Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Machine Head - Nokia Theatre Times Square - September 22, 2007

Although disappointing because of its length (one hour), Machine Head played a gloriously brutal set. Keeping it taut and tense, with a few interludes where Robb made some nasty comments concerning Disney's attempts to censor the band on their tour, a few choice words for some sniveling critic who reveled in Dimebag's death, and a few shout-outs to the world's greatest fans, New Yorkers, the band did not disappoint otherwise. Pulling most of their material from their most recent (and best) record, The Blackening, Machine Head opened with the near-eleven minute "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent," replete with acoustics, ten thousand and one holy riffs and a whole lot of pissed off. Nothing could really equate, though, with the furious "Aesthetics Of Hate" (after the article of the same name by the aforementioned critic) -- definitely the song of the night. "Halo" featured some ridiculous guitar chops and solos that were incredible as well, but a Machine "Fucking" Head show ultimately wouldn't have been great if it hadn't ended with "Davidian," where freedom rings with a shotgun blast. A-

Clenching The Fists Of Dissent
Aesthetics Of Hate
Take My Scars
Descend The Shades Of Night

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emerson, Lake And Palmer - Love Beach (1978)

Since I've made not one, but two references to this monstrosity of an album, it inherently deserves a more thorough explication. That said, one of the reasons I created this site was to keep some greenbacks in your pockets. I've clearly got your best interests at heart, no? (Such is the plight of those doomed to be senselessly altruistic; they never receive the true recognition they deserve.) Regardless, avoid this album. For those newbies out there and for those who've come to appreciate or despise their immodest quasi-classical compositions, ELP putting out Love Beach is to be avoided for its having none of those qualities. Sure, Greg Lake's ballads are present, but they're more for a hearty guffaw than for serious consideration as anything resembling decency.

True, the music tries to retain that twisted carnival atmosphere immortalized on Brain Salad Surgery, but that was due to a better reliance on minor scales, lyrics and a knack for just plain dark carnival music. This album feels like a happy tropical getaway gone awry, a goofy kind of exposé into the band's preternatural misgivings. The cover says it all! Oh for that which is wholly unholy, who cares to see Keith Emerson's virile man-hair? Because this album was completed due to contractual obligations, you should expect nothing more than the dross that it clearly is. Drink many a Mai Tai if you dare to brave this mess. An exemplary F!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Oysterhead - The Grand Pecking Order (2001)

For those unfamiliar, Oysterhead is the successful one-time pairing of Les Claypool (slap-happy bass), Trey Anastasio (psychedelic guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drummer extraordinaire). Claypool and Anastasio share vocal duties, sometimes together, sometimes by themselves. Basically, forget the silly notion of the flawed supergroup and clashing egos and grating styles -- this album is a must-listen. Obviously, from mere mention of these three musicians, you would expect to hear some tasty bass licks, nice guitar tones and loose, vibrant drumming; and that's precisely what you get. Fortunately, it's not aimless noodling à la Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar, but rather, a solid interweaving of styles and moods. There is a bit of individual showcasing throughout the album, but these performances lend more to the textures of the songs than they do to scream for attention.

The album begins nicely enough with "Little Faces" and it is quite obvious who's keeping the beat. You'd have to have donated your body to science before you were finished using it to not realize that Mr. Copeland is at the helm. I love "Mr. Oysterhead" and still can't decide whether the bass or guitar solo is more yummy. "Birthday Boys" is a fun little up-tempo acoustic number that absolutely explodes at the end.

"Army's On Ecstasy" has some fantastic lyrics and solo spots. "Oz Is Ever Floating," "Shadow Of A Man" and "Pseudo Suicide" are also very good. There's really not much to dislike; I'm not big on "Polka Dot Rose" or "Wield The Spade," but there's too much good here to focus on what isn't. Just skip a few, big deal. B+

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Probot - Probot (2004)

So Dave Grohl is a headbanger. Cool. The former Nirvana/current Foo Fighters frontman lays down this heavy set featuring a different metal vocalist from the bands who've inspired him and also decides he wants to play all the instruments (except for a few instances). I'm going to begin first with the not-so-great. I've noticed that, generally, bands begin albums quite strongly and then cop a lemming and walk off a cliff. (This obviously does not apply to great albums, just other middling affairs.) Probot is guilty of the same. Sure enough, "Centuries Of Sin" opens the album with a boom, followed by the excellent "Red War" with Max Cavalera. Need more? Well, no true heavy set is complete without Lemmy and he does vocal duties for "Shake Your Blood," a sweet little crash and thrasher. "Access Babylon" then gives us Mike Dean and in true COC fashion, this awesome song is short, brutal and ends in less than 90 seconds. So short, you can hear it in its entirety.

Yet after "Silent Spring," I was quite disappointed with the first blah track, "Ice Cold Man," featuring Kim Thayil, formerly of Soundgarden, on guitar. "The Emerald Law" kind of resumes the "this is a great album" pace, but then we're let down again with "Big Sky," "My Tortured Soul" and "Sweet Dreams," featuring King Diamond. Even the "hidden" track "I Am The Warlock" with Jack Black is not good. Jack Black has great energy, but he adds a whole lot of camp to everything, and he really has no place among these other fellows, friend of Dave Grohl or not. Perhaps I'm just bitter Tom Araya from Slayer couldn't participate. Perhaps I'm even more irritated at the continued inclusion of the "hidden" track, an overused and stupid parlor trick -- what, do they think I'm not going to notice that the last song ends at four minutes but the track is fifteen minutes long? Otherwise, the first four songs take the cake, for sure. B-

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Heart - Dreamboat Annie (1976)

When asking what to review next, April expressed displeasure at my lack of "chicks" (her words, ladies) in my posts. I dig chicks; I really do. Predominately, they possess inordinately superior vocal abilities over their lesser halves. Ella. Janis. Fiona. Sadly, for brilliant technical vocalists, such as Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, they've trapped themselves in an unfortunate pop format wherein the melody, lyrics and particularly that shitty studio accompaniment don't exactly inspire the kind of performances you would expect from them. Now, the Wilson sisters -- they hold a very special place in my heart (no pun intended) simply because they'll bake you a fucking cake and let you eat it with your hands. They've got a great set pipes and Nancy can shred without abandon, on acoustic or electric. Ok, they obviously like Zep, but that's not too bad because they sing too well to imitate Plant's verbal gyrations and drooling moans.

Unfortunately, for all their strengths, inconsistency plagues most of Heart's albums, and it differs no more or less than on Dreamboat Annie. It starts well enough with the FM staple "Magic Man," a kicking song that the press subsequently used to dub the sisters as satanic witches. Geez. The second song, "Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child) begins the first third of the Dreamboat Annie suite and it's a nice segue into Heart's best song, "Crazy On You." Here's the thing, though: if you're a loser and use the radio as your musical feeding ground, shame on you. In the past thirty years you've had time to buy the LP, the 8-track, the cassette, the CD, the digital files -- so shame on you, you rock and roll poseurs. What I'm getting at is this: the radio version of "Crazy On You" completely omits the first 35 seconds of this phenomenal acoustic section.

You would know that if you weren't such a poseur and were content with buying greatest hits packages. The next song, "Soul Of The Sea" is a dud. Skip it. Then listen to "Dreamboat Annie," which continues the melody of the suite with some changes and includes some nifty banjo playing. "White Lightning & Wine" is a great song, too, but it's depressing, because when I listen to the album, after this song is where I shut it off. The remaining four tracks are weak and aren't worth your time. The last song is "Dreamboat Annie (Reprise)" and you'd think if you liked the suite so far, you'd like this one, right? Well, not so. The added piano and ethereal quality makes it feel way too poppy and annoying. A solid band with the right recipe and ingredients -- the cake just doesn't turn out good all the time. B-

A quick afterthought: check out Ann and Nancy doing a cover of Zep's "Battle Of Evermore" here. This is amazing. Sorry Zep; their version totally kicks your ass.