Monday, November 16, 2009

Paul McCartney - Good Evening New York City CD/DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

When the Beatles played Shea Stadium in 1965, it revolutionized the concert industry. Rock bands didn’t play baseball stadiums and though you could barely hear the band over the drone of screaming girls, it set the tone for bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.

Now 44 years later, Shea Stadium is gone, but the Mets have a new stadium and who better than Paul McCartney to christen its concert stage? Captured over three nights at Citi Field in 2009, Good Evening New York City is an excellent document of these historic shows.

Containing two CDs and one DVD, Good Evening New York City offers a healthy cross-section of McCartney classics old and new — from “I Saw Her Standing There” with New York-native Billy Joel guesting on vocals and piano to “Sing the Changes” from McCartney’s critically acclaimed Fireman album, Electric Arguments — the latter featuring images of Barack Obama on the video screen during the performance.

As has been the case in recent tours, Paul pays tribute to both John Lennon and George Harrison by performing “Here Today,” the song he wrote after Lennon’s passing and “Something” for George, featuring Paul on ukulele for the first part of the song. McCartney gets visibly choked up during “Here Today” and his voice cracks, only adding to the song’s poignancy.

McCartney has also taken to performing Lennon-written songs in recent years with “Day Tripper” and “A Day In The Life/Give Peace a Chance” getting the nod here. With Lennon and Harrison gone, McCartney has effectively become the curator of the Beatles legacy.

“I’m Down” was added to the set list as a nod to the Shea Stadium show from 1965. While the CD features the unedited audio of the performance, the DVD has a mash-up of both footage and audio with the Beatles’ performance and McCartney’s. It’s a clever touch and very well done.

It’s not all hits either. Obscure gems such as “Mrs. Vanderbilt” from Band on the Run and “Calico Skies” from 1997’s Flaming Pie sit nicely in between the better known “Blackbird” and “Eleanor Rigby.” In addition, the limited number of shows McCartney does these days has done wonders for his voice, as it is the strongest it has been in years.

Fans have been clamoring for a McCartney DVD release that offers a straight performance without interruptions, interviews, cuts to different shows and the like. Good Evening New York City delivers in this regard, focusing on the New York show, without too much audience hamming or rapid-fire MTV-style editing. In a clever touch, many in the crowd were handed handheld flip cameras to film whatever they wanted. Some of that footage is included in the DVD, which has a 5.1 DTS Surround Sound mix as well as standard stereo.

For fans of Paul McCartney, Wings and The Beatles, Good Evening New York City offers something for everyone. These are timeless songs, played by an energized McCartney with a crack band. What’s not to like?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chickenfoot - Deluxe Limited Edition CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

It’s been a great first year for the super group Chickenfoot. With a critically acclaimed album and tour and a Gold Certified record, it’s been as good a start as former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani could have asked for.

Now the band is giving something back to the fans by releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of their CD exclusively through Best Buy. The CD contains the original album, as well as the previously only available through iTunes and vinyl bonus track “Bitten by the Wolf” — a heavy blues track that would be at home on the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin III with its distorted vocals and slide guitar.

In addition to the CD is an hour-long DVD filled with studio footage, interviews, live clips and the full-length music video for “Soap On A Rope.” The band intros all of the clips by singing a variation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” substituting Chickenfoot for the word Christmas and with each band member setting up the footage. It’s clear from these clips, as well as the other studio footage and interviews that these guys love being in a band together, which is refreshing to see, especially considering the sometimes rocky internal politics of both Van Halen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Live footage is taken from a number of locations, most notably the band’s appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, though additional audio was taken from Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and the House of Blues in Atlantic City. While the studio versions of these tracks are strong, live is where Chickenfoot really shines, extending solos and driving the songs much harder than on CD.

While some fans may accuse the band of double dipping by rereleasing their album, the CD is limited edition and the DVD is worth the price alone. Chickenfoot is a band whose members play purely for the love of music and it shows. After a successful album and tour, the future looks bright for the band.

Monday, November 2, 2009

REO Speedwagon - Not So Silent Night CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

It’s been a busy few years for veteran rockers REO Speedwagon. From releasing their first album in more than a decade, one that had the band rediscovering its rock roots — 2007’s Find Your Own Way Home — to nonstop touring with the likes of Styx, Journey, and Night Ranger, the band has worked at a harder pace than many bands half their age.

Now, nearly 40 years after their debut, REO is releasing its first Christmas album. Not So Silent Night mixes traditional Christmas carols, obscure gems, and a cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the classic REO sound — big, melodic choruses and guitars.

The album begins sweetly with a short, melodic version of “The First Noel,” before segueing into a bluesy “Winter Wonderland.” ‘Silent Night” and “Children Go Where I Send Thee” show the band in a surprisingly gospel vein and prove to be highlights of the disc with the former done as a ballad with choir and the latter as an up-tempo number.

For a band most famous for its ballads, the fact the slower material works better here is not surprising. “The White Snows of Winter” in particular stands out and should prove to be a favorite of fans of the band’s softer side.

The Lennon cover is by the numbers and while not an improvement over the classic original is still a strong track. In keeping with the holiday spirit, all proceeds from this track go to the John Lennon Foundation. The band’s cover of “Blue Christmas” finds them veering off into country territory in surprisingly convincing fashion

While the band rocks up their versions of “Deck The Halls” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” these versions come off as forced and aren’t to the same standard as the rest of the CD. Still the positives outweigh the negatives here.

REO Speedwagon may not be the first band people think of when it comes to recording a Christmas album, but they make it work. Fans of the band and of Christmas music should enjoy this release for years to come.