Author Archive: Eric Allen

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?

BLAM! Bonnaroo 2014

BLAM! It’s that time of year again when the official lineup is announced for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the 700 acre farm’s four-day extravaganza and 2014’s roster boasts several exciting performers including: Elton John, Kanye West, Zedd, Broken Bells, Wiz Khalifa, Skrillex, Vampire Weekend, Fitz and The Tantrums, and The Avett Brothers.

For more info and a complete list of acts, go to: Bonnaroo.com

U.S. Albums Box Set Celebrates 50 Years of Beatlemania

The Beatles: The U.S. Albums

Although I wasn’t born when the Beatles first arrived in America, that didn’t stop me from liberating their albums from my eldest sister and memorizing every word, harmony and riff until I could hear them in my sleep, and repeatedly dream of the Capitol Records’ label with its dome logo and colorband ring spinning in my head. However, I’ll shamefacedly admit that during my early adulthood I thought I’d outgrown the mop topped Fab Four and briefly pushed them aside as I sought to forge my own musical identity, but an eager audiophile soon set me back onto the right track. Now, with the release of the Beatles’ 13-disc box set The U.S. Albums, I too finally have the opportunity to turn back time and experience a taste of Beatlemania for myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America and first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, this box set includes all of the original artwork from the Capitol Records’ releases, and a 64-page illustrated booklet with an in depth essay written by American television executive and author Bill Flanagan. Warning: this box set is NOT for Beatles purists, but instead intended solely for fans who want to recreate their youthful American listening experience of the Beatles in digital form.

If like me, you lived in the U.S. during your formative years, these are the track sequences and album covers you know (and worship) for better or worse, which differ greatly from the versions first released on CD in 1987, and again with the release of the Beatles’ remastered catalog in 2009. While many can (and undoubtedly will) endlessly argue the U.S. versions’ echt value, the point here isn’t to determine which versions are superior, but instead to transport you back into the youthful euphoria of hearing the Beatles’ albums for the first time in America. Whether revered or despised likely depends upon your own introduction into the Beatles’ musical canon, but these Americanized versions, with their synthesis of Capitol’s stereo and mono versions and George Martin’s remastering, are historic nonetheless. The set includes the best of both worlds; Capitol’s unique variations of several mixes interspersed with the 2009 remastered tracks, ensuring the ultimate retro Beatles experience.

This set also marks the first time many of these albums have been made available in the U.K. (which could mean quite a revelation to young Beatles’ fans across the pond), as well as the first time The Beatles’ Story (available exclusively in this box set), Hey Jude, Yesterday and Today, A Hard Day’s Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), and the U.S. version of Revolver have been available on compact disc. The original artwork of these releases has been painstakingly reproduced, complete with a sticker replica of the alternate Yesterday and Today cover, which was originally issued after the “butcher” cover was recalled in 1966.

The U.S. albums (notorious for their equalized echo chamber sound, or duophonic simulated stereo, and arbitrarily sequenced track lists) reportedly annoyed the band members, which is believed to be the inspiration behind the infamous “Butcher’s Block” cover (featuring the band holding disjointed baby dolls and raw meat while sporting white lab coats) for the U.S. only release Yesterday and Today.

The Capitol/Universal 2014 box set includes:

Meet the Beatles!, The Beatles’ Second Album, A Hard Day’s Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Something New, Beatles ’65, The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help! (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Revolver, Hey Jude, and The Beatles’ Story.

At the Closing of the Year

As we say goodbye to 2013 with all too fresh memories of Miley Cyrus’ embarrassing raunch, the aural overkill of Lorde’s “Royals,” and the over saturated blandness of Katy Perry still lingering about, we can only look ahead with hope that 2014 will redeem this year’s failures.

The beginning of a new year always seems exhilarating as it promises a fresh start and a renewed faith that things can only get better. Looking into the not so distant future we can expect new releases from U2, a return to alternative pop from Tori Amos (after her last three classical infused releases), Cher’s final farewell and last hurrah (Dressed to Kill Tour), and after an extended absence from live performing, cerebral shit stirrer Lady Gaga returns to the touring scene with her upcoming artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour.

Although too much time was wasted during the past few months on less than triumphant spectacles and dashed expectations, 2013 managed to deliver some great musical moments including David Bowie’s return with The Next Day, Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, Cher’s first album in 12 years, Closer to the Truth, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Christian Burns’ Simple Modern Answers, Panic! at the Disco’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! and of course Lady Gaga’s heady party record ARTPOP. The year’s end also saw masterfully crafted seasonal offerings by Kelly Clarkson, Erasure, and Leona Lewis, all of which brought 2013 to a fitting and timely end.

With fingers crossed and musical palettes cleansed, let’s close out 2013 by taking a beat to remember how music makes us feel as it permanently finds its way into the soundtrack of our lives. As we prepare to leap forward into a new year, let’s hope our high expectations of better days to come are fulfilled in 2014.

Lady Gaga: ARTPOP

ARTPOP

After more than a year of wading knee deep in the hoopla of Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP, the most anticipated album of 2013 has finally arrived. With all the speculation and hyperbole swirling around this release, you may be wondering if Gaga’s endgame was worth the wait. The answer to that question may best be answered by the theatrical pop provocateur herself within her own lyrics “Enigma pop star is fun/It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion” (“Aura”) and “Lay back and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting positions” (“G.U.Y.”).

Touted by many as the must have album of 2013, ARTPOP is a multi-genre musical spectrum that boldly infuses EDM, R&B, and rock with joy, rage, and vulnerability. Its true brilliance is discovered only when you fully immerse your mind and ears into the sum of all its parts, which when combined together, take you on a conceptualized journey through Lady Gaga’s world of dance, sex, art, pop, and technology.

Inspired to make the kind of record she’d like to listen to with friends, Gaga’s party opus is raging with mad beats, anthemic choruses, and a phantasmagoric album cover. Although it’s doubtful ARTPOP‘s lyrics will stop global warming or result in world peace, they are cunningly veiled to entice you into contemplating their deeper connotations.

Unpredictably, recurrent collaborator RedOne is only credited here on one track, with the bulk of material composed and co-produced with DJ White Shadow, Madeon, and Zedd. Perhaps RedOne’s input could’ve nixed ARTPOP‘s one and only massive hiccup, “Jewels N’ Drugs” (featuring T.I., Too Short, and Twista). Not only does this bland hip-hop attempt sound like an outtake from The Fame, it also abruptly dampens the album’s vibe and disrupts its otherwise flawless sequential flow, especially as it appears immediately after the dance pop genius of “G.U.Y.” and “Sexxx Dreams,” which sound uncannily like the rebellious teenage love children of Prince and Mariah Carey.

Fortunately, things quickly get back on track with the 1-2-3 punch of the manic “MANiCURE,” which details an obsessive love that can only be sated by a night of hot and lusty sex, followed by the R. Kelly duet “Do What U Want” and climaxing with the transcendent dreaminess of the title track, in which Gaga confesses “The melody that you choose can rescue you.”

During the drug and alcohol penance “Dope” (inspired by the cancellation of the final leg of the Born This Way Ball and originally debuted during her iTunes Festival set as “I Wanna Be With You), Gaga delivers her most honest and vulnerable vocal performance to date while belting out the sparse, emotionally raw ballad, which sounds equally impetuous and remorseful.

Gaga recently described ARTPOP as “reverse Warholian” and “music for music junkies,” which sums up the album quite effectively. With its genre-blurred edges and Spaghetti Western intro, it’s a musically chaotic hodgepodge as unique as the artist herself; edgy, inventive, and multifaceted. Although arguably ostentatious and extreme, there’s no denying ARTPOP is a sexy and seductive, yet quirky slice of pop nirvana that only Lady Gaga could serve up.

Panic! at the Disco: Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!

Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!

Panic! at the Disco’s fourth full-length is as eclectic and diverse as anything we could’ve imagined. Noticeably inspired and shaped by Sin City’s gritty darkness, the quirky Las Vegas band’s latest is teeming with melodic hooks and reflective lyrics. Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! is both hypnotic and beguiling.

[Read Full Review]

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