Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bruce's Eulogy to Clarence

There's a myriad of emotions that comes from reading this flawless piece of writing. Thank you so much, Boss.

I've been sitting here listening to everyone talk about Clarence and staring at that photo of the two of us right there. It's a picture of Scooter and The Big Man, people who we were sometimes. As you can see in this particular photo, Clarence is admiring his muscles and I'm pretending to be nonchalant while leaning upon him. I leaned on Clarence a lot; I made a career out of it in some ways.

Those of us who shared Clarence's life, shared with him his love and his confusion. Though "C" mellowed with age, he was always a wild and unpredictable ride. Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and I see in them the reflection of a lot of C's qualities. I see his light, his darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness. But, as you boys know your pop was a not a day at the beach. "C" lived a life where he did what he wanted to do and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess. This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend. Clarence's unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop was a major project and always a work in progress. "C" never approached anything linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A... B.... C.... D. It was always A... J.... C.... Z... Q... I....! That was the way Clarence lived and made his way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you very very dearly.

It took a village to take care of Clarence Clemons. Tina, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for taking care of my friend, for loving him. Victoria, you've been a loving, kind and caring wife to Clarence and you made a huge difference in his life at a time when the going was not always easy. To all of "C's" vast support network, names too numerous to mention, you know who you are and we thank you. Your rewards await you at the pearly gates. My pal was a tough act but he brought things into your life that were unique and when he turned on that love light, it illuminated your world. I was lucky enough to stand in that light for almost 40 years, near Clarence's heart, in the Temple of Soul.

So a little bit of history: from the early days when Clarence and I traveled together, we'd pull up to the evening's lodgings and within minutes "C" would transform his room into a world of his own. Out came the colored scarves to be draped over the lamps, the scented candles, the incense, the patchouli oil, the herbs, the music, the day would be banished, entertainment would come and go, and Clarence the Shaman would reign and work his magic, night after night. Clarence's ability to enjoy Clarence was incredible. By 69, he'd had a good run, because he'd already lived about 10 lives, 690 years in the life of an average man. Every night, in every place, the magic came flying out of C's suitcase. As soon as success allowed, his dressing room would take on the same trappings as his hotel room until a visit there was like a trip to a sovereign nation that had just struck huge oil reserves. "C" always knew how to live. Long before Prince was out of his diapers, an air of raunchy mysticism ruled in the Big Man's world. I'd wander in from my dressing room, which contained several fine couches and some athletic lockers, and wonder what I was doing wrong! Somewhere along the way all of this was christened the Temple of Soul; and "C" presided smilingly over its secrets, and its pleasures. Being allowed admittance to the Temple's wonders was a lovely thing.

As a young child my son Sam became enchanted with the Big Man... no surprise. To a child Clarence was a towering fairy tale figure, out of some very exotic storybook. He was a dreadlocked giant, with great hands and a deep mellifluous voice sugared with kindness and regard. And... to Sammy, who was just a little white boy, he was deeply and mysteriously black. In Sammy's eyes, "C" must have appeared as all of the African continent, shot through with American cool, rolled into one welcoming and loving figure. So... Sammy decided to pass on my work shirts and became fascinated by Clarence's suits and his royal robes. He declined a seat in dad's van and opted for "C's" stretch limousine, sitting by his side on the slow cruise to the show. He decided dinner in front of the hometown locker just wouldn't do, and he'd saunter up the hall and disappear into the Temple of Soul.

Of course, also enchanted was Sam's dad, from the first time I saw my pal striding out of the shadows of a half empty bar in Asbury Park, a path opening up before him; here comes my brother, here comes my sax man, my inspiration, my partner, my lifelong friend. Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety, and in some funny way we became each other's protectors; I think perhaps I protected "C" from a world where it still wasn't so easy to be big and black. Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence's celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps "C" protected me from a world where it wasn't always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up. Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I'd written in my songs and in my music. Clarence carried it in his heart. It was a story where the Scooter and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remade the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such an anomaly. And that... that's what I'm gonna miss. The chance to renew that vow and double down on that story on a nightly basis, because that is something, that is the thing that we did together... the two of us. Clarence was big, and he made me feel, and think, and love, and dream big. How big was the Big Man? Too fucking big to die. And that's just the facts. You can put it on his grave stone, you can tattoo it over your heart. Accept it... it's the New World.

Clarence doesn't leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.

So, I'll miss my friend, his sax, the force of nature his sound was, his glory, his foolishness, his accomplishments, his face, his hands, his humor, his skin, his noise, his confusion, his power, his peace. But his love and his story, the story that he gave me, that he whispered in my ear, that he allowed me to tell... and that he gave to you... is gonna carry on. I'm no mystic, but the undertow, the mystery and power of Clarence and my friendship leads me to believe we must have stood together in other, older times, along other rivers, in other cities, in other fields, doing our modest version of god's work... work that's still unfinished. So I won't say goodbye to my brother, I'll simply say, see you in the next life, further on up the road, where we will once again pick up that work, and get it done.

Big Man, thank you for your kindness, your strength, your dedication, your work, your story. Thanks for the miracle... and for letting a little white boy slip through the side door of the Temple of Soul.


I'm gonna leave you today with a quote from the Big Man himself, which he shared on the plane ride home from Buffalo, the last show of the last tour. As we celebrated in the front cabin congratulating one another and telling tales of the many epic shows, rocking nights and good times we'd shared, "C" sat quietly, taking it all in, then he raised his glass, smiled and said to all gathered, "This could be the start of something big."

Love you, "C".

- courtesy of

RS Poll: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs

The readers have spoken, and it's a fairly good list. One thing's for certain -- Thunder Road is not only the greatest Springsteen song ever, but also the greatest song ever written, produced, sung and performed. Period.

1. Thunder Road
2. Born To Run
3. Jungleland
4. The River
5. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
6. Badlands
7. Backstreets
8. Atlantic City
9. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
10. Racing In The Street

Click here for the link...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Roger Waters - The Wall Live 2012

Finally, The Wall arrives down under next year! These are the initial dates, with more to be added soon. Me I'll be heading to Perth, and highly likely for a second night too.

Fri 27 Jan - Burswood Dome, Perth AUS

Wed 1 Feb - Brisbane Entertainment Centre, AUS

Tue 7 Feb - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne AUS

Tue 14 Feb - Acer Arena, Sydney AUS

Mon 19 Feb - Vector Arena, Auckland NZ

Pre-sale begins tomorrow, general sale on Jul 11.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Water On The Road

The only problem with this new Eddie Vedder concert film is that it's too short. The whole show is pretty stellar. Onstage, the man puts as much commitment and focus into these stripped-down songs as when he sings with Pearl Jam. He lives and breathes them. There are plenty of songs from Into The Wild, all fantastic renditions. At one point between songs he talks briefly about the late Chris McCandless, saying something like how most people perceive something as insane, case in point, is in fact normal to guys like Eddie, and vice versa. Amen to that.

There are three from No Code -- Sometimes, Around The Bend and I'm Open. Meanwhile, Man Of The Hour gets an acoustic treatment, which hits you just as hard as the band version would. Eddie comes across as a very down-to-earth fella whenever he talks to the audience. The DC crowd is quite respectful most of the time, cheering at the appropriate moments; the last thing you want is a rowdy bunch of fans at this kind of show.

The definite highlight here is Arc, which is beyond moving. He uses a loop to create a huge wall of voices and everytime he sings, he sings differently and takes the emotional level and intensity up a notch. Inter-cut with the live songs is interesting offstage footage, like Eddie preparing backstage while his rehearsing a beautiful rendition of Dylan's Girl From The North Country plays in the background, and him in Hawaii chilling (and cutting coconuts); there's a nice short scene of him near the ocean strumming and singing an early version of Unthought Known. Also You're True, one of his best songs from the recently-released Ukulele Songs, makes a delightful appearance.

In the rousing closer of Hard Sun, Eddie puts on his PJ persona as he 'dances' around onstage, electric guitar in hand, as Liam Finn and EJ Barnes back him up on percussion and vocals. Get the blu-ray version for the two bonus covers; a rough but strong All Along The Watchtower (in which he has Fugazi's drummer, also this film's director, jam with him) and a tender Blackbird; boy can he play the guitar well! Watch this and you'll see how much Eddie Vedder has matured as a creative force. Highly recommended for anyone who still listens to music consciously.


Monday, June 27, 2011

The Underground Garage Tribute to Clarence Clemons

I'm very grateful to Little Steven for devoting this week's entire episode to Clarence, playing some of his career-defining work with the E Street Band, and his work with other artists like Jackson Browne, the Red Band Rockers, Southside Johnny, Aretha Franklin and Gary U.S. Bonds. He also covers a bit of Clarence's life and his importance to the band, in relation to musical and racial diversity. If you want to honor the memory of a remarkable man, then listen to this show. It opens with the slowed-down version of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out from '75 at Philadelphia's Tower Theatre (which I recall listening on bootleg six years ago and being awe-struck). It's more heartbreaking now to hear Bruce sing that "when the change was made uptown" line. Steve's introduction is a touching and poetic-like eulogy for Big Man, basically encapsulating for us what has been on our minds and what we've been discussing with our fellow fans for the past week. He also mentioned that the E Street Band would carry on making music together. Though now's not the time to think about that, it's a good sign nonetheless. Danny and Clarence would've wanted the band to continue on.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

U2 @ Glastonbury

U2's first ever Glastonbury performance on the Pyramid Stage surprised me -- it was actually pretty good. It shows you don't need no damn claw to make the gig work. There was a very Zoo-TV feel to the whole shebang (the giant screens behind the band and at the side flashing all those random images and words), which was cool. And that's all the bells and whistles you need for a proper U2 show. Leave the rest to the musicianship. The setlist was very different from the shows on the 360 tour. The opening five songs from Achtung Baby, starting with a cool disco-inspired rendition of Even Better Than The Real Thing. And then the return of The Fly! Where The Streets Have No Name appeared early in the set and the accompanying visuals looked very similar to the Joshua Tree tour's.

At one point the rain was pouring down so heavily it looked like Under The Blood Red Sky redux. It was pretty much a crowd-pleasing greatest hits affair, with some 'rarities' like an acoustic Stay and Bad thrown in. The best part was the closing song, Out Of Control, their first single before they made it big. This is the way U2 should play on their next tour, just a bare stage with maybe a video screen as the backdrop. Their (360) live shows have seriously become so big they can't possibly get any bigger. They need to downscale drastically and go back to their club roots. Anyway, while U2's new album isn't gonna be out till next year, we still got the long-awaited Achtung Baby (& Zooropa) reissued boxset to look forward to later this year.

P.S. U2's entire Glasto set (broadcast on BBC) is available on YouTube; just type in 'U2 Glastonbury 2011'. Also if you want a historic Glasto performance, then check out Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band from two years ago.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My first & last Jungleland ever

June 28th, 2009 - Hyde Park, London

Thank you, Clarence.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

R.I.P. CLARENCE CLEMONS: 1942 - 2011

Everyone's hearts are extremely heavy right now. While we mourn, let us take comfort in the fact that C is somewhere up there, finally reunited with Danny Federici, setting up his Temple Of Soul, and playing music again. We're forever thankful for the joy he has brought into our lives.

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.
- Bruce Springsteen

Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened. So today marks the end of an era on E Street, but also the start of a new one. Today we grieve for Clarence, but tomorrow we celebrate his life.


I want you to think about the beautiful symphonic sounds that came out of a saxophone. This man carried music and music carried him until this day.
-Bono (at a recent U2 concert at Anaheim)

Saturday, June 18, 2011


A Treasure is indeed a treasure, in which the late Ben Keith described these batch of songs. He produced it with Neil, but this record is as much a Neil Young record as it is an International Harvesters record, the band that backed him on tour during the mid-'80s, before the release of Old Ways. The band consisted the most pro of pros from Nashville, some of the best country musicians of all time. They were totally unlike Crazy Horse, they were a well-oiled machine. A Treasure is some of the best country music I've ever heard, and certainly the best country music written and sang by someone who's not an American. This is a snapshot into a weird period in Neil's career, amidst all the crazy musical shape-shifting.

The opening Amber Jean is your standard traditional tune, written for Neil's daughter. It's a great introduction to this album, because it gets the listener acquainted with the key players of the band: Spooner Oldham on piano, Ben Keith on pedal steel and the late Rufus Thibodeaux on fiddle. The rhythm section included Anthony Crawford on banjo (who looked a bit like Nils Lofgren), Tim Drummond on bass and Karl Kimmel on drums. The last few tracks has "Pig" Robbins and Joe Allen on piano and bass respectively. These players all had one thing in common, and that was their musicianship was fucking incredible. I was particularly impressed by Rufus Thibodeaux. His violin playing was some real hot shit.

Are You Ready For The Country?
sets things further in motion. It's a simple but exceptional rendition, surpassing that of Harvest's; just add in a fiddle and you got yourself some country. The Harvesters rendition of Flying On The Ground Is Wrong is more beautiful than the already beautiful Buffalo Springfield one. The guitar lead-ins to the verses probably influenced the song, Harvest Moon. Meanwhile this version of Motor City is more honky-tonk and sounds much better than the original one from Reactor. Same for Southern Pacific; it's an epic train song, and the fiddle is played in such a way it sounds like the train horn and the plucking of the banjo like the bells. There's this part during the song where Neil does this amazing screeching effect on his guitar, in unison with the fiddle. At the end the song slows down, just like a train coming to a stop at the station. It's wonderfully executed.

But the best is saved for the last. Grey Riders. Never before released until now. It's one of the best Neil Young songs ever, and you'll know it when you hear it. It's basically a Crazy Horse song disguised as a country song, if that makes any sense. At first listen, I thought it was just another one of those dark, apocalyptic country songs, but than the band suddenly goes into overdrive and Neil lets loose on his Old Black. That guitar riff awesomely pierces your ear and you immediately get the chills. Take a listen to it; if you don't get goosebumps, then something's wrong with you. It's beyond belief; it's "Cortez The Killer" good. Grey fuckin' Riders. Nuclear explosion.

A note on the blu-ray/dvd versions; if you watch that "tech notes" video, you'll know that they took whatever concert footage was available from the internet and synced it up with the soundboard audio. I wasn't expecting much anyway; those parts where there's no video, you just see the album cover (at least the editor made a point to play around with the colors a bit!). Get Back To The Country was a rapid-fire country song, and it's funny to watch the video slightly sped up 1.5x (see my 6th June post titled "A Treasure #1"). Again going back to Grey Riders, it seems like the person with the camera filmed mainly the parts where Neil broke into Crazy Horse mode; there's this cool little moment where he was so into the riff that his hat fell off.

I gotta stress this again; the musicianship on all the songs is unbelievably good. The person that has always stirred me was Ben Keith. He's probably somewhere in heaven right now playing his pedal steel for God. It's sad to know we'll never get to hear Neil play those songs (the ones that had Ben Keith on) again live, and that's a load of his best work. But the man's irreplaceable -- Neil knows it, we know it.


Friday, June 17, 2011

New Springsteen album?

Back in March, session drummer Matt Chamberlain (who once played with Pearl Jam) tweeted that he was going to Jersey to record with Bruce. There were no updates after that, so we thought maybe it was a fake. Then two days ago, someone from BTX came across the profile of producer, Ron Aniello, from the organization known as Nettwork Music Group. And surprise surprise, his most recent credit included a forthcoming album by Bruce Springsteen! Maybe Patti recommended him to Bruce (he produced her latest Play It As It Lays). Nothing official yet, but it seems to me we'll get a new album sooner than expected. Also it's most likely not gonna be an E Street effort, which is perfectly fine by me. I'm always ready for some solo Springsteen. Ron Aniello is no Brendan O'Brien though, in terms of track records (Lifehouse, Jars Of Clay, Barenaked Ladies?), but I don't really care. In the mean time, we're still thinking of Clarence.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The E Street Band has always been greater than the sum of its parts. That is what makes any band special. These guys have worked their asses off for the past forty years to become the world's greatest live act. But Clarence Clemons has always been the one that stood out. The heart and soul on E Street. He's a larger-than-life character, like a superhero from another time and space coming to our world to save our souls, and by that I'm referring to everytime he blows his horn onstage, the most joyful noise you'll ever hear. I vividly remember my first Springsteen show at Hyde Park, the moment when Clarence started his sax solo during the second song, Badlands. A force of nature, and shit, what huge energy! The crowd went absolutely wild for him.

And then of course Jungleland towards the end of the show, as dusk turned into night. It was as if something invisible and unexplainable came down from the heavens and cleansed everyone of their sins. Time seemed to stand still during that solo. C was trying to say to us that everything was gonna be alright. And not forgetting the version from Live In New York City, that close-up shot of him moments before he belts out the solo, so intense and focused, ready to do God's work. Priceless.

Aside from being one bad motherfucker, the camaraderie Clarence and Bruce shares onstage is the most unique in live music performance. And offstage, their close bond and friendship is forever immortalized on the cover of Born To Run; seriously, I've never seen a cover photo so genuine before. My all-time favorite 'Scooter & Big Man' moment was when they locked lips at the end of Thunder Road during the Born In The U.S.A. tour. Name me two other men who got the balls to do this in front of thousands. I think Bruce best explains their relationship in his 1999 Rock & Roll Hall Fame induction speech:

"Clarence Clemons. That's right. You want to be like but you can't, you know. The night I met Clarence, he got up on stage and a sound came out of his horn that seemed to rattle the glasses behind the bar, and threatened to blow out the back wall. The door literally blew off the club in a storm that night, and I knew I'd found my sax player. But there was something else, something -- something happened when we stood side by side. Some ... some ... some energy, some unspoken story. For 15 years Clarence has been a source of myth and light and enormous strength for me on stage. He has filled my heart so many night -- so many nights -- and I love it when he wraps me in those arms at the end of the night. That night we first stood together, I looked over at C and it looked like his head reached into the clouds. And I felt like a mere mortal scurrying upon the earth, you know. But he always lifted me up. Way, way, way up. Together we told a story of the possibilities of friendship, a story older than the ones that I was writing and a story I could never have told without him at my side. I want to thank you, Big Man, and I love you so much".

I can't imagine the E Street Band without the Big Man, and for that matter I can't imagine life without Bruce and the E Street Band. Eventually we have to face the fact that the band will one day cease to exist. But for now, let's stay positive and keep good thoughts and continue to pray for C.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Important Update regarding Clarence Clemons

By now, many of you have heard that our beloved comrade and sax player Clarence Clemons has suffered a serious stroke. While all initial signs are encouraging, Clarence will need much care and support to achieve his potential once again. He has his wonderfully supportive wife, Victoria, excellent doctors and health care professionals, and is surrounded by friends and family.

I thank you all for your prayers and positive energy and concern. This is a time for us all to share in a hopeful spirit that can ultimately inspire Clarence to greater heights.

-- Bruce Springsteen


Clarence's family appreciates your concern and wants to let you know that you can send him your wishes via e-mail to

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Treasure #4

A Treasure is out today! Me I'm still waiting for my blu-ray/CD package to arrive. In this video, Neil provides some in-depth detail about the album and its players.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Man

Clarence Clemons has suffered a stroke and is reported to be in serious condition. Let's all pray for him and his family during this terrible time, and hope for a speedy recovery.

IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM BACKSTREETS: "Yesterday, it did not look good at all. Today... miracles are happening. His vital signs are improving. He's responsive. His eyes are welling up when we're talking to him. He was paralyzed on his left side, but now he's squeezing with his left hand. This is the best news we've heard since [the stroke] happened — it's nothing short of miraculous. The next five days will still be critical. But he's a fighter."

Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

Heads up; blu-ray release on Aug 9! We finally get to see Phoebe Cates in high-def :) But really, this is the greatest teen movie ever made, and they sure don't make teen movies like that anymore. Sure it's flawed in many ways, but it's funny, it's entertaining, it's tasteful, it's sad, it's trippy, and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

RS Poll: Top 10 Neil Young Songs

Another readers choice. It differs widely from my personal top 10 though (see side bar for mine), but it's always interesting to see what the majority likes in this case. If you ask me, some of Neil's best songs are not the hits.

1. Old Man
2. The Needle And The Damage Done
3. Heart Of Gold
4. Like A Hurricane
5. Harvest Moon
6. Ohio
7. After The Goldrush
8. Cortez The Killer
9. Powderfinger
10. Helpless

Click here for the link...


Thursday, June 9, 2011


My Morning Jacket is possibly the best band in the world at the moment. There's always been a certain amount of "organicness" to the band's execution of their music. To me each of their albums are like each individual color of a rainbow. People have described them as the 'American Radiohead', but the way I see it, they are more on the same line with The Band, in terms of musical collectiveness. Oh and one more thing, I never understood all the negative and lukewarm criticism My Morning Jacket got for their 2008 album, Evil Urges. It was my gateway album into the world of MMJ. Of course, every fan knows that It Still Moves and Z are classics, but for what it's worth and all the synth-funk that came with it, Evil Urges was a bloody brilliant effort, considering their move into a different musical direction, and it was a good move. With that being said, their latest, Circuital is another brilliant album. To my ears it falls somewhere between Evil Urges and Z, and it happens to be their most cohesive album yet.

A gong opens Victory Dance, a slow-burning number that introduces some jarring violins, adding some darkness. The tension soon rises as a crescendo, then ends aggressively with Velvet Underground inspired feedback, and then beautifully goes into the title track, Circuital, which IMO is one of their best songs ever. Another slow-burn that soon turns into some invigorating Southern psychedelia with echoing guitars and keyboards all over the place, it sounds like one gorgeous mess. Yim Yames, as always, has a remarkable singing voice (he does some great Prince-like falsettos and howling at Circuital's closing); the Rolling Stone review described him as a hippie shaman, which is basically what he sounds like! He also has this way of sounding playful and serious at the same time. The third song, The Day Is Coming, has a very live, big room feel to it; I especially love it when the drums come in (the album was recorded in a gymnasium in their hometown of Louisville, KY). I hear it as an incredibly heavy song, the lyrics provide a kind of an apocalyptic feel; but also there's an overwhelming amount of sadness whenever I listen to it, more so with the 'ba-ba-ba' background vocals. Still it's pretty addictive.

Wonderful (The Way I Feel), well, it's a wonderful light-hearted ballad that harks back to the early days of At Dawn. It is then followed by Outta My System, which begins with Jim singing "They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn't listen/Never thought I'd get caught, and wind up in prison."; so damn Beach Boys, which is in no way a bad thing. It's undeniable the track that stands out is Holdin' On To Black Metal, no doubt the best one here. It's funky as hell and simply kicks ass; I don't think I've heard a song by a modern rock band that contains horns and girl singers (in a recent interview with NPR, Yames said he was directly inspired by an obscure '60s Thai-pop compilation!). Devilishly infectious is how I'd describe it.

So begins the second half of the 45min album. By this point, I get the feeling that MMJ is trying to craft songs in a way that you've never heard before. In this day and age, you can say that nothing is really 'original' anymore. Artists and bands merely borrow ideas from their influences and heroes, but the great ones are those that can creatively turn them into something magical (with lack of a better word). Like in the subsequent three songs; the fuzzed up rock & roll of First Light, the country-tinged You Wanna Freak Out and Slow Slow Tune, that has a guitar solo in the spirit of George Harrison -- they all sound familiar and fresh at the same time. And I'll go back to my point about the cohesiveness of this record; one song flows into the next so nicely. As the soothing Movin' Away ends things on an optimistic note, you'll know there and then that MMJ has made another triumphant masterpiece.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


When I read a while back in RS that Robbie Robertson was using an up-and-coming L.A. band called Dawes as his backing for future live performances, I knew I had to check them out. Their debut, North Hills, came out in 2009 and their latest, Nothing Is Wrong (released this week), is everything I've come to expect from listening to Americana, though it's apparent they're still in the process of 'finding' themselves. The former is surprisingly mellow, with very toned-down instrumentation juxtaposed with rich vocal harmonies. Personally, Dawes is a nice discovery and they really got something good going. It's that kind of sound I'm always going after; that 'Laurel Canyon' laid-back kind of music, reminiscent of Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield and early Jackson Browne. Dawes is continuing from where bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Byrds left off, and of course not to mention The Band. They're following the tradition of 70s Californian folk rock, churning out something that they can call their own.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Treasure #2

Neil Young's A Treasure drops a week from now.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Treasure #1

Ass-kicking country music.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Album of the Week

This needs no further explaining; some of the greatest pop music ever made right here. I've heard most of the songs, but the one that particularly struck a chord in me was Darlene Love's Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home. The vocals, the strings, the piano, everything about it was faultless. That goes the same with the rest of this new compilation.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blood On The Tracks: The New York Sessions

Ever since I got the re-master, I've been fascinated with everything to do with Blood On The Tracks. If you haven't yet, get your hands on the original version of the album, the one Dylan recorded in New York. The final album had only five of those NY songs: Simple Twist Of Fate, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Meet Me In The Morning, Shelter From The Storm and Buckets Of Rain. The rest are available on Biograph (You're A Big Girl Now) and The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 & 3 (Tangled Up In Blue, Idiot Wind & If You See Her, Say Hello), sans Lily, Rosemary & Jack Of Hearts.

The differences between the versions recorded in NY and Minnesota are stark. Personally I've always preferred the originals. The lack of drums and stripped-down bass-driven arrangements made songs like Tangled, Idiot and Lily much more intimate, allowing you to pay attention to the words. At the same time they sounded emotionally brutal and honest (actually Idiot Wind might be the exception here), and I mean they just down-right devastate you. All the songs sound pretty much similar in the NY sessions; that could be one reason why Dylan chose to re-record some of them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

it's moments like these that make life worth living...

which brings me to this...

and this...

I can't get enough of this album, and just feel the need to tell everyone to get it. It's a fucking triumph.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

PJ20 Book

So Cameron Crowe announced on his website that Pearl Jam Twenty will get a worldwide theatrical release later this year, followed by the release of the soundtrack and DVD. Knowing Mr. Crowe, he just might handpick a number of songs that aren't on the official albums. But the big surprise here is that the companion book will feature interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Dave Grohl, and probably many other related artists. (BTW, that photo's from the 2004 Vote For Change tour)



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ukulele Songs

Eddie Vedder doing a ukulele solo album reminds me of Bruce Springsteen doing the Seeger Sessions. You don't know what to make of it at first, but once you've heard the music, you realize it wasn't a bad idea after all. In fact, Eddie had been toying with the ukulele for over a decade now, so this album can be considered a long time coming. The bare-bones nature of these tender songs allow you to focus on the little nuances of the instrument, the chord changes, the finger-picking, the strumming.

It's a short album and it's full of short songs. There's no point in making them lengthy anyway; the uke is a restrictive instrument, and though you can do some magical things on it, it sounds to me Eddie wasn't going for flashiness. His intention was to strip the song to its most basic, and for the listener to really focus on the melody. Now obviously the uke achieves a certain kind of light-hearted sound the acoustic guitar can't, and more importantly there's this innocence, almost child-like quality of it. Thus these songs are crafted in a way that are only special to the uke, and wouldn't sound nice on a guitar. In this case there are two words that comes to mind when I listen; campfire and lullaby (also Hawaii and beach).

Pearl Jam's Can't Keep opens things up. In terms of strumming, it's one of the more aggressive songs on the album. It's followed by a couple of sad tunes, Sleeping By Myself, Goodbye, Broken Heart -- the uke conveys loneliness like no other instrument, even more so combined with Eddie's heartfelt voice. The delightful More Than You Know sounds like a ballad from forty years ago. Satellite was written from the perspective of Damien Echol's wife (West Memphis Three), which makes it even more heartbreaking: "Don't you worry/I believe your story/You were put away for something you didn't do".

The single Longing To Belong has a cello that makes it heavier, but in a good way. I really like You're True, just the perfect marriage of music and words; the strumming intro brings me back to Springsteen's acoustic Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?. I'd like to think that Light Today, the least complicated track on the album, is about preparing to go out and surf the ocean, as you can hear the gentles waves at the background; there's just something calming about it. There are guest singers as well; Irishman Glen Hansard on Sleepless Nights, and Cat Power on the standard Tonight You Belong To Me, and both do justice to the standards. And then there are throwaway songs as well; like the eight-second Hey Fahkuh and the instrumental Waving Palms. I'm also not feeling the last one; a cover of Dream A Little Dream, in which Eddie attempts it in baritone, kinda like Johnny Cash.

I can't really compare this record to his first solo one (Into The Wild) cause they're totally different. Though I can say this one has a more timeless feel to it. It's at best, a well-above-average album, and I have a feeling it'll age pretty well. Start your summer with this. Like Bruce and Neil and Bob, Eddie is another songwriter that has my utmost respect. Just the pure honesty and passion he puts into his craft. Great songs stay written, and sung. One thing's for certain; I'm gonna get me a ukulele very soon.

P.S. Once again, a big thank you to 10c for providing me a digital download (album & songbook), while I'm still waiting for the physical copies.