RIP Davey Jones

29 02 2012

The Monkees’ “cute one,” the fake Paul McCartney of the group, has died at age 66.  I always liked Davey Jones as a guy — he came off well.  I never thought much of the Monkees’ music, but he was a funny guy and a solid entertainer.



They played “Romeo Delight”

21 02 2012

Van Halen was in my hometown last night, playing The Palace of Auburn Hills.  I love Van Halen but, for reasons I can’t explain, I don’t feel like I missed out by not seeing the show.  Maybe I’ll catch ’em next time.

But just because I didn’t see the concert myself doesn’t mean that I don’t believe it was a noteworthy happening.  I did hear callers and emailers on WRIF this morning, and there seemed to be mixed fan reaction to the show.  Some supposed die-hards were “disgusted” by how “boring” it was and walked out of the concert after a handful of songs.  Other clowns griped about there not being a lot of “fist pumping” and “jumping” in the audience.  Still others said it was the best Van Halen show they’ve seen.

Here’s Gary Graff’s review of it.

What jumped (no pun intended) out at me the most was that Van Halen went deep into their material, playing stuff you wouldn’t expect.  Normally, the big acts play the hits, the songs they think the people want to hear.  I’m of the belief that hits at concerts are fine, but that failure to get past them often shows a lack of depth in material or lack of guts on the part of the performer.

The song in the set list that I would least have expected to hear was “Romeo Delight.”  (One of the WRIF callers, incidentally, complained about that song finding its way onto the set list.)  That’s an underrated song, one of the better tunes on Women and Children First.

Too soon?

17 02 2012

There’s a risk of speaking ill of the dead.  Someone is bound to be offended and, quite often, the person doing the talking is being tasteless to some degree.  I won’t comment on her personal struggles other than to say I find them sad.  I sympathize with more than despise self-destructive people.

Despite having an amazing voice, Whitney Houston’s music was never very good.   The songs that were written for her were trite and formulaic.  She had the voice but not the soul of a real soul (or R&B) singer.  Maybe that’s not fair.  Maybe she could’ve channeled her personal struggles into the creation of very meaningful, very personal songs.  Instead, she opted for the easy money of being a hit machine.

This sounds nasty, but I’m really not slamming Ms. Houston.  I’m railing that her vocal talent was not used to its fullest potential.  She could’ve and should’ve been her generation’s Aretha Franklin.  Instead, she was something closer to a glamorous Janet Jackson (with an amazing voice and no dance moves.)

It’s too bad she has passed on.  Her death should be mourned — at least to the extent that any pop star is mourned.  It will be interesting to see what happens with her most recent major work, the remake of the movie Sparkle, much of which was shot here in Detroit.  I never saw the original, but it sounds like Dreamgirls.  Let’s hope it’s every bit as good of a film as Whitney was as a vocalist.

He’s down for the count! Noel Gallagher releases “Dream On” video

8 02 2012

Great song. Great video.


The truth about A Different Kind of Truth

7 02 2012

Oddly, Van Halen chose “Tattoo” as the first “single” (if there is such a thing anymore) off their first album with David Lee Roth in 28 years.  It might be one of the weaker songs on the album.  Normally I can’t really dig an album the first time around, but I’ve run ADKoT through once, and played a few of the songs a couple of times, and I’m just… stunned.

Diamond Dave is notoriously difficult to live with, to put it mildly.  If you believe Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen is practically certifiably nuts, almost completely incapable of composing a song.  Maybe that was true a few years back; Eddie, it’s no secret, isn’t the clean-living type.  Given the stories about these guys, it’s hard to imagine that they were able to put out anything, let alone a rock masterpiece.

The music on ADKoT proves, beyond any doubt, that Eddie Van Halen is still the best rock guitarist on the planet.  His hooks are infectious and dirty, melodic and gritty.  The album is loud.  Really loud!  There’s no pop like “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” or “Dreams.”  ADKoT has the grit of VH’s first four albums, and none of polish of 1984 or the so-called Van Hagar output.  VH was criticized for resurrecting old material — old outtakes and demos from 70’s and 80’s — for this album, but that best explains why this album has elephant balls.  You can tell you’re listening to Van Halen, but it sounds like the young, hungry, partying Van Halen of the early 80’s.  At the risk of sounding like an ageist, it’s hard to believe guys pushing 60 still have enough fire in ’em to rock this hard.

I expected more songs with a bit of shuffle to them.  It’s easy to imagine that Diamond Dave would try to make an album of uptempo show tunes.  But this is rock, pure and simple.  The only song that has a softer feel is “Stay Frosty,” an “Ice Cream Man” for the 2000’s.  “You and Your Blues” is pure stomp, with just enough pop to make you think of “Jamie’s Cryin’.”

“China Town” is Van Halen doing thrash… well sort of.  It cooks like a honest-to-goodness metal song.  “Bullet Head” isn’t really much different.  It would fit nicely right next to “Romeo Delight.” “Blood and Fire” reminds me of “Unchained,” 3 parts metal, 2 parts pop.  It’s one of the songs that is unmistakably vintage VH.

For “AsIs,” Eddie must have tuned his guitar way down.  It’s got a blues metal boogy with a punk vibe.  Guys half their age would have a helluva time keeping up with it.  Van Halen’s never done anything like “Honeybabysweetiedoll.”  The intro sounds like extraterrestrials of the old B movies. The guitar growls and bites.  “Outta Space” is another big guitar boogy that would be impossible for any guitar rock fan to resist.

The things about this album that jump out at me the most are:

  • Eddie might be playing the best guitar of his life!
  • David Lee Roth can still sing (at least in the studio)
  • Either Wolfgang Van Halen is one of the best bass players around — a far superior player to Michael Anthony — or Van Halen finally decided to put out an album where the bass could be heard in the mix on all the songs.  Whatever the case may be, the kid’s amazing!
  • Alex Van Halen is still among the best rock drummers ever; no resting on his laurels on this album.
  • The lyrics are not atypical for David Lee Roth, but there’s little or nothing on there that would embarrass him.  He’s a more clever — and more eccentric — writer than Sammy Hagar by miles.
  • The true “brown sound” is mostly gone.  Eddie’s new gear sounds so different from the stuff he was using the last time they worked with Roth. But you can still here Eddie in the crunch.  “Big River” is a good example of the brown sound finding its way to the surface.

If you like Van Halen, run to the store or to amazon or wherever and get your hands on ADKoT.  If you just like rock, you’ll have no complaints and  it will be $12-15 well spent.


After nearly 30 years…

6 02 2012

We have a new Van Halen album with David Lee Roth. I’m tempted to go to the last real record store in the western burbs of Detroit, Rock of Ages in Garden City, Michigan, and pick it up at midnight release.

Farewell to Don Cornelius

1 02 2012

Suicides never sit well with me.  Sadly, an entertainment legend, Don Cornelius, took his own life.

If you don’t know him by name, but you’re over 30, you probably know his work.  Don’s best known as the creator and host of Soul Train, a cool, primarily Afro-American dance show that ran from 1971 to 2006.  It was a groovier, funkier, more urban cousin of American Bandstand.  Don was so cool and smooth.  The dancing and music was great R&B, funk, disco and eventually hip-hop.

I was a white kid that grew up in an all-white area.  Despite living only about a dozen miles from where all that great Motown music was made, I didn’t listen to the kind of music that was played on Soul Train.  But I watched it a fair amount.  I was always amazed by the cool polyester outfits, big afros and the great dance moves by those in the audience.  Don always set up the next tune or artist so that you couldn’t help but stay glued to the set.

Don’s death came to my attention by way of a sports talk radio show.  One of the black hosts asked the audience whether we white folks watched Soul Train.  I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I think we did.  I don’t know anybody that didn’t turn it on once in awhile.  It was great stuff in its heyday.

Here’s one of my favorite artists performing on the coolest show around.  Rest in peace, Don.