Thursday, February 28, 2008
Tessa Rae Newman is a rising star from where the horses roam in Oklahoma, who released "Spellbound" in 2007. TRN has a powerful voice and sings her songs with passion – it is hard to believe she is only 17. This CD features a diverse blend of power pop, country rock, and tender ballads that are well produced and very commercial. There are 3-4 songs that have above average hit potential, namely the catchy lead off track "Barbie Doll Syndrome", which skillfully fuses modern R&B with potent rock guitar, and the instantly catchy "Momma Always Makes It Better.” The latter is an excellent choice for a first single. Another highlight for me is “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” a pleasant mid-tempo rocker.
TRN's songs will be greeted with open arms by Christian radio – most of her lyrics either have overt Christian content or a generally positive message. Her dilemma may be this: while "Momma Always Makes It Better" is a song every parent would hope their daughter would write, I wonder if it is truly marketable in this world. I hope for the benefit of all of us that it is.
Another double-edged sword may be the diversity of the songwriting and styles. I imagine some music fans would appreciate a disc where no two tracks sound alike, but I know others who prefer a more cohesive and consistent sound from track to track. Personally, I would love a disc full of more of the catchy pop rockers like "Momma" and "Parade".
A few tracks have already showed some muscle on music charts around the world, including the country-inspired “Me and My Ford” (which I mistook the font to read “Me and My Lord” – LOL) in Australia and the title track in the Netherlands. Stateside fame should be unavoidable and I wish her the best of luck.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 7
Tessa Rae Newman on MySpace. Official site.
Check out the video for “Momma Always Makes It Better”:
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
IKE has outdone themselves with this new release entitled, "Where To Begin." And I am very glad...I found the last release (2005's "In Real Life") to be subpar for John Faye, one of my favorite power pop singer/songwriters. On top of that, some significant personnel changes have occurred, including the departure of Cliff Hillis, who always provided excellent harmonies with John, and is an outstanding songwriter in his own right. So I was nervous about what the new version of IKE was going to sound like.
But IKE is back and then some, with the most consistently strong batch of songs I've heard on any CD in a long time. Starting with track 1, the hooks just stick right in you and don't let go. Crunchy guitars, arena rock choruses, witty lyrics, and sweet harmonies...what is there not to love? IKE's sound has been given a boost and John is singing better and more confidently than ever before.
If you have never heard of John Faye, or his older band The Caulfields, and you love power pop and rock, you've got to check out IKE. They have shared the stage with Bon Jovi, REM, Cracker, Butch Walker, Train, Better Than Ezra, Matthew Sweet and more...if you like any of those artists, you would surely dig IKE.
iPOD-worthy: 1-5, 7, 8, 13, 14
IKE at MySpace. Official site.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
If you are waiting for me to review one of your CDs, go yell at the guys in The Alternate Routes. I can't get their CD "Good and Reckless and True" out of my player - it is THAT GOOD. Rarely do I come across a CD from a relatively unknown group that blows my mind as much as this one. The fact that a group like this is not all over the airwaves and charts exemplifies everything that is wrong with the music biz today. This CD has actually been released twice, in 2005 and then by Vanguard in 2007.
I'm finding it hard to think of an exact match for comparison, but their music is in the general ballpark where Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Fray play. The songwriting is exceptional: brilliant melodies and smart lyrics in almost every track. The songs were written in the aftermath of losing both parents..."The songs," explains [lead singer Tim] Warren, "were born out of an optimistic struggle to try to understand what to do with yourself when you're left to your own vices, in a world that will still exist after you're gone." Tim has one of the most pleasing voices I've heard recently - his vocals are perfectly suited to the way the band sounds.
The lead off track, "Ordinary" is actually extraordinary...and has become one of my all-time favorite songs. It begins rather slow and sparse, then builds and builds to a tremendous climax, with a finale that will raise the little hairs on the back of your neck. Other highlights for me include "Time Is A Runaway", "Aftermath", and "Endless Conversation".
Despite winning several awards and accolades, the CD just isn't taking off. It's shameful. Help save quality music and go buy it today.
iPOD-worthy: all tracks!
The Alternate Routes on MySpace. Official site.
Check out the video for "Time Is A Runaway":
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I got excited about this one when Absolute Powerpop pulled out the siren. I got even more excited reading the CDbaby page, seeing comparisons to Matthew Sweet, Superdrag, the Posies and Teenage Fanclub. Consequently, I think my expectations were too high and I am having difficulty giving this one a lot of praise. To me, this Clint Sutton CD sounds like a disc of Foo Fighters rarities and B-sides. Which is not to say this is a bad disc...that should actually be taken as a compliment for a budding artist. On the contrary, Clint does have a knack for writing catchy melodies and clever harmonies. In short, promising songwriter, not so sure I like his vocals. Steve - please don't revoke my powerpop enthusiast membership card!
iPOD-worthy: 1, 5, 10
Clint Sutton on MySpace.
I always get a little nervous when a band puts out a self-titled CD that is not their debut. It is usually an indicator that they've deviated from the formula that made them famous. So in a way, it is a fair warning to fans who want more of the same from the band.
This could not be more true with the new release from pop emo rockers Simple Plan. The first few seconds of track 1 and you'll think you accidentally put in some freaky bad dance pop CD by mistake. Thankfully, the guitar sound that is stereotypical Simple Plan kicks in without torturing us too long. It is clear the boys have tried to infuse some dance and DJ junk with good ol' rock n' roll. Let me make this clear: techno and rock are like Britney Spears and underwear...they just don't go together.
I must commend Simple Plan for other things on this CD, their third studio release. As far as the guitars and vocals, they sound phenomenal. A problem many people had with them was the thin, whiny voice of the lead singer. But on this release, he sounds better - stronger and more mature - and accentuated with some great gang vocals in the background here and there. The only thing I am having trouble with is the house music contaminating about half the tracks. Sounds like half the band quit and some of the guys from Maroon 5 replaced them. Track 6, "Generation" may be the worst of it...it is the musical equivalent of Ipecac.
But when they stick to their original formula, it works and then some. Big bold choruses with fat hooks abound on the tracks I deem worthy for the iPOD. There are a couple moments where it sounds like these guys want to be the next Firehouse (check out the utterly sappy and unsophisticated "I Can Wait Forever"). Overall, the experiment to incorporate hip hop and techno crap should have stayed in the lab...but the classic Simple Plan tracks concentrated towards the end of CD are some of the best they've ever done.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10
Simple Plan on MySpace. Official Site.
Check out the car commercial...I mean video for "When I'm Gone"
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Like most people, I was swept up by Sponge in 1994 with the release of "Rotting Pinata," but quickly wrote them off after the disappointing 1996 follow-up, "Wax Ecstatic." Drawn to the title of this 1999 release, and surmising they went back to incorporating melody back into their songs, I slapped my dollar down and rescued a used copy from the $1 bargain bin of misfit CDs. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised!
After getting past the annoying first track, it was apparent that Sponge had indeed rediscovered that melody matters. Lots of great guitar riffs flank the catchy choruses on "New Pop Sunday." Most of the tracks have at least one part or two that sinks deep into the brain and won't let go. This record should have been a big comeback for these guys, but perhaps it was a day late, dollar short. The single lifted from this release was the pop rocker "Live Here Without You" (track 3) - it should have been huge!
iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11
Sponge - official site.
The Josh Joplin Group have released a very interesting CD with "Useful Music" (Artemis Records, 2000). Arguably one of the more thoughtful and clever lyricists these days, Josh created a record that generated a healthy buzz among critics but sadly failed to be a big breakthrough. He did score a minor hit with the terrific single, "Camera One," which some of you may recognize from the TV show "Scrubs."
Josh is the vocal equivalent of a shapeshifter. Most of the time he sounds like a Michael Stipe clone (most notably on "Phil Ochs"), but then you hear some Ed Kowalczyk from Live (check out "I've Changed"), then some Peter Gabriel (on "Who's Afraid of Thomas Wolfe"), then - for the love of God - he even sounds like all 3 of the bloody Beastie Boys on "Superstar"!
There are some songs that just don't work, like when he takes to pseudo-rapping, but fortunately these are few and far between. He's also got several notable producers with very divergent styles (Shawn Mullins, Jerry Harrison, Peter Collins) that probably add to the schizophrenic nature of the CD as a whole. When the tracks do work, they REALLY work. I could listen to "Camera One" and "Human" all day. Definitely worth the penny you can get this CD for at Amazon.com.
"I've Changed" is on the CD in two different versions, but both are worth slapping on the iPOD for different reasons. I like the driving feel and slick production Peter Collins does on track 13, but the sparse and stunning acoustic-based version on track 6 (done by Shawn Mullins) is awesome too.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13
Josh Joplin Group: Official site.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
We can sum this up real quick: Clive was right, Kelly was wrong. Oh, so wrong.
In case you are not familiar with this, record producer extraordinaire Clive Davis and his American Idol star Kelly Clarkson got into a rather heated and public debate regarding the songs for her third release, "My December," which saw the light of day in June 2007. Kelly Clarkson is undeniably one of the greater vocal talents these days, and she probably got a bit of a big head with the utterly successful "Breakaway" CD. She has every right to feel proud of that record, but should not lose sight of the fight that song choice is a big key to success (you'd think she would have learned that as many times as they say it on American Idol!). But lousy and forgettable songs are not the only flaw this CD suffers. Kelly's vocal stylings just seem to wander aimlessly, and despite the intensely personal lyrics, they don't pull me into her world.
I heard how much negative press the CD received, but just could not bring myself to believe it could be THAT bad...but sadly, it is. There are only a few tracks I would say are marginally acceptable. Case in point...there is something about the last track (Irvine, not the bonus track) that engages me. In this hushed and sparse coda to the record, Kelly sounds wonderful, her soul and vulnerability can be felt, and it left me with a feeling that she can redeem herself.
I love the fact that Clarkson veered more towards a rock edge with "My December," but I hate that she sacrificed pop sensibilities. She should shoot for having the best of these worlds on her next release...or she'll end up shooting herself in the foot.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 13
Kelly Clarkson on MySpace. Official Site.
Check out the video for "Never Again"
Saturday, February 16, 2008
A new installment of Bill's Internet Radio...this time featuring The Rolling Stones and Styx...enjoy! Courtesy of Anywhere.FM.
Today's playlist: Styx and Stones!
Start Me Up – Rolling Stones
Not Dead Yet – Styx
Mixed Emotions – Rolling Stones
Too Much Time on My Hands – Styx
As Tears Go By – Rolling Stones
Renegade – Styx
Angie – Rolling Stones
Man in the Wilderness – Styx
Out of Tears – Rolling Stones
Don’t Let It End – Styx
Got requests or ideas for a playlist? C'mon, let's hear 'em...
Continuing with my experiment to see if the latest stream of female singer/songwriter artists projecting from the Norah Jones family tree are worth their spot on the branch, I checked out Colbie Caillat's "Coco." Based on her well known Top 10 hit called "Bubbly," I wasn't overly excited. But the majority of this CD is amazing...beautiful, catchy, instantly memorable tunes. So far, she is the winner...Colbie has come close to filling an entire CD in which every track is worth transferring to the ol' iPOD! Interestingly, I don't dig the singles as much as the other tracks.
iPOD-worthy: 1-6, 9, 10
Colbie Caillat's MySpace. Official site.
Check out the video for "Realize"
There seems to be a plethora of female singer/songwriters that have the flair for jazzy pop songs these days. Popping up left and right, jumping on the bandwagon led by Norah Jones, these gals are taking over the airwaves with their one-hit wonders. But can any of them fill up an entire CD with songs as good and catchy as the radio single? With "Little Voice," Sara Bareilles demonstrates that she can at least do half a CD's worth.
The hit single and lead-off track, "Love Song," now in the BillBoard Top 10 (for whatever that is worth), is terrific...bouncy, bright, piano pop that is sung like she means it. But for me, nothing else on this disc comes close to the gem that "Love Song" is. There are some quality moments, however, not so much in songwriting, but in the way Sara can deliver. She has a great voice and can make even some of the less than memorable tunes iPOD-worthy because of some tasty vocal gymnastics. If she got a really good songwriter, her cross-over appeal could be huge.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7, 10, 11
Sara Bareilles MySpace. Official site.
Check out the video for "Love Song"
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Check out the video for "Exhibit of the Year"
The first six songs or so are nothing but blatant political statements, which I have no problem with, but it is hard to get into a song about gas. Like her colleague Don Henley, they are preaching to the choir with tunes like this and there is little offered with regard to a solution. Besides, there are no hooks and she provides little incentive for the listener to want to replay this half of the record.
This record was talked up as a return to roots because it reunited Crow with her producer (Bill Bottrell) from her breakthrough 1993 debut, "Tuesday Night Music Club." While you can clearly hear his influence permeating the tracks, I'm afraid they have failed to recapture the magical chemistry that made those songs work, mostly because this batch of songs is not as strong.
The second half is much better, with songs Crow really sinks her teeth into. They are more personal, and maybe that is why they come out sounding better. And in some of these tracks we hear more of the girl who just wants to have fun, like the "Ob-La-De" influenced track, "Out of Our Heads" or the safe acoustic ditty, "Detours." "Diamond Ring" is a haunting and poignant statement on that final step in the relationship, no doubt influenced by her experience with Lance Armstrong.
iPOD-worthy: 6, 7, 10, 11, 13
Sheryl Crow - official site.
Check out the video for the single, "Love Is Free," which I think is one of the worst, most annoying songs she has ever written.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I was never a big fan of Blink-182, save the excellent hook-laden hit, "All the Small Things." In 2006, Blink's guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge released his new project entitled "Angles and Airwaves." The record received some pretty good press, debuted at # 4 on Billboard (which means less and less to me every week), and went gold. To top that all off, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr (Jellyfish) played the keyboards on this release.
I wish I could say that I like it more. It sounds like a logical step forward that Blink-182 would take...I don't think you can separate his distinctive voice from anything else but what he did with Blink-182. I admire the production, and some of the songs have a cool atmosphere associated with them...I can see why some argue this is more of a "headphones in the dark" record. Bottom line is the songs just don't do anything for me. Too forgettable, even with repeated spins. I applaud an effort to grow and expand as an artist, but the guy just doesn't have the vocal chops for more serious songs...he is better suited for the novelty tunes that Blink-182 made famous.
Angels and Airwaves on MySpace. Offical site.
Video for the single "The Adventure":
Graham has a perfect voice for the songs he crafts and always gives a good mix of straight up rockers and sincere ballads. Virtually every song I've ever heard him sing has an instantly memorable chorus...and often even the verses have a strong hook! His solo effort continues his style of acoustic-based rock, but many of the slower tunes on this release are backed with very nice orchestration. "Best Days" (video) is the single making the rounds right now, and is a pretty good representative track of the other gems on this record.
Monday, February 11, 2008
"Skinny Puppy / Sinead O'Connor - CD Single with RARE ERROR: The CD, insert and inlay all say that this is a Skinny Puppy CD single. But, when it's played instead of hearing Skinny Puppy's "Worlock", "Tin Omen" or "Brak Talk", you hear Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U"
People are willing to pay a lot for mistakes! This CD single containing the wrong artist sold for $395.00 on ebay (13 bids).
Sunday, February 10, 2008
2-1-08: One sold for $290.00 on ebay (Buy It Now feature).
Marketed as "The Rarest Nirvana Cd EVER Made" (SADMOP-003/004), this live recording of Nirvana will likely earn you a handsome profit. Show was recorded on 11-09-93 at Stabler Arena, Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA).
2-8-08: One sold for $799.00 (!) on ebay (using Buy It Now).
Thursday, February 7, 2008
iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7, 10
"Shattered Dreams" was one of my favorite guilty pop pleasures from the late 80s. It inspired me to check out the entire CD from Johnny Hates Jazz (1987's "Turn Back the Clock"), which had a handful of other decent tracks. I didn't know they had a follow up CD and I would be curious to hear it. Too bad it is rare and out of print...I am not that curious to hear it! "Tall Stories" was released on Virgin in 1991, and actually has a different vocalist. Clark Datchler left in 1988 and was replaced by an ex-bass player from the Cure (Phil Thornalley).
2-6-08: One sells for $33.44 on ebay (7 bids)
Cool trivia: Dan Baird was his first guitarist...formerly of Georgia Satellites, remember?! Dan is no longer with the band.
Where are the trademark McCartney hooks? Where are the cute melodies? Creative harmonies? Quality lyrics? It seems by and large on this effort Paul just repeats the same word over and over and over and over and over in order to get something to stick in our head. All it does is make my finger stick to fast forward.
Surprisingly few tracks stand out, including the catchy lead single, "Ever Present Past." Maybe I am expecting too much, but deeply disappointed. I also heard the three bonus tracks that come with the deluxe edition pictured above with DVD and all. 2 of the 3 bonus audio tracks suck ... there should be a law banning sucky bonus tracks.
iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 12, 15
Paul McCartney - offical site.
Enjoy the single "Ever Present Past":
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
This one sold for $46.00 on ebay (13 bids).
Currently listing for $85 used on Amazon.com. Check now.
WHEREAS THEIR FIRST ALBUM "LITTLE COWPOKE" WAS RELEASED ON CHOO CHOO RECORDS (AND THAT LABEL STILL HOLDS THE RIGHTS), THIS ALBUM WAS ONLY INDEPENDENTLY RELEASED IN A VERY LIMITED RUN BY THE BAND. ONLY ABOUT 1000 COPIES OF THIS ALBUM WERE RELEASED
IN SEVERAL INTERVIEWS LATER IN THEIR CAREER, THE BAND HAS SAID, DESPITE THE SIGNIFICANT FAN AND COLLECTOR INTEREST IN THE ALBUM, "HERE TO THERE" WILL NOT BE RE-RELEASED"
UPDATE 2-29-08: Another sells for $210.01 on ebay (13 bids).
1. Counting On You
2-3-08: One sells for $110 on ebay (44 (!) bids)
Saturday, February 2, 2008
iPOD worthy: 4, 6
Glen's MySpace page.
And if that isn't exciting enough, he's participating in a new all-star band that should have a CD out later this year:
"Tentatively known as the Scrolls, the octet is comprised of keyboardist Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher from Elvis Costello's Imposters, Nickel Creek's Sara and Sean Watkins, Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips, fiddler Luke Bula from the Blue Merle Band and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz."
I'd appreciate your opinion on a CD I have. Outwardly it appears to be the Kings of Leon CD 'Aha Shake Heartbreak' which seems to have a perfect CD booklet and CD image. However, the music is classic pop and country & western tunes redone in German (I think). I understand that this does happen occasionally during the manufacturing process but my questions are:
1. Just how rare are CDs like this?
2. Does it have any value over and above the second hand value of a perfect album?
3. Where on the net would I go to find people that might see it as valuable?
I presume that the music on the CD, albeit the wrong music, also affects the value and in my case it may lower the value considerably!!"
Friday, February 1, 2008
He slimed me...one sells for $79.05 on ebay (15 bids)
4-21-08: One sells for $71.00 on ebay (14 bids)
Not going for as much as "Predator", but not too shabby...
One sells for $65.00 on ebay (14 bids)
4-24-08: One sells for $103.52 on ebay (25 bids)