Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crashing Graceland

True story. Thirty-five years ago today, Bruce Springsteen decided to pay a visit to Elvis Presley at three in the morning, while on tour in Memphis. Together with Stevie, he climbed over the wall of the Graceland mansion and ran to the front door, but was stopped by security before he could ring the doorbell. Explaining his new-found rock fame and his recent covers of both Time and Newsweek, Springsteen poured on the charm and begged to be let inside – but instead, the unimpressed guards told him that the King was out of town and escorted him promptly to the sidewalk.

P.S. One of the most underrated bootlegs in the E Street live cannon -- Knock On Wood: Apr 29, 1976 at the Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, TN. Besides boasting the best of Bruce's first three records, the setlist also included It's My Life, Pretty Flamingo, and the very rare Frankie. But the most memorable part of this show was Stax Records' Eddie Floyd joining the band on Raise Your Hand, Knock On Wood, and Yum Yum Yum (I Want Some). The audio quality is poor, but you can clearly hear the whole joyousness of the performances.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Orpheum Show

I've only heard a handful of PJ shows from the '90s; this supposed-to-be legendary show at Boston's Orpheum Theatre is my first from the Vitalogy tour. There were a total of 25 songs played on April 12. Sixteen appear on the CD, but for some reason the six not included are available as complimentary downloads if you pre-order the boxset from 10c. Only three are missing; Go, Animal and the Lennon/McCartney-penned I've Got A Feeling, which was the closing song (would've loved to hear it).

The Orpheum contains a very interesting setlist; there are no big hits like Black or Alive here (they played 'em at both Boston Garden shows prior to this night), and the single encore set is longer than usual. Seems to me like it was a setlist catered for a smaller, theatre crowd, as compared to an arena. But whatever it is, the songs still rock solid hard. You can just hear the onslaught of a young, tight-as-shit band's sound coming at you that you can almost picture how insane it must have been then, with all the moshing and body surfing.

While everything's excellent here, some of the best stuff I think are the lesser-known songs, like the not frequently played songs like Glorified G, Alone and Hard To Imagine. Immortality has a totally different set of lyrics, with a little bit of My My Hey Hey added in. Blood is the sound of Eddie pouring his guts out. Neil's Fuckin' Up happens to be one of the best in the long list of PJ covers, and this was the only time they played it on that particular tour; it's presented here in its most primitive form. Another treat is an ultra rare Dirty Frank, which I think it's the one PJ song that is right up the Red Hot Chili Peppers' alley.

Anyway, it's interesting to listen to how all these songs sounded back in the day, like the shorter incarnations of Even Flow and Rearviewmirror. The band outta put out more shows from that period. Oh yeah, did I mention how fucking awesome Dave Abbruzzese's drumming was? Another reason to get this record. Soak it up, man.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Watch it. Share it. Spread the word.... 2011 is YOUR year.

Vs./Vitalogy Re-masters

If you're wondering why I have not talked about the most recent Pearl Jam release yet, it's because the thing took four bloody weeks before arriving at my doorstep. I got the basic three-disc boxset; the 10c exclusive super-deluxe set was super tempting (never mind I don't own a vinyl player), but no way was I gonna pay over fifty bucks just for shipping! Personally, Vs. has always been my favorite PJ album, with Vitalogy a very close second; watershed moments in the band's career.

It was during this period when the band tried becoming unpopular; no music videos, very few press interviews, a losing battle against Ticketbastard. They turned their experiences of their new-found fame (after Ten) into two career-defining albums (which sold like crazy), also a fascinating and sometimes brutal exploration of the human psyche. There's no need for me to talk about the quality of the music, it's pretty much obvious how good it still holds up till this day.

So yes, both Vs. and Vitalogy were remastered. But you can hardly hear any differences if you play the albums on cheap speakers. I was able to pick out some subtle improvements when playing them on my good sound system. Good thing the volume levels weren't tampered with; the originals were already loud to begin with. But the 2011 versions sound much punchier, and the low-end is more defined. For anyone (who already own the originals) looking to get these just for better sound, I wouldn't recommend it.

But of course, remaster or not, most of us fans are after the extra stuff. There are six bonus tracks altogether; three from each album. Hold On is IMO the best song off Lost Dogs. The stripped-down rendition here is simple and elegant. Eddie tones down his singing, but it still has a haunting effect on the listener. Cready Stomp is an instrumental in the spirit of Brother, but much more kick-ass. The studio cover of Crazy Mary is good, though nothing to shout about. You want definitive, listen to those 2008 bootlegs.

The Vitalogy bonus tracks: I was never a huge fan of Better Man. But this guitar & organ-only rendition is the way it should've been. I think it actually works much better than its fleshed-out counterpart. And did you know Eddie wrote Better Man when he was in high school? So it's like thirty years old now! Moving on, the alternate take of Corduroy still sounds great with the addition of acoustic guitars. On the other had, there's nothing special about the demo of Nothingman; it doesn't hold a candle to the final take. These bonus tracks are just icing on the cake. Every dedicated fan knows the real draw is the Orpheum show...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Top 10 R&B/Soul Singers Of All Time

Another Rolling Stone poll. It's real good though. The readers got it right.

1. Otis Redding (1941 - 1967)
2. Marvin Gaye (1939 - 1984)
3. Sam Cooke (1931 - 1964)
4. Aretha Franklin
5. Ray Charles (1930 - 2004)
6. Al Green
7. Stevie Wonder
8. James Brown (1933 - 2006)
9. Smokey Robinson
10. Luther Vandross (1951 - 2005)

Click here for the link...

Marvin will always be my No. 1 favorite singer. If you haven't seen it before, kindly check out the live performance of Sexual Healing below. One of the most emotional and mesmerizing moments in music right there; the way he yearned and pleaded was so genuine it's unbelievable, in particular those "baby" parts. Just kills me everytime. It's the little moments like these that remind us why we fell in love with music in the first place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When In Rome

I never thought I'd say this, but Rome (due May 17th) is by far the most eagerly anticipated album of the year for me. This trailer is simply mouth-watering! CLICK HERE to find out more about this unique collaboration between Brian Burton and Daniele Luppi, five years in the making.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Civil Wars

Sounds very Americana, doesn't it? This relatively new acoustic duo is my latest discovery. I read up about them few months ago, but never actually heard their music only until recently. I was sold after watching their music videos, Barton Hollow and Poison & Wine. After that I immediately bought the first album. The Civil Wars are Joy Williams and John Paul White, who bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp. Turns out both of them were already established independent artists long before they met.

The music is a mix of very sparse country folk melodies with a scattering of pop. The songs are intimate as they are intense, and I mean really intense. Both Joy and John Paul sing extremely well, not too over the top, and their gorgeous harmonizing complement each other. It's so good it hurts sometimes. I also like that they have a unique way of singing certain words, usually not how you'd expect them to be sung. As for their abilities as lyricists, this is modern-day confessional songwriting as its best this side of Ryan Adams. Just remarkable chemistry between them.

Some of the record's highlights include the second song I've Got A Friend, which features playful-like vocals, as each singer take turns playing matchmaker, but essentially they're really singing about themselves. To Whom It May Concern is a sincere unrequited love song; so true with a line like "I’ve missed you, but I haven’t met you". And then it moves into Poison & Wine, about a failing marriage. I'm aware this hit was first heard by the masses on (the overrated) Grey's Anatomy. As exquisite as it may be, one can hope it doesn't get played over any more future (TV shows and films) romance scenes or montages. Another terrific song is My Father's Father.

Meanwhile the title track is a down-south blues stomp with some cool harmonies (click here to check out the YouTube video). But my favorite is the second last, Forget Me Not. It's an original composition, but it harks back to the old tradition of Appalachian-type songs. Really impressive debut effort, and you'll know why they call themselves The Civil Wars after listening to it. In this day and age, this kind of talent is a rare find. I am pretty confident the duo will go far with their music. And I can't wait what they have in store next.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blood On The Tracks

When it comes to breakup albums, there's Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks, and then there's everything else. Ten songs crafted to absolute perfection, covering all aspects of the intricacies of human relationships. And just like his four rock album of the '60s, you'll also wonder to yourself how could someone write something impossibly good as this. Blood On The Tracks is the definition of sublime. I just got the remastered version, and the sound is pristine. You can feel the singer's pain as he bares his soul for you.

I also stumbled upon this interesting article written by a then young engineer who was involved in the album's recording process, with producer Phil Ramone. A must-read for fans and anyone who still cares about the album as an art form.


P.S. Actually there's another interesting story, which I just discovered. Originally all ten tracks were recorded in New York City over three days in 1974. At the last minute before the album's release, Dylan decided to re-record five of the tracks. The equally excellent original versions of Tangled Up In Blue, Idiot Wind and If You See Her, Say Hello can be found on The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 & 3.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Machine Gun Blues

The world's current best punk band travels back to the 1930s for their most ambitious music video yet. Frankly the whole gangster thing is rather passé, but I think this one is quite tastefully done. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes

The last song played on the latest Underground Garage (#472) was It's Been A Long Time. And I knew there and then I had to get me some Southside music. Well, being a Springsteen fan I guess it was inevitable sooner or later. Sadly most new copies of his old CDs are either out of print or unusually pricey. Luckily I had just enough left to buy one album from iTunes (I can only use gift cards here), so I chose Better Days, John Lyon's comeback effort in 1991.
This is some of the most exciting blues and (lotta) soul-infused rock & roll music I've ever heard. The production by old friend and collaborator Steve Van Zandt sounds big, but also has a very down-to-earth, bar band quality to it, immediately reminding me of Stevie's 1982 classic Men Without Women, with his Disciples of Soul. Better Days is a pretty long record, but contains not a single bad song. Max Weinberg and Garry Tallent plays on it, so there's that undeniable E Street rhythm sound in the Asbury Jukes. Oh yeah, and how bout those marvelous horns?

As for Southside's singing, there's no doubt he has a voice made for soul. He's in no way pitch-perfect, but impassioned and full of fervor. (it's kinda like how Brian Fallon sings in the Gaslight Anthem). Fellow New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi sings pretty wonderfully on the spirited I've Been Working Too Hard. There's this ballad called All The Way Home, which was written by Bruce (he would do his own country blues version in 2005's Devils & Dust).

He and Steve also contributed lead vocals on It's Been A Long Time, a song about friendship that is worth the price of this whole album, seriously. Sometimes I can't help but chuckle at Bruce's Lucky Town/Human Touch-style singing. Also Soul's On Fire, Coming Back and Ride The Night Away; all fantastic songs. In the end, Better Days is an album that makes you love life. Southside should be getting as much praise as his pal Bruce. Get this man into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live Rust

I'm slowly on my way to owning all of Neil Young's official catalog. I finally bought Live Rust after contemplating for some time (snatching the one and only copy from HMV). This live album (not to be confused with Rust Never Sleeps) with Crazy Horse was taken off from several performances during the '78 tour in the States. One of the best things about Live Rust is its sequencing. It starts with Neil playing alone. Sugar Mountain and the lovely Comes A Time is particularly resonating thanks to the superb sparkling-like sound of his twelve-string. Buffalo Springfield's I Am A Child is also astounding as a solo tune. And this version of My My, Hey Hey is better than Rust Never Sleep's.
The plugged stuff is always phenomenal, and to fully enjoy it must be played loud. It doesn't matter to me if 1991's double-disc Weld, has a fairly similar tracklist. I always get a huge rush from listening to live Horse. The Loner has always been an underrated gem, and the band manages to breathe new electric life into it, absolutely blowing the original version away. Another highlight is a fiery When You Dance I Can Really Love. Meanwhile Powderfinger, Cortez The Killer, Like A Hurricane are epic as usual, their finest moments as a live band. If you listen to some of these songs carefully, you can hear obvious mistakes. But that's what I love about Crazy Horse; the whole unpolishedness, garage and care-free approach to playing music. In other words, pure.

Now it's time for me to delve into Neil's 'weird' '80s period!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Bruce & Stevie Show: Part III

The great music discussion continues, but sadly all good things have to come to an end. I just made a new discovery though; Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels is some fucking badass shit. So is the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hank Williams

I bought this boxset (Unreleased Recordings) two years ago on impulse. I really listened to the hell outta it. It's been almost half a century since his death, but believe me when I say his music is still as relevant as ever. Hank had the voice of a tortured angel. He was brutally honest in every note he sang, and his mournful wail is just plain heartbreaking to hear everytime. A song like I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is just as apocalyptic and dark as Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit. He would also be very influential in terms of songwriting craft and language. Remember, this ain't some oldies music. This is real motherfucking country music.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Grown Ocean

Apparently Fleet Foxes' new album, Helplessness Blues, has leaked already, but I'm holding out till the official release date on May 3rd. I foresee this band as being one of the saviors of rock & roll music.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Last Carnival

On this day three years ago, Danny Federici of The E Street Band passed away. Here are just one of his many brilliant moments playing with Bruce.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

LE NOISE Revisited

God I love this album, can never get enough of it. The film version of Neil Young's (Juno) award winning Le Noise is a must-watch. It's all done live as you see it. I'm not able to embed the video here, so CLICK HERE and only watch it in 720p. Although the best thing would still be to experience it on glorious blu-ray (which I make a habit to watch at least once a month). Trust me on this. You'll get your mind blown.

Also, A Treasure, featuring Neil and the International Harvesters is up for pre-order in CD, blu-ray and vinyl formats. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.

Oh yeah and for the lucky ones, happy Record Store Day :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Bob Dylan Concert Review

Let's start with the bad first; the whole venue at this place called Marina Promenade was really fucked up. The VIP area closest to the stage that cost 200 bucks to get in was ridiculously big. Which meant the rest of the people outside had to cramp together as it got more and more crowded. To make things worse, the big-ass tent in the middle was a huge obstruction, so to get the best view I had to stand right next to the tent. There were just too many barricades and sponsor tents around.

Now the good; Dylan's 1 1/2 hour set was surprisingly solid. I knew what to expect beforehand. First of all, he reworks the arrangements of most of his songs, some to a point where they are barely recognizable (i.e. It Ain't Me Babe was very different from what it used to be). And second, to truly appreciate a concert like this, one must throw out any preconception of the man playing an acoustic guitar and harmonica like he did in the early '60s. He's way past that folk era. Now he's become like a legendary white bluesman. Seriously I bet a lot of people there were thinking 'what the fuck' at the start. When it comes to any Dylan concert, you either like him or you don't. He's in no way a nostalgic act, never has been.

I'm not gonna talk about all the songs, but I'll just say this; I dig all the new arrangements; it definitely keeps things exciting. Especially a tune like Tangled Up In Blue. For this he actually broke up the lines in the verses, so he sang them slower than the original (though it was apparent he shortened the song considerably). I absolutely loved the new A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall; especially the last verse, where the band's sound just kept ascending into some euphoric state. He still manages to make the song as relevant today. It's hard to describe it; it's one of those 'you had to be there' moments. Same goes for Highway 61 Revisited and Ballad Of A Thin Man; just incredible versions.

The setlist was a good mix of old and recent songs. The newer stuff were quite easy to recognize, as he didn't change their structures much. They sounded fresh and familiar at the same time. Love Sick, followed by Thunder On The Mountain was goddamn amazing. I swear I've never seen musicianship this tight before. I mean the band was just fucking on the ball during every song; they had a very instinctual way of playing. The fine Charlie Sexton on lead guitar reminded me of Mike Bloomfield. Weirdly enough, they seemed to complement Dylan's singing. It's interesting to hear the way he approaches his vocals now. His voice was raspy at times, but he wasn't mumbling all that much. What he's doing is basically 'talk-singing'. I can understand how people might get frustrated if didn't stretch his words all the way through on songs like Simple Twist Of Fate and the closing Forever Young. But still, he sounded very 'into' the performances, like he really meant every word he said/sang.

So overall, outstanding show. Sound mix was pretty good, though not loud enough. My only gripes were that it was too short, and some over-enthusiastic fuckers behind me ruined Like A Rolling Stone by singing too loudly. It was also the most no-frills gig I've ever seen. True enough, Dylan rarely faced the crowd, spending most of his time behind the keyboards. Not much harp work either, but when he did play the harp, it was spine-chilling. And the only time he spoke was when he introduced the band. And no video feed of the whole performance on the big screens. Luckily I knew where to stand, so most of the time I had a clear view of Dylan and his organ. And it's weird that after every song ended, the stage lights immediately went black. It's like he didn't want people seeing his face too much.

The man's pushing 70 next month, but the way I see it, he's one of those musicians that literally lives and dies on the stage, just like Chuck Berry. Hopefully this isn't the last time I'll get to catch Dylan live.

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
It Ain't Me, Babe
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Tangled Up In Blue
Honest With Me
Simple Twist Of Fate
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Highway 61 Revisited
Love Sick
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man

Like A Rolling Stone
Forever Young

Bob Dylan is the father of my country
- Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wasting Light

The Foo Fighters are back, and in awesome shitkicking mode. And guess what, early lead guitarist Pat Smear rejoins them for the ride, also Nevermind producer Butch Vig. Most rock records are so over-produced nowadays; well not this one. The band cut the entire thing the old-fashioned way, to analog tape in Dave Grohl's garage. The sound quality is superb; you can go ahead and turn it up, it's surprisingly not harsh on the ears. Wasting Light is their heaviest record yet; the songs are like instant adrenaline shots. I'm totally digging White Limo (it kicks serious fucking ass), which has Dave screaming through all the verses. Also great is Dear Rosemary, in which Husker Du's Bob Mould helps out with the singing. These Days, a bit more ballad-like, still rocks hard, and has a familiar 'Times Like These kinda vibe'. And in I Should Have Known (featuring Krist Novoselic on bass), the singer gives one of most passionate vocal performances ever. Or so I thought, until I heard the closer, Walk; it ends on a hopeful note. IMO, Wasting Light is the Foos' best since 1999's There Is Nothing Left To Lose. Just splendid from start to finish. They're still very much an 'album band', in fact they've always been one.

P.S. Also check out this REALLY AMAZING interview with Dave and Taylor Hawkins on the Howard Stern show. Click here to listen...

UPDATE: The band plays the entire album from start to finish, and it's goddamn magnificent.


This new title song by My Morning Jacket (from their upcoming Circuital) is an epic breath of fresh air.

Jason Isbell

It's no doubt that Jason Isbell had the best singing voice (not to mention the most radio-friendly) during his short time in the Drive-By Truckers. He would contribute some of the band's best and most catchy songs like Daylight, Richard/Manuel, Goddamn Lonely Love, Outfits and the epic Decoration Day. I'm aware that he put out two solo records after he left, but this latest one, Here We Rest, is my first. It seems to me his forte is writing personal relationship-type songs. So if you're a fan of his DBT stuff, then there's no reason not to like this new one. Americana forever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963

This recently unearthed seven-song set was performed during a more innocent time in young Dylan's career, just weeks prior to the release of his sophomore The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and before he would explode into the American consciousness. He was still a relative unknown then. This is engaging as Bootleg Vol. 6: Live At Carnegie Hall. It begins weirdly halfway into Honey, Won't You Allow Me One More Chance?. You'll be immediately hooked onto the songs; Dylan's gift for phrasing his words and his singing style forces you to listen, even if the hilarious Talkin' John Birch Paranoid, World War III and Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues all have the same rhythmic structure. And you'll also chuckle with the audience after every verse. This is a good companion piece to last year's Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos.

The Bruce & Stevie Show: Part II

Once again I got a kick outta the second installment of the Underground Garage show; I enjoyed this week more. This time Bruce & Stevie go more in depth and talk about the other important bands like the Kinks and the Yardbirds, and of course the Rolling Stones. Did you know that the Stones' cover of Little Red Rooster went to No.1 on the UK pop charts? The old pals also cover a bit of the folk rock scene, which in America during the '60s was just as 'impactful' as the British Invasion was. I've never heard Bruce talk so passionately about his favorite music.

And same as last week's ep, it's always fun to hear the old familiar hits on the radio again, which I assume are consciously put into specific sequences meant to provide the fullest pleasure to the listener. One song in particular caught my attention; Sunshine Of Your Love. I own the Cream version, but I've not heard it in ages, so I was pleasantly surprised by how incendiary Clapton's guitar solo was. Oh yeah, Jeff's Boogie rocks too. The Motown segment is a hoot; actually got to hear Sam & Dave for the first time! You can't ask for a better rock & roll radio show than this, so do yourself a favor and CHECK IT OUT :)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So Beautiful Or So What

Paul Simon's new album drops today. The video above is the single, coincidentally the best and the most unique "Christmas" song in recent years. Thanks to NPR, I got a chance to listen to the whole thing last week. I gotta confess I'm not really familiar with Simon's work (I've only heard Graceland and Surprise previously), but I must say I was immediately blown away by this new one, in a spiritual kinda way. It's such a groovy record; I like how he fuses different kinds of world music into his songs. For example, there's this great tune called Dazzling Blue that has some intricate guitar work driven by middle-eastern-like percussion. The second last track, Love & Blessings has plenty of musical surprises. And My God is he an incredible lyricist or what! In the song, The Afterlife, he sings about waiting in line and having to fill up a form first before passing through the Pearly Gates. He manages to balance humor well while questioning the meaning of life, a theme which is present throughout the album. There's lotta stuff about God too. I don't say this often, but this is one gorgeously crafted record, and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time, during the season of Lent! Not that I'm a religious person or anything (though I'm Catholic).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dylan's China gigs

During this past week, the international press have been following Bob Dylan's first gigs in China closely, and I've been reading whatever articles I could find on the web. One in particular got a lot of attention and flak, an opinion piece by New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Essentially it is an article filled with bullshit. The writer was clearly misinformed and obviously didn't do her research before calling Dylan a sell-out. Here's some of what she wrote:

Dylan said nothing about Weiwei’s detention, didn’t offer a reprise of “Hurricane,” his song about “the man the authorities came to blame for something that he never done.” He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left.

The idea that the raspy troubadour of ’60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout — even worse than Beyoncé, Mariah and Usher collecting millions to croon to Qaddafi’s family, or Elton John raking in a fortune to serenade gay-bashers at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wedding.

Wow, really? One must be fucking delusional to even write this bunch of drivel. First of all, I don't think you can really blame Dylan for not speaking out on this issue (Ai Wei's arrest). Besides he hardly says anything onstage at all (other than introducing his band), and has not been politically active in a very long time. Also about the song Hurricane; he has not played it live since the '70s, so why should he now? Not to mention the irrelevance it would have on the audience. The layman will think that just because Dylan wrote 'protest' songs in the '60s, he was therefore a protest singer, and therefore he always had a duty and obligation to speak out against authority. This is utterly stupid, cause he was NEVER a protest singer to begin with.

As for the part about the 'censored set'; almost every article claims that the Chinese government decided what couldn't be played, but there has not been an official source that justifies this. So we all assume that the setlist was indeed government-approved. As a result, Ms. Dowd goes on to criticize Dylan for not playing songs like Blowin' In The Wind and The Times They Are-A Changin', and that he gave in to the government. But wait, how do we even know that those two songs were censored? Blowin' was actually played on Chinese State Television, on a news feature about Dylan, prior to the concerts.

Now the man rarely ever plays Blowin' in concert and the last time Times was played was for President Obama at the White House the previous year. Look at the setlists from the Beijing and Shanghai shows; he did Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, Ballad Of A Thin Man, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, All Along The Watchtower and Desolation Row, songs (as we all know) more 'dangerous' than Blowin' and Times -- their lyrics certainly not as direct, but they definitely say a lot more and can be interpreted in a lots of ways, especially politically. If the government were to censor any songs, it should've been these few. After all, they are the more subversive tunes, right?

So ultimately what Bob Dylan did was right. He just shut up and sang. After all, he treated the China shows like any other normal show he's been doing for the past decade. I think in a way that was his protest against his detractors. But some people like Ms. Dowd just had to look into everything and unrealistically expect Dylan to be something he never was, and as a result, mislead the public. This is just my two cents worth; pardon the rambling. I would expect this Friday's show I'm attending to have a similar setlist, in which I'm more than pleased.

P.S. Interesting fact: This day marks the 50th Anniversary of Dylan's very first major performance, which took place in New York City.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

See My Friends

I bought this album last December, but for some reason it was just released in the States. Sounds exciting, doesn't it -- the incomparable Ray Davies re-doing Kinks songs with his peers and up & coming artists. Well not really. If you ask me, most of the time duet albums aren't that great. This particular one is average at best; about half the songs are good, the rest forgettable. The bright opener Better Things features Bruce Springsteen; he's a versatile singer, but I think this particular song doesn't really suit his rough voice. And the second song Celluloid Heroes still doesn't stop me from disliking Jon Bon Jovi. You Really Got Me with Metallica, as heavy as it may sound, has been overdone to a point where it's not cool anymore.

Here are some of the high points of the record: The folked up medley of Days/This Time Tomorrow featuring Mumford & Sons; it works because they manage to retain the whole English feel of the tunes. Lucinda Williams and Ray Davis seems like an unlikely pairing, but she turns the poignant Long Way From Home into something that could've easily come from her repertoire. My favorite tune is also the simplest here -- an acoustic Waterloo Sunset, in which Ray lets Jackson Browne sings most of it; the perfect song for him. Next up is the late, great Alex Chilton doing 'Til The End Of The Day, backed by a fine band called The 88. The band also covers David Watts, always a joy to listen to. Finally check out See My Friends (feat. Spoon) and This Is Where I Belong (feat. Black Francis). Cheers!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I'm now the proud owner of all The Band's albums (Capitol Records). They're my most 'listened to' artist in the last six months. And listening to every one of their records have often been transcendent experiences. Here's how I ranked them:

1. The Band (1969)
As far as 'musical collectiveness' is concerned, this is the greatest album ever made.

2. Northern Lights - Southern Cross (1975)
Their last truly cohesive record before they decided to call it quits.

3. Music From The Big Pink (1968)
A strong debut, organically rich in Americana.

4. Stage Fright (1970)
The band at their most personal.

5. Moondog Matinee (1973)
More than a collection of covers, this was a tribute to some of rock & roll music's lost treasure. They made these songs very much their own.

6. Islands (1977)
Not a proper album per say, but more of a compilation of B-sides and stuff that had been sitting around for a few years.

7. Cahoots (1971)
Definitely their weakest album, but a commendable effort considering its experimental nature, with some flashes of brilliance scattered throughout.

Click here to purchase The Band's music...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bob Dylan's 1st ever show in China

As stupid as it sounds, Dylan actually had to play a setlist that was checked and approved by the Chinese Culture Ministry two nights ago in Beijing, though we don't really know for sure. (The same thing happened to The Stones few years back when they were barred from playing songs with suggestive lyrics for the Chinese audience).

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Tangled Up In Blue
Honest With Me
Simple Twist Of Fate
Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum
Love Sick
Rollin' And Tumblin'
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Highway 61 Revisited
Spirit On The Water
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower
Forever Young

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tech Notes

Please visit Thrashers Wheat and check out the preview video of Neil Young's upcoming A Treasure, part of the ongoing Performance Series. Courtesy of Shakey Pictures, the hilarious, tongue-in-cheek video (titled Tech Notes) gives us a very good heads up of what to expect from the album, and contains song excepts and rare concert footage. Neil also talks about his International Harvesters band, which featured some of the best country musicians. It's mouth-watering for any Neil fan, certainly for me, as I was never familiar with his '80s stuff. I'll definitely be getting the blu-ray/CD package. It's also time for me to get Old Ways.

UPDATE: The YouTube version:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Treasure




Neil Young will release a brand-new album, entitled A Treasure, on June 14th, on Reprise Records. It will be available in stores on CD and Blu-ray, as well as on iTunes and through all participating digital retailers. The limited-edition vinyl pressing will precede the CD street date, hitting shelves on May 24th, and will be pressed on 180-gram double-disc vinyl featuring special artwork etched into the fourth side. The vinyl edition will be sold through the official store and participating Record Store Day Independent Music Retailers only.

Digital buyers should note that iTunes, Amazon and all other digital retail outlets will launch a pre-order on April 12th. Fans can also look forward to a full line of brand-new exclusive merch plus Le Noise tour items and Archives-related goodies, which will launch in the Neil Young Online Store in April.

1. Amber Jean (9/20/84), Nashville Now TV, Nashville, TN

2. Are You Ready For The Country? (9/21/84), Riverbend Music Center, Cincinnati, OH

3. It Might Have Been (9/25/84), Austin City Limits TV, Austin, Texas

4. Bound For Glory (9/29/84), Gilleys’s Rodeo Arena, Pasadena, TX

5. Let Your Fingers Do The Walking (10/22/84), Universal Amphitheater, Universal City, CA

6. Flying On The Ground Is Wrong (10/26/84), Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

7. Motor City (10/26/84), Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

8. Soul Of A Woman (10/26/84), Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

9. Get Back To The Country (10/26/84), Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

10. Southern Pacific (9/1/85), Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, MN

11. Nothing Is Perfect (9/1/85), Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, MN

12. Grey Riders (9/10/85), Pier 84, New York City, NY

- courtesy of Shakey Pictures & Thrashers Wheat

More to come...

Rolling Stone Poll: Top Ten Songs Of The '60s

I'm still thinking back to that beautiful summer night at Hyde Park two years ago where I saw Sir Paul and Neil Young sing together on the greatest Beatles song.

1. Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
2. A Day In The Life - The Beatles
3. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
4. Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
5. My Generation - The Who
6. Light My Fire - The Doors
7. Hey Jude - The Beatles
8. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
9. All Along The Watchtower - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
10. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys

Click here for the link...

The Bruce & Stevie Show: Part I

I can't remember the last time I felt so happy listening to a radio show. This week's installment of the Underground Garage has Bruce Springsteen co-hosting with Steve Van Zandt. But what it is essentially is just two really old friends having a great conversation about the music they grew up listening to in their teens. It's real educational, at least for me. I learned more about bands like the Dave Clark Five and The Animals, and what the British Invasion meant to the two of them. Of course I assume almost everyone growing up during the '60s were in way or another affected by the onslaught of English bands conquering the American airwaves, the most important obviously being The Beatles.

And whenever you listen to any episode of the Underground Garage, you know the music's always gonna be great. This time no new songs or 'coolest song in the world', mainly the stuff that was mentioned in the conversation. The show kicks off in high gear with possibly the best Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band garage song: Held Up (Without A Gun). There are a few more from their repertoire; I think there were two from The Promise. I like how Stevie said when The Little Things (My Baby Does) was perhaps the band's finest moment! Lots of songs on the playlist are already familiar to me, but it's something else listening to them in the context of a radio show.

Also there are a few interesting tidbits you find out along the way, in particular Bruce 'ripping off' The Animals' Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood intro, turning minor to major, and making it the opening riff for Badlands. Wow, would could've known? I won't be surprised if the chord progression of Born To Run actually came from The Beach Boys' Don't Worry Baby. Another thing I realized is that Stevie laughs an awful lot. Can't wait for next week's.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On The Way Home

If I were one of the lucky fans in California, I'll probably also cringe at the high ticket prices for Buffalo Springfield's reunion shows in June. But keep in mind that it's songs like these that makes attending any of their gigs totally worth it. I love the way Richie Furay sings the opening line, When the dream came -- it's like a warm friendly invitation into something spectacular. As a matter of fact, what I like about Buffalo Springfield songs are they're so unique you can't really trace their influence. And like The Byrds, they were also a pioneer folk & country rock group that would be extremely influential in the '70s.

On The Way Home can be found on their 1968 album Last Time Around. For Neil Young's amazing solo versions, check out Live At Massey Hall ('71) and Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House ('68). Also check out Neil's sentimental Buffalo Springfield Again from his 2000 album Silver And Gold. Do yourself a big favor and purchase these songs/albums rather than relying on YouTube.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Original Soul Man

So I just bought the greatest hits compilation off iTunes. The man had a voice to die for. And just saying he had a beautiful or angelic voice is an understatement. In my opinion he's the second greatest singer of all time, the first still being Marvin Gaye. More often than not, people are so attuned to hearing a soothing pop voice on the radio or when traveling with iPods, that after a prolonged period of time, the singers and the songs just sorta fade away into the background, becoming some sort of muzak. But you listen to someone like Sam Cooke and you'll stop whatever you're doing and actually want to pay attention and really listen to him; the way he sings, the way he phrases his words, the way he emphasizes and punctuates his words.

He does it so effortlessly that one might think it'll be easy to replicate his style, but it's not. Take a song like A Change Is Gonna Come for example, which sounds like it can be easily sung. But listen to the first lines of every verse, the parts where he stretches his words. My God, it's just fucking heartbreaking and magical. Especially so during the last one:
There's been times that I thought
I could last for long
Now I think I'm able to carry on...

I could listen to this song over and over again and never get tired of it. That's how perfect his singing is. It's sad he died so young. He was like the Messiah of Soul -- God put him here on Earth and he changed the music world during his short life, and then God called him back to Heaven.

P.S. Every song on this collection is pure gold. These are a few of my personal favorites: You Send Me, Touch The Hem Of His Garment, I'll Come Running Back To You, Cupid, Only Sixteen, Another Saturday Night, Good Times, Bring It On Home To Me, That's Where It's At, Tennessee Waltz, Meet Me At Mary's Place (now I know where Springsteen got his inspiration for his own Mary's Place from!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

D.A. Pennebaker Talks Bob Dylan In ‘Don’t Look Back’

Good news for all Dylan enthusiasts. Don't Look Back is finally getting a blu-ray release later this month! Here's a new clip (from the disc) of critic Greil Marcus interviewing filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker about his classic documentary. Dylan begins his Asian/Australian tour tonight in Taipei. His first shows in China and Vietnam will be particularly significant. Meanwhile I'm counting down the days to the 15th...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hold On

YouTube has plenty of fan-shot HD videos, dubbed with the official bootleg audio. This is one of my favorite performances.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Bruce & Stevie Show

Heads up, Boss fans!! Bruce is finally gonna sit in with Little Steven on the Underground Garage, celebrating the 9th Anniversary of the radio show. It will be divided into three parts, beginning this weekend.

"We're going to be talking about our roots, the records that we love and that drove us crazy growing up in Jersey, and our favorite songs".
- Bruce Springsteen

Hell fucking yeah!