Review: The Singer – Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, one half of one of the most important folk/rock duos in Rock history in Simon and Garfunkel, has enjoyed quite a lifetime of creating special music.  His is the iconic voice of one of the world’s most beloved song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, which, coincidentally opens this 2CD/34-track retrospective of Art Garfunkel’s storied career, which includes his solo efforts.  Unfortunately for fans, Simon & Garfunkel as a recording duo was quite short-lived.  But their output was, and still is, powerfully enmeshed in the fabric of our musical souls.

The material found here are hand-picked by Art signifying what he believes to  be his best representative works.  On this set, there are more than a few Simon & Garfunkel treats that include the aforementioned gem, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, as well as “For Emilly, Wherever I May Find Her”, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, “Kathy’s Song”, “The Sound of Silence”, “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright”, “My Little Town”, and “April Come She Will”.

The rest of the hand-picked compilation represents tracks from Art Garfunkel’s solo career, including important songs like “All I Know”, “(What A) Wonderful World”, “Breakaway”, “Disney Girls”, and more classic Garfunkel beauties that make up his ten solo works dating from the underrepresented Angel Clare (1973) through his standards-laden Some Enchanted Evening (2007).  But Watermark (1978), and Breakaway (1978) demand the most time with seven songs between them.  In addition to the various album represented songs, there are two previously unreleased tracks here (“Long Way Home”, “Lena”).

Let me say at this point that that the Vic Anesini mastering  of these songs sound unbelievable.  It’s magnificent to hear how great these tracks sound but the beautiful replay of the Simon and Garfunkel tracks including the revealing playback of “The Sounds of Silence” is truly enough to warrant pickup of The Singer.  But to have so many great Garfunkel songs in one place makes The Singer a wonderful world unto itself.

The booklet is a rich addition with 28 pages of photos, poetic track commentary, a two-page write-up of Art Garfunkel by Victor Bockris, and complete credits and listing of each song.

With a career as rich as Art Garfunkel’s, it’s no surprise to see this collection of tunes based on the artist’s preferences in reviewing his past musical history.  This reasonably priced 2CD, 34-track Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings production does quite an admirable job of it.  And for this, we fans are grateful.

Release Date: August 28, 2012

–Matt Rowe

Grrr! is All About The Stones

On November 13, (November 12 for the rest of the world), Universal, Abkco, and The Rolling Stones plan the release of a career-spanning ‘best of’ that will sort through five decades of some of Rock’s great tracks.

Yeah, we have seen more than a fair share of Rolling Stones collections.  One of the bad things with many of those, is that they have never been really complete.  And while Grrr! is likely to not be complete either, its scope will likely be vast.

The releases include a 3CD, 50-track set with a 24-page booklet housed in a digipak package; and a 3CD, 50-track Deluxe Edition that furthers the booklet with a 36-page hardback book and five collectible postcards encased in a DVD-sized casing.  For those that need more, there will be a 4CD, 80-track Super Deluxe Edition Box that will add in a bonus CD, a 7″ vinyl single, a hardback book, a poster, five collectible postcards, all housed in a nice box.  Vinyl fans can get a 5LP containing 50 tracks in a casebound LP Box.

In an attempt to make these sets more attractive to those that might understandably balk at this release, The Stones will bolster this with two new songs.

The track-listing hasn’t been made available as of yet but when it is, I’ll append them to this post.

Review: Four – Bloc Party

The music of Bloc Party has changed from album to album as if the band were unhappy with their phenomenal first album, Silent Alarm (2005).  Many of us were concerned with their dramatic direction change, even though Intimacy (2008) gave a hint that they knew where their roots were.  It was certainly better than A Weekend In The City (2007).  Still, it was NOT Silent Alarm.

After the release of Intimacy, it was felt that Bloc Party would no longer be the band we all had loved immediately with the promise that Silent Alarm carried.  However, after a more than a few years, Bloc Party releases their fourth album, named Four.  And with Four, they return to the promise of the first.

Now, to be fair, Four does not match the intensity of Silent Alarm.  But what it does do is very thrilling.  It returns full speed to the promise that Silent Alarm gave fans.  And yes, Four rocks the house.

The opening song, “So He Begins To Lie”, while a good tune does not provide a hint at what’s the come in the other songs.  Maybe it’s good sequencing.  I like the song, but it doesn’t fill me with the hope of great Bloc Party.  With the next song, “3×3”, your ears perk up.

It is “Octopus” that the ball of fire that fills you inside begins to take shape.  And for most of the album, you realize that Bloc Party has just come home again.  That they’re shaking the dust off their long slumber and putting those rock ‘n’ roll shoes on again.

“Kettling” is a flame-thrower of a song.  I love the title of “Day Four” and what it speaks of.  I love its perfection.  Then there is “V.A.L.I.S.”, and “Truth”, songs that give the album teeth.  The remaining songs on Four, for the most part, are excellent.  If Four is an indication of where the band is headed, I’m on that train.

After Four, I now have complete faith that Bloc Party will do what we always had hope for for them to do, to become a solid fixture in our need for bands to follow.  Hope those shoes are comfortable enough to stay around for what is yet to come.

I love Four!

Release Date: August 21, 2012

–Matt Rowe

Who Rules? The Love OR the Search?

Life is short.  Too short.  And yet we are inundated with a tsunami of music, most of which are poorly produced.  Worse, the music, while  performed by talented musicians, is indicative of either the poor musical heritage of much of our world’s youth, or, their short attention spans.  I say attention spans because there is little incentive to immerse in the many genres that fed our early histories of Rock.

Back in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and much of the ’80s, we were lucky to bask in the wealth of hybrid genres that mixed in well together.  Today, while we have plenty of music to listen to i’m beginning to feel stretched in my search of great new music.  That makes me want to default to the times I was most happy with.


The answer is quite simple.  I spend an extraordinary amount of time looking for music in today’s market to give me a feeling of stability.  But as I age, I find that my time to listen to that which I cared so much about is being siphoned off by music that is not half of what is could be.  The minimalism that pervades today’s musical mindset is frightening.  And it’s boring.  Worse of all, it’s a massive waste of time.  In many ways.

Is this to say that we should stop altogether?  No.  That would be a mistake.  As we did when we transitioned between each decade, finding that which we liked and dispensing with the rest, we can still do.  I have fond sturdy classics in this period that will forever be a love of mine.  White Hinterland’s “Icarus” is a brilliant piece.  Heartless Bastards bring me immense joy.  Wye Oak is an up and coming love for me.  I do miss departures like ¡Forward Russia!, and others.  But largely, when given the interesting appeal of .fun, who blatantly borrows (heavily) from Queen, and even more so from My Chemical Romance (who borrowed heavily from Queen but did a better job), I’m sure that even today’s audience is looking for something better than the usual song boiled in a half a dozen chords, standard drumming, and very little else.

Once in a while, you get studied bands that fully understand what musical legacies they are drawing from.  Shiny Toy Guns is an example.  With their “Waiting Alone”, you get a gorgeous piece of prime Rock/Pop that would have netted the band Top10 radio play for a month back in the ’80s.  Watch.  Listen.  But they are a rare band.  They draw largely from Cranberries, and Human League.  But such a gifted display is still a nod to the past, not originality.

Great music will find you.  It always does.  That’s why you read sites like this one.  Don’t give up your searches.  But really, time is too short to dedicate to what is an unsatisfying end result.  Expand on the music that you love.  Go deeper into the catalogs, deeper into the bands that were out of your reach back then.

Bottom line…enjoy your music.  However you get it.

Music…I’m waiting alone for you.  You used to make me feel so special…

Shiny Toy Guns – Waiting Alone


Review: Anastasis – Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance has returned from a 16-year absence with a new album! I tend to be wary of bands or artists that come back from the past to make new music. As many of you know, it can be hit or miss – sometimes, as the saying goes, you can’t go back again. But I am happy to report that DCD have produced a work of absolutely compelling songs and in my opinion, have even surpassed some of their earlier releases.

The music of DCD is often corralled into a World/New Age category. I can see why, but the music is much broader, with elements from Mike Oldfield to Pink Floyd to Chamber Music, while still keeping Eastern melodies and rhythms in the mix. So you need to enjoy music that is not strictly Pop or Rock but flirts with it; and also appreciate other cultures’ music.

Anastasis (which is Greek for resurrection) is an apt title for this collection: if you are a fan of DCD, this new LP sits on equal terms with Aion (1990) or Into the Labyrinth (1993). There are eight tracks, with an average length of about 7 minutes each, and every track is full and rich. I mean, the sound fills the room with keyboards and percussion, the bass is loud and in your face, the density is almost overwhelming. Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard have never sounded better; their vocals are as rich as the music. The recording sounds like it was done live in a church – it has that reverb you expect when listening to Gregorian Chants. However, there are no chants this time around – they have divided the music into three categories as I see it: a handful of Middle Eastern-sounding melodies; a Celtic-styled song, and their own 4AD-sounding type material (in a This Mortal Coil vein).

If you are a fan of Dead Can Dance, then you owe it to yourself not to let this one slip by. It has everything you want from them and more – with absolutely world-class production to boot. If you are new to the band and want to try them out, this album will give you a great introduction as well. Check out their website for more information; you can also get digital downloads there if that is your thing.

Release Date: August 14, 2012

–Bob Metcalf

TAPSheet: Release Notes – 08/22/2012 (US Report)

Roadrunner Records will release new Stone Sour with the first of two-parter, House of Gold + Bones expected on October 23.  Part 2 is slated for some time in 2013.

Eagle Rock Entertainment slates their BD/DVD release of Live at The Bowl ’68 featuring The Doors,  for October 23.

Universal Republic will release The Album Collection for Amy Winehouse on October 9.

Geffen slips into a little holiday spirit with the planned releases of White Christmas by Bing Crosby,  and Jingle Bell Rock from Brenda Lee.   White Christmas arrives on September 18, while Jingle Bell Rock arrives a week later at September 25.  Universal Motown adds Bethlehem by Brian McKnight on September 25.

Fuel Records plan Too Hot For Snakes/The Ring of Truth from Carla Olson and Mick Taylor on October 16.

Interscope Records will release Halcyon by Ellie Goulding on October 9.

Fuel Records will release a Freddie Fender compilation called Love Songs on October 16.  The label also plans Anthology,  Volume 1 featuring the collected music of The Fifth Estate,  scheduled for October 16.

Warner Brothers Records will release Sunken Condos by Steely Dan vet,  Donald Fagen, on October 17.

Grateful Dead Records will release a 2CD Grateful Dead title,  Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It,  on September 18.

Legacy and RCA Records will release a Deluxe set of Prince From Another Planet by Elvis Presley.  This set is a 2CD/DVD box set for October 30.

Watch for Mystic Pinball by John Hiatt via New West Records,  planned for CD and LP release on September 25.

So nice to see a multi-disc Deluxe Edition of So by Peter Gabriel,  which will be slated for October 23 via Real World Productions.

Ultra Records will release <Album Title Goes Here> from Deadmau5 on September 25.

Beacon Theater: Live From New York featuring Joe Bonamassa is scheduled from J&Real Adventures in a 2CD set planned for September 25.

Devil You Know arriving from one of my favorite female artists, Richie Lee Jones, is slotted for September 18 via Concord Records.

Legacy Recordings and Columbia Records will release a 16CD/1DVD Deluxe Edition Box featuring the catalog works of Blue Oyster Cult on October 30.  This set will feature 2012 remasters and include:

1. Blue Oyster Cult (1972 – studio – with 2001 CD bonus tracks)
2. Tyranny and Mutation (1973 – studio – with 2001 CD bonus tracks)
3. Secret Treaties (1974 – studio – with 2001 CD bonus tracks)
4. On Your Feet or on Your Knees (1975 – live) – 2012 Remaster
5. Agents of Fortune (1976 – studio – with 2001 CD bonus tracks)
6. Spectres (1977 – studio – with 2007 CD bonus tracks)
7. Some Enchanted Evening CD (1978 – live – with 2007 CD bonus tracks)
8. Some OTHER Enchanted Evening DVD (1978 – live)
9. Mirrors (1979 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
10. Cultosaurus Erectus (1980 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
11. Fire of Unknown Origin (1981 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
12. Extraterrestrial Live (1982 – live) – 2012 Remaster
13. The Revolution By Night (1983 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
14. Club Ninja (1985 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
15. Imaginos (1988 – studio) – 2012 Remaster
16. Rarities
17. Radios Appear: The Best of the Broadcasts

And 40-page book will be included along with download codes for four bonus live concerts.

Concord Jazz will release Rhythm Sessions from Lee Ritenour on September 25.

Legacy and Columbia team to release the massive Johnny Cash box set,  The Complete Columbia Album Collection with 63! discs.   This is set for October 30.

Capitol Records have slated the new Bat For Lashes album, The Haunted Man, for October 23.


In Memoriam: Scott McKenzie

Since I was ten, the song, “San Francisco” has been a constant companion, both in my mind and whatever way I found to physically replay it.  Ask either of my children, and they can sing the song to you.  The song, although written by John Phillips of Mamas and Papas fame, is still, in every way, Scott McKenzie’s song.  It is also our song; yours and mine.

“San Francisco” embodies an ideal.  For many, it may be an outdated song.  Good for its time but something not relevant to the age in which we now find ourselves.  For others, the song is rich in a thought that, sadly, crosses few minds anymore.  For the rest of us, it’s still an anthem.  It still contains a hope.

The singer of that song, Scott McKenzie, is forever entwined in it.  However, on August 18, the voice of “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” left the earth at the young age of 73, after an extended affliction with GBS, a rare paralytic disease that can affect respiratory function.  While his death reminds us of our own mortality, his song (and yes, it is his song) reminds us of our capabilities.

Peace amongst ourselves and throughout the world increasingly seems like an impossibilty.  And it may well be beyond our grasp.  But MacKenzie’s beautiful and involving version of “San Francisco” serves as a very real reminder that at least one generation believed in the peace he sang about, and the generation coming up behind that one was, at least, influenced by it.

Many of us will miss the singer of the song.  He made us believe in peace.  And gentle people with flowers in their hair.


Poll: Grand Funk Railroad – Which Album Is Best?

From Grand Funk Railroad’s first album, I’ve been a fan.  After hearing “Time Machine” on FM radio, and the occasional playback of “T.N.U.C.”, and “Heartbreaker”, I was a solidly hooked fan of this three-piece powerhouse.  Then it got better.  Almost immediately, they released their second album.  I picked it and enjoyed the phenomenal cover of “Inside Looking Out”, and “Paranoid”, “Mr Limousine Driver”, and “In Need”.

With their creativity on fire, they issued their third, Closer To Home.  On that album, they introduced their classic track, “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)”, a song that I still listen to frequently.

I have to confess, however, that while I adore many of their albums up through We’re An American Band (I could never get into their later years singles tunes), it was Survival that I appreciated most…and still do.  There isn’t a bad song on this album, in my estimation.  It’s one that I can listen to in it’s entirety at almost any time.  And more than once.  In fact, I listened to it no less than three times today alone.  I may listen to it again tomorrow.

E Pluribus Funk, Phoenix, We’re An American Band, and their MCA debut produced by Frank Zappa, Good Singin’ Good Playin’, a sort of return to FM rock, round out my love for this band. While their three unmentioned albums find little play (I don’t even own them), I do enjoy “Bad Time”.

That’s my story.  I do recognize that many people do not enjoy Grand Funk as I do.  However, I find it too difficult to not put this out as a poll question in the hopes that I’ll be surprised.

As an aside, if Mark Farner were to reunite with his original bandmates, I have more than a few bucks to buy a ticket to that show.

So…surprise me.

Life Is A Rock But The Radio Rolled Me

I sure do miss Top40 radio.

I’ve not really been too much a singles guy, but I do like hearing songs presented that way.  Back in my youth,  and my young adult life,  I spent an awful lot of time tuned into WLS music radio (89…WLS Chicago).  As I got older,  I split time with several FM stations.   Between WLS and WXRT, I gained a lot of familiarity with bands and artists, many of whom I went and bought LPs from.

So, yeah, discovery played a huge part of that radio love back then.  But I also loved the ability to catch a string of acceptably good tracks even if I might never purchase an LP from the band.  And that is definitely what I miss most about it now.  Recently, that was really driven home by a long drive that, for some strange smack alongside the head with nostalgia, left me feeling sad.  I REALLY did miss that style of radio.

Top40 radio provided freshness that was always changing.  A fast charting song, a quick insertion at a high spot, or a brief stay by an elusive song, could always perk my ears up.  Noted songs always precipitated a visit to Art’s Record Shop, sometimes immediately.  For sure, WLS played a heavy hand in my musical education,  not to forget my love for musical diversity.  WXRT-FM picked up the heavier lifting.   Between the two, I was shaped and molded by some of the best radio stations I could have been introduced to.

Unfortunately, as the years progressed, Top40 (as we knew it then) gave way to talk shows, then back to a highly structured Top40 that remained heavily Pop-oriented.  In a word,  unlistenable.  Gone were the cross-over hits in one place.   Wanted a splash of country in your drive time?  Better zero in on a country station with their own Top40.  Jazz?  Find a Jazz station.  A bluesy cut forces your tuning to a Blues-oriented station.  Even Rock music is incredibly sub-divided these days.  Leave the hard stuff for the metal-heads,  the Pop-Rock to the fan of that,  and the alternative stuff is sequestered on uniquely specialized stations for the teen,  the young adult,  or the older crowd still trying to keep a foothold in the whole thing.  Nostalgic?  Of course you can have that.   But be prepared to be inundated with the same Who song,  the same Pink Floyd tracks, the same cherry-picked Led Zeppelin heavy cuts for days on end.   You begin to wonder how many songs those bands made.  According to LA’s very boring The Sound-FM,  you could collect the world’s treasure trove of music on a 50-CD Time-Life set.  And they’re not the only tight play list in LA.

Yes,  I miss the incredible diversity of WLS and other AM Top40 stations like it.   I miss the exploration of the early days of Rock FM stations.

I don’t know where to look anymore without being disgusted, simply choosing to keeping the radio off.

Bonus feature:

Some bullshit study so far off the mark…

Review: Slow Dream – Loren Nerell

Loren Nerell’s love affair with ambient music and its endless diversities have its roots firmly fed by the music of Tangerine Dream, who themselves, have had immeasurable influence on many of ambient composers in the history of the style.

Nerell is well studied in the art of sound manipulation, and experienced in the recording of several albums of ambient sounds, especially in the art of Gamelan music, a style of Bali sound. On his seventh solo release, Slow Dream, Loren Nerell steps into the nether regions of the mind to soundtrack the unknown worlds of dreams.
Slow Dream contains four compositions that are each unique, and uniquely eerie in their expressive attempt to softly provide, not a story, but a tone that replicates the misty, intangible dream worlds that we occupy.

“Mentalon”, the first of the four, is a nearly half-hour ‘lost path’ trek through uncertain curtains, behind which we know nothing that exist. The droning tones are soft, and increasingly familiar but never let up nor venture too far from the close walled corridors that it implies you are walking through.
It’s followed by the 10-minute “Slow Dream”, a foreboding piece that is reminescent of Tangerine Dream works, yet retains Nerell originality. It fills the dream world with billowing dark clouds, cool to the face, devoid of life, as you walk through them.

This effective album is completed with “A Sense of Presence” (19:28), and a beautiful but short “Persistence of Dream Imagery”.
It is recommended that you can listen to this drifting off to sleep, or at low volumes throughout the day for a calming effect. I would suggest a complete ‘closed-eyes’ session with this album, preferably before heading off to bed. Regardless of your listening methods, the experience is mesmerizing, more so the deeper attention you pay to the composed sounds.

In Nerell’s dreamscapes, you are truly alone.  Sometimes, that’s a place we need to be.

Release Date: July 17, 2012

—Matt Rowe