Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Version Do I Get?

The new trend for releasing big albums, is to offer the consumer everything under the sun. The latest example of this is the new U2 album, "No Line On The Horizon". The album will be released on March 3 and there are no less than six different ways to own the album.

* Digital Download version of the album

* Regular Compact Disc version of the album

* Limited Edition Digipak version which includes the CD, a poster and a download of a new film by Anton Corbijn featuring the music of U2

* Limited Edition Magazine version which includes the CD, a 60 page soft cover magazine-style book and a download of a new film by Anton Corbijn featuring the music of U2

* 2LP Vinyl version of the album

* Limited Edition Box Set includes the CD, a poster, a 60 page hard cover book and a DVD of a new film by Anton Corbijn featuring the music of U2

U2 are not the first to offer different packages of the same album. Last year's Nine Inch Nails album, "Ghosts I-IV", was available as a digital download, CD, CD & Book and limited edition box set featuring an autographed CD & Book. On March 24, Pearl Jam will be the next group to offer up to 5 different ways to own their latest release. This way, casual fans can just get the CD, while "die hard" fans can get the deluxe editions that have everything that their favorite band has to offer. The only problem is the expensive price tags that some of these deluxe editions carry.

With the steady decline in CD sales, bands are becoming more creative in getting the music out to their fans. Whether it's by offering free downloads, deluxe CDs, vinyl or through video games and television, groups are becoming more active with the distribution of their music and I for one applaud that. But, with tough economic times, I don't expect too many people to fork over $100 for music on a consistent basis.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ryan Adams Starts Tour In New Haven

Friday night, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals started their 15-date tour at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven. The band took the stage just after 8:30 and received a standing ovation. Starting out with a fan favorite, "I See Monsters", Ryan Adams did a great job mixing in songs from the band's latest release, 2008's "Cardinology" through his 2000 debut solo album, "Heartbreaker". The band seemed to fly through songs early, touching on newer songs (Fix It & Magik) as well as some of Adams' more popular material (When The Stars Go Blue & Come Pick Me Up). Singer/Guitarist Neal Casal got his moment in the spotlight singing a couple of songs (Grand Island & Freeway To the Canyon) from his 2006 solo album.

The evening had a very "laid back" vibe with the band becoming very talkative with the audience. Even Ryan Adams was in a good mood, especially when his guitar was out of tune for "La Ciengna Just Smiled". The band seemed to mesh together like a well oiled machine. "A Kiss Before I Go" enticed some individuals to get up a dance, but it was the extended jams of "Goodnight Rose" and "Easy Plateau" that left the audience in awe. The night ended with a great version of "Bartering Lines" from Ryan Adams' debut album "Heartbreaker".

As a rumored hiatus looms over the band throughout the tour, they seem to be having fun performing together. Low ticket prices, 2 1/2 hours of music and affordable concession memorabilia was the winning combination to a successful show.

Monday, February 16, 2009

CD Review: Burn Halo's Vintage Debut Album

Singer/songwirter James Hart wanted to make a "straightforward rock album" with a "vintage mid-'80s throwback vibe to it." Well, Burn Halo brings back that rough, gritty, late '80s Los Angeles sound, but with an updated harder rock edge to their songs. The album, produced by Zac Maloy, features performances by Nickelback drummer Daniel Adair, former Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and guitarist Neil Tiemann from American Idol winner David Cook's band.

The album starts off with the band's first single "Dirty Little Girl", a Velvet Revolver type rocker. The song features a guest appearance by Avenged Sevenfold's Synyster Gates. The album has its share of heavy hitters, pop rockers and ballads. Songs like "Save Me", "So Addicted" and "Our House" give the album its harder, grittier sound with pounding drums and buzzing guitars. The song, "Our House" has been featured on the NFL Network and according to lead singer James Hart, "Save Me" is the "heaviest" song on the album. Burn Halo lets up on the hard rock assault with the songs, "Here With Me" and "Gasoline", both of which have a "radio-friendly" sound. The ballads of "Too Late To Tell You Now", "Saloon Song", "Falling Faster" and "Back To The Start" show off the full depth of this band. With meaningful lyrics and the mix between acoustic and electric guitars, these songs give the album its heart and passion.

Burn Halo's debut album will be released on March 31 on Rawkhead Records. Their lead-off single is available for download from iTunes. The band is currently on a tour of the east coast, first with Escape The Fate & Black Tide. Then the band will open up for Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry & Papa Roach. For more information about their debut album and tour, check out www.myspace.com/burnhalo.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Music for Valentine's Day

Maybe you're not sure what music to play for your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. Well, I'm here to save you. Here are some suggestions of bands that could be associated with Valentine's Day.

Heart (rock band from the '70s up to today)
Kiss (rock band from the '70s up to today)
Love (rock band from the '60s and '70s)
Cupid (rapper from '07 up to today)
Lil' Romeo (rapper/actor from '01 to today)
Guns n' Roses (rock band from the late '80s up to today)
My Chemical Romance (rock band from the '01 up to today)
My Bloody Valentine (rock band from '80s and '90s)
Hothouse Flowers (rock band from '80s up to today)

If none of these work for you, you can always fall back on the classic crooners. You can't go wrong with "Ol' Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett or Harry Connick Jr. Plus, there's "The King" Elvis Preseley, he sure knows a thing or two about love songs. Even singer/songwriter Ryan Adams released an iTunes exclusive E.P. of love songs called "Extra Cheese". One of my personal favorites is Bob Marley. The music and melody of his love songs is like a drug that just gets the body moving. Well, whatever you decide on, make it an unforgettable Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grammy Performances

Sunday night saw the biggest awards in music go to many deserving artists and producers. Only ten awards were presented during the telecast. I think the list of awards presented get shorter every year. Before we know it, they will only be presenting one award at the end of the show and just have performances for 3 1/2 hours.

As far as the performances go, most of them were good. Some of the more "stand-out" performances were Jennifer Hudson's emotional version of "You Pulled Me Through" in which she teared up at the end of her song making it much more heartfelt. I especially enjoyed Stevie Wonder performing with the Jonas Brothers on their song, "Burnin' Up", then on Stevie Wonder's classic song, "Superstition". It showed how much more the Jonas Brothers need to learn to reach the immortal status of Stevie Wonder. My favorite performance of the night was by none other than Sir Paul McCartney featuring Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters on drums performing "I Saw Here Standing There". Dave Grohl gave the song energy with an almost "Punk Rock" drumbeat. I also give Katy Perry props for her outfit and for her use of fruit on stage.

Country superstar Keith Urban performed everything, but country. Was he really needed to perform with Al Green and Justin Timberlake? I understand that the producers had to put something together last minute, so why did they decided to throw Keith Urban in the mix? Another question I had was that did M.I.A. need to be in the spotlight with the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I. and Lil' Wayne. I almost felt that the four rap superstars should have put on doctor's scrubs and delivered her baby at the Grammys. I understand that she wanted to perform, but maybe a different outfit and more of a background part would have helped. One thing that the Grammys have taught me was that half of Radiohead performing is better than no Radiohead at all.

As far as the awards, I'm happy that Rick Rubin won "Producer of the Year". He seems to bring out the best of every musician he works with. At least Metallica did win one Grammy for their song "My Apocalypse" in the "Best Metal Performance" category. Scrolling through the winners, it seems that Robert Plant & Alison Krauss made off with more than a few awards. It is a great album and well deserving of the Grammys it won. For a full list of winners, please visit www.grammy.com

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Concert Review: Jewel’s Soulful Serenade at Foxwoods

On Friday night, singer-songwriter Jewel made a stop at the Fox Theatre at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino. She is currently on a solo acoustic tour performing songs from her entire catalog unplugged.

After a 30 minute wait, the curtain rose to display 2 acoustic guitars and a round table with flowers and Jewel’s song catalog. She strolled onstage, in a black mini-dress, to a spotlight at center stage. She warmed up the audience with an acappella version of the classic song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. She proceeded to pick up one of the acoustic guitars and begin her evening with “Near You Always”, a song from her debut album. Throughout the evening, Jewel told stories about her adventures growing up and performing. Her first story was about singing in biker bars when she was only 14 years old, which led her to perform “Last Dance Rodeo”. Jewel would ask the audience for requests from time to time throughout the evening. Her voice seemed perfectly in control, hitting the high notes with ease. She asked the audience if they recognized this song as she performed Neil Young’s “Needle And the Damage Done”, mentioning that her song “Little Sister” was her version of that song. Her story about becoming homeless and about hope during 9/11 would lead into her performance of the 1998 single, “Hands”.

One request was for the emotional song “Violet Eyes” which Jewel wrote about the passing of a close friend. Three songs from her 2008 album, “Perfectly Clear” would be showcased that evening, the title track, the anti-domestic violence song “Stronger Woman” and the love song “Thump, Thump”. Jewel mentioned that she was recording an album of lullabies to be released later this year. One song from this forthcoming album was called “Circle Song” in which Jewel needed to use her songbook for the lyrics. The end of her 90-minute set had Jewel performing some of her best known songs, “Standing Still”, “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant For Me”. She finished with a story about the first song she ever wrote, which landed her a record contract, and closed with a “scat style” version of “Who Will Save Your Soul”.

Jewel would return to the stage to perform an acappella version of Nina Simone’s “The Other Woman”. One of the night’s biggest responses came when Jewel asked if the audience would like to hear some yodeling. She finished the evening with “Chime Bells”, which brought the audience to their feet giving Jewel a standing ovation for her intimate performance. Coming soon to the Fox Theatre is George Thorogood on March 13th and the Doo Wopp Hall of Fame on March 28th. Go to the Foxwoods Resort & Casino website for more information.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Biggest Night In Music

Sunday night will feature the 51st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony. While I have not had the chance to preview most of the nominated albums, I do have an opinion on some of the 110 awarded categories.

It looks like Coldplay could make a clean sweep of the 3 major categories (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year). The only person who would stop them from receiving all three awards is Lil' Wayne in the Album of the Year category. While both albums sold over 2,000,000 copies and have been on numerous top ten lists last year, Lil' Wayne's "Tha Carter III" sold over 1,000,000 in its first week of release. As far as the Pop Vocal Performance categories, it seems that the two songs that might win are the ones that no one could escape from. Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" and Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" were all over the radio this year, so I feel that they are the most deserving of the award.

The "Field" of Rock is were most of my interest lies. The category of Best Male Rock Performance has 3 rock legends (Neil Young, Paul McCartney & Bruce Springsteen) and two of today's biggest names in music (Eddie Vedder & John Mayer). This is anyone's category to win, but I'll put my money on Bruce Springsteen's "Girls In Their Summer Clothes", but Eddie Vedder's "Rise" could be a dark horse to win the award. Best Rock Performance By Duo or Group is another difficult category to judge. Four of the five nominated songs come from some of the biggest selling albums last year. But, my vote goes to Kings of Leon's "Sex On Fire". Who you ask? The Kings of Leon released the best album of their careers last year and it seems that America is finally taking notice of this great band. The Best Rock Instrumental Category features some of my all-time favorite bands (Metallica, Rush, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd), but I feel that Nine Inch Nails' "34 Ghosts I-IV" was the most innovative and experimental of the nominees. The biggest battle in the Field of Rock is in the Best Rock Album category. While Coldplay sold the most albums and the Kings of Leon made one of the best albums of the year, it is Metallica's award to win. A sort of a payback for giving the first ever "Hard Rock/Metal" Grammy to Jethro Tull over Metallica in 1989.

Only about a dozen of the awards will be presented during the 3 hour telecast. For a full list of the winners, please visit www.grammy.com on Monday, February 9th. Also, don't forget to check back to JP's Music Blog for a quick rundown of the evenings' highs & lows.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

CD Review: ionia's Hard-Rock Debut

Newcomers, ionia are one of the quickest rising rock bands today. Their sound is very edgey hard rock with thought provoking lyrics, a perfect combination for today's radio. Hailing from New York City, the band's latest release is a 6-song self-titled EP. Songs like "The Storm" and "Rewind" are up-tempo rockers provided by the rhythm section of Freddy Epps on bass and Donato Paternostro on drums. The ballad of "Gasoline Rainbow" shows off Blaise Beyhan vocals with minimal instrumentation to overpower the song. Craig Baur's guitar playing is felt throughout the album, whether its electrifying songs like "Winning Is Everything" or a gentler, acoustic sound of "Loneliness Will Not Be Televised".

The band has been compared to My Chemical Romance, The Deftones and 30 Seconds To Mars amongst others. Their songs have reached "Top 25" status on Modern Rock radio and are being played on over 200 radio stations around the country. The band is currently on tour in the Northeast. Their EP is available on itunes and at www.ioniamusic.com. Check out their myspace page (www.myspace.com/ionia) for more tour dates and information.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bye-Bye Miss American Pie

That line appears in the 1972 classic song, "American Pie" by Don McLean about "The Day The Music Died". Today (Feb. 3), is the 50th Anniverary of that tragic day in music history. Just after 1:00 a.m., a plane carrying music icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa killiing everyone on board. The three musicians were on tour, performing at a venue that was not originally on their scheduled tour. Not happy with the tour bus conditions, Buddy Holly decided to charter a flight to their next venue on Moorhead, MN. Just after 1:00 a.m. (central time) the plane took off from Masonc City Municipal Airport. At around 1:05 a.m., the owner of Dwyer Flying Service could see the lights of the plane decend to the ground. The crash was not spotted until 9:15 a.m. in the morning. The cause of the crash was due to poor weather conditions and the inexperience of the chartered pilot.

That day will live on forever as "The Day The Music Died". When three musicians were "cut off" in their prime. Buddy Holly was 22 years old, J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson was 28 and Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old. Each of them had their whole musical career still ahead of them. Who knows what the musical world would be like had they chose a different mode of transportation to their next tour stop.