Archive for November, 2011



08
Nov
11

Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger: The Egg 11/9/11

I received an email from our local liberal artsy-fartsy venue called The Egg; a venue that HiFi has visited on several occasions to catch excellent past shows like Dweezil Zappa and Al DiMeola.  Most of the time The Egg tends to pander to international dancing acts, modern dance groups, or musicians that often tend to be more underground yet accomplished in their own right, such as Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin.  At times The Egg will have mainstream performers such as ex-Audioslave and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell or Phish bass-player-extrodinaire Mike Gordon rolling through for a rare appearance.  Often these shows are for smaller audiences and thus offer a far more up close and personal experience all around.  My only gripe in the past has been The Egg’s lame ticket policy of offering the best seats to “Egg Members” and then offering the very same seats (if the don’t sell) closer to the actual night of the show instead of when they release them to the general public. 

The Egg has two theaters, one big (Hart Theater – 982 seats) and one small (Swyer Theater – 450 seats); while each theater may reflect half of each size, it can be truly said that there are no bad seats perse.  However, during the Dweezil show (held in the larger Swyer Theater) HiFi was seated far right of the stage and were unable to see the movie screen, bummer, but not the end of the world.  For the DiMeola show it was held in the Hart Theater and it was more than cozy and probably one of the best $35 I’ve spent on a concert; truly worthwhile.

Appearently The Door’s legends Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger are touring and will play the venue on Wednesday, November 9th, cool.  As much as I am curious about an evening with members of The Doors, and I’m sure it will be a solid show, I can’t help but wish the bill included Ian Astbury (ex- The Cult) as the faux-Morrison lead singer.  Astbury has toured with them over the past few years and has imitated Morrison impecably!  I’m not sure if HiFi readers have seen a clip of Astbury channeling Morrison, but it’s pretty friggin’ awesome! 

Since Astbury will not be featured I feel affects the overall price of the tickets; simply listening to Manzarek and Krieger play will cost you the range of $35 – $60, a bit steep in my opinion.  Later in the month at The Egg, the legendary Ray Davies, the lead singer of The Kinks, and is only charging $39 – $49 for tickets! Sorry, but Manzarek and Krieger were merely backing musicians and I can’t justify that kind of cash.  It’s like paying $50 for Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as a night with Led Zeppelin, but it ain’t.  I dunno, although Manzarek’s keyboards were an integral part to The Doors sound, I just still can’t see spending my hard earned cash.  I’m thinking more 1/2 The Doors = 1/2 the price, no?

If you check the show out I’m sure it will be good, I’m not trying to take anything away from their legacy, but without Astbury providing his rendition of Morrison I’m less inclined to want to spend the money.  I’ve provided you a clip of the Astbury version of “Break On Through” with Manzarek and Krieger backing; tell us if you think the price is worth it without him?

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08
Nov
11

Jessie J – Who You Are (2011)

Ok, so for those of you who have been reading this blog for the past three years know that we here at HiFi Central never shy away from controversy, especially when it means reviewing an album out of our usual genre of metal, rock, electronica, etc.  Last year I think we reviewed a Gwar concert and then a Tango album review, so if that doesn’t prove how random and diverse we are here, nothing will.

Much like going to a therapist to reveal some dark hidden secret you have, I must admit (and perhaps, with a bit of guilty pleasure and shame) that I have a place in my heart for what I call “bubblegum music”, yes, the top-40 rotation that often makes your head blow up listening to the same 6 songs  over and over, and over.  Well, to be honest the only time I indulge in this act is when I have a week off during the summer to paint a room in my house; often involving more than paint, more a rehab and then paint.  Regardless, these projects have taken multiple days and I have found myself drawn to the local pop station to get my yearly dose of “bubblegum”; and trust me, a week of this stuff catches me up on the entire year of what’s apparently popular in that genre, ugh.  Honestly, as absurd of a cop out as it may sound, it actually has kept me motivated and focused painting a room.  The reality is that eventually I have heard enough “bubblegum” to know all the words the song and find myself mumbling like a paraniod schizophrenic.  Eventually I complete my home improvement project and then like a hibernating bear, I leave my self-imposed “bubblegum den” and get back to my regular life and what I consider much better music.

So one day, on a lark, I decided to ask someone I knew for the entire Jessie J album just to see if her hit “Price Tag” was a  one-hit wonder off the album, and/or whether there may be some merit to this genre after all.  I guess my curiousity began with this years MTV music awards show; a show that in the past decade has become more of a goofy spectacle of spoiled rotten musicians pandering to clearly a tween population.  Having said this, I was flicking channels one night and came across the show and figured I would watch for a few minutes.  I mean, the only thing more entertaining than the MTV music awards show is watching Billy Mays selling Mighty Putty or perhaps, a hot poker to the eye, your choice.    However, the most entertaining portion of the show was Jessie J belting out her own songs and covers during the intermissions between performances, and the chick can sing!  I was honestly in disbelief; there she was sitting on a mock throne belting out these songs and wearing a leg brace.  Sadly, MTV only showed a snippet of her performances and then faded out to commercial, in my humble opinion SHE was the show and everyone else was her filler, pretty awesome. 

Who You Are is a solid album intially but as usual with pop albums it too gets weaker towards the end.  British born Jessie J (who’s real name is Jessica Ellen Cornish) had been writing songs for other artists over the past few years and remained out of the limelight either by choice or simply timing.  As a debut album, Who You Are  creates for the listener a lively assortment of Cornish’s vocal range and talent, along with very catchy beats and tempo’s.   The first three songs on the album (Price Tag, Nobody’s Perfect, and Abracadabra) are well placed and provide a fun introduction to a variety of unique beats and Cornish’s ability to sing over and with everpresent time changes.  Price Tag is a fun song and appeared to be the signature song of the album and was heavily played on rotation.   It is apparent that Cornish sings with a geniune amount of emotion and passion with each of her song’s, and this can be especially reflected with the song Nobody’s Perfect

The album takes a detour with a live performance of Big White Room; I feel that this was very clever on Cornish’s part since it provides some real authenticity to her album and ability to sing.  “Authenticity” is something I feel is often lacking from most pop performers; their great in the studio yet terrible on stage; clearly not for Cornish.  At first listen, I had no idea that it was a live performance until the crowd erupted with applause. 

The next song Casualty of Love is ok, a bit mellow yet appropriately placed in the middle of the album, it is clearly a soulful ballad with its own merits deserved.  The song Rainbow brings the listener back to the upbeat tempo of a classic pop album, it’s nothing really worth noting other than its beat.  To be brutally honest, it feels like a blatant corny ethical message about racial equality and how we are “all colors of the rainbow”. barf! Perhaps this would appeal to Roy G. Biv or leprechauns but for me it just feels cheezy, the listener will be forced to skip to the next song in anticipation of something better.

Who’s Laughing Now is clearly Cornish’s personal statement and moment of justification towards all of those who ever doubted her talent or dreams now that she has made it.   Although it’s a fun song it feels very plastic and childish; not what I would consider her best song; I would have left it for a b-side.  Do It Like A Dude is a song with a good beat, but it  makes me feel uncomfortable to play anywhere other than my car with the windows rolled up.  In this song Cornish does her best to singilke she’s tough and attempts to compare herself to being able to “do it like”a brother”, huh, what?  At one point Cornish attempts a reggae-dancehall accent, although a noble attempt it is probably best left to the professionals from Jamaica.  If she sang this at the MTV music awards I can only imagine what Little Wayne, Jay Z, Rihanna and Nikki Minaj must have been thinking about some white British chick singing about “doin’ like a brother”?  While it’s a interesting song, again, I think it’s where her album begins its downward slump. 

Song’s like Mama Knows Best, L.O.V.E, and Stand Up are nothing worth writing about and actually create for the album a repetative quality and where I begin to lose interest very quickly once again (sigh).  Perhaps the only redeeming quality is the song I Need This, since once again it shows off her vocal talents and is not too over produced.  The last track is the title-track of the album Who You Are, and while a good way to end an album on a mellow note, it seems more appropriately placed in a movie soundtrack compilation, it’s good, but not mind-blowing.

The album starts off well with the first 5 or 6 songs and then quickly, as most pop albums, becomes all the same often making the listener fall in love with the just the hits and disregarding the filler.  As I mentioned before, Cornish is very talented and I think that she has my respect after watching the MTV music award performances, but her album is fun for only a few select songs. 

Jessie J’s Who You Are gets 3.0 out of 5

08
Nov
11

Roger Waters and the Rest of the “1%”

“Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I’ll buy me a football team”
                                                      –Roger Waters

Imagine my excitement when I saw that this June, Roger Waters is bringing his “The Wall” live concert to our little town in Upstate NY! I felt honored that he would grace Albany with his presence…and then I saw the ticket prices. I don’t know the genesis of ticket prices – I imagine the artist (read: record company/promoter) has something to do with it, along with the distributor (Ticketmaster). Well whoever is responsible should really pay attention to the news – thousands of people are out of work, the gap between rich and poor is ever widening, and there are “Occupy” protests in many cities around the country. So here comes Waters, and what’s the lowest priced ticket to see his show at the Times Union Center? After fees, $70. Yeah.

What is it with all these artists who used to represent the “working man” and the middle class – Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Simon and Garfunkle, etc. – charging outrageous prices for their shows? Yes, a lot of their audience are baby-boomers who have moved from the middle class into higher tax brackets and can afford $70, $80, $100 for a ticket (or $216 for the best seats at Waters’ concert). But those of us who became fans of their music either on our own or because our parents listened to it and are still stuck in the middle class (and seem to be pre-destined to remain there), $70 is pretty much unaffordable. For comparison, look at the band Rush – they’ve been around almost as long as those other guys, but you can still go see them for $30 lawn seats at SPAC. When The Police came to SPAC, lawn seats were $46! How about Further, the ex-Grateful Dead band featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh – the MOST expensive ticket for their show at the Times Union Center next week is $66.70 including fees. Obviously Roger Waters is a “bigger name” than Further, but the fan base is from the same era – it just seems there’s a different philosophy at work between the two events.

I thought Roger Waters wrote those “Money” lyrics satirically – maybe not. So a big FUCK YOU to Waters and Ticketmaster and Live Nation and whoever else is responsible for this ridiculous injustice. Keep your fancypants high ticket prices behind your wall and leave us “99%”ers alone.

04
Nov
11

Gwar Guitarist Found Dead on Tour Bus

From Billboard (who probably has the best summarization up so far:

Metal’s most theatrical band is suffering a loss today. GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot — known by the stage name Flattus Maximus — was found dead by his bandmates this morning (Nov. 3), as GWAR prepared to cross the Canadian border for a stretch of tour dates. He was 34.

In a statement first released to the blog MetalSucks and later confirmed by Billboard, GWAR leader Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus) wrote: “It is with a sense of profound loss and tragedy that the members of GWAR must announce the passing of their long time guitarist and beloved friend Cory Smoot, also known to thousands of metal fans worldwide as Flattus Maximus. Cory was found deceased this morning as the band prepared for a border crossing. There is no word as to the cause of death and the members of GWAR are completely shocked and devastated that this has occurred.”

As for the Richmond, Va. act’s future plans, Brockie wrote in his statement: “At this point there is no word on arrangements and the disposition of the remainder of GWAR’s current North American tour, nor are there any details regarding long term plans. At this point we are just dealing with the loss of our dear friend and brother, one of the most talented guitar players in metal today. We ask that our fans and the media be respectful of our request for privacy for those that have suffered this terrible loss. A full statement will be coming in the next day or so, in the meantime please give your thoughts and your prayers to Cory, his family, and all the people that love him.”

According to GWAR’s rep, no additional information surrounding Smoot’s death is yet known.

The guitarist joined the Grammy-nominated band in the role of Flattus Maximus in 2002. As for the man behind the red face and dreadlocks, Smoot operated his own music production company/recording studio, Karma Productions, where he mixed, engineered and produced for the likes of GWAR, Skeletonwitch (“Beyond the Permafrost” album) and Municipal Waste.

Born Aug. 25, 1977, Smoot previously played in metal bands Misguided and Locus Factor and continued to play with Mensrea, in addition to establishing his own solo endeavor, the Cory Smoot Experiment.

We here at Hi-Fi are shocked and saddened that this happened. I, however, am a little peeved that they’re continuing the tour as planned…

04
Nov
11

Ye Upper Crust – true Rock Nobility

After reading the last post about the band Shpongle and then watching the video I began to chuckle when I saw the chick with the mask and white wig; thoughts all started streaming back about a band I use to see in Boston from time to time named Upper Crust.  With band members  such as Jackie Kickassis, Count Bassie, Lord Bendover, and Duc D’istortion, how can you not love these guys?

Although the make up, wigs, and baroque  schtick was pretty outlandish; these guys actually can play a pretty solid set of punkish rock and rock-a-billy style songs, always entertaining and always full of non-stop energy.  It’s been years since I’ve seen them and I guess they do play from time to time.  Although I’m no die hard fan perse, I felt compelled to mention Upper Crust for the hell of it.  If you want to learn more about these privileged and pompous Earl’s of electric audacity, please check out their website by clicking here.

04
Nov
11

Shpongle Live @ the Hammerstein Ballroom–New York, NY 10.28.11

Experiencing a rare Shpongle live ensemble performance at Camp Bisco X this past summer was a glorious moment in festival history for me. Therefore I knew an indoor headlining show in New York City for Halloween weekend would be another unforgettable night and a fantastic way to start my “Halloweekend.” Marking their 2nd U.S. appearance as a full band, Simon Posford, Raja Ram and company brought even more mind-bending sights, sounds and characters with them to the city that never sleeps. It was a special premature commemoration of a beloved holiday but more importantly, Posford’s date of birth.

Arriving late after 11pm to the Manhattan Center, the entrance was mobbed with people in kooky outfits and ghastly attire. After all it was “Shpongleween”, an appropriate title for this bizarre costume affair and a scene drawing curious gazes of passersby. We entered the ballroom to flamenco guitar, entrancing salsa rhythms and schizophrenic vocals of“Dorset Perception.” The first balcony section was a quintessential location: having the bar and bathroom in close proximity to your seats is always advantageous to the show experience, but not your wallet ($8 cranberry vodkas, you say? Sigh.) Anyways, nobody actually sat in their designated seats so the first balcony was practically a free for all. But that didn’t matter—most of the time everybody was joyously dancing or completely transfixed by the performance onstage.

The stage was a colorful concoction of costumes and acrobatic performers wearing feathers or garments lined with bright, neon shapes and patterns, donning tribal masks. A horned man paraded the stage on stilts. Singers Michele Adamson and Abigail Gorton wore vibrant wigs and glow-in-the-dark tights. Yup, we had reached our far-out destination: Shpongleland, a psychedelic dimension created from visions and adventures inspired by the drug induced hallucinations and experiences of Posford and Raja Ram, akin to a spiritual and ritualistic gathering.

One of the most anticipated songs of the night was “Nothing is Something Worth Doing.” Everybody’s attention was directed to the man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (not sure if it was Manu Delago) sitting front and center under a spotlight, playing the rich melodic introduction with a hang. The hypnotic buildup made this a climactic point of the show, the crowd spellbound by the profound music, harmoniously tangled up in bliss.

Then a striking guitar melody ascended from the mystics, conjuring the exotic tones of “When Shall I Be Free” right into “Stamen of the Shaman” off 2005’s Nothing Lasts…But Nothing is Lost. While the latter song was missing the organic sound of a live trumpet, the ballroom went bonkers and current Furthur drummer Joe Russo kept the crowd grooving with pulsating latin dub beats. The next batch of songs were from Shpongle’s latest release Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland. Adamson and Gorton lent their impressive vocal range to “No Turn Unstoned,” while celestial tones of the harp, violinist, cellist and flute added instrumental depth to this ambient piece. Next thing you know, a cryptic Indian chant and deep sitar timbre introduced, “I Am You.” Raja Ram spoke through a processor that fluctuated the pitch of his voice. Ominous violins and metallic synth arpeggios picked up the tempo and the cosmic fantasy unfolded into a dark, psy-trance journey. From there I did not expect them to go into the orchestral centered “Invisible Man In a Fluorescent Suit,” but it was a nice change of pace and wonderfully enchanting once it progressed.

Divine Moments of Truth” and “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” were two strong closing choices, the former being a popular Shpongle tune that was heavily in rotation during Simon’s Shpongletron tour as well as at Camp Bisco. “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” fuses so many styles of music, you simply cannot fight the urge to dance. Listening to Raja Ram’s flute part in the closing song was indeed a satisfying experience, but when they came out to perform the encore “Around the World in a Tea Daze,” all senses were stimulated by the vivacious flautist. Gorton and Adamson’s operatic vocals soared in unison over confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling in celebration of Simon Posford’s birthday and Shpongleween.

Blending indigenous traditional music of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures with psychedelic, trance, dub and ambient styles is what makes Shpongle more sonically diverse than most acts in the world. Additionally the eccentric theatrics, lazer visuals and humorous antics of Raja Ram were essential factors for producing such a unique and fascinating show. This is a stimulating presentation that music lovers from all walks of life wouldn’t want to miss with its mysticism, majesty and moments of musical transcendence. Although the opportunity to catch them in the States is uncommon, I’m sure they’ll be back again after three successful appearances in 2011. And of course, Simon Posford in New York State means chaotic climate as indicated by the subsequent snow storm on Saturday and rain he brings to Camp Bisco every summer.

 5/5

02
Nov
11

Coldplay “Mylo Whatever-o”

From Billboard:
“Slowly but surely Coldplay have become the masters of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

I’m here to tell you how much I disagree with the so called “genius” of Coldplay. Being a master of slinging crap at a wall and picking the 12 best turds does not make you a genius. It makes you lazy and complacent.

Oh but wait! You mean to tell me they’re jazzier? Incorporating more R&B and electronic into their sound?
Good. Another band that sold out to the fad of the times. Then again, I’ll at least give them credit for not making the same goddam album a fourth time in a row.

I swear, if you go into your iTunes/WinAmp/whatever and delete all the Coldplay album names, hit shuffle, you’d never be able to tell what song is off of what album. It’s downright pathetic that they haven’t changed a thing about their sound in so long ever… but the fact that they took this route is almost as disappointing as Skrillex leaving From First to Last to do his own crappy version of dubstep. Ugh, dubstep.

My point is, maybe in another decade I’ll look back on this album differently, but for right now, it just sickens me. This constant bandwagon jumping that record execs know will sell. So why not have Rihanna hop on board to sell more albums?!

Because this sound, this album, that’s not who this band is. They’re a remedial ripoff of the likes of U2, Radiohead, and Wilco. They’re a product of a record company exec thinking it was a good idea to recapitalize on the same sound, again.

This album is no different. It’s a capitalization of the current trendy sound. It’s like with Mylo they sat in studio and said “let’s make our version of OK. Computer while repackaging a couple of B-sides from our last album.” GENIUSES! “But let’s add in a bit of an electronic sound to appease the youth.” PRODIGIES! Piss off you yuppies.

I’m sorry, I’ve never dropped enough acid in my life to “groove” “get wrapped up in” or “sway” to a Coldplay song. No, I’m not sorry. Nor should anything Coldplay written be referred to as “dope beats” “massive anthem” or “rally rebellious youth.” You want to rally youth? Listen to the Sex Pistols, The Clash, get angry at the world you sissies! Or better yet, give your album away for free, like Radiohead did. You want to create a massive anthem? Grow some balls with some sort of call to action/sign of the times type song. Are the uprisings in the Middle East not inspiration enough? The current financial and economic ripoffs? The 1%? You want people to rally around your song, make a song against the establishment, or give your album away for free, like Radiohead did. You want dope beats? Listen to something else.

It’s lame. It’s tired, I don’t understand all the praise Coldplay continues to get, they’re not particularly enticing or exhilarating to listen to. No particular musician or real part of a song sticks out as memorable. Which explains why they re-re-repeat re-re-repeat words in “Paradise” so much. I guess this works to their advantage, so they can pump out the same exact crap every 2 years and you’ll still be enticed enough to buy it and think it’s a stroke of genius. It’s not.

They’re the soft rock, UK equivalent of Nickelback. No exceptional talent, crap lyrics, the constant need to bring in entire choruses to make songs sound full and complete. Soft rock for soft people. Soft rock hides the fact that every song you hear on that same lame ass radio station, that usually goes with the title “KISS” (what an insult to the band) or “EZ Listening” or “Lite,” are the same exact songs with a different singer’s voice layered over the top of that shit sandwich.

Do me a favor? Before you take a bite of it? Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. I bet it’s Coldplay.

2/5 — no wait, Rihanna effect: 1.5/5




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