Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Album Review: Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black

Mavis Staples
If All I Was Was Black
**** out of *****

For her eighteenth studio album the legendary Mavis Staples once again teamed up with producer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy. If All I Was Was Black tackles our current political climate and Tweedy addressed this directly when discussing writing songs for the new album:
"I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself—that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on."

Just last year the Staples and Tweedy combined for one of the best records of the 2016 with Livin' on A High Note, but this album digs a bit deeper lyrically while returning to Staples stripped down musical roots. Racial injustice is present from the first smooth funky outing "Little Bit" and continues into the title track. Both support Staples lead vocals with gorgeous backup singing, grooving riffs and excellently cutting electric guitar lead lines. It is a simple and direct formula that isn't messed with much over the course of the album. 

"Who Told You That" gets grittier with both the lyrics and the funk as the song takes a harder edge while "Peaceful Dream" goes back to church with Staples gospel singing, organ and easy acoustic plucking. There is very little to find fault with as the music effortlessly flows from the sweet soul sounds of "Build A Bridge" to the feedback driven "Try Harder"; all songs have a focus on healing humanity and our present day cultural rifts. One minor flaws is there isn't a full fledged anthem to get behind and a track like "No Time For Crying" runs long and never takes off on the record, but will probably be a focus of Staples live sets.

The pair of artists come together for a blissful duet on "Ain't No Doubt About It" that sums up their professional relationship (if not their personal one) in a very easy going straight ahead manner. Tweedy and Staples clicked immediately, knocking it out of the park in 2010 with the Grammy winning You Are Not Alone and have continued to succeed and strive ever since.

Staples late career renaissance is impressive and while her early wok will always soar high, her partnership with Jeff Tweedy has yielded almost as successful results. While If All I Was Was Black is definitely a 2017 record the sounds and (unfortunately the messages sung about) will live on for a long time.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Album Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard 
**** out of *****

The prolific psychedelic Australian rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, put their summer of love meets the new millennium, freak-out style back into action with their newest release (their 4th of supposedly 5 in 2017), with the easy to pronounce (and spell),  Polygondwanaland. The group keeps raising the stakes with concept albums and explorations with free jazz nodding to Sketches of Spain and their newest is a sonic assault on the a good way.  

The opening track needs special attention as it is over ten minutes of increasing freak-outs around the title "Crumbling Castle". Frankenstein-ed together but somehow flowing, there are sonic excursions, percussive breaks and a variety of vocal styles that make the full trip even odder. It is a bad ass opening statement and sticks around long after it finishes.

After the dizzying opener the group stays odd, but keeps it direct (well, direct for this outfit). The title track percolates with an excellent bass-line/acoustic guitar work while "Inner Cell" incorporates an eastern tinged flair with a snaking groove. The theme of castles reappears with "The Castle In The Air" a dreamy spoken word adventure before dripping into the propulsive "Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet".   

Synthesizers and flutes color "Loyalty" but it is the ever moving beat that pushes things along and the drum and bass combo wind up the MVP for "Horology" as well. The vocals take a back seat to the gymnastic playing but this album was designed for multiple listens to parse out meanings, phrases and lyrics from the melodic soup. The seven piece can sound overly busy at times (see album closer "The Fourth Colour"), but when things lock in the music can be transcendent.

The band released this full album for free, even posting the master recordings online for people to use as they please. KG&TLW seem to never stop producing music and when it arrives as fresh as Polygondwanaland here's hoping it never stops
Support the band, download the album for free or stream it below, and peep some video:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dylan Cover #302 Old Crow Medicine Show "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a live cover by Old Crow Medicine Show playing "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"

Thoughts on Original:
From the first time we tackled a cover of this tune:
The first song on the iconic Blonde on Blonde "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is an anthem for a do what with, is up for debate. Stoned in the head or stoned by the masses up to you to decide. Whatever your thoughts on the lyrics and meaning it can't be argued that Bob is having fun which doesn't always come across on his studio releases. The "salvation Army" style horns and marching is a hoot...once in a long while but not made for everyday consumption. Truth be told, the song is normally skipped when I am listening to the album, I like opening Blonde on Blonde better with "Pledging My Time".


Thoughts on Cover Artist:
Old Crow Medicine Show have always been a fun folkise root rock ride when we have heard them, but also that hasn't been too often.

Thoughts on Cover:
THIS is the way you cover this song. Rollicking, powerful, full of vigor and rambling shambling around the stage. An excellent version of this song and when we see the man himself tonight we hope he plays one song half as energetic as this version.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Full Show Friday: Joni Mitchell 1980 Shadows and Light

We search the murky back waters of youtube to find full concerts and post them to the site weekly, come back every seven days to help us celebrate Full Show Friday's. These shows are of varying quality and may not be here for long so enjoy them while you can...As always, please support the artist every which way, but especially by seeing them live (if they are still playing)...This week...Joni Mitchell!
This week we focused on some of the most talented females making popular music today. So it was time to showcase Joni Mitchell live from 1980 Shadow and Light for our Full Show Friday to end things. Playing with Pat Methany and Jaco, Joni digs into her tunes with touches of jazz as all of the players are world class. Joni came up in conversation last week and while RtBE are not the biggest fans of hers we realized we never featured her on Full Show Friday so that needed to change.

This is her Shadows and Light tour which produced the live album. Pro Shot, Pro Sound, full setlist below.


00:00 - Introduction 01:58 - In France They Kiss on Main Street 06:07 - Edith and the Kingpin 10:18 - Coyote 15:12 - Free Man in Paris 18:42 - Goodbye Pork Pie Hat 24:36 - Jaco's Solo: The High and the Mighty Third Stone from the Sun 28:41 - The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines 33:04 - Amelia 39:45 - Pat's Solo 42:46 - Hejira 50:04 - Black Crow 54:01 - Furry Sings the Blues 59:37 - Raised on Robbery 1:02:52 - Band Introduction 1:04:03 - Why Do Fools Fall in Love 1:06:26 - Shadows and Light

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Continental Closing in Summer 2018

Via our friends over at Brooklyn Vegan we found out that the Continental on 3rd ave and St. Marks will be closing next year with the building to be demolished.
You may ask what does a dive bar have to do with a music site? Well RtBE has seen many shows at Continental throughout our time in NYC. From friends bands to Joey Ramone's Birthday shows, to secret NYHC shows after they didn't officially have live music anymore. (They news-papered the windows so no one could have possible known there was a band playing right?!?!) You can view the full statement on the closing,

We ourselves never got to play there, but it would have been exactly our speed. It has been a part of our NYC heart so it is sad to see it go...what was even sadder was when St. Marks Pizza got new owners and then shut down...that used to be our favorite pizza in the whole city!

But we is some live video from Continental to remember the joint. Head down for some cheap drinks before it gets knocked down in August 2018

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Album Review: Margo Price - All American Made

Margo Price
All American Made
****and1/2 out of *****

Last year’s debut Midwest Farmers Daughter was a long time coming and it delivered the country/Americana goods, kick starting Margo Price’s career. It was on multiple 2016 Best of Lists (including ours) and proved she had the talent to write, sing and pick with the best of best from any generation.

Only one year later comes her follow-up and All American Made is even better. Price has broadened her songwriting to ingest modern day heartbreak, tough mental states and (most expressively) on political touch points; this is a masterful country/Americana record.

The opener "Don't Say It" contains a a splash of “Hard to Handle” and is the most barroom rock and roll shit-kicking Price gets, telling off a bad relationship via killer lyrics. These excellent turns of phrase are everywhere on the disk, you could swear you’ve heard them before but nope, these songs are pure Margo and the second track “Weakness” is an instant classic in the country genre.

Speaking of classics, none other than Willie Nelson shows up for a fantastic duet on “Learning to Lose” and while lyrically it may not top others here, just hearing that purely American voice delicately sing with Price is a joy. She has what amounts to a sequel to the last album’s title track with “Heart of America”, the complications of sexism double standard on the road (and in life in general) with “Wild Woman” and expands into traveling spirituality on “Loner” painting broad strokes lyrically in front of swaying music.

Speaking of the music, there are a few stretches away from Prices bread and butter of Midwestern country. “A Little Pain” gets excellently soulful with organ work while “Do Right By Me” has a down home groove propelled by the bass, drums and soul singing backup vocals; both prove when Price branches out she and her band can succeed.

The two tracks that will be discussed the most are “Pay Gap” and the title effort as Price wades into the political arena on both. “Pay Gap” is a delightful flamenco number that has yips and yee-haws whimsically masking the amazingly STILL prevalent topic of the title and succeeds in all directions. Lyrically Price is fierce and delivers her point with gusto, directness, wisdom and conviction.

“All American Made” isn’t as successful as Price dives into presidential politics, sampling speeches, singing about Reagan selling arms to the Iranians and tying it into an aching pain she can’t quite describe. While her heart is in the right place, the overloaded samples and unclear overarching focus (driving rusty pick trucks to California? Closing with an LBJ sample?) can’t live up to her lyrical directness in “Pay Gap”.

After crafting a solid-to-great country album on Midwest Farmers Daughter no one would have blinked twice if Price played it safe, especially after struggling so long to break through. Instead the opposite happened and she put out a gem of a record that broadens her horizons while simultaneously cementing her as a singer/songwriter who needs to be heard regardless of genre (not gender) bias.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Album Review: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCATION

St. Vincent
*** out of *****
St. Vincent’s 5th studio album MASSEDUCATION is a swirling mix of pop, pills, sex and personal confessions blending layers of vocals styles, gorgeous production and instrumentation. However, even with a variety of styles there still seems to be a mask over the proceedings keeping things from truly sinking into the skin.

Annie Clark has made her bones being an art rock guitar slayer, but here she moves directly to the pop and visual glam as this music is tailor made for video distribution and costume changes. While David Bowie is a clear comparison for Clark, her baroque style throughout MASSEDUCATION called to mind Lady Gaga more times than expected.

Her guitar playing takes a back seat (or on some tracks it’s thrown out of the car completely) to her production work with co-producer Jack Antonoff. Dance beats, building choruses and electro-funk breaks are everywhere from the rave up for relationships (especially the fleeting ones) on “Sugarboy” to the sexed up role reversal of “Savior” to the silly-before symphonic “Pills”. With “Pills” Clark mixes up the script from direct 2017 mindless radio pop to an arty flair an ending, a trick she uses a few times throughout.

“Los Ageless” is the best of the swaggering dance tunes as it pushes the music into an industrial flavored pop direction with huge bass hits Trent Reznor would enjoy before ending the tune with a swirling mellow refrain of “Try to write you a love song but it comes out a lament” (another phrase/sound Reznor probably enjoys). While the album bumps plenty, it is the slower piano based tracks that really hit home the hardest, leading to the feeling that the pomp around the upbeat jams is more of a smoke screen for the notoriously private singer.

The mystical cool end of “Los Ageless” dovetails expertly into the achingly personal sounding, minimalist track “Happy Birthday, Johnny”. The detail and emotion of the lyrics and vocals elevate this song for Clark a style she also uses for the back-to-what-you-know love song “New York” which turns out to be an album highlight. “Slow Disco” amps up the dramatic strings while “Smoking Section” artfully declares MASSEDUCATION is not over with Clark's final lyrics.

While “Fear The Future” contains intriguing guitar work and overloaded production sounding as if it was made to steal the show, it is those softer numbers that hint at even great depth and layers for Clark’s future. While this disk is sure to have droves of devotees with its dance-pop friendly sheen it also shows Clark can deliver even more in the future.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below: