Monthly Archives: December 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #9

Normally when a band gives itself four stars, it’s unwarranted. Not this time.

Craig Fox, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler might have been on hiatus from The Greenhornes, but they’ve been actively peppering your album collection as members of The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or backing up Loretta Lynn with Jack White on Van Lear Rose. You can have the Animal Collective; I’ll take Brendan Benson, Jack White and the collaborative Venn diagram between Cincinnati and Detroit that’s released some of the most vibrant music of the decade.

Their marriage of 60s blues rock and garage pop is revered in the same circles that bow to The Lyres, The Chesterfield Kings and a serious chunk of the Underground Garage playlist. Basically anyone with a solid rock’n’roll pulse.

Video: “I’ve Been Down”

Eight years after their last album release, the boys are (finally) back in town, and Four Stars kicks ass from jump street. While “Saying Goodbye” blends the early Who (right down to the Keith Moon drum fills) and The Kinks, the standout is the organ-drenched “Better Off Without It”. My immediate first impression, oddly, was Wilco circa Being There; a pure garage-pop-psychedelia-blues hybrid that makes me turn up the volume and hit the replay button again and again and again. And my god…Craig Fox’s voice?

Easily one of the best songs of the year – listen for yourself!

Yet another example of the great music sailing under most people’s radar. If you’re not already hooked into these guys, catch up now and stay focused.

The Greenhornes website

The Greenhornes on MySpace

Jack White’s Third Man Records

Lost a few people over the past week; Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Captain Beefheart and Blake Edwards. And yesterday, sadly, Steve Landesberg lost his battle with cancer. I recently paid tribute to the man on his birthday, but like just about everyone, I had no idea that he fudged his age until today.

So a belated 76th birthday, Steve, not a 65th. RIP regardless.

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #10

Farrah is a vastly underappreciated pop band whose catalogue is swimming in great songs. Their latest self-titled effort is no exception; in fact it’s the Fountains of Wayne record that you didn’t get this year. (Check out “Scarborough“, a kissing cousin to FOW’s “Valley Winter Song”.)

“Swings and Roundabouts”, the opening track, is about as perfect a cross between Paul McCartney and ELO that you will ever hear. Like “Just Driving” and the pulsing piano pop of “If You Were Mine” , it screams radio hit. Hell, there isn’t a duff track on the album.

Video: “Swings and Roundabouts

Equally adept at delicate ballads (“Wasting Time”, “DNA”) and infectious pop rockers, Farrah is simply bloody brilliant. Jez Ashurt has a knack for hooks and melody and his lead vocals are instantly engaging (as are his duets – Kim Richey excels on “Abby’s Going Out”).  Everyone in the band adds vocals as well; kudos to Andy Campbell on guitar, drummer Dana Myzer and bassist Michelle Margherita. Absolutely criminal that they’ve barely made a dent in the US, but that is par for the course.

So you might as well head to Amazon and get your copy now. And grab Cut Out And Keep while you’re there. And Moustache. Good luck finding Me Too.

And then tell everybody you know.

Farrah on MySpace.

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Under The Radar: Rod Stewart??

Yep.

In 2010, The Faces finally reunited after several aborted attempts, subbing Simply Red moptop Mick Hucknall in the Rod Stewart seat and grabbing original Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock to stand in for the late, great Ronnie Lane. (Somewhere, Tetsu raised a pint. And then probably a few more…)

In 2010, Rod Stewart released yet another collection of American croooner covers, his fifth, which once again endeared him to housewives, daytime television talk shows and background noise radio. Oh…and probably fattened his wallet by another few million pounds.

Most people who revile the MOR album collections remember Rod as the spiky haired carouser who juggled his own stellar solo career with his stint as lead beverage in The Faces. It was a phenomenal run, albeit a short one, but the influence from Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story and A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse continues to live on in bands from The Black Crowes to The Diamond Dogs. Add in The Small Faces and Paul Weller and you can pretty much trace the genealogy of every Britpop band since then.

While Stewart arguably hasn’t been a viable writer since the early 80s, there was a glimmer of hope eleven years ago, a road flare from the tour bus called When We Were The New Boys. Yes, it was a cover album (except for the title track, an American Pie take on his own career), but the covers were from the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream and Graham Parker…and they rocked! Of course he couldn’t sustain it, but the ballads (including covers of Nick Lowe and Ron Sexsmith) were done well. as a longtime fan I was excited that he rediscovered his muse. Now twelve years later, I’m still waiting for another sign.

I really have mixed emotions about his cover of “Ooh La La”. He sings it well, although that song will be forever owned by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane. One could say that it’s a heartfelt nod to his old bandmate, except that…well, his timing sucks. Lane’s battle with MS was painful and long, and he was far from financially solvent thanks to the mountainous bills that illnesses like that generate. Sure would have been nice if Rod would have covered this when he was at the apex of his stadium dates…or if he had gone back on the road with his old mates. Huge royalties and tour money would have made a major impact upon Lane’s options. But no

I don’t hate Rod Stewart. Hell, I don’t even know Rod Stewart. And lord knows what I would do if someone rolled up to me and told me I could make millions of dollars by transforming myself into…well, the highest paid karaoke singer on the planet. I just feel like I’ve watched a guy with once-in-a-generation talent take the easy road rather than push the envelope.

So it’s quite possible that you did miss this blip on the radar, halfway between “Love Touch” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. I heartily recommend that you grab it – I’ll add in my original review if I can find the damned thing – because “Hotel Chambermaid” and “Rocks Off” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Ooh La La” are worth the price of admission and then some. And yes, I will hold out hope in my heart that the old rooster has one last hurrah left in him.

If you want to know what all the Rod Stewart fuss was about, try the excellent collection Sessions…or read this.  And if you want to hear a full length tribute to Ronnie Lane, go get Ian McLagan’s wonderful Spiritual Boy (as well as Plonk’s catalogue, of course).

When We Were The New Boys at Amazon.

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Blast From The Past: Sheryl Crow

Digging through albums while assembling candidates for end-of-the-year’s “Best Of” is always fun;because I invariably come across a forgotten treat. In this case, it was Sheryl Crow’s third album, The Globe Sessions.

WTF, Doc? She’s a mainstream success, a household word!

Yeah? So what? Her first album was launched on the backs of her songwriter circle collaborators – a cardinal sin – and lately she’s been so glammed up she makes Liz Phair look positively indie again. There’s a slew of people who love her regardless of what tripe whe shovels out (her cover of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was brutal)…but there are also people who slag her simply because she’s successful…or has legs to die for. I prefer to consider the music above the rest.

I’m just saying that sometimes you need to be more open-minded. This was a good album – here’s my original review from TransAction Magazine.

Crow’s third record is a large leap forward, and she may have finally shaken the critical backlash shes been wallowing in ever since her initial success. Maybe its the freedom the label gave her, maybe its a natural maturation of a songwriter, or maybe she just doesnt give a shit about pleasing others anymore, but whatever crawled up her back and forced this out should be bottled and saved.

Amid the nods to Tom Petty, The Band and especially The Rolling Stones, Crow’s confessional songs about sour relationships, painful affairs and surviving the nineties are light years better than her previous work. She wrote most of the songs on bass to force a fresh approach and produced the record herself; songs like “My Favorite Mistake”, There Goes The Neighborhood”, “Anything But Down” and “Am I Getting Through” are much the better for it.

The instrumentation is diverse and well chosen, and her vocals have never been better. Bonus video of “My Favorite Mistake” for those playing the CD on their computer. Give this one a spin before you dismiss her; you might be very surprised at what you think afterwards.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Stress Relievers

Holiday time is stressful for a lot of people. Between shopping in a dubious economy, self-assessing at year’s end and preparing to start all over again on the first of January, it’s no wonder that people start snapping. Hey,cheer up – if the Mayans are right, you don’t have to fret much longer.

But what the hell – I could use a good laugh today. Couldn’t you?

So here are Ten Stress Relievers; quick YouTube comic clips to give your brain a quick reboot. (Headphones only if you’re at work.) I’m leading off with Auggie Smith, whose new album is incredible go get it now!

01) Auggie Smith Obama and the Oil Spill

02) Bill BurrNothing But Muffins

03) Louis CK Technical High School

04) Nick Griffin We Have No Patience

05) Paul F. TompkinsAnne Murray

06) Josh Sneed Moron Sales Clerk

07) Dave ChappelleMan Rape

08) Maria Bamford Crazy Office

09) Darren Frost Jenna Jameson and Miley Cyrus

10) Bob Biggerstaff The Self Checkout Hired Me

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