Friday, August 29, 2008

A Worthy Cause: Crazy Quilt Bouquet "Hope So"

If you are an altruist with an itching for some melodic Brit pop "with a twist of lemon", head on over to the MySpace page for Crazy Quilt Bouquet. CQB is the band name of self-confessed musicholic Robin Cowpertwait. Robin's current offering is a 15 track (nearly 70 minute) opus called "Hope So"...and he's done this one for charity. The deal is that the CQB CD sells for only £3, and a minimum of £1 from each sale goes to Oxfam. It is a small price to pay for this nice collection of Brit pop. It is a bit lo-fi, but the songwriting is solid and delightfully different with smart, quirky lyrics ("when she mentioned kids, there was a pregnant pause"). Standout tracks for me include the very groovy "Lucky" and "War Zone". There is a bit of Aztec Camera, Connells, and even Morrissey imbuing these tunes. If you have enjoyed Garfield's Birthday or The Brigadier, you should check out Robin's Crazy Quilt Bouquet.

Crazy Quilt Bouquet on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: The Jellybricks "Goodnight To Everyone"

The Jellybricks should need no introduction to any true power pop fan. These guys have been at it for a little over a decade now, and we've spent the last four years eagerly awaiting their fourth album - the follow up to 2004's landmark "Power This". They've taken their time, but now delivered ten new tracks on "Goodnight To Everyone" that prove it was well worth the wait. And this CD has some pretty cool artwork to boot!

The opening riffs of "Eyes Wide" make us fall in love all over again and quickly forgive The Jellybricks for the four year wait. With its sing along chorus and tight harmonies, "Eyes Wide" is sure to dilate some pupils. Next up is the title track, filled with a delectable hook and punchy verse riff - "Goodnight To Everyone" ain't no lullaby. "Ruin Us" is another should-be hit with a great lyric. Power pop rockers "More To Lose" and "Up To You" are additional standouts. It's not easy to do, but if I were forced to pick a favorite track, it would have to be the hugely melodic "Nobody Else". Fans of Cliff Hillis, IKE, Matthew Sweet, The Tories, need to check out The Jellybricks.

"Goodnight to Everyone" is one of the most hook-filled Jellybricks release yet. I say this with each new CD they release, but this one is my favorite. All there is left to do now is cross our fingers that we'll see another Jellybricks CD before 2013!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9

The Jellybricks on MySpace. Official Site.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Duff Ferguson "Good Things"

Since we feature a lot of AOR and power pop on this blog, we cover a lot of releases that are brimming with positivity, inspiration, and feel good music. Duff Ferguson can certainly join the ranks of such artists, but could also be a contender to be their leader.

Duff Ferguson's full-length debut, "Good Things" is aptly named; most of the tracks are instant pick me ups in lyric and spirit, with excellent musicianship and well-crafted harmonies - good things indeed. An impressive list of guests who are no strangers to fans of power pop grace this release, including Todd Herfindal (Meadows), guitarist Tony Gilkyson (Bob Dylan), bassist Taras Prodanuik (Lucinda Williams).

The record will snap you out of the blues right at the get-go, with soaring tracks like "We Will Escape" and "Good Things", jangling with power pop goodness. "One Day at A Time" is an infectious romp through James territory. Duff is also an engaging vocalist on the rare moments when he slows it down for tender moments like the breezy "Never Enough". There is a new state anthem to be had in the driving "Forever California", and a new wedding song in the sincerely sweet song, "Marry Me". And for you Aimee Mann fans, there are a couple of tracks where Duff is cloudy, such as "Never Enough" and the woeful "Valentine's Day". But these are tunes all of us relate to at one point; Duff's decision to end the CD on positive notes underscores how hope is the way to triumph and happiness.

Duff Ferguson plays some of the most positive pop rock I've heard since The Galaxies. Fans of The Meadows and Scot Sax: take note of Duff's stuff.

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

Duff Ferguson on MySpace. Official site.

Review: Richard Snow "Tuesday Music" (2008 reissue)

Devoted readers will recall that we recently reviewed the SideBMusic reissue of Richard Snow's self-titled debut (click here to refresh your memory). Now SideB brings us his 2005 effort, "Tuesday Music", complete with seven previously unreleased tracks comprised of alternate takes, mixes, and live versions.

Richard's debut was a strong power pop record in the tradition of Brian Wilson, but I find that I am enjoying "Tuesday Music" even more. Instead of succumbing to the sophomore slump, Richard Snow has stepped up to the plate and delivered a release even better than the debut, which is no small feat.

You know you are in for a treat from the very first strum of the bright acoustic guitar beginning "Silent Girlfriend". Snow wastes no time in getting to the gorgeous harmonies that he cranks out so effortlessly, never more welcoming and pleasing to the ears. "You're My Number 1" continues this trend and contains a great chorus hook. Snow flatters his 60s pop influences brilliantly on "Hard To Be Happy". "Lonesome Cowboy" is an adventurous foray into multiple musical genres, including a country-flavored bass line in the verse to fit the theme, and Snow's genius shines through in how he expertly blends these disparate parts into a cohesive tour de force. "Expectations" is another pop rocker that impresses with its ability to blend multiple catchy parts into a single, masterful tune. Lyrically, "Days of Simplicity", which finds Snow lamenting the degeneration of the music business, is one of my favorites.

Among the bounty of bonus material, I find the coffeehouse renditions of "Attention Not Required", "Silent Girlfriend", and "Hard To Be Happy" to be particularly mesmerizing.

All in all, Richard Snow is more confident and focused on "Tuesday Music" than ever before. The songs on a Richard Snow release are like snowflakes - each one is unique and a true marvel. A thoroughly enjoyable listening experience that pays homage to the greatest pop artists of the 60s while still sounding contemporary.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16

Richard Snow on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rare CD: Motley Crue "Crucial Crue" (Promo)

"Up for auction here is a Motley Crue Promo Cd From 1989, it is oop and rare. . Cd is Used and is in Excellent shape along With inserts front and back . . It has 10 Songs on it . The songs are : 1) Dr. Feelgood 2) Girls, Girls ,Girls 3) Wild side 4) smokin in the boys room 5) home Sweet home 6) shout At The devil 7) Looks That Kill 8 ) Too Young TO Fall In Love 9) Live Wire 10) Take Me To The Top"

Sold for $50.00 on ebay (18 bids)

Rare CD: The Cure "Doctor Robert's Surgery"

"You are bidding on a used The Cure - Doctor Robert's Surgery CD. This CD is extremely rare and in pristine condition. This is a factory pressed CD not a CD-R. This CD is being sold "as is". I accept PayPal only. I will ship this CD worldwide. I will combine shipping if you win multiple auctions. The winner pays for all shipping and handling. Payment must be received 7 days from the end of the auction. Item will be shipped upon receipt of payment. Thank you for looking! The track listing is as follows:

01) Forever (Unreleased studio version)
02) Cold Colours (Alternate studio version to Primary)
03) To the Sky (Unreleased studio version)
04) In Between Days (Studio demo for Head on the Door LP)
05) Sinking (Sutdio demo for Head on the Door LP)
06) Just Like Heaven (MTV acoustic version 1991)
07) Just Like Heaven (Dizzy Mix)
08) Primary (Red Mix)
09) A Forest (BBC in session March 1980)
10) All Cats are Grey (BBC in session January 1981)
11) Subway Song (BBC in session October 1979)
12) Cats Like Cheese (Demo for The Top LP)
13) Piggy in the Mirror (Demo for The Top LP)
14) Bananafishbones (Demo for The Top LP)
15) See the Children (Easy Cure demo from 1977/1978)
16) Meathook (Easy Cure Demo 1977/1978)
17) Listen (Easy Cure Demo 1977/1978)
18) Need Myself (Easy Cure Demo 1977/1978)
19) I Want to be Old (Easy Cure Demo 1977/1978)"

Sold for $260.00 on ebay (6 bids)

Rare CD: Queen "Scandal" (CD single)

"You are looking at a VERY RARE CD single by Queen released in 1989 by Capitol Records in the USA. This four track CD includes the single "Scandal" (from the album "The Miracle"), and three bonus tracks: "My Life Has Been Saved," "Hijacked My Heart" and "Stealin'." This CD single is in AS-NEW condition and it plays perfectly. This CD has been in my personal collection since I bought it new in Athens, GA, USA in 1989. The disc, booklet and jewel case are all as-new. The catalog number is CDP 7 15514 2."

Sold for $405.00 on ebay (20 bids)

Rare CD: Metallica "Brazil EP" (1996)

"Metallica - Brazil EP (1996)


LABEL / CAT # POLYGRAM 2809 359"

Sold for $499.98 on ebay

Rare CD: David Cook "Analog Heart"

"This CD is now out of print. This is NOT a burned CD; it is the real deal. David Cook’s Analog Heart 2006 album. The CD is in excellent condition. This CD was produced and recorded by David Cook in Tulsa. It was released in May of 2006 at his shows.

You are bidding on a copy of American Idol winner, David Cook's original, limited release CD, Analog Heart. There were only 250-500 copies ever printed and it was not released in stores.

Ten Tracks Include:
Straight Ahead Don't Say A Word
Fall Back Into Me The Truth
Searchlights Procelain*
Stitches Let Go
Makeover Silver

*Please note this is the spelling on the CD, it was an error on the proofreading!"

Sold for $680.00 on ebay (13 bids)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: Richard X. Heyman "Actual Sighs"

What kind of twilight zone of a music world do we live in where a talent like Richard X. Heyman goes largely unnoticed except by a few well informed critics? RXH is a virtual one man band, writing and playing mostly everything. His musicianship, experience, and skill as a songwriter is unquestioned. And, as one might surmise from the play on words of the record's title, he's quite the witty lyricist.

"Actual Sighs" is a bright, peppy party that makes your speakers dance through a staggering 20 tracks - just under 70 minutes of music. RXH really mixes it up on this one, bouncing between musical genres effortlessly like some sort of veteran musical speed dater. The multitude of instruments scattered throughout the tracks on this record keeps each song sounding fresh and different from the last. I hear a lot of the spirit of Fleetwood Mac or Bruce Springsteen with his E Street Band - big bold sound, a carnival and celebratory atmosphere. Most of the songs are epic and dramatic - good time rock and roll, through and through.

Vocally, RXH sounds a lot like Elvis Costello and John Hiatt, but honestly he is in a class of his own. I think he does a flattering Bob Dylan on the blues numbers such as "Twelve Bars and I Still Have the Blues" and "RXH's Love in the First Person Blues". But then he can do something like Alan Parson's Project on harmony laden gems like "Written All Over My Face". Then he sounds like The Smithereens on "In A Boxcar" and "When Giants Fall", and channels XTC on "Mr. Murphy's Son". My favorite is "Hoosier", but more for the brilliant harmonies and catchy chorus hook than the fact that I live in Indy.

"Actual Sighs" actually is a debut CD of sorts...long story short it is re-recordings of the original six tracks that were to be RXH debut in 1986, but he's included 1, 2, no 14 (!) more additional tracks, making this more of a bona fide new release with a bonus EP attached. You need not concern yourself with where the record fits into RXH's impressive discography...just spin it and enjoy. RXH clearly is having the time of his life making music, and the fun is contagious with each listen.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19

Richard X. Heyman: Official site.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: Town and Country "My Blue Heaven" (EP)

Wow. WOW! There is a new alt-country band in town...and country. "My Blue Heaven" is the new EP from a San Francisco band called Town and Country. Actually, alt-country may be a slight misnomer. While there are hints of The Jayhawks, the softer side of Wilco, or even the Eagles, there is plenty of straight-up pop rock here too (Finn Brothers come to mind, but Town and Country have a much better sense of humor). Outstanding, lush harmonies permeate this release, which also boasts some top-notch songwriting and smart, amusing lyrics.

Every song is memorable, blowing gently into your ears to set up permanent residence. The acoustic guitars are bright and crisp, building up to climatic choruses that will have you singing along in no time. The clever "Daytime Emmy" is an instant favorite, better than anything on TV. "Variation on a Theme By Mo" is a song we all have someone to dedicate to...just be careful where you are when you start singing, "First you lie, then you suck." The harmonies on songs like "Bella Vista" and "Better Than That" are simply gorgeous, somewhere between the quality of the Eagles and Partridge Family - did you ever think you'd read references to those two bands in the same review?

Get in your flatbed Ford and head out to Town and Country. Bring your own porch swing and summer lager and let their harmonious breeze blow through your hair. Outstanding stuff...I can't wait to hear more.

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

Town and Country on MySpace.

Fans of Town and Country might want to check out Dan Weir's studio project called Orphan Town, featured on this blog previously.

Review: Extreme "Saudades de Rock"

Extreme is back with their first release since "Waiting for the Punchline" in 1995. I have been waiting for this day with eager anticipation - with the exception of that ironically titled "Punchline" CD, I really dug this band.

With "Saudades de Rock", Extreme make some headway in redeeming themselves for the "Punchline" fiasco. But they have some more ground to make up. The positives: Gary Cherone still sounds great, one of the most underrated rock vocalists of the genre. And Nuno still astonishes with his guitar - the guy is utterly amazing. The two of them together, especially when they harmonize, have a great chemistry (best exemplified by their mega hit "More Than Words"). It is refreshing to hear them playing together again.

The negatives: where is the melodic rock that made them famous? There are fleeting signs of their talents for melody and harmony, but they don't seem to make the full effort to reach their potential and deliver a knock out record like any from their trilogy prior to "Punchline".

My mixed feelings regarding this record began right at the start with the mediocre rocker, "Star". The next track, "Comfortably Dumb" is even worse. Then comes the best track on the record, "Learn To Love", which is pure genius - everything comes together perfectly and the guys finally synergize like we know they can. They lose me again on the rockabilly track "Take Us Alive" - it is more like a novelty song and is probably a fun break during the live show. The funk rock that is trademark Extreme kicks in with "Run" - a superb track. "Ghost" and "Interface" mark more of a return to classic Extreme balladry, and both are wonderful. Astute fans will note that "Interface" was on Nuno's excellent Dramagods release. This is the type of music I think Nuno and Cherone do best these days. "Last Hour" starts off as a promising ballad too, but for me it quickly degenerates into a grueling, lumbering chore to get through. "King of the Ladies" is another piece of junk, redundant and pointless.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but at the end of the day, it is good to hear these guys back together again. My wish is that they continue to work together, but focus on the hooks and melodies that made them a "Star".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 9, 11

Extreme on MySpace. Official site.

At least they don't sound like this:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review: From The Inside “Visions”

AOR busy bee Danny Vaughn (Tyketto, Vaughn) is back with a long-awaited follow up to the 2004 debut by his side band From The Inside, which we have reviewed previously. Much like the debut record, “Visions” is a triumph of AOR goodness that brings back memories of rock radio of the late 80s. Featuring slick guitars (Jimi Bell from House of Lords, folks), keyboards, a white tiger on the cover, and of course, the outstanding vocal talents of Danny Vaughn, From The Inside aims to give the fans exactly what they crave. Again, this is the closest Danny gets to the classic Tyketto sound.

Comparing the two From The Inside records is like picking between milk versus dark chocolate. Each is a decent slab of melodic rock, but each has a slightly different taste. Lyrically, we deal with similar themes of inspiration, empowerment, and positivity. "Light Years", the lead off track to "Visions", is a tour de force that has it all. The momentum continues with the excellent uptempo rocker "Making Waves", which features a blistering guitar solo. The next few songs are okay but don't measure up to the brilliance of the first two tracks. The ballads this time around are not clicking with me as the debut release, with exception of "One More Night In Heaven". Just like the strong beginning of the disc, we end on high notes with two more peppy and catchy rockers in "Push Me Off" and "Telemetry".

Upon closer analysis, it looks like my tastes gravitate to the songs penned by Vaughn.

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

Danny Vaughn on MySpace. Official site.

Review: The Rockinghams “Makin’ Bacon”

Jim Basnight is a true rock and roll warrior, fighting the good fight for decades now. He’s always been shaking up the rock music scene in some way, shape, or form: as a solo artist, as member of the Moberlys, or as a member of his power trio The Rockinghams.

With The Rockinghams, Basnight channels more garage rock than polished pop, aligning himself with the likes of early Replacements or Tommy Stinson's other projects. At times, I hear something more like a sloppy version of Cheap Trick. I do not mean to imply anything negative with the word “sloppy” – just trying to convey the raw rock energy the Rockinghams embody. You'll also pick up some Social Distortion (check out "She Gives Me Everything I Want") and Tommy Conwell (check out "Middle Of The Night"). The songs are quick and to the point pop rockers – if you don’t like one song, have no fear because a new one comes along in about two minutes. The CD is very consistent and an excellent choice for a carefree “I just want to rock out” mood.

If you are looking for pristine and polished melodic rock, The Rockinghams is not the best CD to start with in the Jim Basnight discography. However, there are a few select tracks that satiate both the gritty bar band rocker and power pop enthusiasts alike. Most notable among these are "So Glad You Came" and "Space".

So if you like your rock to splatter and sizzle, bring home the "Makin' Bacon" release.

iPOD-worthy: 5, 7, 8, 12

Jim Basnight on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: Shinedown "The Sound of Madness"

"The Sound of Madness" is the third swing from Shinedown and they have hit the ball out of the arena once again. I have been a fan since the debut record, but their latest has convinced me that they are poised to be one of my favorite bands for modern hard rock.

As on their previous releases, Shinedown stays true to their successful formula of stormy guitars swirling around an eye of the hurricane chorus. Nearly every song features a song-along-with-your-fist-in-the-air anthem chorus that is instantly memorable. Brent Smith is one of the greatest hard rock vocalists of our day. These guys deserve to be so much bigger than radio makes them out to be. "The Sounds of Madness" features a perfect mix of ripping rockers ("Devour", "Cry for Help"), midtempo cruisers ("Second Chance", "If You Only Knew"), and power ballads for this new millennium ("The Crow and The Butterfly", "What A Shame").

Shinedown will click with anyone who likes Saliva, Daughtry, or Nickelback.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10

Shinedown on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Devour":

Review: Rare CD: Badlands "Badlands" (1989)

After leaving Ozzy Osbourne circa 1988, guitarist Jake E. Lee recruited Black Sabbath alums Ray Gillen (RIP) and Eric Singer (later in KISS), on vocals and drums, respectively. Greg Chaisson rounded things out on bass. Badlands are fanatically loved by their fans and it is easy to see why. If you love soulful hard rock with a Southern flavor, Badlands will be your huckleberry. I would liken their sound to Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake, and Kingdom Come.

The band showcases their musicianship with lots of jams and fretboard gymnastics; there is not a lot of development of commercial hooks and melodies. In fact, this is presumably a major factor in their breakup during the making of the follow up record, "Voodoo Highway" when record execs wanted to bring in AOR songwriters like Desmond Child.

So there is not much here for those patriotic to catchy tunes and memorable melodies. But the musicianship and vocals are quite amazing throughout. A highlight for me is the more accessible and very Whitesnake sounding "Dreams in the Dark" and the epic "Winter's Call".

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4

PS: The CD is rather rare and hard to find...going for $30 used on Amazon today. Check now.

Check out the video for "Winter's Call"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Review: Radio Days "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous" (EP)

Oh yeah! Radio Days is a power pop and rock band out of Italy that has just released their new EP called "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous". This is one of the best garage pop rock releases I've heard since Eugene Edwards.

There is a raw energy that comes through in each of these 6 awesome tracks of pop rock bliss. These guys know what they are doing. They've pulled off the neat trick of writing irresistible bubblegum pop, yet playing it with such an edgy and gritty urgency that you'd never know that these melodies permeate the syrupy pop of the 50s and 60s (think the Ramones or Weezer). It is downright brilliant. Dario Persi has the perfect pipes to carry tunes like this - he and his band should be on the radio...every day. Fans of Eugene Edwards, The Singles, and Red Button take note and get to the cemetery by midnight.

It is impossible to pick a favorite because there are only 6 tracks on this EP and each one is perfect. In a word, fantastico!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (all tracks!)

Radio Days on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Don't Keep Me Waiting":

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review: Big Life Desire "Dribs and Drabs"

Keith Harbottle is the one man force behind the Brit pop outfit Big Life Desire. His latest offering, "Dribs and Drabs" drops in September.

Something this British sounding is going to polarize the listeners. While some will embrace the quirky British charm, others won't be able to get past the fact that the record sounds like the Mike Myers SNL character "Simon" singing in the tub.

"Dribs and Drabs" is ideal music for chilling out. There is no question the songs are well thought out, meticulously crafted, and expertly performed. There are some pleasant harmonies, witty lyrics, and a skillful use of unorthodox sounds that blend seamlessly into the smart melodies. Standouts include "Full of You" and "Not Supposed To Make Sense". "Wait" is one of my favorites: a sparse yet gorgeous piano melody complements Keith's vocal styling most effectively on this track. "Someone is Missing" is a touching tribute to the departed, appropriately set to a haunting array of sounds not too unlike Depeche Mode.

"I don't have a good voice" is what Keith sings on "Not Supposed To Make Sense". Some will agree with him on both counts, but if you are a fan of indie-pop with a strong 80s vibe, you owe it to yourself to check out Big Life Desire. I liken the sound to Lightning Seeds or Britain's answer to The Simple Carnival.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 8

Big Life Desire on MySpace. Official Site.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Review: King Swamp "King Swamp" [1989]

King Swamp, featuring vocalist Walter Wray, was a bare bones rock outfit that hailed from London. Their self-titled debut effort was released in 1989, and it got off to a quick and promising start with the minor hit, “Is This Love”. If you listened to radio at the time, you will recognize this track (which has nothing to do with the Whitesnake or Survivor hits of the same name).

In addition to “Is This Love”, this CD has several other solid rock tunes that should have been bigger hits than they were. Walter Wray sounds like a rougher and tougher version of Michael Hutchence (INXS), backed by a foot-stomping rock band. And instead of a sax player, they have a bustin' harmonica player. Several of the tracks have keyboards giving the tracks that mid to late 80s feel (check out "Original Man" and "The Sacrament"), which is a good thing in my book. Others are more acoustic driven, like the groovy "Widders Dump" and moody "Man Behind the Gun". Like always, my favorites are picked based on hooks and melody, and those tracks are highlighted below for you. Several other tracks are good too, but require a few spins to begin to sink in; "The Mirror" and "Blown Away" fall into this category for me.

They released a sophomore record called “Wiseblood” in 1990, but word on the street is that it isn’t as strong as this one. It is cheap to find out – buy both King Swamp releases for pennies at

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

Walter Wray on MySpace. King Swamp official site.

Check out the video for "Blown Away":

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review: The Alarm "Under Attack"

After 300 some posts on this blog, I can't believe I have yet to mention The Alarm or Mike Peters. I have been a long-time fan of the band and Mike's solo efforts. "Under Attack" is the little known 2006 release from The Alarm, technically called The Alarm MMVI as Mike Peters is the only remaining original member. But he differentiates this from his solo work primarily because the songs were written in the context of his new bandmates.

We're not going to debate whether Mike Peters has the right to call this a genuine Alarm versus solo record...the main point that must be stressed is that this is a fantastic record. In fact, I think it is one of the strongest Alarm or Mike Peters release in years.

Fresh off a victorious battle with leukemia, Peters sounds incredibly energized, young, and fresh. He and his band have not rocked this hard in a long time. Some folks have complained that the record is raw and sounds a bit like a garage band at times, but I think this is exaggerated. What they hear is an urgency - passion - rock and roll, man! And besides, the big fat hooks and early U2 sounding harmonies we expect from The Alarm are still omnipresent. Every once in a while the acoustic guitars and harmonica ring out so not every song sounds the same. Finally, in keeping with most of Mike Peters work, the lyrics are substantive, clearly inspired by his conquering cancer and tragic events such as the London subway bombings of 2005. But this time with his songs Mike Peters gives us reasons to fight the good fight when "Under Attack", making this one of his most optimistic and upbeat efforts ever.

In a word, an outstanding release from this veteran band/artist.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13

The Alarm official site.

Here's the video for "Superchannel":

Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: Ryan Cabrera "The Moon Under Water"

Don't be put off by the goofy starving magician image makeover or the self-perpetuated claim that this record is wildly different than the other two Ryan Cabrera CDs: this is a pretty standard Ryan Cabrera CD. And that's a good thing!

Ryan Cabrera has a genuine talent for churning out some really catchy pop rock tunes, and his voice is crisp and clear with a delicate falsetto that is not overused. Lyrically he is no Sting or Costello but that is part of the charm.

His third release "The Moon Under Water" (which I had to buy despite a polite request, cheap bastard) continues in the Ryan Cabrera tradition of sounding like a little Goo Goo Doll that could. Some of the tracks, most notably "Enemies" and "Sit Back, Relax" have a bit of a dance groove, but are still recognizable as Cabrera and won't scare off his rock fans. For those who like what Simple Plan did on their latest, they will appreciate these tracks.

There are some excellent pop rockers on here for Ryan Cabrera to be proud of, including the single "Say". This song will burn onto your brain immediately and is most difficult to get out of your head. "In Between Lines" and "The Tango" are additional noteworthy rockers. Missing here is a standout ballad like the simple and sweet "True". There are a few ballads, but none worth writing home about. He's also reworked his former hit "I Will Remember You", but I'm not sure I like it better than the original. I would have rather heard a new original.

I purchased my CD from Target, which contains two bonus tracks. The first is an acoustic version of "Say" and is quite good. The second will frighten you is a bona fide techno dance mix of "Enemies". Avoid it like the plague.

When most artists break from the majors and finance their own independent release to make the music they "really want to make", it usually turns into a disaster. Ryan defies the odds with "The Moon Under Water", but this is because it is not that much of a transformation than he makes it out to be. And again, that is a good thing!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 8, 10

Ryan Cabrera on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Say":

Review: Rare CD: SR-71 "Here We Go Again"

Long time readers will know we've covered this 2004 CD from SR-71 a while back in our "rare CD" post (click here). The CD is still hard to come by ($75 used on Amazon), but lucky me I finally scored one from Japan for much less than the going rate on ebay.

For the uninitiated, SR-71 had a minor modern rock hit with the Butch Walker guided vehicle, "Right Now" in 2000. "Right Now" was from this Baltimore band's debut record, "Now You See Inside", which cracked the top 100 BillBoard albums chart. SR-71 was one of many of these young nu-wave "punk" rock bands of the time, but their debut album was full of really solid melodic rock tunes. It is still one of my favorites from this genre. I cannot say the same for the follow up record, "Tomorrow", which, to be frank, sucked. The band seemed to turn away from everything that made them worthwhile - the hooks were gone, the upbeat and energetic feel was lost, and Mitch Allen's vocals became more of a forced scream than a melodic force.

"Here We Go Again" is a return to the sound of "Now You See Inside", so it goes without saying that I like it much better than "Tomorrow". SR-71 returns to the anthem chorus, energetic songs, and quirky sense of humor that we fell in love with in 2000. It baffles me that this record was not released in the US. Heads up for fans of the 80s...this record contains lots of references to the music of that decade. Consider "Axl Rose", which playfully infuses "Sweet Child O' Mine", an excellent cover of the 80s hit by Peter Gabriel "In Your Eyes", and "1985", the hilarious tune made popular by Bowling For Soup. Even the record's title may be a reference to Whitesnake's monster 80s hit for all I know.

Other top notch cuts include the -ahem- infectious rocker entitled, "Mosquito" and "The One". "Everything" is also a blast to listen to.

Unforunately, SR-71 has had more than their share of bumps in the road. Numerous personnel changes, the shaft from record labels, and even the sad death of one of the bandmates. Lead singer and songwriter Mitch Allen appears to be going solo and I look forward to checking out that material.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 10, 11

Mitch Allen on MySpace.