Monday, June 29, 2009

THE HEADPHONE TRAVELER: June 29th, 2009

Howdy, folks!

SPAZ here!



Welcome to the very first edition of THE HEADPHONE TRAVELER, a new series of blogs where I offer up a few tidbits on some choice CDs that have come across my desk recently...

I've just buckled myself in, clamped on the headphones and I'm ready to take you on a trip.

I hope you enjoy the ride!


PAUL CARRACK/I Know That Name: Paul Carrack scored his first hit, "How Long", way back in the mid '70s with his band Ace. Since then, he's been a member of Squeeze (he sang their biggest hit, "Tempted"), Nick Lowe's band, Mike & The Mechanics (that's him singing "Living Years") as well as some choice solo hits including "Don't Shed A Tear" and "I Need You". On I Know That Name, he proves that he still possesses one of the most wonderfully soulful voices in Rock. In fact, he sings better now than he ever has, retaining all the power and emotion of his earlier recordings but adding years of experience to his palette (so to speak). While some of the material is 'good', much of this album as tasty as anything he's done in the past. If you dig modern Blue Eyed Soul, then Carrack is your man. Oh, BTW, "I Don't Want To Hear Any More" features superb backing vocals from Eagles members Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmidt.


BLACK LABEL SOCIETY/Skullage: Zakk Wylde is best known as Ozzy Osbourne's axe-wielding sideman these days, but he's been making quite a racket on his own for nearly two decades now. First, as a member of Southern Hard rockers Pride & Glory and then as the leader of Metal maniacs Black Label Society. Skullage is the 2009 collection from Zakk and his BLS brethren and is the perfect introduction to Wylde's diverse musical output. Beginning with Pride & Glory's "Machine Gun Man" and the acoustic-based "Dead As Yesterday" (from his solo album Book Of Shadows), Skullage kicks into high gear with "All For You" and the tempo rarely lets up after that. Personally, I love the Southern Rock influenced cuts over the riff-heavy head bangers, but I guess it really just depends on what mood I'm in! For others, Wylde's riff-heavy rockers are the meat and potatoes of what he's all about. The great thing about Skullage is that you get to hear all facets of Zakk's talents. and that is what it's all about. Remember to check out the Skullage DVD or the limited two disc package which contains the DVD and this CD. You might also want to grab the BLS, Zakk Wylde and Pride & Glory remasters which have just hit the street as well. Most of them contain bonus material!...




CAGE THE ELEPHANT/Cage The Elephant: Now, here's a weird one. Cage The Elephant come from Kentucky, right? Well, for some odd reason, they started attracting attention in the UK long before the U.S. finally took notice. So, they uprooted themselves and headed over to jolly ol' England and became the talk of the town, releasing a few singles and their self-titled debut album over there before finally being picked up in the States! It seems to work the opposite for American bands, though: they create a big buzz in their home state, then in the big U.S. cities and then get signed, all before they've even set foot in another country. But then again, Cage The Elephant are an unusual band! They are hard to pigeonhole, but I'll try to explain it as simple as possible: Imagine The Black Lips influenced by the spirit of Red Hot Chili Peppers with some Beastie Boys, Southern Rock and Post-Punk flavors thrown into the pot to spice things up a bit. There's nothing here that screams Top 40 radio, but there are plenty of "cruisin' down the highway with the top down" moments that make life a wonderful thing. Probably sounds great while eating a bucket of chicken while sitting on a sandy beach, too!


SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN/Music Inspired By The Film: Scott Walker is a living legend in the UK and most of Europe. Yet, Scott Walker is American! And Scott Walker isn't even his real name (his folks bestowed the name Noel Scott Engel on him when he was birthed). So, how does an American musician named Noel become a musical legend outside of his home country under the name Scott? Well, because he's Scott Walker, dammit! If you were ever touched by his '60s work with The Walker Brothers or his now-legendary solo albums, you'd fully understand the magical spell he has cast upon his listeners. A few years ago, there was a documentary made about the man and his music called Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (named after the song "30 Century Man" from the Scott 3 album). The received limited theatrical release in the U.S. and is finally seeing a DVD release in Summer of 2009. But as cool as that seems, this particular CD is a cool little treat to enjoy before AND after you see the film. While it doesn't contain any recordings from the film, it contains cover versions of Scott Walker tunes by a wide range of artists including Saint Etienne, Dot Allison, Laurie Anderson, Jarboe, Damon & Naomi and many others. Although it's more of a tribute album than a 'soundtrack', it is very much part of the same overall project and, like the documentary, presents the music of Scott Walker to a new generation. And that can only be a good thing! It's a remarkably co-hesive collection that retains the beauty of the originals while offering a new look at an old classic.


Until next time!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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