Sunday, May 20, 2012

Joe Walsh - Analog Man (2012), First New Album in 20 Years, Due June 5th

Analog Man [CD / DVD Combo Deluxe Edition]

Fellow blogger Charlie from Bloggerhythms emailed this week to say: "As a long time Joe Walsh fan I thought you might like this". The link led to a blog called isorski's musings and a post about the new Joe Walsh single, "Lucky That Way", to which Charlie commented, "nice. I like it a lot. The old Joe is back". Check it out in this live version from Joe's website.

We're with Charlie and Isorski on the new song, we like it too. They did an amazing bit of arrangement and production to get the sound close to Joe's old James Gang song "Midnight Man" off James Gang - Thirds.

Listen to "Midnight Man"

We might be a bit more enthusiastic about the new album, had we not already heard the first single, the title track.

It's not that "Analog Man" is necessarily a bad song but Joe seems to be in somewhat of a songwriting pattern since "Life's Been Good", writing first person songs about Joe. The two new songs show a nice sense of humor and find Joe with the good sense of self. But, compared to his songwriting in the seventies, the first person songs don't come close to the quality we all hope for every time Joe hits the recording studio. We know that Analog Man can't possibly have all first person songs about Joe, but so far the advance tracks are batting two for two.

It's probably unfair to have to compete with your own past every time you release a record, but to give you an idea of what Joe is up against every time out, we are going to make the case with a just a few audio and video tracks that Joe's body of work in the seventies was second to none in terms of songwriting, guitar playing, production, and as a singer, Joe was no slouch. In this next song, hang in through the long slow intro and be rewarded with a song that sounds as fresh, new, and great now as it did when he first released it in 1970.

Listen to "Tend My Garden" from James Gang Rides Again

Between 1969 and 1976, Joe made three albums with the James Gang (Yer' Album, James Gang Rides Again, and Thirds), and four solo albums (Barnstorm, The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get, So What, and You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind). If you want to hear Joe Walsh at his best, all these albums are essential. These albums sound great on CD because a few years ago, Joe's original producer and engineer Bill Szymczyk personally supervised the CD remastering. One could make a case that the Barnstorm album was his masterpiece. Next up is one of our favorite songs from Barnstorm.

Listen to "I'll Tell the World About You"

.,,....Photos courtesy of Joe Walsh

Here's a vintage video of another great song from Barnstorm. "Mother Says". This live version was recorded in 1975 and appears to be from the Don Kirshner's Rock Concert TV show, the same performance that was used for the live album, You Can't Argue With a Sick Mind, even though "Mother Says" wasn't included on the album.

"Help Me Through the Night" first appeared on the So What album (1974). Everyone was surprised when, in 1976, Joe joined the Eagles. Everyone, that is, except anyone familiar with You Can't Argue With a Sick Mind; the live album was recorded in 1975 and released in early '76. It featured "Help Me Through the Night" with Don Henley, Glen Frey, and Don Felder of the Eagles on guest vocals. The beauty of their voices combined can be heard in this live performance from the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over tour (1994), this show was recorded and released on CD and DVD.

Joe's talents were somewhat under-utilized in the Eagles, but he's in his fourth decade as a member. "Pretty Maids All In a Row" is one of his songwriting contributions which was included on the Hotel California album (1976). Here's a live version by Joe and the Eagles.

In 2004, Joe appeared at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival. He did his own "Funk #49" and "Rocky Mountain Way", but in this video he comes out and plays with James Taylor on a smokin' version of "Steamroller".

In 2007, Joe made an appearance at the London tribute concert honoring the late Jim Capaldi, Traffic drummer and songwriter. This acoustic performance of "John Barleycorn Must Die" is especially poignant, in light of Joe's well publicized history with alcohol.

For a bonus video this week, we have Joe as a session musician, playing with none other than Paul McCartney on his new album of standards. Here we have Joe joining Sir Paul in the studio to play some mellow jazz with Diana Krall on piano in a nice version of "My Valentine".

Joe Walsh's Website
Joe Walsh's Facebook

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shayna Zaid & The Catch Update - Lighthouse Album Released, Band Hiatus Announced


The good news is that the legal issues have been resolved and the Lighthouse album by Shayna Zaid and the Catch is now available at Amazonand iTunes. Here is the message Shayna sent from Malaysia to announce the release last month:

Once upon a time... in New York City, there lived a band; A group of incredibly talented boys and a curious girl with an itch for adventure. Two years later, after taking to the streets and sharing their collaborations, they entered the studio to produce their first album with a man named John Agnello. "Lighthouse" was born in December 2010 but was later taken in by the red tape of a commercial legal battle and was held hostage for an entire year. One year later.. Lighthouse will be free to finally see the light of day. April 18th, 2012. We hope you'll be here with us.

Listen to "Lighthouse"

Lighthouse is a beautiful piece of work and this is terrific news. Click here for the full review with additional tracks.

Today, in a letter to fans, Shayna and the band expressed their appreciation for the support they have enjoyed and announced a band hiatus of unknown duration. Here is the text of their announcement:

After several months of being held under red tape, we are happy (and truly relieved) to announce that the album is finally available online. Please refer below for a complete set of other online distributors and their store links to the album. And for other special requests, feel free to email us directly!

We would like to take this special opportunity to thank everyone for all the support we have received throughout the years; Your contributions have made our journey more than possible.

This album is a story about our quests through life and the strengths we've found in the beauty of our experiences and each other; We hope that this journey inwards will continue to expand the venture outwards into the world, and maybe someday, for each and every one of us here (yes, you!), it will all make perfect sense.

That said, we are humbled to inform you that the band will be on hiatus for an undecided period of time to explore new experiences, gather inspirations and embrace the blessings that have entered our lives.

The boys and I would like to wish each and every one of you a warm and wonderful adventure ahead. We hope the sun will always shine on your face and the wind will always propel you forward with great wisdom, health and happiness. Thank you for all the good times.

Take care dear friends.. And keep in touch! Who knows what the future holds..

Shayna, Christopher, Yan, Andrew & Fred

Photos courtesy Shayna Zaid

Shayna's website
Shayna's Facebook

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jess Morgan, Folksinger & Songwriter from Norwich, England - Aye Me (2012)

Jess Morgan is a folksinger, songwriter, and musician from Norwich, England. In labelspeak, she might be described as Laura Marling meets The Civil Wars, but she is much more than that. Let's meet Jess Morgan out on the balcony.

That clip tells you almost everything you need to know about Jess Morgan. She's an inventive, original songwriter, a dynamic guitar player, an engaging performer, and she's got a beautifully distinctive voice. The song she sang for Balcony TV is called "Well Dressed Fellas" and it comes from Jess' new album, Aye Me, her second. It has been a real privilege to get acquainted with this record over the last couple of months.

Aye Me

The first thing you notice when you put this on is the pure and relaxing sound of the acoustic instruments, well recorded in open, uncluttered arrangements. The album was beautifully produced by Jess and Tom Hartley Booth, who also played on it with Jess and Edwin Ireland as follows.

Jess Morgan - Acoustic Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Tom Hartley Booth - Piano, Backing Vocals, Clarinet, Accordian, Glock
Edwin Ireland - Cello, Bass

Even though this is an otherwise vocal album, Jess opens with an instrumental, so pretty that you have to hear it before we go any further.

Listen to "Heads of the Valleys Road"

Jess wrote all the songs on Aye Meand the amazing thing is that, as originals, they can't by definition be, but they sound like they are, traditional folk songs. Wikipedia defines traditional folk music as:

Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. One meaning often given is that of old songs, with no known composers; another is music that has been transmitted and evolved by a process of oral transmission or performed by custom over a long period of time.

Jess is extraordinarily good at writing songs that sound old; not just old, but old by a factor of centuries. And even though they have an old time sensibility, these songs seem fresh and current at the same time. Either Jess has a very old soul, or she's got an uncanny ability to internalize the daily lives, hopes, fears, and common wisdom of people who lived a very long time ago.

She's probably got both because if your time machine malfunctioned and you found yourself in rural America, or rural England for that matter, and Jess was singing, you would not be able to tell by some of her songs, if it was 2012 or 1712, or somewhere in between. Many of the songs on Aye Meare story songs that sound like first-hand experiences..

Listen to "The Thompson Family Singers and I"

Photos courtesy of Jess Morgan

The songs are mostly in Jess' first person voice, except "The Result" which is a nice duet with Dan Wilde who also plays guitar on the song. There are three songs in a row that offer sage advice on men and women, like these words of wisdom from "Well Dressed Fellas":

Well dressed fellas are rotten to the core,
They'll make you cry, too much, too young,
And if one of them took a shine to your working class charms.
Well if his braces match his bow tie darling, run right home.

There are songs about work, like "Leave a Light on" and "The Workhouse" which is the first video from the album, watch.

Jess' lyrics are so vivid and her delivery so compelling, that the songs seem like chapters in a book that you can't put down. And like a good novel where you get to know the characters, you really don't want it to end. Luckily, in addition to Aye MeAmazon U.S. also has (on MP3), Jess' first album, All Swell, her debut EP, Crosses/Pamela, and a live session EP (links below).

All Swell


Roaming Records Session Vol. 2

Jess Morgan's Website
Jess Morgan's Facebook

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Courtney Barnett - I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris (2012), Cool Music From Down Under

Dispatch From Melbourne: Yesterday we were checking out an interesting music site from Australia called The Ripe. After listening to a few things and dipping our toes into the Melbourne music scene, we ran across Courtney Barnett, a songwriter, guitarist, and singer from Melbourne who has just released her debut EP, I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris.Courtney would prefer to think of her music as genre free, but when pressed, she'll call it "stoner/slacker/garage-pop".

I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris

Listen to "Lance Jr.:

"Stoner/slacker/garage-pop" works for us. The more we listened, the more we liked it and we were about to pick it up at Australian Bandcamp when a quick look at Amazon (U.S.) revealed that they have it on MP3, and moments later it was spinning in iTunes. Courtney sounds a bit like Juliana Hatfield, but maybe a more apt comparison would be to The Grabs, Eleni Mandell's garage band side project.

Like The Grabs, this is highly tuneful music that has the freedom and immediacy of a garage band, with a set of tunes that's been exceptionally well played and recorded. So well recorded in fact, that it sounds like they set up and are playing right in your listening room. In addition to all that, this is a great guitar record. Courtney's website describes how this recording came about.

Courtney Barnett wrote these songs by accident when she was playing with her new loop pedal. After listening to that new Kurt Vile record, seeing Adalita's new solo stuff live, and listening to a lot of BJM, she was working on a theory that you could write a song with pretty much just one progression that is still super cool, catchy and beautiful.

On the 11th of November 2011, Courtney got three of the best musicians she knows; Pete Convery and Alex Hamilton (Merri Creek Pickers) and Brent DeBoer (The Dandy Warhols, Immigrant Union) and without really teaching them the songs they went to a friends lounge room and recorded this six track EP; I've got a friend called Emily Ferris.

Courtney's lyrics are refreshingly open, honest and uncompromising. We're not going to analyze, but if you listen to the first track, "Lance Jr." (above), you'll get the idea. Tom Pitney, writing in The Ripe, sums it up nicely.

I feel like Courtney has managed to bottle up the dreary hamster-wheel of young, suburban Melbourne life and marry it seamlessly with lazy, stoner pop in a way that isn’t wingey or depressing. It’s almost as if she can feel and articulate my own pain better than I could, yet she presents it in a way that’s light hearted and entertaining to listen to.

The bottom line for us is that this music fit our mood at the time we heard it, so well that once again we were seduced, not only by the music, but also by the technology that lets us, with a couple of computer clicks, tap in to a music scene half a world away, find something cool, and have it on your computer in a blink.

Here is a video that lets you see some of the making of I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris.

For a bonus track, we've got audio of a b-side demo that we can't get enough of. This joins "Death or Radio" by Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer in the distinguished category of adorable songs that rhyme "holding hands" with "shitty bands". Zolof is a band from Philadelphia that also is somewhat comparable to Courtney. If you sign up for Courtney's mailing list on her Facebook page, you'll receive a download of "I moved interstate and now I'm not sure what to do for Christmas".

Listen to "I moved interstate and now I'm not sure what to do for Christmas"

Photos courtesy of Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett's Website
Courtney Barnett's Facebook