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By Andy Argyrakis
Weekend Report: Ferry flips from Roxy to Dylan
Friday, March 9, 2007
The U.K. is always clamoring for Bryan Ferry's whereabouts and he's heading home this weekend and throughout much of March in support of a somewhat unexpected album. The Roxy Music front man turned solo star has never been a stranger to covers, but his latest project pays exclusive tribute to Bob Dylan. The choice is somewhat strange considering Ferry's debonair looks and smooth singing style, which is quite the contrary to Dylan's rougher presentation though still incredibly lauded legacy. Either way, fans can find out for themselves on this limited run of dates previewing Dylanesque (Virgin) released March 6 internationally and due in America on June 19. No word on whether he'll visit the States, but those overseas can count on hearing the essential Ferry and Roxy hits, plus samples of Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "Positively 4th Street."
Alternative/punk-tinged rockers Cute Is What We Aim For wrap up a week of headlining dates this weekend before jumping aboard the top spot of the Alternative Press tour next week through April. The group's infectious single "The Curse Of Curves" (off last year's Fueled By Ramen release The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch) is literally unstoppable, scoring a number one music video slot on YouTube and the fourth most viewed video throughout the entire website. The tune also landed at lucky number seven on Yahoo, while the band has racked up over 237,000 MySpace friends and over 12.4 million song streams.
Acoustic poppers Down the Line are taking a similar D.I.Y. approach with its third full-length indie release For All You Break, which kicks off with a record release party tonight at Chicago's Park West (www.ticketmaster.com). The group is also on tap for this year's SxSW Festival and previously toured with America, who despite some sleepy AM radio hits, have since rebounded with a new record featuring Ryan Adams, Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger. As for Down the Line's latest, it features mastering by Grammy Award winner Richard Dodd (Tom Petty, Johnny Cash), while the music itself mirrors a modern, more aggressive version of the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac.
"King of Pop" turns king of rip off
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Say what you want about Michael Jackson's outlandish behavior, image shattering court cases, failed marriages and flop albums as of late. There's still no denying his indelible impact on modern pop music with the Jackson Five, followed by a string of 80s smashes and the monumental Thriller (Epic). With all that under his belt, the "King of Pop" title has truly been earned, but the gloved one is now adding a less desirable catchphrase to his arsenal. Tonight the superstar is brings "rip off" to his resume after announcing an outlandishly priced meet and greet in Tokyo where Jackson will merely pose for a picture and shake hands with attendees for a whopping $3,400. There will be no singing, dancing or concert styled production, just a simple chance to chat with the normally reclusive performer. As shocking as that fee sounds, approximately 300 tickets sold out instantly and that's even after the event was originally scheduled for December and postponed with minimal notice.
She may not ever rake in the acclaim of MJ, but Lilly Allen is making major waves in the worlds of pop, hip-hop and rap. While not as rough as Lady Sovereign or artistically minded as M.I.A., the youngster is earning mounds of press attention, plus some pretty impressive tour dates. Her latest shows in support of Alright, Still(Capitol) were announced today, including a pair of SxSW dates, a stop a NPR's "World Cafe," plus the blockbuster KCRW "A Sounds Eclectic Evening" concert in Los Angeles. Add in slots at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Allen truly is everywhere!
Though the Intonation Festival wasn't on Allen's list, last year's alumni Blue Cheer are also making headlines with a brand new tour announcement. The cult rockers, known for the sweaty groove "Summertime Blues," have used the momentum from last year's reunion to launch a full-fledged trek with the slightly younger though like-minded psychedelic act An Albatross. The outing launches April 6 in Philadelphia, hits New York, Boston, Canada, many Midwest cities and the Southeast. Could CMJ Music Marathon be around the corner? Blue Cheer set up shop there last year, so it's certainly possible in what's proven to be a highly attended comeback trail.
Chicks face another country snub
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Even though the Dixie Chicks made a clean sweep of the Grammy Awards' most prominent categories, the trio isn't getting any love from the country music industry. When the Academy of Country Music Award nominations were read off, the politically-charged ladies were nowhere to be found, though more traditional types such as George Strait, Brooks & Dunn and Carrie Underwood were in ample supply. In one sense, the snub doesn't come as a shock since many country stations have banned the band following anti-Bush sentiments, but should a players' personal beliefs really disqualify them from a musical competition? Though it shouldn't in theory, the Chicks have moved well beyond that niche, stating on several occasions they'd rather have a more mainstream fan base that truly understands their intentions and ideas over those who aren't willing to listen outside the box.
Chicagoans and alternative rock fans in general will have plenty to celebrate when the Ike Reilly Assassination returns on May 8th with We Belong to the Staggering Evening (Rock Ridge Music). The project was recorded at the Windy City's IV Lab Studio, though the disc was mixed and mastered in Los Angeles under Eric Drew Feldman (who has produced the Pixies, Frank Black and PJ Harvey) along with Mark Chalecki (Scott Weiland, Brian Jonestown Massacre, June Carter Cash). Expect dusty garage rock mixed with distortion filled guitars and beer soaked vocals, leading to one of the most delightfully dirty records this summer.
In more unusual news, one of the 80s' most appreciated underground acts is experiencing quite a shake-up in relation the bassist's son. Back around the time of U2's The Joshua Tree, like minded Island label mates The 77's earned some buzz, though the band has since went the independent route amongst a few random reunions. But these days member Jan Eric Volz is campaigning for something other than the band's fame, in the form of justice for his twenty-seven-year-old son Eric Volz. Turns out the youngster was overseas in Nicaragua and unjustly accused of killing his girlfriend (despite being two hours away from the crime scene with no physical evidence on her body) subsequently being sentenced to thirty years in jail. Volz and The 77's are calling for political and legal assistance in this highly sensitive situation and are encouraging fans to write congressmen in Eric's defense. While it sounds like a mission only Peter Gabriel could solve, anyone is able to lend a hand at www.friendsofericvolz.com.
Street Date: Air vs. Arcade Fire
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
One of 2007's most impressive street dates heats up with a battle of the best between Air and The Arcade Fire, two of the most pumped up bands of the past few years aiming for longevity. While it would be easy for American and Canadian Arcade Fire fans to quip their heroes are indeed the biggest at this moment, overseas appreciators are also clamoring for more Air making it a toss up between today's two must have albums. French electronica outfit Air releases Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks) after a three year absence, turning in a series of retro grooves, classical inspiration and chilled out simplicity. The Arcade Fire rebounds with Neon Bible (Merge) and no that title doesn't mean the group has turned into religious rockers. Instead the instant indie icons have returned to a sophisticated blend of alternative orchestration and colliding woodwinds, though only time will tell if this disc will top 2004's Funeral (Merge).
The marquee releases don't stop there, with another battle between old timers The Stooges and Johnny Cash. However, both acts newest offerings are worth the price of admission, starting on the Stooges side with the fact that Iggy Pop has resumed his brash leadership on The Weirdness (Virgin). The disc marks the band's first new studio album in over thirty years, picking up where its stomping punk power left off with a renewed fervency throughout a dozen slicing tracks. Cash's contexts aren't as new on Ultimate Gospel (Sony), though just as necessary considering it traces the country star's top spiritual interpretations. Considering faith was such a key component of his career, renditions of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "In The Sweet By And By" are particularly urgent in the wake of his recent passing.
On a less lofty note comes Korn's MTV Unplugged (Virgin), which seems about as unlikely of a concept as one of its members quitting the band to become a born again Christian. (Oh wait, that already happened!) Either way the aggressive hardcore slashers aren't best served in a stripped down setting, with "Freak On A Leash" and "Twisted Transistor" still coming across as obnoxious. Even more useless is Greatest Hits: Brighter: A Duncan Sheik Collection (Atlantic/Rhino) which complies the best of this singer/songwriter, despite having only one major hit. Of course "Barely Breathing" is included, plus a few of the other acoustic tunes are enjoyable, but nothing's nearly as memorable as this 99 cent MP3 that's begging to be downloaded.
Foo, Pink amongst V Festival headliners
Monday, March 5, 2007
Those who attended last year's V Festival, one of the U.K.'s most lauded annual pilgrimages, were treated to headlining seats by Radiohead, Morrissey and Beck. This year the talent pool takes a considerable step down when it comes to the top spots, pitting the competent but still clone tipped The Killers with teen popper Pink and alternative heroes Foo Fighters. While the Foos are certainly worthy of the slot, the others are indeed questionable, which is a similar pattern throughout the supporting cast. Solid choices include Snow Patrol, Kasabian, Damien Rice and Editors, though over-hyped commercialism seeps in with Lily Allen, Corinne Bailey Ray, KT Tunstall and Goo Goo Dolls. The event occurs August 18 and 19 at Hylands Park in Chelmsford and Weston Park in Staffordshire with a projected fanfare of 160,000 people each day.
Though it's still a bit early for the line-up to this summer's Chicago Blues Festival, Eagle Eye Media recently released the DVD/CD collection Chicago Blues Reunion: Buried Alive In The Blues. The film traces a variety of windy city celebrities including Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Sam Lay, Howie Mandel, Tracy Nelson and Corky Siegel both on and off stage. The troupe shares stories about working with the legendary likes of Buddy Guy and B.B. King, while tracing the history and heritage of the genre.
College campuses are the latest target of the music industry's crack down on illegal activity. The Recording Industry Association of America has issued a list of over two dozen universities that are currently being investigated for significant abuses of unauthorized downloading through sites such as AresWarez, BitTorrent and eDonkey. In many cases, students will be warned via a simple email, though in more extreme cases, will find their internet access disabled and even temporary suspension from school. In the process, the RIAA will continue promoting legal access points, such as iTunes, Napster and BurnLounge.