Friday, May 30, 2008

Condi Rice Parties With KISS

Interesting AP story today about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being in Stockholm Sweden the same night as KISS.

According to the article, she ran into them as they were all staying at the same hotel. Here's the story:

In a departure from her normally staid diplomatic duties, Rice met the legendary rock quartet when they happened to share a hotel in the Swedish capital. Rice was in Stockholm on Thursday for an international conference on Iraq. KISS had a sold-out gig to play on Friday.

"I was thrilled," a beaming US secretary of state said of her late-night encounter with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the executive lounge of the Sheraton Hotel where they signed autographs and handed out backstage passes (good for a year) and T-shirts to her and her staff.

Condoleezza Rice may be a top diplomat who once aspired to being a concert pianist but she let her hair down a bit in Stockholm to meet the flamboyant rock group KISS.

"For someone who likes the whole range of music, it was really fun to meet KISS," Rice said on the plane taking her to talks with Iceland's leaders in Reykjavik. She also noted that the band seemed well informed on current events.

Her aides showed reporters digital photographs of Rice smiling and chatting to the long-haired band members who were dressed casually rather than in their flamboyant stage costumes of black leather and painted faces. Rice, who had just returned from a dinner with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, appeared in her usual business attire.

KISS, who are on a European tour, weren't wearing their trademark stage makeup, but were recognizable as rock stars to even non-fans by their hair, according to State Department officials who were with Rice.

Rice, a classically trained pianist, said she has eclectic musical tastes ranging from Beethoven to Bruce Springsteen. Hard stadium rockers like KISS are included in the mix and Rice said her favorite tune of theirs is "Rock and Roll All Nite."

But look at the photo - it looks like she met THREE members of KISS and a partially melted plastic statue of Paul Stanley!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Classic Album Series - Deep Purple Machine Head

Last night on VH1 Classic, I caught the Classic Album Series episode on the making of Deep Purple's Machine Head album. It was their breakthrough release that had Smoke on the Water, Space Truckin' and Highway Star - all Purple staples - as well as the lesser known but very killer Pictures of Home, Maybe I'm A Leo and Lazy.

The recording of the album is laid out well in the song Smoke on the Water, but is re-told in much more detail in the hour long episode. The band was looking for a place to record its next release, and they wound up in Switzerland to record at a casino, using the Rolling Stones mobile studio truck to capture the sound.

One of the really cool things the Stones did in the 70s was to embrace this idea of the mobile recording studio - a truck that had all of the recording equipment (board, tape decks, associated gear) - that could be set up literally anywhere, effectively turning that spot into a recording studio. Want to record in a field? Roll the truck up and you're set.

So Purple just had to find the right location. But the casino that they booked burnt down during a Frank Zappa show the night before they were supposed to record (check the lyrics in Smoke on the Water for the details).

They wound up in the Grand Hotel in Montreux, which was shut down for a few weeks and they took it because it was the only thing available. It was gray and dingy inside, and they wound up setting up in basically a hallway. To get back to the truck to hear playbacks, they had to go all the way to the other side of the hotel, including walking on parts of the roof outside, over scaffolding, through the snow etc., so they tended to trust their producer Martin Birch's ear and not bother.

They had three and a half weeks to finish the album so they were under the gun. All the songs were recorded live with no overdubs. If they made a mistake, they did the song over from scratch.

All five of the Purple members are interviewed in the show, which is interesting because guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has been on the outs for more than ten years, replaced by Steve Morse, who apparently is much easier to get along with.

The stories behind how some of the songs were written is the key to the whole episode. People brought in bits and pieces and they were all built upon. Keyboardist Jon Lord shows how he gets his MEAN Hammond tone - instead of running the Hammond through the rotating Leslie speaker that everyone uses, he fed it into a Marshall amplifier. When you hear those keyboard parts isolated, they sound like heavy guitar parts.

In fact I realized that Jon Lord is the key to that band's sound. The editor of Guitar Player Magazine is interviewed in the show and he notes that the difference between Purple and other heavy bands of the era like Sabbath and Zeppelin was that Purple had a heavy full-time keyboard player. He's right! Outside of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman (and maybe The Band's Garth Hudson), who else was playing keyboards like this back in the late 60s/early 70s?

The album (and this episode) also highlight that Deep Purple was primarily a live band. They excelled at jamming and playing off of each other - sadly a lost art today.

In fact, when I saw the reunited version of this Purple lineup in the 80s, I noticed that they did more jamming onstage than I had ever seen.

One funny personal story comes to mind. My friend Bill and I saw the band at the Shoreline on the House of the Blue Light tour (where Bad Company opened). During one of the jams, Blackmore was messing with the tuning on his guitar. He then worked something out with bassist Roger Glover where they traded instruments in a jam (in front of about 20,000 people).

He handed his guitar to Glover and started playing Glover's bass over by Jon Lord while the two watched Glover move to center stage to take a solo. After noodling for a minute, Glover looked at Blackmore with a "what the hell" look and Lord and Blackmore started laughing. Basically Blackmore had thrown his guitar totally out of tune and then handed it to Glover, who had no idea. Nice practical joke in front of a sold out crowd!

Anyway, I am not sure if VH1 cut any parts out of the episode to fit it into an hour slot, but what I saw was very enlightening. To give an example of how killer the band was in the 70s, check this out:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amazing KISS Cover

As some of you KISS fans know, the band will do different songs in different countries, based on hits they had there in the past. For example, they do the song Shandi in Australia because it was a big hit there. But they usually don't play it anywhere else on the road.

Well, here is a clip from Japan where they bust out a cover I ain't NEVER heard 'round here before...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Working On The Job

And speaking of concealed alcohol (see my last post), check out this whiz-bang desk from a 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics, as unearthed by Modern Mechanix and reported on by Valleywag:

Ah, the good old days of 1947: a simpler time, when titans sat astride the corporate world, and those titans had desks appropriate to men with superhuman prestige—desks that were acknowledgments of the widespread on-the-job alcoholism that was the style at the time. executive dream desk with everything a man could possibly desire: a 'work' side with a six-tube radio, Teletalk Intercommunication Master Unit, and electronic dictaphone; and a 'play' side with a wet bar and fridge.

I bet this thing was made of steel and weighed a couple of tons.

The Modern Mechanix blog is so full of great stuff like this that I added it to the Blogroll.

Mmmmm - Tasty!

In a re-post of a posting (meaning, I am stealing this from someone but I don't know who), we find today's classic nugget of goodness:

In a move sure to make the Department Of Homeland Security cringe and groms everywhere puke, Reef has introduced the Dram -- a sandal with a flask capable of holding up to three ounces of liquor, err, liquid encapsulated in the heel.

The Dram -- a common term for measuring one ounce of liquid -- is the latest addition to Reef's "thirst-quenching technology" line. Following the success of the Fanning sandal, which conceals a bottle opener in the heel, the Dram ups the ante on drunken-delinquent footwear. Features include a hidden plastic canteen in the heel with a screw cap that can be opened by using a key that is included, a miniature funnel to insure a clean pour, and a measuring bar on the footbed that shows how much booze is left in your shoe. The sandal also features a martini-shaker tread pattern.

Very creative footwear. I appreciate that they are not trying to tout the fact that the liquid sole may provide added cushioning, or that beach-goers can make sure they stay hydrated without having to lug water bottles around.

Nope - it's all about the booze!

Me, I'd rather go thirsty than drink some foot-stank heated slew that has spent all of its time between the ground and someone's gross foot.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Coors Crap Water to Power Democrats

From the AP yesterday:

Some corporations donate dollars and others donate services. Molson Coors is donating fuel made mostly out of beer waste to the Democratic National Convention.

The Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee said Wednesday that Molson Coors will donate all the ethanol-gasoline fuel blend the convention's fleet of flex-fuel vehicles will need.

The fuel, known as E85, is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The ethanol is made from beer lost during packaging or rejected for quality reasons at the company's brewery in Golden. The Denver company began converting waste beer to ethanol in 1996 and today produces about 3 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Molson Coors, one of the world's largest brewers, also will provide beer for some events during the convention.

Let me get this straight - they reject some batches of Coors beer for 'quality reasons?'

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DVD Review - The Who Tommy Live

I recently got the triple DVD set "The Who - Tommy and Quadrophenia Live."

Honestly, I bought it for the Quadrophenia disc (which I have not watched yet and will review separately). I saw the "Who Review" tour in 1989, from which this Tommy performance is taken. I remember hovering over my stereo to capture the New York tour premiere, which was simulcast live on the radio and was the band's first full performance of Tommy in more than 15 years.

It was a mind blowing experience. Remember, Pete's hearing was reportedly totally shot, so when Daltry started the show with "Can we have a little quiet?" I thought he was going to ask the crowd to not be too over the top due to Pete's ears. Which would have been a deal breaker. But he instead said, "Like Keith Moon used to say, 'Have a little respect. It's a FUCKING OPERA!'"

And with that, the band launched into the Overture.

Now, I saw the band twice on this tour and was NOT a big fan of the giant lineup - four horn players, three back up singers etc. Lame shit. But that lineup actually lent itself really well to Tommy.

So, back to the DVD. The band played Tommy all the way through only twice on this tour. The New York show I just mentioned, and a show in Los Angeles, captured on this DVD. At all the other shows on this tour, including the ones I saw, they did a stealthy portion of Tommy, but not the whole shebang end to end.

The trouble with this DVD is that the LA show had guest stars. Steve Winwood doing Eyesight to the Blind; Patty LaBelle doing Acid Queen; Billy Idol doing Cousin Kevin. Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie; Elton John as Pinball Wizard. Blech. I so would have preferred the New York show on DVD, where there were no guests.

So I was kind of underwhelmed by this DVD for all of those reasons: not a big fan of this lineup, the guest stars, Daltry's horrible haircut and earring.

But then I noticed that there was a DVD bonus option of running commentary by Daltry and Townshend from 2005. The concert plays in the background and these two pop up on screen to talk about all sorts of things. This bonus feature saved the disc for me as we hear all sorts of nuggets about the tour, how Pete wrote Tommy, etc. Some examples:

--Pete admits the whole 1989 tour was put together so they could make mounds of cash.

--Daltry hated the big band format as much as I did, and Pete admits it wasn't really a rock show, but more of a music revue doing Who tunes. He was very insecure musically and added all of those band members to help him out.

--They had no idea if Elton John was going to show up to that LA show until he appeared onstage. He missed rehearsal and soundcheck. And you can hear the difference in Pinball Wizard as they lowered the key dramatically for him.

--Townshend asked bassist John Entwistle to write the Tommy songs about child abuse (Cousin Kevin and Fiddle About) because he couldn't touch those topics due to his own experience of abuse as a child.

--Daltry hated the guest stars at the LA show as much as I did because they took the best songs to sing and he was sort of relegated to stand around in the back a lot.

--Pete talks about the writing of Tommy song by song as the concert unfolds. It is fascinating to hear him go over the storyline in such depth and to hear what his thought process was. I learned a lot. For example, he talks about how the piece reflects a lot of what the Europe post-war generation was going through (Roger Waters explores this throughout his career as well), and how that related to the Vietnam era, etc. Lots of good info.

So, in all, I'd recommend this disc as a pretty good live version of Tommy, but more so for the insight you get from Daltry and Townshend throughout.

Looks like the Quadrophenia concert from 1996 has the same commentary option. But I saw that tour as well and am really jazzed about seeing the live version, so I have a feeling I will like that DVD more overall. They lumped the non-Tommy and Quadrophenia tour songs on a third DVD, which I have not watched yet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Awesome UFO Video

Disregard the age lines on the keyboard players' face. This video from 2005 will melt ALL of our faces. (Thanks to my colorfield bud Pat for sending it to me)

This is the version of UFO (minus the orchestra) that my wife and I saw in 2005 at the Hard Rock in Chicago. Jason Bonham was still the bands' drummer and rocks it in this vid.

UFO just made it through Portland a couple of Thursdays ago. I missed it but Pat said they were killer. Original drummer Andy Parker was back. Pat said he looked like he was in pain all night but played great. We've all seen musicians like that. Classic!

BTW, I love videos that show bands recording (not miming) live in the studio. And man can Phil Mogg still sing! En-joy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Little Rush Drummer Dude

I am a bit busy with work this morning so I'll get your week started with this cute little clip of this talented four year old playing the intro to Rush's Far Cry. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CNN Covers Maiden

On the heels of my rant about CNN and some of its lame coverage, the news outlet today posted a surprisingly positive article about the raging popularity of Iron Maiden around the world.

The article stems from their recent appearance at Sao Paulo's Palmeiras Stadium.

Some nuggets:

"In South America, it's like verging on hysteria," says Adrian Smith, one of the group's three guitarists. "We got here to the hotel yesterday and there 2,300 people screaming. They were screaming up until sort of midnight last night. I could hear them chanting 'Maiden, Maiden.' I woke up late today and I sort of stumbled down to the café because I couldn't get any room service. I just wanted a cup of coffee, you know."

[Eddie, Maiden's mascot] the most outrageous and the biggest rock star there's ever been," says Iron Maiden's lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. "And it's great because we don't have to be. We can just concentrate on doing what we do. The truth is we're not actually any of us interested in the rock star thing. We're very pleased that the paparazzi find us utterly, utterly uninteresting."

"Iron Maiden has never relied on radio play or TV or the conventional forms of media that a lot of music bands rely on," says Sam Dunn, a documentary filmmaker and Maiden fan who's making a film of the group's "Somewhere Back in Time" tour. "I think for the fans, that's what's most special. That it's still driven by that communication and that it's a community of fans, and we don't have to rely on the major media corporations to tell us that this is the music we should be listening to, we're listening to it because we want to."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rush Drummer Passes Away

Original Rush drummer John Rutsey died over the weekend at age 55. Details about what happened have not been released.

Rutsey was on the first Rush album (which includes their first big tune Working Man), before he quit the band because he didn't want to tour and had musical differences with the others.

Neil Peart soon joined and the rest is Rushtory.

Over the years I became curious whatever happened to Rutsey. I ran into this interview with Alex Lifeson, who talked a bit about Rutsey on Rockline:

In a 1989 Rockline interview, Alex Lifeson remarked, "John's still around. I see John quite often. He gave up playing shortly after he left the band and went into bodybuilding. He competed on an amateur level for a while, doing that for a few years, and has sort of been in and out of that, but he still works out, and I work out with him a few times a week at a local gym - at a Gold's, here in Toronto."

In a later interview in the 90s, Alex said he didn't hang out with Rutsey anymore but didn't say why.

Close to the Edgefield

It was announced (very quietly I might add) that Yes is indeed making a trip to Oregon on its upcoming tour. But not to any of the places I would have guessed.

They are playing at the McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon. The Edgefield is one of the many killer McMenamins brewpubs throughout Oregon. Wikipedia explains it well:

McMenamins was founded by Mike and Brian McMenamin, who grew up in Portland. Mike learned the ins-and-outs of the restaurant business while working at a sub shop as a student at Oregon State University. After a series of failed restaurant ventures in the Portland area, the brothers began establishing pubs throughout the metropolitan area. In 1985 they created the first post-Prohibition brewpub (the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House in southwest Portland in February 1984) in Oregon after the brewing industry in Oregon — including the McMenamins — successfully lobbied the state legislature to change liquor laws to make such an establishment legal.

As the brothers expand their restaurant chain, they have replicated core elements of their menu and decor. Yet most locations, particularly the historical properties, still retain a sense of individualism. Many in Portland consider the chain to be a high-profile component of Portland culture since the 1980s. Their respectful renovation and rehabilitation of historical locations throughout the city, their contributions to the popularity of a microbrew culture, and the Grateful Dead-inspired decor make them almost a required part of any visitor's tour.

Many of the McMenamins brewpubs have live music, but none can support the girth of a band like Yes except Edgefield. Should be a great gig - Sunday August 17 (the day after my Floydian Slips show in Eugene). Tickets for the Yes show go on sale this Saturday but I hear there is a pre-sale on Thursday.

I have to give credit to colorfield bassist Mike Budd for the "Close to the Edgefield" title. Thanks, Mike. Clever.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Billboard Interviews Bruce Dickinson

As Iron Maiden continues its worldwide Somewhere Back in Time tour (which I will see on June 2 in Washington), Billboard Magazine posted a pretty good interview with singer Bruce Dickinson yesterday.

For tried and true Maiden fans, there's not a lot of new stuff in the interview, but I thought these two quotes were telling:

Q: How did you develop as an artist during those solo years?

Dickinson: I was a much deeper musician by the time I got to "Chemical Wedding" than I ever was during the latter two or three albums with Maiden. I was much more serious about it. Roy Z, who was my producer and collaborator, said, "You've got to go back. You've done it, you've changed yourself around, it's worked. But the world needs Iron Maiden."

And I thought, "It does." Then we had a meeting, myself and Steve. He was a bit leery at first. His main thing was wanting to know, if I came back, that I wasn't going to leave again. I said, "Quite the contrary -- if we glue it all back together again, we could do stuff that's better than we ever thought possible. It could be bigger than we ever dreamed of."

And that's pretty much the way it's turned out. It's a really exciting place to be at the moment.

Q: So how would you compare Maiden now with the group of, say, 25 years ago?

Dickinson: The way we play the songs now is in many ways more powerful, it's more under control. It's not like somebody running so fast that their legs are running away underneath them, which is kind of what it was like in the '80s. This is a mature runner now who knows the pace and has always got something in the tank for the sprint when it's appropriate. We've reached that sweet spot.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

CD Review - Rush Snakes & Arrows Live

Snakes & Arrows Live is Rush’s latest (and sixth) live release, from last years’ leg of the tour supporting Snakes & Arrows, Rush’s best new release in ages. The band thinks so too, as they play nine (yes nine) songs off the new album on the tour. More new material busted out on a tour since probably Power Windows, where they did the whole album minus one song.

Keeping in mind that this was the exact set list of the show I saw last year, here is my rundown of the new live CD song by song. By the way, I have mostly nothing but good things to say, so if you don’t like Rush, you can maybe skip this post!

Limelight is fairly obligatory but as usual very solid. This song fits anywhere in the show – first, last, encore, whatever.

Digital Man is face melting, especially in Alex’s department. This is great example of how the band is so polished and confident at this stage that they can play very much ‘outside of the lines’ on their older material. They have moved some things around in the song, and the ending is one big jam. I feel like they put this song second so they could jam it a bit and get loose for the rest of the show. Neil beats the shit out of his kit in the end outro. In fact they all are rocking this one as if it’s a set closer. Very nice.

Entre Nous is such a gorgeous song and for sure was one of the big surprises from the tour. I mean, who would have thought they would have brought this one out? Never done before live, either. Also, it was very nice to see Alex play the acoustic parts on an actual acoustic guitar (mounted on a stand so he could switch to electric quickly), instead of using a sample of an acoustic guitar triggered by his electric, like he does a lot in other songs. Aside from doubling the last chorus, they play it just like the CD

Mission from Hold Your Fire. One of those mid 80s keyboard songs that led to everyone starting to lose interest in the band. But it’s catchy, and the center section is killer and intricate. Like Rush is saying, “Hey, we can write a catchy radio friendly song, but also blow people’s minds in the center section.” Also, Alex’s face-ripping live guitar tone really makes songs like this rock harder than their original studio version, even though they stick to the arrangement exactly.

Freewill is an island of awesome in the set list. You cannot go wrong with this song. One of my favorite Rush songs by far and I will never get sick of it, especially live. That crazy center section is one of the best rock moments ever created. OK, do I like the song? Yes. Oh, and Geddy can still hit that screaming high last verse. Pretty amazing for his age.

The Main Monkey Business – The first of four instrumentals in the the show. It’s long at more than six minutes and is the first of the nine new Snakes and Arrows songs. It’s no YYZ but it’s pretty damn fine. Catchy. Lots of great changes, different moods and feels. Fits right in with the rest of the stuff played already and is a nice transition to all of the other Snakes and Arrows songs we’re going to get barraged with over the show. Particularly bluesy and tasty solo from Alex on this one.

The Larger Bowl – One of the strongest Snakes & Arrows tunes in my book. It has everything I like about the album. Based on acoustic guitar, catchy vocals, bluesy guitar solos. If you break this song down, though, it’s really one big chorus. The verses and choruses are musically the same. That’s a rarity for Rush, and within this simple structure they keep changing the coloring of the instruments and intensity. Good for Rush to write a ‘it’s just one big chorus’ song!

Secret Touch – So after a couple of forays into the new album, we go back into the Rush repertoire with Secret Touch from Vapor Trails. This one is pretty pummeling in parts and catchy in others. There is some real DISSONANCE in this one. Reminds me how pissed off they sounded on most of that album in general. It’s not my favorite but it has good moments.

Circumstances – So after all of this relatively new Rush stuff, the boys dive back to the Hemispheres album for a tuned-down version of Circumstances. The riff sounds heavier with the guitars tuned down a whole step to help Geddy sing the song (it’s still tourniquet underwear high). A great live version – the center section is also powerful and rocking. This one benefits from the years of experience the band has in between writing the thing and now.

Between the Wheels – The last song off of Grace Under Pressure. This song is pretty weird. Very dissonant. It’s actually one of my favorite songs from that album but if I HAD to take a leak at the concert, I might run out for the first half of this one. The saving grace of this song (again) is Lifeson’s solo at the end. And the chorus. Soaring, catchy and moody. I can see why they keep playing this one live. It does stand the test of time. And sadly, the topic is still valid:

We can go from boom to bust
From dreams to a bowl of dust
We can fall from rockets' red glare
Down to "Brother can you spare..."
Another war
Another wasteland
And another lost generation


Dreamline – Not a horrible song but probably my least favorite in the whole set. If I could hold out through Between the Wheels, Dreamline is my pee break song. Just doesn’t do much for me and they seem to play it on every tour. This was the last song in set one. We come back from the break to a funny intro video and then five songs off of Snakes & Arrows in a row.

Far Cry – Great song. Just like all of Snakes & Arrows, it is a bit of a throwback to the band’s past but with a very modern spin. The riff is classic Rush and the song just has a great groove and chorus. I can see this one sticking around the set list on tours to come. It seems to achieve what they TRIED to do a lot in the 80s and 90s which was to write a catchy song without losing the essence of Rush, which is rocking musicianship, weird changes, etc. It has a heaviness missing from the 80s stuff, without the heaviness sounding forced like on some of the 90s stuff and even Vapor Trails. They just hit a groove with this one.

Working Them Angels – I could also see this one sticking around the set list for tours to come. A great interplay between acoustic parts and rocking parts. I also love the message. “All my life I’ve been working them angels overtime.” You ever feel that way? Like, we are blazing through life, sometimes not being very careful yet something keeps us from fucking up so bad we die? Great song overall and they beat the shit out of it live.

Snakes & Arrows – Sort of like Working Them Angels part two. Again, very cool interplay between acoustic and super heavy electric. This one took longer for me to get into, but I enjoy it now. It has a weird chord structure like Secret Touch. And, the vocals don’t flow as well the other S&A songs but you can’t deny the greatness of the “No one gets to their Heaven without a fight” chorus.

Spindrift – They get noisier and noisier in this set, culminating in this song. I am not a big fan of this one. The only song on this live album I will likely skip.

The Way the Wind Blows – Another one of my new favorites. When has Rush been this bluesy? I wonder if this song came right from their jams on the Feedback album. Lyrically this one really hits it for me:

Now it's come to this
Wide-eyed armies of the faithful
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Pray, and pass the ammunition

Driving, power riff gives way to acoustic chorus – a nice touch. Another song I hope they keep around for a long time.

So, after all of this new material, the band “rewards” us with some classic gems.

Subdivisions – Always loved this song. It sounds so sad and melancholy and it reminds me every time I hear it that this is how I felt back in 1982-83 when it first came out. Just going into high school and being very insecure and unsure. Adolescence. What you gonna do? I never get sick of it. One of their best songs of the post Moving Pictures period. My favorite live version is on A Show of Hands but this one doesn’t disappoint.

Natural Science – Gorgeous intro. Very relaxed. Sung very laid back by Geddy. The rest rips your face clean off. This is one of those songs where you say “This is what I came to this concert to see.”

Witch Hunt – Same as above. Such a great gem to hear live. Between this and Natural Science, Digital Man, Circumstances, Entre Nous and Passage to Bangkok, I have to laud them for bringing out so many nuggets on this tour. Nice short solo at the end of this live version

Malignant Narcissism – A close second to YYZ in the instrumental department. Really rocking. Geddy’s weird pseudo-slap technique is featured here. There is some YYZ-esque bass and drum fills trading back and forth.

Drum solo – Obligatory but killer. More fun to see than to listen to but yeah, Neil hasn’t lost a step over all these years. Still the master.

Hope – Last tour, Geddy and Alex did acoustic versions of some songs as a follow up to the drum solo, and it was a nice switch in the energy. Along those same lines, Alex pulls out the acoustic instrumental Hope to change the mood after the drum onslaught.

Distant Early Warning – Good tune. Well done. I can take it or leave it at this point. They were alternating this with something from Feedback on the tour and opted for this song for the live CD.

Spirit of Radio – As with Limelight, totally obligatory. The one song (besides Tom Sawyer) that they HAVE to play every time. Luckily it’s a great tune. I don’t really have a favorite live version but maybe Exit Stage Left since the song was so new at the time it was recorded. Same with Tom Sawyer.

Tom Sawyer – see above.

One Little Victory – The encore starts. More angry music from Vapor Trails. Great riff.

A Passage to Bangkok – Sweet! And in the original key no less. Geddy almost hits all the notes. Very good nugget to bring back.

YYZ – Interesting closing number. After Passage, Geddy must be spent vocally so they bust through this baby.

This is a LONG night of music, people. The Snakes & Arrows live CD really captures the tour. I will see the band in June and will let you know how the set list changes from this first leg. If you want some recent live Rush, this one and R30 are top notch. I’d pass on Rush in Rio, as the audio is not nearly as crisp.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nice Day and Random Grumble

I am in the Bay Area for business. I get here about once every five or six weeks and stay three or four days. I have been lucky enough to hit the area, very randomly, when some of my favorite bands have rolled through town.

In fact, I saw Heaven and Hell and Roger Waters on two separate trips down here last year.

So I should have known better. Turns out Asia played last night in San Francisco. Their last gig of the US tour, and who knows when/if they'll ever be back. Just found out tonight, and of course it was my only free night and I totally could have gone!

I had tickets for Portland last year but one of 'em needed open heart surgery so they cancelled my gig. I guess I forgive them.

Anyway, I am not going to complain. The weather is great and it's always nice to be here, even when it's raining!

Neil Young Unveils Archives on Blu-ray at JavaOne

According to the SF Chronicle a few minutes ago:

Singer Neil Young, in dark sunglasses and a baseball cap, appeared on stage at the Java One conference to unveil his archive of music and photos on Blu-ray.

Young, whose music dates back to 1963, said he's wanted to offer a complete retrospective since the 1980s but was held back by technology. Now with Blu-ray, the next-generation, high-definition DVD, he can offer an extensive library of music and photos on a disc. Fans can listen to high-quality tracks while browsing photos at the same time, as well as access an Internet archive with more information.

"This is all ancient history up close," he joked.

Neil was quoted in this press release:

"Previously, there was no way to browse archival material on a Disc and listen to a song in high resolution at the same time. The technology had not yet evolved to that capability," said Young. "It is important for me that the user experience the high resolution music along with the archival visual material. Previous technology required unacceptable quality compromises. I am glad we waited and got it right. And here is something really new, we will be able to add content to already released Blu-ray Disc archive volumes by downloading it, whether it is music, film or vintage recording sessions, recently found photographs, or other archival materials that were located after the release of that volume. Users will be able to download any of these archival materials and they will automatically be assigned to their place in the Chronology timeline."

Sounds pretty cool. Reminds me of when Peter Gabriel put out one of the first multimedia releases on CD-ROM in the 90s and everyone said, "what is a CD-ROM?"

Of course, it gives Ol' Neil the power to noodle with the releases years after they are 'done,' which I guarantee he will do until the day he dies.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Neil Young to Make Announcement at JavaOne - WTF?

My day job involves doing public relations for high tech companies. So I am very familiar with developer trade shows like JavaOne, which is put on by Sun Microsystems every year. In fact, we sometime try to get our clients to speak at this and other trade shows like it.

But I did a double take when I saw that Neil Young was going to make an appearance at JavaOne tomorrow. Not just to play some songs, but to make an announcement with Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Neil recently said he was postponing the release of his Archives project (in the works longer than Guns and Roses Chinese Democracy) so it could be released on Blu-Ray DVD, which uses Java scripting for the multi-media menu functions.

Could tomorrow's announcement be about the Archives project? Weird that Young would align with a big company though, given his very consistent and vocal stance against anything that smacks of corporate sponsorship.

But consistency hasn't always been Neil's strong point - he was pro-Reagan in the 80s and his musical genre shifts speak for themselves. So, we'll see what this is all about.

InformationWeek posted a funny send up of the appearance here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Movie Review: The U.S. vs. John Lennon

VH1 Classic ran the 2006 movie The U.S. vs. John Lennon, and I watched it last week with astounded fascination.

The two hour film documents how Lennon and Yoko Ono became vocal peace activists in the late 60s and early 70s, and by aligning themselves with radical revolutionary figures, drew the attention of the Nixon Administration.

Outside of his Ghandi-esque "Give Peace A Chance" efforts, Lennon met with and provided support and money to radicals Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale, and this made Nixon and his cronies ramp up their paranoia towards Lennon and Ono.

They began to harass him - tapping his phone, following him, etc. The loudest shoe dropped when they revoked his temporary Visa and began motions to deport him.

A courageous lawyer took Lennon and Ono's case on and was able to string it out until the Nixon administration crumbled and they were finally granted permanent residence status in the mid 70s.

Not to get deep into politics on this blog, but the parallels between the power mongering and fear of freedom of speech between the Nixon administration and the current regime in the U.S. is shocking.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Journey Manager Dishes More Dirt

A while back I posted a link to an interview with ex-Journey manager and nut job/music biz genius Herbie Herbert. This guy is an old school manager. Meaning, he believed in ‘building a brand’ from album cover art to relentless touring.

He had a vision for how to ‘make’ a band from nothing into a mega-success, and was not opposed to switching band members around (even singers) to make it happen. He also knew that it took years to do – maybe decades. These days that is not even an option. The industry doesn’t give you ten minutes!

There is a second interview on Melodic Rock with Herbert that is totally worth the read. In it, we get more Journey nuggets like:

...How old was Perry when he sang most of these songs, 30, 31, 32, 33, when you're in your 40s or 50's, forget about it...And for whatever reason, the band, Journey has always had an obsession with playing the songs in the original key. Despite the logic, the unavoidable logic, that if Steve Perry was still in the band, and I know that there's a giant public out there that would love nothing more, they're clueless to the fact that the guy can't sing anymore.

Or this music biz insight:

Columbia let Chicago and Heart and Journey and Santana and all these brands that they branded for so long, let 'em go away and they're a huge success. Heart at Capitol, Chicago and Warner Brothers, Santana obviously with Clive Davis but previously with Polygram. What the fuck are they thinkin'? What the fuck? This stuff took so long and so much money to cume up the gross impressions over such a long duration to become nigh onto, if not a household word. This is the hardest thing to achieve.

And the precipitous slide into the abyss, do you know when it started? When Steve Jobs took fuckin' a week to get every CEO, every president in the fuckin' music business to drink the Kool-aid. And give their entire catalogs, opening Pandora's digital box, and that shit will never get back in the box, and that's all master recordings going out digitally. And the way music is stored, distributed, sold and listened to has completely changed and they're not invited to the party.

They get paid for their catalog, a little bit, but the real beneficiary is Steve Jobs who really dominates the business from not only software and the delivery side of it but also the hardware and how people listen. The biggest mogul in the history of the business and I think he spent a weekend figuring out how to be the biggest music business mogul in history.

But one of the most interesting things are his comments about why bands re-record their older material with new singers, members etc. I posted a while back on the rumor that KISS was doing that. Journey is doing it as well. They have a 3 CD release coming out (exclusively at Wal Mart, like the Eagles blockbuster Long Road Out of Eden), with one CD of new tunes and another with re-recorded versions of ‘the classics.’ Here is what Herbert says about all of this:

...Sometimes this stuff gets re-recorded and is much better. It's much better. One artist and manager that took my advice and actually came to my studio to do it was Bill Thompson with the Jefferson Starship and Mickey Thomas and we took these records and these tracks and I remember one day we figured out that the average cost of each track of their greatest hits record was in excess of $150,000. Many of them were produced by guys like Ron Nevison and Peter Wolf and yadda, yadda, yadda, and I said let's come in, and I really believe in today's age with all of our new, modern recording technology, that in complete A-B comparisons we can smoke every aspect of every one of your greatest hits. Deeper, broader bandwidth, better stereo soundstage, better tuning and timing and record quality, reduce of noise floor and I mean the only thing that would be questionable is the quality of the vocal performance. If you can deliver that vocal as well or better than the original we can absolutely eclipse all the original recordings. And we did that and we did it for $15,000 for 15 songs. So when you have a second shot at it, you know like 'Boy would I like to have another whack at that.' And sometimes you can hit it out of the park.

I don't agree with that last bit AT ALL. I think there is magic in most original recordings and a lot of times even in remixes of classic albums, something gets lost. Maybe you can make them technically better, yeah - but not emotionally.

It will be interesting to see if the new singer, this upcoming CD and the Wal Mart thing can put Journey back on the map. Like I care.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Waters' Pig - Lost and Found

I posted a couple of days ago about Roger Waters' Obama-voting pig at the Coachella festival last weekend.

What I didn't mention was that the pig drifted off on its own and was lost for a couple of days. Soul searching? Looking for food? Or just caught in a cross wind...

But it's been found! The Brooklyn Vegan reported:

Susan Stolz called The Desert Sun this morning saying she and her husband found a glob of vinyl in their driveway yesterday at the Hideaway Golf Club in La Quinta. Not sure what it was, they threw it away. This morning, they read about the missing pig in the newspaper and e-mailed the following to Coachella organizers.

"It is entirely possible that I have at least part of your pig. My husband and I live at the Hideaway. We found a large pile of plastic yesterday morning on our driveway. It has some blue, yellow and silver paint. I must warn you that it is not in good shape. Maybe the balloon exploded or something. However, if you'd like to check it out, just let me know. "

"We went and got the pig out of the trash and put him in the garage," Stolz said. "We have laughed our heads off."

Coachella organizers offered a $10,000 reward for the return of the pig. They were expecting that it be found in tattlers across the desert. But Stoltz and another couple found remnants of the pig, so they will share the $10,000 and also receive lifetime tickets to Coachella.

It's not the first time Waters has lost his flying pig. Back in 1977, it floated away on the second day of a photo shoot at the Battersea Power Station in London and was later recovered.

Here is a YouTube of the pig flying the coop last weekend: