Friday "On Shuffle" - Random Musings On The Rock Week That Was: 3/2/12

Friday "On Shuffle" - Random Musings On The Rock Week That Was: 3/2/12
Photo by Barry Brecheisen

Trying a new segment this week and one that I hope will become a weekly feature... In this space, I'll attempt to write in slightly shorter fashion about more timely topics that I wouldn't ordinarily get to and I hope to create a bit of a dialogue with you in the process (so feel free to chime in in the "comments" section and tell me that I'm an idiot in regards to any topic you may happen to disagree).  This week, random thoughts on the new Van Halen album and last week's show at the United Center, as well as musings on Lenny Kravitz, Blues Traveler, Pitchfork and the passing of Davy Jones. 

Lenny Kravitz at the Daytona 500... I caught Lenny Kravitz during the pre-race festivities last Sunday for a Daytona 500 NASCAR race that was ultimately moved to Monday night due to rain.  Amongst others, Kravitz performed a song called "Stand" from his most recent release Black and White America.  People commenting on the YouTube video seem to think he may have been lip synching... but that's not even my problem.  My problem is more the fact that the song, to my ears at least, sounds a lot like Three Dog Night's 1973 hit "Shambala."  As far as I can tell, the sole writing credit went to Kravitz... Interesting.  I realize the album has been out since August but this was the first time that I heard the song.

Compare the two tracks... Click HERE for Kravitz (fast forward to 3:17 for "Stand") and HERE for Three Dog Night and make your own decision.  Feel free to chime in in the "comments" section below...

Blues Traveler at 25... Read this week that Blues Traveler is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary... by covering a Sublime song.  I feel old.  Very, very old.

The new Van Halen album... I've finally listened to the new Van Halen album A Different Kind of Truth enough that I feel comfortable commenting on it.  I really, really wanted to like this album.  Then "Tattoo" came out and I was sure I was going to hate it.
Van Halen Live in Chicago at the United Center 2/24/12 (Photo By Barry Brecheisen)

But this is a strange album.  A lot of the tracks were reworked from 1976 demos.  "She's the Woman" is one of them and while it sounds a lot like "Mean Street," it's still a great song.  Not just great compared to the rest of the new album but actually great.  Great as in it stands up to the rest of Van Halen's substantial DLR era catalog.

But the actual new material is awful.  The aforementioned "Tattoo" is a great example of why.  It's like the band felt they needed to sound contemporary.  But nobody wants that.  Roth's vocals are so processed that they don't even sound real and the production is so glossy it's scary.  Innovation is great when it happens naturally.  But this feels forced.  Having seen Van Halen live last week at the United Center, I now understand why the band felt it necessary to employ some studio trickery to improve Roth's vocals... but they went too far.

The lesson here?  Never listen to your label.  I find it hard to believe the band actually thinks this finished product sounds good.

If you do feel it necessary to pick up the album, get the deluxe version with the bonus DVD.  On it are acoustic renditions of several VH songs old and new and it's clear that David Lee Roth is struggling to pull it off.  But it by no means sounds bad and it's actually kind of endearing to watch the frontman try hard to accomplish what once appeared to come as easy to him as it ever did to any rock frontman.  Wish I could say the same for the whole album.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012... Parts of the 2012 Pitchfork lineup were officially released this week.  Looks like Vampire Weekend, Feist and more will headline.  Check out the full lineup HERE.  Tickets go on sale Friday, March 9th.  The three day festival returns to Union Park on the city's west side July 13th - 15th.

Davy Jones... I grew up as a big Monkees fan.  Watched their television show every afternoon when I got home  from school on channel 50.  I didn't get into the Beatles until I was in my twenties.  So it saddens me a bit to see Davy Jones' passing this week at only sixty-six years of age to a heart attack.  I'm only 32 years old but The Monkees' music reminds me of being a kid and a bit more carefree time.  Richard Marx tells a great story about meeting Davy in 1968 and again about three years ago HERE.  Sounds like he was a class act.  Rest in peace, Davy.

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    Jim Ryan

    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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