THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2” Various Artists (Atlantic) 3/5
I haven’t seen a Twilight movie since my step-daughter got me to watch the first one, and I won’t be seeing this one either. Having said that, the soundtrack albums have been decent, and this latest installment is no exception.
It should come as no surprise that someone my age would be unfamiliar with most of these 14 artists. From what I know of the story arc however, these tunes are suitably melodramatic. Of Twilight Stephen King said something to the effect of “Harry Potter is about standing up to evil and doing the right thing no matter what the cost. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend” and I would extend that to this latest soundtrack too- not a condemnation, merely an observation.
Many of these songs sound gauzy and atmospheric, no doubt synching up nicely with the action on screen. You can imagine what’s going on when you hear a song like Everything And Nothing by The Boom Circuits or Green Day’s cloying ballad The Forgotten, and if you’ve seen the movie by this point no doubt each track will take you back to a particular point in the movie.
For my money The Lost Boys was a better vampire movie and the soundtrack was awesome, but for those into the current vampire culture, this should do just fine.
TOP TRACKS: Fire In The Water (Feist), Ghosts (James Vincent Morrow), Heart Of Stone (Iko)
THE GREATEST HITS 3 Doors Down (Universal) 4/5
Just over a year after their 5th album Time Of My Life, it feels like a good time to release a best of set, just in time for Christmas. Known primarily for their hit Kryptonite, there’s more depth to this Mississippi-based band than you might think.
There are so many bands and artists out there you just can’t follow them all. With a band like 3 Doors Down, my awareness of them consists mainly of the hits I’ve heard on the radio. Their debut went six times platinum in the states and every record since has debuted in Billboard magazine’s top ten, so a bunch of people are listening.
The key to 3 Doors’ success, and this Hits collection certainly bears it out, is a sophisticated blue collar sensibility in their songs- powerful guitars occasionally backed by strings, and tunes written about emotional subjects we all understand- kind of like Creed in a way, but without the douchey-ness.
As any band should do with a career summarization like this, the lads from 3 Doors Down also wrote some new tunes to include, giving fans than own all of their other albums a reason to whip out the plastic for this too. That a song like One Light can stand along side something like It’s Not My Time and even Kryptonite says something about the band that I like- they aren’t coasting, and they take nothing for granted.
TOP TRACKS: the 3 songs just mentioned
SONGS OF ANARCHY Various Artists (Columbia) 5/5
This is the soundtrack album for the TV show Sons Of Anarchy. I’ve never seen it, but several co-workers are enthusiastic fans so the least I can do is check out the music. After just a few spins, I’m already making arrangements to borrow the DVD’s.
Playing on the cable network FX, Sons Of Anarchy s is about the lives of a close knit outlaw motorcycle gang in a fictional California town. Like so many other cable series- The Sopranos comes to mind- the music is a crucial element, and these tunes will make you want to see the show.
Curtis Stigers, John Belushi’s inspiration for The Blues Brothers, sings several tunes on the disc including the show’s theme and a greasy, gospel-tinged version of Son House’s John The Revelator. Katy Sagal (remember Peg Bundy?) plays one of the main characters and sings a handful of songs here, including a sassy version of Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man. These are all cover tunes, near as I can tell, with CCR, The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Dylan and Billie Holiday to name a few. I wonder if the show can live up to the images these songs are creating in my head?
The overall vibe is somewhat dark and mysterious but laid back, with Anvil’s version of Slip Kid being a very loud exception. You won’t know most of these artists, but good luck prying this out of your CD player once you start listening.
TOP TRACKS: John The Revelator (Curtis Stigers), This Life (Curtis Stigers), Gimme Shelter (Paul Brady), Son Of A Preacher Man (Katy Sagal)
CELEBRATION DAY Led Zeppelin (Swan Song/Warner) 5/5
Ever since I heard this was coming out, I’ve been like a six year old waiting for Christmas- and now it’s here. Celebration Day, from Zeppelin’s monumental headlining gig at London’s 02 in 2007 at the Ahmet Ertegun concert is just I hoped it would be. As it is also likely the band’s final show it was important to get it right- and they did.
Zeppelin has performed several times over the years since drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980, with less than satisfying results- Live Aid, with Phil Collins on drums was a train wreck. Ertegun was important to Zeppelin’s career, signing them to the Atlantic label in the late 60’s and thereby altering the course of rock & roll forever. He died soon after a fall backstage at a Rolling Stones show, and in the months after a memorial concert was planned. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be stunned at hearing Zeppelin would be topping the bill.
My guess is that Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham (sitting in on drums for his dad, of course) looked at this gig as their last chance to nail it, and hopefully add something to the Zeppelin legacy instead of tarnishing it further with another sub-par performance. Six weeks of rehearsals, hammering out and revising the set list, but no warm up gigs at a small club under an assumed name- like the Vikings they are they hit the stage with swords drawn, taking no prisoners.
To my mind the wild card in all of this was guitarist Jimmy Page. He hadn’t been playing as much as the others, and frankly some of his playing on the 2 albums he did with Robert Plant (No Quarter, Walking Into Clarksdale) had me doubting whether he had the chops to pull this off. He acquits himself nicely here, but Eddie Van Halen was right, years ago, when he said that Page was sloppy live. Even so, Celebration stands tall next to previous Led Zeppelin live discs like The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won, particularly given the fluke of its existence.
And the rest of the band? Robert Plant can’t scream his tits off like he did as a lad of 19 or 20, but so what? Even with dropping the key on song like the opener Good Times Bad Times to accommodate his 60-something pipes, it still sounds great. Besides, you wouldn’t want anyone else singing these songs- it would just be wrong.
Jonesy has kept himself busy with producing, doing solo albums, movie soundtracks and Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme & Dave Grohl (please make another record!) so he was in good fighting trim on the night. Jason Bonham has been busy as a session drummer and, of late, with Black Country Communion. His intimate knowledge of all things Zeppelin and his abilities as a drummer made him the only choice for this show, and I’m sure his father would be well pleased Jason’s performance here.
The music itself is a good selection from across the Zep canon, including at least one song the band had never performed live before, For Your Life from Presence. 16 tracks in 2 hours, many of them signature tunes but some surprises too, like In My Time Of Dying, but curiously nothing from their final studio record In Through The Out Door.
If Zeppelin were to tour I would be first in line for tickets, but I respect Robert Plant immensely for having the balls to say “no thanks” and follow his own muse instead, and that’s as it should be. To have even this one off gig is more than most dared hope for- I’m just glad the cameras and tape machines were rolling. Celebration Day is certainly the album of the year, maybe the decade. I’m a happy fan- Celebration Day is available as a 2-CD only version, 2-CD/1-DVD, 2-CD/1-Blu ray and a blue-ray audio only version. The choice is yours.
TOP TRACKS: In My Time of Dying, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Kashmir
REBEL SOUL Kid Rock (Atlantic) 3.5/5
The genre hopping hip-hop artist has come up with another rock record, more varied and more fun than last year’s Born Free. As Mr. Rock himself says him in the press squib that accompanied this album, “Not the greatest record ever made, but it’s pretty fuckin; good, in my humble opinion.” Yeah- I can agree with that.
Produced by Rock himself the album is about two things; Detroit, and rock & roll. As with previous efforts in this direction, Rebel Soul also has a real southern Skynyrd meets Bob Seger feel to it. It’s also upbeat and positive, a continuation of the summer party vibe that perhaps wasn’t quite this obvious in his last couple of records.
As I listen to and enjoy Rebel Soul I can’t help but wonder how many fans of his early hip-hop stuff are still along for the ride. It probably would’ve been easy to stay in that groove and keep the money machine in high gear, but I respect Kid even more for following his muse instead, which appears to live at the corner of southern rock and rebel country. It’s not shtick, though, he really means it- and that shines through.
I’d heard that Bob Seger was working on another album, but I’ll believe it when I hear it. In the meantime Kid Rock is carrying the mantle of Midwestern rock on his narrow shoulders, and it seems to fit him quite comfortably.
TOP TRACKS: Let’s Ride, God Save Rock & Roll, Cocaine And Gin
JOIN THE INFESTATION Celleste (Mighty Music) 5/5
This is the sound of two world’s colliding- vintage 40’s pop with the sharp edges of alt rock. Once you hear it, the combination is irresistible and unforgettable.
The 9 songs on Infestation are hooky and fun in a way we haven’t heard in awhile, not since we first heard bands like Jet, and it has me thinking of classic Alice Cooper group stuff from the early 70’s. It shows definite growth from Ready To Fly, her debut from a couple of years or so back.
Celleste’s singing style, her playful way with a vocal melody is straight out of the late 40’s, but with the sass and joi de vive of Allanah Myles in her prime, with maybe a bit of Pat Benatar thrown in. “I wanted an album full of energy, tailored to my live shows, with three goals in mind” she says; “to have fun vocally, to make the listener want to dance, and to explore song writing even further.” Co-written by Celleste and producer Eric Dick (mastered by Bernie Grundman), virtually every song has that energy.
There’s even more of a rock & roll energy to Join The Infestation than her debut disc, and I liked that one a whole lot. The ultimate measure of a rock album for me is the highway test- when I head for Edmonton next weekend with this playing at (ahem) appropriate volume, I hope the cops are few and far between, because I will be gone.
TOP TRACKS: Superstar, Call Me Crazy, Sick And Tired