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The Return of Gordon’s Book of Lists

May 28, 2003 Leave a comment

I was going to do this feature on a regular basis, but in my life one thing has remained true. I can’t do anything on a regular basis except proscratinate, and sometimes I even fail at that. But anyway, here is the return. I can’t promise it will become a regular feature of the journal. But without further Frankie Adu, here it is.

Gordon Elgart’s Book of Lists

Top 12 Favorite Musical Acts Right Now (For any list, I only put as many things on it that deserve to be there, from 1-???)

I should define Right Now. It means that the band has a decent amount of output (no one album wonders – Andrew W.K. as an example – ever make my list. Try again after another record or two), and they are making their best material right now, or in the recent past. Their most recent album has to be as good if not better than their best album. Nobody past their peak on this list. A list of my alltime faves would inlcude Yes, Rush and Queensryche, three bands that are still making albums, but whose current albums pale in comparison to their best. Follow along and see what I mean.

NB: They also need to be a going concern. Spock’s Beard would be on this list, as the Snow album is equal to their best output. However, the lead singer/keyboard player/songwriter/genius has left the band to follow his spiritual path. Therefore, they are not eligible, as they are no longer the same band.

(This will be the first in a three part series. Part 2 will be Favorite Musical Acts that have a small sample size sometime in the past. Part 3 will be All Time Favorites – some acts will overlap on these lists.)

12. Rhapsody – An Italian speed metal band. “Epic Hollywood Metal” is proclaimed on each of their CD covers. And this is just good, quality cheese. Over the top, faster than a speeding bullet, shredding guitar solos, fierce singing. And each album is part of continuing fantasy storyline. How cool is THAT?

11. Iron Maiden – I am late to discovering Iron Maiden, I’ll admit that. Sure I knew some of their songs, but until I went to see them a couple of years back, they were just another British metal band. But after the concert, I went back to their albums and finally discovered them for real. Their last album is a few years back now, but it truly does stand with their best material, in my opinion. See them live this summer!

10. Peter Gabriel – I forgot he was eligible for this list until I remembered that his most recent album was my album of the year for 2002. I am not sure that Peter Gabriel has ever put a bad note on a record. He is a craftsman, and some may think this cold, but his words and music are always top notch.

9. Robbie Williams – He is a boyband reject who got kicked out of England’s Take That for partying too much with the Gallagher brothers among others. So then he teamed up with his friend (lover?) Guy Chambers and went solo, and has made four great pop albums. They are full of winking lyrics and clever melodies. Robbie has recently moved to Los Angeles and will record his next album without the assistance of Guy Chambers. He is still a going concern, but I am holding my breath to see if all the talent was in the other guy.

8. Flower Kings – A Swedish progressive rock band, a “Yes for the new millenium.” I’m not buying that, but Roine Stolt is the most prolific guy out there, putting out an album a year, and usually a double one at that (three of their last four). Their newest, Unfold the Future, is a a jazzy psychedellic rock . . . thing. It’s sweeping and tender and melodic and aggressive. It’s terrific stuff – look for it on 2003’s Best Of list.

7. Opeth – I would never have expected to have a Swedish death metal band on this list, but here they are. They have embraced the sound of Steve Wilson, and now create a pastiche of death metal and tuneful rock reminiscent of the Moody Blues (yes, really). They are clearly the best death metal band in the history of the genre, and are picking up new fans here in the US on a daily basis. Their newest, Damnation, is a full on mellow album – not a single growl on the entire thing. My current album obsession.

6. Barenaked Ladies – I hear you saying now, “but Stunt wasn’t equal to their best stuff.” And I say “They had an album after Stunt, darn it!!!” People forget just how great Maroon is. The record company was asking, “Hey where are the sales?” And I say “Swirling down the toilet of creative freedom.” Some say that since they have gotten bigger, their live shows have suffered, but I kindly disagree. I’m looking forward to the popularity downturn, as they start playing smaller venues again, because then I get in for free!

5. Pain of Salvation – Sweden represent!!! Yet another Swedish band makes the list. This is the first of the five that are clearly a leap above the others on the list right now. Simply speaking, Pain of Salvation makes progressive metal rock operas. However, I like speaking more complexly, so let me tell you what they do. They understand dynamic and flow better than anyone else doing their style of music. Their vocalist, Daniel Gildenlow, has a Broadway ready vocal style – he emotes so wonderfully, but he can also scream when necessary.

4. Foo Fighters – I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. Dave Grohl is the most talented guy in Nirvana. I am sorry Kurt Cobain had to kill himself to find this out, although I would assume that Nirvana may have broken up anyway. Just the best straight ahead rock band playing today. Goes from singing to screaming better than anyone in the business and sounds good doing both.

3. Dream Theater – I have been watching this band for 12 years now, and they fill an important place in my musical life. They are the consumate shredding band. Every generation needs a band like this for all the musicians to emulate. Otherwise, the fine art of shredding may be lost. Along the way, however, Dream Theater have become great at songcraft as well. It took them a while. Their 1991 album, Images and Words, was and still is clearly their best. But last year’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence finally returned them to that level of excellence. Some of the shredding was gone, replaced with a matured concept on how to construct a great album. The second disc of 6DoIT is the best thing they have ever done. I think it would appeal to anyone who likes any form of classic rock, and perhaps many others as well. It will take you 40 minutes to listen. Try it.

2. Ben Folds – He is here making the list without the Five in his name. It took me a bit to get used to Rockin’ the Suburbs more . . .well . . . electronic sound. It was a more produced, restrained sound, and it took a while for the songs to breathe through. But of course they were great songs. Ben Folds is incapable of writing a crappy song. Not every song is a brilliant winner, but they are always pure pop goodness. His lyrics are simple and straightforward, and he bases a lot of them on stories from his real life. He is an entertaining and gracious live performer as well. He may never get big, but he will always have a job playing shows for a 1000 people in every major city. Timeless.

1. Porcupine Tree – The best band in the world right now. Steve Wilson, the songwriter/guitarrist/producer/genius, can do no wrong in my eyes. (Opeth is on this list primarily due to his influence.) This band started years ago as a lie. Steve Wilson did one man albums, and he did one in a classic rock style so he invented the band and a history for it. Then as he statred writing things that sounded more bandlike, he actually put a band together. The Sky Moves Sidewise was a key album for them, as it gave people an easy comparison. They sound like Pink Floyd. Those comparisons are somewhat obsolete, as the last three albums have moved more to a psychedellic metal britpop sound. At times mellow and at times grinding, this band has true mass appeal. I have yet to meet anyone who disliked them after hearing them. Email me and I will be glad to burn you a Porcupine Tree mix. I want to make them huge so they stick around!!!

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No Earplugs Necessary

May 28, 2003 Leave a comment

The best part about being in the free concert zone is the ability to see artists you might not ever see live. Certain artists just don’t seem like the type I would like, and shelling out $30 for a ticket just doesn’t seem right. And often these shows are sold out long before I book them as an usher. Tonight was an example of both of these instances.

Jason Mraz is a singer from San Diego, who apparently got his start opening for Jewel. He plays a light bouncy pop with a clear bright tenor without any of the nasality that is so popular for some reason. He tours with a tight five piece band that features a harmony singer/percussionist, a multi-instrumentalist, a bass player and drummer.

Most people of his career span (one indie album, one major label album) tend to play for about 75-80 minutes. He played 2 hours and 20 minutes, and it never got boring. He was very engaging with the crowd, even having people come up on stage to do spontaneous rhyming and/or singing. He constantly puts pieces of other songs into his own songs. Nelly’s Hot In Herre, Madness’s Our House and somebody’s Leaving on a Jet Plane are just a few of many examples. He does a lot of freestyling himself, throwing out rhymes about San Francisco and the Fillmore during his act.

The sold out crowd was extremely receptive to him. This was a much higher energy level than I have seen in the hall before. Some people knew every word, some people were just swept up by how great the performance was. My fellow ushers and I were all really surprised. None of us knew much of him before tonight. I think it is safe to say that we are all fans now. I would have bought the button, but the button said “I Love Sex” and had Jason Mraz’s name on it. Now I do love sex (who doesn’t), but I just can’t see myself wearing that button around town. I think this button was for the predominantly female crowd to wear. Another popular merchandise item was the Jason Mraz baseball shirt with “69” on the back.

My job tonight was raffle ticket seller. This unfortunately led me to miss the opening act, Chantal Krevianuk (but yields extra free drinks). I sold raffle tickets to win an autographed poster from tonight’s artist. I sold $81 worth of tickets, which is usually quite acceptable. However, the last show at The Fillmore was the only night of Metallica’s run for which there was a poster. They sold $556 worth of raffle tickets, a record by about $300, apparently. So they all told me I had to break the record or I wouldn’t be invited back. Thank goodness they weren’t serious. I want to go back!

During signups tonight, I signed up for a bunch of new shows: Love, Musiq, Lou Reed, Yo La Tengo and Taj Mahal.

Tomorrow, stay tuned to this space for a report on The Flaming Lips, Starlight Mints and Liz Phair!

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