Friday, October 27, 2006

DADA is coming! DADA is coming!

Although it has been more than 2½ years since Los Angeles-based dada released a full-length album of new material, fans of the much-admired trio have been getting a well-deserved taste of dada’s latest songs online. “7.1 Stereo” is a brawny riff rocker, while “A Friend of Pat Robertson” is filled with shimmering vocal harmonies layered atop a textured sonic landscape. Both songs can be heard at, and a new EP featuring those songs should be available commercially before the end of 2006.
In addition, Gurley’s side project, Mike Gurley and the Nightcaps, recently issued the full-length “Euphoria.” The superb disc features 10 of Gurley’s originals (including a revamped take on dada’s “Last Train Out of My Mind”), a John Gilmore tune and several standards reworked in a style sure to please lovers of neo-swing and lounge music. Gurley delivers a strong vocal performance on the classic “My Funny Valentine,” as well as his own “Spoken For.”
The Coach House is a legendary destination for fans of dada since it was at the San Juan Capistrano venue that singer-guitarist Michael Gurley and bassist-singer Joie Calio took the stage for the first time together to open for Mary’s Danish in 1991. Several months later, with the addition of drummer Phil Leavitt, dada set out on a course that has led to the release of some of the best original rock music of the 1990s and this decade.
Dada makes an eagerly-anticipated return to the Coach House on Saturday night.
In addition to performing songs from the band’s memorable debut (Dizz Knee Land,” “Dim,” “Dorina”), dada will likely be performing several songs from the trio’s forthcoming EP, and 2003’s “Live: Official Bootleg (Vol. 1),” released by Coach House Records.
The crowd on hand to catch dada this weekend will get to see something increasingly rare in modern rock; musicians who exhibit equal measures of skills as songwriters, virtuoso musicians and singers capable of dazzling with harmonies that recall the magic of the Byrds, Badfinger and Crowded House. Dada typically performs energetic and marathon-length shows at the Coach House stretching close to three hours.
Citizen Joe and Boxcar will also perform on the bill with dada at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28. Tickets are $20.
Information: 949-496-8930.
See you there!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tom Petty, Jackson Browne; magic in the desert

Life is hard, no doubt.
But, on occasion, it can be a blast.
Such was the case last Saturday night (Oct. 21), when I was lucky enough to catch full-length sets from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Jackson Browne at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
On a beautiful autumn night, it wasn't hard to enjoy two Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers in action under the stars on a comfortable night.

Of the two artists, headliner Petty & company delivered the stronger set. As part of his current 30th anniversary tour, Petty and his strong supporting cast (notably lead guitarist Mike Campbell, singer-multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston and keyboardist Benmont Tench) played many of their best-known songs before an adoring crowd. And, at least for this listener, the finely-tuned troupe played Petty's three best rockers too: "I Need to Know" (lead vocals courtesy of Stevie Nicks), and later in the night, "Refugee" and "Runnin' Down A Dream" in a back-to-back blowout.

This was no mere bit of nostalgia. Rather, the band really rocked. Petty, smiling and greeting the audience after just about every song, really seemed to be having a great time. This was not the intense kind of experience that greets you at a Pearl Jam, Neil Young or U2 show, but rather the kind of festive celebration associated with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's marathon-length encores that were so fun in the 1980s.

Honorary Heartbreaker Nicks took to the stage several times to play with Petty, including her first stint joining the group to play the classic "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." She proved her pipes still carry that magical fire, and it was consistent magic throughout the night when she and Petty would sing together, including on the acoustic-styled "Insider."

Other highlights of the night? Although he has apparently played it live before, for me the inclusion of George Harrison's Traveling Wilburys gem "Handle With Care" was incredible. Always among my favorite songs, it was a moment where I wanted to sing, but didn't because you wanted to take in each magic note washing over you.

Opener Jackson Browne was in fine voice and came with a strong band, but his set focused a bit to heavily on recent material that was often lost on the crowd. When he did connect on all cylinders, it was with his better-known material, notably the forceful "For America" and hits such as "Running on Empty" and "Doctor My Eyes." But missing were great cuts such as "Tender is the Night" and "Boulevard." When playing 70 or so minutes, he could have offered a more balanced mix of old and new.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Yoko Ono: Peace, Love and 'Show Me the Money'

There are countless Beatles fans who dislike Yoko Ono. And countless rock fans who love U2. So what do the two have in common?

Yoko Ono is a phony, a hitchhiker on the road to undeserved riches. All the way back to the 1960s, she has pretended her goal is to support and champion peace in the world, help deliver understanding for everyone else. Earth to Ono, "Start in your own Backyard."

It's not just the way she treated John Lennon's oldest son, Julian Lennon, keeping musical keepsakes from him that ultimately led to a well-publicized dispute a few years ago. Now, today comes word that Yoko has sued music company EMI Group PLC and a subsidiary for $10 million, claiming she was cheated out of royalties due from the sale of music by John Lennon.

I'm not a defender of the record industry. But the latest move from Yoko Ono, as well as recent news about Bono and the rest of U2 moving their music publishing company to the Netherlands to reduce their taxes can turn anyone into a cynic. According to a report published in Bloomberg on Oct. 16, at the same time the wealthy Bono is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa, he and the other members of U2 are effectively avoiding paying full taxes on the $110 million they earned in 2005. "Do as I say, not as I do" is an adage that works well here.

The Bloomberg story went on to note that guitarist David Evans (okay, okay, The Edge) has gone on the defensive, appearing on a radio station Newstalk on Oct. 2, stating "Our business is a very complex business...Of couse we're trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn't want to be tax efficient."

I guess I wouldn't be so sarcastic if I didn't see so many people I know, specifically a number of struggling musicians, who live in small apartments or rented rooms in the decaying metropolis known as Southern California, while the members of U2 live in great big houses in wonderful neighborhoods while taking first-class vacations all around the globe. And Bono wants us to spend all of America's tax dollars too. I know a few people here at home who could use the dime.

I understand the music business is just that, a business. I just think these musicians want it both ways. They love to get up in front of a cheering crowd or at a press conference and talk about how evil big corporations and governments are. But at the end of the day, they really only care about themselves. Rock on.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Beyond 7 bringing its sound to San Clemente

With an extensive and rewarding discography that includes late 1990s efforts with Psychic Rain as well as Beyond 7’s 2004 debut “Here and Now,” the surefire duo of lead singer-guitarist Greg Stoddard and lead guitarist Brian Stewart have raised the bar again with the recently-released “Smoke.”
Armed with a dozen original songs and a strong rhythm section, Beyond 7’s “Smoke” boasts a winning combination of uptempo modern rock (“Drowning,” “Light of Day”) and strong ballads (“When You’re Gone,” “Last Man in the World”).
And, admits Stoddard, there is a kind of mathematical blueprint for the rock quartet’s winning formula.
“The songs we reject are great, but they are not quite good enough,” singer-guitarist Greg Stoddard said of the power of sonic subtraction. I interviewed him last spring in connection with the release of Beyond 7's latest studio disc. “We don’t want to cheat anybody. We want these songs to be a part of you.”
Since founding Psychic Rain a decade ago (he launched Beyond 7 with much-admired lead guitarist Brian Stewart in 2001), Stoddard has been writing and recording some of the most memorable and accessible modern rock in earshot, winning legions of fans while sharing the bill with groups such as the Gin Blossoms, Smithereens, Fixx, dada and Dramarama; in fact, Beyond 7 celebrated the release of the band’s full-length sophomore release “Smoke” when it opened for Dramarama at House of Blues in Anaheim in May.
In addition to Stoddard and Stewart, the Buena Park rock troupe features a strong one-two punch in the rhythm department courtesy of drummer Raul Hinojosa Jr. and bassist Moses Guerrero.
“We’re fortunate in all the shows we get; we couldn’t ask for anything else,” Stoddard said.
Although U2, Queen, Oasis, Cheap Trick and the Smiths might not seem to have much in common, each came to the forefront with the talents of a powerful singer and distinctive guitar player. Stoddard and Stewart bring that kind of magic chemistry to Beyond 7.
“We want to write and record great albums,” said Stoddard, noting while he continues to write many songs on his own, “Smoke” features five songs that he wrote with Stewart. “We take great pride in that.”
“Smoke” is not a concept album, yet it has that feel. Indeed, the album kicks off with the fiery “Light of Day,” which was the first song Stoddard wrote for the album.
“Since 9/11, not just myself but everybody kind of woke up; they use that as the beginning of a new era,” said Stoddard, explaining he has found many people often to refer to events having nothing to do with the War on Terror as either “pre” or “post” 9/11.
In “Light of Day,” Stoddard reflects on how he senses life has changed since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he opens the song: “I can’t find my sunshine, rewind/I close my eyes, realize things aren’t quite right/morning’s turned to night.”
And “Smoke” ends its dozen-song run with the title cut, a poignant look at how quickly people can feel defeated by life’s relatively short run and limited chances to get it all right.
“This (the new album) is more about finding yourself and finding yourself in the world. ‘Smoke’ says everything we have is a temporary possession…our life is just like smoke,” Stoddard said. “It’s best to enjoy it while you have it and appreciate what you have.”
Beyond 7 will perform acoustic versions of the band's songs to Gordon James Grill & Bar, 110 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, 9 p.m.-midnight on Saturdays, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.
Information: 949- 498-9100

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I can't stop listening to Carbon Leaf

Although there are more than two months remaining in 2006, I am pretty sure my favorite album of 2006 is "Love Loss Hope Repreat," the latest release from Carbon Leaf.

I can't say enough great things about this disc, which somehow blends a bunch of legendary sounds and influences into something new. The Byrds-tinged 12-string guitar on "Learn to Fly" and the early-R.E.M. vibe on "Under the Wire" seem somewhat obvious, but there is something very refreshing and timeless about all the music here. So many of the songs explode with infectious hooks, but this is not power pop where the melodies hit you over the head. But it's hard not to hit repeat after "A Girl and Her Horse" or "Texas Stars" or even the introspective "The War Was in Color" end.

A truly great disc. Released by Vanguard Records, Carbon Leaf's "Love Loss Hope Repeat" is a great album.