Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Soundtrack for Change: Obama's iPod

CNN Reports today the contents of Barack Obama’s iPod. Apparently Obama digs Dylan, The Stones, Stevie Wonder, and various jazz artists including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

"I have pretty eclectic tastes," the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday's issue of Rolling Stone.

Growing up in the '70s, Obama said, he listened to the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Earth, Wind & Fire. Stevie Wonder is his musical hero from the era. The Stones' "Gimme Shelter" tops his favorites from the band.

Asked about Rap, he confesses that despite his respect for the strides made my many artists in that genre, he has concerns for some of the content. "I am troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism of a lot of rap lyrics," he said, "but I think the genius of the art form has shifted the culture and helped to desegregate music."

No word yet on what John McCain is listening to.


Rolling Stone

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chris Cubeta covers Neil Young

Wowza. I'm not much of a download surfer, and I generally leave the MP3 blogging to the very best on the Web, Heather Browne, but looky looky what I found. One of the most exciting indie acts in the land, Chris Cubeta and the Liars Club, recently posted their cover of Neil Young's post-Kent State classic "Ohio" on their blog and it is absolutely SMOKING. It's a song that demands total commitment and CC & the LC bring it with authority. Not to be missed!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Metallica: Some Kind of Idiocy

As reported on CNet, Metallica recently invited selected music bloggers to sit with them in the studio for a preview of their upcoming album, playing six tracks.

Said bloggers then blogged what they heard, as bloggers will. Most of the comments were positive based on readers who had a chance to actually read the comments prior to…

… Metallica’s camp ordering all the blogs removed under threat of legal action. Some claims about the music being “rough mixes” were given as an excuse.

The "DUH" factor just went through the roof. If they aren't ready, don't invite anyone to listen.

Shortly thereafter, the band “sort of apologized,” fingering the band's PR firm as the culprit.

First the Napster debacle, then they become the last-band-standing to be drug kicking and screaming into iTunes. Is this a by-product of the band's well-established dislike for the Internet, digital media and anything that doesn’t provide a bricks-and-mortar originated royalty check? Can someone explain the benefit of prohibiting positive reviews?

The blogs were eventually restored, you can read them here: Kerrang, Metal Hammer, The Quietus.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jeff's Quick Picks -- Elton John

Elton John
Tumbleweed Connection [Deluxe Edition]

I decided to cheat this week with my Quick Picks; instead of a song I’d like to highlight an album. A Deluxe Edition, to be exact. Last week, there were two reissues of two classic Elton John albums released, his self titled work and it’s sequel, Tumbleweed Connection. My choices were limited to one or the other, and in the end Jeff left Best Buy with a tumbleweed in hand.

Tumbleweed Connection ranks quite high on the list of the great Elton John albums; in my book it alternates in the top spot with Captain Fantastic. Thus, I was quite curious to listen to alternate takes/new material from a truly classic album. The results were pleasing enough, although not hugely enlightening.

“There Goes A Well-Known Gun” is presented in a completely different fashion; foreshadow of Captain Fantastic with it’s country rock vibe. I love the original, but this version has it’s moments. “Sisters Of The Cross” is the only 100% new song contained on the album, but it’s intriguing enough to make one ponder what could have been. John demonstrates his amazing command of performance on just a piano once more; in that he is at the top of the heap.

The Deluxe Edition concludes with 4 songs lifted from an unreleased series of BBC Sessions, and are well worth the time to listen to. These are songs that would not be performed live for decades in some cases, and here John and his band infuse them a raw energy of an act trying to make it big (“Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun” and “Burn Down The Mission” in particular).

This is one of Elton’s best albums, and in this format it has received a fresh update with enough bonus material to provide some perspective. For a Deluxe Edition, that is all one can ask for.

PR: The Mother of Invention

British rockers The Get Out Clause, needing a video to promote themselves but lacking funds, ingeniously performed in front of some of the 1000s of government controlled closed circuit surveillance cameras all over Manchester, and then requested copies of the videos under a public information disclosure statute.

"We wanted to produce something that looked good and that wasn't too expensive to do," guitarist Tony Churnside said. "We hit upon the idea of going into Manchester and setting up in front of cameras we knew would be filming”.

Cleverly splicing clips from many locations, they managed to create a pretty decent video, and purely by accident, an interesting look at the state of Big Brotherism and who’s watching who, and where.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The music "industry": race to the bottom

A musician friend recently passed on a pitch he’d received from an industry contact. It went like this:

BANDS AND ARTISTS FROM ALL GENRES (but primarily Alt Rock bands or Hip Hop groups) are sought after by a Film/TV Production company currently casting for a new Reality TV show airing on a popular cable network… They're looking for a band/group that has talent and potential, but is struggling with one or more members in terms of moving forward with their career. It could be that a member has an addiction problem, or a less serious (but annoying) responsibility problem, a gambling issue, or an inability to cooperate with the rest of the band in one way or another. The scenarios could be vast, but they really want a band with personality who's not afraid to "show their dirt" to the TV audience. They will be open to using the band's songs on the show, granted that the quality is there. There will be on camera/live performance opportunities, in addition to full promotion of the band and their music.

My friend and I commiserated briefly about what it meant about the state of both our culture and the music industry that artists were being bribed with free promotion to turn their most painful and/or embarrassing moments of personal failure into entertainment for the masses. The word “disturbing” came up frequently in our conversation.

Then I received a pitch from someone obviously affiliated with the same show:

I am a producer for a new reality show featuring promising bands on the **** Network.

This show is a great opportunity for some up and coming bands to get some excellent exposure! Most bands have internal conflicts of some sort that they would like to rectify. This show will help the band work on a problem it has been facing once and for all.

We are currently trying to spread the word about this opportunity and are accepting applicants from all music genres. It would be great if we could post a banner that mentions our casting call your subscribers… I’d love to be able to reach all the artists on your site as this is a great opportunity for them to showcase their music and get attention, on television.

My response:

Sorry ***** – nothing personal – but the premise of your show is offensive to me both as a music lover and as a human being. I don’t care how much “exposure” a band gets out of it, exploiting people’s pain for ratings is just plain wrong.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Alton Kelley 1940 - 2008

Legendary artist Alton Kelley created a graphic style that rocked the world beginning in the psychedelic Sixties. His concert posters, logo designs, LP album covers, and fine art have forevermore defined that time. Kelley, born June 17, 1940, passed away peacefully at home June 1st of complications from a long illness.

He is survived by the true love of his life, Marguerite Trousdale Kelley. He also leaves his mother Annie, sister Kathy, and beloved children Patty, Yossarian, and China, and beautiful grandchildren Life and Lacoda.

Through his mind-expanding creativity and over several decades, Kelley gave rock music new colors, shapes, and themes expressing the optimism and enthusiasm of young people around the globe. His graphics defined youth culture as much as the music itself-in effect his art was a break-through collaboration with musicians and bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. As Joel Selvin, rock critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, put it, "Kelley and Mouse drew the first face on rock music."

Kelley and his life-long collaborator Stanley Mouse are best known for their posters for "San Francisco style" dance-concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland arena, the Fillmore West, the Avalon Ballroom, and a host of other Bay Area theaters and amphitheaters. They also created world-renowned posters and album covers for the Grateful Dead, Journey, Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and others.

The two artists historically worked as a team, in their words "riffing off each other's giggle." They joyfully appropriated from historic sources, in one instance re-working an obscure nineteenth-century etching to create their iconic Grateful Dead "skeleton and roses" design. They combined vibrant Sixties color with French poster-making joi de vivre enthusiasm, and their own adapted technique, to generate compelling pieces often issued on a weekly basis, ultimately dazzling millions worldwide. Thus, they changed advertising art forever, as their posters were key examples of what became one of the most important art movements of the latter part of the twentieth century.

When Kelley (a native of Maine) met Mouse (a native of Detroit, MI) in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in late 1965 (the "Haight" was the epicenter of the hippie movement, culminating in the "Summer of Love" in 1967), they instantly recognized they were kindred spirits in what Mouse describes as "one of the juiciest scenes of all time." Their concert posters, commissioned by Fillmore promoter Bill Graham and Graham's rival, the Avalon's Family Dog collective, were eagerly snapped up by bands and fans alike.

In the decades since, Mouse and Kelley's classics have established even greater popularity, rivaling the interest long shown by collectors of French turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque art made famous by Toulouse-Lautrec and others.

"There is one word for Alton Kelley's lifelong contribution, and that is 'iconic.'" said Dell Furano, CEO of Signatures Network. "Kelley's artwork, designs, posters, album covers, tour logos set a standard of inspired creativity that has remained as influential as the great San Francisco Rock Scene of the 60's, 70's and 80's."

[Thanks to Jennifer Gross of Evolutionary Media Group for sending in this press release. And R.I.P. Alton.]