Thursday, November 18, 2010

CD Review - The Doobie Brothers - World Gone Crazy

The Doobie Brothers are probably not going to achieve world peace or national economic liquidity with its new CD, World Gone Crazy. But it might get your foot tapping on your commute or get you to run a little faster on your morning jog. The Doobies in their prime delivered great rock and roll with solid grooves, great playing and gorgeous vocal harmonies – cue up Listen to the Music if you’re not sure what I am talking about.

The first two tracks on World Gone Crazy, A Brighter Day and Chateau, stand right up there with the Doobies’ best rockers and should go over very well live. Especially Chateau, which has loads of great singalong harmonies and some fantastic slide guitar by guitarist John McFee. Track four, the title track, is another solid foot tapper, as is My Baby (track eight).

Founders Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons are leading the group, with Johnston taking most of the songwriting and vocals as usual. Simmons’ songs are not quite as strong this time but at least he is trying to re-write Black Water instead of China Grove. There are some very pretty acoustic-based tunes a la Black Water such as Far From Home (nice McFee violin on this one).

The third track, Nobody, is a redone version of the same song from the band’s first album in 1971. Picked acoustic arpeggios, piano and acoustic slide guitar ease you into this track, and then the whole thing picks up and really highlights those Doobie vocal harmonies. This version is tighter and sonically superior to the original and I can see why they decided to bring it back. It’s a great song.

Two guest spots by Michael McDonald and Willie Nelson are surely included to drive CD sales but their tunes are a little distracting – I mean, McDonald barely appears on Don’t Say Goodbye, and honestly it’s a great song without him. Willie’s tune, co-written with Simmons, is just okay. I have always favored Doobies tunes that are slightly more epic and moody, like Clear As The Driven Snow from The Captain and Me. Nobody (the song) surely falls into this category.

There are some clunkers (Old Juarez is a cool tune but is a total rip off of Smooth minus the Santana guitar and Rob Thomas vocal), but overall it’s a nice, solid album and I have already listened to it more than I thought I would. The majority falls into that good old rock and roll category a la Rockin' Down the Highway or Listen to the Music. And that ain’t a bad thing. You a Doobies fan? Get the album.

And if you are wondering if the Doobies can still cut it live, check this out:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles on iTunes Store - Snooooore

I have bought and re-bought the Beatles. Got all the original releases on vinyl when I was a kid. Then bought some of them again when I realized I could get Apple issues at the used record store. Kind of cool to have Beatles albums first released in the 60s.

Then of course CDs came around and I had to get them all on disc. And then a couple of years ago they finally figured out how to make the CDs sound good, so I chose to re-buy them all over again.

Now thanks to the powers that be burying the hatchet yesterday, I have the option of getting them digitally via iTunes and of course I say no thanks. I already have all the superior-sounding CDs imported into iTunes for my iPod and have zero need for AAC quality versions.

I imagine I am not alone. But I guess for the younger set who may just want to buy a song here or there, it's nice to have the Beatles finally on iTunes. But I feel like that generation doesn't pay for its music anyway and probably got the tunes free from a file sharing service or their grandpa.

But dang SOMEONE is buying it up - According to this Mashable article:

Eleven of the top 25 albums on iTunes are Beatles records, including the full Beatles Box Set, which is currently at number 11 on the charts. In addition, more than 60 of the top 200 songs are Beatles tunes.

Sure, John, Paul, Ringo and George aren’t enough to knock Rihanna, Rascal Flatts and the Glee cast off the top of the charts, but these albums are 40-plus years old. We’re also smack dab in the middle of the biggest music release window of the year.

So what the hell do I know? I'm just glad people may be discovering this music for the first time. I wish I could do that all over again!

Speaking of Beatles discovery, I bet you've never seen this little clip:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Emerson Lake and Palmer Throw In The Towel

I remember back in the 80s going to see Emerson Lake and (Cozy) Powell in Oakland California and telling my brother who is 10 years older than me and grew up in the 70s (ELP's heyday). He said "Those guys are still playing that old shit?"

Yeah they were and they still rocked. The ELPowell album is fairly solid and at least had the pretty decent single Touch and Go. But touch and go sums up the band's career afterwards. Carl Palmer rejoined for a long stint in the 90s and the band put out some great DVDs of 70s stuff I had never seen. The studio albums were frankly pretty terrible and not worth mentioning.

The band called it quits (again) 12 years ago but reformed for a one-off gig last July headlining the High Voltage Festival event in Victoria Park, London for their 40th anniversary. Carl Palmer last week had this to say to Classic Rock Magazine:

...for reasons I won’t go into it’s always hard to rev it up. We rehearsed for it for a month, which almost killed me. Not the physical side of it, just keeping interested. Me personally, I didn’t need a month. But that’s what we did, and when it came to the gig what you saw was what you got. That’s as good as it will ever be (again). Everyone seemed pretty happy with it, and I think that gig will be far as the three of us can take things.

...I’m not the nervous type. I play all the time. Greg and Keith, on the other hand, were highly nervous and that was part of the problem though they both did the best they could.

And that’s about it, really. There are no plans to do anything else, not from my perspective anyway. I’ve let the other two know that. Being the 40th anniversary, it seemed a great way to finish things. Let’s just leave it there.

This interview of course got me all interested to hear this gig and I found a bootleg and yeah they are pretty scrappy. It sounds like Emerson's hands are freezing cold, and Greg Lake's voice is about an octave lower than in the 70s - all the tunes are in much, much lower keys to accommodate his voice.

Granted, Emerson sounds great for a guy who was diagnosed with repetitive stress syndrome (kind of funny if you are familiar with how he plays keyboards), and had nerve surgery on his arms a few years back. It's gotta be tough to bounce back from that. And he recently had a real health scare that you can read about here. Here's wishing Keith a speedy recovery.

But I agree with Palmer - they are done. But now I want to dig back into my vinyl and crank up Tarkus! Are you ready Eddie!?

For a little comparison, here is the band last July in London:

And in its prime:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Great Interview with Producer Nick Raskulinecz

Once in a while I will come upon an interview with a musician, producer, manager etc and just yell YES! Mainly this happens when I am getting insights I have never heard before about a band I love or music in general. Or someone who generally tows the line and says the same old shit finally opens up and tells me something I didn't already know.

A recent interview between and producer Nick Raskulinecz is just one of those interviews. Raskulinecz has worked with load of bands, namely Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains and of course Rush. He in fact discloses this little nugget about the band's upcoming album:

There's going to be a lot of cool stuff. We've got six other songs ready to record, and they're probably going to want to write some more when they finish this tour. We'll sit down and figure out how to record everything else. I can already tell you that the title track is going to be one of the coolest things they've ever done. It's going to be epic.

"I told them, 'Don't try to write a single. Don't try to do anything conventional. Give me Rush from back in the day.' They don't need to write something for the sake of radio play. They're Rush! [laughs] So I think the record is going to be a little more bare bones, a little less produced. It's going to be more direct, with killer riffs, solos, pounding drums and Geddy singing up high the way he should. That, to me, is the sound of Rush."

Are you fucking kidding me? Bring it on!

But Raskulinecz also dishes on the state of the music industry and how it has impacted more than just bloated record labels:

I'm more successful than I've ever dreamed I would be. But I still have a hard time finding work. I know a lot of guys wouldn't tell you that, but I don't pull punches. There isn't a lot going on, and I put a lot of the blame on the Internet and illegal downloading. And listen, they call it 'illegal downloading' for a reason, because it's just that: illegal. It really hurts bands, producers; it hurts people across the board.

I know people think that you should get everything free now with the Internet, but people have to realize that artists are trying to make a living from their music. The downloading has marginalized everybody and everything, from artists to producers to guys who drive the trucks to bring the CDs to the stores. Everybody in the music business has been affected.

Raskulinecz also talks about how he hooked up with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, as well as his work with the new lineup of Alice In Chains and even a pretty killer Elton John story.

Raskulinecz is a true lover of music and is the real deal. Do yourself a favor and read the whole Nick Raskulinecz interview here.