Bruce Springsteen - The Wild The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle

Bruce Springsteen - The Wild The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle
Bruce Springsteen's latest release hits the needle with its opening number being an amplitude of ear candy. Unlike his debut release, this is a musical genre-clashing experience. There are jazz guitar flavored elixirs layered over rock beats. The bass lines are animated junctures of which the mission is to connect the dots. Jazz, Rock, Blues and folk blend well as used by Springsteen.

The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle is not in disguise but rolls out the red carpet for some of the old time blues. On "Wild Billy's Circus Story", he uses the tuba less like a circus instrument; it is more introspective of New Orleans jazz when it was spelled 'Jass.' The music of the 20's and Bix Beiderbecke's coronet would filter over subtle beats and tuba pumped swing. The energy that blew through some of those old recordings are whisked into the sounds of Springsteen's music today.

On The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle Springsteen wants to take all the music that has ever influenced him and montage it in each track except "Rosalita." This song is a rock anthem of which the theme has been used by songwriters for years. Who would not want to get the rich contract & the girl? Every guitar-toting songwriter. They are not the ones gonna get the girl when Springsteen comes to town. The guitar rhythm has a lot in common with THE DOOBIE BROTHERS "China Grove" from their latest release The Captain and Me, but it is one of the few times this year that Springsteen seems influenced by any music being recorded.

The storyteller that lurks inside explodes in the lyrics of "4th of July Asbury Park" as his ability to transpose visuals with this composition can make the listener feel as if they can reach out and touch the characters he is singing about. You can feel the carnival of fireworks displayed before your eyes while the beach smell consumes your senses. Then "Kitty's Back" at times could be a Broadway musical extravaganza with characters running to and from every crevice of the stage with elements of "West Side Story." Could this have been the combo that made him pen this song?

The best thing about his vocal styling is that each word is accented for understanding and not camouflaged in fear of being ridiculed with misunderstanding. His lines are at time almost full sentences, still allowing each listener to interpret the song to their own personal life. The "Incident on 57th Street" songwriting is spread with Lou Reed-like approaches to the architecture of a song.

The lengthy "New York City Serenade" brings the record to a close with some incredible piano artwork that is so New York it screams "play me." Although it is conclusively about a man and woman hooking up to meet each other's needs with potential to do destructive things along the way, it gives strong vibes to the days of Cab Calloway. Also known as The Reaper man which was a song about those who favor marijuana, Calloway was not afraid to tell his tale and was loved New York. The Cotton Club was the foremost jazz venue in Harlem and when he secured a nightly spot on stage when Duke Ellington was touring, there was no other place to be. Springsteen is able to emulate all the feelings of New York from the 20's right up to present day.

As with his first release, Springsteen stays with one preferred name to inject into each and every song. Greetings from Asbury Park N.J. had Sandy, now it is Jane. Who his muse will be next time, only time will tell. These last two releases came in quick succession so strong, touring while spreading the word should keep him far from the studio for some time.

Pentatonix - That's Christmas To Me

Pentatonix is one of my mom's favorite bands, so I've been exposed to their music quite a bit, especially over the Christmas season. Not that I'm complaining -- acapella music is a vastly overlooked genre, albeit one growing more in popularity since the "Pitch Perfect" movies and "The Sing-Off." And while not all of Pentatonix's songs are acapella, they've helped breathe new life into the genre, updating it for modern audiences and giving their music a sense of pep and playfulness that I enjoy. I ended up purchasing their Christmas album for my mom as a birthday present, but was also able to nab a copy for myself. What can I say, they're addicting.

Pentatonix - That's Christmas To Me
While not every song on this album can strictly classify as a Christmas song, it's a beautiful album that hits the right balance between upbeat and soulful, and is destined to be a holiday classic.

It's hard to pick a favorite song on this album, as each song has something fun to offer. Their version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" gives a classic Christmas carol a funky gospel flavor, while "Sleigh Ride" makes for a bubbly and playful twist on the song. Their mash-up of "Winter Wonderland" and "Don't Worry, Be Happy" doesn't seem like it should work at first glance, but they make the two songs mesh almost perfectly. "That's Christmas To Me" is far more laid-back, but still lovely and warm, and their version of "Mary, Did You Know?" is beautiful and haunting. "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" turns a classic "Nutcracker" orchestral number into something funky and unique, and I love their takes on "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," and "Silent Night."

Two songs on this album aren't exactly Christmas songs, but seem to be included simply because they discuss wintery topics -- "White Winter Hymnal," a Fleet Foxes song, and "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen." While I wouldn't classify either of these as Christmas songs, they wouldn't be the first songs that don't talk about Christmas but have been appropriated as Christmas songs simply because they're about winter (just listen to songs like "Jingle Bells," "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" -- none of them mention Christmas but are considered Christmas classics). And while I love the original versions of both songs, Pentatonix still does a good job of adapting these songs and putting their own signature on them.

And the extra tracks included in the deluxe edition are a delicious bonus -- "Joy to the World," "The First Noel," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," another version of "Mary, Did You Know?", and "Just For Now" (best recognizable as a track on "The Holiday"). These, as well as the poster included with the physical CD version of the album, make the deluxe edition of the album worth it, even if you already own the original version.

A beautiful, upbeat, and just plain fun Christmas album, this earns a place among my favorite Christmas albums. Keep up the good work, Pentatonix.

Kenya Starflight

Ensiferum - One Man Army

Finnish metal band Ensiferum can now be called true veterans of the genre. Ensiferum was founded in 1995 and they are still leaving headbangers with sore necks in 2015, probably even more than ever. The Fins who describes their brand of metal as melodic folk metal has recorded their strongest album so far. The new album 'One Man Army' shows the band increasing their craft on every level.

Ensiferum's sound is still marked by combining death metal influences and harsh vocals with melodies and folk inspirations. On 'One Man Army' they have perfected this blend even further. The album starts with the 90-second intro 'March Of War' before it breaks into 'Axe Of Judgement', a classic opener with neck-breaking speed, lots of double-bass action and fast riffs. In true Ensiferum style they include references to Russian folk music, a choir and a break in the middle of the song that does not only groove but also includes Accept-like choir sequences. Most metal fans will rejoice.

'Heathen Horde' follows and brings more traditional metal parts, some guitar melodies even sound like Maiden. Arching over all this is the extensive use of the choir-like gang vocals, a recurring theme for the remainder of the album. The break in the middle ventures into medieval folk music before the band picks up speed again. Ensiferum then get into fifth gear with the title track 'One Man Army'. Ultra-fast riffs, sharp melodies and again the choir are the trademarks of this song. The 2-minute ballad 'Burden Of The Fallen' provides a welcomed break.

The remaining six songs of the album stay on the same high-quality level. Ensiferum range from epic song structures (the 11-minute 'Descendant, Defiance, Domination') to fast up-beat tracks ('Two Of Spades') to late Maiden-like prog adventures ('Warrior Without A War'). It is hard to pick a highlight of the album. All songs have their own little treasures to discover. The special edition of 'One Man Army' comes with three bonus songs including a cover of the classic 'Rawhide' which really suits the band's sound.

Ensiferum has not changed their style compared to previous album. Neither have they rewritten the story of heavy metal. But what they have done is to create a unique brand of metal that is recognisable and different from most mainstream metal bands these days. It is not the search for harder, faster and more extreme metal that you find on this album. Instead you find well-crafted songs that will make for a neck-breaking live performance.

Bottom line is that Ensiferum have released a very strong album which will be on many top 10 lists at the end of the year. The metal veterans from Finland have perfected their sound even further. Their six full-length album releases have grown stronger from record to record. 'One Man Army' is the logical continuation in this row of strong releases. It seems the band has a lot more to give in the coming years. Watch them live if they play close to you.

Nickelback - Here and Now

Grabbing from the past and showing growth is eminent as each track spins, working the listener further down the road. The arrangement of songs is designed for less hand holding than Dark Horse, allowing freedom to absorb at an individual pace. This album is mature with edge and sexual provocative lyrics that are less suggested, as with Dave Matthews, and more direct.

Nickelback - Here and Now
Very seldom does Nickelback bring their influences to the table when writing and recording. This lets the music stand on its own merit so comparisons are limited, and it will keep their longevity strong for more releases to come. A hard hitting first track and a tease at the end keeps the audience licking their lips for more.

The new release is unlike The Long Road and All the right Reasons, which are over moments after they get started because each song has such an impact that time flies so fast. Here and Now 's tracks are consistently 3ish minutes long where previous releases had most tracks at 4ish minutes. So why does it seem that this CD takes a bit longer to listen to? Possibly all the experienced writing learned from "Mutt" Lange still lingers and the band is just trying too hard.

"When we stand Together" is a very socially conscience piece of work for this more "Party Rock" style band. They have not really stepped into this lyrical content since "Never Again", and it's great to see the band understanding the impact that they have on the conscience of the youth. Throughout the 80's, every rock/hard rock/metal band would have at least one slow song that either was their "love" song or a social statement. Nickelback uses some of this concept by including several slower tracks, but should stay with the power rock with just a couple slower tunes. The best tracks are the fast, busy songs with stacked guitars and growling vocals.

"This means War", "Bottoms Up", "Midnight Queen" and "When we Stand Together" are the best this release has to offer, but do not quit on the remaining seven tracks, as a few will have their place with different listeners. You will either feel the music and accept the lyrics or love the lyrics and let the music stand. Not the band's highlight but it will have its place in most listener's collections.

The Gastown Steam Clock appearing on the cover is a great way for the band to tip their hat to their hometown in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since it has become such a tourist attraction, the picture with the smackle of lights should only encourage fans to visit this beautiful city. Vancouver is a hot bed of television production for American and Canadian pilots. The growth of the city is a great encouragement to the hometown boys of Nickelback that their future is secure.
By Rachael M Kohrn

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
The albums released up until now have been filled with artists on the decline and up-and-comers who have a ways to go before they secure the spotlight. Bruce Springsteen, however, has paid his dues for a couple years, releasing two albums in 1973 and heavily touring to promote both of them. There will not be another release this month, or even this whole year, that will be able to touch what Springsteen has composed for Born to Run .

The opening harmonic, piano driven "Thunder Road" builds from the first second until the band surrenders to hearty guitars that lay subtlety over the rhythm section. The addition of Max Weinberg on drums exhibits his fortitude as he positions himself to be the backbone of Springsteen's writing. In the opening drum trac,k it is Weinberg who sets the stage for the shortest song that appears on Born to Run , motivating the feel as Springsteen hurls vocals into the microphone.

This is the first reference to Clarence Clemons being 'the big man' in the lyrics of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." Clemons's haunting fills on "Meeting Across the River" meet the song's need, giving quiet reflection to the lyrical content. He is invaluable to Springsteen's writing as he has the ability to touch those same places the composer envisions.

The piano needed some life, and Roy Brittan is the perfect extension of the sound Bruce Springsteen writes toward. Brittan keeps the pace as Springsteen delivers declarations in "Backstreets" where he tells the story of two friends who meet and tear up the town with misspent youth. The final verse leaves the story open to the listener's own interpretation. "Laying here in the dark, you're like an angel on my chest", could this mean that Terry (the friend) is lays dead over Springsteen while he drifts in thought of the things they have done? Up to now the record has forged a storyline, with each track advancing the adventure between two friends.

This record, as with those that went before, is a dedication to one name and although this release scatters different names in each song, it is clear that 'Mary' is the female counterpart to the Springsteen character. Every character's name that appears rhymes with Mary such as Wendy, Terry and Eddie. It is "Born to Run" that switches gears as Terry is now possibly gone, and Bruce looks to find the girl that is as ravaged from life as he and begins to court her with thoughts of getting out. This is another theme that most storytellers only wish they could pen as well as Springsteen, touching on emotions of those whose life may never get past the factory line. ANTHEM ANTHEM ANTHEM!

Now finishing up the first half, of the second side "She's the One" is a young boy's visual beauty of a girl that he can not turn away from. She's the girl that is between tomboy and princess who is out of reach but continues to dwell in the subconsciousness of the writer. He dives deep to compose this passionate love song that the male character insights his female counterpart to take the bull by the horns "to leave it all behind, And to break on through, Oh she can take you, But if she wants to break you, She's gonna find out that ain't easy to do" he knows that no matter if she chooses him or not, it will always be her. She will hold his heart until he takes his last breath. Whether it be today or 50 years from now, her face will be his last thought.

The nine minute, thirty-four second finale "Jungleland" is like the final chapter in a book or the or last scene in a movie. It is a storyteller's dream ending with some good guys surviving and some bad guys getting what they deserve. When the piano diminishes to where the listener is barely able to hear it, Springsteen verbally visualizes the slow motion each character takes.

Nowhere in 1975 will there be a better release than Brice Springsteen's storytelling genius on Born to Run .

Songs That Opened With Threats and Ended Up As Hits

My favorite radio station has adopted an all-Christmas format for the Holidays, even though it is still early November. While I appreciate an occasional jolly tune, I cannot listen to carols and jingle bells for the next two months.

Before I could turn away, I heard the opening lines of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." That threat of "You better watch out" makes me want to direct a similar one to the station. It might read something like, "You better watch out, You better not try, Your all-Christmas format will make me leave you dry."

Then it dawned on me how strange it was that a festive song like "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" opens with a series of threats. You can certainly understand beginnings such as "Dashing through the snow" or "Up on the rooftop reindeer paws." It is quite another thing to start a Christmas tune by warning, "You better watch out."

That realization led me to consider the popular non-Christmas songs that open with threats or warnings. The most obvious one is Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" from Long After Dark. He opens that hit with the line, "You better watch you say, you better watch what you do to me."

Here are nine of the most well-known threatening first lines and the songs from whence they derived.

"Watch out, you might get what you're after"

David Byrne issues this threat to open the Talking Heads' well-known hit, "Burning Down the House."

"Stop thief, you're gonna come to grief if you don't take a little more care"

The debut album My Aim Is True is the source of this first line by Elvis Costello in the track, "Pay It Back."

"Please take this as a warning"

A heartbroken narrator's hurt turns to anger in the John Gorka song "Armed with a Broken Heart."

"Oh Glenn, don't come to the house tonight"

The shortest track on the Smiths' last album, Strangeways Here We Come, opens with Morrissey making this plea on "Death at One's Elbow."

"Instant Karma's gonna get you, gonna knock you right on the head"

Shortly after the breakup of The Beatles, John Lennon hit the charts with this jaunty tune titled after its first two words.

"Wake up, Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you"

Rod Stewart serves as the alarm clock on "Maggie May," one of his most enduring hits.

"Well I've told you once and I've told you twice"

Mick Jagger sounds completely fed up with his romantic situation, as evidenced by this opening line from the Stones' classic "The Last Time."

"Hey get out of their way"

The Stranglers warn of a society taken over by robots on "Hey! (Rise of the Robots)," a quirky track from the excellent Black and White album.

"Southern Man, better keep your head, don't forget what your good book said"

This line from the track on After the Gold Rush would get Neil Young immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."
By Doug Poe

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