Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Death Magnetic

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The lords of metal are back. After more than 15 years of absence… Yep, 15 years ! How can I say this when there were three studio albums in those 15 years ? Well, Load and Reload were more Southern Rock than metal andSaint Anger was just angry and pathetic (and with the worst sound of all their albums). So yes, I consider this their first album in 15 years. It should have been called Death Avoided. My review will be short and to the point : this is their best album ever :-) It has the most incredible speed metal riffs (courtesy of James Hetfield), the best drumming Lars Ulrich has ever done, fabulous solos and a bass you can actually (sometimes) hear. Overwhelming power ! It just feels like a giant kick in the ass !

I’m quite sure that loads of fans like me (Gen Xers in their late thirties and early forties) that had slowly drifted elsewhere had very low expectations for this album. Metallica had a clever site set up to wet everyone’s appetite. However, the album and it’s raw, boundless, fabulous energy still came as a total surprise. It is simply a must buy if you ever liked the genre !

Classic Clips : ZZ Top

I’m from Gen X and, as teenagers, we would all sit in front of MTV (newly launched…) and watch videoclips. Some of these clips, regardless of musical style, went down to become true classics. Here’s one that everyone in his late thirties has seen and will definitely remember : “Gimme all your lovin” by ZZ Top dating from 1983. Relax and enjoy the stroll through memory lane 😉

Pachelbel’s Canon…. Revisited ;-)

The first video posted here is an absolutely amazing performance of Pachelbel’s Canon on electric guitar. It was transposed by a guy called JerryC in Taiwan (kudo’s to him) but this performance is even better than the original. Simply awesome !!!

Cheeky Lilly Allen

lilyallen.jpgYou’ve read about this album, the big Myspace.com revelation : Lily Allen. If you haven’t heard it yet, go check it out. Very cheeky irreverent catchy pop. Miss Allen is one tough cooky. I liked it instantly. It’ll be a hard album for her to follow up on though…

Circe Link

Circe LinkSome weeks ago, while listening to the intro of a podcast about the Nikon D70, I discovered this charming new singer called Circe Link and was very pleased to find both albums available on the french iTunes store. I listened to the samples and promptly bought both.

This girl has a very nice voice which she uses to great effect singing blues, jazz, rock and country all mixed together. It made me think of Norah Jones… Two great songs that I really liked are her version of the old Ozzy song No more Tears and Blue Bird Tattoo. My suggestion : take Circe for a spin 😉

Dancing to Jealousy

Sometimes you hear a song and it sticks immediately. You can’t get rid of it. It just keeps banging around in your head. Disco seems to do this to me more than other styles of music. Famous DJ Martin Solveig has just released one of those “neo-disco” hits : Jealousy. Catchy bass, chorists, zoom effects, funky guitar : find me the disco ball !!! I’m stuck with this cheap piece in my mind but at least I can dance to it 😉

-M- as in Magic

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Le tour de M-M- : La Leçon de Musique

Rarely have I been as enthusiastic about discovering a new artist in music. Mathieu Chedid, alias -M-, is the son of a Louis Chedid (well known singer/musician in his own right). He has exploded on the French scene with his mix of funk, electro, chanson, jazz and rock. His studio albums (Le BaptêmeJe dis AimeQui de nous deux) build on each other and intoduce us into the cartoonish world of -M-. With his crazy hair and technicolor outfits, I was afraid that he was just another gimmicky artist; I couldn’t have been more wrong. His little world completes the music to perfection. It’s essence : pure fun with touches of poetry !

Even better live than in the studio, the Tour de M DVD is an absolut feast for eyes and ears as M proceeds to set the audience on fire in Paris’s venerable Olympia. One of the most energetic and pure fun concert DVDs I have ever seen. -M-, surrounded by some very good musicians, is a master of the live performance. Some people here call him the French Jimi Hendrix ! For those who want even more live fun, there is the Live at the Spectrum CD.

Continuing our journey through M’s universe we find the Labo de M CD. It’s interesting with it’s variety of experimentation which showcase the versatility of M’s talent. This talent is also demonstrated in the Triplettes de Belleville anthem Belleville Rendez-Vous, a terrific piece of Jazz Manouche. And for those of you who are musicians, there is the Leçon de Musique DVD. M will take you through every step of 5 of his songs showing what and how to play on guitars, bass and drums. In today’s era of prefabricated pop, it’s nice to find someone who still knows the meaning of the word music and watching him arrange the different instruments is indeed an object lesson herein.

As a conclusion, I would say this : in this article, I have covered an entire discography. That’s because I bought all of it in rapid succession. And it’s all great !!! So go ahead and do the same (all of the albums are available on iTunes, at least in France). I promise you won’t regret it.

Blast from the Past

Browsing through my iTunes library on my computer, I came across the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” by Country Joe & the Fish which was performed to memorable effect at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969. I used to watch the Woodstock documentary with my sisters until we knew all the songs by heart even though all three of us were born after the event. And this song was one of our favorites. We didn’t however really register the nature of the protest or the feeling that could permeate an audience and make them all sing along. We just thought it was a catchy tune and that must be why everyone knew the song. Well today, in september 2004, with the daily depressing news coming out of Iraq, the bombs, the hostages, the chaos, the casualties, I find the song is just as relevant as ever. The atmosphere that surrounds what’s going on in Iraq seems to me as depressing as Vietnam (though without the draft). The political process in the USA and the debate about Iraq seems even more stifled than that surrounding Vietnam. One feels demoralised by it all and just feels like yelling that old infamous Fish cheer all over again: “Give me an F. Give me a U. Give me a C. Give me a K. What’s that spell ? What’s that spell ? What’s that spell ? ”

Given the newfound relevance (in my eyes) of the song, I also found updated lyrics to it on the Country Joe site:

Fixin’ to Lie Rag
by Randall Bart

Come on all you Americans.
Bush is President again.
He found a guy who’s really bad.
The name’s Saddam. He’s in Baghdad.
So show some ID, take off your shoes.
What have you got to lose?

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we searching for?
George said it, it must be true.
I believe in W.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why,
‘Cause Presidents never lie.

The USA’s the worldwide cop,
And evildoers must be stopped.
Saddam’s got nukes and poison gas.
Let’s go kick him in the ass.
Conquer the land, sell off the oil.
To the victor goes the spoil.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we searching for?
George said it, it must be true.
I believe in W.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why,
‘Cause Presidents never lie.

Now there’s rebuilding to be done.
Halliburton is the one.
Cheney says they have the skills.
We’re the ones who pay the bills.
So give up your rights. Write me a check.
We’ll make the whole world a wreck.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we paying for?
Dick said it, it must be spent.
He’s our Vice President.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why.
Vice Presidents never lie.

Timeless Lynyrd Skynyrd

lynyrd.jpgAlbum of the past few months for me, Lynyrd Skynyrd – All Time Greatest Hits is the ultimate classic rock album. The usual standards Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird (in a great live version with the celebrated 5 minute guitar solo) are present but this is one of those rare cases where every song on the album is good giving you over one hour of non-stop pleasure. Often when I listen to this (and the same is true for Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Aaliyah who all died way too young), I wonder about all the great music we might have had if Ronnie Van Zant (lead singer and song writer) had not died in a tragic plane crash in 1977. It’s labeled southern rock and KKK music by some. Except for the confederate flag they have on their sets and albums, I found nothing controversial in their lyrics and from an instrumental point of view (guitars !!!), this is milestone stuff. In every style of music there are a few must-haves, this is one for Rock.

Long Live Metallica !

Somewhere in the introduction to this blog, I mention that I’m a Metallica fan. Let me just clarify : I’m a dyed-in-the-wool hardcore Metallica fan and have been so since 1989 when I first heard their music. I’ve seen them live 5 times over that period of time (every time they come to Belgium or France). I own all of the CDs, some t-shirts, books, a cap, all of the videos of shows, documentaries, sheet music, I play guitar and bass and mostly play Metallica, you get the picture… 😉
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Metallica had one disappointing moment for me and that was when they set themselves up as spokespeople for the music industry in the Napster case. It really did dent their image somewhat. However, the Napster story results weren’t entirely fair to Metallica because they’ve always actually been early adopters of technology and this every time it brought some kind of added value to their fan base. They did the first Quicktime broadcast of a live show. They were one of the first to use the multi-angle possibilities of DVD on a live show DVD (Cunning Stunts). It’s fair to say that Metallica has always tried, in many different ways, to give their utmost to their fans (which explains partly why they have so many loyal ones). They have done so again, this time using the web in a couple of interesting ways :

First, for each person buying their latest CD, St. Anger, they include a key that gives access to the Metallicavaultwhere one can download ten complete live shows (for free) spanning the past 20 years (including one very early one : 1983 ! )

Second, and a feature I really like, there is LiveMetallica.com . On this website, you can purchase complete recordings in MP3 or FLAC of any concert of the current tour (and that’s one hell of a lot of shows). You even get custom CD jackets, tray inserts and cd stickers to print for when you burn the CDs. The price is fair : 9.95 USD for a two CD show in MP3 (12.95 in FLAC). The sound quality is excellent and for an ultimate live act like Metallica, there is simply no better way to listen to their music. I just downloaded a show they did on the fourth of July in Rekjavik and it really kicks ass !!!

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Thirdly, there is the Metallica on Tour site. This is where you find a tour diary, backstage info, setlists and of course information for all of the upcoming tour dates. Very well done and they have a cool newsletter.

Last but not least, there is the portal site Metallica.com . This site gives access to all of the above but adds more news and some goodies (screensavers etc..) plus giving all of the usual info expected on a band site.

Lots of stuff to keep even the most demanding Metallica fan more than satisfied 😉

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