Saturday, April 29, 2006

All along the watchtower...

Saturday free for all welcomes you!

Nice weather today, a little cool out, but otherwise nice spring weather - i should go clean the car or something, but i just don't want to, so there! I'm at work, and the pre-teen little shits are annoying the crap out of me.

Not much else going on that i didn't cover yesterday, The Habs lost last night, Carolina just played well, no penalty bullshit like Wednesday night, the Habs had plenty of opportunity, and played very well, but the loss of Saku Koivu is definitely affecting their performance on the whole. The single biggest factor is Cam Ward, Carolina's reversal of fortune after replacing Michael Gerber with Cam Ward in goal is no coincidence. Ward has been a tremendous force for Carolina, he shut down every chance Montreal had at levelling the playing field last night, and the Habs really dominated the latter half of the third period, so that's saying something. Maybe if i stop watching they'll start winning again. Justin Williams of Carolina left a very apologetic message on Canadiens captain Saku Koivu's cel phone after the high sticking incident Wednesday, i thought it was a nice gesture on his part. Regardless of my team winning or losing, Friday night's game was the kind of hockey i enjoy watching, heavy on plays, light on bullshit.

Over in entertainment, i finally managed to grab a copy of Led Zeppelin's 2 disc DVD set (and the Page/Plant "No Quarter" disc as a decent bonus!), and man is this stuff amazing. I try to get my Zeppelin groove on at least once a quarter, and i'd been spinning the Zep 4-disc boxed set all week - and coincidentally these discs just sort of landed in my lap. I'll go ahead and say what's been said a million times in the past, Zeppelin are the greatest rock n roll band who have ever lived, and Stairway to Heaven is quite possibly the single greatest rock song ever recorded... so there!

An album review for your pleasure:

Jeff Martin - Exile and the Kingdom

Jeff Martin began his career in the early 90's, and is probably best known as the guitar and voice for Canadian rock trio, The Tea Party. As a unit, the Tea Party never really discovered ciritcal or mainstream acceptance, despite a substantial and fiercely loyal following in Canada and Australia, and in September of 2005 Jeff announced his departure from the band. He then packed up, and hit teh road with his young family and settled in Ireland, where work began on his first solo effort - Exile and the Kingdom.

Musically, Exile and the Kingdom is like a stepchild of early Tea Party material (particularly their first two albums, which were generaly regarded as their best). It's a blend of folk, rock, and worldbeat sounds that may draw some comparisons to Led Zeppelin or later Page & Plant efforts. Where things differ from The Tea Party is in the open feel of the music. Martin is enjoying himself here, he plays fast and loose, both in terms of songwriting and lyrically. While a Tea Party album is typically a pretentious, well polished affair, Martin's first solo outing is freeform, loose, and whimsical. Track by track:

The World is Calling - Very obviously a Tea Party song. It sounds ripped from their "Interzone Mantras" album. It's hard rock bordering on metal, accompanied by a thick string arrangement and driving percussion. The song acts as a gateway really, for those familiar with The Tea Party's later albums, it basically gives you a taste of what has gone before, before the album takes a side road into unfamiliar territory. Lyrically, the song is a hamfisted attack on the policies of the current American president, which may yank some cranks, but not mine, cheese like "There's People crying, there's children Dying" generally don't do anything for me. It's decent stuff as it stands, though not exemplary nor standout, it's essentially a throwaway Tea Party track. 5 out of 10.

Butterfly - If "The World is Calling" is a sign of past times, then this one points the way to the future. Martin's skills as a guitarist really shine through here with some wonderfully warm accustic rythms. The world instruments and hand drums come out to play as well. Lyrically, the song may throw Tea fans for a loop, it's far more folk than rock. 8 out of 10.

Where Do We go From Here - Pretty straight ahead rock song with some strong playing and wonderful percussion. It's probably the most "radio-friendly" song on the album, which means it also probably draws the least amount of attention to itself. It does have an epic-sounding chorus, and lyrically it seems to deal with Jeff's thoughts about much of what happened in the final days of The Tea Party. Some great hooks here, but they're subtle. 7 out of 10.

Daystar - Jeff's tribute to his newborn son. This one has some beautiful guitar work, a classical accoustic riff accompanied by some driving hand drums and a purely folk-rock delivery. Again some cheese seeps into the vocals, but otherwise the song is a very strong effort with an infectious air. 7 out of 10

Lament - Simply an amazing piece of work. The Ireland influence is immediate in this one, opening with some beautiful synth/pipes and a beautifully solemn yet complex accoustic riff. Lyrically the song shines, and musically it continues to build, addign drums, electric guitar, and harmonies. Not only the best song on the album, but one of the very best songs Jeff Martin has ever recorded. 10 out of 10

Angeldust - Another mellow affair, very reminiscent of early Tea Party ballads (Shadows on the Mountainside in particular). Again, Martin provides a wonderfully played accoustic riff accompanied by some hand drumming and world instruments. The song builds a little when it reaches the chorus, but it never really explodes into all out rock and remains a folk affair. A little lyrical cheese again, but nothing detrimental. 8 out of 10

Black Snake Blues - As the title intimates, this one is all out Blues. Dirty, loud, rockin Blues. There's not much to add, it's an awesome piece of work. One of the better songs on the CD 8 out of 10

Stay Inside of Me
- Another prime example of the more folk-oriented direction Martin has headed in. This is the sort of stuff you wouldn't typically here from his old band. Another mellow accoustic song with some world influences and soem solid playing. It isn't exemplary, but it does it's job well. 7 out of 10

The Kingdom - A definite departure for Martin, the Kingdom throws a backing gospel style choir into the mix, and has an almost classical feel. It's purely Martin, but is incomparable to anything else either on this CD or in the Tea Party catalogue. It's a beautifully operatic song, and lyrically it's probably the most personal song on the CD. Fans of The Tea Party will definitely be thrown for a loop with this one. 8 out of 10

Good Times Song - Essentially a free form jam. This one was recorded during a get-together of Jeff and his new badnmates over in the Emerald Isles. Instruments include guitar, spoons, and yes, even a kitchen table. Call it a modern "Bron-Ay-Ur Stomp". It's a novelty, but a good one, and after the academia and angst of The Tea Party, it's nice to know that Martin can smile. 8 out of 10

In all, Martin's first solo effort is a success, not a resounding one, or a classic album like either of the Tea's first two. It's a great first effort that shows off Martin's immeasurable talent with a stringed instrument. Michael Lee (the touring drummer on past Page/Plant outings) has a fantastic drum sound, and while he may not have the enegrry of Tea Party drummer Jeff Burrows, he makes up for it with sheer skill and rythm. Though Exile and the Kingdom lacks some of the polish of a Tea album, particularly where lyrics are concerned, it clearly came together pretty quickly, and it's a breezy listen, a great collection of hook-filled folk rock with some world music overtones that make it an altogether enjoyable experience.

Album score -
8 out of 10

The rundown:
Watching: Wonderful Days / Karas: The Prophecy

Listening to:
Led Zeppelin - Boxed Set / Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome (The Seeger Sessions / Jimmy Page and Robert Plant - Walking into Clarksdale / Oasis - Heathen Chemistry

Reading: The DaVinci code by Dan Brown

Playing: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (xbox360) / Final Fight: Streetwise (ps2)

Eating: Nothing at the moment - freakin starving!

Wishing: I had money.

There's no way... NO WAY... that you could come from my loins. When I get home, I'm gonna punch your momma in the mouth.

"Where there's smoke... There's a Led Zeppelin concert!"


Mitch said...

"Put the evidence in the car."

SteveTP said...

Special edition comin' in may or june 5.1 soundtrack n everything :)

Mitch said...

May 30th, bud.

"You can think about it, but don't do it."

I need to pick up the No Quarter disc (already have the other one). I just wish they hadn't gone with an electric version of "Thank You." Sacrilige!

SteveTP said...

If i could type the Burt Reynolds laugh, that's what you'd be reading ;)

Haven't really noticed yet - just popped the disc in and checked out a few clips in DTS - man it sounds goode! Plant may look a bit long in the tooth, but he's still got it, or he did in 94 anyway - thought truth be told i liked his last solo album a lot.

That Zep set is amazing, Stairway in DTS - mmm mmm.

Mitch said...

You talking about Mighty Rearranger? That is a pretty good disc.

I wish he and Jimmy would do something else. There's some great stuff on Walking Into Clarksdale, and I want more dammit!

SteveTP said...

Yeah, Rearranger would be the one - K-Rock had a little push on it when it was released. They played an amazing PEarl Jam special this evening - album in it's entirety and about 45 minutes of interviews with the whole band. Last night they had Alice Cooper co-hosting "big Hairy Tunes" over the phone - the 80's metal weeknight show they have.

Anothe rPage/Plant album would be amazing - funny story - guess where Jeff Martin is going after he's done touring for Exile and the Kingdom? Right into the Studio with Jimmy Page! Don't know if you've listened to the Tea before or not, but man the guy's vopice is incredible, and the idea of him singing on Page material gives me shivers. (Page is also a HUGE influence on his guitar style). I should send you a few choice Tea and Martin solo cuts ;)

Mitch said...

Nice to see Jimmy finally getting off his lazy ass. I just hope Puffy doesn't show up on the album (I could kill him for what he did to "Kashmir").

I might have to break out Mighty Rearranger. I haven't listened to it in a while. If I throw on a Plant disc, it's usually Fate of Nations. Love me some "29 Palms."

SteveTP said...

Fate of Nations is good stuff, though i usually just stick to Zep when i want a plant fix. Mighty Rearranger and Dreamland were pretty damn good though.

Mitch said...

I hear ya. Physical Graffiti is the perfect cure for the daily blues.