30 May 2007

Review: Apollo Sunshine

(32; 3)

Half Moon Cruise Ship, 24 May 2007

(Dude listen to Apollo Sunshine while you read)

There is something about being out on the water. Even though at any moment you are still within shouting distance of Manhattan or Brooklyn or Jersey or Lady Liberty herself, when you're on one of the Rocks Off concert cruises, it's like you've entered the international waters of music and all laws of concertgoing are hurled overboard. Any band worth its weight in East River sludge will realize this and rise to the occasion.

The unwritten rules say Thursday is the unofficial start of the weekend and Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. So when we got on board for essentially the first boat of the season -- Apollo Sunshine on the Half Moon -- it was, for all intents and purposes, summer. Big Mama Nature did her best to cooperate with the nicest evening we could have hoped for. Yo Apollo Sunshine: bring it!

It was clear that the rules of Apollo Sunshine were being tweaked from the get go. They ran through their standard repertoire, but it was all off -- in a good way. They opened with "Better Change Your Mind" a greasy funk cover that lays right into what these guys do best. Drums (courtesy of Jeremy Black's steady limbs) and bass lead the way with swanky guitar riffs a mere afterthought. The guitarist, Sam Cohen used a double-neck thing of beauty and as the song veered into a foggy purgatory, Jesse Gallagher moved from bass to keyboards and Cohen instantaneously stepped up from the guitar neck to the bass one and picked right up with the low-end. Apollo Sunshine is a bass-first band, gloriously so. From here the shit got thick and deep and drawn out nicely, not necessarily jammed, but freely flowing.

All those sweet songs you'll hear at every Apollo show came one hit after another: Magnolia, Flip!, Phoney Maroney.... While most great bands are lovingly referred to as tight, these guys are like the opposite. They are loose -- jagged, slippery, coarse. They step on each other's toes, they hold notes for a half-step too long, they don't seem to be in each other's heads when they shift gears. All those things that awe you from other bands, these guys do the opposite. And yet, the more you hear, the more you realize that it's all intentional, the final product is exactly as intended and it's an exhilarating goulash. The last couple times I've seen them, it's been so incredibly loud that it's been hard to pick out these nuances -- been more of a rock-til-you're-deaf atmosphere. But it's in there! So by the time they start winging covers out their ass that you had no idea they played, let alone could muster, you're not surprised in the least.

The boat seemed to bust through the standard Apollo Sunshine facade. Crosstown Traffic was the first cannonball shot across the bow of the Half Moon. For a band that's short on guitar shredding, or shredding at all, Hendrix came as a bit of a surprise. As they played it, though, and pretty much nailed it, I realized that most of Jimi's stuff wasn't about guitar wanking. It was about the perfectly crafted rock and roll song -- the swell of the bass churning under the drums, clearing wide swaths of space for a Gibson or a Fender to build a foundation. It's about the riff, executed with precision while looking like it's all-too-easy. Jagged edges lovingly crafted to the smallest detail. In sum -- all the things that Apollo Sunshine is about. Then, just to remind you that these guys have Berklee-level chops like every other wankist out there, they rip into a piece they simply call "Bach": an instrumental foray into a J.S.B. composition, that should turn all doubters into believers. Had me doing the old fist pump/bootie shake/sea leg shimmy combo like cheese and crackers.

That was about the time when the rules were certainly overboard. The band realized they had some time to kill and went into "fuck it" mode. They invited a friend up no stage to take over bass playing duties. You never know how these guest spots are gonna run, but as they were tuning and warming up the strong scent of James Brown started filling the air and, sure enough, they were soon one-two-three-fouring up a nice "Sex Machine." Gallagher had some quote/unquote "zany" sunglasses on and cocked his hat to the side as he, no-more-surprises, nailed the vocals as well as you could hope. The quartet let this run all over the deck, deftly combining bass-and-drums funk with swampy rock and roll as they did the Godfather proud in a nice, extended version. It perfectly encapsulated the band that doesn't take itself seriously at all and then goes out and nails song after song as if their lives depended on it. Get on up, indeed!

The bass player might have stayed up for another song, there was a delightful Sunshine-style drums section, and some giddy-up rockabilly guitar work from Cohen on "Today's the Day" that must have set the total number of styles, themes and genres completely re-upped by the band that night to 12. They finished up with a nice, long, summer-ready version of "Phyliss." Eight minutes of chunky Canned Heat salsa; deep, psychedelic blues that served as the summary of the set in toto. And in the midst of all that hot-and-heavy they're able to spit out classic existentialism in their lyrics like: "If the universe ends/then how does it end?/and if it doesn't end/well, how is that possible?" That's just the type of guys they are.

The band, which rarely plays and encore, and seems to all but telegraph their setlist from night to night was ready to call it quits. Most bands play right up until the boat docks and for a song or two after that, even, pretty much right up to the "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here..." plea from the crew. We were outside the "if the boat sinks we could swim home" radius and the set was sadly over. The audience, which was probably a quarter what music of this caliber dictated, but a rambunctious Sunshine-loving crowd nonetheless, succeeded in getting the band back on stage.

And as they huddled to figure out what they'd play, I must admit, they finally did catch me 100% off guard -- busting into a killer cover of "And Your Bird Can Sing" by the Beatles (a version outdone only by one I caught Yonder Mountain String Band do a few years ago). Wow! S'all I can say. In a matter of about 30 minutes or less, these guys did due dillgence to Hendrix, allowed Bach to set a course to some wily rock instrumental work, popped the party with James Brown and absolutely slayed the JohnPaulGeorgeRingo hit. Note to all bands, established and wannabes: play more covers, we'll all thank you for it!

On that note: thanks, Apollo Sunshine! Let the summertime fun begin!

28 May 2007

Shows of the Week

Wait a minute... do you smell that? Free music. Summer. It begins...


Click here for upcoming shows

Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
*The National (Doveman opens) @ Bowery Ballroom
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Jenny Scheinman/Tony Scherr @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Judy Collins @ Cafe Carlyle
Marc Ribot et al @ Angel Orensanz (benefit)
Emma @ Cornelia St. Cafe
Jaik Miller Band @ LUV 24/7
The Bravery @ Fillmore
Adam Levy @ Rockwood Music Hall (late)

The National (My Brightest Diamond opens) @ Bowery Ballroom
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jamie McLean @ BB King's
Roger Waters @ Madison Square Garden
Jazz Mandolin Project @ Highline Ballroom
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
The Bravery @ Fillmore
Judy Collins @ Cafe Carlyle
Bill Ware @ Ace of Clubs
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Memphis @ Joe's Pub
Fiona McBain, Joy Askew @ Googie's Lounge
Marc Ribot, Rob Burger et al @ Southpaw (Brooklyn) (benefit)
Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Keane @ Summerstage
Shaka Zulu Overdrive et al @ The Annex
*!!! (Album Leaf opens) @ Studio B (Brooklyn)

*FREE Benzos @ Rockstar Bar (Brooklyn)
The National (Elysian Fields opens) @ Bowery Ballroom
Ribot solo, Cassandra Wilson, Charles Burnham et al @ Knitting Factory (benefit)
Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
David Nelson w. B. Sless, P. Sears, J. Molo @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Webster Hall
Gent Treadly @ Ace of Clubs
Judy Collins @ Cafe Carlyle
Memphis et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)

Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain
Jessica Lurie Ensemble @ Tea Lounge (Brooklyn)
*Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
New Monsoon @ Mercury Lounge
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
FREE Animal Collective @ South St. Seaport
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
School of Rock (plays prog rock) @ Tap Bar (early)
The Moonlighters @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
The National (Philistines Jr opens) @ Bowery Ballroom
David Nelson w. B. Sless, P. Sears, J. Molo @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Licorice @ Tap Bar (late)
Olivia D'Abo @ Cutting Room

*Bonerama, New Orleans Social Club, Sonny Landreth et al @ Crawfish
Fest (Augusta, NJ)
Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Les Claypool (Two Gallants open) @ Nokia Theater
Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
White Rabbits, Vampire Weekend, The Dansettes @ Bowery Ballroom
John Zorn Improv night @ The Stone (early/late)
Weird Al Yankovic @ North Fork Theater (Westbury, LI)
FREE Rory Ericson, Alejandro Escovedo @ Castle Clinton
Dean & Britta @ Luna Lounge (Brooklyn)
FREE Bang on a Can Marathon @ Winter Garden
Brand New Heavies @ Highline Ballroom
School of Rock (plays prog rock) @ Tap Bar (early)

*Tea Leaf Green @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard the Temptress
Bill Hart w/ M. Turner, E. Iverson, B. Street @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain
Donny McCaslin w/ Ben Monder @ 55 Bar (late)
Jon Cleary, Dr John et al @ Crawfish Fest (Augusta, NJ)
Care Bears on Fire et al @ Southpaw (Brooklyn) (2pm)
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
FREE Bang on a Can Marathon @ Winter Garden

Click here for upcoming shows

25 May 2007

minimix: Tinselitis.1

Memorial Day = summer = movies. First installment of some sweet cinematic serenade. Hit me with your favorite soundtrack bites?

Enjoy the music, enjoy the weekend!

Download the mix

01 Hardest Geometry Problem In The World -- Mark Mothersbaugh [Rushmore]
02 Also Sprach Zarathustra -- Deodato [Being There]
03 Cantina Band -- John Williams [Star Wars]
04 Your Hand In Mine -- Explosions In The Sky [Friday Night Lights]
05 Dry The Rain -- The Beta Band [High Fidelity]
06 The Ecstasy Of Gold -- Ennio Morricone [The Good, The Bad And The Ugly]

23 May 2007

Links of the Week

Last week's minimix was the 100th file I've uploaded to Mediafire. Lots of mixes, shows from Ned's past, and other random musical bric-a-brac. That's more than 1700 downloads and counting. Sick! Keeping this as a running feature (click here to see previous), here are the top attractions and another chance for the casual OTW reader to get in on the game:

(Previous rank in parentheses)

Click to download...

  1. WSP Reno 3/29/97 Part 1 (1)
  2. Arcade Fire 17Feb97 (6)
  3. Best of 2006 disc 2 (5)
  4. Reno 97 part 2 (8)
  5. minimix 6apr07 (new) -- Americana Is Beautiful.1
  6. WSP Warfield 3/31/97 Part 1 (UR)
  7. Best of 2006 disc 1 (2)
  8. minimix 27apr07 -- Phishtalgia.1 (new)
  9. WSP Warfield 3/31/97 Part 3 (UR)
  10. minimix 16mar07 -- Comes Alive Vol. 2 (9)
  11. (tie) minimix 16feb07 -- F.Art.S. Vol 2 (Herring) (7)
[Dropped out: minimix 8dec06 -- The Long Play -- Live in 2006; minimix 9feb07 -- F.Art.S. Vol 1 (Metzger); minimix 15dec06 -- Wait A Minute! This is New Music?; minimix 2mar07 -- Jazzercise.2 (g)]

A few extra links for this week:

While I'm posting videos, here's another oldie but goodie... if you enjoy films and numb3rs, they pretty much got all of these dead on:

21 May 2007

Photos (+ Review): !!!


Bowery Ballroom (3), 16 May 2007

One day when I'm trucking around in my own personal Rascal and my grandkids ask why I can't stand up and play with them I'll think back to nights like last Wednesday when I saw !!! play at the Bowery Ballroom. It's been almost a week and there still is something wrong with my knee. You see, I went to a super funtime dance party and a freakin' mosh pit broke out.

But, let's back up a few songs. Call 'em ChkChkChk, or Shift-1Shift-1Shift-1, these guys really do put an exclamation point on everything they do. Verb personified -- forgive the blurry photos, it's tough to take a picture of something that doesn't stop moving... a caveat that borders on ridiculous by the end of this review. They popped out on stage and laid right into it, just like they do on their fantastic "Myth Takes." Just like the album, the first thing you hear is that elastic bass bopping through the air: front to back, side to side, in and out. Good funk music starts and ends with the bass. Not so much that everyone is George Porter, but they got to be in command. These guys have that down. I wanted to take that low end, spray it in a paper bag and huff it til I could hear my synapses sizzle.

The rest of the band is what I call the Noah's Ark complex(TM): two of everything. Two guys up front, two drummers, two guitar players... sometimes mixing and matching, a keyboard in there and some percussion as well. There was no emphasis on musicianship, though. Come to think of it, there wasn't any emphasis on songs even. At least not the show I was experiencing. It was just bam, bam, bam from start to finish. If you had to translate the 80 minutes of music to one word, it would be: "fun." I can't imagine a more fun night of just pure boogie.

And it was totally infectious. The lead guy had a wonderful, don't-give-a-shit geekiness to his onstage gesticulations that gave the signal to the hipsteratti: it's OK to dance... and look stupid. I didn't need to be told twice and the audience was particularly hip to movement for a Wednesday night at the Bowery.

There was no ebb or flow to the set. It started here [indicates level near nose] and ended here [raises level to just above forehead]. Occasionally things would stretch out a little bit, the band kind of sinking into an extra groovy thing that needed a little something more to keep it going. Guitars wailed occasionally, but really, this music was pure rhythm section. The drums and percussion and bass just automatic weapons with the safety turned off from beginning to end. The extra energy boost finally came in the form of a little spark plug of a female guest vocalist.
Just like the rest of the band, she didn't make an impression with some major pipes or nothing, she just done brung it and everything just leaped a level to keep up. I couldn't resist taking a break from getting my boogie on and snapping a few pictures of her as she hovered over the crowd and it may have been a second after this one (I call it "Look out below!"):

that my journey to handicapped parking started in earnest. She was there on stage and the next thing I knew I felt something that in hockey would be referred to as a "hip check." She dove into the crowd, took out the guy next to me and set fire to a very short fuse that exploded into the crowd around us (after ensuring that both the projectile and her target were A-OK) resulting in full bore mosh pit. As far as those go, this was pretty tame, we were wearing ironic t-shirts and all, but good, clean pushing and shoving nonetheless... not what I was expecting when I left the house.

So: !!! = Buy the album! Go see 'em live! Wear a helmet!

Openers were Holy Fuck. The jokes write themselves, for sure. More mediocre instrumental music. They weren't bad really, they just weren't good, per se. It was a quartet and at least two of the "musicians" were superfluous. Take your pick as to which two, not sure it would make a difference. Drummer and bass player were actually playing stuff. The other two guys kind of danced and maybe were playing keyboards, but mostly they were just plugging shit in and unplugging other things and making a lot of noise, which included, somewhat quixotically, a lot of drums and bass. It was high energy and didn't offend and made me move a little bit, but there was no creativity being exhibited and very little skill on display. It was like watching someone play Operation really well. Maybe that's entertaining, but I'm not letting him perform surgery on me. Either that or 2 degrees away from getting inebriated and enjoying someone else's performance in Guitar Hero. Without the name, there's very little there there. What astounds me is that 90% of the dudes at that show would scoff at any 3rd tier Jamband who's doing instrumental music at a higher level of creativity and groovitude. I don't know why this continues to surprise me, but it does.

20 May 2007

Shows of the Week

We can officially call it summer now... this will take you through Memorial Day.


Click here for upcoming shows

Steely Dan @ Beacon Theater
*Damien Rice @ Radio City Music Hall
Jesus & The Mary Chain @ Webster Hall
Butch Morris Orchestra @ Nublu

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals @ Mercury Lounge (early)
*Dan Bern @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Vinicio Capossela w/ M. Ribot @ Joe's Pub (early)
Todd Sickafoose's Blood Orange @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Steely Dan @ Beacon Theater
Jaik Miller Band @ LUV 24/7
Jesus & The Mary Chain @ Webster Hall
Rashied Ali @ Jazz Standard (early/late)

Hornsby/McBride/DeJohnette @ BB King's (early/late)
J. Moran, B. Street, N. Waits, R. Coltrane et al @ SIM (Brooklyn)
Shannon McNally et al @ Living Room
Derek Trucks Band @ McCarter Theater (Princeton, NJ)
*Eyal Maoz @ Fontana's
Curtis Hasselbring's Decoupage @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Fiona McBain, Joy Askew @ Googie's Lounge
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway (late night)
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals @ Joe's Pub

Roger Waters @ Continental Arena (E. Rutherford, NJ)
Disco Biscuits @ Highline Ballroom
John Butler Trio (Kaki King opens) @ Webster Hall
**Apollo Sunshine @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard the Half Moon
FREE Benzos @ Rockstar Bar (Brooklyn)
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Les Breastfeeders @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Conspirator @ HighLine Ballroom (late night)
The Bridge @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)

Disco Biscuits @ Highline Ballroom
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
Jessica Lurie @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Dan Bern @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
*STS9 @ Studio Mezmor
George Clinton & 420 Funkmob @ Webster Hall
Uncle Leon & the Alibis et al @ Ace of Clubs
Dark Star Orchestra @ North Fork Theater (Westbury, LI)

Mos Def @ Highline Ballroom
*Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
Dark Star Orchestra @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
David Kolker Band @ Bitter End

Dick Dale @ BB King's
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall
Les Breastfeeders @ Magnetic Field (Brooklyn)
*The Berg Sans Nipple @ Piano's
FREE Melvin Sparks Band @ Lucille's

Memorial Day:
*The National (Te Broken West opens) @ Bowery Ballroom
Bright Eyes (Gillian Welch opens) @ Town Hall

Click here for upcoming shows

17 May 2007

minimix: even more new music

Here's some old fashioned rock and roll, 2007 style... (shortest mix ever?)


Download the mix

01 My Old Ways -- Dr. Dog: We All Belong
02 Country Ghetto -- Mofro: Country Ghetto
03 You Might Walk Away -- Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter: Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls Of The Soul
04 Cowgirl In The Sand -- Neil Young: Live At Massey Hall 1971
05 The Honest Hour -- Assembly Of Dust: Recollection
06 Up On Cripple Creek -- Gomez: Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band

Previous 2007 stuff in minimix:
more new music
Comes Alive Vol 2
Old & new

Links of the Week

To tide you over until I have something useful to add:

So, I've been listening to Prog and other Bad Plus quite a bit this past week, piquing the interest of one LJ, who of course, does them justice.

LJ: I like this music. But it's not like rocking out music. You usually like rocking out music.
Dad: It's jazz. It's kind of like rocking out music.
LJ: It's like a lullaby. A really loud lullaby.
Dad: That's true. The band is called the Bad Plus.
LJ: They're joking, though, right?
Dad: What do you mean?
LJ: The Bad Plus, they're joking! They're not bad, they're good!
Dad: That's true.LJ at the Bad Plus, 8/21/2003, City Hall Park

16 May 2007

Review: Jenny Scheinman (30;2)

barbes (2), 14 May 2007

Art is uncomfortable. Not in some metaphoric way, but actually physically uncomfortable. Making it: I'm guessing; but appreciating it: almost always. You can't look at the Mona Lisa from your couch. Concerts are much the same -- even when there are seats, they aren't exactly Laz-E-Boys... even in the poshest theaters, there's that element of discomfort. Most of the shows I go to have me standing and that's right where I was Monday night: standing in a packed Barbes, shifting my weight from foot to foot, waiting for the music to begin. The room, tiny as can be, was stuffed like a Brooklyn burrito; the occasion was a special Jenny Scheinman show. And let me tell you, it was uncomfortable. With the weather actually acting its age, the warm May evening air permeated the room. It was the kind of atmosphere that makes you appreciate how amazing the human body is -- that 40 people could generate that much heat in a short amount of time. I believe the word. They announced that they were recording the show and thus they turned the noisy air conditioner off and almost immediately I could feel the sweat rolling down my back.

But just because art is uncomfortable doesn't mean the converse is true. Not to worry, this was Jenny -- a musician's musician, an artist in the truest sense. You only have to look at the caliber of musicians that seemed all too happy to join her in the oven to make her music come alive. You want artistry? How about: Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Kenny Wolleson, Doug Weiselman, Ron Miles....?!? These cats were assembled to record Scheinman's next album this week and were supposed to play a warm-up gig at Tonic. This isn't the first "supposed to have been at Tonic" show for me, but life goes on and what would have been a nice, warm intimate evening in the Lower East Side became a cozy, cramped, hot one in a room in Brooklyn that probably isn't the size of the stage at Tonic. In addition to the announced band of 7 musicians, Jenny also recruited a full-on string quartet bringing the total to 11! Like a fancy schmancy prep school, the teacher-to-pupil ration was incredibly high and as a result, the lessons were particularly illuminating.

Yes, this ensemble made art. Art of the most wonderful kind. From the moment they started tuning their instruments you could feel it was going to be special. The notes seemed to relish in the dank haze, condensing in the air and forming clouds of music that enveloped the entire room. You could call them nothing but an orchestra with Jenny Scheinman conducting and playing 1st violin. On top of her wonderful playing and intense energy, she's also quite a band leader. It's not trivial to navigate such a eleventet and make something beautiful out of it, but song after song that's just what she did.
Ah, those songs. You can see why she'd settle for nothing but the best. Not that there were extravagant guitar parts for Frisell or piano parts for Moran (both of whom could handle your best with one hand tied behind their backs), but Jenny obviously cares deeply about this music and each note needed to be handled with the utmost care. In fact, there were few solos all around, the musicians moved as a unit, or, more often as several smaller units complementing each other. It wasn't until 5 or 6 numbers into the set that we even got a violin solo. Instead, she chose to amplify herself above the all-star cast, the string quartet became a quintet with Jenny leading them like an squadron of F-16's, an attack formation of jet planes zig-zagging through insanely delicious music.

The songs don't quite have names yet, so we were treated to such compositions as "2" and "6." That second tune was a brilliant orchestration that at times brought to mind the ecstatic chaos of Frank Zappa's big band epics of "The Grand Wazoo" era. From there they traveled over various tracts. There was an incredibly funky number with bassist Tim Luntz gluing into Kenny Wolleson and laying down some esoteric grooving while the horns and strings laid down interlocking melodies. Later in the evening, Jenny was all-out fiddling, but not in a hoedown bluegrass way, rather in some glorious, goosebumps ecstasy. Jenny deferred to her band almost to a fault, allowing them to break off into subgroups throughout the set. But what a treat: Ron Miles, Frisell and Wolleson skittering through an flabbergastingly high-paced romp was a definite highlight. If you catch Jenny on any night, there's no telling what she'll play: roaring 20's jazz, singing bluegrass, klez-tinged chamber music.... this set seemed to have a little bit of all of that (well, no vocals, but still).

I'd have to give Kenny the MVP of the band, you just can't do the kinds of things Jenny was getting these 11 to do without someone like Wolleson holding down the fort. Drummers are typically some weird dudes, and he's no different. Wedged into the corner of the room, sunglasses, flopping around on his stripped down kit (basically a snare and a bass drum and a cymbal or two), wily peppering in some percussion whenever he felt it was needed. Everyone was spot on, though. One song saw Moran breaking away and just sort of soloing down the side as the other 10 locked into something related but different. Weiselman always seemed at right angles to the rest of them, breaking in, ever-so-gently with some avant licks from his bass clarinet. The range of styles from Weiselman to Miles pure-of-heart coronet to the upscale string quartet to Frisell's unfocused wisps of guitar to Jason Moran's gorgeous bopping.... somehow Jenny got it all to work and made all these forces do her bidding. Of course, she shined above them all, as it should be when it's her music, but recalling the last Frisell show I saw, maybe how it would have been anyway. Every year there seems to be a musician that bubbles up from all the rest for me, like they have made it their mission to blow me away time and time again. With the announcement that Jenny will be playing a free show at Prospect Park, it may just be her.

At some point, the heat just became unbearable and they turned the air conditioning on for the minute or so between numbers. It was a tease, for sure, but a welcome one. At that rate, I could have stood there, drowning in my own perspiration, for hours and hours. It was art at the highest degree, live music at its most pure. Of course, it had to end, there was a late set and the room needed to be cleared. The hour had passed much too quickly, and now I'm left with the terrible discomfort of waiting. Waiting for them to record the album and mix it and whatever else they need to do before it gets into my hands and, most importantly, back into my ears. Hurry up!

13 May 2007

Shows of the Week


Click here for upcoming shows

LCD Soundsystem @ Webster Hall
*Scheinman w/ Frisell, Miles, Moran, Wolleson et al @ Barbes
(early/late) (Brooklyn)
Pharaoh's Daughter @ Highline Ballroom
Stephen Stills @ Concert Hall
Donny McCaslin @ 55 Bar (late)
Butch Morris Orchestra @ Nublu
Dark Star Orchestra @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Mando Diao, Pop Levi @ Bowery Ballroom

Arctic Monkeys (Be Your Own Pet opens) @ Hammerstein Ballroom
*Silversun Pickups @ Webster Hall
Jaik Miller Band @ LUV 24/7
Sam Champion, TigerCity et al @ Bowery Ballroom
Frith/Zorn @ The Stone (early)
Daniel Johnston @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Ludovic Beier Quartet & Friends @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Spank Rock @ Highline Ballroom
Duncan Sheik @ The Concert Hall
Michael Blake w/ M. Rojas, S. Bernstein, C. Weston @ Cornelia St. Cafe
Fred Frith/Zeena Parkins @ The Stone (late)
Bo Bice @ The Canal Room

*!!! @ Bowery Ballroom
Southern Culture on the Skids, The Dansettes @ Mercury Lounge
Elvis Costello & The Imposters @ Nokia Theater
Bobby Previte @ 55 Bar
They Might Be Giants @ Joe's Pub (late)
Van Davis @ 55 bar (early)
Ryan Adams @ UPAC (Kingston)
Bobby Previte @ 55 Bar (late)
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway (late)
Suzanne Vega @ Joe's Pub (early)
Matty Charles & The Valentines et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Mando Diao, Pop Levi @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Daniel Johnston @ Highline Ballroom
Laura Veirs @ Blender Theater

*Andrew Bird @ Webster Hall
Mastodon @ Roseland Ballroom
Rotary Downs et al @ Mercury Lounge
Laurie Anderson @ Highline Ballroom
Erik Friedlander @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
FREE Benzos @ Rockstar Bar (Brooklyn)
Mission On Mars @ Baggot Inn
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Either/Orchestra @ Iridium (early/late)
MK Groove Orchestra @ Mo Pitkin's (late)
Spottiswoode & His Enemies @ Joe's Pub (late)
Jessica Lurie @ Bowery Poetry Club
Deerhof @ Fillmore

Rotary Downs @ The Delancey
Tapes n Tapes @ Irving Plaza
*Ollabelle @ Joe's Pub
Derek Trucks Band @ Community Theater (Morristown, NJ)
Talib Kweli @ Highline Ballroom (late)
Gwen Stefani @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Holmdel, NJ)
John Cowan @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Lucian Ban w/ N. Waits @ Cornelia St. Cafe
Fields, Page France @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Laurie Anderson @ Highline Ballroom (early)
Riders On The Storm @ Nokia Theater

Secret Machines @ Highline Ballroom
Joan Osborne, Nellie McKay et al @ Town Hall
*Rotary Downs @ Magnetic Field (Brooklyn)
New York Dolls @ Fillmore
Zorn Improv night @ The Stone (early/late)
The Bacon Brothers @ BB KIng's (early/late)
Heaven & Hell @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Holmdel, NJ)
Circus Mind @ Chesterfields (Huntington, LI)
Fields, Page France @ Mercury Lounge
Dr John @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Si*Se @ Bowery Ballroom

Dar Williams @ Boulton Center (Bay Shore, LI)
Gwen Stefani @ Jones Beach (Wantagh, LI)
*FREE Melvin Sparks Band @ Lucille's
Citizen Cope, Soulive @ Webster Hall

Click here for upcoming shows

10 May 2007

minimix: Jazzercise.3 (d)

Time to give the drummers some as they say. There are many kick ass drummers out there playing as many varied styles as there are under the heading of "jazz" -- this is as good a cross-section as any. Of course, there are some that I was pained to leave out, but so it goes. Being that I hate drum solos, I've allowed them to bring some other musicians along on these tracks -- please ignore them -- just listen to the drums.


Download the mix

01 Lilin -- Electric Masada: At The Mountains Of Madness [feat. Joey Baron & Kenny Wolleson (w/ an assist from Cyro Baptista)]
02 Witch Doctor -- Stanton Moore: All Kooked Out [feat. Stanton Moore (duh!)]
03 Chasin' The Trane -- John Coltrane: Live At The Village Vanguard [feat. Elvin Jones]
04 A Little Max -- Duke Ellington: Money Jungle [feat. Max Roach]
05 You Know, You Know -- Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Mounting Flame [feat. Billy Cobham]
06 Physical Cities -- The Bad Plus: Washington, D.C. 22 June 2006 [feat. Dave King]

Previously in Jazzercise:

09 May 2007

Links: Download Motherlode

Mother's Day is coming... don't say we never give you nuthin'! Here's a bunch of MP3 downloads that you might have missed or that have been prepared especially for you (of course, feel free to spread the word):

That's all for now. Watchoo got fer me?

More tunes tomorrow, of course...

08 May 2007

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

Time to feel old again, this time with Phish show #3 in the old home place. 15 years ago, on Mother's Day of 1992, the fellas came to Syracuse and with Senioritis in full swing was there any doubt we'd be ditching our mums for some Sunday sweetness?

[Previously in Nedstalgia: Phish shows 1 & 2; Mule; Widespread Panic; The Duo; Robert Randolph]

Here's the 2nd set SBD of 5/9/92 for your listening pleasure and an audience copy of the 1st set for completeness...

Funny thinking back on this one since it was at the old Syracuse Armory which became the science museum a few years later and was the site of our night-before-the-wedding dinner. Good vibes in that place as we partied with Phish in 92 and then partied down 7 years later in pretty much the same exact spot.

The room was basically a gymnasium with the wooden floor and boxy decor with some folding chairs working hard to keep order to the crowd. This would be the first time I smelled the sweet scent of the front row, a treat I would certainly partake in many many more times before hanging up my Phishin' shoes. My memory is of a half-filled room, easy to move wherever you wanted which is how I found myself right under Fishman for much of the first set. Back then his drums were right flush with stage right so when I saw "under" I mean I could have spit on his feet. The speakers were right on the stage and therefore right next to my ear. For the geometrically inclined, the lowest speaker of the stack, Fishman's foot and my ear defined a plane which was parallel with the floor. There was enough room up there that there were hippie chicks literally twirling from one end of the stage to the other pretty much unimpeded. Ah, the good old days!!

Setlist can be seen here

The show was hot and LOUD. This is one of the few instances where Page sticks out a lot in my memories of the show. This was pre-grand-piano and his keyboards had an ersatz flavor to them that just didn't hold up under the heavy amplification. Those piano notes during the first set Foam seemed to just split in pieces as they came through the speakers. Or maybe I was just too close. It was also the first time I heard McConnell go off on an extended post-Squirming Coil solo -- the first and likely last time I was awed by such a feat. Seeing as it was Mother's Day and in Fishman's home town (ask Liffy to tell you about his preshow quizzing Jonny B about which high school teachers we all shared as he hung out on the lawn in front of the venue) , the first set also featured an early Mimi vacuum solo. Woohoo!

The real magic of this Sunday night show was the second set. I had decided that I would hang back mid-room for the second set and held true through the opening frenetic Suzie Greenberg but once they lit into Divided Sky that quickly changed. It probably wasn't two chords on the ole Languedoc that I raced from the back of the room to the stage -- I guess it's always been in the blood, no denying your nature. It'll be front row for me from now on, thank you!

Second set was just pure sweetness, almost all first times for me (not hard at your 3rd show). Page shines again during Tela and then a fat Tweezer. It was somewhere in that Tweezer insanity that I had the epiphany -- Phish shows are all well and good, but Phish shows from the front row are utterly transcendent. Up to that point, that Tweezer was about as otherworldly as I'd seen this band get.

We had just gotten a show or two on cassette with a narration-laden Harpua so we were a little bit prepared when they launched into it. Watching Trey get into it, using the Simpsons language to get the crowd to "D'oh!" every time Harpua got kicked was a kick from close proximity. When they busted into Nirvana vamps without batting an eye-- well, what more could a dorky high school kid ask for? There weren't other bands out there doing this, were there?

Probably the ultimate highlight of the night was the Tweezer Reprise in the encore. Weird, I know, but true nonetheless. First of all, download the set and listen to that version -- I don't know of a better one out there. Mike's bass is just incredibly bulbous during the intro -- I call it the Scooby Doo bass. He was just stretching out those strings with his fingers as far as he could pull and just letting 'em rip like a water balloon launcher. Only those deep, bassy 92 soundboards can do that shit justice. Once again, though, it was Page -- I can still see the look on his face as the smoke machine directly behind him started filling the stage with a heavy cloud of that cotton candy smoke. He straddled his seat and ruled the piano/organ twofer while throwing his head back rockstar style into the cloud forming around him. It was the mother of all Reprises, take my word for it.

God bless the hometown show... the next time they came through the Cuse would be the next time I saw them and I'll tell you all about it. Enjoy the tunes.

07 May 2007

Photos+: Hopewell/La Laque (28) | Masada mini fest (29)

Liffy came to town this past weekend, so we had to get some good thick-of-NYC music in. First some good eats, though. The fryer came out of hiding for some fantastic wings and a first stab at some onion rings... wethunk they were alright:

Luna Lounge, Brooklyn, 4 May 2007

Friday night was Hopewell at (the new) Luna Lounge in Brooklyn. The room gets a provisional thumbs up from OTW upon first visit. Good size (figure 200-300ish comfortably), good sightlines all around (nary a support column to be seen), good layout (bar on the far side of the door; wide area in front of the stage), big fat stage.... sound was decent in most spots, better close to the stage than near the bar for sure.

Hopewell is a band I've been meaning to check out live for a while. They seem to play a ton of gigs around town but I'm always on a different schedule. Glad I finally caught them. Band is two guitars one played by lead vocalist plus keyboards, bass, drums. The key for the first two thirds of the show was the bass/drums combo. These guys just made the whole thing work for me -- the bulk of both the technical talent and the rock-this-shit-out energy came from the rhythm section who were out of the Moon/Entwhistle school of kickin' ass. When the songs would make their way to the bridge or an extended instrumental section, it was these guys that seemed to pour out the melody while the guitarists took a supporting role. Based on delicious bass playing alone, Hopewell is worth checking out. The front man had a wonderfully semi-psychotic slant to his presence which worked in the context and his energy was just the right mix of everything you'd want in a guy leading your band. As the set went on, he became more and more integral to what was going on... not coincidentally, the shit got tighter and tighter. While that first chunk was well worthwhile and would have had me thinking "definitely gotta check these guys out again," it was all a set-up for the payoff that was the last 3 or 4 songs. These guys didn't necessarily jam or even go off instrumentally too much, but that last stretch may have been one song or it may have been several, I don't know, they all ran together perfectly. It was one of those sum greater than moments -- so many bands and musicians out there, the line between what's good, what's great and what's transcendent seems to be dictated mostly by perception, mood and context. If you want Hopewell to blow your mind, they may very well do so.

The final blistering 15 minutes came to a close with a kick ass cover of Jane's Addiction's "Of Course" with a long, psychedelic intro and zig-zagging vocals and guitars. "What do they sound like?" is usually the hardest question to answer... especially in words. If we instead use music as our language, cover songs are a great way to start (which is why I wish all bands would play at least a couple covers). If I had to sum up my 1st Hopewell experience it would be with this set-ending cover. They made it their own. Of course, you could just check out their myspace page or just go see 'em live.

We stuck around for the next band which was La Laque. If I had to sum up this one in a word it'd be: sex. There's a band back there playing some weird manic surf popedelica via Paris circa 1965, but really all you're paying attention to is the woman up front. She was wearing a dress that was little more than a towel wrapped around her waist and made eyes at the sparse audience as she sang in French. The music was actually pretty good, or I was tricked into believing so by the slithering seductress.

The base of the band -- guitar, drums and bass -- actually seemed to operate completely independently of their main attraction, digging deep. The drummer especially seemed to be on a different level, but it all worked together. I wouldn't say no to another La Laque experience, although I figure they'd work wonders in a more lounge setting.

Abrons Arts Center, 5 May 2007

Saturday was, as the stench flows, just across the Willamsburg Bridge, but musically and emotionally, we may as well have taken the J train to Jupiter. John Zorn continues to work the onion bagel of the Lower East Side with his special schmear of Masada cream cheese. Saturday was a show put on by the wonderful folks that brought you such next-level shit as everything that happened at Tonic for the past however many years. They've moved on and are doing a limited number of shows at Abrons Arts Center which is both more lower and more east than before. The performance space is like a small lecture hall, maybe a 1/3 of the size of a standard high school auditorium. File under ironic: all the nights I spent at Tonic wishing I had a comfy seat... took the place to get priced out of the neighborhood, I guess. But I was comfortable!

This was the John Zorn Masada Book II "mini fest" -- two nights, 4 different ensembles all playing songs from the gift that keeps on giving that is the Masada songbook. Saturday was Shanir Blumenkranz Group and the Masada String Trio. Let's get the superlatives out of the way quickly: the best damn musicians. period. Blumenkranz played the oud and was backed by Erik Friedlander on cello, Greg Cohen on bass, Rob Burger on accordion, Satoshi Takeishi on percussion and Steve Gorn on flutes. Masada music is first and foremost a Jewish music, balancing nicely the sounds of the Middle East with Eastern European. Under this ensemble's direction, though, the music was just flat out foreign without regard to where it came from or where it was going. Who knew that these instruments would mesh the way they did Saturday night? With the exotic, droning twang of the oud leading the way, the sounds of these disparate elements came together in what could only be described as magical ways.

Every once in a while it's good to just get serious about music and for all the uninhibited glee this music builds inside me, it is nothing if not serious. Watching these masters play and interact with each other is to appreciate not just this music but music itself. You get a sense of not just the sound but what makes the sound: the way a bow across a string makes it vibrate and how a finger plucking the same will be similar and yet undeniably different; the way air blown into a long wooden cylinder will form a standing wave across its length; the strange dynamics of the accordion and so on. And somehow, as you sit in your cushioned seat, 6 men coax all this noise, these sounds, out of these instruments and make them all coexist in such a way that it sends chills down your spine. Serious stuff.

This is what John Zorn can do -- he's not even in the band, not even on stage... actually he's sitting a couple rows in front of us in the audience. Yet here is this music he has made, and it's really a simple music, the range across the hundreds of compositions in the Masada catalog don't vary too much, to the point of many songs sounding pretty similar when you get down to it. But somehow it inspires. It is the thing that makes mere mortals , talented to be sure, but men nonetheless, somehow do miraculous things. The spider that bites Peter Parker turning entire bands into a group of superhuman Spidermen, defying gravity and the laws of physics with the music that they make. The last song or two were above and beyond what the $20 ticket required. Group mind, a musical seance where we all conversed with the dead. I only hope these guys play again and that they're recording some time soon...

Not to be outdone, the old guard of the Masada String Trio followed after a short break. By this time the work week and the previous night were weighing down on my eyelids and I drifted in and out of consciousness. It may have been that I dreamed the whole thing. There are no 3 musicians out there that know, I mean really know each other, the way these three do. Tinker to Evers to Chance except turning triple plays... every inning... ever. Here Zorn sits on the stage and "conducts" but really I think he just wants to sit close to see if whatever these three -- Friedlander, Cohen and Mark Feldman -- are on. "How do they do it?" he's thinking to himself as he sits there counting out beats, "what's the trick?"

06 May 2007

Shows of the Week

It's "critically acclaimed" week! Get you some love from the bands that everyone loves... let me know what I'm missing.


Click here for upcoming shows

Ron Carter Nonet/Aaron Goldberg Trio @ Merkin Hall
Meshell Ndegeocello @ Highline Ballroom
*Arcade Fire (The National opens) @ United Theater
Beirut @ Bowery Ballroom
FREE Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Glasslands Gallery (Brooklyn)
Butch Morris Orchestra @ Nublu
NYU Jazz Orchestra w/ Chris Potter @ Blue Note (early/late)

Arcade Fire (The National opens) @ United Theater
Blonde Redhead (Fields open) @ Webster Hall
Amy Winehouse @ Highline Ballroom
*Bjork (Konono No 1 opens) @ Apollo Theater
Ben Gibbard @ Town Hall
Alice Russell @ Joe's Pub (midnight)
Captured! By Robots @ Luna Lounge
Priestbird, Pit Er pat et al @ Mercury Lounge
Ribot/Grimes/Taylor @ Soto Velez Cultural Center
Beirut @ Bowery Ballroom

*Amy Winehouse @ Highline Ballroom
FREE Vic Chestnutt @ Fordham University (Bronx)
Arcade Fire (The National opens) @ Radio City Music Hall
Magic Numbers @ Hiro Ballroom
Banyan, Gent Treadly @ Cutting Room
Vusi Mahlasela @ SOB's
Andrew Kenny et al @ Luna Lounge
Patrick Wolf @ Bowery Ballroom
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway (late)

Derek Trucks Band @ North Fork Theater (Westbury, LI)
Air, TV On The Radio @ Theater at MSG
ALO, Brett Dennen @ Bowery Ballroom
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
*FREE Benzos @ Rockstar Bar (Brooklyn)
DJ Logic & Friends @ Fontana's
Andy Statman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
The Black Hollies et al @ The Annex
DJ Le Spam & Spam Allstars @ SOB's
The Kooks, Illinois @ Fillmore
Chris Barron @ Bitter End
Burnt Sugar @ Joe's Pub (midnight)

*Edmar Castaneda @ 55 Bar (late)
Stephen Stills @ North Fork Theater (Westbury, LI)
Polyphonic Spree @ Manhattan Center
The Kooks, Illinois @ Fillmore
School of Rock (Bowie) @ Knitting Factory (early)
Sloan @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Rod Stewart @ Continental Arena (E. Rutherford, NJ)
Spyro Gyra @ Beacon Theater
Bo Bice @ Canal Room
N. Payton, T. Blanchard et al @ Rose Theater
Stephen Marley @ Nokia Theater
Meowskers @ Piano's (midnight)

The Avett Brothers @ Irving Plaza
Los Amigos Invisibles @ Bowery Ballroom
*Jorma Kaukonen @ Zankel Hall
School of Rock (Bowie) @ Knitting Factory (early)
Greyboy Allstars @ Highline Ballroom
N. Payton, T. Blanchard et al @ Rose Theater
U-Melt @ Knitting Factory (late)
Julian Velard @ Rockwood Music Hall
LCD Soundsystem @ Studio B (Brooklyn)
DJ Williams Projekt @ Sidewalk Cafe
Richie Havens @ BB King's
Leroy Justice et al @ Bitter End

Mum's Day:
Mike Marshall/Hamilton de Holanda @ Joe's Pub (early)
*Greyboy Allstars @ Highline Ballroom
FREE Melvon Sparks Band @ Lucille's
The Album Leaf @ Bowery Ballroom
Kamikaze Ground Crew w/ P. Apfelbaum, S. Bernstein et al @ Cutting Room

Click here for upcoming shows

03 May 2007

minimix: Shuffleupagus.1

Been slowly getting my entire music collection onto the 400GB hard drive. Up to 13K songs on there and plenty more to go...

As such, here's a total random pull of 6 tunes, 1st try unmolested in the order received courtesy of iTunes (consider yourselves lucky that no weird kiddie music or any more crappy Phish came up this time around!). Anyone that can come up with a good unifying theme for these gets a Nedstrami:


Download the mix

01 Across the Atlantic -- The Budos Band: Budos Band
02 I Feel Pretty -- Oscar Peterson Trio: West Side Story
03 Get Em' High -- Kanye West: The College Dropout
04 Mind -- Talking Heads: Fear Of Music
05 Rebel Music -- Bob Marley & The Wailers: Natty Dread
06 -- Benevento, Dillon, Mathis: Newmarket, NH 7 March 2007

Links: First Trimester

If you haven't noticed OTW is much more in tune with the parenting life than the fiscal or academic, so in lieu of noting quarters or semesters, we're doing trimesters here. We're a third of the way through 2007, so let's get self-referential and look at what we've got so far:

27 shows in 20 nights out on the town; 39+ bands seen in 20 different rooms to the tune of $419 spent on live music.

Top 5 shows of the year thus far (links for reviews, etc):

  1. Freaks Ball VII @ Southpaw
  2. Midlake, St. Vincent @ Bowery Ballroom
  3. Do Make Say Think, Berg Sans Nipple @ Bowery Ballroom
  4. Rose Hill Drive @ Mercury Lounge
  5. Benevento/Mathis/Dillon @ Tap Bar
Tough to pick just 5 albums from the 25 or so 2007 releases I've amassed thus far, but here goes (note, these probably don't line up with previous ratings, sue me)
  1. Do Make Say Think -- You, You're a History in Rust
  2. Menomena -- Friend and Foe
  3. The Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible
  4. Apostle of Hustle -- National Anthem of Nowhere
  5. Neil Young -- Live at Massey Hall
Plenty more to come!

A couple other randomish links for ya:
  • The more netreading I do, the more things seem to seem interrelated. Here's Jesse Jarnow and Ethan Iverson writing separately and ably about two facets of similar problems vis-a-vis the music biz.
  • Marco Benevento has his own site now with free music and everything!
  • As we enter cap-and-robe season, check these words from DFW.

01 May 2007

Review: Capsule 2007 CD's Vol. 3

More quickie CD reviews of (relatively) new 2007 releases. All of them quite good, I must say (hey, I'm not looking to buy crap!).

Volume 1
Volume 2

BTW, some upcoming albums, amongst others, I'm really looking forward to: Sea and Cake, The Bad Plus, Marc Ribot's Masada release, Benevento Tonic live... got any recommends for me?

Onto the discs:

Andrew Bird -- Armchair Apocrypha
Early warning -- this will be on all the hipster blog "best of" lists come December and all the praise will be largely deserved. Between the violins and the whistles and the emo leanings is some good music. Really, really good music. It doesn't electrify or sizzle but it does get the job done. Great songs trump all and these are the kind you can listen to over and over again. The first three tracks are all but perfect and the rest ain't too shabby. It's like large, layered orchestral pop without being big or layered or orchestrated at all. Small, honest, excellent. Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Robert Glasper -- In My Element
Up-and-coming piano trio featuring Glasper front and center. While on first blush, it may not seem as adventurous as, say, The Bad Plus or even Jason Moran, wait until you get to the
"Maiden Voyage/Everything In Its Right Place" medley. Hell, everyone does Radiohead, but I don't know that I've heard anything quite as remarkable as Glasper's atom-smashing of Yorke with Hancock. Words won't do this magic its due. After that, go back and listen to the rest again... and again. It's the kind of playing that leaves you wondering just how many people, hands and pianos are involved in the recording. Fabulous drumming, but, to be honest, below-average bass playing that neither adds nor subtracts from the rest. Ned-O-Matic: 5.5

Jorma Kaukonen -- Stars in my Crown
First Jorma album that really seems to capture the magic of his live shows. Staples from his live shows (including the magical instrumentals "Living in the Moment" and "A Life Well Lived") mix in with an assortment of Jormaesque numbers perfectly. While his guitar playing could always move further to the forefront, his self-styled finger-picking acoustic blues have never sounded so good. Nor has his voice, which is aging to perfection. Throw in the odd mix of accompanying musicians rounding out the ensemble and I'd say this is a must-buy for any Kaukonen fan, and if you're not a Jorma lover, well what the hell is wrong with you? Ned-O-Matic: 7

LCD Soundsytem -- Sound of Silver
Jo, get busy with it. This sounds like your standard dance remix fun, but as you listen more and more, the truly interesting bits are revealed. Electronica pulses underneath a veritable tribute album with dead-eye lifts of the Talking Heads (pulsing afrobeat edition), Warren Zevon (Werewolves) and more. These sly cameos make this a most modernly postmodern knockout. On top of that, the songs are really good, with interesting rewind-to-catch-again lyrics and catchy choruses that go beyond the boy-meets-girl gruel. Yum! Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Modest Mouse -- We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
And the winner for the most unnecessarily long album title goes to.... While I promise to never, ever go see these guys live again, their albums are undeniably excellent. The masters of the 3-4 minute rock song, they seem to work against a natural tendency to suck (annoyingly screamed vocals, subpar skill set) and come out kickin' ass. These guys are just comfortable in the space they've created and this set of songs, largely about traveling and moving literally and figuratively, get the job done to a one. Favorite track: "Dashboard." Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Amy Winehouse -- Back To Black
Groovy mishmash of newfangled dance beats and the old school R&B from which they were cribbed. Winehouse has barely enough soul to pull it off, but for the most part she does indeed make it work. Good voice, catchy tunes, heady samples, and yet.... This music will probably make you happy, maybe make you move a little, but not much else beyond that. Isn't that all it takes, though? Buy it if only so you know what everyone else is talking about. Ned-O-Matic: 5

Neil Young -- Live at Massey Hall
There ain't nothing new about this release other than the new angle on some old classics. It's hard to imagine that songs like "Harvest" and "Old Man" were ever new -- they are so deeply ingrained in the canon today. But once upon a time they were new and this beautiful recording of Neil -- young but polished; solo and bare -- gives us a peek at what it might have been like to witness legendary music in the making. There ain't too much not to like in here. Neil fans rejoice -- and to think this is only the beginning. Ned-O-Matic: 7.5