Monday, June 20, 2005

“Bernice is no longer depressed…”

I love the random phrases you hear when you turn on the radio. The above greeted Terry and me when we got in the car, coming home from a lovely evening at Wolf Trap, Friday, June 17, after seeing
Another perk of my Washington Post gig (archived at click here ) is free admission to many of the venues that I write about. If they have spare press tickets (which frequently happens), I get to check out stuff I might not otherwise experience. Terry is a big Wilson fan, so I asked and was answered in the affirmative. And while we had excellent seats inside the “shed,” we started the evening with a picnic on the rolling lawn. Turns out Cassandra was the opening act (we’d thought she’d headline) and, by the time we finished our charcuterie meal, it was intermission and we were so comfortable laying under the stars on a cool summer night, that we stayed there for Jarreau’s set, too.
It was thoroughly delightful, and the music was only part of it. Wilson has a gorgeous voice, but somewhat limited range, and the band pushed her harder than was necessary. She was engaging, but I would prefer to see her in a club with a tasteful trio or quartet. Jarreau was very upbeat and very scatty; truly, the voice as an instrument, making sounds but not always words. I would have liked more melodies and a less vocal gymnastics. But both are fine performers and the atmosphere (and price!) couldn’t be better.

There's a new batch of music, waiting to be listed - it was a good weekend for packages - but there's so much already in the hopper, let's do this:

Thursday, June 16
1. RA – From One (Republic/Universal)

Purchased (a mere $1.50 each at the thrift store):
2. BILLY JOEL – Turnstiles (Columbia)
From angry young man to scary old one, Billy Joel’s career trajectory has been rather appalling, but there was a time when you couldn’t beat his pop craftsmanship or get his catchy, NY-centric songs out of your head. This was my favorite Joel album back in the day, so finding it as a cheap CD was nicely nice.
3. ANNIE LENOX – No More I Love You’s remix single (RCA)
A beautiful song, originally released by The Lover Speaks, and Lennox did a beautiful version on her “Medusa” album. This version incorporates pieces of “Take Me to the River” and a song (“Downtown Lights”) by the criminally underrated Blue Nile, but the remix, by Junior Vasquez, gooses the rhythm to a pint that undercuts the heartbreaking sentiment.
4. TOM PAXTON – The Best Of (Elektra Traditions/Rhino)
Nice to be reminded how many fine songs Paxton wrote – “I Can’t Help but wonder Where I’m Bound,” “The Last Thing On My Mind,” “Whose Garden Was This,” “Forest Lawn,” “The Marvelous Toy…” Paxton lives in this area and shows up at local folk shows. Next time I see him, maybe I’ll say hello.
5. DAWN UPSHAW – I Wish It So (Elektra/Nonesuch)
Songs by Bernstein, Blitzstein, Sondheim (a personal god of mine) and Weill. I listened eagerly but, while he material is excellent, I’m not a big fan of the operatic approach. (of course, I should have known, ‘cause that’s what Upshaw does.)
6.*NSYNC – It’s Gonna Be Me remix single (Jive)
Why? I asked myself the same question, and allowed myself to be swayed by the nice, reusable plastic case, the remix possibility (turns out to be a high BPM trance version by Jack D. Elliot, whoever he is) and the intriguing logo at the top, which says “Barbie #1 fan.” Maybe I can group it with some other *NSYNC debris on ebay.

7.The WIGGLES – Sailing Around the World (KOCH Records)
First off, why is this not called “Wiggling Around the World”? That was a missed opportunity. Second, while I can appreciate the joys of making little kids happy, I bet it’s a tough road to hoe, and maybe a bit of a letdown for someone who started a musical career with dreams of entertaining one’s peers. That is why I feel special sympathy for the Wiggles member whose name is Jeff Fatt. That’s hard.

Tuesday, June 14
8. BEWITCHED – original soundtrack (Columbia/Sony Music Soundtraxx)
Okay, much of the selection is obvious – the theme song with lyrics (sung by Steve Lawrence), Sinatra’s “Witchcraft,” a cover of “Witchy Woman” (by Broadway babe Kristin Chenoweth, so good in “Wicked,” but this is possibly even worse than the original), “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” (a waste of the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald), and the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Points added for giving props to Talking Heads (“And She Was”), given gladly for tow (count ‘em, two!) tracks featuring the ever-wonderful Louis Armstrong, but taken away for inclusion of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song”), which one can only hope has some valid comic reason for being in the movie at all.
9. The OFFSPRING – Greatest Hits (Columbia)
Cool. All the stuff I’ll ever want or need. Always liked “Pretty Fly for a White Guy,” “Why Don’t You Get A Job?” is pretty funny and “The Kids Aren’t Alright” has smarts to match its attitude. A welcome addition to the reference library.

At Best Buy:
10. BEN FOLDS FIVE – Whatever and Ever Amen (Epic)
I fully intended to buy Coldplay’s latest while it was still on sale, but this caught my eye. Perhaps my favorite BFF album, and here remastered with 7 bonus tracks for just under $10. So, if I can trade in my old copy, I won’t be out much for the better sound and bonus tracks. Still, I think record labels should offer album upgrade deals when they reissue stuff you already own. I saw an article today on “soft piracy” – not the sharing of music over the internet, but burning an extra copy of a CD (not a mix) for a friend. Remastered albums like this, (usually) sold at full price with some sops to hard-core fans, are a reason people don’t feel guilty making copies.
11. FOO FIGHTERS – In Your Honor (RCA)
This morning’s Washington Post had a rather tough review of this CD, but heck, I’ll give Dave Grohl the benefit of the doubt for 2 discs also just under $10. He’s a local boy made very, very good who gives back to the local music community, he did a great live show at HFStivals this year and in the past, and the two tracks that I’ve heard so far on Foo TV appearances, rocked hard and well. And Taylor Hawkins is really hot.

Home delivered via Tower Records online order:
12. The DECEMBERISTS – Castaways and Cutoffs (Kill Rock Stars)
Sometimes it’s more fun to discover a band a few albums into its career. Then, while you’re still in the first flush of falling in love, you can quickly work backwards to obtain and hear the other material the group recorded before you got there. So it is with the Decemberists. Just a few months ago, I discovered them while working on a Post preview, click here
then saw Colin Meloy perform live, now “Your Red Right Ankle” is on heavy rotation in the car (Emma and Grace love it, too), so getting a copy of the band’s full-length debut is a delight.

And how’s this for a deal – 10 recently-released CDs, still-sealed, for $10. Not each, but for all 10?! It’s called the Tower Collection, Volume 1, and I discovered it on the retail web site.
Since I was already ordering the Decemberists, shipping was free (the total order came to just over $23 for everything). I already have two copies of the Push Stars’ latest. Based on covers, titles and the general look of things, I suspect there may be three or four CDs that I’ll keep, and if I trade in the rejects at my local CD store, this package will probably pay for itself. That’s a whole lotta fun for $10. Keep going, Tower. Tell me when Collection #2 becomes available. In the meantime, here’s the $1 each collection:
13. GARY STIER – The Albatross (33rd Street Records)
14. LEE ROCKER – Bulletproof (33rd Street Records)
15. PETE SEARS – The Long Haul (33rd Street….I think there’s a pattern here)
16. SAMMY HAGAR and the WABORITAS – Not 4 Sale (Cabo Wabo Records, distributed by…33rd Street Records!)
Having never been a Hagar fan, with or without Van Halen to prop him up, I planned to keep this one in the shrink-wrap and take it off to the CD Cellar. Then I saw a song called “Whole Lotta Zep” and figure I’d check it out. Did not change my mind.
17. SETTIE – S/T (33rd Street/Iguana Records)
18.ALEX DE GRASSI – Now and Then: Folk Songs for the 21st Century (Tropo/33rd Street)
19. PETER FRAMPTON – Now (Framptone/33rd Street)
Not a good cover shot. Frampton, now with short white hair, hunched over his guitar, looks much older than he probably is and definitely would want to be perceived to be. Includes a cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
20. COWBOY MOUTH – Uh-Oh (33rd Street)
My cousin the navy man swears by this band. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with his political sentiments, but he has pretty good taste in music.
21. PUSH STARS –Paint the Town (33rd Street)
The one I already have, and a damn fine CD it is, too. Now, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, I can share it with a friend – if I see one worthy before the next trip to the trade-in store!
22. TRICHROMES – S/T (if you don’t know the label by now…!)
Looks suspiciously like a psychedelic jam band, not one of my favorite genres, especially with titles like “Knot of Eternity” and “Track 6” – which appears third. And look! There’s an extra disc in the box, bringing the collection to 11 CDs for $10:
23.TRICHROMES – Dice with the Universe (3-track single)
I played this one to get a sense of the band and it is, indeed, a Deadhead offshoot thing. God does not play dice with the universe and I am not a middle-aged white guy in a tie-dye T-shirt, so this is a goner.
The two Trichromes CDs, BTW, are dated 2002, which leads me to believe that 33rd Street Records is doing a little inventory clearance.

Friday, June 10
24. FILOMATH – (fi:lo:math) n. (self-released)
This band opened for Anna Nalick and Better Than Ezra at the Celebrate Fairfax! event I previewed for the Post. click here
I missed their set, but chatted with the manager while waiting between Nalick’s and BTE’s set. He gave me the CD when he heard what I write about.

Thursday, June 9
A various artists collection “designed to help show your pride and respect for our troops.” Also “an uplifting project, helping to unite the nation behind a vital, common cause: support for our troops and military families.” Not so fast.
While I’m pretty sure Johnny Cash wasn’t a fascist, and I’m with Willie Nelson on the whole Farm Aid thing, the inclusion of tracks like “Have You Forgotten,” where Darryl Worley continues the misleading link between 9-11 and Iraq, and Chely Wright’s noxious “Bumper of my SUV,” one of the more divisive political songs currently in heavy rotation in Red Stateland, puts this album in With Us or Against Us mode. Wanna support the troops? Send them desperately needed armor, and then hold accountable the administration that sent them to war under false pretenses. And bring them home!

Wednesday, June 8:
We Get Out –KILLERS, KEANE, LOUIS XIV, MAXIMO PARK at Merriweather Post
Keane were much more impressive than I anticipated. Lead singer Tom has been known as “Pudding Boy” around our house, ever since the band’s Saturday Night Live appearance when Terry remarked that he looked like a British schoolboy who ate a lot of pudding. Yes, he’s a bit doughy as compared to all the skinny indie rock boys with their toothpick legs, but he’s also quite cute, in a Harry Potter way. He was also quite gracious onstage, smiling a lot and thanking the crowd for making it such a good night, as compared to the ever-so-cool Brendan Flowers, who worked the crowd as a man very much assured of himself. Guess which persona I prefer?
I also thought Keane were stronger musically, getting a quite impressive sound out of just three instruments and holding the stage with minimal stage effects. The Killers had the huge red drapes, the admittedly cool light-up sign of their name, the big light show and two damn big hits. But aside from “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside,” the other songs from “Hot Fuss” follow very similar lines, and the new tunes, including a sop to ”Indie Rock and Roll,” led one to wonder if this band is a shooting star.

Also acquired over the past two weeks or so:
26. PETER BRADLEY ADAMS – EP (Big Helium Entertainment)
Former member of the duo easmountainsouth. Weren’t they a couple? Is this a messy separation CD?
27. The SOUTHLAND – Influence of Geography (Ruffworld Records)
Coming to Merriweather Post soon, on a bill that I’ve been on the fence about (with O.A.R. and Pepper), but I must say I really liked this one on first (admittedly, superficial) hearing. Taking it with me on the road – a good sign.
The names are presented as if I should know who they are. But I don’t.
29.JOAN OF ARC – Presents Guitar Duets (Record Label Record Label)
30.XAVIER RUDD – Solare (Salt X/Universal)
Two listens in and I’m really liking this guy. Shades of Ben Harper, Simon & Garfunkel (yeah, kinda!) and world music. Coming to the State Theatre next month. Definite preview material.
31. ISOBELLA – Surrogate Emotions of the Silver Screen (New Granada Records)
32. GEORGE JONES – My Very Special Guests (Epic/Legacy) )
Got it as an advance in cheap plastic sleeves and, while there’s no extra music in the official edition, the double disc packaging is so clean and classy, I can’t see trading off the final version, which I often do. (Advance releases have a little extra cachet.)

Not Quite Purchased:
33. iTUNES EMI sampler
On a visit to Target, I was cruising the music section and saw a stack of cards, saying “Download this exclusive collection worth over $10…blah, blah…Take this card to the register when you buy a CD from the ‘Your Favorites’ display.” If you’ve been reading these pages, you know I’ve discovered that most “Buy this and get that“ offers are pretty loosey-gooesy. I wasn’t interested in buying any of the 10 CDs listed (I already have Al Green, Exies and Aslyn), so I took the card with my other purchases, went through check out with it and brought it home to plug in the redemption code. No problemo, although I don’t think you can burn these tracks onto CD for external use. But bottom line is, none of the songs really grabbed me – not N2U, not Jamie O’Neal, not Dierks Bentley…so it doesn’t matter. I got to check out some new artists, and that’s the point.

YTD: 493
Be with us next time, when CPF:the Blog passes the 500 mark for musical acquisitions!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Just the Facts, M'am

Down and dirty. Will clean it up soon.

Saturday, June 4
1. MARWOOD – S/T (self-released)
Coming to town on June 29. Post preview, with mini-interview, goes out Thursday.

Friday, June 3
2. BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY – Promo sampler
10 tracks, spanning their career.
Also a presentation DVD.
3. BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY – Live (Big Bad/Vanguard)
Upcoming Post pick, along with local a cappella goofballs (and I mean that lovingly) DaVinci’s here
I put the word out to the label publicist and the band’s manager, seeking info, and got packages with entirely different material from each. Hmmmm…interesting. Management sent the promo sampler and DVD, label PR the double live CD.
4. SCUM OF THE EARTH – Blah…Blah…Blah…Love Songs for the New Millenium
5. MAXIMO PARK – A Certain Trigger (Warp)
Tomorrow’s Killers/Keane show is turning into a mini-festival, with three other acts on the bill – these guys, Regina Spektor, and Louis XIV.
6. INNAWAY – S/T (Some Records)
Out July 5th.

Thursday, June 1
7. OASIS – Don’t Believe the Truth (Epic)
Educated consumers (or suckers) know that the first week an album is out is the best time to buy, since the major chains sell them cheap, starting on new release Tuesday, to get people into the stores. And labels like that since it means strong first week sales and chart placement. Target has the new Oasis dual disc for the same price ($11.99) but Best Buy offered an additional bonus disc with 5 songs recorded live at Chicago’s Metro Theater in 1994. So that’s where I got mine. The Beatles’ homage/rip-offs continue and, though I run lukewarm and cold with these guys, listening to a new Oasis album is pretty much obligatory in My Line Of Work. As obligations go, that’s not bad.
8. SANTANA – The Hits (Columbia)
At $5.99 I couldn’t resist a copy for the reference library. And a good excuse to clear out some old vinyl.
Also picked up another copy of the freebie sampler “I Love That Song,” which won’t count in the total.
9.BETTER THAN EZRA – Before the Robots (Song/Artemis)
Post preview posts on Thursday. click here
10. LIZZ WRIGHT – Dreaming Wide Awake (Verve Forecast)
11. EMBRACE – Out of Nothing (Lava/Atlantic)
12. TSAR – Band*Girls*Money (TVT)
13. PUNK-O-RAMA (Epitaph)
14. LEFT ALONE – Lonely Starts & Broken Hearts (Hellcat Records)
15. ZZZ – Palm Reader (PolyVinyl Records)
Publicist described them as a Tim Burton soundtrack on speed. Which basically means Oingo Boingo, no? I heard it, and shades of Romeo Void, too, in the stuttering sax and sassy female vocalist. A pleasant time warp tri back to the New Wave days.
16. SCHOOLYARD HEROES – Fantastic Wounds (NA)

Tuesday, May 31
17. TURIN BRAKES - JackInABox (Astralwerks)
A new, neat discovery. Previously only a name I'd heard about, and assumed was somehow more artsy and less accessible. One of those rare releases that Terry (the hubby) noticed on first play and asked about.
18. KRAFTWERK – Minimum-Maximum (Astralwerks)

YTD: 460