Known Johnson

November 26, 2008

The week in rock

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 6:00 pm

This is now overdue, as I have other new acquisitions to talk about, but let’s get started with the stuff from the previous couple of weeks before this week, shall we?

Good stuff - all of it, seriously

Let’s go left to right, like we’re reading:

The Police – Certifiable: – Two CDs, two DVDs recorded live in Buenos Aires, 2007, on their reunion tour, on which they pissed off a bunch of stiff yuppie fans who couldn’t handle songs being changed up a bit from their original formats. Me, I love it, and maybe I wouldn’t have hated hearing the songs basically played straight, but my thinking is, if I want to hear the album versions of things, I’ll listen to the damned albums. For a very mainstream band, The Police put on what amounts to a weird show. They are in great form here, but I have to admit I haven’t even touched the DVDs yet – I’m satisfied with the audio portion. One big complaint, however: the packaging is terrible and cheap feeling. The CD/DVD trays are made out of some flimsy recycled plastic crap that feels less substantial than a 2-liter soda bottle, and these are glued to thin paper-board, rather than a sturdier cardboard box that you might be expecting from a 4-disc set. There’s also just a small book of pictures, no text . . . it’s just a really cheap package all around, designed as if it was an afterthought. I’d link it on Amazon so you could listen to clips, but it’s a damned Best Buy exclusive, so just go pick it up if you’re so inclined.

Brad Paisley – Play: You read that right, Brad Paisley, country singer dude. Except here he hardly sings. It’s a guitar album, you see, and it’s pretty hard to classify it as a country guitar album – he pays homage to his influences, from (and I’m guessing here, just based on the styles he displays) Joe Satriani to Les Paul to Danny Gatton. It is tasty good stuff. Admittedly, there are four vocal songs, but those have been unchecked in Itunes so I don’t ever have to worry about hearing them again. I just don’t know who he’s trying to aim this one at. I can’t imagine most country fans are too interested in this more rock-styled album, and I would bet most rock listeners are going to turn their noses up at someone so aligned with country. It’s too bad, they are all missing out on one of the better examples of how instrumental albums should be handled (it’s at least as much about songcraft as showing off licks.)

B.B. King – One Kind Favor: Is King fixin’ to die or something? Because this is one dark album. The album is a meditation on the end days of a man realizing his mortality, but besides that, it is a complete reinvigoration of King as a musician. He sounds fresh and excited to play. How much of that is due to a nasty brush with the flu in early 2007 (when you’re 80, the flu ain’t nothing to mess with) or due to the incredible talents of producer T-Bone Burnett, there’s no telling until he speaks up about it, but the fact is that this is King at his best. It’s raw blues from one of the early masters, and there aren’t many of them left anymore.

Jeff Loomis – Zero Order Phase: The one thing that pretty much destroys my interest in death metal, and I’ll bet there are many others who would support me on this, is the vocal style. It’s either a deep, gutteral growl or a whiny, shrieky yell, neither of which are particularly intelligble, but that never really matters because the lyrics are usually another weak spot – if you pay attention to them. The music, on the other hand, can be incredible – intricate, complex, sometimes incredibly powerful and even beautiful, but then those ridiculous vocals come in and ruin everything. Loomis, the guitarist from Nevermore, has obviously heard my pleas and released an instrumental death metal record. Perfect! And it is – it’s friggin’ great stuff. Fast, hard, heavy, and then there are those moments of surreal beauty, and not a one of them spoiled by the devastation of hearing “GRRRROOOOWWWWWWL!” suddenly appear over top of it.

Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy: Would you believe that? Fifteen years we’ve been hearing about this. And you know what? It’s really good. But you’ll be hearing a lot of bad reactions and I’ll tell you why: everyone wants to make sure their opinion on this is registered. Don’t pay attention to them. I’m seeing reviews from people who 1) care only for Appetite For Destruction, 2) can’t listen to music by any band that doesn’t have Slash in it, 3) never liked the band in the first place, and 4) those who liked both Use Your Illusion albums. The first three don’t have much good to say about it, but they can be discounted immediately – what reason would anyone accept the opinion of someone who just plain won’t like anything by what is called Guns N Roses today? The last one is the one where the reviews are going to matter – they are people who are not simply attached to a band lineup for nostalgia purposes and will give the music a chance, but I do admit there is the annoying problem of the fanboy, those weirdos who think anything and everything touched by their objects of desire is 100% golden. Those are easy to spot, however. It’s safe to say I’m not one of those. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again: I don’t care what the name is, I’m just looking for good music. Call it GnR, call it Axl’s Guitar Club For Men (seriously, you should see the credits – so many guitarists,) whatever. The music would remain the same, and it’s pretty damned good if you open your mind. Sure, it’s excessive and in places it might be too excessive, but it manages to feel like a big, grand rock album, the likes of which we rarely see these days. I don’t want to see this kind of thing make a comeback, but one big epic like this once in a while is a refreshing change of pace from the sometimes too-earnest, straight-ahead, stripped-back rock that has been dominating the market for so long. So, if you’re of an open mind, Chinese Democracy is a surprisingly strong album that wants to be a really great one, and it comes very close. No link – another damned Best Buy exclusive . . .

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