Sunday, September 20, 2009

Relatives of Jack White

I change my mind every time that the wind blows; Don't know what happens, don't know where the time goes; I feel a whole lot better when you come around... (Brendan Benson - A Whole Lot Better)

A couple of recent Jack White related releases have caught my ear; Brendan Benson's An Old Familiar Friend and The Dead Weather's Horehound (another Jack White side project).

Brendan Benson is the co-lead singer/guitarist and Jack White's partner in crime in The Raconteurs. Benson's new cd My Old Familiar Friend is his fourth solo cd and while it may echo The Raconteurs it definitely stands on it's own. Benson's songs are laced with 1970's style hooks that only after a few nibbles you feel yourself being reeled in. The cd leads off with, A Whole Lot Better, 3 minutes of pure perfect pop; Gonowhere displays a kind of Paul McCartney & Wings feel; Garbage Day harkens back to Motown glory; Eyes on the Horizon displays the kind of paranoia that only Ray Davies of The Kinks could write; Misery is another instant winner. My Old Familiar Friend is just that, it somehow instantly feels like you know these songs in a nice fresh way.

The Dead Weather is a whole other thing; a kind of alternative rock supergroup comprised of Jack White (on drums), Alison Mosshart from The Kills (on vocals), Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age (on guitar) and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs (on bass). This is sort of anti-pop, heavy blues, like a modern Led Zeppelin. The cd requires numerous listens to absorb whats happening, but it is worth the effort. The highlights for me are Treat Me Like Your Mother, Will There Be Enough Water, Rocking Horse.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mix Monday: Beatle Covers

One thing I can tell you is you got to be free; come together right now over me... (The Beatles - Come Together) The Beatles are back in the news with new mixes of all their albums (cds) and the Rock Band video game. This is probably the most exciting Beatles week since the release of the Anthology cds back in the 90's.

I've been thinking about all the recent covers of Beatles songs and albums, from Jim James of My Morning Jacket doing a tribute to George Harrison songs to The Smithereens releasing 2 cds worth of Beatles songs; so for today's mix it's all about Beatle covers.

The Smithereens have played tribute to The Beatles on 2 full cds: 2007's Meet The Smithereens and 2008's B-Sides The Beatles. Both cd's are excellent and a review can be found here.

Jim James, leader of My Morning Jacket, under the pseudonym of Yim Yames has recently released a great little EP simply called Tribute To; the tribute is to the late great George Harrison. Buy it here.

In 2005 This Bird Has Flown, a 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles Rubber Soul was released. The tribute featured primarily indy or lesser known artists. One of the artists includes Rhett Miller whom I have been raving about lately.

Steve Earle played a sort of bluegrass version of the above Beatles song on his great 1995 acoustic outing Train A Comin'.

The 2001 Sean Penn movie "I Am Sam" featured an all Beatle cover soundtrack. The excellent soundtrack included Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder doing his best Lennon.

The musical film "Across the Universe" featured all Bealtes songs was released in 2007. The film had some fine moments, but overall was just ok; The highlight was seeing Bono play Dr. Robert and sing I Am the Walrus.

The great Ray Charles covered the Beatles on his 1968 album A Portrait of Ray.

Even Elvis Presley covered the Beatles. Here he does George's Something.

Another really bad musical film that inlcuded all Beatles music was 1978's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The film featured the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, along with many others. One of the songs featured Aerosmith.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Miller, Holsapple & Stamey: Not Attorneys At Law

And in these times, in these times, in these lonely, lonely times, I will sing along... (Rhett Miller - Sometimes)

Sometimes you get a nice surprise from a new CD release that maybe you weren't expecting. Case in point: 2 recent releases have me humming along; Rhett Miller's Rhett Miller and Peter Holapple and Chris Stamey's Here and Now. These CDs don't grab you by the throat and say listen to me, but they subtly tickle your ears and echo in your head.

Rhett Miller is the lead singer for the The Old 97's, the fantastic Texas alt-country band. This is his 3rd major solo release; the first was 2002's The Instigator, a superb and lively affair; his second, 2006's The Believer, was a bit of a let down for me; and now his 2009 release is a return to form. The CD's high points are many; Happy Birthday Don't Die is simply one of the best songs of the year; Caroline, If It's Not Love, Like Love, No One Say I Love You Anymore are strong compositions; Haphazardly and Sometimes are softer tunes that stay with you.

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey were the main song writers and singers of The dBs, the outstanding 1980's college rock band from North Carolina. The dBs were on the cutting edge of the '80s southern pop tidal wave led by R.E.M., Lets Active, The Windbreakers, The Reiveres, etc... The dB's broke up in the late '80s, but in 1992, the duo reunited for Mavericks, their acoustic-folk debut. Mavericks was an excellent and memorable release. Now the guys are back with Here and Now. The high points are the hauntingly beautiful Santa Monica, the title track Here and Now, Early in the Morning and A Song For Johnny Cash. The CD also includes a couple of bonus tracks with the guys updating some DBs classics.