Beatles Ukulele Tribute @ Brooklyn Bowl

The Beatles hold a big place in the hearts of many. Also in the wallets of many, but that’s another post. Its probably safe to say that their music has been adapted into every style imaginable. What about Rap you say? Grey album. Deal with it. Moving on. As the widest reaching pop band in history, their songs translate well. You can play a Beatles song on any instrument, from Bazouki to Oboe, and its going to sound pleasing. So when my friend Mika mentioned there was a Beatles Ukulele tribute, you know I was down.

The Uke also holds a place in my heart. So simple, yet so effective. If I could record an entire album of Henry Mancini standards on ukulele featuring Biz Markee on Vocals, I’d do it in a second (if Biz would only return my calls). There was also a brief moment where Mika and I had a band called Mikatini and The Shakers, featuring duel Ukulele and hand percussion/pedal steel guitar. So on a Sunday night, we headed to Brooklyn Bowl, in the heart of Williamsburg, ready to be entertained with some ironic interpretations of British classics, on Hawaii’s most adorable 4 string instrument. We certainly got more than we bargained for.

Now, let me just say, if our names were not on the bowling wait list, and had that list not been very long, we would have been out of there much sooner. There were so many problems, I don’t even know where to start. First off….and this may be a confusing one….LACK OF UKULELE. I know, I know. Its right in the title of the event! But seriously! What I walked in to find, seemed like a cover band of local dads, sloppily rocking out to some Beatles covers, poorly rehearsed, with one guy who looked like an overweight Sean Lennon on Uke in the back corner of the stage, barely amplified. You could not even hear it. After 3 false starts of “The Long and Winding Road” I was sufficiently insulted, and just gave up overall. Eventually they got through the tune, but by then, the magic was gone.

Notice the lack of ukulele presence
Notice the lack of ukulele presence

One other consistently annoying factor in most Brooklyn events, is an irritating MC. Where do they find these people? Its always like some less funny, more sarcastic Janeane Garofalo type, who always then sings a song with the band, and this song, is always not good. This particular host kept reminding the crowd she went to art school. What other than “well that explains it!” are you supposed to say in response to that? Don’t they know some jovial big dude they can give a couple beers to and have them introduce bands? I am 100% sure that would have been better than this chosen MC.

Later on, after a short break, the music did get slightly better. Hockey themed band “Zamboni” took the stage and performed a competent version of “And Your Bird Can Sing” which was like a breath of Hockey Flavored Fresh Air. One of the dudes from Guster played a forgettable song, then a crowd of the most stereotypical hipsters you or your mom has ever seen, tore through some shit I can’t remember. It was that good. Had I not been bowling at the time, I would have thrown something at them, stole their parents money out of their wallets, and left.

Luckily this was right behind the stage
Luckily this was right behind the stage

Now, the point i’m trying to get across here has nothing to do with The Beatles, or any of the bands which performed this evening. Well, maybe with the Beatles a bit. The point is this. If you advertise a “ukulele tribute to the Beatles” you should probably focus a little more on the actual ukulele. Thats like having a Garlic Festival and just putting a little garlic powder on top of each dish as an afterthought. We were certainly duped. Think of the potential for awesomeness this event had. Imagine 3 ukulele players on stage, baritone, tenor, and soprano (all types of uke) playing “She Loves You Yea Yea Yea” dressed in the Sgt Peppers uniforms, doing some great vocal harmony. How great would that be?! “8 Days A Week” was practically written to be strummed on the uke.

One day, we’ll have our Beatles Vs Stones debate. I believe its obvious that I am a Stones guy, but I will say that one main advantage Los Fabulosos Cuatros have, is that you cant really translate “Satisfaction” to the ukulele.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings @ Starland Ballroom

Let me just come right out and say it, if you want to see a real band, go see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  Yes, theoretically all bands are real bands, but thats kind of like when the Cheez-Its box says “Now With More Real Cheese Flavor!”  Lets examine some things that may get in the way.  Traditionally, there was the manufactured pop band.  This, I do not find so offensive, no one is really being tricked here.  There will always be bands of young people created by old white men for the purpose of making money.  The Monkey’s never played their own instruments, hundreds of bubblegum bands of that era were just there for the appearance, studio players actually recorded the albums.  Jimmy Page notoriously played several solos on Kinks albums (this was even confirmed by Page in the It Might Get Loud film)  But still, these parts are all being played by real musicians on real instruments.  Somewhere in there, someone has some talent, and has possibly even practiced their instrument.  One paradoxical example of this…is that The Dap Kings are the band on Amy Winehouse’s record, and without them, there is no way that album would have been as successful.

In recent years though, this has changed dramatically in a most bizarre way.  The Auto Tune phenomenon and various other studio trickery have changed the game for the worse.  I’m tempted not to say “for good”  because who knows, there could be a backlash, I’m certainly hoping for one.  I can’t even really get into this here, it will just upset me too much, and I’m not ready to let my day go to hell like that.  Lets just briefly say that Pro Tools, the most widely used recording platform, now advertises that each track now comes with “Elastic Time”.  What Elastic Time does, is time correct actual audio to a preset grid.  What this means, is that a player such as a drummer no longer needs to play in time, the most detailed of samples can be moved around to give the auditory appearance of playing in time.  This one just hurts.  Pitch correction, sure, we all knew that was coming.  But time correction on audio?  Come on!  Is there no motivation for someone to actually learn an instrument anymore? Well, seeing a band like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings I feel could change that.

This group has been around for a while, surrounded by some strange mythology.  From what I understand, bass player Gabriel Roth created Daptone Records, and released several “Reissue” 45 vinyl albums, which were not reissues of old soul recordings at all, but certainly sounded like it.  He believed in recording the old fashioned way, using no computers or trickery of any kind, all real musicians playing real notes.  Everything is recorded on an 8 track reel to reel tape machine, using minimal miking and overdubs.  What comes through is the real thing.  In many cases, these recordings are indistinguishable from the albums they are imitating, both in sound quality and musicianship.  I have heard nothing but stellar reviews of this band, so my expectations were quite high, which is always a dangerous thing.  Last week, my friend Jeff had invited me to check them out at “Southern NJ’s Finest Weird Mid Size Venue”- The Starland Ballroom…how could I pass that up?  So on the shittiest of Saturday nights, we braved the slushy rain/snow/wind combo, and headed south.

The Starland is an odd little place.  Its literally in the middle of nowhere, in Sayerville NJ.  I believe it was some type of dance club until the early 2000’s, when it seemed to take over for the old Birch Hill, as the Pop Punk/ Washed Up 80’s Band venue of NJ.  My old Ska band played there on the “Ska Is Dead” tour, which from what I remember was a great show.  The night before The Dap Kings, none other than Insane Clown Posse occupied the venue, and there were advertisements for Sebastian Bach as well.  But randomly, I saw Wilco there a few years back, and also The Black Crowes, so you really never know whats going to happen.

We arrived after the opening band to a medium filled house, which was kind of nice.  The crowd seemed laid back, no irritating hipsters to speak of, I would say the majority were 25 and older.  The Dap Kings took the stage in traditional Soul Revue style, the band coming out before the vocalist and doing a few instrumental tunes.  Everyone was clad in suits and ties, minimalist coordinated dance moves, great sounds from the instruments.  The guitar player acted as “Hype Man”  giving quite a rap at the beginning of the show, somewhat put on, but still interesting.  It felt as though the band was a little bit bored, not so much tearing it up, but I’m going to assume this is their style as a backup band- leaving all the glory for the front person.

Sharon Jones, gettin funky with some kid from the audience
Sharon Jones, gettin funky with some kid from the audience

Thats where Sharon Jones comes in.  There are no adequate words to describe this woman.  Shes fucking crazy.  She is 100% The Real Deal.  Her voice was flawless, and had enough soul to make Casper The Friendly Ghost come back to life and do the moonwalk.  Her stage presence was like a firecracker, she did not stop moving the entire night, dancing like a madwoman, simply lighting up the stage.  The real question is, where the hell was she for the majority of her life, and why is she not hailed worldwide as the 2nd coming of James Brown?  I heard an interview on NPR saying she was a Rikers Island Prison Guard for several years, and while this could be some made up story, she seemed pretty convincing, discussing the everyday details of the job.  She looks maybe in her late 40’s-early 50’s, and as you may have guessed from the previous sentences, is one of the greatest performers I have ever seen.  My other question is, how does she remain a “large” woman?  Seriously man, shes moving non stop, she must burn hundreds of calories every show, I just don’t get it.

Anyway, In addition to the stage presence of Jones, the backing band is just plain fantastic.  I would say, hands down, it was the greatest horn section I have ever seen.  The lines were so tight and so clear, it honestly reminded me of my favorite James Brown records.  The Baritone sax was perfect, punctuating bass lines with a little bit of growl.  The Trumpet was hitting high notes with ease, it was some Dizzy Gillespie shit.  The Tenor sax played some Maceo style solos, it was all there.   One of the most puzzling parts of the entire evening was their drummer, Homer Steinweiss (who also maintains a food blog)  On record his grooves are serious and straight ahead, though live, his performance seemed somewhat underwhelming.  Also, as Jeff pointed out, he was playing the bass drum with his left foot, using a double pedal, but the drum was in its normal position on the right.  How to explain this?  I have no idea.  There was technically nothing wrong with his playing, the feel was still there, it just didn’t really make me want to say “Hell Yea!”.  The bass playing was superb, the lines moved around, but never once got in the way.  Same thing for the guitars ( of which there were 2)  Their lines intertwined perfectly, they kept their solos minimal.   Overall, this is truly a band who knows how to support a front person.  Not one note was out of place, and nothing distracted from the vocal (though even if they tried, I very much doubt they could overshadow Jones.  Metallica could be up there and she would still stand out)

One Hilarious moment was when Jones brought up a young man from the audience, and danced, shall we say,  “All Up Ons”  It was quite entertaining.  But overall, the show was great.  This is a band like none other out there today.  It reassured me that serious music is still being made by serious musicians.  I don’t think one guitar effect was used all night, not even distortion.  Get out there and check it out, then go listen to The Jonas Brothers.  Tell me which one you prefer afterward.

Phish @ Madison Square Garden 12/3/09

Once every few years, its nice to revisit childhood. To some this may be tossing around the old football, watching an old movie, wearing your old Halloween costume….for me, it’s seeing Phish. My parents moved recently, and while cleaning out the house, I found my many phish ticket stubs from back in the day. It brought be back to a simpler time, in the early days of the internet. All mail order for tickets was done by standard mail! (now i believe its called ‘lottery’) You had to fill out index cards for each show! And recordings of shows were mailed around the country on cassette! UPHILL BOTH WAYS! Man, I feel old.

My interest in the band has certainly decreased over the years, and I’ve tried to examine why. In the high school years, I thought of these 4 musicians as the greatest of their respective instruments. I could analyze musical passages for weeks on end, and I was so incredibly excited for every solo. Maybe its my lack of interest in soloing or disinterest in any song over 6 minutes these days…but something has certainly changed. Phish is like a moment in time, best left alone. They were certainly some good days, but the band is definitely on the down slope of their career. Yes, its true. Once a band takes several, several year breaks, the singer gets arrested, and they come back on tour playing ‘the hits’ that signifies “Late Period” for that band.

The last time I ventured to Madison Square Garden was Wilco and The Flaming Lips on New Years Eve 04-05. We’re not going to talk about that evening, wilco is not meant for an arena. Before that, I believe the only band I had seen there was Phish, numbering somewhere in the mid 7-8’s. So it holds very specific nostalgia for a certain time in the late 90’s. Very few bands I feel are meant for a venue such as this. Led Zeppelin? Sure. The Stones? Probably not. Andrew WK? Of course. Phish?…..Yes. They’ve played in arenas for the last 15 years, they’re used to it. Their sound is more consistent than any band I have heard, each instrument is always audible. Last night was no exception.

The Arena Before The Show
The Arena Before The Show

This was the 2nd show of their MSG run, I did not attend the first night, but was deeply offended that they played Peaches En Regalia. Much to my dismay, they did not re-cover all of Exile on Main St ( which was done this past halloween.) They did cover Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and Talking Heads “Cities” which were both enjoyable, but no real fireworks. Musically, the show was in between- the band was tighter than their disasterous comeback several years ago at MSG, but not as free flowing and on the edge as the 98 Island Tour. It was nice to see some old friends, not have to wait for your parents pick you up, and be at a venue mere blocks from work.

But it got me thinking about the darker side of the Phish World. For a band so associated with all things joyus and hippy-ish, theres a lot of dark shit going around. Maybe it was always this way, but the drug culture seems to be on the rise in the actual venues. Sure, sketchy white rastas would always sell weed or acid, maybe some ecstacy in the parking lots, those are the hippy drugs, thats basically like a normal person shopping at Whole Foods. But at the Fenway Park show last summer, I certainly saw several kids, not more than 20 yrs old, doing coke off of their seats. That really just turned me off to the show experience. Come on dudes, just have a beer or something.

At most phish shows, this will be your view
At most phish shows, this will be your view

For someone like Trey Anastasio, I really wonder what life is like these days. A few years ago, he was arrested for a DUI in upstate NY, and Heroin was found in his car. This prompted all sorts of speculation about the last few years of the band, much of it I agree with. The songs were sloppy, the energy seemed to be gone, the fun felt kind of sucked out. As far fetched as it is, I can understand the pressure he felt at the time. First off, he’s basically the millionaire CEO of a very large and far reaching company. Phish may be a party time rock and roll band…but they have employees with health insurance, whose livlihood depends on this band touring. After the financial aspect…the emotional attachment from these hippies is CRAZY. Sure, it won’t be life or death if these kids have to go out and get a real job, or a couple ibankers dont have something to do for a summer road trip…but for the rest of his life there will be speculation about reunions, insane critique of his catalog, and sharp criticism of any show he plays which is less than stellar (see above paragraphs) Its basically- Tour for the rest of your life, or fire an entire company and be disliked by millions of fans all over the world. The same thing happened with Jerry Garcia, and we all know how that ended up.

Heroin seems like some dark shit. It doesnt make you think of rainbows and teddy bears. I think of Motley Crüe passing out on stage. Slash pissing him self and passing out in an elevator doorway, the door opening and closing on his head. The movie Basketball Diaries. Its kind of the antithesis of everything Phish seems to stand for. We’d like to think of the 4 members of phish as the wholesome friend you have, who sometimes smokes some weed, drinks micro brews, but doesn’t really fuck up his life. But this dark side is always there right beneath the surface. While we were enjoying our childhood, relaxing on the lawn and hearing some spaced out jams in the summertime….was Trey all strung out, waiting to shoot up or some shit? I’m puzzled by this. Someone supposedly wrote a book about the band recently, which included discussion on this, but its realease was apparently delayed. If he OD’d how would that affect his legacy? I somehow feel it would end up much darker than the Grateful Dead saga. There was 6-ish people in that band, their style was much more song oriented, much more Americana. If one guy goes…the others could pretty much carry on in a similar style. In a 4 person situation, where there is only 1 of each instrument, no one is really replaceable. If Trey pulled a Garcia, I can’t help but think there would be more bitterness towards the thought.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Here are my thoughts in conclusion about their live performance. They’ve been repeating several songs from night to night, which is in my opinion not kosher for this band. If you’re a pop oriented outfit, fine, that’s what people want to hear. You’re a fucking jam band, act like it. Trey looks happier now than in the last few years pre-breakup 1.5. I guess it’s a – you don’t know what you had until its gone – type of thing. His solo career never really caught on, everyone only wanted to hear him play phish songs no matter how many symphonic pieces he wrote, and he’s certainly not a singer/songwriter. This band is carrying quite a legacy, and only now are they playing like it. They’re playing like a band who know’s their reputation has been tarnished. They’re fighting hard to get it back, and I’m not sure how its working out. They’re technically proficient, but the risk taking seems to be gone from the music. Where as in the late 90’s they were not afraid to make a mistake (the risk/reward was far greater) Now they seem to be afraid to make a mistake for fear of looking like they’re out of practice.

Phish 3

There’s Nothing Wrong With Norah Jones

Lets talk about Norah Jones.  There are lots of opinions floating around out there about Miss Jones.  Yes, she’s easy to dislike.  Probably because your mom owns Come Away With Me, and you’ve straight up gotten sick of it.  She’s easy to dismiss as elevator jazz, watered down pop, whatever.  But I am here to fight you on this.  And I will do so to the death.  Well, maybe not to the death, but at least until we both get thrown out of whatever venue we are in at the time.

I did not like Come Away With Me.  I don’t know, I just didn’t get it.  And also some family members played it constantly on repeat, which put it out of the question.  In college, while working for the school’s radio station i got a copy of Feels Like Home, and again, I just didn’t get it.  I don’t know, it didn’t really connect with me.  Sure, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of The Band played on a track, but i was not blown away.  This relationship continued for a while.  I tried to keep an open mind, I didn’t actively dislike her, maybe she just seemed like a nice person, I don’t know.  It changed definitively one night when I accidentally saw her perform.

Ryan “I’m Most Likely Completely Out Of My Mind But Have Flashes Of Genius” Adams was doing 3 nights at Town Hall, and I chose the 2nd.  For good old Ry’, this was not the night to attend.  He wore platform moon boots, had a little pony tail on the top of his head, and played strictly recent material.  The surprise of the evening was an unannounced band called The Little Willies.  This group consists of a few New York songwriters, playing old country tunes, notably Willie Nelson songs.  Leading the group was none other than Miss Jones.  I maintained an open mind, thinking maybe things would change…they certainly did.

To say her voice was like an angel coming down and cooking you dinner while giving you a back massage would be putting it lightly. I doubt there has ever been a more beautiful voice on earth.  Town Hall is renown for its beautiful acoustics, you could hear her actual voice, rather than simply the PA recreating the sound, so there was no sonic trickery going on.  As we know, I love for an opening band to surpass the headliner, and this was one such case.  I was hooked from here on out.  This was intensified after I learned the track “The Long Way Home”  on her Feels Like Home record was written and suggested to her by none other than Tom Waits.  They don’t sell cred like that at Wall-Mart.

Again though, her Not Too Late album just didn’t connect with me.  There was a definite Waits inspired track, “Sinkin’ Soon” but it was no “Long Way Home”.  Last year I heard of another group called Puss N Boots, playing the Mercury Lounge, opening for Mikael Jorgenson of Wilco.  This group was just a trio of girls, 2 guitars and a Bass, featuring Norah, Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper (who played bass with Crazy Ry Adams.)  So, i figured, why not.  Maybe Town Hall was just all acoustics, and nothing to back it up.  Well, I was proven wrong dear Norah.  They played a few country group vocal covers to start, Jones on electric guitar, not too exciting.  As soon as they broke into “Cry Cry Cry” by Johnny cash, and she took a lead vocal, it was apparent that the business was serious.  If she tried out for American Idol, she would get through the thousands of rounds and win hands down.  (god, I’m sorry for that Idol reference, but its just the truth)  They then covered “Jesus Etc” by Wilco, and my heart was officially won.

Norah Jones at the Mercury Lounge
Norah Jones at the Mercury Lounge

Anyhoo, some word was floating round the ol interwebs about the new Norah Jones album being inspired by Mule Variations- Tom Waits epic masterpiece from the late 90’s.  Now, these are serious accusations being thrown around.  She hired the same engineer and producer, a cast of the same musicians (including my 2 favorite guitar players, ironically mentioned in the last post, Marc Ribot and Smokey Hormel)  In addition to studio ace drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Air) to even out the crew.  Now Norah, you’re just playing with my emotions.  The real key is….how does it sound?  Well, I just watched this clip from Letterman, thats none other than Smokey Hormel on guitar, and correct me if I’m wrong, but is that Joey Waronker on drums?

Its got some indie sounds happening.  Less pop, more drive, so far….I think our ‘In Person Only’ relationship may be on its way out?  I’m going to buy the album tonight when I get home, and we will continue this discussion further.

Whole Lotta AC/DC: Highway To Hell Vs Back In Black

What we’re going to discuss here today may offend some of you.  Hell, it may offend all of you.   But I’m not here to worry about how your values are challenged by unconventional statements.  No, I’m here to listen to things, and write about them.  So lets get right into it.

About 2 years ago i had an auditory awakening.  For the majority of my life, I was aware of AC/DC.  Anyone familiar with rock music most likely is as well.  I would go as far as saying I was a fan.  But it stopped there.  We had a good working relationship.  When we passed each other in the halls, we would say hello, and perhaps even discuss the weekend, but we did not eat lunch together.  As a young guitar player, I learned Back In Black, and appreciated it as one of the great riffs of all time, yet it did not truly connect with my soul.  The band was just a casual fling, some I could live without.  Until one night in the Mediterranean.  (the music just went dramatic in the underscore)

In Greece, they love rock and roll.  This is just a general statement, I don’t really know if its true.  I didn’t hear too much music while there except while in one particular bar.  The group I traveled with had a local scary Greek woman taking us around.  She assumed we just wanted to hear Rock music in some American type bar, which was false.  We were after some psycho Bazouki, some Lute jams, some Pan flute explosions….but we did not find such things.  The bar we landed in seemed like something in Tribecca, a little bit forced lo fi.  We had played earlier in the evening and were significantly tired, and I was trying to drink a significant amount, hoping to wake up- which was not helping.  My eyelids were on the way down, it was a losing battle.  There is a picture of me at this precise moment, the 3 guys in the group all look like we’re about to die, the 4 girls look excited to be alive and are wide awake.

Just before my view on AC/DC permanently changed.
Just before my view on AC/DC permanently changed.

Just as I thought I had been defeated, the song changed.  I don’t know what it was before, I’m going to say Whitesnake.  But as the instantly recognizable guitar sound emanated from the speakers, everything was suddenly ok.  We barrelled on into the night, into the wee hours.  The song was none other than “Whole Lotta Rosie”  of the Let There Be Rock album, with the original vocalist Bon Scott.   I was not aware before this event, but this is without a doubt, the finest AC/DC song ever recorded.  I will fight you to the death on this one.  “You can keep You Shook Me All Night Long”.   As the once great, since fallen, blogger Jason Mulgrew wrote  (I’m paraphrasing here)   “I put this song on, and instantly impregnated 3 women within my zip code”  The energy of the song is unstoppable.  The tempo isn’t even that fast, I’m gonna say maybe around 132bpm.  But in this mid tempo drive, it maintains a confidence that a faster song just doesn’t have.  Bon Scott and Angus Young just don’t need to rush through anything, they’ve got time.  Time to talk about their love of big women (hence, there is in fact a whole-lot of Rosie).  He begins the song with a spoken intro, letting you know whats going to happen.  You will be told a story about a woman he knows, not exactly pretty, not exactly small.  But you better be prepared to rock out, because the contrast of the heavy guitars to Bon’s voice clue you in to whats about to happen.  Then there’s an odd tempo shift, he yells “YOU CAN SAY SHE GOT IT ALLLLLLLLL”, and your tray table better be up.

I believe thats Rosie on the stage
I believe thats Rosie on the stage
Angus, during this very solo.
Angus, during this very solo.

The verse is just straight up swagger, there is not a drum fill in sight, the bass is on the 8th note groove that AC/DC is famous for, the guitars just chug along.   The chorus is short and to the point, “Shes A Whole Lotta Woman, A Whole Lotta Woman, A Whole Lotta Rosie”   Then a few chord changes, and BAM!  We’re in Solo world.  There are in fact 2 guitar solos in this song.  Now, I’m not a fan of the guitar solo.  Unless you’re Marc Ribot or Smokey Hormel, I really don’t want to hear you wank out on some tired ass blues lick.  But in this case, something else has arisen.  Angus just pulls out pure emotion.  He’s writhing around the stage, gyrating uncontrolably, doing his signature kick step move, its all in there.  It doesnt make sense, hes just jamming in as many notes as he can, ending with a fantastic descending whole note section….but its just fucking perfect.  After hearing this song, I am ready to destroy not only the day, but the week.  I am ready to eat a cheesesteak so large it negates its own very existance.  But lo my dear reader, that is not what we’re here to discuss today.  We’re here to discuss Brian Johnson, and his contribution to the AC/DC catalog Vs Bon Scott.  Get your hemet on.

I’m gonna come right out and say it.  Overall Brian Johnson has contributed more to the catalog.  Back in Black is better than Highway To Hell.  Fight me on it if you want, but you will not win.  The sound overall of Back In Black is amazing. Its spacious, yet it slams you in the face with a Dodge Ram filled with football players.  There are no cheesey effects.  Listen to those drums on Back In Black (the song), they’re amazing.  The album just feels more impactful.  Maybe because it was partially recorded and mixed at Electric Lady studios in NY, whereas Highway To Hell was partially recoded and mixed in London.  And everyone knows if you want to do some serious shit, you gotta come to ‘Merica to mix.

Lets talk about songs.   Highway to hell certainly has some great jams.  “Highway To Hell” itself, wonderful.  Night Prowler?  Frikkin Fantastic and suspenseful.  “If You Want Blood”?  Serious as well, although it doesn’t get me as excited as “Whole Lotta Rosie”.  But beyond that, and I really hate to say it, The rest feels like filler.  Yes, I know this is AC/DC, and they’re clearly working within a set format, but some songs are just better than others.   Now lets switch over to Back In Black.  “Hells Bells”  “Shoot To Thrill”  “You Shook Me All Night Long”  “Back In Black”  “Have A Drink On Me”  “Rock and Roll Aint Noise Pollution” Those are all just plain amazing.  Noise Pollution almost approaches Rosie territory.  It makes you want to just do a high kick, throw a glass against a wall, and go on about your business.  These songs alone spread out over several albums would have made a lesser band rock gods in their own right.  But on ONE fucking album?  Are you kidding me?  Thats Beatles Territory.  Yes, they’re songs about much more primitave subjects, but that does not make them any less important. These choruses will be remembered througout history.  The guitar solos launched a generation of lesser players.

The song “Highway To Hell” may be fantastic, but the band seemed to take a turn with “Back In Black” as an album.  Dare I say, they became more melodic?  I’m not suggesting an operatic version of these songs any time soon, but Johnson certainly brought more melody to the verses than Scott.  Scott may be the most badass frontman of all time, I would not question his ability to stab or punch out anyone at any time, but Johnson has done more with the hoarse voice scream than anyone will ever do.  Chris Cornell is just a pale immitation of him.  Its the perfect mix of scream and sing.  Go ahead, listen to the 2 albums back to back. See which one makes you want to go out and conquer the world.  Then, once you’ve made the decision that Back In Black is superior as a complete piece of music, go listen to “Whole Lotta Rosie”.

While sitting in this bar during my religious experience, I cautiously turned to my friend Blasco, a man of great respect musically, and said “Man, sometimes, theres nothing wrong with a little AC/DC”.  He immediately resonded “There is NEVER anything wrong with AC/DC”