Tony Bennett, For the News Tribune
We're at the point in history, now, where the rock gods are leaving us. Everybody has an expiration date, but the simple truth is that the icons who defined rock music in the '60s are reaching the ends of their journeys. There are more days behind them than ahead of them. Sure, Paul McCartney might live to be 90, but how much more music is there to be made in the time between now and then? How much of it good?
What was going through this writer's head upon placing the latest album ("Masquerade") by The Gentlemen's Anti-Temperance League in the CD player: "Please don't be bluegrass. Please don't be bluegrass." Guess what? It wasn't bluegrass!
A radical change in style can work really well for some people and terribly for others. There's just no way of knowing how it's gonna fly until it's in the air. Radiohead's "Kid A" could've been seen as an inscrutable exercise in abstruseness just as easily as it has come to be known as a prime example of how to deconstruct a band in a riveting, artistic manner. Conversely, Metallica's collaboration with Lou Reed ("Lulu") could've come out as a who-woulda-thunk-it artistic masterpiece instead of the nightmarishly unlistenable mess it was.
It's one of those records that occupies its own space in the history of pop music. It exists, in some way, outside of time, outside of category. And now people can hear it in a whole new way for its 50th anniversary.
Time to once again get into the bite-sized morsels. This week, we're looking into quickies from former Duluthian Mary Bue and MR DR, which also features a former Duluthian by the name of Dave Mehling. Both Bue and Mehling are excellent songwriters who just know how to get down to business and be themselves and not fuss around too much, and they're both doing more of their relatively no-frills stuff on their new EPs.
By now, it's de rigueur for influential albums to get anniversary reissues. It's an easy way to force music fans into buying the same album again. All you need is a couple of bonus tracks to throw on there, and then you just check the mailbox for royalties.
When he was a young man, Ray Davies wrote like an old man. In his early 20s, he had already started penning odes to the way things were as the leader of The Kinks. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains," "The Village Green Preservation Society" — these songs sat next to other ones about Queen Victoria and drinking tea and lost youth. It was as if Ray Davies had been born a wistful, sentimental codger.
It's been less than two years since we last heard from Glen's Neighbor in the form of their debut album, "Behind the Door." That record was one that was clearly indebted to the success of Trampled By Turtles, but it seemed to avoid the pitfalls of emulation, and the record succeeded on its own merits.
Around 1971, when Creedence Clearwater Revival was beginning their descent from one of the bands with the highest batting averages of all time into an ever-bickering permanent disaster and rock 'n' roll cautionary tale, John Fogerty decided to give up his mantle as the band's sole songwriter and invited (read: demanded) Doug Clifford and Stu Cook (his brother, Tom, had already quit by then) to share the workload of generating original material and singing it. The result? The final CCR album "Mardi Gras," widely regarded as one of the worst albums ever made by a once-great band.