Sunday, December 27, 2009

Favorite Albums of ‘09

With another year over, I enjoy looking back and comparing some of the new music that was released over the course of the last 12 months. 2009 saw CD sales take another hit while digital downloads surpassed physical CD sales. Plus, some of this year’s biggest sellers were from a fallen king (Michael Jackson) the one of the newest groups to have their own video game (The Beatles). I noticed a trend in many of this year’s releases, so instead of listing my favorite albums, I decided to group them together based on similarities.

Two albums that were sure to be special were the newest albums by Bob Dylan and U2. While Bob Dylan’s “Together Through Life” was not his strongest album of the decade, it was still a lyrical masterpiece. Songs like “I Feel A Change Comin’ On” and “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” sound like lost B-sides to some of his classic songs. Back in 2008, U2 announced that they would be holding back the release of their newest album “No Line On The Horizon” until 2009 because of a musical overload of ideas. Their gamble paid off with one of the band’s best albums of all-time. Songs like “Moment of Surrender” and “Breathe” added another level to Bono’s and The Edge’s songwriting.

A big trend this year was to put together a super group of musicians, record and album and go on tour and see how they are accepted by the masses. Some bands sounded better on paper (Chickenfoot, The Dead Weather) while others made us forget for a moment that they were ever in another band. One of those super groups was a trio called Them Crooked Vultures made up of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Their music brought back that 70’s hard rock sound as well as having fun performing with friends. Another super group, who has been overly compared to the Traveling Wilburys, is the Monsters of Folk. The harmonizing of the voices and instruments of Jim James, Conner Oberst, M. Ward and Mike Mogis make their debut album hard to resist.

Anticipated albums by Alice In Chains, Phish, Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam brought these superstar groups back into the spotlight. With the death of lead singer Layne Stanley back in 2002 it seemed that Alice In Chains would be no more. But with the discovery of William DeVall, the band’s new album “Black Gives Way To Blue” sounds as if it fits perfectly into their musical catalogue. Phish returned with “Joy”, the band’s first album in five years. They finally figured out how to bring some of their energy from the live shows into the studio. The wonderfully written ”Kill Devil Falls” and the epic “Time Turns Elastic” help make “Joy” the band’s best album since ”Billy Breathes”. “Big Whiskey and The Groogrux King” gave the Dave Matthews Band the respect they lost with past album failures and gave fans hope on a bright future. Pearl Jam released their new album ”Backspacer” exclusively through Target stores and even though it was the band’s shortest album at just over 35 minutes, it contained more energy and passion than their last five albums combined. It was also the band’s first number one album in over ten years.

In closing, there are some albums that deserve mentioning. Legendary rockers Kiss released “Sonic Boom” back in October. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts and features some of the band’s best songs since the late eighties. Speaking of Kiss, former lead guitarist Ace Frehley also released a new album, “Anomaly”, which could be considered his best album ever. There are also a couple of instrumental albums that are definitely worth listening to. One is by Spanish guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela entitled “11:11” and the other is by surf guitar rockers Los Straitjackets called “The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets”. And let’s not forget some great albums by Wilco (Wilco The Album), Black Crowes (Before The Frost), Wolfmother (Cosmic Egg), David Gray (Draw The Line) and of course Bruce Springsteen (Working On A Dream).

Here’s to hoping that 2010 begins a new decade of some great and wonderful music releases.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best Shows of 2009

I was very fortunate this year to see many different musical genres live in concert. From country superstar Keith Urban to 80’s boy band New Kids On The Block and even Vegas showman Barry Manilow, but some of my favorites were by music legends giving it there all on what could be some of their final tours.

The remaining members of The Dead reunited for the first time in over 5 years for a spring tour that included a stop at the XL Center in Hartford. Even though Jerry Garcia, who passed away 14 years ago, was not there in person, his spirit watched over the band as they tore through many Grateful Dead classics throughout the tour. Also, another band that doesn’t seem to go away (thankfully) is the Allman Brothers Band. They came and rocked the Dodge Music Theater with fellow jammers Widespread Panic providing some great music for a nice summer evening.

While recent album releases by Alice Cooper and Kiss fail to make a mark on the music industry, it’s their live shows that are a spectacle to behold. Alice Cooper’s vaudeville theatrics never seem to get old, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or the one hundredth time. Kiss has also not strayed far from what made them musical superheroes in the 70’s. Flying through the air, breathing fire and explosions are what a Kiss show is all about. I was happy to be a part of their Alive 35 tour.

But, it was shows at the beginning of 2009 and the end of 2009 that were two of my favorites this year. Back in February, Singer/songwriter Ryan Adams and his band The Cardinals began what ended up being their farewell tour in New Haven. Ryan Adams was known to end shows early because of crowd heckling or bad sound systems, but this night he sounded great and was in good spirits, performing for over two hours. The other show I really enjoyed was Lionel Richie. He performed earlier this month at the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods. With most of his set drawing from his time with The Commodores and his early 80’s hits, it was a fun show that everyone (young and old) could enjoy. He quickly broke down the barrier between the audience and performer by shaking hands and talking with fans during the show.

As I look forward to 2010, I’m hoping that artists don’t price themselves so out of range that true fans can’t afford to see some of their heroes. Do yourself a favor and catch a live concert next year; it might be the experience of a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CD Review: Get To Know Ten Year Vamp

New York Band, Ten Year Vamp, is currently on tour in the New England area promoting their latest release, "Don't Act Like You Know Me". Their modern rock sound of blazing guitar solos and pounding drums is highlighted by the sex appeal of Debbie Garbrione's vocals. Her confidence shines on the songs "Never Know" and "Say That You Made Love To Me". Listening to the albums lyrics bring back thoughts of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill". The band rocks on the album tracks, "Pleasures (That I Call Mine)" and "Faked It". While some of the album's 12 tracks are over three years old, there sound fits in perfectly with today's music scene.

Their songs have been featured on MTV and on Microsoft Windows 7: Playlist and the band has currently signed a deal with Hot Topic. They will be performing on December 19th at the Black Bear Saloon in Hartford, CT before returning to Albany, NY to finish out the year performing at the Bayou Cafe on December 26th. Their latest release is available at Hot Topic stores and on itunes. Visit www.tenyearvamp.com for more information and music samples on this hot "up-n-coming" band.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

CD Review: Singer/Songwriter Alex Highton Becomes A Storyteller

Englishman Alex Highton is what we're looking for in folk music today. His laid back storytelling is very enjoyable to the ears and his singing keeps you focused on his voice. At times, his songs can sound like 60's pop and southern blues at the same time. He is currently an unsigned artist, but probably not for long.

The opening track "Village Life" sounds like an acoustic out-take from The Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society". His voice and clever song-writing style is very similar to The Kinks' Ray Davies. The gentle flow of "You've Got The Trees" is a wonderful piece of music and lyrics. Many of Alex's songs do not follow the conventional song style of verse, chorus, verse, chorus; he adds a more storytelling element to his songs. Some of the songs like "Smoking" and "You Left Me In No Doubt" sound as if they are being presented in their raw demo form which works with the flow of the album, but I would also like to hear a more completed version of these songs. The acoustics and harmonizing of "Panic" and "A Song For Someone" sound like early Pink Floyd. "Dirty Rugs", the album closer, is a fun acoustic track that sounds like it came from the sessions for The Beatles' "White Album".

Overall, the album has a smooth, relaxed flow to the songs. Do yourself a favor and check out Alex's myspace page www.myspace.com/alexhighton and read what others are saying about him. Then jump over to iTunes and purchase this new discovery of 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CD Release Show For Mark Mulcahy

This Friday, December 11 is the New Haven CD Release Show for "Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs Of Mark Mulcahy". Mark Mulcahy was the former front-man of the bands Miracle Legion and Polaris. This album is a tribute to Mark's song-writing and proceeds from the sales of this album will go directly to the Mulcahy family. Mark took a break from his musical career when his wife, Melissa, died suddenly in the fall of 2008. Friends and colleges banded together to pay tribute to Mark and his song-writing by performing songs from Mark Mulcahy's musical career. The album features tracks recorded by Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Frank Black (The Pixies), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Ben Kweller, Juliana Hatfield and others.

The CD Release show will be held at Toad's Place in New Haven and will feature musical guests Elvis Perkins, Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne), David Berkeley and others performing the songs of Mark Mulcahy. Doors open at 7PM and admission is only $10. Be sure to pick-up a copy of "Ciao My Shinning Star", but if you are unable to attend the show, the album is available at www.shoutfactory.com and on itunes. For more information on Mark Mulcahy, please visit www.mezzotint.com.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Concert Review: Lionel Richie Heats Up A Cold December Night

A few months off can make a performer reflect on his past accomplishments and failures. It also allows the performer time to perfect his talents and find a vision for his performances. Following a brief hiatus, Lionel Richie’s accomplishments were on full display at the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods.

After a 50 minute delay, Lionel Richie took the stage and transported the audience back to the ‘70’s. Even though Lionel Richie released a new album back in May of this year, it was his time with The Commodores that became the main focus of the evening. His performances of The Commodores’ classics “Easy”, “Still”, “Sail On”, “Fancy Dancer” and ”Three Times A Lady” easily made the audience forget that he was late on arrival. On occasion, he took up residence at his grand piano located center stage for the ballads, but is seemed as more of an escape from the numerous fans approaching the stage to shake his hand or hug his leg. Lionel Richie was very accommodating to his fans by even posing for pictures mid-song. He made the sold-out theatre feel very comfortable with the occasional story between songs. Big applauses were well-deserved for his performance and crowd interaction of the songs “Stuck On You” and “Endless Love”. The latter song featured all the females in the audience singing Diana Ross’ parts of the duet. Lionel Richie had no trouble getting people on their feet dancing, turning the theatre in a club-type atmosphere with the songs “Running With The Night”, “Dancing On The Ceiling” and the set-closer “Brick House”.

Richie returned for the encore singing his 1984 number one hit “Hello”. The singing of the audience drowned out the singer’s own vocals. The night’s closer was another of Lionel Richie’s number one hit from a year earlier, “All Night Long”. With an all-too quick finish to his 90-minute performance, the audience was still singing as his songs that played through the speakers in the casino as they exited the MGM Grand Theatre.

Setlist:
Just For You
Penny Lover
Easy
Ballerina Girl
Running With The Night
Still
Oh No
Stuck On You
Dancing On The Ceiling
Three Times A Lady
You Are
Sail On
Fancy Dancer
Sweet Love
Lady
Endless Love
Brick House
Hello
All Night Long

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated

The nominees for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards were announced on December 2nd and it seems like the ladies are leading the way with the most nominations. Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Colby Caillat combined for 27 nominations. While the guys ended up spreading the wealth around.

The competition that I'm mainly interested in are the rock and hard rock categories. Like the Solo Rock Vocal Performance, it features Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Prince. Now all five of these nominees are great artists, but there is one that does not belong . . . sorry Prince. Now on to the Best Hard Rock Performance category, I'm glad to see that Alice In Chains was nominated, but I think the battle will be between Metallica and AC/DC. Although Nickelback could come and steal that Grammy award.

Two can't lose categories are the Best Rock Song, which features Pearl Jam, Kings of Leon, U2, Green Day and Bruce Springsteen and Best Rock Album which has U2, Green Day, Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Dave Matthews Band and AC/DC. I would like to see AC/DC win at least one Grammy for their hard work on Black Ice, but Green Day has been a Grammy favorite since their American Idiot album.

Now these are only a handful of the 109 categories that the Recording Academy has for awards, so to see the full list, visit www.grammys.com. Don't forget to tune in to the telecast on Januray 31st to see if you favorites bring home a Grammy this year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Sounds Of The Season

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it's time to get down to some serious shopping for Christmas. Of course, when you're out driving from store to store or even clicking from website to website, you will need some tunes to get you into the holiday spirit. Plus, if you're sick of hearing the same ol'songs year after year, here are some new Christmas albums for you to pick up.

There are two new Christmas albums that have a very similar title, but that's about all they have in common. The first is by American Idol Finalist David Archuleta entitled "Christmas From The Heart". He covers most of the holiday classic and even includes an original song, "Melodies of Christmas". If you're a fan of American Idol then I'm sure you'll love this album. Now, the other album with a similar title is by the one and only Bob Dylan. His first Christmas album is called "Christmas In The Heart". If you're looking for something a little different, then this album is for you. Bob lends his ruff, grizzly voice to some holiday classics, but Bob is also donating all proceeds from the sale of this album to charity. So even if you purchase the album and only play it once, at least you can feel go knowing that the money you spent on it went to a good cause.

The "A Very Special Christmas" series has released volume 7. This volume is loaded with new comers such as Kellie Pickler, Carrie Underwood and Ashley Tisdale performing updated versions of some old holiday favorites. The proceeds of this album will be going to Special Olympics.

Sugarland, arguable one of the hottest country bands of the last decade, will release their first holiday album entitled "Gold and Green". It showcases Jennifer Nettles' amazing voice on some Christmas classics as well as some originals. But if vocals are your thing, then "Christmas Cheers" by the acapella group Straight No Chaser is what you're looking for. Their newest holiday album features some fun songs like "You're A Mean On Mr. Grinch" and "The Christmas Can-Can" as well as their famous "12 Days of Christmas".

Now, with so many new arrivals on the holiday scene, we can't forget the classic artists that have been here before. First off is a new Christmas album by Neil Diamond entitled "A Cherry Cherry Christmas". It seems that the older he gets, the better his albums get and this is probably his best Christmas album to date. And let's not forget that other showman from the 70's Barry Manilow. He plays it safe on his newest Christmas album, "In The Swing Of Christmas". It features only 12 tracks and most of them are traditional holiday songs.

Two of this year's biggest selling Christmas albums come from an artist who has been around for over three decades and another artist who has arguable one of the best voices in the world. This year is their first attempts at a holiday album. The first one is by the former frontman for The Police and is titled "If On a Winter's Night". Many of the tracks on this album are more traditional "English" holiday songs, then American. But, Sting sings them in such a way that makes you feel like you've heard them all before. The year's other big seller belongs to Andrea Bocelli. His "My Christmas" album has already sold 500,000 copies in only three weeks. The album consists mainly of the traditional Christmas songs sung in English with a few of the songs sung in German and French.

As one who loves Christmas music, I'm glad that there isn't a bunch of rehashed albums that we've heard a thousand times before. So check out some of these new releases as your tooling around from shop to shop or decorating the Christmas tree during this most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

3rd Annual Blackout At Sunrise Sale!

Starting on Black Friday, Redscroll Records will be holding their third annual "Blackout At Sunrise" sale at their store in Wallingford, CT. The store will open a 6AM on Friday, November 27 in order for you to grab all the great bargains. Redscroll Records will have 25% off everything in the store. All $1 bins will be marked down to only 10 cents and there will also be FREE coffee and vegan chocolate (while supplies last). FREE t-shirts will be given to patrons spending $200 or more and let's not forget a visit by the big guy himself, Santa Claus.

The sale will run all weekend, but go early if you want the good stuff before it's sold out. Please visit www.redscrollrecords.com for more information.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

CD Review: Oh My God Undoes "The Night"

After 10 years, 4 albums and 1 EP, the band Oh My God are hitting their stride. The band performs over 140 shows a year and it shows by how tight the band plays as a unit. Their new album "The Night Undoes The Work Of The Day" was produced by Jim Tullio (John Martyn, Rick Danko, Steve Goodman, Mavis Staples) and was released in September on Split Red Records.

Right from the album's lead off song, "My Prayer", you hear the wonderful harmonizing between the band members. The tempo shift for the chorus of "I Don't Think It's So Funny (How Time Slips Away)" and that is what makes this tune the stand-out song on the album. Oh My God performs an up-tempo, almost punk, cover of The Fixx's "One Thing Leads To Another". They also add some '80s style keyboards for good measure. The band shows their softer, gentler side on the ballad "My Juliet". "My Own Adventure" starts off with a 'Beat It' style drumbeat before lead singer Billy O'Neil's vocals and keyboardist ig makes the song an original. The chorus of "Baby, Dream" catches you off-guard with it's sing-along chorus. The song-writing really shines through on the album's closer "Strangers On A Train".

The band toured heavily in September and October. After a month-long break, the band will be back on the road performing a few dates in December. Their new album is available from itunes and from the band's website. For more information please visit the band's website www.ohmygodmusic.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CD Review: Youth Group Makes "The Night" Their Own

Australian band, Youth Group, has been gathering attention since their single "Forever Young" was featured on the hit show, The O.C. Now the band is back with their latest release, "The Night Is Ours". Released on the Australian label Ivy League Records, the album was recorded in a 1920s mess hall in Sydney, Australia. Finally receiving praise in the US from Esquire and Spin magazine as well as MTV.com, Youth Group bring over a sound from "down-under" that is needed in music today.

The overall modern rock sound contains little highlights here and there that makes this album a pleasure for the listener. The piano intro of "Babies In Your Arms" flows wonderfully into Toby Martin's vocals. The horns give a song a fuller sound. The band's song-writing really stands out in the songs "Dying At Your Own Party" and "What Is A Life?". Youth Group rocks on "One For Another" and "Two Sides" bringing the guitar and drums to the spotlight. The song" In My Dreams" has all the elements of a pop hit, great sound, great lyrics and a great chorus. The song "Friedrichstrasse" shows off the band's gentle side before the band picks up the tempo again. The band's pop instincts come through on the songs "A Sign" and "All This Shall Pass". The album closes with the moody "Good Time" that refers to the band's last five years on the road and recording.

The band is currently on a break from recording and touring, but plan to reconvene in 2011 with a new album and tour. Please visit the band's website (www.youthgroup.com.au) for news and information. Youth Group's albums are available on itunes and on www.ivyleague.com.au.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Underground Indie Rock Band Grogan Social Scene

Local CT band, Grogan Social Scene will be appearing Thursday, November 19 at The Space in Hamden as part of the Underground Indie Rock Showcase. They currently have a new digital single available for free at www.grogansocialscene.com.

On a “sampler” of his songs, Thomas Grogan mixes his grunge-style sound with his storytelling lyrics. The music sounds tight on songs like “The Factory” and “Please Don’t Speak My Name”, but the sound is too repetitive. A little more experimentation, could make some of these songs really soar. Thomas’s lyrics seem more at home during the acoustic songs “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up” and “SF Song #2”. “Get Rich Quick Scheme” is a nice collaboration of the full band sound and Thomas’s thought-provoking lyrics.

Sign up for the newsletter at grogansocialscene.com to receive more free music from this local underground band as well as updates on performances in the area.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CD Review: Lissie Starts Off "Runnin'"

Lissie Maurus released her debut EP "Why You Runnin'" on November 10 on Fat Possum Records. She was born and raised along the Mississippi River and it shines through her simple folk performance on this EP.

Right from the opening track, Lissie captures the sound of the deep south. "Little Lovin'" is a folk-gospel clap-along song. Her passion for singing is on display during the chorus. Lissie's voice performs beautifully, harmonizing the lyrics of the Hank Williams cover "Wedding Bells". The simple ballad "Oh Mississippi" is a cry for home, but you would never know it was recorded in London, England. Lissie puts her heart and soul into the slow moving "Everywhere I Go". The a-capella beginning of "Here Before" tells a haunting tale of choices gone bad. The minimal use of music makes Lissie's voice the main focus of album.

Lissie is currently on tour with fellow folkster Ray LaMontagne. For more information on this new artist, go to www.myspace.com/lissiemusic.

Monday, November 9, 2009

CD Review: Fitz & The Tantrums Are Full Of Soul

California band Fitz & The Tantrums have released their debut EP "Songs For A Break-Up Vol. 1". The EP was recorded entirely in a living room with one mic, but the music sounds like it was recorded at a studio at Motown Records. The album was influenced by late 60s/early 70s AM radio and believe me, you won't want to turn the dial.

The EP's opener "Breakin' The Chains of Love" features a funky bass groove that gets highlighted with some sax blasts. The R&B flavored lyrics really shine through. The pulsating keys of "Don't Gotta Work It Out" give way to a 70's style soul chorus. The band slows the tempo down for "Darkest Street". Fitz's voice floats on a bed of R&B horns and soul beats. "Winds of Change" carries a hip-hop drum beat. The chorus gets its power from back-up singer Noelle Scaggs. The church organ sound that begins "We Don't Need Love Songs" carries the song through its depressing lyrics sung beautifully by Fitz.

Fitz & The Tantrums are currently on tour with Maroon 5 and will be in Connecticut on November 12th. They will be at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, tickets are still available. For song samples and tour information, go to the band's website, www.myspace.com/fitzsourmusic.com.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Last Record/CD Riot of 2009!

This Sunday, November 8th, the Cromwell Record/CD Riot! makes it's final showing of 2009. This might be your last chance to pick-up some rare vinyl or some cheap CDs, DVDs, T-shirts and more to keep you busy this winter. The Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, off exit 21 from I-91, and will be packed with vendors selling away their goods to make room for next year. The doors open at 9:30 am and admission is only $3, but if you're an early bird, $10 will get you in the door at 8 am to be the first to grab those deals. Don't forget, Christmas is right around the corner and this might be a good chance to get an early jump on some Christmas presents for that special someone or even for yourself. Also, sign up to the mailing list to receive admission discounts and updates on upcoming shows for 2010.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CD Review: Alan Cohen's "Peace" Train

Alan Cohen is not new to the music scene having been involved for over a decade, but his political lyrics have raised the eyebrows of many in the industry. The video for his single "Elephant" became a You Tube hit and he was also featured on CNN's "The Week In Politics" for his video "The Obama Groove". Alan Cohen writes and records on the spur of the moment, but it is when he records his EPs as the Alan Cohen Experience that his talents really shine through.

The Alan Cohen Experience's latest release is a 6-song EP entitled "Eat The Peace". The first two tracks "Rock Biter" and "Train God" show off Alan Cohen's harder rock side. Alan stresses his feelings to the point of almost shouting the lyrics and the pounding drums provided by Genji Siraisi give these song their edge. "Ranger Stranger" runs along the same vein as Van Morrison's "Moondance". The jazzy feel of this song and backup vocals of Catherine Pierce provide a fuller sound to many of the EP's songs. "Jester" keeps the pace of the album going, but seems to miss any potential the lyrics may have provided. The song "Peace" is what the EP was based on as Alan stresses his ideas about peace. The alternative country ballad "Truck Driver" shows off Alan's song-writing skills describing his experiences on the road as he saved his best for last.

Alan's song-writing and use of musical sounds improves with each release this being his third EP in three years. This newest EP will be released on November 3 and is available on his website www.alancohenexperience.com. Alan is also on a tour of New England, visit his website for more information.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

CD Review: Singer/Songwriter Katie Pearlman Gives Us "This"

Fellow New Englander Katie Pearlman released her new album “We Make This” on November 1st. The songs on this new album have a very airy groove with a vocal style compared to Joss Stone. Her songwriting skills really shine through on the tracks “We Make This” and “Looking For Something“. Katie shows her vocal range with the soothing power ballad “I’ll Be Waiting” and the bluesy “Whenever You Need”. The simplicity of the lyrics of “I Feel “ work to Katie's advantage producing the album’s radio friendly pop song. The electric guitar of Joe Cesare and husband Jeff Pearlman’s keyboards gives the song “You Wrong” a southern rock vibe. The seven minute album closer “Dreaming With You” is a wonderful collaboration between the band and Katie’s singing. A song that can definitely be expanded on when performed live.

“We Make This” is great album for the autumn season, with its flowing lyrics and mellow bluesy sound. Katie Pearlman will be making appearances throughout New England. Visit Katie’s website www.katiepearlman.com for information on shows and music.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CD Review: The Greening Goes "Electric"

New band, The Greening, are introducing their more mature song-writing skills on a brand-new EP, "(She's So) Electric". While the band prepares their new album for early next year, some new songs have been posted on their myspace page to give fans a direction of the band's latest album.

The Greening's new EP entitled "(She's So) Electric" is full of hook driven lyrics with a modern flair to their sound. The hardest rocker on the EP is the title song, which has a sound similar to David Bowie's Tin Machine. The rest of the EP flows with mix of acoustic guitars and keyboards. "Sunday Afternoon" has a chorus that is repeated to the point of no end. It isn't the strongest song lyrically, but the sound is pleasantly enjoyable. "Belong With Me" has some vocal harmonizing similar to the Beach Boys experimental era with a sound that flashes back to the late 60's/early 70's. "Today, Tomorrow" has a mellow vibe that showcases another side of the band's sound.

Please visit the band's myspace page, www.myspace.com/thegreening, for more information about this new EP and their upcoming album.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bon Jovi Coming Back To Connecticut

After a short venture into the world of country music, Bon Jovi will be releasing their "return to rock" album, "The Circle" on November 10. The band will also pay a visit to the Mohegan Sun Arena on March 26 & 27, 2010. Fan club members will get the first crack at tickets for these upcoming shows before the public gets their chance. No date has been announced as to when these tickets will go on sale.

Bon Jovi will also be the first band to perform at the brand-new Meadowlands Arena in May 2010. Last month saw Bruce Springsteen close the old Meadowlands Arena with one of his final performances of his world tour. The band's current single "We Weren't Born To Follow" entered the singles charts at #90 and is the fastest rising single in the band's history. Also, this past weekend the Bon Jovi documentary "When We Were Beautiful" premiered on Showtime. The documentary will be included in the Special Edition CD/DVD versions of the band's new album.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CD Review: Karl Denson Expands His Tiny Universe On His New Album

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe released their new album in September entitled "Brother's Keeper". The album features an all-star cast that includes Meshell Ndegeocello, Mark Ford (Black Crowes), The Dap Kings, members of Lenny Kravitz's band and more. His new album features songs that try to cross racial and cultural boundaries as well as generational lines. Denson has also recently worked with Lenny Kravitz, The Allman Brothers Band and Michael Franti of Spearhead.

Brother's Keeper starts off with "Shake It Out". The song has a rhythm that sounds like a cross between the Allman Brothers Band and Ray Charles. "Where It Counts" has a funk-style beat that outperforms Denson's lyrics. Only the chorus gets fleshed out by the backup singers. Karl Denson's vocals seem very subdued without the cause for passion. The marching style drumbeat of "The Drums Of War" gets highlighted by the horn section. Karl Denson's lyrics of "Brother's Keeper (Part 1 & 2)" preach without forcing their opinions on you. Meshell Ndegeochello gives the songs life with her bass grooves. "Mighty Rebel" has a sound straight from the 70s funk era with a little raggae vibe. Karl Denson's passion shows through on the R&B flovored "Monica". The funk returns on "Expressions" and "Empty Soul" before closing the album with the R&B "Take It Down" and the modern Jazz-funked "Just Got Paid".

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe is currently on tour and will return to the east coast at the end of month. For tour dates and song samples, visit karldenson.us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

CD Review: Old Canes Feeling "Feral Harmonic"

Old Canes is the brainchild of The Appleseed Cast frontman, Chris Crisci from Lawrence, KS. The indie folk sophomore album, "Feral Harmonic" will be released on October 20 on the Saddle Creek label. Their current US tour will make a stop in Connecticut at The Space in Hamden on Wednesday, October 21 to promote their new album.

The music on "Feral Harmonic" jumps right out of the speakers, but the vocals took a back seat in the album's mix. The steady pace of "Little Bird Courage" moves along swiftly with it's marching band drums, but the vocals become just another instrument. The momentum continues right into "The Last Collapse" which features a heavy playing of cymbals. "Trust" finally features some recognizable lyrics that go along nicely with an acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar returns in "Next Flood" to smooth the edginess of the drum assault . The playfulness of "Sweet" is a nice touch, but once again the lyrics become unrecognizable. The gentleness of "Under" and "Southern Radio" are welcome additions to the drum heavy songs, "I Will Be The Sun" and "Stuck". "Flower Faces" is the most radio-friendly, mainstream song on the album, so enjoy it.

If drums are your thing, then Old Canes new album is for you. But with some much instrumentation going on, it's easy to get lost on the album's collage of sound. For more information on the band, please visit www.oldcanes.net.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CD Review: Silversun Pickups Return With "Swoon"

Silversun Pickups make it perfectly clear on their new album "Swoon" that "there's no secrets this year". The band does not hold back on it's dark lyrics or their agressive bass driven sound. Currently on tour, the band will be performing October 20 at the Webster Theatre in Hartford along with Cage The Elephant and An Horse.

The band's sound in the first two songs "There's No Secrets This Year" and "The Royal We" run along the same vein as the Smashing Pumpkins. "Growing Old Is Getting Old" and "Draining" reverts to the band's earlier sound, as lead singer Brian Aubert described as when the band was "too shy to turn up the volume". Not to worry, The band's volume rises on the songs "Panic Switch" with its fuzz guitar sound and "Sort Of" with it's rolling drum beats. The band's current single "Substitution" is a steady rocker that never overpowers the lyrics with a blast of sound.

Silversun Pickups have been nominated for MtvU's "Woodie of the Year" award which is given to the artist that has made the biggest "splash" in the college music scene in the past year. They will also be featured on current TV's six-part show "Embedded". The album has reached #7 on the Billboard Charts and has received positive reviews from critics. The songs "Panic Switch" and "It's Nice To Know You Work Alone" are downloadable tracks for the Guitar Hero: World Tour video game. Visit the band's website, silversunpickups.com, for tour information, news, videos and more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Space Getting Filled With Great Music

What began as a rehearsal hall and then an open mic night has now turned into the must stop Connecticut location of independent artists. The Space in Hamden is Connecticut’s premier all ages music and arts venue. Check out some of these bands making their way east.

Australian band Youth Group began their 2009 US tour on Tuesday, October 13 in support of the band's new album "The Night Is Ours". This album was recorded in a 1920's hall located at a Sydney Australian harbor. The band's modern rock sound can be compared to early R.E.M. or Simple Minds. Youth Group will visit Connecticut on Thursday, October 15 at The Space in Hamden. For tour information, song samples and more, visit www.youthgroup.com.au.

Look for the Chicago band, Oh My God, to make an appearance at The Space on Monday October 19. Their sound is a mix between Barenaked Ladies and Coldplay. Look for the band’s new release this fall entitled “The Night Undoes the Work of the Day”. Visit www.ohmygodmusic.com for music samples, tour news, information and more.

Coming to The Space on October 21 is the indie folk group Old Canes. Musical chameleon Chris Crisci spent the last three years perfecting the sound on this new album “Feral Harmonic”. Go to www.myspace.com/oldcanes for more information and check back later this week to read my review of their new album.

Copesetic, from New Jersey, bring their “back to basics” sound to The Space on Friday, October 23. The band is touring behind its self-released EP “The Keys”. The simpleness of the acoustic guitar and drumming plays perfectly to the harmonizing vocals. For more information on Copesetic, please visit www.copeseticband.com.

Halloween night will bring us the music of The Dear Hunter. The band's new album, "Act III: Life and Death" has received critical acclaim (JP's Music Review) since its release and their live shows are just amazing.

With most tickets going for only $8 to $12, it’s a good way to check out some great music for a cheap price. Go to www.thespace.tk for a complete list of upcoming shows, directions and anything else The Space has to offer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CD Review: Katie Kerkhover Gives Us Attitude

Katie Kerkhover has a statement to express on her new album “Blister” and it’s that girls can rock just as hard as the guys. Her brand of punk rock with attitude and sex appeal is just what’s needed in music today.

The album starts off with Katie seeking revenge in "Over Me". The song pulsates with buzz-saw guitars, pounding drums and "screw you" attitude. This album is full of attitude; "Something Real" starts off as a ballad fairy-tale imagery before being blasted with an all-out rock assault. Katie stresses her point on the album's lead single "Can't Handle Me". She dares the audience to try and grasp her punk rock sound and her "don't care" attitude. Her self-evaluating "Habit" has a constant chorus that gets forced in you head. "Make You Fall" is another great rocker with its chord changes and energy driven lyrics. Katie's "I don't need you" attitude comes firing back in "Without You". The punk rock songs work so well together that the ballad of "Gone Again" seems out place. Her cover of Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" is the perfect song to end the album with that sort of energy and attitude.

Katie Kerkhover was awarded the 2009 Buzz Award for Best Female Vocalist. There are videos and song samples up on her myspace page (www.myspace.com/katiekerkhover). Do yourself a favor and check her out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Just A Friendly Record Show Reminider

This Sunday, October 11, is the New Haven Record Riot at the New Haven Annex YMA. If you've been to the Cromwell Record Riot, then you know what to expect. If haven't been to one of the Record Riots before, then it's about time you've started. This is one of the last record shows of year, so do yourself a favor and head down the Annex YMA located at 554 Woodward Ave. in New Haven this Sunday. Doors will be open from 9:30-3:00 and admission is only $3. Go check out the tons of items for sale, everything from collector's vinyl to promo CDs,concert shirts, DVDs and more. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter on upcoming Record Riot shows.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CD Review: Daniel Johnston "Is And Always Was" A Star

Singer/Songwriter Daniel Johnston has received praise from his peers including Beck, Tom Waits and the late Kurt Cobain for his song-writing. His songs are constructed in such a way that is unlike other musicians of his era. His first studio album in seven year will be released on October 6 and is entitled "Is And Always Was". Daniel Johnston has been recording songs since the early 80s as a side project to his first love, cartooning. As a diagnosed manic depressive, many of his songs come from the dark side of his heart.

Daniel's new album collects 11 of his current masterpieces. As his voice strains to hold a note, the poetry of his lyrics becomes the main focus of his songs. The album does carry a folk-rock vibe. The acoustic side to his songs are displayed in "Mind Movies" and "Tears". The songs provide the listener with simple lyrical storytelling. Daniel Johnston does make a move toward mainstream music with the catchy chorus of "Fake Record of Rock and Roll" and "Without You". The song "Queenie the Doggie" is a fun sing-along about his four-legged friend. "High Horse" is a plead for all those who think they're better to just give others a chance.

Daniel sends out his truthful pleas on "I Had Lost My Mind" and "Freedom". He backs-up his lyrics with electric guitars and steady drum beats that move the songs along briskly. Daniel experiments on title song "Is And Always Was". His singing on this song sounds like a cross between Neil Young and Syd Barrett. The album finishes with his 6-minute epic piece "Light of Day". All of Daniel's emotions pour out into this closing story.

While fame has brought his name and songs out into the spotlight, his song-writing has not swayed from what made him original. Daniel Johnston will be performing in Washington D.C., New York and Boston before heading out west and then over to Europe in November. Go to Daniel's website (www.hihowareyou.com) for more tour information as well as to purchase his new album.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Concert Review: KISS Tour “Alive 35” Hits Mohegan Sun

Legendary rockers KISS are on the verge of a major comeback. They have a brand-new album arriving October 6 (exclusively to Wal-Mart stores) entitled “Sonic Boom”. They have also been nominated for induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and their current tour, “Alive 35”, has been selling out arenas everywhere. The Mohegan Sun arena got a little taste of “Kissteria” Saturday night when KISS paid a visit to this Connecticut venue.

A KISS concert cannot be considered just a show, but instead it is more like an event. Members of the KISS Army have waited years to see their idols and on this night, KISS did not disappoint their fans. Explosions, fireworks, fire, blood, flying; you name it, it was part of KISS’ concert. Right from the beginning of the night’s opening song, “King of the Night Time World”, explosions and fireworks rocked the arena walls. The band looked full of energy considering this was their third show in three days. The tour’s main focus has been the celebration of 35 years since the release of KISS’ monumental live album, “Alive!” and KISS brought some special songs along with them. Songs like “I Stole Your Love”, “Modern Day Delilah” and “I Love It Loud” were well-received by fans. “I Love It Loud” began with Gene Simmons’ signature blood spitting routine before he was hoisted to the top of the lights to perform this 1983 hit. Each member of the band received their spotlight solo. Guitarist Tommy Thayer performed his solo during “She” on a smoke-filled stage, playing behind his head and shooting out the lights with his guitar. Eric Singer’s drum solo during “100,000 Years” pushed the song past the ten minute mark. But, it was Paul Stanley who masterfully controlled the audience, whether it was to sing the intro to “Black Diamond” or “stand up for what you believe in” during the confetti shower of “Rock And Roll All Nite”.

Arm in arm, KISS returned for their encore to thank the audience and their legion of fans for such a wonderful night and then proceeded to dive into a five-song encore that started with “Shout It Out Loud”. “Love Gun” found Paul Stanley flying over the audience on a cable to perform the song on a mini-stage at the back of the arena. However, it was the 4th of July style fireworks display at the conclusion of “Detroit Rock City” which left fans in awe of another memorable KISS experience.

Buckcherry began the evening with a 40 minute set that included the Rock Band song “Rescue Me” and their breakthrough hit “Crazy Bitch”. Buckcherry also performed a great cover of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”.

Setlist:
King of the Night Time World
Deuce
Got To Choose
Modern Day Delilah
Hotter Than Hell
I Stole Your Love
Com’n and Love Me
Parasite
She
Watchin’ You
100,000 Years
I Love It Loud
Black Diamond
Rock and Roll All Nite
Shout It Out Loud
Lick It Up
Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll
Love Gun
Detroit Rock City

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CD Review: The Ettes Want “Power” With New Release

The Ettes released their third album entitled “Do You Want Power” and have also just returned from a successful European tour opening for the Kings of Leon. Their music is raw and upbeat that makes you wanna move. The trio does a great job filling-in the sound while having each instrument sound alone.

The Ettes new album showcases the progress of the band's song writing as their music flows from punk rock to folk ballads. The album's opener, "Red In Tooth and Claw" runs in the same vein of music as the White Stripes and Jack White’s latest band “The Dead Weather”, but The Ettes dare you to “give them a chance”. The band's punk style shows through in "I Can't Be True". The sound is similar to their recent touring partners Kings of Leon. With the first few songs having a familiar sound, the band truly starts to come into their own on “Take It With You”. The chord changes in this song keeps the energy flowing right through to the vocals. The beats of "Blood Red Blood" and "Seasons" give a much needed edge to their songs, while the softer side of The Ettes is also a breath of fresh air. "Love Lies Bleeding", "Keep Me In Flowers" and "While Your Girl's Away" keep the listener focused on the lyrics as the music floats by in the background.

The Ettes are currently on tour in the western half of the United States. Their songs will be featured in upcoming episodes of HBO’s Entourage and in Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It”. Their new album is available on itunes as well as at amazon.com. For more information, check out the band’s website www.TheEttes.com.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Concert Review: Alice Cooper’s “Theatre of Death” Comes To The MGM Grand

At 61 years of age, Alice Cooper has mastered the art of “dying” onstage. His demonstration of this ability of illusion was spotlighted in his current “Theatre of Death” tour. Cooper’s theatrics are definitely not made for Broadway, but play perfectly to his legion of fans.

As the curtain dropped, the sound of a ringing school bell and lead guitar intro of “School’s Out” blared throughout the MGM Grand Theatre. Cooper’s masterfully planned set list did not shy away from his hits as he incorporated them perfectly into his sequence of “deaths”. His breakthrough hit, “I’m Eighteen” led to the evening’s first “death” scene as one of Cooper’s henchmen/stagehand was speared by a giant pole. The thunder and lightning of “Welcome To My Nightmare” took life out of a dancing bride. Cooper proceeded to dance with the bride’s corpse during “Cold Ethyl”. Back to back 1971 hits “Is It My Body” and “Be My Lover” brought an end to the life of “Nurse Rosetta”. But that evening, even Alice Cooper himself could not escape death’s hand as he was killed on four different occasions throughout the evening. He first met his demise at the conclusion of the “Ballad of Dwight Fry” as his head was separated from the rest of his body by a guillotine. His biggest hit in recent memory, “Poison” led to his second “death” by a needle injection. The ballad “I Never Cry” was sung with a noose around his neck as the stool was knocked out from underneath the singer’s feet, displaying his lifeless body for a moment. Cooper’s band proceeded to take over the stage, performing the instrumental “The Black Widow”, as Alice Cooper would later appear again to shouts of “vengeance” from last year’s song “Vengeance Is Mine”. Cooper’s final “death” of the evening followed the decapitation of a doll’s head during “Billion Dollar Babies”. Forced into a box, Cooper was on the receiving end of sharp swords at the conclusion of his song “Killer”. Alice Cooper reappeared once more to end his 90-plus minute set with the anthem “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Under My Wheels”.

The one song encore found Cooper sporting a mirror plated jacket, complete with tails and a top hat. The school bell rang once again as Cooper emerged from a smoke-filled stage to finish the evening with his biggest hit “School’s Out”. The “Theatre of Death” tour has certainly lived up to its billing with no less than 8 separate killings performed that evening to the delight of his fans.

Setlist:
School’s Out
Department Of Youth
I’m Eighteen
Wicked Young Man
Ballad Of Dwight Fry
Go To Hell
Guilty
Welcome To My Nightmare
Cold Ethyl
Poison
The Awakening
From The Inside
Nurse Rozetta
Is It My Body
Be My Lover
Only Women Bleed
I Never Cry
The Black Widow
Vengeance Is Mine
Devil’s Food
Dirty Diamonds
Billion Dollar Babies
Killer
I Love The Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
School’s Out

Monday, September 21, 2009

CD Review: Hard Work Pays Off For Janus

The band Janus hails from Chicago. Studying the hard rock/punk bands of the nineties, Janus has built upon their foundation by adding more to the music than just drums and guitars. Their music feels more mature, intricate and complete as shown on their new album "Red Right Return" released September 22 on Realid Records. The album was recorded, produced and created by the band themselves.

The album's opener "Six Letters Sent" just hits you in the face with its pounding drums and buzzing guitars while David Scotney's vocals flow over the top. The energy of the rhythm section of Alan Quitman on bass and Johnny Salazar on percussion is on full display of "If I Were You". The first single from the album, "Eyesore" shows the band firing on all cylinders. Scotney screams the chorus with unworldly passion. The band's power continues with "Skin Deep" before turning the energy down slightly for the politically charged "Your Arms". Guitarist Mike Tyranski gives "The Nerve" its edge, with Scotney's vocals following his lead. Janus never lets up, finishing their album with the high-powered rockers "Stranger" and "100 Years".

Their music has been featured on both MTV and NBC television shows and has been spreading throughout the airwaves of the radio. A video for the single "Eyesore" is currently available on the band's myspace page. The band is currently on tour in the south and Midwest region of the country before heading to the west coast. For more information on Janus' "Red Right Return" visit the band's website www.janusmusic.com.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meriden's Matt Beal Is California Dreamin'

Meriden native Matt Beal has found the success he was looking for, but not here. Growing up, Matt idolized the heavy metal guitarist of the 1980's. As soon as he heard Randy Rhodes peel off guitar chords, he knew that was what he wanted to do. Instead of sticking close to home, Matt was drawn to the California rock scene and his gamble has paid off. Matt released his solo album debut in 2006. It's an album that displays all of Matt's hard work. Written, recorded, produced and released on his own, "Contributions For An Atom Bomb" proudly displays the talents of Matt's guitar abilities.

The album carries a classic rock sound modernized by Matt's singing. Right from the beginning of the opening track "Atom Bomb", Matt's guitar becomes the main focus. "Sabrina" has a Bon Scott era AC/DC sound with the lyrics being belted out as if the ghost of Bon Scott himself was singing. "Awake" carries a Black Crowes swagger to the lyrics. Matt displays his talent as in the hard rock, fuzz guitar of "CuffViMitt" and the 90's alternative "Guarantee". The soul-baring rocker "Things I Don't Need" gives way to pop sounds of "Love's The Drug". With so many different sounds, this album becomes a sampler of Matt's talents as a songwriter and guitarist.

Since the release of his album, things have taken off. He established his own record company called Corporate Anarchy Records. He's performed with a number of well-established artists in the music business. Matt recently played at Cheech Marin's wedding, performing the Cheech & Chong classic "Earache In My Eye". He has also been featured in a couple of coffee table books about music celebrities. But, some of his biggest challenges lie ahead of him. Matt has put the wheels in motion for a music festival. A "sort of" street festival that would feature rock and heavy metal bands from Los Angeles as well some other well established names. He wants the focus of the festival to be about the music and less about the money. Matt is also currently working on his follow-up solo album. He has already written a number of songs and has contacted Mike Inez (Alice In Chains) to perform bass duties for the album. Matt wants to get away from the production aspect of the album and be able to concentrate more on his music and lyrics. Matt notices that "Kids love all the classic stuff on Rock Band and Guitar Hero. That's my sound."

"It's been a real interesting journey out here and a lot has happened", giving Matt some life lessons that I'm sure will be spun together for future songs. For more information on Matt Beal visit myspace.com/mattbealrocks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Record Shows

Now that summer's almost gone, and the kids are back in school, it is time once again for the Cromwell Record Riot. It has been 4 months since the last Cromwell Record Riot (I hope you saved your pennies). The Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT will once again be swarmed with vendors and collectors looking for that missing piece of music collection. This Sunday, September 20, is the date. The Crowne Plaza is located off exit 21 from I-91. Admission is $3. Come early (9:30 am - 3:30 pm) as not to miss out on some great deals on CDs, vinyl, DVDs, T-shirts, posters and more. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to receive notices and admission discounts.

Now, if your Sunday is bogged down with picnics, parties and football, there is hope. On Saturday, September 19, there is the aptly titled "Back To School" Record Convention. It will take place at the Hamden Elks Lodge. Easily located off I-91 and Route 15 (Merritt Parkway). Admission is $3. The "Back To School" Record Convention will feature over 20 vendors, DJs, food and cash bar. This record show is open to ALL AGES from 10:30 am - 5 pm.

Both shows will be filled with plenty of music paraphernalia. So stop by either Saturday or Sunday or both days and check out all the great deals this weekend.

If this weekend is bad for you because of poor timing, do not fear. The next New Haven Record Riot will take place Sunday, October 11 at the YMA Annex in New Haven. Admission is $3 and will run from 9:30 am - 3 pm. So, I don't want to hear any complaints that their isn't any good places to buy music anymore. Here are 3 reasons to go out and get some new music for your collections.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is Connecticut The "Jamband" Capital Of America?

It is a very good question and definitely one worth considering. After all, four (The Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Phish & Dave Matthews Band) of the most popular jambands of all-time performed in Hartford this year. Not to mention that, Widespread Panic was brought along with the Allman Brothers Band last month to close the Comcast Music Theatre's summer events. Now I'm sure that a lot of states can say that those five bands have played in their state this year, but let us continue the debate. Another popular jamband, Umphrey's McGee performed in New Haven, CT earlier this year to add one more to the list, but the "icing on the cake" is the annual Gathering of the Vibes festival held in Bridgeport, CT. This festival is one of the largest summer festivals in the country, bringing some of the best "jambands" year after year. So I would say that Connecticut has a very good argument at being the "jamband" capital of the country, wouldn't you say so.

Monday, September 7, 2009

CD Review: Assembly Of Dust "Required" Listening

The new album by Assembly of Dust appropriately titled "Some Assembly Required" is refreshing blend of "back to basics" instrumentation and poetic lyrics. If only more bands took this similar approach to making an album. Not only do you get some of AOD's best songs, but each song features a guest musician or singer to help them out. AOD does a great job utilizing the strength of each guest to their advantage.

Beginning with the acoustic folk strumming "All That I Am Now" featuring Richie Havens. The band seems to have fun with the folk legend, daring him to "one up" their performance. The crisp acoustics of "Cold Coffee" get highlighted by the mandolin master David Grisman. The song sounds like an out-take from The Band's "Music From The Big Pink". Guitar virtuoso Keller Williams is featured on the album's lead-off single, "The Second Song". Keller Williams adds his guitar flavor to the song, but I believe more of his talents could have been utilized. The song "Leadbelly" is one step away from country-song glamor. Jerry Douglas' dobro/pedal steel guitar echos Reid Genauer's vocals nicely. Guitarist Tony Rice appears twice on this album, once on "Light Blue Lover" with Grace Potter, who helps out on the chorus. She gives the song a much welcomed soul blues vibe. The other song featuring Tony Rice is "Revelry" which features the electrical vocals of Martin Sexton. These acoustic songs give the album a very laid back, front porch swinging feeling, but AOD also knows how to plug in. The songs "Pedal Down" and "High Brow" feature some exceptional guitar work. These songs could definitely be turned into jams when performed live. One of the biggest names on the album is Mike Gordon from fellow "jam-band" Phish. His addition of bass and backing vocals on "Arc Of The Sun" gives the song a Phish vibe, but not enough to call it an imitation. Assembly of Dust do a great jobs keeping these songs all their own, by not giving in to the styles of the guests, but instead expanding the guests to perform in their style.

This album was released in July 2009 and is available through the band's website as well as itunes and amazon. The band is currently on tour in New England before heading out west in October. Check out aodust.com for more information on this release and more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Music Festival For A Good Cause

The Quassy Amusement Park in Middleburry, CT will play host to the Are You Dense MusicFest. It will take place on Saturday, September 12 and proceeds from the festival will go to the "Are You Dense?" organization. The "Are You Dense?" organization is devoted to educating women about dense breast tissue and the early detection of breast cancer.

The all-day festival will feature gospel bands, acoustic artists, heavy metal and more. The headliners of the day are The New Rascals (Groovin', Good Lovin') featuring original members Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish. Tickets for this event are $35.00 in advance and $45.00 at the gate. Tickets include the MusicFest, all day Quassy Amusement Park ride pass, parking and tickets for food and drink.

For more information about this event and about the "Are You Dense?" organization, please visit www.areyoudense.org.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Concert Review: Counting Crows Bring Their Medicine Show To Mohegan Sun

Instead of your typical concert show, the Counting Crows wanted to offer something different for their fans. The concept they came up with was the Traveling Circus & Medicine Show. It included the Counting Crows as well as Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana. The idea was that instead of an opening act, everyone would begin the show together onstage. The Traveling Circus and Medicine Show made its way to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday for a night filled with music and more.

The show began with the singers trading verses to Van Morrison’s “Caravan” with Michael Franti receiving the loudest ovation. With all 17 band members on stage, Franti took the lead vocals on “Hello Bonjour” from his 2006 album “Yell Fire!” His performance throughout the evening quickened the pulse of everyone in the arena. As the others bands exited the stage, the Counting Crows began their set with “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”. What seemed like a good choice to open with, it lacked the energy left from the two opening numbers. Counting Crows continued with the “all-out” rock assault “Come Around” before being joined by the band Augustana for a sing-along of “Omaha”. Agustana remained on the stage to perform a cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sweet Virginia”, but it would be their original hit “Boston” that drew the biggest applause for the band.

Everyone once again converged onstage for a cover of Peter Tosh’s “Walk And Don’t Look Back” which also included a snippet of “Casey Jones” which was played “for all the Grateful Dead fans in the audience”. The three bands seemed to enjoy the company of one another as smiles decorated the faces of everyone onstage. Michael Franti & Spearhead turned the energy up a notch with some of their original songs “Everybody Ona Move” and “All I Want Is You”. One lucky fan was called onstage to dance along to a cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, but it was the song “I Got Love For You” that would find the hearts and souls of audience members. To finish the first set, everyone came together for an all to quick performance of Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady”.

After a brief intermission, the Counting Crows began the second set slowly with the ballads “Holiday In Spain” and “Long December”. A quick and chaotic version of “Miami” did not bring the energy that the Crows had hoped for in ending their set. That energy was brought on by Michael Franti & Spearhead with a set of their originals. “Say Hey” became the highlight of the set which included the invitation of children to the stage and even a marriage proposal (she said ”yes”). Augustana followed by slowing down the tempo with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” with help on the vocals by Adam Durtz of the Crows. The ballad “20 Years” gave the audience a much need rest before moving onward to the close of the second set. Everyone was joined again onstage for a performance of the Counting Crows’ “Why Should You Come When I Call” and “Hangin’ Around”.

Shortly after the curtain closed, the drum beats signaled the return of the Traveling Circus & Medicine Show beginning the encore with a fun version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecelia”. This was followed by a short acoustic version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and “Remote Control” with Michael Franti providing the lyrics. The evening ended with one of the Counting Crows biggest hits “Rain King” which included a portion of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” and the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land Is Your Land” . With the energy provided and the amount of songs performed, no one walked away unhappy with that performance.

Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, classic rockers Kiss and country superstar Brad Paisley. Go to www.mohegansun.com for more information.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CD Review: Dredg Try To Over-Please On 'The Pariah'

The long-awaited new album from Dredg is entitled, "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion". Filled to the brim with sounds and lyrics, it keeps the listener guessing on what comes next. At times, the album could be considered a hard rock masterpiece with the tracks "Savior", "Quotes" and "Pariah". Pounding drums and loud guitars are only part of the formula that makes this album original. Power ballads "Ireland" and "Cartoon Showroom" seem right at home with its harmonizing vocals. The complex instrumentation gives the listener more than enough reason for multiple plays.

The album also contains a number of musical interludes, some instrumental and some vocal, but most seem unnecessary. Almost as if the songs were never fully finished and just thrown on to give a little more insight to the talents of the band. Songs like "Long Days And Vague Clues" and "Drunk Slide" sound as if they belong on a movie soundtrack.

The songs "Light Switch" and "Information" are the highlights of the album. "Light Switch" starts off like a gentle ballad before the pounding drums and guitars adds to the meaningful lyrics before fading back to simpler sounds. "Information" is the sure-fire radio-friendly song on the album with its simple, but effective chorus.

With an hours worth of music, spread out over 18 songs, Dredg has stepped up their game, producing one of their best albums to date. Dredg has just wrapped up their 2009 North American tour and are heading overseas for some tour dates in November. For more information, please visit www.dredg.com and www.myspace.com/dredg.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Concert Review: Chickenfoot Leave Their Mark On Mohegan Sun

The super group called Chickenfoot, made up of Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony (Van Halen), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Joe Satriani, made their debut appearance in Connecticut Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. One would think that with an arsenal of songs from Van Halen, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joe Satriani originals at their disposal that there would be minimal room for songs from their new album. But it was just the opposite.

Chickenfoot proceeded to play every song from their new album, even the vinyl only track “Bitten By The Wolf” which carried a New Orleans flavor to the song. It also featured some slide guitar provided by Joe Satriani. If you did not know the songs from their album then you would have been lost all evening. But luckily, the audience came prepared. Fans found themselves shouting the chorus and pumping their fists to “Oh Yeah” and “Sexy Little Thing”. The rhythm section of Michael Anthony on bass and Chad Smith on drums was felt immediately with the opener “Avenida Revolution”.

With its simple stage set up, the band turned the large sized arena into a club type show. The band would just jam together at the ends of songs; one in particular was “Get It Up” which featured the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. While Sammy Hagar’s screams on “Turnin’ Left” and “My Kind Of Girl” drew most of the attention, it was Satriani’s solos on “Down The Drain” and their new single “Soap On A Rope” that deserved the spotlight.

The band seemed to be having the most fun together onstage during their encore which included two cover songs. The first, “Bad Motor Scooter” (Montrose), began with Hagar soloing on a steel lap guitar before trading guitar licks with Satriani. Michael Anthony’s high pitch screams would only add to the already amazing version of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. At times, the band seemed like a bunch of high school kids just clowning around with each other, trading smiles as well as hi-fives. Their enjoyment performing together was felt by the audience as everyone there had a rockin’ good time.

New comers Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam got the crowd pumped with a 40 minute set that includes a few originals and a couple cover songs. One of the outstanding songs they performed was a 15-minute jam on CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair”. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature Kings Of Leon, Kelly Clarkson and Brad Paisley. Go to www.mohegansun.com for details.

Setlist:
Avenida Revolution
Sexy Little Thing
Soap On A Rope
My Kind Of Girl
Down The Drain
Bitten By The Wolf
Oh Yeah
Learning To Fall
Get It Up
Turning Left
Future In The Past
Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose cover)
Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Concert Review: Barry Manilow Brings Vegas To Mohegan Sun

Since 2005, Barry Manilow has been a headliner at the Las Vegas Hilton, but this past weekend he was able to get away for a couple of shows in New England. He brought his Las Vegas show “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits … And More” to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night.

With his song titles flashing on the giant screens, Barry Manilow appeared magically atop the staircase and danced right into the hearts of his fans with the opening number “It’s A Miracle”. Dressed in black slacks, a black collared shirt and a fire engine red sports coat, Manilow was without a doubt, the focus of the evening. Overwhelmed by the applause, he proceeded with a medley of his hits “Daybreak”, “Somewhere In The Night” and “This One’s For You”. Manilow’s 10-piece band would comprise most of the stage, taking up several levels of the staircase, but were very well hidden. Manilow took up residence at a grand piano located just left of center stage on multiple occasions, starting off with the aptly titled “Weekend In New England”. The chorus brought a huge ovation from the crowd that seemed to distract Manilow as he paused stating “I still got it”. His backup singers/dancers joined him for the dance number “Bandstand Boogie”. After a quick jacket change, Manilow returned to the piano for a couple of his top 40 hits, “Tryin’ To Get That Feeling Again” and “Even Now”. Trombone solo by opener Brian Culbertson brought out the blues in “Brooklyn Blues” written about Manilow’s hometown.

Manilow dove back to his 1973 debut album on a couple of occasions. One of the surprises of the evening was his rendition of his much requested “I Am Your Child”. The newest song of the evening came from his 2001 album “Here At The Mayflower”. Manilow fully engulfed himself in the role of the narrator/singer of the song “Not What You See” by wearing a scarf, cap and glasses. The darkly lit audience swayed blue glow sticks to the ballad of “I’ve Made It Through The Rain” before being invited by Manilow to sing along to “Can’t Smile Without You”. A spotlight shone on a lonely stool at center stage for Manilow to open his heart with a slow rendition of “Somewhere Down The Road”. “Mandy”, his first #1 single, began with a clip of Manilow on the show The Midnight Special. The glow sticks would return for his second #1 single “I Write The Songs”. Fans couldn’t resist themselves from singing along.

The disco beats of “Copacabana” brought on Manilow’s Vegas act in full force. His backup singers wore showgirl outfits as Barry Manilow acted out the lyrics. As he motioned to leave the stage, the audience cheered for more. Obliging to their demand, he finished with the patriotic “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee/Let Freedom Ring”. Throughout the performance, Manilow voice seemed in top shape, holding notes and knowing the limits of his slightly deeper tone. He was also very talkative with jokes and stories that made the audience feel comfortable. It was 90 minutes of musical pleasure presented by one of today’s greatest showman.

Brian Culbertson began the evening with some modern jazz. His 5-piece band ran through a handful of instrumentals that included a tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature Taylor Swift, Counting Crows and Journey. For ticket information please visit www.mohegansun.com.

Setlist:
It’s A Miracle
Daybreak/Somewhere In The Night/This One’s For You
Looks Like We Made It
Weekend In New England
Bandstand Boogie
Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again/Even Now
Brooklyn Blues
New York City Rhythm
I Am Your Child
Not What You See
I Made It Through The Rain
Can’t Smile Without You
Could It Be Magic
Somewhere Down The Road
Ships
Mandy
I Write The Songs
Copacabana
It’s A Miracle (reprise)
My Country ‘Tis Of Thee/Let Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 6, 2009

CD Review: Golden Bloom's Breakthrough Album

I'll let you in a little secret, Golden Bloom is one of the best bands that you never have heard of . . . yet. Their new album entitled "Fan The Flames" will change all that when it is released on August 18. It's melodic rock melodies and exceptional song writing should give Golden Bloom it's big breakthrough into mainstream music.

The album begins with the keyboard heavy pop song "E.H.M." Right from the beginning, front-man Shawn Fogel wants the listener to relax, "give it a rest, it's not your problem". "Doomsday Devices" is a great alternative rocker that's as good as any of the modern rock masterpieces being played now. The mellow acoustic beginning of "Fan The Flames" gives way to a rock assault with the advice "don't give up, 'til you try again". The tempo of the album slows down with the rock ballad "She Leaves Me Poetry". The heart of the album brings forth the slow burning rocker "The Fight At The End Of The Tunnel". The power pop sounds that are next to come give life to "Dead Petals" and "If You Believe", before getting bookend with the smooth acoustic strumming and organ of "The Mountainside Says". The album closes with the campfire, harmonica highlighted "Theme For An Adventure At Sea".

Clocking in at under 40 minutes, you wish there was more to hear, but something new is discovered with each new listen. Golden Bloom will be touring the Northeast in August. For tour information, music samples and more visit goldenbloom.net.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CD Review: Variety Works Hot Press For Leopold

Hot Press For Leopold (HPFL) does not want to bore you with how they met or where they're from, they want their music to talk for them. HPFL is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Omar Fadel. He was commissioned to compose instrumental tracks, but instead created a musical portfolio.

Instead of beginning their album with the obvious instrumental "Are You Ready?", HPFL starts their album telling you that you "Can't Stop The Bomb". It's like telling the listener, you can't stop this rush of music that you are about to hear. The song begins with orchestra type violins before being taken over by guitars and a modern rock drumbeat. Almost daring the listener to decipher all this music being thrown at them. "Torturer" and "Don't Be Afraid" have an abundance of music going on within the songs highlighted by an instrument here and there like a xylophone or trumpet. "You Weren't Exactly A Saint" has a rock-abilly drumbeat with a pulsating organ tone, that gets overtaken by guitars and horns during the chorus. The first instrumental on the album, "Fishmarket" seems like an overture from an English play. The repeating chorus of "I I I I Me Me Me Me" gets old fast and takes away from the R&B style of the song. HPFL makes up for it with the mostly acoustic " Barn Burner". The slow rocker, "Two Ships" is the highlight of the album, showing off the talents of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Omar Fadel. The album ends with the depressing, but passionate "I Recall It Was Brief" and "Drinking Song", which becomes a sing-along.

For more information on Hot Press For Leopold, visit their website (hotpressforleopold.com).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Concert Review: Mohegan Sun Was Full Of Love For Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz came to the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night with one plan in mind and that was to spread love all around. He definitely succeeded with his plan, but it started out as a slow burning love that exploded with his performance of his Grammy nominated song “I’m Yours”.

As the crowd signaled Jason’s entrance to the stage, he had a few dance instructions before starting the evening off with “Dynamo of Volition”. He sandwiched a tremendous sax solo by Carlos Sosa with the smooth sounds of “Unfold”. Jason got caught in a slow groove, performing “Beautiful Mess”, “Anything You Want” and “Crane”. These allowed Mr. Mraz to flex his golden pipes a little. The audience rose their feet for a cover of Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long”, which finally got the party atmosphere started. Jason Mraz would once again slow the tempo down with the wonderful “Details In The Fabric”. The operatic interlude of “Coyote” drew a big applause from the audience before finding themselves swaying to the groove of “Live High”. Next to come was a funky/reggae version of his 2003 breakout hit "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)”. Playing off the energy of the crowd, Jason dove right into “Make It Mine”. The "love” that Jason Mraz was spreading around throughout the evening’s performance, exploded with a huge sing-along of his hit song “I’m Yours”. After a bit of wordplay, he continued into Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” which had everyone convinced that “everything is gonna be alright”.

Jason reappeared for the encore at a small stage set up in the back of the arena. He invited Alysse Fisher to help him perform his duet "Lucky”. Sticking with his small band which included bassist Bruce Hughes and Noel “Toca” Rivera on percussion, he performed “Never Too Late” and an acoustic version of “You and I Both”. Jason returned to the main stage during the band’s instrumental performance of “Copchase”. MC Bushwalla would join Jason and the band for “Fall Through Glass” before Mr. Mraz finished the evening with the fabulous “Butterfly”. Seeing the ocean of fans, arm in arm, swaying to his reggae/funk/pop/alternative music, I’d say Jason Mraz accomplished his mission of spreading love.

Singer/rapper Bushwalla MC’d the evening’s events, first introducing K’Naan. His 30 minute set was filled with many of his original hip-hop/reggae songs. Next to perform was G. Love and the Special Sauce. Their hits “Rodeo Clowns” and “The Booty Call” won the crowd over while G. Love displayed his skills on the harmonica. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature the “supergroup” Chickenfoot as well as country sensation Taylor Swift and the Counting Crows Traveling Show. For ticket information, please visit mohegansun.com.

Setlist:
Dynamo of Volition
Unfold
Beautiful Mess
Anything You Want
Crane
All Night Long
Details in the Fabric
Coyotes
Live High
The Remedy (I Won't Worry)
Make It Mine
I'm Yours>Three Little Birds
encore:
Lucky (w/Alysse Fisher)
Never Too Late
You and I Both
Copchase (instrumental)
Fall Through Glass (Bushwalla vocals)
Butterfly

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Miss These Hot Summer Shows

"Party your summer down to classic cold cuts, fresh breezy jams and deep sweatin' heat. It doesn't matter if it was made yesterday or thirty years ago as long as it keeps that party vibe."

Cosmic Dropout - July 31

On July 31st, Partners on Crown Street in New Haven, CT will play host to the Cosmic Dropout. The Cosmic Dropout is a 21 and over summer jam featuring DJs - Rick Re:action, Tim Daltry, Darklord and DJ Jazzy Jess. They'll be spinning tunes all evening. There will also be drink specials all night and the "Jam" goes 'til 2am.

Cursive - August 4

Indie rock band, Cursive will be playing Daniel Street in Milford, CT on August 4. They are currently touring behind their new album "Mama, I'm Swollen" released on the Saddle Creek label. The album is available for purchase online through the band's website cursivearmy.com. Cursive just released the video for their second single from their new album "I Couldn't Love You". It can be found on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlPDUlreibE). The band also made their network television debut performing on the Late Show with David Letterman. Tickets for this show are available through the band's website or at etix.com.

Bad Veins - August 4

Bad Veins, from Cincinnati, will performing at The Heirloom Arts Theatre in Danbury, CT on August 4. The duo of Benjamin Davis (vocals, guitar, keys) and Sebastien Schultz (drums) are touring in support of their self-titled debut LP that was released on Dangerbird Records. The band has received numerous awards since first performing three years ago. The lead-off single from their new album has been receiving strong radio play and has reached #1 on some specialty charts. This innovative band has performed along side Silversun Pickups, The Hold Steady, Cursive, Apples In Stereo and more. The band's album is available on itunes and at Amazon. For tour dates, videos and downloads, visit dangerbirdrecords.com/artists/bad-veins and myspace.com/badveins.

Monday, July 27, 2009

CD Review: Adrina Thorpe Shines Through The Shadows

Adrina Thorpe is a singer/songwriter from Orange County, CA. Her debut album had featured songs on Lifetime and the CW network as well as many independent films. Her sophomore effort, “Halflight & Shadows” was released in June 2009 and continues on the success of her debut album “Elusive”.

Her voice on the opening track “Impossible Dream” is a cross between Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, but the music has a harder rock vibe. “Midnight” has a more manufactured sound which places the focus of the song on Adrina vocals and lyrics. Her passion shows through on “Everything Changes” which displays perfectly how she combines her classical piano with a pop beat. Her delicate voice on “Domino” gives the song its power as she pleads with the listener through the chorus. The gentle flow of “Driving” is nice example of how talented Adrina Thorpe really is. “Coming Home” is easily the best song on the album; it has all the right parts to make it a hit. The subtle hints of music on “Moment To End” give the song a gentleness that the album yearns for. Adrina tries to “Heal” you with her voice, before picking up the tempo with the pop styling of “Kiss The Day”. “Give You My Love” is another song in which Adrina gives her all to the wonderful lyrics. “Seed” flows through the same vein as much of the album with the main focus on her voice and piano.

Adrina seems to play it safe on her sophomore effort. Her gentle voice and lyrics will encompass the listener’s heart while displaying her passion for the music. Visit adrinathorpe.com for music samples and to purchase her new album.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

CD Review: Tantric Continues Success With Mind Control

Alternative rockers, Tantric return August 4 with an album of brand new material. The formula that brought them success with last year's "The End Begins" continues with their newest release "Mind Control". The album's title track is already in steady rotation on rock radio.

Begining with the band's first single from the album, "Mind Control" is a hook-filled song with blazing guitars and pounding drums. The lead-off track sets up the listener for what to expect throughout the album. Lead singer, Hugo Ferreira showcases his different vocal stylings as in the gritty rocker "Coming Undone" and then the gently balladry of "The Past Is Dead". The rhythm section of bassist Erik Leonhardt and drummer Richie Monica are a tight unit as showcased in the songs "Fall To The Ground" and "Run Out". Guitarist Joe Pessia grabs the reins in "Kick Back" with ripping guitar solo. The stand-out guitar riff and vocals make "Walk Away" a sure-fire hit. Violinist Marcus Ratzenboeck outperforms on "What Are You Waiting For" by filling in the overall sound of the band. Tantric come roaring back in your face on the albums final two songs, "Let's Start" and the closer "Guiding Me", reminding the listener how hard they can rock.

Tantric will be performing in Connecticut just days before the release of their new album. They will be at the Webster's Underground Theatre in Hartford, CT on Sunday, August 2. Supporting them will be Aranda and Vayden. Go to the band's website (myspace.com/tantric) for tour information, photos, videos and more.