Author Archive: Eric Allen

Zooropa: Revisited and Re-examined

U2: Zooropa

With U2’s eighth studio album celebrating its 21st anniversary, I still recall getting caught up in the premature foofaraw surrounding Zooropa upon its initial release in 1993. The throngs hungrily tried to over analyze and dissect the latest release from Ireland’s renowned rock band.

Although Zooropa was originally intended to be an EP recorded during a six-month break during the third and fourth legs of the band’s monumental Zoo TV Tour, it eventually morphed into a full-length album. The band immediately hit the recording studio to try and capture the moment fresh from playing sold-out arenas in North America.

Delving even deeper into the alternative rock and electronic sounds hinted at on Achtung Baby, Zooropa may have failed to produce massive radio hits (although I remember the “Lemon” and “Numb” videos being in heavy rotation on MTV), but the Grammy-winning effort is still regarded as a highly creative and experimental entry into U2’s varied discography.

Bono and company, along with the help of Flood and Brian Eno, managed to explore new musical territory with the six-and-a-half-minute opening title track, the robotic rapping of “Numb,” the falsetto soaked “Lemon,” and the compellingly offbeat “The Wanderer,” with guest vocals by Johnny Cash. Add the more signature stylings of “The First Time” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” to the set’s unusually diverse track list, and the result is an oddly satisfying listening experience that still captivates with its infectious grooves.

Although Zooropa received mixed reviews upon its release, there’s no denying it has made a lasting impact among U2 devotees. I remember my first reaction was a combination of excitement and surprise upon its arrival, but over the years I’ve found myself reveling in its inventiveness with incessant appreciation. As far as its legacy, Zooropa managed to sit atop the charts in 10 countries, sell over seven million copies, and has been touted as one of the all-time best albums of the nineties. Not bad for what started out as just an experimental EP.

Casey Kasem: 1932-2014

Casey-Kasem

As another light dims in the cosmic universe, it is once again cause for contemplation and remembrance. I vividly recall sitting by the radio every weekend with my Realistic cassette recorder from Radio Shack cued and ready to record the weekly American Top 40 countdown. Back in those days I had to wait until I’d saved enough allowance to buy my favorite 45 r.p.m. records.

My pre-teen weekends were consumed with Saturday morning cartoons, roller skating, and Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. AM radio was cool back then and AT40 ruled the airwaves. It was a simpler time – long before Google and Wikipedia had been thought of, and my world revolved around Kasem’s weekly nuggets of pop music wisdom. It seems hard to imagine now, but as a kid, I was completely naive to the fact that two of my favorite things (Scooby Doo and American Top 40) were related, as Kasem’s voice brought to life the character of Shaggy on my most beloved cartoon. I’m not sure how I didn’t realize two of my adolescent predilections were one and the same, but I guess as a kid it was all too easy to get lost within the magic of imagination.

Sadly, it’s time to bid adieu to the illustrious voice that was and will forever remain an important part of my childhood, yet Casey Kasem’s legacy as king of the countdown will forever be indelibly stamped upon my fondest memories.

Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke [+digital booklet]

Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke

With an extensive discography that spans six decades, Dolly Parton at age 68 could have easily rested upon her laurels, but instead she chose to deliver her most beguiling work in years with her 42nd studio album, Blue Smoke. While her skills as a musician and multi-instrumentalist may often get overlooked, Parton’s acumen as a Grammy-winning songwriter is firmly intact and amply displayed throughout Blue Smoke’s 12 exquisite tracks…

[Read Full Review]

Top Ten Best U2 B-sides

Top Ten Best U2 B-sides

 

Although music is highly subjective, below is my ranking of the 10 best B-sides by U2. Not only are these tracks some of my personal favorites, but I’d go a step further and say they should’ve been included on the album of their particular era. Agree or disagree?

10. “Salomé” (from “Even Better Than the Real Thing”)

9. “Summer Rain” (from “Beautiful Day”)

8. “Love Comes Tumbling” (from “The Unforgettable Fire”)

7. “Blow Your House Down” (outtake from Achtung Baby)

6. “Dancing Barefoot” (from “When Love Comes to Town”)

5.  “The Sweetest Thing” (from “Where the Streets Have No Name”)

4.  “Winter” (outtake from No Line on the Horizon)

3. “Are You Gonna Wait Forever?” (from “Vertigo”)

2.  “Lady with the Spinning Head” (from “One”)

1. “Spanish Eyes” (from “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”)

From U2TourFans

May Music Madness

Summer is upon us and along with it comes a swarm of noteworthy new releases. Therefore, I’ve compiled a short list of how to get the most musical bang (and bonus tracks) for your bucks.

May 6

Shine On (Deluxe Edition)

Sarah McLachlan: Shine On

The deluxe version includes the bonus tracks “What’s It Gonna Take” and “Little B,” which are available exclusively on CD with Target’s version, as well as Amazon and iTunes’ digital deluxe editions.

May 13

Blue Smoke [+digital booklet]

Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke

The queen of country returns with her 42nd studio album and Walmart is offering a limited edition with the four bonus tracks “Get Up Get On Get Out,” “Olive Branch,” “Early Morning Breeze” and “Angels in the Midst.”

Unrepentant Geraldines (Bonus Track Version) [+digital booklet]

Tori Amos: Unrepentant Geraldines

The high priestess of baroque pop returns with her first proper studio album since 2009’s Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Described as a true return to form in the vein of Boys for Pele, Amos’ 14th studio album will be released on 180 gram vinyl LP, as well as a deluxe casebook edition, which includes a DVD of behind the scenes footage and the bonus track “Forest of Glass.” The iTunes version also includes the bonus track “White Telephone to God,” and Amazon’s digital version includes the additional bonus track “Dixie.”

Turn Blue

The Black Keys: Turn Blue

The highly anticipated follow-up to the alluring indie rockers’ El Camino was co-produced by Danger Mouse and has been described as moody and emotional, but highly melodic. The 11-track set includes the title track and “Fever,” which are available now on iTunes.

May 19

Ghost Stories [+digital booklet]

Coldplay: Ghost Stories

Coldplay returns with their experimental project, which is reported to precede another full-length set to be released in 2015. Target has scored an exclusive of the band’s sixth studio album, which includes the bonus tracks “All Your Friends,” “Ghost Story,” and “O (Part 2/Reprise).”

May 27

Me. I Am Mariah?The Elusive Chanteuse [Explicit] [+digital booklet]

Mariah Carey: Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse 

The emancipated diva returns with her first and fiercest studio album since 2009, which includes the hits “Beautiful,” “The Art of Letting Go,” and her stunning version of George Michael’s “One More Try.”

Four Decades of U2: The Soundtrack of My Life

(Photo by: Eric Allen ©2011 Popmartzoo)

With so much speculation and innuendo swirling around U2 at the moment regarding the new album, tour, and rumored breakup, now seemed the perfect time to reflect on the band’s body of work and lasting legacy. I’ve read statements made by Bono himself regarding the band’s relevance and if the world needs another U2 album. As a self-professed fanboy of Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry, I know for certain there is no other rock band more relevant than U2 to myself and millions of others around the globe.

With a musical canon which has inspired millions, I consider U2 to be my generation’s Rolling Stones and Beatles. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but I stand by it as no other band has come close to having the impact nor maintaining the longevity as Dublin’s fab four. Now before you begin to throw virtual stones at me, let’s examine U2 from my perspective.

It all started in the early 80s when U2 began to slowly stream into my subconscious with their first music video on MTV, “I Will Follow.” I remember wondering what a U2 was, but the song and passion in Bono’s voice struck a chord within me, forcing me to seek out their music at my local record store…

[Read Full Feature at U2TourFans.com]

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

You know that rare moment when an album makes an impact so great, not only do you never forget it, but manage to remember every word to every song throughout the remainder of your life? Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is that album for me.

Although it’s been 41 years since Elton John released his seminal double LP, this classic album has been revisited and reissued as a super deluxe, 5-disc ultimate edition to commemorate its 40th anniversary. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical about another remaster (as this is not the first time GYBR has been cleaned up), but this is truly the best this album has ever sounded. I’ve probably listened to this record hundreds of times, and I can honestly say this new remaster brings out new details and a clarity like I’ve never before heard. If this is one of your favorite Elton albums, you owe it to yourself to own this, as it is without a doubt the definitive version.

With its iconic cover and sales of over 31 million copies to date, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton John’s best-selling studio album and considered by many to be his landmark, career-defining masterpiece. The 17-track set includes many of John’s most famous songs, including: “Bennie and the Jets,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Candle in the Wind,” and the hit title track.

This lavishly produced package includes an all new remastered version of the original album, B-sides, demos, the complete Live at Hammersmith concert from 1973, a DVD of Bryan Forbes’ film Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things, a 100-page illustrated hardcover book, as well as newly recorded cover versions by Ed Sheeran, Hunter Hayes, Miguel, Emili Sande, John Grant, The Band Perry, Imelda May, Fall Out Boy, and Zac Brown Band.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Edition also available on HD pure audio Blu-ray, and 2-LP limited edition heavyweight 180-gram yellow vinyl.

David Nail: I’m a Fire

David Nail: I’m a Fire

After a three year wait since his last full-length effort, David Nail returns to country music exuding confidence and growth as a songwriter and vocalist on his third MCA Nashville release, I’m a Fire.

Armed with the number one lead single “Whatever She’s Got,” the Missouri native and “Let It Rain” singer’s latest project is loaded with knockout tracks including the smoldering “Burnin’ Bed,” the picturesque “When They’re Gone (Lyle County)” with Little Big Town, and the fervent follow-up single “Kiss You Tonight,” co-penned by American Idol rocker David Cook.

I’m a Fire’s only pitfalls are its overly excessive use of female harmony vocals (at times making Nail seem like a featured duet partner on his own album), and the turgid cover of Glen Campbell’s peerless Jimmy Webb classic “Galveston” featuring Lee Ann Womack. With the latter tacked onto the end, it not only diminishes the impact of the set’s title track (which should’ve served as the album’s closer), but ultimately comes off sounding like a superfluous afterthought.

Definitely Maybe: Oasis 20 Years On

Though it definitely appears as if the Gallagher brothers’ sibling rivalry won’t be making way for an Oasis reunion anytime in the near future, fans of Noel and Liam’s heyday have something to celebrate. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album, a deluxe remastered version of Definitely Maybe will be released on May 19th.

Throughout 2014, deluxe versions of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory and Be Here Now will follow as well. The recordings are sourced from the original masters, which have been remastered by Ian Cooper at Metropolis. The three albums will be released chronologically with B-sides and rarities from the band’s archives in super deluxe, standard, and triple CD casebook editions. Additional details and items can be found at the newly updated Oasis website.

While fans initially took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their disappointment regarding no official band reunion, maybe these anniversary reissues, which capture the epitome of the band’s creative zenith, will be enough to keep devoted Oasis heads’ dashed hopes alive. Definitely. Maybe. 

Music Snobbery: A Self-Righteous Affliction

We’ve all encountered them, music snobs. That person who thinks they know more than the average music buff. They feel entitled to an unjustified sense of coolness by playing the anti-mainstream music game of my favorite band or artist is better because mine is more obscure. Yet, these so-called music aficionados are the first to abandon their favorites upon the very first sign of even a miniscule amount of commercial triumph, because of some imaginary belief system based on tiresome and ridiculous self-imposed “rules,” which decree mainstream success is evil and taboo.

I witnessed fan base abandonment when R.E.M. left an independent label to sign with Warner Brothers, when Weezer started getting airplay on mainstream radio stations, and again when Green Day’s popularity grew beyond mere punk rock recognition. I’ve always been perplexed by this because eschewing an artist after achieving a perceived amount of popularity seems to be the equivalent of the same juvenile mindset of blindly following the masses. Ironically, every musician I’ve met would give their eyetooth to be able to achieve enough success which affords them the opportunity to make a sustainable career out of creating and/or performing music.

Perhaps the most irritating and puzzling quality of self-appointed music snobs I’ve encountered (and there have been many throughout the years), is that I’m yet to meet one who hasn’t said to me; “I don’t like that kind of music because it all sucks” and “I used to listen to that type of music until it became popular.” How can you consider yourself to be an expert on music if you don’t listen to every genre and like something in every category?

Everyone’s entitled to their own preferences, but if you consider yourself a music “expert,” then lose the teenage mentality of discounting entire genres due to your own ignorance of it. I’ve never let anyone else’s perceptions dictate what I like. I’ve never listened to anything simply because it fits into one category or another. In fact, the music I find to be the most rewarding has always found its way to me on its own accord, devoid of recommendation, hyped propaganda, or any degree of superficial coolness. I don’t pretend to know everything about music (who does?), but I know what I like despite lack of popularity or chart success. After all, isn’t music really about evoking an emotional and psychological response from the few as well as the many?

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