Neil Young - Living With War (2006)

Even if you don't agree with Neil Young's politics, you can't help but be daunted by the intersection of his genius and ire on his second album in less than seven months. It is the very rare artist who is able to channel indignation and moral disgust in such a coherent and forceful way--without sacrificing any of the vivid imagery, passion, or the high level of musicality that we have come to expect from him over the past four decades. But that's not what elevates this album: it's his pure, naked, visceral reaction to the Bush administration's foreign policy, building on a canon of outrage that he began with 1970's "Ohio," penned in the wake of the Kent State student deaths. But here he goes one better, filling in the lines that he began to draw on 2003's Greendale about a family caught in changing times. But Young's done with musing about lost ideals. On Living with War, he demands much more from his audience, and himself. This is nothing less than a call for fearless action in extraordinarily fearful times. --Jaan Uhelszki

Lifehouse - No Name Face

No Name Face, the debut release by Los Angeles-based Lifehouse, certainly proves the theory that less is more. The moody album contains pensive lyrics, soulfully sung by Jason Wade, which are supported by organic electric guitar arrangements. The simplified, but by no means simple, music aptly supports Wade's sonorous voice, which can be compared to Eddie Vedder, Scott Stapp of Creed, and Scott Weiland. At age 20, Wade, who takes songwriting credit, is a lyrical wunderkind, writing words generally reserved for his older counterparts. The album's theme is one of searching -- spiritually, personally, and emotionally -- and this is particularly in evidence on the tracks "Unknown," "Trying," and "Only One." Lifehouse makes a refreshing departure from other post-grunge, youth-oriented bands, who, for example, sing of one-night-stands, big butts, and the ills of society. Here, Wade revels in humanity, exploring and questioning its every nook and cranny. No Name Face benefits from the seasoned ears of Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, U2, Stone Temple Pilots), who mixed the album, and producer Ron Aniello. Both brought Wade's vocals and lyrics to the forefront of the mix and, rather than overshadowing them with complex and overbearing instrumentation, kept the music appropriately in the background. It's an intelligent musical formula sorely missed in much music of the early 21st century, particularly in this type of music where songs are sometimes nothing more than a cacophony of screaming and effects-laden instrumentation. It really is a bit of a surprise to see such musical maturity hailing from such a young (in age and tenure) band. No Name Face should fit right in on rock radio.

Depeche Mode - The Darkest Star

ARTiST: Depeche Mode
TiTLE: The Darkest Star
DATE: Mar-11-2006
LABEL: Mute Records
GENRE: House
ENCODER: Lame MP3 Encoder v1.30 QUALiTY: VBR kbps / 44,1kHz
01 The Darkest Star (Holden Remix) 07:47
02 The Darkest Star (Holden Dub) 07:57

Tool - 10,000 Days (2006)

Tool is an American rock band, formed in 1990 in Los Angeles, California when drummer Danny Carey joined the rehearsal of his neighbour, singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Paul d'Amour when nobody else would show up.
Tool's new record, entitled 10,000 Days, was completed on January 29, 2006, mastered on January 31. It has been confirmed that the album is to see release on May 2, 2006 in the US, on May 1 in the UK, on April 29 in Australia and April 28 in Germany.

O'Henry Studios, Burbank, California. To its legion of fans, everything the band Tool does is an event, but the elaborate plan behind their sporadic release schedule--roughly five years, on average, between albums--is due primarily to the time and effort the band packs into each successive effort. To title their fourth album 10,000 DAYS, then, isn't as much an exaggeration as it would seem. Tool are America's most consummate mainstream perfectionists, revitalizing progressive rock to the grandeur of its '70s heyday, but updated with technocratic tension and existential dread not known to previous generations. Perhaps it's the development of more musical genres at the turn of the millennium, but it's also Tool's ability to take what is needed from each and leave the florid excesses behind, forming a seething gray core of angst and release across epic-length songs that are as accessible as they are complex. The material on 10,000 DAYS provides typically thought-provoking grist for the band's lyrical handwringing ("Vicarious" tackles reality television as the bane of culture; "Wings for Marie" is a two-part suite on the death of vocalist Maynard James Keenan's mother), and is as musically engaging as ever, finding the band at their most powerful since 1996's AENIMA.

BrainStorm - Liquid Monster

1. Worlds Are Comin ' Through
2. Inside The Monster
3. All Those Worlds
4. Lifeline
5. Invisible Enemy
6. Heavenly
7. Painside
8. Despair To Drown
9. Mask Of Life
10. Even Higher
11. burns My Soul

Pink Floyd - The Early Singles


Depeche Mode - Live Frankfurt


Cake - Prolonging the Magic (1998)

Prolonging the Magic is the 3rd album by Cake, an alternative rock band from Sacramento, California. Prolonging the Magic was released in 1998 (see 1998 in music), and contains thirteen songs, including the single "Never There." It was recorded after the departure of guitarist Greg Brown and features a rotating lineup of musicians to replace him. One of them, Xan McCurdy, became his full-time replacement. Like its predecessor, this album also went platinum.

Electric Six - Senor Smoke

Arriving in the U.S. a year after its U.K. release, Electric Six's second album, Señor Smoke, shows that it'll take more than having been without a record deal in their own country to derail them. After all, they've survived a name change and taken more than a few lineup shifts in stride. Through it all, they've displayed a very Detroit kind of scrappiness and sense of humor that is stronger than ever in their music (though it's hard to expect anything less from a band that names one of its B-sides "I Am Detroit"). The foundations of their sound still come from disco, synth pop, glam, and arena rock -- genres that had their last heydays several decades ago, which is oddly fitting for a band from a city often portrayed as having its best days in the past. Police sirens blare over Señor Smoke's first two tracks, and the electro-tinged "Devil Nights" pays homage to one of Detroit's most notorious "holidays" and the city's pioneering electronic music in one fell swoop. Dick Valentine is as charismatic and campy as ever, singing "live" as "lee-uhv" and "city" as "cit-ay," and selling lyrics like "be my dark angel/be my Capri Sun" and "I'm a man, not a disco ball!" Yet Señor Smoke doesn't just sound like Fire warmed-over. While it doesn't have a monster single like "Danger! High Voltage" or even "Gay Bar," overall Señor Smoke is a sharper, more focused album that somehow manages to be zany with a serious undercurrent. Electric Six find value in what is supposed to be trash and vice versa, taking aim at and sending up presidents, pop culture, conspicuous consumption, and media saturation. As on Fire, they make their points with heroic doses of tongue-in-cheek humor and sincere camp. On "Rock and Roll Evacuation," "Iraq" is rhymed with "rock" (as in "you don't know how to"), while "Bite Me" is as much about siphoning gas as it is about sex. "Jimmy Carter" is the album's power ballad, and the Electric Six equivalent of "Under the Bridge" (although this song is intentionally over-the-top); "Future Boys," meanwhile, rattles off a list of pod-person-like corporate lackeys to jerky new-new wave. Señor Smoke plays like a concept album, moving from darker, rock-based tracks to more playful, plastic synth pop like the brilliantly named closer, "The Future Is in the Future." Even the cover of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" fits in well with the album's overall themes. Like Fire, Señor Smoke runs out of steam toward the end; for the first half of the album, it's hard to keep up with them, but by the second half, it's hard for them to keep it up. Nevertheless, this is Electric Six's strongest work to date, and the fans who have stuck with them through their trials and tribulations won't be disappointed.

Wretch 32 - Unorthodox (feat. Example) Video

The Residents--Duck Stab and Buster and Glen

Sandwiched in between Third Reich and Roll, Eskimo, and The Commercial Album, Duck Stab/Buster & Glen hasn't always received the fanfare of other late-'70s Residents material. It's one of the few that isn't a concept album and probably the least experimental of the bunch. Still, it's quintessential Residents' rock -- which is to say, it's like nothing else on the planet. Few of the songs last longer than a couple of minutes, and only a few instruments can be heard at any given time. Rather than relying on guitars, the Residents stick to the relatively primitive synthesizers and electronic gadgets of their time. Chorus chants on "Bach Is Dead" meet with a melody that sounds like a cross between a sixth grader playing recorder and someone scratching on a balloon. Snakefinger's nasally vocals fit in all too well with their high-pitched electronica, which then somehow merges with funereal marching percussion. It seems annoying and stupid at first, but over time you feel compelled to listen again and again. Such is the glory of the Residents!

Deadbolt - Shrunken Head [1994]

David Bowie - Reality

Instead of being a one-off comeback, 2002's Heathen turned out to be where David Bowie settled into a nice groove for his latter-day career, if 2003's Reality is any indication. Working once again with producer Tony Visconti, Bowie again returns to a sound from the past, yet tweaks it enough to make it seem modern, not retro. Last time around, he concentrated on his early-'70s sound, creating an amalgam of Hunky Dory through Heroes. With Reality, he picks up where he left off, choosing to revise the sound of Heroes through Scary Monsters, with the latter functioning as a sonic blueprint for the album. Basically, Reality is a well-adjusted Scary Monsters, minus the paranoia and despair -- and if those two ingredients were key to the feeling and effect of that album, it's a credit to Bowie that he's found a way to retain the sound and approach of that record, but turn it bright and cheerful and keep it interesting. Since part of the appeal of Monsters is the creeping sense of unease and its icy detachment, it would seem that a warmer, mature variation on that would not be successful, but Bowie and Visconti are sharp record-makers, retaining what works -- layers of voices and guitars, sleek keyboards, coolly propulsive rhythms -- and tying them to another strong set of songs. Like Heathen, the songs deliberately recall classic Bowie by being both tuneful and adventurous, both hallmarks of his '70s work. If this isn't as indelible as anything he cut during that decade, that's merely the fate of mature work by veteran rockers. So, Reality doesn't have the shock of the new, but it does offer some surprises, chief among them the inventive, assured production and memorable songs. It's a little artier than Heathen, but similar in its feel and just as satisfying. Both records are testaments to the fact that veteran rockers can make satisfyingly classicist records without resulting in nostalgia or getting too comfortable. With any luck, Bowie will retain this level of quality for a long time to come.

David Sylvian - Approaching Silence

The "unofficial" subtitle of this CD is "music for multi media installations." All that to say that the songs on this release date back to 1990 and were used as part of Sylvian and Russell Mills' exhibit Ember Glance-The Permanence of Memory (1990) and 1994's Redemption-Approaching Silence, which was done by Sylvian and Robert Fripp. Since the music is ambient at its finest, the dates of recording do not matter. The question is does this music stand up on its own, apart from the exhibit. The answer is a resounding yes! Sylvian produces original and interesting ambient music. The selections are long ("Approaching Silence" is over 38 minutes long) yet never get boring. It is to Sylvian's credit that he can keep the listener interested for that long with this genre of music. Sylvian uses instruments and sounds to create his own creative ambient music. The short-wave samples, for example, add an eeriness in "The Beekeeper's Apprentice," which adds to the overall sound of the piece. This music is not for every taste, but fans of Sylvian and ambient music will find this to be a treat.

R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi

New Adventures in Hi-Fi was recorded during and after the tour in support of Monster in 1995. The material on the album mixed the acoustic and country feel of much of Out of Time and Automatic for the People with the rock sound of Monster and Lifes Rich Pageant. Guitarist Peter Buck said that the band tried so hard to be a rock band again with Monster, but it just didn't quite work out. They stopped trying, and they ended up putting together their most rock and roll record to date. In the years following its release, the band called the album one of its favorites.

Recorded during and immediately following R.E.M.'s disaster-prone Monster tour, New Adventures in Hi-Fi feels like it was recorded on the road. Not only are all of Michael Stipe's lyrics on the album about moving or travel, the sound is ragged and varied, pieced together from tapes recorded at shows, soundtracks, and studios, giving it a loose, careening charm. New Adventures has the same spirit of much of R.E.M.'s IRS records, but don't take the title of New Adventures in Hi-Fi lightly R.E.M. tries different textures and new studio tricks.

Cabaret Voltaire - Red Mecca (1981)

It isn't without reason that Red Mecca is often referred to as one of Cabaret Voltaire's most cohesive and brilliant records. There are tangible bumpers (the record is buttressed by squealing/wheezing interpretations of Henry Mancini's music for Orson Welles' Touch of Evil), so by that aspect there's a tangible center. And taken as a whole, the record contains all the characteristics that have made the Sheffield group such an influential entity when it comes to electronic music of the untethered, experimental variety that isn't afraid to shake its tail a little. Unlike a fair portion of CV's studio output, Red Mecca features no failed experiments or anything that could be merely cast off as "interesting." It's a taught, dense, horrific slab lacking a lull. Dashes of Richard H. Kirk's synthesizer are welded to Chris Watson's tape effects for singed lashes of white noise, best heard on the lurching "Sly Doubt" and the jolting "Spread the Virus." Throughout, Mallinder's sinister jibber jabbering punctuates the high-pitched menace. What he's ranting about is rarely obvious, as the clarity of his voice is often obstructed by the tape effects, synth work, and other random whip-cracks (Watson's periodic surges of organ are another treat). Judging from his irritated tone, odds are the lyrics have little to do with bunnies jumping over dandelions or anything nearing pleasant -- it's that lack of definition that makes things all the more unsettling. Several tunes have a thick rhythmic drive. The instrumental "Landslide" is painfully short at two minutes, with a bopping machine beat and barely perceptible vocal samples that dart between the left and right channels. A grainy programmed rhythm and Kirk's sickly guitar manglings dominate the sleazy "Split Second Feeling." Sick, searing, engrossing. Along with 2X45 and The Living Legends, this is their best offering.

The Residents--Meet The Residents

The Residents are true avant-garde crazies. Their earliest albums (of which this is the first) have precedents in Captain Beefheart's experimental albums, Frank Zappa's conceptual numbers from Freak Out, the work of Steve Reich and the compositions of chance music tonemeister John Cage -- yet the Residents' work of this time really sounds like nothing else that exists. All of the music on this release consists of deconstructions of countless rock and non-rock styles, which are then grafted together to create chaotic, formless, seemingly haphazard numbers; the first six "songs" (including a fragment from the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'") are strung together to form a larger entity similar in concept to the following lengthier selections. The result is a series of unique, odd, challenging numbers that manage not to be entirely successful. The album cover is a fierce burlesque of the Beatles' first U.S. Capitol label release, sporting puerilely doctored photographs of the Fab Four on the front and pictures of collarless-suited sea denizens on the back (identified as Paul McCrawfish, Ringo Starfish, and the like). This is an utterly bizarre platter that may appeal to very adventurous listeners.

Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam (2006)

Pearl Jam’s new album marks the band’s first studio release in nearly four

years and is the first studio album to be released through their new label,
J Records.

“It’s a very special opportunity for us to work with a band that possesses
such an historic legacy,” comments J Records founder and BMG U.S. Label
Group Chairman Clive Davis.

The album was produced and mixed by Adam Kasper and Pearl Jam at Studio X
in Seattle, Washington. Kasper co-produced Pearl Jam’s 2002 release, Riot

Since their inception in 1991, Pearl Jam has sold nearly 60 million albums
worldwide, including millions of live bootlegs. The band has released 7
studio records, 2 live records, one double-disc b-sides record, and one
double-disc greatest hits record.

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome (2006)

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is an unusual Bruce Springsteen album in a number of ways. First, it's the first covers album Springsteen has recorded in his three-decade career, which is a noteworthy event in itself, but that's not the only thing different about We Shall Overcome. Springsteen, a notorious perfectionist who has been known to tweak and rework albums numerous times before releasing them (or scrapping them, as the case may be), pulled together the album quickly, putting aside a planned second volume of the rarities collection Tracks after discovering a set of recordings he made in 1997 for a Pete Seeger tribute album called Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger. Enthralled by this handful of tracks -- one of which, "We Shall Overcome," appeared on the tribute -- Springsteen decided to cut a whole album of folk tunes popularized by Pete Seeger. He rounded up 13 musicians, including some who played on those 1997 sessions, and did two one-day sessions in late 2005 and early 2006, swiftly releasing the resulting album that April. As Bruce stresses in his introductory liner notes, these were live recordings, done with no rehearsals, and We Shall Overcome does indeed have an unmistakably loose feel, and not just because you can hear the Boss call out chord changes in a handful of songs. This music is rowdy and rambling, as the group barrels head-first into songs that they're playing together as a band for the first time, and it's hard not to get swept up along in their excitement. Springsteen has made plenty of great records, but We Shall Overcome is unique in its sheer kinetic energy; he has never made a record that feels as alive as this.

Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler - Private Investigations

This 22-cut double-disc set finally gets at it. Issuing a single disc of Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler would be a silly thing at best and a hopelessly frustrating one at worst. When the band burst on the scene with "Sultans of Swing," there was a lot happening in rock music, but most of it was under the radar and remains forgotten except in the historic annals of music fanatics. Knopfler and his band were full of rock & roll romance and proved it through their first four recordings time and again. They couldn't help but become superstars and mainstays of MTV. But there is another story told on this best-of, which begins with "Telegraph Road." The story-songs Knopfler wrote were always the best anyway, and this set is full of them, from "Sultans" to "Romeo & Juliet," "Skateaway," "So Far Away," "Walk of Life," and (of course) "Brothers in Arms," which made for the most dramatic marriage of the little screen and rock music when it was featured in the closing sequence of an episode of Miami Vice. But there are many other stops along the way, like "Private Investigations," "Sailing to Philadelphia," "Going Home" (from Local Hero), and "The Long Road" (from Cal). But "On Every Street," "Calling Elvis," and "What It Is" are here, too, making for a wonderfully rounded if argumentative best-of collection that goes the distance and explains sonically what all the fuss was about in the first place. There's the guitar sound that's as much Tony Joe White as it is J.J. Cale and Billy Gibbons, and the elegance of James Burton and Chet Atkins. There is soul, pathos, drama, and a bittersweet memory that Van Morrison first evoked on Astral Weeks and Saint Dominic's Preview. There is a new cut here as well, a duet with Emmylou Harris called "All the Roadrunning," taken from an upcoming collaborative album, and it's nice -- beautiful, in fact -- and keeps the line of continuity and excellence in perspective. This is not only a fine collection for fans because of its wonderful sequencing, but the best introduction to the man and the band that one could ask for.

Johnny Cash - 16 Biggest Hits

The titles in Legacy's 16 Biggest Hits series have been so well done otherwise that it is surprising its Johnny Cash title is such a disappointment. While many of Cash's biggest hits, among them "Ring of Fire," "Understand Your Man," and "A Boy Named Sue," are included, so are minor hits and songs that were not hits at all. Not that there's anything wrong with tracks like "I Still Miss Someone" and "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer," it's just that they are not appropriate to an album of this name. Cash had 13 number one country hits between 1956 and 1976; you'll only find eight of them here.

The Breeders - Last Splash

The Breeders are an American rock band, formed in 1988 as a side project for Kim Deal of Pixies and Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses.

The album spawned the hit "Cannonball." Cannonball hit #2 on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts, and the album "Last Splash" was certified Platinum thereafter.

The Breeders have a unique style of music in my opinion, and this album LAST SPLASH is undoubtably one of my favorites, if not my favorite alternative album of the 90's. It's perfect, its infectuous and endearing, it's everything an album should be, and what I wish music was more like today.

Gomez - Liquid Skin

In the wake of Brit-pop's unraveling and the legitimization of prog rock by Radiohead and Spiritualized, Gomez was seen as the future of Brit-rock upon their debut. Bring It On was caught between those two poles: traditionalist on one hand, yet striving for a larger goal. Gomez's secondhand appropriations of American music, crossed with ambling arrangements and a hazy atmosphere indigenous to home recordings, won them a larger audience who expected the group's second album, Liquid Skin, to be a great breakthrough. They may be disappointed to find that it's not. Instead, Liquid Skin is a cleaner, more streamlined version of the debut; it's clear that the band made the move from the garage into a professional studio. In doing so, they wound up with a dead ringer for Pearl Jam's No Code, in which America's best traditionalist band of the '90s strove for a glorious, pan-ethnic mess and pretty much succeeded. Liquid Skin doesn't rival No Code, not just because Gomez isn't as passionate, but also because Pearl Jam didn't sound as self-conscious or predictable when they decided to stretch out. Throughout the record, Gomez betrays their age, playing music that they believe to be experimental or rootsy, but not quite going far enough in either direction. This was true of Bring It On as well, but the cleaner sound and improved focus brings these factors to the forefront. And, frankly, that's not such a bad thing, either. In this context, they might not seem as adventurous (and, therefore, important), but they do bring back varying strands in interesting ways. They still seem to be trying too hard, and treading water in doing so. Still, Liquid Skin will satisfy fans of the first record, just as it will undoubtedly frustrate those who didn't get with them the first time.

Gomez - Bring It On

On their debut album, Bring It On, England's Gomez introduce their original take on bluesy roots rock. Unlike Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, this isn't amphetamine-fueled freak-out music but similar at times to Beck's acoustic-based work (One Foot in the Grave), with more going on vocally. The band has a total of three strong vocalists, who can switch from pretty harmonies to gutsy blues outpourings in the blink of an eye. The band manages to cover a lot of ground convincingly on Bring It On, which is unusual, since it commonly takes bands the course of a few releases to hone their sound. The three British singles released from the album are definite highlights -- "Get Myself Arrested," "Whippin' Piccadilly," and "78 Stone Wobble," the latter containing a beautifully haunting acoustic guitar riff similar to Nirvana's unplugged version of the Meat Puppets' "Plateau." All the praise that Gomez's debut received is definitely not hype. The album is consistently great, as proven by such tracks as "Tijuana Lady," "Love Is Better Than a Warm Trombone," and "Get Myself Arrested."

David Gilmour - On An Island

To think that David Gilmour waited 22 years to record his third solo album is a pretty solid indicator that he's not the kind of bloke to merely cash in on his name. After all, he's the guy who sold his house for four million English pounds and gave the money to charity. Perhaps now that the Pink Floyd reunion happened and he and Roger Waters are at least civil to one another, the Floyd enigma can finally find its way into the annals of history and rock legend. Of course, this brings listeners to On an Island. Those wanting something edgy and dramatic will have to wait. Some of the more misanthropic Floyd heads (and there are many) will give voice to their ire that he's written six of these ten tunes with his wife, Polly Samson, who also plays a bit of piano and sings here. You can hear them now -- "She's the new Yoko Ono!" -- at which point the pair will rightfully smile, quietly and bemusedly. Musically, On an Island is mostly a laid-back, utterly elegant English record. It has the feel of taking place between twilight and dawn. There are a few rumblers here to upset the balance of tranquility and stillness, like flashes of heat lightning across the dark skies, but they only add dimension to these proceedings. Produced by Gilmour, Phil Manzanera (who appears on keyboards a lot), and Chris Thomas, the album features guest spots from the likes of Richard Wright, Robert Wyatt, B.J. Cole, Floyd/Sly Stone drummer Andy Newmark, Georgie Fame, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Jools Holland, Willie Wilson, and many others.

Iggy Pop - Unreleased Songs

Fire Engine - Warrior Tribe - Old Mule Skinner
Family Affair - Woman Dream - I Got A Right
Gimme Some Skin - Rock Action - Modern Guy
Run Like A Villain - Eat Or Be Eaten - Sixteen
Love Bone - The Winter Of My Discontent
Puppet World - One For My Baby - Hassles
Flesh & Blood - I’m Crying - I’m Alright
You Really Got Me - Batman Theme
Louie Louie/Hang On Sloopy
No Fun/Waiting For My Man - 96 Tears.

John Coltrane - Soultrane

In addition to being bandmates within Miles Davis' mid-'50s quintet, John Coltrane (tenor sax) and Red Garland (piano) head up a session featuring members from a concurrent version of the Red Garland Trio: Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). This was the second date to feature the core of this band. A month earlier, several sides were cut that would end up on Coltrane's Lush Life album. Soultrane offers a sampling of performance styles and settings from Coltrane and crew. As with a majority of his Prestige sessions, there is a breakneck-tempo bop cover (in this case an absolute reworking of Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby"), a few smoldering ballads (such as "I Want to Talk About You" and "Theme for Ernie"), as well as a mid-tempo romp ("Good Bait"). Each of these sonic textures displays a different facet of not only the musical kinship between Coltrane and Garland but in the relationship that Coltrane has with the music. The bop-heavy solos that inform "Good Bait," as well as the "sheets of sound" technique that was named for the fury in Coltrane's solos on the rendition of "Russian Lullaby" found here, contain the same intensity as the more languid and considerate phrasings displayed particularly well on "I Want to Talk About You." As time will reveal, this sort of manic contrast would become a significant attribute of Coltrane's unpredictable performance style. Not indicative of the quality of this set is the observation that, because of the astounding Coltrane solo works that both precede and follow Soultrane -- most notably Lush Life and Blue Train -- the album has perhaps not been given the exclusive attention it so deserves.

Belle & Sebastian - Tigermilk

Tigermilk is the 1996 debut album from Scottish pop group Belle & Sebastian.

The album is named after a song that didn't end up making the cut--an instrumental that was later performed numerous times on Belle & Sebastian's early tours. All of the songs on the album were written by Stuart Murdoch between 1993 and 1996, and originally performed solo on the Glasgow open mic circuit. Though he perfoms on the album, trumpet player Mick Cooke was not yet an official member of the band.

Gomez - Split The Difference

Split the Difference, the fourth album from Gomez, is a real return to basics for the band. The rampant sonic experimentalism that characterized In Our Gun is largely absent (although there are some excellent details down in the mix) in favor of some straight-up rock & roll. Working with someone outside the band for the first time, Gomez brought in Tchad Blake, and the result is their most straightforward rock album yet. The songs are lean, filled with great melodies, singalong choruses, and their trademark vocal harmonies. And there are some big sounds on this album, with some of the most muscular bass playing heard yet on a Gomez album, and killer guitar sounds: for instance, the super-crunchy overdriven guitar on "Where Ya Going?" that sounds more like a squall than a solo. Also, Olly Peacock's drumming should not go unmentioned, giving the songs just what they need, from the great shuffle groove of "These 3 Sins" to the driving "Where Ya Going?"; the man is a tasteful powerhouse. Gomez is a guitar band (count 'em, three guitar players), but they are nothing remotely resembling a jam band, despite having fans from that community. There is no endless jamming, or even prominent guitar solos to speak of. Actually, without really sounding like it at all, Split the Difference has the feel of Exile on Main St., in that it covers practically every kind of roots rock/rock & roll idiom with a certain effortlessness, all filtered through Gomez's strong personality. The Junior Kimbrough cover, "Meet Me in the City" drives this analogy home (not to mention "Sweet Virginia"), providing something of a similar change-of-pace interlude as "I Just Want to See His Face" off Exile, with both being positioned about two-thirds of the way into the album. The first two singles, "Catch Me Up" and "Silence" are catchy rockers, while "Sweet Virginia" (not the Stones' song) and "There It Was" should satisfy those who enjoy ballads like "Tijuana Lady" (which should not always be taken at face value with Gomez, by the way). Actually, there's not a weak song on the entire album. For those who have been waiting for Gomez to come up with something that truly rivals their amazing debut Bring It On, wait no longer. This one is great.

Katy Perry - E.T. ft. Kanye West Music Video Official

Gomez - Out West

Despite the fact that they were signed to a label before they ever played a live show, Gomez quickly became known as a great live act due to their solid musicianship, ability to create new arrangements on the spot, and no-nonsense, energetic performances where the band seem to be enjoying themselves as much as the fans. Apparently, they had wanted to release a live album for some time, but could not reach an agreement with Virgin, so when Gomez and Virgin parted ways following the release of Split the Difference in 2004, the time seemed right. They played a three-night stand at San Francisco's famed Fillmore in January of 2005, signed with ATO, and released Out West in June of the same year. The set draws from all four of their albums (leaning heavily on the first album) with a couple choice covers thrown in. Most of the tunes are similar to their studio counterparts, just rocked up a bit in a live context with an extra emphasis on guitars. In fact, the guitars are louder and more forceful on nearly every track, and the crisp recording really lets you hear the details. "Here Comes the Breeze" and "Bring It On" especially benefit from more guitar, and both "Here Comes the Breeze" and "Whippin' Piccadilly" get kicked up a notch or two by Olly Peacock's ferocious drumming. They do a stomping cover of Tom Waits' "Going Out West" and an interesting cover of Nick Drake's "Black Dog," which segues nicely into "Free to Run" and on into "Ping One Down." There may be a fan favorite or two missing from the set list, but the selections are excellent overall, and it's nice to have a sample of what they sound like live, whether you've missed them to this point or just want a great-sounding souvenir.

Bright Eyes - Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil...

When Bright Eyes brainchild Conor Oberst issued Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground in August 2002, he was 22 years old. Critics were already calling him the "indie Bob Dylan," but the new millennium had seen a lot of those introverted, intelligent types (Ryan Adams, Beck). Bright Eyes, though, delivered a solid, intricately produced album without the majors' monotony. Immediately, one can sense Oberst's literate approach. His vocal curdle is abrasive, yet warm. It's similar to the cooing of Robert Smith, but lush in heartache like Paul Westerberg, leaving the storybook of Lifted or the Story... to earn massive praise. "Waste of Pain" is rough-cut with edgy acoustics, while "From a Balance Beam" glows with pop-like optimism. Chimes and simple drumming keep the story of personal insecurity and the fear of the unknown come alive in a dreamy sort of way. Even when he's aching his way through the pop rumble of "Method Acting," Bright Eyes convincingly lures one into his eclectic musical world. Oberst obviously has the talent to support the hype. "Lover I Don't Have to Love" is a dark number with its Radiohead-like doom and gloom; however, the piano swirl of "A Bowl of Oranges" offers a brighter reflection. On Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, Bright Eyes has mixed badness with beauty for a sonic storybook that relates to everyone. It's slightly overwhelming at first, but one must allow a grace period to fully absorb the abstract desire behind this album.

Goo Goo Dolls

Short Bio:
Early in their career, Buffalo natives the Goo Goo Dolls were frequently dismissed by critics as mere imitators of the Replacements; however, the band refined and mainstreamed their sound enough to become of the most popular adult alternative rock bands of the latter half of the '90s, selling millions of records to audiences largely unfamiliar with their inspirations. That's no knock on the band either -- their music simply improved in craft and accessibility as the years progressed, and radio happened to be receptive to what a decade earlier would have been considered collegiate power pop. Thus, the band landed two huge hits with the acoustic ballads "Name" and "Iris.

Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow

Cripple Crow marks a departure for Devendra Banhart. It's obvious from the faux Sgt. Pepper-meets-Incredible String Band freak scene cover photo that something is afoot. The disc is Banhart's first foray from Michael Gira's Young God label, and it's more adventurous than anything he's done before. This is not to imply that the set is a slick, over-produced affair, but it is a significant change. The instrumental, stylistic, and textural range on this 23-song set is considerably wider than it's been in the past. Working with Noah Georgeson and Thom Monahan, a backing band of friends known as "the Hairy Fairies", Banhart's crafted something expansive, colorful, and perhaps even accessible to a wider array of listeners. There are layered vocals and choruses of backing singers, as well as piano and flutes on the gorgeous "I Heard Somebody Say," while the electric guitar and drums fuelling "Long Haired Child," with its reverb-drenched backing vocals, is primitive, percussive, and dark. There is also the 21st century psychedelic jug band stomp of the second single, "I Feel Just Like a Child," that crosses the nursery rhyme melodics of Mississippi John Hurt with the naughty boy swagger of Marc Bolan. There are also five songs in Spanish, Banhart's native tongue, in a style that's a cross between flamenco and son. The title cut, "Cripple Crow," is one of the most haunting anti-war songs around. In it, Banhart places a new generation in the firing line, and urges them to resist not with violence, but with pacifistic refusal. A lone acoustic guitar, hand drums, a backing chorus, and a lilting, muted flute all sift in with one another to weave a song that feels more like a prayer. The lone cover here, of Simon Diaz's "Luna de Margaerita," drips with the rawest kind of emotion. Ultimately, Cripple Crow is a roughly stitched tapestry; it is rich, varied, wild, irreverent, simple, and utterly joyous to listen to.

Dire Straits - Biography

Dire Straits emerged during the post-punk era of the late '70s, and while their sound was minimalistic and stripped down, they owed little to punk. If anything, the band was a direct outgrowth of the roots revivalism of pub rock, but where pub rock celebrated good times, Dire Straits were melancholy. Led by guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler, the group built their sound upon the laid-back blues-rock of J.J. Cale, but they also had jazz and country inflections, occasionally dipping into the epic song structures of progressive rock. The band's music was offset by Knopfler's lyrics, which approximated the winding, stream-of-conscious narratives of Bob Dylan. As their career progressed, Dire Straits became more refined and their new maturity happened to coincide with the rise of MTV and the compact disc. These two musical revolutions from the mid-'80s helped make Dire Straits' sixth album, Brothers in Arms, an international blockbuster. The band -- along with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Steve Winwood -- become one of the leaders of a group of self-consciously mature veteran rock & rollers in the late '80s that designed their music to appeal to aging baby boomers. Despite the band's international success, they couldn't sustain their stardom, waiting a full six years to deliver a follow-up to Brothers in Arms, by which time their audience had shrunk significantly.

Knopfler (born August 12, 1949) was always the main force behind Dire Straits. The son of an architect, Knopfler studied English literature at Leeds University and worked briefly as a rock critic for the Yorkshire Evening Post while at college. He began teaching English after his graduation, leading a pub rock band called Brewer's Droop at night. By 1977, Mark was playing with his brother David (guitar) and his roommate John Illsley (bass). During the summer of 1977, the trio cut a demo with drummer Pick Withers. A London DJ named Charlie Gillett heard the demo and began playing "Sultans of Swing" on his BBC show Honky Tonkin'. Following a tour opening for Talking Heads, the band began recording their debut for Vertigo Records with producer Muff Winwood in early 1978. By the summer, they had signed with Warner in America, releasing their eponymous debut in the fall. Thanks to the Top Ten hit "Sultans of Swing," Dire Straits was a major success in both Britain and America, with the single and album climbing into the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dire Straits established Dire Straits as a major force on album-oriented radio in America, and their second album, Communique (1979), consolidated their audience, selling three million copies worldwide. As the group was recording its third album, Knopfler left the band to pursue a solo career; he was replaced by former Darling member Hal Lindes. Like its predecessor, Making Movies was a sizable hit in America and Britain, even though the band was criticized for musically treading water. Nevertheless, the record went gold on the strength of the radio and MTV hits "Romeo and Juliet" and "Skateaway." Dire Straits followed the album two years later with Love Over Gold, an album filled with long, experimental passages, plus the single "Private Investigations," which became a number two hit in the U.K. The album went gold in America and spent four weeks at number one in Britain. Shortly after the release of Love Over Gold, former Rockpile drummer Terry Williams replaced Withers.

During 1982, Knopfler began exploring musical avenues outside of Dire Straits, scoring the Bill Forsyth film Local Hero and playing on Van Morrison's Beautiful Vision. Apart from releasing the Twisting by the Pool EP early in 1983, Dire Straits were quiet for the majority of 1983 and 1984, as Knopfler produced Bob Dylan's Infidels, as well as Aztec Camera and Willy DeVille; he also wrote "Private Dancer for Tina Turner's comeback album. In the spring of 1984, the band released the double album Alchemy: Dire Straits Live and by the end of the year, they had begun recording their fifth studio album with their new keyboardist, Guy Fletcher. Released in the summer of 1985, Brothers in Arms was Dire Straits' breakthrough album, making the band international stars. Supported by the groundbreaking computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing," a song which mocked music videos, the album became a blockbuster, spending nine weeks at the top of the American charts and selling over nine million copies; in England, the album became the biggest-selling album of the '80s. "Walk of Life" and "So Far Away" kept Brothers in Arms in the charts through 1986, and Dire Straits played over 200 dates in support of the album. Once the tour was completed, Dire Straits went on hiatus for several years, as Knopfler produced records by Randy Newman and Joan Armatrading, scored films, toured with Eric Clapton, and recorded a duet album with Chet Atkins (Neck and Neck, 1990). In 1989, he formed the country-rock group Notting Hillbillies, whose sole album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time, became a British hit upon its spring 1990 release. During the extended time off, John Illsley recorded his second album; the first appeared in 1984.

In 1990, Knopfler reconvened Dire Straits, which now featured Illsley, Clark, Fletcher, and various session musicians. The band released On Every Street in the fall of 1991 to great anticipation. However, the album failed to meet expectations -- it only went platinum in America and it didn't crack the U.K. Top 40 -- and failed to generate a hit single. Similarly, the tour was a disappointment, with many tickets going unsold in both the U.S. and Europe. Once the tour was completed, the live album On the Night was released in the spring of 1993 and the band again went on hiatus. In 1996, Knopfler launched his solo career with Golden Heart.

The Pretenders - Pirate Radio 1979-2005 (2006)

To say that Warner/Rhino/Sire's 2006 four-CD, one-DVD box set Pirate Radio is for the die-hard Pretenders fan may be stating the obvious -- after all, career-spanning multi-disc sets heavy on rarities are by definition for diehards. But die-hard Pretenders fans are different than other die-hard fans, since they can be easily split into two separate camps: those who followed Chrissie Hynde throughout her career, and those who lost interest somewhere after 1983's Learning to Crawl, the triumphant third album that proved Hynde was above all a survivor. After that, Pretenders records were notoriously hit-or-miss affairs, sometimes holding together a little better than others, but patchy enough to whittle down their audience to just the dedicated, while still indicating that a killer comp could be pieced together from these records.

Smokie - Midnight Cafe

This 1976 follow-up to the successful Changing All the Time once again in the producer's chairs, the band produced some notable hits in Europe: "Something's Been Making Me Blue" layers Smokie's trademark harmonies atop a rousing country-rock tune driven by tasty guitar work, and "Wild Wild Angels" is a dramatic power ballad that highlights a strong lead from whiskey-throated vocalist finds Smokie pursuing the same kind of country-flavored pop that made that album a hit. With Nicky Chinn and Mike ChapmanChris Norman. Smokie also scored a hit with "I'll Meet You at Midnight," a surprising departure from their usual formula where the band plays a backup role to a dramatic, French-styled string arrangement that sets the melody. Despite these strong hits, the remainder of Midnight Café hits a few rough spots: "Make Ya Boogie" is a dull and overlong boogie-rock tune that could have been performed by any rock band, and the attractive melody of "Poor Lady (Midnight Baby)" is marred by a set of mean-spirited and misogynist lyrics that mercilessly skewer the down-on-her-luck groupie of the title. Despite these occasional lapses in quality, Midnight Café does offer some decent tunes between the hit singles: "When My Back Was Against the Wall" is a dreamy ballad driven by an ethereal string arrangement, and the epic "Going Home" allows the band to stretch out and show off their formidable instrumental chops. In the end, the album serves up enough solid tunes to satisfy one of the group's fan, but casual listeners may want to track down the album's hits on a Smokie compilation.

Incubus - Morning View

Fans who discovered Incubus and their album, Make Yourself, through their massive radio hit, "Drive," may be surprised that the band released a follow-up album so quickly. Yet the reality is that Make Yourself was a definitive sleeper hit, never peaking past the Top 50 of Billboard's album charts, but staying on those same charts for close to two years and in the process shifting over two million units. With each successive single that was released, the band gradually moved away from the nu-metal/Ozzfest crowd they had been initially lumped into and revealed the solid songwriting and talent for a good melody underneath the layers of surging guitars. The lessons learned from Make Yourself have definitely been applied to Morning View. While there is still a fair share of aggressive numbers ("Circles," " "Blood on the Ground," and " "Under My Umbrella" arguably the strongest of the harder tracks), the ratio of softer and mellower numbers have increased dramatically, to the point where hardcore fans of earlier material may be bewildered. For the most part, the transition works. "Mexico" is a sparsely arranged acoustic ballad that gives lead singer Brandon Boyd an opportunity to demonstrate his formidable vocal range. "Are You In" is an upbeat, funky tune reminiscent of Sugar Ray (and that's meant in a good way). The most offbeat track is the album closer, "Aqueous Transmission," a tranquil, exotic-sounding ballad that sees the band successfully experimenting with Middle Eastern string arrangements. Not all the experiments gel ("Echo"), and there is a tendency, especially in the middle third of the album, for the songs to sound too similar in sound and tempo, but on the whole, Morning View is a fine follow-up to Make Yourself and a natural progression in the band's musical evolution. While it may not appeal to fans of the harder material, music lovers who like their rock a little less aggressive and a little more ambitious and, well, sensitive should give Morning View a spin.

U2 lyric voted UK's favourite

A line from U2's 1992 hit One has been voted the UK's favourite song lyric.

The line "One life, with each other, sisters, brothers" came top of a poll of 13,000 people by music channel VH1.

The song reached number seven in the UK chart when it was originally released, but a new version featuring Mary J Blige recently went to number two.

A lyric from The Smiths' song How Soon is Now? came second in the poll, followed by a line from Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

A call from Bob Marley to "free our minds" in his Redemption Song came fourth, with Coldplay's hit Yellow in fifth.

Memorable moments from Eminem, Robbie Williams, The Who, Radiohead and Marvin Gaye were also in the top 10.

John Lennon's Imagine did not feature in the top 20 despite coming top of a similar survey in 1999.

The top five lyrics in the VH1 poll were:

    1. U2 - One. "One life, with each other, sisters, brothers."

    2. The Smiths - How Soon is Now? "So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die."

    3. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit. "I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us."

    4. Bob Marley - Redemption Song. "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds, have no fear for atomic energy, 'cause none of them can stop the time."

    5. Coldplay - Yellow. "Look at the stars, look how they shine for you."

    This news taken from

    So Modern Music Readers what's your favorite lyric?

Editors Live in paradiso 30 jan. 2006

8 live tracks performed at Paradiso in Amsterdam 30 jan. 2006 from Editors The Back Room CD can be found here:

The Organ - Grab That Gun

The Organ's 2002 debut EP Sinking Hearts was more captivating than most of that year's full-length releases: over the course of just 15 minutes, the band crafted chiaroscuro meditations on falling in and out of love that were just as light and jangly as they were dark and brooding. The EP was a promising beginning, and Grab That Gun, the Organ's first album, builds on that promise by delivering more appealingly moody music instead of reinventing the band's sound. It's tempting, initially, to be slightly disappointed that the Organ didn't broaden its sonic territory. But, even though the music remains remarkably focused, Grab That Gun proves that the band has plenty of room for expression within its rather limited palette of droning organs, succinct drumming and sharp, upturned guitar lines that give new meaning to the term "hook." While this sound comes from the legacy of '80s college rock -- at times suggesting a fusion of the Smiths' witty, bouncy melancholy and the on-the-sleeve passion of Throwing Muses -- and also has ties to some of the other bands remaking new wave and post-punk in their own images, the Organ and Grab That Gun have a freshness that isn't often heard in any kind of rock music. This is partly due to the simplicity of the band's playing; some call it amateurish, although innocent is probably a more apt description.

Goo Goo Dolls - Superstar Car Wash

The hard rock rawness of Buffalo's Goo Goo Dolls makes Superstar Car Wash an album that is high on amicable guitar riffs and attractive hooks, with an edge that never goes away. All the choruses are sandwiched perfectly between the crunching throttle of electric guitar and pleasing rock rhythms, changing pace and style just a notch in each of the 14 songs. Heavy but far from pretentious, songs like "Fallin' Down," "Cuz You're Gone," and "We Are the Normal," co-written by Paul Westerberg, combine pleasing elements of rough harmonies with infectious runs of six-string grit. John Rzeznik's vocals resonate with a reckless, punk-soaked ardor that lifts their music above and beyond the norm of power pop. The attitude that surrounds the album makes the Goo Goo Dolls out to be a rough and tumble outfit, outlining all the tunes with a rebellious tone. Quite different from their platinum A Boy Named Goo album, which soun
ded smoother and refined, Superstar Carwash has the band sounding loose and freewheeling, making the best of any musical misdirection. Before radio adopted their polished glimmer, they let loose and channeled their playful immaturity throughout the attractive impurity of this album.

Dave Matthews Band - Listener Supported (Live)

With the release of the double-disc Listener Supported in 1999, the Dave Matthews Band now had four live albums to their credit (including their self-released debut Remember Two Things and Matthews' solo set Live at Luther College). Bootleggers had discovered that certain bands had voracious audiences who would listen to anything by the group. Once Dave Matthews discovered he had one of those bands and that he had scores of unofficial discs on the market, he decided to release official live albums on a regular basis. A good business decision, but it has the effect of diluting his discography somewhat, especially when the end result is as ordinary as Listener Supported. Unlike audience tapes and bootlegged shows -- which, in an ideal world, capture a band loose and unaware -- the concert on Listener Supported was recorded for a PBS television show, In the Spotlight. This may have affected their performance somewhat, since there just isn't much energy to the recording. Part of the problem is that DMB don't really explore new musical territory through improvisations -- they just settle into a groove and ride it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does mean that there's not as much identity to an individual DMB show as there is in, say, a Phish show. When the band nails the groove live, they can be more engaging than they are on record. But if they just float on by, as they do on Listener Supported, the songs and jams are flatter and never really go anywhere. If you're already a fan -- a very devoted fan -- that's fine, but otherwise, listening to these two discs nonstop will be a little dull. DMB are capable of more than this; Listener Supported just captures them on an off night.

Stereolab - Fab Four Suture [2006]

An album and a singles collection at the same time, Fab Four Suture stitches together four limited-edition EPs Stereolab released in the fall of 2005 and spring of 2006. Over the years, the group has made a reputation for having EPs and singles -- and therefore, singles collections -- that are just as good, if not better, than their albums, as comps like Switched On and Aluminum Tunes attest. Stereolab has also always been very democratic about making sure fans can get their hands on nearly all of their more obscure releases in some form or another; while Fab Four Suture is a little different than their other collections in that it was designed to form an album upon the completion of the EP series, in terms of its quality, it's on par with the band's most enjoyable comps. By combining the looser, more experimental feel of their EPs with the album format, Fab Four Suture ends up being looser and more organic-feeling than Stereolab's previous album, the lovely but occasionally distant Margerine Eclipse. Indeed, the best moments here are more immediate than anything the band has done in a long time. "Interlock" boasts funky brass and basslines that are echoed by "Excursions into 'Oh, A-Oh,'" a driving motorik with fiery guitars that recalls the glory of Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements. "Plastic Mile" and "Eye of the Volcano" are examples of their sparkling, delicately dramatic pop at its finest, while "Visionary Road Maps" is lovely and mysterious, changing gears two-thirds of the way through from a insistent yet somehow bittersweet groove to a slower, slightly spooky coda. The more experimental and downright playful moods of Stereolab are also represented, respectively, by "Widow Weirdo," a quick-shifting track that has an odd, almost ugly little guitar lick as its only constant, and the fizzy, revved-up "Vodiak." After hearing Fab Four Suture in its album form, the EPs tend to feel like puzzle pieces without any instructions; on their own EP, the two parts of "Kybernetica Babicka" felt slight and disappointing, but they work well as the album's opening and closing themes. Even more than Margerine Eclipse, Fab Four Suture sounds like Stereolab has adapted -- if not fully healed -- from the loss of Mary Hansen, and it's fitting that the group's first full-length album for Too Pure in over a decade finds them consolidating their strengths rather than completely reinventing their sound.

Van Morrison - Pay The Devil

Pay the Devil, an album-long foray into country music, shouldn't come as a surprise to Van Morrison fans. It's a logical extension of his love affair with American music. Certainly blues, R&B, soul, and jazz have been at the forefront, but one can go all the way back to the Bang years and find "Joe Harper Saturday Morning," or songs on Tupelo Honey that touch country. More recently, You Win Again, with Linda Gail Lewis, offered two Hank Williams tunes and "Crazy Arms." The Skiffle Sessions with Lonnie Donegan offered traditional Southern tunes including Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues." Morrison's lyrics have also referenced country music blatantly. Pay the Devil comes from direct sources of inspiration: his father's skiffle band and Ray Charles' historic forays into country on the two volumes of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music recorded: in 1962. The evidence lies in three cuts on this disc, all of which CharlesCurley Williams' "Half as Much," Art Harris and Fred Jay's "What Am I Livin' For," and Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart." Morrison's a cagey one: his own mercurial versions of these nuggets are more traditional than those of Charles, yet are steeped in similar production styles that offer a clear nod to the late artist. While there are no horns on Pay the Devil, the layers of strings on top of "fiddles" and honky tonk pianos -- as well as earlier pedal steel styles -- are giveaways. And then there is the voice. Like Charles, Morrison is a soul singer no matter what he sings and he digs into these tomes with fire and the uncommon sweetness of tone and limited timbre that Charles did. But Morrison re-creates these tunes in his own image too.

Blur - Think Tank

Compared to the brash pop of Damon Albarn's Gorillaz side project and 1999's overtly emotional 13, Think Tank is a soulful and subtle affair—its tone possibly traceable to the departure of founding member Graham Coxon midway through its recording. There are classic Blur rock moments here, notably "Crazy Beat," which is cut from the same cloth as the classic "Song 2," and the painfully short but brilliant "We've Got a File On You," which sounds like agitprop punks Crass mixed up with a Moroccan snake charmer. But while Albarn still has an ear for a melody, without Coxon's guitars to subvert them, most of these songs sound like the work of a new band. "Caravan"'s sleepy rhythm plods at a camel's pace, while "Gene by Gene" employs cross rhythms to evoke desert images. Blur is now more about textures rather than standard rock rhythms. Some will find their evolution off-putting, but for fans who appreciate a band that refuses to sit still, Think Tank is a rewarding listen.

John Frusciante - Curtains

The sixth of six albums recorded by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante during 2004, Curtains was initially tracked on the musician's living room floor and subsequently overdubbed with Carla Azar of Autolux on drums, Ken Wylde on upright bass, and Omar Rodriguez of the Mars Volta, who lent his guitar playing to a pair of tracks. Initiated by the stellar, Dylanesque acoustic tones of "The Past Recedes," Curtains opens to reveal evocative, soulful material like "Lever Pulled" and the bright, melodic reflection known as "A Name." The magical "Ascension -- which uses George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" as a touchstone -- offsets the piano dirge "Leap Your Bar," but Frusciante's increasing comfort as a vocalist during this prolific spell is what is most notable. One needs to look no further than the beauty of "Anne" (which is arguably the best of the lot here) for evidence. But Curtains is the sum of its parts. Nearly always inventive, the 11 tunes here collect to form one magnificent piece of art.

Sparks - Balls (2000)

Los Angeles legends and music innovators Sparks, best known in the States for their '80s hit "Cool Places" with Jane Wiedlin, has actually been around for nearly 30 years, consistently putting out records and developing a cult following. Precursors to electronica, synth-pop, and new wave, the brothers Ron and Russell Mael have inspired such varied acts as Ween, Fear, and They Might Be Giants. With an ironic, irreverent way of looking at the world reflected in their wordplay and dramatic productions that are highlighted by the coldness of heavy synthesizers, they come across like a combination of the Pet Shop Boys, Men Without Hats, and a splash of Devo. Despite the welcome dichotomy created by their silly lyrics and detached synths, there is something forlorn about the duo's melodies -- even when singing lines like "I'm much more than this/more than a sex machine," covering odd topics like an ode to Scheherezade or explaining "How to get Your Ass Kicked." This being Sparks' 18th album, the Mael brothers clearly know what they're doing. Though both the lyrics and the production are quirky, there is nothing dumb about them. To be able to make a song called "More Than a Sex Machine" anthemic shows just how elegant and how smart the Maels are. The melodies have brilliant pop hooks and Russell's voice soars. Balls made it worth the three-year wait between this and their last album, Plagiarism.

Van Morrison - No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986)

Long-time Van Morrison fans may prefer the Belfast bard's tougher, emphatically R&B-driven work, yet it's his lusher, mid-1980s output that helped him consolidate the scrappy gains made in the prior decades. The once-heightened polarity between the earthy and the ethereal seemed muted on albums that traded in a softer-focus, romantic mysticism mirrored by the expanded scale of Morrison's band and arrangements, and left room for him to dabble in instrumental compositions or his renewed love of sax and piano. No Method, No Guru, No Teacher proves among the more durable, convincing chapters in this era, carrying a now-familiar array of symbolic touchstones (the Celtic legacy of "Tir Na Nog" or an extended instrumental allusion to a hymn set to William Blake's musings on England) and offering two of Morrison's better meditations on redemption, "In the Garden" and "A Town Called Paradise", which echoes the fevered waltz-time trance of "Astral Weeks" itself

Sandie Shaw - Princess Of Britpop

Sandie Shaw's hits have been repackaged so many times that there are far more compilations of her work than there ever were original albums. She formed a formidable pop partnership with writer Chris Andrews in the mid-'60s, taking songs like the breathy "Girl Don't Come," "Long Live Love," and the annoyingly bouncy Eurovision Song Contest winner, "Puppet on a String," to the top of the British charts. This collection, however, goes well beyond the surface to offer a slightly stripped-down version of 64-67 Complete Sandie Shaw, which covers every track she released on Pye during those three years. So if you want more than the recycled hits but you're not willing to dive in and get everything, this offers some good middle ground. And make no mistake, Shaw was the princess of Brit-pop at the time (even if the term hadn't been coined then). She was hip, dressed in the best Mary Quant with the fashionable straight hair and trademark bare feet on-stage. The fact that she didn't have much of a voice (certainly when compared to a contemporary like Dusty Springfield) was irrelevant. She could turn on the emotion in "Ask Any Woman," a 1967 track which illustrates just how far she'd come from the naïveté of her debut, "As Long as You're Happy, Baby." And while most of the material from Andrews' pen is straight out of the Denmark Street/Brill Building pop school, aiming toward neo-girl group pop, the pair does take some chances, tweaking the formula interestingly on "I've Heard About Him" and "Long Walk Home," while going folky with "Nothing Comes Easy." Shaw may never have been one of the great singers -- even later in the '60s, when she became far more eclectic and experimental in her approach -- but she was part of a Zeitgeist with some great songs, the mistress of a moment.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

It even looks like something classic, beyond its time or place of origin even as it was a clear product of both -- one of Peter Saville's earliest and best designs, a transcription of a signal showing a star going nova, on a black embossed sleeve. If that were all Unknown Pleasures was, it wouldn't be discussed so much, but the ten songs inside, quite simply, are stone-cold landmarks, the whole album a monument to passion, energy, and cathartic despair. The quantum leap from the earliest thrashy singles to Unknown Pleasures can be heard through every note, with Martin Hannett's deservedly famous production -- emphasizing space in the most revelatory way since the dawn of dub -- as much a hallmark as the music itself. Songs fade in behind furtive noises of motion and activity, glass breaks with the force and clarity of doom, minimal keyboard lines add to an air of looming disaster -- something, somehow, seems to wait or lurk beyond the edge of hearing. But even though this is Hannett's album as much as anyone's, the songs and performances are the true key. Sumner redefined heavy metal sludge as chilling feedback fear and explosive energy, Hook's instantly recognizable bass work at once warm and forbidding, Morris' drumming smacking through the speakers above all else. Curtis synthesizes and purifies every last impulse, his voice shot through with the desire first and foremost to connect, only connect -- as "Candidate" plaintively states, "I tried to get to you/you treat me like this." Pick any song, the nervous death dance of "She's Lost Control," the harrowing call for release "New Dawn Fades," all four members in perfect sync, the romance in hell of "Shadowplay," "Insight" and its nervous drive towards some sort of apocalypse. All visceral, all emotional, all theatrical, all perfect -- one of the best albums ever.

Joy Division - Les Bains Douches

Having spent almost 20 years scraping by on the 2nd half of "Still" and various bootlegs of generally hideous quality, I didn't know what to expect when this was released. WHAT A TREAT! Many of these songs work at least as well as the studio versions, and if you're like me and generally prefer a good live version of a tune to studio work, some are definitive versions. "These Days" is absolutely stunning. "New Dawn Fades" also sounds amazing. This stuff is vastly superior in both sound and performance quality to either "Still" or "Preston (whatever date that show was)".

You get a killer selection of titles, including an early, incomplete version of Passover and obscure titles like "Autosuggestion." There's not much inter-song banter, but Ian wasn't that type of frontman really.

Only the first 9 songs are actually from Les Baines Douches; the other stuff is from a Holland show and the sound isn't quite as good, but overall this is an absolute gem for Joy Division fans.

Seriously, it's worth the purchase price just for the incredible version of "These Days." I can listen to that track five times in a row, easy.

Afghan Whigs-Up In It (1990)

Review by Mark Deming

Though the Afghan Whigs were still about a year away from hitting the peak of their powers in the studio, their second album, 1990's Up in It, was a major improvement over their self-released debut, and it was their first recording to suggest that they would mature into one of the best American rock bands of the 1990s. As a songwriter, Greg Dulli was starting to really get in touch with his self-loathing, and "Retarded," "White Trash Party," and "I Know Your Little Secret" offer a powerful and sometimes disturbing look into one man's obsessions. Just as importantly, the band had finally learned to make the most of their musical muscle; Greg Dulli's nicotine-laced growl merged "heavy-alternative" bellow with a soul man's sense of phrasing, while the guitars of Dulli and Rick McCollum and the rhythm section of John Curley and Steve Earle managed to combine bruising power with a remarkable sense of drama and dynamics. While lots of bands riding the "grunge"/"alternative" bandwagon at the time owed an obvious debt to Led Zeppelin, the Afghan Whigs were one of the few that fully grasped not just their pomp and heaviness, but their precision, their timing, and their understanding of R&B. While it pales in comparison to what the Whigs would achieve on Congregation and Gentlemen, Up in It made it clear the Afghan Whigs had truly arrived, and would not be ignored.

The Damned - Not Of This Earth

When Captain Sensible left the Damned in 1984 after five terrific albums, he took the heart and soul of the band with him, and for the most part, they only came back when he returned for numerous reunion tours. True, singer Dave Vanian and drummer Rat Scabies also wrote great songs on three 1979-1982 LPs, and they had enough talent left over to come up with one more very good album in 1985, Phantasmagoria. But 1986's Anything should have been titled Nothing and , and the follow-up a decade later is equally disappointing, if only by Damned standards. In fact, there is much to like here, with the addition of the Godfathers' guitarist Kris DollimoreNew Model Army's old bassist, Moose. But like Anything, the material recalls the band's 1984 '60s-tribute LP as Naz Nomad & the Nightmares. Without Sensible's wild guitar playing, and most of all, his deft pop touches, this sounds nostalgic and trad where albums such as the sensational Strawberries were post-punk masterpieces. However, if you have no history as a Damned disciple, Not of This Earth is a perfectly solid LP, filled with catchy little numbers such as "I Need a Life" and "My Desire," which still show plenty of overrated indie types and alt-rockers a thing or two. Besides, Scabies is one of the best drummers of the last two decades, and Vanian's familiar voice is a treat. But memories of much more inspired, unique work in the past casts at least a "Shadow to Fall" over this otherwise decent LP.


One of Cabaret Voltaire's strongest albums, The Crackdown features the band working a number of menacing electronic textures into a basic dance/funk rhythm; the result is one of their most distinctive, challenging records.

Van Morrison - Wavelength (1978)

Wavelength essentially picks up where A Period of Transition left off, offering a focused, full-bodied alternative to that record's warmly fuzzy lack of direction. Like that album, it's hardly a major entry in his catalog, but there are signs that Van Morrison is finding his footing for his latter-day voice. Again, the primary appeal of this record is its atmosphere, a charmingly relaxed outing, high on mildly swinging mid-tempo numbers and round, welcoming ballads. Surely, an album of subtle pleasures like this is primarily for the converted, but once you're there, it's hard to resist Wavelength.

David Bowie - Pin Ups

Pin Ups fits into David Bowie's output roughly where Moondog Matinee (which, strangely enough, appeared the very same month) did into the Band's output, which is to say that it didn't seem to fit in at all. Just as a lot of fans of Levon Helm et al. couldn't figure where a bunch of rock & roll and R&B covers fit alongside their output of original songs, so Bowie's fans -- after enjoying a string of fiercely original LPs going back to 1970's The Man Who Sold the World -- weren't able to make too much out of Pin Ups' new recordings of a brace of '60s British hits. Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane had established Bowie as perhaps the most fiercely original of all England's glam rockers (though Marc Bolan's fans would dispute that to their dying day), so an album of covers didn't make any sense and was especially confusing for American fans -- apart from the Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind" and the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things," little here was among the biggest hits of their respective artists' careers, and the Who's "I Can't Explain" and "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" were the only ones whose original versions were easily available or played very often on the radio; everything else was as much a history lesson, for Pink Floyd fans whose knowledge of that band went back no further than Atom Heart Mother, or into Liverpool rock (the Merseys' "Sorrow"), as it was a tour through Bowie's taste in '60s music.

Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 to 7

This three-disc box set is what Dylanphiles have been waiting for, sitting patiently for years, even decades. And, even after its 1991 release, it retains the feeling of being a special, shared secret among the hardcore, since -- no matter the acclaim -- it's the kind of record that only the hardcore will seek out. Of course, the great irony is that even casual Dylan fans will find much to treasure in this three-disc set of unreleased material. They'll find songs as good as anything that made the records (sometimes surpassing the official releases, especially on the last disc), plus alternate versions (including original versions of songs on Blood on the Tracks) and long-fabled songs, from the incomplete "She's Your Lover Now" to songs cut from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. This doesn't just function as an alternate history of Dylan, but as an expansion of Dylan's history, enriching what is already known about the greatest songwriter of his era -- after all, every song here would qualify as the best song on anybody else's album. And that's no exaggeration.
The Bootleg Series 1 to 7

Modest Mouse - This Is a Long Drive... (1996)

Expanding upon the themes of emotional and geographic isolation found in the band's previous work, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About finds Modest Mouse mixing slow, brooding numbers such as "Custom Concern" and "Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset" with thrashing guitar workouts like "Breakthrough" and "Head South." The general mood here is one of loneliness and desperation, eloquently expressed through both the lyrics and the rhythmic, sprawling instrumentation. "Dramamine," for instance, with its driving, mid-tempo beat and ricocheting guitar line, sums up the hopelessness of a doomed relationship, while the frantic "Head South" deals with the feeling of "being ashamed of your old space." The mandolin, slide guitar, and cello featured throughout the album give the songs a certain degree of depth that makes them stand out from average indie rock fare. In general, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About is a fine album of guitar-based rock, and Modest Mouse distinguishes itself here with songs whose meanings are simultaneously universal and painfully personal.

Breeders - Saints cds (1994)

As on most CD EPs, the extra tracks on this three-song single are pretty much for fans only, but, in this case, the extras will likely intrigue Breeders fans. Besides the J. Mascis-produced title track, one of the best songs from the Breeders' 1993 breakout Last Splash, this EP includes an early demo of the album's first hit, "Cannonball," entitled "Grunggae." A portmanteau of the musical genres grunge and reggae, it's actually a pretty apt description of this song's unique, chugging groove, and this mostly instrumental version -- Kim Deal sings a few stray lines here and there, but the lyrics appear to be unwritten at this point -- points out its strengths without the distractions of the gimmicky elements that made it a big radio and MTV hit. The third track is a demo of "New Year" that contains more of the elements of the finished song than "Grunggae," but is considerably noisier and rougher than the comparatively poppy album track.

Skid Row - Subhuman Race

Skid Row waited out the grunge storm and returned in 1995 with Subhuman Race, their strongest and most vicious record to date. Abandoning most of the pop-metal posturing of their early hit albums, Skid Row strip back their music to the basics -- roaring guitars and Sebastian Bach's shriek. It wasn't a hit the size of Slave to the Grind, yet it made an impressive showing, climbing into the Top 40.

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