Radio Review – The Spectrum

Tractor Tunes are our 30 minute radio station reviews. So, grab an Old Milwaukee, slide on your headphones, hop on the tractor, and decide if this one is for you…

SIRIUS|XM‘s The Spectrum, Channel 28

The Spectrum features five decades of rock music targeted to listeners of adult rock.

They feature bands like Dave Matthews, U-2, Coldplay, REM, Wilco and Tom Petty. In truth, it is a fairly diverse cross-section of generally softer rock and roll, but this is clearly not music to put you to sleep. They play some brand spankin’ new stuff like The latest from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arcade Fire, and then quickly slide back 40+ years for something from a classic icon like Van Morrison.

There’s a nice mix between mainstream hits and some much lesser known tunes.  I guarantee you’ll hear something you’ve never heard before, an old favorite, and a deep cut off a great album (and probably a few that make you grown).

Overall, it’s good stuff, and would probably make a great soundtrack to a day at the office, or on a dock by the day.

  • Bodeans – Dreams
  • Sheryl Crow – Steve McQueen
  • Broken Bells – The High Road (live)
  • Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
  • Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
  • Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
  • Wilco – Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey
The day I listened, Jenny Eliscu was the DJ. She was the perfect host, adding interesting tidbits throughout the show, without being the least bit annoying.

Stats:
Date: August, 2011

Music: 98%
Chatter: 2%
Commercials  0%

Bonus Tip: Celtic Crush, hosted by Larry Kirwan. A great diverse mix of Celtic music from a guy who knows what he’s taking about. Kirwan is the front man from the fantastic Irish band Black 47.

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Rock Music Musings – Rancid, Hazard…

Last week, I saw the following concert line-up: Rancid, Blink 182, Against Me! and My Chemical Romance.  Are you kidding me? Those four bands on the same bill? The folks in Vancouver had a great night! Four of today’s best punk and alternative bands under one roof.  Nice! Hard to believe, but next year is Rancid’s 20th Anniversary, and they are planning a big tour to celebrate. We’ll provide more details as we get them.

Here’s one of my favorite Rancid tunes to whet your appetite: “Red Hot Moon.” Great tune, which is made even better by the site of the video shoot.  This was filmed in front of the official favorite all-time club of RARA’s Farm, the now departed, CBGB’s. I still remember those sticker-clad, graffiti-covered claustrophobic backstage spaces, and miss them 🙂

Watch the video it really captures the essence of the band and the club.

Listening to Sirius XM’s 1st Wave, I had a flashback to some great years in the Philly live music scene. First, they played Robert Hazard’s “new wave” hit “Escalator of Life” and followed it with Joe Jackson’s “I’m The Man.” I realize Joe Jackson was a Brit, but the rocking title tune off of his 1979 album was covered fantastically by an under-appreciated Philly band, The Chasers.

As with many other Philly bands from the 80’s and 90’s, The Chasers and Robert Hazard were great live, and tore up the local stages for many years. Add in a host of other great live bands like The Hooters, Beru Revue, The A’s, The Daves and Tommy Conwell, and we were blessed with one hell of a good local music scene.  Great days indeed!

Today, I’ll leave with you a cover tune that I stumbled across on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Remember Ronnie James Dio and his hit “Rainbow In The Dark?” Check out this cover from Paola. I think she’s Swedish, but the internet is not exactly flowing with information about her. I can tell you that the song was released in 2003.  Not sure how I missed it until now..  Enjoy – “Rainbow In The Dark.”

Later – Cretin

Of Journey, Cars and Poppy Fields

Admit it, as Rock and Roll Animals, we all discriminate against old folks. Right?

You can deny it, but it’s true.  Journey is touring again this year. They are supporting Eclipse, their new studio release, and playing each night in front of thousands of fans, yet no one has bought the album or heard any of the new songs. Eclipse has been out for four months, written by long-time members Neil Schon and Jonathan Cain and featuring the vocals of Amel Pineda (who sounds as good as old Steve Perry).  Have you heard any of the tunes? Of course not.  Why? Because they band members are old now.

Radio stations treat them as an oldies band playing their old hits, and fans aren’t much better. (For the record, the album is decent middle-of-the-road Journey stuff). We’ll all go out there and sing the Glee-ly rejuvenated “Don’t Stop Believing,” and then run to the beer counters and bathrooms when they kick into their new rocker “City of Hope.”

The Cars have also released Move Like This, their new album this summer, . “Sad Song” was the first single and it’s an excellent song. But, you’d have to take my word, because no one plays it. I have a feature on my XM radio that notifies me when a favorite band is played anywhere on their network,  They have about a dozen stations where the song would fit the format.  Since setting The Cars as a favorite, I’ve seen about 100 notifications that they were being played. Only once was the notification for “Sad Song” and the station that played it? Out – their gay music station. Maybe you need to be gay to appreciate the old rockers out there? (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

If they had marketed that song as Rick Ocasek’s son and his hot new band, we’d have Ryan Seacreast fawning all over it. Take a few minutes to listen to it, and see if it’s not carbon copy 80’s hit music. Half of the new bands are trying to emulate 80’s rockers, and now we have the real thing emulating themselves, and no one is paying attention???

So, this all gets me started reminiscing about the curious English band the Poppy Fields.

Back in 2004, they came smashing onto the UK music scene with an infectious punk rock tribute to the Clash called “45 RPM.” The group put out a video featuring the early 20 punk rockers bouncing around the stage.  The song took off. All fo the big Dj’s across the pond loved it,Virgin Music Stores sold out all of their stock, and it hit the charts at #28.  The young lads had captured a sound similar to the popular Welsh band The Alarm, with vocals eerily reminiscent of Mike Peters, The Alarm’s original front man.

Word somehow leaked out that there was good reason for the similarities. The guys in the video were actors, the real musicians? Mike Peters and The Alarm! So what happened when everyone learned of the old switcheroo? Radio stopped playing it, people stopped buying it and it became another new song by an old band.  The music never changed, but the image of the guys strumming the guitars, beating the drums and belting out the lyrics changed.  That’s kind of sad. Sad, and a lame reflection on the music buying public (us).

Mike Peters mentioned afterwards that consumers assumed old guys couldn’t write meaningful new songs anymore (he was in his early 40’s), and he was afraid that image trumped talent.  He was right.

I found this Mike Peters interview about the whole incident. As you watch the music video snippets, they’ve interspersed the original video with the young actors, with the real 40 something band.  Oddly, the music sounds the same in both cases.

So, let’s try to change this a little bit, ok? Give a listen to the new stuff by the older bands, especially if you’re going to be seeing them live on their next tour. C’mon that’s the least we can do, right? Ah, forget it, we’ll all need a respite from the hits at their next concert for our race to the concession stands…

Journey: Eclipse

The Cars: Move Like This

The Alarm performing 45 RPM
Cheap concert tickets

 

 

 

 

Some Barenaked Love

I remember the first time I heard these off-beat Canadian rockers, thinking they’d be a flash in the pan. As it turns out, they spent years in the spotlight. They dominated the non-Grunge rock scene of the 90’s from their fantastic 1992 debut release of Gordon through the 2000 release of Maroon. Their song-writing was different, and the lyrics more creative and interesting than anything we’d heard in years.  Over that decade, powered by the creative duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page, they sold nearly 30 million albums, and developed a huge and loyal fan base.

Here’s my take on their Top 12 tunes, including my favorite lyrics from each. You’ll notice that there’s not much after the 90’s, as I admittedly lost some interest after the 2003 release of the mediocre Everything To Everyone, and Steven Page’s subsequent legal/drug problems and ultimate parting of ways with the band.

So, here’s the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, including a bonus track:

Bonus Track: “Uncle Elwyn” – this is a hidden track on 1996’s Rock Spectacle.  It’s one of their infamous spontaneous raps, focused on Ed’s video-crazed uncle.  Favorite Lyric:“Elywn is tall, Elwyn is small, Elwyn plays a mean basketball.”

12.  “Hello City” – this is the first song off of their debut album Gordon.  I love the way the stand-up bass dominates this song. A great way to kick-off a fantastic album. Favorite Lyric: “The same people, the same drinks, the same music, the same quicksand.”

11. “Never is Enough” – One of my favorites from 1998’s Stunt, the album that thrust the band into International stardom. This one features Ed on vocals. Favorite Lyric: “The world’s your oyster shell, but what’s that funny smell?”

10. “”I’ll Be That Girl” – OK, I’ll admit it, I really don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I love singing along with this happy ditty, where I think Steven sings about killing the girl of his dreams. Favorite Lyric: “Then even a eunuch won’t resist the magic of a kiss, from such as me.”

9. “Pinch Me” – This was the big hit off of Maroon, and another one featuring Ed’s rap stylings. It’s infectious and was a hit with the masses. Favorite Lyric: “I could hide out under there, I just made you say ‘underwear.”

8. “Alcohol” – This one rocks, and got some nice airplay on rock stations.  Now, if I was only at least a little familiar with the subject of the song 🙂 Favorite Lyric: “Forget the cafe lattes, screw the raspberry iced tea. A Malibu and Coke for you, a G & T for me.”

7. “What a Good Boy” – Another pick from Gordon, This is a beautiful song about a young man coming to grips with life, Page’s vocals are perfect! Favorite Lyric: “Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, when temptation calls we just look away.” 

6. “Brian Wilson” – Yup, another one from Gordon. It starts with Page driving to a record shop and spirals into thoughts on the genius behind the Beach Boys and his struggles with mental illness and obesity. Favorite Lyric: “Wondering where the hell all the love has gone, playing my guitar and building castles in the sun, and singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

5. “Old Apartment” – Page sings about breaking into his old apartment and reminiscing about the okay old days and a seemingly rocky relationship.  This song was actually played on  Beverly Hills 90210 (but I was way too hip to have watched that).  This is the only cut from Born On a Pirate Ship on the list. Favorite Lyric: “How is the neighbor downstairs? How is her temper this year? I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun.”

4. Life, In a Nutshell” – This is the only selection off of 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive. This one is a fun romp through a good relationship, again featuring great vocals and playful lyrics.  Favorite Lyric: “She memorized every pencil crayon color in the boxHer blue-green eyes complement the burnt sienna in her locks.”

3. “Some Fantastic” – This one is a nice collaboration between Robertson and Page, and the most unique song off of their hugely successful 1998 album Stunt.  This one is just different than anything else they’ve done, and that says a lot for this very diverse band. It’s a different take at a love song; the piano, drums, guitar, vocals… all perfect. Favorite Lyric: “And when we’re done we’ll boil ’em down for glue, that we can use to re-adhere your lips to mine if you were here.”

2. “Call and Answer” – A Steven Page masterpiece, featuring his amazing vocals throughout (even the back-up vocals are his). This single off of Stunt captures a couple struggling to reclaim a fractured relationship. Poignant, timeless and passionate!  Favorite Lyric: “I think it’s the getting to the point that is the hardest part.”

1. “1,000,000” – This actually was released on Gordon and then re-appears on Pirate Ship, but I picked the version from Rock Spectacle, their 1996 live album. It starts off as “Grade 9” a great tune of its own accord, and jumps into a rollciking version of $1,000,000 with new lyrics and plenty of audience participation. Fun stuff on a song that captures the essence of these great performers doing what they do best. Favorite Lyric: “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”

There you go my Top 12. I’m sure there are many other worthwhile candidates, but at least now you have this cretin’s perspective!

Monday Morning Musical Musings

Monday Morning Musical Musings – or abbreviated, we could go with “Mo Mo Mu Mu?” I know it sounds stupid, but maybe it will grow on us?

Today a few thoughts on the Handsome Furs, Matt Mays, Y&T and a new Florida band: Innercoastal

I mentioned how much I liked The Handsome Furs a few weeks ago when they released a cool new tune “What About Us,” a catchy danceable song eerily reminiscent of the great alt rock I danced to back in the great Philly after hours club, The Revival 20 years ago.  Their brand new release is “Repatriated” and it is just as good.  I haven’t listened to the entire album yet, but that’s next.  If you like dance rock, check this Canadian duo out now. If your in the Midwest, Texas or California, you may be in luck, as they are touring those areas over the next two weeks.

Keeping with our Canadian theme, one of our contributors from North of the Border, Luc,  just got turned on to a band call Innercoastal. They are a new band from Central Florida who are playing around Orlando. According to Luc, “If you ever get a chance, LOOK THEM UP! I checked it out and liked the ska feel to their music.

I heard Matt Mays on the radio over the weekend and couldn’t help but think how under-rated this Canadian artist is. He’s had a handful of great well-written songs that never got a sniff of commercial airplay on the vast wasteland of US commercial radio.  He continues to put out great rock ‘n roll, despite the lack of attention. Check out “On the Hood,” “Travellin,” “Cocaine Cowgirl,” “City of Lakes” or the just released “Digital Eyes.” Good stuff with a unique sound.

OK – and this one has nothing to do with Canada, but it’s fresh in my feeble mind, and if I don’t write about it now, I’ll probably never remember.  Y&T’s “Summertime Girls.”  Is it the best crank down the windows, cruising to the beach, stereo blasting, sing along, feel good summer song ever?  I just love that song from the hard rockers from California (who still tour today). Lead singer Dave Meniketti never got his just due as an excellent rock voice. Here’s a copy of the video to keep you entertained for a few minutes (just ignore the horrible outfits the band is wearing – that was really the style 25 years ago): Summertime Girls

 

Radio Review – Hair Nation

Tractor Tunes are our 30 minute radio station reviews. So, grab a Schlitz, slide on your headphones, hop on the tractor, and decide if this one is for you…

Sirius XM’s Hair Nation, Channel 39

Hair Nation features “Hair Bands” from the 1980’s, in fact their slogan is “Vintage Rock From the Big Hair Eighties.”

It seems that every time I tune to this commercial-free Sirius XM station, I hear Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Poison, but they do spread the wealth and dig a little deeper into the album cuts.  It’s definitely not non-stop “Blaze of Glory,” “Dr. Feelgood” and “Every Rose Has a Thorn.” You’ll notice in the playlist below that they played one of my favorite, and under-appreciated Poison tunes.  It’s a good mix between the hits and the rest of the stuff, but the songs really are hit or miss. 

In my opinion, there’s really not enough good hair band music to justify a dedicated full-time station. It would probably be better suited for a recurring weekend show, or special holiday weekend special.

  • Poison – Cry Tough
  • Dangerous Boys – Teasin’ and Pleasin’
  • White Snake – Here I Go Again
  • Badlands – My Last Time
  • Bon Jovi – I’ll Be There For You
  • Cinderella – Push Push
  • Motley Crue – Primal Stream
  • Faster Pussycat – Babylon

Stats:
Date: July, 2011

Music: 98%
Chatter: 2%
Commercials  0%

 

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Thursday Thoughts at the Trough

Just a few random thoughts:

  • In an interview earlier this week with Eric James of The Last Royals, be mentioned Arcade Fire being the band at the top of their game right now.  Hard to argue with that. I love the band and was happy to see them win the Grammy for Album of the Year for their album Suburbs earlier this year.  Although Suburbs is indeed Grammy worthy. I think their 2008 release Neon Bible is better yet.  For fans of the band, SiriusXM’s and the band are sponsoring a free show in Montreal on September 22nd.  If you are not in the area, the show will also be broadcast live.
  • Say It Isn’t So – Van Halen is really planning a tour and new album with David Lee Roth, and without Michael Anthony? No way this turns out good. I’m a big fan of reunion tours, but this one just seems destined for disaster.
  • Former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri was charged with four felonies after a fight with his ex-girlfriend turned into a four-hour standoff with police. Oliveri was holed-up with his ex-girlfriend inside his apartment. When the 39 year-old was taken into custody, the police found a full-loaded rifle along with cocaine and meth-amphetamines. Not smart – it’s getting easy to understand why he was tossed from the band. He’s looking at 15 years in prison.
  • You’ve heard us mention The Dodos a duo out of San Francisco and their unique version of rock and roll. Well, they’re offering free tickets and downloads at their website.  Check it out at: The Dodo’s 
  • One of our Twitter followers sent us a link to listen to some new music from a Finnish band: Siberian Jay. It’s a little raw and under-produced, but there’s lots of potential there. Check it out, and thanks to FooFightHans for the suggestion. Follow us at Twitter: rarasfarm or Like us on Facebook to keep in touch and get immediate site updates.

 

Eric James of The Last Royals Visits RARA’s Farm

Featuring infectious melodies and riveting vocals, The Last Royal’s are riding high on the recent success of their addictive alt-rock hit “Crystal Vases” from their self-titled EP.  They’re currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on their eagerly anticipated debut album, tentatively titled Twistification.  Along with Mason Ingram, Eric James make up this dynamic new band. James, the lead singer and the creative power behind the songs on the EP, took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us.

Follow @rarasfarm

Cretin: I first heard you guys on Sirius XM’s AltNation, when they played “Crystal Vases.” How did you guys get that break? Were you targeting AltNation?

Eric James: We had signed with, Ooh La La Records, and their radio promoter was targeting college and FM specialty radio.  Regan, who’s a great DJ as well as the program director at AltNation heard the song and actually tracked me down personally through Facebook. He loved the music and just simply wanted to work it because he liked it. They just started playing it; it caught on and they got good feedback from listeners and that’s where we’re at.

Cretin: The characters in your songs seem real, and you can feel a real connection to them. Is there anything autobiographical in the lyrics?

Eric James: It’s all real; from living around Manhattan for the last four years. Crystal Vases specifically I had in mind an Upper East Side type of woman. Nothing in any of the songs was directly from a friend or acquaintance, but it’s all real characters.  I’m sure you kind find a match somewhere in this city of 4 million if you looked hard enough.  I love to weave story telling with my own sentiments in that Dylan style where he’s singing about the Jack of Hearts and all these characters and you’re wondering if he actually encountered these people.

Cretin: You mention Dylan and in other interviews you reference other acts from the 50’s to the present. It sounds like your musical background is pretty diverse, any piece of that background that has most influenced you?

Eric James: Everybody kind of grows up listening to what their parents listened to. My dad was a Beatles guy through and through. The musical pop elements were implanted in my brain as a young kid through the Beatles.  Lyrically speaking I feel it was Dylan who always explored the most territory.  He had that way of challenging people with hard concepts through whimsical lyrics (pauses) and also through whimsical melodies. Ultimately I feel that’s what my favorite bands do. It’s sort of the beauty of rock music. You can sing a very depressing line or very hard concept and put it with a beautiful major melody and somehow that juxtaposition is a beautiful thing.

Cretin: The way your band does that reminds me a bit of the Smiths from back in the 80’s.

Eric James: They were great at that.

Cretin: More recently, Foster The People’s “Pumped up Kicks” is kind of like that: a whimsical song with dark lyrics.

Eric James: I listened to that song for months before I realized what he was saying, and then I read the lyrics and couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Cretin: On the EP, all of the songs are very different.  Do you have a personal favorite, or any one style that you really enjoyed more than the other?

Eric James: I love the remix of Backseat, the Crayon mix. It’s real off the cuff.  It reminds me of the fact that one of the great qualities of being a musician is that you get to recreate these songs night after night. I have a bad habit of altering songs as we go along and the band learns them. Some of the label people don’t like that I keep doing that, but I can’t seem to stop.  The fact that made the EP was a big win for me.

Cretin: Are we going to hear any of these songs on the forthcoming album?

Eric James: We’ve re-cut “Come Take My Hand” and nobody has heard it yet as it’s still being mixed and we remixed “Backseat” in a whole new way. “Crystal Vases” will remain the same, as it seems to be working. And we’ll also have seven or eight new tracks. Almost everything is done, still working vocals and synths, but we’re getting there.

Cretin: Will we see this album before the end of the year?

Eric James: We’ll be done and in our hands in a few months, and then it’s up to the record company. It depends; the sooner the better for me.

Cretin: What’s the attraction to playing those older analog keyboards?

Eric James: It’s that those instruments are so volatile. We literally don’t know what it’s going to sound like day to day, because the circuits are constantly changing with the weather. It creates an excitement, a sense of newness. It’s a living art, and if we don’t capture the sound this hour it could change, or be a sound that does not inspire us.

Cretin: Being from Philly, have you ever heard the Hooters?

Eric James: I know Eric Bazillian a little bit. We were going to collaborate on something, but it never worked out.  I wrote a song with their keyboard player and I know the band, but I don’t know the music real well.

Cretin: They were famous for using a melodica.

Eric James: Yeah, that’s great stuff. We use an old thrift store air organ that’s out of tune. It’s actually what we used on the Backseat Lovers remix. It’s a 1970’s toy air organ that cost me about $20.

Cretin: OK, let’s wrap this up with some quick questions.  Do you smoke two packs a day?

Eric James:  (laughs) Absolutely not, I do not smoke.

Cretin: Favorite place in NYC to see live music?

Eric James: Rockwood Music Hall. It’s always free and for that reason you see a lot of musicians every night.

Cretin: You have a teepee as your EP Cover Art, as you were shooting for the TP-EP theme, did you ever consider a roll of toilet paper instead?

Eric James: (laughs) No, our hope would be that some crazy fan a few years from now would make a version like that.

Cretin: You guys have some great covers on your website: EMF, OMD and Prince. Is there one cover form a different artist that you really enjoy?

Eric James: I have some friends in a band called Lovedrug– they were doing a kick start campaign to raise some money to record a full-length. Someone who donated money asked them to cover a song from Willy Wonka a song called “Pure Imagination.” It was amazing, and I love the idea of throwing the wackiest song possible at a band and seeing what they can do with it. I was inspired. (It is cool and different. Check it out: Pure Imagination)

Cretin: When your album comes out you hit it big and you’re doing the festival circuit next year, who are you ready to share the stage with?

Eric James: We’ve talked about Arcade Fire sort of being the top of the game right now. Why not shoot for the top?

Cretin: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Eric James: I just want people to know that I’m thrilled that the music is getting out there and we feel very blessed to be staying alive and doing this music. We hope to become great songwriters someday and keep it coming.

To hear or purchase Last Royals music visit one of the following websites:

Check out my recent interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard


 

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