Monday, February 28, 2011

Ten Quotes By, Or About, Eddie Van Halen

In honor of Eddie, Alex, David and Wolfgang allegedly entering the studio to record a new album, here's ten quotes by or about the two-handed, hammer-on tapping guitar legend:

1.  "I took a scoring and arranging class with a Dr. Fisher, who also taught Frank Zappa.  Dr. Fisher was very avant-garde and the one thing he taught me was, 'fuck the rules.'  If it sounds good, it is good."
-Eddie Van Halen, Guitar World, January 1981  

2.  "Jimmy Page is an excellent producer.  Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II are classics.  As a player, he's very good in the studio.  I never saw him play well live.  He's sloppy.  He plays like he's got a broken hand and he's two years old."
-Eddie Van Halen, Guitar World, January 1981

3.  "An English radio interviewer asked me once about Van Halen and I didn't know if it was a group or what...I am extremely aware of him, actually, and I take my hat off to him for working out that [hammer-on] technique.  You know, you talk about what I've done on the guitar and that's what he's done on guitar.  I must say that.  I can't do it.  I can't smile like him either."
-Jimmy Page, Guitar World, August 1986

You can read the rest of the quotes and see video here:

The Two Heaviest Songs in My iTunes Library

For me, this is a no-brainer though it may not seem as obvious to everyone else.  The two heaviest, potentially ear-damaging tracks in my iTunes are 'Angel of Death' by Slayer and 'Good Times Bad Times' by Led Zeppelin.  No other selections even come close.

I'll start with the latter.  Led Zeppelin may seem by some to be a curious choice since the advent of thrash metal in the late 1980s, but it makes perfect sense to me.  I don't always equate 'heaviness' with speed and loads of distortion at speaker-exploding volumes.  I equate 'heavy' with pure musical power just as easily, and 'Good Times Bad Times' has it. For all of the doubters out there, take even a well-worn copy of Led Zeppelin I on vinyl (if you can find it) and put it under a quality needle on a good turntable with worthy speakers.  Crank it.  If the air pushing out of the speakers courtesy of the opening double E-chord riff from Jimmy Page's Telecaster and John Bonham's octopus-like drum madness doesn't knock you off your feet, it's simply not loud enough.  And think about it- the song was recorded in 1969.  It's Led Zeppelin's raw power that attracted legions of fans- and armies of detractors who claimed that the new band was simply bastardizing the blues.  Though history proved Zeppelin worthy, a lawsuit by blues legend Willie Dixon over 'Whole Lotta Love' and the liberal but uncredited quoting of passages from blues classics like Albert King's 'The Hunter' in 'How Many More Times' gave plenty of ammunition for the anti-Led camp- not to mention that some are of the opinion Page & Co. didn't actually write 'Dazed and Confused,' which became a larger-than-life staple in their live shows complete with Page's violin bow pyrotechnics.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ten Songs You May Not Have Heard But Probably Should

Listed by neither by date, genre, artist or in any particular order whatsoever...

1.  ...If You See California  (Chris Robinson):  The Black Crowes frontman recorded this predominately acoustic ode to the Golden State on his solo effort This Magnificent Distance. The clean electric guitars compliment the acoustic with a nice hook that doesn't overpower the track. Anyone who has spent any time in California will be longing for a return trip by song's end. 

2.  Roses & Cigarettes (Ray LaMontagne):  Available only as an iTunes Exclusive, the combination of Ray's lyrics, soulful voice and Eric Heywood's pedal steel makes for a raw, touching, and sometimes haunting ballad.  Oh, the roses and cigarettes/ My pillowcase it remembers you/ The scent of you still lingers on my fingertips/ 'Till I think I might go insane/ When will I see you again? 

3.  Sugaree (Grateful Dead):  The version on the commercial release Dick's Picks Volume III, recorded at the Sportatorium in Pembroke Pines, FL on 5/22/77, clocks in at 15:54 and is simply sublime throughout. Flawless in execution, the interplay of Garcia's vocals, his off-the-cuff guitar solos and Keith Godchaux's piano makes for a stoney headphone experience that leaves you wondering if such a band could ever have really existed at all.  (IMO, this more relaxed version trumps the heralded, more rocked-out 5/19/77 from the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.)

Follow the link for the complete list:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Tea Leaf Green; LCD Soundsystem

By: David Schultz

Photo by Suzy Perler
In the not too distant past, Tea Leaf Green seemed poised to leap from the tightly-knit community that surrounds any fervently beloved jamband into the arms of a less nurturing though much wider national audience. Right at the point when the scales seemed to be tipping in favor of the San Francisco based band, bassist Ben Chambers left the group and his replacement, Reed Mathis, caused a small tempest in the TLG-pot after parting ways with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Despite a surfeit of material spilling forth from keyboardist Trevor Garrod and guitarist Josh Clark, the band’s momentum seemed to derail, knocked askew by the unpredictable forces that prey on any emerging band. Jumping ahead to the present, Mathis is now firmly entrenched within the Tea Leaf fold and the ranks have been enhanced once more with Cochrane McMillan joining up with Scott Rager to form a potent drumming combo.

Tea Leaf Green’s recent stop at the HighLine Ballroom, their first New York City headlining show (on land) in nearly two years, marked the final date of a monthlong tour through the Midwest and along the east coast. Not only was there a chill to the evening from the frigid cold spell that had besieged the Tri-State area, an unusually early start time, especially for a Saturday night, threatened to deep freeze the excitement. With a packed house in drink early, drink often mode for the Tea Leaf wasted little time with banter. Forgoing their customary two set approach, ran through some relatively new songs, concisely trimmed a few live staples without stripping them of their joy and offered up a smoldering cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

For a band that spends a lot of time of the road, they, especially Garrod, have vivid visions of lives of domesticity which emerges throughout their catalog. At the HighLine, they opened with glimpses of such, sandwiching Garrod’s “Honeymooners” and “The Garden (Part III) around Clark’s “New Shoes.” The show hit its stride with a loose and funky version of “Sex In The 70s,” a drum solo in stereo out of a slinky “Dragonfly” and a moderately harder-tinged version of “Carter Hotel” before finishing with a strident rendition of “Freedom.”

With changing set lists each night, it’s difficult to make grand pronouncements about where a band is at from a single performance, like reviewing a movie from a couple still photos. Nonetheless, the new five-piece TLG seems to be back in the groove they were in before Chambers stepped away from the spotlight. Where Mathis’ initial entrĂ©e into the band had logistical hiccups due to other commitments, he now seems firmly entrenched and integral to the sound. McMillan, the band’s newest addition who became familiar with the band when they recorded Looking West at his studio, nicely complements Rager’s precise beats. Especially on weighty rockers like Clark’s “Criminal Intent” and “Dragonfly,” the double drum backing conjures up the portentous mood with a mighty rumble. The enthusiasm the east coast fans for their west coast friends hasn’t diminished over the past couple years. All that’s left is for the spark to catch and for TLG to jump back on to the tracks and resume full speed ahead.

AT 9:00 THIS MORNING, the March 28 – March 31 LCD Soundsystem shows at Terminal 5 will go (went? – not sure when you’re reading this) on sale solely through Ticketmaster. In an attempt to confound and frustrate the scalpers that irked James Murphy so much in the aftermath of his sellout of Madison Square Garden, there will be no physical tickets printed for the shows and a limit of two per customer. To make this work, you will have to present identification at the door and then you and your guest will have to immediately enter the venue. If you haven’t been to Terminal 5 before, be prepared – THIS WILL BE A NIGHTMARE. Liquid Liquid will open the first two nights, Shit Robot Live will open the final two. Many people will miss them while standing in line.

David Lott: The Living Room, February 23

In support of his solo EP, David Lott, guitarist of The Whitewalls (nee Licorice), will pay a set this Wednesday evening, February 23, at 8:30 p.m. at The Living Room's Googies' Lounge at 154 Ludlow Street, New York, NY.

On The Gates of Brooklyn, Lott, journeys through musical Meccas - Nashville, Memphis and the titular Brooklyn - to deliver a powerful  5 song EP, tracked in 3 days with co-producer, Alby Cohen. The Tennessee influence is front and center on “Pride” and “Mondays” while a late-era Lennon feel infuses “There Are Times.” The title track bathes New York’s hippest borough in Lott’s gorgeous comforting glow.

Download it for yourself by clicking here.

Leroy Justice: The Canal Room, February 24

This Thursday, February 24, Leroy Justice will return to The Canal Room, 285 West Broadway, New York, NY, a venue with environs to match the suits that have become their trademark attire. This is one of the few bands that still relishes playing rock and roll in the classic mold. This Thursday, they promise to debut new songs and new arrangements.  The last time Justice held court at the Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, they were joined by Cody Dickinson, who sat in after coming down town from his opening set with his brother Luther at the Robert Plant and The Band of Joy show at the Beacon Theater.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Garrison Starr, Sun Studio Sessions Los Angeles PBS

Despite the political wrangling in D.C. over funding, for PBS and public television programming the show still goes on. Sun Studio Sessions airs in several states tonight (check your local PBS television station listings) including in Los Angeles and Memphis, Tennessee. The show features today's touring artists performing live in the legendary Sun Studio where Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and other greats got their starts.

In Los Angeles and Memphis, Garrison Starr is the featured artist. In L.A., Sun Studio Sessions is on at 8:30pm right before Austin City Limits with Willie Nelson. In Memphis, the show airs at 11pm right after Austin City Limits.

Beyond those cities, Sun Studio Sessions also airs tonight in Sacramento, Redding & Eureka, Calif; Memphis, TN; El Paso, TX; La Cruces, NM; York/Harrisburg/Lancaster, PA; Corpus Christi, TX; Augusta, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Tampa, Fla; Minneapolis/St. Paul/Appleton, Minn; and statewide in Maine, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Garrison Starr's performance, accompanied by Jay Nash, is available on iTunes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Titus Andronicus; The Giraffes; LCD Soundsystem

By: David Schultz

In the fall of 2010, Amy Klein, guitarist and violinist of New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, came across the issue of Rolling Stone with Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard on the cover wearing nothing but bloody streaks and splatters. After perusing the magazine and finding a near non-existent number of photographs of women playing a musical instrument, Klein wrote a somewhat blistering feminist critique of the Jann Wenner’s bulwark, decrying its lack of role models for fledgling female rockers. Klein isn’t fighting this battle alone. Named after Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls is a New York City non-profit music and mentoring program that empowers girls and women, ages 8-18, through music education. This past Thursday night at New York City’s Mercury Lounge, Titus Andronicus headlined a benefit for the organization, lending its increasingly high-profile name to publicize a worthy organization.

Following a set from the precocious Care Bears On Fire, a diminutive all-female teenage punk trio that personifies the program’s ethos, Titus Andronicus stirred the sold-out Mercury Lounge into a teapot-sized tempest. Over the course of their ninety minute set, lead singer Patrick Stickles revealed an amiable goofy side of his personality that seems anathema to the eloquently wrought, metaphor-laden rebel yells of his Jersey-angst ridden songs. Taking pride in being a mostly male band headlining a benefit for a girls camp, Stickles playfully joked about playing both of the bands slow songs before launching into their epic “A More Perfect Union” and leading the crowd in a manic chant of “the enemy is everywhere.” Going beyond an inspirational basis for a group of girls too young to have been permitted entry into the Mercury Lounge (Care Bears On Fire notwithstanding), Titus Andronicus’ sheer abandon and blunt guitar assault should also inspire those who worry that today’s bands lack passion, with and intelligence.

Titus Andronicus will take to the road at the end of March with a Coachella appearance sitting at the middle of their American tour. They will also open a couple nights for Conor Oberst to, in Stickles’ words, “demonstrate once and for all that his music and the music of Titus Andronicus really don't have that much in common.” The Care Bears On Fire will play New York City’s Cake Shop on February 26; it’ll be OK if they go on late, it’s not a school night.

THE MERCURY LOUNGE ALSO PLAYED HOST to a momentous occasion that falls on the other end of the spectrum: The Giraffes final show with lead singer Aaron Lazar. Upon taking the stage for his farewell performance, Lazar stood passively while the crowd showered him applause, cheers and a deluge of beer, dousing him before the first note could be sung. Where many bands would find a crowd’s emulation of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” scene from The Blues Brothers to be dire turn of circumstances, it’s simply the way The Giraffes’ fans have learned to express their love. For one last Saturday night, Lazar presided over a feisty mosh pit and accommodated stage divers of both sexes.

For a band that’s able to rifle through lightning quick metal riffs while never losing the Kurt Weill feel of a song like “Medicaid Benefit Applique,” losing a singer with the presence of Lazar is a truly significant event. Wildly unpredictable, Lazar was one of the rare frontmen whose every move was worth watching. With an Elvis swagger and an impervious demeanor, Lazar would be just as likely to eat the pages of a book handed to him on stage as he would read from them. On Saturday, he showed a newfound boundary to his previously unfettered fearlessness: when handed a bottle of Four Loko, he worked the warning label into the lyrics of the song instead of imbibing it or pouring it back on the audience. For one last night, Lazar lassoed guitarist Damien Paris and bassist John Rosenthal with his mike cord, flipped off the audience with mock condescension and sang of the joys of having fun with assholes. If he never sets foot on stage again, Lazar still accomplished what many that have come before him have not: everyone who ever saw him perform will always remember that they did.

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN WILL BE THE LOCALE for another Manhattan farewell soiree, when LCD Soundsystem presides over their own wake on April 2. However, once tickets went on sale this week, James Murphy became embroiled in solving the mystery of who actually bought tickets. With the show selling out conspicuously quick, the number of fans who could raise their hands high and claim they were successful proved suspiciously scarce, causing Murphy to become the latest celebrity afflicted with “angry tweet” syndrome. Fearing that scalpers have appropriated his final show, Murphy announced that LCD Soundystem will play four “fuck you, scalpers” shows at Terminal 5, which makes it unclear whether he wants to punish scalpers or his own fans. Regardless, Murphy’s rant, in which he announces the March 28 – March 31 dates, shows his heart in the right place and is well worth reading.

Arcade Fire Wins Album of the Year Grammy

Arcade Fire front man Win Butler channeled the thoughts of many Grammy watchers last night when he said "what the hell?" when Arcade Fire was announced as the winner for Album of the Year Grammy for The Suburbs. However, not all of the audience was on the same page. Many in the audience, both present and watching at home who were likely getting their introduction to the band, were thinking WTH? for a completely different reason than the indie rock fans who were stunned that "one of their own" broke through the corporate-backed "household names" who usually dominate and turn the Grammy's into a Top 40 love fest.

Arcade Fire has been an indie darling for several years, including making Earvolution's top 10 of 2004. On a night when Esperanza Spalding upset Justin Bieber for the best new artist Grammy, giving some hope for artistry over hype, the Pitchfork crowd could hardly contain itself when Arcade Fire brought home the record of the year Grammy. A huge win for indie rockers everywhere!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Nick Hornby; Ace Reporter; John Shannon

By: David Schultz

Since yanking back the curtain to expose the mere mortal behind the self-professed music connoisseur and transforming Top 5 lists into a more populist venture in his 1995 debut novel, High Fidelity, Nick Hornby has cemented his reputation as an astute commentator on man’s relationship with the music he loves. Returning to the topic in Juliet, Naked, his latest novel that’s now available in paperback, Hornby expands on the topic by bringing in the artist who is inextricable from the equation. Far from reaching the thorough microanalysis that David Foster Wallace brought to the topic in Infinite Jest, in Juliet, Naked, Hornby examines the interaction between obsessive music fans and the object of their obsession.

Hornby’s latest involves a reclusive rocker named Tucker Crowe whose earned his spot in the rock and roll pantheon by releasing one of the finest albums of all time, Juliet, an album borne of heartbreak inspired by a married woman who Crowe loved and lost. Adding to Crowe’s legendary status is his mysterious disappearance from the public eye, quitting in the midst of a tour and falling off the face of the earth after a visit to a bathroom in a CBGB-style punk club. With the Internet providing a forum for Crowe’s small but fervent fanbase to scrutinize the meaning of his every lyric, share and critique their armchair psychoanalysis into his unexplained withdrawal and disclose the results of their amateur sleuthing into his present whereabouts, his popularity amongst his fans refuses to wane.

In disclosing the truth behind Juliet and separating the fact from the fiction of Crowe’s actions with Lost-quality reveals, Hornby explores our desire to set rock stars on a pedestal. Suffused with the desire to find meaning where there very well may be none, we, as fans, simply create our own myths to supply answers to our questions. In Juliet, Naked, Hornby thoroughly exposes the flaws of believing you can truly know someone solely through their art. Can anyone know Bob Dylan through listening to his lyrics? It’s a battle that Dylan has fought for more than 40 years. Do we know anything about Britney Spears from the clips we see on TMZ? We may think we do, but in reality, we’re just making not-so-educated guesses based on little, though sensationalistic, information. Perhaps this is why Slash so often comes to Axl Rose’s defense; he knows Axl, we don’t.

Hornby addresses the point of view of an artist whose fans yearn for music from a bygone period of their life and the anger they harbor for those who appreciate art that they themselves no longer value. Kurt Cobain reached the point where he refused to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song that brought Nirvana to worldwide attention and brought them the legions of fans he wouldn’t sing it for. Liz Phair probably has conflicted feelings about the people who buy tickets to her shows in the hopes she sings twenty year old songs about a period of her life she has long outgrown. Though Hornby presents the conundrum in an interesting context, he resolves the scenario with his customary sympathy for the music fan.

If you are the type of music fan that cares enough about music to have found a site like ours, you will find much to enjoy in Juliet, Naked.

FOR CLOSE TO 25 YEARS, They Might Be Giants flirted with the idea of writing a song a day, distributing them through their pre-Internet era Dial-A-Song service. If you called a number in Brooklyn, most days, you got to hear a brand new TMBG song. Bringing the concept into the 21st Century, Chris Snyder, formerly of The States, spent 2010 making the song-a-day dream a reality with Ace Reporter, his latest solo project. The efforts have spawned three solo EPs – Untouched and Arrived, Lean Honey Lean and Sleepyhead – which compile some of the best of the yearlong effort. On February 17, Snyder takes the next step and will offer up his first Ace Reporter show at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, New York.

You can download the 3 EPs gratis by clicking here.

ANOTHER WILLIAMSBURG TREAT can be found at Pete’s Candy Store where John Shannon & The Wings of Sound will be taking up residency each Thursday night throughout February. Pete’s intimate concert space makes a perfect locale for Shannon’s dreamy peaceful reveries. The chatter of the outside bar area can’t dissipate the mood created by Shannon’s lilting guitar rolls, Garth Stevenson’s plucked bass and Dan Brantigan’s doleful horn. Fans of Deer Tick and The Low Anthem will have lots to enjoy at the Candy Store this month.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Spectrum Road; The White Stripes

By: David Schultz

Miles Davis may not have invented jazz fusion but he surely served as its lightning rod in the late Sixties. At the outset, he absorbed all the slings and arrows from those who thought he bastardized the sacrosanct quality of jazz (think Dylan going electric at Newport) before basking in the historic glow of those who ultimately realized he helped shepherd jazz into a new millennium, merging it with funk and rock. Joining Davis on this journey was Tony Williams, one of jazz and rock’s most influential drummers. Breaking free from the trumpeter’s fold after In A Silent Way, the 24-year-old formed The Tony Williams Lifetime, his own trio with fellow Davis alumni, guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. Like the Velvet Underground’s first album, The Tony Williams Lifetime’s now-revered jazz fusion masterpiece, Emergency!, met with little esteem upon its release. Further expanding on Lifetime’s legend, when the band added a bassist for their follow-up, it was Jack Bruce, fresh off his stint with Cream.

Jazz fusion may inspire groans from those who don’t fancy the genre’s improvisational discursions. However, among musicians with an expert handling on their craft, it’s a style rife with possibilities. In 2008, with Bruce providing a 1n level of separation from the original band, a supergroup consisting of Living Colour guitar impresario Vernon Reid, jam-scene keyboard maven John Medeski and drummer Cindy Blackman (Santana), toured Japan. At the end of January, reforming under the Lifetime-apropos moniker of Spectrum Road, they electrified the storied surroundings of New York City’s Blue Note Jazz Club for four nights of fitting tribute to The Tony Williams Lifetime.

Part funk, part industrial, part rock-based rhythm and blues, The Tony Williams Lifetime was a band ahead of its time, leaving a legacy that needed, possibly required, the level of musicianship found within Spectrum Road. It would take a true jazz obsessive to discern how much of the music on stage represented a faithful reproduction of the Lifetime material as opposed to Williams-inspired improvisation. In the context of jazz and the purpose of Spectrum Road, such distinction is meant to be immaterial. Echoing Williams and his Lifetime, Bruce and Blackman work various time signatures allowing Medeski and Reid to fill in the gaps. When Medeski would set the tone, he would shroud the music in eerie psychedelic overtones and out of the dense miasma of his swirling keyboards would come the ricochet of Blackman's snare soon to be complemented with a winding bass line from Bruce. Reid would either join in with a guitar riff not so distant from his signature scree or experiment with a countermanding run of his own choosing. In interpreting John McLaughlin’s intricate odysseys, Reid finds material that presents him a challenge worthy of his estimable skills. No stranger to supergroups, Bruce, the near 70-year-old Scot, revealed a remarkably funky side, getting to display a sense of idiosyncratic timing rarely heard on Cream’s classic rock radio staples.

Following their Blue Note residency, Spectrum Road headed out west for a set of shows at Yoshi’s in San Francisco and will finish up this week at the Jazz Alley in Seattle. Unlike 2008, the project may have more legs this time around: more shows, including festival appearances, are in the works and a studio album could also result. With Bruce, Reid, Medeski and Blackman having a wealth of projects at their fingertips, their decision to pursue this venture further offers the thrill of seeing an extraordinarily talented group of musicians relishing the challenge of bringing a band ahead of its time into the present day.

THE WHITE STRIPES HAVE ANNOUNCED that they are folding up their red and white outfits and putting the band to rest. When Jack and Meg White emerged from Detroit in the late 90s, the two person guitar and drums onslaught was a novel concept. Their influence has been prominent over the past decade. Since the Whites revived interest in minimalist rock, The Black Keys, Helio Sequence, No Age and an uncountable number other duos have put every conceivable spin on the concept. Obscuring their backstory in a smokescreen of myth and misdirection, The Stripes left people with not much else to focus on besides their music, which, according to the press release announcing their retirement, now belongs to all of us. I for one will surely be checking the mail with unbounded excitement for the royalty checks that such a bequest will surely yield. Thanks White Stripes!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Those Darlins: "Be Your Bro"

By: Jorin Reddish

Girl groups drawing inspiration and updating the content from the mid 60s has permeated the musical landscape. Whether it's the "girl in love" musings of Best Coast, the JAMC meets Ronnie Spector doom and gloom of the Dum Dum Girls or the dreamy swagger of Frankie Rose and the Outs, every point of view seems to be covered. Leave it to the self described "bros to the bitter end" Those Darlins to inject a little testosterone into the party and head further away from the mountain music sound of their debut.
"Be You Bro", actually "... be your brother.. ", takes on the painful subject of wanton lust for your "girl friend" who will never be your "girlfriend." She wants to roll in the dirt with you not the bed. Through that and a series of other frank observations "the bros" lay it all out on the table. These observations are clever, crude, and honest but they are hardly looking for an answer. Nikki, Jesse, and Kelley amping up the guitar (tossing the banjo), play some hip shaken tambourine (instead of the washboard), and keep it fun (see more accessible), providing an excellent preview of their second album Screws Get Loose. If rest of the album follows this formula the girl group scene got more crowded and decidedly raunchier. We will find out on March 29th on Oh Wow Dang Records!

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!