Friday, December 29, 2006

'06, Get Thee Behind Me

Note: if you haven't been here in a while--and I wouldn't blame you after seeing the same meager offering from November time after time--I would like to direct you to the post before this year end edition. Scroll down a ways and get yourself a cup of tea or another cocktail. (It's a bit of a read..)

Christmas is over and as I look towards New Year's Eve (or amateur night as my wife and I call it), I look forward to 2007 as a year of promise after a year of unprecedented tumult. But then again, I had some good times all the while.

First off, as an example of how my year wasn't so bad, I'll list just some of the shows I saw this past year in no particular order:

* denotes that this show should or will be written about on this site.

Train (twice)--I'll not apologize for liking these guys. See them live to see why.

*CSN&Y--free tickets got me here and sneaking into a private box pumped up the volume.

Chicago--Vegas, drunk and dressed up. One of those damn "can I take your picture" people snapped the best fucking picture I've taken since I was five (pre-glasses), so I bought the proof. I'll take it to Walgreen's and print out a proper size to give the paper something to run when I die. It was that good.

Black Crowes (twice)--My wife and I took my niece down to Bakersfield to see these guys and about two songs in she looked like she'd been hit by lightning. Seems it was her first concert. Whoops, sorry babe, didn't meant to ruin it for the rest of your life. The second was a surprisingly jammy set at The Fresno Fair, which either enlightened or bored the mullet set.

*Rollins Band (twice)--my brother in law (the legendary Keno) and I went up to S.F. to see Rollins open for the band X. He had no clue as to who Henry was and basically was going on my word that it would be "rock and roll calisthenics". He was blown away and I took him on a little Bay Area historic venue tour that night after Rollins' set (sorry, X). He was so impressed with the short set that he joined me again down in Hollywood when Rollins Band headlined a post-X tour show as a finale at the Key Club a month later.

*Robin Trower--at the Fillmore a cab ride later after seeing Rollins at the Warfield. More to come on that one. A third show at another venue (The Boom Boom Room) after Trower made for a travesty from either Heaven or Hell, depending on your perspective or tolerance to alcohol.

TOOL--another show with the above mentioned Keno. Can't say enough about this unit. I think that somehow they are slowly taking over the world.

*Ozzfest '06--Ozzy was due to headline that night, but after some sort of Shaaarrooon move, he was moved to the second stage to perform at 4:30 in the afternoon in the fucking parking lot on the 2nd stage, where they sold no beer! Seems that he did this a few times on tour to get "closer" to the fans and I dig that, but after hearing "Over The Mountain" on what seemed like a boombox, my brother-in-law and I sought out yet another beer and met some awesome people at the "Backstage Bar" at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Disturbed and System Of A Down took on the main stage under the stars and rocked out, but Ozzy would have had the crowd declaring war on Saturn had he played later that day.

Honeytribe--what can I say, it's my most recent post here. See below, but give yourself a few minutes--it's a bit longwinded.

Zepperella--a mind-blowing all female Zep tribute band from the Bay Area.

Sadly missing from this list is Gov't Mule. For the first time in 8 years (or as I like to think of it--eight goddamn motherfucking years), the wife and I couldn't make it up to the Bay Area or down to L.A. While it pained me at the time, I learned that life could indeed go on, much unlike so many Deadheads that cry that the sky is falling when some splinter group of surviving Grateful Dead members decides not to tour that summer.

In the limited scope of held tickets, I have 50/50 expectations for 2007; Keno and I will check out Roger and Pete, better known as The Who, and a party of six (including the Kenos) will endure Rod Stewart in March, both shows here in Fresno. Rod is fast climbing my list of artists that I've seen multiple times. Dread Zeppelin leads by far at 22, but Gov't Mule is closing at 12 or 13, with Y&T (from the old days when they opened for everybody), Celtic rockers Tempest, and King's X holding strong at around 8. I think I've seen Stewart 5 or 6 times, all at the behest of my wife. I'm surveying clubs and theaters around the state like a hawk circling high above a rabbit's den.

So, onto the next Kill Last Year segment: Chris Brown, of Lefty Brown's Corner, told me over coffee that he was curious to see me write my list of top releases of 2006. I read his list with care and also traveled over to Paul's site, only to realize that not only had my friends bought and listened to much more new music this past year than I, but that I hadn't even purchased enough music released in 2006 to make up a top 20 like Chris. That's a bit embarrassing for a supposed music lover, but I've changed my buying habits over the years so that I rarely buy a release when it's a new one. I will seek out new discs from my old favorites, of course, but I tend to binge at used records stores on the coast or up in the Bay Area. I still buy what I want, but my patience has preserved my checking account. So out of the 50 or more CDs that came into my home this year, only 16 were 2006 releases.

They are, in no particular order:

Rose Hill Drive--self titled: This is the young band that I saw at a small club last year after a Crowes show up in San Francisco (written about in length in the epic seven-part Black Crowes tale on this site). This album could have been released in 1974; recorded with no Pro-Tools or auto tuning, and on analog tape, it sounds rich and meaty. The heavy riffs and punishing backbeat have been a constant companion of mine in the truck and in the gym. Side note: I'll be lucky enough to see them again when they open for The Who here in Fresno in February.

Honeytribe--Torch: Written about in the aforementioned Honeytribe post. Scroll down for more info.

Gov't Mule--High And Mighty: What might shock my close friends is the fact that I waited a few weeks to buy this one. Since I knew that I wouldn't be seeing them live, I almost couldn't bring myself to listen to it. I had streamed a few tracks here and there and when I finally bought it, I couldn't help but hear it in my mind as those tracks would sound live at the Warfield. The joy I get from listening to this outstanding album is bittersweet.

The Who--The Endless Wire: I'm not a huge Who fan, but I certainly dig the classic stuff. Like most rock fans, I was curious to hear what a band could do after a 24 year break from the studio. One of the big box chains had a great deal on this when it was released as it contained a bonus live CD and a live DVD. All this for under 10 bucks, so I picked it up. It hasn't grown on me like I thought it would, but the sound is stellar and I'll pound it down in the weeks before the show.

Black Crowes--The Lost Crowes: This collection of abandoned studio tracks was available in bootleg form for years, but the perfected production makes this one a keeper. I hope to see them bust some of this stuff out live in the coming years.

Hamell On Trial--Song For Parents Who Enjoy Drugs: I haven't even listened to this one yet. It was part of my stockpiling events at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo late this year. After seeing Ed Hamell open for Ani DiFranco a couple of years ago, I've become a big fan. He's sometimes billed as "acoustic punk", and I guess that's fine in order for the press to assign him a label, but he's a songwriter, musician, and performer that almost defies description. He's a nice guy, to boot.

Wolfmother--self titled: I picked this up pretty cheap at the aforementioned big box store. I like this album and I could lend some of the sentiments written about Rose Hill Drive's album to save space.

Train--For Me It's You: No excuses here; I like these guys. We all need something to sing in the car. I just hope no one's heard me waiting at a light.

Skye--Mind How You Go: Haven't heard this one either, this time due to a stockpiling event at the dying Tower Records. Skye is the former lead singer for the trip-hop band Morcheeba. My wife loves her voice and Morcheeba was something that we could always agree on having on in the car. Skye's smokey vocals could be applied to jazz standards or modern pop, so I guess I should put this on sometime to see what she's done this time around.

Zepperella--Live At 19 Broadway: Live album from the Bay Area's all female Led Zep tribute band. I picked this up after a show of theirs here in Fresno. I love the album, not just for the music, but it helps trigger the visual memories as well. (Nudge nudge, wink wink.)

Chicago--XXX: I bought this, but only for the wife. I sat through it on the way from Phoenix to Vegas where we would be seeing these guys. Fine show and the album's okay. But it's not my mug of beer.

Rod Stewart--Still The Same...: A collection of classic rock standards. Uh, okay Rod, I'll take this as you putting your big toe in the water on your way to taking the plunge towards a full blown Faces reunion.

Black Keys--Chulahoma: A brilliant, but short, collection of Junior Kimbrough songs done by this duo. Guitar and drums will, as usual, draw comparison to the White Stripes, but these guys keep it raw and live sounding. They're at the top of my short list of bands to see.

The Raconteurs--Broken Boy Soldier: Speaking of the White Stripes, Jack White's side project brings back the rock to pop. I first heard these guys in a D.C. bookstore and had to ask the clerk what was playing. It reminded me of mid-era Zeppelin. When he told me, I made note to pick it up someday. When Lefty turned me onto a trial online music site, I downloaded it for free. It's on my MP3 player, but I do plan on getting the tangible product, probably used in a year or so.

Johnny Cash--V-A Hundred Highways: As a lifelong fan, I looked forward to getting this latest installment of the American Recordings series. I enjoy it, but it is a little difficult to hear the strength gone from Cash's powerful voice. Not my favorite of the bunch, but I think we should all feel fortunate that the Man In Black's passion for the art never waned.

TOOL--10,000 Days: Yet another masterpiece of "thinking man's hard rock". I think this could be the album of the year if it were more digestible for the mainstream. TOOL's output will ultimately be put up against that of the likes of Pink Floyd and Brian Wilson, and probably compete with modern day critic's darlings Radiohead, for recognition of their art. Don't get me wrong here; TOOL enjoy all the trappings of modern day success. 10,000 Days was a huge seller and the band regularly sell out venues around the world. So while TOOL might have a maniacal following, soccer moms aren't exactly blasting Stinkfist on the Expedition's stereo as often as Comfortably Numb. Yet.

So, that's my Top 16 for the year 2006. Check back here at this time next year for my follow up to the '06 shit I missed but bought used for a song at some musty joint in a sketchy part of some town somewhere that some sucker got a buck's worth of store credit for. Thanks in advance for that Highway Companion disc, chump.

As long as I'm on a year end jag, I want to thank Lefty for the book Kill Your Idols. I'm having a blast reading new perspectives on so-called classic albums. Another thing I realized was that out of the 34 albums profiled, I actually own just one. That genuinely shocked me. I have owned a few on cassette in the past and I've heard a good majority of them in their entirety by virtue of being at a party or on a road trip with friends that had them. No Nevermind. No Dark Side Of The Moon. Not even Sgt. Peppers. Unbelievable.

I also picked over the carcass of my local Tower Records recently and found the latest installment of the Best Music Writing series of books that Da Capo puts out every year. The 2005 edition, while a little thinner than previous years, still collects a varied mix of magazine, newspaper, and even some online essays about all genres of popular music. I highly recommend these collections to anyone interested in different perspectives than Spin and Rolling Stone. Another book that looked interesting and was cheap enough at a ridiculous 70% off was Lonn Friend's Life On Planet Rock, which details the former RIP Magazine editor's journey through the 80s and 90s at the helm of America's premier metal monthly. So far, about 30 pages in, it promises some good dirt.

Also, for those looking for more good rockin' reading, I highly recommend Neil Peart's latest, Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle. Peart takes his journal style and turns it into a narrative that takes us all a few steps into the very private world of this drum legend.

So, there you go; a top 16 with maybe a decent top 5 list within. A couple of books and a list of shows I saw that you probably didn't. Somehow, I don't see Entertainment Weekly looking me up as a consultant, especially because I don't have some group (or individual) called Gnarls Barkley on my list like every other major rag. Love that name though.

Happy and safe New Year everyone. Be good to those that deserve it and for those that don't, a good kick in the shins or an unannounced blow to the solar plexis might just bring them around.