Posts Tagged ‘screaming trees’

Album Review: Imitations by Mark Lanegan

November 25, 2013

20131125-153149.jpg After years of drought between solo albums, Mark
Lanegan finally unearthed his solo career in 2012 with the release of “Blues
Funeral
.” He followed up later in the year with a collaboration with guitarist Duke Garwood for the haunting “Black Pudding.” September 2013 brought Mark to the return to his solo records of past years with a stripped down band (most songs just have a single guitar) in an album of cover songs called
Imitations.””Black Pudding” offered the same tone, but it was more of a collaboration and not a true solo album. The album also marks the return of former collaborators – Mike Johnson, who provided the guitar for most of Mark’s early solo albums, and former Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel.

The album starts off with the slow-paced “Flatlands,” and it only varies from the tempo it sets occasionally. I the album, he covers Greg Dulli, Nick Cave, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, and others. It really shows the wide-range of influences that have led to a career spanning four decades. One particular standout for me is a tremendous version of Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice.” He takes the former James Bond title track, and makes it his own by providing his trademark grizzled vocals. It’s album is a departure from the previous two Lanegan solo albums. “Bubblegum” and “Blues Funeral” had a full band (the artist credited was the Mark Lanegan Band) and took a more traditional rock approach, while still providing haunting songs that defined his earlier work. When asked why he made “Imitations” he replied:

When I was a kid in the late sixties and early seventies, my parents and their friends would play the records of Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, music with string arrangements and men singing songs that sounded sad whether they were or not. At home my folks were also listening to country music, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Vern Gosdin were some of our favorites. For a long time I’ve wanted to make a record that gave me the same feeling those old records did, using some of the same tunes I loved as a kid and some that I’ve loved as I have gotten older. This record is it. Imitations.

If you like Mark Lanegan, you’ll loves this album. Even if you don’t like him, there are certain songs you can pick out and really enjoy. The album is very accessible to everyone, and deserves a place in your record collection.

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An Evening with Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan

February 11, 2009

February 10, 2009 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA will go down as one of the concerts where all who attended will count themselves as lucky. The concert was billed as “An Evening with Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan.” They promised a stripped down acoustic setting featuring songs that neither of them have performed in years. It did not disappoint. In fact, it far exceeded my already high expectations. At this point, I should point out that the opening act – Happy Chichester – was really good. Fans at the Troubadour were demanding that he play more songs when he finished his set.

Photo by: Nancy Paulikas Used with permission

Photo by: Nancy Paulikas. Used with permission

After the opening act, chairs were set up and Greg Dulli, Mark Lanegan, and Dave Rosser walked out. Dave and Greg, carrying guitars, Mark with his signature black shirt and disheveled hair. They started the evening with a couple Gutter Twins tunes – “The Body”, “All God’s Children,” and “The Stations.” They then moved to their extensive back catalog. Greg first tore the house down with the Afghan Whigs tune “If I Were Going.” After he was done he said:

Mark sees that and raises me

Mark raised him indeed with an absolutely incredible rendition of the Screaming Trees classic “Sworn and Broken.”

Greg moved to the keyboard and they sang “We Have Met Before” from the Gutter Twins’ EP “Adorata.” Mark followed with a cover of “Creeping Coastline of Lights” and his own “Resurrection Song” I really wish I could say that the Troub was silent during the downbeats of these songs, but there was plenty of chatter. Way too much chatter for such a great concert. Now it was Greg’s turn and he threw in “The Twlilte Kid” and “The Lure Would Prove Too Much” in this seeming game of one-upmanship by the two artists that have reached “cult status,” but as Dulli pointed out:

Cult status isn’t financially lucrative. Look at the cars we drive. Thank God for Europe

It was Mark’s turn with “Kimiko’s Dream House”. Greg followed with “Summer’s Kiss” and “King Only”. Mark answered that call with “Sunrise” and “The River Rise” Both blew me away as I am a huge fan of the album “Whiskey for the Holy Ghost” from which both songs appear. The show ended with “Sunset Machine” and “In a Heavenly Way.” The latter song was absolutely incredible.

After a few minutes of applause they came out for an encore that included “Candy Cane Crawl” and “One Hundred Days” If there is anything that can make “One Hundred Days” better it was most definitely Petra Hayden’s violin. They also did “Tennessee Waltz.” Dave Rosser sang that song and whenever he releases a CD, I will be first in line to get it. Amazing musician. They ended the show with “All I Have to Do is Dream” and Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

Probably my favorite aspect of the show was the relaxed nature and the back and forth banter. They were putting themselves out there with the stripped down set and could not hide behind the rock, or pyro. It is something that is very rare in music today and something that is desperately needed. Instead of creating “bands” that music execs think will sell records and hide their lack of talent behind studio tricks and pyro, why don’t they sign people with talent? The last time they did the record company made more money then they ever had before and they haven’t made that much since. Why doesn’t someone put 2 and 2 together?

Todd Thurman

The Doors

August 27, 2008

The combined elements of the Doors’ music has transcended time and place to become more than a relic of American psychedelic sound. A ceremonial tone in John Densmore’s tribal drumming — both earthy and jazzy — evoked the mysticism and carnal pleasure of Sunset Strip’s Sea Witch. This held the rhythm for Ray Manzarek’s jazz/R&B organ (shot direct from Mother Neptune’s Coffeehouse) and the Insomniac brew of Robby Krieger’s nimble flamenco guitar lines, mixed with crunchy garage-band chords. But it was the baritone tremolo and lusty howl of Jim Morrison’s vox that took the music of the Doors to a subconscious level. Long after the shimmering klieg lights of L.A.’s psychedelic era went out, the Doors’ music continued to influence sub-culture on record.

By 1977, New Jersey’s the Misfits debuted their own brand of keyboard-driven psychotronic punk at Greenwich Village’s CBGB’s club. The single “Cough/Cool” b/w “She” featured somber, poetic prancing akin to the Doors’ earliest hits, while infusing an experimental art-rock indicative of the times. The Misfits glamourized sex and violence, as their increasingly guitar-driven sound pointed to a bleak, dystopian world at the dawn of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. As their brooding style began influencing the oncoming swarm of ’80s goth-rock, Misfits singer Glenn Danzig moved away from the B-horror garaginess of their best material, instead preferring the nascent death metal sound popular by the mid-’80s.

Britain’s Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy launched their band, the Cult, in the early ’80s, offering up a new-wave/goth sound that was heavily influenced by Native American mysticism. The Cult’s 1984 singles “Spiritwalker” and “Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)” hit big enough to launch a revived interest in the type of sex/death/rebirth gravity that had critics talking about the ’60s Doors sound again. Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s book No One Get Out of Here Alive (1980) had already launched Morrison and the Doors into popularity with a whole new generation. The book would be adapted for the big screen in 1991 with Oliver Stone’s The Doors, and the Cult’s Ian Astbury would later front a ’90s Doors reunion, but neither were viewed as being inspired on the level of the book or earliest Cult records. The indie-spirit of neo-psychedelic, however, had more authentic offerings on the horizon.

In 1986, Seattle’s Screaming Trees unleashed the DIY garage-psych LP Clairvoyance — a foretelling of the ’90s grunge explosion, iconoclastic and haunting all at once. The Middle-Eastern flair of Gary Conner’s guitar on “Standing on the Edge” laid the perfect backdrop for singer Mark Lanegan’s baritone intensity. It wasn’t until Pearl Jam’s 1993 Vs. album that another Seattle act would equal the raw absorption of Calirvoyance. Eddie Vedder’s passion and self-conscious immediacy on Pearl Jam numbers like “Dissident” and “Indifference” harkened back to the crunch-chord spontaneity of the best of the Doors. That same year, Glenn Danzig’s eponymous band had a surprise MTV hit with a live version of “Mother” (originally on their 1988 debut LP), though at this point, his sound was so far gone into death metal that it would doubtless fail to connect with anyone searching for the everyman blues of the Doors sound. Worse yet was the baritone banality of mainstream alternative bands like Stone Temple Pilots, and later, Creed. But by this time, there was a feeling that the sexual, good-time exploration of the Doors’ initial influence had reached a corporate rock nadir. The Sunset Strip’s mid-’60s inspiration continues to this day, but its purity in music has gone underground, as with most of the best sounds in rock, post-alternative.

Brian Chidester

Beat Happening

August 24, 2008

Simply put, this band is just about the coolest band ever. No other way to describe them. They did whatever they wanted, however they wanted, and they did not care how many fans they had. They recorded their songs on Calvin’s crude recording devices. They used no multi-tracks (with the exception of 1992’s “Godsend” which featured guitar overdubs). They had no bass guitar. Their drummer had no musical experience prior to joining the band. Guitarist/Vocalist Heather Lewis once commented that you could tell the story of Beat Happening through the drum sets they borrowed. Even with all that going against them they still managed to make incredible music as well as influence the Seattle sound that briefly took over the world.

Calvin Johnson and Heather Lewis both went to Evergreen State College. They had both previously been in a band together, but that band faltered and they needed a drummer to make a trip to Japan. They called on their friend and classmate Bret Lunsford. He had no musical experience but that didn’t matter. Beat Happening was formed. They recorded an EP in Japan, and it got critical acclaim, so they made more albums.

Calvin started K Records to make his and hid friends’ music available to the world. He did not know the amount of influence his tiny little record company would end up having. The do it yourself style really appealed to bands that were starting to pop-up in Northern Washington who were tired of the over-dubbed, bland music that was being force fed to the population through endless rotation on radio stations and the emerging MTV. Beat Happening was the thing they were looking for. (That and Steve Albini’s band RAPEMAN). The minimalist approach was a direct contrast of everything that was popular in the mid-late 80s.

Their first album was self titled and came out in 1985. This caught the attention of a band from Ellensburg, Washington (where the cows live) known as the Screaming Trees. In a 1986 interview, Van Conner (or Gary Lee Conner) mentioned to the interviewer that Beat Happening was making some great music in Olympia. Their second album, “Jamboree” (produced by Screaming Trees members Mark Lanegan and Van Conner) really got the attention of the rest of the Seattle sound. This is the time when Kurt Cobain got into them, right when Nirvana was starting out. After that, they decided to make a split EP with the Screaming Trees. It has not title beyond “Beat Happening/Screaming Trees Split EP” “Black Candy” came out in 1989 and I consider that one to be the best. Also, in 1988, they began a relationship with Sub Pop records. They still released records through K, but they had a cut on the legendary “Sub Pop 200” album and 1991’s “The Grunge Years” compilation. “Black Candy”, “Jamboree”, and 1991s “Dreamy” were all re-released through Sub Pop.

1992 was a change for Beat Happening. “You Turn Me On” was released by K and Sub Pop at the same time and they also featured multi-track recording in their songs. Something they had never done before. I wasn’t around Washington, or their core fan base at the time, so I can’t say what the reaction was, but it was modest enough for me to not let it be a deal breaker for their sound. The lead single “Pine Box Rock” still was the same formula they had been using and it was a great song. After “You Turn Me On” there was a hiatus for Beat Happening. Calvin claimed that they were still practicing everyday, but nothing ever came out. There was nothing until 2002 with the “Crashing Through” Box Set. In 2003, they released “Music to Climb the Apple Tree By” which featured songs they had previously recorded including the entire EP they recorded with the Screaming Trees.

Hard to tell if there will be another band like Beat Happening. I hope there is not. A band like them deserves their own place in history without watered down imitations. Their minimalist approach influenced some of the most popular bands of all time. To overlook them would not only be a disservice to music, but a disservice to yourself.

Todd

Review: MOJO Magazine: Aug. 2008

August 16, 2008
August 08

MOJO Magazine August 2008

The current issue of MOJO Magazine is devoted to the 20th anniversary of Sub Pop records. It does not just mention the anniversary, it tells the story of the history of the label and its influence on music. Of course, it is impossible to talk about Sub Pop without talking about Nirvana, so the magazine also dedicates the cover and a feature story about Sub Pop’s most famous band.

For the Sup Pop interview, they got together “grunge royalty” if ever there was such a thing. They brought in former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing, Mudhoney and Green River frontman Mark Arm, and TAD frontman Tad Doyle. They also brought together the founders of Sub Pop Records Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt. The article talks about the very humble beginnings where they would ship orders from the Musak Corporation where Pavitt worked part time until 1988. It is a true DIY label and pretty soon the Major labels could not avoid it.

The article really starts with the culmination of Sub Pop’s efforts: Lamefest in 1989. The Lamefest show sold out the iconic Moore Theater in Seattle headlined by all local bands, a feat that was thought to be out of the question. This showed Pavitt and Poneman that they were on to something. Bands like Green River, TAD, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and Mother Love Bone really helped define the Seattle Sound as well as Sub Pop itself.

Sub Pop has had its ups and downs over the last 20 years, but with bands like Iron and Wine, Flight of the Conchords, Mudhoney, and The Gutter Twins they are as strong as ever. The magazine also comes with a free CD titled “The Sub Pop 300.” It has some of the same tracks as the Sub Pop issue “The Grunge Years” but there are some great tracks including: “Change Has Come” by the Screaming Trees, “Shove” by L7, and “Retarded” by the Afghan Whigs. There are also tracks by other Sub Pop artists like Pissed Jeans, Red Red Meat, and Flight of the Conchords.

Todd

Gutter Twins Concert – Hollywood, CA

April 9, 2008

On a cold, rainy night, a cold, dark band came on stage. OK, so it wasn’t that cold, and it was barely drizzling, but the ambiance of the night seemed just right for the Gutter Twins (nee Greg Dulli, the Afghan Whigs, and Mark Lanegan, the Screaming Trees). I got to the Avalon (after spending $25 to park… that’s not a typo) about 9:20 or so, just in time to hear a number of really good songs from Great Northern. They worked hard and the crowd seemed to be getting into it. My anticipation grew as the roadies were tearing down the Great Northern gear and setting up the Gutter Twins set. After a long, drawn out process, the full band finally appeared.

They started off heavy singing “The Stations.” I, as well as others in my section, seemed to be really into it. They continued with “All God’s Children” and “All Misery/Flowers.” One of the few songs that were song that were not on the album was “Live With Me,” which appeared on the Twilight Singers Stitch in Time EP. They also played a breathtaking version of the St. James Infirmary blues made famous by many including jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong and more recently, Isobel Campbell. The slow, brooding nature of the Gutter Twins’ vision fit that song really well.

Highlights of the night, for me, included “Seven Stories Underground” and “Bete Noire.” Dulli seemed to be frustrated with the audience when he asked for participation and got a very timid response from the hipster LA scene, at one point asking, “You guys still out there?” I was sitting almost directly in front of Jeff Klein playing keyboards. What a joy to watch. Some songs playing keys, some guitar, some playing his recorded loops from the laptop, all while smoking a cigarette. He really is an underrated and under appreciated musical talent. After Dulli introduced the band, Lanegan uttered the only non-singing words he uttered all night – “This is Greg Dulli.

Dulli closed the set with an amazing version of “Front Street” that blew me away. The band went offstage, to what seemed to me, great applause. The band went backstage. The applause lasted a few minutes, it seemed, and all of a sudden, the lights came on and the roadies started dismantling. I did not want to believe it, but then the curtain came down. There would be no encore tonight. There is a difference between going to a Mark Lanegan concert and a Greg Dulli concert. Dulli wanted the crowd to clap, and move and show emotions, and the crowd reacted like they were at a Lanegan concert, quietly listening to incredible songs. Still, even with no encore, it was a great show, packed out at the legendary Palace Theatre, now the Avalon venue.

Todd

Album Review: Cody’s Dream

March 26, 2008

codysdream-sm.jpg

Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands – Cody’s Dream.

For those that do not know about Mark Pickerel, he was the original drummer for seminal alternative band. The Screaming Trees. He has also worked along such alternative luminaries such as: Kurt Cobain, Mike Johnson, Ben Shepherd, Jack Endido, Krist Novoselic, Steve Fisk and final Screaming Trees drummer, Barret Martin. Steve Fiskis also the producer of the Praying Hands debut album, Snakes in the Radio as well as Cody’s Dream.

This is the follow up to the Praying Hands’ debut album, Snake in the Radio. This album is along the sames lines as Snake in the Radio, but where Snake in the Radio could be considered Alt. Blues of sorts, Cody’s Dream is full-blown Alt Country. It loosely follows the same path of telling a story throughout the album, but it is much looser. Mark also talks more about religion then he did with his previous effort. He seems to back away from religion in some songs, but is drawn back to it again in others. The same thread of “works for some, not for me, though” seems to be a persistant theme. Very much like his fellow maverick Mark Lanegan does time and time again. (Maybe a concidence, but they did play together in the Screaming trees from 85-91).

The album starts off hard and fast with the title track and gets you prepared for the journey that Pickerel and His Praying Hands is about to take you on. Mark’s soft brooding vocals are like that of a soft spoken gentleman that has an aura of trust and experience. Some songs are faster than others, but the album flows really well. There is a lot of great music on this record.

Mark shows his comedic side with the song “Leaving with the Swamptones” as he tours from church to church throughout the country looking for pretty girls. “First stop is gonna be Charlotte. I’ll just bet she’s hot”. As Brian Chidester (Editor in Cheif of Dumb Angel Magazine) so aptly put it, ” ‘Last Leaves’ is a song the Neil Young wishes he wrote”. Religion and relationships are very thematic throughout the record and that can relate to everyone in any faction of life. We have all experienced one or the other, if not both, but we can’t put words to it. Luckily, we have people like Pickerel to do it for us. I highly recommend this album to anyone who likes good music and a good time.

Todd

Cody’s Dream and Snake in the Radio are available at BloodshotRecords.com

The Soulsavers feat. Mark Lanegan

March 2, 2008

On Sunday night, December 2nd, I had the privilege of going to this amazing concert. The night I had been waiting over a year for had finally come to pass. The show started with the band Spain playing the opening act. They were good, but I could not wait for them to be over because I, and the rest of the packed Troubadour, knew that the Soulsavers were coming on next. For those who do not know the Soulsavers, let me tell you who they are. The Soulsavers are a British electronica/hip hop/gospel band. They are incredibly talented musicians who have received overwhelming critical acclaim for their first release, Tough Guys Don’t Dance (2003) as well as their newest CD It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land (2007). They received a lot of notoriety for their second album because, not only is a phenomenal album, but also because of Mark Lanegan’s contribution. Mark wrote and sang on most of the album. Mark is the kind of musician that brings instant credibility to any label he is on, or any band that he sings with and the Soulsavers are no exception, even though they are very good on their own.

They started off the night with a rocking version of the instrumental “Ask The Dust” that was awesome. When that song was completed, he man himself, Mark Lanegan, walked out and began to sing “Ghosts of You and Me”. They played Lanegan’s cover of Junior Kimborough’s “All Night Long” and then went back to their own “Paper Money”. The gospel singers they used for backup were simply amazing. Instead of doing all their own stuff, the band took risks and were rewarded greatly when they covered “Effigy”, “Codeine”, and “Feels So Good”. The song, “Spiritual” (written by vocalist Josh Haden who appeared on their first CD, “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”) really took the crowd into another world as Lanegan, desperate for companionship, cried out to Jesus to help him. Really powerful. They even spliced in Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning” to their own “Cabin Fever”. “Cabin Fever” is the only song they played from “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”.

After “Cabin Fever” the band walked off stage only to come back out a minute later to blow us away with the lead single off “It’s Not How You Fall, It’s the Way You Land”, “Revival“. they ended the show with a gospel version of “Midnight Special”. I pity the man who has not heard a gospel version of “Midnight Special”. It was a great way to end the show. The show was just amazing. The band was extremely tight and the musicianship was outstanding. Nothing like being five feet away from your favorite musician.

Todd

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