Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moving Pictures - Rush (1981)

If there is one album you should be required to listen to before you die. Even if you don't care for progressive rock in any way shape or form, you have to appreciate the sheer amount of technical skill that went into the album. Rush quickly developed a reputation for technically challenging music with deeply poetic lyrics. Moving Pictures somehow takes the best of the technical playing, and the high concept lyrics, and puts them together in a very accessible, and very listenable package.

In many ways, Rush spent the first thirteen years of their career experimenting with different sounds and concepts. Moving Pictures, however, represents the band really coming into their own. In it's time, it was their breakthrough album- catapulting them from having a dedicated cult following, to a huge following in general. The album quickly became their most popular, and now, thirty years later, still feels fresh and relevant. It has even been made the centerpiece of Rush's current "Time Machine Tour" where it is being performed in it's entirety, to the elation of their legions of fans.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Videos that honor/parody the Beatles (Nirvana, The Doors, OutKast, Foo Fighters)

The February 9th 1964 appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show was one of the defining moments in the history of the modern music industry. It is the event that triggered the so-called "Beatlemania" where the band transformed from just a band into a legend that changed the entire music industry- and it happened almost overnight.

The Beatles also went on to be one of the pioneers that laid the groundwork for the music video craze that started in the 1980s. They recorded early music videos to help promote their albums - a practice that would become an industry unto itself a few decades later. It should be no surprise that this landmark event would later become both an honored, and parodied, subject in music videos and films.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Black Sabbath, The Cartoon (parody)

Does anyone remember TV Funhouse? This clip is probably the funniest thing to come out of that show - it was created by Tommy Blacha - who would go on to become the co-creator of the popular animated series "Metalocalypse," and the fictional band "Dethklok." This video is obviously not meant to be taken serious, so sit back, and enjoy a laugh or two. The video clip features a version of the song "Hand of Doom" from Sabbath's second album, "Paranoid."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Judas Priest makes a guest appearance on the American Idol finale

So, aside from Zakk Wylde's guest spot earlier this season, there has never been a true metal band on American Idol. Until tonight. Fourth place contestant James Durbin got to live out his heavy metal dreams with a little help from Rob Halford and company, performing "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" - I'll let the video clip do the rest of the talking.

Dedicated to Chaos - Queensrÿche (2011) - early sneak peek available

Dedicated to ChaosProgressive rockers Queensrÿche has not enjoyed the same levels of success they had in the 1990s back before guitarist Chris DeGarmo left the band, but they have still been producing music and touring.

June of 2011 will mark the release of their 12th studio album, entitled "Dedicated to Chaos," and the band's 30th anniversary. Frontman Geoff Tate likens the album to their very successful 1990 release, "Empire"

On the official Queensrÿche website, Geoff Tate has stated that the album is a "clash and slash of musical experimentation anchored by the pulse of digital code." On the Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles website, Tate has also divulged "It's kind of a modern approach to song arrangement - utilizing different sound effects and sounds sources; playing the instruments in a different way than what we have before; really experimenting a lot with the structure of rhythm and bringing it into what's modern." 

The album will be available in late June, but the album is available for pre-order, and audio samples are up on amazon here for anyone who wants to get a sneak peek.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

10 Songs to Commemorate JFK's "Man on the Moon" Speech

May 25th, 1961 - fifty years ago (was it really fifty years!) President John F. Kennedy made his famous "Man on the Moon" speech- where he threw down the gauntlet and said that the U.S. will send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. Whatever you think of his politics, or personal life, you have to respect someone who can so decisively set a major goal and make sure it gets done with no excuses.

That said, the so-called "race for space" became a time of epic importance and achievement for both the United States, and all humankind, we still reap the benefits of the technologies developed to meet JFK's challenge, and, not surprisingly, the theme of manned spaceflight has inspired many songs in popular music across many different genres. Read on, and see a few of them...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wasting Light - Foo Fighters (2011)

So in a post I made a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd probably buy this album eventually. Well, it so happens that I found an old gift card hidden in my laptop bag that had just enough money to cover the cost of a CD plus shipping. I haven't bought a physical CD in a very long time, and the way technology has progressed, it may very well be the last time I buy a physical CD. So I bought the CD rather than the download and patiently waited a few days for it to arrive.

When my CD arrived, I got a pleasant surprise. With most music in digital download format these days, it's easy to forget the simple charm of holding the package, and looking over the artwork and photos, checking out the lyrics sheet, or looking for funny messages in the "thank you" section of the credits while listening to your new music. Wasting Light didn't have a lyrics sheet- but the packaging for the CD had a few nice surprises that brought back some of that old nostalgia and had me feeling good before I ever got the CD in a player (laptop actually).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

10 Songs For the End of the World

So, we've all heard that the crazy people are claiming that today, may 21, 2011 is the "Rapture" predicted in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

Not surprisingly, we all woke up this morning feeling more or less alive and normal. The world hasn't quite been ravaged by the armies of the antichrist, and the sky hasn't opened up so God can reach down and kill off everyone except those deemed worthy of an eternal afterlife.

It just didn't happen. Maybe it will later today, we still have a few hours. With that in mind, here is a playlist of ten songs from a few different genres that you can use to celebrate the supposed end that's coming sometime between now and midnight tonight...

It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine) - R.E.M. (1987)

So every now and then, "those people" - you know, the ones who wear the tin foil hats and think aliens abducted Jim Morrison, make the headlines.

This time it's a bunch of religious fundamentalists who insist that the Bible proves incontrovertibly that the "Rapture" or "End of Days" is going to happen on May 21st 2011 - oh wait, that's today!

I guess that this is the end of the word as we know it... I don't feel any different. There's no fire in the sky. I don't even think that the antichrist has shown up to the party yet (isn't he supposed to come and screw things up before it all ends anyway?).

In short. I feel fine. I think Michael Stipe knew it would go down this way back in 1987 when a certain alternative/college rock band from Athens Georgia wrote this song... (Video after the jump)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ten - Pearl Jam (1991)

The band that would become Pearl Jam started out with two former members of Mother Love Bone, rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, and bassist Jeff Ament, along with former Shadows lead guitarist Mike McCready. The trio recorded a demo as instrumental tracks, and distributed it, in hopes of finding a singer who could put lyrics to them. This demo ended up in the hands of a gas station attendant from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, who recorded vocal tracks for three songs which would become "Alive," "Once," and "Footsteps," and sent his tape back up to Seattle. He got the job.

With the addition of drummer Dave Krusen (who would later be replaced by Matt Chamberlain, then finally Dave Abbruzzese), the band "Mookie Blaylock" was born, and began to record their first album.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

10 Essential Heavy Metal Albums

Pledge Allegiance to METAL
Everyone has their opinions about what makes an album "great." For me it's a combination of factors- was the album important or groundbreaking for it's genre, and is it an album that I want to listen to again and again. I also consider if the parts that stand out to me are just a few individual songs, or is the album consistently good all throughout - would I go back for select singles, or do I want to hear the whole album over and over.

With that said, I feel that the list of albums below (in no particular order) defines what I feel are the best parts of Heavy Metal. I will not claim that this will define the genre from everyone's perspective, but if you work through my list, you'll have a feel for what I personally consider the things that are best about the genre. It is colored by my personal likes and dislikes, and by the periods and movements within metal history that have caught my attention the most. You are free to disagree with my picks, and are more than welcome to discuss why you feel differently than I do. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother - Danzig (1988)

The sub genre called "horror-punk" was an interesting one. Take punk rock with all it's attitude and add in lyrics that would feel right at home in an old-school horror film, and you have the idea. The Misfits, featuring lead singer Glenn Danzig from Lodi, New Jersey, were arguably the iconic Horror Punk band. They were, however, short lived.

After the breakup of The Misfits, Glenn Danzig formed a new band, called Samhain - a band that continued the horror-inspired idea. They occupied an awkward stylistic space that sits somewhere between hardcore punk and doom metal. This project too, burned out and dissolved.

Finally, in 1987, Glenn Danzig put together yet another band that was originally intended to be a continuation of Samhain. In order to maintain more control, and to prevent having to start over from scratch if he went through the drastic lineup changes that hurt his previous bands, he named the band "Danzig".

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free MP3 picks - Rainbow, Dio, Heaven and Hell

This week, I came across three free live tracks available on amazon.com that were closely related despite being performed by three different bands. All three feature the vocal talents of the late great Ronnie James Dio.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WhoCares - Tony Iommi and Ian Gillan collaborate for charity

In 1988, a devastating earthquake struck Armenia, and left the country in shambles. In 1989 a group of hard rock/heavy metal musicians came together with the "Rock Aid Armenia" program- including Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), and Ian Gillan (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath). The group produced an all star version of the Deep Purple classic song, "Smoke on the Water" with all proceeds going to the help the relief efforts in Armenia.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poles Apart - Pink Floyd (1994) From the Album "The Division Bell"

Music can effect us in many different ways. I often listen to harder edged music- hard rock, alternative, metal, etc... music that excites and stimulates. I also have a passion for progressive music- music that makes you think, and inspires awe. In some cases, music can also provide comfort and have a soothing influence. I feel there is a place for this entire range of ideas. It's not enough to listen to music that is hard and fast all the time. To really broaden your appreciation for music in general, you also need to seek out music that is different than your "normal" preferences that still speaks to you as strongly as anything else.