Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In It to Win It

You know when the music starts, before your mind registers what you're hearing?  Your head starts to bob back and forth.  Then your whole body starts to sway in sync.  And right as the chorus hits your mind clicks in and you think "Damn!  This is a good song!"  I checked the CD case and it happened to be "Next Girl" by The Black Keys from their latest album Brothers.  I had heard the band's name for years, but never took the time to really check it out.  Shame on me.  This is the sixth album from the group and a Grammy winning one at that.  You know why I really like The Black Keys?  Nope, not because the music is great.  I mean you can't deny how awesome their blues base layered with different aspects of rock and intriguing lyrics are, but that's not why I REALLY like them.  I really like The Black Keys because they are doing something that is unfortunately very rare in these dark days of music.  They worked for it.  They built a foundation of fans.  They toured.  They wrote songs.  They played every chance they could get.  They put out albums and when they didn't succeed they kept putting out more.  Rare.  Very rare indeed.  The musical death trap that is this business brings people in, dresses them up, hands them a song and if it charts you're IN and if it doesn't well then you're OUT.  I got a chance once to talk to the group's manager and he explained to me that the industry has it all wrong.  That you have to build the project just like you would a house.  And that takes time.  And experience.  And the Grammy on The Black Key's mantle has proven it works.

The album was produced by The Black Keys, in 2009, and recorded at the infamous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio among others.  There is definitely magic in Muscle Shoals and I strongly urge readers to check out more information on the studio by clicking HERE.

The Black Keys - Brothers (Nonesuch)
Release Date - May 18, 2010
Producers - The Black Keys, Mark Neill, Danger Mouse

Tracks to Check Out First:
2.  Next Girl
5.  She's Long Gone
1.  Everlasting Light
4.  Howlin' For You
9.  Ten Cent Pistol
3.  Tighten Up

Monday, May 9, 2011

Where O Where Have the Guitar Gods Gone?

Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Beck, Allman and Paul, these names ring a bell?  Guitar Gods.  Beings born with music magic firing from their hands.  And these are just a small sampling of the guitar virtuosos of yesterday.  The names of people who changed the sound of music with chord progressions, innovative amp inventions and most simply: style.  These guitar ghosts of the past will live on through the legacy of their music.  But what about us?  Did my generation get jipped out of laying on the floor in complete darkness with a 33 spinning round and round as an 8 minute guitar solo slowly slips us into another dimension?  Did we miss out on having jaw dropping and mind blowing concert experiences as our favorite band closes the set with an electrifyingly improvised guitar wailing finale?  Just thinking about it brings me close to tears.  Sometimes it feels like all we are left with are synthesized beats, albums filled with songs written with the same four chords and the question, “Where o Where have the Guitar Gods gone?”   So for that, I give you these:    Derek Trucks, John Frusciante, Joe Robinson, Jack White, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Tom Morello, John Mayer and Trey Anastasia.  It is not dead and gone.  It is not extinct.  It is alive and well.  You may not hear it on the radio or see them on TV or the cover of most magazines.  But they are there.  Playing.  Creating.  And still blowing our minds.  To you future Guitar Gods: If you play it then we will come.  Our sincerest thanks.

Guitar God of the Past to Check Out:  Django Reinhardt

Guitar God of the Future to Check Out:  Joe Robinson

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Odd Couple

Adele, who cites her first major musical influence as the Spice Girls and Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records make an unlikely pair.  But the first time I heard “Rolling in the Deep” on the radio, I thought ‘holy shit’ THIS is a song to be reckoned with.  To be honest I didn’t bother much with Adele’s debut album 19.  Not that I didn’t like it, but “Chasing Pavements” didn’t quite do it for me.  It didn’t get me there.  I guess 21 is the lucky number because Adele’s sophomore effort is a no holds bar mix of blues and soul that Rubin (among other producers) was able to paint on her perfectly.  Surprised?  I guess we shouldn’t be.  Adele’s got talent and Rubin…well Rubin’s got diversity.  Producing acts from Public Enemy to Slayer to Tom Petty to The Avett Brothers, he has proved there is not a genre he can’t make magic out of.  So “abra-freaking-cadabra” he has done it again.  This album has a solid blues foundation filled with many genres and time periods (much of which was contributed by Adele’s Nashville-based bus driver during a US tour) and most importantly Adele’s own unique style.  The soulful singer gives nods to greats like Etta James and Wanda Jackson as influences to her saucy style and well with her witty banter and swearing she is following right in Jackson’s footsteps.  Thanks Adele and Rick for giving us something good.  Lord knows radio needs it.

Adele – 21 (XL, Columbia)
Release Date – January 19, 2011
Producers – Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth, Jim Abbiss, Fraser T Smith, Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson

Tracks to Check out First:
1.  Rolling in the Deep
2.  Rumour Has It
4.  Don’t You Remember
5.  Set Fire to the Rain
7.  Take It All