The Travel Playlist

I recently took a family vacation to California and in addition to packing and making sure everyone’s assorted stuffed animals were in tow, I did the most important thing; stock the iPod with music.

This will be boring to some (most?) but to music geeks like me it’s a big deal, especially when you consider that I had to allot a sizeable chunk of my hard drive space to Cars2, and Looney Tunes videos as fall backs for when the kids simply came unhinged during the trip.

Tough decisions had to be made. Henceforth is the playlist you get:

  • 21st Century Breakdown – Green Day
  • A Different Kind of Truth – Van Halen
  • Acme – John Spencer Blues Explosion
  • Aenima – Tool
  • Albatross- Big Wreck
  • Angel Dust – Faith No More
  • Below the Belt – Danko Jones
  • Black Love – The Afghan Whigs
  • Caution – Hot Water Music
  • Choice of Weapon – The Cult
  • Collider – Sam Roberts Band
  • The Darcys – The Darcys
  • El Camino – The Black Keys
  • Electric – The Cult
  • Fantastic Planet – Failure
  • Feast or Famine – Chuck Ragan
  • Garage D’Or – Cracker
  • Gypsy Punks – Gogol Bordello
  • Harmonicraft – Torche
  • Heaven is Whenever – The Hold Steady
  • Irresistable Bliss – Soul Coughing
  • J5 – Jurassic 5
  • Jackson Square – Arkells
  • Kensington Heights – The Constantines
  • Life’s Rich Pageant – REM
  • Lights of Endangered Species – Matthew Good
  • Like Swimming – Morphine
  • Live at Leeds – The Who
  • Love and Sound – Garrett Mason
  • Morning View – Incubus
  • Move Like This – The Cars
  • Nice, Nice, Very Nice – Dan Mangan
  • Only a Lad – Oingo Boingo
  • Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin
  • The Edges of Twilight – The Tea Party
  • The Shack Up Sessions – Ross Neilsen
  • Short Bus – Filter
  • Sky Blue Sky – Wilco
  • Snakes and Arrows – Rush
  • Superunknown – Soundgarden
  • Unplugged – Alice in Chains
  • Up to Here – The Tragically Hip
  • Wasting Light – The Foo Fighters
  • White Album – The Beatles
  • With Teeth – Nine Inch Nails

Of course I may have watched some Looney Toons as well.

I just saw Led Zeppelin.

Well, the next best thing actually.

Kiers Marketing where I work sponsored the Classic Albums Live show at The Fredericton Playhouse tonight so I got to go for free. For the uninitiated, this is a group of guys who travel around performing classic rock records in their entirety, note for note. Tonight’s platter du jour was a classic for sure, Led Zeppelin III.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. I knew they weren’t ‘impersonators’ per se, I knew the lead singer wouldn’t be a shirtless, bellbottomed goldilocks that Robert Plant was, but I was also unsure of exactly what it would sound like.

Well, I tell you right now it was fucking awesome.

These guys came out and nailed it. It was unreal. Every note, every nuance, even the fuckups and false starts and ambient recording noise from the recording. All there. And talk about consumate musicians. Holy. Shit.

It sounds strange to gush so much about what is essentially a cover band, but I feel like it’s insulting to call these guys that. I have heard these tunes for years both on record and in many cases with various levels of proficiency by other musicians and cover bands, but to go there and hear and feel it live, and perfect totally blew me away.

They came out and proceeded to rip through the album Led Zeppelin III like they’d written it. All the power. All the emotion. All the skills. Right. Effin. THERE. It was nuts. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ was absolutely transcendent and gave me the chills.

I didn’t realize going in that there would be an intermission and then they were gonna come back and do a greatest hits set. Holy bonus.

Somehow, it was even better. Every lick I’d heard over the years was captured. I ended up laughing out loud and giddy in amazement of the display of guitar prowess. The guitar player nailed every Jimmy Page lick. The bow work, the Theremin. EVERYTHING. Did I mention that it was unreal?

So in closing, if you have the chance to check ’em out, I’d, uh, say, do so at whatever cost. WHATEVER COST. And thanks fellas, for the amazing show.

The lead singer closed by thanking the audience ‘for loving rock music’. Man, when you guys play it like that, how could you not.

Set list:

Set 1: Led Zeppelin III
Immigrant Song
Friends
Celebration Day
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Out on the Tiles
Gallows Pole
Tangerine
That’s the Way
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Hats Off to (Roy) Harper

Set 2: (I think this was all of ’em, not 100% sure of the sequencing)
Whole Lotta Love
Dazed and Confused – yep with the full blown bow/theramin solo
The Song Remains the Same
Lemon Song – KILLER.
Moby Dick – yep, with the monster drum solo
Heartbreaker/Livin’ Lovin’ Maid
Communication Breakdown

Encore:
Rock and Roll
How Many More Times – probably my fave of the whole night.

Juke Box Hero, with apologies to Foreigner.

I couldn’t get a ticket. It was a sold out show.

Well, really, I probably couldn’t have gotten a sitter either anyway, and it was a weeknight and I had to be up for work the next day and the headliners weren’t going on until 10:30 and that’s pretty late for me, and….

I have an acoustic guitar and have been teaching myself some chords. Isn’t that a Bryan Adams lyric? Shit.

Anyway, I can sometimes string 3 or 4 chords together into some sort of ‘song fragment’ and I’m beginning to get it now.

I understand why kids everywhere sit on their beds, banging out 3 chords thinking they’re going to take over the world. Thinking, even for a moment, that you might have created something moving and original is ridiculously empowering. Many of these kids give up or move on. Some become Joe Strummer.

I catch myself planning my world takeover tour and quitting my day job. Then I hear stuff like this. Then I remember why I’m a graphic designer.

I have a six-string. I didn’t buy it at the five-and-dime, cause they don’t exist anymore. I don’t play till my fingers bleed – but, sometimes, they do get tender at the fingertips and I have really dry skin, so I have to moisturize with some lotion and – dammit – that’s not very rock and roll. Moisturizer is not rock and roll. There wasn’t any in Spinal Tap. I’m pretty sure.

Sometimes, after I’ve spent a lot of time playing one evening, my fingers tingle the next day at the tips when I touch stuff and it dawns on me that, maybe, almost, I can almost, maybe start telling people I ‘play guitar’. And that’s pretty badass, especially for middle-aged dudes with dry skin. I’m even starting to build up calluses.

I can’t do anything with my pinky finger though. It’s fucking useless.

New Brunswick graphic designer, 40, quits rock and roll game due to inadequate pinky finger articulation. “It just stuck out there. When I tried to use it, it would just quiver, or shake. Ugh (shivers) it was embarassing. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to stick to drums as the pinky isn’t as crucial and I can hide the hideous quivering behind the kit.”

Don’t cry for me. Save your tears. There may still be a chance for me in adult contemporary, or children’s music. Maybe it’s more ‘Coffee Shop Hero.’

My Albums of 2011.

Here’s the albums I dug the most, mostly for 2011. No particular order. Enjoy.

Sam Roberts BandCollider
I had hailed Love At the End of the World as Sam’s finest record yet to most of the people I argue about music with (ok, well, ONE person). But I think this record stepped it up a notch and I don’t even know how. My standout tracks: Let it In, Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)

ArkellsMichigan Left
I only discovered the brillance of the Arkells first record, Jackson Square about a month before this record came out and then was very impressed with the follow up effort. Jackson Square was a tough record to top. My standout tracks: Michigan Left, On Paper

Foo FightersWasting Light
After a long wait, Dave and Co. return and do not disappoint. The media/blitz/circus that ensued was also something to behold and would have been easy to ridicule had the tunes not stood up to all the hype. Several TV/web appearances playing the record in it’s entirety as well as the timely release of their movie, Back and Forth prompted one reviewer I read to quip, “Thanks Dave Grohl, for making us care about the album again.” I couldn’t agree more. My standout tracks: Rope, Miss the Misery

ChevelleHats off to the Bull
A sleeper, I had no idea these guys were working on a record and it barely made it in this year, but since it came out, I’ve listened to pretty much nothing but. My standout tracks: Pinata, Hats off to the Bull

The Black KeysEl Camino
I didn’t want to buy into the pre-hype regarding this new record because, well , I secretly long to be a hipster. Also, I really didn’t think they could top Brothers. Seriously. But once it came out, dammit, they did. And in a record that’s only 38 minutes long. I’m still not a hipster though. My standout tracks: Gold on the Ceiling, Little Black Submarines, Mind Eraser

Rival SonsPressure and Time
Bringing the classic rock back, these guys are kicking out some jams. Production that cries of vintage Zeppelin and a singer who screams like Ian Astbury and/or Plant combined. Sprinkle with a touch of Black Crowes and, voila, you’re scissor kicking. Only thing I can possibly fault them on is their pro-vegan stance. Wha? TrĂ© un-rock. My standout tracks: Pressure and Time, Get Mine, Save Me

The Twilight SingersDynamite Steps
Greg Dulli sulks out from wherever it is he hides in the ‘off-season’ and wrangles his compatriots to bring us this lush, moody gem of a record. It’s been said before by many people, but it never ceases to amaze me how Dulli seems to create ‘movies’ or ‘soundscapes’ with his records. They’re like concept albums, but the concept is unique to every listener. My standout tracks: Waves, On the Corner, Dynamite Steps

Matthew Good Lights of Endangered Species
If you follow Matt at all this was an interesting record as he demo’d, discussed, and chronicled the writing and production of on his website/blog. A very interesting glimpse into the process. Given that, I have to admit it was a bit anti-climatic when the record officially dropped, as I’d already heard most, if not all the tunes in some form or another. That being said, I still think it’s an excellent record. My standout tracks: Zero Orchestra, Non-Populus, Lights of Endangered Species

In 2012 I’m really looking forward to the new Rush and Big Wreck records as well as some others.

Happy New Years, yo.

The Live Album is Dead.

The Live Album is dead.

Remember how monumental live albums used to be?

The Who, Live at Leeds.
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive.
Pink Floyd, Delicate Sound of Thunder.
Rush, Exit Stage Left.
Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same.

Live albums used to be a bastion of a recording landmark in any bands career.

It occurred to me today that with the ability to basically call up almost any live track on the internet anymore and with bands releasing literally whole tours worth of night by night recordings that the Live Album is no longer that much anticipated, must experience moment.

Sure some will say, ‘Fuck LIVE albums, ALBUMS PERIOD are dead.’ To this I say, you are probably right, but that takes my blog post off topic. You’re a buzzkill, cut it out.

So live albums are dead. Should we have a funeral?

The Band, The Last Waltz.
Genesis, Three Sides Live.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Live at Carnegie Hall.
Everyone has favorites.

Bah. Godammit.

I’m a geezer. I’ve entered geezerdom.

Frozen in (musical) time.

Those of you who know what a music geek I am will know how much it pains me to say so, but this weekend I packed up my CDs (all 1000+ of them) into boxes and shuffled them off to the basement in favour of more space in the living room for things like dump trucks, polly pockets and baby swings. While this is only temporary (the CDs will reappear in the finished basement) and I’ve got tons of music on my computer – ’tis a sad state of affairs, none-the-less.

My car has always been the proving ground of music for me. Even in the days of trying to drive less – riding the bike to work – I still end up spending alot of time in the car and it’s the only place I can really take music in. Though I listen to music on the bike to work on the iPod, it’s hard to really appreciate the tunes when your attention is focused mostly on dodging 2 ton death machines piloted by half-asleep morons. I mean, I’m one of those sometimes, but allow me to be hypocritical for one moment – it makes for more interesting reading.

I have always cycled CDs in and out of the car depending on various things. Mood, what I’ve recently purchased, what I’ve forgotten about but what reminded of via a friend or news story. That being said, some albums end up in the car for months. Some a day or two. Some get thousands of listens, some a cursory 2 or 3 before the final “Eh, I remember now why I haven’t listened to this so much.”

I don’t listen to radio much – ‘cept for the news. I have a hard time suffering the advertisers, djs and station programmers that insist on insulting my intelligence. I do tend to be an ‘album’ guy. I’ll listen to the whole thing through. Then again. And again. I don’t skip tracks. Sometimes for days on end. I figure the artist went through the trouble of arranging it such, it’s the way they meant it to be experienced.

All that said, when I boxed up the CDs this weekend, I forgot about the ones in the car. So, for no particular reason and in no particular order (well, they’re alphabetical by artist, cause I’m anal like that), here’s what wound up ‘left in the car’. Glean from this what you will about my inner psyche:

Blinker the Star – August and Everything After
Brad – Welcome to Discovery Park
Foo Fighters – One by One
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Green Day – American Idiot
Hum – You’d Prefer an Astronaut
Matthew Sweet – 100% Fun
Orange 9mm – Driver Not Included
Sam Roberts – Love at the End of the World (I listened to this for at least a month straight after it came out, at LEAST.)
Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

How I managed to end up without any Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers, Matthew Good, or Rush iin there is a mystery to me, but I’ve pretty much got their catalogues on instant recall in my head anyway. Giddyup.

Jonesing for the fix.

I’ve got no money for ’em, no place to put ’em and no time to play ’em, but damn have I got the jones to play the drums lately.

I trolled on kijiji and found a guy here in Fredericton with a nice Pearl Export kit for sale. It was even green. I’ve always wanted green drums. I emailed him about going to see them, then I lied and told him my washer broke ’cause I was to chicken and embarassed to just admit that my conscience had talked sense into me. (And really even if it hadn’t, Lyn would have.)

I’d love to get in room with 3 other guys, the gear, turn everything up to 11 and just blast for a few hours.

Man, that would feel good. Surely exorcise some demons. Those, I’ve got.

I miss the banging.

I’ve played drums really since I was in like 7th grade, maybe earlier – my parents can confirm this. It’s been a long time none the less.

I haven’t had a drum kit in 10 years.

When I decided to move to Canada to be with my now wife, Lyn, I sold my kit in the States ’cause it seemed like too much work to try and ship/move it. I was kind of caught up in the whole ‘pack up and leave on a new adventure thing’ and I like to pack light.

I remember at the time thinking, ‘I’ll pick up a cheap used kit up there.’

Well, it’s 10 years down the road now (My God, has it really been that long?) and I’ve laid my hands on actual drums twice.

I played 2 songs with the band at my wedding (Rocky Mountain Way, by the Eagles, and Cocaine, by Eric Clapton) and everone was stunned, as most my family didn’t even know I played. Oh and damn, them are some romantic wedding type songs too, ain’t they?

One other time, I rented a kit and jammed one night with my boy Tyler in Nova Scotia. It was an awesome experience and he and I still talk to this day about recording togehter, though I don’t know when it will happen – more my problem, not his.

Life, kids, job, finances have all consipred to keep me from the kit. Not to say at all that I blame any of them, because please understand that I don’t at all, but from time to time I catch myself air drumming to something and realling missing that ‘feel’. It’s an amazing thing.

I miss banging on the drums. I miss the primalness of it. I miss making music.

I always said that I wanted my kids to grow up in a musical household and while I’ve done my best (Julia’s favorite records are currently Jack Johnson and James Blunt, but she also digs some David Bowie) there’s no musical intruments in the house at all. I’ve thought about taking up guitar from time to time as I’d like to be able to play an isntrument like that. Something you can write on. Something that when played unaccompanied, with just a vocal – can stop time and transcend it – right there, with no amplification no anything, simply bare. Chilling. I still come back to the drums though, as it’s what I’m already proficient at. I could start guitar, but I’d be starting at ground zero. With drums I’ve already got a start. I don’t really know if I’m a ‘good’ drummer or not. I understand the instrument. I’ve got good ‘feel’. I’ve been told I’m good.

Bottom line is, there’s been times when I’ve been with other musicians playing and we’ve ‘locked in’ – I know it sounds cliche, but the musicians out there will know what I’m talking about – it’s a transcendental moment.

I’ve worked with and for rock bands and partied with some fairly big one’s but it’s never really been my ambiiton to be a super star. What I really find amazing is playing in a small room to 50 people, and there’s that moment, when the whole band clicks, and the whole audience is in, and every one takes off on that trip. No one knows where it’s going, but it’s only good, and for that few minutes, only that room exists, and only that sound, and only that singluar conciousness.

I miss that.

And I miss banging on things and making a load of noise.

I miss the ‘pocket’.

The Groove.

Yes, I am a music geek.

You’ll now note on the side bar the addition of the ‘Earcandy’ section. iTunesSpy is nifty WordPress plugin that constantly streams the last 5 songs played on my iTunes. If I’m not at the computer and iTunes isn’t on, then it just shows the last 5 played before I signed off.

A glimpse inside my head, really.

Enjoy.

Manufactured creativity.

You know, I’m white. I can’t dance. I admit it. Oh, I like to flail around when I am by myself, but not in public, people would probably call 911 or something for fear that I was having a seizure. What’s my point? None, really, other than that I can’t dance. I guess that I like to listen to music that maybe really wouldn’t be considered dance music. Some of it you might ‘sway’ to, or ‘rock’ to, or even ‘put your fist through a wall’ to. I like a lot of different styles of music from reggae to thrash metal, in fact I really hate to apply ‘genres’ to this music because I pretty much can find something of merit in it all. Most of it anyway.

I can appreciate an individual, or group of individuals making an effort to write a song and play it to the best of their ability and take enjoyment in sharing that song with other, usually like minded, individuals. That’s pretty much what it’s all about.

I know, I know, you’re asking about my point again. Well, let me say a few things. Backstreet Boys. N’Sync. Now, before you dismiss my little discourse here as a wanton berating of said groups, read on. I am simultaneously in awe and loathing of said fellas and their music. I mean, you have to respect that they work their asses of learning all these moves, keeping in shape, singing and keeping up the touring and appearance schedules that they do. I am in constant amazement of the finely oiled marketing machines at work behind these and other similar groups. If you give them nothing else, at least acknowledge that they are clocking much bank. I’m sure that they’re nice guys too, and that they love their moms and don’t drink anything much stronger than lime kool-aid. It’s a good image, it’s good for the kids. Well I wonder.

Are we trying to raise a bunch of mindless savants that only listen and enjoy what we as a society have fabricated and force fed them? I mean does it even matter what the real story is? Maybe all the Backstreet Boys are actually ex-cons that got a liberty pass if they agreed to keep their noses clean, learn to hit a high C note, electric slide and told kids to stay in school. Has anybody thought about who they really are? Does anybody really care? Now I know that some of them actually do play instruments (although I wonder with what proficiency), but do they write these hit songs they sing? Do they choreograph the moves they make? Do they determine which markets the cd will be available in on which dates and for how much? In short, do they do much more than anything other than do what they’re told?

I can see the backlash coming from supporters already. Sure they do, they write songs they play instruments, they are involved in the business side of the biz. Sure they are, NOW. Once it gives them credibility, but when they started, they were just punk kids, like all the others that wanted to be stars. Somebody somewhere (Big Brother Management Co.) took advantage of that and molded them into prepubescent winning lottery tickets. for the most part, when it all goes down, they sound alot to me like, well, pawns.

I don’t know if I really want my kids worshiping some older kid who is just out making an idiot of himself without so much of a though of what it all means. These guys aren’t musicians, they are entertainers. While it’s not a bad thing, let’s not lump them in with the likes of the people who actually put meaning into their music by writing and/or playing their songs because they are expressions of themselves. Songs and music that asks you to listen to it and think, form an opinion, be it a good one or bad one. Let’s remind ourselves that music originated as a way to entertain, yes, but also, and more importantly as a way to tell stories and evoke emotions. I think we should re-introduce people to the likes of jazz, blues, the roots of rock ‘n roll in all it’s forms – even classical music (egad!). Even the Backstreet Boys and the like have roots in all this. We cannot loose our taste for or willingness to share music that is actually played and composed as opposed to programmed and mass produced.

But hey, that’s just my opinion, and If you disagree, well, you’re wrong. I’m outta here. I gotta go get my new Jordan Knight record autographed at the Super-Huge-Mega-CD-Store-that-only-sells-albums-from-the-past-year-and-a-half. That’s it retailers, don’t take a risk and actually go out on a limb and stock some older stuff for kids to discover, or God forbid throw in a record that wasn’t distributed by a company that has less than 23 floors of office space.