Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Weezer as the Velvet Underground?

First off...I did purchase the Velvet Underground DVD Velvet Redux: Live MCMXCIII when it was released late last month. It was worth the wait. It contains performances from the band's 1993 reunion tour in Europe. The original four members are here (Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen Tucker, and the late Sterling Morrison), and their warts-and-all performances of 15 songs are something to see and hear. This definitely shows that tour in a better light than the 2-CD set Live MCMXCIII, where Reed's vocals made it sound as though he was trying to destroy the great songs he created. When watching Velvet Redux, we can see that Reed put energy into the performances, which may be what makes the difference. It's interesting to watch a lengthy instrumental duel between Reed and Cale during "Hey Mr. Rain", and also to see Cale taking part in several songs that he was not originally involved with. This is most likely the only Velvet Underground performance DVD we're going to get, so let's treasure it. (There is a VU DVD titled Under Review: An Independent Critical Analysis being released on April 25th, but I haven't heard any details about it).

Now...what is this I've been hearing about members of Weezer playing members of the VU in an upcoming movie? In Factory Girl, currently in post-production, Weezer guitarist Brian Bell will portray Lou Reed, and Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson will portray John Cale. What's more, the two of them have recorded a new version of the VU song "Heroin" for the film. More details are here:

http://pitchforkmedia.com/news/06-01/24.shtml

Don't get me wrong. I like Weezer for what they are. But those two guys playing Reed and Cale? I will hold off on judgment until I see/hear the results. I have to say it, though: Bell is asking for trouble with this quote about their version of "Heroin":

"(Moe) Tucker did have an amazing feel, but she was no Pat (Wilson), and Pat pulled out an ‘Only In Dreams' type crescendo that I think makes that aspect of the song better."

Ooh, this could get ugly.

By the way, the movie is a biopic about Edie Sedgwick, starring Sienna Miller as Edie and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol. Want to hear even more strange casting info? Other cast members include Hayden Christensen (Anakin!), Jimmy Fallon (no, I'm not kidding), and Mary-Kate Olsen (where's Ashley?).

What does Lou Reed think of this? I haven't heard him comment on the Weezer thing, but this is what he said about the movie, with his usual take-no-prisoners candor:

"I read that script. It's one of the most disgusting, foul things I've seen - by any illiterate retard - in a long time. There's no limit to how low some people will go to write something to make money."

Ouch! This movie better deliver.

Related link:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/gossip/story/384950p-326717c.html

Monday, February 27, 2006

Björk notes

A note for fans of the Sugarcubes, the late-'80's avant-pop band from Iceland that helped Björk achieve worldwide fame. Earlier this month, two Sugarcubes DVDs were released in the U.S. Both had previously been released in the U.K. in late 2004. Sugarcubes - The DVD is a collection of their videos; Live Zabor is a collection of live performances from 1988 and 1989.

Also, I recently made a correction on my Bjork page that I should point out. On her self-titled 1977 album which was released only in Iceland, the then-11-year-old sang a song about a fairy-tale cow, and sang it to the tune of the Stevie Wonder-Syreeta Wright song "Your Kiss Is Sweet". I had erroneously reported that the album's third track, "Alta Mira", was that song. But it was actually the second track, titled "Bukolla". "Alta Mira" is actually a remake of a song by the Edgar Winter Group, from their 1973 album They Only Come Out At Night. I regret the error.

Speaking of Björk's 1977 Icelandic children's album: it is worth searching out, and will probably never receive a proper reissue. Although the singer is proud of the record, the master tapes are reportedly long lost. Its distributor Fálkinn was primarily a manufacturer of bicycles and machinery; their music business was divested in 1986, and the Björk master tapes disappeared. It's a shame, because the album is an interesting part of her career that does not deserve to be overlooked.

Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

Rarebird's Spotlight Album Review #10 is completed. The subject? A short-lived late-'70's band called Juicy Groove, which featured former members of Steppenwolf, Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, and Spirit. Their leader was a character named Michael "Rainbow" Neal, who was involved with many of Sky Saxon's post-Seeds activities. Their 1978 album First Taste is a fun piece of garage psychedelica that sounds like it was recorded a decade earlier. It is recommended for fans of Rhino's Nuggets box sets, if they are able to track the album down.

Most of that same group also recorded a 1980 new wave album under the name Rainbow Red Oxidizer. I've reviewed that album as well. Here is the page:

http://rarebird9.net/juicygroove.html

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ten Years After reissues

Undead, the 1968 live album from Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, has been reissued in the United States after a short time of being out of print. It was the British blues-rock band's second release, following their self-titled 1967 studio debut. It's a great musical snapshot of Lee and company in their early days, when they were still hungry and playing in small clubs. Undead captures them in exactly that type of venue, playing a skilled and enthusiastic combo of blues, rock, and jazz, before they began to fall into the psychedelia trap. It's good to see this worthwhile album get quickly rescued from the out-of-print oblivion that it was in danger of staying in.

Recently, the Fontana label has also reissued the band's first two studio albums on CD in the U.S.

Ten Years After was a stunning debut, and was out of print in the States for far too long. This 1967 album shows the quartet playing unusually subtle blues rock, avoiding the psychedelic indulgences of the day. Ten Years After is the work of four men who genuinely loved the music they were playing, and it is as deeply soulful as any rock and roll album ever to come down the pike.

Stonedhenge was originally released in 1969. It was their second studio album, and their third release overall. Don't be fooled by the title, because the band was still avoiding psychedelia at this point. In fact, Stonedhenge is even more subtle than the debut, perhaps too much so. It finds the quartet quietly tiptoeing through six Canned Heat-style blues numbers, playing as if they were performing chamber music in a tiny jazz club. The other four tracks are more interesting, as each member of the band gives himself a sub-two-minute showcase. Alvin Lee does his scat-singing thing on "Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob", Chick Churchill does a short piano solo titled "I Can't Live Without Lydia", Leo Lyons does a short bass solo called "Faro", and Ric Lee taps out "Three Blind Mice" (yes, "Three Blind Mice") on his drum kit. Listeners who are relatively new to TYA may find this low-key CD odd.

In case you haven't heard, Ten Years After reunited in 2002, but without Alvin Lee. The other three original members (Churchill, Lyons, and Ric Lee) are now fronted by a much younger singer/guitarist named Joe Gooch, who is a decent musician in his own right. They have recorded one studio album, titled Now, which was recently released in the States by the Fuel 2000 label. They have also released two live albums in Europe on a label called Fast Western. The first one, 2003's One Night Jammed, is already out of print, but the second one, a 2-CD set called Roadworks, is still obtainable in some countries. I hope to add a review of that album to my Ten Years After page soon.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Rock Star" Season Two

In case you haven't heard, CBS ordered a second season of Rock Star last month, and it is intended to be part of the summer 2006 program schedule. Dave Navarro and Brooke Burke will return as co-hosts, but it still isn't known what band will be the subject, or even if the format will be the same. Here are details:

http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/cbs-orders-rock-star-sequel-for-summer-but-format-still-undecided-3909.php

And here's a kicker: rumors are now back that Van Halen may be the subject, and that contestants may compete to be the new VH frontman. Eddie Van Halen, the band's leader, flatly denied these rumors last October. But Larry Solters, the band's publicist, was asked about it again recently, and he replied:

"I'm not denying it. I'm not going to answer any questions about it."

A big tease? Maybe. But it's nice to know that another season of Rock Star is in the works.

A future season of the show was in doubt, not only because of the uncertainty of future bands and formats, but also because Rock Star: INXS was initially considered a ratings dud. But as the show progressed, it emerged as something of a summer sleeper hit. INXS are now headlining a sold out concert tour with new lead singer J.D. Fortune, the winner of last summer's competition. Their new album Switch (their first with Fortune) has been selling moderately well, peaking at no. 17 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. It is currently at no. 98 after 10 weeks. Not bad for a "has been" group. The opening act on the tour is Marty Casey and the Lovehammers, led by the singer (Casey) who was the runner-up on the reality show. Their self-titled CD debuted at #67 on the Billboard chart last week. Not bad for a major-label debut.

These relative successes are the probable reason for Rock Star's renewal by CBS and Mark Burnett, and it may be causing Van Halen to reconsider.

Official Rock Star site:
http://rockstar.msn.com

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow break up

More rock star breakup news: singer Sheryl Crow has split from Tour De France racing champion Lance Armstrong. The two had been engaged since September, and had been living on a ranch in Austin, Armstrong's adopted hometown.

In November, Crow did an interview with the Associated Press in which she pointed out that celebrity magazines are more interested in seeing a couple break up than reporting on them being happy together. She said:

"When we were rumored to have split, and when our publicists called these magazines to say we haven't split, the magazines were all so disappointed because that's really what's selling, rooting for a couple and then they split. That's what sells the magazines. Why can't we just report things the way they are or see things for the good in them? ... It's an insidious energy."

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Cult are energized for 2006 tour

The Cult is returning to the road after a three-and-a-half year hiatus. Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy are in the midst of auditions and rehearsals, and the tour is set to begin on March 1st and continue until March 26th. Astbury is hoping that new Cult music will be a byproduct of the reunion. The story is here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060131/music_nm/cult_dc_1

In April, Astbury is apparently scheduled to rejoin Doors Of The 21st Century, now known as Riders On The Storm, for dates in Europe. For those who are unfamiliar with that story: Astbury has toured for the last three years with original Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, taking the place of Jim Morrison as the band's frontman. Original Doors drummer John Densmore sued his former bandmates for breach of contract in February 2003. Last July, a judge ruled in Densmore's favor, and issued an injunction barring Manzarek and Krieger from using the Doors name and any likeness of Morrison. (Morrison's and Pamela Courson's estates were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit). The group was touring Canada at that time, and reluctantly changed their name to the acronym "D21C". More recently, they have called themselves Riders On The Storm.

The Doors Of The 21st Century generally receive favorable notices for their performances. The only time I saw them perform was on the Tonight Show in January 2003. Ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland was their drummer at the time. (Copeland later bailed out and sued them as well -- but that's another story). They performed "Light My Fire", and performed it well. But Astbury appeared to be wearing a Jim Morrison costume, with his hair, sunglasses and leather jacket groomed to make him look like Morrison. It gave the whole thing a campy Las Vegas feel, and Astbury looked like an Elvis impersonator who switched to Morrison. At the end, Jay Leno told Astbury: "Nice job. Looks good." He's so diplomatic. I hope Astbury doesn't don that get-up on tour; that could violate the injunction against using Morrison's likeless.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New Poll Examines Music Buyers and Their Needs

A new poll by Ipsos, conducted for the Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine, suggests that music downloading is only part of the reason for declining CD sales. Of the 1,000 adults surveyed, 74% think that CDs are too expensive, and 58% feel that music is getting worse. Older respondents (age 40 and over) were more likely than 18-to-34-year-olds to feel this way, but still, 49% of that latter demographic did feel that music is getting worse. The poll says that four out of five respondents consider unauthorized downloads to be "stealing".

I would fall into the 58% who feel that music is getting worse. Maybe it's because I'm older (I'm not 40 yet, but I'm older than 34). But many contemporary mainstream rock bands sound whiny, or creatively lazy, or both, to me. Most newer rock music just isn't as fun as the older stuff used to be. Sure, CDs are expensive, but they always basically have been, and I've been collecting them for most of my adult life. Of course, I didn't have access to services like iTunes in my younger years. But my point is that I don't mind shelling out for CDs that are worthwhile. The problem is, most contemporary bands are not worth my hard-earned bucks.

There is one finding in this poll that I found particularly interesting:

Rock 'n' roll is the most popular style of music, cited by 26 percent of the fans. It runs neck-and-neck with country among fans ages 35 or over.

Rap music is the source of the biggest generation gap. Among fans under age 35, 18 percent called rap or hip-hop their favorite style of music, the poll found. Only 2 percent of people ages 35 and over said the same thing.

Well! This runs contrary to those in the media who insinuate (or, in some cases, say outright) that rock and roll is dead, and that rap and hip hop are the only types of music that matter. Even when you consider the generation gap, the media has not succeeded as much as people might think they have at shoving things down the public's throats.

I feel compelled to point out one slightly misleading paragraph. This article makes it sound as though CD sales have been on a steady decline since 2001, but that's not exactly true. Sales were down in 2005 from 2004, but sales were up in 2004 from 2003, according to this BBC article:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4150747.stm

I still wonder why a source based on the other side of the Atlantic is the only source I heard that information from all year. The American media only seems to report bad news. No wonder these younger bands are so miserable.