Over the last several years, Eric Clapton has made a point of performing with, and collaborating on albums with, different notables from the world of music, particularly legendary blues musicians. 2011′s Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center is notable for a couple of differences between it and similar collaborations. First, while Wynton Marsalis may be a notable musician, he’s not a legend on the scale of B.B. King or J.J. Cale, both of whom had a significant impact on Clapton’s work even before he performed with them; Marsalis is actually a fair bit younger than Clapton. Further, Marsalis is apparently more of a jazz musician than a blues musician (I’ll admit to being unfamiliar with his work prior to this, as I’m not a big jazz fan.) And, unlike Riding with the King or The Road to Escondido, this is a live album, not a studio album. Continue reading
“Patience… that it had, in abundance. Watching. Wanting. Waiting for the time. Then it would feed. Then they would know suffering. The thought made it smile. Nothing else could.” So begins the 2003 Halloween concept album Oculus Infernum, the first and so far only album from the group Van Helsing’s Curse.
Van Helsing’s Curse is a project group founded by Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Inspired by the heavy metal classical Christmas music produced by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (itself a group made by members of the heavy metal band Savatage), Snider wondered why no metal group had done an entire album dedicated to Halloween, and set out to do just that. Van Helsing’s Curse is made up of a five-person rock band, a six-person string orchestra, and a six-member Latin choir. With Oculus Infernum, the group sets out to turn classical music into a Halloween tale with rocking music, haunting overtones, and all the subtlety one expects from the lead singer of Twisted Sister.
Which is to say, it’s cheese in its most glorious form. Continue reading
Alice Cooper can, admittedly, be something of an acquired taste. The original shock rocker, his works treat the macabre and the grotesque as sources of inspiration and often humor, sometimes to the outrage of self-designated moral guardians (whose heads would likely explode if they remembered he’s a Christian himself). But he’s one of the most skilled and most prolific rock musicians around, and his work has inspired everyone from KISS to Guns n’ Roses to They Might Be Giants. Even Frank Sinatra once covered Alice’s soft love song “You and Me” in concert on one occasion.
I’ve been a big fan of Alice Cooper’s since I was introduced to his music (and his sense of humor and musical insights) through his syndicated radio show, Nights With Alice Cooper. While I don’t own every album (with 26 studio albums to the name, it can take a while to get them all), I do own several of them, including the more pivotal ones. So when I heard he was releasing a sequel album to 1975′s Welcome to My Nightmare, I had to get it.
I’ve been a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic since I was a kid. I can remember my brother bringing home a cassette of Even Worse and playing it, and being immediately engrossed by the idea of musical parody, and of musical comedy in general. Probably every Weird Al fan has a similar story. Comedy music only occasionally nears the top of the charts; Al’s one top 10 hit was 2006′s “White and Nerdy”, Allan Sherman only had “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, and as far as I know Tom Lehrer never broke the top 40 (and Spike Jones simply predates the Billboard Hot 100.) Ray Stevens was most successful by this measure, breaking into the top 10 with four separate songs, and even snagging the #1 spot on two separate occasions, but one of those was the completely-serious “Everything is Beautiful” (of course, the other was “The Streak”, so it balances out.) But generally speaking, there’s no critical acclaim for the comedy musician. None of the above are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and even Weird Al, the youngest of that lot, has been eligible for several years at this point). Nobody claims them as influences except for other comedy musicians. The only way anybody becomes a fan is by being introduced to them through another fan.
And as I listen to Alpocalypse, Weird Al’s first full album in 5 years, I wonder how much longer that’s going to happen (though I have to note that Alpocalypse had Al’s biggest album chart debut, at #9). As I get older, I find myself feeling less enjoyment of his parodies. It’s not that I’ve “outgrown it”; far from it. My sense of humor is as sharp as ever, and Al has honed his own sense of humor, and his musical skills, to a razor’s edge. No… it’s the source material that I’ve drifted away from. I’m just not the target market for today’s pop songs anymore.