Posts Tagged music review

A Boy And His Guitar – Tony Lucca – Music Monday

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing quite like seeing music live. Well, last Saturday I got to attend the Tony Lucca show at The Prophet Bar down in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. I brought along my dear friend Kelly and had one of the best nights I’ve had in recent memory.

There were three acts slated for that night: Griffin Schmucker, Zach Balch, and the headliner Tony Lucca.

Griffin was…okay. The drummer was awesome, actually. Everyone else seemed to be going through the motions. They didn’t feel connected to the music. I blame this on Schmucker himself. He was a little too high on the smell of his own “glory” to care about servicing the audience or the music. He was serving his own ego. From what I have seen, that never works out well. Now, he may have just been nervous. However, when you mention you’re doing a charity show, you should know all about the charity instead of being dismissive about it. How can you get people to care enough to come out and spend their money on a cause if you don’t care? Further, he made some snotty comment about the audience not being able to spell his name so of course Kelly and I took out our phones and spelled it exactly right in order to Google him. Don’t talk down to me. Don’t assume your audience can’t do something. Don’t be rude to people there just because they may have come to see someone else. This is how you lose potential fans! Plus, he introduced only himself and his BFF the guitarist. Um, now you’re rude to the band? Wow. No, thank you.

Zach and his band were great, thankfully. Every one of them, especially Balch himself, was engaged in the music. They LOVED what they were doing and it showed. Sitting ten feet from the stage I could feel the drums in my chest. Especially, I enjoyed the two songs that were just Balch, his back-up singer, and a violinist.  The banter was great as well. He engaged with the audience, he engaged with his band, heck, he introduced them all and gave them credit equal to himself. He played to us, with us, and that is priceless.

That being said, Tony blew them both out of the water.

I knew he would, but I was not prepared for how MUCH he would. It was just him and his guitar up on the stage and yet he filled the room. He wove pictures and emotions that were touchable and filled up little corners in my heart. His banter was real and inclusive, reaching out to share his experience with us and make it ours. My favorite song was Anchored, a love song for Los Angeles. I also really enjoyed Fight Song, Long Love Letter, Starting Over, Foxy Jane, and Death of Me. If I don’t stop there I’ll just start listing every song off the three albums Kelly and I bought after the show.

At one point during the encore, when he was singing a song called Always, I felt tears filling my eyes and beginning to roll down my cheeks. Looking over at Kelly I saw that she was right there too. Now that, right there, is the mark of a master to me. He didn’t just fill our ears with joy, he touched our souls.

If that weren’t impressive enough, he didn’t just stand there playing his guitar and singing. He used his voice and the microphone as instruments in and of themselves. I’ve said that music is my drug and my religion. Well, some of the things he did with his voice made me feel like I was flying high and in church all at the same time. I wanted to yell “amen” and “hallelujah” after certain of the vocal acrobatics he performed.

After his performance, Kelly and I nearly tripped over ourselves to buy the three available CDs. As we stood there, clutching our treasure, Tony came out to mingle. I made a couple aborted attempts to speak to him, but was stymied by people wanting photos. Kelly told me to stop being shy and I smiled. When the young ladies wanting their photos were done, I touched Tony’s arm and he turned to face us, smiling.

Now, you all know I am a goof. I say embarrassing things to people who have awed me. So this was the portion of the evening where I babbled my thanks for his performance and that listening to him was like being in church, and how he was part of Kelly’s live show education. He took all of this in with grace and charm, thanking us for coming and for our kind words. He shook our hands, and we floated away, blissful. In the car, I realized that we had neither asked for him to sign the CDs, nor asked for pictures to be taken with our phones. Duh.

That being said, we had a fanTAStic time with just a boy and his guitar.

 

Who have you seen live recently? How was it?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre (album)

No, your eyes do not deceive, I am posting Music Review Monday on a Tuesday. Fact is, my internet was down yesterday. Sorry about that, you guys!

Welcome to Duran Duran week on the blog! Why? Well, I’ll be going to see them perform live at the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam on Thursday. You know how it goes, you get so excited about who you’re gonna see that you can’t think of anything else, so I thought, why fight it?

Now, having thirteen studio albums, not to mention all the various side projects and whatnot, there’s a plethora of material from which to choose. In the end, because I’m also a gamer, I asked a friend to roll a twelve-sided die. I attributed a number to each of the first twelve studio albums since we’ll have a review of lucky number thirteen when it comes out on CD.

Left with a roll of twelve, we get to discuss Red Carpet Massacre. Duran Duran’s twelfth studio album was released in November of 2007. If asked to describe it in one word, I’d have to go with lush. The sound is just full and sensuous, beckoning you to enter their magical, musical world. A large number of Duranies would disagree with me. They didn’t like it, thought it contrived and/or lackluster.

It was the album I’d been waiting for my whole life.

 I’ll admit, I was as  leery as everyone else of them working with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Danja. Personally, I thought they should have worked with Timberlake’s former band mate, JC Chasez. I was never so happy to be wrong, let me tell you! The overall style of the album is tight, consistent, well-balanced among vocals and instruments, really a testament to what brilliant producers can do working with brilliant artists.

We start off with The Valley. Already I’m swaying in my seat to the beat, before Simon starts singing. The lyrics take me on a journey “through the cities and the towers, turning minutes into hours” as I sink into the instrumentation. When John’s bass solo comes up, it’s like being lifted into the storm clouds where the gods thunder. Sometimes my heart starts to beat in time to Roger’s beat, even as my veins sing along with Nick’s keyboards. Side note: everyone in the world should hear Simon Le Bon sing the word “mischievous” because it gets under your skin in all the best ways. Normally I don’t dig heavy breathing in a song, but the I’m-running-from-something feel really fits in here.

 Red Carpet Massacre opens with a dream-like interlude from Nick that alters to a pounding synth and drums tempo that wakes your senses with its brightness. Simon comes in with fast-paced lyrics that create a complementary rhythm all its own.  The chorus slams in with vocals and all instruments like a  wave of sound, carrying you away and giving the whole thing a sort of stylishly embattled feel. In interviews, Simon has said he was inspired by seeing the worst-dressed lists after an awards show, that the stars in question were being massacred by the reporter. “Enter the battle of the lenses” indeed! There’s even a warning to those who would brave the red carpet: “Ain’t the place to mess around when someone wants to take you down!” It’s fast, unrelenting, and an energizing shock to the system.

Nite Runner, one of the two songs in which Timberlake was involved, is a throbbing, pulsing club song about, as near as I can tell, falling for a  vampire. “You’re nocturnal, only come out at night,” the opening lines, definitely draw you into the concept, especially with Simon’s voice luring you on and Timbaland’s providing a deep counterpoint. From the liner notes I can see that Timberlake has also contributed backing vocals, but his voice blends so well that it’s indistinguishable unless you really hunker down and search for it. “Love is haunting,” and that’s just what this song does, deliciously haunts us into dancing.

Falling Down, the only other song on the album to which Timberlake contributes, and the only single is a danceable ballad. Inspired by Simon’s motorcycle accident, both vocals and keyboards undulate in a constant rise and fall, the rhythm section holding steady and strong. The effect is that of a body tumbling through space, the solid ground the only constant as you hit, bounce up, and fall again continuously. “Why do the cruel barbs fly? Now when disgrace can no longer hurt me?” reminds us that, even in their less popular times the press seemed to have taken joy in mocking Duran for the crime of refusing to fade into obscurity back in the eighties. Dom Brown provides a beautifully haunting guitar piece that melts into the piano outro.

Box Full o’ Honey starts out simply, just Simons voice and acoustic guitar. The other instruments come in one by one, building into a round, full sound that fills you up. The pipe sounds dimly echo, or at least recall Save A Prayer in some ways, a welcome familiarity. The centerpiece of this song is definitely Simon’s voice, the instruments lifting, supporting, highlighting him as we flow along.

Skin Divers, probably the first song they should have released, thumps in, demanding you be caught up in the beat. Simon croons in the lower regions of his range, beckoning you to move with him as the disco ball comes down, getting caught up, up against the wall… Ahem.  The song, for all it’s driving beat, flows through your veins, Timbaland’s voice a perfect, heartbeat-like counterpoint. It also contains my very favorite lyric of all time: “A blushing rose is torn from these sugar walls, I misplaced my future, could I please borrow yours?”

Tempted slides in, more airy and floaty than the rest of the album, but no less compelling. It’s poppy and peppy from top to bottom, carefree, tempting you once more out onto the dance floor. “Like you know it’s meant to, oh yeah.” It feathers along our nerves, through our veins, until we’re flying along, lost in the beat.

Tricked Out is an instrumental piece, a bit helter-skelter for my tastes. Even so, I like the way it sounds as though it’s what the aliens have playing on their spaceship as they check out the strange humans.

Zoom In is about Second Life, a virtual world where users can interact with one another through infinitely customizable avatars. In 2005, before Andy Taylor left Duran for the second time, there were plans in the works for the band to create their own islands and have an in-world concert. We’re still waiting. The song itself is just as surreal as SL itself can be, neatly capturing the spirit of the Linden Labs creation. It’s definitely a fun, danceable song that’s letting you in on a secret joke. “Now she arrives in a flaming crash like a falling star!”

She’s Too Much is a beautiful ballad that Simon has said was inspired by his middle daughter, Saffron. It’s reassuring, sweet, and full of love, letting her know that Daddy’s watching and will be there to catch her when she falls, be fighting in her corner.  All too often we hear of absentee fathers and deadbeat dads, that part of the beauty of the song is that it reminds us that there are fathers out there who love their children, want the best for them.

Dirty Great Monster is a great source of debate among certain Duranie factions. The band firmly states that it’s about an abusive home, the monster being the abuser. However, at first superficial blush, much to the glee of the fandom slashers, it sounds almost like the band are admitting something about their inter-relationships with one another. “Do you ever wonder about the days when we were straight?” The music is haunting and would be right at home in the soundtrack of a horror film about parental abuse. “We’re all afraid of each other, we’re the victims in this show.” It captures that hunted mistrust rife in such an atmosphere. So well in fact that, brilliant or no, it makes me uncomfortable listening to it sometimes, recalling my own episode of abuse at the hands of a roommate from years ago.

Last Man Standing is the final song on the album. It ties everything up together, just as a good finale should, pulling in the dance-ability, musicality, and themes of previous songs into a neat little package. Rather than having dessert at the end of the musical repast, it’s a cup of rich, dark coffee over which we gather and reflect about the meal just finished.

So what do you think? Is there an album that makes a full meal for you?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s “All You Need Is Now” (the single)

We’re going to do a little something different for this, the second edition of Music Review Monday. I’m going to review a single, rather than the whole album. That single is called All You Need Is Now. Why? Several reasons. It’s off a brand-new iTunes album that’s only nine songs long, and the full fourteen song CD won’t be available until late March. I want to wait for the additional five songs to do a full album review.  Also? I’ve been dreading this review so much that I broke out into a flop sweat every time I sat down at my computer this past week.

You see, I am what is referred to as a Duranie. I’ve been one since the spring of 1985. I was ten years old. It’s fair to say that listening to Duran Duran is one of the major reasons I am who I am today, why I think the way I think. I’m freaking terrified of this review. You can imagine my excitement at the announcement of their thirteenth studio album. I’ve always been able to count on them to create something I at least like (Pop Trash), if not something I adore (Arena).

I guess, by the law of averages, it couldn’t last. Okay, enough stalling. On to the review.

It starts off with a highly annoying techno keyboard sequence from Nick Rhodes. You remember me talking about him in last Friday’s post? Where I called him God? Yeah. There’s a steady if uninspired rhythm provided by Roger Taylor, our heroic drummer. Then Simon Le Bon begins to sing, sounding more bored than I’ve ever heard him and muffled and distorted by some “nifty” effect. John Taylor (also known to Duranies as the Almighty Bass God) then fills things out a teensy bit with his bass guitar. They all sound pretty much like they’re phoning in their performances. The song drifts out of techno-land into a semi-lovely chorus that almost gives me hope. It’s soft and sweet, tasting of reminiscences and longing. Everyone’s at least bringing their B game. Rinse and repeat. I’ll admit the extended dream sequence after the second time around that segued into and out of the chorus again was beautiful and ethereal, but then it dragged back into that incessant techno-twaddle to fade out on… crowd noise?

Admittedly, I don’t like techno music as a general rule, although some people can do it brilliantly. This was not done brilliantly. It sounded hollow and dry, devoid of emotion, boring. When I played this song for my mother (whose favorite Duran song is Taste The Summer) she wrinkled up her nose and asked, “What happened to them? They used to be so full of life.” Guys, you are doing something wrong when a 67-year-old thinks your song is a big yawn.

In the interest of full disclosure, all my Duranie friends LOVE this song. Some even find it uplifting. Desperately worried that I’d lost the plot somewhere, I played it for friends outside that circle. All of them asked me to turn it off, like yesterday. I even played it for one of my sisters. She and I don’t usually agree on much of anything. After listening to the single she looked at me, eyes filled with confusion, and asked why they didn’t just do mash-ups of their old songs instead of re-hashing and re-packaging them in new and uninteresting ways.

I was so worried about this review. I didn’t want to do it. Then someone said a brilliant thing to me. “Someone needs to put the mirror up so they can see the egg on their faces,” they said. “Who better than you, someone who loves and respects them?” I stammered something about owing it to them to give them a glowing review since they had given me so much joy in the past, so that they go on selling and making music. They countered with, “Gigi, do you want them to continue making songs like this?”

No, I don’t.

 What do you think?

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Music Review Monday – Michael Jackson’s Thriller album

I thought I’d kick off the music reviews with the very first album I ever bought, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Music has always been a part of my life, from the scores in the movies I watched to the songs we sang in school to the music my family played at home. But the first record I ever bought (with my hard-earned chore allowance) was Thriller. Yes, I said record, and I meant it. Back in the dark ages, there was no such thing as digital media. Computers took up whole rooms, far too large to have a personal version. We used record players, cassette decks, and radio to get music. However, thanks to technology, I’ve linked each song to their Amazon.com page where you can listen to them, just in case you haven’t heard them or just want to listen along with me.

I listened to this particular album until the needle on our player went smooth…several times over. Play just about any song on it, and I can happily sing along. I have pulled out my own vinyl copy to check the track listing. We’ll start with side one.

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘ is, perhaps inevitably, the first song. When I hear it, my shoulders automatically begin moving left and right to the beat and if I’m standing, so do my hips. So what if it’s one of the most repetitive songs on the planet? It’s too high to get over, too low to get under. It infects you with the beat, the Almighty Beat, until you just can’t be still. Go ahead, try it, I double-dog dare you! Even if you do nothing more than nod in time, you’ll see. Interesting side note? There’s mention of that naughty Billie Jean and how she’s always tellin’ lies. Who says foreshadowing is just for novels?

 Second, we come to Baby Be Mine. The beat’s still there, still strong, and yet it’s unmistakably a ballad. You’ll come to see that the beat is the underlying commonality throughout the album, in fact. At any rate, this song has everything a ballad should have – expressions of devotion, confessions of desire, promises of fidelity and eternity. Yet it doesn’t feel insincere or facile. To me, it sounds honest, sweet.

Third is The Girl Is Mine, a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. Their voices don’t just provide a beautiful counterpoint when they’re going back and forth. They harmonize. Near the end, there’s a “conversation” that feels natural rather than contrived. Two of my friends and I lip-synced a little skit for this song for our school’s talent show when I was ten. I played Michael’s part, Julie was Paul, and Whitney was the girl we “fought” over. Good times, man.

Fourth, finishing off side one, is the reason I bought the album in the first place, the reason I can watch zombie movies even though my “ick” tolerance is way low. Thriller, the title track of the album, is definitely one of my top ten songs/videos of all time. The alien keyboard starts us off, nice and spooky, escalating as the beat asserts itself. Maybe because the video is so deeply entrenched in my psyche, the tension builds as Michael starts to sing, infusing the song with a more concrete story-telling feel. I don’t just see the video behind my eyelids every time I hear the song, my body fills with the tension and excitement I felt when I first encountered it. Somewhere, deep inside, music was forever changed for me. There’s something about his voice, at times trembling, at others pleading, warning, even mocking, that draws me in, makes me feel like an audience of one. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And then, Vincent Price, the master of creeptasticness, begins to speak. **shivers** This isn’t just a song, it’s an event. Lift the needle, carefully reposition it, listen again.

Thus ends side one. Flip the record to side two.

We open with Beat It. Bright, funky, and with mind-blowing (at least for me) guitar riffs all blended into an anthemic dance tune. “You have to show them that you’re really not scared. You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no Truth Or Dare. They’ll kick you then they’ll beat you then they’ll tell you it’s fair, so beat it. But you wanna be BAD.” And no, I haven’t stopped dancing around, why do you ask?

Now we come to Billie Jean, that girl doing all the lying from earlier. Only, this story seems to be leading us to believe that maybe she isn’t lying, at least not wholly. “She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one” falls flat next to “the lie becomes the truth” and “so take my strong advice: remember to always think twice.” Of course I didn’t think any of this when I first got the album as a very sheltered nine-year-old. I didn’t even know what a “lover” was.

Ah, Human Nature, the most ethereal cut on the album. Breathy and almost haunting, I fall in love each time I hear it. Even for all that, the beat is very present, an undercurrent that pulls you along so that you sway to the rhythm.

I always wanted to be someone’s P.Y.T., their tenderoni, in need of T.L.C. Now was the perfect time. It just sounded like so much fun! Sometimes though, I couldn’t wait for it to finish to get to the next and final song.

The Lady In My Life, the culmination of it all, the soothing balm after all the dancing, monsters, being bad, lying girls, and did I mention dancing?  I don’t know what I’d do if a man sang this to me. It makes all my cynicism and bitterness just melt away. Adult me knows he’s singing about sex… slow songs get you laid, after all. But kid me just wanted to snuggle in his (and later, others’) arms and make with the smoochies… go nowhere and stay with him, whatever that meant.

Each piece of this album has something to pull you in, keep you listening. Puzzle pieces that interlock, complementing each other and completing the whole. I’ll admit, I have NO objectivity where this album is concerned. Who does in regards to their first love, really? I’ll also confess that it took several hours to write this review. I had to stop after each song and take a break to keep from all-out weeping. The world is a poorer place without Michael Jackson in it making music.

So, what was your first love, musically speaking, and why? Let me know in the comments what record, album, CD, whatever, spins you right ’round.

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Greetings and salutations!

Like many others, music has made me who I am. It fills me, moves me, provides a soundtrack for my life. The music I love (and even some that I loathe) becomes an inextricable part of me. Just recently, I reconnected with a childhood friend who asked, “Why don’t you blog about that?” She’s a big fan of social media, is Kristen Lamb.  So much so that she wrote a book called We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I tried to tell her that I’m not really a blogger. Oh sure, I have my Livejournal, which is basically an online diary that some friends read, and my Facebook page where I play games, but tri-weekly blogging? Please.

“Well, you love to talk about music,” Kristen pointed out. “Why not talk about it with other like-minded people?”

“But I don’t know how I would come up with enough content!” I retorted, my eyes shifting from side to side as a wave of fear crashed over me. She gave me many good reasons as to why I was wrong, but the most eloquent persuasion was silent. Her hands planted on her hips, she just arched an eyebrow.

So here I am, out of excuses, starting a WordPress blog about music. There will be Music Review Mondays that can mean anything from a full album review to an artist or video review… possibly even a rockumentary review, if you guys are up for it. Wordsmith Wednesdays we’ll be taking a song and looking at just its lyrics, see what makes it so compelling (or not, as the case may be) from that angle. Fangirl Fridays will be devoted to those moments that make a fan – hearing a song in a store, meeting an idol, concerts, interviews… you get the drift.

So join me on this Magical Mystery Tour to expand our minds, and possibly our iTunes folders!

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