Sunday, February 26, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: SOUNDTRACK - GIMME DANGER: THE STORY OF THE STOOGES



Here's great news for all of you who follow the theory that The Stooges were/are the greatest rock and roll band of all time, as filmmaker Jim Jarmusch proclaims. His documentary, which hit film festivals last year, is now out on DVD, and the soundtrack has arrived as well. I haven't seen the film yet, but it got excellent reviews, so there's that to look forward to. I'd have to say they've done a bang-up job on this music set as well.


It starts out with the band in it's prime, Iggy leading them through the title song here, a great one from Raw Power, and then some classics, the string of No Fun, I Wanna Be Your Dog and 1969. Some more album cuts follow, and then the rarer stuff kicks in. A couple of outtakes from Raw Power, I Got A Right and I'm Sick Of You could only previously be found on the four disc deluxe edition.


Fellow Detroit travelers MC5 are heard next, part of the Stooges' story for sure, with Ramblin' Rose from their debut live album Kick Out The Jams. Then come a couple of ragged recordings from Iggy's previous 60's bands, The Iguanas and the Prime Movers, the latter an audience recording of Bo Diddley's I'm A Man, which gives a good taste of the blues rawness that Iggy had in his background. The set closes with a couple more hard-to-get numbers, taken from expensive deluxe reissues of the first two Stooges albums, including a full-on freak-out called Asthma Attack.


That pretty much tells you the story, that this been put together with fans in mind, especially if you like the band but haven't gone all crazy buying box set reissues. Plus, it hasn't been messed up with bits of dialogue or later, post-'73 stuff, whether you like that or not. It sticks to the script, the original Stooges, and there's plenty to base a documentary, and a soundtrack on from that time.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: ANDREW SISK - ANTARCTICALIA



Now don't you be trying to nail down what Andrew Sisk is up to. He's been juggling projects and bands and names since his beloved Fredericton band Share closed shop back in 2010. Just when you got your head around that, Share's back, although just for a couple of shows. Sisk will join his former bandmates, who also comprise Olympic Symphonium, in a double-bill of classic albums, at the Fredericton Public Library on March 3, and the Timber Lounge in Halifax March 4. They'll play the entirety of Share's album Pedestrian, and then switch over and play the Symphonium's debut Chapter 1, celebrating the 10th anniversary of both.


In the meantime, Sisk has a brand-new EP out under his own name (as opposed to the work he's done with Coco et Co.) called Antarcticalia. It's the follow-up to Articalia, projects that match his songwriting charms with a touch of bossa nova ease. It's six tracks, all at around 3 minutes, of relaxed tempos and plush melodies. Some are stripped-down to acoustic charms, especially Bad Landlord and No Killing, which Gilberto and Getz could jam on. Other parts get some pretty nifty upgrades, including out-of-place noisy guitar and out-of-era synth. As always, Sisk supplies cool vocals and some great pop moments, Book Club here sounding like a lost Todd Rundgren classic. It's over too fast, but easily handles much repeated listening.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: BETH GARNER - SNAKE FARM



Texas-raised but Nashville-based, Garner got the best of both worlds, and ended up as a kind of Americana blues artist. She's also that rare beast, a female lead guitar and slide player as well as a twangy singer, and clever writer. So that's just about everything a roots fan could want.


This set is brief at seven cuts, but power-packed. Garner wanted to go straight blues on it, and for her that means high-energy, big groove electric numbers. While the songs are the stars, always with high-quality writing, she left herself lots of room for soloing too, including some nasty slide on the ZZ Top-ish closer, Wish I Was. While the playing fans are digging that, I'm focused on fun tunes like Backroads Freddie, about getting off the highway and looking around, and her cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard's Texas novelty, the title cut Snake Farm, apparently a true-to-life spot. A great spirit permeates this disc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: ALISON KRAUSS - WINDY CITY



Holy Hanna! It's Alison Krauss, covering Hal Lone Pine! Lone Pine, or Hal Breau, was a big star in Maine and the Maritimes especially, and was doing well in Nashville for a bit in the 50's. He was also the dad of jazz great Lenny Breau and... oh, don't get me going here. Anyway, Lone Pine and his Mountaineers and better half, Betty Cody, did the song It's GoodBye and So Long To You first, but Krauss probably knew it better from bluegrass favourites the Osborne Brothers and Mac Wiseman. She knows her classics, and much of this album features old-school numbers.


These are vocal tunes, and certainly not the mysteriously produced kind she did on the hit album with Robert Plant. Instead, she's playing it straight for the most part, and letting her voice do the work. Taking on the very well-known Gentle On My Mind is a tough one, with Glen Campbell's version etched in our conscience, but her clear-as-a-bell delivery gives it a more haunting tone. Her delivery of Brenda Lee's hit All Alone Am I is nothing less than stunning, giving it gravitas previously unimaginable, and her work on Lee's Losing You is just as impressive.


It's an impressive list of numbers, obscure at times, surprising elsewhere, like the title cut, another Osborne Brothers number. Only her choice of You Don't Own Me sputters, as it has been done to death, and she doesn't add much to it. While the source material does feature some bluegrass numbers, really this precious little of that, as it's pretty much a classic country crooner set. It's kind of a mixed bag though, as it features ten cuts in the main body of the album, then four of them done in live versions. If you shell out a couple of more bucks for the deluxe version, you get another two studio cuts, covers of more modern hits, Till I Gain Control Again (Emmylou) and Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground (Willie). It doesn't matter, she just sounds fantastic in every format and style.

Monday, February 20, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JONATHAN ROY - MR. OPTIMIST BLUES



It's very hard to get your head around the fact this is son of NHL star goaltender/coach Patrick Roy. If that isn't enough, he's the protege of another Quebec star, Corey Hart, who signed young Roy to his label, and wrote several of the cuts on this 9-track set, including the breakthrough hit Daniella Denmark. But you don't hear Hart or Roy senior when you play the songs, just this big, soulful voice.


Falling somewhere between Ed Sheeran and Passenger (even though there's not much room between them), Roy's music is smooth, mellow and right in line with the new kind of singer-songwriter, with a side of reggae. While he has a few of his own here, the best ones are Hart's, while Roy is excelling at emotional deliveries and sincerity. Best of all, he doesn't sound like he's forcing the feelings, a tendency some of the others in this style are guilty of. Add in that these are some of the best songs Hart has written since, you know, THAT one, and it's a promising partnership. This time, a Roy scores (groan).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: CREAM - FRESH CREAM SUPER DELUXE EDITION



We live in a world where the President of the United States routinely lies and gets away with it, where a bottle of Pepsi is cheaper than a bottle of water in restaurants, and where a 50-year old, 35-minute album can be turned into a four-disc, five-hour long box set. I can explain the last one.


It's the whole mono/stereo thing. Take this Cream album, the group's December 1966 debut. Disc one is the album in mono, an outtake in mono, and the singles from the album in mono. But that was only 50-ish minutes, so God bless 'em, here come the French. France loved the E.P. in the 60's, and instead of singles would put out E.P.'s of four cuts. Often, and in the case of two here, they would get slightly different mixes of cuts than the British versions, mostly because nobody checked or cared that much. So now, we're up to 75 minutes, disc one is done.


Disc two, of course, repeats everything in stereo. But because there are no singles or E.P.'s (all in mono those days), to draw on, instead the compilers took it upon themselves to create a few new mixes, just because. Disc three is the outtakes and BBC set, another standard of these collections, where you get early versions of the songs, and a couple more attempted but dropped songs, not fully formed. Then there's four different sessions for the Beeb, with 14 cuts recorded at the radio station studios, plus a couple of interviews with Eric Clapton. Finally, disc four is the now-standard Blu-ray featuring high resolution versions of all the same again, for those with very big ears and matching sound systems.


Whew! That's a lot of versions of these cuts, some here as many as nine times. I don't know about you, but I have to pay pretty close attention to tell if something's in mono or stereo. Now, some of them do have noticeable differences, which is always fun, even the occasional alternative solo from Clapton, or moments buried in mono that come out clear in stereo. But most of the time, it's basically the same. Or, as my son said, didn't we just hear that? Most cool would be the BBC stuff, where the new band showed off some of their live stuff, including Clapton's stand-by Crossroads, and Lawdy Mama, songs not on the Fresh Cream album.


Fresh Cream is probably the least-known release from the band, as they didn't break out in North America until the next year, with Disraeli Gears, followed by Wheels of Fire. It's probably not what you'd expect if unfamiliar with it, and it wasn't what was expected when it came out, either. This trio of exceptional blues players, rock's first supergroup, surprised everyone by being more arty than expected, debuting with the music hall-styled Wrapping Paper (included here) and then some whimsical concoctions of the first side of their album, such as N.S.U. and Sleepy Time Time. They did get to the blues eventually, and the fireworks got going with radical takes on classics Spoonful, Rollin' and Tumblin' and I'm So Glad. Drumming madman Ginger Baker has his famous solo piece here, Toad, thankfully only five minutes long in its studio incarnation. Also included is the very strong second single, I Feel Free, a better indication of where they'd be going than Wrapping Paper suggested. In all, it's a solid debut, not the home run they'd hit as a live band, but worth having in some form.


In this form, you do get all the extras in one place, and the BBC takes are worth repeated listening, as there are some fiery versions. There's typical fine packaging as well, a solid hard-cover book and a good historical essay of how the band formed, and their first year together. These things are always a treat for big fans, and that's a good way to look at it, treating yourself to something a little extra, and going, yeah, I DO want 9 versions of I Feel Free, thank you very much.

Friday, February 17, 2017

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: RYAN ADAMS - PRISONER



From a guy whose breakthrough album was called Heartbreaker, it shouldn't be a surprise that relationship woes can continue to inspire great work. This is Adams' first set of originals since his self-titled album of 2014, a strong set that saw him embrace a more basic rock sound. That was followed by 2015's headline-grabbing complete cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 album, apparently feeling in need of a little joy during the collapse of his marriage. Now, we get the inevitable disc of break-up songs.


Adams sure can write 'em with his heart on display. Lead single Do You Still Love Me? sets the tone, asking "Why can't I feel your love, my heart must be blind." There's no great progression from hurt to anger to acceptance here, it's a whole collection of levels of blue. In Haunted House, he admits, "I live here all alone ain't no one else." To Be Without You states "Every night is lonesome and is longer than before." Even the last track leaves us with "If I was born to be a loner, ok, but I'm not made of stone and I'm so blown away." Heck, even the photo in the booklet shows him lying in bed, clinging to a cat.


I guess enough time has past that he can deal with it all. Musically, in some cases it rocks, and surprisingly doesn't pitch into dreariness. Adams can deliver those lines in a mesmerising way, almost like he is a detached observer, and that lets us off the emotional hook a bit as well. He must be doing okay with it all anyway, as he's doing the big push on every media platform, from The Tonight Show to Marc Maron's WTF podcast, and then going on a big tour. He's still the best broken heart around.