Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Reissues of 2010

It's always interesting to take another look at our favorite albums. It's like revisiting with an old friend. But maybe that friend has had some work done? Well here are the six friends who won't have to get their face lifts fixed by another surgeon next year:

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Damn The Torpedoes
The production team that brought us TP’s Live Anthology put together a nice bag of goodies to go along with the remastered edition of this classic rock album. Demos, live tracks, b sides, and a few tunes that didn’t make the final cut are represented on the bonus disc. Never one to disappoint his fans, Tom made sure that the buyer had plenty of options, even going as far as releasing a blu-ray version. Full speed ahead, Mr. Petty.

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew 40th
When it comes to fusion jazz, Miles pretty much wrote the book with this one. This classic celebrated it’s 40th birthday in 2010, and the reissue friendly folks at Sony weren’t going to let that slip by quietly. For the casual listener who isn’t quite willing to go for broke and get Sony’s wonderful 1998 box set, The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions but want a little something more than the 1999 remastered CD has to offer, this is for you. Featuring 3 discs of original mixes, bonus tracks, single edits, concert recordings, commentary and much much more. You can’t go wrong with this bitch.

R.E.M. - Fables of The Reconstruction
Already moving away from their ‘Indie hero’ status, the band followed up Murmer and Reckoning with what might as well be a concept album. What’s most appealing about this reissue is the second disc which is chock full of original demos. It’s very amusing to take note of the changes the songs went through on the journey from Athens, Georgia to London, England. Plus we finally get to hear that “When I Was Young” song that appeared on the track lineup in the liner notes when originally released (but frustratingly, not the original album). It’s title on the reissue is “Throw Those Trolls Away”.

Come And Get It - The Best of Apple Records
Not a reissue per say, but a very nice compilation of the fabs’ ground breaking record label’s output from inception to demise. Featuring folk, rock, Buddhist chants, Cajun jive, gospel, and even the brilliant absurdest novelty “King of Fuh” (Fuh King... get it??), this collection like the label itself has something for everybody all in one place.

John Lennon - The Remasters
For the past decade, most of John Lennon’s available catalog was digital remixes created under Yoko Ono’s supervision to appeal to the younger CD buying public who were discovering John’s music for the first time. Lennon devotees and purists cried foul. Yoko answered their cries in 2010 with the remastering of John Lennon’s entire original catalog. The team who remastered The Beatles’ albums for 2009 were brought back to do the same with Lennon’s original mixes. In addition, Double Fantasy, the last album Lennon would see released in his all too short lifetime, was treated to a special “Stripped Down” remix. This allowed listeners to hear this amazing album in a completely new way. The AOR production was whittled away to reveal the bare foundation, often with overwhelmingly emotional results.

Paul McCartney - Band on The Run
[MPL/Hear Music]
What can I say?! The Abbey Road remastering team has really done us fans proud. Finally a great sounding CD version of Band On The Run (that we can afford, that is). Not only that, but the package itself is superb. In addition to the original album, you get bonus tracks, behind the scenes footage, unseen photographs, original promo films (or music videos as they’re called today), and Paul’s One Hand Clapping TV special (also faithfully restored). In case you missed it, McCartney went all out promoting this reissue by briefly having Sirius-XM devote an entire channel to his music, playing exclusive concerts, and making a personal appearance on Saturday Night Live. Macca Mania!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas on the flipside...

When one thinks of Christmas, “California girls under mistletoe” and “Beach Boys tunes on the radio” don’t usually come to mind. That is, unless you are really an awesome person. In this case, the awesome person of choice is SideB Music label co-founder Brian Battles in his contribution to the independent label’s holiday stocking stuffer for 2010, Rockin’ The Mistletoe. In these auto-tune drenched days of Now Thats What I Call XMAS Vol. 183, it’s a relief to have a compilation of tracks that are anything but cookie cutter made. That’s where SideB comes in. Together with Jerry Boyd, Battles started the label up in 2006. Five years on, the label is going on stronger than ever on the strengths of the varied and unique acts the pair have added to their roster, some of whom were called upon to create tracks for this one of a kind holiday treat.

Scott Bennett kicks off the Christmas party with “Getting Ready For Christmas”; a breezy original that seems to be inspired more by Vince Guaraldi than Brian Wilson. Why should Brian Wilson be an influence? Well, I am not saying he should but it is rather expected when you are a founding member of Brian Wilson’s road and studio band. It’s not hard to close your eyes while listening to this track and find yourself skating on a frozen river (as a certain Joni Mitchell song also recalls).

Other Brian Wilson camp members of yesterday and today also make appearances. Band member Taylor Mills contributes the powerful “New Years Eve” (sure to send a shiver down your spine no matter what your thermostat is set to). The Stockholm Strings & Horns whom appeared on Wilson’s tour de force Smile album and tour deliver a “Christmas Song For My Darling” which became an instant favorite upon first listen. Stephen J. Kalinich, perhaps best known by Beach Boys fans as the lyrical collaborator during the group’s highly creative period in the 1970s, recites “One (My Christmas Wish)” with breathtaking results. Beach Boys archivist and documentary extraordinaire Alan Boyd sings us the tale of the “Christmas Bunny”, a playful track that is sure to bring out the kid in all of us.

There’s plenty more to feast upon. Laurie Biagini never fails to impress with her impulsive songwriting and knack for arrangements. “Christmas In The Air” is sure to make even the most sun filled Summer day seem like the Winter solstice. Nicholas Alan’s “Cigarettes In Snowmen” first appeared on the artist’s Busker EP in 2007. However, that does not negate it’s inclusion alongside the other tracks on the collection. In fact, it seems to take on more meaning in this new context.

Of all the tracks, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” is the one familiar holiday ‘standard’. As sung by Eric Matthews (the same Eric Matthews whom contributed the absolutely bitching cover of “Lonely Sea” to the Caroline Now! Brian Wilson tribute CD), it becomes a little less familiar and a hell of a lot more cool.

Had the phrase Cool Yule not already been taken (and quite honestly, over used) it would have fit nicely as the title of this endeavor. While each track takes its own path to its own destination, they all somehow end up in the same place (and just in time to cut the Christmas turkey).

To listen to or purchase Rockin' The Mistletoe, click here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eye Makeup - An Introduction to this blog...

Starting a blog is a commitment. Perhaps not a life-long commitment, but a commitment nevertheless. Between you and me, the idea for this blog has been seeded into my mind for quite some time. Only now have I had the time to actually sit down and bring it to fruition. In this post, I will do my best to answer some basic questions you, the reader, might have about me, the writer.

Q: Who?
A: The name's Jared. I am a young(ish) singer/songwriter. You can check out my music here.
Currently residing near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA. I am a lifelong music fan. Totally into the music of the past. Very uncertain about the music of the future. Trying to make the most of the present.

Q: Why?
A: Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not very opinionated except when it comes to music. I aim to use this blog for all musings musical that don't pertain to my own music.

Q: What's the name mean?
A: The name is of course inspired by The Who's tune "The Kids Are Alright". I chose this name mostly because I worry about the stuff that kids are listening to these days. Like any good elder, I worry for them. I worry that they aren't getting the musical nourishment I got. This blog shall be my gift to them. If the older kids like it too, well that's a bonus!

Q: Am I actually asking these questions?
A: Well reader, I hope you aren't disappointed but I actually came up with these questions. Hopefully they mirror any question you might have.

So there you have it. My blog 101.

Are you ready to rock? (cheese ball line, I know.)
Well let's boogie. (yikes!)

My main concern with modern top 40 music:

Very simply, video killed the radio star. These days, there's no such thing as a radio star. Most kids are discovering music on YouTube. Thus, the visual has become more important than the aural.

Best hair since A Flock of Seagulls
Case in point, English electro-poppers La Roux. They had a major breakout hit this year with their track "Bulletproof". While the song is a bit of lean meat in terms of composition, I have to admit that it's catchy and has a unique sound. Indeed, the duo and their production techniques are reminiscent of 80s powerhouse Eurythmics (kiddos, that's the group where that Annie Lennox woman you saw on Dancing With The Stars that one night got her start).

However, after having a look at the video for "Bulletproof" on youtube, I was blown away (and quite appalled) by the viewer comments. Not one comment about the music. Countless comments about lead singer Eleanor Jackson's hair and eye makeup.

I heaved a great sigh and hung my head. So this is how popular music is now judged. No wonder Taylor Swift is going places.

Sadly, this is nothing new. When MTV first fired up their video machines, a lot of performers knew their time on the charts was over because they were cursed with "faces for radio".

So why am I complaining?
Well as a musician myself, I cannot help but be concerned. There's a lot of us struggling to get heard while these good looking youngsters are making millions on their mundane melodies full of gimmicks and references to text messaging.

"What's this thing in my hand again?"
Needless to say I have a bit of a thorn in my side. So this is where I shall perform all my thorn extracting. You have been warned.
(Taylor Swift, this means you!)