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October 31, 2007

Republican Party's Slow Death

Earlier this week I got into a little snit with some conservatives on the What Jeff Thinks Blog and I thought it deserved further consideration here.

My basic premise is that the Republican party is fast becoming a marginalized, geographically-based (deep south) niche party. Polls on a broad spectrum of issues from stem cell research, the war in Iraq, global warming, the use of torture, attitudes toward gays, (short of gay marriage), attitudes towards minorities, the economy, tax fairness all favor the stand of the Democratic party and liberals in general. This trend is also being demonstrated in dollars raised for the 2008 election. Democratic candidates from President down to dog catcher are far outraising Republican candidates and it looks like Democrats will have a decidedly large money advantage for 2008. First time that has happened in a long time.

It’s not only the issues but voting blocs as well that favor Democrats. Young voters are increasingly coming home to the Democratic party. Even though young voters don’t make up a huge part of the electorate, as was demonstrated in the early 1980’s with Ronald Reagan, once a party loses the youth vote, they’ve lost a whole generation of voters. Growing minority factions of the population are also rejecting the Republican message and look for the Democrats to capture huge swaths of the Hispanic and African American electorate. Even the Evangelical vote is becoming splintered, with 2004 probably the high water mark for Christians voting decidedly with one party.

No where is this trend more identifiable than with the issue of Global Warming. By now most of not all credible scientists believe that some sort of global warming is occurring and that it is created by man and not caused by a naturally occurring global weather cycle. Most Republicans are still hung up on Al Gore being the person most identifiable with the issue of Global Warming and continue to stick their fingers in their ears and shout anyone down with AL GORE INVENTED THE INTERNET, THEREFORE GLOBAL WARMING IS NOT TRUE!! They insist on pointing to some 40 errors in the movie Inconvenient Truth, ignoring the fact that that means there are literally 100’s of other facts presented in the movie that are indisputable. The American population is fast leaving the Republican party behind on this issue.

However, there may be hope for the Republicans. Governor Tim Pawlenty is a politician that I don’t care for. However I have to acknowledge that he is an extremely smart and savvy politician. He can take issues that he knows may not be palatable to the general population and describe them in a way that sound reasonable. The fact that T-Paw is starting to embrace the Global Warming issue, going so far as scheduling a visit to the polar ice cap with adventurer Will Steger, shows that he understands that Global Warming is an issue that will impact us all, conservative, liberal, independent. It will be interested to see when his Republican brethren follow. I won’t be holding my breath.

October 30, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Pinkerton/Make Believe

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. With that on to #30 of the list...

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30. Weezer - Pinkerton (1996)/Make Believe (2005)

O.k. so I cheated. I’m including 2 albums as one favorite album but I have always seen these two album as inexorably linked: At their core they are basically about love, sex, and relationships. However they were written and performed nearly 10 years apart and one can see the maturity, humility, and weariness that a decade has wrought on Rivers Coumo. The albums deal with the same issues but taken from a different perspective, a perspective I think most of us would recognize: Having a stable and loving relationship is much better than having numerous and various romantic or sexual conquests.

When Pinkerton first came out in 1996 it was considered a big disappointment. Fresh off the heels of the “Blue? album, which included the novelty hit and video Buddy Holly, Weezer’s second album seemed to be a classic sophomore slump effort. There wasn’t a quirky hit like Buddy Holly or The Sweater Song and the first released single El Scorcho was musically hard to listen, sing along or dance to. In fact the whole album had a harder edge to it and some of the songs seemed to be in a minor key, which also made it difficult to immediately embrace. The album’s negative reception was hard on the band and it took a five years for Weezer to get back into the studio.

Make Believe (2005) found Weezer in a different place. The band had returned to the studio and although their releases were sparse (2 albums over the past 5 years) the band were critic’s darlings, had an enthusiastic fan base, and was generally considered a well-received, mid-level rock act. Pinkerton’s reputation had only grown with time and now was considered a forgotten classic. Some critics had even considered it one of the best albums of the 1990’s. Make Believe generated some buzz as the first single Beverly Hills was all over the radio and TV. Reaction to the album was mixed as it seemed that critics and fans either loved it or hated it. A tour in support of the album was quite successful and was enthusiastically received by Weezer fans.

The love/relationship songs on Pinkerton are written from the perspective of someone immature in handling relationships. As young men, however, instead of showing vulnerability, we tend to act cocky, that it doesn’t matter, there’s always another chick to conquer. The singer is befuddled, as all men are when dealing with the opposite sex, but it’s covered by boastfulness. Tired of Sex is a classic example. The song is about how much tail he’s getting and that it’s all so boring. He’s both boasting and wanting something more. Getchoo is a song about a guy who’s done his girl wrong but now surprised she’s not coming back. Why Bother takes it one step backward: He knows he’s going to get hurt in the end, why even start the relationship. It’s just not worth it. It’s a tact many young guys take when deciding whether to enter into a relationship or continue to hang with the guys.

Vulnerability does sneak in toward the end of the album. Across the Sea is about a fan in Japan who would be a perfect girlfriend if she didn’t live so far away. Pink Triangle is about falling in love with someone who is unavailable (in this case a lesbian). This song contains the classic line “Everyone’s a little queer, why can’t she be a little straight.? Finally the album’s second to last song the singer finally finds someone he can settle down with, it’s a little nerve wracking, he doesn’t want to get his heart broke. The last verse really sums it up:

I'm shaking at your touch/I like you way too much/My baby, I'm afraid I'm falling for you/And I'd do about anything to get the hell out alive/Or maybe I would rather settle down with you.

Make Believe finds the singer 9 years older and much more mature about love and relationships. The second song lays this out quite clearly. Even though the relationship is a rocky one, instead of giving up or having a who cares attitude, the singer is saddened, he considers it a pity they should be loving each other, not hating on each other. Hold Me and Peace are about the need and desire for close physical relationships. The songs Damage in Your Heart and Pardon Me are from the perspective from a guy who has done his lover wrong. However, instead of being surprised at his lovers response, he is contrite, apologizes, and begs for forgiveness, asking his lover to put aside the damage in her heart. It comes from a guy who realizes that this may be his last shot at love and that he’s not going to give up so easily.

My Best Friend really sums up what this album is saying about relationships. It’s one thing to have a companion or a sexual partner. Those are important, but having someone as a best friend, one you can love, depend on, share with is the highest order of love. The boastfulness is gone, the confused immature boy of Pinkerton is no more. Make Believe finds a lover who is still flawed, still makes mistakes, but one who realizes that love is precious, that it takes work, and that in the end it makes the relationship that much deeper and meaningful. Because these two albums reflect perfectly how someone matures and grows as they seek love, Pinkerton and Make Believe are one of my 30 favorite albums.

What do you think of Pinkerton or Make Believe?

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

October 26, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Well the T-wolves suprised me and actually pulled of a decent trade. I never thought they'd ever be able to dump Mark Blount's bloated contract. Hopefully they can buy out or trade Walker. We aren't going to see a lot of wins this year but I think the plan is good. Start from scratch with a bunch of young pups, horde draft pics and grow a fun, competative team. Not sure if McHale can pull it off, but at least they're heading in the wrong direction. Also note to Greet Machine. I'd say the verdict is in on that Celtics trade that sent Wally to Boston: Failure, absolute failure.

With that, here's this week's top 10:

1. Ready For Love/After Lights - Mott the Hoople
2. Three Girl Rhumba - Wire
3. The Piano has been Drinking - Tom Waits
4. Lonely - Jack Logan
5. Confusion - New Order
6. 14 Cheerleader Coldfront - Guided by Voices
7. Don't Talk to Strangers - Chris Gaylord
8. Depression - Black Flag
9. Some Against You (live) - The Pixies
10. Indecision Time - Husker Du

Wow, that list was pretty obscure. Nice change of pace.

What's your top 10?

October 25, 2007

It's Been Five (long) Years

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Five years ago today (10/25) Paul Wellstone along with his wife and daughter and some staff members died in a plane crash. It was absolutely shocking at the time and I still remember vividly at the time telling my friend Bill about the news flash and then the both of us listening to the radio to get the sad details.

I was absolutely devastated at the news. Although I knew first hand that Paul Wellstone wasn't the greatest Senator - he liked the spotlight more than doing the nitty gritty of Senate work -- but he was a breath of fresh air in a world of self-important, poll-following haircuts that currently over populate Washington D.C. (I'm looking at you Norm Coleman).

Here is a poem that I wrote that night 5 years ago. Time has made it pretty sappy but it the time it helped me deal with my grief, so at danger of looking a little too mauldlin, here goes.

Paul Wellstone's Voice

Paul Wellstone's voice was quiet today
Silenced in the woods and bogs of Minnesota
But it rings in our ears and passes through our hearts
Until it slips unrestrained into our souls.

Paul Wellstone's voice was quiet today
Drowned out by tributes, eulogies, and tears
But it echoes in the minds of those who sow fear
Through cynicism and obstruction.

Paul Wellstone's voice was quiet today
Stilled too sudden and too soon
But it clamors for attention, requires our action
As we arise, staggered from the loss.

Paul Wellstone's voice was quiet today
Called home by God with his wife and daughter
But it demands all those who heard its words
To shout its resolve and heed its passion.

Paul Wellstone's voice was quiet today....

October 22, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Let's Go Scare Al

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. With that on to #29 of the list...

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29. Gear Daddies - Let's Go Scare Al (1988)

Besides having the coolest name for an album ever (well maybe one behind The Replacement’s Tim) and having the saddest, scariest looking clown to ever grace an album cover, Let’s Go Scare Al is a classic album full of countryish songs about loveable losers, drinking, small towns, heartbreak, drinking, and drinking. An album like this could only be performed by Minnesotans: Its unpretentious, simple, self-deprecating, and chock full of meaning behind it’s sparse vocabulary.

I almost included both Let’s Go Scare Al and Billy’s Live Bait as one review because they are similar albums covering similar stories. The music doesn’t change much between the two albums nor does the subject matter. But I landed squarely with Let’s Go Scare Al, because of the album name (especially as a debut album) and because it really introduced the Gear Daddies to a broader audience (they had been playing in local bars for a good year or so before this album came out). Now some 20 years after it’s been released we still look forward to the occasional reunion show by the band.

As I mentioned above, musically these songs are pretty simple. It’s basic country rock with no outstanding guitar or vocal work. Structurally the songs are pretty simple as well with the time-tested verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, bridge, verse 3 (or repeat verse 1) and chorus organization. What makes the songs special is the songwriting. Even if you haven’t actually lived what’s being described in the song, you can identify with what the singer is saying. For instance Statue of Jesus opens with this verse:

I’m sittin’ downtown cryin’ ‘neath the statue of Jesus
Both of us so lonely and cold, hope no one can see us
I know I’m drunk here but I don’t think that he cares
Surely he must understand these crosses that I bear
So I’m sittin’ downtown cryin’ ‘neath the statue of Jesus

Now, I’ve never sat under a statue of Jesus crying, but if I ever did, I’m pretty sure that song would sum up pretty how I felt. Heavy Metal Boyz is another song that describes perfectly what it is like being a teenager living in a small town, whether it’s a rural area or a suburb. I’m sure there are many, many women who can identify with Boys Will Be Boys and tell me one person who hasn’t Drank so Much that They Just Feel Stupid?

After all these songs of too much drinking, lives gone astray, broken hearts, and shitty jobs the singer hasn’t given up. The last song, Strength, has the singer asking for strength to do what’s right, to “change this fucked up life of mine.? Surely if the singer can still want to change things, to make things better, so can we. We don’t know if he’ll get there but at least he’s trying.

It’s an album that is still played a lot in my car, on my I-pod, in the house. It’s an album that can get people out on the dance floor or in a sing-along at a party. It’s an album that binds us together as we sing the songs in one voice, look at each other and say... “been there.? For those reasons, Let’s Go Scare Al is one of my 30 favorite albums.

What do you think of the Gear Daddies?

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

October 21, 2007

Gophers Trampled by Thundering Herd

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O.k. so I had my excellent cheeseburger and 2 strong, spicy Bloody Marys and I've settled into my seat at the Dome on a beautiful October day in October. First time all year to see in my own eyes Brewster's Gophers. Three plays later Gophers up by 7 and my thoughts about this game -- Gophers have too much speed and firepower on offense for the Bison -- are coming true.

Fast forward 3 plus hours and I'm dejected, sad, mostly embarassed because the Gophers lost 21-27 to the North Dakota State University Bison. The Gophers were overrun, outcoached and just plain and simple outplayed. It was disgusting. It was demoralizing, it was ...embarassing.

The Bison just over ran the Gophers defense. What is worse is that they pretty much ran the same 4 plays. Bison running backs were hardly ever touched at the line of scrimmage, Gophers couldn't or wouldn't cover their backs coming out of the backfield, and the Bison QB had no trouble finding wide open receivers. On Offense the Gophers were boring, couldn't execute when they had a good play called and seemed to be going through the motions.

Brewster apologists have said that Mason left the cupboard bare and I agree to a point. Also Brewster is playing a lot of Freshmen but plain and simple the effort and coaching just isn't there. We gotta give Brewster a couple of years to see where this is going but it's going to take a lot of success to wash the bad taste out of Gopher Nation's mouth.

Embarassing.

October 19, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Two links today. First Revielle Music has a great review of the new Radiohead album In Rainbows and discusses the issue of songs v. Albums. Good discussion and makes we question whether I should be doing Friday Top 10 lists. Link is here.

Slate.com has a great response to a New Yorker article about the lack of "soul" in Indy Rock. Link is here. Otherwise here's your top 10:

1. Momentum - Aimee Mann
2. Eight Miles High - Husker Du
3. Burned - Neil Young
4. Game of Pricks - Guided By Voices
5. We Can Work It Out - The Beatles
6. Birds and Ships - Billy Bragg and Wilco
7. Mamas Boy - The Ramones
8. It's So Obvious - Wire
9. That's Really Super, Supergirl - XTC
10. Celebrated Summer - Husker Du

Wow! Two Husker Du songs. What's your top 10?

October 17, 2007

Movies - Across The Universe/Into The Wild

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Although the movie pickings have been pretty slim lately, I have seen a couple of flicks that are worth bringing up…

Across the Universe. Ever since Momma Mia became a touring smash, any band with a whiff of popularity has had its back catalogue mined for a potential play/movie. The set up is pretty much the same: Use popular songs that everyone knows and loves as a skeleton from which to construct a (usually thin) story. Given that we love the songs so much it is hoped that we don’t notice things like plot holes and lousy acting. Across the Universe is the Beatles version of this trend.

Now Across the Universe is going to affect people either one of two ways: either you’re gonna love it or hate it. I fall in the kind of love it camp. I thought the use of some directions in the plot were a huge stretch just so the filmmakers could include an iconic Beatles song and some of the one liners that referenced a Beatle song were mostly groaners: “Where did she come from?? “She come from the bathroom window.? Plus there was one stretch in the middle of the movie that was completely unneeded as Bono played Dr. Robert, a Timothy Leary type character. The whole scene was only in the movie so that we could get our psychedelica on. It played really no other part of the movie.

However the movie was a winner in many ways. Of course any movie with Beatles songs is going to be fun to watch and Across the Universe was no different. There were a number of set pieces that were just stunning with creative choreography. Great scenes were Max at the draft review board and a football cheerleader singing I want to hold your hand as a lesbian tear jerker. One of my favorite scenes was early in the movie as we saw two dances, one in New Jersey and one in Liverpool using the same song (Hold Me Tight) as the Americans were all dressed up in poodle skirts and chinos while the Brits were in rolled up jeans and leather jackets. A great way to open the movie. If you like the Beatles you’re probably going to dig this movie and I would recommend going.

Into the Wild. Moving across the cinematic universe (sorry) we come to Into the Wild. Based on a true story and a beloved book of the same name, it’s the story about an upper-middle class kid who gives all his money to Oxfam and goes out looking for “reality.? After two years of travels he finds himself in the Alaskan wilderness where he lasts for nearly 4 months before dying of starvation due to ingesting the seeds of a poisonous plant.

Directed by Sean Penn who waited nearly 15 years to make the film before receiving the blessings of the McCandless family, the movie is both sympathetic to Chris/Alex while not deifying him. The movie holds pretty close to the book and is shot on location, including South Dakota, Nevada, and Alaska. I think we get a pretty good picture of where Chris/Alex was coming from while at the same time seeing that he had a lot to live for. One of the paradoxes of the entire story is that Chris/Alex was so alienated from modern society that he had to find reality living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness while at the same time was such an engaging character that he was able to befriend and positively impact just about anyone he came across. A great movie that is stunning to watch and thought provoking as well. Go. Now.

What did you think of these movies?

October 16, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Rust Never Sleeps

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. With that on to #28 of the list...

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28. Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps (1979)

Rust Never Sleeps is one of those albums that came out exactly at the right time in my musical life. Summer of 1979, 16 years old, the summer before going into 11th Grade. You can drive, you have a crappy minimum-wage job putting a couple of bucks in your pocket, you’re starting to figure out girls just a little bit. This album was definitely a soundtrack for all of that and for 11th grade, which is the last fun year before everything gets all serious.

Recorded as a live album with acoustic on one side and electric guitars on the other, Rust Never Sleeps not only introduced me to Neil’s music, which I still love, but also to the folk/country side of music as well. The acoustic side of course starts off with My My Hey Hey which has the classic, “Rock and Roll Will Never Die? line, this song was all over the radio and the line “rust never sleeps? really hit home with me: Everything, even ourselves, is always decaying. You can’t stop it, only deal with it. Heady stuff for a 16-17 year old but an acknowledgement I still live by. Thrasher is just a cool country-rock song with great visuals of rural life. The highlight of side one is Pocahontas a spacy song with Native American imagery and intricate lyrics.

Side two of course is the electric guitar side and Powderfinger was a fave. We were shocked when we read the lyrics that the singer actually dies at the end of the song. That just didn’t happen in rock songs. Sedan Delivery was about as close to punk I would get until 1981 and was a full-out rocker with Crazy Horse. Welfare Mothers was kind of a dumb song that seemed to be added as filler. The album ends with the electronic version of Hey Hey My My which again Crazy Horse just lays into. A fun and appropriate ending to a very cool album.

I definitely wore out this album from overplaying from 1979-1981 and picked up the CD shortly after I switched to CD’s. It was a big part of my high school years and in my 12th grade year book, one of the items I listed under my picture was “Rust Lives!? It’s a great album that was aged well and Rust Never Sleeps is a well deserved entry in my favorite 30 albums of all time.

What did you think of Rust Never Sleeps?

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

October 12, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

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Al Gore shares/wins Nobel Peace Prize. It seems like the new line of attack on Al Gore is that he is a “hypocrite.? He preaches about global warming but then has a life style that consumes much more resources than the average person. Besides the fact that he purchases carbon credits to somewhat offset his life style (a complicated and hard to explain rationale I admit) this line argument totally ignores the impact Gore has had on the global warming debate. Through Gore’s efforts, the issue of global warming has gone way beyond the “is it really happening stage? to “what do we do about it stage.? Heck even the Bush Administration has made some baby steps toward acknowledging global warming. George W. Bush always says he believes history will find that his actions were correct. I have a strong feeling that history will not look kindly at his turning a blind eye to the issue of global warming. With that, this week’s random top 10:

1. Pay Me My Money Down – Bruce Springsteen
2. We Want the Airwaves – The Ramones
3. My Hero – Foo Fighters
4. I’m Not Angry – Elvis Costello
5. I Don’t Want to Fall in Love – She Wants Revenge
6. Tony’s Theme (Live) – Pixies
7. Stakalee – Frank Hutchison
8. Good Ol’ Mountain Dew – Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash
9. Salome – Old 97s
10. First Night – The Hold Steady

October 11, 2007

Wilco@Northrop: Okay alright okay alright!!

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UPDATE: Click here for link to cool concert pics!

I am not sure if I can come up with superlatives to describe the Wilco concert Wednesday night at Northrop Memorial Auditorium without sounding like some 9-year old girl describing her first Backstreet Boys concert. Unfortunately grown up descriptors don’t work either: “Kick-Ass? is too commonplace. “Transcendent? is too spiritual. “Entertaining? is too limited. “Sublime? is too understated. Even though all four words adequately describe the show, I eventually just fall back to my 9-year old vocabulary with the word “Awesome? that keeps sticking to my mind (well that and “okay? -- which is an inside joke for those who were there).

If somehow I could only show the look on my friend Jeff L.’s face after the concert, which could be described simply as beatific, then I would be able to adequately express how good Wilco was to those who weren’t there. First, Wilco is rapidly becoming The Beatles of our time, not with their impact on popular culture of course, but by adventuring out musically to places where few bands dare to explore. Second, the venue at Northrop Auditorium was perfect for a Wilco show. The sound was outstanding: One could easily hear each individual instrument; Jeff Tweedy’s voice was top notch; and it was loud enough to be a rock and roll show but not so loud you couldn’t “hear? the music.

The addition of Nels Cline to the band was truly inspired. It’s his guitar work on Wilco’s latest album Sky Blue Sky that you notice but in concert one can see how amazing his guitar playing actually is. Time after time when a song was done I would look over to my 12-year old and the both of us would just be shaking our heads. I think Charlie described it best: “His guitar solos were insane!? Kotche’s drum work and the rest of the band were solid anchors. As mentioned above, Jeff Tweedy was in fine voice, and after not even acknowledging the crowd until the middle of the 4th song, was quite chatty and personable the remainder of the show.

The song list (below) included at least one song from all their albums with a focus on Sky Blue Sky and Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and a Being There-heavy (and long) encore set. A few songs from A Ghost is Born were played too. Gary Louris from the Jayhawks played lead on California Stars, which was really cool. Most songs included extended guitar solos heavy on the distortions and feedback so if you were so inclined, you could easily get your freak on.

It’s hard to say if I’ve ever experienced a better concert. Some shows I’ve seen have rocked out more (Green Day), were crazier (Flaming Lips), were more inspirational (U2), were more surprising (Rock for Change), or were just a big party (Urban Guerrillas circa 1985) but none included all those attributes and then wrapped them up in a nice little box and tied it with music that was in a word “Awesome!?

Did you go to the show?

Set List:
Sunken Treasure
You Are My Face
Side With The Seeds
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Pot, Kettle, Black,
War on War
Handshake Drugs
Impossible Germany
Sky Blue Sky
Too Far Apart
Jesus, etc.
Hate It Here
Walken
I'm The Man Who Loves You
Hummingbird
Shot In The Arm

Encore:
Red Eyed and Blue->I Got You
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Forget The Flowers
California Stars (w/ Gary Louris on lead)
Heavy Metal Drummer
Spiders

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October 10, 2007

DRM - in its last days?

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A while I back I talked about DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the future of recorded music. Since that time there has been a number of events that seem to point toward the day of DRM-free music and perhaps even music available for all at a low or no fee. Since my original post we have seen:

1. Apple is making some songs available DRM-free. The songs are of a higher sonic quality (128 v. 96 kpb) however they cost more ($1.29 v. $0.99/song)

2. Warner Brothers have announced that they will make their entire library available DRM-free.

3. Amazon has established a song-purchasing site similar to I-Tunes. All songs are DRM-free and are $0.89 per song. Although Amazon doesn’t have the library that I-Tunes has, it does have 2,000,000 songs.

4. A woman from Duluth was ordered to pay over $9,000 each for the 26 songs she was caught illegally downloading. The backlash over this outrageous sum has cast a spotlight in the recording industry’s continued practice of suing random customers.

5. Trent Reznor has left his recording label and promises to provide any future recordings in a downloadable format.

6. Radiohead is allowing fans to download their new album, In Rainbows, from the Radiohead website. The cost: You name the price. The album will be made available today (October 10th) and right now the website is virtually impossible to access. If Radiohead moves thousands of albums via download, look for other artists to try something similar.

The problem for the recording industry is that the issue of DRM-free, cheap, easily downloadable songs has left the barn. There's no going back. Instead of suing its customers, the recording industry needs to figure out how to become a provider of downloadable music. The Radiohead example is going to be closely watched by all players in the music industry. If the album is a hit, more artists will look to move away from their labels. It's an exciting time.

If I ever am able to access the Radiohead site I will report on my experience. Anyone else out there downloading free music or the new Radiohead album?

October 8, 2007

30 Best Love Albums - Kiss Alive!

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. With that on to #27 of the list...

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27. Kiss - Alive! (1975)

It would only make sense that since this odyssey of reviewing my 30 best loved albums was born out my desire to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of my first concert (Kiss at Met Center December 2nd, 1977) that the album Kiss Alive! would make the list of 30 favorite albums. As it was Kiss Alive! played an integral part of my musical growing up. In 1976 the popular musical landscape was a lot different than it is now. As a 13-year old 7th grader, music wasn’t really marketed to me. Sure kids with older siblings or hip parents might be into the Stones or Led Zeppelin but for the vast majority of early or pre-teens, bands like Chicago and Barry Manilow were what was popular. In fact my first two albums were by Eric Carmen and Melissa Manchester. Dweeby for sure but pretty much the norm. Contrast that today when 3 years ago Green Day’s American Idiot was on every 4th grade boy’s fave list and a whole genre of kiddy punk is marketed to ever younger pre-teens.

Then came Kiss Alive! I was vaguely aware of the band Kiss and the makeup and fire-eating antics but it wasn’t until Kiss Alive! that I was really introduced to the band. As it was, I came across them like a lot of other kids: a friend’s older brother was into them. The outrageous costumes, the blood spewing, the individual characters were cool of course but that only goes so far. It was the music that won me over and legions of other suburban teen boys. They sang about the same general topics that all popular bands sing about: sex, drugs, and rock and roll, however, it had a harder edge and a little bit of “wheee? to go with the “grrr.?

Kiss Alive! is basically live versions of band’s highlights from their first three, generally lackluster-selling, albums. Deuce and Strutter kick off the album and are pretty decent rockers. Paul Stanley’s patter between songs is usually about drinking and partying, however it’s the last 3rd of the album where the songs really take off. Rock Bottom and Black Diamond are pretty good rockers but then after a long introduction by Paul Stanley, the band lets loose with Cold Gin. Ace’s guitar work on this song is very cool and I always wanted to be able to play the guitar solo myself (to no avail). Rock and Roll All Night which became Kiss’ signature song and then Let Me Go Rock and Roll end the concert and the album. The song placement shows how early in their career this album came out as Rock and Roll All Night has long since become the song’s closing song.

Over the years it has come out that the band’s producers augmented the live sound of the album by amping up the crowd reaction. This was a big disappointment as one of the key features of the album is that it sounds live, as if you were there. To think the crowd reaction was added later was like finding out that the curvy girl at school stuffed her sweater. Later there’s been reports that not only was the audience reaction added to the album but that many other parts of the concert were dubbed in, including vocals and some of Peter Criss’ drum work. There still is debate whether or not additional studio work actually happened. I tend to think that it wasn't overdubbed (except for minor mistakes, bad mics,etc) because the band’s label was broke at the time and they probably didn’t have the resources to pay for the band to basically re-create its concert in the studio.

Kiss Alive! was the album that pointed my in the right musical direction. No more Eric Carmen for me! Pretty soon after discovering this album I was all over the Who, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, the Stones, etc. Little did I know those bands were slowly becoming irrelevant due to other musical stirrings in England and NYC but it would take me another 5 years to discover that. However for saving my soul for rock and roll and providing the reason to attend my first rock and roll concert, Kiss Alive! is one of my 30 best loved albums.

What do you think of Kiss Alive!

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

October 5, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

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One of my life's goals is to see an ass-kickin' country-rock band in some dusty Texas roadhouse where the beer is flowing and the beer bottles are flying. Last night (Thursday) I came a little bit closer as I saw The Gourds at the Golden West Saloon on historic Route 66 in Albuquerque. Now the Golden West Saloon isn't a Texas Roadhouse but it is an old timey joint with a tin ceiling, grungy toilets, and a long bar. It's a place where Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty undoubtedly stopped at on their cross-country travels. The Gourds, from Austin Texas, absolutely kicked ass!! We're talking loud, fast, country rock with a full complement of slide guitar, mandolin, organ, accordian, and guitars. A lot of fun. With that, live from Albuquerque is this week's top 10:

1. Happy When It Rains - Jesus and Mary Chain
2. Bookends - Simon and Garfunkel
3. Time Heals - Geardaddies
4. The Civil Defense Sign - Mark Spoelsta
5. The Denial Twis - The White Stripes
6. San Antonio Rose - Patsey Cline
7. I am A Child - Neil Young
8. Nervous Breakdown - Eddie Cochran
9. Everybody's Tryin' to be my Baby - Johnny Cash
10. Hurricane - Golden Smog

What's Your Top 10?

October 1, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

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. With that on to #26 of the list...

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26. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (1985)

By 1985, punk rock was storming off in all sorts of musical directions. There was proto-punk, country-punk, art-punk, dance-punk, and hardcore-punk. One of the more interesting sub-genres was Irish or Celtic-Punk. Irish Punk was thought of as Irish folk songs or Irish folk-inspired songs revved up to a punk like speed. Locally, the band Boiled in Lead was a fantastic purveyor of traditional Irish music with a punk sensibility. Nationally, however, The Pogues were front in center and Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash was the album you had to have if you were into Irish or Punk music.

The Pogues were a perfect Irish band: You had the lead singer, Shane MacGowan - skinny, horrible teeth, hard drinking, gravelly voice; a band with upwards of 7 to 10 members, depending on who was sober or healthy at the time, and a bunch of traditional Irish songs. The album was a blast with songs about drinkin', industrial city living, Jessie James, war, lovers who left, and drinking. The album kicks off with The Sickbed of Cuchulainn an Irish romper sing-along. Dirty Old Town is exactly about what the title says: what it is like living in a old industrial-era city that is crumbling around you. The songs open with the classic line: "I met my love by the gas works wall..." You get the picture.

Other favorites include Sally MacLennane which again is fast, fiesty sing-along. I'm sure this was sung at many going away parties. The highlight of the album is The Band Played Waltzing Matilda which describes an Australian's horrifying experience fighting the Turks in WWI. One of the strongest anti-war songs ever written and it makes me think sadly of our soldiers coming back from Iraq with broken bodies, never again able to dance.

The album is a fun, singable, danceable ride. The musicians are top notch and the songs are a great combination of old and new Irish songs. A bunch of these songs would be perfect for any party tape, wedding dance, or just to listen to to get the blood pumpin'. For that reason, Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash is one of my 30 best loved albums.

What do you think?

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