Walken


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…



If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out
May 1, 2008, 1:18 am
Filed under: Pearl Jam | Tags: , , ,

Or, Why Eddie Vedder Is Fast Becoming One Of The Great American Singer-Songwriters

Onstage in Berkerly, CA

This was the philosophy adopted by Eddie Vedder as he recently travelled down the west coast on his first ever solo tour, for 15 stripped down appearances in tiny sold-out venues.

Armed with only a few guitars, ukeleles, a mondolin and a corona case-come-kick drum, Vedder showcased material from his critically acclaimed soundtrack to Into The Wild, as well as deep cuts from the Pearl Jam catalogue and a host of covers from singer-songwriters that acted as inspiration for the trek, including Dylan, Springsteen, Cat Stevens and more.

If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out

Each song was performed admirably, Vedder’s guitar playing sounding more accomplished with each passing year, and the presence of Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Matt Cameron was not missed on the stripped down versions of PJ hits such as Porch and I Am Mine.

Setting Forth

While some fans were dissapointed not to hear certain songs, Vedder made sure to stick to tunes that fit the environment – When one fan requested Pearl Jam b-side Dirty Frank at a show – a funky RHCP-esqe workout performed only 3 times in the bands’ near 20 year history, he quipped – “Our band doesn’t even play that, and I’m sittin’ here with a fuckin’ Mandolin!”

Audience interaction was plentiful, with a number of stories relating to the cities he was playing in, as well as funny anicdotes, as opposed to the political speeches that often adorn PJ sets, added to the intimacy of the shows.

There was also plenty of time for experimentation along the way, with Vedder using loops and tapes to recreate Arc, the acapella tribute to the nine fans who lost their lives at a 2000 show in Roskilde, Denmark, and the Indio cover Hard Sun, where he was joined each night by openers EJ & Liam Finn, all dressed in long white lab overcoats, as if to emphasise the fact that this was no ordinary show.

And then there were the special guests – as the tour moved down the coast from Seattle to San Diego, Ed was joined onstage by Jerry Hannah (the writer of Society, another Into The Wild cover), bandmate Mike Mcready (for Hendrix-esque freakouts on All Along The Watchtower and regular PJ closer Yellow Ledbetter), Sean Penn (to read a poem for his wife), surfing buddy Ben Harper (to duet on anti-war anthem No More), former PJ drummer Jack Irons (ironically for a cover of Last Kiss, made famous by Pearl Jam just after they recorded a version of it with then new drummer Matt Cameron) and Emile Hirsch (the actor who brought the songs to life in ITW) to name a few.

And of course, no Eddie Vedder tour would be complete without the odd rarity dropped in here and there, to send internet fans into spasms of shock and joy; In San Diego, Vedder sang an original song last performed in 1989 with his old band Bad Radio, unheard in nearly 20 years, followed the next night by a cover of an early Who song, Let My Love Open The Door, a much loved gem last performed by Pearl Jam in the summer of 1995.

All of this added up to a series of unmissable shows showcasing Vedder’s range of musical talents, that indicate there may yet be a future for him as a solo artist, although few would wish to see him quit his day job just yet.

Download: Eddie Vedder @ Zellerbach Theatre, Berkeley, CA Part One / Part Two

Photo Credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? If you were one of the lucky few who were able to attend a show on the tour, what were your impressions of the gigs? Leave a comment and share your views…