Music Review

Steve's Favorite Rock/Pop/Folk/R&B/Electronic Albums of 2016

This is where I'm supposed to summarize the past year, find some overaching theme or thread running through my choices, spot trends, or something along those lines. Instead it's just another mea culpa for my continuing and accelerating estrangement from mainstream pop music. Don't mind me, I'm just a grumpy old fart. But these twenty new albums made me less grumpy. Read more »

R.I.P. GREG TROOPER

I'm certain many of you don't know that the New Jersey-born, Brooklyn-based Greg Trooper passed away yesterday after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, two days after his 61st birthday. Greg was one of those effortless singer-songwriters who other singer-songwriters cherished. And other well-known singer-songwriters actually covered his material, including Steve Earle ("Little Sister"), Billy Bragg ("Everywhere"), Vince Gill ("We Won't Dance"), etc. Never a huge star or mainstream name, his music resonated with us because he was so damn good at his craft, and he wrote amazing tunes. I once told a fellow musician that if I ever wrote and recorded a song as good as "Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas)," I would have reached the pinnacle of my craft. His voice was soothing, his delivery even, his lyrics vivid and inviting; he had it all. And, he would better himself time and time again; 13 albums of memorable music. Just a few years ago, he wrote another song I would have given my eyeteeth for -- "They Call Me Hank". RIP, Mr. Trooper. I believe your songs will resonate long after the embers of all of us have faded into the ether.

We won't dance no more
We won't shine out on the floor
We won't sway the band won't play
We won't dance...

GLAM

Consumer culture sucks the content out of every subculture it touches. All except Glam, which returns every ten years or so altered by time but with its central message of theatricalized otherness unchanged. Glam pop and fashion were in all the magazines both for teenyboppers and young mums. It was commercial, not very musically challenging, and seemed to have arrived already fully absorbed. But British glam (glam of the '70s as opposed to American glam of the '80s, otherwise known as "hair metal") was highly critical of the counterculture. Read more »

Vinyl of the Week: Frank Zappa - Hot Rats!

With vinyl being a hot music commodity and back in vogue, it would seem inevitable that one of the music giants of the vinyl era would get remastered and re-released. Frank Zappa remains one of the those musical geniuses where his impact was missed by a deservedly larger fanbase while he roamed planet Earth. With a must-see documentary -- Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (Sony Pictures Classic) -- currently in theaters and on demand, hopefully some of his genius will be discovered by a new generation of fans. Certainly the above-titled masterpiece Hot Rats, reissued by Zappa Records in August on 180gram vinyl cut directly from the original analog master tapes by Bernie Grundman, remains one of his cornerstone releases in his immense and musically varied catalog.  Read more »

Video of the Month: Peaches - "How You Like My Cut"

Peaches is audacious but cool, her music is sexy but dangerous. She likes to push hard against the boundaries of conventional dance music. Her latest track -- "Hou You Like My Cut" from her album RUB -- finds her back on a fierce groove with provocative lyrics, slammin' beats, and some savage dancing from dancer/choreographer Miss Eisa Jocson. The dance is based on the exotic dances performed by men in the Philippines known as "Macho Dancer." And the video was directed by Peaches. Lady Power time!

American Gothic!

GOTH

America has a taste for cultural collapse and rebirth, whether in the religious right's mythos of the Rapture or in the left's fascination with nuclear extermination or the cataclysmic results of the effects of global warming as in say, Cormack McCarthy's The Road. This is the mulch that Goth grows best in. American Gothic, the subculture of the doomed. Read more »

Musings on New Romantic on the New Frontier

Of all the youth subcultures New Romantic is the most arbitrary. It began in the London night club Blitz in 1979. It was a predominantly gay club that played a mixture of electronic pop and disco. The attitude of the patrons was that unlike punk it was important that you did 'something'. Such as write poems, write songs or (because of the proximity of the pre-eminent Fashion College; St Martin's) design clothes. At some point in the year the theatrical costumier (who supplied all the theatres in London) Charles Fox had the crashdown sale of it's long history. Consequently that week Blitz patrons came dressed in a mix of retro styles that spanned a thousand years. Chain mail, doublet and hose, ruffs and uniforms loyal to every flag. In one night New Romantic was born. Read more »

Sharon Jones R.I.P. (May 4, 1956 - November 18, 2016)

As widely noted, 2016 has been a year of painful loss in music. This month has been particularly bad: Canadian bard Leonard Cohen, jazz hipster Mose Allison, "Drift Away" songwriter Mentor Williams, Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Jules Eskin, music publishing icon/musical polymath Milt Okun, Country singer-songwriter Holly Dunn, music historian/Norton Records co-founder Billy Miller, the uncategorizable Leon Russell, hot-shot bassist Victor Bailey, guitarist Al Caiola, classical pianist and conductor Zoltan Kocsis, Black Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsch, French electronica producer Jean-Jacques Perrey, Sri Lankan violinist W. D. Amaradeva, classic pop singer Kay Starr, jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, beloved Los Angeles music journalist/proto-punk musician Don Waller, and Irish singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy. Bad news practically every day. Read more »

Song of the Week: Stephen Stills - "Look Each Other In The Eye"

Stephen Stills has always been a masterful songwriter. From his tremendous early days in the Buffalo Springfield and CSN/CSNY and Manasas to his extraordinary solo output, he's canon of rock and folk-rock work is quite impressive. So it should come as no surpirse that his latest tune -- "Look Each Other In The Eye” -- should be excellent. And excellent it is! This timely pre-election song by Mr. Stills boasts a rhythmic Latin salsa lilt with simple but biting lyrics as infectious as anything he's ever released. "Look at what you started now..."

Big Box Set of Lou Reed's 1972-86 Albums a Must-Own

Lou Reed: The RCA & Arista Album Collection (Sony Legacy)

In a nutshell: If you are a Lou Reed fan, you should get this seventeen-CD box set regardless of how much of its contents you already own. Everything has been remastered; I compared the sound on six albums I have earlier CDs of (I did not compare the new CDs to my old vinyl, as that's apples and oranges), and on five the sound is greatly improved, more focused and with greater clarity; The Bells in particular has its murky sound fixed but retains its darkness. The exception is Take No Prisoners; it may be, given the circumstances under which this concert was recorded, that there wasn't much to work with there, but the sound is just as good as before. Throw in a very nice book -- not booklet; this thing's hardbound and roughly 11"x12" -- with co-producer Hal Willner's reminiscences, a wealth of historic Reed interview excerpts, and lots of photos and press clippings -- and it's even more attractive. Read more »

Song of the Week: Dusty Wright - "Fly"

The uplifting folk-pop song "Fly" was based on the emotional hardships of a religiously repressed woman from New York City who took her own life last summer. Her tormentors would not afford her the comfort of acceptance and she couldn't fly free of the repression. Tragically, she could only find one way out. We all know depression hurts, let's reach out to those in need of support. Please feel free to share it with your loved ones. Artwork by French artist Frederic Leduc. Thanks to Martin John Butler for playing bass, co-engineering and mixing the track. The amazing Sammy Merendino played the drums and singer/songwriter Queen Esther provided the hook vocal. Next up... Miss Stephanie Riggs will direct the 360 VR music video.

You can contribute to our 360 VR (virtual reality) video project for suicide prevention and fighting depression. All proceeds will be used to produce the video and leftover funds will be donated to a suicide prevention organization. It's a tax deductible donation set up through our friends at First Mondays and The Florence Belsky Charitable Foundation.

peace, Dusty

On the Other Side of Trump's Wall

Playing the Traveling Groupie with Woodhead & Echo Moth

If I were a Christian, then I would say I was blessed, but I'm not, so I'm going to say I'm lucky instead. I'm lucky to have some amazing friends in my life who also happen to be phenomenal musicians, so when three of those friends flew out from NYC to play a short tour ranging from Tijuana to San Francisco, I was thrilled to fly down from Seattle for both the reunion and the music. Read more »

RIP, Caroline Crawley

I knew Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle who were Shelleyan Orphan through my brother Jeremy. They were making a video for their single "Cavalry of Clouds." I painted for pop videos and fashion shoots. They'd found this little unsigned drawing by the lesser known Pre-Raphaelites Simeon Solomon in a flea market and wanted me to paint something like that on an easel in the video. Read more »

Vinyl of the Week: Syd Arthur - On An On (Harvest)

Syd Arthur - On an On (Harvest)

If one makes the pronouncement that their band "hails from Canterbury, England," one might assume that progressive rock might ensue. And while their Wikipedia page lists them as a "psychedelic jazz band, formed in Canterbury in 2003 by brothers frontman Liam and bassist Joel Magill, drummer Fred Rother and violinist Raven Bush," they sound more like a prog-pop band to my ears, albeit one of the best I've heard in ages. I happened to finally catch them in concert last week opening for the most-excellent UK-based singer-songwriter Jake Bugg at Terminal 5 in NYC. Strange pairing, but having missed them last year at the Mercury Lounge, I simply had to go. I admit that their name alone -- Syd Arthur, named after The Madcap Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett and Love leader Arthur Lee, who may or may not be construed as a prog rocker -- was intruiging enough for me to spend some time with their music. There is no doubt that they drink from the same fresh waters of their homeland, from the fertile springs that nourished early prog pioneers Caravan and Gente Giant with a touch of the "jazz" textures of Hatfield & The North and National Health. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Dmitri Shostakovich Born 110 Years Ago

shostakovichMany consider Dmitri Shostakovich the greatest composer of the 20th century. Born September 25, 1906, he might not have lived past his teens if he hadn't been talented. During the famines of the Revolutionary period in Russia, Alexander Glazunov, director of the Petrograd (later Leningrad) Conservatory, arranged for the poor and malnourished Shostakovich's food ration to be increased. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, his graduation exercise for Maximilian Steinberg's composition course at the Conservatory, was completed in 1925 at age 19 and was an immediate success worldwide. He was The Party's poster boy; his Second and Third Symphonies unabashedly subtitled, respectively, "To October" (celebrating the Revolution) and "The First of May" (International Workers' Day).

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