The Rock Doctors & Reviews of Mastodon and DJ Shadow

This week the doctors are back in. Rock MDs Jim and Greg diagnose yet another ailing patient and prescribe some musical cures. Plus reviews of new albums from DJ Shadow and hardcore metal act Mastodon and a Desert Island Jukebox pick from Greg.

The Rock Doctors
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This week MTV launched a new sister—or rather hermana—network called MTV Tr3s. The station, pronounced MTV Tres, is a bilingual music network aimed at Latino Americans aged 12-34. Considering that the Latino population in the U.S. is estimated to grow 62% by 2020, this is a smart business move. Jim and Greg hope that the opportunity to focus on new, cutting edge Rock en Español acts is not lost. A skim of the programming schedule shows that the MTV Tr3s will not be radically different from the flagship station. In addition to a Latino TRL, which will feature acts like Shakira, Mana and Pitbull, there is a version of Pimp My Ride entitled Pimpeando, and a version of My Super Sweet 16 entitled Quiero Mis Quinces. Sound Opinions doesn’t like to pre-judge, but we suspect that Rock en Español fans might be better off seeking music out on their own. Check out Jim and Greg’s interview with Ernesto Lechner for suggestions.

In the latest installment of what Jim and Greg have dubbed the Pot Calls the Kettle Black series, Sting recently spoke out against the overly commercial pop music of artists like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake. He says, Today’s music is not designed for me... For me singing is a spiritual journey. I’m devoutly musical. This statement comes from a man who debuted his single, Desert Rose, in a Jaguar commercial. Of course, Sting has absolutely NO commercial aims with his next project—a disc full of 16th century music performed on the lute. True music fans can check that out next month. In the meantime, we invite Sting and Bob Dylan and any other cranky old rocker to make an appointment with the Rock Doctors.

After 24 years, legendary rock group The Who are coming back with new material. Remaining members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry will release a new album, Endless Wire, in late October. The two recently launched a tour, along with Ringo’s son Zak Starkey on drums and Pino Palledino on bass, and finally, they have new music to perform. Greg caught their Chicago show, and was impressed that after years of trying to recreate what they once were, the band finally understands what they are—a duo. The music focuses on the combination of their vocals, rather than a powerhouse, arena rock sound. Jim thinks that all of Townshend’s other projects are a lot more interesting than the new Who material, however. The musician/ opera composer is also a publisher and author. Of course, it wasn’t any of these things that got Townshend in the headlines in the past few years.

Julie

For what has become a recurring segment on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg again don their white lab coats and assume the role of Rock Doctors. This week’s patient is Julie, a listener who needs Drs. Kot and DeRogatis to prescribe some new music for her ailing ears. Julie consumes a steady (and stale) diet of Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill.

So, what do Jim and Greg prescribe to bring Julie into 2006?

Jim keys into how Julie appreciates Ella Fitzgerald’s vocals and recommends L’Altra. He knows this is a risky (non-FDA) approved medication, but thought he’d go out on a limb and ask Julie to check out the latest album from the Chicago duo. His second remedy is D’Angelo’s Voodoo. He knows Julie likes dense, layered R&B like that of Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder, and thinks Voodoo, though much darker and moodier, is one of the best R&B records made in the last decade.

Greg also keys into Julie’s appreciation for songwriting and strong vocals, and gives her a dose of Jill Scott. He thinks that the patient will appreciate the way Scott describes the world and the way she playfully uses her voice. His second prescription is John Legend’s debut album Get Lifted. Though Legend is often compared to singer/songwriters like Stevie Wonder, Greg thinks he brings that genre forward in a wonderful way.

A week later the patient returns to the Rock Doctors to let them know how she’s progressing. While she appreciated the Jill Scott record, she found the songs almost too clever. Still, she wasn’t completely turned off by this remedy, and also understood why Jim would prescribe her the D’Angelo—but that didn’t really hit the spot. In fact, she completely forgot that she bought and listened to this album years ago. L’Altra overwhelmingly had the worst side effect. This patient can appreciate alternative medicine, but even a spoonful of sugar didn’t help this album go down. By far the big winner of the bunch was John Legend’s Get Lifted; Julie loved this album. Sound Opinions hopes that it was just the right cure to keep her healthy and full of good, new music.

Blood Mountain Mastodon

Blood Mountain (Deluxe Version)

Warning: The first album up for review may blow out your speakers. Public radio listeners aren’t likely to hear the gargantuan sound of hard core rockers Mastodon, so Sound Opinions is happy to bring it you. After Tool’s recent release, Mastodon’s new album Blood Mountain was the most highly anticipated metal release of the year. Both Jim and Greg find the members of Mastodon to be highly proficient musicians, as well as good students of rock history. They have a keen sense of melody and understand the all-important guitar riff, and their sound harkens back to that of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, as well as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. In fact, we’re hard pressed to classify it, though metal fans certainly love to try. Whatever you call it, Jim and Greg urge you to Buy It.

The Outsider DJ Shadow

The OutsiderDJ Shadow released a new album this week, The Outsider. The hip hop/ electronica sound collagist, otherwise known as Josh Davis, has wowed critics and fans for years with albums like Endtroducing and The Private Press, but Sound Opinions hopes this latest effort doesn’t force him into outsider status. DJ Shadow presents a somewhat different sound here, having composed many of the songs himself rather than using samples, and featuring vocals from guests like David Banner and Kasabian rather than his own production. He’s also steeped himself in the hyphy sound, which, like Shadow himself, hails from the Bay Area. Jim and Greg appreciate Shadow’s urge to stretch out, but neither thinks this album is a success. In fact, Greg calls The Outsider one of the biggest musical disappointments of the year. Jim agrees that the album is too jagged and pales in comparison to his previous work. Unfortunately, The Outsider gets two Trash Its.

Greg

While the remaining members of The Who appear to be looking forward, Greg decided to look backward for this week’s Desert Island Jukebox pick. He went with what he believes to be the ultimate Who track: I Can See For Miles. This track, which was the only Who song to crack the U.S. top-ten chart, perfectly encapsulates what the band was about. Although all four members— Roger Daltry, Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon—were integral to the group, it was Townshend’s arranging that really allowed each to shine. Keith Moon’s drumset was really the lead instrument, and despite being the chief songwriter and guitar player, Townshend knew enough to showcase that rhythm. This relationship is highlighted in I Can See For Miles, and therefore Greg wants to take it with him to that eternal desert island.

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