lists aren’t meant to be accurate gauges of the previous twelve months’ new music releases.  If you believe that is even possible, then you must be deluded.  A top ten (or twenty, forty, whatever) list is a celebration of individuals listening to and loving and hating and interpreting and discussing and arguing over the meanings of and value of that aforementioned new music.

That being said, my list is pretty much perfect.  So, bask in its glory, experience the feeling of being in the shadow of greatness as you peruse, that shadow looming more or less large depending on how high or low you go on the list.

And, for crying out loud, leave comments and links to any music I may have missed this year.

1)  All in Good Time – Barenaked Ladies

More than a breakup album, and no, it’s not “a serious BnL album;”  it’s BnL as per usual: excellent.

2)  Sea of Cowards – The Dead Weather

All the potential expressed in the details of their debut is capitalized on here with this outstanding follow-up, and only a year after Horehound!

3)  Bad Books – Bad Books

Two indie artists combine to form an even more obscure band and produce poetry set to folky alternative rock.

4)  Heaven is Whenever – The Hold Steady

My first go-round with the Hold Steady left me wondering how I missed this band and their gritty, smart rock and roll before now.

5)  Kaleidoscope Heart – Sara Bareilles

Her second album is tantamount to hitting a home run, from a capella opener to piano rock/pop to stripped down acoustic and harmonica work.

6)  Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Danger Mouse and James Mercer form one of the most fruitful collaborations of the year, their unique sound accented with echoes ranging from contemporary dance to seventies Beach Boys.

7)  Mines – Menomena

I’ve never heard an album quite like this before, a patchwork of sharp lyrics and killer instrumentation that, combined, sound like an alternative rock orchestra.

8)  Transference – Spoon

Masters of the understated performance, Spoon both strips down their arrangements and manages to weave complicated, interesting threads throughout the album.

9)  Lonely Avenue – Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

A partnership made in alternative rock heaven.  (Was I supposed to say more?)

10)  Be in Love – Locksley

Sounding like the Beatles circa-Please Please Me if they had hailed from the golden age of garage rock, Locksley is a band to keep your eye on.

11)  The Grand Theatre, Volume One – Old 97’s

Only one half of the recordings that were yielded from the Grand Theatre sessions, Volume One is dynamic stuff.  (Does make you wonder how much better it could have been if the best of the best had been included in one release.  Or how mediocre Volume Two is going to be.)

12)  Night Work – Scissor Sisters

If you can get past the buttocks in tights being grabbed on the front cover, you’ll find a smart hybrid of dance music and guitar-driven rock.

13)  Volume Two – She & Him

Not quite retro, not quite contemporary, Zooey Deschanel’s voice casts a spell over each track.

14)  The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

A great album with an impressive sense of concept, implementation, and packaging, though it lacked the dynamism necessary to draw me back for multiple listens.

15)  Page One – Steven Page

A very strong solo debut that ran the genre gamut.

16)  Suburba – House of Heroes

A strong album from a band that clearly works song by song, each track working in movements with multiple elements at play.

17)  Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots

The Stone Temple Pilots do power pop.  (Good stuff!)

18)  Something For the Rest of Us – Goo Goo Dolls

Excellent sound and outstanding lyrics, though as a whole it lags a bit, falling into patterns four plus minute song after four plus minute song.

19)  Hurley – Weezer

The cover image of Lost actor Jorge Garcia notwithstanding, Hurley finds Weezer sounding relevant and rocking out more than they have in some time.

20)  Brothers – The Black Keys

If the album as a whole had been as dynamic as the first five tracks, Brothers would not have been floating on the periphery of this list.

Honorable Mention:

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

I don’t really have a frame of reference for this one (thus the honorable mention), but West’s multi-layered approach has earned my respect, even if I will probably never feel comfortable singing the lyrics out loud with other people around…

Buying Music in 2010: Mp3s (Digital Downloads), CDs, and LPs (Vinyl Records)

Originally posted 2009-11-18 01:52:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Hello everyone, I’m back with another article, as I still don’t have my HD camera (that’s what happens when you order internationally) and I’m still inundated with work here at FMP Studios.  The Traveling Acai Berries are hoping to get a two-song recording session in on Thursday night, but we’ll have to wait and see.  Those, unless I get the camera tomorrow, would still be in standard definition.

Anyway, onto tonight’s article:

Today at lunch, I told my colleagues at work (who are all much older than me) that I’m loving using my turntable.  A turntable, for those of you who either don’t know or have forgotten, is a record player.  And a record player is a machine that plays 12″ vinyl discs with grooves on them, producing sound.

Everyone at the table looked at me like I had four heads.  I heard, “He isn’t 25 years old- take off the mask, Scooby and reveal the real killer old man.”  But, I told them how much fun it was- having these great collector’s items and being able to just sit back and listen to some great music of yesteryear.

Then, you should’ve seen their faces when I told them I had bought new albums this year on vinyl.  They all couldn’t believe vinyl record albums (or long-players, LP) were making a small comeback.  Most of them had gotten rid of their collections or even their turntables.  What a shame!  I know they take up room, but I’m really loving them.  I thought I would write tonight about the options of purchasing and listening to music in 2009 that led me to my old-fashioned choice for music.

Let me start off by saying that, no, I do not believe that they are somehow superior in sound quality.  For years, it was all I could do to reduce as much hiss as possible from my own music recordings and I love the sound of clean, digital recordings.  I even love when companies remaster albums and take away all the hiss, like they did with Elvis’ #1’s album from a few years ago.  Listening to the remastered, cleaned-up version of “Heartbreak Hotel”, you feel like you’re in the room with Elvis.  And that’s a place I want to be. :-)

So, albums are all but dead now.  I am in the vast minority of people that purchase full albums rather than individual singles.  And, that cross-section gets even smaller because I’m also the type of person that purchases physical albums rather than digital downloads.  You see, I’m a person that wants something for his money.  And purchasing an album online for ten dollars (from iTunes or wherever else you may buy them) just doesn’t seem right to me- you get a FILE?  No jewel case?  No CD?  Nothing you can put in your collection?  Let me tell you something- my father’s vast CD collection is a heck of a lot more impressive than the 10,000 digital songs I currently have on my iPod.

And with physical albums, you actually own something.  I can’t feel ownership of a file on my computer.  Call me old-fashioned, but I want something I can hold, something I can look at in the future without wondering if it’s compatible with my operating system.

So, there are three main ways you can purchase music in 2009, now that cassette tapes, DVD audio, and Super Audio CDs have bitten the dust.  There are digital downloads (mp3’s, usually), CD’s, and new vinyl albums.  Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Digital Downloads: Well, the obvious reasons are- they don’t take up any space!  Most people don’t want to search through hundreds of CDs to find the song they want, and I don’t blame them.  These things are portable and even I have fallen in love with my iPod portable music player.  But, for my money, I purchase the physical album on CD or LP and then put it into my iTunes for conversion into mp3 or AAC format.  Then, I have a portable copy to take with me, but I also have the physical copy for both my collection and in case something goes wrong with the file.  Plus, they haven’t perfected sound quality of these compressed digital files.  Sure, mp3s don’t sound bad, but have you ever listened to a song in mp3 and then listened to the CD version right afterward?  You’ll really hear the difference.  And, they’re coming out with new, higher quality codecs all the time.  What does that mean?  It means that every time they come out with a better-sounding way of presenting your music, you’ll have to either convert your CD collection again or purchase the songs again in a higher quality.  I like to do the job one time and that’s it, so no thanks.

CD’s (Compact Disc): The best part about CDs is the sound quality.  They are essentially uncompressed and you simply cannot get audibly better sound quality without moving up to surround-sound audio.  CD’s have been our main medium for twenty years now and there’s a good reason.  They scratch, but not too easily.  They take up space, but about a quarter as much as an old vinyl LP.  And they’re really cheap to both produce and to purchase.  Stores often offer CDs for $9.99 when they come out and still make a healthy profit.  I really have nothing against CDs- they seem to be very archival and I feel great about my collection.  There are drawbacks, though- they can skip while playing them if you’re on a bumpy road in the car, they can have digital “artifacts” from not being produced properly, and they’re just a bit too small to reproduce a beautiful album cover with the same effect on a vinyl LP.  Plus, they’re portable…if you’re carrying one at a time…  You can’t put a CD in your pocket or even dream about carrying 10,000 songs with you at all times.  Plus, CD changers are bulky and outdated.

Vinyl Record Albums (LP): “Everything old is new again.”  Again, I’m a collector.  I really don’t buy too much new music anymore, as my back-catalog collection is essentially complete.  So, when my favorite artists come out with a new album, it’s not a big deal to purchase a vinyl copy.  Buying four albums a year won’t take up much space and I’ll be able to see those great album covers and read liner notes, etc.  Plus, the actual vinyl record albums themselves are a sight to behold.  And there’s something strangely serene about playing one- putting the needle on the record and watching it spin while you listen.  It just calms you down.  Plus, I get a nostalgic feeling when listening to records- like I was alive then.  You’d even catch me listening to stuff I normally wouldn’t, like “Sinatra at the Sands”, that I listened to a couple days ago.  It just felt right.  Of course, records went obsolete for a reason.  In fact, most people that used them long ago really don’t miss them that much.  They complain about the dust, the needle cartridges, the scratches, and how easy it was to make them skip.  Plus, they take up a ton of room when you have a bunch.  So, they’re a nice novelty to me right now.  And, most new albums out on vinyl come with either a digital download code or a copy on CD so you can still have the clean version of the album and keep the vinyl as a collector’s item.

There’s only one recording medium that’s dead now that everyone agrees was a good idea to kill: the 8-track player.  I never had one of these and don’t plan to.

I hope you enjoyed this article and hope that you’ll contribute to the conversation- how do you prefer to buy and listen to your music?  Are you considering the switch to vinyl again?  Do you think they actually sound better?  We’d love to hear from you!

“Baby I Need Your Loving” (Four Tops and Johnny Rivers Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Wow, finally I get to post my video.  I hate when this happens- now it’s going to feel like such a short time until my next video!  Anyway, I’m very proud to bring you tonight’s acoustic cover song music video of a classic song in, “Baby I Need Your Loving”.

Written by three of the Motown Records songwriters, “Baby I Need Your Loving” was the first big hit for the Four Tops back in 1964.  And let me tell you, this falls into my category of “perfect recordings”.  It clocks in under two minutes, but the vocals and instrumentation are just perfect.  The song gives me chills.  The Tops had such a unique vocal blend.  The lead vocalist recently passed away, as I heard.  When I saw them in concert a few years ago, there were only two original Tops left, but I still enjoyed the concert very much.  Hey, there’s only two original Beach Boys left in the band…and one isn’t even technically an original!

Anyway, you may also know this song from the Johnny Rivers version in the late 60’s.  His voice fit well with this classic tune, as well.  But, there’s one big difference between his version and the one done by the Four Tops: the title!  Johnny decided to title the song after what the chorus really says: Baby I Need Your Lovin’.  Note that apostrophe?  The Four Tops had the more grammatically correct version for theirs.

I had so much fun recording this- in one take, mind you.  And now for my slightly melodramatic “personal” update for the week:

I really hope I can find more time to post on the blog, as I have a lot of ambition, but it keeps getting thrown to the side.  Work, both during the day and at night, has helped my wife and I accomplish so much more than anyone else our age I know.  But, that does come at a cost- we’re both tired and the time we do have off becomes “necessary” rather than leisurely.  What do I mean by that?  Well, when you don’t do anything for yourself during the week, you feel like you need to cram in a TON of fun on the weekend.  Most times, that ends up in disappointment because it’s so much pressure!

But, the good news is that we’re managing things a lot better now than we were.  Personally, I’m still working on the whole “friends” issue.  I’ve recently realized that all my friends are gone, either taken away by disagreements, girlfriends, wives, rifts, or even just a marred past.  But, it’s tough finding new friends when everyone you work with is twice your age and doesn’t have time for friends.  Also, it’s tough when you don’t have time for friends yourself!  Thankfully, I still have Dana to get breakfast with me each week, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family (both my immediate family and my in-laws).  But, it would be nice to find someone that wants to hang around with me that doesn’t feel obligated because of their relation to me! :-)  All I know is that I will never move backwards- going back to old friends and acquaintances is not the answer.  I’ll be the first (and probably only) one to admit when there’s too much “history” between two people.  It’s kind of like how you can’t really be friends with an ex-girlfriend.  It’s just never the same.  I always thought that I would want things to go back to the way they were with some of my old friends, but that cannot be farther from the truth now.  I plan on doing what some of those folks could never do (with me or with any “significant” others in their lives)- MOVE ON.

In closing- I hope the friend train stops at my station soon, for where there are friends, there is fun.  Enjoy tonight’s video and make sure to come back for more, y’all! :-)