Archive for June, 2008

Rock 4 Rookies Podcast: Episode 20

Posted: June 29, 2008 by Maximum Mike in Rock 4 Rookies Podcast

BACK IN THE SADDLE: You can’t keep a good man down or great music off the air!!! It’s time time to celebrate all things that rock in life like good friends and of course the upcoming American Independence Day!!

While Michael is away Jonny will play…..Prog. The complexities, the nuances, the bombast, all these combine to make music that is both intelligent emotional and highly entertaining. Featuring, Rush, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson and many others.

While Michael’s Away Jonny Will Play!!! Two Words, THRASH SHOW!!!!!

With summer just beginning, and the prospect of lazy days stretching endlessly in front of us, we need a soundtrack that reflects this relaxed state. All the Rock is great, and as festival season wears on fans will have their fill of Heavy Metal and Rock N Roll. The summer is when everyone is on tour; when you find yourself worn out from mosh-pits and headbanging, I will provide some musical suggestions and guidelines to get you through some of the main summer events. I remember a few years ago going to the Warped Tour with my friends. I am not a big Punk fan, but I do appreciate bits and pieces here and there. I was going to see 311 only to find that they were not performing in Cleveland, which really upset me. Bad Religion and the Vandals were there though so that was cool. It was hot and water, as you can imagine, was grossly overpriced and people were just using sinks in the bathroom to fill whatever receptacles they had. One of the funniest moments of the day came when Pennywise finished their set. Rollins Band, a Hardcore Punk act fronted by the always entertaining Henry Rollins, was slated to go on next. All my friends wisely informed me that I needed to get out of the mosh pit because Rollins Band fans were a bunch of fatigue/army boot wearing lunatics. The band went up, the militia went wild and we watched from the stands, only to realize that our boy Josh was still in the fray. When we finally found him he had been stomped pretty bad, but was feeling good. It was on the ride home that we truly appreciated the come down from the day’s overwhelming Punk faire by listening to some good old Motown.
One of the main events in the summer schedule is the barbeque. Usually spent with family or friends the music serves more as a background to the conversations and general hanging out. This is not to say that music is not an essential piece of the barbeque atmosphere. It is a standard blend of Funk music and Classic Rock, that when mixed with a sprinkle of Bob Marley sets the tone perfectly. The main reason is that these tunes are familiar enough that people can just digest them with ease as the party wears on. If mixed well, however, your party can have an interesting dynamic. Sure everyone loves the Beatles (at least they should), but if you place “Twist and Shout” appropriately within the mix of songs people will get out of their seats and start grooving to the music. The barbeque is about familiarity and friendship, and so the music should create an atmosphere to reflect that.
Another of Summers’ pleasures is the trip to the beach, and the time spent alone with your headphones, reading or catching some rays. My favorite music for this time is anything with a lush dreamy sound. Certainly any music with a beautiful flow that mirrors the ebb and flow of the tide sets the mood. However, when on the beach there is time to enjoy an album to its fullest, and not rush through your music shuffling at will. One wonderful album is “Beach Samba” by Astrud Gilberto. A smooth-voiced Jazz singer from Brazil, Astrud’s sound is soft Bossa Nova that drifts almost to Pop. Bossa Nova is a Brazilian style of music that combines Latin beats with Jazz sounds, and was very popular in the 60s. The true gem of this recording is the lush relaxed music orchestrated artfully by Ron Carter (Bass for Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, among others) and Toots Thielemans (guitar and harmonica). Another band, Everything But the Girl, got their start as a Jazz/Pop act only to find success in the thin line between Pop and Techno. Their 1996 release “Walking Wounded” took the themes of Trip-Hop, and other styles of experimental Electronica, and placed them in a tight concise Pop framework. (Trip-Hop was a name given to a style of Electronic music that incorporates down-tempo beats with Soul and Funk sounds.) Though more than a decade old, the music still sounds fresh and bright, and the beats provide a perfect kick for the beach. For my final summer beach album, I recommend a lovely album by the British singer/songwriter Rachel Goswell. Her debut “Waves are Universal” is a laid back British Folk album that contains elements of Alternative and Country.
The final event we will be touching on is the ever present road trip. When driving with friends the similar rules as the barbeque apply, although the musical choice is the driver’s prerogative. Just don’t try to give a serious listen to anything with people in the car. It is when alone that the road trip takes on a personal quality that is perfect for a more challenging listen. I have made the solo trip from my hometown Cleveland (Ohio) to New York many times when I was in University. Each time I would stock up on music that would get me through the almost 8 hour drive. A classic album all around, “Ritual de lo Habitual” by Jane’s Addiction starts at a fevered pitch with “Stop!”. From there the album builds in energy until the ten minute epic “Three Days”, a sort of Alternative nod to Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”. In following Hard Rock’s Heavy Metal conclusion, Iced Earth’s “The Dark Saga” is a concept album loosely based on Todd MacFarlaine’s famous comic book “Spawn.” The tempo is a bit slower than usual but the band is as heavy as ever, banging out amazing tracks like “The Hunter” and “I Died for You.” Finally, a stunning listen from start to finish and a perfect soundtrack for the road is “In Absentia” by The Porcupine Tree. Led by Steven Wilson, who is well known for his Blackfield project with Aviv Gefen, The Porcupine Tree is a Progressive Rock group from the U.K. The album is one of the most accessible of their career and still spans the musical gamut, from Heavy Metal, to Pop, to dreamy cuts that are almost indefinable. All around, this album keeps the listener interested with its wide range which makes it perfect for the often unchanging, steady drone of the U.S. Highway system.
Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of Electronic Music in all its forms. There are many albums by myriad acts that fit excellently into these categories, but I try my best to keep column this as Rock oriented as I can. Michael once remarked that he thought it was funny how I always manage a few Electronic references each week. I cannot help but support that which I am passionate about, and as the summer heat bears down upon me my emotions begin to ignite. I hope that my musical choices can help you do the same.
What I am listening to: Aaliyah – Self Titled
Produced by Timbaland before his handiwork was seen on every production in the land, Aaliyah’s best album was also her swan song. It is a terrific blend of R&B and Soul that showed Aaliyah maturing into a more adult artist before her life was tragically cut short.

Rock 4 Rookies Podcast: Episode 17

Posted: June 8, 2008 by Maximum Mike in Rock 4 Rookies Podcast

What do you do when everything’s about to hit the fan? You jump the hell up!!!! This week we we get up and get busy getting down with Another Animal, Korn, My Morning Jacket, and a Salute worth using the words Golly Gee Wiz for!!!!

I should start with an apology. Michael had suggested that my columns were too academic, that I do not write as I speak in normal conversations. He wanted me to get angry, and to call people out. Well I tried and failed, miserably. As it happens I was way too insulting to be allowed to write in such a manner. It was because of this that I could not get out a column last week and for that I am sorry. The purpose of this column is not to insult and get angry, I write to share my love of music and the ideas I have about it. I do not know if I ever told you the story about how this column got its name. If I did I am sorry but it bears repeating. There is an introduction to a “Far Side” collection by Robin Williams. He mentions that while some cartoonists sit in their favorite chairs happily sketching next to a crackling fire, Gary Larson works in a laboratory waiting for lightning to give his creations work. I told Michael that I felt more like the guy in the easy chair writing about music with my best headphones on, as I relax. He suggested the “Rocking Chair” and the rest is history.

Where were we? Ah yes The Grateful Dead. It is interesting that in the scope of their career, and much of the other bands in the Jam scene, their concerts are so iconic that their albums are almost glossed over. To these bands, an LP seems to be little more than a necessary tool in order to prepare for their live shows, where improvisation and free form movement are key. The Dead had only one top 40 hit in their career, and of course any die hard Deadhead will tell you that “Touch of Grey” is not a real Grateful Dead song. Trent Reznor for example feels in his element in the studio, making sure every sound and note come out to his exacting specifications. Conversely many Jam Bands feel confined by the need to be concise and economical in the studio, preferring the on-the-spot inventiveness of a live concert to get their real point across.

The word Jam Band was used as early as 1937 when it was published in a glossary of Dance Orchestra terms. ”A jam band depends entirely on improvisation, using no written music.” Interestingly the term did not become synonymous with the movement until the 90s when it was used to refer to Phish and the second generation of jammers. Bands like The Dead and the Allman Brothers were referred to as Jam Bands retroactively. The definition from the 30s is about as apt as you can get to describe the technical side of the music. It is very much focused on free-style improvisations. The songs themselves are used as jumping off points into other musical regions, and provide a landing point when the band finally finishes. Stylistically speaking Jam Bands work from all over the spectrum. Blues Rock Country Jazz Psychedelic even Electronica, many Jam Bands carry a smattering of these themes throughout their music.

Interestingly the term Jam Band which has become an all-inclusive term stylistically also distances it from the styles it so heavily borrows from. Blues is known for its improvisational techniques. The main way that manifests itself in the music is with long guitar solos over a steady backbeat. Hardly the full on intensity of a Phish or any other band Jam. The most interesting stylistic comparison between Jam Bands is with what is called “The American Classical Music” Jazz. On the surface the improvisational methods that are inherent in both styles seem to make the two almost indistinguishable. Each are based on a Blues downbeat, both have free improvisational themes, and the two even sound similar in some ways. The differences come in Jam Band’s extended palate of sounds. This primarily speaks of the presence of psychedelic sounds in their music. Use of keyboards and synthesizers also make the music sound less focused and more spacey. Additionally, Psychedelic themes are largely influenced by Eastern music and Asian sounds, so in that respect the music is vastly different from Jazz which is firmly entrenched in Americana. It is hard to break down a Genre of music that so effortlessly blends so many styles together, but when looked at closely the thread starts to unravel.

The influence of this style of music on music culture at large is profound. From the first days hanging out with Ken Kesey in San Francisco in the 60s, the Grateful Dead had a dedicated following. To say that this has continued into current times is to grossly underestimate the scene. Fans of these bands are so devoted they take months even years of their lives in order to follow their favorite bands all over the country. Phish were famous for causing major traffic jams surrounding their New Years shows in Florida. What is so fascinating about all of that is that these bands did it all with little or no radio support. Phish were able to have a lucrative career any artist would be jealous of, playing the music they loved, and not compromising in order to sell more records. They solidified their presence on the Pop Culture lexicon of the US when Phish appeared on a 2002 episode of “The Simpsons.”

Of course every great musical movement has its’ downside. And as I am sure you can guess here I am going to speak about drugs. I am not going to say that the scene is only about that because there are thousands I am sure of fans that enjoy a clean and sober lifestyle. I will say however that the presence of drugs primarily Marijuana LSD and Mushrooms, are the most popular because of the way the experience interacts with music. The fact that many of the Jam Band concerts take place in open natural environments the possibility for sneaking and taking drugs is prevalent and astonishingly easy. It can be argued that the main corruptors of the scene are the misguided youth who don’t truly understand the music, and just use the venue as a place to do drugs. I would point out that many of my friend’s parents who were into the Dead in the 60s and 70s did their fair share of drugs as well. LSD and Pot have been present in the scene forever. It is only now that Cocaine and ecstasy and MDMA, and other harsher substances have grown in popularity that they have become more widespread in the Jam Band scene.

It is truly remarkable that a style of music that came from 60s hippie culture is still thriving, and with almost no label support at all. The music is so eclectic it is almost impossible to classify and yet that it was makes it so dynamic, the ability to play a sixty show tour and change up the jams is a testament to the artists skills and the reward for the fans who follow them all over.

What I am listening to: Jean Luc Ponty – Cosmic Messenger

Combining many styles into his 1978 release this album also showcases his growing control over his instrument, the electric violin. This album will be entertaining for fans of Jazz, Fusion, and Rock music alike.

History of Rock, Part 2!!!! This week we’ll take a look at the era that classic rock was born in!! Music inspired by the Vietnam war, music made to fight the disco, a decade to admire!!! Rock 4 Rookies presents: The 70’s!!!!