bob dylan

The Big Lebowski radio, tonight!

I will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

This Week On Visions In Sound – The 20th Anniversary Of The Big Lebowski – Drop in to see what condition your condition is in this week as this week we celebrate the 20th of the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski. We will also be live on Facebook!

I’m a bit of a fan of both the movie and its excellent soundtrack.  My movie review can be found here.  Check out my cool Lebowski ID and swag!

 

 

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REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Bonus 12″ and DVD)

This series is dedicated to my mom! Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place. My mom’s favourite Beatle was George. She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had these Traveling Wilburys albums on cassette.

Today is the final installment: the DVD and bonus 12″ EP.

For Vol. 1, click here.
For Vol. 3, click here!

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Bonus 12″, DVD (The Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

As mentioned in the last two reviews, The Traveling Wilburys Collection came stuffed with bonus tracks — and more if you bought vinyl.  Unfortunately, these bonus tracks (seven total) do not encompass all of the Traveling Wilburys rare tracks and B-sides.  The missing tracks include:

  • “New Blue Moon” (instrumental version), from the “She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist” singles.
  • The original mix of “Runaway” from the “She’s My Baby” single.

The tracks included feature a few B-sides and unreleased songs.  I seem to recall in the 1980’s that extended mixes were very popular.  The Wilburys released two as B-sides:  “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”.  Both tracks are included with the vinyl version of the Collection.  Basically, this involves adding instrumental sections throughout the song.  Throw on some extra echo here and there.  Each song is extended by about 2 minutes.  With a vocal-heavy band like the Traveling Wilburys, this is actually quite a treat.  It’s a chance to hear some of the bare acoustic instrumental tracks that are overshadowed by harmony vocals.

IMG_20140808_180434Exclusive to the vinyl version of the Collection, and previously unreleased, is the remix to “Not Alone Any More”.  I have made no secret of my love for this song.  This version emphasizes the lead vocal of Roy Orbison front and center.   Also unreleased, but included on the CD version, are “Maxine” and “Like a Ship”.  Both tracks were old recordings, finished in 2007 for this release.  Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne sang additional backing vocals, which is more than appropriate.  You can tell both are from demo sources, by hints such as George’s “Alright, that’s it,” at the end of “Maxine”.  “Maxine” is the better of the two songs; “Like a Ship” is a slow Bob Dylan trawl that gets decidedly Beatles-y by the end.  Dhani Harrison plays the guitar solo, which is a standout.

Then there is “Nobody’s Child”, originally from the Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal CD.  I’ll admit I’ve never been fond of this sad song.  This was the Wilburys first recording after the passing of Roy Orbison, and I’m glad to finally have it, but it’s not a favourite.  Incidentally, George covered this song way back when he was in the Beatles, too.

Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is a favourite of mine.   I love that “I wah wah wah wah wonder” chorus.  I dug when Queen + Paul Rodgers covered it, but I doubtless first heard this in the movie American Graffiti.   It is said that when Roy Orbison died, Del Shannon was considered as a replacement.  Unfortunately Shannon himself would soon be gone too; he never lived long enough to see the release of the Wilburys’ cover of “Runaway” in 1990.  (He did however live long enough to hear Tom Petty mention the song in his 1989 hit “Running Down a Dream”.)  Jeff Lynne sings lead on the Wilburys version, and he does a bang-up job.  I like this version so much that I’m going to track down the “She’s My Baby” CD single so I can get the original mix too.

Included with the CD version of this set (but not the vinyl) is a DVD with a 24 minute documentary called “The True History of the Traveling Wilburys”. This fascinating inside look at the first album is well worth having.  How often do you get to be a fly on a wall during a jam session like this?  Never.  It’s also very cool to see all five Wilburys recording vocals together in one room.  Also included on the DVD are all of  the Wilburys music videos, including “Inside Out” which I had never seen before.

The vinyl box not only has extra music, but also a poster and six postcards.  Just paper, I know.  The vinyl itself are presented on 180 gram records, which are always delightful to listen to.  Take my word for it when I say that all three records sound amazing on my system.

The Wilburys never went on to record together again after Vol. 3, but a lot of fans consider Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever to be something of an unofficial Wilburys album.  Jeff Lynne’s first solo album Armchair Theater also has some Wilbury connections, and some of that jangly sound.  All the Wilburys with the exception of Bob Dylan appeared on Roy Orbison’s last album, Mystery Girl.

As for The Traveling Wilburys Collection as a whole?

5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Vol. 3)

This series is dedicated to my mom! Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place. My mom’s favourite Beatle was George. She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had this Traveling Wilburys album on cassette, and that tape went up and back from the cottage many, many times!

In today’s installment, the second album, which of course is titled Volume 3!

For Vol. 1, click here.

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Volume 3 (1990, part of the Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

When I heard the first Wilburys single from Vol. 3, “She’s My Baby”, I was surprised how heavy it was.  Jeff Lynne sings this grungy rocker, with Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.  The dirty pick slides and guitar licks resembled heavy metal more than the Wilburys’ first album.  And no wonder — it’s Gary Moore (“Ken Wilbury”) on lead guitar! “She’s My Baby” is a great rock song, but there’s no doubt that it alienated some fans as first single.

More in tune with the Wilburys vibe is Dylan’s “Inside Out”.  This track boasts a strong Beatles-y chorus, but fairly dull verses.   “If You Belonged to Me” is better, a bit more upbeat, but melodically poor.  It’s also the second Dylan lead vocal in a row, but it does boast one of his trademark harmonica breaks.

“The Devil’s Been Busy” features lead vocals from everybody, and plenty of George Harrison’s sitar.  It’s an interesting mix, but not a standout song.  The sitar is the highlight; I always enjoy hearing it in a pop rock context.  From “The Devil’s Been Busy” to “7 Deadly Sins”, this song sound likes like a ballad straight out of 1952.  But it’s yet another Bob Dylan lead vocal.  Five songs in, and it is readily apparent that Vol. 3 lacks the vocal variety of Vol. 1, and that is one of its weaknesses.  Dylan is who he is, and a Dylan song isn’t usually as melodic as a George Harrison song.

Tom Petty redeems the album with “Poor House”, a down-home country boogie.  Throw in some of George’s delicious guitars and you’ve got a song you can’t ignore.  It’s this kind of diversity that a Wilburys record needs.  This is the first bonafide classic on Vol. 3, the previous songs short of the mark.

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Bob’s back on “Where Were You Last Night?”  This one has more presence from the other Wilburys and it’s stronger for it.  It’s a tale about a girl who’s been “messing around”.    “Where were you last year?  You sure as hell weren’t here.”  Tom Petty returns for lead vocals on “Cool Dry Place” another enjoyable song, but not terribly memorable.  It’s enjoyable hearing Tom listing all the instruments he has stored in his cool dry place, and kind of hilarious hearing him singing about mold and mildew!  A pleasure to listen to, but not a classic.

“New Blue Moon” sounds a lot more like the first album.  George and Jeff sound great singing together.  All the guys contribute to a song that has a timeless sound.  The ballad “You Took My Breath Away” is helmed by Tom Petty, but equally important are those classic Harrison chords.  It’s not a standout song regardless, unfortunately.  Vol. 3 is plagued by songs that are not as memorable as the first go-round, and that is still apparent listening to them back-to-back today.

Finally there’s “Wilbury Twist”. This single featured a music video starring John Candy. I’m not sure how that came to be, but to me that’s the most memorable thing about it. That and the silly lyrics about the dance, the Wilbury Twist:

Lift your other foot up (other foot up)
Fall on your ass (fall on your ass)
Get back up (get back up)
Put your teeth in a glass (teeth in a glass)
Ain’t ever been nothin’ quite like this
It’s a magical thing called the Wilbury Twist

Needless to say, we did not ever attempt to dance the full Wilbury Twist.  We never made it past the first couple lines!

That’s it for Vol. 3, a Traveling Wilburys album that has always, and will always, lie the shadow of its superior predecessor.  But that’s not it for this series.  When The Traveling Wilburys Collection was finally reissued in 2007, it included several bonus tracks.  The 2 CD/1 DVD version had four, but the 3 LP box set had seven.  We’ll look at them all tomorrow.

As for Vol. 3?

3/5 stars

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Vol. 1)

This series is dedicated to my mom!  Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place.  My mom’s favourite Beatle was George.  She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had this Traveling Wilburys album on cassette, and that tape went up and back from the cottage many, many times!

We’re going to be looking at the Wilburys albums, plus a DVD and bonus 12″ EP, over the course of three installments.  Today is the album that started it all.

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Volume 1 (1988, part of the Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

If ever there was a group that deserved the word “supergroup”, it would be the Traveling Wilburys.  Grown out of an extension of the B-side sessions for George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, this group of five legends produced only one album in its original lineup.  It’s really something when the lesser royalty of the supergroup included names like “Tom Petty” and “Jeff Lynne”.  That’s because in comparison to George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, they were relative newcomers to the game.  It still blows my mind that this album exists; that this actually happened.  Fortunately the CD version of this box set includes a DVD; behind the scenes and interviews that prove it wasn’t just a dream!  (The Wilburys’ drummer was Jim Keltner, an unofficial sixth member.)

CLOUD NINEThe song that started it all was “Handle With Care”, written as a Harrison B-side.  It was apparent to all concerned that the song was too good to throw away like that.  Instead it became the first single and opening track from The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.  George sings the verses, Orbison the chorus, and the others the bridges.  Although George Harrison sounds youthful and Beatles-esque, it is Orbison who steals the song.  His angelic voice simply shines.  Also exciting is George’s eloquent slide guitar.  Let us not forget what an excellent slide player he was.

Bob Dylan sings lead on the fun “Dirty World”.  Although it shares the same acoustic, upbeat vibe as “Handle With Care”, Dylan infuses the song with his flat funkiness.  I mean that in the nicest possible way!  Horns accent the song, as do the backing vocals of the other Wilburys.  Sonically this sounds like Harrison’s Cloud Nine, and no wonder.  Both albums were produced by Jeff Lynne and George Harrison!

Speaking of Lynne, he sings lead on “Rattled”, a great little country rocker.  “Rattled” is a suitable title since it seems designed to get people shakin’.  And you gotta love when Roy Orbison does his signature “Rrrrrrr!”  Roy sings a bit more on the reggae-stylee of “Last Night”.  Tom Petty sings the verses, while Roy takes the bridges to a whole other level.  I get chills when he sings:

I asked her to marry me,
She smiles, pulled out a knife,
“Your heartache’s just beginning”, she said
“Your money or your life.”

“Last night” indeed!  It’s impossible not to like this song.

WILBURYS_0006Finally, the moment I had been waiting for:  a Roy Orbison lead vocal!  “Not Alone Any More” is golden.  There will only be one Roy Orbison, and this song is as essential to his songbook as any of his other hits, in my opinion.  It sounds timeless, and it boasts that powerful, mournful voice.  It speaks volumes that no other Wilburys sing prominently on this song; they obviously gave Roy the space that his voice deserved.  It is a classic song.  It is a shame that no music video was made for this, the third single.

Side Two opened with “Congratulations”, a slow-as-molasses Bob Dylan turn.  This has always been one of the lesser songs, but on an album full of shiny diamonds.  Its slow, dreary vibe can be hard to penetrate at first.  The key is focusing on the lyrics of Dylan.  “Heading For the Light” then is an upbeat Harrison number, another one that easily could have been on Cloud Nine.  It boasts those chiming guitars, and a great chorus with Jeff Lynne helping out.   The sax solo (by Jim Horn) is another treat.

“Margarita” always sounds a bit odd when it opens.  A synthesizer of all things pulses away, but soon all the live instruments fade in.  More horns, more of those chiming guitars, and George’s slide.  Once again Bob Dylan sings lead, although the song was primarily written by Tom Petty, who shows up later in the song.  It has an exotic sound, and it’s something I associate with summer.

Epic time.  “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” (famously covered and punked up by the Headstones) is Bob Dylan’s album centerpiece.  A tale about an undercover cop and other shady characters, this is Dylan as only Dylan can do.  Words cannot really do this song justice.  It’s one of those tracks that demands multiple listens, since there is so much going on lyrically and even vocally.  This is the only song on the album to which Roy Orbison did contribute.

Nothing like the Wilburys version.

Although a song like this could have easily closed an album, the Wilburys had one more track of their sleeves.  “End of the Line” was an apt farewell, and again, it’s hard not to get chills when Roy sings.  This single features George, Tom and Jeff prominently along with Roy Orbison, but Bob doesn’t sing any lead parts.  “End of the Line” feels like a bookend with “Handle With Care”; two similar songs opening and closing the record.

I’m going to skip discussing the bonus tracks for now; we’ll get to them in Part 3 of this series of reviews.  Besides, the 10 core tracks on Vol. 1 are plenty enough to discuss.  Within a couple months of its release, Roy Orbison would pass away at the young age of 52.  The Wilburys bestowed upon Roy another chance in the spotlight, and he worked hard to complete his solo album Mystery Girl, while playing shows and filming music videos.  Although he had been experiencing chest pains and had meant to see a doctor, he never did.

I was as surprised as anyone when the remaining four Wilburys re-convened to record another album.  Vol. 3 appeared two years later, and was dedicated to the memory of Orbison…or at least his Wilburys alter-ego, Lefty Wilbury.  Check back tomorrow when we’ll look at that album in detail.

As for Vol. 1?

5/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: The Ultimate Cut: Watchmen – The Complete Story (blu-ray)

Hot on the heels of my Man of Steel review, here’s…the Watchmen.

WATCHMEN : The Ultimate Cut – The Complete Story (2009 Warner 4 disc blu-ray set)

Directed by Zack Snyder, 216 minutes 

What’s the greatest comic book movie of all time?  I’ve seen a lot of them. There’s quite a few I haven’t seen as well, but it’s a great topic for discussion.  I always have to put Watchmen on the table when discussing great comic book adaptations.

Watchmen is a complex tale.  Its original comic was ambitious, containing page after page of dense backstory information in the form of documents and faux-magazine articles, all very relevant.  There’s even a parallel story taking place, a comic within a comic, which directly reflects one (or arguably more) of the characters in the main story.  Characters and their psychology are key.  In addition, neither the comic nor the movie are linear.  The story unfolds within different time periods, flashing back and forth, as we learn more about the characters, their motivations, and the world they inhabit.

It is the world they inhabit that was the hook for me.  I’m a sucker for alternate universe stories.  Here’s one that sets us on Earth, 1985, but things have unfolded very differently.  The influence of various superheroes/vigilantes has caused history to unfold very differently.  Specifically, it is the presence of Dr. Manhattan, who puts a swift and decisive end to the Vietnam war, who influences history the most.  In this 1985, Richard Nixon is still president, and masked vigilantes are now outlawed.

The Watchmen are a group of such vigilantes, originally known as the Minutemen.  Some, such as Dr. Manhattan truly are superhuman.  Others, such as Nite Owl and his successor Nite Owl II, are mere mortals with high-tech gadgetry and skill as their allies.  All have retired, some in fame and some in anonymity…all but one.  Rorschach.  He remains active, alone and wanted.

The movie begins as a murder mystery.  Someone has managed to identify and kill Edward Blake — The Comedian, once one of the most dangerous heroes alive.  To overpower and murder Blake would require an individual of tremendous resources.  Who?  And are other former vigilantes also at risk?  Rorschach seems to be the only one who wants to know.

Being a fan of the graphic novel, I was very happy with the way that Zack Snyder captured Watchmen. It was done with love and care. The things that are discarded, I didn’t miss so much. The things that he changed, I understand why it was done.  There’s one layer to the story/mystery that has been discarded, probably to keep this thing under 4 hours!  The things that are reverently exactly the same as the comic made my jaw drop in awe.  The acting performances are what they are, but I have to give special mention to Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach.

WATCHMEN_0006The soundtrack is one of the best in recent memory. Outside of Wes Anderson, I haven’t loved a soundtrack this much in a long time.  It’s awesome from the stunning Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are A’Changing”, to Nat King Cole, to Simon and Garfunkel, Hendrix and Philip Glass, and probably the weirdest use of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in movie history.  The soundtrack is where it’s at.  The movie even contains a Village People sighting!  I’ll skip My Chemical Romance.

This Ultimate Cut weaves the comic-within-a-comic, Tales Of The Black Freighter, previously only available on its own, into the main body of Watchmen. These segments are narrated by Gerard Butler.  New live action linking sequences connect the movie to Black Freighter, much like it worked in the graphic novel. People who haven’t read the graphic novel might not understand what “Black Freighter” is doing there, but they should probably start with the less daunting theatrical cut to start with anyway.

WATCHMEN_0003The box set includes four discs, beautifully packaged. Hardly a complaint to be registered. The box is heavy and sturdy. Included is Watchmen: The Motion Comic, packed in its own case, 5 hours long on its own. One disc is the expired digital copy of the theatrical cut (whoop de do) and another disc is loaded with special features. Best of these is Under The Hood, which is based on the graphic novel segments covering Holis Mason.  Mason, the original Nite Owl I, wrote an autobiography called Under the Hood; this film is a faux-documentary on his story. It is presented as a television program from 1975 re-run in 1985, including commercials and scratchy footage. At 35 minutes, this is an absolute must. Other special features include brand new audio commentaries, for those who dare to keep going deeper. This set is just loaded.  Unfortunately I found the sound level inconsistent, I had to turn it up and down frequently.

Having said that, I’m not going to discard my Director’s Cut of Watchmen. Clocking in at almost four hours, watching this version is a commitment. I know that occasionally, I will want to watch the “shorter” version of the film. Since a digital copy of the theatrical (shortest) cut is included here, maybe you won’t feel the need to double-up on Watchmen editions.  For an enriched viewing experience, set aside the four hours one afternoon and enjoy.

4/5 stars

Malin Akerman … Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II

Billy Crudup … Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman

Matthew Goode … Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias

Jackie Earle Haley … Rorschach

Jeffrey Dean Morgan … Edward Blake / Comedian

Patrick Wilson … Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl

Carla Gugino … Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre

Matt Frewer … Moloch

MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Lebowski (1998)

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THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen)

10th Anniversary Limited “Bowling Ball” Edition

Way out west there was this fella… fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski.

Okay sir, you’re a Lebowski, I’m a Lebowski, that’s terrific, I’m very busy so what can I do for you?  Well, I’m gonna tell you about this movie.  First of all, for the rockers who read LeBrain’s blog, rest assured, there is a music connection.  And that’s the killer soundtrack.  From Captain Beefheart, to Bob Dylan (the incredible “The Man In Me”), Elvis Costello, CCR, the Gipsy Kings (“Hotel California”), Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, and even the fuckin’ Eagles, this movie is loaded with solid tunes.  There are even appearances by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Aimee Mann, and Flea!  (Yes, that Flea.)

Ahh, who am I kidding? If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to sell you on this movie. Hence, I shall review this movie in two parts: For fans, and for non-fans. Dudes and Un-dudes.

DUDISM

FOR DUDES:

The new “bowling ball” edition of Lebowski is awesome. Finally we’re given the special features that we’ve been asking for, for years! No audio commentary track, but the Coens and the Dude himself will give you some insight to the film and its characters. After two disappointing editions, this is so overdue. Two discs, featurettes, that weird intro, Lebowskifest, an interactive map of Los Angeles, it’s all here. Most of your questions will be answered, but of course not all…some mystery must always remain. Plus the bowling ball just looks cool. I have mine on my entertainment centre, and it’s a conversation starter. “What is that bowling ball doing there?” It’s sturdy and it houses the DVDs in two slip cases. Life does not stop and start at your convenience, so be sure to pick this up and enjoy while you can, it’s limited edition.

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FOR UN-DUDES:

One important thing about this film that I must stress is, don’t try to understand the plot on first viewing. It’s every bit as stupifying to the first time viewer as it is to Jeffrey Lebowski. Just enjoy. My feeling (and this is just my feeling) is that The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) doesn’t know what the heck is going on, so neither should you. The plot is not complicated, but your thinking about it might be very uptight. I don’t necessarily recommend that you stick to a strict drug regimen to keep you mind limber, but having a few white Russians might help.

The Dude (the laziest man in Los Angeles) is unemployed (or “a bum” to some) and spends most of his time having acid flashbacks and bowling with Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi). One day his home is broken into by two thugs looking for money. They have mistaken The Dude for a millionaire with the same given name: Jeff Lebowski. During this break-in, Wu micturates on The Dude’s rug. That rug really tied the room together. Walter tells The Dude to try to take up the rug issue with the other Jeff Lebowski, the millionaire (David Huddleston). And this is where our adventure begins.

An amazing soundtrack backs a hilariously confusing movie about a guy in way over his head. There are a lot of facets, a lot of ins and outs, a lot of interested parties and strands to keep in Duder’s head. Along the way you will meet The Stranger (Sam Elliot), Brant (Philip Seymore Hoffman), Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) and a group of nihilists lead by Peter Stormare. Things are complicated by the appearance of Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), a kidnapping, and a ransom note. Can The Dude recover the million dollars? All he wants is a finder’s fee. Perferably in cash. He has to check with his accountant on this, but he’s worried about being put in a higher tax, uhh, you know. All this with next round-robin of the bowling tournament starting. And The Jesus (John Turturro) is ready to take them down next Wednesday, baby.

Brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, brilliantly performed. Yes, you should be confused the first time you view it. By second, third, and fourth watch, those stands in Duder’s head come together, supported by musical cues (listen for CCR), odd bits of dialogue (“Johnson”) and other clues.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. You too will become a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever, and perhaps even an obsessive fan, dressing up and going to Lebowskifests. You never know. At the very least you might just find a new enjoyment of white Russians. Just don’t run out of non-dairy creamer. Is there a Ralph’s around?

5/5 stars

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 2

Missed part 1? Click here.

Here’s part 2 of 3 – 30 albums essential to Meat’s being, that should be essential to yours, too!  So, without anymore preamble, I’ll leave you with Uncle Meat, as he discusses 10 more albums, in alphabetical order by title, that you need to visit (or re-visit).

 

HIGH TENSION WIRES  –  STEVE MORSE (1989)

Simply put, Steve Morse is my favorite musician of all time.  I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Morse a total of 6 times when you combine The Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple and The Steve Morse Band.  Unlike the releases of some of his contemporaries, High Tension Wires is not your typical shredder album.  Oh it shreds alright, but Steve Morse is much more than a trickster.  There are beautiful compositions, unforgettable solos and some just plain ol’ rocking too.  Included is the link to a live version of a track perfectly named “Tumeni Notes”.  For more examples of the greatness of Steve Morse, introduce some Dixie Dregs into your collection.  You can thank me later.

 

HOT HOUSE  –  BRUCE HORNSBY (1995)

When Bruce Hornsby said goodbye to The Range, he immediately said hello with Harbor Lights, a heavily jazz-infused turn that completely changed the music world’s perception of him.  Hot House sees Hornsby taking that one step further.  The album’s cover speaks a thousand words.  It is a painting of an imagined band session between Bluegrass legend Bill Munroe and Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Nuff’ said there.  This recording contains many musical giants including Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck and Chaka Khan.   Hot House is very addictive.  I know most of the words off by heart on this record.  Hopefully someday you will too.

JEFF BECK GROUP  –  JEFF BECK GROUP (1972)

This album definitely falls under the underappreciated category.  Sometimes known as  The Orange Album, Beck’s playing has never been better on this collection of original compositions and covers.  I would call this more of a Soul album than anything.  The incredible vocals of Bobby Tench seem to highlight this record at times, as you will see on the live performance of “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here With You” I have included for this entry.   Also worth noting, this album is one of the first recordings of the late Cozy Powell’s career.  The guitar work alone on “Definitely, Maybe” is enough reason itself to seek this record out.  Perhaps a rock n’ roll legend’s best work.

JOHN PRINE  –  JOHN PRINE (1971)

I actually discovered the music of John Prine while working at the same record store chain that Mr. Ladano speaks of in this blog.  There is no one quite like John Prine.  Some artists write great songs.  Some artists write great lyrics.  Only a select few truly do both this well.  There is no doubt that John Prine’s self-titled album contains some of the best lyrics ever written.  “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes.  Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose?”  That is just brilliant shit.  “You may see me tonight with an Illegal Smile.  It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”.  I have said this many times and I am still saying it now.  John Prine is THE best lyric writer …. Ever.  Fuck Bob Dylan.  Yeah, I said it.

 

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON  –  KRIS KRISTOFFERSON (1970)

For the sake of alphabetical order by album, this Kristofferson follows the John Prine album on this list.  Really it should be the other way around.  While I stand by my earlier praise of Prine lyrics, I would certainly listen to the argument that there wouldn’t be a John Prine without Kris Kristofferson.  The songs on this album show a huge diversity and a sense of patience that just makes him so cool.  “Best Of All Possible Worlds” is just insanely-good storytelling and “Me and Bobby McGee” became a mega-smash for Janis Joplin.  Of all the great concerts I have seen, watching Kris Kristofferson and a guitar for two hours in 2006 will always be one of the best concerts I will ever see.  The true greats just need to show up.

LEGALIZE IT  –  PETER TOSH (1976)

After being a key member of Bob Marley & The Wailers for years, Peter Tosh embarked on a solo career.   On his first solo release, Legalize It, I personally believe Tosh recorded the greatest Reggae album of all time.  Fuck Bob Marley.  Yeah, I said it. (Wait why am I so hostile? Ha.)  Remember that one of Marley’s biggest hits “Get Up Stand Up” was co-written with Peter Tosh.  I love this album from beginning to end, and the album’s cover remains a visual anthem for Marijuana activists everywhere.  Sadly, Peter Tosh was taken from us when he was shot in the head during a home robbery.  Rastafarian music at its finest.

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES  –  TORI AMOS (1992)

There is only one way to put it.  During the spring of 1994 I became a literal disciple of Tori Amos.  By the end of 1996 I had seen her live 7 times.  Several of them in 2nd or 3rd row center seats, since this was back when you could actually wait all night for tickets and be rewarded for it.  This album spoke to me in a way no other album has, or really could.  Frustration with women, with Christianity and with life, I didn’t want to hear about hope in the horizon.  I obviously needed to experience the frustration of someone who understood.  I still have a red-head obsession because of Tori.  This is in my ten favorite albums of all time and always will be.  Little Earthquakes is full of intense and pretty compositions. The humor of “Happy Phantom” contrasts the pain of “Me and a Gun”.  And the included track here is “Precious Things”, which sees Tori Amos exposing herself as the angry and sexual piano player she truly is. Myra Ellen Amos is quite simply a beast.

 

MELISSA  –  MERCYFUL FATE (1983)

Mercyful Fate’s first two albums are among the best Metal albums of all time.  When you realize that this album came out a full year before Kill ‘Em All did you can start to see just how important this band truly were.  Mercyful Fate are the High Priestesses of underappreciation.  Yes King Diamond looks kinda ridiculous. And yes their lyrics are nothing short of evil incarnate.  Lines such as “Drinking the blood of a new born child” and “I’ll be the first to watch your funeral, and I’ll be the last to leave” sometimes are  so over the top that I guess it is understandable how an album this good could be ignored.  If Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to nothing but Black Sabbath, the end result would have to look and sound something like Mercyful Fate.  It’s no coincidence that the best thing Metallica has recorded since …And Justice For All is their medley-cover simply-titled “Mercyful Fate”.  One of the greatest Metal albums of all time hands down.  Click on the YouTube link and hear the start of “Curse of the Pharaohs”.  If you don’t immediately recognize “2 Minutes to Midnight” you are lying to yourself.

 

NEVER, NEVERLAND  –  ANNIHILATOR (1990)

After Annihilator’s first album, Alice in Hell, it was time for a new lead singer.  Out was the awful singing of the ridiculously-named Randy Rampage, and in was ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr.  The second album of this Ottawa, Ontario band was a vast improvement  over the first album in every way.   Without question the guitar playing of Jeff Waters alone makes this an absolute must-have recording for fans of thrash guitar or just guitar in general.  If you can think of a better Metal album to  come out of Canada then I would love to hear it.  If you have never heard this album, and you consider yourself a “Metal guy” then you are missing out huge.  I am having a hard time trying to pick a song to post here for listening purposes.  That is how truly great this record is from beginning to end.

 

OPUS EPONYMOUS  –  GHOST (2011)

I know, I cannot believe it either.   Only the second of twenty (so far) albums to be released after 1999 that appear on this list.  This album by Swedish band Ghost is nothing but special.  Before I heard this album I was told that it sounded like a cross between thrash metal and Blue Oyster Cult.  As it turned out that description really was right on the money.  Melodic background vocals nestled in between heavy riffing.  I have to say that this album is my favorite Metal album in probably the last twenty years.  The PERFECT blend of melody and heaviness.  This is the only album that since I have got my iPod, every time I switch the music on it I leave this whole album on there.  Every minute of this album is pure genius and I am super-stoked for their upcoming 2nd album titled Infestissumam that will be released this spring.  Hail Satan!!!!

 

That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 3, coming soon…

REVIEW: Gene Simmons – Asshole (2004)

GENE SIMMONS – Asshole (2004 EMI)

 

This unfortunately titled album is easily the worst music that Gene has ever put his name on, and that’s saying something. Sprinkled within are some good ideas hither and yon, but by and large this is pretty much shite.

Have you seen the album cover?  Am I the only one who thinks that Gene bears an unsightly resemblance to Danny DeVito’s character from Big Fish?

If Asshole wasn’t choked down in production, it might have had a couple listenable songs.  “Sweet & Dirty Love” would be a killer opener. I believe this one is a Kiss reject. It sounds like it probably was, being one of the few rock songs on the album. “Firestarter” is a horrible, horrible cover, and the unfortunate first single. I have no idea why Gene thought it was a good idea to cover a Prodigy song, but this is also the same guy who covered “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Dave Navarro — lead guitar. (Who cares?)

“Weapons Of Mass Destruction” and “Waiting For The Morning Light” are both Kiss rejects. “Morning Light” as a ballad rejected from the Revenge album, co-written by Bob Dylan. (Not the lyrics though.) It’s nothing special, and that’s why it didn’t make the Revenge album, I guess.

“Beautiful” is non-descript and not memorable in any way. The title track “Asshole” is a catchy song, albeit a total novelty that only makes my road CDs today because it is somewhat funny. It’s a cover too, by the way.  (“Bucket full of pee”?  Seriously?  That’s a lyric?)

Bob Kulick (longtime Kiss collaborator since the early days) co-wrote “Now That You’re Gone”, another song that fails to stick in the memory. I couldn’t even tell you how it goes anymore.  Better is “Whatever Turns You On”, with its catchy sing-along chorus. Unfortunately, this pop song sounds like…God, like Sugar Ray or somebody from the 90’s that we’d rather forget.

“Dog”, co-written by somebody named Bag (a Simmons Records protege I think) is another unremarkable track. I couldn’t hum it for you if you held a knife to my neck. “Black Tongue”, however is remarkable. It is remarkable because it is, somehow, a lost Frank Zappa tape that Gene resurrected and wrote a song around. That’s Frank on guitar. The Zappa family sang on it. Now, I have no idea what the hell Gene had to do with Frank Zappa. I really know of no history there.  They are diametrically opposed musically. I love Frank. It’s great that Gene found a way to get some Frank music out there, but weird that it’s in such a contrived manner. Frank’s guitar is, of course, like butter.

“Carnival Of Souls” is another Kiss reject. It was written I believe for Revenge, considered as a bonus track for Alive III, rejected for the Carnival Of Souls album (though it lent its name to it) and rejected again for Psycho Circus. Four times rejected: Gene, take the hint! It’s because the song kinda sucks!  Its chorus jars awkwardly against the rest of the song, sounding like a different animal completely.

“If I Had A Gun” is another novelty song, but probably the best song on the whole album. It’s catchy, it’s fun, but again it sounds like some 90’s band that we’d all rather forget. Len, maybe.  Name a band, fill in the blank, I’m sure you can figure out a band that this sounds like. “1,000 Dreams” is this album’s “When You Wish Upon A Star”, just pure drivel, garbage, not worth playing.

And that’s the album. There’s also a clean version with no swearing, but what’s the point?

1.5/5 stars