Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Andrew Hill R.I.P.

I have only started buying his music in the last two years, but he is one of jazz music's greatest pianists, and will be missed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This was the best musical performance on SNL this weekend:

The Shins were so stiff that I couldn't wait for their performances to end. They are definitely scratched off the list of bands I'd like to see live.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Many people may have heard about Warner's four disc compilation, What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves. I don't have it yet, but have been salivating at the tracklisting since first hearing about the release. However, I recently found the Funk Drops comps online, and when I compared the tracklistings, I realized that Warner has used 34 tracks from these compilations for the new box set. In other words, 50% of the Funk Drops comps are on What It Is!!! While this might not seem like a huge deal, since the Funk Drops comps are UK only releases, it certainly shows laziness on the part of Warner. Couldn't they have dug a bit deeper?? Don't they know that soul fans, by now, are pretty used to buying UK imports, so many people likely own the Funk Drops comps? Also, a song like "Hard Times" by Baby Huey is brilliant, but it is not the only great track from The Baby Huey Story.
The music is still essential, so the new box is definitely worth owning, but for those who already have the Funk Drops comps, expect overlap!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Historical music auction

You may have read about this online already, but this week the acetate version of the Velvet Underground & Nico was sold on Ebay for $155,401.00. The crazy part of the story is that the seller bought it at at record sale for 75 cents in 2002. You can read the whole story at the Ebay site. The value of this acetate comes from the fact that it contains different versions or different mixes of tracks found on the original release. My hope is that the buyer is connected to a record company in some way, and this new version will hopefully get released in the near future.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Okay, first off, I recognize that I have not posted much on my blog, but am hoping to change that in the near future. I have been listening to a wide variety of music, so I certainly have a lot to talk about. Hopefully the new year will see more posts.

Like ever year that preceded it, 2006 was an amazing year for music. Groups that I have followed for years, like the Divine Comedy, Shack and Sparklehorse, put out some of the best music of their careers. I was also blown away by some hip hop albums, including both Dilla releases. And newer soul artists, like Nicole Willis, Amy Winehouse and James Hunter, who proved that soul music is still very alive and well in 2006!

For me, 2006 will always be the year of Orphans. I have been a fan of Tom Waits for quite a few years, and Orphans stands as one of his greatest releases. The 56 + 2 songs travel through the various phases (and faces) of Tom Waits, and show off his serious, crazy and humorous sides. To me, it is the essential release of the year. However, despite the conclusion on my previous post, I have put it on my reissues list.

Anyway, here are my lists:

Top Albums

1. The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America
Capturing the essence of being young, Craig Finn proves he is one of the greatest lyricists in music today, and everything his band releases is pure gold.
2. Gnarls BarkleySt. Elsewhere
Every song is a classic, and if you see them live, you will love the album even more. Definitely the best live band of the year!
3. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Springsteen puts out a traditional folk album, and may be his career masterpiece. He captures the essence of all these songs with a backing band of experienced traditional players, and reminds us of anti-war sentiments through history on songs like "We Are Overcome", "Bring 'Em Home" and "Mrs. McGrath".
4. The RootsGame Theory
Every second of this album is brilliant. There was loads of hype surrounding this album, and every bit was true.
5. Bob DylanModern Times
Despite listening to this album over and over, I didn't find a single track that jumped out at me as quickly as "Not Dark Yet" or "Mississippi" from his previous two albums. However, further listens revealed that certain tracks didn't jump out because they are all exceptional.
6. J. DillaDonuts
An album from which you could never tire, despite sounding like a sample of ideas instead of complete songs. However, Dilla was God-like. This is proof.
7. Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
This band started out destined to be another Grandaddy/Mercury Rev type group. This new release seems to be musically inspired by 70s folk and Fleetwood Mac and lyrically inspired by life at the turn of the century (1800s to the 1900s, that is). As a result, Midlake changed who they were for the better.
8. Lily AllenAlright, Still . . .
Great back-story as a myspace artist, smart lyrics, and a variety of styles of music make this the one of the best debuts of the year. Almost every song could be a single, and her lyrics are very reminiscent of Mike Skinner from the Streets (which is a compliment).
9. GhostfaceFishscale
Ghostface appears to be more and more interesting with every release, and Fishscale raised the bar quite high. His flow is amazing, and has a great group of collaboraters all of whom enhance the album.
10. Nicole Willis & The Soul InvestigatorsKeep Reachin’ Up
Absolutely killer soul/funk album that was actually released in 2005, but did not get US distribution until this year. For fans of Sharon Jones' soul revival-type style, you must hear this album.
11. SwayThis Is My Demo
One of the smartest albums of the year, lyrically speaking. I heard a couple of his demo tapes, which I loved. He brings a sense of humour to the music without ever coming off as a joke.
12. The Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye
I could not describe this album better than Mark Pytlik, one of my favourite music writers, who reviewed it for Pitchfork.
13. The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife
I read one review that claimed Meloy and co. wrote an album of singles. Not sure I'd go that far, but definitely their most accessible collection to date. One of the few bands whose 9 minute songs never lose their steam, even on repeated listens.
14. HerbertScale
Matthew Herbert has created his most pop-driven release to date, and the results are amazing. I never thought I'd like this kind of electro pop, and never gave his previous work much attention, but Scale has inspired me to re-assess his entire catalogue. And in a perfect world, "Something Isn't Right" would have been a huge hit single EVERYWHERE!
15. Amy WinehouseBack To Black
A late entry for me, but she has a very strong, southern soul-styled voice which totally blew me away. Great voice filled with attitude and emotion as she deals with very personal issues in her life.
16. Lupe FiascoFood & Liquor
Great diversity in production for this new hip hop artist, whose own rapping skills are very impressive.
17. Thom YorkeEraser
I love the voice, I love the music. It's the singer from Radiohead, so I'm terribly biased! Some people found it boring, and while I can totally see what they mean, I love every single track.
18. The KnifeSilent Shout
I knew nothing about this group until this year, but for me, the real draw for them is the way they manipulate the vocals to make them part of the production, creating a unique voice for every song.
19. Scott WalkerThe Drift
Scott Walker, like Tom Waits, makes music that is 100% his. With one of the cleanest voices in music, he could likely build a career catering to the Las Vegas crowds, but thankfully, he's far too interesting and weird to do that. Lyrically confusing, musically intriguing, and worth the time to figure everything out. This is definitely an album that will be considered a classic in years to come.
20. Shack - . . . The Corner of Miles and Gil
I never thought they could top HMS Fable, but this album definitely proves that the Head brothers are among the greatest songwriters in the UK. "Shelley Brown" is the most beautiful track they've ever released!
21. James HunterPeople Gonna Talk
Sam Cooke returns in the body of a white Brit. It is pretty shocking at first, but the voice and bluesy guitar licks come together for a very solid album.
22. Jarvis CockerJarvis
I really did not think I would care about this album, but Jarvis focused on his strength - short punchy pop songs about "common" people.
23. J. DillaThe Shining
Yet another collection displaying Dilla's skills, but this time complemented by vocals from Common, MED, Dwele and Busta Rhymes. Just further proof that he was a legend, and will be missed.
24. PhoenixIt’s Never Been Like That
I don't know what it is, but these guys have a gift for making pop hits that should top the mainstream charts, but could still woo the indie types.
25. The Divine ComedyVictory Of A Comic Muse
While Neil Hannon may never top his early albums in my eyes, I think this is the best collection of songs he has made since signing to Parlophone.
26. Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Without question, their best work to date. Solid album, great lyrics, and the most cohesive sounding album they've ever made. If you're a fan, you need this album.
27. Guillemots - Through the Windowpane
I could not describe this album better than Nick Southall at Stylus, so please read his words instead.
28. Ane BrunA Temporary Dive
This is another 2005 album on my list, but again, it was never available in North America until this year. Brun has a very powerful voice, and is a gifted songwriter.
29. CalexicoGarden Ruin
I've always liked Calexico, but found their earlier albums to be filled out with short instrumentals and half-ideas that gave them a choppy feel. However, this album is eleven focused songs that prove Joey Burns' greatness as a singer/songwriter.
30. I’m From BarcelonaLet Me Introduce My Friends
Twenty-two people who are NOT from Barcelona come together for an upbeat and happy pop album, with child-like innocence in songs about stamps, a treehouse and being from Barcelona (even when you're not). Great choir-driven choruses add power and excitement to the songs.
31. Max RichterSongs From Before
Not a huge shift in directions for Richter, but his previous albums are so essential, that more of the same is a good thing. I could have gone without Robert Wyatt talking on tracks, but even that doesn't take away from the beauty of Richter's style. Definitely one of my favourite classical composers.
32. The Congos and FriendsFisherman Style
One of my favourite reggae tracks used as the main rhythm while eleven reggae legends and eleven newer stars deejay over top. The album never gets tiring, and the different slants, both lyrically and vocally, remind the listener of what a great rhythm the Congos and Perry created back in the 70s.
33. MogwaiMr. Beast
Mogwai are THE greatest post-rock group of all time, simply because they knew how to continue in the genre without ever repeating the same ideas. This album is beautiful, exciting, and powerful. And if you see them live, the songs are etched into your body (and eardrums!) forever, which is a good thing.
34. T.I.King
An incredible collection of songs. I love his flow, though I recognize it is not for everyone. Though the whole album is great, it is pretty difficult to play it all the way through without at least wanting to skip back to the single, "What You Know".
35. ClipseHell Hath No Fury
I don't know the first album, nor was I a follower of the mixtapes, but I've played this album out quite a bit, and am a true believer in their greatness. They have a great flow in songs displaying some of the Neptunes best production.
36. Nelly Furtado - Loose
Solid album filled with great singles. She was untouchable in the 2006 pop world, and can likely continue putting out singles from this album throughout the next year as well.
37. MatmosThe Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast
A collection of audio biographies from these electronic experimentalists that prove you do not need words to tell a great story. The results are fascinating, with "Solo Buttons For Joe Meek" being my favourite.
38. Duke SpecialSongs From The Deep Forest
I read about them as being the Divine Comedy's 2006 tour opening act. They are an amazing orch-pop group who should get huge in the new year, selling to fans of Coldplay and Snow Patrol.
39. Duane AndrewsCrocus
One of Newfoundland's most gifted musicians releases his second album of Django inspired (and covered) tracks, sometimes with a celtic flavour. Absolutely gorgeous.
40. OpensoulsKaleidoscope
Hip-Hop, soul, afro-pop, funk and deep grooves from New Zealand. WTF?! But seriously, it is amazing, and feels like a killer mix-tape.

Top Singles

1. Nelly Furtado – Promiscuous
2. T.I. - What You Know
3. Herbert - Something Isn't Right
4. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
5. Madonna – Sorry
6. Midlake – Roscoe
7. Lily Allen – Smile
8. Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
9. Hot Chip - Boys From School
10. El Michels Affair - C.R.E.A.M.
11. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
12. The Pipettes - Pull Shapes
13. Lupe Fiasco – Daydreamin’ w/ Jill Scott
14. Nelly Furtado – Maneater
15. The Divine Comedy - A Lady Of A Certain Age
16. I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona
17. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!
18. The Roots - Don't Feel Right
19. Mogwai - Friends Of The Night
20. Justin Timberlake - Sexyback
21. Jay-Z - Show Me What You Got
22. Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill
23. The Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
24. Junior Boys - In The Morning
25. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators - Feeling Free
26. Lily Allen – LDN
27. Dixie Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice
28. Phoenix - Long Distance Call
29. Duke Special – Freewheel
30. The Broken Family Band - You're Like A Woman

Top Reissues

1. Tom WaitsOrphans
2. Susan ChristiePaint A Lady
3. Various ArtistsGood God! The Gospel Funk Hymnal
4. Mark KozelekLittle Drummer Boy Live
5. Dr. AlimantadoHouse Of Singles
6. Howard TateLive
7. Aretha FranklinAretha Live At Fillmore West
8. Various Artists - Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label
9. Jean Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Assassin des Mouches
10. Al GreenThe Belle Album (Expanded)
11. James Brown - Fine Old Foxy Self: James Brown: 1950s, 1960s & 1970s
12. Various Artists - Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967 – 1974
13. All Prestige RVG Jazz reissues
14. Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul 1968 – 1974
15. Various Artists - Stax Profiles (especially Booker T. and the MGs)

Thank you for reading! Please post comments/recommendations.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This is NOT an Orphans review (instead, it's a summary)

Tom Waits' new three disc set Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards is absolutely brilliant, and is a must-own for all fans. But most fans will be buying the compilation, so I don't need to tell you how great it is (the critics have beat me to it). My reason behind this post likely started when I saw Orphans featured on Uncut magazine's year end list for NEW releases. This made me think about whether Orphans features enough new material to be considered a new release, or whether it's best suited as a reissue. I also thought it would be useful to show the source of the officially released tracks, and also the background of some other tracks which have been featured on Waits' bootlegs in the past.

What becomes apparent right away is that Waits never shied away from soundtracks, compilations or tribute albums when the opportunity arose. Thankfully,
Orphans will save fans a lot of money, as it features seventeen tracks previously available in one of these forms. Waits also has many friends in the industry who have featured him as a guest vocalist on their albums, and five of these tracks are featured as well.

The following can be used as a guide for the previously released tracks (which also includes a b-side from the Hold On EP):

Despite never getting an official release, there are other songs on Orphans which some people know. One song, titled "Never Let Go" on Orphans, but known to fans as "I'll Never Let Go Of Your Hand", was featured in the movie American Heart. However, there was no soundtrack released, so a fan (or fans) recorded the song from a VHS version of the movie, and leaked that recording onto the internet. Despite the rather crude sound to the recording, it was magical the first time I heard it. Such desperate love and devotion sung over an out of tune piano on a crackily recording was quintessential Waits. However, there's no denying that I much prefer the cleaned up version on Orphans.

Many other songs have a similar story. The songs "Bottom Of The World" and "Down There By The Train", the latter of wihch was originally covered by Johnny Cash on American Recordings, were both featured in the Long Gone documentary. Also, "Ain't Goin' Down To The Well" was featured in the movie Freedom Highway: Songs That Shaped A Century, which I understand is a film of live performances by various artists including Waits. "Take Care Of All Of My Children" was featured in the movie, Streetwise, and has also appeared on popular bootleg compilations, A Nickel's Worth Of Dreams. Finally, "Altar Boy" was part of the 1999 bootleg Alice: The Original Demos, as part of the track titled "What Became Of Father Craft". As mentioned on the link given for Alice, the Demos' source is unknown, though the story goes that it features demos stolen from Waits' car in 1992. The bootleg came out in 1999, and the official Alice album, featuring cleaned up studio version of the tracks, came out in 2002. For fans of live theatre, the track "Shiny Things" was featured in Woyzeck, a play in which Waits provided music and lyrics. Though many of the songs from the play were later featured on Blood Money, "Shiny Things" has not seen a release until Orphans.

There are other tracks that fans will recognize, but have not sung by Waits. These are "2:19", "Fannin' Street" and "Lord I've Been Changed". All of these songs were featured on the John Hammond Jr.'s album Wicked Grin, which was produced by Waits and features all Waits covers (except "Lord I've Been Changed", which on Wicked Grin is titled "I Know I've Been Changed", a traditional song).

This leaves about twenty songs (plus two bonus tracks on Bastards) which are completely unreleased. So in the end, Uncut was only partially correct. The way I see it, Orphans could be featured on both new and reissue charts at the same time!!! And considering how consistently solid the material is on all three discs, it should rank quite high on both.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

To All A Good Night . . .

Sadly, Arab Strap has
called it quits. For me it's really sad, because it was only in April of this year that I finally got to see them live, having followed their career and bought almost everything by them since 1997, when I first heard Philophobia. I instantly fell in love with Aidan Moffatt's vocals and Scottish accent, and went a bit ape-shit, buying up anything I could find with him doing vocals (Mogwai, David Holmes' Don't Die Just Yet EP, etc). I've rarely been disappointed by the band, and actually think that their last studio album, The Last Romance, is one of their best albums yet. It's a bit quicker paced, and bit more direct lyrically, but moves the band in a great direction. Clearly this new move didn't equate to greater sales, and so the band is calling it quits.

Before they go out, they will put out one last compilation of rarities and favourites, titled Ten Years of Tears, with the following tracklisting:

01 Preface: Set the Scene

02 Islands (Original 1995 Demo)

03 The First Big Weekend

04 Gilded (Live)

05 I Saw You (Peel Session)

06 The Clearing (Single Version)

07 Packs of Three (Live Acoustic)

08 (Afternoon) Soaps

09 Rocket, Take Your Turn

10 To All a Good Night

11 Turbulence (Bis Remix Radio Edit)

12 The Shy Retirer

13 Blood (Live)

14 If There's No Hope for Us (Rogue Version)

15 Where We've Left Our Love

16 The Girl I Loved Before I Fucked (Full Band Version)
17 Oxytocin

18 There Is No Ending (7" Edit)

Oxytocin is their first ever recording, so I'll be interested to hear that. The tracks on the comp were all picked out by the band. Sadly, the group's favourite songs does not include my all time favourite, which is "New Birds" from the
Mad for Sadness live album. I strongly recommend that you find a way to listen to this song by ANY MEANS NECESSARY!! It's a gorgeous story about meeting up with an ex-crush at a bar, and when given the chance to finally have sex with her, the lead chooses to stay loyal to his present love, and goes his separate way. Moffat's pacing in telling the story is absolutely perfect, and the music fits the story beautifully. The song originally appeared on Philophobia, but I prefer the live cut.

Luckily, neither Moffatt or Malcolm Middleton will be giving up on music. Moffatt returns next year with new L. Pierre material. For those who don't know this project, I strongly recommend you track down the first full length, titled Hypnogogia, and it is one of the best ambient albums I own. I strongly recommend it!!! Also, after seeing the group live, I realized that they are both big into dance/trance beats, which you could tell just by how timed their playing was, and they way they loved to jam. I'm very excited for new projects in the future, and hopefully they'll maintain the high quality music that Arab Strap provided.