Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tales of the new music industry model: Wonderlick

Add to the tales of the new music industry model (coming someday in the future to a wireless card near you), the saga of California indie band Wonderlick's new album.

Wonderlick recently conducted an "extremely successful" fan pre-order campaign on their forthcoming album Topless At The Arco Arena. The band ran a month-long pre-order offer via their Web site which allowed fans to set their own price for the album, with an additional incentive offered to fans who paid median price or higher: a thank-you by name in the album package. The final median price was $29.13. The low price paid was $5, and the high price paid was $500. Several fans paid over $100 for the disc.

Says band member Tim Quirk: “I wasn’t too worried about people paying less than the CDs themselves cost, but I was completely unprepared for just how generous fans were. When the first $30 payment came in, that was pretty cool. Then they just kept getting higher -- $45, $50, $100. I’m writing them all personal thank you notes, like my grandma taught me.”

Topless At The Arco Arena will be released on July 7, 2009 via Missing Piece/Rock Ridge Music. According to Quirk, the record, “examines the intersection of art and commerce from people who have been on every side of it.” In fact, Quirk and bandmate Jay Blumenfield both have successful careers in other endeavors: Tim is VP, Programming of Rhapsody and Jay is a TV producer and video director. Wonderlick has experimented with the donations-for-downloads approach previously while posting songs from their former group Too Much Joy. Based on the response this time around they seem to be onto something -- at least for their own small niche in the great big Wild West that is the music industry today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why not Chickenfoot?

As long as we’re talking modern-day supergroups, why not Chickenfoot?

...which seems to be exactly the attitude that pervades the latest major-league musical mash-up, consisting of Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, guitarist extraordinaire Joe Satriani and ol’ shaggy himself, Sammy Hagar. I mean, if you put together a group with that much amperage, wouldn’t you call it… Chickenfoot?

Fine, maybe not. But as you can see for yourself on their recently-unveiled Web site, these guys are pretty determined not to take this (or at least themselves) too seriously. The samples on the site and their MySpace page sound pretty much like you’d expect – jet-fueled old-school hard rock with Satriani and Hagar dueling for space and Anthony’s serially undervalued background vocals helping with the melodic side. (Just for the record, this makes four of the era’s sharpest rock guitarists Hagar has teamed with – Ronnie Montrose, Neal Schon, Eddie Van Halen, and Satriani. Makes you wonder who’s next…)

The album is out June 7 in the US and European tour dates are popping up for the summer. Chickenfoot – making tracks in the sawdust near you soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beck is back (Jeff, that is)

Jeff Beck has had a career anyone would be envious of, from The Yardbirds to his partnership with Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck Group to years of solo instrumental work with the likes of Jan Hammer. What he's never had before this year, is a live performance DVD. And perhaps you're thinking "Yeah, but the guy's in his mid-60s... do I really want to see a former great on the downside of his career?"

You do. You really do, because no one who watches his new DVD Live At Ronnie Scott's would even think of suggesting that Beck has lost a step. To the contrary, his technical mastery of the electric guitar is apparent in every frame, and he plays perhaps more soulfully and subtlely than ever, supported by a truly stellar backup band featuring legendary jazz drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, 21-year-old bass prodigy Tal Wilkenfield and British jazz pianist of the moment Jason Rebello.

It's one of the best performances you'll see this year, it features guest shots from the likes of Joss Stone, Imogen Heap and Eric Clapton, and you can pick it up for free by signing up for our April 14 drawing here. You won't regret it...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Feature: Mott The Hoople & Ian Hunter

Hundreds of bands have tried to cop that Rolling Stones sneer, and hundreds more songwriters have tried to model the earthy poetic flow and hard-won wisdom of Bob Dylan. Mott The Hoople and its frontman Ian Hunter are perhaps the only ones ever to accomplish both at the same time, making music that explores emotional hills and valleys with penetrating insight, while delivering the whole package with a healthy dose of Mick Jagger swagger.

The saga of Mott The Hoople as a band could fill pages (and has); suffice it say, the five-man troupe of British rockers seemed star-crossed from their first gigs in 1969 through their semi-final implosion in 1974. From their debut through two years of storming live shows and meager record sales, Hunter and guitarist Mick Ralphs, keyboardist Verden Allen and rhythm section Pete (Overend) Watts and Dale (Buffin) Griffin built a reputation as one of the great live bands of their day -- and also as a band that could never quite put together an album that lived up to the promise of those memorable live shows. Just when oblivion beckoned, none other than David Bowie stepped in to help them record their most successful LP (1972’s All The Young Dudes), keeping them in the game for two more tumultuous years as the band flirted with glam-rock and first Allen, then Ralphs and finally Hunter departed.

Launching out of Mott as a solo artist in 1975, Hunter built a solo career marked by both very human missteps and moments of utter brilliance, a magnificently gifted songwriter who has typically been at his best when well-partnered musically, which he most notably was several times with ex-Bowie (and briefly Mott) guitarist Mick Ronson. After a relatively fallow period in the 1980s and 90s, Hunter re-emerged in the 21st century -- by which time he had reached his 60s -- with a pair of the best albums of his or anyone’s career in Rant (2001) and Shrunken Heads (2007).

Collectively, Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter have had a major influence on acts from Queen (who opened for them in 1973) to The Clash, whose lead guitarist Mick Jones idolized Mott and eagerly signed on to co-produce Hunter’s 1981 solo disc Short Back ’n’ Sides. With their place in rock and roll’s pantheon of historic and influential characters assured -- and a set of first-time-in-35-years reunion gigs lined up for this October -- Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter were a natural choice for The Daily Vault’s April 2009 Artist Of The Month.