Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Blue In Green" - Miles Davis

My buddy Ian started up a cool get together he's calling Digital Exodus where a group of friends get together, turn off the televisions and cell phones and listen to a vinyl album without any distractions. Most recently, he picked Kind of Blue by jazz legend Miles Davis. Recorded and released in 1959, Kind of Blue has since gone quadruple platinum and is readily acknowledged as a "must listen" album. Sprawling, smooth and melodic, it's the absolute real musical deal. As impressive as Miles was by himself, he's magically accompanied by some heavyweights on Kind of Blue, including John Coltrane and Paul Chambers. Although I couldn't make the last Digital Exodus, I sent Ian a little write-up to introduce the album to everyone:

It only took 5 songs and a little over 45 minutes of music for Miles Davis to create one of the most groundbreaking and influential jazz albums of all time. Revered as a classic masterpiece of not only jazz, but of all musical genres, Kind of Blue is one of those landmark albums on the musical map that audibly defines where a different path was chosen and a new road was laid out. Where Miles’ previous albums had been based on jaw-dropping musicians soloing over complex chord structures, Kind of Blue was based around improvisational playing within the bounds of particular musical scales. It’s the difference between being handed a paint-by-numbers piece of art and choosing what colors go into it or being handed a paint palette of specific colors and choosing what to do with them on a blank canvas. Improvisation has always been a foundational element of jazz, but Miles took it in a completely different direction for Kind of Blue. The album was impressively recorded in just two sessions, one day for side one and one day for side two, and there was virtually no lead-up practice and no sheet music. Right before they started recording, Miles just handed the musicians a bare bones road map of which scales could be used for each song and gave a loose interpretation of what the song should do. Then, they just played; intuitively, instinctively and spontaneously. All six backing musicians were top-notch players and all had successful careers as bandleaders and sidemen. For the musicians, it was just another session. But everyone who has heard the album since its release knows better. Kind of Blue was not constructed, it was captured; like an audible photograph of music just “being” in its natural habitat. If you want to just listen to some jazz, there are plenty of fine albums to pick from. But if you truly want to experience jazz, you must start with Kind of Blue.

"Blue In Green" - Miles Davis (Kind of Blue)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Record Store Day news from Third Man Records!

What are YOU doing April 16th? It's close to being time for Record Store Day again and the smell of limited edition vinyl is in the air. I chronicled my struggles and ultimate victory from last year's Record Store Day on here and I'm already making plans for this year. The list for RSD 2011 (which can be found HERE) came out last week and there are some really great looking pieces of wax again this year. Never to be outdone though, Third Man Records announced their Record Store Day offerings today and they look really incredible! Here’s the run down of their 4 special releases that they will be offering:

The White Stripes – “Let’s Shake Hands/Look Me Over Closely” (TMR-088)
This is a reissue of the very first single The White Stripes ever put out all the way back in 1998. It will be on red/black swirled vinyl.

The White Stripes – “Lafayette Blues/Sugar Never Tasted So Good” (TMR-089)
This is a reissue of the second single The White Stripes released, also in 1998. It will be on white/black swirled vinyl.

Karen Elson – “Vicious/In Trouble With the Lord” (TMR-090)
The A side of this single has Karen covering Lou Reed (“Vicious” from his second solo album) and the B side is an outtake from her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks. It will be limited to 1000 copies on clear vinyl with peach rose petals embedded in the wax. Can’t wait to see this one in person!

ROME – “Two Against One/Black” (TMR-093)
Officially the single will be attributed to “Danger Mouse & Daniel Luppi present ROME starring Jack White and Norah Jones” but now that we’ve finally got some evidence of a release from this semi-secretive project, they can call it whatever they want. The A side features Jack White and the B side will be Norah Jones. ‘nuff said.

I’m sure TMR has even more tricks up their sleeve yet to be announced, as last year they had a raffle for one of the go-carts from The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes” video and a live performance from Brendan Benson and Patrick Keeler as “The Racontwoers.” Who knows what festivities there are in store for this year, but this list is certainly incredibel news!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Part-Time Cover: "Always On My Mind"

It’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these so I thought I’d whip out one of my favorites. “Always On My Mind” was originally done by Brenda Lee in the 70’s and has been recorded by just about everyone, including Elvis. For me though, I always associate it as a Willie Nelson song. Not only is his version iconic for his unique, warbley delivery but he also took it #1 in the early 80’s, so my revision is absolutely justified. Growing up, Willie’s version is the one that I heard constantly coming out of my dad’s truck speakers. My toddler memory isn’t crystal clear, but I’m pretty sure Country radio was mandated to play the song every 30 minutes or so for a year or two there. Willie must’ve known it was going to be a hit though because he titled the entire album after the song. It went on to win 3 Grammy’s that year and the album went platinum as well. Sometimes you like a song for nostalgic sake moreso than it actually being a good song, but this one is a nice mix of both.

"Always On My Mind" - Willie Nelson (Always On My Mind)

Pet Shop Boys recorded a killer new wave cover of “Always On My Mind” in 1987 after they received awesome reviews for doing it live on an Elvis Presley tribute show. I really, really love this cover because they absolutely change the whole vibe of the song. Willie’s lamenting piano ballad is turned on its head for an upbeat, synth-driven dance track that has an almost celebratory feel to it. They also mess with the melody a little bit and throw in a couple of new chords. Neil Tennant sounds cool singing just about anything and all of the keyboards lines bubbling and stabbing around his voice make for a really awesome song. Their video for “Always On My Mind” was an MTV staple for a while there as well. Pet Shop Boys were successfully able to take a sad country song and reimagine it as a dance floor hit without tarnishing either version. In fact, I had a cassette single (or cassingle for those of you old enough to remember) of Pet Shop Boys’ “Always On My Mind” that was geniusly used to bridge the gap of musical selection battles between my parents and my sister and I. It would’ve been foolish to try to jump from “It’s Too Late” to “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” but songs like “Always On My Mind” would have my parents singing along before they knew what hit them. This song always brings a smile to my face when I hear it and it also makes me want to go skating really, really bad.

"Always On My Mind" - Pet Shop Boys (Introspective)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jenny & Tyler - Faint Not (Album Review)

Finding a husband/wife acoustic duo in Nashville is admittedly not that hard to do, so each one has to have something unique to offer if they want to rise above the collective noise. For Jenny & Tyler, that uniqueness is found in honest, hope-filled lyrics delivered through powerful, earnest vocals. For their latest release, Faint Not, Jenny & Tyler showcase their talents by writing songs that deal with both the beautiful and ugly aspects of life within the light of a promised future. In their own words, Faint Not “chronicles our journey of faith over the past year and a half. It’s about not growing weary in seeking truth, loving God, and loving people.” These concepts are hard enough to live out, much less distill down into a 4 minute song, without coming across as flippant or clich├ęd. But that’s one of the areas where Jenny & Tyler really stand out; their ability to convey these big truths in a genuine and believable way. Their vocals and melodies carry the lyrical weight perfectly and help each line settle into your head and heart. They don’t shy away from the painful parts and they don’t cheese over the positive parts. Each song carefully strikes a balance between the two with a longing hopefulness holding it all together. Faint Not also has a really cool musical vibe of acoustic based folk-pop songs that are fleshed out with great instrumentation and equal moments of emotion and reflection.

If there’s such thing as an album’s thesis, the title track, “Faint Not,” would absolutely be it. It totally encompasses Jenny & Tyler’s spirit of endurance and expectancy in the midst of heavy situations. The verses detail the circumstances of what our eyes see and the choruses encourage us to hold tightly to what our heart believe. It’s truly a beautiful thing when a song can point out darkness and light in such a truthful, uplifting way. This psalm-like approach can also be felt in songs like “Dreaming of Peace,” “Through Your Eyes” and “Holding On To Hope.” Jenny & Tyler sing about the beauties of married life as well in both tender (“As Long As Our Hearts Are Beating”) and humorous (“Stop Staring At Me”) ways. The pleading “Carry Me” contains a nice guest vocal, as they are joined by Mac Powell (Third Day) for the comforting call and response chorus. If there’s any question of whether these Nashvillians-by-way-of-Delaware truly feel at home here, they answer it by turning in a great cover of the Carter Family standard, “Anchored in Love.” Led by mandolin, acoustic guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies, this is absolutely one of my personal favorites from the album. Each song on Faint Not reminds us that the answers are not found in ignoring the news or in disconnecting from our conflicts but in facing the storms with faith and hope. Jenny and Tyler accomplish the daunting task of challenging us to fully engage life, while encouraging us to not be taken under by the struggles. This talented duo has been popping up in more and more places lately and one listen to Faint Not will show you that it’s well deserved and only the start of even greater things to come.

You can purchase Faint Not (as well as their other albums) directly from Jenny & Tyler HERE.

Also a bonus for this week only, Jenny & Tyler are giving away Faint Not for free via Noisetrade:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

...and we're back!

Wow, stagnant blogs are sad, sad little things aren't they? Work and school have been kicking my keister lately but no one likes excuses. The only thing to do is get back up on the blog horse and ride on. Sorry for the delay and I hope to not repeat my transgressions anytime soon!