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a blog about music

Updated: 2018-03-05T10:48:41.872-05:00


Goodnight, And Good Luck


(image) So, I guess we have a bit of an announcement to make, and probably long overdue, although I suppose the deafening silence over the past month has been something of a clue to some of you, and this won't come as much of a surprise. (Thanks to those of you who wrote us offline to ask what the hell was up. We're touched that we were missed.)

As we approached our first anniversary a couple of weeks ago, Rich and I started talking about whether we really wanted to keep this thing up. We've loved the ride that we've been privileged to take over the past year, and it's been a tremendous amount of fun sharing music and ideas, building a readership (ultimately about 10,000 folks a week, from every corner of the globe) and realizing that many of you came to visit regularly, or even every day. That's more humbling than we can ever express. But in the end, I think it's fair to say that TTT ended up being way more of a time commitment for both of us than we ever reckoned it would be -- we always said that we'd do this right, and update regularly, or not at all -- and as 2007 came to a close, and work and other life demands pulled on both of us, we independently started to question whether we still had the time or energy to do justice to the site. By the time we actually had the conversation over the holidays, it didn't take long to figure out that we had both reached the same decision -- that it's time to retire TTT, at least for the foreseeable future.

So, that's what we're going to do. We'll leave the site up for as long as we can (hey, it'll be like a time capsule for music in 2007), we'll keep all the links and downloads active for at least another couple of months (grab those Classic Bootlegs while you still can!), and who knows, maybe at some point one or both of us will catch the bug and start posting again. But with the turn of the new year, we find that we have other priorities that deserve our attention a little more than a music blog does. Each of us has two young children. Rich is thinking about writing a novel, and I hope he will, because I love to read anything he writes. And as of a few months ago, I've gone and fallen hopelessly in love, with the most beautiful, amazing woman I've ever met in my life. And there's some damn fine music in that, let me tell you.

That's the story. Our thanks to everyone who ever visited, commented or threw us a link, to the other bloggers who reached out and befriended us over the past year, and of course, to all the great artists that we got to write about. And my personal thanks, one more time, to everyone who responded with such kindness and generosity after my house was robbed last summer -- I still get a little overwhelmed when I think about that.

This was so much fun. Again, we thank you all for a great run.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!


Merry Christmas everyone, if indeed that's what you celebrate. I'm happy to report that Rich's house is in full-on X-mas mode, but before 2007 finishes circling the bowl, there's still time for a post or two from me. I had originally intended to develop some sort of a response to Frank's predictably stellar year-end list. We typically have only about 50% overlap, which I thought would give me entry to discuss those records that, in my opinion, he'd inexplicably left off. But I have to say that he pretty much nailed the three-point landing this year, so rather than simply stand by nodding, I thought I'd pull together a list of my favorite "under the radar" records of the year. So, without further adieu, here's Rich's Top Ten Favorite Off-The-Beaten-Track Records of 2007 (in no particular order):Joe Strummer - The Future Is UnwrittenSadly, 2007 was yet another year that Britney Spears was allowed to walk the earth, while Joe Strummer continues not to. One small consolation against that unexplainable set of circumstances was the release of Julian Temple's brilliant documentary Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten (the trailer of which is here). Even if you already own everything Joe and The Clash ever released, this soundtrack is still a must-have. It's filled not only with Clash and Mescolaros music, but with music that influenced Joe, like Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Bob Dylan, MC5, and Nina Simone. As a bonus, many of the songs are introduced and described by Strummer himself. MP3: The Clash - "White Riot" (Alternate Demo Mix)M.I.A. - KalaI wrote about M.I.A.'s 2007 release Kala here. This is a record with worldly beats, political aspirations, feminine power, and punk rock attitude. M.I.A. is a reporter from a Third World CNN street beat bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes from the world over right into your living room. You hear it straight from the people; from the aboriginie kids in "Mango Pickle Down River" to the Indian villagers in "Bird Flu." M.I.A. is the real deal. MP3: M.I.A. - "Bamboo Banger" from KalaBurial - UntrueMy initial take on this record is here, which has held up: "With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting." MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from UntrueBlonde Redhead - 23My earlier post on this record was entitled "The Sound of Dreaming," I think because the sound of this record feels like racing through some fever dream landscape where everything is familiar yet somehow disorienting. I can never quite grasp exactly what the lyrics are about, but that hardly seems to be the point. This is impressionistic territory, and it is a beautifully curious amalgam of guitars and whispered vocals. MP3: Blonde Redhead - "23" from 23Mark Olson - The Salvation BluesAs described here, The Salvation Blues represented something of a return to form for former Jayhawk Mark Olson. Divorced from Victoria Williams and returned from the ensuing wilderness, Olson rediscovered his muse, and his old friend Gary Louris. The music on this record is both sad and hopeful Americana, hearkening to Hollywood Town Hall-era Jayhawks. And with Louris' contributions, these songs are more than enough to whet the appetite for the promised Olson and Louris collaboration scheduled for 2008. Hopefully, TTT will be around to blog about it when it comes out. MP3: Mark Olson - "Clifton Bridge" - from The Salvation BluesDaft Punk - Alive 2007One of my favorite records of 2005 was Kraftwerk's live album, Minimum-Maximum. One would not think that something as robotic and sterile as Kraftwerk would translate so well to a live recording. Daft Punk is also robot music, albeit music by robots apparently programmed for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Daft Punk's live shows ain't nothin' but a party y'all, and this record is instant party, just add alcohol. Daft Punk [...]

Frank's Favorite Records of 2007


Time and current life circumstances (all of 'em good) won't permit me to do anything even remotely as elaborate as in years past, but here are the 20 new records released in 2007 that I enjoyed most, in alphabetical order. If either Rich or I posted a review here during the course of the year, I've linked to it, and if we didn't, I've linked to MetaCritic or some other resource that will give you the critical lowdown. (And if I'm not mistaken, Rich will be along in a day or two with the records from his list that didn't make mine.) Music makes for great holiday giving, so get out there and support all of these magnificent artists by buying their records.RYAN ADAMS - Easy TigerARCADE FIRE - Neon BibleTHE AVETT BROTHERS - EmotionalismANDREW BIRD - Armchair ApocryphaBRIGHT EYES - CassadagaTHE BROKEN WEST - I Can't Go On, I'll Go OnFEIST - The ReminderTHE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN - The Good, The Bad & The QueenNICK LOWE - At My AgeTHE NATIONAL - BoxerTHE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - ChallengersROBERT PLANT & ALISON KRAUSS - Raising SandRADIOHEAD - In RainbowsRILO KILEY - Under The BlacklightTHE SHINS - Wincing The Night AwaySPOON - Ga Ga Ga Ga GaBRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - MagicKANYE WEST - GraduationTHE WHITE STRIPES - Icky ThumpWILCO - Sky Blue Sky[...]

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 2 of 2


(image) Discs 1 and 2 (along with the artwork) are here. And if you thought they were great, brace yourself for these -- the entire session at the Paris Cinema in London on April 1, 1971, recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" program on BBC Radio One. Simply spectacular. Be sure to play it nice and loud.


Disc 3:

01 John Peel intro
02 Immigrant Song
03 Heartbreaker
04 Since I've Been Loving You
05 Black Dog
06 Dazed And Confused
07 Stairway To Heaven

Disc 4:

01 Going To California
02 That's The Way
03 What Is And What Should Never Be
04 Whole Lotta Love
05 Thank You
06 Communication Breakdown

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 1 of 2


Time to get the Led out. With all the hype surrounding the release of the Mothership collection last week and their reunion show in London next month, not to mention Robert Plants's recent solo triumph with Allison Krauss, I've been listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin lately. That, in turn, made me realize that a Zep boot is long overdue in this series. There are scores of great recordings to choose from -- in fact Zeppelin probably joins The Beatles, Dylan and The Rolling Stones as the most bootlegged acts of all time.But while any number of live recordings by the mighty Led Zep would certainly qualify for "classic" status, it's this massive 4-disc box set released by Empress Valley, collecting all of their appearances on BBC radio between 1969 and 1971, that I return to most often. (Some of this material appears, in slightly different form, on the official BBC Sessions release in 1997, but this set is far more exhaustive and about twice as long.) The performances are consistently spectacular, and with one exception (the March, 1969 appearance on Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in the middle of Disc 1, which is muffled but still very listenable), the sound quality is equally fantastic throughout.We'll start with Discs 1 and 2, which compile the band's earliest (and bluesiest) sessions for various BBC radio hosts. Then I'll be back in a few days with Discs 3 and 4, on which you get the entire two-hour session that the band recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" show on Radio One in April of 1971, seven months before the release of Led Zeppelin IV, playing new songs like "Black Dog", "Going To California" and "Stairway To Heaven" to a small theatre audience (it's unsettling, in fact, to hear the latter get no reaction at all from the crowd), and at the absolute peak of their legendary powers.This is just essential stuff. If you're having any doubts about wanting to devote your bandwidth to such a massive set, listen to the first track on Disc 1, a raunchy troll through "You Shook Me" that confirms what a stunning live act Zeppelin was from the very beginning, and I guarantee you won't be able to pass up the rest. Positively jaw-dropping.LED ZEPPELIN - THE COMPLETE BBC RADIO SESSIONSArtwork:FrontBackDisc 1 (1969):01 You Shook Me02 Communication Breakdown03 I Can't Quit You Baby04 Dazed And Confused05 Alexis Korner intro06 What Is And What Should Never Be07 more chat08 I Can't Quit You Baby09 more chat10 You Shook Me11 Sunshine Woman12 The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair13 Communication Breakdown14 Something Else15 What Is And What Should Never Be16 Group interview with Chris Grant17 Whole Lotta Love18 Communication Breakdown19 What Is and What Should Never Be20 Travelling Riverside BluesDisc 2 (1969-1970):01 Alan Black intro02 Communication Breakdown03 I Can't Quit You Baby04 Alan Black interview05 Dazed And Confused06 Interlude with Adrian Henry07 White Summer-Black Mountain Side08 You Shook Me09 How Many More Times10 White Summer11 Black Mountain SideI'll be back with Discs 3 and 4 early next week. Turn this up LOUD and enjoy.[...]



(image) The good folks at Stereogum have posted video and mp3s of the tunes performed during Radiohead's surprise in-studio webcast on November 9, including a cover of "The Headmaster Ritual" that is essential for Radiohead and Smiths fans alike. But for some reason, the band's wicked rip through In Rainbows standout "Bodysnatchers" is not among the songs that you can grab at the 'Gum. To complete an iTunes playlist of the entire webcast, I did my own capture of "Bodysnatchers" and then ripped it to mp3 at a super-high bitrate to match the tracks at Stereogum. Consider it my Thanksgiving gift to all of you.

MP3: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers" (live in studio), from the November 9, 2007 "Thumbs Down" webcast

More Adventurous


If we really wanted to bring you a knowledgeable discussion of electronica, we'd undoubtedly need to bring in a guest blogger. We're not. Now, I'm no connoisseur, but from time to time I encounter entries into the genre -- not that electronic music can really be accurately described as a single genre I realize, but bear with me, I'm using shorthand here -- that pique my interest. Here are a few:Caribou is the nom de guerre of Don Snaith, who reportedly recorded his newest, Andorra, a dense, multi-layered wonder of neo-psychedelic pop, at home. I can't claim these comparisons as original thoughts, but there are those who invoke Elliot Smith's vocals, Brian Wilson's melodies, and '60s psychedelia as reference points. Those people would be right -- all colored by a modern DYI aesthetic.Andorra, which I understand is something of a more pop-oriented departure from Snaith's earlier work, is a sonic tour de force -- one made for the headphones. It's a certifiable grower, albeit that rare grower with initial appeal. Be sure to check out the lushly romantic, Brian Wilsonesque "She's The One." Great stuff.MP3: Caribou - "Sandy" from AndorraI am completely blown away by UK's Burial. Although I'm certainly not hip enough to discuss the meaning of British "Grime," "2-Step," "Garage," or "Dubstep," as I have variously heard this music described, I can describe the sound as something like a Ghost In The Machine. With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting.Adding to the cool mystery of this one-man band is that no one knows who Burial is. And he (or she) aims to keep it that way, and keep the focus on the music. The music is certainly worthy of that focus. The songs on Untrue flow from one to another with blurred distinction, and the whole record sounds very much like it is meant to be listened to in its entirety. Its sameness is never boring, but feels as deep (and as dark and cold) as the ocean.MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from UntrueCamilo Lara's Mexican Institute of Sound may come from south of the border, but it specializes in smashing musical borders via a latin dance party. In MIS's new record Piñata, one can find aspects of Cumbia, Cha Cha Cha, Baile Funk, and other musical styles with which I have limited or no familiarity. Regardless, you don't have to be an ethnomusicologist to have fun with this stuff.Obviously, Piñata is heavily influenced by Central American style, but it incorporates a club-friendly hip hop flair that will put the party right into your Margarita. If this doesn't get your toe tapping, I don't know what will. Go do a shot of tequila.MP3: Mexican Institute of Sound - "Para No Vivir Desesperado" from Piñata[...]

From Sweden With Love


It was my Aunt Joyce who traced one of the roots of my maternal family tree back to Sweden, which delighted me for no other reason than that it seemed somewhat exotic. I didn't buy a Swedish car just because of this, but Aunt Joyce's genealogical efforts in some small way may have helped close that deal. Musically, we're in the middle of something of a Swedish invasion on these shores, so while I wait for the new Hives record to drop next week (why in the world hasn't Saab used one of their songs in a commercial?), here's a quick look at a few new releases from my Swedish cousins.The Perisher's Victorious is a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff.MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from VictoriousOn Our Ill Wills, Shout Out Louds channel The Cure in the latter's sunny, pop manifestation, setting tales of melancholy to jangly, imminently hummable melodic confections. For me, this record generates a fair amount of '80s nostalgia, but is most enjoyable without seeming overly derivative. Lead-off track "Tonight I Have To Leave It" was cooked using only a slight variation on the recipe for "In Between Days," and I'm ok with that. Songs like "Impossible" are damn near impossible not to sing along with after just a few listens. Shout Out Louds are a skilled bunch of musicians, with keen ears for melody and a talent for song structure.MP3: Shout Out Louds - "Tonight I Have To Leave It" - from Our Ill WillsJens Lekman is something of an anomaly. On his new release, Night Falls Over Kortedala, he manages the seemingly impossible task of being twee and bombastic at the same time ("And I Remember Every Kiss"). He seems both earnest and tongue-in-cheek. He's Burt Bacharach and disco ("Sipping On The Sweet Nectar"), folkster and hipster. He's sweet, and maybe naively honest ("I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You"). He's clever with a lyric, and has a great sense of humor ("A Postcard To Nina"). He's a Swedish Jonathan Richman. He's a musical gentle giant and a complete breath of fresh air. This record is consistently smile-inducing, and often outright laugh-worthy, a thing of joy.MP3: Jens Lekman - "Your Arms Around Me" from Night Falls Over Kortedala.[...]

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 22: The Beach Boys - SMiLE


Here's a mea culpa for my woeful inactivity over the past few weeks -- what can I say, I've got stuff going on.For almost 40 years, the Beach Boys' SMiLE was the Holy Grail of bootlegs -- the great lost album of the rock era, and the work that both confirmed Brian Wilson's absolute genius as a singer, composer and arranger, and propelled him into the mental illness that would cripple him for the next three decades. It was analyzed, dissected, annotated and theorized to death, and hailed as both an unfinished classic -- better even than Pet Sounds -- and an artistic failure that didn't deserve to be completed in the first place. Of course, Brian finally recorded and released an updated and truly triumphant solo version of the record in 2004. So by now, most likely, you've heard SMiLE. What you may not have heard, however, is SMiLE sung by the Beach Boys circa 1966, which is something altogether different -- and, let's face it, what God and Brian (if, at the time, they weren't occasionally one and the same) originally intended.There are literally dozens of versions of SMiLE: high profile bootlegs (by labels such as Vigotone and Purple Chick), collections of the fragments that have seen official release (most notably in the Good Vibrations boxset), scholarly reconstructions and frequently terrific fan mixes (seek out the ones by Wrightfan, who just loosed his seventh attempt at a definitive SMiLE on the bootleg trading community, and a mysterious fellow who calls himself D.J. Mic Luv) abound.This particular version -- the so-called "Millennium Edition" released in Japan on the Dumb Angel label -- isn't the best, or even one of my favorites (to use the take of "Our Prayer" -- one of the most sublimely beautiful harmony exercises in pop music history -- that degenerates into laughter is sacrilege in my book), but it is among the most difficult to get ahold of. And, if nothing else, this version closes with a truly gorgeous edit of "Surf's Up," among the most perfect pop songs ever written, complete with a purely instrumental pass through the first two verses that serves as an overture, the "Woody Woodpecker" horn punctuations, Van Dyke Parks' brilliant lyrical wordplay ("canvas the town and brush the backdrop," "the music hall / a costly bow / the music all is lost for now"), and that classic, haunting vocal from Brian. If I could only hear ten songs again for the rest of my life, "Surf's Up" would be one of them.THE BEACH BOYS - SMiLE (Millennium Edition)Artwork (these are PSD files - download and open/print with a photo viewing program):Front coverInside coverBack insert01 Our Prayer02 Heroes and Villains (Barnyard Suite)03 Child Is Father Of The Man04 Wonderful05 With Me Tonight06 Do You Like Worms?07 The Old Master Painter08 Cabinessence09 Good Vibrations10 Vega-tables11 Wind Chimes12 The Elemental Suite (Look > Holidays > Mrs. O'Leary's Cow > Cool, Cool Water > Friday Night > Good Vibrations closing bit)13 Vega-tables (reprise)14 Surf's Up[...]

Lucky Ones


(image) I'm not going to be able to offer much here that the indie kids don't already know. Broken Social Scene are a band, er, a collective, that I probably appreciate more than I actually listen to. When "It's All Gonna Break" popped up on my iPod this past weekend, I realized that's probably something that needs to be addressed. Kevin Drew is one of the founders of BSS, and for his first solo record, Spirit If . . . (which still involves various members of the collective, including the always lovely Leslie Feist), he trades on the brand name as "Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew". Not a bad move, considering the fact that it's a pretty solid brand.

Not unlike recent BSS records, Spirit is often a beautiful, sprawling mess, with Kevin Drew at the epicenter, coaxing beauty from chaos. What is slightly different from the typical BSS output is the relaxed nature of the music. While the opening track, "Farewell To Pressure Kids," trades in the same bombastic, baroque, whirlwind rock that is BSS's stock in trade, halfway through, it downshifts dramatically and turns the sonic three-note motif into a mellotronic prayer. This is followed by the profane "tbtf" (abbreviation for "too beautiful to [expletive deleted]"), which is actually a very pretty, if slightly twisted, ode to adoration, and "F-ked Up Kid," an acoustic meditation with the perfect level of ambient electronica hovering in the background.

And so goes this record. It's a ragged beauty, and it kind of reminds me of Thurston Moore's new one in the sense that, coming from someone who normally doesn't hesitate to unleash the noise, there is a fair amount of joy in melody and restraint. This is exemplified in song after song. It's not until the excellent "Back Out On The . . . " -- which would be at home in any Arcade Fire set -- that Drew turns the amps back up to 11.

A generous amount of real care in the production is also apparent, which makes Spirit a strong candidate for the headphones. All in all, Spirit If . . . deserves heavy rotation on your playlist.

MP3: Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew - "Lucky Ones" from Spirit If . . .

And speaking of Canadian musicians, Pop Headwound has news on the re-release of Destroyer's City of Daughters, along with a couple of MP3s.

Free Noise Among Friends


(image) Sonic Youth's chief noise merchant, Thurston Moore, steps outside the SY university on his new solo record, Trees Outside The Academy. The path doesn't lead too far from campus, but it does afford an interesting view of some familiar territory. Trees' style and song structure provide easily recognizable signposts to most devotees, but its instrumentation diverges just enough to lend a healthy breath of fresh air. Here, SY's tortured guitars are largely replaced by their finger-picked acoustic cousins, which, instead of dueling against one another, are set against a backdrop of tastefully arranged strings. Moore's voice, usually a smooth counterpoint to the waves of guitar-violence delivered by his day-job band, slides very nicely into the groove of this decidedly laid back approach.

The record opens with "Frozen Gtr," a song that would be at home on any recent SY record, and actually draws a hint of the ominous out of the violins. It's an excellent song to set the stage for this trip. Following that are "The Shape Is In A Trance," which is classic Thurston Moore, but turned way down, and "Honest James," which is probably about as close as Moore will ever get to folk music, but with lovely backing vocals by Christina Carter it's close enough.

Trees, which was recorded at J. Mascis' house, and to which J. contributed some excellent guitar work, is a remarkably consistent record. There are only a couple of missteps, including "American Coffin," which opens with a fairly standard SY barrage of distortion and devolves into fairly amateurish piano improv, and "Thurston @ 13," which isn't a song, but a recording of exactly what its title suggests. Nevertheless, there are plenty of standouts to be found. "Wonderful Witches + Language Meanies" is an outright rocker that would've been perfect for wife Kim Gordon had it made it to a Sonic Youth record, and "Never Day" has a bit of a lilting melody that sails gently on a soft current of big sound. My favorite track is probably "Fri/End," which is bright and nearly reaches the point of "popness" as it shuffles along like some lost Pavement track.

All in all, this is a very nice release that has achieved a pretty good rotation in my iPod. It's nice to know that even in middle age, a former youth can still be Sonic.

MP3: Thurston Moore - "Fri/End" from Trees Outside The Academy.

Check out the BBC's video interview about Trees below and stream a few other tracks here.


Come Gather 'Round, People


(image) Since we launched this blog over 10 months ago (!), I've tried to bring the occasional bit of BBC awesomeness to my fellow, deprived non-Brits. It's impossible to share it all, or even all of the truly excellent stuff that seems to flow out of The Beeb on a weekly basis. But this one, I just can't pass up. About 10 days ago, BBC Radio 2 broadcasted Dream Dylan Live, in which they aimed to put together -- from recordings spanning his entire career -- their approximation of the ultimate Bob Dylan concert. It's a neat enough concept as it is, but what made this program truly special was that it included four live recordings (obtained direct from the Dylan archives) that had never seen the light of day before. The end result is a really sweet listen. And some kind soul even made some artwork for it, which I pass along as well, in case you want to burn to CD and enjoy your Dylan in "take away" fashion, as they say in dear old Blighty.

DREAM DYLAN LIVE - BBC Radio 2 Presentation, October 6, 2007

Front cover
Back insert

01 Blowin' In The Wind*
02 Only A Pawn In Their Game*
03 The Times They Are A' Changing
04 Mr. Tambourine Man
05 Like A Rolling Stone
06 Maggie's Farm
07 All Along The Watchtower
08 Lovesick*
09 To Make You Feel My Love
10 Things Have Changed
11 The Groom's Still Waiting At The Alter*

*Previously unreleased

Killing The Blues


(image) One of the more intriguing projects that I've read about in recent weeks is the collaboration between Led Zep icon Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss -- about as unlikely a pairing as I probably could have imagined. But it seems Plant and Krauss have had something of a mutual admiration society in the works for a while, and after years of talking about it, finally went into the studio together this year, with an amazing group of studio musicians (world-class players like Marc Ribot, Norman Blake and Patrick Warren), and none other than the great T-Bone Burnett producing, to record a selection of Americana covers by writers like Tom Waits, John Prine, Gene Clark, Sam Phillips, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers and Mel Tillis.

Well, I got an advance copy of the results -- a record called Raising Sand -- over the weekend, and I have to tell you, I am positively blown away. It is, without question, one of the finest records I've heard this year, a captivating trawl through an eclectic selection of country, blues, rockabilly and vintage pop tunes, written by some true masters, and gorgeously recorded by Burnett. Stunningly, though, it's the singing on these tracks that really makes this project something special. You expect Krauss to sound like an angel, and she certainly doesn't disappoint. In fact, her performances on Raising Sand, such as her languid take on Phillips' "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," are among the loveliest I've ever heard from her. But it's Plant's voice that truly astonishes here, with a warmth, beauty and delicate command that not only belie his years, but may truly mark the high point of his storied career. And the combination of the two voices -- at times Plant and Krauss trade leads, at others they are locked in sublime harmony -- is nothing less than mesmerizing, whether they're gliding elegantly through Prine's standard-in-the-making "Killing The Blues" or crooning like Gram and Emmylou on Gene Clark's "Through The Morning, Through The Night." Another highlight is "Please Read The Letter," a tune that Plant wrote with Jimmy Page in the late 90s, but that he, Krauss and these masterful musicians turn into something like a lost classic from 60s Nashville. Then again, literally every track on this record is a priceless little gem, simply not to be missed.

Raising Sand is out on October 23. Run, don't walk, to your record store that day.

MP3: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - "Please Read The Letter" from Raising Sand

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 21: The Ramones - The Palladium, NYC, New Year's Eve 1979


I've had The Ramones on the brain this week, maybe because I've been making my way through the excellent live DVD, It's Alive: 1974-1996, that was released last Tuesday. It features some classic footage of Da Brudders in their punk-pioneering heyday, including a few old TV appearances I'd only had in bootleg quality until now, and is highly recommended.So -- and speaking of The Ramones in their heyday -- here's one of their most popular boots, a stereo soundboard recording from their show at The Palladium in New York on New Year's Eve 1979. The setlist hits the high points of their first four classic records, and even includes one song from End Of The Century, their album produced by the now-infamous Phil Spector, which at the time was about six weeks from being released (and is still my favorite Ramones record).And, for those of you who weren't around back in the day, these guys didn't mess around, especially on stage. 32 songs in 66 minutes. Do the math. Gabba gabba hey.THE RAMONES - 1-2-3-4 DIE (Live at The Palladium, New York - December 31, 1979)Artwork:Front coverBack insert01 Blitzkrieg Bop02 Teenage Labotomy03 Rockaway Beach04 I Don't Want You05 Go Mental06 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment07 I Wanna Be Sedated08 I Just Want To Have Something To Do09 She's The One10 This Ain't Havana11 I'm Against It12 Sheena Is A Punk Rocker13 Havana Affair14 Commando15 Needles And Pins16 I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend17 Surfin' Bird18 Cretin Hop19 All The Way20 Judy Is A Punk21 California Sun22 I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You23 Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World24 Pinhead25 Do you Wanna Dance?26 Suzy Is A Headbanger27 Let's Dance28 Chinese Rock29 Beat On The Brat30 We're A Happy Family31 Bad Brain32 I Wanted Everything[...]

You Might Have Succeeded In Changing Me


(image) Word on the street is that R.E.M. are putting the finishing touches on a great new record. To tide us over until it comes out, we have a new CD/DVD, R.E.M. Live, to look forward to. It's the band's first live CD & DVD package, and it comes out October 16. Featuring 22 songs, it's a document of a February 27, 2005 concert, when the South's favorite sons played a show at The Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland on their tour in support of Around The Sun.

Frank has already waxed eloquent on the meaning of this band to good post-punk Southern boys (and will do so again soon), so I will not attempt to repeat him here. Suffice it to say that R.E.M.'s sense of mystery and Southern mythology, in a time of great and exciting upheaval in popular music, gave us in the American South something of which we were so proud. They were every bit the equal to that awe-inspiring band from Ireland that emerged at approximately the same time, and against whom they were often favorably measured.

I will never forget my best friend Kenny, who at the time lived about 160 miles away, calling me on the day that Reckoning was released. The phone rang. I picked up and said hello. Kenny sang into the phone: "Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean . . ." Naturally, I tunefully responded, "Seven thousand years to sleep away the pain." "Oh good! You bought it," he said. That's devotion, people.

YouTube: Trailer for R.E.M. Live
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Ahhhhhhhh Hey, Hey, Hey!


(image) Apologies for the scant posts this week. If it isn't one thing these days, it's another. Plus, post-burglary, I'm still in the very early stages of rebuilding my digital music collection to a point where I actually have new stuff to share. Among the things that I realized, only yesterday, I had lost for good -- by which I mean, I had no version on CD to re-rip -- was "Cold Wind" by the Arcade Fire, a non-album track that only ever appeared on the final Six Feet Under soundtrack in 2005. But our buddy Scott happened to hear me mention this, and when I came to work this morning, there it was in my in-box. So thank you, Scott -- this is one I definitely didn't want to live without. And for those of you who don't have this in your own collection, here you go. It's so good it hurts.

MP3: Arcade Fire - "Cold Wind" from Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends

In Rainbows


(image) Holy crap, this was a shock this morning. More info at P4K.

I just forked over $80 for the deluxe DiscBox without even batting an eye.

MP3: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers" (live at Madison Square Garden, June 13, 2006)

Talk About The Passion


(image) A quick note (and shameless personal plug) for readers in our part of the world:

On Sunday, October 21, 2007, the Athens Historical Society will present “R.E.M. in Perspective: An Athens History.” The event will be held at 2:00 p.m. in the historic Seney-Stovall Chapel at 201 N. Milledge Avenue in Athens, Georgia. The program will feature two previously unscreened vintage videos of R.E.M. and two panel discussions. The featured videos include an R.E.M. practice session recorded at Wuxtry Records in Atlanta, prior to the release of their first record, and an early performance at the 688 Club in Atlanta.

Biographer Tony Fletcher, author of Remarks Remade: The Story of R.E.M., will open the session with his observations on Athens’ place in R.E.M.’s history. A follow-up panel will discuss R.E.M.’s Athens musical and artistic roots. Among the participants will be artist and filmmaker Jim Herbert, producer John Keane and Wuxtry owner Dan Wall. Oh, and unbelievably, yours truly. A second panel will examine R.E.M.’s social, civic, political, economic and preservation impact on Athens and beyond. Scheduled participants are former Athens mayor Gwen O’Looney, community activist Tim Johnson, and historic preservation advocate Smith Wilson.

I hope a few of you can make it out to the event. To put you in the mood, here's the 7" single on Hib-Tone Records, recorded in the summer of 1981, that started it all:

MP3: R.E.M. - "Radio Free Europe" (Hib-Tone single - A side)

MP3: R.E.M. - "Sitting Still" (Hib-Tone single - B side)

Prove It All Night


(image) Diehard Bruce Springsteen fans probably already know that The Boss put the E Street Band through their paces at two open rehearsals at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ earlier this week, in advance of the massive world tour that starts in Hartford on October 2. (We're still waiting and praying for an Atlanta date in '08.) Tapes of those shows are now circulating, and while it's clear that the E Streeters have some rust to shake off (especially Clarence Clemons), there's also no denying the sheer thrill of hearing the band play together again, and you just know they're going to get nice and tight after a few dates. I'm not going to post an entire show, because only mediocre audience recordings are available (and TTT is all about the soundboard, baby), but here are the first two songs from the show just two nights ago, as Bruce & Co. open with their brand new single, then charge straight into a stone-cold classic from going on 30 years ago. Rust and all, it still brings a smile, and some goosebumps.

MP3: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - "Radio Nowhere" (live in Asbury Park, Sept. 25, 2007)

MP3: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - "Prove It All Night" (live in Asbury Park, Sept. 25, 2007)

Magic is out on October 2, and you can already stream the whole record here.

UPDATE: A. O. Scott profiles Bruce Springsteen and the Magic album in the New York Times.

Look Out, Kid!


A message from our good buddy Tim at Baby Got Books:


Go here to make a Dylan message of your own, "Subterranean"-style. The new Dylan best-of collection is out on October 1.

Radio Cure


(image) Jango is a new webspace, currently in Beta testing, that allows users to set up, program and refine their own radio stations, by selecting favorite artists or genres, then share them with friends or other users. Songs stream in their entirety, the sound quality is nice, and once a user's preferences are established, the site even suggests other artists (s)he might like to try, a la Pandora. Jango is currently available on an invite-only basis, but they've given us access for the first 100 TTT readers who want to sign up (for free, of course) and give it a spin. Click here to get started, and let us know what you think in the comments. (The only major bug at this point is that the Jango player has a tendency to crash the Safari browser, so if you're a Mac user, you'll want to use Camino instead.)

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 20: Neil Young - Chrome Dreams


If you need to come back, come back strong, I always say.First off, my sincere thanks to all of you who expressed sympathy and offered music after my recent burglary experience. I never dreamed that TTT readers would respond the way they did to my misfortune, and it is no exaggeration to say that I was profoundly touched by the reaction and encouragement. So thanks, a million times -- as we say down south, y'all are the best. And once I get my musical bearings, I may take a few of you, especially you Atlanta locals, up on your generous offers. Special thanks, too, to my good buddy Rich, who carried the torch admirably during my 3-week hiatus. Rich, I'm prepared to shoulder some extra weight for a while to make it up to you. Thank you for being patient.Second -- and as I was just about to say when I was so rudely interrupted -- it's about time for some classic Neil Young. Neil's been in the news in recent weeks after announcing that he will release a new album, Chrome Dreams II, on October 23. "Chrome Dreams Two?" many of you may have asked. "When was there ever a Chrome Dreams One?" And the answer is, there wasn't, because Neil's original Chrome Dreams is one of those great lost albums, from the further reaches of rock history, that never saw the light of day, except to boot collectors. The detailed liner notes from this particular version (the "Rust Edition", which draws from the very best sources) tell the tale better than I ever could:Neil Young was on a creative high in 1975. By the end of the summer, Zuma was finished, though still not released. Yet Neil carried on recording his new songs. Sometimes he recorded solo and sometimes with Crazy Horse. Lots of these songs would remain unheard by the public until quite a while later, but by late '75, Neil had already written and recorded versions of such future classics as "Like A Hurricane", "Powderfinger", "Sedan Delivery", "Pocahontas" and "Ride By Llama". He carried on recording in 1976. More great songs were put down on tape, such as "Will To Love", "Stringman" and "Campaigner". Some of us may feel that the Long May You Run album with Stephen Stills robbed us of the natural successor to Zuma, but Stills always suspected that Neil was holding back his best stuff for his solo album. That solo album was a work in progress throughout this period. Titles were reported in the press: Ride My Llama, In My Neighborhood, American Stars 'N' Bars, Chrome Dreams.When American Stars 'N' Bars was released in 1977, Neil had scrapped most of the material he'd been recording since late '75, replacing much of it with a series of rough hewn cowboy songs. Fun stuff to be sure, but had Neil committed the latest in a series of difficult to explain career suicides? Who else, except maybe Bob Dylan, would sit on a stash of such quality songs and not let the public hear them?Tracks 1 to 12 of this compilation are thought to be the unreleased Chrome Dreams album, readied for release weeks before Neil recorded those country hoedowns and rethought his strategy. Some of these song titles will be more than familiar to you, but the actual performances may surprise you."Powderfinger" is performed as an unadorned solo acoustic song. "Sedan Delivery", a second song destined for Rust Never Sleeps, is presented in its pre-punked-up arrangement and, in many people's opinion, sounds all the better for that. You'll also find the definitive "Stringman", a song not given an official airing until Neil's Unplugged set, heard her[...]

The Truth In One Free Afternoon


(image) On their fourth record, Challengers, The New Pornographers are all about dialing things back. That includes a fair amount of the exuberant energy that characterized their first three collections of ebullient, brilliantly-crafted pop music. In fact, Challengers is largely a muted, mellow affair, more ornate and orchestrated than its predecessors, but also far more rooted in emotion than in the simple, knee-jerk thrill of a killer chord change or soaring chorus.

But none of this is to say that Challengers isn't an excellent record. It is, in spades. On tracks like "My Rights Versus Yours" (previewed here back in June), "All The Old Showstoppers" and "Unguarded", head Pornographer Carl Newman continues to display his quirky mastery of the classic pop form, now and then employing his fine falsetto to terrific effect. And as never before, the contributions from second songwriter Dan Bejar, while steeped in his singular styles of wordplay and vocal phrasing, are every bit as accessible and catchy as Carl's songs -- in fact, his NYC travelogue "Myriad Harbor" features the most infectious, sing-along chorus on the record.

But of course, the Pornographers' not-so-secret weapon is the great Neko Case. Her harmonies elevate every song (especially Bejar's -- she truly is the Emmylou to his Gram) into special territory, providing the thread that gives the Pornographers some sort of signature "sound". And the two tracks on which she sings lead, the title track and "Go Places," are the absolute highlights of Challengers. The former, especially, is among the loveliest moments of Neko's career. It's Carl's tune, but once Neko wraps her exquisite voice around it, imbuing it with her unique brand of beautiful melancholy, she makes it completely her own. By the time she sings, "Whatever the mess you are, you're mine, okay?", I'm ready to run away with her (for about the 87th time).

And newest Pornographer Kathryn Calder (who also fronts the excellent Immaculate Machine) has an upfront, chill-bump moment of her own on the gorgeous, twice-repeated coda to "Adventures In Solitude". Any young female singer who can step up and impress in a band that also includes Neko has my immediate respect.

MP3: The New Pornographers - "All The Old Showstoppers" from Challengers

Something Apropos I Don't Know


This is a confession. I am relatively new to Andrew Bird. While Frank can claim something closer to a personal relationship -- and Allen, another of our colleagues, is certainly on a backstage basis -- I (being the only contributer to this blog with a computer at the moment), until recently, only knew what I'd read about Andrew Bird, and own only his newest album, Armchair Apocrypha. That was remedied Thursday evening, when I caught up with Frank and Allen at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse for a full-on (sold out) Andrew Bird show. Thus, even though I feel least qualified to submit this post . . . here goes.To paraphrase Prince and Sinead O'Conner, nothing really compares to Andrew Bird, and I am extremely glad (tired as I was after hanging out with Neil Finn the night before) that I made this show. Andrew Bird is actually something of a musical savant. A classically-trained violinist, he is even more impressive building the loops that create the illusion that he is backed by a small orchestra, switching as he does -- often on a dime -- between the violin and guitar. His music is otherworldly, although extremely sweet and surprisingly hooked-filled. Another aspect of his music that is somewhat unusual is his regularly featured whistling, which is on display far more often than even by Peter, Bjorn & John or Andy Griffith. The man can flat out whistle.As a live act, Bird constructs layers of loops at the beginning of each song, and it is actually a thing of beauty to watch him launch them into action, traversing the stage to different microphones, pedals, and rotating speakers. In this respect, he is perhaps more craftsman than showman, but nonetheless endlessly entertaining. Most importantly, although his music is decidedly off the beaten path, it's not terribly challenging; its relatively accessible and terribly enjoyable. Added to that is a great voice that is equal parts David Byrne, Bryan Ferry, and Jeff Buckley. Not a bad combination.Like growing up in Mississippi and having to see a hockey game live to appreciate its beauty, it really wasn't until I saw Andrew Bird live this week that I fully appreciated his incredible talent. Now I can't stop listening to Armchair Apocrypha, which, if you haven't heard by now, you simply must. And go see him live as soon as possible.MP3: Andrew Bird - "Dark Matter" from Armchair ApocryphaYouTube: Andrew Bird - "Plasticities" on the David Letterman Show[...]

Don't Stop Now


(image) Atlanta was fortunate enough on Wednesday evening to be graced with the genius of Neil Finn and the re-formed Crowded House. On a night that brought the old-timers (like me) out to the Tabernacle, Neil ("Full of Zeal") did not disappoint. Just when opening act Pete Yorn had me questioning why it is that I even like live music at all (with his thirty or so guitarists on stage, all playing the same thing and all, except maybe the Elvis Costello impersonator, apparently even more bored than I), Crowded House immediately reminded me of the joy of live music.

Neil Finn is simply one of the all-time greatest songwriters (if there is anyone better at turning a melody, his or her name is probably Lennon or McCartney) and performers, and the band was in excellent form. It being the last proper show on the tour (of sorts -- I believe they're playing the Austin City Limits festival today), Neil's voice was a little worn, but the crowd was able and more than willing to join in and help out on the vocals. Mr. Finn seemed to take no small measure of delight in this, repeatedly engaging the effusive crowd in impromptu sing-a-longs between songs, and taking the time to teach the backing vocals to his exuberant students before a couple of the numbers. Needless to say, it was a warm reception.

The set (plus two lengthy encores) featured highlights spanning the band's incredible career, along with a generous dose of songs from their excellent new record, Time On Earth. If you haven't picked this one up yet, add it to your list of things to do. It's a mature offering, almost somber in some places (perhaps not a surprising reaction to original drummer Paul Hester's 2005 suicide), and in many ways reminiscent of some of Finn's best solo work (e.g., "Don't Stop Now"), yet has a few instant classics ("She Called Up") that could easily have been featured on an early Crowded House release. In short, Time On Earth sounds less like a reunion record than a band hitting a new found stride. Don't dream it's over, indeed.

MP3: Crowded House - "She Called Up" from Time On Earth

(Expect the Classic Bootleg Series to resume next week!)