Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson: The Daily Vault Interview

When you think of the big names of progressive rock in the 19'70s -- the bands that really defined the genre -- you can't help but land on the Big Five: Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and Jethro Tull. Tull was always a bit of an outlier, manifesting both a cheekier sense of humor (much of it self-deprecating) and a wider musical range (embracing folk music and the use of woodwinds, for example, to a much greater degree than its peers).

The Vault's own Bruce Rusk recently had the privilege of interviewing the man whose name has been synonymous with Jethro Tull for more than 40 years, renowned singer-songwriter-flautist-frontman Ian Anderson. Their interview was candid and revealing on many levels, offering Ian the platform to comment on subjects as varied as his reasons for composing a sequel to 1972's classic Thick As A Brick album, his argument with organized religion, his father's homophobia, and why he hates the name of his own band.  I could say their interview is a great read for any fan of Jethro Tull or '70s prog, but there's really no need to qualify it -- it's a great read, period.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Daily Vault turns 15

The Daily Vault was founded on January 13, 1997, by Chicago-area music fanatic Christopher Thelen (a.k.a. Bob Pierce). Blah blah blah. If you're reading this, you know the deal. The point is, 15 years is a long time. One way to appreciate how long is to turn on the time machine and step back for a moment to January 13, 1997, when:

-- Most Americans had never heard of Osama bin Laden.

-- Cell phones were the size of a Tom Clancy paperback and did nothing but make phone calls.

-- 11% of the population of the developed world, and 1% of the population worldwide, had Internet access.  (Today it’s around 80% and 30%, respectively.)

-- The superfast new dial-up modems about to hit the market offered blazing 56K speed.

-- The “cool” browser of the moment was Netscape.

-- AOL, America’s leading Internet service provider, had recently moved to a new campus in Virginia to accommodate its clearly unstoppable growth.

-- Facebook was called a yearbook, and most people were grateful there was no chat function.

-- Google was a theoretical math concept, not a verb.

-- The Daily Vault was founded by Christopher Thelen.

We're now 7,025 reviews down the road from that epochal day. At this point, 83 different reviewers have contributed over 3 million words of thoughtful, witty, occasionally profane thoughts on the latest music to spin in their homes, cars and offices. We're still here, and we're not going anywhere.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Daily Vault Editor's new novel Believe in Me

Seems like we've mentioned it everywhere but here: Daily Vault Editor Jason Warburg (that would be me) has a novel out, a story of rock and roll and personal redemption called Believe in Me (Wampus Multimedia).  It's an e-book available from Amazon (for the Kindle), iTunes (for the iPad and iPhone) and Barnes & Noble (for the Nook). For a whole lot more about the story and how it came to be, check out these links:

The Buzz blog post on Believe in Me

Hope you'll enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music blogs we’re thankful for

In the interest of demonstrating thankfulness (and being meta) it seemed appropriate to make our next blog post be about blogs.  Specifically, two of the best music-focused blogs around, extremely well-written and engaging, albeit in very different ways.

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (better known among regulars as Fuel/Friends) has been masterminded since 2005 by the phenomenally talented Heather Powell Browne.  It’s rare to see someone write about music with this much unrestrained passion and joy, and the experience is made all the more memorable by Heather’s tremendously evocative descriptions.  A master at conveying the emotional texture of the music listening experience, she is also a terrific photographer and raconteur on any number of topics related to music and creativity (e.g. her recent post on Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia).  Heather is the real deal, both a gifted artist herself and a true believer in the artists she cultivates and amplifies through her work. 

Riff Raf, a more recent acquaintance, shares the essential ethos and personality of the Vault itself – musically all-encompassing, intensely curious and frequently quirky.  In the last ten days alone, maestro Richard Fulco has published features on the new Rolling Stones reissue, the 112th birthday of the jukebox, an indie band called The War on Drugs, and Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem (complete with individual member profiles). The entertainment value of Riff Raf is so high that you might not notice there’s a lot to be learned here about music history as well.

Enjoy, and give thanks for these two talented writers sharing their unique voices with the world.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.E.M.: going out on top

It's never easy to say goodbye. It's nice, though -- in part because it's so rare -- when a band goes out on top of its game. R.E.M.'s 2011 release Collapse Into Now was among the finest albums of their 30-year career, and now they are closing things out with a trio of new recordings on their forthcoming career retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011.

Not content to go quietly, though, they've released a pair of videos for their final single "We All Go Back To Where We Belong" that amount to performance art as only R.E.M. could imagine it. The one below features 3:39 of a single camera shot trained on Kirsten Dunst as she listens to the song. Her momentary flashes of self-consciousness only make the whole experience more engaging; the steady close-up allows you to literally track the subtle changes of emotion as she listens, is affected by, and reacts to the music. It's one of the simplest music videos I've ever seen, and also one of the most profound and spectacular. Here is the entire purpose of music itself -- to elicit an emotional response in the listener -- distilled into its purest form.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Artist Spotlight on George Harrison

The quiet Beatle. The dark horse. Innovative guitarist and prolific songwriter.

Beginning on Halloween and continuing through the week, the Daily Vault's Artist Spotlight will shine on the solo work of Beatles guitarist George Harrison, adding reviews of five albums not currently covered in the Vault's 6,900-plus review archive. Staff Writer David Bowling will deliver reviews of Living In The Material World (1973), Extra Texture (1975), Thirty-Three & 1/3 (1976), Somewhere In England (1981) and Cloud Nine (1987).  Put on your shades and prepare to remember "All Those Years Ago."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return of attack of indies

How many times do we have to tell you? How many times?? Yes, the explosion of d-i-y music has put the means of production in the hands of a slew of wannabes who should probably stick with their day jobs. But it has also enabled a number of truly, phenomenally, mind-blowingly talented indie acts to deliver music to you that deserves both your attention and that of a million more like you. All you have to do is LISTEN.

For example, in just-for-the-heck-of-it reverse alpha order:

Last Charge of the Light Horse is the vehicle for the amazing songwriting (and singing and guitar playing) of Jean-Paul Vest.  Last Charge's two full-lengths, 2005's Getaway Car and 2008's Fractures, are musical gut-punches, song cycles that explore the emotional trapdoors and cul-de-sacs of suburban America with a fearless, unrelenting honesty. This is powerful poetry set to music, friends. And the aptly-named Curve EP, reviewed this week on the DV, is another exceptional notch in Mr. Vest's songwriting belt.

Chris Cubeta might be the most prodigiously talented singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist-arranger-producer-Yankee fan in the universe. When he's not busy producing a raft of other NYC-area artists at his Galuminum Foil Studios, he and partners in crime Danny Lanzetta, Jeff Berner and John Passineau make stunningly beautiful Springsteenesque Americana as Chris Cubeta and the Liars Club. Their 2006 disc Faithful and this year's self-titled follow-up are both brilliant pieces of work.

Big Big Train are simply the most talented progressive rock band working today, bar none. Their 2009 album The Underfall Yard and 2010 EP Far Skies Deep Time match up against anything Genesis, Pink Floyd or Yes produced in their prime. BBT are currently working on a double CD due out in 2012, English Electric, which promises to be truly epic. If you're a prog fan and are missing out on these guys, you are missing out indeed.

Arms Of Kismet make "lush, layered, ultra-literate and idiosyncratic postmodern pop," and they do it like no one else. Like Last Charge, AOK is the vehicle for one man's musical vision, and singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Mark Doyon's capacity for invention feels limitless. Debut disc Eponymous (2004) and follow-up Cutting Room Rug (2005) form the foundation, while 2010's simply brilliant Play For Affection climbs the pinnacle of insightful, tuneful, thoroughly unconventional music to set your every neuron firing.