It’s a new year and no shortage of new music! With all of the year end best of lists that come out, I always have dozens of albums that I want to check out this time of the year. Given that, I’m kicking off 2016 with easily one of my most anticipated album releases ever – the pivotal 4th album from the almighty Baroness.
Baroness’ release of “Purple” on Dec. 18 followed the 2012 double album “Yellow & Green”, 2009’s “Blue Record” (my most played album of all-time) and 2007’s “Red Album”. Yes, they have a thing for colors and each album cover is distinctive, created by singer/guitarist/songwriter John Baizley. The reason this new album “Purple” is so pivotal is that it comes after what has been a very tumultuous 3+ years shortly after “Yellow & Green” came out. The band was touring in England in August ’12 when their tour bus air brakes failed when driving down a mountain road outside of Bath. The bus ended up plummeting 30 feet down a viaduct and injuring all 9 aboard but miraculously everyone survived. Baizley, who was sitting up front with the driver got the worst of it since he was ejected through the front window of the bus and spiked into the ground like a football TD celebration. He had multiple compound fractures in his arm, injuring it so badly that it almost needed to be amputated. He has titanium plates, screws and yards of wire in his arm. He also badly broke his leg, spending months in a hospital bed and wheelchair. Former drummer Alan Blickle and bass player Matt Maggioni both fractured vertebrae. I say former because neither one is in the band anymore because of the accident. Maggioni for physical reasons and Blickle more for emotional reasons that have never been fully disclosed. The other member, guitarist Pete Adams, was spared serious injury and remains in the band with Baizley. A great detailed account of the accident and recovery period afterwards can be found at this link:
The band enlisted two new members, guys they knew and had played with before – drummer Sebastian Thomson and bassist Nick Jost. While Baizley knew these guys were competent musicians and could play the music, the real question was would they all gel together as a band? One of the most amazing things with Baroness was how well the band played together as a unit live. You definitely should check them out next time they play in the Bay Area, they are a massive presence on stage and all great musicians. So now you can see why this new album “Purple” is so pivotal, two new band members and coming off of a life-changing accident. Not to mention the band’s sound has been evolving through each album, moving from a more aggressive and expansive harder metal sound to a more polished and focused hard rock for lack of a better descriptor. They have been building a larger fan base, and are really at the crest of potentially becoming much more popular. A lot of momentum was lost with that bus crash coming right after “Yellow & Green” was released. In addition to the new line-up, the band also brought in producer Dave Fridmann who has worked with many bands, most notably The Flaming Lips and Sleater-Kinney. He’s not a favorite of mine, but will he inspire the band to continue to evolve their sound in a positive way?
At the end of the day, the answer is a resounding “YES”! I had the album in my top 10 for 2015 even though it had come out on the day I made my list. After listening to it many times over the last several weeks, it has only gotten better. I’ll admit that I was not overly impressed with it initially, I really don’t care for Fridmann’s production. However, after half a dozen listens or so, I was able to tune out what I don’t like in the production techniques (not all of it is bad, there are some positive adds from Fridmann) and really just focus on the songs and musicianship. I am convinced that this album will be a monster when played live and will only enhance what was already a great set of material they perform in concert. There’s a lot more nuance in their sound now, which was introduced in “Yellow & Green” but more fully realized with the material on “Purple”. In fact, the album is so strong that almost any of the 8 full songs on the record could be listed as a favorite. However, the songs really work best in the album format; all played in succession vs. hearing them as singles. This is not surprising, since that’s a key factor when putting together a great album. Here are 3 of my favorite tracks from “Purple”.
“Chlorine & Wine”–This is the centerpiece of the album, placed in the middle right after the short instrumental track “Fugue”. This song is a juggernaut, it’s epic and uplifting. After I heard this song before the album came out, I knew the band would be ok. The video they shot with it reinforced the message even further, since you can see how happy and passionate these guys are to be playing this music. The song starts off very slowly, with some keyboards (courtesy of Jost who brings that skill along with his bass). Then the drums start up, along with the guitar/bass. You’re almost two minutes in before the guitar riff even gets played. But once Baizley kicks in with his vocals, things start taking off. Thomson does some nice fills on the song and keeps the backbone moving along throughout the track. Almost 4 minutes in before getting any guitar solos, which are understated yet still expressive. Then the song comes down a notch and Jost gets on the piano for a bit (which is a great element on this track). This all sets up an epic last 90 seconds as the band takes it all up a notch and we even get a gang vocal over the final part of the song. Epic and majestic.
“Kerosene” – This is the 4th track on the album, slotted right before “Fugue” which then moves into “Chlorine & Wine”. This track kicks in pretty quickly with the guitars, bass and drums all firing away in the first 20 seconds. There are some great guitar lines in this song, and the track gets better and better as it progresses. The rhythm is fairly complicated for a rock song, which also makes it interesting. Some of the best parts of the song are the instrumental sections. My favorite part of the song again is during the last 90 seconds. There’s some nice isolated guitar before the band kicks off into another group singing exercise. Thomson’s isolated drums at the end are a nice final touch.
“The Iron Bell” – It was very difficult picking a 3rd song since most of the songs would be great to highlight. I decided to go with this one since it follows “Chlorine and Wine” and gives you a nice sense of what the middle of the album sounds like. This song reminds me more of the old Baroness, it’s a little more straightforward hard rock. It highlights some of the great guitar work that Baizley and Adams create together. One of my favorite solos on the record starts just before the 3:00 minute mark. This whole instrumental section is what makes the song standout for me. And I just realized, again a nice ending 90 seconds or so on this track. Seems to be a theme…
Hey Noisy Planet! As promised here is our quintessential David Bowie top ten list. We have scoured in music mayhem all morning–while mourning the demise of Bowie. How do pay tribute to such an icon? His name alone invokes a sense of mystery, awe and admiration. But alas, let’s get loud and noisy and make this Pop King proud!
1. “Space Oddity” (1969)
Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the song follows the unfortunate fate of Major Tom, an astronaut lost and drifting in space. Bowie’s breakout track became a hit in 1969, the year of the first Moon landing. It’s compelling and heartbreaking, putting a horrifying Ray Bradbury story line to a haunting melody.
2. “The Man Who Sold The World” (1970)
While younger fans may know the song thanks to Kurt Cobain’s haunting cover on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged special, Bowie’s rendition was equally memorable, full of beautiful heartache, longing, and regret.
3. “Life on Mars?” (1971)
This song highlights Bowie’s multi-faceted talent, as he sings over a simple piano tune before the track builds with the help of a soaring string section. The song helped redefine rock in the 1970s and put Bowie firmly on the path to super-stardom.
4. “Changes” (1971)
Bowie was already famous in the U.K., but it wasn’t until “Changes” that he made an appearance on the U.S. charts in April 1972. He would eventually earn 25 entries on Billboard, including two No. 1 hits, “Fame” and “Let’s Dance.”
5. “Ziggy Stardust” (1972)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a complex and perfectly executed concept album that not only introduced one of Bowie’s best and most indelible characters, Ziggy Stardust, but also brought songs like “Suffragette City” and “Rock and Roll Suicide” to the world.
6. “The Jean Genie” (1973)
After a worldwide tour as Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was re-born asAladdin Sane with “The Jean Genie” (originally released in 1972) as the lead single, introducing fans to the Iggy Pop-inspired character. The song has gone on to be one of Bowie’s most beloved hits.
7. “Fame” (1975)
Bowie was never beholden to one genre or style of music, instead easily slipping through electronic, pop, and rock before eventually landing on “plastic soul” with his 1975 album, Young Americans. As with the other styles, Bowie made it his own mixing funk and American soul music with a Brit pop aesthetic. The song “Fame” was co-written with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, who knew something about fame.
8. “Heroes” (1977)
Bowie reportedly wrote this song after seeing a couple rendezvousing under the Berlin Wall and imagining their story. In the hands of Bowie and producer Brian Eno, the song is an impassioned plea, resulting in an aching and human love story.
9. “Modern Love” (1983)
Co-produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar, “Modern Love” off of 1983’s Let’s Dance showed Bowie once again changing with the times, a move–and a song—that subsequently introduced him to a whole new generation of fans.
10. “The Next Day” (2013)
By 2013, it was widely assumed that Bowie was retired from the music industry. Always one to defy expectations, he surprised fans by releasing his 24th studio album, The Next Day, on his 66th birthday. It revealed that Bowie was as creative and contemplative as ever, and the album became his first number one in the U.K. in 20 years.
Wow… Pop legend, David Bowie, has died today in Manhattan, NY after an 18 month battle to cancer.
This has come as a shock to Noisy Planet today–he was one of the most influential artists of our time. Tributes are being made around the world and we still cannot fathom the dimming of the great star.
David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an english singer with a 51 year career span.
With a voice as definitive as his, one would assume that appearance would render void–not the case with the Pop Star.
David Bowie, we can all agree that #yourmusicmatters but, let’s face it–your face alone could have brought you into the spotlight. Thank you for lifting the bar, raising our eyebrows and teaching us.
Now let’s boast about his epic career. David Bowie has sold literally, over 100 million albums (140 million to be exact, since 1967) 111 singles (hits) 51 music videos, and 25 studio albums (including Blackstar released two days before his demise)
It’s hard to contain, describe or review a career so vast, with literally hundreds of singles to choose from–where would one begin to describe or even fathom; their favorite?!?
We haven’t even began to mention or remind you of: LABRINTH I mean honestly, who could forget that face, epic sense of fashion, those wicked eyes–his voice?
David Bowie, he was truly a Pop God and our ears all have a ringing today as we mourn his loss in the music world. Just two days ago Bowie released his 25th studio album, to pay tribute to his memory today we wanted to play his latest and tomorrow we will post (what we believe to be) his greatest!
His latest Blackstar is an eery call to action. Who will stand up and cry: I am a Blackstar…Other than Bowie of course! Listen to his voice cry out….
At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes