Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jorane Live at the Knitting Factory - Hollywood

Back in May of this year I came across a unique artist by the name of Jorane. She is a cello player from Montreal who thinks she is a singer/songwriter with the artistic flair of a Kate Bush. And guess what, she’s right. For those of you thinking that a woman singing with only a cello accompanying her must be either pretentious or very boring need to see/hear Jorane. Much of her 50 minute set tonight was like any other good female singer/songwriter’s: Beautiful songs, strong melodies and a powerful voice. But, the things she can do with a cello go well beyond an acoustic guitar, the usual tool of any good singer/songwriter. With its deep tones and ability to be bowed, the cello adds textures and moods that would require a small bank of synthesizers to duplicate. Someone sitting next to me said that she has been signed to write music for Cirque du Soleil. That would make sense since her songs are so visual. Checking her website, www.jorane.com she has performed with Cirque before.

So, this was my first time in the Antiknit room at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. It’s pretty small (makes the pre-remodeled Hotel CafĂ© look big), holding less than 100 I believe. It’s not very deep though, so everyone is close to the stage. When I walked in one of the hired help said, “Looks like there are more people than we expected” (there were about 60 or 70 people) and he started unpacking chairs to put in front of the stage. I gave him a hand and unpacked one, front and center… and then sat down with my feet on the stage. :-) The sound is good, but even with 2 double doors and plenty of padding, the punk band in the other room came through during quieter moments. Jorane sang about 10 songs: 8 on cello, 1 on acoustic guitar (a Sinead O’conner cover) and 1 on electric guitar. Most of the songs were from her first American release, “The You and The Now”. When on the cello, she mixed up styles; sometimes bowing and sometimes plucking. The plucking gave it a very bluesy stand up bass sound. I loved her personality, which could best be described as: Cute, happy French girl. She thanked us many times (maybe a bit too much) and seemed really happy to be up on stage playing for us. And I loved watching her eyes. Much of the time they were closed, but then she would open them wide and with a big smile look out with excitement at the audience, and then close them again. This may be the most Kate Bush thing she does. She closed with a short story about how an interviewer could hear some Led Zeppelin in her music. Her response to him was to play a medley of “Dazed and Confused” with one of her songs. And she played it for us; with plenty of gusto. It all ended way too soon. I need to see her again.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

This Weeks Play List

The new play list is starting a bit early this week (Sunday actually). The first set with all of these bands will play on Monday for the first time at around 10AM Pacific Time. I am also messing with the play list window. The song times will not be accurate. Sorry about that. I need to display some form of album title (not correct either) or risk being de-listed. Hopefully, there will be software upgrades in the future that will solve all of this. Meanwhile, here's what's new:

Graham Parker – Songs of No Consequence (2005) This is my favorite GP album in years (and I loved last year’s country CD). Graham is still angry after all these years and this time around he is focusing his attention on all the people around him who have settled; or worse, sold out. That’s not to say that he isn’t leading a “Dislocated Life”. After he is through skewering everyone around him, he has no problem taking shots at himself. And only Graham Parker can get away with a chorus that goes: “ba ba ba ba bad chardonnay”. When he sings “Did Everybody Just Get Old”, those of us nearing 50 can easily feel a bit too close to the song. This will easily be near the top of my year end list.

Kate Bush – King of the Mountain (Single) (2005) Why buy the single when you already have her fabulous CD, “Aerial”? For her version of “Sexual Healing” of course. And that’s all I need to say here.

Neil Young – Prairie Wind (2005) This is an excellent CD from Neil. Whereas some of his CDs over the last decade have been only for fans, this is one that will reach out to the casual Neil Young fans and pop fans as well as his hard core following. The style is back to the alt-country of “Harvest” and “Harvest Moon”. But this is much better than “Harvest Moon”. There is some organ and even a gospel choir mixed in. The melodies are stronger and there are dark themes running throughout it. This should be in the top section of my year end list.

Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell – Begonias (2005) Caitlin seems to do best when she is working with a partner. Having escaped Ryan Adams with her life (and violin) she has found an excellent partner in Thad Cockrell. This CD will remind you of the mellower, country sounds of Whiskeytrain. And if that isn’t a good enough reason to check this CD out, then I don’t know what it.

The Decemberists – Picaresque (2005) I saw and heard these guys for the first time this last September in Austin and they were just so much fun. A cross between They Must Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, you will either love them or, well, I just don’t think there is an “or”. Everyone I play “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” to loves them. And the rest of this CD sparkles with wonderful stories about all sorts of strange people and things. This is yet another CD that will end up high on my year end list (I guess I’ve been saving the best for last this year).

Anny Rusk – Naked (2005) It takes guts to leave the dance mix crowd behind, moving toward a more singer/songwriter sound. The title “Naked” pretty much tells it all, as the artist known simply as Anny tries to find a newer mellower groove. The emphasis isn’t on the beat here, but more on the mood and lyrics. More often than not Anny succeeds. She has created a fine CD worth checking out. For more info on Anny, you can go to http://www.annyworld.com .

Tina Dico – In The Red (2/7/2006) I listened to this CD once a week or so ago (there was no hurry on my part since it isn’t due out for a couple of months). Today, when I threw it on the player, I couldn’t believe how I totally remembered these songs. This CD digs right in under your skin and doesn’t go away. The melodies are haunting, the arrangements are beautiful and Tina’s voice is so pure. This will be the first CD to be placed in my 2006 Best of the Year List. For more info on Tina, you can check out her web site http://www.tinadico.com .

Doves – Some Cities (2005) Waiting in line to get Lucinda Williams’ autograph at the ACL Music Festival this year, I was able to hear much of The Doves’ set from a distance. It was good enough for me to just go out and buy their latest CD. And I wasn’t disappointed. There is a great pop sound to these guys with roots in the 80’s and 90’s. Good hooks. Good melodies. Good CD.

Various Artists – Music from Gilmore girls (2002) One of the problems with soundtracks is that they often are hard to find and they’re over priced. And so, having found the Gilmore girls soundtrack, I still couldn’t get myself to spend the money. It took a third visit to the store before I finally decided I just had to have those Sam Phillips “cues”. And I will pass them on to you, along with interesting music from Joey Ramone, The Shins (see Garden State), XTC, Grant-Lee Phillips (no relation) and a childhood favorite, Claudine Longet singing Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows”.

Various Artists – Dead Man Walking (1995) I’ve gone 10 years without owning this CD (I never used to like soundtracks). What a great list of artists: Everyone from Lyle Lovett to Patti Smith, from Tom Waits to Eddie Vedder, from Johnny Cash to Bruce Springsteen.

Various Artists – Garden State (2004) One of the best AAA or World Class Rock soundtracks ever released. Are you sure this isn’t a Cameron Crowe film?

Greg Kihn – Next of Kihn (1978) They were just about to hit the jackpot in the rock and roll lottery and touring with this album got them the title “A poor man’s Springsteen”. These simple but effective songs truly came to life in concert, and few men worked harder on stage at the time. If you don’t know the pre “Jeopardy” Greg Kihn, this was his best work.

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel 3: Melt (1980) Peter Gabriel has always been at his best when he really has something to say. Songs like “Biko” and “Games Without Frontiers” are great examples. And anyone who remembers in detail the OJ trial, re-listen to “I Don’t Remember” and see if you notice anything familiar.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bruce Springsteen on the Big Screen

So… it was a fun evening. They put us in the largest standard theater (not the IMAX) and filled about 90% of it. The first 45 minutes (approximately… I couldn’t really read my watch) was the documentary on the making of “Born to Run”. For all Springsteen fans, this is a must see. My favorite moment and the loudest laugh from the audience came when Bruce was talking about “10th Avenue Freeze Out” saying that to this day he has no idea what that phrase means. There were lots of bits and pieces from the recording sessions along with current Bruce (and E Street members), a la VH1 Story Tellers, talking about the significance of the songs. We then got about 40 minutes from the live ’75 concert that is on the DVD. The songs included, “Saint in the City”, “She’s the One”, “Rosalita”, the Detroit Medley and “Quarter to Three”. The fire and the energy of this young Boss was just so much fun to watch. I can’t wait to see the whole DVD. And in case you have been living under a rock and didn't know, tomorrow (Tuesday) Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" will be re-released with DVDs of the documentary mentioned above and more of that live show from England.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Brother Rock – Rock -N- Roll Shoes (2004) This is a Christian band with some good strong rock and roll, uhmmm, shoes. There are a couple of songs on this fine CD that aren’t so explicitly religious (which works best for me) and I thought you all might enjoy them. For more info on this independent band, you can reach them at http://www.brorock.com

Patti Smith – Horses / Horses (Legacy Edition) – (2005) I can’t believe it was 30 years ago that I sat in a small club and watched this woman acting like a wild animal crawl around the stage, hump the monitors and just throw so much energy at us that we were shocked, amazed and totally enthralled. She is a poet, an inspiration to future generations and, most important, a rock and roll God. This double CD package includes her original Horses CD, “Elegie” and a live version of “My Generation” on the “1975” disk. On the 2005 disk, she plays all of these songs live from a 2005 concert. Just the two versions of “My Generation” are worth the price of the CDs. Horses itself is one of the great CDs from the 70’s. If you don’t own it already, this is an excellent package to have in your collection.

Rachael Yamagata – Happenstance (2004) Yes she has a beautiful voice, and yes she can write beautiful melodies. What surprised me about this CD, and what makes it unique over many female singer/songwriters, is the energy she puts out. This is not only a pretty CD, it is a strong CD. Hold on tight for a great ride.

Bonnie Raitt – Souls Alike (2005) Bonnie has stepped back from songwriting on this CD, turning it over to her keyboardist Jon Cleary and a Promise favorite Maia Sharp. What she ends up with is a CD that challenges our concept of who Bonnie is, while not letting us forget that this is indeed a Bonnie Raitt CD.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Jacksonville City Nights (2005) This is the second of 3 CDs Ryan is planning on releasing this year. I’m hoping it is the worst of the three. This is easily my least favorite Ryan Adams project ever. Throughout the CD it feels like Ryan is trying too hard to be a country artist. The vocals sound forced, and that just ruins the whole thing for me. This isn’t a bad CD, it just doesn’t measure up to any of his other great ones. Let’s hope that the final CD of the year gives us a more natural Ryan (whatever that is). Okay, maybe I’m being too hard on this CD. It is a good CD. I just think Ryan was trying too hard.

A final note... I really wouldn’t blame any of my listeners if they found themselves listening to Sirius.com for the next couple of months. Channel 10 on Sirius has become “E Street Station” and is playing Bruce Springsteen 24/7 through the end of January. You can get three free days online to hear just how amazing this station is. Friday night we were dancing around the house as they played the entire Winterland ’78 bootleg. They are also playing rare live performances throughout the day. Thank God this is only lasting through January; otherwise I’d have to think seriously of owning both XM and Sirius systems.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Music Update

I'm trying to catch up on things. Here are the latest CDs that have been added to my stream. Coming soon: Rachael Yamagata, Ryan Adams, Bonnie Raitt, Patti Smith and Brother Rock.

Kate Bush – Aerial – (2005) Kate’s first masterpiece of the millennium is brilliant. But you will only get part of the beauty and power here. You really must listen to this on a good music system to truly appreciate just how much care Kate put into Aerial. The flow, the moods, the soundscapes envelope you and carry you into her world. It is a beautiful album. I hope you will try it out for yourself.

Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die? (2005) This is my first Nickel Creek CD and I may have to go back and check out the rest. Are they all this good? This is such a unique band with such amazing performers. It starts off great and never lets go.

Asylum Street Spankers – Mercurial (2004) This was just a fun CD: Funky lyrics, TV references. It is just a lot of fun. When you get tired of SCOTS and the South Austin Jug Band isn’t risky enough, check out the Spankers.

Caesars – Paper Tigers (2005) A recommendation from Eric of the Section Quartet, these Swedish popsters belong in the 80’s or maybe early 90’s. They’re fun and they’ve got great melodies and cool hooks.

Amelia’s Dream – Unravel (2005) Amelia Gewirtz and her band travel around the musical world sometimes sounding like Sarah, sometimes sounding like Nirvana, but always challenging us. For more info on this excellent live CD, go to http://www.ameliasdream.com . You can also pick up the CD at http://www.cdbaby.com

Josh Joplin – Jaywalker (2005) A couple of years ago, I picked up Josh Joplin’s first CD and enjoyed it enough to put it on the station. But as time passed, I really fell in love with the CD. This new CD will hopefully hit me the same way. I immediately enjoyed it and am now waiting for it to totally win me over. A few more listens and we’ll see.

Badly Drawn Boy – About a Boy Soundtrack (2002) Every time I catch About a Boy on cable, I just fall in love with the music all over again. I finally found a copy of the soundtrack and can enjoy it over and over. These are beautiful well written songs; songs that really helped make the movie. You should also check out the movie if you haven’t already.

Amy Rigby – Little Fugitive (2005) I heard the song “The Trouble with Jeanie” and I knew I had to own this CD. This CD has wonderful stories about ex-wives, needy men and dancing with Joey Ramone. I love this one and it should be high on my year end list. Find out more about Amy at http://www.amyrigby.com .

Monday, November 07, 2005

Music Update

It has been real busy around here and although I've updated the station, my blog has fallen behind. Here is a quick list of the CDs that have been added over the last couple of weeks. More are coming this week along with comments about these CDs.

Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die? (2005)

Porcupine Tree – In Absentia (2002)

Asylum Street Spankers – Mercurial (2004)

Caesars – Paper Tigers (2005)

Amelia’s Dream – Unravel (2005)

Josh Joplin – Jaywalker (2005)

Badly Drawn Boy – About a Boy Soundtrack (2002)

Amy Rigby – Little Fugitive (2005)

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen