Music Reviews

January Reviewer: JCHS teacher and graduate (class of ‘89), Ben Gracey

New Radicals

Album: Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
NewRadicalsCover
This is one of my top five favorite CDs of all time. I have burned so many copies for other people that I could probably be prosecuted under some sort of “music sharing” laws. I bought the CD at Uncle Billy’s Tunes for one song—“You Get What You Give.” Little did I know as I slid it into the CD player for the first time that I was in for the ride of my life!

The New Radicals are actually just ONE radical. They really had a “revolving door policy” and no permanent members other than Gregg Alexander, who produced, wrote, sang and played various instruments for the band. In Mr. Gracey’s modest opinion, Gregg Alexander is a creative genius. The sheer variety that is presented on this CD is in itself reason enough to give it a spin sometime. Once you do, I am convinced that you will be hooked! I certainly was after nonchalantly listening to it for the first time. Part of the appeal of this CD is the story behind it.

Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too was released on October 20, 1998. It was well received by some music critics, who praised the record for its wide range of untypical influences for a modern pop-rock album, such as Todd Rundgren, World Party and Hall & Oates. Some even compared its funk and soul-influenced upbeat pop rock to the early work of Prince and Mick Jagger. Other critics, however, slammed Alexander for his frequent references to drugs and sex, seeing them as “shallow posturing” and “empty social pronouncements” (These people completely miss the point!).

Music fans liked the CD. It reached #10 on the UK Albums Chart and #41 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., where it also achieved platinum status (1,000,000 copies sold). It was also certified gold in the United Kingdom (100,000 copies sold) and in Canada (50,000 copies sold) [I try not to hold that against him].

Soon after the release of the first single off of the album—You Get What You Give—a semi-scandal began to brew over the lines towards the end of the song that refer to physically assaulting Beck, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson. In the process, they are depicted as “fakes”, media sell-outs, pandering to the lowest common denominator (at least that’s how I read it…LOL). Following the mass media’s excitement about the celebrity insults, Alexander explained that the verse, along with the lines directly preceding it (”Health insurance rip off lying/ FDA big bankers buying/ Fake computer crashes dining/ Cloning while they’re multiplying”) were an experiment to see if the media would focus on the real issues, or on the celebrity ridicule. I guess he received his answer when irate Manson fans began threatening his life! Jeeze, can’t they take a joke?

The death threats had a real impact on Gregg, and when the band canceled their appearance at the an Atlanta show, rumors began that they would break up (though MCA Records claimed that a band member’s illness was the cause for the canceled show). In the meantime, the New Radicals went on to shoot the video for their second single “Someday We’ll Know”

And then, out of nowhere, less than two weeks before its release, Gregg Alexander issued a press release on July 12, announcing the breakup of the group. He stated that he “accomplished all of [his] goals with this record” and that “the fatigue of traveling & getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring ‘hanging and schmoozing’ with radio and retail people, is definitely not for [him].”

And that was it! The New Radicals never released another CD, and Gregg Alexander was scarcely heard from again. He did some production work, but never reaching his previous creative zenith again. I take solace in the fact that I didn’t actually discover this CD until about 2003, so I wasn’t as crushed as I’m sure many NR fans were. Still when I scan the radio dial today in search of something that is even listenable, I lament that I wish these guys were still around. I wish I could recommend specific tracks from this CD, but doing so would be like recommending your favorite chapter of The Grapes of Wrath. It wouldn’t do the music justice. Every track is a journey, a lesson, and in some cases a mystery. Check it out and please let me know what you think.

December Reviewer: JCHS Senior–Josh Baalman

REBA McENTIRE

Album: For My Broken Heart
Reba
In 1990, eight members of Reba McEntire’s band were killed in a tragic plane crash near the Mexican border. The year following, Reba released her most personal and mournful album ever. For My Broken Heart has been hailed as one of the most emotional and lamentable albums in country music history. The album solidified McEntire further into country music greatness by being the first album by a female to go double-platinum (it went on to go quadruple-platinum).
“I guess the world didn’t stop, for my broken heart.” The lyrics from the title track sum up this emotionally compelling album as being one of extreme mourning and loss. This phrase embodies a situation in which everyone must face; how to deal with loss and tragedy. Reba masterfully paints a picture though her vocal, asking why…. and wondering how life can possibly go on, if her heart can’t.
A trail of broken hearts winds its way though the whole album. It is probably Reba’s most thematically and musically consistent album, and the most artistically and emotionally y gripping. It is a fitting and beautiful tribute to those that were lost, as well as a finely tuned instrument of healing for many at the time, and since, who suffered from the pain of a broken heart.
1.) For My Broken Heart
2.) Is There Life Out There
3.) Bobby
4.) He’s In Dallas
5.) All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)
6.) The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia
7.) Buying Her Roses
8.) The Greatest Man I Never Knew
9.) I Wouldn’t Go That Far
10) If I Had Only Known

November Reviewer: JCHS Assistant Principal: Mrs. Hopkins

JUDE COLE

Album: A View From Third Street
Jude Cole Pic
Jude Cole does it all! A recording artist, manager, record and film composer, actor, and critic, Cole remains heavily involved in the Hollywood scene, but has always been one of the most underrated musical artists in the industry whose talents have been hugely overlooked. An Illinoisan, Cole grew up in Carbon Cliff just a few miles east of Moline, Illinois but moved out west to fulfill his aspirations of becoming a musical artist.

Having been recognized for his unique talent as a song writer and contributor to the musical core of The Records, a British band with whom he recorded his first album, Cole left the band in 1980 to work independently. He recorded three albums; however, A View from Third Street, his second album, was the most renowned, providing musical computations of soulful, spirited arrangements involving wronged relationships and love gone astray. His contemporary, seemingly effortless sound captures the listener’s sense of music “wantonness,” as his lyrics connect soul to heart, appealing to his audience and leaving them yearning for more. “Time for Letting Go,” “House Full of Reasons,” and “Nothing at All” reflect the sentiment often expressed in Cole’s lyrics and they top the list as being truthful broken-heart narratives that appeal to any listener who has experienced a distressed relationship. “Problems that appear so tall turn out to be so small when you’re left with nothing at all” remind listeners that another perspective of heartbreak exists and can prove to be positive, depending on the way one views life and its reality.

Understanding Cole’s natural tendency to deliver invariable and thematic revelations on the mere existence of being human, the listener can hardly be immersed in the melody without being trapped in the lyric. A View from Third Street provides the following tracks and is a compilation of heart-strung melodies sung by an artist whose vocal style trumps even the most well-known soulful, heart-throb vocalists:
1. “Hallowed Ground” (Cole, George M. Green) – 5:19
2. “Baby, It’s Tonight” – 3:40
3. “House Full of Reasons” – 3:56
4. “Get Me Through the Night” – 4:16
5. “Time for Letting Go” – 4:18
6. “Stranger to Myself” (Cole, Tyson) – 3:58
7. “This Time It’s Us” – 4:35
8. “Heart of Blues” – 4:59
9. “Compared to Nothing” – 4:10
10. “Prove Me Wrong” – 4:49
While Cole is not found on the beaten path of live performers, his talents are strongly in existence in the world of entertainment. Currently the co-owner of IronWorks Music, he manages Lifehouse, works with Kiefer Sutherland – his record company partner, and continues as a song-writer, creating musical scores for films. Cole is married to Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister and is a brother-in-law to David Kelley, writer and producer of television episodes included but not limited to Boston Public and The Practice. Thus, through family and professional partnerships is immersed in the “BIG TIME” music scene, and it doesn’t seem likely that Jude Cole will be returning to his roots in Illinois anytime soon. Fortunately, having the Internet will prove beneficial as a Jude Cole fan has access simply by perusing the following URLs.
*Check out Jude Cole’s A View from Third Street HERE

**Additionally, you can enjoy his acoustic rendition of “Baby, It’s Tonight” HERE

***My favorite – Cole’s “Tell the Truth” music video can be found HERE

October Reviewer: JCHS graduate Megan Mann (class of ‘11)

LUDO

Album: Broken Bride
Broken Bride Album Cover
Of all the great artists and albums available for our listening pleasure, I believe that few rise up to the sheer awesomeness of Ludo’s Broken Bride album. The only word I can use to describe this album is EPIC. I have been in love with this group for quite some time and every time I listen to Ludo, I love them more and more. This album is a rock opera concept album. The album has five tracks, the first of which, Broken Bride, is named after the album. In the fall of 2009 Ludo went on a tour for the re-release of the Broken Bride album, during which they played the album in its entirety.The tracks are…
1.) Pt. I Broken Bride
2.) Save Our City
3.) Pt. II Tonight’s the Night
4.) Pt. III The Lamb and the Dragon
5.) Pt. IV Morning in May
Now to learn about the masters behind the music… The band Ludo originated in St. Louis, Missouri and is signed under the label Redbird Records. The members of the group are Andrew Volpe who is on lead vocals and guitar; Tim Ferrell; Tim Convy; Adam Brooks; Matt Palermo. Ludo has released three albums: Broken Bride, Ludo, and You’re Awful, I Love You. The group is now working on another album to be released soon. I highly recommend this album to anyone who is in the mood for some really great music!

September Guest Reviewer: JCHS graduate Henry Lovel (class of ‘11)

The Kinks

Album: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
village-green-preservation-society-2
To listen to a record by The Kinks, you have to forget everything you know about the Kinks. You must lose all recollection of “Lola;” you must disregard all of the times you were enjoying yourself and heard “All Day and All of the Night” on the radio. You must put “Waterloo Sunset and “David Watts” out of mind, and you must make way for a whole new experience. Any fan of ‘The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society’ would know what I mean, I think. It’s a musical cornucopia of sorts, stuffed full of nostalgia, imagination and adventure. There’s nothing like it and few things as good as it.

But first, let’s go way back before I was born. It’s 1966. The Kinks have no doubt been dismayed to hear that their latest single, ‘Wonderboy,’ is at #36 on the charts, not the commercial victory they’d been hoping for. Ray Davies decides to write a whole lot of great songs for the sake of writing great songs. By ‘68, the group has arranged and recorded most of them, and Davies has sent them to various record companies. A few people pick up the record, mostly Kinks loyalists, and it is overshadowed in no time by The Beatles’”White Album” and various other groups and their respective singles. It joins the ranks of The Velvet Underground’s “WHITE LIGHT / WHITE HEAT,” Nick Drake’s “Five Leaves Left” and The Zombies’ “Odessy and Oracle”(mis-spelled correctly) as one of the best overlooked records of the late 1960s.

Over the years, hundreds of the greatest musicians to walk the earth pick it up and find inspiration in it; A few lucky kids like myself pick it up after seeing it’s prestigious ratings on Wikipedia. Upon the third listen or so, all the little gears in my brain line up just right and I realize that all my listening to the Beatles’ ‘REVOLVER’ in 8th grade was in vain: This is the pop album most worth your time. The title track is great, but the wandering piano intro in “Do You Remember Walter?” is what really kicks things off. There’s magic in it or something. The lyrics will give you memories of things you never even experienced. The growling guitar fills (supplied by Dave Davies, not to be confused with his brother Ray) and other subtleties will keep you coming back to it.

Next up (in the Stereo version of the album) is “Picture Book,” a song you may have heard before. It was in an HP Printer commercial a few years back, I think, but it might be a radio favorite too. After that comes “Johnny Thunder,” a true classic that needs no words of encouragement, “Monica,” a catchier tune with guitar that sounds more like some kind of wind instrument, and “Days,” an overlooked gem of a pop song that could have been a hit but wasn’t. “Village Green” and “Animal Farm” recall simpler times in Ray’s life, before he had any hope of fame or songwriting success.

In the next four tracks, you’ll find two more catchy tunes(”Starstruck” and “Mr. Songbird”) and two examples of the quirky lyrics that set The Kinks apart from their contemporaries. “Phenomenal Cat,” preceded by an exceptional flute solo, is a perfect example of the latter category; “Wicked Annabella,” driven by a two crackling, overdriven guitars, is next, and then “People Take Pictures of Each Other,” one more example of Ray’s unique songwriting perspective.

Just about every one of the songs holds up on its own, but the album, like most other concept-related albums, is really greater than the sum of its parts.I won’t twist around a hundred words to convince you of just how outstanding this album is. As always, the music speaks for itself. Give the record a try, then come back to it later and see if you don’t enjoy it too.

(If you like it, check out the mono version also, as it has three or four additional songs.)

[The Sanctuary Records CD has both versions on one disc.]

Two hundred and fifty thumbs up!

August Guest Reviewer: The Webmaster herself…Kelly Williams

Justin Nozuka

Album: Holly
When I was asked by the G-Man to write a review for the MAotM, I was incredibly flattered. Then the enormity of my task hit me. How do I decide who to write about, much less a single album? But, never wanting to disappoint, I rose to the occasion.

I chose Justin Nozuka for many reasons: his raw, soulful voice; his thoughtful, fun and sometimes haunting lyrics; the complicated guitar riffs; but most of all, because his songs make me feel something deep inside. I am a fan of many kinds of music. I see nothing wrong with shakin’ my rump to some hip-hop or banging my head to some rock, but more often than not I want – I need – some soul to my music. I have got to feel it. Justin makes me feel it.

The first song I heard from Justin was “After Tonight”. It starts out simple and stays simple throughout, but something about it drew me in. It was when he hit the chorus, I could hear how much he felt the music. I listened over and over and fell in love. This song is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to prove to someone that they could be just what that person needed. It’s light, yet soulful and fun.

After I heard that first song, I went on a search and found “Save Him”. It was one of the few instances I found a song that gave me chills, brought me to tears and had me entranced by the beauty all at once. I never knew something so haunting could be so beautiful. It’s the story of a woman and a man who, by all appearances, are madly in love. Behind closed doors things aren’t so great…the woman is beaten by her husband. Rather than pray that she be saved from her abusive husband, she prays that he is saved from himself. “Save him, save him from the hand that he beats me on….” It is not a story with a happy ending, but it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard from a young artist in a very long time.

Justin has other beautifully bittersweet songs as well. One of my favorites is “Oh momma”. It’s a boy comforting his mother after his father left. Telling her how strong she is, how much he needs her and assuring her that she’ll be alright. “You can take a storm and turn it all around and then the sun shines through…Oh the story of your life. We have all been designed, but you’re as real on the outside, momma.” The wisdom and love Justin shows in lyrics like these are what impress me most. He’s wise beyond his twenty years and has found a way to express himself soulfully, beautifully and simply.

Not all of Justin’s songs are as deep and thought-provoking, but showcase his extreme talent, regardless. “Criminal” is a fun song telling of the woes of a common criminal. Keep your gangstas with their guns and bling. This criminal broke a glass bottle on the pavement and when he sees a little girl on the news whose feet were cut by the shards, he decides to run away to mexico and get plastic surgery. He takes his status as a criminal seriously and this is a seriously killer song.

No matter the song – deep and chilling or upbeat and goofy – Justin’s talent shines through in every one. The songs are simple, acoustic-soul and nothing more is needed. Justin has a knack for recording his songs in one take. You don’t often find that raw, uncut quality in a major artist and it’s something I truly admire.

The album, “Holly” (named after Justin’s mother), is perfect for anyone who loves music with meaning and soul; someone who likes to sit back and get swept away in the music.

If you like Justin, you may also like these guys: Nathan Angelo, Ernie Halter, Josh Hoge, David Ryan Harris, Tony Lucca, Matt Wertz, James Morrison, Paolo Nutini, Serena Ryder, Sara Bareilles, Rob Pattinson, Rob Blackledge, Marc Broussard and Justin’s brother, George Nozuka.

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