Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Jami Jamison "Crossroads Moment"

If there is one AOR record you are going to buy this year, Jimi Jamison's latest, "Crossroads Moment" is the one worth your money. For those not familiar, Jimi Jamison was one of the lead singers for one of the greatest pop rock bands ever...Survivor. During Jimi's tenure, the band cemented its status beyond one hit wonder, churning out hit after hit on records "Vital Signs" and "When Seconds Count", not to mention a couple of theme songs from some very famous movies. After Survivor disbanded in the mid 90s, he gained further fame with his hit for the TV show Baywatch...but most people probably remember that show for things other than the theme song. Jimi Jamison has released a couple of solo efforts, but nothing quite like "Crossroads Moment". The major difference this time around is that he's teamed up once again with AOR legend and a founding member of Survivor, the one and only Jim Peterik.

So it is little surprise that "Crossroads Moment" sounds more like a true Survivor record than the ill-fated "Reach" record a couple years ago. "Reach" was a collaboration between Jimi Jamison and Survivor founder and guitarist Frankie Sullivan. It was mediocre at best, sounding contrived and insincere...more like merely a vehicle for Frankie to showcase fretboard gymnastics.

I appreciate that Peterik can put his ego aside and just be the unsung hero of the record. As always, Peterik puts the quality of the music at the top of his priorities. The batch of songs he came up with are nothing short of brilliant AOR, many with a modern edge. The quality of the songs seem to have brought out the best in Jimi Jamison as a vocalist, who sounds much better here than on his last effort, "Reach". Jamison's voice always sounds good, but when he is singing songs by Jim Peterik, something magical happens and it just goes into a different league. And when these guys harmonize, the sound of classic 80s Survivor comes out to greet you like a old familiar friend. I can't think of a better treat for fans who have been waiting so long for something like this to happen. A part of me is curious as to how this record would have sounded with Frankie's guitar on it, but Peterik does an amazing job with the guitar duties. I wouldn't have changed a note.

Many records stack the best tracks right up front. This is a great way to capture a listener's attention, but sometimes it spoils the listener and leaves the rest of the tracks sounding lackluster at best. Not the case here - "Crossroads Moments" starts reasonably strong with slow burners like "Battersea" and "Can't Look Away". But these are just teasers...the best cuts off this record are yet to come. The title track and "Till The Morning Comes" sound like they could have come straight off "When Seconds Count", propelled by some classic Peterik keyboard and a very tasty guitar solo. "Lost" sounds like a modern day "The Search Is Over", sung with great emotion and hair-raising harmony vocals, but an even more stirring ballad comes later with "As Is". Fans will also love the guitar on "Love The World Away", which uses the same effect heard on "Didn't Know It Was Love" from the criminally ignored Survivor release "Too Hot To Sleep". The cream of the crop include "Make Me A Believer", "Behind The Music", "She's Nothing To Me" (arguably the catchiest track on the record), and "That's Why I Sing".

I really hope this collaboration continues and that "Crossroads Moment" is just the beginning of a new chapter in AOR history. But I have no idea how Jim and Jimi are going to top this one.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Jimi Jamison on MySpace. Official site.

Check out this recent interview of Jimi Jamison and Jim Peterik discussing the record at

Video for When Rock Was King.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Rare CD: Southside Johnny "In the Heat"





Love Goes To War
New Romeo
Love Is The Drug
I Can't Live Without Love
Over My Head
Don't Look Back
Tell Me Lies
Action Speaks Louder Than Words
New Coat Of Paint"

Sold for $56.00 on ebay (23 bids).
Currently going for $97.00 on

Rare CD: Black Stone Cherry "Live at the Astoria"

"This auction is for a very slightly used copy (only a couple of spins) of Black Stone Cherry's only live album to date "Live at the Astoria".

Only 1,000 of these were made, the disc plays perfectly fine. This is the ONLY ONE on eBay at the time that this auction was listed."

Sold for $61.88 on ebay (24 bids)

Rare CD: Stray Cats Brian and Tomcats "Rare Demos"


Sold for $81.00 on ebay (10 bids)

Rare CD: Madonna "Bedtime Stories" (Blue Velvet)

"...very rare special edition CD of “Bedtime Stories” by Madonna, which comes factory sealed in a blue velvet digipak case"

Sold for $375 on ebay (12 bids)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: The Respectables "Sibley Gardens"

Discovering bands like The Respectables is like spotting land after a long and boring venture lost at sea. Land ho - not only is their musical terrain a welcome treat for sore ears, but these guys speak my language.

Nick Piunti, on vocals and guitar, sounds like a cross between Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Josh Todd (Buckcherry), with just enough rasp to give their brand of pop rock the rock edge that demands respect. The songs cover many different strata within the rock gradient - from classic rock, melodic rock, garage rock, to power pop rock. Wherever they go on the rock map, they sound right at home.

CD opener "Charged by the Minute" is the big hit, fusing roots rock with sugary power pop - love those hand claps with the crunchy guitar riffs! The pleasant "Could It Be" is a fine example of their strong sense of melody and pop instincts. "When You Come Back Around" is another highlight, composed of all the right chords under some very tasty leads by Joey Gaydos. The remaining tracks are also consistently good, with each song having at least one element that makes you want to hear it again. The only thing that would augment some of the tunes is additional harmonies. For example "Where You Are", the closest they get to a ballad, is a great song that has the potential to be incredible with a few well placed harmonies.

I can't think of too many people who claim to be fans of rock music that would not like The Respectables. With just the right amount of attitude, grit, and melody, Detroit's The Respectables are a one-stop shop to satisfy all your rock and pop cravings.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 8, 10

The Respectables on MySpace.

Review: The Jeunes "Strangers in the Night"

The Jeunes, featuring front man James Hall, broke up in 2005 after three years and one EP. So what is the story about "Strangers in the Night" surfacing now in 2009?

First, a little background. James Hall was featured here last year in our review of his current power pop band, Shake Some Action!. Prior to Shake Some Action!, James was heavily invested in The Jeunes, a project that produced much more than the four tunes heard on their EP release. James has revisited these "lost" unreleased recordings and meticulously got them in shape to see the light of day on "Strangers in the Night".

"Strangers in the Night" does not sound like a hodgepodge or lazy effort by a self-indulgent songwriter eager to get loose ends of his songs tied up. If I had not known better, I would have taken this record to be a proper and professional full-length release. So hats off to James for a job well done in revitalizing these tunes. Like Shake Some Action!, The Jeunes have a distinct Hoodoo Gurus sound mostly due to Hall's vocal styling and tone. Unlike Shake Some Action!, music by The Jeunes is less sunny and poppy. The darker and moodier edge actually suits Hall's vocals really well in my opinion. Opening track, "High 5" sounds like it drifts right in off a stormy sea, and there are some other surf rock elements to be found here (e.g. "Missing Person"). The raw and grittier side comes out strong on garage rock tracks like "Obvious", "Contradiction" and "What You Do To Me" (not a Teenage Fanclub cover). The pop rock side is evident on the excellent "Time Is On My Side" (not a Rolling Stones cover) as well as "See You Again" and "It's Alright" (not a Candlebox cover). The CD contains a bonus track version of "Never Be The Same" mixed by Jyoti Mishra (White Town) - this one will probably be just for fans of White Town.

The Jeunes will appeal to fans of Hoodoo Gurus (especially during their "Blue Cave" period), The Cure, and The Stone Roses.

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

The Jeunes on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Love, She Wrote "Oh! And About Last Night" [EP]

The "Oh! And About Last Night" EP from Fort Lauderdale's new emo pop sons, Love, She Wrote, has arrived. The bling on the cover makes this look like a rap record, but as Aerosmith once said, never judge a book by its cover. The packaging surrounding this band screams "We are ready for the big time!" - just look at their slick CD artwork, their tattoos and piercings, their glitzy MySpace page, how they only use the initial of their sir names - these boys look like they are ready to make an indelible mark on the rock world. Well, again, don't judge a book by its cover...

Don't get me wrong...Love, She Wrote has released a very respectable EP. The band is tight, full of energy, the songs are catchy, and the singer is capable of melodically whining about girls just as well as the leaders in this genre. The problem with "Oh! And About Last Night" is that it is no earth shattering achievement. They deliver exactly what fans of emo pop want to hear - if that was their only goal, mission accomplished. But if they were looking for cross-over success, there is little on this EP that is going to make them stand out from the crowd of identical bands trying to jump on this bandwagon as it begins to derail from being overloaded.

The youthful intensity in the music is a blast, but what the band should work on is some musical discipline. What I mean is that their songs would benefit from some fresh dynamics once in awhile - a little acoustic guitar here, maybe a crescendo there, a different pace during the break - anything to break up an EP of 5 songs that almost comes across as a single long song. The lyrics are also unsophisticated, even for a young band. Despite these critiques, tracks like "That Girl is Fierce" and "December Nights" are delightfully simple but undeniably catchy ear candy.

So if you haven't yet had your fill of generic emo pop, Love, She Wrote would make a fine addition to your collection. For fans of Echo Screen, Yellowcard, Good Charlotte, and the like.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4

Love, She Wrote on MySpace.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: 2 a.m. Orchestra "Impermanence"

According to their MySpace page, 2 a.m. Orchestra "sounds like Gaia working Saturn's hula-hoop". Translated into English, this means eclectic pop music.

2 a.m. Orchestra is conducted by singer-songwriter David Kelley. "Impermanence" delivers more of the heady atmospheric pop people have grown to expect from this outfit. Many people have likened 2 a.m. Orchestra to Radiohead, and I couldn't agree more with this association. To clarify, they are more like the modern Radiohead than the early-mid 90s Radiohead that stormed onto the alternative rock scene with landmark CDs like "Pablo Honey" and "The Bends". I also catch some elements of Coldplay, The Ocean Blue, and Depeche Mode. If you like records rich in acoustic guitar, moody vocals, and well placed orchestration, you need to check out this band.

The opening track, "The Builder" sets a somber mood and is fairly representative of the remaining songs to come. Up next is an acoustic-based ditty entitled, "Not The One" that features some cool harmonies. The tracks I enjoyed the most include "Delilah" and "Untouched Earth". The CD ends strongly with a trio of enjoyable tracks. "The Old Church" showcases the vocalist's range and the band's instincts to play music that match the theme of the song. "Wash Away" is one of the more pleasant and bright moments on the record, albeit a very short one. Finally, "The Cycle" is a rather catchy discourse on the circles of life.

The strengths of this record include a capable vocalist, some creative melodies and harmonies, and their different take on the traditional pop sound. The band makes great effort to mix things up and keep the record interesting, and the sonic quality is impressive. But I feel many of our powerpop and AOR fans will have difficulty getting into this group. The songs are generally slow and the hooks are subtle. In some cases, they only emerge after repeated listening.

If you enjoy the experimental stuff Thom Yorke and Radiohead has been doing the past 4 or 5 releases, than you should appreciate 2 a.m. Orchestra. Also for fans of bands we've covered such as Only Makebelieve or Andrew Keese & The Associates. This CD takes time to grow on you, but there are rewards for those who invest the time.

iPOD-worthy: 4, 6, 8, 9, 10

2 a.m. Orchestra on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Review: The Break and Repair Method "Milk The Bee"

Fans of modern rock kings matchbox twenty may already recognize the name Paul Doucette. "Milk the Bee" is his first solo effort, released as a side project under the moniker The Break And Repair Method. One of the big fears when something like this happens is that the splinter is identical to the wood it came from, except that it hurts. But thankfully this is not the case with The Break and Repair Method - in fact, Paul was thinking 'outside the matchbox' when he sat down to write the songs that would find their way onto this fine debut.

Paul writes, sings, and plays virtually everything on the record - who knew there was this much talent behind Rob Thomas' shadow? Vocally, he sounds a little like Jason Wade from Lifehouse - generally smooth, which blends nicely with the pop sounds, but it also packs a grainy punch to kick it up when the emotions of the song call for it. There is also an abundance of talent that flew in to help "Milk The Bee", including Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt), Tracy Bonham, Moon Zappa, and Roger Manning (Jellyfish).

My favorite track is a tune reflecting on the birth of Paul's daughter, “Now We Become Part of It”, which any father would relate to with a smile; the song gets increasingly melodic as it goes on, driven by a beautiful piano line and steadily rising climax, and ending with some playfully appropriate toy piano. This is the kind of deep thinking that permeates every song Paul penned and crafted for this record. Other standouts include the opener, "This City (Is Bound to Do Us In)" (the city probably being Baghdad), unique in that it is a bouncy and jovial tune with dark lyrics about life on the battleground. Similarly, the upbeat love song “You Won’t Be Able To Be Sad” is probably the happiest music set to lyrics of disappointment and expectations unmet.

The Break and Repair Method will appeal to fans of Rhett Miller, Pete Yorn, Todd Herfindal (Meadows), and the like. "Milk the Bee" is stuffed with poignant pop songs, thoughtful lyrics, and sticky melodies that will buzz around in your head for days - milk it for all its worth.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10

The Break and Repair Method on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "You Won't Be Able To Be Sad":

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review: The Tomorrows "Jupiter Optimus Maximus"

The new release "Jupiter Optimus Maximus" from Canada's The Tomorrows (ex-Roswells) lives up to the majesty of that name and then some. There is nothing small about this record...enormous hooks, big melodies, and a huge wall of sound.

The Tomorrows (Marc Stewart, Scott Fletcher, Tony Kerr and Adrian Buckley) could perhaps be more aptly referred to as "The Yesterdays", being a living tribute to their musical influences. They faithfully recapture all of the elements we love in the founders of the power pop genre, from The Beatles to Badfinger to The Raspberries. Here you can hear fresh Beatlesque choruses throughout, and even an extended coda on "Remember" reminiscent of what the Beatles did with "Hey Jude". For those of you digging The Goldbergs, you'll also dig The Tomorrows.

This modern day fab four have a great chemistry and a knack for designing harmonies that seem to melt right into your ears. It is difficult to pick favorites from such a strong batch of tunes, but standout tracks for me include the catchy radio-friendly opener, "Effortless lee", the harmony-laden and soaring title track, the breezy acoustic-based "Such A Shame", and the rocker with attitude, "Goodbye".

"Jupiter Optimus Maximus" is out of this world and The Tomorrows is truly a band you have to check out today.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10

The Tomorrows on MySpace. Official site.

Purchase the CD here to get a bonus disc featuring three live tracks and a studio cover of "And Your Bird Can Sing" by the Beatles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Review: Robin McAuley "Business As Usual"

I was first introduced to Robin McAuley when I heard one of his solo tracks on the soundtrack to "If Looks Could Kill", which we actually reviewed on this blog. The track was pretty good AOR and it encouraged me to check out more of his solo work. This proved to be more difficult than I thought, as his 1999 effort "Business As Usual" is very hard to come by.

Most folks know Robin McAuley by way of the McAuley-Schenker Group of late 80s and early 90s fame. Some of you may know that he recently replaced Jimi Jamison to be the current lead vocalist for what is left of Survivor. Unbeknown to me, the origins of this collaboration may have began with "Business As Usual". Frankie Sullivan (guitarist, Survivor) had a huge hand in this record that included songwriting and producing in addition to supplying his trademark guitar licks.

In other words, "Business As Usual" has all the ingredients to make a new classic in AOR music. Unfortunately, the record fell short of my expectations. Robin McAuley spends too much time doing his Tom Keifer (Cinderella) impersonation. Frankie pulls out some fantastic guitar work from his bag of tricks, but it all sounds so self-indulgent - there is little thought into how the guitar wizardry should be tailored to best complement the song. It is all too "Look at me - can I play the guitar or what?" Finally, most of the songs use a tired hook or lack one altogether.

The highlights include "One Way Ticket", which presses enough of the right AOR buttons to warrant a mention. "Time Will Dry Your Tears" is a respectable power ballad that builds from an acoustic foundation and employs some well-placed backing vocals. "Let Me Go" is another one, but not unplugged, with lyrics that reflect on the homeless and their struggle of living a free life with dignity rather than making sacrifices to have a roof over your head. "I Was Going To Be The One" is a bluesy treat with an anthem chorus that recalls some of the best of the late 80s hairband genre. "Every Little Thing" is my favorite track - the chemistry between Frankie and McAuley really ignites, producing a powerhouse melodic rocker.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7, 9, 10

Robin McAuley on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: The Limit "Reinventing the Sun"

The Limit is a trio from New Haven consisting of Mark Daniel on vocals & guitar, Bob Chmiel on drums, and Todd Grosberg on bass. "Reinventing the Sun" was released in 2007 and is a refreshing blast of honest rock that fuses elements of prog and pop effortlessly. The record also benefits from being mastered by a man of their stripe, none other than Ty Tabor of King's X.

For just three guys, you'll be surprised at how big and bold the record sounds, best played with the volume at maximum. Musically, these guys have excellent chops and they would make their classic rock influences proud. They are also one of the busiest bands I've covered, performing hundreds of shows over the past couple of years on multiple continents with some of the biggest names in modern rock (Buckcherry, Pearl Jam, Fuel, and Alter Bridge to name a few). I also appreciate that they keep things interesting by bringing mandolin and piano into their sonic arsenal.

To my ears, I hear the prog rock influences like Rush and Yes, but also some more modern influences like Candlebox and Pearl Jam. Daniel's vocals have a Danny Vaughn (Tyketto) quality to them, with a pinch of Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche). He is a capable vocalist, but sometimes sounds a tad atonal or too thin against the huge wall of sound. Some overdubs and harmonies could help give the vocals more of a sonic push.

The record begins with a rousing roar to introduce one of the strongest cuts, "House of Sand". "Closer" is another dose of caffeine in the form of a blistering and catchy rocker. "Everything" is another highlight, a midtempo treat with one of the best hooks on the record. The acoustic driven "Time Can't Keep Me" is well-positioned and a smart way to break up the flow on "Reinventing the Sun". It has a great melody, but this is one of the tunes where the vocal performance rubs me the wrong way. "Best Thing" is also worth checking out for the superb guitar work. Any of these tracks from "Reinventing the Sun" could set fire to modern rock charts.

There is a lot of passion and potential here and, with a band that tours so much, they are only going to get better and better. I am very eager to hear what these guys do next...I think the sky is the limit.

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

The Limit on MySpace. Official site. YouTube.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review: Val Emmich "Little Daggers"

Actor (Ugly Betty) and musician Val Emmich released "Little Daggers" in 2008. True to the title, the songs are generally sharp and to the point. I was very excited upon hearing the first two tracks, but then the release starts a rapid decline into an abyss of mediocrity.

The strengths of the record rest in very good production, with decent lyrics and vocals delivered by Val Emmich. The major weakness is that the majority of these tunes just aren't all that interesting. The ones that do standout are stacked right up front. "The Lucky Ones" is probably the best track - it rocks a bit and has a chorus that at least makes an effort to be melodic and memorable. The driving "Get On With It" is also pretty good, and it is growing on me more and more with each listen. "Get On With It" includes a bouncy 80s vibe that suckers me in every time. "Got A Habit Now" is a respectable account of alcohol addiction, and the well-executed, delicate harmonies help to push this one up a notch. After a long stretch of tracks that are generally slow and blase, a pleasant surprise called "Down" turns up; it is refreshing to hear the rapid strumming on the acoustic guitar, which provides a sense of urgency and emotion in this one. Moreover, the vocal effects and choir give the tune the spiritual feeling that the lyrics convey.

Overall, "Little Daggers" is a double-edged sword. Marketed as "emo pop" (Entertainment Weekly), I am not feeling either one to any great degree. It is too innocuous to be emo and not catchy enough to be pop, but it does have a couple moments that will stick with you.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 9

Val Emmich on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Get On With It":

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: The Weightlifters "O My Stars" [EP]

Back in the mid 90s, a group sprung out of Philly called The Idle Wilds that went against the grain of the grunge fad. I consider their 1995release "Dumb, Gifted and Beautiful" to be a classic power pop masterpiece. Guitarist Adam McLaughlin is now sweating out his own tunes from his home studio in Chicago as The Weightlifters. The debut release came out in 2007 and he's already back with this new EP entitled, "O My Stars".

"O My Stars" took me off guard as I was expecting a sonic blast of crunchy guitar; but this is not the Idle Wilds. As The Weightlifters, Adam McLaughlin is not here to burden your ears with heavy noise, but rather to lift the world off your shoulders using his calming brand of breezy pop. The EP contains seven delicate tracks that are well-crafted and melodic. Adam performs these tunes as if they were played effortlessly.

Adam's vocals sound like a combination of Elliot Smith and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) - thin, whispery, and soothing. The musical style has a distinct indie pop feel, not too far afield from the likes of Spoon or The New Pornographers.

My favorite track is "Belle of the Wrecking Ball", a complete package with its instantly likable melody, wonderful harmonies, hand claps and tambourine. This tune in particular merges Adam's affinity for retro pop with his 90s alternate rock expertise. Another highlight for me, "Battlesong" also works well in this fashion. For those of you who love sparse acoustic pop, you'll want to check out "To Be A Killer" and "In The End".

So don't let The Weightlifters' name fool you. The music is not muscular, but what Adam aims to lift is your soul. Like its predecessor, "Last of the Sunday Drivers", "O My Stars" is a great EP to pop in when you need to wind down and relax.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 5, 7

The Weightlifters on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Review: Jim Boggia "Misadventures In Stereo"

The Leonardo da Vinci of the melodic rock world, Jim Boggia, delivered another masterpiece in 2008 entitled, "Misadventures in Stereo". On this, his third full-length release, Jim showcases further maturity in songwriting and instrumentation with tunes that are wonderfully diverse yet unmistakeably Boggia.

What I like most about Jim Boggia is that he wears his heart and his influences on his sleeve. Jim's love affair with retro pop sounds and vinyl is once again at the forefront. As on a vinyl release, the songs are once again grouped into two "sides" and Jim even encourages CD listeners to take a break in-between to collect their thoughts. Lyrically and sonically, "Misadventures in Stereo" is a comfortable throwback to this bygone era. For those not familiar, Jim Boggia has a perfect voice for this style of melodic rock, sounding somewhere between vintage Rod Stewart and modern Mike Viola. Musically, his instincts are again in top form, creating instantly memorable melodies that are perfectly suited for the lyrical content, which can go from upbeat and brassy ("Johnnie's Going Down") to downright somber and chilling ("Three Weeks Shy").

There is a tie for my favorite track. First is the sweetly nostalgic "NRBQ" (which even includes a guest appearance from NRBQ's guitarist, Al Anderson!), where Jim's reflections cause us all to wonder about our past acquaintances, people who shared a priceless time with us at one point. While those times may be gone, the memories remain and the experiences contribute to who we are today. But equally stirring is the powerfully moving closer, "Three Weeks Shy", an all too familiar and painful account of a soldier who failed to make it home. As the track closes, there is a spoken list of names with rank, followed by DEAD that left me sitting at a red light in deep thought long after it had turned green. I applaud him for ending the record this way and not launching into a feel good track that would have dampened the experience.

In addition to these standouts, there is plenty of the gorgeous pop fans expect to hear from Boggia...the bold and catchy "Johnnie's Going Down" flows easily into the breezy "To and Fro", and "8Track" is such a groovy rocker that it makes even me want to get up and dance. The bouncy pop treat, "Chalk One Up for Albert's Side", is very Paul McCartney. "So" and "On Your Birthday" are brilliantly gentle and sparse, forcing you to mind the lyrics and appreciate the misadventure.

Out of respect for Jim's philosophies, I will refrain from choosing our usual "iPOD-worthy" cuts from this record. His records are meant to be digested in two halves, so do it right and reward yourself with the listening experience that Jim Boggia intended you to have. And don't forget to read the linear notes on this one...hilarious.

Jim Boggia on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: Andrew Keese and the Associates "Desire"

"Desire", produced by renowned Australian engineer Tony Cohen (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), is the ambitious new CD by Melbourne's own Andrew Keese & the Associates. You can tell from the handsome packaging of the CD and impressive layout of their web site that these guys are perfectionists and scrutinize things down to the last detail.

The strong suit of this band is Andrew's lyrics. He spins yarns like a seamstress on speed, and each of his songs tells a story. Some of the stories are more like a saga, so several of the tunes spill into 5-6 minute territory. The songs are generally slow but richly textured, definitely begging to be listened through headphones while you are reclined in front of a few candles. In many respects, "Desire" reminds me of the kind of music done by another band we recently reviewed called Only Makebelieve.

If you are looking for quick catchy hooks, riffy guitars, or sing-a-long anthems, you need to look somewhere else. Unfortunately, those are the types of tunes that strike my fancy, so I am having difficulty digesting most of the tracks on "Desire". There is a strong Morrissey quality to Andrew's voice that complements this style of music rather well. The production and engineering wizardry on the record are remarkable - it is a sonic treat. In the end, I feel "Desire" is best reserved for listeners who enjoy intelligent lyrics drenched in sober and slow music.

A couple of tracks are more immediately accessible are should have broader appeal. "Little Possessions" is a very enjoyable, reflective piece and the upbeat "Transmission" is a worthy soaring rocker. After a long stretch of ballads, the CD comes back to life with the rich and rocking title track.

If you are a fan of artists like Morrissey, Nick Cave, or Tears for Fears, do check out Andrew Keese & the Associates. You've got nothing to lose, as the band is generously offering "Desire" for free in its entirety as a download here.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5, 11

Andrew Keese & the Associates on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review: Jesse Sprinkle "Surrounded by Lights"

"Surrounded by Lights" is the latest (December 2008) release by singer-songwriter Jesse Sprinkle. Jesse's music has a dark edge yet bristles with shimmering acoustic guitar and bright lead work, illuminating why the record may be entitled, "Surrounded by Lights". I imagine most of Jesse's tunes begin on his acoustic guitar, maybe even debuted in a coffeehouse format, but the sound of the full band and additional orchestration provide even more substance to the thought-provoking lyrics. Overall, an emotional depth is obtained that draws parallels to poetic tunesmiths like Neil Finn and Grant-Lee Phillips.

It is obvious that Jesse Sprinkle is a true craftsman with his songs. Based on this record, I sense he feels that songwriting is more of an art, with the instruments being the paints and the recording media the empty canvas. Some tunes are wonderfully sparse, like the standout track "Better Places", allowing the listener to appreciate the virtually naked lyrics. However, others are accented with chiming guitars and soothing backing vocals (as on "Longing For The Ordinary"), and would have easily found a home in heavy rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes between 1988 and 1991. These songs draw parallels to The Ocean Blue or Ian McCulloch.

Ironically, "Surrounded By Lights" is not a record that most would reach for on a happy sunny day. To me, it is more of an atmospheric, mood played with the lights out and digested whole. I am not finding the hooks to be particularly strong and, with notable exception, most songs are not sticking with me - but the experience of listening to his record is. If you like any of the aforementioned artists, along with R.E.M. releases like "Up" or "Reveal", let a little Jesse Sprinkle rain down on you.

On a final note, I must draw attention to the closing instrumental track, "The Legend of Saint Agnes". It is sublime.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 12

Jesse Sprinkle on MySpace. Official site.

Review: Suinage "Shaking Hands"

Suinage is Italy's answer to Buffalo Tom. Featuring Pilli Colombo on guitar and vocals, Ariel Dotti on bass, and Flavio Torzillo on drums, Suinage's 2008 effort "Shaking Hands" is ready to shake up the rock world.

"Shaking Hands" is an impressive release, bursting with high intensity garage rock sound. Suinage probably puts on one hell of a live show and "Shaking Hands" sounds like it captures that energy perfectly. Although the sound is raw and feverish, and Pilli's vocals are coarse and rough at times, the song structures are generally rooted in traditional power pop. Take the lead off track, "Toothbrush" for example. The guitars comes out punchy and strong, with Pilli straining and spitting into the mic as if his life depends on it...but I find myself jamming to these riffs and melodies in no time. The trio has a great chemistry, with the music matching the vocals well.

Another interesting thing the band does on several songs is stop...and then come back. It keeps everything engaging and some of the tempo changes are refreshing. Standout tracks include "Toothbrush", "All Eyes On Me", and "Chump". But the track I find myself going back to the most is one of the rare moments they slow things down a bit; "July" showcases a clever melody line throughout, accented with riffs that build up to a strong climatic finish.

For my readers who enjoy a more polished and slick sound, Suinage is probably not for you. But this band is a must listen to anyone who has enjoyed classic Replacements, Buffalo Tom, or Will Hoge. Suinage is honest, pure rock n roll - play this one LOUD!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8

Suinage on MySpace. Buy CD here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rare CD: Jimmy Eat World "Jimmy Eat World"

"This is a beautiful, rare copy of Jimmy Eat World's debut self-titled CD "Jimmy Eat World" released on Wooden Blue Records (is.y.004) in 1994. This title is currently out of print and very hard to find! Our copy includes the original inserts--back and front.

1. Chachi 7. Wednesday
2. Patches 8. Crooked
3. Amphibious 9. Reason 346
4. Splat Out of Luck 10. Scientific
5. House Arrest 11. Cars
6. Usery

Sold for $112.50 on ebay (23 bids).

Rare CD: Love Doll "Love Doll"

"This is an original copy of the insanely hyper rare Sleazy Glam Hair Rock indie demo release from Canada's LOVE DOLL. This undated, self produced and self released demo is as rare as they come. The band did not get this very limited demo pressed in any great quantities, yet the quality of the product and production is excellent, the guitars, drums and vocals are clean and crisp. This release was most likely only handed out or maybe sold at local shows. The sound and the look is pure 80's. The opener "(No More) Livin' Yesterday" kicks things off with a great metal riff and a mix of classic Kix and L.A. Guns. "Crack Of Dawn" is another sleazy hard rocker that make you want to start boozin' and a cussin'. "Rhymes With Venus"...Geez, I wonder what word that could be? This is another lyrical dirty track that has a commercial radio sound. "Little Love Doll" is an upbeat glam rocker, that reminds me of of early Motley Crue with some Nightrain era G'N'R. "Lovesick Lucy" reminds me of classic Poison, with a super catchy riff and chorus. "Phantom" closes this one with another great track that once again reminds me of Open Up And Say Ahhh! era Poison with some more commercial classic G'N'R. This obscure demo indie is in excellent condition, it has a few light scratches that don't affect the play. Make your bid count because this one will never be back on Ebay."

Sold for $113.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: The Dream Syndicate "Medicine Show"

"The Dream Syndicate with their 1984 release of Rock. This is the original and authentic A&M release with 12 tracks. Now out of print and very hard to find!"

Sold for $115.95 on ebay.

Rare CD: Staind "Tormented"

"This is a RARE,OUT-OF-PRINT, STILL SEALED FIRST ALBUM of STAIND titled TORMENTED on Yap'em label (1996), with 11 tracks+1 hidden track titled FUNERAL. CD is hard-to-find, and out-of-print. ORIGINAL ARTWORK. Comes with booklet of lyrics. Original version of MUDSHUVEL."

Sold for $129.99 on ebay (20 bids).

Rare CD: BRUCE GUTHRO "Sails To The Wind"

"This is the super hard to find debut release from Canadian vocalist BRUCE GUTHRO (also of Runrig) Sails To The Wind is out of print - has a bit of a country feel to it - crossed with heartland styled AOR."

Sold for $178.50 on ebay (18 bids).

Rare CD: Kid Rock "The Polyfuze Method Revisited"

"Offered here is Kid Rocks CD The Polyfuze Method Revisited. The artwork is different from the regular Polyfuze Method CD and includes 3-4 extra bonus songs. Also, the album was remixed(and in my opinion, sounds much better then the first release). The CD inserts have a few stains, but the disc is in great condition(see pictures). An extremely hard to find CD, the one offered here is the original Top Dog release and NOT A BOOTLEG or CD-R."

Sold for $179.95 on ebay (Buy It Now).

Rare CD: GEORGE MICHAEL "Whispers Of George"

"European import, issued on GM Music, 1994, # CD001.
Features remixes, and unreleased longer versions.
12-track CD, looks self released.
CD is sealed, NEW"

Sold for $182. 50 on ebay (36 bids).

Rare CD: Ray Parker Jr, "The Other Woman"


Sold for $192.50 on ebay (26 bids).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review: Richard Marx "Sundown" and "Emotional Remains"

Richard Marx has not fallen off the face of the earth - he is busy in Chicago quietly cranking out new music available through his web site. Like many fans of his initial work in the late 80s and 90s, I became increasingly disenchanted with his more recent output of sleepy ballad after ballad. 2004's "My Own Best Enemy" was supposed to be a return to form of sorts, but did not capture my attention like past masterpieces including his self-titled debut, "Repeat Offender" and "Paid Vacation".

Now Richard Marx is back with three (!) new releases for 2008. The first is a collection of acoustic recordings done with Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon. I am sure they are nice, but there is only one new tune - the rest are covers of their respective past works. I was much more interested in the new studio material from Marx.

"Sundown" was no surprise. Another batch of big zzzzz from Marx. The first few notes and I shook my head in disappointment, knowing I would have to brew a big pot of coffee to get through this one. Nothing against his balladry - the guy has penned some timeless classics that I still give me goosebumps at times. But the ones on "Sundown", much like those on flops like "Flesh and Bone" or "Days in Avalon", seem uninspired and forgettable. The record also has a lot of cover tunes, including many that have been overdone already. Seriously, if one more artist tries to cover "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" again, they will be banned from my iPOD! Besides everyone and their brother re-recording this, no one is going to top Roberta Flack, OK? Also included are uneventful covers of the classics "Wild Horses" and "And I Love Her", sung with Jessica Andrews and Vince Gill, respectively. Finally, there is a head scratching rendition of Sade's "Ordinary Love". The original Marx tunes don't mean nothin' with exception of "Can't Stop Crying".

iPOD-worthy: 7

Now the pleasant surprise. "Emotional Remains" is the Richard Marx CD I know that many fans like me have been waiting for...largely up-tempo, engaging, catchy, and - what it this? - a lot of loud, electric guitars! Marx cashes in on some favors from old friends and collaborators like Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Kenny Loggins, and new pop rockers like the talented Graham Colton and the aforementioned Matt Scannell. These winning grooves have awakened Richard's inner child - Ricky, if you will, genuinely rocks out and his characteristic rasp is a thrill to hear once again. The production is top notch with a modern rock feel that has the potential to attract a whole new generation of fans, including kids who like Vertical Horizon, Lifehouse, or even 3 Doors Down. Who would have thought? Unlike "Sundown", "Emotional Remains" is full of excellent, melodic tracks. And yes there is a ballad - but it is a return to the kind that made Marx famous. "Through My Veins" is a touching piece written in the memory of his father - it starts with gentle piano and climaxes in a rousing swirl of crashing guitars. In addition to this track, I'd pick "Over My Head", "From The Inside", and "Done To Me" as the standouts in this batch of very strong songs.

"Emotional Remains" is unlike any other CD he's released and in a perfect world would make Richard Marx a viable artist heard all over the radio once again.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11

Richard Marx on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

News: Jim Basnight - new retrospective release

From Jim Basnight:

We are extremely pleased to announce to you our friends, and fellow
music fans the release on the NYC based label Disclosed Records of a
career retrospective CD titled "We Rocked and Rolled: The First 25
Years of Jim Basnight: The Moberlys and Beyond".

"We Rocked and Rolled" will be available in all of the usual places
that you buy CDs, as we wind into 2009, but if you want to put it in
your own player and spin it now, just send $15 through paypal at and of course include your mailing address. If
you'd rather pay by check and have a U.S. bank account, just send
payment to Jim Basnight, 7616 Latona NE, Seattle, WA 98115. If you
live outside of the U.S. or Canada, add $5 for shipping and handling.
Of course a postal money order is acceptable.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Review: The Goldbergs "Under the Radar"

The Goldbergs made a huge impression on the power pop community back in 2006 with the release of the aptly named "Hooks, Lines & Sinkers". A tough act to follow, but their latest effort will cause your jaw to drop to the floor once again. If The Goldbergs hooked you once, they will hook you again.

The Goldbergs is actually just a single Goldberg...Andy to be specific. Andy Goldberg is a wonderboy writing, singing, arranging, producing, and playing guitar in all of this charming music. I bet he even cleans the studio and cooks a gourmet dinner for his session buddies.

The Goldbergs' "Under the Radar" sounds a lot like a lost recording that would surface during the cleaning out of George Harrison's estate (RIP). A treasure trove of golden pop gems, "Under the Radar" is drenched in Beatlesque harmonies and instantly memorable melodies. Goldberg also has a knack for arranging and producing music that would make Jeff Lynne proud...perhaps even green with envy. I also hear the pop genius of Abba in some of the tunes, most notably "I've Had Enough".

In my musical utopia, "Under the Radar" would be a number one, multi-platinum record that spawned 7 top 10 hits, 3 going to number 1. But alas the kind of world where good music like this rules the charts is long gone. The three tunes that would have sat at the acme of the chart would include "Please Won't You Please", "Better Times", and "I'm A Hero (Waiting To Happen)".

What are you waiting for? Fly over to their MySpace page and land some "Under the Radar" today. Drink it down - it'll take you away.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The Goldbergs on MySpace.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: Thee Makeout Party! "Play Pretend"

Is there a better way to start the first review for 2009 than with a band that parties like its 1969? Thee Makeout Party is comprised of four rather unfortunate looking lads from Anaheim, CA who specialize in delivering feel good, retro bubblegum pop. Production is sparse to highlight the strong melodies and ingenious harmonies, similar to the concepts practiced by modern bands like Spoon or The Shins. Fans of 70s garage acts like the Flamin' Groovies or the Sidewinders will love attending Thee Makeout Party.

Thee Makeout Party sets its sights on making you laugh and feel good - and it is mission accomplished. These short and quirky tunes grab hold of you quick and don't let go easily. I've been trying to get the silly "My Birthday Suit" track out of my head for one week (but to be fair, this is actually an obscure cover of the Catanooga Cats). And their sampling of Barry Manilow's "Mandy" in the bouncy "Change" drove me nuts for a couple days too. For revenge, I was thinking about sending the band a copy of this CD.

I'm not sure that I would call myself a fan yet, but I will certainly be curious to hear what this band does next.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6

Thee Makeout Party on MySpace.