Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week Of 3/20 - Classical, Flamenco, Industrial, Hard Rock

This week I get into some classical composers, industrial from Germany, and Flamenco by way of Classical Indian sounds....

New Releases:
Anoushka Shankar - TravellerAnoushka Shanakar 
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Released: 3/20 2011
Genre: Flamenco, Classical Indian

Anoushka Shankar's latest release finds her pairing up with a number of Flamenco musicians, at the front are her sitar and the guitar of Javier Limón. The music, and rhythms are unmistakably Flamenco in style, but the instrumentation is mostly Hindustani sounds. At the same time, it feels like you're listening to traditional Indian music. Their combination is often hard to pull apart, the blend of the two is nothing short of amazing. It's this kind of amazing musical synergy that gets me to go exploring further and further into what people can do with fusing music from around the world. This album is absolutely worth finding and picking up. It's energetic, and at the same time it's also a great album to put on and just let fill the space with pleasing sounds.

Adding To The Collection:
Oomph - Wahrheit oder pflichtOOMPH!
Wahrheit Oder Pƒlicht
Label: Supersonic
Released: 2004
Genre: Industrial Rock, Neue Deutsche Harte

By 2004 OOMPH! had become giants in the genre in Europe, not quite as big over the US, and groups beyond Rammstein still hadn't quite broken through into the market here. Which is too bad because this album is great. Hard, a little rough around the edges, and good use of female vocals as not just chorus, but counter-verse and bridge. It's a solid album of industrial-rock, heavy on the guitars without ignoring the harder beats and dance-floor aesthetic. Not being a German speaker, much less ability to translate the sung word, I can only really comment on the music here - not the content of the songs. If you like Rammstein, this is the band you want to go get to add to your collection. I can say this album does feel somewhat formulaic, like they haven't quite broken out of a musical rut yet.

Halestorm - self titled
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: 2009
Genre: Hard Rock

This is the debut album from Halestorm. Like a lot of groups over the last decade it's a female lead vocal and a standard rock band behind her. Lzzy and Arejay, the Hale siblings, started the band with their dad back in 1997, releasing an EP in 2000 when they were still kids. The debut album is, musically, decent. Lzzy's voice is solid, doesn't sound like she's yelling or trying to imitate someone else. It's the lyrical content - it's almost an entire album about break ups, or how good the guy had it and how the girl will do so much better, etc and so on. Basically, girl-power rock focused completely on relationships, which gets boring about two songs in. Their new album comes out in April and I'm hoping it's possible they're changed writing tactics. But this album is basically emo-punk set to hard-rock and heavy metal, musically simple and contextually boring. There's some power hidden in there, they just need to cut loose with different material.

The Rough Guide To Classical Music
J.S. Bach
bonus CD: Angela Hewitt Plays Bach
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2011
Genre: Classical

The Rough Guide series started to delve into the Classical artists a short while back, Baroque composer J.S. Bach was the first. The collection here is interpretations by different conductors and musicians. Celloist Steven Isserlis starts off the collection. Conductor Roy Goodman, with the Brandeburg Consort, provides Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major Overture and Suite No. 1 in D Major parts 2-5, upbeat and quicker paced than I expect classical. Conductor Harry Christophers, with the Sixteen, takes on Praise The Lord parts 1-2, which frankly just sort of adds space to the next collection. Angela Hewitt fits in The Well Tempered Clavier in both C Major and C Minor, I find her piano mesmerizing honestly, it's light and relaxing. The Purcell Quartet and Swiss Baroque Soloists provide a Concerto each. Soprano Johanette Zomer provides the Cantata I Have Enough. And finally Thomas Schmögner ends the collection with Sleepers Awake, an organ prelude. I don't have a lot of experience with Classical, or Baroque, music. But I do know a diverse and wide collection when I hear it, and this seems to cover a good deal of Bach's styles and writings.

The second disc is just piano pieces performed by Angela Hewitt, as a piano player I find her amazing, interpreting Bach and you can't help but just sit back and listen. It's an amazing collection, honestly, covering a lot of ground, and doing it fluidly. The way the chosen pieces fit together I forget it's not written as an album for release but a series of pieces written years apart in some cases. The second disc here is worth the price of this collection.

Next Week:
And that's all this week, next week... a lot of heavy metal makes it's way through the speakers... several live albums, the new Overkill, and just to mix is up some EBM.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Lightnin' Slim, J.B. Lenoir, Leadbelly

The further adventures into the heart of the blues with the ABC Of The Blues boxset. This weeks two volumes covers three artists.

Volume 23

Lightnin' Slim
Otis V. Hicks was born in St. Louis, but moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana at an early age. One of the best known 'swamp blues' players. Swamp Blues, for the 1950 and 60s that it was popular, was a very stripped sound. Slowed tempo, light percussion, boogie rhythms, and frequent harmonica. Lightnin' Slim played from the 40s through the mid-60s. He took a break, the reasons are unknown or unclear, but was rediscovered in 1970 and played from then to his death in 1974 from cancer. Lightnin' Slim played guitar and sang, and had such a classic sound that many people will immediately recognize his style, even if they don't know the artist.

You can hear the faster R&B and Boogie rhythms of other popular musicians from the era, but it's slowed, stripped of most accompaniment, and presented as an almost folk-blue sound. Pulling from Cajun and Zydeco sources as well, the music even then stays mellow and slow blues. The ten songs here are unmistakably the pure blues, whatever prefix you want to add (folk-, swamp-, delta-) you put this on and he's on par with the very early pre-WWII artists. Almost always accompanied by harmonica, all the classic elements are here.

J.B. Lenoir
Further north during the same time period, J.B. Lenoir (La-Nor) was playing Chicago Blues. J.B. is his given name, a built in blues name. While his guitar playing was good, it's his showmanship and singing voice he's known for, as well as the content of his lyrics. He had a higher pitched voice than many contemporaries, especially in the Chicago scene, and his lyrics were full of social commentary instead of the usual references. He gained fame through the 1950s, but by the early 1960s had trouble making ends meet as a musician. But the slump didn't last long, by 1965 he was back to touring. Tragically he died in 1967 of a heart attack.

Musically, his voice is not the gravelly blues voice, or the loud blues belting sound. It's a smooth, near pop-sound quality to it, much higher in pitch than his fellow musicians. His voice would almost fit better in the doo-wop groups of the 50s than as a blues musician. His guitar playing, and overall style, are pure Chicago Blues, a little boogie and R&B, he makes heavy use of the piano as well. You can't help but tap along to his music.

Volume 24

Lead Belly
Moving back to the early blues, Lead Belly, or Huddie William Ledbetter, was known for his work with the 12-string guitar. Though he often played accordion and piano as well. Lead Belly also spent time in prison, as a testament to his abilities as a musician and persuader, he got the Governor of Texas to issue him a pardon after 7 years of a sentence, from a Governor who ran on a 'no-pardons' platform. After prison he got his start as a musician, with John Lomax who was collecting folk songs for research and a book. He had a spotty career in New York, mostly playing folk concerts to leftist audiences. After WWII he was one of, if not the, first folk-blues musician to gain fame in Europe and start touring there. Unfortunately he died in 1949 from Lou Gehrig's Disease.

His music is best known for his work with a 12-string guitar, and a finger picking style. Vocally, he implements some aspects learned on chain gangs he served with in prison, a 'Haah' grunt made between verses (where the hammer falls) - sadly, almost none of the standards for work songs appear here. The recordings themselves vary in quality, a number being from the early or mid 1930s, you can tell they were lifted from 78s, though most of the hiss is gone in an amazing job of recovery.

Next Week... Little Willie John, Smiley Lewis, Furry Lewis, Robert Lockwood...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Week of 3/13 - Rock, Synth-pop, Metal, blues-rock

Alright, this week is almost completely full of female-vocalists from a wide range of genres and styles. We'll just jump right in.

New Releases:
The Ting Tings - Sounds From Nowheresville
Label: Columbia Records
Released: 3/13 2012
Genre: Synth-pop, Rock
A sticker on the front claimed this as "Possibly ... the album of 2012." Well, there's a suspicious statement this early in the year. It's going to have to be mindbogglingly good, or create a whole new genre on its own. It is neither. It is good, verging on excellent. But not spectacular to a whole new level. It has the same electro feeling of Broken Bells, but bounces genres around more, a little bit of everything sneaks into this album. For all that diversity it doesn't come across as excessively schizophrenic as I might've thought. It all keeps close enough to a synth-pop aesthetic to keep the thing cohesive. The album of 2012? Doubtful. Good and definitely worth checking out? absolutely. This is good music.

Recently Released:
New Years Day - The Mechanical Heart
Label: Hollywood Waste
Released: 1/23 2012
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Another  2$ EP from the label, a good strategy. This is also some really good, solid, rock music. It isn't a female lead vocal in front of a rock band, they just happen to have a female lead singer. Subtle difference, but there they carry themselves on the weight of the entire band, it's a rock'n'roll package, unlike some bands that play music and then forefront the singer. They aren't amazing, but they are good, the kind of rock band that has a sound that can go the distance, hopefully it's enough to keep them making music for a good long time. Some punk and pop seeps it's way in, which will also hopefully keep them close enough to get a solid large following. A band worth checking out.

Adding To The Collection:
The Black Keys - Brothers
Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: 2010
Genre: Rock, Blues-Rock
Blues-Rock duo the Black Keyes  put out another drum and guitar laden album. This is the second album from them I've purchased (I don't always get in on the ground floor...), and it's a solid shot. Not as bluesy as I imagined it might have been, but not bad. A good solid groove to get into, plays well all the way through.  The thing is, here, nothing really jumped out at me, it's just an album. A good one, one I'm glad is in the mix, but that's just about it, in the mix. Really good for filling out long stretches of a playlist you need to occupy a few hours or more of time. Maybe down the line I'll fall in love with a single track, but in this first set of listen through, nothing amazing jumps out. Still, add it to your collection, it's good to have on hand.

Florence And The Machine - Lungs
Label: Universal Republic
Released: 2009
Genre: Rock
The debut album from Florence + The Machine. And you can tell, it's not quite as polished as the second album, not quite as comfortable. And some of the song content verges on a little creepy, the lyrics can make you uncomfortable as they're sung in an almost sweet manner. You can easily see why everyone immediately liked her, powerful singing, mixed with good music, percussion heavy, she doesn't drown it in guitars, but doesn't let it wallow in pop-banality either. The second album is definitely better, but only by extension of reaching further. You'd be making a mistake not checking out Florence.

Hydrogyn - Deadly Passions
Label: DR2 Recrods (Self-Released)
Released: 2008
Genre: Heavy Metal
The album opens with solid thrash-metal, Julie's vocals give the genre an extra dimension. Not the soaring female vocals of the classically trained, and not the low rumble of a female vocal trying to fit into a Heavy Metal Mold. Nope, Julie is straight forward, almost a pop-singers style, a little rough, and she can be pissed off without growling. The music is pure Metal, the kind we had back in the 80s that just pounds on at a good pace and let's the guitar go wild. Hydrogyn handily gets on with the business of making heavy metal, from slow to fast. Also, on this, is a cover of Alanis Morisette's You Outta Know, which they own. Julie sounds the supremely pissed off that the songs needs, and the heavier music suits it much better. Compared to this cover, the original is just whining. They aren't signed to a major, or even small, label yet. For good or ill, they're flying under the radar and deserve exposure - especially if you're a fan of a more raw metal sound.

Bonus Track:
Vaski - The Island feat. Sara Laske
Label: self-released Soundcloud download
Released: 2012
Genre: dubstep
Vaski put this out on his Soundcloud for release. It starts as a rather normal sounding club track with opening vocals, and just where you expect the thing to bang out a boring house beat, it drops. Like any really good dubstep track it knows the balance between the beat, the vocal, and where to drop the beat instead of picking it up. Vaski is a producer worth finding - most of his stuff is digital, with a few vinyl 12" singles around.

Next Week:
Hard and Soft collide - Industrial Rock from Germany, Hard Rock from the US, Classical music, and Flamenco by way of India...

Also, Hydrogyn has a new album coming out in April I'll be checking out for you, but I can tell you already it'll be more of the same good metal they've always made, worth checking out.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - B.B. King and Little Walter

Today's adventures with the ABC Of The Blues brings us only two artists, each getting their own volume - B.B. King (Vol. 21) and Little Walter (Vol. 22), greats on the guitar and harmonica, respectively.

A little commentary on this section, there are three Kings in blues - B.B., Freddie, and Albert. B.B. King is by far the most known, his works are the most easily found, and he's well known outside blues circles as well. While his importance to the blues is unquestioned, the box set falls short here giving him his own disc without a least showcasing Albert King or Freddie King, who could have been their own disc, or if you had to choose just two of the three, B.B.'s volume should have been split with Albert King who was an important artist through the 50s and 60s. I can only hope the reason we don't have anything from either of the other two Kings is due to licensing and not omission.

Back to the music..

B.B. King
Riley B. King is one of the best guitarist, in and out of blues, out there. His style and influence on modern guitar players is unmistakable. Born in Mississippi, B.B. King eventually made his way to West Memphis Arkansas where he built a following for his guitar playing on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio show. Eventually getting gigs and then his own show where he was known as the Beale St Blues Boy, then Blues Boy, and finally B.B., and thus his stage name came into being. The other legend around King is his guitar Lucille. Playing a show in Arkansas the concert hall burned down after two men fighting over a woman (named Lucille) overturned the kerosene barrel heating the place and burning it down - King had to run back in to rescue his guitar after escaping. He named his guitar Lucille as a reminder not to do things like run into burning buildings or fight over women. He made a few recordings in 1949 that didn't chart, he didn't start becoming a wider influence until the 1950s, and 60s, within the R&B community. He gained an even wider audience opening for the Rolling Stones in 1969, cementing his place as a very wide influence across multiple genres.

Luckily enough most of the music here is early recordings, which are lust slightly harder to find today. A good selection of fast boogie rhythms and slow ballads is here too. You miss out on some of his later expertise with the guitar, but he's still far above most even in the early days. This really is modern blues guitar at its best, twenty solid tracks

Little Walter
Moving to the other iconic blues instrument, the harmonica. Credited as not just one of the greatest harmonica players, but one of the greatest innovators with the instrument. It's been stated he was the first musician to purposely use electronic distortion, pushing his amplifiers to create sounds and timbres not known from a harmonica before. Chances are if you listen to a Chess Records release in the 1950s with a harmonica sideman (backing), it's Little Walter. To me Little Walter is one of the iconic modern blues harmonica sounds, deep and lively. Born in Louisiana, Little Walter moved to Chicago in 1945 at age 15, and began playing. He died young, at age 37, from a blood clot, as the official story goes. The theory is a minor fight he got into the night before, plus numerous fights over the years, finally caught up to him. Most of his recordings are from the 1950s. In the 60s he recorded very little, toured Europe a few times, but alcoholism and a short temper took him out of popularity.

Listening to these tracks you can almost hear the amplifiers straining. Unlike the clean, stripped sounds of early harmonica like Sonny Boy Williamson and other pre-WWII musicians, this harmonica is loud, out front. Walter is able to pull sounds, and style, from the instrument like none before him. Sometimes it's loud enough to come across as part of the horn section, sometimes it's much clearer. A great massive blues sound, I love it. Even for such a short recording time, Little Walter had an impressive catalog to pull from, and you can hear why they dedicated an entire volume to this innovator.

Next Week, Lightnin' Slim, J.B. Lenoir and the eternal Leadbelly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week Of 3/6 - Rock, Industrial, Merengue, Blues, Metal

Heavy on the rock and roll this week, and old Tom Waits album finds its way into the collection, and a compilation of electro and industrial tracks plus Merengue! (I just like typing that word with a !).

New Releases:
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
Label: Columbia Records
Released: 3/6 2012
Genre: Rock
The latest album from The Boss is also the first album I've actually purchased from him, oddly. Like everything else I've heard from Bruce (which is a bit considering I've never personally owned an album), it's straight up rock, blue color, with a tough of gospel lyrics tossed in. Given just have massively The Boss looms over the American music landscape it is a wonder it took me so long to pick up a full album. Compared to my usual smattering of radio play and friends I've never heard one all the way through. The whole album strikes me as a look at America under the bad influence of financial crisis, and very much a shot at those who brought it. None so clear as Death To My Hometown which is about economic ruin of small town America (and a solid thumping rock anthem to boot). As a rock album it's excellent, moving from soft to hard easily, the rhythm keeps up all the way through, not losing itself in too much introspection. While the theme is modern and close to home, he never loses site of the fact he's writing a rock album and never lets the message get in the way of the music.

Adding To The Collection:
Girl Of Fire - Revenge
Label: Hollywood Waste
Released: 2011
Genre: Rock
In all honesty I only picked up this 5-Track EP because it was two dollars, even as a 2-track Single I would probably have picked it up, it's nice to see someone out there still has the art of the Single in mind. No remixes, just five songs. The band reminds me a lot of pretty much every other rock band out there these days, except that I like them. They're more in line with each other, the sound is tight, no unintentional rough edges. This is the kind of music I wanted to get when I picked up the debut Finger Eleven album when that came out some years ago (and didn't). I do hope there is a full album out soon, a band I'm definitely keeping my eye out for, as the world could always do with more rock and roll.

Motörhead - Ace Of Spades
Label: Metal-Is
Released: 2001 (originally: 1980)
Genre: Metal, Rock
So, I actually avoided picking up this specific Motörhead album for years, for a couple reasons. First, all the tracks I really like I owned on compilations or live collections. Second, to hear the title track you just need to tune into your local hard rock/metal station because it's the only Motörhead song to get airplay these days (which is stupid). So, finally, I just added it to the collection because the gap was there... there are only a few other of their albums I haven't gotten yet, I'm sure I'll fix that soon too. It is a classic, really. Simple, dirty, loud, very loud, and hard. This edition comes with a bonus live track and two tracks with Girlschool, all three originally B-Sides (which I also already owned). This is also, I'm pretty sure, the first time I've heard the studio version of We Are The Road Crew, fancy that. No bad music here, you can hear the foundation upon which they make very loud rock and roll for the next 30 years, and going.

Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones
Label: Island Records
Released: 1983
Genre: Blues, Rock
Tom Waits has always held a fascination for me, ever since I first heard Bone Machine over twenty years ago. Every time I picked up an album I never really knew what I was getting into, but I knew I'd like it. He just has that kind of strange magic over music, and I always look forward to the carefully timed selection of a new album - I haven't actually rushed out to complete a discography on purpose, I like the sense of discovery in his music. Swordfishtrombones isn't as overly bizarre as some other albums, it's mostly lots of talking blues, folk influences, and non-jazz songs. Very straightforward I think, in a really good way. It's different from his very early stuff, which had a lot of jazz in it, and more into experimenting with the sound, one of his first to not use completely 'standard' instruments of the time to make an album.

Rough Guide to Merengue
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2006
Genre: Merengue, Cumbia, Latin
Merengue is a dance, and the music of the Dominican Republic, emerging after their independence in the 19th century. It has it's deepest roots in Cuban dance. The Merengue style being both the music and the dance means every track here is highly danceable, the whole collection moves. And little bits of other parts of Latin America seep in, you can hear Cumbia, Mambos, Boleros, and others all get sucked in at points, but the core is still Merengue. It is not, as is a common misconception, derived from a circle dance (ballroom Merengue partners never separate). The music, well, it's alive. Very alive, and upbeat. The collection is modern artists, very little older stuff beyond modern renditions of traditional songs.

Vampire Freaks Precents Cry For Death Volume 1 Electro Edition

Label: Vampire Freaks website (none)
Released: 2011
Genre: Industrial, EBM, Electro
VF collected as many rare, b-side and even a few exclusives as they could (thirty six tracks) and dropped them all as a free download. The remixes are all off remix collections, Limited Edition releases, and a few unique songs, making it a decent enough collection and not just a bunch of album tracks. The upside is those into the genre get a smattering of songs they might have missed at some point, the downside is those getting into the genre don't get the best 'clean' representation of what the scene sounds like, it's all reinterpretations - though that in itself is very indicative of the scene, so, the down side isn't very down. If you like the genres, or want to get more cheaply (free!) head over to Vampire Freaks and download this, no sign-up required even. It's a solid way to get some stuff you might like - as compilations should be.

Bonus Tracks:
Kovary - Back In Black Moombahton Bootleg
Label: Soundcloud Release
Released: 2011
Genre: Moombahton
Kovary took AC/DCs Back In Black and bounced the hell out of it. The song is slow enough it doesn't need a tempo change, and hard enough that adding all that extra thump just gives it a little more punch. Toss this one onto a dancefloor and things should keep on bouncing hard. This is the kind of left-of-center stuff I like about Soundcloud.

Next Week:
I find out of The Ting Tings have put out "The album of 2012", examine another 2$ EP from the Hollywood Waste label, chill with Florence + The Machine, rock out with Hydrogyn, and get down with The Black Keys. . .

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Elmore James, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Tommy Johnson, and Skip James

Our continued adventures with the ABC Of The Blues, diving into some very old blues names this week with Volumes 19 and 20. Volume 20 is split between three artists, Tommy Johnson and Skip James split the second half of the volume with five songs each.

Elmore James
The King of Slide Guitar, Elmore was born in Mississippi in 1918, and by age 12 was making music. He is considered one of the first, and foremost, disciples of Robert Johnson. He was also a fast liver, his lifestyle in line with rock'n'rollers of a later age: women, booze, and fast cars. His sound was also louder, an amped up slide guitar. His biggest hit, Dust My Broom, was released in 1951, and there is still controversy over who wrote it- Elmore or Robert Johnson, Robert's release, I Believe I'll Dust My Broom, was put out in 1937. Elmore died in 1963 in Chicago. Elmore's slide guitar legacy would influence many musicians down the road, including Jimi Hendrix.

The collection here is as loud, and guitar heavy, as one could hope from a post-WWII blues atrist. He ranges from Delta to Chicago, West and East coasts, all of it amped up a little bit.

Lonnie Johnson
Backing up the other way, Lonnie Johnson was one of the influences of Robert Johnson, this bookend of pre- and post- Johnson Blues is an interesting mix. Lonnie is the first guitarist to play single-string guitar solos, and is considered the progenitor of both modern blues and jazz guitar. He is undoubtably one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He had a chart topping career both before and after WWII, which is a rarity. But as many ups as he had, he also had downs, through the 1950s he would drop in and out of the music business, taking menial jobs to pay bills. In 1959 he was a janitor for a radio station when DJ Chris Albertson found him, and then produced a comeback album.

Compared to Elmore, Lonnie's playing is very sedate, straight blues. Nicely, the records here are clean and clear, even the ones before WWII.

Blind Willie Johnson
Willie Johnson was born in Texas, and the story goes at age five told his father he wanted to be a preacher and made himself a cigarbox guitar. He wasn't born blind, but was so by the time he reached adulthood. Willie freely mixed blues with gospel, and used his powerful gravelly voice to great effect. He was also an accomplished slide guitar player. His songs have been covered by a number of artists through time, from pop to rock. His track Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground has been used in film scores numerous times and is a classic and timeless, if not ultimate, example of slide guitar work.

Opening his collection with the iconic track, one can't help but feel it deep in their bones. And then, you realize this is the apex of the blues I think. No words, just guitar and a hum. Everything else is excellent music, well recorded with little record hiss. His voice is amazing, able to go into a low false baritone with that growl of his, and sing at a steady tenor. The blues and gospel cross perfectly where his guitar and voice meet.

Tommy Johnson
Another old blues singer from Mississippi, Tommy actually bragged about selling his soul to the devil. Most of his fame comes from being a very hard drinker as much as his singing style, which is a yodeling style not always heard in the blues. He was such a drunk he'd even drink sterno, hence the song Canned Heat Blues. While he had a long career in music from 1914 to 1956, he never made it very big.

We only get five early songs from Tommy in this collection. He wasn't lauded as a great guitar player, but his voice could go from a lower tone to a high falsetto, making him one of the better vocalists of his time. All the recordings are mostly clean, there is some recording hiss, but it's not as bad as on other collections.

Skip James
Another early blues musician from Mississipi, Skip started his career in 1931 with several recordings, and then immediately ended his career. The next thirty years saw him drift in and out of music, an almost completely obscure musician to listeners. His unique tuning (D-Minor) and finger picking style are of note. In 1964 he was 'rediscovered' along with Son House, kicking off a deep blues revival. He's never been cited as a great influence, though he certainly was of some. Most accounts have him as aloof and not quite part of the blues 'scene' - especially in the 60s during the revival.

His finger picking style, closer to East Coast (or Piedmont) Blues than Delta, and minor tuning give his playing a deeper tone, a little darker. We only get five songs here, which is probably the bulk of his 1931 recordings (I don't have a full list handy to compare to), but they're all pretty clean as well, the collection seems to be getting better recordings from the early bluesmen.

Next Week I get into exploring B.B. King and Little Walter getting some of the best guitar (King) and harmonica (Walter) the blues has to offer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Week of 2/28 - Industrial, EBM, Electroswing, dubstep

This week, two singles, two albums, a remix set, and a compilation all fill out a week of listening pleasure.

New Releases:
Inure - The Offering
Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 2/28 2012
Genre: Industrial Rock
This is good, solid music. It sounds industrial, but that's really just the veneer on top of some straight up really good rock and roll. This should be getting all kinds of radio play (I hope it is, at least). None of the songs drag on, all are a good length, without the droning on and on you get from some industrial acts. There's not much else to say beyond the fact that I really dig this album, it's a solid piece of work that'll hang around and be listened to quite a bit.

Recently Released:
Inure - This Is The Life
Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 2012
Genre: Industrial Rock
The seven track single is all remixes, five are the title track, two are other tracks (This Death from the album, and Le Petit Mort, which is the same track with a clever name and another remix).The remixes vary from rave-style club cuts, to the now almost common dubstep version. If you like collecting remixes (which I admit I do to some extent), or are a huge fan of the band, the remix single is worth it. Otherwise, there's no exclusive material or non-album tracks that make this anything special.

Bassnectar - Amorphous Music Mixtape Volume 7
Label: Amorphous
Released: January 2012
Genre: Dubstep, House
This is a free remix set from Bassnectar, about 30 minutes long, it's almost a full set. It pulls from the 90s up through the 00s, grabbing samples from Beastie Boys, P!nk, and others that anyone who spent any time on the dance floor in the last 25 years should recognize. Mixed fluidly with a lot of dubstep wubbing behind it, house beats, and electro styling. The diversity is kept up, changing out frequently enough to prevent you from getting bored with the mix, though not so often you feel like someone's just flipping through channels. If you like Bassnectar (and you should) then go find this and give a listen.

Adding To The Collection
Fortran 5 - Love Baby / Crazy Earth
Label: Mute Records / Elektra
Released: 1990
Genre: EBM, Synthpop
An old single from a early 90s project. Fortran 5 varied from a synthpop kind of sound to very weird experimental EBM. This falls deeply in the dance-EBM synthpop side of things. And it's an EP single with a few remixes. There were a couple versions of the Love Baby single released, this one comes with b-sides of Crazy Earth. There are only 5 tracks making this a mercifully short EP, two remixes of Love Baby, two remixes of Crazy Earth, and one remix of Midnight Trip. All three songs are catchy dance tunes the would slot well into any retro 90s dance list. They aren't timeless tracks, showing a simplistic early 90s techno style - lots of beeps and blips. Good for Fortran 5 fans, nothing spectacular otherwise.

Nekta - Water The Flowers
Label: InfraCOM!
Released: 2006
Genre: Electroswing, Future Jazz
Nekta is one of the bands I picked out of the many on the Electroswing compilations I've got. They're a German based duo and open up to a lot of future jazz and electroswing sounds, not limiting to just the upbeat swing. A lot of the album is heavily jazz laden, though some of it is still the jump style swing you can really dance to. All of it is excellent, a music styling the US desperately needs to start listening to. A little hard to get in  the US, or at least moderately expensive, but completely worth it. A breath a fresh style, good music, retro sound, and modern styling.

Cyanotic Presents Gears Gone Wild: Spring Break
Label: Bitriot Records
Released: 2010
Genre: Industrial, Industrial Rock, EBM
This is infinitely better than the regular Gears Gone Wild compilation. The flow is consistent through the remix collection, all of which are done by Cyanotic himself. It's pretty much a complete collection of solid dance floor beats and rhythms. Interesting if you're a big fan of collection remixes, remix collections, or just want some more club songs to drop into your collection. After that, it's just another industrial compilation, without too much to really set it apart.

Next Week:
The Boss, Motörhead, Tom Waits, a couple of compilations, and an EP I picked up at random...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Alberta Hunter, Ivory Joe Hunter, Robert Johnson

Onwards and Forwards with the ABC Of The Blues.

Volumes 17 & 18

Alberta Hunter
Born in 1895 in Memphis, moved to Chicago in her teens and started a career as a singer. By 1917 she had undertaken a tour of Europe and was a rising start. She had a flourishing career through the 1930s, and was successful through the mid 1950s. In 1954 her mother passed away and Alberta left music behind to become a nurse. It wasn't until the 1970s when she was approached by Chris Albertson to record again, and resumed her music, performing until her death in 1985. While Alberta is not usually cited as a great influence on modern blues, she is undeniably an important chapter in early blues and jazz singers.

The songs here are hit or miss in their recording quality. Some of them have a great deal of hiss from the old records they were lifted, some are very clean and clear. All of them have a bit of a ragtime feel, upbeat, even the true blues songs. Everything is as much jazz as it is blues. All of these recordings are from her early career, which I prefer, it's good to hear the older original recordings preserved.

Ivory Joe Hunter
Unlike many colorful names in the blues, Ivory Joe Hunter is his birth name. Born in Texas, he had his own radio show in the very early 1940s, before moving to Los Angeles in 1942. He became a member of Johnny Moore's Three Blazes and started his musical writing and recording career. He was a leader in the R&B charts of the 1950s, his first pop hits coming in the late 1940s. In the 1960s he reinvented himself as a country musician, and was popular until his death in 1974 from lung cancer. Ivory Joe was also an extremely prolific song writer, his songs were recorded by a wide range of artists from pop (Pat Boone), rock (Elvis Presley), and country (Sonny James).

I have to say, Ivory Joe is another slightly different addition to a Blues anthology. While he topped the R&B Charts in the 1950s, his songs are far towards the boogie and rhythm ends of that spectrum, tipping towards straight pop music and even some of the jazz of the era. But all of those came from the blues, and he's a good showcase of blues music evolving post world-war two into a wide body of work. The recordings, being post-war, are clean and clear. Ivory Joe is probably the best example of early R&B there is.

Robert Johnson
Volume 18 is dedicated completely to recordings of Johnson's work, this disc neatly covers nearly half his entire library. Robert Johnson was born in  completely to this legend. And he is as much legend as he is blues artist. With only 42 known Mississippi, and died at the age of 27. For someone with such a short list of recordings his influence as a Delta Blues artist is unmistakable, just about everyone puts him down as in influence one way or another. Beyond his recordings, he is pure legend, "The thing about Robert Johnson was that he only existed on his records. He was pure legend." - Martin Scorsese. He is the center of a Devil Legend where he sold his soul to the devil at a cross roads. There are only two confirmed pictures of him, and his actual birth date is a complete mystery. His death was a murder by poisoning, by a jealous husband of a woman he was seeing (so it's assumed, even that's in question). And then there's his music, after decades of listening, there comes into question that everyone may have been listening to it at too fast a speed, the label he was recording for was known for altering the speeds of their releases. And so, one of the most influential and mysterious blues artists is presented here.

If you want the definitive collection of Robert Johnson music, pick up the 2011 Centennial Collection, which includes all his known records properly remastered. Everything pales in comparison to those remasters. Including the ones here, which can be easily found on the many other Robert Johnson collections available. If you've never heard Robert Johnson before, the disc here in this collection is a good solid body of work to listen to.

Next Week:
We explore the music of Elmore James, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Tommy Johnson, and Skip James.