Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Radio Silence

Well dear readers, the past 2 weeks of cd releases has been woeful. The only thing that the releases have proven is just how much I don't like Broken Social Scene. So, I will be offering, hopefully, some more articles on old albums, Bohemian Rhapsody, and 2nd hand highs at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Oh yeah - Willie Nelson's new cd of old country standards is very, very good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Best Produced Songs Ever - Part 1. "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden"

Recorded in 1970 and produced by Glenn Sutton, Lynn Anderson's "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" was a cross-over hit. Anderson won a Grammy for Best Country female vocal performance, and the great Joe South won a song-writing Grammy for the song. Country purists, perhaps understandably, by and large hated the song as well as the production with its "Countrypolitan" sound including strings (!) and such. It was always a sweet, haunting song for me and my childhood, and I remember really enjoying it when it was popular.
But it wasn't until RE-hearing the song some 20-25 years later driving in the car one day that I realized just how amazing and necessary the production was/is to this song. It is breathtaking, and I remember re-hearing the song with my mouth on the floor as to all the little details thrown in - a dash of this, a dash of that - which makes the song truly come alive. I mean, to sit on a stool and play this song on an acoustic guitar...I suppose it would work ok...but you really would only think of it as just a "normal" song at best. But what Glenn Sutton does here! Incredible. Those staccato opening strings and that single thumping drum announcing that this song, indeed, is in the house and demands to be heard - well, now you're hooked and lost in the song before you know it, and the ride begins. The harmonies, the guitars laying down the beat along with a skipping, almost jazzy drum. The staccato electric guitar dueting with Anderson's voice...then strings doing the same thing and swirling, cascading all the way through the chorus. Then comes the steel guitar calling back and forth to the strings like some classical piece. It's just "pixie dust magic" as Elvis Costello once said of ABBA's music. Download it today not only for a piece of music history, but for an example of fantastic production.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New CD Reviews - 4/12/10

MGMT - "Congratulations" (7 out of 10) - Just a little too quirky and inaccessible for me. I think they can do better than this if they would focus more on actually writing songs, although I do appreciate the creativity. I mean, if you can whistle back to me any of these songs, you get a gold star. Or else you have some good "stuff" from Northern California that's making it sound like the White Album. I just don't like to work this hard for my music, and I'm not willing to just nod my head and give them a great score because it would be cool to do so. I'm mainly here to say if a cd is going to give you enjoyment and joy, and I just don't think this will for the people I know. Oh well. And please don't name a song "Brian Eno" like you're all hip. "Siberian Breaks" is the highlight here.

And that's the only release this week that captured my interest. Hopefully a few more next week!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Laura Marling - "I Speak Because I Can" (8.8 out of 10)

She is all of 21 years old. This is her 2nd cd. I liked the first one. This is a classic.
Far better than anything Joni Mitchell could have conceived of at this age (or any age as far as I'm concerned), Laura Marling's "I Speak Because I Can" runs the potential danger of being too subdued and acoustic for its own good, but the danger is completely abated because the song-writing here is so strong, mature, passionate and hauntingly lovely. In a similar way to Joanna Newsome, Marling appears to have been channeled to us from another planet as a gift...we'll just call Marling a 1st cousin for now. The 2 highlights for me are "Rambling Man" and "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)," the former steering away from the all-acoustic feel with an explosion of a chorus. If she never puts another cd out, she has cemented her worth as a true artist.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Releases - 4/6/10

Jakob Dylan - "Woman and Country" (6.5 of 10) I was pulling for this - I really was. And the first song "Nothing but the Whole Wide World" is very nice and I perked up. I mean, a T-Bone production, Neko Case adding her vocals here and there - the ingredients were there. But it just starts to drag by the middle and just becomes a gothic, predictable set of songs. Oh well.

Dr. Dog - "Shame, Shame" (8 out of 10) Shame, shame on me...I honestly have no idea whether the score should be higher , lower, or what. Just check it out yourself. I'm at a loss. Maybe they are out of my genre or I hadn't had lunch yet.

Jonsi - "Go" (8.0 out of 10) The Sigur Ros frontman releases his first solo record. And with only 9 songs, I was expecting long, drawn-out stuff with some weird noises accompanied by brilliant moments. But this is more accesible than Sigur Ros - closer to Ok Computer-era Radiohead. And even though you can't understand what the hell he's saying most of the time, it's a pretty good atmospheric ride that always has fresh ideas and inspired hooks. Very impressive.

Matt Pond PA - "The Dark Lyrics" (8.2 out of 10) For some reason it just hasn't been cool to be a big Matt Pond PA fan; they've never really "made it" and, in fact, have sort of faded from view. I mean, I know sorority girls who love these guys, and I'm sure that doesn't help their image. But I think this band (with Matt Pond now being the only original member left), now on their 8th album, might be actually very under-rated. I loved this album. From the jaunty opening song "Starting" to the even more jauntier next song "Running Wild," complete with hand claps, strings, and a background banjo, to the 2 centerpieces - "Remains" and "Sparrows" (which should make my best songs of 2010 list), I love the sound, the confidence, and the craft of this release. What a nice surprise. Wonderful and inspired, even though it sort of gets a little thin towards the end.

Back after a week hiatus!

Between Easter week (I preached 3 times!) and the fact that all the new releases last week either sucked or were completely uninteresting, I had nothing to say. I did find one gem of a song on one of the new cds, and I'll mention that later today or tomorrow. Back with new cd reviews a bit later!