Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sometimes You Kick: INXS Kick at 30

I think what makes the Kick album so dynamic is that we weren’t so much interested in what everybody else was doing as we on what we wanted to do," says Farriss. "It’s really that simple. Michael and I were extremely focused as songwriters, and the band was very intent on making a series of recordings that we could be passionate about. ~ Andrew Farriss

INXS's sixth album
Released October 19, 1987
Mercury Records
Top Hits:
New Sensation
Need You Tonight / Mediate
Devil Inside
Never Tear Us Apart
Copies sold to date: Almost 20 million

Personal Trivia:
  • Kick was one of my first two CDs (the other was The Joshua Tree). 
  • I would play Devil Inside at Pizza Hut in Ebensburg and my mom would shoot me a look every time the line it's hard to believe we need a place called hell would come on, as I was not allowed to sing that part.
  • I used to draw the Kick and INXS logo on all my paper bag covered school books. 

Kick was INXS's sixth studio album but, for many in the US, it was the first they had heard (and seen MTV generation) of the band. Their previous album and title song, Listen Like Thieves, was a gateway into what was coming next for the band, The sound is what will be coined as classic INXS:  Tim Farriss's infamous chords, Jon Farriss's tight drumming, Andrew Farriss's romantic keyboards, Garry Garry Beers amalgamizing bass,   Kirk Pengilly's sexy saxophone, and Michael Hutchence's soulful voice (among other things). This album fused the sound of their previous studio recordings. You can catch influences on each song, yet also see the steps forward towards creating a sound they would continue to hone on their seventh album, X.

As stated above, it was also the MTV generation. So when you think of Devil Inside, you don't necessarily think of the driving guitar, the speaker alternating percussion, or the bass that carries each moment of the song. No, you think of a caramelized Michael Hutchence in a gray suit and 80's white turtleneck. and perfectly tousled hair and a woman in a black dress walking on a bar.
Kick gave us many songs of our youth. New Sensation, Need You Tonight/Mediate, Mystify, Devil Inside, and of course, Never Tear Us Apart. The videos offered up a new way for us to enjoy this band from the land down under. Their sound successfully blended funk, soul, rock, and a new wave 80's sound that made them unique and not cliche. They didn't try to mimic U2, but did politicize on a few songs. Their dance-able tracks, sexy love songs, strong song writing, and colorful videos remain a hallmark of INXS. Thirty years after it's release, Kick remains one of the top albums of the 80's.

Guns in the Sky
New Senstation
Devil Inside
Need You Tonight
The Loved One
Never Tear Us Apart
Calling All Nations
Tiny Daggers

Saturday, September 30, 2017

To Be In You Eyes: The Verve Urban Hymns

 ..."an album of unparalleled beauty so intent on grabbing at the strands of music's multi-hued history." Melody Maker

It is safe to say that, for most people here in the US, The Verve will only be remembered for their Rolling Stone's Long Time sampled song, Bittersweet Symphony. Urban Hymns was British band The Verve's best selling album to date in 1997, with two other before it failing to make their mark on radio listeners ears (at least in the US). The album's sound is lucid, at time melancholy, and layered in rich sounds that allowed for a slight comparison to Oasis. Urban Hymns would be their last real glimmer of radio stardom. Infighting brought the band to disband, reunite briefly, only to call it quits again. 

What could have been we will never know, but thankfully we do have this one gem that brings back the memories of the 90's.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Hello Nicole Atkins

I first heard this Jersey native sing at Bonnaroo in 2008. After a long, hot Tennessee day of setting up our tent, I sat outside either This tent or That tent under a sky full of stars and heard her soulful voice. Her journey from Neptune City to Goodnight Rhonda Lee has been a busy one. It's also been a journey of taking music making into her own hands and also a journey of discovery. 
PMCarlson 2017

  ...because my records are old friends. I have trusted in them many times before. ~Darkness Falls So Quiet

You can pinpoint moments of inspiration in this diary-like album that sounds as if it was recorded in the golden-era of Muscle Shoals. Chris Isaak, Roy Orbison, Glenn Campbell, Spector's Wall of Sound, The Grateful Dead,
and The Band can be heard in the distance, but in the end, it's all Nicole's voice, soul, and self awareness that give each song it's power. At any moment, you're waiting for Candi Stanton, Julee Cruise, or Bill Withers to start singing along with her.

The music gods blessed us all when Chris Isaak convinced Nicole to "play her strengths" on her next album. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is full of her vocal talents and exudes a timeless sound. Nicole has always dabbled in soulful sound, but with Goodnight Rhonda Lee, she has fully committed to her strengths, which is foremost her powerful voice, but also her ability to channel vintage sound so effortlessly. 

What also makes this album an instant classic is that it really is an open book. It's about struggle, loneliness, failure, acceptance, and love. Songs like Listen Up, A Night of Serious Drinking, and Sleepwalking are just so damn good because of the truth that exists in the lyrics. I Love Living Here (Even When I Don't) gives us a love song to anyone's home. The magic lies directly with Nicole's ability to hit the powerful and raw notes at the most opportune and perfect time in songs. The slow build of A Little Crazy and Brokedown Luck explode with quintessence. 

Goodnight Rhonda Lee is a perfect example of an artist that can tell their story centered around inspiration and their own unique sound. Forgoing the mainstream, this album offers up 70's soul in a world drowning in computerized sound and meaningless lyrics. Thank you, Nicole. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Place Both Wonderful And Strange: Twin Peaks The Return

Never has a show impacted my psyche as much as Twin Peaks. As a teen, the odd, evil, eclectic, naughty, and quirky show on ABC challenged your moral and spiritual realm. When the show was confirmed to come back for 18 episodes, there was that flashback to what was, but knowing David Lynch, we were going to a place we had really never been. For me, I was hoping it would go the route of Trainspotting 2 in that we would be fulfilled in the mission but wouldn't be getting what we would expect. David Lynch has given us a gift of mind, body, and psyche, mixed with some electricity, nuclear detonations, and black coffee.

Looking back when Twin Peaks first aired, I had just lost my father. With the return, I had just lost my mother. It was odd timing indeed. And 1992 gave us the ABC Twin Peaks. Cable allowed David Lynch to go full throttle with better effects, nudity, swearing, and just all out Lynch. I thought I had it all figured out. Bob. Laura. Leyland. The Black Lodge. But no. 

Twin Peaks the Return offered up many visions and clues that, thankfully, due to some serious time in sensory deprivation, I can try to understand the workings of Mr. Lynch's storytelling. We didn't know which characters we would see again or what these new locations meant.

When we began episode 31, I admittedly teared up with those first bass notes from Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme song. But from there, to paraphrase Agent Cooper, it's been both wonderful and strange. We had new characters to learn, a history that was seemingly started when the first nuclear test happened, a beautiful and ongoing tribute to David Bowie's character Phillip Jeffries (even as a tea pot - see photo below), and the continued partnership of Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield. We became attached to Agent Cooper's new family, Janey - E and Sonny Jim. And the plot thickens as to what happened to Deputy Brigg's (RIGHT? I just needed to see that written out) ... sorry, what happened to Bobby Brigg's father, Col (Judy) Garland Briggs?

And Lynch has made us work for whatever is in store for these last two episodes. The seed, tulpa, the arm, Naido, and let's not forget bloody Mary herself, Sarah Palmer. 

And while we did not see a lot of our 1992 characters, the vibe of the show is not the Invitation to Love-esque show it was. We've seen happy lives being lived, and some new but old romances being re-kindled in Twin Peaks to our squealing delight. We have the absurdities of Doctor Jacobi, Nadine, and Jerry Horne. We have the evil of the smoking man, Mr. Cooper, and the Cohen Brothers meets Tarantino mixed with Lynch inspired Chantal and Hutch love birds come assassins. And then there was this:

 Audrey has been an enigma this entire series and it got even more mysterious in the last episode. Is she trapped? Is she a tulpa? And what is the power of the Road House?

With only two episodes left, there is fleeting time to decipher so many mysteries or to meet our old friends.  

  • Diane
  • Conversations between Hawk and the Log Lady
  • The Convenience Store and Philip Jeffries.
  • The Blue Rose explained
  • Audrey's purple dance
  • The Music!!
Questions that remain 
  • Judy?
  • Is Audrey the sound trapped in the Great Northern?
  •  Will Julee Cruise close out the show (appropriately)?
  • Is Naido Diane? But still WHO IS JUDY?
  • Do we every find out what is in the White Room?
  • Oh, who really killed Laura Palmer, and does it really matter now anyway?

We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream, but who is the dreamer?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Appetite at 30: Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction

 Pitchfork writer Maura Johnston retrospectively reviewed it, rating it 10 out of 10, saying, The debut from Guns N' Roses was a watershed moment in '80s rock that chronicled every vice of Los Angeles led by the lye-voiced Axl Rose and a legendary, switchblade-sharp band.

1987 was a conundrum of music. We had INXS, U2, Metallica, Poison, and Motley Crue. Then out of the LA club scene came a sound that was different than anything else on the radio . The opening notes of Welcome to the Jungle, the first chords of Paradise City, and the unforgettable power of Sweet Child O' Mine ushered in a band that would scare our parents and made us all wish we could party like Guns N Roses. 

The first play through the cassette of course gave most of us youngins a surprise with its not suitable for radio songs like Mr. Brownstone, It's So Easy, and of course, Rocket Queen. It was shocking and dangerous and a perfect getaway from the safety net of pop rock and hair bands. 

Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven represented all the debauchery that LA could offer and lived up to the rock and roll lifestyle. The album is an amalgam of each member contributing to the debut album, now ranked as one of the best albums of all time. 

But what was it that made Appetite such a memorable album? It covers a wide spectrum of music influences, from punk to rock. It pushes boundaries (still). But in the end, no offense to the rest of the band members, it was the uniqueness of Axl and Slash. Axl's unmistakable voice and side to side sway delivered a performance that could not be matched. Slash's iconic hair and top hat only caps unmatched guitar solos.

30 years on and Appetite for Destruction still remains an iconic album for a generation that had yet to see the Berlin Wall fall and communism end. It was the Reagan era and the excess wasn't ready to be tossed aside. Guns N Roses gave us sex, drugs, and rock and roll with no apologies. 

Welcome to the Jungle
It's So Easy
Out Ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle 
Think About You
Sweet Child O Mine
You're Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen


Sunday, July 9, 2017

May 18th ...

I give this blog post over to dear friend Jeff Buckner. His similar pain I felt with loss of David Bowie. Chris Cornell's sudden and tragic loss still stings. Why - so many ask. Jeff hits home with music. Music, to some of us, is family. They are an older brother, sister, lover, friend ... music can give you peace, make you think ... music can give you a friend in time of need. Thank you Jeff for sharing - may we all find peace soon with our losses, something I fear, Chris never found with the loss of Andrew Wood, Layne Staley, or Jeff Buckley.

May 18th

By Jeff Buckner 
Let's go back to May 18th, 2017. I had just awoken to the news of Chris Cornell passing. it hit like a thunderbolt, so unexpected, so quick, so much pain entered my heart. a sledgehammer to the soul. As much as I love music, really only two bands stand above the rest. Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden. Chris Cornell's music had got me through so many dark times. His lyrics we're jumping off the records into my brain into my soul..... his voice went through me like a supernatural being. I look up to many a musician, John Bonham, Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Bon Scott. But then there was Chris Cornell, there was just always something about his music and his lyrics and just the person that he was that appealed to me from a very early age. The character that he was, the swagger, the voice, the poet. Not since Jim Morrison had I heard another human being speak so beautifully in songs. And then to find out his death was from suicide. I mean this is Chris fucking Cornell that's why it's so deep! Every musical artist is tortured in some way. That's what makes their art so beautiful. But if Chris Cornell, a father of three a husband, a son, a brother, a Rockstar can be taken down by depression.... a disease that affects 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. That's beyond heavy, it hits home. This is a guy who had everything to live for and yet couldn't beat the demons Inside of his head. That's some heavy shit. Here we are almost 7 weeks later. I can't shake it, I can't get over it, it's a bereavement so fucking heavy. I lost a brother.... an older brother. Growing up all of my brothers were shit. Friends sucked. But there was always my music, there was always Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, always Chris Cornell. 

I write this now in memoriam to a man I never personally met, but to a man who saved my life more than once. Continuing to do so each day I get up to listen to his songs, albums. So I guess, in short, thank you Chris Cornell for being a brother and a friend. 

Whenever Chris lost a friend, and he lost a lot of friends, he would make art for them in words and song. So I wrote this for him. Thank you for your beautiful gift of creating listenable art. Rest in Paradise, Chris Cornell.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Matt Reynolds: Pen & Paper

Suzy Perler Pen
Been Long Gone is a dream come true for South Carolina native and Dark Star Orchestra tour manager, Matt Reynolds. Juggling touring, writing, and recording an album is no small feat. What Matt captured, lyrically alone, is a masterpiece in our world of puzzle piece pop.

Until I heard Matt sing, I realized, I really didn't know Matt. Deep inside that southern soul is an outlaw countryman, instilled with tradition and honor who can write beautiful poetic lyrics.  He's also a man with a lot of talented friends. Been Long Gone has an army of musicians and producers to credit. From veteran producer Rob Eaton and musicians such as Rob Barraco, Duane Trucks, Jimmy Herring, and many many more, this album is made of songs that are layered perfectly, not one instrument overwhelming the mix. The songs are like a mature whiskey, strong but subtle with a lasting feeling. 

The lyrics in Been Long Gone are lamenting, thought provoking, and just damn beautiful. 
Some examples:

Pen & Paper Pt. 1 
Hates her world of drunken angels decension. Crazy at heart; psychotic premonitions. Sad lunatic, With a teardrop in the palm of your hand.   

Mighty River
Well I like to take bad news, with a spoonful of the blues. Winter days need a jazz guitar. shorter trips with longer rides, will the music man survive, Long enough to see his name up in lights? 

Each song has its varied sound, from true country, to something an outlaw would sing around a campfire after his heart's been ripped out. Pretty Girl, a song that begins with a muted trumpet that leads me to wonder if the reference to the 44 she uses and a nod to Howlin' Wolf (totally my own opinion).  

This album is truly a piece of art that you must listen to. While download or CD are nice, there is nothing like this on vinyl. The scratches and crackles suits the feel of the songs. Even if country isn't your thing, give it a try. Link conveniently below.

**Updated June 11, 2017 from original 12/12/15 posting:

Sadly, we bid Matt farewell. To keep his memory alive, his music can be shared far and wide. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories and your friendship, Matt. We love you forever.