Showing posts from 2004

Top Ten of 2004

It still seems a bit early to be finalizing such a list, but this is xpn's world and we just live in it, so here goes: Julia Fordham – That’s Life (Vanguard) It’s rare when an album achieves the quality of Concrete Love (2002) , with songwriting, performance and production excellence. It’s rarer still when the next album is essentially a continuation of the same session with another batch of superb songs, perfectly executed, a true gift. Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me (Columbia) After almost overlooking this record when I first received an advance copy in late 2003 (the first listen didn’t register), it ultimately took control of my car player like no other release in recent memory. A witty, wise, wordy, and tuneful debut; that she was just seventeen (you know what I mean) when this was written and recorded makes it all the more remarkable. k.d. lang – Hymns of the 49th Parallel (Nonesuch) Lang’s enormous talent is put to best use in this tribute to Canadian songwriters. Ever

24 Hours in NYC w/Dave, Holly & Soraya

Holly Palmer and Emm Gryner brought their mini tour of the Northeast to New York City on Saturday night at the Fez, and after warmup shows at The Point in Bryn Mawr, PA on Thursday and at The Call in Providence, R.I. on Friday where Holly played opening act to audiences who knew little of her material, the Fez show was a homecoming of sorts where Holly headlined and gave what may have been her best performance ever. I'll leave it to Dave Curtis to cover the details in a review he plans to write for Holly's website, which I will also post here as soon as it's done. The pressure was on me to record the show on Holly's behalf, as arranged by Dave, Holly, and her manager. Having never done this before (at least in a professional capacity), I quickly realized what I should have brought (more sturdy tripod, headphones, flashlight), however in spite of the limitations, I managed to record a beautiful looking video using brother Paul's Hi-8 Sony Handicam, and we also got

Phil Roy - Tower Records, Philadelphia, 11/16/04

David Dye brought the World Cafe to Tower Records in Philadelphia tonight to celebrate the retail release of Live at the World Cafe, Vol. 17 - Three Flights Up . For live music, he enlisted Phil Roy, a native Philadelphian singer-songwriter, best known for his song "Hope in a Hopeless World" which has been recorded by Paul Young, Pops Staples, and Widespread Panic who recorded it thinking it was a Pops Staples composition, according to Roy. Roy played acoustic guitar and sang, accompanied by John Lilly of the Hooters (the Philadelphia band, not the restaurant) on lead acoustic guitar and fellow Philly-local Ben Arnold on keyboards, who also played on Roy's original recording of "Hope in a Hopeless World." After starting with a new tune ("Willow") to be included on his forthcoming CD, his set consisted of his best known songs, "Hope in a Hopeless World" which featured a blazing acoustic guitar solo by Lilly, "Undeniably Human," &q

It's That Time of Year Again, WXPN's Top Fifty Albums of 2004

Being it's now less than two weeks till Thanksgiving, I guess we can give xpn some slack in starting their drive for listeners to submit top ten lists for 2004 so early. As a year with some great new music, this will be both easy and hard; easy in that my one, two and three are locked in, hard in that there are easily thirty-nine great records all seemingly worthy of one of the seven remaining spots on the list. Even narrowing it down, there are still about fifteen that are strongly resisting elimination - I may have to give them all another spin or two. To get in the spirit, and partially because it was finally just posted this week to the Rambles website, here is my review again of the Julia Fordham CD, That's Life , which has a lock as my number one. Here's my Rambles review (pre-blog) of Nellie McKay's Get Away From Me which is residing happily in my number two slot. Anyo

Wawa: Great Coffee, Great Muzak

Not only does Wawa sell the best coffee on the planet, not only does Wawa sell the best diet iced tea on the planet, not only are they open 24 hours/day with many convenient locations in the mid Atlantic states, not only do their locations with gasoline sell it at the lowest possible price, but now Wawa officially has the best muzak I've ever encountered. Up till now I've occasionally felt sort of stupid for enjoying the baby boomer oldies that play over the sound system in every Wawa store, but today while I was pouring my late afternoon cup of steaming java, I realized that I was hearing Valerie Carter's version of Ooh Child (the old Five Stairsteps hit) from her Wild Child album (1978), one of the best and most overlooked albums ever. This album was my holy grail to find on CD for many years until I finally found a Japanese pressing at an affordable price in Montreal some years ago. Way to go Wawa. Wawa Website: A Talk With Valerie Carter: http

Eleni Mandell & Shivaree - The Point, 10/27/04

Eleni Mandell did another superb set at The Point in Bryn Mawr, PA on Wednesday night, opening for Shivaree. It was her second time here in the last few months, both times as opening act; it's time they booked her to headline. In any case, the small but appreciative audience was treated to a nice sampling of her five albums, concentrating on her latest, the excellent Afternoon . Mandell played acoustic guitar and sang, accompanied only by an upright bass. On the Tom Waits cover it was just bass, voice and finger snaps - just awesome. Iowa City Look Out Below American Boy (dedicated to John Kerry) Just a Dream Afternoon Dreamboat The One That Got Away (Incredible version of the Tom Waits song, holding glass of wine) It's Raining (Allen Toussaint) Maybe, Yes He Lied It was the last night of this tour, and Mandell had no problem selling out the last of the CDs she brought, leaving none to carry back to L.A. Unbeknownst to most everyone in attendance at this show (in

Joe Sample - World Cafe Live, 10/22/04 & WXPN Studio Tour

It was a good thing that this show was not advertised as a solo piano performance because I might not have flipped for the $30 ticket price, in which case we would have missed one of the most unique and special musical experiences ever. As it turned out, this was a rare oppotunity to hear a true jazz master render a virtuosic recital of the history of American music on piano. Sample's musical knowlege and experience is truly encyclopedic. You can enjoy this musical history lesson yourself on Sample's latest release, Soul Shadows from which he played everything save for the title track (which is the only vocal on the record). In concert, each tune was prefaced with an explanation of its significance, including detailed descriptions of the places and times from which these compositions originated. To perform this material, Sample channels the players of the time to let you hear these songs as they would have been heard back then. All of the songs were great to hear but some were

Tina Dico & Teitur, Joe's Pub, NYC, 10/12/04

Zero 7 already had a wealth of vocal talent on their 2001 album, Simple Things , rotating Mozeez, Sophie Barker and Sia Furler into the lead vocal slot like so many ace pitchers in a championship starting rotation. As such, they hardly needed another singer, and yet when they recorded this year's release, When It Falls , they could not resist adding a fourth vocalist in the person of Tina Dico. When Dave & I saw Zero 7 play New York's Irving Plaza back in May, all four vocalists were amazing, as was the instrumental excellence of the group led by Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker who bring so much more to the table than would be suggested by the characterization that they are merely a British version of Air. In addition to her prodigious vocal talent, Dico's knockout good looks are totally consistent with her Danish origin. I'd travel to hear any of these fine vocalists work solo; Sia's got a great solo album but so far only Dico has done solo gigs stateside, play

Guess I Touched a Nerve (Fear and Loathing on the Melodica Bulletin Board)

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later, I've been flamed. My post "Why Only Germany Gets to Hear the Hooters" resulted in this seemingly over-reacting response. Message: 1 Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 20:19:08 -0400 From: Name Omitted at Writer's Request Subject: A COMPLETE OUTRAGE!!!!! Personally, - I really don't think that Rob or Eric should have to address anyone about their personal financial business - especially on the internet. Where does anyone on this list come off asking that Rob & Eric should have to answer questions about how much they get paid for shows. That is a completely out of line question. Back when I did bookings for my friend Blake's band - If you asked me how much we got for a show and were someone just off the street (fan or not) and even slightly pushed about it I would tell you to "kiss me $#+". Bottom line. You did far worse that quoting a source without permission - you made a completely baseless statement that come

Putting the Fat in the Fire on the Hooters Discussion Board

For the past two summers (2003 and 2004) the Hooters have reunited to play a tour of Germany where apparently they still enjoy superstar status and as such have enough drawing power to make such a tour highly profitable. Unfortunately, even with the long history of local support they've gotten from fans in their hometown of Philadelphia, they have been unwilling to play any dates here either at the beginning or end of either German tour. Eric Bazilian has been quoted on the message board as saying that the band really does want to play in Philly but that due to the high cost of venues and promoters and so forth that it has been "economically unfeasible." The first summer it was somewhat amusing to read the accolades posting to the message board from the German fans, and it was likewise interesting to hear Jonatha Brooke discuss her experience as opening act for the 2003 tour. By summer 2004 however, the accounts of the two and a half hour shows where they played "e

k.d. lang - World Cafe Interview & Performance, 9/10/04

I was just listening back to this radio appearance and although I usually think that there's too much interview and not enough live performance on the World Cafe segments, in this case the interview is fascinating (and there's no shortage of music either, it's a nice long segment). You can hear her starting out with some stock answers, almost word for word the same as on her NPR Morning Edition appearance, but when she discusses her motivation to interpret on her last two records rather than to write, and also when she discusses her experience with Tony Bennett, her answers are so honest and insightful that it's almost revelatory, as compared with the usual promo tour interviews which nine times out of ten come right out of the p.r. playbook. David Dye does a nice job eliciting this conversation then getting out of the way to let her talk. Her last two records are so good that it makes me want to go back and discover (or rediscover) her earlier work. If any readers woul

A Tale of Two Documentaries and a Teen Comedy: Fahrenheit 9/11, Supersize Me, & Saved! (All 2004)

Perhaps if I had seen Fahrenheit 9/11 when it was first released to theaters, I would have found it to be more earth-shattering, but having read and heard all the reviews, accolades, fact checking nitpicks and so forth, watching the DVD on the small screen turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic. For reference, I must state that I strongly believe that George W. Bush has proved in his four years in office, to be one of the worst presidents ever, as bad as Richard Nixon, if not more so. What he has done to damage the environment, the economy, every social program you could name, and turning the surplus back into all-time record deficit would be bad enough in and of itself, but his actions in response to 9/11 have hurt our standing in the world, encouraged more terrorism, and as a result have left us less secure as a result with a very uncertain future. The degree to which he has looted the U.S. treasury and mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren to pour untold sums of m

WXPN's 885 Song Countdown - The Final Tally or Welcome to Brucetown

It's hard to remember when a week of radio was this much fun to listen to, and WXPN deserves a lot of credit for coming up with this deceptively simple concept and then playing all 885 songs. The simultaneous discussion on the WXPN bulletin board only served to amplify the excitement that grew day by day as the songs counted down. There were many great moments, including yesterday when both "Supper's Ready" by Genesis and "Close to the Edge" by Yes were aired in their full album side entirety. That the Yes masterwork was followed by a great Stevie Wonder tune was one more unexpected pleasure that resulted from this programming. Even though WXPN added server capacity to accommodate 4,000 listeners online, the demand overwhelmed the station's website during the final day of the countdown, and the site is still down as of 11:15pm. When it comes back online, I'll update this entry with the vital statistics, final top ten, and I'll list how my top ten

Enjoy Every Sandwich - The Songs of Warren Zevon (Artemis, 2004)

This tribute disc which is scheduled for October 19th release, looks just great on paper (and the Jill Sobule song is even good). Check out the tracklist, courtesy of the Artemis website. "Searching For A Heart" - Don Henley "Werewolves of London" - Adam Sandler "Reconsider Me" - Steve Earle "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" - Jackson Browne with Bonnie Raitt "My Ride's Here" (live) - Bruce Springsteen "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" - Wallflowers "Studebaker" - Jordan Zevon "The Wind" - Billy Bob Thornton "Splendid Isolation" - Pete Yorn "Mutineer" (live) - Bob Dylan "Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse" - David Lindley and Ry Cooder "Don't Let Us Get Sick" - Jill Sobule "Ain't That Pretty At All" - Pixies "Keep Me In Your Heart" - Jorge Calderon/ Jennifer Warnes "Keep Me In Your Heart" (strings only) - arranged by Van Dyke Parks We

Rebecca Martin & Jill Sobule - World Cafe Live, 10/04/04

Having travelled to New York City's Livingroom many times to see Rebecca Martin, I couldn't pass an opportunity to see her play here in Philadelphia, at the new World Cafe Live on only it's third night open. Even though I had no interest in the headliner, it seemed worth the $20 ticket just for the opening set. Rebecca Martin as a member of Once Blue was responsible (with Jesse Harris) for one of my favorite albums of all time. In her solo career, she has turned away from the melodic pop music that Once Blue was so good at, and instead she has explored a form of introspective jazz music with vocals that is always a pleasure to listen to. What the music lacks in rhythm and melody, it makes up with tonal shadings and Rebecca's always appealing voice; I could listen to her sing the phone book. Her last album, Middlehope consisted of mostly standards with two Jesse Harris compositions, one of which ("One Flight Down") became more familiar when Norah Jones late

WXPN's All Time Greatest Songs Countdown

The countdown of the 885 all time greatest songs as selected by the listeners' top ten lists (with staff and music industry votes "weighted") began on Monday October 2nd to celebrate WXPN's move to their new facility. The countdown goes from 6am to 11pm daily and will run through Friday October 8th. The selections are as arbitrary and variously good and bad as any given person's top ten list multiplied by about 4,000 entries. The best thing about it is that it allows WXPN to go off format and play some tunes you would never normally hear. It's almost surprising (but not really) that there is such a predominance of Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and Springsteen on the list. If the survey data was fudged at all to allow the Tom Waits and Springsteen versions of "Jersey Girl" to follow each other at #685 and #684, it was a nice touch, at least from a programming standpoint. I didn't hear Jethro Tull's &q

Jonatha Brooke, World Cafe Live, 10/02/04

World Cafe Live is a new music venue located in WXPN's beautiful new building at 30th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. Given the degree to which her career has crossed paths with WXPN, it was more than appropriate that Jonatha Brooke got the call to open the new venue headlining the opening night shows. The deco era Hajoca Building was gutted and remodeled completely as the new home of WXPN and World Cafe Live, which is a separate entity from the radio station, a for-profit company owned by Hal Real that is a tenant, sharing the building and licensing the World Cafe name, hopefully to the mutual benefit of both. I haven't had the pleasure of a tour of the WXPN portion of the building, but from what one can see from the public areas, the building looks just great. The Walnut Street entrance brings you into the top floor which has a public lobby with a merchandise and ticket selling desk, and "Upstairs Live", a restaurant/bar where music theoretically is performed

Keane - Tower Records, Philadelphia, 9/27/04

Keane did an in-store performance at Tower last night and I am even more impressed by their musicality than I was when I first heard the record. I had no clue that all that music is produced by a trio of keyboardist, drummer and vocalist; no bass, no guitar. The keyboard player takes care of the bass with his left hand, the melody with his right. The vocalist is such a strong singer that his melodic vocals carry every song and play off the melodic keyboard work perfectly. After their four or five song set, they signed CDs, and all three seemed totally polite, friendly and British. My only miscalculation was in not getting a ticket to their TLA show last night which was sold out.

Music for a Week at the Beach

In my top ten discussion below I touched on the fact that Chris Rea's On the Beach and King of the Beach still sound great in the car on a beach trek. Although I brought a good pile of discs to listen to in the rental apartment, we didn't get to very many because most of the time was spent listening to WWFM, the classical station that broadcasts from Mercer County Community College in Trenton, NJ. No, the signal doesn't reach all the way down to the shore, but WWFM has an extensive network of repeater stations, including one located right in Cape May. I'll freely admit that my interest in listening to classical music comes and goes, but I always do enjoy it, especially the chamber music as played on original instruments as produced by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. My range has increased over the years to the point that I'll even enjoy vocal classics sometimes, except for operatic sopranos. WWFM plays the most enjoyable mix of classics I'

Kasey Chambers - Wayward Angel (WB, 2004)

On first listen I am totally knocked out by the sound and production quality of Kasey Chambers' third album, Wayward Angel . This should really have come as no surprise, being her first two albums also featured great sound and production by her brother Nash, but even still from the first note on this CD, the instruments virtually leap from the speakers with the most amazing recording quality imaginable. The mix is spacious as well, allowing all players room to breathe and to be heard. The guitars both acoustic and electric are muscular, well textured, and exquisitely played. You might expect great production from a famous name producer, but Nash Chambers shares the same childhood backstory as Kasey, with the family spending a good portion of their childhood living in the Australian outback, then getting started in the music business with a family band consisting of parents Bill & Diane Chambers and kids, Kasey and Nash. The All Music Guide describes the Dead Ringer Band

Julia Fordham - That's Life (Vanguard, 2004)

Julia Fordham is totally in the zone. Two years ago Concrete Love was remarkable in that it represented the second masterpiece of her career, following her earlier gem Porcelain by more than a dozen years. The better an album is, the greater the odds that the follow-up will disappoint, thus it was hard to approach her new album without some trepidation. Happily, such worries proved needless because That's Life makes it two in a row, continuing the magic of Concrete Love with a set of ten wonderful new originals. All eight Julia Fordham albums are special but what elevates these three is the consistent combination of memorable melodies, compelling lyrics (usually about love), her unique vocal ability, and perfectly conceived and executed production. The latest two albums reflect the fine work of producer Larry Klein who not only has a firm grip on how to make these songs sound their best, but selected a stellar combination of studio talent with many of the same players from

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Ten years in the making, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow brings computer generated imagery to new levels of artistic achievement. It's equal parts Indiana Jones and James Bond , reborn in an art deco noir fantasy. Looking exactly like a vintage deco postcard come to life, the muted colors reminiscent of tinted black and white, director and writer Kerry Conran's artistic vision is the real triumph of this movie. The plot is decent, although I think it may require another viewing to sort out whether this is simply innocent storytelling or intentional camp aimed at the Rocky Horror crowd; at times it cuts both ways. Basically, it's a detective/adventure story set in the 1930's with Jules Verne style futuristic science fiction elements. New York's deco archtecture is a perfect fit, especially the opening scene of the Hindenberg III docking at the top of the Empire State Building, followed by a movie theater scene in which Radio City Music Hall never looked b

Julia Fordham - Tin Angel, Philadelphia, 9/11/04

Given a choice, I think I would always automatically prefer to hear any artist perform with full band as opposed to solo acoustic, but having seen Julia with band at Joe's Pub, seeing her "acoustic" performance at Philadelphia's Tin Angel on Saturday night was completely amazing in its own way. Accompanied only by Mark Goldenberg on mellow electric guitar, Julia performed a set that was stunning in its intensity. Goldenberg's guitar backing on many of the songs veered toward the sort of jazz style that characterized the new jazz song that she's doing as the encore this tour. Julia reminisced about the "Philly Clickers" from the show at the same venue two years ago, and she also invited the same saxophone guy from two years ago to come up and play again on two songs. Here's the setlist: Falling Forward Girlfriend (sung with emotion like it was written yesterday) Connecting Downhill Sunday (incredibly intense) Concrete Love (talked about Ind

Julia Fordham - Joe's Pub, New York City, 9/07/04

This quick run-down of the show was posted on the Julia discussion board, That's Life. Julia was brilliant Tuesday night at Joe's Pub in NYC with full band, Mark Goldenberg on guitar, Jennifer Condos on bass, Kevin McKeever on keyboards and Mauricio "Fritz" Lewack on drums. It seemed like the majority of the audience stuck around backstage after, and it was indeed a pleasure to meet Julia's mum, dad, sister Claire, her awesome manager Lori Leve, and her excellent band. Julia was glowing in an orange top with a black flowing floor-length skirt. She credited the New York water for giving her "perfect hair" which it most certainly was, and threated to move east because of it. I'll post again after tonight's Philadelphia show which is acoustic with just Julia and Mark. Here's the set list (Perfect Me had to be scratched from the encore due to time considerations - Joe's Pub had to clear for the next event). Falling Forward Connecting

All Time Top Ten - The Final Cut

Thanks WXPN - First, a giant thank you to Bruce Warren and everyone at WXPN for a truly great promotion. This all time top ten business has focused their radio community on the music like never before and it's a thing of beauty. As the XPN hosts consider this subject on air, many songs are being played that wouldn't normally fit the playlist which is another giant plus. So, on to my list. The Top Ten - After compiling a list of at least a hundred songs that could each totally qualify for my all time top ten, actually choosing ten seemed somewhat arbitrary. I could throw darts at my list and randomly pick ten and the list would be every bit as valid as any other means of choosing. WXPN's assignment was to come up with a list of your all time top ten favorite songs. So, the only way I could think to logically narrow it down to ten was to follow my own musical history. At any point in time I have a number of artists that are favorites, but usually there is one primary fav

Fleetwood Mac - Live in Boston (Warner Brothers, 2004)

I semi-reluctantly picked this up based on Lindsay Buckingham's rejoining the current incarnation, ignoring I suppose their potential irrelevance, finally being won over by the lure of a two DVD plus one CD set for $19.99. At less than half the price of a concert ticket these days, this would be a deal just for the complete two hour PBS Soundstage concert on DVD, the audio CD highlights disc is like a free bonus. Although I have nothing against Christine McVie and have liked some of her contributions, her absence from this current reunion really allows Lindsay Buckingham's guitar to dominate, and being that I always felt he was the true musical genius of Fleetwood Mac, the result for me is an absolutely stellar performance. For most of this concert, Fleetwood Mac is a quartet, with Buckingham on guitar, backed by the always solid rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on drums and bass respectively, and Stevie Nicks on vocals. Other backup musicians and vocalists ap

Pet Sounds Revisited (4/12/04)

Charlie saved this email from last April and suggested I might want to put it up on the blog, so here goes, blasphemy and all. From: William Kates To: Charlie Ricci Subject: Pet Sounds Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2004 This may be sacrilege, but on this weekend's road trip to Earlham, I had the chance to reassess Pet Sounds. After spending what seemed like hours reading the copious liner note descriptions, then listening to the CD, I can honestly say that this is one of the most over-rated albums of all time. I can buy that Rubber Soul may have motivated Brian Wilson to record Pet Sounds, but I have a bit more trouble believing Paul McCartney when he says that Pet Sounds inspired the Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper. Yes, Brian Wilson was (is) the tortured genius, yes he extracted more sonic capability from the studio than the technology would normally have yielded at the time, yes his lyrics developed a greater maturity level than Fun Fun Fun or Surfin' USA. Given all that, th