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Archive for May, 2010

The Freedom of Music: Slashing Fergie.

May 9th, 2010

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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I was never a big Guns N’ Roses guy, never quite caught on to the hype about the late 80’s hard rock icons. In truth, I was probably too old to get too excited. By the time GN’R’s first album Appetite for Destruction came on to the scene I was 24 and had become fairly set in my musical ways. Sweet Child of Mine was, of course, brilliant and I bought Appetite for Destruction based on it. I never loved the album, and while I would take to other GN’R songs such as Welcome to the Jungle or Patience, I never bought into the GN’R thing whole-hog.sidebar-4

Guitarist Slash was a different kind of cat in 1987. Strutting, not preening as was the order of the day, with a classic Les Paul plugged into a Marshall amp he was the classic kind of guitar player. This was a time when guitarists were using Strat rip-off guitars with Schaller locking systems on whack-job tremolo systems, active pick-ups and transistor amps. Think Eddie Van Halen minus the warm tone, dynamics or creativity and you have the state of guitar playing in 1987. But Slash had it, that big Les Paul tone, a style of playing that breathed, making his songs more musical, albeit at the expense of soul-less technique. In short, I didn’t have to like them, but I sure respected where Guns N’ Roses were coming from.

Since his exit from GN’R Slash has had a few side projects but like guitar players before him, Slash eventually found himself band-less and went for the solo album. Whenever a guitar player does a solo album, he inevitably runs into a problem regarding singers. He can’t just bring in a singer to sing the songs. It is one of those inescapable truths that a song will belong as much as, if not more, to the singer as any guitar player. Thus if Jimmy Buffet sings your song, it will sound like a Jimmy Buffet song. So the single singer turns a solo project into a band project, albeit one named after the guitar player.

Of course some guitar players decide they can sing, and sing the songs themselves re: Eric Clapton or Peter Frampton. But then, some guitar players start focusing on singing and stop doing what made them great guitar players, rendering themselves adult contemporary acts, re: Eric Clapton or Peter Frampton. You can always solve these problem by not having any singing, doing an instrumental album. Peter Frampton also did this recently, as has Jeff Beck a number of times. The problem here is you produce an album that only other guitar players are really interested in, and not all of them.

The solution to these dilemma is, bring in a different singer for each song, or a group of singers. If this works well, you get Rob Thomson and Dave Matthews and your disk goes a Supernatural 15X Platinum. If you get unlucky, you get Chris Farlowe and John Miles and they write lyrics for your music like:

I’m gonna leave my little honey
Like a rabbit needs a hole
A-ow-ah, leave my little honey, baby
Just like a bunny rabbit leaves a hole

I got a weasel in my pocket
I’m gonna stick that weasel down my momma
I’m gonna stick it right down that little hole

You could be Mozart vonBeethoven (nee Bach), and you couldn’t turn crud like that into a listenable song, but that’s the task Jimmy Page has all through his Outrider album, and it absolutely ruins it.

This last route, Jimmy Page’s experience notwithstanding, is the one Slash chose. Like Sanatana, he chose some big names, and let them influence the songs. The result is what you expect, 14 songs that sound somewhat like each singer, somewhat like Slash. Crucify the Dead sounds like Ozzy Osbourne, I Hold On sounds like a Kid Rock song. The opening song, Ghost, featuring Ian Astbury, is a metaphor for the whole album. The opening lick is all Slash, not far off from that great Sweet Child of Mine lick. But as soon as Ian Astbury starts singing, it turns into a Cult song.


The revelation for many on this album is the Fergie song, Beautiful Dangerous. She can sing! She can rock!! I’ve seen it mentioned in reviews of the album. Black Eyed Pea rapper, Fergie can sing rock ‘n’ roll. Well, yea. She can, and that’s not new. Check out Fergie doing Heart’s Barracuda for the Shrek the Third soundtrack. Barracuda is not a song for the feint of lung. If you can handle, just handle Barracuda, you can sing rock. Hell, if you can do Barracuda and not embarrass yourself, you can do rock better than a lot of “rock” singers. So yes, Fergie can sing rock.

Not convinced. Listen to her easy rock hit Big Girls Don’t Cry. A bit of a slow old style soul, she brings to the song some of the most soulful singing you’ve heard in a long time. The girl can sing and exhibit C is Beautiful Dangerous. It starts out with a repeating guitar line with some classic Fergie moans over top, it moves into a standard Fergie song. Literally purring the verse while Slash bounces a standard power chord rhythm behind her:

You like it smooth like brandy
Savor the flavor with delight
You can be Sid, I’ll be Nancy
Cuz sometimes it’s more fun to fight

The surprise for Slash fans is the bridge or pre-chorus, which Fergie raps a stanza over a classic Slash guitar line. Next up, that proof I was talking about. She steps up and gives a full on rock chorus, worthy of a Slash album.

I’ve never minded Fergie. As I’ve mentioned, some of her previous work is pretty good, and she has shown in the past that she has some vocal chops. However, if you had told me Slash was going to do an album, a good album, and my favourite song was the Fergie vehicle, with a repeating rap in it, I might have dismissed that possibility. Yet that’s the case.

Slash’s album is, on the whole, quite good. And the standout track is Beautiful Dangerous sung by that girl with The Black Eyed Peas. Who’d a thunk I’d ever say that?

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

Happy 65th Birthday…

May 6th, 2010

I could give a hundred reasons to offer happy birthday to Bob Seger: Night Moves; Rock and Roll Never Forgets; Katmandu; Beautiful Loser and so on ad naseum. I could even mention some newer material, Lock and Load perhaps, that holds up against what anyone is doing these days.

How about happy birthday for paying homage to Chuck Berry faithfully for 40 years, expanding the audience of Berry by untold amounts, while maintaining your own originality.

But really, it’s about this: in September 1975 Seger recorded 2 shows at Cobo Hall in Detroit, his hometown. He played a song from his previous album, Turn the Page. The song, about life on the road, meant something more on this night and Seger closed his eyes and nailed it like a carpenter at a barn raising. At the 3:35 mark in the recording the band is just about to drop out for the vocals, and Alto Reed’s saxophone comes in with the songs signature lick. It’s not a magic moment, nothing that average. It’s one of the top 5 three-seconds in all of rock and roll.

It is for that moment, and many others, that Bob Seger gets his At Home and Hespeler 65th birthday wishes.

Happy 65th Birthday Bob Seger, we look forward to seeing you in the fall.

Birthday Wishes, Bob Seger, Rockin' and Rollin' and Never Forgettin'

40 Years After Kent State…

May 4th, 2010

Ohio is still a great song:

Local boy made good, Peter Shawn Taylor has a good piece on the Kent State massacre in today’s National Star/Post.


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The Freedom of Music: New Stones

May 2nd, 2010

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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Have you heard the new Rolling Stones song, Plunder My Soul yet? It was released for Independent Record Store Day on April 17th as a vinyl 45RPM single. There was a limited amount made and they moved quickly. If you managed to pick one up on Record Store Day or, like me stumbled across a copy a few weeks later, you got a nice collectable and a good song.sidebar-6

What is the best new Stones song of the last 25 years? – An argument could be made that the best Stones song of recent vintage was by a Montreal band recording their first English language album in ten years. The Respectable’s Sweet Mama is the Stones at their very best, even if they aren’t the Stones (actually a better argument could be made that Sweet Mama is the best Faces song in 35 years) – Plunder My Soul may well be the best Stones song since Little T&A from 1981’s Tattoo You?

Plunder My Soul was recorded in 1972 as part of the Exile On Main Street sessions. Most Stones aficionados would highlight 1972 as being in the middle of the bands peak creative years. Going a couple of years either side of 1972 you get the following singles released: Honky Tonk Woman (b side/You Can’t Always Get What You Want); Brown Sugar; Wild Horses; Tumbling Dice; Happy; Angie; Heartbreaker; It’s Only Rock and Roll; Ain’t To Proud To Beg (b side/Dance Little Sister). Add a year on the front end and you can throw in Jumping Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man. Then there was the album tracks, the stuff that didn’t get released as a single, but deserves mention: Sympathy For the Devil; Give Me Shelter; Midnight Rambler; Can’t You Hear Me Knocking; Bitch; Dead Flowers; Tumblin’ Dice; ‘Til The Next Goodbye. That’s quite a list, far from comprehensive as it is.

To many Rolling Stones fans, Exile On Main Street is the penultimate album, the apex of Rolling Stonery. But Exile has it’s weak moments, songs that sound more like jams than well crafted songs fit for a top level album. Other’s still are just weaker songs, songs that hint, ever so gently, that Fool To Cry is coming. When Plunder My Soul is played next to the rest of Exile, deserves to be there, and is better than many songs that made the cut.

By 1976 the Stones were no longer firing on all cylinders creatively. Black and Blue, that years release featuring the aforementioned Fool To Cry as it’s main single, was a much weaker album. It had been two years since It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (my personal favourite Stones album). Things were about to go very badly for the band: Keith would face the possibility of a 7 year to life prison term when he was arrested on heroin possession “for the purposes of trafficking” charges by the RCMP in 1977. Convicted of a lesser possession charge, the judge did the sensible thing: he gave Richards a suspended sentence, one year probation and made him give a benefit concert.


Clean (of heroin, at any rate), chastened by the Canadian judicial system and the punks who were starting to dominate the English music scene, the Stones returned in 1978 with a stripped down, punk influenced album, Some Girls. One of their finest works, Some Girls featured four strong singles, Miss You, Beast of Burden, Respectable and Shattered. The Stones could have disappeared from the radar as many big early 70’s bands did around this time. But Some Girls put them in front of a new generation, and cemented their standing as a great rock ‘n’ roll band.

Followed by Emotional Rescue in 1980, a much weaker effort even if it did have Dance and She’s So Cold (a friend recently confessed Emotional Rescue was his favourite Stones song). Tattoo You would end the punk inspired period with an album of mostly outtakes including Waiting on a Friend, Little T&A and one of their best songs, Start Me Up. The Stones would never be this good again.

By 1983 Punk had died away and the MTV generation was ruling the airwaves. The Stones answered with Undercover, a largely forgettable album of largely forgettable songs. Dirty Work would follow three years later with Harlem Shuffle being the best of a bad bunch. Nineteen-eight-nine’s Steel Wheels the Stones hit rock bottom, with Mick uttering the horrific lyric in the albums biggest hit, Mixed Emotions:

Button your lip baby
Button your coat
Lets go out dancing
Go for the throat…

This coming and going
Is driving me nuts
This to-ing and fro-ing
Is hurting my guts
So get off the fence
Its creasing your butt
Life is a party
Lets get out and strut

This to-ing and fro-ing, Is hurting my guts? From the band that gave us:

Think the time is right for a palace revolution
‘Cause where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man.

Untenable! It would get no better, and while the Stones would make a well deserved fortune playing the old stuff, any new work was average at best.

It is in this light that the Stones released Plunder My Soul last month. A throwback song, on a throwback format, it is quite the best Stones song since Tattoo You, possibly the best since Some Girls or even, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (but I won’t go that far). Best Stones song in 25 years? For sure. Best in 35? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

One things for sure, it is great to have a new Stones song to love.

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Prime Minister Harper and Bryan Adams

May 2nd, 2010

94601219Playing Run To You at 24 Sussex Dr.


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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Plagiarism Edition – Joni Mitchell, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts.

May 1st, 2010

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorJoni Mitchell gave a rare interview last week with the LA Times:

We (Bob Dylan) and I are like night and day, he and I. Bobmarshmallow_fluff03 is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is deception.

Oh, my! Tell us what you really think Joni.

She had more to say regarding Grace Slick and Janis Joplin being drunken tramps – they were “sleeping with their whole bands and falling down drunk” – and Madonna:

Americans have decided to be stupid and shallow since 1980. Madonna is like Nero; she marks the turning point.

Madonna as anti-Christ. There’s an argument I can get behind.

fluffincolorOther revelations in the Joni Mitchell interview:

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are neither red, hot nor chilli peppers.

Jakob Dylan plagiarized his fathers last name.

The Led Zeppelin song Going to California, heretofore thought to be written about Joni Mitchel, was really written about That Girl Marlo Thomas.

The reason the Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in 40 years is that Joni Mitchell cursed them by writing about them in her song Raised on Robbery.

Jose Feliciano is the judge for the People Magazine’s most beautiful people.

Bob Dylan mumbles

fluffincolorSandra Bullock has filed for divorce from her wayward husband, Jesse James. While Bullock was apparently devastated by revelations of James multiple affairs, she was equally appalled by a picture showing him in Nazi dress, using his finger to mock-up a Hitler moustache and giving a Nazi salute:

The photo shocked me and made me sad. This is not the man I married… anything Nazi…have no place in my life. And the man I married felt the same.

Am I the only person in this world who sees the iron cross that James uses as his business logo and thinks of the Nazi’s?

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fluffincolorPeople Magazine came out with their 2010 Most Beautiful Woman issue for 2010, and the winner is… Julia Roberts?

Even in her prime 20 years ago I wouldn’t put Julia Roberts on my top 50 beautiful women list, a list that includes my wife, my neighbour and my singer. But in an edition of People Magazine that will heavily feature Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts will be on the cover as most beautiful? Absurd!

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