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Looks beautiful, doesn’t it? Sounds good too. This is a brand new 45 by Seattle rockabilly artist Marshall Scott Warner called “‘B’ For Bop”. You can listen to the song on his MySpace page before purchasing it ($5 North America/$6 elsewhere), but what I find interesting too is that just as labels/artists who release vinyl LP’s will also include a CD of that album inside, Warner is releasing this as a 45/CD so if you need to hear the song in your car or want to put it on your digital player of choice, you can. But go home, put it on the turntable and listen to it as nature (and Warner) intended.
You may not be familiar with who Bill Champlin, but I bet you have heard him many times before. He was the founder of the late 60′s band Sons Of Champlin (later shortening their name to The Sons), who were signed to Columbia. He put the group on hiatus, made an attempt at a solo career but for the last 18 years most were exposed to him as a member of Chicago, where he was featured in such songs as “Hard Habit To Break”, “Will You Still Love Me”, “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love”, and “Look Away”, the latter with Champlin taking the sole lead vocal.
Even when he was with Chicago (him and Chicago recently parted ways), he continued to release solo material to share the inner voice that he had not been able to do so within the context of Chicago. No Place Left To Fall (DreamMakers Music) shows the mixture of his influences, from blues, rock, and country, to a songwriting craft that has beem a major factor in all of his music in the last 40 years. For this album he plays something that seems a bit more rootsier than the sound Chicago had become known for, in fact one can easily see him jamming with Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, or popping in with any jam band from the Bay Area to Nashville, and he could fit in perfectly. “Lover Like That” could easily be mistaken for a Bee Gees, George Michael, or Richard Marx song, so the material could find its way onto adult contemporary radio as it could on a classic rock station. The song that may gain a lot of airplay is “Never Been Afraid”, a duet with former Chicago member Peter Cetera. (Chicago fans will also be happy to know that Cetera and Robert Lamm have been writing material too, although not within the context of Chicago.)
If you were a fan of his through Chicago, those touches he shared with the band are all here (he even revisits “Look Away”). If you like the more rough and rugged side of Champlin, that’s here too. He also throws in some new elements too. No Place Left To fall may have been a title that was pre-determined by some kind of cosmic trippiness, for now he has nowhere to go but forward. With this album, talents, and capabilities, Champlin has no reason to fall or fail. Job well done.
I’ve mentioned this one in a few places, particularly Okayplayer where I am a member of the forum and a contributor to their Reviews section. I say this because The Roots are the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and in the last few weeks, there have been a lot of ads featuring fashion consultant Stacy London. Yet no meeting of the minds yet. I await.
Big Willie Green has been making music for a few years now, and he has released a new album that works as a beat tape. For those not in the know, a “beat tape” in hip-hop is the equivalent of what I call a resume tape, where someone will create something that is similar to a highlight reel, as a way to let fans and potential clients know what you’re capable of. Considering the amount of beat tapes that are circulating, I tend to avoid them because most are lackluster. But I’ve seen Willie Green’s name around the interwebs a lot, and the album is available for free so there was no harm in giving him a shot.
I’m glad I did.
…Of Heroes And Villains (Backwoodz Studioz) shows him to be an adventurer, where he’s not about putting together ten generic beats only to slap a title on it, and then to hear him say “there you go”. The tracks range from a minute in length to about 2:15, so while they obviously are in search of a voice, what I am hearing is someone who isn’t afraid to mix up different sampling techniques and sources to create a very elaborate sound, fitting for adventurous wordsmiths or traditional boom bap dwellers. I think if he were to create a proper instrumental album where each track has well written out concepts and dialogue, he could easily surpass someone like Cut Chemist.
Sadly this isn’t out on vinyl, for the cover art of a cave would be perfect to see in 12 inch form. It reminds me a bit of Grand Funk‘s Survival, but maybe that’s just me. Some of the sounds are sourced from vinyl, so for people who enjoy their music with a bit of crispiness and hot sauce thrown in, take a listen. Kermit The Frog may have said it’s not easy being Green, but Willie Green doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.
If you use the title of this album in the way hip-hop artists do, then one might expect for this hard rock album to be full of bangers, or great songs. Barn Burner take from the hard rock and metal traditions of the 70′s and 80′s, combine the best elements of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Monster Magnet, mix it in with the same power one might hear when performed by The Foo Fighters, Wolfmother and Queens Of The Stone Age, each of whom were influenced by the same bands, and come up with a riff lover’s heaven with Bangers (New Romance For Kids).
These guys are heavy and show a love for that kind of crunch I grew up listening to, but do it with an unabashed modern attitude which, as they say in “Fast Women”, is not meant to be fucked with. I say this because even with some of the comparisons to older bands, they are very much of the now, and what I like is the fine balance between the heaviness and vocal harmonies, although do not mistake them for being a pop band. Granted, Barn Burners should be extremely popular but they are not Mötley Crüe or Warrant. They will give the guys in Valient Thorr a run for their money, but in the end they could drink and smoke until it’s time to stock up on meat for the next hard rock BBQ.
This is what this is, mighty fine hard rock, just like mom used to fear. Then again, your mom might have been a groupie, who knows.
Music comes and goes, especially when you enter the pop marketplace at a certain point and exploit it for all it’s worth. Sean Paul had recorded an album and had appeared on a number of compilations in his native Jamaica before he exploded all over the charts with “Gimme The Light”, “Get Busy”, and “I’m Still In Love With You”. Some dancehall reggae fans were upset because it seemed that Sean Paul was a lightskinned man trying to appeal to lightskinned people, which was interpreted as untrue dancehall. Yet his music was good, he entertained, and traveled around the world for it. His third album (Trinity) seemed to be a deliberate attempt to be more pop friendly, as some of the songs felt more like American R&B, with only hints of the talent he displayed early on in his career.
With Imperial Blaze (VP) it seems the inevitable has happened: Sean Paul wants to be more of an R&B/pop star, and by doing so he ends up sounding like every other R&B/pop star out of Jamaica, which isn’t a good thing when the island has more singers and musicians per square mile than any other place, save for Hawai’i. The music still sounds good, he knows how to pick the best producers to represent him, but here he doesn’t feel like… I was going to say he doesn’t feel like he’s representing himself well, but if this is a new way of giving himself to the world as an artist, maybe it’s time for him to pack it up. The Jamaican accent is undeniable, and I am sure these songs will work to some capacity to some audiences, but he no longer has the power in his music that he once had, it sounds trendy. Hard to believe that he’s been around for ten years, and this album makes it as if he doesn’t want to do anymore past year 11. This Imperial Blaze shouldn’t be extinguished, but he’s doing it to himself.
Willie Nelson has had a long career, from being one of country music’s patriarchs to being an advocate of biodiesel and marijuana. Norah Jones had been promoted for years as a jazz artist but it seems as she revealed her Texas upbringing, she is truly a country girl at heart. In interviews she would often talk about wanting to a project “with my homebody, Willie Nelson”, even though at the time they had never met. The new Nelson album shows that they have met, and that the meeting has resulted in some good music, enough for the new album to be released on… Blue Note?
American Classic is an album by an American classic performing classic American standards, and while that might seem like a peculiar concept, one of Nelson’s most successful albums in his career was the album he did for Columbia in 1978, Stardust, which used the same concept. This will no doubt bring him and his music to a new audience, and make older fans reaffirm their love for the man.
But Nelson on Blue Note? Well, people were pissy when War released what was the biggest album in the label’s history, Platinum Jazz, so Nelson isn’t a bad thing.
Amazon and Barnes & Nobel have bonus tracks exclusive to each edition, not sure if a Japanese pressing will have both so buyer beware.
Meanwhile, Jones fans will be happy to know that her new album is complete and is scheduled for release during the 2009 holiday season. Rolling Stone magazine quoted her as saying “I knew I wanted to try some different things on this album. I’d been playing with the same musicians for a long time. We’re all still friendly and I hope we play together again, but it felt like a good time to work with new people and experiment with different sounds.”
Any band who features a member wearing auntie shorts in their promotional photos is alright by me. I speak of Rebekah Raa, vocalist/keyboardist for the British band Stricken City whom along with guitarist Iain Pettifer, drummer Kit Godfrey (a drummer conveniently named Kit, I like that), and bassist Mike Hyland (who could’ve been their singer with a name like Mike), are about to make themselves known with the release of Songs About People I Know through their U.S. label, The Kora Records.
I’m sure the press will talk about how they play “guilt-free pop, free of the…” whatever blah blah other writers want to talk about, and sometimes that works. Other times, you just want to listen and then bash the writer for trying to sound complicated. That works as well. You can listen to “Pull The House Down” and hear a bit of power pop with the kind of edginess that will make you smile.
Now see, I did it too. Just listen and pick up the album when it is released on November 10th (it has been released in the UK but the US version will have songs exclusive to it). When they hit our shores, go see them in a live setting, with or without auntie shorts.
Nomar Slevik has a new release called Welcome To Fuckland, which is being described as “an audio journal surmising the downfall of western civilization.” Nice. He is releasing it through Dis.eased Records as a 7″/CD combo, where the 7″ and CD are packaged inside a great looking sleeve. The vinyl has 5 songs, the CD has all 5 plus two more, not sure if mastering is exclusive on both or if there are any surprise tracks on the vinyl.
You can take a look at more shots of the combo, and then order it by clicking here.
Singer/musician/songwriter. There are a lot of them out there, some good, some not, but the one thing they all have in common is a need to create and have their creations be heard. Sometimes the songs are good, and most of the time they’re “eh”, but when you find someone who can execute all of these elements with something that sounds close to perfection, you want to make sure everyone knows this so that the “word of mouth” technique of promotion can begin. With luck you may already be familiar with her, but by saying this, it suggests that you the reader should know who Cariahd Harmon is because she may be good? Yes she is good, very good in fact, but don’t worry. You’re not under a threat, but if you’ve read this far, I may have convinced you that you need to listen to her without actually talking about her songs. This is where the second paragraph of this review will begin.
Four Letters (MOWO! Inc.) is a 10-song album from this London-based artists who begins her album with nothing more than a piano and her voice. One may be quick to compare her to Regina Spektor, Sarah McLachlan, or even Carole King, and they are good ways to open the door to someone who is equally introspective and finds music as a way to get their inner-most feelings out into the world. The opening track, “Let It Go”, might have perfectly ended other albums, but her decision to start with something so upfront and honest is a wise one:
Everybody needs a friend
I would like to call you mine
Will you only disappear
If there’s no one here to see us shine
So find some comfort here
Darling, take it while you can
‘Cause these days won’t last
But still somehow the night’s don’t end
Everybody wants your time
And they’ll go acting like it’s theirs to take
Let’s find some comfort
You and I, let’s set them straight
The way she sings it isn’t just seven words, rhyme; eight words, rhyme; she sings it as if it’s one part love song, one part spoken word piece where each verse isn’t structured perfectly. It’s almost a bluesy approach, one that Stephen Stills would utilize in his own music in the last 45 years, and it fits perfectly because immediately she’s welcoming you into her musical home, with no curtains to hide what may be lurking inside.
What’s inside is someone who has a love for the craft of music, not just pop, rock, or whatever you choose to call what she does. Maybe the intricacies in her developed songs comes from her classical training, knowing about the nuances and how to incorporate it into her songs for maximum effect. They are simple in form but people will be surprised to hear how much she puts into the songs, whether it’s adding a string section in specific moments, or making things sparse so that the lyrics hit you at… the… right… intended… moments. “$100 Bill” is an old style country song that could and should move her into that territory, for country fans and artists have never stopped their admiration for well crafted songs. The country feel may make a few people want to compare her to that lady who calls Willie Nelson her homeboy, Norah Jones, but Harmon sounds like she’ll be able to pave her own path and tell everyone in front of her to step out of the way. She is a stand-out artist, and anyone who takes a listen will become instant fans.
Four Letters is an album that can be described with five letters: g-r-e-a-t. It might be a sleeper, but hopefully with a big promotional push and open ears, she’ll be able to become a force in the ’10′s. Keep an eye on and ear out for her.
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Discovered this book review blog when someone had posted a review of a music book. Went through it and saw a number of books I immediately put on my want list. Created by Maria Popova and features a number of contributors.
Cool slew of goodies from books and diaries to T-shirts, bags and soaps. Now based in Portland.
The show is no more, but you may explore the archives of this great Portland-based podcast while you can. You may now listen to Cort & Bobby in Welcome To That Whole Thing, listed below.