Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #71"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #01: April 29, 2012"

Today is the premiere of my brand new weekly segment: The Playlist. Share and enjoy.

April 29: Dizzy Gillespie, "Manteca"

Artist: Dizzy Gillespie
Song: "Manteca"
Album: Dizzy Gillespie And His Big Band
Year: 1948

Easily one of the most overlooked genres in history is that of the classic "big band" sound. This is the sound that was the standard for decades, and an overwhelming number of jazz, bop, and blues legends honed their skills within the confines of big band groups. Among these icons was by far the greatest trumpet player in history, as well as one of the greatest band leaders the world has ever seen, the one and only Dizzy Gillespie. Many would argue that Gillespie was so unique, and his playing so complex, that later artists took the "easier" route and copied artists like Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead. After experiencing the extraordinary playing of Gillespie, this intimidation is quite understandable, as the speed and technique with which he played is truly stunning. While Gillespie is certainly known for his unique, bent trumpet, his puffed cheeks, and his far more relaxed, light-hearted personality, his talents as a composer, band leader, and obviously musician cannot be overlooked. All three of these skills are rarely more apparent that they were throughout the existence of what is largely considered Gillespie's "first great band," and this is certainly a group that lived up to that name. The stunning talent and power of the group is brilliantly captured on Dizzy Gillespie's tremendous 1948 release, the simply titled Dizzy Gillespie And His Big Band, and there may be no song that better defines the man than his classic, "Manteca."

Within the framework of the classic big band, it is often difficult to stand out, as well as assemble a group of musicians all of the highest standard. The latter is simply because, within the confines of the big band lineup, there are simply so many positions to fill, often times, a handful of "second rate" musicians are necessary. However, Dizzy Gillespie managed to forgo both of these hazards with this lineup. The musicians he put together for this band are truly the best in the land, and the lineup reads like a "who's who" list of the era. The combination of James Moody on tenor saxophone and Cecil Payne on baritone is nothing short of stunning, and the power and tone the two possess is beyond words. Moody has played with everyone from Miles Davis to Charles Mingus, and still records today, making him one of the most heavily recorded musicians of all time. Having backed artists like Sarah Vaughan, Cannonball Adderley, and Ray Charles, Payne was equally talented, and he remains one of the most highly respected players to this day. Lending a second trumpet to the group, Willie Cook played alongside Dizzy for nearly two decades. His presence allows Gillespie more musical freedom, and his playing in the album cannot be overlooked. The entire band on this rendition of "Manteca" are worth mentioning, as they are all truly amazing, yet these three artists stand out above the others.

Whether he is laughing with the audience, brilliantly directing his band, or taking center stage on his stunning compositions, there are truly few artists worth of being mentioned in the same breath as Dizzy Gillespie. Playing with more power and swagger then nearly anyone else in history, Gillespie's sound is immediately recognizable, and he is one of the few artists who clearly "have fun" playing their music.  All across "Manteca," Dizzy is in top form, and one can hear the new directions he is taking, as the track remains today one of the most important building blocks in the "Afro-Cuban" jazz movement.  He is outright dazzling as both a performer and a band leader, and one can also easily hear the chemistry between him and the songs' co-writers.  Along with all of the other amazing musicians on the album, easily the most unique member of the group is conga player Chano Pozo. It is due to the relationship between Gillespie and Pozo that Dizzy began to explore and create the Afro-Cuban-Jazz genre, and this is without question their masterpiece. The song is an absolutely stunning combination of styles, and it has been covered by countless artists over the years, perhaps most notably by the jam-rock group, Phish.  Though the pair would compose a number of other iconic tunes, due to its chronological timing, as well as its overall influence, one can easily argue that from a historical perspective, "Manteca" remains their most vital work.

When it comes to a unique, innovative approach to music, few excelled as well as Dizzy Gillespie. From his early days backing artists like Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy's power and style were like no other artist in history. Presenting a more powerful and far more loose approach than his contemporaries, he was constantly pushing into new territory and creating new, brilliant musical fusions. Largely responsible for the Cuban-jazz style of music, his relationship with conga player Chano Pozo ranks among the most important musical pairings in history. The interplay between the two is highlighted on this live version of "Manteca," and judging by the audience's reaction, the two personalities were just as dynamic as their musical interactions. The group that Gillespie had assembled as his big band were far and away some of the most talented musicians in the world, and the talent within this version of his band is easily one of the greatest big bands in history. Gillespie himself is absolutely stunning on every moment of "Manteca," and as he changes roles from musician to conductor to emcee, it is clear that he was easily one of the most amazingly unique talents in the history of music. Presenting a perfect musical picture of everything that makes Dizzy Gillespie one of the most well respected and revered artists in history, his 1948 live release, Dizzy Gillespie And His Big Band, is easily one of the greatest moments ever captured in the entire history of recorded music, and "Manteca" may very well be the highlight.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28: Anthrax, "Among The Living"

Artist: Anthrax
Album: Among The Living
Year: 1987
Label: Island

As the classic era of punk began to fade and then 1970's turned into the 1980's, a new style of music began to form. Taking the high octane energy of the punk sound and fusing it together with the volume and power of bands like Black Sabbath and Motörhead, a sound which was dubbed "speed metal" began to appear on the music scene. Along with the likes of Slayer and Metallica, one of the key bands in this new movement, and a band that remains a massive influence to this day was the New York City based band, Anthrax. Though the band went through a number of lineup changes, Anthrax solidified what would be their "classic" lineup before their 1984 major label debut. Both their debut and follow-up records remain cornerstones of the speed metal genre, yet it is their third album, 1987's Among The Living that is a true classic and contains their finest work. In many ways, Among The Living displayed everything that made Anthrax so brilliant, from the balance of socially aware lyrics with their trademark tongue-in-cheek musings, to some of the most fierce musical compositions that the world has ever heard.  The band is absolutely in top-form on every moment of the album, and there are few records from the world of heavy metal that can even remotely compare to Anthrax's superb 1987 recording, Among The Living.

Truth be told, few songs so perfectly capture their title, as "Caught In A Mosh" quickly builds to a musical frenzy, and anyone who has ever been in a mosh pit can clearly feel the crowd moving around them. From  start to finish, the song is masterfully deployed musical mayhem, yet the music remains focused and disciplined amidst the swirling chaos, much like the eye of a tornado. On many levels, this song perfectly displays everything that makes Anthrax so phenomenal, and it mirrors the entire album as a whole.  After a series of rhythmically crushing chords, which almost serve as a warning siren of what's to come, Frank Bello drops into the song with one of the most wild and tension-fueled basslines that has ever been written. What follows across the remainder of the album is one of the most brain crushing and absolutely stunning displays of controlled chaos in music history. The drumming of Charlie Benante rarely sounded better, and the break-neck pace which he keeps throughout the recrod serves as a testament to his talents. Along with the fantastic work of the rhythm section, the dual guitars of Dan Spitz and Scott Ian remains today one of the most legendary sounds in the history of the metal genre. The fact that they are playing at such an amazingly fast tempo at every turn, yet never sacrifice any of the musicality of the song is one of the key aspects that sets Anthrax apart from the rest of the metal genre.

While many have tried over the years, few metal vocalists can present as much diversity, without ever losing the tone and energy as one finds in the singing of Joey Belladonna. From his aggressive spoken-word parts to his soaring singing, Belladonna is absolutely brilliant on every part of Among The Living. As the tension of the music ebbs and flows, so does Belladonna's vocal delivery, and the fusion of the two quickly sets the record far above the work of a majority of their peers. While the music is absolutely mesmerizing, and the vocals are truly perfect, as a whole, Among The Living also features some of Anthrax's finest lyrics ever. While at face value, the songs may seem little more than a a series of tunes to get the crowd energized, the metaphors of a person being fed up with their partner, or general frustration at the world runs through the entire record.  Summing up the frustrations of the broken relationship in a manner with which all can relate, Belladonna roars, "...shut up, shut up, I don't wanna hear your mouth...your mother made a monster, now get the hell out of my house..." The fact that the lyrics are ambiguous in terms of gender makes the song even more universal, and it is a major reason why the song has become so iconic. Whether it is the blistering manner with which he delivers the words, or the lyrics themselves, there is simply no other vocalist in history quite like Joey Belladonna.

Not only presenting an album full of songs that can still make crowds explode to this day, but songs which brings both a universal sentiment and masterfully placed "sing along" moments, there are very few metal records that are as perfectly crafted as Anthrax's Among The Living. Standing today as one of the earlier "crossover"albums  from the "speed metal" genre, Anthrax remains one of the few early bands that have not sold out to pop sounds in any way. While their entire 1987 release, Among The Living, is an absolutely genius body of work, "Caught In A Mosh" is clearly the stand-out track on the record, as it perfectly captures everything that makes the groups' music so fantastic, and it also contains one of the finest lyrics ever penned. With the rhythm section of Bello and Benante driving full speed ahead at an absolutely mind-boggling pace, there are truly very few albums that can keep such a tempo without becoming boring or simply sloppy. Similarly, both Scott Ian and Dan Spitz are in rare form on Among The Living, and the progressions and solos rank among the most ferocious and flawless in music history. Capped off my Joey Belladonna's sensational vocal delivery, the record truly embodies everything that there is to love about the entire speed metal genre. The fact that the group moves so magnificently as a single unit, along with the sheer power and energy of the album is the reason why Anthrax's 1987 record, Among The Living, remains a stunning musical classic to this day.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 28: Daily Guru, "Music News: April 21-28"

In today's video, I recap some of the biggest music stories of the week. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #05"

In today's video, I explore the reality behind a few more music myths. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25: Daily Guru, "Ask The Guru #06: The "Most Important" Band"

In today's video, I address the idea of there being a "most important" band in history. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24: Daily Guru, "Music School: The Million Dollar Quartet"

In today's music school, I look back at one of the most famous afternoons in music history. Share and enjoy.

April 24: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #121"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review of that artist, song, or album):
1. Liz Phair, "6'1"  Exile In Guyville
2. Carl Perkins, "Blue Suede ShoesThe Dance Album
3. Kraftwerk, "The Man Machine"  The Man Machine
4. The Clash, "All The Young Punks (New Boots & Contracts)"  Give 'Em Enough Rope
5. Norah Jones, "Take It Back"  Little Broken Hearts
6. George Harrison, "Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)"  All Things Must Pass
7. Les Rallizes Denudes, "Otherwise My Conviction"  Flightless Bird
8. Roy Orbison, "Oh, Pretty Woman"  Very Best Of…
9. PJ Cotroneo Band, "To Take Me Back"  Here Today
10. Phillip Lynott, "Spanish Guitar"  The Man And His Music: Volume 3
11. Björk, "The Modern Things"  Post
12. The Streets, "Has It Come To This?Original Pirate Material
13. Type O Negative, "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend"  October Rust
14. The Miracles, "Ooo Baby Baby"  single

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #70"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22: Nancy Sinatra, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"

Artist: Nancy Sinatra
Song: "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"
Album: Boots
Year: 1966

While many may see it as an advantage of sorts, the case can easily be made that being the child of a famous musician can actually make it even more difficult for a person to become a well-known performer.  Though these children clearly have a different easy of access than “normal” people, the fact remains that there can be a massive shadow over their efforts, constantly being referred to as “the son of…” or “the daughter of…”  This reality has been seen all across music history, as it is an extremely rare occasion that the offspring of any famous musician has been able to find legitimate success on their own, and those few that have can be counted on a single hand.  More to the point, one can see that the larger in fame that the parent was, the more difficult it is for the child to succeed, so one can understand that being the child of Frank Sinatra might make any sort of solitary musical success almost completely impossible.  Yet even though she struggled for many years to breakthrough in the United States, when Nancy Sinatra did finally find chart success, it was due to her providing the vocals and spirit for what remains one of the most iconic singles ever recorded.  Whether it is due to the almost dead-pan delivery style, or the lyrics that are more aggressive and in-your-face than had been widely heard to that point, there is not another song in history quite like Nancy Sinatra’s unforgettable 1966 single, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”

Truth be told, when it comes to memorable opening musical phrases, few come close to the deep, almost unsettling bass descent that opens These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”  Played by Chuck Berghofer, it instantly sets the tone for the song, and the slight sway that it brings manages to occupy a space somewhere between pop, funk, r&b, and soul.  The overall power of the orchestration on “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” is somewhat less surprising once one understands that the backing musicians where the iconic studio team known as The Wrecking Crew, and one can hear the second bass, being played by the legendary Carol Kaye.  Yet it is the way that the guitars from Al Casey, Tommy Tedesco, and Billy Strange that gives the track much of its movement, and it is also within this aspect of the music that the overall tone and spirit of the era can be felt.  However, the element which sets this apart from almost every other song of the time period lives within the horns found across the track.  Ollie Mitchell, Roy Caton and Lew McCreary bring a punch and spin that is completely unique, and while they are somewhat understated in the overall mix, their presence is vital to the appeal and impact of the song.  It is the way that all of these sounds come together, creating an irresistibly catchy dance groove, yet never backing off of the overall intensity and attitude which makes the track so unique, an even more than four decades later, the impact has not diminished in the least.

Strangely enough, one can easily make the case that Nancy Sinatra still fails to receive all of the credit she deserves for this song, as on many levels, it changed culture in general.  The way that she sings, as well as the actual words, as ahead of their time, as the empowerment of women within the world of music had yet to really begin, and one can see this song as one of the most important factors in that eventual reality.  Yet it is the fact that all across the song, Sinatra’s voice is uniquely coy, and yet strong and confident at the same time that makes her sound so unique, and while some may see her delivery as a bit flat, as there is little fluctuation in her pitch, there is no question that this happens to be the perfect way to perform such lyrics.  Legend says that the songs’ writer and producer, Lee Hazelwood, instructed Sinatra to sing the words as if, “she were a sixteen year old girl giving the brush-off to a forty year old man.”  This attitude was perfectly deployed by Sinatra, and in many ways, the song is more than an idle warning, as the words are far more aggressive and confrontational than anything that had been previously released.  Sinatra manages to perfectly capture the tone of a woman scorned, and the lines, “…and you keep thinking that you'll never get burnt, well, I've just found me a brand new box of matches…” sum up everything in the force behind the song.

In a way unlike any other song in history, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” has taken on a life of its own in almost every area of popular culture.  Not only was it a massive hit upon first release, but as the decades have passed, the recording has managed to stay relevant, and it is just as powerful and intriguing today as it was more than four decades ago.  In fact, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” has been used in some of the most iconic movies of all time, from the dark and gritty Vietnam War film, Full Metal Jacket, to one of the most memorable scenes from the 1997 comedy, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery.  Along with this, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” has been covered countless times over the years, with artists ranging from Jewel to Megadeth to The Residents to a wide range of other acts all recording their own take on the song.  Yet even with all of these other interpretations, none have been able to capture the angst and attitude that one finds on the Nancy Sinatra original, and one can argue that it is due to the time period and perhaps a bit of the innocence of her persona that allows her take to remain so far beyond later covers.  In fact, Nancy Sinatra’s recording is so exceptional, that one can make the case that with this single, she was able to briefly step out from her father’s shadow, proving that she could make a hit on her own with her 1966 clasic, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21: Wirepony, "Right Hook Of Love"

Artist: Wirepony
Album: Right Hook Of Love
Year: 2010

For whatever reason, over the past decade and a half, there has been a constant whine from a large portion of the music community that “rock is dead” or that “real music is a thing of the past.”  The truth of the matter is that there is a massive amount of truly phenomenal music being made every day all across the globe, and with the way that the internet makes borders irrelevant, there is simply no excuse for not seeking out the highest quality music one can find.  While the “major labels” are certainly not helping the case of quality rock music, this is not a new reality, and it is often within the spirit and sounds of independent artists where the most amazing musical art can be found.  It is within the reality of an artist being able to truly create and craft songs exactly as they see fit, without the pressure of men in suits who “think” they know what “the masses” want to hear where the most exciting sounds are occurring, and this is certainly the case of the band, Wirepony.  Bringing sounds that run the gamut from rock to folk and everything in between, there is an energy and attitude that brings to mind influences ranging from The Clash to The Drifters, and it is this combination of sounds and sources that makes the bands’ music so exciting.  The quartet formed in the wake of a handful of EP’s, finally putting together a superb collection of studio tracks in the form of their 2010 album, Right Hook Of Love.

The moment that Right Hook Of Love begins, the title track quickly sets the tone, as there is an immediate sense that the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well within the confines of the group, and yet there is also a purity and authenticity within the sound that sets the band far beyond their peers.  This sound, and the overall drive behind the song comes from the dual guitars of Patrick and Aaron Dennis, and throughout the album, it is the way that their sounds weave through and around one another that gives Right Hook Of Love much of its depth and appeal.  There are moments when the true glory of the power of a great chord are revealed in full form, and yet at the same time, there is a control and melody to their playing that shows them to be far more than “just” rock band.  This sound is perfectly complimented by the bass of the man simply known as “O,” and it is often the grooves and moods that he deploy which makes the tracks so addictive.  Clearly a band that is not afraid of a bit of distortion or following a slightly off-kilter feeling, it is the fact that Wirepony are clearly making music exactly the way they want that remains refreshing with each play of the record.  This is also true in the sound of drummer Charlie McRee, as there are moments when it sounds as if his mission is to completely destroy his drum kit; whilst at other points, he brings an artful style to the songs that makes the combined sound nothing short of completely captivating.

All of this sits behind the voice of Patrick Dennis, and there is no question that the emotion and intrigue that he brings through his vocals are easily on par or past that of the orchestrations.  Working all across the vocal scale, there is a power and presence within every line he sings that again lends a sense of authenticity and purity within the music, and it quickly exposes a massive number of other artists that fail to bring such honesty to their songs.  Whether the song is one of joy and the celebration of life, or if it is a more introspective and quieter study of pain or loss, it is the way that he crafts each word so perfectly, conveying complex thoughts an emotions in a manner to which all can easily relate.  Furthermore, regardless of the sentiment behind the song, there is a consistent sense of urgency within his singing, and it is this driving force that makes each track on Right Hook Of Love almost demand to be played again and again.  Yet once one digs deeper into the songs, there can be found a fantastic juxtaposition between the way he sings, and the actual words, as there is often a feeling that the best way to cope with more somber feelings is to express them with a force equal to the power of the actual emotion.  Taking this range of subject matter and delivery style, along with his ability to work all across the vocal scale, it is the voice of Patrick Dennis that truly makes these songs such special musical experiences.

Though many people love to feel as if they have some deeper understanding and knowledge of music by tossing around phrases like "true rock and roll is dead," this in fact does little more than show their ignorance and lack of exploring the world of the massive amounts of superb music that can be found.  While one can find brilliant examples of the spirit of rock and roll, and quality music in general being created all over the world, it can be argued that over the past decade, San Diego, California, has been as fertile a ground for such musical greatness as anywhere else on Earth.  It is the way that the music of Wirepony is able to combine the delicate words and emotions of those often placed into the "singer-songwriter" category with the bravado and appeal of rock and roll that make their music so wonderfully unique, and Right Hook Of Love quickly proves itself to be the sort of record that you simply cannot play enough times.  Filled with a wide range of musical approaches, they all come together as a singular, cohesive body of work, and it is this duality that separates the band from most of their peers.  Whether it is the gritty sounds of hard rock and punk, or the beautiful melodies that are sometimes hidden behind the volume, it is the depth and range in every sense of the word that makes Wirepony's 2010 album, Right Hook Of Love, one of the most impressive and absolutely essential recordings of the past decade.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20: Daily Guru, "Music News: April 13-20"

Today begins the new Friday segment, "Music News," where I take a look at some of the biggest music stories of the week. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #04"

In today's video, I explore the reality behind a few more music myths. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18: Daily Guru, "Get Over Yourself: Beatles Worshiper"

In today's video, I address some of the most thick-skulled and often just plain wrong music fans. I also settle a few personal issues. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17: Daily Guru, "Music School: The Billboard Charts"

In today's video, I give a brief history of Billboard Magazine's charts, and how they've impacted the music industry. Share and enjoy.

April 17: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #120"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review of that artist, song, or album):
1. Elmore James, "Done Somebody Wrong"  The Sky Is Crying
2. Mighty Blue Kings, "Buzz Me"  Live From Chicago
3. Lucinda Williams, "Drunken Angel"  Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
4. Tim Barry, "Fine Foods Market"  40 Miler
5. Mariee Sioux, "Ghosts In My Heart"  Gift For The End
6. Ray Charles, "Shake Your Tail Feather"
7. Joe Lally, "Door Closing"  Nothing Is Underrated
8. Joan Jett, "A.C.D.C."  Sinner
9. Eli "Paperboy" Reed, "Name Calling"  Come And Get It
10. Bud Powell, "Cleopatra's Dream"  Complete Blue Note Recordings
11. The Clash, "48 Hours"  The Clash (UK)
12. Hüsker Dü, "The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill"  New Day Rising
13. Frankie Rose And The Outs, "Must Be Nice"  Frankie Rose And The Outs
14. David Bowie, "Rock N Roll Suicide"  Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust
15. Counting Crows, "Einstein On The Beach (For An Eggman)"  DGC Rarities, Volume 1
16. The Little Willies, "Streets Of Baltimore"  The Little Willies

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #69"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15: The Cure, "A Forest"

Artist: The Cure
Song: "A Forest"
Album: Seventeen Seconds
Year: 1980

As punk rock began to largely dissolve into a wide range of new styles and sounds in the final year of the 1970's and the early part of the 1980's, it was often the mood and angst of the punk spirit that resided within these new forms.  The generally detached, often darker side of musicians was becoming quite popular in all forms of music, and this constituted much of the "post-punk" sound.  Strangely enough, there were a few bands that were present during this era that managed to transition into the more pop-fueled sound of the 1980's, and in at least one case, they are almost completely forgotten for being associated with this earlier movement.  Though many wrongfully peg them as a part of the 1980's "jangle-gloom" movement in the UK, The Cure were actually making music as early as 1976, releasing two of their finest albums before the last remnants of "true" punk called it quits.  It is due to this reality that one must look at their entire catalog in a slightly different light, as in many ways, they were innovators of sound, though due to the time when they gained commercial success, many incorrectly assumed they had derived their sound from certain bands, as opposed to being their contemporaries.  Though The Cure certainly had a few memorable hits, there many not be a more enduring song from the band, or better representation of their unique sound than what can be found in their 1980 single, "A Forest."

Truth be told, when it comes to creating a moody, sparse musical arrangement, few bands from any point in history are on par with The Cure, as they quickly proved that much like the punk movement could create energy and angst within a limited musical structure, they could do the same within the world of slower, more somber mood.  In fact, "A Forest" may be the most stripped down sound the band ever put forth, and yet due to the way that they play, and the overall tone they create, the song is almost instantly captivating.  It is the way that the synthesizers of Matthieu Hartley seem to quickly spin and bounce in the background that is the core of the song, and yet at the same time the way that the instrument is utilized is a far cry from the more upbeat and brighter sound that would dominate the music of much of the decade.  The concentration on tone and subtlety here is mirrored in the guitar of Robert Smith, as the "goth" feeling in his playing would become much of the influence for an entire generation of performers.  Rounding out the band is the rhythm section of bassist Simon Gallup and drummer Lol Tolhurst, and the almost skipping sound they deploy has a fantastic tension that makes "A Forest" sound and feel like nothing else being released at the time.

While they are in many ways far less prominent than on a majority of the songs of The Cure, the vocals of Robert Smith are as good and powerful as ever.  It is on songs like "A Forest" that one can appreciate his understanding of the idea that it is often where you don't sing that creates the true mood and impact of a song.  However, there is no question that Smith possesses one of the most distinctive voices in all of music history, as the uniquely sorrowful cry that he brings to each line sounded just as good at this early point in his career as it does to this day.  Yet it is the mood and emotion which Robert Smith conveys on "A Forest" that is perhaps the most important aspect of the song, as it simultaneously compliments and contrasts the music over which he sings.  While he is certainly in the same overall mood as the music, the sound and pace with which he delivers the lyrics seems to be largely different, as the music seems to be skipping faster than his almost wandering vocals.  This perfectly captures the somewhat loose intent behind the lyrics, as they seem to discuss a man who is searching a forest for a missing girl.  Later in the lyrics, the man stops, realizing he is lost, and it is this point of desperate frustration on many levels that matches the mood and tone of the song perfectly, showing the overall talent and focus of Smith's vocals.

Though most are unaware, there are actually a number of very different versions of "A Forest" that were recorded by The Cure.  The best known take of the song appeared on the seven-inch single, clocking in at just under four minutes.  When it was released on the Seventeen Seconds album, it appeared at almost two full minutes longer, showing just how much of the track had been "faded out."  Nearly a decade later, the band re-recorded the song for their Mixed Up album, and there are a handful of other studio takes from the band, each with its own unique alterations.  Furthermore, groups ranging from The Toadies to Nouvelle Vague have recorded their own takes, and yet it may be the live incident in 1981 for which the song is best known.  At The Werchter Festival in Belgium that year, The Cure were slated to perform before Robert Palmer (who would be followed by other acts).  The festival was behind schedule, and since they were still an up-and-coming band compared to the "headliners," after only a dozen songs or so, Palmer's road crew started to "force" The Cure to end their set early.  Agreeing to play only one more song, the band kicked into "A Forest," dragging it out as long as possible, with Smith adding in some rather unflattering "extra" lyrics about Palmer.  This ended with Palmer's road crew throwing The Cure's equipment off of the back of the stage.  While this incident certainly lives on as a "music legend," there is no question that the band is far larger than this single moment, and The Cure rarely sounded more focused or outright impressive as one can find on their 1980 single, "A Forest."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14: Pantera, "Vulgar Display Of Power"

Artist: Pantera
Album: Vulgar Display Of Power
Year: 1992
Label: East/West

For many fans of heavy metal, the 1980's were a frustrating and often embarrassing period, as the so-called "hair metal" bands took center stage and did an impressively poor job of representing a sound and style that they did not deserve to personify.  Due to these image-conscious, often laughably pompous bands, the overall genre of heavy metal gained a rather unwanted reputation, and there was a brief time when it looked like the genre might fade away completely.  Thankfully, there was the band Pantera.  Though there were a few other groups making similar music at the time, one can make the case that it was almost entirely due to the existence and music of Pantera that heavy metal returned to its roots and regained its fitting reputation.  With their fierce music and amazing groove the permeates nearly every one of their songs, Pantera even managed some mainstream breakthrough, and they remain today one of the most highly revered bands in the entire history of heavy metal and hardcore.  Though they released a number of superb albums before the tragic murder of guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott on December 8, 2004, there are few albums of the heavier persuasion that can compare to Pantera's masterpiece, which similarly stands as one of the most important albums in metal history; their 1992 classic, Vulgar Display Of Power.

From the moment that the album begins, it is immediately clear exactly what type of band Pantera is, and the musical assault never lets up for even a moment anywhere on the record.  The heavy, repeated guitar patterns and massive riffs from Abbott gives the songs an amazing sense of movement, and it is almost instantly one of the most intimidating albums ever recorded.  As the songs continue on the album, the often "doubled" souns makes the overall impact even more aggressive, and the amount of emotion that comes through in the music is truly uncanny.  Bassist Rex Brown adds to this mood and power, and he also injects the bands' trademark "groove" into the each track on the record.  It is this aspect that set Pantera apart from their peers for much of their career, as they are able to make their songs "more" than "standard" heavy metal music.  The performance on "Walk" from drummer Vinnie Paul (AKA Vincent Abbott) is nothing short of stunning, as few drummers have ever sounded as intent on destroying their drum kit as he does on this song.  The way in which all three musicians are able to make all of Vulgar Display Of Power seem to sway is a characteristic that is quite literally found nowhere else in heavy metal, and it is this odd hybrid of metal, blues, and elements of funk that make Pantera so unique.  Yet the band is able to bring together these different sounds without compromising any of the intensity of their music, and the complete effort that is this album exemplifies this unmatched musical mixture.

Serving as a perfect compliment to the music both in terms of sound and attitude, Pantera's frontman, Phil Anselmo, stands today as one of the most important figures in the entire history of heavy metal.  Rarely even attempting to sing in the traditional sense of the word, the gritty and aggressive nature of his vocals are often nothing short of mesmerizing.  Almost always choosing to shout his lyrics, Anselmo demands the complete attention of the listener to each line in the song, and this often moves to the point where one cannot help but sing along.  Furthermore, the vocal style of Anselmo brings in equally intimidating and overbearing mood as one finds in the music, and this ideal "fit" is yet another reason that Pantera excelled far beyond their peers.  Truth be told, one would be hard pressed to find a more straightforward, yet perfectly fitting lyric for a heavy metal song as one finds on "Walk," and the lyrics across the entire record provide the ideal final piece to the overall impact of the music of Pantera.  There are no subtleties or holding back anywhere on Vulgar Display Of Power, and the brutal manner with which Phil Anselmo delivers the lyrics helps to make the songs nothing short of heavy metal classics.

Throughout the history of music, countless bands have made attempts at creating albums  of self-pride and handling ones' own problems, and trying to spin them in their own, unique sonic arrangement.  However, while many valiant attempts were made, none even come close to the overall sentiment and impact that one finds on Pantera's Vulgar Display Of Power, and to this day, it stands as a high water mark for the genre.  Quite literally every aspect of the album feels as if it is doing all it can to intimidate the listener, but once one gets past this aspect, the themes and overall intent of the record and sound become far more clear.  It is the way that the band is able to move as a single unit, throwing their power around across a variety of tempos and moods, that sets Pantera apart from their peers, and in many ways, they introduced an entirely new generation to the world of "proper" hardcore and heavy metal music.  The way in which "Dimebag" Darrell creates the albums' deep grooves, whilst rarely using more than four chords on a song is nothing short of stunning, and few artists in history have ever been able to make "so much from so little" as one finds in his compositions.  This aspect, as well as the sheer attitude with which he played is what cemented him as an icon of guitar playing, and he gives one of his finest performances on Pantera's unforgettable 1992 album, Vulgar Display Of Power.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #68"

Today is the final Friday edition of "Something Old, Something New." Next week will be a BRAND NEW segment! Share and enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #03"

Thursday brings another round of music myths to be explored. Share and enjoy.

April 12: Legs McNeil

Throughout the course of music history, there is a long list of people who have helped to push the art form forward in different ways, and in many cases, it is those who are not "on stage" or in the studio that play the most vital roles.  While one certainly cannot overstate the importance of the actual musicians, one can easily make the case that without "someone to talk about them," the performers in question would have a far more difficult time in reaching the masses with their music.  Over the decades, those who document the changes within the world of music have played various roles, from radio DJ's to photographers to journalists to directors, and in each of these positions, there are a handful of individuals who for whatever reason, took their own path.  In many cases, it is the few that broke away from the norm, or those who were in a particular scene or position that became the most iconic, and it is this reality that vaults the great Roderick "Legs" McNeil to one of the most highly revered figures in the history of music journalism.  While one can rattle off a long list of writers that made their name within the world of jazz, rock, pop, and other mainstream sounds, it wasn't until the emergence of Legs McNeil that the "underground" scenes got much exposure, and to this day, his impact remains immeasurable.

As was the case with an overwhelming majority of those involved within the underground and punk music scenes of the 1970's, McNeil got his start as a journalist at an early age, and in many ways, under the ultimate "punk" circumstance.  It has been stated that Punk magazine was started by McNeil and two friends in an effort to "get free drinks" as well as set themselves apart from others within the scene.  Yet the fact of the matter is, it was these early writings that played a vital role in documenting exactly "what" was going on within the underground music scene of New York City.  Largely inspired by the music of The Dictators, the magazine took a rather similar approach to writing as the music upon which Punk was founded.  Though many may argue the fact, Punk magazine is often cited as the "first" place that the actual term of "punk" was used in reference to the music.  Whether or not it was actually the first place, the reality is that the magazine played a vital role in moving the scene and sound forward, and as the decades have passed, the name of Legs McNeil has become absolutely synonymous with the entire world of punk rock.  Strangely enough, after only a few years, McNeil was able to see the rather predictable and "mainstream" direction that the genre had taken, and instead of being affiliated with this almost ironic shift in the scene, he stepped down from the magazine, moving to other journalistic avenues.

As the next few decades passed, McNeil stayed within the world of music journalism, serving as the Senior Editor at Spin magazine, as well as founding Nerve magazine, which speaks to a far wider range of subjects within world culture.  Along with this, Legs McNeil worked with Gillian McCain to author the book, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk, which to this day, many cite as the most authoritative work on the genre as a whole.  Due to his longstanding place as a journalist and overall observer of the world of punk and hardcore music, few can be seen as having a greater knowledge on these styles, and even in the current day, one can find his writings on a wide range of subjects on the world of music.  Though he may not have played with a seminal band or served as a producer as has been the case in creating a number of "music legends," it is the existence and complete body of work of Legs McNeil that serves as absolute proof that those who document history are often just as, if not more important than those that "make" the events.  Had it not been for his continued efforts in covering the reality around him, one can make the case that the genre may not have succeeded as it did, and while there have been many people who have written about music over the decades, none are on the same level as the great Legs McNeil.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11: Daily Guru, "Ask The Guru #05"

Today brings another edition of “Ask The Guru.” Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10: "Daily Guru PSA: Free Stuff!"

Want something free? I've got free stuff! Check the video and get your free stuff!

April 10: Daily Guru, "Music School: The Marshall Stack"

In today's music school, I discuss one of the most iconic images in all of rock history. Share and enjoy.

April 10: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #119"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review of that artist, song, or album):
1. Gladys Knight & The Pips, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
2. Devo, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"  Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
3. PJ Harvey, "Highway '61 Revisited"  Rid Of Me
4. Joey Ramone, "1969"  Don't Worry About Me
5. Van Halen, "You Really Got Me"  Van Halen
6. Johnny Cash, "Thirteen"  American Recordings
7. Bad Manners, "Wooly Bully"  Ska N B
8. Eddie Hazel, "California Dreamin'"  Game, Dames, And Guitar Thangs
9. The Lurkers, "And Then I Kicked Her"  Fulham Fallout
10. Mazzy Star, "Wild Horses"
11. Joe Strummer & The Mescalaros, "Redemption Song"  Streetcore
12. Steve Poltz, "Rings"  2005/05/05, Cleveland, OH
13. UK Subs, "I'm Waiting For The Man"  Brand New Age
14. Charles Bradley, "Heart Of Gold"  No Time For Dreaming
15. Nirvana, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"  MTV Unplugged In New York

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #67"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8: Neil Diamond, "Crackin' Rosie"

Artist: Neil Diamond
Song: "Cracklin' Rosie"
Album: Tap Root Manuscript
Year: 1970

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

When one looks at the entire history of recorded music, there can be seen a wide array of reason that an artist might stand aside or above the rest.  Sometimes due to a voice, other times due to bringing a certain musical approach at an early point in music history, their efforts are simply seen as greater in value when compared to others.  In almost every case, one can see the music in question as jarring or unique to some extent, and yet one can also make the argument that there are a number of artists who were able to perfect a certain sound, giving them their own place among the finest performers of all time.  Strangely, it is often within the music of those in this latter group that the "why" in terms of their vaulted status is perhaps a bit difficult to understand, as it is more in the overall quality of their sound as opposed to the "revolutionary" factor that makes them so important.  Standing today as one of the most highly revered members of this group, there is not another performer in history with a sound or a catalog quite like that of Neil Diamond.  For more than five decades, Diamond has been writing and playing some of the most memorable songs ever recorded, and yet the fact remains that there is no single way to define his style of music.  Also due to his unique sound and long career, there are a number of legendary songs that he has written, yet few can compare to the overall sound and lasting impression of Neil Diamond's classic 1970 single, "Cracklin' Rosie."

Truth be told, one would be hard pressed to find a more instantly recognizable opening refrain than the downward progressing notes that kick off "Crackin' Rosie," and over the decades, it has attained a level that is nothing short of anthemic.  Yet it is this combination of horns and guitars that instantly define just how difficult it is to categorize the music of Neil Diamond.  The sound is not quite rock, not really folk, and does not fit into any idea of jazz or other genres.  In many ways, one can argue that the music of Neil Diamond is a sound onto itself, as the pop sensibilities that he injects into every song are unlike those of any other musician in history.  All across "Crackin' Rosie," there is an energy and mood that is completely absorbing, as the rhythm second brings just enough groove and sway to give it a "dance feel," and yet one can easily see just how far it was from anything else being released around 1970.  At the same time, there is a bit of an edge to the overall sound, and it is this spirit that keeps it so far from any strand of folk music.  The fact of the matter is, though one may not be able to accurately describe exactly what the sound is that Neil Diamond creates, it is impossible to deny that it is anything short of catchy, and its persistence in popular culture over the decades has proven its worthiness of being called timeless as well.

Much in the same way that one can most accurately describe the music of Neil Diamond by using his name, the voice he brings to each song is equally distinctive.  Again finding a unique balance between the worlds of rock and folk, few singers in all of history have come off as outright authentic as one finds in his voice, an it is often the passion with which he sings that makes the songs so intriguing.  There is an energy and a joy to his singing on "Crackin' Rosie" that is unlike any other song in history, and it is this vitality within his voice that has made it a crowd favorite in stadiums, bars, and cars all across the planet.  Yet underneath this reality, there is the fact that at his core, Neil Diamond has a clear understanding of his singing range, and he works almost the entire song in a very narrow register.  This is in no way a negative aspect, as it shows his knowledge on how to best craft the song, and in an era when so many singers were attempting to push far beyond their proper range, Diamond showed that for true quality, this was unnecessary.  However, it is within the lyrics of "Crackin' Rosie" where most people are led somewhat astray, as many believe that the song is about a woman and a sense of devotion to this character.  The reality is that the song is actually about a style of wine drunk by a Native Canadian tribe that Diamond had visited.

Regardless of the "true" inspiration behind the song, over the past four decades, "Crackin' Rosie" has become one of the most widely known songs in history, and to this day, it can still light up a room with only the unforgettable opening notes.  The song has also found its way into countless areas of popular culture, as well as a number of bands recording their own renditions.  In fact, the jam band Phish has played it during some of their live shows since the early 1990's, and this reality shows just how far and wide the songs' impact has spread.  Yet this impact was almost instantaneous, as "Crackin' Rosie" quickly shot to the top of the charts, becoming Neil Diamond's first number one single in the United States, as well as finding massive success in both England and Australia.  One can see this as the song that "broke" him as an artist, and his next few releases saw similar success.  However, there are also two versions of the song that one can find, as the single release was a mono take, while the version found on Tap Root Manuscript is in stereo.  But it matters little which version one hears, as the energy and intent of the song is just as strong in both cases, and it is this infectious and completely unique sound that makes Neil Diamond's 1970 single, "Crackin' Rosie," one of the most important and outright enjoyable songs ever recorded.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 7: Marilyn Manson, "Antichrist Superstar"

Artist: Marylin Manson
Album: Antichrist Superstar
Year: 1996
Label: Interscope

Though it is sometimes unjust, there are a handful of cases across music history where the persona or actions of a musician outshine their achievements as a performer.  While in some instances, this is a good thing, as their musical talent may have been lacking, there is at least one situation where the reputation given by "the general public" seemed to slightly alter a performer's sound, and certainly overshadowed their musical achievements.  Though he stands as one of the most impressive heavy metal frontmen in history, it is a sad case that this is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people thing of Marilyn Manson.  Due to his over-the-top persona and apparently controversial subject matters, it is his personality that seems far more well known than the fantastic work that he and his band have recorded over the past two decades.  Making himself into the easiest target for right-wing ignorance with his 1994 release, Portrait Of An American Family, those who were longtime fans of the band will agree that while this record was good, it was perhaps his second best album.  As is the case with many groups, it is the point where it becomes impossible to ignore the group in question where one can find the band in top form, and this is certainly true with Marilyn Manson's timeless record of dark metal mayhem, 1996's Antichrist Superstar. 

Though it may be the most overlooked aspect of Marilyn Manson as a band, the fact of the matter is, as early as their debut record, the band members were already showing off their talents in the fact that nearly every one of them played multiple instruments on the album, and this trend is carried further on this record.  Though Twiggy Ramirez (AKA Jeordie White) contributes both bass and guitar parts, it is the performance of Daisy Berkowitz (AKA Scott Putesky) that stands as the high-point of many of the songs.  Whether it is the imposing, distorted riffs, or just the way that the band coveys their aggression and energy of the songs, just how far apart from their peers they are is instantly clear.  The dual guitar sound that runs throughout the album is quite distinctive, and at times, it almost sounds as if the songs themselves are rearing back, ready to attack the listener.  Yet it is often within the basslines that Ramirez brings where Antichrist Superstar separates itself from the rest of the Manson catalog.  There is a more focused and imposing sound within these progressions that points out their technical abilities, and each of the songs has a far more full and complete sound than their previous releases.  On almost every song, it is the way in which they move as a single unit, creating a beautifully destructive sound, that makes the album so amazing, as well as proves the exceptional level of talent within the band, and it is this aspect that is often lost behind the image the they put forth.

Yet even as fantastic as the musical performances are throughout all of Antichrist Superstar, there is simply nothing in Marilyn Manson that shines brighter than their lead singer and the bands namesake.  Without question one of the most unmistakable and unforgettable personalities of his generation, Marilyn Manson (AKA Brian Warner) has proven that he has both the presence and vocal power to endure more than two decades in a genre that rarely has bands with such a lifespan.  Working a large vocal range in his distinctive ranting and screaming style, Manson proves to have an understanding of the dramatic vocal approach which is far beyond that of most of his peers.  Furthermore, on a majority of the songs on this album, one can sense a very close relationship between Manson and the lyrics which he sings, indicating that he was likely an outcast during his childhood, as well as having a clear understanding of how the world around him operates.  Though most of the songs of Marilyn Manson have an "anti-everyone" feel, on a number of tracks on Antichrist Superstar,  Manson brings a rallying cry for the outcast of society, as well as standing strong stands against a wide range of hypocrisies within modern society.  However, much like the music over which he sings, the true power and intent of many of these songs becomes lost behind the image of Marylin Manson as both and individual as well as a band.

However, the fact of the matter remains that as much as they were poorly portrayed by the media, and often seen as scapegoats for the problems in society, Antichrist Superstar managed to cement its place in music history with a pair of unlikely mainstream singles.  Truth be told, "The Beautiful People" stands today as one of the most memorable songs of the entire decade, and those who lived it can attest to a time when it seemed impossible to turn on the radio without hearing the song.  It was on this single where an entirely new side of the bands' abilities were shown, as the complex rhythmic arrangements and powerful sonic force they deliver is a far cry from the sounds of their previous record.  Furthermore, the song makes no apologies for its strong stance against the way that "beauty" is portrayed in society, and this issue would be explored further on later albums from the band.  Yet it was the second single, "Tourniquet," that is perhaps more accurate in terms of the bands' overall sound; and the single brought a much larger fanbase into "The Manson Family."  Strangely enough, while it certainly did not "fit" with any of the other musical trends of the time,  Antichrist Superstar turned Marylin Manson into an international success, an while many may try and write it off due to its sales figures, the fact remains that the record is without question the bands' finest moment to date, as well as one of the most uniquely impressive and powerful albums ever recorded.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #66"

It’s Friday, and that means another dose of “Something Old, Something New” with The Daily Guru. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #02"

For my 100th video, I am bringing back an old segment…Music Myths. Share and enjoy.

April 5: George Martin

Though they are exceptionally few and far between across the entire history of recorded music, there are a handful of individuals that somehow manage to eclipse themselves in a matter of speaking.  That is to say, these select few people have accomplished a single achievement that has managed to almost completely overshadow their contributions as a whole.  Whether it be penning a single song or taking an iconic photograph, there is little arguing that it is a single instance that defines them, as opposed to their overall work in the more general sense.  This does not mean that the singular achievement in question is not important or not worthy of such a bright glow; but at the same time, one must understand the entirely of a body of work to completely understand an artist.  Taking all of this into account, there are few individuals who better represent this idea than George Martin, as while he has certainly etched his name into the history books as "The Fifth Beatle," there was far more to the man than "just" his work with that band.  In fact, it was his work with The Beatles, as well as other bands, that enabled him to make many innovations and inroads within the world of music, an due to all of this, there is no question that popular music would not have developed as it has without the presence of George Martin.

Even in his early years, George Martin was drawn to music, as he was a gifted pianist, and even after World War II, his interest in the classical form continued.  This led to his enrollment at Guildhall School of Music and Drama following his time in the war, and following his graduation, he found work in the classical department at The BBC.  This quickly led to him working for EMI Records, eventually becoming the head of the labels' German imprint, Parlophone.  During this time, Martin oversaw a rather significant diversification of the output at Parlophone, as they branched away from "just"" jazz and classical.  It was also around this period that Martin began handling duties as a producer, though it was mostly with single artists or comedy acts.  However, his tenacity for exploring new forms of music and his willingness to take a chance on a "new" sound were quite apparent, and this would lead to a historical moment in the early 1960's.  Around this time, Martin had largely perfected the approach to recording comedy acts, and he was making a name for himself in that arena.  Yet he had made it known that he wanted to work with pop acts, and yet he was clearly aware that he would need a "perfect" group if he was going to attempt to distribute such a sound on the Parlophone imprint.

Then, in February of 1962, George Martin met with a friend of his to listen to a demo tape from a band that hand been turned down by Decca Records.  Though he was not initially all that impressed with the sound, he was taken by the enthusiasm of the bands' manager, and on that alone, he signed the then-unknown group, The Beatles.  This would lead to a teaming that is nothing short of legendary, as Martin would produce almost every Beatles track over their career, and the results of their working together would shape not only the entire world of music, but world culture as a whole.  However, many are unaware that along with his work "behind the boards," George Martin also played a vital role in the actual arrangements and orchestrations of many Beatles songs.  When there were parts or instruments that the band could not play, it was Martin who stepped in to work with other musicians to achieve the correct sound and style for the song in question.  Furthermore, beyond his work with The Beatles, Martin worked with a wide range of artists like Jeff Beck, America, and even country legend Kenny Rogers and the hard rock band, Cheap Trick.  One can also find George Martin's name in the credits of many of the "James Bond" films, including the two most famous songs from the franchise, "Goldfinger" and "Live And Let Die."  Due to this combined contribution to the world of music, it is understandable why to this day, George Martin is held in a regard far beyond almost any other figure.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 4: Daily Guru, "Guru Soapbpx: Today's Emcees"

Today I take a moment to address one of the most frustrating trends in the past decade of music. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3: Daily Guru, "Music School: The Origins Of Hip-Hop"

Today in Music School, I talk about the origins of hip-hop music and culture. Share and enjoy.

April 3: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #118"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review of that artist, song, or album):
1. Blondie, "Hanging On The Telephone"  Parallel Lines
2. Jurassic 5, "After School Special"  Power In Numbers
3. Fiona Apple, "A Mistake"  When The Pawn…
4. Magazine, "Shot By Both Sides"  Real Life
5. North Mississippi Allstars, "Po Black Maddie"  Shake Hands With Shorty
6. North Mississippi Allstars, "Skinny Woman"  Shake Hands With Shorty
7. The Clash, "Atom Tan"  Combat Rock
8. Johnny Cash, "Sam Hall"  American IV: The Man Comes Around
9. Kino, "Бездельник"  45
10. Lenny Kravitz, "Let Love Rule"  Let Love Rule
11. Metallica, "My Friend Of Misery"  Metallica
12. Orquesta Ritmo De Sabanas, "Monteria"  The Original Sound Of Cumbia
13. Truckee Brothers, "Planning For The 21st Century"  Double Happiness
14. Tim Barry, "Exit Wounds"  Rivanna Junction

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #65"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1: Daily Guru, "MUSIC NEWS - Snoop Goes Country! Erykah Badu's Blood?"

This weeks' music news is up! Get your learn on!

April 1: Fiona Apple, "On The Bound"

Artist: Fiona Apple
Song: "On The Bound"
Album: When The Pawn...
Year: 1999

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

The mid to late 1990's saw a massive influx of female singer-songwriters into the forefront of the worldwide music scene. With the rise of things like "Lilith Fair," upfront and honest female musicians were more in demand than any other time in the history of music. While in many ways, this caused there to be a great number of seemingly "copycat" artists, there were a handful who rose above the rest and created sensational records. Among this group of superior artists was a young girl from New York City by the name of Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart. After her brilliant, and somewhat controversial 1996 debut, Tidal, Apple seemed as if she would be content to be a darker, edgier version of Tori Amos. However, three years later, she buried the memory of her debut with her far more sophisticated and musically ambitious follow-up, 1999's When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You'll Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You Know That You're Right.  The album showed a far greater display of the range of her abilities, and few songs better define Fiona Apple than the records' lead track, "On The Bound."

In many ways, Apple's own piano playing takes a backseat to the large musical picture around her, which enabled her to become more than "just a girl and her piano" as is found on her debut record. In combination with this fact, the orchestrations of John Bainbridge are one of the key aspects that takes "On The Bound" to the next level, and it quickly sets the tone for the entire album.  Bringing in a number of violinists, as well as viola's, cello's, and a number of woodwinds, the song has a far more mature and complex sound, whilst simultaneously retaining the "edge" that gained Apple much of her following. Aside from Apple herself, the only other returning musician from her first album is drummer, Matt Chamberlain. Having worked with everyone from Peter Gabriel to The Wallflowers to Pearl Jam, Chamerlain would go on to work with Tori Amos on every one of her albums since 1998. His steady, swinging feel on drums gives the song a very distinctive feel, and he is as much of a key to the albums' success as anyone else. The song itself dips and dives, featuring a number of different funky ways; and it is this far more full and complex arrangement that shows how much she had progressed as a musician.  It is also in this musical diversity that the true talent of Apple shines, as her singing and lyrics blend perfectly into this seemingly new style, presenting an amazing musical range that was absent from her debut, and this larger sonic delivery would become the key to the impact of the entire record.

Even with the amazing musicians accompanying her and the fresh, grooving sound on "On The Bound," Fiona herself is always the core of the music. Her voice runs the entire vocal range, though she tends to spend most of her singing where she is best; in the moody, lower octaves, where her strong, often sultry voice can shine. It is very much in her tone and delivery where Apple retains much of her "darker" and "edgier" mood and persona. Also intact is the overall jazzy, funky mood that made her debut record so fantastic; but "On The Bound" pushes the sound further, exploring the possibilities of the fusion at every turn. Taking all this into account, the one thing that always set Fiona Apple apart from her peers was, and always will be, her lyrics. Few artists in history have been as honest and soul bearing, and her raw lyrics are one of the key aspects that made so many people relate to her and embrace her music. "On The Bound" furthers and tops the emotionally open journey that began with her debut, as Apple presents stunning wordplay that are is amazingly introspective, yet far more confident than those lyrics found on Tidal. As has always been the case, a majority of Fiona's lyrics revolve around the relationships between men and women, and in this case, she may be offering he most concise and insightful musings on the politics and destructive nature of human interaction.  Quite literally, every line on "On The Bound" is fantastic, featuring an amazing combination of mood and lyrics, and it is mostly due to the maturity and bravery of Fiona herself that makes this song so special and superb.

Proving that jazz-style, bluesy singing was not a lost art, Fiona Apple burst onto the scene in the mid 1990's and paved the way for artists like Jennifer Franklin and Dido. Taking her own influence from artists ranging from Chrissie Hynde to Billie Holiday, the sheer talent and moods created by Apple set her far apart from her peers and made her music more than just a passing fad. Taking the honest, somewhat dusky mood of her debut record and crafting far more complex musical pieces around it, her sophomore album is leaps and bounds ahead, in terms of both musical content, as well as length of album title. While the first time around, she created waves with her risqué video and unpredictable mood swings, with When The Pawn..., Apple lets the music itself do all of the talking, and it is an overall far more focused and complete record. Though little has been heard from Apple over the past few years, she did take a chance to record a handful of beautiful tracks with Johnny Cash before he passed away, as well as contributing original works to a number of soundtracks. With a trio of excellent records to her name, there are few artists of any time period who have written as candid and soul-bearing a set of lyrics as are found throughout all of the songs of Fiona Apple. Perfectly fusing together the sounds of blues and jazz, and overlaying it with a shadowy mood, as well as an undeniably sense of "hip," Fiona Apple's sophomore album, When The Pawn... is by far, her finest effort, and she outdid herself with the records' finest track, "On The Bound"