Category Archives: Rock

‘America for Me’ – Alex Ebert’s Song from the Film ‘A Most Violent Year’

No question: A Most Violent Year is a powerful film, one of the best I’ve seen in the past year. I was a fan of director J.C. Chandor’s 2011 release Margin Call, and his new film takes a vastly different but equally compelling perspective on capitalism in America.

The story focuses on the expansion plans of a heating oil executive in New York City in 1981, which sounds potentially mundane yet is anything but. Again, this is New York in the early ’80s, ages before new regimes came in to ‘clean up’ the place.

The story is strong, the mood is tense, the cinematography is stunning and the acting is stunning, notably that of the two leads, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Both truly disappear into the roles.

One final treat is the song that plays through the closing credits. Titled “America for Me,” it’s a sparse, loosely constructed song by Alex Ebert. Listen below.

Continue reading ‘America for Me’ – Alex Ebert’s Song from the Film ‘A Most Violent Year’

With ‘Antiphon,’ Midlake Grows Up and Moves On

Like a lot of Midlake fans, when news broke that lead singer and longtime bandmember Tim Smith had left the band, I was worried that the group’s sound and songs wouldn’t hold up.

After listening to the new album Antiphon, though, any worries are laid to rest. It’s a fantastic album with strong songs and a sound that shifts the band back toward a psychedelic sound — yet still retains the wonderful melodic structures and vocal harmonies that have long been identified with the band.

Seeing Midlake live, too, only brings this experience home — this is still very much the same band.

Continue reading With ‘Antiphon,’ Midlake Grows Up and Moves On

Pink Floyd ‘Live at Pompeii’ – Is the Director’s Cut Worth It?

Like a lot of fans, I first saw Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii in high school. I loved Pink Floyd at the time, and had really looked forward to seeing them play among ancient Roman ruins. But it was a midnight movie, and I dozed off here and there. And while the music and the setting were cool, I can’t say I fully appreciated the moods, ideas and concepts that the band or the film’s producers were going for.

Today, I came across a “director’s cut” of the film on YouTube. It’s a reworking of the film that was released in 2003, with additional interviews and some additional imagery of planets, sun flares and other space-themed visuals (which sounds cheesy, but in the context of the film it works).

I can’t remember exactly how this new version compares to the ‘original’ cut, but watching it now — more than 40 years after it was first released — the film turns out to be absolutely fascinating. Watch an embed below.

Continue reading Pink Floyd ‘Live at Pompeii’ – Is the Director’s Cut Worth It?

Billy Strange Has Raised His Hand and Asked to Leave the Room — R.I.P.

“This is the part of the song where Billy Strange raised his hand and asked if he could please leave the room.”
(Lee Hazlewood, from his version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”)

Bandleader/arranger/guitarist Billy Strange passed away yesterday (Wed., Feb. 22) at age 81.

While not exactly a household name, in the music world he was a major player. And over the years, on his own and as a member of L.A.’s famed Wrecking Crew, he worked with some of the biggest and best names of mid-20th century pop music, including Elvis Presley, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood, the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Watch a clip of Billy in action.


More Billy Strange songs

Steely Dan “Aja” Tribute

“Sometimes vanilla just tastes so good.”

A friend of mine (Nate Cavalieri) once made that statement in relation to a Steely Dan video he was sharing–and I always remembered it, and thought it made perfect sense in relation to that band’s sort of uber-polished, borderline-bland, radio-friendly pop sound.

Personally I’ve never entirely settled on where I stand with Steely Dan. On one hand it’s ubiquitous radio pop that is overly crisp, with all the dirt washed off and creases ironed out; the sound can be cloying, and as we all know it’s been impossible to escape for decades. On the other, man, when you really listen to some of those songs, they’re impressive. In terms of the writing, yes, but especially the production. And from that perspective alone, an album like Aja deserves its accolades.

Toronto indie-rock band The Darcys today paid tribute to Steely Dan by releasing their own version of Aja–a song-by-song re-creation of the classic 1977 album, though done in their own moody, fuzzy style.

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“Wish You Were Here” Reissued

After breaking into superstardom with their 1973 masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, the members of Pink Floyd faced a daunting task. How does anyone follow up a release like that? Many a great artist has faded in fear at the prospect.

The result, though, as we all know, was the 1975 album Wish You Were Here. Though initially receiving some mixed reviews, fans and critics eventually agreed it was another masterpiece.

It’s also the next Pink Floyd album getting the royal reissue treatment from parent label EMI. Both a two-disc ‘Experience’ version and massive, five-disc ‘Immersion’ box were released this week, each featuring the remastered original album plus significant bonus material.

See my full Wish You Were Here reissue review on CBS Street Date.