Category Archives: Opinion

Poll: Which Band(s) From The Past Should You Revisit?

During our years of youth, we listened to plenty of music. But in an era where you had to have money to invest in your favorites, you were curtailed in experimenting. There was no internet to provide a sampling of any band you were even remotely interested in. you either had to be lucky to hear a full play via FM Radio, or to have a friend brave enough to spend the cash. I know, I had to leave many bands behind as a result. I heard a track somewhere (most likely radio, or an in-store play), and that piqued my interest. But, do I get the new Foghat? Or gamble on this unknown album? Fortunately for me, I was a wild gambler. But I couldn’t buy everything.

This brings me to this poll question: Are there any bands from the past that you had a small interest in, yet were unable to spend the cash to investigate a whole album? If so (and I’m sure there were), have you revisited them in the here and now?

But let’s ask the question like this:

What band or list of bands should you revisit from your past having been unable to fully investigate then?

I look forward to your answers as you may provide one I should investigate.

Are The Rolling Stones The Greatest Rock and Roll Band Ever?

I haven’t swatted a hornet’s nest in quite a while. And wondering things in this narrow mind of mine, I thought I would throw out a debate. But before I do, I’ll give my opinions.

I’ve always looked upon The Rolling Stones as the definitive Rock and Roll band. Yes, even more so than The Beatles. Of course, I must say that ideally, The Beatles set the stage better than anyone when it came to evolution of music…even better than The Stones. But, when you get down to album for album, I have to say that The Stones come out on top in my book. Not for the number of albums produced, but for the quality of Rock and Roll with a brilliant mix of blues, R&B, Soul, etc found throughout.

Beatles

Of course, there’s the whole longevity argument. The Stones has survived decades when the Beatles gave up the ghost before the advent of the ’70s. To e fair, if you factor in very successful and diverse solo careers, the members of the Beatles trump The Stones. The only Stones with a halfway decent Solo career is Ron Wood, while members of The Beatles sold incredible numbers with their albums.

Rolling Stones

Now, some of you may choose to go with The Who, or The Kinks, or even another band of incredible worth.

Still (and here comes the fiery dart for you to swat away and return), I say The Stones are historically the greatest Rock and Roll band on the planet!

And you say…

The High Resolution Realm of Digital Music Files

Music High ResolutionSurprisingly, there are now strong adherents of the upgraded audio (usually 96k / 24-bit) resolution digital files as presented by labels on albums, and, more often, as HD Tracks issues. I even have a friend who is selling off much of his physical media in favor of the high quality tracks that can be obtained.

Aside from the few remixes of adored albums (Jethro Tull, YES, ELP, etc) that contained the high-resolution remix files, I have not stepped out in to the digital realm apart from the low level MP3s pulled from my own collection. I have heard FLACs from other bands.

My question to you is a simple one. If you were to start accepting these high-quality transfers and remasters/remixes as the method by which you were to listen to your music, which album is THE one that you just simply have to have? Pick the title (or titles, if you’re extremely impassioned about which you needed).

Soon, Neil Young’s new fledgling service, Ponos, will be fully operational. Personally, I’m wanting remasters rather than flat transfers. One of the highlights of the upcoming Ponos service will be the long awaited arrival of some of Neil Young’s classic titles including Time Fades Away.

My great fear – and it IS a great fear – is that much of the important music in my life will NEVER see these upgrades. Bands like Wishbone Ash will likely NEVER see the light of day other than a flat transfer (like their Argus issue on the costly SHM-SACD – blecchh)!

So?

 

Wide Awake, I’m Wide Awake…I’m Not Sleeping!

At the risk of pissing some people off, I needed to write this piece. Needed to!

Over the years, I had developed an increasing shadow of U2 disregard. It might even have bordered on dislike. And I need to be careful how I write this so it doesn’t become misconstrued as a “hater” piece.  It’s far from that.

When the new album by U2 came into controversy over its distribution, I willingly listened to it because, over the years, I always hoped that we could get the U2 that we grew to love back in the late ’70s, and ’80s, back to a semblance of that quality.

Now, before I go further, let me explain this clearly: I am not an opponent of creativity or maturity, Nor am I an opponent of art as it is presented. I like when bands get better. Listen to the holy trilogy of Boy, October, and War, and you find a marked difference between those and the following The Unforgettable Fire. And then, The Joshua Tree changed it up more. As did Achtung Baby. And on.

I have listened to Songs Of Innocence over 50 times. OVER 50 times. That’s more than I gave their last two a listen combined. On the last ten listens, I compared it in every way to their earlier works basing each song on a chill factor. The lyrics, the music, the way the song is presented, the overall quality. Unfortunately, I failed to find one song from Songs Of Innocence with ability to create a chill within me.  That made me sad because I want them to succeed. Perhaps my personal opinion of several things within the U2 camp colored my opinion of them over time, but it’s the same principle I usually apply to my other favorites over time as well (right, Adam? Bill B?).

Song for song, there’s not one track on Songs Of Innocence with the same power as “Bad”, “Pride (In the Name Of Love)”, “The Unforgettable Fire”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “With Or Without You”, or even those brilliant outtakes from The Unforgettable Fire (“The Three Sunrises”, “Love Comes Tumbling”). My thing is this, eventually you lose your philosophy, your sense of what is important, when you reach that stage where you are suddenly above everyone, even if not by choice.

But I did rediscover something in this small journey. I was still in love with U2. In listening to their earlier songs, my heart swelled with the beauty of their music, the depth of their words, and the greatness of their music. It’s what made them who they are.

I just needed to remind myself, and perhaps others, that U2 is still high on my list of great bands. It’s just that now, they feel irrelevant, in “a dry and waterless place”.

“And if the mountains should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I.”

U2

 

 

Do Vinyl LPs Make Our New Music Better?

Vinyl GroovesIn listening to the new Lily & Madeleine album, with its excellent collection of ten tracks, has made me possibly realize something about vinyl production that benefits EVERYBODY, regardless of whether you are a vinyl enthusiast or not. This is not a new topic, but one that I feel has worth, especially now.

In the past, we have been getting CDs filled to the limit with songs whether they were good or not. In my own estimation, and with a few exceptions, the CDs of 15 or 15 tracks probably did its own fair share of devaluing music because, well, a bad song is a bad song. Put too many half-baked tracks in your album because you could, and that entire album begins to sound a little mediocre despite the possibility that a few of those tracks may be pretty damn good.

Now, with the popularity of vinyl, most everyone is getting on the vinyl bandwagon. With one noticeable problem. Length. If you have 15 songs, then either you have to figure out which songs do not make the cut, or you have to press double the vinyl to house the extra tracks. Which, the way I see it, pans out pretty good for music in general.If a band has to keep costs down, and therefore has to pare the tracks down to ten to guarantee greater fidelity, we, as listeners, gets the best that band truly has to offer. If the songs are bad, then you know that they have no future. Just like the old days. But if an album becomes more listenable because the lesser tracks couldn’t be included, then not only do we win, so does the band.

So, whether you’re a vinyl fan or not, you get to participate in this bettering of our available music. Less bad apples on a tree makes that tree look great!

 

No Lonesome Dave, No Rod…No Foghat!

Often, like many of you, I apply song to my current mood. Today, it’s Foghat for me. And as I plug in to that one song, it becomes inevitable that the entire album is revisited. For me, that album is easily Rock and Roll. To me that is their most brilliant album. And it’s not that i don’t like their others, it’s that this one is pure, unadulterated blues as they intended to be. When they reached Energized, they were in a commercial mode. Again, nothing wrong with that. I LOVE Energized. Still, it’s easy to see.

Nevertheless, the point of this small piece is not about what song strikes the mood, or which Foghat album is their best, although you can certainly leave your opinion on that, if you wish. Instead, in listening, I have to say that without Lonesome Dave Peverett, and even Rod Price (but more Lonesome Dave), Foghat doesn’t really exist anymore. I say this because of two things. The first is that I saw the current lineup of Foghat a few years back with Charlie Huhn, Bryan Bassett, Roger Earl (who wasn’t even there, instead hiring someone to fill in), and Craig MacGregor (third bassist for the band, still legitmate). It was an awful exercise using well-known songs for what easily felt like a cover band experience at 20 times the cost of admission.

Listening to Rock and Roll, and hearing the impossible to replicate voice and energy of Dave Peverett makes me realize yet again, that there are sometimes simply no replacements for a band. This is quite true of Foghat after Dave and Rod’s tragic departures. This makes up the second point.

While I respect Roger Earl and Craig MacGregor as great musicians, once part of a superior band, I bemoan their carrying on the band using beloved songs as a way to cash some checks. I feel this way about many bands who have lost a part of their heartbeat. Many I will not mention as their mention would have a tendency to stir the cauldron of anger.

My personal opinion. Whatever it’s worth.

Foghat

Poll: Great Debut Albums Of Rock (Or Any Other Genre)

Van Halen DebutWe haven’t had us a poll for quite some time. I think I have asked your opinion on just about everything that can be asked about. However, I’m fairly positive that I haven’t asked this one.

Over the course of recorded history, bands have been made (or broken) on the strength of their debut releases. One such powerful debut that I remember was the Van Halen 1978 Warner release. As a new band, they toured with Black Sabbath (saw this show in Chicago Amphitheatre (may it rot in venue hell), and Black Sabbath needed a full ten minutes or more to regain the audience after an explosive Van Halen set). After their initial support tour, sales of their debut sky-rocketed and is now heralded as one of the all time great albums. I concur!

But Van Halen wasn’t the only band with great beginnings. There are those that may bestow Appetite For Destruction by Guns ‘n’ Roses with that enviable award. Or Boston’s first. Or the first Beatles! The first Talking Heads album! I would also argue for Horses by Patti Smith, Marquee Moon by Television, the first New York Dolls album, even the debut from Ted Nugent.

Of course, there are many of the generally ignored or unknown ones. While it makes sense to include a debut from Carly Simon (1971), few would think of it. Or how about Angel and their stunning 1975 debut leading up to their rapid rise in fame? Of course we could go on all day. But more fun would be to hear every one else’s listings of great debut albums.

Your turn!

 

Poll: Best Female Artists of This Time Worthy Of Remembrance

Florence WelchPoll time again!

We have so many female artists that have legitimately gained our love and respect. A look through the ’60s, we have Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Laura Nyro, Barbra Streisand, while the ’70s plump up with even more.  For the ’70s, there are Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Helen Reddy, Karen Carpenter, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Patti Smith, and a whole bunch more.  The ’80s delivered Kate Bush, Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, to name a few. Even the ’90s had a few icons. Those were Toni Childs, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morrissette, Sarah Maclachlan, and a few others. The interesting thing is that the ’90s produced female artists that are not as memorable as the previous decades (for many).

My poll question is this? Which female artists of the current generation, or since 2000, should be remembered as being extraordinary for their time. I have a few.

My list includes Florence Welch, Lykke Li, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), and Amy Winehouse and Adele (for different reasons). If we forego the usual Pop icons ( I have), we can safely eliminate artists like Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, Britney Spears, and others of their kind.

So, what are your choices of era 2000- now artists that should be remembered decades from now?

Lykke Li

How Are Some Artists Still Selling A Million Copies?

Jackie Evancho PictureLet’s have a chat about the popularity of a single album these days. A time where even Pop albums have fallen below the normal expectation of sales. We might all agree that this is just the new phase of Rock and Roll, where music is far too available in every dark corner of the internet. Or we could say that we have evolved above the usual stance of applying our attention to singular artists in a day to day world. One where it is necessary to own every tune from the band or artist. One where we anxiously await news of any possible release.

We could say that we just like our lives sound-tracked. Whether that sound-tracking comes via specialized playlists, or more targeted streams, the results usually come out the same: we’re easily distracted in a time that allows little room for paying close attention to the created music. We just want favorable music playing while we walk here to there, drive from point A to point B, or do several routines. It And, of course, that bodes poorly for music. Yes, we know all of that.

Then, we come to find that there are some albums from some artists outside the normal mainstream that are selling a million copies of their released sets. Recently, I once again became aware of Jackie Evancho, the fourteen year old highly gifted vocalist that is a talent for the ages. In my discovery, I found that she has already enjoyed sales of a million on her Christmas set (O Holy Night), while her 2011 album, Dream With Me, sold 500,000 copies in just ONE MONTH! and with her newest album, Awakenings, coming on September 23.

Jackie Evancho Awakening

I’m sure there are others with such impressive sales. This brings me to the question, what kind of audiences are STILL buying albums in such massive numbers? With all of this talk about disappearing sales (and I KNOW they are in the mainstream), I have to wonder who out there is still appreciative enough of music that they buy whole albums. Actually BUY whole albums.

I already know that there are those of you out there that continue to pay hard-earned cash for your favorites. Here, I’m talking about the stream of music listeners that value their music enough to still cause sales of a million copies or more of a particular artist or band.

What’s the difference here?

The Paper Kites – Revisited

PaperKitesStatesThis is originally from an October 2013 post. However, with the band being explosively good, I thought it important to bring them back to your ears. And with good reason, With a sound not unlike our early ’70s America, and our late ’60s Simon & Garfunkel, well, the Paper Kites is getting harder and harder for you aficionados to ignore.

If you appreciated the folk-rock of the early ’70s (like America), then I have a band that you might find well to your liking. The Paper Kites are a five-member folk-rock band from Australia with two EPs, and a full-length album to their credits (EPs: Woodland (2011), Young North (2012); CD: States (2013)). Like some before them, they achieved their building acclaim via videos on YouTube, and the viral word of mouth that can sometimes power some to widespread notice.

The five members are Sam Bentley, and Christina Lacey, both high school pals who began writing songs together. Shortly afterwards, they were officially joined by David Powys, Josh Bentley, and Sam Rasmussen to complete the circle.

The band has been busy with music, and touring. They have begun to build a strong fan-base that will have them known across the globe (for whatever that means these days), in a short period. As gifted as the band is, I can only hope that they can manage to stay together for the next decade so that we can watch how such a band as this evolves. I have to say that I’m completely mesmerized by their songs including the incredibly haunting, “Young”, which has a stunning video to accompany it (watch below). After watching “Young”, I recommend “Bloom” (found in their official YouTube page). You can also explore more at their website link. If you peruse Facebook most, then here is the FB link. I hope that I have pointed you toward a band you will like.

What do you think? Me? I think that all you can get from this band is worth every minute of every spin.

ThePaperKites