The Weekend Review: February 2013 Report

Originally posted 2013-04-06 05:00:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

 

Spirits of the Western Sky (Justin Hayward)

Producer: Justin Hayward & Alberto Parodi

Released: February 26, 2013

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “In Your Blue Eyes” & “One Day, Someday”

 

For Moody Blues fans, it has been a long stretch indeed since the band last released a studio album of all-new material: since 1999’s Strange Times to be specific.  With the release of this latest Justin Hayward solo album, his first since 1996, it would be difficult not to see this as the most exciting Moody Blues-related recording of the past decade and a half.  (No pressure, right?)  Whether you are a glass-half-full person who sees any new Moodies-related music as a win or a glass-half-empty person who feels his/her expectations impossible to meet after all this time, Spirits of the Western Sky has something to offer, though it may be less than a new Moodies album would offer.  From the signature Hayward opening track “In Your Blue Eyes” to the soaring “One Day, Someday” and the beautiful, expansive “The Western Sky,” Spirits gets off to a strong start.  “The Eastern Sun” is well-rendered, if a bit underwhelming, but the pacing is promptly reinvigorated by the rollicking “On The Road To Love,” a track vaguely reminiscent of a late sixties rock-paced album track.  The pace again slows down for the aptly titled “Lazy Afternoon,” though this track offers many more subtle layers and charms for repeated listens.  “In the Beginning” follows, offering up one of the mid-album gems that have practically become expected on Moody Blues albums since the sixties.  The following three songs form a suite of country/bluegrass tracks, only one of which is previously unreleased.  (Ironically, at least one Spirits  review has referred to these songs as a new direction for Hayward.)  Fans will quickly recognize Present alum “It’s Cold Outside of Your Heart,” as well as his solo track “Broken Dream” that was first released as track two on The View from the Hill (1996).  “What You Resist Persists” is the clear standout here, and not only because it is the only new effort.  The album proper concludes with “Captivated By You,” a fittingly dynamic ending to a strong solo effort.  What follows – an alternate, extended version of “One Day, Someday,” the hiccup of “Rising,” and two progressively worse remixes of “Out There Somewhere” – is a bit baffling, especially considering that it is not separated from the core tracks by so much as an extra space on the back of the album.  All told, with a couple exceptions, Spirits of the Western Sky is what you would expect from a Justin Hayward solo album and should only serve to fan the flames of desire burning in the hearts of Moody Blues fans for another release from what is perhaps the greatest, most ambitious studio band in the history of rock music.  For now, Spirits will have to do; and, to be fair, it is clearly a labor of love that is equal parts soaring energy and careful production, evidence that Justin Hayward’s smooth vocals and expert guitar work are as strong as ever, and a reminder that time and age have not removed or diminished the ambition and vision of this Moody Blue.

Wilco Summer 2009 REVIEW – Wappingers Falls, NY: Saturday, 7/18/2009

Originally posted 2009-07-19 02:14:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For the Set List, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

As you walk in the gates at a Wilco concert this summer, your ticket is scanned and you are handed a free tour program.

That’s right; I said “FREE.”

And this is no cheap artifact thrown together for the sake of it.  This is a 34 page program, printed and bound as professionally as any other band’s tour program for which you would probably spend in the ballpark (pun intended) of $15 to $20.  Inside, you’ll find exclusive band photographs, the “Wilco Top 5-a-go-go” (a set of “Top 5” lists from the band members), interviews with Jeff Tweedy and Derek Welch (who designed the Wilco toys and the Nudie suits you see in the artwork for the new album), reproduced handwritten lyrics for “Country Disappeared,” a brief word from Glenn Kotche about a custom aspect of his drumset, a scorecard listing all the Wilco songs across the x-axis and all the locations for the summer tour down the y-axis, cartoons, and more…

I think you get the idea.

Although I didn’t know it when I entered the gates Saturday at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls for my first Wilco concert, this is precisely the type of show the band was about to put on: one jam-packed with more effort, creative energy, and ability to impress than I ever thought possible.

Over two and a half hours — and that’s AFTER Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band left the stage — Wilco played a full set with two encores that added up to 29 songs.  The band entered by simply strolling through a gate on the first base line, walking across the outfield, and running up the steps to launch immediately into a rocking version of “Wilco (the song),” the opening track from their new album.

Throughout the night, Jeff Tweedy and the boys of Wilco played predominantly from their most recent four albums (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, Sky Blue Sky, and Wilco (the album) – six songs a piece, except for Sky Blue Sky‘s five), but they also played three songs from their third album Summerteeth and dusted off one each from their 1995 debut album A.M. (CLICK HERE to read a review of A.M.), its 1996 followup Being There, and the first Mermaid Avenue.

The first 22 songs — the main set — came at a rapid pace, as the band members somehow maintained the same soaring level of enthusiasm for recreating some of their best songs, as well as some deeper album cuts, onstage with either note-for-note perfection compared to the studio versions (“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Shot in the Arm,” & “Walken”) or by introducing interesting new rythyms, riffs, and other interesting aspects to their interpretations (“War on War,” “Too Far Apart,” & the by-now-classic concert version of “I’m the Man Who Loves You”).

Throughout the night, Tweedy interacted with the crowd in his characteristic way, the night’s main topics being the mosquitoes that were swarming the stage — “Does anyone have any DEET?” he asked — and the glow sticks that were being tossed around amongst the audience members at the foot of the stage — he mimed a set of “try to hit me, I dare you!” arm motions during one song, causing a volley of glow sticks to shower the stage, showing off the audience’s profoundly poor coordination.

“You guys have really bad aim,” Tweedy laughed at the end of the song.  That prompted a few more glow sticks to be launched in his direction, but he managed to duck each of them.

The first encore only included two songs, but it stretched on for more than twenty minutes.  The first song, “Poor Places,” was a heartfelt rendition of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s penultimate track.  It was followed by a scorching, more than full-length version of A Ghost is Born‘s “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”  The latter is one of the songs that showed off the considerable talent and electric stylings of the three guitarists — Tweedy, the incredible Nels Cline (who truly brought a distinctive guitar style to the band when he joined in early 2004), and Pat Sansone (who was really unleashed in the second encore when he engaged in a volley of solos that passed between him and Cline as though they were firing automatic weapons).

The encore ended with Tweedy calling for the audience to clap to the beat, raising their arms above their heads.  As the instrumentation dropped away, he issued a challenge; apparently, the Brooklyn, New York crowd at Keyspan Park couldn’t keep up the beat after the band stopped playing.  Instead, they sped up rapidly.

For a brief moment after they stopped playing, I thought this crowd would fare better… but it was not to be so.  The members of Wilco motioned for the crowd to slow down and Tweedy started laughing as they went back to their instruments for the final riff of “Spiders.”

“You guys were good,” he politely exaggerated after the song ended.

When they left the stage for the second time, I thought for certain that the show had ended.  After all, they had played 24 songs and it had been two hours since they took the stage at 8:30pm.

And yet they still returned for more!

The second encore kicked off with an upbeat rendition of “The Late Greats” that had the entire crowd moving — from foot-tapping to full-out dancing — and smiling.  Next came the first single off the new album, “You Never Know,” complete with note-for-note perfect George Harrison-esque slide guitar by Cline.

“You have time for a couple more?” Tweedy asked, to which he received the deafening screams of the crowd.

When they kick-started “Heavy Metal Drummer,” you would have thought this was Lynyrd Skynyrd about to play “Freebird” for the response that issued forth from the audience.  They played a great version, but nothing could have prepared me for their interpretation of “Hoodoo Voodoo.”  With lyrics that Woody Guthrie wrote for his children but was never able to record, this track appeared as one of the Tweedy leads on Mermaid Avenue. I’ve always liked this song, but I’ve never loved it the way I did for those five minutes they played it, complete with a new driving guitar riff, pitch-perfect vocals by Tweedy as though we were in the studio with him back in 1998, and outstanding guitar work by Cline and Sansone.

Even though Tweedy had only asked the crowd if they had time for “a couple more,” Wilco launched into one final song.  By this time, the concert had to end at some point.  “I’m A Wheel” was just as good a song to close with as any that remained unplayed from their catalog.

As the song ended, Tweedy said a brief farewell, and Wilco turned on the crowd and exited from whence they had come.

Walking to my car, I realized that this is a fifteen year old band that is somehow in their prime now.  I’m so accustomed to seeing bands that have been playing for decades, that I forget sometimes that it is a different experience to attend the concert of a band that still has something to prove to history — namely that they deserve a place in the memories of rock music fans for all time.  I entered Dutchess stadium a big fan of the band, but tonight, Wilco had me convinced that they deserve that aforementioned place.

All in all, this was by far the best $42 I have ever spent.  If you have the opportunity, get out there and see this band at the peak of their game (ballpark pun, this time, NOT intended…).

The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER TWO is Barenaked Ladies

Originally posted 2010-04-19 14:30:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the fourth 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:

As we close in on my top pick for best rock artist of the decade, the decisions are getting more and more difficult.  In an attempt to be as unbiased as possible, I initially had last post’s honoree — Jack White — in the #2 spot.  Then I started listening to All in Good Time, which led me back to their albums of last decade.  After one listen to Maroon and Everything to Everyone, I knew that the Barenaked Ladies belonged in a higher position.  It should also be noted that while I do believe I made the right choice for the #1 slot, I have been a BnL fan for much longer, and they hold quite an important place in my heart where music is concerned.

That being said, let’s get this party started!

The Barenaked Ladies have distinguished themselves in all four of the categories I’ve established (see above) for this list.  They are a constantly evolving group of songwriter/musicians and performers, not content to rest easy at what worked for them in the past.  Throughout this, the second full decade of their existence, they have been prolific, releasing new material in every year except 2009.  In addition to typical studio albums every three years, this decade has seen the release of a greatest hits collection, a DVD compilation of their music videos, a holiday-themed album, a musical production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It (the one release in their catalog I have yet to set eyes on), their first live DVD, and a children’s album with accompanying book.

Although the decade ended with the oft-noted and overly publicized departure of founding member Steven Page, the remaining four members closed out 2009 by recording a series of eighteen songs, fourteen of which would find their way to 2010’s All in Good Time.

In every way that matters, the Barenaked Ladies have been a creative force to reckon with — and pay attention to — throughout this decade, and despite the criticism of naysayers, they have a very promising future in the next.

POST-STUNT EXPECTATIONS

To say that there was a lot riding on Maroon would be an understatement.

After the breakthrough success of 1998’s Stunt (via the chart-topping “One Week”), BnL’s image and career stood to be reconsidered based on what came next.  While Maroon was successful enough to preclude accusations of one-hit-wonder status, their American audience in particular seemed less and less interested in their work as the years went on.  This much is apparent in the charts, each album topping out further down than the previous one.  (As of this writing, this continues to hold true for All in Good Time, which has peaked at 23; in Canada, on the other hand, it has rightfully marked a comeback, hitting #3 which is the highest chart position for a BnL album there since Maroon.)

But numbers are numbers.  There are so many important aspects of modern life which, contrary to the beliefs and attempts of the powers that be, simply cannot be quantified.

Music is certainly one of those.

Maroon is BnL’s most fully-realized, cohesive, balanced album; it is serious, yet entertaining — fast and slow, loud and quiet.  The first half is populated by equally single-worthy rockers like “Falling for the First Time,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Pinch Me,” the latter admittedly seeming like a wanna-be follow-up to “One Week.”  The second half of the album stretches out a bit, unwinding hauntingly gorgeous ballads like “Off the Hook” and “Helicopters.”  I haven’t even mentioned some of my favorites — “Baby Seat,” “Go Home,” and “The Humour of the Situation.”  This is a true five star album.

Although the album and singles performed well, it was apparent that they were all received with a bit less interest than Stunt‘s material had been (or, more accurately, its lead-off single).  I, for one, think that it is no coincidence that this was just about the same time that I began to lose interest in popular radio and music television.

BRILLIANCE IN RELATIVE OBSCURITY

To avoid going into painstaking detail about every track that the Barenaked Ladies have released since 2000, I will begin by saying that there is a vast sea of reasons to be interested in and entertained by this band.  As much as I felt people should have been more receptive to Maroon, I was flabbergasted at the apathy that 2003’s Everything to Everyone.  How an album that could so masterfully run the gamut between silly and serious, all the while being consistently brilliant — both lyrically and instrumentally — is beyond me.  This album is composed of some truly killer tracks: sardonic songs like “Celebrity” and “Second Best,” upbeat rockers like “Testing 1, 2, 3” and “Unfinished,” a love song like “Maybe Katie,” the oddly foreboding “War on Drugs,” and the stereotypical BnL knee-slappers “Another Postcard” and “Shopping.”

A lack of public praise never slowed them down, as 2006 saw the recording of 29 new tracks.  Where the band went wrong, in this writer’s opinion, was in deciding to release one album that year and a second album the following year.  What ended up happening was the most outstanding tracks were split between the two discs and, with a lack of cohesion between the two discs, the Are Me/Are Men project was simply not as good as it could have been.  Even Wikipedians are uncertain how to classify these selections in their catalog — either as the seventh or the seventh and eighth albums of BnL’s career.  Still, these releases saw the unveiling of a new era for the band — one of independence from major labels and of stretching their musical sensibilities.  Kevin Hearn’s contributions demonstrated the potential that he presented not only as an instrumentalist and singer, but also as a songwriter.  Jim Creeggan’s beautiful vocals also showed significant promise, even if they were only showed off on a silly number.

These three (or four?) albums would be reason alone to consider BnL one of the best bands of the decade.  And yet they didn’t stop there.  In the past ten years, the band has released some amazing work, not the least of which are their holiday album and children’s album.  The holiday album, Barenaked for the Holidays, brilliantly blended Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter-themed songs in one very characteristic collection (think: “Elf’s Lament,” “Green Christmas,” and others).  The latter, Snacktime!, swung far enough to the silly side of the spectrum to be largely ignored by “serious” music critics.  That being said, anyone who takes a moment to listen to the harmonies and instrumentation will realize that Snacktime! is a masterpiece unto itself, two of the best tracks — “Pollywog in a Bog” and “Louis Loon” — being penned by the unusual collaboration of Creeggan & Ed Robertson.  And it saw the lead vocal debut of Tyler Stewart on the rocking “Allergies,” a song that almost makes me feel cool for having season allergies myself.

AN ARREST, A CRASH, A BREAK, A VOW

Far too much has been written about the moments of crisis and tragedy in the personal lives of the Barenaked Ladies these past few years, so I’ll be especially brief here.  If you’ve kept up with music news, you know that Steven Page was arrested on charges of drug possession, Ed Robertson crashed his plane (fortunately with no serious injuries sustained), and Page’s departure was announced in 2009.  All in all, not a wonderful end to the decade.

That being said, the four remaining members — Robertson, Hearn, Creeggan, and Stewart — have vowed to continue recording and performing as BnL.  How well is that going?

One listen to All in Good Time is all you’ll need to answer that one on your own.

Wrestlemania 25 Recap, Results, and Review – Twitter Style!

Originally posted 2009-05-28 00:26:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Hello loyal Laptop Sessions viewers.  This is an example of how busy things have been over these past couple of months: back when Wrestlemania 25 (or XXV) aired in March, my cousin Sarah wrote to me with a recap of the night’s events.  I thought her recap was great- to the point, but detailed enough and with some great commentary.  I asked her if I could post it on the blog, and she said I could.  But, I never got around to it, and here it is, almost June, and I’m finally posting it for the first time.  I hope you’ll still find it relevant and can use it as a reference guide in the future.  She did it Twitter-style, as she typed it out on her Blackberry Curve.  I think it really sums up the night well- thanks Sarah!  Now, on to the review of Wrestlemania 25!

-wrestlemania 25. Promises to be a 4 hour event and at $55 it damn best be! Bring on the fanfare

-match 1 Money in the bank ladder match: mvp, kane, christian, mark henry, shelton benjamin, cm punk, finlay, kofi kingston – winner cm punk. Sorry christian, guess you should go back to tna

-Kid rock performance wayyyyyy too long medley of bawitdaba, rocknroll jesus, cowboy, all summer long, and so hott intros diva 25 battle royal – no divas announced – don’t know who is who – santino wins in drag, does 5 min eye gouge-worthy dance in drag

-jericho vs ricky steamboat, piper, snuka, flair in corner. Each HoF’er gets to do signature move then gets pinned. Steamboat actually kicked some ass. Jericho wins. Mickey rourke called out; boxes
jericho. Doesn’t pull punch, gets jericho right in back of head. Jericho down. Hysterical.

-hardy bro match, matt wins cheap, no holds match. Sadly boring. Time: 8:41pm no hogan yet?? No classic moments montage. Still time left

-Mysterio vs jbl HAHAHAHA 21 seconds long, mysterio wins. Mysterio dressed as joker. Wow, no words for it.

-shawn michaels vs taker (16-0 record) michaels, in white, decends on a pulpit from above. Undertaker, dressed in black, ascends from hell. Felt like 1 1/2 hour; taker wins. Best match of the night, worth the money. So far not one ‘slobberknocker’ from jim ross.

-Three way heavy weight champ match, cena – edge – big show Shitload of cenas line aisle in eminem clone style, do ‘you can’t see me’ salute as cena runs down. Cena benches 735 lbs – lifts show & edge same time- cena wins. Vicky guerro gets speared again by edge

-Hall of fame old men parade + stone cold + the fink! Short nod to new inductees, Stone cold leaves line up, tears out on atv down aisle, has 10 min indulgent beerfest

-wwe title match, triple h vs orton. Preface shane and vince for 30 seconds on screen, they don’t even speak. First and only sight of mcmahon all night. Triple h beats ortin. One word: Anticlimatic. 1
“slobberknocker” in 4 hrs by jim ross.

-4 full hours. No montage of past great matches, no old timers/tributes save new inductees, no hogan?!? At 25th wrestlemania?? No starstudded pre-show. Complete lack of fanfare – did mcmahon even plan this? Yet again, not worth the money.