Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CD Review – Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of A Madman, Blizzard of Oz

I didn’t think I’d review these CDs but I do feel the urge to post something. Basically, I had not bought the previous versions on CD because of the atrocious decision by Sharon Osbourne to replace the original bass and drums by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake in 2002 with new recordings by Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin who were in Ozzy’s band at the time. Daisley and Kerslake had sued Osbourne for unpaid royalties and this was Sharon’s big F-U.

I read that the new versions in 2002 sounded horrible, and I just couldn’t support that decision anyway. I mean, who does that? Would Pete Townshend go back and replace all of John Entwistle’s bass parts on Quadrophenia if the former Mrs. Entwistle sued Pete for more money? God I hope not.

Or maybe is was continued business genius on Sharon’s part, who let’s be fair saved Ozzy from certain death to forge a very successful solo career with her firmly in charge. Maybe she knew people would buy these discs twice – once in 2002 and again when the original music had been restored.

Well, I didn’t. But I did get these new remasters and I have to say, I am impressed. I actually hadn’t listened to these two releases all the way through in years, due to the aforementioned issue of not being able to get a good version on CD. They stand up very, very well over the years. The songs are Ozzy’s best by far and stand up against a lot of 70s Sabbath if you ask me.

Whose responsibility was that? Guitarist Randy Rhodes.

Now, I was always the first guy in high school to dismiss Rhodes as a totally overrated guitar player who only got so famous because he burned up in a plane crash. But I have to say, hearing these CDs with fresh ears gives me a whole new take on the young man.

While all the tracks on Blizzard are credited to Osbourne, Rhodes and Daisley, and the same plus Kerslake on Diary (result of the aforementioned lawsuit), I can only imagine Ozzy and Randy sitting down to put these tunes together. Rhodes had fantastic musical ideas and Ozzy somehow put together lyrics that spoke to what was going on in his life at the time.

With a lot of stuff, the image outshines the music – but get rid of those lame album covers of Ozzy looking crazy and you have a collection of fantastic songs – I Don’t Know, Crazy Train, Over The Mountain, You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll, Flying High Again, Diary of A Madman, Mr. Crowley, Tonight. I mean come on, that is a seriously good two-album run of classic tunes.

Blizzard of Oz is a great solo debut, but Diary is an even better CD than Blizzard – the songs are more developed and Rhodes’ music ranges from heavy to classical. And on the reissue, you get a bunch of live tunes from the Blizzard tour. This is where Rhodes really shines.

Pretty sure this is the classic Ozzy, Rhodes, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge lineup on these live songs. I have no idea how much of it was cleaned up in the studio, but Rhodes’ performance is pretty spectacular. Made me realize, for better or worse, that all those 80s hair metal guitar players were not trying to be Eddie Van Halen – they were trying to be Randy Rhodes.

I mean, you can’t really do EVH – he is one of a kind. But Rhodes took Eddie’s tapping and whammy bar dives, made them his own and added that classical scale shredding thing that became mandatory in every heavy band in the 80s. Which sucks, because most of it was crap – just an exercise in how fast you could play a scale. But it came from Rhodes who actually used it well and put some soul into his playing overall.

Ozzy’s voice is strong on these two albums and as I said, the songs are true heavy rock classics. It reminded me that outside of the bickering between parties, what a win-win that happened when Ozzy got kicked out of Sabbath. We got Rhodes-era Ozzy, and we got Dio-era Sabbath. With Dio’s death and the recent Heaven and Hell concerts and releases, it’s been great reliving and enjoying that Dio Sabbath. But now we can go back and refresh our memories on what Ozzy was doing between pissing on the Alamo, eating bird heads in board meetings and snorting ants. He was making great music with Randy Rhodes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Neil Peart Interview on CBC's Strombo

Neil seems to be getting more out of his shell with the media these days, and the below video is a pretty insightful interview - I guess this is a preview and the full interview will run tonight (Friday June 17) on CBC at 11:05 PM ET. Great questions from George Stroumboulopoulos too, which is refreshing.

Also, in this clip from early June, Neil goes over Moving Pictures track by track with George! Glorious!

CD Review - Blackfield - Welcome to My DNA

It’s rare these days when I get totally geeked up about a new band (new to me anyway) and feel compelled to share but I have been totally blown away by the band Blackfield’s new CD Welcome to My DNA.

Now technically this is not a ‘new’ band to me, because it’s Porcupine Tree front-man Steven Wilson’s band, co-led with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen. On Welcome to My DNA, the band’s third release since 2000, Geffen wrote all of the songs except for one, so it’s really his vision. But Wilson, who sings a lot of the songs, brings that crisp, lush Porcupine Tree production to the whole affair.

I was actually pretty shocked to find that Geffen wrote all of these songs because the vocal melodies are so Porcupine Tree – just gorgeous vocal melodies with the PT Steven Wilson harmonies. The themes are similar as well – alienation, loss of innocence etc. The difference is that all of the 11 songs clock in between 3 and 4 minutes except for the title track, which is just over five minutes. That is a radical departure from Porcupine Tree and makes for the best of both worlds – concise songwriting plus the Porcupine Tree lushness I love. The songs are also not quite as heavy as many PT songs - rather, they are cut from the same cloth as Lazarus from Deadwing, if I had to make a comparison.

In an interview, Wilson said: Porcupine Tree would never be so focused on the art of a 3 minute pop song. Blackfield is all about the art of a great tradition pop song of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Porcupine Tree has never been about that, although we have fraternized a little bit with the art of pop music. Porcupine Tree has always been more about horizontally complex long pieces and the album is an overall piece rather than lots of little pieces... Aviv is not a big fan of heavy music and he is not a big fan of long pieces so immediately the meeting point had to be somewhere where we were both focused on short melancholic songs.

So my take is that Blackfield songs are not pop songs, but Steven’s point is accurate otherwise. Short songs do not equal “pop,” nor do songs that have verses and choruses! But I do have to say that after just one listen to DNA I was totally hooked. I have listened to this CD more than 10 times since Sunday and I am very stoked to check out the band’s previous two releases.

Here is the first track, called Glass Houses. If you like this song, you will love this whole CD. Get it:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Neil Peart Drum Solo on David Letterman

Neil Peart made an unorthodox network TV appearance on Thursday, on David Letterman. Reports from the taping were that Peart was nervous and dropped his sticks twice in the middle. But they had him re-do it after the audience left and presumably the below is a combo of the two. Regardless, the man is a fuckin machine and here you go! Can't wait to see the band in Portland later this month.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jimmy "Neil Young" Fallon Joined By Crosby and Nash

Props to nedmusic for turning me on to this. Jimmy Fallon has been doing these dead-on Neil Young impressions for a while now, but this one takes the cake. He does a song by Miley Cirus a la 70s Neil and has fuckin David Crosby and Graham Nash come out to harmonize. Not only is his version of Neil so creepily accurate, but Crosby and Nash laying on gorgeous harmonies makes me think this is the best Neil has sounded in a long time! Ha ha. Below is the clip, and below that is the song they are actually covering.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Paul McCartney Digitizes A Lifetime, Puts It In HP Cloud

It's well-known by Beatles fans that John Lennon agreed to film and record most of his life, long before reality TV and Big Brother. The treasure trove of audio and film was tapped for the fantastic Imagine movie, as well as the Anthology series, which used loads of interviews from John's life to match the volume of fresh interviews from the other three guys, all of whom were alive at the time.

But you know who else kept the cameras running, and for much longer? Paul McCartney. And now, McCartney's lifetime of home movies, videos, photographs, documents, unreleased music, paintings and numerous other items will be stored in perpetuity on a new private cloud system designed, built and maintained by HP, according to this eWEEK article.

According to the article:

McCartney has been one of the world's most-renowned entertainment content creators for two generations. Like many people, his personal collection has been stored all these years on old-school media that's considered at risk.

"This is quite an undertaking, and the process is ongoing--and will be for awhile," Scott Anderson, HP's entertainment marketing manager, told eWEEK. "We believe there are more than 1 million assets in this library; there are shelves and shelves of boxes containing all sorts of things, personal and business. It all will eventually be digitized."

"He [McCartney] is one of the most prolific artists of all time--he's got thousands of hours of videotape that's been taken through his career; he's got artwork, he's got his music, of course," Anderson said. "Much of it is on media that's susceptible [to physical damage]." McCartney was looking for a company "that he could trust to work with him to preserve his unique assets," Anderson said.

The article also discusses the possibility of McCartney opening access to parts of this vast library to the public. I for one will be happy to roam those halls! You?