Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Bib Mama Thornton (Hound Dog - The Peacock Recordings)

"Big Mama" Thornton
Hound Dog - The Peacock Recordings
Label: MCA Records (originally on Peacock Records)
Released: 1992
Genre: Blues, Jump Blues, R&B

This is a collection of songs recordings between 1952 and 1957 on Peacock Records. Willie Mae Thornton spent most of the 1950s touring, rather than recording. I don't know exactly how extensive her recordings were during this period, but I believe this compilation is the bulk of her material on that label. Most of these recordings are made under the direction of Johnny Otis, another big name in the blues of the 50s. Most of the hits from this era are on the R&B charts as Blues itself was in sever decline as Rock 'N' Roll was on the rise, and explains the larger number of Jump Blues with a swing-rock rhythm rather that straight blues heard in the 1940s.

We start off with the 1952 recording of Hound Dog, this is the first time this song is recorded and immediately went to #1 in the R&B charts in 1953 upon release. It would also be the source of a lot of her woes with the music business, as she lost a lawsuit over who wrote the song and should be awarded royalties from the many covers. Ironically the now more famous version by Elvis was the b-side to his Don't Be Cruel single in 1956 - not an a-side, and did not hit #1 immediately.

Most of the songs are from her early 1952 session with the label, which produced the bulk of her singles that were released from 1953 to 1955. She had shorter sessions in 1953, '54, '55 and one final session in 1958 before leaving Peacock (she did continue to record for other labels). Most of the songs had also been unavailable in the U.S. on albums since their original run as singles. Which makes this a good collection for Blues fans, and doubly so for Big Mama fans not keen on finding all the original 45s.

Her voice is deep, throaty, and very blues. Even on her more rock-style songs she keeps the blues feel. She isn't always big and loud, as demonstrated on Walking Blues and The Big Change. From different sessions it shows her ability to move back and forth, she didn't stick to one style during any given period and moved freely through R&B and Blues.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Backcatalog - Sirsy, Rough Guide To Undiscovered World

Label: Funzalo
Released: 2010
Genre: Rock, Pop Rock

I picked this up on a whim from a tent sale at the local record shop - mostly because I liked the swirls on the cover art (yes, I'll buy albums based on cover art). I had no idea what I was getting into, though the band photo on the back - one guy, one girl & the colors (black, white, red) probably should have tipped me off to some kind of Red Stripes knock off.

Thankfully, not really. As far as pop-rock goes it's not bad, it's also not great. Just some generic, well produced, decently executed, radio friendly rock songs. If I had to draw some comparisons I might toss out 4 Non Blondes or Breeders, or the hundreds of mid-90s post-grunge bands whose names I never remember.

But that really wouldn't be fair, because it's not very 1990s rock at all. It's solidly 2000s indie rock in feel and styling. I kind of like it in that 'put it on in the back ground, or in a big playlist' kind of way. It's good enough that someone whose really into this style, or just this band, will likely love this album. Nothing made me want to turn it off (which is a win, honestly). The band hasn't been around too long, hopefully there will be more down the road I can run across and see how they're progressed.

The Rough Guide To Undiscovered World
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2012
Genre: Folk, various 'world'

Sometimes the Rough Guides that try and travel the globe, or even just one continent, are hit or miss. This one manages to be done better, or at least put together better. The songs seem to fit nicely, not in a pattern, or genre, or styling, but a song compliments the one that came before it. Making the whole album nice to listen to.

The one thing it does miss is the Americas, almost entirely. A few songs - ones from the west coast of Africa - pull in some Latin elements, but that's it. Which is kind of funny that a compilation called "undiscovered world" omits the "new world". The fifteen tracks we do have are definitely good, and from countries that don't get a lot of global exposure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Releases 9/18 - P!nk, Lolita Dark

The Truth About Love
Label: RCA Records
Released: 9/18 2012
Genre: Pop

I've always liked P!nk a little bit, a sort of periferal follower. I don't often buy her music. Having caught the leading single Blow Me (One Last Kiss) I decided it was about time I changed that. This album is intelligent pop music, mixed with enough old school R&B to really stand up and stand out.

Not settling for the standard pop-pap of just clever hooks and dance beats, this album takes on a wide range of pop styling. From ballads, to savvy pop-love songs. She bubbles and bounces and yells and serenades us through just about every kind of love song. And tosses in a few just-for-fun bits as well.

Really, an all around excellent pop album. Smart, sassy, catchy, and ultimately the kind of thing that you just don't normally get in the genre anymore. Go add this one to your collection.

Lolita Dark
Tokyo Status
Label: SourceOne Records
Released: 6/30 2012
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

I just discovered this band on their recent shows in Denver. On the front I got a standard female-lead L.A. rock band vibe. But as both primary singers are Japanese they skip through that mine-field of mediocrity and come out standing distant from the crowd. Most of the music is sung in their native language. They also skip over the J-pop rhythms and come across as solid rock singers. Which is a fantastic change from a number of American bands with Japanese singers that fail to get any Rock into the vocals, and come across like a J-pop singer with rock rhythms and getting drowned in reverb. Not so here.

Good loud rock music, good strong vocals leading it. The only thing lacking is maybe a little polish. The album is rough about the edges, though not so much to come across as bad. I think they just need to tighten up the songs a little to catapult from "Damn, that's good" to "Holy shit, buy this now." A little more Joan Jett and a little less L.A. Rocker.

If you need some rock that's a little different, get this album. You won't regret it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Monring Blues - Champion Jack Dupree (One Last Time)

Champion Jack Dupree
One Last Time
Label: Bullseye Blues
Released: 1993
Genre: Blues, Boogie

This is the last full album of completely original material released by Champion Jack Dupree before he died in 1992. It was recorded during the same sessions as his album Forever And Ever (1992). He had three days of studio time and finished that album in one. Ultimately Jack Dupree had recorded three albums for Bullseye Blues in the two years he was with them. This after thirty-five years of no new output.

One Last Time is a great piece of old-time piano blues and boogie, with heavy doses of New Orleans Jazz in the mix, a common trait in his music. It's slow, light, and unlike a lot of the blues being put out at the time. This is very old school blues and a fitting final album. Ten songs of superb blues piano.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Backcatalog - Dr. Octagon, Murder By Death, ETC!ETC!/Diplo/Brillz

Dr. Octagon
Dr. Octagonecologyst
Label: Dreamworks / Bulk Records
Released: 1996
Genre: Hip-Hop

Kool Kieth, DJ Q-Bert, and Dan The Automater were the two driving forces behind this album. It appeared quietly, went largely unnoticed by the mainstream, and almost faded into nothing. It was also hard to find for a while, I had to get by with a bootleg for years. Commercial lack of success didn't hamper its effect. Kool Kieth (as Dr. Octagon) set the stage for a whole new style of hip-hop.

It's influence rippled out for years, changing the face of the genre behind the scenes. Instrumentally it's low key, laid back beats, and subtly used scratches, are now classic hip-hop beats. Lyrically the freestyle of the rhyming and cadence of the flows is amazing, also a little mellow. Nothing on the album comes out as 'hard' or even 'heavy' - low key and even. Definitely an album I'm glad has been made into another print run and more easily found today. If you like hip-hop at any level you need to pick this up and give it a listen.

Murder By Death
Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing
Label: Eyeball Records
Released: 2002
Genre: Rock, Folk Rock

On a bit of a whim I contributed to Murder By Death's latest album, with that came a copy of their first album. Which is nice, since I'd heard of, but never heard, the group I like to start at the beginning when easily possible. Not entirely sure what to expect, I knew it was rock but not what flavor of rock.

Listening to this, I find it pleasant, but not great. It's a good rock album, bordering on folk rock, it sits well in the background. Nothing really stick out for me, it's just indie-rock music. Which isn't a bad thing, as I'm not really into 'alt' or 'indie' rock as a whole - or not enough to really pick out sounds and bands. It goes well in a big playlist. I'm looking forward to seeing what their new release is like to see how they've grown.

ETC!ETC! / Brillz / Diplo
Label: Jeffree's
Released: August 2012
Genre: Electro

I picked this up rather randomly. Three DJs and Producers put together this three track single taking the theme from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (or Oh Yeah by Yello) and mixing it down as to be almost lost. You get the idea, and then it just veers off into generic electro-house with hip-hop vocals. Interesting, but not so much you need to go out and find it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Releases 9/11 - 8mm, Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, ZZ Top

Late due to weekend of anime convention (which is also why there was no Sunday Morning Blues this week, it will return next Sunday).

Between The Devil And Two Black Hearts
Label: self-released (
Released: 9/13 2012
Genre: Rock, Country

This was a Kickstarter I contributed to without knowing much abut the band. Later I realized half of 8mm was Sean Beavan (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and started to expect something very electronic, or trip-hop.

It is not. It is country rhythms and rock beats and very not electronic music. It is also absolutely fantastic. Easily making it into the top five albums of 2012 for me. I put this on and then it got stuck playing for the entire day. It had me mesmerized. The eight tracks of the standard album are a massively tight collection of tracks that never lose their thread.

This is one seriously amazing collection of music. Sean and Juliette trade vocals back and forth seamlessly, without falling into the rut of sounding like a duet. On some songs it's two contrasting voices, on others one starts and the other finishes (The Weight Of You - easily my favorite song does this) in a way that brings forth two sides of the same story - or two people who have the same experiences.

Just go get this album.

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
Theatre Is Evil
Label: 8ft. Records
Released: 9/11 2012
Genre: Punk, Rock

I have been a Dresden Dolls fan, and subsequently an Amanda Palmer fan, for a long time. This is the first album I really followed (and Amanda shares everything) and another Kickstarter (it got famous at that) I contributed to. Amanda has never been afraid to explore musically. The problem is I've never been the biggest fan of Amanda's singing voice - it fit the Dresden Dolls nicely, but her solo work never grabbed me.

On this album something different happens. Her best work to date, and the first time (I think) working with a full, consistent, backing band. Unlike a lot of her previous music which feels like she threw herself at the idea without polishing it, this is completely different.

She pulled out a serious 1980s pop/rock sensibility and many tracks feel like they belong back in 1988. Her voice is more consistent than it's ever been, and stronger. The band feels cohesive, giving some solid consistency to the album. Her best work to date, beyond and doubt, and a damn good album at that. This is good music and worth checking out.

ZZ Top
La Futura
Label: American Records
Released: 9/11 2011
Genre: Blues Rock

ZZ Top haven't released an album since the excellent Mescalaro back in 2003.  Where Mescalaro felt like ZZ Top recapturing their 70s sound - all rumbly guitars and rough blues edges - this feels like it's from the same studio recordings. Nine years with no new releases, and this doesn't quite make the impression it should for that period of time without a studio album.

Which makes it a good album, but also makes it sound like they felt like they needed to put out some new music and just didn't have it in them to go further with the music. I do like this, and I love ZZ Top's signature sound - and that it hasn't changed much over the decades.

If you're a ZZ Top fan you will definitely like this album, there's no bad tracks on here. But there's also nothing that really stands out either. At ten songs it comes in around forty minutes - the perfect rock album length in my opinion, so it doesn't over stay its welcome either. If you're just a casual fan though, I recommend the previous album over this one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Backcatalog - M.I.A., New Years Day, Swagberg

Label: Interscope
Released: 2007
Genre: Hip-Hop

The song is M.I.A. making fun of (well, I hope so) all the music videos about girls, featuring girls dancing en masse and in synch. Here, it's all about the boys. The single includes the album version, the A Capella version, and the Instrumental version. Stripping the music and the vocals respectively - not creatively, just stripped, like they tracked the songs without the other component.

The enhanced portion of the single comes with the video, plus the making of video (part 1), photos, and remix parts encouraging fans to make their own bad-ass remix of the song. The song is mediocre, and the remix parts included are not studio/master quality. This is definitely fan-service to cleverly include the fans in the 'process'. It's interesting, but unless you're a huge M.I.A. fan, it's a single you don't need to track down (there's nothing interesting here).

New Years Day
My Dear
Label: TVT Recrods
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop-Punk, Hard Rock

The initial release from New Years Day... and it's horrible. When I first put it on I had to make sure I didn't accidentally start an Avril Lavigne album somehow. It's not just derivative, it's downright an attempt to copy her sound almost wholesale. The worst part is it's Avril Lavigne from 2004, by the time this hit the streets it sank into a sea of Avril/Evanescence copy cats.

I can't help but wonder if this was their 'sound' or if there was a directive that had come down the line to alter their style to fit a certain marketing mold. Doesn't matter. Technically, the music is pretty good, but it's so derivative that it loses itself to another sound. You forget who you're listening to.

Luckily, I had the good fortune to pick up their most recent EP, which is on a new label, and they had a sound that is their own. While I can't recommend this album, I suggest finding their EP from 2001 "The Mechanical Heart" instead. Hopefully that's the future direction of the band.

Pony Swag
Label: self-released (
Released: 2012
Genre: Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop, bordering on hardcore rap, about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I'm not sure there's anything that can properly explain this if you aren't a fan of the show. If you are a fan of the show you will absolutely love this.

Musically, Swagberg has excellent flow, control, and rhymes well. A credit to the genre.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Releases 9/4 - Bob Mould, Ego Likeness

Ego Likeness
Treacherous Thing
Label: Self-Released (
Released: 9/4 2012
Genre: Darkwave

The new single from Ego Likeness, from the upcoming album "Know Thine Enemy" due out - sometime in the future. A date hasn't been released yet. The single comes with a single-edit of the title track and six other remixes. A good solid song that shows promise for the next album being maybe a little dark. The song itself is pretty catchy, solid stuff for a club.

The remixes go from OK to solid club-remixes of the track. Good for hardcore fans and DJs (as these things are). Otherwise, no one gets overly creative with the mixes, no real deconstruction goes on. But the songs are still good, especially if you toss one or two of your favorites into a big play list.

Bob Mould
Silver Age
Label: Merge Records
Released: 9/4 2012
Genre: Hard Rock, Punk

As an former member of Hüsker Dü you expect certain things - like an album that's going to rock out. Luckily, Bob Mould has been delivering that for a couple decades now and hasn't stopped here either.

Silver age is an excellent bit of classic Bob Mould music. If you're just discovering him you'll like this album a lot. If you're a long time fan all the familiar elements are here, maybe a little more crunchy, a little more punk-rock than some of his older albums. But not too much so. It's good music and I recommend it for anyone whose a fan of rock music to pick it up and give a listen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Robert Cray Band

Robert Cray Band
Nothin But Love
Label: Provogue
Released: 8/28 2012
Genre: Blues

Robert Cray and his band have been making blues since the 1980s. Nothin' But Love is a slow blues record for the most part. A four piece band, it's no frills and nothing particularly striking. But it is solid music. A good kind of classic blues album that sinks you down a little.

Not particularly suited to background music by itself, as it does make you want to stop and listen. Thrown into a mix with other blues and it will keeps things mellow and melodic amongst a number of other modern blues albums. The album was recorded in a 'live room' - all the musicians together in the same space as opposed to each part recorded in a booth separately. This gives the music here a warmer mix, and a more vibrant feel.

It's a blues album, with nothing particularly outstanding, but still good.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Backcatalog - DarkDriveClinic, Midnight Oil

Noise In My Head
Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Darkwave, Gothic Rock

Duo of Rebecca Coseboom (ex-Halou, half of Stripmall Architecture - both 'dream-pop' bands) and John Fryer (most famous as a member of Love & Rockets) make up this project. It's much darker than Rebecca's normal output, and about right for John.

A slow, melodic, darkwave album, saved only from trip-hop by heavy gothic-rock elements. Their only output so far, and they're just now embarking on a tour, but it's good stuff. Somewhere between Delerium and Birthday Massacre, and I'm reminded heavily of Sky Cries Mary in the composition. Without being derivative of any of those, but it comfortably occupies a similar sound-space. If you like the electronic side of gothic music, especially with female vocals, this is definitely an album to go seek out.

Midnight Oil
Red Sails In The Sunset
Label: Columbia
Released: 1984
Genre: Alt-Rock, New Wave

Right before their mega-hit release 'Diesel And Dust' came this album. Which really sounds like a band that's found its sound but isn't comfortable in it's own skin just yet. Everything here sounds exactly like you expect Midnight Oil to sound (assuming your biggest interaction with them are the hits), polished and ready to go.

It just doesn't seem very exciting. To a casual fan of the group (as I am), there's nothing here that really jumps out at me. Sure, there's nothing that I immediately want to skip, but there's no tracks I want to skip to either. It's just kind of ho-hum. Especially in the review mirror almost thirty years later. It didn't age well, honestly. Good if you're a fan of the group - a must have at that point. I really should pick up more from the band and get deeper into them to draw a better conclusion.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Releases 8/28 - Flobots, Pandora Celtica, Shine

The Circle In The Square
Label: Shanachie
Released: 8/28 2012
Genre: Hip Hop, Punk, Rap Rock

Flobots eschew traditional hip hop beats for punk, reggae, and rock rhythms. The lyrics are pure MC, with the exception of some chorus lines at least. And they make it work so much better than many acts that mix rapping and rock guitar.

The album is very politically and socially charged. The opening half is an unrelenting attack on the political condition, and what's been done about it, and socially conscious lyrics don't stop coming. In fact, there's very little else to this album beyond that. They manage to do it a little more tastefully than others, bringing up as much positive energy as negative insights. It's not just how bad things have gotten, it's how good we can make them. Which is a nice change, and brings the hip-hop back full circle to the socially aware lyrics that have been mostly missing for a long time now.

The one really non-political track, The Rose And The Thistle, is by far the best cut on the album. It's standard love song, without sounding creepy or stalkerish, with a chorus line that is superbly sung. While this is an album full of catchy lyrics, anthem shout outs and head bopping rhythms, it's that track that manages to ground it, pull it together and make it pop a little louder.

Pandora Celtica
Faerie Revel
Label: Self-Released (
Released: August 2012
Genre: A Cappella, Folk

Their fifth full length album, and they've come a long way. The production quality here is excellent. But the most striking part is that the group is growing in style, flair, and ability. The harmony here is the best I've heard them at on a recording.

The album is a combination of original songs and some rather good covers - Merle Travis' 16 Tons and Bob Dylan's Scarlet Town. Thus adding to my standing argument Bob Dylan is best done by other artists. The most unique song is either genius or proof they actually hate music (I'm still trying to decide) - an amazingly harmonic mash up of The Proclaimer's I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) and Chumbawumba's Tubthumping. An amazing trick, that, and very interesting to parse the lyrics together like that. Pretty much worth the price of entry for that alone, but there are 14 tracks total and none feel like a miss.

Broken Hours
Label: Self-Released (
Released: 6/21 2012
Genre: Synth-Pop, Electro

I'm not even honestly sure how I found this group, but it was hanging around my download folder waiting for me to notice it. Finally putting it on, I found a decent (not good, but decent), collection of harmless synth-pop. It occupies an emotional neutral zone.

The music is pretty simple, the lyrics not overly adventurous. But overall, it doesn't falter either. One of those albums that falls into the large middle ground of 'not bad'. The group formed in 2006, and have been performing since, but this is their first really effort at a release. It hints at some promising stuff in the future, as they're a technically competent duo with some good ideas. What they lack is a little bit of uniqueness, a punch that catapults them into something bigger, and more recognizable.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Girls With Guitars

Samantha Fish / Cassie Taylor / Dani Wilde
Girls With Guitars
Label: Ruf Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Blues, Electric Blues

Ran across this while digging through the local record shops blues section looking for something interesting. Three female blues guitarist (well, one bassist), toss in a drummer and see if it smokes.

It's some pretty solid blues, from faster rock beats to slow blues rhythms. The album opens and closes with cover songs - Rollings Stones' Bitch and Paul Pena's Jet Airliner (made famous by the Steve Miller Band). That might be it's weak point. While the covers are solid covers, they're aren't totally new, relying on female vocals to give them a unique kick. Opening and closing like that makes it feel a bit contrived, like this is a promotion and not a group.

The middle though, with original penned tracks, feels like they should have come up with a single group name. It's a good collection of smokey blues tunes. The album doesn't have many rough edges though, it feels a little too slickly produced, more like a modern rock album than a blues one.

Still, if you need more guitar (and you do) and you like a female blues singer, this is a pretty good album to add to a collection.