Tuesday, December 27, 2011

20 Seconds of Insane Courage...

This isn't a review as much as it's a reaction to an amazing movie.  Pure inspiration and joy caused this outburst of Jerry Maguire-esqe rambling (I even had The Who's "Getting in Tune" playing in the background)...

So We Bought A Zoo was a knockout. With a Cameron Crowe movie you are guaranteed a couple things...

1) A great soundtrack and perfect music cues  
Only QT and PTA have come close to matching Crowe's perfect ear for using a moment of a song an actor.  His choices for the Vanilla Sky soundtrack alone should have gotten it a supporting actor credit.

2) Great performances from his actors  
Great directors bring out the best in their actors.  Simple.  Everyone he's worked with has seemed to come to the conclusion that they end up seeing a little of Crowe in their final acting product they put on the screen.  His talent and passion is contagious.

3) An amazing script
He has a way with conveying emotion that is more real to me than any other writer/director...ever.  I've always said nobody reads his lines better than Tom Cruise...well Tom might have found some stiff competition with Matt Damon.  The shouting scene between the father and son in We Bought A Zoo is written and acted so well you forget you're watching a movie.  It's as real as anything else you'll see this year.

Here's a couple of my favorite movies...that happen to also be films he wrote and directed...
We Bought A Zoo- See below...an easy Top 10 this year.
Elizabethtown- I enjoyed it the first time I saw it in theaters, but the second viewing was much more enjoyable in the end.  The epic couple hour long phone call between strangers played by Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst will forever bring me back to this movie over and over.
Vanilla Sky- One of my favorite movies of all time.  This is to me a true masterpiece.   I absolutely love everything about this movie.  Every cue of music is perfect.  That final climb in the elevator to David's conscience truth in the climax is perfect on every level (no pun intended...or maybe).
Almost Famous- I need to revisit this one soon, but this movie had me fall in love with Kate Hudson, much like Elizabethtown had me with Kirsten Dunst.  The fact that Cameron basically lived this life at that age is almost as amazing as the way he told it as an adult.
Jerry Maguire- Probably Crowe's greatest achievement overall...and it's all about a sports agent who grew a conscience.  Nobody on the planet could have played Jerry Maguire like Tom Cruise did.  The Oscar should have been his that year, along with Crowe for screenplay, film and director. It's a tie with Vanilla Sky for me for best of Crowe/Cruise.

So...whatever the definition of a soul is, he manages to always grab mine with his movies. His movies are beautiful. Matt Damon also plays the "every-man" better than anyone else around (he did it in Contagion as well this year). Everyone shines in this movie. Crowe engages everyone and infects them with whatever power he has to make everyone leaving his movies feel better about life, because there are already enough movies out there to show how bleak life can be. It's true, all we really need in life is 20 seconds of insane courage to accomplish something great. Crowe has been doing that his whole life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How I became a monster: The unlikely transformation into a Lady GaGa fan

First of all a huge shout out to @SoPoeticPhil, he got me inspired to start writing again, check out his blog (Phil's blog)...


I love music.  It is the one true love of my life when I stop and think about it.  Out of all the albums and bands I admire, there have always been three bands that I consider my cornerstones of music and inspiration to everyday life...

The Beatles


The Boss & the E Street Band

Those bands each build on achieving what I think is the ultimate goal in music and any profession you choose...fearlessness, an un-quenching creative flow that never quite climaxes, because it can't, and always asking the question, "Why not?"...i.e. never settling for the status quo.  ALWAYS pushing the envelope in whatever it is you're doing.

Well to be quite honest there is a part of me that feels disappointed in the music that is being put out nowadays, even though I hate the cynics who repeat that ever so annoying phrase, "Music was so much better in the ____ (fill in your decade of choice)".  So many musicians nowadays just seem to be satisfied with staying put and being safe.  I've been searching for bands and musicians that are striving to achieve that goal mentioned above.  Little did I know that I would find it in the Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga.

Now it was no surprise for my friends to take a collective gasp when I announced that I had finally come to my senses that Lady Gaga is putting music on the right course.  To most people I'm seen as a metalhead, or an old school music lover who could never evolve to the music of today...

Well I surprised myself and my friends.  Now I'm not a huge fan of the meat dresses and the egg arrivals, but when I sat back and read her story, her inspirations (her name was taken from the monster Queen hit, Radio Ga Ga) and her goals I was taken aback.  Especially by this song...

Here's a song that has an amazingly catchy and uplifting chorus...i.e. the first thing that hit me.  I'm a sucker for big sweeping arrangements, and big powerful voices.  Gaga's voice is so on point and strong throughout this song that it forces you to believe every single word that she sings.  Another thing that struck me about this song was her choice of guest musician...THE BIG MAN...Clarence Clemons!  She truly respects the rich history of music and choosing The Big Man to play with her was a stroke of genius and a great treat to us fans of his...especially because of his sudden passing this year.  It makes his solo even more triumphant because this is a song about claiming ownership over your life, so when you are breathing your final breath you can look back and realize that you were the champion of your own fate.  It is impossible not to feel that emotion during this song, and that is hard to accomplish for any musician to achieve.

I also took notice of her as a performer during the VMA's this year.  Dressed as her alter ego (Jo Calderone) and ripping through an thunderous version of You and I.  It also helped that she got guest guitarist Brian May to join her on stage to the delight of myself as well as a very excited Dave Grohl (who the cameraman happened to pick up at the moment of arrival).

Now I'm not calling Lady Gaga the savior of music, because frankly music doesn't need a savior.  There has always been good music out there, no matter how many auto-tuned future has beens arrive, there is always someone waiting in the corner to jump into the spotlight and shake the music industry up, which is what it needs every so often.  And that is what I'm trying to say about Lady Gaga.  I have a long way to go in terms of diving into her music catalog.  I've only really discussed one song, but a huge song none the less in terms of opening my eyes to a performer who is more than the outrageous outfits, more than the tabloids and taboos, more than the magazine covers and interviews, she's 100 percent true to herself and isn't satisfied with limiting her creativity to anyone.

She is fearless.
She pushes the envelope.
She refuses to accept the status quo.

...it also doesn't her she got Clarence Clemons and Brian May to guest on her album.

I've got my eye on you Gaga, but rest assured it is as a budding fan, not a cynic who thinks music's glory years are behind us, if anything we just might be on the edge of music's glory...the best is yet to come....always.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I recently re-watched the film Valkyrie about the last attempt to assassinate Hitler.  Like most people (Americans or otherwise) I was completely unaware of this until I saw the film.  Which in it's own right speaks to how powerful and important movies can be.  The film doesn't try to be a history lesson, which is clearly stated throughout the commentary (which was great by the way), it simply tells a thrilling story with interesting characters, it just happens to be all true.

The movie succeeds on two major points for me...
1) We already know the ending, nobody killed Hitler before he took his own life.  So we in effect are being shown a movie that we know the ending too, but I still found myself literally on the edge of my seat (not just using the expression).  So nothing is "spoiled" or "ruined" by already knowing the outcome.

2) IT GOT ME INTERESTED IN A HISTORICAL EVENT.  That is enough of a point right there.  I'm not saying I don't care about history, I do...but it set a spark of interest in me so that when the credits started to roll I was already looking for books and documentaries on the subject to light a full on fire (again the 2 disc DVD has a great 45 minute documentary on the actual event).

Like the movie I don't mean to give a history lesson with this blog, partly because it's almost 3 in the morning, and partly because there are far better writers who have written great books on the subject.

No I just felt it appropriate to try and explain to you what this whole assassination attempt means to me and should mean to the rest of the world for as long as we're around.

What theses men did, and not just in Operation Valkyrie but throughout the war on both sides trying to get rid of a mad dictator was and still is inspiring.

I took a great interest specially to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.  A man who while served in the German Army during WWII, was NEVER in the the Nazi Party.  He fought because he felt it was right to fight for his country, but from early on realized something was wrong.

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg
Some scholars as well as conspirators at the time argue that Operation Valkyrie was too little too late.  Some even suggest that it was all in the Axis' plan to have the Allied Powers feel sympathy for their defeat and that they were doing nothing but covering their own asses.


You have to realize that the attempts on Hitler's life had been going on for years, and that this final and most famous was to reach the final planning stages days before the Allied Powers even invaded Europe on June 6 1944.  The bomb went off July 20th.  If they had succeeded in killing Hitler that would have stopped the war 9 months earlier and saved nearly 12 million lives.  I hardly doubt this was solely an attempt at good will in the eyes of the conspirators.

They wanted to WASH the blood and dirt off their sacred Germany.  They wanted THEIR country back from the grasp of an evil crazed madman.  They wanted to prove that there was a pinpoint of light in the darkness.

The wreckage from the blast
Hitler wasn't killed July 20th as we all know, and in his place over 700 were rounded up for the plot and nearly 200 were executed.  Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg along with others were taken outback and executed by firing squad hours after the attempt failed.

But I don't think it was a failure.

Did the bomb kill Hitler?  No.  Was Germany the sacred Germany again?  No and the conspirators who gave their lives were seen as traitors for a decade after the fact.

Even after Hitler was gone, people were still afraid to admit they were wrong.

But failure?  No.  Hardly a failure.  These men renewed a spirit in their country and the world.  The closest another human being came to killing Adolf Hitler was from his own army.  Men who realized that enough was enough and they didn't serve a man...they served a COUNTRY, their families, and their heritage.

COL Stauffenberg was missing an eye, a couple fingers and his entire right hand.  But he was given the duty of arming the bomb, and delivering it.  Why?  Because even though he was a physically broken man, he was hardly a spiritually broken one.  He is someone who should never be forgotten. And is proof that you can stand up and do the right thing even if your entire country is engulfed in the wrong.  There is no medal, or pin big enough for a man to carry or wear that can capture what those men attempted to do July 20th.  While they failed to kill a man, they helped save a country.

Memorial for the July 20th Plot
You did not bear the shame.
You resisted.
You bestowed an eternally vigilant symbol of change
by sacrificing your impassioned lives for freedom, justice and honor.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Albums I Dig...Nevermind

I am thankful to Nirvana for two things...

1) With a couple distorted power chords and a couple throat tearing wails, they forever banished and destroyed "cock rock" and hair metal, and put the final coffin in the embarrassment that was rock n roll in the 80's...

2)...and armed with those weapons at their disposal became without a doubt the greatest and freshest band of the 90's as well as a band that will forever stand the test of time.  A fearless band, full of promise and angst, love and sorrow.

Now what can be said that hasn't been said about Nirvana's second album Nevermind??  Well one thing is for sure, whatever "sophomore slump" most bands suffer from with their second album, Nirvana definitely dodged and buried.

The opening chords to the opening track Smells Like Teen Spirit are the chords that began a revolution in the kids that heard it.  This revolution, this song was for every kid who suffered through the music of the 80's, bands that were too worried about how they looked, what drugs and booze they took, and how many women they had waiting for them on the bus.  It was all sex and drugs, and very little rock n roll.  This was the kick in the balls that every hair-sprayed idiot needed who thought of themselves as a "musician". This opening track alone was a rebirth in music, and it was going to be a loud one.

SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT is a song that is almost more famous then Nirvana.  It is a perfect blend of calm and calamity.  People always say how they can't understand a word Cobain is saying in this song, well in a way it's almost a non issue...what is important is that he's screaming it with every thing he's got, and two lines that SHOULD be heard and possibly the clearest...

Here we are entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious

This was an open challenge to the ones responsible for turning music into a sideshow.  Whether Nirvana knew it or not, they were forming an army of believers and this was the song that they were going to march into battle on.

The album really doesn't take a breather when it comes to classic Nirvana tracks, after the full on assault that is SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, they dive right into In Bloom.  An explosion of riffage and drums.  But it also displays one of the Nirvana's best talents...their dynamics.  This is something they obviously took from some of their biggest influences, mainly The Pixies.  Instead of beating you to death with a riff over and over again at the same volume in every song (which they did do to some great effect in some songs, don't let me fool you) they would switch tempos, and volumes.  The softest verse could be the loudest in terms of emotion when put next to an ear splitting chorus.  Nirvana got it, and nailed it on IN BLOOM.

Ah Come As You Are...another brilliant use of dynamics and the chorus setting on the amplifier.  The title is simple and insanely open and welcoming, but at the same time the guitar part being played over Cobain's vocal always had me uneasy, something wasn't entirely safe, and that is why this song is so haunting.  While we shouldn't feel threatened by the song, we still are, because who truly comes into a relationship entirely as themselves?  While "heavy" metal bands must have been pissing themselves after hearing SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, COME AS YOU ARE must have had the pop rock bands scrambling back to the drawing board.  Brilliant song.

I've said it before in my blog about The Pretty Reckless' album Light Me Up...I love bands that have a somewhat softer song, whether it's in volume or lyrical content and then immediately open up the flood gates on the next track, just to throw the listener for a loop.  Well welcome to Breed.  This is a song to crank up real loud, roll the windows down and get dirty looks from the other cars around you.  It's only been a couple tracks and Nirvana already was showcasing their ability to throw their sound all over the place, into whatever formula they wanted for a song.  BREED chugs along and never lets up, a classic among classics.  Speaking of classics...Lithium is beautiful.  I really don't think anything else really needs to be said about this song.  It's almost like every song before it on the album was preparing you for its power and strength.  That's the thing about Nirvana, you never know where they are going, their dynamics are that good.  The lyrics of this song are some of my favorite that Cobain ever wrote.

I'm so horny
That's ok my will is good.

What "rock star" would sing about their will against their sexual drive?  Nirvana was the real deal, they weren't in it for money, fame, and girls.  This song has the heaviness of SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, the quite verse brilliance of COME AS YOU ARE and the unrelenting push of BREED.  Not too bad Nirvana.

Oh yea and it's a song that's chorus consists of mostly...

Yea Yea Yea!!!

But after hearing it, you wouldn't want it any other way.

Polly is the first true rest that you get as a listener.  This is a song that you need to hear a couple times to truly understand it's sheer power.

Go ahead, I'll wait...

Ok, first of all Cobain's vocals are amazing.  The harmonies are astoundingly good for a rock band.  What else is astounding is the fact that they'd release a song like this.  The story goes that Cobain saw an article about a girl who was kidnapped and finally escaped by being "human" to her kidnapper, connecting with him in a way that he could only stare in astonishment at her humanity.  Cobain saw that, and decided to do the unexpected and write from the perspective of the guy who abuses the woman "Polly".  You end up being just as stunned at Cobains humanity and beauty in his lyrics as the criminal who witnessed the real life humanity of "Polly".  Territorial Pissings...ehm...I think the title says it all.  Again Nirvana reminds us that even though they have haunting thought provoking songs, they still have songs that can test the strength of your ears and your speakers.  The band is in full force and Cobain is a monster on vocals...and screams.  His voice is cracking and breaking just as much as the beat and guitar riffs.  This song really echoes to their first album Bleach, and their complete assault on the ears.  The end of the song is hardcore punk brilliance.  DRAIN YOU again has its moments in dynamic mastery as well as another use of great double tracked harmonies, especially and most profoundly on the chorus.  The song is simple, as well as effective.  But just when you think you have Nirvana figured out...they break down the song


Dave Grohl's drums keep the beat going and the occasional guitar flurry reminds you that the song is still going on, until...


Back to the beginning of the song, but this time the intro verse is heavier and a little more in your face.  A simple idea, and very effective.  Nirvana never gets boring and this is a song that showcases that all to well.  Lounge Act has a killer bass line from Krist and an even killer vocal performance from Cobain.  His voice was really one of a kind.  I have yet to find a singer who has such a beautiful melody in his voice that could at the same time scream like an ABSOLUTE maniac.  The end of this song will have your ears on edge, and a phantom pain in your throat.  Stay Away is a song that starts with a build up that when it erupts it doesn't let up.  Cobain's vocals sound strained and chaotic, and as a fan of Nirvana I wouldn't want it any other way.  The song itself is pretty clear in its intentions, stay...the fuck...away.

On A Plain is a song so catchy you almost forget it's Nirvana.  It is a song about...how to write a song, and introduces a phrase that is classic Nirvana...


That had to be a crystallizing moment for some kids listening to this album when it was released.  A moment of power that they really do matter and had this band to confide it and listen too.  A simple line with a lot of weight and power, classic Nirvana.

The final "official" track, Something In The Way might be the greatest song Kurt Cobain has ever written, and one of the greatest song ever written PERIOD.  This song separated them from all the other rock/hardcore/"grunge" bands out there...it provided the final hidden weapon in Nirvana's arsenal...melody, and a simply beautiful one at that.  You see while all the other hardcore bands coming out of the 80's seemed to rebel against bands like The Beatles, Nirvana embraced them.  Their love of melody, complexity in simplicity, all can be traced back to bands like The Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all huge influences on Cobain.  The barely audible cello holds up the chorus and accents Cobain's double tracked vocals to perfection.  Again, this is a simple song, and that was exactly what Nirvana was going for.  The kids born out of the decade that was the music of the 80's needed something new, fresh, simple and bare.  There was something in the way...and Nirvana pleasantly bulldozed it out of existence with this album, and forever changed the world of music.  Whether the band knew it or not this album gave kids something to hold onto, something to physically have in their possession at their greatest time of need.  The complaint that people think the album is too mainstream is nonsense, an album needs to be heard, and this one thankfully was many times over.

...ah yes the hidden track Endless, Nameless that appeared on some copies of the album, a perfect bridge to the mayhem and brilliance that would be my favorite Nirvana album, and their swan song...In Utero.  Complete noise and chaos, I really love this song.  The power this band displayed was amazing.

Cobain and company (Krist and Dave) truly created a movement, reluctantly took the reigns and steered music back to where it should have been all along.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Albums I Dig...Tug of War

Paul McCartney is my favorite musician of all time.

It really is as simple as that.  It can never be overstated what he has done for music, and his effect on pop culture.  He came into the music scene right when the world needed him, John, George and Ringo.  And it was with those 3 band mates that he reshaped how we listen to and perceive music forever.  I can't imagine what would have happened to music if John had never met Paul...

But as everyone knows when the 60's came to an end, so did The Beatles, and for the first time, all 4 Beatles went on their own...a refreshing, but also scary challenge for all of them.  Me being a McCartney fan I dove into his post-Beatles career the furthest and enjoyed gems such as his debut McCartney (in which he played every single instrument), Ram, Red Rose Speedway and Band on the Run (the latter two with his band Wings).

Paul McCartney & Wings
The great thing about McCartney's solo career is that he is always reinventing himself.  After the Beatles he released a real deal solo album (McCartney), then decided to start another band...Wings.  He proved that lightening could in fact strike twice, and was awarded hit single after hit single throughout the 70s.  As well as recording one of the greatest albums of the 70s, Band on the Run.

McCartney & Wings' Masterpiece
But what interested me most was how he reacted professionally to the death of his best friend John Lennon.  I say professionally in the sense as a musician...he disbanded Wings and spent his time on his first official solo release after the death of his friend and his band...

1982's Tug of War.

Possibly McCartney's greatest solo album sans-Wings.  Immediately the front cover sparked something in me, the colors and the look of concentration on McCartney's face, completely in tune with the music coming from the headphones.  One thing I also wasn't a huge fan of in the 80's music was...well 80's music.  I believe that McCartney did a great job of not making the album just an "80's album".  Sure there are some 80's sounding beats and synthesizer here and there, but it is McCartney's melody that changes everything...his strongest weapon.

The album literally starts in a tug of war, and then gently slips into McCartney on an acoustic guitar crooning away.  The title song Tug of War is his introduction to a new decade and he has never sounded more confident.  You can feel that the song is about to explode at any moment, and he masterfully holds back just a little longer then you'd think.  When all the instruments finally come in, you know that McCartney is back and ready to reclaim the top of the charts.  Another weapon that McCartney also had at his disposal was the legendary producer George Martin, who always orchestrates brilliant string arragements, and this song is no different, nodding in and bowing out in with complete grace throughout the song.

The second track (Take It Away) takes no time at all to start and begins with another legendary McCartney bass riff and soon slips into a full on McCartney master class in melody.  If this song doesn't have you tapping your foot and singing some kind of backing vocal, you have no soul and might want to get your hearing checked.  It never ceases to amaze me how McCartney seems to so easily write what seem like simple beautiful little melodies, and then you try and deconstruct them and realize this is a genius at work.  Everyone's favorite drummer Ringo comes back and lays down another great "lets get down to business" drum part.  Again this song surprises with a nice horn section at the end that brings to mind Got To Get You Into My Life off of The Beatles' Revolver.

The next track (Somebody Who Cares) starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar and again takes the album in another direction reminiscint of Band on the Run.  This song has again those classic lyrics that are meant to inspire and comfort, which is another weapon that McCartney uses masterfully.  He was never one to slip into the "rock n roll" attitude of needing to shock and disgust or put on a persona of not caring, being loud and crude.  It was this refusal to conform to a rock n roll lifestyle that in itself is quite bad ass.  He knew the power of family and love were stronger then anything else could ever be.  This song only further proves this point.  Keep an ear out for a beautiful acoustic guitar solo...

The next track is one of my favorites on this album...the beautifully funky duet between McCartney and Stevie Wonder (and not the last on the album) that is What's That You're Doing.  A six minute plus all out jam that has Wonder and McCartney trading vocal riffs and scat scaling brilliance.  This is a song to turn up and go crazy too.  This song only further proves McCartney's genius at crafting songs with so many different styles and attitudes.
Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
Let's just recap the first four tracks...
Tug Of War-Arena rocker
Take It Away-Sing-a-long pop song
Somebody Who Cares-Acoustic ballad
What's That You're Doing-All out funk rocker

...and that is just the first four tracks.


Next is a song that wouldn't be easy for anyone to write, not even the great McCartney.

Here Today is Paul McCartney's moving tribute to his friend John Lennon.  It is simple in its chord structure and melody, but far from simple when it comes to being able to sing it.  Whenever McCartney sings this song live he always seems to get a lump in his throat, which is moving for two reasons, one that you are seeing a man sad about the loss of his friend, and two that it still upsets him 30 years later.  This is vintage McCartney, and one of his most profound songs.
The mood is quickly shifted with the next track called Ballroom Dancing.  This is a song that showcases McCartney's often overlooked vocal ability.  He is EVERYWHERE on this song, multiple harmonies, screaming, crooning, everything.  It is an interesting idea for a song, that "ballroom dancing" made the narrator of the song, the man that he is today...but just as you think you are starting to understand the idea of the song, at 2:26 the song changes the tempo and melody at a breakneck shift.  Where that riff came from I'll never know, but it is just another nod to McCartney being able to craft an awesomely complex pop song.

The Pound Is Sinking is somewhat of a look at the money issues of the times (1982) but it also a stand out on the album.  The guitars swirl along with McCartney's double tracked voiced (at times) and again McCartney changes tempos, and melodies at will and with great ease.  McCartney's grasp on pop music is astounding.  He throws everything in this song, whether its a waltz infused verse, or an all out scream vocal avalanche that would make Queen blush.  But he always ends where he begins, and this song ends just as strong as it begins.

Ah Wanderlust...probably my favorite track on the album, and what George Martin called probably his favorite McCartney vocal of all time (Beatles or solo).  It starts with something almost Billy Joel-esque, which is cool since Joel is a monster Beatles fan, but then goes into a complete master class on vocal ability and some of the most precious melodies this world has ever heard.  If anyone ever doubted McCartney's talent after The Beatles, this is one of the first songs you need to have them sit down to and let sweep them away.  This song is magical.  This song is perfect.

Get It sounds very much like a track from his debut solo album McCartney.  Carl Perkins lends his vocal to this nice little country inspired duet.  A toe-tapping delight of a song.  McCartney uses his voice as percussion again reminiscint of his early solo days, and the guitars tangle together in a beautiful little melody.

Be What You See (Link) is a gorgeous and haunting little vocal piece, that I wish lasted longer.  McCartney is always experimenting and this piece is truly beautiful.  After that little intro of sorts the band kicks into full force with Dress Me Up Like a Robber.  A nice jam that has every instrument going full force and standing out in different little moments.  Again McCartney's voice is all over the place and the riff the band lays down cuts right to the chase.  Another classic spin on the love song courtesy of Paul McCartney.  Here is the full song...Be What You See (Link) + Dress Me Up Like a Robber.

The final track is probably the most famous that the album produced, as well as its biggest hit, Ebony And Ivory.  Stevie Wonder joins McCartney again, but this time on a ballad.  These two should really write an album together, because their voices complement each other really well, at times it is hard to tell who is who, and that is quite impressive, seeing how both of these musicians have astoundingly good voices.

This album put McCartney back on the radar for most critics and fans alike.  This was another rebirth and renewal in the life and music of Paul McCartney.  I like to think that Paul McCartney channeled his love for his dear friend John Lennon throughout the album.  It is brilliant to think that McCartney turned tragedy into love and took all that he learned from his experiences as a musician into one of his best albums.

Monday, May 9, 2011

THE BEST SONG OF 2011...Walk-Foo Fighters

Wasted Light
So I'm coming to the Foo Fighters party a little late...

I have always had them on my radar somewhere though.  I definitely always thought it was awesome that Dave Grohl was from the Northern Virginia area (made me proud to be from the area, our own Springsteen).  So fast forward to a couple weeks ago and I finally buy my first two Foo Fighters albums, In Your Honor (the epic double album), and their newest Wasted Light (the hard rocking, heavy riff and melodically infused beast of an album).  Now I will probably discuss in more detail what made those two albums instant classic for me, but for now there was ONE track that completely blew me away.  The best song of 2011...

Walk (Studio Version)
Walk (SNL Performance)

I can only assume and relay what I read about Dave Grohl's writing process for this album and song.  I know that they recorded it in his garage and that probably led to a very creative and personally passionate working environment for him and the band.  Dave said in L.A. Weekly (source songfacts.com check it out, great website!) "You're surrounded by friends and family and nostalgia, and you're singing about the last 20 years of your life - that became a part of the process."  Once I read that, and started to project my own life on the album and what Dave was talking about I realized how amazing the arc of this album actually is, and especially the song Walk.  That you learn to become the person that you were meant to be.

A child's first steps are their most important...they stumble, fall and try again.  Dave seems to learning to walk again, his love for life, family and music seem to be oozing from the speakers.  He is so renewed and rejuvenated that he defies death.  He shouts to the heavens that he never wants to die.  We can only be so lucky that we reach a point in our life that we can scream at the top of our lungs that we never want to die.

Think of that.

To be so happy with where you are that you refuse to be content with the inevitable end.  Anyone who listens to this song should have a chord struck in them somewhere that they want to reach that state of happiness and renewal.  That they want to learn to love again, smile again, and walk again.

The following lyrics are a fucking motto to live by...


A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

Do you remember the days
We built these paper mountains
And sat and watched them burn
I think I found my place
Can't you feel it growing stronger
Little conqueror

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

For the very first time
Don't you pay no mind
Set me free again
You keep alive a moment at a time
But still inside a whisper to a liar
To sacrifice but knowing to survive
The first to find another state of mind
I'm on my knees, I'm waiting for a sign
Forever, whenever
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I'm on my knees
I never wanna die
I'm dancing on my grave
I'm Running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I Never wanna die
I Never wanna leave
I'll Never say goodbye
Forever, whatever
Forever, Whatever

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ok so this is a list that I found that I did awhile ago back in college.  There are plenty of albums I'd add on here...but at the time it was asking what 25 albums changed you and inspired you at the time.  It was kind of cool to go back and see what I was listening to a couple years ago...

1. "Born to Run"--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I've been listening to this album since I was 3 years old (there is video VHS proof haha). And as I get older the album makes more and more sense and has become the soundtrack of my life. Nothing comes close to this. The fact he was in his early 20's when he wrote the entire thing (mostly on a piano) inspires me to get my ass moving and do something. Hell I'll probably write an entire other note on this album.

2. "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
The Boss' first album was one I got into as I was older. That's right HE wrote "Blinded by the Light" NOT Manfred Mann...haha. It's an album where he pours his heart and soul and more lyrics then most bands have in their entire catalog (fearing this would be his only album...)

3. "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle"--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Yea there is a reason the Boss is on here so many times, and I'm not done yet. I didn't dive into this album until about high school and what a perfect time too. This is storytelling at its best, and where the E Street Band started to really take shape. "New York Serenade" will send a chill down your spine, and "Rosalita (Come out Tonight)" still makes me smile thinking about the mischief of High School and what the boys would do to impress the girls.

4. "A Night at the Opera"--Queen
I mean do I really have to explain this one? There are probably two other bands that hit every nail on the head and fired on all cylinders like Queen did on "A Night At The Opera" (I'll let you fight that one out yourselves as to who you think the two are). It is a show, it is entertainment, it is mind blowing, it is grand and over the top and THAT is why I love it. Oh yea...um..."Bohemian Rhapsody"?!

5. "The Great Southern Trendkill"--Pantera
Some have called this album Pantera's softest album, that's probably only because two songs have a clean guitar tone instead of the usual one or none. But any album that starts with Phil Anselmo screaming his ass off and the guitars bass and drums in a controlled chaos testing the quality of your speakers speaks for itself. This album changed what I thought heavy metal was. It was a statement on what it could be and how it should be. And any album that goes from the haunting acoustic deep vocalized Suicide Note Part I, into the bombarding spastic heavy as all fuck Suicide Note Part II is good enough for me (also it has the greatest head banging riff of all time, Mick I know you know what I'm talking about.)

6. "Master of Puppets"--Metallica
I figured I'd keep the metal alive for a couple numbers, and keep it going with Metallica's masterpiece. This album had me listening to the first track "Battery" for close to a week before I hit the next track button, I was convinced there wasn't anything better...Sweet Lord Almighty was I wrong. Not only was the next track "Master of Puppets" but I ushered in the rest of the tracks that would build the foundation of what I judged every metal album I'd listen to from there on.

7. “Misfits”—Misfits
Ok so this isn’t an actual studio album, but it is the first volume of two chronicling the Danzig (founder) years of The Misfits. This album introduced me to punk, to The Misfits. This is as raw, as brutal, and as politically incorrect as you can get with a slew of 2 minute anthems about murder, death, aliens, bank robberies, relationships gone wrong, movies, and JFK. The production sounds like every song was recorded with a cell phone, but to me it only adds to the messiness and rawness of The Misfits.

8. “Absolution”—Muse
So this is the band that I’ve been searching for all my life…well it’s about time I found them. Radiohead fans leave the criticism at the door. Muse does what most bands wish they could do, and they do it with only three members. The mood of the album is about as happy as a Scorsese picture, but it doesn’t leave you feeling empty after you listened to it. In fact, you feel like you’ve heard something you never thought possible. Imagine Queen of the 21st Century, with new technology and an obsession with the end of the world. There is more to being just extremely talented at your respected instrument (which every member of Muse is); it is also about how creative and fresh you can be as well. Listen to “Butterflies and Hurricanes” if you have any doubts at all. Every single note inspires me, it’s insane. Not to mention they saved my ass with getting through a couple of seminar presentations.

9. “Weezer (The Blue Album)”—Weezer
Pop rock at its best. Rivers Cuomo (lead singer/guitars, founder) showed me a new bread of songwriter. He showed me pop rock could be 1) really good 2) and taken seriously. Not only is he a Harvard Grad, but he has a formula written on how to write the perfect pop song. Obviously 15 years later, it still is relevant and makes sense. As a lowly high school student falling in love with what seemed to be every couple of months Weezer was always there with an anthem or pop jewel to summarize my thoughts. Now as a college student who is trying to figure out his life and what to do next, the songs aren’t on repeat as much as they used to be, but are always available for a quick jump in the nostalgic time machine.

10. “Rust in Peace”—Megadeth
As a Metallica fan, buying a Megadeth album was the equivalent to being a Yankees fan and buying a Red Sox hat. Although I’d never do anything as stupid as buy a Red Sox hat, I am glad I bought “Rust in Peace” a long time ago. At the time I was stuck in a bubble of what I thought metal (mostly the heavy genre) was supposed to sound like. Within the first 30 seconds of this album and its opener “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” I had to retrace my steps. I had no idea where this album was headed, whether it was a Spanish inspired acoustic guitar fill, harmonic laced thrash riffs, slow brooding chugging guitar riffs, or lightning fast (and I mean lighting fast) guitar solos. If “Master of Puppets” was Metallica’s masterpiece and opened my eyes to metal, Megadeth’s masterpiece “Rust in Peace” held them open Clockwork Orange style to make sure they never closed.

11. “Alive!”—Kiss
I wanted the best and I got the best…the hottest band in the world from 7th grade and beyond is Kiss. This is a live album and one of if not the only album that actually captures what Kiss is truly capable of. There isn’t anything mind blowing, or lyrically earth shattering, and that is absolutely perfect. This is a loud, rockin’ album full of vintage Kiss. Whether it was shouting, “How ya feel?!” or “Rock and Roll!” to the audience, playing a guitar lick from painfully slow and slowly inching faster and faster until it is nothing but feedback and notes being thrown around from speaker to speaker, exploding fireworks and fireballs, or just jamming to a Kiss klassic (I had to do it) for 10 plus minutes. This is a live album that helped me sign my life away to the Kiss army.

12. “The Rising”—Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I had been awhile since I heard any new Boss and hadn’t listened to a lot in the tail end of my high school years. Then after September 11, 2001 the Boss put out an album that only he could have done, but first he needed his band back. This was the first album of all original material with the E Street Band since 1984’s “Born in the U.S.A.”. The reason I love this album so much, was because of two main things…it was a reflection of what we just went through as a country, and how to deal with all the pain, as opposed to singing a song about kicking ass (we’d have plenty of time to do that in the coming years), and because this was an album everyone in the United States could bond with and through. This light a fire under my ass to dig up old Boss cassettes and CDs and start listening again, as well as reflect on the events of that infamous day.

13. “Morrison Hotel”—The Doors
You didn’t think I’d have a list of 25 albums and not have a Doors album on it did you? You got to love Jim Morrison and his legendary ways, the 20th century Greek tragedy. Although it was their first album “The Doors” that had the song that mesmerized me to the speakers (The End), it was this album that summed up The Doors to me. I’ve always believed Mr. Mojo Risin’ had one of the greatest voices in not only rock but music history (Blue Sunday). While their self titled debut got me hooked, it was “Morrison Hotel” that got me stuck. Land HO!

14. “Metallica (The Black Album)”—Metallica
Many years ago, a good friend of mine (Sean my brotha) and I found a cassette labeled “The Black Album” in his house during a jam session, and hit play. Needless to say we sat memorized for the entire runtime unable to comprehend the heaviness of Metallica’s best selling album to date, “Metallica” or better known “The Black Album”. I still remember hearing the drum/guitar intro to “The Struggle Within” and just laughing at how fucking awesome it was. This was the first Metallica album I ever bought, and the first I ever listened too. Where “Master of Puppets” was what helped to set the foundation, and “Rust in Peace” was what renovated it, “The Black Album” was what the entire foundation was based off of. The album will never sound as good ironically enough as it did on that old speaker system off of that old cassette ever again. This one was a life changer.

15. “Reign in Blood”—Slayer 
I’ve been shinning the light on Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera pretty strongly throughout this list, and now it’s time to shine a light on the greatest, fastest, most evil thrash metal band of all time…Slayer…or excuse me…SLAYER! The first time I heard 1986’s thrash masterpiece “Reign in Blood” I couldn’t really understand what was going on, or even sit still, it was so fast that is sounded like Tom (singer/bassist) was rapping and the reason the songs were so short must have been because they couldn’t stay on beat for much longer…Finally I went out and bought the damn thing and sat and just listened from beginning to end, not interruptions…all 28 minutes of it…that’s right 10 tracks…28 minutes. This album is so demented and evil that it got the classic “parental advisory” sticker and only says “fuck” once, I guess chanting “Praise Hell Satan” or “Enter to the realm of Satan” will piss the mothers on the board of censorship off well enough, and did. I wouldn’t recommend this album to just anyone, listen at your own risk, but if you are going to listen, put headphones on and crank it. This album makes Metallica sound like Simon and Garfunkel, and Megadeth like Air Supply. 23 years later and no metal band has come close to defining thrash metal like Slayer did in 1986, and no one ever will.

16. “Pinkerton”—Weezer 
Jeez talk about a complete genre switch…Weezer is the exact opposite of Slayer in every way possible, but this album was and is just as big as an influence on me as anything else on this list. This album is probably one of the most depressing albums I have ever heard…here’s the rundown…Rivers (founder/singer/guitarist) wrote the album about basically one girl, every song, and how much he loved her, and in the end she didn’t love him (classic right?)…including a classic about falling in love with the perfect girl only to find out she is a lesbian (only Weezer could pull that off). So needless to say I was feeling like Rivers was living in my brain when he wrote this album, except for the falling for a lesbian part, he hit the nail on the head. This is the album full of anthems you listen to after some nasty break-up or even worse before the damn thing ever got started, and never did. The album is raw and open for all to see, and is one of my favorites of all time.

17. “Born in the U.S.A.”—Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Ahh…The Boss is back. I thought it would get boring if I just put every Boss album back to back in the beginning so I had to spread him around. This was my favorite album/thing/anything when I was younger. This was all I would listen too, day in and out, singing lyrics that I didn’t understand, and running around with my plastic guitar mimicking my idol on TV. I know I sound like a complete nutcase when it comes to Springsteen, but this is what happens when something or someone’s music changes your life, at least in my case. I fell under the spell as a young lad thinking the song “Born In The U.S.A.” was a patriotic fist pumping anthem only to find out as I got older, it wasn’t that at all, I’m starting to hear things differently and things are starting to mean more to me now then they ever did, and that is why his albums will always be on my list.

18. “Scenes from A Memory”—Dream Theater
I’m not really sure where to start with this one…it’s one of the most complex album on all fronts that I have ever heard…lyrics, story, and of course music. This is the album that introduced me to Dream Theater (beware fans of the 2-3 minute radio friendly song). Their average songs are 10 minutes, and their longest is 42 (although the suite they are working on stands at an hour and 30 right now and it’s not done). These guys are the best at their instruments, and to have them all together in one band is astounding.

19. “Vulgar Display of Power”—Pantera
I’m pretty sure the title says it all. Not to mention the album cover is a ready and willing fan being punched in the face. If only I knew the foreshadowing the cover would have…This album feels like a repeated punch to the face, and I love it. This is Pantera’s masterpiece and completes the fourth cornerstone of metal albums…along with Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace” and Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”. There isn’t a single dull song on this album. Even their “love ballad” kicks you in the mouth and asks “what the hell were you thinking?” Not only does this album have its multiple metal classics…it also has one of, if not the most haunting song (not just in the metal genre) I have ever heard…Hollow…I’ll leave it at that.

20. “Sam’s Town”—The Killers
So Brandon Flowers said it was going to be something along the lines of the best album in the past 20 some years and that pissed some people off…mistake? Well maybe he could have just let the music do the talking…While I’m sorry to say it isn’t the greatest album of the past 20 years, it still is a damn good one. This album actually caused me to get off my ass and go get it at midnight the morning it was released, so that has to say something. While “Hot Fuss” gets a very VERY high honorable mention, I have to give The Killer’s “Sam’s Town” the nod as the album that helped me get serious about music again. I’m not talking about writing and trying to become a musician or “artist” blah blah, nonsense…I’m talking about just sitting down and listening to an album again and getting the inspiration going. This is an album that takes you somewhere, and I definitely enjoyed my stay.

21. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”—The Beatles
So I always thought it was interesting that you would get made fun of for liking The Beatles in elementary school and middle school because they were “old” and it was what “my mom and dad listened to”, but as soon as you walked through those high school doors everyone’s favorite band was The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Well I was that nerd who loved The Beatles from the beginning or at least 4th grade. This was my first concept album, and at a time when Korn and Limp Bizkit were ruling the charts and everyone’s walkman, I had Sgt. Pepper’s blasting in my ears (for a little kid that song was heavy as hell, and still carries its weight today). Not a single note is wasted, and the idea of a band playing a band has been used to no greater effect then the masters who did it the first time.

22. “Origin of Symmetry”—Muse
I’m tempted to just say “Space Dementia” and leave it at that…seeing how long this damn thing has become, and letting you discover the rest…but I won’t…I’ll also say “New Born” and “Citizen Erased”…it’s that simple.

23. “…And Justice for All”—Metallica 
Soooo Metallica can get technical when they need to eh? If I’m not mistaken this was my second Metallica album, and the first of my little metal buddies to hear it and to explore its uncharted territory. Let me just say I must have had the biggest fucking grin on my face when I heard the opening track “Blackened” for the first time. I wanted to run over to my nearest friend’s house to show them this amazing thing that I had just heard/discovered. I didn’t know riffs could sound that complicated, fast, and clean. This was a Metallica I didn’t know existed. These weren’t the guys who were singing about banging your head, addiction, and H.P. Lovecraft novels…they were singing about the end of the world, political corruption, death, destruction, and dropping an “f bomb”. You see for Metallica at that time, saying fuck was only common during a live show, and for a little kid, having a audio recording of James Hetfield utter “fucking” was awesome. This proved metal could be complex, dark, and smart.

24. “Led Zeppelin II”—Led Zeppelin
If “Led Zeppelin I” was the blues, “III” the acoustics, and “IV” their greatest hits… “II” was their heavy rocker. As a little kid desperately trying to find a band that was heavy, but also still sounded good and talented I ran across the almighty Led Zeppelin. Very stupidly I bought their “Early Days: Greatest Hits” before anything else…stupid…stupid…stupid…never do that with any band. So after that I bought their discography in order, I, II…stop… “II” was exactly what I was looking for back then. It had the heavy chugging guitars, the slick sexy solos (“Whole Lotta Love” is still unreal) and the high whinny wail I wanted in a band at the time. It wasn’t until the last track, “Bring it on Home” that I knew I had found an album that changed my life. Lying on my bed with my headphones reading along with the lyrics for the always important first listen, I was blown away by the sudden change from the bluesy harmonica guitar song I thought I had pegged, into the ROCKIN harmonized guitar drum driven coda. Oh yea and that drum solo?!

25. “Darkness on the Edge of Town”—Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Ah the end of the road. And why not end with the Boss? This is the album that when I listened to it all the way through for the first time (many years after it’s release) I knew I was a different Boss fan then when I first started as a 2-3 year old running around my parents house in Germany trying to do exactly what the Boss did on TV. While I couldn’t identify with being married and divorce, and really love at that point, I could identify with the fact that I wanted to do something, but I had to find that something first. That is in essence what every album has meant to me; a puzzle piece to finding that something that will make me truly happy, and feel like I earned my place in this world. It may sound hokie and that’s probably because in all honesty it is. But these 25 albums do mean a lot to me, and there will probably be many more then 25 to come. But to quote the Boss and “Darkness on the Edge of Town”… “Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop, I'll be on that hill with everything I got, Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost, I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost, For wanting things that can only be found, In the darkness on the edge of town”