Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: The Psychedelic Furs, "Talk Talk Talk"

Artist: The Psychedelic Furs
Album: Talk Talk Talk
Year: 1981
Label: Columbia

If there is one sure thing that one can see all across the history of music, it is the fact that regardless of the circumstances and current music scene, the art form itself continues to move forward at all times.  Even when one feels that the current sounds cannot evolve into anything of further artistic worth, music itself manages to defy this idea, finding new ways to present itself to new audiences.  This thought process was surely in play during the mid and late 1970’s, as it seemed that music was quickly devolving, with the glam and punk sounds appearing to leave little for up and coming performers to create from.  However, while it certainly did have some rather forgettable offspring, these styles of music also led to the post-punk and “new wave” sounds, and in these subgenres, some of the most memorable music of an era can be found.  Striking a stunning balance in terms of musical approach, sonic mood, and instrumental innovation, there are few groups that embody the early 1980’s as perfectly as The Psychedelic Furs, and even more than two decades after they disbanded, their music sounds just as fresh and exciting.  Going through a number of changes in lineup and musical approach, one can find breathtaking moments scattered across the history of the group, and yet there may be no more impressive or definitive an album in the catalog of The Psychedelic Furs than what one can experience on their superb 1981 record, Talk Talk Talk.

Standing as the groups' second fill-length record, Talk Talk Talk is a far more focused and overall powerful effort than their exceptional debut album.  Bringing out more of the strangely bright, poppy side of their uniquely underground, edgy rock,  one can see this record as one of the most important in the transition from post-punk into the building "new wave" sound.  The dual guitars from John Ashton and Roger Morris have a larger presence on this album than on their first release, and it is within the tension that the pair create where much of the allure of Talk Talk Talk resides.  Yet there is a balance in their playing that allows for a great amount of sonic diversity within the songs, as the sextet of musicians has truly figured out how to balance their combined sound to create a far larger and more imposing sound.  Along with this, there is often a somewhat dark bass groove put into place by Tim Butler, and it is within his playing where the links to the post-punk sound are most clearly stated.  However, The Psychedelic Furs set themselves far apart from any of their peers by the flawless inclusion of the saxophone of Duncan Kilburn.  His sound gives every song a completely unique feel, and yet it is the fact that they are able to so seamlessly blend all of these instruments together in so many different ways that makes Talk Talk Talk such a uniquely brilliant musical experience.

Along with the unforgettable musical arrangements on Talk Talk Talk the vocals from Richard Butler are similarly definitive of both the band and musical time period.  There is a grittiness within his singing that is somewhat similar to that found in punk rock, and yet there is also a more concentrated effort to retain the melodies that make his singing something entirely new.  Yet Butler also seems to be channeling the spirit of the glam rock movement as well on a number of songs, and there are moments where his voices are rather “Bowie-esque.”  At every turn, Butler’s singing is nothing short of outstanding, and it is the detached, almost pained way with which he delivers every line that makes him stand out so far from his peers.  Yet the words that Butler sings are just as essential as the way in which he sings, and there are few lyricists in history that are as brilliantly poetic as what one can experience on every song on this album.  The words somehow manage to completely encompass the listener, regardless of the subject at hand, as Butler is almost avant in the way that he spins his somewhat mysterious odes and musings.  While they may seem a bit cryptic at times, the intent of the words is never in question, and Talk Talk Talk stands as one of the most uniquely intimate, almost sensual albums ever recorded.

As the decades have passed, a majority of the music from all across the 1980’s has faded into relative obscurity due to it sounding very dated.  However, The Psychedelic Furs have managed to completely avoid this pitfall, as their songs remain just as intriguing and energetic today as they did upon first release.  The fact that Talk Talk Talk easily falls into this category whilst simultaneously being as definitive an “80’s album” as one can find anywhere is a testament to the extraordinary level of musicianship and quality one can experience on the record.  Each of the six band members are in top form throughout the entire album, and yet it is the way that they each give ample space to the others, moving as a single unit, that pushes Talk Talk Talk to such great heights.  The fact that the band were also able to deploy unforgettable hooks both musically and vocally further set them apart from their peers, and one can find influence of the band and this album in particular all across the next two decades of recorded music.  Even when the record was first unleashed onto the world, Talk Talk Talk found moderate chart success all across the globe, and yet it has remained a bit of a “cult classic” in the time since.  However, the fact remains that there is not another song in history that has a similar sonic appeal and impact than what one finds on The Psychedelic Furs’ masterful 1981 album, Talk Talk Talk.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #64"

It’s Friday, and that means another dose of “Something Old, Something New” with The Daily Guru. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: Daily Guru, "This Week In Music HIstory: March 25-31"

Thursday brings another edition of “This Week In Music History.” Share and enjoy.

March 29: Martin Hannett

Perhaps the most outrageously incorrect, yet frustratingly consistent notion that one can find amongst "music scholars" is the general idea that nothing of "real" musical value was created after 1975.  Across countless works of music history and theory, it can easily be interpreted that at some point around this time, music innovation somehow "stopped," and while there have been advancements in recording technology, the "worth" of this music is of some lesser value than that by which it was preceded.  Obviously, this line of thought is beyond ludicrous, as one can find a massive amount of progression and innovation within all genres of music in the nearly for decades since, and while there were a number of musicians responsible for this, there were also a handful of producers without whom one can argue, music quite possibly would have ceased to move forward.  Though they were working with musical forms and approaches that were similarly regarded to be of inferior value to the worlds of jazz and the "golden age" of rock music, there is no getting past the fact that these individuals still managed to alter the course of music history, and their names are certainly worthy of being alongside other such legends.  Among many important producers of this era, there is one man who took more unexpected and certainly larger steps than any other: Martin Hannett.

Though most are unaware, before delving into the world of music in the professional sense, Hannett actually earned a degree in chemistry, but soon after graduation, he found himself drawn to the rising counter-culture scene of late 1970's London.  After a few smaller projects, Martin Hannett began working with a handful of what would become called "punk" bands, though he did this work under the pseudonym of "Martin Zero."  It was using this name that he lent his skills to the now-iconic Spiral Scratch EP by The Buzzcocks, and soon after this hit shelves, he was working with a wide array of performers, as well as making a few appearances with bands as their bass guitar player.  However, while this work certainly made his name known, it would take Hannett only a few more years before he cemented his place as one of the most important producers in history, due almost entirely to his work on one album in 1979.  It was during that year that Hannett served as producer to a band with which his name has almost become synonymous, as there is not another album in history quite like Joy Division's full-length debut, Unknown Pleasures.  The sound and overall tone that Hannett was able to create on this record completely altered the way that bands approached the musical process; and more than three decades later, the importance and impact of the album has not diminished in the least.

Following the massive (though largely underground) success of Unknown Pleasures, many saw Hannett as "the" producer for the "post punk" sound, and he was able to create similarly striking musical environments with bands like Magazine, New Order, and The Psychedelic Furs among many others.  Though many have been tricked by the name-check, while he is mentioned as the producer of The Dead Kennedys' song, "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," Hannett had absolutely nothing to do with the project; and the mention was more a nod of appreciation and respect than anything else.  However, this in itself showed just how much impact Hannett had all across the globe, as the sound he was able to create with bands was unlike anything else that band would achieve with other producers.  This ability to get a completely unique sound, regardless of the band in question, places Martin Hannett into a very small group of producers, and due to this reality, one cannot deny his place amongst the finest in history.  Strangely enough, Hannett would almost completely step out of the world of music in the early 1980's, never to return in a "full time" sense of the word, and yet his overall impact was far beyond that of countless others who attempted the job for decades longer.  Much in the vein of the "to the point" and "no time wasted" ethos of punk rock, one can quickly understand just why there has never been another figure in music quite like Martin Hannett.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: Daily Guru, "Get Over Yourself, Trendy Record Buyer!"

In today’s video, I take a moment to address a group of people who should be banned from owning music. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 26: Daily Guru, "Music School: The History Of Records"

In today’s “Music School” class, I teach about the history of records…you know, "vinyl." Share and enjoy.

March 27: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #117"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review/video of that artist, song, or album):
1. De La Soul, "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)" 12" Single
2. The Beatles, "One After 909"  Let It Be…Naked
3. Johnny Hobo & The Freight Trains, "Whiskey Is My Kind Of Lullaby"  Johnny Hobo & The Freight Trains
4. City And Colour, "Against The Grain"  Bring Me Your Love
5. Frank Zappa, "City Of Tiny LitesSheik Yerbouti
6. Erykah Badu, "…& On"  Mama's Gun
7. The Clash, "Garageland"  The Clash (UK)
8. Miriam Makeba, "A Piece Of Ground"  Pata Pata
9. Public Image Ltd, "MemoriesSecond Edition
10. The Misfits, "Night Of The Living Dead"  12 Hits From Hell
11. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Falling Into Grace"  One Hot Minute
12. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, "More News From Nowhere"  Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
13. Social Distortion, "She's A Knockout"  Social Distortion
14. Woody Guthrie, "Do Re Mi"  Dust Bowl Ballads

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26: Daily Guru, "VexonTV News"

My latest music news segment for VexonTV is up. Check it out and get your learn on!

March 26: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #63"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25: VexonTV News Segment?

To those that emailed/tweeted me about it: I have no idea why my VexonTV segment wasn't posted today. They have it, and it is their "job" to post it to their site...I really have no answer why it did not happen...sorry.

March 25: Shock G, "We're All Killaz"

Artist: Shock G
Song: "We're All Killaz"
Album: Fear Of A Mixed Planet
Year: 2004

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though there have been a number of elements that have contributed to the rather bland state that one finds within the current world of hip-hop, one of the largest is the idea of "commercialism" in the genre.  So many artists have clearly traded in their exceptional skills as an emcee or DJ for the predictable and  uninspiring sounds of heavy bass and rhymes about nothing more than "money, cash, ho's."  Even the so-called "underground" of the world of hip-hop has been shrinking over the past decade, with few groups or performers showing anything resembling originality or artistic integrity.  Then of course, there is the seemingly endless creativity that is Greg Jacobs, better known as Shock G of digital underground.  Over the past few decades, few other artists have shown as much range and vision in every sense of the word as Jacobs, and yet it was not until his 2004 solo effort, Fear Of A Mixed Planet, where the entire breadth of his talents were on display.  Pulling sounds and inspiration from the sounds of psychedelic, blues, ambient-electronica, and a number of other sources, it was the way that he brought them all together in a cohesive, thought-provoking, musically intriguing unit, quickly contrasting nearly every other album of the era.  While every song is superb in its own right, few tracks on the album sum up Shock G's talents and focus better than "We're All Killaz."
From the moment that the first beat drops in on "We're All Killaz," it is clear that much like the rest of the album, Shock G has a mind for production that is miles beyond any of his peers.  On this track, the sound is slightly more stripped down than most of the other songs, and yet there is instantly a strong groove set into place.  The skipping programmed drums are absolutely perfect, and at the same time, it is this sound that injects a level of tension into the track.  At the same time, it is the fact that there is a layered sound within the percussion that enables it to hit just as hard as any of the "mainstream" tracks, and yet it sounds completely unique.  Along with this, the keyboard that runs underneath all of "We're All Killaz" is not only one of the trademarks of Shock G's sound, but also the source of the depth of the song.  The swinging, jazzy sound that the keys and piano lend to the song serve as a reminder that there are no limits in what can be done within the confines of the hip-hop genre, further separating Shock G from his peers.  Throughout the entire song, there are smaller sound effects that weave in and out of the core sounds, and it is these smaller touches that vault the song beyond the others on the album, as there is a light, almost playful feel within the sound at times, and yet there is also an aggression and power that cannot be understated.  It is the way that Shock G is able to extract so much sonic presence from what seems like a rather simple arrangement that serves as a testament to his exceptional talents, and they've rarely been as focused as one finds here.

However, while there may be no other producer on the same level as Shock G, it is within his vocals and lyrics that one can understand his true mastery of every element of hip-hop music.  Though many are partial to his "alter ego" of Humpty Hump, it is when he is "playing" Shock G where he becomes far more focused and thought-provoking, and "We're All Killaz" in many ways sums up the entire Fear Of A Mixed Planet record.  Bringing a purposeful clarity to every word, there are few emcees in history that have shown as natural and smooth a sound as one finds here.  Each line hits with an equal impact, and all across the track Shock G shows an unsurpassed talent for mixing together social critiques with amusing and absurdist thoughts, resulting in a combined lyric which cannot be ignored.  In many ways, "We're All Killaz" is a rather fitting title, as Shock G points out countless hypocrisies and oddities of human nature.  Whether he is addressing the idea of "mystery fish" at fast food restaurants, etiquette in dance clubs, religion, or the frustrating irony of environmental protection, there is no subject that is out of the reach of his pen.  It is the fact that he covers such a wide range of subjects, yet never lets the song "get away from him" that highlights his talents as a writer, and again, he proves that there are no limits within the hip-hop style.  Combined with the music over which he rhymes, every moment of "We're All Killaz" is a refreshing reminder of what hip-hop music is meant to be.

It is rather amusing to see that while most emcees talk constantly about "keeping it real" and staying true to "the streets," nearly all of them do so under the heavily mandated "rules" of the music industry.  That is to say, if a song does not "sound right," it is likely that a label will step in and alter it.  This in itself is the biggest tragedy within the past decade of music, but thankfully, there are a few artists who refuse to compromise their musical vision or integrity.  Standing high atop this group is Shock G, and this 2004 solo release, Fear Of A Mixed Planet, remains one of the most diverse and outright impressive hip-hop records of all time.  At every turn, he presents exciting and original sounds, along with some of the most intelligent and challenging lyrics that have been written in decades.  Whether he is calling into question the current smattering of hip-hop "stars," or being his more jovial self, there is not a moment on the album that is anything less than exceptional.  Yet at the same time, the overall focus of the record in every sense of the word can be found on "We're All Killaz," as Shock G deploys a somewhat sparse, yet completely captivating sonic landscape, and combines it with some of the finest lyrics on the entire record.  Truth be told, "We're All Killaz" is the sort of song that once heard, cannot be forgotten, and this is a testament to his talents in every aspect of musical creation.  Though the entire album is well worth hearing, Shock G proves once again that he is a hip-hop artist far beyond any of his peers with his 2004 track, "We're All Killaz."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24: Blonde Redhead, "Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons"

Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons
Year: 2000
Label: Touch & Go

While there are many essential elements that need to be in play to create a truly unforgettable album, few are more essential than having a unique and perfectly crafted mood.  In fact, if the mood is right on an album from end to end, it can often overshadow shortfalls in other areas, as exceptional deployments of mood can "take" a listener away.  Yet countless bands seem to ignore this core aspect of music, and this enables those groups that appreciate such elements to become far easier to identify.  With this in mind, one can argue that over the past twenty years, the idea of mood has been largely ignored, leading to bands depending more on "studio magic" than actually creating via their instruments.  Thankfully, there are a handful of bands that are still striving to create complete musical works, and there are few groups over the past two decades that have released as sonically stunning a catalog as one finds in the music of Blonde Redhead.  Though they are often labeled as "indie rock," the truth of the matter is that once hearing their music, it is quickly clear that there is no category that can accurately describe their music.  From hard rock to more delicate, almost ambient numbers, the group knows no musical boundaries, and their true musical genius is perhaps most obvious on their absolutely mind-blowing 2000 release, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons, and as a whole, one would be hard pressed to find a more complete and truly perfect record in recent history.

Within moments of the album beginning, the band deploys what builds to be one of the most distinctive, yet unquestionably poppy sounds ever recorded, and it is this ability to be "artsy," whilst still making catchy music that sets Blonde Redhead so far apart from their peers.  The subtle, almost dancing guitar riff from Amedeo Pace on "In Particular "quickly captivates the listener, as there is "something" within the sound that is impossible to ignore.  It is the way in which almost every riff he deploys on the album has an underlying sense of tension or nervousness, yet is simultaneously upbeat that makes it so unique, and this persists throughout the entire record.  Complimenting this tone, the sometimes stutter-step, sometimes pulverizing drumming from Simone Pace is absolutely perfect, and the fills that he drops throughout the tracks only highlight the fierce, yet delicate balance Blonde Redhead manages to achieve all across Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons.  Though these two pieces work brilliantly with one another, they are pushed to an entirely different level via the pulsing, dark keyboards that weave in and out on the songs, and it is this element that drives home the mood and overall impact of the bands' unique musical approach.  Whether the song in question has a faster pace, yet manages to retain an almost schizophrenic quality, or is firmly rooted in one tone, it is the diversity Blonde Redhead shows at every turn that is nothing short of stunning to experience, and one cannot help but get wrapped up in the music, as it swirls and pounds, getting deeper as the album progresses.

However, while the musical elements on Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons find unique ways to blend together, it is the contrasting voice of Kazu Makino that proves to be the key element to the overall impact of every song.  The way in which her singing quickly cuts into the tracks is absolutely perfect, and yet it is the fact that she never needs to or tries to overpower the rest of the elements that sets the band so far beyond their peers.  Working all across the vocal scale, Makino's voice is impossible to forget, and the uniquely melancholy mood of the songs are pushed to a level all their own with the melancholy mood she brings via her vocal performances.  Even during the sections when she delivers an almost breathless sound, she never fails to be anything short of phenomenal in her execution of the lyrics.  Yet it is also the words that Makino sings throughout the album that give the overall experience much of its personality, as one can argue that "In Particular" is one of the most uniquely "self aware" tracks ever recorded.  That is to say, one can sense that the band new just how captivating the music they were playing was, and there is absolute perfection when she sings lines like, "... lying on my back. I heard music, felt unsure and catastrophic, had to tell myself it's only blows my mind, but it's like that..."  These words manage to capture the mood of their song perfectly, and the soaring, yet measured manner with which Kazu Makino delivers them serves as a magnificent finishing touch to the mastery that is "In Particular."

In nearly every aspect, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons is about exceeding or completely defying expectations, and one can even see these elements at play within the "external" factors on the album.  Though it seems a stark departure from the sounds with which he is usually associated, the entire Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons album was produced by none other than Guy Picciotto, and  the fact that someone so closely linked with the most influential hardcore bands in history was able to help the band craft such a uniquely delicate sound is a testament to his boundless musical abilities, and yet one can also look to his influence on the record as the source of the "edge" that can be felt throughout the entire album.  Furthermore, when one considers that there were only three musicians on the record, the massive sound and mood that they create becomes all the more impressive.  Far beyond a simple label of "indie" or "art" rock, Blonde Redhead's Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons is a work of musical genius that instantly sets them into their own musical grouping.  While one can hear elements of bands ranging from Sonic Youth to Björk to Joy Division within their music, there is no question at any point that their sound is completely original, and it was this record that finally separated the band from their predecessors.  Presenting a mood and sonic expertise that is far beyond that of any other band in history, Blonde Redhead's 2000 album, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons, rises above the others and remains one of the most unforgettable and absolutely magnificent achievements in all of music history.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #62: Ornette Coleman / Howlin' Rain"

In today's video, I review albums from Ornette Coleman and Howlin' Rain. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22: Daily Guru, "This Week In Music History: March 18-24"

From Moondogs to The Clash, in today's video, I look back at this week in music history. Share and enjoy.

March 22: Alfred Lion

All across the entire history of recorded music, there are a number of massive misconceptions that have in many ways been created by the mass media.  Whether it is a misleading generalization of a certain style of music or and idea that some aspects of music are unattainable by certain people, one can make a rather substantial list of such occurrences.  However, it can easily be argued that amongst all of these stereotypes and assumptions, few have been more persistently incorrect than the idea that "adults" cannot grasp what is "hip" or "cool" within the world of music.  In fact, as one goes back in the decades of recorded music, the reality becomes clear that it was often ONLY those who were somewhat advanced in age that were willing to take chances on more "cutting edge" or "different" musical styles.  Looking at the owners, founders, and heads of many of the most important music labels for nearly half a century, they were all in such a category, and few individuals were more important in the progression of music, as well as an example of this truth than the great Alfred Lion.  After emigrating to the United States from Germany in the late 1930's, legend says that Lion attended a concert at Carnegie Hall, and it was following this performance that he decided to form his own record label; and this move would forever change the course of music history.

Truth be told, it was less than one year after Lion moved to the United States that he and Max Margulis founded their new record label, and to this day, there are few labels that command as much reverence and respect as their own Blue Note Records.  The duo quickly started recording a number of different acts, and later that same year, they achieved their first "hit" in the form of Sidney Bechet's take on the song, "Summertime."  Though most people are unaware, this single was also significant due to the fact that it was issued on a twelve-inch 78 record, as opposed to the ten-inch version that was "standard" at the time.  Following World War II, Blue Note Records began to delve deep into the world of jazz music, attempting to seek out the most original and outright talented performs all across the country.  This is what began the relationship between the label and Thelonius Monk, and many of his greatest works were done during these early sessions.  However, the label was struggling to stay afloat until they happened across a young performer named Jimmy Smith.  In reality, it was his recordings that kept Blue Note Records in business for a number of years, before the label became synonymous with the "hard bop" style of jazz.  As soon as they "discovered" this sound, Blue Note Records quickly became the home to the style, and few epitomized this sound better for the label than the great Art Blakey.

It was also during this period that Alfred Lion brought in an engineer named Rudy Van Gelder, and his work can be found on many of the most important jazz records in history.  However, Blue Note Records also make great forays into the "avant" school of jazz music, and artists like Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor both cut a number of phenomenal sides and albums for the label.  Throughout the latter half of the 1950's and for a majority of the 1960's, there was not another label anywhere on the planet that could hold its own against Blue Note within the world of jazz music, and even all these decades later, the name alone retains its almost mythical status.  At the same time, Alfred Lion became known for some of his rather unique approaches to the recording process, one of which is almost seen as "blasphemous" within the world of jazz.  Making it known that he wanted each session to have a unique power and tone, Lion would often encourage or demand the acts rehearse the pieces before the actual recording took place, and while some may see it as "defeating" the "purpose" of jazz, the reality remains that the recordings he created are far and away some of the most impressive and enduring in jazz history.  Though in modern times he may have been considered "too old" to understand what was worth recording, there is no arguing that in his day, there was not another individual as vital to the progression of music than the great Alfred Lion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21: Daily Guru, "Ask The Guru 04: Heaphones"

In today's video, I discuss how to best choose new headphones. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20: Daily Guru, "Music School: What Is Sound?"

In today’s “Music School” class, I teach about what sound actually "is"…in a sciencey sort of way. Share and enjoy.

March 20: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #116"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review/video of that artist, song, or album):
1. Van Halen, "Ice Cream Man"  Van Halen
2. Dead Meadow, "Lady"  Dead Meadow
3. Sia, "Don't Bring Me Down"  Colour The Small One
4. Andrew Hill, "Flight"  Point Of Departure
5. The Clash, "Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad"  Give 'Em Enough Rope
6. Belly, "Angel"  Star
7. J Mascis, "Is It Done"  Several Shades Of Why
8. Generation X, "Ready Steady Go"  Generation X
9. Portishead, "Sour Times"  Dummy
10. Tim Armstrong, "Into Action"  A Poet's Life
11. Vic Ruggiero, "California"  Hamburguru
12. Sly & The Family Stone, "You Can Make It If You Try"  Stand!
13. Manu Chao, "La Marea"  Proxima Estacion: Esperanza
14. Jim Croce, "Roller Derby Queen"  Life & Times

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #61"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18: Daily Guru, "MUSIC NEWS - Nicki Minaj Disses Jay-Z! DEWeezy? Justin Bieber"

It's Sunday, so that means it's time for my music news on VexonTV!

March 18: Emiliana Torrini, "Telepathy"

Artist: Emiliana Torrini
Song: "Telepathy"
Album: Love In The Time Of Science
Year: 1999

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Throughout the 1990's, music seemed to once again begin expanding in countless directions, and countless new styles and sounds were emerging all over the globe. Thanks to the aid of computers for both creating music, as well as the rapid worldwide distribution of said music, cultures were being mixed together like never before. Whether it was African rhythms moving into rock music or the sounds of European clubs reaching to all corners of the Earth, music has never been the same since. Within this explosion, a handful of women with some of the most mesmerizing and beautiful voices emerged, and the likes of Björk, Sia Furler, Beth Gibbons, and many others began to gain large cult followings. With their gorgeous voices and the enchanting music over which they sang, they soon became the most admired singers in what was becoming the "ambient" and "trip hop" genres. With a similar singing style, yet opting for far more structured, less heavily programed music, and bringing an equally stunning voice was the one and only Emiliana Torrini. Torrini, whose Icelandic birth and electronically-backed songs automatically toss her into comparison with Björk, is deserving of the credit that comes with such a comparison, yet in no way ever attempts to purposefully sound similar. With a voice that is far more focused, and songs that are far more sensual and more "formally" musical, unless you are aware of her shared country of origin, Emiliana Torrini sounds like one of the many uniquely fantastic female vocalists that emerged during the end of the twentieth century. With a handful of albums and singles to her name, it is almost impossible to resist the allure of her absolutely fantastic 1999 debut, Love In The Time Of Science, and one can experience the entirety of her talents on the albums' closing track, "Telepathy."

Truth be told, few albums from any genre can boast as captivating a final song as one finds here, as there is a power within the orchestration that is both tension-filled, as well as completely cathartic.  The energy built by the sonic landscape is quickly engaging, and form the forceful horn pieces to the almost dancing sounds of bells and other sound effects, "Telepathy" as a truly enchanting tone.  The deep moods on the song, both bright and dark, are extremely powerful, and the fact of the matter is, very few artists have ever been able to so perfectly present such contrasting moods on the same record, let alone within a singe song.  This is not in any way a bad thing, and much like the other songs found on Love In The Time Of Science the track is absolutely gorgeous, with each moment taking the listener away on a beautiful sonic journey. Every single note and noise has a clear purpose, and there is not a note missing, out of place, or even anything extra. Such perfection in musical orchestration in an extremely rare occurrence, and one must credit the quartet of musician/producers that made these sounds happen. These expert musicians, along with Torrini are able to create amazing musical contrasts, and the way they play her powerful voice against the soundscape is a testament to their combined talents.

While the musical patterns and moods found throughout all of Love In The Time Of Science are simply perfect, there are few singers that even remotely compare to the voice of Emiliana Torrini. On "Telepathy," she shows she has absolutely no limit whatsoever in terms of vocal range or the power the can unleash, there is also variety in her vocal approaches on the song, showing more diversity then almost any of her contemporaries.  Yet even with this great power in her vocals on "Telepathy," the core fact that he has a beautiful and captivating voice is never lost, and this is what further separates her from the pack.  This is made all the better by the lyrics to the song, and one can interpret them on a number of different levels.  Finding little need for allusions, Torrini writes about what she sees and experiences, and this translates into words that can be related to by anyone, and it makes the song all the more engaging.  It is her wordplay throughout this track that pulls the listener in even deeper, and the way her voice almost echoes across the song is nothing short of perfect.  Spinning a timeless thought in a new way, Torrini sums up many of the thoughts found on the album when she sings, "...why is it so we never know, what we have until it's gone...until we burn we never learn, what we have until it's gone..."

While she may not have gained the notoriety of peers like Björk, Beth Gibbons, or Sia Furler, there is no doubt that Emiliana Torrini is equally, if not more talented then any of her contemporaries. With a truly stunning voice that knows no melodic or stylistic limits, there are few artists who are as instantly mesmerizing as Torrini. Equally as captivating as her lyrics are the moods that are created on every song, and the variance in these textures and feelings is also largely unparalleled within any genre. From dark, cold, yet somehow "safe" feelings, to the perfect musical encapsulation of the feeling of sitting in a sunny meadow, every musical scene is flawlessly painted, and these vivid musical textures make the album an absolute joy to experience. Sometimes backed by a lone acoustic guitar, and other times singing over loud, powerful horns and percussion, every turn on Love In The Time Of Science reveals a new and equally intriguing musical platform, and Torrini navigates each style with unheralded success. After experiencing the record, one understands that it is not quite an "electronic" record, nor is it really a "pop" or "ambient" album. The fact of the matter is, throughout music history, there are few albums that are simultaneously so sensational, whilst also being almost completely impossible to categorize. Emiliana Torrini possesses what is without question one of the most amazing voices in music history. All of her wide-ranging talents are put on full display throughout every note of her truly unsurpassed 1999 debut, Love In The Time Of Science, and one can argue that the albums' final song is her most enduring effort.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17: Bobby Darin, "That's All"

Artist: Bobby Darin
Album: That's All
Year: 1959
Label: EPM

Though many consider the idea to be a more modern development in music, the fact of the matter is, an emphasis on image and good looks has always been a factor within the genre of pop music.  Along with this factor, perhaps the "key" to being a successful pop star is an ability to move with trends and keep ones' music an accurate reflection of these changes within the musical taste of the masses.  Though he was unquestionably a pop star, there are few of that genre who have made as much of a point of being so unique within this role as the one and only Bobby Darin.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, Darin was one of the most successful singers on the planet, and though he was often grouped in with "the rat pack" singers, the fact of the matter was, Darin in many ways made his career on refusing to be pigeon-holed into any single style.  Within Darin's extensive recorded catalog, one can find everything from folk to early rock and roll to the more "standard" singer-songwriter fare, and it is this diversity that sets him far apart from nearly ever other performer of his era.  Furthermore, Bobby Darin was different from his peers in the fact that he wrote a number of his own songs, and this almost constant striving for change and "something new" is one of the many aspects that makes Bobby Darin a talent like no other.  From his early, almost novelty hits like "Splish Splash" to big band singles such as the iconic "Beyond The Sea," Darin is responsible for some of the most well known songs in history, yet few can compare the absolute sonic perfection found throughout his 1959 album, That's All.

Truth be told, That's All is in fact Darin's second full-length release; though by the time the album hit shelves, he had already established himself as one of the biggest "teen idols" on the planet.  However, unlike his earlier singles, the album is almost entirely comprised of covers, led off by his definitive take on the classic, "Mack The Knife."  This track also highlights the overall mood and sound of the album, as it is the way Darin is able to control the full band or smaller instrumentation behind him that is the key to the appeal of his songs.  Throughout the album, Bobby Darin touches on every element of his talent, as one can hear everything from swing to more jazz-based numbers to outright pop-style songs; and this is one of the main factors that set Darin so far beyond his peers.  Along with this diversity in sound, there is an energy that runs all across That's All that is second to none, and the record represents one of the finest examples of how one can capture the "live" presence of a performer within a studio environment.  There is also an ideal level of balance between the vocals and the various instrumental configurations, and it is this combined sonic force that quickly pulls the listener in and asserts the unrivaled talents of Bobby Darin in every aspect of musical creation.

Along with his superb work in keeping the band tight and powerful, few will argue that there has been another voice quite like that of Bobby Darin.  Having already proved his unique place with his previous singles, there is no question that throughout the album, he gives his all to every performance, yet even when his emotions are a bit more restrained, the listener is left with his unparalleled vocal dexterity.  It is the way that throughout That's All, Darin effortlessly uses the entire vocal range, as everything from the mid-range verses to the lower bridge sections to the soaring choruses are absolutely perfect, and the songs remain truly unrivaled more than five decades after the album was first released.  One can quickly hear how, even beyond that of his contemporaries, Darin commits completely to each of songs, and one can easily feel the emotions behind his words, yet these are also songs that every person can take as their own.  It is the balance between the powerful, almost entrancing voice of Bobby Darin, and the perhaps universal lyrics which he sings that enabled the record to quickly rise on the charts, and if there had been any question as to the "staying power" of Darin, That's All silenced any and all critics with the dazzling vocal performance he brings to every track.

Though he is unquestionably best known for his singing, the fact of the matter is, his ability to compose and write his own songs remains one of the key factors in Bobby Darin being in a class all his own when it comes to the great voices of the 1950's and 1960's.  It was this talent that quickly set him apart form his peers, and yet on That's All, Darin proved that he was just as able to make the songs of others his own.  In fact, the single of "Mack The Knife" would spend more than two months at the top of the charts, and the record would go on to garner the Grammy Awards for both "Record Of The Year," as well as that of "Best New Singer."  It is the fact that throughout this record, one can experience a more confident, perhaps more musically mature Bobby Darin that sets the record above the rest of his catalog, and even all these years after its initial release, every moment of the album holds up perfectly.  There is a spirit that can be felt on every that of That's All which has rarely been equaled at any other point in music history, and one can argue that while his early singles made him a star, it was this album which cemented his place as a legend.  Whether it is the booming brass or the more restrained sonic arrangements, there are few records from any period that can compare to the sound and power of Bobby Darin's phenomenal 1959 album, That's All.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #60"

It’s Friday, and that means another dose of “Something Old, Something New” with The Daily Guru. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15: Daily Guru, "This Week In Music History: March 10-17"

Thursday brings another edition of "This Week In Music History." Share and enjoy.

March 15: Cosimo Matassa

As the decades have passed, there is no question that one of the most consistent injustices within the world of music lives within the fact that so many of the most important figures to the development of all styles of music have been largely forgotten or overshadowed.  While the acts with whom they were associated with have certainly been given their due over the years, one can list off a massive number of names that are unknown to a majority of the world, and yet it is due to their vision and talents that music has become what it is today.  When it comes to label owners and producers, many cite the most "important" figures being those who emerged in the end of the 1950's and throughout the 1960's and yet there were a few equally, if not more important individuals who occupied similar roles in the preceding decades.  Having begun his work within the music industry when he was still a teenager, making a name for himself within the New Orleans scene of the mid-1940's, there are few figures more vital to the progression of a number of different genres than Cosimo Matassa.  Whether it was rock and roll, soul music, r&b, or even in the worlds of jazz and blues, Matassa touched nearly every genre that one can think of, and it is due to his presence, as well as the "space" he gave artists to create that makes Cosimo Matassa such an important part of music history.

While most of the "big names" in the world of music, especially on the "non-musical" side of things do not reach their full potential until they are well into their twenties, Cosimo Matassa opened his own recording studio, J &M Recording Studio, in 1945 when he was only eighteen years old.  He operated this out of the back of his family store in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and worked there for the better part of a decade, before moving to the much larger space he simply called Cosimo Recording Studios.  However, it was in the first of these spaces where Matassa took part in the recording one of the most legendary songs in history, the 1949 recording of Fats Domino's song, "The Fat Man," which many argue as the "first" rock and roll record.  Following the success of the single, Matassa moved to the larger studio, and in the latter place he would help another up-and-coming artist record an equally iconic track in the from of Little Richard's, "Tutti Frutti."  Along with these two unforgettable songs, Matassa worked with artists ranging from Ray Charles to Dr. John to Lee Dorsey throughout his career, and many cite his work as the blueprint for what is now seen as the "New Orleans" sound.  There is unquestionably a distinctive tone and vitality to each song on which he worked, and that in itself is a testament to the unique stills of Cosimo Matassa.

The fact that the recordings on which Matassa had such a stronger drum presence, as well as heavier sounds form the guitars and the inclusion of horns, pianos, and other instruments closely related with the New Orleans music scene is what instantly set it apart from the rest of the popular music of the era, and this approach would be fused into nearly every other genre of music.  On a number of the songs he produced, one can also find a more aggressive and louder vocal presence, and this too is an integral part of what is now seen as the "New Orleans" approach to rock music.  One can find massive influences from this approach in all of the "big" hits of the 1960's, and yet few people realize where the true roots of such musical techniques had arisen.  It is due to this reality that one can easily argue that Cosimo Matassa stands as one of, if not the most overlooked producer and musical visionary of his generation, as there is no question that nearly every form of music would have failed to progress without his work.  Decades later, his overall importance would begin to be noted, as the original J & M Recording Studios was made a historic landmark in 1999, and finally, in 2012, Matassa was set to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Easily on par with any other producer or originator in history, there has simply never been another individual who shaped music quite like Cosimo Matassa.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14: Daily Guru, "Guru Soapbox: Concert Etiquette"

In today's video, I take on some of the most annoying people in the world! Share and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Daily Guru, "Music School: 1967"

In today's "Music School" class, I teach about what may be the most important year in the development of popular music. Share and enjoy.

March 13: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #115"

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY review/video of that artist, song, or album):
1. Mark Lanegan Band, "Ode To Sad Disco"  Blues Funeral
2. The Clash, "Clash City Rockers"  Clash City Rockers 7"
3. Robert Johnson, "Cross Road Blues"  King Of The Delta Blues
4. Eddie Hazel, "Frantic Moment"  Game, Dames, And Guitar Thangs
5. The Moody Blues, "Ride My See Saw"  In Search Of The Lost Chord
6. Ty Segall, "Comfortable Home (A True Story)"  Goodbye Bread
7. Breakestra, "You Don't Need A Dance"  Hit The Floor
8. Flower Travellin' Band, "Satori Part 3"  Satori
9. Primus, "Frizzle Fry"  Frizzle Fry
10. Third World War, "Shepards Bush Cowboy"  Third World War
11. Iron Maiden, "Run To The Hills"  The Number Of The Beast
12. The Lemonheads, "Ceiling Fan In My Spoon"  It's A Shame About Ray

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #59"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11: My Premiere For VexonTV News

Every Sunday, I will be delivering music news for VexonTV...this is the premiere episode...share and enjoy!

March 11: King Sunny Adé, "Ma Jaiye Oni"

Artist: King Sunny Adé
Song: "Ma Jaiye Oni"
Album: Juju Music
Year: 1982

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Though one can find them across every style of music, there is no question that even if one is not familiar with that particular sound, the presence of a truly great performer can never be mistaken.  With this in mind, sparsely spread throughout genres and the overall history of music, there are a handful of artists who so thoroughly dominate their particular genre, that nearly every other artist in the style seems quite pale in comparison. These elite artists perform in their genre with such precision and perfection that in many ways, their music actually becomes the definition of the genre itself over time. Though he was nowhere near the first or the last in the genre of “juju” music, there are almost no artists who are worthy of even being mentioned in the same breath as the great King Sunny Adé. Though he has worked with a number of groups, it is his solo records, as well as his albums with The African Beats that stand above the rest of his recordings. While he did not start releasing formal, full-length records until the early 1980's, since that time, he has released a staggering amount of albums, with the current count well over one hundred and twenty records. As is often the case, the first release of an artist represents their finest, and most true to form sound, and this is certainly the case with King Sunny Adé. His 1982 full-length debut, Juju Music, lives up to the direct title, and few songs better highlight his extraordinary talent than the track, "Ma Jaiye Oni."

While an overwhelming majority of African-based music centers around elements like speed, volume, and large group chants, the juju style is far more subdued and relaxed approach to musical creation. King Sunny Adé's music is truly blissful, and while the music is certainly mellower in sound that the more stereotypical “African” music, it is not slow or lulling as is the case with most over "mellow" music. In fact, the mood on the album is quite the opposite, as the music is so perfectly crafted, that the relaxed vibe, yet more upbeat rhythms and sounds is nothing short of soul rejuvenating. It is this ability to have a laid back mood, yet create irresistible grooves that makes the music on Juju Music so mesmerizing and fantastic, to the point that some might simply label the sound as “cool.”  The African Beats, Adé's backing band on Juju Music, is comprised of a number of percussionists, using instruments ranging from clavé and shekere's, to more widely known instruments like congas, bongos, as well as a standard drum kit. Throughout "Ma Jaiye Oni," this group of players creates a completely immersible sound and groove, and it is almost impossible to not get lost in their performances.  The track has a unique sway that is strangely danceable, and time has done nothing but make this overall mood even better.  The manner in which all of these percussionists play with one another is breathtaking, as not a beat is off anywhere on the album, and the multi-layred textures are truly amazing to experience. The amazing compositions that Adé created for Juju Music are truly like nothing else ever recorded, and there is no doubt that "Ma Jaiye Oni" is the highlight of the collection.

Composing every song on Juju Music, as well as leading the vocals and playing guitar and keyboards, King Sunny Adé proves to be one of the most talented musicians that the world has ever heard. His low, soothing voice blends perfectly with the overall textures of the instrumentations, and it adds an amazing element to the overall flow and feel of "Ma Jaiye Oni."  Along with his superb voice, Adé's guitar perfectly punctuates the songs, and while it is not the primary focus often, when it is, such as on "Ma Jaiye Oni," the manner in which he navigates the music is nothing short of sensational. This ability to perform stunningly subtle, brilliant guitar pieces is what has made Adé an inspiration for countless guitar players, with one of his most public fans being Phish's Trey Anastasio. The keyboard and sound effects that lace the sounds is equally as amazing, and it is the element that makes this song sound almost futuristic while being simultaneously traditional. The almost spacy, ethereal sound that Adé creates on "Ma Jaiye Oni" is truly revolutionary, and it is a sound that remains unparalleled to this day. Whether it is Adé the actual tone of his voice, or the mood that he sets with his sound, the vocals are always equally as superb as the music, and it adds another amazing layer to the music. Though he is singing in his native tongue, the spirit behind the lyrics comes through clearly, and this is a testament to the amazing sounds and moods that King Sunny Adé was able to create throughout Juju Music.

While one can see throughout history that the fusion of various musical genres can often be a complete disaster, as it is a very difficult task to do so without having musical chaos, when one succeeds in such a question, the results are rarely anything short of stunning. Brilliantly blending together sounds from all around the world with the traditional African style of juju, King Sunny Adé proves to be one of the most talented musicians and composers in the history of music. The fact that he has recorded more than one hundred records in only thirty years clearly shows that he has a musical mind that knows no boundaries, and he obviously has a deeper connection to music than nearly all of his contemporaries. Though he remains one of the many "lesser known" influences, one can find traces of his sound all over the past three decades of popular music. His live performances are legendary for their length, energy, and the unparalleled grooves that are created by his band. This energy and ability to form grooves like no other are perfectly captured on his studio albums, and the fact is, one simply cannot find a bad recording anywhere in Adé's massive recorded catalog. By far one of the most talented musicians in history, King Sunny Adé is undoubtedly the King of juju music, and one needs to look no further than his extraordinary 1982 full length debut, Juju Music, to experience everything that makes him such a phenomenal musician and his music some of the most enjoyable ever recorded, and there are few tracks that better represent his brilliance than "Ma Jaiye Oni."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10: Iron Maiden, "Number Of The Beast"

Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: Number Of The Beast
Year: 1982
Label: Sony

Though genres shift and change as time progresses, it is almost ways the initial, pure form of the style that endures the longest, as it is this to which the initial fans were drawn.  It is also within this pioneering sound where one can find the links between bands that existed decades apart, as this form serves as a common thread across time.  In both of these cases, it is rarely more true than one finds within the genre of heavy metal, and even four decades after the term was first being widely used, the core form of the style remains largely the same.  However, there are also few genres of music that have been subject to as much criticism over the years, and yet even as this continues, heavy metal continues to be the sound of choice for countless music fans across the globe.  Though there have been many iconic names in heavy metal throughout its existence, few command the respect and status across the generations as one finds in a band that almost perfectly defines the style: Iron Maiden.  For more than thirty years, the band has been one of the most powerful, wildest groups on the planet, and yet that have done so without very much radio support.  Reaching what is without question their creative apex in 1982, Iron Maiden released onto the world what remains one of the greatest heavy metal records in history: Number Of The Beast.  Filled with some of the most memorable songs in the history of the genre, Iron Maiden perfectly captures everything it means to “be” heavy metal within every moment of the entire record.

Though it is often mistaken, the opening reading from The Book Of Revelation found on the albums' title track that precedes the music was NOT performed by Vincent Price, but by a man named Barry Clayton, who the band asked to read it in a “Vincent Price” style.  As soon as he completes the reading, “Number Of The Beast” formally begins with what has become one of the most iconic guitar riffs in music history, and is easily the stand-out moment of the entire album  The energy that can be felt throughout all of Number Of The Beast is largely due to the power of the duo of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith; and their sound remains unparalleled to this day, and in both the speed and tone, Number Of The Beast quickly establishes itself as a true heavy metal masterpiece.  Along with their progressions, once the rest of the band joins in, i is the full power of Iron Maiden that is nothing short of stunning, and their mastery as a band becomes abundantly clear.  The rhythm section of bassist Steve Harris and drummer Clive Burr have rarely sounded better, and they help to build an overwhelming sense of tension and grandeur as the songs progress.  Harris is able to even give the songs a distinctive groove, and the fast repetition of his playing is one of the keys to the overall tone on a number of the tracks.  Similarly, it is the force and emotion with which Burr approaches the arrangements that embodies the sound every metal drummer strives to achieve.  It is the way in which he seems to almost bounce across the songs that makes it so significant, and yet the sheer power in his performances cannot be ignored.

However, while the musical performances throughout are absolutely that of legend, there may be no other vocalist in the entire history of heavy metal that can compete with the singing here by the one and only Bruce Dickinson.  Utilizing the entire vocal scale in a way unmatched by any other singer, the drawn-out wail that he supplies at the top of the songs is without question one of the most memorable moments in all of music history.  Following this, Dickinson delivers what stands as one of the most impassioned and absolutely mesmerizing vocal performances of all time, and even those that are not huge heavy metal fans must give ample respect to his vocals on “Number Of The Beast.”  Easily keeping pace, if not surpassing his bandmates in terms of pure energy, Dickinson is clearly letting the music take him as it wants, and this leads to some of the most stunning vocal progressions ever recorded.  Whether it is in the powerful, aggressive verses, or the soaring bridge and chorus sections, throughout the album, he gives what is clearly “the” performance of his career, and on many levels, it is these vocal tracks that define the heavy metal singing approach.  Yet it is also within the lyrical content of Number Of The Beast where one can find the projected definition of “heavy metal,” and it is Iron Maiden’s unrestrained, unsubtle words that not only fueled their fans, but loads of controversy at the same time.  As if the albums’ title was not clear enough, the lyrics to the songs spin a dark tale of nightmarish run-ins with The Devil among other similar themes, and yet there is an almost upbeat tone to the song that never ceases.  It is the fact that Bruce Dickinson is able to take this subject and make it so much more powerful through his vocals that pushes Number Of The Beast into a musical category all its own.

Yet it was also the subject matter of “Number Of The Beast” that incited the ire of countless “music watchdog” groups across the globe.  Easily painting the group as worshipers of Satan, this fact alone personifies much of the image of heavy metal in general, and yet at the same time, it was this same aspect that made their fans even more dedicated.  While these “watchdog groups” soon had a wide range of bands to harass, it was Iron Maiden that took the brunt of their hate-speech throughout the early 1980’s, and yet even in the face of this, the song continued to find success.  This, in many ways, is the most obvious evidence of the songs’ greatness, as the truly special songs in history will find a way to rise, regardless of the circumstances it is given.  As the decades have passed, Number Of The Beast has continued to grow in stature, and it stands today as one of the most highly revered albums in the entire history of heavy metal, with new bands spinning their own covers.  The songs have also found its way into many parts of popular culture, and in the current day, the subject matter has become almost ignored due to the sheer force and talent put forth within the musical performance.  Each of the band members is in top form on Number Of The Beast, and yet one can also sense that they were having quite a good time during the recording session.  Whether it is this uniquely positive feeling, the masterfully executed musical arrangements, or the breathtaking vocal performance, there is perhaps no other song in history that better defines the term “heavy metal,” than one can experience on Iron Maiden’s monumental 1982 album, Number Of The Beast.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #58"

It’s Friday, and that means another dose of “Something Old, Something New” with The Daily Guru. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8: Daily Guru, "This Week In Music History"

Check out the premiere of my new weekly video segment, "This Week In Music History." Share and enjoy.

March 8: John Hammond, Sr.

During the "early days" of popular and recorded music, almost everyone involved in any aspect of the "music industry" had to, as they say, wear a number of different hats.  Whether it was artists serving as their own booking and publishing agents, label owners also taking on recording and engineering duties, or a wide range of other necessary combinations, the first half of the last century presents a rather stark contrast to the more modern sense of "how" the business of music is conducted.  Yet among so many individuals who found themselves handling a number of different jobs within music, there was one man who stood far above the rest; and one can argue that to this day, he remains the greatest talent scout in history, along with a number of other unsurpassed accolades.  Whether it was his ability to find new artists, his work as a producer or concert promoter, or perhaps even his own musical talents, there has never been another figure in music that quite measures up to the great John Hammond, Sr.  As the United States dug its way out of "The Great Depression," it was Hammond who was one of the most integral figures in re-energizing the world of music, and over the course of the next five decades, he would touch almost every possible aspect of the music industry, making the impact of John Hammond, Sr. far beyond that of anyone else in music history.

Even from a young age, Hammond's interest in music was beyond apparent, as he took up studies on both the piano and the violin.  It was also during these early years that his true intentions began to manifest themselves, as even though his parents pushed him towards classical music, he was far more interested in the sounds which he heard being sung by the servants and staff of his home in New York City.  To this end, the legend goes that a then-seventeen year old John Hammond Sr. attended a concert in Harlem where he witnessed a performance by none other than Bessie Smith, and that this forever altered the course of his life.  However, Hammond soon found himself a student at Yale University, though he dropped out in 1931, and became the first ever U.S. correspondent for the iconic Melody Maker newspaper.  This passion for music quickly led to Hammond recording jazz players in New York City, and founded one of the first "live" jazz programs.  Though many do not consider such a reality in modern times, Hammond was very much a pioneer in terms of desegregation, as his work within the music industry often blurred the "color lines" which were very much present during this time period.  In many ways, this gave Hammond more "credibility" within the world of jazz, and he soon became one of the most sought after producers and concert organizers in the country.

Over the next few years, John Hammond Sr. would play a key role in the configuration of Benny Goodman's band, and then in 1933, it was Hammond who arranged for the first recording sessions for an up-and-coming singer named Billie Holiday.  In fact, her first recording was made on a Benny Goodman track, and her work on this song would vault her to the iconic status she enjoys to this day.  Throughout the remainder of the 1930's, it was Hammond who brought jazz to the forefront in many ways, and almost every one of the most important figures of this movement was in some way connected to Hammond.  Yet after World War II, Hammond found little to his liking in the "bop" sound of jazz, and his interests began to move to the world of folk and soul music.  It was John Hammond Sr. who signed both Pete Seeger and Aretha Franklin to Columbia Records; but it was in 1961 that he would sign the man that the label would refer to as "Hammond's Folly."  Though the label protested to his signing from the beginning, Hammond insisted that the individual in question would be famous, and only a few months later, the man in question would make his name with a single titled, "Blowin' In The Wind."  Whether it was his signing of Bob Dylan, or his work in the early jazz scene, for more than five decades John Hammond Sr. was on the bleeding edge of musical creation, and there has never been a figure as important to the development of music as he proved to be over his lifetime.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7: Daily Guru, "Gabbing With The Guru: Zed Never"

In today's installment of "Gabbing With The Guru," I sit down and chat with the band Zed Never…later, they play one of their songs. Share an enjoy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6: "Daily Guru Music School: Blues Basics"

Today is the premiere edition of my new segment, "Music School." Time to get your musical learn on! Share and enjoy.

March 6: Daily Guru, "Gurucast #114"

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(Left Click (PC) or Command-Click (Mac) to save it to your's about 75MB)

One hour of amazing music and commentary from "The Guru" himself.

Tracklist (all links are to MY reviews/video of that artist, song, or album):
1. Cake, "Rock N' Roll LifestyleMotorcade Of Generosity
2. Frankie Rose, "Interstellar"  Interstellar
3. G Love & Special Sauce, "Garbage Man"  G Love & Special Sauce
4. Mendelssohn, "Symphony #4, 1st Movement"
5. Velvet Underground, "Rock And RollLoaded
6. Art Tatum, "I Ain't Got Nobody"  1932-1934
7. The Cramps, "TV Set"  Songs The Lord Taught Us
8. Hanni El Khatib, "Fuck It, You Win"  Will The Guns Come Out
9. Joe Strummer & The Mescalaros, "I Fought The Law"  2002/11/15
10. Mac Lethal, "Tell Me Goodbye"  11:11
11. The Fall, "Two Librans"  The Unutterable
12. Television, "Elevation"  Marquee Moon

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #57"

It’s Monday, and that means another edition of “Something Old, Something New.” Share and enjoy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4: Leo Kottke, "Eight Miles High"

Artist: Leo Kottke
Song: "Eight Miles High"
Album: Mudlark
Year: 1971

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Throughout the course of music history, there are a handful of figures who, for a wide range of reasons, completely altered the way that a number of genres and instruments were approached.  Whether it was their particular tone, or the presence that they had on records, their sounds cannot be mistaken for that of any other, and such performers have countless songs in their catalog that have achieved a level nothing short of "timeless."  Among such legends, there stands a man whose life is in many was as intriguing as the music he creates; as Leo Kottke is truly a "one of a kind" performer.  Without question one of the most versatile and imaginative guitarists in history, Kottke is perhaps the most unexpected musician in history, as he lost an overwhelming majority of his sense of hearing following a pair of incidents early on in his life.  However, he quickly made a name for himself in the folk scene of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his 1969 debut album, Six And Twelve String Guitar, remain one of the most dazzling and outright beautiful records ever released.  More than four decades later, Kottke continues to create and innovate all across the music spectrum, and one would be hard pressed to single out just one of his songs as his finest in any sense of the word.  However, to fully appreciate both his guitar skills, as well as his unique voice, one need look no further than Leo Kottke's superb 1971 rendition of the song, "Eight Miles High."

Within only a few moments of the song beginning, it is clear that Leo Kottke possesses a control and technical ability that is far beyond that of almost any other guitarist in history.  The layering of the guitars is nothing short of stunning, and there is a complexity and intricacy to the song that is instantly captivating.  At the same time, it is the tone with which he plays that pulls the listener deep into "Eight Miles High," and it easily transcends any genre classification, as one can hear everything from folk to psychedelia within the musical arrangement.  It is this distinctive ability to create a totally unique sound and mood within his playing that is in may ways the definition of the music of Leo Kottke, and even after more than four decades, the patterns and melodies to "Eight Miles High" are just as inviting and intriguing.  Yet at the same time, it is the way that the rhythm section works almost quietly behind the guitars that creates such an amazing mood, as there is a fragility to the song that exudes a warmth unlike any other recording in history.  The almost gentle, yet somehow dramatic bassline is in a class all its own, and the way the drums seem to skip quickly around the entire arrangement lends a perfect level of tension.  As all of the instruments move as a single unit, it becomes impossible to not be completely immersed in the overall tone and mood of the song, and this is the key to the appeal of "Eight Miles High."

Along with his wonderfully distinctive sound on guitar, Leo Kottke's voice is just as welcoming and recognizable.  Truth be told, though he once described his own voice as, "geese farts on a muggy day," Kottke's voice throughout "Eight Miles High" is absolutely perfect.  Much like his guitar work, there is a gentleness that lies underneath each word he sings, and yet his voice has a great deal of power and style that sets his further beyond any of his peers.  Also similar to the music over which he sings, the vocal sound Kottke presents does not quite fit into any conventional musical categorization, as it is perhaps a bit too dark or mysterious for folk, and finds no similarities in any other genre.  In many ways, the sound of Leo Kottke simply "is" Leo Kottke, and his singing on "Eight Miles High" is easily one of the finest vocal performances of his entire career.  It is also the way that Kottke is able to convey the lyrics, as he perfectly captures the somewhat mysterious, perhaps cryptic spirit behind the words.  It is the words to "Eight Miles High" that further reinforce the idea of a connection to the psychedelic movement, as the lyrics are rather philosophical and poetic, with one of the finest lines coming when Kottke sings, "...nowhere is there hope to be found, among those afraid of losing their ground..."  The combination of Kottke's distinctive voice and such thought-provoking words serve as the ideal finishing touch to a truly spectacular musical experience.

When one steps back and further inspects the intricate guitar patterns that are found throughout "Eight Miles High," one can find countless later artists that either lifted these riffs in their entirety, or clearly took a strong influence from the sound and arrangement.  Even after hearing the sound countless times, it is the fact that the guitar work never fails to hypnotize the listener that is perhaps the most revealing of what a unique orchestration and performance that can be found on "Eight Miles High," and it is this reality that sets it amongst the finest recordings in the entire career of Leo Kottke.  Yet at the same time, it is the fact that Kottke sings on this track which enables listeners to appreciate the entirety of his artistry, as a majority of his recordings to this point had been entirely instrumental affairs.  Kottke's voice is as strong as ever on "Eight Miles High," and yet it is the welcoming, gentle, yet unquestionably secretive way that he approaches singing that makes this song a musical journey unlike any other in history.  The combination of all of this is on all levels a comprehensive definition of just why Leo Kottke remains such an icon of music to this day, as there has never been another artist that has been able to achieve similar sounds or moods within their music.  Boasting a massive recorded catalog that includes countless songs that have never been matched, few of his own recordings can match the overall sound and presence found on Leo Kottle's extraordinary 1971 song, "Eight Miles High."

Saturday, March 3, 2012


At the beginning of April, I will be launching a completely revamped website, and I need a "tag line" for The Daily Guru.  It should be only a few words (6 at the most), and capture everything that the site and content "means" to you.  Whoever submits the "winning" entry will recieve a FREE copy of my book when it is released next month.  Submit your entries on my Facebook Wall, or email them to 

Contest ends on March 20.

March 3: Erykah Badu, "Baduizm"

Artist: Erykah Badu
Album: Baduizm
Year: 1997
Label: Universal

In an era when music was quickly becoming overly artificial, the few artists that had “real” talent and made a point of making music their own way became all the more precious.  To bring a fresh, uncompromising sound was strangely a revolutionary idea, and this is much the reason for the decline of record sales as the 1990’s came to a close.  It is perhaps due to these musically grim circumstances that the achievements of some artists have been overplayed, and yet there is at least one performer that proved that even in an overly-digital age, the “old school” sounds could not only thrive, but overshadow the more modern music.  Among the handful of artists who personified this idea, there is none more accomplished or outright stunning than one finds within the music of Erykah Badu.  Bringing together elements of soul, funk, r&b, and hip-hop, her organic, emotional sound is able to reach fans of every style, and this is much the reason she remains such a highly respected artist across the globe.  Though her later records are not to be missed, it is her debut album that serves as her most complete and outright stunning musical work.  Perfectly fusing together head bobbing beats with her absolutely beautiful voice, and bringing more soul than had been heard in decades, it is impossible not to be completely captivated by the entire record, and Erykah Badu's 1997 debut, Baduizm, is nothing short of phenomenal.

The instant that Baduizm begins, it is completely clear just how many styles and influences are going to be intermixed across the album, as the bouncing beats to "On & On" is as good as a hip-hop fan could want, and yet there is a smooth, almost sultry nod that gives the song a far wider appeal.  The way in which the jazzy, smoky piano plays against the knocking beat transports the listener into a dim nightclub, and yet the production team was able to create this mood without overdoing it.  As the album progresses, countless other musical ventures are taken, proving that Badu truly has no musical limitations.  This, in many ways, defines everything that Erykah Badu seems to strive to achieve, finding balance in every sense of the word, and it is her unique approach found on Baduizm that eventually garnered a Grammy Award for one of the songs.  The way in which the various sounds soar across the tracks, yet the mellow, almost reflective moods are never lost, enables the album to become one of the finest "chill out" releases ever recorded.  Yet at the same time, the arrangements almost seems sparse at places, allowing for the focus to remain on Badu's voice.  It was due to this distinctive combination of sounds and styles that the phrase "neo soul" was coined, and there are few better examples of its meaning than one finds on Baduizm.

While the music throughout this album is nothing short of captivating, it is the voice of Erykah Badu that leaves one completely stunned, and there has never been another performer that even came remotely close to the sound and style within her vocal delivery.  Whether she is singing a deeper, more reflective style, or letting her voice soar in an unrestrained manner, Badu is never anything short of perfect throughout the song, and one cannot help but compare her sound to the greatest soul and jazz singers from decades earlier.  Yet there is a sorrow and grit to the voice of Erykah Badu that separates her from all her peers, and itis in her singing that one can make a close tie to the blues.  Taken as a whole, few artists from any style of any era have been able to inject as much emotion into their music as one can experience on Baduizm, and even those not familiar with jazz or soul cannot help but be completely drawn into the album.  This is largely due to the fact that along with her phenomenal vocal performance, the lyrics to the songs are just as alluring, and they can be interpreted on a number of different levels.  Whether one is looking for brilliantly phrased, hip-hop style visuals, or smooth, introspective blues and jazz lyrics, there is something for everyone within the words to Baduizm, proving that in every sense of the word, Erykah Badu completely defines the entirety of the word "artist."

Without question, Erykah Badu remains one of the most impossible to define artists in all of music history.  Somewhat hip-hop, somewhat jazz, somewhat blues, she is perhaps the most truly unique performer of her generation.  The way in which she seamlessly blends together all of her influences into something that is a perfect balance of all these elements shows her understanding of musical structure, as well as her commitment to her own sound.  Bringing musical arrangements that fuse together the best of blues, jazz, and soul, all inter-twined with beats that fit perfectly within the hip-hop sound of the time, Badu served as a reminder that there was nothing better than truly unique and personal music.  This is perhaps the key to her sound, as one can clearly hear a proximity to every song, and there is also a sense of enjoyment that one can detect within Badu's singing.  The way in which she works all over the vocal spectrum in terms of style and note was beyond refreshing at the time, and more than a decade since its first release, her 1997 debut record still knows very few peers.  Though there had been a handful of artists who had already experimented with what would be termed "neo soul," it was Badu that truly put the sound on the map and gave it its finest definition.  Combining a wide range of influences with what stands as one of the most distinguished and truly beautiful voices in all of music history, one must experience firsthand the stunning sound on Erykah Badu's 1997 debut, Baduizm, to properly understand why she remains such a highly revered figured within the current music scene.

Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #56"

It’s Friday, and that means another dose of “Something Old, Something New” with The Daily Guru. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1: Berry Gordy Jr.

Though there have been a large number of individuals throughout history without whom music would have failed to progress into its current form, there are one or two that stand far above the others for different reasons.  Whether it was due to the time that they were conducting business, or simply the way they went about fostering certain talents, their names often rank beyond those of the actual musicians in terms of importance, and their impact is truly immeasurable.  While the contributions that these icons had on the world of music, there was one man who had an equally significant impact on culture in general, as the work of Berry Gordy Jr. forever changed society as we know it.  Though some may not recognize the name at first, there is not a person on the planet who does not instantly have a number of musical hooks and vocals in their head as soon as they hear the words "Motown Records."  Churning out an unsurpassed string of hit singles, many do not consider the fact that it was many of these songs that cemented the place of the "black musician" within the still predominantly white music business, as well as bringing the more modern form of "pop" music into existence.  From Marvin Gaye to The Jackson 5 to the seemingly endless creativity of The Funk Brothers, it was the vision and dedication of Berry Gordy Jr. that unquestionably altered the entire landscape of music forever.

In many ways, the life of Berry Gordy Jr. and how he found his way to musical success is almost cliché, as the story has been "redone" in so many ways since his time.  Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Gordy dropped out of high school, and began pursuing his passion not only in the world of music, but boxing as well.  Though he was becoming rather successful in the boxing ring, around his twentieth birthday, Gordy realized that he was more likely to have more longstanding and "distinguished" a career within the music industry, so he began to concentrate on this path fully.  After spending a few years in the Army, Gordy attempted to operate a record store, but it failed somewhat quickly, and he was forced to split his time between working at a car factory during the day, and writing songs in the evenings for local groups.  During this period, Gordy met a local music manager named Al Green and would soon provide the song "Reet Petite" for none other than Jackie Wilson.  This was all the foothold that Gordy needed, as within a few years, he was churning out a number of hit songs for a wide range of artists.  However, Gordy soon began heading in a different direction, and this was the period where he met another young singer, William "Smokey" Robinson, and the two would form one of the greatest musical partnerships in the entire history of recorded music.

Soon after his meeting, Berry Gordy Jr. purchased a the home that sits at 2648 West Grand Street in Detroit, and dubbed the place "Hitsville USA."  The first label to operate out of this home was Talma Records, and it soon began releasing now-classic songs from the likes of Eddie Holland, Barrett Strong, and of course, Robinson and his group, The Miracles.  These successes led to a wide range of local artists, like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and The Four Tops to come to Talma, and within a short period of time, the label was "combined" with its parent label, Motown Records.  For nearly a decade, Motown Records would be the home to many of the most famous artists of the era, and with well over one hundred hit singles, the now-famous name of the recording studio proved to be more than fitting.  However, it is the fact that so many of these songs found massive success well beyond "just" the "black audiences" that were measured at the time that prove the true impact and importance of the label, and one can easily make the argument that Motown Records played a critical role in the overall Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.  Though Gordy would eventually relocate to Los Angeles, the fact remains that his work in Detroit yielded some of the most timeless and outright important recordings in all of history, and one cannot overstate the impact that Berry Gordy Jr. had on both the music industry, as well as society as a whole.