18/12/10 13:25 Filed in: Rock
Considering my favorite Beach Boys album is a daunting task. Of course there’s the monolithic Pet Sounds, standing out there in the field, towering above everything else. So let’s just put that aside for awhile. What inevitably happens is that my choice changes from time to time. The Beach Boys Today, Sunflower, and Holland have all been favorites at one time or another. Lately I’ve started to reconsider the virtues of Surf’s Up, which was released by Reprise on the Beach Boys’ Brother Records imprint in 1971.
Read more: Cratedigger: The Beach Boys - "Surf's Up" | Popdose
18/12/10 13:23 Filed in: Rock
It’s no secret that people love lists. That’s why you see so many blogs and traditional media outlets deploying them, especially at this time of the year. What is perhaps a bit less well known is that people like making lists too. That’s why you’ve seen a number of my colleagues at Popdose posting their personal picks this week, in addition to the overall Top Albums of the Year list that will appear tomorrow. I am certainly no exception. I look forward to presenting my year-end picks.
Read more: Popdose 2010: Ken Shane's Top Albums of the Year | Popdose
18/12/10 13:22 Filed in: Soul Music
On December 8, a day that was already sad enough by virtue of being the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, we got the terrible news that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is suffering from cancer. The news was closely followed by commentary from the Perfect People. Those are the people who felt it necessary to express their sadness while at the same time commenting that it was not unexpected given that Aretha is overweight. Fuck them. In these hard times, when we are all feeling the pressure of nearly overwhelming problems in this world, Aretha Franklin remains a brilliant light in the darkness. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
Read more: Soul Serenade, Aretha Franklin, "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)", Jerry Wexler, Aretha Franklin Stevie Wonder video | Popdose
III/IV (PaxAm) is the fifth studio album by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals. It comes by its title as a result of the fact that it was recorded during the same 2006 sessions that yielded Easy Tiger (which was recorded with the Cardinals but billed as a solo album). Had the double album been released at the time it would have been the band’s third and fourth albums. The sessions, which were scheduled to take two weeks, ended up going on for six months and produced some 60 tracks, most of which have been languishing in the vault until now. Why these songs did not see the light of day at the time remains a mystery, but Adams is nothing if not enigmatic. He is also one of the most prolific and talented songwriters of the decade, and III/IV is his masterpiece.
Read more: CD Review: Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, "III/IV" | Popdose
18/12/10 13:19 Filed in: Soul Music
This edition of Soul Serenade was going to be an attempt to take a sad day, the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, and make it better. Then news came from several sources that Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is suffering from pancreatic cancer. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and I’ll write more about her next week.
Read more: Soul Serenade: Ike & Tina Turner, "Come Together" | Popdose
Back in September, I wrote about the Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses album Junky Star. I think it’s fair to call my review a rave. To quote, you know, me, here’s part of what I wrote at the time:
“I don’t think I’ve used the word ‘astonishing’ in relation to an album in a long time. But the new Ryan Bingham album, Junky Star (Lost Highway), merits that kind of acclaim. Another thing that I never do is compare any songwriter to Bob Dylan. But the inescapable fact is that Bingham may be the songwriter who finally justifies the “new Dylan” tag that has cursed so many talented songwriters in the past. It’s not just the songs, which are powerful in their own right, but the way that they’re delivered. Bingham is possessed on a raspy, heartbroken voice that provides every ounce of world-weary despair that the occasion calls for.”
Read more: Cratedigger: Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, "The Weary Kind" - Win Vinyl! | Popdose
When “Everyday People” raced to the top of the pop and R&B charts in late 1968, it became incumbent on Sly & the Family Stone to come up with a great album. That is exactly what they did. Stand!, the band’s fourth album, would turn out the be the breakthrough that they had been looking for. The album was released by Epic Records on May 3, 1969, and reached #13 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and #3 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart.
Read more: Soul Serenade: Sly & the Family Stone, "Stand" | Popdose
I don’t know about you, but 30 years after his death the mere sound of John Lennon’s voice is still enough to fill me with emotion. An enormous talent was lost to the world on that long ago December night, and more than that a powerful voice for peace was silenced.
Read more: TV Review: American Masters, "LENNONYC" (PBS) | Popdose
18/12/10 13:11 Filed in: Soul Music
We all know what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about. It’s all right there in the name. It’s a time for reflection, a time to appreciate the people that make our lives special. We also know what Thanksgiving has become, i.e. an excuse for a major pig out, the day on which we glorify the mighty turkey, and the lowly potato. So in the spirit of today’s food orgy, I’m happy to present a few songs from the musical gluttons in all of us.
Read more: Soul Serenade: A Soulful Thanksgiving | Popdose
If you follow Popdose on Twitter (and you should), by now you’ve heard of Amy Petty. Several of the staff writers, including me, have also been known to praise the New Hampshire-based singer/songwriter in our tweets. Now you’re about to find out what makes a bunch of jaded music writers wax glowingly about an artist. Amy’s new album, House of Doors (Red Pill Entertainment), has just been released. Best of all, I’ve got three prize packages for lucky readers. To find out how you can win one, read through to the end.
Read more: CD Review: Amy Petty "House of Doors" (Three Prize Packs for Lucky Readers) | Popdose
18/12/10 13:03 Filed in: Soul Music
Across 110th Street is a 1972 blaxploitation that was filmed on the streets of Harlem. It stars Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Quinn, and Tony Franciosa. The film is a fun watch, but real pleasure is to be found in the soundtrack, specifically in the title song which was written by Bobby Womack and film composer J.J. Johnson. The song was clearly inspired by Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” but it certainly has an awesome groove, and an attitude tough enough to allow it to stand on its own.
Read more: Soul Serenade: Bobby Womack and Peace, "Across 110th Street" | Popdose
18/12/10 13:01 Filed in: Rock
When I was a kid, one of the highlights of the year was the family trip to a Catskill Mountains resort for a week of fun in the snow, eating, relaxation, eating, entertainment, eating … you get the idea. It seems like we never went to the same resort twice, but I liked them all. The big climax to the week was a Saturday evening nightclub show that featured some of the top names in showbiz. That usually meant comedienne Totie Fields, who seemed to follow us from resort to resort, and was inevitably the Saturday night headliner every year. I didn’t care. She was funny. I was even more interested in the dance teams that would open the show. The thing that they all had in common is that the female partner would go into the wings after each number, and emerge with one less piece of clothing on.
Read more: Cratedigger: The Young Rascals, "The Young Rascals" | Popdose
18/12/10 13:00 Filed in: Soul Music
This is the way it happens sometimes. The other night I was watching the film Pirate Radio (aka The Boat That Rocked). I had seen the film before, but I hadn’t stayed around for the end credits. I usually don’t at home. Do you? On the other hand, I tend to sit there through the bitter end when I’m in a theater, endlessly watching names that I don’t recognize crawl by. I do this because I’m waiting for the music credits, which invariably come last.
Read more: Soul Serenade: Lorraine Ellison, "Stay With Me" | Popdose
18/12/10 12:59 Filed in: Rock
A few months back, word began to spread about a new Daniel Lanois project called Black Dub. I first became aware of the band when Lanois and singer Trixie Whitley appeared on the Ron and Fez show on SiriusXM and played a couple of songs, including an unforgettable acoustic version of the stunningly soulful “Surely.” A little bit of research revealed several powerful YouTube videos of the band shot live in Lanois’ LA studio. At that point, there was some vague talk of an album, and although it took awhile to get here the self-titled Black Dub album (Jive Records) is here, and it was well worth the wait.
Read more: CD Review: Black Dub, "Black Dub" | Popdose
18/12/10 12:58 Filed in: Soul Music
I am embarrassed. It’s been more than six months since I started writing the Soul Serenade column, and not once have I featured the music of James Brown. Of course I always intended to include the King of Soul here, right from the beginning. It just seemed like something would always happen to bump him. It might have been a magical song that I heard on the radio. Perhaps a great soul artist had passed away and filled me with a memory that I wanted to share. Or maybe a record label or publicist proposed a contest with a prize that I wanted to share with you.
Read more: Soul Serenade: James Brown and the Famous Flames, "I'll Go Crazy" | Popdose
Last Saturday I attended the WFMU Record Fair in New York City. The annual show is something of a “don’t miss” for record collectors, particularly those of the vinyl persuasion. People come from all over the country, and fly in from other parts of the world, to attend the three-day show. This is cratedigging at its best, and you wouldn’t believe that prices that some records fetch.
My main goal this year was to start building up my collection of 45s again. Once upon a time I had a glorious collection which has seemed to disappear into thin air over the years. I’ve still got a bunch of good singles from the late ’70s – early ’80s, the Clash, Sex Pistols, etc., but I had my eye on ’60s music this year. So I journeyed into New York City, want list in hand.
Read more: Cratedigger: The Blues Project, "Projections" | Popdose
18/12/10 12:55 Filed in: Soul Music
This is getting to be pretty unpleasant. We seem to be losing great figures in classic soul on a weekly basis. Just a couple of weeks ago we lost the “King of Rock ‘n Soul” Solomon Burke. That was followed closely by the death of General Norman Johnson, and just like that two of the great voices of soul have been stilled.
Read more: Soul Serenade: The Showmen, "It Will Stand" | Popdose
Shoot Out the Lights became a legendary album not just on the basis of the brilliant music it contained, but for the circumstances that surrounded its creation. For years popular opinion has held that it was an album recorded by a couple in the throes of the disintegration of their relationship. The facts that some of the songs were several years old at the time of the recording, and that Linda Thompson was very much pregnant during the recording sessions do nothing to dispel the myth, and indeed if you listen to these songs with that myth in mind, you can make quite a case for marital discord.
Read more: CD Review: Richard and Linda Thompson, "Shoot Out the Lights" (Deluxe Edition) | Popdose
18/12/10 12:43 Filed in: Rock
There is nothing pristine about the new (12″ vinyl or digital download only) War On Drugs EP, Future Weather (Secretly Canadian). No one will be winning awards for audio recording. In fact, it’s a bit of a mess. But it’s one of those messes that manages to perfectly reflect the times that produced it.
Even calling it an EP is not quite correct. Yes, there are just eight songs, and the whole thing clocks in at less than 30 minutes, but there is a cohesiveness at work here that is not usually found on EPs. The Dylan comparisons are both valid, and too easy. If War On Drugs sounds like Dylan, it’s Dylan funneled through some sort of narcotic haze.
Read more: CD Review: War On Drugs, "Future Weather" | Popdose
18/12/10 12:41 Filed in: Television
The Sunday night tv scheduled just got a little more complicated than it already is, at least for the next three weeks. In addition to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Bored To Death, and Eastbound and Down, and Showtime’s Dexter, PBS has entered the fray with the new Masterpiece Mystery series Sherlock. Thank goodness for DVRs and On-Demand viewing, because Sherlock is a series that you do not want to miss.
Read more: TV Review: Masterpiece Mystery, "Sherlock" | Popdose
In January, 1961, Bob Dylan arrived, unknown, in New York City. It wasn’t long before he was making the rounds of the “basket houses” (so called because the performers earned whatever they could collect in baskets that were passed around) of Greenwich Village. Things really got started for Dylan when NY Times music critic Robert Shelton wrote a positive review of a September Dylan performance at Gerde’s Folk City.
Read more: CD Review: Bob Dylan, "The Bootleg Series Volume 9 - The Witmark Demos" | Popdose
Considering that the Rolling Stones aren’t touring, and that there has been no new music from them recently, 2010 has turned out to be a pretty big year for Stones fans. Earlier this year, we got a splendid reissue of what is arguably the band’s best album, Exile On Main Street, complete with 10 previously unreleased tracks. Then in June we got Stones In Exile, a terrific documentary about the making of Exile. Now Eagle Rock Entertainment has released the final piece of the puzzle, the thoroughly captivating Ladies & Gentlemen the Rolling Stones.
Read more: Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones, "Ladies & Gentlemen the Rolling Stones" | Popdose
18/12/10 12:35 Filed in: Music
Madman Across the Water opens with one of the most powerful one-two punches in any artist’s catalog. First comes “Tiny Dancer,” (written about and dedicated to Bernie Taupin’s then girlfriend Maxine Feibelman) which made it to #41 on the Billboard US Pop Singles Chart, and has become something of a cultural touchstone. That’s followed up by the massive hit “Levon,” #24 on that same chart. It’s hard to follow that kind of opening, but follow it Elton John did to create one my favorite albums of his long and distinguished career.
Read more: Cratedigger: Elton John, "Madman Across the Water" | Popdose