Category Archives: Album Review

New Music Monday: Lao Tizer Swings For The Fences At The Swinghouse

First off, sincere and humble apologies for the delay in getting this post up and out. Sometimes life deals you a different set of cards than you were expecting and at the same time, offers up a nice side dish of gut punches to keep you in check… I don’t recall ordering those, but it is what it is… and the extra time allowed me to spend more quality time with this phenomenal album, which quite often helped me get out of my funk.

This was supposed to post when the album came out, back on March 16, so while it is not exactly “new,” I am hoping to be the one to introduce you to this amazing and fantastic artist and band. For those who already know and love Lao Tizer, welcome.

And away we go… It’s pretty easy to drag me out of the house to go to listen to live music. Especially when it’s in my own backyard.

But I was a bit tired when my buddy Sam Glaser asked me to meet him at Bogies last July 13th. Plus, I had been there a few times before, and found it to be… well… a “Cougar Bar.” Lots of loaded ladies (in more ways than one)… hitting on lots of young dudes, who were probably NOT so loaded. It was so not my scene.

But they have changed things around quite a bit… and now have live music way more often. The sound is phenomenal and the venue (seated at tables) is relaxed and quite enjoyable. It seems like they put a lot into the equipment, and the bands and artists seem to love playing there. The room is filled with people who are there to actually listen to the music… you know, be respectful, and not try to talk OVER the band, which is sadly, super rare in LA these days.

I am sure I was stressed, too… which seems to be un-subsiding as of late… but I got into my car and drove the 10 minutes to Westlake… sat down with Sam, and grabbed a beer.

And then it all changed.

There is certain music that just makes you feel good. Truly. You can not even try to be angry or upset while listening to it. Welcome to the Lao Tizer Band. Lao Tizer was insane. The band starts and literally does not stop… until they take their break between sets. It is jazz and fusion and rock and everything in between at its best and blew me away. And any frustration or anger I was having that day, vanished. Thank you, Sam!  And Lao!!!

When a band has a certain “live” energy, and just floors it on stage, it is often hard to capture that on a record. Sometimes the enthusiasm, joy and pure passion of playing is tempered, either lightly or a lot. This is SO not the case this record. And it makes total sense that it was recorded LIVE in just three days at Conway Studios in Hollywood!

I double dog dare you to listen to this record and not have a complete change in attitude, or if you are already in a good place, to be taken even higher. 

The album consists of eight incendiary original instrumentals (Yes, I have been watching Almost Famous a lot recently) and three iconic classic rock songs!

“We’ve never done anything with a vocalist and we’ve never done any cover songs, so this is the first time that I decided to delve into that realm, to basically expand the scope of our music,” says Lao.

This is the first album for the band in over five years!

Lao was a teenage prodigy from Boulder, CO, and has been playing for over 25 years now. He has nine albums which all show his eclectic musical tastes and influences.

He is the “son of hippies with a Russian-Jewish background, and the mix of that ethnic family heritage, parental new age influence and growing up with the sights and sounds of ’80s and ’90s pop culture (alongside the music of the ’60s and ’70s he heard from his parents) have brought him to a place in his artistic life where he was ready to embrace a wider range of influences and stretch himself and his players…”

If this is not “Jazz Fusion” I don’t know what is… though I am always hesitant to use that description, as so many people have a negative connotation. I started listening to Jazz Fusion in college with Spyro Gyra and Pat Metheny… quickly moved to Steely Dan in a more hardcore way… and really discovered everything.

For me “fusion”… as in Asian Fusion food, which is delicious… is just a combination of many styles, genres and influences. Maybe people mis-associate Jazz Fusion with elevator music, but if this was ever playing in an elevator I was in, I would not want to get out!

I mean come on, Lao and the band offer some complete unique and kick ass arrangements of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” U2’s “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and Cat Stevens’ “Sad Lisa”!

Hello!!!

So of course you have Lao Tizer on keys… The vocals feature Tita Hutchison, who sang with the likes of Michael McDonald, Rick Rubin, Michael Jackson, and Foreigner, among others. Terrible artists all… 😉

The rest of the band is made up of:
Chieli Minucci, the three-time Emmy-winning and Grammy® Award-nominated guitarist and composer.
Grammy® Award-winning saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who is a permanent member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band.
EWI/saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Nieves
Violinist Karen Briggs, who has played with Yanni, Diana Ross, Wu-Tang Clan, and Chaka Khan
Bass players include Grammy® Award-nominee Ric Fierabracci and Cheikh NDoye,
Grammy® Award-nominated drummer Gene Coye
Percussionist Munyungo Jackson

I had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of these artists live!

My favorite tracks, aside from the three covers… Yes, I started life as a Classic Rock guy… is the banging opener “The Source,” which begs me to get in the car and open all the windows and just drive… the late night soother “Forever Searching” which has such a soulful and deep yearning that winds itself up to the heavens with Karen’s strings… and the absolutely stunning “To Touch The Sky” which could be the soundtrack to any number of films all on its own.

Check out another video here for Metropolis”.

And if you get a chance to see Lao and the band live, it is a multiple must… Here is just another little taste… Both he and the band play with such joy and bliss, and like I said it is mood changing and infectious. I have done many posts on what I call joyful music, and it has to start with the artist and band… they have to love and want to play. You have to feel it from them, on stage and on vinyl. This record… this artist… and this band are pure and simple joy! And that, my friends, is the key (or keys) to life.

 

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Willodean – LA Band Makes Good… And Good, And Good, And Good!

Special thanks to Heather West for the heads up on these guys!

2017 seemed to be the year for bands to be truly prolific. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released FIVE albums… and local LA Band Willodean released FOUR EPs. Come on, guys… you couldn’t do five? Lazy!!!

I jest of course, as you will immediately hear the work that went into making each of these four lush and stunning records.

Awesome Life Decisions came out in February of 2017, followed by Fires, Cars & Autumn Stars in May, Life & Limbo in August and then Awesome Life Decisions: Side Two in November.

The band lays claim to Sufjan Stevens and Wilco as influences (two of my favorites), and I would also add in Beach Boys, The Wondermints and a bit of Del Amitri and Toy Matinee to the mix… basically that Indie Rock/Power Pop I love so much!

I also hear one of my all time faves pop up in a few songs, the somewhat unknown and sadly missed band The Gear Daddies.

This trio is made up of front man and lead singer Abbie Huxley, songwriter Randy Wooten and producer/bass player Eric Holden. Holden and Wooten have been working together for over a decade, when they formed Cheap Lullaby Records and their band The Bloody Lovelies. That label released over thirty records for artists such as The BellRays, Joan As Police Woman, Ivan & Alyosha, Teitur, and David Mead. Impressive list!

The songwriting is smart, the musicianship is tight and Abbie brings a nice Tennessee waltz to his warm vocals. His voice is instantly familiar and reminds me of someone specific, though of course my mind is blanking on exactly who… but at the same time, it is new to my ears.

My buddies and I love to find and share bands with each other, and there are four of us in particular that have similar tastes. It always starts out with a text or message saying… “These guys are SO in our wheelhouse!”

Well, welcome to my “musical wheelhouse,” Willodean!Awesome Life Decisions is pure jangly pop joy and easily something I could have heard coming out of my ‘80s radio. There is a brightness to the record that lends itself to being put on repeat, as the six fantastic songs seem to come and go way too fast. My stand out tracks are “Shy” and “Don’t Give Up,” which also reminds me of The Explorers Club.

The pace slows down a bit on Fires, Cars & Autumn Stars, a slow-simmering, ballad heavy output that has a more folksy feel. It is definitely a great, late night affair. The opening “Afraid I’ll Start Remembering You” moves into “Carmen,” both songs about the loss of love and reminiscing, and clear proof that heartbreak so often leads to some great music. “Sweet Autumn Music” is a nice country affair that opens with a lovely, yearning mandolin. At least I think it’s a mandolin. My favorite track is the bright “Firelight,” which casts a nice country/power pop glow.Life & Limbo has been called “this summer’s breakup album for the modern introvert…” but for me, the pain is blunted by some gorgeous tunes and melodies. I guess that’s what makes a great breakup album… shared pain and revelations and then enough beauty and hope to move us forward! The closing track “Old Friends, with its sweeping strings, is a gorgeous lullaby of a song, that may not only lull you to sleep, but give you the chance to dream yet again.

Awesome Life Decisions – Side Two acts as both the rocking rebound record and year’s finale, and is the perfect bookend to this four-release affair. Though ironically, this was the album I started with, and what served as my introduction to Willodean. “Want” is another favorite tune.

This is the kind of band and these are the kinds of records that would make for a great night home, party music, or a long ass road trip. There is a comfort and familiarity at play, but Willodean offers it’s very own take on the music my buddies and I like so much. And as I said earlier, welcome to the wheelhouse! Most definitely hope to see you boys live!

 

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Guitar Jack Wargo’s Keepin’ It Real Keeps It Kool

There is just something soothing about the Blues. Whenever it comes on or I put it on, I go to a different place. My love started back in Chicago when I was a young student at Northwestern. My limited, classic rock sensibilities opened up dramatically thanks to some friends and Frat brothers at Sigma Nu. We’d hit places like Kingston Mines, Rosa’s Lounge, Blue Chicago, B.L.U.E.S., and The Checkerboard Lounge and my personal favorite Biddy Mulligan’s (both may they RIP.) Then I started playing Blues harp (harmonica) and forget it… I was so hooked on the Blues and would follow the legends around town and go see them whenever I could.

Back in 2014, an article in Time Out Chicago said this: “Biddy Mulligan’s was a seedy rock club on the northern reaches of Sheridan Road, just south of the cemetery that keeps leafy Evanston at bay. The club opened and closed a comical number of times, at one point re-opening for a whopping four months before shuttering again. Much like the oft-promised renaissance of Howard Street, a new, revitalized Biddy’s was always just around the corner. But Biddy’s did have an admirable history in the’70s/’80s—Koko Taylor played there many times, and Smashing Pumpkins rocked it in 1989.”

When I first moved to LA, I feel in deep with 88.1 KLON (now KJazz) and their “Nothin’ But The Blues” radio show. 

In recent years I have had the pleasure of seeing Guitar Jack Wargo play live all over LA. In fact, I have even gotten the chance to jam with him… always laughing when I accidentally step on his lead and have him look over at me and say “I got this.”

To put Jack in full perspective, let’s just say he has played with a few minor artists you MAY have heard of… Solomon Burke, Thelma Houston, Billy Preston, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson to name a few!

And then there’s this:

“There is huge talent in this man that is yet to be fully expressed. With his credentials and his chops, this is a guitar player on the verge of international acclaim.” – Gary ‘The Wagman’ Wagner, award-winning DJ at KKJZ 88.1 FM Nothin’ But The Blues

“Guitar Jack is silky smooth and Clapton-esque.” – Music Connection

His latest album, Keepin’ It Real is 12 tracks of pure funky, rockin’ blues joy.

It opens with “You Don’t Feel The Same,” which has such a true classic blues feel… and that guitar… Man! This may be my favorite song on the record! I could so easily see kids playing some of these licks over and over to try to learn to play!

“Keep On Keepin’ On” makes me want to jump in the car, roll down the windows… don’t have a top to put down… and just drive. Lots of Stevie Wonder funk going on, on this one!

“Inventory Blues” is a track we should all take stock of. We all have good and bad in our lives… but to make sure we appreciate what we do have is so important and way too easy to forget. Let the music remind us!

“Nobody But You” sounds pretty autobiographical… the pros and cons of being a musician in the public spotlight… and it’s always fun when you know EXACTLY who someone is singing about!

 “She’s Got Soul” is the perfect late night tune for a night of bluesy romance.

For me, the test of a great blues record is how quickly I want to run and grab my harps and play along. I’m ready, Jack!

Jack Wargo is a master craftsman and knows exactly how to build a true house of blues! And if you ever get the chance to see him live, that’s a must. Plus, he’s a really decent human being and a good guy. That goes a long way in this crazy world. Music soothes our weary souls, but sometimes those same souls need to be rocked a bit, too. This record does it all.

 

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Polonsky The Polymath Poet – A New Record (Fresh Flesh), A New Post And Our First Contest

Update: This did not post yesterday. Welcome to the pros and cons of modern technology.

On January 19, 2018 Jonny Polonsky releases Fresh Flesh. It is his eighth solo project, which includes 1996’s Hi My Name Is Jonny (LOVE that record), 2004’s The Power Of Sound and Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love from 2012.

When he is not making his own brilliant music, he has recorded or toured with a few minor artists you may have heard of, like Puscifer, Tom Morello, Pete Torn, Dixie Chicks, Donovan and the relatively unknown Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. What makes this list even more remarkable is the sheer range and variety of musical genres Jonny moves so easily in and out of. This speaks to his amazing talents as a multi-instrumentalist, as well as a songwriter.

I know that times were different back then, but the sheer balls and story behind Jonny’s career is a lesson for any aspiring musician.

He was born in Chicago and grew up in Wilmette, and began “recording and self-releasing homemade cassettes as a teenager, under the name The Amazing Jonny Polonsky.”

According to Wikipedia, Jonny used 411 and “was able to reach and befriend musical heroes of his such as guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), Zander Schloss (Joe Strummer, Circle Jerks), Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, Tin Machine), and Pixies singer Frank Black/Black Francis.”

This led to John Zorn, who invited Jonny to play CBGB’s New Jewish Music Festival in 1992. The incredible and sadly missed Jeff Buckley was at that show and said this of Polonsky: “He came to CBGB’s Gallery and ripped it up… He killed ’em… The charm of it is that he’s brought it into his own thing. It’s a nice miniature. He does it with soul; you can tell the difference between someone who just slips into The Beatles or something and someone like him.”

High praise indeed!

“Jonny Polonsky is a true original—his music should be celebrated everywhere.” Mark Lanegan
Mark is a true Grunge pioneer with the band Screaming Trees and has played and recorded with Queens Of The Stone Age for 14 years after his first band surprisingly broke up in 2000.

Maynard James Keenan of Progressive Metal powerhouse Tool says: “Jonny has pure artist compassion running through his blood.” (MG Note: MJK also makes some phenomenal wine under his label Caduceus Cellars. Seriously!)

Okay, okay… who cares about those guys?! I know you really want to hear what I have to say. Ha.

So here it is… I really cannot tell you how much I love this record. Oh wait, actually I can.

From the opening “The Orbit Of Love” (a blistering rock love song) to the closing notes of “I Want You So Badly,” (both highlight tracks for me) this one just grabbed me. And I have listened to it probably 15 times in the last few weeks.

“Don’t turn away from what you know
Burn away and we’ll set fire to our names
Don’t pull away from the orbit of love
Come away and live inside of my eyes.”

“Is It So Wrong For Me To Be So In Love With Myself And Everything I See?” launches into a retro guitar riff that Lenny Kravitz would love, and makes me want to grab a lighter, bounce my head from side to side, and sway arm in arm with a huge crowd. I love this song! It just kicks some great ass.

Influences like Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees mixed with Pete Yorn, Ryan Adams and Frank Black, and some good old ’90s punk are heard throughout. It’s funny, but my first and initial reaction to this record was this is what would happen if Jules Shear went punk. Amazing songwriting with a varied and sharpened edge.

The players consist of Polonsky on B-3 organ, guitar and lead vocals (though he plays something like 20 instruments. Bastard!)
Jennie Batter on drums… and yes, how perfect a name for a drummer.
Katie Burden on bass and vocals.
Special Guests include:
Mark Lanegan, spoken word and lead vocals on “Solar Child.”
Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus pounds percussion on “I Can’t Get Your Face Out of My Mind.” This is the one that most reminds me of a punk Jules Shear and just pulses into your ears.

Haskins says this about the new record: “From towering arcs of rock riff blasting guitars and jubilant roof raising anthems, to vulnerable and introspective, melancholic compositions, Jonny Polonsky’s Fresh Flesh will take you on an emotional journey of carefully crafted songs from this accomplished, multi instrumentalist songsmith.”

Polonsky self-produced and the album was recorded at Shangri La Studios in Malibu, the home base for little heard of mega-producer, Rick Rubin.

Rock, pop… love, loss… sex, power and searing guitars… this atmospheric rock record has it all. And now for something not completely different, but new for Marc’s Muse… our first CONTEST!!!

Contest (Some answers are in this post. Some are not):
1) Where did Jonny grow up and who brought him to NYC?

2) Name three bands or artists who have influenced Jonny over the years.

3) How did Jonny first connect with some of his musical idols?

4) What was the name of Jonny’s 2006 band and who else was involved in the project?

Post your answers in the COMMENTS SECTION.

One winner will be chosen randomly from the correct answers received and will have a test pressing of the new record (yes, VINYL) mailed out to them.

Don’t miss the full band show on Feb. 9th at Hotel Cafe, LA’s fantastic and intimate venue. And in the meantime, also enjoy this great K-Tel commercial send up.

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My Top “10” Albums Of 2017 – Happy Musical New Year!!!

This year seems to be filled with my love and affinity for Power Pop and Singer/Songwriters… and is wonderfully filled with strong albums from female artists. Clearly the motto of my daughter’s school is right on… The Force Is Female!

I have not had time to sit with the new U2 album, so not sure where on my list it would be… But I will sit and listen to it again, soon. I also have not had a chance to listen to the new Lorde album, which many have on their year-end lists, so my bad. Please forgive me!

And yes… I am putting in ties so I don’t have to limit myself to 10!!! I guess I am just a dirty cheater… but my list, my rules!!!

Have a Happy and Healthy 2018 and here’s to much more great music!

#10 – TIE
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Love these two as solo artists… love them together. Great album!

Shout Out Louds – Ease My Mind
Thanks to Tuti and Alan for mentioning this amazing band that is so in my musical wheelhouse. Their fifth album is an easy, lush and gorgeous listen.

 

#9 – TIE
Old 97s – Graveyard Whistling
This Dallas, Texas band has been at it since 1993 and are still putting out amazing and vital records!

Real Estate – In Mind
So, I do not love this band just because they started in the Jersey town next to me. They make great and really enjoyable records, and while they had some major personnel changes, they are still making wonderful music.

 

#8 – TIE
Foxygen – Hang
I love this total throwback of a record, just hate that it is only eight songs long!

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Jason just keeps making amazing music, and I love the Springsteen influence on “Cumberland Gap.”

 

#7 – TIE
Ted Leo – Hanged Man
I had never heard of Ted Leo or his band The Pharmacists until this year, and this record was one of my most pleasant discoveries. “With funds raised through crowd-sourcing, Leo built a studio in his house and started working on a new, more personal and musically diverse batch of songs. Although a few friends like Mann and Jonathan Coulton dropped by, Leo was the sole guiding force and he acquits himself well as a producer.”

Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps
So many friends recommended Phoebe and this album is absolutely gorgeous and vital. “You Missed My Heart” is easily up there for my song of the year.

 

#6 – TIE
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Soul Of A Woman
Obviously a bittersweet release, and this is NOT here just because of the passing of Sharon Jones. She and this band made some amazing music and she will be greatly missed.

Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm
Another strong female at the reins of a great band! Thanks to Julie Slater for the intro. to Katie Crutchfield and this great band. Did not realize her twin sister Alison had an album out, too called Tourist In This Town. Need to check that out!

 

#5 – TIE
The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
This band started in 1986! They faded out around 2001 and are now fully back. And we are the better for it, as they keep making some incredible music. 2014’s Do The Beast was also in my Top 10. At only 37 minutes this album flies by, but it also stays with you.

St. Vincent – Masseduction
From the cover to the album, this is one great, sexy pop record, filled with so many emotions. “New York” may just be my song of the year, too.

 

#4 – TIE
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Can’t same that I am a huge Rap and Hip Hop guy, but I get it and this album is rock solid… or Rap Solid… and gives me something else I can listen to with my daughter… Okay, maybe not!

Slowdive – Slowdive
This band formed in 1989 and have just released their eponymous record… and it is soooo darn good!!!

 

# 3 – TIE
This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze
This is what Joni Mitchell might sound like if she was starting to make music today. Not sure how I discovered this one, but it stuck. Kate Stables “sings, plays guitar, banjo, trumpet and percussion, while a cast of carefully hand-plucked friends deliver guitar strums, banjo plucks, hushed horns and electronic textures that sit beneath Stables’ easy, earnest lilt.”

Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
Young women seem to be making some amazing music this year. Clearly there is an old soul at work here, same with Melina from Jay Som. On just her second album Julien makes some beautiful, smart and sophisticated music.

 

# 2 – TIE
Jay Som – Everybody Works
The fact that she is just 22 makes this album even more impressive. Melina Duterte from Oakland, CA is making what they call 90’s style fuzz pop, and this album is fantastic!

The National – Sleep Well Beast
Rolling Stone saysThe band’s trademark Joy Division gloom gets cut with sexiness and dark humor…” I say they are one of my favorite bands, and if I miss them live in concert one more time… AAGGHH!

 

#1 – The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Oh how I love this band… let me count the ways… L-O-V-E!!! And yet another one I have never seen live. Sigh. For some reason, the dates for them and The National never seem to work out… Wilco, too for that matter…

So my vow for 2018, assuming and hoping they are all on the road, is to finally see Wilco, The National and The War On Drugs!!!

 

HONORABLE MENTION:
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Love Ryan. His music is raw and honest and cuts to the bone and soul… always.

Gregg Allman – Southern Blood
No… but yes, okay… I NEVER saw The Allman Brothers live… and yes, this is a great record and hopefully a lasting memorial to a remarkable talent.

BNQT – Volume 1
The “Indie Supergroup” featuring Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Fran Healy of Travis, and Eric Pulido of Midlake make a great first record.

 The Clientele – Music For The Age Of Miracles
Pure, sophisticated, lush and stunning Power Pop. I adore this band!

 The Dustbowl Revival – The Dustbowl Revival
A huge step forward as they not only expand their sound and style, but continue to capture their amazing live energy on record.

Hazel English – Just Give In / Never Going Home
Another female singer/songwriter on my year end list! This album kept coming out as singles and EPs, but I am happy to finally have it as a whole.

 Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Singer/Songwriter heaven… I begged my daughter to go see him at Coachella… She didn’t, but now I hear him playing in her Spotify, so… good on me… though she claims another friend was the source. Sheesh!

 Neil Finn – Out Of Silence
Strong songwriting is the building block for a great and long career. Case in point… and still going!

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Indie folk may be supplanting Alternative as my new favorite genre! This band is going on 10 plus years and the music is still going strong!

Liam Gallagher – As You Were
Oasis cut in half. Tuti said I missed a killer live show. Sigh…

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
Oasis cut in half. Leaning towards Noel, because he has a bigger solo output and I love what he is doing… but apparently need to see both live! Another missed concert this year. Argh.

Grandaddy – Last Place
I love when bands deep in their careers can keep putting out such great and interesting music.

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
Hooky, synth-pop. Yes, please!

LCD Soundsytem – American Dream
I love how Rolling Stone writes: “In the masterfully pissed-off American Dream, he can’t decide whether he’s making a party album for the end of the world or an apocalypse album for the end of the party.” Hell yeah!

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Wembley Or Bust
Seeing them live at the Hollywood Bowl was one of the best live concert experiences I have ever had, so this souvenir, even though it was not our show, is an easy pick for my year-end list.

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The SurfaceThis band is betting better and better!!! This one was close to a Top 10!

Mondo Cozmo – Plastic Soul
KCRW and KCSN played the heck out of “Plastic Soul, ”Hold On To Me,” and “Shine,” but I am not over this record yet and it seems more accessible/radio friendly than his previous band, Eastern Conference Champions.

The Pains Of Being Young At Heart – The Echo Of Pleasure
A recent discovery that has been in constant rotation.

Portugal. The Man – Woodstock
Love the story behind this album… finding his Dad’s ticket to Woodstock!

Ride – Weather Diaries
20 years in, and a new release. Kudos to them and this truly amazing record! “Home Is A Feeling” is also like a warm, cozy blanket.

Shakey Graves And The Horse He Rode In On – Nobody’s Fool and The Donor Blues EP
Love these guys on many levels. And a phenomenal band live!

Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 1
I am so not a country fan, at least “new” country, but Chris’ music goes beyond a simple genre classification and he keeps putting out killer records.

Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Yeah, yeah, yeah… But… Quite a few songs I really like… and he is clearly channeling his inner Ed Sheeran, but always good to have something the kid and I can enjoy together… though I have finally won her over to the joys of classic rock!!!

Special Honorable Mention:
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
This insanely prolific group released four albums in 2017! Yes, you heard me (or read me) right… FOUR!!! This includes Polygondwanaland, which the band gave away for free… and I believe it is still available!   Murder of the Universe, Flying Microtonal Banana, and Sketches of Brunswick East “for which they they hooked up with Alex Brettin of the soft rock weirdos Mild High Club to concoct the smoothed-out psychedelic jazz album…”

AllMusic also says: “Trying to make sense of, and/or keep up with, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard can be a daunting prospect. They are nothing if not prolific, and nothing if not willing to throw curve ball after curve ball.”

CHEERS!

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Metal Monday – Musical Healing With Baroness… And No, Not Downton Abbey

Perhaps there is no irony that I was just watching Do The Right Thing last night… and how prominently it features a rather large and powerful Boom Box.

For me, it was and is about Jason and his magical Boom Box, and they have struck again. Well, not literally… I am not sitting in a bus in the very last seat listening to the literal boom box that sat on the floor or on the seat next to us. Though I wish I was… Wish I had held onto that time a little longer… a little more dearly.

I do miss those days… so innocent and pure… all about discovery of life and love. A broken heart or unrequited crush was as bad as things got back then. Don’t get me wrong. Those hurt like hell and seemed like the end of the world, but trust me… being an adult is SOOO much harder.

These days we struggle with so much… health, career, broken marriages… Life is not easy. And yet it is glorious and beautiful and filled with so many miracles… and we need to celebrate each and every one, each and every day. But that is so much easier said than done.

It is easy to say we should meditate daily, though I can tell you first hand, it works wonders. It is easy to say be more MINDFUL… but we all know that it takes tremendous work and soul-searching. But that is why they call it a PRACTICE. Take a moment out of your day to walk around your neighborhood. Look at each tree, each leaf, each stem… feel the breeze… hear the birds… and KNOW THAT LIFE IS MIRACULOUS.

We all have our own issues, some more dire than others and we tend to take on the issues of others. We feel the stress of our children, and sometimes feel helpless when trying to move them beyond their own frustrations. But the BEST thing we can do for ourselves and for them and for anyone we love, is to HEAL ourselves… get that OXYGEN MASK on first… and then help those around us… loved ones, strangers, the world…

And there is NOTHING that heals as much as music. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know my musical tastes run the gamut… the FULL gamut.  Just today my eclectic musical brain is listening to the following… New albums by Cheap Trick, The War On Drugs (so fricking good), Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors… all MUST LISTENS… and older ones by Beth Orton, Nickel Creek and The Sheepdogs.

Thanks and shout outs to Brad, Dan and Julie!  And now… courtesy of Jason, my Monday Morning Metal, Baroness and their amazing “comeback” album… Purple!

What is a bit of a miracle, is that I came up with this title BEFORE knowing or hearing anything about this band! As I write this post, their music is blasting, but in the background are devastating pictures and images from flooded Texas. On the fake news, I might add… he said sarcastically…

My heart is breaking, and somewhat ironically, Metal is soothing it. But the story of this band is nothing short of miraculous and so appropriate… further proof that THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES!!!

Wikipedia says that “Baroness is an American heavy metal band from Savannah, Georgia whose original members grew up together in Lexington, Virginia.

“Baroness formed in mid-2003, founded by former members of the punk/metal band Johnny Welfare and the Paychecks. Singer John Dyer Baizley creates the artwork for all Baroness albums, and has done artwork for other bands.”

On August 15, 2012, their coach “fell from a viaduct near Bath, England… and John Baizley suffered a broken left arm and broken left leg. each suffered fractured vertebrae. Pete Adams was treated and released from the hospital on August 16, 2012.”

There were months of recovery and in 2013, “Allen Blickle (drums) and Matt Maggioni (bass guitar) had left Baroness.

On April 1, 2013, it was announced, that Nick Jost, (bass) and Sebastian Thomson (drums) of Trans Am would be joining the band… and by the early Fall of that year, they were back on the road, touring Europe.

And in 2015, they released their “comeback” album called Purple.  Yes, purple IS my favorite color… but this album also kicks some ass… and “Shock Me” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards.”

That was my favorite track, by the way… AND BEFORE I READ THAT!

I also really like the fiery, hard rocking, fist-pumping, head banging, well-fueled “Kerosene,”  “Try To Disappear” and “Chlorine & Wine.” As Jason says, they are “doomy and metalish but proggy as well.” So yeah, they might be an acquired taste… and their lyrics are not always uplifting… but there is something there… and their story fits right in today’s narrative… people fighting to survive in the face of disaster.

And believe me, if you told me ten years ago that I would become a connoisseur of Metal, I would have laughed at you… but here we are and there you go.

So make it a Most Magical Metal Monday! Stay safe, be happy and be kind… CRANK UP THE MUSIC… and as always ROCK OUT!

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Metal Monday – General Thoughts And Rockin’ Ramblings (Part One)

So a couple of general thoughts hit me as I was writing my Iron Maiden posts. I knew I wanted to do something about Metal in general…the history, the different styles, etc.

Then my buddy Jason posted something that I thought was worth exploring, specifically about Maiden. And then my friend, fraternity brother and other Metal Mentor, Barry gave some awesome insight into his love of the genre… and Boom!

Since neither are guest blogging, you’re stuck with me. But these are the two who Metaled me up… And hey, look, Boys! Thirty some odd years later it worked! I’m hooked!

METAL MUSIC
So where does one start when looking for info. on any given subject? Wikipedia, of course.

“Heavy metal… developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic/acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.”

“In 1968, the first heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple attracted large audiences, though they were often derided by critics. During the mid-1970s, Judas Priest helped spur the genre’s evolution by discarding much of its blues influence; Motörhead introduced a punk rock sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Beginning in the late 1970s, bands in the new wave of British heavy metal such as Iron Maiden and Saxon followed in a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal fans became known as “metalheads” or “headbangers”.

A couple of things stand out for me. First, it amazes me how things that are on the fringe become so mainstream at a certain point in time. Zeppelin and Deep Purple are Classic Rock bands to me! Granted I came to them later in their careers, but that was normal FM Radio/East Coast listening. And let us not forget that The Beatles started off as the enemy to many a parent. Then the Stones came out as the even more evil rockers! And of course, speaking of Metal, Iron Maiden was cast as devil worshippers.

Some folks consider AC/DC a Metal band, but to me they are just hard rock and one of the highlights to come out of Jason’s Boom Box. Same with KISS. And while Judas Priest was always blasting that summer, I never really listened to Metal on a regular basis. In fact, when people asked me what musical genres were the ones I knew the least about, I would always say Rap, New Country and Metal.

Now Rap and Hip Hop come pouring out from behind my daughter’s closed bedroom door (No, that is not really it!!!), along with a fair amount of Show Tunes! Though I am also happy to say that her playlist has a heck of a lot of Classic Rock on it!

I will admit that I got into NWA, Dr. Dre, Tupac and others all “after the fact.” Way before my daughter, but after the fact…and I will also admit that I do get “parental” from time to time, as I hear certain lyrics being sung by my kid. Ugh.

And I always had a soft side… and I guess I still do… as my favorites of the time were Steve Miller Band and The Eagles. My first concerts were more Classic Rock than anything else, too. Chicago and Orleans was my first. Then The Eagles, Heart and the Little River Band

Usually as people get older their musical tastes get smaller and more “refined”.  Not me! My tastes have been growing and expanding for a long time now. And as I said, I seem to come to certain things late… like Metal! Which also has friends accusing me of doing to try to stay young. That’s not the way I work. I listen to what moves me, what grabs me and I do not care where and who it comes from. More politicians need to do this with good ideas! It should not matter what side of the aisle it comes from! A good idea is a good idea, and the goal must be to problem solve, help and create joy.

But this post is about MUSICAL JOY! So what is it about Metal that has taken such a hold on me? Iron Maiden is in regular rotation. I love the new Metallica album, and the Judas Priest 30th Anniversary CDs are kicking me into gear. I wrote about how studies have shown that this music can actually relax people. I can actually see that, but for me, it just makes me happy and energized, and I love to CRANK IT! To 11!!!

Barry wrote:
“It’s all about the energy. Metal still motivates me and gets me pumped like no other genre. And the metal bands that I like best – the ones that exhibit extreme technical precision like Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, etc. – appeal to me from my early years as a classically trained pianist. (Which is probably why I enjoyed grunge, but never got into it as much as I did metal – the precision was always a little lacking for me.) I am also a huge fan of guitar virtuosos like Reb Beach, Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, John Petrucci, George Lynch, et. al. – their craftsmanship and precision continue to astound and inspire me.

Right on, Barry!!!

Robert Walser (author of Running With the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Musicsaid that Metal’s “most influential musicians have been guitar players who have also studied classical music. Their appropriation and adaptation of classical models sparked the development of a new kind of guitar virtuosity [and] changes in the harmonic and melodic language of heavy metal.”

 

And specifically on Maiden, Jason wrote:
“I think another thing that is important to mention — for the uninitiated — is to not pre-judge Iron Maiden because of Eddie (their mascot, who is on all their graphics). Maiden is not what you might hate about metal — in fact it’s quite the contrary. Musically, their material is high-energy and rocks hard (and they are great players), it’s mostly very melodic and their lyrics are unobjectionable (no cursing, no objectifying of women, and many have historical context, e.g., “The Trooper,” about the Crimean War, “Aces High,” about the WWII air wars and Battle of Britain, “Where Eagles Dare,” based on the great WWII film, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, etc). They are all smart individuals, family men, and their lead singer actually flies the band plane (a fully loaded 747 with the band gear, not a little prop plane.). With streaming services, it’s easy to sample their music or their bio-pic, “Flight 666.” Enjoy the journey and Up the Irons!”

So you can see how and why these two are my Metal Mentors… Jason on a Teen Tour, and Barry as my Frat House roommate in College! We listened to a hell of a lot of great stuff back then, Boys! And this does not even include all that Al Jarreau and Spyro Gyra, Barry! What? We needed to charm the ladies!

Come back next Monday for Metal Monday – General Thoughts And Rockin’ Ramblings (Part Two) when we talk about all the different sub-genres of Metal and more!

 

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