Music

1974 – It was a very good year (for music)

1974 – It was a very good year (for music)

Music
According a recent piece on cnn.com, 1974 was a really bad year for music. Like, really bad. As some examples, the author cites the following examples of musical craptasticity: Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," Cher's "Dark Lady," Ray Stevens' "The Streak," Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' "Billy, Don't Be a Hero," John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "Annie's Song," Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died," Paul Anka's "(You're) Having My Baby," Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" and Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting." Looking at that list, I would be inclined to agree with the author's assertion that 1974 was a dry, rocky place where the seeds of quality could find no purchase. But the problem with the article is this - there was PLENTY of great music being produced in 19...
Album review – Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime II

Album review – Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime II

Music
I've had about a week to digest the latest release from Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime II. It was an album I dreaded listening to when I first heard the group was planning a sequel a year or two ago. In most cases, sequels serve only to reinforce the fact that one was enough. Notable exceptions to this rule are, of course, The Godfather Part II and Superman II. Oh, and The Empire Strikes Back.  Which was Part II at one point, and now is just Part V. So first things first -- for all the positives of this album, it is no Operation: Mindcrime. Oh, the effort is clearly there. But what is lacking is the grand vision and sheer power of the first installment. OM:I is the product of a band clearly firing on all cylinders. OM:II runs at about ¾ speed.  I can appreciate that while Queensrÿche
The Chordettes – Early feminist heroines?

The Chordettes – Early feminist heroines?

Music
The Chordettes released many great songs over the course of their career. But to me, none of them is as interesting as 1959's "A Girl's Work Is Never Done." Seemingly written as a response "Yakety Yak," which was a #1 hit for The Coasters in 1958, this song seems a lot more caustic in retrospect. "Yakety Yak" told the story of a precocious delinquent who just wanted to have fun and avoid his chores. "A Girl's Work Is Never Done," on the other hand, is clearly a tale of female domestic woe. No hanging out with friends (or anything social for that matter) for her; nope, she best get to cleanin'! A girl's work is never done You boys think we are havin' fun One minute sweeping up the floor Uh oh, the salesman's at the door Never done Never done A girl's work is never done Wa
A Loving Tribute to “Slave to the Metal”

A Loving Tribute to “Slave to the Metal”

Music
In the days before CD players, iPods and file sharing services became a part of everyday life (aka The Dark Ages), the mix tape was an essential part of a music lover's life. There were two varieties of mix tapes - homemade (for yourself or some girlfriend/boyfriend whose name you can't even remember anymore) and store-bought. Store-bought mix tapes (known in the industry as "compilations") were superior in two ways - they exposed you to bands you might have never heard before, and they didn't take five hours to put together on your crappy home stereo. During a road trip from New Jersey to Florida in the mid-'80s, I purchased my first mix tape at a Stuckey's in South Carolina. Or maybe it was North Carolina. No, it was South Carolina. Maybe Georgia. Anyway, being a proud metal he...
In Concert: Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio

In Concert: Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio

Music
There are concerts, and then there are live music experiences. Last night I witnessed the latter, as Steve Hackett and his acoustic trio performed at the Keswick Theatre (just north of Philadelphia). For two hours I witnessed a true artist perform his craft. Admittedly, I never really got into Hackett's solo career. Not because it's not good, but mostly because I just never got around to it. I've been a big fan of Genesis for years, but most fans would probably acknowledge that Hackett was criminally underused in that band. But enough about that. I and the missus made the trek down to Keswick Village last night to catch the show. We didn't get to spend any time in the town, but it seems like a nice area. It has a very quaint, small-town feel without seeming too rural or small-town. I...
Goodbye to CDs (maybe)

Goodbye to CDs (maybe)

Music, Rants
Sales of digital music boomed in the first half of 2005, compared to the same period in 2004. Meanwhile, sales of physical product (CDs, DVDs, etc.) slipped. Many are already hailing this as a sign of things to come. I wouldn't go as far as that, considering that even with the surge, digital music still only accounts for 6% of all music sold legally. Hybrid cars have gained a lot too in the last year, but I wouldn't bet the farm on people giving up their dino-mobiles anytime soon. Still, this does point out two trends in music - one good, one bad. (more…)
1994 in popular music – musical hell, heaven or purgatory?

1994 in popular music – musical hell, heaven or purgatory?

Music
Nothing cures a pesky bout of writer's block like a good old-fashioned Inter-web meme!I stumbled across one today on a blog that is full of crap.  So like the lemming I am, here we go: The gag here is that you travel to musicoutfitters.com and enter the year you graduated high school into their search engine. It gives you a list of the top 100 songs for that year, based on some super-secret algorithm. If you didn't graduate high school, just have a friend read the list to you. (more…)
Brian makes me SMiLE

Brian makes me SMiLE

Music
I don't normally plunk down any of my hard-earned (well, just earned) money on any form of entertainment unless I have a reasonable expectation that it will be worth it. But when I found out a few months ago that Brian Wilson was coming to New Jersey and performing his seminal work, SMiLE, I knew I had to take the chance. I'll cut to the chase and say that I was not disappointed. In fact, I had a great time. It's not that I didn't think I wouldn't, but Brian's musical output since the late '60s has been inconsistent at best, wretched at worst. But I think that sometimes gets glossed over by critics, and especially by his fans. And I think the reason is that so many fans and critics want so desperately to be able to view him as the musical savant he really was in the '60s. Brian's mental...