Monday, May 30, 2011

The Doobie Brothers-Listen to the Music: The Very Best of

The first half of this album is super duper great. I'll never have enough of "Long Train Runnin'" which is why I bought this album. The front half is rounded out with tracks like "China Grove" "Listen to the Music" and "Jesus is Just Alright." Every one of those tracks in not only Doobie Brothers gold, they're classic rock gold. Any classic rock station worth its salt will have those songs in rotation. The rest of the album doesn't feel like it lives up to the billing of "very best." The back half of the album feels like The Doobie Brothers were gearing up to launch Michael McDonald's solo career, a career that I was not a huge fan of. I am, however, a big fan of this parody video.

The Ditty Bops- s/t

Imagine if The Squirrel Nut Zippers were fronted by two thirds of The Andrews Sisters. Now take that and add the collective cuteness of a box of puppies. A large box of puppies. That's how freaking adorable The Ditty Bops are. Their name is adorable, the members of the band are cute as a button, and the music on this album is so astoundingly charming it could make Hello Kitty's head explode (which would be a good thing). Can I make any more hyperbolic statements about this band and album without my own head exploding? No I can't. Just get it and enjoy it.

Dirty Dancing-Original Soundtrack

I didn't see Dirty Dancing until I was in college, a mere 14 years after the movie was released. Why didn't I see it? My parents didn't approve of it because of the title. When I got to college, a female friend of mine was so shocked that I didn't get her "baby in a corner" reference that she dragged me over to her place and forced me to watch it. As you may already know, I am a big fan of musicals. If you're a fan of musicals it's only a hop, skip and a jump to loving dance movies (I already loved dance movies. I have 5 sisters, all of whom are dancers. I've been big on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley since I was an infant). Anyway, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack is an interesting mix of 80's ballads and early 60's rock and roll. Patrick Swayze himself even contributes "She's Like the Wind" to the mix. If you love the movie, you'll more than likely be imagining the scenes of the movie that fit these songs, which is what I always inevitably do. Dirty Dancing is a perfect fusion of movie and soundtrack. Dig it. Dig it big time.

Dio-The Very Beast of

There's only one thing I hate about this album and that's the fact that it's called, "The Very Beast of Dio" and not "The Very Best of Dio." Yeah, we get it. He's metal and sings about dragons and stuff. Did you really need to change best for beast? Nope. Ya didn't.

Nomenclature aside, this is the greatest heavy metal greatest hits album in the world. Here's why: 1) Ronnie James Dio is the greatest heavy metal singer in the history of the world (Here's the evidence: every band he was ever in was made better by his presence and worse by his absence. Elf never went anywhere without Dio, but would have sucked if it did. Rainbow rocked with Dio and sucked big time after he left. Black Sabbath was floundering by the time Dio stepped in, and he brought back the rock big time. He has a better voice than Ozzy could ever hope to have, and the two albums he recorded with Sabbath were better than all but two of Ozzy's Sabbath albums. Deal with it, Ozzy fans. Then there was Dio, which rocked to the tip top non stop. Then he was in Heaven and Hell, the better half of the Black Sabbath reunion. There's nothing the man ever did that wasn't better than every one of his peers. Oh, and to Gene Simmons I say that it was indeed Dio that invented the devil horns/metal sign. Get over yourself and deal with the truth. </rant>) 2) Dio features some of the best metal guitar you will ever hear, especially when Vivian Campbell is on the axe 3) Dio sings about Dungeons and Dragons stuff. Seriously, JRR Tolkien didn't put this much mythology into his work 4) Ronnie James Dio is the greatest heavy metal singer in the history of the world. Did I already say that? It needs to be said twice. Anyway, if you love metal you must, by extension, love this album.

Neil Diamond-His 16 Greatest Hits

I bought this greatest hits album in Cambodia on the black market. The US version of this CD has only 12 of Neil's greatest hits. Buying it illegally on the black market will get you 4 extra tracks for your trouble. In case you were wondering, the extra tracks are "America" "Love on the Rocks" "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and "Hello Again," which are all classic Diamond and personal favorites. Here's how my love of Neil Diamond goes: it isn't ironic or kitschy. I love Neil Diamond because he's freaking great. He writes great songs, he has an enchanting voice (yeah, I said it) and he doesn't sound like anyone else I know. I've been listening to Neil Diamond since I was a kid and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I agree with Steve Zahn when he said, "Yeah, he's America's greatest songwriter and he's our hero." Neil Diamond freaking rocks my socks. I still get chills when the guitar kicks in on "America." I still feel tears welling up in my eyes when I sing along at the top of my lungs, "First they say they want you, plead how they really need you, and suddenly you find you're out there walkin' in a storm." My love of Neil Diamond is pure and the songs on this compilation are great.

The Dentists-Behind the Door I Keep the Universe

I also bought this album hoping it would be as good as "Leave Me Alive." It is not. That is all.

The Dentists-Deep Six

I bought this album because of a previous speculative buy. Sometimes I dig through piles of 45's and buy the ones that look interesting. I'm especially motivated when they look rare. So I picked up a copy of The Dentist's special 45 "Hear No Evil." Yes, they also put out 45's called "See No Evil" and "Speak No Evil" and they were all released on separate independent labels so fans would have to work a little to collect them all. One particular track on that EP was so good that it caused me to run out and buy two Dentists CD's. The track is "Leave Me Alive" and it is a pure pop gem. I have listened to that 45 upward of 50 times and every time I love it a little more. The only problem with Deep Six is that it is nothing like "Leave Me Alive." I found Deep Six to be some unbelievably bland brit-rock befitting of a band called The Dentists. It's a shame they couldn't do more songs like that one song they released on a limited release 45. Yeah, you don't get to say that about too many other bands, do you?

Dengue Fever-Escape From Dragon House

My feelings about this album are clouded over by a few things. First of all, I lived in Cambodia on two separate occasions and I am as fluent in Khmer as a white boy can get. Secondly, I have been a fan of Cambodian music even though I must regrettably acknowledge that much of it is derivative, openly ripping off Thai, Chinese, and American melodies. Also, most of contemporary Cambodian music is way behind the times and it generally sucks. It's been a long time since Sin Sisamuth was putting out song after song of pure gold based in Cambodian culture and folklore. It's not that Cambodian music has never been good (classical Khmer music and instruments are downright fascinating and music from the Sin Sisamuth and "Cambodia Rocks" eras are of the highest quality). So when I found out that there was a band making really good Cambodian music, I was on board. Maybe Dengue Fever doesn't compare as favorably with non-Cambodian artists, but they make the best Khmer language music I have heard in the past 10 years. Also, I can't resist the female Khmer voice. I never could.

The Delgados-Universal Audio

I bought this album on pure speculation. The Delgados is a cool name and the cover art for Universal Audio is awesome. It's simple and yet tells you everything you want to know. The more I have listened to this album, the more I love it. The Delgados are an indie pop outfit that doesn't require you to be a fan of indie to enjoy. Think a slightly more accessible Belle and Sebastian (Yeah, I know B&S are plenty accessible, but if you've accessed them chances are you're the sort of person who would be inclined to like their music and therefore unfit to say what is accessible to the palate of the music peasantry. Then again I like Belle and Sebastian and I might be unfit to make that call. Let's forget I said anything). Anyway, I found this to be a nice, light and poppy listen with a pleasant aftertaste. It has plenty of bouquet and good body. I would say more if I knew any other wine terms.

Def Leppard- Vault

Vault is exactly what you'd expect a Def Leppard greatest hits album to be, and certainly what else would it be? It has all the standards ("Pour Some Sugar on Me" "Photograph" "Foolin" and many others) and doesn't really omit anything crucial. If all you want are the hits, here they are.

Def Leppard-Retroactive

Look at that cover art. If you look closely you'll see a Victorian-era woman looking in a mirror. If you look farther away you'll see a skull. Is this a metaphor for Def Leppard? Probably not, but I've always liked this album cover. Retroactive is a compilation of b-sides and unreleased tracks spanning the golden years of Def Leppard's career. This is actually a pretty cohesive collection of songs and I actually prefer it over Slang and Euphoria. There are two great ballads ("Two Steps Behind" and "Miss You in a Heartbeat") two great rockers ("Desert Song" and "She's Too Tough") and the rest of the album fills out nicely with songs that are good but not necessary great. If your Def Leppard collection feels like it's missing something, may I suggest Retroactive? Yes. Yes I may.

Def Leppard-Adrenalize

Adrenalize has gotten a bit of a bad reputation over the years as an album that marked the downfall of a great 80s metal band. The sad thing is that I was not aware of this fact until fairly recently. As I indicated before, through an experience in grade school I found out that Def Leppard was one of the bands that made cool kids cool. I desperately wanted to own their albums. I even put it on my Christmas list one year, which prompted my mom to ask, "What kind of a toy is a Def Leppard? Is it like a ninja turtle?" When I told her that it was a metal band, she refused to get it. We just didn't listen to metal in my house. When I was 16 and had some of my own money, I found three Def Leppard cassettes for sale at a yard sale and snatched up all three. They were High n' Dry, Pyromania, and Adrenalize. This was years after the Christmas list incident, and my Mom didn't stop me from buying the tapes. I put Adrenalize on in the car. The song that came on was "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)" a nice little ballad. Surprisingly, my Mom actually enjoyed it though she didn't care much for the rest of the album. Anyway, Adrenalize had a lot of my favorite Def Leppard tracks: "Stand Up" "Let's Get Rocked" "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" etc. I liked High n' Dry and Pyromania alright, but I really loved Adrenalize. So either I don't know what makes a good hair metal album, or taste in such things is purely subjective. I don't know what to believe, but I know I still like this album despite everything that's been said about it.

Dead Hot Workshop-Karma Covered Apple

Dead Hot Workshop are the kings of the Tempe music scene. In the 90's when bands like Gin Blossoms, The Refreshments, The Pistoleros, and others were beginning to boom and Tempe looked like it was the next Athens, GA. Dead Hot Workshop was the band all other Tempe bands wanted to be like (The Refreshments even referenced them in the lyric, "We can all wear ripped up clothes and pretend that we are Dead Hot Workshop" from the song "Down Together"). Through choice or fate, Dead Hot Workshop never got a deal with a major label. They have put out a few albums over the years, all of which are cult classics, especially in Arizona. Karma Covered Apple is not as highly regarded as 1001 or River Otis, but it's still a very good document of a band that was good enough to make it but just didn't. If you're a fan of 90's alternative, Dead Hot Workshop might be just the ticket for you. They rock, they have smart lyrics, and they do exactly what they want with their music because they don't have anybody to tell them anything different. I met Dead Hot Workshop twice and hung out with them once. They're a great bunch of guys and it's either a shame or their choice that they didn't make it bigger (I've heard both stories). Dead Hot Workshop stories can be the stuff of legend, so I don't know what to believe other than the fact that they rock. Side Note: The picture is not of the actual CD cover art. I couldn't find the cover art online, so I whipped up a lazy approximation. I actually like mine better.

Miles Davis-Kind of Blue

This is an album I like to listen to on my headphones when I look like the sort of guy who'd be listening to almost anything else. It makes me feel cooler than any of the people around me would assume I am. Miles Davis truly was the king of cool (more cool than peeing your pants, if you can imagine) and if you're walking around with "Freddie Freeloader" bopping around in your headphones you feel like the coolness is rubbing off on you. You can't like jazz and not like this album. It's as simple as that.

Dave Matthews Band-Everyday

This album rates a a solid meh. I think Everyday was when Dave Matthews Band decided that they wanted to reach out to a larger fanbase by trying for a more straightforward sound. Not only does Dave Matthews Band not appeal to people who aren't already fans, they alienated a lot of their core audience with this album. I think I picked this one up at a K-Mart back when such things existed (it was going out of business. I got this CD half off). There isn't a single song on here that lasts longer than 4 and a half minutes. When you've built a fanbase on being one of the big names in jam band college rock by creating crunchy grooves that can last up to 7 or 8 minutes on a studio album and 12 to 15 minutes live, I don't know what you're doing when you try to trim your songs down to radio single length. It doesn't make sense and it was a bad idea. Dance with the one that brung ya.

Dave Matthews Band-Before These Crowded Streets

The DMB concert I saw with my friend Diane was the tour in support of Before These Crowded streets. I bought this album at Tower Records on Mill Avenue, back when Mill was a legitimate cool place to hang out. Before These Crowded Streets is a much darker and more prickly DMB effort than the albums that preceded it. I don't know exactly what inspired the mysterious and dark gypsy-like tone that permeates the album, but it's definitely a unique feature to the Dave Matthews Band catalog. As with Crash and Under the Table and Dreaming, this album takes me back to a time when I was having the time of my life with two of my best girl friends in the last summer of freedom. I remember freedom. It was nice.

Dave Matthews Band-Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95

I was surprised to find that Dave Matthews actively fought bootleggers in his heyday. Not only did he have DMB bootlegs confiscated, he had bootleggers arrested. That seems a very non new-age hippie thing to do. The official stance of DMB on bootlegging is that it's ok as long as you aren't making a profit. And really, what would a jam band be without rabid fans trading bootlegs in the parking lot after every show? Anyway, this live album came out mainly as a way of providing a legitimate live recording of Dave Matthews Band during the time that bootlegging operations were being curtailed. It's a pretty good live recording. The sound quality is much better than you'd expect from a bootleg, and each song is done up in proper DMB style, adding flourishes and solos all along the way.

Dave Matthews Band-Crash

Crash is full of songs that felt like I knew them before I heard them. Crash is a lot like Under the Table and Dreaming, but feels like they really tightened the screws and battened down the hatches for this one. The songs seem like they have a lot more purpose and direction, and there isn't a wasted note (okay, there's that one wasted note on "Too Much" but it's so low in the mix you hardly notice it). Crash takes the Dave Matthews Band formula and improves on it slightly. This album takes a slight edge over Under the Table and Dreaming but both of them are associated with my last summer of carefree youth and as such they are both precious albums to me.

Dave Matthews Band-Under the Table and Dreaming

One of my favorite Futurama quotes, Nibblonian- "You are the most important person in the universe." Fry- "So how I feel when I'm drunk is right?" Nibblonian- "Yes, except that Dave Matthews Band doesn't rock." I used to be of the Nibblonians opinion. Every Dave Matthews Band fan I knew was of the new age 90's hippie variety, and that bothered me. Then my friend Diane bought me a ticket to a DMB show, and I'm always game for free stuff (that's how I saw Sheryl Crow in concert. Not as abysmal as I would have thought, by the way). The concert was great and I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. I went right out and bought Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets. Under the Table and Dreaming is perfect Dave Matthews style jam band hippie rock. It always takes me back to the summer when Diane took me to see them in concert. That was the last summer before I really had to start growing up, so this is a perfect nostalgia trip.

Dashboard Confessional-The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

The first time someone tried to explain the concept of Dashboard Confessional to me it sounded something like, "It's a band, but it's just one guy. It's totally punk, but it's just him singing and playing an acoustic guitar. It rocks, but it's totally not loud." I figured anything that enigmatic was worth the ticket price. Dashboard Confessional turned out to be the ultimate extension of the guy who brings his acoustic guitar to parties and sings all these songs that bear his deep emotions in an attempt to pick up chicks. The funny thing is that girls usually love that guy and guys usually hate him, but the only people I ever heard talk about Dashboard at the time were guys. This album filled a perfect void in my life when I thought the girl I liked didn't like me but she really did and by the time I figured out that she did she was dating my best friend. This is perfect music for people who felt like I did in that situation. Now that I'm happily married it sounds more than a little overwrought. Here's the funny thing about Dashboard, though. Chris Carrabba was the former lead singer of Further Seems Forever, a Christian emo band. They were basically the plugged-in version of Dashboard Confessional. When Chris Carrabba left the band and went unplugged it seemed like he was going for a different sound than that of the band he left. In the meantime Further Seems Forever dug up a guy who looked and sounded just like Chris Carraba (Jason Gleason) to the point that it was unnerving. When Gleason quit, they replaced him with Jon Bunch who also looked and sounded a lot like Carrabba. During this same period, Chris Carrabba turned Dashboard Confessional into a fully-fledged band that sounded exactly like Further Seems Forever. Confused? So am I.

Dance Hall Crashers-Lockjaw

Dance Hall Crashers are all the good things about ska. They write great songs like "Shelley" and "Too Late." They also have not only one but two very talented female singers who harmonize like the Andrews Sisters and make a ska sound unlike any other. I have never heard a Dance Hall Crashers song that didn't put a smile on my face, and that's the whole point. Ska wasn't just this cult-ish weird thing that sprung up in the 90's for no reason. A lot of music in the 90's got into the whole "My life sucks and this whole world sucks and we're all eventually going to die" thing. Ska was a never ending pool party baby. It was a cool pool party (la la la la). Seriously, ska makes it feel like summertime all the time, and nobody does that better than Dance Hall Crashers.

The Damnwells-Bastards of the Beat

The Damnwells make country rock in the same vein as Old 97's and Ryan Adams. I found out about them through one of the samplers I used to take at Hoodlum's (they had a section of samplers that record companies would send them. They put them out for free taking, and I took one of each every time. I found a lot of good music that way, and a lot of crap). The Damnwells sampler was so good I bought the full length album. The full length album was so good I listened to it over and over but never bought any other Damnwells albums. Why? I cannot say. They even have an album called No One Listens to The Band Anymore. I listen to The Band. They're #3 in my favorite bands of all-time. Anyway, if you like The Band and all the bands they inspired, you'll probably really like The Damnwells. Check out "I Will Keep the Bad Things From You" and "Kiss Catastrophe."

Daft Punk-Homework

In the late 90's I bought a lot of this kind of music. I have already left fairly unkind reviews of The Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method (which seems really unfair when you consider that not only did I willingly buy those albums, I happily bought them. And I'm Mr. Don't Be Ashamed of Your Taste guy) so it would seem logical that I would tear into Daft Punk. Don't be so hasty. Despite the fact that Daft Punk belongs in the same section of a record store as the other two aforementioned bands, they are a world apart in that they have not really faded with time or the changing of my musical tastes. "De Funk" still sounds exciting and "Around the World" still sounds great to me even if it is two and a half minutes too long. Daft Punk still sounds fresh to my ears. It's no wonder Kanye decided to lift one of their songs. They have whatever it is that the other guys don't.


If you're looking for great underappreciated 90's music, look no further than Puzzle by Dada. If you can't figure out why this album is a little under the radar, take a look at the cover art. You've got a very plain Dada logo superimposed on a bed of white gravel. You have a toy horse on fire, a troll doll in a vice, and a collection of springs. This is some of the least inspired cover art I have ever seen. If it weren't for a very knowledgeable record store employee, I would have never picked this album up at all. Thank heaven I did because it's right up my 90's alternative alley. Take a song like "Poster" which I like so much I try to convince myself that it's not about statutory rape. Then there's "Dizz-Knee-Land" which is probably the only Dada song you've ever heard. With lyrics like, "I just killed a man today, I'm going to Disneyland" how can you go wrong? You can't.

The Cure-Bloodlfowers

Meh. That's about all I have to say about this one.