Monday, June 27, 2005

This Weeks Play List

The Soundtrack of our Lives – Origin Vol. 1 (2005) I love this CD. Is there something in the water that gives Swedish rock bands such a great sense of melody? Not that I’m an Abba fan, but when you add two and two… TSOOL has a great sound, with great melodies and solid arrangements. Abba they’re not. And thank God. I’m not sure if there is anyone in English speaking nations that is doing this better. Did I mention that I love this CD?

Maria McKee – Peddlin’ Dreams (2005) There are only moments on this CD where you recall the powerful singer who was supposed to lead rock into that dimension some people called “Cow Punk” (the synergy of punk rock and country music). Those days are long gone and this is a kinder gentler MM. It’s a simply produced CD that lets Maria’s softer singing take center stage.

Crowded House – Together Alone (1995) To call a Crowded House CD a classic is redundant. With songs like Private Universe and Distant Sun, it is hard to call it anything else though.

Toy Matinee – Toy Matinee Special Edition (1990/2001) Talk about great songwriting… I guess I have a theme going, excluding Maria McKee. Crowded House and Toy Matinee are two of the greatest songwriting groups of the last 15 years. And TSOOL isn’t far behind. Toy Matinee was the brainchild of the late Kevin Gilbert and Patrick Leonard. Kevin was the main songwriter behind Sheryl Crow’s first CD. He is one of the unknown greats in the business. The music moves from progressive pop, to just pure pop rock and roll. You have probably heard some of the hits from this CD and didn’t even know who they were. So, enjoy as I spin a few of these masterpieces for you.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Paul Thorn Live at Zoey's

What a stroke of luck. Maria asked me to help her son move into his new apartment in Santa Barbara on Saturday. And that evening Paul Thorn was playing in a little coffee shop in Ventura called Zoey’s. We had once again missed a chance to see Paul in Hollywood on Friday because of Wicked, so finally, after 2 or 3 years of missed opportunities, I wasn’t going to let this one go by: Even though we had driven to Hollywood and back on Friday and now Santa Barbara on Saturday. Even though we didn’t have reservations. Even though I had my daughter Jessie with me and the odds of hearing songs like “Viagra Falls” were good. I wasn’t gonna let Paul leave the Southland without seeing him.

Zoey’s is a very cool little place. If you ever find yourself in Ventura, on Main St. (the main strip), check it out. It is a very small coffee/food shop with seating in the very small courtyard. There is a stairwell at the end of the courtyard (when I say courtyard, think 200 square feet… barely a yard) and up the stairs is a small room that fits 50 people. It is so small that Paul was distracted when the bartender at the far end of the room made our lattes.

So we had dinner downstairs. The place is so casual that Paul stopped by our table and asked us if he could borrow our paper (his friends had deserted him and he wanted to keep busy). After a bit of a scare (“We’re sold out tonight”), we found out there were still a few seats left and after finishing our mini pizza’s (cooked on the bbq) up we went for the concert.

Paul is everything I thought he’d be. His Southern self-deprecating sense of humor is not only part of his music, it is a part of everything he says and does. Almost every song had a story and every story had us rolling off our seats. I love to describe him as a trailer park version of John Hiatt, and his “true” stories about trailer park life are so funny and sad at the same time that you’re almost crying while you’re laughing. People always talk about his wonderful songs, but his voice is soulful, his guitar playing is near perfect, and his verbal timing is absolutely perfect.

Paul did two 45 minute sets. The first focused on his classic “Ain’t Love Strange” CD; maybe one of the best unknown classics available at your local trailer part, oops, I mean record store. In both sets he did songs from throughout his career, including the title track from his first CD, “Hammer and Nail” (a song inspired by his ring battle with Roberto “no mass” Duran).

We all had a great time, with Jessie and Maria walking away with signed CDs.

Wicked

I know, this has nothing to do with The Promise, but I thought I'd share...

The traffic in L.A. is getting ridiculous. I left before 5pm Friday night, picked up my daughter and then my niece, and got to the Pantages just minutes before the start of the show at 8pm. Hmmm, I think I’ve done this rant before. Nevermind.

I absolutely love Wicked. We saw it in New York last summer and I was ready to go back the next night. A year later, the play still has that effect on me. The cast was excellent. We didn’t see the original Glinda in New York, but the current one is easily as good. I thought the actress who played Elphaba wasn’t up to the original, but she did a fine job and hit the big numbers when called for. The head of the school was played by Carol Kane, who I love. She did a great job also.

When we saw the play in New York, we were in the 5th row. Friday night we were in the second to last under the balcony. I think we may have been too close in New York because I don’t remember the lighting being so spectacular. The sound was also excellent. I was worried being under the balcony, but they found a way to get the sound to us with a minimum of echo. I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house for this show.

So, what is it that makes this play so special? Part of it is the main underlying themes about being different and misunderstood. If you grew up feeling that way, you can’t help but be moved by Wicked. But this isn’t just a serious play. There were plenty of laughs throughout with lots of references to the original Oz (when Elphaba shows up at her sister’s house, her sister asks her what she is doing there and Elphaba says, “There’s no place like home”). For those of you who have read the book, my niece Tracey said that it really didn’t follow it at all, but she loved the play nonetheless.

Wicked plays in L.A. through mid July and then returns to So. Cal at the Performing Arts Center in The OC next summer. I can’t recommend this play enough.


This Weeks Play List

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan (2005) The critics are talking like this is a major leap for the band. All that is really going on is that they have replaced the guitar with a piano as the driving instrument in many of the songs. This isn’t anything amazing, but it is very interesting and they do pull it off. The sound hasn’t really changed otherwise. And don’t get me wrong, I really do like this CD.

Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros – Bad Out There (2004) That middle American rock done so well by people like John Mellencamp and Bob Seger, is alive and well here. The music will keep your foot taping and you’ll probably even find yourself humming along in no time. There isn’t a bad song on this CD. For more info, check out their web site at: http://www.frankcarillo.com .

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Porcupine Tree Live at The Grove of Anaheim

Okay, this is a bit late, but… well, I’ve been busy.

I have only listened to the latest Porcupine Tree CD, Deadwing. So for me, much of the music was new. But that didn’t matter. In one of those rare evenings, I found that I loved everything they played. PT is where I believe rock was heading before bands got greedy and/or pretentious (greedy and pretentious at the same time… ouch), and then were deserted by both radio and the fans. In the 70’s this band would have been big. Not that this is a 70’s sound… hmmmm, well maybe. The concept (not the sound) is very similar to the first couple of Kansas CDs: Tight sound, great leads, good melodies, complex but assessable music. The sound is a little bit metal, a little bit rock and roll and a lot of… Ambrosia. Or maybe Toy Matinee. That’s the sound the vocals reminded me of. They weren’t the hard intense metal vocals. That combined with superior songwriting, made it easy to just love everything they played. Steven Wilson (lead singer and main lead guitar) is one talented guy. The rest of the members of the band are no slouches either; highlighted by the intense and tight drumming (perfect mic setup according to my audiophile friend Kim) which drove the band. They are coming back in October and I plan on being there.

There was a lot of joking going around during Robert Fripp’s show. This is because what he does best is create soundscapes. And, that is all he did that night. So, near the end of the first piece, some guy turns around and says to us, “this next part is great”. Of course no one has a clue what the next part is, but it isn’t much different from what he has been playing; at least on the surface (more on that in a minute). Finally Kim turns to the guy sitting next to us and said, “Well, what did you expect” and he said, “Exactly this”. But for those who really listened, each song had a feel and a mood. I was able to visualize possible movies that this would have been the soundtrack to. The first piece was dark and scary. It was like a scene where a person was walking through the house and the killer was behind one of the doors. The tension and anticipation could be heard in the music. Maybe not something to thrill fans with, but still very interesting. The other interesting aspect to his show was that he had apparently split his guitar pickups into two sections sending each to a different box, allowing him to create multiple types of sounds at the same time. When you then layer it using loops, it becomes very impressive. 40 minutes of that was quiet enough though.

I am playing a few songs from Porcupine Tree's, "Deadwing" on The Promise. Check it out.

Monday, June 13, 2005

This Weeks Play List

The Clarks – Between Now and Then (June 21, 2005) The Clarks have been recording for almost 15 years, and it shows. This retrospective, due out next week, is packed with solid rock and roll; full of hooks and great melodies. If I were to try and draw comparisons to another band, it would have to be the Greg Kihn Band. In the 70’s, before they hit it big, the Greg Kihn band was the toast of the San Francisco bay area. Their live shows were legend. You would listen to an album and say, “Why hasn’t this band made it”. That’s where the Clarks are right now. You can check them out at: www.clarksonline.com .

The Wallflowers – Rebel, Sweetheart (2005) Jakob continues to create powerful rock and roll. This CD sounds so comfortable; it is easy to take for granted. But as is the case with all great music, it is driven by good meaningful lyrics and a now very solid band.

Peter Himmelman – From Strength to Strength (1991) I guess this is family week, with Bob’s son and son-in-law added to the list. This is a classic; a very spiritual CD with great melodies.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Before I list the new CDs added to the play list this week, I thought I'd direct you to my quicky review of The Mars Volta live performance at the Greek Theatre this week. Check it out here.

Okay, on with the new music...

Shelby Lynne – Suit Yourself (2005) Some 30 years ago Neil Young walked into the studio, got drunk, turned on the tape machine and recorded the brilliant “Tonight’s The Night”. It was raw, emotional and simply recorded. And ever since then, many an artist has decided that what they need to fill out their discography is to record an album that sounds like a first take in a studio. If I had any doubt that Shelby Lynne was recording one of those CDs, it just took a quick look at the CD, with what appears to be typed labels on both the cover and the actual CD. Okay, so we get the point. This is supposed to be a simple and raw CD. And it is. It’s a beautiful CD too. But then, it is hard with a voice like Shelby’s to go very far wrong. Because there is no big produced hook on this CD, you have to give it a few listens to really fall for it. It’s no “I Am Shelby Lynne” and for that matter it sure isn’t “Tonight’s The Night”, but neverheless,it is a good CD.

Shivaree – Who’s Got Trouble? (2005) Compared to 1999’s “I Oughtta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in This Dump”, this CD is downright normal. Okay, I have to admit, I only brought up that CD because it is one of my all time favorite album/CD titles. But seriously, Shivaree may have moved closer to the mainstream with this CD, but they are still a unique band with one of the great unknown vocalists: Ambrosia Parsley. She’s part young girl, part sultry torch singer. For me, her cover of Brian Eno’s “Fat Lady of Limbourg” was worth the price of admission. Check them out at www.shivaree.com .

Spamalot – Original Broadway Cast Recording (2005) What can I say? I’ve been a Monty Python fan most of my life and for one of the boys to win a Tony for best musical… Well, we have to celebrate. They’re not dead yet!

Bonnie Raitt – Give it Up (1972) I have been way behind in getting Bonnie onto my stream. She is one of the great women in rock and roll. This album, her sophomore effort already displays the qualities that have made her famous: Her throaty vocals and classic slide guitar.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Tomorrow Tomorrow

Between the Mars Volta concert on Saturday and the Aids walk on Sunday, I had nothing left by the time it came to getting this weeks set out. But I promise... Tomorrow morning there will be a new set of music. Included in that set will be new music from Shelby Lynne and Shivaree and maybe a bit of Spamalot.

I enjoyed reading all of your comments on Sam Phillips' show. Please feel free to comment on any of my posts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Little Sam Phillips at Largo

Annie wrote me the other day and said, “I’m back online after a month.” She then began listing concerts that were coming up (Annie’s concert emails are a great source for live shows). And then she said, “And of course Sam Phillips is playing tomorrow.” WHAT! WHAT?

So I packed my daughter, Jessie, in the car and off we went to see Sam. Actually, it was a David Palmer performance (keyboardist for Joe Henry and others) and Sam was only going to sing a few songs. But with Sam in the studio and working on Gilmore Girls this year, I’m taking every opportunity to see her.

The opening act was Mark Goldenberg, who did some wonderful unaccompanied jazz guitar playing. Then David came on and played some amazing songs; covering a wide range of styles, from Elliot Smith to Sonny Rollins. After about 4 songs, he invited Sam to come up and sing. With just his brilliant improvisational piano behind Sam, we got to see a very different Sam Phillips. Sam likes to call herself a torch singer these days, and who can argue with her. But her band has its own unique sound. With David, Sam had a torch piano player behind her. It gave her songs that real jazz torch singer sound: A sound that she’s only flirted with so far. It was stunning. Okay, Sam is always stunning (especially in Black, which she loves to wear onstage), but this was special. It was the jazz side of Sam, and although they are the same songs she plays with the band, they felt so different.

During the performance, Sam would look back strangely at David. I thought it was because of his improvising of her songs, but actually it was because he was humming with the songs; and not the tune of the song. Sam was surprised by it, but seemed to really love it.

Below is her set list. A highlight continues to be Tom Waits’ “Green Grass” from his latest CD. She owns that song now, as far as I’m concerned. She is talking about possibly recording it. I hope so. It really fits the music she is writing.

  1. Say What You Mean
  2. Edge of the World
  3. Green Grass (written by Tom Waits)
  4. Reflecting Light

After Sam left the stage, Eric Gorfain (the lead violin for the Section Quartet) joined David, a drummer and a bongo player and proceeded to perform some classic 60’s/70’s styled improvisational jazz. It was really good. It brought back memories of people like Jean Luc Ponty and Chick Corea, who I used to enjoy in the 70’s. David created these wonderful soundscapes that allowed Eric to soar on top of. I can only imagine how good it would have been if they actually had a sound check.

Okay Sam news. The goal for the next CD is fall, but no guarantees. T-Bone’s new CD has been pushed back because of production assignments, so look for it next year. T-Bone’s live tour will be something you’ll tell your grandkids about. Don’t miss it. Gilmore Girls has been picked up for at least one more, maybe two more years. So Sam has a steady job for now.

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen