Rest in Peace, Andy Hummel of Big Star

July 19, 2010

Right on the heels of Alex Chilton, Big Star bassist Andy Hummel has died at 59.

Hummel didn’t write a lot for Big Star, but he did contribute one of their best–the glorious “Way Out West.”

Rest in peace, Andy. I hope you are enjoying the reunion with Alex and Chris and working on some material I can check out when my time comes.

Big Star – “Way Out West”


Tom Jones goes Gospel: “Did Trouble Me”

July 17, 2010

Tom Jones, now seventy, has recorded an album of Gospel songs entitled Praise and Blame.

Maybe not so many panties thrown onstage next tour, but the single is excellent. I’m curious to know if roots-music fans and AAA radio will pick it up.

I suppose this is similar to what Johnny Cash did with his American Recordings series, but Tom doesn’t try to be Johnny Cash (at least not on this number). It sounds like a natural evolution–the bombast is still there, but in service of a song appropriately sung by a man late in life.

I like it.

Tom Jones – “Did Trouble Me”

For old time’s sake…

Tom Jones – “Without Love”


Album Review: Eminem – Recovery

June 19, 2010

I suspect every review of Eminem’s new album, Recovery, will rightfully open with these words: Guess who’s back?

After three straight masterpieces and some excellent contributions to the soundtrack of his movie 8 Mile, Eminem tanked on Encore and Relapse. He’s far too talented for those albums to have been completely worthless, but they were a pale shadow of his previous accomplishments. Exhibit A that something was wrong: Not only did he think “Ass Like That” was worth recording, he thought it was a worthy single.

He knows he let us down: “Them last two albums didn’t count. Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing ‘em out.”

Clean, sober, and determined to get his groove back, Eminem gets so back to basics that Recovery is more stripped down than his major-label debut, The Slip Shady LP. Gone are the stupid skits (the bane of far too many rap albums) and even the traditional album closer first line, “A lot of people ask me…” Recovery is all music, no gimmicks.

And fine music it is. While Recovery doesn’t quite reach the heights of the holy trinity of The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show, it comes damn close. The one bit of filler, the lame sex rap “Seduction,” is almost necessary to give the listener a chance to catch his breath before a furious second half that opens with an absolutely menacing cameo by Lil Wayne on “No Love” and never lets up for a second.

Along the way, Eminem notches what will probably be the single of the year, “Love the Way You Lie,” where an aching chorus from Rihanna (not content with only having 2007’s single of the year, apparently) anchors a wonderfully-strummed guitar bed for Marshall’s heartbroken rhymes. It’s a tremendous song, and it will seal his comeback the moment it hits radio.

Shady’s back. Tell a friend.

Eminem – “Not Afraid”

Eminem (with Rihanna) – “Love the Way You Lie”


Rest in Peace, the Mighty Ronnie James Dio

May 16, 2010

Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.

- Wendy Dio

Well, that sucks.

Dio was responsible for Rainbow’s great “Man on the Silver Mountain” before doing something almost no one has ever done–successfully joining a popular existing band that had lost a charismatic frontman. Heaven and Hell is acknowledged by metal-lovers as standing proudly side-by-side with the classic early Black Sabbath albums with Ozzy Osbourne.

His solo career produced at least three classics: “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” and my favorite metal song of all time, “The Last in Line.”

In my imagination, I picture the Mighty Dio going to hell with his broadsword and slaying numerous devils and demons before his final confrontation with Satan himself. Slay, Dio, slay. Rock, Dio, rock.

Rainbow — “Man on the Silver Mountain”

Black Sabbath – “Neon Knights”

Dio – “The Last in Line”

Oh my goodness, do I love this song.

And I suppose this obituary wouldn’t be proper without acknowledging the greatest video in the history of videos.

Dio – “Holy Diver”

Did you know that Dio is largely responsible for popularizing the “devil horns” hand of rock? Is there anything awesome Dio didn’t do?


“Now people, especially Arab Metalheads, are stepping up and are voicing their opinions regarding our existence, discussing if we should be allowed.”

May 3, 2010

Via Reason.

With songs like “Ilahiya Khinzir! (All Hail Allah the Swine),” the band does not play down its opposition to the religion of peace. In a merrily dyspeptic interview with MetalStorm.net, frontman Reverend Filthy Fuck takes issue with popular “First Anti-Islamic Black Metal” descriptor only because he wants other anti-Islamists to get some credit:

We received this reputation because we are against Islam as individuals. Yet we are not the first and we are not only that. In any case, this is the only thing people talk about when they mention Ayat and we’re sick of it. So here it is again: AYAT IS AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT IN ALL ITS FORMS.

Is Ayat, to Americans (or at least me), a novelty act? Yes. But given the threats against the South Park guys following their spot-on episodes on how too many Muslims lack a sense of humor, I think a Lebanese “Anti-Islamic Black Metal Band” is worth noting.

I’m a somewhat religious person myself, so I don’t think I have it in me to pen an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, or anti-Judaism song or writing. But I reserve my God-given right to do so.

I don’t like Cookie Monster music, so I’m not embedding Ayat’s video. (You can follow the Reason link if you’re curious.) Instead I’ll give you these two rap gems.

Ice-T – “Freedom of Speech”

(I wish my term papers in college were that easy! …Well, maybe not.)

Eminem – “Square Dance”

“Don’t think I won’t go there. Go to Beirut and do a show there.”

Would I really? I have no show to do, so it’s not like the issue is going to come up. But I like to think I would. I’m certainly considering joining “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day.” My drawing would be a stick figure, because that’s about all I’m capable of, but it would be a respectful attempt that would not offend Muslims not offended by images of the Prophet (many of them).

But if it does offend? Well, it’s my God-given right to offend and no one can take that away from me.


Rest in Peace, Malcolm McLaren

April 10, 2010

One of rock’s oddest and greatest characters left us April 8, and his passing should be noted. His impact was more than deep on the punk and New Wave music that he encouraged and that has influenced, well, hell, just about everyone. He even made a legitimate splash in the then-embryonic world of hip-hop.

I’m saddened and pleased to present examples of all three genres. Rest in peace, Malcolm!

Sex Pistols – “Holiday in the Sun”

Bow Wow Wow – “C-30, C-60, C-90, Go!”

Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team – “Buffalo Gals”


Justin Moore Award Nominee: “Miracles” by the Insane Clown Posse

April 9, 2010

I really don’t want to bag on ICP too much, for the following reasons:

  • They are a profitable business in my beloved home state of Michigan. In fact, the list of profitable businesses in Michigan is as follows:
    • Ford
    • Jack White
    • Eminem
    • Insane Clown Posse

Unfortunately for Michigan, the list of profitable businesses ends there.

  • I am an eternal juvenile, and have to confess to snickering to a handful of their rhymes in the past.
  • Stranglemania 2 is a longstanding post-imbibement ritual at Casa de Winslow.

But I’m sorry. Sentimental thoughts, guilty confessions, and the entire economy of my home state must sometimes be put aside. I am, after all, a big-time music critic, so I must dismiss such trifles as the childish things they are in service of the larger task of telling the truth.

So it must be said–the first nominee for the Justin Moore Award for Worst Song of the Year has arrived. That nominee is “Miracles,” by the Insane Clown Posse.

I shall write no more on the topic. Instead, I’ll just quote a few lyrics.

We don’t have to be high to look in the sky,
And know that’s a miracle opened wide,
Look at the mountains, trees, the seven seas,
And everything chilling underwater, please,
Hot lava, snow, rain and fog,
Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs.

Niagara falls and the pyramids,
Everything you believed in as kids,
Fucking rainbows after it rains,
There’s enough miracles here to blow your brains.

I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco bay,
It tried to eat my cell phone, he ran away.

I see miracles all around me,
Stop and look around, it’s all astounding,
Water, fire, air and dirt,
Fucking magnets, how do they work?

Magic everywhere in this bitch.


Bright Eyes, Neil Young, and Dave Rawlings: Plagiarism or Not?

April 5, 2010

Plagiarism or not?

I think the answer is no, but here’s why I ask.

I finally got around to listening to A Friend of a Friend, the recent album by the Dave Rawlings Machine. Track four is a double cover of Bright Eyes’ “Method Acting” and Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.”

Listening to Rawlings perform “Method Acting,” I was struck by how much it resembled a different, and somewhat obscure, Neil Young song, “Distant Camera.” I’d heard “Method Acting” before, but did not notice the similarity in Bright Eyes’ raucous original version.

So I’m 95% sure that Conor Oberst is innocent, and even if he’s guilty, it’s entirely excusable plagiarism. The arrangement makes “Method Acting” and “Distant Camera” very different songs.

So the next question is, coincidence or not?

No idea on this one. Rawlings is a pretty clever guy. Was Rawlings saying, “You think this is Bright Eyes and Neil Young, but it’s actually Neil Young and Neil Young”?

Am I the first to get the joke?

Listen for yourself.

Bright Eyes – “Method Acting”

Neil Young – “Distant Camera”

Dave Rawlings Machine – “Method Acting/Cortez the Killer”

Bonus Track

Neil Young – “Cortez the Killer”


“Goodnight, Bad Intentions” by squint

March 28, 2010

I’ve got a personal connection with this one. The lead singer is my brother, and one of the guitarists is On Deaf Ears co-blogger Normalnorman.

You might think that makes me biased, but it really doesn’t. I’m a critic even when it comes to my own brother, and I tell him honestly what I think of his band’s music, performances, lyrics, whatever.

So you can trust me when I tell you that this song rocks.

Album to follow in July!

squint – “Goodnight, Bad Intentions”


A Celebration of Alex Chilton

March 22, 2010

If you’re reading this, it’s likely I don’t have to tell you who Alex Chilton was and why his death on March 17, 2010 is being mourned by lovers of music everywhere. So I’ll just jot down a few thoughts.

I have no idea how I first heard of Big Star. I think I just sort of absorbed the knowledge that there was this hugely influential band in the 1970s that didn’t sell all that many records. This was just the sort of thing that music lovers, particularly fans of what used to be called college rock, knew, like they knew about the Velvet Underground.

I picked up Big Star’s three albums when they were reissued on CD in 1992. I remember the awe they put me in, particularly their astonishing third album, alternately known as Third and Sister Lovers.

Sister Lovers is a stunning musical achievement. I don’t think another album exists that is so majestic and yet so heartbreakingly human. From the rousing opening, “Kizza Me,” to the depths of despair of “Holocaust,” to the joy of “O, Dana” and “Stroke it, Noel,” to the delicate closing admonition to “Take Care,” Sister Lovers takes its listeners through the panoply of human emotion. It is an exhausting but hugely rewarding experience. It is also at the absolute pinnacle of rock and roll music, standing right up there next to works as towering as Exile on Main St. and London Calling.

My singling out of Sister Lovers should not be read in any way as denigrating Big Star’s first two albums, #1 Record and Radio City, which are classics as well (how did “September Gurls” not set the world on fire?). Big Star put out an amazing body of work, and it’s Hall of Fame worthy.

I made a decision not to seek out Chilton’s subsequent solo work. The reviews were, at best, mixed and I didn’t want to tarnish Chilton’s legacy in my mind. It must be said that seeing Chilton live sometime in the 1993-1994 area did not increase my desire to explore further. Now that he’s gone, I think I’ll dig around a bit in his solo stuff and the Big Star revival partially staffed by members of Big Star disciples the Posies. I’m sure there are some gems buried in there, and now I want to find them.

God bless you, Alex. Your music means the world to me and will so long as I live.

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) eulogizes Alex Chilton on the floor of the House of Representatives

Big Star – “Nightime”

Big Star – “My Life is Right”

The Box Tops – “The Letter”


The American Idol-Stryper connection

March 6, 2010

(Cross-posted at Idolpundit.)

In news that almost made me regret slamming her performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” earlier this week, I have learned that American Idol season 9 contestant Siobhan Magnus’ uncle used to be in Stryper! This makes me so happy, it’s unbelievable. No, I’m not joking. To Hell With the Devil was one of my first three or four rock cassettes. (Sing “Calling on You,” Siobhan!)

My investigative journalism on this subject turned up another factoid or two. Did you know that…

…everybody’s favorite Season 4 contestant, Constantine Maroulis, once sang with Twisted Sister at the NYSE’s Christmas tree lighting celebration?

Also on the bill for what must have been an awesome Christmas concert…Stryper!

Do the connections end there? They do not.

Did you know that…

Randy Jackson once played bass on a cover of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s classic, “Shining Star?”

It was on a 1990 metal album called Against the Law.

An album by…Stryper!

I do not yet know what all of this means. In an effort to figure it out, I assembled this handy diagram to show the connections between Idol and Stryper. Whatever it is that’s going on here, I think it’s reasonably safe to conclude that Randy “The Emperor” Jackson is the epicenter–the Stryper Svengali. For good or for ill, I know not.

I shall investigate further.

Figure 1: The Idol-Stryper connection


And, yes. This is the sort of hard-hitting investigative journalism you’ve come to expect from Idolpundit On Deaf Ears.

–30–

Stryper – “Shining Star” (featuring an invisible Randy Jackson)

Twisted Sister with Constantine “Constantine” Maroulis – “I Wanna Rock”

[Note that Constantine, ever the class act, takes a cheap shot at Stryper at about 3:45.

Dear Constantine: You're not fit to polish Stryper's boots.

♥,

Gordon Winslow]

[Update: I have been assured by commenters that my interpretation of Constantine's remarks was incorrect, and that no swipe at Stryper was intended. I regret the error.]

Stryper – “Calling on You”

Stryper – “To Hell With the Devil”


Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash!: “The Chicken in Black”

February 26, 2010

I think people sometimes forget that Johnny Cash had a sense of humor.

I discovered this over at No Depression. How it eluded me until now, I have no idea.

Here’s all I know about “The Chicken in Black.” From Wikipedia:

Cash’s recording career and his general relationship with the Nashville establishment were at an all-time low in the 1980s. He realized that his record label of nearly 30 years, Columbia, was growing indifferent to him and wasn’t properly marketing him (he was “invisible” during that time, as he said in his autobiography). Cash recorded an intentionally awful song to protest, a self-parody. “Chicken in Black” was about Cash’s brain being transplanted into a chicken. Ironically, the song turned out to be a larger commercial success than any of his other recent material. Nevertheless, he was hoping to kill the relationship with the label before they did, and it was not long after “Chicken in Black” that Columbia and Cash parted ways.

It was released as a single only. It peaked at #45 on the country chart in 1984.

Johnny Cash – “The Chicken in Black”

Happy birthday, Johnny Cash!


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