Showing posts with label Records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Records. Show all posts

Monday, April 20, 2015

Best of 2014 - the Return of Vinyl in 3D

2014 may be remembered as the year vinyl records made a comeback. For some of us, records never left, but to the greater marketplace, vinyl has become a hot commodity, and is challenging compact disc sales for the first time in decades.

Vinyl is back and more beautiful than ever, therefore, the BEST OF 2014 is honoring four very different records with one thing in common. VINYL. This year, all of the BEST OF category winners won based on a set of criteria. The record itself was aesthetically pleasing in addition to being musically exceptional, and extra credit was given for creative marketing

Fever the Ghost ~ Crab in Honey

Even though Fever the Ghost materialized only a couple of years ago, in that short time, they've astounded audiences and pleased even the most scrupulous vinylphiles with their sparkling EP, Crab in Honey. 
3D picture of double 7" Crab in Honey EP by Fever the Ghost

In February, Swell Swann released the original US vinyl version of Fever the Ghost's debut EP. Crab in Honey is actually a double single; two 7" 45 rpm records, one blue and the other red. A few months later, Heavenly Recordings released a beautiful cherry-red 12" version in the UK. 
3D picture of 12" European version of Crab in Honey by Fever the Ghost

Of course, the Crab in Honey EP is available as a download, but I prefer listening to it on the very special cassette tape that features deluxe 8-bit versions of the songs on the other side of the tape.

Crab in Honey is NOT available on CD, and one of the ghosts told me that the band has vowed to "never release a compact disc version of their music." Good luck with that. 

2014 was a big send-off year for Fever the Ghost. The band teamed up with Sean Lennon for a short tour then hooked up with Flaming Lips and have been touring with them. Fever the Ghost was even included on Flaming Lips' Beatles tribute album, With a Little Help From My Fwends, and performed the first track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Fever the Ghost recently completed recording a full-length LP that is due out sometime this year. 

Sleepy Sun ~ Maui Tears

Sleepy Sun keeps getting better and better and their 2014 release, Maui Tears, may be their best batch of songs yetI don't know how Sleepy Sun finds time to record new music since they seem to be on the road** most of the time. 
3D picture of Maui Tears double 12" by Sleepy Sun

Sleepy Sun music has pretty much always been available on beautifully fancified vinyl as an option. Their latest release, Maui Tears, is one of the most gorgeous records I own. A double EP consisting of two 12" 45 rpm colored vinyl records, one marbled turquoise and the other marbled burgundy. Splendid! 

The vinyl is divine, but what carries most weight on this record is the music itself. My favorite Sleepy Sun record to date. Their captivating spacey music is perfect for driving across the desert. Maui Tears is somewhat a departure from their earlier releases, and captures a broad cross-section of styles including, (but certainly not limited to), the progressive and psychedelic elements that they've always been defined by.

Buoyant but not bogged down.

This record demonstrates Sleepy Sun's ability to weave heavy and light, powerful ~ sensitive, brutal ~ tender memes in true form to their traditional trademark sound. Whether or not Sleepy Sun was trying to prove something with this record, they did. Not only the best album of the year, Maui Tears is among the best albums ever.

Primus and the Chocolate Factory

Primus came on the scene just as vinyl was being replaced by the compact disc. 

I can't imagine a better ensemble to cover the music from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory than Primus, whose funky deep-tonal dark humor is perfect for this scrumptious concept album.

3D picture of two Primus and the Chocolate Factory LP's. The disc on the left is the standard chocolate pressing, the disc on the right is an apparent misprint that sneaked past quality control.

I was skeptical at first, having never seen either of the Willy Wonka or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies, but after one listen to Primus' version, I was so intrigued that I was motivated to watch both.

The vinyl is chocolaty delicious and the Wonkaesque art on the record is a nice touch...  
Keeping with the Wonka theme, Primus also sold candy bars and even pressed five special "Golden Ticket" versions of the record on gold vinyl. The Golden Ticket versions were placed randomly among the other records before distribution. Those lucky enough to find a Golden Ticket record will be able to attend Primus shows for LIFE. I heard that Augustus Gloop found one in Germany.

Here's a short tour of the Chocalate record factory.

Sadly, I missed the Chocolate Factory Tour°° :-(

Levin Brothers

Tony Levin is a musician that needs no introduction. In 2014, Tony teamed up with his brother, Pete, and released their first jazz album. An instant gold record, because the record itself was gold.

3D picture of the Levin Brothers limited edition gold record

Historically, a gold record meant that one million copies had been sold. On Tony Levin's Blog, he joked that he believes°* " the current market for vinyl record sales, even ONE album sold should be certified as gold. Therefore, in a reverse of the normal procedure, we have made the Levin Brothers record gold from the start." 

This vinylphile couldn't resist getting one of 1,000 copies of this special edition gold record released on Lazy Bones Recordings. All subsequent pressings will be on black vinyl, which is still awesome, but not spectacularly beautiful.

Here's a sample 

** I've been fortunate to see Sleepy Sun perform a handful of times, including their very first show at the old Vets Hall in Santa Cruz, CA back in 2007.

°° I've seen Primus SO many times that I can't keep the shows straight. This would have been an exceptionally memorable show. 

Primus front man, Les Claypool teamed up with the Melvins guitarist, , released a country album under the moniker, Duo du Twang. Said record would have been considered as Best Country Record if it had been pressed on special vinyl and if Best Country Record wasn't an oxymoron.

°* From the article, About Gold Records: a Brief History of Gold Records as reported (only somewhat accurately) by Tony Levin 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crab in Honey - Fever the Ghost's Sparkling EP

It was only a dream. 

I sat up in bed to see the time. 4:21 AM. The song, Calico, by Fever the Ghost playing in my head as I attempted to make sense of the strange dream I had just had. Something about time travelers... That's it. The band Fever the Ghost were time travelers in my dream and had come to visit... from the future or the past... or deep space, I'm not quite sure.

I don't recall any of the details of the strange dream now, but I'm impressed that Fever the Ghost had invaded my psyche to influence my subconscious. 

On the previous day, Mr. Postman had delivered the parcel that contained my new Fever the Ghost EP, Crab in Honey... a beautifully crafted, double 7" record set, that I played a half dozen times. So far, it's the best thing I've heard this year. 
Fever the Ghost is a fairly new phenomenon, and according to a mysterious entity* named Luther, the band has "been charged with sparkling** the Los Angeles music scene." He added that "it is imperative that their sparkling is enjoyed by as many receptors*** as possible..." and warned of grave consequences for the band should there be failure to sparkle sufficiently.

Fever the Ghost materialized in 2013 under the direct supervision of Swell Swann Corporation. The ethereal ensemble is garrisoned by Casper, Bobby, Mason and Nick O who hermetically indurate with tranquil like-mindedness. Their sparkling EP, Crab in Honey, is sticky and sweet but requires some effort to crack through its tough crustaceaous exoskeleton to access and enjoy the tender interior. Good eatin'

I'm looking forward to hearing more from this phantasmal ensemble and plan to witness them as they materialize at Kilby Court in Salt Lake City, UT on March 18, 2014.

It was only a dream... or was it?

* Luther Russell produced Fever the Ghost's first 7" single, Rounder/Her Earth 

** The musical fertilization of souls via energy-dust formed by the vibrations from a performance or recording.

*** Those beings who are receptive to sparkling.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tree Demons on the Mainland

Earlier this month, the postman delivered two very different, new releases from a couple of musical artists who both grew up in Santa Cruz, California. In fact, they both attended the same high school, at the same time, although neither have ever collaborated. 

Demons by TREE

Giving roots to a new genre, on September 3, Oliver Nickell, an artist who goes by the moniker Tree, teamed up with Beat Culture and released his first vinyl EP. Demons was released on the Apollo Records label, and is already receiving rave reviews in the UK and US. 

Tree's fresh approach to music doesn't fit into any particular genre and is therefore free of any presupposed assumptions or discrimination. To Oliver Nickell, the world around him is music, and he has mastered the art of morphing found sound into complex arrangements that edify the listening experience in a profoundly holistic way. 

The three tracks on Demons are mesmerizing and transcend pretty much everything happening in the music industry today. In addition to two original compositions, the record features a splendid cover of Radiohead's Karma Police that is complimentary to the original  version while broadening the spectrum of the popular piece. 

We'll no doubt be hearing more form Tree

Cheque out more Tree for free on Soundcloud and purchase Demons here.

Girls Unknown by MAINLAND

Jordy Topf first gained notoriety with the Vox Jaguars whose popular song, Swagger, was named among the 20 Best Indie Songs of 2009 and has been played regularly on XM Radio, featured on the big screen, as well as international and prime-time TV. 

In 2010, Toph left the promising Vox Jaguars and moved to New York City where he formed, Mainland, a hipster/indie band that has received notoriety in the Big Apple. Mainland just released their first EP, Girls Unknown, which, so far, hasn't received as much attention at his former band, but nevertheless, exhibits some exceptionally promising material that will no doubt please listeners of all ages. 

The first track, Wasted, is probably the most addicting song I have ever heard and now it plays in my head almost constantly. Wasted may be the most catchy song on the CD, however, my preferred track is Twin Cities, a Beatlesque song that features what has become my favorite guitar solo of 2013. Corey Mullee's straight-forward technique is crisp clean and honest - like a George Harrison riff from an early Beatles song. 

Other members of Mainland include Alex Pitta on bass and Dylan Longstreet on drums. Girls Unknown was produced by long time friend of Topf, Luke David, who also performed production duties for the Vox Jaguars' first CD, Out of Luck

Mainland is currently in Austin, Texas, recording a full-length CD.

Purchase Girls Unknown here and listen free on Spotify.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Live From Off-Center at 45 RPM

i've been collecting vinyl records since I was a kid. The first vinyl I owned was given to me by my older cousin, Bette,* who had outgrown her Monkeys records, and I became the lucky recipient. Hey, hey!

Before long, I had become an avid Beatles fan, and didn't even consider the Monkeys to be in the same league with the fab four. I was more than a simple Beatles fan, though. I was a collector** of the Beatles' records, and set a goal to own every version, (mono, stereo, label, etc.), of every LP released in America... and I came incredibly close too. In fact, there are only two*** elusive Beatles LP's that have evaded my collection... so far.

Found among my plethora of vinyl is a small, sub-collection of mis-prints, where the label is clearly not centered on the disc. Most misprints were destroyed and never released to the public, although some of the more subtle offset labels are less obvious, and could have slipped through quality control.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some examples of three post-Beatles singles exhibiting off-center labels.
This Apple label on Ringo Starr's Oh My My, is clearly not centered.

You'd think. I know, right? One of the worst songs of all time, but the off-centered label makes it worth the twenty-five cents I paid for this sappy rarity.

Cook of the House, the B Side of my Silly Love Songs 45, is also offset, making this vinyl doubly rare.

This ever-so-slightly offset label on George Harrison's Dark Horse**** 45 probably made it through quality control, but not my keen eye. The B Side of this 7" single is the rare and nearly unheard song, I Don't Care Anymore. This unusual melancholic song that alludes to George Harrison's real-life lost-love tragedy***** has never been released in any medium, other than this 7" record... my copy is even more valuable in light of the fact that the label is off-center.


* Bette Davis... I'm not kidding

** I became the the defacto proprietor of my brother's Magical Mystery Tour and Revolver records after he prematurely died. About that same time, I received some records from my cousin, Jan, who gave me original issues of Introducing The Beatles, Meet The Beatles, and Beatles 65. In the mid-seventies, I found an unopened original issue of The Beatles Second Album at the drug store in Panguitch, Utah. Apparently, the fab four were not too popular there, making it possible for me to discover the rare record many years ex post facto. I was in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin, in the mid-eighties, and had the good fortune to obtain a used copy of one of the rarest of all Beatles records, The Savage Young Beatles.

*** The Beatles Christmas Album was released in 1969, but only members of the official Beatles Fan Club received copies. I was too young to be interested in the Beatles in 1969, so by the time I was collecting records, it was too late to get one, and anyone who owned a copy was not about to part with it. The Beatles Christmas Album is so rare that I have only seen two of them in my life. The most recent was priced at $200. The Beatles original issue of Yesterday and Today, the one that features the infamous butcher cover, has also evaded me. I've seen about four of them over the years. Two different friends have owned copies, and I've seen two others priced at $200 each. I won't likely pay that much, and will wait until I find them in a thrift store, garage sale, or flea market... They will come to me.

**** The Dark Horse Tour in 1974 was my first live rock concert.

***** George Harrison's long-time wife, Patty, left him for guitar hero, Eric Clapton, who also happened to be Harrison's best friend.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Art Rock is Alive and Well in Santa Cruz Dreamstate EP by A Quantum Visionary *****

I knew that the first CD release from A Quantum Visionary would be good.

is the title of the new CD by five of Santa Cruz's finest musicians who refer to themselves as A Quantum Visionary, and their new CD is even better than I expected it would be.

I knew that the CD would be good because over the past couple of years, this bunch has been demonstrating their unique and intense sound at various bay-area venues, surprising and shocking audiences everywhere they've played. Their catchy and intelligent songs are an eclectic blend of genres, that I can only describe as epic. Most of their works are upwards of seven minutes long, but there is never any meaningless meandering or boring jamming in their lengthy constructs. Rather, every note of their intriguing music is calculated and precisely delivered without a flaw, keeping the listener alert and engaged. Although the new CD is technically an EP, it is nearly a half-hour long and features a broad cross section of music that is consistently interesting, and occasionally challenging.

I'm fortunate to be among the first to receive a copy of the new
DREAMSTATE EP and this will certainly be the first review of AQV's snazzy new CD release which is already a classic in my own music library.

The Review

As I embark on my musical adventure, I discover that t
he first half-minute of the first song, Insensatus Insania, makes me feel like I'm listening to early King Crimson. The song progresses through a multitude of movements and verses as powerful and involved as a Homeric epic. After nearly six minutes, the heavy-hitting first piece quickly transforms into the second track, Dragnet Enigma, a piece that begins as an almost Enoesque, ambient tune that begins to feel more like the Residents are nearby as it progresses. The hesitantly-calming track terminates as the third track, Battleship of Madmen, abruptly begins. The rowdy and unruly song reels me to and fro upon the rough seas of one of AQV's longest songs that includes a fifty-second drum interlude where three of the band members participate. PTA, the fourth track, is the shortest tune, clocking in at 1:22, and seems at first to be a bit of a tribute to Keith Emerson and further demonstrates this band's versatility and broad musical scope. The last song is listed as being 11:45 long but that is a bit of a misnomer because it is actually two songs... and a bit of dead air. Dreamstate Luz Mala, a poppy song that, at one point, makes me feel like I'm listening to Asia, is actually 4:54 long and is followed by 1:16 of dead air which quietly fades into The Hypocrite, a 5:40 version of a song that has become familiar on You Tube, where an instrumental version is used in a video by Rhetro Zenberg, called, Ching - Drive to De Laveaga.

The design of this artsy disc also deserves mention. All of the impressive album art was created by AQV member,
Stefen Lazer Smith, the artist who created the now famous Vox Jaguars Cowboy. The photo, sketches and drawings on this disc are reason enough to own the CD which itself is a work of art.

In addition to the art on the CD, Stefen Lazer Smith also wrote lyrics, provided keyboards, percussion, and vocals to the DREAMSTATE EP.

Mason Rosenberg, the renowned bassist of the Vox Jaguars fame, who released a CD on Anodyne Records earlier this year, lends his mastery to this CD by contributing vocals and percussion as well as bass and production skills. He also plays guitar on the secret track, The Hypocrite.

Shane Terry plays ripping and intricate guitar without breaking a sweat. He lends his shredding skills to this CD in addition to providing backup vocals. Shane also plays bass on the secret track, The Hypocrite and helped produce the CD.

Trevor Brenchley also plays guitar, and as a lefty, provides a symmetric visual and musical balance to this unique band who's
two guitarists shred harmonically and melodically as one. Trevor also provides backup vocals and production assistance to the DREAMSTATE EP.

The newest member of the band, Greg Wesenfeld, who plays hard-hitting drums and masterful percussion has proven to be an asset to this already powerful band.

Something else that impressed me about the DREAMSTATE EP, is the fact that all of the songs were written, engineered, recorded and produced by A Quantum Visionary.


AQV is currently the most interesting musical ensemble in the greater San Francisco Bay area. I see limitless potential with this crew of talented friends who see it as their duty to make music interesting and even a bit challenging. And, you can tell that they're having a good time too.

Good going guys, and congratulations on a splendid first CD.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Vox Jaguars CD Release: A Review

After months of anticipation, the new Vox Jaguars' self-titled CD has been released on Anodyne Records. In mid-January, I received a special edition*(1) advanced copy of the Vox Jaguars to review, and now that I've heard it more than a dozen times, I feel that I'm prepared to comment on one of this year's best records.

I've been paying attention
to the Vox Jaguars since I happened upon one of their live shows at Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, California about three years ago. What surprised me most about the show was that the audience, (and there seemed to be about a hundred of them crammed into the small room), knew the songs and sang along as if they were part of the band. I thought of the Cavern in Liverpool and the energy and comradary that must have existed there among early Beatle fans. It isn't every day that I see an audience so enthralled with a band, and that night, the patrons at Pergles were at one with the Vox Jaguars.

It wasn't long til the Vox Jaguars recorded a demo*(2) CD at the home studio of a friend. The exceptionally well recorded demo featured four completed tracks exhibiting plenty of musical variety and skill. The demo received quite a bit of notoriety and it seemed only natural when the Vox Jaguars' popular song, Swagger,*(3) was featured on the major prime time FOX Television program, Canturbury's Law. Producers of the show had stumbled upon the song on the Vox Jaguars' My Space page, and negotiated its use on the show.

Now, The Vox Jaguars have released their first CD, and it is sure to be popular among the indie generation in general, and spread in popularity to a broader audience in the years to come.

Beyond their darling and daring youthfulness, what makes The Vox Jaguars interesting, is the precision and power with which they play their upbeat clever and catchy songs. Smarter than punk, but not too technical for the uninitiated ear, this band has successfully drawn upon a long eclectic history of music to come up with a sound uniquely their own.

Something that can't go unnoticed at a live Vox Jaguars performance, is the display of teamwork between their powerful percussionist and bassist who keep the band timely and intriguing. Trevor Hope is truly an incredible drummer who's intricate percussion is perfectly augmented by master bassist, Mason Rosenberg. The two sound as though they've been playing together forever. This foundational
backbone establishes a powerful template for high school student Jordan Topf to present his songs about teen struggle, and modern dilemma. I find it surprising that this CD exhibits a subtle LA nuance. I keep expecting Jim Morrison to belt out something ridiculous... that notion amuses me.

The current line up of the Vox Jaguars includes
newest member, Noah Bond on lead guitar*(4) and voices, Jordan Topf on guitar*(5) and voices, Trevor Hope on drums, and Mason Rosenberg on bass.*(6) The lineup on the new CD features former band member Sam Copperman on keyboards. Sam recently left the band to attend to his higher education. The Vox Jaguars have not replaced him with another keyboardist, and don't plan to any time soon. Rather, they picked up high school senior Noah Bond to play guitar, and he is working out wonderfully. Noah plays like a pro and provides the ensemble with a rich round sound. A favorable addition to an already great band. There is still room for keyboards in my opinion.

I like the new self-titled release by the Vox Jaguars very much, and will surely play it on my hi-fi many more times. I think four clever boys could have come up with a more suitable title for this release however. If I had been given the opportunity to name the new Vox Jaguars CD, I would have turned their name into an anagram, such as, Jug Has a Vortex, or called it something controversial and relevant like, Obama's War Now, but I'm just an old punk who still likes to ruffle feathers. It's like eating peanuts...

The Vox Jaguars, on Anodyne Records.

*(1) My special edition copy of
The Vox Jaguars arrived in a standard hard plastic case, however a more environmentally-friendly paper-box version is currently available on line and in fine stores everywhere.

What makes this special packaging unique, is the inclusion of a segment of broken guitar string from one of the instruments played by the Vox Jaguars.

The guitar string is clearly visible through the usually empty plastic window on the left-edge of the CD case. I love it when this space is used for something other than nothing at all.

*(2) The Vox Jaguars Demo CD titled, Good as Gone, rivals the new release, and in some ways is preferable to it. The songs on Good as Gone are recorded so well that they could have been included on the new release as bonus tracks. I hope Good as Gone will one day be
made available again. My copy is worn out.

*(3) A new version of Swagger is the only song from the demo that has made it's way onto the new CD. Not even Metropolis, the most beloved of all the Vox Jaguars songs, appears on this new release. I should also note that the Canterbury's Law season one
DVD, (featuring Swagger), will be released on February 24th, 2009. If we're lucky, they'll also release a Canterbury's Law soundtrack and include the original version of Swagger.

*(4) Noah plays a Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster

*(5) Not surprisingly, Jordan plays a Fender Jaguar

*(6) Mason usually plays an Ibanez Roadstar but lately has been seen with a Specter*(7) at some of their shows. Most of the tracks on the new CD
sound as if a different bass was being played.

*(7) I've noticed that Mason usually plays his Specter in his other soon to be famous band, A Quantum Visionary, who take musical intricacy and variety to new heights.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Post-Punk X - Pickin' on the Knitters

The Knitters at Moe's Alley Last Night

Something that is difficult for me to get my brain around is the fact that I started listening to X before Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Five presidents later, I still listen to X, but even more surprising is the fact that the raucous and rowdy rockabilly punk band from LA is still going strong... in one form or another. These days, they're touring as a bona fide cowpoke band.

When pUnK Wasn't Cool

The first time I heard X was in the Spring of 1980. Jon and I were hanging out at our friend David's house in Tooele, Utah listening to music and talking about bands when David asked, "Have you ever heard X?" I replied, "I know Generation X, is that what you mean?" He pulled out his newly acquired record and began to educate us about the band and their legendary producer, Ray Manzarek, from the Doors, who, he informed us, also plays keyboards on the record. He removed the black vinyl disc from it's sleeve, placed the record on the turntable, and after a quick dusting, placed the stylus on the first track of side one... Los Angeles. It was obvious from that moment that X had a truly unique sound, and that they were worth paying attention to. I did. To me, X was evidence that punk could be poignant artsy and smart... eXactly what the stagnant music industry needed.

Sometime in the early eighties, I had the opportunity to see X live for the first of what would become many times. The show was in Salt Lake City at the old dilapidated fairgrounds coliseum... an appropriate place for the big rockabilly sound of X. 004, a local ska band, opened the show that night. 004* was followed by Angst, a semi-punk bay area band. Both gave exceptional performances, but when X took the stage, it became obvious who everyone was there to see. X sounded great, and seemed to give it all they had. The crowd's enthusiastic appreciation was reciprocated by the band who seemed joyously surprised by their favorable reception behind the Zion Curtain.

When Mighty Mo and I first met, one of the things we had in common was
X, and we still go to see them perform whenever the opportunity presents itself. Strangely, from San Francisco to Madison, the most fun X shows have always been in SLC.***

Knit Pickin' and Grinnin' Twenty-Nine Years Later

I was thrilled when I learned that
X had a country music alter ego band called The Knitters. First, I can't resist silent letters, (especially K), and secondly, I thought the idea was brilliant - Cowpoke music played by punk rockers. It's stuff like that that keeps life worth living. Speaking of living, one thing that I love about living in Santa Cruz, is the fact that I've had so many opportunities to see my favorite musicians perform in quaint venues, like Moe's Alley. Last night, Mighty Mo and I took the bus across town to see the Knitters play at Moe's. We had found out about it only a day before the show, and were happy that it hadn't sold out.** Whew!

Moe's Alley was filled to capacity. Apparently, word had gotten out about the Knitters, and the fact that the band features three X Patriots. The eclectic stylings of wardrobe exhibited by attendees was entertaining and amusing to observe. I assumed there would be lots of rockabilly folks, but saw only a few watered-down versions thereof. No jet-black haired gals sporting Betty Page bangs. Dang!

As we sat at a table in the back, listening to the opening act, X's vocalist, Exene strolled right behind Mighty Mo on her way to use the restroom while the crowd was distracted. I told Mighty Mo who had just walked behind her, and she proclaimed, "I love her." When Exene came out from the restroom, she passed by us again. As she did, I got her attention and told her, "We love you, Exene." She blushed, and sheepishly said, "Thanks" and disappeared into the crowd, hoping not to be recognized by anyone else.

When the Knitters took the stage, Moe's Alley came alive. We muscled our way to within fifteen feet of the stage before being thwarted by a wall of compressed thirty-five to fifty-five year old bodies that prevented us from getting any closer. It had been cold earlier, but now, within that mass of
huddled humanity, I was warm and cozy.

The Knitters played for two hours, to an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd. The songs were truly country floavoured, but there was no mistaking the tell-tale harmonies of John X Doe and Exene that are so prominent in X.

Dave Alvin, the smokin' guitarist of Blasters fame really impressed me with his marvelous playing. His skillful manipulation of his fancy Fender Stratocaster gave the band a rockin' down-home sound. I think he gets better with age.

The low ceilings at Moe's are conducive to a powerful punch from the bass, and Jonny Ray Bartel made use of the special space. His stand-up bass sounded clear and powerful. An integral part of rockabilly, it was a pleasure to observe Mr. Bartel's technique.

The five Knitters played a handful of Merle Haggard covers and even treated us to a country version of The New World, a classic X song. The crowd swayed and sang along with most of the Knitters tunes, too. A truly warm and memorable show.

I called Moe's ahead of time to find out what the camera policy would be, and was happy to find out that I didn't have to sneak it in. Even though Moe's was crowded, and we didn't have the best position in the house, we managed to take a few photos and video before the batteries died.

The Knitters front-man, John X Doe, was personable and engaging

X band members, Exene and D.J. Bonebrake at Moe's

John X Doe and Exene

John X Doe's Highy 17 Warning

* 004 featured fellow Tooelian, Phil Miller, on saxophone

Maybe it did sell out. That would explain why the joint was so crowded. I don't think I've seen so many people stuffed into our popular roadhouse before. It's probably happened, but not while I've been there.

*** I think it may have been the Dee Burgers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My iTunes Top 50 - 2008

iT's been nearly a year since I posted my first iTunes top 25 list. This year I'm expanding the list to the top 50 most played songs of 2008. My iTunes library contains about three thousand songs now, and I usually, (but not always), play iTunes on the shuffle setting, therefore the following winners are mainly the selections which the computer has chosen to play most often. And as it turns out, the computer has pretty good taste.
1 Streaming in first place with 222 plays, is KZSC Santa Cruz. This excellent local listener sponsored radio station moves up from third place with an excess of a hundred views more than the second place winner. I usually tune in to Platterpus Rising on Tuesday mornings and Here There and Everywhere Thursday mornings. Congratulations KZSC.

2 In second place, moving up from fourth place with 99 plays, is another listener sponsored radio station, WORT in Madison, Wisconsin. Thanks to streaming technology, I can keep in touch with my favorite Wisconsin city and former home.
3 In third place with 90 plays, local Santa Cruz radio station KSCO who came in first place on the previous top list. Unfortunately KSCO stopped their live stream service about half way through the year, otherwise they would have come in first place again. Sorry KSCO. You blew it! Still, third place is not bad.
###-Title-@@@-Artist-@@@-Album-&&&&-Play Count

Metropolis - The Vox Jaguars - Good as Gone - 87
5 Crazy Little Thing - Captain Beefheart - Spotlight Kid - 756 Brazil - Geoff Muldaur - Brazil (soundtrack) - 73
Frail - The Vox Jaguars - Good as Gone - 728 Send in the Clown - The Simpsons - Songs in the key of Springfield - 71
Dust - Adrian Belew - Dust- 7010 Totally Wired - The Fall - 50,000 Fans Can't Be Wrong - 6911 Frame by Frame - King Crimson - B'BOOM - 6712 Kaw-Liga - The Residents - Stars and Hank Forever - 65
Angela (Theme from Taxi) - Bob James - Man on the Moon - 6414 I Will Survive - Tony Clifton - Man on the Moon - 62
Click Clack - Captain Beefheart - The Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot - 61
On the Beach Goes the Crimson King - Adrian Belew - Dust - 60
Greensleeves - California Guitar Trio - A Christmas Album - 59
Chase - Ravi Shankar - Tana Mana - 58
And She Was - The Talking Heads - 12 x 12 OriginalRemix - 57
Coconut - Harry Nilsson - Personal Best - 56
The Robots - Kraftwerk - The Man Machine - 55
I'm So Bored with the USA - The Clash - The Clash - 54
KUER - Public Radio - Salt Lake City - 53
Sheep - Les Claypool's Frog Brigade - Live Frogs: Set 2 - 51
Good as Gone - The Vox Jaguars - Good as Gone - 50

Trigger Hippy - Morcheeba - Who Can You Trust? - 48
Onward - Yes - Tormato - 47
Marble Hearts - Master Mason - Lektron - 45
Number One - The Rutles - The Rutles - 44
30* KRCL - Community Radio - Salt Lake City - 43
Men in Helicopters - Adrian Belew - Side Three - 39
MTV Get Off the Air - Dead Kennedys - Frankenchrist - 38
Look Into the Future - Journey - Look Into the Future - 37
One time - Adrian Belew - Dust - 35
21st Century Schizoid Man - April Wine - Classic Masters - 33
Sinister Exaggerator - Primus - Miscellaneous Debris - 31
Swagger - The Vox Jaguars - Good as Gone - 30
Big Blue Sun - Adrian Belew - Dust - 29
Smithers Jones - The Jam - Setting Sons - 28
Level Five - King Crimson - Level Five - 27
Dinosaur - Adrian Belew - Side Four (Live) - 26
Goodbye Blue Sky - Various Artists - Back Against the Wall - 25
Harvest Moon - Neil Young - Harvest Moon - 24
Picnic in the Jungle - Snakefinger - Chewing Hides the Sound - 23
The Court of the Crimson King - Asia - Fantasia Live in Tokyo - 21
Anna - George Martin - Beatle Girls - 20
Fire at Midnight - Jethro Tull - Christmas Album - 19
Heroes - King Crimson - Heavy ConstruKtion - 18
Mother Nature's Son - Harry Nilsson - Harry - 17
Christmas is the Time - Kids of Widney High - Lets Get Busy - 15

The most represented artist on the list is Adrian Belew with three songs in the top 25 and another six in the top 50. Three of them are King Crimson pieces and feature Mr. Belew on guitar and vocals. Congrats Ade!

The second most represented act is the Vox Jaguars with a total of five positions on the list. Their song, Metropolis, comes in on the top of the
songs list in position #4, and another Vox Jaguars song, Frail, at position #7 comes in on the top ten list. They hold three positions on the top 25 list and another two positions on the top 50.
In position #28, Marble Hearts, by Vox Jaguars' Master bassist, Mason, is an electronique version of the Vox Jaguars song.

* KRCL changed their streaming address, therefore its position on the list is not representative of actual plays of this fine station streaming from the City of Salt. Otherwise, KRCL would have been in the top three. Better luck next year KRCL!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blue Monkee - Not a Belew Monkee

My first impression of the new Saul Zonana CD surprised me... in a good way. I wanted to play it for my son who's critical ear would either confirm or deny what I was hearing, so when we were alone in the car, I played it for him and didn't tell him what we were listening to, because I didn't want to influence his critique in any way. He asked, "Who are we listening to?" I replied, You tell me." He listened intently for a few moments and proclaimed, "It feels like Belew, but I know it isn't... Is it Saul Zonana?" he asked with rhetorical uncertainty. "Good job!" I affirmed. I was impressed that he guessed correctly. He had only heard Saul Zonana live on one occasion, and it had been a couple of years previous.

As we discussed the music on the CD, we agreed that it didn't really sound like Adrian Belew at all, but rather felt like Belew. Crisp, clean honest music with a side of lyrical irony, perhaps Zonana and Belew are kindred spirits. It may also have something to do with the fact the the CD was mastered at Studio Belew, and we were picking up on the feel of the equipment.

Either way, Saul Zonana's Blue Monkey stands on it's own and shouldn't be
compared to anything else. A very comfortable listen. I've played it a dozen times now, and I like it better every time. Every song is good enough to become a commercial hit, and I wouldn't be surprised if someday Mr. Zonana's music is known to the masses.

I've had a chance to see Saul Zonana perform live on two separate occasions. I'm impressed by anyone who can stand up in front of a huge crowd with nothing more than a guitar and carry the show solo. Bravo!

Most recently, I saw Mr. Zonana open for Adrian Belew at Slims in San Francisco. I spoke with him at the products table where he was setting up a list and money jar so that for only one dollar, everyone who signed his list would receive his new CD when it was released. I signed the list, and reached into my wallet for a dollar, but didn't have one. Unfortunately, I had spent all my cash on pizza before the show. I figured that Mighty Mo would have a buck in her purse, but when she checked, she didn't have any cash with her either. Bummer! My name was on the list, but I hadn't paid for the CD, and by the end of the show I had forgotten all about it... until I got home and downloaded the photos from the show. There among the photos was a picture of the empty money jar. I felt terrible.

Not long ago, the new Blue Monkee CD that I didn't pay for arrived in the mail, and I've been listening to it since. It is certainly well worth a dollar, so I've decided to send a one hundred cent note ($1) to Mr. Zonana, and hopefully alter my karmic trajectory for the better.