Tag Archives: Ryan Adams

Say Your Last Goodbye

In my musical musings of late I have come upon a number of fantastic new artists (new to me at least) that I feel the need to write about. I had intended to take today off & write solely in the book I’m writing about wandering through Europe like some sort of hedonistic werewolf, but being that tomorrow is Bootleg Thursday & there isn’t much writing involved in that I figured I could write a bit today & really crank it out tomorrow. You’re welcome.

We’ll start with a delightful young female artist that was recommended to me by Ryan Adams (Totally just name dropped). Her name is Laura Marling & while she’s been around for a little bit I have recently just come upon her as she is finally gaining some traction in the U.S. She has a Suzanne Vega/Lily Allen feel about her that I adore & since she’s only 20 she could be around for a very long time. She’s part of a wave of British artists that accentuate their accents when singing. It used to be that British artists would hide their accents or they would naturally go away when singing, but it seems that trend thankfully has fallen by the wayside. There is nothing sexier in this world to me than a British accent on a hot girl & if that girl can sing I’m over the moon (my new favorite phrase).

Ghosts – Laura Marling

I’m a Fly – Laura Marling

Goodbye, EnglandLaura Marling – From her latest album I Speak Because I Can

Italian Japanese is a So-Cal/Silverlake band that just recently was named the #1 Local Band by KROQ. Now, normally that would automatically disqualify them as being good, but in this case, for once, KROQ got it right. Italian Japanese, aside from having an odd name are really talented. They’re reminiscent of a band that was blowing up when I was at Live 105 in San Francisco, Silversun Pickups. They have the same tonality & space rock style as SP with a slightly better singing quality. They’re headlining the Locals Only Showcase at the Roxy in Hollywood on Thursday August 19. If you’re out there it would definitely be in your best interest to check them out.

Le PonyItalian Japanese from their album The Lush, Romantic Weirdness

Fitz & the Tantrums are a different kind of band from what you’re used to hearing. They’re a true throwback to the ’60’s. Reminiscent of the 5th Dimension they have a soulful sound all the while keeping it very current sounding. Their new album comes out on Tuesday & I already know I will be raving about it in much the same vain as I have with Ray LaMontagne & Arcade Fire. It has truly been an epic summer for music & next Tuesday (My birthday) will be no different.

Money Grabber – Fitz & the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up The Pieces

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If They Can’t Find a Way To Help Her They Can Go To Hell

So it may come as a bit of a surprise to some people, but I’m a pretty big reader. I read everything I can get my hands on: books, magazines, The Huffington Post, The L.A./N.Y. Times & other music blogs. One blog that I try to read daily is Heather Browne’s Fuel Friends Blog. I can’t tell you how many new artists I have discovered by simply reading this fantastic blog. I do, however, have to take issue with something she recently wrote & while it may seem like an innocuous statement, I found it to be quite hyperbolic & pretty much baseless.

Josh Ritter is one of the most important songwriters of our generation, consistently producing breathtaking songs that are rife with symbolism, rich with meaning, and brimming over with the kind of heart that I want to have.

Most important songwriter’s of our generation? Really? Josh Ritter is a fantastic writer who regularly puts out great music, but most important of our generation? Not even close. He’s not even that well known. I do think he’s talented, but as far as his importance to music…I can’t understand how he is remotely important. He’s not standing up for anything, speaking out against injustices or even bringing something new to the table.

Important songwriters of our generation (I guess that’s applying to Generation X) would be more like Billie Joe from Green Day, whether you like his music or not with American Idiot he said some pretty unpopular things to many people & received quite the backlash for standing on principle. Another would be Jeff Tweedy who revolutionized the alt-country genre twice with Uncle Tupelo & then Wilco. Ryan Adams has such an amazing body of talented work that he is a better example of one the most talented writers of our generation.

This is the problem with today’s over-saturation of music. It used to be that everybody knew pretty much who everybody was, but now with everybody being slotted nicely into their own little groups, labels like, “greatest songwriter of our generation” are just tossed around without so much as a thought.

I contend that Josh Ritter is not very important at all. If he stopped writing music, sure it would suck, but would the world be that much worse off? Think about how shitty music has been since Ryan Adams decided to get married & be happy. Elliot Smith, who again I’m not a huge fan of, was one of the most important songwriter’s of our generation & that is prevalent in the number of artist’s who try to emulate his sound.

I find it slightly irresponsible to be so hyperbolic & I’m pretty surprised that someone usually so spot on with her exclamations would just spout off like that. It’s not innocuous, it’s not small, this our music, this is important to many of us who believe that this is a renaissance in music much like the ’60’s was the evolution. I love Heather’s blog, she is extremely knowledgeable in regards to music, but in this case just flat out wrong.

Girl in the War (Live at the Record Exchange) – Josh Ritter

Wings – Josh Ritter

Bandit (Live at the Record Exchange) – Josh Ritter

Buy Me a Flute & a Gun That Shoots

Throughout these, my older years (I’ll be 33 on Monday), I have incurred a longing for the twang of country music. Let’s be realistic, though, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood & the like are far from the country music our fathers grew up with. No I’m talking Johnny Cash, Hank Williams & Willie Nelson style country. Something with a steel guitar & a little accent just get’s me going, love it. So how do I reconcile this with my love of rock music?

Should I have to? In a sense, I shouldn’t. They are not as diametrically different as one would think. It’s safe to say that the Alt-Country movement that is flourishing today is an offshoot of those country artists with an injection of Classic Rock infused into it.  The best is when an artist who isn’t typically country decides to “go country” for an album. Bob Dylan did it, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones & the Beatles even dabbled with a few songs.

That twang is the sound that many artists were raised on & for some reason country music has gotten away from it. It has developed a pop sound that has less to do with the quality of the music but more with the look of the artist as a fresh crop of blond hair/blue eyed young ingenues make their debut on the country circuit which no longer involves seedy dive bars with chicken wire. Here’s a few songs by artists that played the twang to devastatingly great effects.

You Ain’t Going Nowhere – The Byrds

Jackson – Johnny Cash & June Carter

Evangeline – The Band & Emmylou Harris

Act Naturally – The Beatles

Dead Flowers (Acoustic) – The Rolling Stones

Chin Up, Cheer Up – Ryan Adams

Grey While Gone – The Small Sounds

Roadworn & Weary – Supersuckers

Tennessee Stud – The Little Willies

One More Night – Bob Dylan

Oh Mother Dear We’re Not the Fortunate Ones

I have a love/hate relationship with cover songs. There are some that are as good if not better than the originals, i.e. “All Along the Watchtower” by Hendrix (Originally by Bob Dylan), but then again there are those that fall flat, i.e. “Downtown Train” by Rod Stewart (Originally by Tom Waits). So it’s kind of a crap shoot on what you’re gonna get. There are a million covers that everyone has heard so I decided to compile a list of songs that, while well known, are not always covered.

It is quite something for an artist to do someone else’s work & create his own interpretation of it. There are times when an artist has one hit & that hit happens to be someone else’s song, see The Lemonheads cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” which was Evan Dando’s Mea Culpa though it wasn’t his song. In this case it’s because The Lemonheads are bad at music. Here are some covers that I think you may enjoy, because I did & I’m a music genius, when talking about other people’s music. I pretty much can only play “Suicide is Painless” (The Mash Theme) on guitar.

Okie From Muskogee (Merle Haggard) – James Taylor

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper) – Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie

Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen) – Matt Nathanson

Jealous Guy (John Lennon) – Donny Hathaway

When the Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin) – Jeff Buckley

The Weight (The Band) – Gaslight Anthem

I Want it That Way (Backstreet Boys) – Ryan Adams

Bang, Bang (Nancy Sinatra/Sonny Bono) – The Raconteurs

Two of Us (The Beatles) – Aimee Mann & Michael Penn

Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley) – Pete Yorn

You Ain’t Going Nowhere (Bob Dylan & The Band) – Joan Baez

Chim Chim Cher-ee (Dick Van Dyke & Julie Andrews) – John Coltrane

Top 250 Albums of All-Time 179-170

#179 – Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin

If I & II were their blues album, III was their folk/acoustic album & IV was the Celtic album then Houses of the Holy is Led Zeppelin’s foray into psychedelic music as witnessed with tracks like “No Quarter”, “The Ocean” & “The Rain Song”. This was also the first Led Zeppelin album not to be self titled & is regarded by critics as one of their finest albums. It stands out as one of Jimmy Page’s finest performances & shows off Robert Plant’s writing style as it had progressed dramatically even since IV.

No Quarter – Led Zeppelin

The Ocean – Led Zeppelin

#178 – In Rainbows – Radiohead

Is it one of the best albums of 2007 or 2008? Let’s see it was released in 2007 for a pay-whatever-you-want price on the band’s website, but was released on CD in 2008 & was given the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2009. Regardless, In Rainbows is universally hailed as one Radiohead’s finest albums. It has what Thom Yorke called “Seduction songs & Yorke also said, “the lyrics are quite caustic-the idea of ‘before you’re comatose’ or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion & getting fucked-up to forget…there is partly this elation. But there’s a much darker side.”

Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead

House of Cards – Radiohead

#177 – Cheap Thrills – Big Brother & The Holding Company

Big Brother obtained a considerable amount of attention after their 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and had released their debut album soon after. By early 1968, they began work on what was the most eagerly anticipated record of the year. The album’s overall raw sound effectively captures the band’s energetic and lively concerts. The album was released in the summer of 1968, one year after their debut album, and reached number one on the Billboard charts in its eighth week in October. It kept the number one spot for eight (nonconsecutive) weeks while the single, “Piece of My Heart,” also became a huge hit. By the end of the year it was the most successful album of 1968, having sold nearly a million copies. The success was short-lived however, as Janis Joplin left the group for a solo career in December, 1968.

Piece of My Heart – Big Brother & the Holding Co.

Summertime – Big Brother & The Holding Co.

#176 – Dire Straits – Dire Straits

The debut album by Dire Straits introduced Mark Knopfler to an eager American audience searching for a new sound with the awful taste disco left in people’s mouths in 1978. With their bluesy, lounge sounds Dire Straits captivated audiences with such hits as “Down to the Waterline”, “Six Blade Knife” & their gigantic hit “Sultans of Swing”. Dire Straits played a more conventional style, albeit with a stripped-down sound that appealed to audiences also weary of the overproduced stadium rock of the 1970s. In their early days, Mark and David Knopfler requested that pub owners turn down their sound so that patrons could converse while the band played, an indication of their unassuming demeanor. Despite this oddly self-effacing approach to rock and roll, Dire Straits soon became hugely successful, with their first album going multi-platinum globally.

Six Blade Knife – Dire Straits

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

#175 – The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

The Low End Theory is the second album by A Tribe Called Quest & further showed the Jazz/Hip-Hop stylings of Tribe led by Q-Tip & Phife Dawg’s lyrics which were on a myriad of subjects including: date rape, violence in hip-hop, jazz & exploitation of musicians by promoters. They set the style for artists such as the Roots, Common & even Kanye West with their jazz samplings & heavy beats. When the album was first brought to the studio heads, they hated the album and thought it was not very good at all. People such as Barry Weiss (the former president of Jive, now the Chairman of the Zomba Label Group division of Sony Music) told them that it would be a commercial and critical failure. However due to the label’s faith in Q-Tip and the rest of the group, the album was released mostly unchanged and it has since achieved worldwide critical acclaim.

Jazz (We’ve Got) – A Tribe called Quest

Vibes & Stuff – A Tribe Called Quest

#174 – Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams’ debut album after he left Whiskeytown. When it starts off you notice the dramatic contrast to the work he did with Whiskeytown. Whiskeytown was much more country, mellow where as there is definitely more of a rock twinge to Heartbreaker. That isn’t to say however that the country influence still doesn’t filter through. “Winding Wheel” is a perfect example with the acoustic guitar & a banjo to go along with the brushes being used on the drums. “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” was featured in the movie Old School & on Gap commercials as well.

Damn Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains) – Ryan Adams

Winding Wheel – Ryan Adams

#173 – The Last Waltz Soundtrack – The Band

The Last Waltz was the last time all five members of the band would share the same stage together. Richard Manuel would hang himself ten years later & they would never have a chance to gain the form they showed as Bob Dylan’s & Ronnie Hawkins backing band & then as an act all their own. Perhaps their best performance was their final one. Made as a film by none other than Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz gathered some of the finest musicians around to bid farewell to an influential rock/blues band. Never before had Canada provided such brilliant musicians & dare I say hasn’t since.”It Makes No Difference” is perhaps one of the finest live recordings ever done. It is Rick Danko at his finest. His voice quivers just slightly as you feel the pain in this beautiful break-up song.

It Makes No Difference – The Band

The Weight – The Band w/ The Staple Singers

#172 – Louder Than Bombs – The Smiths

The album was released as the American counterpart to their recent British compilation The World Won’t Listen and consisted of all singles and nearly all B-sides that had not at that point been available in the States, either on single or album, with a few other tracks added. The title is borrowed from a line in Elizabeth Smart’s extended prose poem “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”.The album was intended to substitute for both The World Won’t Listen and their 1984 compilation Hatful of Hollow as these had not been released in the United States. This is why the non-single track “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” from Hatful of Hollow was included.

Ask – The Smiths

Panic – The Smiths

#171 – My Aim Is True -Elvis Costello

Costello (born Declan MacManus) had been performing in clubs and pubs in Liverpool and London since 1970 and had created some demo tapes, but he had had little success in obtaining a recording contract. When Stiff Records was founded in 1976, Costello submitted his demos there and found some interest. Costello called in sick to his day job (as a data-entry clerk) in order to rehearse and record the album with Clover, which was cut in a series of six four-hour sessions for about £1,000.

Costello stayed at his day job as the first two singles, “Less Than Zero” and “Alison”, were pre-released without much success. Finally, the label decided to release the album in the summer of 1977, and he was asked to quit his job and become a professional musician. Stiff Records would match his office wages and gave him a record advance of £150, an amp, and a tape recorder. Three weeks after its release, Costello was on the cover of a music paper. He described this situation as being “an overnight success after seven years.”

Alison – Elvis Costello

Watching the Detectives – Elvis Costello

#170 – Nashville Skyline – Bob Dylan

If John Wesley Harding was Bob Dylan dabbling in country music then Nashville Skyline was his complete immersion in the genre as he reinvented himself yet again. Previously a Folk revolutionary, Dylan grew tired of being seen as the epic protestor that people conceived him to be & wanted to try something new. “I wasn’t the toastmaster of any generation”, Dylan wrote, “and that notion needed to be pulled up by its roots.” Sometime during that session, country legend Johnny Cash stopped by to visit. A friend and label-mate of Dylan’s as well as an early supporter of his music, Cash had been recording next door with his own band. The two wound up recording a series of duets, covering Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” as well as Cash’s own “I Still Miss Someone.” None of these were deemed usable, but Cash returned the following day to record more duets.

Lay Lady Lay – Bob Dylan

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You – Bob Dylan

250 Best Albums of All-Time 229-220

#229 – Morrison Hotel – The Doors

Morrison Hotel was a return to The Doors roots. Back to what propelled them towards the mainstream earlier in their careers. Even without a clear cut hit on the album it still got to #4 on the Billboard Charts. With a very bluesy feel to the whole album it had some surprise guest musicians including John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful & blues great Lonnie Mack. “Roadhouse Blues” is probably the most recognizable tune with Morrison’s familiar howls, Sebastian’s harmonica playing & not one but two brilliant guitar solos by Robbie Krieger.

The Doors – Roadhouse Blues

The Doors – Maggie M’Gill

#228 – Funeral – Arcade Fire

Never has a Canadian Rock band taken music by storm the way Arcade Fire did with Funeral. And not since Sonny & Cher have a husband and wife played in such tonal harmony as Win Butler & Regine Chassange. Hailed by Pitchfork as the #1 album of 2004 this ambitious album, breaks all the molds of what Indie Music is supposed to be with strings, xylophone, accordion & horns. A debut album that would set the bar extremely high for the rest of the 00’s for any other band. Counted among some of their many fans are: Bruce Springsteen, Spike Jonze & Jay-Z.

Arcade FireNeighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

#227 – Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons called it “Cosmic American Music”. Today we call it alt-country. Released 6 months after Parsons died at the age of 26 due to a lethal combination of Morphine & alcohol Grievous Angel came to be the second and final solo album for Gram Parsons. With Emmylou Harris on backing vocals & dueting on many of the tracks & James Burton (Elvis Presley & Ricky Nelson’s guitarist) on guitar Parsons created such classics as “$1000 Wedding” & “Return of the Grievous Angel“. This album is widely known as one of the fore-bearers of the Country Rock/Alt. Country movement & “Return of the Grievous Angel” has been covered countless times from artists such as Ryan Adams who shares a birthday with Parsons & was born a year after he died.

Gram Parsons$1000 Wedding

Gram Parsons – Return of the Grievous Angel

#226 – Pneumonia – Whiskeytown

Taking it a step further than his idol, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams helped make Pneumonia, Whiskeytown’s crowning achievement. Though the same lineup was together as previous albums it’s Adams’ vocals that seem to carry this album, unlike in the past when he shared vocals with Caitlin Cary. Adams sings of the desolation of the town he once knew in “Jacksonville Skyline“. An army town that he can’t wait to get out of & start a new life somewhere else. Though, his desire to leave propels him to move out “soon as I turned 16” he longs for the home he once knew. The album sat on a shelf for 2 years & was bootlegged extensively before finally being released in 2001. This came to be the final album released by Whiskeytown as their label Outpost Records was shut down due to the merger of Polygram & Universal effectively breaking up the band.

WhiskeytownJacksonville Skyline

Whiskeytown – Sit & Listen to the Rain

#225 – Out of Time – R.E.M.

Before Out of Time everyone knew knew R.E.M. simply as a good college radio band with a nice following. After Out of Time they were a juggernaut that could not be stopped. the centerpiece of the album is “Losing My Religion“, a song of unrequited love. The feeling of being embarrassed because you have such unabashed affection for someone who doesn’t feel the same way. However, the song that may be the best in all of R.E.M.’s library of classics is “Country Feedback“. An amazing song that, minus a few words scribbled on a piece of paper, was basically improvised. Recorded in one take it is literally what Michael Stipe was feeling that day.

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

R.E.M. – Country Feedback

#224 – True Blue – Madonna

My hatred of pop music can not be emphasized enough. It is trite, pointless, untalented gobbledygook. That being said, every once in a while a pop album comes along & it just blows me away. The 80s were perhaps the best era for pure unadulterated lasting pop goodness (oxymoron). As much of a train wreck & oddity that Madonna is today, back in the 80s she was attractive, talented & cutting edge. On True Blue some of the that she deals with were so controversial that the Vatican made it a sin for Catholics to see her in concert. This is years before Sinead O’Connor on SNL.

Papa Don’t Preach” is a classic plea from a pregnant teenage girl to her father (Danny Aiello in the video) as she asks him to help her through her tough time. Women’s groups hated her, the Vatican condemned her but what they all failed to realize was that on the song she, while not condemning abortion, decides to keep her baby, because it’s the right thing for her. This is the album that made Madonna famous & kept her there.

Madonna – La Isla Bonita

Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach

#223 – Snowflakes Are Dancing – Isao Tomita

Claude Debussey was an impressionist composer in the late 19th & early 20 centuries who composed music based on color & tone. What Isao Tomita did was take that music & transform electronically using a Moog Synthesizer. He paved the way for much of the Electronic music we hear today when he recorded Snowflakes are Dancing in 1974. He created such a unique sound that when I first heard it on my father’s record player as a boy I had no idea that what I was listening to was so revolutionary. “Arabesque no. 1” made me think of the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz with it’s “Be-bop be-bop”. This recording is an achievement of the highest order that is so far ahead if it’s time that there are scarcely few artists today who could recreate such beauty.

Isao TomitaArabesque No. 1

Isao Tomita – Claire De Lune

#222 – Band of Gypsys – Jimi Hendrix

Banf of Gypsys was the album Jimi Hendrix was forced to make after losing a court case with a record company he signed with in 1965, before he was famous. It turned out to be one of his best selling albums & seemed to convey his views on the fighting that was going on not only in Vietnam but also the rioting that was going on all over the United States as blacks struggled for equal rights. When you listen to “Machine Gun” the sound of the guitar feedback & the percussive effects mimic war sounds (machine guns, bombs, grenades). “Changes” is drummer Buddy Miles’ song that features Jimi playing guitar only as Buddy sings. Played New Years Eve at the Fillmore East 1969.

Jimi Hendrix – Changes

Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun

#221 – Doolittle – The Pixies

Doolittle by The Pixies was an eclectic mix of surrealism, 3 chord punk anthems & even Spanish music. The second album released by the Pixies and their last with label 4AD it was their most successful at almost platinum (800,000-1 million). What’s most telling about this album is the scene that generated out of it’s wake…grunge. After writing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” both Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana thought: “this really sounds like the Pixies. People are really going to nail us for this” according to Michael Azerrad who wrote the book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha described Doolittle as less raw than Surfer Rosa but “more listenable” and “Here Comes Your Man” as a “classic pop record.” Fellow alternative musician PJ Harvey was “in awe” of “I Bleed” and “Tame,” and described Francis’ writing as “amazing”.

The PixiesHere Comes Your Man

The Pixies – Hey

#220 – Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds

David Crosby had just left to form Crosby, Stills & Nash & Michael Clark over creative differences Roger McGuinn & Chris Tillman decided not to break up the band, but instead to hire 21 year old Gram Parsons to play piano & rhythm guitar. This provided fortuitous as the band packed up for Nashville to record their most country/bluegrass album yet, Sweethearts of the Rodeo. They expanded upon the roots movement that Bob Dylan had started with his album John Wesley Harding. It featured 2 Dylan songs, covers of classic country songs & 3 original Parson songs including the classic, “Hickory Wind“. While being their least successful album, at that point, it is considered to be a seminal point in the Alt-Country movement.

The ByrdsHickory Wind

The Byrds – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

Mixtape #1

Hey, kids, I’m in a weird mood today. I’m kinda thinking since I just wrote a blog stating my hatred displeasure for Jason Mraz that I should put a few acoustic songs that are actually acceptable and good. Songs that show both musicianship, but lack consistent douchebaggery. So here are my top ten acoustic songs that may or may not have started out acoustic but are amazing in this their acoustic incarnation.

#10The Gaslight Anthem ’59 Sound

#9Jackson BrowneSomebody’s Baby

#8The Beach BoysI Should’ve Known Better/Tell Me Why (Beatles Covers)

#7Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubThe Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Bob Dylan Cover)

#6Bob DylanVisions of Johanna

#5 Pete YornDancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen Cover)

#4Stone Temple PilotsPlush

#3John LennonImagine

#2Jeff TweedySunken Treasure

#1Ryan AdamsFirecracker

Now, you may be wondering the rationale for some of my choices. It’s simple…these are songs that strike a chord with me in the forms presented. For instance, I am not a huge fan of Imagine in it’s well known form, but acoustic with John Lennon in front of a crowd is unreal to me. So there it is, I think it’s a good mix, but I’d love to read some of your comments on the subject.