Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moonbeams Thursday March 17 2016

 Hammock - Everything and Nothing

Hammock, one of my favorite instrumental rock bands has a new CD titled Everything and Nothing releasing April 1st. Check out the new Hammock track Clarity streaming at hammockmusic.... Limited Edition 3-CD Box O' Todd will be shipping March 18th featuring live recordings from the early 1970s. Includes songs by Todd Rundgren as well as the Hello People,  a band he produced back in the day. The package includes a signature guitar pick, 3 collectible pins and a backstage pass.... Check out the new Cotton Mather track Child Bride (available for free download-thanks Magnet Magazine). 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Global – Todd Rundgren’s Spirited & Catchy Shout Out to the World

Todd Rundgren’s new recording Global is all about self-determination and the love of the common man. It is a musical shout-out urging unity, an invitation for the fat cats to crawl off their lofty perches and join the party down below where all the real living gets done. Most of the lyrical themes revolve around mother earth and is delivered with a strong humanist outlook.

Rundgren typically constructs his albums around anchored bookends. The first song, the introduction, is usually a riveting welcome to the listener which hints strongly at the general theme of the record while setting the tone. And the last track, the conclusion, usually assumes the role as a summary imploring the listener to take heed or take hope. In this case the lead-off track Evrybody capably fills the role exploding out of the gate and getting the foot tapping immediately suggesting that Global may be upbeat and spunky. The outro is a moody intellectual piece called This Island Earth which offers a sober counterpoint to the Ancient Aliens hoopla suggesting instead that we are all on our own, that it is up to humanity to save the planet as well as ourselves.

Most of the songs on Global are built around catchy choruses and there really are no instrumental solos (save for a screeching sax on Blind) or those patented bridges for which the artist is so well known. This appears to be a conscious decision as Rundgren opts to utilize a more simple approach tweaked with futuristic pings. Holy Land and Skyscraper are especially memorable tracks featuring lyrics that actually mean something. Soothe is a classic ballad that offers a dose of aural tonic for those in need (in other words, all of us!).

The juxtaposition of guitar god and mystic healer with disco DJ has always perplexed many of his followers, but then again, maybe all this EDM biz is akin to Hodja and his whirling dervishes whipping themselves into a physical frenzy allowing for a spiritual epiphany. At the very least most of us Baby Boomers don’t mind a nice soundtrack to motivate us to walk off those extra pounds and shed some angst (but better watch that volume on the iPod!).

There are sure to be plenty of old Rundgren fans, the stubborn faithful, who will be disappointed that he has chosen to stick to the computer as his primary musical palette. In fact the only guitar that these ears (admittedly not so sharp these days) hear on the entire recording is a couple of crunchy chords in Evrybody. Considering that he remains one of rock’s most admired players, this is both eyebrow-raising and intriguing. In the end the listener can choose to either embrace or reject this offering. However I would suggest that it would be a mistake to reject it after only a few listenings because, as with most recordings, it takes several listenings before all the little sweet parts are revealed and the hooks get a little stickier and start to kick in. Given half a chance these tunes quickly become earworm melodies that you just can’t seem to shake out of your head.

Rundgren, best known for his early pop songs (I Saw the Light, Hello It’s Me, Can We Still Be Friends, Love Is the Answer) and the novelty stadium anthem Bang On the Drum all Day as well as his many productions (notably Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf and XTC’s Skylarking), is actually experiencing a renaissance of popularity with the younger musical explorers of today. Many up-and-comers have cited him as an influence and he has become the fashionable remixer-in-demand. Modern recording techniques have allowed him to become involved in various projects without requiring a time commitment from him or even his very presence. These virtual gigs probably fit his temperament as well as his attention span which is notoriously short. On the other hand, his actual presence is vividly experienced during the slew of recent Ringo Starr tours as well as the live full orchestra recordings of his songbook in Amsterdam a few years back not to mention all of his various live solo incarnations.

The guy gets around, both literally and virtually (Note: Runddans, the collaboration with Hans-Peter Lindstrom & Emil Nikolaisen is scheduled for release in early May).

Personally I can’t help but feel that Todd Rundgren (as well as a handful of other contemporaries – Neil Young immediately comes to mind) has earned the right to follow his muse in whatever mode or method he currently finds appealing. If that’s what it takes to inspire him to create new music, then by all means, follow your bliss and create. Add to the oeuvre, speak your mind, and the audience has the right to either tune in or tune out. The hermit of Mink Hollow never seems hesitant to abide.

Global is a reminder that in the end all we’ve really got for sure is the dwindling resource of time and one another. Might as well celebrate our existence while we can because we’re all together again... carry on, Todd!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lou Reed: Beautiful Conjecture

Like countless others my first exposure to Lou Reed was from the unlikely Top Forty success of Walk on the Wild Side. I was only eleven or twelve years old when somehow program directors in America’s Heartland found it within themselves to squeeze that piece of gritty streetwise doo-wop in between Rock the Boat and Already Gone. When you think about it there’s never really been another hit song like it, one that, if not exactly celebrates, then casually reveals (revels?) a musical portrayal of alternative lifestyles. Only much later did I find out that David Bowie was involved in the song and so perhaps his involvement opened the door for radio to at least give it a listen. After all, Bowie was already enjoying his own popular success at the time.

The first Lou Reed album I bought was New Sensations. In retrospect I doubt that there are too many Lou Reed fans that can say their own long strange trip with the man began with that particular recording from 1984. But I will sheepishly raise my hand and now admit that personally I never particularly cared for the exalted Velvet Underground anthems that so many claim as manna. Sure, I have an appreciation for Sweet Jane, Heroin and Pale Blue Eyes, of Nico and John Cale and the entire Warhol thing, but that just wasn't my experience. And for a time throughout the 80s and 90s (a long time) the VU was so often mentioned as an influence for up and coming bands that I suspected that no one wanted to be left off that hip graffiti-smacked subway train. It almost became a cliché to mention the VU as an influence.

But for me it was You broke my heart and you made me cry and said that I couldn’t dance...

I bought just about every record that followed and would have to state that for me the man’s masterwork was 1989s New York. A complete artistic statement regarding the streets he mostly loved but sometimes loathed and the city's huge role in its representation of the American (mis)Ideal & Dream. It wasn’t all blowjobs in the back alley – there was the statue of bigotry pissin’ all over everybody and NASA even blew up the moon. Straw Man and Dime Store Mystery were both huge musical statements that summarized and punctuated that wonderful recording.

Now the guy was never really a guitar wizard unless you considered the right note at the right time pure genius (I did) and appreciated three or four (sometimes five) chords delivered with feeling and perfect tonal feedback. Yet despite all the grit, all the punk growl and junkie spin, Lou Reed always seemed more than willing to expose his raw and vulnerable side. The fact of the matter is Lou Reed’s music is sweet. 

Everybody took their own unique ride with Lou and I took mine on the back of that GPZ cruising through the mountains and the Delaware Gap. We even stopped at a hillbilly diner and had us a burger and a coke. Now I’m not saying my ride was the right one or the best one but it certainly was mine and I fuckin' own it.

I've been reading some tweets about Lou since his death was made public and one stands out. Somebody tweeted I knew his nephew who said he was always looking out windows. 

So what was he looking at? 

It would be easy to just reply ah hell, who cares, we’ll never know but then again there’s this sprawling musical legacy that he gifted us with which offers rough hints and glorious clues. So although I can say that I have my own suspicions the rest will always remain beautiful conjecture. 

Carry on my good man...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Obligatory Late-As-Hell Best of 2012 List

in chronological order:

Nada Surf / the stars are indifferent to astronomy

A Winged Victory For The Sullen / a winged victory for the sullen

Craig Finn / clear heart full eyes

Air / le voyage dans la lune

Field Music / plumb

Julia Holter / ekstasis

Todd Snider / agnostic hymns & stoner fables

It Bites / map of the past

Beach House / bloom

Patti Smith / banga

Mike Keneally / wing beat fantastic

The dbs / falling off the sky

Rhian Sheehan / seven tales of the north wind

Stars / the north

Ben Folds Five / the sound of the life of the mind

Hammock / departure songs

Beth Orton / sugaring season

Donald Fagen / sunken condos

The Sea And The Cake / runner

Comments: if I had to pick just one as the best I'd go with the Todd Snider. The db's was actually a disappointment and the Beach House, a critic's darling, wasn't that great. Nice to see BFF back as well as Beth Orton.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Warm In The Wake: The Silver Moon Take

Warm In The Wake

These guys are really good. I don't know too much about them but happened upon Joseph Campbell which I immediately liked. Below are eight of my favorite tracks from this band:

1. Joseph Campell (American Prehistoric)

2. Dark Gypsy Moth (American Prehistoric)

3. Hearts Versus Heads (Gold Dust Trail)

4. Good King (Gold Dust Trail)

5. Skeleton Friend (Gold Dust Trail)

6. Money Dreams (Night Wounds)

7. Fall Your Way (John Smith's Lament) (Night Wounds)

8. Meriwether (Night Wounds)

All tracks should be available on itunes and emusic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kevin Kendle's After Christmas Gift

A couple years back I was weaning myself from my usual post-Holiday splurging blues... from all that sugar, the endless libations, the mystical high I always yearn to attain (yes, I always get a little down after December comes and goes - funny how a couple of weeks of time transforms the stark landscape from glittering wonderland into bleak tundra). So I was searching through Emusic for a little midwinter pick-me-up and came across Kevin Kendle's Winter.

I was immediately struck by how nicely the music fit the songs titles and conjured a meditative mood that really helped me ease into the new year and embrace the small offerings of beauty that winter truly offers. I find myself returning to the CD each January and actually look forward to it.

Later that same year I checked out Kendle's Autumn release and was equally enthralled. It is described as a haunting atmospheric album that evokes images of ethereal, magical landscapes of the season of mists and I enthusiastically agree. 

Now Kendle has a new CD coming out in 2012 that sounds very intriguing:
The Leaves of Paradise: a collaboration with the Joao Santos. Check out the incredible digital landscape images at the Kevin Kendle web site!

If you enjoy meditative electronic music or spacey new age and need a little shot in the arm to pick up your spirits, I recommend the music of Kevin Kendle! Now pass me a cup of hot chocolate...

Kevin Kendle Amazon Store

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011: The Year That Was

New music releases I enjoyed the most:

Hammock Longest Year
Doug Powell The Apprentice's Sorcerer
Ron Sexsmith Long Player Late Bloomer
Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What
The Sea And The Cake The Moonlight Butterfly
Bon Iver Bon Iver
Daryl Hall Laughing Down Crying
Jonathan Wilson Gentle Spirit

Other artists whose albums I listened to but they didn't really knock my socks off:

Joseph Arthur, Fow, Rundgren, Waits, Buva, Neon Indian, Kate Bush, Fleet Foxes. Rundgren needs to get back to basics... Waits needs to flee them.

Probably the recording I listened to most last year was:

Eden Ahbez Eden's Island

My soundtrack of the summer from hell!!!

Odds and Sods (mostly Sods):

Songs from 2011 you must download now!

The Copper Top Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat / Burden of Tomorrow Tallest Man on Earth / Beachcombing Typewriter / Perfect Day Cassettes Won't Listen / Hold That Thought Nik Freitas / Soft Washed Out / Dancing Barefoot Todd Rundgren

Best Shows I Saw (aka Only Shows I Saw):

Steely Dan at the Starlight Theater in KC
Ben Folds with the OKC Philharmonic and Paul Simon both at the beautiful Civic Center Music Hall within a few days of each other.

Made Me Quite Merry: Carla Bley Carla's Christmas Carols

A band I'd like to check out more in 2012: Balmorhea

Personal MVP of 2011:

Would have to be Paul Simon. I've spent a lifetime fending off the guy but there's no denying it now... he's one talented sob. His album was great and the impromptu show he gave us in the lobby of the Civic Center while the sound system was being fixed was magical. Showed he had stamina, versatility and most importantly... heart.