In 2002, Tom Waits released Blood Money along with Alice. Both albums are based off of plays that were adapted by theater director, Robert Wilson. Blood Money is based off the socio, political play called “Woyzeck”, which was originally written by the German poet, Georg Buchner in 1837. The premise of the play revolves around a true story of a German soldier who is driven to insanity by strange army medical experiments and problems with infidelity, which ultimately drove him to murder his lover. The songs that Waits wrote with his wife, Kathleen Brennan, were for an avant-garde production of “Woyzeck”, which was directed by Robert Wilson. The play was premiered in November 200 at the Betty Nansen Theater in Copenhagen, which won the Danish rendition of the Tony award for “Best Musical”.
As the last album to feature founding member and drummer, Bill Berry, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, released in 1996, has the most diverse set of songs by R.E.M. The process of the album is unusual in that most the songs were written while R.E.M. was on tour for their 1994 album, Monster, and were recorded live with eight-track recorders. As a result, most of the album centralizes itself on themes of motion and travel. This album mixes the country sound found in their previous albums, Out of Time and Automatic for the People, with more of a rock feel found on Monster and Lifes Rich Pageant. I believe that although critics had mixed dispositions about the album, New Adventures in Hi Fi is one of R.E.M.’s best efforts, especially from the 1990s.
The album begins with the pleasant groove of “How The West Was Won and Where It Got Us”. This is probably the catchiest tune from the album with its highly recognizable and memorable piano staccato riff. Michael Stipe’s yell at the end of each chorus gives the song most of its power. The next song takes the listener to a fast pace run with “The Wake-Up Bomb”. It carries itself with a hard rock guitar riff. “New Test Leper” plays with religious themes with more of an acoustic sound. The band takes another turn to a light groove with “Undertow”. The bass carries this song as the guitar riff guides it towards its climatic chorus. This song also uses religious references that are subtle, in which Stipe contemplates about life. The chorus is surprisingly in a major key as Stipe yells “I’m drowning….” The most well-known song off this album is “E-Bow The Letter” and for a good reason. It is one of the most charming tracks from the album with Patti Smith featured as a guest vocalist behind Stipe’s echoes of sadness. Read More →
No one could really know what Pearl Jam would come up with next with the releases following their 1994 album, Vitalogy. Binaural, released in 2000, follows Pearl Jam’s tradition of attempting to explore new grounds with their music. Binaural was the first album to include the drummer, Matt Cameron, who at the time was a former member of Pearl Jam’s grunge contemporary, Soundgarden. The departure of Jack Irons inevitably lead to a change in the band’s music. However, albeit an amazing drummer, Jack Irons departure did not leave Pearl Jam in the dust. Matt Cameron brought a new ingredient, making Pearl Jam more focused and stronger than before. Cameron ultimately added a new back bone to the band without any sacrifice. At this point, Pearl Jam was ahead and matured from their grunge years during the early 1990s. Maintaining what makes Pearl Jam unique, they continued their string of experimentation with the introduction to binaural recording, which attempts to use 3-D stereo sound in order to place the listener in the same room as the performers of the music. Binaural recording is used for the intent of listening to it with headphones, rather than stereo speakers, hence the use of the technique, “Dummy head recording”. Pearl Jam also integrated sounds of psychedelic and post-punk sounds into this album. In addition to Pearl Jam’s progression to new grounds, bassist, Jeff Ament, and guitarist, Stone Gossard, contribute their own lyrics to the album, making it the second album that singer, Eddie Vedder, gives lyrics rights to other band members since their previous album released in 1998, Yield. Along with the new experimental sound to the instrumentation, the lyrics featured in Binaural are darker and focus on social criticisms. Lyricist and singer, Eddie Vedder explained that the album is about the importance of freedom in humanity and how people should be comfortable with their own existence. Risking the loss of fans, Pearl Jam wanted their audience to listen with new ears without any expectations. Read More →
Curtis Knight was a guitar player who’s musical output was sadly overshadowed by his connection to Jimi Hendrix. This entire album is consistently amazing, with floor-shaking drums and bass (play it in the booth), and top-notch songwriting by Mr. Night. The WOBC copy is cleaner and more crackle-free than the youtube clip.
Calvin Keys – Proceed With Caution! (Jazz)
Calvin Keys is a Jazz and session guitarist from the Bay Area who has played with greats like Ray Charles and Bobby Hutcherson. This is his second solo album on the label. Again, this has a sweet cover, with a leapord skin-clad Keys scowling straight at the camera. The music is equally good. It was released in 1974 on the famed Black Jazz label. Like other early 70s Black Jazz titles, this record is full of loud drums (provided by the talented Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, who would go on to play drums on Michal Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), and Fender Rhodes. Most of the album is straight-ahead jazz, but tracks like the soul-influenced “Aunt Lovely” depart from that format.