Monday, April 23, 2012

New Asia Album Due In June - New Single is Shockingly Good (if you like Asia)

30 years after its incredible and never-matched-by-the-band debut album, Asia are set to release Asia XXX (pronounced "Triple X" but still connotating pornography) towards the end of June.

Usually I would not give a shit.

I am so fed up with the Yes camp, with its ever-changing Jon Anderson-less lineup, and I put Asia in the Yes camp because of Steve Howe - maybe unfairly but there it is. Also, Geoff Downes is in the current incarnation last time I checked.

I also caught Asia live a couple of years ago and was underwhelmed. It was pretty dull and rote.

But out of morbid curiosity I checked out the new single from XXX and damn if it sounds like good old classic Asia. Catchy tune, great energy and Steve Howe still has some magic left in those fingers. Soaring and magestic John Wetton vocal. Really classic Downes keys and Carl Palmer as solid as ever. I was impressed after two listens.

Very nice production too - it actually kind of sounds like the original album. Jury is out on the whole release of course but Asia fans might just dig this new tune! What do you think?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rush "Headlong Flight" Posted Online

Rush made the full Headlong Flight song from its upcoming Clockwork Angels album available online this week. First posted, head-scratchingly, as an exclusive with Rolling Stone Magazine, who has always hated Rush, it's now on YouTube as an official video with lyrics.

So to not encourage clicks to Rolling Stone, below is the Headlong Flight video. I could use a little more of a catchy vocal melody but it's for sure pretty damn good and continues the string started with Caravan and BU2B, which have also been released from the new album - heavy, lots of riffs, complex playing.

They for sure have chucked the keyboards into the river. The drumming is fucking ridiculous. This is about as far away from Power Windows and Hold Your Fire as you could possible get.

What say you, good readers?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thoughts On Levon Helm

Heard the sad news yesterday that Band drummer and vocalist Levon Helm is about to pass on, due to cancer.

I knew that Levon fought throat cancer in the 90s and it took him a long time to be able to sing again.

But in recent years he was back in form, hosting 'Midnight Rambles' in his Woodstock, New York barn.

All sorts of guests showed up to these gigs and they seemed like a cool throwback to the 40s when Levon snuck into similar gigs in the south where he grew up.

You'd have to go to Woodstock but otherwise the door was open. Great idea. Wish I'd have gone to one! I was surprised to see that he played as recently as April 1, according to his Facebook page. There was a post that he'd play on the lighter side to favor his back and neck but I think everyone thought it was just old age or the flu or something. Must have hit him super quick for him to be on his deathbed just two weeks later.

The Band was such a unique group. Three singers. Could go from the bouncy Stage Fright to the morose Tears of Rage on a dime. I remember my friend in college commenting he didn't like the Band because they were depressing!

I see where he was coming from but to me that was just proof that they were genuine. My friend didn't have to grok the meaning behind King Harvest to get the vibe.

A lot of that was due to the incredibly heartfelt vocals of the also late Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, but also to the sparse, behind the beat drumming of Levon Helm.

Vocally, Levon took more of the upbeat tunes that required a bit of a belter to deliver but dig any live version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and you will hear 100 percent heart.

Levon's pending passing also makes me think of Band leader Robbie Robertson and how as far as I know Levon never made peace with him since the 1976 Last Waltz breakup.

I did see just today that Robertson visited Levon over the weekend but he doesn't say if Levon was even awake for it. Would have been cool if they had made peace but maybe cooler if Levon's last words were 'fuck off Robertson.'

But seeing Roger Waters and David Gilmour bury the hatchet in recent years gave me hope that maybe old Levon would find it in his heart to forgive Robbie and make peace with his old bandmate. Ah well...

So in all, bummer news but as usual it's as fine an excuse as any to pop on The Band. My choice tonight is the live Rock of Ages.

Rest easy Levon, and I hope you are soon harmonizing with Danko and Manuel in that great gig in the sky.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rant

Reading reports of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event last weekend makes me think it was a big wet fart.

Now, I wasn't there and I have to say that the Guns and Roses semi-reunion sounded great on YouTube. But where were the reunions or even full attendance from inductees this year?

OK no one expected Axl Rose to perform with Slash but not even showing up? Come on dude. He even asked the Hall to not induct him. Ok I guess that is typical Axl but a great opportunity missed.

But what about The Faces? Why didn't Rod the Mod show up? Is he too big for his britches for Woody and company? That would have been a live reunion worth seeing. (Ooops - reports are that he had the flu. Hmmm...)

Only 2/3 of the Beasties showing up is excusable because one of them has cancer.

But how about this: induct bands who can actually show up, not in wheelchairs, but in the flesh to show why the fuck they are still vibrant and deserving to be chosen by Springsteen, Wenner and Van Zandt's boys club.

For example:

Rush. Still touring, putting out new material, selling out venues (and they are not casinos). Maybe on the top of their game after 35 years. A live performance by Rush at a RARHOF event would literally peel people's faces off.

KISS. Ok I get it. Shlock. Hype. Merchandising. But again, still touring and recording. Many millions sold. And that would be a reunion worth seeing just one last time for closure. Peter Criss is not getting any younger and Ace is sober at the moment.

Iron Maiden. I know. Never going to happen. But you don't have Metallica and probably GNR without Maiden. And again, a band still touring amphitheaters, huge around the world, all members currently living. Bruce Dickinson's acceptance speech would be a real keeper, laden with F words and digs at the Hall. Great PR!

OK rant over but a guy can dream, right?

Who do you think ought to be in the Hall? Living or dead?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rush Post Clip Of "Headlong Flight" from Upcoming Album

Here is another quick thing from the last couple of weeks.

Rush's new album, Clockwork Angels, is going to be out June 12, but the band posted a short audio clip of one of the songs, the 7:20 cut Headlong Flight.

This song is scheduled to be released as a single this Thursday (single art posted here).

After hearing this clip, I am really looking forward to the full release. Word is that Rush has gone back to its prog roots for this album, and the clip sure reminds me of Bastille Day. What do you think?

Listen to it here.

Jim Marshall - the Father of Loud

Gawd has it been a whole month since my last post? Life has been really busy - apologies! Thinking about what happened in the last month, there have indeed been a few things going on in the world of music.

Maybe the one thing that is way overdue for a post is something about the passing of Jim Marshall earlier this month. Obviously a huge, huge name in rock and roll. Things would not be the same without his heeding the numerous calls from Pete Townshend to make a louder amplifier!

One of my all time favorite live Who performances, from the Isle of Wight in 1970, suddenly becomes more potent. I think I have posted this in the past, but scroll to 3:45 to see what Mr. Marshall's invention enabled Mr. Peter Townshend to accomplish. True sonic bliss!

Damn, that whole video gets my blood pumping.

Jim Marshall - the Father of Loud indeed