15 x 15

(Above: The only acceptable version of “Hoochie Coochie Man.”)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

A fun game has been going around the internet recently: Name 15 albums that influenced your taste in music today in 15 minutes. Because we never play anything straight up at The Daily Record, we twisted the rules a little and came up with 15 songs we dislike by artists we like.

  1. Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven.” Might as well get this heavy out of the way first. Classic rock radio has destroyed this great band’s best-known song. I’ve heard it so many times at this point I can conjure it up in my sleep. I never need to hear it again. Let me go one step further: I’d rather hear a half-hour live version of “Moby Dick” than have to sit through “Stairway” again.
  2. Joni Mitchell – “The Circle Game.” Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song about the cycles of life is actually a remarkable song. It works too well, though, leaving me completely depressed and feeling like I care about has decayed around me in just under 5 minutes. No wonder Mitchell selected this song to close her classic album “Ladies of the Canyon.” After this there’s nowhere to go.
  3. Beastie Boys – “Fight For Your Right To Party.” The Beastie Boys were a lot more creative and fun than the frat boy stereotype this dumb song earned them.
  4. Van Halen – “Love Walks In.” The Sammy Hagar period of the band is rightly painted as inferior to the original lineup, but you can’t help when you were born and I came of age right in the middle of Van Hagar. I never had a problem with Eddie switching from six-string to synths, but the sugary melody combined with lyrics about aliens made this song more than I could handle.
  5. Boogie Down Productions – “Jimmy.” Usually a master of the message, KRS-One’s sermon on safe sex comes off as both preachy and simplistic. The idiotic chorus destroys what little credibility may remain. The track did inspire the Young MC cut “Keep It In Your Pants” from his follow-up to “Stone Cold Rhymin’.” I wish I didn’t know these things, but I do and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
  6. Anyone – “The Long Black Veil.” First performed by Lefty Frizzell in 1959, this country classic has become a staple for Johnny Cash, The Band, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen and a dozen more. I can’t argue with any of those artists, but for a reason I could never put a finger on, it never resonated with me.
  7. Radiohead – “Creep.” This song introduced Radiohead to America, and for that I should be grateful, but “Pablo Honey” is the outlier in their catalog for me. In my mind, the catalog officially starts with “The Bends.”
  8. James Brown – “Killing Is Out, School Is In.” This song became the unintentional center point of Brown’s 2002 concert at the River Market. A lackluster set had already been derailed by a couple Janis Joplin covers by Brown’s then-wife and mayor Kay Barnes onstage proclamation of James Brown Day. Several years after Columbine, the message was not only no longer timely, but embarrassing. The song was later released as a single. Thankfully few heard it.
  9. David Bowie – “Changes.” Yet another song ruined by radio and turned into lazy shorthand for its era by television and movie producers.
  10. The Beatles – “The Long and Winding Road.” Dislike may be too strong a word for this song, but Paul McCartney had already delivered a better ballad for the “Let It Be/Get Back” project. This one feels like a syrupy afterthought to me.
  11. Steve Earle – “The Devil’s Right Hand.” This number brought Earle acclaim as a songwriter before he established himself as a recording artist in his own right. I think Lynyrd Skynyrd covered the same turf better with “Saturday Night Special.” The verses aren’t band, but the song is overly reliant on the repetitive chorus.
  12. The Who – “Behind Blues Eyes.” This sensitive number never seemed to fit in with the rest of “Who’s Next” and it seemed even more out of place as a single. Pete Townshend usually struck the right balance of being tough and vulnerable at the same time (see “The Song Is Over” or “How Many Friends”). He sounds weak and whiney on “Blue Eyes.” Limp Bizkit’s cover confirmed my instinct. Sympathy for Fred Durst? Never!
  13. Anyone but Muddy Waters – “Hoochie Coochie Man.” In the hands of Waters and the Chess studio pros, this is a blues masterpiece. For just about anyone else, it is usually a lame attempt for a middle-aged white guy to show he’s hep to the blooze. I’m looking at you Eric Clapton, Alexis Korner, Steven Seagal and Dion.
  14. Jay-Z – “Young Forever.” Alphaville’s 1984 hit “Forever Young” worked perfectly as the soundtrack to Napolean Dynamite’s dance with Deb. In the hands of Hova, however, it is ridiculous.
  15. Louie Armstrong – “What A Wonderful World.” There’s nothing wrong with Satchmo’s sublime performance. He manages to walk the tightrope between sincere and saccharine as the strings underneath support his presentation. Unfortunately, no one understood the song’s message, as it has a crutch when movie producers want to tug on heartstrings. Joey Ramone’s version was great upon release, but in the decade since it has become a hipster version of the same cliché.  I guess this leaves me with Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips’ weird yet heartfelt reading. I don’t think mainstream America is ready for that to be thrust down their throats – yet.

Keep reading:

Review: Flaming Lips New Year’s Freakout

Jay-Z – “The Blueprint 3″

Review: “Pops” by Terry Teachout


Review: Chickenfoot

(Above: Chickenfoot live it up going “Down the Drain,” one of the highlights of their performance Tuesday night at the Uptown Theater.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

On paper, there was a potential disaster: Chickenfoot, the hard-rock supergroup that includes members of Van Halen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, ignored several of those groups’ Top 10 hits to concentrate solely on new material at their Tuesday night concert at the Uptown Theater.

However, what sometimes comes across as forced and stiff on album, was loose and fun as former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar and bass player Michael Anthony, Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani tore through their new songs like a set of old favorites for a nearly sold-out crowd.

For the two hours they were onstage, the Uptown felt like a rock club. Throughout the night, Smith perpetually tossed drumsticks into the audience as Hagar signed autographs and slapped hands. The curtain draped across the back half of the stage pushed the band so close that Smith was able to pick out a pretty blonde in the front row and convince her to administer a spanking.

The night opened like the album, with “Avienda Revolution.” The second number, “Soap on a Rope,” featured a big greasy guitar riff that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hagar and Anthony’s old band. As Satriani reeled off one of his gravity-defying solos, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Anthony, smiling and bopping like the two had played together since high school.

Anthony broke out the Jack Daniels bass for barn-burning “Down the Drain.” Hagar introduced the number saying it was born out of a studio jam, but the way the group changed textures and tempos while maintaining intensity proved that this band was more than a vanity project.

Satriani rarely works with vocalists, so it was interesting to watch how he interacted with Hagar. Typically, his fingers say so much it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise, but he served the songs well, tastefully stepping back during the verses instead of just spinning his wheels until the next solo.

“Bitten by the Wolf” was the lone number during the main set that didn’t come from Chickenfoot’s self-titled album. The bluesy acoustic number was well received, but the crowd tore the roof off singing along to the next song, “Oh Yeah,” which has generated some radio airplay.

After the obligatory Hagar car song “Turnin’ Left” -– an ode to NASCAR –- the Red Rocker finally strapped on an electric guitar for the closing ballad “Future in the Past.” He reached for the six-string again, playing lap slide to introduce “Bad Motor Scooter,” a number Hagar wrote with Montrose in the ‘70s. It was the lone nod to any back catalog.

The night ended with another car song, Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” but the band lingered onstage long after the song was over. As Smith, Anthony and Hagar reveled in the fans, Satriani filmed the moment for posterity. The fun was so infectious, everyone was reluctant to leave and break up the party.

Admittedly, it would have been nice to hear “Dreams” or “By the Way,” but why look to the past when there’s so much promise in the future?

Setlist: Avienda Revolution, Sexy Little Thing, Soap on a Rope, My Kinda Girl, Down the Drain, Bitten by the Wolf, Oh Yeah, Learning to Fall, Get It Up, Turnin’ Left, Future in the Past/encore: Bad Motor Scooter, Highway Star