Friday, April 30, 2010

New Weller

I just got an advance copy of the new Paul Weller disc "Wake up The Nation".  Upon first listen it sounds like any recent Weller disc, a few killer songs and more than a few duds.  His last disc "22 Dreams", I thought was over-rated and all over the place (which I think was partly his intent).  "Wake Up The Nation" continues this stylistic trend and has 16 tracks with a total time of just under 40 minutes.  There are 4 tracks that clock in under 2 minutes and only 1 song ("Trees") that is over 4 minutes long.  And "Trees" is about as good as the name suggests, which is to say it kind of sucks.  Weller is again playing with Bruce Foxton (bass player from The Jam), I wish I could say this disc approaches anything they did in the Jam, but I can't.  It sounds like he's trying for some of the quick hitting music (Jam-influenced, although it's all Weller anyway) he began reintroducing on "As Is Now" from 2005.  But with the exception of 3 or 4 songs this is sort of a mess (best song imo is "Aim High" where he uses his falsetto on a soul track).  I wish he would go back to making the soul inspired music he began on his self-titled first solo disc and continued with "Wild Wood", and stop with the constant experimentations, but he's a true artist and (I guess) follows his muse.  Even when the muse leads him down roads marked "Warning: Danger Ahead".  Below is the video of the title track.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Found: Stoney Clove Lane (sort of)

I wrote a post about a (now defunct) band called Stony Clove Lane a few months ago, basically wondering what happened to them and why I couldn't find any info on the internet.  In response, the founder of that band (Jeremy Bernstein) wrote a comment asking me to check out his MySpace page ( see what he's been up to.  Apparently he's been working on some songs with a new group of musicians, and he calls the project "Love Eat Sleep".  I listened to the songs and thought upon first listen that they sounded a bit sleepy and nothing really sounded as strong as some of the tunes from SCL.  I listened again, and the song "Smile" stands out among the new songs, but based on what I heard, I think he needs to incorporate a few more up-tempo numbers to cut some of the sameness from his sound.  He's got a really great voice and sound, but I think if he put some more soul (as in r&b) into his music it would really kill.  I hope he gets his music released and look forward to hearing more from him, as he's obviously got talent.  Here's another clip of Stoney Clove Lane from the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

another one down

Guru passed away yesterday at the age of 43 from a year long battle with cancer.  I wasn't a fan of Gang Starr, the rap group he created in the early 90's with DJ Premier (they were an influential East Coast rap group) but was a huge fan of his Jazzmatazz series, where he incorporated rap into a jazz framework. He was both a producer and vocalist on the albums (Vol. 1-4) and he also used various singers and rappers on the songs, incorporating some classic jazz artists as well.  It was the first time anybody had rapped over what could be considered authentic jazz music. I loved the 1st cd, which was released in 1993, and as it turns out it was the best of the bunch.  Some good songs on the other discs, but some great songs on Volume 1.  Some of the jazz greats on the disc: Roy Ayers (father of acid-jazz), Donald Byrd, Branford Marsalis, and great vocalists including N'Dea Davenport and D.C. Lee.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Malcolm McLaren R.I.P.

I was away last week when Malcolm McLaren died.  No matter your opinion (if you have one) of him, he was absolutely a brilliant marketer, and no small talent when it came to producing music.  McLaren's journey into music began when he owned a small shop in London with his then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood.  Basically, he found a group of disaffected youths and turned them into the Sex Pistols.  McLaren was hugely influenced by the music coming from NYC in the mid-70's (Television, The Ramones, The NY Dolls) and the Pistols were the first UK punk band to get wide notice.   He and John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) fought for a long time over exactly what influence McLaren exerted, and who owned what when it came to the Sex Pistols.  (They settled in 1987 and never spoke again).  From there McLaren managed Adam Ant (and also managed some of the band members that left when they formed Bow Wow Wow).

It's the middle third of his career that was of interest to me, as he went from being a ringleader of a musical circus to become an excellent producer.  McLaren released "Buffalo Gals" in 1983 at the beginning of hip-hop.  It became a huge hit and was followed by an album ('Round the Outside!) with the The World Famous Supreme Team Show.  There's some great music on the album, with a mix of rap and some good dance music, a combination that would morph into acid jazz in a few years.  For his next album "Waltz Darling" McLaren used influences from opera and classical music.  He was the 1st to highlight the 'vogueing' craze ("Deep In Vogue" was a single), way before Madonna even knew what it was.  Next up was "Paris" an evocative, moody mostly instrumental album he released in 1994.  There were many spoken interludes including a few from Catherine Deneuve.  The album was definitely a bit of a letdown after the previous 3 releases, but it works as good background music nonetheless.  The fact that he could make 3 albums that were so different from each other yet have each stand on it's own, was no small achievement.

McLaren can best be described as a post-modern renaissance man (if that's not an oxymoron).  Although he didn't play an instrument or sing, he was hugely influential on an entire generation of music.