Monday, February 28, 2011

Josh Ritter concert review: Hollywood

A version of my review ran in the Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog.

Hollywood is usually wild on weekends, but the craziness factor was ratcheted up several notches on Saturday night as parties were held all over town in anticipation of the Academy Awards.You couldn’t get anywhere near the Kodak Theatre because the surrounding area was blocked off, causing traffic snarls. Further down Hollywood Blvd., Drai’s nightclub at the W Hotel hosted Rolling Stone magazine’s celebrity-studded soiree.

Just one block away, some stars could also be found at the packed Music Box Theatre, where Americana singer/songwriter Josh Ritter performed. Actors John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson (NBC’s “The Office”) were spotted upstairs in the VIP balcony section. Both are regular supporters, having introduced a recent New York City gig. Wilson’s book/website Soulpancake features a new Ritter song (“Wild Goose”), which is also included on To the Yet Unknowing World, the musician’s new EP of B-sides (too bad none popped up in the set), remixes and music videos.

Last June, the Idaho native appeared at the venue during the initial tour for enchanting current album, So Runs the World Away, which was my No. 1 pick of 2010. This time around, the 100-minute set was a bit shorter (but no less stunning) and included six different songs.

Appearing solo on a stage festooned with rosebuds, state flags and old fashioned lamp posts, Ritter quietly did “Come and Find Me” (from Golden Age of Radio) on acoustic guitar. Then his four-piece Royal City Band entered, Ritter yelped and it was onto the rollicking “Good Man.” The vocalist sported a wide grin and fans sang along loudly. The high energy vibe continued on “Lillian, Egypt” and a memorable lead guitar solo by Austin Nevins.

Haunting organ swells on the stark “Southern Pacifica” and waltz time piano work on the somber, mummy-come-to-life tale “The Curse,” came courtesy of keyboardist/Ritter producer Sam Kassirer. They were among the newer song standouts.

The group really rocked out during a supercharged “Real Long Distance,” bolstered by Ritter and Nevins’ wicked electric guitar playing. Ritter jumped in the air and let a fan standing in front of the stage strum the instrument. An extended “Harrisburg” had an equally enthusiastic delivery and segued into the usual snatch of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” (Ritter’s ad-libbed description of L.A. halfway through did suck out some momentum though). 

Another questionable decision came amid the dramatic, multiple versed “Thin Blue Flame.” Dedicating it to “the people of Libya,” Ritter requested all the lights be turned off and sang unamplified with acoustic guitar. While it added to the song’s intense mood, straining to see and hear it was a chore.

Ritter tends to come up with left-field concert cover choices (in ’10, it was “Moon River” and “Mexican Home,” his contribution to a John Prine tribute album). On Saturday, the first one fans heard was a gentle take on the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” featuring everyone on backing vocals.

Elsewhere, “Right Moves” and “Kathleen” were jubilant and life affirming as ever. The latter was prefaced by an odd introduction comparing man touching the moon to having a sexy moment “touching each other” – Ritter’s sly way of getting the crowd to slow dance. An equally romantic “Lantern,” propelled by Kassirer’s percolating keyboard noises, was one of the evening’s highlights.

Come encore time, opening act Scott Hutchison (frontman for Scottish indie folk act Frightened Rabbit) joined Ritter for a charming, upbeat acoustic version of The Everly Brothers’ “Stories We Could Tell” (penned by John Sebastian).

Finally, “To the Dogs or Whoever” found the always gracious, frequently giddy Ritter performing guitar on his knees, singing with infectious energy and having fun with the rapid fire wordplay. It closed the proceedings on a high note and definitely left the audience hungry for more.

(Note: Ritter probably would have played longer, but apparently had to adhere to a curfew to accommodate the venue’s Saturday night dance event that was already going on in the upstairs bistro.)

Josh Ritter photo by Marcelo Biglia, courtesy of Sacks & Co.

Queen reissues coming this spring

Queen's 40th anniversary is now upon us, and the band plans to pull out all the stops to celebrate this historic occasion. "2011 is an important year for Queen," said Brian May "and there will be a lot of activity." Adds Roger Taylor, "I can't believe it's been that long and that we are still around in such a big way. I'm amazed and grateful!" This yearlong event will be marked by a series of releases, re-releases, special limited-edition items and events around the world.

This is a timeless band whose music retains such immediacy and undiminished power that new fans continue to discover and embrace it, along the way inspiring a host of diverse artists from Lady Gaga (who took her name from Queen's "Radio Ga Ga"), and Katy Perry, through to the Foo Fighters. It's worth noting that Queen's videos have collectively generated well north of 300 million views online—a remarkable figure that figures to expand exponentially with the launch of a dedicated Vevo channel this spring, in yet another iteration of the anniversary rollout.

As the centerpiece in the 40th anniversary celebration, Queen's entire 15-album studio catalog is being reissued in a series of deluxe editions. Every note is being tweaked, every piece of artwork is being cleaned, freshened up and resourced, wherever necessary, with the legendary Bob Ludwig doing the remastering, working from the original source material. The albums will be released in three waves, staggered over the next year, with the first wave—comprising the first five LPs—coming this spring.

Each studio album will be released in a new two-CD edition, the first containing the updated, remastered original LP, the second disc packed with rarities—and we don't use the term lightly. Some of these gems have never before seen the light of day, even in crappy bootleg form. To cite a particularly fascinating example, five first-album demos recorded at London's De Lane Lea Studios in December 1971 were pulled from the only existing copy on the planet—an acetate from May's personal archives. Not even his bandmates had a copy.

"A huge amount of work has already been put in behind the scenes to unleash a completely newly mastered set of the original Queen LPs and CDs," May noted. "I know our fans will appreciate the attention to detail, bringing the early albums closer than ever to the magic of the vinyl originals, but with the benefit of up-to-the-minute quality technology."

On April 12, Hollywood will reissue Queen's debut single, "Keep Yourself Alive" b/w "Son and Daughter," on seven-inch vinyl in a limited edition coinciding with Record Store Day. And on April 19, the label will issue the band's Greatest Hits II for the first time in North America. This classic collection includes the rock standards "Under Pressure" and "Radio Ga Ga," plus  many other classics from the second half of Queen's run, including the worldwide smashes "I Want It All" & "Innuendo." Additionally, the "Queen on Vinyl" reissue program will be completed this year with the release of the final five studio albums.

Bonus Tracks on the First Five Studio Albums:

QUEEN (1973)

1. Keep Yourself Alive (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

2. Great King Rat (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

3. Jesus (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

4. Liar (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

5. The Night Comes Down (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

6. Mad The Swine (June 1972)

QUEEN II (1974)

1. White Queen (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975)

2. See What A Fool I've Been (BBC Session, July 1973 - 2011 Remix)

3. Seven Seas Of Rhye (Instrumental)

4. See What A Fool I've Been (B-side Version, February 1974)

5. Nevermore (BBC Session, April 1974)


1. Now I'm Here (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975)

2. Flick Of The Wrist (BBC Session, October 1974)

3. Tenement Funster (BBC Session, October 1974)

4. Bring Back That Leroy Brown (A Cappella Plus)

5. In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited (Live at Wembley Stadium, July 1986)


1. Keep Yourself Alive (Long-Lost Retake, June 1975)

2. Bohemian Rhapsody (Operatic Section A Cappella)

3. I'm In Love With My Car (Guitar & Vocal Version)

4. You're My Best Friend (Backing Track)

5. '39 (Live at Earl's Court, June 1977) TBC

6. Love Of My Life (Live Single Version, June 1979)


1. Tie Your Mother Down (Backing Track)

2. Somebody To Love (Live at Milton Keynes, June 1982)

3. You Take My Breath Away (Live in Hyde Park, September 1976)

4. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (Top Of The Pops, July 1977)

5. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) (HD mix)


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ted Leo concert review: Riverside, CA

Ted Leo
The Barn, University of California Riverside
Feb. 23, 2011

Local Ted Leo fans got a rare treat on Wednesday night when the acclaimed indie rocker appeared at UCR as part of his first West Coast solo tour in nearly eight years. Performing to a small crowd inside venerable campus performance venue/eatery The Barn, he delivered a rousing 19-song, 75-minute set.

It was a testament to the thought-provoking, often politically-tinged music the New Jersey native and current NYC resident has made for the past decade with longtime band, The Pharmacists (The Brutalist Bricks, which came out last year on Matador/Ole Records, is another solid effort).

Armed with an electric guitar and mostly singing with eyes closed, Leo basically let the music speak for itself. There were traces of early Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg, while I thought an old Midnight Oil song (“The Power and the Passion”) described him to a T.  

Among the standouts were “Me and Mia,” “Colleen,” “A Bottle of Buckie” (featuring some whistling and highly melodic guitar work; it got a very enthusiastic response), “One Polaroid a Day” (sung in regular voice, not the lower register heard on Bricks), “Bottled in Cork” and closing frenzy “Ballad of the Sin Eater.”

There were also inspired takes on The Waterboys’ “Fisherman Blues” (a regular inclusion in recent Pharmacists’ sets; Leo even nailed Mike Scott’s ragged howl), Nick Lowe’s jaunty “And So It Goes,” Aimee Mann’s sublime “Freeway” (something he just decided to attempt) and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Despite declining a few audience requests, Leo relented on the latter tune, giving it a lean and mean treatment.
Photos courtesy of Matador Records    

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George Harrison tribute concert free stream/Blu-ray release

In honor of George Harrison’s birth date (February 25), the memorable tribute concert in his honor, CONCERT FOR GEORGE, will be streamed for free for 24 hours that day on

Originally released in High Definition, CONCERT FOR GEORGE will be released for the first time ever on Blu-ray and via digital download on March 22. The 2-disc Blu-ray set will include the complete concert on the first disc, with a second disc containing the original theatrical version featuring concert highlights, interviews with the performers, rehearsals, and behind-the-scenes footage. The second disc will also include a previously unreleased interview segment featuring Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner and Ray Cooper entitled “Drummers.”
CONCERT FOR GEORGE has been certified 8 times platinum by the RIAA since its initial release as a 2-DVD set in November 2003 and earned a 2004 Grammy® Award for Best Long Form Music Video.

On November 29, 2002, one year after the passing of George Harrison, Olivia Harrison and longtime friend Eric Clapton organized a performance tribute in his honor. Held at London's Royal Albert Hall, the momentous evening featured George's songs, and music he loved, performed by a lineup that included Clapton, Jools Holland, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Monty Python, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison and many more.
CONCERT FOR GEORGE captures stunning renditions of some of the most significant music of the 20th century, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring Clapton on guitar, McCartney on piano and Starr on drums), “Taxman” (performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and “The Inner Light” (covered by Jeff Lynne and Anoushka Shankar). Lynne, Harrison’s longtime friend and collaborator, produced the audio elements of the concert, while Clapton oversaw the entire proceedings as Musical Director.

Track Listing

  1. Your Eyes - Anoushka Shankar
  2. The Inner Light - Jeff Lynne & Anoushka Shankar
  3. Arpan - Conducted by Anoushka Shankar
  4. Sit On My Face – Monty Python
  5. The Lumberjack Song – Monty Python with Tom Hanks
  6. I Want To Tell You - Jeff Lynne
  7. If I Needed Someone - Eric Clapton
  8. Old Brown Shoe - Gary Brooker
  9. Give Me Love - Jeff Lynne
  10. Beware Of Darkness - Eric Clapton
  11. Here Comes The Sun - Joe Brown
  12. That’s The Way It Goes - Joe Brown
  13. Horse To The Water – Sam Brown
  14. Taxman - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  15. I Need You - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  16. Handle With Care - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Jeff Lynne & Dhani Harrison
  17. Isn’t It A Pity - Billy Preston
  18. Photograph - Ringo Starr
  19. Honey Don’t - Ringo Starr
  20. For You Blue - Paul McCartney
  21. Something - Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton
  22. All Things Must Pass - Paul McCartney
  23. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton
  24. My Sweet Lord - Billy Preston
  25. Wah Wah - Eric Clapton & Band
  26. I’ll See You In My Dreams - Joe Brown

Dennis DeYoung: Music of Styx concert review

My review originally appeared on the Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog and can be viewed at:

Nothing compares to the genuine article. 

For the past decade, Styx has featured singer/guitarists Tommy Shaw, James “J.Y.” Young and recurring bassist Chuck Panozzo. Those members were a big part of the Album Oriented Rock band’s late ‘70s/early ‘80s heyday, when five consecutive albums went platinum or beyond.

Yet their current concerts – like the Ontario one I caught at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in ‘09 with REO Speedwagon and Kansas – are typically shaky at best. At some point, diehard fans that enjoy all facets of Styx’s career inevitably think about founding lead vocalist/keyboardist/principal songwriter Dennis DeYoung, who exited acrimoniously in 1999.

Having concentrated on Broadway (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 101 Dalmatians) and classical-oriented music projects (the ambitious Music of Styx: Live with Symphony Orchestra album, tour and popular PBS Soundstage program) in the interim, DeYoung recently returned to his rock roots with latest studio effort
One Hundred Years From Now. Among DeYoung’s best solo releases, the highlights include topical tunes (“I Don’t Believe in Anything,” “Private Jones,” “Turn off CNN”) and a love song to his wife (“Breathe Again”).

During an impressive, nearly two-hour show at the mostly-filled City National Grove of Anaheim, DeYoung proved he really does the Styx catalog justice these days.   

Last year, DeYoung recruited new players for his regular touring band. Key among them was amazing guitarist/vocalist August Zadra, known in SoCal for stints in Styx and Journey cover bands (he is still part of Lights: The Premiere Tribute to Journey, the opening act on Saturday night in Orange County). Several tracks originally handled by Shaw on record (“Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Renegade”) were added to the set once Zadra - and his remarkably similar vocal timbre - joined.

The tight six-piece band basically stuck to the Styx classics. They performed in a front of a large backdrop of “Moonlit Merry-Go-Round,” a serigraph by late Chicago realist painter Robert Addison, which adorns One Hundred (Addison also created another visual work familiar to Styx fans: “Paradise Theater”).

Right from the start, DeYoung provided a keen theatrical flair with dramatic gestures and vibrant singing amid the galloping synths of “The Grand Illusion.” Except for various turns at the keyboards, he never stayed in one place too long. On the percolating, driving pace of “Lorelei,” DeYoung climbed up near the drums and mimed air guitar between Zadra and equally adept axe man Jimmy Leahey. The group falsettos were a wonder to behold. Zadra acquitted himself well on the first Shaw spotlight “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” fingering the frets so vigorously, a string broke. 

Despite the often grandiose nature of Styx music, DeYoung doesn’t take himself too seriously. “Nobody goes from sublime to ridiculous like this band,” he quipped. There were jokes about Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and aging (the veteran performer just turned 64 and briefly broke into The Beatles’ “When I’m 64” after a story about first listening to Sgt. Pepper with Styx’s Panozzo Brothers at Chicago State University).

Mr. Roboto” might be dominated by '80s electronic sounds, but the Kilroy Was Here selection didn’t really seem dated. In fact, lyrics such as “the problem’s plain to see/too much technology” could easily apply today. In Anaheim, it was just plain fun. DeYoung did robotic movements, moved his head in unison with the guitar guys and even brought out the Kilroy mask as a prop.

Inviting ballads like “Desert Moon” (a solo top 10 hit from 1984), an acoustic “Don’t Let it End” and high flying “Babe” (prefaced by a story about how it was written) put the focus on DeYoung’s still supple pipes.

As the band reached the final stretch, a majority of the Grove crowd in the first two tiers were standing and cheering loudly. A mesmerizing, ultra dramatic “Suite Madame Blue” saw DeYoung hold a long sustained note and “The Best of Times” was a true celebration. 

After the quick farewell-themed “A.D. 1958,” and another Beatles nod in “The End,” and the group closed with a truly exalting, fan singalong, “Come Sail Away.”

Dennis DeYoung, City National Grove of Anaheim, Feb. 19. 2011

Setlist: The Grand Illusion/Lady/Lorelei/Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)/Show Me the Way/Mr. Roboto/Desert Moon/Don’t Let It End/Too Much Time on My Hands/Rockin’ the Paradise/Babe/Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)/Suite Madame Blue/The Best of Times/A.D. 1958/The End/Renegade/Come Sail Away

Pictured L-R: August Zadra, Dennis DeYoung, Jimmy Leahey. Live photo courtesy of

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Church catalog reissues

Before The Church's "Future Past Perfect" U.S. tour winds down next week, I wanted to remind fans about the new catalog reissues available now on Second Motion Records in conjunction with the band's 30th Anniversary. 

The early albums are housed in digi-packs with remastered sound, bonus tracks, rare photos, lyrics and best of all - extensive and fascinating liner notes written by guitarist Marty Willson-Piper.

Of Skins and Heart (1981) - The debut, featuring Church classic "The Unguarded Moment," displayed what Willson-Piper calls their "effortless chemistry." In the liners, he talks about the formation, early Aussie chart success of "Moment" and the awkwardness of making music videos. Bonus tracks are "In a Heartbeat" and "Busdriver" (the B-side of "Moment," making its first CD appearance).

 The Blurred Crusade (1982) - A cult classic produced by Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen) that initially failed to secure a U.S. release, the guitarist says it shows a "brooding progressive side, psychedelic elements and melodic controlled chaos." Bonus tracks are "Life Speeds Up" (B-side of "Almost with You") and "The Golden Dawn" (B-side of "When You Were Mine").

Seance (1983) - According to Willson-Piper, the songs here were more melancholy, with a sound that took a "sonic jump" from its predecessors. The label's recruitment of mixer Nick Launay (Midnight Oil, PiL), proved controversial as he made major sonic tweaks, especially with a then fashionable '80s big drum sound. The band was barely consulted and they were "somewhere between shocked and horrified." The result was often more gothic sounding and Seance didn't sell well. Again, the Church failed to get a simultaneous U.S. release. Bonus tracks are "Someone Special" (B-side of "It's No Reason") and "Autumn Soon" (B-side of "Electric Lash").
Heyday (1986) - More of a critical and commercial success in Australia, this album helped the Church make inroads in the U.S., aided by steady music video play on MTV's "120 Minutes," more alt-rock radio play and high profile tours. The guitarist says "the rich tones on it showcased the intricate webs we weaved" with softer rhythms. Bonus tracks are "As You Will" (B-side of "Already Yesterday"), "The View" (B-side of "Tantalized") and "Trance Ending" (B-side of "Columbus").

Deep In the Shallows: The Classic Singles Collection (2010) - The new 34-track double CD retrospective features liner notes from David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine. 

More studio album reissues (Starfish, Priest=Aura, Gold Afternoon Fix, Sometime Anywhere) and a limited edition EP box set are due out in the months ahead.

Remaining American tour dates:
Friday - Foxboro, MA 
Monday - Greenville, SC
Tuesday - Atlanta, GA
For more information:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Track listing for new Foo Fighters album

The title and track listing of Foo Fighters' upcoming seventh full length studio album has been revealed. Wasting Light will be released April 12 by Roswell/RCA and will consist of the following tracks:

Bridge Burning
Dear Rosemary
White Limo
These Days
Back & Forth
A Matter Of Time
Miss The Misery
I Should Have Known

First single "Rope" will be available beginning March 1 both as a digital single and as an instant grat with the iTunes pre-order of Wasting Light.

Meanwhile, Foo Fighters celebrated Valentine's Day with a gift to their beloved fans: Those valentines who visited (or continue to visit) received a token of affection dedicated to them by Dave Grohl: A kick-ass shot-on-VHS video of "White Limo" starring Motorhead's own Lemmy Kilmister as the driver and Grohl (and wife Jordyn), Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear as players in scenarios no doubt familiar to any aficionado of "classic" '80s hard rock videos. 

"White Limo" can be viewed at

Produced by Butch Vig and mixed by Alan Moulder, Wasting Light was recorded entirely on analog tape in the garage of Grohl's home in California's San Fernando Valley. The no computers/no software back to basics approach has resulted in arguably the strongest and most cohesive effort of the band's 15-year-plus career.

From first single "Rope" to the frenetic opener "Bridge Burning" to the beautifully bipolar "These Days" to stunning guest spots from Bob Mould ("Dear Rosemary") and Krist Novoselic ("I Should Have Known"), Wasting Light is a singular triumph: a band that's headlined arenas, stadiums and festivals the world over stripping itself down to the bare essentials and coming up with a world class band's finest hour.

Concurrent with the album's release, a feature documentary is being produced about the Foo Fighters. Academy Award winning director James Moll (The Last Days, Running The Sahara) chronicles the history of the Foo Fighters, from the cassette demos Grohl recorded during his tenure as Nirvana's drummer through their ascent to their Grammy-winning, multi-platinum, arena and stadium headlining status as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

This chronicling of the Foo Fighters' triumphs and tragedies culminates in an in-depth behind the scenes perspective on the making of the new album - a process in which the band pushed itself forward by returning to its roots and recording in Grohl's garage completely on analog tape.

Photo courtesy: Roswell/RCA Records

Raveonettes album arrives in April

The Raveonettes' Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner announce the release of their new album "Raven In The Grave," out April 5 on Vice Records. After the best part of a decade honing their instantly recognizable sound and seeing it co-opted by so many other bands aspiring for a similar level of greatness, the Danish-bred, American-based fuzz pop duo is blazing a newer, darker trail with the compelling "Raven In The Grave."

"I think we have finally hit on something quite important and different for this album," explains Sune. "This is the first Raveonettes album we've done which doesn't feature the signature Raveonettes surf drumbeat. None of the tunes have any real sunshine to them. It's all very un-Rave." "It has a mood of ethereal defiance," Sharin adds. "It's dark but not bleak, like the single minded determination caused by crisis that is not quite hope but just as powerful. It's the perfect winter soundtrack just in time for spring".

To get fans excited, The Raveonettes are offering the achingly-beautiful new song "Forget That You're Young" for free download at

It doesn't take long to hear how the band has superseded their traditional sound. Of course, melody is still key to what the Raveonettes do, but the familiar bombastic beats and squalls of guitar-noise take a backseat during much of "Raven In The Grave." Instead, the album is awash with ghostly synths and chillingly beautiful riffs that leave you feeling simultaneously unsettled and enchanted. It's easily the most soulful music the duo has created to date.

The Raveonettes will embark on a six-week North American headlining tour.  Southern California dates include:

May 4th            Glass House                                  Pomona, CA
May 5th            The Troubadour                        Los Angeles, CA
May 6th            The Troubadour                        Los Angeles, CA
May 7th            Belly Up Tavern                        San Diego, CA
May 9th            The Detroit Bar                        Costa Mesa, CA

Photo courtesy of Vice Records

New Moby album/book due in May

Moby will release Destroyed, a new album and book of photography, on Mute Records, May 17. Destroyed the album will be available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats and will be included with the book of photography. The book is 128 pages and features 55 photographs taken by Moby all over the world.
To celebrate the new album, Moby is making a free digital EP available featuring three songs from Destroyed. Additionally, Moby also directed three short films to accompany each track. Visit to download and view the videos.
Destroyed takes us behind the scenes on an international journey with Moby, introducing us to the strange and disconcerting life of touring that is often not exposed; the time spent isolated in anonymous, mundane spaces like hotel rooms, airports, and backstage waiting areas. 
These experiences are juxtaposed with moments and places of intense beauty in the world and the excitement and connection with audiences. From the absurdly empty to the absurdly full, Moby captures the universal situation that so many musicians and artists undergo living nomadic lives. The combination of the album and book of photography, created while touring, provides an intimate look at Moby’s world and his creative process. 
Songs on Destroyed were written by Moby mostly late at night, in hotel rooms around the world when cities had gone to bed and the insomnia that worldwide travel can induce fueled his need to create. A soundtrack for empty cities at 2 A.M., Destroyed fluctuates with nocturnal feelings of anxious isolation and comfort in quiet solitude.
The result is a 15-track collection that conflates the atmospheric and the disconcerting with the enveloping and beautiful – a record rich in the kind of melodies that are lodged in the brain by stealth rather than with a bludgeon.  Destroyed is an album that changes and evolves, exploring time, expectation, and ultimately the tension it creates.
Destroyed was produced by Moby and mixed by Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, M83) on old analog equipment and mixed on a 1972 Neve analog mixing desk from Abbey Road.  A cohesive body of work, Destroyed is to be listened to in its entirety and, preferably, as it was made; late at night when your city has gone to sleep.  
Events will be held in select cities to debut music and exhibit prints from Destroyed.  National Geographic will host the first event on May 9th called,  ‘Music on…Photography’, which is a National Geographic Music Live multi-media series featuring renowned personalities in the music world as they share their view of the planet from behind the camera lens. The event will be held in Washington D.C. at National Geographic Live
Clic Gallery in New York City will host “Destroyed: Photographs by Moby”, an exhibition that will run from May 12th through June 26th, featuring photos and multimedia work from Destroyed. On May 11th, the book will launch simultaneously with the exhibit opening and will include a book signing. The following night on May 12th at Brooklyn Museum, Moby will present and discuss his photographs, in addition to signing copies of Destroyed. Additional exhibitions and events will be scheduled in the U.S., including Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles in September, and throughout Europe this summer in conjunction with his concert tour.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Post-Grammy Awards thoughts

There sure were more memorable performances on the Grammy Award telecast than usual last night: Arcade Fire, Mick Jagger, Muse, Cee-Lo Green & Gwynyth Paltrow, Mayer, Jones & Urban, Mumford & Sons (though Bob Dylan was more croaky than usual), Bruno Mars.

Arcade Fire and Muse showed why they are so great live and Jagger was simply electrifying (what was up with the camera work though? Sometimes it looked pixilated during Arcade Fire and Muse. Were those segments shot in hi-def?)

People who say the Stones should stop performing live these days just needed to see Mick all over that stage, acting more spry than some people half his age.

I was glad to see Eminem only pick up two trophies (he's overrated and offensive), was a bit bummed Florence & the Machine didn't get Best New Artist, yet pleased several of my "should win" picks came true. I literaly cheered at Arcade Fire's surprise win.

As always, I wished there was a way for us to see more people receive their awards. I always liked seeing the non-televised winners scrolled on the screen between commercials. Announcer Ellen K from KIIS-FM/LA sure was annoying with her blather every time there was a commercial.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 Grammy Awards preview

Instead of doing the usual "who will win" Grammy predictions as in the past, I've opted for "who should win" awards picks in selected categories. The complete nominee list can be found at

Need You Now/Lady Antebellum

The Suburbs/Arcade Fire

Need You Now/Lady Antebellum

Florence & the Machine

Haven't Met You Yet/Michael Buble

Don't Stop Believin'/Glee Cast

If It Wasn't For Bad/Elton John & Leon Russell

In For the Kill/La Roux

La Roux/La Roux

Crazy Love/Michael Buble

Helter Skelter (live)/Paul McCartney

The Resistance/Muse

Between the Lines/STP

Radioactive/Kings of Leon

Backspacer/Pearl Jam

The Suburbs/Arcade Fire

Band of Joy/Robert Plant

Love is Strange/Jackson Browne & David Lindley

New Pearl Jam reissues on the way next month

Epic Records/Legacy Recordings celebrate Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary with the release of newly restored and expanded editions of "Vs." and "Vitalogy," the second and third albums from Pearl Jam.

Available in new expanded editions (featuring three bonus tracks on each) or together in a three-disc deluxe edition (featuring Live at the Orpheum Theater, Boston, 4/12/94) and limited edition collector's box set, they will be available on March 29. Each album will also be released in new commemorative remastered vinyl editions on April 12. 

The expanded editions of "Vs." and "Vitalogy" -- including the original studio albums, newly remastered, along with album-era bonus tracks -- will each be available on CD and digital formats:
  • The expanded edition of "Vs." includes three bonus tracks recorded by Brendan O'Brien at The Site studio during the "Vs." sessions:  
    • a previously unreleased acoustic version of "Hold On";
    • "Cready Stomp" - a previously unreleased studio outtake;
    • and the band's cover of Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary" featuring Williams on backing vocals and guitar.
  • The expanded edition of "Vitalogy" includes three bonus tracks:
    • the previously unreleased guitar/organ-only mix of "Betterman";
    • a previously unreleased alternate take of "Corduroy" from the "Vitalogy" session (recorded by Brendan O'Brien);
    • a previously unreleased demo version of "Nothingman," taken from the original DAT (recorded at John and Stu's in Seattle on October 14, 1993, featuring Richard Stuverud on drums).
2. Deluxe Editions (3 CDs or digital download bundle at various digital service providers)
  • Deluxe Edition CD version - "Vs." and "Vitalogy" will be available together in a CD deluxe edition which includes:
    • the Expanded Edition of each album;
    • a copy of Live at the Orpheum Theater, Boston, April 12, 1994. A special performance recorded at the tail end of the "Vs." tour, Live at the Orpheum Theater showcases a dream setlist created especially by the Pearl Jam crew and has for years been one of the most sought-after recordings among serious aficionados.
3. Limited Edition collector's box set (5 LPs, 4 CDs, 1 cassette, digital download, composition notebook, memorabilia-filled envelope)

"Vs." and "Vitalogy" will be available together in a limited edition collector's box set that includes 59 unique Pearl Jam performances on four CDs, five LPs and one cassette in addition to a number of guest artist performances. The limited edition box set is only available for sale at
  • Contents include:
    • Expanded Editions of "Vs." and "Vitalogy" remastered with bonus tracks on CD;
    • Remastered Vinyl Editions of "Vs." (single LP) and "Vitalogy" (double LP);
    • Double vinyl LP and CD of Live at the Orpheum Theater, Boston, April 12, 1994 plus an exclusive digital download of the concert.  A special performance recorded at the end of the "Vs." tour, Live at the Orpheum Theater showcases a setlist created especially by the Pearl Jam crew and has for years been one of the most sought-after recordings among serious aficionados
    • Exclusive collector's cassette featuring live tribute and studio performances from a number of Pearl Jam's fellow artist friends. Broadcast on January 8, 1995, this recording is part of the Monkeywrench/Self-Pollution Radio series produced by the band;
    • 80-page composition book filled with photos, drawings and artwork by Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament;
    • A glassine envelope containing a collection of "Vs." and "Vitalogy"- era memorabilia including beautiful lithographs of each band member, postcards, posters and much more.
4. Record Store Day Vinyl Editions (Remastered) - available April 12
"Vs." and "Vitalogy" will be available at independent record retailers in new commemorative vinyl editions.
  • "Vs." (single LP) and "Vitalogy" (double LP) - both remastered
2011 will be a yearlong celebration of Pearl Jam's rich twenty-year history. The anniversary festivities kicked off with the release of a new live compilation album, "Live on Ten Legs," in January, followed by the March expanded reissues of "Vs." and "Vitalogy".

Late summer brings a Pearl Jam 20th anniversary destination weekend bash followed by the fall release of Cameron Crowe's film, Pearl Jam Twenty, along with an accompanying book and soundtrack album. Interspersed between these PJ20 highlights will be a number of additional special events and new, unexpected releases. For the latest Pearl Jam happenings, visit

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Church/LA concert review

A version of my review originally appeared on the Soundcheck blog at

Once a band is tenacious enough to reach the 30-year mark, its creative output usually slows down significantly. Not the church. From a steady stream of official albums and solo projects to art and books, members of the influential Australian quartet never stay idle too long.

Last spring, the church's career milestone was commemorated here by An Intimate Space acoustic tour, where the setlist contained a song from every studio release – mainly performed in reverse order. Back Down Under in October, they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame (equivalent to our NARAS, which oversees the Grammy Awards).  

More recently, longtime fans have been able to revel in Second Motion Records’ back catalog reissue campaign (Of Skins and Heart, The Blurred Crusade, Séance, Heyday). And next week, White Magic, lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey’s second collaboration with Martin Kennedy of Aussie electronic group All India Radio, arrives at music retailers.

While other groups might opt to perform an entire album or two over a multiple night stand, The Church chose to do three representing each decade of existence on the current Future Past Perfect electric tour, which launched Feb. 2 at the El Rey Theatre in LA. Everyone in attendance received a free updated mini souvenir program (something you don’t see very often).

“This is a world premiere,” stated lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey, before the first hour-long set covering 2009’s hypnotic Untitled #23 began. “We’ve never done this and never played some of these songs live before,” he noted. “Or will again,” a noticeably slimmer and better groomed Willson-Piper added, with a mischievous smile.

“Cobalt Blue” opened the nearly four-hour show on an ethereal note and immediately transfixed the seated audience. Willson-Piper quickly moved from one guitar to another and back again. “Deadman’s Hand” found Kilbey and drummer Tim Powles’ lush voices meshing superbly. “Space Saviour,” a slow chugging rocker, had all the musicians gradually building steam before ending in a noisy barrage. 

Both Kilbey and Willson-Piper were in jovial moods. When one fan yelled “you kick (butt),” the guitarist responded, “we try to do it more delicately these days.” Tour multi-instrumentalist Craig Wilson provided airy keyboards for the subtle “On Angel Street,” where Kilbey was quite animated, venturing to the front of the El Rey stage. Joined by female vocalist Tiare Helberg (a regular contributor on church-related music) and a roadie on extra bass, the sad song “Anchorage” boasted a captivating, full-bodied sound. Kilbey used lyric sheets and dramatically waved them around while singing.    

Following an intermission, the church returned for the second hour-long set revolving around 1992’s Priest=Aura, an esoteric collection which became a band and fan favorite despite modest sales.

This time, the music did all the talking. Audience members that provided polite applause before suddenly cheered loudly after “Aura.” Fittingly, floating ectoplasm images were projected on the backdrop. Guitarist Peter Koppes’ amazing whammy bar workout amid the triple axe attack on a psychedelic “Ripple” got an equally enthusiastic response (two guys behind me kept yelling “whoa” after every extended guitar solo).

Koppes also shined with some chiming sounds and slide work on the poppier “Feel” as Willson-Piper shook his head and had fun while soloing. The cabaret music vibe of “Witch Hunt” worked extremely well. A trippy “The Disillusionist” saw Kilbey using the lyric sheets again and providing one of the night’s most dramatic deliveries; robustly singing the group sea shanty chorus and ending with a poetic recitation. The crowd gave it a standing ovation.  

Gradually unraveling songs are common for the church. The close to 10-minute long “Chaos” - all claustrophobic sounds, sinister guitar effects and white noise – truly lived up to its title. Kilbey clutched his face in mock agony and fans cheered wildly. The set concluded with the instrumental “Film,” evoking late ‘80s Cure.

Another half-hour intermission elapsed. Then it was time for what many church followers had anticipated all night: 1988’s Starfish - the band’s biggest-selling American album. It is one of their strongest efforts, though Willson-Piper has gone on record with the opposite opinion. He wrote that it engulfs you with “pure simplicity” in the tour program.

Kilbey’s understated vocals were nearly whispered during “Destination,” which was driven by Koppes’ searing leads and Willson-Piper’s inspired playing. The former used a spacey effect in place of the bagpipes on signature hit “Under the Milky Way,” as the latter guitarist played a beat up 12-string. The dreamy track still sounded transcendent and unique.

Seeing American currency displayed on the screen for an eerie “Blood Money” reminded me of its expert use in a “Miami Vice” episode. Here, it sounded particularly sharp. The warm jangle enveloping “Lost” featured a brief Springsteen lyric snatch (“Backstreets”). Willson-Piper really proved his mettle amid the lightning fast arpeggios in “North, South, East and West,” dazzling guitar work on the rocking “Spark” (where he ably handled lead vocals), intense “Reptile” and smooth closer “Hotel Womb.”

All told, this was a brilliant show from the church. Hopefully, they’ll film an upcoming tour stop for future DVD release.

Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media/Second Motion Records