Monday, December 30, 2013

Rage Against the Machine
"Renegades" (CD)

This was Rage's fourth and final studio album.  It was released in 2000, just after Zach de la Rocha had already left the band. It followed closely on the heels of their seminal work, 'The Battle for Los Angeles.'

Unlike their other albums, 'Renegades' is a record made exclusively of covers from a wide-ranging list of artists including Bob Dylan, Devo and the MC5.

For me, it's less appealing than their earlier, original works.  While their treatment of known songs is often interesting and compelling, there's some level of sizzle that is lost.  I'm sure that's a statement engineered to pick a fight with a hardcore RAtM fan, but I'm pretty sure I can take her.
Various Artists
"The Man with the Iron Fists" (CD)

Imagine the meeting: a member of the Wu-Tang clan comes to you and describes a film starring himself living in a turn-of-the-century Chinese village where he must learn to Kung Fu against the evil families with the help of an Australian cowboy.  All set to a soulful set of old-school hip hop.

Who wouldn't sign on for that? Well, no one, apparently.  With co-writing credit to Eli Roth and production credit from Quentin Tarantino, this film knows its audience and went after it with as much grace and finesse as it could muster.

The film itself is far from great, but who really could've expected that? No, what you did expect, however, was fun Kung Fu fight scenes set to bumpin' hip hop.  And that you get. Sort of.

In the film there is a heap of music that has been tweaked for it's own purposes.  A perfect example is the opening credit's use of the Wu-Tang's "Shame on the Nigga" which gets a Far East makeover and is a great asset to the film.  Sadly, that track isn't included on this soundtrack.

I'll never quite understand how so much of the most memorable music in a film can be excluded from the official soundtrack, but once again, I would say this is a compilation that falls far short of it's potential.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Joy Division
"Unknown Pleasures" (Vinyl)

The debut album from the British post-punk band Joy Division was released in 1979. It proved to be the first of only two albums that Joy Division would release before the untimely demise of lead singer Ian Curtis.  The rest of the band endured as New Order, but the Division albums have built a healthy cult following.

I can't say this is a genre/time I've mined too much. The post-punk years in Great Britain are largely outside my sphere of knowledge. I only mention that because for me a healthy portion of my understanding of music can come from knowing where we were and where we were headed, musically speaking.  The music on this album comes from a time and geography that is largely foreign to me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Charles Bradley
"Victim of Love" (Vinyl)

Bradley's sophomore album was released earlier this year (2013) and has been quietly sitting on my record shelf ever since. Shame on me.

It's not that there's been a 'hit' single off of the album that has started to garner attention for the 65 year-old singer, but rather Bradley's dynamic performances have been garnering attention worldwide as he tours with the Menahan Street Band. He's growing to be viewed as the disciple of James Brown, picking up where Soul music left off.

At first listen, this album doesn't seem to stretch too much from his previous.  The distinctive instrumental stylings of the Menahan crew are quickly becoming their own idiom.  This is fine with me.
I think the next think Charles Bradley & Co. should do is release a live album in an attempt to capture the energy from one of his concerts.  I think this is where people would realize just how good Charles is.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

B.B. King & Eric Clapton
"Riding with the King" (CD)

Two generations' greatest blues guitarists didn't go into the studio together until 2000, 52 years into B.B.'s career and 38 years into Clapton's.   What came out of those studio sessions is a glossy, well-packaged romp through several blues standards.

Underwhelmed is the word I'll use for this album.  In theory, it should have been crazy nuts, but it feels tamed, middle-aged and overly produced.  It sounds very nice on my stereo, but there a parts of me that feel it shouldn't sound quite so nice.  There's no grit. No dirt under the fingernails.
It's not a bad album, but it's not great.
"Little Queen" (Vinyl)

Heart's sophomore album was released in1977. Sort of.  Court battles with their previous label (Mushroom) meant that "Magazine" was technically released prior to "Queen."  When the litigious dust settled, however, "Queen" is officially regarded as their follow-up to "Dreamboat Annie."
It contains their biggest hit, "Barracuda" and carried the hard rock torch the band earned on from their first album.
I'm developing a real soft spot for this band's early works. (Their later output is still up in the air) but I love the sound of these albums, the hard-hitting and inventive instrumental playing and Annie Wilson's throaty vocals.
Leopold Stokowski, Philadelphia Orchestra
"Disney's Fantasia" (Vinyl)

This is the original vinyl release of the soundtrack to Walt Disney's seminal 1940 film that set popular classical works to film.

This whole project was a phenomenal technical feat, incorporating the performance given by the Philadelphia Orchestra with the fantastical visions playing out on the screen.   This project was slated to become a recurring series, with additional classical musical masterpieces set to film.  Sadly, it was abandoned, save for the one-off 'Fantasia 2000' that revisited the idea.