Monday, August 6, 2018

Releasing the Kraken for Seattle

Seven Arms for the 7s: Why branding Seattle's NHL expansion franchise “Kraken” is the perfect fit

As Seattle is going through the NHL’s expansion process to become the league’s 32nd team, several names for the franchise are being discussed, with the award from the NHL's Board of Directors official in short time and essentially academic.

First, a little history. A wide berth of names have been contemplated in articles and social media over the last year. Of particular note; a bracket-style poll over the 2017-18 holidays on Twitter played out (in the vein of the final four) to see how 32 potential names would square off with one another. A number of other articles ranking names have been written; one of the more memorable ones with a ranking based on “toughness” in how the subjects might compete in a street fight -- which while amusing and a bit odd -- after consideration actually brought a relevant slant to the discussion.

Out of several names considered, the “Kraken” name always ends up near the top of the rankings, and in a few cases takes the #1 spot.

Why an argument to choose this name for Seattle's NHL team? If you're reading this, you've more than likely bought into the idea.

Fresh, dangerous and not vanilla

The Seattle Kraken as a NHL franchise puts a fresh spin on the concept of a local name. To be fair, several viable names have been thrown around for consideration. Sockeyes are an interesting name referring to local salmon and present a degree of engaging and amusing potential in a hockey context. Metropolitans, Totems, and Thunderbirds relate to past and current hockey teams that either went defunct or echo the region’s minor league heritage. There’s also animal names like Cougars, Eagles, Seals, Sea Lions, Whales or Beavers, which either lack spunk or are already used by other sports teams (and it would be nice if we didn’t open a potential rabbit hole about clubbing baby seals). Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Rainiers and Renegades are other names in the mix.

Then there’s myths and legends; the most obvious for many being Sasquatch as a myth of sorts, based on a prank taking place in the woods of the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s that's arguably been a bit overexposed. It served as the mascot of the NBA SuperSonics (which we’re anticipating to return to Seattle at some point). However Kraken, a sea creature also founded in myth, presents a new and fresh spin. It doesn’t bring with it a worn out or “recycled” feel -- it throws a shape into the mix that's contemporary, unique, dangerous and outside the box -- and has never been used for another sports team to my knowledge, professional nor collegiate.

In addition, the singular versus plural aspect provides added interest and gives it a phonetic punch -- and while it doesn’t roll off the tongue like the name “Seahawks” following “Seattle,” the fact that it has the opposite effect -- sharp, jagged and obscure -- only adds to its appeal and brings its imagery to life. Simply put, the Kraken name is anything but vanilla and a fun departure from the normal, expected outcome one might typically imagine in naming a team.

Inhabiting new territory

Moreover, the Kraken name carves out fresh territory and does not overlap any concept represented by current Seattle teams. The Mariners name echoes the city’s maritime culture and its discovery when settlers arrived by ship. A nod to a primary regional industry and the enduring, diverse economic culture is represented with the SuperSonics name. The Seahawks cover the territory inhabited by predatory birds and Native American myth (I’ve heard varying stories on what a “Seahawk” actually is), and the Sounders MLS and Storm WNBA team names are rather obvious and inhabit their own territory. When added to the mix of Seattle team names, the Kraken carves out a new identity all its own -- a sea creature founded in Nordic myth -- also representing a nod to the region’s Scandinavian immigrants and heritage.

Regional Nordic heritage

The myth of the Kraken finds its origins in Nordic lore dating back as far as the 13th Century through the Old Norwegian history work Konungs skuggsja and the Old Icelandic saga Orvar-Oddr. These stories and many others describe in graphic detail the encounters of sailors with the large sea monster in the north Atlantic. The Kraken has been the center of tales through various works of literature such as Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and spans the times into contemporary storytelling through written works of fiction and movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean.

Like other immigrant groups, Scandinavian settlers in the Puget Sound region brought with them lore from their homeland. It would be refreshing to pay tribute to that regional immigrant heritage, much in the same way Minnesota did in naming its NFL football team the Vikings. Yes, there are immigrants in the Puget Sound region who are not Scandinavian, however in my opinion a tip of the hat to one group is a tip to all of them.

Tapping into primal fears

Another aspect of myth is how it taps into the human psyche, and the Kraken fits this role perfectly. When boating or swimming in the open and deep water, who hasn’t felt vulnerable wondering what's lurking below? The Kraken represents the physical manifestation of the sum of all fears about the open water. Even when you perceive relative safety on an oceangoing vessel, you really can’t be sure -- a sea monster can still attack, sink your ship, and devour the passengers after tossing them around to a violent demise -- and there’s nowhere to escape and absolutely nothing you can do about it. Have you seen the way an octopus devours a crab? Then imagine what the Kraken can do. Oh, and it has large, scary eyeballs that watch on as it wreaks havoc and does its stuff. It’s easy for one to get involved in their thinking -- in particular a visiting opponent. A mythical creature brings with it more fear to the human psyche than one we know exists and represents something real.

Unlimited marketing potential

The Kraken name, with its myth and imagery, gives the marketing arm (pun intended) for the team quite a bit to work with. Between creative logos and branding, the possibilities seem endless. Imagine the sound & light show that can take place before the team emerges onto the ice; Jules Verne-type storytelling with Hieronymus Bosch-like scenes of the Kraken attacking sailors throughout the ages, all set to an effective soundtrack. Now all opposing hockey players are next! Heck, with each arm the thing could take on the entire team at once -- flail opponents around to and fro in horrific fashion.

Some of it has potential for over-the-top animated violence that may scare the kids, but with that hopefully comes something better -- presenting a real, creepy and nearly tangible element of fear and intimidation for the visiting team. To what affect do the Canucks and other NHL teams accomplish this on their home turf? Speaking the Kraken name alone reeks of fear and intimidation.

Also, a personal thought to consider. When the team begins play and hoits Gretsky’s #99 to the rafters (since it's retired throughout the sport), I don’t believe it’s outside the realm of reason to hoist a #7 for the fans for their incredible support stemming from the March 2018 ticket drive. The #7 not only represents the fans as the seventh player (after the six on the ice), but also represents the seven arms of the Kraken (according to legend it carries seven arms, opposed to eight on an octopus). So rock on 7s!

Why all the fuss? What’s really in a name?

The short answer: EVERYTHING. Everything is in a name. It helps to establish the identity not just for a team, but also adds to the fabric of the city’s identity. It’s up to us to put the effort and deliberation into considering what name we land on, because the idea is to stick with it indefinitely. Hopefully OVG is listening (which I believe they are) and following this interesting and exciting naming endeavor, and will glean feedback from these ongoing discussions as the Seattle NHL expansion team efforts roll along and continue to build momentum....along with a rebuilt, world-class arena at Seattle Center.

I've laid my arguments at your feet here (ad nauseum, my apologies) as I appreciate your attention and thought to this. This merely adds to the opinions of other bloggers, reporters and Tweeps in this exciting ongoing discussion. If the Kraken represents for you when you consider Seattle's new NHL team, join the growing momentum in "releasing it" and helping to make it official as the naming decision arrives. It's not far off!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Craig Gass at the Gene Simmons Roast

For those who never saw this, Craig Gass' impersonations at the Gene Simmons Roast several years back are worth a definite revisit.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

THE REVIEW CORNER: Rush kickstart a latter day rennaisance with Vapor Trails (original [2002, Anthem/Atlantic] & remixed [2013, Anthem/Atlantic])

For those who were following the Rush camp in the early 2000s, it was probably the most fascinating, if not the most trying time for fans of the band -- and for the band itself. 

In Rush, the focus has always been on the music -- where the band themselves write (Alex & Ged the music, Neil the lyrics), record, and perform all of their own material. It's never been about partying, drugs & sex (unless Kiss is touring with you, of course), or any of the sort of garbage that was more typical of Axl Rose and his camp. 

To function like the well-oiled machine Rush is, not only did it involve talent and discipline, but also the simple matter of just getting along -- probably the #1 reason bands don't stay together. In the case of Alex, Ged & Neil, by all accounts egos never got in the way, which was spearheaded by the fact that the drummer in this band also happened to be the lyricist -- a situation that forced a partnership with the band's singer, to edit the words and shape them into a final form with the vocal delivery. 

Rush are the example of positive band dynamics in the rock world....and one of the hardest working bands out there, essentially touring and putting out recordings nonstop since the early 70s. Writing, recording, rehearsing, tour, break. Rinse and repeat year after year. Winning over audiences one show at a time. Establishing themselves more like the Mt. Rushmore of rock than Rush -- the definition of a solid and enduring rock band that shines on record -- and even brighter live onstage.

For God's sake, Rush were indestructible. Literally. Nothing could stop them. Ever. They're immortal. 

Or so we thought.

Almost immediately following the band touring off Test for Echo in the summer of 1997, drummer Neil Peart tragically lost his daughter Salina in a car accident in Toronto that August....and if that wasn't enough heartbreak and tragedy to contend with, approximately one year later his wife Jackie succumbed to cancer. From a fan's perspective, stuff that was as strange and random as it was horrific and unimaginable. Sad times.

Having followed the band as an ardent fan since the early 1980s, I can still feel the emotions from these series of events to this day.

Needless to say, these tragedies put the band instantly on hiatus. The whole machine, in which everyone was like a large family, shut down. The thought of them continuing seemed like a far cry, and frankly it was more of an afterthought since everyone was more concerned about Neil in his recovery and how he was doing -- fans like myself included. 

As far as I was concerned, fuck the band -- our brother Neil needed our support, any way we could provide it -- be it posts to the band's website, emails, or care packages sent by parcel to the Anthem Records office in Toronto.

"No Neil, no Rush." Geddy Lee signaled to fans at some point during these events. He would later state: "I don't want to play in Rush with anyone else. It is the band, the three of us." 

As Neil's coping and way of sorting through all of it, he hopped on his motorcycle and zigzagged all over the North American continent, covering over 40,000 miles when all was said and done -- these journeys were later chronicled in his book Ghost Rider. Guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee (after a long break themselves) eventually took on projects of their own. Alex engineered a recording for a band out of Mississippi called 3 Doors Down and dabbled into other projects. Ged put out his first solo project of his career in 2000, My Favorite Headache -- a good CD that's worth your time and money. Interestingly, it sounds very Rush-y, with Ben Mink sounding rather Alex-y on guitar. I can't speak for all Rush fans, but I have always thought of it as the "lost Rush recording" that probably would have been a Rush record under different circumstances.

Then, after a few years, someone we all know and love resurfaced, claiming he needed "gainful employment" again. 

Hello, Neil. Welcome back.

Around late 2000, grumblings in the Rush camp began to surface about the boys getting together to record a new project. Then sometime in 2001 the news came around that they were writing, then in the studio. Then, in early 2002, "One Little Victory" hit the airwaves, signaling Rush's return with an opening drumming fervor that sounded like an octopus spinning out of control.

Released in May, Vapor Trails was the miracle nobody thought they'd ever have the privilege to hear. It was followed by a world tour marking the band's glorious return, and ended with them performing in front of 50,000 fans in Rio de Janiero going completely mental -- check out Rush in Rio for that.

With all the circumstances leading up to and surrounding it, it's of no surprise that Vapor Trails is a very unique animal in the Rush canon -- not necessarily in a sonic sense as much as the theme and tone of the recording -- deeply raw and personal. 

Sonically, the band maintain the slow evolution of the heaviness and edge that began to evolve in earnest with 1993's Counterparts and continued on 1996's Test for Echo. VT is even heavier, to the effect that some of Alex's guitarwork takes on almost more of a punk rock attitude.

Indeed, this record is all about tone and 'tude. The music is driven by the themes Neil was grappling with at the time -- and while much of it focused on rebirth, self-examination and discovery through love -- there's absolutely no way the recording can NOT cross paths with the loss and sadness of what had taken place in recent years. In particular, "Ghost Rider," "Vapor Trail," and "Earthshine" grapple with the latter. In particular with "Ghost Rider," Ged's opening bass line sets a tone for the tune, singing on its own in a mournful sadness and highlighting the genius that Ged has become known for on that instrument. Like a knife through butter.

As would be expected, the musicianship on VT is second to none, however there were a few rules in place going into recording it. First off, Alex imposed a policy on himself that he would not solo on the record -- but this triggered a new idea -- there would be sections of songs where the whole band would solo together. This limitation turned to band jam by design is one of the more unique and endearing aspects of VT in the Rush catalog.

Alex and Geddy have always been genius when it came to "decorating" Neil's lyrics, as Peart has stated in the past....and certainly VT is all about the themes and the lyrics, which drive the record.

For all the beatings I've seen Peart take over the years for his obscure lyrics (most unfounded, a few not) from so-called music reviewers, I fail to see how he isn't brilliant with his words on VT. He takes deeply personal themes in which he's able to impart and echo sentiments and details from his tragedies and recovery -- yet frames them is such a way that makes them applicable not just to what was on his mind, but also relatable to a wide listening audience. He does it with all the hallmarks of the Peart voice; inventing his own metaphors, witty rhymes, and by taking ideas from other writers by repurposing their words into his own lyrical puzzle. Then it's channeled through Ged's beautifully unique vocal delivery, where he sings so convincingly that you'd think he'd written them himself.

Since VT marked the band's return to recording after a long hiatus, it also meant that they needed time to get back into a form that would meet their expectations and be worthy of the Rush brand. Plus, Alex and Ged simply wanted to give Neil all the time he needed, with no pressure. It was enough that he was back, and simply a contributing member of the band. With the extra time being part of the plan, it spanned over a year (if I recall correctly) in which they rented out a warehouse to jam together and reorient themselves, then booked studio time. 

While the circumstances dictated as such, the down side to taking the extra time was that when the recording of VT was finally complete, the band let loose the controls and handed the engineering and mixing over to other folks. Typically Alex was involved and supervised the engineering portion of the process, but in this case everyone took a much-needed break.

Unfortunately the result was a recording that sounds very dull and muddy, which is way below the standard that Rush is known for. When first released, I recall something to this effect but didn't initially have much of a complaint since I was more focused on the material and simply elated that they had even put something out in the first place. 

However, as time went on and the band put out other recordings, I found myself coming back to VT less often....and I have to admit this is due in part to the muddy production of the recording. Many fans in the Rush camp, who were used to the high standards of recording quality from the band, also called out the substandard production as well.

I know Rush enough to realize that they're a band who not only prides on high quality in recording and musicianship from themselves, but also listens to the pulse of their fan base.

So, in an effort to make things right, the band remixed Vapor Trails and released this version in 2013 to much higher reviews and acclaim. It's also available as part of the Atlantic era box set covering Presto (1989), Roll the Bones (1991), Counterparts (1993), Test for Echo (1996), Vapor Trails remixed (2002/2013), Feedback (2004), and Snakes & Arrows (2007). All of these recordings are also now available individually on vinyl in limited editions.

The remixed version is not perfect. There are added guitar solos to "One Little Victory" for example, which I personally didn't find necessary and sound a bit forced -- especially considering how adamant Alex was about not soloing in the original recording sessions in 2000-01.  

I'd been meaning to write a review of this record for years, as it marks the rebirth of this great band. From the pain and rebirth seeping out of Vapor Trails, Rush would go on to enjoy a historic renaissance over the next 15 years -- recording three more albums (two of original material, another EP of covers to celebrate their 30th anniversary), even more live recordings, perform live with strings, have a documentary filmed about them, enjoy an entry in to the Rock Hall in 2013 -- then capping it all off with a 40th anniversary tour in 2015 before seriously contemplating a well-earned retirement. 

To get a true feel for this recording, a completest would need to hear both versions. For someone new to it, I have to point them towards the remixed version....small differences or an extra guitar solo added here or there aside, the sound quality and production definitely trumps. 

However, there's something to be said about the original, despite the lackluster and muddy production. The rawness....the themes of sadness, anger, confusion, then rebirth that capture the essence of Vapor Trails....the unselfishness and exercised sensitivity with Alex's policy to not solo on the record, out of consideration for his drummer and brother....and that opening drum assault that brought a collective tear to the eye of all Rush fans -- the original version echoes all of this at its finest. To those fans who lived through this phase of the band and understood the story leading up to this recording, the original captures the mood and essence of what the band -- Neil especially -- was going through at the time.

Album highlights: One Little Victory, Ghost Rider, The Stars Look Down, How it Is, Vapor Trail, Secret Touch, Earthshine

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fleetwood Mac's 'Tango in the Night' -- when will it be reissued?

Tango in the Night

Over the last decade, I've checked up on 1987's Tango in the Night recording by Fleetwood Mac, to see when it will be reissued as a remaster with extra tracks.

It's not one of the band's more popular recordings, but marked the time that I really started listening to them. It was the first recording from the Mac that I ever purchased, and I saw them live for the first time as they toured on it near the end of that same year.

No luck thus far, but in the meantime I stumbled across this post from It appears I'm not the only one out there who's anticipating this release.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who's your favorite axe murderer rock star?

We can't all look handsome like the Beatles now, can we. So, that said, I'm submitting a pole to figure out which rock star, based solely on appearances, might be the most likely to be mistaken for an axe murderer.

Here's our contestants, presented in alphabetical order. See the pole to cast your vote in the top right margin of the blog.

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson took over the reign of scariness in the 1990s -- with a flash of originality and that over-the-edge creepiness that would make a grown man wake up screaming in his sleep. "Boo!" said the freaky eyeball satanic dude that went bump in the night.

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy is the original evil bad boy of rock n roll. The Sabbath front man from the 70s had a knack for biting off the heads of doves and bats alike. Who's to say he's exclusive only to those animals? Watch out!

Robert Smith

Much like the Velvet Underground was to Flower Power in the late 60s, the front man from The Cure was the king of 80s weirdness. Smith influenced a generation of kids into the black clothing and anti-metal makeup-oozing styles that spun into the likes of goth & emo -- with plenty of funny hairdos -- for both females and males alike. Scaaaaarrrrry....

Roger Waters

Ah, it's Raa Jaa. Our favorite Floyd man. Waters has a style all his own....that combination of enigma, genius, and temperament-to-seemingly-go-awry sort of thing. He's our dark horse on this list. Hearing his speech and his lanky body motions would definitely do him justice for this list, but unfortunately all we have to go by is a photo. You can bet that Raa Jaa's arch enemy, Andrew Lloyd Weber, would be his first target....that is, if he hasn't smashed the opera man's fingers in the piano cover already.

Neil Young

Good 'ol Neil. We can't help but feel love for this peace-promoting icon, but if you haven't been exposed to his music and all you've ever been able to do is see a photo, you'd probably run the other way screaming. That glare that burns through your back. Ack!

Please submit your vote in the margin to the right, just below the blog's heading!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jon Lord (1941-2012): the Centerpiece of Deep Purple

Jon Lord, the innovative keyboard player for Deep Purple (and with Whitesnake, among collaborations with other musicians) passed away last month.

I'm here to focus on his work with Deep Purple.

I was fortunate enough to see Jon Lord and Deep Purple perform in 1985, which at the time featured a reunion of the Mark II lineup with Ian Gillan (vocals), Ian Paice (drums), Roger Glover (bass), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), and Lord (Hammond organ & various keys).

This lineup of the band -- its most famous incarnation presented to the world in 1970 with Deep Purple in Rock -- was making a comeback off Perfect Strangers, arguably the band's strongest post 70s studio effort.

The show I saw in Tacoma, WA for the Perfect Strangers tour was one of the loudest and rowdiest shows I've ever attended. I was 16 at the time, and the little skinny fella getting hammered into a sardine on the general admission floor space amongst a pack of older, bigger Harley Davidson-riding gangsters.

Still, the show was amazing, and Lord's keyboard solo was one of the highlights.

Lord lighting the stage on fire!
Lord "emancipated" (his own words, via Sam Dunn's series on heavy metal this last year) the Hammond organ in the world of rock, amplifying and distorting its sound so that it could play a more substantial role as a lead instrument in a rock paradigm. I've concluded that Lord's friendly (and perhaps unfriendly more often than most realize) competition with the egomaniac element of Purple, guitarist Blackmore, helped to fuel and craft the sounds he put through his keys.

Nothing like thumbing your nose at a lead guitarist who thinks he's all that!

Like Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Jon Lord was the mortar that held the bricks of Deep Purple together, although it may not be apparent to a first-time listener with certain Purple tracks; most rock enthusiasts' ears aren't tuned to hear (or expect) the keys as a centerpiece on a rock record. To truly appreciate the Purple sound, and Lord's work, you need to reframe your ears to bring in the wall of sound coming out of Lord's instrument. We'll dig through the band's catalog and highlight some Lord nuggets (more of that in a minute).

"The greatest honor one can be given is that of 'teacher.'" ~Alex Lifeson
Simply put, Lord was the centerpiece component of the Purple sound, which was (and still is) unique for its time. It's his work on the keys that made the band stand out from its heavy (and better known in most circles) counterparts at the time, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It's widely understood and accepted that all three of these bands are godfathers of the heavy metal genre and influenced a generation of bands.

In my opinion, it was Lord's presence in Deep Purple that makes them stand out from other band's in the day, and made them more dynamic and interesting as a live act. In some instances of songs, Lord was actually heavier than Blackmore's guitar and brings about brainmelters with his sound, with "Hard Lovin' Man" arguably the standout performance of his career. In other instances, his classic training stands out through his delicate decorating of songs such as "Child in Time" and "Woman from Tokyo."

Throughout all of his work, Lord always had a foot dragging behind in the blues, and the influence of the blues on his work is part of what makes the musician's sound so unique in the world of rock.

However, for this Purple fan, I point to "Knockin' at Your Back Door" and "Perfect Strangers" as the best examples of how Lord was the heart of Deep Purple's sound, blending his work on the keys the way the brick layer fills his work in with the Hammond intros to these tunes are just plain cool and slick.

Some Jon Lord moments to check out from the Deep Purple catalog:
  • From In Rock (1970): "Child in Time," "Living Wreck," and "Hard Lovin' Man"
  • From Fireball (1971): "Fireball"
  • From Machine Head (1972): "Highway Star," "Pictures of Home," "Smoke on the Water," and "Lazy"
  • From Who Do We Think We Are (1973): "Woman from Tokyo"
  • From Perfect Strangers (1984): "Knockin' at Your Back Door," "Perfect Strangers," "Gypsy's Kiss," and "Wasted Sunsets"
As complete works, the albums In Rock, Machine Head, and Perfect Strangers are excellent and should be in any rock enthusiast's collection. Also, Made In Japan is an excellent example of Purple's live work.

R.I.P. Jon Lord. The contributions of this talented and inventive man to the world of rock cannot be emphasized enough. His work is forever etched in stone....err, I mean In Rock, of course!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

THE REVIEW CORNER: The Allman Brothers Band's first four studio recordings

Many of you born after 1970 probably never had this band on your radar, but The Allman Brothers Band is totally worth your time and money to check out -- and their first four studio albums in particular. I'm going outside of Live at the Fillmore East 1971, their classic live album....that, of course, goes without saying.

The cover of The Allman Brothers Band's self-titled debut recording from 1969
Their first four recordings go as follows: The Allman Brothers Band (1969), Idlewild South (1970), Eat a Peach (1972), and Brothers and Sisters (1973). The growth of the band over the span of these recordings is a fascinating study....with the hard blues of the first album to the explorations, instrumentals, and extended jams of each later recording.

While their eponymous debut doesn't carry a long string of hits except for "Whippin Post," there's lots of wonderful bluesy numbers on this album that are substantive, resonating, and feature some fantastic guitar from Duane Allman. Highlights include "Black Hearted Woman," "Trouble No More," and my personal favorite on the album, "Dreams," with some of Duane Allman's more experimental picking -- almost like an early effort at tapping or hammer-ons. "Whippin Post," the album's last number, is the perfect closer and hints at the band finding its true voice....a mere sign of things to come.

With the next three albums, things just keep progressing....the band solidifies its sound through each successive recording. I find the music from this band to have a very soulful and almost wistful edge to their blues from Idlewild South like "Midnight Rider," the instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," and the funk-tinged "Leave My Blues at Home" -- with some killer drumming grooves.

Eat a Peach kicks off with "Ain't Wastin Time No More," and features highlights such as "Les Brers in A Minor" (with an almost Santana-infused approach), "Melissa" and my personal favorite "Blue Sky" while Brothers and Sisters highlights "Wasted Words," "Rambin Man," "Southbound," and the popular instrumental "Jessica."

You can't go wrong with any of these recordings.....but I believe to get a full perspective of them all, and to give yourself the best possible listening experience, you need to listen to them in succession. That's where the development of the band reveals itself.

What's even more amazing -- and not necessarily evident in the recordings (unless you're a student of Duane Allman & Dickey Betts' styles and can differentiate them) -- is that the band suffered not one, but two casualties during the span of these recordings. Duane Allman, their lead guitarist, was killed in a motorcycle accident during the recording sessions to Eat a Peach, and their bass player Berry Oakley during the sessions to Brothers and Sisters -- also killed from head injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident a mere three blocks from the location of Allman's fatal accident. Spooky stuff.

Still, the music speaks for itself. Yes, I'm sure this is technically considered "Southern Rock," however that definition might be stretched....but when I listen to these boys, I just hear some killer blues by one of the all-time great jam bands. I hear more shades of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Grateful Dead, The Band, and Santana before I hear anything "southern."

The CD version to their first four studio albums are available at Amazon for around five bucks apiece, with the exception of Eat a Peach, which is a double album featuring selected live cuts from the Fillmore East should be able to get outfitted with all four works for under $30.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Secret to the Greatness of Sonny Rollins

Sonny in his heyday
Typically my interest in jazz has been driven and inspired by piano players.

Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor, and Herbie Hancock are some of the classic fellas I really like...more contemporary artists would include Matthew Shipp and Jason Moran; pianists who are really pushing the envelope a
nd jazz into new directions these days.

My interest has also involved trumpet players...Mil
es Davis, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lee Morgan, to name a my all-time personal favorite, Clifford Brown.

However, I've never really embraced the saxophone players...and I've never really figured out why.

I think it might be partly John Coltrane's fault...and I say that with unequivocal acknowledgement an
d respect at how Coltrane influenced jazz and how he's one of the all-time jazz giants.

While I
love Coltran's earlier work such as Blue Train and his work in the 1950s Miles Davis Quintet, his latter material takes some getting used to...sorta like getting used to the idea of liking it when the baby wails ceaselessly. I understand with Coltrane it's a spirituality thing that's going on...and while I can appreciate that, I find it really difficult to make it work for me.

Unfortunately, my hit and miss explorations of Coltrane's work made me run from saxophone players for awhile...and especially the sax players out of the 60s, where I'd have the preconceived notion if they were even distantly associated with the avant garde style that was typical at the time, I'd be getting something you'd hear from the sax that was akin to the styles of Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, or Albert Ayler...again, I love these guys, but only if I'm in the right mood. Despite being more accessible than these prior artists I've mentioned, Wayne Shorter even skirts the precipice

That's not to say non-avant garde sax players aren't out there, clearly they are. You can noodle through the catalogs of players like Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, or Ben Webster....however while these are fine sax players, I don't necessarily see them as great innovators and as uniquely distinct in sound as the artist of focus in this post. This is just my personal opinion, and I'm sure I'm opening myself up to debate with folks who know more about these artists than I do.

The problem for me, in finding a sax player that appeals to my taste, i
s that classic great ones seem to be fewer and farther between and less accessible on this particular instrument than, say, piano players or trumpeters. I find myself having to go back to the big band material of Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins, however you start getting into sound quality issues with their catalog.

21st Century Jedi Master: Sonny and his sax

Receiving the 2010 National Medal of the Arts award
However, there's one fella in my mind who stands apart from the rest...who has the most interesting and accessible sound of any saxophone player out there and has endured for nearly 60 years -- all the way from the early 1950s to this very day.

Enter Sonny Rollins.

Sonny is the saxophonist who romanticized the instrument. He's the player who inspires that iconic image of the lone sax player practicing under the bridge because he, well, at one time DID practice under a bridge in NYC after being banned from the local club circuit for a number of years (see the Ken Burns jazz documentary for more details).

Sonny can do it all...he can play soft cool sounds to relax to, or he can jam...but he never wails like a baby (at least from what I've heard), thank God...or he can even be silly, which can be interpreted in his deliberate repeated stops at the beginning of "Freedom Suite," or in something like the math-jazz sensibilities and increasing hurriedness in his cover of Thelonius Monk's "Brilliant Corners"...and I've never heard a recording that does something like that.

Certainly his tone and sound are unmistakable. However, most of all, Sonny Rollins has an AMAZING sense of melody, and I believe that's where his greatness lies.

If you want to explore Sonny Rollins, start with Saxophone Colossus, and then move onto Newk's Time or Tenor Madness...but, many of you might already have him on record and you don't realize it. If you own Tattoo You by the Rolling Stones, you can hear him solo on the sentimental classic "Waiting on a Friend," the last track on the recording.

If you find a liking to him, the bulk of Sonny's extensive cannon can be found through his Prestige, Blue Note, and Riverside/Contemporary box set collections -- two of three of which are very reasonably priced, and all worth getting for this iconic saxophone player. I'd then work through his Milestone recordings, and work your way from there chronologically up to the present day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Amazon list of best jazz albums

Being the Swiss cheese brain that I am, it never occurred to me to bring my Amazon music lists to the blog.

Here's the link to my list of recommendations to build your Jazz collection at "Begin a diversified Jazz collection - for jazz newbies!", with reviews for each recording.

Other recordings beyond the list are also mentioned, but the initial list suggests how you should build your jazz order.

Here's the list:
  1. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
  2. Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
  3. Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
  4. John Coltrane - Blue Train
  5. Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
  6. Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus
  7. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
  8. Charlie Parker - With Strings (The Master Takes)
  9. Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
  10. Clifford Brown & Max Roach (eponymous)
  11. Louis Armstrong - The Hot Fives & Sevens
  12. Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch
  13. Matthew Shipp - Harmony & Abyss
  14. Frank Sinatra with Count Basie - Sinatra at the Sands
  15. Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie - Complete Jazz at Massey Hall
  16. Billie Holiday & Lester Young - A Musical Romance
  17. Wynton Marsalis - Live at the Village Vanguard
  18. Ornette Coleman - Free Jazz
  19. John Coltrane - Giant Steps
  20. Jaco Pastorius (eponymous)
  21. Dave Holland - Live at Birdland
  22. Wayne Shorter - Adams Apple
  23. McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy
  24. The Complete Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
  25. Thelonius Monk - Straight No Chaser
  26. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - A Night in Tunisia
  27. Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else
  28. Jason Moran - The Bandwagon
  29. Modern Jazz Quartet - Django
  30. Miles Davis - Bags' Groove
Those are my recommendations on starting your jazz collection.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Theory on the Cover of 'Who's Next'

If you interpret this as the band pissing on the progress of society, then let's beg the question again....who really is next?
 As one of the greatest "monoliths" in rock history (pun intended), Who's Next hits home on several levels.

It's arguably the best work the band ever did....but the argument ends very quickly for most. It's a collection of some of the greatest songs by The Who, and the band is playing in top form....which shouldn't be any surprise, if one spends an evening with the band's live predecessor, Live at Leeds (DEFINITELY get your hands the remastered & expanded edition, with the live material from Tommy). 

1969-73 is a period where the band is rehearsed, on their A-game as players, and at their creative peak -- and Who's Next is the sweet spot in the middle of a succession of classic albums that changed rock music -- Tommy (1969), Live at Leeds (1970), Who's Next (1971), and Quadrophenia (1973).

The album also boasts innovations with the use of synthesizers....and what's so mind-blowing about this is the fact that it was the first use of their kind on a rock album, and they don't sound dated or kitschy. Townsend's use of them in a more textural sense is part of what makes the whole experiment successful. It was a very ballsy move for its time, especially for a band as rocking as The Who. If you want to read up on this a bit more, read this insightful and passionate article over at Ben Pringle's blog for added perspectives.

Then there's the bass acrobatics of John Entwistle (a.k.a. "The Ox" or "Thunderfingers"), who I highly respect and regard as the best on the planet at his instrument. Here's a post on him from a few years ago....we'll revisit The Ox again in the future, and more on the electric bass, as there are some new developments in my life with that instrument.

But why are we here? Let's talk about this most intriguing album cover.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say regarding some background of the cover.
Cover artwork shows a photograph, taken at Easington Colliery, of the band apparently having just urinated on a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap. According to photographer Ethan Russell, most of the members were unable to urinate, so rainwater was tipped from an empty film canister to achieve the desired effect. The photograph is often seen to be a reference to the monolith discovered on the moon in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had been released only about three years earlier.[8] In 2003, the United States cable television channel VH1 named Who's Next's cover one of the greatest album covers of all time.

That's all fine and factual, but let me give you my take....because I know Pete Townsend's approach to music, as an artist in the truest sense, to understand that there's symbolism and deeper meaning behind all his ideas and in everything he does. For God's sake, the man has written nearly a half dozen concept albums in his you're going to tell me the album cover of Who's Next was just some random occurrence?

I see the wasteland of the slab heap, and the monolith, representing the ugliness of modern society and progress in all its forms -- the stupidity and narrow thinking of humanity, desecration of the planet to mine for ores, results from the ravages of human consumption, war, a lack of regard (or advancements, being that it was 1971) for sustainability practices, and all that goes with it -- or perhaps it's just the twisted logic, upper stupidity, and lack of imagination involved with an engineer's decision to construct a useless monolith in a goddam coal dump. 

I believe the band is urinating on that monolith as a protest to the ugliness of progress as I've just described it, as that is their it should be within all of our rights to protest what we perceive as the evils (deemed necessary or not) of humanity and society. 

Of course, the album title Who's Next carries multiple meanings and reveals the band's humor, to include what I see as:
  1. It's announcing that it's the band's next album. Duh.
  2. Who's next to urinate on this ugly thing?
  3. Who's next to stand up, make yourself heard, be counted, and fight these injustices? (per my rambling theory)
Heck, for that matter, why stop with pissing? They should have vomited and defecated on the fucking thing too. If you follow my sentiments, then hopefully you appreciate that as well. Now THAT would be rock 'n' roll.

Wanna know how I really feel?

Even if a societal commentary wasn't Townsend or the band's primary intention, I will go as far as saying that it at least served as an undercurrent or primal projection out of the reptilian part of Townsend's brain.

I welcome any additional thoughts or insights into my theory on the Who's Next album cover.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FROM THE VAULT -- A Li'l Screamin' Ted Nugent for You Adrenaline Junkies

You gotta dig Ted Nugent live in 1977.

Oh the sweaty long hair. Oh those red spandex pants. Oh the blood-curling screams at the end of every other line.
Oh the "look at me, I'm a crazy rock star who's lost his mind" faces. Jumping off speakers and landing on your ass, but never missing a beat...and while Nugent claims he was never "on" anything, he still leaves some of us wondering.

Most of it, if not all of it, is more or less acting the rock 'n' roll part and a silly, campy fo' show...but it's also still jammin' rock 'n' roll for its time.

See a clip of Nugent wouldn't let me embed it but
at this link you can check out the Live rendition of Motor City Madhouse from 1977. DON'T MISS HIS DISPLAY OF INSANITY AND BLOOD-CURLING SCREAM AT THE 6 MINUTE MARK!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

FROM THE VAULT -- The Stones' "Waiting on a Friend"

This has long been one of my favorites by the Stones...there's some special memories attached to it. While it's a bit dated - in most humorous fashion - the video's worth a spin.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Obscure album artwork

Here's something new...a site worth visiting for really weird album artwork.

Check out this list of the 100 most obscure and remarkable album covers of all time.

Your bound to run into a few things that you've never seen before...such as this sample from a band named Orca Survive, who I've never heard of before.

It's a testament to the power of a's one of those cases where the artwork gets you interested in what the band sounds like.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Song "Caravan" Out June 1, Name of New Rush Album Revealed

Heads up!: Spoiler alert involving title of Rush album slated for release in 2011!

With two new tunes available for download next Tuesday and their Time Machine Tour starting in June, more information from the Rush camp keeps getting revealed.

The band has been recording a handful of songs through the spring, with the intention of releasing a couple of them as MP3 downloads and limited edition CD singles, then taking the material out on the tour to road test it.  

The new songs "Caravan" and "BU2B" will be available on June 1, next Tuesday, for download through Amazon and other sources.

The plan following this short 2010 summer tour is to go back into the studio and record the remaining songs (and perhaps even re-recording the two songs if they evolve on the tour) for completing a forthcoming album in 2011.

So that being said, the last thing folks in the Rush camp were expecting was a leak of the album name...but that's what's so beautiful about surprises...they're so, well, unexpected...right?

It turns out that the new album will be called Clockwork AngelsThis is the source, which appears to be that's the latest and greatest.

FYI: the image you see here is the CD single for "Caravan"...which appears to have song lyrics as part of the background.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage' premiers in less than two weeks

The much anticipated documentary movie on the Canadian rock band Rush will premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Cool movie poster!

I can't help but noticing on the poster the mention that the film's slated for a release in theaters in the should be interesting to see what the response to it is and how widespread the release ends up being.

Now that I think about it, there's a remote possibility that I may have a cameo in it...being that when I was at RushCon7 three years ago, Sam Dunn was there filming the event.

At any rate, the Rush machine is revving up again...this new documentary, new material being recorded, and the Time Machine Tour this coming summer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jacob Moon steals Rush's "Subdivisions" and makes it all his own

I'm not typically a fan of the cover tune.  At first glance, it's always seemed like a cheap cop-out or a shortcut to getting your foot in the door as a you're not being authentic or something...I don't know, I'm sure I'm being way to critical of the idea.

There are exceptions to the rule, however...and from a cursory all-encompassing arc in my head (with eyes squinted shut), I can think of three sets of circumstances. 
  1. The first circumstance would be when an artist is really able to outshine the original version if it because it was subpar...or, dare we say, it completely sucked.  Examples (arguable, as many might disagree) might include Van Halen covering "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks.  All respect for Ray Davies & Co., but VH simply blows their version into the 4th Dimension.
  2. The second circumstance would involve the cover of a song, from an original version that's simply the effect that the cover becomes the famous version.  The perfect example here is Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."  Even for some of you reading this for the first time, that may be news to you...if you're wondering: "You mean Dylan originally sang that?  Really?"  I've even known Hendrix fans to be unaware of that little sorry everyone, Jimi didn't write that.  He just did a killer version of it.
  3. Then there's the third instance, which to me is the most's where the original version is a classic ingrained in the pantheon of music...YET an artist, perhaps many years later, is able to come along and morph it into something new and engaging.  This post is about that instance.
Canadian artist Jacob Moon, out of Hamilton, Ontario, accomplished that in 2008 when he shot this video covering "Subdivisions" by Rush -- a very, very difficult act to follow -- and he pulled it off all by himself.  

Moon reinvigorates the song in a way that I could have never imagined.  Through his tinkering with it and use of acoustic guitars, he makes "Subdivisions" even more engaging, tender, and emotional.  For those who understand the significance of the lyrics, it's as if he's "us" -- an audience of Rush fans going back decades with the band -- and representing a real perspective and emotional interpretation of it.  It's like he was the guy you knew in the neighborhood who went through all those things with you.

Not to mention this video of him, a performance taking place on the rooftop of a house in a subdivision...that's a suburb of Canada. It adds even more to the effect and aesthetic of the song.  Whoever thought of that is an absolute genius.

So watch Jacob Moon pull off what I never thought I'd witness in my lifetime: someone taking a classic from the Rush cannon and reworking it into something all their own.  This is great, great stuff.  Thank you Jacob Moon!