Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Bruce Springsteen "Wrecking Ball"

Get yourself a song to sing
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Bruce Springsteen is one cross Boss. He sees the country going to hell, he feels the pain of his best friend's death, and he's got a few things he wants to get off his chest. Suits me fine. After the tepid "Working on a Dream" and "Magic," Springsteen gets a belly full of fire and breathes it out on "Wrecking Ball." Every song here is the Bruce we've missed when he sang stuff like "Queen of The Supermarket" or "Girls in Their Summer Clothes." This is Springsteen of "Born In The USA" and "The Rising," the mature, fighting fit man who isn't afraid to speak his mind.

That's obvious from the first song, "We Take Care Of Our Own." If Bruce picked up anything from "The Seger Sessions," it was that a protest song can be as unambiguous as it is forceful. Tightwired between rah-rah patriotism and WTF happened to us ferocity, Bruce tears into a nation "between the shotgun shacks and the superdome," where "the Calvary never came" before neatly tying it to the chorus of "Wherever this Flag is flown, we take care of our own." That old sap Ronnie Reagan could have mistook it for a campaign anthem like he did "Born in The USA." No-one, though, will confuse the vulture capitalists of "Death to My Hometown" with jingoism. It's all but an anthem for the occupy crowd (complete with guest shots from Tom Morello on featured songs).

As for his Big Man, "Land of Hope and Dreams" says it all. If you can't pull it from the heartfelt tribute written on the CD's inner booklet, then let the rising organ and gospel wails will. Like the acoustic tribute "Terry's Song" (the hidden track on "Magic"), it captures the essence of a lifelong friendship in the way I think a lot of Clarence Clemmons' fans would have been hoping for. "Wrecking Ball" is the Springsteen we thought may have gone missing. Yet, like the titular object for which this disc is named, he is crashing through or expectations once again.


Friday, March 30, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Beastie Boys "Solid Gold Hits"

Beasty Besties
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Who would have thought the three snit-nosed juvenile delinquents that deployed their forced obnoxiousness onto the world in 1985's "Fight For Your Right To Party" would have ever made albums into a oeuvre of classics? "License to Ill" even sounded like a one-hit-wonder; silly frat boy posturing, misogyny, drunken loutishness from a trio that looked like nerd drop-outs trying to make AC/DC sound like Run/DMC. Boy, did they prove us wrong.

By "Paul's Boutique," they were already collaging samples in a way that would soon be de rigueur for most rap groups (even if the growth meant the "Ill" audience didn't catch on at first) and "Check Your Head" saw the trio turning into a band, picking their old instruments back up and hitting gold with "Sabotage." They'd finally managed to do what no-one else had; weld rock to rap without losing a shred of credibility on either side. It took almost another five years before the Red Hot Chili Peppers got it right on the opposite end with rock, and only Run/DMC could touch the Beasties for innovation.

You'll find that in the clever rhymes (my personal favorite is pairing 'my wok' with 'Mr Spock' on "Intergalactic") and tricky samples (Herbie Mann on "Sure Shot," The Sweet on "Hey Ladies"). In the interim, their voices and attitudes grew up (Adam Yauch became a leader in the "Free Tibet" movement) and they kept the albums coming. As a single disc, some will feel shorted, but "Solid Gold Hits" covers the turf from "Ill" to "To The 5 Boroughs," which is a pretty broad swath. As a casual collection, this and "Ill" would likely fill all your Beastly needs.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

About Sophie:

A few folks have asked about the state of Sophie cat, who was diagnosed with cancer back in December. She's still with us, but she's losing weight. I get her a steroid shot every two weeks, and she HATES her carry box. She doesn't seem to mind the shot or the vet's office all that much, but close that carrier door and she's one pissed off putty. However, she is still a joy in my life and we cuddle up every day (as I continue my unemployment marathon).  Thank you again to all who offered know who you are.

I took this pic yesterday.

My Amazon Reviews: Fun "Some Nights"

Have some Big Fun 
4 Out of 5 Stars

Big, full harmonies, sunny melodies, a twisted sense of humor... It;s hard not to enjoy "Some Nights" by Fun. Ambition to burn, big grandiose production, lyrics that sting a little deeper as you listen, this is an album that aims high. "Some Nights" will thrill old classic rock fans as it echoes their memories of Queen and ELO, at the same time uses modern beats and (although I consider it a drawback) autotune on a few songs.

Fun does a great job in pulling its influences into a full sounding album. I can listen to this and play spot the resource over and over. Even better, I can listen to this disc over and over. The combined influences still ride a pop rail, and "Some Nights" is an early contender in my faves for 2012.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: Phil Seymour "Phil Seymour Archives 1"

Precious to All
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The tragic solo career of Phil Seymour yielded a pair of solid power pop albums, a gem of a single, "Precious to Me," and a reminder of what he brought to the original Dwight Twilley Band. This expanded and remastered version of his solo debut spells it out in pretty much as pure power pop style as it gets. Released in 1980 on the ill-fated Boardwalk Records (Neil Bogart's resurgence after losing Casablanca and also home to Joan Jett's resurrection) before the label collapsed in 1985, leaving Phil's secopnd album to die on the vine. There's no denying, however, that this album was his turn to shine, and he gave it his all.

It's not like his old mates wandered off on him. Twilley contributes two songs, old band-mate Bill Pitcock drops one in as well. This reissue pumps up the bonus tracks, adding a remake of "Twilley Don't Mind's'" "Looking For The Magic" along with 8 demo mixes. But it is the original album that still sparkles. The remake of Bobby Fuller's "Let Her Dance" should have been a hit, along with a pumped up original called "Baby It's You." Add a pretty cool Elvis take on the King's "Trying To Get To You," and you'll get the old feel that "Sincerely" had in the 70's.

As fans are likely to remember, The Dwight Twilley Band did their best to bridge The Bealtes' love of American Music via Liverpool by taking it back to the Sun Studio Sound. On this, his best solo effort, Seymour pulls it off. Now that both his albums are back in print (including a great remix job on "Phil Seymour 2"), you need these both.


Monday, March 26, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: The Fray "Scars and Stories"

Don't Be A Frayed of The Scars
3 Out Of 5 Stars

The Fray seem to have finally found their footing as a band. The debut seemed undecided with they wanted to be Coldplay or Maroon 5, then they toughened up for Fray 2, and on "Scars and Stories," they pick at their inner U2. While that may have to do with The Fray touring with Bono and Company, lead singer Isaac Stern is pushing himself lyrically and earnestly, trying to give the band an identity. "Scars And Stories" moves the band forward in a good way.

Granted, The Fray aim straight for the commercial bulls-eye. The songs are lush and tightly produced by Brandon O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Aerosmtih), giving the band a much needed edge. However, 'edge' to The Fray means fine-tuned harmonies and near perfect song structure. The opening single "Heartbeat" cold easily have been a Coldplay outtake, but that means it's a consistently pleasing single. Same with the chants on "1961," where "it won't be the same again..." - kind of ironic that the band's parents were likely kids in the year in question. It does mean that nostalgia for a good pop hook is a priority for these guys.

"Scars and Stories" is decent pop-stuff. It's the best of their albums so far, and there's visible growth in what The Fray has to offer. The cover has the band racing across a field, towards what only the future will reveal. But if they can come up with songs as good as "Heartbeat" or the catchy and folksy travelogue "48 to Go" or the beautiful lullaby closer "Be Still," they may still find their way into greatness.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

New York City Book Boys. Never Have a Dull Day

Saturday AM, I hopped bright and early into my car with three boxes of books for the annual Rainbow Book Fair, which Daniel Kitchens has been doing a great job of running these past few years. It's always an enjoyable outing, and - like last year - David Stein and I split costs on a table. As lucj would have it, the vendor next to us failed to show, so we expanded our space.

Perfect Bound Press is David's company, I list mine as Black Leather Bookshelf. There were an awful lot of folks there this year, including this year's "get," Samuel R Delaney, Sci-Fi and kinky writer. (You think I'm kidding? Read "Hogg" someday.) he has a new novel about Rural Gay America out, which I picked up and had autographed.

Another author friend was there, Christopher Trevor.

As per usual, lots of friends arrived to say hello and pick up some books. My buddy Colonel Al propped in to show off his workout improved figure. 

All in all, a good day. I think that David and I sold enough to have made some profits, but I was ready to head for home. I'm psyched to catch the premier of "MadMen" later this week (it's on the DVR waiting for me).

Have a Great week, all.