Results for James Taylor

classic album dissections
Rocket to RussiaRocket to Russia available on iTunes

The Ramones Rocket to Russia

Jim and Greg have mastered the art of the album dissection. This week they try their hand at Rocket to Russia by The Ramones. This was the punk originators' third album, released in April of 1977. Jim and Greg picked this album because of how revolutionary it was at the time. This was the era of Yes, James Taylor and KC and the Sunshine Band. Now that radio playlists are full of songs by bands like Fall Out Boy and Green Day, it's easy to forget a time before punk music. But, until four high schoolers from Forest Hills, NY merged their love of Brill-Building pop and British invasion rock with a big dose of speed and attitude, the sound as we know it didn't exist.

Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, sang vocals, Johnny Ramone, born John Cummings, played guitar, Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, played bass and Tommy Ramone, born Tom Erdelyi, played drums. The four began to record Rocket to Russia after recently releasing two other albums and touring the US and Europe. Today, Tommy Ramone is the only living member of that original group. Tommy co-produced Rocket to Russia and wrote many of the songs, and Jim and Greg invited him on to talk about making the album.

It was a treat to get a first-hand account of recording Rocket to Russia from Tommy Ramone. He revealed a number of interesting facts, some of which surprised even our hosts. Here are some of the noteworthy points:

  • Johnny is known for being a speed demon. Tommy credits this with his desire to be a baseball player and his love of the fastball.
  • Joey is the band's original drummer, and Tommy acted as their manager. Tommy took over on drums in order to keep up with Johnny's pace. He had never played drums before, and sometimes outpaced the studio's click track.
  • Seymour Stein was the label executive behind the band. Despite the fact that their sound wasn't popular, he believed in The Ramones enough to boost their recording budget up to a whopping $25,000.
  • The Ramones heard God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols during the recording of this album. Despite not having nearly the same amount of money to work with, Tommy explains that there was definitely a sense of competition. The feeling wa — they ripped us off, and now we want to sound better.
  • The Ramones were famous for being anti-guitar solo. But, there is one on the track "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Tommy reveals that this was actually him playing guitar, and assures Jim and Greg that Johnny wasn't miffed by the choice. Tommy was inspired by the guitar solo in "Tell Me" by the Rolling Stones.
  • A number of the songs on Rocket to Russia begin with Dee Dee counting off. The band encouraged their bassist to do this, despite the fact that those counts had nothing to do with the actual speed of the song.
  • Tommy struggles to name his favorite tune on the album, but includes "Rockaway Beach" as one of the best. Jim and Greg agree that the sunny, pop track is a great one, made even better by the fact that the actual Rockaway Beach was not a very sunny place. Juxtapose the sound of the song with the idea of trash in the sand and a syringe in your foot.

Jim and Greg also struggle to pick just one song to highlight from Rocket to Russia. Each one is great, and only clocks out at around two minutes. But, Greg was inspired by something Tommy said during their interview. He explained that the Ramones were ahead of their time, and were perhaps too dark and too subversive for mainstream culture. The song that best exemplifies this is "We're a Happy Family." While Happy Days showed one kind of family life, The Ramones wanted to show another, more realistic one. The Ramones were fans of Todd Browning's film Freaks, and celebrated the idea of being different and freaky in this song.

Jim's song choice also celebrates that freak spirit. "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," only has a few words, but it's a definitely an anthem. The term punk previously had a negative connotation. In this song, the Ramones reclaim the word and give a big finger to anyone who judges them (or Sheena). Musically, the song is also quintessentially rock and roll, quintessentially American, quintessentially Ramones. Jim explains that if he had to choose one track to shoot into outer space and represent what rock music is, he'd choose "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."

Go to episode 64
reviews
A Tribute to Joni MitchellA Tribute to Joni Mitchell available on iTunes

Joni Mitchell & Elvis Costello & James Taylor & Sufjan Stevens & Prince & Caetano Veloso A Tribute to Joni Mitchell

The last album up for review is A Tribute to Joni Mitchell. On this album, tracks penned by the famous songwriter are performed by Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor and Elvis Costello among them. Greg explains that Joni Mitchell is a difficult artist to cover, and with the exception of singers like Caetano Veloso, many of the artists on this tribute just simply aren't good enough to tackle her work. Jim agrees, noting that all of the artists on the album are on the Nonesuch roster. He predicts that the record would have been stronger if more obscure performers were chosen. Therefore A Tribute to Joni Mitchell gets two Burn Its.

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Go to episode 79
Intellexual

Intellexual Intellexual

This week, Jim and Greg review Intellexual, a project from Nate Fox and Nico Segal. The duo, who are also a part of The Social Experiment, came up in the collaborative Chicago-based scene that nurtured Chance The Rapper, and have worked with hip hop artists like Kanye West and Frank Ocean. This project, however, finds Nate and Nico attempting a singer-songwriter vibe a'la Carly Simon and James Taylor. Greg thinks that Intellexual is a project that defies genre categorization: in just one track ("Popstar") they employ footwork electronic sounds, classical strings, and jazz trumpet. It's a debut that Jim calls a multi-hyphenate "complete joyride."

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Go to episode 699
news

Music News

Greg recently returned from the Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington D.C. Two of the central themes of the summit were how people will get more access to the internet and how artists will get paid. Senator Al Franken and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski both spoke about these issues and passionately expressed support for net neutrality. But Franken and Genachowski also stressed that any internet activity that violates artist copyright could not be tolerated. Because it's difficult to tell if p2p activity is legal or illegal, the question remains: how do you reconcile these two ideals?

Call her vain, but Carly Simon needs a little more tender, loving care. She is suing Starbucks, saying that the coffee company's now-defunct music label, Hear Music, didn't adequately promote her 2008 album This Kind of Love. Jim and Greg see this is as the final piece in the Hear Music tale. At first it was seen as a great, alternative way for musicians like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell to market their music, and a way for the coffee company to morph into a tastemaking brand. Now, only a couple of years later, everyone agrees Starbucks should stick to lattes.

Go to episode 203

Music News

Jim and Greg start off the news segment by discussing Police drummer Stewart Copeland's blog posting about the band's first reunion gig. Despite critical praise, Copeland was dissatisfied by their performance to say the least. Jim and Greg wonder how dissatisfied fans were, especially those who dropped hundreds of dollars to see Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers.

Of course, the men of the Police aren't the only musicians requesting big bucks this summer. An East Hampton concert series called Social is asking fans to pay $15,000 to see five shows by Prince, Tom Petty, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel and James Taylor. Audience members will be treated to celebrity chefs, art displays and Moroccan pillows rather than the usual uncomfortable stadium seating. This elitist trend in music is disheartening to Jim and Greg, and they wish more consumers would react as people in Italy recently did. After charging between $200 and $1200 for tickets to a show in Rome, singer Barbra Streisand received protests from Italian consumer groups. She recently had to cancel this show, though her camp has not admitted the protests were a cause.

The band Wilco is making news for more than just appearing on Sound Opinions. The Chicago rock group struck a deal with Volkswagen to allow the car company to use its music in a new series of ads. This practice is becoming more and more frequent as bands have fewer and fewer options to get their music heard, but Wilco is one of the last bands Jim, Greg and their fans expected to“sell out.”But, what makes this marketing strategy unique is that VW will feature not just one, but six different Wilco songs in six different ads. The commercials will be released almost like singles, making them as much ads for Wilco as they are for the cars. The band has already received its fair share of criticism, but thankfully they've got family on their side.

Go to episode 80

Music News

After being heralded as the next wave of music retail, Starbucks' Hear Music label is folding and moving its artists to Concord Music. Apparently Starbucks has realized that physical music sales is not an easy business. And now artists like Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Sia won't be able to depend on the coffee chain for their…um…buzz.

Jim and Greg's next news item concerns one of the biggest selling bands of all time: Coldplay. But this time, the British pop group is making headlines for making absolutely no money at all. The Chris Martin-fronted band released their new single "Violet Hill" as a free download earlier this week, and so far their strategy is a success. Within a day over 600,000 people downloaded the song the song for free. Jim and Greg will review the Brian Eno-produced album when it comes out in June, but right now they're more interested in this promotional plan. In the music industry's new era, even a band as established as Coldplay has to shake up the formula to get and keep fans.

Go to episode 127