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Sunday, January 31, 2010

AC/DC

AC/DC
BACKTRACKS (2009)
320 KBPS

As handsome as this package is — or in the case of the super limited edition, housed in a working guitar amp, as ridiculous — Backtracks is essentially just a clearinghouse for AC/DC rarities, rounding up all the released tracks and videos that have yet to appear on a collection, throwing in a full-length DVD of 2003 for good measure. In other words, it's a set designed for the kind of diehard who would purchase a box set housed in a working amplifier, but its pleasures aren't limited to the dedicated, particularly when it comes to early AC/DC. Prior to 1979's Highway to Hell, all the band's LPs differed in their Australian and international incarnations (one, 1975's TNT, was just cannibalized for other albums), so there are quite a few stray tracks — a full 12, ranging from the priceless boogie "R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)" to the throwaway instrumental "Fling Thing," plus alternate takes of "High Voltage," "It's a Long Way to the Top," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," and "Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)" (only available on the deluxe, giving another good reason to opt for the big set). The studio disc is rounded out by some OK latter-day tracks, highlighted by "Big Gun" from the Last Action Hero soundtrack and the nifty little rocker "Cyberspace," and it's quite nice to have all these cuts rounded up. If the live tracks aren't quite as noteworthy, it's largely because there have already been several live releases — proper albums, box sets, and home videos alike — but the quality of the two CDs is quite high, opening with a clutch of Bon Scott cuts before settling into a stretch from a dynamite set from Detroit's Joe Louis Arena in 1983, then finding the group trotting around the globe on the third disc. This is supplemented by a DVD dubbed Family Jewels 3, a disc that rounds up all the videos not on the original double-disc collection, including a pair of clips from 2008's Black Ice ("Rock N Roll Train," "Anything Goes"), and alternate takes of seven videos featured on the original compilation. Finally, Backtracks ends with that 2003 show, finding AC/DC in a relatively small venue in Munich, tearing through a concert that relies heavily on early classics. It's a set list that could pretty much be called a hardcore fan's dream, which makes it a fitting close to this box, because if this is anything, it's one for the fans, the ones who have stuck with the band though 35 years of unrelenting rock & roll.

Disc 1
1. Stick Around
2. Love Song
3. Fling Thing
4. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
5. Carry Me Home
6. Crabsody In Blue
7. Cold Hearted Man
8. Snake Eye
9. Borrowed Time
10. Down On The Borderline
11. Big Gun
12. Cyberspace

Disc 2
1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Sydney Festival, 30 Jan. 1977)
2. Dog Eat Dog (Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, 30 Apr. 1978)
3. Live Wire (Hammersmith Odeon, London, 2 Nov. 1979)
4. Shot Down In Flames (Hammersmith Odeon, London, 2 Nov. 1979)
5. Back In Black (Capital Center, Landover MD, 21 Dec. 1981)
6. T.N.T. (Capital Center, Landover MD, 20 Dec. 1981)
7. Let There Be Rock (Capital Center, Landover MD, 21 Dec. 1981)
8. Guns For Hire (Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI, 18 Nov. 1983)
9. Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution (Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI, 18 Nov. 1983)
10. This House Is On Fire (Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI, 18 Nov. 1983)
11. You Shook Me All Night Long (Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI, 18 Nov. 1983)
12. Jailbreak (Dallas TX, 12 Oct. 1985)
13. Highway To Hell (Tushino Airfield, Moscow, 28 Sept. 1991)
14. For Those About To Rock We Salute You (Tushino Airfield, Moscow, 28 Sept. 1991)
15. Safe In New York City (Phoenix AZ, 13 Sept. 2000)

PAOLO CONTE

PAOLO CONTE
LIVE: ARENA DI VERONA (2005)
320 KBPS

A unique voice in both the Italian and international music scene, Paolo Conte (born 1937) mixes jazz, cabaret and chanson with such talent that it gained him a worlwide recognition if only limited to certain circles. Many people only know his biggest hit, Via Con Me (It's Wonderful), and that's a shame as the man is much more than just an one-hit-wonder.
This 2005 double live album, recorded in Verona while supporting his Elegia album, his best since the early 90's, proves how greatly underlooked by the mainstream audiences outside of Italy he is. Of course, Via Con Me is present here, in two different and entertaining versions, but the main reason why you ought to yourself to try this live is that it samples many of Paolo's finest cuts and can therefore be considered a great introduction to the man's work. Give it a try, you will not regret it.

Disc 1
1. Cuanta Pasion
2. La Donna D'inverno
3. Sparring Partner
4. Come-Di
5. Elegia
6. Sotto Le Stelle Del Jazz
7. Alle Prese Con Una Verde Milonga
8. Sandwich Man
9. Schiava Del Politeama
10. Genova Per Noi
11. Via Con Me
12. Molto Lontano

Disc 2
1. Bartali
2. Bamboolah
3. Lo Zio
4. Madeleine
5. Chissà
6. Lupi Spelacchiati
7. Gioco D'azzardo
8. Max
9. Diavolo Rosso
10. Eden
11. La Vecchia Giacca Nuova
12. Via Con Me (Bis)

STRAY

STRAY
TIME MACHINE:
ANTHOLOGY 1970-1977 (2003)

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I got this new 2 cd compilation "Time Machine: Anthology 1970-1977" based upon the recommendation of a friend. I was not disappointed! Stray began life as a psychedelic/progressive influenced rock band in the late 1960's. They were a classic opening band for many concerts. Among the groups they opened for were Kiss, Mountain, Ian Hunter, the Groundhogs, Yes, Gentle Giant, Hawkwind, Uriah Heep, Nazareth and others. The classic line up of the band included Del Bromham on lead guitar and keyboards, Steve Gadd on lead vocals, rhythm guitar and harmonica, Gary Giles on bass and Ritchie Cole on drums. Bromham was also the group's principal songwriter. Fans of the band include Rush drummer Neil Peart, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris and members of the Damned and XTC.
Stray did not get around to recording their first album until 1970. Their first album "Stray" included their best known track "All In Your Mind". It is a psychedelic/hard rock tour de force. The track was later covered by Iron Maiden. The first album also includes the classic "Time Machine". The band became less psychedelic with each successive album. However, the band still maintained progressive elements in their songs. Tracks like "Come On Over" and "Give It Up" utilized strings and horns to back the song and add depth. While essentially a hard rock band the band also maintained a good sense of melody and often used harmony vocals to good effect in songs like "Where Do Our Children Belong". Del Bromham is a forgotten guitar star from the seventies. Songs like "Our Song" showcase Bromham's acoustic prowess while the boogie "Georgia" shows he is adept at slide guitar as well. "Buying Time" shows Bromham was not afraid to utilize guitar effects. The set contains a few tasty rarities like "Mama's Coming Home", "Get Out Right Away" and "Georgia" which were either single b-sides or were unreleased at the time they were recorded and only released later on the Stray hits and rarities compilation "Tracks". It is interesting that catchy tracks like "Alright Ma!" and "Hallelujah" among others were either not released or were not successful as singles. A few good tracks like "Only What You Make It" and "Mister Wind" which are available on another 2 cd Stray compilation "The Definitive Stray" paired with the first album "Stray" were omitted. However the combination of good hooks along with excellent guitar playing and harmony vocals will make you want to hear more after purchasing "Time Machine: Anthology 1970-1977". With the exception of the "Definitive Collection"/"Stray" 2 cd set previously mentioned none of their original albums are currently available in compact disk. Hopefully this situation will be rectified in the near future. As the lyrics to "Time Machine" suggest "the time has come at last, let's go explore the past!"

Disc 1
1. All in Your Mind
2. Around the World in 80 Days
3. Time Machine
4. Yesterday's Promises
5. Son of the Father
6. Where Do Our Children Belong
7. Jericho
8. Suicide
9. Our Song
10. Mama's Coming Home
11. Move That Wigwam
12. Mr. Hobo
13. Come on Over
14. Alright Ma!
15. Oil Fumes and Sea Air
16. Hallelujah

Disc 2
1. Move It
2. Mystic Lady
3. Somebody Called You
4. Give It Up
5. Get Out Right Away
6. Georgia
7. Stand Up and Be Counted
8. As Long as You Feel Good
9. Down, Down, Down
10. Woolie
11. Feel Like I've Been Here Before
12. Houdini
13. Fire and Glass
14. Take It Easy
15. Percy the Pimp
16. Buying Time
17. You Went Away
18. I Wanna Be Free
19. One Night in Texas

Saturday, January 30, 2010

THE BAD PLUS

THE BAD PLUS
JOINED BY WENDY LEWIS
FOR ALL I CARE (2008)
320 KBPS

That the Bad Plus have recorded pop covers since their inception as a piano/bass/drums trio is a given in their M.O. The Minnesota-based trio has consistently added tunes by Blondie, Queen, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, and Burt Bacharach to their albums — in addition to their own compositions — as they've gone about reinventing the piano trio sound and dynamic in jazz (they have become the loudest, most hard rocking acoustic trio in the music's history). Some critics have accused them of camp, but this is simply a pronouncement of ignorance and prejudicial conservative and "preservationist" paranoia. After a decade of working together, the Bad Plus, following up their brilliant 2007 album Prog, have undergone some major changes: they left Sony and now record themselves independently. They've chosen Heads Up as their label/distributor in the United States and Universal in the rest of the world. For All I Care also marks their first recording entirely comprised of covers. The songs range from tunes by Nirvana (who they've covered before), Wilco, and Pink Floyd to Milton Babbitt, Igor Stravinsky, Yes, the Flaming Lips, and Gyorgy Ligeti, to Heart, Roger Miller, and the Bee Gees. There isn't an original on the set. Another first for the trio on For All I Care is the addition of Minneapolis rock vocalist Wendy Lewis.
Perhaps the most compelling, shocking, and wonderful thing about this collaboration is how much Lewis' presence becomes part of the trio's landscape. Where before they've chosen tunes rich in irony for a jazz band to cover — "Heart of Glass" and "Iron Man" come immediately to mind — the emotional intensity and reverence Lewis offers the material only intensify their approach, especially "How Deep Is Your Love." On tracks like Heart's "Barracuda," Lewis becomes a real soloist despite deliberately downplaying her interpretive skill as a singer. In becoming a "member" of the band on this outing, she stands out as its singer. Her lack of vocal histrionics and acrobatics allows the melodic, harmonic embellishments and dimensional extensions by the band to roam free over the material. She grounds them but they still swing like mad. Check the reading of a "classic rock" nugget like "Long Distance Runaround" and you'll hear a fresh, brave, and utterly engaging song in its place — despite the fact that the lyrics, and melody have been faithfully rendered. The same goes for Kurt Cobain's "Lithium" that opens the set. In the trio's able hands, the pathos in that lyric, and Cobain's melodic intricacy, can actually be heard. The dead space in Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" comes across as revealing the void at the heart of the song. The heartbreak in the Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" is devastating because of her dry delivery as accented by Reid Anderson's propulsive bass, Ethan Iverson's almost florid embellishing piano, and the in-the-cut breaks played by David King. On the modern classical material where vocals are absent, the trio look to interpret these works with deep concentration and bring out their improvisational possibilities as jazz tunes; they succeed in spades — check the knotty contrapuntal bass and piano interaction on Ligeti's "Fém (Etude No. 8)" for example. This is one of the most compelling releases yet by one of the new jazz's finest bands to emerge in the 21st century.

1. Lithium (Nirvana)
2. Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
3. Fém (Etude No. 8) (György Ligeti)
4. Radio Cure (Wilco)
5. Long Distance Runaround (Yes)
6. Semi-Simple Variations (Milton Babbitt)
7. How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees)
8. Barracuda (Heart)
9. Lock, Stock and Teardrops (K.D. Lang)
10. Variation d'Apollon (Igor Stravinsky)
11. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate (The Flaming Lips)
12. Semi-Simple Variations (Alternate Version) (Milton Babbitt)

FRANK LONDON & LORIN SKAMBERG

FRANK LONDON & LORIN SKAMBERG
TSUKER-ZIS (2009)
256 KBPS

When you mention Jewish music to most people they will most likely think of Fiddler On The Roof, groups of Kibbutzim dancing Israeli folk songs, or maybe even Klezmer. However most people don't associate Judaism with religious music, and for the longest time music was forbidden to Jews by Rabbinical edict as a symbol of their mourning the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. Yet, by the middle ages those strictures were relaxed and instruments were once again being used to help celebrate religious feasts and secular events.
Of course with such a huge break in their own musical tradition, and the fact that most Jews were now living in Eastern Europe instead of Jerusalem, their music was heavily influenced by the folk music of their gentile neighbours. Like Yiddish, the language spoken by the Jews of Eastern Europe for day to day usage, you can hear traces of everything from German, Polish, Czech, to the Romani (gypsies) in Klezmer and Jewish religious music. While Klezmer music has obtained a level of popularity recently and there are any number of recordings available, the same can't be said for the religious music. However two musicians who were instrumental in creating the interest in Klezmer music through helping found the band The Klezmatics have now begun making recordings of Jewish religious music as well.
Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg have just released Tsuker-zis on the Tzadik label, a collection of fourteen songs celebrating various holidays and aspects of Jewish religious life. The title is Yiddish for sugar sweet, and according to notes accompanying the release Jewish imagery often uses sugar metaphorically to describe the divine sweetness of our lives. That doesn't mean the songs on the album are sickeningly sweet, rather they are expressions of the joy the various holidays bring to people. For even a holiday as intimating sounding as Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, can be considered joyous as its a part of the overall sweetness of the divine in a Jewish person's life
However, you'd be forgiven for wondering what kind of disc of Jewish religious music features an Armenian oud player, Ara Dinkjian; a tabla player from North India, Deep Singh; and an electric guitar player, Knox Chandler, whose credits include Cyndi Lauper, the Psychedelic Furs, and Siouxie & The Banshees. Well, when you consider that trumpeter and keyboard player London has worked with everyone from Itzhak Perlman to LL Cool J and vocalist and accordion player Sklamberg has taught Yiddish singing from Maui to Kiev, the fact that they have elected to work with three musicians from such diverse backgrounds makes a little more sense. Anyway, remember the Jewish musical tradition that has inspired this recording drew upon a wide variety of musical influences to begin with. It only follows that modern day adaptations of these songs should follow in their footsteps by drawing upon the world around them as well.

1. A Sukkah Of Branches
2. Blessings Without End
3. Our Life Is Sugarsweet
4. Our Parent, Our Sovereign
5. Increase Our Joy
6. The Days Between #1
7. The Lord Sent His Servant
8. The Days Between #2
9. Heed Not The Accuser!
10. Elijah The Prophet Bought A Red Cow
11. Greeks Gathered Against Me (Intro)
12. Greeks Gathered Against Me
13. Mighty, Blessed, Great, Prominent, Glorious, Ancient, Meritorious, Righteous, Pure, Unique, Powerful, Learned, King, Enlightened, Exalted, Brave, Redeemer, Just, Holy, Merciful, Almighty, Omnipotent Is Our God

THE MERCURY PROGRAM

THE MERCURY PROGRAM
ALL THE SUITS BEGAN TO FALL OFF (2001)
320 KBPS

An excessively rich and gorgeous five-song EP from the Mercury Program, who are growing to become recognized as one of the most ingenious and talented bands active today. All the Suits Began to Fall Off shows a remarkable progression from their first full-length, From the Vapor of Gasoline, as their songwriting has become more tactful, interesting, and therefore effective. The bare traces of vocal stylings found interlaced in previous efforts have been completely removed, allowing the music to bloom more on its own.

1. The Secret to Quiet
2. There Are Thousands Sleeping in Peace
3. Marianas
4. Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta
5. Delicate Answer

A DATA LEARN THE LANGUAGE (2002)
320 KBPS

The third album by Florida-based quartet Mercury Program is a small departure, eliminating vocals entirely and adding electronics for the first time to what had previously been a richly acoustic, almost jazzy sound. The band is still centered around Whitney Travisano's electric piano and vibraphone (guitarist Tom Reno and drummer Dave LeBleu also add vibes to several songs), which gives A Data Learn the Language a cool, mellow feel, like the Sea and Cake reinterpreting their favorite Modern Jazz Quartet sides. The electronics and loops are introduced sparingly, supporting the eight lengthy songs and adding new and interesting textures, but never becoming the center of musical attention. A Data Learn the Language will be of no interest to those who find instrumental post-rock insufferably dull, but it's consistently melodic, rhythmically varied, and unfailingly listenable. Coctails and Tortoise fans take note.

1. Tequesta
2. Fragile or Possibly Extinct
3. Slightly Drifting
4. Egypt
5. To/From Iceland
6. You Yourself Are Too Serious
7. Gently Turned on Your Head
8. Sultans of el Sur

TIFT MERRITT

TIFT MERRITT
ANOTHER COUNTRY (2008)
320 KBPS

It took Tift Merritt four years, a label change, and a sojourn to Paris, where she knew virtually no one and didn't speak the language, to craft her third release. She recounts the Paris part of the story in the liner notes and the explanation clarifies both the disc's title and reflective, personal songs such as "I Know What I'm Looking for Now" ("this world will mix you up and bring you down, but I know what I'm looking for now"). Producer George Drakoulias returns from her last album, as does most of her touring band, but the sound is more muted and less insistent than on the Dusty in Memphis styled Tambourine. When horns do finally enter the picture on track eight, it seems like the Stax styled "Tell Me Something True" is a Tambourine leftover. Electric guitars are handled by ringers Charlie Sexton and Doug Pettibone but both stay on low boil for the majority of the disc, finally letting loose on "My Heart Is Free" near the end. The stripped down sound, reliance on ballads and mid-tempo strummers such as the opening "Something to Me" gives these songs, and especially Merritt's luxurious vocals, room to breathe. They marinate in their comfy country-folk strum, unconcerned about making a strong first impression, but rather letting their melodic and lyrical charms seep in gradually. The singer's voice seems more fragile and sensitive than in the past but that suits the introspective nature of these 11 originals well. The notes make clear that the material was largely composed on piano, which explains the keyboard oriented sound underpinning the lovely title track and many of the slower tunes that dominate the set. There's a sense of exhaling through the spaces on these songs, as if the sessions were a return to a less stressful approach. That fits the material, and especially Merritt's velvety vocals, perfectly. When all the elements combine, such as on the lilting "Morning Is My Destination" where Merritt's voice connects with the more soulful aspects of the song, punctuated by gospel organ and stinging guitar fills, the effect is stunning. The closing cabaret ballad "Mille Tendresses," sung in French, is a natural coda to an album that is not an obvious progression in Tift Merritt's career, but one that comes from the heart and sounds it. Sometimes you have to look backward to move forward, which makes Another Country ring with a personal touch. It resonates with emotion, tenderness, and a sense that she has found comfort in life and her songwriting that may have been missing before.

1. Something to Me
2. Broken
3. Another Country
4. Hopes Too High
5. Morning Is My Destination
6. Keep You Happy
7. I Know What I'm Looking for Now
8. Tell Me Something True
9. My Heart Is Free
10. Tender Branch
11. Mille Tendresses

Friday, January 29, 2010

PANZERBALLETT

PANZERBALLETT
HART GENOSSEN VON ABBA BIS ZAPPA (2009)
320 KBPS

Some say the jazz police will despair over Panzerballet, the German jazz-metal band led by spectacular guitarist Jan Zehrfeld that Die Welt described as "faster than Metallica, more powerful than Motörhead, and funnier than Rammstein". It's easy to imagine that more sensitive listeners might flee this experience with their fingers in their ears simply on mental-health grounds, but it's hard to believe it would nowadays be dismissed as un-jazz or anti-jazz, since some of it suggests John Zorn, and some even early Steely Dan. Panzerballet made waves with its 2008 debut Starke Stücke, and its successor cranks up the intensity with which Terje Rypdal-like guitar ambiance turns into heavy-rock power chords, sax-led free-jazz, snarling gothic vocals, preeningly cool jazz and ironic love-ballads that sound like Brüno singing with an improv band. Guitarist Zehrfeld is an exhilarating player who seems to relish heart-stopping chord-slams and freshly phrased bebop sprints equally. The interpretations rip apart the Simpsons theme, Abba's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and a Zappa medley with even-handed indifference to the originals. It'll be too frivolously ironic for some, but it's great fun.

1 The Simpsons
2 Bird Wild Web
3 Jadoo
4 Mein Teil
5 Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
6 Kulturzeit
7 The Mediterranean Breeze
8 Ein bisschen Frieden
9 Weary Eyes
10 Zappa - Medley From Hell - Part I
i. Let's Make The Water Turn Black
ii. Harry, You're A Beast
iii. The Orange County Lumber Truck
11 Zappa - Medley From Hell - Part II
iv. Oh No
v. City Of Tiny Lights
vi. Evelyn, A Modified Dog

DAVID SIMONS

DAVID SIMONS
FUNG SHA NOON (2009)
320 KBPS

David Simons is an enigmatic figure in the Moondog/Partch mold who has been doing things his own peculiar way for decades. An instrument builder and virtuoso thereminist, David has written music for theater, dance, film, sound installations and classical concert ensembles. The pieces for his second Tzadik CD are some of his most ambitious to date, and feature compositions for large ensemble, string quartet, gamelan, theremin, garbage cans and empty bottles. Complex music at the nexus of classical and world music by this remarkably unique musical thinker!

1. Odentity
2. Uncle Venus
3. Music for Theremin and Gamelan II
4. Music for Theremin and Gamelan II
5. Chain Of Incident

BETH ORTON

BETH ORTON
TRAILER PARK (1996)
320 KBPS

A folkie for the electronica age, Beth Orton brilliantly bridges the gap between acoustic songcraft and digital dance beats with her extraordinary debut album, Trailer Park. Fusing the plaintive emotional power of the singer/songwriter tradition with the distanced cool of trip-hop rhythms, Orton creates a fresh, distinct, and surprisingly organic sound without obvious precedent; blessed with a warm, ethereal voice capable of adapting comfortably to Spartan folk ("Whenever," a touching cover of the Spector/Greenwich/Barry-penned "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine"), buoyant pop ("Live as We Dream," "How Far"), and spacy, densely layered electronica ("Tangent," "Touch Me with Your Love"), she shifts gears with remarkable ease, the depth and clarity of her unique perspective connecting even the most disparate tracks together into a unified whole. Simply put, Trailer Park is one of the most promising and innovative debuts of its era.

1. She Cries Your Name
2. Tangent
3. Don't Need A Reason
4. Live As You Dream
5. Sugar Boy
6. Touch Me With Your Love
7. Whenever
8. How Far
9. Someone's Daughter
10. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine
11. Galaxy Of Emptiness

EXPERIENCE

EXPERIENCE
AUJOURD'HUI, MAINTENANT.LP (2001)
320 KBPS

Experience, lead by Michel Cloup, ex-Diabologum, offers us one of the finest French indie rock demonstration of the last ten years. Of course, this music is not easy to digest and the lyrics being very important will not help those who don't understand French to get into it but, if you try hard enough, you'll find something both beautifully twisted and intelligent which does not come too often in the indie rock realm. Socially concerned, vibrant and cerebral, the music of Experience could be compared to a senseless-free Sloy or a noisier Diabologum though Experience truly is a beast of its own. It's likely you've never heard anything like that and, in my humble opinion, that is a good thing.

1. Aujourd'hui Maintenant
2. Essayer
3. Entre Voisins
4. Deux
5. La Question Ne Se Pose Pas
6. Les Ouvriers Coréens
7. West Houston Street
8. Fin 82 Début 83
9. La Pièce Du Frigo
10. Pour Ceux Qui Aiment Le Jazz

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SEATRAIN

SEATRAIN

Seatrain was an American roots fusion band based initially in Marin County, California, and later in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Seatrain was formed after the breakup of the Blues Project in 1969. The group, which recorded four albums, disbanded in 1973.

SEATRAIN (1970)
320 KBPS

Produced by George Martin and recorded in England, Seatrain found all the parts with which to construct a great album of East Coast rock and country-soul. With Peter Rowan added to the group as guitarist and lead vocalist, Seatrain managed to even get a Top 40 hit with the tune "13 Questions." But the good music doesn't stop there; each track is worth listening to.

1. I'm Willin'
2. Song of Job
3. Broken Morning
4. Home to You
5. Out Where the Hills
6. Waiting for Elijah
7. 13 Questions
8. Oh My Love
9. Sally Goodin'
10. Creepin' Midnight
11. Orange Blossom Special

MARBLEHEAD MESSENGER (1971)
320 KBPS

More of the same, in this case, doesn't mean more hits. Marblehead Messenger, while better played and sung, didn't have the appeal that their previous effort seemed to. But it is much more of a band effort, and the tunes are well worth seeking out and enjoying. A forgotten jewel of its time.

1. Gramercy
2. The State Of Georgia's Mind
3. Protestant Preacher
4. Lonely's Not The Only Way To Go
5. How Sweet Thy Song
6. Marblehead Messenger
7. London Song
8. Mississippi Moon
9. Losing All The Years
10. Despair Tire

LES INNOCENTS

LES INNOCENTS
LES INNOCENTS (1999)
320 KBPS

One of France's most respected pop acts, Les Innocents were a jangly pop band that released four albums between 1989 and 1999, all of which displayed its leaders' (J.P. Nataf and Jean-Christophe Urbain) fine songwriting skills and musical craftsmanship. Their career was boosted in 1987 by the success of their "Jodie" single, and their first three LPs spawned many other hits, from "Colore" to "Un Autre Finistère." Though those first LPs (1989's Cent Metres au Paradis, 1992's Fous à Lier, and 1995's Post Partum) sealed the band's popularity, the commercial failure of their fourth and last LP (1999's Les Innocents) initiated a separation process which is a real shame since it's probably their finest, more refined and ambitious album. Sadly, excellence doesn't always succeed.

1. Sur La Terre Arrosée
2. Une Vie Moins Ordinaire
3. Petite Flamme
4. Les Cailloux
5. Le Cygne
6. Les Moutons
7. D'Hendaye à Collioure
8. Danny Wilde
9. Fanfare
10. Susan Sarandon
11. Tu Sais Lire
12. Maubert
13. Treize
14. Himalayas

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES (1999)
320 KBPS

Rage Against the Machine had a hell of a career, if a bit too brief. Their debut was brilliant, but I find Battle of LA to be the band's most distinct and impressive work. Nearly every song on this album is memorable and stands out in its own way, and the songs have a larger-than-life quality and sense of authority that most heavy music lacks today.
The sounds and dynamics of 'Battle' are crunchy and in-your-face, and give the album that epic feel. Even with the shorter tracks, the band never slacks off; the sounds on this album are creative and original and never fail to entertain. RATM was always a band with a political message, but they knew how to have fun with it and make it entertaining and energetic. Born of a Broken man, my favorite song on the album and one of my personal all-time favorite songs in general, is especially heavy and driving, not to mention atmospheric and beautiful.
Overall Battle of Los Angeles is nothing short a masterpiece, this is creative metal set to groove and rhythm, and it rules.

1. Testify
2. Guerrilla Radio
3. Calm Like A Bomb
4. Mic Check
5. Sleep Now In The Fire
6. Born Of A Broken Man
7. Born As Ghosts
8. Maria
9. Voice Of The Voiceless
10. New Millennium Homes
11. Ashes In The Fall
12. War Within A Breath

CHEAP TRICK

CHEAP TRICK
ALL SHOOK UP (1980)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

It was a dream come true for uber-Beatles fans Cheap Trick to have George Martin produce an album with them. The results equal one of my favorite Cheap Trick albums, and I love Cheap Trick so when I say it's probably my favorite release from them that carries some weight. It might sound odd but I think Heaven Tonight is their "best" album but All Shook Up is probably my "favorite" album, and I can't leave In Color out of the running for either spot because that's outstading as well. Anyway, All Shook Up has some oddball stuff like a Darth Vader-synth voice on "High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise" and a tribal-esque drum chant party on "Who D King." Add to those a grandiose theme song like "Stop This Game," a couple of old-school rockers like "Just Got Back" and "Baby Loves to Rock," and one of the best power ballads EVER in "World's Greatest Lover" and you have one heck of a record. I have the original 10-song version (after my old LP literally wore out) so I can't comment on the remastering or bonus tracks. I have to mention that "Can't Stop It But I'm Gonna Try," "I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends," and "Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)" are also classic Cheap Trick tunes. There is literally not a bad song on this entire album.

1. Stop This Game
2. Just Got Back
3. Baby Loves To Rock
4. Can't Stop It But I'm Gonna Try
5. World's Greatest Lover
6. High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise
7. Love Comes A-Tumblin' Down
8. I Love you Honey But I Hate Your Friends
9. Go For The Throat (Use your Own Imagination)
10. Who D'King
Bonus Tracks
11. Everything Works If You Let It
12. Day Tripper (Live Version)
13. Can't Hold On (Live Version)
14. Such A Good Girl
15. Take Me I'm Yours

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

JOHNNY CASH

JOHNNY CASH
AMERICAN III: SOLITARY MAN (2000)
320 KBPS

This 3rd album in the 'American' series of recordings is amongst the best things Johnny Cash has ever done. As with all the late Cash recordings there is a running thread of passionate honesty and realism that runs throughout the entire the album.
Typical of this is the opening track "I Won't Back Down". Cash is defiant on this track: "Well I know whats right, I got just one life, in a world that keeps on pushing me around, but I stand my ground and I won't back down". This track like the rest is stripped down to a bare minimum. Accoustic guitar with some extra backing vocals on the chorus is all you get, and of because of Cash's fantastic lived in voice, this works to perfection.
Its Cash's voice and the sparse arrangements on this album that make all the covers sound like they were written for him. Neil Diamonds "Solitary Man" and U2's "One" being perhaps the best examples of this. However the best track full stop is Cash's great cover of Nick Caves "The Mercy Seat". Here Cash again restates the running theme through his final albums "I am not afraid die". Full credit to producer Rick Rubin for the arrangement on this track which adds to the already powerful lyric.

1. I Won't Back Down
2. Solitary Man
3. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)
4. One
5. Nobody
6. I See a Darkness
7. Mercy Seat
8. Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)
9. Field of Diamonds
10. Before My Time
11. Country Trash
12. Mary of the Wild Moor
13. I'm Leaving Now
14. Wayfaring Stranger

UFO

UFO
NO HEAVY PETTING (1976)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

UFO was on a roll so to speak after their breakthrough 'Force It' and the guitar wizardry of Michael Schenker started to gain the band serious notoriety in hard rock circles. In May of 1976, 'No Heavy Pettin' continued the run of magnificience. Danny Peyronel had joined the band during the supporting tour for 'Force It' but he only lasted throught the supporting tour for the next album. He was replaced on a more permenant basis by Paul Raymond, however Peyronel was the first keyboard player in UFO after former Ten Years After keysman Chuck Churchill, who had played on the two prior LP's strictly in a session capacity. "Natural Thing" blows out of the speakers with a monsterous riff that works magic as the album opener. Sordid tales of groupies always seem to make great rock songs and both "Thing" and "I'm a Loser" both became concert staples, the latter featuring both acoustic and metal genius from Mr. Schenker. Other favorites include "Can You Roll Her" and "Reasons Love" which features an incredibly fast guitar solo from Schenker. Peyronel contributed "Highway Lady" another fast and loose rocker which tempowise seemed to fit with many of the speed rockers on the record. Not known for being a great blues band didn't stop UFO from unleashing the album's crowing jewel (in my humble opinion anyway)"On With the Action", a burning, seething groovefest with Phil's tough lyrics about the desolation of the streets and Michael's trademark tone, slowed down to a molten pace, then ratched up for another mindblowing lead break. Leo Lyons' production, his last with UFO after three trailblazing records, captured the essence of Michael's sound and this just might be his best guitar sound UFO record. Some duds towards the end (including a another cover that blows!) don't hurt the majesty of another cornerstone release by the Seventies greatest unsung hard rock band.

1. Natural Thing
2. I'm A Loser
3. Can You Roll Her
4. Belladonna
5. Reasons Love
6. Highway Lady
7. On With The Action
8. A Fool In Love
9. Martian Landscape
Bonus Tracks
10. All Or Nothing
11. French Kisses
12. Have You Seen Me Lately Joan
13. Do It If You Can
14. All The Strings

GRANDADDY

GRANDADDY
THE SOPHTWARE SLUMP (2000)
320 KBPS

Picking up where their Signal to Snow Ratio EP left off, Grandaddy's wittily named second album The Sophtware Slump upgrades the group's wry, country-tinged rock with electronic flourishes that run through the album like fiber-optic lines. Arpeggiated keyboards sparkle on "Hewlett's Daughter" and "The Crystal Lake," and wind, birds, and transmissions hover around the songs' peripheries, suggesting a Silicone Valley landscape. Jason Lytle's frail, poignant vocals provide a bittersweet counterpoint to the chugging guitars and shiny electronics that envelop him like a cockpit or a cubicle on "Chartsengrafs" and "Broken Household Appliance National Forest" and set the tone for melancholy ballads like "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot," "Miner at the Dial-a-View," and "Jed the Humanoid," the story of a forgotten, alcoholic android. Lost pilots, robots, miners, and programmers try to find their way on The Sophtware Slump, an album that shares a spacy sadness with Sparklehorse's Good Morning Spider and Radiohead's OK Computer. Though it's a little more self-conscious and not quite as accomplished as either of those albums, it is Grandaddy's most impressive work.

1. He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot
2. Hewlett's Daughter
3. Jed the Humanoid
4. The Crystal Lake
5. Chartsengrafs
6. Underneath the Weeping Willow
7. Broken Household Appliance National Forest
8. Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)
9. E. Knievel Interlude (The Perils of Keeping It Real)
10. Miner at the Dial-A-View
11. So You'll Aim Toward the Sky
Bonus Tracks
12. Our Dying Brains
13. First Movement/Message Send: ID #5646766

BILLY MACKENZIE [RE-UP]

BILLY MACKENZIE
BEYOND THE SUN (1997)
320 KBPS

Billy Mackenzie was narcissism made flesh, the Devil's grin on his dimpled face and the best white pop voice of the last 20 years gushing from his torso.
A dedicated fabulist and fervent bisexual hedonist, Mackenzie maintained an ambivalent relationship with the music business after his early-'80s heyday fronting progressive glam-pop titans The Associates. Sporadic solo records were critical hits but commercial flops. After signing a new publishing i 1996, he took his own life in January 1997, apparently overcome with grief at his mother's death.
Would this collection of tunes and revamped Associates archive material have precipitated his glorious comeback? Probably not. It is stupendous, sure, but Mackenzie always seemed bored by the mechanics of stardom and generally favoured his alternate career training whippets. No, really. Whippets. Most of these tracks are tarted-up demos, though it scarcely shows. Even on a dry run, Mackenzie pours his whole essence into each vocal, from the sepulchral croak of 'Winter Academy' to the soulful desolation of 'Give Me Time' to the title track's devastating collision of agony and exhilaration. Billy's brazen Bowie/Ferry infatuation still endures, only here it is tempered with a healthy dollop of Scott Walker's booming baritone and Billie Holiday's spectral purr. Meanwhile, genealogists seeking to trace Mackenzie's own seedlings need look no further than labelmates Suede. There is certainly a flash of breathy Brett brilliance about the sublime ballad 'And This She Knows', quite possibly the best thing Mackenzie ever recorded. The production, by Pascal Gabriel and Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde, is mostly pristine and timeless. The arrangements too: a spooked trip-hop rumble for 'At The Edge Of The World', a lush Euro-crooner twang for '14 Mirrors', but nothing intrusive or jarringly trendy. The prevailing backdrop is an eerie piano, and the foreground always That Voice, sighing and smouldering and soaring to new heights of magnificent self-obsession.
Whatever heavenly choirs are singing in the velvet-lined presidential suite Mackenzie has secured for himself in the afterlife, you can guarantee they won't sound half as throbbingly glamorous as Billy himself. And you can be damn sure the old poser will let them know.

1. Give Me Time
2. Winter Academy
3. Blue It Is
4. 14 Mirrors
5. At The Edge Of The World
6. Beyond The Sun
7. And This She Knows
8. Sour Jewel
9. Gypsies In A Restaurant
10. Nocturne VII
Bonus Track
11. Pain In Any Language (with Apollo 440)

NINE DAYS WONDER

NINE DAYS WONDER
THE SCENERY IS IN DISGUISE THERE (2000)
320 KBPS

Coming from Japan, Nine Days Wonder are heavily influenced by the loud and thundering post-punk that swarms music in the United States. No doubt this sound is somewhat less prevalent in the group's hometown of Tokyo, Japan. The quartet cites such bands as Shotmaker, Unwound, and The Jesus Lizard as pivotal influences to their current sound, and it shows. But just as there's quite a bit of geographic distance between this band and their influences, musically lots has changed in the translation, making them quite enjoyable and unique.
On their debut album, Scenery Is In Disguise There, driving, layered, and melodic rock suddenly gives way to pounding wallops by the rhythm section and shrieking vocals making it an enjoying if demanding listening experience for all post-hardcore fans.

1. Reminder
2. Stuck
3. Lossleader
4. Voiceprint
5. Magnet
6. The Flock Soars
7. Return to Sender
8. Hollow Inside
9. New Ways to See the World

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UNIVERS ZERO

UNIVERS ZERO
THE HARD QUEST (1999)
320 KBPS

After an absence of over a decade, Univers Zero has returned, and more invigorated than ever. The slate has been wiped clean, now with a mix of old and new chalk for drawing. Original member Michel Berckmans has returned after having last played with UZ 18 years previously on Ceux de Dehors. Dirk Descheemaeker, from the band's last albums in the 80s, is also back. These veterans represent the fortified woodwinds section. The members who handle the strings, both new, are Reginald Trigaux (related to the band's original guitarist and Present founder, Roger Trigaux) on guitar and Igor Semenoff on violin. At the center of it all, of course, is drummer Daniel Denis, who on this outing does double-duty, playing the keyboards as well.
The compositions are tighter and more accessible than previous albums, almost as if Denis had written the album keeping in mind with the prospect of luring a new generation of potential fans. Texturally and compositionally, this might be the most diverse Univers Zero album to date. The keyboard sounds generated include the now-reinstated harmonium, as well as organ ("Affintite") and even harpsichord ("Civic Circus"). On "Vieux-Manants," sparse bass drum and tambourine create (as Brandon notes in his review) a medieval feel, while other tracks feature tuned percussion ("Civic Circus") and Denis' traditional drum kit. Denis even loosens up to play a straight 4/4 on the middle-Eastern "Xenantaya"; always wondered if he could do that!
With the excellent recording quality coupled with a return to the more organic sound of the band's earlier albums, I would very much recommend this as a top consideration for those starting off in their exploration of the band, as well as old-time fans who are well in-the-know. This is Univers Zero. This is what they do.

1. Vieux-Manants
2. Civic Circus
3. Affinité
4. Rouages
5. News From Outside
6. Rébus
7. Kermesse Atomique
8. Succès Damné
9. L'Impasse du Choléra
10. Xenantaya
11. L'Oubli

CHARLES MINGUS

CHARLES MINGUS
MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS (1963)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Having completed what he (and many critics) regarded as his masterwork in The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Charles Mingus' next sessions for Impulse found him looking back over a long and fruitful career. Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus is sort of a "greatest hits revisited" record, as the bassist revamps or tinkers with some of his best-known works. The titles are altered as well — "II B.S." is basically "Haitian Fight Song" (this is the version used in the late-'90s car commercial); "Theme for Lester Young" is "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"; "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" adds a new ending, but just one letter to the title; "Hora Decubitus" is a growling overhaul of "E's Flat Ah's Flat Too"; and "I X Love" modifies "Nouroog," which was part of "Open Letter to Duke." There's also a cover of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," leaving just one new composition, "Celia." Which naturally leads to the question: With the ostensible shortage of ideas, what exactly makes this a significant Mingus effort? The answer is that the 11-piece bands assembled here (slightly different for the two separate recording sessions) are among Mingus' finest, featuring some of the key personnel (Eric Dolphy, pianist Jaki Byard) that would make up the legendary quintet/sextet with which Mingus toured Europe in 1964. And they simply burn, blasting through versions that equal and often surpass the originals — which is, of course, no small feat. This was Mingus' last major statement for quite some time, and aside from a solo piano album and a series of live recordings from the 1964 tour, also his last album until 1970. It closes out the most productive and significant chapter of his career, and one of the most fertile, inventive hot streaks of any composer in jazz history.

1. II B.S.
2. I X Love
3. Celia
4. Mood Indigo
5. Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul
6. Theme for Lester Young
7. Hora Decubitus
Bonus Track
8. Freedom

MUSE [RE-UP]

MUSE
ABSOLUTION (2003)
320 KBPS

With their third studio album, Absolution, the English power trio Muse have struck black gold! Full of ominous gut-wrenching delicacies, intricacies, and eccentricities, the lyrics hit note for note with the fitting musical backdrop, but your enjoyment of this album depends more on whether you think focusing on the bitter ends of this failed experiment called "civilized" society just being pessimistic and depressing than the album itself. Absolution paints pictures of the destruction of beauty, beauty in destruction, shame in the failure of human existence, outright torment, and... what's that? Do I hear? Yes, it sounds like a touch of hope. It's a veritable Pandora's Box of exceedingly compelling orchestrations.
After an intro of marching feet that melts into a crushing piano, "Apocalypse Please" sets the tone for the album, with Matt Bellamy's tortured screaming of the prophetic chorus, "This is the end of the world!" "Stockholm Syndrome" speaks to the forced apathy that grips the world where people no longer get angry at the right things. Road rage and meaningless violence reign but no one rages at the government and other control forces that maintains the upper five percent's eighty-five percent share of the wealth while they feign generosity in the form of table scraps [Sure they bitch. Boy howdy, do they bitch, but, aside from the truly motivated, they'll just go to work in the morning]. Like certain kidnap victims, many among us are quite ill, victims of a disease called Patriotism whereby a resident of planet Earth religiously and, in his/her mind, righteously loves a certain marked off and originally named piece of land more than any other for the simple fact that their parents fucked there. Patriotism is mental disorder that, if left unchecked, will... uh... I think I got a bit off topic. Sorry, just thinking about that song "Lets My Hatred Grow." Absolution is an emotional, philosophical, sophisticated, poetic, and beautiful piece of rock music that does this pathetic planet proud. Listen and learn.

1. Intro
2. Apocalypse Please
3. Time Is Running Out
4. Sing for Absolution
5. Stockholm Syndrome
6. Falling Away with You
7. Interlude
8. Hysteria
9. Blackout
10. Butterflies and Hurricanes
11. Endlessly
12. Thoughts of a Dying Atheist
13. TSP
14. Ruled by Secrecy

THE PRODIGY

THE PRODIGY
EXPERIENCE (1992)
320 KBPS

One of the few non-compilation rave albums of any worth, Experience balances a supply of top-this siren whistles and chipmunk divas with Liam Howlett's surprising flair for constructing track after track of intense breakbeat techno. Almost every song sounds like a potential chart-topper (circa 1992, of course) while the true singles "Your Love," "Charly," "Music Reach," and "Out of Space" add that extra bit of energy to the fray. More than just a relic of the rave experience, Experience shows the Prodigy near the peak of their game from the get-go.

1. Jericho
2. Music Reach (1/2/3/4)
3. Wind It Up
4. Your Love (Remix)
5. Hyperspeed (G-Force Part 2)
6. Charly (Trip into Drum and Bass Version)
7. Out of Space
8. Everybody in the Place (155 and Rising)
9. Weather Experience
10. Fire (Sunrise Version)
11. Ruff in the Jungle Bizness
12. Death of the Prodigy Dancers (Live)

JR EWING

JR EWING
THE PERFECT DRAMA (2002)
320 KBPS

Norway's premier indierock/hardcore band met all expectations that people created after their now to be considered classic debut album “Calling in dead”. “The perfect drama” CD rocks harder than their previous work. Still walking the fine line of energy fueled indie/rock and raw punk assault JR EWING set the new standards in the European underground. “The perfect drama” takes a step in the direction towards The MURDER CITY DEVILS or AT THE DRIVE IN without sounding washed out. JR EWING are constantly touring with names such as PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES, THE LOCUST, DAS OATH, TURBO NEGRO, THE MARS VOLTA. As different as all these bands are, JR EWING manages to cross over to all these crowds.

1. 1st Class Suicide
2. The Ludovico Technique
3. A Case Of Evacuation
4. Untitled
5. Delicate Checkout
6. Nickels For (Your) Pity
7. Lights On, Stereo

Monday, January 25, 2010

THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT

THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT
I ROBOT (1977)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Critcs start to bash Alan Parsons Project albums from their second offering on. And I always suspect that that was more due to the fact APP was a huge commercial success than to some decrease of musical quality. And if you hear APP´s Tales of Mystery and Imagination and this one you´ll seee not much difference between the music in general. Sure, I robot is more polished and had one song that reached the carts (I Wouldn´t Want To Be Like You), but that´s about it. The project always had this flair for the melodic, accessible approach since the beginning, so there is no real ´betrayal´ of their prog past as some claim.
Having said that, I must admit I was a fan. Hearing this CD after all these years reminded me of how versatile, creative and prolific they were. The production is so perfect is almost absurd. The many singers invited do a great job and certainly Woolfson and Parsons know how to craft great tunes. I was surprised to find members of that pop band Pilot playing in such sophisticated project but Ian Bairnson and David Patton proved to be better musicians than most people (me included) thought they were. I liked the themes of their conceptual works too. It was quite unsual for an act to work always with concept albums and come out with such constant success.
There is no real challeging music here. Nothing too original or groundbreaking, either. But I guess it was never their goal anyway. Nevertheless, it was nice music, very well done and with tasteful arrangements. Their progressive influences (very strong on I Robot) would wear out in future releases, but they never ceased to amaze me with the quality of their songwriting abilities.

1. I Robot
2. I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You
3. Some Other Time
4. Breakdown
5. Don't Let It Show
6. The Voice
7. Nucleus
8. Day After Day (Show Must Go On)
9. Total Eclipse
10. Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32
Bonus tracks
11. Boules (I Robot Experiment)
12. Breakdown (Early Demo Of Backing Riff)
13. I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You (Backing Track Rough Mix)
14. Day After Day (Early Stage Rough Mix)
15. The Naked Robot

PAUL MORAVEC [RE-UP]

PAUL MORAVEC
TEMPEST FANTASY (2007)
320 KBPS

Paul Moravec’s music is firmly rooted in Western tradition, yet manages to sound at once fresh, elegant, and fiercely individual. His Tempest Fantasy, the work that won him the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, is a meditation on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and has been described by Fanfare magazine as ‘openly and ebulliently attractive, flowing with an effortless lyric pulse’. Mood Swings, named by The Washington Post as the best new classical composition of 1999, is a rhythmically charged work that endeavors to make audible the workings of the central nervous system. The disc ends with Scherzo, which the composer describes as ‘a compact, energetic encore-type work’.

Tempest Fantasy
1. I. Ariel
2. II. Prospero
3. III. Caliban
4. IV. Sweet Airs
5. V. Fantasia
Mood Swings
6. Mood Swings
B.A.S.S. Variations
7. B.A.S.S. Variations
Scherzo
8. Scherzo

GUSGUS

GUSGUS
THIS IS NORMAL (1999)
320 KBPS

Gus Gus' second album, This Is Normal, heralds their discovery that they are first and foremost a pop band. While the spacious, sophisticated electronica they developed on their debut (Polydistortion) is still evident, This Is Normal's smooth, streamlined finish has more than a nodding acquaintance with dance-pop. Though Normal is certainly less weird than its predecessor, it remains floating outside of the mainstream, but swims a little closer to it. Looking to explore individual normality within the album's 11 tracks, Gus Gus' multiple singers and songwriters expound on sex, fame, youth, and love. "Ladyshave" features sly vocals from Daníel Ágúst and a slightly kinky premise, while Hafdis Huld's breathy soprano elevates "Teenage Sensation," "Superhuman," and "Blue Mug" to an icy, remote beauty. As with Polydistortion, Gus Gus continue to be more convincing on their albums' quiet, introspective moments. The mannered chamber pop of "Bambi" and the pretty atmospherics of "Dominique" are among the highlights of This Is Normal, while dance-oriented songs like "Very Important People," "Starlovers," and "Love vs. Hate" probably sound less flat and distant at one of the group's amazing multimedia concerts. The innovative beats and arrangements on Gus Gus' debut are missed here, but This Is Normal is still a fine blend of accessibility and invention.

1. Ladyshave
2. Teenage Sensation
3. Starlovers
4. Superhuman
5. Very Important People
6. Bambi
7. Snoozer
8. Acid Milk
9. Blue Mug
10. Love vs. Hate
11. Dominique

LES SAVY FAV

LES SAVY FAV
THE CAT AND THE COBRA (1999)
320 KBPS

The Cat and the Cobra is an excellent collection of songs written over the better part of 1999. With the departure of original drummer Pat Mahoney, Les Savy Fav, in 1999 welcomed college pal and former Hellbender drummer Harrison Haynes. Haynes brough a freshness to the band that created, I think, the perfect chemistry that the Fav have been looking. The Cat and the Cobra is a blend of familiar sounds that reminisce the Pixies, Rye Coalition and the DC punk movement. The Fav are no strangers to the studio, and with help from Brooklynite Nicholas, they mastered the perfect stew of sounds. Guitarist Seth Jabour and bassist Syd Butler(founder of French kiss)write the perfect, quintasential parts making the music both melodic and at times experimental.

1. The Orchard
2. We'Ve Got Boxes
3. Who Rocks the Party
4. Wake Up!
5. Roadside Memorial
6. Dishonest Don Part I
7. Dishonest Don Part II
8. The End
9. This Incentive
10. Reformat
11. Titan

DROPKICK MURPHYS

DROPKICK MURPHYS
SING LOUD, SING PROUD! (2001)
320 KBPS

Boston's Dropkick Murphys exude an energetic rowdiness, a definite slice of punk-o-rama appeal. Fans raise their fists in the spirit of Oi!, and the Dropkicks playfully snarl into Irish-American song traditions and musical unity. On Sing Loud, Sing Proud, it became more than a family affair. The band's new lineup featuring James Lynch (guitar), Spicy McHaggis (bagpipes), and Ryan Foltz (mandolin) allowed the album a broad-based instrumentation, a spastic composition scaling above 1999's The Gang's All Here. The fervor surrounding a hearty jig, a group of hearty men, and social woes in the midst of relaxing with a scally cap is something commonly found among the Dropkicks' fun-spirited chants. "The Torch" resonates Celtic folk vibes, acoustics blending inside Barr's and bassist Ken Casey's roughcast duet. "Good Rats" and the vinyl-only version "The Wild Rover" feature ex-Pogue Shane MacGowan on guest vocals. One of the '80s biggest headaches, MacGowan's presence adds a hint of old school rock ambience. The Dropkick Murphys do remain at the heart of things, particularly on "Fortunes of War." Dedicated in memory of a punk rock fan who was killed in Texas, Cock Sparrer's Colin McFaull joins Barr for a touching swan song, skatepunk style. Recognizing the working class' blood and tears while patronizing the use of societal scapegoats, "Fortunes of War" makes Sing Loud, Sing Proud a decent addition to the band's album roster, but thanks to a pint of ale, of course.

1. For Boston
2. The Legend of Finn Mac
3. Which Side Are You On?
4. The Rocky Road to Dublin
5. Heroes from Our Past
6. Forever
7. The Gauntlet
8. Good Rats
9. The New American Way
10. The Torch
11. The Fortunes of War
12. A Few Good Men
13. Ramble and Roll
14. Caps and Bottles
15. The Wild Rover
16. The Spicy McHaggis Jig

Sunday, January 24, 2010

THE POGUES

THE POGUES
BOX SET: JUST LOOK THEM IN THE EYE AND SAY...
POGUE MAHONE!! (2008)
320 KBPS

OK, this is one of those projects that was built up by internet buzz for over three years. As such, the opportunity for disappointment and failure to meet expectations was high. I am a skeptic by nature and especially of the sort of buzz and hype that preceded this release.
Holy Fuck!!! If you've never been to a Pogues show, but know the material, listen to the live cuts of Sally MacLennane, Dirty Old Town, and The Sickbed of Cuchulainn first. These will confirm what Macgowan has always said, says on the rambling docu-bio "If I Should Fall From Grace. . .", that the Pogues should be recorded live. The energy on those tracks, from the band and the audience is truly extraordinary, and takes me back to New York in the late 80's when I first heard some of this music (at McSorley's Pub on E. 6th St; a night on which I was almost beaten for something unkind a companion said about the Irish). It's raw, it's warm, it's grrrreat fun, and it's a lasting beauty that attends little in popular music, say maybe Bob Dylan and a very few others.
Everything has been said in the other reviews about this set. I can only echo: "when will the other five discs be released"? And: "how about a tour of the US (not just the Northeast)?!" The fact that Shane MacGowan is still alive (look for a prediction of his imminent death to appear in print at least twice a year) is a marvel, and though I do actually say a prayer now and then that he will get sober (at 51 how much longer can he last?), his persistence in breathing the air is a testament to the energy and vitality of the music that flows through him and the band. I enjoy all of this, including the slurred singing from Shane-O (which, incidentally, has as much to do with his very poor dental health as the drinking). The variety, the new stuff, the old stuff in new versions, even the cinematic instrumentals are all a joy. Buy this if you like the Pogues, The Popes, and the genre they spawned, even a little bit. A keeper, a joy, a marvel. Thank you Phil Chevron for this great labor of love. May the Pogues (and Shane) be around and playing another 25 years!

Disc 1
1. Kerry Polka
2. Rocky Road to Dublin
3. Boys from the Country Hell ["Radio-Friendly" Version]
4. NW3
5. Donegal Express/The Hen and the Cock Are in Carrickmacross [Rehearsal Recording]
6. Do You Believe in Magic?
7. Hot Asphalt
8. Danny Boy [BBC John Peel Show]
9. Maggie May
10. Haunted [From Sid and Nancy]
11. The Travelling People [Rehearsal Recording]
12. Eve of Destruction
13. My Baby's Gone [Demo Recording]
14. North Sea Holes
15. Garbo (Aka in and Out) [From Garbo]
16. Last of McGee
17. Afro-Cuban Be-Bop [Alternate Mix]
18. Young Ned of the Hill [Dub Version]
19. Pinned Down/I'm Alone in the Wilderness
20. When the Ship Comes In [Demo Recording]
21. Waxies Dargle [Live]

Disc 2
1. Repeal of the Licensing Laws [Demo Recording]
---see comments---
2. Dark Streets of London [Demo Recording]
3. Greenland Whale Fisheries [Demo Recording]
4. Streams of Whiskey [Demo Recording]
5. Auld Triangle [BBC John Peel Show]
6. Poor Paddy on the Railway [BBC David "Kid" Jensen Show]
7. Sea Shanty [Demo Recording]
8. Transmetropolitan [Demo Recording]
9. Kitty [Demo Recording]
10. Boys from the County Hell [BBC David "Kid" Jensen Show]
11. Connemara, Let's Go! (Aka Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go)
12. Billy's Bones [BBC Janice Long Show]
13. Old Main Drag [BBC Janice Long Show]
14. Sally Maclennane [BBC John Peel Show]
15. Town That Never Sleeps
16. Something Wild
17. Driving Through the City
18. Rainy Night in Soho [Oboe Version]
19. Fairytale of New York [Demo Recording]
20. Fairytale of New York [Demo Recording]
21. Fairytale of New York [Demo Recording]
22. Navigator [Live]

Disc 3
1. Aria
2. Good, The Bad & The Ugly [From Straight to Hell]
3. Haunted [Demo Recording]
4. Love Theme from Sid and Nancy
5. Junk Theme [From Sid and Nancy]
6. Glued Up and Speeding [From Sid and Nancy]
7. Paris [From Sid and Nancy]
8. Needle for Paddy Garcia [From Sid and Nancy]
9. JB 57
10. Bowery Snax/Spiked [From Sid and Nancy]
11. Hot Dogs with Everything [From Sid and Nancy]
12. Rince del Emplacada
13. Rake at the Gates of Hell [BBC Janice Long Show]
14. Turkish Song of the Damned [BBC Janice Long Show]
15. If I Should Fall from Grace with God [BBC Janice Long Show]
16. Battle March [Demo Recording]
17. Lullaby of London [Demo Recording]
18. Shanne Bradley [Demo Recording]
19. Streets of Sorrow [Demo Recording]
20. Thousands Are Sailing [Backing Track with Guide Vocals]
21. Balinalee
22. Nicaragua Libré
23. Japan [Live]

Disc 4
1. Sally Maclennane [Live]
2. Pair of Brown Eyes [Live]
3. Kitty [Live]
4. Maggie May [Live]
5. Dirty Old Town [Live]
6. Sickbed of Cuchulainn [Live]
7. Fiesta [7" Single Remix]
8. If I Should Fall from Grace with God [12" Single Remix]
9. Johnny Come Lately
10. Boat Train [Demo Recording]
11. Night Train to Lorca [Demo Recording]
12. Mistlethrush
13. Got a Lot of Livin' to Do
14. Victoria
15. Murder [Version 1]
16. Lust for Vomit
17. Wake of the Medusa [Demo Recording]
18. Black Dogs Ditch
19. Aisling
20. Murder [Version 2]
21. Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah [12" Single Remix]
22. Maidrín Rua
23. Johnny Come Lately [Live]

Disc 5
1. John Was
2. Miss Otis Regrets/Just One of Those Things (feat. Kirsty MacColl)
3. All the Tears That I Cried (feat. Kirsty MacColl)
4. One and Only (feat. Kirsty MacColl)
5. Afro-Cuban Be-Bop [From I Hired a Contract Killer]
6. Turkish Song of the Damned [Live]
7. London Calling [Live]
8. I Fought the Law [Live]
9. Girl from the Wadi-Hammamat [Demo Recording]
10. Moving to Moldova [Demo Recording]
11. Call My Name
12. Sun and the Moon [Demo Recording]
13. Living in a World Without Her [Demo Recording]
14. Who Said Romance Is Dead? [Demo Recording]
15. Sound of the City Night [Demo Recording]
16. Four O'Clock in the Morning [Demo Recording]
17. Star of the County Down [Live]
18. White City [Live]
19. Medley: The Recruiting Sergeant/The Rocky Road to Dublin/The Galway Races
20. Parting Glass/Lord Santry's Fairest Daughter [Live]
21. Goodnight Irene [Live]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

YODELICE

YODELICE
TREE OF LIFE (2009)
320 KBPS

Yodelice is a French pop/folk singer/songwriter who made his full-length debut in 2009 with the international hit album Tree of Life. Born Maxim Nucci on February 23, 1979, in Créteil, France, he began playing music at a young age and studied for a while in England. He began his professional music career around the turn of the century, when he established himself as a hitmaking producer and songwriter but that was another life for Maxime, one when he worked with TV idols who'd soon be forgotten.
"Tree of Life" is a whole other matter and we can be happy he changed about everything in going solo as his pop/folk debut is a delight from start to finish. The bittersweet music displayed here touches the heart and soul in a way Devandra Banhart or Charlie Winston never will. His sweet warm voice, guitar arpeggios and sense of songwriting brings us 10 terrific songs that could very well have been released in 1972 but work just as well in 2010. A nice catch for folk lovers and a must hear.

1. Insanity
2. Sunday With A Flu
3. Free
4. Alone
5. The Other Side
6. Cloud Nine
7. Emergency
8. Noise
9. Safe & Scarred
10. Shadow Boxing

NEIL YOUNG

NEIL YOUNG
AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970)
320 KBPS

In the 15 months between the release of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, Neil Young issued a series of recordings in different styles that could have prepared his listeners for the differences between the two LPs. His two compositions on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu, "Helpless" and "Country Girl," returned him to the folk and country styles he had pursued before delving into the hard rock of Everybody Knows; two other singles, "Sugar Mountain" and "Oh, Lonesome Me," also emphasized those roots. But "Ohio," a CSNY single, rocked as hard as anything on the second album. After the Gold Rush was recorded with the aid of Nils Lofgren, a 17-year-old unknown whose piano was a major instrument, turning one of the few real rockers, "Southern Man" (which had unsparing protest lyrics typical of Phil Ochs), into a more stately effort than anything on the previous album and giving a classic tone to the title track, a mystical ballad that featured some of Young's most imaginative lyrics and became one of his most memorable songs. But much of After the Gold Rush consisted of country-folk love songs, which consolidated the audience Young had earned through his tours and recordings with CSNY; its dark yet hopeful tone matched the tenor of the times in 1970, making it one of the definitive singer/songwriter albums, and it has remained among Young's major achievements.

1. Tell Me Why
2. After the Gold Rush
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Southern Man
5. Till the Morning Comes
6. Oh, Lonesome Me
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down
8. Birds
9. When You Dance You Can Really Love
10. I Believe in You
11. Cripple Creek Ferry

FURNACE FOUNTAIN

FURNACE MOUNTAIN
FIELDS OF FESCUE (2009)
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Virginia based Furnace Mountain describe their style as 'Ethno-Appalachian Roots Music'. The band typically performs arrangements of traditional songs with a few original compositions thrown in for good measure. While this isn't usually a recipe for widespread success or acclaim, 'Fields of Fescue' is a bold and energetic album featuring some stunning performances and catchy melodies that deserves to be heard by anyone with even a passing interest in traditional, roots or folk music.
'Fields of Fescue' is the closest you'll get to pop Roots music. The songs are all tightly performed, kept under four minutes and generally at upbeat, foot-stomping tempos, though slower moments such as 'Graveyard / John Brown's Dream' provide a nice balance. The instrumental tracks, especially the eponymous 'Fields of Fescue' really demonstrate the talent of the musicians involved. David Van Deventer's fiddle playing is practically flawless throughout and Danny Knicely's mandolin work has to be heard to be believed - some of the runs on 'Turbo Dog' would make Yngwie Malmsteen sweat. There are lots of talented roots acts out there, however, and what makes Furnace Mountain stand out are the twin vocals of Aimee Curl and Morgan Morrison. Curl's vocals are very reminiscent of Joanna Newsom, whose fan-base would be well advised to listen to Furnace Mountain. Generally the wandering fractured nasal style provides an intriguing counterpoint to Curl's steady double bass work, but like Newsom, there are moments when it all sounds a little too affected, especially at the beginning of 'Ooh Belle'. Morrison's vocals are a softer, huskier complement and when the two work together, as on 'Bad Girl' it is a genuine aural treat.
A lot of bands are cashing in on the saleability of folk music these days. Furnace Mountain are a welcome reminder of how contemporary musicians can work in harmony with traditional music, thriving on its strengths and keeping it alive for a new generation.

1. Fields of Fescue
2. Rattlesnake/Black Mountain Rag
3. Winter's Night
4. Pretty Little Widow
5. Graveyard/John Brown's Dream
6. Bad Girl
7. Turbo Dog
8. Factory Girl
9. Ooh Belle
10. Watermelon Seed
11. Bowling Green
12. Sugar in the Gourd

BURNING AIRLINES

BURNING AIRLINES

MISSION: CONTROL (1999)
320 KBPS

After Jawbox's amicable split in 1997, frontman J. Robbins and guitarist Bill Barbot teamed up with ex-Government Issue drummer, Pete Moffett, to form Burning Airlines, with Barbot switching from guitar to bass duties. Mission: Control! the band's debut album, brilliantly channels Robbins' pop sensibilities through muscular hardcore riffs with insistent, rhythmic foundations. With its seamless, dynamic shifts, thick riffs and killer melody, "3 Sisters" epitomizes the transition away from Jawbox's clipped, angular post-punk and onto a much more open-ended playing field. Barbot's bass work is a big surprise; Jawbox bassist Kim Coletta always rattled off cool melodies, but Barbot has a sharper and more intuitive sense of placement. His rubber-band lines do the dirty work on the slick "Wheaton Calling," and tug on Robbins' riffs like a magnet in "Pacific 231." Jawbox's music had begun to incorporate a greater range of moods by its final album, and Burning Airlines finds Robbins' melodies highly effective in a variety of settings: insanely catchy punk-pop ("Pacific 231"), furious Nirvana-esque rock ("Sweet Deals on Surgery" and head-spinning opener, "Carnival") and arty dissonance ("I Sold Myself In," the intelligently weird "Crowned"). "Scissoring" is the album's standout cut, with its wicked harmonic riff, bad-ass bassline and thrashy second-half. With rarely a dull or unoriginal moment, Mission: Control! is a very promising start to life after Jawbox.

1. Carnival
2. Wheaton Calling
3. Pacific 231
4. Scissoring
5. The Escape Engine
6. My Pornography
7. Meccano
8. 3 Sisters
9. Flood of Foreign Capital
10. Crowned
11. Sweet Deals on Surgery
12. I Sold Myself In

IDENTIKIT (2001)
320 KBPS

BURNING AIRLINES's second effort IDENTIKIT, is a cool mix of punk, pop, and rock that is both inventive and crisply original. Great harmonies mesh sweetly with cruchy guitar, distorted bass, and metronomicly askew drums to create short, punchy songs that are both complex and easy on the ears. This is one band who knows how to rock with authority and both CDs in their arsenal are highly recommended. Way better than anything mainstream, this is one act who have a true identity and they have wrapped it up for you in a nice little kit.

1. Outside The Aviary
2. Morricone Dancehall
3. A Lexicon
4. A Song With No Words
5. All Sincerity
6. The Surgeon's House
7. The Deluxe War Baby
8. Everything Here Is New
9. Paper Crowns
10. Blind Trial
11. Identikit
12. Election Night Special
13. Tastykake
14. Earthbound
15. Dear Hilary

Friday, January 22, 2010

TRIUMPH

TRIUMPH
LIVE AT THE US FESTIVAL (2003)
320 KBPS

Although Triumph's studio albums could be uneven and inconsistent, the Canadian hard rock/arena rock trio had a reputation for being explosive on-stage (where they tended to avoid their lesser material and put a lot of energy into their more memorable songs). When you think about it, Triumph had the opposite problem of many of today's high-tech, urban contemporary, electronica, and dance-pop artists: in contrast to all the people who are so reliant on studio technology that they fall apart on-stage, Triumph tended to sound more confident and assured on-stage than they did in the studio. Live at the US Festival, in fact, paints a more consistently attractive picture of Triumph than many of its studio albums. This 54-minute CD was recorded at a massive, three-day outdoor rock festival that took place in Southern California from May 28-30, 1983. Triumph appeared on May 29, which was billed as "Heavy Metal Sunday" and included the headbanging likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, the Scorpions, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, and Van Halen (whose set ended up on a two-CD bootleg entitled US Festival '83). The number of attendees varied during the three days; the crowd was estimated to be about 500,000 strong on "Heavy Metal Sunday," and Triumph went over well. It isn't hard to understand why. From "Rock and Roll Machine" to "Magic Power" to "Lay It on the Line," the Canadians picked their better songs and provided an inspired, focused set.

1. Allied Forces
2. Lay It on the Line
3. Never Surrender
4. Magic Power
5. World of Fantasy
6. Rock & Roll Machine
7. When the Lights Go Down
8. Fight the Good Fight
Bonus Track
9. Follow Your Heart

BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA

BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA
I SPEAK FULA (2009)
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After his award winning album' 'Segu Blue' the ngoni wizard from Mali is back with a new offering: 'I Speak Fula'. The album captures the incredible live energy of Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba and is the next step in the career of one of Mali's most exciting and innovative musicians coming out of Africa.
Bassekou has transformed the traditional music of the ngoni into the modern world. With his band Ngoni ba he has created a new lineup as a quartet with a rock band's style of playing. Bassekou opened up the magic of an age-old music, to people all over the world.
For Bassekou Kouyate it has been a long journey that started out in Garana, a small village on the Niger river where he grew up, then took him to the town of Segu, capital of his region, and on to Mali's capital Bamako. And now it is taking him and his music around the world. Welcome to a new chapter of this exciting story.

1. I Speak Fula
2. Jamana Be Diya (feat. Toumani Diabate, Kasse Mady Diabate)
3. Musow - For Our Women
4. Torin Torin (feat. Harouna Samake)
5. Bambugu Blues (feat. Vieux Farka Toure, Andra Kouyate)
6. Amy (feat. Zoumana Tereta)
7. Saro (feat. Vieux Farka Toure)
8. Ladon
9. Tineni (feat. Toumani Diabate)
10. Falani
11. Moustapha

YANN DESTAL

YANN DESTAL
THE GREAT BLUE SCAR (2004)
320 KBPS

In order to try to explain what we're dealing with here, let me say Yann DeStal music diplays elements of pop, a light Pink Floyd influence, a little something of Queen the whole thing served with sophisticated arrangements. But the strongest point here is Yann's voice which could be compared to Jeff Buckley though possessing a personality of its own. What's even more amazing with "The Great Blue Scar" is how DeStal, with all those elements, manages something personal and attractive. A rich and captivating album those who love modern pop won't want to miss.

1. Great Blue Sky
2. I Stand
3. Down (On The Ground)
4. It's War
5. Make The Call
6. Feel Else
7. I Was Right
8. Was Or Wasn't Here
9. Outta My Life
10. Gone Forever
11. Only You
12. You're There