Known Johnson

June 26, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for June 27, 2006

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 9:31 pm

Mike Keneally Band – Guitar Therapy Live: Like the Rush Replay X3 DVD release a couple weeks back, I can’t even begin to pretend to be impartial here. Keneally is absolutely one of my all-time favorites. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to steer you wrong – if I thought this wasn’t an easily palatable platter of fine phonic fun, I would have little problem saying so. And that is most definitely not the case here.

With Guitar Therapy Live, guitarist Keneally has wittled the results of several seemingly spectacular shows down to one solid disc. I usually have problems with multi-show “live” documents, but sometimes they’re just done right and luckily I can say that’s how this one turns out. Instead of feeling like it’s been edited together and suffering from being the sum of many parts, GTL becomes the greater whole. Even long-time fans who may have traded with other fans (with Keneally’s consent) for dozens and dozens of his shows will find this a pleasing set. There isn’t a dud moment in the entire runtime.

For those new to Keneally, he is best described as the heir to the Zappa throne, and don’t take that lightly. While many may toss out the obvious names of Steve Vai and Zappa’s own son, Dweezil, Keneally is the only guitarist who possesses the skills and taste needed to pull off what Frank himself could. Because Keneally is humble, you’ll probably never see him mount a project such as Zappa Plays Zappa (also because he wouldn’t technically fit the bill) but he absolutely deserves to be the one playing those solos. The spirit of Zappa lives on in Keneally – except maybe not as vulgar (you actually can play Mike’s music for your entire family without fear of needing to skip over anything!)

Those interested in obtaining a session of Guitar Therapy are HIGHLY urged to do so via Keneally’s official site where they can purchase the deluxe edition, which will not be available in stores and which features a bonus DVD of a full, uncut performance shot live last summer (some of which was used for the audio disc.)

Brad Mehldau – House On Hill: Mehldau’s classical-meets-jazz style playing intrigues the hell out of me. There’s a rigidity to some of his work that strains at the liquid core of his trio, who are a more traditionally jazz-oriented rhythm section of drums and bass. That’s not to say there’s anything particularly traditional about Mehldau’s music – it’s equally beautiful as it is cutting and slashing, and often at the same time.

While last year’s Day is Done introduced new drummer Jeff Ballard, House On Hill marks the final trio recording of Jorge Rossy, who left to pursue new avenues of music and to spend time with his family in Spain. What remains to be seen is if House On Hill can top Day is Done – I have a feeling not, because that was a truly incredible piece of work, and Ballard was an absolute key to why it worked so well. House On Hill, however, will likely be another beautiful entry in Mehldau’s catalog, and a fitting goodbye to Rossy. It just may have been more satisfying for everyone had the release dates been switched.

Grant-Lee Phillips – nineteeneighties: The great Grant Lee Buffalo may be long gone, but the heart was always just the voice and guitar of Phillips anyway, wasn’t it? In between takes as Gilmore Girls‘ resident town troubador, Phillips found a few free moments to record this stripped down tribute to his favorite songs from, you guessed it, the 1980s. Before you start rolling your eyes, give it a chance – his choices are slightly more obscure than you might think (REM’s “So. Central Rain,” a strangely fitting Hawaiian take on the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation,” believe it or not) and even ones that are slightly more obvious are so fitting for his voice that you simply have to hear them – such as the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” (I was sold on this the moment I saw that mentioned – I could hear his voice handling this very well, and from what I’ve heard, it’s as beautiful as I expected it would be.)

Richard Thompson – 1000 Years of Popular Music: The story goes that Thompson was asked by Playboy magazine to write a piece about his favorite songs of the millenia, for, as you might guess, a turn-of-the-millenium story they were doing. He took it literally, unlike most others who partook in the project who just dug back to the ’40s and ’50s, and went back to the beginning of the millenium for inspiration. Thompson’s work was all for nought, of course, because Playboy chose not to use his piece, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a solo performance to feature the songs he chose, which was released on his website for purchase. A few years later, he decided to re-perform the songs with a trio in front of cameras for a DVD release, and this set is the result – a DVD and two CDs of the audio from the show.

I’m a new convert to Richard Thompson’s camp, and I’m sure this is just going to overwhelm me, but the idea of someone covering music from, as the title suggests, the past 1000 years, and it’s not done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, like “Oh, get a load of this old medieval crap!”? Not to mention a completely serious cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” (about which AllMusicGuide notes he has said, “Taken out of context, this is a pretty nice song.” It takes a big man to say that.) Well, I just have to check that out. Come on, aren’t you curious, too?

June 25, 2006

Everything I learned, I learned mowing the lawn

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:26 pm

You just can’t pick all the weeds out of the grass. Sometimes you just have to mow them down. You’ll see them again someday.

June 22, 2006

Haiku by two

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:09 pm

Haiku giant cat head (for a birthday card)

One giant cat head
Made of many cat pictures
Means “happy birthday.”

Haiku cream cheese warning

No cream cheese warning
I put it on my bagel
I wanted butter.

True story. I wanted a bagel this morning and I hate cream cheese. I toasted my bagel and saw a large vat of slightly yellowy stuff that I assumed was a lightly yellow butter. So if you find yourself asking, “Hey, self, is it a massive vat of light-colored butter or just yellowy cream cheese?” It’s cream cheese. It’s just a general rule I’m going to apply from now on.

And no, I didn’t eat the cream-cheesed bagel. I actually bought two friggin’ bagels – I threw the one away. Yes, I am a good person. I probably could have left the befouled one on the counter and pretended I knew nothing about it, but I’m just not that way. Sometimes we have to pay for the lessons we learn in life, even dumb ones about butter and cream cheese.

June 19, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for June 20, 2006

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 11:21 pm

This is a cool and varied week of releases. Let’s get right to it:

Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime (Deluxe Edition): One can only assume that Capitol Records is using the recent release of the dreadfully dull and pointless sequel to Mindcrime as a reason for this lavish 3-disc offering being released this year – 19 years after it hit the markets – rather than next year when it would be a milestone 20th anniversary. Whatever the case may be, this is a reissue not to be missed by fans of the album. What you get is a gorgeous new package – a big book in a slipcase, the remaster of a few years back (with bonus tracks intact,) a DVD of the long out of print Video: Mindcrime, and the big deal here for fans, a live recording of the original Mindcrime that is not sourced from the notoriously thin, lifeless material used for the LiveCrime VHS/CD boxset. Nope, this is a previously unreleased concert from the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England, Nov. 15, 1990 that promises to be pretty good. Honestly, it can’t be much worse than LiveCrime. Mindcrime, one of the greatest concept albums of all time (maybe THE greatest concept album of all time – yep, I said it,) deserves better treatment than it got with LiveCrime.

Bruce Dickinson – Anthology (DVD): A simple title for a very impressive release – three DVDs packed full of previously nearly impossible to get Dickinson material. Sure, you know the dude from years of fronting the greatest metal band of all time, Iron Maiden, but have you made yourself familiar with his incredible solo career? Now’s a great time! Just last year he released his entire back catalog with bonus discs for nearly all albums, plus another killer album – they’re all worth your time, and they’re all better than anything Iron Maiden did in the 90s, I’m afraid to say.

This DVD set is probably not the best place for new fans to start, however – this is clearly aimed at long time fans. You know the type – the ones who hover over Ebay auctions of obscure old videotapes and pay exorbitant amounts for things. This is aimed directly at them to save them so money. So what’s on it? One disc bears the weight of two long sought-after VHS catalog entries – Dive Dive Live, which documents Bruce’s first solo tour, and Skunkworks Live, cleverly titled and shot live on the tour in support of that album. That would be enough for me right there, but disc two contains Scream for Me Brazil, which is a later solo period show. But that’s still not all – there’s another disc compiling all of Bruce’s solo videos (minus his latest album, Tyranny of Souls, sadly – why, I don’t know, so don’t ask me) plus some various other footage. But don’t trust me – Blogcritics’ Chris Beaumont has a great in-depth review of this monstrous (and amazingly cheap) package.

Pearl Jam Live at Easy Street: I was all prepared to write this up with no link to Amazon for this, because all the hype I’d read about this kept saying how this was going to only be released to indie stores, no big chains, etc. Well, joke’s on me, Amazon’s got their mitts on this thing somehow, so you won’t have to go deal with all the indie kids and their piercings and attitudes as they scoff at you buying lowly Pearl Jam EP like this. And what is it? It’s a little 7-song live album/EP/whatever recorded a short time after their stunningly great new self-titled album was released at a record store called, you guessed it, “Easy Street.”

Counting Crows – New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall February 6, 2003: I know what some of you are thinking, “Hey, is anything new this week?” Well, yes, but this is not one of those things. I wish I knew why the Counting Crows are releasing this concert now, three years later, but I just don’t. They are, and that’s the simple truth of it. Deal with it and let’s move on. If you opt to pick this one up, you might want to head to your nearest Best Buy, as their giant, shiny gears of mercenary merchandising machinery have managed to crush the competition once again by snatching up an exclusive bonus track of some kind for their version of this release. What this is, there’s no telling until you get this in your hands.

Front Line Assembly – Artificial Soldier: Ah, there it is, one actual new release. At least that I’m covering. There are others, I know, but I have to focus on something, so let’s just let it be the things that piqued my interest. This is one of those things.

I’ve been following Front Line Assembly since the industrial revolution hit music in the mid-90s. I can’t say I’m a die-hard, but every album, I find myself picking it up out of curiosity and I’m almost always surprised at how much more mature it is than I was expecting. Industrial’s just not a genre that tends to age with me very well, I have found – it began to sound more and more ridiculous the older I got, for the most part, but there’s a grand, cinematic quality to FLA’s music that keeps me intrigued enough to keep coming back for more. So colore me intrigued, again, at another Front Line Assembly album.

June 16, 2006

Bipedalism

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:42 pm

First she conqured sitting up, then babbling, then crawling, then standing, and finally last night . . . Amanda walked! It was only a few short steps, but she repeated it a few times. She’s well over a week shy of 10 months old. This is too soon – I’m still trying to catch my breath chasing her around the living room as she scoots around on hands and knees. Now she’s going to a much quicker means of transit – two feet. Soon she’ll be able to run . . . and climb . . . can I weigh her down with things to hold her back a bit?

And to be totally anticlimactic, she’s got her third tooth popping through as of this morning – top front left, to be exact, for those of you playing the home game.

June 14, 2006

Haiku Forgotten Frisell / Fargo Rock City

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 8:58 am

Forgot Frisell show
He came to Phoenix last night
Read a book instead.

It wasn’t until 8:38 pm last night that I realized that last night was the night of the Bill Frisell show that I’d so been looking forward to. To tell you the truth, dear Reader, after nearly three days of varying migraine pain, I really wasn’t up for it anyway. As much as I love his music, it may just be destined to be love from afar. And that’s okay. Music lover that I am, I’m not much of a concert goer. I will see him someday, when circumstances are just right. They were just not “just right” this time.

Instead I got absorbed in reading Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, ordered after reading favorite Blogcritic Mark Saleski’s take on the book. If you grew up in the 80s listening to hard rock and metal as I did, this book is probably going to entertain you quite a bit. I’m only about 50 pages in, so I can’t offer too much in the way of criticism other than to say that his rant about Def Leppard is unwarranted – for a band that stated repeatedly that they didn’t want to be labeled a metal band, to rip on them for not being a metal band is kind of pointless, isn’t it? But, being honest, if he’s as spot-on as he with all the other bands and trends as he seems to be, he’s probably pretty correct about Def Leppard, too. I can take it. And I’m anxious to get back and take some more.

Indeed

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:38 am
What a pair

Someone in Yahoo’s news division has a sense of humor. How else can you explain the amazing coincidence that the alt text for this rather revealing image of actress Joely Fisher just happens to mention just enough of the “What a Pair” benefit to make a joke out of it?

June 12, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for June 13, 2006

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:09 pm

Rush – Replay X 3: I won’t even try to be impartial here. I’m not going to fool anyone. Rush is my band. Not that I’m in the band, of course, but they’re mine anyway. And today they finally fulfill a wish many a fan has had: put out those old concert videos on DVD!

When I first got into Rush, back in the early 90s, one of the first things I did was head to a big chain video/music store and check out what videos they had. This was back in the day when these places made sure to carry a really wide variety of stuff – if a band had a video out, they’d most likely have it, mostly because they couldn’t afford not to carry it lest they lose that one rental to another store. So if it was available, they’d have it. And even if it was out of print, they may still have it. And have it they did – or them, I should say, as they had both of the live videos Exit . . . Stage Left and Grace Under Pressure.

My friends and I watched them a few times and that was that – back they went and life went on. I hadn’t been hooked by Rush quite yet and so their out-of-print status didn’t really mean much to me. (I bought a copy of the then still in-print A Show Of Hands video tape, of course, and it still remains in my collection today.) It wasn’t until a few years later, when I got into the internet Rush community, that I realized these videos were long gone and that I’d lost my one chance to grab onto these and hold them dear by, as others had, (oops!) “losing” them and paying back the store for them. There was always hope they’d go back into production again. They never did.

When this new-fangled technology called “DVD” started to appear on the horizon, hope began to glimmer that we’d soon see these long-lost concerts released, but year after year, nothing.

And now, finally, after years of fretting and wondering, those original concert videos are being released. The thing is, with years to fret and wonder, the fans start looking at all the other concert videos being released from other bands’ vaults with all this extra footage and they ponder the possibilities. What could Rush dig up for these that we’ve never seen?!

Well, it turns out . . . nothing. When I said “original concert videos” above, I wasn’t kidding. These are the same things we saw on video years ago, just cleaned up and made real nice. And I’m not trying to be real nit-picky, because I’m thrilled to even get these on DVD, because I haven’t seen two of the three in 15 years, but it is rather hard to be as excited as I would have been when I see that it’s just the concerts, the same old lineup of songs, and nothing more. It’s possible nothing else exists, but seems unlikely, especially after comments last fall from someone involved with the band and their archives mentioning finding the entire source material for the Grace Under Pressure concert, and that we would likely get to see the whole thing soon. Well not here we won’t.

Even A Show Of Hands remains exactly as it was on videotape – not the slightly expanded Laserdisc that was released with “Lock and Key.” Why, no one but the band can answer, and it may turn out to be the same answer that Geddy gave when asked why the R30 material was trimmed: basically, he doesn’t know anymore, but he thinks it was not really a good idea in retrospect.

Let’s not focus on the negative – it’s far too easy, and as bad as it sounds, I really am very excited about this. I’m just critical. Regardless of the slight flaws, just having this material again is the big deal. The band keeps mentioning that all this “missing” material is going to show up somewhere sometime soon, which hints at a retrospective boxset of some type. Now THAT is exciting. But until then we’re just going to have to keep ourself occupied with these great concerts. I can handle that.

Believe it or not, there’s actually other stuff being released today. Let’s get on with it:

The Futureheads – News and Tributes: Man, a couple years ago I really thought XTC was on the verge of a huge revival, what with half of the new bands stealing their early sound. But somehow they got entirely overlooked and all the attention fell on Talking Heads, the Jam, and a few other bands of the same period, all equally deserving, but come on – XTC deserves a pretty big moment in the spotlight too. I am absolutely convinced that without XTC, most of these bands would not exist today, and the Futureheads are one of them. That’s not a bad thing – the Futureheads stealing the sound of English Settlement-era XTC is okay with me because few have been able to do it very well. Maybe XTC will get a second chance now that the Futureheads’ second album is coming out. That’s probably what they’re hoping, too.

The Replacements – Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was?: I honestly can’t say I know the Replacements that well. I know – my credibility just went down the toilet. My wife’s a fan and I’m aware of them through her, but that’s about all. I know their legend, and I actually quite like some of Paul Westerberg’s and Tommy Stinson’s music quite a bit (Bash & Pop is an overlooked, out-of-print gem, Perfect is the band few even seem to know about, and Stinson’s own recent solo album is sadly ignored,) but aside from that I really don’t know their music. Sad, I know. Maybe this will rectify that.

Rhino is releasing this best-of preceding a complete catalog remaster due out this fall (just in time for Christmas, of course!) The story I have seen is that those Twin Tone master tapes the band claim to have destroyed in a drunken flurry way back were really not the real master masters, so what we’ll get this fall is finally the best sound quality their music should be able to be available in. Consider this a preview, if you want, with the added bonus of two brand-new songs recorded in December 2005 by the band.

Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend (Legacy Edition): Oh, don’t look so sour. It’s been 15 years since this came out. Your old copy is probably scratched all to hell by now. If you love this album as much as you claim you do, and everyone does, you’re probably jonesing to hear more. Now’s your chance. Sony’s Legacy division has packed the two disc with 31 tracks consisting of the original album, of course, plus a slew of demos, live tracks, and radio sessions, plus the usual extravagant packaging with the big booklet full of essays and photos.

Big Brother may not be listening, but someone is

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:31 pm

One of those sites that somehow ended up in my Bookmarks folder that I thought was hilarious and then, somehow, immediately forgot about is Overheard in New York. The title pretty much says it all – things overheard in New York.

See, here in Phoenix we don’t spend much time on the streets. We spend our time in cars. It’s hot. You’re crazy if you walk around during the day. But elsewhere, it’s not like you just opened a heated oven and put your head in there, and so you get to overhear all kinds of weird stuff. I supposed if you hung out at the mall a lot you might hear some interesting things, but, really, that’s just not good for your health in any way at all.

Some of my favorites found today:

Velour Trip

Guy on drugs: What are you on?
Girl on drugs: Um, a couch?
Guy on drugs: No, what are you on?
Girl on drugs: A couch!
Guy on drugs: What drugs did you take?
Girl on drugs: Acid?

–Roxy, W 18th

via Overheard in New York, Jun 6, 2006

These Kids And Their Crazy Slang

Little punk rock guy to tall hipster guy, sarcastically: Nice beard.
Tall hipster guy: Yeah, you want me to smash your face!
Little punk rock guy: Shit nigga, now I wish I had a beard to absorb that shit.

–Union Pool Bar, Williamsburg

via Overheard in New York, Jun 5, 2006

Bad Copies of Coach, Prada, Supernanny

Guy selling belts: Getcha belts here! Five dollahs! Belts! Only FIVE DOLLAHS!
Touristy man passes by with 10-year-old son.
Guy selling belts: Getcha belts to hitcha kids with! Talking to them don’t work!

–W 65th St

via Overheard in New York, Jun 5, 2006

Similar, But More Expensive

Hipster chick #1: I wish they had a whole pizza made of crust. I would so buy it.
Hipster chick #2: Me, too!
Queer: You mean bread?

–Pino’s La Forchetta, Park Slope

via Overheard in New York, Jun 4, 2006

That Funeral Gets Two Thumbs Way Down

Tiny, incredibly old woman: And all that stuff about Sadie having a good heart?
Tiny, incredibly old man: Yeah.
Tiny, incredibly old woman: What a cold bitch.

–Squires Diner, Cliff St.

via Overheard in New York, May 18, 2006

It’s hours of fun.

Feline early warning

Filed under: General — Tom @ 2:08 pm

I realize I’ve written quite a bit about migraines lately, and if you’re not interested, well, for that I can only half-heartedly apologize: there are millions of other websites to visit, and this is currently my biggest issue – I’m going to write about it.

That said, this particular issue should be pretty interesting to everyone: one of our cats, Bentley, seems to know when I’m getting a migraine. I’m not crazy, I swear. Bentley, a sweet, nearly silent but slightly temperamental brown tabby, whom I refer to as our living stuffed animal because his fur is unnaturally soft and luxurious, has taken to waking me up in the middle of the night, which is when I most often seem to get attacked by migraines. And he’s insistent. He jumps up, jumps on my chest, or side, whatever is presented to him, and will bump my head with his, which is a common thing he likes to do to show affection. And that’s all I’d taken it for until today. On some nights, like last night, he refuses to let me sleep. Instead, he bumps, then he paws, and if he still gets no response, he contines to bump, paw, and lightly scratch until he gets what he wants – or what I thought he wanted, some attention. And he rarely ever makes a sound – except last night, when he sat by my side of the bed on the floor after I plopped him there when he took up too much residence on my pillow. There, a few quiet times, he produced a few of his odd little chirpy meows and pawed at the side of the bed.

When he woke me up last night, I came out of a deep sleep, confused, groggy, very tired, and I wanted back. I’ve made note of odd colors and light formations late at night before, as often attributing them to my (the drug I take for my migraines which begins in “Top” and ends in “amax,” written this way because of damn bots spamming my comments) as to migraines, and last night there were more. I ignored them – groggy and sleepy, I wrote them off, again, as just a side-effect, despite knowing what I already knew from the past three weeks, but more because I’d just had a migraine that afternoon. Surely I wouldn’t already be getting another, right?

When I woke up this morning, I found out the answer: yes, I sure could. And that’s when something hit me. Bentley had been following me around yesterday morning shortly before I left for the trip in which I not only got gas and lunch but also got a migraine aura, and he’d been circling around me as I walked, chirping and squeaking, something that is very unusual for this nearly silent cat. I thought back to my previous overnight migraines and it hit me – I hadn’t gotten migraines from poor sleep because Bentley woke me up. He knew something was not right with me. He knew something was wrong those nights and he knew something was wrong yesterday morning. And he knew something was wrong last night. I should have paid attention. From now on I will.

And, for your information, I’m not crazy and I’m not the only one. Here’s a whole thread on a migraine newsgroup where others report their pets acting unusual when they have migraines. I’ve heard of epilepsy patients whose pets picked up on early warning signals and alerted their owners, and recent studies suggest a link between epilepsy and migraines, so this might make more sense.

I stayed home from work today, took my Fioricet to dull the pain, and it’s okay. I don’t feel like doing much, but the edge is off and so I can actually do some things. There’s enough caffeine in the Fioricet that I sure won’t be sleeping anytime soon, that’s for sure.

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