Motörhead Sunday

From the movie Airheads:

Chazz: Who’d win in a wresting match? Lemmy or God?
Chris: Lemmy.
Chris: … God?
Rex: Wrong, ********. Trick question. Lemmy *IS* God.

Was at this technical death metal show yesterday, headlined by Obscura, Beyond Creation and Archspire. In short, the most tortuously intricate sounds on the planet, playing back to back at one venue. A sonic feast. But, before tech death, thrash metal, and even before first wave of black metal, there was Motörhead.

When blues based psychedelic and space rock collided with punk riffs, it sparked an uncontrollable causal chain. So dissonant that it consumed the whole planet. Motörhead is probably what they might have termed as extreme metal in the 70s — combining that elegance of Jimi Hendrix with some distracting discordance. Rooted in blues, but playing the riffs loud enough to keep the dainties at a safe distance — essentially crafting that first clear cross-over from proto-punk to metal. In other words, Lemmy accomplished that seemingly impossible task – fusion of polar opposites – of molten lava with freezing ice – of harsh punk sensibilities with elegance of electric blues.

The Big Fall Prog Preview!

What new music, live albums, and reissues (deluxe and otherwise) are heading our way between now and Black Friday?  Check out the exhaustive (and possibly exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below.  Pre-order links are for CDs or combo packages; vinyl editions are frequently available from the same website.

  • September 21:
    • Marillion, Happiness is Cologne and Popular Music.  Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic.  Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
    • Nosound, Allow Yourself.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
  • September 28:
    • Blackfield, Open Mind (The Best of Blackfield).  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
    • Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, Star Clocks.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
  • October 5:
    • Steve Hackett, Broken Skies – Outspread Wings (1984-2006).  Esoteric Recordings reissue box set (6 CDs + 2 DVDs).  Pre-order autographed copies from Hackettsongs.
    • King Crimson, Meltdown: Live in Mexico.  3 CDs + 1 BluRay.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
  • October 12:
    • Glass Hammer, Chronomonaut.  Pre-order autographed copies or the deluxe bundle from Glass Hammer’s webstore.  Pre-order deadline: October 11.
    • Sanguine Hum, Now We Have Power.  Pre-order from Bandcamp.
  • October 19:
    • Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army.  The first full-length album from Frankenmuth, Michigan’s young Zepheads.  Pre-order at GvF’s webstore.
    • iamthemorning, Ocean Sounds.  Live in the studio; audio/video bundle.  Pre-order at Burning Shed.
    • In Continuum, Acceleration Theory.  With Dave Kerzner and an all-star line-up.  Pre-order bundles from Bandcamp. Pre-order deadline for special bundles: September 30.
    • Frank Sinatra, Only the Lonely: 60th Anniversary Edition.  Yes, really.  The greatest concept album of the pre-rock era, with Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle at their most gorgeous and devastating.  “Make it one for my baby … and one more for the road.” More info at Super Deluxe Edition.
  • October 26:
    • Anathema, Internal Landscapes.  The best of the band’s Kscope albums.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
    • Haken, Vector.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
    • Procol Harum, Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.  Esoteric Recordings reissue with bonus tracks.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
  • November 2:
    • Opeth, Garden of the Titans: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Various audio & video formats/bundles available.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
    • Steven Wilson, Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.  Various audio & video formats/bundles available.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
  • November 9:
    • Jethro Tull, This Was — The 50th Anniversary Edition. Steven Wilson remix included, on 3 CDs + DVD.  Pre-order from Burning Shed.
    • Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, Friendship.  Pre-order from Rikard’s webstore.
  • November 16:
    • Marillion, Brave Live and Live in Glasgow.  Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic.  Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
    • The Tangent, Proxy.  Pre-order special bundles from The Tangent webstore.
  • November 23:
    • Marillion, Clutching at Straws Special Edition.  4 CDs + 1 BluRay.  Pre-order autographed copies from Marillion or Fish.
  • TBA:
    • The Beatles, White Album 50th Anniversary Edition?
    • Big Big Train, Merchants of Light Blu-Ray
    • King Crimson, The ReConstruKction of Light (40th Anniversary reissue) and Heaven and Earth (Crimson ProjeKcts box set)

— Rick Krueger

Lightning Round Reviews: September 7, 2018

It’s been a busy week at the mailbox and on the doorstep.  With a clear day off, I decided to listen to all the new music I’ve received since Monday.  Capsule reviews follow the jump; albums are reviewed in their descending order on my freshly made up Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.

Continue reading “Lightning Round Reviews: September 7, 2018”

In Concert: Lake Street Dive — A Tale of Two Tastes

Lake Street Dive at Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 30, 2018.

Boston-founded, Brooklyn-based pop’n’soul band Lake Street Dive has swiftly become a quintessential Meijer Gardens act — debuting in 2015, returning every year since, regularly selling out shows even though their ticket prices have doubled in just four years.  (The quintessential Meijer Gardens act?  Undoubtedly Lyle Lovett, who’s appeared during 13 of the Amphitheater’s 16 seasons.)

In that time span vocalist Rachael Price, guitarist/trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese have seasoned their initial Motown-meets-Beatles stylings with funk and disco flavors, signed with quirky Warner Music imprint Nonesuch, added keyboardist Akie Bermiss as a full member, and scored a top 10 album, 2018’s Free Yourself Up.  With 2,000 fans spanning the generations in attendance, this show was set to be a celebration — by both players and audience — of the band coming into its own.

From my point of view, they delivered; the night felt like the most fun of the three Lake Street Dive shows I’ve heard.  The simple choice of having Calabrese’s drum kit face the audience (instead of toward stage right) seemed to open a more direct connection between the group and the crowd.   And with four albums to choose from, the setlist felt like it flowed better, with more variety in the moods and grooves, consistent forward motion, and a gathering momentum.

Throughout the night, Bermiss’ pads, rhythms and synth licks gave Olson leave to be looser on guitar and play more solo trumpet, and Calabrese’s drumming was splashier and more extroverted.  Playing to their respective strengths, Kearney held down the bottom end with solidity and style, while Price cooed, cajoled, tempted and triumphed, delivering alternately sassy and lovelorn reports from the front lines of 21st-century romance.  Multi-part harmonies were spot on throughout the night, with Bermiss contributing a winning lead vocal on a typically oddball cover, Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”  Other eccentric ideas like a triptych of songs about the same loser (“Bobby Tanqueray/Spectacular Failure/Doesn’t Even Matter Now”) and the microsuite “Seventeen” came off without a hitch, too.  By the encore, as Price soared on the driving “Dude” then simmered through the lounge jazz take on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that brought Lake Street Dive to prominence,  I was convinced — this had been a great evening.  And the audience response seemed to bear that out.

Except for one thing: my friend from college — who’d first brought Lake Street Dive to my attention, who consistently raves about their abilities, who’s attended all their Meijer Gardens shows with me, whose musical opinions I deeply respect — wasn’t convinced.  And he had fair points to make.  For one thing, the live sound was substantially louder and boomier than on previous visits  — I realized that, on the uptempo tunes, I’d been compensating by listening through the low end fuzz and haze to hear the harmony vocals or Kearney’s detailed bass work.  In addition, the thicker, chunkier sound of the Dive’s quintet formation just didn’t work for him; while acknowledging Bermiss’ ability and musicianship, he strongly prefers the open space and freer interplay of the original quartet.  And both of us agree that the band’s writing could use a shot in the arm — all the onstage energy pumped life into the new tunes, but on disc both the Nonesuch albums (Side Pony and Free Yourself Up) run out of steam before they run out of songs.

So while I enjoyed the evening, this show also served another purpose — illustrating that “in matters of taste, there can be no dispute” — de gustibus non est disputandum, for any Latin majors.  Both of us had strong opinions of the show — and the cool thing was that we could talk through them without feeling like we had to convince the other to abandon his point of view.   Probably good for me to remember the next time one of those classic online prog-rock discussions (“Was Genesis any good after Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett left?  Did Trevor Rabin ruin Yes?  Was Signals where Rush jumped the shark?”*) break out.

And, since “in matters of taste, there can be no dispute,” I do think that both my friend and I would encourage you to check out Lake Street Dive —- on record and live — for yourself.  You can also check out another local review of the show, with an extensive photo gallery, here.  The setlist:

  • Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone with My Thoughts
  • You Are Free
  • I Don’t Care About You
  • Red Light Kisses
  • Mistakes
  • Bobby Tanqueray
  • Spectacular Failure
  • Doesn’t Even Matter Now
  • Hello? Goodbye!
  • Hang On
  • I Can Change
  • You’re Still the One
  • Call Off Your Dogs
  • Seventeen
  • Shame, Shame, Shame
  • Musta Been Something
  • Bad Self Portraits
  • Good Kisser
  • You Go Down Smooth
  • Dude
  • I Want You Back

— Rick Krueger

*- For the record, my answers are: yes; no; and absolutely not.

 

In Concert: “And Toto, Too?” “Toto, Two!”

Toto at Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheatre, Grand Rapids Michigan, August 24, 2018.

Toto’s sold out my local outdoor shed twice in the past three years.  Last time through, they stacked the deck, playing plenty of hits and radio favorites.  This year, with the anniversary compilation 40 Trips Around the Sun to flog, they took more chances with a deep-cut setlist, a semi-acoustic storytellers interlude, and extended displays of their fearsome chops.  Riding a fresh wave of Internet love, they could do no wrong for the hyped-up crowd.

And the same held true for me; I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart (and possibly my critical faculties) for Toto.  A posse of Los Angeles studio aces melding Steely Dan’s shuffles, Boz Scaggs’ blue-eyed soul, crunchy proto-Van Halen guitar and proggy synthesizer fanfares, with the mission statement (from founding drummer Jeff Porcaro in Rolling Stone) “craft is content”?  No wonder rock critics hated their guts, especially when when they got triple platinum sales out of the box.  Their goal was to make sleek, catchy pop with a touch of musical ambition, get on radio and move records — not bare their souls, change the world, or even necessarily write sensible lyrics.  There’s an odd,  appealing purity to that aim, no matter how calculated the strategy.

Top 40 radio courts a different sound these days, but Toto still has a knack for the killer hook; kicking off, new songs “Alone” and “Spanish Sea” were every bit as engaging as the singalong version of “Hold the Line” and Toto IV’s “Lovers of the Night” that they framed.  Following spirited takes of tracks from forgotten-stepchild albums like Tambu and Turn Back, the band lit the fuse on Kingdom of Desire’s funky instrumental “Jake to the Bone;” guest keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Talpin (subbing for founder David Paich) and guitarist Steve Lukather stoked their lengthly solos to the boiling point, while synth whiz Steve Porcaro and the rhythm section (Shem von Schroeck on bass, Shannon Forest on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion) simmered underneath.  Building on the momentum, “Rosanna” was a foregone, happily welcomed conclusion to the first half, with singer Joseph Williams (the John Williams’ son!  Really!) and sax man Warren Ham helping bring the crowd to their feet.

The storytellers interlude — with everyone sitting on stools and Lukather playing acoustic guitar — had its charms, even though the six selections (including Porcaro’s “Human Nature” from Michael Jackson’s Thriller) were truncated to keep things moving.  Ramping up again, the band dove deeper into their catalog, holding the audience’s attention even through obscurities like the Dune soundtrack’s impressive “Desert Theme”.  But in the end, past was all prologue; the moment Lukather shouted, “Are you ready for that song?” and Castro and Forrest launched the polyrhythms of “Africa,” Meijer Gardens went joyously, deliriously nuts.  It was gonna take a lot to drag 2,000 fans away from that moment; they were all in — dancing, singing along, clapping during Castro’s exhilarating solo, chanting back and forth vocals with Williams, responding with a full-throated standing ovation.  Hard to beat an extended moment of pop ecstasy like that — even if you’re frightened of this thing that you’ve become.

One quick and grungy cover of Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” later (sadly, without Rivers Cuomo or “Weird Al” Yankovic in sight), Toto was done, the crowd went home happy, and my streak of satisfying shows in 2018 was unbroken.  Check out another review of the show, with an extensive photo gallery, here.

Setlist:

  • Alone
  • Hold the Line
  • Lovers in the Night
  • Spanish Sea
  • I Will Remember
  • English Eyes
  • Jake to the Bone
  • Lea
  • Rosanna
  • Storytellers interlude:
    • Georgy Porgy
    • Human Nature
    • Holyanna
    • No Love
    • Mushanga
    • Stop Loving You
  • Girl Goodbye
  • Lion
  • Dune (Desert Theme)
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Make Believe
  • Africa
  • Hash Pipe

 

— Rick Krueger

Psst! Looking for a Good New Rock Memoir?

Well, look no further, bunkie!  Check out these upcoming publications:

kramer hard way

Out August 14 (hey, that’s tomorrow!):

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities by Wayne Kramer.

“The first memoir by Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and cofounder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends The MC5.”   More info about Kramer’s MC50: Kick Out the Jams – The 50th Anniversary Tour (which I’m seeing in September) here.

 

Out September 18:lukather memoir

The Gospel According to Luke by Steve Lukather

“The outrageous and often hilarious autobiography of legendary session musician and lead guitarist and singer of Toto.”  Check out more about the current bizarre synchronicity between Toto, Weezer and Stranger Things here. (I’ll be at Toto’s Grand Rapids show in a couple of weeks; look for a review to follow.  Hoping for advance copies on sale at the merch booth …)

 

Out October 23: daltrey memoir

Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey

“The frontman of one of the greatest bands of all time tells the story of his rise from nothing to rock ‘n’ roll megastar, and his wild journey as the voice of The Who.”  Given that Pete Townshend’s Who I Am has been out for a while, I’m looking forward to Daltrey’s take.

 

And, out November 13:tweedy memoir

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy

“The singer, guitarist, and songwriter, best known for this work with Wilco, opens up about his past, his songs, the music, and the people that have inspired him.”  I’m a huge Wilco fan; Tweedy is one of the few remaining rockers I know who takes the idea of music as the basis for community seriously.  Very interested in what he’ll be putting down here.

Any other rock books coming soon you’d like Progarchy fans to know about?  Leave the info in the comments!

— Rick Krueger

This Is All the Fault of Stranger Things …

So apparently, a Twitter user wanted Weezer to cover Toto’s “Africa,” after hearing the iconic 1980s yacht-rock classic on the season 1 soundtrack of Stranger Things.  After the meme went viral, in very short order:

  • Weezer tried to troll Twitter with a cover of “Rosanna.”  The masses were not appeased.
  • Four days later, the inevitable Weezer version of “Africa” dropped.  And it was a hit, scoring their first Alternative No. 1 song in 10 years.
  • Of course, Weezer now had to play “Africa” in concert; Toto synthesizer whiz Steve Porcaro even joined in the fun for the keyboard solo on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”  And last night, Weezer was joined by a very special guest for a even more very special solo:

 

  • Clearly enjoying the whole thing, Toto (currently on the US leg of their 40 Trips Around the Sun tour), have started covering a Weezer song for their encore:

 

  • And of course, Toto’s single of “Hash Pipe” will be released tomorrow.

All of which, to quote Robert Plant, makes me wonder:

  • Will Rivers Cuomo crash the stage when I see Toto live in a couple of weeks?
  • Are we witnessing the birth of a new supergroup, the likes of which the world has never seen?  Is a mashup of “Buddy Holly” and “Hold the Line” inevitable?
  • Is all this really the Upside Down’s revenge?
  • Can this astonishing turn of events be stopped before it’s too late?  Should we be frightened of this thing that it’s become?

On the other hand, perhaps we should all just relax.  And plan to tune in to season 3 of Stranger Things.  If only to see what music is hot in Sam Goody’s at … the Starcourt Mall …

 

— Rick Krueger