Upcoming 2016 Albums (Rumored and Otherwise) To Look Forward To

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The coming of a new year always seems to be a time of deep reflection for people. The ending of a year seems to cause people to pause and think about the year that has passed: what they accomplished or failed to accomplish. Sometimes the impending new year makes people reflect even more deeply on the passing of time and the fleeting, fragile nature of life. “Time is a jet plane, moving way too fast…” as Bob Dylan once sang. New Year’s Eve seems to really focus on reflection (“may old acquaintances be not forgot” or however that song goes) and heavy drinking. Sign me up for the drinking (no driving folks) but not the reflection. Life is too short. Then again, it is the middle of the night and I can’t sleep… maybe there is something to this reflection stuff after all…

Everywhere I look somebody has come out with another “Best of 2015” list. I prefer to look forward. As I look out into 2016 I like to think about all the new rock and roll that is coming out or rumored to be coming out. Here is my list of what BourbonAndVinyl considers the most exciting new releases in 2016. Some of these are announced releases and others are rumors. I am refusing to indulge in the current Guns N Roses original line-up hysteria. I saw one publication speculate that a new album could come out of the reunion tour in ’16. It took Axl Rose over a dozen years to come out with “Chinese Democracy”. If anybody thinks he’s going to get giddy by reuniting with Slash, Duff (if he’s even involved), Izzy and Steve Adler and put an album out in 2016 you may be even more troubled than Axl. It’s like hoping for a Kansas City Chief’s Super Bowl… “I’ve got bad news for you sunshine…”

Without further adieu, in semi-alphabetical order (translation: off the top of my head) here are the 2016 albums to keep an eye out for:

  1. Gregg Allman – I was sad in ’15 to see the end of one my all time favorite bands, The Allman Brothers. However, I read that Gregg plans on reuniting with T. Bone Burnett who produced Gregg Allman’s superb solo album “Low Country Blues”. While “Low Country” was an album of blues covers, the new album is rumored to be all new material. Let’s hope for a little more organ on this one.
  2. Beck – I loved the single “Dreams” which was the polar opposite of his last full album, the acoustic “Morning Phase”. I loved that Beck swung back to a more “Odelay” type sound. I hope the album is as strong as “Dreams”.
  3. David Bowie, “Blackstar” – This album comes out January 8th, Bowie’s birthday, so less than two weeks from now. This album promises to be some of Bowie’s most experimental work since the Berlin Trilogy. What I’ve heard so far intrigues and terrifies me all at the same time.
  4. The Cult, “Hidden City” – Anybody whose read BourbonAndVinyl knows I’m counting the minutes to this album. I’ve already reviewed the first two songs.
  5. Fleetwood Mac – Christine McVie is back in the fold and apparently brought a trunk-load of songs with her. Lindsey is always good for a ton of new music… the hold up, as usual these days, appears to be Stevie Nicks. Once they corral her into the studio we should see something from the Lindsey/Stevie/Christine line-up for the first time since the live album, “The Dance”. McVie brings balance to the Force, i.e. Lindsey and Stevie, so this could be a great come back story.
  6. Green Day – After their RnR Hall of Fame induction I read that Billie Joe Armstrong had already written half a dozen or so strong songs and they were headed to the studio… I’m in the minority here, but I loved the hot mess that was “Uno”, “Dos”, “Tre”. Unfortunately Billie Joe’s collapse messed up the tour. Fingers crossed these guys get back on their feet again.
  7. Various Artists, “George Fest” – this tribute album to George Harrison will be an album to buy selectively from, but Ian Astbury from the Cult and Norah Jones both sing songs on this album. Those will be worth investigating.
  8. Elton John, “Wonderful Crazy Night” – Elton has been going through a creative renaissance that started with “Songs From the West Coast”. I really liked his last album, “The Diving Board” but it was a quiet, mellow affair. I loved the intricate, exquisite piano playing on that album. This album, knocked out over the course of a few days promises to be a more rocking affair. Longtime Elton guitarist Davey Johnstone is in the studio this time and T. Bone Burnett is back as producer.
  9. Metallica – These guys work slower than anybody out there. They’ve been promising the follow up to the very strong “Death Magnetic” for years now. I’m hearing they’re getting closer.
  10. Mudcrutch – Tom Petty’s first, pre-Heartbreakers band is reuniting for their second outing. I loved “Mudcrutch” the self-titled debut. Petty was going to take the summer to write some songs and hopefully like last time, they’ll record it live in the studio.
  11. Pearl Jam – despite Jeff Ament’s denials and claims that they haven’t even started recording, the rumors have had these guys in the studio for almost a year. “Lightning Bolt” was strong, though I liked “Backspacer” a lot more, but any new Pearl Jam is always good news.
  12. Tom Petty, “Wildflowers – The Leftovers” – Petty’s masterpiece “Wildflowers” was originally intended to be a double album. Someone, probably the record company suits, cut it down to a single album. They always say there’s one great album in any double album, so maybe that was the logic. After 20 years the “Leftovers” are slated to finally see release in the new year. They teased it with a single last year, which apparently was part of “The Entourage” movie soundtrack.
  13. Red Hot Chili Peppers – This is the first RHCP album since “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik” that hasn’t been produced by Rick Rubin. Danger Mouse is at the helm. I still wish John Frusciante would return… but I think that ship has sailed.
  14. The Rolling Stones – they kick off a tour in South America in the new year but are reportedly following that up by doing some recording. Keith Richards was quoted as saying the “studio” word had come up in recent discussions. They looked like they were having so much fun on the Zip Code Tour last year, they need to capture that energy in the studio.
  15. Paul Simon – Paul’s last album, “So Beautiful or So What” was brilliant. I also love this new duet of his with Dion, “New York is My Home”. He’s been in the studio for a while but I still haven’t heard a release date.
  16. Smashing Pumpkins – I’ve heard the follow up to “Monuments to an Elegy” is all done. Still no release date? Tommy Lee of Motley Crue fame drummed on “Monuments” and I’d love to hear him back in the chair. I know Jimmy Chamberlin, the original drummer, sat in for them on part of their last tour. I’d love to hear him back in the fold at drummer as well. “Monuments” and its predecessor “Oceania” were a great return to form for the Pumpkins. I have no reason to expect the follow-up will be anything short of spectacular as well.
  17. Soundgarden – now that Chris Cornell has satisfied his acoustic leanings on the very strong “Higher Truth” LP, he’s returned to the studio with Soundgarden for some good old, ass-stomping rock and roll. Can’t wait for this one.
  18. Bruce Springsteen – on the heels of his “The River” box set, “The Ties That Bind”, Springsteen is taking the E Street Band out on the road. He said he’s working on what amounts to a solo album and he didn’t want to wait for another year to get the band back together. I’d expect the solo stuff later this year after the tour wraps.
  19. U2, “Songs of Experience” – supposedly Bono says it’s not going to take years between albums this time and we’ll see the next album in ’16. Most of “Songs of Experience” are purportedly already done. I’ll believe it when I’m holding it in my hand…

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned to BourbonAndVinyl… as I  hear updates I’ll let you know what the release dates are and when/where possible, I’ll review these albums as they come out.

Happy New Year, Happy & Prosperous 2016 to everybody!

Cheers!

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Confessions of an Ex-Grinch: My Christmas Epiphany

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I went through a long period in my 20’s and early 30’s where I absolutely hated Christmas. I ended up marrying “Mrs Claus” so choose what you hate carefully. Karma is a bitch. I don’t know why I hated Christmas. My parents and especially my grandparents always went all out for Christmas. We’d go to bed and they’d drink and set up toys. I remember waking up one Christmas morning and excitedly coming down to the tree to find that “Santa” had brought my brother an I an army set of Union and Confederate soldiers. Not only did Santa bring us this awesome gift but the tiny plastic soldiers were actually arrayed in a mock battle scene in front of the tree. There were dozens of these tiny blue and grey soldiers and my drunken relatives had stayed up late, setting them up in this wildlly elaborate battle scene. Hats off to my relatives. We’d set out cookies and milk and once we went to bed my grandfather dutifully ate them. I always thought this was proof positive that Santa existed and oddly never suspected my parents of subterfuge.

Maybe that was my problem with Christmas. After years of huge spectacle it became a rather quiet and staid affair. I’d go over to mom and dad’s, my sainted grandparents having long since passed, and we’d eat and quietly exchange gifts. It was always just my parents and my brother and I. My brother and I were both single at the time and my brother remains so to this day.

My family is extremely hard to buy for. It probably didn’t help that I was somewhat distant if not estranged from my family for a long time. The 20’s are tough years for some of us. My brother remains a mystery to me to this day, although we’re a lot closer than we used to be. We finally made the effort to connect but that’s another story. I never know what to buy my brother for Christmas. The only thing I can think of to get him, that he’d truly enjoy, would probably violate the United Nations ban on human trafficking. Ahem. “Made in China” are his favorite words.

My mother and father have everything they’ve ever wanted. They literally are the human embodiment of “the man who has everything”. For years I spent money buying my father every garment you could think of with a KC Chiefs’ logo on it but quickly ran out of hats, coats and sweatshirts to buy for him. My sainted mother actually eschews us buying her anything at all, like she feels guilty accepting gifts from her children. One year she asked for a breadbasket. Why not just ask me to stop by the grocery store and pick up some rolls. I ask for a Christmas list every year and she turns into the Sphinx. All I get back is a riddle. “Oh, Kenny, you don’t have to get me anything, just come by the house once in a while.” Sigh.

There was no one in my life back then. Or more correctly, there was a revolving door of people in my life back then. This may have also been a factor in the “hating of Christmas”. My high school girlfriend and I should have broken up at Christmas my freshman year in college, but she waited to do me that favor until April Fool’s Day, which was actually very fitting. Oddly I went through a series of breakups after that and generally they always occurred before the holidays or during them. That always puts a damper on the festivities. I never bought a tree nor made any effort to decorate my apartment in any way. I lived on Kansas City’s famous Country Club Plaza and every year the buildings are outlined in luminous Christmas lights. They turn the lights on every year in a big celebration on Thanksgiving night. I figured that was enough Christmas decoration for anybody. My mother, to mock my holiday despair, bought me my lone Christmas ornament, a stuffed Grinch hanging by a Christmas wreath. My wife hangs in my entry way every year to this day.

One year, as usually happened, I broke up with someone right before Christmas. December 20th was the date, and oddly I remember it. More accurately, the Rock Chick broke up with me but again, that’s another story for another time. We ended up married, so you never know. So, as usual, I was to go to my parents on Christmas Eve, spend the night and then drive home at some point Christmas day. My brother was in town. It was a carbon copy of the prior year and the year before that and so on, and so on. Before I headed to my folks house I stopped in O’Dowd’s my local haunt and started ordering martini’s. “Bring one of these every 15 minutes until I look ready for Christmas…” After about an hour and a half in the bar I felt I’d steeled myself for the impending holiday and headed to my folks. It was my intention to sit in my parent’s darkened basement and stare at the secondary tree they kept down there. Yes, my parents have two Christmas trees… they literally have everything.

Everyone except my father had gone to bed and I was sitting in the basement, clutching my wine glass to keep myself centered. Christmas I hated, Holiday Drinking I loved. My father came down to sit in front of the tree with me, when his cell phone rang. I thought something was wrong, who would call at 11pm on Christmas Eve? “Come with me, I need your help” my father exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. I followed him up to the garage where he quickly opened up the garage door letting in the cold. There were two brand new, shiny, kiddy bicycles sitting in the garage. “Gee dad, you shouldn’t have…I think Craig and I are a little big for these.” My father, as usual, was not amused, “They’re not for you smart ass, I’m storing these for the neighbor. He bought them for his kids and since there is a foot of snow on the ground, you’re going to help take them to his house while I stay here in the warm house.”

At that exact moment, a guy about my age came shuffling through the snow and up the driveway. Only moments before I’d been sitting alone, lamenting the fact I’d always be alone. Now a guy my age appears as if to underscore the point, to grab two bikes for his kids. He thanked my father profusely and I grabbed one bike, and he grabbed the other and we set off down the road to his house. His excitement at playing Santa for his kids and giving them their bikes was palpable. As I pushed that bike through the snow, I look up at a the stars and the snow flurries in the air and his excitement began to stir something inside of me. I suddenly felt connected to Christmas again. I remember looking at the guy and thinking, this could be me. I could own a home and have a family. It’s not too late for me. This guy not only gave his kids bikes that year, he gave me something too. He gave me the key to Christmas.

We rolled the bikes into his living room and the place reminded me of my grandparent’s house when I was a kid. I was like the Grinch… I felt my heart, which had been three times smaller than everybody else, suddenly swell to three times bigger than normal. I felt the despair and dread of Christmas fall away. I walked back to my dad’s house slowly but oddly for me, joyfully. I finally realized what I’d been missing. It’s the giving and the doing for others. There are so many people who as Bill Murray says in “Scrooged” that are having “trouble making their miracle happen” that we can all help. (No wonder I always weep during that final scene in that movie, I was that guy.) The day after Christmas I sought out a couple of charitable organizations and I started volunteering. I donated some money, even though I really didn’t have a lot. I didn’t have my own family so I started giving to my community. This may have been fundamental for most folks but somehow I’d lost touch with that.

If you’re alone, if you have a big family, whoever you are and whatever your circumstance, don’t forget what I forgot – the Holidays are for helping those less fortunate than you. And believe me, there is always someone less fortunate than you are. Even small acts like dropping some change in the Salvation Army’s bucket can help. And the giving and the doing for others feels great… Again, as Bill Murray said in “Scrooged” you start to “want that feeling, you get hungry for it” and that spirit of Christmas can stay with you, year round.

Every year my wife hangs the Grinch ornament up. For me it serves as that little reminder of that night, years ago, when I pushed a couple of bicycles through the snow, the year I got to play Santa for the first time…. and I smile.

Happy Holidays and as always, Cheers!

XMas Playlist For Those Who Hate Xmas Music

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I always hated Christmas. I shouldn’t say I “always” hated Christmas. My parents and my grandparents were exceptional custodians of that particular holiday. Maybe that’s the problem. The Christmases of my childhood were so amazing that as an adult there was nothing that could match that. It got so bad in my early 30’s that my mother gave me a Christmas ornament, the only one I owned, of the Grinch. I never put up a tree but I would faithfully hang the Grinch in my apartment, some place prominently as if to say, “yes, I hate Christmas, what are you gonna do about it?”

I had a number of break ups that occurred right around the Christmas holidays. My first ever break up was on April Fool’s Day. It went something like this: “It’s over,” “April Fool’s, right babe?”, “Uh, no”. Awkward. But after that first break up, for reasons unclear my break ups usually happened over the holidays. My friend Lou always said, “break up before the holidays Pappy, no gifts to have to buy,” but that was Lou’s thing, not mine.

Christmas was just hard for me from my late teens until my mid 30’s. When I met the Rock Chick, as fate or perhaps karma would have it, she was Mrs. Claus. There is not a Christmas tradition she hasn’t embraced. Home made egg nog, holiday baking, and I think there are 3 trees in the house, all decorated. At one point during the decorating process the cats had more glitter on them than most strippers I’ve seen. Around the early time of knowing the Rock Chick I had a clarifying Christmas moment, that I’ll write about in a different post that turned my attitude around. To this day I still don’t know what the 12 days of Christmas are. I get Christmas and Christmas Eve, but what are the other 10? I think this year may have shed some light on this for me –  one of them has to be Frank Sinatra’s Birthday 12/12 and the other has to be Keith Richards’ Birthday 12/18. But that still leaves eight days that are undefined for me.

In one of the Bond films, the evil villain, Blofeld, realizes he’s been duped and an important cassette he needs to activate his world-destroying laser has been switched out with a recording of the British Army Band playing some battle tune. Blofeld looks out at the horizon, as the awful military marching band plays, and says, cigarette holder clinched in his teeth,”I do so hate martial music…” in a resigned very British tone. That’s how I feel about Christmas music, well without the cigarette holder. I don’t smoke. It’s everywhere. You can’t go any place without hearing Christmas music, traditional or pop recordings, playing in the background. Even in some bars I used to hang around in. I believe it’s a plot to annoy me like drivers who talk on their cell phone while driving.

However, there is a small list of songs that even I, a hardened Christmas Grinch, actually like. There is a small handful of tunes that I’ve gathered on a playlist that I believe my old playlist pal Nancy would be proud of. Whenever I can, I slip this onto the stereo vs listening to Mariah Carey caterwauling or James Taylor attempting to lull me into a coma. These songs are by respected rock veterans, and I can actually get through this list of songs without retching.

So, without further adieu, these songs comprise my Xmas Playist for Those Who Hate Christmas Music:

  1. The Kinks, “Father Christmas”, a real rocker that subversively is a complaint about the commercialism surrounding Christmas.
  2. Elvis Presley, “Blue Christmas”, this may be the greatest Christmas song of all time. There is only 1 King in my house and his name is Elvis.
  3. Elvis Presley, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, again, give me Elvis over Bing Crosby or Perry Como any and every day.
  4. John Lennon, “So This Is Christmas (War is Over), yeah I’m a softy for songs about Peace. Who knew I’d feel this way?
  5. Bob Dylan, “Must Be Santa”, this one is just crazy. I laugh every time this comes on and the wife immediately rushes to the stereo to hit the “skip” button.
  6. Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, I was around in the 80’s when this came out and it still hits home with me. It’s about giving to the needy. This seems to encapsulate the real meaning of Christmas, “the giving season”.
  7. Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime”. John Lennon was on the playlist and it’s always nice to balance him out with some Paul. They’re so yin and yang.
  8. Elton John, “Step Into Christmas”, It’s upbeat and it’s Elton, what’s not to love.
  9. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Deck the Halls”, this one is hard to find, but it’s on the “Out In L.A.” greatest hits compilation. They forget the lyrics half way through the song.
  10. Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready, “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time), Eddie Vedder could sing names from a phone book with McCready strumming a guitar in the background and I’d still listen.
  11. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Christmas All Over Again”, from the superb “Special Christmas”series.
  12. The Eagles, “Please Come Home For Christmas” b/w “Funky New Year”, the first song all longing, the second song a great song for a hangover. “My hair hurts” is my favorite line in this song. We’ve all been there.
  13. AC/DC, “Mistress For Christmas”, a hard rock Xmas song, who’d have thought?
  14. Bruce Springsteen, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, I still love this song. I had it on a vinyl single from the “Born In the USA” era.
  15. Train, “Shake Up Christmas”, I’m not a huge Train fan, but the wife turned me onto this little ditty. Catchy as hell.
  16. Paul Simon, “Getting Ready For Christmas Day”, love the loop of the old time preacher in the background. Simon sings about a nephew in Afghanistan for Christmas.
  17. Bruce Springsteen, “Merry Christmas Baby”, I first bought this song on a vinyl 12″ single. It was the B-side, the A-side was “Incident on 57th St” which was an outtake from the Live 1975-1985 album. Bootleg? I’m not sure.
  18. U2, “Baby Please Come Home”, is there anything U2 sings that isn’t full on passion?
  19. Lindsay Buckingham, “Holiday Road”, from the movie Christmas Vacation, which we watch every year on Xmas day.
  20. No Doubt, “Oi To the World”, every playlist has to have a weird song on it and this one is it.

Put it on, turn it up and enjoy that egg nog people. Happily I just found out egg nog has bourbon in it.

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, “Deeply Ordered Chaos”, the 2nd single from “Hidden City”

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Is this the Western dream, defend our liberty…”

For me, one of the most anticipated albums of early 2016 is “Hidden City” from the Cult, due in February. I’ve already reviewed the first single of the album, “Dark Energy” in a separate post on BourbonAndVinyl. I have to admit that even though that song has no chorus that I can discern, “Dark Energy” has really grown on me. I would have mixed Ian’s vocals a little higher in the mix, but the interplay between Billy Duffy’s (almost a hard rock Bo Diddley-like) guitar and  John Tempesta’s drums is addictive. The Cult have a history in this millennium of releasing kick-ass first singles, so “Dark Energy” had a lot to live up to in my mind.

On Monday afternoon, while still recovering from the wife’s Christmas party, much to my surprise, I discovered the Cult released a second song from “Hidden City” on iTunes entitled “Deeply Ordered Chaos”. Let me start by saying, wow. Actually listening to both songs together, I feel like I’m looking at two pieces from the same puzzle – they fit together but I’m not sure what the entire whole is going to be like. Which is great news after the slightly disjointed way they released the songs on “Choice of Weapon”, their last outing.

“Deeply Ordered Chaos” starts with a slow build. Like “Dark Energy” it starts with an epic Billy Duffy guitar riff. The riff is slower than “Dark Energy” and I would almost describe it as “ominous.” I mean that in a good way. After the slow build guitar entry, Ian Astbury’s vocals begin, “I’m a European, tears fall on the altar.”  Once I heard that, I was hooked. I really love this song. There are some restrained strings between the guitar riffs that add to that ominous vibe.

The lyrics support the darker feel of the song. Ian sings of Europe, tears on the altar, Syria must fall. In the middle of the song, he drops to a quietly spoken line, “A child of liberty opened my eyes, defend Paris…” Surely this song was written and recorded long before the heinous attacks on Paris on November 13th, but the entire vibe of the lyrics make this song a perfect backdrop to current events. When Ian sings, “Who you looking at, who you dreaming of, What you leave behind?” it evokes the current-day tension like a screaming headline. Clearly I don’t think the Cult are advocating any kind of retribution here, but are merely capturing a mood. Like all good artists they are likely reflecting the environment they find themselves in. Think Dylan in the 60’s writing “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Artists have more sensitive antennae than the rest of us.

While I was slightly disappointed with “Dark Energy”, it has grown on me quickly. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” (and by the way, I love that title) hooked me immediately. The song hit me in the lower brain stem and took hold. It’s been on high rotation here at the house for two days now. I was going to wait until the album comes out next year to comment on this song, but it’s a tune that every rock fan needs to hear. I couldn’t wait until February to say something.

Listening to both the new Cult songs together only builds my anticipation for the new album, “Hidden City”. It’ll be interesting to hear how these songs translate live. Typically I have to fly to Denver or Chicago to see the Cult. Oh sure, I’d love to fly to the UK to catch the late February/early March tour of the UK, but alas I’ll have to wait to they come state-side.

Turn this one up loud… and as always, Cheers!

Happy Frank Sinatra Centennial

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**picture from Wikipedia

December 12th, in the heart of the holiday season, is a day when we must all pause and celebrate the anniversary of the birth of one of the biggest musical giants of all time – The Chairman of the Board, Francis Albert Sinatra. Frank Sinatra would have been 100 today. While BourbonAndVinyl celebrates rock and roll music, I’m not sure the cool attitude that is rock and roll would have existed without Frank Sinatra. Even though he hated rock and roll, his influence over singers and singing is undeniable. Jim Morrison and Dave Gahan owe a giant debt to Frank. And let’s face it, nobody epitomizes the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl like Sinatra. “Nobody’s lived and loved the way Frank did” as the saying goes.

As a rock and roll guy, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really get turned onto Frank Sinatra until he let Michelob use his fabulous song “The Way You Look Tonight” on one of their commercials. I remember sitting in a bar watching football and that commercial came on. I had to shush the table of drinkers I was with so I could listen. I was hooked. My friend, Arkansas Joel, after hearing me belt that song out drunkenly at the top of my lungs, repeatedly, finally went out and bought me an album with that song on it. I was so obsessed with that song I recorded it on my outgoing message on my answering machine. “Lovely, don’t you ever change…” That song is perfect.

It was years later when I was in Chicago for a Chiefs game followed by a New Year’s Eve celebration when I was kicked out of a karaoke club for attempting a rather vulgar version of “Strangers In the Night”. I had forgotten the lyrics, the martinis were strong that day, and decided to explain the gist of the song in the parlance of the day. It was more of a rap song really. The stormtroopers who ran the club didn’t appreciate my free styling improvisation and bounced me out of the place. Some people… Clearly, Sinatra’s influence was deep on me.

My dear friend Nancy gave me a live album of Sinatra’s a few years ago. In the middle of the concert, between songs, he spends a few minutes extolling the virtues of Crown Royal whiskey. Talk about a BourbonAndVinyl moment.

Sinatra’s music, especially today on his Centennial, should not be the thing of steak joints and Italian restaurants. It’s music that everyone should be listening to. They should teach Sinatra in music classes in high schools. The technique, the talent, the dedication. This is music that should be played in homes everywhere. There are so many greatest hits albums in Sinatra’s catalog that you literally can’t go wrong picking any of them. I’m very fond of “Classic Sinatra” and of “Sinatra Reprise: The Very Good Years” (from his years on the Reprise label, the label he founded).

Tonight, as you’re headed out to some mundane annual Holiday Party… pick up a Sinatra CD and slip in the car stereo, or on the iPod and let the master’s voice wash over you. Later, pour a martini or a bourbon on the rocks and raise a glass for today is the birthday of giant, Frank Sinatra.

Happy 100th Frank!

Cheers!

 

U2 Live In Paris: HBO, a Recap, Bravo

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Like a lot of people I was devastated by the attacks in Paris on November 13th. Many bands, including U2, cancelled concerts and tours in the wake of the senseless violence. U2 was scheduled to do a live concert broadcast on HBO the same weekend that the terrorist attacks occurred. They ended up heading home, to Dublin, for what was supposed to be the end of this leg of the Innocence+Experience Tour. Instead of ending the tour, and I was delighted they did this, they returned to Paris on December 6th and 7th. I tend to agree with them that it was important for them to return to Paris as soon as possible.

Bono was quoted as saying, “This is the first direct hit on music”. He also said the band “couldn’t get back to Paris fast enough”. I think that is a fantastic sentiment! If there is any band who is perfect to take the stage at a moment like this, it’s U2. I remember seeing them several times in the US after 9-11 and it was an incredibly moving experience.

As a veritable soundtrack to all of our lives, I felt the music of U2 would be a salve, obviously not a cure, to this “direct hit on music” and on Paris. I tuned in Sunday night to see the first broadcast of the concert on HBO. It was nothing like being there, so this is not a review, but a recap. These are my reactions to watching it on TV from the safety of my couch, which as we all know at BourbonAndVinyl is nothing like being live at a concert.

They opened with the newer song, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) from their latest album, “Songs of Innocence”. The song sounds nothing like the Ramones and frankly I never dug the Ramones, which is almost rock and roll blasphemy. However, the energy in the arena was palpable and the song got the crowd going. Following that they went back in the catalog for “Vertigo” and “I Will Follow” which really got the crowd on their feet. At this point, I was over the moon. This was truly going to be a special night for Paris – the special night they all deserve. I can’t say enough about the stage and the technological spectacle U2’s show is.

The rest of the beginning of the show continued with tunes from “Songs of Innocence”. They ran through “Iris”, “Song for Someone” and “Cedarwood Road” among others. At BourbonAndVinyl we’re all about established artists doing their new material. However, I felt my mind drifting during this part of the set. Part of the problem is that Bono kept doing these clunky, spoken introductions for the songs, giving them context. It reminded me of some footage I’d seen of the Who’s “Quadarophenia” tour where Daltrey felt compelled to explain the music. Like a joke, if you have to explain it, it’s not working. Probably the most effective of the newer tunes was “Raised By Wolves”. I will say that the fact that “Songs of Innocence” was framed by U2’s formative period which was informed by the sectarian violence of Ireland’s Catholics vs Protestants had some relevance to the Paris situation, but still something was lost for me. I was disappointed in the new arrangement of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and more than a little horrified by the explosion sounds. I might have edited that out had I been them. It was powerful none the less.

When the show really turned around for me was when U2 climbed up into the “wall” or “tower” in the middle of their stage for a brief set. The effects and lighting were amazing. The song “Invisible”, which might be one of the best of their newer material was truly moving. It was riveting. The line, “their is no them” is so powerful. “There’s only us”. I love it.

Then they moved out to what I’d call the “B” stage and the momentum continued to build. I particularly loved “October” from their sophomore album and the rendition of “Every Breaking Wave” performed may be the most beautiful version of that song I’ve heard. I must admit, “Ordinary Love” would have also been perfect in that spot as well but now I’m just getting greedy.

The concert then hit high gear. They returned to the main stage for a run through some of their greatest material – “Bullet the Blue Sky” (I would have preferred Bono not use the megaphone, but I get the artistry of it), “Where the Streets Have No Name” (which always moves me to tears), “Pride (In the Name of Love)”. It was amazing. Bono kept saying, and this is a perfect sentiment, “Love is stronger than fear”. Bravo Bono!

They wrapped up with a powerful encore that started with “City of Blinding Lights” which would have benefited by not having the young dude on stage with Bono. Musicians, what are you gonna do? “Beautiful Day” was soaring as usual. The fact that they went all the way back to “The Unforgettable Fire” for “Bad” was an all time highlight for me. “One” was, as usual, emotional.

They saved the best for last however. They brought out the Eagles of Death Metal. I was so happy for the EoDM. U2 and Eagles of Death Metal tore through Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and then, in an amazingly gracious move, a healing move, U2 turned the stage over to the Eagles of Death Metal and let them perform a song, and perform they did. It was inspiring to watch those guys.

This concert proved that art, rock and roll and love are more powerful than anybody with a gun. Music heals. Music brings people together. Music makes life special. I applaud U2 and the Eagles of Death Metal for reminding us of those facts in the wake of the tragedies that occurred in Paris a month ago.

As U2 famously sang, “Don’t let the bastards drag you down”.

Cheers!