Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: Chewy Marble "Modulations"

Those of you who frequent the top power pop blogs are no stranger to Chewy Marble, which features Brian Kassan formerly of the genre faves, The Wondermints. We have not heard from Chewy Marble since 2001's fantastic "Bowl of Surreal", but I am happy to say they are back in top form with their third CD, "Modulations".

Six years is a long time to write and polish songs, so fans are going to be expecting some spectacular stuff and...(drum roll)...I predict that fans will be very pleased with "Modulations"! All of the elements that fans would expect are present once again: super catchy songs, smart melodies, and lofty Lennon-esque vocals. They also delve into some psychedelic pop for a couple tracks (check out "Somewhere Else"). But what separates this CD a bit from the previous ones are the more personal and pensive lyrics. Additionally, a couple of intriguing instrumental jams break things up: "Mental Toothache", which has a bossa nova lounge feel, and "Moments", a sweet acoustic ditty.

We start things off with the infectious single, "She Roxx", an amusing mid-tempo pop ode to rock chicks. "Cross-Hatch World" is another instant favorite of mine, a pleasant and catchy number with a jangle pop feel. Some of the more melancholy tracks include a couple stripped down acoustic gems..."Flicker" covers the universal struggle to fit in - "When I'm in a room of people I wish I'd stayed at home", and "My Dad", a tear-jerking tribute to fathers that is one of the greatest since Bread's "Everything I Own".

But don't let me mislead you by highlighting the more serious and reflective pieces...the majority of the CD is light hearted and upbeat. An excellent release. Let's just now hope that a fourth CD will appear in less than 6 years this time!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10

Chewy Marble on MySpace.

Rare No More: Dennis Wilson "Pacific Ocean Blue"

See old posting here.

Now: "Eternal Beach Boy Dennis Wilson's much sought-after 1977 solo album, which Mojo Magazine has heralded as a "buried treasure", will return to circulation on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of Wilson's untimely death in 1983, at age 39. The double-CD PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE – LEGACY EDITION will arrive in stores June 17th on Caribou/Epic/Legacy, a division of SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. A vinyl edition of the LP will also be released at the same time, on the Sundazed label." Full story.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: Living Colour "Collideoscope"

Sometimes you take a chance on something in the ol' bargain bin and it exceeds all of your expectations. That could be said about this 2003 release from Living Colour called "Collideoscope" sucked far more than I ever expected.

After the failure of their third record, 1993's "Stain" the boys in Living Colour took a break. Unfortunately, they thought it would be a cool idea to reunite a decade later to put out a heavy, dark, and utterly unmelodic collection of noise. The production sounds like crap, the songs are not memorable, and even the guitar solos make no sense - like they are being played independently of the music. There's a horrendous cover of AC-DC's "Back in Black" that sounds like a bunch of drunk frat guys doing karaoke.

On the plus side, Living Colour stayed true to their roots in that their lyrics are smart and poignant, and they mix musical styles that run the gamut. But they left out the most critical element of all...the hooks they could crank out on their first two releases.

If you are going to check out any of the tracks, try "Song Without Sin" and "Holy Roller". Queensryche fans may want to check out the track "Operation: Mind Control." And check out "Back in Black" just for the laugh.

iPOD-worthy: sorry, nothing

Living Colour on MySpace.

Review: Under the Influence of Giants (2006)

Um, OK. I've read quite a bit of positive press on various power pop blogs about this Under the Influence of Giants self-titled debut CD, released in 2006. Yes the music style is fresh and unlike a lot of what is out there today. Yes there are some parts that sound like disco-era E.L.O. or Bee Gees. Yes it is hip and makes you want to shake your booty. I agree with all this...but can't stand it! And where are all these hooks I've read about?

I guess their style of music just inches way too far into the dance realm for me, and the falsetto gets old after awhile. I've spun the CD more times than I should and I'd still rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than hear another track from Under the Influence of Giants.

For my readers who are into the more dance-oriented pop and funk (a la Maroon 5 or Scissor Sisters), you will probably get something out of this one. I'd point you to "Got Nothing" and "In the Clouds" to test the waters. The slower track "I Love You" is benign but nice, and the silky smooth vocals fit just right.

iPOD-worthy: 7

Under the Influence of Giants on MySpace. Official site.

Check out video for the single "Mama's Room" here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Review: Craig Marshall "Point of View"

All of the other bands who have sent me their CD and who are waiting patiently for a can blame my tardiness on Craig Marshall's new 2008 CD, "Point of View". The CD has been in heavy rotation in my house this holiday weekend. I can't bring myself to eject it and listen to something else right now. It is THAT good.

"Point of View" is my introduction to Craig Marshall, so rest assured I will be checking out his previous 2 solo releases and even his time in Lucky Strikes as soon as I can. "Point of View" is the epitome of infectious, melodic rock, and is jammed packed with 10 timeless masterpieces that just get better and better with each listen.

Craig Marshall lists influences from the Beach Boys to Matthew Sweet; you'll hear the full span of 30+ years of pop rock history in his tunes. Vocally, he sounds a lot like John Wesley Harding and Buffalo Tom, with a hint of Elvis Costello. This makes his songs, which have a lot of structural similarities to hits from the 60s and 70s, sound very contemporary.

Craig Marshall crafts the music to fit the words when appropriate. Take "Lost in Space" for example, which sounds very atmospheric - like the band is floating towards some sort of temporal anomaly. Oh yes, they are approaching the year 1979 and Cliff Richard is singing, "It's So Funny, We Don't Talk Anymore"!

Standouts for me include the eye-opening opener, "Difficult", the gracefully elegant ballad, "Paper Cut", and the gentle and catchy epilogue, "Small Reminder". But what knocked me out of my chair was the upbeat pop perfection of "I Know What It's Like." Brilliant...just brilliant. Hit written all over it.

iPOD-worthy: all tracks!

Craig Marshall on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review: Howie Day "Stop All the World Now"

Howie Day is a singer/songwriter akin to modern artists like Rhett Miller, Pete Yorn, or Matt Nathanson. "Stop All the World Now" was released in 2003 and eventually went gold, no doubt propelled by the success of the breathtaking ballad, "Collide". The CD is dirt cheap these days, even the deluxe special edition.

After playing the first three tracks, I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on this CD, but then it all rapidly fell apart. I was nearly asleep until track 7, which is the likable minor hit "She Says". But the jolt from my slumber was short lived as the rest of the disc flows back down a river of boredom. I am not opposed to ballad-heavy CDs, but the other slow tunes are nowhere near as compelling as "Collide".

Howie Day has a good voice - sounding like Bono or Thom Yorke at times. Speaking of Radiohead, fans of that band should check out the closing track "Come Lay Down".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 7

Howie Day on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "She Says" - embedding disabled so click here...WHY SONY WHY???

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: Shake Some Action! "Sunny Days Ahead"

The bright yellow-orange sunrise (sunset?) over the hill could not be more fitting to describe the shimmering power pop delivered by Shake Some Action!. These boys are from Seattle, so I'm guessing in reality that they do not see a lot of sunny days. But they have a knack for compensating for the rainy city by creating bright and crisp pop rock in the studio. This release, which drops on June 17, is sure to lighten up even the darkest skies.

Musically, many of the songs are jangly Rickenbacker pop, packed with harmonies akin to The Meadows or Rembrandts. If you are a fan of la-la's and oh-ah's, you'll love it! But some of the tracks dig deep with crunchy guitars and just flat out rock, like the scorching lead off track, "Get It Together". Vocally, lead singer James Hall sounds a lot like the dude from They Might Be Giants, Robyn Hitchcock, or Dave Faulkner of The Hoodoo Gurus - get the picture? Some people are going to complain that this type of vocalist clashes with the smooth pop sheen of the music, but others will find it a refreshing change of pace.

The band lists influences such as the (surprise!) Hoodoo Gurus (James Hall is Australian), Teenage Fanclub, and the La's, and they honor their idols very well by hybridizing their sound.

In addition to the aforementioned "Get It Together", other standouts for me include the rollicking "Looking for Someone" and delicious 70s pop throwback "Hurry Up". I'm also a big fan of the Replacements feel of the closing track, "Who Do You Love?", which is perfect for the vocal stylings of James Hall, and brings together all the best elements of Shake Some Action! into a single song.

Trivia: Yes, the band's name was taken after the song (and 1976 album) of the same name by the Flamin' Groovies.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11, 13

Shake Some Action! on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Stevie Nicks "Trouble in Shangri-La"

I really hate having to write a bad review for such an iconic figure, but -dammit- you put out a piece of crap we're gonna call you on it. "Trouble in Shangri-La" (2001) is likely to please only the most die hard Stevie Nicks fans.

Stevie assembled an impressive team to help her with this solo effort, including Sheryl Crow (fresh off the heels of her successful first albums), "Heartbreaker" Mike Campbell, one-hit wonder Macy Gray (remember "I Try"?), Sarah McLachlan, and ace producer Chris Lord-Alge. And according to the linear notes, we have Tom Petty to thank for this mess, who evidently inspired Stevie to write these songs in 1995.

So what is the problem? It's a dream team but the songs are nightmares. Stevie sounds like Stevie should - commendable after all these years - but hearing her voice rasp its way through one snore of a track after another is just a heartbreaking waste. Sadly, she penned most of these snores herself, with only "Love Changes" and "Love Is" hitting a chord with me. "Love Is" features some trademark backing vocals from Sarah McLachlan, which definitely help elevate the track a bit from its slumber. The standout track, "Every Day" was written by other folks. For you Sheryl Crow fans, you may be pleased that she contributes backing vocals on a number of tracks and wrote the tune, "It's Only Love". One listen to it, though, and you'll realize why she gave it away. "Fall From Grace" is the only real rocker, but consistent with most of the other tunes, is completely forgettable.

iPOD-worthy: 5, 9, 13

Stevie Nicks - official site.

Check out the music video for "Sorcerer" (with Sheryl Crow):

Rare CD: Jellyfish "Fan Club" (4 CD Box Set)

Sells for $199.00 on ebay (Buy It Now). Going for $300 used on Check now.

Another sold for $167.50 on ebay (19 bids)

Rare CD: Iron Maiden "The Pilgrim"


Sold on ebay for $236.00 on ebay (10 bids).

Rare CD: Metallica [Longbox]

"wow ! long out of print..this is like a relic from a forgotten era !
unopened still in the shrink-wrap long box Metallica " Kill ' Em All "
catalog number 7559-60766-2 dated 1983
this has been kept upright in my climate-controlled music room all its life
has " cut-out" nicks in top and bottom side of box"

Sold for $258.99 on ebay (8 bids).


"AND JUSTICE FOR ALL" in longbox sells for $204.49 (9 bids)

"MASTER OF PUPPETS" in longbox sells for same price.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: Adam Marsland “Daylight Kissing Night (Greatest Hits)”

I am willing to bet that most of you are not familiar with Adam Marsland, or his late-90s outfit, Cockeyed Ghost. The bad news is that you’ve been missing out on 10 years of some of the wittiest power pop put to tape this decade. The good news is Adam has made it easy to catch up thanks to this 2008 release of self-proclaimed “greatest hits”. Even if you already own Adam’s discography, you’ll be interested in this release as all the songs have been remastered, and the disc contains seven exclusive new tracks to boot.

So what does this guy sound like? You’ll hear hints of Joe Jackson and Ben Folds, but also Matthew Sweet and Dave Grohl at times. Adam’s voice is perfectly suited for his quirky - yet undeniably - catchy brand of pop rock. He has a falsetto that would make Lou Christie proud (seriously, check out "The Big Bear"), but he’s also smart enough not to overuse it. The plentiful harmony vocals are reminiscent of the Beach Boys, so it comes as no big surprise that Adam has worked with Mark Linett, the Grammy-award winning engineer who has worked on Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.

Adam is a true multi-talent to admire...he sings, plays guitar, piano, and - of course - the clavinet. It is all too easy to get caught up in the infectious melodies and sing along without thinking…but you would be doing yourself a great disservice because Adam pens some of the most captivating and humorous lyrics of our age. There are too many ace lines to quote - take my word for it - the guy is a true poet with the wit of a modern Whitman. Adam reminds me of what Dennis Miller might have been like if he had started a band back when he was still funny and relevant.

Standouts for me include "Other Than Me" (comic genius), "Ginna Ling" (wonderfully fun chorus), "The Foghorn" (here we see a more serious side as Adam contemplates the big question), and "My Kickass Life". "My Kickass Life" should be a daily listen for each of us taking the quality of our lives for granted. As Adam sings, "I had food on the table and easy demons to fight, I wanna thank you for my kickass life."

"I Can't Do This Anymore" hints at retirement for this incredible artist, but I hope it isn't so. To those in the biz: wake up! Hollywoodland drops what it don't need, but the world NEEDS artists like Adam Marsland.

Unfortunately, my CD arrived damaged and tracks 18-20 do not play. So while they are not included in the iPOD-worthy list, odds are you'll want to add them too.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16

Adam Marsland on MySpace.

Check out a live performance of "Other Than Me":

Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: Pensive "Artifacts"

Pensive is defined as:

1. Deeply, often wistfully or dreamily thoughtful.
2. Suggestive or expressive of melancholy thoughtfulness.

This modern rock outfit is aptly named, but their tunes are not merely "artifacts" - they are the real deal. The music is polished, lyrics are interesting, and songs are passionately performed. There are three songs on Pensive's "Artifacts" (released in 2007) that have tattooed themselves on my brain since the first listen. Everyone should have the pleasure of hearing "Red Letter Day", "Summer is Gone", and "Live Fast".

Indeed, the strongest cut is "Live Fast" - this punchy hit is instantly memorable and easily one of my favorite songs of the year so far. This remarkable tune truly displays the ultimate potential of this young band.

And then there are several songs that are heartbreakingly close to being potent hits, but fall a bit short. With a little more work devoted to refining the hook, tracks like "Forsaken" and "Come With Me" could be just as satisfying as the iPOD-worthy cuts. Similarly, "Without You Here" is an beautiful ballad, sparse and airy with only electric guitar and voice. Bush made this work with "Glycerine" in 1995, but I think "Without You Here" could be a radio hit with more dynamics as the song unfolds, building to climax with a monster power chorus - the whole nine yards.

All the ingredients are in the pot: a very good singer, quality lyrics, excellent musicianship (fantastic drums), and just the right amount of attitude. They just need to mix it up a little better. With a little more work dedicated to the pop side of their rock, Pensive will easily appeal to even wider audiences.

Pensive is for fans of Jimmy Eat World, Echo Screen, and Fall Out Boy. Check them out!

Pensive on MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 9, 12

Check out video for the awesome tune, "Live Fast":

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: Tal Bachman "Staring Down the Sun"

Any devoted AOR fan should know the name Tal Bachman, who achieved one-hit wonder status with "She's So High" from his self-titled debut record in 1999. Little do most people know is that Tal released this second CD in 2006 (2004 in America's hat, Canada). I figured it was ignored because it fell prey to the sophomore jinx, so put off checking it out. Then the record suddenly became quite expensive to purchase ($140 on today - check now), but I scored a reasonable deal from a Canadian on ebay. I could kick myself for not checking it out earlier...and I am puzzled why this record failed to make him a two or three hit wonder.

Tal is the son of Randy Bachman (The Guess Who and, duh, Bachman-Turner Overdrive). The genes of music genius have clearly been passed down the line. Tal has a versatile voice that is raspy enough for excellent AOR rockers and gentle enough for ballads to make the girls swoon.

"Staring Down the Sun" is just as good as his debut - fans of his 1999 work will delight in this virtually unheard of release. The CD is divided into three "Acts", each exploring love and relationships: Acts I and III, comprised of 6 songs total, are the strongest. These tracks are upbeat or mid-tempo, and have big meaty hooks and engaging vocals and harmonies from Tal. Act II has a couple duds that are a bit boring, but these are the exception to the rule. Standouts include the lead off track "Tomorrow", the title track, and "Aeroplane."

I wish Tal would grace our ears with more of his infectious brand of AOR pop and rock. But he's been busy on the political scene and publically denouncing his Mormon faith (good for you)! Perhaps these events will be inspiring.

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

Tal Bachman - official site.

Check out an acoustic performance of "Aeroplane", preceded by a list of Tal's musical influences and explanation of the song's meaning:

Funny: Kiss covers Rick Astley

A video mash-up fantasy, but here to see Kiss doing "Never Gonna Give You Up"

Free mp3 (limited time!): Dan Weir "Orphan Town Vol. 1"

Orphan Town is an elaborate ruse for Dan Weir to hear his songs performed by ringers. These include drummers Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Todd Rundgren, Dick Dale, etc) and Todd Roper (Cake, Chuck Prophet), guitarist-plus Joe Gore (Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Tracy Chapman, eels), members of Rainmaker, singers Ray Wilcox (!Tang, Xraydusa) and Paul Daniels.

Produced by JJ Wiesler at Decibelle Recording, add'l engineering by Drew Zajicek. Mastered by Tardon Feathered at Mr. Toad. Music and lyrics by D. Weir.

For the next week or so, friends can download tracks from Orphan Town Vol. 1ABSOLUTELY FREE via MySpace. After that, they'll be for sale on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Review: Adam Miner "Playing House" FREE mp3 CD!

Singer/songwriter Adam Miner is giving away his latest release, "Playing House". Go get this album now, along with free artwork to download at here. Yes, it is FREE and legal! Thank you Mr. A Miner!

If you are a miser with your hard drive space, we here at BMF will give you the highlights. Adam Miner sounds like a refined, less gruff version of Elliot Smith. He specializes in power pop in the finest tradition, loaded with the sunny feel from 70s pop artists. The melodies are ultra catchy and nearly every song features rich harmonies. There are few exceptions: "Autumn Air" is an instrumental harmony vocal your hard drive could do without, and "Honie Please" is a sparse and beautiful acoustic ballad that no hard drive should be without. Other highlights include the bouncy title track ("Playing House") and "I Myself & Me," in which Adam laments, "I've whittled down all my friends to three...I Myself & Me" in a bright cheery song. "Obscure Melody" has all the makings of a great song that could have been, if only the acoustic guitar did not sound so dulled and his voice was not processed to sound like he was singing through a funnel. I'd love to get a remix of this track in which the acoustic guitar was brighter and his voice unprocessed. Fans of The Merrymakers will do a double take after hearing "Pinery Park", which sounds like it came right off their record, "Bubble Gun". "Get In My Space" is another outstanding track, a catchy appeal to add another friend to just I Myself & Me.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 8

Adam Miner on MySpace. Official site.

Review: Jewel "0304"

I've always been curious to check out this CD...Jewel, famous as the Alaskan folk singer, toys with electronica on her 2003 release "0304". I didn't think she could pull it off...and I could not have been more correct. C'mon! Jewel doing dance music is like the Antichrist giving the sermon at mass.

And this isn't even real dance music per se, but just the trendy (at the time) electronica garbage. No wonder many long time Jewel fans were choking on their granola when they put this on. The fact that this CD can be picked up for pennies says a lot.

But not all is a loss. As I expected, she does her standard acoustic-driven pop folk stuff on a few select tracks, and some of this subset rank among the quality of her best B-sides.

Thankfully, she appears to have gotten this jitterbug out of her system and made a fine return to form with the great yet underrated follow up, "Goodbye Alice in Wonderland." Her new CD, "Perfectly Clear" drops in June, but ya'll best be warned: she done gone country.

iPOD-worthy: 5, 7, 8

Jewel on MySpace. Official site.

Video for "Intuition":

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Review: Bad Company "Company of Strangers"

Oh the things I listen to for you, dear reader. I consider myself an AOR fan's savior when I can save your precious time by alerting you to avoid crap like this.

Bad Company, the legendary group who scored huge hits with original vocalist Paul Rodgers, and with his replacement in 1986, Brian Howe. But after Howe left in 1994, poor Robert Hart didn't stand much of a chance. By now, the chemistry in the group had severely deteriorated and the songwriting had become predictable and stale. Robert Hart failed to rekindle the fire of this once great classic rock band. And it did not hurt that by 1995, when this record was released, grunge was still the hot commodity.

But grunge and changing music trends cannot be blamed for the failure of this album. And neither can Robert Hart, who sounds like a Paul Rodgers clone. The songs are just tired and uninspired. We get off to a highly mediocre start with the title track. You wake back up for a bit with track 2, "Clearwater Highway", which gives you reason to be cautiously optimistic. But then it rapidly goes "Down Down Down" from there. "Gimme Gimme" is a fair attempt to recapture the blues rock they mastered in the 70s, but there is no real swing to it, and the hook must be forced. The lyrics on this record are laughable, sponsored by testosterone and understood by people with IQs in the single digits. Speaking of low IQs, the choice to release "Down and Dirty" as the lead off single? Oh, the humanity.

If you like ballads, you may enjoy some of those here - but they're no "If You Needed Somebody." The acoustic number "Little Martha" is quite good, and the piano-driven closer, "Loving You Out Loud" is a quaint and simple love song. "Abandoned and Alone" tries to come off as a smoldering blues ballad, but is just a snooze fest for me. "Where I Belong" works best, sounding like a mellow throwback to 70s, well sung, with some nice chorus harmonies to boot.

To sum up, "Company of Strangers" is largely a bore...a futile attempt to recapture youth, both musically and lyrically. There were three tracks I could find that were not too difficult to stomach.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 6, 11

Bad Company official site.

Review: Mike Viola "Lurch"

If you’ve never heard of Mike Viola, perhaps you have heard the song “That Thing You Do” from the Tom Hanks movie of the same name. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the band he fronts called, The Candy Butchers. Or his E.L.O.-like band L.E.O. Still no?

Well if you are a fan of modern power pop, you must become familiar with Mike Viola and/or The Candy Butchers. He’s been consistently cranking out top-notch pop nuggets for the better part of this decade, most featuring his storybook style of writing. His signature voice has just the right amount of rasp to put the power in the pop, but not so much rasp that it grates on the ears. Nearly every track on every CD he’s released has a little something that makes you want to come back and replay it – they are THAT catchy.

“Lurch” is his latest independent release (2007), currently available through his official web site. For me, “Lurch” did not have the immediate appeal that his prior releases had, but the many songs that work are true gems. Any fan of Mike Viola should be thrilled with this CD, and newcomers should also be hooked. Others who will be intrigued by “Lurch” includes fans of harpsichord (especially on “Snowman In Tompkins Park”), and fans of the Addams Family theme song (check out the tribute riff on “Girly Worm”). I prefer his masterful modernization of the sunny 70s pop vibe, shimmering through in tracks like “All Bent out of Shape”, “The Strawberry Blonde,” and “So Much Better.” The intricate harmonies on these tracks will blow you away and having you singing along for days.

Mike Viola on MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 12

Check out a live performance of “Girly Worm”:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Review: Gavin Degraw "Gavin DeGraw (2008)"

Gavin DeGraw is an extraordinary singer/songwriter/musician trying to avoid the sophomore jinx with his new self-titled release out this week. His 2003 album, “Chariot” was virtually a masterpiece, easily one of the most impressive debut records I have heard in a long time. In 2004, he reissued “Chariot” with a bonus CD of the tunes performed in unplugged form, with only one take on the vocals. It is nothing short of amazing, and showcases the pure talent of this guy.

I have waited patiently for 4 years, eagerly anticipating new material from Gavin DeGraw. I was disappointed it took so long, but happy to report that it was well worth the wait. This CD is fantastic – Gavin DeGraw has hit the ball out of the park for the second time in a row. Now I just hope radio doesn't do him a gross injustice and leave him relegated to one-hit wonder status with 2004’s smash, “I Don't Want to Be”.

Gavin has not tweaked his formula too much with this new record, which is fine…why alter something that is just about perfect? He pumps out track after track of smoldering, soulful rock with a tinge of blues, interspersed with some breathtaking ballads. One of the best genuine rock vocalists of our day, he sounds even more confident than he did on the last record. The lyrical themes largely continue to explore interpersonal relationships, but he does venture out to make some important political statements. For example, how many artists do you know today write a song about the exploitation of children by the pharmaceutical industry (“Medicate the Kids”)?

What I liked most is that Gavin takes the notes and chord progressions into areas that I would not have predicted, and yet still manages to make it melodic – very skillful. Some of the slower songs are not as engaging as his ballads on “Chariot”, but he’s improved on the more upbeat songs. The only other criticism is that the production is overdone on some of the songs, and some listeners are going to complain too many of these tunes sound like clones. Yes, the resulting CD sounds lavish and bold, but does so at the expense of covering up DeGraw’s voice.

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

Gavin DeGraw on MySpace. Official Site.

Check out the video for the first single, “In Love with a Girl

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rare CD: Tim Buckley "Starsailor"

"Album notes
Personnel: Tim Buckley (vocals, 12-string guitar); Lee Underwood (guitar, electric piano, organ); Bunk Gardner (alto flute, tenor saxophone); Buzz Gardner (trumpet, flugelhorn); John Balkin (bass instrument); Maury Baker (timpani).
Tim Buckley's work was always challenging, and one can chart its development from the superbly crafted singer-songwriter folk of his debut to the increasingly bold and exploratory forms of his later records. While a growing jazz influence can be heard on earlier albums like HAPPY SAD, those tendencies come to full fruition on STARSAILOR, which embraced the radical avant garde aspects of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. On several tracks the singer largely eschews melody, giving full rein to his astonishing range, turning his voice into a wholly new expressive instrument by letting it stretch with passionate intensity.
Yet STARSAILOR has moments of equally subtle and lovely melancholia, no more so than on "Song To The Siren" (a tune later popularized by This Mortal Coil). Supported only by muted electric guitar and eerie sound effects, Buckley sings with heartfelt emotion, resulting in one of his finest performances. The contrast between its ethereal atmosphere and the dense textures elsewhere make for an enthralling, intense collection.

Editorial reviews
Ranked #38 in Mojo's The 50 Most Out There Albums Of All Time - Buckley embarks upon surrealistic manoeuvres through shapeless bucolic landscapes.

5-7-08: sold on ebay for $60.99 (11 bids).

Currently selling used for $86.95 on

Review: Mindy Smith "Long Island Shores"

Mindy Smith delivered “Long Island Shores” in 2006, her sophomore effort following the impressive debut, “One Moment More.” It is hard to put Mindy into a specific genre, but by and large she does organic, folk-based songs that are perfect for rainy days, a quiet dinner, or chilling out. The best comparisons that come to mind include Alison Kraus, Shawn Colvin, and even some Lucinda Williams. Her lyrical themes are usually drenched in faith, but we won’t hold that against her.

Her voice is angelic and velvety smooth, and it is refreshing to hear another full CD’s worth. But despite several spins now, “Long Island Shores” is not resonating as powerfully as “One Moment More.” In my opinion, her debut contained many more tracks with better hooks and more appealing melodies. More disappointing is that Mindy does not seem to exploit her full range of vocal talents on “Long Island Shores”. She can really sing beautifully and strong, and it would be great if she was performing songs that allowed her to shine vocally. Instead, what comes across is a more sedate and sleepy version of Mindy Smith. Perhaps this was intended to buttress the overall mood on this disc, but to me it is like getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari and not being allowed to leave your driveway. She should have named this record, "Long Island Snores". Here's hoping the next release is more like her debut...

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 11

Mindy Smith on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the single “Out Loud”:

Review: Warren Pash "Plastic Rulers"

Most of you probably don’t realize that you’ve already heard Warren Pash…he wrote “Private Eyes,” one of the biggest hits for Hall & Oates. He’s played bass for many artists, from The Pixies to the late Jeff Healey, and was a member of the supergroup Swag. But now Warren Pash is ready to become a household name with his new release, “Plastic Rulers”.

“Plastic Rulers” has a slew of high profile guests, including folks who’ve played with The Jayhawks and Black Crowes among others. As you might surmise, Warren Pash’s record is very similar to the sounds of these artists. “Plastic Rulers” leans toward the mellow end of the jangle pop spectrum and is perfect record for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Besides The Jayhawks, you’ll hear a lot of the Meadows, Tom Petty, and Scot Sax on this record, and even some Billy Falcon (especially on the fun jam “5 Ft. 13” and “U.S.A.”). The blend of country, blues, and rock is mixed perfectly, and the layers of harmony vocals are impressive (most notably on the outstanding track, “Child’s Play”). The lyrical twists are witty and reflective (“I thought I turned right when I had nothing left”, Warren sings on the opening track, “Living the Dream”), making his release one of my new favorites to chill out to.

They just don’t make enough albums like this anymore, so it is all the more refreshing to give “Plastic Rulers” a spin. Not a single track is overly processed – they don’t need to be…great songwriting is able to stand on its own without all the bells and whistles. I interpret the title of the album to describe the state of politics, or even music, where the leaders are more manufactured than truly qualified. We live in a world where superficial attributes outshine the authentic nature of an individual and, consequently, the masses put the wrong person on the pedestal. Help break this disquieting trend and make Warren Pash a ruler of the music world.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 11

Warren Pash on MySpace.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Review: Anberlin "Cities"

I was rather eager to check out my first Anberlin CD, 2007's "Cities," which I recently acquired on a trade. While this CD is widely acclaimed by the expert customer reviewers on (seriously, what CD on that site is not highly praised by the majority?), I just don't see the fascination. I only see why someone was eager to trade such a recent release (and a special edition to boot!)

Anberlin is characterized as emo, or pop punk by many folks. I'm not so sure I'd refer to them in that manner (at least for this release). To me, Anberlin is in same modern rock ballpark as Hawthorne Heights or 30 Seconds To Mars.

As far as creating a solid wall of sound, Anberlin has mastered that technique. Unfortunately, nothing much jumps out from that monotonous wall of sound. There is a nice break by track 5, "The Unwinding Cable Car," which begins with a fresh change: bright, acoustic guitar. There are also some really good backing vocals throughout this track, but 4 minutes of this and I was growing tired of it. We get a similar change of pace at track 10 with "Inevitable," a pleasant enough love song in which the lead singer announces his desire to be "your last first kiss". I like the plucking orchestra in the chorus. "Hello Alone" is one of the few tracks that managed to not only grab my attention, but also make me want to hit "replay". Track 1 is an instrumental throwaway. If you are into epic tracks that feature a children's choir and feel like they are never going to end, you will love track 12 ("Fin").

On my third listen, "Adelaide" started to stick in my mind. The track is really quite good - a great vocal performance, some incredible drumming, and the typical soaring Anberlin guitars. Best of all, the chorus has a hook that finally stuck in me by spin #3.

The special edition is not all that special. It has an extra 3 tracks..."Uncanny" is actually a very good mid-tempo melodic rocker, but then we have very lame and uninspired covers of The Smith's "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and When In Rome's "The Promise". The latter even made me laugh. Why Anberlin chose not to punk up these songs, I have no opportunity missed.

The guys exhibit solid musicianship, and I can't fault the production. They are adventurous at times and incorporate unorthodox sounds and effects into many of their tracks. And I will give credit for interesting and reflective lyrics. But when it comes to the "industrial-strength hooks," damned if I can hear them. True, they repeat a lot of the words and phrases, but you need more than that to make a good quality hook!

iPOD-worthy: 3, 7, 10, 13*
*on the special edition

Anberlin on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Godspeed":

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rare CD: Foo Fighters "Have It All" CD single



A very hard to find orginal Foo Fighter's cd single taken from the "One By One" album. This cd is scarce and is a must for Foo fans.

Track listing:
1. Have It All (album version) (4.58)
2. Darling Nikki (3.24)
3. Disenchanted Lullaby (live/acoustic) (4.07)"

5-4-08: Sold for $48.70 on ebay (7 bids)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Review: Michael Sweet "Michael Sweet"

Does anyone remember Stryper? These guys sold tons of records to kids in the 80s who craved glam rock, but who had parents that did not permit them to listen to Poison. Similar sound, similar look, but way different lyrics. Instead of "Talk Dirty To Me," they rocked to "Talk Jesus To Me." Instead of "Shout at the Devil," they'd opine, "To Hell With the Devil." But they laughed all the way to the collection box, even scoring a top 40 hit with the God-awful (no pun intended) power ballad, "Honestly".

In 1994, Michael Sweet put out this solo record, which stays true to the Stryper creed, both lyrically and musically. Sweet's voice is still theatrical and over the top, the guitar volumes could raise the dead, and an altar boy gang joins in to chant through most of the choruses.

For fans of Stryper and the Christian AOR genre, I think they will largely be pleased with this record. For me, the music sounds very dated for 1994...Sweet is clearly stuck in the 80s here. The horrific ballad "Tomorrow, Tonight" even has saxophone! You can't get any more 80s than sax. On most of the tunes, Sweet's vocals are just too dramatic...even more so than Dennis DeYoung. There are some tracks however, where he sounds more like Richard Marx (e.g. "Together" and "All I Wanna Do").

The record kicks off with "Together," which is the best track on the CD. "Together" is a testament to AOR perfection, with plenty of na-na's and A-B-C lyrics. "Take Me Home" continues in the big and bold arena rock mode, with so many hoot-hoot's that an owl might mistake this song for a mating call. "Someday" is a pleasant piano driven ballad, but ultimately forgettable. "J.E.S.U.S," which shows his obvious love for spelling bees, starts off like Hysteria-era Def Leppard...a "Pour Some Jesus On Me" if you will. "All I Wanna Do" is another song that, if you didn't know better, you'd swear was recorded circa 1987. With acoustic guitar driving "Forever Yours", this track sounds considerably less dated and shapes up to be a fine, albeit simple love song. "I Think You Hear Me Knockin'" brings out the na-na gang again, but actually has a decent hook and toe-tappin' beat. In contrast, his ode to abstinence, "Ain't No Safe Way" tries to rock out but just falls flat. Besides, if we were to apply this same narrow minded logic to listening to rock music, we'd have quite the conundrum: rock and roll is of the devil; hence, his Christian listeners should abstain from even listening to Michael Sweet.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 9

Michael Sweet: Official site.

Check out the video for "All This And Heaven Too":

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Review: Whitesnake "Good To Be Bad"

Thunderous, blistering, epic…just some of the words I would use to describe the surprise of the year – Whitesnake’s “Good To Be Bad,” their tenth studio album and first CD since 1989’s “Slip of the Tongue” (not counting the David Coverdale more or less solo outings).

Whitesnake is back with a vengeance, mercilessly strangling the life out of the competition. “Good To Be Bad” exceeded my expectations (admittedly, though, they were not that high to begin with as I was never the biggest fan of any band having ‘white’ or ‘snake’ in its name). In contrast to Def Leppard’s paltry 40 minute release, Whitesnake delivers lots more music for your dollar, and even includes a second CD of 7 live tracks and one video. Now with Reb Beach (Winger) contributing on guitars, Whitesnake has vastly modernized their sound, but remain unmistakably Whitesnake because of the distinctive howl of David Coverdale.

Coverdale and company sound better than ever, although his vocals do show some roughness around the edges in his lower register during the ballads – sung like he’s just eaten a bowl of gravel. But Lord the man can still wail in the finest Robert Plant tradition. And musically, Whitesnake still manage quite transparent odes to their Led Zeppelin idol (e.g. hear any “Black Dog” barking in “Lay Down Your Love”?), and even themselves (e.g. hear “Still of the Night” in that same song)? But Whitesnake also goes back to their more bluesy roots for several tracks on this new release, proving they can mix it up a bit (especially “A Fool in Love”, with outstanding results). The two catchiest songs are “Best Years“ and the title track. "Summer Rain" is a superb acoustic-driven power ballad, and is like an eye of the storm during this hurricane of a CD. “All I Want - All I Need” tries hard to be the next generation “Is This Love” – and comes damn close.

My only complaint is that many of the songs are overly long, taking us well into 6 minutes. No matter how good the hook, hearing it drag on for more than 5 minutes makes you want to hit fast forward and get on with it already. I’d rather have 2-3 more tracks than these opuses.

This release does not surpass the glory days of “Slide It In” or “Whitesnake (1987)”, but is a blazing hot, rocking CD that will receive plenty of spins in my house. Def Leppard and Whitesnake releases back to back...I’m lovin’ life! All we need now is Guns ‘N’ Roses and I’ll feel like I am back at the beach during senior week for high school.

Whitesnake: Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9

Isn’t it a coincidence that so many new hairband releases would rear their heads during my hugely popular and award-winning investigation into “where have all the hairbands gone”? Here is a tally so far and whether or not the artist is still viable (in no particular order). Let's hear your opinions!

Scorpions – YES
Whitesnake – YES
Slaughter – NO
Mr. Big – SO-SO
Winger - NO
Kip – NO
Reb Beach – YES
Company of Wolves (Kyf Brewer) – YES
Def Leppard – SO-SO
Tyketto (Danny Vaughn) – YES
Nuno - YES
Gary Cherone - NO

Review: Echo Screen "Euphoria"

Ahhhh…high-pitched whiney voices belting out pop songs with angst (don’t get me wrong – I like a lot of them!). There is no shortage of pop punk bands (ala Bowling for Soup, Fall Out Boy, or New Found Glory) vying for our ears and dollars these days, so to be competitive you really have to stand out. Echo Screen has been striving since 2003 to make their mark on the genre. Their latest offering surfaced in 2006, entitled “Euphoria.”

With only two songs in, I was beginning to believe Echo Screen could run with the best of them. Shaune Scutellaro sounds a lot like vocalists from Sugarcult and Flickerstick, and I hear a lot of All American Rejects and Denver Harbor coming through in their tunes. The CD sounds amazing…no surprise since it was produced by Shep Goodman (who’s worked with a wide range of artists, from From Autumn to Ashes to (argh!) Jordan Knight). Not too shabby to land a guy like Shep for your debut (full-length) CD! And it paid off – sonically, “Euphoria” stands toe to toe with the competition.

Echo Screen storm into your ears with two adrenaline filled tracks, “This Letter Bomb” and “Everything after Bradford”, that are rich with punk angst yet keep pop sensibilities in the foreground. “The Science of Stopping Time” is OK, saved by a memorable hook in the chorus. “Start Tomorrow” keeps things interesting with lots of cool breaks interspersed between an infectious melody – very difficult to pull off, but well done. Even when the group slows it down, like they do for “October,” they maintain an intensity in their music that truly makes you feel the band’s raw emotion. "October" is a highlight on the CD, perhaps one of the greatest songs Dashboard Confessional) never wrote.

But after this run of outstanding tunes, the momentum begins to slip and enthusiasm dampens. The rest of the disc feels a bit forced, with a lack of attention on constructing the all-important hook that is going to make the listener want to hit “replay” again and again. I applaud them for the consistent sound from start to finish, but the lackluster songwriting makes the last half of the CD fade into the background.

It is unclear to me what is currently going on with Echo Screen. The record company has collapsed and some personnel changes have taken place…but the band may be recording new stuff. According to Absolute Punk, “Echo Screen will be heading into the studio to record a few demos as well as a cover for an upcoming Tom Petty tribute album”. Tom Petty? Covering something off their 1999 "Echo" CD, perhaps? Anyway, check out Echo Screen's MySpace page below for up-to-date details.

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

Echo Screen on MySpace.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Review: Tribe of Judah "Exit Elvis"

What in the name of all that is holy is going on here? This is horrible, dreadful, unlistenable. Hard rock, electronica, industrial, a little bit of soul, children singing, and lounge music just don't mix!

Gary Cherone is an enigma. He has one of the best voices in rock today, but I wish it would be used in better ways than this. He's had a very successful career with Extreme, producing 3 decent albums (the fourth one being an aptly-named joke called "Waiting for the Punchline"). After the demise of Extreme, Gary became the infamous Van Hagar singer that pooped out the atrocious CD, "Van Halen 3". Then in 2002, he puts out this mess of a CD, inviting us to join in his schizophrenic journey to Hell. Unfortunately it fails on so many levels I don't know where to begin. There is more crap on this CD than a cruise ship carrying the Norwalk virus.

"Exit Elvis" is utterly unmelodic - Gary avoids hooks like a fish on this record. Maybe that was his goal. He wanted to be experimental and that is a euphemism to describe this garbage. I couldn't find one track on this CD I'd like to listen to twice.

And the enigma goes on, his next release being an unpredictable EP of soulful light rock. Was he trying to recapture the "More Than Words" glory? I wish that he would try. It will be interesting to see what the reunited Extreme does later this year.

iPOD-worthy: uploading anything from Tribe of Judah will cause your mp3 player to give you the finger.

Gary Cherone on MySpace. Official site.

Extreme at MySpace.

Check out the video for "Thanks for Nothing":

Rare CD: Lorraine "Boy's Nite Out"

"I just picked this cd up in a trade, but the 1st thing that comes to mind when listening to this one, is "why are these guys not the biggest hair band ever?" LORRAINE - BOY'S NITE OUT!,1993, Lorraine Music Productions, 12 tracks.....not many cd's come along that truly are gems, most have a few good songs, but it is rare to find one, that is awesome from start to finish, this one is! Song after song rocks, unlike any indie that I have ever sold....standout tracks are: I'M READY, SUZI, LIVIN' ON THE LINE, TRY, DESIRE, BAD GIRL, RUNNER, GRIND, NEXT TO ME, BANGIN' ON THE BRICKS,SHINE THE LIGHT, MEMORY OF YOU, which is every song on the disc, simply put, this is a true masterpiece, (not all of the big time, big hyped indies can say that), for fans of SKID ROW, yes, that's right, these guys do compare to Skid Row, I know we have heard the skid row comparisons to alot of rare indies, but this one is the real deal...and I stand behind the comparison...these guys should have been the next skid row.... if you have wanted to buy this but are not sure if it is worth the cash, send me a message with your email address and I will email you some mp3 samples of and inserts are in excellent condition....this cd is a silver factory pressed original, only a hand full of these were made, so buy with confidence...this cd will take your collection to the next level...not many collectors can claim they own this...and this is MY ONLY COPY!..thanks for looking!"

4-27-08: Sold for $300 on ebay (best offer)


"You are bidding on an EXTREMELY RARE & COLLECTIBLE KBCO Studio C Volume 2 CD. This CD is out of print and incredibly rare."

4-26-08: Sold for $305.00 on ebay (22 bids).

Guess how much Volume 1 sold for? (answer here)

Rare CD: Simon Says "Spin This"

"This is an original copy of the hyper rare and much sought after AOR/Hair Rock indie Spin This…from SIMON SAYS. What can I say about this glorious indie. Without much doubt of the best to come out of Canada. Polished and lush, a must have. Just take a listen to Let Me Know - Simon Says.wma and get ready to place a bid, or two or three. Fans of brilliant AOR like Wall Of Silence, Biloxi and Rude. Only 500 copies were ever pressed and this baby only appears once a year or so on Ebay, so make your bid count. Includes 7 tracks and is in excellent condition, some light tab ware on insert."

4-29-08: Sold for $328.00 on ebay (22 bids).

Rare CD: Motley Crue "Too Fast For Love" Leathur release







4-23-08: Sold for $361.00 on ebay (6 bids)


We've mentioned these compilations from KBCO before (see here). Here is another!

"You are bidding on an EXTREMELY RARE & COLLECTIBLE KBCO Studio C Volume 1 CD. This is the one that started it all! The CD is out of print and incredibly rare." See image above for track listing of the rare, acoustic live performances.

4-26-08: Sold for $796.99 on ebay (!!!!!) (12 bids) - that breaks down to about $57 per track.

Rare CD: REO Speedwagon "Lost In A Dream"

This is classic early REO Speedwagon...1974 release has been out of print since it surfaced on CD in 1992 on Epic Records. At the time, they had vocalist Mike Murphy, not the more familiar Kevin Cronin.

Track listing
1. Give Me A Ride (Roller Coaster)
2. Throw The Chains Away
3. Sky Blues
4. You Can Fly
5. Lost In A Dream
6. Down By The Dam
7. Do Your Best
8. Wild As The Western Wind
9. They're On The Road
10. I'm Feeling Good

Currently selling used on for $33.00. Check now.

5-1-08: Sold for $31.03 on ebay (6 bids).