I have spent part of my time in the van lately listening to Alice Cooper. Many people already know that the early Alice Cooper albums, the band ones up through his first few solo albums, are fantastic pieces of work. But for those of you that don’t, do you know that John Lennon was a friend and fan, Bob Dylan spoke highly of Alice Cooper’s songwriting, and Frank Sinatra covered one of his songs? The Alice Cooper band, which is all the Alice Cooper albums up through Muscle of Love, was a really great rock n roll band. If you are a fan of bass, drums, two guitars, you have to hear these records. (The albums got technically more complex as they went along. However, that core lineup, aside from when they would hire an extra guitar player in the studio at times, is often at the core of these recordings. They sound like a band playing with just a couple extra overdubs for the most part.) My favorite of these records is probably Billion Dollar Babies, though Killer and Love it to Death are front to back great as well. These albums are just the sounds of one of the best rock bands ever firing on all cylinders. As a bass player, I find the work of their bass player, Dennis Dunaway, particularly inventive. He often played nontraditional melodic lines that still hold down the bottom, while doing very little of what a bass player typically does. There are many great hard rock songs here that feature big pop choruses. There are many excellent singles and album tracks. Somehow lyrically Alice Cooper was able to provide a lot of entertaining horror fun, reflect how adolescents felt, and satirize American culture all at the same time. The above song, No More Mr. Nice Guy, is one of my favorite tracks of theirs, one that I have liked since I was a teenager myself. The music and the melody are just fantastic. Listen to all of the cool little guitar bits going on. The lyrics are humorous, without being cute, which is a harder trick to do than one would think.
This movie looks really interesting. It’s about the Washington Music scene in the 80’s. I’ve listened to music from this scene throughout my whole life. Minor Threat’s Out of Step and then Complete Discography were especially important to me when I was really young. I was soon onto Fugazi and other bands. It looks like they have all the players involved, so there is a good chance that the film will be decent.
The new Shinyribs album, Okra Candy, is now available digitally at online retailers. (Above is the Amazon link.) I’m extremely proud to be a part of this record. It’s my favorite one yet. Looking forward to hearing what y’all think of it.
Apparently David Bowie told Laurie Anderson that Lou Reed’s collaboration with Metallica, Lulu, was his masterpiece. Anderson said so when accepting Lou Reed’s entry into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I love that record. It is an endless well of inspiration. It’s epic, it’s dense, and it’s challenging. I do understand why there are some people that will never get that record, as it is steeped in chaos at times, but they are missing out on a one of kind. However, I never tire of hearing it. As dark as it is, its poetic ambition is astounding. I find it stimulating and life affirming. You don’t make such a thing unless you find the world an interesting place. It’s a record that is never far from my mind.
I am just getting off a five day run, having spent the last five days in four different cities. For whatever reason, when I am on the road, I find heavy metal music to be relaxing. I listen to a lot of it on my headphones in the van. One of the greatest metal bands, if not the greatest, is Iron Maiden. I found the above article the other day, which is list of Iron Maiden’s albums from worst to best. I don’t really agree with the list, but if you like the band it is a fun read. Although I of course love Maiden’s classic run of albums in the 80’s, lately I have really been enjoying their last album, The Final Frontier.
If you need your spirits lifted, the music of Boozoo Chavis is one remedy. This is zydeco music at its best. Zydeco music is regional music that originally came out of Louisiana. The song Dog Hill has always been one of my favorites that Boozoo recorded. I first heard of Boozoo from Kevin Russell, who grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border. I’ve always been interested in groove oriented music that is still really melodic. For whatever reason, it just seems to speak to me. A lot of South African music is like this, music that has a groove with a deep pocket, but is structured around major chords melodically. Anyway, if you like what you hear above, the history of Zydeco is worth reading about, as it gives you another look into the endlessly fascinating complexity of our culture here in the United States.
If you are a Westerberg or Replacements fan the above article is worth the read. If you don’t know of either, Westerberg is one of the best rock n roll songwriters America has produced. I’ve always been a really big fan of his. The above article covers the solo stuff he put out since 2008. It begins with the music collage 49:00 and goes on from there.
All of the material they mention is worth checking out. 49:00 is especially interesting. One song bleeds into the next. Certain songs even play at the same time. In lesser hands this could be a disaster, but it is extremely listenable and inspiring. It really is a sound collage. Not only are almost all the pieces great in their own right, but the WAY they interact with each other provides a whole other level of meaning. At one point there is a song about Westerberg’s dad dying. Another song keeps trying to break into that one, resembling someone’s mental state under duress, like they are trying to block something out, but can’t completely. The whole record seems to tell the story of his life, though it is impressionistic and interpretive as well. (Though you might have to be a fan to put that interpretation together. The song Something in My Life is Missing features a bit about each of The Replacements, but not by name.) Westerberg’s love of Faces inspired rock n roll, knack for AM pop radio hooks, beautiful melodic sensibilities, and post-punk roots all come and go at different times. I’ve long thought it to be a work of genius, but the fact that he put several snippets of covers, that he performs, got it taken down shortly after it was released. I don’t believe you can still buy it, but you can listen up above on YouTube.