Together Through Life: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities – PART ONE

Originally posted 2009-03-21 11:57:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Ironically, three months after the latest Bruce Springsteen release, we have the “New Dylan” to look forward to…

No, this isn’t a nickname for some new artist on the scene that sounds like Dylan; this is literally a new release from the man himself.  Not a bootleg, not a concert, not a single track soundtrack offering–

–a brand-new Bob Dylan studio album!

Set for an official release date of April 28th, 2009, Together Through Life is comprised of ten tracks that interviewer Bill Flanagan has compared to the sound of early 1950s Chess records.  When asked if he likes that sound, Dylan replied, “Oh yeah, very much so. . . the old Chess records, the Sun records. . . I think that’s my favorite sound for a record.”

Needless to say, the album is reportedly nothing like his 2006 number one album Modern Times.  That makes this new record all the more exciting, sparking many questions regarding what the album will sound like, what the lyrics will be, and how the songs will hold up to others in his impressive catalog.

Some may be content to wait (I mean, after all, the first rumors of the album only broke a few weeks ago, less than two months before the release).  On the other hand, I needed to hear Dylan and lots of him.  Which album did I choose?  Which songs?

All of them.

For the past two weeks, I have been playing my 622 Dylan tracks as a randomly ordered playlist on my iPod.  Currently, I’m listening to “Highlands” — I’m halfway through the song with only eight minutes to go! — which is the 447th song out of 622.  The rules of this game?  You are not allowed to skip a track for any reason, even if the track is from Down in the Groove or it’s the thirteenth version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” that you’ve heard.

It’s been great fun, and so I’d like to share my favorite ten songs that I had either forgotten about or haven’t heard in a long time.  In no particular order, here goes…

Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities

1)  “Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie” – Both the first and the last time that Dylan would recite one of his poems on stage, this 1963 recitation is among my favorite tracks of all time.  If I close my eyes as I listen, I can picture a young Dylan on a sparse stage, pouring out words upon words at a rapid pace, and all the while, perhaps unbeknownst even to himself, he was about to descend into the crazy blur of groundbreaking songwriting, electricity, and the motorcycle accident that was 1964-1966.  What a poem.  When this came up on my iPod last week, I was about to get out of my car to pump gas.  Instead, I stayed in the car, head bowed and eyes closed to simply listen.  (Passersby must have wondered…)

2) “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” (Live, Concert for Bangladesh) -While it can’t hold a candle to the driving beat and electric energy of the Highway 61 Revisited studio version, there is something refreshing here.  Perhaps it has to do with the performance being one of Dylan’s first post-sixties live performances and seeing him dust off a track that was, at the time, six years old and five albums in the past.  As later songs — like “Dark Eyes” from 1985’s Empire Burlesque or his performance of “Girl From the North Country” at the 30th Anniversary Concert — have continued to prove, there is still something special about giving Dylan center stage with only an acoustic guitar and harmonica.  (In this case, it doesn’t hurt to have the likes of George Harrison and Ringo Starr for accompaniment!)

3)  “Up To Me” – Easily the best track from the Biograph boxset, “Up To Me” is a refugee from the September 1974 Blood on the Tracks sessions.  Early in college, the lyrics to this song were taped to the inside of my door above a mirror, and for a long time, I would read them as I combed my hair in the morning.  It has a very similar sound to “Shelter from the Storm,” so I can understand how it ultimately wasn’t a good fit for the album.  Tracks like this make boxsets like Biograph worthwhile.

4)  “Tomorrow Night” – I’ve really never been a fan of the early 90s return to acoustic, traditional songs.  Still, when this song from 1992’s Good As I Been To You — easily my least favorite of the two acoustic releases — came up, I had to stop and take notice.  There is a quality about the sound and flow of the song that is distinct and struck me as unusual for Dylan.  It made me consider giving the album another try…

5)  “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night)” – This is Dylan at his peak as a solo performer.  He makes the crowd burst into laughter at just the right times, laying into lines brimming with subtext and a sort of straightforwardness that is refreshing in a set filled with the poetic landscapes of “Gates of Eden” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” as well as the political undertones of “Who Killed Davey Moore” and “With God On Our Side.”

To Be Continued…

Halfway There: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities – PART ONE

Originally posted 2009-03-22 08:00:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It will be difficult for 2009 to compete with last year’s music output, both here and abroad (so to speak).  Not only did 2008 see the release of incredible albums from bigtime artists (REM, Counting Crows, Coldplay…), but also saw the release of FMP artist Jeff Copperthite’s solo debut.  There were so many new albums released last year that I could hardly keep the release dates straight, and it really was a great year for new music.  Not all of it was amazing, but much of it was extremely enjoyable.

So, here comes 2009…

Thus far, there have been only a few notable releases in the new rock music world.  Bruce Springsteen started the year off strong with Working On A Dream.  Dan Auerbach’s debut solo release Keep It Hid was solid.  Recently, U2’s No Line On The Horizon drew a five-star rating from Rolling Stone (and questions marks from me…).  On the horizon, we now have Bob Dylan’s Together Through Life to look forward to, leaving the question: what do we new music fans have to do in the meantime?

That’s simple: look forward to the April 7th release of Jim Fusco‘s Halfway There!

The press release promises, “Halfway There may just be the best piece of music you purchase this year,” citing Fusco’s “attention to detail,” “organic effects,” and “warm sound.”  As there haven’t yet been any tracks leaked onto the web — either on Fusco’s offical site or by, um, other means 😉 — there is only one thing to do in the next two weeks as we wait for the official release…

Listen back to his previous albums!  [EDITOR’S NOTE: The new songs are now streaming online – click here.]

He has been quite a prolific artist, self-producing and self-releasing all of his previous albums.  There have been enough to merit a “best of” release in 2004.  Still, there are a lot of great tracks that have been overlooked by The Best of Jim Fusco, Vol. 1.  Thus, I’d like to share my top ten favorite (officially released) Jim Fusco rarities.

In no particular order, here goes…

Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities

1)  “It Makes Life Interesting” – A great song with a slow start, just drums and lead vocals.  The heartbeat of the rolling bass line makes it an instantly likeable song.  In private interviews, Fusco has made mention of a mentality that shaped his early high school through college years — namely, his response to the things he chose to do or situations he found himself in was “it makes life interesting.”  In a way, this song is a personal statement, carved out in a catchy, vocal-drenched three-minute song, ending appropriately as he sings, “And that is all that I’m going to say about that.”  Enough said, I suppose.

2)  “Mold Me” – I never understood why this track didn’t make it to the “best of.”  Privately, Jim admitted a degree of embarrassment with this track, but I immediately fell in love with it.  Fast-paced, distortion guitars, simple two-part vocals — it’s the perfect little rock package!  The song starts out at a breakneck pace, sounding like it may fly apart at any moment, and ends perfectly with a sudden stop and a fade into distortion.  It gets me going every time…

3)  “This Side Up” – Another album starter that became an instant favorite of mine, yet failed to make it to the “best of.”  For a long time, the lyrics to this song were posted on my door, next to my mirror.  I would see them in the morning as I combed my hair, and there was always something about the words that I found simple and optimistic, but very real.  And, as if the lyrics were not enough, this song features one of my favorite Fusco electric guitar solos.  Whatever he had experimented with while working on My Other Half had become fully realized by the recording of That’s All Jim — that much is apparent on this song.

4)  “I’m Gonna Find Out (About You)” – It’s built on a steady, driving beat, decorated nicely with keyboards and lush vocals.  What really stands out about this track is its combination of early Jim Fusco sound and an extended drum solo.  It’s not all that often that you find a Fusco track laced with an extended instrumental solo of any kind, and I’ve always been a fan of this one.  The structure of the song works well with the lyrics, as the instrumental portion of the song is almost 1/3 of the total running time of the song, which is perfect for a song about what happens “when I’m not around you.”

5)  “Ode to K” – The two disc album My Other Half was all about experimenting with sound and structure, as well as the overall artistry of the album — this much is apparent in the wide range of effects and vocal arrangements, as well as the cover art and booklet design.  “Ode to K” is a gem, one of only two times (both on this album) that Fusco used spoken word as the centerpiece of a song.  In this song (as opposed to “Here I Go Again,” the spoken-word album opener), he incorporates spoken word over traditional singing and a great musical arrangement.  It’s pure, very sincere, and I love it.

To Be Continued…

Click here for an exclusive sneak-peak at the album, now streaming online!

Christmas, Volume 1 – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-27 17:27:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Living for years with a friend who made it his business to know, love, and compile Christmas music, I’ve never really taken much ownership of the hundreds of holiday songs that are on my iPod, many of the older and/or more obscure selections having been discovered through him.  Of course, there are certain albums that I look forward to hearing every year.  These albums are collections of music that really help me get into the spirit of the season, ranging from classics like the Beach Boys’ sixties Christmas album to 2004’s Barenaked for the Holidays.

The problem I encountered last year was that the albums were easy to isolate in my iTunes, but the individual tracks from artists that I only listen to at Christmas time were more difficult to call up.  Some of the more legendary singers are easy to remember, like Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, but it is still inconvenient to flip between artists after every song or two.

This year, I was struck by the desire to hear the songs I missed last season, so I woke up early this morning to sort out all the yuletide tracks.  In the end, I had 340 songs in a playlist titled simply “Christmas Collection.”  Now, this is an excellent list to play on random when friends or family come over, or when you’re simply looking to mix it up.

But it could also be a drag to suffer through all your least favorite versions of your favorite songs or to keep hoping a song you’re thinking of is coming up next.

Thus, I sorted out my favorite songs into a separate playlist.  After I had picked through all 340 tunes, I found myself with 70 songs.  Still too many, so I forced myself – forced! – to cut out ten more.  With sixty remaining, I set about separating them into three more manageable lists of twenty each.

This is volume one of the creatively titled “Christmas” playlist series!

In this first playlist, I’ve included some of my absolute favorites, like the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” and the Moody Blues’ “Don’t Need a Reindeer.” I’ve also added some lesser known but equally excellent holiday themed tracks, like Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa” (a song I definitely did NOT fully understand when I first heard it at age 12) and Relient K’s “I Hate Christmas Parties.”  One of the most difficult decisions for me here was whether to use the original and unarguably classic Band Aid version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  In the end, I went with the BnL version, which is on the whole much more listenable, as it’s louder and clearer.

When they remaster the Band Aid version, I may need to revisit this playlist…

I’ll be back with more commentary on the tracks in specific and my process overall next Saturday, so be sure to check back for volume two!

1. “Little Saint Nick” (Single Version) – The Beach Boys

2. “Christmas Vacation” – Mavis Staples

3. “Don’t Need a Reindeer” – Moody Blues

4. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Barenaked Ladies (Band Aid cover)

5. “Back Door Santa” – Clarence Carter

6. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love

7. “Holly Jolly Christmas” – Burl Ives

8. “The First Snow” – Mike Fusco

9. “Winter Wonderland” – America

10. “Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On” – Ringo Starr

11. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley

12. “I Hate Christmas Parties” – Relient K

13. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon

14. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Judy Garland

15. “Christmastime (Oh Yeah)” – Barenaked Ladies

16. “Christmas Time is Here Again” – The Beatles

17. “Christmas Don’t Be Late” – Alvin & the Chipmunks

18. “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry

19. “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Bob Dylan

20. “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole

The Other Half: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities – PART TWO

Originally posted 2009-03-29 22:52:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Last week, I brought you the first five in a list of ten Jim Fusco rarities in preparation for the release of his new album Halfway There this “new music Tuesday,” April 7th, 2009.  After all, there’s no better way to anticipate an upcoming release than to go back and enjoy all previous releases in a series.

In the case of Fusco, there has been quite a variety of musical projects over the course of the past eight years.  There have been six solo studio albums, three band albums, four releases (of 20 tracks each) in the Laptop Sessions acoustic mp3 series, a single, a greatest hits disc (with accompanying music video DVD compilation), and assorted demos, covers, and other tracks.  Now that I’ve officially finished listening to all the Bob Dylan tracks in my collection (almost 700!), I’ve embarked on my “Jim Fusco Catalog” playlist.

Clocking in at “only” eleven hours or so, this should be much easier to tackle than my Bob Dylan playlist!

For those of you Jim Fusco faithfuls, I hope you’ll enjoy the final five tracks on this second installment of “A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities” worth remembering…

A Look Back at Five More (Officially Released) Jim Fusco Rarities…

6)  “The Red, White, and Blues” – This is yet another album starter that I love.  It is Fusco’s first foray into direct protest songwriting.  Indeed, his March 2008 Laptop Sessions version stirred up some controversy in the form of comments left on the site.  It was nice to see that at least some people listen to the lyrics, even if they misread and/or disagreed with their message.  As he wrote in the blog post, this was the first and last “protest” type song of its kind.

7)  “The Second Time” – All I have to say is: this better be at the wedding reception!  In 2003, Jim recorded and released Formula, an album whose material was clearly inspired by his now-fiance Becky Daly.  She joins him near the end of this track, offering up a preview of 2/3 of the Chris, Jim, and Becky trio that would go on to perform around the state and release a “live in the studio” album.  While this isn’t necessarily one of my favorite Jim Fusco songs, it’s always been one of my favorites from Formula and — if it’s not “best of” material, then — it’s “top ten rarities” material.

8)  “Sideshow” – There are so many different tracks that were up for inclusion on this list of rarities — there’s the simple, piano-based vulnerability of “My Angel” or the folky storytelling style of “Vision of Cobblestone Town,” to name just a couple.  “Sideshow” earns a spot in the top ten for its unique sound.  There’s something about this track that is controlled and yet sort of wild; it’s one of those songs whose sound truly meshes with and contributes to the meaning conveyed by the lyrics.  In addition, as the penultimate track on What About Today?, it’s truly the point at which the recurring instrumental section comes to a climax before the first chords of “Harmony” and the close of this concept album.

9)  “Never Taking Your Chances” – This is one of those songs that benefits from my memories surrounding its conception, recording, and release.  I vividly recall my conversations with Jim about the situation that resulted in the writing of this song, and I recall the then-groundbreaking recording methods that he was pioneering.  This is a clear example of early blending between vocals and distortion guitar.  With each album, Jim’s use of guitar effects has become more effective and more interesting, and I can’t wait to hear his latest leap forward on Halfway There.

10)  “Another Backwards Day” – Speaking of guitar effects, “Another Backwards Day” is a track that I always felt was left forgotten about, sandwiched between the live favorites “Can’t Count on Words” and “Sometimes.”  This song is every bit as upbeat and rocking as the other songs around it, and it boasts a Frampton-esque series of guitar solos and riffing.  If “She Waits” (another favorite and one that ALMOST made the list!) demonstrates Jim’s softer, piano-driven side, then “Another Backwards Day” pulls out the stops and allows him to flex his electric muscle.