My 12 Favorite New-To-Me Records Of 2011

Okay, as promised, I’m finally getting around to writing about my favorite new-to-me records of 2011, just like I did last year. Of course, I’m not counting new old record by my favorite bands of the year, because that would just be redundant. As it happened there were a clean dozen records that really sparked my imagination and pleased my ears in various ways this year. I’m going to try and keep these short and sweet, but you never know when it comes to me. As you probably know, I can get a bit wordy. If you want to see all those words, hit the jump. Continue reading My 12 Favorite New-To-Me Records Of 2011

Supergroup Showcase: Blind Faith

THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals (The Yardbirds, Cream), Ginger Baker on drums (Cream), Steve Winwood on guitar (Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group) and Ric Grech on bass (Family).
THE STORY: Clapton and Winwood started jamming while Winwood was on a break from Traffic. One day Baker stopped by, but Clapton wasn’t sure about starting a new band with him a few months after officially disbanding Cream. He also had made a deal with Cream’s Jack Bruce that, if two of them got back together, all three of them would reunite. Grech left Family to join the band, they recorded an album, toured and broke up within a year. (via Wiki)

When I started really getting into Supergroup Showcase, Blind Faith was definitely a band and record I wanted to check out. Not only is it yet another Eric Clapton supergroup, but I also have almost zero experience with Winwood, so I was excited to get a taste of his talent. It’s kind of handy that they only recorded one album, because it makes the whole thing a little easier write about. The record has six tracks and I’m split right down the middle on liking and not liking them.

The album kicks off with “Had To Cry Today” which has a fun riff, but it got to be really repetitive and boring in the song’s nearly nine minute length. The vocals also have a high-pitched wail on this song which I’m not really down with. With Winwood, Clapton and Grech all singing, I’m not sure who to blame. “Can’t Find My Way Home” takes a more mellow approach which I like, but again, the vocals didn’t appeal to me. This song’s the shortest on the whole record at just over three minutes, but still feels repetitive. The thing I noticed two tracks into this record is that it doesn’t really feel like a cohesive record and these two songs don’t feel very well thought out. I like the idea of experimentation but they don’t sound like they’re doing anything different. Maybe that’s because I’m listening to this thing in 2011 and it was recorded in 1969 and a LOT of music has come out in between.

Things get a little more cohesive with “Well…All Right” which has a great riff, more integrated vocals and results in a song that feels like an actual song instead of a recorded jam session. “Presence Of The Lord” continues on that same track and includes an excellent wah wah fueled solo. But then things go downhill with “Sea Of Joy” for me. It sounds like the the vocals were sung in an echo chamber or something, that really makes the voice akin to a caterwaul. The album ends with “Do What You Like” which I didn’t think I would like because it’s just over 15 minutes long. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of long jams, but I do appreciate good ones. And luckily, this turns out to be a pretty good one because it’s not only based on a solid riff, but also has a pretty bitching organ solo followed by a great guitar one. There’s even some repetitive chanting type stuff, but even that didn’t get on my nerves. It reminded me of a Santana instrumental.

Ever since iTunes came along I wind up judging an album by the $0.99/song rule. Essentially, if an album has enough tracks that I like and add up to what I paid for it, it’s worth keeping. I’m not quite sure where Blind Faith winds up on the scale, partially because I don’t remember how much I paid for this used disc online, though I’m guessing it was more than $3. Those first two tracks really don’t work for me. I mean, they’re not “so bad I have to skip it” bad, but I also didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes I can ignore vocals I’m not into and just dig the music, but not always. I’ll probably keep this one around for now at least kind of like my copy of The Firm’s Mean Business which I don’t listen to very often. Or, listening to Derrick And The Dominoes might bump it out of the ol’ collection.

Supergroup Showcase: Cream

THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar (The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Jack Bruce on bass and vocals (Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann) and Ginger Baker on drums (Graham Bond Organisation).
THE STORY: The three guys all knew each other and got together, forming the preeminent blues trio in England. Baker and Bruce had played together in a band and hated each other, so it was tough going. The band was together for just a few years and recorded four albums between 1966 and 1968. (via Wiki)

I was actually pretty surprised when I discovered that Cream was a supergroup. I always just thought of them as an awesome blues-based classic rock band. Sure, I knew that Clapton was a big deal even back then, but it took some reading up on Bruce and Baker to really understand why they’re considered one of the first supergroups of rock. Though they weren’t quite famous in the States at the time, these guys were a huge deal in the UK.

I have to admit, I’m not completely immersed in Cream. I have one of those 20th Century Masters greatest hits records that I’ve had for ever and haven’t really listened to a lot in recent years, but I used to borrow my dad’s copy of their second and most critically acclaimed record Disraeli Gears (pictured above). Even without having a lot of experience with the band’s catalog, though, I know a good thing when I hear it. These guys really were the best of the best when it came to blues rock at the time. Their songs are tight and pack quite a punch, though I hear their live shows tended to go on and on with jams. I haven’t heard any of their live shows, but I’d definitely be interested in tracking some live shows or bootlegs down. They apparently jammed with Jimi Hendrix in London. Does anyone know if recordings of that event exist? I’d love to get my hands on that. The mix of psychedelia and blues had a huge influence on what was going on in the rock scene of the late 60s and early 70s. The guys just couldn’t stay together and Clapton had already established himself as a kind of wandering minstrel losing interest in groups and moving on to others. Pretty much everything that dude joined after that is considered a supergroup. I’ve been listening to some of his 70s records lately like 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand and am not only impressed with the guy’s skill, but also with how easily he creates awesome rock songs. I just picked Disraeli Gears up today but haven’t had a chance to listen to it again, but I’m really looking forward to doing so soon.

New Hampshire Haul

Last weekend the missus and I traveled to New Hampshire so she could go to a family bridal shower with her mom. It was nice to go someplace different, especially a much cooler place. Anyway, we hit up a deep discount place called Building 19 and also the Londonderry Flea Market…twice and I got all kinds of rad stuff. Continue reading New Hampshire Haul

Music Doc Triple Feature: True History Of The Traveling Wilburys (2007), Concert For George (2003) & Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (2008)

I watched these three movies over a pretty spread-out period of time, but I figured they’d make a good trio seeing as how two the first two are directly related and the most recent reminded me of the other two. First off, I want to talk about a 25 minute documentary on The Traveling Wilburys that came with the self-titled three disc set that includes the band’s two CDs and a DVD with the doc and some music videos. The Wilburys were a supergroup in the late 80s consisting of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne (I’ll do a Supergroup Showcase about them soon). I’d always heard about them, but never really heard them, so once this set came out, I asked for it for Christmas and got it, but I didn’t actually watch the included DVD until a few months back.

The film covers a recording session and what makes it so interesting is seeing how much these musical giants just hanging out in a house, playing guitars, singing songs and having a helluva good time while doing it. We–or at least I–tend to deify guys like this, they are incredible musicians and some of the most important people in rock, but this movie shows them as just regular people and I dig that. Regular people writing a song a day and making an album of it. The just sounds fun to me. Even more fun because of who’s involved and some of the interesting things they did like drumming on the refrigerator and recording that! I’d definitely watch a longer version of this doc.

Soon after the first Traveling Wilbury’s record, Roy Orbison passed away. Many years later, George Harrison died leaving a final album called Brainwashed unfinished. His son Dhani and friend Jeff Lynne came in and finished the record and I have to say it’s amazing. One year after his passing, a small army of musicians got together to celebrate Harrison’s life. The concert, which was filmed and called A Concert For George, is split into a few parts. The first section is a very moving and intense series of performances by Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka and an Indian orchestra. This isn’t the kind of music I usually search out, but it was beautiful.

Between this group of performances and the next more mainstream set, the surviving members of Monty Python came out to do “Sit On My Face” and then “The Lumberjack Song” which apparently also included Tom Hanks, but I completely missed that and only read it later. The remaining set consists of performances by Eric Clapton, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Sam Brown, Jools Holland, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and others on their own and together. I’m a sucker for these kinds of team-ups in the musical world and can’t think of a better reason to have one than to celebrate such a great musician’s life. It’s too bad that Bob Dylan couldn’t be there for a reunion of the surviving Wilburys, but that would have been amazing.

From the celebration of one of the greatest and most successful musicians in the world, to a look at some of the most obscure. Anvil! The Story Of Anvil is a documentary following the trials and tribulations of a Canadian heavy metal rock band called Anvil who were supposedly a big deal on the scene back in the day. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure this whole thing isn’t a hoax. I’m no expert when it comes to heavy metal by any means, but I’ve read enough issues of Guitar World in my time to feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the scene and I’ve never heard of them. The movie starts off with some pretty big deal metal musicians like Slash, Lemmy, Scott Ian and Lars Ulrich singing Anvil’s praises. It just felt a little off. Then, they reveal that one of the two original band members’ names is Robb Reiner which sounds and awful lot like the name of the director who did This Is Spinal Tap. From what I can tell, the movie is all real, but I still had a big question mark in my head the whole time which takes away from things a bit.

The rest of the movie shows how shitty things are for the guys in Anvil. They’re working crap jobs in Canada, doing tours of Europe where they don’t really get paid any money and everything goes wrong and struggle to create quality music with nearly no budget. If you’ve seen American Movie, you’ve seen the basic premise of this movie, but this one has heavy metal and that one has movies. Which isn’t to say Anvil isn’t a good movie. If it is real, it definitely captures the general hopelessness that these dudes are surrounded by at all time and refuse to give in to, which is incredibly admirable. Plus, watching the movie made me want to listen to some more metal. Anyone got any suggestions?

Supergroup Showcase: The Dirty Mac

For the purposes of Supergroup Showcase the term supergroup means a band or group of musicians made up of two or more artists from previously successful bands, not necessarily super huge bands like Led Zeppelin.

THE PLAYERS: John Lennon on guitar and vocals (The Beatles), Keith Richards on bass (Rolling Stones), Eric Clapton on guitar (Cream/Yardbirds/Blind Faith/John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers/etc.) & Mitch Mitchell on drums (The Jimi Hendrix Experience).
HISTORY: John Lennon–going by Winston Leg-Thigh–put this group together for a BBC Rolling Stones special called The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. (via Wiki)

I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard of this mind-blowing supergroup consisting of some of the greatest rock musicians ever born. I discovered them thanks to Wiki’s page on supergroups and even though they only had the one performance, I’m including them in Supergroup Showcase because 1) they’re awesome, 2)they’re on wax, kinda and 3) I’ve been swamped this week and this is an easy one to write up. Here’s the video of The Dirty Mac playing on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus from 1968 playing “Yer Blues,” a song Lennon penned for the Beatles.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pretty fantastic, no? One of the most interesting aspects of the story from the Wiki page to me is that this was the first time John Lennon ever performed anywhere without the Beatles. That’s pretty wild. I also like seeing him and the other guys having fun. Many of us have a tendency to deify Lennon and only think of him as a serious man trying to change the world. He was just 28 at the time and having a good time.

It seems as though the rehearsals for the show were recorded and have made their way to YouTube. The televised performance is included on the Rolling Stones CD and DVD of the event (gotta check that one out), but I don’t know if it includes any of the rehearsal footage/audio (whatever exists). Here’s another take along with them playing “Whole Lotta Yoko.”

The sound on “Whole Lotta Yoko” is kind of iffy as is Ono’s warbling, but I completely zoned out while listening to the other track it’s so awesome! The Dirty Mac are one of those bands that you wish had made a record or maybe done a tour or at least recorded a few jam sessions, but I guess it’s better to wonder what could have been as opposed to having potentially declining output.