Kicking Music’s Ass… JJ Grey & Mofro, And The Record Company Rock The Regent

Post #899… Wow… If I do say so myself… and I just did!

Downtown LA… or DTLA as the hip cats call it… Main Street between 4th and 5th Streets… The Regent Theatre.

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Part of a nice collection, including Spaceland Presents, The Federal Bar, Echoplex and Knitting Factory. Well done!

A hip area with some fantastic restaurants like Ledlow (who recently had their burger written up as one of the best in LA) and Baco Mercat, a true and worthy destination restaurant. BOTH are from famed and super creative chef Josef Centeno!

Also Prufrock Pizzeria, which is attached to the venue and looked and smelled insanely good! There are some great theaters around here, like the newly discovered and first-time visited Regent… well, new for me… and a whole other universe. There are so many worlds out there, folks… worlds within our worlds… and sometimes when those worlds collide it is a beautiful thing. We need to make a point of exploring as much of this planet as we can… and that should start with our own backyard!

Other times it reminds us of the haves and have-nots, and just how lucky we are.

As we drove around Los Angeles Street through parts of Skid Row on our way to The Regent Theatre, we saw both worlds. The depressing rows of tents on the streets on one block, and the fancy, hipster restaurants almost literally around the corner. Gentrification is alive and well, so the key is to enjoy life, but never forget.

That is what music does. We enjoy it immensely, can easily take it on face value… but quite often the lyrics or message make us recall or remember different times… troubling times… knock us around a bit. hell, that’s what the blues are based on… Taking something broken, something down and lifting it up… or maybe just telling it like it is… a lesson for the weary.

Last night’s show had some of that for sure… but mostly it kicked ass in the best possible way.

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The Record Company opened the evening, and may be one of the best examples of why you should get your ass to a venue early and show the opening act some love and respect. This three-piece bluesy, roots rock trio were remarkable… joyous and talented performers from LA who had the crowd in the palm of their hands. I guess I am late to the party, for in two short years they have already had their music featured in commercials, film and TV, played with the late and legendary B.B. King… One two of my all time faves, Robert Randolph and Blues guitar icon Buddy Guy.

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Chris Vos on vocals, guitars, lap steel, pedal steel, and a mean harmonica, and I know my harp players… Alex Stiff on bass, guitars, and vocals… and Marc Cazorla on drums, piano, and vocals. He also clearly knows how to spell his name correctly… and you KNOW I know Marcs!

Time Out LA described them as the love-child between John Lee Hooker and The Stooges. I will tell you these guys are the real deal, and their raw, swampy Southern sound will get you out of your seat. Hmm, can I get to the fantastic Bottlerock Music Festival??? Go check out that killer lineup.

The room was now officially “warmed up” and at 9:25 out came JJ Grey and the six-piece Mofro. I have been listening to these guys for a while… since their Alligator Records debut… but had shockingly never seen them live…

Well… That… has… been… RECTIFIED!

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They hit the stage and hit the gas and did not let up off the pedal for over two hours! I have said this before and I will say it again… When bands are having fun, it is infectious and makes all the difference in the world. Both bands tonight were loving the moment… loving where they were… and it transforms a room.

JJ even sings about it in “Every Minute”… just one of the highlights for me last night. I also absolutely love the philosophy and story he told behind the beautiful track “Everything Is A Song”, the opening tune from the brand new album ‘Ol Glory. It has such a classic R&B feel to it. Fantastic!

The whole set rocked, but I was particularly taken with “A Woman” from the great Country Ghetto album… “Brighter Days”, “Everything Good Is Bad” (probably my favorite tune of theirs… and from the Orange Blossoms record) and the slow, sweet smoker, “Lochloosa.”

Great rhythm section… great horn section… great keyboards and guitar work… This band is just tight. JJ shreds on guitar and on his vocal chords, and that smoky, soulful, bluesy drawl cuts through the night.

Music is alive and well in Los Angeles… all of Los Angeles… and tonight brought me something old and something new… the perfect concert wedding.

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The Blues Have The Blues – Goodnight And G-d Bless, B.B. King

Just so you know… in the background is B.B. playing the Newport Folk Festival on July 27,1968. The blues have a way of just piercing the soul. Mmm… I wish you could hear what I am hearing… Well, I guess you can… Go to Wolfgang’s Vault or just Google it… Even though I am downhearted… there is joy in the Blues!

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From the field hollers to the work songs, the Blues were quite literally born out of a harsh, frustrating and difficult life. They took that tragedy and made it into something artistic… made it into music..

Riley B. King was born on a cotton plantation on September 16, 1925. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, received the National Medal of Arts in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006… and in between, he played a hell of a lot of music… a hell of a lot of shows… and made a hell of a lot of us happy. He became a legend, an icon, a true ambassador of the Blues… and he will be missed… a lot.

I had the good fortune of going to school just outside of Chicago… and while I am not pleased with my university at the moment (something political that won’t be discussed here), I was exposed to some of the best Jazz and Blues you will ever hear… and I got to see some of the best names in music. I learned how to blow Blues harmonica in Chicago.

I will never forget Kingston Mines, Biddy Mulligans, Blues, etc., Mama Rosa’s… and I will never forget the greats I got to see… Albert King, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Fenton Robinson, Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and of course B.B. King!

I saw him many times… I saw him standing… I saw him sitting, which sadly he had to do a lot at the end… and I saw him last year at The Greek, where he spoke for almost the entire time, with barely a guitar lick here or there… Many people were pissed… and I was a bit disappointed myself… He spent so much time talking about someone’s popcorn in the front row… but is what it was… and he was 88 years old at the time… 88!!! I likened it to holding court with royalty… with the King… We were literally having an audience with the King. When Peter Frampton came out to play with him, that was the highlight… and it really seemed to rejuvenate him. There was so much mutual love and respect… and I will keep that image in my mind for a long time.

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The fact remains, that this man was a true legend… and one of the last of his kind. Who is left? What Bluesman can take this mantle? Buddy Guy perhaps? Perhaps a woman will lead the way… Are you ready Bonnie Raitt?

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And so Lucille is put away in her plush case… The man who made her cry and sing is no more… But we are here… singing… and now crying… Because that is the Blues. Goodnight and G-d bless, B.B. King. You get to rest now… until your next concert upstairs!

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Storytelling Through Song And Stage – The Decemberists Rock And Regale The Greek

For some reason this did not post last week… so you get it now!!!

The Decemberists At The Greek – Sat. May 2, 2015
A HUGE SHOUT OUT TO KCRW and their ticket contests!!! It SO pays to be a member and support this great station.

What makes us human, I believe, is the art of storytelling. We have been telling stories since our cave man days, which has been proven through the discoveries of cave wall drawings and paintings.

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Clearly it has evolved over the years, with the invention of spoken language, the written word and the printing press, books, etc.

Today, Pixar films are considered amongst the best storytelling of all time. How can one ever forget the absolutely brilliant and moving opening of Up; which was able to tell the most poignant love story in several minutes, with no words or dialogue. So powerful… so moving. Just thinking about it makes me emotional.

images As I watched another of my favorite bands, The Decemberists, at the Greek Theatre this past Saturday night (May 2), I realized how much good music really is, essentially, storytelling. It uses music and lyrics to create characters, images, situations and themes… real or imagined. And when you see a band live, the enthusiasm, the energy, the interaction, the dance, the staging, the lighting is all part of the storytelling… and used to create those tales… to bring them to life, in a once-in-a-lifetime way… No two performances are every exactly the same.

“And if only for a second
(Only for a second)
And if only for a time
(Only for a time)

And if only for a second
(Only for a second)
And if only for a time
We’ll be alive
We’ll be alive…”

The Decemberists “Cavalry Captain”

This song is off their stunningly beautiful new record What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. I adore this track and the entire album, and I can tell you that for those two or so hours at the Greek, everyone there was alive. How do we hold on to that? How do we keep that upbeat, glorious feeling going… and move it into our daily lives?

At a concert we get the story of the song and hopefully, sometimes, the story behind the song. It is communication at its purest form, because storytelling is a retelling of history, a retelling of the past, but also a wish for the future… a desire to have things be a certain way. Ideally it is a way for us to learn from our past… and create a new scenario… hopefully.

This is what human lives are. We think… we feel… we have memories. We talk about our family and relatives. We talk about our childhood… We learn from it… we grow from it. We talk about our dreams. We talk about our goals. We talk to each other about life and love. We bond over words… and music… which is why the arts… theatre, live music, orchestras, symphonies, concerts, performances, paintings, sculptures… are so vital and important to humanity. Through them we realize that we are all very, very similar… and have a common bond, a common thread, a common DNA, both literal and metaphorical. THIS is what makes us human beings… musical, theatrical and yes, sometimes too dramatic human beings.

The Decemberists took us on a journey through folk, Americana and good old Rock n’ Roll. They were vital and joyous and they seemed to truly love what they were doing. That makes a HUGE difference to a show and how much it affects and moves us. Yes, they are professionals… Yes, this is a job which should be taken seriously… but it is music… MUSIC… It HAS TO BE FUN!!! If it is not, and not a celebration and joyful, then it is lost.

The opener, Lucius was the same way. They loved to be performing for us, yes… but it was something more… a connection… a human connection.

SETLIST

  • The Singer Addresses His Audience
  • Cavalry Captain
  • Down by the Water
  • Hank Eat Your Oatmeal / Calamity Song
  • Billy Liar
  • Philomena
  • The Wrong Year
  • Make You Better
  • Carolina Low
  • The Crane Wife 1 & 2
  • The Crane Wife 3
  • Los Angeles, I’m Yours
  • The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid
  • The Rake’s Song
  • 16 Military Wives
  • Dracula’s Daughter / O Valencia!
  • A Beginning Song

Encore:

  • 12/17/12
  • The Mariner’s Revenge Song

The first two songs mirrored the opening of the new album… and obviously that record was probably the most represented of the evening, but they did a great job of working their entire catalog.

“The Singer Addresses His Audience” is about the most perfect way of starting any show, as it is a most brilliant and honest song about the relationship between fans and a band or musicians they love. It could easily  be egotistical if it was not so honest and sincere… and right on. It recognizes what we expect of each other… and how bands, though we often don’t want them to, have to change and grow and explore… especially in order to stay vital and together! Well done, Colin Meloy!

I would have loved more from The King Is Dead, which I still think is my favorite… and two songs were not enough… But I also am really enthralled with the new one. I cannot stop listening.

The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid from The Hazards Of Love album was an absolute highlight, with guitars and vocals soaring. What a night!

As we left the beautiful outdoor Greek Theatre, and made our way back to the car, we felt alive… we were alive…

By writing this, I am keeping that energy alive, sharing… and telling the story… re-telling the story… my experience… my story… and THAT is what live music is all about. A common space, a common band, a common love… and a whole bunch of human beings, dancing and singing and finding those moments of bliss. Rock on!

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The Amazing Front Side Of Water – My Morning Jacket Plays The Waterfall Live At Mack Sennett Studios

So the joke on the Jungle Cruise is the famous “back side of water…” It’s always been one of my favorite things to hear… Silly… light… but there is also something about it… something philosophical.

I have been pondering a lot lately, delving into figuring out what life is really all about. Trying to look at water and perhaps the Waterfall from all sides.

We are where we are supposed to be at any given time… I truly believe that. Okay, maybe it is something I am more recently making peace with and understanding, but still… it is a powerful concept and usually right. Yes, sometimes in retrospect, but usually right.

Remind me to tell you the amazing story of the time I met Henry Rollins and wound up speaking to him privately, while surrounded by a crowd, for 20 minutes or so. I was invited to a poetry reading and my friend Linda who invited me wound up not showing up.  She kept saying “You need to be there… You need to be there…” and then no shows. What the heck? I was not happy… but it wound up being one of the more profound and life changing experiences I have ever had. She was right…  I NEEDED to be there, and her wisdom orchestrated the whole thing and it played out just as it was supposed to. And Henry told me some things I absolutely needed to hear at that exact moment. I need to go back to those lessons. Lose the anger… find the happiness.

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I NEEDED to be at the My Morning Jacket show last night… and so I was. A very special thanks and shout out to Elliott and Olivia. I owe you both!

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I had not heard anything back, but figured I should put myself in the area of the show, just in case. So off on the 101 I went, into the depths of Hollywood and a part of town I have never explored. Mack Sennett Studios… 1916… historic… A Hollywood legend. Chaplin filmed there. Remarkable.

I hesitantly walked up to the line, where folks wearing KCRW lanyards all complimented my KCRW t-shirt… Chosen to show my support for the station and for the fact that it had a deer on a motorcycle, something very fitting for MMJ. That shirt got many compliments.
Sheepishly I said “I am not sure if I am on the list, but…”
“What’s your name?”
“Marc Goldsmith.”
“Yes, you are… plus one… Is your plus one here?”

Outside… “No, not yet, I am figuring that out.”
Inside… “Holy shit! Yes!!!!! This is going to be insane. Who is joining me??? Now!!!”

I wandered in… was a treated to an open bar and some spicy Cracker Jack type popcorn… Ah, the dinner of Champions… or a VIP suite at a baseball game…

That was on one sound stage… Then we were ushered into the main room. Full stage, but a very intimate space. Wow. This is gonna be something. I made my way dead center, about three rows back.

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At 7 pm on the dot, Jason Bentley from the KCRW show Morning Becomes Eclectic introduced the band and we were on… or off… or whatever this amazing night holds in store… The entire album The Waterfall played live. Magnificent.If you read my review you know how hard this album is hitting me. It is a deep reflection of the spiritual path I am on right now… a yearning for something more and a wail and a cry to Believe… This band rocks. The talent and passion are off the charts and we all know they are one of the best live bands out there… but there is so much depth to their songwriting and musical exploration. Their albums are about things… important things… like life and trying to understand it… humanity and relationships… love and loss and joy…

Clearly I was open to the message, but an e-mail I read just before the show started, had my heart and brain and soul flickering all over the place. Lesson one… put your darn phone down and do NOT read emails or texts… unless for plan coordinating… when you are at a concert. Of course, a few emails later was the message that I was in the show… plus one. Timing is a funny thing. Profound, actually…

The opening song of the album, and the show, “Believe (Nobody Knows)” set the path… the journey… the energy and the night… “Believe, believe, believe, believe… Nobody knows… for sure.”

Fourth song, “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
“Again I stop the waterfall by simply thinking.
Again I stop the waterfall before my breathing.
Again I stop the waterfall by finally feeling.
Again I stop the waterfall by just believing.”

Breathe… believe. You are here and need to be here.

Then the fifth song, “Get The Point”… another highlight for me… but WHAM! The lyrics tonight hit me like a truck loaded with bricks… tons and tons of bricks… Maybe two trucks… or six…
“And then I realized all the time I was wasting
Trying to mend a broken situation.
Day dreaming of leaving, I only had to do it.”

“I hope you get the point
The thrill is gone.
I hope you get the point
I think our love is done.”

Bam! Got it. Powerful. How are you in my brain and living my life? THIS is the power of music… that connection and understanding… the humanity and common thoughts and ground.

This show is loud and raw and powerful… and utterly amazing. My ears are still ringing as I write this.

Jim Guitar Solo Jim Chatting

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Nice encore of some of my favorites!

And more reasons I needed to be there… Well, these are two good reasons… and I got to tell them how much this album means to me and my journey…

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I met some new friends… Marc (or k), Amy and Jenn… And I also had the pleasure of having some truly deep and meaningful conversations outside the room with Matt and Mike. Thank you both for your open ears and letting me ramble on a bit. I hope I was not too dark and deep. You both were very cool, and that is not the normal
Hollywood” type conversation, but something I needed. Thank you.

Go and enjoy this album, my friends. And remember, we are where we are supposed to be… Just take a breath, hold onto your faith and believe.

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Soaking Up And In My Morning Jacket’s Brilliant New Album, The Waterfall

I am a classic rocker at heart, a child of the ’80s… and yet as I get older, I find my musical tastes have expanded and exploded. Bruce and the E Street Band, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and U2 are almost always on my iPods and iPhones and other iProducts to be named at a later date.

But there are some “contemporary” bands who I also follow with the same vim and vigor… Wilco, The Autumn Defense, Band Of Horses, The Decemberists (whose Saturday show at the Greek was joyous and will be reviewed soon), and of course, my favorite, My Morning Jacket.  Special thanks to Cameron Crowe for the introduction and my brother Dan for the continual push.

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My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Am I pre-disposed to like this record? I suppose, but I am not giving anyone a pass. It’s gotta grab me. This record did, from the amazing first single released, “Big Decisions,” to the opening track “Believe (Nobody Knows).” It was also a revelation for me, making me acutely aware of how I actually listen to music.

When we were kids we would lock ourselves away in our rooms and play vinyl over and over and over, getting up only to flip sides… or perhaps dance… Shhh.

So it was with this record, and here is what I realized… For me, the first go ’round is all about the music, the sounds, the tone, the feel. Ironic in that I am a writer and words are my soul, my meaning, my existence.

I let the songs wash over me, flow over me… almost from a distance… And then I start delving in… digging in. The lyrics start popping on the second or third listen… and when they do… Wow… This is also a record I need right now, and that has grasped many things I am grappling to understand in life.

If there are any folks who read my other two blogs, you’ll know that I am on a spiritual journey. Coming back from my first trip to Israel this past November has put me on a new and exciting path. I am open to so many things, and so, as I really took in the words to the opener “Believe (Nobody Knows),” I was floored… It was as if that song was written for me… and THAT is the sign of  a brilliant song… that each of us, as a whole and individuals can identify so strongly and specifically with a piece of music.

“Believe. Believe, Believe. Believe.
Nobody knows… for sure.”

“Roll the dice and sail the ship
And all the world will open… all the time.”

It’s a strange thing when you copy yourself, but if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love the phrase “musical baptism”… especially coming from a nice Jewish boy.  But when a record is called The Waterfall, that phrase becomes a must use… and that is what this album is to me… an immersion into some amazing spiritual waters.

What is it about a waterfall that makes people so excited? I remember the Road to Hana and being in awe of the falls that were just off the side of the road… Well… in awe when I wasn’t nauseous from all the winding curves.

Waterfalls are magnificent… nature’s shower, bathtub, pool and watering hole all in one place…

Waterfalls are hypnotic… One can sit and stare at them all day… Pondering how much they stay the same and yet, how much they change.

Waterfalls soothe us. There is just something so calming and magical and mystical about them.

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How appropriate then that the title of the new album by My Morning Jacket is The Waterfall, for this is one glorious record that does all of that.

Their music is almost undefineable… which makes it so exciting. Rock, Alternative, Garage, and so many other influences flow through their records with ease and grace. This album could have been made in Laurel Canyon and has echos of that sound, too!

“Get The Point” has hints of Harry Nilsson and even John Denver and not just because of Harry’s classic album The Point .

“Only Memories Remain” sounds like a lush, smoky and slow ‘70s ballad…. Perhaps they are channeling Gino Vannelli. This is a great song to slow dance to.

“In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
More timely and powerful lyrics with:
“Again I stopped the waterfall
By simply thinking.
Again I stopped the waterfall
Before my breathing.
Again I stopped the waterfall
By finally feeling.
Again I stopped the waterfall
By just believing.”

Hitting so hard for me right now…

And of course “Big Decisions” takes me on a whole other path… pulling back the curtain and revealing something so raw and honest.

“Sittin’ round wondering just what the hell to do with your life.
Only get one chance but you seem to always think twice.
And I’m getting so tired of trying to always be nice.
You’re sweet and sincere, but so ruled by fear.

What do you want me to do?
Make all the big decisions for you?
Cause I can’t.
Well I can’t.”

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Just… wow! This song got me so excited about this record… but it was later that I really took the lyrics in… really let The Waterfall wash over me in all its power and beauty… and when I did, this song and the whole album moved up onto another level… like the stratosphere. This will not be out of heavy rotation for some time to come…

Now… if I can just get into the KCRW show on May 7, I will be so very happy. Beg, grovel and BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE!

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The Soul Grows Quiet, But Love Is Still Alive – RIP Percy Sledge

There are certain voices that linger, stay with you long after a song or album ends. Such was the soulful voice of Percy Sledge. 

His biggest hit, “When A Man Loves A Woman” came out in 1966, and would provide the backdrop for many a romantic evening, I’m sure. I know it was on the list this blog did called Music To Make Love To.

And yes, whenever I was trying to be suave and romantic, or just get a girl to stay in my college room, I would bust out songs like that… Soul and R&B being my go to music. Hey, I tried to be cool and hip and a bit sophisticated. I’m not saying it worked… but I tried.

The easiest go to was the soundtrack to The Big Chill, and it was always in steady rotation for me… and I’ll be honest, that is probably where I first heard Percy… and The Four Tops… and maybe even Marvin Gaye.  I was a late bloomer… and it took college to open me up to a whole new musical world!

“According to Sledge, the song’s inspiration came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965, and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them.” (Wikipedia)

Famous rock writer Dave Marsh called his ballads “emotional classics for romantics of all ages.” (Wikipedia)

“When A Man Loves A Woman” hit No. 1 in the U.S. It “was a hit twice in the UK, reaching No. 4 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at No. 2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. The soul anthem became the cornerstone of Sledge’s career, and was followed by “Warm and Tender Love” (covered by British singer Elkie Brooks in 1981), “It Tears Me Up”, “Take Time to Know Her” (his second biggest U.S. hit, reaching No. 11; the song’s lyric was written by Steve Davis), “Love Me Tender”, and “Cover Me”.  (Wikipedia)

His version of “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right” (Written by Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson) is so darn good. Mmm, mmm, mmm! And I can always listen to “Warm And Tender Love.”

Rock and music in general have been taking some hard hits lately… and at 73, though he has been quiet for a while, it is just too damn young.  The Little Richard hair, the huge smile and that moving, soulful voice will be missed.

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Always Be In Evermotion – It Ain’t No Bluster, The Great Guster Returns With A Brand Spanking New Record

Guster – Evermotion Happy 2015 everyone. I promise not to neglect this blog as much I have been lately… My bad! I am working on something that will combine this one with the latest blog site about my journey to Israel. So stay tuned for that.

I have my brother to thank for getting me into Guster… so thanks, Dan. I have Guster to thank for keeping me tuned in. I have been listening for a while, but first saw them live last year, as the opener at the Santa Barbara Bowl, coming on before Ben Folds Five and Barenaked Ladies. That night, they were the highlight for me. They are just a very fun and talented band… but the more you listen, you realize how talented they really are.

Late last year I got to see them at the Grammy Museum, which is always a kind of musical honeymoon. It’s intimate, it’s personal and you are all right there… You get to hear the band/artists talk about their latest project, a history of their music, etc… and then usually you get to hear them perform live… in a 200-seat theatre no less! These are truly magical nights, and this one did not disappoint. Guster played mostly their new songs, performing some for the very first time, and I was instantly smitten with the new record.

They talked about how they always have the music first and then the lyrics come later… and how this record was different than anything else they have ever done, thanks to the producer Richard Swift. As I read AllMusic’s review, I almost don’t want to write one myself. They are far more musically articulate than I am… much more musically cerebral… But then again, this blog never set out to be a piece of musical criticisim… It was always about the sharing of music and the experiences that music creates for each of us. With that said, I encourage you to give it a read. The review is somewhere in the middle, and I seem to be much more enamored of the record.

My friend Jovie, who has been into the band since their start, was not so taken with it. And yes, I do like their older stuff much more, as well… but this one has some real standouts…

The tracks I love are the opener, the dreamy “Long Night,” “Simple Machine,” which sounded so great live at the Grammy…
“Kid Dreams”… which could be my life in a nutshell…
“Never Coming Down”… and yes, whistling is always fun, especially when all the guys are doing it!!
The pure pop sounds of Burt Bacharach pop up in “Doin’ It By Myself,” which to me is never a bad thing.
But my favorite has to be ”Lazy Love”, which has some really nice jangly guitar work and simple but meaningful lyrics.

This band just makes me happy… and THAT is ALWAYS a great thing. So don’t make a fuss, sir… go out and get yourself some Guster!

I don’t know… I am in the mood to rhyme today.

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