Ken Richardson

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 18, 2013 0 comments

What you are looking at above is the “cover art” for Kanye West’s new album, Yeezus (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam). In fact, there’s no cover or CD booklet at all, just a sticker on the back of the package with the track listing. This dovetails nicely with Kanye’s mysterious anti-campaign for the album’s release today. He did perform “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” on Saturday Night Live in May, and if those hard-hitting, industrial-sounding tracks are any indication, then Yeezus could be a wowzer.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about that “cover art” and, paradoxically, how much it reminds me of this:

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments

Black Sabbath: 13

New release (Vertigo/Republic; tour dates)

“What is this that stands before me — again?”

That’s the unavoidable question you’ll ask yourself when you hear “End of the Beginning,” the first track on 13. After all, this song isn’t just Black Sabbath; it’s “Black Sabbath,” the first track on Black Sabbath. That opening to the band’s 1970 debut had quiet, three-plucked-note verses alternating with massive, three-power-chord choruses, all taken at a slow pace until a choppy riff sped us away. “End of the Beginning,” from the original band’s first album together in 35 years, has quiet, four-plucked-note verses alternating with massive, four-power-chord choruses, all taken at a slow pace until a choppy riff speeds us away.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments

Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

New release (Hear Music/Concord; tour dates)
Photo of Burnett, Mellencamp, and King by Kevin Mazur

Indiana cabin, mid-1900s: Two brothers argue over a girl. One brother accidentally kills the other, and then the fleeing brother and the girl accidentally drive into a lake and drown.

True story. John Mellencamp learned it after buying the cabin in the early 1990s.

Soon after, Mellencamp got the idea for a musical based on that story. By 2000, he had begun work on the score (both music and lyrics), and he asked Stephen King to write the book.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments

Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

New release (Hear Music/Concord; tour dates)
Photo of Burnett, Mellencamp, and King by Kevin Mazur

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Ken Richardson Posted: May 28, 2013 0 comments

John Fogerty: Wrote a Song for Everyone

New release (Vanguard)
Photo by Nela Koenig

Dusting off old songs, a veteran rocker teams up with (mostly) younger musicians for duets: Often, this can be a recipe for tedium, if not disaster. So it’s a joy to report that John Fogerty’s Wrote a Song for Everyone is among the best of such tributes.

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Ken Richardson Posted: May 20, 2013 0 comments

Daft Punk: Random Access Memories

New release (Daft Life/Columbia)
Photo by David Black

In this era of electronic dance music, you might think the pioneering French duo Daft Punk would be eager to trump the upstarts. But you’d be thinking wrong.

As Thomas Bangalter told Rolling Stone, “We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers but with people.” And as Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo said, “It’s not that we can’t make crazy, futuristic-sounding stuff, but we wanted to play with the past.”

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Ken Richardson Posted: May 14, 2013 0 comments

Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City

New release (XL; tour dates)
Photo by Alex John Beck

“Much of the overall sound and approach to the album was [the outcome of] being able to record the drums to tape on an old Ampex machine at Vox Recording Studios. That put us in a different world. There’s a quality that happens with tape; it lets you really crunch and compress the drums, and they don’t get harsh or painful. It has to do with the transients hitting the tape; something changes. Once the drums have been passed through tape to Pro Tools, you can really mangle them and go crazy with them.”

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Ken Richardson Posted: May 07, 2013 0 comments

Natalie Maines: Mother

New release (Columbia; tour dates with Dixie Chicks)
Photo by Danny Clinch  © Columbia

“Lots of albums by lead singers might just as well have been made by the band, but I think this is very different from anything the Dixie Chicks could make.” So says Natalie Maines about her debut solo album. It’s “a new direction,” her press release underscores. Most common translation I’ve seen to date: It’s “a rock album.”

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Ken Richardson Posted: Apr 30, 2013 0 comments

Iggy and the Stooges: Ready to Die

New release (Fat Possum; tour dates)
Photo by David Raccuglia

Ready to Die is billed as the 40th-anniversary follow-up to 1973’s Raw Power because it’s the first album since then to be credited specifically to Iggy and the Stooges, with James Williamson returning on guitar.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Apr 23, 2013 0 comments

will.i.am: #willpower

New release (Interscope)

Has a hip-hop-related record ever opened as optimistically as this?

Good morning, welcome to the thing called life
Good morning, don’t you let it pass you by
We laugh, we cry, and then we dry our eyes
We fall, we rise, ready for another try
When life gets tough, remember, we were never born to die
When times get rough, remember, we were born to be alive

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