LP Lookback: Temple of the Dog – On Tour Now

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I staggered from my bed late this morning, as is my habit on weekends, after the Rock Chick yelled my name with the cursory “time to get up…” The Rock Chick runs a very military style weekend with plans and agendas… I have a more leisurely approach to my Saturdays. I can’t help it if I have a sleep disorder. At least waking to the Rock Chick’s shrill cry is better than waking to my father’s miserable singing voice, as he belted out “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the moooooorning…” How very Ethyl Merman of him…Who says I don’t come from a musical family?

My Saturday morning ritual is a simple one: breakfast with strong black coffee and some hard rock. This weekend’s selection, as it’s been all week is Rage Against the Machine. I just felt like a little angry metal today… I’m feeling subversive. Blame it on the election. And as has quickly become part of my Saturday morning ritual, I checked “the Twitter” to see what was going on. I saw that the Temple of the Dog reunion tour had begun last night in Philadelphia. They played quite an impressive set list. Not only their own tunes, but some solo Chris Cornell, Mother Love Bone tunes (obviously) and an impressive array of cover songs including Zeppelin (“Achilles Last Stand,” are you fucking kidding me, how awesome!), Bowie and Free (who I’ve just recently gotten into). They even did a Syd Barret cover. To end the show they did “War Pigs” by Sabbath. Jesus, I hope they put out a live record after this tour.

For those of you not familiar with Temple of the Dog, it was a one-off “supergroup” of sorts. Although it would have been hard to call them a “supergroup” in 1991 when they formed as not many people outside of the Pacific Northwest had heard of Soundgarden or Pearl Jam whose members formed Temple. From Soundgarden, Chris Cornell did vocals and Matt Cameron (who later joined Pearl Jam after Soundgarden called it quits) mans the drums. From Pearl Jam you had both guitarists, Mike McCready on lead and Stone Gossard on rhythm. Also from Pearl Jam on bass guitar was Jeff Ament. An impressive line up in it’s own right, but they were also joined on a couple of songs by the then unknown Eddie Vedder, most notably on “Hunger Strike” where his vocal propels the song into the stratosphere. It’s one of his most impassioned vocals.

Temple of the Dog was formed as a one-off tribute to singer Andrew Wood. In the late 80s/early 90’s Andrew was the lead singer and frontman for Mother Love Bone. MLB was a great band with some great songs, “Stardog Champion,” “Crown of Thorns” and “Stargazer” just to name a few… I strongly urge anybody who hasn’t heard Mother Love Bone to seek out their music. As I am forced to write too often in the world of rock and roll, Andrew Young was found in a coma from a heroin overdose and died shortly after that. It was truly a huge loss, the man was meant to be a rock star.

Two of the members of Mother Love Bone, namely the aforementioned Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard decided to form a new band after Wood’s untimely death. They recruited a hotshot lead guitarist Gossard had seen play, Mike McCready and various drummers. It wasn’t until Jack Irons, erstwhile drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers passed them a demo tape of a singer from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, that the band coalesced under the name Mookie Blaylock… they were later to change their name to Pearl Jam, and the rest is history. The thing to remember here is that, without Mother Love Bone, there would have been no Pearl Jam.

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had his own unique connection to Andrew Wood. The two had shared an apartment. In the Pearl Jam documentary, ‘Twenty’ Cornell talks about how he and Wood would challenge each other to each write a song every day to compare who had the better song that day. It sounds like the two were very close friends.

And so, to honor their friend and former bandmate, the members came together under the banner Temple of the Dog and did an album. This was about a year before PJ’s seismic “Ten” came out so these guys were relatively unknown at the time. I don’t think anybody was prepared for how kick ass this album was. Prior to this Cornell’s work in Soundgarden was more screaming metal than classic rock. The “Temple of the Dog” album sounded more like Mother Love Bone than anything Soundgarden had done which, when you think about it, is really the tribute to Andrew Wood here. The fact these guys could write and perform like he would really stands out.

The album “Temple of the Dog” had two great singles, that most people have probably heard: “Say Hello 2 Heaven” (a beautiful elegy to Wood) and “Hunger Strike” featuring the incredible Eddie Vedder vocal. It’s a shame Vedder isn’t joining these guys on this tour, but he’s busy drinking with Bill Murray in Chicago celebrating the Cubs historic win… and who doesn’t wish they were with him but I digress. The album is much more than those two singles, it’s an amazingly strong album – these guys had a great chemistry and it shows how close-knit the community was in the Seattle music scene. “Reach Down” is an epic 11 minute jam, turn that one up loud. “Pushin’ Forward Back” is a great rocker. On the quiet side is “Call Me A Dog” and “All Night Thing” both great songs. “Four Walled World” is another great tune with a fabulous vocal from Cornell. You can tell these guys poured their heart into this record, but no one more so than Cornell.

They’ve recently rereleased a deluxe edition of the LP with a few unreleased demo’s and outtakes. I didn’t see or hear anything that made me want to re-buy the record, but if you have never heard or purchased “Temple of the Dog” I highly recommend you pick it up post haste and turn it up loud. While you’re at the record store, pick up Mother Love Bone’s album as well. Most of their material has been repacked and rereleased so it’s not hard to find. These are both great 90s bands and should be heard by any true music fan. With the setlists I’m seeing, I am really hopeful to hear something live come out of this tour… let’s hope they’re dragging a tape machine around with them.

It appears that TOTD is only playing a few shows and mostly on the coasts but if you’re near a place where they’re playing, do what you have to, scalp if necessary but get to one of these shows. It’s time like these when great bands are only touring the coasts that I feel like I live in “concert flyover territory” and I regret living in theMidwest… oh well, someday maybe I’ll get up the gumption to move but then I’d miss going to Chiefs games. Life is such a give and take…

Cheers!

 

Playlist: The BourbonAndVinyl Election Day Playlist To Relieve Election Fatigue

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And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom  

– “I Am A Patriot” – Little Steven

I think I speak for everybody in America and beyond, no matter what your political persuasion, your political party, right or left, when I say, I’m tired of this Election. I am suffering and have been for quite a while now from Election Fatigue. Just once I’d like to watch television and during the commercial breaks see a wacky local car dealer who mistakenly thinks he should be in his own commercials. Or I’d like to see a commercial for Cialis with the couple sitting in adjoining bath tubs holding hands, which I’ve never really understood, if you’re on Cialis shouldn’t you be sitting in the same bathtub (the guns loaded, you need to pull the trigger)? Who would have thought I’d miss those commercials? All I see these days is point-counterpoint. I often see opposing politician’s commercials in the same break. Politician A accusing Politician B of being a traitorous bastard only to have the next commercial accuse Politician A of being the real traitorous bastard. None of this shit gives me a very positive vibe. I don’t know exactly when we became such a divided nation, but it appears to be getting worse.

Putting all the bile aside is becoming increasingly more difficult. I have stopped watching the news altogether, it’s too depressing. I am just pleased that in a mere five days, this great National Nightmare will be over. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely lucky to have been born and raised in a free, democratic country. The fact that every four years the populace is allowed to stand in line and go to the polls for a peaceful transfer of power is one of the greatest things on the planet. Not only is it a great thing, it’s a God damn inalienable right. But as much as I love Democracy, it took a whole lot of bourbon to get me through this one.

Well, if you’re like me, although I’m five days early, the only thing besides bourbon that’s going to get you through this negative, spiteful election is rock and roll. I’m not a political person per se. I vote, I always have, in every election from Reagan to Obama. I’m not tied to any party, I’m just looking for the best guy at the time. I like to think of myself as a hedonistic, moderate, centrist independent who enjoys fermented liquids and loud music. Although to the right I look like a communist and to the left, well I don’t know what I look like to them. I am genuinely concerned about the state and direction of my country.

In reaction to this Election season B&V put together a little play list with tunes that I feel should be taught in high school Political Science classes. The lessons may not sink in, but what a fun class. There’s not strident stuff here. In music I always lean a little more to the hippy, freedom, peace thing. I feel like peace and freedom is something both sides in this quad-annual tussle can agree on. And if you can’t agree on that, you probably aren’t a B&V reader in the first place. As usual, my play list is all over the place – loud/quiet, metal/acoustic… The Rock Chick is probably right, I shouldn’t do play lists… So if I’ve missed any of your favorite Political Science songs, please make suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking to expand these things.

  1. Alice Cooper, “Elected” – What better place to start than some manic hard 70’s rock and it sums up what the goal seems to have become.
  2. Little Steven, “I Am A Patriot” – My favorite song about politics. Jackson Browne does a great version as does Pearl Jam if you can find it on one of their live bootlegs.
  3. Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” – That’s what it’s all about.
  4. Warren Zevon, “Disorder In the House” – “Helicopters hover over rough terrain,” great guitar solo by Springsteen.
  5. CSNY, “Stand And Be Counted” – Great hippy voting anthem.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, “Civilize The Universe” – Ozzy’s plea for world peace & one of the Rock Chick’s favorites.
  7. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – From the great ‘Sonic Temple’ LP.
  8. Green Day, “Revolution Radio” – “I wanna revolution, I wanna hear it on the radio.”
  9. The Doors, “Five To One” – “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” I almost went with “Peace Frog,” which is funkier.
  10. Credence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – Also love the Dead Daisies cover of this one.
  11. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – We probably will be…
  12. John Mellencamp, “Hard Times For An Honest Man” – Amen.
  13. Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own” – Damn right we do.
  14. Fitz & The Tantrums, “Dear Mr. President” – One for the kids…
  15. Jackson Browne, “For America” – I always liked this track.
  16. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Get Up Stand Up” – I could have included half his catalog…”Them Belly Full But We Hungry” springs to mind… I settled on this one.
  17. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – One of the greatest songs of all time.
  18. Little Feat, “A Apolitical Blues” – “The telephone is ringing, if it’s Chairman Mao, tell him I can’t talk right now.” Van Halen with Hagar did a great cover of this too.
  19. Pete Townshend, “Give Blood” – “Give blood, but soon you’ll find it’s not enough.”
  20. The Beatles, “Revolution” – There’s also “Revolution #1” for you more acoustically minded folks.
  21. Neil Young, “The Campaigner” – “Even Richard Nixon has got soul…” Did he? An acoustic gem from Neil.
  22. John Lennon, “Give Peace A Chance” – My hippy side is showing through…
  23. The Vaughn Brothers, “Tick Tock” – Stevie Ray with his brother Jimmy and a plea for a better world before the clock runs out. God we miss Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  24. Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” – A little something for the paranoid.
  25. John Mellencamp, “Love And Happiness” – One of his best hard rock, political songs.
  26. Bob Dylan, “Political World” – Yes, I could have put all of Dylan’s first three albums on the list but I was trying to stay away from the acoustic guitar/harmonica stuff.
  27. John Lennon, “Imagine” – Well, you knew this was going to be on here.
  28. The Eagles, “On The Border” – “I’m just tryin’ to turn this water to wine…”
  29. The Clash, “Know Your Rights” – Something everyone should know.
  30. Randy Newman, “Political Science” – The funniest song ever written about geopolitics.
  31. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On” – What the Hell is going on?
  32. Jackson Browne, “Lives In the Balance” – I double dipped on this record, one of my 80s favorites by Jackson.
  33. Bob Seger, “Long Song Comin'” – Great song about a blowhard politician. I can’t listen to one more speech.
  34. Cream, “Politician” – “Get into my big black car,” sounds more like a threat than an invite…
  35. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Things Goin’ On” – “‘Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.” Great obscure track from their debut album.

If this track list isn’t to your liking, put on something that you do like. Season to taste, as they say. We all need a little music these days. If the Election doesn’t break the way you want it to – celebrate Veteran’s Day (aka Armistice Day) on Nov 11th like my pal Drummer Blake, by playing some loud rock and roll (Although in Blake’s case he’s actually playing the instruments not the radio, like me). At least Veteran’s Day is something we can all agree should be celebrated.

These are dark times… pour something strong and turn it up loud… Cheers!

LP Review: Norah Jones’ “Day Breaks,” The Piano Strikes Back!

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Ah, Norah Jones… I remember the first time I heard that voice. It sounded timeless. The singer could be 20 or 70, I couldn’t be sure. I was in my car with the sun roof open on an unusually warm, late-fall evening in 2002 when the song “Come Away With Me” came on the radio. I had recently moved in with and proposed to the Rock Chick. My life prior to that was “unsettled” to be kind, rootless if I were to be honest. All that had changed. I had just landed at the airport and was driving home on that warm, fall evening and I flipped over to the Public Radio station and that’s when I first heard Norah Jones sing. Instead of landing and heading to a bar to meet a friend or home to an empty apartment, for the first time ever, I was heading to a house that was more than that – I was heading to a home. Norah’s vocal seemed to beckon me towards that home, toward that better, happier life with the Rock Chick. Her voice embraced me like a warm hug. It was one of the singularly most happy times of my life.

I bought her first album the next day. I was frankly surprised to find a work of that depth, and a voice that rich came from a twenty-something year old. There was a lot of buzz around that album, that this was a new “jazz chanteuse” who’d come out of nowhere to stun the world. I never quite followed that “jazz” label they hung on her. I always thought it was because she was on the Bluenote record label that they spun her music that way. That and she played the piano, which has a rich jazz heritage. Yes, there were jazz accents on the LP, “Come Away With Me” but there was also a bluesy feel and I detected some elements of country (which would later come to flower with her excellent, fun side project The Little Willies). If forced to label her music, to me, I’d have said she was more 70’s-style singer-songwriter than anything. I heard more Janis Ian than Nina Simone.

Her second album, “Feels Like Home” followed the formula of her first album, although the Dolly Parton duet showed that country flavor a little more strongly, and the LP was very successful. Then, like a lot of artists who have had that kind of success, Norah started to experiment and branch out in terms of her sound. She stopped writing on the piano and started writing songs on guitar. I think it’s essential for any artist in any medium to stretch themselves and that’s what Norah did. I enjoyed each of her next three albums which each employed a slightly different tilt on her sound. The one consistent element is that amazing voice. I say it all the time, she could sing the phone book and I’d buy the album. I probably liked “The Fall” the best of that trio of LPs, do yourself a favor and check that one out. “Little Broken Hearts” which was done with Danger Mouse was probably the farthest from her early sound that she got, but I enjoyed it too. “Little Broken Hearts” was where I began to notice that Norah has developed a penchant for marrying dark lyrics with light, almost happy melodies. There’s nothing like delivering bad news with a smile.

I was delighted when I saw that after a 4 year absence (not including the Billie Joe Armstrong duets record, “Foreverly”) Norah was returning with her new album “Day Breaks.” Once again, there was a lot of buzz around this record as being a “return to her early sound” or “a return to her ‘Come Away With Me’ sound.” I bought into all that when I heard the first single, “Carry On.” After hearing “Day Breaks” in it’s entirety and reading  Norah say “I couldn’t have recorded this album when I was twenty,” I tend to disagree with categorizing this as “Come Away With Me 2.” This album is more sophisticated and the music is much more complex than that of her early albums. This really has more of a jazz flavor to it. You can hear fingers popping bass strings on the stand up bass, and Norah’s piano playing is more aggressive, fingers hitting keys hard. There is some beautiful horn work courtesy of Wayne Shorter. It is similar to her earlier work in that it signals Norah’s return to writing on piano. The piano “strikes back” if you will…

No song captures the sounds I just described more than the first track, “Burn.” It sets the jazz mood. “Flipside” is a jazzy, chugging song that almost reminds me of an old train song, it has that kind of rhythm. “Peace” is a beautiful piano driven jazzy-ballad. “Sleeping Wild” sounds like a song you’d hear in a French cafe after the war. When she digs into the jazz sound her music is, like her voice, just timeless. It’s hard to tell the cover songs, like Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” from the originals. The music on these songs is complex but I don’t mean in any way that they are difficult to listen to. They are as smooth and enjoyable to listen to as anything she’s recorded.

Beyond the piano-bass-horn-based jazz, she also has that patented Norah Jones sound. “Carry On” was the beautiful first single, already reviewed on BourbonAndVinyl. The standout track for me, the one that sticks in my head, is “Tragedy.” Over a beautiful, hummable melody she sings about the tragedy of alcoholism. I don’t know why but for some reason, perhaps because the word “Hallelujah” appears toward the end, I had a feeling this song was about Jeff Buckley and his drunken, tragic drowning. “Day Breaks” is another classic Norah Jones song, but with a spacey sound I really liked. Her taste in cover songs remains impeccable, and here she does Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied” with some lyrical tweaks and makes it her own.

I’ve read some reviews claiming this album is a culmination of all the sounds/styles that have come before it. I don’t hear that here, but there are some songs that sound like they could be on any Norah Jones LP – “Once I Had A Laugh,” “Then There Was You,” and “Wonderful Time For Love” are all great Norah ballads. “Once I Had A Laugh” in particular stands out for me. Her melodies just stick in my head.

This album isn’t a return to an earlier sound, this is the sound of an artist who continues to challenge herself and break new ground. I agree with Norah, I don’t think she could have made this album when she was twenty, but who could have? This is a really great album and gets a high recommendation from BourbonAndVinyl. This one is another of those, late night, tumbler full of bourbon kind of albums… only in this case, you might not want to be ruminating alone, this might one where you pull him/her onto the couch with you… if you follow me. It’s a dark ride people, love somebody.

Cheers!