30 April 2009

I am the Ugly One (and why Adam will win AI)

I wrote this awful post the other day regarding an encounter I had with a stranger at a pub. I said such mean things in a voice that was not my own but one of absolute, unrestricted anger. I would not be proud of anyone seeing that and when I imagine my partner reading such things and thinking I'm a maniac or my gorgeous professor ever coming across this blog it makes me stop and think: I should always write from a place of love or at least a place of understanding. I will from now on. Maybe I will even try to speak once again to the person that brought up all that hatred in me. Luckily, I have deleted the entry so no further explanation is needed. All that is needed is beautiful music and there's plenty of that.

Also, I have to address something else a very perceptive reader brought up. He thinks I have "American Idol Turret's Syndrome". I don't think I have a problem with that but I would like to go one further and show you why: Entertainment Weekly's American Idol Central

It is insane. I think Michael Slezak is my hero. Really. I love watching him interview past contestants on his Idolatry series and I usually agree with the keen observations he makes 'week after bloomin' week' as he would say. And even if I disagree with something, I'm always in tune with his impeccable, conversational writing. I would give my entire cheap Forever 21 jewelry collection to be friends with him. I would only hope that I could keep up.

And on a night when Kara DioGaurdi's love puppet, Matt Giraud, was kicked off after his "nine lives" as he put it, and the one and only Mr. Adam Lambert was faced with the bottom two after never being there in his entire life, it is only fitting that I mention something about this situation.

It was obvious Matt was going home first of all. Everyone knew that and I don't even think office pools were running this week - there was basically no point. He had several chances and making it to the top five was really like winning for him. Just as Mr. Sleazak from EW has his passionate obsession with Kris Allen, I had mine with Giraud almost the entire season. I was willing to bypass that Viva La Vida thing after Hollywood week and his unusual Songs from the Cinema escapade until forever if that's what it took to get him to the number two spot - the only place he could acceptably go. Unfortunately, his good looks continued to be the only constant in his performances. Some fell really short, vocally, and since the beginning of time we all knew that the world would surely fall to pieces if Adam didn't win the entire circus. He had Jamie Foxx crying! (who I loved by the way - BEST mentor of them all). Although I'm positive that Matt deserved that top four spot much more than Kris who did nothing with a great song on Tuesday. Matt is an artist and will do really soulful, interesting music elsewhere much better than on a singing-only competiton like American Idol where fantastic artistry in other formats isn't wholeheartedly appreciated.

It's funny because Ryan Seacrest mentioned something in his opening monologue on Wednesday - the results show - along the lines of, "Will your favorite be voted off tonight?" and that is generally what this show is about. It is always a great group of singers with one sticking out to specific people and that's why we vote for them over another but this season is different for me. There is Adam Lambert and then there is whoever you may believe to be your favorite. Matt was my favorite but certainly not at the price of Adam. He is the winner and then there's a number two. I don't even want to talk about Adam Lambert here - it's not the right setting. If you've heard him sing and do not know what I mean than there is nothing I can say to change your mind. My measely words are nothing in the face of that voice. And what's so wonderful is that it is just that: VOICE. This, as Randy likes to point out, is a singing competition and Adam's unbelievable instrument is his greatest gift.

Some have pointed out that Adam's face sometimes looks a little big in the camera. My mother, on the other hand, thinks he's the cutest thing since Bugs Bunny. I think something in between I guess. I have never once considered his looks while he's performing. His sexual orientation is something I talk about occassionally but that's my own ignorant curiosity. Nothing on earth, whether he was secretly a woman, alien, fuzzy chipmunk, or a combination of all three, could take away from his amazing gift that he's kind enough to share with the world. I understand the connotation of that phrase most in the context of Adam Lambert. He is better than all previous winners combined and probably better than every singer in every jukebox from here to Southern California. I can listen to "Mad World" on repeat for a half hour straight and I could definitely listen to his voice everyday for the rest of my life and have no problem whatsoever - those would be good days.

Here is the ONE AND ONLY concern I have regarding Mr. Lambert: He has such an undeniably special, precious, one of a kind voice that we have, until this point, only heard in equally specatacular songs. He has a knack for picking classics and using his voice to turn them into ... something otherworldy that has yet to be defined.

Can he possibly write songs as well as he can sing?

And the answer is: no way. He would have to be the most amazingly gifted songwriter on the planet to balance out that voice. I doubt he's been blessed with both because other than Robert Plant, who is? And I don't have enough faith in Linda Perry or Diane Warren or any of those other cheesecakes to write good enough songs for him either. I almost want him to do an entire album of covers like Rod Stewart's American Songbook series. Why not? He's destined to do well regardless so why not certify that he'll make quality songs? We'll see I guess.

Enough of that. Top four is Rock Week with Slash as the mentor and hopefully two songs from each contestant. Excuse me while I go purchase Matt Giraud's "My Funny Valentine" and possibly Adam's older "Born to Be Wild" if not for just his crazy phrasing of "I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thundaaa!"

Still much, much love to Matt. Too sad.

29 April 2009

Song to Love: You Beat Me to the Punch

Mary Wells is brilliant. There's so much to know about her but right now let's just focus on this incredible song where she sings the word "punch" as if it's the sexiest most intense word in the world. Released in 1962 by Motown Records and composed by the equally brilliant Smokey Robinson, this song reached number nine on the pop charts and became Wells' first number one single on the R&B charts.

Older, live version:

Original, recorded version:

The Performance of the Season

Somebody to Love: John Legend

I still need to cool off from my explosion below and there's really no better way to do that than listening to John Legend, an artist that is not only one of my favorites but something even a little more than that. He's one of those favorites that you would fight to the death for. He transcends the term "favorite". When I'm 65 I will still be listening to him and loving every minute of it.

Born John Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, Legend started out majoring in African American Literature at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he was introduced to Kanye West through his college roommate and formed an instant friendship. He was the first artist signed to Kanye's then brand new GOOD Music label and released the album, Get Lifted, which eventually went multi-platinum and produced the single "Used to Love U" and the outrageous hit, "Ordinary People".

His second album, Once Again, hit stores in 2006 with only one major single, "Save Room", getting real appreciation on the airwaves. On a personal note, this album meant a lot to me. As it was coming out, I was going through a huge life change and listened to specific songs on it almost everyday by myself either through headphones or blasting it to drown out some depressing times. For a long period afterward I was unable to hear even the opening beats of some of these songs because they had become so poignant but now, three years later, I'm a little more at ease with them and cannot think of another artist or album that could move me in a deeper way than this has.

Most recently, in 2008, Legend came out with the more mainstream sounding record, Evolver. The first single being the dance anthem, "Green Light", featuring Andre 3000 from Outkast. As with his previous two albums, Legend manages to make classic tracks that are destined to stand the test of time. If that sounds a little patronizing and generic, check it out for yourself. I will refrain from directly making the usual comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye because as you will hear below, Legend has an altogether different sound that makes these tracks far more modern with a little less formula.

Since I can't make a definite Top 5 for someone as good as Mr. Legend, I will give a top 5, in order, for each of his major label releases that are all equally worth purchasing.

Get Lifted

1. She Don't Have to Know
2. Let's Get Lifted
3. Used to Love U
4. Live it Up
5. I Can Change

Once Again
1. Another Again
2. Slow Dance
3. Each Day Gets Better
4. Save Room
5. Heaven

1. Take Me Away
2. Quickly
3. Everybody Knows
4. Green Light
5. This Time

Hits All the Right Notes

She's a dancer so maybe that makes it partially music related but beyond that, Miss Naomi of Rockstar Diaries, is just one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. I am touched and amazed every time I go over to her site and wish that I could create such a beautiful blog - since we're both on blogspot, maybe it's possible.

I can't say enough about her. Her style, sincerity, humility, grace, and gorgeous smile complete with bright red lipstick, make this girl extremely special. I adore her.

Please check out her blog, the best I've ever seen: Rockstar Diaries

28 April 2009

Love to Love You

Dear Matt Giraud,

I'm not going to pretend to be articulate. It is not right for me, a person who is not 12 years old, to love you so much. I hide it Thursday through Monday and do enjoy respectable music 99% of the time but you are different. You make me like bad music, cheesy music, "Idol World" music as Simon would call it.

I know Adam Lambert is going to win. You and I both know that for some inexplicable reason Danny Gokey will be there long after you have been forgotten in some people's minds but not in mine. For anyone who even casually frequents the Idol message boards, we know you look and not only that but take into consideration everything you read. When the old women told you to sing "You Found Me" by The Fray, the next week you were up on that stage singing your little imitation heart out. When you got wind that some people were offended by the mole on your face, you took to wearing a hat and covering up. You even abandoned your beloved piano because many were saying they liked to see you move. If Kris Allen had done your performance tonight, he would've stayed on that stool the entire time. You got up and I could see you itching to do so. You know what the ladies want.

You're my favorite. It's sad that you're probably going home tomorrow but consider this: Kristy Lee Cook and Jason Castro stayed longer than the great Michael Johns last season and people still remember him. Sometimes it's impossible for classy singers to get the proper recognition they deserve on this show. Your performance tonight showed a side of you that I had forgotten was there. For awhile now you've been playing into the judges' critique of the Justin Timberlake thing. Now, understanding your love of jazz and Sinatra, I see that you are not what they think you are and that's why you didn't get all the love you needed tonight. That's a pity. You are the ultimate performer and seem like a sweet, sweet man.

This was my favorite performance of any in Idol history tonight and to be honest, I did not think it would come from you. Just earlier I was on the fence about whether you were just a hot guy or a real talent and you helped me see that if it weren't for Adam, I'd be crushed that you are not going to win the whole thing because on any other season, you would deserve it. You have the voice. As Randy would say so very dumbly and without any understanding of music, "You can sing". And let me add to that: You can sing really, really well and from the heart and with nearly as much emotion and caring as the great Mr. Lambert.

I was thinking about writing something on the Idol board but they have you covered over there. You know you are loved by all kinds of people, not just the pathetic, creepy ones Kris and Danny have. You're someone that appeals to everyone and keep that in mind when you're making an album: blow all the naysayers away and make it number one. I know it's not much, but I'll always support you.

Much Respect,


(Matt's older performance of "Let's Get it On")

Obsession: American Idol

I am unnaturally excited for tonight's American Idol. I have been watching my prerequsites all afternoon, aka previous Adam and Matt performances, and have even come up with a list of my favorite performances of the season. I've also come up with some hypothesises regarding Adam Lambert and the strange back and forth he does each week with the fast and slow which votefortheworst.com lovingly refers to as "Flamebert" and "Lamebert". Although I love both sides, I'm starting to realize that performances such as "Born to Be Wild" and "Ring of Fire" actually show off his vocal capabilities even more than the slower "Tracks of my Tears" and "If I Can't Have You". It literally hurts my voice to even think of how he gets to the high note at the end of "Born to be Wild". It is absolutely insane.

There is so much to be said for Adam Lambert, a man I think is the greatest technical singer I have ever heard in my life, and that makes it all the more difficult to appreciate someone like Matt Giraud who in the past few weeks has become my favorite. Is it because I think Mr. Giraud is merely attractive? Am I like Kara DioGaurdi and only using Matt for his body? I'm not sure just yet. I need him to stay on another week at least to decide. I'm not even swayed by the infamous mole on the center of his forehead. Whether it's covered by a hat a la "Staying Alive" last week or in full swing during "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" week, I'm really into his style and will stick by him with $1.79 votes from my Sprint phone which American Idol does not appreciate as much as AT&T. Will I write Matt poems and add creepy smiley faces on to my posts at americanidol.com like some middle aged, married women do? NO WAY. I'm simply torn as to whether he's just another hot guy with a nice outfit and cool demeanor or a talented musician that will force me to overspend on iTunes.

There's that controversy brewing right now over the iTunes Top 100 charts making the internet rounds with the American Idol contestants alloted in. Of course this is not supposed to happen as the producers like to keep the billboard numbers a secret in order to ensure equal opportunity to all participants. I guess they assume that if we all know Adam Lambert has the highest selling singles then we will automatically vote for him over the practically equally talented Allison Iraheta. They are wrong. Knowing that Matt Giraud has some of the lowest numbers on the charts, I want to vote for him even more. My mother observed today that it's quite unfair they've been having ununsual themes for the past few weeks now. How can a rock singer like Allison have the full opportunity to shine during Country Week, Disco Night, and Rat Pack Day? It's strange. Are any of these contestants right for those genres? Maybe Danny Gokey because you sing karaoke to anything - OH!

Yeah, I don't like Danny. Or let me rephrase: I went through the same experience with him as I'm going through with Matt right now. I was originally taken with Danny. I fell for his dead wife gimmick and genuinely felt bad for the guy. I loved that he auditioned with his talented friend and seemed to really be a soul guy. Unfortunately, he took the soul in a really bad direction and turned the milk sour real fast. The schmaltzy, YELLING that is in my face each week is only suppressed by the fact that I think he is really hot. It's been mentioned that he looks like a young Robert Downey, Jr. and I'd be forced to agree. I'm loving the scruff, the big brown eyes, the cute smile.. he's really lucky because otherwise I would have to go further about how much I hate his music. Except P.Y.T. in Michael Jackson week (the best week by the way). I bought that performance and still listen to it a lot.

Let's see, who else is left. Could it be the guy with the wife who looks just like a younger version of his mother who is always making strange faces in the audience? Yes! That's the one. Kris Allen is a cutie but he scares me with his religious fanatical ways that are somehow well hidden throughout the weeks. Underneath that faux Jason Mraz style lies a man who is a huge God believer and a creepy bible storyteller, I know it. I like him a lot on the surface though, I won't deny it. I'm not into his look that much - both physically and stylistically - but I appreciate his passion and tend to believe his performances a lot more than the other contestants. He works it so that he is IN IT. That's always good.

I guess one final shout out has to be given to Allison though. On EW.com, they always say that Anoop Desai was the Rodney Dangerfield of the competition - getting no respect - but it has to be Allison for me. She is damn good. She's nearly amazing in fact. I always check out her studio performances on iTunes and am always impressed with her performances. She deserves to go to the top 2. It should really be Adam winning the whole thing, Allison running it up, Kris taking second runner up, Matt bowing out at 4, and Danny going home tomorrow. The chances of that are really slim though. Matt will be going home tomorrow regardless of how he does today. I do hear he's singing My Funny Valentine tonight and if that's true: What a way to go. One of my favorites made most famous by the beyond fabulous, little recognized Mr. Chet Baker. I will be sure to post about him tomorrow.

So let me close with a list of my favorite performances thus far from season 8:

Adam Lambert - Black or White
Matt Giraud - Let's Get it On
Adam Lambert - Born to Be Wild
Matt Giraud - Part Time Lover
Danny Gokey - P.Y.T.
Adam Lambert - Satisfaction
Adam Lambert - Mad World
Kris Allen - Man in the Mirror
Adam Lambert - Play that Funky Music
Jorge Nunez - Never Can Say Goodbye
Kris Allen - Remember the Time

Somebody to Love: Sondre Lerche

I think now is as good a time as any to start a new segment on this blog called, "Somebody to Love" catering to my all time favorite artists, namely anyone who also happens to appear on the list to the right of this page under the heading "Arists I Like" or whatever it says.

To start this off, I'd like to introduce Mr. Sondre Lerche, an artist I'm absolutely in love with. Hailing from Bergen, Norway with a strong perchant for Elvis Costello, whom he's toured with, Lerche has managed to make quite a name for himself in the states as well. His music blends '80s pop with '60s girl group beats and sensible, but not always easily understood lyrics. Playing since he was just a teenager, Lerche has also found his way on to Rolling Stone's top 50 albums of the year, was named best new act at the Norwegian Grammys, and has produced albums in different genres ranging from 2006's jazz album Duper Sessions to 2007's rock album Phantom Punch - and he's only 26!

Unlike so many countless others, Lerche has such an outstanding collection of songs, it's difficult to name favorites. Today, I'll say this is a sample of a Top 5 Sondre Lerche list for me:

1. Sleep on Needles (an absolute favorite on ANY list)
2. Airport Taxi Reception
3. Stupid Memory
4. The Tape
5. On the Tower

When I saw him at Maxwell's in Hoboken last year, the experience made me like him even more. We got there early and were eating dinner when suddenly I noticed he was sitting at a table right next to us. I couldn't stop staring but he seemed very normal and sweet, more concerned with getting a good meal than anyone saying anything to him. I didn't even bother him because it almost seemed anti-climatic. Then when he got on stage he talked a lot about New Jersey and how we must be his closest friends in the entire state - very cute. At the end we saw him standing by the merch table for what seemed like quite a while signing things and chatting up fans. Once again, we didn't go over but he seemed so lovely - and people went crazy for "Sleep on Needles" that night! It was the sweetest, little concert I've ever been to and I would gladly see him again.

Funky Franks

I've been wanting to write a post about Michael Franks for awhile now. This is another classic artist that has contributed so much to music and yet gets little credit by his own name. As per Wikipedia, his songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as The Carpenters, The Manhattan Transfer, Patti LaBelle, and one of my jazz favorites, Diana Krall. He's been making music for over 35 years, with his best work - for me - coming in 1975 with the album, The Art of Tea, which takes a jazzy look out the pop window. I picked this album up on vinyl in the basement of an old bookstore in Ithaca, NY for less than a dollar! It has that slight raspy sound from the scratches but it sounds right with the funk and the Chet Baker-esque feeling of Franks voice.

Franks has endless albums that I have yet to hear and I know after I write this, I'll find more incredible songs worthy of obsession but right now I can confirm that my favorite song from his catalog would be "Jive", a funky, smooth jazz gem that really makes me want to have a martini. See if you feel the same way.

And check out the 30 second clips of his songs on iTunes. I'm telling you, those clips alone will be enough to get the sense of this eccletic artist.

25 April 2009

Somebody to Love: Jose Gonzalez

I was just reminded of Swedish singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez while reading Brooklyn Vegan's post on Jesse B. Marchant. While I have yet to check out J.B.M., I'm still enjoying Gonzalez's cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats". Any person who even considers getting a PhD in biochemistry while still having time to focus on music, like Mr. Gonzalez, is otherworldly in my book from the get-go, but then thrown down the fact that he started in a Black Flag, Dead Kennedys-inspired band and somehow landed on making sensible pop songs with a classical guitar influence and you have a person I can't even begin to understand. I'm still working on figuring out his music to be honest. I just know his first album, Veneer, released in September 2005 in the US, is worthy of a listen and although I can't vouch for it, 2007's In Our Nature is based on readings of everything from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to ethicist Peter Singer. I imagine it is more music that would be a challenge for me to comprehend - just the way I like it.

Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats

He brings the lyrics out and gives me butterflies in my stomach. I never expect it either - it just happens.

The Knife - Heartbeats

A little more fun, still bittersweet but to be honest, I don't really understand the song in this original context.

One night to be confused
One night to speed up truth
We had a promise paid
Four hands and then away

Both under influence
We had a divine sense
To know what to say
Mind is a razor blade

To call for hands of above
to lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
for me, no

One night of magic rush
The start a simple touch
One night to push and scream
And then relief

Ten days of perfect tunes
The colors red and blue
We had a promise made
We were in love

To call for hands of above
to lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
for me, no

To call for hands of above
to lean on
Wouldn't be good enough

And you, you knew the hand of the devil
And you, kept us awake with wolves teeth
Sharing different heartbeats
In one night

To call for hands of above
to lean on
Wouldn't be good enough
for me, no

To call for hands of above
to lean on
Wouldn't be good enough

Somebody to Love: Bushwalla!

I love him. For anyone reading, check out his new blog: http://bushwalla.blogspot.com - very classy stuff. I will tell you why. Bushwalla is without a doubt one of those people that you can tell within an instant has more going on than meets the eye. He has the michevious grin, the kinky, black hair, and the knowing eyes that clearly have seen a few things you have not. The Bushwalla mind is one not only of a musician but maybe someone bordering on genius lunacy. He also makes great songs.

And if you don't believe me that this cat can rock you funk style, take a look at this video filmed during a NYC Highline Ballroom performance last year with Jason Mraz that I was lucky enough to attend. The entire evening was a cavalcade of wonderfully wacky fun made possible by Justin Kredible, a young, Rachel Ray-loving magician, The Makepeace Brothers, a strange Ithaca based band of musical brothers(?), Bushwalla, the coolest, fastest talking, cirus-like singer on the face of the planet, and of course Jason Mraz and Mr. Toca Rivera, two top notch, crowd pleasing performers that never, ever disappoint. A collection of more lovable characters cannot be found. I loved every minute of it. I can still be found wearing my yellow, organic Jason Mraz tee that many mistake for a Daniel Johnston drawing.

Let me introduce the best of Bushwalla's collection, "Fall Through Glass" as sung by the entire group:

Quote of the Day

"When I was asked to put together this collection of songs, I wasn't sure what to do. So I just grabbed a bunch of things I was into recently. Some people have favorite songs, but I've got songs of the minute -- songs that I'm listening to right now. And if you ask me about one of those songs a year from now, I might not even remember who did it, but at the moment it's everything to me."

-Bob Dylan in the liner notes for his Starbucks' Artist Choice Series mix album

In case you were wondering, here's the songs he chose at that moment in his life, February 2008:

01. Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others
02. Clancy Eccles - Don't Brag, Don't Boast
03. Stanley Brothers with The Clinch Mountain Boys - The Fields Have Turned Brown
04. Gus Viseur - Flambée Montalbanaise
05. Red Prysock - Hand Clappin'
06. Sol Hoopii & His Novelty Quartette - I Like You
07. Ray Price - I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)
08. Stuff Smith & His Onyx Club Boys - I'se A Muggin' (part 1)
09. Charley Jordan - Keep It Clean
10. Junior Wells - Little By Little (I'm Losing You)
11. Patty & The Emblems - Mixed-Up, Shook-Up Girl
12. Gétatchéw Kassa - Tezeta
13. Flaco Jiménez with Toby Torres & José Morante - Victimas De Huracan Beulah
14. Wanda Jackson - I Gotta Know
15. Billy Holiday & Her Orchestra - I Hear Music
16. Junior Parker - Pretty Baby

Almost Famous

One of my most favorite movies that I don't watch nearly enough anymore. I used to know all the lines by heart. And Cameron Crowe. Oh, Cameron Crowe! I love him too much. I love Jason Lee too much. I love the obsessed Led Zeppelin fan too much - and Rolling Stone! This clip captures everything I love about everything in the world. Is that going too far again? I can't help it.

The worst part of this clip is when it ends.
Best use of a Led Zeppelin song in a movie.
Best use of an Elton John song in a movie (and my favorite Elton John song at that).
Best use of New York in a movie.

And it leads to so many more youtube videos:

Dr. Hook's real verison of "Cover of the Rolling Stone"

Elton John's live version of "Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters"

And again the insane genius of Cameron Crowe's music collection comes to life in one of the most brilliant films ever, Vanilla Sky.

Somebody to Love: Mister Ray LaMontagne

First off, this man does not take a bad picture.

Second and most importantly, this man is an incredible, genuine performer of a caliber that rarely gets to see the light of day. While I get a lot of flack for loving sensitive singer/songwriters that some believe "all sound the same", LaMontagne could absolutely not be mistaken for anyone else. There's an intense masculinity to his voice that some of his other male contemporaries are missing which I think usually enhances the 'sissy' stigma even more to this kind of music. I also kind of love the moniker "Backwoods Van Morrison" Rolling Stone branded on him awhile back. While these other cats are out making their record labels and whoever else happy, LaMontagne is sticking to his old school flavor but keeping the beats consistently modern and once again: I'm confused as to why we don't hear them more often.

Hey, RCA: I want to see more Ray Charles LaMontagne. Immediately.

Below is an article from Rolling Stone that originally appeared in the January 22nd issue. It doesn't say too much directly about his music but it says so much about him that you get a great feel for the texture of all his albums thus far.


David Browne

Not too long ago, Ray LaMontagne was strumming and emoting his way through his harrowing 2005 breakthrough song, "Trouble," before a rapt, sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall. Today, on break from his tour behind the new Gossip in the Grain, he's back home in his farmhouse in the wilds of western Maine. A storm is coming, and with winter settling in, LaMontagne's audience will shrink dramatically. In fact, most days he won't see anyone other than his wife, Sarah, his two sons and the sheep, goats and chickens they keep out in the barn. "Nobody comes nosin' around," LaMontagne says of his 85-acre spread. "No one cares out here. You can carve out a little space and make things work."

Gossip in the Grain — which amps the spare Nick Drake-meets-Van Morrison sound of his first two albums with blasts of Memphis-style horns — was written on the property, and its rural vibe is evident in the many references to crows, cows and foxes. "I don't have a ton of distractions," LaMontagne says. "Staying busy around the place frees up the subconscious to do whatever the hell it's gonna do."

In the 1970s, Norman Mailer used the property as a base for fishing, hunting and ski adventures, but LaMontagne hasn't come across evidence of his visits. "We did find a lot of beer cans in the walls," he says. "Malt liquor."

LaMontagne gutted the house, which had been abandoned for years. He also turned a small horse barn into his work space — packing it with the vintage typewriters, motorcycles and Victrolas he admires and fixes up as a hobby. "A typewriter didn't have to look beautiful, but they made it look beautiful," he says. "There's a certain level of craftsmanship there. It's like an old car."

Having lived in Maine since his teens, LaMontagne has a "love-hate relationship" with the state: "The paper industry makes a mess of the woods. It looks like Hiroshima — just flat." And he wouldn't mind having more musicians to play with. But Maine is home. "In the summertime, driving just north of here on a motorcycle into the mountains, there's nothing like it," he says. "It's stunningly beautiful."

He's gotten a little rougher since this performance from 2007 but this is another of my all time favorite songs. It's eerie, magical, and so, so smooth.

Forever My Friend - Ray LaMontagne

The Best Single of the Past Decade

Cold War Kids - Hang Me Up to Dry

When I was a little out of it - I mean very out of it - this morning, I said something along the lines of, "the only thing better than this song is Led Zeppelin." I might be going too far with that statement but if I were a record executive I'd spend my life savings supporting and marketing this exceptional band. That is how good they are. This song in particular hits me in a way NO others do.

This, to me, is the perfect single and what SHOULD be on the radio today.

Not too slow, not too fast, not a sound-alike of everything else on the charts, and hard to categorize in one genre. This could appeal to a bevy of different people and isn't that what music should be capable of? I'd like to see one song do well on a bunch of different radio formats. I'm going to have to do some digging and see when that happened last.

Cold War Kids is just one of those indie rock bands that makes me so happy with their music and deeply saddened with their lack of a broader audience. This song in particular should be heard by millions of people. It's madness that it has to be "discovered" although believe me, it is well worth it.

I know you will enjoy this:

Off Key: Not Musically Speaking

I want you to know that I know that this site sometimes fails to be all it could be due to very annoying issues of "loading" the important media implementations necessary on a music blog.


I want to scream as loud as Mr. Plant.

24 April 2009

Red Hot

The last few posts - while brilliant and phenomenal - were sort of cheese festivals. To bring this all back down, a little Red Hot Chili Peppers with an incredible acoustic rendition of one of my all time favorite songs, "Under the Bridge". This song has more meaning to me than any other and this version especially tears at the heart.

Please enjoy.

Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner
Sometimes I feel like my only friend
Is the city I live in, the city of angels
Lonely as I am, together we cry

I drive on her streets 'cause she's my companion
I walk through her hills cause she knows who I am
She sees my good deeds and she kisses me windy
I'll never worry, now that is a lie

I don't ever wanna feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way
I don't ever wanna feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

It's hard to believe that there's nobody out there
It's hard to believe that I'm all alone
At least I have her love, the city she loves me
Lonely as I am, together we cry

I don't ever wanna feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way
I don't ever wanna feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

Under the bridge downtown
Is where I drew some blood
Under the bridge downtown
I could not get enough
Under the bridge downtown
Forgot about my love
Under the bridge downtown
I gave my life away

The Shins

I think I understand the appeal of The Shins to college kids: Intellectual-sounding, confusing lyrics about... confusion, and unexplained stories of love and lesbian experimentation (in the case of "Phantom Limb"). Somehow they also have a kiddie sound too - to me at least. I think this is proven by their appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba where they sing a song dedicated to youngsters but manage to make it sound like a regular Shins song.

I'm seeing them live for the first time on May 17th so my excitement and interest in them is mounting as the days go by although my eternal love for frontman James Mercer started years ago. I don't even think I should get into how exquisitely beautiful this man is or the mystery of how he can grow a perfect beard and still have those crazy, big brown eyes stand out like twinkling stars of perfection. See... I shouldn't go further.

The kitchy, quirky fun of this band always gets me as well. From their band name hailing from The Music Man to their strange relationship with Zach Braff, everything about them is undeniably unique. And honestly, in a really strange move, I actually love every one of their albums, especially the latest, Wincing the Night Away.

How often can you say a band just keeps getting better? They remain relevant and consistently impressive.

A top five list of my favorite Shins songs would go something like this:

1. Gone For Good
2. Sea Legs
3. Turn on Me
4. Split Needles
5. Baby Boomerang (cover)

... I think. It's difficult - I kind of love them all even though I wouldn't automatically characterize The Shins as one of my favorite bands. That might change after May 17th though.

Some Wild Hope for Moore

I am in love with this blog lately. I wish beyond wish that more people knew about it because it would give me more motivation to keep up with it and search for the greatest bands to post about. When it's just me it feels a little lonely but that's okay for right now. I still enjoy having a place to store my favorite videos and write little notes about my favorite musicians.

So today I'm obsessed with Yahoo's music site. They have these great, mini-sized videos that are easy to post to blogs and really have a great collection of artists videographies in general. They also have those little Yahoo Exclusive videos with musicians playing acoustic versions of their hits. I'm pretty into those.

Yahoo is actually where I first caught a glimpse of Mandy Moore's new video for "I Can Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week" and I'm almost ashamed to say that it's incredibly catchy and I respect her constant forays into different musical genres. She didn't rest on her laurels and reap in all the pop money from "Candy" - she actually sought out a real career she could be happy with and used inspiration, albeit in a strange way, from her idols, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, etc. It's important to keep in mind with someone like Mandy Moore that she has been in this business for over a decade and her image from ten years ago when she was in her early teens is not necessarily an indication of her current state of mind.

When I decided to explore her music further from the past two years or so, I also came across some other interesting exploits such as her cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella" that really makes the words come alive, and her video for "Extraordinary" off her last album, "Wild Hope". Believe me, I wouldn't even be mentioning Mandy Moore unless I was really, really impressed and I am. Take a look.

23 April 2009


I have seen John Mayer three times every summer since I was in 8th grade? It's difficult to believe it's been so long. I've gone alone, with friends, been in the first row, in the last row, on the lawn, through bad days, good days.. it's a religious experience for me. His music sounds best in summer - and rainstorms. This video reminds me of how far he's come in such a short time.. and maybe how far I've come too.

Regardless of whether you like Mayer or not, I'm sure we all have artists like that and that's the best reason I can think of to love people.

Still a favorite. May I present 'Clarity'.

My Soft Spot

Pete Yorn was my first introduction to modern day singer/songwriters. When I first got a copy of his album, musicforthemorningafter, at The Wiz (one of the first big music stores to close in the past decade!), I was completely enthralled. I don't think I stopped listening to it for two years straight - seriously. It was one of those amazing discoveries where you don't even want to talk about it with friends because it's so personal. I wasn't obsessed with it as much as in love with it. Later on he continued his "day" saga with Day I Forgot and Nightcrawler, neither of which I was able to get into as much as the first one but there were still exceptional standouts that move me every time I hear them. One of which is Crystal Village. I hadn't seen the music video until this week and I'm really disappointed in myself for that. It is exactly the video I would make if I were a musician. Other than writing about music, my second favorite topic is attraction and this is exactly what the song deals with on a sincere, human level.

Following that is a great song off his musicforthemorningafter - Life on a Chain. Not too much to say about the video but so much to say about his lyrics and the way he OWNS the song with that sad, battered, yet happily not whiny (aka Conor Oberst) voice.

Houses of the Holy

Let me first profess my guilt: I should be doing a lot of other stuff right now other than writing about music. I have a lot of things to think about, money to be making, work to be completing - but the only thing that matters to me right now is this album. Or rather: it is the only thing that makes sense to me.

Houses of the Holy is without a doubt the greatest fifth album a band has ever put out, let alone one of the greatest albums of all time in general. This incredible album opens with The Song Remains the Same, a song I appreciate although I'm never too fond of songs over five minutes. The intense excitement for me starts with the third song on Side One. From that song - Over the Hills and Far Away - to the end of the album, it captures my entire being and makes me forget everything I'm constantly worried about. Led Zeppelin really has the ability to transcend people, even still in 2009. They are undeniable.

I have to explain that D'yer Mak'er, Zeppelin's ode to reggae, is one of my favorite songs and one those songs specifically that makes me feel something. I know it came about more as a joke than anything (with a play on the word "Jamaica") but they captured something in that song that is as sexy as it is inspiring. No matter where I am when it comes on, I want to dance, I want to think, I want to smile - I want to be alive. I can't imagine what more a song is supposed to do than that.

Recently, I discovered The Crunge or maybe I should say I discovered that I love it almost as much as D'yer Mak'er. This too is a song that allows the band to do a play on a specific musical genre, this time funk in the James Brown style, but to me it sounds like a style all its own. Unfortunately, it seems that this incredibly unique, over the top creative song hasn't gotten the credit in musical history that it rightfully deserves. I tried for a half hour to find a video or some type of clip of it on the internet to add to this post and came up empty handed. Why? I even went on Last.Fm, one of my favorite sites, to see if the page dedicated to the song had anything extra I could add to this and found that several people admitted hatred for it. I suggest these people stop listening to music. The crazy funk and the infamous "where's the bridge?" references make this song undeniably Zeppelin in the sense that it has so much soul and mischief but uncharacteristic and special in the way that it's not really "rock". If Led Zeppelin is responsible for bringing heavy metal to mainstream than they're also responsible for bringing experimentation and ingenuity to mainstream rock singles. Robert Plant's voice, already god-like in so many ways, does an Otis Redding-like imitation in my opinion. It's simply and wonderfully different.

To even get into the brilliance that is Dancing Days, the opener of Side Two, is to open a can of worms that doesn't really end. Dancing Days is an absolute, uncompromising masterpiece that probably only comes around once every 20 years. It is mentioned on the Wikipedia page for this song that the band themselves danced on the lawn after the completion of this track - so proud of their success. Naturally, I don't know if this is true but it sounds about right. I could listen to this everyday for the next year and probably find something new each time. It's like a really good movie - but getting my head around the fact that they can do all that just audibly is magic.

If you haven't heard this album in its entirety, check it out. If you haven't heard it in a while, please revisit and fall in love all over again.

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20 April 2009

This Plant Can Get You High Too..

Another thing I love: Led Zeppelin.

You will be a better person if you watch this video. Communication Breakdown with a taste of D'yer Mak'er (pronounced "Jamaica").

I want to do an entire post dedicated to Robert Plant's fashion style later on.

Bang the Drum

I feel like I'm going through a musical dry spell. I haven't really come across any good music in some time and that's really disappointing as I'm typically an ambassador for new artists. I can't stand when people say ignorant things like "music has died" or "they'll never have another band like (insert any classic artist here)".

How could that be true?

Any honest music lover will tell you that a huge part of loving the music is embracing the new parts of it otherwise it's a dead art and we certainly know that isn't true. We're not talking about sculpture - kidding.

I am going through a strange time right now where I'm unable to be on the computer for very long due to an ulcer in my right eye. I haven't felt like going on iTunes, listening to music, or really even getting out of bed. The things I have managed to do though all pertain to music in someway. Let me create a list:

1. The day after I was diagnosed with this strange, very uncomfortable problem, I told myself that I couldn't let my Felice Brothers concert tickets go to waste and as I have a serious problem with scalping tickets, I went. Turns out the bright, creepy lights of Webster Hall were a little too much for me and I couldn't even have any alcohol to brace myself (the cruel work of antibiotics) so we left. I am usually the first person in line at a general admission concert and didn't even care that we got there right as the main act was coming on! I didn't even care to check out the merchandise table ... okay, that's sort of a lie but I barely glanced. I didn't even care to check out the venue further than the nearest seat since 1. I had never been to Webster Hall before and 2. I couldn't stand up without crying so it was impossible. I became jealous of girls in hipster cowboy boots doing mock rodeo dances in front of me and started grumbling something about how all these stupid young guys with glasses are only getting laid because of Woody Allen's effect on New York culture. The entire evening was grotesque... to say the most.

2. On the third day of this diagnosis I managed to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and go to my place of employment: a concert venue. There I sat in a box for five hours and watched 30 Rock while trying to get drops in my eyes for the first time in over two decades of being alive. It was unpleasant. I had to put sunglasses over my real glasses (hugely nerdy) and got a comment from a customer that he thought I was "trying to be cool" by doing it. I explained that nothing I do could ever be considered cool and managed to ramble enough to the point that he not only believed me but didn't say goodbye. I think he was buying a solo ticket to Amon Amarth though so he can be forgiven. He obviously leads a sad life. (kidding again)

3. Yesterday, fourth day if you're counting, I attended work once more during a nine band concert with the glorious headlining act of Napalm Death. Let me go off quickly and say I'm a huge John Mayer fan, I like sad, slow songs, I watch American Idol... and where do I work? A place where some of our recent headlining acts have included such novelty names as "Suicidal Tendencies", "Theory of a Deadman", "Deathlok", and I can't even remember what else... maybe Dead People, Tombstone Terrors, Rotting Corpses.. and also David Archuleta. All nonsensical music choices aside, it is the best venue in the world - I've never seen a more dedicated group of people in one place - it's infectous. BUT, getting back to the real story: With an ulcer in my eye I sat through nine death metal bands and generally I was okay. Why? Because these people were creating happiness with their musical sounds. Music just makes people happy. That's all.

4. Now that brings us to today. I have another eye appointment, I still feel like I'm going blind, and the one thing - other than searching for photographs of my incredibly hot, Latin professor - that has brought me to the computer is to write about music. I miss it. I needed to watch a youtube video of The National or see if any good concerts went on sale. I needed to see this blog! I love writing about music - and I'm high on a lot of good drugs right now so that must be the truth.

Strangers: If you're reading this for the first time, tell me who your favorite artists are. Although I pretend to understand when people use lines like, "Oh I have too many, I can't even name one" - I secretly think they're either embarrassed of listening to too much Barry Manilow or they don't like music at all and are afraid of being stoned to death if they admit it.

Shout from the top of your lungs like me: I LOVE JOHN MAYER. I LOVE THE NATIONAL. I LOVE TOM PETTY.

That's admittance of loving a gigantic jerk, a pompous indie band that copies sounds, and an old pothead. But that just makes them even more fantastic. My ears are their own people, they love what they love. Just like the people who see Napalm Death. It's all relative and WE are all relative - we all love music.

I also love big drum sounds. Drums thrill me.

13 April 2009

Top 51 Favorite Songs: A Work in Progress

I have posted this list on two other blogs and now comes this one. It's nice I'm posting it here last since that must mean this blog matters most to me - which it does - even if no one reads it but me. I hold the dream of an audience.

I've gotten some feedback that this list is a little.. "old school". While it is true that I'm younger than most of these songs, these are the ones I grew up listening to - I have known them the longest. And of course, in most cases there's a reason a song becomes "classic." I tried to eliminate new songs I recently started loving because I'm not sure of their longevity in my life and I can't vouch for them as much as the oldies just yet. Naturally, a few snuck in anyhow (Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne, Pete Yorn, etc).

All songs are interchangeable as far as spot on the list and may I say one more time: This is very much a work in progress. This is just what I've heard in my life so far. Also, I'm now considering making a list of just new favorites. That could be even more difficult.

Please enjoy and genuinely check out these spectacular songs. I live to hear them.

Chicago - Beginnings
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - I Need to Know
Led Zeppelin - D'yer Mak'er
John Mayer - Covered in Rain
George Harrison - Got my Mind Set on You
Red Hot Chili Peppers -Under the Bridge
Dave Matthews Band - Satellite
Marvin Gaye - Ain't That Peculiar
The Zombies - Tell Her No
Howie Day - Morning After
Tom Petty - Square One
Todd Rundgren - I Saw the Light
Jackson Browne - Doctor My Eyes
Otis Redding - Hard to Handle
Cold War Kids - Hang Me Up to Dry
Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel
Barbara Lewis - Hello Stranger
The Rascals - I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
The Spinners - I'll Be Around
Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere
The Kinks - Strangers
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Breakdown
The Who - Postcard
Radiohead - Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Bob Dylan - I Threw it All Away
John Lennon - Watching the Wheels
Pete Yorn - For Us
Buddy Holly - It Doesn't Matter Anymore
The Guess Who - Undun
The Beatles - Twist and Shout
Faces - Ooh La La
Ray LaMontagne - Forever My Friend
Frank Sinatra - Glad to Be Unhappy
Lou Reed - Vicious
Tom Petty - You Don't Know How it Feels
Amos Lee - Seen it All Before
Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind
Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time
The National - Secret Meeting
Pharrell - Frontin'
The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
Lovin' Spoonful - Summer in the City
The Band - Up on Cripple Creek
Chet Baker - Let's Get Lost
Etta James
- Sunday Kind of Love
John Frusciante - Song to Sing When I'm Lonely
Ari Hest - Sleep Tonight
Hall & Oates- I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)

12 April 2009

Lost Vs. Clarity

One of my favorite Coldplay songs mixed with one of my favorite JM songs.

11 April 2009


I couldn't mention Chicago in the last post because it was too important. This is MY BAND. There is no band on earth that compares. Speaking of nostalgia: When I was a baby I couldn't fall asleep unless they were playing. I have seen them in concert every year since I was six years old and if anything, they just continue to get better. I wrote Robert Lamm love letter for probably a quarter of my life and couldn't survive without the song "Beginnings". If you have not heard this band, LISTEN! You will be doing yourself a tremendous service. I have yet to understand why they are not as popular today as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, etc. - they are just as good. Here's a little Wikipedia-style background on them and some youtube fun too.

Chicago's Heyday

The band's popularity exploded with the release of their second album, another double-LP set, which included several top-40 hits. This second album, titled Chicago (also known as Chicago II), was the group's breakthrough album. The centerpiece track was a thirteen-minute suite composed by James Pankow called "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" (the structure of this suite was inspired by Pankow's love for classical music). The suite yielded two top ten hits, the crescendo-filled "Make Me Smile" and prom-ready ballad "Colour My World", both sung by Terry Kath. Among the other popular tracks on the album: Terry Kath's dynamic but cryptic wah-wah-buttressed "25 or 6 to 4" (a reference to a songwriter trying to write at 25 or 26 minutes to 4 in the morning, sung by Cetera), and the lengthy war protest song "It Better End Soon." The band recorded and released music at a rate of at least one disc per year from their third album in 1971 on through the 1970s. During this period, the group's album titles invariably consisted of the band's name followed by a Roman numeral indicating the album's sequence in the group's canon, a naming pattern that lent an encyclopedic aura to the band's work. (The two exceptions to this scheme were the band's fourth album, a live boxed set entitled Chicago at Carnegie Hall and their twelfth album Hot Streets. While the live album itself did not bear a number, each of the four discs within the set was numbered Volumes I through IV.) The distinctive Chicago logo was designed by Nick Fasciano (bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Coca-Cola logo) and has graced every album cover in one form or another; as an American flag on III, a piece of wood on V, a dollar (or U.S. currency) bill on VI, a Cardinal on VIII, a Hershey bar on X, a computer silicon chip on 16, and mosaic on 18 being among the examples.

In 1971, Chicago released the ambitious quadruple-album live set, Chicago at Carnegie Hall Volumes I, II, III, and IV, consisting of live performances, mostly of music from their first three albums, from a week-long run at the famous venue (along with the James Gang and Led Zeppelin in 1969, one of the few rock bands to play the historic concert hall since the Beatles performed there on February 12, 1964). The performances and sound quality were judged sub-par; in fact, trombonist James Pankow went on record to say that "the horn section sounded like kazoos." The packaging of the album also contained some rather strident political messaging about how "We [youth] can change The System," including massive wall posters and voter registration information. Nevertheless, Chicago at Carnegie Hall went on to become the best-selling box set by a rock act, and held that distinction for 15 years.

The group bounced back in 1972 with their first single-disc release, Chicago V, a diverse set that reached number one on both the Billboard pop and jazz albums charts and yielded the Robert Lamm-composed-and-sung radio hit and perennial fan favorite "Saturday in the Park", which mixed everyday life and political yearning in a more subtle way. Chicago would long open their concerts with the hit song.

In 1973, the group's manager, Guercio, produced and directed Electra Glide in Blue, a movie about an Arizona motorcycle policeman. The movie starred Robert Blake, and featured Cetera, Kath, Loughnane, and Parazaider in supporting roles. The group also appeared prominently on the movie's soundtrack.

Other successful albums and singles followed in each of the succeeding years. 1973's Chicago VI topped the charts buoyed by the hits "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and "Just You 'N' Me" and it was also the first of several albums to include Brazilian jazz percussionist Laudir de Oliveira. Chicago VII, the band's double-disc 1974 release, featured the Cetera-composed "Wishing You Were Here", sung by Terry Kath and Cetera with background vocals by Cetera and The Beach Boys and some fusion jazz. Chicago VII also provided one of the group's enduring signature tunes, the anthemic "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long," which started with as a soft ballad and culminated in a hard-rock conclusion featuring Terry Kath's electric guitar soloing against the Chicago horn section and a soaring string arrangement by Jimmie Haskell. "Happy Man," another song from Chicago VII, was also a popular favorite on FM radio, was a big hit in South America and subsequently covered by Tony Orlando and Dawn on their album To Be With You. Their 1975 release, Chicago VIII, featured the political allegory "Harry Truman" and the nostalgic Pankow-composed "Old Days". That summer also saw a very successful joint tour across America with The Beach Boys, with both acts performing separately, then coming together for a rousing finale. The tour was considered one of the highest grossing in rock music up to that time.

Chicago gave a concert in Mèxico City in 1975 at the Auditorio Nacional which was highly appreciated by the attendants in spite of the fact that the Mexican press later reviewed it not as one of the band’s better performances, presumably for the band not being 'in the best of shape'. The tickets for the concert sold so fast that thousands of people were not able to get in, so Terry Kath asked those inside to applaud for those standing outside. Carmen Romano de Lòpez Portillo, the wife of Mèxico's then-President Josè Lòpez Portillo, is said to have been among the attendants in the first row.[citation needed]

But for all their effort, none of their singles went to number one until Chicago X in 1976, when Cetera's slow, exquisite ballad "If You Leave Me Now" climbed to the top of the charts. The song also won Chicago their only Grammy award, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 1977. Ironically, the tune almost did not make the cut for the album; "If You Leave Me Now" was recorded at the very last minute. The huge success of the song would foreshadow a later reliance on ballads that would typecast the group on radio, despite the presence of mellower songs on all the previous albums. The group's 1977 release, Chicago XI, was another big success for the band; it included Cetera's hit ballad "Baby, What a Big Surprise" which became one of the group's last big hits of the decade.

Chicago Today

Despite the personnel changes over the years, the group still keeps active four decades after its founding. They are one of the few major rock groups that has never broken up or even taken an extended hiatus. And four of the six surviving founding members (major songwriters Lamm and Pankow, plus Loughnane and Parazaider) remain to this day providing continuity, while Bill Champlin has put in over 25 years with the band, Jason Scheff over 20, Tris Imboden over 15 and Keith Howland has logged over 13.

As a new century turned, the band licensed their entire recorded output to Rhino Records (after years with Columbia Records and Warner Brothers as well as their own short-lived label). In 2002, Rhino released a two-disc compilation, The Very Best of Chicago: Only The Beginning, which spans the band's entire career. The compilation made the Top 40 and sold over 2 million copies in the US. Rhino has also begun releasing remastered versions of all of the band's Columbia albums, each including several bonus tracks; and in 2005 they released a compilation entitled Love Songs.

Chicago continues to appear in big and small venues worldwide. In 2004–2005 they toured jointly with the band Earth, Wind & Fire; a DVD recorded during that tour, Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire - Live at the Greek Theatre, was certified platinum just two months after its release.

In 2006 the group released their first all-new studio album since Twenty 1, entitled Chicago XXX, on March 21, 2006. Two songs from this album, "Feel" and "Caroline" were performed live during Chicago's Fall 2005 tour; the studio recording of "Feel" debuted on WPLJ radio in New York in November 2005. "Feel" was the first single released from the new album. Curiously, the album contains two versions of the song; one with horns and an orchestral tag that echoes "Love Me Tomorrow," and another non-brass version. This could be seen rather strange for a band whose legacy is tied to their horn section. "Love Will Come Back" was the second single released from XXX. The album was produced by Rascal Flatts bassist Jay Demarcus, who is a friend of Chicago bassist Jason Scheff. Seven of the 12 tracks on XXX were co-written by Scheff, and the album included a large roster of guest musicians, supplanting band members in many cases.

While Chicago XXX did manage to debut at No. 41 on the US album chart besting some other weaker entries including Chicago XIV (July 1980) which hit US #71 and Twenty 1 (January 1991) which topped out at only US #66, it only remained in the top 200 for two weeks before limping off the chart.

During March 2006, Chicago made a multi-week appearance at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, which was repeated in May of the same year. In July 2006, the band made a series of US appearances with Huey Lewis and the News. Highlights of that tour included Chicago's Bill Champlin performing with Huey Lewis and the News on a couple of songs, members of Huey Lewis and the News contributing to Chicago's percussion-laden song, "I'm a Man," and Huey Lewis singing the lead vocal on Chicago's "Colour My World."

In early 2006, original drummer Danny Seraphine formed California Transit Authority, who play many of the older Chicago songs.

At the end of 2006, the band played at CD USA's New Year's Eve party on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Chicago toured the summer of 2007 with the band America. On October 2, 2007, Rhino Records released the two-disc The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition, a new greatest hits compilation spanning their entire forty years, similar to The Very Best of: Only the Beginning, released four years earlier.

June 17, 2008, saw the official release of the dynamic Stone of Sisyphus album by Rhino Records, recorded in 1993 and which had been originally slated for a March 1994 release until being shelved by Warner Records. The album contains eleven of the original twelve tracks (the raucous "Get on This" was left off), plus four demo recordings. Its official title is "Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus" (it was originally slated to be album #22). Summer of 2008 also included multiple European tour dates (with members of the horn section missing at various times), something the band had avoided for many years. This trend of fill-in players has continued into 2009, with Lamm sometimes the only original member on stage. As Chicago has existed as a "faceless" band for years, the lack of original members may not concern the audience like it would with another long-lived band such as the Rolling Stones and high-profile members like Mick Jagger.

In 2009 they will reunite with Earth, Wind and Fire for yet another joint tour.[4]

An Old Time Memory

I feel the need to show some love to semi-forgotten bands from my childhood today. I've been listening to an exorbitant amount of Alien Ant Farm lately and it always throws me off when I'm playing it in the car and someone says something like, "I remember them. I used to love them!" Why did you stop listening to them then? It's funny how you can truly love an artist and for some inexplicable reason let them slip through your fingers... or ears.

Naturally, I can understand how certain songs or even entire bands bring back so many memories from a certain time that you can't stand to listen to them anymore but personally, I've always been a gigantic nostalgia fan. When my mother brings out the albums with mold and dust on them, it always turns out to be a good day. She tells me stories of how she used to sit in her bedroom listening to Buffalo Springfield Again for hours and tape up the Tom Petty record inserts on her walls. It makes her seem more human. Music is the most human thing on earth.

For me, other than the oldies bands my family was listening to, it was bands like Incubus, Mest, Eve 6, Mindless Self Indulgence... that was in the early teens and mostly because my best friend was into them. Then came my obsession with Everclear that hasn't gone away as much as metamorphosized into a distant love. Of course before that there was Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul, my crush on Frankie Valli, and much later the neverending saga of singer/songwriters like Jason Mraz and John Mayer - a man I once had to wait in general admission lines for five hours in Baltimore to see (we won't even discuss Britney Spears or *NSYNC - luckily that died fast and never went to ugly extremes like 98 Degrees).

I work at a venue where forgotten artists like Third Eye Blind, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Breeders, and Toadies get love and where a band like Hanson has fans waiting in tents the night before. Naysayers be damned - It just goes to show that the old adage: "There's someone for everyone" is absolutely true.

Some of my old-time favorites:

Alien Ant Farm - Attitude. Still one of my favorite songs..

Incubus - Echo. Absolutely beautiful.

Paula Abdul - Cold Hearted Snake. This really brought back memories! She's just fantastic.

08 April 2009

This is Not Cool Enough

There are 12 year old boys who update their music blogs more than me with interesting photographs, insights on bands that dismantled 30 years before they were even a thought in their mother's brain, and funny anecdotes about The Cure or Tears for Fears. I, on the other hand, mope around all day, buy expensive shoes that only get beer spilled on them, and watch way too much Keeping up With the Kardashians, which should be a punishable crime.

I still constantly listen to music but my highest musical opinions are saved for Adam Lambert and Matt Giraud, two names you may be familiar with from a little indie show called American Idol. I drool over the thought of Simon and Paula finally getting together - since let's be honest, they are practically sucking face the entire time anyway - and I wait with over the top excitement during each commercial break to hear the next contestant's crazy song choice. Recently, my anticipation has become so much that I scour the Internet several hours before show time for the "spoilers" and scan them with wonder hoping that Lil Rounds isn't really crazy enough to do a Tina Turner song from the '80s. Of course she is and it turns out just as expected - karaokalicious.

You know, say what you want about their performances, since any performer gives less than stellar ones at some point, but at least be willing to hear their iTunes studio versions of these songs. Adam Lambert is always sweeter, Danny is always raspier, and Matt is always sexier. They really - vocally - do an excellent job with these renditions and it's a shame everyone doesn't know about this. Typically, these recordings are available Wednesday night or Thursday morning and for 0.99 I'm sure it's worth it to some die hard fans to get some of the first recordings these up and comings stars have ever made. I'm going a little overboard here since obviously we'll never hear about 99% of these contestants for the rest of our lives but people like Adam Lambert, Alison Young-Girl, and possibly Matt Giraud, have futures. Particularly Adam and Alison - they're rare finds. I can live without every single other person on the entire show though and personally, none compare to Michael Johns, the 8th place contestant from season 7. Speaking of which, his single is available on iTunes this Tuesday and sounds really promising. Produced by John Shanks whose worked with the likes of Sting and Jon Bon Jovi, I hear it hearkens back to a Joe Cocker sound and I'm okay with that. It could be great for all I know.

My weather prediction for tonight: A strong chance of Kris Allen tears with a gust of the judges' save that may or may not turn into severe stormy weather.

In the meantime, enjoy Adam Lambert's prior musical endeavors..