Walken


Kanye West: Voice Of A Generation?
December 7, 2008, 10:12 pm
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Kanye West

When Kanye West recently proclaimed himself “the voice of our generation”, more than a few eyebrows were raised, and even more scoffed at what was surely just another attempt to inflate his already over-sized ego. With Kanye you just never know, and this outburst will only spur on his haters to label him as a controversy chasing media whore, but for once, he may actually have a point.

After dropping out of Chicago State University to focus on a career in music, he rose to fame after his production was featured prominantly on Jay-Z’s critically acclaimed album The Blueprint, which eventually led to a record deal with Roc-A-Fella.

Despite gaining recognition as a producer within the Hip-Hop community, it wasn’t until West’s debut album, The College Dropout, that he came into the public spotlight, with massive hit singles such as ‘Through The Wire’ and ‘Jesus Walks’. 

With a foundation to build on, West began his climb to the top, dispelling the tricky second album rumours with the international smash ‘Late Registration’. Over 24 tracks he expanded his sound and showed off an array of guest stars that sent him into the A-list.

Never being one to rest on his laurels, West released Graduation in late 2007, a celebration of himself and all he had achieved, cementing himself as one of the world’s best recording artists, while revealing an ability to edit himself, releasing a 13 solid songs, cutting out skits and interludes that had cluttered previous releases.

Following the release of Graduation, West began to focus on the performance side of his music, constructing the critically acclaimed Glow In The Dark Tour.

However, in late 2007, West was brought crashing down to Earth when his Mother, his biggest supporter and inspiration, died due to complications following surgery. He decided to continue with his tour, an experience he later described as  “like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that”. It was this experience, coupled with his break-up with his fiancee, that informed new album 808’s & Heartbreak.

A collection of stark, robotic arrangements, with 808 beats and flourishes of strings and no rapping, featuring West singing with the aid of Auto-tune, 808’s has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Many fans have been alienated by the fact that this is nothing like the hip-hop that made him a superstar.

Yet there can be little doubt that, no-one in recent memory, if at all, has ever had the balls to experiment so wildly with a winning formula, and for that West must be commended. While his so called contemporaries such as Timbaland stick rigidly to the same recycled tune again and again, Kanye is a star in his own right, offering another side of himself, previously unheard, to the listener.

This album is a trip into the darkest corners of West’s soul, revealing the pain that drives him, and has led to a reinvention of Kanye West as an artist. 

Whether or not the general public is ready to accept it or not is another matter, but Kanye West may well be the voice of our generation.

Download: Robocop



New Vedder Solo Bootleg, McCready Talks Upcoming Tour (Updated)

Feeling that Midweek lull? The you’re halfway through the working week, but the weekend is still just outta reach.. Fear not, here is something to put a smile on your face, and to follow up on the article which opened this blog on Eddie Vedder’s solo tour, enjoy this bootleg from the final show on his west coast jaunt.

The second of 2 nights in San Diego, the show features an epic setlist, packed with rarities (a performance of Believe You Me from his pre-PJ band, Bad Radio) and singalongs (Let My Love Open The Door).

New Link

Meanwhile, in other Pearl Jam related news, Mike McCready told Billboard the band plans to release bootlegs of each of their upcoming tour stops, but the group “have yet to decide what form they will take”.

Also, PJ will perform with Foo Fighters and The Flaming Lips at a taping of VH1 Rock Honours, which will honour The Who.

Sounds like its gonna be an exciting couple of months!



John Mayer: Sugar-Coated Popstar Or Blues Craftsman?

John Mayer

When John Mayer made his breakthrough in 2002 with the release of Room For Squares, his acoustic-pop masterpiece spawned hit after hit (No Such Thing, Why Georgia & Your Body Is A Wonderland) that propelled him into the celebrity stratosphere and made him a heart-throb for the pre-teen masses.

Your Body Is A Wonderland

When Mayer decided he was sick of being looked down on, his peers seeing him as nothing more than a popstar, he began to branch out into other genres, and a transformation began.

Collaborations with Kanye West and Common hinted at a move into a more hip-hop influenced sound, and this seemed all the more likely when Mayer was endorsed by rap legends such as Jay-Z and Nelly, but he instead slipped into a different skin, and in the summer of 2005, he began jamming with various blues legends, including Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and toured with pianist Herbie Hancock.

Inspired by his new-found love for the blues, Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, and they began a North American tour, including a stint opening for The Rolling Stones. Such were the rave reviews that greeted them wherever they went, the Trio released a live album, Try! that showcased their mix of blues and rock, featuring strung out jams and wild soloing, and built a new persona for Mayer: The Guitar God.

With the release of 2006’s Continuum, Mayer did not dissapoint his new fans, with a mix of his old pop sensibilities with bluesy jams, showcased perfectly on lead-off single Waiting On The World To Change, as well as slow-jam Gravity & funked up Vultures, which both featured on Try! Mayer also played up to his recently accquired status as a leader of a new generation of leading guitarists, including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Bold As Love

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

Several glowing reviews and a Rolling Stone cover later, and the tide is slowly beginning to turn in favour of the new Mayer, but some still hold Wonderland over him, and bemoan his celebrity status – He has dated several A-listers, including Jessica Simpson (a cardinal sin in the eyes of some), blogs frequently, and is often seen to pursue publicity (last week he released a short comedy video in which he parodied himself as an egotistical rockstar, last month he performed a short solo set on a cruise ship dressed in a Borat-esque thong).

But if you are prepared to look beyond all the bullshit, and leave the past in the past, the growth of John Mayer as a musician is something that cannot be denied, and his live performances only hint at progression of his new-found status as a Blues Craftsman.

Pre-Order: Where The Light Is, A CD/DVD release of his benefit show at LA’s Nokia Theater last December, which included a solo acoustic set, a Trio performance, and a closing set with his full Continuum touring band, directed by the excellent Danny Clinch, who in the last year has brought us the beautifully shot Skin & Bones by the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam’s Immagine In Cornice.

Purchase: John Mayer – Continuum

Catch Mayer Live: Tour Dates

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? What are your impressions of John Mayer? Leave a comment and share your views…



Black Keys Offer Free Beefheart

Black Keys

What a great way to start the week this is. Having been working hard all weekend, I woke up this morning to find (through Heather at the excellent Fuelfriends) that The Black Keys are offering up a free download on their Myspace.

Hot on the trail of last month’s Attack & Release, the Danger Mouse produced album that is garnering no end of critical acclaim, the Keys decided that as they had nothing better to do last Thursday they would record a cover of Captain Beefheart’s I’m Glad.

I’m Glad

This dusty cover suits the Keys’ fuzzed out southern rock style perfectly, it could easily have fit anywhere on the last album, or 2006’s Magic Potion.

Go check it out, you won’t regret it, I promise!

Purchase: The Black Keys  Attack And Release here

Photo Credit: James Carney

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? Does this make you want to listen to Attack & Release? Leave a comment and share your views…



Pearl Jam, O’ Brien Demo New Tracks

Mike McCready

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready revealed the band has reunited with longtime producer Brendan O’ Brien for the first time since 1998’s Yield, to begin recording tracks for the band’s 9th studio album.

“It’s really in its infant stages right now,” McCready tells Rolling Stone. “We have about five ideas that have been worked on.”

The band have yet to decide upon a direction for the first release since 2006’s Pearl Jam, known to fans as Avocado. “Brendan is another set of ears that we respect, and he’s going to give us a different way to go but I don’t know what that is yet.”

With one session already wrapped up, McCready will now focus on his Crohn’s Disease fundraiser in Seattle tonight, before the band reconvene to begin rehersals for their June East Coast tour, which includes two shows at Madison Square Garden, for the first time since the 2003 Riot Act tour, a show that spawned the DVD release Live At The Garden.

Upon completion of the tour, the band will get back together with O’ Brien and auxillary member Kenneth ‘Boom’ Gaspar to continue laying down demos.

Guitarist Stone Gossard has previously hinted towards a Radiohead-style release, saying he would have no problem following their lead if the experimental pay-what-you-want giveaway was a success.



Death Cab For Petty

Death Cab For Cutie

Here’s something to kick start your weekend in style!

Incase you didn’t know, it’s just over a week until the release of Narrow Stairs, the new album from Death Cab for Cutie, and the band have already hit the road in order to promote the release.

The latest stop on the tour was at last weekend’s Coachella festival, where the band previewed a couple of new tracks, as well as hits including Title and Registration and Crooked Teeth.

The band has already taken the brave gamble of releasing the 8-minute I Will Posess Your Heart as the lead single, and, while a few fans have been disgruntled, most reviews have been positive, and the track has been receiving solid radio play since its release.

I Will Posess Your Heart

The song begins with a slow, moody, bass driven funk groove, with short splashes of guitar and piano, that over the course of the first 5 minutes slowly evolves into more familiar Death Cab territory, all lush harmonies and broken indie hearts.

As if this more adventurous direction wasn’t enough to excite fans, the news that the album has been awarded a prestigous 4-star review by Rolling Stone, should bode well for the rest of Narrow Stairs.

Live, the band has started to have some fun, and you can just imagine a being in the middle of the desert, on a warm Summer’s evening when the opening bars of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin hit, as they did last weekend, a precursor for what is to come on the upcoming US/European Summer Tour.

Free Fallin

Coachella 08

See The Band On Tour:

May 9 2008 8:00P
Providence Piers Providence, Rhode Island
May 10 2008 8:00P
WFNX Show – Bank of America Pavilion Boston, Massachusetts
May 24 2008 5:00P
Les Schwab Amphitheater Bend, Oregon
May 25 2008 11:00A
Sasquatch Music Festival @ The Gorge Quincy, Washington
May 26 2008 8:00P
Thanksgiving Point Lehi, Utah
May 28 2008 8:00P
Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, Colorado
May 30 2008 8:00P
City Market Kansas City, Missouri
May 31 2008 8:00P
Ninth Street Summerfest Columbia, Missouri
Jun 2 2008 8:00P
Orpheum Theatre Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jun 3 2008 8:00P
Millenium Park Pritzker Pavilion Chicago, Illinois
Jun 4 2008 8:00P
Fox Theatre Detroit, Michigan
Jun 6 2008 8:00P
Jacques Cartier Pier Montreal, Quebec
Jun 7 2008 8:00P
Toronto Olympic Island Toronto, Ontario
Jun 9 2008 8:00P
Merriweather Post Pavilion Columbia, Maryland
Jun 10 2008 8:00P
McCarren Park Pool Brooklyn, New York
Jun 12 2008 8:00P
Mann Center for Performing Arts Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jun 13 2008 8:00P
Plain Dealer Pavilion Cleveland, Ohio
Jun 14 2008 8:00P
The Lawn at White River State Indianapolis, Indiana
Jun 15 2008 11:00A
Bonnaroo Manchester, Tennessee
Jun 17 2008 8:00P
Nokia Theatre Grand Prairie, Texas
Jun 19 2008 8:00P
Mesa Amphitheatre Mesa, Arizona
Jun 20 2008 8:00P
SDSU Open Air Theatre San Diego, California
Jun 21 2008 8:00P
Greek Theatre Berkeley Berkeley, California
Jun 23 2008 8:00P
Nokia Theatre Los Angeles, California
Jun 24 2008 8:00P
Santa Barbara Bowl Santa Barbara, California
Jul 15 2008 7:00P
Birmingham Academy Birmingham
Jul 16 2008 7:30P
Manchester Apollo Manchester
Jul 17 2008 7:30P
Brixton Academy Brixton, London

Pre-Order: Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs here

Photo Credit: Death Cab For Cutie Myspace, Heather Browne

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? Does this make you want to listen to Narrow Stairs, or go see the band on their upcoming tour? Leave a comment and share your views…



The Magic Healing Powers Of Wilco

Wilco

So, if you hadn’t noticed, this Blog is named after my favourite song of the moment, Walken, from Wilco’s 2007 offering, Sky Blue Sky.

I’ve obviously been living under a rock for the last 10 years of my life, because until the tail end of last year, i’d never even heard of Wilco, despite the fact that over a lengthy career they have crafted several fine albums filled with golden nuggets of musical goodness.

Having read several reviews of Sky Blue Sky, all impressive, and finding the album reaching the pinnacle of many album of the year lists, i promptly went out and picked up a copy, only to completely forget its existance and leave it gathering dust under a pile of vinyl.

However, last week, when carrying out what i’m not sure can legitimately be titled Spring cleaning, seeing as we are now into May, (and more importantly, following Coachella, festival season has kicked off), i came across the album once again, and decided to give it a spin.

Boy was I in for a treat, as the album is truely a gem for the ages, from the simple opening bars of Either Way, where Jeff Tweedy sings “Maybe the sun will shine today, the clouds will blow away” in an almost zenlike state, setting the tone for an almost 70’s-esque chillout, filled with simple love songs and melancholy jingles.

Walken

Thats not to say the band doesn’t pack a solid punch when needed, Impossible Germany being a prime example, starting off with a simple riff and melody, before exploding into a 3-pronged guitar attack, like a strung out Crazy Horse. Nels Cline truely shines with some wonderful work, a flourish of slide guitar here, a short freakout there, keeping the listener totally engrossed in the experience.

Impossible Germany

This analogy also applies to songs such as You Are My Face, Shake It Off & Walken, where mid-song the band heads off at right angles into jam-band territory (don’t worry, its the good kind), rewarding the listener with new discoveries with each spin.

Tweedy’s lyrics are exactly what you’d expect from a man i really should have mentioned in my Eddie Vedder piece about singer-songwriters, while his deep voice has an almost hypnotic effect, drawing you in, leaving you wanting more.

I have found that this is a perfect record to put on when i come home from work (in a busy city bar), kick back, put on the headphones, crack open a cold beer, enjoy the sunrise from my balcony, and take stock of the day just passed and the day about to begin.

View From My Balcony

Purchase: WilcoSky Blue Sky here

Photo Credit: Wilco Official Myspace Page, Me.

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? Does this make you want to listen to Sky Blue Sky? My personal Wilco journey has just taken me to purchase Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – where should I go next?  Leave a comment and share your views…