Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

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Has Technology Ruined Music?

March 24, 2011

One of the trademark complaints of older generations of music fans is that today’s music is created on a computer, or “ripped off” from the music of previous generations. Of course, the “young people don’t respect nothing” argument has been around since the days of Ancient Rome, and that is a different topic altogether. The specific point made, however, is something I often ponder. Is today’s music even music?

Like most things in this world, this is not a black and white issue. While I believe there are some major drawbacks to computer-generated music, I also believe it has opened the door for creative, out-of-the-box artists to make new and exciting music. Sampling old songs, as long as it is done with the original artist’s permission, is not only a great way to make fresh music but also introduces younger generation to great music from the past. For instance, I world never have gotten into Sam Cooke had I not heard Papoose’s sampling of “A Change is Gonna Come” on “50 Shots.” That would be a real shame, as I consider Cooke to be one of the greatest recording artists ever. Music is meant to bring people together, and electronically incorporated samples can bridge generational gaps.

One thing that should be made clear: studio production is not exclusive to hip-hop, and had been around way before DJ Kool Herc spun his first record at a South Bronx birthday bash. Songs like Ray Charles’ classic “I Believe to My Soul” was recorded using over-dubs, as was Bruce Springsteen’s title track from “Born to Run.” Even today, artists of various genres use electronically enhanced sounds to create music. Many producers have extensive music knowledge and talent, and some can even play musical instruments. Think about it: who in their right mind would say DJ Premier isn’t a creative genius because he doesn’t play guitar?

I do realize that technology has the possibility to induce laziness. A lot of artists today are e-mailed “beats” and then record lyrics to them. This is a major flaw in the music making process. Jay-Z once said that he never records a song unless the producer is in the studio with him, because face-to-face collaboration can change and improve the entire direction of a song. Another problem with technologically enhanced music is that some of it is entirely created synthetically. However, there are still many artists who record with live instruments or incorporate them into production.

Don’t get me wrong; I have great respect for musicians. It takes extraordinary skill to play an instrument. However, this does not make producers- especially those who collaborate with a team of knowledgeable engineers in an honest effort to create great music- inferior to musicians in any way.

In a previous article on this site, I predicted that as record sales decline, artists who can put on a great live show will be more financially successful than those who rely on the likes of auto-tune and synth beats. Still, there are those who use sound systems to put on excellent concerts. All in all, I feel that, despite its drawbacks from studio-production generally has improved the quality of music. I look forward to more creativity and innovation by producers and musicians alike in the future.

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The Ten Greatest Albums I’ve Ever Heard

March 23, 2011

Although in my “Coming Up…” post, I mentioned that I would be doing a 2nd quarter preview and a producers vs. musicians editorial, I’ve decided to hold off on those for a few days because I’ve been itching to post a list. Creating lists of the greatest movies, athletes, albums, songs, etc. has been one of my favorite pastimes for years. This specific list was created after years of carefully listening to a wide variety of albums. I added “I’ve Ever Heard” because I am sure that there are albums out there that I might consider to be better than the ten I have selected if I were to hear them. This is a greatest list, meaning that these are not my ten favorite albums, but the ones that I believe to be the best I’ve ever heard. Read on as I count down the greatest albums I’ve ever heard.

*All images were acquired from Google Images

10. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.- 1988

This album changed music forever. Never before had violence, sex, and drugs been so graphically portrayed on an album. Suburban moms hit the roof. Law enforcement officials went nuts. N.W.A. even got a letter from the F.B.I. Still, the album that went platinum without a single or any hype remains to this day one of the grimiest works of art of the 20th century.

9. Thriller by Michael Jackson- 1982

It’s easy for me to roll my eyes at the mere mention of this album, due to the constant references of it from other artists in music and the hero-worship of Jackson since his passing. Still, the album itself is an undeniable masterpiece. Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, and Eddie Van Halen all chipped in to help the King of Pop create his magnum opus.

8. Abbey Road by The Beatles- 1969

Although I still hold in contention that many music fans tend to have a romanticized view of everything The Beatles ever recorded, I cannot deny that Abbey Road is remarkably creative. Every member of the band simultaneously shines individually while also working together to make sure that the album is greater than the sum of its parts. The medley on the second half of the album is nothing short of epic.

7. Illmatic by NaS- 1994

This album, recorded when NaS was just 19 years old, remains the greatest hip-hop album ever released. Backed by masterful production from the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, and Q-Tip, NaS uses detailed imagery and excellent rhyming skills to portray life in the Queensbridge projects in a brilliantly crafted masterpiece. And he did it all with only one guest appearance (a young, focused AZ on “Life’s a Bitch).

6. Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 by Sam Cooke- 1985

While most casual listeners will remember Sam Cooke as the man behind the legendary “A Change is Gonna Come,” the man with the golden voice secretly longed to sing soul music the way it was meant to be. He got his chance in this Florida nightclub, where he was free from the reigns of having to croon for a white audience. As a result, his voice is raspy and soulful, and he works the crowd beautifully. The band backing him does in excellent job in helping create a raucous, soulful environment. Although it was recorded in ’63, it wasn’t released until 1985, 21 years after his death.

5. Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan- 1975

Dylan was a poet. He was an excellent musician. His voice, though polarizing, sounding like nothing else in music. Never did all these amazing elements of his mesh into anything as great this album, which showcased Dylan at his best both musically and lyrically. Although most people remember “Tangled Up in Blue” from this album, hidden gems include “You’re a Big Girl Now” and “Idiot Wind.”

4. At San Quentin by Johnny Cash- 1969

Most people remember At Folsom Prison as Cash’s greatest live album, mostly because Folsom Prison itself was the source of inspiration for Cash’s hit, “Folsom Prison Blues.” At San Quentin, however, is just as energetic and just as powerful, but with an added treat: Cash performed, for the first time ever, the Shel Silverstein-penned “A Boy Named Sue” for the San Quentin inmates.

3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen- 1975

The Boss and co. worked their tails off, trying so hard to create a timeless record. Tales of last chances, broken dreams and Jersey girls added nostalgia and heart into an album that Springsteen clearly poured his blood, sweat, and tears into. The result is just want he and his E-street band so badly wanted: a classic for the ages.

2. Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers- 1977

Although presumably titled after one of the songs on the album, the name Exodus probably has double meaning, as it was recorded during Marley’s self-imposed exile from Jamaica to London after an attempt on his life left himself, his wife, and his manager wounded. The result is a brilliant album that is stylistically reggae but contains universally themes of love, peace, and awareness. It is an undisputable classic.

1. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, 1971

After much thought and consideration, I decided that I have never heard an album greater than Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. This album is perfect: it is at once soulful, enjoyable, meaningful, emotional, lyrical, melodic, and intelligent, all in just eight songs. The brevity of this album leaves little room for error, which Gaye fortunately must have realized. It is a flawless work of art that, much like Marley’s Exodus, contains universally themes of love, peace, and awareness, though it also contains turmoil, sadness, and optimism. It is musically brilliant, and Marvin Gaye has never sounded better. Recorded at a very difficult time in his life, one can tell just by listening that he put all he had into this record. Can you believe he had to battle with Motown’s Berry Gordy just to get this album out?

Well, that’s the list. Feel free to tell me where I went wrong or what you liked about it. Peace.

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Album Review: Dropkick Murphys’ Going Out in Style

March 16, 2011

Image acquired from Google Images

The Dropkick Murphys have been a force to be reckoned with for years now, due to their enjoyable mesh of Celtic music and punk rock. However, after a certain amount of time formulas tend to tire, leaving us sadly disappointed. Fortunately, the Murphys’ latest album is anything but disappointing. Their pleasantly familiar sound, coupled with conceptual lyricism, provides yet another brilliant Dropkick Murphys record.

It’s Not Their Final Album

For those of you who are worried that the title suggests they are bowing out, rest easy. The title is named after the second song on the album, which will surely become the Murphys’ newest anthem. Featuring NOFX’s Fat Mike and FX dramedy Rescue Me’s Lenny Clarke, the song speaks of living it up before death. Rather, Going Out in Style is a concept album, centered around a fictional, working-class war veteran named Cornelius Larkin, who is a hodgepodge of the band members’ life experiences.

Hardcore as Ever

Right from the opening drum sequence, it is clear that the Murphys have not lost their edge. The opening song, “Hang ’em High,” sends a message that is loud and clear: “Now lower the cannon, the battle begins!” They still promote themes such as unity, hard work, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Talk of standing up for the little guy is also yet-again present, with songs such as “The Hardest Mile” and “Take ’em Down” being highlights of the album. However, rather than sounding stale, the Murphys’ rowdy optimism and soaring spirit is more than welcome in today’s world. It also helps that it has been four years since their previous studio album, The Meanest of Times.

New-found Maturity?

While they are as rowdy as ever, certain songs suggest that, as the Murphys grow older, they too grow wiser. On “Cruel,” the album’s best song, lead-singer Al Barr laments, “I was young and I thought I knew everything/It’s so hard to change a fool’s mind.” Also, on “Memorial Day,” it is lamented:                                                                                                             

I was young and I wouldn’t hear it
You had opinions I had mine too
Just a kid with all the answers
A pompous pride and not one clue

These sentiments, along with others on the album, suggest that the Murphys are learning as they go along, and getting better with time.

One for the Ladies

No, it’s not “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.” This one is actually for the ladies. “1953” speaks nostalgically of a man’s true love. The best part is that these rough-necks pull it off convincingly.

The Boss Factor

One of the Murphys’ influences, the legendary Bruce Springsteen, drops by on “Peg o’ my Heart,” an enjoyable tune near the album’s end. He sounds comfortable against the backdrop of the Murphys’ sound, and the song is very well done.

All in All

This album is excellent from start to finish, with no filler or weak links. Their sound is still riotous, fun, and fresh, and it’s nice to see that after all this time they still haven’t forgotten their roots. It is too soon to tell if this will stand the test of time and achieve classic status, but for now I’ll settle on the notion that it is an exceptional album. To sum up the feel of the album, Barr cries, “I could really give a shit, I’m going out in style!”

4.5/5 Merits