Daily Music
Chasing Teen Coin
“The generally accepted definition of soul music is rhythm & blues that contains strong elements of church singing.”

So writes R&B scholar and music purveyor Billy Vera in the liner notes to Atlantic Soul (1959-1975), a 4-CD box set from Rhino Handmade, the Internet-only arm of the reissues giant. A limited pressing of 3,000, the new compilation jukeboxes the second installment of three collections marking the 60th anniversary of Atlantic Records. Atlantic Blues (1949-1970) began the rollout this spring, and Atlantic Vocal Groups (1951-1963) concludes the series next year.

“By 1959 the original rock & roll momentum was slowing down, and many of Atlantic’s attempts at keeping up with the kids were starting to sound alike and somewhat contrived,” furthers Vera. “Everybody at the company was tired of, in the words of Cashbox, ‘chasing teen coin,’ and the records reflected this fatigue.”

Atlantic Soul (1959-1975) is what the late Ahmet Ertegun and his partner Jerry Wexler came up with instead.

11:17AM Fri. Dec. 7, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

In the Mouth of Mascis
Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis is a man of few words, especially when you catch him moments before soundcheck. However, prepare to catch an earful Friday when the reunited trio hits Emo’s outside with Awesome Color and Grand Champeen.

Off the Record: It seems like a lot of the great indie bands from the Eighties are either reuniting or reissuing old material. What do you attribute that resurgence to?
J Mascis: There's a lot of bad music these days. Maybe we just sound better in comparison. It had been so long that even I had forgotten how great Mission of Burma was live. Seeing them was kind of inspiring for us.

OTR: What feels different this time around?
JM: I guess I like playing live more now. I used to think more of it as a pain. I don’t really know.

OTR: What were the initial practice sessions like for the reunion tour?
JM: They were pretty good. It was kind of strange. It sounded kind of the same immediately. It didn’t take long to get back together.

OTR: At what point on the tour did you know you were going to write an album?
JM: Maybe after about a year or so we realized that we wanted to keep going and to play more shows.

4:22PM Thu. Dec. 6, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

Signed Sealed Delivered
To define Stevie Wonder solely in musical terms undervalues his full contribution to humanity. The pure, unfettered joy and message of love the 57-year-old musician has spread worldwide since his youth at Motown Records – for whom he still records – takes on Martin Luther King-like proportions in their unification of a species. Stevie Wonder’s universe, musical and otherwise, functions on the metaphysical laws of mankind as one mind, body, and spirit. The full house last night at the Toyota Center in Houston stood, clapped, screamed, and sang as a single entity.

“Hello!” exclaimed Wonder in his timeless pitch of exuberance. Guided onstage by his voluptuous daughter Aisha Morris (“I know what you’re thinking,” he laughed, warning that he had a shotgun. “And I never miss.”), the former Steveland Hardaway Judkins retold the story of a dream he had upon his mother’s death last May. “She said, ‘Boy, you better get your ass out there [on tour].’” One has the late Lula Mae Hardaway to pay blessed thanks for her son’s first extended road trip in a decade.

Before opening the two hour and 45-minute concert with “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” Wonder preached exactly that then sat at the black grand piano among a city of instruments piled high around him. Soon, his 11-piece band joined in as he switched to his electric keyboards for a triptych of tunes from 1973’s Innervisions, “Too High,” the dazzling “Visions,” and “Living for the City,” which pulsed through the arena in a tsunami of communal ecstasy. All present joined Lula Mae Hardaway in her new high-rise.

4:12PM Wed. Dec. 5, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

On the Download
Tunecore, the flat-fee digital distribution service connected to iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon MP3, among others, has compiled a 34-song sampler that’s currently available for free. Interspersed between national notables like Public Enemy, the Dandy Warhols, and Steve Vai is a handful of Austin bands, including Brazos; Pink Nasty; Belaire; Tacks, the Boy Disaster; Peter & the Wolf; and Oh No! Oh My!

White Denim, meanwhile, has released “World as a Waiting Room,” the first track from an exclusive four-song EP, to RCRD LBL, a new ad-generated blog and affiliate of Downtown Records.

Elsewhere in cyberspace, UK producer Bullion masterfully mashes the Beach Boys with J Dilla for Pet Sounds in the Key of Dee; Saul Williams follows Radiohead’s digital distribution plan for his Trent Reznor-produced The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust; Michael W. Dean’s enlightening documentary D.I.Y. or DIE, featuring interviews from Lydia Lunch, Ian MacKaye, and J Mascis, is available for free in eight episodic chapters in the podcast section of Zune.net.

2:55PM Wed. Dec. 5, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

Pissed Jeans: That Warm Feeling Below
The awesomely named Pissed Jeans headlines the Saturday slot of Beerland's massive, inaugural garage rock fest, Ground Zero Texas, and by that point in the weekend everyone should be sufficiently blotto.

Good thing, that. The Philly quartet's Sub Pop debut, Hope for Men, is abrasive and bottom-heavy, but singer Matt Korvette, who definitely barks like a Yow, doesn't mind getting introspective, questioning what it is to be a white, middle class adult male with a day job in a rock band without whining about it. Korvette pokes fun at himself just like he does the Whole Foods-shopping, Ford Explorer-driving passerby ("The Jogger") or a boot-licking acquaintance ("Caught Licking Leather"). The first song out of the gate on Hope, "People Person," warns us he's not one; on "Fantasy World," he barks that he's a "special guy in my fantasy world." It's awkward, animalistic, and I recently asked Korvette about adjusting to being a grown-ass man.

Austin Chronicle: Hope for Men is one of my favorite albums this year; I like the way it wrangles the banality of everyday life and soul-sucking day jobs, which seems to be a big theme in the album. Am I off base here?
Matt Korvette: No, I'd say that's a pretty big theme in both the album and my life, really. I spend 40 hours a week at my job, and probably like 1 or 2 hours just thinking about my job when I'm not working. I'm definitely coming to terms with being an adult, one way or another.

2:11PM Wed. Dec. 5, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Rock 'n' Roll Books Redux
The stack of rock & roll books on my desk was barely mined in this week’s review section. Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock & Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $14, 226 pages) accompanied my reading of Morgana Welch’s Hollywood Diaries. In this book, Welch is grown up and her voice is one of many that paints details in this picturesque book about the fabled Los Angeles canyon. Walker eschews personal musings and lets the inhabitants reflect on the magic that lined streets with names like Wonderland Avenue. Graham Nash, Michael Des Barres, Mark Volman, Henry Diltz, and Gail Zappa are among the glittery whose memories of it are untarnished by time.

Walker excels in making the canyon come alive at its best, with the sounds of the Byrds drifting through the trees, Crosby, Stills & Nash lifting their voices together for the first time, and a particularly warm portrait of Cass Elliott of the Mamas & Papas. It was the Doors, Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell, the Turtles, Frank Zappa, John Mayall – the California dreamers who rode the peaceful canyon breeze, if only until the idyll was shattered by the dark shadow of the Manson Family. If you loved Positively 4th Street, about adventures of Dylan, Baez, Farina, et al in the West Village, Laurel Canyon is its bookshelf neighbor.

3:23PM Tue. Dec. 4, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

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Just a Family Thing
Some of you are going to snicker, but I’ve grown fond of Avenged Sevenfold for much the same reason that I’ve been listening to a lot of 101X lately: Teenagers have invaded my house. That means Linkin Park’s “Bleedin’ Out” and Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive” rank way up on my current Top 10 (which actually is more of a Top 6), and I can identify two members of Fallout Boy. None of these causes as much uproar around my house as the recent release of Avenged Sevenfold’s new self-titled CD.

Johnny Christ is 23 years old and on tour with Avenged Sevenfold, one of the hottest alt-metal bands around, but the bassist is quick to point out he did not drink the blood of a king cobra during their recent jaunt to Jakarta, Indonesia. Aside from that, life with the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based quintet suits him just fine, especially coming off the band's smokin’ summer, which included headlining both the Warped Tour and Ozzfest followed by their fourth release that went No. 1 immediately on MTV’s Total Request Live. Currently on tour to promote the album, Johnny Christ called from the road to chew the phat before their La Zona Rosa gig this Saturday, Dec. 1.

12:09PM Wed. Nov. 28, 2007, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Massive Garage Rock Fest Invades H-Town
It's gonna be a good month for garage rock. Hot on the heels of Beerland's upcoming Ground Zero Texas Fest (Dec. 6-9), Houston holds its own with the Texas Gone Garage Showcase Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, at Rudyard's. Most notable is the reformation of Houston's the Mirrors, Greg Ashley's band before the Gris Gris. Go here for more info.

4:25PM Wed. Nov. 21, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Ghosts in the Machine
During the second hottest solar flair-up of the evening last night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, during the second song of the encore, “So Lonely,” Sting sang “Welcome to the Andy Summers show” into the 1978 sound-off. The Police frontman threw in the same line about drummer Stewart Copeland two minutes later, but as Summers’ Telecaster blaze went from molten to nuclear, the show’s scorecard clearly had the shorter, stouter guitarist in the lead. Considering the two tall egomaniacs yin and yanging the UK trio on either side of him for the past 30 years, Sting’s initial Police bulletin rang truest.

Not that the former Gordon Sumner – whose spitting-image son, Joe (in looks, in voice, on bass in a UK trio), had opened the concert winningly with his band Fiction Plane – wasn’t in perfectly fine fettle. Wearing a supremely satisfied grin throughout, Sting kept his throat vaporized with spray and spray he did: 17 of his gilded compositions in 100 minutes. On the final date of the Police’s North American tour, the novelty of the reunion had clearly worn off, but the musical love/hate triangle found its live sweet spots and enjoyed them thoroughly. “So Lonely,” a debut album chestnut, tuned Summers to the key of rip and shred – rend – but it wasn’t the only deliberately jagged edge to the Police 20 years after their disbanding.

2:32PM Wed. Nov. 21, 2007, Raoul Hernandez Read More | Comment »

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