Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rare Kate Bush Live Video

I recently re-bought Kate Bush Hounds of Love, which I listened to into oblivion in college. I liked the Sgt Pepper-esque format of five separate songs on side one and a "mini rock opera" on side two. I also thought the rock opera story was cool.

Still not sure if I got it right, but I think it has to do with someone dying and trying to get back in touch with his loved ones, and basically the journey to that big white light at the end of tunnel.

Today I have reverted to thinking Kate is an acquired taste, as some of the other albums of hers I listened to in college don't hold up as well for me. I think her (over) use of the Fairlight synthesizer has something to do with it. I'm a bigger fan of "real" drum sounds. But hey, whatever works.

What some people may not know is that David Gilmour discovered Kate Bush in the late 70s and funded her first professional demo, which led to the start of her career. Wikipedia has a good history of her career if you are so inclined.

The thing I thought was interesting was that she had so much success with only one tour ever. She hit the road for a few weeks in 1979 and never again. So any live one-off with Kate is a bit of a rarity.

So dig the video below, with David Gilmour sporting his late 80s semi-mullet to boot. The bass player is Tony Franklin, who was in The Firm. It's not the best live performance I have ever seen but Kate is confident and again, it's cool to see her belt one out live. Enjoy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

XM Radio Gets It Right With McCartney Channel

I have been listening a lot lately to XM Radio channel 27, which is called Paul McCartney's Fireman Radio. The channel runs for a month and plays nothing but Paul McCartney solo stuff, Wings and the three Fireman albums. The only time you hear a Beatles tune is if they run a live McCartney/Wings version of it, of which there are plenty, so you get a fair amount of Beatles too.

I know a lot of people are totally sick of McCartney and probably feel like 24/7 of the man is akin to going to the dentist. But I have to say, I am enjoying it quite a bit.

He has had such a long career, there is a lot to choose from. And unlike XM Radio's Zeppelin channel, they are getting the playlist right.

The Zep channel was basically a souped up rock-block weekend for a month. Yeah, they played every track from the 8 or 9 albums, but they barely dipped into the live stuff (even official releases like the BBC concerts and Song Remains the Same). The only solo stuff they played was Robert Plant's more popular stuff. No Firm even. It sucked.

In contrast, I have heard a bunch of very deep McCartney album cuts (Ram On, for example), as well as stuff that is fairly obscure. For example, there was a short instrumental called In Private that I thought was from a Fireman album. But a quick iTunes search told me it was a bonus track from the deluxe version of Memory Almost Full.

So I bought the song. There have been a few other cool tracks I have bought as one-offs after hearing them, actually. Which I guess is the idea.

They are for sure pimping the new Fireman album but that's OK, as I like that as well.

Anyway, good for XM for getting it right this time. What other artists would benefit from this format? They ought to have a Dylan channel that not only plays the umpteen hundred Dylan albums but goes into his stuff with The Band and how about the umpteen thousand cover versions of his songs? I don't expect you'd hear many repeats on that channel! Maybe they have it in the works? Who else?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yes Men Cancel Tour, Retire

Yes has officially cancelled its entire 40th anniversary tour due to emergency surgery Chris Squire needed on his leg last week. Originally the band was going to cancel part of the tour but now the whole thing is dust, according to an email I got from Yesworld:

The "In The Present Tour," featuring Yes' Steve Howe, Chris Squire,and Alan White, is cancelling the remaining scheduled shows. Founding Yes member, Chris Squire, underwent surgery on his leg on February 11, 2009. The operation was successful and Chris is on his way to a full recovery. However, Chris has been advised by his physician that he needs a one month rest period, hence the reason for the cancellation of the rest of the tour dates.

Another former Yes-man doesn't need a doctor's note to get off the road. Joining Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson as Yessirs who are grounded is founding drummer Bill Bruford, who voluntarily took himself off the road with a formal retirement announcement late last month.

An article in All About Jazz reported the news, quoting Bruford as saying, "41 years of me is quite enough for anybody, and especially me!" He still intends to record in the studio, though. Maybe he, Anderson and Wakeman can email MP3s to each other and we'll get another Union. Let's hope not!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Iron Maiden wins Brit Award for Best Live Act

I have never heard of the Brit Awards, but apparently they are a UK-based awards show where the winners are chosen by fan vote. Democracy in action.

According to, Iron Maiden beat out a bunch of no-names and Coldplay to win in the Best British Live Band category. Reports were that the audience seemed fairly bemused when Maiden won, as if they didn't even know who these guys were! D'oh!

The band could not be there to pick the award up because - shock - they are on the road somewhere. But they did put this amusing video together, which ran at the show:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Very Cool Rush Oddities is a treasure trove of information, interviews, rumors and news flashes about Rush. The site also links to other sites that offer stories and rare audio clips from the band.

A recent post provided some sound clips of isolated vocal tracks from The Trees, Red Barchetta and some other cool stuff. It's worth a quick listen if you know Rush inside and out and want to hear how some of your favorite songs sound with certain parts isolated. Check it out here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yes Cancels Tour - Portland Curse?

I posted a few weeks ago my struggles around seeing Yes on its current 40th anniversary tour when the band stopped in Portland on February 14. I wasn't sure if I wanted to see the band without Jon Anderson, who has been too ill to tour. But the fact that they were playing a fairly small venue and whipping out rarities from one of my favorite albums, Drama, was pushing me to go.

Despite the encouragement from some of my fellow bloggers to just go for it, the $75 ticket price and a desire to take my wife out for Valentine's Day sidetracked the whole thing. Frankly, I forgot all about it until today.

That is when my friend and bass whiz BassBudd told me the show had been cancelled. Upon quick research, actually most of the rest of the tour has been cancelled, as cleanly laid out on the tour page of the band's Web site.

The formal statement from the band is "Due to unforeseen medical reasons, the 'In The Present Tour,' featuring Yes’ Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Alan White is cancelling shows through February 24 (San Diego). The band wishes to apologize for any inconvenience that this might have caused to their fans and hopes to see them again soon."

News reports say that Chris Squire was admitted to a hospital in Houston a week ago with an unspecified medical emergency which required surgery on his leg. Eeeks.

That means they played one show on this leg of the tour (no pun intended) - in Mexico - and had to bail.

So that solved my dilemma. But here is the deal. I now think that Portland and anything to do with Yes are never meant to be. In fact there may be a curse on anything Yes-related when it comes to Portland. This is the fourth cancellation in the last four years. Check this out:

In 2005, all of the Yes guys minus Jon Anderson were supposed to come to the Roseland, on the More Drama Tour. This was drummer Alan White's band, Chris Squire's band, and Steve Howe acoustic, with a promised deep dive into the Drama material in an all star jam at the end of each gig. Drama-era keyboardist Geoff Downes was in White's band, so this was basically a chance for that lineup to perform stuff off the album. But that whole tour was cancelled due to "Visa problems" with one of the band. I had tickets to this one.

Then, in 2007, Asia (with Howe and Downes) had to cancel their show at the Aladdin Theater because John Wetton had to have emergency open heart surgery. I had tickets to that one too.

I also had tickets to the original 40th anniversary tour, where the band was supposed to play the very intimate and cool Edgefield last August. That tour was cancelled due to Anderson's health issues. I posted about it here.

And now this cancellation (also at The Aladdin) due to emergency surgery on Squire.

I suppose this happens when out of shape lifelong road dogs get too old. Squire has been getting larger and larger over the years while Howe has been shrinking. But I still gotta think, I will never see these guys in Portland again. One of them is gonna die next time.

Anderson in November discussed how the health of the band was in jeopardy in general.

He told, As for my health now, I truly feel reborn, it’s gonna take some months before I can do shows, but my dreams are coming true. Like most people my age - I’m now 64 - the body (and) mind goes through so many changes. I feel that my health has always been strong enough for the band…up until 2004. There had been too many tours, too much friction from outside of the band. This had made it impossible to keep touring the way Yes truly should.

With no new music, a lack of passion for the music and each other, and no real promotion of who Yes truly is, etc., things just looked so bleak. That’s why I suggested a break for six months, maybe do a progressive acoustic CD, and tour on a different style of touring, semi-acoustic for a while, and less shows per year… just for us to realise who we were. We were not communicating as a band.

Both (departed Yes keyboardist) Rick (Wakeman) and myself could see it happening, but sadly the others just wanted to keep going down that same touring spiral. That’s why Yes hasn't toured, as it happens, to the best.

Hopefully we will get back together and perform in the coming years, I truly hope so. The fans deserve it, and so do we.

Cool, Jon. I agree. But maybe for the sake of the next tour and everyone's health, skip Portland. I don't mind driving to Seattle, which is the last place I successfully saw any musician that has anything to do with Yes. That was on the band's 35th anniversary tour - the last one with Wakeman before he retired due to - yeah - health issues.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blues Roundup for Metalheads

A good friend at work moonlights as a writer for various Heavy Metal publications and Web sites, and also for He forwards me his stuff and while most of the music he covers is too heavy for me (his passion and forte is Death Metal), I always enjoy the writing.

But we can all enjoy this article he wrote for that outlines the top ten blues albums that metal fans should get.

See the article here. Keep up the great work, Justin!

Oh and by the way, don't expect a word from me about the recently announced Limp Bizkit or Blink 182 reunions, or the rumored Creed reunion. Yaaaaaaawn...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Muzak Files for Bankruptcy

Well, there is justice in the world after all. CNN is reporting that Muzak filed bankruptcy papers yesterday after it missed a $105 million payment to creditors. D'oh!

But don't get too sad - you'll still hear your Kenny G Christmas music in the JC Penny elevator because the company is just restructuring its debt, not shutting down.

According to the article:

"Muzak is a solid business with an outstanding customer base, but we are burdened with substantial debt obligations established over a decade ago," Muzak CEO Stephen Villa said.

They are also burdened with the sin of poisoning our ears with elevator music, on-hold messages and digital signage, among other things. It's a very well-rounded company, you see...

Me, I prefer to frequent establishments that play other sources of music, like XM Radio, where you might actually hear a decent tune while you get your hair chopped or pick up dipies for the little one.

But according to this New York Times story, XM/Sirius isn't faring much better right now either. Ah well, sign of the times. What are ya gonna do?

Ticketmaster and Live Nation Merge to Screw You Over Further

It was widely reported yesterday that TicketBastard and Live Nation intend to merge to create the biggest concert ticket/promotions monopoly known to mankind. Can you tell how I feel about it?

These companies are the sleaziest of sleazy. Case in point – during a recent Springsteen ticket sale, Ticketmaster was sending buyers to its sister site TicketsNow, which brokers tickets once the original round is sold out. It is known in the industry as an official ‘scalper’ site. Of course tickets wind up being harder to get and more expensive and in this case, there were still Bruce tickets available at regular prices. Bruce himself had a mighty shit fit, posting to his Web site:

“Last Monday, we were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value, to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We condemn this practice. We have asked this redirection from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow cease and desist immediately and Ticketmaster has agreed to do so in the future and has removed its unwanted material from their and our site.”

Read more about that debacle here.

With Ticketmaster merging with its main competitor, Live Nation, ticket buyers will get screwed even more mightily, as there will be no competition and service charges will likely continue to drive ticket prices up.

Reports say that Ticketmaster will focus on tickets, while Live Nation will focus on concert promotions. They combined company will focus on taking it out of our asses.

The only hope is that the Department of Justice will not approve the merger, as it’s pretty much a monopoly on the Microsoft scale. But hey, who can afford to pay $265 plus $47 service charge to see the frickin Eagles this year anyway? Supply and demand, baby.

A few interesting posts below for those who want to read more:
New York Times

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Heaven and Hell Album Announced

Billboard reports that the new Heaven and Hell album will be out on April 28 and will be called The Devil You Know. This is the first full album of new material from the Dio-led version of Sabbath since 1992's Dehumanizer, although the group did record three heavy new tracks that were included on The Dio Years, which was released in 2007.

The band played those three new songs on its tour the same year. I reviewed that show here and it was one of the best shows I saw that year. So needless to say, I am very excited to check out this disc.

Classic Rock Magazine got an exclusive sneak listen to some of the new tracks on the last day of the band laying down basic tracks at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Classic Rock wrote:

The songs we heard were a moody, thuddingly malevolent number called Rock ’N’ Roll Jesus, the pacier and more anthemic Neverwhere, and a slice of sloth-like majesty that’s likely to be titled Breaking Into Heaven. Other tracks expected to appear include Bible Black, Double Pain and Atom + Evil.

“Each of us submitted a CD of our ideas, and we narrowed it down from there,” explains Iommi. “In some ways it was like picking up where we’d left off with Dehumanizer, which was also done at Rockfield.”

“I never thought this band would get back together, but here we are,” marvels Appice. “Everyone’s more mature, and when we play together it’s just a monster.”

I felt the same way about the live show. Let's hope the band keeps on this roll with the new album.

CD Review - The Fireman "Electric Arguments"

OK, so since I kind of assed out in an earlier post, talking about an album I had never even heard, I felt obligated to go and buy the CD by Paul McCartney and producer Youth, called Electric Arguments. Their 'band' is called The Fireman. I have been listening to it for a couple of days straight and I really like it.

While fans of Maybe I'm Amazed, Band on the Run and Take It Away may be a little shocked at how free form this is, fans of McCartney's more experimental side will be satisfied.

Take the first track, Nothing Too Much Out Of Sight. On first listen, it sounds like Helter Skelter's younger brother with a heavy riff, thrashing McCartnery-played drums, and a screamy vocal. There is distorted harmonica, bass, slide guitar and vocals. On second and third listen, I noticed the thing alternates between bars of 6 and 8, which makes for a loping kind of weird groove.

There is no verse-chorus-verse structure on this CD. It's very free flowing and jammy and for the most part vocals are like another instrument. And they clearly smoked boatloads of weed while recording some of these tunes.

There are also a number of different styles on the album. Highway is almost a throwback to the Taxman riff and is really catchy. The songs Traveling Light and Is This Love? sound like something you'd hear in a day spa. Dance Till We're High sounds like a Motown throwback. I also heard a lot of the chiming, big background vocal and instrumental sounds that were on most of the Beach Boys' albums in the 60s. Two Magpies is in the Blackbird/Bluebird vein.

But in general it's hard to pin down what style this is. It's really all over the map. When Peter Gabriel put out Passion in the 80s, I could not get that out of my CD player. I thought it was so cool that he had broken out of the song structure and laid down some of the most interesting instrumental music I had heard in a long time. The difference is that the Fireman CD is not so rooted in one style of music - in Passion's case Eastern music - and it's not a soundtrack. So there were no constraints whatsoever on the song structure.

The 'single' from the CD is Sing the Changes. Check that one out on iTunes and if you dig it, this album might be for you.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Crazy Dude Plays By-Tor and the Snow Dog on A Ukulele

Saw this on this morning and almost threw up my cereal. If you can make it to the end, you get a medal. Dude can barely keep up in the middle section but damn if this isn't oddly compelling!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Paul McCartney Dishes on Firemen, Art, Poetry and iTunes

A great interview with Paul McCartney posted at Entertainment Weekly today. McCartney talks about the two albums he has done with producer Martin Glover (who also co-founded the band Killing Joke) under the name The Firemen. Glover is better known as "Youth" and he has also worked on mixes by U2, Dido and a number of 80s bands like Depeche Mode (yowsa).

The interview got me kind of stoked to check out the Firemen albums. Just like with the Sgt. Pepper album, recording without the baggage of the McCartney name was probably liberating. Sounds like the music came together fairly organically, which is usually a good thing too. The latest album, Electric Arguments, has received lots of good reviews and is reported to be sort of trancy, but with vocals. Sounds like I ought to check it out.

McCartney talks about a bunch of other stuff. These were other interesting nuggets:

Q. Can you tell me anything about this new Rock Band Beatles thing?
A. Well, I see people playing it and they look...completely funny. But I like the idea that it introduces kids to music. It’s a great thing to be immersed in. And you know, various ideas are always being brought to us [as the Beatles] where we look at it and decide, is it a good thing? And the guys from Rock Band, they said, "We’d like to do just a special Beatles edition, we’d like to do different periods -- you know, you get early days, Liverpool, then psychedelic, and on from there." It’s very cool.

Q. Does this bode well for getting the Beatles on iTunes, finally?
A. It’s a bit of a sticky issue. We want it to happen. The record company was taken over by new people quite recently, so there is a gridlock of sorts. I’d like to make it happen. Though I am not part of the negotiations, thank goodness [laughs].

Spinal Tap to Reunite and Record to Mark 25th Anniversary

It was 25 years ago that the movie This Is Spinal Tap made me laugh so hard I crapped. Well, not really, but that's a great opening line, idn't it?

According to the Guardian, Tap is getting back together to record a new album - the first since 1992's Break Like The Wind - to mark the 25th anniversary of the movie. According to the article, Harry Shearer, who is bassist Derek Smalls in the band, said, "We've never recorded the song we did at Live Earth, Warmer Than Hell, and I think [Spinal Tap] are trying to revisit their old success...We'll do a song called Gimme Some More Money, probably with ... dubious results."

Just like with any new KISS recording, a new Tap album will never capture the 'magic' of the old classics like Stonehenge, Big Bottom or Hell Hole. But I thought Break Like the Wind had some really funny stuff on it (Bitch School!). And when I saw the band live in 1992 at the Warfield in San Francisco, I was very pleasantly surprised. The show was funny but very musical. The drummer and keyboard guys were holding the whole thing together, but Nigel can really play!

Anyway, let's see what we get. In the meantime, enjoy this gem:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Alex Lifeson Discloses His Favorite Solos posted an interview with Alex Lifeson and, where Alex tells about his favorite three Rush guitar solos. Here are the complete answers in Alex's words:

1. Limelight (1981)
I love the elasticity of the solo. It's a very emotional piece of music for me to play. The song is about loneliness and isolation, and I think the solo reflects that. There's a lot of heart in it. It's a feel thing: you have to feel a solo as you play it, otherwise it's going to sound stiff. I never had that problem with Limelight. The first time I laid it down in the studio, I feel a real attachment to it and I could tell it was special. Even now, it's my favorite solo to perform live. I never get tired of it. Each time I'm about to play it, I take a deep breath and I exhale on that first note. I guess that sounds corny, but for me, it releases something.

2. Kid Gloves (1984)
That song is from our Grace Under Pressure album. What I like about the solo is, it's the opposite of Limelight: it's got a hip, kind of slinky attitude, a little goofy humor. When I play it, I feel a certain confidence, also like a prankster, which is not the way I am in real life at all. What's funny about it, too, is that it has a plot to it, and I only realized that after I recorded it for the first time - I never have a plot in mind when I'm recording solos; I always just kind of wing them. The Kid Gloves solo guided me; it's like it knew what it wanted to be and I just had to allow myself to follow.

3. Freewill (1980)
It's a really hard solo to play. I think I feel a certain amount of pride in that fact alone. Every time I play it, I'm amazed I got through it. It's so frenetic and exciting. The rhythm section too - Geddy and Neil are all over the place. It's probably one of the most ambitious pieces of music Rush has ever done. In a sense, everybody's soloing at the same time. Recording it, I didn't have anything planned; I was just responding to what the other guys did. Basically, I was just trying to keep up! But I think it worked out pretty well. I'm rather happy with it, and I can usually find fault with everything I do.

I have heard Alex talk about the solo in Emotion Detector off of Power Windows as one of his other faves. I think the short solo in Middletown Dreams from the same album is pretty great. That solo is the one moment on that whole album where just the three guys play with very little keyboard or sound effect augmentations and it's a refreshing moment, but it's pretty short.

Anyone have a favorite Alex Lifeson solo they want to tell me about?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New KISS and Van Halen on the Way?

Some quickie news reports this week confirm a couple of new albums from old rockers are in the works.

First up, Paul Stanley again confirms that KISS is recording a new 'old school KISS album' this year.

Paul Stanley tells Page Six that he, Gene Simmons and the band are headed into the studio to grind out a new record for release this fall. "It's a KISS album in the most true and classic sense - we're recording it in analog, not digital, and writing it ourselves."

It won't be a KISS album in the most true and classic sense without Ace or Peter but whatever...

And in the Van Halen camp, From Spinner Magazine, Eddie Van Halen talks about what he has upcoming in 2009:

"Dave, Wolfie, Alex and I are a band. I hope that after Janie and I get married, and Wolfie graduates, that we sit down and discuss recording new music, which I have tons of. If Dave's up for singing ... then do another tour, and just see where it takes us. Actually, next week or the week after Wolfie, Alex, and I are gonna start jamming. Maybe we'll give Dave a call and see what he's up to. He's off, always doing his own thing, and he checks in every now and then to see how we're doing."

Not so sure about the new stuff if it ever happens, but I will for sure see the band next time around. Lots of good reviews from their Portland show a couple of years ago.