What's Spinning: A Journey Through New (Old) Music
UPDATE: Some of my brethren at Jawa Report are not too keen on the musical selections.
Original post- - - ->
In case nobody's noticed, I've been turning this blog away from the traditional all-politics-and-current-events-all-the-time and towards something more closely resembling my actual existence.
As such, I've picked up oodles of new music over the past few months. Here's a partial rundown of the acquisitions:
Michael Jackson- Thriller
I remember buying this on vinyl at a yard sale down the street one day in yesteryear for one dollar. Needless to say, it was probably the best dollar I ever spent. Used to listen to it nonstop, eventually picked up the audio cassette (remember those?) and wore it out in the walkman. Lost track of it and didn't hear the album for years until a few weeks ago, when I read something about Michael Jackson and thought, gee, I haven't heard Thriller in a long time.
Incidentally, some of musicians on this album also comprise Toto, which also made this list.
Favorite Tracks: Baby Be Mine, Human Nature
Michael Jackson - Off the Wall
More of the same, bought it off iTunes right after Thriller. It's got the tightness and brilliance of an Earth, Wind and Fire album, but with Michael Jackson at the helm. This isn't news to anyone alive during it's hey day, but it's an incomprehensibly well-written and well-executed album. Highly recommended.
Favorite Tracks: Girlfriend, Can't Help It, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough
Genesis - Three Sides Live
Always the sucker for a good live album, I picked this up already a die-hard Genesis fan. Great clean, energetic, precise readings of cuts from Abacab, Duke, And Then There Were Three, Wind and Wuthering, and more.
Favorite Tracks: In the Cage->Cinema Show-> Afterglow, Behind the Lines-> Duchess, One for the Vine
Steve Winwood - Arc of a Diver
While you see a chance take it. I love how he played all the instruments on this album - reminds me of my old music nerd days holed up in my bedroom and a former drummer's kitchen jamming, covering a myriad of contemporary and classic tunes, and spending days mixing epic masterpiece on a Tascam 414 Portastudio.
Favorite Tracks: While You See A Chance Take It, Second Hand Woman, Night Train
Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life
Not much more needs to be said about this excellent disc than "Higher Love," "Back in the High Life," and "The Finer Things." That, and "Freedom Overspill." Well played, Mr. Winwood. Well played indeed.
Toto - IV
I remember buying this album in high school strictly for the track "Africa." I also remember being thoroughly disappointed with the rest of the album, as it turned out to be (what I thought at the time) were cheesy, half-hearted power ballads containing no real cohesion from one track to the next. The years and thousands of hours of listening between now and then have revealed several things. The musicians in Toto, who have played on virtually every great piece of music and every great album that came out of LA in the 1970s and early 1980s, were sick. Jeff Porcaro (the drummer on MJ's Beat It and Heal the World, Steely Dan's Katy Lied album, and countless others), and David Paiche (also played on nearly everything including with MJ, EWF, and many others) were already heroes of mine in high school, and I didn't even know it. They were all, for lack of a better word, PWNAGE. So with hindsight included, the album sounds a lot better today than it did when I picked it up in high school.
Favorite Tracks: Africa, Rosanna, Lovers in the Night
Phish - 8-13-93, Murat Theater, Indianapolis, IN
As a permanent and fervent Phish head, I had to include at least one thing. This was always one of my favorite shows, and I suppose rightly so. It's a legend both in Phishlore and I'd dare say the jamband world in general. I had a fading copy on tape for years, and I finally broke down and bought it. Totally worth it.
Pristine quality and the first and arguably best uber-Bathtub Gin in Phishtory. The whole show is really marvelous - full of reckless musical abandon and forward momentum, it really must be heard end ti end (preferably with a glass or three of a fine merlot) to fully appreciate what is happening on the stage. It is well known among heads that the band had a particularly explosive improvisational year 1993. During the simmer, chaos and insanity reigned down from the Heavens on a nightly basis, and would put later post-hiatus shows to shame. TO SHAME. This show is the perfect representation of this seminal period in the band's storied live history.
Needless to say, I'd recommend this to anybody within any circle, because I think the world musical community has to be made aware of what Phish represented and also what they accomplished. OK. I'm done now.
Favorite Tracks: Bathtub Gin->Ya Mar, Fluffhead, David Bowie
Marillion - Family
Marillion - Friends
This is a double live album from the immortals in Marillion. Friends is a rarities/cover set with some great interpretations of a slew of alt and Brit rock standards. Check out their readings of Elvis Costello's beautiful She Goes On, REM's Everybody Hurts and Britteny Spears' Toxic. The other disc, Family, was designed to be an "ultimate" set of Marillion. It is not the "ultimate" set in my humble opinion, but it is never the less a great set with lots of gems not often played in the Hogarth era (a nice Hotel Hobbies->Warm Wet Circles->That Time of the Night trio makes me warm and fuzzy inside). These are great, high-energy versions of their excellent studio work, with a sprinkle of banter thrown in here and there to make it unique. All in all, a great package here. Can't wait for the new album.
Favorite Tracks: Between You and Me, Splintering Heart, The Great Escape, all
Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
Muse - Absolution
Picked these up together in a Muse phase I was going through. I originally heard about this band during my first semester of graduate school when one of my more hip classmates offered a free burned copy of Origin of Symmetry to me. I like it, particularly because of the keyboards.
Absolution and BHaR are even better discs because they take the keyboard, synth and programming colors Matt Belamy hinted at on Origins and push them to their logical extremes. Crashing keys, piano interludes, fuzzy and warm lead parts, and an overall aesthetic of keyboard color and explosive energy surrounding the stripped down trio . The musical ideas bandied about on these two discs are for the most part excellent and fresh. Great band in an age of not-so-interesting pop music.
Favorite Tracks: (Absolution): Time is Running Out, Stockholm Syndrome, Hysteria, Butterflies and Hurricanes, (Black Holes...): Starlight, Map of the Problematique, Assassin, Exo-Politics
Eric Johnson - Ah Via Musicom
Another legacy of the high school band geek/guitar hero/Final Fantasy era. I just love EJ's attention to detail and sleek production. No nuance on any of his albums is every unintentional, and each album has a pristine, shiny sound to it. This album, as anybody familiar with the genre knows, is a classic and is just fabulous.
Favorite Tracks: Cliffs of Dover, Trademark, Steve's Boogie, Desert Rose
Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 2: No World for Tomorrow
I was waiting eagerly for this one to come out, and it did not disappoint. Science fiction plus guitars plus prog tendencies plus manic energy equals Coheed albums, and I really have to get to see 'em live. Like Rush on steroids and with a side of hair metal, this was probably the finest album I heard this year.
Favorite Tracks: all, Mother Superior, Feathers, Gravemakers and Gunslingers
The Church - Priest = Aura
I originally had two more recently released Church albums - Forget Yourself and Uninvited, Like the Clouds - so this one was seemed about right. All available literature about this band, whose prolific career actually stretches back into the early 80's, pointed to a watermark with Priest = Aura. It's got a nice, cavernous sounds. Clean guitars, interesting lyrical content, ethereal ambiance, and ennui, this album has a little bit of everything for the adventurous musical traveler.
Favorite Tracks: Priest, Feel, Ripple
Boyz II Men - II
The soundtrack to a million and a half slow dances in high school, the purchase of this album was the result of a few drinks of wine, reduced inhibition and nostalgia. But you know what? It's really good stuff. The fact that it came straight from Philly is bonus, but this is a really good album with talented musicians. THey don't make 'em like Boyz II Men anymore, and that's a damn shame.
Favorite Tracks: On Bended Knee, I'll Make Love To You, Water Runs Dry, Yesterday (Lennon and McCartney)
Sunny Day Real Estate - The Rising Tide
Rounding out this excursion down memory lane is one of my top 15 favorite albums of all time. This behemoth was given to me half seriously by one of my old fraternity brothers who said something along the lines of "hey - one of my friends gave this CD to me, and I listened to it, and it's like, really good for some reason."
And he was right. I used to have this in the walkman/CD walkman all summer during my first summer at school. I was working in a Center City law firm while blasting this into my cranium to and from work on the Broad Street subway.
Lots of deep textures, crystaline production, entoxicating arrangements, raw power and atmosphere.
Just like real life.
Favorite Tracks: One, Snibe, The Ocean, Television