Archive for the 'General Opinion' Category

12
Dec
14

Bob Dylan and The Band – Basement Tapes Complete

Dylan_BasementThe 7 Modern Wonders of the World are as follows: Itaipu Dam, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Empire State Building, CN Tower, Panama Canal, Channel “Chunnel” Tunnel, and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Works, however, I feel there is now an 8th, the release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Complete Basement Tapes, finally in their entirety!

I have been a die hard Dylan fan for years, and the legends and myths surrounding the legendary basement sessions is well known  among Dylan fans worldwide.  Although Dylan and The Band (his backing band during his initial going “electric” and the primary musicians on the Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde albums were known as “The Hawks”) released a snippet of these recordings in 1975 as an actual album, the 24-songs released were a mere “crumb” of the actual 130+ songs  recorded between 1967 and 1968, now available in the 6-cd set just released this past November.

I’ve only delved into 3 of the 6-disc set and so far it’s been very impressive; you hear a mature Dylan jamming with a group of musicians, often free form, making up lyrics on the fly, and sometimes just re-working some of his own songs, and those of others, such as Johnny Cash (Big River and Folsom Prison Blues) in a relaxed atmosphere of artistic freedom and exploration.  Absent are the artistic pressures of multiple takes in order to “get it right”, instead the mood is melancholy and silly at times, as heard in “See You Later Allen Ginsberg”. The majority of the recordings were made in the basement of Big Pink, a house in West Saugerties, NY that was rented by members of the band, thus the recordings allow the listener a raw and unadulterated room full of musicians doing what they love.  The music allows you, even briefly, into the world of Dylan’s writing and creative spirit, and also the talents of his peers who roll with the every changing tempo and mood that Dylan wanted at a moments notice.

Although it may sound outlandish to say, I really love every track on what I have heard thus far; it would not be an exaggeration to say so.  The Basement Tapes are a fun collection of music that allows the listener just another glimpse into the mystery of Dylan as an artist.  There has always been a shroud of mystery with Dylan; it is well known that he is a recluse, often avoiding the limelight and media a majority of his career; although it is gems like this whereas one feels that Bob is toying with his fans; giving them just one more taste of what they crave, more mystery, more unheard of tracks lying around in a moldy box awaiting to be discovered 40 years later.   And that is what the Bootleg Series has been about, about: Dylan not allowing the fan to truly know who he is, not willing to open up entirely, but yet giving hints here and there and keeping the fans enthralled.  Dylan is not quoted in any of the liner notes, and from what I believe, has not provided any interviews regarding the release of the official bootleg series; so on one hand he is exposing the essence of his inspiration and creative genius, and on the other hand hiding behind the curtain that he always has.  The release of The Basement Tapes Complete is the 11th volume of the Bootleg Series that Columbia Records has made available thus far; so who knows how much more is out there?

I recall many years ago while visiting a long forgotten record shop in Saratoga Springs, NY, right down from Café Lena (a folk mecca where a young Dylan spent a great deal of time), I came across “Great White Wonder”, a well known and well sought out bootleg album that circulated for years; this album contained a few of the songs found on the Basement Tapes, an other rarities, many bootlegs have surfaced since then as well.  Each bootleg, of which there are many, contained odds and ends of other songs from the Saugerties basement sessions, so the myth for so long has been that there clearly were more, but where, and who had them?  Often waived off by members of The Band and perhaps Dylan himself, that additional tracks existed, clearly they did.  It is my understanding that last year someone was able to obtain the collection of the remaining basement tapes (100+ songs) and put out a bootleg for the masses; upon learning about this Columbia Records (in partnership with both Dylan and remaining members of The Band) decided it was true and that the majority of unreleased tracks had been made available decided to make an official release (with even more tracks!) available finally.  My question  is why had they waited so long, and perhaps worse, allow time for someone to release the additional tracks?  These guys had 40+ years to get this stuff out there!

The fun things about this box set is that all is revealed “warts and all” of what actually happened in that basement in West Saugerties; with most bootleg recordings one would normally expect grainy poor quality but these recordings have a haunting quality of clarity. If you are a Dylan fan this is a must listen without question. If not, and are then curious about Dylan, although an exhaustive collection for the first-time Dylan listener, this is a great introduction to the dynamic range of style Dylan was capable of, and introduces one to the persona of Dylan himself.

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05
Jun
12

Dan Stiles – New updated concert posters for sale!

As many of our HiFi readers have known, we are huge collectors of music poster art here at HiFi Central.  One of our favorite artists is the one and only Dan Stiles out of the Pacific Northwest, Dan’s posters are creative, vibrant, and original in their design and concept.  The best thing about his posters too are that they are all hand-pulled silkscreens in a limited edition and signed…oh, and also run around $25!

One of my favorites is the poster he did for a Midlake show in 2007; it’s limited to only 90 and still available on his website for a mere $24!!!!

If you want to learn more about Dan Stiles work and perhaps purchase one of his very cool prints for a super deal, check out his website at www.danstiles.com

Tell us if you grab one!

25
May
12

Chronic Future “Lines In My Face”

Another personal favorite of mine to catch the -itis. Chronic Future had one hit in the summer of 2004 with “Time and Time Again” but never sustained any type of popularity due to a terrible job of marketing, but more importantly, America’s growing taste for terrible music. I’m looking at you Beliebers.

But Chronic Future holds a special place in my heart for speaking out in an era of uncertainty in my younger life. Back in 2005 there were rumblings of a military draft to support the growing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most bands turned completely against government, military, and the troops.

The usual wartime rumblings of abuse, babykillers, and torture circulated and they began calling these two plights my generation’s Vietnam.

So, while yes I was terrified to see if our then-president was going to make a life decision for me, I felt that the soldiers in this conflict were getting the short end of the stick. Painted in a terrible public view, all while fighting “insurgents” with no real barometer for winning this war.

So while the outlash against the establishment raged in the usual punk circles. Chronic Future took a different approach. These were our friends giving life and limb in a country exactly halfway across the world where they baked in the desert all while our national media and pop-culture turned on them.

With songs like “Time and Time Again” and “Shellshocked” they reminded me that they were more than the average punk band.

They had a unique way of saying what everyone felt. Saying what I felt but couldn’t verbalize.

It’s still difficult for me to fathom. My respect for the people that make these sacrifices so you and I can go about our day like we always do. To be so against what they have to do, but support them for doing it. It’s a conundrum that gets lost on most people who just throw their friends, their family, into a group of soulless and heartless bastards because they carry a gun into someone else’s country.

These are our friends, these are our family. These are other peoples’ friends, their family
. They sacrifice years, limbs, life. Just so you can buy your coffee at Starbucks. Just so you can go shopping at the mall without the idea of it exploding ever entering your mind.

This weekend is for them. For those that come back to us less than they were. Those that come back stronger than they were. They have made the sacrifices that make our country so great for so long. Do not forget to thank them for what they’ve done for you, even if you haven’t noticed. You haven’t noticed, because they’re doing their job.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Thank a troop this weekend.

11
Apr
12

Fergies Pub – A gem in the heart of Philly!

Ok, so before you think Hi-Fi has “jumped the shark” and become a blog about pubs and beer read on and give us a chance.  Last month I was in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA to catch the Flyers versus Canadians game; a that allowed them to clinch a playoff spot for this current season!  I make the pilgramage to “The City of Brotherly Love” every year for my birthday, and beforehand I always plan my weekend out hour by hour, so that I make the best of my time.  One of the key things in my life is food and beer (aside of hockey and music) so with a vast array of incredible places to eat in Philly, you really need to plan ahead.

After putting in a hard day of blogging at Hi-Fi Central, I decided to explore recommended pubs in Philly – always worthwhile and a deserving reward after trekking any major city is a good microbrew…or two.  During my search I came upon a blog that recommended a place called Fergie’s Pub; Fergie’s seemed to offer a fine array of ever revolving microbrews, and also the added treat of live music!  I planned to visit it pre-Flyers game, eat some dinner, and get a good buzz on prior to my trek to the Wells Fargo Center. 

Part of the appeal of visiting Fergies Pub is that it was also located on Sansom Street, a street that my ancestors once resided on in 1870, so to walk the very street seemed very sentimental, and again, a good excuse to perhaps have a (ahem) third beer in honor of their memory.

I had been staying at the Sofitel on 17th and Sansom, so the location seemed right, but prior to departing I decided to ask the concierge what they thought of Fergies.  Instantly their eyes lit up and the looked at each other with disbelief, apparently few of the clientele of a Sofitel ask for a good seedy Irish pub when in Philly.  All three suggested that I go and said that timing (3:00 on a Saturday) was perfect since at 4:00 “The Sessions” begin; “sessions” I asked, what is that?

I was informed that at 4:00 this group of regulars comes in, parks it at a table with their pints and plays a few hours of free form Irish music; but space becomes limited very quickly.  So, I rushed down and found Fergies Pub, entered and was instantly welcomed by the waitress asking us how many and before we sat down what we would like to drink.  The beer menu offered about 15 beers on tap, and the food was excellent.  After we got settled we drank a pint and sure enough the waitresses started moving the tables around to make room for a group of people, about 4 in all, to sit down and prepare to play.  The group consisted of a guitarist, two fiddles, and an accordian player, it didn’t take long for them to get started and the music was excellent.  Much of the music was impromptu jamming and at times they would just fade out and drink their beers and then start up again by sheer impulse, clearly they knew each other rather well and their timing was spot on.   At one point a mother walked in with her daugther (I think about 9) and the little girl got out her fiddle and jumped right in not missing a cue; it was excellent!

Philadelphia, if you’ve either never been there or have visited only a few times is truly a fun city.  Last year I blogged about visiting a church on 20th and Christian streets called St. Charles Boromeo where my great-grandparents were married in 1907, just to find out the church and the mass had converted into an amalgum of both Catholic and Gospel influences, just something completely unexpected. 

Check out Fergies Pub on a saturday afternoon if you are every visiting Philly, the beer, food, and service are excellent, but the music just adds a special twist.

05
Apr
12

Get Back! Rise of The Little Beatles?

Could you imagine if the spawn of the Fab Four were to get together and form a band, hiliarious eh?  From what I have read though, life is stranger than fiction. Reports are that there has been talk between James McCartney and Sean Lennon; clearly most of it has been baseless rumors and unfounded gossipy BS (like found on this blog!) and is sheer speculation at this time, nothing more. 

I recall there was a band about a decade ago called “Bloodlines” that was comprised of Erin Davis (son of Miles Davis), Waylon Kreiger (son of Robby Kreiger), and Berry Oakley Jr. (son of Berry Oakley Sr., duh!), but the band amounted to zilch.  I think the notion of the a revival or tribute band comprised of the children of The Beatles is a fun idea, I’m not sure that I could take it seriously to spend the money.  Iv’e not been overly impressed by Sean Lennon’s past work, but his older brother Julian was as close you would get to the sound of their late father, but apparently his day has come and gone.  As for Dhanni Harrison, he looks almost exactly like his father but can he play?  And as for James McCartney, he’s apparently a musician and songwriter, but who knows what his talents.  Zak Starkey on the other hand is a well accomplished drummer who has been a member of both Oasis and toured with The Who is recent years, so he doesn’t really  need the work nor seek the validation.

I would imagine as the child of a celebrity, there is always the want to vicariously experience or attempt to achieve the level of success of your parents.  But here is the dilemma, on the one hand you’ve got a huge leg up in the industry, yet on the other hand the public will may or will constantly compare your parent  good or bad.

Anyhoo, I thought it was worth informing the readers about since is fun, but I’m more impressed with how much they look like their parents, crazy!

28
Mar
12

AWOLnation “Megalithic Symphony”

AWOLnation is frontman Aaron Bruno, formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, Christopher Thorn, Hayden Scott, David Amezcua, and Kenny Carkeet. The band’s name was derived from Bruno’s inexplicable avoidance to say ‘goodbye’ to anyone, hence the term AWOL.

They are signed to Red Bull Records, after Red Bull offered Bruno some free studio time where he recorded a couple songs for the band’s first album Back From Earth

You’ve undoubtedly heard the first single from the album “Sail” all through last summer and fall. As this album was released in March 2011.

They have a unique mix of punk and electronic music that brings out the best of both worlds. They are what, to me, is a perfect amalgamation to be an appealing live show. No completely pre-recorded tracks *cough* Skrillex *cough* or a DJ just sitting there tapping buttons on a sound board with an Apple symbol burning into your forehead. This style preserves the uniqueness and fun that a live show should offer.

They are the epitome of what music has lost in the past decade of the digital revolution. Something that is embodied by the Foo Fighters (and probably why we still love them) and this carries over to AWOLnation as well. FUN.
Just having fun with what you’re doing, you make music, you’re not going to get Isreal and Palestine to drop their guns Bono. You’re not going to stop the killing in Sudan by standing outside an embassy in the USA George Clooney.

Somewhere along the way musicians forgot their place. You’re here to entertain us. You want to spend all that money you make off of album sales to help those people? Go ahead. But to preach to the public that WE need to do more is stupid, especially considering you don’t pay taxes in Ireland (of all places) U2.

Hypocrisy runs rampant when you make a ton of money and tell people to do more with theirs. Which is why the term “they sold out” permeates bands that we once held near and dear (yes, Green Day too.) Remember when they were just about having fun? Now we have to listen to “Jesus of Suburbia” yuck.

AWOLnation reminds me of a time when bands knew what they were their purpose was. That they were making a living traveling the globe and brightening peoples’ days. Megalithic Symphony is just that, an album that let’s you find meaning in your own way.

“Not Your Fault” is a perfect example of this. They took an opportunity to make a really heavy handed music video but took the road that seems to be cracked and unkempt. They had fun with it. So besides these two singles that’ve made waves on the charts, my favorite track has to be “People” as it gives a nice little gem that speaks to me as the problem with the world today:

We were born to rage
We’re the price of pain
We’re a single voice
We’re the second choice
We were born to rage

What happened to our passion and sticking together? Where is the next great revolution going to come from? What is the next big “movement” going to be? It feels like between the government and corporate America, we’ve lost the world that was once our oyster. That it feels nobody can change it, that the machine is just too big to throw a cog into. That’s what this song says to me and this is why punk rock will live on; even if the sound we remember from the 80’s and 90’s has changed.

I found something in Megalithic Symphony that I like. A different sound in a time where punk bands seem to be a dying breed. Where the next generation identifies more with electronic beeps and boops than they do lyrics that help them understand and derive answers to the world.

Bob Dylan is not amused.

4/5

21
Mar
12

Black Keys Boston Show Print – Dan McCarthy

If you have followed this blog in the past you are well aware of HiFi Centrals obsession with limited edition art created for rock bands.  Last year I ran a month long posting about “The Art of the Music Business” and highlighted several of my favorite prints and also the artists who have mastered and re-defined this medium.  Granted, rock art posters are nothing new we can thank the legendary Bill Graham for much of the popularity even today.

I’m a huge fan of The Black Keys and so is fellow blogger NYMike (read the prior post about his show review at Madision Square Garden).  One of my favorite artists is the guy out of Massachussetts named Dan McCarthy; my wife and I have several of his prints and he always seems to come up with fun and imaginitive designs consistently.  I happened to check out his website this morning and noticed that he created a print for a recent show (March 7th) at the TD Garden in Boston; apparently they were also on sale at the event as well.  Dan posted that he will have a limited amount available on his site later this month.

His prints usually sell around $40 and go quick, so check out www.danmccarthy.org to and see ifyou can snag yourself one when released.  Let us know if you get one too!