Monday, December 29, 2008

Couple of RIPs: Delaney Bramlett and Freddie Hubbard

The legends just keep on croakin'...

I took a look over at Billboard.com today, as I usually do every day, and was sad to see that both guitarist Delaney Bramlett and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard have died.

Bramlett, you may recall, had a short-lived band with his first wife Bonnie (Delaney and Bonnie) that was flanked by some of rock's biggest stars, i.e. Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Dave Mason, etc. As it stands today, his best known work is probably what you've heard on Clapton's first solo album, including one of my personal Clapton favorites, "Let it Rain." Bramlett was 69.

Thanks to YouTube user "Morasch," we can relive the experience of hearing Delaney and Bonnie's "Only You Know and I Know" 45, in tribute. This Dave Mason composition was a top 20 hit for Delaney and Bonnie, and was also covered thereafter by both Eric Clapton and Badfinger:


Hubbard was known throughout the '60s as one of a group of jazz musicians often referred to then as the "young lions." His string of releases on the Blue Note, Atlantic and CTI labels are all held in high regard, and several are bona fide classics. At the turn of the decade, with the release of his 1970 masterpiece Red Clay, he was thought to be the next great trumpet legend in jazz, the heir apparent to Miles Davis. Unfortunately, things didn't quite turn out that way. Hubbard sank into contrived mediocrity in the mid to late '70s, and by the '80s, his artistry was at a low point as the next generation of "young lions" (Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, et al) seized a golden opportunity to steer jazz back towards its roots.

While many of Hubbard's peers, like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ornette Coleman, and others, continued to have late-career successes, Hubbard remained sadly quiet and never did follow through on the promise of his early reputation. I've always considered it a tragedy that he wasn't out there cementing the legacy so many of us thought he deserved, and showing the younger generation just how great he could be. His health, unfortunately, was a factor in his absence, and his attempts to get back out on stage earlier this year yielded mixed results. But even as it stands today, his output from the '60s through the first half of the '70s will still secure his place in the pantheon of jazz greats. Hubbard was 70.

Here's Freddie while he was still at his peak and worthy of the Miles Davis comparisons, performing an awesome version of "Straight Life" at the 1975 Downbeat Awards (thanks to YouTube user "eatsleeptrumpet" for making this available):

My top 10 best albums of 2008 at Bullz Eye

Only a few days left in the year, and it's still hard to believe. 2008 really flew, and the ten albums that were its soundtrack, for me, are recapped for all over at Bullz Eye. For the lazy, I have reprinted all but my intro paragraph below:

1. The Parson Red Heads: Owl & Timber (EP)
There’s a timelessness to the sound and the vibe of the Parson Red Heads that’s beyond explanation. You can single out the familial harmonies, the guitar interplay that recalls the Byrds and the Dead, the irresistibly solid pop songs, or their flowery evocation of a bygone era. But when it comes down to it, this band’s music simply feels good. No other band has released music this irresistible and uplifting in years, and only a select lucky few up and down the West Coast have had the luxury of being able to see and hear them live. With a little luck, this may change, and we’ll be able to look back at Owl & Timber as one of the elements that made it happen.

2. Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun
Following up the 37-years-late Smile with another similarly built song cycle seemed like little more than a fantasy in 2004. But here we are in 2008, and Brian Wilson pulled it off. Mike Love would be proud to hear that there’s only one “downer” on the album (the beautiful, Pet Sounds-worthy “Midnight’s Another Day”), while all the rest are upbeat, aural murals depicting the sunny side of Southern California. It’s Brian doing what he does best, and outside of Smile, it’s easily his best, most enjoyable solo work.

3. Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Technically, Tell Tale Signs is an archival release, but the recent vintage of the material (1989 through 2006), the abundance of never-before-heard songs, and the fact that most of it was recorded during the same period in which Guns n’ Roses’ 14-years-late Chinese Democracy gestated, qualifies it as new. And even if it didn’t qualify, it would still be listed here, since it does as good a job (if not better) as any of his last three records of proving that, even in his old age, Dylan has lost none of his power to inspire, confound, delight and move his audience.

4. The Gutter Twins: Saturnalia
Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli have collaborated in the past on a few tracks from Greg’s Twilight Singers albums, and while those duets were pretty good, they were never major stand-outs. Not until the two covered Massive Attack’s “Live with Me” on last year’s A Stitch in Time EP, anyway. As good as that cover was, this full album of originals by Greg and Mark is even better. Dulli stretches himself here, eschewing his usual rockin’ R&B swagger and falling under Lanegan’s dark, spiritual influence.

5. Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights: Movie Theatre Haiku
That straight-laced dude from Portland with the Harry Nilsson fixation strikes again, this time crediting his road band and turning in an even more confident record than last year’s The Drunken Dance of Modern Man in Love. If the 1966 Beatles were a young band today, they’d likely be playing songs like Robley’s “User-Friendly Guide to Change.”

6. Joseph Arthur: Vagabond Skies (EP)
Of the four EPs and full-length album Joseph Arthur released this year, Vagabond Skies rises to the top not only for bearing some of his most captivating and ethereal songs, but also for containing the year’s most memorable guitar solo, in the EP’s centerpiece “She Paints Me Gold.” Plus, the cover art is damn cool.

7. The Happy Hollows: Imaginary (EP)
They’re funny, they’re smart, they’re tight as a conservative’s behind, and they’re the most exciting live indie rock band in L.A. right now. Imaginary is just a short burst of five songs, but what a burst it is – from the simple exclamatory chant of “Colors” to the almost prog-like tour-de-force of “Lieutenant” with singer/guitarist Sarah Negahdari’s Eddie Van Halen-esque guitar tapping, Imaginary tantalizes and teases, just like you want it to.

8. Guns n’ Roses: Chinese Democracy
Yes, it’s bloated and overproduced. No, it’s not the old, sleazy Guns n’ Roses of the late ‘80s. Yes, it should have been out ten years ago, and would have sounded even more contemporary in 1998 than in 2008. But Axl Rose is still the king of tortured, overwrought power ballads and menacing rock n’ roll screams, and on these counts, Chinese Democracy more than delivers – it beats you over the head with its twisted logic.

9. Metallica: Death Magnetic
Metallica sounds like Metallica again! It may be clich├ęd to say this is their best album since …And Justice for All, but it’s true, and it bears repeating: Death Magnetic is Metallica’s best album since Justice.

10. My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
Evil Urges goes to great lengths to prove that My Morning Jacket is no typical southern jam band. Not that they ever needed to go so far as to throw some Prince-like falsetto singing and funky R&B into the mix, but as it turns out, it sounds pretty cool.


Honorable mentions:

The Fireman: Electric Arguments
Rachel Taylor Brown: Half Hours with the Lower Creatures
Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Portishead: Third
Neil Diamond: Home Before Dark
Juliana Hatfield: How to Walk Away
Randy Newman: Harps and Angels
Deerhoof: Offend Maggie
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Sunday at Devil Dirt

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Eat shit and die"

Kanye West got so pissed after a fan threw a penny at him during a gig in Melbourne four days ago, he free-styled his way into minute-long rant culminating in a sing-along of "eat shit and die." And he was singing through auto tune the entire time!

I'm not a fan of Kanye West, but this video is hilarious. This is why YouTube rules:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

22 Best Songs of 2008 (in my opinion)

Like most music publications worth a damn, Bullz Eye (which isn't exclusively a music publication, but does take its music content kind of seriously) will be publishing its writers' picks for best albums of the year very soon. Some of the staff may also be including their picks for best songs in their published pieces on the site, but not me. I did, however, share my picks with the staff, just for them to take in and enjoy. Now I figure I'll share them here, too, as a preview to the best albums features coming up in Bullz Eye. It's actually one song longer than what I shared with the staff, since I recently got caught up with an album I totally missed. Order is not ranked in any specific way - but I did listen to the songs in this order, and it flows well as a playlist, if you're so inclined...

...links go to last.fm, for all songs that have available streams. As for the resr, that's what Amazon is for. Enjoy!

01. The Fireman “Sun is Shining
02. Brian Wilson “Oxygen to the Brain
03. The Parson Red Heads “Got it All
04. My Morning Jacket “I’m Amazed”
05. Joseph Arthur “She Paints Me Gold
06. MGMT "Electric Feel"
07. Vampire Weekend “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”
08. Juliana Hatfield “Law of Nature”
09. Neil Diamond “Home Before Dark
10. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan “Back Burner
11. Rachel Taylor Brown “Abraham and Isaac”
12. Rachel Taylor Brown “B.S. (Beautiful Savior)”
13. Portishead “The Rip
14. Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights “Atheist’s Prayer”
15. Bob Dylan “’Cross the Green Mountain
16. Randy Newman “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country”
17. Silian Rail “Not the Wind, Not the Flag”
18. The Happy Hollows “Lieutenant
19. Deerhoof “Numina”
20. The Gutter Twins “All Misery/Flowers”
21. Metallica “The End of the Line”
22. Guns N’ Roses “Prostitute