Spotlight on Producers

Spotlight on Producers

This week Jim and Greg look at some of the most recent musical collaborations. They will review new albums from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul Simon, Alejandro Escovedo and recent phenomenon Gnarls Barkely, all featuring some impressive men behind the scenes. Plus, the hosts will discuss the latest music news and a track to the Desert Island Jukebox.

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Music News

First up in the news this week is a discussion with Dave Frey, manager of the band Cheap Trick. Jim and Greg talk to Frey about the recent lawsuit he and the Rockford natives recently filed against Sony BMG. Cheap Trick, along with the Allman Brothers Band, launched the suit contending that the label has underpaid artists for digital music transactions. Artists currently receive about 4.5 cents per 99-cent download, while the label can receive as much as 70 cents per transaction. Considering that hits like "Surrender" or "Ramblin' Man" were made and paid for decades ago, the split doesn‘t seem very equitable. The reason for this, Frey explains, is that many bands’ contracts were drafted long before digital technology emerged. In fact, CDs are still considered“new media”for Cheap Trick. Therefore, royalty deductions are made to account for outdated“breakages”and“containers.”But until Frey can discern what the container is for an MP3, and how it breaks, he stands by the suit, which is asking for $25 million on behalf of all Sony Music artists.

Fellow rocker Keith Richards has also been in the news. According to reports, the Rolling Stones guitarist suffered a concussion after falling from a palm tree. What he was doing climbing a palm tree is still unknown, but Richards seems to have emerged from this latest accident fairly intact. Jim and Greg muse that this is not the first time the notoriously hard-living Stone was put in harm's way: He has previously broken ribs, punctured a lung, infected a finger, and battled heroin addiction. It seems Greg is correct to compare Richards to a cockroach; nothing can take him out.

reviewSt. ElsewhereSt. Elsewhere available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere

St. Elsewhere is the debut album from Gnarls Barkley, the imaginary front-person for a project helmed by vocalist and rapper Cee-Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse. Gnarls describes himself as the pen pal of long-deceased rock critic Lester Bangs, soul singer Isaac Hayes, and Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano. He also claims to be the lover of both Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey and the man who taught Kraftwerk English. Most importantly, though, he has become a British phenomenon. The first single, "Crazy," went to number one on the UK singles chart after simply being released as a download, and Jim and Greg hope that the hype can be sustained stateside. Both critics love the combination of Cee-Lo's half-preacher, half-freak vocal style and DJ Danger Mouse's eclectic production choices. St. Elsewhere gets a double Buy It rating.

JimGreg
reviewSurpriseSurprise available on iTunes

Paul Simon Surprise

Gnarls Barkley is not the only noteworthy collaboration discussed on this week's show — in fact, all of the albums up for review feature artists working with noteworthy producers. For example, singer/songwriter Paul Simon made the interesting decision to work with electronic music pioneer Brian Eno. Eno, who co-founded Roxy Music, has produced for David Bowie, The Talking Heads and U2. While this is an impressive résumé, Jim and Greg explain that Eno was still a surprising choice for Simon. Eno is infamous for dragging musicians out of their comfort zones, and Simon is certainly at a stage in his career where he could remain comfortable if he wanted. The result is literally a Surprise, though not necessarily a success, according to one of our hosts. Jim is fond of both the album's multi-layered, ambient sound and its complicated, occasionally self-deprecating lyrics. He gives it a Buy It. Greg, on the other hand, feels that this was a missed opportunity. He predicts that the two artists“tiptoed”around each other too much. It's a little too gentle, too sleepy, and too stagnant for Mr. Kot, who gives it a Burn It.

JimGreg
reviewThe Boxing MirrorThe Boxing Mirror available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo The Boxing Mirror

Eno's occasional partner in crime, John Cale, also makes an appearance in this week's show, having produced the latest release from Alejandro Escovedo. The Boxing Mirror is the ninth album from the musician, who can only be described as part-punk, part-country and part-rock. Escovedo grew up admiring the Velvet Underground, and Jim and Greg agree that the match between him and Cale is one made in heaven. Jim has never been a major fan of Escovedo's singer/songwriter style, but he thinks this is his best solo effort, perhaps due to Escovedo's newly found lust for life. He survived a life-threatening outbreak of Hepatitis C a couple years ago, and the music demonstrates that he is indeed very happy to be alive. Greg agrees and compares Escovedo's renewal to that experienced by Neil Young. Both albums give The Boxing Mirror a Buy It and urge fans try to see Escovedo, along with musicians like Susan Voelz, perform live.

JimGreg
reviewBlood Sugar Sex MagikStadium Arcadium available on iTunes

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Stadium Arcadium

The Red Hot Chili Peppers also released a highly anticipated album this week. Their 28-song double album was produced by superstar producer Rick Rubin. Rubin previously worked with the Southern California natives on their big mainstream breakout album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, as well as later hit Californication. As the co-founder of Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons, Rubin produced albums for The Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C. He's also acted as producer for Nine Inch Nails, System of a Down, and the late Johnny Cash. It's surprising then, say Jim and Greg, that Rubin would be such a poor editor on this latest effort. Both critics agree that this album doesn‘t deserve to be nearly as long as it is, especially since more than half of the songs can be considered ballads — a far cry from the Chili Peppers’ punk-funk roots. Those ballads are evidence of lead singer Anthony Kiedis' self-proclaimed spiritual transformation, but Jim and Greg are not quite moved. They can still hear a few moments when Kiedis' former, party-loving self comes through. The album, which was recorded in Harry Houdini's former home, is worth hearing for John Frusciante's guitar playing, but not worth a purchase. Stadium Arcadium gets a Trash It from both hosts.

JimGreg
dij

Greg

“Can't Turn You Loose”Otis Redding

Greg's Desert Island Jukebox choice this week was inspired by the passing of Phil Walden. Walden was a major figure in the southern rock scene, and co-founded Capricorn Records, home to The Allman Brothers and Charlie Daniels Band. Greg, however, remembers Walden as the man instrumental in propelling the career of soul singer Otis Redding. He was Redding's manager up until the singer's tragic plane crash in 1967, and helped expand his career into the mainstream. One savvy decision was to put Otis Redding and all of the key Stax Records players on the road in Europe in the summer of 1967. The competition between Redding and Stax acts like Sam & Dave fueled the performer's fire. The result was a high-energy, high-impact performance like the one he gave of "Can't Turn You Loose" — this week's DIJ pick.

Featured Songs

  1. Cheap Trick,“Surrender,”Heaven Tonight, 1978
  2. Rolling Stones,“Monkey Man,”Let it Bleed, 1969
  3. Gnarls Barkley,“Crazy,”St. Elsewhere, 2006
  4. Gnarls Barkley,“Smiley Faces,”St. Elsewhere, 2006
  5. Gnarls Barkley,“Boogie Monster,”St. Elsewhere, 2006
  6. Paul Simon,“How Can You Live in the Northeast?”Surprise, 2006
  7. Paul Simon,“Wartime Prayers,”Surprise, 2006
  8. Alejandro Escovedo,“Notes on Air,”The Boxing Mirror, 2006
  9. Alejandro Escovedo,“Sacramento & Polk,”The Boxing Mirror, 2006
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers,“Dani California,”Stadium Arcadium, 2006
  11. Red Hot Chili Peppers,“Especially in Michigan,”Stadium Arcadium, 2006
  12. Red Hot Chili Peppers,“Ready Made,”Stadium Arcadium, 2006
  13. Otis Redding,“Can't Turn You Lose,”Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding, 1993

Footnotes

sonybmg.com Sony BMG allmanbrothersband.com Allman Brothers Band homepage wired.com iTunes still 99 cents sonymusic.com Sony Music artists gnarlsbarkley.com Gnarls Barkley's homepage mtv.com Cee-Lo Green allmusic.com Danger Mouse amazon.com The Life and Times of Lester Bangs msn.com Isaac Hayes quits South Park vfemmes.com Violent Femmes' homepage janetjackson.com Janet Jackson's homepage mariahcarey.com Mariah Carey's homepage kraftwerk.com Kraftwerk's homepage bbc.co.uk Brits go Crazy over Gnarls Barkley youtube.com“Crazy”video paulsimon.com Paul Simon's homepage wikipedia.org Brian Eno roxymusic.co.uk Roxy Music's homepage davidbowie.com David Bowie's homepage u2.com U2's homepage allmusic.com John Cale alejandroescovedo.com Alejandro Escovedo's homepage wikipedia.org Velvet Underground soundopinions.org John Cale on Sound Opinions centerstagechicago.com Susan Voelz redhotchilipeppers.com Red Hot Chili Peppers' homepage allmusic.com Rick Rubin amazon.com Blood Sugar Sex Magik amazon.com Californication defjam.com Def Jam Records pbs.org About Russell Simmons beastieboys.com The Beastie Boys' homepage rundmc.com Run-D.M.C.'s homepage nin.com Nine Inch Nails's homepage systemofadown.com System of a Down's homepage johnnycash.com Johnny Cash's homepage allmusic.com Early Chili Peppers wikipedia.org Harry Houdini johnfrusciante.com John Frusciante's homepage metacritic.com Stadium Arcadium georgiaencyclopedia.org About Capricorn Records allmanbrothersband.com The Allman Brothers' homepage charliedaniels.com Charlie Daniels Band homepage otisredding.com Otis Redding's homepage soulsvilleusa.com About Stax Records