Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hocus Pocus: a real time overview

The following is being written as Lord Shockedelic listens to Kimura Kaela's new album for the first time:

Bagpipes. That's the first instrument heard on Kimura Kaela's new CD, Hocus Pocus. It's the intro to the first song on the album, Dear Jazzmaster '84. Not quite the instrument that you'd hear on any Pop album, let alone a Japanese album. Brian Wilson never used bagpipes, did he? Still, it's a refreshing decision like putting bagpipes in a driving Pop/Rock song that keeps me coming back to Kaela's albums. She's always slightly off center she's not afraid to try something that the average cooperate music label would immediately nix as non commercial.

The next song up is the Album version of Mustache. To be honest, there is but a slight difference between the Single version and the Album version; just a small detour of a few bars. Doko's B-side, Phone, follows. I'm not sure about this trend of placing B-sides on the actual album. I think it cheapens the singles and ultimately makes them irrelevant. It also seems like padding, but luckily, Phone is a quality song.

Otome Echo is a nice, light summery song that's heavy on the synthesizers and background interjections from Kaela. It's quite the playful song. Following that is the latest single from Kaela, Butterfly. I'm going to admit, as a single, this song falls a bit flat and I was initially disappointed by it. As part of the album, it fits perfectly, however. It's vibe is consistent with the tracks that came before and I actually have a new appreciation for the song. It's flower powery vibe has grown on me.

Doko, the second single released prior to this album's release follows and is another ballad. At this time, I'm willing to bet this album will never take off into the stratosphere, but I must say I commend the consistent feel of the songs. As of this point, this CD doesn't feel like it's slapdash, but it's of a piece. Hocus Pocus is up next. It's the B-side to the Banzai single (and is featured on the latest Shockedelic Radio Show). This album is staying right on course and this song is lot of fun, playing with the Asian musical scale.

For a second on the next song, Another World, it seems like Kaela is going to dive into some funk. Instead, she goes into a synthy ballad with dreamy echo chambered vocals. This song actually reminds me of Deep Blue Sky off of her Circle album. Towards the coda, the production begins to add layers and texture. I can say really like this song. Sounds good.

Season begins as a light, breezy guitar driven ballad but then swiftly builds in production with a great habit of switching it's mood, instrumentally. It's easily the busiest track on the disc thus far. Kaela shows off some great vocal chops on this one. The song bookends itself with an acoustic coda.

Things begin to rock with the uptempo Kimi Ni Aitai. I like the new wave-ish Power Pop sound with it's "Ooh, oohs" and a catchy chorus. Good stuff. Makes me wanna dance. Next, Jeepney. Ok, we're fully in Pop/Rock territory here. There is a great, driving Cars infused sound here. It has nice halting bursts that, well, make me wanna Pogo. Jump, dammit, jump! I wanna Pogo with Kaela!

Next up, the Album version of Banzai. Wow! It has a different opening and extended intro before going into familiar territory. This, I like. It's always nice to put an alternate version of a single on an album so the people who bought the single won't feel gypped, even if it's simply an alternate opening and extended coda. A long extended coda, by the way.

Closing the album is Super Girl. Nice to end the album on an up note. Full on driving synths, here. The chorus changes the attitude of the song and then goes back to business on the verses. It's a nice change up. Kinda reminds me of Swinging London from the Scratch Album. That's a good thing.

But wait! There's a bonus track! After a long pause, the music starts back up again. Don't know the title of this one, but it's a nice mid tempo alt-rock song with some studio chatter at the end. A fun surprise to round out this very well done album. But where's Memories? I suppose, since it's already on the Paco and the Magical Picture Book OST, it doesn't merit inclusion on this disc. Something strangely feels amiss without it, for some reason...

Overall, this is one of Kaela's best records of the 5 she's done. There's not one subpar song on it and it feel as if a lot of thought went into the album as a whole. It may take some listeners a couple of spins to let it grow on them, but I love the way Kaela always defies expectations. It's a great, top down lazy summer day album and I think it may well go into heavy rotation with some of my other current favorites this summer.

Furthermore: I suppose I should also mention that Hocus Pocus is not only her 5th album, but it's release marks her 5th year as a recording artist. Congratulations, Kaela! Thanks for all of the great music!

From Kaela Blog

You can buy the new album at CDJapan. Click on the link to purchase.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Out Of The Bleu...

With all of the music I'm exposed to and the breadth of it, it's no real surprise that I sometimes come late to the party. It happened with Bleu, an extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter that has a new album coming out on July 14th (that's 2009). Bleu was one of those under the radar performers that kept showing up in and on other records that I'd been listening to. We all know what an admirer of Mike Viola's I am and the first time I remember hearing of Bleu was when Mike mentioned he was doing some work on a project called L.E.O. and then another side project called The Major Labels. I quickly investigated the L.E.O. project (The Major Labels was a bit further into the future) and was delighted that the project, entitled "Alpacas Orgling", was a nod to the work of Jeff Lynne. That is, none of the material involved cover songs, but the entire project was Jeff Lynne/ELO flavored. The album was great (especially for a rabid Jeff Lynne fan like myself) and I was further amused to find Bleu had stuck in a little drawing into the disc packaging.

Of course, we all know what I think of the Major Labels (and I'm electrified that Mike had just announced the followup ML album, tentatively titled, "TML4EVA"!) and I've been consistently surprised finding Bleu turning up on records that I'd already loved, like Hanson's "The Walk" and Puffy's "Splurge" album. So, it was a nice surprise when Bleu's people invited me to have a listen to the album and tell y'all about it.

The new disc is entitled "A Watched Pot" and I think it may be a nod to the fact that it was recorded 4 years ago under the auspices of Sony Records, who promptly shelved the record. It's taken until late last year for Bleu to get the rights back to the album and it's release is now being handled by Fontana Distribution.

Upon first listen, I admit I wasn't quite prepared. Having listened to L.E.O. and The Major Labels (and not having heard his previous two solo ventures) I thought I'd be plowing headlong into a power pop explosion. Instead, I was treated to an eclectic mix of sounds both contemporary and classic. The album lies astride the pop music pantheon from the Countryish Pop of the lead off track Save Me, What Now? and the lyrically rich Boy Meets Girl (featured on the latest "Shockedelic Radio Show"!), through the modern light rock of "Come 'N Go" and into the proper Soul sounds of I Won't Fuck You Over (This Time) and What Kind Of Man Am I?.

There's a fully blown eruption of Jeff Lynne-ism on There's No Such Thing As Love and, in a righteous world, the Explosive Motown blast of Kiss Me would be blaring from every transistor radio in the world. It's pure AM gold. The track Go felt awfully familiar and it took me a while to figure out I'd heard it before on Hanson's "The Walk" album. Another highlight of the album is a wonderful duet with Sandra McCracken on When The Lights Go Out that climaxes with a counterpoint vocal that hides forever in the crevices of the mind.

While the songs are uniformly good and authentic to the styles they belong to, it's the vocals that make "A Watched Pot" an exceptional album. I had noticed this before on the other projects of Bleu, but this album confirms it. Kids, Bleu is an honest-to-goodness song stylist. His voice adapts and adheres to the style of whichever song he's performing and at times it's no less than astonishing. His Jeff Lynne vocal on There's No Such Thing As Love is so authentic that, even to a dyed in the wool ELO fan like myself, it's chilling.

Understand, though, that "A Watched Pot" is essentially a lover's lament album. It's a bit downbeat, but it's an honest album and I can't fault that.

You can preorder the CD HERE from Newbury Comics and get an autographed CD Booklet to boot. I do recommend this album. It's been a long time in the coming and this "Pot" finally going to boil over (you know I couldn't resist).

You can also get the album at AMAZON, iTunes (when released) or Bleu's very own Paypal Page. Consider the ad to the left just that, an ad. You can't buy the album there.

Listen and investigate further on all things Bleu on the official MySpace Page!

One last thing. There was an extra track that I heard at the end of "A Watched Pot" that isn't listed on the track listing. It's called "The Penguin Song" and it's a beautiful homage to Harry Nilsson, right down to the opening riff that resembles Turn On Your Radio from the "Son Of Schmilsson" album. Don't know if it will be on the album proper, but it was a great tune. I got misty eyed. Harry would have loved it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bob Bogle, RIP

Bob Bogle died. I won't be mad if you ask, "Who?" His was not a household name, generally. He was the bassist for the legendary instrumental band, The Ventures. He was 75. He died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer.

I went to see The Ventures once, back in the late 90's. Mel Taylor, the original drummer, had already passed on and his son, Leon, had taken his place. That was one of the great shows I'll always cherish attending. That the Ventures toured America was a rarity at that time, but to have come to Pittsburgh, well that was extra special. The venue was set up as a nightclub, with tables dotting the dance floor. I sat up front and was blown away at the musicianship. They played 2 sets broken up with a 15 minute intermission. At the end of the first set, everyone stood up and gave a standing ovation. As the Ventures left the stage, they passed right by my table. I was smiling and applauding. Bob Bogle looked at me, smiled, and extended his hand. I shook his hand and said, "Nice to meet you". He firmed up his handshake and gave a small smile in return. A moment later, I looked at my friend Randy and it had dawned on me: I just met a Rock Legend; Nay, a Rock God!

After the show, We all got autographs and had our pictures taken with the band... except for Bob. We searched for him, but he had already retired to the tour bus with his beautiful wife, Yumi. I wasn't sad, though. That handshake and smile was worth a million pictures. RIP Bob, I'll always remember that night.

Here's a photo from that show. It's Leon Taylor and Bob Bogle during "Caravan". Leon is drumming on the Bass Strings while Bob manipulates the fret board. It was magic.

Here's the Obituary.

Here are some performances via Youtube:

"Wipeout" in 1966, Japan from "Beloved Invaders":

"Diamond Head / Pipeline" Japan 1993:

"Caravan" 1965 TV:

"Hawaii 5-0" Promo video:

"Walk, Don't Run" TV 1960:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Shockedelic Radio Show 5:03 - "Power Pop Summer"

(Sorry, no mix tape design this time. "Says-it"'s generator is down. Here's a cool Shockedelic Cafe logo instead.)

Prepare yourself for the best in International Pop Music. It's the NEW Shockedelic Radio Show! This is Episode 3, Season 5; "Power Pop Summer". Can you figure out the reason for the title? It's in this episode. Give it a listen.

Listen to it streaming above or download it below:

SRS EP5:03

Legal stuff:

It's a very litigious society, so please understand that this MP3 Podcast is presented as a radio show promoting new and lesser well known artists. All of the music here is copyrighted and the copyright proprietors retain ownership of the material presented here. No rights are given to the downloader or listener or are implied as such. In short, listen to the show and enjoy it, but don't go dissecting the program. If you hear something you like, track it down and purchase it. Supporting the artist is crucial. Make sure you do your duty.

Eratta: I did it again. My brain was saying one thing; my mouth revolted. I gave the wrong address to order Kimura Kaela's new album. I should have said www.cdjapan.co.jp. Order it there. Sorry 'bout that. Oh, and I said in the intro to the Tinted Windows song that it was called "A Girl Like You". Of course, the song is called "Kind Of A Girl". Such are the pitfalls of doing these things live and not using a cheat sheet. Everything is in my head and it's plenty cluttered up there.

Monday, June 8, 2009

McFly Live DVD Overview

Something happens at the 35 minute mark in McFly's new concert video that dropped my jaw in disbelief. I've been a huge fan of theatricality in Rock concerts all my life and it's been interesting to see the level of oneupmanship over the years as technology has caught up with stage theatrics.

More on that in a minute. I want to start from the top. I received the new Mcfly Concert DVD, Radio:Active Live at Wembley, one week ago today. It's a UK import and in PAL format, but that's never stopped me. Mcfly, as you regular readers will know, has captivated me since their inception just a few scant years ago. They began as a power pop band that Evoked the Beach Boys and the Beatles as well as Squeeze and other classic Pop bands of the past 50 years. Over their last 4 albums, their sound has matured rapidly, but steadily and their fan base has caught fire; a worldwide phenomenon around the world and a certified cult band in the USA.

Their latest CD release, Radio:Active, saw them breaking from their record company to form their own label, Super Records ("Saving the world, one song at a time") and finally doing their own thing, their own way, for better or for worse. The DVD of their last concert tour is visual proof that they're possibly the best Rock n Roll band in the world (as of this writing). A heady boast from a rabid fan? Possibly, but Rock n Roll isn't about brooding soundscapes and self Pitying lyrics about how life is a downer. Rock n Roll is about fun, power and winning over every girl that lays their eyes and ears on the band.

For this latest tour, McFly has redesigned their stage set to a futuristic decaying look, with oil cans and large ventilation fans dominating the stage. There're also some pyrotechnic displays that would make KISS nod in approval. The songs come hard and heavy in a mix of songs both current and classic. Then... 35 minutes in, it happens.

The stage supporting the band rises up into the air as McFly sings Star Girl. Cool enough, I've seen it before, albeit on a smaller scale. It's something that makes me smile. The stage then begins, in total, to sail above and over the audience as the band plays; a Plexiglas floor giving the girls in the audience a good look at their boys. As Star Girl comes to a close, the stage settles down at the back of Wembley Arena, so the fans in the cheaper seats can get a good look at the band. It's a magnificent moment and makes me wish I was there, makes me wonder how much it was to insure this show and how something like this could possibly be topped. I've seen many artists fly over the stage: David Bowie, Garth Brooks, Paul Stanley, Tommy Lee and his drum kit.... Koda Kumi even rose up a hundred feet in the air to see the folks in the back of the stadium, but I've never seen something so incredibly outrageous and unnecessary as this. THIS is Rock n Roll, people.

The band eventually makes it back to the main stage with a cover of Michael Jackson's "Black Or White", a few audience singalongs and a two song encore. The show wraps up in 80 minutes and I was left on my couch wondering what had just happened, it happened so fast. A truly great show and almost as good as the Motion In The Ocean tour.

A McFly Evolution documentary rounds out the disc; an enjoyable piece of the lads and the logistics of the current tour.

I, of course, completely recommend this show. It can be had at CDWOW for a reasonable price (and free shipping!).

Here's Lies from the concert DVD (note the lovely Mylar confetti... ROCK N ROLL ALL NITE, boys!):

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Quick Review: Mandy Moore's "Amanda Leigh"

Being a fan of Mandy Moore comes as a surprise to a lot of people I encounter. "Why???!?" seems to be the most popular response. The thing is, at the ripe old age of 25, she's become quite the songstress. Forget "Candy" and the teen princess pop she did 10 years ago; she doesn't want you to remember it anyway. She's been working stealthily the past few years to let people know she belongs much more into the classic pop realm. I first took major notice with her covers album, "Coverage" where she paid homage to XTC, Cat Stevens and Blondie, among others. Her last album "Wild Hope" was a very mature step forward in her musical growth. She's much more Carole King than Britney Spears. In short, readers, she's one of us.

Her new album, entitled "Amanda Leigh", is the boldest statement yet in her musical growth. The album was co-written and produced by Candy Butcher/Major Label Mike Viola and recorded in Ducky Carlisle's home studio in Boston. That's right folks, 2/3 of the Major Labels play a large part in the creation of her newest album.

That fact alone should have you running from your keyboard to buy a copy.

The album isn't a hard Power Pop affair. It's a lovely, light as a feather and highly acoustic pop album and Mike's fingerprints are all over it. More than a few times during the discs running time, it sounds like Mandy had joined the Candy Butchers. The joint effort is fruitful, bountiful even. The opening track, "Merrimack River", is a great introduction to what's to come, with Mike and Mandy's vocals wrapping around each others beautifully. The followup track, "Fern Dell", has a great Jazzy feel. The first single off the disc is "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week". It sounds, to these ears, like a Three Dog Night tribute from it's opening "Family Of Man" organ riff to the "Shambala" infused chorus.

Other disc highlights include "Pocket Philosopher", which has an admitted Nilsson/Newman vibe to it, while "I want Love To love Me Back" is 70's MOR perfection.

This album gets a high grade from this guy. It's recommended. Go git it.

Here is a great concert from Amoeba Records last week featuring Mandy and Mike: