Monday, July 31, 2006

Today is where your book begins...

Natasha Bedingfield went from being the little sister of a B-list english pop singer (Daniel) to having one of the most popular UK pop albums in no time at all. She did this by putting together the most enjoyable "kid-pop" albums of last year, Unwritten.

Unwritten starts out with "These Words", which is a simple but pleasant ditty about having trouble writing a song. Ingenious! "Single" follows, the first single that was released in England. Bedingfield puts across a theme usually done as the "I don't need a man" but without the requisite pronouns can be used by either women or men.

After that comes Bedingfield's masterpiece, "Unwritten" a self-empowerment anthem which doesn't get preachy and does get inspiring, which is a feat considering her previous internship with her siblings in a religious pop act. The song is still in heavy rotation almost a year later, deservedly so, and I think will be the most memorable song from 2005 when we look back in the future. Between the delicate delivery and the uplifting gospel-like chorus, "Unwritten" is a classic.

Unwritten continues with some able pop (the girl-pop drama of "Silent Movie", the vulnerable "I Bruise Easily") and some trips (the too-trying-to-be-hard "If You're Gonna..."). "Stumble" would make a great single, with its "troubled-love" passion and Bedingfield's best vocal performance on the CD. Also of note near the close of the album is "The One That Got Away", a song about a stalker trying to convince herself to not be a stalker, oddly enough. A great song, unfortunately hidden from radio by the success of "Unwritten" and the promotion of the US release of "Single".

Bedingfield's best talent is crafting a pop record that while being musically current, that has it greatest strength in its lyrics. This alone predicts hopefully a long and fruitful career. If you're looking for a great pop album, forget Mariah and Madonna, and set your sights on Unwritten.

Grade: B+
Best Cuts: "Unwritten", "The One That Got Away", "Stumble"
Weakest Links: "If You're Gonna...", "Drop Me In The Middle"

Listen to the Valentin Remix of "The One That Got Away" not on the album by clicking here to bring of the download window.

Unwritten (the album) made #26 US pop albums and #1 UK pop albums.

"These Words (I Love You, I Love You)" hit #17 Billboard Hot 100, #35 Dance Club Play, #24 Adult Top40, #1 Dance Radio, #9 Pop 100, and #1 on the UK chart.

"Unwritten" hit #5 Billboard Hot 100, #1 Dance Club Play, #2 Adult Top40, #2 Dance Radio, #7 Adult Contemporary, #1 Pop 100, and #6 in the UK.

"Single" made #57 Billboard Hot 100, #38 Pop 100, and #3 on the UK chart.

"The One That Got Away" hit #1 on Billboard's Dance Club Play, and #4 on Dance Radio.

"I Bruise Easily" made #12 on the UK chart.

Buy Unwritten by going here or here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taking the long way round....

I just got back from seeing the Dixie Chicks in Philadelphia. Awesome show. This is the third time I've seen them on tour, and though the stage setup is much toned-down from previous years, the music itself has evolved into something greater than a genre of music. The women played for 2 hours, covering just about every period in their career. If you haven't bought tickets yet to an upcoming show, by all means get them. Though the arena wasn't a full house, those of us that were there (and it was packed up to the higher balconies) were totally fanatical all through the show.

In honor of the Chicks I'm putting up a rare glimpse of the pre-Natalie Maines Dixie Chicks, from the album Shouldn't Have Done That.

To download "There Goes My Dream" right-click here to bring up the download page.

Find tickets for the Dixie Chicks here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sometimes the whiskey works, sometimes it don't at all, but at least I'm slowing down the fall...


Hot Apple Pie's debut self-titled album came twelve years after Brady Seals left the band Little Texas, following a string of minor solo records (only one, "Another You, Another Me" even made the country top-40). Going back to the Little Texas playbook, Hot Apple Pie is a mishmesh of redneck showboating and country-pop hybrids. Starting with the first single, "Hillbillies", the band seem to be a fresh and loose outfit, with a funky non-traditional groove that belies its inane sexual lyrics. However, right after that comes a string of Little Texas-style numbers, including the crazily insipid "We're Making Up" (I can imagine her breaking back up after it) and "California King", which overtreads the "road-to-riches" story. "Easy Does It" is a breezy if not totally exciting single, which leads to the hokey "The Good Life". The middle of the record, though bring some good songs to go with their good musicianship, with an inspired go at Robbie Robertson's "The Shape I'm In" and a bar-room duet with Willie Nelson, "Slowin' Down The Fall". Unfortunately right after that comes the slogan-waving "Redneck Revolution" and a few more filler tunes before the disjointed "live-like" closer "All Together Now". While the songs themselves are pretty basic for someone who's been in the business for so long, the band's grasp of harmony and musicianship are quite notable. Hopefully with a few more relaxed tunes and a focused theme Hot Apple Pie's next move may be something to watch.

Grade: C-
Best Cuts: "The Shape I'm In", "Slowing Down The Fall"
Weakest Links: "Redneck Revolution", "All Together Now"

Hot Apple Pie
(the album) hit #6 country, #60 pop albums.
"Hillbillies" hit #26 country, #122 on the pop "Bubbling Under" chart.
"We're Makin' Up" hit #54 country.
"Easy Does It" made #50 country.

To Buy Hot Apple Pie try here or here.

To listen to "Hillbillies" right-click here to bring up new window to hear.

Twostepcub's Music Chart for 07-25-06

Hey folks, here's my songs for the week. As usual, you can right-click on any artist's name to bring of the webpage of the artist in a new window to listen to the artist's music. This week sees Red Hot Chili Peppers at #1 for the fourth week, with big moves by Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Panic At The Disco, and says goodbye to songs by Dierks Bentley & INXS. Cheers!

This Week Song/Artist (Last week's Position in parentheses)
------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1)
2. If You're Going Through Hell - Rodney Atkins (2)
3. The World - Brad Paisley (4)
4. Black Horse & The Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall (3)
5. High - James Blunt (6)
6. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (7)
7. The One That Got Away - Natasha Bedingfield (5)
8. What's Left Of Me - Nick Lachey (8)
9. Get Together - Madonna (11)
10. Faster Kill Pussycat - Oakenfold f/Brittany Murphy (10)
11. Look On The Floor (Hypnotic Tango) - Bananarama (14)
12. Savin' Me - Nickelback (12)
13. Life Ain't Always Beautiful - Gary Allan (9)
14. A Little Too Late - Toby Keith (15)
15. Bring It On Home - Little Big Town (16)
16. Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson (13)
17. Why Why Why - Billy Currington (17)
18. Is It Any Wonder? - Keane (24)
19. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera (34)
20. Move Along - All-American Rejects (23)
21. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (19)
22. Miss Murder - AFI (28)
23. Steady As She Goes - The Raconteurs (31)
24. Tracking Treasure Down - Gabriel & Dresden (25)
25. Make A Move On Me - Joey Negro (26)
26. Down In Mississippi (Up To No Good) - Sugarland (18)
27. SOS - Rihanna (20)
28. World Hold On - Bob Sinclar f/Steve Edwards (32)
29. Unfaithful - Rihanna (41)
30. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray (29)
31. Leave The Pieces - The Wreckers (35)
32. Bad Day - Daniel Powter (27)
33. When The Stars Go Blue - Tim McGraw (21)
34. It's Over - DJ Mike Cruz f/Joi Cardwell & Georgie Porgie (30)
35. Would You Go With Me - Josh Turner (42)
36. The Adventure - Angels & Airwaves (40)
37. Stay With You - Goo Goo Dolls (39)
38. Upside Down - Jack Johnson (36)
39. I Will Stand - Claudja Barry (51)
40. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira f/Wyclef Jean (44)
41. Say Somethin' - Mariah Carey (22)
42. Fade Away - Sarah Atereth (43)
43. The Real Thing - Bo Bice (45)
44. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (57)
45. I Am Not My Hair - India.Arie (46)
46. Hate Me - Blue October (47)
47. Face The Music - Conjure One (62)
48. Brand New Girlfriend - Steve Holy (52)
49. I Will - Dolce (61)
50. Now That We Found Love - Bunny Rugs (56)
51. What Hurts The Most - Rascal Flatts (54)
52. Summertime - Kenny Chesney (38)
53. Me & My Gang - Rascal Flatts (49)
54. Diamonds - Los Lonely Boys (58)
55. Swing - Trace Adkins (64)
56. Say I - Christina Milian f/Young Jeezy (48)
57. The Riddle (You & I) - Five For Fighting (63)
58. Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae (75)
59. Instigator - Kaci Brown (53)
60. I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic At The Disco (80)
61. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado (74)
62. Who Knew - Pink (78)
63. Building Bridges - Brooks & Dunn f/Sheryl Crow & Vince Gill (67)
64. How To Save A Life - The Fray (72)
65. Don't Forget To Remember Me - Carrie Underwood (59)
66. Every Time I Hear Your Name - Keith Anderson (33)
67. Suffer Well - Depeche Mode (37)
68. Paralyzed - Rock Kills Kid (81)
69. Finding A Good Man - Danielle Peck (73)
70. Last Day Of My Life - Phil Vassar (66)
71. Fashionista - Jimmy James (65)
72. How 'Bout You - Eric Church (69)
73. Ever The Same - Rob Thomas (70)
74. Cafe Con Alegria - Tony Moran f/Deep Influence (84)
75. Waiting For The World To Change - John Mayer (92)
76. Falling Apart - Lovemakers (60)
77. Boston - Augustana (83)
78. Nothing Left To Lose - Mat Kearney (86)
79. Where'd You Go - Fort Minor f/Holly Brook (79)
80. Juicy - Better Than Ezra (68)
81. Hands Up To Heaven - Heaven 17 (50)
82. Far Away - Nickelback (82)
83. New Strings - Miranda Lambert (85)
84. Faith - Leana (89)
85. Everything Changes - Staind (87)
86. C'est La Vie - Kim English (DEBUT)
87. You Can Turn Me On - Muzzaik f/Mia (94)
88. My Love Is You - Eyes Of Love (DEBUT)
89. On Again Tonight - Trent Willmon (90)
90. Animal I Have Become - Three Days Grace (96)
91. Not Ready To Make Nice - Dixie Chicks (RE-ENTRY)
92. Size Matters (Someday) - Joe Nichols (55)
93. Soul Meets Body - Death Cab For Cutie (93)
94. Stupid Girls - Pink (71)
95. Vicarious - Tool (95)
96. Sunshine & Summertime - Faith Hill (DEBUT)
97. MakeDamnSure - Taking Back Sunday (DEBUT)
98. Yee Haw - Jake Owen (99)
99. The Story Of My Life - Smash Mouth (100)
100. Feels Just Like It Should - Pat Green (DEBUT)

The Single Life...July 24 2006

It's the time of slim pickin' single wise, not much from the past two weeks...

Dierks Bentley - "Every Mile A Memory" The first single from Bentley's third album, a good easy-rock influenced track not unlike a track from rock radio circa 1983. He's continuing in the broken-heart vein, but not cloyingly. Grade: B

Barton - "To Call My Own" [Josh Harris Club Mix] The singer's third Dance chart single (and biggest to date), "To Call My Own" sounds like a lost Human League track. And not so much in a bad way. A good moody dance track, not especially moving but it gets the job done. Grade: B-

Tiesto - "He's A Pirate" [Tiesto Remix] I guess the makers of this year's summer blockbuster "Pirates Of The Caribbean" took notice from the success of "Brokeback Mountain" and commission a dance song from the movie. A darker-than-usual-for-a-kiddie-movie instrumental, it does have a good beat but the melody doesn't really have a memorable theme. Grade: C

Chico Featuring Ashlee
- "Leavin' U" [Mike Da Wizard & Anderstanding Mix] Retro latin-dance track, not particularly well-produced, and not much unlike iio's "Rapture (Tastes So Sweet)". Grade: C-

Thursday, July 20, 2006

There ain't no other man I'd rather be...


While a good chunk of America was fixated on the spectacle that was American Idol, another Star Search knockoff, Nashville Star, has for four years now generated a buzz with record labels looking for the next big country thing. The first season alone is noteworthy due to the triumph of Buddy Jewell, a journeyman over-40 demo trad-country singer that totally flies in the face of the usual Nashville machine. After winning, Jewell put out an enjoyable self-titled debut album with the help of Clint Black. With a #1 country album and two top-5 country/top-40 pop songs under his belt, things were looking up.

However, the "sophomore slump" complex came by in a big way with Jewell's follow-up, Times Like These. Where his first album was an earnest mix of upbeat pickers and easy-going ballads, this album goes straight for the Branson blue-hair crowd. Everything seems bland and pre-screened for red-state consumption, from the simple "Me Lovin' You" to the hokey "Dyess Arkansas", nothing really grabs you. The two songs that have any staying power are the Valentine's-ready "If She Were Any Other Woman" and the somewhat perkier "So Gone".

Unfortunately, since this album stalled after only one single, Jewell parted ways with Columbia records. I think Clint Black should take him under his wing again at Equity Records and put out a record more in the vein of Jewell's debut.

Grade: D+
Best Cuts: "If She Were Any Other Woman", "So Gone"
Weakest Links: "Me Lovin' You", "Dyess Oklahoma"
You'd Like if You Like: Going to Branson, Missouri; Alabama's softer side

Times Like These hit Country #5 and Pop #31.
"If She Were Any Other Woman" hit Country #27

Buy Times Like These here or here.

Listen to "If She Were Any Other Woman" here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Does it always have to come to to you leaving before I'll say I love you...

There was a point a few years back where country radio was a sea of testosterone. In fact, there was a point where no woman had hit #1 for a long while. Nowadays, while female presence of the country chart has come back, a steady stream of male country singers continues.


Jason Aldean came in a flurry of such albums, along with Keith Anderson and Bobby Pinson. Though not mega-smashes, each sold respectable numbers consistently - Aldean hit #6 country and #37 pop on the albums chart, went gold, and is still in the country top-30 album chart a year later. And this is only with 2 hit singles behind it so far with a third just released.

Aldean's debut starts with the rocker "Hicktown". A cliche' number in the usual "look how country I can be" category, he does deliver with enough sincerity and hooks to overlook that for a moment. Five of the eleven songs have co-writing credits from a member of Big & Rich, including the highlight single "Why", a song about regret over unspoken emotions, which made the #1 spot on the country chart. "Asphalt Cowboy" is a good "lonesome trucker" song, while "I Believe In Ghosts" reprises a "Stranger In My House" vibe to good dramatic effect. The rest of the album is enjoyable albeit generic neo-country. The only misstep is the trite "Lonesome USA". Aldean has a great voice with a range that can match the material, and "sell" what he's singing. A respectable debut, hopefully a sign for a brighter future.

Grade: B
Best Cuts: "Why", "Asphalt Cowboy", "I Believe In Ghosts"
Weakest Link: "Lonesome USA"
You'd Like This If You Like: Lonestar, John Rich (Big & Rich)

Jason Aldean made #6 Country and #37 Pop.
"Hicktown" made #10 Country and #68 Pop.
"Why" made #1 Country and #43 Pop.
"Amarillo Sky" so far has hit #43 Country.

Listen to "Hicktown" by clicking here. (RIght-click to open in new window)

Buy the album here or here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stay Cool....

I hope everyone's surviving the ungodly heat. At lunch it was reading 109 degrees in the car. I need another beach day, that's for sure..

Monday, July 17, 2006

Twostepcub's Music Chart for 07-18-06

Hey folks, I know it's been light posting lately, but I've got more albums and clips a-comin' shortly! Until then, here's my songs of the week. As always, you can click on the artist to bring up their webpage (if you want, right-click to bring up in a new window). Stay cool!

This Week Song/Artist (last week position in parentheses)
-----------------------------------------------------------------
1. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1)
2. If You're Going Through Hell - Rodney Atkins (6)
3. Black Horse & The Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall (3)
4. The World - Brad Paisley (4)
5. The One That Got Away - Natasha Bedingfield (2)
6. High - James Blunt (7)
7. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (9)
8. What's Left Of Me - Nick Lachey (12)
9. Life Ain't Always Beautiful - Gary Allan (5)
10. Faster Kill Pussycat - Oakenfold f/Brittany Murphy (13)
11. Get Together - Madonna (19)
12. Savin' Me - Nickelback (14)
13. Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson (8)
14. Look To The Floor (Hypnotic Tango) - Bananarama (23)
15. A Little Too Late - Toby Keith (20)
16. Bring It On Home - Little Big Town (17)
17. Why Why Why - Billy Currington (22)
18. Down In Mississippi (Up To No Good) - Sugarland (18)
19. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (16)
20. SOS - Rihanna (11)
21. When The Stars Go Blue - Tim McGraw (15)
22. Say Somethin' - Mariah Carey f/Snoop Dogg (10)
23. Move Along - All-American Rejects (28)
24. Is It Any Wonder? - Keane (35)
25. Tracking Treasure Down - Gabriel & Dresden (26)
26. Make A Move On Me - Joey Negro (30)
27. Bad Day - Daniel Powter (25)
28. Miss Murder - AFI (36)
29. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray (27)
30. It's Over - DJ Mike Cruz f/Joi Cardwell & Georgie Porgie (31)
31. Steady As She Goes - The Raconteurs (34)
32. World Hold On - Bob Sinclar f/Steve Edwards (39)
33. Every Time I Hear Your Name - Keith Anderson (21)
34. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera (57)
35. Leave The Pieces - The Wreckers (37)
36. Upside Down - Jack Johnson (32)
37. Suffer Well - Depeche Mode (24)
38. Summertime - Kenny Chesney (33)
39. Stay With You - The Goo Goo Dolls (40)
40. The Adventure - Angels & Airwaves (42)
41. Unfaithful - Rihanna (70)
42. Would You Go With Me - Josh Turner (55)
43. Fade Away - Sarah Atereth (45)
44. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira f/Wyclef Jean (50)
45. The Real Thing - Bo Bice (46)
46. I Am Not My Hair - India.Arie (51)
47. Hate Me - Blue October (47)
48. Say I - Christina Milian f/Young Jeezy (48)
49. Me & My Gang - Rascal Flatts (43)
50. Hands Up To Heaven - Heaven 17 (38)
51. I Will Stand - Claudja Barry (69)
52. Brand New Girlfriend - Steve Holy (56)
53. Instigator - Kaci Brown (54)
54. What Hurts The Most - Rascal Flatts (58)
55. Size Matters (Someday) - Joe Nichols (29)
56. Now That We Found Love - Bunny Rugs (73)
57. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (68)
58. Diamonds - Los Lonely Boys (63)
59. Don't Forget To Remember Me - Carrie Underwood (53)
60. Falling Apart - The Lovemakers (61)
61. I Will - Dolce (72)
62. Face The Music - Conjure One (83)
63. The Riddle (You & I) - Five For Fighting (66)
64. Swing - Trace Adkins (82)
65. Fashionista - Jimmy James (65)
66. Last Day Of My Life - Phil Vassar (62)
67. Building Bridges - Brooks & Dunn f/Sheryl Crow & Vince Gill (71)
68. Juicy - Better Than Ezra (44)
69. How 'Bout You - Eric Church (59)
70. Ever The Same - Rob Thomas (60)
71. Stupid Girls - Pink (41)
72. How To Save A Life - The Fray (85)
73. Finding A Good Man - Danielle Peck (78)
74. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado (84)
75. Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae (DEBUT)
76. Settle For A Slowdown - Dierks Bentley (49)
77. Afterglow - INXS (52)
78. Who Knew - Pink (DEBUT)
79. Where'd You Go - Fort Minor f/Holly Brook (80)
80. I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic At The Disco (DEBUT)
81. Paralyzed - Rock Kills Kid (DEBUT)
82. Far Away - Nickelback (97)
83. Boston - Augustana (90)
84. Cafe Con Alegria - Tony Moran f/Deep Influence (DEBUT)
85. New Strings - Miranda Lambert (DEBUT)
86. Nothing Left To Lose - Mat Kearney (88)
87. Everything Changes - Staind (96)
88. All Messed Up - Breaking Benjamin (75)
89. Faith - Leana (DEBUT)
90. On Again Tonight - Trent Willmon (92)
91. Waiting - Taxi Doll (87)
92. Waiting For The World To Change - John Mayer (99)
93. Soul Meets Body - Death Cab For Cutie (93)
94. You Can Turn Me On - Muzzaik f/Mia (100)
95. Vicarious - Tool (94)
96. Animal I Have Become - Three Days Grace (DEBUT)
97. I Can't Unlove You - Kenny Rogers (67)
98. Kiss The Sky - Danielle Bollinger (64)
99. Yee Haw - Jake Owen (DEBUT)
100. Story Of My Life - Smash Mouth (DEBUT)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

If you're up for a rodeo, I'll put a Texas-sized smile on your face...

Ah yes, Toby Keith. The mere mention of the name evokes in some people either revulsion or zeal. With a career that was already getting hot with the release of his How Do You Like Me Now? album, he found stratospheric success cashing in on the flag-waving ugly-American market, cashing in over and over again with crappy, I mean real crappy drivel like "Courtesy Of The Red, White & Blue" (with requisite jingoistic ignorance) and "American Soldier" (gotta be in my top-10 worst songs of all time). However, for all the mud flug back at him through the years, I've got to admit that he's a damn good artist when he wants to be. For every "American Soldier", there's four or five gems like "Wish I Didn't Know How" and "Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You". So now that the "patriotic" fad has pretty much faded with the reality of a complete failure of a war in Iraq and a country still waiting for justice for 9/11, how does that start to reflect on it's flagship songsmith?

Well with Honkytonk U, Keith's final album for Dreamworks Nashville, it's mostly and thankfully short on posturing, and more back-to-basics barroom songs. You wouldn't know it though at the start, with the god-friggin'-awful "Honkytonk U", a typical piece of fist-pumping man-drag that finds another reason to stick "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" into a song. However this time, radio mostly semi-balked, sending the single quickly up to only #8 on the country chart, spending 3 weeks in the top-10, which is really dismal for a Toby Keith album-opening single. Luckily, the album had more up its sleeve than that. Next up is the smash "As Good As I Once Was", which played up Keith's self-deprecating joking side, which turned his fortunes around, hitting #1 for six weeks. "Big Blue Note", another cute and humble ditty about a cluelessly dumped man, followed up to #5. The remainder of the album intermixes competent if not really notable sad-guy ballads like "I Got It Bad" and "Knock Yourself Out" with saloon rockers like "She Left Me". There's only a couple more clunkers like the over-silly Jimmy Buffett knock-off "Just The Guy To Do It" and cliche-ridden duet with Waylon Jennings, "She Ain't Hooked On Me No More".

The album as a whole does have a relaxed, but throw-away feel, which I'm not sure if it's because the honky-tonk theme, or the final-album-for-the-label letdown. Though save the intolerable title song (hit that skip forward button), this is a decent listen for a night in a western dive.

Grade: C+
Best Cuts: "As Good As I Once Was", "Knock Yourself Out"
Weakest Links: "Honky Tonk U", "She Ain't Hooked On Me No More"

"Honkytonk U" - Country #8, Pop#61
"As Good As I Once Was" - Country #1 (six weeks), Pop#28
"Big Blue Note" - Country #5, Pop#55

Listen to "She Left Me" (right click to get download page)

Buy It Here

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Look what you've done to this rock 'n' roll clown...


Def Leppard, for a lot of people, were like the Huey Lewis & The News of hard rock. They were disrespected, yet insanely popular. However, like fellow Backstreet-Ozzys Bon Jovi, DL left at inarguable canon of classic rock which still rocks. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection expands on their previous greatest hits set Vault to a two disc set, including newer singles and album cuts.

The 2-CD set is almost like a mixtape, putting songs out of chronological order and frontloading their best known songs, "Pour Some Sugar On Me", "Photograph" and "Love Bites" to kick it all off. I remember the controversy over whether "Pour Some Sugar" was supposed to be an ode to crack. Doubtful, but silly nonetheless. "Photograph" remains their signature song, and for good reason. Like a beacon into the music darkness between the soft-rock early 80s and the new wave of '83, it taught us you can still rock and have a melody that sticks in your head. From their debut On Through The Night are the primitive Lepp-sound "Wasted" and "Rock Brigade", which while having corny proto-metal lyrics, already proved the band had the guitar riffs down pat. High 'N' Dry contributes no less than six of its ten songs here, including the classic "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" and "Mirror Mirror". That fact alone ups the quality of this collection over Vault. With their breakthrough success Pyromania, this set contains all the top-40 singles like "Photograph", "Rock Of Ages", and "Foolin'" (the precursor to "Love Bites") while also serving up album cuts like "Billy's Got A Gun" and "Too Late For Love". I know seven songs from an album is amazing, but the selfish side of me would've like to see "Action Not Words" and "Comin' Under Fire" included (especially since they both got play on rock radio).

As popular as Pyromania was, nothing was as much a surprise as the gradual success of its follow-up, Hysteria. Herald by the rockin' single "Women", which unfairly only reached #80 on the pop chart, the album debut down at #36. However, with each subsequent single, the album churned out 6 more singles that hit the top-20 on the pop chart. With the help of "Mr. Shania Twain" Mutt Lange, the band crafted strange lyrics ("I Cry Wolf, give it mouth to mouth"?) around the double punch of a punchy bridge and anthemic chorus. And as cool of a song as it is, what exactly does "Armageddon It" mean? Only "Rocket" shines a little less brightly than before, only because probably it rehashes the "It's The End of the World As We Know It/We Didn't Start The Fire" pastiche. No album cuts are her, but with all 7 singles, I'm not complaining.

After losing guitarist Steve Clark to death-by-overdose in 1991, Def Leppard continued not by eulogizing but by coasting on their next album, Adrenalize. Ushered in by the craptacular "Let's Get Rocked" which is in the pantheon of my top-10 worst rock songs of all time. Unfortunately it portrayed a "cartoon"-type version of the band, and I think in the long run hurt the ability to grow on Hysteria. Mind you, this album still put in 5 singles on the pop charts in the US, and another, "Heaven Is" over in England. However, the biggest of them, the great "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" got only to #12, the same as the last single from Hysteria. They must've thought the same, only including 4 songs here, even omitting top-40 song "Make Love Like A Man" (which, though it should've been put in here to make this collection complete, does truly suck) and final single "Tonight" (which doesn't suck as much).

Next up are a series of forgettable albums and compilations which are represented by the odd track or two here. The odds-n-ends album Retro-Active did give the band their last two top-40 singles, the softer songs "Two Steps Behind" and "Miss You In A Heartbeat", which are thankfully included here to save you from buying that album, though including another song like the rock radio semi-hit "Desert Song" or the UK single "Action" would've been a great addition. "When Love And Hate Collide", the only new track on the Vault collection and the band's last Hot-100 pop chart hit, makes its appearance here as well. From the disjointed Slang album comes the title song and "Work It Out", neither which sound at all like a Def Leppard record. It sounds like the band is trying to adapt to be a band they're not. They got back (somewhat) to form on Euphoria, with the rockin' "Promises" and the lesser so "Paper Sun". And from their latest original album, X, comes only one song, the darker "Now", which brings it back to Bon Jovi's "thoughtful" period. Finally mixed into the second disc is the set's single, a cover of Badfinger's "No Matter What", which though skillfully done, doesn't add anything to the original.
Like Def Leppard's career, Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection is most hit and a little miss. It would've been great to include a couple more songs. But taken as a sum of it's parts, it truly epitomizes the best that pop-metal has to offer.

Grade: A-
Best Cuts: "Photograph", "Love Bites", "Animal", "Foolin'", "Armageddon It", "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad", "Rock Of Ages", "Hysteria", "Bringin' On The Heartbreak", "Too Late For Love", "Mirror Mirror", "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)", "Billy's Got A Gun"
Weakest Links: "Paper Sun", "Work It Out"

Buy it here...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Single Life....July 11, 2006

Hey folks, here's the singles I've bought the last week...it sure seems like a retro week, everything seems to be a flashback of something older...as always you can right-click on the artist to check out their page.

Kim English - "C'est La Vie" [Maurice Joshua Mix] This is a very low-key smooth house mix of the new song by dance diva English. Totally retro early 90s, in contrast to the anthems she is known for.

Eyes Of Love - "My Love Is You" [Federico Conti Mix, Mahjong Extended Mix] And talk about retro, this act is Black Box reincarnated (without Martha Wash and the lawsuits, of course). The Federico mix is in the processed-disco vein in the manner of Freemasons, and the Mahjong Mix is more contemporary and spacey, though keeping the disco vibe going. Of course the tune itself is fluffy, but in this case it doesnt matter. Dance heaven, best dance song for the week.

Cascada
- "Miracle" [Extended Mix] Although I wasn't really a huge fan of the group's first techno-for-dummies single, "Everytime We Touch", I was grateful for a dance song to become massive in this pop world of the pretend-thugs and tweenies. "Miracle" doesn't stray far from that; in fact it can be interchangable with a number of those type of songs. However it's done well, and not too annoying (well, give it a couple hundred spins...)

Paris Hilton - "Stars Are Blind" [Tracy Young Paris Club Mix Edit] I have no idea why this album has been more hyped than the return of Guns 'N' Roses. Not offensive, but anybody can pay enough to sound ok, especially with Tracy Young mixing. However it's better than the Cascada any day.

Rock Kills Kid - "Paralyzed" ...and the onslaught of the flashback to 1983 continues. Bring it on! If you're into the Killers, check this band out. Cheesy, but in a cool way.

Panic! In The Disco - "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" I know I'm late to the party, but Fall Out Boy clones or not, this band's great. From the title which has nothing to do with the song (this song's more like the "closing the goddam door" song) to the crunching power-pop guitars and dramatic delivery by lead singer Brendan Urie, this delivers. Heck buy the whole damn album.

Three Days Grace - "Animal I Have Become" Well this is retro more in the early 90s anger-pop days. Not bad if you are into Nickelback's angry tunes. (and I actually can admit to liking that)

Taking Back Sunday - "MakeDamnSure" Well, while we're on the subject of angry Nickelback tunes, this bascially merges that with the Fall Out Boy post-emo. Amazing video that takes the song to another place. Haven't figured out where, but another place.

Corinne Bailey Rae - "Put Your Records On" I've had the album since it's been released in the UK, but figured I'd add it here as it's starting to pick up steam in the states. I'd say a safe bet for a Grammy, possibly "Song of the Year". Pick up her whole album, you won't be disappointed. For once, the hype fits. This is a great breezy song just about music itself, and what can't be better than that.

John Mayer - "Waiting For The World To Change" The previous king of sensitive rock (until now that James Blunt is nipping at his heels) takes his jazz-trio experience back into the pop arena that's inspiring and not stylistically unlike a lighter take on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On". Great song, something I'd wish Bruce Springsteen would still be capable of.

Twostepcub's music chart for July 11, 2006

Here's the weekly music chart, as always you can right-click on the name of the artist to open the link to their webpage in a new window. Cheers!

LW TW Song
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 1. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
3 2. The One That Got Away - Natasha Bedingfield
2 3. Black Horse & The Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall
4 4. The World - Brad Paisley
6 5. Life Ain't Always Beautiful - Gary Allan
11 6. If You're Going Through Hell - Rodney Atkins
9 7. High - James Blunt
5 8. Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
17 9. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
10 10. Say Somethin' - Mariah Carey
7 11. SOS - Rihanna
16 12. What's Left Of Me - Nick Lachey
15 13. Faster Kill Pussycat - Oakenfold f/Brittany Murphy
14 14. Savin' Me - Nickelback
8 15. When The Stars Go Blue - Tim McGraw
13 16. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
18 17. Bring It On Home - Little Big Town
19 18. Down In Mississippi - Sugarland
24 19. Get Together - Madonna
22 20. A Little Too Late - Toby Keith
12 21. Every Time I Hear Your Name - Keith Anderson
26 22. Why Why Why - Billy Currington
37 23. Look To The Floor (Hypnotic Tango) - Bananarama
20 24. Suffer Well - Depeche Mode
23 25. Bad Day - Daniel Powter
30 26. Tracking Treasure Down - Gabriel & Dresden
25 27. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray
32 28. Move Along - All-American Rejects
21 29. Size Matters (Someday) - Joe Nichols
34 30. Make A Move On Me - Joey Negro
33 31. It's Over - DJ Mike Cruz f/Joi Cardwell & Georgie Porgie
29 32. Upside Down - Jack Johnson
28 33. Summertime - Kenny Chesney
39 34. Steady As She Goes - Raconteurs
42 35. Is It Any Wonder? - Keane
45 36. Miss Murder - AFI
41 37. Leave The Pieces - The Wreckers
38 38. Hands Up To Heaven - Heaven 17
50 39. World Hold On - Bob Sinclar f/Steve Edwards
44 40. Stay With You - Goo Goo Dolls
31 41. Stupid Girls - Pink
51 42. The Adventure - Angels & Airwaves
43 43. Me & My Gang - Rascal Flatts
36 44. Juicy - Better Than Ezra
52 45. Fade Away - Sarah Atereth
48 46. The Real Thing - Bo Bice
47 47. Hate Me - Blue October
49 48. Say I - Christina Milian f/Young Jeezy
27 49. Settle For A Slowdown - Dierks Bentley
55 50. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira f/Wyclef Jean
59 51. I Am Not My Hair - India.Arie
35 52. Afterglow - INXS
53 53. Don't Forget To Remember Me - Carrie Underwood
60 54. Instigator - Kaci Brown
67 55. Would You Go With Me - Josh Turner
64 56. Brand New Girlfriend - Steve Holy
77 57. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
73 58. What Hurts The Most - Rascal Flatts
61 59. How 'Bout You - Eric Church
56 60. Ever The Same - Rob Thomas
62 61. Falling Apart - Lovemakers
63 62. Last Day Of My Life - Phil Vassar
74 63. Diamonds - Los Lonely Boys
40 64. Kiss The Sky - Danielle Bollinger
66 65. Fashionista - Jimmy James
75 66. The Riddle (You & I) - Five For Fighting
57 67. I Can't Unlove You - Kenny Rogers
79 68. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
95 69. I Will Stand - Claudja Barry
100 70. Unfaithful - Rihanna
81 71. Building Bridges - Brooks & Dunn f/Sheryl Crow & Vince Gill
86 72. I Will - Dolce
91 73. Now That We Found Love - Bunny Rugs
54 74. Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
71 75. All Messed Up - Breaking Benjamin
46 76. Something's Gotta Give - LeAnn Rimes
70 77. For You I Will (Confidence) - Teddy Geiger
88 78. Finding A Good Man - Danielle Peck
65 79. Kiss You - iio
84 80. Where'd You Go - Fort Minor f/Holly Brook
58 81. So Special - Judge Jules
Debut 82. Swing - Trace Adkins
Debut 83. Face The Music - Conjure One
96 84. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado
Debut 85. How To Save A Life - The Fray
80 86. The Lucky One - Faith Hill
82 87. Waiting - Taxi Doll
89 88. Nothing Left To Lose - Mat Kearney
68 89. Raindrops - Stunt
99 90. Boston - Augustana
69 91. The Wings (Brokeback Mountain) - Gustavo Santaolalla
93 92. On Again Tonight - Trent Willmon
94 93. Soul Meets Body - Death Cab For Cutie
92 94. Vicarious - Tool
78 95. Who Says You Can't Go Home - Bon Jovi f/Jennifer Nettles
Debut 96. Everything Changes - Staind
Debut 97. Far Away - Nickelback
72 98. Why - Jason Aldean
Debut 99. Waiting For The World To Change - John Mayer
Debut 100. You Can Turn Me On - Muzzaik f/Mia

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Well, I've eaten the first (albeit grape) tomatoes from the garden. Yum.


Here's my Balloon Flowers. Very interesting little perennials, they explode from a little packet to these purple flowers. Amazing.


The sea of gladiolas is starting. Woohoo!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cuz me & my girls on the floor like what, while the DJ keeps on spinnin' the cut...


On one hand, I should be thankful that the biggest album of last year wasn't something I'd be ashamed of playing at work or in the car. However, The Emancipation of Mimi isn't exactly the best thing since sliced bread. Making her comeback in a big way, Mariah Carey's got your standard skip-ballad, "We Belong Together" (by far the best thing on here), amongst some other competent but unassuming R&B that really coulda been put out 10 years ago. Making the best impression is the low-key "Mine Again", which doesn't pull out any production gimmicks and just focuses on her voice. But by the end, your in new-jack fatigue. Try to seek out the remixes of the singles for a livelier take.

Grade: C
Best Cuts: "We Belong Together"
Weakest Links: "One And Only", "Joyride"

watch "Say Somethin'" here

Buy It Here

and here's a clip of the Morales remix of "Say Somethin'" (right click to bring up download window)

Friday, July 07, 2006

I'm like a watch that nobody wants to wind...


Well, coming from Mars Volta, I had to detox. Enjoy the cheesiness, courtesy of one of my first albums (yes albums) that I owned, the soundtrack to the glorious Donny and Marie vehicle, Goin' Coconuts.

On The Shelf - (right click to bring up new window for download page)

I hear him every night in every pore...


Mars Volta is basically for those who think System Of A Down is too commercial. But seriously, listening to Frances The Mute takes a lot of patience if not some mind-altering substance (for me, Red Bull and Vodka can do the trick). First, the album pretty much is made up of two "songs" in the conventional sense, stuck in the middle of a fugue of guitars, horns, and pretty much anything else. But those two songs kick ass. "The Widow" was the surprising hit single, being basically a dirge-like homage to someone who I got the impression was pretty much evil or depressed, depending on the amount of alcohol I've drunk. The other, "L'Via L'Vazquez is a hard-rock suite that flows from Spanish to English back again amidst the best guitar riff in a latin-styled single I've hard in a while. (Though it sounds like a hard-rock commercial for Ambien) These two are stuck in the middle of an album where the track listing on the CD has zilcho to do with the songs inside (save for the above two). The rest of the album seems like what would happen if Yes got really angry. Don't get it. Tried over and over, still don't get it. But I'm sure there's an audience for it.

Grade: C-
Best Cuts: "L'Via L'Vasquez", "The Widow"
Weakest Link: Cassandra Gemini - an eight part fugue-ness.

Buy It here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I am "The gay"....

I'm headed to see Margaret Cho tonight in Easton, PA. Totally psyched. If you're in the area you should go, tickets are still available. If not, pick up her DVD here or visit her website.

Margaret Cho Clip (not worksafe) [right click to bring up in new window]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

And you were as pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat...


I know, a day late to post, but still a propos.

Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon, has been carvin a career down the Kid Rock path. His first album, Put The "O" Back In Country, while having the best title I've seen in quite a while, is pretty much workingman rock, unlike the outlaw country his father did. Really will make you think it is Kid Rock if you didn't know, except for the lack of a pounding guitar hook. Highlights are the single "4th of July" which is a cool road song until the ubiquitous George Jones plug at the end, and "Steady At the Wheel", which is the closest to a "bad-ass" rock song on the album. "Sweet Savannah" is a nice ballad as well; however the rest of the album isn't too revelatory. It's a really well-made album, but to me sounded more conceived than bred - especially on such "labelling" numbers as "Solid Country Gold" . But hey take a listen, if you like Kid Rock's softer side, you'll love this.

4th of July
(Right click to open in new window)

Buy Put The "O" Back In Country here or here.

Grade: C-
Highlights: "Steady At The Wheel", "4th Of July"
Weakest Links: "Solid Country Gold"

Thought for the night....


I am convinced every gay man in America owns a pair of Target camo shorts. It's the new black.

Happy Fourth Of July...


I hope everyone had a good Fourth. I always preferred the secular holidays like the 4th and Thanksgiving because no one is excluded (at least in the states, I mean). I figured I'd post up a song I was listening to today, a flashback to some classic post-disco from Jimmy Ruffin, "Hold On To Your Love" A hard-to-find song on CD, you can still get the Sunrise album pretty easily on E-bay, or on a compilation like The Best Of ERC Records CD which is outstanding as well.

Hold On To Your Love

And while you're at it, pick up his best while at Motown here.

Yeah, they're keeping us safe...


(Cartoon from the amazing Jeff Danziger)



(Courtesy Of Raw Story)

The CIA has closed down a secret unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials said Monday, the NEW YORK TIMES will report Tuesday, RAW STORY has learned.

This basically removes any argument that this government is looking out for us. God help us.