May 4, 2004

Music Quick Takes: Kill Bill, Fear Factory, Warren Zevon, Machine Head, Misfits, Dark Lotus

Just Push Play
Heard any good music lately? There are a few albums that have been in high rotation on my system. They also represent my widely varied tastes. I haven't gotten as many new albums as I used to, but the recent playlist has some excellent stuff on it.

Kill Bill Times Two
First is a duo of disks, the soundtracks to Kill Bill Volume 1 and Volume 2. Besides being an excellent filmmaker, he makes great use of music in all of his films. Just like he often picks actors who are not at high points in their careers, like John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), and David Carradine (Kill Bill), he also chooses unlikely music. I feel the Volume 1 set is stronger than the second, but they both are such strong compilations, that as you listen to them you can see the film through the sound again. The first album includes such unlikely tracks as Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), The 5,6,7,8's Woo-Hoo, Bernard Hermann's Twisted Nerve, and Zamfir's (Yes, that Zamfir) The Lonely Shepherd. In the end, though, I would have say that my favorite track would have to Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood by Santo Esmeralda, a strong percussion driven track with a Latin flavor. Surprisingly, the album has a very natural flow that is very easy to listen to as a collection. Volume 2, while not as memorable as volume 1 is still a strong collection in it's own right. It's standout song would have to be Johnny Cash's A Satisfied Mind, I just like Cash. The best thing about these two albums is they are so much better as film soundtracks then the rock and pop collections that masquerade as soundtracks. Even if you're not a fan of the films, check out these fantastic soundtracks.

The Excitable Boy is a Genius!
Next up is Warren Zevon'sgreatest hits collection entitled Genius. Sadly Mr. Zevon left this realm last September after a year long battle with lung cancer, but what he has left behind is some of the best music committed to tape. Warren was a master storyteller, a large portion of his catalog could probably be expanded into a film script. His songs were never very long, but in that 3 minutes he could tell an entire story. He is probably best known for the classic Werewolves of London, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. I was a relative late comer to Zevon's world, with my first real introduction coming in 1999 when I had the opportunity to see him in concert. What an experience that was, he played the show solo, he had no backup band playing half the show on guitar and half on keyboards with a little harmonica thrown in. Anyway, I digress, this greatest hits collection is a great introduction to the works of a master. From the sad love story of Hasten Down the Wind, to the bizarre comedy of Poor Poor Pitiful Me, to the semi-autobiographical Detox Mansion and Mr. Bad Example. I lack the words to describe how much I love this man's music, let me just say that his passing was the first celebrity death that hit me on an emotional level. Do yourself a favor, track this down!

New Metal Classics
Two recent metal albums are getting some decent play lately as well. First is the previously mentioned Archetype by Fear Factory. I cannot stress strongly enough what a great heavy album this is. Jackhammer drums, crunchy rhythms, powerful vocals, this is a Fear Factory for a new generation. I don't wish to speak too much more on this one, as I have written about it before and probably will again. The other is the latest from Machine Head, Through the Ashes of Empires. I have just started giving this some play, but it is probably best effort since The More Things Change, back in, I believe 1996. It is a heavier and more personal album than Supercharger (their last release). Rob Flynn's vocals are strong and there is a great interplay between the heavier and softer portions of the tracks. Definitely another strong album to check out.

Outsiders From the Grave
Just the other day I finally picked up The Misfits Collection I and Collection II. This is my first exposure to the Glenn Danzig era of the Misfits, and I must say that I wasn't terribly impressed with it the first time around. On the other hand I really love the Michael Graves albums from the '90s. I have a feeling that they will grow on me with more listening, I do like tracks like We are 138, and especially Last Caress. The songs are short and raw and obviously lacking in budget, none of which is a bad thing, just not something I was expecting. Regardless I will run through these a few more times before rendering a final decision, as an example of '80s punk, they do excel.

The Lotus Pod Opens Again....
Another recent addition is the sophomore release from Dark Lotus entitled Black Rain. For those who don't know, and there are a lot of you, Dark Lotus features the primary members of the Psychopathic Family. These members are Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope (of the Insane Clown Posse), Jamie Madrox and The Monoxide Child (of Twiztid), Blaze Ya Dead Homie, and Anybody Killa (aka ABK). If you couldn't guess by their names, they are rappers. And without getting into too much of their backstory, I'll dive into a short discussion of the album. Black Rain is an excellent hip-hop album. It has all the needed elements, original beats, identifiable voices, subject matter that is comically violent and bizarre, and has a lot of fun. I have been a fan of these guys for some time, and they are not for everyone. There is no real way to describe these guys or this album, not sure I am quite up to the task of describing it in any detail other than that if you are feeling adventurous, like the bizarre, and enjoy rap, give this a spin.

It Ends...
And so we have come to the end of my latest thoughts. If anyone is still reading, I hope you enjoyed yourself, and even if you didn't thanks for trying. Be sure to check back later for more of my musings....


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