Memory Almost Full

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as a lifelong Paul McCartney fan, it’s great seeing all the buzz about his latest release Memory Almost Full . the new album’s getting great reviews from fans and critics alike. plus tons of press and even a music video by the great Michel Gondry featuring Natalie Portman. wonderful stuff. it’s still a bit surprising to think that the man is a grandfather and he can still rock with the best of ‘em. what is the source of his drive and inspiration? how can he still come up with great melodies and ear catching hooks after all these years? obviously there’s no stoppin’ Macca. with Memory Almost Full , you’ll find McCartney’s strongest set of songs in years. Now, I personally wasn’t all that impressed with McCartney’s last effort Chaos and Creation in the Backyard even though most critics hailed it as a McCartney classic. I thought the songs were a bit uninspired and the vocals captured for the jasminlive record just made him sound tired and old.

On Memory Almost Full on the otherhand, McCartney sounds as youthful as ever with renewed enthusiasm and energy. Just take a listen to him singing Only Mama Knows, a rocker that sounds like it was recorded back in the 70’s and not by a man who’s well into his sixties!!! amazing stuff. the album is pretty solid from start to finish. i do have to admit i personally feel the first two songs at the start are the weakest of the bunch- the opening mandolin chords on Dance Tonight sound like they were taken straight off of The Traveling Wilburys’ End of the Line. and part of the melody in the verse of Ever Present Past is the same as the old standard, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (which McCartney covered back in 1987). but once the listener gets to See Your Sunshine, the music and lyrics become sweeter and much more memorable.

highlights of the album include: Only Mama Knows, See Your Sunshine, Mr. Bellamy and The End of the End. amazing work by an artist that still knows how to surprise and delight even after all these years.

Glenn Tilbrook: One for the Road

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you know, as a longtime fan of singer-songwriters likeTodd Rundgren, John Wetton, Neil Finn and Ben Folds, i’m well aware that without financial support from a major record label, it’s more than likely that a artist would losemoney touring around the country with a full band and sound/stage crew in tow. and so artists like Rundgren, Finn and Folds end up touring alone with minimal equipment in order to keep expenses as low as possible. so when i watched Glenn Tilbrook - One for the Road recently on DVD, i wasn’t at all surprised to see in the documentary that Tilbrook was touring across the U.S. in an old beat up 1988 RV with no band. sad but true, it this day and age, legendary singer-songwriters like Tilbrook can only fill up small clubs and can only afford to bring along a couple of acoustic guitars with him on tour. how unjust! the man wrote Tempted, Black Coffee in Bed and Hourglass for goodness sakes!! Tilbrook along with tons of other working musician/songwriters are in the same boat and they are fighting to stay afloat in a industry geared only toward selling millions of units of easy to market music to impressionable teens.

The DVD is an interesting glimpse at a middle-aged musician happy to travel across the country and sing for his supper. I love Glenn Tilbrook’s music and his live performances but…unfortunately the actual documentary was poorly done. the person responsible for the documentary, Amy Pickard, is just a fan of Tilbrook’s and not a skilled filmmaker. So yes, it’s a nice little video memento from a fan’s perspective but I really believe she missed a big opportunity here. Pickard never goes into any depth with Tilbrook about his life or his view points about music, Squeeze or songwriting. and the video is edited in a way in which Glenn never gets to say more than a few sentences before another abrupt jumpcut to a performance or another clip about the infamous RV. yes, yes i’ve heard all about Pickard’s sob story about the little financing behind this project, her being unemployed during the filming and the four years it took to edit the footage down etc. but that’s no excuse for her downright awful interviewing skills.

just watch one of the extra segments on the DVD where she interviews ex-Squeeze member Chris Difford. you’ll get to experience a whole slew of cringe-worthy and totally banal questions from Amy Pickard interspersed with a whole lot of “uuummmm….”, “you know what i mean?”.. “like… uummm” … “and like I said to Glenn …” and such. after enduring 40 minutes worth of lame assed questions, a viewer’s brain turns to mush, i swear! how did someone this incompetent get this fantastic opportunity to spend time with one of pop’s most talented songwriters??? that’s the question that continually pops up during the viewing of this DVD. and can us fans finally get a properly produced DVD of this legendary musician sometime soon? anyone? anyone? bueller? …yes, it’s sad indeed.

The New Cars update

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well, who knew The New Cars would still be around touring after last year’s string of under attended shows. with low ticket and CD sales i would have thought thatThe News Cars were long gone and done with by now. surprisingly they are now out on the road for another spin. i’ve got mixed feelings about the whole thing and i have to say a lot of it has to do with their crummy (mis)management.

problem #1 - they didn’t get their CD released until the band was well into their summer tour last year. … without a new product to push, the New Cars just felt like an old has-been nostalgia act.

problem #2 - management priced tickets a bit too high especially those meet and greet packages. that was a big turn off for fans and concert goers.

problem #3 - after cutting the summer tour short (due to Elliot Easton’s injury) the group lost all the momentum they had going for them and they weren’t able to gain any of it back by the time they got back on the road in the winter.

problem #4 - management failed to promote the winter tour so attendance was even worse than before. most fans weren’t even aware The New Carswere even out on the road in Nov and Dec.

problem #5 - at this point it seems that there’s not much promotion behind this summer’s tour as well. no press about the tour and no buzz on the ‘net about the Live Jasmin group.

problem #6 - The New Cars’ bassist Kasim Sulton is currently touring withMeatloaf so he won’t be available this summer. There’s absolutely nothing about his replacement on the official website (as of 10May07).

problem #7 - The New Cars is simply a lame name for a band. a bit of a hinderance from the get go i must say. talent like Elliot Easton and Todd Rundgren deserve better than this. the lack of promotion and not really having any new material to support is just bad news all around.

and what’s even more confusing is that Todd Rundgren just recently completed a successful short tour of the east coast with Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta and Jesse Gress. I think at this point going out as “Todd Rundgren” is a better career decision than being a member of a dead project called the New Cars. you know, it was a fun experience for one summer but it really feels like they are overstaying their welcome. time for Todd, Elliot, Greg and Prairie to move on to something else. don’t get me wrong, if they end up in my neck of the wood (unfortunately the tour isn’t coming anywhere close to where i live) I’d go out and support the band since I’m a fan of Todd’s but in general, I really don’t see the point of Todd being involved with this anymore. go see them while you can. from the look of things, they ain’t going to be around for much longer…

Jenni Muldaur

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daughter of musicians Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Jenni released her one and only major label album back in 1992. On paper it probably looked like a sure thing: Jenni with her musical heritage, collaborating with big time producer Russ Titelman and recording her songs with major studio heavyweights like John Robinson, Paul Buchanan, Jeff Bova and David Sanborn. it was bound to be a classic, right? right???

So what happened?

listening to the CD now after all these years i have to say that there are a couple of things that come to mind. for one, the pristine pop production by Russ Titelman was pretty ill suited for Jenni’s voice. in my opinion, a more basic acoustic folk approach would have complimented her vocal style a bit more. another approach would have been the “Kate Bush” eclectic piano based style which they successfully did on the song Together Far Apart, a highlight on the album. unfortunately it was the only song performed in that style, the rest are in the bland studio pop vein. this leads me to the other weakness of the album, the material itself. Jenni wrote or co-wrote most of the songs here and her inexperience as a writer is apparent throughout with unremarkable, non-descript words and chord changes. the few exceptions in terms of songwriting are the aforementioned Together Far Apart (which was cowritten by Vince Welnick of the Tubes) and What Goes Around (cowritten by Lyle Workman and Larry Tagg of Bourgeois Tagg) which features a nice jazzy feel. but two songs plus filler doesn’t really add up to much so the album quickly got relegated to the cut out bin.

so why do i still have this album?

it is indeed mediocre at best but i have a soft spot for Jenni Muldaur. her voice isn’t really my cup of tea but she toured with Todd Rundgren on his Nearly Human Tour and appeared on his Second Wind album so that counts for something i guess.

Dream Academy - Remembrance Days

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Their debut album was an undeniable classic. the follow up however,Remembrance Days, doesn’t really match the standard that was set on the debut but i still enjoy listening to the album every now and again, even to this day.

Indian Summer is sort of a retread of Life in a Northern Town but the strong melody and storyline help the song stand on its own. the other highlight for me is their cover of Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime. i love the mood and overall arrangement of the track. very well done indeed. Lindsey Buckingham had a hand in producing that song as well as Indian Summer so i’m guessing that’s where some of the creativity came from. unfortunately their downfall on this album is letting producer Hugh Padgham (genesis, phil collins) steer them toward the “80’s pop sound” which diluted what made them unique in the firstplace. listen to The Lesson of Love and Doubleminded for examples of some heavy-handed production. the synth patches used inDoubleminded sounds too much like Human League’s Keep Feeling Fascinationfor my tastes. not that i don’t like Human League, i *do* in fact, it’s just that it’s not what Dream Academy is about.

anyway, i miss the group and now that we’re in the midst of *reunion fever*, i’m hoping for some sort of Dream Academy comeback.

Asia - Fantasia Live In Tokyo 2007

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i’ve been looking forward to the release of the new live album by theoriginal members of 80’s supergroup Asia for a while now. i mean, just look at the caliber and the musical history of the members of this group: John Wetton (King Crimson, UK), Steve Howe (Yes, GTR), Geoff Downes (Yes, Buggles) and Carl Palmer (ELP). to have these four men back together is truly a momentous occasion. the group started the reunion tour in 2006 and continues to tour around the globe for most of 2007. to commemorate the mammoth tour, they captured their March 2007 performance in front of a sold out crowd in tokyo. the CD is called Fantasia - Live In Tokyo: 2007 (2CD) and is the first official live recording of the original lineup. it has been a long time coming and after listening to the new double CD set, they might have waited a bit too long unfortunately. instead of a well-oiled, cohesive group of musicians that have gelled from a year of touring, what is presented here on CD is a fragmented group of rock legends that aren’t listening to each other and seem to be just going through the motions and are just there to add to their retirement fund.

part of the blame has to go to the muddy and highly compressed audio mix. i’m not sure what equipment was used to record the concert but i’ve heard bootlegs that sound better than this. Carl Palmer’s drums sound so squashed by compression that at times it sounds like he’s beating cardboard boxes! but once you get past the underwhelming sound quality, one can definitely hear sloppy performances that land a bit high on the cringe-meter. i do have to give props to John Wetton who for the most part is singing these songs in their original key. i think the biggest problem here in terms of musicianship has to do with Carl Palmer’s drumming. there’s no denying that Palmer can do some flashy drumming on his extra large double bass drum set but he fails at one of the key fundamentals of drumming which is keeping solid time (tempo).

Palmer’s tempo is all over the place and because of this, John Wetton and his bass can’t lay down a solid foundation. without a solid foundation (created by bass and drums), layering intricate keyboards and guitarwork on top of this can be difficult which is evident in this recording where the group sound disjointed and sometimes just plain unsure of themselves. don’t take my word for it, just listen to “Time Again”, “One Step Closer” and “Sole Survivor” where you can obviously hear the tempo shifts between the drum/guitar runs transitioning into the main parts of the song. probably the most embarrassing part (at least for Carl Palmer) is at the end of Palmer’s drum solo when they have to come back into “the Heat Goes On”- Palmer counts off the song too fast and John Wetton realizes this and manages to bring down the tempo with his bass and his vocals. the transition just sounds awkward and unprofessional. Come on! I expect more from these legends of prog rock!! it’s sad to say but Fantasia - Live In Tokyo: 2007 (2CD) is a big letdown. i’m sure seeing these guys live and in person is a totally different experience but for an official CD release, the performances leave a lot to be desired.


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as some of you may already know, i’m a big Office fan. and like most fans of the show, I had Jenna Fischer’s Lollilove on queue at netflix. it wasn’t placed that high on my queue so it had been lingering there on the list for months. over the weekend i finally got around to seeing it and i have to say that it was better than i expected. the movie had mixed reviews and i knew going in that it was a low budget affair so i wasn’t really expecting all that much. but since Jenna Fischer directed and co wrote the script, I knew i had to at least watch the thing. the movie was pretty short and was structured as a mock-documentary a la Spinal Tap. Jenna’s husband James Gunn also starred in it and the premise is about James and Jenna setting up a charity for the homeless. it’s pretty much a satire on the rich and their point of view on charities. it was interesting that James and Jenna used their real names and incorporated a lot of their own photos and even their wedding video into the film even though they were obviously not portraying themselves. it was also an interesting dynamic to watch between the two leads where James played itover the top and Jenna tried to at least be a bit more grounded in reality with her character.

-spoiler alert- don’t go beyond this point if you’re planning on seeing the DVD in the near future..[also NSFW. sorry]

there were funny bits throughout the film but there were two major ones that i just loved:

1) there was a quick joke about the overweight woman that Jenna somehow convinced into believing she was just anorexic and the overweight person she saw in the mirror was in fact all in her mind. and then we see Jenna in an apron making a big pile of pancakes for the woman. ha ha!!

2) and the best bit in the movie comes at the end where we see illustrations done by James revolving around what would have happened to Jenna if he wasn’t around to save her from that awful homeless man… hee. hee…

flashback: Array. The Band.

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The Band: Array

setting: thursday evening at Andy’s house. our senior year. 1987.

band members: Andy- guitar and backing vocal, Johnny- bass, Daniel-drums, Rebecca- lead vocal, Kimmee- keyboards, backing vocal

“shit, boys, we are going to rock the house saturday night,” andy exclaimed as he gave me a hi-five. he turned to do the same with johnny but realized he wasn’t paying any attention. johnny was, as per usual, in his own little world, sitting back, smoking a joint and staring out at nothing.

a little perturbed by johnny’s lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming gig, andy picked up his guitar and played an intricate arpeggio that he had been working on the past few days. andy was a lanky rich boy who’s mom was never home and usually had the whole house to himself after school to play loud music in. he was the class clown and was even voted the “funniest senior” in the yearbook that year. i played a couple of warmup drum fills on the tom-toms and then turned to andy and asked “are you sure we don’t need more rehearsal time before the party? i mean, i’m a bit nervous about it …and it’s like one of the biggest parties this whole semester, right?”

andy walked toward my drum set. actually it wasn’t mine. it was trey’s. andy stole .. i mean, had it on loan from Trey for the time being. “what are you kidding me? we are rock solid. you got that ‘neil peart’ thing down on the skins, i got the mad burnin’ leads on the geeettaarr and johnny boy over there …. he’s like the best damn bassist in our whole damn high school! what more do you want D?” andy asked while doing one of his motley-crue-rock-star-poses. “i’m not talking about us necessarily. i’m more concerned about … uummm..” i discreetly motioned over to the two girls hanging out on the other side of andy’s oversized basement/activity/rehearsal room. rebecca was a bit preoccupied at the moment with getting her makeup “just so” in front of a mirror while Kimmee was lounging on a couch, busy yammering away with her boyfriend on the phone. andy looked over and nodded. “look, i know they’re not the most talented, musically speaking but that’s not completely why they’re in the band anyway.”

i raised my eyebrows.

andy continued. “see, we (referring to johnny, andy and me) provide the musical foundation. we’re rock solid. no one’s gonna knock that. the girls, .. the girls.. are just the icing on the cake. they are our “hook”. there are a dozen other bands out there but with rebecca and kimmee, we stand out. rebecca’s out in front with the miniskirt and the tight shirt and then we got kimmee on keys and she’s smokin’ hot. you see what i’m getting at?”

“yeah. we’re a gimmick band,” i said crossing my arms, “a band with no integrity.”

“integrity? D, we’re in high school, there is no such thing. don’t worry, D. i’ve got it all worked out. i’m the mastermind behind the group anyway. i’m ‘Pete Townshend’ if you will.”

“who?” rebecca interrupted and then playfully grabbed andy’s ass.

“exactly,” andy replied back.

“if you’re Pete Townshend, does that make me, Keith Moon?” i asked while trying to be polite and not stare too long at Rebecca’s mini-skirted legs like i’ve tried to do this whole year.

“who?” rebecca again asked.

“YES” andy said while resuming back to doing rock star poses with his sunburst gibson les paul.

“no, i don’t want to be keith, he’s *dead* and all. but since you mentioned ‘Yes’ i can be ‘Alan White’” i said knowing that Rebecca would have no clue what i was talking about.

“nah. be Bill Bruford and i’ll be big ‘Chris badd-ass Squire’ on that mammoth rickenbacker!” Johnny interjected under a haze of smoke.

“whatever you guys are talking about, just stop it. it makes no sense.” Rebecca pouted. God she was so cute pouting like that. frankly she was cute all around but … but being “cute” doesn’t really redeem her from some of the bum notes she was trying to pass off as melody. i walked over to andy and in a serious-down-to-business-tone tried to convince him to go over the set list with rebecca because i really didn’t think she knew all the words to *all* of the songs.

“don’t get your panties in a wad, Big D” Rebecca said to me after overhearing what i was saying to andy.

“you know i don’t like you calling me ‘Big D’” i said turning to Rebecca, “you make me sound like i’m fat or something.”

“dude, it’s a compliment. ‘Big D’ isn’t about your *whole* body,” she said with a wink. andy stopped in mid-riff. “and how would *she* know this?” andy asked with all eyes in the vicinity turned and focused on me.

“she doesn’t. .. i mean… i DO… you know, i mean.. we didn’t … but size-wise..” i stammered losing all credibility. as i continued to sink like the titanic, Kimmee waltzed back to her spot behind the Roland, waved at andy and asked, “now, Andy, show me how to do that C-chord again?”

a car is then heard pulling up in the driveway. andy ran upstairs and checked on who it was. “damn, it’s mom” andy said while coming back down. “OK, folks, we’re done here. i’ll see y’all at the clubhouse saturday, alright?” on our way out andy raised his hands in the air and yelled “everybody, hi-fives, we . are . going . to . rock . the . house !”

Mandy Moore - Wild Hope

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extraordinary? ..not so much. more toward the ordinary if you ask me. i do have to give her props for not giving in to pressure from record executives and staying true to her own vision. and what is her own vision, you ask? well, from listening to Wild Hope I would have to say something in the realm of 70’s era Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac. essentially bland retro-folk-singer-songwriter type music. it’s very surprising to hear if you remember her days as a teen-pop idol. the changeover happened around 2003 with her covers album calledCoverage .

She recorded music by artists like Joni Mitchell, Todd Rundgren, Joe Jackson and John Hiatt. when you start from there, you can see that Wild Hope is an extention from that album. where the album falters basically boils down to material. half of the 12 tracks are simply not that memorable. songs like Can’t You Just Adore Her?, Gardenia and Ladies Choicemay be suited for background music at your local coffee shop but they just don’t stand on their own with repeated listening. that being said, the album’s not all bad. there are a few standouts, including Looking Foward to Looking Back, Extraordinary, Wild Hope and Nothing That You Are. Nothing That You Are is most notable for being a homage to Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and the rest of Fleetwood Mac.

the tom-tom work on the drums, the backing harmonies, the bass guitar work during the verses and the guitar solos all scream FLEETWOOD MAC and fortunately it all works for the tune. there’s a great hook in the chorus and as an extra bonus we all get to hear sweet lil’ Mandy Moore sing the line “I hope you burn in hell”. priceless. probably worth getting the disc just for that one song.

Mandy’s bland reality

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after watching I Am Mandy Moore last night on cable, it’s a bit sobering to learn that Mandy Moore’s much promoted album, Wild Hope, only sold a mere 65,354 copies (as of Aug07 according to various soundscan sources).

OK, you’re probably asking why I was even watching the one-off “reality” special in the first place. honestly, I wanted a bit more insight on how she put her latest album together but what was shown instead was a whiny, insecureactress posing as some sort of singer/songwriter touring the small club circuit. the cameras followed her during her initial promotional tour for the new album and revealed very little in terms of the creative aspect behind the album. instead the main focus of the whole special was how “exhausting” a promotional tour can be. boo-hoo! a bad decision by the director/producers of the show. they should have realized that the average viewer will NOT sympathize with a celebrity moaning on and on about how tiring it is to be at a photo shoot or at a TV interview.

the lone highlight, as even her manager pointed out on the show, was a sequence of clips of sweet, innocent Mandy dropping F-bombs at various times. sadly, watching a cute actress swearing on camera only takes you but so far.