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Thursday, Jan 14, 2010
Some artists are more than merely great. There are some artists that for a period of years, a period that is finite, consistently produced music that, it can be argued, far exceeded the work of their peers. For that brief period of time they were definitely Masters of the Form.

Some musical artists are able to move; others are a movement. Such artists tap into a need within a mass of people, musically feeding off of the axiom that there is strength in numbers. George Clinton has always had both, strength and numbers, and from 1975 to 1978 he led a funk movement that changed the landscape of popular music forever. For that four-year period he and the numerous members of his bands Parliament and Funkadelic, always two sides of the world’s funkiest coin, were Masters of the Form that traded masterpieces back and forth while creating a new brand of musical expression and black consciousness. It was a movement that any casual Funkadelic fan should have known was coming. The title track of their 1974 release, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On was a proclamation to all that would listen that Funkadelic should be listened to by all. The following year they released the amazing Let’s Take It to the Stage.


Let’s Take It to the Stage was part invitation, part challenge, part promise and all funk. It was the work of a group that had turned a corner, a combination of all the disparate aspects of Funkadelic’s music up to that point, the extended jams, aggressive guitars, smooth ballads, tight vocals, psychedelic flourishes, risqué sexual lyrics and dirty funk into the most concise songs they’d ever recorded. In 1974 they had asked listeners to, “Stick us in your ears and dig us”; in 1975 they promised, “to be good to your earhole”. On Let’s Take It to the Stage it’s a promise the group kept.


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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

After its opening chord crashes and drum beats, “Sassafras Roots” settles into a four-bar A-E5/A-A-E5/A-D-E chord progression that it relies on throughout much of its duration. Billie Joe Armstrong’s quick guitar upstroke chord changes dominate the first half of this figure, while Mike Dirnt’s noodling bassline is more noticeable in the second half. It’s an appealing instrumental passage, but honestly it’s relied on so much that it quickly becomes repetitive. Luckily the chorus and bridge sections add variety to the whole proceeding, in particular providing a setting for Tre Cool to unleash some cracking machine gun drum rolls.


 


Tagged as: green day
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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

Billy Squier was a worldwide megastar until the day he decided it was a good idea to show the world that uber-macho guitar gods could… dance around in a pink tank top and white satin sheets in a video directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega. Ortega of course went on to make such iconic paeans to testosterone as the High School Musical franchise and Miley Cyrus’s Best of Both Worlds concert film, but Squier could not have known that this would be his legacy, considering he’d only been known for Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video and Xanadu choreography at that point. Wait… what? OK, so Squier already knew full well what he was getting into by hitching his wagon to Ortega’s star.


Which, in my book, makes him a revolutionary! I mean, this video lays it on thick. He starts out waking up in the nude, shaking on a jaunty pair of pegged white drawstring pants and Flashdance-approved white muscle shirt featuring his quintessentially ‘80s Emotions in Motion color blocked logo (despite the fact that the song is from the album Signs of Life). And when that drum (machine?) kicks in, Billy goes to TOWN with the dancing. He’s finger-popping, he’s high-kicking, he’s floor-slithering—hell, he even throws in a stripper-shimmy down a fire-engine red poll. This is not the listless swaying or ham-shouldered jerkiness of your average rock frontman—Squier is so full-bore Bob Fosse in this performance that one half expects a sequined top hat to emerge from behind his perm.


Tagged as: billy squier
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Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010

In the Green Day episode of the VH1 documentary series Behind the Music, Mike Dirnt commented, “We’ve never been entirely embraced by the punk rock community because we do sing love songs.”  The radio-only single “She” is doubtless an affront to such punk hardliners. Written by Billie Joe Armstrong for an ex-girlfriend, “She” is all about wistful pining for that special someone, aided and abetted by poppy chorus harmonies. But it’s also one of the punkiest tracks on Dookie, faster and more bracing than most anything else on the record. Like first-wave punks the Buzzcocks, Green Day demonstrates with “She” that sometimes the best way to convey romantic yearning and anticipation is through punk’s short/loud/fast credo, and that’s something close-minded practitioners of the genre should never forget.


I’ve always considered “She” to be a perfect companion to “Basket Case”, the preceding cut on Dookie. I always listen to them as a pair. The band seems to hold a similar inclination, as it often performs the tracks back-to-back in concert. In a way, “She” ups the ante of “Basket Case”, offering something similar but approaching it with more speed, power, and simplicity. “She” takes its cues from “Basket Case” early on, opening with a sparse rhythmic backdrop (highlighted by Dirnt’s pulsing three note bassline) that allows Billie Joe Armstrong to take center stage as a lyricist. Sounding almost as if he’s mere inches away from the listener, Armstrong tenderly paints the scenario of a girl unsatisfied with the predetermined life she’s trapped in. With a “sullen riot penetrating through her mind”, this girl is “waiting for a sign” (i.e. him) that will impel her to break through her silent suffering “with a brick of self-control”.


Tagged as: green day
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Monday, Jan 11, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“On a good day
In the morning light
All the wreckage
Is out of sight
And I know it’s gonna be all right….
And I’ll get some sleep tonight”

—Jude Johnstone, “On a Good Day”


“On a Good Day”, the title track to Jude Johnstone’s 2005 gentle gem of an album, is a quietly powerful little tune. It’s the kind of song that gets you happily moving and swaying… just before it breaks your heart. In that way, the song is an apt embodiment of this particular songwriter’s impressively rich gifts, which include a knack for lovely and singable melodies, a deeply felt and touchingly expressed melancholic bent, and a unique, earnest and heartfelt vocal delivery.


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