Archive for January, 2010


Al DiMeola World Sinfonia 2010 – 1/30/2010 The Egg

There are a few times in your life when you would wish a concert would never stop, Al DiMeola’s perfomance at The Egg (Albany, NY) on January 30th, 2010 was one of those nights.  DiMeola had not played in the capital city of New York for nearly 4 years; fans had been anxiously crossing their fingers hoping that DiMeola would play Albany on his return trip from an exhausting European tour. Nixing out Boston and NYC to our surprise,  we in Albany, NY would get a chance once again to see the master in action; and he would not disappoint.

The concert was held in the smaller of two concert halls that make up the unique Egg Performance Center. The smaller Swyer Theatre held roughly about 450 patrons in a cozy, personal, and intimate setting; there was not a bad seat in the house whether  you had 4th row (as your HiFi Reviewers did) or 20th row.  I’m sure that DiMeola could have filled the much larger 980 capacity theatre, but it appeared as if DiMeola wanted his best friends close by to get a quality performance.  The Swyer was an appropriate space (especially with the negative degree weather raging outside) the venue cozy, the mood was perfect, the fans respectful, and the acoustics simply top rate.

DiMeola clearly has decided to take his music in a new direction, focusing on world music influences of the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe, and The Carribean.  Surrounding himself with a bass player from Cuba, a drummer from Hungary, a percussionist from the Bronx ( with Latin American roots), a second guitarist from France, and an accordian player from Italy; the cultural  ingredients and flavors of his new “World Sinfonia” combined to satisfy everyones palette that night.  

DiMeola mainly played music off of his new studio album (yet to be named or released) and o his credit it was surprisingly entertaining. I feel that many wanted to hear a variety of new and old DiMeola material.  I’m sure that many of us that night wanted to hear classics such as “Short Tales of the Black Forest“, “Casino” or “Race with Devil on a Spanish Highway“; but no. DiMeola played one song off of  his Consequences of Chaos album and ended the night with an encore of his own rendition of “Strawberry Fields” ; the finale was the classic song “Elegant Gypsy Suite“.  It was a fitting song to end the night, but many of us wanted simply one more song before he departed; sadly he left after that one encore.

With the $35.00 ticket pricetag this concert was worth every penny, however my colleague and I were a bit bummed that after 40 minutes he and his band took a 20 minute break and returned for 40 minutes for the second set.  The show was rougly less than two hours, we thought that a 4 year absence to our area would have resulted in a bit more, but no.  I would recommend seeing DiMeola if he comes to your town, his US tour is playing only select cities, so if he’s in yours get your tickets.  The show was sold out and I would imagine following dates will be as well if they are not already. 

If you are interested in seeing a portion of this show, click here I’ve uploaded Al’s rendition of   “Strawberry Fields”  played that night; sorry the sound quality is blah.  But hey, “The Egg Nazi’s” would have grabbed my camera if they saw it.

Al DiMeola World Sinfonia 2010 Tour gets 4.5 out of 5.


Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

It’s an awfully wordy title for an album, but there is a story behind the Dave Matthews Band’s choice of moniker.  “Big Whiskey” comes from a street performer in New Orleans who was asking for money so he could get some “big whiskey,” and “GrooGrux King” is a nickname for the band’s late sax player LeRoi Moore.  It’s the first studio album in over 4 years for the DMB, and features a few lineup changes; Jeff Coffin has taken over saxophone duties, and guitarist Tim Reynolds, a long-time friend of Dave Matthews, does some work as well.  Touring member Rashwan Ross is also featured, adding his trumpet to the mix.  Keyboardist Butch Taylor is absent, as he left the band in 2008.

After a short saxophone introduction by the late Moore, the album gets rolling with a couple of rocking numbers – Shake Me Like a Monkey has some nice funk-rock grooves and flamboyant horns, and Funny the Way It Is features a catchy rock melody, coupled with some not-so-deep philosophical lyrics like

“Funny the way it is
If you think about it
One kid walks ten miles to school
Another’s droppin’ out.”

Both tracks, while certainly DMB in their overall sound, resonate differently than the band’s past recordings, possibly due to the addition of Reynolds’ guitar work.  The ballads Lying in the Hands of God and Baby Blue feature the more familiar (and unfortunately “adult contemporary”) DMB sound, with Matthews’ sweet voice carrying the tunes.  Why I Am has a catchy, radio-friendly pop riff.  This song could be considered the title track to the album, featuring the lyrics

“We’ll be drinking big whiskey while we dance and sing
And when my story ends it’s gonna end with him
Heaven or hell I’m going there with the GrooGrux King.”

Dive In is another slower number, though it also contains some layered guitar work, and paints a lyrical picture of the effects of global warming.  Spaceman has a retro DMB feel to it; rhythm and blues mixed with a little banjo, and Matthews’ strangely melodic vocals.  Squirm is the best and most interesting track on the album; some dark melodies and great drum work by Carter Beauford, reminiscent of their masterpiece The Last Stop.  Boyd Tinsley’s violin work is also prominently showcased as part of an orchestral layer to the track.  Alligator Pie sounds just like its name might suggest – it evokes a swampy, New Orleans-esque southern groove, with Matthews leading the way with his high-energy scat-like vocals and banjo plucking by featured musician Danny Barnes.  Seven is a little scattered, but has some funky horn work.  Time Bomb segues from slow-tempo verses to a loud, rollicking finish with Matthews’ trademark, impassioned howl, like someone holding back their rage until finally unleashing it upon our eardrums.  The upbeat You and Me closes the album, a mid-tempo, melodic song of optimism that actually leads into a hidden track, another short saxophone number by the late Moore.

Where “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” fits into the catalog of DMB albums remains to be seen.  It certainly has a unique sound to it – the band has kept their core identity but has added some new touches.  Maybe we could dub this new incarnation Dave Matthews Band 2.0?  The bottom line is that the album should appeal to both hardcore and casual DMB fans alike.

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King gets 3 out of 5 stars!


Final Tour for Al DiMeola?

I hate to create rumor’s but I noticed on Al D’s website the words “Final US tour” are mysteriously placed at the top of his home web page.  There is no link or information providing additional clues to what this means but if so, you better get your tickets now!

I did find it odd that his US tour dates for 2010 are very limited and then he’s off to Australia to play nearly every town in that country.  I’m personally shocked that he has no dates for Boston or New York City.  Luckily he will  play my cozy little city of Albany, NY; thanks Al!

Well, if he is indeed winding down his legendary touring schedule it would seem appropriate; the guy has been hitting every continent for nearly 2 years non-stop.  I’m just glad that I will get a chance to finally see the master (perhaps for the first and last time) on January 31st at The Egg.


Dub Side of the Moon

As I think I’ve alluded to in previous comments, I’m not big on cover bands or tribute albums, unless the band takes the original material and makes it their own, as opposed to simply playing someone else’s song note for note off the sheet music.  I have recently found an album that does the former – “Dub Side of the Moon” by the Easy Star All-Stars, a reggae group based in New York City.  As the title suggests, this is a reggae/dub version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album.

The Floyd is my favorite band of all time, and I am always skeptical when bands cover their songs.  And I’m not a huge fan of reggae – most of it is a little slow and repetitive for my taste.  But “Dark Side” is a pretty mellow album as it is, and so the songs work fantastically as reggae/dub versions – “Dub Side” is a truly enjoyable album.  The Easy Star All-Stars added a few of their own touches, like instead of the cash register sound effects at the beginning of “Money,” we hear a bong being lit, ripped, and then a man coughing.  Several of the songs also feature some additional lyrics during the instrumental portions.  But some amount of the original recording is also retained in the songs, so it’s almost like some songs are remixes rather than brand new recordings…but this only adds to the charisma of the record.  In all, it’s a loving tribute to a landmark album, redone in a way that keeps the charm of the original but presents it in a new light.

The Easy Star All-Stars have also released two other cover albums which I am eager to try out – Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (released as “Radiodread”) and the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” (released as “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band”).  I’ll let you know the result.

“Dub Side of the Moon” gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

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