CD Review: Songwriter Sheryl Crow’s New Music is Personal on “Detours”

Originally posted 2008-02-10 21:44:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  2 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

As an album, Detours is certainly not what its title would imply. If anything, this is a further return to form for Sheryl Crow – equal parts acoustic and electric, serious and carefree. At every turn, it surprises and engages and, above all, denies the listener the opportunity to get too comfortable. She is concerned about a series of social issues, yet she does not stop there—she shares some advice for getting back on the right track and, of course, some relevant personal tales.

The songs on this album can essentially be divided into three main categories—topical songs, songs about love and peace, and personal songs. The album kicks off with a selection from the first category, the acoustic-only “God Bless This Mess.” With lines like, “The president…led us as a nation into a war based on lies,” Crow establishes early on that she will not be pulling any punches. Then, if there was any question in the listener’s mind as to whether or not this album would be too simple, she thunders into “Shine Over Babylon,” spewing lines about teachers’ hands being “overrun,” cities “drowning under boiling fountains,” and scavengers handing us “all the junk that should have damned” us. Upon a first listen, I was happy to hear that someone else is very much unhappy with the state of affairs in our nation and in our world. She goes on to address, as the title implies, “Gasoline” and the priorities that some place in parties, reality-TV, and the like in “Motivation.”

If this was her only focus, then Detours may have been quite a downer indeed. However, true to form, Crow compliments her darker songs with an equal helping of tunes calling for us to embrace peace and love. In an almost hippie-esque fashion, she declares “Everybody’s making love ‘cause love is free” and later calls upon us to invoke the refrain, “Peace Be Upon Us” At times, these songs can end in a repetitive manner or come across as too simple, but overall they seem sincere and not so out of place on an album that asks us to strip everything down to the surface, from social issues to romantic relationships. And, if the protest song-undertones of songs like “Out of Our Heads” isn’t your cup of tea, then it is hard to ignore a catchy and upbeat rocker like “Love Is All There Is.” Ringo Starr would be proud.

What really brings this album home for me is the final category of songs, namely the personal tales that inhabit this release. Both the title track and “Make It Go Away (The Radiation Song)” come across as deeply personal and, again, very sincere. Coming on the heels of her recent treatments for cancer, these songs translate as authentic glimpses into her mindset as an individual. For instance, as she explained in a recent interview, detours is a term she uses to describe experiences that force us to reevaluate our priorities and our lives. Physical health isn’t her only concern; on the contrary, the emotions of new love shine through on “Drunk With the Thought of You” and the gloom of love gone wrong can be heard in every breath of “Diamond Ring.” I thought it very fitting of her to put “Lullaby for Wyatt” last in the track listing. After an album’s worth of sorting through the world’s problems and both advocating the importance of and considering the realities of love, she ends with the realization that she loves her son, but “love is letting go.”

When she released C’mon, C’mon in 2002, I had difficulty finding merit in its pop-based sound and mentality, and I wondered what her future albums would be like. It only took a few guitar strums and the first line of track one, “I Know Why,” from her subsequent 2005 album Wildflower to put any concerns out of my mind entirely. Now, Detours has reaffirmed my interest in Crow’s music, if only for its ability to cover so much ground—political, social, interpersonal—in such a sincere manner.

** EDITOR’S NOTE **

The 2 star rating (out of five) was added after the review was written.  This is an album that had very little staying power, and I was admittedly much more enthusiastic about the release than I should have been, most likely due to events in my personal life — i.e. the decision to buy more CD’s in 2008 to really experience a broader range of new music.  I hope you enjoy the album, as I did when I first wrote this review.  However, the rating should act as a warning from a wiser listener.  :-)

“Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam – Chords, Tabs, & How to Play

Originally posted 2009-09-28 22:16:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Just Breathe”
Pearl Jam

C                                                                G
Yes I understand that every life must end, aw huh…
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw huh…
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love…
Some folks just have one, others they got none, aw huh…

Am
Stay with me…
F
Let’s just breathe.

Practiced are my sins, never gonna let me win, aw huh…
Under everything, just another human being, aw huh…
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed.

Stay with me…
You’re all I see.

G                     Dm
Did I say that I need you?
G                     Dm
Did I say that I want you?
F                           Am
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see…
F                                             G
No one knows this more than me.
G
As I come clean.

I wonder everyday as I look upon your face, aw huh…
Everything you gave and nothing you would take, aw huh…

Nothing you would take…
Everything you gave.

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see…
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean.

(Fingerpicking over verse chords)

Am
Nothing you would take…
F
Everything you gave.
Hold me till I die…
Meet you on the other side.

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

“Off He Goes” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-05-12 06:44:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week and another all-new Monday edition of the Laptop Sessions.  It’s been quite a weekend, and it’s going to be quite a week!

On Friday night, I stayed late at school for as long as I could, but I just couldn’t resist going to see the newly released Star Trek movie.  For once, a movie lived up to the hype!  I picked up Nicole for the trip to the theater, and although we’ve seen a lot of good movies together (not to mention a decent number of flops), this has to top them all.  Although I’m more of a Trek geek than she is, I think it’s fair to say we were equally excited during and after the movie.  If you love the classic series and films, then you’ll appreciate the respect paid to these characters.  If you know nothing about the franchise, then this is the perfect film to watch first.  I can’t wait to find an excuse to watch it again very soon…

Saturday was a crazy day for me, as my sister Jaime graduated from Nyack college at 2 pm in New York.  I got up early (for a Saturday, at least!) and drove to New York for my least favorite of all activities: ceremonies like a graduation.  That being said, it was worth it to see my sister graduate.  We met as a family later on for dinner and that was great, too.  It was great to have Nicole join us, too, and she made what could have been a long, boring drive with lots of downtime an enjoyable little day trip.  Sunday was more of the same, as it was Mother’s Day, and my sister is only home for a week before returning to New York to work.  We got to hang out, talk music, and watch an episode of The Twilight Zone that gave her nightmares as a young child.  We didn’t get to play The Office board game, but there will always be time for another round in the future.  (And I’ll be ready this time! 😉 )

Tonight finds me watching the Mets.  After a seven game winning streak, it appears that they’re going to lose one.  I’m loving this iPhone “MLB.com – At Bat 2009” application.  It makes listening to games and staying in touch with the stats and standings soooo easy.  It’s been a great week for watching Mets baseball, and I don’t want to complain.  But I don’t quite get why they seem unable to score runs when Johan Santana is pitching.  Maybe they get subconsciously complacent, since he’s such a great pitcher.  Even tonight, although he got into a couple sticky situations, he worked his way out of each one — until they pulled him out 1/3 into the seventh inning.  What truly amazes me is his ERA; as of tonight, it is .78!  Games with Santana on the mound would have to get busted open wider than Abyss during a Pay-Per-View for weeks straight for him to reach the ERA’s of the other Mets starters…

But, enough of blogging for blogging’s sake — I should probably introduce the song I’ve recorded for tonight’s acoustic cover song music video.  “Off He Goes” is a track from Pearl Jam’s 1996 album No Code.  This album was the first to break from their previous sound a bit and some fans disapproved.  I’ll admit that it’s not my favorite album in the Pearl Jam catalog by any stretch, but there are some great tracks on it.  “Hail, Hail” is one of the most rocking and catchy songs in their catalog.  “Present Tense” is one of my favorite Pearl Jam tracks, if only for the combination of lyrics and gradual instrumental buildup.  “I’m Open” is a cool spoken-word track — yes, those do exist!

This track, “Off He Goes,” is perfect material for an acoustic cover song.  Initially, after having this song come up on my iPod this weekend, I thought it would be an easy song to record.  Ironically, I almost decided not to learn it and record it for fear of being criticized for recording too many simple songs.

Well, that’s simply not the case…

As Jim can attest to, I spent over an hour and fifteen minutes and about 40-50 takes of this song to get it anywhere near where I wanted it to be.  There are still a couple of discrepancies I hit while singing the tune, but I also nailed a few of my favorite subtleties in the song.  What recording this song taught me was how truly difficult it is to make a slow, deceptively simple song like this really translate into a great performance.  I have even more respect for Eddie Vedder than I did before, especially for the fact that he plays guitar and sings in concert on this one.  The chords are so easy — really, just F, C, and Am — but the strumming pattern was difficult to hit in a few places.  (**The best part about recording these sessions, undoubtedly, is spending all that time, posting on YouTube, and waking up to find that two people have viewed it, one of whom has one-starred it and left no comment.  Thanks for that.**)

That’s enough for one Monday.  I hope you enjoy the session (more than my first YouTube viewer did) and hurry back all week for great new acoustic cover song music videos.

See you next session!

Music Review: Pearl Jam’s “Backspacer”

Originally posted 2009-09-21 22:41:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

This most recent Pearl Jam release is aptly titled; in many ways, Backspacer is closer in focus and energy to Ten than any of their more recent efforts.

Most reviews have wasted little time in pointing out that this album holds the band’s record for brevity — 37 minutes from the first guitar strum to the final vocal fade.  This can, of course, be interpreted in one of two ways, the worst case scenario being that the album was hurriedly prepared and produced.

This could not be further from the truth.

Backspacer is a strong, purposeful album comprised of eleven very upbeat, very direct tracks that leave little room for the listener to catch his breath over the record’s half hour span.  For the most part, these tight, three minute tracks are energizing and satisfying, catchier and cooler than anything Eddie Vedder and company have turned out in a long time.

This is, of course, a mixed bag.  After all, short, to-the-point pop rock is fun when done properly — which, by the way, it certainly is here.  Still, the electric soundscapes of 2000’s Binaural and the distortion-drenched protest of 2002’s Riot Act were excellent installments in the Pearl Jam catalog, even if their respective values have been minimized by critics who seemed more concerned with comparing them to early releases like Ten and Vs.

It should be noted that 2006’s Pearl Jam lacked cohesiveness as an album, although several songs on that release are among the best of their career (“World Wide Suicide” or “Marker in the Sand,” anyone?).  This eponymous release is an album of wild energy and abandon, which works particularly well in the first half of the track listing.  That being said, Vedder rips his vocal chords to shreds in his effort to sing without holding any emotion or effort in reserve.  This works well in some places, and yet crackles to pieces in others.

Pearl Jam's "Backspacer" (2009)

On Backspacer, Vedder has somehow been able to amp up his emotions and energy, and yet his vocals stand out as some of the best of any Pearl Jam recording to date.  Some songs, like the opener “Gonna See My Friend,” harken back to the roughly shouted vocals of Pearl Jam.  Most, however, feature Vedder at his best.

The opening track is also notable for a strumming pattern that is evocative of some mid-1950s Chuck Berry-esque riffing — with a decidedly grunge rock twist to it, of course.  “Gonna See My Friend” is a catchy track but certainly does not stand out among the other excellent album starters of their career.

From the first millisecond of “Got Some,” there is suddenly evidence that this might be an excellent album.  Jeff Ament’s collaboration with Vedder is a nice addition to the other outstanding Ament contributions — think: “God’s Dice,” “Ghost,” and “Low Light;”  if you’re really kind, forget “Pilate.”  The best part of “Got Some” is that, by the time it has finished, you haven’t even heard the single yet.

“The Fixer” comes next, a tour-de-force taken on very convincingly by Vedder.  I have vacillated about three or four times a day since I picked up the album on Sunday, and I’m still not certain whether I like “Got Some” or “The Fixer” better.  I suppose I’ll just have to keep listening…

As the album continues, there are other rockers performed at breakneck speed (“Johnny Guitar,” “Supersonic”), as well as considerably slower, more instrospective numbers (“Just Breathe,” “The End”).  These latter tracks were clearly influenced by Vedder’s recent solo project, writing and recording the soundtrack for the Sean Penn film Into the Wild.  The fingerpicking patterns that open these songs are reminiscent of his solo tracks, yet these songs clearly show the progress Vedder has made in such a short time, particularly in terms of structure.

For once, I am forced to agree with Rolling Stone‘s assessment of this album.  Their four star rating is a simple means of stating that Backspacer is an excellent album, but not a masterpiece.  From track 6 to “The End,” the album takes some repeated listening to really be appreciated.  At first, I felt that some of these tracks were too tight and traditional to ever truly stand out.  As I’ve listened, more and more of these songs have stood out, like the soaring “Amongst the Waves” and the excellent “Speed of Sound” (listen to Vedder’s vocals in the first few lines as he momentarily invokes Leonard Cohen).

Backspacer may not be the next Ten, but it is silly to even entertain that desire.  (If you read music reviews in the major magazines, you wouldn’t know it though!)  What this release does offer is an energetic, cohesive Pearl Jam album — and that, for me, has always been more than enough.