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Jefferey Gaines Live in Europe Album Review


Jeffrey Gaines is back on the new music radar with his first album release in eight years. The Live in Europe album is a solo acoustic CD that features his soulful voice and heart-felt lyrics, recorded on a 2010 tour across the European continent supporting Joe Jackson.

Jeffrey Gaines Live in Europe
Jeffrey Gaines latest release, Live in Europe

Gaines’ voice, once touted by Rolling Stone as “the voice of a new generation” is still as powerful and poignant as ever and his guitar playing is excellent throughout. The collection of songs that he performs includes some selections from earlier albums, as well as some previously unreleased tracks all performed with a fresh new light.

The highlight for me was a killer version of  “Five Years,” the masterpiece opening track to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (unbelievably recorded forty years ago), about the impending end of the world.  The vocals on this track are superb.

Other highlights included the second track, “Scares Me More” and the poignant “Headmasters of Time,” two tracks off of his debut album, recast twenty years later by a more seasoned rocker, but still possessing the same raw emotion and gritty vocals.

His biggest hit, “In Your Eyes,” the Peter Gabriel cover (which was better than Gabriel’s original), is not included on the album, which gives us more time to focus on the rest of his excellent catalog. We’ll reflect on relationships, the state of the world, war time and other introspective moments. It’s a nice collection of tunes.

Gaines will be touring throughout the Northeast over the summer in support of the new album.  In the mean time, grab a drink, kick up your feet and enjoy this quick trip to Europe with a classic storyteller.

Mike Gavan

Katie Herzig – The Waking Sleep Album Review

Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep
Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep

Time for us to wake up.  The Waking Sleep has been out awhile, but I just recently gave it a listen, didn’t know what I was missing…

Katie Herzig is evolving. With her latest release, The Waking Sleep, she has reinvented herself, building on her prior successes, while pushing herself in an entirely new direction. The result is a fantastically produced album, courtesy of Cason Cooley, packed with fresh, catchy tunes.

A few years ago she had proven herself as a reputable folk rock talent, well-known for her heart felt acoustic performances. Then she took an unexpected new route, when she had the opportunity to pen and perform a handful of songs for both the big and small screen (i.e. Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City).

Subsequent to that experience, she started experimenting with tape loops, sampling and digital recording. The result is a new sound for the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, a sound that is more energetic and diverse, a sound that is unique. Where else can you find beautiful cello mixed with techno drum beats? Cool stuff for sure.  At times I think of Metric, other times Enya, but most frequently it is her own distinctive sound.

The album kicks off with “Free My Mind,” a melodic, rich song that will leave you singing and bopping along joyfully.  It’s an excellent cut and one of several on the album cut from the same cloth, along with “Way To the Future” and the unforgettably addictive “Best Day of Your Life.”

Herzig demonstrates her immense versatility throughout the album, On “Make a Noise” she reflects on current world affairs and the need to speak out, while deftly channeling derivative sounds of Enya. “Midnight Serenade” is similar musically but focuses on a challenging relationship while beautifully spotlighting Herzig’s soulful voice.

“Oh My Darlin” is a bit more stripped down compared to the rest of the album but the perfect showcase for her captivating vocals as she reminisces about early love. It’s also my favorite cut on a superb album.

Check it out below and prepare for a nice selection of creative tunes on an album you won’t soon get tired of.

Rock On!
Cretin

RCE – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger

SMS Audio LLC

You can’t go more than a few minutes on any Alternative rock station without hearing the latest folk rock band and their twist on Indie-Americana. So much of today’s music blends together, post-Mumford and Sons malaise, but the latest release from River City Extension, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger truly stands out.  I’m guessing it never reaches the heights of Sigh No More, but it should, as it’s better and deeper.

The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen or two (or twelve). It’s an album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out.

Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way.

The album kicks off with Glastonbury,” a beautiful song that ebbs and flows magnificently as it builds up from a stripped down start to the full eight piece ensemble, then ultimately winds down with just Michelini on guitar and vocals. It’s a microcosm of the album and a good preview for what’s in store for the next sixty minutes.  Michelini’s vocals are damn near perfect, and showcase his broad range, both on the opener and throughout.  On “If You Need Me Back in Brooklyn” we hear a nice boy/girl duet with Sam Tacon, but for most of the album it’s all Michelini expertly carrying the vocals.

The musicians accompanying Michelini are quite talented, and the diversity of instruments offered is musical bliss. With superb production, we hear all eight musicians blend together perfectly, nicely highlighting each of the various instruments without overloading our senses.  Mike Costaney on drums and percussion offers an amazingly creative approach which is an absolute highlight of the album. Jenn Fantaccione’s cello is a refreshing change.  The cello is an under-utilized instrument in the rock world, but as River City Extension proves, there’s a definite place for it.  It was refreshing to hear, and one of the features that sets this band apart. You’ll also hear mandolin, trumpet, banjo, piano, melaphone and so much more – a feast for the ears.

There are a few cuts on the album that absolutely scream out for airplay.  Hopefully, we’ll be hearing tracks like “Welcome to Pittsburgh,” “Down, Down, Down” and “Point of Surrender” gracing the airwaves at some point in the future.

My two personal favorites highlight the diversity of the band, “Ballad of Oregon” is a fantastic introspective tune that spotlights all of the band members as it travels through Michelini’s troubled search for love; and “Lord I Have Changed” which is a stark introspective peek into Michelini’s past with him accompanied solely by Costantey’s drums, an interesting conclusion to an excellent album.

Don’t let this excellent new album pass you by, pick it up and give it a few spins. You’ll be happy to have found this Alt-Americana gem.

Rock on – Cretin

Related Story: River City Extension Live in Orlando

River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch
River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Joey Ramone’s New Music is the Answer

Sixteen years after parting ways with the godfathers of punk rock, and ten years after losing a long battle with lymphoma, Ramones front man Joey Ramone is again making waves with his latest album, …Ya Know?

Like so many other posthumous releases, I suspected the album would be a pure money grab packed with leftover dregs from earlier projects. I was wrong.  The album is a nice collection of earlier stuff, but with a cool twist. The project started when Ed Stasium and Ramone’s real brother Mickey Leigh obtained the rights to the remaining tapes of Joey’s unreleased vocal tracks, all recorded in the dozen years preceding his passing. From there, they assembled an all-star band to lend their music to the project; folks like Richie Ramone, Steve Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Bun E. Carlos, Mickey Leigh and a slew of other contemporaries from New York City.

The result is an album that’s pretty damn diverse, and a fitting tribute.  You’ll hear a few cuts that hearken back to the Gabba Gaaba Heydays of the Ramones, but you’ll also hear Joey stretching himself in numerous surprising ways throughout the album.

The album kicks off with “Rock ‘N Roll is the Answer,” the first single.  It’s a decent song, but there are plenty of better choices as single releases.  “New York City” is reminiscent of classic Ramones and a hell of a lot of fun.  It’s a straight forward ode to the city where Joey reached legendary status.

A couple of the songs remind me musically of Social Distortion, just with Joey subbing in for Mike Ness.  Check out “What Did I Do to Deserve You” and “Seven Days of Gloom” for a taste.  “Eyes of Green” and “I Couldn’t Sleep” could have been plucked directly from the happy hard-driving regional rock of the late 80’s. “21st Century Girl” is of the same vein, and as a bonus, features Joan Jett on guitar and backing vocals.

“Party Line” is surely a holdover from the Phil Spector days and is the most intriguing track on the album. It comes off as a duet with Holly Beth Vincent, who you may remember from Joey’s “I Got You Babe” cover. The song also features Van Zandt on guitar, and shows Ramone singing in a new range.  It’s addictive stuff.

…’Ya Know? also displays Joey’s tender side on “Make Me Tremble and “Waiting for That Railroad.” Neither will remind you of Ramones, but they’re both interesting peeks into Ramone’s soft side, and the former is a pretty good song. You’ll also get to hear Joey put a nice spin on his previously released Christmas tune “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”

The album is a nice surprise and leaves me reminiscing once again about the Godfather of American Punk and wishing we had been given the chance to watch him mature and adapt to the times.  On …’Ya Know? at least we finally get  a glimpse.

Rock On – Cretin

Some Nights are More FUN.

Nate Ruess is not Freddie Mercury, but the front man for FUN. is definitely channeling Freddie’s spirit on the band’s latest release, Some Nights. No one will confuse this band with rock icons Queen, but Ruess’s voice will certainly conjure up some nice memories of their Mercurial lead singer.

(Let’s just get this out of the way first; the band refers to themselves with a period after their name and always either all lower case or all CAPS. I’ve chosen the latter throughout this review.  So, please, no comments on my apparent crappy grammar.)

Ruess has been around the Indie music scene for ten years, previously with Format, and now back with FUN.’s second release.  Some Nights is in a word, fun. It’s a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Reuss and packed with memorable addicting ditties.

Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout.  While the vocals border on spectacular, the music is fairly uninspiring. Like many of today’s Indie bands, it’s primarily synthesizers and canned drum beats. While not the greatest musicianship, it is still pretty damn fun. The music may be bubble-gum, but it’s certainly not cookie-cutter. FUN. has developed a unique sound and have carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape.

By now, everyone has surely heard the first single, “We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monáe).” It’s been all over TV, and for good reason; it’s a great addictive tune. It’s a good peek into what you can expect from the rest of the album, and chances are if you dig “We Are Young,” you’ll really enjoy the other tracks.

The album kicks off with a powerful Broadway-inspired introduction that beautifully highlights the vocal prowess of Reuss. It’s different, it’s innovative and it’s fun. From there, it’s generally a trip through a series of entertaining enjoyable cuts. The title track, “Carry On,” “All Alone” and “One Foot” are all in the same vein as “We Are Young.” They’ll all have you singing along and tapping your feet throughout.

“It Gets Better” reminded me a bit of Blink 182, and had a welcome edge to it.  My personal favorite is “Why Am I the One.” It’s more tender than the other tunes, and reflects on a challenging relationship and the impact on our protagonist’s life as evidenced by these lyrics: “Cause my life has become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles.” The song ebbs and flows with hopeful desperation and is a great journey.

The album features fantastic vocals, catchy tunes and plenty of diversity. Check it out on iTunes below and enjoy the FUN.

Rock On! – Cretin

The Dropa Stone Release their Starry Message

Starry Messenger, from Orlando rockers The Dropa Stone is now available, and it’s aptly titled.  These talented musicians describe their music as a groovy fusion of rock with rhythm and blues. I can see that, but I’d say it has more of a progressive jam feel to it. It’s different than most of the stuff on the airways and in the local venues and it’s a welcome change.

The album features deep, layered powerful songs and showcases the excellent musical talent in the line-up. It’s extremely difficult to categorize the band, and that’s a good thing. If I had to compare them to any artists, it would be a creative combination of Incubus and King Crimson.  It does not capture their sound perfectly, and I know it sounds odd, but it works.

The music on Starry Messenger is quite diverse; a fact that may hurt the band commercially, as it’s hard to find rock music fans who are going to enjoy all of the many directions the band pulls us. However, throughout the nine selections, the guitar work from Justin Henry and Jon Meyers is excellent.  Meyers is the lead vocalist and has a nice, fresh, unique voice.  Will Richey on bass and Joe Lederman on drums consistently provide a powerful bass groove.

The album kicks off with a spacey Rush-esque rocker titled “Vectors,” it’s a good peek at what to expect over the remainder of the album, but the songs, direction and groove change throughout.  There are a few nice tunes with more of a blues feel, such as “Catfish Blues” and Salsa Verde.”

The best cuts were the ones with more of an Alternative Rock bent, particularly my favorite “Kinski’s Spiral” and “Other Worlds Than These.”

The remainder of the album is pretty heavy on jam based rock with a clear classic rock feel. It well be well-received by fans of jam rock, but there are varied options for other rock fans. Starry Messenger is worth a listen for sure, and I suspect everyone will find a song or two that they really like.

Mike G

Check out the Central Florida Concert Highlights for April

 

Drew Yardis – Unto You Album Review

It was one of those unexpected winter nights in Orlando where it was actually cold.  I was at a party, and due to the frigid air, no one was outside watching the lone musician passionately singing and playing his guitar to a meager crowd. The guy in the suit was Drew Yardis, and he was working his ass off while all of the party-goers were inside enjoying the heat. I was impressed by his passion, and loved his very unique voice. He told me that night that his new album was on the way. Finally, it hits the streets on the 15th, and it’s a nice effort.

Yardis has been playing around Orlando for the past ten years in various incarnations, and now he’s back, fronting his new band, The Drew Yardis Project. He’s got an impressive and versatile voice and is an accomplished guitarist. He’s put together a good band of fellow Orlando music veterans, including Shane Smith on guitar, Dave Plakon on bass and drummer Austin Smith.

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The musicians sound great, and Yardis’ voice is great, particularly while hitting the higher notes. I found the album a bit heavy with slower paced songs. They do a nice job highlighting the range of his voice, and generally excellent guitar and bass work, but there’s a lot of slower tracks. Of these tunes, I felt that “Bright Child” and “Do What You Do” were the best, with the latter featuring beautiful vocals.

My favorite cuts on the album were generally the more fast-paced tracks. “Liberty” is a bitter look at today’s state of world affairs. The guitars are excellent, and we get to see a different side to Yardis’ vocals.  The chorus is one of the more memorable on the album, and Austin Smith’s powerful drums carry the song throughout. An excellent track.

Other highlights on the album include “Fallout” which features some fun funk-driven guitar riffs and “Human Heart” which will remind you in a good way of some of Jason Mraz’s best stuff.  It’s excellent, and probably the one song on the album song with the most commercial appeal.

All told, it’s a nice debut album from a talented group of musicians. Definitely worth a listen.

Mike G.

Check out the band’s upcoming shows at: DrewYardis.com

Monday’s Musical Manure – Random Crap Around the Farm

First a few reminders, then some random rock thoughts.

We reviewed the latest release from Lovedrug, Wild Blood today. Check it out here: Wild Blood Album Review

And, in case you missed it, we had a fun interview with David Uosikkinen, the drummer from The Hooters.  Read about his latest project: In The Pocket

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Some thoughts on some of the better new music I’ve been listening to lately:

  • I know I mentioned this before, but Provo Utah’s Neon Trees has absolutely nailed it with the first single off of their forthcoming  Picture Show album.  “Everybody Talks” is a great song that truly highlights Tyler Glenn’s excellent vocals. The full album hits the streets in late April.
  • Civil Twilight’s “Fire Escape” brings back memories of early U-2 Bono with a different sound.  The song is excellent with or without the Bono feel.  The South Africans’ album will be released on March 26th.
  • While we are comparing new music to legendary rock icons, let’s chat about Chappo.  It’s quirky stuff, but damn, it’s addictive.  And, Alex Chappo conjures up good memories of the great Neil Young. Check out Come Home
  • I love Shinedown’s “Bully.”  It’s an excellent song with a powerful and timely message. This should be mandatory heavy rotation in all high school cafeterias.
  • Walk The Moon had a great, fun, passionate song with last year’s release of “Anna Sun They signed a major label deal and truthfully saw all of the life get sucked out of the song.  It’s getting more airplay, but they wrecked the song.
  • From the “I Can’t Believe I Love This” department. Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)” – this one continues to grow on me.
  • The Boo – “I Want Revenge.”  Yup, there’s good reason it reminds us of Green Day. It’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s family project, featuring sons Jakob and Joe, as well as his wife Adrienne on vocals.  It’s a blast, but unfortunately not yet available on iTunes.
  • Yukon Blonde’s “Stairway” is another fun poppy alt rock tune, this one from North of the Border.
  • Not Your Fault” from AWOLNATION is another one that keeps growing on me.  Aaron Bruno’s vocals are distinctive and carry the song.
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra meets Abba and it’s a beautiful thing.  Finland’s Nightwish tears it up with their classic metal and their powerful Storytime.”

Lots of good new rock these days, and with a bunch of albums headed our way, it only promises to get better.

As for some of our Veteran Cosmic Rockers, the Moody Blues have started their 45th Anniversary tour! They are in Florida this week for anyone interested in checking them out.  Back in the day, they put on a pretty good rock show, and their collection of rock classics is quite deep. Moody Blues Tour Dates

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, a quick shout out to the best Irish band in the country: Black 47.  They’ll be in their second home of New York City this weekend.  Another damn good Irish band is Flogging Molly – here’s our review of their recent show in Orlando.

Rock On! – Cretin