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.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

R.I.P. Norman Whitfield

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"... "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"... "Just My Imagination"... "War"... and, yes, "Car Wash" -- they all came from the pen of the same man, one of the key architects of the Motown sound, Norman Whitfield, who died yesterday at 67. Whitfield, both within and outside of his longtime songwriting partnership with Barrett Strong, produced some of the most memorable and meaningful hits of the 60s and 70s, blending a superb ear for melody with a commitment to make music that mattered. Yes, you could sing along to all those hits, but the songs had a depth and soulfulness to them that made them much more than pop music. In his prime he worked with artists from James Brown to Gladys Knight & the Pips and was the producer and a featured songwriter on many of The Temptations' most successful albums. Norman Whitfield was a giant in his field and will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mudvayne tries a new game

In the continuing quest to figure out how bands can make a living in an economic model where music is free, metal quartet Mudvayne has offered a clever new approach. Fans who pre-order the band's new album The New Game through Best Buy get a one-year membership to the group's fan club, an exclusive free track for download and access to presale concert tickets at a one album equals one ticket ratio. The name of the program? The Album Is The Ticket, of course.

This new strategy -- buying an album equals buying into an entire fan experience including insider fan club content and presale ticket access -- feels like it has the potential to be a breakthrough for those mid-level artists who don't sell out arenas but do have an established fan base. Another day, another twist on the ever-evolving post-file sharing music industry business model...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pandora under pressure

Many of us on the DV writing staff have used and enjoyed Pandora -- a pioneer in what is just lately being described by the technological congniscenti (and pretentious feature writers everywhere) as "music discovery" services. Pandora was in fact the functional precursor to Apple's new "Genius" system, which I'm already having fun with at home. That said, the latest news on the Pandora front is not good. It seems the music industry is continuing to lurch from extreme to extreme trying to uncover a formula that encourages the dissemination of new music without forfeiting all economic benefits of the artists' end product. Not there yet, folks. Not there yet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pink Floyd co-founder Richard Wright dies

Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright died today after a short battle with cancer, according to the BBC News. Wright was a founding member of the seminal progressive rock group and his work was featured on classic albums including Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, as well as latter-day albums such as A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and The Division Bell. Wright participated along with David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason in the 2005 Pink Floyd reunion gig at the Live 8 concert in London. He was 65. R.I.P. Richard.

Fall music preview: AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Taylor Swift, Jessica Simpson, T-Pain, Keane

This morning USA Today offers a fall music preview that's both informative and amusing. The informative part begins with items on Metallica, Taylor Swift, Ne-Yo, Jessica Simpson, Ciara, David Cook, T-Pain, Keane and T.I, and is highlighted by another fairly glowing preview of the new AC/DC disc Black Ice, including a fun little video snippet from the making of the "Rock'N'Roll Train" video. Yes, the boys are getting on in years, but they can still snarl with the best of 'em...

The amusing part would be this item on the list of forthcoming albums: "Guns N' Roses / Chinese Democracy (Nov. 25, tentatively)." Anybody want to put money on that release date? Didn't think so.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yes we have no Yes tour (except maybe sorta...)

That heavy sigh heard across the land in early June -- mistaken by many for a sigh of resignation from Hillary Clinton supporters -- in fact came from crestfallen prog-rock fans learning that Yes had canceled their planned summer tour. Perfectly understandable, what with lead singer Jon Anderson having had a major asthma episode that put him in the hospital for days and resulted in strict doctor's orders for the 63-year-old to dial it back a notch for the rest of the year.

Given the history of this band -- whose family tree has more branches than your average giant Sequoia -- it perhaps shouldn't come as a complete surprise to learn that the remaining core trio of Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass/vocals) and Alan White (drums) have decided to tour this fall as Yes despite the absence of both lead voice Anderson and off-and-on keyboardist Rick Wakeman, whose son Oliver had earlier been tapped for the summer tour when Pops opted out.

Howe, Squire and White, who had by most accounts grown restless with the band's inactivity in recent years, will now launch the appropriately named "In The Present" tour with the younger Wakeman behind the keyboard stacks and Benoit David out front. Benoit who, you ask? Well, it seems the boys paid attention to the strategy employed by classic rock trend-setters from Judas Priest to Journey and plucked David from Canadian Yes tribute band Close To The Edge after watching him sing on YouTube.

Neither David nor Oliver Wakeman has been asked to commit to the band beyond the planned fall tour, leaving the door wide open for the future return of Anderson and/or Wakeman the elder. Meanwhile, it's get your Yes music where you can...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Metallica's Death Magentic: reviews galore

Metallica's first album of new studio material since 2003's controversial St. Anger was released today, and the virtual halls of the Daily Vault were buzzing with anticipation all week. As result, we've got not one or even two, but three day-of-release reviews of the newest from the godfathers of thrash. Prepare to be bludgeoned!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grateful Dead's Egypt box set now available for pre-order

Good things come to those who wait! Thirty years after the Grateful Dead's near-legendary expedition into Egypt to play in the shadow of the pyramids, and weeks after the release was announced, Dead.net is finally ready to accept pre-orders for this ultra-cool CD/DVD set from the Dead’s legendary September 1978 run at the Sound & Light Theater outside Cairo.

Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 includes two exceptional music CDs plus a DVD with over 95 minutes of concert footage from the Egypt shows, plus an impressionistic “Vacation Tapes” mini-documentary that shows the band and Dead family at play. What’s more, all preorders placed through dead.net by the official release date, September 30, will receive an exclusive bonus CD of still more great material from the Egypt gigs. Rocking the Cradle will be available everywhere on September 30, but the bonus disc will be exclusively available with preorders. Place your order here.

Those so inclined might also want to check out online listening parties for the album, available in three formats: QT, Real, or WMA. Stream on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday roundup: no Pink Floyd reunion, The Who honors, Oasis gets bashed

A fresh batch of tasty items coming at you this a.m.:
  • No, no, a hundred times no -- there will be no Pink Floyd reunion, says David Gilmour, who would clearly much rather talk about his flourishing solo career.

  • The Kennedy Center Honors will include some big names from the music world this year: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, George Jones, and Barbra Streisand.

  • I'm not sure which makes a better teaser for this ironic Oasis item: "hooligan is as hooligan does" or "bashing the basher." You decide.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Manic Monday: Tom Petty, Keith Moon, U2

Items galore this Monday a.m.:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

MySpace reunites Ben Folds Five (up next: reversing climate change)

Those of you cutting edge musical Webophiles who've long since dismissed MySpace as so five minutes ago might want to pay attention to their latest gimmick. MySpace earlier today announced the launch of a new music program called Front to Back, with the mission of "celebrating iconic albums that have helped shape the MySpace Generation." (Yeah whatever.)

Ah, but once you get past the marketing propaganda-speak, look what wonders await: "MySpace kicks off this program by reuniting beloved alt-pop band Ben Folds Five with an exclusive one-time live performance of their final studio album together, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, in its entirety." GAAAHHH! "The concert will be the band's first performance together in nearly ten years and will take place in the band’s former hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina on September 18, 2008 at the UNC Memorial Hall." Double GAAAHHH!! "The show will be rebroadcast on the Front to Back official MySpace profile in October http://myspace.com/fronttoback."

Can I get an amen? (And a ticket to Chapel Hill?)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stevie Wonder awarded the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress

Quoting from the news release:

"The Gershwin Prize was created to honor an artist whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "Stevie Wonder's music epitomizes this ideal."

The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is given annually to a musician whose lifetime contribution in the field of popular song exemplifies the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.

The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in May 2007 to Paul Simon."

Now that's some "Higher Ground"... and well deserved. Congrats, Stevie.