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June 29, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Wow, a glorius June morning in Minneapolis! I rode my bike into work listening to Fugazi. I am ready for the day!

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Are You A Hypnotist - The Flaming Lips
2. They'll Never Take Her Love Away From Me - Hank Williams
3. Two States - Pavement
4. Believe - The Chemical Brothers
5. The Great Dust Storm Disaster - Woody Guthrie
6. Soma - The Stokes
7. Any Time At All - The Beatles
8. Fatal Wound - Uncle Tupelo
9. Fight for Your Right (To Party!) - The Beasty Boys
10. Chemical Warfare - The Dead Kennedys

Now that's a top10 list! What's yours?

June 26, 2007

Summer Movie Review - June

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Well having survived the May threequels, I have continued to take in a bunch of Summer movies. Except for one standout, the movies have been so-so this summer.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer I actually liked the original Fantastic 4, I thought it was a fun thrill ride and good way to kick-off these characters. Rise of the Silver Surfer was a tad disappointing. Reid and Sue Storm have virtually no chemistry and no way would they be getting married. There were a couple of nice moments in this movie but nothing to write home about. The Silver Surfer was cool but I would check this out only if you're bringing a pre-teen boy (who's gonna love it).

Ocean's 13 A light breezy movie more in character with O11 and not O12 (thank God!) Danny and the Boys are up to their old tricks and it's just as fun to see the witty banner than how they pull off the caper. Enjoyable but slight. Unless you have nothing else to do, can easily be classified as a renter.

Knocked Up Hands down the best movie I've seen this Summer. There are parts that are gut busting funny, Katherine Heigl is very easy on the eyes, and Seth Rogan and his stoner buddies are outragous. Although rated R for language, lots of sexual banter, drug use (and slight nudity), it would be a great movie to bring teens to because it doesn't sugar coat the impact pregnancy has on a woman's body, relationships, etc. The comedy doesn't undercut the message that having children is a great life changing event and has many responsibilities associated with it. Besides being really funny, the movie has keen insight on man-woman telationships and the joys/frustrations of raising a family. A great date movie with your new girlfriend or wife of 17 years.

Movies looking forward to:

Simpsons
Transformers
Harry Potter

June 25, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Rainy Day Music

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 15 on the list:

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15. The Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music (2003)

Every so often the buzz or hype around an album is that the band is "getting back to its roots," releasing an album of songs like they used to in the good old days. That was definitely the buzz around U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind and seems like every new REM album has the same discussion surrounding it. It's basically a recognition by the record company that a band's recent albums sucked, were too experimental, or explored other musical genres but now the said band had seen the light and recorded new songs that certainly you will like. After the sonic explorations of Sound of Lies and the slickly commercial sound of Smile, The 2003 album Rainy Day Music promised an old school Jayhawks album, like Hollywood Town Hall.

From the Bryds-like jangly opening, the listener realizes that yes, this is the Jayhawks how I used to like them and the album enters into a comfortable, folk-rock vibe. The first half of the album is classic Jayhawks, songs about relationships with a down home country feel. Gary Louris' songwriting is top notch as is the guitar work and the classic Jayhawk harmonies. The album title says it all - this is music for a rainy day, a little slower, introspective lyrics, subdued guitars. The album loses a little steam at the end as some of the other Jayhawks try their hand at songwriting but they don't match the level of Louris. The album ends on a high note with the achingly beautiful Tampa to Tulsa and then a short acoustic version of the album's first song Stumbling Through the Dark.

As someone who has liked all the Jayhawks albums, especially the unfairly maligned Sound of Lies, Rainy Day Music was a nice coda to an apparent end of the Jayhawks. The country folk atmosphere is just perfect for background music when you need or want to kill time and this album is always played whenever I have a long road trip. As much as a "lifetime achievement award" as a recognition of it's own brilliance, Rainy Day Music has a well-earned place on my 30 best loved albums.

What's your favorite Jayhawks album?

Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the list.


June 22, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. I Can't Dance - Gram Parsons
2. What Light - Wilco
3. Accidents Never Happen - Blondie
4. Homicide - 999
5. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers
6. Baby, Baby, Baby - The Jayhawks
7. Don't Ask Why - The Replacements
8. Musta Been Right - The Supersuckers
9. Exodus - Bob Marley and the Wailers
10. Wabash Cannonball - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

What's your top 10?

June 20, 2007

Husker Du with Steve and Sharon

This was referenced in the Strib over the weekend but is so weird I just had to post it. It's Husker Du on the Good Company show. The Good Company show was a 70's and 80's Twin Cities TV staple hosted by Steve and Sharon, two impossibily good looking 40 somethings that had an afternoon talk show to talk about such heady issues as how to care for your roses, creative things you can do with pasta dishes, and apparently interviewing hard core punk bands. Unfortunately Sharon is nowhere to be seen in this interview, which is too bad because she was hot in her own comfortable way. A must see.

June 18, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Van Lear Rose

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 14 on the list:

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14. Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (2004)

What happens when you cross a 20-something Detroit rocker, his scumbag friends/musicians, and a 70-year old queen of country who’s last relevant record was released in 1972? In the case of Van Lear Rose, you get an album that kicks your ass, mops the floor with it, and then sits you back on your barstool and politely asks “would you like another? while you enthusiastically nod your head yes.

When word came out that Jack White of the White Stripes was working with Loretta Lynn to make a new album my first thought was that this would be one strange album. Sure Jack White was an affirmed “roots music? junkie who’s White Stripes albums not only had some bluesy elements but who also contributed folks songs to a recent Civil War-era movie. But Loretta Lynn, the Coal Miners daughter? It just seemed like some stunt, a play off the Johnny Cash-Rick Rubin collaborations that were making the American Recording sessions some of Cash’s best work in decades. But the reviews of this new album were stellar and I was intrigued. Also a single was released from the album, Portland Oregon, that was just knocking me out. So I took the plunge.

What I heard was a 70-year old woman reminiscing about a one-night stand in Portland; telling us how her daddy won over the prettiest girl in the county; a couple of honky-tonk songs about women stealing her man; a country death song that was second to none; and, a sad lament about being a widow. In short it was amazing. Loretta Lynn apparently wrote all the songs (although I think Have Mercy is at least based on an Elvis song) and Jack White and friends contributed the music. What could have easily turned out as a creepy attempt at bedding down with a younger guy to look hip turns out to be a classic honky tonk album that appealed to both traditionalists and hipsters alike.

Jack White’s music at times just rocks but Loretta Lynn keeps right along at a pace that would shame a woman one-third her age. Highlights include the aforementioned Portland Oregon with Jack White sharing the mic with LL as they sing about a one-night stand of Sloe Gin Fiz and ask-no-questions-sex. Have Mercy will bring you to you knees, and as a friend of mine once described, does in 3 minutes what The Cramps spent an entire decade trying to accomplish. Women’s Prison is a great song about a woman on death row for the murder of her husband who was sleeping around. It ends with Jack White singing Amazing Grace with acoustic backing and then turns into a guitar frenzy to finish off the song. Mrs. Leroy Brown is a honky tonk stomper with Loretta clearing out her cheatin’ hubby’s bank account to buy pink limousine and then instructs the driver to “drive that car right into the bar, bring it on back to the big old blonde who thinks she’s a movie star…? As you can guess, the blonde stands no chance.

This album works on so many levels. It showcases LL’s song-writing skills and the music has a down-in-the- dirt, skuzzy feel at times and a simple, country folk music at other times. Although she was 70 at the time of this recording, LL is in fine form vocally and she can either knock you on your backside likes she does on the harder songs or break your heart on the softer songs. You also have to give her credit that she even worked with Jack White and his buddies. While at times country, with mandolin, dobro, and harmonica, this album also rocks and it would be interesting you find out how well the traditional country folks accepted this album. Doesn’t matter, I loved it and easily play it a couple of times a month and for that Van Lear Rose is one my 30 most beloved albums.

What’s your opinion of Van Lear Rose?

Place on the Definitive 200 List: Not on the List!


June 15, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Stain - Nirvana
2. Hate & War - The Clash
3. Problems - Sex Pistols
4. Can't Keep It In - Cat Stevens
5. Jammin' - Bob Marley and the Wailers
6. You're a Soldier - Husker Du
7. Stetson Kennedy - Billy Bragg and Wilco
8. Credit in Heaven - Suburbs
9. Dash 7 - Wilco
10. 5-22-02 - Golden Smog

One of these songs is not like the other...one of these songs just doesn't belong...can you tell which song is not like the other... before I finish my post.

June 14, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

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1. The "Scotty" Baseball Cap
2. The Presidential Seal Socks
3. The Presidential Seal Socks w/Crocs
4. This Man is President of the United States of America
5. All of the Above

June 11, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 13 on the list:

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13. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)

After spending the previous decade releasing spare country and folk albums, Lucinda Williams spent most of the 1990’s recording and re-recording one of the greatest country albums released by a female artist. Gone was the lone voice and guitar of her previous albums and in its place was a lush mixture of guitar, mandolin, accordian, dobro, piano, and electric guitar. The album is a showcase of Williams’ fine song-writing skills and emotive voice that can go from a growl to a purr in the blink of a song. It is an album that takes its sensibility not only from Nashville (country), but also from New Orleans (Zydeco), Chicago (Blues), and Los Angeles (Rock and Roll).

The album covers your typical country fare of love gained, hearts broken, and life that is not smooth like a highway but bumpy and worn down like a gravel road. From the album’s first line - "Not a day goes by I don’t think about you" - we are introduced to Williams’ reminences about lost loved. Highlights for me include the opening song, Right in Time, which is about a woman who literally aches carnally for her man; Drunken Angel, a song about/for Gram Parsons; Lake Charles, (love lost); Greenville (saying goodbye to a lover who is a drunken lout); and Jackson (thinking about a lover as she drives across the south).

I Lost It is a standout as a country-rocker about falling in love but worried about getting your heart broke. The second verse is classic:

I just wanna live the life I please
I don't want no enemies
I don't want nothin if I have to fake it
Never take nothin don't belong to me
Everything's paid for nothing’s free
If I give you my heart
Will you promise not to break it?

If we could all standards like that.

This album is southern, but Williams isn’t getting her Lynyrd Skynyrd on. It’s the south of cotton picking, humid nights, rutted roads, and beer guzzlin’ good ol boys who done their woman wrong. Lucinda Williams imbibes these songs with her voice, making them real -- your heart literally goes out to her and you curse the men who have burned her in the past. Top to bottom there isn’t a fill-in song or throw away line on the entire album and it’s constantly being played on my I-pod or CD player. And for that, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is one of my 30 best loved albums.

Place on the Definitive 200: Not on the List!

June 8, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Jesus Christ - Woody Guthrie
2. I'll Go Crazy - Hypstrz
3. Weenie Beenie - Foo Fighters
4. Falling - Roy Orbison
5. Slow Dog - Belly
6. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
7. Sonic Boom - Gear Daddies
8. Ask Me Now - Thelonious Monk
9. Take These Chains From My Hear - Hank Williams
10. Wasted - Black Flag

Wow! What a list. You're not going to hear that on college radio.

What's your top 10?

June 6, 2007

Summer Movies

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Well the three big “3? movies have now come out (Pirates, Shrek, Spiderman) and I’m assuming most people have seen them. As expected each movie is making oodles of money but after huge opening weekends, there has been steep drop-offs in ticket sales. Although none of the movies can remotely be considered a bomb, each movie will probably fall well short of the box office efforts of their sibling releases.

I came out of each movie entertained but somewhat disappointed. What’s interesting is that I found the same fault with all three movies in that the filmmakers tried to shoehorn too much stuff into each movie. I can just hear the director of Spiderman saying, what’s better than having one villain? How about two? Then someone pipes in “hey let’s have three villains!? Sure three villains may sound cooler but it muddied the movie. Spiderman v. Sandman would have made a taut, thrilling movie. Spiderman 3 couldn’t explore deeper the whole Sandman character because it also had to deal with Venom and the Goblin. The end result being that all three villains were given short shrift.

The same could be said for Shrek and Pirates. There were so many characters having so many issues to resolve that each individual character wasn’t fully realized. This was an acute problem with Shrek, especially since it clocks in at a tidy 85 minutes. An additional 10 minutes may have actually helped. In the end it was the same old jokes and wry commentary on pop culture and fairy tales. Much like cotton candy, it just kinda melted away and was forgotten about by the time I got to the parking lot. The final battle in Pirates was awesome to behold, the effects were stunning and there was little there to suggest that most of it was CGI. However what was the deal with Calypso? It made no sense, added nothing to the picture and was a distraction. At 2 hours and 45 minutes plus, Pirates could have easily been cut down to a more manageable 130 or 140 minutes. Again too many characters, too many subplots to explore and try to resolve, and not enough selective culling. Was it better than Pirates 2? Absolutely, hands down. Was it as good as Pirates 1? Not even close.

It seems that the makers of the blockbusters are so worried that they have to amp up the WOW! factor that they add characters, sub plots, and set pieces at the expense of storytelling and identifiable characters. A few, well directed, incredible scenes are all we need, more than that just waters down the whole movie. Spiderman 3, Shrek 3 and Pirates 3 are good counter-examples of why sometimes less is more.

Summer Movies planning to see:

Knocked up
Transformers (looks absolutely amazing)
Harry Potter
Simpsons Movie
Fantastic 4 (good mindless fun)

What do you think of the movies thus far? What movies are you looking forward to seeing?


June 4, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Workingman's Dead/American Beauty

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 12 on the list:

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12. Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead/American Beauty (1970)

I know I am cheating by including two albums here but Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty were recorded about 8 months apart and clock in at just under 70 minutes, which today could fit on one CD. More importantly these two albums are quite similar musically as they cover folk, blues, Appalachia, as well as country and western in a way that is still fresh nearly 40 years later. Furthermore, along with The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, these albums ushered in a new era of country-rock that would flourish throughout the 1970’s and is still being felt today.

Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty were huge departures from the Grateful Dead of the 1960’s. Gone was the mind-expanding psychedelica that anchored the San Francisco hippie music scene and in its place the Dead explored traditional-flavored American music with lyrics that were more winsome than mind blowing. However it was these two albums that propelled the Grateful Dead into the mainstream and created a band personae that went way beyond the cult following of the Dead’s early career. The fact that at least 4 songs from these two albums can still be heard on classic rock radio station such as KQRS is a testament to the staying power and popularity of these two albums.

Workingman’s Dead came out in early 1970 and must have been a huge surprise to Dead fans. Uncle John’s Band kicks-off the album and although it is somewhat trippy, it was much more country than anything else previously from the Dead. This song has personal resonance too as it was played at my friend Bill Fadell's funeral. The second song, High Times, is practically Jerry singing acappella with just a bluesy guitar in the background. Cumberland Blues comes straight out of the West Virginny coal mines, while Casey Jones is an acid-washed, country-tinged bluesy train song.

If fans thought that Workingman's Dead was a one album fluke, American Beauty, which came out only 8 or 9 months later, quickly disabused them of that notion. The album starts with one of the singularly most beautiful songs ever written – Box of Rain – which was written and sang by Phil Lesh for his dying father. It’s a song about a son trying to understand the meaning of life in the face of his father’s death. Friend of the Devil, Sugar Magnolia, and especially Ripple (all of which became concert favorites of Deadheads for the next 25 years) are songs that could easily be found on an album from an old-timey folker or from a smart ass alt-country band from Austin, Texas. The songs are that timeless. The album ends with Attics of My Life and its beautiful 3-part harmony and of course the fan (and KQ) favorite Truckin’. With Truckin’ the Dead look back and close the door on the 60’s with the now classic line “What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t musically spare country or folk songs with guitar and rhythm section consigned to the background. No, the songs are highly textured with most of them having at least three guitars, mandolins, etc., playing different parts. It’s pretty heady stuff and I think most Dead fans, then and now, could get their freak on with both these albums. Another highlight is the harmonies. Most songs have at least 2-part, if not 3-part harmonies and Jerry was never in better voice. Garcia’s guitar work is stellar and the rhythm section is top notch, especially during the “boogie? songs such as Cumberland Blues and New Speedway Boogie. These aren't two sides of one album either. Workingman is a little bluesier, Beauty a little more folk and country.

As I mentioned above, these albums, for better or worse, ushered in the era of country rock and bands such as the Eagles, Poco, Linda Rhonstad, etc., would shortly become mainstays on the American pop charts. However, these two albums are as vital and influential today as they were some 27 years ago and are one of the reasons why the Grateful Dead became such cultural icons. For that reason, Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty are on my list of 30 most beloved albums.

What's your favorite Dead Album?

Rank on the Definitive 200: Workingman's Dead - not on the list; American Beauty - 20 on the list.

June 1, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Benchseat Baby – Fred Eaglesmith
2. The Miller’s Will – Jerry Garcia
3. Sedan Delivery – Neil Young
4. Get Off My Cloud – The Rolling Stones
5. Sweetest Fruit – Jack Logan
6. Gravity – Husker Du
7. Learn How – Mission of Burma
8. Spinning – Young Wu
9. Look-out Mountain – Drive By Truckers
10. Starman – David Bowie

What's your top 10?