Friday, June 30, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 18:-Big Black - The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape

Album - The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape
Artist - Big Black
Key Players - Steve Albini -vocals/guitar. Santiago Durango- guitar, David Riley bass, Roland the drum machine
Produced by - ?
Released - 1987

Overview - Considered by many to be the most influential noise rock bands of the 1980s Big Black only lasted five years. The band originally was just Steve Albini and his drum machine named Roland. Albini released an EP this way and then looked to add members to his band. Lyle Preslar of the Washington DC Hardcore band Minor Threat tried to work with Albini but that never materialized. In 1983 two members of the band Naked Raygun, Jeff Pezzati and Santiago Durango, joined on bass and guitar. They released 2 eps and Pezzati left to be replaced by Dave Riley. The band was viewed to have controversial lyrics but Albini never relented his stance. After releasing Atomizer in 1987 the band left their label unhappy with their share of the profits. They went to the Touch and Go label to release the Headache EP. The band was not overly pleased with this release and the ep had a sticker on it that read "Not as good as Atomizer, so don't get your hopes up cheese!". Durango shortly after announced he was leaving the band to attend law school. The band decided it was time to call it quits. The band never had mainstream success but they never really wanted it. Their influence on the industrial music scene is undeniable.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - This collection was released in 1987. The cd is actually a compilation of Big Blacks Atomizer album, an ep called Headache and the single "heartbeat". The title of the album as well as the liner notes written by Albini is a diss on the whole "cd" medium. The 8 track tape at one time was considered state of the art. The liner notes basically say the only good part of cd is you can handle it with "bacon grease soaked hands" and not ruin it.
The collection starts off with the song "Jordan Minnesota". The story behind this song is that it was about a town in Minnesota that there was 26 indictments handed down by a district attorney for this group of people, which is literally about a third of the adult population of this town who were involved in this elaborate molestation ring. The chorus of the song just repeats "this will stay with you till the day you die". The song that really sums up Big Blacks sound is "Kerosene". Its has a very choppy aggressive guitar intro followed by single bass notes and that heavy industrial music pounding from Roland. When this song gets going you hear almost every heavy band that was formed after 1989 come pouring out. You get where they found "that sound". The formidable wall of sound if you will...there is just no escape.

For the most part, the music alone is the soundtrack for a speeding ticket

Where are they Now - Steve Albini has gone on to produce, a term he dislikes, bands like Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Slint, REM and the Pixies (and dozens more). Steve also had a band after Big Black that was called Rapeman whose name was taken from a twisted Japanese comic book, then formed Shellac who has released 3 cds..and keeps people like me waiting for years for what's next. He also owns and operates Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. Dave Riley had a stroke in 1993 and has since released a book and cd. Santiago Durango is the chief attorney for Touch and Go Records.

Looks like the band will do a one off show if you are in/around Chicago I'd suggest it! More details here

FDF Personal Comments - The band broke up before I even knew who they were. Their influence on a lot of what I listen to is immeasurable though. Their final live show from August 9, 1987 has been captured to tape and is widely traded

FDF Overall take - I was introduced to the band via an older cousin. He was the guy that was 6 steps ahead of everyone else music wise. 2-3 times a year I'd see him I'd always ask "what was cool". Then he just started making me tapes. He introduced me to so many bands I still listen to today. If you are a fan of heavier, noisier, non mainstream music and also are curious to see where a lot of influence has come from this is a perfect collection to start with. If you'd like to read more on the band as well as some other "lesser known American bands" check out the book Our Band Could be Your Life.

Friday, June 23, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 17:-The La's - The La's

Album - The La's
Artist - The La's
Key Players - Lee Mavers (vocals) John Power (bass). The band had a string of guitar players and drummers, even for this release.
Produced by - Steve Lillywhite
Release Date - June 1990

Overview - The La's were (are?) a Liverpool based pop band that formed in the mid/late 1980's with a run that ran to the early 90's. Original member Mike Badger formed the earliest version of the band in 1983 and said that the band name came to him in a dream. Lee Mavers joined in 1984 as rhythm guitarist but soon took over as the main song writer as well as "leader" of the band. John Power joined the band in 1987 after he met Badger. Badger actually had left the band in late 1986. Badger cited musical differences and also animosity as Mavers was taking over the spotlight. For over two years the band worked on a record. They recorded and re-recorded the album, all the while changing members. In 1989 the band seemed to solidify with Neil Mavers (Lee's brother) as drummer and Peter "Cammy" Camell as the lead guitar player. In the press they were viewed as strong and confident yet in the studio in December of 1989 another attempt was made to make the record. Nothing seemed to please Mavers...ever. The band actually gave up recording the record leaving the producer, Steve Lillywhite, the task of putting it all together. Mavers was unhappy with this whole process. In 1990 the album was finally released much to the bands objections. Mavers was quoted as saying "It is shit..I hate it". The band never had massive popular appeal but the press loved them. In 1992 bassist John Power frustrated with playing the same set of songs since 1986 left the group. Mavers has vowed to never record any new material until after this first round is re-done to his satisfaction. Now all but considered a recluse Mavers is rumored to be working on things "at home". The band did play a few low key shows w/random members in 1994 and 1995. Mavers claimed that was only done to re-coup funds on merchandising debt from their 91 US tour. The band also played a few festivals and a short tour of Japan in 2005.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Son of a Gun starts off the record with a strumming acoustic and a strong "skiffle" feel. The easiest way to describe this "feel" is brushes on the small drum kit and some very simplistic guitar, all in its element. I Can't Sleep has a tad more of the rocking brit pop feel. The recording engineer boosted the floor tom down beat fill which is just great, your head gets a great "boom" from it. Using a terrific call and response chorus as well this is one of the stand out tracks. Timeless Melody was released as a single and its easy to see why. Simple yet elegant lyrics, a toe tapping rhythm and a chorus encouraging you to "open your mind". "Liberty Ship" also has that skiffle feel. This is the type of song you'd hear in a dark, yet cool quiet bar in London. It could be used in virtually and bar scene for a film or television. At this point you have had less than 7 minutes of music. "There She Goes" is next. If there were a song that would be their "hit" here in the USA it would be this very one. The song has been used in commercials, films such as So I Married and Ax Murder, Fever Pitch and the Disney remake of the Parent Trap. Sixpence None the Richer did a cover that got a lot of radio play and its often seen as a strong empowering song to women, but its about heroin addiction. Still, to this day, in my humble opinion its one of the top 5 songs of the 90's and probably a top 10 favorite song of mine all time. When I went back to listen to this cd for the review I'd hit repeat at least twice on this song. During the song "Way Out" there could be a foreshadowing line of lyrics
Bid me one last wish
Before I walk out of this
Give me the hammer to shatter the dream
To get away out of this.

During I.O.U somehow the band is able to rhyme knowledge with porridge. I am sure it has to do with the heavy accents Lee sings in.

Looking Glass closes out the record. Its the longest song on the record clocking over 7 minutes. The next closest song runs at 3:01. Looking Glass reminds you a little of a Pink Floyd track. Single voice along with a heavily plucked acoustic guitar. The song slowly builds, vocals are put on a looping delay, the drums speed up and the guitars start to really fly.

Where are they now? Mavers still continues to work on music, but doesn't seem to like the press much. Powers after leaving the band performed with the band Cast, which broke up after 4 records, then he released a solo record and then played on the La's tour in 2005.

FDF Personal Comments - I never saw the band live. It was probably hard for the band to tour in general with the band being such perfectionists. I am able to enjoy them thru some pretty decent audience recorded shows.

FDF Overall take - There are so many records I could cover from this time. The Ocean Blue, Something Happens, The Stone Roses, EMF, Lush you name it. It was such a great time for music for me personally. So many records bring me back to these days it is just so hard to choose. Regarding the La's nobody has a problem with the record, and we want to hear what else you have in you! This is one record you'd not be embarrassed to have in your collection.

Friday, June 16, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 16:-Mother Love Bone - Apple

Album - Apple
Artist - Mother Love Bone
Key Players - Andrew Wood (piano+ vocals), Jeff Ament (Bass), Greg Gilmore(drums), Stone Gossard(guitar), Bruce Fairweather(guitar)
Produced by - Terry Date and Mother Love Bone.
Released - 1990

Overview - Mother Love Bone was here and gone in a blink of an eye. A combination of the Seattle bands Green River and Malfunction, they possessed all the upside in the world and were the band that was supposed to lead the Seattle invasion of the early 1990s. So, what happened? Well, honestly, heroin happened! Lead singer and chief lyricist, Andrew Wood, fell victim to his own personal demons right after the release of this album. Their first and last full-length LP. They had also released an EP by the name of "Shine" a year earlier.

FDF Comments (aks the Songs) - The album explodes into your speakers with the opening track "This is Shangrila." A song full of bittersweet lyrics like "I don't believe in smack, so don't you die on me..." The next two songs keep the record moving right along until track four, "Bone China" slows things down a bit. No less intense but slower, the middle of the album is a little bit of a downshift. It ends with the gorgeous "Man of Golden Words" in which the name of the tribute band "Temple of the Dog" took their name. (Wood was roommates with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and the two bands formed the tribute band to honor Andy. "Say Hello to Heaven" and "Reach Down" were the two tracks from that album most directly related to Wood) The album rounds out with four more great tunes including personal favorites, "Gentle Grove" and "Crown of Thorns." The later can be found on the end of the "Singles" soundtrack and the original, complete version can be found on the "Shine" EP.

Where are they now? - Jeff and Stone went on to found a band named "Mookie Blaylock." Their search for a new lead singer led them to California where they found a guy by the name of Eddie Vedder. They renamed the band Pearl Jam and the rest is, literally, rock history!

FDF Personal Comments -Andrew Wood was the bastard son of Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan. A brilliant lyricist with tremendous stage presence. I often think what would have been if he was still with us and how big Mother Love Bone's role would have been in the music landscape of the 1990s. I never saw them live as Andy was long gone by the time I found this album. It still remains as one of my all-time favorites and has stood the test of time well. I would say Andy summed it up best when he wrote and sang the following...
"You ever heard the story,
of Mister Faded Glory?
Say he who rides the pony must someday fall,
I been talking to my altar
It says life is what you make it,
And if you make it death well rest your soul.
Away, away, away"

FDF Overall Take - An essential record for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of the Seattle sound. It has just recently been re-mastered and re-released by Lemon Records. It is also available under the name "Mother Love Bone" which combines both "Apple" and "Shine" into one two disc set. A worthwhile investment for sure. Enjoy!


Friday, June 09, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 15:- Tom Waits - Closing Time

Happy to bring on new contributor Annoyed (check his blog out for some good reads on the world around us). He has been a fan of FDF and expressed interest. Here is is first, of hopefully many, installments.

Album - Closing Time
Artist - Tom Waits
Produced By: Jerry Yester
Released - 1973

Overview - Tom Waits is one of the great American artists of the past 50 years. A singer/songwriter. A composer and an actor. The man wears many hats, all of them well. As the years have gone by he has taken bigger risks and pushed the borders of his music further and further. Sometimes, right off the edge of sanity! His voice has turned into what can be best described as Fozzi Bear meets Louis Armstrong for a pint of whiskey. He's the real deal folks. An artist that walks the walk while having nothing to prove to anyone. An artist's artist, he has no casual fans. Love him or hate him he stands uniquely alone in the music world. He isn't for the feeble minded or the weak of heart. A typical Waits audience contains college professors, painters, film makers, writers, students, and other musicians. They "get" it and it's a wonderful little community in which to belong.

His tunes have been covered by a wide range of artists. From The Eagles to Tim Buckley. From Bruce Springsteen to 10,000 Maniacs to Rod Stewart and Johnny Cash. And many, many more in between.

FDF Comments (aka the Songs) - "Closing Time" and Wait's second album "The Heart of Saturday Night" are by far the most easily digestible of his career. It was before the voice changed and the themes got darker and darker. In fact, listening to this most people who know his later work will say "I can't believe that's Tom Waits. He sounds so different"

Closing Time is still my favorite Wait's album for it's simplicity. The lyrics are heartbreaking (Martha & I Hope I Don't Fall in Love with You), the music sweeping and beautiful (Grapefruit Moon & Little Trip to Heaven)but the whole of the album never get weighed down the sum of its' parts. 12 tracks that could all stand alone but work as a whole wonderfully. No filler here!

Waltzes, lullabies, blues, jazz, country, driving songs and drinking songs, you name it! It's all here switching back and forth effortlessly. Anyone who likes singer songwriters and is missing this album has a HUGE hole in their CD collection.

Where is he now - (taken from here)

Most recently, Waits has contributed "Little Drop of Poison" to the Shrek 2 soundtrack and recorded "King Kong" for the Daniel Johnston tribute album, Waits also collaborated on a song with The Eels for an upcoming album, as well as with Los Lobos on their most recent release The Ride. Waits contributed a song titled, "Day After Tomorrow" from the new record to the Future Soundtrack of America, a compilation album supporting an administration change due out this summer on Barsuk Records. Notably, "Day After Tomorrow" is Waits' first overtly political song and it works so beautifully because of its timelessness, which is unique for a song of this genre.

On the theatrical side, The Black Rider is making its North American premiere at A.C.T. in San Francisco on September 1, while on the big screen, Waits can be seen opposite Iggy Pop in Jim Jarmusch's critically acclaimed film of vignettes, Coffee & Cigarettes.

FDF Personal Comments:

Unfortunately, Tom hasn't toured full time since the mid 90's. The reason being: He just doesn't enjoy it!

He has done a handful of West Coast shows and, most recently, showed up at Radio City Music Hall for a benefit concert in support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. No word if he will ever tour again for any extended period of time. This is really too bad because he is a fantastic performer as proven on the many bootlegs I own.

FDF Overall Take

Absolutely essential listening for anyone who enjoys great music. Period!

Other Tom Waits albums worth looking into:

1. The Heart of Saturday Night - 1974
2. Nighthawks at the Diner - 1976
3. Mule Variations

Honestly, they are all worth owning, as I do, but those three along with "Closing Time" will give a good platform to leap from.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 14:- Jeff Buckley - Live at Sin-é

Album - Live at Sin-e
Artist - Jeff Buckley
Key Player - Jeff Buckley
Produced by - Steven Berkowitz, Jeff Buckley
Released - August 1993

*the image used is for the expanded version. I am speaking of the original release in this post. I just needed a good sized image.

Overview - Born Jeffery Scott Buckley and raised as Scottie Jeffrey Moorhead in Anaheim, California Jeff was the only son of Mary Guibert and folk icon Tim Buckley. At the age of 8 he chose to go by his birth name after meeting his father for the first (and only) time. At 18 Jeff went to the Musicans Institute in LA for 2 years. During that time he played in many bands including the reggae band Shinehead and he was in other bands where he was just the "guitar" player. Jeff moved to New York in 1990 and performed for the first time as a singer at a tribute to his father in 1991. Jeff did two songs and left the audience stunned. His only comment was that he was unable to attend his fathers funeral (Tim died in 1975) and those songs was how he chose to pay his final respects. As he then worked on a major label release (which would be Grace) he played often at a small coffee house in his neighborhood called Sin-e, Sin-e (pronounced "shin-ay) is Gaelic for " That's it". An ep of some of those evenings are on the ep released in 1993. Grace was released in 1994 to somewhat lackluster sales but massive press and adoration from other musicians. Jeff who had a distinct voice as well as a 3.5 octive range the press considered him one of the most promising artists. Jeff toured and toured to support Grace. Sadly on May 29th, 1997 Jeff drowned in Wolf River in Memphis. The band was in town working on a new record called My Sweet Heart the Drunk when Jeff went for an early evening swim. His body was found 5 days later. There was speculation it was suicide as Jeff went swimming with his boots on, and a day earlier it was reported Jeff told loved ones he suffered from bipolar disorder. After his death a "demo version" of the lp he was working on was released.

FDF Comments (aka The Songs) - the ep is only 4 songs long, yet it was repackaged and exapnded 10 years after its release. After Jeff started to tour and gain some popularity he even posted on his web site how he missed being able to just walk in to a small room and do what he loved to do. This cd captures just a hint of what one may have seen or heard. Mojo Pin and Grace would both appear on the Grace album. Jeff introduces Mojo Pin as a song inspired by a dream. His raw vocals shine as he lets go of himself and take the vocal range up. The applause is pretty minimal, not sure if that was intended, or, if people there had no idea what they had seen or heard. Je N' en Connais Pas La Fin is a wonderfully haunting song, the simple guitar strum with his falsetto taking you to that small cafe in France. The Way Young Lovers Do is a Van Morrison penned number. Its the longest song on the ep and Jeff does about as rocking a solo as you'd ever hear in a coffeehouse setting. During the solo he also "scat sings" and really puts on an over the top, yet still comfortable, performance.

This probably is not a cd you'd ever put on to get a party started that is for sure, but after the masses have left and you are chilling with your partner and some close friends toss it on and be taken away

Where are they now - As noted Jeff passed away in May of 1997. Jeffs mom went out and met with fans to help promote the live cd/dvd for Live in Chicago. Also there is a documentary touring the USA called "Amazing Grace" that has gotten some favorable reviews. Check that out here.

FDF Personal Comments - I never saw Jeff live. Thankfully there is an amazing live concert cd (jeff said it was his finest show) and a live DVD simply called "Live in Chicago" that will just have to do.

FDF Overall Take - When you listen to this ep it was just a small window of what was to come, and now looking back you realize it just is not fair. Talented singer and guitarplayer with a very strong voice lost before he got even a hint of what was coming to him. In reading some reviews on the expanded version of this cd some noted that it may be a harder listen for the new fan, and to search out this shorter version. There is a pretty fine line in the sand regarding Jeff. Either the fans are ravenous or they just don't get it. That "split down the middle" can make for either a challenging, or rewarding listen. Luckly for me, its rewarding.