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June 29, 2006

My latest addiction

Last week I got my copy of Michael Gray's The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.  I haven't been able to put it down.  At 730 pages (and probably around 1000 entries), it covers almost everything Dylan-related.  But it's not just for obsessive Dylan fanatics (which I don't consider myself to be, really).  There are entries on musicians, literary figures, political figures, albums, songs, history, pretty much anything Dylan's music covers (which, I guess, is everything).  And Gray doesn't spend the whole time drooling over Dylan -- he's critical of him when he feels the need to be, and he doesn't sugarcoat his assessments of those associated with Dylan or his music.

Really, I can't say much about the work becuase it pretty much speaks for itself.  If you're a fan of Dylan with $40 or so to drop, Gray's encyclopedia is worthwhile.  And if you're just a casual fan (or even a non-fan) of Dylan, it's worth a look if you're sitting in a bookstore looking to kill some time.

By the way, I hope these rumors come to fruition.  It would be pretty sweet to, say, catch Dylan in Columbus one night and Washington, PA the next.

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June 26, 2006

Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft

I had a nice weekend in the Queen City, chillin' with past and present members of the Backup Plan and the Knights of Infinite Resignation.  The main event, though, was the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard concert at U.S. Bank Arena Saturday night.

I like Pearl Jam, but I'm not super-into them or anything.  I have copies of Ten and Vitalogy that I got back in the day, and I picked up their new self-titled album a few weeks ago (it's actually pretty good ... but, to prove my point, it was my first time buying a Pearl Jam album in 12 years).  The real reason I wanted to go was to see ex-GBV front man Bob Pollard.  My "fandom" of Pollard is the opposite of my "fandom" for Pearl Jam.  I think I have copies of almost everything Guided By Voices released between 1994 and 1997 (no small feat -- we're talking somewhere around 20-30 releases, probably), and I saw GBV live around 20 times (I lost track at 12 or so ... one day I'll sit down and figure out the official number).  Predictably, I missed the first part of Pollard's set.  Backup Plan bass player Mike and I tried to park in the nearby lot (which he has a pass for), but they wouldn't let us park, because they said there was a wedding at Paul Brown Stadium.  I was this close to asking, "Who the hell would want to get married where the Bengals play?"  I didn't, though. 

Anyway, it took us another 20 minutes to find a parking spot, so we only caught the last four songs of Bob's set.  I did get to hear "Game of Pricks," though, so I was happy.  He closed with "Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft" (hence, the title), which rocked.  It was weird seeing Pollard in an arena, though.  I guess I had always thought GBV was one of the great arena rock bands that never made it out of the larger-club circuit, but maybe I was wrong.  I think part of Guided By Voices/Pollard's appeal is that sort of "Everyman Rocker" quality, where you feel like (rightly or wrongly) the band on stage is just like you, and that they're singing with you.  That kind of appeal is enhanced in a more intimate setting, where everyone's shoehorned in spilling beer on each other, and where the singer can hear the requests (and heckles) coming from the guy in the middle of the crowd.  Pollard doesn't have the magnetic, transcendent personality that an arena rock front man (e.g., Eddie Vedder, or someone like David Bowie or Roger Daltrey or Robert Plant or ...) has to have.  He's just an average guy (with basically unparalleled talent for writing great songs with even better melodies) drinking a beer and singing.  I guess after 10 years or so of seeing GBV play to packed clubs, it was weird seeing Pollard on stage in a half-filled arena playing for people who mostly have never heard of him.  From where I sat (probably about 125 yards away), it seemed like he was a bit uncomfortable, looking down at the stage floor a lot and avoiding any between song banter.  Maybe he was nervous, maybe he was (relatively) sober, maybe a little bit of both and some other stuff thrown in.  Either way, it all sounded good, just kind of out of place.  It was still worth my $60.

Pearl Jam, on the other hand, had the whole sold-out arena hanging on every note.  The band was in good form, banging out one song after another.  Highlights for me included the hits ("Evenflow," "Alive," "Betterman," "Corduroy") and some of their "lesser known" earlier stuff (like Vitalogy's "Last Exit" and "Not For You").  Some of the newer stuff (off of their last couple of albums), got a little tedious for me, but, like I mentioned earlier, I haven't heard much of anything they've done between Vitalogy and Pearl Jam.  It also didn't help that the arena cut off beer sales thirty minutes after Pearl Jam took the stage, a full HOUR AND A HALF before the show was over.  See why I give Cincinnati a hard time?

Anyway, one thing I like about Eddie Vedder is that he does seem to genuinely care about using his platform to do something good (as opposed to using his platform to make himself look good ... Bono, I'm looking your way (in a joking way, I think)).  He took the time to give a quick announcement regarding the search for Brian Shaffer, he talked about the 1979 tragedy that took place the night of a Who concert at the arena (which, tangentially, also inspired my favorite episode of WKRP in Cincinnati), and he gave a good monologue on why Rolling Stone sucks.  The band also seemed to geniunely appreciate Pollard, and acknowledged him multiple times during the set.  I guess that partly falls under the category of respecting one's elders (Pollard's getting perilously close to 50), but still it was a nice gesture.  Vedder even joined Pollard on stage for the final part of "Witchcraft," but that was nothing compared to the last song of the evening, when ...

... BOB POLLARD TOOK THE STAGE TO PERFORM "BABA O'RILEY" WITH PEARL JAM!!!  That was amazing.  20,000 people singing along as Vedder and Pollard traded lead vocals on the Who's classic.  It's kinda tough for me to say it, but this version outshined even the live Guided By Voices version with Doug Gillard on lead guitar, which I got to hear a few times.  Words really can't describe it.  It was the best concert moment I've experienced in the past year, and that includes an entire Silver Jews concert that I waited 10 years to hear.

So yeah, $60 was easily worth it for four Pollard songs and Pearl Jam/Pollard on "Baba."  Pearl Jam still knows how to rock.  And even though it was weird seeing Pollard in a situation where there were more people waiting in line for beer than actually in the seats listening, if four or five people discovered Pollard and GBV at the show Saturday night, or even if a couple people say to themselves, "Gee, Eddie really liked that old dude, I should check him out," then I guess it was all worth it.

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June 24, 2006

Remember that the city is a funny place

RCA/Legacy is going to be releasing a 30th anniversary edition of Lou Reed's Coney Island Baby.  Sounds good to me, but couldn't they rerelease Metal Machine Music, preferably on vinyl (with a locked groove on the fourth side)?

Anyway, Coney Island Baby isn't that great of an album.  I don't think it's as bad as Peter Laughner said in his brilliant Creem review (any review that starts off by saying, "This album made me so morose and depressed when I got the advance copy that I stayed drunk for three days" has to be good).  It does have some decent songs.  I like the title track.  I like that he mentions Ohio in another song.  All in all, it's a nice thing to listen to every now and then, as long as you're not expecting the equivalent of White Light/White Heat or Loaded.

I just hope they remaster the album.  Every version I've heard of it sounds horrible -- all muddied up in that mid-70's way.  Give me a crisper, clearer mix, and I'll be happy to plunk down $15-20 for a CD version (my old copy is on cassette tape(!)) of the album.

I'll withhold further judgement until I hear the actual release in August.

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June 21, 2006

NBA Jam

In light of today's other post, I'd like to go on record as saying I saw Dwayne Wade's Marquette team (ranked No. 4 in the nation at the time, I believe) get upset by my UD Flyers in January '03.  Wade was playing possum back then too -- he sprained an ankle or something like that, laid on the floor for ten minutes, then didn't return.  Fall down eight times get up nine my ass.

I'd also go on record to say that I love "Big Z", Zydrunas Ilgauskas (didn't even have to look up the spelling); E-Snow, and Donyell Marshall.  I wish they could cut Ira Newble and keep Ronald Murray.  Next year the Cavaliers will be the team to beat in the East, just watch what my man Danny Ferry (never thought I'd say that) does this offseason.

Either way, the sun is shining in Cleveland today.

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Nevermind ...

Club 202 hasn't had open mic night for a couple of weeks.  Sorry to those of you who made it out only to find the doors locked.  Maybe Next Best Records managment needs to call and check these things out in advance, rather than relying on websites.  Maybe.

Speaking of websites, updates to the main www.nextbestrecords.com website are (hopefully) coming soon.

In light of this blog's NBA Finals predicition, I'd like to say congrats to the Miami Heat.  But anyone that says Wade is a better player than LeBron can kiss my ass.  Anyone looks a lot better than he is with Shaq (35 years old or not) running with him (I'm looking your way, Penny Hardaway).  And tell me which supporting cast is legit (and loaded with all-stars, even if they're old):  Shaq/Gary Payton/Antoine Walker/Alonzo Mourning -- or -- Z/Eric Snow/Ira Newble/Donyell Marshall.

I'm not saying Wade isn't one of the top 10 players in the league (I've been following him a long time -- how many times did you see him play in person for Marquette?), but don't say he's better than LeBron. 

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June 19, 2006

See Lee

Lee's going to go ahead and try out the open mic night at Club 202.  Show is supposed to start tomorrow (Tuesday, June 20) at 9:00 p.m.  The address is 145 N. 5th St. in Downtown, Columbus.  (That's just north of Long St., and a long stone's throw from the Cathedral, in case you want to go to mass at 5:15 before heading over.) 

Judging by the pictures on the website, the place looks fairly cool.  No word on why it's called Club 202.  Lee will have to ask.  My guess is that it's 17 better than Club 185 (but how could that be?).  Lee may or may not wear the Knights t-shirt (pictured in yesterday's post).  Should be fun, but I won't be there (for the uninitiated, I don't live in Columbus -- only in your imagination).

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June 18, 2006

The Knights of Infinite Resignation t-shirt is in!

The brand-new Knights t-shirt arrived today.  Our lovely model was kind enough to pose for pictures:

 

The plan is to make the publicly available ones be black t-shirts with white lettering.  The Knights of Infinite Resignation: Full of Ohio Pride.

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June 17, 2006

"My mind is a gelatinous ball of pepper"

Much to my surprise, I caught Sonic Youth on the Letterman show last night.  Sonic Youth never disappoints.  Like I told a friend the other day, it's my assertion that Sonic Youth is and always will be the closest thing we'll get to an infallible rock band.

So of course Sonic Youth was brilliant on the Letterman show.  They played a song off their new album (which, I confess, I don't own yet -- this weekend I'll get it, and I'll post my thoughts soon), with the classic lineup on stage (Steve Shelley, drums; Lee Ranaldo, guitar; Kim Gordon, bass; Thurston Moore, guitar/vocals).  The song had the classic (naysayers would say predictable) Sonic song structure -- verse, chorus, verse, chorus, noise-rock breakdown, verse, chorus.  Nothing new, really, but still awesome.  I'm psyched to get the new record.

There's something reassuring about Sonic Youth having a new record out.  Music changes, and lesser bands come and go, but Sonic stands firm.  25 years into their existence, they're still the coolest thing in rock on this side of '66 Dylan.

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June 14, 2006

The Beach Boys reunite ... kinda.

I just read the AP story on the Beach Boys getting back together ... to stand on top of the Capitol Records building as part of a Pet Sounds 40th anniversary celebration.

There's too much irony to comment on, really.  How about Capitol celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds, when in 1966 Capitol effectively halted sales of the album by failing to fulfill restocking orders and releasing a Beach Boys greatest hits record right on Pet Sounds' tail (pardon the pun)?

Or what about the mention of Mike Love's lawsuit against Brian Wilson, filed in November, in which Love claimed that Brian Wilson was misappropriating Smile, the album Love played a major role in destorying before it was ever completed?

And what was lil' Dave Marks doing there?  For someone who was in a band for a few months 44 years ago or so, he still gets a lot of play as an "original" Beach Boys member (which he wasn't).  I actually saw "The Beach Boys" play about five or six years ago at the Taste of Cleveland food festival, and Mike Love had Marks in the band, apparently to lend credibility to the act.  I think Marks was taking too much of the spotlight -- he was out of the band (again) within a few months.

Anyway, I think it's pretty amazing that Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde were released on the exact same day, 40 years ago (in May '66, to be exact).  We're never gonna see a day like that again, I'm afraid.

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June 12, 2006

Two great news items

1) I just desinged the first official Knights of Infinite Resignation t-shirt.  It's pretty sweet.  I ordered a test pressing, and if all goes well I hope to get a few printed up to give away/sell.  Of course, all past and current Knights get first dibs.

2) They announced the title of Bob Dylan's new album: Modern Times.  Awesome-o.  It's due out August 28.  Gee, new Sonic Youth and Dylan in one summer ... how'd we get so lucky?

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June 10, 2006

Updates and a venture to the dark side of the Internet

So we finally broke down and posted a Knights of Infinite Resignation page on MySpace today.  http://www.myspace.com/theknightsofinfiniteresignation, for those of you so inclined.  Be the Knights' friend!  It looks pretty pathetic that they've got none.

Aside from outdated pictures, you'll also find a couple of songs on the Knights' MySpace page, songs which are tentatively slated to be included on the not-yet-named Knights EP that we're going to try to release next month.  Stay tuned here and on the Next Best Records news page for more info as it becomes available.

We've also definitely decided to release an EP from Lee Wadlinger in July.  It will be older stuff that won't fit (space-wise and style-wise) onto The Price of Solitude.  Again, more details to come.

Finally, I posted a brief bio of the Knights -- so you know who the hell they are -- on their web page.  It's pretty brilliant (the bio, that is).

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June 08, 2006

Let's Go Mavs!

Next Best Records officially supports the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.  For the uninitiated, the Mavs are the label's second favorite team -- and it's not just because "Mavs" rhymes with "Cavs."  No, the Mavs have the best German in NBA history, and they've got the best owner in NBA history (hell, we've even linked to his blog).  Throw in the coaching prodigy that is Avery Johnson, and you've got yourself a championship team.  I'm picking the Mavericks in 6.

Mark Cuban just posted that he's was going to head down to the American Airlines Center court to take some pregame shots.  That is pretty sweet.  I remember thinking it was cool to have the Gund Arena (now Quicken Loans Arena) court to myself for a few shots one summer afternoon, and that was when they had the Cleveland Rockers floor laid down in the arena.

Anyway, Cuban also recently posted the questions he would ask Shaquille O'Neal in an NBA Finals press conference.  Here's mine:

1) About 13 years ago, my mom gave me a Shaq Christmas tree ornament (a Starting Lineup-style figurine of you dunking -- I think she got it for free when she spent $20 at Hallmark).  How does it make you feel to know that every year, as an adult trimming the tree, I always ask myself, "Why do I have Shaq on my Christmas tree?"

2) Can you tell James Posey that I said, "F-U-X-U"?

3) Who's the better former Cav shooting guard:  Derek Anderson or Jason Kapono?

4) Is it funny that Bimbo Coles is one of the Heat's assistant coaches, or is it just me?

5) Will you and Fu-Schnickens make a guest appearance on my new single?

Go Mavs!

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June 01, 2006

The Beach Boys DVD's Revisited

Continuing my recent Beach Boys kick, I picked up the Good Timin’: Live At Knebworth, England 1980 DVD this week.  Overall, I enjoyed watching it — not only because it documents the last time the original five Beach Boys (+ Bruce Johnston) performed on stage in England, but also because it’s a good concert as well.

By this time, the Beach Boys were half-way to being Mike Love’s dream of a perfect Vegas-lounge-act-jukebox machine, so there’s no surprises on the disc.  The performances are all pretty standard, and you get a good dose of Mike Love’s “Learn Sign Language with the Beach Boys” schtick.

Aside from all that though, it’s good to see Brian take the lead on the first verse of “Sloop John B” and the bridge of “Surfer Girl.”  The main highlight is Dennis Wilson, throughout the whole show: He really was the heart of the band.  Whether it was jumping up on the piano, kissing Brian on the back of the head, ad-libbing during “Heroes and Villains,” or bugging Mike Love every chance he got, Dennis was the guy trying to pull the gears out of Mike Love’s well-oiled machine.  And isn’t that what Rock’s about?

Therein lies the tragedy, I guess.  Dennis — who was at that time the most genuine, spontaneous, and charismatic member of the band, essentially the personification of the Beach Boy spirit — was playing one of his final shows.  Sure, he missed a bunch of beats on the drums, but that was because he was playing his heart out, not worrying about being slick or proficient.  That’s it, isn’t it?  Not being predictable, or acting like Mike Love does now, with his “I’ve been singing this song for 40 years, and I’m still wondering why we didn’t record this in a lower key” act.

Of course "Good Vibrations" sounds nice.  To me, though, the best is Dennis's version of "You Are So Beautiful."  It's better than the one shown on An American Band, 'cause you're not sitting on the edge of your seat the whole time hoping that his voice doesn't completely fall apart.  No, it's really heartfelt, really Dennis.

So yeah, Good Timin’ is good because of Dennis — it’s a fitting tribute to him.  Thank God for Carl Wilson — he really carried the torch nicely for the next 15 years or so after Dennis’s death.

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