Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Merry Christmas everyone, if indeed that's what you celebrate. I'm happy to report that Rich's house is in full-on X-mas mode, but before 2007 finishes circling the bowl, there's still time for a post or two from me. I had originally intended to develop some sort of a response to Frank's predictably stellar year-end list. We typically have only about 50% overlap, which I thought would give me entry to discuss those records that, in my opinion, he'd inexplicably left off. But I have to say that he pretty much nailed the three-point landing this year, so rather than simply stand by nodding, I thought I'd pull together a list of my favorite "under the radar" records of the year. So, without further adieu, here's Rich's Top Ten Favorite Off-The-Beaten-Track Records of 2007 (in no particular order):

Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten
Sadly, 2007 was yet another year that Britney Spears was allowed to walk the earth, while Joe Strummer continues not to. One small consolation against that unexplainable set of circumstances was the release of Julian Temple's brilliant documentary Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten (the trailer of which is here). Even if you already own everything Joe and The Clash ever released, this soundtrack is still a must-have. It's filled not only with Clash and Mescolaros music, but with music that influenced Joe, like Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Bob Dylan, MC5, and Nina Simone. As a bonus, many of the songs are introduced and described by Strummer himself. MP3: The Clash - "White Riot" (Alternate Demo Mix)

M.I.A. - Kala
I wrote about M.I.A.'s 2007 release Kala here. This is a record with worldly beats, political aspirations, feminine power, and punk rock attitude. M.I.A. is a reporter from a Third World CNN street beat bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes from the world over right into your living room. You hear it straight from the people; from the aboriginie kids in "Mango Pickle Down River" to the Indian villagers in "Bird Flu." M.I.A. is the real deal. MP3: M.I.A. - "Bamboo Banger" from Kala

Burial - Untrue
My initial take on this record is here, which has held up: "With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting." MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Blonde Redhead - 23
My earlier post on this record was entitled "The Sound of Dreaming," I think because the sound of this record feels like racing through some fever dream landscape where everything is familiar yet somehow disorienting. I can never quite grasp exactly what the lyrics are about, but that hardly seems to be the point. This is impressionistic territory, and it is a beautifully curious amalgam of guitars and whispered vocals. MP3: Blonde Redhead - "23" from 23

Mark Olson - The Salvation Blues
As described here, The Salvation Blues represented something of a return to form for former Jayhawk Mark Olson. Divorced from Victoria Williams and returned from the ensuing wilderness, Olson rediscovered his muse, and his old friend Gary Louris. The music on this record is both sad and hopeful Americana, hearkening to Hollywood Town Hall-era Jayhawks. And with Louris' contributions, these songs are more than enough to whet the appetite for the promised Olson and Louris collaboration scheduled for 2008. Hopefully, TTT will be around to blog about it when it comes out. MP3: Mark Olson - "Clifton Bridge" - from The Salvation Blues

Daft Punk - Alive 2007
One of my favorite records of 2005 was Kraftwerk's live album, Minimum-Maximum. One would not think that something as robotic and sterile as Kraftwerk would translate so well to a live recording. Daft Punk is also robot music, albeit music by robots apparently programmed for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Daft Punk's live shows ain't nothin' but a party y'all, and this record is instant party, just add alcohol. Daft Punk is playing at my house. MP3: Daft Punk - "Around The World/Harder Better Faster Stronger" from Alive 2007.

Beirut - The Flying Cup Club
Surprisingly young Santa Fe native Zach Condon's band, Beirut, sound nothing like its name. Beirut's music has nothing to do with Lebanon. Rather, it evokes the Balkans and Gypsy troubadours, Eastern European folk music, and Old World themes. Think ukuleles, accordions, trumpets, and melodies from another century. The prolific band's high point so far may just be this crisp release, which plays like a soundtrack from an old foreign film. Gorgeous. MP3: Beirut - "Nantes" from The Flying Cup Club

The Perishers - Victorious

Earlier, I called this "a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff." MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from Victorious

The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
I have to give to some love to my Dunwoody homeboys The Black Lips. They have shocked New York and rocked everywhere else, and, in 2007, released the great psycho-psychedelic garage rock of Good Bad Not Evil and earned the title "Hardest Working Band at SWSX." With a live show heavy on such audience participation staples as urine, vomitus, and the odd flung beer bottle, this loud and rowdy band of brothers remind us what the spirit of rock and roll is supposed to be. Pure chaos. And since I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I love that they ask the question, "Oh Katrina, why you gotta be mean?" MP3: The Black Lips - "O Katrina!" from Good Bad Not Evil

Lloyd Cole - Antidepressant
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to end this post with a reference to what was the subject of not only my first post this year, but my first blog post ever, Lloyd Cole's beautiful middle-aged manifesto, Antidepressant. This is unquestionably the perfect record for those of us rockers who came of age in the '80s and refuse to admit that we're middle aged, in spite of the fact that our years, when doubled, stretch beyond the average human life span. At this point, to paraphrase Lloyd's apt lyrics, "Declining issues lead advances two to one, in slow trading." Nevertheless, we can take comfort in the perfect folk-pop of Antidepressant. "With my medication, I will be fine." MP3: Lloyd Cole - "Woman In A Bar" from Antidepressant.

So that does it, I suppose. I certainly could go on, but that's what we've been doing all year. For now, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and healthy and prosperous New Year. And thanks for stopping by TTT in 2007. I hope that it was worth your while. Thanks -- Rich

Monday, December 10, 2007

Frank's Favorite Records of 2007

Time and current life circumstances (all of 'em good) won't permit me to do anything even remotely as elaborate as in years past, but here are the 20 new records released in 2007 that I enjoyed most, in alphabetical order. If either Rich or I posted a review here during the course of the year, I've linked to it, and if we didn't, I've linked to MetaCritic or some other resource that will give you the critical lowdown. (And if I'm not mistaken, Rich will be along in a day or two with the records from his list that didn't make mine.) Music makes for great holiday giving, so get out there and support all of these magnificent artists by buying their records.

RYAN ADAMS - Easy Tiger

ARCADE FIRE - Neon Bible


ANDREW BIRD - Armchair Apocrypha

BRIGHT EYES - Cassadaga

THE BROKEN WEST - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

FEIST - The Reminder

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN - The Good, The Bad & The Queen





RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows

RILO KILEY - Under The Blacklight

THE SHINS - Wincing The Night Away

SPOON - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga


KANYE WEST - Graduation


WILCO - Sky Blue Sky

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 2 of 2

Discs 1 and 2 (along with the artwork) are here. And if you thought they were great, brace yourself for these -- the entire session at the Paris Cinema in London on April 1, 1971, recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" program on BBC Radio One. Simply spectacular. Be sure to play it nice and loud.


Disc 3:

01 John Peel intro
02 Immigrant Song
03 Heartbreaker
04 Since I've Been Loving You
05 Black Dog
06 Dazed And Confused
07 Stairway To Heaven

Disc 4:

01 Going To California
02 That's The Way
03 What Is And What Should Never Be
04 Whole Lotta Love
05 Thank You
06 Communication Breakdown

Friday, November 23, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 1 of 2

Time to get the Led out. With all the hype surrounding the release of the Mothership collection last week and their reunion show in London next month, not to mention Robert Plants's recent solo triumph with Allison Krauss, I've been listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin lately. That, in turn, made me realize that a Zep boot is long overdue in this series. There are scores of great recordings to choose from -- in fact Zeppelin probably joins The Beatles, Dylan and The Rolling Stones as the most bootlegged acts of all time.

But while any number of live recordings by the mighty Led Zep would certainly qualify for "classic" status, it's this massive 4-disc box set released by Empress Valley, collecting all of their appearances on BBC radio between 1969 and 1971, that I return to most often. (Some of this material appears, in slightly different form, on the official BBC Sessions release in 1997, but this set is far more exhaustive and about twice as long.) The performances are consistently spectacular, and with one exception (the March, 1969 appearance on Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in the middle of Disc 1, which is muffled but still very listenable), the sound quality is equally fantastic throughout.

We'll start with Discs 1 and 2, which compile the band's earliest (and bluesiest) sessions for various BBC radio hosts. Then I'll be back in a few days with Discs 3 and 4, on which you get the entire two-hour session that the band recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" show on Radio One in April of 1971, seven months before the release of Led Zeppelin IV, playing new songs like "Black Dog", "Going To California" and "Stairway To Heaven" to a small theatre audience (it's unsettling, in fact, to hear the latter get no reaction at all from the crowd), and at the absolute peak of their legendary powers.

This is just essential stuff. If you're having any doubts about wanting to devote your bandwidth to such a massive set, listen to the first track on Disc 1, a raunchy troll through "You Shook Me" that confirms what a stunning live act Zeppelin was from the very beginning, and I guarantee you won't be able to pass up the rest. Positively jaw-dropping.



Disc 1 (1969):

01 You Shook Me
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Dazed And Confused
05 Alexis Korner intro
06 What Is And What Should Never Be
07 more chat
08 I Can't Quit You Baby
09 more chat
10 You Shook Me
11 Sunshine Woman
12 The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair
13 Communication Breakdown
14 Something Else
15 What Is And What Should Never Be
16 Group interview with Chris Grant
17 Whole Lotta Love
18 Communication Breakdown
19 What Is and What Should Never Be
20 Travelling Riverside Blues

Disc 2 (1969-1970):

01 Alan Black intro
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Alan Black interview
05 Dazed And Confused
06 Interlude with Adrian Henry
07 White Summer-Black Mountain Side
08 You Shook Me
09 How Many More Times
10 White Summer
11 Black Mountain Side

I'll be back with Discs 3 and 4 early next week. Turn this up LOUD and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The good folks at Stereogum have posted video and mp3s of the tunes performed during Radiohead's surprise in-studio webcast on November 9, including a cover of "The Headmaster Ritual" that is essential for Radiohead and Smiths fans alike. But for some reason, the band's wicked rip through In Rainbows standout "Bodysnatchers" is not among the songs that you can grab at the 'Gum. To complete an iTunes playlist of the entire webcast, I did my own capture of "Bodysnatchers" and then ripped it to mp3 at a super-high bitrate to match the tracks at Stereogum. Consider it my Thanksgiving gift to all of you.

MP3: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers" (live in studio), from the November 9, 2007 "Thumbs Down" webcast

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Adventurous

If we really wanted to bring you a knowledgeable discussion of electronica, we'd undoubtedly need to bring in a guest blogger. We're not. Now, I'm no connoisseur, but from time to time I encounter entries into the genre -- not that electronic music can really be accurately described as a single genre I realize, but bear with me, I'm using shorthand here -- that pique my interest. Here are a few:

Caribou is the nom de guerre of Don Snaith, who reportedly recorded his newest, Andorra, a dense, multi-layered wonder of neo-psychedelic pop, at home. I can't claim these comparisons as original thoughts, but there are those who invoke Elliot Smith's vocals, Brian Wilson's melodies, and '60s psychedelia as reference points. Those people would be right -- all colored by a modern DYI aesthetic.

Andorra, which I understand is something of a more pop-oriented departure from Snaith's earlier work, is a sonic tour de force -- one made for the headphones. It's a certifiable grower, albeit that rare grower with initial appeal. Be sure to check out the lushly romantic, Brian Wilsonesque "She's The One." Great stuff.

MP3: Caribou - "Sandy" from Andorra

I am completely blown away by UK's Burial. Although I'm certainly not hip enough to discuss the meaning of British "Grime," "2-Step," "Garage," or "Dubstep," as I have variously heard this music described, I can describe the sound as something like a Ghost In The Machine. With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting.

Adding to the cool mystery of this one-man band is that no one knows who Burial is. And he (or she) aims to keep it that way, and keep the focus on the music. The music is certainly worthy of that focus. The songs on Untrue flow from one to another with blurred distinction, and the whole record sounds very much like it is meant to be listened to in its entirety. Its sameness is never boring, but feels as deep (and as dark and cold) as the ocean.

MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Camilo Lara's Mexican Institute of Sound may come from south of the border, but it specializes in smashing musical borders via a latin dance party. In MIS's new record Piñata, one can find aspects of Cumbia, Cha Cha Cha, Baile Funk, and other musical styles with which I have limited or no familiarity. Regardless, you don't have to be an ethnomusicologist to have fun with this stuff.

Obviously, Piñata is heavily influenced by Central American style, but it incorporates a club-friendly hip hop flair that will put the party right into your Margarita. If this doesn't get your toe tapping, I don't know what will. Go do a shot of tequila.

MP3: Mexican Institute of Sound - "Para No Vivir Desesperado" from Piñata

Friday, November 09, 2007

From Sweden With Love

It was my Aunt Joyce who traced one of the roots of my maternal family tree back to Sweden, which delighted me for no other reason than that it seemed somewhat exotic. I didn't buy a Swedish car just because of this, but Aunt Joyce's genealogical efforts in some small way may have helped close that deal. Musically, we're in the middle of something of a Swedish invasion on these shores, so while I wait for the new Hives record to drop next week (why in the world hasn't Saab used one of their songs in a commercial?), here's a quick look at a few new releases from my Swedish cousins.

The Perisher's Victorious is a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff.

MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from Victorious

On Our Ill Wills, Shout Out Louds channel The Cure in the latter's sunny, pop manifestation, setting tales of melancholy to jangly, imminently hummable melodic confections. For me, this record generates a fair amount of '80s nostalgia, but is most enjoyable without seeming overly derivative. Lead-off track "Tonight I Have To Leave It" was cooked using only a slight variation on the recipe for "In Between Days," and I'm ok with that. Songs like "Impossible" are damn near impossible not to sing along with after just a few listens. Shout Out Louds are a skilled bunch of musicians, with keen ears for melody and a talent for song structure.

MP3: Shout Out Louds - "Tonight I Have To Leave It" - from Our Ill Wills

Jens Lekman is something of an anomaly. On his new release, Night Falls Over Kortedala, he manages the seemingly impossible task of being twee and bombastic at the same time ("And I Remember Every Kiss"). He seems both earnest and tongue-in-cheek. He's Burt Bacharach and disco ("Sipping On The Sweet Nectar"), folkster and hipster. He's sweet, and maybe naively honest ("I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You"). He's clever with a lyric, and has a great sense of humor ("A Postcard To Nina"). He's a Swedish Jonathan Richman. He's a musical gentle giant and a complete breath of fresh air. This record is consistently smile-inducing, and often outright laugh-worthy, a thing of joy.

MP3: Jens Lekman - "Your Arms Around Me" from Night Falls Over Kortedala.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 22: The Beach Boys - SMiLE

Here's a mea culpa for my woeful inactivity over the past few weeks -- what can I say, I've got stuff going on.

For almost 40 years, the Beach Boys' SMiLE was the Holy Grail of bootlegs -- the great lost album of the rock era, and the work that both confirmed Brian Wilson's absolute genius as a singer, composer and arranger, and propelled him into the mental illness that would cripple him for the next three decades. It was analyzed, dissected, annotated and theorized to death, and hailed as both an unfinished classic -- better even than Pet Sounds -- and an artistic failure that didn't deserve to be completed in the first place. Of course, Brian finally recorded and released an updated and truly triumphant solo version of the record in 2004. So by now, most likely, you've heard SMiLE. What you may not have heard, however, is SMiLE sung by the Beach Boys circa 1966, which is something altogether different -- and, let's face it, what God and Brian (if, at the time, they weren't occasionally one and the same) originally intended.

There are literally dozens of versions of SMiLE: high profile bootlegs (by labels such as Vigotone and Purple Chick), collections of the fragments that have seen official release (most notably in the Good Vibrations boxset), scholarly reconstructions and frequently terrific fan mixes (seek out the ones by Wrightfan, who just loosed his seventh attempt at a definitive SMiLE on the bootleg trading community, and a mysterious fellow who calls himself D.J. Mic Luv) abound.

This particular version -- the so-called "Millennium Edition" released in Japan on the Dumb Angel label -- isn't the best, or even one of my favorites (to use the take of "Our Prayer" -- one of the most sublimely beautiful harmony exercises in pop music history -- that degenerates into laughter is sacrilege in my book), but it is among the most difficult to get ahold of. And, if nothing else, this version closes with a truly gorgeous edit of "Surf's Up," among the most perfect pop songs ever written, complete with a purely instrumental pass through the first two verses that serves as an overture, the "Woody Woodpecker" horn punctuations, Van Dyke Parks' brilliant lyrical wordplay ("canvas the town and brush the backdrop," "the music hall / a costly bow / the music all is lost for now"), and that classic, haunting vocal from Brian. If I could only hear ten songs again for the rest of my life, "Surf's Up" would be one of them.

THE BEACH BOYS - SMiLE (Millennium Edition)

Artwork (these are PSD files - download and open/print with a photo viewing program):
Front cover
Inside cover
Back insert

01 Our Prayer
02 Heroes and Villains (Barnyard Suite)
03 Child Is Father Of The Man
04 Wonderful
05 With Me Tonight
06 Do You Like Worms?
07 The Old Master Painter
08 Cabinessence
09 Good Vibrations
10 Vega-tables
11 Wind Chimes
12 The Elemental Suite (Look > Holidays > Mrs. O'Leary's Cow > Cool, Cool Water > Friday Night > Good Vibrations closing bit)
13 Vega-tables (reprise)
14 Surf's Up

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lucky Ones

I'm not going to be able to offer much here that the indie kids don't already know. Broken Social Scene are a band, er, a collective, that I probably appreciate more than I actually listen to. When "It's All Gonna Break" popped up on my iPod this past weekend, I realized that's probably something that needs to be addressed. Kevin Drew is one of the founders of BSS, and for his first solo record, Spirit If . . . (which still involves various members of the collective, including the always lovely Leslie Feist), he trades on the brand name as "Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew". Not a bad move, considering the fact that it's a pretty solid brand.

Not unlike recent BSS records, Spirit is often a beautiful, sprawling mess, with Kevin Drew at the epicenter, coaxing beauty from chaos. What is slightly different from the typical BSS output is the relaxed nature of the music. While the opening track, "Farewell To Pressure Kids," trades in the same bombastic, baroque, whirlwind rock that is BSS's stock in trade, halfway through, it downshifts dramatically and turns the sonic three-note motif into a mellotronic prayer. This is followed by the profane "tbtf" (abbreviation for "too beautiful to [expletive deleted]"), which is actually a very pretty, if slightly twisted, ode to adoration, and "F-ked Up Kid," an acoustic meditation with the perfect level of ambient electronica hovering in the background.

And so goes this record. It's a ragged beauty, and it kind of reminds me of Thurston Moore's new one in the sense that, coming from someone who normally doesn't hesitate to unleash the noise, there is a fair amount of joy in melody and restraint. This is exemplified in song after song. It's not until the excellent "Back Out On The . . . " -- which would be at home in any Arcade Fire set -- that Drew turns the amps back up to 11.

A generous amount of real care in the production is also apparent, which makes Spirit a strong candidate for the headphones. All in all, Spirit If . . . deserves heavy rotation on your playlist.

MP3: Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew - "Lucky Ones" from Spirit If . . .

And speaking of Canadian musicians, Pop Headwound has news on the re-release of Destroyer's City of Daughters, along with a couple of MP3s.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Free Noise Among Friends

Sonic Youth's chief noise merchant, Thurston Moore, steps outside the SY university on his new solo record, Trees Outside The Academy. The path doesn't lead too far from campus, but it does afford an interesting view of some familiar territory. Trees' style and song structure provide easily recognizable signposts to most devotees, but its instrumentation diverges just enough to lend a healthy breath of fresh air. Here, SY's tortured guitars are largely replaced by their finger-picked acoustic cousins, which, instead of dueling against one another, are set against a backdrop of tastefully arranged strings. Moore's voice, usually a smooth counterpoint to the waves of guitar-violence delivered by his day-job band, slides very nicely into the groove of this decidedly laid back approach.

The record opens with "Frozen Gtr," a song that would be at home on any recent SY record, and actually draws a hint of the ominous out of the violins. It's an excellent song to set the stage for this trip. Following that are "The Shape Is In A Trance," which is classic Thurston Moore, but turned way down, and "Honest James," which is probably about as close as Moore will ever get to folk music, but with lovely backing vocals by Christina Carter it's close enough.

Trees, which was recorded at J. Mascis' house, and to which J. contributed some excellent guitar work, is a remarkably consistent record. There are only a couple of missteps, including "American Coffin," which opens with a fairly standard SY barrage of distortion and devolves into fairly amateurish piano improv, and "Thurston @ 13," which isn't a song, but a recording of exactly what its title suggests. Nevertheless, there are plenty of standouts to be found. "Wonderful Witches + Language Meanies" is an outright rocker that would've been perfect for wife Kim Gordon had it made it to a Sonic Youth record, and "Never Day" has a bit of a lilting melody that sails gently on a soft current of big sound. My favorite track is probably "Fri/End," which is bright and nearly reaches the point of "popness" as it shuffles along like some lost Pavement track.

All in all, this is a very nice release that has achieved a pretty good rotation in my iPod. It's nice to know that even in middle age, a former youth can still be Sonic.

MP3: Thurston Moore - "Fri/End" from Trees Outside The Academy.

Check out the BBC's video interview about Trees below and stream a few other tracks here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Come Gather 'Round, People

Since we launched this blog over 10 months ago (!), I've tried to bring the occasional bit of BBC awesomeness to my fellow, deprived non-Brits. It's impossible to share it all, or even all of the truly excellent stuff that seems to flow out of The Beeb on a weekly basis. But this one, I just can't pass up. About 10 days ago, BBC Radio 2 broadcasted Dream Dylan Live, in which they aimed to put together -- from recordings spanning his entire career -- their approximation of the ultimate Bob Dylan concert. It's a neat enough concept as it is, but what made this program truly special was that it included four live recordings (obtained direct from the Dylan archives) that had never seen the light of day before. The end result is a really sweet listen. And some kind soul even made some artwork for it, which I pass along as well, in case you want to burn to CD and enjoy your Dylan in "take away" fashion, as they say in dear old Blighty.

DREAM DYLAN LIVE - BBC Radio 2 Presentation, October 6, 2007

Front cover
Back insert

01 Blowin' In The Wind*
02 Only A Pawn In Their Game*
03 The Times They Are A' Changing
04 Mr. Tambourine Man
05 Like A Rolling Stone
06 Maggie's Farm
07 All Along The Watchtower
08 Lovesick*
09 To Make You Feel My Love
10 Things Have Changed
11 The Groom's Still Waiting At The Alter*

*Previously unreleased

Monday, October 08, 2007

Killing The Blues

One of the more intriguing projects that I've read about in recent weeks is the collaboration between Led Zep icon Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss -- about as unlikely a pairing as I probably could have imagined. But it seems Plant and Krauss have had something of a mutual admiration society in the works for a while, and after years of talking about it, finally went into the studio together this year, with an amazing group of studio musicians (world-class players like Marc Ribot, Norman Blake and Patrick Warren), and none other than the great T-Bone Burnett producing, to record a selection of Americana covers by writers like Tom Waits, John Prine, Gene Clark, Sam Phillips, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers and Mel Tillis.

Well, I got an advance copy of the results -- a record called Raising Sand -- over the weekend, and I have to tell you, I am positively blown away. It is, without question, one of the finest records I've heard this year, a captivating trawl through an eclectic selection of country, blues, rockabilly and vintage pop tunes, written by some true masters, and gorgeously recorded by Burnett. Stunningly, though, it's the singing on these tracks that really makes this project something special. You expect Krauss to sound like an angel, and she certainly doesn't disappoint. In fact, her performances on Raising Sand, such as her languid take on Phillips' "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," are among the loveliest I've ever heard from her. But it's Plant's voice that truly astonishes here, with a warmth, beauty and delicate command that not only belie his years, but may truly mark the high point of his storied career. And the combination of the two voices -- at times Plant and Krauss trade leads, at others they are locked in sublime harmony -- is nothing less than mesmerizing, whether they're gliding elegantly through Prine's standard-in-the-making "Killing The Blues" or crooning like Gram and Emmylou on Gene Clark's "Through The Morning, Through The Night." Another highlight is "Please Read The Letter," a tune that Plant wrote with Jimmy Page in the late 90s, but that he, Krauss and these masterful musicians turn into something like a lost classic from 60s Nashville. Then again, literally every track on this record is a priceless little gem, simply not to be missed.

Raising Sand is out on October 23. Run, don't walk, to your record store that day.

MP3: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - "Please Read The Letter" from Raising Sand

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 21: The Ramones - The Palladium, NYC, New Year's Eve 1979

I've had The Ramones on the brain this week, maybe because I've been making my way through the excellent live DVD, It's Alive: 1974-1996, that was released last Tuesday. It features some classic footage of Da Brudders in their punk-pioneering heyday, including a few old TV appearances I'd only had in bootleg quality until now, and is highly recommended.

So -- and speaking of The Ramones in their heyday -- here's one of their most popular boots, a stereo soundboard recording from their show at The Palladium in New York on New Year's Eve 1979. The setlist hits the high points of their first four classic records, and even includes one song from End Of The Century, their album produced by the now-infamous Phil Spector, which at the time was about six weeks from being released (and is still my favorite Ramones record).

And, for those of you who weren't around back in the day, these guys didn't mess around, especially on stage. 32 songs in 66 minutes. Do the math. Gabba gabba hey.

THE RAMONES - 1-2-3-4 DIE (Live at The Palladium, New York - December 31, 1979)

Front cover
Back insert

01 Blitzkrieg Bop
02 Teenage Labotomy
03 Rockaway Beach
04 I Don't Want You
05 Go Mental
06 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
07 I Wanna Be Sedated
08 I Just Want To Have Something To Do
09 She's The One
10 This Ain't Havana
11 I'm Against It
12 Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
13 Havana Affair
14 Commando
15 Needles And Pins
16 I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
17 Surfin' Bird
18 Cretin Hop
19 All The Way
20 Judy Is A Punk
21 California Sun
22 I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
23 Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World
24 Pinhead
25 Do you Wanna Dance?
26 Suzy Is A Headbanger
27 Let's Dance
28 Chinese Rock
29 Beat On The Brat
30 We're A Happy Family
31 Bad Brain
32 I Wanted Everything

Saturday, October 06, 2007

You Might Have Succeeded In Changing Me

Word on the street is that R.E.M. are putting the finishing touches on a great new record. To tide us over until it comes out, we have a new CD/DVD, R.E.M. Live, to look forward to. It's the band's first live CD & DVD package, and it comes out October 16. Featuring 22 songs, it's a document of a February 27, 2005 concert, when the South's favorite sons played a show at The Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland on their tour in support of Around The Sun.

Frank has already waxed eloquent on the meaning of this band to good post-punk Southern boys (and will do so again soon), so I will not attempt to repeat him here. Suffice it to say that R.E.M.'s sense of mystery and Southern mythology, in a time of great and exciting upheaval in popular music, gave us in the American South something of which we were so proud. They were every bit the equal to that awe-inspiring band from Ireland that emerged at approximately the same time, and against whom they were often favorably measured.

I will never forget my best friend Kenny, who at the time lived about 160 miles away, calling me on the day that Reckoning was released. The phone rang. I picked up and said hello. Kenny sang into the phone: "Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean . . ." Naturally, I tunefully responded, "Seven thousand years to sleep away the pain." "Oh good! You bought it," he said. That's devotion, people.

YouTube: Trailer for R.E.M. Live

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ahhhhhhhh Hey, Hey, Hey!

Apologies for the scant posts this week. If it isn't one thing these days, it's another. Plus, post-burglary, I'm still in the very early stages of rebuilding my digital music collection to a point where I actually have new stuff to share. Among the things that I realized, only yesterday, I had lost for good -- by which I mean, I had no version on CD to re-rip -- was "Cold Wind" by the Arcade Fire, a non-album track that only ever appeared on the final Six Feet Under soundtrack in 2005. But our buddy Scott happened to hear me mention this, and when I came to work this morning, there it was in my in-box. So thank you, Scott -- this is one I definitely didn't want to live without. And for those of you who don't have this in your own collection, here you go. It's so good it hurts.

MP3: Arcade Fire - "Cold Wind" from Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends