Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Of 2008

As the holidays close in, the Daily Vault is proud to present our annual cavalcade of Best Of 2008 columns, this year featuring entries from six writers (and counting...). Jeff Clutterbuck, Melanie Love, Sean McCarthy, Kenny S. McGuane, Mark Millan and yours truly have all chipped in to highlight the highlights from Bon Iver to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond to Nine Inch Nails, The Hold Steady to Nick Cave and those Bad Seeds of his. Even Guns N' Roses merited a mention -- but then, these aren't exactly your conventional awards we're handing out here...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pearl Jam revisits Ten

Pearl Jam fans (e.g. our own DV alumnus Benjamin Ray) will be laughing that it took me a week to catch up to this news, but hey, better late than never. And the news, as reported in this MSNBC article, is big. In this reissue-crazy era, it may not exactly rate screaming headlines when Pearl Jam decides to rerelease their milestone 1991 debut disc Ten. But how about when they reissue it with both a digitally remastered mix of the original album plus a complete stem-to-stern remix of the same album by Brendan O'Brien, the producer who made his name helming the band's subsequent four albums? Plus six unreleased tracks from the Ten era?

Getting warmer?

Then how about the “Legacy” edition, which adds a DVD of Pearl Jam’s previously unreleased 1992 performance on MTV Unplugged?

Careful now, try not to drool.

Oh, and then there's the "Super Deluxe Edition," whose name screams "rip-off," but which contains the Legacy package plus vinyl, plus beautiful and unique packaging, plus -- don't let us forget this part -- the virtual Holy Grail of Pearl Jam fandom. In 1990, Vedder and future bandmates Stone Gossard, Mike McCready and Jeff Ament traded tapes, creating a legendary cassette demo that led to Vedder joining the band. Scratchy bootlegs of the demo tape have circulated for years; the deluxe edition of Ten will include "a crystal-clear dub of the tape on a replica cassette." Yowza. The reissue drops March 24; pre-order now at pearljam.com.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Darius Rucker crosses over

It seems like you read maybe once a week about a country artist crossing over to the pop charts. What happens less often than, say, a Jimmy Buffett album that sounds like he means it, is a pop artist crossing over to scale the country charts. What happens, well, pretty much never, is an African American pop artist scoring a #1 country hit -- which is exactly what Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker did this past September. This Washington Post article explains how the lead singer for one-album wonders / best-selling bar band Hootie made the transition to country music and how surprisingly well that transition has gone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Depeche Mode album coming in 2009

Electro-pop forefathers Depeche Mode have completed their frequently rumored new album and are preparing it for a spring 2009 release, coinciding with the band's planned world tour. Lead vocalist Dave Gahan describes the album in the LA Times' Pop & Hiss blog as "a great record" that will have 12 tracks with an outward-looking feel, and will feature tons of vintage analog equipment courtesy of inveterate eBay shopper and bandmate Martin Gore.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Satriani v. Coldplay: the YouTube case

Among the many interesting effects of the Net 2.0 environment, add this -- it just got that much harder to defend yourself from a plagiarism suit.

Sure, I read about Joe Satriani suing Coldplay, saying the 2008 Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" copied the melody and chord progression from Satriani's 2004 composition "If I Could Fly." But let's face it, there are only so many melodies and chord combinations in the world and similarities are bound to crop up. My attitude toward this sort of thing is that the plagiarism has to be pretty blatant to justify a public accusation and lawsuit.

Then I came across the YouTube clip embedded below, which first plays clips from the two songs back to back, and then plays a mash-up of the two songs together -- and after watching it, all I could think was "Dude, get out the checkbook."



It's of course possible or even probable that this was purely unintentional, as George Harrison claimed in the infamous "My Sweet Lord"/"He's So Fine" case, but the result should be the same, i.e. the original songwriter is compensated.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rage Against The Machine rage against Guantanamo

It turns out the musical riddle "what do Sesame Street and Rage Against The Machine have in common" actually DOES have an answer -- the music of both has been used as a form of psychological torture on prisoners held at the U.S. interrogation facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And now at least some of the parties whose music has been used as the aural equivalent of thumbscrews are objecting.

RATM guitarist Tom Morello, for one, is outraged by the practice and has been outspoken in criticizing it from the stage in recent concert appearances. Sesame Street composer Christopher Cerf is quoted as saying “I wouldn’t want my music to be a party to that.” But not everyone objects; bassist Stevie Benton from Drowning Pool, whose track "Bodies" is a favorite tool of Guantanamo iterrogators, says “I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Langerado Festival announces lineup including Death Cab, Snoop, Ryan Adams, Thievery Corp.

The Langerado Music Festival -- held for the first time this year at Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Bay in Miami -- is back for a seventh year. This morning festival organizers announced an initial artist lineup for the March 6-8, 2009 event that's enough to make any festival-fancier drool. Try: Death Cab For Cutie, Snoop Dogg, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Thievery Corporation, Slightly Stoopid, Dashboard Confessional, Flogging Molly, Gym Class Heroes, Mute Math, Black Kids, The Pogues, Matisyahu, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's McGee, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead. Artists will perform on multiple stages throughout the three-day event and more artists are still to be announced. Tickets go on sale this Friday December 12th at 12pm EST, with no additional service charges when you purchase through the Langerado Web site.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Vault's December retrospective: John Lennon

Singer. Songwriter. Bandmate. Celebrity. Activist. Artist. Husband and father. These are just a few of the most public roles played by one of the most important musical – and arguably, societal – figures of his generation, John Lennon.

As a founding member, co-chief songwriter and co-lead vocalist of the most important and influential band in the history of popular music, Lennon’s musical legacy would have been secure if he had never played another note after the Beatles broke up in 1970. But he did, creating a complex, at times uneven, but never dull body of solo work that includes some of the most indelible songs and performances of the era.

It was always just a matter of time before his turn came up to be the Daily Vault’s Artist Of The Month, and so we’re proud to announce that our December 2008 retrospective with feature the music and words of John Lennon. This December the Daily Vault celebrates the musical legacy of one of the era's greatest songwriters with reviews of 11 Lennon solo albums and collections in a retrospective that begins Friday, December 5 and runs every weekday through Friday, December 19. The majority of these reviews will be appearing on the Vault for the first time. Enjoy, and imagine...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The box sets are coming! The box sets are coming!

'Tis the season for overspending, and the desperate-for-your-cash music industry is cranking out the box sets in hopes of enticing a few more of your dollars our of your wallet. That would be the cynic's way of viewing the cornucopia of new holiday-season box set releases, at least. For the innocent, acquisitive music-lover (and most of us have one hiding under our world-weary, cynical shell, c'mon, admit it), it's a bonanza of new purchasing opportunities.

We won't try to run down the full list here, since USA Today has already kindly done so and done so quite well, thank you. But here's just a few names and genres to whet your appetite: Chuck Berry, Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Genesis, Grateful Dead, heavy metal, Robyn Hitchcock, Jesus & Mary Chain, KISS, Minnesota acts, Nada Surf, Roy Orbison, Phish, Elvis Presley, Rare Earth, Sevendust, The Coasters, White Zombie, Frank Zappa. And that's just the Rock section... then you get to R&B/Jazz/Blues/Gospel/Reggae, and Country/Folk/Roots, and Spoken Word/Theater/Classical... whew. Look at it this way -- you may not need to go to Target after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Video games boosting music sales?

In the latest evolutionary cycle of the now nearly unrecognizable "music industry," video games have become a sort of booster rocket for music sales. In a recent post, New York Times Freakonomics guest blogger David Edery -- also a manager for Xbox Live Arcade -- notes that Rock Band and Guitar Hero have generated millions in catalog sales for bands like Aerosmith and The Who, and even gave a noticeable bump to sales of Motley Crue's recent single "Saints Of Los Angeles."

The question still to be explored is, does this effect extend beyond further lining the pockets of the already successful and famous? Does a placement on Rock Band help your unknown indie band? The jury is still out, and the chances of a big video game employing nothing but undiscovered acts continues to waver somewhere around zero. That makes those lesser-known acts who do manage to get into the video game mix alongside veteran million-selling acts something akin to lottery winners.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

David Gilmour streams Live In Gdansk

As a special Thanksgiving gift, starting today (Tuesday) and for the next week, DavidGilmour.com will host clips from the DVD edition of David Gilmour's latest release, Live In Gdańsk, for fans to watch. Different songs will be featured every day; over the course of a week fans will be able to catch “Speak To Me/Breathe/Time/Breathe,” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Fat Old Sun,” “Wish You Were Here,” and the non-album song “Wot’s… Uh The Deal?” as well as other songs from the DVD.

Live In Gdańsk is a double live album plus concert DVD, released on September 23rd on Columbia Records. The first solo live album from Pink Floyd’s singer / guitarist captures his concert in front of 50,000 in the Gdansk shipyards, the final performance of his critically acclaimed 2006 On An Island tour. It also features the first-ever recording of selected Pink Floyd classics performed with an orchestra. It was the only concert on the tour to feature a live orchestra, and features the final public performance of the late, great Richard Wright on keyboards.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Vault in brief: Nine Inch Nails, Jon Troast and a cast of thousands

Since we threw caution to the wind last Friday and sang the praises of one of our competitors, maybe it's time to toot our own horn for a day, eh? Because there's surely been a ton of interesting material published on the Vault in recent days...

For one, there's Darren Paltrowitz's biweekly effort at Keeping Up with the latest in music, books, and all other forms of entertainment media.

For another, there's Bruce Rusk's review of a recent Nine Inch Nails concert -- sounds like Trent & co. are putting on quite a show this winter.

And for another, there's a review of a Jon Troast show at a much smaller venue -- my living room -- for anyone interested in hearing more about how a house concert works...

Finally, there's the reviews we just published of Powderfinger, Talking Heads, Kraftwerk, Elvis Presley, Fight Like Apes, Bob Seger, Marvin Gaye, CSS, Megadeth, Duran Duran, Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Cure -- not to mention the reviews we're about to publish of Guns N' Roses, Ry Cooder, Rick Wakeman, Science Faxtion, George Michael, Billy Squier, Donovan, the Rolling Stones, Katie Miller-Heidke, Jeff Beck, Keane, the Mountain Goats, The Clash, Love & Rockets, Morrissey, Tina Turner and many more to come.

Capeesh?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Lennon: we forgive you

Sure glad we got THAT cleared up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Beatles' White Album at 40

While we provide a page full of links to our competitors on the site in the spirit of providing a service to our readers, we don't normally tout their work. I mean, does Spin go out of its way to tout the great work Rolling Stone is doing? Not likely.

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat, though. And this week our competitors over at PopMatters have outdone themselves with a superb series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most important albums in music history, The Beatles, a.k.a. The White Album. Not content to simply publish a review -- or several reviews -- PopMatters enlisted a substantial chunk of its writing staff to deliver a track-by-track analysis of the album plus an overview, dividing the double LP up into four sides and releasing first the overview and then analysis of one side per day all week this week.

Like The Beatles itself, the track reviews feature many different voices commenting on the origins, recording and significance of each track, a fitting tribute to an album that symbolized the splintering of pop's greatest band, while thoroughly capturing the moment in the midst of one of their most musically fertile and personally conflict-ridden periods.

It's a fascinating read; hats off here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mudvayne takes The New Game to the next level

Sometimes a name is just a name. And then there's Mudvayne's recent album The New Game, which turns out to be the focal point of, well, a new game.

The key is a code included in the packaging of every copy of the new album. Entering the code on the band's Web site unlocks a dossier containing the outline of a murder mystery and profiles (with photos) of 11 suspects. As Pollstar explains it, "To solve the mystery by eliminating one suspect each week, fans must use the full album packaging (lyrics, the mugshots and info provided), their historical knowledge of Mudvayne and the video for the first single, 'Do What You Do,' as well as weekly clues revealed on the band's Web site."

Grand prize is a Mudvayne "VIP laminate for life," one runner-up will settle for a signed Washburn guitar, and 10 more runners-up will receive signed copies of The New Game's deluxe edition. All in all, a pretty sweet deal -- and perhaps a sign of things to come as artists, labels and retailers begin to think more creatively about how to create the value needed to keep fans buying hardcopy product from brick-and-mortar stores.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nickelback's new album: "no class, no taste"

Some targets are so easy it seems almost shameful to hit them (Chinese Democracy, anyone?). And so it is with a twinge of regret (just a twinge, mind you) that I join the music-critic dogpile on top of Nickelback's new release Dark Horse.

Dark Horse being, of course, a faintly ridiculous name for the latest album by a platinum-selling corporate rock hit machine. But then, many things about this band are faintly ridiculous, as pointed out in the uncharacteristically snarky review by AllMusic Guide's Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the group's latest record:

Nickelback are not known for their insight, but Chad Kroeger's caterwauling claim that "we got no class, no taste" on "Burn It to the Ground," the second song on their sixth album, Dark Horse, is a slice of perceptive, precise self-examination. Nickelback are a gnarled, vulgar band reveling in their ignorance of the very notion of taste, lacking either the smarts or savvy to wallow in bad taste so they just get ugly, knocking out knuckle-dragging riffs that seem rarefied in comparison to their thick, boneheaded words.

Oh Stephen, tell us how you really feel...

As a footnote, the LA Times jumps on the pile as well with a blog piece about how desperate the band appears to compete for sales numbers with David Cook, Axl, et al, offering a first-day discount price for the album of $3.99 that might tend to aggravate the fans who only recently paid 99 cents just to hear the advance single "Gotta Be Somebody"...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Record Store Day planned for April '09

The record store is dead; long live the record store.

Hit by declining sales of hardcopy CDS from brick-and-mortar retail outlets, the traditional record store has been forced to retrench, rethink and renew its approach to business. And now, they're getting some help with that from a likely source.

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers, a.k.a. NARM, recently confirmed it will sponsor Record Store Day on April 18, 2009. As the leading trade association for music retailers, wholesalers, distributors, record labels, multimedia suppliers, suppliers of related products and services, and individual professionals and educators in the music business, NARM aims to help the organizers prepare for the April '09 event as well as continuously promote Record Store Day and the unique culture of indie record stores in the media and online at www.recordstoreday.com.

"NARM is so pleased to be sponsoring Record Store Day 2009," said President Jim Donio. "The extraordinarily successful debut of Record Store Day in 2008 served to perfectly underscore how vibrant and vital record stores are to communities and economies around the world. NARM hopes that its support will enable organizers to make next year's event an even bigger and better celebration of independent music retailers' passion and commitment to the music that enriches and inspires us all."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Springsteen readies new album for January release

Bruce Springsteen's new album Working On A Dream is now set for a January 27 release on Columbia Records. Recorded with the E Street Band during breaks on the Magic tour, the album features twelve new songs plus two bonus tracks :

1. Outlaw Pete
2. My Lucky Day
3. Working on a Dream
4. Queen of the Supermarket
5. What Love Can Do
6. This Life
7. Good Eye
8. Tomorrow Never Knows
9. Life Itself
10. Kingdom of Days
11. Surprise, Surprise
12. The Last Carnival

Bonus tracks:
The Wrestler
A Night with the Jersey Devil

A release from the Springsteen camp quotes Bruce: "Towards the end of recording Magic, excited by the return to pop production sounds, I continued writing. When my friend producer Brendan O'Brien heard the new songs, he said, 'Let's keep going.' Over the course of the next year, that's just what we did, recording with the E Street Band during the breaks on last year's tour. I hope Working On A Dream has caught the energy of the band fresh off the road from some of the most exciting shows we've ever done. All the songs were written quickly, we usually used one of our first few takes, and we all had a blast making this one from beginning to end."

Working On A Dream is Springsteen's twenty-fourth album. It was once again produced and mixed by Brendan O'Brien -- the fourth Springsteen/O'Brien collaboration -- and was recorded and mixed at Southern Tracks in Atlanta, GA with additional recording in New York City, Los Angeles, and New Jersey.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Six degrees of Roy Orbison

For a rock family tree junkie like yours truly, this has to be one of the coolest apps ever to hit the virtual pages of the Web. The folks who manage Roy Orbison's page have installed a feature that lets you enter the name of any musical artist and then walks you through potential links back to Orbison. So many artists have either worked with or publicly acknowledged Orbison as an influence (perfect example of both: Traveling Wilburys) that the game is both easy to play and utterly fascinating for the rock trivia junkie. Play it for yourself...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Paul McCartney offers a clue to the identity of Eleanor Rigby

A fascinating story on MSNBC.com this morning tells the tale of a woman who wrote to former Beatle Paul McCartney seeking a charitable donation and instead received a tantalizing clue to the identity of one of pop music's most famous and speculated-upon figures: the title subject of The Beatles' classic hit "Eleanor Rigby."

When Annie Mawson of the Sunbeams Music Trust opened the envelope she received back from McCartney some nine months after mailing her original request for a half million pounds, she found not a check, but a 1911 salary register from Liverpool City Hospital that features the name E. Rigby, a scullery maid whose annual earnings were 14 pounds. It's unclear when McCartney acquired the document, but regardless, the Sunbeams Music Trust is anticipating a payday of 500,000 pounds ($775,000) or so when it puts the artifact up for auction this month.

R.I.P. Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix drummer)

Drummer and founding member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience Mitch Mitchell was found dead in a Portland Oregon hotel room yesterday morning. He apparently died of natural causes at age 61. Mitchell's manic, jazzy, Keith Moon-influenced approach was a key element in the Experience's sound. In addition to playing with Hendrix for several years, including the famous Woodstock Festival gig, Mitchell also played at various times with Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Jack Bruce, Jeff Beck and Muddy Waters, among others. Mitchell had just finished playing a run of dates with the Experience Hendrix Tour, a tribute act sponsored by the Hendrix family which teamed musicians who knew or played with Jimi during his lifetime with newer artists who were influenced by his music.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Guns N' Roses: The apocalypse

All signs suggest the apocalypse is just around the corner... or at the very least, this one does: the 14-years-in-the-making Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy will apparently actually be released on November 23. As supporting evidence, we offer the pre-order link now live on iTunes, including immediate access to a download of the title track when you pre-order the full album.

What's next, earthquakes? Locusts? The return of MC Hammer?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Metallica fan(atic)s unite

Interesting piece on MSNBC.com this morning about the subculture of devoted Metallica fans. As the article chronicles, said fans have been through a lot in the last decade with the band's various musical and personal twists and turns, not to mention Lars Ulrich's little anti-downloading crusade. Fortunately for Metallica, their fans are still devoted enough to do slightly wacky things like using “Nothing Else Matters” as a wedding march... no, seriously.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday roundup

The items are arriving in bunches these days, so...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday Roundup: Sly Stone, The Kinks, The Hold Steady

Items three to you from me:
  • Sly Stone is a musical icon, one of the truly towering figures in the history of soul music. Sly Stone is also a man... a very troubled, erratic and possibly unbalanced man. For more on the Sly one's latest concert debacle, check this account.

  • Joining the recent flurry of reunion rumors are The Kinks, the original British brothers-and-bandmates-who-frequently-can't-stand-one-another-but-make-amazing-music-together. Brother Ray Davies reports that brother Dave has recovered sufficiently from a 2004 stroke for recording and touring to become a real possibility again. Stay tuned...

  • Finally, one of this writer's favorite bands of the moment, The Hold Steady, earned a nice writeup the other day on MSNBC.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rock the vote

We interrupt the normal flow of music-related newsy tidbits and rumors for a serious message. Today is the opportunity for all of us Americans who love to hang around and complain about the way things are going to actually do something about it. Today is our chance to make our voice heard in the most meaningful way possible. So, if you want the right to complain for the next four years, you're going to have to earn it by doing one small thing:

VOTE.

That is all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wilco: Kicking Blu-ray

The film production company that issued the highly-regarded 2002 Wilco documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is now in a very public tussle with the band over release of a Blu-ray edition of the film. The issue is that the original film was shot in grainy super-16mm black and white, and the soundtrack of the Blu-ray edition is identical to the DVD version -- no remastering -- so what you get, according to the band, is the identical product with no improvement in picture or sound quality for ONLY twice the price of the DVD. Wilco has posted a message on its Web site referencing an e-mail blast to its fans in which it advised them not to buy the Blu-ray edition because it was not worth the extra money. Plexifilms responded with a blog post titled "I am trying to release a Blu-Ray" in which it defended its decision and the picture quality differential between the Blu-ray and DVD versions, and pledged to postpone the release until it can work things out with Wilco.

Meanwhile, we assume all Wilco fans caught the band's memorable visit last Thursday to The Colbert Report, including a very funny interview between Stephen Colbert and frontman Jeff Tweedy, and an exclusive performance of "Wilco The Song," a parody meant to, among other things, tweak Joe The Plumber.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

R.I.P. Michael Baker of Shadow Gallery

Michael A. Baker, founding member and lead vocalist of well-regarded prog-metallers Shadow Gallery, died of a heart attack this week at age 45. Baker had been the band's frontman for its entire 16-year run, including last year's best-of collection Prime Cuts from Magna Carta Records. The band's five studio albums stand as some of the most dynamic and powerful prog-metal of their day. Our condolences to family, friends and the entire Shadow Gallery community.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The latest Led Zeppelin rumor: Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge to tour with Page, Jones & Bonham

The Led Zeppelin reunion tour rumors are flying so fast and furious these days it's hard to keep up. Robert Plant's going to do it. Oh wait, no he's not. Oh, but now they're looking at other singers. Could be, but who? Steven Tyler jammed with them but kept forgetting the lines to songs. Seriously? Who knows. It's all gotten very weird.

And so it is with a very large grain of salt in our other outstretched hand that the Daily Vault presents the latest rumor to cross our plate, which goes something like this:

The lead singer from Alter Bridge, Myles Kennedy, is rehearsing in Coventry, England with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham for a tour to start in February or March. Rehearsals will soon be moving to another country (France? Canada?) try to throw the press off the path. They have people working full time to throw chaff at the media (well, that part's certainly consistent with recent reports...) to keep people guessing.

After Zep's triumphant reunion show in London ten months ago, Plant was quoted as saying "you never know" about a full tour from the band, but he has since been absorbed in touring his collaboration with Alison Krauss. According to the rumor, Plant is said to have threatened legal action if the other three try to use the Led Zeppelin name, logos or other Swan Song trademarks without his participation. At the same time, other reports suggest Plant hasn't ruled out joining in a future Zeppelin tour, but just doesn't want to do it in 2009.

As stated above, take all of this with a grain of salt, as we do. We don't know if the above rumor is fact, fiction, or some creative mix of both designed to throw everyone off the trail of what's actually happening. All we can say for sure is that there are an awful lot of people interested in seeing Zeppelin or some variation of it play live again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Latest reunion rumors: The Jacksons

Is the long-whispered Jacksons reunion finally coming together? The Australian Associated Press, quoted here on Pollstar, reports that Jermaine Jackson says it is, and that it will include "the entire family, including little sister Janet." And to think I put my old flared bell-bottoms in the garage sale just last spring...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nick Hornby plugs Fuel/Friends; Big Brother bullies ECEU

Today we have good news and bad news on the MP3 blogging front.

The good news: this morning no less a music-world luminary than the revered Nick Hornby of Songbook fame plugged this writer's very favorite music blogger Heather Browne and her site I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (a Pearl Jam quote). And where did the wise and wonderful Mr. Hornby offer this well-deserved nod? In -- wait for it -- THE NEW YORK TIMES. Woo-hoo! Way to go Heather!

The bad news: another of my favorite music blogs -- Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands -- announced late last week that it is in danger of shutting down under legal pressure from the authorities. And not just any authorities -- Google itself. The virtual publisher, via Blogger, of this blog. And Heather's. And hundreds of other music-related blogs. Where exactly does protection of creators' intellectual property rights -- which I support wholeheartedly -- bleed into Orwellian censorship? I don't know, but this incident suggests the boundary between the two has become almost too blurry to make out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bryan Adams confronts fan sites (he has fan sites?)

A few years back when Prince sicced his unholy hordes of attorneys on a bunch of fan sites who were guilty mainly of promoting the man's career for free, Daily Vault Founder Christopher Thelen vented his spleen in the Purple One's general direction. For many years Prince reviews were simply not available on the site, replaced by this note.

So you might be forgiven for wondering how the DV might react to the recent news that Bryan Adams has pulled almost the same bonehead maneuver, sending the Web Sheriff (no, really, that's their company name) after a bunch of fan sites and even a tribute band?

First, obviously, we have to stop laughing. A Bryan Adams tribute band? Seriously?

Fortunately, we understand from this article in the UK Register that Adams has stopped short of lawyering up and is in fact in the process of working out mutually agreeable arrangements with said fan sites. A much better outcome for all concerned, though it may represent a lost opportunity for Adams. I mean, a ban from the Daily Vault certainly would have been the most attention he's gotten from us in years...

Monday, October 27, 2008

AC/DC gives the UK economy a boost -- or not

It's silly season again as the world economy self-destructs and the U.S. election barrels toward the finish line and journalists wonder if they should feel guilty for being secretly happy they have so much material to work with. Give The Guardian's Alexis Petridis credit, though, he came up with an original angle -- AC/DC album sales as a leading indicator of Great Britain's economic health. Except, as Petridis' research suggests, it seems the better Angus and company do, the worse the British economy does... and Black Ice just went number one in the UK despite the band's refusal to provide digital downloads. Criminey!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ben Folds Five on MySpace

But the real highlight of my Friday was wandering by MySpace and finding high-def video of the entire Ben Folds Five reunion show -- orchestrated to kick off MySpace's new Front To Back series -- waiting for me there. A completely brilliant show done up just right by the producers with interview clips and excellent videography of the show. Bliss, I tell you, bliss.

Friday roundup: James Taylor, Led Zeppelin, Change My World, ISC

It's Friday and our item-bag overfloweth:
  • On November 4 Atlantic and Rhino team up to release a limited- edition CD boxed set containing Japanese imports of all 10 of Led Zeppelin's albums in mini-LP replicas with artwork from the original U.K. LP sleeves. The Led Zeppelin Definitive Collection of Mini-LP Replicas boxed set will be available for a suggested price of $199.98. Listening party samplers available in Real and QuickTime formats...

  • Original sensitive-guy singer-songwriter James Taylor offers a glimpse into the thought behind his recent Covers album and his work for the Obama campaign in this interview.

  • Agape Children's Choir and Little Engine Productions have created an amazing nonpartisan music video aimed at mobilizing voters in this important election season.

  • The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has extended its deadline for submissions for the 2008 contest to December 1. A small sampling of this year's crop of judges for this annual competition includes: Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20); Chaka Khan; Tom Waits; KT Tunstall; Robert Smith (The Cure); Ricky Martin; Loretta Lynn; Neil Finn (Crowded House); Buckcherry; T-Pain; James Cotton; Jerry Lee Lewis; Craig Morgan; Ray Davies (The Kinks); and McCoy Tyner. For more information and to enter, visit the ISC site.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pete Yorn: "American Blues, Vol. 1"

At this point I'm convinced it's not just me; this election season really is bleeding into the music world in a way we haven't seen in decades. You just can't get through the day anymore without finding a story about a Jon Bon Jovi ripping on McCain/Palin for using his song, or a James Taylor doing five benefit concerts for Obama/Biden (not to mention Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel) or, today, a new election-themed music video. This one's special, though. The artist is Pete Yorn, the song is his brand new "American Blues, Vol. 1," and the video found below is homemade, nonpartisan and quite moving in using familiar images to convey the simplest message -- VOTE. Please do.

Pete Yorn - American Blues Vol. 1

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mark Oliver Everett (The Eels) gets personal

Every once in awhile as I hopscotch across the interwebs a story will stop me dead in my tracks and hold me there until I finish the last word. Today the honor goes to Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, as in the mastermind behind alt-rock iconoclasts the Eels.

It's been widely known that Everett had a troubled childhood and lost his sister and mother to suicide and cancer in the late 90s, as he was working on albums like Novocaine For The Soul and Electro-Shock Blues. What I personally wasn't aware of is that Everett's father was a famous physicist who came up with the parallel worlds theory, which suggests that every decision made creates an alternate reality. Everett's relationship with this odd, brilliant and distant man, who died of a heart attack when Everett was 19, forms the backbone of his new biography Things the Grandchildren Should Know. He also sat for interviews for a Nova special on his father called Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives (check PBS for local airtimes in your area). Finally, don't miss the fascinating article that triggered this post, over on (surprise, surprise) USA Today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long live the album (or, Third Eye still Blind)

There have been a few times over the eleven years I've been writing for the Vault when my thoughts have gone back to one of the more scathing reviews I've ever written. The target was Third Eye Blind, which is in itself pretty laughable -- I mean, who cares? But see, a decade ago, right around the time "Semi-Charmed Life" was getting play on FM radio, TEB frontman Stephan Jenkins recorded bumpers for ABC's old family-friendly TGIF segment. This was also right around the time my seven-, nine- and eleven-year-old kids were following Full House, with the end result that my eleven-year-old came home one day having purchased an album riddled with references to sex, drugs and suicide. As you may have guessed, I was not happy about this.

Now, I've considered a few times over the years whether I was a little hard on Jenkins and TEB. It probably wasn't their idea to record those bumpers. And while I remain very comfortable with the parenting decision my wife and I made, at least one TEB fan wrote in to tell me I was in fact exactly what I stated right up front in my review -- a prude. Fine. Given what passes for standards of public behavior today, I'll take that as a compliment.

And then last night I read this piece, in which an older but apparently no wiser Stephan Jenkins wastes a substantial number of syllables ragging on the album as an art form and basically admitting he can't be bothered to put together ten decent songs at once, that three or so at a time is more his speed. Let me tell you two things: 1) The day albums cease to be a relevant art form will be the day I roll up the Daily Vault and take it off-line; and 2) The day I give a flying anything what Stephan Jenkins thinks will be... well, clearly, that just won't happen.

Digital downloading won't kill the album any more than the Kindle will kill books. These art forms have endured for good reasons. Trend-hopping stylistas like Jenkins always make the same mistake, assuming that smaller and faster and less substantial and less meaningful automatically equals better. Twitter is maybe the ultimate example of this simultaneously lazy and hyperactive cognitive A.D.D., which is why I'd guesstimate its half-life at about six months. If there's one thing this nation, this culture is crying out for right now, it's more substance, not less. Long live the album.

Monday, October 20, 2008

AC/DC hit Black Ice today

The media blitz is on as headbanger heroes AC/DC return eight years after their last studio album with Black Ice, and the Vault is joining the fun with a day-of-release review.

Out of the hordes of surrounding mainstream media coverage, I would also point you to this entertaining UK Telegraph review with Angus Young, particularly his explanation for the group's decision to sell their album only in hardcopy form via Wal-mart or acdc.com, no iTunes or downloads at all:

“We don’t make singles, we make albums. We work on getting the songs on our albums to work together... So that’s how we feel about our albums being a complete piece of work. And we won’t go on iTunes unless they offer the option to us to 'lock’ our album... In the US, though, we’re looking at iTunes being the biggest music retailer in the country. We looked at who was number two and found that it was Wal-Mart. So we decided to make this album exclusively available in Wal-Mart stores... I remember when we first started touring in the US back in the Seventies, we’d arrive in these towns, and I’m talking about all these places in between New York and Los Angeles, and we’d always go straight to the local record shop. These are the places where people hung out – you could talk music, pick up a few albums and all of that. Now you go back to these places and they’re all closed down. However, there is a Wal-Mart in all these towns, so we believed this to the best alternative to iTunes."

The record shop is dead; long live the record shop. Hope it's a great run, Angus.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let's get serious: A Night For Vets

Every once in awhile we are reminded that in addition to entertaining us, music can be a powerful force for good in the world. Every once in a while we are similarly reminded that the "M" in MTV used to stand for music. These two trains of thought will come together a week from today as MTV teams up with CNN to present "A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE."

I can't put it any better than Pollstar did: "
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have both been lightning rods for controversy over the past few years, but there's one thing we can all agree on: the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who've served there." The concert and associated broadcast content produced by CNN will highlight veterans' issues including mental health support and disability benefits, preventing homelessness, and properly compensating those who serve.

Live performers will include
50 Cent, Ludacris and Saving Abel, with taped performances from Kanye West, Kid Rock, Angels and Airwaves, Fall Out Boy, Juanes, Nelly and Taylor Swift, among others. News content will feature Anderson Cooper and CNN will air a separate special hosted by Cooper focusing on the many challenges faced by returning veterans.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bon Jovi joins the chorus against McCain/Palin

Didn't we just run this story? In any case, Jon Bon Jovi is the latest big name to join the ranks of musical acts complaining that the McCain/Palin campaign is using one of their songs without their permission. Bon Jovi, who hosted a big-dollar fundraising dinner for the Obama/Biden campaign at his New Jersey home just last month, was distinctly unhappy to learn that his song "Who Says You Can't Go Home" has been used recently at rallies staged by Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin. Bon Jovi joins Heart, Foo Fighters, Jackson Browne and a host of other acts who have objected to their music being used by a Republican ticket they don't support.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tim McGraw did not approve this post

Whatever else you might have to say about Tim McGraw's brand of very mainstream, very commercial country music, the man has a huge following and also, it appears, considerable integrity. Not only did McGraw not approve of his label -- Curb Records -- issuing his third greatest hits CD overall and second in the last two years, he's speaking out against it. Best line of the article: "In the spirit of the election year, I would simply say to my fans 'I'm Tim McGraw and I don't approve their message.'"

Monday, October 13, 2008

AC/DC still says no to iTunes

The new AC/DC disc Black Ice -- out next week -- might be one of the year's most anticipated new releases, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to buy and download it online. The band, along with the Beatles one of the most notorious holdouts against the digital download age, is distributing Black Ice only in full CD form and only through Wal-Mart stores and its own Web site. Lead singer Brian Johnson can barely hold back his disdain for iTunes and digital music in general in today's interview with Reuters, saying iTunes is "going to kill music if they're not careful."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wampus Multimedia takes on MySpace Music

Ripped from the virtual pages of Wampus Multimedia's very own blog (see also our musical blogroll in the column at right), here's a link to bales of interesting reading about the new MySpace Music and the many devilish details that lie within.

Not that I'm going to soapbox on that particular subject today; it's really just an excuse to remind you all that Wampus head honcho Mark Doyon has been one of the wisest voices in the wilderness commenting on music industry developments for some time now -- and as a singer-songwriter, independent label owner, publicist and music blogger all rolled into one, why wouldn't he be? He sees these issues from all angles, not just one particular self-interested one. Plus, he wrote "Cuckold Of Titan," so that entitles him to your eternal attention regardless.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foo Fighters the latest to cease-and-desist the McCain campaign

One of the most overused aphorisms of our political culture is the old George Santayana quote "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Still, someone might want to whisper it in the McCain campaign's collective ear, since it has yet again been smacked down by an artist whose music it tried to co-opt. First it was John Mellencamp, then Heart and ABBA and Jackson Browne and now this time around, the offended party is the Foo Fighters and the song is "My Hero." I believe the phrase you folks on the campaign trail are puzzling over is "intellectual property rights" -- or was it "finding some gimmick to manufacture an artifical connection with all those young voters who don't believe a word coming out of our mouths"?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October's Daily Vault Retrospective: Kansas

This month our Daily Vault retrospective spotlights one of the most underappreciated bands of their era, the boys from Topeka, the group called Kansas. Known mostly for late '70s AOR staples like the driving "Carry On Wayward Son" and the haunting #1 hit "Dust In The Wind," Kansas was (and is) much more than those two famous songs. They were in fact the first homegrown American prog band, as their first three albums attest. And while, like many of their musical peers, they tasted commercial schlock-dom in the early '80s, they recovered nicely later in the decade and continue touring and making new new music to this day. Read more about it here and here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We're voting Depeche Mode in '09

Those '80s synth pop icons Depeche Mode are back for more as the group just announced a world tour to begin next May 10 in Israel. Actually, they're calling it their "Tour Of The Universe 2009," with many more gigs across the globe promised following the opening salvo of European dates in May and June. Unconfirmed reports of Gahan, Gore, Fletcher & associates playing Alpha Centauri do appear to be premature, though...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lucinda Williams gets happy

Newsflash: alt-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, long known for the intensity of her bittersweet ruminations on missed connections and failed relationships, is happy. At least so claims the New York Daily News in this recap of Williams' forthcoming album Little Honey (out Oct. 14), full of celebrations of her new relationship with co-producer Tom Overby. A happy Lucinda Williams. What's next, AC/DC singing lullabies?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday roundup: Pretenders, Kid Rock, Kingston Trio

Plenty of tidbits to consider this Friday...
  • We're not quite sure how an article ostensibly about the new country-flavored album from The Pretenders came to be titled "Chrissie Hynde has never heard of Sarah Palin," but this piece from MSNBC is still worth checking out.

  • Word from the New York Times is Kid Rock has finally joined the 21st century and made his music available online via Rhapsody (lucky them). Now if AC/DC would just end their holdout...

  • Nick Reynolds, a founding member of folk-rock pioneers The Kingston Trio, has died. The group's focus on guitars and harmonies inspired Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the Beatles, among others. R.I.P.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Judas Priest: Halford interview

Reunited road warriors / metal demi-gods Judas Priest continue to tour behind their June double-album Nostradamus, but frontman Rob Halford managed to take time out to do this in-depth interview with Pollstar. Interesting to hear the king screamer himself make some spot-on observations about the state of the industry and the wonder that 35 years or so later, Judas Priest can still fill amphitheatres around the globe with headbanging teenagers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Something Phish-y going on

It seems the boys from Phish -- the most celebrated jam-band in the land since Jerry Garcia passed on -- are ready to saddle up again. Four years after the group announced they were done with a series of farewell concerts, they have announced three dates for next March in Hampton, Virginia, with the promise of more to come.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Led Zeppelin reunion - not

Remember those "wouldn't it be great if" rumors we dutifully reported last week after The Sun claimed Robert Plant had agreed to do a Led Zeppelin reunion tour? Yeah, well, in the immortal words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs streams on NPR

As of midnight last night, NPR Music is exclusively streaming the new and much-anticipated Bob Dylan collection Tell Tale Signs, one week ahead of the album’s release on October 7. The entire two-2-CD, 27-song set is available to hear on-demand at NPR Music for the week leading up to its official release.

Tell Tale Signs is the 8th installment in Dylan’s “Bootleg Series,” and features previously unreleased recordings, live performances and alternate versions of songs recorded during sessions for some of his most acclaimed albums, Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind among them. Also included on the album are Dylan’s recordings for the soundtracks of the films Lucky You, Gods & Generals and North Country, and “32-20 Blues,” his first ever release of a Robert Johnson song.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band tagged for Superbowl XLIII

For true football fans, the Superbowl halftime show means turning the channel or making a beer run. Sports fans don't care about the overblown glitz and phony enthusiasm of these contrived, plastic spectacles. Can anyone forget the heinous debacle of a Superbowl half-time show that put Britney Spears on the same stage as Aerosmith? Or the ludicrous antics of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake? The history of the half-time entertainment for what is historically the most-watched annual TV event in the world is a pathetic legacy of bad choices. With the exception of Tom Petty a few years back, they rarely hit a home run (or score a touchdown if you will). Even some of the decent acts are routinely subjected to the shabby accoutrements of bad choreography and and cheesy pandering by the on-air personalities.

Hope arrives by way of New Jersey. Your friends at the DV (me and Jason at least) will be glued to the set this year after the announcement that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band will play this year's half-time show from Tampa. If anyone can save this annual display of bad taste and poor judgement by the network execs, its The Boss. Kudos to the network idiots for getting this one right.

"Fan-funded" recording: The next wave?

We've had the file sharing wars, the Radiohead experiment, and just lately the Mudvayne twist, where buying an album gets you the full fan-club-exclusives package as well. Another growing trend in the ever-evolving music industry business model is so-called "fan-funded" recording -- projects whose recording budget is funded not by a label, but by donations from a group's fans.

The model has proven viable enough that there are actually several Web sites devoted to it now -- think Sellaband and SliceThePie and ArtistShare and CASH Music -- but equally as intriguing are acts who choose to go directly to their fans. The Brian Travis Band of LA is $5,500 into a $7,000 fundraising effort to finish off the mastering and duplication of their latest record. And D.C.-based rock band Shane Hines and the Trance have raised $30,000 of a projected $40,000 recording budget for their new album via their TeamTrance site, including raising $13,000 in the first week of their fundraising drive.

Drummer/author Jake Slichter of Semisonic famously characterized the band as "rock and roll sharecroppers," making music as debt-burdened indentured servants to their label. In the future will we call them rock and roll panhandlers? Or is the better comparison to the PBS "viewer supported" model? Finally, is this progress, or just another odd twist along the road to a destination that isn't yet in sight?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Led Zeppelin tour rumors resurface

The Rumor That Would Not Die has resurfaced, again, with an unidentified source, again, claiming a Led Zeppelin reunion tour is definitively on. And while the fact that the media outlet of record in this case is notorious sensationalist rag The Sun -- think British National Enquirer -- suggests it may be just more wishful-thinking fiction, the story itself is a page-turner. Were guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and second-gen drummer Jason Bonham really auditioning replacement singers -- and was that really what convinced Robert Plant to end his holdout and say yes? Whether or not any of this ultimately holds any water, it does make for a fairly gripping storyline...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The "news" about Clay Aiken

We're shocked, we tell you, shocked at the news about Clay Aiken. At least, that is, shocked that anyone calling themselves a fan of the American Idol winner would express the slightest bit of surprise at this not-terribly-revealing revelation. Sorry, but if this guy didn't set your gay-dar to pinging like a fire alarm, you really need to get that thing checked.

P.S. Good for you, Clay.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yes, we do have a communication problem

As strange as it was to see the news that Yes is going to tour this fall with a fill-in for ailing lead singer and co-founder Jon Anderson -- sidelined for the next few months by a severe asthma episode that required hospitalization -- the fallout has been perhaps even stranger. It seems neither co-founder and bassist Chris Squire nor longtime members Steve Howe (guitar) and Alan White (drums) bothered to tell Anderson about their decision to go ahead and tour this winter without him, leaving him feeling "disappointed, and very disrespected." Well, yeah...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Golden Smog's Marc Perlman: the Daily Vault interview

One of the pleasures of the music reviewer's gig is the opportunity to talk with the many smart, interesting, funny folks in the business, and Golden Smog (and Jayhawks) bassist Marc Perlman qualifies on all counts. For an insider's peek at the latest from the Americana supergroup, version #17 of how the Smog was formed, hints of a Jayhawks reunion and more, check out our interview of the loquacious Mr. Perlman here. (And while you're at it, don't miss our day-of-release review of the new Golden Smog collection from Rhino here.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Plane crash rattles the rock world -- and beyond

Every music fan within reach of a computer in the last 72 hours no doubt has heard about the horrific plane crash that seriously injured Travis Barker (Blink-182, +44) and Adam Goldstein (DJAM). What feels like it's been missing from too much of the coverage, though, is the reality that four other people -- none of them famous, all of them with families and friends and loved ones of their own -- were killed in the same crash. One of them, it turns out, was from my neck of the woods. And so, while sending best wishes to Barker and Goldstein for a speedy recovery, let's also make sure to honor the memory of pilots Sarah Lemmon, 31, and James Bland, 52, as well as bodyguard Charles Still, 25 and Roseville, California native and personal assistant Chris Baker, 29. Losing first Richard Wright and then Norman Whitfield and now these good folks has made for a very rough week in the music world.