Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #23: Covers"

In today's video, I check out some of my all-time favorite cover songs. Share and enjoy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29: Daily Guru, "Saturday Smorgasbord: "Unlistenable" Bands"

In today's video, I take a look at some of my favorite so-called "unlistenable" music. Share and enjoy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 28: Daily Guru, "Music News (Sept 23 - 29): Offensive Releases, Odd Encores, Hash, And Yes, ICP"

In today's music news, I discuss an offensive release, an odd encore, some hash, and yes, ICP. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 27: Daily Guru, "Music Myths: Dead Mom's, Desecrated Landmarks, And Steamy Vocals"

In today's video, I look at myths behind a dead mother, a desecrated landmark, and some x-rated vocals. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 26: Daily Guru, "Guru Soapbox: The Current Music Scene"

In today's video, I set a few things straight about the current music scene. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 25: Daily Guru, "Music School: Django Reinhardt"

In today's video, I discuss this history of the uniquely brilliant Django Reinhardt. Share and enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #92: The Germs / The Sea And Cake"

In today's video, I review a classic work of hardcore, and a new album that I was quite surprised by. Share and enjoy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 23: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #22: Live Tracks & Albums"

In today's video, I suggest some of my favorite live tracks and albums of all time. Share and enjoy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22: Daily Guru, "Saturday Smorgasbord: Classical Works You Should Know By Name"

In today's video, I discuss some classical pieces you should know the moment you hear them. Share and enjoy.

September 22: The XX, "The XX"

Artist: The XX
Album: The XX
Year: 2009
Label:   Young Turks

Ever since the beginning of the popular era of recorded music, performers have been constantly borrowing from specific musicians and styles to make their sound stand out from the rest as sonically unique.  While the blending of genres is never an easy task, when one of the styles being utilized is of an electronic nature, this tends to make the approach even more challenging.  Looking across recorded history, this seems to be due to the fact that in such an arrangement, the artist in question tends to lean too heavily on the electronic elements, and the final product ends up coming off as far less than was expected.  This reality is even more consistent when looking at newer and less experienced performers, as when attempting to blend genres, it can be seen that nothing serves a performer better than experience.  Yet there have been a handful of cases where these sounds have been perfectly blended, though in nearly every case, they have come at the hands of musicians well into their established careers.  Then of course, there is the case of The XX.  The English group somehow managed to quickly prove themselves as one of the most brilliantly unique bands on the planet, as they found a distinctive blend of entrancing, ambient sounds and moods with a strangely pop-styled approach.  From the completely mesmerizing musical structures to the vocals that border on ethereal, there is simply no way the world of music could have been prepared for the masterful musical bliss that is The XX’s self-titled 2009 debut.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of The XX is the fact that the electronic influence is more implied than actually put forward within the music itself.  This fact instantly separates the group from not only their peers, but any sort of genre classification.  Each track as a fragile sonic structure that is only akin to the sounds of the ambient or "down beat" electronic schools, and yet there is never a question of their more traditional pop-rock approach in the more literal sense.  The core of this musical brilliance is largely due to the guitar from Romy Madley Croft, and if one were looking for a completely distinctive tone and approach, it is rarely more obvious in this case.  Whether they are softer, almost silenced notes being used as emphasis or dazzling progressions, Croft proves to be far more creative and talented than any similar artist.  Along with this, the bass from Oliver Sim gives the tracks on The XX a sway and groove that are again much in the same spirit as the ambient style.  Yet it is the way that his playing combines with the programmed drums of Jamie Smith that give the group a rhythmic allure that is completely unique.  Rounding out the group is guitarist and keyboardist Baria Qureshi, and this element proves to be one of the most important, as it gives a wider diversity to the songs on The XX.  It is the way that the musicians move as a single unique, digging deeper and deeper into the moods and grooves at every turn that allow the album to become so powerful and musically distinctive.

Working in stunning harmony with the music over which they sing, one would be hard pressed to find a more impressive and mesmerizing vocal pairing than that of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim.  Along with the stunning manner with which their voices harmonize, it is the actual delivery style that they each possess which allows these songs to become all the more powerful.  There are times when Croft needs to only whisper to properly convey the emotion of the words she sings, and yet the reality remains that when she gets a bit louder, the song seems to swell around her voice.  This works perfectly with Sim's almost detached vocal approach, and one cannot help but liken his style to that of some of the finest post-punk vocalists.  It is the way that the two sounds intertwine that serves as the ideal finishing touch to these songs, further separating the group from any stylistic classification.  Yet along with the way they sing, there is a pulse that runs throughout every musical phrasing on the entire record, stringing together the varied musical and vocal approaches into a superb, cohesive masterpiece.  This again seems to nod toward the world of electronic music, and yet it is in that previously mentioned sonic subtlety that shows the true vision and power within the inner-workings of The XX as a group.

The fact remains that even though it has only been out for a handful of years, the self-titled debut from The XX has already proven to be one the most uniquely stunning recordings of the past generation.  To this end, many of the songs have been used frequently within all forms of popular media, and been interpreted in a wide range of other styles.  Everyone from Gorillaz to Birdy to Shakira have recorded their own versions of songs found on The XX, and one can see a number of other bands that attempted to duplicate the sonic brilliance found all across this album.  But the reality is that no group before or since has been able to come close to the delicate blend of sounds and moods found on every moment of The XX, and it is the sort of record that somehow manages to remain just as fresh and exciting with every listening.  Whether it is due to the superbly complex, yet somehow subtle musical arrangements or the fantastically mellow, but completely engaging tempo, The XX is simply a peerless record in terms of the orchestrations.  At the same time, the duo of Croft and Sim on vocals only aids in making this record even more distinctive and extraordinary, as their vocals alone would have been enough to make the album beyond notable.  It is the combined sound of these superb vocalists and the exceptional music that is the key to the magic of The XX, and there has never been another musical experience on par with their magnificent 2009 self-titled debut.

Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21: Daily Guru, "Music News (Sept 16 - 22): A Book, A Tragic Single, And TONS Of Music Movies!"

In today's video, I bring news about a Dylan book, a tragic single, and TONS of music movies! Share and enjoy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 23: Flower Travellin' Band, "Satori, Part "

While there are many injustices that one can find across the history of recorded music, one of the most tragic is the way in which the music of the late 1960's and early 1970's is completely ignored if it was not created in either England or the United States.  That is to say, in the minds of most, there was nothing of substance being created musically elsewhere on the planet during that time period, when the reality remains that some of the most exciting and innovative sounds of that era can be found in these exact places that are ignored.  Whether it was the early rumblings of the punk sound in Australia or the AfroBeat movement of Fela Kuti and others, when one opens their mind to the truth of the era, some of the finest music can be found.  Yet even with this exploration, one of the most mind-blowing bands of that time period still gets overlooked, as Japan's Flower Travellin' Band stand as one of the most tragically forgotten groups in all of music history.  During the early years of the 1970's, the band was delving deep into blues rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic rock in ways unlike any other band in history.  Due to their tone and musical arrangements, as well as the sheer force in their sound, no other band comes even remotely close to the majesty of their flawless 1971 release, Satori, as it is the group's first record of completely original compositions.  Separated into five different movements, each with their own musically-stunning moments, one can quickly understand why Flower Travellin' Band are held in such high regard by those "in the know" when you hear "Satori, Part IV."

Within this movement, every side of Flower Travellin' Band can be heard, as the song begins with a progression that echoes of the 1950's surf-rock, before giving way to a crunch and groove that rings of a somehow heavier version of Black Sabbath.  In fact, perhaps the only music even remotely close to the sound found at the opening of "Satori, Part IV" is segments of the self-titled Third World War album.  The guitar of Hideki Ishima is wonderfully distinctive, as he is able to bring the grit and growl of heavy metal, yet there is unquestionably a tinge of the psychedelic in his tone that is perhaps best stated as a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi.  Whether he is ripping off a dazzling solo or falling into a deep, almost trance-like rhythm, it is his playing that serves as the core to the overall impact of "Satori, Part IV."  Along with his performance, bassist Jun Kozuki brings a progression that gives a looming, darker feel to the song, and this separates it from the other parts on the Satori album.  He too finds ways to balance the aggression with melody, and the blues-base to their music is perhaps most clear in this aspect of the song.  Yet it is also the often stutter-stepping of drummer Joji Wada that gives the track a sound and mood that is unforgettable, as you can hear everything from jazz to punk in the way he approaches the song.  In fact, it is his performance that gives the entire band the ability to shift tempos on a single note, giving "Satori, Part IV" a feel and flow that has never been equaled.

Though one can easily make the case that the entire Satori album concentrates on the instrumental aspects, it is the vocals from Joe Yamanaka that give the forth section a more distinctive sound and drive than the other tracks.  Yet at the same time, the moment he begins singing, the comparison to early Black Sabbath is yet again brought to mind, as one cannot deny the similarity in tone to that of Ozzy Osborne.  However, there is no question that he has his own take, and that while their voices may sound similar, it is in no way a case of one "copying" the other.  In fact, one can argue that it is the spirit and attitude that Yamanaka brings which makes his sound so distinctive, and at the same time, there is an unsettling urgency within his voice that furthers the overall sense of darkness and nervousness that persists throughout the entire track.  Along with his vocal work, it is Yamanaka that adds the perfectly placed and played harmonica piece at the center of "Satori, Part IV," and this is where the links to the blue-rock movement happening across the world at that time can be most clearly heard.  Whether one wishes to draw a comparison to Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin, the likeness is clear, and yet again, Flower Travellin' Band stands on their own, as there is a grit and power in their sound that cannot be found elsewhere.  As Yamanaka switches from playing to singing, you can almost hear the entire band dig in deeper on the song, allowing the overall energy and emotion of their playing to lead them in an almost jazz-like structure.  In the end, there is simply no question that "Satori, Part IV" is as good a work of hard rock or even progressive metal that has ever been recorded.

As if the overall overlooking of the band was not bad enough, the entire Satori album went relatively unknown for the better part of three decades, until it was remastered and re-released in 2003.  Yet from almost the instant that this album became available in this form, it made massive waves all across the progressive and heavy metal scenes.  The fact that the music is so imposing and powerful, pulling from such a wide range of influences, and yet in many ways having been completely detached from what was happening elsewhere at the time made the album all the more impressive.  At the same time, there is no denying that the sheer volume and strength with which Flower Travellin' Band play all across Satori makes it quite simple for them to easily be on par with any band under the "metal" or "progressive" genre banner to this day.  But it is this reality, that the band pulls from such a wide range of influences, that makes the music so unique and intriguing, as whether it is the almost Eastern sounds in the lighter moments, or the all out rock assault, one can argue that Flower Travellin' Band were years beyond and of their musical peers.  The way that the guitars fly in blaring tone all across the album never loses its impact, and the rest of the band falls in line behind, creating one of the most imposing walls of sound to ever be captured on tape.  In many ways, Flower Travellin' Band are the ultimate example of how the most impressive music could be lost simply due to the lack in ability to share the sound; showing how important current technology is within the music world.  Yet in the end, from end to end, there are few recordings from any point in history that can even remotely compare to the sheer musical genius of Flower Travellin' Band's 1971 track, "Satori, Part IV."

September 20: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #26: A Sniper, Beatleless Beatles, And A Pair Of Metallica Fans"

In today's video, I dig into myths about a sniper, a Beatleless Beatles album, and a pair of Metallica fans. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 19: Daily Guru, "Gabbing With The Guru: Rebecca Perl"

In today's video, the wonderful Rebecca Perl stops by to chat and play us a song. Share and enjoy.


Due to a rather frustrating error, today's video will be delayed until around 11am EST. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18: Daily Guru, "Music School: Quadraphonic Sound"

In today's video, I attempt to explain the confusing history of quadraphonic sound. Share and enjoy.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #91"

In today's video, I review a classic ambient album along with a new rocker you should check out. Share and enjoy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #21: George Harrison"

In today's video, I give you some music recommendations from one of the most important figures in music history. Share and enjoy.

September 16: Oasis, "Rock N Roll Star"

Artist: Oasis
Song: "Rock N Roll Star"
Album: Definitely Maybe
Year: 1994

Though most concentration is on that of the Northwest United States when one discusses the rock music of the mid-1990’s, the fact stands that there was just as much important development going on all across England.  Much like that of the U.S., the overall music scene had become somewhat bland and uninspiring, with the rise of electronic music dominating every aspect of music culture.  However, England certainly has one of the most storied histories in terms of rock and roll, and a few years into the decade, a bit of a “rock revival” began to occur.  Finding a refreshing way to return the rock sounds to the pop world, few bands were more integral to this process than Oasis, and in just a few short years, they became one of the biggest bands on the planet.  In fact, in the wake of their appearance on the international music scene, countless imitators emerged, yet few were able to play with as much passion and sonic beauty that one finds within the early catalog of Oasis.  Bringing and unparalleled ability to encapsulate everything that was great about British rock and roll over the decades, the band are responsible for some of the biggest hits of the decade, and in the process set a record with a string of twenty-two consecutive “top ten” hits in the U.K.  Yet one must look back to the earliest work of the group to find them at their best and most pure, and few songs from the era have held up as well as Oasis’ fantastic 1994 single, "Rock N Roll Star."

While this track may not have reached the levels of notoriety that other singles from the album did, the fact remains that it manages to perfectly define every aspect of the band, and is one of the most impressive "album openers" of the generation.  The guitar lead-in from Noel Gallagher has a tension and a whine to it that is completely distinctive, and as the rest of the band drops into the song, one is quickly reminded of everything that makes for a great rock song.  Once drummer Tony McCarroll enters the musical fray, the band does not slow for a moment; and it is the power within his playing that becomes one of the keys to the songs' appeal.  When Noel combines his playing with the rhythm guitar of Paul Arthurs, it is almost a wall of sound, and it is this louder, slightly more aggressive approach that further shows the roots of the band.  At the same time, with the help of bassist Paul McGuigan, "Rock N Roll Star" quickly injects a fantastic groove into the mind of the listener, and the fact that they are able to balance this groove with the more forceful rock approach is a testament to their true talents.  Furthermore, Oasis use this song to show that there is a great deal of space between "rock" and "hard rock," as in the end, the musical arrangement on "Rock N Roll Star" is nothing short of pure sonic bliss in its own unique way.

However, it is also the vocals found all across "Rock N Roll Star" that make it such an exceptional musical moment, and this is mostly due to the performance of Liam Gallagher.  Perhaps now best known for his turbulent behavior and generally abusive attitude, the fact is, Liam remains one of the finest singers to emerge from any genre over the past few decades.  While elsewhere on the album he presents a slightly more restrained approach, on "Rock N Roll Star," he holds nothing back, giving a performance fitting on the songs' title.  There is a power and control within his singing that can rarely be heard elsewhere in the era, and strangely enough, legend has it that after hearing the final vocal mixes, he demanded that a majority of the overdubs were "tossed" due to it sounding "too clean."  Adding to the overall impressive nature of "Rock N Roll Star," there is no question that the song contains some of the finest and most direct lyrics in the bands' catalog.  In fact, Noel Gallagher once stated that along with two other songs, "Rock N Roll Star" "...pretty much summed up everything I wanted to say..."  Perhaps due to this reality, there is more of a bite and emotion within the words, and one cannot overlook the fact that the opening lines seem to echo the iconic "Proud Mary."  Regardless of the intent behind the lyrics, Liam gives a phenomenal performance, and to this day it stands as a high-water mark for the band.

Overall, Definitely Maybe is a truly amazing musical achievement, featuring eleven perfectly crafted rock-pop songs, each of which is so strong in its own right, that in many ways, the record feels like a "greatest hits" album.  With beautiful harmonies and a catchy, rock base, there is no question that the album was a welcome reminder of the true power of “simple” rock and roll music.  To this end, leading with "Rock N Roll Star," the album quickly set a very high standard for sound on the album, and after hearing the record in its entirety, it certainly lives up to such a standard.  Yet even with as strong and superb as the song is, the fact remains that other singles performed better, though once one hears "Rock N Roll Star," it is hard to find another track on the album that is "better" in any sense of the word.  From the booming, yet melodically controlled guitars to the groove and stomp of the rhythms section to the perfectly executed vocals, "Rock N Roll Star" defines Oasis perfectly in every possible way, and remains perhaps their finest moment to date.  Though other singles certainly brought the band a number of comparisons to another famous British band, the reality is that within "Rock N Roll Star," Oasis clearly define themselves as a unique group, and there are few songs from the era that are as impressive as Oasis' 1994 song.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15: Daily Guru, "Saturday Smorgasbord: Why I Love: The Ruts"

In today's video, I dig deep into why you should be listening to one of my all time favorite bands. Share and enjoy.

September 15: Elton John, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

Artist: Elton John
Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Year: 1973
Label: MCA

Throughout the entire course of music history, one of the more frustrating situations to watch is when an artist or band ends up being grouped into a category that they do not belong, and the stereotypes that come with the genre in question prevent many from realizing the full range of the artist.  While many of these artists certainly achieve massive commercial success, there can still be large groups of music fans that never give their music a chance, simply due to the improper classifications that are passed down.  Though there are a number of clear occurrences of this, one can easily argue that nothing turns off "mainstream" rock fans quicker than the term "soft rock," and there has perhaps been no more inaccurate a use of this definition than when it is used to describe the diverse sounds found within the catalog of Elton John.  Pushing far beyond the perceived "constraints" of "a man and his piano," John has everything from winding ballads to outright rockers in his catalog, and one would be hard pressed to argue any other individual as a more successful pop star of the 1970's.  Due to his wide range in sound, picking a single song, or even a single album, as his finest is truly impossible, and it largely comes down to personal taste to make such an argument.  However, one can find almost every side of Elton John's musical approach, as well as what may very well be his finest vocal moment within his magnificent 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Looking directly to the title track to this extraordinary double-album, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is without question the highlight of the record, and many of Elton John's own influences come through quite clearly throughout the song.  There is a certain tone within his piano that makes it immediately recognizable, and on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," there is a distinctive, almost somber march within his pace and mood that sets the song far apart from the rest of his catalog.  It is the way that all across the album, his piano seamlessly blends with the almost buried guitar of Davey Johnstone, quickly standing as one of the finest combinations in history, and if one listens closely to the guitar part, it is as psychedelic a tone as one will find anywhere.  The rhythmic duo of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson are far more forward in the mix than usual on this album, and the pair seem to almost each take half of each musical bar for their own, passing the rhythm back and forth.  This helps to reinforce the sway and emotion of the songs, and there is a unique musical balance throughout Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that pushes the songs far above the rest of John's catalog.  It is the way that Elton John is able to incorporate so many instruments and musical styles all across Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that truly makes it impossible to place him into a single category, as one can find representations of everything from rock to jazz to blues on this album.

Yet at the same time, the voice of Elton John sounds stronger than ever all across the album, and one can easily argue that his performances on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are the finest of his career.  In terms of both vocal range and the emotion he conveys throughout the album, John knows no limits here, and it is within the almost blissful, often lyricless bridge sections where one is quickly reminded of the influence of the harmonies of The Beach Boys.  In many ways, these moments could easily have come from one of their albums, as Elton John lets his voice reach its apex, and they remain some of the most stunning moments in all of music history.  Yet at the same time, it is when Elton John lets his singing get funky and free where the entirety of his talents become clear, and one simply cannot overlook the power and brilliance of his performances on songs like "Bennie And The Jets."  As is the case with much of his catalog, most of the words were written by Bernie Taupin, and one can interpret many of the songs on a number of different levels.  Whether it is the lament of "Candle In The Wind," the seeming defiance of the title track, or the glam-style of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," perhaps the lyrics are the only aspect that can match the massive musical range found on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

While there is no arguing that Elton John is absolute "musical royalty," many have likely missed out on his absolutely fantastic recorded catalog due to his close association with the term "soft rock."  Yet if one actually listens to his songs, it is a rare occasion where such a term is fitting, as his music runs the gamut from "glam rock" to blues to soul to more "standard" rock songs.  In fact, a majority of his songs are blends of all of these styles, and it is certainly the case that one finds all across Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Bringing a massive amount of soul and emotion, and often pushing the sound and mood to one of the more aggressive points in his catalog, the combination of music, lyrics, and tone has rarely been as perfectly balanced as one finds on the record.  The way in which the emotion and tension build throughout the songs remains just as potent even after countless listenings, and this in many ways is the true marker of a great song, and much the reason the songs rise above the rest of John's catalog.  Furthermore, Elton John manages to walk the thin line of musical extravagance, managing to keep the songs from coming off as "over done" or cliché, and this is perhaps the most difficult balance in all of music to achieve.  Though his name alone brings to mind countless songs and images, there is perhaps no more superb a musical moment or better a representation of the brilliance that "is" Elton John than what one can experience in his stellar 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14: Daily Guru, "Music News (Sept 9 - 15): Big Bills, Lacking Ringos, And The End Of The World"

In today's music news, I cover a big bill, a lack of Ringo, and the end of the world. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #25: TRUE Punk Pioneers, Gunshots, And A Big Tongue"

In today's video, I dig into myths about punk origins, a shooting, and a VERY large tongue. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 12: Daily Guru, "Get Over Yourself: Cocky Venue Staff"

In today's video, I get a few things off my chest concerning concert venue staff. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11: Daily Guru, "Music School: Dylan Goes Electric"

In today's video, I discuss the history of one of the most important evenings in music history. Share and enjoy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #90"

In today's video, I review a timeless blues-rock classic, and the new album from The Avett Brothers. Share and enjoy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 9: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #20: We Go International!"

In today's video, I bring you a very special INTERNATIONAL edition of The Playlist. Share and enjoy.

September 9: Jimmy Ruffin, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted"

Artist: Jimmy Ruffin
Song: "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted"
Album: What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (single)
Year: 1966

Though they are few and far between, there are certain songs across the course of music history that have become so deeply engrained in culture across the globe that the song itself manages to completely ellipse the performer, as well as the time period from which it emerged.  That is to say, in the case of these few extraordinary recordings, even as the decades pass by, they remain just as fresh, relevant, and in the end powerful as they were when first released.  While one can find such recordings throughout the generations, there is no question that the great Motown Records seemed to produce far more of these iconic tunes than one might have expected; and many of them came from slightly lesser-known artists on that label.  This was perhaps due to the rather close-knit nature of the label's performers, as the chemistry between the singers and the legendary Funk Brothers was far beyond that of any other combination in history.  But at the same time, these "family" ties run even deeper, and it was perhaps never more apparent than in the case of the Ruffin brothers.  While David Ruffin made his name as part of The Temptations, as well as with a successful solo career; it was his brother Jimmy that was responsible for one of the most iconic songs ever recorded: 1966's "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted."

From the very moment that "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" begins, it is clear that this will not be a "standard" Motown ballad, as the pace and overall feel are a far beyond almost anything the label had previous released in terms of emotion.  It is the way that the song seems to sway in a completely unique, sorrowful manner that instantly captivates the listener, and yet there is a strange, upbeat feeling that one cannot deny.  This juxtaposition in moods has rarely been so perfectly achieved, as in almost every other case, a song so mournful is completely absent of such a swing.  It is the way that the string section swells in the background that gives "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" a sense of the dramatic, and one is quickly filled with vivid images of a dark city street in a rainstorm.  The sense of loneliness found here has never been equaled, as the bassline and horns work in a manner unlike anything else in music history.  Truth be told, the connection between the mood of the words and the music over which they are placed has rarely been as perfectly connected as on "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted," and it is much the reason that it remains one of the most memorable tracks that The Funk Brothers ever created.  Proving here that they were capable of bringing a danceable swing and sting to any style, it is this song that forever silenced anyone questioning their endless talents as musicians.

However, while one cannot deny the phenomenal display put on by the musicians, it is the way that Jimmy Ruffin so perfectly captures and emotes these words that have vaulted "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" to such a special place in music history.  It all begins with the fact that he clearly understood his vocal range quite well, and can push his voice all around the spectrum without sacrificing any power or overall quality.  Along with this, he clearly understands the unique intensity within the words penned by the team of William Witherspoon, James Dean, and Paul Riser, and it is his ability to make these words his own that add further intrigue to the track.  Unlike similar ballads of lost love, one cannot deny the "silver lining" feeling that runs throughout "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted," and it is this element that keeps drawing people to the song even after all these years.  Yet strangely enough, the final release of the song was actually edited from its original form.  In the original, Ruffin provided a spoken introduction to the track, much in the way that Lou Rawls did his recordings; and with it removed, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" was left with the strangely long instrumental opening.  Yet the fact remains that even with this rather odd change, the track hits just as hard as ever, and few singers have been able to capture emotion quite like Jimmy Ruffin.

Almost instantly upon its release, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted"shot to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, breaking the top ten in the US and the UK.  This would stand as the most successful song of Ruffin's career, and to this day it remains one of the most iconic songs not only in the history of Motown Records, but in the entire history of recorded music.  Over the more that four decades since its release, artists ranging from The Supremes to The Gaslight Anthem to Joe Cocker to a wide range of other performers have put their own spin on the song, and yet none have been able to achieve the sheer musical perfection found on the original.  Oddly enough, only a few months after the Ruffin version was released, the duo known as Robson and Jerome covered it, topping the UK charts with their take on the track.  It is the way that the sounds swell so beautifully and emotionally behind the almost somber, "walking" bassline that make the track so powerful, and the way that Jimmy Ruffin holds absolutely nothing back sets him far beyond a majority of the other performers in the history of Motown Records.  While he would have a handful of other successful singles and albums in his career, there is no question that Jimmy Ruffin forever left his mark on the culture of music with his magnificent 1966 single, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 8: Daily Guru, "Saturday Smorgasbord: Musical Thievery"

In today's video, I shed some light on a few instances of outright musical thievery. Share and enjoy.

September 8: Grateful Dead, "American Beauty"

Artist: Grateful Dead
Album: American Beauty
Year: 1970
Label: Warner Bros.

Throughout the course of music history, there is a small group of bands that are held in such a unique reverence within the overall music culture, that to some extent, it is impossible to mark a "best" point within their career.  Sometimes due to the overall quality of their recorded catalog, and at other times due to the sheer impact they had on culture as a whole, these groups and their music remain rather guarded in a sense by their fans which seem to renew their numbers with each generation.  Furthermore, in at least one case, the studio recordings of such a band are often seen as "secondary" to their live performances, and it is this reality that separates The Grateful Dead apart from every other musical act in history.  For more than four decades, the band set the standard for what would become labeled as "jam band" music, and yet within their songs one can find everything from bluegrass and country to hard rock and reggae.  Their musical diversity knew no bounds, and yet during the early years of the 1970's, the band seemed far more focused on a singular sound than at any other point in their career.  Working deep within the world of folk and country, along with their distinctive psychedelic blend, the band released a pair of flawless albums in 1970, with the latter of the two, American Beauty, rising slightly above the other and in many ways serving as the ideal entry point into the massive musical world of The Grateful Dead.

From the moment that the album begins, any preconceived notions that one might have about The Grateful Dead are instantly destroyed, as "Box Of Rain" provides an intriguing and engaging, yet comparatively simplistic musical arrangement.  Far from the lengthy jams that many associate with the group, it follows a far more traditional musical structure, and this is true of a majority of the songs found on American Beauty.  In fact, the opening track has some of the most perfectly layered guitars in history, courtesy of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and a guest performance from David Nelson.  Yet the true mastery of the band becomes obvious in the fact that each of the musicians on the album follow their own paths in an almost jazz-like approach, and at the same time they move as a single unit.  The basslines from Phil Lesh are some of the finest of his career, as he injects a mellow, often swaying groove into a number of these songs.  It is also the country "twang" found throughout the record that give it a warmer and inviting tone, and it is the way that Mickey Hart works the percussion into the tracks that shows they understanding of how to perfectly capture a mood, yet never sacrifice pace or musicality.  Along with this, one can find everything from piano to pedal steel to mandolin to a wide range of instrumentation that allows American Beauty to remain musically fresh from track to track.

Along with the superb orchestrations, The Grateful Dead also benefit from the fact that they have multiple members capable of handling lead vocal duties.  Though both Lesh and Weir take their turn singing lead on American Beauty, a majority of these portions are handled by the iconic voice of Jerry Garcia.  Much like the music over which he sings, Garcia is able to bring strength and power within his softer, almost delicate vocal approach.  Even when he pushes into a falsetto style, there is never any question that it perfectly matches the mood of the song, and the slight Southern drawl that appears at times only adds to the overall impact of these tracks.  Yet one can also make the case that regardless of who might be signing, it is the words of the songs that carry the most weight, and remain iconic to this day.  This is largely due to the phenomenal talents of Robert Hunter, who takes a co-writing credit on all but one track on American Beauty, and many of the phrases he worked here have become part of culture onto itself.  Behind unforgettable classics like "Friend Of The Devil" and "Sugar Magnolia," sits one of the most heartbreaking songs ever composed, in the form of "Ripple."  With words that seem to echo Biblical passages and and overall tone of loss and longing, it captures a mood of sorrow unlike any other song in history, and is unquestionably one of the most important songs ever recorded.

Strangely enough, it would be the song released as a single that was paired with "Ripple" that may very well be the most memorable song in the entire catalog of The Grateful Dead.  Bringing a unique shuffle and groove like nothing else on the album, "Truckin'" has risen to a status that is unequaled, and is in many ways a piece of Americana.  Filled with tales from their years on the road and working as a traveling band, all four of the bands' primary songwriters worked on the song, and there are few lines from any point in music history that have become as outright iconic as "...what a long, strange trip it's been."  The phrase in itself is a part of world culture, and the fact is that American Beauty is where it finds its origin.  Furthermore, Lesh has stated a number of times that the final verse of "Truckin'" in many ways defines the band, and taking all of this together, one can easily understand why the song remains an integral piece of popular culture.  At the same time, it is the entire album which stands so superb, as each of the single songs work together to form an overall musical experience that is far greater than the sum of its parts.  While The Grateful Dead have certainly had their image skewed over the decades, the fact remains that after more than forty years, few albums have equaled the power and presence of their 1970 release, American Beauty.

Friday, September 7, 2012

September 7: Daily Guru, "Music News (Sept 2 - 8) : Liam & God, A VERY Dedicated Fan, A Famous Dryer & More"

In today's video, I bring you news about a famous clothes dryer, LIam & God, someone's mom and more. Share and enjoy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 6: Daily Guru, "Music Myths #24: Headbands, Pizza Delivery, And Subway Buskers"

In today's video, I dig into myths surrounding a pizza delivery, a headband, and an unusual subway busker. Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September 5: Daily Guru, "Ask The Guru #11: Jerks, Morons, And Tools"

In today's "Ask The Guru" video, I address the jerks, morons, and tools. Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4: Daily Guru, "Music School: What Is Ska?"

In today's video, I set the record straight on what is and is NOT ska music, as well as it's true origins. Share and enjoy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3: Daily Guru, "Something Old, Something New #89"

In today's video I check out an essential piece of soul, and a new release that you need to snag. Share and enjoy.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2: Daily Guru, "The Playlist #19: Digital Taxes & Bondage? Deja Vu."

In today's video, I suggest songs from across the musical spectrum that you MUST check out this week. Share and enjoy.

September 2: Flying Burrito Brothers, "Hot Burrito #1"

Artist: The Flying Burrito Brothers
Song: "Hot Burrito #1"
Album: The Gilded Palace Of Sin
Year: 1969

While the music scene of the late 1960's is without question known for the birth of psychedelic music and the "jam band" scene, the fact of the matter is, there were equally as influential innovations going on elsewhere in the music scene at the time. The entire mindset of the time was that nothing was "off limits" within music, and artists were mixing together genres in ways never previously thought possible. However, largely due to the perseverance of the folk scene, there were also many artists who were looking back to the "early" days of rock music, and keeping a much more "roots" sound to their music. It was during this time that the "country-rock" genre was cemented into place, and there was perhaps no group more responsible for this happening then one of music's greatest named bands ever: The Flying Burrito Brothers. Though he had many different musical projects over the years, there is little question that this band represents the finest and most influential of all of the bands that were led by Gram Parsons. What began as a "jam band" containing Parson's and a few friends remains today one of the most influential bands in both rock and country, and their innovations can be heard across both genres. Though the group's initial incarnation did not last long, they were responsible for one of the finest and most pivotal albums ever recorded, 1969's The Gilded Palace Of Sin, and "Hot Burrito #1" is without question one of the most impressive songs on the album.

This ability to work any other style or sound into their own musical approach is what makes The Flying Burrito Brothers so amazing, and it is without question due to the top-notch musicians within the band that such achievements are possible. Having previously played alongside Parsons as part of the short-lived International Submarine Band, bass guitarist Chris Ethridge co-founded The Flying Burrito Brothers, and played bass guitar and piano for the bands' debut record, as well as co-writing a pair of the albums' songs. Ethridge has rarely sounded better then he does on this album, and his writing credits for both "Hot Burrito Parts 1 & 2" remain today his finest writing achievements. Giving this track much of its signature sound, former Byrds guitarist, "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow is widely regarded as "the Hendrix" of pedal-steel guitar. Kleinow stands as a massive influence on nearly every pedal-steel player who followed, and his tone and playing on this record remain his crowning achievement on the instrument. Though he was previously a bass player, when Hillman joined up with The Flying Burrito Brothers, he switched to guitar, and along with a bit of mandolin playing, he proves to be one of the most talented musicians of his generation. Finding the ideal balance between country, rock, and soulful sounds, one can hear the influence of The Flying Burrito Brothers in countless later bands ranging from Cake to The Allman Brothers Band to Wilco to Pure Prairie League and nearly every other band that plays with even the most remote sound of country-rock.

Even with each of these musicians playing brilliantly on this song, there is little question that The Flying Burrito Brothers are largely the work and vision of Gram Parsons. Without question one of the most visionary and talented musicians in history (and he has NO relation to Alan Parsons), everything from his voice to his overall musical approach prove to be nothing short of perfect on "Hot Burrito #1." Parsons proves to have one of the most gentle, yet unquestionably emotive voices in history, and this is where the full feel of the "country style" becomes realized, as the sorrow and soul within his voice is nothing short of perfect. The interplay between the country and rock styles is perhaps no more apparent then on this track, and his love for classic country performers like George Jones has rarely been more obvious.  This ability to extrude emotion from the listener comes to a head on the heart-wrenching duo of songs under the title of "Hot Burrito," and yet the first part is perhaps the finer. Bringing a more modern sense of anger and jealousy to the age-old country sadness, these two songs stand as some of the groups greatest work, as well as some of the most stunning songs in the overall history of music. Taking the fantastic lyrics and amazingly moody music, the voice and lyrics of Gram Parsons serves as the ideal finish to the unparalleled sound of The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Though they certainly make a case for the most amusing band name in music history, this name stands in great juxtaposition to the rather serious, somber, and often melancholy sounds found on The Flying Burrito Brothers' debut record, The Gilded Palace Of Sin. Such stark contrasts run throughout every aspect of the album, from the lyrical content to the unprecedented mixture of the country and rock sounds. From the classic, almost honky-tonk sounds of "Do You Know How It Feels" to the more modern, Spanish-influenced "My Uncle," the group explores a massive range of musical approaches, yet binds them all together with a country feel that makes the album one of the most stunning musical masterpieces in history. Led by the brilliant singing and vocal abilities of Gram Parsons, it is clear that this is the sound he was working towards with all of his previous bands. Finding a true musical kinship with Chris Hillman, the duo wrote some of the most heartfelt, yet innovative sounds in history, and their efforts have stood the test of time, still influencing countless bands to this day. Along with the sensational playing of Chris Ethridge and Pete Kleinow, The Flying Burrito Brothers stand as one of the earliest "super-groups," and the overall level of talent within the group remains largely unrivaled. Presenting what is without question the perfect combination of country and rock styles, The Flying Burrito Brothers remain one of the most important bands in music history, and their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace Of Sin is without question a true musical masterpiece, and there may be no more definitive a track from the group than "Hot Burrito #1."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 2: Sepultura, "Chaos AD"

Artist: Sepultura
Album: Chaos A.D.
Year: 1993

Though it was rather overshadowed for a number of different reasons, the heavy metal genre had some of its most important moments during the 1990's.  While a number of the most highly regarded metal bands from the previous decade were making a clear effort to streamline their sound to have wider commercial appeal, it was within the emerging groups that the most powerful and stunning music of the decade was being created.  The way that bands were fusing together the sounds of hardcore, hip-hop and a number of other styles within the heavy metal genre yielded brilliant new approaches, and there may have been no finer a heavy metal group during the decade than Brazil's own, Sepultura.  Though in today's music scene, the band stand as one of the most highly revered acts on the planet, it was during the first half of the 1990's that the group made their name, and this was thanks to a number of absolutely amazing studio recordings, where one can experience and urgency and sonic assault that is unlike any other band in history.  From the wild poly-rhythms to the almost feral vocal assault, Sepultura knows few, if any peers, and they reached their creative apex on 1993's Chaos A.D.  The album finds the band finally matching their energy and passion with some of their most focused and muscular musical efforts, and few records can match the impact of Sepultura's 1993 masterpiece.

From the moment that Chaos A.D. begins, there is no question that the record  is far beyond most other heavy metal albums from any point in history, as the high-octane grind and grit that the band delivers can still send any crowd into a frenzy.  This is largely due to the monstrous lead guitar progressions from Andreas Kisser, and they stands as some  of the greatest riffs in the entire history of heavy metal.  The punch that he brings to his playing is as good as metal gets, and yet there is a sense of urgency within his sound that borders on a thrash sound, and served as a warning call that the metal style was far from dead.  The way that Kisser's guitars smash up against the rhythmic assault from drummer Igor Calavera is nothing short of stunning, and it is Calavera's playing where much of the power of Sepultura resides.  In both the cadence and strength with which he plays, Calavera pushes Chaos A.D. forward with an attitude that is nothing short of perfect.  This is highlighted by the bass of Paulo Jr., as he winds around the rest of the music, pushing the overall level of energy to an almost overwhelming height.  The combined sound of the band remains one of the most imposing in all of music history, and one can hear the hardcore and punk influences in the fact that there is not a moment wasted anywhere on Chaos A.D. and this lack of any extraneous notes is what pushes the album to an unmatched level of impact.

Perfectly matching the band in terms of both intensity and ability, there are few vocalists in the history of heavy metal or hardcore that can hold their own when compared to Sepultura's Max Calavera.  On every song he sings, there is a fire and power within his voice, and his performance on Chaos A.D. may very well be the finest of his career.  While some may attempt to group Calavera along with the other "shouters" of the heavy metal genre, there is an ever-present commitment to ensuring the lyrics are clear that sets him far aside from his peers.  This balance between power and clarity is rarely found anywhere in the heavy metal genre, and this fact, combined with the unique rhythms Calavera often finds, places Sepultura into a category all their own.  It is also the proximity to the words he sings, as well as a sense of authenticity in these lyrics that garnered the band such a loyal following.  In particular, "Refuse/Resist" is a call to arms far beyond almost any other similar song, and it is the fact that Calavera was able to make the lyrics so universal that enabled it to become a worldwide anthem on many levels.  From police brutality to all out riots by the downtrodden, "Refuse/Resist" paints a grim, but powerful picture, and the way that Max Calavera delivers this warning call proves the unparalleled power in both his vocals, as well as his talents as a lyricist.

As the years have passed since Chaos A.D. was first unleashed onto the world, it has become one of Sepultura's best known albums, as well as a definitive records in the entire history of the heavy metal genre.  In tribute to the overall greatness and impact of the album, many of it's songs have been covered a number of times, and classical-metal group Apocalyptica chose "Refuse/Resist" it as one of the tracks on their Inquisition Symphony album.  Yet there is no question that the original take on the track remains the finest, and even as the lineup of Sepultura has changed over the years, "Refuse/Resist" has continued to be a part of the bands' live sets.  However, one of the most unique aspects of the song is the pulse that serves as the lead-in before the pummeling from band begins.  Though many assume it to be "just some studio effect," it is in fact the heartbeat of Max Calavera's then-unborn son, and it gives "Refuse/Resist" an even more unique overall tone.  However, it is the way that Sepultura moves as one massive unit that makes their songs so stunning, as once they begin, the band simply steamrolls anything in its path, and few groups from any era have equaled their power.  Showing no concern for commercial appeal, Sepultura remain the high-water-mark for "real" heavy metal, and it is the punk and hardcore edge to their music that would create a new blueprint for bands that is followed to this day.  Though the band is responsible for a number of stellar recordings, few albums can compare to the impact and strength that one can experience on Sepultura's stunning 1993 recording, Chaos A.D.

September 1: Daily Guru, "Saturday Smorgasbord: Three Wise Men, Part II"

Today's video features Roxette, Gathering of the Juggalos, The Biebs on vinyl, and general tomfoolery with @BBiB & @EthanFixell. Share and enjoy.