Sunday, December 30, 2007

Concert Hits and Misses of 2007

Everyone busts out their best-of lists this time of year, so why not me? I realized I actually saw enough concerts in 2007 to warrant one. So, enjoy:

Best Concert – Heaven and Hell
This one could have been pretty lame, a la Spinal Tap. However, it was pummeling. With all of the Zeppelin hype right now, I am reminded that people say Sabbath and Zeppelin ‘co-created’ heavy metal. Well, the difference is, if you go through all of Zeppelin’s albums, there is not ONE bad song in the lot. Ozzy era Sabbath? Tons of crap songs, especially in the late 70s. The Dio era was when Sabbath hit homer after homer. This show basically melted my face and was so good it was ridiculous.

Most Overrated – The Police
OK, so I gave this one a multi-star rating the day after the show. Looking back, it was mostly due to the excitement of this reunion even happening at all. The show was great, mind you, but they were awfully loose and the changes to the song arrangements were not always the best. Our show was the third or fourth of the tour, so I am still inclined to cut a load of slack. They are still on the road and I bet they are pretty tight by this point.

Biggest Surprise – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Loved the movie “Once,” bought tickets to the live show of the main characters playing the music. Thought it might be too mellow/boring. Was surprised at how funny Hansard was and how he kept 1,200 people at the Crystal Ballroom quiet so he could do the first song without any P.A. and hold everyone’s attention regardless. John Mayer at the New Orleans Jazz Fest was a close second here. His blistering guitaring and great attitude onstage ensures that I see him next time he’s in town.

Biggest Bummer Cancellation – Asia
Had tickets to see the original Asia at the Aladdin Theater, which hold less than 700 people. Just to get that close to Steve Howe and Carl Palmer was enticing, much less hearing all of those classic tunes live. But singer John Wetton had to go and have open heart surgery. Damn him. 2008 dates are scheduled worldwide but alas no Portland yet.

The One That Got Away – Van Halen
The reviews of this tour have been stellar. Roth is especially shining – in fine voice and just the right amount of “Diamond Dave” and Eddie is focused again. I had an available ticket and decided not to go. They may be back next year and if so, I’ll be there, just to say that I saw this one. Honorable mentions to ones I could have seen but missed – Genesis (really good prog-focused set list was surprising) and Tool (just could not make this one but really should have).

Honorable Mentions – Rush (set list included seven new songs, loads of unearthed classics. You can never go wrong with live Rush). Roger Waters (show vacillated between brilliance and boredom. Not impressed with guitarist). Jesus Christ Superstar (Incredible. I just wish the drummer in the pit had a real drum set, not an electric kit).

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion Part Three

A couple of personal vids to post. One is from a loose, acoustic appearance at Macadam's in Portland with my pal Bruce Kracke. I met Bruce this year at a Matt Vrba show and we found a mutual appreciation for all things Neil Young. Our first one of these Macadam's Thursday gigs was to do 30 minutes of Neil tunes. Great if you like Neil. Not so great if not. We had a blast!

Anyway, we've played a few times since then, usually trading off taking the lead vocal on a song we both know. For this one, our bass buddy Chris Chard joined for his first ever run through of Won't Get Fooled Again. It's loose but fun, and I commend Bruce's playful pseudo-windmills at the start of the song!

The other video is from one of last years' Floydian Slips shows. Once you get past the first minute or so of the Blair Witch shaky camera, you get a sense for how our show rolls out.

We have four Slips appearances coming up in the next two weeks. New Years Eve at the McDonald Theater in Eugene, two shows (same night) at the Triple Door in Seattle and one performance at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. We've never done a string like this, so I am looking forward to eating, sleeping and breathing Floyd for the next two weeks. Enjoy!

Won't Get Fooled Again


Run Like Hell

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chris Squire's Swiss Choir

Yes’ Chris Squire has issued a Christmas CD called “Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir.” Say that ten times fast!

You can get it from Squire’s Web site, and Amazon and probably iTunes. It’s basically a modern take on some old English classic holiday songs (no Jingle Bells thank God) and from the couple of very quick audio previews, it does not sound half bad (or all bad)! Very nice choir, fairly rocking. I would have been more interested in this just before Christmas, however.

In an interview with Notes From The Edge, Squire talks about how he lined up Steve Hackett to play guitar on the project. Seems that before Hackett, he hoped to line up Jeff Beck or Brian May for the project because he “keeps running into them at awards shows.”

It reminded me of a recent post by Ross Halfin where Ross says that at a recent awards event, a very drunk Squire kept trying to corner Jimmy Page into working on some project with him and kept trying to stick his business card into Page’s front short pocket. Except that Page didn’t have a pocket on his shirt…

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Musical Review - Jesus Christ Superstar

Saw Jesus Christ Superstar last night – with Ted Neeley, the Jesus from the 1974 film in the lead role. I had seen this show about 15 years ago in Cupertino (the Flint Center) with him and Carl Anderson (also from the film) as Judas, and that performance was incredible.

Last night was pretty stellar as well.

Ted’s voice was raggy in general, and it was honestly a bit tough to stomach a 64-year-old Jesus who looked more like Willie Nelson, but it didn’t really matter. For a lot of people, Neeley is so good at this role that he IS Jesus.

You have to give the guy props for playing this role for the last 35 years. (When he sings the line “after all, I’ve tried for 3 years – seems like 30,” I wanted to say, “dude it HAS been 30).

I was wondering if he’d be able to hit those screaming highs and indeed had some trouble here and there. But in general he can still hit ‘em and I had hair standing up on my arms in a number of spots.

Of course, it didn’t help that my wife wrecked the moment for me in Neeley’s big song Gethsemane by leaning over to say that it looked like Jesus had ‘party tits.’ But actually, with his shirt off in the crucifixion scene, he looks great for his age. If I look half that good at 64, I will be a very happy older guy. This dude is very fit.

The guy who really stood out was Cory Glover of Living Color fame (Cult of Personality) who absolutely KILLED in the Judas role (no pun intended). He sang his ass off and his acting was great too. In the scene where he is remorseful about the betrayal and then hangs himself, the dude really ACTED. It was captivating.

The guys who played Pilate (Craig Sculli), Herod (Aaron Fuksa) and Simon (Matthew G. Myers) were also fantastic. The Herod scene, which is really campy in the movie, was played up in a big way and got the night’s only laughs. Craig Sculli as Pilate showed more compassion than any Pilate I have ever seen in JCS. That role for me is the most powerful, and they cast it really well.

Overall, every time I see the show, watch the movie or crank the soundtrack, I am reminded of how good a job Lloyd-Webber and Rice did on this. There is so much character development in this play. With just a very well-written line or two, you get deep insight into how a character is feeling or what kind of context the scene is running in.

I generally hate musicals, by the way, and I have checked out many other Lloyd-Webber/Rice soundtracks (Cats, Evita, Phantom of the Opera) and I am not a big fan. It’s just all too campy and Broadway for me. I guess I like JCS because it’s so rock and roll, and the music alone is worth a listen. I actually know every word to this thing, after listening to it non stop in high school and watching the film countless times.

(A buddy and I actually re-wrote the whole script in high school to apply to some a-hole administrators. I still have the typed draft – called “Mike Speckman Superstar.”)

By the way, count all the different time signatures in the music. You get 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, 7/8 etc. It’s all over the map and it’s really interesting.

Anyway, it was good seeing Neeley again in this role, but next time I might actually seek out an all-new cast to see what kind of twist they can put into it. Long live Ted Neeley!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rush Returns in 2008

From Rush.com today:

After a hugely successful 2007 run, Rush are pleased to announce they will extend their Snakes & Arrows World Tour into 2008. The band will begin rehearsals in March to revamp the set list before kicking off the tour with their first ever appearance in San Juan, Puerto Rico in April.

2008 will see Rush tour in over 40 cities throughout the United States and Canada making stops in many where they haven’t performed in well over a decade including: Orlando, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Austin, Jacksonville and Winnipeg to name a few. Along the way, Rush will play new venues in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Seattle and will revisit some familiar ones in Boston, Washington and Charlotte amongst others. Rush fans can look forward to a complete tour announcement in mid January.


Very cool. I may be on my way up to Seattle for this one, especially if they add some new gems to the set list (Camera Eye? Please oh please!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Zep Rumor Mill & Videos

Looks like YouTube is starting to pull the reunion videos so watch that Kashmir one while you still can - it's the best one I have see so far, by far.

A couple of rumors buzzing around today:

1) The O2 show will be released on DVD
2) The band was talking backstage after the gig about doing some nights at Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Zep Vids - Holy Crap

OK, Plant didn't sound this good in 1978. What the hell? WOW

Kashmir (in its original key mind you)


And this short low quality treat (also in the original key):

Since I’ve Been loving You

More Zep Vids

There are lots of videos of the Zeppelin reunion on YouTube (just Google "Zeppelin O2"), so I won't go posting them all week. However, here are two good ones I found last night. Note they played Good Times Bad Times in D instead of E - an easier key for Plant to sing in. Stairway is tuned down a whole step as well. Page's solo is appropriately sloppy but nowhere near the train wreck of LiveAid.

As he showed us on the stellar Black Crowes tour, Page can get his chops up when he plays these songs night after night. I have no doubt he'd be blazing on an actual Zep tour as opposed to a one off gig.

Pretty glowing review here by Rolling Stone. There is mention that members of Yes and ELP also performed. Weird. I thought Pete Townshend was involved but have not seen anything about him...

Good Times Bad Times


Stairway

Monday, December 10, 2007

Zeppelin Reunion - First Video

Thanks to Voxmoose for this clip. They sound flipping awesome. Wow.

Led Zeppelin Reunion Song by Song

So, we are hours away from the Zep reunion and the folks at NME are going to blog song-by-song postings right from the show floor. God bless hi tech!

When my buddy Al gets back from the show next week I will try and get a review from him.

12:48 update: NME just posted rehearsal photos here.
1:35 update - the whole world is trying to access the flipping NME blog.
1:40 update - first song - Good Times Bad Times - great choice IMO.
3:40 - final set list:

--Good Times, Bad Times
--Ramble On
--Black Dog
--In My Time Of Dying
--For Your Life
--Trampled Under Foot
--Nobody’s Fault But Mine
--No Quarter
--Since I’ve Been Loving You
--Dazed and Confused
--Stairway To Heaven
--The Song Remains the Same
--Misty Mountain Hop
--Kashmir

Encores:
--Whole Lotta Love
--Rock n’ Roll

One of the first reviews is here and it's pretty glowing. I want to hunt out some skepticism or at least objectivity. Was it really this killer? Maybe there will be some YouTube stuff up. If I see any, I will post it.

Disclaimer - the photo is from Getty Images and if they get pissed at me, I will take it down.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Planets Must Be Aligned

So, why does one strive to be a professional musician? Fame? Money? Recognition of talent? Easy access to women and drugs? Immortality?

Well, sure - all of the above.

But now we can add one more great reason to be a famous musician - to have a planet named after you.

How does this happen? The helpful guidelines on this Harvard site include:

The discoverer of a particular object [planet] has the privilege of suggesting a name to a committee that judges its suitability. Contrary to some recent media reports it is not possible to buy a minor planet [damn it]. If you have a name you would like to apply, the best advice is "Go out and discover one!".

So who has had the honor? As you'd expect, PROG ROCKERS. Pink Floyd, Yes, all three members of Rush, Vangelis (great planet name, no?), Enya and Frank Zappa have 'em.

But so do Jimmy Page, Springsteen, Phil Spector (must be a killer planet - ha ha), all of the Beatles (welcome to Planet Ringo), Brian Wilson and the weirdest one, the Bee Gees. Huh?

OK, I know what I am gonna do this weekend. Find a planet and name it "Porcupine Tree."

Monday, December 03, 2007

These Guys SHRED

OmiGod. Thanks to my buddy Brendan for turning me onto these gut-busting videos. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on but these are truly hilarious. Enjoy.

Clapton Shreds!


Eddie Shreds!


Carlos Shreds!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Van Halen Near Miss

Van Halen play in Portland tonight but I decided I don't care enough to be bothered, as much as I'd like to be able to write something up.

In fact, I was in the Bay Area for work this week and noticed they were playing in Sacramento Tuesday night - a mere two hour drive. I even had someone holding a ticket for me from Craig's List but I bagged driving up to SF to get it. That is when I realized I just don't care enough about Diamond Dave and the guys to make the effort.

I will instead have a little vigil at home tonight for Kevin DuBrow and Evel Knievel.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel Dies at 69

The eBay value of your 1970s era wind up Evel Knievel motorcycle toy skyrocketed today as the foul mouthed crazy stuntman finally died.

What a week. First, loudmouth pop metal pioneer Kevin DuBrow and now Evel Knievel.

Those of you my age may remember this:



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion Part Two

I have been sitting in with Portland singer-songwriter Matt Vrba lately. He is a great songwriter with really good energy onstage. I guess you could call him 'alt-rock' or 'country rock' or one of those BS hybrid titles. To me it's good old rock and roll, baby!

His stuff is a blast to play to. Reminds me of cutting my teeth back in the day on Exile on Main Street when I was learning how to 'augment' a song. Pick a key, and work it...

Matt has a brand new CD out, called Go. I opted to not make the trip to Chicago for the CD release gig there this Friday (Matt's home town), but will be playing at the December 8 show at the Dublin Pub in Portland.

Anyway, we played the night before Thanksgiving last week and I brought down the camera. Here are a couple of cool tunes:



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Zeppelin Changing Keys?

From Eddie Trunk's site: The Sun reports that Led Zeppelin are rearranging classic tracks for the upcoming reunion gig after Robert Plant found he could no longer hit the high notes (told ya).

The band have been rehearsing songs in a lower key because 59-year-old Plant's voice is deeper. The Sun's source revealed yesterday: "He and guitarist Jimmy Page have had a few heated discussions about the upcoming gig. Jimmy is a bit rusty and Robert has been struggling with the high notes. To avoid any embarrassing vocal wobbles with the world watching, they decided it would be best to transpose the songs in a lower key."

This is the first of anything negative I have heard about the reunion (except for Page forcing thousands of people to change flight/hotel reservations due to his injured finger).

Of course, people are bound to be critical and/or negative ahead of the show. I am sure it will rock, but moving songs into a lower key is a drag. As we've seen with live key-lowerings by The Police, ELP and even when Rush did "Circumstances" on their last tour in a lower key, lowering the key affects the mood of the song, and usually in a subliminally negative way.

Just like with drastically slowing down tempo, lowering the key more often than not drags the song down and makes it feel like 'something is not quite right.' I am sure there are loads of Zep songs Plant could sing, but they'd likely have to skip many of the 'hits.' So they lower the key. Ugh.

I guess we'll see what happens! (Note that to my knowledge Yes has never changed the key on any of their songs live and Jon Anderson can still belt the shit out of them? Just had to throw that in there)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quiet Riot Singer Dead at 52

Wow, this was a shocker. Check out the details here, but it looks like Kevin DuBrow just died in Las Vegas today.

I remember cranking that Metal Health album in high school. He had some good pipes for being a total metal head. (Both good things). RIP.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rush Train Wreck

Rush is one of my favorite bands. My buddies and I used to marvel at their technical proficiency (and still do) and love their intricate songwriting and smoking performances.

Over the last few tours, they have gotten looser in general, more apt to improvise a bit and generally "play outside of the lines." I especially enjoy when they do that.

But they also mess up now and again. This video is from the most recent tour, and granted, the mess up is not the band's fault. Basically it looks like the pyro at minute 3:45 takes out Alex's amps. By the end of the song, Geddy and Neil are doing a bass-drum duo of "Far Cry" from Snakes and Arrows. Pretty classic! Enjoy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Album Cover Mashups

God bless Photoshop. That's all I can say about this one.

Someone on Fark.com created a 'theme post' where folks are encouraged to post their own 'mash ups' of their favorite album covers. There are some very clever combos, as well as some pretty funny ones. Take a few minutes and see them all here.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hats Off To Charles Obscure - Lyrics Revealed!

Lots of comments to my post about what I rank as the worst Zeppelin song of all time, "Hats Off to Roy Harper," and the parody VoxMoose and I did in 1985, "Hats Off to Charles Obscure."

Harmolodic, I am not sure how we got that 'vocal tone' but I am certain we ran the mic through every effects pedal I had, which at the time was distortion, flanger, a wah, and this really awful delay pedal that had three faders on it with which you adjusted settings. It was useless as a proper delay but we sure used it to great effect for tweaking the hell out of stuff.

And guess what? I found the hand-written lyrics to the song, so here you go, VoxMoose! Of course they are credited to "Jim Squash" for some reason...

Those of you lucky souls who have not heard it yet can download it here. See if you can follow along with the words - like Karaoke!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ace Frehley and Ted Neeley - Separated at Birth?




Monday, November 12, 2007

DVD Review - Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll

At some point when I was a teenager, I went backwards from my comfort zone of 60s and 70s music to check out the founders of rock and roll. I guess it was because I was such a Beatles and Stones fan and I knew that their big influences were 50s rockers like Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly, etc.

I mean, I loved The Beatles' version of Rock and Roll Music and The Stones' version of Carol, so why not check out the originals?

Even though my knowledge and appreciation of that music genre was pretty limited, I fell in love with the movie Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll when it came out in the late 80s.

This was the movie that chronicled Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday gig in St. Louis and how Keith Richards put together an all-star band to help him do the thing right. I was captivated by these two generations of legends stuck together on the same project, chronicled warts and all in the movie. I also really liked Chuck Berry as a personality.

So imagine my pyched-ness when I got the four DVD re-issue of the movie. Yep, four DVDs. That’s one movie and three discs of bonus features.

The movie itself is fantastic. I am not even going to review it here beyond pointing out that when I first saw it, I was proud (as a musician) to be part of something started out of such passion, challenge and perseverance. Despite the oddity and enigma that is Chuck Berry, here is a guy who had a vision and made it happen despite severe challenges (mostly race-related). Talk about an uphill battle.

The movie chronicles Chuck’s career but in the context of the whole rigmarole of getting this gig together despite Chuck’s apparent attempts to sabotage it and create problems for everyone!

My favorite part of the film is Keith Richards holding himself back from smashing Chuck’s face as Chuck keeps telling him he’s playing the guitar part wrong on Carol, a song the Stones did way back in the mid-60s! That and when Chuck in the middle of a song in the 60th birthday gig comes up to Keith announcing he’s going to change the key next verse and Keith says ‘no’ with a face that only a zombie could love. I could watch that movie every week…

But where this package shines is in the bonus material.

On the first of three bonus discs, we get a boatload of behind the scenes rehearsal footage.

For a musician who has been in more rehearsals than he cares to remember, I think one of my favorite things is to watch other people rehearse to see what the vibe is, and how they go about doing it. That is why I liked Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster so much. The movie was about them trying to write and record an album in the midst of total personal hell and it was fascinating. And you got to see them play a lot.

This bonus disc has 45 minutes of rehearsal footage, inter-spliced with really insightful commentary by the director and some of the musicians. We see Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton having a jam with Chuck being the total ringleader. We see Chuck go through some old standards, quiet and pensive, playing on his own until he picks it up a bit and pianist Johnnie Johnson joins in.

Actually, one of my favorite parts is watching Johnnie Johnson. My GOD what a great piano player he was! This guy co-created the genre with Chuck. No doubt about it. Without Johnnie Johnson, Chuck’s stuff would not be nearly as compelling and driving. And they found Johnnie Johnson driving a BUS in St. Louis before he got this gig. His return to fame here is beautiful justice, captured on film.

The other part of this bonus disc is an hour documentary about making the film. By the end, you get the message that the producers came to really despise Chuck. Basically, because he had been ripped off so thoroughly over the course of his career, Chuck tries to wring money out of everyone at every chance possible. This led to him re-negotiating his contract every day of shooting, and not showing up until he received large sums of cash, basically extorting the producers as they tried to make a movie about him.

My favorite bit of this is when he takes off to do a gig at a state fair after springing it on the crew last minute. They tag along and film him in the airport and at the gig. Very cool footage of how Chuck operates. And then due to this side gig, he has no voice for his birthday gig – the cornerstone of the movie. He later has to come to LA to overdub his vocals to the movie, for which he charges the producers yet another sum of cash!

On the second bonus disc, we get a first-hand look into why Chuck is so jaded about money and the man. This disc has Chuck, Little Richard and Bo Diddley sitting around a piano, talking for an hour about how they founded rock and roll, and the racism and rip off’s they had to persevere through.

It’s a hell of a glimpse into history of not only rock and roll, but race relations. The very valid point is made that rock and roll helped break down the barriers between black and white because the kids back then gave less of a shit about black or white. It was the older generation that tried to keep enforcing the color line. And DESPITE that, these young kids (Berry and co.)with everything to lose persevered. I totally take that for granted now but these guys are veritable heroes in terms of race relations.

The third disc also has very cool gab session between Robbie Robertson and Chuck as they go through Chuck’s scrapbook of photos, ticket stubs, posters etc. At first Chuck seems pretty guarded but Robbie is such a cool dude, he has Chuck yapping away in no time. We learn all sorts of stuff, such as about why he’d play first on the bill instead of headlining and who were his musical influences.

We also learn that when Chuck was in prison for three years as a teenager, he found solace in poetry. The last bonus bit on disc 3, called “Chuckisms” has Berry reciting, from memory, wads and wads of poems. Not four lines here and there, but more than five minutes of straight from memory poetry, over Robertson strumming slow chords on an acoustic. Chuck’s face is alight as he rakes these lines from his brain. It’s totally captivating and I found myself thinking again, this guy is an enigma.

This poetry stuff is the missing piece as to where Chuck’s lyrics came from. Check out the lyrics to a 50s era Chuck Berry song. No one told stories like this in rock and roll music back then. It was all about “Whomp Bomp a LuLa” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Chuck’s stuff is downright intellectual! How did he sneak that past everyone? Amazing.

Disc four has more than 3 hours of interviews with many of rocks other founding members that were edited down for the movie - Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison etc. The Jerry Lee Lewis interview is worth the price of the box set alone…

Anyone with 10 free hours (maybe a band on a tour in a bus?) should pore over this four-disc set and see where rock and roll really came from. The rest of us can hit it piece by piece in all of our free time (ha), but it’s worth it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

XM Update and the Worst Zep Song Ever

Been checking out this XM Zep channel on XM Radio. They have played some solo stuff - I heard a few Plant solo songs as well as a pretty sweet live cut from the Black Crowes with Jimmy Page, something I posted about a while ago.

The inclusion of solo material makes this a bit more legit and reasonable. So now this begs the question - will they play anything off of Jimmy Page's soundtrack to the movie Deathwish 2?

Also, I've heard some nice nuggets they'd never play on the "real" radio, like "Tea for One," "Carouselambra" and "Hots on for Nowhere." But I also just heard the worst Zep tune ever, called "Hats Off to Roy Harper." It's the last cut off of Led Zeppelin III and is a total novelty that is fun for the first minute you hear it and forevermore it's the worst Zep song ever.

It reminded me of a funny take off Voxmoose and I did in high school called "Hats Off to Charles Obscure." I dialed in an obnoxious guitar tone, broke out my first all-slide song ever on tape (meaning, it was bad, and by 'bad' I mean 'not good'), and Voxmoose ran a vocal mic through a number of effects, screechingly emoting lines such as "Little fishy got no brother...!"

It was as classic as the original! If I can figure out a way to post audio here maybe you'll get that soon.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Zeppelin Gets Its Own XM Satellite Channel

On the heels of the one-off reunion gig and the upcoming CD and DVD release of the mediocre yet classic concert film "The Song Remains The Same," get ready for "XM Led," a whole channel on XM Radio devoted to Zeppelin.

As if you could not hear Stairway on any local classic rock station at any hour of any day...

From Eddie Trunk's news feed:

XM Satellite Radio will launch a new channel dedicated to the music of Led Zeppelin on November 8th.

The new channel, "XM LED: The Led Zeppelin Channel" (XM 59), will feature the band's complete audio catalog, interviews with band members and other unique content that celebrates the musical contributions of the band.

XM's U.S. premiere of "The Song Remains the Same" soundtrack reissue will air in its entirety at 12 midnight ET on November 8th with encore broadcasts airing all day to kick off "XM LED."


For the record, I own everything Zeppelin ever officially released, plus a couple of live bootlegs and that totals about 14 hours of music - I guess it will be 15 or 16 once Song Remains the Same is out. Unless XM has access to some unreleased stuff or goes into all of the various solo careers, they will be repeating a lot of music every day and this station is going to get stale fast!

From the same story:

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page has hinted that he would be up for more reunion shows.

Page said: "At the moment, I'm told we're doing one gig. That's a bit unfortunate for all the people that would have liked to have seen us, but I can understand why some of the other members don't want to be touring."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Concert Review - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

OK, who went out and saw the movie Once after my glowing review? No one? That’s what I thought. Well, if you didn’t, you are missing out. It’s a great movie.

Last night I got to see the two main characters from Once, as played by Glen Hansard (from the Irish band The Frames) and Marketa Irglova, perform live at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. I was not sure what to expect. I knew that Hansard is mega-talented just from the movie but I didn’t know if they would bring a band or what, or if anyone would care.

We got there literally a minute before they went on. Which means we missed the opener Martha Wainwright. The place was sold out – more than 1,300 people. Wow. I was not the only one who thought this movie and its music was something special.

Hansard came out by himself with his beat to shit Takamine acoustic to a huge swell of enthusiastic applause. But then the mooks at the Crystal couldn’t get his guitar through the PA so you know what he did? He asked everyone to be quiet, stepped to the front of the stage and did the damn song by himself with no amplification. To 1,300 very, very quiet people. It was amazing. The song he did was “Say it to Me Now” which is a real screamer. It’s the song that opens the film, for the two of you who took my advice.

Once they got his guitar fixed up, Irglova came out and did a song. She was much less confident but was still cute and captivating, like in the film. Over the night she got better and they actually closed the show with one of her songs. But generally she was better as an accompanist, adding excellent harmonies and piano throughout the night. Would not be the same without her but she was not the star.

They had a bass player (also from The Frames), a cellist and violinist who accompanied the two off and on and that was it. So it was a pretty intimate night. They got all of the movie songs out of the way and the last part of the set was stuff I had never heard and it was more upbeat.

Generally the songs are slow, quiet and a tad morose. But this guy Hansard is funny as hell and his banter in between songs was hilarious. He told great stories, was very genuine and funny. No idea if he tells the same stories every night but it seemed pretty real and it made for a really enjoyable hour and a half show, despite the ‘relationship’ theme of most of the music.

For example, Hansard said they went to Japan to promote the movie, and the president of Takamine guitars gave him a brand new top of the line acoustic. He was pretty flattered until he realized they wanted him to play it because they were embarrassed by the beat to crap cheapo Takamine he used in the movie and uses live (he had it last night – there are huge holes worn into it from years of busking on the street. It’s worse than Willie Nelson’s nylon string if you can believe that). Classic.

A show highlight was when he let the violin guy take a solo spot and he did some crazy pattern, looped it with an effects box and played along with his looped self. The dude was great.

When I reviewed the movie, I couldn’t find any clips of Hansard or Irglova on YouTube but now there is a ton. That goes to show what a promotional tour will do for you! Here are a couple of good ones.


This is the song he did, with no amplification, to open the show. You can see why 1,300 people could hear it regardless.



Note how someone is out of tune at the end of this and blows the ending as well and they all laugh. I love how much emotion Hansard packs into his delivery of this song.


One of the best quality clips I could find...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Book Review - Neil Peart Ghost Rider

I recently finished Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. This book was basically a road journal of Neil’s year and a half of ‘mobile mourning’ for the double loss of his child and spouse in the mid- 90s.

Long story short, Neil suffered the unfathomable loss of his daughter to a car accident, and then his wife to cancer (he called it a broken heart due to the death of the daughter - makes sense) within a year of each other.

Unreal. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your whole family one after the other like that.

And Neil couldn’t imagine it either. The book chronicles the darkness that surrounded him after these events and how he for some reason kept persevering day by day with the vague notion that ‘something would come up.’

He decided to hop on his motorcycle and just head out. He wound up putting 55,000 miles on his BMW R1100GS bike over 14 months, driving from Ontario to Alaska, then south through the West Coast and Rockies down to Mexico. In a second journey he headed east to the coast of Canada and south into New England.

The book chronicles the heartache and soul searching he went through on these travels – the ups and downs. Mostly downs, but as time passed on, more ups. It’s incredible that Neil, a very private person by all accounts (including his own) would give us a glimpse into his pain and healing.

But he also writes elegantly about all the places he visits and drives through. See, Neil doesn’t like to take the highways everyone else takes. He travels on forest roads and gravel trails. The more desolate and unpopulated the better. He also has little tolerance for most people, especially tourists, and his commentary on American RV captains is funny but also sadly accurate.

Sometime the writing gets a bit tedious, as he uses letters he has written to friends to illustrate points or to further the story. This gets old in spots only because some of the letters repeat things he’s already said. He also gets a bit over-descriptive in spots.

But generally, I felt like I got to know Neil at bit better, which is cool because I have always respected and been intrigued by him. I mean, the dude is one mean mo-fo drummer and not a bad lyricist either.

He has other books out that I will read eventually but I think this one was the heavy, insightful one. The story has a happy ending and of course we know that since these journeys, he’s back with Rush and has three albums and three tours under his belt. But it’s interesting to read about the time when drumming, Rush and pretty much everything else took a back seat to a journey of healing, all well chronicled in this book.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ozzy Blames Illegal Downloading For Poor Album Sales

According to this article, Ozzy is blaming poor sales of his new album Black Rain on illegal downloaders.

And about touring, Ozzy says, "I ain't getting any younger. Sharon says to me 'Just stand there.' I can't just fucking stand there! I'm a moving target. People would aim their can of beer at my head!"

Not sure what to tell Oz about taking care of himself on the road but in terms of poor album sales, how about releasing some decent music? That might help.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Little Bit of This and That

What to report, what to report? A couple of small things:

It's all over the news but Jimmy Page broke a finger so the Led Zeppelin reunion show has been postponed to December 10. The most exciting thing for me on this front is that I found out my friend Al Toribio was able to get a ticket - his wife submitted their email (along with me and a million other people) and were one of the 20,000 selected to buy tickets. Talk about winning the lotto! So they are off to London next month and I hope to get some first hand scoop from Al to post here after he gets back.

Also, Dio in a recent interview with Komodo Rock dropped the news that the Heaven and Hell version of Sabbath will indeed record a new album next year, after some time off after the current kick ass tour that is about to wrap up. That is really good news, because I feel like that band is firing on all thrusters and it would be a shame if they stopped now.

I will leave you with something totally unrelated. A YouTube video of The Who playing Eminence Front at a sound check. This was the MTV video I used to drool over in 1982 and I have been looking for the audio of this for years but alas it remains unreleased as far as I can tell. Despite the tacky 80s garb, Pete's leads in the front of the song are tasty indeed and pretty flipping raw! This looks like the footage they used to make the video before it was edited, too.



And to contrast that with the good old Who I loved so much:



And flash forward to the recent past where they are still loud and obnoxious!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rush Nuggets

Happy Halloween, folks.

Rush's 2007 tour wrapped up in Helinski, Finland (no relation to Isorski, blogger). In interviews and posts, the band and crew have suggested the band will be back on the road in 2008 in North and South America.

Anyone checking out Ross Halfin's diary noted that in sound checks the band has been pulling out some really old nuggets like Beneath, Between & Behind, La Villa Strangiato, Cinderella Man, The Analog Kid and Here Again (wow, WHAT?). Maybe those are some of the tunes we'll get next year.

For the tour so far, here are some interesting stats (from rushisaband.com). Note that the Auburn show I attended had the third highest attendance so far. Note to band: that means come back in 2008!

Attendance

Average Attendance: 10,633
Average Capacity: 15,052

TOP 5

1) Tinley Park, IL (Sep 8) - 16,613
2) Los Angeles, CA (Jul 23) - 14,696
3) Auburn, WA (Jul 20) - 13,689
4) Tampa Bay, FL (Jun 16) - 13,434
5) Dallas, TX (Aug 11) - 13,366

BOTTOM 5

1) Quebec City, QC (Sep 14) - 6,604
2) Darien Center, NY (Jul 4) - 7,624
3) Uncasville, CT (Jul 9) - 7,793
4) Raleigh, NC (Jun 20) - 8,085
5) Bonner Springs, KS (Aug 23) - 8,104

Note: although the Uncasville show was the 2nd least attended show, it was still sold out.

Percentage Capacity

Average Percentage Capacity: 70.64%

TOP 5

1) Morisson, CO (Aug 8) - 100% (SOLD OUT)
2) Uncasville, CT (Jul 9) - 100% (SOLD OUT)
3) New York, NY (Sep 17) - 97.2%
4) Montreal, QC (Sep 15) - 97.18%
5) London, ON (Sep 12) - 96.33%

BOTTOM 5

1) Darien Center, NY (Jul 4) - 34.97%
2) Pittsburgh, PA (Jun 25) - 40.13%
3) Raleigh, NC (Jun 20) - 40.35%
4) Virginia Beach, VA (Jun 22) - 42.72%
5) Saratoga Springs, NY (Jun 30) - 42.98%

Gross Ticket Sales

Average Gross Sales: $589,333

TOP 5

1) Los Angeles, CA (Jul 23) - $1,074,586
2) New York, NY (Sep 17) - $1,022,675
3) Montreal, QC (Sep 15) - $967,692
4) Las Vegas, NV (Jul 28) - $922,675
5) Wantagh, NY (Jul 2) - $860,671

BOTTOM 5

1) Raleigh, NC (Jun 20) - $348592
2) Virginia Beach, VA (Jun 22) - $378,512
3) Pittsburgh, PA (Jun 25) - $380,157
4) Scranton, PA (Jun 29) - $405,990
5) Bonner Springs, KS (Aug 23) - $406,416

Average Ticket Price

Average Ticket Price: $55.47

TOP 5

1) Las Vegas, NV (Jul 28) - $92.25
2) New York, NY (Sep 17) - $86.77
3) Montreal, QC (Sep 15) - $82.98
4) Morisson, CO (Aug 8) - $77.06
5) Quebec City, QC (Sep 14) - $74.15

BOTTOM 5

1) Phoenix, AZ (Jul 27) - $39.57
2) Maryland Hts, MO (Aug 24) - $40.44
3) Pittsburgh, PA (Jun 25) - $41.07
4) Milwaukee, WI (Sep 6) - $42.66
5) Cuyahoga Falls, OH (Aug 30) - $42.710

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stanley and Simmons Sink to New Lows

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

DON'T YOU GUYS HAVE ENOUGH MONEY YET? Ugh.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion

Two weeks ago my band, colorfield, played at Portland's Wonder Ballroom in a benefit called Rock for Rett. More info on that here.

But here are some videos I posted from the show. I am the guitar player on the left (not the one with the hearty blonde hair, sadly!).





Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Link Posted - Ross Halfin Diary

Ross Halfin is a world-renown photographer. From Wikipedia:

Ross Halfin (b. 1958) is one of the world's top English music and travel photographers. Having shot bands such as Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, KISS, Metallica, The Who, Rob Zombie, ZZ Top and many others, Halfin's images are widely published in magazines, newspapers and books.

Halfin began his career as a freelance photographer for Sounds Magazine in the 1970s, where he befriended upcoming Heavy Metal acts like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, who he would go on to photograph extensively. Halfin continued his career shooting for many years for UK rock magazine Kerrang! and other high-profile UK magazines such as Q, Classic Rock and many others around the world.

He is also funny as all hell, and thankfully keeps a Web diary of all of his photo shoots and happenings month to month and day to day. It's a great read and I am still poring over previous months and years of posts in all my free time (ha). Check it out for yourselves but here are some nuggets:

October 20 post - Speaking of bass players, spoke to Andy Curran, ex-bassist of Coney Hatch and AR type person for Rush's management. I may go to Italy next week to taste the honeydew and drink the milk of paradise.

October 2 post - Spent nearly the whole of today shooting Jimmy Page for various things - magazines and beauty products. Felt quite exhausted at the end. But what I find more exhausting are the wankers who keep emailing me wanting Led Zeppelin information. Prime example is the arsehole who goes by the name Hurtin Kind. It will be a pleasure if I ever meet him to hurt him and I wouldn't be kind...

August 21 post - Went to see The Rolling Stones with my mates Wilf Wright and Barry Drinkwater at the O2 Arena. I wasn't really in the mood for rock and roll, which was a good thing as they were as far removed from rock and roll as possible. They were dire - words fail me... Mick Jagger tried hard and worked the stage but the sound was terrible, the lights production were a cross between an MTV video and a Las Vegas revue. There was no camaraderie on stage, it was lifeless. A bit like an old folks fashion show - there seemed to be more costume changes than in a Madonna concert... The best song was James Brown's I'll Go Crazy, they butchered their own songs. It reminded me of a pub singalong on New Years Eve, dreadful. And the crowd was like being stuck with 22,000 bank managers on a night out. It was fucking awful.

October 10 post - During the intermission [Rush show] I hear what sounds like chanting. I look round to find Paul "Gooner" Elliott falling drown drunk singing to himself standing next to an embarrassed Dave Everley (Q Magazine features editor) with a "help me" look on on his face. As I try to talk to Dave, Paul interrupts slurring the words to The Trees. All around there is a smell of Guinness and whiskey pervading the air. 'Top of the morning,' slurs a voice - it's Paul Brannigan. 'I'm having a night off.' Off what, I wonder. 'Me and Paul have come to see Machine Head.' By now both his eyeballs are going in different directions, a bit like a slot machine. Paul's face is also bright red. 'Do you like Rush?' I ask. Paul looks baffled. 'Who...?' I go and shoot the second half of the show. Lots of pyro and the highlight for me is looking up at the stands during Spirit Of The Radio seeing Paul Elliott playing air guitar with Paul Brannigan passed out next to him, and a forlorn Dave Everley telling Paul to sit down. The one thing people seem to miss about Rush is that they are a good rock band. They are always good. Not some form of art rock. I came home at midnight and played 2112...

There are YEARS of posts. I placed the link in my 'links' section on this blog. Bookmark and enjoy...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Van Halen Train Wreck

Ouch.

Ouch ouch ouch ouch.

You music techie guys out there, you ever wonder what would happen if the recorded keyboards in Jump play at a 48k bitrate instead of 44.1k and the band tries to play along on their regularly-tuned axes? Well, here t'is!

Poor Eddie tries to adjust but they are all clueless as to why things sound so...off. Someone got a new ass torn backstage I imagine! Thanks to Nedmusic for passing on this horrible train wreck. Very amusing.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Black Hole WHAT?

Easy Allen forwarded this site for a wine bar in San Francisco. Make sure your speakers are on and listen to the first song that pops up, as performed by Lonesome Hank and his Lonely Boys. Claaaasic!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Zeppelin Catalog on iTunes in November

Led Zeppelin, one of the last holdouts over making its music digitally available, will soon have its full catalog available on iTunes and other online music sites, according to this Reuters story. Next up, The Beatles and Radiohead?

On a related note, I was not one of the 10,000 who got accepted to buy tickets to the reunion show. More than a million people applied to be in the running, and I guess the odds weren't that good. Not like I could have dropped everything and GONE to the show in London, but it would have been nice to have the option, no? Ha ha!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vader Blows The Harp



Thanks to VoxMoose for this little ditty.

And of course, to video editing software!

Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead's Bold Experiment

Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows, is available today online only, for - well, however much you want to pay for it. If you have a boatload of dough, pay what you think a CD is worth. If you are bit strapped, pay a buck, or nothing at all.

Radiohead, currently without a label, decided to try this new idea to further break away from the big machine of the recording industry. Go here for more details.

Industry reaction is mixed. Some think it's a bold new experiment that helps wrestle control from the labels and puts it into the hands of the people. Others lament the move as something that will further siphon foot traffic from already-struggling music stores.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Radiohead can probably afford to try this and not make any money at all. They'll make it up in mechandise sales, live performances, licensing etc. Less established artists are probably less likely to see money from a scheme like this.

It reminds me of a few years ago when Stephen King rocked the publishing world be announcing he'd start selling chapters of a new book online for a buck a pop. If people paid for it, he'd keep releasing chapters. If people ripped him off, he's stop writing the book. Interesting notion. If I remember, people didn't pay, and he stopped writing the book!

But there is a difference between people wanting to read a book chapter by chapter on a computer, (or worse yet printing all those pages themselves), and downloading music you can take with you anywhere. That's why iTunes is raging success and e-books are still a pipe dream.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what happens with the Radiohead experiment and who follows this model, or changes it somehow. Once again, the music industry is at a loss to adjust to the times and Radiohead's move today is another intresting reaction to it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Blog Link - Layla's Classic Rock Faves

Isorski's Musings blog reader Layla runs a number of blogs. I am adding one to my list of links that complements my blog very well, called Layla's Classic Rock Faves.

Poke around and see what you see. A recent cool one is from late Sept - who are the five best voices in rock and roll? Post your list, people! I plan on doing so after I give it some deep thought...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Book Review: Bob Dylan - The Essential Interviews

I have been making my way through Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews and I have to recommend it as a crucial piece of reading for anyone interested in the written word and the history of modern music.

Adjectives that come to mind when reading this guys' interviews include: Insightful. Modest. Brilliant. Genius Wordsmith. But also removed and disconnected at times.

The interviews span from his very first in the early 60s, when he was really creating his image, all the way to the present, where he's in the middle of a resurgent body of work.

For a guy who has the reputation of being a guarded recluse, he provides frequent glimpses into what makes him tick and to why he did certain things in his life. He is consistent over the years in not calling his career a "career." Rather, he says it's a path he chose - to be a songwriter, when it was not fashionable to be one. To interpret his words, it sounds like he got super successful early on and then just sort of kept going.

He's frank about the times where he lost focus, including the seven year stretch in the early 90s where he didn't write any new songs. I love his comment that "The world doesn't need any more songs."

Dylan says in a few interviews how he can't do certain songs anymore because he can't get into the headspace necessary from when they were written. But then he'll take other old songs and change lines, melodies, structure, feel and just re-invent them onstage. He never listens back to his records because he feels like they are just snapshots of the songs at that time. A song is never static. It is always up for reinterpretation on every level, and that includes changing it so that is not recognizable to the recorded version.

Also fascinating is his observation that he never was any good at recording in the studio until recently and most of his 60s and 70s albums were put together quickly so he could get the 'song sketches' down and get on the road. Funny to hear him talk about songs like "Idiot Wind," "Isis" and "Hurricane" as 'sketches.'

But he also acknowledges the brilliance in some of his songs, saying that when he looks back on some of them he has no idea where they came from and is often a bit blown away. You get the sense that he is really a conduit, tapping into something that normal people can't access.

All the hackneyed stereotypes about Dylan come through in these interviews, too. He's aloof, answers questions with questions, is often evasive, etc.

But I also got the sense that the guy is sort of a nomad. A wanderer, observer and storyteller who has an immense gift. I get the sense that Dylan is really from another era. Like 100 years ago or more.

It's also fascinating to read interviews that span a 45 year period. You get a feel for his evolution as an artist and human being, just by looking at what interests him over the years and his take on our life and times.

Having said this, I am still acquiring a 'taste' for Dylan. I still often prefer other people's covers of his music over the originals. But I also smack myself in the face every time I hear a new (to me) Dylan album because if I could write just ONE song as potent and brilliant as this guy, I could stop trying.

I once got an inspirational email that said "write for the garbage can." Meaning, you need to get through all of your bad writing to finally break through and write something good. So just get started and get all of the garbage out of the way so you can crack through to the good stuff.

I feel like Dylan never wrote for the garbage can, or if he did, he did it in the womb.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Van Halen Reunion Set List

Just do a Google on "Van Halen" and "Charlotte" and you'll get a smattering of mostly glowing reviews of the kick off night of Van Halen's reunion tour with Roth.

I kind of want to see this tour. I'm just held back by what assholes these guys are!

But sheeeeit, dig this crazy assed set list. On paper, this looks so good. If I can get a last minute cheap ticket, I will probably go.

1. You Really Got Me
2. I'm the One
3. Runnin' With the Devil
4. Romeo Delight
5. Somebody Get Me a Doctor
6. Beautiful Girls
7. Dance the Night Away
8. Atomic Punk
9. Everybody Wants Some
10. So This Is Love?
11. Mean Street
12. Pretty Woman
13. Drum Solo
14. Unchained
15. I'll Wait
16. And the Cradle Will Rock
17. Hot for Teacher
18. Little Dreamer
19. Little Guitars
20. Jamie's Cryin'
21. Ice Cream Man
22. Panama
23. Guitar Solo (incl. "Women in Love" intro, "Cathedral", "Eruption")
24. Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

encore:
25. 1984
26. Jump

Zeppelin Reunion - No Tour?

Looks like the Led Zeppelin reunion gig will be a one-off, with no follow up tour. If you believe Robert Plant.

Last week, Plant cited his age and basic unwillingness to go on the road, saying "There'll be one show and that'll be it. We need to do one last great show because we've done some shows and they've been crap." He's got that right!

Plant may even be edging towards retirement: "I know I'm getting on. When I do come back from touring, I'm shocked to find a lot of my mates tend to be going to bed far too early, and that means I should probably be doing the same. Maybe I should stop having a good time and get old."

Then again, Plant denied the one off reunion for months, so who knows?

More from MTV.com.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Movie Review - Once

So, to kick off my family vacation in Ireland this week, I thought I'd post a recommendation of this pretty cool movie I saw last month, called Once. It's set in Ireland (hence the connection) and revolves around a busker singer songwriter guy who falls for this girl. It's basically a romantic movie - no Jedi warriors or drunk dudes screaming "Fill it AGAIN!"

But it's a really unique film and it stayed with me after I saw it. This was because of the way it was filmed and put together, pretty much. That plus the music.

Very much a low budget, indie film, the thing was shot in two weeks with a crew of six who all agreed to work for free after the funding fell though. The actors are not really actors at all, but are friends of the director. It makes the whole thing feel very organic and home grown, which is my favorite type of movie after big budget over the top weirdo movies like Brazil.

Anyway, the other thing is that there is a lot of music in it. I would almost call it a "musical" but it's not. However, when the lead character, played by Glen Hansard (from the Irish rock band the Frames) breaks into a song on his beat to shit guitar on the street corner, you hear the whole song. All 3 or 4 four minutes of it. Good thing he's talented as hell because there are six or seven songs throughout the movie.

This makes for a slower pace, so be ready for that.

But this is also a musician's movie. For example, when the character played by Hansard (we never learn his or anyone else's name), finally pieces a band together and hits the studio, it's very realistic. The way the musicians interact, the way the for-hire producer is totally blase until he realizes that the band is good...it's all very true to life.

The main woman character, played by newcomer Marketa Irglova, is also very believable. She has a great spirit and really drives the Hansard character to realize his potential. It made sense when I found out afterwards that the two knew each other before agreeing to the project. It's almost like the movie captured their budding relationship.

The songs are great too - they are a departure from what I usually blog about, but I got the soundtrack afterwards and they hold up. These songs are sung from the soul. This guy has music pouring out of him. He's incredible. But again be warned - even the upbeat ones are pretty melancholy.

Go to the movie's MySpace page and check out the song "When Your Mind's Made Up" and you will see what I mean. Make sure you listen to the whole song, past where it picks up. I wish I was uninhibited enough to sing a song like this.

Hansard and Irglova are also in a band called The Swell Season, on tour playing songs from the movie, plus others. They are playing in Portland in November and I am going to try my best to make that show.

Not sure if Once is on video yet but if you want something earnest, heartfelt and different, check it out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Well, Stamp My Balls!

Despite my vote to have the ball sent into space, it looks like Barry Bonds' record breaking home run ball will be stamped and sent to Cooperstown.

For those of you wondering how the "what do we do with Barry Bonds' home run ball" poll went, the people have spoken and it's going to be stamped with an asterisk and sent to the Hall of Fame, where they will presumably figure out how to display it in a way that will keep the stamp hidden!

The story announcing the news said:

Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey said accepting the ball did not mean the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., endorses the viewpoint that Barry Bonds used drugs. (Riiiight)

"This ball wouldn't be coming to Cooperstown if Marc hadn't bought it from the fan who caught it and then let the fans have their say," Petroskey told The Associated Press. "We're delighted to have the ball. It's a historic piece of baseball history."

Hall of Fame officials and Ecko are discussing how to affix the asterisk on the ball. It's not yet known when the ball will go on display.

The people have spoken. Suck it, Bonds!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CD and DVD Review - Heaven and Hell at Radio City

Anyone who read my posting of the Heaven and Hell show earlier this year knows what I think of the Dio-led version of Sabbath. For those who need a reminder, I think it's one of the best hard rock lineups to ever grace the earth. Forget the Ozzy led Sabbath. Just forget it. That version is a whole other thing, great in its own way, and yes, OK they co-founded heavy metal. But the Dio era Sabbath built on those roots and just sledge hammered it out of the park.

The Mob Rules. Heaven and Hell. Children of the Sea. Falling Off the Edge of the World. The Sign of the Southern Cross. Die Young. Neon Knights. Need I go on? Forget about it!

In terms of the show I saw earlier this year, these guys were in fine form, clearly pleased as a cup of Jesus Juice to be playing these classic heavy duty tunes. Not to rest on their laurels, they also played three songs from their 1992 overlooked reunion album Dehumanizer and two of the three brand new songs recorded for the Dio Years compilation CD. Much to my amazement these non-classic numbers fit in with the classics like a hand in a well broken-in studded leather glove.

Now the band's performance at Radio City Music Hall from this tour is out on CD and DVD and needless to say I bought both and whole heartedly recommend that anyone with even a cursory interest in Sabbath or hard rock go out and buy them right now.

I started with the CD. It's excellent. The same set list I saw, plus Lonely Is the Word. Nothing really to say about the CD except it is an accurate sonic snapshot of the kick ass tour. Dio's voice is soaring and powerful, he hits all the notes and just delivers. Iommi and Butler are playing better then ever. It's all there.

These guys sound like they have something to prove and are out to convert the masses, when really they could have just trotted out and farted through it all. They didn't. Oh, and Dio's scream at the start of The Mob Rules made the hair stand up on my arms. I'm not kidding. I actually laughed at how killer some of this stuff was. Iommi plays a LOT of guitar on this tour and the CD performances are blistering. And I am still amazed at how good Geezer is on this stuff.

The DVD is a must have as well. Same audio, obviously, but the company that filmed the thing really understands how to do it right. From a musician's standpoint, you can't beat it. There are loads and loads of close ups of Geezer, Iommi and Appice actually playing. For example, I am thinking, "Here comes that killer Geezer Butler bass fill at the end of the verse in Die Young," and bang, the camera is on his fretboard and you see him do it. Very nice.

I am so sick of DVDs that don't show the band PLAYING. Paul McCartney is the worst offender. His live DVDs are shot after shot of the audience singing along. Kill me now, man.

No, we get to see the prosthetic tips of Iommi's fingers blaze through the riff in Falling Off The Edge of The World. We get to see how fast poor Geezer has to play for all 5 minutes of Neon Knights. We get to see Appice trot out his fills in the new songs. Lots and lots of close ups.

Now if you don't care about this crap, there are loads of shots of the stage from all angles, and plenty of Dio devil horns. That's the one thing - he didn't hold back on his use of the 'horns' and at some points he is a little bit campy. Heavy metal, but campy. Heavy metal campy!

It's the one area where I have a critique of the band. Dio is a little bit on the edge of Spinal Tap with some of his antics and his overall look. My buddy Dave said it best when he said "The whole wispy hair elfin thing just isn't really doing it for me." But, hell, it's Dio. What are ya gonna do? He's always been true to himself, so good for him. I'll accept it.

Side note: You know how Johnny Depp based his character in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on Keith Richards? I think they based Gollum in the Lord of the Rings on Dio. I'm just saying...

Back to the DVD. The audio is great. Geezer is mainly in the left speaker and Iommi is to the right. If you unplug one of your speakers you can hear the other guy shine. I suggest you unplug Iommi's side and bask in the insane talent that is Geezer Butler.

But you will also note when you take Iommi's side out of the mix that there are a lot of keyboards and even some guitar in the background that is being supplied by someone offstage to help fill in the sound. We actually meet this guy in the bonus material. His name is Scott Warren and he's been playing with Dio for years.

The bonus material is pretty good. You get the story of how they got back together and how much they love this music. Iommi says about five times that he was sick of playing the same 10 songs with Ozzy for eight years, and even notes that when the Ozzy reunion started, the shows were two hours but slowly whittled down to an hour or less. He clearly savors this version of Sabbath.

Which makes me wonder what is next? They could easily crank out another album. Or maybe they will let it go for a few more years. For sure there is no bad blood between these four. One can hope they'll do another tour at some point. I'll be there. In the meantime, we have the DVD!