Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Putting ZZ Top's Fuzzy Past in Focus

What’s underneath those beards, anyway? Anyone who has ever lent an ear to the legacy of long-lived boogie rock legends ZZ Top can tell you that there’s a fair share of Texas blues in the band’s background. But as an elegantly appointed new boxed set makes clear, the backstory of Billy Gibbons”the Top’s singer and guitarist since their ’69 inception”also boasts a heaping helping of psychedelia.

Moving Sidewalks “ The Complete Collection, just released by reissue specialists Rockbeat Records, chronicles the journey of a young Billy Gibbons through the Houston music scene of the mid-to-late ˜60s on his way to forming the band that would become a rock & roll phenomenon. If you’ve ever yearned to peek beneath the fulsome facial hair of the famous frontman, either literally or figuratively, all you have to do is open up this enticing package. Not only does the photo-laden 54-page booklet offer up images of a clean-shaven, baby-faced Billy in his teens as a member of The Coachmen and then the Moving Sidewalks, the two CDs encompass the entirety of both bands’ output. (more…)

Stream Thrice's Live Album – "Anthology"

Still heartbroken about Thrice breaking up? Well don’t you worry. They understand, and just to show how much they care, they’ve put together a 24-song collection of select live recordings from their farewell tour. The limited edition physical 4-LP/2-CD box set is set to be released next week on October 30 by Staple Records, but you can hear it right now streaming on SoundCloud! So grab your buddies and some tissues, sit back, and enjoy the final recordings of Thrice as you weep for the demise of one of our generations greatest bands. (Suck it up. There’s probably gonna be a reunion anyway.)

If you like Thrice, then you might also like OurStage’s own This Armistice.

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Sufjan Stevens, New Video Includes Christmas, Claymation, Zombies, Bloodshed, And More!

Prepare yourselves for the best video of the year. Experimental indie artist Sufjan Stevens has a new video for his song “Mr. Frosty Man” from his upcoming 58-track Silver & Gold Christmas box set. The footage is a full 2 minutes of complete claymation carnage, with zombies, brains, bloodshed, a heroic snowman, references to The Evil Dead, and an unfortunate Santa Claus. The song itself is a silly sloppy garage style romp of out-of-tune guitars and “whatever’s around” percussion, and like most Sufjan Stevens songs, it doesn’t seem to resemble anything else he’s made. The Silver & Gold box set will be released on November 13th. Check out the video for “Mr. Frosty Man” below.

If you like Sufjan Stevens, then you might also like OurStage’s own The Tiny Tin Hearts.

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Riffs, Rants and Rumors: How Tom Trumped Bruce on 'Live Anthology'

Within the upper echelon of heartland rock, at this late date, it all boils down to a crucial question: Springsteen or Petty? The third member of the Holy Trinity, Bob Seger, more or less took himself out of the game over the last couple of decades, while John Mellencamp‘s never really been much more than a dim reflection of the others to begin with, so at this juncture”with all the aforementioned Americana rockers having reached sexagenarian status”it’s basically about Bruce and Tom.

Even the members of roots-rock royalty are only ever as good as their bands, be they E Street, Silver Bullet, or Heartbreakers, and there’s no better measure of a great band’s prowess than the mark they make in concert. So the ultimate proving ground in the recording realm becomes not the studio album but the live anthology. But we’re not talking about your standard-issue live album here”both Petty and Springsteen have released those. No, a grand-scale summary of the concert repertoire is what’s really required to take the artistic temperature of an act in this arena (pun only partially intended).

In this context, one might suggest that Springsteen made a crucial mistake by playing his hand too soon, releasing the three-disc box set Live/1975-85 in 1986, even though he couldn’t have known how many subsequent years of concert triumphs he’d be excluding from the collection. But to call a spade a spade, Bruce’s biggest blunder in our little imaginary competition was in valuing strength over subtlety. They don’t call him The Boss for nothing”Springsteen’s sound has always been about larger-than-life statements delivered with an almost Wagnerian grandeur. As he’s the master of the mode, it’s often thrilling, but it also precludes the possibilities inherent in a lower-key lean, especially live, and that’s where The Heartbreakers come into the picture.

Where the inspirations for the E Street approach come from Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound productions and Roy Orbison‘s pathos-ridden rock operettas, the comparatively laconic Petty and his Gainesville gang were modeled more after the supple, sinuous feel of the famed Southern soul sessionmen of Muscle Shoals, AL, the minimalist R&B grooves of Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and the laid-back country funk of J.J. Cale. Those are the roots The Heartbreakers bring to bear while breathing life into Petty’s tunes, but while there’s nary an ounce of flash or bombast to be found anywhere near a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concert, there’s no shortage of soulful fire and pure rock & roll energy either. With characteristic caginess, Tom waited another quarter-century after Bruce to bring out his big live box set, simply dubbed The Live Anthology, released at the tail end of 2009. In its deluxe version, it took five CDs, two DVDs, a Blu-Ray disc, and a wealth of graphic-oriented extras to tell its tale of a band with three decades-plus of tasteful-but-torrid road-rocking behind them.


Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Boxing The English Beat With Dave Wakeling

The late ˜70s and early ˜80s were a boom time for bands blending New Wave’s urgency and energy with the Jamaican rhythms of ska and reggae. The biggest-selling exponents of that musical merger were The Police and Men At Work, but a whole ska-rock subculture developed in England around a handful of bands working under the Two Tone banner. Two Tone was first and foremost a label, with a roster that at one time or another included The Beat, Bad Manners, The Bodysnatchers, Madness, The Selecter, and The Specials, among others, but it also evolved into a genre tag, partly due to the label’s black-and-white logo and iconography, and partly because of the groups’ commitment to actively opposing the racism that was prevalent in England at the time, through songs, benefits, and activism. The Beat (who became known in the U.S. as The English Beat due to another band’s claim on the name) were Two Tone’s poster boys, as much for their unity-boosting lyrics as for their integrated lineup, and they eventually had the biggest impact in America of any Two Tone act. (more…)

Motörhead Rebels Against Greed

Outraged by the extravagant cost of their new 15 disc box set, Motí¶rhead has told their fans not to waste their money on the overpriced trinket. At $600, the box set’s coffin-like case houses each disc with a Motí¶rhead skull emblem fastened to its lid. Open it up and you’ll find several singles and eight earlier albums, from their self-titled to No Remorse. In addition, the package contains some posters and a photo book.

According to CNN, frontman Lemmy Kilmister stated, “Unfortunately greed once again rears its yapping head… I would advise against it even for the most rabid completists!”

The band claims, “Motí¶rhead has no control over what’s done with these early songs, and don’t want fans to think that the band is involved in putting out such a costly box set.”

If you’re simply too much of die-hard fanatic, the group recently put out a new (reasonably priced) album and DVD titled  “The Wí¶rld Is Yours” and “The Wí¶rld Is Ours – Vol 1 – Everywhere Further Than Everyplace Else” late last year.

Click here to see images of the box set and its outrageous $644 price tag on Amazon.