Theme Week!

August 31, 2008

In honor of Jason’s last post (“This tastes like bottled ass! Try some!”) I am declaring our first-ever theme week.  This week’s theme, inspired by Jason, is country versions of non-country songs.

Next week is the opposite. Bloggers, start your engines.

My entry is “I See a Darkness,” by Johnny Cash

Well I hope that someday, buddy, we have peace in our lives
Together or apart, alone or with our wives
And we can stop our whoring
And pull the smiles inside
And light it up forever
And never go to sleep
My best unbeaten brother
This isn’t all I seek.

It’s originally by Will Oldham, AKA Bonny Prince Billy, AKA lots of other things.  I bought a Palace Brothers album once (one of his nom de rocks), and it was mediocre.  I haven’t gone back to the well since, but this song is brilliant.  Perhaps a second chance is called for?

Multiple entries are encouraged.  I can’t post “Hard Luck Woman” by Garth Brooks because both Garth and Kiss would sue me until the cows come home, but I intend to submit something else once the right idea occurs to me.

Two Tons of Steel – “I Wanna Be Sedated”

August 31, 2008

Driving home this evening from dinner, I was once again subjected to the fiancee’s preference of country music.  Whereas last week I was treated to a great song by the Randy Rogers Band, this week I heard perhaps one the biggest musical travesties I have ever witnessed.  Again, the radio was tuned to 98.1 KVET, and they have a Texas country show on Sunday nights.  There were several forgettable songs that passed on my long drive out to my home, but one caught my ear immediately, and I had simultaneous urges to both vomit and choke someone to death.  Neither were viable options, so I had to instead just grit my teeth and bear witness to this abomination, the ugliest attempt at a genre crossover I have ever heard. 

The band is called Two Tons of Steel, and they hail from San Antonio.  For some reason, someone thought it would be a good idea for them to perform and record a country version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”  Believe me when I tell you that absolutely nothing about this song works on any level.  It’s not funny, it’s not “cute”, and it’s certainly not good.  The studio version can be listened to on their MySpace page, and I found a live video of the performance posted below.  All I can say is, ouch!  Make it stop!

Album Review: D Generation – No Lunch

August 31, 2008

Following the failure of their 1994 self-titled debut, D Generation left Chrysalis/EMI for Columbia, taking four of their debut’s best songs with them, “No Way Out,” “Frankie,” “Waiting for the Next Big Parade,” and a cover of Reagan Youth’s “Degenerated.”

The band had been heavily hyped, and their debut was a disappointment, both artistically and commercially. Their commercial fortunes would never change, but they would redeem themselves artistically with a vengeance on No Lunch.

Opening with “Scorch,” which lives up to its name by engulfing you in flames for 1:17, No Lunch immediately launches into “She Stands There,” a ridiculously catchy speed-pop number that lets you know that these guys love all sorts of punk, and you’re going to take a breathtaking tour of all of it in the album’s short running time–from the tough-but-heartbreaking Johnny Thunders tribute “Too Loose” to the hardcore of “Degenerated.” Ric Ocasek’s production captures every fleck of spittle that no doubt hit anyone who was standing anywhere near singer Jesse Malin during the recording sessions. It utterly rocks.

No Lunch is a lost classic of the 1990s. It should have made D Generation a household name, and the retooled version of “No Way Out” (called a “stone classic” in Rolling Stone’s contemporary review) should have become a rock-radio standard. No Lunch? No justice.

The No Lunch version of “No Way Out”:

“She Stands There.” Don’t blame me if this song gets stuck in your head for days:

I wish I could embed these (update: now I can!) and make a couple of fan videos for other songs, but Sony BMG doesn’t seem to be too friendly to that sort of activity. A pity. I would love it if more people heard, and then bought, this album. It deserves both.

Posts in this series below the fold.

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The Song That Changed My Life

August 30, 2008

thanks neil.

The F%#$%n’ Big Lebowski is F%#$%n’ 10 Years Old!!!

August 30, 2008

Do not play this video at your work, mosque, charity fundraiser for childhood leukemia, or anywhere else sensitive ears might lurk without first yelling “Earmuffs!!”

“I am the son, and the heir…”

August 29, 2008

Here’s a fairly impressive clip of a bedroom musician demonstrating how to perform “How Soon Is Now” by the Smiths.  It’s amazing what the home recorder can do these days.  Just remember, Johnny Marr did it without ProTools!  **Shakes fist at these dang kids and their newfangled technology**

Class Act: Neil Diamond Offers Fans Refunds After Lousy Show

August 28, 2008

Why can’t more people be like this?

Singer and songwriter Neil Diamond is offering audiences of a recent Ohio concert a refund and asking for their forgiveness after he performed with a raspy voice earlier this week.

Diamond, 67, was diagnosed with acute laryngitis after the August 25 show in Columbus, Ohio, and the “Sweet Caroline” singer released a statement on his website Tuesday apologizing to fans through the lyrics of his past hit, “Play Me.”

“Dear Fans in Columbus, I haven’t let you down before and I won’t let you down now,” Diamond said. “Until you hear from me again remember, You are the sun, I am the moon. You are the words. I am the tune. Forgive me. I love you.”

The last time I saw Social Distortion, I think Mike Ness was drunk.  The playing was incredibly sloppy and the set was short.  I paid $35 of my hard-earned money for the pleasure of getting pissed about being ripped off.  No refund was offered.

It’s nice to see that someone out there realizes that concerts are quite a sacrifice for some people.  In addition to the ticket price, there are the ridiculous service fees, parking, babysitter if you have kids, rapacious food and drink prices, and so on.  If people are willing to go through all that  just to see you perform, you owe them the best that you can do.

Good on Neil Diamond.  It makes me wish I hadn’t had to pan his last album.  Now I feel like I should write a good review of 12 Songs, which deserves one, to make up for it.

Album Review: Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch

August 27, 2008

Mudcrutch want you to know right out of the gate that this is a band record.  While Mudcrutch’s most famous member does most of the singing on the album, lead guitarist Tom Leadon gets the first verse of opener “Shady Grove.”

As viewers of Runnin’ Down a Dream know, Mudcrutch was Tom Petty’s original band.  Keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell would go on to become Heartbreakers, Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh would not.  Likely inspired by revisiting the past through making that film, Petty reunited the band, and Mudcrutch released their debut album a mere four decades after forming.

Believe it or not, the end result actually sounds like a band album, not a Tom Petty record with a slightly different version of the Heartbreakers backing him up.  For one, there are more songwriters than usual–two traditional songs, a Byrds song, the oft-covered “Six Days on the Road,” and one each by Tench and Leadon.  Tench and Leadon take lead vocals on their songs, and Leadon provides harmonies throughout.

And it often sounds, appropriately, like a tribute to the musicians who inspired Mudcrutch those many decades ago, even when the songs are original.  More than one, particularly Leadon’s “Queen of the Go-Go Girls,” would fit quite neatly on a Gram Parsons album or Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Sometimes it does sound like Petty–”Scare Easy” is his best single in years, and ought to be added to the Heartbreakers’ live repetoire.  (Better yet, have Leadon and Marsh come out and play on it.)

Throughout, it sounds like what it is–a bunch of old friends having a blast playing together, and conveying every bit of that fun to the lucky listeners who purchased the album.  Here’s hoping they do it again sometime.

“Scare Easy”:

Update: Warner has pulled the official video.  Here’s a backup until the YouTube/Warner dispute is resolved.

The Byrds’ “Lover of the Bayou”:

A short promotional video about the band’s history and reunion:

Note: Mudcrutch is available in two versions–a standard CD, and an audiophile package that includes the album on both 180 gram vinyl and “full dynamic range” CD.  You can find out more about the two different releases in the articles and making-of videos linked here.  I have the audiophile package, and it sounds great.

“Taboo” by Gene Summers

August 26, 2008

I discovered this song on the Lux & Ivy’s Favorites compilations I wrote about awhile back.

Information on this song is hard to come by. According to Wikipedia, it was recorded in Fort Worth in 1959, and according to All Music Guide, it written by Summers’ band-mate Eddie Wayne Hill, who died in a car crash in 1962. So far as I know, it has only been available on CD once, on an overseas various artists compilation called Born Bad, Volume 7, long out of print–despite its awesomeness, it isn’t on any of Gene Summers’ best-of compilations.

I think it deserves wider exposure, so I threw together this quickie slide show video.

Seems like it’s ripe for inclusion on a cool film noir soundtrack.

New Releases of Note: 8/25/08

August 25, 2008

Via AMG.

Hooray! Motörhead!

Tesla and Ian Hunter & Mott the Hoople get their two-disc compilation due (although Ian & Mott really need a box set, and where are “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and “Wash Us Away”?), Jan & Dean get a deluxe singles set, and there are new albums by several acts that are not as awesome as Motörhead (but who is?) including Austin’s Derailers, who you should go see if you get a chance.

Motörhead – Motörizer

The Derailers – Guaranteed to Satisfy

Matthew Sweet – Sunshine Lies

The Game – LAX

Solange – Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

The Verve – Forth

Jan & Dean – The Complete Liberty Singles

Ian Hunter & Mott the Hoople – Old Records Never Die: The Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter Anthology

Tesla – Gold

Full list here.

Video: Shout Factory may not include it, but I will.  Here are Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson performing “I Wish I Was Your Mother,” originally on the great album, Mott.

New Music: Randy Rogers Band – “In My Arms Instead”

August 25, 2008

I was in the car yesterday taking a trip to South Austin, and I had the radio tuned to 98.1 KVET, a local country station here in Austin.  On most occasions, I pretty much tune out when this music is playing, but they had a decent mix of new and old country songs playing, so I happened to be paying a little bit more attention than usual.  At one point, a song came on that I was actually quite impressed with.  Shocking, right?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Texas country music, an aspect of my musical landscape that was nurtured and nearly unavoidable in my days as a high school student in Austin and then an undergrad at Texas A&M University.  There I gained massive respect for such Texas artists as Robert Earl Keen Jr., Pat Green (in his pre-Nashville days), Cory Morrow, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Kelly Willis, Roger Creager, and Jack Ingram, as well as the old Texas Outlaws, Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Guy Clark, and others.

It’s difficult for me to define beyond geography what makes up the Texas Country genre, but there is a specific indescribable sound to it that makes it easily identifiable when I hear it.  The song that caught my attention was called “In My Arms Instead” by Texas group the Randy Rogers Band.  I had heard some of their music before, such as their biggest hit “Kiss Me in the Dark”.  While this song is not particularly offensive and adheres to most of the Texas Country guidelines, it really just didn’t leave much of an impression on me, so I was very surprised to learn that this was the same band that recorded “In My Arms Instead”.

Beginning with a quiet acoustic guitar and fiddle intro and then leading into a shuffling drum beat, lead singer Randy Rogers begins singing in a longing and plaintive voice about the oncoming cold weather and the love that slipped away.  The song tells the sad story of a lost lover whose memory will not leave the singer: “I’m just not the same/I walk down these streets/I swear I hear your name/but it’s just in my head/I wish you were in my arms instead.”  No new territory there, but it’s a simple yet effective song, and the musical flourishes are kept to a minimum besides a short Telecaster interlude.

The real star of the song is Randy Rogers’s voice.  It’s both haunting and a little bit unsteady, qualities which help Rogers sell the lonely persona of the narrator and give the impression that Rogers may break into tears at any moment.  It’s rare these days that you find a young country artist singing with the type of conviction and genuine emotion once encountered in the great country songs of old sung by the likes of George Jones.

It was a pleasant surprise to find a song on modern country music radio that I like so much.  Internet research would later reveal that this is the first single released on their upcoming self-titled album, their second for Mercury Nashville.  I don’t see this being a huge hit for the Randy Rogers Band, if only because the country music landscape has shifted so far towards rock and pop that a simple, pretty little country tune will probably not get the airplay of the next Sugarland or Big & Rich wankfest.  Despite that fact, I think “In My Arms Instead” is a wonderful little song, and I’m glad that KVET is doing its part to support up and coming Texas artists like the Randy Rogers Band with a little playing time.

You can stream “In My Arms Instead” from the following links:

Randy Rogers Band – “In My Arms Instead” (RealPlayer, higher quality)

Randy Rogers Band – “In My Arms Instead” (Windows Media Player)

Album Review: D Generation – D Generation

August 24, 2008

As I posited in my introduction to the band, I think the chief reason D Generation never took off as expected was that their sound wasn’t right for the times–”What kind of music are you guys?”, singer Jesse Malin asks in “Guitar Mafia,” imitating some early-’90s-era scenester. “Are you alternative?”

However, D Generation’s doomed quest for a hit was not at all aided by the weaknesses of their 1994 debut. The primary cause of these weaknesses isn’t D Generation, who mount furious performances of a number of good-to-great songs. The problem is the production, which is pretty much the same for each one of those songs–a treble-heavy, ’80s-metal sound that isn’t quite appropriate to the material and just doesn’t sound all that good.

The result is that I tend to tune out a little more than a third of the way through the record, This is a shame because although the album is definitely top-heavy, there are good songs after that point: “Falling,” the single “Wasted Years,” and “Frankie” for starters.

No doubt the band recognized that the production was a problem when they decamped from Chrysalis/EMI for Columbia for their second album, the vastly improved No Lunch, because they took four of the best songs from D Generation with them. They did leave some gems behind, though.

Start with No Lunch, but consider D Generation for further exploration if No Lunch inspires you. It’s not great, particularly if you already have those four superior No Lunch renditions, but it is available for almost nothing.

“No Way Out” is the classic from D Generation, but we will hear the No Lunch version of that song in the next post in this series. For this post, we will listen to a couple of songs that were left behind.

“Guitar Mafia”:

“Sins of America”:

Other posts in this series listed below the fold.

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