Edited by Michael Goldberg

  Introducing Josh Joplin.

Remastered Love album on the way, plus new research on love of music

Josh Joplin is a singer, songwriter and bandleader; his voice will remind you of Michael Stipe. He fronts the Josh Joplin Group, and their debut album, Useful Music, will be released Jan. 23 on the Artemis label (they also gave us Steve Earle's excellent Transcendental Blues). Joplin, according to his bio, split school at 16 and hit the road to write and sing songs, inspired by Phil Ochs and Minor Threat. I like this lyric from "Phil Ochs": "Our surveys say, this is what they want today/ Our surveys say, the kids all want Sugar Ray/ Phil you can't be killed."... If you've never heard Forever Changes by the '60s L. A. rock band Love, you'll have a chance, come Feb. 23, to dig a remastered version of what is both a period piece and a true classic. The new release will include seven "bonus tracks." A New York Times report on research presented in the latest issue of the journal Science has this to say: The love of music "is not only a universal feature of the human species, found in every society known to anthropology, but is also deeply embedded in multiple structures of the human brain, and is far more ancient than previously suspected." Hey, I coulda told 'em that. How else to account for those cave drawings of Prince's famous symbol? [Thursday, January 11, 2001]

If You Write About Music, Listen Up!

Live album coming from the Mekons

Calling all music writers! The Fourth Annual International Music Writers Poll has arrived. Rock & Rap Confidential and are currently accepting votes for the top 10 albums of Year 2000, along with comments about the past year in music (i.e., what's your take on such topics as Napster, Eminem or whatever made or destroyed the year for you?). Anyone who actually writes about music can vote; in fact, if you write about music, they really want you to vote. If you're reading this, you're online — so go ahead and email your list of the top 10 albums released in 2000 (along with your comments, if you feel like it) to Be sure to let them know your name, your mailing address and your primary writing outlets. And if you know any other folks who write about music, get the word out to them too. Deadline is no later than January 15, 2001. So there's no time to fool around. Got it?... While the Mekons have no plans to release a new studio album this year, bandmembers have been sifting through live recordings to compile a new CD. No word yet on whether it will be out this year or next. The group's last album, Journey to the End of the Night (released on Quarterstick), was one of the musical highlights of 2000. [Wednesday, January 10, 2001]

Portishead To Record In Australia

Trip-hop combo ready to record new album

Portishead are about to begin recording their third studio album in an Australian recording studio, and hope to have it completed before the end of the year, music site reports. It's been more than three years since Portishead, their second studio album. Guitarist Adrian Utley told reporter Rachel Owen that he and singer/lyricist Beth Gibbons were set to fly to Sydney to join Portishead co-producer, co-leader and beatmaster Geoff Barrow, who is already there. The group members took a break from each other after their 1998 world tour, but now are eager to get working on the next album. "Towards the end of touring last time we were all pretty fucked up, and we'd had enough of Portishead," Utley said. "But it's going to be nice to start again. I'm looking forward to working with Geoff [Barrow]. We've done stuff together, but we haven't really sat down and stared at each other for a while. We've got a few ideas, but we haven't got specific in any way. We'll just see what happens." [Tuesday, January 9, 2001]

The Eminem-MTV Connection

Now when did MTV start promoting the controversial rapper?

It would be nice if MTV would come clean regarding Eminem, but it can't. In discussing its plan to air the names of the victims of hate crimes for 17 commercial-free hours this week, MTV Networks programming president Brian Graden told the Associated Press that the upcoming year-long public service campaign against discrimination was prompted in part by the company's recognition of its own role in Eminem's success. From this truthful beginning, Graden seems to slip into fantasy. "Graden said MTV gave Eminem less air time when the nature of his lyrics became apparent and examined the controversy in its news programs," reports the AP. Not exactly. MTV began airing Eminem videos in 1999 when the artist's debut album, The Slim Shady LP, was released. Slim Shady is full of the same kind of hateful lyrics that abound in the Marshall Mathers follow-up. None of which stopped MTV from airing a two-hour Eminem special a day before The Marshall Mathers LP was released, placing the video for "The Real Slim Shady" in high rotation or giving the rapper a prime performance slot during the network's most recent awards show. [Monday, January 8, 2001]

December 2000

Trouble Down On The Farm

Low-power Fm radio station licenses, live Luna album

Jimmy & Doug's — that Internet play attempted earlier this year by record executives Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris — has fired 17 people, according to an report. Here's a statement direct from the Farmclub, explaining why no one should think the firing of 15% of their staff indicates any problems down on the farm: "In one year,, which includes a Web presence, a TV show and a record label, was built from the ground up. A large amount of manpower, particularly on the technology/systems side, was necessary to achieve this and build the infrastructure in such a short period of time. Having now developed one of the most successful new entertainment destinations, we are moving into a different phase of our evolution, which no longer requires the same level of staffing." Anyone actually in the Internet business knows that you never have enough quality tech/systems people, and that the rapid, continuous evolution of the Net makes ongoing upgrades a necessity. ... Some 255 community organizations have qualified for low-power FM radio station licenses, the New York Times reported on Friday (December 22, 2000). However, that's less than half the number of organizations — including schools and churches — that would have qualified if Congress hadn't buckled under pressure from corporate broadcasters, as well as National Public Radio. Congress has imposed "tightened technical standards" that must be met to qualify for a license, reports the Times. We think of it as keeping the sugar daddies happy. Some of the new stations will have, shall we say, interesting approaches to radio. In Sitka, Alaska a parks commissioner plans to "broadcast whale songs live," the Times reports. ... Luna will release a live album February 6, according to a Sonicnet report. Live! will include songs recorded at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. and the Knitting Factory in New York. Luna will begin a U.S. tour at Boston's Middle East on December 30. [Friday, December 22, 2000]

GBV Leader's Howling Wolf Orchestra

R.E.M. cover Beatles, T. Rex in vogue, French chart surprise

Another side project from Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard is out of the hangar. The Howling Wolf Orchestra's Speedtraps for the Bee Kingdom is available off the GBV Web site. In addition to Bob Pollard and his brother Jim, this limited-edition album (500 copies) features drummer Jim MacPherson and guitarist Nate Farley. Songs include: "You Learn Something Everyday," "I'm Dirty," "Where Is Out There?" and "Is It Mostly? (it is mostly)."... R.E.M.'s fan club single this year includes a cover of the Beatles' "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," reports SonicNet. ... In case you haven't checked out the excellent film "Billy Elliot," the soundtrack (which totally suits what you see onscreen) includes a number of T. Rex songs — "Bang A Gong (Get It On)," "Cosmic Dancer," "Ride A White Swan" and "Children of the Revolution" — as well as the Clash's "London Calling" and the Jam's "A Town Called Malice."... Note that for the week ending December 6, 2000 the French top 20 included albums by both Johnny Hallyday and Eminem. Go figure. [Thursday, December 21, 2000]

New Chris Connelly Album On The Way

Offspring suffer 'midlife crisis,' Roebuck 'Pops' Staples dead at 84

Damage Manual vocalist and Ministry member Chris Connelly will see a new album — his first in three years — released on February 6, 2001 by Invisible Records. The album, Blonde Exodus, by Chris Connelly and the Bells, was recorded in Chicago and features guest vocalists and musicians. The album moves from "bitter torch songs through paranoid rock and pastoral travelogues" according to the Invisible Records Web site. .... We got a kick out of Ann Powers' clever review of the Offspring's recent Roseland performance, which was headlined "The Teen-Age Angst of the 35-Year-Old Man." Wrote Powers: "There is a point where the average man's midlife crisis parallels the existential angst of a typical teenage boy. Anger at being misunderstood, a wish to flee home and family, an irresistible attraction to supposedly unsuitable women — these impulses inform the work of both John Updike and Eminem." And, according to Powers, they inform the work of the Offspring too. ... It was a shock, to say the least, to learn that Staple Singers founder Roebuck "Pops" Staples had died Tuesday (December 19, 2000) at the age of 84. Staples developed a distinctive, tremolo-heavy electric guitar style that influenced such guitarists as Robbie Robertson, Ry Cooder, J. J. Cale and Eric Clapton. Staples led a group that got its start singing gospel, but in the '60s helped pioneer socially conscious soul music, scoring hits with such masterpieces as "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself." The Associated Press quoted Staples as once saying about the move from gospel to soul: "We just kept on singing and praying, and we let our music carry the message. When people realized that our music still had the message of love, our audience grew — old people came back, and new people kept coming." [Wednesday, December 20, 2000]

Springsteen's New Song

Houdini's magic shop goes under

Bruce Springsteen debuted a new song, "My City of Ruins," during a benefit concert held Sunday (December 17, 2000) at Asbury Park, New Jersey's Convention Hall, reports. Springsteen began "My City of Ruins" on piano, according to the online fanzine; the song features the refrain, "Come on, rise up." ... Flosso-Hornmann Magic, which billed itself the "Oldest Magic Supply House in America," shut its doors this past September, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The shop, located on 34th Street in Manhattan, was once owned by the great escape artist Harry Houdini, and was certainly the model for Louis Tannen's Magic Shop in Michael Chabon's excellent novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." Apparently, the store will be transformed into a Web site, but somehow I don't think that will be the same. There are no longer many magic shops in America. Like comic book stores and musical instrument stores with the front window crowded with futuristic-looking electric guitars, magic shops were once awe-inspiring places where a kid could spend hours gazing at the merchandise, where you could buy everything from trick decks of cards, magic wands and collapsible top hats to myriad exotic contraptions of deception. Now one of the great ones is gone. C'est la vie.... [Tuesday, December 19, 2000]

Rage Post Songs, Videos

Stephen Malkmus goes solo; Spells write, Dischord celebrates

Details, details. Rage Against the Machine have post 15 songs — some live versions of older songs, some instrumental versions of material off Renegades — in the MP3 format, along with five videos on their site. Videos include versions of "Bulls on Parade" filmed at the Petra Theater in Athens, Greece (last June), and "Know Your Enemy" from the Provinssi Rock Festival in Seinajuki, Finland (also last June). Writes Tom Morello in a message to fans posted in the group's message board: "I have been embroiled in discussions on a daily basis with both Sony and Napster to get Rage fans unbanned. But in the meantime, we want to make clear whose side we are on in this matter. We make music for our fans, and we want to share our creativity and our politics with you. To that end, we have released over 90 minutes of free music and video. Included are 11 instrumental tracks from Renegades which you can feel free to remix, sing over, or send in audition tapes (just kidding). ... Our apologies once again for this Napster business, and while we will continue to joust with the corporate dragons and try to get everyone unbanned, please take all of this free music as a thank you for your patience. The latest way to hack your way onto Napster if you have been kicked off, is to visit this page, , and follow the instructions given."... Former Pavement frontman/writer Stephen Malkmus will have his first solo album, Stephen Malkmus, out Feb. 13. Don't be surprised if the album has some of that familiar Pavement sound. Malkmus told me last year that he had recorded much of crooked rain, crooked rain on his own. The solo album will include such songs as "Black Book," "The Hook," "Trojan Curfew" and "Jenny and the Ess-Dog."... Helium's Mary Timony has been collaborating with Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein on new Spells songs.... Congrats due to the folks at Fugazi's Dischord Records, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary. A box set that will provide an overview of the label — with selections by all the bands that have recorded for Dischord — is due out next spring. [Monday, December 17, 2000]

Solo Sandoval

Breeders regroup, Melody Maker combusts

Dreamy Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval is finally back fronting a new combo, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. Her new 4-song EP, at the doorway again, an English release on Rough Trade, finds her collaborating with former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O'Ciosoig. One song, "Charlotte," features guitar by the British folksinger Bert Jansch... Return of the Breeders? That could be good news if sisters Kim and Kelley Deal follow through on comments they made during an unannounced Breeders performance — the first in six years featuring both sisters — on Tuesday night at Mr. T's Bowl, an L.A. club, according to SonicNet. Producer Steve Albini, who has been working on a Kim Deal solo album, confirmed that he will be producing the new Breeders sessions... So sad that England's Melody Maker, first published in 1926, will cease publication. Weekly circulation figures dropped from a high of 1/4 million to 30,000 copies, according to a BBC Online report. Some of Melody Maker's features will be folded into the NME, which is also owned by Melody Maker publisher IPC. [Friday, December 15, 2000]

Gutarist James Burton Due For Hall Of Fame Induction

Chris Blackwell and Steely Dan make the cut too

In addition to Johnnie Johnson, the piano man who, with Chuck Berry, helped create rock 'n' roll in the mid-'50s, guitarist extraordinaire James Burton will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the "Sideman" category this coming March. Burton added his trademark country-rock riffs to classic records by Elvis, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis, and played on both of Gram Parsons' amazing solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel. Also worth noting is the coming induction of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, the man who brought reggae (including Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals) and African music to America. While Blackwell is known for the hitmakers he discovered, including U2 and Traffic, as well as for releasing some of Tom Waits' best work, I think he should also be applauded for signing both Nick Drake (all the late British singer/songwriter's work was done for Island) and John Martyn, whose Solid Air remains a truly amazing work — 27 years after it was first released. Nice also to see the still-subversive Steely Dan being inducted. [Thursday, December 14, 2000]

Hall of Famer Johnnie Johnson

New albums due from Radiohead, Creeper Lagoon, Spoon

Piano man Johnnie Johnson, who recently filed a lawsuit in which he claims to have co-written over 50 classic rock 'n' roll songs with Chuck Berry, including "Maybellene," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock & Roll Music," will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the "Sideman" category on March 19 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Johnnie Johnson hired Chuck Berry in 1953 to play guitar and sing in his Sir John's Trio. Ultimately, the band became Berry's, and Johnson continued to back Berry for years. It is believed that Berry's distinctive approach to rock 'n' roll rhythm guitar, which influenced generation upon generation of musicians, was based on Johnson's piano style. In his lawsuit, filed in St. Louis Federal District Court, Johnson is seeking both writing credits and royalties.... Radiohead will release Amnesiac, the follow-up to Kid A, next spring, members of the band told a Radio 1 DJ. The songs were recorded during the Kid A sessions, according to SonicNet.. ... Spoon's long-awaited third album, Girls Can Tell, will be released in March, as will Creeper Lagoon's second album. Spoon's second album, A Series of Sneaks, is a masterpiece of power pop-rock, easily equal to the first two Big Star albums. [Wednesday, December 13, 2000]

Rage Covers Album Rocks

Songs by Eric B & Rakim, Dylan, MC5

Just when I'd pretty much given up on tribute albums, along comes Rage Against the Machine's Renegades, in which one of the great rock bands of our time covers songs by the MC5 ("Kick Out the Jams"), Eric B & Rakim ("Microphone Fiend"), Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force ("Renegades of Funk"), Bob Dylan ("Maggie's Farm"), Devo ("Beautiful World") and a bunch more -- and they make every one of the songs their own. In addition to the 14 studio tracks listed on the back cover of the CD, there are two live tracks recorded during the group's performance outside the Democratic National Convention this year: "Kick Out the Jams" and "How I Could Just Kill A Man" with Cypress Hill guesting. Members of the band, along with producer Rick Rubin, talk about the songs at the Rage Web site. Here's guitarist Tom Morello, who explains that when he moved to L. A. in 1986 he had to work a "shitty Job," on "Maggie's Farm": "'s a real anthem for everyone who has suffered in a soul-crushing job with a cruel boss. Sometimes I'd be painting in an office with no ventilation for months at a time with just a cruel, cruel boss and you spend like your 15 minutes of your break just in the restroom just shaking, going, 'I am a man, I am a man.' You know, it's a song for everyone who realizes that they are more than the shitty job they are stuck in. Much like the character, the thing, you know, I had a lot of ideas in my head and it was a shame the way they were making me scrub the floor. So this song is both -- is sort of a personal vindication as well as a great rocking track." [Tuesday, December 12, 2000]

R.E.M. Complete Album

Pumpkins to release archival recordings

R.E.M. have finished recording their next album, according to a post by their manager, Bertis Downs, on their Web site, R.E.M.HQ. "Last night, several sequences were tried out, tossed aside, and rejiggered, and the process will continue for a few more days," Downs wrote in a post dated December 6, 2000. "It is difficult to describe in words the sound of this record, but I'll stick with my original thoughts of 'lush, atmospheric, and melodic.' After repeated listenings I would add things like 'layered' and 'dynamic.' " The group worked on the album in Athens, Ga., and Miami, as well as Vancouver, B.C. and Dublin, Ireland; it will be released in the spring, according to Downs... There will be many more Smashing Pumpkins albums, Billy Corgan told SonicNet's Gil Kaufman. "There's tons of stuff -- we can live posthumously for a long time. We recorded a lot...The band's archives are pretty deep," Corgan said during an interview the night before the Pumpkins' final show. "From a fan point of view, the variations on how the band played the songs live give us a lot of leeway," he said. "It's not like we always played one version of 'Bullet [With Butterfly Wings]' -- we have five different versions of 'Bullet,' seven versions of 'Silverfuck.' The band's sound and the band's attack always changed from year to year, so we can go pretty deep into our live catalog." Corgan plans to release the demos for Gish and 28 additional songs recorded during the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness sessions. The final show, which took place at the Metro in Chicago on Saturday, December 2, may also be released. And when Corgan gets to work on a solo album, he said, it wouldn't sound anything like the Pumpkins. "It will be a completely different deal," he told Kaufman, "a completely different part of my person -- I want to look at my music with different eyes." [Monday, December 11, 2000]

Indie Sound Speaks No Lies

New album showcases Son Ambulance, Bright Eyes

Don't miss Oh Holy Fools — The Music of Son, Ambulance and Bright Eyes<, due out January 22, 2001 on the very cool Saddle Creek label (hey, they put out the Spoon CD single "The Agony of Laffitte"). The album showcases two bands: Son, Ambulance and Bright Eyes. This is a kind of quiet pop music that reminds me a little of the Red House Painters. Get a load of this lyric from Bright Eyes' "Going for the Gold": "I know a girl who cries when she practices violin. Because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie." [Friday, December 10, 2000]

Cohen Brothers' Country Faves

Offbeat directors deliver stunning country soundtrack

The soundtrack to the Cohen brothers' new film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is an amazing 19-song collection of traditional-style country, blues and bluegrass songs mostly written in the '30s. The set includes classic recordings by the Stanley Brothers ("Angel Band") and James Carter & the Prisoners ("Po Lazarus") and lots of brand-new recordings by the likes of Norman Blake ("I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow") and Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch ("I'll Fly Away"). Produced by T-Bone Burnett, this is essential listening for anyone who ever dug country-rock (Uncle Tupelo and Neil Young fans will love it). The New York Times reports that legendary documentary-maker D. A. Pennebaker ("Don't Look Back") filmed last May's concert performance of the movie's music at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium; that film, titled "Down From the Mountain," may be released to art houses, The Times reports. [Thursday, December 9, 2000]

Pumpkins Call It Quits

It's all over now for a great band

On the night of Saturday December 2 the Smashing Pumpkins played their last show, an anticlimactic end to one of the great rock bands. This past May leader Billy Corgan had announced that the group was disbanding. From where I sit, it looks like the system and his own bandmembers beat Billy into submission. With two core members -- drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and bassist D'Arcy -- sidelined at various points by drug abuse, and with the media and the public just not buying into an evolved Pumpkins sound, Corgan clearly felt it just wasn't worth the fight any longer. [Wednesday, December 6, 2000]

Tim Buckley Collection Due

Set to include live 'Song to the Siren'

Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology will be released by Rhino Records on February 27, 2001. The album will include one previously unreleased track, a version of "Song to the Siren" recorded live in 1967 on the set of The Monkees TV show for Episode 58, "Mijacogeo (The Frodis Caper)." The late Tim Buckley is, of course, the famed, influential '60s singer/songwriter (and father to the late Jeff Buckley). Over the course of his short career, Buckley moved from fairly traditional folk music to a highly experimental jazz-rock. The two-CD set features 34 songs, including such classics as "Pleasant Street," "No Man Can Find the War," and "Morning Glory." [Tuesday, December 5, 2000]

Kleenex/ Liliput Retrospective To Be Reissued

Influential compilation from feminist punk combo

Come February 20, 2001 Kill Rock Stars will re-release the complete works of long-gone Zurich post-punk band Kleenex/ Liliput (the band was called Kleenex but changed its name to Liliput in 1980 when Kimberly-Clark came calling). Guitarist Marlene Marder, bassist Klau Schiff (who is the painter Klaudia Schifferle), vocalist Regula Sing and drummer Lislot Ha (AKA Lislot Hafner) formed Kleenex in 1978, just as the first waves of punk (U.S.- and UK-style) were burning out; they went through various personnel changes, released a mess of singles and an album, and were gone by the end of 1983. Greil Marcus has written that Kleenex/ Liliput were "the only female punk band -- maybe the only punk band of any description, save for the Sex Pistols -- to grow more extreme as they continued their quest to find out what it was they wanted to play [They] played with the possibilities of freedom; they practiced freedom as play" The reissue will include new liner notes by both Marder and Marcus. [Monday, December 4, 2000]

Johnnie Johnson Vs. Chuck Berry

Legendary piano man claims he co-wrote rock classics

Pianist and bandleader Johnnie Johnson hired Chuck Berry in 1953 to play guitar and sing in his Sir John's Trio. Did he also co-write hit songs such as "Maybellene," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock & Roll Music" - all part of the birth of rock 'n' roll? It will be up to the legal system to sort this out. Johnson, who claims to have written more than 50 songs with the legendary guitarist, sued Berry on November 29 in St. Louis Federal District Court; he is seeking both writing credits and royalties. While working on the documentary "Hail, Hail Rock 'n' Roll" in 1986, Rolling Stone Keith Richards found Johnson living in poverty and working as a bus driver. Richards has said he believes Johnson had a significant role in creating the Berry classics. I spoke with Johnson during the making of "Hail, Hail Rock 'n' Roll." At the time, he seemed to be reeling from his rediscovery, somewhat amazed that he was back onstage with Berry and the other rock stars who participated in the film. Johnson is a mild-mannered man who was never particularly sophisticated when it came to the music business - it's understandable that it took him over 40 years to finally decide to go to court. [Friday, December 1, 2000]

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