Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Fall Out Boy "Folie A Deux"


I am a bit of a late comer to the Fall Out Boy craze, as their breakout record "From Under the Cork Tree" did not do much for me. Their next release, however, "Infinity on High" was awesome. Their musical style, which rivals modern emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World or Panic! At the Disco, grew on me fast with this effort, greatly helped by the fact that nearly every track was a radio friendly unit shifter with fantastic hooks, harmonies, and exquisite production.

The more I listen to Fall Out Boy, the more I gain an appreciation for what they do. A mind boggling number of musical styles can be found on each record, and they manage to infuse a healthy dance groove into their sound without compromising the rock sound. The band is not afraid to experiment with different styles and sounds, and they have plenty of horns and some piano on this record to keep things fresh and interesting (check out "20 Dollar Nose Bleed"). Lyrics are not run of the mill, the band is tight, and every record is like a party.

"Folie a Deux" is more or less a continuation of the move towards the more pop rock end of the spectrum, the trek they began with "Infinity On High". A solid effort but, as a whole, not as good or immediately accessible as the preceding record. That is not to say this record is not worth getting - I'd count it as one of the better ones of 2008. Standout tracks for the fans of their more melodic, commercial side should include the first single, "I Don't Care", "She's My Winona", and the brilliant ballad, "What A Catch, Donnie", where Elvis Costello does a guest vocal!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 12

Fall Out Boy on MySpace. Official Site.

Check out the video for "I Don't Care"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Saliva "Cinco Diablo"


Saliva has a split personality; some songs are modern hard rock with a bit of rap-style metal, while others are edgy pop rock with awesome hooks and sing along choruses. Likewise, singer Josey Scott will either growl or sing. Anybody can growl and talk their way through a song, so when he does this it is unremarkable, but when he sings his talents as an excellent rock vocalist truly shine through. That is the part of Saliva that makes my mouth water.

Unfortunately, the catchy songs are few and far between on their new release "Cinco Diablo". Their last effort, "Blood Stained Love Story" and brilliant 2002 record, "Back Into Your System", were full of radio ready hits that effectively combined their split persona to do the rap metal thing with their talent for infectious melodies. "Cinco Diablo" is more like "Survival of the Sickest" in that the songs are loud and thick, but there is no grace to this musical muscle. They sound like they are going through the motions - a rinse and repeat of previous recordings.

The lead off track, "Family Reunion" is classic Saliva, who have to put at least one retread tune that they can use to wind up the crowd at concerts. The opening line "Ladies and gentlemen, here we come again..." is delivered more like a warning than a call for something new and exciting. The chorus is good, but we've heard it before in "Holding On" a few records back. The tune "Southern Girls", which finds Saliva sounding like .38 Special's "Drivetrain" CD, is way too close to Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls". Still, I'd count these two songs among the better selections on this surprisingly short CD of only 10 tracks.

Other standouts for me included "Forever and A Day", a classic Saliva power ballad done right with an amazing vocal by Josey. "So Long", the final track, is quite an interesting departure for the band. I enjoyed the refreshing acoustic guitar and piano-driven rhythm and thought this is a great example of the crossover potential this band has but did not maximize on this record.

Hardcore Saliva fans will no doubt enjoy "Cinco Diablo", but will probably be disappointed at the short length and lack of material that ventures outside of the band's comfort zone. The more casual fans like me who love it when they stay focused on great hooks, smart melodies, and singing rather than rapping, will be less than thrilled.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 7, 9, 10

Saliva - Official site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

News: Win Elton John Memorabilia

'Eltonography' tells the story of the man behind the music (and the wardrobe). This is Elton John's life in pictures. The book comprises a magnificent collection of photographs which chronicle his life for 40 years.

The images are by renowned celebrity photographer Terry O'Neill. 'Eltonography' is a definitive collection of photographs – a must-have for any Elton John fan. The book includes many photographs that have never been seen before.

Win Elton John Memorabilia!

As part of a special promotion for the 'Eltonography' book one lucky fan will win a limited edition Elton John silver gelatin print of their choice signed by Terry O'Neill valued at £1,500! A runner-up prize of a copy of 'Eltonography – A Life in Pictures', signed by Sir Elton John and Terry O'Neill, will also be awarded to one lucky entrant.

To enter the competition, simply head over to www.eltonography.co.uk and enter your details.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Chris English "Dreamtown"


As loyal readers are aware, I have been impressed with the roster of SideBMusic, a label that "brings fresh, meaningful, and creative music from independent artists", such as Chewy Marble and Richard Snow. Multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Chris English has just released "Dreamtown" through SideBMusic.

"Dreamtown" is a beautiful piece of work, and it is difficult to believe it is a debut record. Chris English, however, is no stranger to the music business, having opened for acts such as Hall & Oates, Doobie Brothers, and The Smithereens. Chris has successfully channeled many of the artists he admires into his own songwriting and performing. There is plenty of Brian Wilson in his upbeat, sunny numbers like "Summer Revisited", Peter Gabriel coming through in the appropriately moody "Downtown", and Andy Partridge (XTC) in gems like "Autumn". His vocals are pleasant and soothing, and his lyrics inspirational and insightful.

My favorite tracks include the catchy "I Can See Everything", the atmospheric "Autumn", the shimmering ballad "Without You", and the bright, feel good song, "Summer Revisited".

Fans of Steely Dan, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, and Peter Gabriel will delight in the thoughtful pop music found on this CD. Deeply textured, expertly performed, and intelligently crafted, the CD is a perfect soundtrack for a lazy Sunday afternoon. If Henry David Thoreau could have taken an iPOD to Walden Pond, he would have surely had Chris English on his playlist.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11

Chris English on MySpace. Official site. SideBMusic site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Butch Walker "Sycamore Meadows"


You never know what to expect from Butch Walker these days. Since the demise of one of the greatest modern rock bands, The Marvelous 3, his solo work has been considerably diverse. Each record is consistent in and of itself, but not amongst the others. Each explores a different stratum of the rock genre, some working better than others. His first solo effort, "Left of Self-Centered" was a brilliant continuation of the glorious and bombastic power pop rock that the Marv 3 perfected. "Letters" was strikingly subdued as Walker strutted into rather banal singer/songwriter territory. "Rise and Fall..." was his tribute to 70s glam rock, but it was so unmelodious and flat that I could not get rid of it fast enough.

"Sycamore Meadows" strikes me as a return to the ground he broke in "Letters", but with a better sense of hook and melody, and some of the best lyrics to have gushed out of his pen. The record feels more organic and personal than anything he's done, with lots of acoustic guitar and airy production. The big bold guitars are largely absent and most of the tunes are mid-tempo or slow. As always, his voice is fantastic, but he generally doesn't go out of his way to give you chills like you know that he can. So fans hoping for a full-fledged return to his Marv 3 or "Self-Centered" days are going to be disappointed. Personally, I would have preferred Butch to repeat history in that way, but hey - he's an artist, he's evolving, and he's doing his own thing...that is rock and roll.

The first single and lead off track, "The Weight of Her" is an upbeat acoustic-based rocker that should please Walker fans of all stripes, especially if they also like Tom Petty. "Here Comes The..." is the first of several ballads, and this one works great with its bouncy acoustic strum and engaging harmonies. The horn-laced "Ponce de Leon Ave" is very catchy, bright, and fun. We're back to ballads with "Ships in A Bottle", but it is another hit out of the park for Walker, with emotive lyrics, gentle horns, and a spine tingling vocal. While I am not crazy about the tune "Passed Your Place...", it does exemplify some of his lyrical prowess and insight. Walker laments the loss of a girl he let get away, "You can't trust a man - it's a species that captures things just to let them go". Butch Walker does a little Bob Dylan on "A Song For the Metalheads", but the addition of brass and xylophone over the frantic strumming on "Closer to the Truth and Further From the Sky" make for a more entertaining tune. A final highlight lurks toward the end of the disc...the sparse piano ballad "ATL" ranks as one of his best - it left me speechless, like something Bernie Taupin and Elton John would have done in their 70s hey day.

The verdict: "Sycamore Meadows" is emerging as my second favorite Butch Walker solo record (second to his debut). What is interesting is that this release and his debut are at such opposite ends of the spectrum that they sound like two completely different musicians - a reflection of a versatile and multi-talented artist.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12

Butch Walker on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Cliff Hillis "The Long Now"


Some people are so full of talent that it almost seems unfair. Cliff Hillis has such a monopoly on talent: a consistently wonderful songwriter, tasteful guitarist, and smooth vocalist. "The Long Now", named after an intriguing Foundation of the same name, is Cliff's third solo release. Prior to his trio of solo records, he built his musical muscle with one of my favorite power pop bands, IKE/John Faye Power Trip.

"The Long Now" finds Cliff more serious and matured; this can be detected in the subject matter covered by the lyrics and what some would call a more "seasoned" musical feel. The tunes just ease right into the ears and the melodies impress gently on the brain. Like other records by Cliff, "The Long Now" charms quickly, with Cliff's soothing voice more hypnotic than ever. The release has a more laid back feel with a lot of mid-tempo and breezy numbers, but there are some kick ass rockers too, like "Northern Lights" and the smoldering closer, "Faded Star".

The CD features an outstanding collection of collaborators that are no strangers to pop rock. One of my songwriting heroes, Danny Wilde, co-wrote "Northern Lights" and "She Sees", both of which would have fit nicely on The Rembrandts' "Untitled" release. Kyf Brewer (Ravyns, Company of Wolves) does his thing on "All For The Sake" and "Shake Me Down". Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) joins in to solo on "All For The Sake", and Cliff's old Caulfields colleague, Ritchie Rubini is a heavy contributor.

This is an artist who strives for the best and avoids filler on his records. In the spirit of pop wizards like Paul McCartney, Glenn Tilbrook, or Danny Wilde, Cliff Hillis continues to be inviting and accessible while expanding his horizons as an artist. It did not take long at all for "The Long Now" to now be a favorite of mine.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11

Cliff Hillis on MySpace. Official Site.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Kelly Jones “SheBANG!”


Any disc bearing the names Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) or Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne, Ivy) makes my ears salivate. Now I will have to add Kelly Jones (NOT the Stereophonics frontman) to this list. Their collaboration, “SheBANG!”, is a 28 minute blast of some of the highest caliber power pop I’ve heard in recent years.

“SheBANG!” is a contemporary sounding tribute to the golden oldies of the 60s and 70s. Even the artwork radiates a retro feel, with its Polaroid photos and Kelly’s hairstyle and dress. Every track is a joy to listen to – instantly likable and begging for replay. The pop craftsmanship alone makes this disc remarkable, but Kelly’s wonderfully sweet and velvety voice make “SheBANG!” stand up beyond measure. At times you’ll hear the innocence of Sheryl Crow, the cute coyness of Jill Sobule, and the gentle angst of Tracy Bonham. Kelly is a formidable power pop princess and her harmonies with the distinctive vocals of Mike Viola are sublime.

It is hard to pick favorites among such a strong set of tunes, but my picks would include the bouncy piano-driven number, "There Goes My Baby", an ultra catchy tune that sets a perky mood at the beginning of the disc. I also love the rich textures and melodies in "Fire Escape", and the punchy song Kelly co-wrote with Adam, "Crazy Talk". "Subway Song" is Kelly's answer to the Hollies' hit "Bus Stop" or Replacement's "Skyway". "Over Thinking" is another really fun one, a bonus if you happen to love omnichord.

I’ve already compiled my Top 10 list for 2008, but “SheBANG!” will be a strong contender for the Top of 2009. They say that big things come in small packages. The 30 minutes you spend with “SheBANG!” will surely blow you away.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10

Kelly Jones on MySpace. Official Site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: Stereo Fallout “The Other Side”

Steve Brown is an underdog in the modern pop rock world. He’s been pumping out catchy guitar riffs since his stint as guitarist in the early 90s hairband Trixter. After 'giving it to us good', he impressed us all with his musical makeover in the band 40 Ft. Ringo, in which he served as the primary songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist. 40 Ft. Ringo was a terrific reinvention: still present were the arena rock choruses, but they were placed in the context of music that sounded very modern, along the lines of Marvelous 3, American Hi-Fi, or SR-71. Steve Brown continues to evolve with his new band, Stereo Fallout.

“The Other Side” (2007) almost feels like the next record 40 Ft. Ringo would have released, but I think it is even more melodic and contemporary sounding. From start to finish, nearly every track is upbeat, catchy, and fun…making me long for the days when feel good rock like this dominating the airwaves (check out Steve's own homage to this on the track "Back in the Day"). Steve has kept the philosophy of Trixter, but has dramatically updated the sound and style of the music delivering that message. It is a very similar trajectory that Butch Walker has also taken (who used to be in Southgang, remember? "Tainted Angel"? Anyone?).

There are more hooks on this record than in a tackle box and the production is top notch throughout. Hardly a dud in the bunch, but my favs include "End of the Girl", "Stop Calling Me", "Brand New Me," and what I gather is a song for his daughter, "Everything I Have To Give".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Stereo Fallout on MySpace. Official Site.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review: Damone “Out Here All Night”


Where was I in 2006 to have overlooked this band? This hard rock outfit from Waltham, MA has scored a number of tracks featured in movies for kids (Rugrats, Freaky Friday) and video games, but Damone offers a lot even for an old school grown up rocker like me. Damone is what you might get if you could genetically recombine the dudes from Poison with Lita Ford.

Clearly influenced in a righteous way by glam rock, Damone are hard rockin’ pop artists. Every song is centered with a big meaty hook, baited with boss guitar riffs and a tight, thundering rhythm section. Noelle is a superb vocalist: she can rock with the best of them. She injects a modern feel into the songs of “Out Here All Night” and successfully avoids the “cheese factor” that reduces the likeability of many acts trying to emulate the glam rock era. There is barely a break in this party of 12 punchy upbeat rockers, and none of it strikes me as filler.

Damone sounds like Paramore, The Donnas, and what Avril Lavigne tries so hard to be. In my opinion, though, Damone reigns supreme among these notable acts bringing back the power of infectious rock. Go grab this CD (cheap) and throw your own welcome back party for the guitar solo.

Damone on MySpace. Official site.

PS: Also worth checking out is their cover of Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You" (on iTUNES).

Check out the video for the title track:

Trivia Corner: Mr. Mister Cher


In the mid to late 80s, Cher was cranking out a healthy dose of pop rock and AOR with the help of some big league players in game at the time. Her 1991 effort "Love Hurts", for example, features songs by Diane Warren and Desmond Child and production by Richie Zito and Bob Rock, staples of many a hairband.

Other familiar guests to melodic rockers will recognize the work and backing vocals of Richard Page (Mr. Mister) on the hit track "Save Up All Your Tears" and her duet, "One Small Step". "World Without Heroes" has songwriters as diverse as Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (Kiss) and Lou Reed, with Steve Lukather on guitar (Toto) and Richard Marx on backing vocals - can you imagine all those folks in the same studio at the same time? Steve actually lends his guitar talents to many tracks on this CD. AOR master Kevin Chalfant is also credited for the track "Who You Gonna Believe".

Finally, we have a cover of the Nazareth classic, "Love Hurts" featuring Gunnar Nelson on backing vocals and Jeff Porcaro on drums. If you were a fan of Heart or any other artist/songwriter here, this CD might be worth a second listen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The BMF Top 10 of 2008: Year in Review

The BMF Top 10 of 2008: Year in Review

I have been a busy boy…here is a list of the indie artists I have reviewed in 2008 on Bill’s Music Forum (up to 12-1-08). Some releases actually came out late in 2007, but I considered them when making the Top 10. In summary, there is no shortage of great music out there…it just isn’t on the radio anymore. Obviously, there are tons of indie artists that should be in the top 10, but they did not qualify because they did not send me their CD!

To qualify for this top 10, the musician or group had to be a relatively unknown independent artist that was reviewed on BMF. I did not think it was fair to consider “Greatest Hits” (sorry in advance to Adam Marsland, whose ‘greatest’ is a true highlight of 2008), other compilations, or reissued CDs (such as the fine pair this year from SideBMusic’s Richard Snow). EPs were considered separately and have their own “Top 5” list. Selections are not necessarily based on how many tracks were deemed “iPOD worthy” at the time, but on how much I found myself reaching for that CD over time. All contenders for 2008 are listed after the Top 10 with links to the original review. Be sure to get your CDs to me (jesterrec@aol.com) and be in the running for the BMF Top 10 of 2009!

THE BMF TOP 10 OF 2008

1. Todd Herfindal "Collective"
2. The Galaxies "Here We Go!"
3. Echo Jet "Echo Jet" (2008)
4. James Freud "See You In Hell"
5. Rob Bonfiglio "Bring on the Happy"
6. Craig Marshall "Point of View"
7. IKE "Where To Begin"
8. 7th Heaven "U.S.A.-U.K."
9. The Meadows "First Nervous Breakdown"
10. The Jellybricks "Goodnight To Everyone"

THE BMF TOP 5 EPs

1. Town and Country "My Blue Heaven" (EP)
2. Radio Days "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous" (EP)
3. Alternate Routes "The Watershed EP"
4. John Taglieri "Everything We Are" EP
5. The Simple Carnival “Me and My Arrow EP”

Full list of contenders for 2008

Review: Tessa Rae Newman "Spellbound"
Review: IKE "Where To Begin"
Review: Clint Sutton "Clint Sutton"
Review: Will Hoge "Draw the Curtains"
Review: David Brookings "Obsessed"
Review: The Box Social "Get Going"
Review: The Meadows "First Nervous Breakdown"
Review: The Galaxies "Here We Go!"
Review: James Freud "See You In Hell"
Review: The Pendrakes "Sunday Punch"
Review: Chewy Marble "Modulations"
Review: Craig Marshall "Point of View"
Review: Shake Some Action! "Sunny Days Ahead"
Review: Pensive "Artifacts"
Review: Adam Miner "Playing House"
Review: Mike Viola "Lurch"
Review: Warren Pash "Plastic Rulers"
Review: The Simple Carnival “Me and My Arrow EP” (EP)
Review: Garfields Birthday “Let Them Eat Cake”
Review: The Campbell Apartment "Insomniac's Almanac"
Review: The Brigadier "The Rise and Fall of Responsibility"
Review: The Pop Project “Stars of Stage and Screen”
Review: The Rip Off Artists "Esque"
Review: Major Labels "Aquavia"
Review: Alternate Routes "The Watershed EP" (EP)
Review: Christopher Cash “Invisible”
Review: Jonah Matranga "And"
Review: The Jellybricks "Goodnight To Everyone"
Review: Duff Ferguson "Good Things"
Review: Richard X. Heyman "Actual Sighs"
Review: Town and Country "My Blue Heaven" (EP)
Review: Radio Days "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous" (EP)
Review: Big Life Desire "Dribs and Drabs"
Review: The Simple Carnival “Girls Aliens Food”
Review: Todd Herfindal "Collective"
Review: The Romeo Flynns “Pictures of You”
Review: Only Makebelieve "Message From A Mockingbird"
Review: Blissters "I Love New Wave" (EP)
Review: Cartographer “Cartographer” (EP)
Review: Deas Vail “White Lights” (EP)
Review: John Taglieri "Everything We Are" EP
Review: Andy Spitson "All Eyes On You" (EP)
Review: The Brigadier "Rhymes for Rainy Days" (EP)
Review: Luke Jackson “…And Then Some”
Review: 7th Heaven "U.S.A.-U.K."
Review: The Smith Brothers "Restless"
Review: Bigfellas "Chubbed Up"
Review: Signal Hill Transmission "Starting Gun" (EP)
Review: Poplord “Full/Filled”
Review: Television of Cruelty “Dead Sea Shanties”
Review: American Werewolf Academy “Triceratops”
Review: Echo Jet "Echo Jet" (2008)
Review: Stella Kidd "Contact High" (EP)
Review: Rob Bonfiglio "Bring on the Happy"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rare CD: NASTY IDOLS "Gigolos On Parole"


"NASTY IDOLS-Gigolos On Parole CD Mega rare debut CD
NASTY IDOLS-Gigolos On Parole CD ,great debut CD from Swedish melodic glam.
This debut album ,the band play medloic HR like TREAT.
Very very rare CD ,almost impossible to find !"

Sold for $104.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Refreshments "Wheelie"


"cd is in perfect condition. its very rare. only 2000 made. this is the real deal. not a copy. front and back artwork also perfect. you won't see this on ebay very often. songs are

1 banditos 2 european swallow 3 suckerpunch 4 don't wanna know 5 mekong 6 girly 7 b.o.b.a. 8 down together 9 psychosis 10 carefree 11 nada"

Sold for $132.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Dream Theater "The Making Of Falling Into Infinity"


"Dream Theater - The Making Of Falling Into Infinity
International Fan Clubs Christmas CD 1997
Limited to 2000 units worldwide available to club members only!!!

This might be your last chance to find this item, as it is now

IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND !
25 tracks, nearly 80 min of previously unheard studio material"

Sold for $229.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Thrice "First Impressions" demo EP


"This is the extremely rare self released demo / EP by the band Thrice. I picked this CD up at a show back in 1999 before they blew up.

All music written by Thrice
All lyrics written by Dustin Kensrue

Track listing

1. "All Eyes" – 3:14
2. "Lockdown" – 3:51
3. "Opaque" – 3:56
4. "T&C" – 3:57
5. "Second Sight" – 3:59
6. "Freedom" – 3:44
7. "Better Days" – 7:01"

Sold for $300 on ebay.

Rare CD: David Cassidy "Romance"


"David Cassidy - ROMANCE - cd (c) 1985
megarare West Germany first release from 1985 on ARISTA 610 454-222"

Sold for $357 on ebay.

Only $138 at Amazon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: Rob Bonfiglio "Bring on the Happy"


One of the fondest memories I have from my days in Philly was seeing a band called Wanderlust play a New Years Eve gig at The Electric Factory. After years of enduring grunge, my ears were elated to hear such sunny and bright melodies emanating from the stage once again. I told a friend at the show that the new record from Wanderlust, "Prize", was going to be HUGE. Well, I am known to be wrong once or twice a year, and this was one of those times. "Prize" remains a classic power pop release that still pleases whenever I play it, but Wanderlust tragically never got the recognition they deserve.

Scot Sax has done well moving on as a songwriter for established artists, and he has continued to release brilliant new stuff with the group Feel. Rob Bonfiglio moved on to write songs for others as well and plays guitar for Wilson Phillips. And he's now released an astonishingly good debut solo record.

Optimistic and inspiring, "Bring on the Happy" brings all the greatest elements of power pop and melodic rock together: instantly catchy rhythms, perky guitar riffs, abundant harmonies, and chord progressions that make you shout, "Oh yeah!" There is nothing to dislike on this record; even more impressive, this is Rob's debut and he did virtually everything. Whether Rob is jamming on the guitar like on "Blow Me Away" or pounding on the piano like in "The Best Is Yet To Come", the resulting sounds are wonderfully intoxicating. Vocally, Rob is in the league of Matthew Sweet and Jason Falkner - perfectly pleasing and just right for this genre of music.

While I am hard pressed to find even a mediocre track, I'd have to count "Nothing Will Hold You Down", "Sympathy (Who I Am)", and "React" as my favorites.

"Bring on the Happy" could not be more aptly titled, and I find myself nostalgic for that glorious Wanderlust show I saw on New Years Eve about a decade ago. Dare I try to say it again? What the hell..."Bring on the Happy" is going to be HUGE.

iPOD-worthy: all tracks - way to go!

Rob Bonfiglio on MySpace.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Harem Scarem “Hope”


How sad it is that after delivering 20 years of some of the best, although virtually ignored, melodic hard rock, the Canadian boys in Harem Scarem are calling it a day. They have left us with a swan song in the form of “Hope”, another blast of ominous, thundering rock poised to shake your bones loose.

Anyone who has yet to discover the majesty that is Harem Scarem is in for a royal treat. Every CD I have ever heard by this group impresses with its loud and bold sound – they are the giants with all the muscles in the weight room at the music gym. Their CDs are impeccably produced with modern guitar tones, one of the tightest rhythm sections, and towering vocals. Best of all, Harem Scarem bases everything on a foundation of melody and memorable songwriting.

“Hope” is a great release - one that I would count among the best of melodic hard rock albums for 2008. However, as a whole, I do not find it as instantly likable as their previous recent masterpieces like “Human Nature”, “Higher” or “Weight of the World”. Despite its title, I find it darker and more serious - which is fine - but it is also deficient in the hook department. Still, there is plenty of what we love from Harem Scarem, with highlights including “Time Bomb”, “Dark Times”, and “Never Too Late”. Even the slower and mid-tempo tracks rock you right out of your chair, such as “Shooting Star” and “Nothing Without You”. Before the curtain falls, they close with a tender and acoustic rendition of “Higher” that is chill-inducing, showcasing the raw talent these guys have that unfortunately is not finding its way into many an ear.

Keep an eye out for the inevitable solo discs these guys (Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance) are going to be releasing in the future. In the meantime, be sure to check out the ones they have already put out a few years ago.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

Harem Scarem on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review: Television of Cruelty “Dead Sea Shanties”



Some artists defy classification and I would classify The Television of Cruelty (TVC) as one of those. “Dead Sea Shanties”, the third and latest offering from Ian Williams et al., is more like a journey to be experienced in full and through headphones rather than a collection of disjointed tunes comprising your average CD. Some would liken their work more to rock opera.

The lead off track, “Nowhere Central”, is simply fantastic – everything is optimized to pure melodic pop perfection from the songwriting to the vocal performance. It excited my ears, so I settled back into my chair for more of this wonderful carnival of pop rock. Unfortunately, despite some flickering moments of genius, nothing else really captured my attention like the excellent first track. I guess I got spoiled! Don’t get me wrong, though…if you are looking for something that sounds unique, with bold and witty lyrics, you need not look further than TVC.

“Dead Sea Shanties” is a musical smorgasbord – clearly rooted in 80s new wave, but with branches that venture into carnival pop, acoustic driven pop rock, prog rock, Celtic rock, and, naturally, electronica. It just leaves me asking one thing…where’s the gangsta rap, Ian?

Some will applaud these bold forays into so many different branches of musical genres, but others will not have the energy to climb such a tree. Ian is also notable for his ability to mold his voice to fit the piece. On “Nowhere Central” he sounds like Tommy Keene. On “Tommy Catt’s Bride” he sounds like Alice Cooper. On “Humber” he sounds like, well, nothing…it’s an instrumental. Actually, there are a considerable number of instrumentals (“musical narratives”) scattered throughout the disk, some reminding me of Enigma (check out “Sand Babies”).

To fully appreciate this CD, it would do you well to read through their web site. There you will find the curious explanations behind each of the two groups of songs, “The Dead Sea Shanties” (fictional) movie soundtrack (C side) and “The Nettlemen” (B side). You’ll also find, as you would expect of course, the “lyrics” to the instrumentals (musical narratives).

iPOD-worthy: 1, 7

Television of Cruelty on MySpace. Official Site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free mp3: American Werewolf Academy

Check out this free mp3 of "Man with No Off Switch" courtesy of American Werewolf Academy! Read the review below.

Hurry – link expires in one week!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: American Werewolf Academy “Triceratops”: free mp3


“Triceratops” is the aptly named third release from A.W.A., a.k.a. American Werewolf Academy. I like them already.

After listening to the slick and polished sound of Echo Jet (reviewed here), AWA sure comes out of the speakers like a screeching surprise. Unpolished and raw, this Dallas trio is pulling rock up by the roots. They play the kind of rock and roll that puts hair on your chest. It will make you howl with delight. OK, enough with the werewolf references.

The core of the songwriting here is classic power pop, but you might not spot it at first because it tends to get covered in the fuzzy and sometimes overly distorted guitars. But the hooks are there. The raw energy of the leading tracks, “Jack Frost” and “Company of Owls”, showcase their love for punk, but their mastery of pop rock rears its head on “Good Night for Anything” (my favorite track) and “Summer Ship”. “Man with No Off Switch” is also a quirky cool rocker with a strong chorus. “Tell Them Right Now” ends the record with a final blast of sing-a-long fun complete with hand claps. The songs are short, with all 11 tracks finished in just under 30 minutes. I wish the drums were recorded better – the drummer, Tony Harper, is excellent, but the drums sound muddied.

The vocals have the perfect rasp for this style of rock – often sounding a lot like old school Rod Stewart. The band combines elements of The White Stripes, The Singles, and Jet to give us a unique blend of indie rock and commercial viability.

Some of the favorite bands of these boys include Favorite bands of AWA include Roky Erickson, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, and The New Pornographers. If you like any of these groups, you are sure to find something that will please you when listening to AWA.

Join the Academy! Go to their home page now and pick up some mp3 files the boys are offering free of charge.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 6, 7, 10, 11

American Werewolf Academy on MySpace. Official site.

News: We're now on The Rock & Roll Report!


Great news! I've been asked to write some reviews for The Rock and Roll Report. I am very excited about this opportunity - go check out the site and you'll understand why. I will feature some of my favorite indie artists in the reviews I submit to RnR Report, so keep your CDs coming (contact me for address). Of course, Bill's Music Forum will continue as always, but I am very much looking forward to greatly increasing the exposure of my favorite new artists through Rock and Roll Report. Rock on...Bill

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Review: Echo Jet "Echo Jet" (2008): free mp3


It figures...as soon as I find something I REALLY like, it disappears. It usually happens with a new candy bar, restaurant, shoes, etc, but it also happens with bands. Echo Jet is my latest new find that I was truly excited about. I go to their MySpace page to help write this review and read the following:

"Sorry guys, but our label could not get it together with the promotion of this record, so we decided to call it a day. We want to thank all the fans past and present for all your support. We just want to keep the music out there. ----Just email us at echojetfreemusic@aol.com and let us know what tracks you would like to receive. We will be glad to email you an MP3 free of charge. Thanks! EJ"
So the good news is that you can get free mp3 files, but the tragedy is that there may be no more new music from this outstanding modern pop rock band.
Echo Jet consists of Denny and Kenny Scott, formerly of Swirl 360. I was not a huge fan of Swirl 360, but could see the potential there, and Echo Jet affirms my suspicions of the greatness these guys would achieve with a little growth. The 2008 self-titled Echo Jet release is full of slick pop rock numbers that hit all the right notes. Harmonies, big choruses, great vocal performances, and wall of sound production define Echo Jet. Go get your free mp3s and see what I mean. Obviously for fans of Swirl 360 - but Echo Jet will also appeal to those who enjoy groups like American Hi-Fi, Evan and Jaron, Nine Days, or Safetysuit.

There really isn't a lame song in the bunch, but my favorites include "Chemical", "Something To Believe In", "Everybody". Note some songs, e.g. "California Blur", have been retooled from the original located on the Swirl 360 release of the same name. I hope these guys persist in some way, shape, or form...let me know!

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11

Echo Jet on MySpace.

Check out the video for "Wave":

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review: Stella Kidd "Contact High" (EP)


Stella Kidd is a hard rock band shredding the music scene in Concord, North Carolina. Their 7-track EP "Contact High" surfaced in 2007. Stella Kidd impresses with their intensity and power. Lead singer, Limy, tempts one to draw comparisons to Metallica as his phrasing and growl sounds a lot like James Hetfield. However, Stella Kidd is different from Metallica in that their songs are more on the melodic side, use more harmony vocals, and are a fraction of the length of a traditional Metallica tune, most clocking in just under 3 minutes.

"Enough" and "Bleed" start the EP with a jolting one-two punch. These two blistering tracks demand repeat listens and are great for getting pumped. "Speak Out" has more of a grunge feel to it, but the thundering and catchy "Time" returns them to their comfort zone. "Silver Tongue" is another awesome cut, reminding me of a heavy .38 Special song...something that would fit on their "Drivetrain" release. And while Limy does a bit too much James Hetfield on "Burned Out", it is yet another groovy headbanging rocker with a crafty hook in the chorus.

These guys are old school rockers - passionate and powerful - with enough melody to please AOR fans and plenty heavy riffs to satisfy the headbangers. If you dig Metallica, Shinedown, or Disturbed, you shouldn't miss out on Stella Kidd.

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

Stella Kidd on MySpace.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rare CD: Pointer Sisters "Black and White"


"MEGA RARE OUT OF PRINT Released in U.K. (ONLY PRESSED)
POINTER SISTERS - BLACK & WHITE (1981/1995) CD
(RCA/BMG ND-89378)
Produced by: RICHARD PERRY

TRACKS:
1. Sweet Lover Man
2. Someday We'll Be Together
3. Take My Heart, Take My Soul
4. Slowhand
5. We're Gonna Make It
6. What A Surprise
7. Got To Find Love
8. Fall In Love Again
9. Should I Do It"

Sold for $89.99 on ebay.

Rare CD: Sleeze Beez "Look Like Hell"


"SLEEZE BEEZ Look Like Hell CD DEBUT GLAM SUPER RARE!!!!
Only issued on CD in Belgium on CNR Records! LONG OOP!!"

Sold for $113.01 on ebay.

Rare CD: Mindless Self Indulgence "Tight"


"Yes, this is exactly what you think it is. This is the ORIGINAL Uppity Cracker 1999 release of Mindless Self Indulgence's debut album, Tight. If you are looking at this auction, I am sure you know how hard this album is to come by. This is your chance to own it! I really hate to let this album go but I need the cash."

Sold for $142.50 on ebay.

Selling on Amazon used for "just" $119.95!

Rare CD: Concrete Jungle "Wear & Tear"


"CONCRETE JUNGLE Wear and Tear 1988 Indie Glam CD; Mega Rare and Awesome Eighties Metal for fans of Lillian Axe, Poison, Motley Crue"

Sold for $182.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Uprising "Let It Ride"


"Hyper rare 1993 brilliant hard rock treasure!

Here's your chance to get an original CD called UPRISING - Let It Ride. This hyper rare 6 track CD was released in 1993 on a US indie label. Another candidate for one of the rarest and most unknown hard rock indie treasures. I've said it before, how can there still be so many cool hard rock indie treasures no one knows about today. Well, here we got UPRISING hailing from the midwest. All I can say is prepare yourself for one heck of a killer mind blowing gem. They are a tough band to describe but you'll hear elements of DOKKEN, THEATRE and PLEEZER. Smokin' guitars and killer keys abound on this release. It has a very cool mix of uptempo hard rock rockers with some very well done ballads. Make your bid count, it's my only copy available. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it. The CD and inserts are in mint condition.

TRACKS:
1. Tied Up In Love
2. I Remember
3. Loving You
4. Let It Ride
5. Tomorrow
6. Killers Of Passion"

Sold for $250.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: Firebrand "Assembly"


"Firebrand – Assembly CD

1994/MI Records. 12 tracks, melodic hard rock, powerful vocals, killer guitar work combined with a top-notch rhythm section. Jett, vocally is a true rocker, the versatility of her voice is even showcased when she delivers a heart-felt ballad or a bluesy number. A few tracks are textbook Signal material. This one will appeal to fans of Saraya, Devay, Witness."

Sold for $280.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: David Cook - Axium "Matter of Time"


"DAVID COOK, AXIUM
"MATTER OF TIME"
2002 USA
PRE-AMERICAN IDOL
NEW, UNPLAYED CONDITION, AUTHENTIC, NOT A COPY!!
EXTREMELY RARE LIMITED PRESS OF 500 COPIES.
THIS CD NEVER CAME WITH ART WORK, INSERTS, SEAL WRAP OR A SLEEVE.
TRACK LIST:

"Why Do You Care?"
"Close Your Eyes"
"Empty Again"
"Matter of Time"
"Me"
"Change"
"No Free Advice"
"No Place to Go"
"Somber"
"Peace of Mind (Song for Sarah)"

Sold for $510.00 on ebay.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Review: AC/DC "Black Ice"


It has been a long wait for AC/DC fans. "Black Ice", exclusively available at Wal-Mart of all places, has reassured the world that AC/DC has not slipped off the rock landscape. The only thing unpredictable about this record is that the band opted to sell their new CD through a single major retail store.

"Black Ice" boasts 15 brand spankin' new tracks from the legendary classic rock outfit that sound pretty much like the last batch of brand spankin' new tracks dispensed by this band many years ago. Giving the fans exactly what they expect is a double-edged sword; while it will jerk some fists in the air upon hearing their brand of raspy, guitar-driven rock once again, there isn't much on this CD that I feel is going to make most fans choose to listen to it more than some of the early classics, or even "Razor's Edge".

Just as they pioneer little new territory musically (the exception being Angus doing some wild slide guitar on “Rainy May Day”), the boys also stick to very familiar lyrical themes: the glory of rock n roll, girls, and good times. However, "War Machine" is a pretty decent track that touches the tip of the iceberg of politics. Overall, "Black Ice" is a good, solid rock record, and you have to give these guys props for still being able rip it up like kids in this day and age, and appeasing fans by sticking to their straight-forward formula. The production is fantastic and the guys sound tight as ever.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

AC/DC on MySpace. Official site.

Watch the boys in their video, "Rock N Roll Train" here.

New music: Jimi Jamison "When Rock Was King"



Wow - this one really brings back the memories. Check it out if you grew up loving 80s rock and AOR. Jimi Jamison and Jim Peterik (Survivor) pull out all the stops and collect all of their 80s friends on this new music video. The song will appear on Jamison's new solo record, dropping next week. Send me a copy, boys!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Trivia Corner: Kenny the Wet Sprocket


Back in 2003, a lot of people were picking up the phone and replying, "Kenny who? Loggins? No kidding? Sure I'll meet you halfway and do a song with you!"

Soundtrack god and AOR mastermind Kenny Loggins released "It's About Time" later that year, trying to redeem himself from the gut-wrenchingly awful "The Unimaginable Life" from 1997. Not quite the return to form that would be "How About Now" (read our review here), "It's About Time" ain't half bad and boasts a surprising number of diverse collaborators of songwriters and performers I have enjoyed over the decades.

First up, 70s singer/songwriter Michael McDonald joins in on the title track, trying to recapture a little of the soulful feel of their previous work together, 1979's "This Is It" and 1982's "Heart To Heart".

Then enter 80s singer/songwriter Richard Marx, who works with Loggins on plenty of the ballads (surprise). They actually sound good harmonizing together, and I did not need the linear notes to tell me that Marx was doing back up vocals. His distinctive rasp sounds great on these tracks - I just wish he could remember how to write an uptempo song.

Next up we have 90s singer/songwriter Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket helping out with a track called "This Is How My Song Goes". I would never have guessed this match up, but it was a pleasant surprise to see them working together. I don't like the song too much, though.

And appropriately, we have Clint Back helping out with the country-flavored track, "Alive N' Kickin'".

Curiously, all of these guests are thanked in the linear notes EXCEPT Glen Phillips. What's up with that, Ken?

Free mp3: John Taglieri

Check out this free mp3 of Everything We Are (A Toast) courtesy of John Taglieri! Read the review here.

Hurry – link expires in one week!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: John Taglieri "Everything We Are" EP


New Jersey indie all-star, John Taglieri, is back with a new EP entitled, "Everything We Are". This was one of the last CDs I listened to today, after a bunch of snoozers. John Taglieri woke me up and gave me reason to crank up the volume. The EP is a party, starting with a "toast" and leaving you in a better mood than when you started listening.

John Taglieri is writing some of the best modern AOR I've heard in recent times. There are hints of powerpop goodness like The Jellybricks, but plenty of solid rock reminding me of 40 Ft. Ringo and Waltham. Vocally, John sounds a bit like C.J. Snare (FireHouse).

The opening track, "Everything We Are (A Toast)" sets the tone for the rockin' fun about to begin. This anthem seems to be written specifically for the stage, to start (or end) a show, but it also makes for an ideal way to start the record. "Open Up To Me" and "Lonely Together" are choice mid-tempo numbers with superb chord progressions and excellent guitar work. "Get You Back" is a power ballad in the style of Bon Jovi; I almost got up to get a lighter. There are a couple of novelty songs like "Booty Call" and a bonus track ode to mac n' cheese. Amusing, but like most novelty songs, one listen is enough for me.

Fans who love the Jersey AOR sound will pick up on it immediately when they spin a John Taglieri record. John Taglieri makes it feel so good to be alive...

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4

John Taglieri on MySpace. Official site.

Review: Michelle Lewis "Little Leviathan"


Showing its face in 1998, Michelle Lewis' "Little Leviathan" was a bit late to ride the coattails of similar female singer/songwriters exploding at the time. Her effort is not as immediately accessible, and understandably could not beat the heavy competition from the likes of Jewel, Joan Osbourne, Tracy Bonham, Meredith Brooks, and ... oh the list seems endless. The fad died out of course, but here we are ten years later seeing it rise again (e.g. Sara Bareilles, Colbie Caillat).

Listening to this release with fresh ears, I find it has aged well. Michelle Lewis was a victim of bad timing and could have made bigger waves had the music scene not already been overcrowded with every label's copycat artist. While "Little Leviathan" has its share of filler, and Michelle Lewis does not have the range of someone like Jewel, she holds her own and delivers some tracks that are certainly worthy of some space on the iPOD. Her vocal style is more like Shawn Mullins, doing a spoken word thing in the verses of many tunes, and singing to a melodic chorus. Lyrically she is fairly interesting, touching on topics most 20-something girls could relate to. Sonically, the record sounds great, no doubt due to the contributions of the capable Tom Lord-Alge.

Michelle Lewis is still working in the music business, writing songs for others and performing on her own. Recently, she's teamed up with another 90s hitmaker, Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo), to form The Dilettantes, touching on topics most 30-somethings can relate to.

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

Michelle Lewis - official site.

The Dilettantes on MySpace.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Review: Candlebox “Into the Sun”


I was very excited to hear that Candlebox had reunited to record “Into the Sun”, their fourth studio release. Though hailing from Seattle and breaking during the advent of grunge, Candlebox really is more straight-up rock and roll than anything else. Moreover, their records have gotten increasingly melodic with the exception of the strange misstep that was their sophomore record (“Lucy”).

“Into the Sun” gracefully picks up where the excellent “Happy Pills” left off ten (!) years ago. Kevin Martin (also of the Hiwatts) still sounds fantastic; he sings his heart out on the rockers and infuses the ballads with a good dose of soul. The record starts off with two angry and blistering rock tracks, “Stand” and “Bitches Brewin’”, written and performed in the style that made their monstrous debut so popular. The band showcases their talents for rock balladry more than ever with outstanding works such as “Surrendering”, “Miss You, and “Breathe Me In”, which capture some of the finer moments from “Happy Pills” like “Sometimes” and “It’s Alright”. The title track is a brilliant, dark opus that delivers a huge hook in the chorus and leaves you with a cool change up in the coda.

The reunion works and I hope we do not have to wait another decade for more from Candlebox. Kevin Martin is channeling some Robert Plant at times, the musicianship and production are top-notch, and lyrics are generally of high quality.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12

Candlebox on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the music video for “Stand”:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Trivia Corner: Goo Goo Dolls & Westerberg


1993's "Superstar Car Wash" remains my favorite album by The Goo Goo Dolls, a band who, in the early days, was considered a Replacements knock-off. This comparison seemed to be solidified when John Rzeznik asked Paul Westerberg (of the Replacements) to write the lyrics to the song "We Are The Normal", one of the singles from the classic "Superstar Car Wash" CD.

Lyrics here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Andy Spitson "All Eyes On You" (EP)


Andy Spitson is a young singer/songwriter from Illinois stating that he specializes in writing catchy/melodic songs about love and life. I recently received his new 4 song EP, "All Eyes On You", which validates his claim. You might see him in a coffeehouse doing his acoustic shows, in a bar rocking out with his band Spinderson, or in a cornfield with his guitar posing for photos for his MySpace page. Wherever you spot him, request some of the tunes from "All Eyes On You" for a few minutes of escapism into a universe where great, well-crafted pop songs rule.

Each track on this EP sheds light on Andy's varied influences. We can hear some John Mayer on "No Place Like Your Heart", Cheap Trick on "First, It's The Crush", The Cars on "Dear Friend", and something out of Happy Days on the infectious be-bop track, "Hand Jives & high 5ives". Every song has its own distinct elements, displaying Andy's versatility as a songwriter capable of creating a cohesive musical landscape from different shades of pop rock. Did I mention that he plays nearly everything himself?

Vocally, Andy has more of an everyday voice than classically trained pipes that blow you away, which in part explains the Elvis Costello references he receives. But more important, his voice suits the style of music. Fans of Cliff Hillis, James Guffee, and Matthew Sweet should take note.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4

For a taste of Andy Spitson at his acoustic best, check out his previous EP, "Love's Not A Tough Start", also available through the links below. Very nice for chilling out on a Sunday morning...

Andy Spitson on MySpace. Official site.

Review: The Brigadier "Rhymes for Rainy Days"


The Fall is my favorite time of year, and giving me one more reason to celebrate it is The Brigadier, who has just released a seasonal EP inspired by autumn. "Rhymes for Rainy Days" follows his noteworthy full-length release, "The Rise and Fall of Responsibility", reviewed here not long ago.

On "Rhymes for Rainy Days", The Brigadier (a.k.a. Matt Williams), offers more of a retro pop feast for our ears. This is most noticeable on the lead off track, "To Go On Holiday", my instant favorite among the 6 tunes on the EP. The subtle disco beat underneath the classic oohs and aahs in the harmony vocals gives this track an extra boost that makes you nod and tap your foot right along. Other tracks, including "No One's Ever Here To See" and "The Same Old Sunday", are more solemn and reflective, nice mediation pieces to accompany the Fall. We venture into carnival territory with the brief instrumental tune, "Guy Fawkes", and what is the Fall without a carnival? I really like the addition of acoustic guitar on tracks like "The Same Old Sunday" and "What Happened To The Autumn?" - they sound kind of like The Byrds, perhaps flying south for the winter. We end on another acoustic-driven piece, the gentle lullaby, "As The Nights Draw In".

Fans of The Brigadier won't want to miss this one. Matt continues to evolve as a songwriter and performer, and this EP serves as a great introduction to his style of 60s and 70s-influenced pop with a modern twist. Also be sure to check out his other seasonal offering, the holiday inspired, "6 Christmas Tales". Both are available by following the links below.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5

The Brigadier on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review: Keane "Perfect Symmetry"


With eager anticipation, I downloaded this new Keane release last week. It has been incubating with me for quite some time now, but still is not growing on me as much as I'd hoped. I am a big fan of the previous two releases, and the main problem I believe I am having with "Perfect Symmetry" is that it does not sound like Keane.

I have no problem with bands wanting to experiment and try something new, but the direction Keane has gone with this one is not pleasing to my ears. This does not even sound remotely like a Keane record until we get well into the second half...only then do the soaring vocals and piano-driven melodies that we expect come into play. The first track and single, "Spiralling" is a surprising jolt of irritating synth effects and 80s dance grooves. I almost thought Amazon screwed up with the download and gave me an old track from E.M.F. The 80s vibe continues with the next track, "The Lovers Are Losing", which has shadows of The Pet Shop Boys. "Better Than This" is goofy and all over the place, trying to mesh banjo, hand claps, synths, U2-esque backing chants, and a falsetto lead vocal.

After all this unorthodox stuff, Keane gets back to basics by track 5, the title track. Unfortunately, it sounds more like a b-side of "Hopes and Fears" to me. Much better are "You Don't See Me", "Again and Again", and "Pretend That You're Alone". And while the synth in "Black Burning Heart" almost sounds like it came from a John Cusack 80s movie soundtrack (especially "Better Off Dead"), the song is one of the standouts tracks for me. The epic "Playing Along" is also notable, in which the band interweaves noisy choruses with soft and subtle versus, to match the lyric, "I'm going to turn up the volume till I can't even think."

Kudos to Keane for trying to explore new musical possibilities...some are going to love it, but it is not my taste. I will proceed with caution before blindly purchasing the next release from this band.

iPOD-worthy: 6, 7, 9, 10

Keane on MySpace. Official site.

Here is the music video for "Spiralling":

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hot deal - Keane "Perfect Symmetry" - $2.99


This is not a typo...you can download the new release from Keane, "Perfect Symmetry" in its entirety for just $2.99 right now at Amazon.com. I have not reviewed it yet, but based on their past two releases, you can't go wrong with Keane. Especially for just $2.99!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Review: Luke Jackson “…And Then Some” - Free mp3


Straight out of his right hemisphere, “…And Then Some” is the new release from Luke Jackson that will have your head swirling with pure pop rock goodness. It all began with Luke pondering the question, “WHY NOT make an album with my favourite musicians on the planet?” Why not indeed. If the results sound this good every time, then every artist should begin their project pondering this question.

I detect a lot of Merrymakers, Roxette, and even Abba throughout this collection of flawless pop tunes – perhaps due to the fact they were recorded in Sweden; or just as likely, my mind was biased to hear such influences since I knew it was recorded in Sweden! At any rate, what I am trying to say is that Luke Jackson has put out a record that power pop fans sharing my taste in music are going to adore.

The sleek packaging and extensive linear notes accompanying the CD speak to the perfectionism that Luke strives for – his goal is to get everything right, down to the last detail. This philosophy extends into his music of course and the results speak for themselves. “Come Tomorrow” (available below as a free mp3 for a limited time) is a perfect example of the type of music you’ll find on this excellent release. With an instantly catchy chorus and plenty of oohs and aahs backing things up, this track hits all the right buttons…and then some. And there is much more where that came from. “Half A World Away” and “Longest Day” are additional standouts with an upbeat and peppy vibe, with memorable melodies and sweet harmonies. The more contemplative “This Life” and “The Fear” are outstanding, showcasing the brilliant mix between pop sensibilities combined with expertly executed orchestration. “Let go of the things you know you’ll never control, you got to lose the fear or it’ll eat you whole”.

Fans of Bleu, E.L.O. / Jeff Lynne, Owsley, or Swedish power pop must check out Luke Jackson.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10

!Check out a FREE mp3 of “Come Tomorrow” courtesy of Luke. Hurry – link expires in one week!

Luke Jackson on MySpace. Official site.


UPDATE:
The video for “Come Tomorrow” is now on YouTube:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rare CD: Richard Wright "Wet Dream"


"Rare USA pressing of the late Pink Floyd keyboardist and founding member Richard Wright's first solo effort entitled "Wet Dream". You will not find many of these around on CD (though the Lp is relatively common), especially in such nice MINT condition. It even has the original jewel case sticker intact. A must have for the Pink Floyd fan and collector!

One Way records (Sony Music Special Products) A 24090"

Sold for $84.99 on ebay.

Rare CD: Cher "NOT.COM.MERCIAL"


"not.com.mercial is the twenty fourth album released by American singer/actress Cher released on November 8, 2000 exclusively through Cher.com and Artist Direct, it was the album that followed Cher's largest commercial hit - Believe.

The majority of not.com.mercial (pronounced not dot com dot mercial) was written by Cher in 1994 when she retreated to France. The song Born With A Hunger was written by Eikhardt, and Classified 1a is a newly-remixed version of her 1970 Sonny Bono-penned song. The rock-themed album with some slow ballads was never taken to record companies for release, because it was considered "too personal for commercial purposes".

Many years later, it was decided to be released as an exclusive Cher fan project through her website and Artist Direct. not.com.mercial, which released no singles, received moderate sales. Though no singles were released, the song "Born With the Hunger" has been featured on the international version of The Very Best of Cher.

None of the songs have ever been sung live and little information is known about the album itself, though Cher's comments (and liner notes) assert that the song "The Fall (Kurt's Blues)", co-written with Pat MacDonald of Timbuk3 and Bruce Roberts, is her tribute to rock singer Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994.

Track listing:

01 Still [Cher, Roberts, Thiele] 06:15

02 Sisters of Mercy [Cher, MacDonald, Roberts] 05:01

03 Runnin' [Cher, MacDonald, Roberts] 03:56

04 Born With the Hunger [Eikhardt] 04:05

05 The Fall (Kurt's Blues) [Cher, MacDonald, Roberts] 05:17

06 With or Without You [Cher] 04:50

07 Fit to Fly [Cher, Millet Savigar] 03:53

08 Disaster Cake [Cher, MacDonald, Roberts] 03:25

09 Our Lady of San Francisco [Cher, Garvin, Wayland]02:15

10 Classified 1A [Bono] 02:15"

Sold for $98.00 on ebay

Rare CD: Sublime "40 Oz to Freedom" (Skunk)


"Sublime's debut album "40 Oz. to Freedom"
Skunk Records.
Very Rare and Out of Print for over a Decade.

Extremely Hard to Find Second Pressing

This cd is very rare because it was released on their independent label, Skunk Records, before the band gained fame from their self-titled album in 1996.
The MCA Records version of this cd that you can buy at the store has a lot of differences from this Skunk Records version. Quite a bit of material was removed on the MCA release that is on this Skunk version due to copyright infringement lawsuits. Most notably, is track #2 , "Get Out!" This song was completely removed from the MCA release and a remix version of the song is on "Second-Hand Smoke." The version of this song on this Skunk Records album is a lot cooler than the remix. Also, the song "Rawhide" is on this Skunk version at the end of "Date Rape." This was also completely removed on the MCA release of the cd. Additional sampling on "Let's Go Get Stoned" and "We're Only Gonna Die for Our Own Arrogance" also appear on this Skunk version that is not featured on the MCA release. There are also differences in the cd artwork between Skunk and MCA versions of this cd including: there are just symbols on the spine of the cd on the Skunk version and the MCA version actually reads "Sublime 40 Oz to Freedom." The cover of the Skunk version does not have the parental advisory warning that is on the MCA release. Also, in the booklet, the band members names are "Texas, Cricket and DJ Spock" in the Skunk Records version, and Brad, Eric and Bud in the MCA version. There are also other small differences between the contents of the booklet.

This cd is a masterpiece and a must-have for any Sublime fan. This is how the album was meant to be heard before content was removed."

Sold for $99.99 on ebay

Rare CD: Plain White T's "Come On Over"


"Up for bid is an extremely rare, out of print Plain White T's CD - Come On Over. Condition is perfect, like new. Disk is absolutely scratch free and plays perfectly. All inserts and artwork are included and are in great shape - see pictures! This is a CD released in 2000 by the Plain White T's before they hit it big. This is NOT a CDR or burned copy. I have only recently ever seen one other copy of this going for 250 bucks on ebay right now so I am assuming it is near impossible to find. The Tracklist is: 1. Skinny Dipping 2. Behind 3. Kitty Cat Shirt 4. All Dressed Up 5. Maybe Another Day 6. Cinderella Story 7. I-88 8. Come On Over 9. Aud. 10. Round 2 11. Show Your Face 12. Rave $5.00 PRIORITY MAIL SHIPPING TO USA. Please contact me for international shipping or for any questions. Thank you."

Sold for $102.51 on ebay.