Sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. The other day I took down what I created which gave me a new canvas to work with and tonight this is what I ended up with. Its a starting point and hopefull
As a creative person I have always branched out into different media to express myself. In the past when life became too stressful I would take to hiking or get on my mountain bike and pedal for miles to clear my head. As of late I been taking to the shoreline and surrounding area to find a sense of balance with myself and commune with nature in a different way. I began my endeavor with rock balancing back in October of 2012 and have learned the art of balance and counter - balance while finding peace within myself. It is often frustrating but still very therapeutic and rewarding. The following photos is a short chronology of my journey thus so far. I do hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I had making them.
Who says thirteen is an unlucky number? The number thirteen has received a bad rap for centuries but as someone who was born on the 13th I have to say it’s all in your head. For the record I wasn’t born on Friday the 13th, it was a Monday in the dead of winter back in 1967. As usual I digress from the real topic at hand, my top 13 albums of the past 13 years in the year 2013. Too bad I didn’t plan it so I posted this on the 13th of the month but honestly I didn’t have that much forethought. This batch of albums is heavily female influenced, and why shouldn’t it be, I love me some female singers and women in general, along with some veteran rockers and a duo from south of the border. So let’s put this puppy together and see if it barks.
Bands have been doing concept albums for several decades. The Who gave us Tommy. Pink Floyd, probably the definitive concept band, had Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, The Fab 4 released Sgt Peppers, Queensryche penned Operation Mind Crime and then there was Green Day. If you have been following this series you’ll remember that I listed Dookie as one of my favorite albums of the 90’s. In September of 2004 Dookie took a back seat when they released their 7th studio album American Idiot. American Idiot chronicles the life of Jesus of Suburbia, a small town kid who hates his life, his home and everything around him and decides to move to the big city. To say this piece of art is brilliant is an understatement and is easy to relate to for a generation that feels lost in the shuffle of life. From the power chord intro of the title track “American Idiot” to the fade out of “Whatsername” are thirteen tracks of pure genius and one of the best albums of the 21st Century that is now a musical on Broadway.
A few years ago I picked up an album by this next artist completely unaware of who they were and what they sounded like. For years I would buy albums under the premise of trying something new and once I heard the first few tracks from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals self titled album I was blown away. I took to acquiring the rest of their catalog and fell hopelessly in love with Grace and her voice. “This is Somewhere” was released by Hollywood Records in August of 2007 and is their second album and my favorite to date. This album features two notable tracks, one being my all time favorite, “Apologies” that has been featured on several television shows and “Falling or Flying” which was featured on ER and Grey’s Anatomy. As well as being an amazing singer with a voice that I find orgasmic, yeah I know, too much information, she plays guitar and piano. The Nocturnals have consists of drummer Matt Burr (who came across Grace when she was attending St Lawrence University), guitarist Scott Tournet, bassists/ keyboardist (and replacement of Catherine Popper) Michael Libramento and guitarist Benny Yurco. Up until the commercial success of their 3rd and self title album it appeared the band had a very earthy, gritty and raw feel to their music, which is quite evident on “Somewhere" with tracks like “Ah Mary”, “Stop the Bus”, “Ain’t No Time” and “Mr Columbus”. But with the release of their latest album “The Lion, The Beast, The Beat” it became clear that the band has ditched their edginess for a more produced sound which to be honest seems counter-intuitive of who Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are.
Often in the music industry a band will put out an independent release only to have it remastered and released again after being picked up by a major label, depending on how solid the material is. “Careful Confessions” is the debut album and was written and co produced by Sara Bareilles in 2004. A year later Sara signed with Epic Records and spent the next two years writing and reworking six of the tracks from “Confessions” to release her major label debut “Little Voice” in July of 2007. The first single “Love Song” received a lot of attention when iTunes offered it as a free download before the album dropped in stores the following week and created enough buzz to make “Voice” the most downloaded album and Sara a household name. The album showcases a singer/songwriter who has a voice of an angel and can play a mean piano. The second single “Bottle it Up” was another upbeat tune that did well and a third single “Gravity” never quite made it out of the gate but is brilliant none the less. The album is a good balance and is half upbeat tempo songs and half ballads that are well written and often shows that Sara has a great sense of humor. A perfect example would be the song “Fairytale” that gives a modern view of Disney characters and their views on relationships and dating. My personal favorite is “Between the Lines” which is a bittersweet song about failed relationships and the words that go unspoken quite often in our lives. Sara is currently doing a small tour without a band. If you get the chance and if she is in your neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and go see her live, I promise you won’t regret it.
To breakup the estrogen fest I want to shift gears and talk about a band that falls under the label of “Super Group” though these four musicians consider themselves anything but a “Super Group.” Chickenfoot might seem an odd name for a band but in early stages of its formation it was a running joke that just took with singer and guitarists Sammy Hagar, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Chad Smith. Anyone over the age of 35 will recognize these three as former members of Van Halen, Montrose and of course the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It started as a jam band at Sammy’s club Cabo Wabo and when people started asking when they were going to do an album or tour it became clear that if they were going to do it, let’s do it right and bring in guitarists Joe Satriani. Once the wheels were set in motion the band took to writing and recording their debut album at Sammy’s home studio and added the finishing touches at Skywalker studios. The album dropped in stores in June of 2009 and that night they performed on the Conan O’Brien show. The songs on the album are solid rock songs, their first single “Oh Yeah” can attest to that and as the band stated the music is not about making money, it’s about four guys who love making music and when the fun stops, that’s when the music ends. There are no egos in this band, something Sammy and Michael have experience with, and if any of its members have prior engagements, e.g. Joe’s solo career or Chad’s other band RHCP, then so be it. All in all this a band that is very down to earth and between the four of them has over half a century worth of music prowess and experience. The music itself is undeniably superb and in retrospect probably could have been the next Van Halen album if Eddie could get his head out of his ass. Highlights for me were the tracks “Down the Drain” which has a real nasty guitar riff, the funky “Soap on a Rope” along with “Sexy Little Thing”. Chickenfoot is a classic and definitely a great driving album.
Many times I have found that my favorite album by an artist gets panned by critics and is not necessarily one the fans take to. Sheryl Crow’s 5th album Wildflower, released in September 2005, would be such an album. Unlike her previous outings Wildflower can be considered a dark and introspective album where two of the eleven tracks were upbeat tunes while the remaining nine songs went in the opposite direction. Some attribute it to her scare with breast cancer while other rumors floated it was about her relationship with Lance Armstrong at the time which surprisingly ended after the album came out. Of course you can’t believe everything you read, regardless, Wildflower produced some of my favorite songs of her career; “Always on Your Side” (the original not the horrendous duo with Sting), “Letter to God” and “Where Has All the Love Gone”. The first single released was “Good is Good” that prompted her Grammy nomination for single of the year only to be denied by former American Idol Kelly Clarkson.
Our next stop on this musical journey will take us down under to a singer and guitarist who had a short stint in Michael Jackson’s band, as did Sheryl Crow, and has played with a host of guitar heroes and in some instance, guitar gods. Orianthi Panagaris is from Adelaide Australia and started playing piano at the ripe age of three and took up guitar at the age of six and boy does it show. On top of releasing three albums she toured two year with Alice Cooper, worked with Dave Stewart, and played with everyone from Steve Vai to Michael Bolton. Quite a feat at 28! Her first album Violet Journey was released in Australia and it would be her sophomore album “Believe” that went worldwide in 2009. “According to You”, the first single, took to the airwaves and could be heard on the radio, occasionally on VH1 and MTV (in the few hours they played videos) and was available as a download on Rock Band 2. As far as the rest of the album any one of the remaining ten songs could have been released as a single, including the balls to the wall instrumental “Highly Strung” where Orianthi trades licks with Steve Vai but for some reason nothing came of it. No instead the label did a reboot a year later and re-released the album ditching three tracks; her cover of “Suffocated” by Sound the Alarm and two originals titled “Bad News” and “Untogether”. Both solid songs yet the replacements were a cover of John Waite’s “Missing You” (it was okay but nothing great), the second single “Shut Up and Kiss Me” (which seemed out of character of her style) and collaboration with FlyLeaf singer Lacey called “Courage”. Was it the right move, it comes down to personal opinion but any of the original songs before the reboot would have been a better single that “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, personally I would have gone with “Drive Away” or “Feels Like Home”. My guess is that the label was trying to push her into that bubble gum pop mode but anyone who has a clue will realize Orianthi does not fall into that mode. The only thing she has in common with Britney, Christina or Lady Gaga is that she is blonde, end of story. This young woman can wail on guitar and has a very radio friendly voice.
My next band of choice is also from across the pond and is brought to us via jolly ole England. The debut album by Mumford and Sons hit American Stores in February of 2010 and manage to bring folk music into the 21st Century. “Sigh No More” is a collection of songs that embrace songs of a more traditional nature with a 21st century kick which is quite distinctive with Marcus Mumford’s voice, a voice unlike any other. Marcus, who is multitalented, as is the rest of the band, began by playing drums with Laura Marling before joining ranks with Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane in 2007. If memory serves me correctly Marcus and Laura were dating at the time. The album went to the top of the charts in the UK, Ireland and Australia and subsequently went on a world tour to support the album and at the same time began work on their second release Babel, another amazing album that did not fall victim that the sophomore jinx. “Little Lion Man” was the first single to be released off “Sigh” and gain ground on pop stations and alt rock stations around the globe with three more to follow; “Winter Winds”, “The Cave” and “Roll Away Your Stone”. As for the name of the band everyone seemed content to have Marcus Mumford as the “leader” of the group seeing that he was the most vocal when it came to promoting the group and it gave that sense of an antiquated family business. Currently Mumford and Sons is on tour supporting Babel.
A clean break can often spawn a new direction in an artist’s career and none can be more evident than Edwin McCain’s 5th album “The Austin Sessions” released in February 2003. “The Austin Sessions” is a mix of new and old songs that are completely stripped down and left to stand on their own without being over produced and was released on the independent label ATC out of Nashville. Having fulfilled his four album contract with Atlantic Records Edwin parted ways with the label in an effort to get back to basics. Of the twelve tracks on the album there were two covers, Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” and Buddy Mondock’s “No Choice” as well as three songs from his own catalog; “Ghosts of Jackson Square” and “Go Be Young” from his third album “Messenger” and “Sorry To A Friend” from his first “Honor Among Thieves”. The remaining seven tracks highlights a voice that seems restrained in the studio considering what Edwin can pull off live. I had the honor of seeing him perform at Lupo’s in Providence Rhode Island back during his “Messenger” tour and to be quite frank his albums don’t do his voice justice. It was clear to me that Edwin McCain is a singer-songwriter who is comfortable on stage and has a knack of telling stories with songs like “Wino’s Lullaby” and “Little Girls” and will occasionally pull out a television them song on stage. I was privy to his rendition of the classic Fat Albert theme. “Sessions” is a good mix of songs that I have found myself hitting repeat on quite often, it is a classic album that any Edwin McCain fan should have in their collection.
Mention John Mayer in a crowd and you may get mixed reviews of a man that has left a trail of female bodies in his wake from Jennifer Aniston to Katy Perry and Jennifer Love Hewitt and has ties to a cousin of mine when he was first coming up. It’s quite a funny story. My cousin’s mother had told her to dump him saying “he never amount to anything”. I bet she wished she could take those words back but to be honest, considering his track record, John is still sewing his oats. Beyond his personal life there is no denying he is a master of his craft and has produced some unforgettable music. Like many aspiring musicians John went to Berklee in Boston to hone his craft but only lasted two semesters before picking up and moving to Atlanta Georgia. He would later be noticed while performing at South by Southwest and as they say the rest is history. His first album “Room for Squares” and the follow up “Heavier Things” did well commercially but it would be his 4th album “Battle Studies” released in November of 2009 that stood out for me. Without a doubt his best work to date and with the exception of the Robert Johnson cover of “Crossroads” it is a very melodic album with a seriously laid back vibe. The first single “Who Says” comes across as a big fuck you to the world and is basically stating “this is who I am and if you don’t like it, go screw yourself” to which I applaud but as the album progresses it almost feels like “Battle Studies” is a retrospect of his relationships. Just read the song the titles and there is without a doubt a theme to this album; “Heartbreak Warfare”, “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye”, “Perfectly Lonely”, “War Of My Life”, “Friends, Lovers Or Nothing” and “Half Of My Half” that has former love interest Taylor Swift singing with him. The song that really grabbed me was “Edge of Desire” and his plea,
“Don’t say a word, just come over and lie here with me
Cause I’m just about to set fire to everything I see.
I want you so bad I’ll go back on the things I believe.
There I just said it, I’m scared you’ll forget about me.”
This is definitely a statement of a man who doesn’t want to be forgotten nor alone and would rather have the wrong relationship than not have one at all. Is it telling of the man behind the song or just another aspect of his songwriting? Yes or no it definitely strikes a chord. “Battle Studies” is just that, a study of the battle between men and women and that quest to find the right relationship and some middle ground.
R&B is a genre that many times gets lost in the shuffle and mislabeled into Pop, Hip Hop and dance music. The essence of R&B is rhythm and blues that combines an array of styles and came to be after the death of disco. R&B artist vary but in the past decade none can compare to the song styles of Alicia Keys. Alicia’s first album “Songs in A Minor” demonstrated that a classically trained pianist could incorporate jazz, soul, R&B with a sultry voice and be commercially successful in the 21st century. First picked up by Columbia records Alicia left over creative differences, apparently the label couldn’t get behind her vision of what she wanted for her music and subsequently fell into the lap of legendary Clive Davis. One man’s loss is another gain and together they unleashed an album that won five Grammies for her debut album in 2002. She released her follow up “The Diary of Alicia Keys” the following year and in November of 2007 released” As I Am”. Her 3rd album would be a step in slightly different direction and shows in the maturity in her song writing and spawned four singles; “No One”, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”, “Teenage Love Affair” and “Super Woman”. Alicia collaborated with Linda Perry on two tracks; “The Thing About Love” and “Sure Looks Good To Me” and a track with John Mayer “Lesson Learned”. I often wonder if John “clicked” with Alicia seeing she is quite a stunning young woman. Along with writing songs and performing Alicia has spent time on television and the silver screen, playing a young girl in the Cosby Show to a killer for hire in Smokin Aces. Alicia is unstoppable and to quote her latest single “This girl is on fire!”
As always no list is complete without an instrumental album and this next selection comes to us from a duo from Mexico that cut their teeth in pubs and clubs around Ireland. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero first started playing together in Rodrigo’s heavy metal band Tierra Acida in Mexico City. The band was in the process of making an album when the plan fell through. Instead of packing it in the duo decided to pick up and move to Ixtapa to try again. Rodrigo y Gabriela tried making ends meet in the resort town but then finally said screw it and packed up again, this time with Europe in their sites. They found themselves in Dublin and opening for Damian Rice and David Gray while honing their craft which would eventually lead to the release of “Rodrigo y Gabriela” in 2006. Among the nine songs were two covers interpreted through nylon string acoustics, Metallica’s “Orion” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. While both players are quite fluid in their playing Gabriela’s aggressive style maintains a percussive element incorporating the traditional five finder style of flamenco playing while Rodrigo will stick to the main theme and melody and is known for using a guitar pick that allows him to get a bit more “chug” to his sound. The result of this collaboration and style reminds me of an amped version of John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco De Lucia and with song titles like Vikingman and Diablo Rojo it should be!
After being in the music industry for forty years, selling an excess of one hundred million albums and touring the world multiple times what is there left to do than retire? Well The Scorpion tried retirement but found they didn’t like it and went right back to doing what the do best, making music. The Scorpions started way back in 1965 and have seen their fair share of members come and go. Still after releasing nineteen studio albums and five live albums it is par for the course. Klaus Meine’s voice is still stellar and truly shone through with their 17th studio and concept album “Humanity Hour 1” which was released in 2007. Personally I find the premise of this album the answer to Styx’s “Kilroy was Here”, who still has those lyrics “Domo arigato mister roboto” stuck in their head? “Humanity tells the tale of a civil war between humans and robots and the goal to find that sense of humanity once again. In some regards its quite prophetic considering how technologically society has become and where it will all lead. To give this album a bit more credibility, not that these veteran rockers need it, they recruited Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame for “The Cross”, a song with a driving baseline and beat with the signature power chord riffs they are famous for. Opening the album with the band is John 5 on guitar on the track “Hour 1”. The first and only real single from the album was “Humanity” which has shades of “Still Loving You” and “No One Like You”, that definitive Scorpion power ballad. “Humanity Hour 1” for what its worth is a fantastic album that may have been a day late and a dollar short but should not be neglected none the less.
Wrapping up this party is a woman who generally likes to “Get The Party Started”. Alecia Beth Moore is not your typical pop star. While the world was getting its fill with Britney, Christina and Jessica, Alecia decided the music world was filled with two many blondes and thus created a new persona better known as P!nk. From her hair to her attitude it was clear P!nk was unlike the rest and definitely had a bit more to offer than the bubble gum pop princess of the time. The music may have sounded similar to most, but what the general public wasn’t seeing, or rather hearing, was unlike Britney who needed auto tune, P!nk didn’t. Christina may have showed us she had a voice but her material was more fluff and look at my scantily clad body. As for Jessica, well, she was just hard to look at when she sang without thinking “I wonder if we could fit a ham hock in that mouth?” She truly looked like she was having convulsions while singing. Regardless, P!nk was more about song writing, attitude and giving the world the middle finger. To be quite honest with my readers, when it comes to fluff music I will give anything a listen and generally won’t get past the singles I hear on the radio. But after hearing “You and Your Hand Tonight” and “Who Knew” I realized I needed to hear more off her 4th album “I’m Not Dead” that hit stores in April of 2006. The album itself released seven singles starting with “Stupid Girls” that came off as “what not to do” guide when emulating others, be it the friends around you or the current icon in the media. As always P!nk loves to say Fuck You to the public and gave us a heart wrenching song in the form of a letter titled “Dear Mr. President” aimed at George W. Bush. Of course what better way to convey something to a man that can barely read and speak. Not surprising this montage of songs that expresses everything from masturbation to homosexuality, war and loneliness did very well across the globe and went multi platinum though barely scratched the surface here in the states.
In closing I want to thank everyone who has read this series and to inform you that it may not be quite over yet. I have had a blast writing it and found myself listening to albums I haven’t in quite some time. There is a good chance that there will be two more pieces coming down the line, one possibly about just live albums and another about singer-songwriters. The latter may come first and to give you a bit of insight were looking at artist like ranging from Warren Zevon to Richard Thompson. Again thank you for your support and please feel free to drop me a line if you have any suggestions, comments or just want to say hello.
I like to apologize to my readers about not being able to view the video's I been posting. I did not realize VEVO has taken to blocking the material on other websites but to be quite honest Weebly has a YouTube App built into the pages for us to use. I know, it makes no sense. I will continue to post videos and have found away around this insanity, that being not all videos are stamped with VEVO tags and there are live performances as well as bootlegs of videos to post. All I wanted to do was share some music with my viewers/readers and I have replaced a few of the videos already with alternatives. And now on to the music. Today's pick comes from Alice in Chains and was from their MTV Unplugged performance.
What can be said about Rage Against The Machine? Plenty. Rage gave us four albums of music with views that seem even more relevant in our current world climate. I will spare the politics but would like to state that if you don't own a Rage Against the Machine album, do yourself a favor and go and get one. Which, it doesn't matter, they are all classics; Evil Empire, Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles and Renegades (which is a cover album).
Walk Off The Earth is a multi talented band from Canada that exploded into popularity last year after covering the Gotye song "Somebody That I Use To Know" on YouTube which feature all five members playing a single guitar. Known for doing covers, and doing them rather well, they just released a full length album titled R.E.V.O. "I Knew You Were Trouble" was originally written and performed by Taylor Swift but WOTE's interpretation feature's Sarah Blackwood singing A Capella and is joined by human beat box artist KRNFX. This is absolutely brilliant considering most female artists, not all, rely on auto tune and protools to sound good. I highly suggest if you haven't heard this band please take a listen. More can be found @ http://www.youtube.com/user/walkofftheearth and their website http://www.walkofftheearth.com/home
Welcome to the 1990’s installment of my personal musical journey. My musical taste shifted in the 90’s and I still held onto my metal and hair bands I slowly found myself moving towards more alternative music and branching out into various directions depending on my mood. As you will see briefly this list is back to the Top Ten albums and all have a similar vein with a few exceptions. As I stated when I began this journey there is no definite order and these are the albums that I find to be the best of the 90’s and what I deem worthy. Just a hint, you will not find one single mention of Nirvana and six out of the ten albums listed are debut albums.
Perhaps one of the most profound discoveries in the early nineties came from a Seattle based band, and there were many, formed from the ashes of Mother Love Bone. Stone Gossard (guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), Mike McCready (guitar), Eddie Vedder (vocals) and Matt Cameron (drums) could be considered one the most successful bands to come out of the Seattle scene and have spent the good part of their career shaking their middle finger at the establishment. Pearl Jam hit the ground running with their debut album Ten released in August of 1991. Though the album took almost a year to gain notoriety, once it landed it was plastered all over the airwaves and had three songs in heavy rotation that included “Alive”, “Even Flow” and the controversial song and video for “Jeremy”. “Black”, my personal favorite, and “Once” had its share of airplay as well as fan favorite “Yellow Ledbetter” that was released as the “B” side to Jeremy but didn’t make the cut for the album. Eventually it would be released on the bands B sides and rarities album “Lost Dogs” and their greatest hits album. Of their catalog including solo projects Ten is considered their best to date by many and myself.
My next selection comes from a band that formed in the early 80’s but didn’t completely grab my attention until the 90’s. R.E.M. formed in Athens Georgia and as the famed story goes Michael Stipe would venture into a local record store where he met Peter Buck who was working there at the time. They found they had similar taste in music when Michael would end up buying the albums Peter had been saving for himself. One thing led to another and eventually the met and joined up Mike Mills and Bill Berry. I’d heard several songs on MTV, VH1 and the radio, “The One I Love” & “It’s the End of the World”, but truly didn’t get a feel for the band until they released “Out of Time” and eventually “Automatic for the People. Automatic would be their 8th album and was released in October in 1992. Automatic was a bit of a departure of their earlier work and could be considered a sign of the times; many bands were trying to reinvent themselves at the time. Regardless, both Out of Time and Automatic for the People were commercial successes and became staples on radio and music television. Automatic had six singles; “Drive”, “Man on the Moon”, “Everybody Hurts”, “Nightswimming”, “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” and “Find the River”. R.E.M. would go on to releases seven more albums before announcing in 2011 that the band was calling it quits.
Many bands come up empty when it comes to naming their first album and opt out to be self titled. This San Francisco based band is yet another to follow suit, Train. Pat Monaghan, originally from Erie Pennsylvania, met up with former guitarist Rob Hotchkiss and began playing local coffee houses and clubs until deciding on forming a full band bringing in Jimmy Stafford, Charlie Colin and Scott Underwood. Train was originally released as an independent album and self produced and made for twenty five thousand dollars in 1998. Three singles had been released from the album including “Free”, “I Am” and the chart topping “Meet Virginia”. “Meet Virginia” did well on the charts and would be the only song on the album that truly comes across as pop and upbeat considering most the album has more grey undertones to it and is very acoustic in nature, which is why this album is definitely my favorite out of their catalog. Their follow album “Drops of Jupiter” was good but there was definitely a shift in the songwriting and it eventually led the band to release more commercially directed songs and was why Rob Hotchkiss left the band. I had the pleasure to see Train live and I would suggest to those that haven’t to do so if you are a fan. Pat’s voice is phenomenal and the band is very tight.
Mention the band Live and most people will instantly think of their commercially successful 2nd album Throwing Copper. But as we all know I am not like most people and prefer their debut album Mental Jewelry that was released in December of 1991. Ed Kowalczyk (singer), Chad Taylor (guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), and Chad Gracey (drums) got their start at a middle school talent show. They spent their youth under the guise of several different band names, First Aid, Club Fungus, Paisley Blues, Action Front, and Body Odor Boys before settling on Public Affection and playing new wave music. The band had a few EP’s and played the clubs, including the infamous CBGB that help land them a record deal. After changing their name to Live and securing their deal they hit the studio and recorded Mental Jewelry. The album didn’t do well on the album charts and two singles got airplay on Modern Rock stations “Pain Lies on the Riverside” & “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)”. The album has a definite theme and according to Ed, who wrote the lyrics, its songs are based on the writings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishamurti. In my opinion the albums continuity flows like water and the songs definitely have a sense of oneness with tracks like “The Beauty of Grey”, “Take My Anthem” and “You are the World”.
The 90’s had its share of bands with interesting names but the one that always stood out for me was Toad the Wet Sprocket. Glen Philips (vocals/guitar), Todd Nichols (guitar), Dean Dinning bass) and Randy Guss (drums) were having trouble coming up with a band name and as a joke borrowed it from a Monty Python skit, yet another reason for me to love this band. It turned out to be a running joke because it was suppose to be a temporary name. “Dulcinea was Toad’s 4th album and released in May of 1994 and is hands down my favorite album by the band. The album’s title is taken from a fictional character in Cervantes novel Don Quixote. The album contained twelve tracks (thirteen on the international release) that included the singles “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong” that had success on most alt/modern rock stations. Toad only gave us 5 studio albums before calling it quits but after a few years they began touring again without the help of new material and according to their website they have been working on a new album and as of last month reported that it was complete. What this album will be like I anxiously await.
This next artist might seem like the odd ball out on this list, yet by no means is it any less of a great album than the rest. Joshua Kadison is a singer/songwriter whose weapon of choice is the piano and captivates his listeners with songs that tell short stories. Painted Desert Serenade debuted back in May of 1993 and gain notoriety for a track that has been used as a wedding song for many, including my brother and his first wife, “Beautiful In My Eyes”. This single should have included a box of tissue for those who are sappy enough to fall victim to a song that talks about spending their lives together and eventually riding off into the sunset for that final ride. Among the other tracks listed there was the single “Jessie” that talks about that one woman, a lost love, who always seems to call when you’re just about to be over her. Yes this album is sappy, schmaltzy, and one to put on when you want to get in the mood with your significant other. Joshua found mild success in the early years but after a failed sophomore album he eventually took to the World Wide Web, started his own website and began releasing albums on his own label. Both Joe Cocker and Smokey Robinson covered his song “When A Woman Cries”.
“August and Everything After” is the debut album of the band Counting Crows and was released in September of 1993. The band features singer Adam Duritz, guitarist David Bryson, bassist Matt Malley, on piano Charlie Gillingham and drummer Steve Bowman. This album featured the hit “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here” along with two other singles “Rain King” and “Murder for One”. When this album came out I had been going in a different direction with my own guitar playing and instantly fell in love because the album was heavily acoustic based. The band have a knack of stripping down, feeling almost sparse musically with songs like “Anna Begins”, “Omaha” and “Perfect Blue Buildings” leaving room for Adam’s voice to fill the void. Considered Counting Crows best album it has had two other versions released, one in 2007 that was a three disc set including six additional tracks and on the third disc a live performance at the Elysée Montmarthe in Paris France.
Collective Soul is the brain child of singer/guitarist Edgar “Ed” Roland and almost didn’t happen after several years of trying to make it in the business. Ed had spent a year in Boston at Berklee studying songwriting and guitar after graduating high school than eight years working as an engineer and producer at Reel 2 Reel Studios in Georgia. Frustrated about not getting a break in the business Ed decided to release the album “Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid” in 1993 under the label Rising Storm. It wouldn’t be until their song “Shine” which was being played on college radio stations through the south that Atlantic Records took notice and signed them. The album would be re-released internationally in 1994 with “Shine” being the lead single with “Breathe” and “Wasting Time” to follow. The rest of the album is solid, as are the albums that followed, and unlike the typical Drop D Tunings* that most bands were using with their guitars, Collective Soul opted out and used other altered tunings which helped them achieve their own sound.
*A Drop D tuning is when the E string (sixth string) is tuned down to D while the remaining strings are in the standard E tuning, E 6th A 5th D 4th G 3rd B 2nd E 1st
Punk is often misunderstood and falls into a single style but just like rock there are many offshoots of Punk Music that have been evolving since the early 70’s. The basic premise of Punk is that the music is raw, stripped down and full of angst, preferably teen angst. In the early days Green Day was just that but when their third album hit stores in February of 1994 many fans though the band sold out. Dookie was a commercial success for Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt. Hailed by many as one of the best albums of all times, (it’s on quite a few lists) Dookie released five singles that ruled the airwaves. “Basket Case”, “Welcome to Paradise”, “Longview” and “When I Come Around” was in constant rotation on MTV and VH1 and showcased a band that had no problem making fun of themselves much in the same vein of the Beastie Boys. It gained critical acclaim and much like their punk predecessors most songs were short, heavily distorted and to the point. Look for more from Green Day in the next installment.
Bands come and go all the time. There are a variety of reasons why a band might not make it; bad blood within the band, too much of the trifecta (sex, drugs and rock and roll), or they just don’t have the stamina to withstand the industry, to quote a Meatloaf song, “two out of three ain’t bad” for this next band. Stone Temple Pilots released their debut album Core in September of 1992. With four songs in heavy rotations; “Creep”, “Sex Type Thing”, “Wicked Garden” and the big hit of the album “Plush”, STP were set to rule the world. But much like Guns and Roses the band had its problems with its front man Scott Weiland who embraced his drug habits and been arrested several times. Regardless of the drama STP had critics and fans were split on what exactly this band was. Some considered them a copy band while others embraced the ferocity of STP. From the opening riff of “Sex Type Thing” to the ninety six second intro of “Wet My Bed” to the ending track “Where the River Goes” is fifty three minutes and thirsty seven seconds of album that made it to number three on the Billboard Album Chart, won a Grammy for the song “Plush” and in 1992 made the top ten list of guitar albums in Guitar World.
Today's vfdeo features a song that didn't quite make the cut off Pearl Jam's debut album, I know crazy, and was released as the B Side to the single Jeremy and was finally released on their Lost Dogs album and the Greatest Hits. Such a great song. Enjoy and look for a new blog very soon. (Actually I've written half of it already!)