Every time this column makes even the tiniest mention of the Grateful Dead or offers on its web version, a download link for one of their concerts, there is one guy, a friend, actually, but also a virulent critic of that band, who makes it a point of making a snide remark. There are many people who consider the Dead’s fans as drug-addled hippies who get lulled into a happy, semi-comatose state by the band’s improv-heavy meanderings. That certainly amounts to gratuitous stereotyping. Read more

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In the late eighties when Neneh Cherry first burst onto the scene with her album, Raw Like Sushi, and won two Brit awards, she promptly melted one of them and got it crafted into jewellery, some of which she gifted to other nominees in the categories she won the award for. Raw Like Sushi showcased the then still incipient trend of hip-hop and rap but with an infusion of electronica, a genre that earned it the label trip-hop. The tracks on that debut album, including two major hits, Buffalo Stance and Manchild, brought her instant fame. And, more important than that, an enviably cool image.
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Mud Morganfield and his half-brother “Big Bill” Morganfield play the blues. Sometimes they play together. I have a live recording of the two playing at the Chicago Blues Festival, doing songs such as Mannish Boy, Nineteen Years Old and Forty Days and Forty Nights, all songs that you can instantly recall as being standards sung by blues legend, the late Muddy Waters. No coincidence there because both the Morganfields are his sons. Remember Muddy Waters’ real name was McKinley Morganfield. Muddy died in 1983 but his two sons in their 50s–Mud’s the older one—keep his trademark Chicago blues sound and legacy alive. They play gigs. They cut records and have a considerably big fan following among blues aficionados. Read more

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My daughter, about to be eight, has an earworm. You know, a piece of music that seems stuck in your ear so seemingly permanently that you just couldn’t get it out. It’s a song that she hums, sings and dances with vigorously even though it’s not being played anywhere. And I’m happy. Delighted, actually, because the song happens to be Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. Actually, the duo that makes up The Black Keys may also seem like an earworm for Download Central, in case you are one of those readers who for some strange reason follows this column fairly regularly—I don’t know how many times I have written about them, obsessively, compulsively and, perhaps also, maniacally.
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I usually like my music to come with vocals and lyrics. I like to listen to the singers, their voices, the words they sing and what they mean. They could be joyous and exuberant or morose and melancholy, love struck or angry. It doesn’t matter. I like all of that and depending on my mood, I usually love to hear songs sung as much as I do the rest of it—the music, the beats, the rhythm and the solo riffs. But sometimes, words can become a distraction. Sometimes, like it was for me last week, words just don’t do it for you. You are too preoccupied with your own thoughts to need somebody else’s words and you just need instruments and nothing else. No pernicious interruptions by vocalists, no matter how great they are. Read more

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There are some bands that you either love or you hate. Jane’s Addiction is one of them. I love them. But I also know many people who hate them. In fact, it is the very same reason for my loving them that is also the reason why some others hate them. That is, of course, Perry Farrell’s unconventional style of singing (he shrieks) and his voice, which I’ve read, being compared to a “banshee-in-a-wind-tunnel”. I have had companions forbidding me from playing any Jane’s Addiction albums at home on the stereo, forcing me to listen to those delightful brain-shredding shrieks on the earphones or headphones. Read more

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When Bob Dylan released his 2009 album, Together Through Life, an album on which all but one of the songs were co-written by Robert Hunter, I raved about it in this very column. I was biased, of course. I have a tender spot for Hunter, a long-time collaborator of the late Jerry Garcia and really an invisible member of the erstwhile Grateful Dead, the band that lived and died with Garcia. Even today, much of the repertoire of the remaining members of the Grateful Dead comprises songs that were written jointly by Hunter and Garcia.
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I don’t know if it happens to you but every so often I go through these fairly extended phases when I’m listening to not much else than one band or one musician almost all the time. When I first discovered The National, the Brooklyn band that is hitting the headlines right now, I became a serial listener of their albums, all five of them, which were in heavy rotation on my iPod for more than a month. Through the years I’ve had that kind of infatuation with many a band. There was a Rolling Stones phase; a (late-blooming) Morrissey phase; a (very prolonged) Radiohead phase, which roughly, but not accidentally, coincided with a very prolonged low period in my personal life; a fairly long Phish phase, which quite fittingly overlapped with a very happy period in my aforementioned personal life; and, of course I’ve mentioned this before, a hugely extended Grateful Dead period. Read more

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A four-year-old free CD that I had got with Relix magazine popped out from somewhere a couple of weeks ago when I was moving back into my renovated apartment after a dislocated and weird existence of four months in a rented temp place. Weird because, besides being laid out in the manner of a kitschy 1970s Bollywood film set, it was an apartment where I could not play any music on my sttereo system for those four months because the equipment was all packed and sealed in storage. Read more

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When three bands that you like release their new albums on the same day, you have a problem of plenty and a difficult choice to make. So, on May 4, when The Hold Steady released Heaven is Whenever, The New Pornographers put out Together and Broken Social Scene popped out the curiously named Forgiveness Rock Record, their first album in five years, I went and bought digital versions of all three online. After some fretting over which one to listen to first, I chose Broken Social Scene. I was glad I did that. Read more

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