Sunday, September 30, 2007

Review: Duran Duran "Astronaut"

Not long ago, I wrote a review of the rather rare CD, "Thunder," by Andy Taylor, formerly guitarist and songwriter during Duran Duran's 80s heyday. Andy gave this legendary pop outfit whatever little bit of a rock edge they had, which I feel made them such a crossover success in the 80s. However, by 1985 Andy was growing tired of the band's shift to more and more synth-pop and left to make real rock records. It could be coincidence, but this is about the same time Duran Duran started losing their grip on fame.

So I was understandably curious when Andy Taylor finally reunited with the initial Duran Duran line up in 2001. "Astronaut, released in 2004, is the result of this reunion. A huge PR machine kicked into gear and the record got a lot of press, and Duran Duran was performing on TV once again. The record did OK, but I think the boys missed a golden opportunity to have a massive comeback here. In my opinion, the problem is they still stuck to the synth-laden pop and did not let Andy's talents shine through to great enough degree. Maybe that is what led to him leaving again in 2006.

While "Astronaut" captures some of the old Duran Duran trademark sound, it is generally disappointing for me because the songs are lackluster. The writing feels forced, lazy, and uninspired for most of the record. The two singles, however, are pretty good: "(Reach Up for The) Sunrise" and "What Happens Tomorrow." "Nice" is also a catchy, driving tune with a solid hook in the chorus.

The boys are working on their follow-up record without Andy entitled, "Red Carpet Massacre" (due Nov 13, 2007 in the US). You can hear some of the new tunes on the MySpace page. They do little for me.

Duran Duran at MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 10

Video for "(Reach Up for The) Sunrise":

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rare CD: "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" Soundtrack

The elusive soundtrack for the 1985 Sarah Jessica Parker/Helen Hunt dance movie, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" recently sold on ebay for $55. No doubt the film was inspired by Cyndi Lauper's smash hit of the same name, but you won't find that tune on this soundtrack.

Quite a bargain considering that someone on is asking $260!
Track listing
1. (Come On) Shout! Performed By Alex Brown
2. On the Loose Performed By Chris Farren
3. I Can Fly Performed By Rainey
4. Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) Performed By Q-Feel
5. Girls Just Want to Have Fun Performed By Deborah Galli feat. Tami Holbrook and Meredith Marshall
6. Dancing In the Street Performed By Animotion
7. Too Cruel Performed By Amy Hart
8. Technique Performed By Rainey
9. Wake Up the Neighborhood Performed By Holland

Review: Mat Kearney "Nothing Left to Lose"

Warning! Don't be fooled by what you hear on the radio. Too often the single that is promoted is not a fair and accurate representation of the rest of the material on the CD from which it came. Such is the case for Mat Kearney's 2006 release, "Nothing Left to Lose". I found the single (title track) to be pretty good when I downloaded it for free many months ago from iTUNES. Then I saw the CD at the local library and figured I was overdue in hearing more from this guy.

Oh my poor ears...he raps! And raps, and raps, and raps. There are only a few songs where he keeps his rapping, uh, under wraps. I simply can't get into the rap that contaminates his otherwise fairly decent songs. It came as quite a shock to someone who has only heard the single, in which not one word is rapped. Track 3, "Crashing Down," is rap-free and a worthwhile listen just as strong as "Nothing Left to Lose." Track 8 ("Wait") is also really good, with just a touch of the rap.

When the inane rapping is left out, some of the tunes shine, but others are unfortunately quite boring. Mat is akin to Snow Patrol, The Fray, and Coldplay, all of which find great success during shows like Grey's Anatomy. However, they can't write a full album of sustainable material to save their life. CDs by these artists just sound like one long drawn out song. At least I got the CD from the library and did not buy it...still, I wasted time and should have done my homework first. If anyone should feel proud of an accomplishment, it should be the marketing genius behind releasing the non-rap song as a single. Lots of Mat Kearney is likely to be found at a used CD store near you.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 8

Video for "Nothing Left to Lose":

Review: David Gilmour "On an Island"

I'll mention the disclaimer now...I am a big fan of David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. Easily one of the greatest and most influential guitarists, Gilmour exhibits pure genius with tone, style, and execution. I've enjoyed where he's taken Pink Floyd after Waters left and dig his solo efforts too. But I find myself having a hard time appreciating his latest solo release, "On an Island" (2006). The songs just don't bring anything deeply engrossing to the table and are overly long. I realize Gilmour and Floyd are not strangers to avoiding conventional time frames on their tunes, but if you are going to make a long song you need to make it engaging...that is what I find lacking in this batch.

The closest he gets to Floyd is "Take a Breath," but even that pales in comparison to previous work. There are some isolated moments of sublime beauty in a few of the long, drawn out songs, but the listener is required to be too patient in waiting for them to surface. Speaking of being patience, I guess what adds insult to injury is that we had to wait since 1994 (Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell") to hear more from Gilmour.

The single, "Smile" is a pleasant enough acoustic-driven ditty, but not what most fans would expect or want from Gilmour. I like it, though.

iPOD-worthy: 8

Video for "Smile":

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Name that Tune

Hey, don't let it go to waste
I love it but, I hate that taste
Weight keeping me down

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Review: Toto "Falling in Between"

Excellent band...excellent CD cover...excellent reviews by and many could I go wrong? I popped this into the player with high expectations (perhaps too high) and began scratching my head. What am I missing here?

Toto is famous for their extraordinary musicianship and songwriting skills. That comes through loud (louder than any other Toto release I've heard) and clear...but dammit...the songs just ain't there. I can't get into any of these, with possible exception of "King of the World" and "Simple Life." I've always liked Toto more when they incorporated their prog into well crafted rock songs with hooks. If you are a fan of the prog aspect of Toto, especially their earlier days when they weren't afraid to crank up the guitars, this CD is probably going to appeal to you a lot more than it did to me. Hate to say it, but I was very disappointed. The CD is hugely forgettable.

Toto on MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 4, 6
Here is the single "Bottom of Your Soul"

Review: Sundays "Blind"

The Sundays released "Blind" in 1992, the follow-up to their successful 1990 debut, "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic." I recall enjoying the soothing and unique sound of the lead vocalist Harriet Wheeler, so I picked this CD up from a $1 bin a couple weeks ago. I should have left it there. The tunes are infinitely boring and generally all sound the same. Disappointing to say the least. Still, it was not a waste of a dollar as I would have easily paid a buck for the last track...their excellent rendition of the Rolling Stone's classic, "Wild Horses." Harriet does an outstanding job on this one...just wish she and the band would write material of their own that sounded half as good. The lead single from "Blind" is also OK ("Love"). Otherwise, 5 out of 5 yawns.

iPOD-worthy: 7, 12

Check out the video for "Wild Horses"

Rare CD: Kid Rock "Fire It Up"

"Fire it Up" is a Kid Rock promo CD was given away in very short numbers by Continuum Records.

Track listing:
1) I am the Bullgod
2) Country Boy Can Survive
3) My Oedipus Complex w/ Intro
4) My Oedipus Complex
5) Prodigal Son

I watched this one go for $400 on ebay. $400!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

News: Another source for DRM-free mp3 is now selling MP3 music downloads for 89-99 cents per track - best part of all...they are DRM-free!

Monday, September 24, 2007

News: Paul Westerberg interview

Westerberg Returns To Action In Minneapolis
The good news is that Paul Westerberg is writing songs again, but the bad news is there is neither an album nor a tour in the immediate future. The reclusive Minneapolis icon took to the stage last night (Sept. 23) at the city's First Avenue for an installment of "The Craft," a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chat-and-sing series a la VH1's "Songwriters."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Name That Tune

The tides that had once carried you away
They bring you back today
The time has washed away my pain
You'll find that things have changed
And disappeared without a trace
You can't get back what you've erased

Clue 1.

Clue 2.


Review: REO Speedwagon "Find Your Own Way Home"

I was really excited to listen to this CD, despite that fact that REO Speedwagon has done little for me since their mid- to late 80s hey day. "Find Your Own Way Home" (2007) has been hailed as a fine return to form, a terrific comeback for a band that has sold an astonishing 40 million records since their formation in the early 70s. They even scored their first chart "hit" since 1990 with the single and third track on this release, "I Needed To Fall" (it got to 25 on the BillBoard Adult Contempory chart). It was very nice to see a seasoned band score like that in today's sorry music climate.

That said, despite my best effort, I just can't click with most of the rest of the tunes on this release. The first 3 tracks are awesome and ooze with all the things one would expect from REO. But then comes track 4, "Dangerous Combination," which will make you scratch your head and wonder if a Keith Urban track did not get put on this CD by mistake. Surprisingly, it was co-written by the AOR mastermind Jim Peterik (Survivor, Pride of Lions), but clearly is half-assed, bottom-of-his-pile fluff with generic riffs and silly lyrics. Other tracks try to recapture the "old" REO, with some fine solo guitar work in a bluesy bar vibe, but those songs just lack the flair of the analogous tunes from very early REO. They stick out in a bad way from the more melodic tunes comprising the bulk of the CD, disrupting the flow and making the band sound like they are in the midst of an identity crisis.

Another strange thing - Kevin Cronin just doesn't sound like Kevin Cronin on many of these songs (ballads excluded). I'm not saying that is a bad thing...actually, there is more of an edge and urgency in the vocals that I find very appealing. I hope they try again, staying focused on generating more like the tracks I deemed iPOD-worthy.

REO Speedwagon's official site and MySpace page.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 8

Check out a performance of "I Needed To Fall" from XM Radio (via YouTube):

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rare CD: Autograph "That's the Stuff"

Most of you no doubt remember the hit that made Autograph famous, that great anthem rocker of the 80s, "Turn Up the Radio". The CD that followed the one with that hit is now highly sought after due to its scarcity. "That's the Stuff" was originally released in 1985, and the CD in 2001 (on Spitfire).

A copy recently sold for $81.01 on ebay.

Check what it is going for at ($60 today)

UPDATE (1-27-08): One sold for $47.56 0n ebay (14 bids).
UPDATE (1-31-08): One sold for $51.00 on ebay (11 bids).
UPDATE (2-1-08): One sold for $53.50 on ebay (12 bids).

Monday, September 17, 2007

News: New Cult album due Oct 2

The Cult Gets Back To Basics On 'Born Into This'

If the Cult's 2001 reunion album, "Beyond Good and Evil," was a heavily produced, muscular rock affair, the band took the opposite approach on the forthcoming "Born Into This," due Oct. 2 via New Wilderness/Roadrunner. The Cult cut the disc in 36 days with a mind toward re-embracing its punk-rooted past.

"Our last record, with all respect to [producer] Bob Rock ... we were guilty as much as he was, it was an overproduced record. We just went too far with it. It took about a year-and-a-half to make [and] an exorbitant amount of money," singer Ian Astbury tells "This one was far more economic. We didn't want to get entrenched in debates of whether this is working or is this not working. If anything got a little bit drawn out, we just moved on to the next track.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Review: Collective Soul "Afterwords"

Since 1994, Collective Soul has been churning out disc after disc of high quality melodic rock. Say anything else about them, but you can't knock their consistency. This is their 7th record in 13 years! This latest effort, "Afterwords" (2007) continues the trend and rocks with Ed Roland's distinctive voice, jamming riffs, and lofty choruses.

Actually, I am not all that crazy about the first single, "Hollywood," but the rest of the CD is, by and large, really good. Nothing new or earth-shattering, but why should these guys fix something that hasn't been broke for the last decade?

While the tracks can be downloaded from iTUNES, be warned that those hunting for the actual CD will only find it at Target (unless you want to shell out more $$ for the identical import version form Amazon).

Collective Soul at MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9

Video for "Hollywood"

Free mp3: Danny Vaughn - Rarities

Grab them - free and legal:

"At the prompting of several friends I have put together a bunch of mostly unheard stuff that I’ve done over the years. I’ve decided to make them available here on the web site for free to any and all total fanatics out there"

The stuff spans Danny's career and is generally worth the memory space.

Recent post on Danny Vaughn.

Review: From the Inside "From the Inside"

From the Inside put out their one and only release out so far in 2004 (Frontiers, a AOR haven in Italy). FTI is led by Danny Vaughn, a name with which most AOR and melodic rock fans should be very familiar. Danny was the main man behind the now classic AOR outfits Waysted and Tyketto. Tyketto's self-titled debut remains a masterpiece of the genre. Danny has gone on to record under the names of Vaughn, From the Inside, and most recently, simply Danny Vaughn. He's also recently joined The Illegal Eagles, a tribute band of sorts for the Eagles. Where does the guy find the time? Incidentally, most of his work, past and present, is generally rare and hard to find, and will fetch a price higher than most new CDs.

Out of all his post-Tyketto efforts, I think FTI is the best work Danny's accomplished. All the key ingredients are there that would have made this a true follow-up to the 1991 Tyketto classic, which "Strength in Numbers" failed to do. The songs are strong with big meaty hooks, and surprisingly the fretboard gymnastics and keyboard synths do not make the record sound too dated. It's just really good, upbeat rock n roll - an AOR lover's dream. One thing that stands out on this release is excellent backup vocals. The best news is that the team behind FTI is working on a second CD now, expected to be released in summer of 2008.

The Danny Vaughn/Tyketto fan site is here.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

Review: Matthew Sweet "Earth"

Many folks do not realize that Matthew Sweet put out a couple albums before his breakthrough "Girlfriend," the 1991 single that catapulted Sweet from generic late 80s pop rock to "alternative." No doubt it was helped with the wicked cool anime music video. To me, Sweet is and always was a pop rock artist and there is not much "alternative" about him at all. At any rate, his 1989 A&M release, "Earth" gets very lackluster reviews from fan and nonfans alike. I recently picked it up for a buck at a Used CD store and it was not as bad as the reviews made it out to be. Especially the first half of the disc, the songwriting is classic Matthew Sweet with pleasant harmonies and sing-a-long hooks.

Matthew Sweet at MySpace (currently streaming new material). Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 1-4, 9

Thursday, September 6, 2007

News: 160 GB iPOD!

From Billboard:

iPod Bonanza: Wireless, Touch Screen, Ringtones

The standard iPod line has been rebranded as iPod Classic, and a 160 GB model for $350 was introduced. The 80 GB version is a bit thinner, comes in an optional all-metal casing and retails for $250. Both will be in stores this weekend.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

News: Aerosmith back in the saddle

Aerosmith Hitting The Studio In November

Aerosmith plans to hit the studio on Nov. 1 to begin recording its next album..."I'm not sure who the producer is gonna be or what (studio) we're gonna do it in," Perry tells "We may use a few different producers. I don't know. All I know is that the heart and soul of the thing is us getting in the studio and seeing what comes out."


News: Rock stars live hard, die faster

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, whose report appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, studied a sample of North American and British rock and pop stars and concluded they are more than twice as likely to die a premature death as ordinary citizens of the same age.


And if you want more info, check out this page by some religious wacko who is keeping a running tally of rock stars and how they die (lovely!)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Rare CD: 2am "When Every Second Counts"

I am not familiar with 2am, but remain impressed at what this rare and hard to find CD can fetch at ebay. One sold over the Labor Day weekend for $152.51.

Who are these guys? According to the ebay listing, this British AOR CD was released in 1987. 2am are Mark Thomas and Dave Lloyd (Ex Rage).

I could not find them on, but could find the CD at GEMM for an astounding $245!

I am curious - send a comment if you know something...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Review: Buckcherry "15"

Buckcherry, the LA roots-rock band is back. Actually core members Josh Todd (vocals) and Keith Nelson (guitar) are the only original members in the outfit that recorded "15" (released in 2006). But you'd never know it, since Todd's vocals and Nelson's licks are the real trademark to Buckcherry in my opinion.

Buckcherry is known for their overt musical tributes to sex, drugs, and rock n roll. "15" carries on this tradition full steam ahead, but the songs are catchier than ever. I actually didn't care too much for the hit single, "Crazy Bitch," but a lot of other people liked it for some reason. There are lots of tunes on "15" that are far better, like the follow-up single "Everything." I love the tone of the voice and the guitars, and prefer Buckcherry when they discipline their testosterone and write about something more thoughtful. Similarly, when they put more effort into the hooks rather than just see how loud and fast they can play, the results can be startling. "Carousel" and "Sorry," the rare slower spots on the record, are also outstanding.

Buckcherry on MySpace.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 6, 8

Video for "Everything":