Friday, July 20, 2012

CD Review - Joe Walsh Analog Man

I have been on vacation off the grid for the last two and a half weeks and wow, did a lot of stuff in the world of music happen - the biggest being Jon Lord passing away.

I will have some thoughts on that soon, but for now I had the chance to bang out a review of the new Joe Walsh album, Analog Man:

If you had told me that a solo album by a long creatively inactive, newly sober Joe Walsh would be the surprise of the year, I would have told you you were nuts. But Analog Man, Walsh's first new album in 20 years, is a real treat.

From the wry witty lyrics to the tasty sparse slide work, Analog Man picks right up where Walsh left off.

In fact many of these 12 songs would slide nicely onto The Smoker You Drink or But Seriously Folks from his 70s catalog.

Of course, topically, Walsh is breaking some new ground as a sober writer. He has always written about himself or his perspectives on life. Now he has a new palate to draw from.

The songs One Day At A Time, Wrecking Ball and the gorgeous Family run the gamut from the struggles of turning his broken life around to how blessed Walsh feels with his sobriety and where his life is at right now.

The songs Analog Man and the awesome Lucky That Way are cut from the cloth of Life's Been Good, but on Lucky That Way, Walsh has many decades to reflect on.

So where before he sang about having an office and gold records on the wall, now he sings about needing a 10 year old smart ass to show him how to connect to the Web.

The album is mostly song-oriented and many of these tunes would play well on the radio or on an iTunes mix: all the tracks I mentioned already plus Band Played On and High Roller Baby.

Shockingly, producer Jeff Lynne for the most part does not make Analog Man sound like a Traveling Wilburys album.

There are some songs on Analog Man that are crafted to showcase Walsh's fantastic guitar work, which is often overlooked in my opinion. The guy does not waste a note, whether in his lyrical lead playing or his bluesy slide work.

So for example, Walsh delivers the 2 minute tune Funk 50, a clear sequel to the James Gang's Funk 49. The story is that producer Lynne asked for something LIKE Funk 49 so Walsh reprised it. It's a good tune where Joe says he's going to 'show everybody I'm back!' in between funky leads and licks.

The tunes India (which starts out a bit like AC/DC's Thunderstruck) is a good instrumental ripper that has some great playing. Fishbone is a blues-based slow burner jam that would probably slay live. All in all Walsh gives us a good album here. Well worth the wait!

So good for you Joe Walsh. You gave us all a gift of this great album and more of your unique styling to rock out and smile to! Perfect for the summertime!

Check out these live videos from a show at The Troubadour prior to the album coming out. Joe's voice is strong here! Love it...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

CD Review – The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio

I have been listening to this new Beach Boys record for a bit now, and I have to say – WOW.

First up, I have never been an avid follower of the band. For example I still don’t have the Smile records and don’t really even have a vast knowledge or appreciation of Pet Sounds outside of the fact that the album inspired The Beatles to counter with Sgt Pepper.

But I am very appreciative of older artists ‘coming back’ and showing that you can still kick ass at age 70. Look at Paul McCartney who is rocking harder than ever. The dude didn’t start doing Helter Skelter live until he was in his 60s. As I get older, I appreciate that more and more.

Let’s face it – the Beach Boys’ sound has always been unique and incredible. Brian Wilson is right up there with guys like Lennon/McCartney, Syd Barrett, Phil Spector and Jimi Hendrix for creating and propelling a sound from nowhere and into the history books.

Quick abridged history lesson: Wilson went nuts in the 60s and dropped off the map. Got his shit back together last decade and starting making music again, and now this new album. The dude still has it. The recent Rolling Stone article about the current tour and the weird relationship between Wilson and cousin/lead singer Mike Love is also a fascinating read and made me want to get the album to check it out for myself.

So I did. Most of these songs could be right from the 60s – they sound totally timeless. One notable exception is “The Private Life of Bill and Sue,” which is I think about reality TV or tabloid/paparazzi. But musically, the tune also sounds like it’s cut from the same cloth as God Only Knows.

After numerous listens, there really is not a bad track on this album (12 songs, 38 minutes), but for me the standouts are the title track, Isn’t It Time, Spring Vacation, and The Private Life, plus the last three songs on the album – but more on that in a second.

Lyrically, most of the songs are about the usual stuff you’d expect, like cars, girls, the sun, the beach.

Except for the last three songs, which make up a very heartfelt, retrospective suite that is sure to live as an epitaph along the lines of the Beatles’ The End from Abbey Road. The first tune of the suite is called From There to Back Again:

Why don't you run away and spend some time with me
On this summer's day, there's nowhere else I'd rather be
Why don't we feel the way we used to anymore
There's a place along the way, that maybe we could stay
And listen to the waves at my front door

This songs transitions into the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway, which simply says:

Sometimes I realize my days are getting on
Sometimes I realize it's time to move along
And I wanna go home

Sunlight's fading and there's not much left to say
My life, I'm better off alone
My life, I'm better on my own

Drivin' down Pacific coast, out on highway 1
The setting sun

The last song in the suite, Summer’s Gone, is just one big Beach Boys’ harmony-laden reflection of a sunset at the end of a life:

Summer’s gone
Summer’s gone away
Gone away
With yesterday

Old friends have gone
They’ve gone their separate ways
Our dreams hold on
For those who still have more to say

Summer’s gone
Gone like yesterday
The nights grow cold
It’s time to go
I’m thinking maybe I’ll just stay
Another summer gone

Summer’s gone
It’s finally sinking in
One day begins
Another ends
I live them all and back again

Summer’s gone
I’m gonna sit and watch the waves
We laugh, we cry
We live then die
And dream about our yesterday

The song fades out to the sound of a gentle rain, presumably on the beach. Quite the contrast to sun and surf, tans, cars and girls. Heavy shit for a Beach Boys’ album. But really, really nice stuff.

So, enjoy this and be thankful that Wilson at 70 can still make albums that sound like he is in his 20s but with the life’s experience gained over the bridge of those years. Be thankful these guys can still deliver those textured, gorgeous harmonies – maybe a slight digital tweak here and there, but that can be forgiven. Be thankful that no one forced Wilson to hire Jeff Lynne to crap all over the production. Be thankful that if this reunion turns out to be a total one-off, or one more of these Wilson guys dies, we still got this one last GREAT Beach Boys album.

Below is the official video for the title track. If you like this song, get the album. If you don’t, you ought to pass on it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Randy Blythe from Lamb of God Jailed on Bullshit Charges; Or, if you are fan at a concert, STAY THE FUCK OFF THE STAGE

Randy Blythe, the singer for metal band Lamb of God, is being held in a Czech prison on charges of manslaughter because he shoved a rowdy concert-goer offstage two years ago and the guy hit his head and died.

While this is truly tragic, manslaughter? Hardly. Fans are NOT SUPPOSED TO GO ON THE STAGE. That is why security is there to throw them off. Look at what happened to Pantera's Dimebag Darryl who was killed onstage by a fan in 2004. Bands need to be safe and leave the moshing, thrashing and full-body contact in the pit.

Lamb of God management issued this statement:

"…management wished to address today one false piece of information that has been included in many of the news stories released so far. Under no circumstances was there a fight of any kind involved. This incident deals with a fan that three times during the concert jumped the barricade and rushed Randy during the performance. It is alleged that the third time, security was not able to reach him and that Randy pushed him back into the audience where supposedly he fell and hit his head."

To me that is the end of the story. As Keith Richards once said, “He’s on my turf. I’m going to cut the fucker down.”

The group's guitarist, Willie Adler wrote Friday on his official Facebook page that he doesn't even remember the alleged incident ever taking place, but was sympathetic to the fan: "Hey guys, it's been a rough couple of days. All I can say is that I can't recall that particular show let alone a fan being beaten on the stage. We've no real clue as to what happened to him, but we send our condolences. All we try to do is entertain, the fans are why we're here. We would never try and harm anyone."

Band members meanwhile have also created a #FreeRandyBlythe hashtag, hoping to mobilize support for the musician.

Here is a tip for concert-go’ers: Stay off the fucking stage.

New KISS Single - Hell Or Hallelujah

KISS releases a new single this week from the band's upcoming album 'Monster." The track, called "Hell Or Hallelujah," is available everywhere except North America today, and in that region tomorrow.

But someone of course posted it on the Interweb.

I think it's good, as far as post-Frehley/Criss KISS goes. The riff reminds me of a 70s-era Paul Stanley "I Stole Your Love" vibe. The tune is catchy and the solos are cool.

As with all recent KISS, it just makes me wish it was really Ace ripping those licks. Anyway - for those of you who care, here ya go: