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Showing posts from September, 2005

Big Star "In Space"

In Space, the first studio album in 30 years from the early-'70's power pop band Big Star, was released this past Tuesday. Big Star have been called the Velvet Underground of power pop. During their initial existence, Big Star's albums only sold a few thousand copies apiece, but they are now regarded as a major influence on countless bands that followed.

The Memphis-based band was led by former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton. The original quartet was rounded out by singer/guitarist Chris Bell (who died in a 1979 car crash), drummer Jody Stephens, and bassist Andy Hummel. The lineup that recorded In Space consists of Chilton, Stephens, and two members of the Seattle power-pop band called the Posies, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. This is the same Big Star lineup that recorded the 1993 album Live At Missouri University, currently available as Extended Versions.

Big Star played Beatles-and-Byrds style pop at a time when it was out of fashion. Their 1972 debut album #1 Record was…

Rock Star CD

Yesterday I got the CD Rock Star: A Night At The Mayan Theatre, which contains performances from all 15 of the Rock Star: INXS contestants. (I had trouble finding it in music stores for the first few days, so I ordered it from Amazon). It is not a best-of compilation from the show; it merely contains the 15 performances (in their full length) from the premiere episode that aired in early July. According to the liner notes, it was recorded on May 18th, a month and a half before it aired. The contestants lived in the mansion all that time?

Fortunately, the CD contains two "bonus tracks", namely Jordis' stunning performance of "The Man Who Sold The World" and Mig's standout piano-based rendition of "Baby, I Love Your Way". You won't find "Pretty Vegas" or "Trees" here. If this CD sells well, Burnett/Epic Records intends to release another CD, which would hopefully contain a broader selection of songs from the show's run.

As …

Rock Star: INXS -- and the winner is...

J.D. Fortune.

What?!? J.D. the troublemaker? J.D. the food-fight instigator? J.D. who was nearly eliminated on the very first episode? J.D. whose performances have been so inconsistent? J.D. who couldn't work with others for a songwriting assignment? J.D. who was unprepared to lay down a vocal track for a new INXS song?

Lo and behold: he is the new lead singer of INXS! When Tim Farriss (after teasing him -- and us -- with a negative-looking expression) revealed that J.D. was right for INXS, my jaw dropped. I realize that troublemakers often do well on reality shows. I figured it was good entertainment having him around until the finale. But I did not think he was going to get the gig!

If I had never seen J.D. before last night, I suppose I wouldn't be surprised. Last night, he seemed to fit right into INXS. When he performed their song "What You Need" with them on stage, he was amazing. He also sounded good performing their new single "Easy Easy" with them at …

Rock Star: INXS -- week 10

And then there were three. "Sweet" Suzie MacNeil, the last female in the competition to be the next lead singer of INXS, was sent home this week. She was given a decisive test by INXS with the two songs that were given to her for her Tuesday night performance. She passed the first test well enough, doing a respectable rendition of the very masculine Stone Temple Pilots tune "Interstate Love Song". But the 4 Non Blondes hit "What's Up" is a virtual minefield of tricky vocal dynamics, and it exposed Suzie's weaknesses. Her Wednesday performance of "Suicide Blonde" was fine, but someone had to go, and the "Queen Of The Bottom Three" was the logical choice. After six strikes, she was finally out.

Suzie is a singer who has certainly grown over the last ten weeks. She was nearly eliminated on the very first episode, but recovered quickly. She avoided elimination five more times with mostly strong performances of INXS songs. Her self-c…

Ray Manzarek's second solo album

The second solo album from Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, titled The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It's Out of Control, is being released on CD for the first time today. The album was originally released in 1974, and was the follow-up to his 1974 solo debut The Golden Scarab. The reissue label is Lemon Records, who also reissued The Golden Scarab last year.

The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It's out of Control is a good title wasted on a mostly dull album. It does have its admirers among Doors connoisseurs, but I am not one of them. On this album, Manzarek avoided most of the quirkiness of The Golden Scarab and reverted to standard singer-songwriterism. Its sound alternates between awkward funk and Elton John-like piano-based rock, and it usually misses the mark on both counts. Manzarek's vocals are stilted at best, and strained at worst. Even the instrumentation is nothing special here. One of the high points is "Bicentennial Blues"…

Jordis Unga and Liars Club

Now that Jordis Unga has been eliminated from Rock Star: INXS, her future is wide open, and she has her foot in the music industry door. She is now back with her St. Paul, Minnesota band Liars Club (formerly known as Fighting Tongs). A few rough demos can be heard on their Myspace site:

http://www.myspace.com/liarsclubband

When Jordis did her exit chat on MSN on Thursday, September 8th, one person asked her:

"Your voice and style are truly unique and emotionally moving and I'm seeing you as a solo artist as opposed to a lead singer in a band. What is your ideal dream for your career?"

Jordis replied:

"I'm a band girl, I don't see myself being solo artist. It's weird, people are suprised when I say that, but I like the idea of standing in front of a band and having my boys behind me."

Jordis should be aware that if her band does hit the big time, the industry and the media may not share her sentiments. I can imagine one thing: if Jordis and her band ever …

Rock Star: INXS -- week 9

Fare ye well, Jordis. The youngest contestant on Rock Star: INXS was sent home this week (although she told the other contestants she would see them in two weeks; what was that all about?). There's no doubt that we will see more of Jordis in the future. Her week 4 performance of "The Man Who Sold The World" was nothing short of stunning. It truly looked like a star was born that day. Unfortunately, her star faded fast over the next 5 weeks. She was never able to match the brilliance of that performance again, and she stumbled badly when she performed "Dream On" during week 7.

Of the five performers this week, Jordis was the least satisfying. Her performance of Queen's "We Are The Champions" was unspectacular. Her original song "Try Not" was the least impressive of the five (though it was more INXS-like than three of the others). And her Wednesday night performance of INXS' "Need You Tonight" confirmed what I thought last wee…

Rock Star: INXS -- week 8

Ty Taylor was eliminated this week. He struck a sour note in his farewell speech by implying that his color played a part in his three showings in the bottom three. If he had been a bottom three regular from the get-go, he may have had reason to feel this way. But he outlasted more than half of his white competitors. The first time he made the bottom three (during week 4, after performing the Foo Fighters' "Everlong"), he admitted that he felt he deserved to be there. I was somewhat surprised when he landed in the bottom three last week. I thought his performance of "Proud Mary" was the most impressive performance that evening. But his Motown extravaganza may not have appealed to a majority of audience tastes. This week, there were only six performers left, so everyone had a fifty-fifty chance of landing in the bottom three this time. There was nothing wrong with Ty's performance of the Stones classic "You Can't Always Get What You Want" on Tu…