Wednesday, November 30, 2016


November 1, 2016
"Dream Baby Dream" performed by Bruce Springteen

"7" performed by Prince and the New Power Generation
"The National Anthem" performed by Radiohead
"Final Straw" performed by R.E.M.
"It's Gonna Get Better" performed by Genesis
"Dream Baby Dream" performed by Suicide

November 2, 2016
"Classic Masher" performed by Pixies-WSPC PREMIERE
"For God And Country" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Techno D-Day" performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
"Power" performed by Tears For Fears
"State Of The Nation" performed by New Order
November 3, 2016
"Sweet Home Chicago" performed by The Blues Brothers

"Another Tricky Day" performed by The Who
"Digging In The Dirt" performed by Peter Gabriel
"Cynical Days" performed by XTC
"Cruel" performed by Thomas Dolby
"It Ain't Over Til It's Over" performed by Lenny Kravitz
November 4, 2016
"Time Is Running Out" performed by Steve Winwood

"War Pigs" performed by Black Sabbath
"Super Stupid" performed by Funkadelic
"Fight The Power" performed by The Isley Brothers
"Public Servant" performed by Todd Rundgren

November 5, 2016
"Win" performed by David Bowie
"Casual Conversations" performed by Passion Pit
"Just Like Weeds" performed by Mute Swan
"I Can't Stop Thinking About You" performed by Sting-WSPC PREMIERE
"Seriously" composed by Sara Bareilles performed by Leslie Odom Jr.-WSPC PREMIERE

"Remember" performed by John Lennon
"The Power and the Trust" performed by The German Art Students
"You Can't Unring The Bell" performed by Funkadelic
"I Did It Just The Same" performed by Eurythmics
"So Many Millions" performed by Fishbone

November 6, 2016
"Sky Blue" performed by Peter Gabriel
"Private Investigations" performed by Dire Straits
"Powerless" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Cloudburst Flight" performed by Tangerine Dream
"Filthy Habits" performed by Frank Zappa

"Don't Worry About The Government" performed by Talking Heads
"Pop Song 89" performed by R.E.M.
"He's Evil" performed by The Kinks
"2112" performed by Rush

November 7, 2016
"Hejira" performed by Joni Mitchell

"Turn The World Around" performed by Harry Belafonte
"Down To The Wire" performed by Neil Young
"Trapped" performed by Utopia
"Primary/Ballot Or The Bullet" performed by Van Halen

November 8, 2016
"Election Day" performed by Arcadia
September 21, 1934-November 7, 2016

November 9, 2016

November 10, 2016
"People Of The Sky" performed by Sloan
"She Says What She Means" performed by Sloan
"So Far So Good" performed by Sloan

November 11, 2016
"Everybody Knows" performed by Leonard Cohen
"Welcome To The Occupation" performed by R.E.M.
"Tripwire" performed by Elvis Costello and The Roots
"Isn't It A Pity" performed by George Harrison

"How Do You Know It Was Racist" performed by W. Kamau Bell

"Here Comes President Kill Again" performed by XTC
"All You Can Carry" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"We The People" performed by A Tribe Called Quest-WSPC PREMIERE

November 12, 2016
"Here In Spirit" performed by Jim James-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel" performed by Todd Rundgren

"Black And White America" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"What Shall We Do Now?" performed by Pink Floyd
"Walk On" performed by U2
April 2, 1942-November 13, 2016
November 13, 2016
"Me And Your Mama" performed by Childish Gambino-WSPC PREMIERE
"Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen" performed by Leon Russell

"Sorcerer" performed by Stevie Nicks
"Riverwide" performed by Sheryl Crow
"Go To Hell" performed by Nina Simone
"Maggot Brain" performed by Funkadelic
"Shinola" performed by Utopia

"Follow The Leader" performed by Foxygen-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Lines You Amend" performed by Sloan

November 14, 2016
"Which Way To America?" (live) performed by Living Colour

"For You" performed by Angus and Julia Stone
"Peace In The Neighbourhood" performed by Paul McCartney

"Sloan-Live At Massey Hall-September 11, 2015"

November 15, 2016
"We Believe" performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Let's  Stick Together" performed by Bryan Ferry
"Solidarity" performed by Black Uhuru
"Each Other's Throat" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Brothers Gonna Work It Out" performed by Public Enemy

November 16, 2016
"The Great American Melting Pot" from "Schoolhouse Rock"
"Nobody Gives" performed by The Kinks
"Chamber Of Reflection" performed by Mac Demarco
"American X" performed by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

November 17, 2016
"Redbone" performed by Childish Gambino-WSPC PREMIERE
"Five Years" performed by David Bowie
"The Hurting" performed by Tears For Fears
"The Warning" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"Pink World" performed by Planet P. Project

November 18, 2016
"Acrobat" performed by U2
"In The Moment" performed by Jim James-WSPC PREMIERE
"Dogs" performed by Pink Floyd

November 19, 2016
"A Wolf At The Door" performed by Radiohead
"Find A Way" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Black Man In A White World" performed by Michael Kiwanuka-WSPC PREMIERE
"Deeper Understanding" performed by Kate Bush
"Something's Got To Give" performed by Beastie Boys

November 20, 2016
"I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain" performed by Tim Buckley

"Left Alone" performed by Eric Dolphy
"Tanya" performed by Dexter Gordon

November 21, 2016
"Small" performed by Ivory Library

"Monday"performed by Jon Brion
"And Dream Of Sheep" (live) performed by Kate Bush-WSPC PREMIERE
"Islands" performed by King Crimson
"Schrodinger's Cat" performed by Tears For Fears

November 22, 2016
"Talkin' Loud And Saying Nothing" performed by JAMES BROWN

"1963" performed by New Order
"Give Blood" performed by Pete Townshend
"Thank You Friends" performed by Big Star
"Thank You" performed by Dido
"Thank You" performed by Led Zeppelin

November 24, 2016

"Ophelia" performed by The Band
"Coyote" performed by Joni Mitchell with The Band
"Caravan" performed by Van Morrison with The Band
"Such A Night" performed by Dr. John with The Band
"The Weight" performed by The Band and The Staple Singers

November 25, 2016
"Black Friday" performed by Steely Dan

"History Will Teach Us Nothing" performed by Sting
"Here Is The News" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"We Exist" performed by Arcade Fire
"Here In After" performed by De La Soul with Damon Albarn

November 26, 2016
"Roundabout" performed by Yes
"The Acid Queen" performed by Tina Turner with The Who
"The Chain" performed by Fleetwood Mac

November 27, 2016
"Who Are You (gateway mix)" performed by Pete Townshend
"Some Days Are Better Than Others" performed by U2
"Dead Finks  Don't Talk" performed by Brian Eno
"Colonized Mind" performed by Prince

"Let It Down" performed by George Harrison
"Top Of The Pops" performed by The Kinks

November 28, 2016
"A Button On Your Blouse" performed by Drowners
"Hitsville U.K." performed by The Clash
"Wicked Things" performed by Prefab Sprout
"No Thugs In Our House" performed by XTC
"Army Dreamers" performed by Kate Bush

"Drown" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Haxan" (live) performed by Dungen-WSPC PREMIERE
February 25, 1943-November 29, 2001
November 29, 2016

"Hear Me Lord"
"Devil's Radio"
"Try Some, Buy Some"
"Dark Horse"
"What Is Life"

"November Sun" performed by Susannah Hoffs
"Gone 'Til  November" performed by Wyclef Jean
"November Boogie" performed by Sony Boy Williamson II
"November" performed by Tom Waits

"For You Blue"/"Something" from the "Concert For George"
"Isn't It A Pity" from "Concert For George"
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from 2004 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Concert

November 30, 2016
"Hey You" performed by Pink Floyd
"The Vagabond" performed by Air featuring Beck
"The End" performed by The Doors


1. "America" performed by Prince and the Revolution
2. "The Power And The Trust" performed by The German Art Students
3. "Funky President (People It's Bad)" performed by JAMES BROWN
4. "Information Overload" performed by Living Colour
5. "Here Comes President Kill Again" performed by XTC
6. "Gimmie Some Truth" performed by John Lennon
7. "Ignoreland" performed by R.E.M.
8. "Doubleplusgood" performed by Eurythmics
9. "You Haven't Done Nothin'" performed by Stevie Wonder
10."Believe It" performed by Planet P. Project
11."If Not Now, When?" performed by Todd Rundgren

1. "Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3" performed by Ian Dury and the Blockheads
2. "Come On Get It" performed by Lenny Kravitz
3. "3's And 7's" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age
4. "Sex Is Not The Enemy" performed by Garbage
5. "Thank You Too!" performed by My Morning Jacket
6. "Bonita Applebaum" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
7. "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)" performed by Weezer
8. "Listen To The Radio" performed by Sloan
9. "Young And In Love" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
10."Go To Zero" performed by The Power Station
11. "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" performed by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

1. "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph)" performed by A Flock Of Seagulls
2. "Light Of The Moon" performed by Pretenders
3. "Misery In Utero" performed by P.M. Dawn
4. "Can You Tell Me" performed by Squarewave
5. "Idlewild" performed by Post Social
6. "Sentimental Lady" performed by Fleetwood Mac
7. "Prelude: Song Of The Gulls" performed by King Crimson
8. "Cold Morning Light" performed by Todd Rundgren
9. "Welcome To The Occupation" performed by R.E.M.
10."Little Birdie" performed by Vince Guaraldi

1. "Crashing By Design" performed by Pete Townshend
2. "I Of The Mourning" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
3. "Ellis Bell" performed by The Cold And Lovely 
4. "Joe The Lion" performed by David Bowie
5. "Flashbulb Eyes" performed by Arcade Fire
6. "Are You Satisfied?" performed by Reignwolf
7. "Disappointed" performed by Field Music
8. "Disappointed" performed by Ivy
9. "Restless Heart Syndrome" performed by Green Day
10."Moonbeam Levels" performed by Prince
11. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ("Love" version) performed by The Beatles

Monday, November 28, 2016


Released June 12, 1996
Released November 12, 1984
"ROMANCE 1600"
Released 1985
Released November 4, 2016
NEW 2016 MUSIC: As I think about this second solo release from My Morning Jacket's Jim James, a lyric from Planet P. Project comes to mind, which is as follows: "It's a sugar coated pill but it's bitter inside."

It's strange just how prescient Jim James' "Eternally Even," happens to be. Written, recorded, produced and even released before the November Presidential election, the album feels as if it is the sober, somber soundtrack to the aftermath and the profoundly changed world we are now all existing inside of.

Under James' watchful, empathetic musical eyes, the album's nine songs function as sort of a sermonized song cycle, a veritable stoned soul picnic. With keyboard drenched and intoxicating woozy slow funk rhythms, songs like "Hide In Plain Sight," the brilliant "Same Old Lie" and the two part "We Ain't Getting Any Younger," all feel to have been cleaved from the same musical bedrock yet thematically cover subjects like terrorism, voter apathy, hate crimes, impending mortality and the necessity of holding onto hope and love even while in the darkness. "True Nature" extols a "to thine own self be true" narrative, "Here In Spirit" proclaims solidarity in place of silent suffering, "In This Moment" reflects a calmness of spirit and the album's title track serves as benediction, all of which presents Jim James, who takes on the lion's share of the album's instrumentation, as somewhat of a George Harrison figure, an approachable mystic who walks with us but somehow has the perspective to see further and beyond that the very fabric of what is needed for the species to persevere.

A stoned soul picnic indeed.
Released May 26, 1998
Released April 20, 1999
Released September 9, 2014
Released January 9, 2007 (U.S.)
Released September 29, 1998
Released March 1982
Released June 26, 1972
Released November 25, 2016
NEW 2016 MUSIC: For the year's second Record Store Day, I quickly ventured out to Mad City Music Exchange to pick up a copy of "Haxan," the eighth release from the Swedish band that specializes in a wondrous psychedelia that often recalls works from the late 1960's and early 1970's, all the while updating the sound just enough to serve fully at 21st century music.

For this album, the band's first entirely instrumental release, Dungen has turned their collective attention towards creating an original score to Lotte Reiniger's "The Adventures Of Prince Achmed" (1926), thought to be the world's oldest animated film. Inspired by the film's cast of characters, most notably a witch, Dungen has created a strong, unifying work that conjures up quite a dark, Brothers Grimm suggested sonic landscape filled with moody, brooding prog rock textures that often recall early Pink Floyd or even The Flaming Lips caught within a more disturbing mood.

Saturday, November 26, 2016




Executive Producers A Tribe Called Quest

Released November 11, 2016

The nature of the surprise album release is becoming so commonplace that surprise releases are now rapidly becoming fully anticipated, therefore, negating the very concept of being surprised. But, even now, with all of the prefabricated hoopla there is still ample room and space to be legitimately surprised and at this time, I am thrilled to take time to celebrate the release that unquestionably surprised me profoundly in 2016, an album release so deeply unexpected as it arrived from a band and journey long thought to be firmly concluded. Ladies and gentlemen, after 18 years, we are now graced with the latest and final album release from the iconic hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest and without question, this poignant, urgent release is one of the very finest albums of the year.

By this time, the story behind the creation of the album that was supposedly never meant to be is widely known. But, just in case you are unaware, here is the shorthand version. Despite occasional live performances, the grouping of A Tribe Called Quest was essentially non-existent due to those pesky internal tensions and the fractured friendship between the velvet voiced, esoteric Q-Tip and the more streetwise, self-described "funky diabetic"/"5 ft. assassin" Phife Dawg--especially as chronicled in Michael Rappaport's brilliant documentary film "Beats, Rhymes And Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest" (2011). 

Yet, the evening of November 13, 2015 proved itself to be a night of celebration as well as one of newfound purpose. To commemorate the 25th anniversary and reissue of their landmark debut album "People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm" (released April 17, 1990), A Tribe Called Quest reunited for an explosively enthusiastic performance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," a night that coincidentally also saw the horrific Paris attacks at Le Bataclan. 

Feeling re-inspired and creatively renewed, it was decided to return and regroup for one more studio effort, an experience fully created in secret which saw not only the complete return of the prodigal Tribe member Jarobi White (who departed the music business to become a chef) to the fold, but the friendship between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg fully repaired.

Sadly, long before the album's completion, tragedy occurred when Phife Dawg, aged only 45 years old, lost his battle with diabetes and passed away on March 22, 2016, a devastation the only gave the band an even more urgent purpose to finish what had been started in full honor of their fallen friend and band member.

With the Phife adorned album title "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service," A Tribe Called Quest have emerged with a release that not only and completely fulfills the promise of their classic first three albums, which includes the game changing "The Low End Theory" (released September 24, 1991) and "Midnight Marauders" (released November 9, 1993) it is an album on which the group has never sounded more compelling, vibrant and powerfully charged and even emboldened as they hold up a mirror to themselves, their friendships, partnerships, legacy and on-going vitality plus the state of the nation in which we all reside. Trust me dear listeners, "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service" is ESSENTIAL listening as our most turbulent year of 2016 begins to draw to a close.

Opening with a sample from Gilbert Moses' Blaxploitation film "Willie Dynamite" (1974) and featuring production that sounds like an updated version of Public Enemy's iconic and battle ready production team known as the Bomb Squad, "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service" begins with the sonic one-two body slam of "The Space Program" and "We The People..."

With their trademark jazz inflected swing, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg begin "The Space Program" with the joined forced of their voices, calling for unity and at a pace that shows an unprecedented velocity.

"It's time to go left and not right
Gotta get it together forever 
Gotta get it together for brothers
Gotta get it together for sisters
For mothers and fathers and dead niggas
For non-conformists and one-hitter quitters
For Tyson  types and Che figures
Let's get it together, come on, let's make it
Gotta make it to make it, to make it, to make it, to make it
To make something happen, to make something happen..."

Yet, the call for solidarity and self-reliance, this time primarily among and within the Black community, Jarobi White marks his full return to the mic with pure ferocity and lyrical dexterity as he somehow weaves the reality of society's "Mass un-blackening" to chilling yet blood boiling effect. Extolling with bluntness about how we are being left behind due to re-gentrification, within our cities and communities to potentially even the furthest reaches of space ("They're taking off to Mars, got the space vessels overflowing/What, you think they want us there? All us niggas not going")--all the while providing an allegory to how Black people are systematically and continuously getting pushed out of the frames of existence. As Q-Tip plainly states: "Imagine for one second all the people in poverty/No matter the skin tone, culture or time zone/Think the ones who got it would even think to throw you a bone?/Moved you out your neighborhood Did they find you a home?"

"The Space Program" takes the news that is most distressing and turns the tables to make the words sound as an ALARM, therefore making music for a full resistance to those who wish to extinguish a people. The musical call to arms continues on a more massive scale on the booming air raid siren drenched "We The People...", during which Q-Tip croons the realities of a Trump administration that had yet to come to full reality but was pre-figured during his openly xenophobic campaign and violent, Third Reich styled rallies...

"All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways
So, all you bad folks, you must go"

With that one chorus A Tribe Called Quest powerfully brings to light a rising evil we, as a society could easily recognize, if not for the fake news, false narratives and even that "VH1 show that you can waste your time with."

Just two songs into the album, I questioned if ATCQ could possibly keep up this relentless momentum. The answer was revealed with the soulful yet purposeful hip-swaying swagger of "Whateva Will Be," on which Phife, Jarobi, Q-Tip and guest rapper/auxiliary Tribe member Consequence effortlessly trade verses as if caught within a sidewalk conversation about the societal ills against the Black Community and the need for perseverance.

The Elton John assisted "Solid Walls Of Sound" (yes, "Bennie And The Jets" still reverberates largely within the Black community) provides a slight respite from the socio-politics of the proceedings as Busta Rhymes joins the group congealing richly with Phife Dawg's Jamaican lilt. Where the slick jazz guitar driven "Dis Generation" showcases love for the next generation of conscious rappers, the Andre 3000 assisted "Kids..." warns of the fantasy driven industry that has claimed and spit out more hopefuls than one can properly count.  The eerie "Melatonin" chronicles the abusive self-medication utilized as an escape from 21st century pressures and realities. "So many thoughts in my mind, making it very hard to unwind/I guess I should take one, just one... " sings guest vocalist Abbey Smith. And after this level of equal parts fun and turbulence, the beat slows down just a tad for the sex fueled slow jam of "Enough!!!" which details the pleasures and pressures of 21st century relationships.

After the hard charging yet minimalist grooves of "Mobius," and the reggae dancehall inflected "Black Spasmodic"the album returns to matters of the utmost seriousness within "The Killing Season," featuring guests Talib Kweli and Kanye West alongside Consequence and Jarobi. Tapping directly into the rightful paranoia of the Black community within a society that has clearly declared open season upon us, Kweli deftly paints the sobering picture...

"It's war and we fighting for inches and millimeters
They try to stall the progress by killing off all the leaders
If we don't give them martyrs no more, they can't defeat us
This lack of justice got us disgusted, look at our faces
All these soldiers hate but I saw military training
The force flags fly at half mast this morning
Take a bow, this might be your last performance"

From the social to the deeply intimate and personal, "Lost Somebody" allows the album to serve as a eulogy for Phife Dawg as Q-Tip and Jarobi trade verses for their fallen comrade in travel and the paths of rhythm. Q-Tip utilizes his section for history as well as an open hearted apology as he expresses the following:

"Malik, I would treat you like little brother, that would give you fits
Sometimes overbearing, though I thought it was for your benefit
Despite all the spats and shits cinematically documented
The one thing I appreciate, you and I, we never pretended
Rhymes, we would write it out, hard times fight it out
Gave grace face to face, made it right
And now you riding out, out, out,out...damn" 

And Jarobi takes the mic also keeping his section just as emotionally naked.

"Never thought I would be ever writing this song
Hold friends tight, never know when those people are gone
So, so beautiful, opined indisputable
Heart of the largest lion trapped inside the little dude..."

Through keyboard arpeggios, skittering programmed drums and guest vocalist Katia Cadet's consoling words of "No more crying/He's in sunshine/He's alright now/ See his wings?" A Tribe Called Quest's memorial is tremendously moving without ever growing self-consciously maudlin.

Under Chris Sholar's rough funk guitar work and a stellar guest appearance from Anderson.Park, "Movin' Backwards" details the struggles of trying to move forwards within a world that consistently places obstacles fully designed to impede any sense of progress. Phfe Dawg returns to the mic, as if fully resurrected, on the brooding street funk of "Conrad Tokyo." a track that also features the peerless wordplay and delivery of Kendrick Lamar as well as guitar work from Jack White. Again, for music that was written and recorded some time in the recent past, Phife's lyrics are up to the second with its impatience and intolerance for a world that insists upon normalizing what is simply not normal.

"Rather watch the Nixon shit than politicians politic
CNN and all this shit, gwaan yo, move with the fuckery
Trump and the SNL hilarity
Troublesome times kid, no time for comedy..."

The shades of the album delve even deeper into the darkness as Q-Tip, again assisted by Jack White's growling guitars, explores the myriad corridors of the human "Ego." Finally, the album draws to a triumphant close with the nearly Funkadelic vibed "The Donald," not an endorsement of Trump by any means but yet a final tribute to Phife Dawg who often nicknamed himself "Don Juice," a figure of whom there was no equal.


A Tribe Called Quest's "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service" is an album experience of unrepentantly sincere and passionate imperativeness. It is a work that sounds as if the group could see each and every grain of sand falling through the hourglass and are all attempting to beat it to the finish. Quite fittingly, it is an album of mortality, impending and realized, as the work forecasts all of the energies devised to bringing about the termination of the African-American community and its citizens plus of course, the saddening and untimely loss of one of A Tribe Called Quest's founders and hip-hop's most innovative rappers/lyricists.

The death of Malik Taylor a.k.a. Phife Dawg is weaved into the fabric of album, much like David Bowie's "Blackstar" (released January 8, 2016), through eulogies, tributes, the title and even the album's final two words bear his name.  Yet, it is  not a morbid affair as he often seems to be wholly resurrected through the vibrancy of his lyrics, the effortless flow, flash, grit and grace of his delivery and even when he arrives upon the album, even after he is memorialized on "Lost Somebody." The labor of love from his bandmates and compatriots is palpable, especially considering that Q-Tip handles the lion's share of the instrumentation and production and aside from Kanye West's lyrical hook on "The Killing Season," all of the album's participants collaborated and recorded at the same time in the same studio space, giving tremendous energy to each and every selection.

Combating against the elegiac nature is a forcefully political urgency that as far as ATCQ albums are concerned are unprecedented in their directness, and how could they not be considering the time in which we all live. Honestly, just looking at the song titles by themselves, the album feels like a series of news headlines to the nation at large fully describing not only our history but where we are rapidly heading, and now under a Trump presidency. Much as with the passing of Phife Dawg and its effects upon his friends, bandmates, family and fans, the current political landscape of the United States Of America carries a similar weight and grief from which we can all crumble or stand together and continuously...push it along!

This album may serve as the final recorded work from A tribe Called Quest but they have created a statement, while final, is not finite, for the lyrics, music and memories of the man himself in Phife Dawg will hopefully reverberate through time and space, providing a legacy that is everlasting. Much as how we as a people-African-American people and even humanity itself--must use our words and actions to aid and inspire with the promise to uplift and unite against intolerance and hatred, the collection of our deeds today, reverberating through time,

A Tribe Called Quest's "We Got It  From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service" is an album is reunion and renewal, resistance and revolution, life and death and infinity and all over again, exquisitely delivering the outstanding soundtrack to our collective paths of rhythm.

Malik Taylor a.k.a. Phife Dawg REST IN POWER!!!

Monday, November 14, 2016


NOVEMBER 9, 2016

JAY FERGUSON: Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Bass Guitar
CHRIS MURPHY: Vocals, Bass Guitar, Drums
PATRICK PENTLAND: Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
ANDREW SCOTT: Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Guitar
GREGORY MacDONALD: Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion

Music ALWAYS heals. ALWAYS!

November 9, 2016. The day after...

There really is no reason for me whatsoever to utilize this new posting to comment upon the disastrous United States Presidential election other than to fully describe to you a certain mood, one that undeniably needed some lifting but one that considered just returning home after work to curl up into a ball and dream this nightmare away. But, thankfully, a more rational state of mind prevailed from my depression, informing me that a ticket had been purchased long ago to see a band that I never, ever thought that I would have an opportunity to see--and in my city, no less--due to their relative obscurity on the American musical landscape. It was a night that could and should not be missed and so...I grabbed my ticket and drove down to a stone's throw from our state Capitol building to head onto The Frequency.

The band, whose presence in Madison firmly inspired my night out and furthermore pushed me directly towards their event despite my despondence is the Toronto based power-pop quartet known as Sloan. Beloved by critics and a devoted fan base in their native Canada, the foursome of Jay Ferguson, Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott, all of whom are superlative singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists (who often trade instruments during performances), have graced the world of music with 11 studio albums over the past 25 years and somehow, someway, the band remains unforgivably obscure here in the United States.

Aside from one song included within Writer/Director Sofia Coppola's debut feature film "The Virgin Suicides" (1999), my musical radar was more than unaware of the band until a fateful trip into my personal music store of choice B-Side Records in the fall of 2014 as their most recent album "Commonwealth" (released September 9, 2014) was being played in store at full volume by my friend and store owner/proprietor Steve Manley. I was instantly struck by the ocean of melodies and harmonics punctuated and propelled by the sleek production and stunning vocals and musical performances which often recalled to my ears The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, Electric Light Orchestra, The Grays, The Monkees, The Replacements, Dwight Twilley, Badfinger, Big Star and yet, inexplicably Sloan possessed an idiosyncratic sound that was clearly and entirely their own.

I purchased the album, which not only became one of my top personal favorite albums of 2014, "Commonwealth" inspired me to delve into the entire Sloan discography, which I purchased over the following several months, being floored by each album, most especially the brilliant, mammoth 30 track "Never Hear The End Of It" (released January 9, 2007-U.S.). For me and my musical tastes and passions, Sloan's albums, especially their later ones, were of as high quality as anything released by XTC!!!!  And of course, I kicked myself profusely for not having heard of them sooner than I had.
By the time I was stunned sideways and back again upon learning that Sloan would arrive in Madison, WI--a tour stop I am unsure if they have ever played over the course of their career, it was a no-brainer that I would have to go see them in person, so I bought my ticket once they went on sale.

And then, Election day happened.
Throughout the day of November 9th, going to a rock concert felt to be less than trivial, an almost inexcusable thing to even attend once the world felt to have officially blasted through the looking glass and had fully arrived in an alternate, dark mirror universe where hate and fear were at the forefront and I was (and remain) fully unable to process a land where the first Black President would have to turn over the keys to the nation to a man who was fully endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. What did rock music even mean anymore?

Even so, I told myself that a ticket had been purchased and since I had no idea if Sloan would ever return to Madison, it was now or never, I told myself that President Obama would remain in office for two more months, the holidays would arrive and everyone will be caught within that maelstrom of activity and family. So, why not go out and try to enjoy this night, which was designed to be celebratory for the band as they are currently in the midst of a tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of their third album, the punchy, gloriously infectious, almost vintage Merseybeat sounding "One Chord To Another" (released June 12, 1996). 

Even so, I was not in a celebratory mood.

I arrived at The Frequency about 20-25 minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. door opening on this quiet, chilly Madison night on Main Street, save for the sound of Sloan, clearly audible from the sidewalk, performing their sound check. Every once in a while, a concert patron would walk by, check the door to find it locked and move onwards towards a nearby bar, presumably to obtain some warmth before being allowed entrance to the night's event. As the band soundchecked the song "So Far So Good" from "Commonwealth," the melodies and lyrics immediately began to sweep me upwards from my dark mood, a sign that perhaps I did indeed make the right decision in heading out. Soon, more people arrived and began to brave the chill with me. As I was alone, I just kept to myself and quietly observed the folks around me, including a Father and his daughter, who happened to be celebrating her 14th birthday at this show. Clearly, this was something to smile to myself about. Someone so young who was about to witness a musical group so powerfully first rate.

One thing to note to those of you who are unfamiliar with The Frequency is to remark about the size of the facility. The Frequency is a bar, and a rather small neighborhood bar at that, and located upon a tiny side street just off of the Capitol Square. It is unassuming and very easy to walk right by without even knowing precisely what it is as it doesn't call attention to itself whatsoever. Regarding the members of Sloan, and despite their relative obscurity in the States, fans of the band would easily be able to recognize the band members on sight but they would also be able to easily blend into the surroundings without being bothered.

As I stood outside waiting to enter, I easily saw Sloan's Chris Murphy walk right past me, quite possibly armed with a quick take out meal to consume before showtime. Not long afterwards, Andrew Scott exited the bar and headed straight for the tour bus parked just across the street. Once everyone was able to enter The Frequency, both Patrick Pentland and Chris Murphy walked right past me. All of these quick sightings just added to my building excitement for the show, an excitement that was juxtaposed against images of anti-Trump protest marches occurring across the country as displayed upon a television sustained above and behind the bar itself. Such is life in 2016.
The tiny stage, bathed in deep blue, sat waiting for me to claim my sot right at the stage as is my wont these days. With ear plugs tucked in, I found a perch upon the stage to sit and zone out as I listened to the excellent pre-show song mix, waited quietly and watched more and more patrons file in to the small and seatless concert space. Again, dark thoughts, this time concerning the tragedy at Paris' Le Bataclan one year ago, began to creep into my brain as the room filled. Should something awful happen, could I find a way out as I was standing right at the stage? I really needed to wave those thoughts away, and thankfully I was able to do just that but as previously stated, welcome to life in the 21st century.

But, all of those worries and gloom exited my mind as the pre-show mix and house lights began to fade, and just two people away from me, the four members of Sloan, plus unofficial fifth member keyboardist/percussionist/backing vocalist Gregory MacDonald, walked up the short steps onto the stage and took their places.
Dear readers and listeners, the full performance of Sloan miraculously achieved what felt to be impossible to me throughout the day. It was a night that supremely lifted my spirits and made me forget about the events of the world for a while as I found myself lost in song as well as in constant amazement with the high bar of songwriting and musicianship so vibrantly on display right in front of my eyes and so close that I could have adjusted Jay Ferguson's guitar strings if I happened to be so bold. 
As promoted, Sloan's epic night began with a complete run through of "One Chord To Another" from top to bottom. Yet, unlike the studio album's near Beatles era circa 1966 sonic qualities, the live setting allowed the songs to have a more propulsive force and bass driven depth not found on the excellent album. Tonight, Sloan played as if they were the best rock and roll band in the world (the probably are), just bashing out the tunes one right after another with speed and precision, as if daring the audience to keep pace and sing along in the process. And to that end, the songwriting just positively sparkled, as did the band's stunning vocals from all of the members.
"The Good In Everyone," "Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay," "Anyone Who's Anyone," "Everything You've Done Wrong," and more were all there and performed beautifully. 

Chris Murphy, with his McCartney-esque bass work and his flawless Beau Brummels styled vocals was the consummate frontman as his dazzling voice, fully engaging energy and instant connection with the crowd (which he also waded directly into on a few occasions) ingratiated himself with us tremendously. If I read his facial expressions correctly, I think he was honestly surprised and perhaps even a bit touched that the nearly sold out crowd (there were only 10 available tickets left shortly before I arrived) was so intensely familiar with the band's music, as we sang along loudly.

Patrick Pentland, with his long shaggy grey hair and Gandalf beard, by contrast, was more stationary, yet his high clear voice and guitar heroics were equally magnetic to regard, effortlessly  shifting from stinging lead solos to gorgeous rhythmic textures..  
I stood directly in front of Jay Ferguson, whose singing voice and songwriting melodics often make me think of gorgeously written 1970's era AM radio gold, making for the very Sloan songs that function as the finest ear candy--the songs that stick like the most luxurious toffee. As with Pentland, Ferguson also made for a bonafide guitar hero as he also shifted from leads to rhythmic cascades with ease.
And then, there's Andrew Scott who cut an imposing, intimidating figure whether behind his drum kit or when he stepped up front, guitar in hand, muscles flexed and fully ready to take lead vocals on "A Side Wins" and "400 Metres."  
After completing the entirety of "One Chord To Another," the band took a short break and then returned to the stage to perform a collection of tunes from their entire career, while leaning more heavily upon their earlier albums "Twice Removed" (released August 30, 1994), "Navy Blues" (released May 2, 1998) and "Between The Bridges" (released September 12, 1999).
As with the band's first set, Sloan performed with raucous enthusiasm and unabashed perfection, a combination the crowd delightfully consumed and begged for seconds and even thirds. For me, being a witness so very closely to this band that has captivated me so powerfully over these last couple of years was profoundly illuminating as Sloan powerfully showcased each member's individuality as well as their gifts as a combined musical force unlike so many others. 

As musicians, they are superlative. I was especially astounded watching Andrew Scott's drumming as he blazed through song after song with a jazz inflected swing not unlike Neil Peart or better yet, Keith Moon. He often made his considerably small drum kit sound as if he was surrounded by a massive collection of tom-toms and cymbals. His speed and flair was breathtaking. 

And then, on occasion, the band members would switch instruments, with Gregory MacDonald providing crucial instrumental glue to allow for the stage shifting of band members. Scott would take his place with his guitar while Jay Ferguson took over on bass guitar and Chris Murphy would find himself behind Scott's drum kit and the band would sound as if no one had switched instruments at all, for how seamless everything sounded. This level of virtuosity often left me in open mouthed amazement (and I have to mention how Jay Ferguson's guitar parts on the selection "Coax Me" are sublime and hypnotically mesmerizing).    
To that end, everything always returns itself back to the songs themselves and the individuals who composed them. With Sloan, we have the rare opportunity to behold a band where every member is a first rate songwriter, whose individualized gifts congeal so beautifully with those of their bandmates. Where Jay Ferguson and Chris Murphy's selections weigh heavily upon the melodics, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott's tend to roam into heavier, more psychedelic territory but they always sound like the work of a full band rather than four solo artists who happen to perform together. I mean--this is SLOAN and decidedly not "Ferguson, Murphy, Pentland And Scott."  

Pentland's siren drenched smasher "Money City Maniacs" and the stomping "Unkind," sit so perfectly next to the golden folk of Ferguson's "Midnight Mass" and the glam rock-ish sing-a-long "Who Taught You To Live Like That," Murphy's shattering power ballad "The Other Man" and the aforementioned anthemic "So Far So Good" and Scott's almost Dylan-esque and outstanding "People Of The Sky" solely because of the teamwork all four members bring to each other's art...and truth be told, those choirboy/Partridge Family harmony vocals also assist wondrously, always taking each song to an undeniably higher plane.

Another notable element of the night was in fact, the heat! Dear readers and listeners, as I have already described, the size of The Frequency is quite small with the concert room especially so. With all of those bodies pressed together plus all of the energy and electricity emanating from the stage, the room's temperature and humidity increased tremendously throughout the night. Sloan handled everything in stride and as professionally as possible as each member was sweat drenched to varying degrees. 
Andrew Scott was certainly swimming in it due to his extreme physicality behind the drums but the bespectacled Chris Murphy in particular remained unflappable even as he routinely had to mop off his face with a towel while singing (and not missing even one note at that). Additionally, during one section during his turn at the drums, I wondered if the sweat slid his glasses from his face! Regardless, the spirits of all of the members of Sloan remained high and even jovial despite the sweltering state of the room as Murphy gently ribbed us over the election proclaiming that the band had not ventured into a "red state" before--which of course, elicited a mighty groan from the crowd, and not losing any sense of good-will whatsoever. 
And that sense of good-will and tremendous power pop turned out to be the precise antidote that I needed for myself on this evening when the world changed and the future became more uncertain and tenuous than I had ever known it in my lifetime. Sloan provided the right music at the right time--music of unquestionable energy, skill, fun, power and beauty. 

Precisely the kind of music that soothes and heals, just as it rocks you to and fro.
If you don't mind, I'd love to share some aftershow greatness I experienced that even lifted me higher. After the final chords reverberated around the boiling hot room, so sticky with moisture that even the walls were sweating, the members of Sloan left the stage. As people began to exit and others scrambled to the stage to swipe the set lists from the floor, I spotted Andrew Scott walking towards a side exit. Even at that moment, Scott remained so imposing, with muscles bulging and a humorless expression upon his face. And yet, I saw him posing for a picture with a fan amiably so I decided to take my chance. I ambled over, spoke his name, he turned to me and I extended my hand to his, which he shook vigorously, while displaying a warm smile as I thanked him for making the trip to my city. 

Just as Scott turned to try and cool down outdoors, I turned to find Jay Ferguson standing right behind me, also taking a photo with a fan. I'd be a fool if I missed this chance so I spoke his name, we shook hands and began to have a full conversation where I thanked him for visiting Madison, he expressed his enjoyment of the city, I spoke about my love of the band despite my recent knowledge of them as well as my lack of knowledge concerning the Canadian music scene save for Rush (of course) and The Pursuit Of Happiness. That's when Jay surprised me by informing me that he happens to be friends with Moe Berg himself, the leader/singer/songwriter/guitarist of T.P.O.H. and further shared some very kind words about him. Not wanting to take up any more of his time, I thanked him again, expressed some good wishes for the band's travels plus hopes a new album would arrive one day and I then stepped out into the night feeling even higher than before. 

To Andrew and Jay, thank you for taking a moments with me when you certainly did not have to whatsoever. And to Sloan as a whole, thank you for coming to Madison...a visiting so unexpected and so terrific.
All photos by Scott Collins