Sunday, November 30, 2014
Herbie Hancock performs improvisational music inspired by Miles Davis
"Silver Hollows" performed by Jack DeJohnette's New Directions
"Distractions" performed by Paul McCartney
"Fool's Gold" performed by Alan Price
"Coming Home" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Congregation" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE
"Run Joe" performed by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers
"We Need Sme Money" performed by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers
"Time Is Runnng Out Fast" performed by JAMES BROWN
"CLOUDS/PLECTRUM ELECTRUM/MARZ/ANOTHER LOVE" performed by Prince and 3rdEyeGirl LIVE on "Saturday Night Live"-WSPC PREMIERE
November 2, 2014
"Streetcrawler" performed by Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
"Blue Brains" performed by Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz
"Stratus" performed by Billy Cobham
"Austin Medley" performed by Stewart Copeland, Jon Kimura Parker & Peers
"Tulsa Tango" performed by Stewart Copeland
"YYZ" (live) performed by Rush
Mick Fleetwood drum solo live 2013
"Do The Neurotic" performed by Genesis
"Bonzo's Montreaux performed by Led Zeppelin
November 3, 2014
"1972" performed by Josh Rouse
"Someday Man" performed by The Monkees
"I Believe In Fate" performed by Papas Fritas
"They Dance Alone" performed by Sting
"You Owe Me" performed by The Robert Glasper Experiment with Faith Evans
November 4, 2014
"Election Day" performed by Arcadia
"Primary/Ballot Or The Bullet' performed by Van Halen
"Get Up" (live) performed by R.E.M.
November 5, 2014
"One And All" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
"Salvation Road" performed by The Kinks
"Be Careful What You Wish For" performed by Eminem
"So Far So Good" performed by Sloan-WSPC PREMIERE
"Karma Police" performed by Radiohead
"Sheep" performed by Pink Floyd
"The Feast And The Famine" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE
November 6, 2014
"Walking In The Wind performed by Traffic
"Sweet Painted Lady" performed by Elton John
"Don't Worry Baby" performed by The Beach Boys
"Here At The Western World" performed by Steely Dan
"Private Investigations" performed by Dire Straits
November 7, 2014
"Falling Down" performed by Tears For Fears
"Brutal" performed by New Order
"I'll Tumble 4 Ya" performed by Culture Club
"Cheap Champagne" performed by Sloan
"Alone Too Long" performed by Hall & Oates
"Best Of All Possible Worlds" performed by Bourgeois Tagg
November 8, 2014
"Harlem" performed by Bill Withers
"Village Ghetto Land" performed by Stevie Wonder
"It's Your Life" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Underdog" performed by Sly and the Family Stone
"The Skin I'm In" performed by Roosevelt Franklin!!
"Within You, Without You" performed by The Beatles
"Four Sticks" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Love And Peace Or Else" performed by U2
"That Wave" performed by XTC
"Like It Or Not" performed by Genesis
"Ain't Got Nobody" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
November 9, 2014
"Onwards" performed by Planet P. Project
"Dust" performed by Tony Carey
"Along The Pontchartrain" performed by Tony Carey
November 10, 2014
"Bill Murray" performed by Gorillaz
"Crooked Beat" performed by The Clash
"Yalla Yalla" performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
"Nothing's Not In It" performed by Gang Of Four
"Regatta De Blanc" performed by The Police
"'Tis A Pity She's A Whore" performed by David Bowie-WSPC PREMIERE
"Louder Than Words" performed by Pink Floyd-WSPC PREMIERE
November 11, 2014
"Gunpowder On The Letter" performed by Cody ChesnuTT with Gary Clark Jr.-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Wall" performed by Bruce Springsteen-WSPC PREMIERE
"Roster" performed by Alice In Chains
"The Gunner's Dream" performed by Pink Floyd
"When A Soldier Makes It Home" performed by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger
November 13, 2014
"Sick Again" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Future Games" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"All Of A Sudden" performed by XTC
"Vertigo" performed by U2
"1-2-3 Sesame Street" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Pinball Number Count" vocals by The Pointer Sisters
November 14, 2014
"Our Song" performed by Yes
"Good Times" performed by Phoebe Snow
"Danny's All Star Joint" performed by Rickie Lee Jones
"Lowdown" performed by Boz Scaggs
November 15, 2014
"In The Dark" performed by Billy Squier
"A Love In Vain" performed by Foreigner
"Astral Planes" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Outside" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE
"It's Late" performed by Queen
November 16, 2014
"Cygnus X-1" performed by Rush
"Cygnus X-1: Book II" performed by Rush
"Rocket Man" performed by Elton John
"Saturn" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Supermassive Black Hole" performed by Muse
"Starman" performed by David Bowie
"Interstellar Overdrive" performed by Pink Floyd
"Zeit" performed by Tangerine Dream
November 17, 2014
"Do For The Others" performed by Stephen Stills
"Hejira" performed by Joni Mitchell
"1967" performed by Adrian Belew
"Joanne" performed by Michael Nesmith
"I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say" performed by Ryan Adams
"Tiberius" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
"Rainbow" performed by Robert Plant and the Shape Shifters-WSPC PREMIERE
"It Takes A Lot To Know A Man" performed by Damien Rice-WSPC PREMIERE
"Christlike" performed by The Roches
"Love Is All Around" performed by Sloan
"A Trick With No Sleeve" performed by The Sound City Players
November 18, 2014
"Riding The Scree" performed by Genesis
"Mind Mischief" performed by Tame Impala
"Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" performed by U2-WSPC PREMIERE
"A Man In A Purple Dress" performed by The Who
"Poet Is Priest" performed by Julian Cope
November 20, 2014
"Don't Leave Me Now" performed by Pink Floyd
"What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)" performed by DJ Shadow
"Sloppy Seconds" performed by George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars
"Greetings From The Gutter" performed by Dave Stewart
"Julia" performed by Eurythmics
"America" performed by Simon and Garfunkel
"Dirty Blvd." performed by Lou Reed
"America Is My Home" performed by JAMES BROWN
"America" from "West Side Story"
November 21, 2014
"Love My Way" performed by The Psychedelic Furs
"1901" performed by Phoenix
"Battery Acid" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age
"Middle Of The Road" performed by The Pretenders
"Drum + Fife" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
"Live 8 Concert Performance-2005" performed by Pink Floyd
"It Ain't No Use" performed by The Meters
"Amazing Grace" performed by Daniel Lanois featuring Aaron Neville
November 22, 2014
"This Time" performed by INXS
"Not To Touch The Earth" performed by The Doors
"Plastic Fantastic" performed by Flesh For Lulu
"U.S.L.S. 1" Performed by Public Image Ltd.
"Slip Inside this House" performed by 13th Floor Elevators
"Casanova" performed by LeVert
"Juicy Fruit" performed by Mtume
"I Want To be Your Man" performed by Roger
"Why Have I Lost You" performed by Cameo
"Yearning For Your Love" performed by The Gap Band
"Funny Feeling" performed by Steve Hackett
"777-9311" performed by The Time
"With Teeth" (live) performed by Nine Inch Nails
"1963" performed by New Order
November 23, 2014
"Bugle Call Rag" performed by Buddy Rich
"Caravan" performed by Coleman Hawkins-Harry Edison Quintet featuring Jo Jones
"Black Nile" performed by Wayne Shorter
"There Comes A Time" performed by Tony Williams
"Epilog" performed by Jack DeJohnette
"The Anxious Battle For Sanity" performed by Antonio Sanchez
"Skyway" performed by The Replacements
November 24, 2014
"Monday, Monday" performed by Neil Diamond
"Simle Song" performed by The Shins
"Face Dances Part 2" performed by Pete Townshend
"November Rain" performed by Guns N' Roses
"Figure Eight" from Schoolhouse Rock
"I Can" performed by Chuck D.-WSPC PREMIERE
November 25, 2014
RADIO SILENCE IN SOLIDARITY FOR MICHAEL BROWN AND FERGUSON, MO
November 26, 2014
"Lost In Meditation" performed by Duke Ellington
"More Trouble Every Day" performed by Frank Zappa
"Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos" performed by Public Enemy
"Riot" performed by Miles Davis
"House Burning Down" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"So Many Millions' performed by Fishbone
November 27, 2014
"Thank You" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Gratitude" performed by Paul McCartney
"Thank You Too" performed by My Morning Jacket
"Gratitude" performed by Beastie Boys"
"Ophelia" performed by The Band
"Foxy Lady" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"Little Birdie" performed by Vince Guaraldi
"Drum solo/Portia" performed by Cindy Blackman-Santana and Band live Leverkusener Jazztage 2013
November 28, 2014
"Black Friday" performed by Steely Dan
"Blackout" performed by Sloan
"memrise" performed by Frank Ocean-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Lady Lies" (live) performed by Genesis
"The People" performed by De La Soul with Chuck D.-WSPC PREMIERE
"Monuments" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
November 29, 2014
"Change" performed by Tears For Fears
"Idioteque" performed by Radiohead
"Pull Up The Roots" performed by Talking Heads
"Happy Idiot" performed by TV On The Radio-WSPC PREMIERE
"Keep In The Dark" performed by Temples-WSPC PREMIERE
"Subterranean" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Troubles" performed by U2-WSPC PREMIERE
"Lady Ice" performed by Arcadia
"The Barry Williams Show" performed by Peter Gabriel
"The Unforgiven III" performed by Metallica
"Viceroy's Row" performed by Elvis Costello and The Roots
"If You Don't Like The Effects, Don't Produce The Cause" performed by Funkadelic
"To Live And Die In L.A." performed by Wang Chung
"Rain" performed by Jan Hammer
"Starless" performed by King Crimson
November 30, 2014
"For Pete's Sake" performed by The Monkees
"If Only" performed by Wednesday Week
"Lonely Boy" performed by Andrew Gold
"Outtasite (Outta Mind)" performed by Wilco
"Thin Ice" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Hawking" performed by Todd Rundgren
Released March 28, 1973
"BETWEEN THE BRIDGES"
Released September 12, 1999
"ECHOES, SILENCE, PATIENCE AND GRACE"
Released September 25, 2007
NINE INCH NAILS
Released September 9, 1999
Released May 26, 1998
PAT METHENY with DAVE HOLLAND AND ROY HAYNES
Released in 1990
Released in 1977
Released September 3, 1971
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS
Released March 25, 1976
Released October 12, 1973
Released November 12, 1996
Released March 12, 2013
Released May 10, 2011
Released February 23, 2010
Friday, November 21, 2014
Music by Pink Floyd
Lyrics by Polly Samson
David Gilmour: Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Bass Guitars, Keyboards, Synthesizers, Vocals
Nick Mason: Drums and Percussion
Richard Wright: Piano, Keyboards, Organ, Synthesizers
Produced by David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson
Released November 10, 2014
Out of all of the new music that has been released and that I have listened to in 2014, this was the album that I would have never expected to hear (that is next to the still unreleased third studio album from D'Angelo, an album that has been rumored to be 99% completed for the last three years now, but I digress...).
New music from Pink Floyd was just something I figured would never occur again. While the band never officially disbanded or even made any official statements whatsoever proclaiming that the end of the road had been reached, it has been 20 full years since the previous studio album, "The Division Bell" (released ) entered the world and truth be told, having the band reunite with bassist/singer/songwriter Roger Waters for the Live 8 performance in 2005 was more than I could have ever wished for. If that was to be the end, then so be it. And logically, with the advancing ages of guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and the 2008 passing of keyboardist Richard Wright from cancer, it understandably felt that there was no more music to be heard or to even be expected.
And then, the news hit the world this past July that Pink Floyd would resurface just one more time with new material...sort of.
The new material in question was born out of the sessions that birthed "The Division Bell," and while there are a few guest/additional musicians present there and there, the nucleus of the music was chiefly composed and performed by the three remaining band members, as well as it should be. Yet, there was an even greater purpose behind the material than simply placing a new album adorned with the Pink Floyd moniker in the shops.
For a band as faceless and certainly as enigmatic as Pink Floyd, it is indeed surprising to realize just how personal quite a bit of the band's landmark albums actually are. As "Wish You Were Here" (released September 12, 1975) served as a tribute for the departed and mentally ill band founder, the late Syd Barrett and "The Wall" (released November 30, 1979) served as an autobiographical account of Roger Waters' childhood and inner demons, the new Pink Floyd album, in addition to serving as a farewell, is an album of solace and tribute towards the late Richard Wright, I would argue is the one member of the band who never truly received their fair due of the credit regarding the iconic sound of Pink Floyd, and in some ways this may have partially been to his own doing.
Think about it. Certainly, Syd Barrett received his seismic notoriety as he created the band, was originally the chief songwriter and guitarist and he introduced the band's identity of disturbingly surrealistic, cosmic visions to the world. Roger Waters truly became the band's dominant force throughout the 1970's, through his conceptual foresight as well as arguably being one of rock's finest lyricists. Frankly, if David Gilmour had only recorded his towering guitar solo to "Comfortably Numb" he would still be one of the best rock guitarists of all time plus his singing voice is instantly identifiable with the sound of Pink Floyd. Even drummer Nick Mason's laid back yet powerfully percussive presence contains its hallmark.
But what of Richard Wright? I would argue that in regards to the overall sound of the band, every piece of the musical web of Pink Floyd hangs tightly onto the gossamer threads of Wright's keyboards. What would tracks like dreamlike "Echoes," "Time" (on which Wright sings as well) or the epic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" be without the pillows of pianos and synthesizers through which every other sound flows? Certainly, the Pink Floyd canon would not be complete without the orgiastic yet solemn "The Great Gig In The Sky," composed by Wright for the band's timeless album "The Dark Side Of The Moon" (released March 23, 1973). And after Wright's unceremonious firing from the band by the then dogmatic Waters, his absence from "The Final Cut" (released March 21, 1983),left a massive hole in the proceedings despite that album's brilliance. For my ears, simply stated, Richard Wright gave Pink Floyd an essential and irreplaceable element of ethereal grace and soul.
And still, he was "the quiet one," even to members of his own band. In a recent interview with the British music magazine MOJO, David Gilmour expressed the following regarding his feelings towards Richard Wright during the band's heyday and his reflections now that Wright has passed on:
"Rick had his years of troubles, problems, as we all did to some extent. His were quite serious in those periods of life people often aren't very lovable. Rick and I were never that close. None of us in the band were that close as friends. Nick and Roger were at one point. I always liked what Rick did. But I didn't quite believe in him as much as I should have done in times when he should have been given more support."
And with that sentiment fully intact, we are now graced with the new, and yes, final album by Pink Floyd. Adorned with a poignantly surreal cover image of a man sailing away into the sunset on a sea of clouds, "The Endless River" is a nearly 60 minute double album that serves as a surprisingly warm and intimate statement of reverence and regret, tribute and musical fellowship as well as serving as quite the anomaly in regards to the nature of this release in our ADD, low attention span 21st century. For you see, "The Endless River," is not a song based album as it is an entirely instrumental experience (except for the final selection "Louder Than Words"), that is essentially divided into four distinct movements that seamlessly weave into a whole. But I shall provide you with just a few more words of caution. There are no social political diatribes or psychological traumas to be found. There is no sense of stadium psychedelia as it is more suited for your headphones or some other form of solitary listening. But most of all, "The Endless River" is not designed for immediacy. This music is designed for immersion.
"There's certainly an unspoken understanding. Uh...but there are a lot of things unsaid as well." And with those spoken words from Richard Wright himself, taken from an interview so long, long ago, Side One's sequence of "The Endless River" opens and closes with "Things Left Unsaid" and "Ebb And Flow," two tracks that bookend and perfectly illustrate the purpose and intent of this mostly wordless album. Both selections offer a musical conversation between Wright and David Gilmour as the layers of keyboards and the guitars caress each other with a gentle, elegiac elegance. But in between those those moments in the six minute centerpiece, "It's What We Do." With the entrance of Wright's organ and synthesizers, which carry a familiar echo (ha ha) of chords from the classic "Welcome To The Machine," Gilmour's space blues guitars and now Nick Mason's languid drums, Pink Floyd settles into the precise astral groove that has transported listeners for over 40 years. Those drum fills, that swan dive slide guitar, and of course, that galaxy of keyboards, all so familiar and so unique to this collective of musicians when they congregate.
Tension, release and rhythm characterize Side Two as "The Endless River" grows initially more propulsive and downright tribal. Where Gilmour's guitars growl and churn melodically, Nick Mason's drums take center stage on both "Sum" and "Skins." After the dark ambiance of the interlude "Unsung," where those "Welcome To The Machine" chords make a brief return, Pink Floyd glides into the stately "Anisina," oddly enough a track on which Richard Wright does not appear (David Gilmour handles the piano and keyboards) but feels and sounds like the most overt tribute to him. As I listen to the track while writing, it struck me that this selection is precisely what the album cover would sound like if it could play music on its own.
In addition to the recurring themes of communication from "The Division Bell," as featured in "The Lost Art Of Conversation" and "Talkin' Hawkin'" (which again features the voice of Stephen Hawking) to my ears, Side Three's sequence feels as if it is all about movement and travel. The songs grow from the meditative lounge funk of "On Noodle Street" to the centerpiece "Allons-Y Part 1" and "Allons-Y Part 2" where David Gilmour's chugging "Run Like Hell" guitars resurface, providing the music its momentum. Yet sandwiched in between that two part track is the regal "Autumn '68," a selection of Richard Wright's unreleased organ work as recorded in the Royal Albert Hall in the year indicated in the song's title.
Side Four's sequence begins with some of the album's most ambient and even cinematic material, music that quite often made me think of Vangelis' iconic score to Director Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982). A feeling of disturbance and even menace arises within "Calling," the album's only other track to not feature Wright yet strongly suggests his presence, as Gilmour's swan dive guitars circle overhead as an ocean of keyboards suggest turbulence underneath. "Eyes To Pearls," featuring Gilmour's delicately plucked and almost folk styled guitars and Mason's dramatic cymbal washes continues the murkiness but the appropriately titled "Surfacing," starring Gilmour's stellar slide guitar work truly takes flight.
And as a final statement, the instantly recognizable and unchanged singing voice of David Gilmour gives us the only sung words on the album as he wraps up the story of Pink Floyd. "We bitch and we fight," Gilmour sings referencing the bitter in-fighting that existed between the band members for many years. "But this thing we do/These times together," he continues and giving profundity to how despite the struggles, what music was created just by having this collective of people merged in musical union. While some may bristle at the simplicity of the lyrics by Gilmour's wife Polly Samson (especially when compared to the staggering, peerless lyricism of Roger Waters), for me, the plainly spoken sentiments felt as grounded and as honest as the song needed to be. No mysterious backwards message or coded meanings. Just a peek at the wizards behind the surrealistic curtain of Pink Floyd right at the end of the story, sending us and themselves...onwards.
The legacy of Pink Floyd is firmly intact within the history of rock music and certainly, there was really no reason for the band to record and release anything new. But with "The Endless River," Pink Floyd has given us a most poignant raison d'etre to take yet another musical journey one more time. This is music created in honor for a fallen musical comrade, to demonstrate that it is never too late to offer tribute and gratitude. It is clear upon listening to this album that aside from David Gilmour's masterful, one-of-a-kind guitar heroics and the grit of Nick Mason's percussive grooves, the heart and soul of "The Endless River" is firmly centered around and completely belongs to Richard Wright. It simply amazes me how seamless of an album Gilmour and Mason have created from a variety of recorded sources and unreleased material and it is also so deeply touching to hear just how lovingly they did orchestrate this material and weaved it together into this glistening tapestry.
Pink Floyd's "The Endless River" has continued to grow on me the more I listen to it, leaving me emotionally moved more and more. While this album may not quite be the album some Pink Floyd fans may necessarily have wanted them to make, it is undeniably the very album they needed, wanted and just plain had to make.
And if Pink Floyd were to indeed release new music in 2014, then an album that contains this much love and passion is the only album from them that I could wish to have.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Dave Grohl: Vocals, Guitars
Taylor Hawkins: Drums, Vocals
Chris Shiflett: Guitars
Nate Mandell: Bass Guitars
Pat Smear: Guitars
Music by Foo Fighters
Lyrics by Dave Grohl
Produced by Butch Vig and Foo Fighters
Released November 10, 2014
From one of rock and roll's most durable and dependable acts comes one of 2014's most ambitious releases.
With this year marking the 20th anniversary of Foo Fighters, bandleader/singer/guitarist Dave Grohl wanted to celebrate this milestone by recording an album in what might possibly be an unprecedented fashion. Re-enlisting the masterful producing aid of Butch Vig, the band traveled around the country to eight different cities to eight different recording studios to record one song per visit. To add to the potential musical alchemy, Grohl documented the entire experience on film while also holding and filming interviews with key musical figures within each city, allowing all of the conversations and geographical locations to inform the writing of the lyrics, which Grohl held off from composing until the final day of the band's visits. The results of Grohl's documentations can now be seen weekly on HBO in the powerfully outstanding series "Sonic Highways" and of course, this very album that houses the same title.
In my opening "Session Notes" for this month, I have already described to you my ecstatic feelings towards the television program which has performed an incredible duty of merging the making of an album, an autobiographical odyssey and the showcasing an oral history of certain avenues of American music into a seamless and inspiring whole. How Grohl has carefully and lovingly presented the connective tissue that not only exists between a variety of musical genres but between the musicians themselves, regardless of age, gender and race (and especially illustrating just how deeply African American culture has influenced every musical genre) has made "Sonic Highways" nothing less than essential viewing each week.
As for the album itself, does it musically match the majesty that I have seen on screen each week? Well...let me explain...
Then entire "Sonic Highways" project feels as if it is the next logical progression in the Foo Fighters canon. Where "Wasting Light" (released April 12, 2011) found the band recording at Grohl's Virginia home to analog tape, that experience easily surged forwards to Grohl's excellent "Sound City" (2013) motion picture documentary, and equally excellent accompanying album "Sound City: Real To Reel" (released March 12, 2013), which found the members of Foo Fighters again recording to analog tape and working in a variety of fruitful and even surprising musical collaborations, from songs composed and performed by Lee Ving ("Your Wife Is Calling") and Rick Springfield ("The Man That Never Was") were two massive highlights and Stevie Nicks' "You Can't Fix This" was easily her most towering song in many years.
"Sonic Highways" takes the concepts of "Wasting Light" and "Sound City" even further as the band travels all around the United States so I have to admit to a certain feeling of being initially underwhelmed when I began to hear tracks from the album during the concluding sequences of the television program. Now, there's no question that the music itself is as exuberantly and enthusiastically performed as anything we have ever heard from Foo Fighters. There's no way to hear these tracks and think that the band is just phoning it all in. Where I was beginning to feel a tad let down was in the sonic sameness of the new tracks as compared to songs from the past. I could not really tell much difference to all that had come before and because of those feelings, I began to fear that the new album would fall a bit short of its ambitious reach.
But, don't count the Foos out just yet...
If you do rewind to the Session Notes of this site for this month and read (or re-read) my experience with the album's first single "Something From Nothing," I can tell you that I experienced the exact same feelings while hearing the al;bum's second and third tracks, "The Feast And The Famine," recorded in Washington D.C. and "Congregation," recorded in Nashville and with some accompaniment from guitarist Zac Brown. In both instances, I knew these were good songs but just not different enough. Or at least, what I may have been expecting or even hoping to hear from this band who was obviously attempting to allow the regional flavor of each city inform the songs. It wasn't really until watching the episodes and seeing how Grohl's lyrics were born from the stories told to him (and to us in the audience) that I began to see the power contained within the songs themselves. Even so, "Sonic Highways" the album has to work for those listeners who either can't see the HBO series or just aren't that interested in it anyway. The songs need to work independently of the means in which they came to be.
The true test for me arrived when I purchased the album only having heard those first three songs, ones that I had not been impressed by initially but soon grew on me tremendously. In fact, before I even placed the album into my CD player, I recalled just how the melodies of "The Feast And The Famine" and "Congregation" had somehow welded themselves into my brain, especially only having heard each of them a couple of times. Once I began to listen to the album (as always, while driving), I was immediately struck by how beautifully produced and arranged the songs truly are. Even through their sheer bombastic sound, there is an exquisite depth and clarity to all of the instruments, no small feat as Foo Fighters stand five men strong (or six, if you count keyboardist Remi Jaffee), with three guitarists and special guest musicians to boot. Every sound has its specific place, Taylor Hawkins' drums have a perfectly full yet dry snap that makes me want to fit a drum kit quickly and Dave Grohl again shows that he is one of modern rock's very best vocalists.
As for the songs themselves, at first, I did notice even more that the songs so not sonically sound remotely regional or very different from past albums. But all of that being said, "Sonic Highways" just may be the very best Foo Fighters album due to how much better the band has grown as songwriters and performers. Within these eight songs, the band have crafted their tightest, leanest collection yet ensuring that there is not one wasted moment and not even one superfluous song. It is an album that feels excitingly complete and it is also their most emotionally satisfying album since "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" (released September 25, 2007).
I think "Sonic Highways" began to sink in for me during the album's fourth track, the two part recorded in Austin, Texas suite "What Did I Do?/God As My Witness" as again the melodies grabbed me instantly and special guest Gary Clark's Jr.'s outro guitar solo sent me soaring. Even better was the Los Angeles recorded "Outside" starring Nate Mendel's marathon runner, endlessly open road bass playing combined with guest Joe Walsh's space cowboy guitar solo. I think here was the point in the album, where I found myself not trying to be too focused upon where the tracks were recorded as to how good the songs actual were. And these songs were especially good songs.
Despite my stance to not focus too heavily on location, I did try to make myself play a bit of a guessing game with the album's final three songs, especially as those episodes have not aired yet. "In The Clear" with lyrics pertaining to "water" and of course, "the Second Line," it could only have been recorded in New Orleans. And again, while I was hoping for a bit of added funk to the proceedings (especially with the added presence of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band--who admittedly are not obviously audible), I cannot expect the Foo Fighters to become who they simply are not designed to be. But again, when the melodies, harmonies and chorus are as bright as the shining sun as they are on this song, it is just futile for me to complain.
The album's final two selections are whoppers. The dark cloudy skies of "Subterranean" featuring Nate Mendel's dream world bass playing and some spiraling spectral spirits of E-bow guitars floating through the proceedings, I can imagine the perpetually rainy landscape of Seattle. This is a brooding, murky track as if the band wanted to craft their version of "Comfortably Numb" era Pink Floyd (yes, a British reference but still...).
With "I Am A River," the album's appropriately grand finale, Foo Fighters have essentially crafted their own "Love Reign O'er Me" (yes, another British reference) as this track is an orchestral sky scorcher. In fact, the whole nearly Broadway-esque grandeur of the piece suggests that this one was recorded in New York and actually, I could not help but to surprisingly think of "I Sing The Body Electric," itself the grand rock/gospel/orchestral hybrid finale of Director Alan Parker's classic New York teen art performance high school musical "Fame" (1980). Dear readers and listeners, I cannot help it. I was moved. Very much so.
For their eight album, I truly believe that Foo Fighters truly accomplished what they set out to achieve and I do believe that they should be proud of their efforts. As a rock album, it is one of the stronger efforts of 2014 by far and while Dave Grohl may take some lumps for his lyrics which may be a little too on the nose here and there, I truly commend him for taking on such an artistic challenge with such obvious grit, passion and commitment, qualities that are really in short supply these days. Because let's face it, when U2 is lambasted and criticized for supposedly "devaluing music" by giving away their latest album for free and Taylor Swift is seen as the industry rebel, music does not have much to stand on when it comes to credibility.
All of that being said, I do think that it it time for Foo Fighters to really challenge themselves artistically. There's no question about their superior musicianship but if I could wave my magic wand in a way where they could hear me and listen to me (as if I were a producer), I would urge them to completely get outside (ha ha) of their own comfort zone and make an album unlike they have ever made before.
There is a recent photo that I have happened to see of the Foo Fighters performing live with Trombone Shorty. Just imagine the real collaboration those two forces could come up with. Unfiltered and jubilant collaboration. For a band who once titled an album "There Is Nothing Left To Lose," it is time for the Foo Fighters to really prove it by making an album that musically shows that they truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the experience. It is time for Foo Fighters to make their "White Album," their "Achtung Baby!," an album that continues their evolution and re-invents them in the process.
Record to analog tape again certainly, even use Butch Vig again if you wish and definitely keep collaborating with your heroes and other musical figures. But that's it. Don't record in Grohl's home. Go out into the desert perhaps or any unfamiliar location and just let your freak flags fly. Create nine minute epics to crash alongside one minute punk rock thrashes and then zig-zag into pop songs and hard rock slammers. Do a full on country song. Do a song with no guitars at all. How about instrumentals or even songs that are built from completely different recordings a la Frank Zappa (i.e. take Grohl's guitars from one source and marry them with Hawkins' drums from a completely different recording regardless of tempo) and see what magic arrives. Dabble even further with vocal interplay and stacked harmonies. Allow Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett and Nate Mendel to also create tracks that showcase their respective talents like on Yes' "Fragile" (released January 4, 1972) or Living Colour's "Time's Up" (released August 20, 1990). Trade instruments and even lead vocals as well. Do anything that really shakes you up and then carve it all into a double album, a truly '70s era double album full of color and flash, vision and massive volume. Don't worry if the fans will "get it." Don't worry abut becoming Radiohead. Just be the Foo Fighters and go for it! We've been with you for 20 years, we'll still be here.
For now, we do have "Sonic Highways." If you do have the means, I cannot urge you enough to watch this beautiful series. As for the music itself, Foo Fighters have given us one of their strongest releases to date, even through the familiarity which is indeed more finely honed and executed than ever before.
These eight songs are not stadium rockers for the band to sing to us. These are celebratory American anthems designed for us to sing together.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
I could never be thankful enough for all that music has given, and continues to give, to me.
Even if you happen to just be causal visitors to this site, the activity last month was of an unusually high frequency, and that was entirely based upon the sheer amount of music that I have not only been listening to but how deeply the music itself has inspired me to keep trying to write about it and share my thoughts with you. To think, not only did I receive two incredible Prince albums as well as a superior return to form from Weezer, I have been completely knocked off of my feet by the musical world of the Canadian power pop band Sloan as I have been pouring over their complete catalog after being amazed by their current album release.
Now, my sense of gratitude continues with a musical figure who is himself embarking upon a mega-musical project which is, in and of itself, a project that is entirely about gratitude and tribute, and that artist is Dave Grohl.
In 2013, Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and leader of the Foo Fighters, embarked upon a passion project with his motion picture documentary "Sound City," a film that I proclaimed as one of my top ten favorite films of the year. In that film, Grohl masterfully transcended the story of a legendary yet now defunct recording studio and beautifully extended the narrative into a cultural commentary about the importance of maintaining a human connection and the importance that connection plays--from the musicians to the entirety of the studio crew--with the creation of music in our increasing technological age, a time which is threatening to keep us isolated from each other.
Now Grohl has boldly extended this concept even further.
This month will see the release of "Sonic Highways," the latest album from Foo Fighters and clearly their most ambitious undertaking to date as the band visited eight legendary studios in eight different cities to create the songs, utilizing whatever inspirational vibes each city and its musicians and inhabitants happened to deliver to them. As an especially crucial supplement to the album is a new eight part televisions series for HBO, which Grohl has directed, also entitled "Sonic Highways," and not only chronicles the making of the album but provides a historical background that was not only essential for the music being recorded but for anyone who loves music at all.
After having watched three episodes, it is terribly easy to pronounce that Dave Grohl has helmed a beautifully realized series that is as entertaining as it is inspirational. Simultaneously autobiographical as well as providing a crucial oral history, Grohl has only continued to prove what a sensational filmmaker he actually is in addition to being a fine documentarian, historian, breathlessly gracious host and endlessly fascinated music fanatic. He is nothing less than a Keeper Of The Flame and the gratitude he exudes towards all musicians is tremendously palpable.
Within that first episode, which is set in my hometown of Chicago, Grohl conducts several insightful interviews with blues legend Buddy Guy, Cheap Trick songwriter/guitarist Rick Nielsen and legendary punk rock musician/music producer Steve Albini, in whose studio "Something For Nothing" was recorded and with Nielsen as special guest. Grohl provides the musical connections and lineage between the three artists as he illustrates how Guy transformed the blues with his then unprecedented style of guitar heroics, how the blues then influenced Nielsen's guitar playing which also then inspired some of the fury of Albini's specialized brand of unrepentant punk rock. And in all three cases, we are given a picture of three very different musicians who all created and changed everything that came before them into something new...literally, something from nothing.
By the episode's conclusion, we hear the completed song in full with a gorgeously filmed performance piece. The opening of "Something For Nothing" is haunting and quietly hushed as if we are hearing the soundtrack of an individual entering a foreign land-the proverbial stranger in a strange town who is simply trying to find his or her way. As the song begins to build itself upwards, I loved how Grohl wrote lyrics that incorporated key statements, phrases and subjects directly from his interviews. For instance, lines like "a button on a string," "looking for a dime but found a quarter," and "you can never make me change my name" all emerged from Grohl's interview sessions with Buddy Guy as he described his arrival to Chicago, meeting Muddy Waters and his beginnings with forging a lifelong friendship and musical partnership that would sustain him for the entirety of his career.
Another line, "But in the end we all come from what's come before" demonstrates the musical lineage between disparate figures like Buddy Guy, Rick Nielsen and Steve Albini to the Foo Fighters themselves, as they all are forged from the same tradition and have embarked upon the same paths and hoped for destinies as each other. Once Grohl sings lines like "I had to be what never was"
and especially the howling defiance of the line "Fuck it all, I came from nothing," the band voluminously sums up the trajectory of every performer who ever felt the soul stirring desire to make music because that was precisely what they were born to do and there was nothing else that could satisfy their respective spirits.
And that's what makes "Something From Nothing" transcend a standard hard rock song and become the sound of an existential hurricane of inspiration made into reality. It is the voice of spiritual deliverance and not just of Guy, Neilsen and Albini, but also of every immigrant to arrive in Chicago determined to survive and make a name for themselves and the legacy of their lives. It is a hell of a way to not only begin an album but to offer tribute to a city and to music itself!
I sincerely hope that you find sometime to give thanks to music this month as I firmly believe it to be one of the most blissful art forms we have been blessed to have been given.
And as always.......PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!