Monday, February 01, 2016

Album Review: Hélène Grimaud- Water


I listen to instrumental music as I write.  Words from vocalists and rappers disrupt my already tenuous ability to concentrate.  Dramatic orchestral works are also out of the question.  While I can’t focus as Hélène Grimaud plays a stirring rendition of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s flashy Piano Concerto No. 2, her unusual new album Water provides ideal accompaniment to my typing.  A thought-provoking and creativity-inducing combination of solo piano compositions by the likes of Leoš Janáček and electronic “transition” pieces, Water will likely provide me with conducive workplace inspiration for the remainder of 2016.


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I reviewed a concert by Mark Chesnutt, Joe Diffie and Lorrie Morgan.

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I contribute the weekly Local Listen segment to KCUR.  Your Friend was featured last week.

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I write weekly music and event previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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The lineup for Rockfest will be revealed on February 8.  I’ve set odds on the most likely headliners: Five Finger Death Punch (6/4), Megadeth (9/4) and Volbeat (9/1).  Bet at your own discretion.


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I look forward to spending quality time with Westend Recording Presents: "Amplify KC" Vol. 1, a collection of “heavy music” by Kansas City bands.

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Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane has died.

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Reading about the Fat White Family’s antics is more enjoyable than listening to the music created by the band of British hooligans.  Songs for Our Mothers is RIYL: exhaustion, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, hangovers.  The video for ”Whitest Boy on the Beach” is suitably messed up.

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I like Kevin Gates’ Islah in spite of myself.  Here’s 2 Phones.

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Boosie has ”Cancer”.

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I don’t particularly care for elaborate high-concept musical humor, but the David Gordon Trio’s Alexander Scriabin’s Ragtime Band is both amusing and impressive.  RIYL: P.D.Q. Bach, music school, André Previn.

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When You Wish Upon a Star, Bill Frisell’s new album of film music, is RIYL: Ennio Morricone, hillbilly jazz, Nino Rota.  I highlighted Frisell's forthcoming Kansas City show at Plastic Sax.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Concert Review: 1349 at the Riot Room


The malevolent sound of 1349 wasn’t the scariest thing at the Riot Room last Thursday.  Repugnant odors were far more horrifying than the music of the Norwegian black metal band.  Combined with the acidic smell of dry ice, the stench of dank hair that filled the air as hirsute members of the audience began headbanging to 1349’s opening selection “I Am Abomination” caused me to involuntarily retch.  The rancid funk couldn’t prevent me from grinning at the band’s face paint and the ostensibly evil hand gestures made by some of 100 or so fans and thrill-seekers who paid $15 to see the show.  It looked and sounded a lot like this.  Jackson May wrote a more respectful account of the show for Mills Record Company.


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I reviewed last night’s Winter Jam festival at the Sprint Center.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine. 

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I reviewed Matt Hopper’s First Love at Plastic Sax.

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Strange but true: a band named Agoraphobic Nosebleed created my favorite song of January. "Not a Daughter" floors me.

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The self-titled album by Bloodiest is RIYL: Tool, rawk, Big Black.

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On paper, Tortoise should be one of my favorite bands.  I admire the theoretical impulse behind the music.  The reality is quite different.  Like most other Tortoise projects, The Catastrophist does little for me.  RIYL: the lack of swing, Stereolab, soullessness.

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Dave Mustaine sounds like he’s running for office on Megadeth’s Dystopia.  He doesn’t have my vote.  Here’s the title track.

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I suppose I’m obligated to have a take on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “White Privilege II”:  I prefer to atone in private.  Tying oneself up into knots in public is bound to backfire.

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Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield are charming as the I Don’t Cares on the modest Wild Stab.  RIYL: The dB’s, demos, Alex Chilton.

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Adrian Younge’s Something About April II is kitschy fun.  RIYL: Isaac Hayes, blaxploitation flicks, Honey Cone.

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If Yes had been a black metal band, it would have sounded like Borknager.  Winter Thrice is RIYL: Game of Thrones, pomp, Coheed and Cambria.  The title track is glorious.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Album Review: Exmortus- Ride Forth

The cover art is ridiculous, the guitar solos are garish, the vocals are generic and the production is flat.  I adore Exmortus’ Ride Forth anyway.  The band's standard-issue metallic riffing scratches one of my recurring itches.  ”For the Horde” is exactly what I need to get me through this dark month.


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I reviewed G-Eazy's sold-out concert at the Midland theater.

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I featured Jay McShann in an episode of KCUR’s weekly Local Listen and reviewed a centennial birthday concert in his honor.

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I can’t keep up with the spate of notable deaths.  The careers of Phil Everly, Paul Bley, Long John Hunter, Pierre Boulez, Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, Red Simpson and Glenn Frey may or may not be examined in this space in the weeks to come.

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As the first genuine soul man to drip sweat on me while I was on a dance floor, Otis Clay had a more profound impact on me than any of the men listed in the item above.  I first saw him pour it all out at a blues club in Chicago in the 1980s.  I also recall the late George Myers, a co-owner of the Grand Emporium, playfully delivering a nickel and a nail to the stage of his bar during a Clay performance.  Clay died on January 8.  Here’s footage from Soul Train.

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I asked McClain Johnson an “uncomfortable question” after I heard 3,000 white kids yell a racial epithet during A$AP Ferg’s performance at the Midland.  Here’s his response.

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Blackstar is solid.  Had David Bowie released the album a month earlier, Blackstar would have ranked #15 on my Best Albums of 2015 list.

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Charles Lloyd & the Marvels’ I Long To See You is dreamy.  RIYL: Bill Frisell, folk-jazz, Greg Leisz.

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Halsey’s excruciating ”New Americana” makes me want to summarily dismiss her entire generation.

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Bill Stewart’s Space Squid is RIYL: Seamus Blake, modal jazz, Paul Motian.

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Charles Bradley’s cover of Black Sabbath’s ”Changes” is a revelation.

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I’ll gladly buy a ticket to see Hinds perform, but I’ve already heard all the sounds on Leave Me Alone too many times.  RIYL: The Blake Babies, enthusiasm, Burger Records.

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The Spirio Sessions, a virtual piano duet between Uri Caine and Jenny Lin, is RIYL third stream, Keith Jarrett, high concept.

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I may grow to love the album, but my initial reaction to Anderson Paak’s Malibu is that it’s precisely one-third as good as To Pimp a Butterfly.  Here’s ”Come Down”.

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Why didn’t any of you jerks tell me about Judith Hill’s Prince-produced 2015 album Back In Time?  I would have missed the fine R&B project entirely had the bots at Spotify not insisted that I hear it.  Here’s ”Cry Cry Cry”. RIYL: Etta James, Prince media blackout, Alicia Keys.

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Moments on Baaba Maal’s wildly inconsistent The Traveller are rapturously beautiful.  RIYL: Salif Keita, production tricks, Peter Gabriel.

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I’m not disappointed that Esperanza Spalding has turned to psychedelic funk-rock. Instead, I’m disappointed that she’s turned to pedestrian psychedelic funk-rock.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Watch That Man: David Bowie, 1947-2016


David Bowie died yesterday.  Here’s an incomplete timeline of his impact on my life:

1978-80: As a misfit kid in the pre-internet era, determining who and what I was became easier once I discovered David Bowie.  I studied his back catalog as if it was a musical hidden treasure map.  The aggressive glam-rock of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars blew my mind.  The application of jazz on Aladdin Sane made a profound impression on me.  Low remains my favorite Bowie album.

1980-81: Two or three of my high school friends insisted that Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) be utilized as the soundtrack for several hazy high school experiences.  (Maybe that’s why I never acquired a taste for the album.)

1982: I talked my way into a Stevie Ray Vaughan rehearsal for Bowie’s Let’s Dance project at Billy Bob’s Texas.

1983-84 Bowie’s Let’s Dance became a mainstream pop sensation.  I was thrilled when “normal” girls would dance with me as Bowie songs played.

1990-93: I was a sales rep for Rykodisc as the record label rolled out reissues of Bowie’s catalog.  I was awarded the autographed poster pictured above at a sales conference.

2015: I was pleased but not surprised upon learning that Bowie was collaborating with the jazz musician Donny McCaslin for what would become his final album.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 04, 2016

Lemmy Kilmister, 1945-2015


Motörhead knew only one song.  Thankfully, it was a great one.  The running time of my collection of physical copies of Motörhead albums and CDs is more than six hours.  Talk about overkill... 

I never had any use for Hawkwind, but Lemmy Kilmister’s Motörhead meant a lot to me.  I came upon the Ramones and Motörhead at about the same time.  Like a lot of self-conscious teenagers, I had been under the foolish impression that image had meaning.  Lemmy and his partners in crime helped me to understand that the barriers between punk and metal were artificial constructs.

My bones were rattled at several Motörhead performances.  The group’s 2006 concert at the minor league baseball stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, is ranked #19 on my 2009 list of The Best Shows of the Decade.

Kilmister died last week.


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I reviewed Tech N9ne’s Strangeulation for KCUR.

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Natalie Cole has died.  Her live version of ”Something Got a Hold On Me” is my favorite Cole performance.

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Craig Strickland has died.  The member of Backroad Anthem last performed in the Kansas City area at Kanza Hall on Jan. 15, 2015.

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Nicole Mitchell’s Artifacts is the first entry on what’s sure to be a long list of unintentional omissions from my Top 50 Albums of 2015 post.   Check out the skronky combination of flute, fiddle, bass and drums on ”The Clowns”.

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The soundtrack for The Revenant is RIYL: Tangerine Dream, isolation, Nico Muhly.

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Posted without commentary: footage of Osa Johnson, the native Kansan who traveled the world with her husband Martin, dancing to jazz with African pygmies.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Let’s All Get Up and Dance to a Song


One of the most most delightful aspects of my holiday season was watching the eldest member of my brood rediscover the Beatles catalog during her brief visit to her childhood home.  On the day the band’s music was made available to streaming services, I observed her reactions to relatively deep tracks like “Your Mother Should Know” and “Dig a Pony” and sang along with her to old favorites like “Blackbird” and “In My Life.”  All together now...


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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Tim Finn of The Kansas City Star compiled a few dozen year-end album and song lists.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

He Was a Friend of Mine


You don’t want to be my friend.

Four of my closest high school pals are dead.  I haven't spoken to a few others in years.  Maybe that’s why I reacted so poorly when a former classmate I’ve loved since the day we met in 1979 dropped a disheartening bomb on me during a break at last week’s appearance by Adam Lambert at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

While I discussed the merits of Pentatonix with his child, my friend casually mentioned that it was the first live music event he’d attended since he accompanied me to a 2001 show by Prince at Municipal Auditorium.

I responded by inviting the girl to move into my home to escape her unsound living conditions.  What’s worse- my failure to insist that my friend join me at any given show during the past 14 years or his inability to maintain a balanced life?

Then again, maybe the joke’s on me.  While I’ve spent much of my adult life listening to loud music in dark rooms, my friend has become a successful attorney and a prominent community leader.

What have I done?


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I reviewed a concert by Adam Lambert and Pentatonix.

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I played songs by Samantha Fish, Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7, Kendrick Lamar, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Lila Downs during my appearance on KCUR’s Up To Date last week.  Here’s the podcast.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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I contribute weekly Local Listen segments to KCUR.

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I took notes at a performance by the Brian Scarborough Quintet at the Westport CoffeeHouse.

(Original image of Lemony Snicket at the Plaza Library by There Stands the Glass.)