...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jeff Tweedy swings by your living room

Okay, I've cast my lot and I am in for Wilco tomorrow night at the Fillmore up in Denver. I have been hearing phenomenal show reviews from folks up and down the West Coast who have caught the Wilco revue in recent weeks, some saying it's one of the best shows they've ever seen, so I am really excited. I was going to pose as a security guard to get in (I'm not lying, friend works there) but thankfully that idea is past. Although I was totally already practicing my cross-arm stance, daring people to mess with me.

So in honor of my first time seeing Wilco, I've got a tasty little acoustic set that I've been sitting on for a few months, waiting for the right occasion. Most times if you heard that a rock star charged $17,500 to play in someone's living room, you'd think either a) desperate or b) money-hungry. Right? No, not Tweedy. He's auctioned himself off for the last three years for the Second City (in Chicago) Letters to Santa Benefit. This raises money for Christmas presents for kids, and in 2006 net over $50,000 through three dedicated groups of fans each coughing up the $17,500 to be the winning bid.

By that logic, each tune that he performed on this fan-directed setlist was worth $472.97. Given the nature of who was requesting the songs (uberfans, willing to pay up dearly), you know the setlist is going to be packed with gems. There's precisely the intimate, acoustic, chatty, spontaneous vibe here that you would expect from some guy who shows up in your living room to play you a personal concert.

Letters to Santa Benefit, 4/8/2006
Someday Some Morning Sometime
Not For The Season
All The Same To Me
Summer Teeth
Blue Eyed Soul
A Magazine Called Sunset
I'm Beginning To See The Light
Hey Chicken
No More Poetry
You Were Wrong
If That's Alright
Lost Love
Henry & The H Bombs
The Ruling Class
Fatal Wound
I Must Be High
Is That The Thanks I Get
Walked Where He Walked
James Alley Blues
Hotel Arizona
Please Tell My Brother
New Madrid
Walk On
Red-Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End Of The Century)
We've Been Had
The Long Cut
Radio King
Forget The Flowers
I'm Always In Love
Say You Miss Me
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I'm The Man Who Loves You
I Can't Keep From Talking


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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Memorable Moment in Music: Made-for-TV tunes

Something utterly important to today's alchemy of popular music occured on September the 8th, 1965. That was the day when the classified ad ran in Variety Magazine to attract what would ultimately become the first musical group crafted specifically for a television audience, a ready-made pop phenomenon known as The Monkees.

The ad read, "seeking four insane boys, age 17-21 for acting roles in a new series." Hundreds applied, and Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones were selected to form a Beatles-lookalike group for a zany television show. The hits were penned by a team of tunesmiths who began churning out sugar-sweet three minute instant pop classics. Instantly blurring the lines of television and musical reality, the Monkees sold 5 million copies of their debut album, and burned up the charts. They would go on to sell more records in 1965 than the Beatles. In 1967, I think they sold more records than the Beatles and the Stones combined. You can bet that those holding their puppet strings were pleased.

Despite the confection, I will confess a certain weakness in my heart towards these television bands of yesteryear. I am only an average woman. I cannot resist the guiles of songs like...

Daydream Believer - The Monkees
(Westerberg covered it)

I Think I Love You - The Partridge Family
(Westerberg covered it too)

Sugar Sugar - The Archies
(not Westerberg, but Semisonic + Mary Lou Lord covered it)

And yes, I can sing along each words to all of those songs, a holdover from being 11 and fervently riding my bike to softball practice with my huge pastel Walkman and my parent-approved tunes. I had a tough time once junior high started.

So it's all just fluff and bubblegum delight, and there's a place for that in my life, but if we're gonna be honest, that initial classified ad profoundly changed the face of music -- and one could argue for the worse. Sometimes I look at the landscape of recent years and find the ideas of everything from Making The Band to The Spice Girls to the INXS replace-our-dead-singer-on-television contest to be a bit appalling. Sure, it's a free market, but it's also prostituting out music to the highest bidder based on looks and sparkle, and not necessarily the quality of the music. Hey, hey, we're the Monkees.

[a debt is owed to the excellent Performing Songwriter magazine for their piece last year called "Bands On The Rerun." This is part of the XPN Memorable Moments In Music series.]

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Limited edition EP from delightful Philadelphia band The Swimmers

The Swimmers have put out one of my favorite albums of the year. Except they haven't actually "put out" just yet. We're still sweet-talking, trying to coax them into that.

Their delectable debut Fighting Trees is streaming in full over on their website and has been for some time now. This is literate pop, literally. Their music is based on the 1964 short story "The Swimmer" by John Cheever [read about it here]. I find their sound completely irresistible and find myself cueing it up quite a bit this summer.

It is delightful, shimmery fare with rich layers of thumping percussion and chimey harmonies. I hear threads of Wilco and Lemonheads and The Shins, all wrapped up in a fresh and original package. Swimmers frontman Steve Yutzy-Burkey tells me that the group's proper album should be out locally in the Philadelphia area this fall, and nationally in February or March.

In the meantime, they've been selling this limited edition EP at their shows. From what I hear, there's always a line at the merch booth to pick this baby up -- five live tracks and a tasty outtake that's just as good as anything on the album. You can't help but enjoy.

Heaven [live]
All The New Sounds [live]
Miles From Our Fears [live]
It's Time They Knew [live]
Pocket Full Of Gold [live]
The Ocean Lifts Her Dress [outtake]


Sep 3 - Schubas, Chicago, IL
Sep 14 - Tritone, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 15 - Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
Sep 22 - PA's, Somerville, MA

Also, Tom at Bag of Songs has a few more live tracks at the bottom of this post from radio appearances that The Swimmers have done, including a nice ELO cover.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not talkin' bout a year, no not three or four: My ongoing love for Ben Harper

Ben Harper's 9th original album Lifeline comes out today on Virgin Records. I've been appreciating the relaxed and spontaneous vibe, especially since I found out the story of its birth into this world: it came to be in Paris over a mere seven days, recorded straight to analog tape after being worked out and perfected during soundcheck rehearsals on tour.

I am excited about this one, as I've written a couple of times before; there are some delicious songs on it. Here's a live version of the title track, from a bonus acoustic EP download that you get when you order the new album from his website:

Lifeline (live) - Ben Harper

Do the kids know and love Ben Harper nowadays? I can't tell if the flippant comment from a friend is indicative of larger public sentiment -- but I still remember discussing Ben with a pal named Mike who loves good music. With a wave of his hand, Mike dismissed Ben as a stoner hippie festival-type musician. I vehemently objected to this unfairly narrow categorization (although hey I'll admit those are three things Ben does do exceedingly well).

Ben incorporates elements of funk, gospel, rock, and soul into his music. His lyrics have a depth of poetry and a political/social edge to many of them, but he also writes the introspective, personal, relational lyrics heartbreakingly well.

I first heard Ben when he opened for Pearl Jam on their 1995 tour. He would join PJ for closing renditions of "Indifference" or The Byrds "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star." His early albums are embedded deep within my musical consciousness. I feel like I had less music to listen to back then, before the Internet, when I could only afford a handful of albums each summer, so I listened the bejesus out of both Welcome To The Cruel World (1994) and especially Fight For Your Mind (1995).

Ben's put out fantastic albums in the last ten years, but the most radio buzz that I remember him having was when he played slide guitar on Jack Johnson's breakout hit, "Flake." The first time I heard that song, sitting at the stoplight on El Camino, waiting to turn left into my University for an early morning class, I thought for sure it was new Ben Harper and was truthfully kind of peeved when it was this Jack fella instead. Ah well.

In case that's all you remember of Ben from the last few years, I've put together a little collection of Harper goodness -- your ears will thank you.

On the one hand we have some revisions of his originals . . .
Steal My Kisses (Neptune Beat version) - Ben Harper
Better Way (Peace Mix) - Ben Harper
Like A King (Dust Brothers mix) - Ben Harper
Faded (4Hero's Dollis Hill Groove) - Ben Harper

And on the other hand, some fantastic covers that Ben has applied his unique stamp to . . .
The Drugs Don't Work (Verve cover) - Ben Harper
Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye) - Ben Harper
Satisfied Mind (Hayes/Rhodes) - Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama
Indifference (Pearl Jam cover) - Ben Harper
Michelle (Beatles cover) - Ben Harper

And finally, I love his song version of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise":
I'll Rise - Ben Harper

Ben is a man possessed when he plays the slide guitar. I've seen him live a half a dozen times or more, and he always deeply impresses me with his skill and his almost transcendent passion while he improvises and wails on his instruments. He is soulful, mournful, and slack-jaw-inducing impressive to witness. He's on tour now with the talented Piers Faccini [previous mention], coming through Boulder this weekend (same night as Wilco, I am torn).

Check Ben out in his slip-slidey-guitar element here on the "Ground On Down" video. This is still one of my absolute favorite Ben Harper tunes of all time, back when he's rocking it old school with the pigtails:


Other video: Rolling Stone called the song "In The Colors" (off the new album) a "ladies' choice" tune, and I can definitely see that -- Ben gets all feisty and playful with an early-morning sunshine feel to the song. The minimalistic video for "In The Colors" was directed by the Malloys, of Woodshed Films/Brushfire Records fame. The Malloys also did this much cooler video for "Diamonds On The Inside" (2003), showing Ben's loves of surfing and sick arm tattoos:

DIAMONDS ON THE INSIDE VIDEO (Ben Harper + Malloy Brothers)

And finally, Ben just wrote an interesting feature for the New York Times this week about music he digs. He says of Ryan Adams, "The lyrical prowess with the sense of melody, the depth of honesty with levity, the soulfulness with hauntedness — it’s all the stuff I want to listen to. . . I was first pulled in when a friend first gave me his disc four years ago. I started listening to everything he put out. I sure have played 'Easy Tiger' (Lost Highway) a ton. It won’t leave my rotation; it’s holding. I could go on about him because he’s what modern music — popular music —needs to sound like."

The article also discusses his affinity for Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, The Nightwatchman (aka Tom Morello), and Money Mark. Read it here.

[top photo credit]


That frickin unavoidable pout

I was in Starbucks last night, and every time I pop in there and see this poster I kind of want to smack Paul right in those pouty lips, as much as I love him. But hey, instead, I'll take a picture and share the joy with you!

Have you seen this? Is it just me?
It's like "McCartney Does Blue Steel."


Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

"Mom, I find it interesting that you refer to the Weekly World News as . . . 'The Paper.' The paper contains facts."

(Scottish accent) "This paper contains facts. And this paper has the eighth highest circulation in the whole wide world. Right? Plenty of facts. 'Pregnant man gives birth.' That's a fact."

The Weekly World News published its swansong final issue today, and of course when I read about it this morning, I fondly thought of one of my favorite Nineties movies -- the San Francisco-filmed, Mike Myers acted, boppy-indie-rock soundtracked, So I Married An Axe Murderer. If you've seen it, you likely remember that quote above between Charlie McKenzie and his momma.

With the WWN gone, where will I turn now for my checkout line perusal needs? I guess it's all news of Lohan and Britney for me from here on out. I kind of prefer stories of alien babies and massive political/religious conspiracies. Bah.

Here's your recommended weekly musical allowance:

Toad The Wet Sprocket
Since we're talking about So I Married An Axe Murderer, here's my vote for the best dang song off that soundtrack. Maybe you are singing, "There sheeeeee goes..." in your head right now (The underrated La's), or maybe "One two princes kneel before you - that's what I said now" (the not-underrated Spin Doctors). But this Toad The Wet Sprocket tune from the soundtrack remains a superb Toad b-side, possibly the best track off this album and also off the In Light Syrup rarities compilation. "Brother" always makes me feel really happy inside, from that ebullient opening melody through the heartfelt lyrics of brotherly love. A great one - put it on your next mixtape.

Pass The Buck

The new Stereophonics album Pull The Pin is an absolute supernova. I've been listening to the forthcoming album from these Welsh rockers all weekend and I woke up with this particular track in my head. Whenever that happens -- a song rising unbidden to my mental jukebox player first thing in the morning -- that means it's gotten inside me and I need to write something about it. This is a cocky, flippant, unyielding tune that just makes you feel like the coolest person in the room, with backing vocals on the verses that invoke a surprising bit of catchy bubblegum goodness. Maybe I'm the only one who hears this, but the chorus of this track reminds me a bit of Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)." They're not the same, but they enjoy standing next to each other.

Parker Mosli
I was catching up with Fuel-favorite Bay Area musician Jake Troth, and was really pleased by the danceable melodies and late-night beats of his new side project, Parker Mosli. This project is a collaboration between Jake (who's also been busy writing a melody featured on the new album of pals Rogue Wave) and fellow relocated Charlotte, NC native Joshua Panda. Recommended for fans of !!! and Mark Ronson, but with some indulgent hand-clappy goodness - love it. They've got some more tunes on their MySpace and an EP available.

100 Days 100 Nights
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
Remember my rant on Dreamgirls a few weeks ago? This song is exactly what I would have loved to see in that film, except this tune is a modern day confection that just sounds like it was made in the '50s. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings (what a fun band name) hit the Brooklyn music scene in 2002 with their own brand of swinging retro funk and soul, sounding like no one else right now. They're also the backing band on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album and (stalled) tour. Retro is so hot right now. Their latest full length album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, will be out October 2nd on Daptone Records, and is worth buying just for the subtle fun of that cover alone.

Collective Soul
My sister is moaning in agony right now that I am writing about Collective Soul. We kind of had an unspoken pact growing up in the "Shine" era that if either of us ever liked Collective Soul, then the other person should immediately kill us. Sorry, but that song got pretty dang annoying in the summer of 1994. I've been out of the loop on the rest of their output, so I could be very, very wrong -- because I will freely admit that I find this song absolutely irresistible. I am looking forward to hearing the rest of their new album Afterwords, out tomorrow on El Records and, somehow, through Target.

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Better than a search midget

Just a quick note to point out that little new music search widget feature over on my sidebar under the profile, lovingly provided for me by this Seeqpod group. You can use it to search on artists I've written about, and then sit there and listen to tunes immediately. We are working on getting it to first pull up results from my blog, then the rest of the world, but for now it will give you all the goodness you need. Have fun.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Exploring a little French bookstore with Amanda

The other day my cell phone rang with an incoming +33 phone number. I knew that meant somewhere in Europe, and also meant a big yay, whoever was calling. It was one of my oldest friends, Amanda (almost 15 years of friendship now), calling for my birthday from France, where she is living and working her own little slice of divine life. She asked if the package she had sent me arrived. Yes -- it did!

Amanda had mailed me packet of dusty art postcards with her spirited hand-written commentary, and they'd arrived all foreign-postaged and thickly wrapped in old-looking paper. It was, hands down, the best thing I have gotten in the mail in a long time. Amazing that someone still takes the time to write letters like that, set the scene, and whisk me off with her to the dusty stacks of some little French bookshop.

She knows my passion for art, which, when I think about it is not too far removed from my passion for music. In the same way that music is a way of not only capturing the musician's inner thoughts but also somewhat reflective of the culture at the time, a piece of art does the same. There is the same beauty and lyricism, lust and loveliness, pain and pleasure in a piece of sculpture or a great painting as you find in your favorite song. Michelangelo's Pieta. Thin Blue Flame. My favorite Bernini sculpture. They're all revealing facets of the human condition, and that will always suck me in. And whether it's a snapshot of a moment with a girl in a song, or the profile of a long-dead woman in the painting, all forms of art are a way of preserving a fleeting, ephemeral piece of ourselves for the future, right? Of saying, "I was here. I felt this. I mattered."

I thought I'd share an excerpt of her letter with you as well as the art she picked, just to brighten your lovely Saturday the way she brightened mine. Let's go:

Dearest Heather, I was walking down Cours Victor Hugo when one of those amazing French book shops just stops you with all the stories in the window. I could have kept walking but I moved not that long ago, and this street (around the corner from chez moi) is my nearest commercial street. So I had been aiming to do a good "get to know the neighborhood" tour. What really got me though were the vats of old postcards marked .10€ apiece. An hour of sorting through, and ten very dirty fingers later, I had about a dozen that pleased me in hand. And I kept coming across Italian images, giving me this idea . . . I'm thinking you have seen some of them in museums or in your studies. I hope they take you back to a special place that no one but you has access to.

The first one is my favorite. I don't have, or rather won't try to find the words to explain why. But I think you'll understand.

I love this version of the annunciation, although the real thing was clearly nothing like it (uh, arched buttresses? Mary is looking pretty white?) the composition is still like holding your breath, yet so rich. I want a yellow halo! And who's that in the background?

Thank god we weren't there for the battle of San Romano because somebody got their asses kicked! It's hard to distinguish exactly what's going on, although there seem to be a lot of jousting sticks. I think this must be just a panel of a larger painting. Go red team!

I need to brush up on my history a bit but I'm pretty sure that the Emperor Justinian is the one that converted the Roman Empire to Christianity, no? But I thought that was the 4th century. (?) Anyway mosaics are cool.

Tough to be St. Stephen, eh? Well, I think this is French from Aragon, but the border reminded me of the pretty, pretty Florentine paper you love. N'est-ce pas?

And really, stoning is so barbaric.

There were a lot more but yeah, those made my day. What a wonderful little island of artistic sanity in the middle of an otherwise mundane afternoon, shuffling through the stack while standing in my kitchen, feeling 5,000 miles away in an instant.

Sometimes knowing that there is such beautiful art in the world makes me feel simultaneously very thankful, and ass-kicked sad that I don't live in Italy anymore. Once you've lived side by side with such amazing art, it's hard to stop.

Ritratto di una giovane signora - Veneziano
L'Annunziazione - Fra Angelico
Battaglia di San Romano - Paolo Uccello
L'Imperatore Giustiniano - Mosaics in San Vitale, Ravenna
Predication et lapidation de Saint Etienne - Breviaire de Martin D'Aragon


Friday, August 24, 2007

Both are good and reckless and true: The Alternate Routes to tour with Roger Clyne

This news just made my day - The Alternate Routes have just announced a fall tour with another Fuel/Friends favorite, Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers! This is most excellent news.

I have been waiting to spring on an Alternate Routes tour since I first learned about them a few months ago, and have been listening to their Good and Reckless and True album non-stop ever since. I'm sold on their expansive, golden, rootsy-rock sound and smart lyricism.

And I think you know how I feel about Roger Clyne; together with his band The Peacemakers, they definitely put on one of the best, heartfelt, sweat-drenched, rocking shows I've seen. Ticket prices range from like $8 to $20 -- an absolute steal for this much heart. I guarantee you will enjoy the show.

Aftermath - The Alternate Routes
I Don't Need Another Thrill - Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers
Banditos (live) - A Roger Clyne song from his previous band, The Refreshments

Fall Tour Dates
with Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers

Sep 25 - Tasty World, Athens, GA
Sep 27 - 8 x 10 Club, Baltimore, MD
Sep 28 - The Iron Horse, Northampton, MA
Sep 29 - Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Oct 2 - Hard Rock Café, Pittsburgh, PA
Oct 4 - The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI
Oct 5 - Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
Oct 6 - Joe’s Bar, Chicago, IL
Oct 7 - The Annex, Madison, WI
Oct 10 - Fine Line Music Café, Minneapolis, MN
Oct 11- Knuckleheads Saloon, Kansas City, MO
Oct 12 - The Black Sheep, Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 13 - Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

With Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers
Nov 7- The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
Nov 8 - Blueberry Hill, St. Louis, MO
Nov 9 - The Music Mill, Indianapolis, IN
Nov 10 - The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI
Nov 11 - Cambridge Room/House of Blues, Cleveland, OH

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Dave Grohl's raw drum tracks for Queens of the Stone Age

This is something a little different today. Instead of perfectly polished tunes, I've got some raw and awesomely primal fodder for my drummer/aspiring-drummer/beatbox readers courtesy of Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) during his stint in Queens of the Stone Age.

I'll be transparent here as always: I'm not gonna pretend to be all "Oh, yeah, I've always loved Queens of the Stone Age." In fact, I was initially totally turned off to them for something as stupid and shallow as their band name. I know, right? But then I was reading up on them, and I saw this interesting quote which explained the name, so it makes more sense to my too-literal brain:

"Kings would be too macho. The Kings of the Stone Age wear armor and have axes and wrestle. The Queens of the Stone Age hang out with the Kings of the Stone Age's girlfriends when they wrestle. And also it was a name given to us by [producer] Chris Goss. He gave us the name Queens of the Stone Age. Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls. That way everyone's happy and it's more of a party. Kings of the Stone Age is too lopsided."

-- frontman Josh Homme (2000)

I can dig that. Plus, I didn't realize that their first album, the self-titled 1998 debut, was released on Loosegroove Records, operated by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, and their very first show that they played as a band was at the OK Hotel in Seattle (which you and I would, of course, want to call The Java Stop, from Singles). So those two things alone are enough to make me wonder what my problem was.

My friend who sent me these said that they are "perfect headache relief." Ha! He obviously digs percussion as I do, and loves it fast and furious as Grohl delivers it here. These are the raw tracks from the 2002 album Songs for the Deaf, and most are either just drums or drums with guitar. I agree that for me they are oddly soothing, a bit hypnotic. Definitely fascinating.

for QOTSA Songs For The Deaf sessions
late 2001/early 2002

Do It Again (drums and guitar)
Do It Again (drums only)
Song for the Dead (raw mix)
Song for the Dead (drums only)
Unknown Track (drums and guitar) (Little Sister)
Unknown Track (drums only) (Little Sister)


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bruce wonders: "Is there anybody alive out there?"

The first single from Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming fifteenth studio album, the Brendan O'Brien-produced Magic [due October 2], leaked into the world last night -- and it's a scorcher. It's got a dark melody that reminds me strongly of the Warren Zevon song "Splendid Isolation" (which has enjoyed a resurgence among the young folk thanks to Pete Yorn doing a whiz-bang cover of it on his latest album).

This is a straight-ahead rocker and I find myself drawn to the prominent guitars and the urgency of the delivery (Bruce is nothing if not urgent, right?). Absolutely a song to drive fast to in the misty rain, with lyrics like these:

I just want to hear some rhythm
I just want to hear some rhythm
I want a thousand guitars
I want pounding drums
I want a million different voices speaking in tongues
This is radio nowhere
Is there anybody alive out there?

Radio Nowhere - Bruce Springsteen
(free download here)


Shake me down and make me see monsters

This is absolutely insane, seeing double, face-melting stuff. If you didn't believe me with all the flowery superlatives about how good Ryan Adams' Berkeley show was last month, just listen to the way he closed the set, with "Shakedown on 9th Street" (from Heartbreaker) flawlessly into "I See Monsters" (from Love Is Hell).

Both songs could stand alone in their own right as excoriatingly blistering performances here, but the way they flow one into the next, like standing on the edge of a precipice as Shakedown ends, drawing in a sharp intake of breath on the four cymbal crashes -- and then we hold our breath and plunge into I See Monsters.

Sweet beard of Zeus, I'm sated.

Shakedown On 9th Street (live in Berkeley)
I See Monsters (live in Berkeley)

The entire Ryan Adams show from 7/24 in Berkeley is now up for download and streaming at the Live Music Archive as well. Thanks to the tapers for making my day.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

John Lennon & Mick Jagger's lost collaboration

In 1973, Yoko Ono kicked John Lennon out. She sent their personal assistant May Pang off with him, with the instructions to "be with John, help him, and see that he gets whatever he wants." Together Pang and Lennon moved to Los Angeles, a period dubbed "The Lost Weekend." It was a weekend that lasted from 1973-1975, during which Lennon passed the time with Phil Spector, recording material that would eventually be released as part of his Rock 'n' Roll LP. He also caroused through the town with musician buddies who informally called themselves the Hollywood Vampires: Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Micky Dolenz and Alice Cooper, and he was known to have recorded songs with Mick Jagger, Elton John, and David Bowie during that time frame as well.

The track he laid down with Mick Jagger was, for a long time, just mythical. In 2003, a London record store owner put an unlabeled record up for auction which he claimed had come originally from Ronnie Wood (guitarist for the Stones) and contained a collaboration cover of Jagger singing the old Willie Dixon blues song, "Too Many Cooks" with Lennon on guitar. Some reports also place Ringo Starr on drums and date the recording to London 1974. That unlabelled acetate (made directly from a master tape, and found in a stack of records) sold for £1,400, and Mick admitted that he had forgotten it existed for a number of years.

Now Mick is going to release that recording on his upcoming compilation album, The Very Best of Mick Jagger [October 2, Rhino]. The album collects material from all four of Mick's solo albums, recordings from various points throughout his career, and will include three previously unreleased tracks, including the collaboration with Lennon.

It seems to me that Jagger may have recorded an earlier version of this same song in L.A. in 1973 during the Lost Weekend period with Lennon only producing and not playing? The band for this session is credited to include Harry Nilsson on backing vocals, Beatles collaborator Jim Keltner on drums, Stones sax player Bobby Keys, Cream bassist Jack Bruce, and Al Kooper on keys (you may remember him from the hesitant Hammond B3 playing on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," if you've seen the Scorsese documentary).

So essentially, I am driving myself crazy trying to nail down the slippery provenance on this specific version. It's the history sleuth in me. I guess we'll find out October 2 if Lennon is playing here or not. It's a cool, funky, brassy song either way.

Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup) - Mick Jagger & "The Jim Keltner Orchestra" (so-dubbed by John Lennon)

photo credit Jef Aérosol - stencilled paste-ups on Fashion Street in London (between Brick Lane and Commercial Street), July 15, 2007

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Guest post: Chris from North Carolina is a mixmaster across the miles

It's kinda Guest Post Central around here lately with a few fine folks taking my place for a day. This is a very good thing for you, the reader, because all my friends have excellent musical taste. Obviously.

A few weeks ago I got a package from Chris out in North Carolina who made me not just one or two but SIX CDs full of genuine marvelousness that I am still digesting. Chris sends me some humid North Carolina greetings, and writes the following; "I often (morbidly) tell my wife Janet that if anything ever happens to me, she must check out your site to update her musical stylings."

Due to flattery like that (ha!) and the sheer enjoyment I derived from his mixes, today I am going to share five of Chris' picks with you off his first themed mix, along with his comments. There's probably several other posts in the coming months from the stuff he sent me; honorary guest residency status out of this batch. I never tire of hearing the world through someone else's ears.

(sort of a loose collective of Rolling-Stones-disciple tunes)

The Figures of Art - Spoon
I saw Spoon open for a friend's (kinda crappy) band in a tiny Mexican restaurant in Chapel Hills 10 yrs ago when they still wanted to be the Pixies. Love the Stonesy-intro riff here, and I'm thrilled they decided they'd just rather be Spoon.

Too Bad - Faces
Speaking of The Stones, I really don't get how FM radio in the Midwest played the hell out of the Stones, but missed out on everything by these guys except "Stay With Me." I cannot think of anyone in modern history who has had access to more good, clean, hedonistic fun than Rod and he sings like it.

Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
If you have not caught DiG, it is a must-see ["A documentary on the once-promising American rock bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, and the friendship/rivalry between their respective founders, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor"]. Brian Jonestown Massacre is such a compelling story of a band and they obviously loved the Stones too, but they'd think it was beneath them to play quite so accessibly. I don't care if it is a ripoff with at-times insipid lyrics, it rocks anyway.

Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The Libertines
Much like my favorite band The Replacements, I do not see how the Libertines decided which songs to leave off their albums. This b-side is by far my favorite of their tunes.

Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
European Vacation featured this song way back in the day and I've always thought of it, perhaps unfairly, as a French Ramones song.

BONUS, as I love the mixery technique of sandwiching in a little dialogue snippet or something cool between the songs; Chris used this as track 8:
"Do You Feel Your Music Is Racist?" - This Is Spinal Tap


Hottest State soundtrack/book pack winners

You all are The Hottest. I so enjoyed reading the batches of summertime recollections submitted for the contest to win the soundtrack and book for The Hottest State. It deeply pleases me to have such literate and aware and appreciative readers who can share wonderful memories that took me away to dozens of different locales along with you.

Here were the two randomly out-of-a-hat selected winners: a survivor of a sweaty Amazonian summer, and a tale of covert summertime swimming that reminds me of my own first kiss (and subsequent rent-a-cop bust) experience many Augusts ago -- don't worry Mom, with more clothes. Congrats to both winners and I need address info for you guys.

I encourage the rest of you to take a few minutes (and a mini-vacation) by reading all the great impressionistic memories of warm and sticky days.

At August 11, 2007 12:57 PM, mel said...
Oooooh, how fabulous!

Favourite hot summer memories have to do with my summer in the Amazonian rainforest... falling asleep in hammocks listening to the monkeys, bathing and doing laundry in the river, fishing for piranhas (take that, you nasty little fish!), sweating like crazy (small price to pay for my first acne-free summer since puberty), picking fresh guavas, drinking guarana, enjoying a tarantula infestation.... (Pardon me while waves of nostalgia break on the shores of my memory.)

I'm a faithful Fuel/Friends reader, so I'll know it if you randomly choose me. (^_^)

At August 11, 2007 11:22 PM, Sal said...
On an unbearably warm summer evening in South Florida, my girlfriend and I stripped down to nearly nothing, hopped a fence, removed the rest of our clothing and skinny-dipped in a golf course community's private pool. Of course, security arrived shortly afterward and found us hiding in the pool behind a bush. Forced to leave, we asked the security guard to turn around so my girlfriend could get into her one piece of clothing - a short Detroit Red Wings hockey jersey. I then put on my boxers, and with our heads held high, and her tugging down on the jersey, we marched out the gate. The guard took down our information, and we were forever banned from the pool. But fortunately this was Florida, and all it took was crossing the street to find another pool to escape from the heat. And maybe the next security guard won't pretend he doesn't wish to be young again.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Part of my birthday celebration of special things to do yesterday involved getting a little spur-of-the-moment fifteen minute "Traditional Chinese Massage" at the mall from a spry little Asian man for $12.

I thought he was all going to adjust my feng shui and tap my meridians, but instead he just wailed on my back (and pinched the back of my ankles - what is that?). I felt like I was going through a car wash -- you know the part where the floppy brushes whap and whap and whap your car windshield and you think just for a moment that it might break? Yeah, like that. I am actually sore this morning, feeling like I got jumped into Fight Club with none of the fun.

It was a beautiful Colorado summer day yesterday, replete with a warm afternoon rain and a fiery sunset. Three things that made me happy as I celebrated: a) trying on a hot pink one-piece strapless terrycloth jumper/track-shorts thingie that made me feel like a full-fledged member of Three's Company b) going out to a lovely birthday dinner at our local brewery with a few girlfriends I am lucky to know and c) really ridiculously enjoying some fresh cold watermelon from our local farmer's market. Simple pleasures of an August birthday.

It's hard to believe that I am 28 now. I moved here when I was 25, and turned 26 shortly thereafter, but somehow the leap from there (right in the middle of my twenties) to 28 seems a long one, since one year from today I will be a year shy of thirty. Sheesh. I still feel maybe 15, 16. I am officially in the twilight of my youth, I've been told. It's a good life, a wonderful life, and I have no complaints, but how did 28 creep up on me?

Here's something that makes me feel urgently 15 again:

Take Care Of Us
Star Spangles
This is absolutely my new favorite album of the moment. I've been a fan of these gritty NYC rockers for about two years now [previous post], but I've been out of the loop and their newest release Dirty Bomb (2007, Tic Records) slipped right past me. The Westerberg-meets-Malin-meets-Clash blend percolates to a perfect urgent richness on this newest effort and it is addictive, melodic, catchy rough-edged rock. If you buy it over on this newfangled Amie Street thingie you get 3 extra tracks and the whole thing will only set you back like $6. It's the deal of the summer for this much goodness.

Rogue Wave
I picked up this excellent charity benefit CD while I was in San Francisco this past February for the Noise Pop Festival and completely forgot to write anything about it. At The Crossroads is a benefit for homeless youth in the City by the Bay, and for a mere $12 you get a perfectly balanced blend of bands you've heard of and bands you haven't, all bringing their A-game to the comp. Artists include Calexico, Creeper Lagoon, Scissors for Lefty, Elephone, Bettie Serveert, Scrabbel (who I saw open for Cake the night I got this CD) and The Faint. A few of the tunes are fun covers (Morrissey's "Please (x3) Let Me Get What I Want" and U2's "Seconds"). Good music for a good cause, this song is summery and shimmery -- I am glad Rogue Wave offered it up for this compilation.

Night Windows

I've been excited to hear the upcoming Reunion Tour album from The Weakerthans after hearing effusive praise from a few pals who have given it a spin already -- and after hearing this track I see why. I have a penchant for sharp lyrics, and this is an area where Canada's The Weakerthans [previous post] stand out. Their incisive, introspective feel will probably remind you a little bit of Death Cab For Cutie if you haven't listened to The Weakerthans before; they are a richly nuanced group that I really enjoy. This song could undeniably be the most perfect summer night driving song ever recorded. You can almost see the yellow lines flitting past, feel the warm summer wind rushing in the open windows. Reunion Tour is due September 25 on Anti-/Epitaph Records.


A DJ friend of mine in Seattle raved about these guys, and holy cow just hearing the opening twenty seconds of this indeed makes me want to get up and dance, in his club or in my living room. We're talking an inexorable pull, with those James Brown teasing guitar licks meets Talking Heads shouts. Apparently Datarock is a duo from Norway that have a penchant for matching track suits (hey, kind of like that time I saw Devo!) and make their own brand of urgent dance-punk-electronica. Those awesome Norwegians. This is off their 2005 album Datarock, and I just learned that this song will also make you want to drink cola beverages, or so hopes Coca-Cola in their newest commercial.

Complete Shakeup
Travel By Sea
My pal the Aquarium Drunkard has his own little record label dealie going on (you know those cool L.A. types) called Autumn Tone Records and is slowly building a quality catalog of mostly alt-country and folk releases. Travel By Sea is a lazy, sun-flecked, swing in a hammock on a late summer day band that hails from a California/Colorado long distance collaboration between Kyle Kersten and Brian Kraft. Their beautifully crafted-album Shadows Rise is now being re-released on Autumn Tone, with a new album expected any day now.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

New Eddie Vedder solo song: "Hard Sun" (with Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker)

Clearly intended as a birthday gift for me (it's tomorrow), the first Eddie Vedder solo song from the Into The Wild soundtrack has now been posted on the Into The Wild website. This initial listen sounds well-suited to what I understand the movie is about (note to self: get the book!) -- a journey into the great wide open, wanderlust, sweeping vistas, solo strength.

It builds from an organic acoustic/tambourine affair to a heavier, fuzzier, driving thing of beauty by the end. It is apparently a cover of an obscure song by Canadian musician Gordon Peterson under the name Indio, from the 1989 album Big Harvest. Searching for information on Peterson is near impossible, as he seems to have all but vanished since the album was released, but the original song apparently features backing vocals from Joni Mitchell.

Ed's version ramps up the Middle-Eastern influences and reminds me of Pearl Jam songs like "Who You Are" or "Face of Love," a bit exotic. Sleater-Kinney punk goddess Corin Tucker duets, taking the part that Joni filled 18 years ago.

Hard Sun - Eddie Vedder & Corin Tucker
(or stream at Hype Machine or IntoTheWild.com)

The soundtrack album of solo material from Eddie Vedder will be coming out one month from today on J Records, and the Sean-Penn-directed movie opens in U.S. theatres on September 21.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Celebrate the Damnwells' Air Stereo release anniversary with old demos & new album news!

I am deeply in love with the music of The Damnwells now more than ever. I've been on a kick lately, and as far as I reach in, they meet me there with their music. As my friend Scott wrote, "[Lead singer/songwriter Alex] Dezen uses the pen like a rapier to carve little bits out of your heart and soul."

Yesterday marked one year since Air Stereo (2006, Rounder Records) was unleashed upon us unworthy masses, and if you don't own it yet, why not? Why, oh why not. I discovered this in 2007, so it doesn't get to go into my top list of the year that I'll put out this Deccember, but that's just a technicality. This is undoubtedly one of the best albums of my year, one I've listened to the most, sang my lungs out to in the car, and spent time alone with on my iPod.

The great news this week is that Alex has revealed some juicy details of work commencing on a new album. He writes, "The Damnwells will be going back into the studio before the end of this year to record a new record. I'm thinking a self titled affair. Really, when you consider all the pressure and nonsense—both existential and metaphoric—we always had to deal with every time we went into the studio, this will be the first Damnwells record we will ever be able to just make. 'No pressure,' Paul, our A&R guy at Rounder says. 'Make the record you want to make.' What a crazy idea! Not like we were ever making anyone else's records, but there was always compromise.

Where art and commerce meet, there has to be. Your mixed-medium, six foot canvas doesn't fit in the six by three inch display case at Wal-Mart, and no amount of dieting or exercise is ever gonna fit your square peg in that round hole. Compromise is a part of life—at least the kind that includes a roof over your head and food on the table. So now that we're supposed to make this record, the one we want to make, without the pressure and nonsense, I think I may be feeling a little Stockholm syndrome coming on. How the hell am I supposed to do that?

Guess we'll find out

In the spirit of Damnwells love, I've unearthed some more demos from their early days and they are heartbreaking, insanely good, wrenching, melodic -- some of the best stuff I've heard in months. I love the ferocious romanticism of The Damnwells, and that's a kind of romanticism that can be manly too (not talking like bubble bath romantic, more like bleeding out in the backcountry following your dream romantic).

Information about these is incredibly scant, and my normal methods of reconaissance are failing me. If you can confirm anything else about these demos, I'd love to hear it. Far as I can tell, these are mostly demos for the PMR (Poor Man's Record) + 1 EP, which you can still buy over at CD Baby. There are two demos from the Heart Hazard EP which was a self-produced, hand-stamped job that I can't find a trail on either.

PMR+1 and Heart Hazard EPs
Sweet Marie
Smile Guy
Stay (demo)
For My Own Good
Goodnight Tonite
Ballad of You (demo)
Have To Ask (demo)
Three Day Old Lover (blue version)
Three Day Old Lover (red version)
How Do I Say Nothing (demo)
Televised Telephone (demo)
The Only One Who Laughs (demo)
While You Can (demo)


Damnwells will be playing Bumbershoot in Seattle on Labor Day weekend. Wanna go?


Fierce acoustic Damien Rice in Denver, 5/5/07

A friend of a friend shot the following video when Damien Rice was here in town on Cinco de Mayo (I was wondering WHY WAS I NOT AT THIS, but then I remembered I was busy taking shots to the mouth in the Kings of Leon pit).

It's a fantastic little snippet; I love how defiantly Damien sings the lines, almost as if he is taunting or daring courage to teach him to be shy. It also has the grainy look of an old-time film reel somehow. Enjoy, I did:



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Memorable Moment in Music: "Ladies & gentlemen, Elvis has left the building"

[last picture ever taken of Elvis, 12:28am, Aug 16, 1977]

Tomorrow marks thirty years since the memorable (and sad) moment in music when Elvis Presley was found dead in his Graceland bathroom at the age of 42, the day before he was to start a new tour. For years he had been sadly deteriorating from the fresh faced, doe-eyed, swivel-hipped innocent of the Fifties, all enlisting for the Army and being photographed in his tightie-whiteys; so average, so loveable.

In recent years his music was swirling to new heights of camp (albeit, camp that I absolutely adore - "I'm just a hunk-a hunk of burning love?" That opening drumbeat? "The flames are now lickin' my body?" Fantastic):

(pretty sure that's like an early music video; studio cut, live images)

By 1977, Elvis was in really bad shape, and that ferocious swagger and cocky snarl you see above in the glitz and glimmer was all but gone. It was a feat just to get him through every show, propped up on bloated legs by a combination of amphetamines, barbiturates, and sequined bell-bottoms. Guralnick writes in his 2000 book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, "There was no longer any pretense of keeping up appearances... The idea was simply to get Elvis out onstage and keep him upright for the hour he was scheduled to perform." His final concert would be the night of June 26, 1977 in Indianapolis.

The last recording Elvis made was a vocal overdub on "He'll Have To Go" done on October 31st, 1976 in the "Jungle Room" at his home at Graceland. The last song Elvis performed in private was a rendition of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," done on his piano in Graceland hours before his death. [ref]

The morning of August 16th, his fiance Ginger Alden found Elvis dead in his Graceland bathroom with fourteen drugs detectable in his system, ten in "significant quantity." According to the medical examiner, Elvis had stumbled or crawled several feet before dying. What a sad ending to such an amazing, epic life that gave us some of my favorite music ever. No one can cast a bigger cultural shadow than The King. Through a combination of musical virtuosity, that irreplaceable voice, and something in the DNA of our culture - the fabric of my musical knowledge - he was without equal. Elvis is just Elvis.


Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, IN
June 26, 1977 - Final concert [
2001 Space Odyssey theme (opening) / C.C. Rider
I Got A Woman/Amen
Love Me
You Gave Me A Mountain
Jailhouse Rock
O Sole Mio/It's Now Or Never
Little Sister
Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
Release Me
I Can't Stop Loving You
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Introduction of band members
Early Morning Rain
What'd I Say
Johnny B. Goode
Larry London drum solo
Jerry Sheff bass solo
Tony Brown piano solo
I Really Don't Want To Know
Bobby Ogdin Electric Clavinet Solo
Jazzing in Vegas
Hound Dog
Can't Help Falling In Love
Closing vamp / "Elvis has left the building"


I found myself at bit melancholy at watching a few more videos of the Elvis from the Seventies, starting with when he actually looked kinda hot in that white jumpsuit (ha! never thought I'd say that):



Some extras because I absolutely love this song and never tire of it:
Always On My Mind - Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
[bonus track, Jacksonville City Nights. 99% sure this is a duet with Norah Jones]
Always On My Mind (live on NPR) - Iron & Wine/Calexico


"Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building."

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The literate and raw musical poetry of Luke Doucet

Several months ago I got an album in my mailbox with this depressed looking chap on the cover, submerged fully-clothed in his bathtub. When you feel like doing that you are probably not in the happiest of mindsets, so I first dismissed it as sad sap break-up music and I'll admit that I tossed it into a pile of "To Listen On A Day When I Am Sadder" albums. I was doing myself a disservice by not listening to this gem immediately.

The 2005 album is called Broken (and other rogue states) by Canadian Luke Doucet, and I am wondering why I had never heard of his solo work before. This is a wry album that reminds me of excellent artists like M. Ward and Ryan Adams, with a bit of Wilco or even the self-effacing half-spoken zingers of Cracker on songs like "One Too Many." Doucet brings alt-country inflections, a rich voice with a slight rasp to it, and stunning lyrics that read like wicked clever poetry.

Above all else, those lyrics are what elevate Doucet above the dozens of other singer-songwriter albums I'll listen to this year:

"I left a trail of Lucky Strikes on the way up to your room
in case the sun went down I'd find my way home
Now one and one half years have passed and it's time for me to go
But the smokes have all been kicked away
I'm blazing a new trail from your cold, cold heart
-From "Lucky Strikes"

"It takes a uniquely fucked up man to break his own heart
And the right girl at the wrong time to make him do it . . .
So bring me cigarettes, bring me alcohol, bring me heroin,
make me feel again
You were never my whole world
you're just one of many girls . . .
Maybe I've had one too many
-From "One Too Many"

Or how about this song TITLE (also the extent of the lyrics) for track #10:
"if i drop names of exotic towns that you'll never see, in the songs that i write, it's that that's all i have when i miss my girl and you're taking yours home tonight"

Doucet intermittently wallows in his sorrows, flagellates himself for his loss, lets fly some pretty harsh barbs ("You don't need a heart to have a swollen head") and warns the womenfolk about himself. The last song on the album is a rough and fuzzy 1:42 stomper called "Keep Her Away From Me": "Keep her away from me, keep her away from me, 'cause I'm not man enough to keep my hands where I can see them."

Doucet has woven an album that manages to be sweepingly cinematic and completely unpretentious at the same time, a visceral soundtrack to his life experiences. One of my favorite pairings on the album is a short 1:14 track called "Stumbling Gingerly Back To Emily's Apartment" - a drunken flamenco-tinged waltz that feels exactly like what the title says. It brings him unsteadily to the front steps of her apartment and flows seamlessly into the shameless grovel of "Emily, Please" -- "Emily please don't send me packing in this dilapidated state." He swears he's "on the brink of being sober -- this was to be my last drink" and asks her to please not tell his mother.

Even though he's shameless, you still want to believe him.

Stumbling Gingerly Back To Emily's Apartment - Luke Doucet
Emily, Please - Luke Doucet

Doucet is the former guitar player for Sarah McLachlan (I thought I'd heard the name somewhere), and has released several previous solo albums. One reviewer had the following to say, and I couldn't put it better: "Although Doucet is clearly an exceptionally talented guitarist, Broken (and other rogue states) is not your typical guitar player’s record. His songs are not vehicles for his solos, and when the Canadian does let slip his six string skills, it’s to complement his songs and to emphasise his emotional themes, not to draw attention to his penis."

He has crafted an absolutely lovely, scathing, bittersweet, alcohol soaked chronicle of love and loss -- it is definitely one of the most solid albums of my year so far. Buy Broken (and other rogue states) and pour yourself something that burns a little on the way down.


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