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World Peace Is None Of Your Business
World Peace Is None Of Your Business
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5.0 out of 5 stars PROTEST SINGER, July 23, 2014
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I admit it I just couldn't get into it at first, but kept it on in the background and before long I couldn't take it off. Give it a chance to spread it's wings before taking flight, setting it's sights and sinking it's claws in you.

A certain line from The Smiths' Shakespeare Sister can't help but come to mind: " I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar then that meant that you were a protest singer". And has Morrissey been anything else? Granted one full of more bile, anger, disgust and outrage than Phil Ochs or Pete Seeger. And instead of screaming at you like Rage Against the Machine, he uses Irony, Sarcasm, Wit and Humor. Much like Woody Guthrie albeit in a defiantly veddy, veddy British way.

The first track begins with war drums and ends with the sound of boots marching. In between lies a song that melodically touches on a 50's teen sock hop balladry despite some driving guitar breaks. Lyrically, he not only mocks those who sit apathetically by on the sidelines but those naïve idealists all too eager to rush to the frontlines. Perversely and secretly cheering them on from the sidelines, of course.

Neal Cassidy Drops Dead begs the question: "Victim or Life's Adventurer, which of the two are you"? And I suppose that's whole thesis behind this essay of an album. Underscored by some unanticipated flamenco guitar I might add. I'm Not A Man is the album's most epic track and gleefully mocks and taunts the clichéd demands of manhood before erupting in a series of shrill, bloodcurdling screams. Musically, Earth Is The Loneliest Planet tours Brazil, another unexpected turn on a vital album full of taking the piss and passing the vinegar.

Staircase at the University is the closest this album gets to a vintage Smiths song. A winning combination of tragedy, humor and pathos. Not to mention one helluva fiery acoustic guitar solo in the middle. My vote for best song on the album. As the song says, "If it breaks your legs well then don't come running to me".

If Istanbul, Bullfighter Dies and the infectious Kiss Me A Lot seem like they're killing time for something bigger and better to come along, it does.The haunting, sparse Smiler With A Knife is another album standout and classic Morrissey. Kick the Bride Down the Aisle is as scathing as it gets, an epistle to feminism that is guaranteed to bring accusations of misogyny from the reactionary and dull witted. Mountjoy can only refer to the infamous Irish prison with it's references to Brendan Behan and the "many executed here by the awfully lawfully Good". "Rich or Poor we all lose". A protest song if I ever heard one and one of the most powerful statements on the album. Oboe Concerto ends things on a playful note with " there's a song I can't stand and it's stuck in my head".

And let's not forget the band. Credit is due to them for reaching outside the box making World Peace the most musically diverse yet hardest driving Morrissey album in ages. And yes, he will continue to bemoan and protest and sing the same song over and over ad nauseam because The World Won't Listen. And if you're in on the joke, he's all too keenly aware and poking fun of that very fact. As the cover goes to show you can't teach an old dog new tricks let alone how to write it's name with a fountain pen.

While I'm more of a frustrated Smiths fan than Morrissey fan, I've stuck with him for better or worse. His albums always boast a memorable single or two but can also be pretty hit or miss. Based off years of eavesdropping, I think World Peace ranks as one of his strongest solo albums. So 5 stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 24, 2014 5:11 AM PDT

Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues
Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues
by James Fearnley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.68
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Drugs, Shamrock & Roll, July 17, 2014
James Fearnley is the last member of the Pogues I'd expect a memoir from. Onstage, he's hardly the scholarly type. A formidable yet a boundlessly effusive performer wielding his accordion as if it were a thing possessed. I'd expect this more from the laid back likes of Jem Finer or the late, Philip Chevron. While he wrote nor sang no songs, Fearnley is a versatile musician who's contributions extend well beyond that of the accordion. That's his piano playing at the top of "Fairytale of New York". But who knew the man has such serious chops as a writer? He seriously does and he tells this mad tale with the right mix of aplomb, wit, honesty and introspection.

Apparently writing the great English novel was his plan before The Pogues so rudely interrupted. Along the way, Fearnley copiously and faithfully kept journals which explains the vividness and immediacy herein. Something missing from so many Rock bios or ghost written memoirs. You really feel like you are there in the moment with the band. And Fearnley is your guide. And most self-deprecatingly, your imperfect protagonist.

It's definitely warts and all from Fearnley's foibles and insecurities to Shane's kaolin & morphine halitosis to Philip Chevron's persistently unwanted, yet sympathetically portrayed sexual advances. Despite any member's short coming's there is a respect and love that is undeniable. As Fearnley points out this is not only a band but a family. In fact, I was brought to tears 50 pages in. But won't give away why.

The cast of characters are as priceless as they're human. Cait is as vulnerable as she's hell on wheels. Jem gets his hands dirty as much as he's distant. Truly an anchor or at the rudder whenever the stormy seas required it. Without Finer one wonders if there ever would be a band in the first place. And no slouch in the songwriting department. Clearly Fearnley holds him in high esteem.

Despite his encyclopedic mind, Spider is at times irreverent wit, fool and downright gent in between serious hangovers and binges. Philip struggles with alcoholism and poor health yet holds his own in addition to writing some of their most beloved songs. Andrew Rankin, bass of voice, formidable of hand and kind of heart longs to sit down like other drummers. Terry Woods lends more than cred, talent and integrity to the proceedings. And Darryl Hunt who unassumingly went from driver to roadie to bass player kept the group afloat on one too many occasions to mention. Truly an unsung hero.

And of course, there's Shane. Read and ye shall be rewarded. It seems Fearnley knew him the longest and his feelings run the gambit from bemusement to friendship to love to devotion and awe before eclipsing into disappointment, anger, fear and loathing. At one point he confesses, "a stable perception was never reachable as to whether Shane was a genius or a f***g idiot".Or perhaps Icarus can only fly so close to the sun. And if you want to know what it was like Shedding a Tear for Lord Nelson on the side of the road with a drunken Shane, Fearnely can intimately enlighten you on the perils. Regardless, his love and respect of the man is palpable.

Some reviewers will give Fearnley some flack for his Thesaurus use but let's face it, this is one of the most well written Rock bios on the market. Something tells me Fearnley has a novel up his sleeve and at times his prose touches on that territory.

Like their music, The Pogues were a roller coaster ride with no one minding the breaks. And for all the Drugs, Sex, Shamrock & Roll, this memoir gives all those clichés a sock in the eye in perfect Pogues style before succumbing to them. Along the way there are artistic epiphanies, petty feuds, Love and a mind boggling amount of booze. And if you've ever done any touring, Fearnley perfectly captures the monotony and exhaustion of being on the road in unflinching, intimate detail. If you are a Pogues fan this is the best record on their rise & fall. If not a fan, it's still a damn good compelling read.

Thank you Mr. Fearnley.

The River in Reverse
The River in Reverse
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4.0 out of 5 stars LOOKING BACK IN REVERSE, June 30, 2014
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
Every Costello fanatic will tell you it's genius and those who love his 1st 3 albums will tell you it's crap. I definitely fall into the long time fan category, perhaps too much of a scholar for my own good. So am well aware his aim can be just as haphazard as true since ditching The Attractions. This came out in 2006 and at the time I blew it off. I saw him play the title track on Letterman and figured I'd pass. While I've appreciated Toussaint for years, had the sense this would be "For The Birds" like his collaborations with Sophie Von Otter and Burt Bacharach. Well, looking back and giving this a second glace, it's not perfect but, but has more than a few deep cuts to commend it.

As Get Happy and 2013's Wise Up Ghost go to show, R & B has always suited Costello far better than his attempts at Country and Music Hall pastiche. And Reverse is no exception, while admittedly not as strong as either Happy or Ghost.

Despite being a ballad, "The Sharpest Thorn" has a distinct Costello bite while shedding a tear at the same time. In addition to keeping an eye on the big picture socially speaking. In other words, pure Costello. But his covers of Toussaint's, " For The Stallion" and "All These Things" are the true stand outs. He not only tips his hat to Toussaint's mastery but also pays him the compliment of being restlessly signature and original. Both are stunning. The catchy "International Echo" is pure collaboration. A song that could be about the professional pitfalls both artist's have shared. Or any artist. The more socially conscious, "Broken Promised Land" is another album highlight in the same vein.

Without a doubt the shadow of Hurricane Katrina is all over this album and this is not only a tribute to Toussaint's formidable but nationally underappreciated talents but also to the Crescent City where Toussaint made his name. As for Costello, in terms of output, he could never be accused of being miserly but over generous. While this isn't a mind blowing classic, it does has the wit and passion one expects from both names above the title. In terms of Costello's 21st Century output I would rank 2002's When I Was Cruel and the aforementioned, Wise Up Ghost as his strongest. But owing to their deep cuts, 2nd place goes to the flawed likes of this and 2010's National Ransom.

Bruce Joyner and The Unknowns
Bruce Joyner and The Unknowns
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREAT UNKNOWN, June 18, 2014
Along with The Gun Club, Blasters and X, The Unknowns were a fixture of the now fabled LA Punk Scene. Like all those bands, they knew "Punk" was just good old fashioned Rock & Roll with a "tude" and a different dress code.

Singer- Songwriter Bruce Joyner could howl with feral intensity yet had David Byrne's mix of quirky humor and insightful satire. He could also croon like the big O when he wanted to . Guitarist Mark Neil played like it was 1957. The Beatles and Hendrix never happened. It was more Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, James Burton,Dick Dale and Link Wray. Combining, Rockabilly & Surf and even Reggae the Unknowns had a sense of menace that fell on same dark side of the street The Cramps haunted.

"Pull My Train" is a raging onslaught of pure adolescent lust and angst. "Crime Wave", "The Streets", and "City of Angels" are Noir cityscapes seething with psycho sexual paranoia. "Rat Race" mixes Surf and Ska and takes a vacation in the sun from the all the mania and hullaballoo. For an encore, they end it all by inventing their own furiously demented dance craze, "The Bounce". As for the generous assortment of demos, lost tracks like "Suzzanne", "Dream Sequence" and the rabid "Teenage Crush" hint at what could have been if Joyner and the Unknowns managed to stay together beyond their scant 2 year existence. But what a 2 years it was.

While they lived up to their moniker in the USA, The Unknowns made much more of a splash in France and Europe. Joyner has since gone on to a prolific, if far too underrated solo career . While bands like White Stripes managed to break through using the same formula, a whole host never did but still retained an underground cult following. Among them Flat Duo Jets, The Gories and yes, The Unknowns.

And as one kind reviewer mentioned you can find this at a far more reasonable price ($10) on the Bomp records website. And they ship fast. The sellers here are just out to rip you off, knowing damn well you can't get this on iTunes or anywhere else. If you're a fan of any of the bands I mentioned do not hesitate.

Get Together
Get Together
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOT TOGETHER, May 11, 2014
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This review is from: Get Together (Audio CD)
Dino Valente's eponymous 1968 solo album has gathered a cult following over the years. It's heavily reverbed 12 string and vocals lending mystery to one of the most enigmatic performers ever to emerge from the 60's Village Folk boom. His real name was Chester Powers Jr. and if Dylan jokingly claimed to be raised by Circus Folk, Powers aka Valente was.

These tapes have been lost for years and in many ways they equal if not surpass Valente's debut. The Youngbloods scored a massive hit with Valente's "Get Together", a song that would become an anthem for The Summer of Love. But herein lies Valente's original demo and its far more jaded and passionate than what you've heard before. Full of hope and yet conflicted with cynicism, lending the song so much more depth and edge than the Youngbloods' version.

"One Thousand Miles and Hour" follows and should have been a hit. "Ain't that A Shame" is an epic cry of despair gathering intensity as it proceeds, clocking in at nearly 10 minutes. "Silver Dagger" (aka 'Fair & Tender Ladies") was an ubiquitous Folk standard in the 60's Folk boom. Valente's version goes to show how truly unique he was. His takes on Smokey Robinson's "I'll Try Something New" and Greg Allman's "Midnight Rider" are equally signature. Perhaps the centerpiece on here is the haunting 13 minute, "Country Fair". It's quite possibly the most autobiographical song on here, detailing life on the Carny circuit. Can't believe this never saw the light of day.

If ever there were a great, long lost Folk album, this would be it. Except it really isn't an album all but a glimpse of what could have been. A dusty box in the attic, filled with forgotten gems.

Dino Valente
Dino Valente
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4.0 out of 5 stars ASTRAL SALAD DAYS, April 30, 2014
This review is from: Dino Valente (Vinyl)
Dino Valente was a mysterious figure on the fabled 60's Village Folk scene. Toss him in among Fred Neil, Jackson C. Frank and Karen Dalton in terms of making an impact but never achieving the level of fame Dylan did. That said, his song "Get Together" (not on here) was a major hit for the Youngbloods and became a Flower Power standard.

By popular report, Valente's real name was Chester "Chet" Powers Jr. He was also known as Jesse Orris Farrow. Despite, "Get Together" and his tenure in Quicksilver Messenger Service, Dino Valente remains as enigmatic the music on this album. While some have called Valente the "Underground Dylan", one listen and he's nothing like Dylan. The vibe here is more akin to Astral Weeks. And one can't help but wonder if a post Them Van Morrison didn't stumble across Valente in some smoky coffee house during his trips to New York. Richie Havens has gone on record citing Valente as a major influence and one can certainly hear Valente left quite an impression on a young Tim Buckley.

Dino, whoever he was, had a serious ear for Jazz, Folk, Classical and Pop not to mention incredible phrasing as a vocalist. He also clearly smoked a ton of weed. Seems Music not stardom was on his agenda when he cut this album. Yet, while his lyrics and structures might appear stream of conscious, there is a disciplined Brill Building sense of craft at work. As he says in the album's original liner notes, " I want my songs to have a little madness in them". If this album has never seen it's due, it's owing to it's introspection and uniqueness. Like Tom Waits' Closing Time, or Tim Hardin's best recordings, it plays to an audience of one. And that one is clearly a pretty lady. If Dylan was concerned with sociopolitical issues early on, Valente was all about the ladies. A bedsit Casanova and opposed to Woody Guthrie.

But have to say, "Me And My Uncle" is as pissed and outraged as any protest song of the period. Maybe even a shade darker than most. A major highlight can be found in the 7 minute "Children Of The Sun", which is as scathing as Dylan's "Ballad Of Thin Man" yet as romantic as "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". "Tomorrow" is another standout with it's refrain, "When you say tomorrow, I wonder when that will be, when you are sharing this magic moment with me". "New Wind Blowing" is the opposite of "Blown' In the Wind" with it's "the last rose has blown and the leaves are flying". "New Wind" especially brings 90's Indie luminary, the late Vic Chesnutt to mind. Surely, he must have heard this album. "Everything Is Going To Be Okay" with it's doomy reverb vocals and 12 string guitar betray the title but perfectly capture that point in life when nothing is secure or certain.

While it will never jump out at you, this is a very unique album that defies any 60's Village Folk expectations. Its is passionate, defiantly introspective and genuinely eccentric. This is an album you will find if you are alone and closing the blinds. Much in the way of Leonard Cohen's early work. Along with Jackson C. Frank's recordings, this is a lost classic by a lost artist which had a ton of influence on artists and albums we have all come to love. Funny thing is, no one remembers their names. In Dino's case, seems there were many...

Soul Meets Country!
Soul Meets Country!
Price: $3.96

5.0 out of 5 stars TITLE SAYS IT ALL, March 1, 2014
This review is from: Soul Meets Country! (MP3 Music)
Deke Dickerson is known as a formidable force in Rockabilly and Surf Rock. Things formidable singer Nikki Hill is no stranger to. But here they take it all a step beyond, crossing over into classic Stax/Motown territory fusing seemingly opposing influences as keenly and effortlessly as Gram Parsons. Vocally Hill and Dickerson are in perfect harmony and simpatico. Think a Country Funk Soul answer to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Lovey Dovey with it's James Brown style horns welcomes you, and like the song says, you can't get it out of your mind. Feelings summons to mind those 70's MOR duets you'd hear on the radio on road trips in the family car. Struttin' is just that and gives the fierce talents of Hill a chance to cut loose . Lady Killa finds Deke in Funk Disco mode with The Bo Keys in fine form as they are throughout. Thematically, this one takes The Smiths' "Death of A Disco Dancer" for a spin on the dance floor Saturday Night Fever style.

What more can I say other than your speakers will thank you for spinning it. There's only so much Dark Side of the Moon they can take.

Has God Seen My Shadow: An Anthology 1989-2011
Has God Seen My Shadow: An Anthology 1989-2011
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5.0 out of 5 stars PENDULUM, February 5, 2014
Friends have been singing Mark Lanegan's praises for years. I could tell he was a helluva vocalist and songwriter but found the albums I heard a bit too claustrophobic and oppressive to get into. And often suited to a certain brooding mood, at times almost self-consciously so. In addition he's so restless and prolific, a place to begin can be an intimidating prospect.

But the point of being a Music fan, is looking for that connection. Tuning into something you missed or dismissed before hoping for that score. Every musician and listener worth their salt strives to connect on that level. Well, this 2 disc collection finally got me hooked, laying out not only Lanegan's most alluring but boasting an entire disc of jaw dropping rarities.

From Bombed Out to Halcyon Days, every song grabs you in the dark and looks you in the eye. Nothing outstays it's welcome or drags you into the undertow of self-indulgence. For me highlights include Resurrection Song, Wild Flowers, Carnival, and The River Rise. Lexington Slow Down is as aching as it gets. No gimmicks, no games. The man plays his cards straight and close to the chest. His covers of Tim Hardin's Shiloh Town and Jackson C. Frank's Blues Run The Game not only show impeccable taste but highlight Lanegan's interpretive skills. And what a voice. From a whisper to a growl, he has Wait's grit and vulnerability coupled with Cobain's sense of wounded outrage.

If the songs seem lost in some twilight after-hours reverie or stumble groggily home in the gloaming, the Pacific Northwest saturates every track. Accompanied by a keen sense of Americana tradition and reinvention. If Death, Despair and Deprivation are the Blues' 3 horses, Lanegan has learned to ride each one with recklessness grace.

Chronologically, I suppose Winding Sheet and a deep belt of Whiskey For The Holy Ghost are the logical place to start. But in terms of an introduction, this Anthology tops them both. The best from either can be found here. The one perplexing exception being his cage rattling cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night. which informed Nirvana's more famous MTV Unplugged version. Another great reason to pick up Winding Sheet. And I suppose that's the point of this anthology. To dig deeper.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2014 4:11 PM PST

Faces On My Wall
Faces On My Wall
by Jesse Wilson
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars HOLDEN CAUFIELD OF JUILLIARD, January 28, 2014
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This review is from: Faces On My Wall (Paperback)
While a work of fiction and no memoir, for this Juilliard Drama grad, Jesse Wilson's Faces on My Wall is a fairly accurate depiction of what goes on behind the walls of one of America's most prestigious Performing Arts schools. But more than that it is a moving, incredibly funny, warts and all coming of age/father and son tale.

1st year drama student Jamey Fuller has spent his high school precociously plastering his walls with his heroes. Brando. Jim Morrison. Kerouac. All of which unbeknownst to him, reveals a conflict between his Literary and Thespian aspirations. Among these heroes is his father, an established but artistically frustrated commercial film director.

Leaving his high school ghosts in LA for the certain promise of New York City, Jamey arms himself with a self-conscious Holden Caulfield sense of what is phony and what is real. Only to discover what he thought was phony is real, and what is real an illusion. As if eviscerating instructors and cut throat classmates weren't enough, matters of family, home and heart are falling apart at the seams.

In terms of the atmosphere that greets Jamey at Juilliard, class rebel, Nick Blaze observes, the 1st two years are all about fear. But Jamey eventually discovers 3rd and 4th are more about hubris. Throughout, Wilson's flawed, insecure protagonist gives one a guided tour of the Arts Training world. The highs, the lows, the pitfalls and shortcomings. Stanislavski's An Actor Prepares cannot quite prepare Jamey for the slings and arrows that Life has to throw. He may feel like Hamlet or James Dean in the rain, but that isn't quite the part on offer. Meanwhile, Henry Miller sagely gazes off in the distance from his wall, but he is of no help.

I would say this is a must read for any student in or about to enter a Performance Arts program. Be it Juilliard or any other. But beyond that Jesse Wilson has crafted an insightful and entertaining tale of disillusionment, despair and eventual acceptance. It seems some of those faces on his wall have rubbed off.

Magpie Eyes 1982-1985
Magpie Eyes 1982-1985
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5.0 out of 5 stars BORN AND DIED AT THE WRONG TIME, December 8, 2013
This review is from: Magpie Eyes 1982-1985 (Audio CD)
The 80's gave rise to a 1001 jangly bands influenced by a mix of the Byrds and Television who in turn created their own sound. Most notable being The Smiths, REM, Echo & The Bunnymen,and Felt. Post Card era Orange Juice also comes to mind. Perhaps the most unknown and forgotten is The Loft. They never made it but could possibly be the post punk English answer to Big Star in terms of their day. Chalk it up to a case of being born and dying at the wrong time. Hauntingly poetic, musically stripped down and jagged, they managed to cut bed sit musings you could tap your toe to and rock out to with lonesome abandon. For my money and obviously those at RevOla records, The Loft are one of the great bands that got away from everyone including themselves.

The opening track asks "Why Does The Rain seem to fall on me". Well based off I heard here for the first time, who would mind? The infectious rattle of "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" does just that, complete with "magpie eyes hungry for the prize". Both "Rain" and "Hill" are incredible singles who caught their fair share of buzz being one of the first bands signed and promoted by the now legendary Creation label. While The Loft never recorded an album proper, all the 10 studio tracks and singles brilliantly assembled on this collection could serve as a long lost album by a long lost band. The brooding "Your Door Shines Like Gold" begs to be let in. "Winter" may be all in the mind with its driving snow but soon you're "On A Tuesday" in the wind and the rain and it's all the same. Weather plays a big part in these songs and lead singer/songwriter Pete Astor would later form the Weather Prophets but here are the lean years finding their way, with a back stair "skeleton view" on a dead end alley. A room with the same view, wishing to wake somewhere else.

In addition to the studio work, we get a taste of what the band was like live with 3 great unofficially recorded originals and ending in a more than commendable "Up the Hill". There is not one toss off here and each cut is full of raw, DIY bittersweet abandon and longing.

Like many of their contemporaries, The Loft had the potential to be just as big as U2. "Up the Hill And Down the Slope" is an eccentric hit that should have been but never was. If they had the painful and somewhat fashionable luxury of imploding before losing their edge and charm, here it is in all it's obscure glory and beauty. The kind of well kept secret one keeps close to their heart but can't help but share.

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