Tag Archives: Rick Nielsen

The Teabag Party

Maybe the way to defeat a stupid idea is with a stupider idea.

That’s what the Tea Party seems like to me. Hey, I’m no fan of lame politicians who get free lifetime health care benefits yet can’t seem to understand that affordable healthcare for the rest of us is an important issue. Or the radio zealots who twist and turn everything into an urgent problem because that’s what gets ratings and lines their pockets. I’m an Independent; I think the function of the Republican and Democrat parties has devolved to the point where they exist just to battle each other. Both have forgotten who they work for – you and me.

So the premise of flushing out lazy incumbents is a good one, but unfortunately the Tea Party is not ambivalent in their cause; they’re simply focused upon a hardcore right-wing agenda. These are the people who think Ronald Reagan was the greatest President in American history rather than an emasculated B-movie actor who consulted psychics but succeeded only because he was an actor who could read the cue cards.  (The Republicans apparently forgot the value of this gimmick in recent years.)

I just can’t believe so many people take the drivel they’re given and follow it like sheep. But no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American Public.

America has a long legacy of brilliant, inventive women leaders, yet the first female presidential candidate might be one of the most ill-informed pinheads ever to walk the Earth. And I’m not sure what’s more frightening – the fact that she could actually win or that a large percentage of the population doesn’t realize that she is as dumb as a rock when it comes to foreign policy, economics, world culture or any critical issue facing our country.

So if I’m going to wallow in political hysteria, at least I’m going to get some laughs out of it. Enter Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who (along with a staff or crack writers and performers) probably bring more sanity to the whole damned thing despite the comedy than Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann do with their passionate yet slanted perspectives.

So I’m going to side with what I will refer to as the Teabag Party. See you on October 30th in Washington DC! If all else fails, and we don’t restore sanity to the masses, at least the day after the rally is Halloween. Then we’ll have two reasons to have the shit scared out of us.

And as for America and the elections? We’ll get what we deserve. To paraphrase Tiny Tim…”God help us, every one“.

Jon Stewart’s Rally To Restore Sanity

Stephen Colbert’s  March To Keep Fear Alive

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40 Years On: Hall and Oates

They met forty-three years ago in a Philly club and they’re still making music together today. Arguably the biggest musical act in the world for a few years, they didn’t have to resort to giving themselves a pompous nickname; they let the charts do the talking. And while they might be flying a little lower and slower these days, Daryl Hall and John Oates have a hell of a legacy.

I’m not the typical Hall and Oates fan. While there was no denying their bouncy dance-pop hits of the early 80’s, I have a fondness for the more organic songs they started out with, like “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone” and “When The Morning Comes”. I also have a soft spot for some of the more rocking songs that didn’t make big waves; “You Must Be Good For Something” and “Don’t Blame It On Love” being two of my favorites.

Some mistakenly see them as lightweights who got lucky by hitting their stride just as MTV was getting started (in fairness it did seem like their videos aired hourly. But their origins were Philly soul (well documented in the box set) and they ran the table from folk to rock to dance pop with equal success. When they were at the apex of their fame, they cut a great live album with Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks at the Apollo Theatre, where years before Hall occasionally worked as a backstage gofer.

They attracted excellent studio musicians, especially hot guitarists like Robert Fripp, Todd Rundgren and Rick Nielsen to pinch-hit on the sessions ; the list of their sidemen is a rock’n’roll All Star team. But the music really came alive thanks to a rock-solid touring band featuring future SNL bandleader G.E. Smith on guitar. (For those unfamiliar with Smith I highly recommend finding a copy of his first solo album In The World, a vastly underrated guitar pop/rock gem unlike anything else he has recorded.)

But on to the box set…

While not strictly chronological, the four CDs in this set do loosely follow Hall and Oates’s career path from a studio album perspective. Each CD finishes up with live recordings whose material matches up to the era, even if the date of the recording does not. It’s an interesting choice, perhaps to encourage the listener to take the journey rather than centering on the “live disc” or the one with most of the big hits. It’s also interesting to see how their organic sound formed and then was heavily influenced by producers Arif Mardin and David Foster before the duo felt comfortable enough to take the reins themselves.

Their studio and touring bands were always peppered with first-rate players, and early confidante Tommy Mottola (aka “Gino the Manager”, later the president of CBS and Sony) brilliantly moved them from a solid but struggling pop band to arguably the most popular recording artist of their time. Unlike some who sat back and took success for granted, Hall and Oates were savvy enough to learn how to thrive and survive in a fickle industry.

Read the rest of my review at PopMatters

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New Album! Cheap Trick

As we approach the year end best-of lists, I’ll post reviews of a couple of more contenders for best of 2009. This review ran in the print edition of Bucketful of Brains.

Two songs on the new Cheap Trick album are less than ninety seconds long. The first (“Sleep Forever”) is an odd choice for an opener, a somber tribute to a fallen friend that no doubt will be played or sung at many funerals. Almost an acapella performance, it immediately serves notice that while other veteran rock vocalists are playing in lower registers, Robin Zander’s voice is as stunning as ever. The second, “Everyday You Make Me Crazy” is an infectious rocker that would be a highlight on Voices or Dream Police. One of their catchiest riffs on an album loaded with hooks, it ends far too soon. And “California Girl”, “Alive” and “Sick Man of Europe” (a post-Nazz, pre-CT band of Rick Nielsen’s) all rock just as hard and are standouts.

But the bread and butter on this one might be a series of mid-tempo melodic tracks that mine the same vein as “The Flame” – “These Days” and “Everybody Knows” are textbook structure. “Smile” and “Times of our Lives” will have those Bic lighters – excuse me, cell phone screens – swaying back and forth as the ladies swoon. Producer Julian Raymond did a nice job getting Zander’s pipes out front and center, a challenge he does not back down from. In fact, the entire band sounds rejuvenated, with Tom Petersson’s fluid bass playing a nice return to form.

Raymond also shaped the sound of this record to straddle the decades; it’s current and fresh sounding but frequently recalls the bombast of the early albums. By covering the Slade track “When the Lights Are Out”, Cheap Trick simultaneously pays homage to its own classic pop past while taking a page from the Oasis songbook (and then kicking them in the nads with it). Ditto “Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda”, which outdoes the Gallaghers’ attempts to surf the psychedelic edge of the Fab Four.

Some might complain that many of the songs are too derivative – “Miracle” apes Lennon circa “Mind Games” in structure and vocal style; strains of “Within You Without You” are woven into the coda of “Times of our Lives”. And some of these songs are not brand new; some have been floating around in one form or another for years. So what? After thirty-five years, the fact that a band can still be this good – newly relevant, even – is more than enough. Not many artists can clear their own high bar at this stage of the game, but count The Latest among the band’s strongest efforts.

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