MICHAEL NESMITH/SONGS (12CDs) review: SPAZ explores the musical universe of Michael Nesmith!

THE LONG REVIEW:

Fifty-three years after he stepped into the limelight with the release of The Monkees’ debut single in August of 1966, Michael Nesmith remains a musical enigma. The story of The Monkees has been told so many times – perhaps TOO many times – so I’ll respectfully skip over most of the details. One thing I will mention is how Nesmith seemed slightly out of step with the Pop charts yet completely in step and confident of his own musical vision. While Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones handled the bulk of the lead vocals for The Monkees’ glorious hits, Nesmith added a sophisticated depth to the album tracks he wrote and/or produced. Although the most naturally gifted as a songwriter in the band, his lead vocals were not featured on a Monkees A-side until 1969, the year he graced the topside of two singles in a row!

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: APEX MANOR/HEARTBREAK CITY

It has been eight years since Southern California-based Apex Manor released their last album. Eight years is a long time between albums. In that same span of time, The Beatles wrote and recorded their entire catalog (not to mention making movies and touring). Fleetwood Mac was able to knock out everything from their 1975 self-titled release to their 1982 album TANGO IN THE NIGHT in just under eight years. Popular children’s music band The Wiggles issued nine studio albums, toured the world, and filmed a TV series within their first eight years of their existence. Wait… did I just mention The Wiggles? Oh, dear.  Let’s circle back to Apex Manor and the eight-year stretch between albums…

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DIPLO/EUROPA!

Born Thomas Pentz, Jr., DJ and producer Diplo is a Grammy-winning man-about-town. Not only has he released music under his own name, he’s also a member of Major Lazer, LSD (with Sia and Labrinth), Silk City (with Mark Ronson), and Jack Ü (with producer and DJ Skrillex). He’s also known for his work with M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears, Madonna, Shakira, Beyoncé, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Trippie Redd, Chris Brown, CL, G-Dragon, Bad Bunny, MØ, Poppy, and Bausa. To say that Diplo is a prolific artist would most certainly be an understatement.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: B.B. KING BLUES BAND/THE SOUL OF THE KING


THE B.B. KING BLUES BAND
THE SOUL OF THE KING
(Ruf Records)

5.10.19

Blues music has been a crucial part of American history for nearly 150 years. Originally, the Blues genre grew organically from Folk, spirituals, and African work songs. Since the dawn of recorded music, Blues has traveled around the world, inspiring millions of musicians in the process. The musical blueprint for the Blues remains virtually unchanged a century and a half later yet musicians find new ways to interpret it year after year. Much like an amusement park ride, the basic structure itself never changes yet it is experienced differently by each person that rides it. The Blues can be performed by down-trodden acoustic guitar player or a glitzy big band and have the same effect on the listener. The Blues informs almost every other style of music – from Rock ‘n’ Roll to modern Country and Jazz. The Blues is understood and misunderstood in equal measures. The Blues can make you sob but then turn around and drown you in joy. The Blues, in the hands of the right musicians, is magical.  And one of the greatest Blues musicians/magicians was – and remains – B.B. King.

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JADE BIRD/JADE BIRD!

The definition of a solo singer/songwriter has gone through many transformations throughout the years. Typically, one might think of a singer/songwriter as a lone troubadour/trobairitz armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a catalog of sensitive, self-penned Folk-influenced songs that he/she is eager to share with their audience. From Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, singer/songwriters were proof that you could converse with your audience through music and teach them something in the process. As music has evolved, we have come to realize that a singer/songwriter cannot be defined by a genre… or an instrument. Thanks to social media, singer/songwriters can reach well beyond their local coffeehouse. From South Korea to North Carolina, anyone with a computer or smart phone can have instant access to musical messages that just might change their lives forever.

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JACKIE EVANCHO/THE DEBUT

Being a ‘child star’ is a blessing and a curse. Initially, the ‘blessing’ offers the young performer early stardom and adulation. However, the ‘curse’ revolves around the child star growing older and losing their innocent charm. Sadly, the pressures of maintaining your popularity AND experiencing the trials and tribulations of your teenage years and young adulthood is a very difficult task. Some child stars cannot handle the pressure and spend a good portion of their lives drowning in a sea of drugs and alcohol. Thankfully, there are exceptions to the rule and some of those ‘former child stars’ manage to grow older gracefully while staying out of the tabloids. Some of them leave the business while others turn their attention to other aspects of entertainment (directing, writing, etc.). And then there’s Jackie Evancho. Not only has she survived child stardom, she has succeeded beyond all imagination.

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS/RISE SUN

When tracing the history of American music, Bluegrass is still a relatively young genre. Hollywood may have added a decade onto Bluegrass’ age by using it as the soundtrack to Bonnie & Clyde’s exploits in the 1967 film, but the truth is that the genre didn’t exist until long after the duo’s 1934 death.  While variations of the sound most likely developed a few years before it became mainstream, Bluegrass became a phenomenon in the mid-‘40s and is one of the few styles of music that has continued to progress while also remaining true to its roots –  the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though modern Country Music bears little to no resemblance to the Country & Western of the ‘40s, Bluegrass is still Bluegrass – honest and pure.

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE STRUMBELLAS/RATTLESNAKE

Pop music is a strangely wonderful artform. On the surface, it can sound deceptively simple and carefree. However, like a calm and inviting ocean, mystery lies beneath the windswept ripples. The melodies may dance around in the ether but there are a lot of moving parts that make them seem effortless. Every beat, every bass thump, every electronic whirl, every guitar strum, and every harmony is there for a reason. It is up to you, the listener, to realize what that reason is. Yes, you can read interviews and find out what the artists’ intents are but often times, they don’t fully realize the meaning of their songs until years later. On the other hand, one song can mean something different to nearly every person that listens to it. And that, in and of itself, is one of the great mysteries of Pop music.

Read More

THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A

DAVE RAYBURN: The Infamous Stringdusters draw comparisons to the high and lonesome sound of Ricky Skaggs and Ralph Stanley all the way up to more contemporary jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish. To someone who has never heard your music before… if you had to pick three artists that, in combination, best reflect what you do… who would those three descriptors be?
CHRIS PANDOLFI: The list of collective Stringduster influences is long and very wide ranging, but the Grateful Dead are definitely toward the top of the list. The Dead are hugely influential in a musical sense, with their amazing songwriting and experimental jams, all designed to translate in a live environment. But they are perhaps even more influential in a business sense, with their tribe of loyal fans and the organic growth it creates. Another huge influence would be Strength in Numbers, the iconic supergroup of progressive pickers that pushed the boundaries of what the bluegrass instruments are capable of. I’d also put Tony Rice high on the list of influences. Tony embodies all the best parts of bluegrass music, with his astounding playing and innovative style, combined with a soul factor that outshines his unreal technical prowess. He had the songs and he had the soul, and those are both things that we are always striving to achieve in our music.

Read More

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JOHN & YOKO: THE WEDDING ALBUM

I can only imagine (no pun intended) a Beatles fan spinning John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s THE WEDDING ALBUM for the first time. I mean, it most certainly isn’t THE WHITE ALBUM or ABBEY ROAD, is it? “Which cut is the single? Where are the hooks? Wait, never mind the hooks – where are the songs? And where on earth is the Rock ‘n’ Roll?” OK, so maybe fans weren’t exactly thinking those thoughts since THE WEDDING ALBUM was John and Yoko’s third release as a duo (and their first as a bona fide married couple) and their avant-garde recordings were certainly nothing new. Remember the UNFINISHED MUSIC NO. 1: TWO VIRGINS album featuring John and Yoko on the album cover in all of their nakedness? Then there was UNFINISHED MUSIC NO. 2: LIFE WITH THE LIONS, which featured a cover photo of John and Yoko in her hospital room shortly after a miscarriage. In essence, John and Yoko’s first three albums were far from light-hearted affairs. These were albums that expressed their emotions in unique ways – through experimental recordings. Yes, there were other artists who made avant-garde recordings… but they weren’t associated with the biggest Rock band in history!

Read More