Monday, December 30, 2013

High Hopes

Someone on Amazon 'accidentally' made Bruce Springsteen's new album, due for release in two weeks, available for purchase (mp3 download) over the weekend. Amazon has since retracted it, but the full album is already circulating over the Internet. Leaks are fairly common in today's world, but not like this. It had to be done intentionally, obviously to drum up more publicity for the album, since there was very little to begin with. Now many music and entertainment publications are reporting this mini-incident. So, thanks to Jon Landau management for giving us an early New Year's gift. I've only listened once all the way through and won't listen again till I get my hands on the vinyl. But I like what I've heard so far, for its 'un-usualness' in that there's no overlying theme that binds all the songs together (a first for Bruce in a long time), and overall musically it's quite different from what we're used to hearing from him; in a way continuing from where Wrecking Ball left off. It's too early to say whether it's as strong as Wrecking Ball or The Rising, but High Hopes is certainly much, much better than Working On A Dream, albeit nowhere near as great as Magic. And I love Tom Morello's contribution here.


P.S. Tommy talks touring and recording with Bruce in a new Rolling Stone interview [link].

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Top 20 Albums of 2013

1. Southeastern - Jason Isbell

2. The Diving Board - Elton John

3. Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam

4. Reflektor - Arcade Fire

5. Hesitation Marks - Nine Inch Nails

6. The Civil Wars - The Civil Wars

7. Trouble Will Find Me - The National

8. The Next Day - David Bowie

9. Wrote A Song For Everyone - John Fogerty

10. Push The Sky Away - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

11. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk

12. Ready To Die - Iggy & The Stooges

13. Mother - Natalie Maines

14. Honky Tonk - Son Volt

15. Made Up Mind - Tedeschi Trucks Band

16. Get Up! - Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite

17. Wise Up Ghost - Elvis Costello & The Roots

18. Regions Of Light And Sound Of God - Jim James

19. Repave - Volcano Choir

20. American Ride - Willie Nile

Thursday, December 19, 2013

High Hopes

Rolling Stone just published an exclusive interview with Bruce Springsteen about his upcoming album comprising of covers, outtakes and new, re-imagined versions of old songs [link]. (Up till now, the promotion for High Hopes, apart from the occasional Facebook and Twitter posting has been almost non-existent.) He provides us with some interesting insight into how the idea for the project came about and how it was recorded in the midst of the Wrecking Ball Tour. Also interviewed is Tom Morello, whose mention of the reworked The Ghost Of Tom Joad may suggest a very different take from the live one we're so used to hearing. And now we know that Down In The Hole is actually a Rising outtake. But the biggest revelation that have already made fans dizzy with excitement is what Jon Landau said; Bruce's first two albums are currently being remastered for a forthcoming release, which means soon, possibly within the next year. Bout time; Greetings and Innocent are the two records most in need of a remaster. And of course the long rumored River box set will actually see the light of day too, as confirmed by Landau himself. As for Born In The USA, it's a little surprising they have not thought of re-releasing it for next year, not that anyone's complaining. We'd all gladly take The River first.

In other exciting news, The E Street Band is finally going to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Class of 2014 [link], receiving a special award for Musical Excellence, formerly the sidemen category. Nils Lofgren, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg and Steve Van Zandt probably won't think that highly of it, but it's good to see these guys formally recognized, their names written in stone. It's unfortunate Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici won't be at the ceremony. The entire band should've been inducted long, long ago, in fact same time as Bruce in 1999. Original members, Vini Lopez and David Sancious will probably get in too. Not sure about Patti or Soozie though. I would love to see Tom Morello give the induction speech.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

EV 2014 Australian Tour

Pearl Jam are not allowed to play any sideshows outside of Big Day Out due to contractual obligations, but Eddie is rewarding the fans by doing another round of solo shows after the festival tour (that basically rules out any hope for a PJ Asian tour). It's also a good excuse for him to do some surfing down under in the summer. I can bet he'll be in Melbourne the Saturday (15th Feb) Bruce Springsteen is playing and Bruce will invite him onstage. Pre-sale drawing for 10c members end tomorrow [link].

UPDATE: 3 new shows added for Sydney (12th), Melbourne (19th) and Brisbane (25th), due to insanely overwhelming demand.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

High Hopes for High Hopes

A new Springsteen album containing covers and outtakes from the past decade was the furthest thing from anyone's mind, but a release like this has been a long time coming, especially since Tracks, and it's barely even scratching the surface of the amount of stuff remaining in the vaults. High Hopes contains three eclectic covers, two of which we've already heard (the title track and Dream Baby Dream), and a new studio recording of Just Like Fire Would, from the Aussie punk band, The Saints. Presumably recorded in Sydney during the downtime in March, it has only been performed once at the first Brisbane show. I expect Bruce and the band will perform it more frequently during their Oz tour next Feb. The three covers share something in common, which is their obscurity. Then there's the two songs that we've all heard in concert and on live recordings many times already, but Bruce has decided to re-record them, to everyone's surprise. American Skin I'm not so crazy about, but I'm ecstatic the electric The Ghost Of Tom Joad has finally gotten a proper studio version. I won't be surprised if they continue playing it live next year, just like they did every Oz show this year. The Wall is one only the diehards are familiar with. It's a great tune and it's been performed solo very few times, and it's finally getting a deserved E Street Band treatment. The other six songs no one's ever heard before. It's a known fact Harry's Place is an outtake from The Rising that didn't fit thematically on the album. It's not related to Mary's Place. The fact that Tom Morello plays guitar on this song suggests that it might have been recorded again. There is no indication yet which of the recent albums songs like Down In The Hole, Heaven's Wall, Frankie Fell In Love, This Is Your Sword and Hunter Of Invisible Game were originally left off from, but one thing's for sure -- they will feature the E Street Band, including Danny and Clarence, and some of them are produced by Brendan O'Brien. I'm really looking forward to hearing lots of Morello on this. Never in a hundred years you'd think he'd become a muse for Bruce.

P.S. There's an Amazon-exclusive available for pre-order that includes a bonus DVD of the entire Born In The USA performance from the band's London show this year [link]. I just wanna hear Downbound Train. People thinking that this is some sort of 'strange' and low-key way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the blockbuster album in 2014 shouldn't worry. It's definitely a sign of bigger things to come. It's expected the record label will push hard for a deluxe box set to be released sometime next year. This kind of thing is simply too big to be ignored. So far there are no rumors of any US or European dates right after South Africa and Australasia, so the Feb/Mar jaunt may indeed be a one-off affair. I predict we'll see a brand new studio album from Bruce (and hopefully the E Street Band) in the later half of 2014. And then he'll start touring the States again and eventually make it to Europe in the summer of 2015.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Leonard Cohen @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre

November 30th. This was the most exquisite and flawless concert I've ever seen in my life. Dead center, only ten rows and less than 50m away from the stage, I hung on to Leonard Cohen's every word, his every move. He was absolutely mesmerizing to watch, and he put on a strong vocal performance. He was surrounded by what seemed like the best musicians on the face of the earth, all of whom were impeccably dressed. The sound mix was perfect you could pick out every instrument crystal clear. Javier Mas and his Spanish guitar...... oh God, what a gorgeous sound. Famous Blue Raincoat and Chelsea Hotel killed me, so did the beautiful Come Healing, from his recent masterpiece, Old Ideas. The way he sang I'm Your Man, ooh man, what chills! The band members were given many opportunities to shine on individual solos, after which Leonard would tip his hat off and bow to them. I've never seen a more humble gesture made by any performing artist, and the man was genuinely grateful to be in their presence. The violin solo during Suzanne reduced me to tears, so did Sharon Robinson singing Alexandria Leaving. The show lasted at least three hours, excluding the short intermission in between sets. What a religious experience it was.

Dance Me To The End Of Love
The Future
Bird On A Wire
Everybody Knows
Who By Fire
The Darkness
Come Healing
Lover Lover Lover

Tower Of Song
Chelsea Hotel
Le Partisan
Alessandra Leaving (Sharon Robinson)
I'm Your Man
Thousand Kisses Deep (recitation)
Take This Waltz

So Long Marianne
Going Home
First We Take Manhattan

Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will (The Webb sisters)
Closing Time

I Tried To Leave You
Save The Last Dance For Me

Thursday, November 21, 2013

High Hopes

Out Nov 25

It's officially coming out next Monday! And this certainly raises a few questions. High Hopes, as we all know, is a cover song [link], and it's unusual for a cover to be the lead single for Bruce's upcoming album (The Seeger Sessions not withstanding), rumored to be released in January. On the other hand, there was another new rumor, a solid one apparently but I'm rather skeptical of it, that High Hopes is actually going to be part of a new compilation album of outtakes and covers, done Tracks style. For all we know, this song may just be part of a small digital-only EP (like Magic Tour Highlights in 2008) put out to further promote the South African & Australian shows early next year. That's one possibility, though I doubt it, because if Bruce Inc. were to release an EP, they would've just released the whole thing at one go. I think the new (original) album theory makes more sense, and if it turns out that way, there will usually be an official press release to coincide with the single.

Now, the song itself -- It has leaked already and it's easily available if one were to search the fan message boards. It features the current line-up of the E Street Band, in addition Tom Morello, so it's fair to say this was taken from the recording session they did in Sydney back in March. I've never been a huge fan of the original '95 version from the Blood Brothers EP, but I enjoyed this new one, thought it is very well done; it pretty much walks all over the old one, making it sound almost amateurish (with all due respect to Danny and Clarence of course). The immediacy of the message and energy of the song are very apparent from the get-go. The percussion sound is HOT. It resembles the live versions that were only played during a few shows on the Australian tour (was lucky to witness up-close Morello playing the solo with his teeth in Syd). This is Rage Against The E Street Seeger Sessions Band.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy 68th Birthday to Uncle Neil

2nd March 2013, Perth Arena

Monday, October 28, 2013

R.I.P Lou Reed

Rock & Roll Shape-shifter

He and The Velvet Underground forever changed the way we listen to popular music. Those first two records remain as mindblowing as ever. Even during his long solo career, Lou Reed proved that the possibilities rock & roll could offer were endless, and he further dignified the whole art form. My favorite album of his is New York. He'll be sorely missed.

Jenny said
When she was just five years old
There was nothing happening at all
Every time she puts on a radio
There was a nothin' goin' down at all
Then one fine mornin'
She puts on a New York station
You know, she couldn't believe
What she heard at all
She started dancin'
To that fine fine music
You know her life
Was saved by rock 'n' roll

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lightning Bolt


The longest wait between new Pearl Jam albums is over four years, from 2009's Backspacer to this year's Lightning Bolt. I like how the band went back to 'old-school' tactics to market their new album; they got four famous people, their close friends, to interview them -- Aussie surfing champion, Mark Richards, comedy filmmaker Judd Apatow, actress and alternative musician Carrie Brownstein, and ex-NFL player Steve Gleason. This turned out to be a somewhat of a revelation, especially for us fans, who get a deeper understanding of the band's creative process whie making Lightning Bolt, among many other subjects. This album was made over a span of two years plus, and in between there were all the solo projects and short periods of touring, and of course PJ20. This is how the band works now, and it's better this way, instead of banging it out in the studio for a few weeks straight. And just like the Yield and Binaural sessions, each member brought their own ideas and demos into the studio before recording. My verdict after five listens is Lightning Bolt is an excellent, mature piece of work that once again proves that PJ's best days are far from over. I prefer it over Backspacer, as the band moves further away from their comfort zone, making music that is more adventurous and layered. The production is better too. Eddie Vedder's songwriting is downright amazing, and he's singing better than ever. Mortality is the overlying theme, but it's a record that also urges us to live our lives to the fullest, at the same time knowing we have responsibilities to ourselves and loved ones.

1. Getaway - Pearl Jam are one of the few mainstream rock bands today still determined to make an 'album' album, which is much more than putting a bunch of songs together. Opening tracks are important. This is a gripping, bass-driven angry lament about close-minded groups of people, specifically the religious fundamentalists, who aggressively impose their beliefs on others and meanwhile, the narrator is trying to fight and break free and just wants his beliefs to be respected and to be left alone. I love the line, "sometimes you find yourself having to put all your faith in no faith", and coming from Ed, this could sound like a very atheistic point of view, but to me it says a lot about the cruel world we live in today. Because sometimes the only thing you really can do is believe in yourself and hope for the best.

2. Mind Your Manners - The transition from Getaway into this couldn't be more perfect. Released to the world back in July, it has finally found its place on the album, and it still has me riled up and energized. Initially I kept hearing Spin The Black Circle and Comatose, but now I hear Go every time. I'm beginning to understand the lyrics in the bridge/chorus ("self-realized and metaphysically redeemed..."); it's an obvious extension of Getaway, and even Faithfull. We have to rise up to meet the challenges of the world, making it a better place for future generations. It's a call to action to do something RIGHT NOW and not just sit idle, minding your manners like everyone else, and wait for heaven to come.

3. My Father's Son - This is where the album starts to get interesting. A weird tune, by PJ standards. Eddie's in pissed off mode again, singing (and yelling) as if he were his younger self twenty years ago, about the screwed-up life he's living thanks to daddy and abandonment issues. This is some of the most profound, angry lyrics Ed has written. It's tense, not only in the words, but also in the music, as Jeff Ament's sick bass playing and Ed's vocals are going head to head with each other. The bridge is interesting; it sounds so cheery, like you're listening to a completely different song. Oh, and good to finally have Eddie drop the F bomb; it's been a while.

4. Sirens - My initial thought was this seems to be oddly placed as the forth track on the album, especially after you had three fast, aggressive, short ones. It's like the momentum died of all of a sudden. Perhaps the pacing would've been better if it had switched places with the title track. I've already said what I wanted to say in my mini-review a few posts down. I still don't dig Mike McCready's solo though. He's been absolutely stellar throughout the whole record except on the Sirens solo. Ed uses the sound of sirens to symbolize impending death. It's simple and genius. We hear sirens wailing from far away, and as they get closer we may experience a brief moment of dread, and as they fade away into the distance our fear is alleviated. This is a love song for the ages, and it's a reminder to not take those close to us for granted.

5. Lightning Bolt - Mike said something in one of the recent interviews (I think with Mark Richards) that this will become a staple in the band's future live shows for years to come, and I have to agree with him. It's anthemic, it's uplifting, it's plain awesome. With words written in the style reminisicent of Force Of Nature and Hard Sun (not written by Vedder) it starts out with muted guitar strumming almost like Unthought Known (but much quicker tempo), the music takes off and soars high before you know it. And I like the 180 turn as the short chorus comes in...."You gotta know you'll never let her go / She's a lightning bolt". It's a pretty standard rock song, but they throw a few curve-balls by eschewing traditional song structure. The final buildup leading into the outro is perhaps the best moment on the album.

6. Infallible - One of my favorite tracks here. Finely crafted. The groove reminds me of Tremor Christ, and yet again Jeff totally kills it on his bass. The synth also drives the song, recalling You Are (remember that underrated tune from Riot Act?). It's another funny one -- the melody and words in the verses emit a rather brooding, gloomy mood and then come chorus time, it's all hopeful and inspiring. I like songs that work on several levels, and while this is easily interpreted as people of high authority turning their backs on the world's problems, it could also be about a waning relationship between two people. I guess it's human nature for us to want to avoid our imperfections and not face them head on.

7. Pendulum - Supposedly the oldest song of the bunch, recorded during the Backspacer sessions. Like Arc, it is dark, ominous and hypnotic. I wish it could've ended better cause it sounds a bit incomplete. The ambiance, the sparse instrumentation, especially Matt Cameron's drumming, all add to the intensity and weight. Initially it was a very hard song to get into. I disliked it. But on my fourth listen, it hit me hard and emotionally. "Easy come easy go, easy left me a long time ago". Spine-chilling and devastating.

8. Swallowed Whole - No PJ album is complete without a tune related to surfing. But of course, like Amongst The Waves, it is merely a metaphor to describe one of the ultimate human experiences, surrendering yourself to nature. Again, it's all about taking control of yourself. The guitar styling is something Pete Townshend would've thought of when he was a young man. And then there's the Peter Buck inspired jangles that also makes this an outstanding tune. 

9. Let The Records Play - This is the 'fun' song of the album, contributed by Stone Gossard. By the way, there aren't many Stone songs here, but he's all over the place in terms of fleshing them out with his guitar; same for Matt too (I'm probably one of the few people who thinks he's the best drummer PJ ever had). After 1/2 Full, it is the most bluesy thing PJ has done. I love the little dirty electric noodling at the start. The groove has got a kinda Black Keys vibe to it. I'm intrigued by Ed's words. Taken at face value, like Spin The Black Circle, it could simply be about a music lover dropping the (turntable) needle and getting healed......or the 'he' could refer to a higher power, considering the 'religious' imagery.

10. Sleeping By Myself - Surpassing Sirens for the most polarizing track on this album, or on any PJ album for that matter. Honestly, I thought this should've stayed put on Eddie's solo ukulele album. It was great there, and it's dull here. It's basically a filler track and nothing more, and thematically it doesn't really fit. Despite how surprisingly well the band arrangement is incorporated onto this, it's still the weakest song compared to the rest. Like many have pointed, it sounds like it belongs on modern country radio. Why producer Brendan O'Brien pushed for the band to record this for the album is beyond me.

11. Yellow Moon - The flawless Pearl Jam song. It has a kind of spiritual quality to it. The acoustic intro is quite similar to Low Light, but done in 3/4 time. It's got that certain Into The Wild (and Neil Young Harvest Moon) sound, very liberating sorta melody, but juxtaposed with some dark lyrics, about death and the lost of innocence. It's one of the most genuinely heartbreaking tunes they've ever done. McCready penned the music, and his short solo is beautiful. My ears say it's the best song on the album.

12. Future Days - Why does Brendan O'Brien have to ruin it by sprinkling loads of smelly cheese at the start of this song? I can't stand the piano intro, and the even more cringe-worthy outro. It's a sweet, adult love song, expertly written by Ed, one that most up and coming rock bands could only dream of writing. Stronger than Just Breathe, the violin, the keyboards, and the little guitar flourishes add some nice touches to an otherwise decent chord progression.

Compared to Backspacer, Lightning Bolt is a more difficult record to appreciate immediately. For me, it's the hardest to get into after Binaural. Having said that, Pearl Jam has never made a bad record.  And I can't imagine them making the same stuff they used to make in their mid-twenties, because it's not gonna happen. The band knows that, we know that, so why bother comparing Lightning Bolt to their 90s output? Those five records remain untouchable. But as far as post-2000 goes, this is their second best, just behind Avocado. For over twenty years, PJ has done things on their own terms, never following trends, never once going against their ideals and integrity. They have now earned their rightful place in the pantheon of classic American rock.


P.S. Here's how I rank all the ten PJ albums:

1. Vs.
2. Ten
3. Yield
4. Vitalogy
5. No Code
6. Pearl Jam
7. Lightning Bolt
8. Backspacer
9. Riot Act
10. Binaural 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Live At The Academy Of Music 1971


WOW. I am totally blown away by the sound mix on this new boxset . It's so good it makes even the Rock Of Ages 2000 remaster sound sterile. For example, where Garth Hudson's organ was previously buried in the mix, he is now brought more to the front. The overall volume is louder. The music sounds punchier and has more treble than before. But all the instruments have plenty of breathing room, and that's important in order to a get a good sense of the immense talent just oozing out from each player of The Band -- I can finally hear every single intricate detail of Levon Helm's drumming and Rick Danko's wild bass playing on the fretless. The vocals and the harmonies are simply out of this world. I like how the audience noise is more audible now (discs 1 & 2), and I'm hearing cheers and reactions that were previously cut out from the original mix, usually after the instrumental passages. Also the killer horns definitely stand out more this time, and Bob Clearmountain mixes in such a way they don't draw too much attention to themselves, and the result is they flawlessly blend in with the band. The track sequences on the first two discs are also jumbled up; very different from Rock Of Ages. As far as this is concerned, I can't really say which sequence is better -- this or the original. I believe both offer unparallelled emotional impact. So for listeners who want to relieve Rock Of Ages but with more superior sound quality, they can just reassemble the new setlist according to that. But I must say, nothing will ever beat Don't Do It as the opening song on any live rock record.

For the first time ever, discs 3 & 4 present the entire New Year's Eve show, the final night of The Band's four-night stand in New York. It should be noted that despite same setlists on all nights, most of these New Year's Eve versions are not present on the first 2 discs. The difference between this mix and that of discs 1 & 2 is like night and day. This soundboard mix (co-mixed by Robbie Robertson's son) is rougher sounding, more raw, more lively, more intimate, close to making me feel like I'm in front row. They even left in the frequent feedback noise during Stage Fright. The audience is mixed low on this one, and I would've liked it louder. I like the in-between-song sections, where you can hear random shouting from the crowd, as the band tunes up and fiddles with their instruments. The encore with Bob Dylan was an afterthought. It was a great twenty minutes but I've always thought it didn't necessarily make the whole show better than it already was. Easily the best of the lot was Don't Tell Ya Henry. Dylan had played with the band just two years ago at the Isle Of Wight festival, and it's mindblowing to hear how completely different he sounded in '71. At this point of writing, I have yet to hear the DVD 5.1 surround mix, and I'll eventually get to it once I wear these four discs out. This much-needed re-release continues to solidify The Band as the ultimate melting pot, the pinnacle of American music, and literally the greatest group ever. They transcend race, politics, religion, time and space.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band rocked Rio

The two-year, 135-show, Wrecking Ball world tour finally came to a victorious close late last night at Brazil's Rock In Rio festival. Fans around the world got to join in the festivities as the show was being streamed live. Bruce was in top form (turning 64 today and still looking mighty fine!), the E Street Band was in top form, everyone was in high spirits, the fans were ecstatic -- many South Americans were probably seeing The Greatest Show On Earth for the first time, considering that Bruce and the band has not played the continent in a long, long time (25 years to be exact). Save for a rousing cover of a popular Brazilian song, the setlist, catered for a new market and festival audience, was a standard affair. There were no sign requests. I guess the one curveball was when he announced in Portuguese that they would be playing Born In The USA from start to finish. So the setlist may look 'boring' on paper, but actually seeing it translated to the stage, even if it meant watching on the iMac screen, was something else entirely. It looked like the band played with an intense fervor as if it were the last time they were gonna play these songs. Jake Clemons was especially on fire. Downbound Train was sublime as ever. It was fitting for Bruce to finish off with an acoustic rendition of This Hard Land [link]. It's got a certain farewell vibe to it, but farewell for now, not forever. As expected, he put more emphasis into the last verse by slowing it down, making the audience hang on to every single word and punctuation. It pretty much sums up what Bruce has been writing and singing about for most of his life.

Hey, Frank, won't you pack your bags
And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall
Just one kiss from you, my brother
And we'll ride until we fall
Well sleep in the fields
We'll sleep by the rivers
And in the morning we'll make a plan
Well if you can't make it stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can
And meet me in a dream of this hard land

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Sirens is the second single from the upcoming Lightning Bolt [link]. It is one of the most beautiful songs Pearl Jam has ever done. It's no Black though, and it's too early to tell where it stands among the band's other slow songs. It's very catchy by their standards, and it's something the wider, mainstream audience can latch on to. On first listen, the term, 'cheesy 80s rock ballad' did cross my mind, and I can understand why many fans may dislike it. But Eddie's vocals are so incredibly strong and sincere that he lifts the song way above 'cheesy 80s rock ballad' territory; unfortunately the thing that risks it almost sounding like one is Mike McCready's guitar solo. With all due respect, he's possibly the best guitarist of his generation, but his solo here is particularly weak. Sirens is certainly a very un-Pearl Jam song, but in a good way. It's got the conventions of a traditional ballad, but yet it's different. It's a love song, not your usual run-of-the-mill one, but expertly written, and it's something we have come to expect from a man approaching fifty years old. Boom's keyboards and McCready's twelve-string acoustic strumming make it all very pretty. I like the little pre-chorus section before the melody just builds up higher without ever going over the top. The chorus, with its simple yet hard-hittingly emotional chord progression, is downright great, and it's got a bit of modern country undertones (strangely it reminds me of Dixie Chicks). The ending is where it all comes together. Simple, beautiful harmonies. I was on the verge of tears on my second listen. It'll be interesting to see how Sirens works in relation to the narrative of the new album.

Hear the sirens
Hear the circus, so profound
I hear the sirens
more and more in this here town

Let me catch my breath to breathe
and reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man
This life has been a light
and I can see clear
how to take your hand, and feel your breath
or feel this someday will be over
I hold you close, so much to lose
knowing that nothing lasts forever
I didn’t care before you were here
I danced with laughter
with the ever-after
But all things change. Let this remain

Hear the sirens covering distance in the night
The sound echoing closer, will they come for me next time?
Oh every choice, mistake I’ve made, it’s not my plan
to send you in the arms of another man
And if you choose to stay, I’ll wait, I’ll understand

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead
If I think too much, I can’t get over
Wound by the grace by which we live
our lives with death over our shoulders
Want you to know that should I go
I always loved you, held you high above too
I study your face, and the fear goes away
The fear goes away
The fear goes away
The fear goes away

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More Australian Shows

Frontier Touring has just announced more shows in Oz, to meet the overwhelming demand of ticket sales and also to discourage people from buying from illegitimate scalpers [link]. Additional shows were bound to happen, given the current gaps in the dates, but surprisingly, there's none for Sydney and Brisbane. Adelaide and Hunter Valley get one more each, and Perth, the most successful and popular of all the cities, gets an unprecedented third one. So now the tour will begin on Feb 5th instead. Here's the full, updated list.

Wednesday, February 5 – Perth Arena, Perth
Friday, February 7 – Perth Arena, Perth (SOLD OUT)
Saturday, February 8 – Perth Arena, Perth (SOLD OUT)
Tuesday, February 11 – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide (SOLD OUT)
Wednesday, February 12 – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Saturday, February 15 – AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sunday, February 16 – AAMI Park, Melbourne 
Wednesday, February 19 – Allphones Arena, Sydney
Saturday, February 22 – Hope Estate Winery, Hunter Valley (SOLD OUT)
Sunday, February 23 – Hope Estate Winery, Hunter Valley
Wednesday, February 26 – Entertainment Centre, Brisbane (SOLD OUT)
Saturday, March 1 – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland (SOLD OUT)
Sunday, March 2 – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

On a related note, Steven Jump, the co-founder of Badlands Travel and Records [link] has passed away unexpectedly. I have never met him personally, but thanks to him, I've secured tickets and good hotel rooms for the UK Springsteen and Pearl Jam shows in June last year. He couldn't have been more helpful and accommodating in assisting a 'worrywart' fan from Singapore who kept emailing him, asking lots of questions. I'm aware he and his brother, Philip, has done much for the UK Bruce fan community since the late '80s and are also tireless supporters of the record store and rock & roll music. He'll be sorely missed by many. My condolences to his family and friends. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Manifesto - Bruce Springsteen pays tribute to Victor Jara

In 1988 we played for Amnesty International in Mendoza, Argentina, but Chile was in our hearts. We met many families of Desaparecidos, which had pictures of their loved ones. It was a moment that stays with me forever. A political musician, Victor Jara, remains a great inspiration. It’s a gift to be here and I take it with humbleness.
- Santiago, Chile (12 Sep 2013)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another Self Portrait: The Bootleg Series Vol. 10

I took the plunge on the (unfairly overpriced) deluxe edition because it was the only way to get the Isle Of Wight disc. I hope they don't go and release this concert as a stand-alone disc in the future! Also included in the box set is a newly remastered Self Portrait (heard it before, but never thought it was worth owning it). Listening to the newly unearthed alternate takes and demos from the original Self Portrait sessions doesn't really make me appreciate the 1970 album even more, nor does it make me wanna revisit its songs. For one thing, most of these 'bootleg' versions were so much better than what eventually appeared on the album, because they worked best when they were as stripped-down as possible, sans the harmonies and overdubs, and occasionally augmented by organist Al Kooper and guitarist Dave Bromberg.

These tracks, most of which were covers of traditionals, are so raw, so intimate, and through Dylan's very tender vocals, so earnest it'd be crazy for one not to fall in love with them during the first few listens. I think his best singing voice came from this particular period. Dylan wasn't betraying and turning his back on his audience as much as he was embracing his past, going back to the Great American Songbook, making it known to the world the music that made him aspire to become an artist and performer in the first place. Pretty Saro, Spanish Is The Loving Tongue, Copper Kettle, Railroad Bill, This Evening So Soon, Belle Isle, Tattle O' Day....

The original ones have their ups and downs. The set begins with a very good acoustic demo of Went To See The Gypsy. There's a cool version of New Morning with horns; on the flipside, the hornless Wigmam works better than with horns, and so does Days Of '49 without the unnecessary overdubs. There's an interesting take of If Not For You with violins. On the other hand, Sign On The Window is a bit too over-the-top with the orchestra. There are two alternate versions of Time Passes Slowly, the first one featuring George Harrison on guitar and vocals. Another one in which he has a ball playing the guitar on is the almost-comical Working On A Guru. If Dogs Run Free is average at best, but I prefer this folky version compared to the awful, jazzy one. I feel that the Nashville Skyline tracks; the alternate takes of I Threw It All Away and Country Pie are nothing more than filler. The fitting final track of Disc Two, a piano demo of When I Paint My Masterpiece, is a revelation.

Also a revelation is the entire Isle Of Wight performance. Like David Fricke mentioned in his RS review, 'it doesn't sound that distant from his shows of the past 20 years'. I loved how they reworked Maggie's Farm, One Too Many Mornings (a departure from the '66 live version, but much more suited to Levon Helm's style), and Highway 61 Revisited (now that's a wild one). Dylan brought back with him to the stage his Nashville Skyline soft, crooner voice and during the acoustic portion, he sung his folk 'classics' so shockingly different it felt like someone else was singing them. It Ain't Me Babe, To Ramona, and Mr. Tambourine Man were considered 'recent' at the time, but when he performed them, it was as if he had written them many lifetimes ago.

It still blows my mind sometimes to think that Dylan wasn't the same man he was just three, four years back. Wild Mountain Thyme, a traditional ballad, is heart-achingly beautiful. The live version of Minstrel Boy here makes the one found on Disc One pretty much forgettable -- it's quite odd this never-circulated-before Basement Tapes track was even considered for inclusion in this volume. The Band, of course, played bloody great. They didn't sound like any other group then (and now); it's like one listen to this and you immediately know it's The Band. I LOVE Levon's drumming and harmonies. Another Self Portrait is yet another Bootleg Series essential.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Crystal Cat Wembley Night

The Wrecking Ball Tour is hitting up South America this week, before it finally wraps up at Rock In Rio next Saturday. Let's rewind back to June 15. This newly released Wembley concert bootleg is thus far the best sounding boot of the 2013 leg, and one of the top five overall from the tour, just behind Paris 2 and Gothenburg 2. Speaking of which, the latter had an epic setlist, and it's most deserving of a home video release. Wembley, on the other hand, was probably the one of the most hyped up and highly anticipated Springsteen stadium shows in a long time, and the folks at CC did it justice. Very clear separation of instruments, albeit the guitars were pretty low in the mix, and the audience noise level was just right. It kinda makes me feel like I'm in the pit.....or right at the back at least. Killer setlist too.....Darkness fell upon London that night. Get it at [link].

1. Land Of Hope And Dreams
2. Jackson Cage
3. Radio Nowhere
4. Save My Love
5. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
6. This Hard Land
7. Lost In The Flood
8. Wrecking Ball
9. Death To My Hometown
10. Hungry Heart
11. Badlands
12. Adam Raised A Cain
13. Something In The Night
14. Candy's Room
15. Racing In The Street
16. The Promised Land
17. Factory
18. Streets Of Fire
19. Prove It All Night
20. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
21. Shackled And Drawn
22. Waitin' On A Sunny Day
23. The Rising
24. Light Of Day
25. Pay Me My Money Down
26. Born To Run
27. Bobby Jean
28. Dancing In The Dark
29. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
30. Twist And Shout
31. Thunder Road (acoustic)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Made Up Mind

This past week has been a blues kinda week. I've been soaked deep in Tedeschi Truck Band's latest album. Their debut, Revelator, was great stuff, but this new one is simply off the charts. I'm pleased that the songwriting is so much stronger this time, and the horns are more prominent, resulting in some elaborate and thought-out arrangements. There's just more 'music' happening than before. Phenomenal vocals by Susan Tedeschi as usual, and of course Derek Trucks, the greatest guitarist since Eric Clapton (I'm not kidding) continues to knock it out of the park. He's a very expressive player who already has a very distinctive style he can call his own, and knows when to let loose and when to blend in with the 11-piece band, which boasts a very HOT rhythm section, and channels the best of what R&S (rock & soul) and R&B has to offer today.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Document Records Reissues

Earlier this year, Third Man Records teamed up with Document Records for a new groundbreaking project that aims to re-release music by some of the greatest and most influential blues artists of the 20th Century on the 12 inch vinyl. The first few volumes in this ongoing series features the completed recorded works in chronological order of Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell and The Mississippi Sheiks. Besides an old Columbia compilation CD of Robert Johnson recordings, this is my first time owning something from the '20s and '30s. I am just absolutely blown away by the sound. It really is a truly unique and mindblowing experience, listening to music that was recorded over eighty years ago, the way it's always meant to be listened to, on analog. It can't get any purer than this. As Bruce recently said, it's magic......but without the tricks, which is exactly what this feels like. I am grateful to Jack White for making these essential works of art easily accessible to everyone, and of course for those who will benefit the most -- the younger and future generations of blues lovers.

The recordings we'll be presenting in this reissue series are the building blocks and DNA of American culture. Blues, R&B, Elvis, teenagerism, punk rock... it all goes back to these vital, breathtaking recordings. Third Man Records is proud to present these landmark albums in conjunction with Document Records, with brand new, jaw-dropping artwork by Rob Jones and new insightful liner notes, on vinyl for the first time in decades. Every record collection should have ample room for these highly important and endlessly listenable albums.
- Third Man Records 

P.S. The new White Stripes Elephant 10th Anniversary reissue is now available at the TMR store. It's fantastic!!

Saturday, August 31, 2013