MSN Music Blog - Reverb

Cohen's First New Album Since 2004 Looks Backward

By percy thrillington Nov 25, 2011 5:29PM

It has been a very impressive few years of resurgence for Leonard Cohen, including a triumphant world tour, the celebrated poetry volume Book of Longing, the prestigious Spanish Prince of Asturias literary award, and approximately 375,000 covers of "Hallelujah." Now comes the reward the faithful have been waiting for: Old Ideas, a brand new album of new material, his first since 2004's Dear Heather. The first song from the record, "Show Me the Place," went online this week, and the organic sounds—to say nothing of the lyrics, including "Show me the place, help me roll away the stone/ Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone/ Show me the place where the word became a man/ Show me the place where the suffering began"—hark back to the themes and the palette of his early work, with organic instruments (piano, strings, choir) replacing the synthesizers that have dominated his work since 1988's I'm Your Man. No telling if the rest of the album will follow suit, but regardless, it's an exciting development.

Old Ideas will be released in late January. 


Music retailers hope exclusive releases give them a holiday shot in the arm

By Mark C. Brown Nov 24, 2011 10:34PM
Bob Dylan mono singles

From the Beastie Boys and Beatles to Wilco and the Yardbirds, the list of exclusive indie-record-store only releases are far more worthwhile to line up for Friday than getting a few bucks off a flat screen.


The success of the annual Record Store Day event every spring has led retailers to repeat it for the holiday season, often with a special emphasis on vinyl. And one could argue it’s much-needed. Despite a music industry that seems stable compared to the past disastrous decade, industry stalwarts such as Newbury Comics and others have let customers know without their patronage, many independent brick-and-mortar stores could be on life-support soon.

So Record Store Black Friday is happening this week too, a fantastic alternative to the regular (and thoroughly depressing) Black Friday shopping. One of this year's hottest items: A box set of Bob Dylan classics from the '60s, including a mono vinyl pressing of "Positively 4th Street." Click here for a complete list of all the rarities being made available to music fanatics on Friday, and you'll also find links to find the indie nearest you selling these gems.

And tempting as online shopping is, support your local record store.




Taylor Swift mops up another music awards show

By percy thrillington Nov 21, 2011 6:01AM
I know what you're thinking: How many awards did Taylor Swift win this time? (This time being the 39th annual American Music Awards, held last night in LA.) Well, friends, the answer is three, including Artist of the Year. The full list of winners (though I guess we're ALL winners) is below, and Idolator's wrap-up is after the jump.

— Adult Contemporary Artist: Adele
— Alternative Rock Artist: Foo Fighters
— Contemporary Inspirational Artist: Casting Crowns
— Country Female Artist: Taylor Swift
— Country Male Artist: Blake Shelton
— Country Band, Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum
— Country Album: Taylor Swift, "Speak Now"
— Latin Music Artist: Jennifer Lopez
— Pop/Rock Female Artist: Adele
— Pop/Rock Male Artist: Bruno Mars
— Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group: Maroon 5
— Pop/Rock Album: Adele, "21"
— Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
— Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Nicki Minaj, "Pink Friday"
— Soul/R&B Female Artist: Beyonce
— Soul/R&B Male Artist: Usher
— Soul/R&B Album: Rihanna, "Loud."
— Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift
— New Artist of the Year: Hot Chelle Rae
Idolator's show wrap-up is below:

They're coming back after all

By Mark C. Brown Nov 20, 2011 9:04PM
Bruce SpringsteenWhen I'm wrong, I'm happy to eat my words. This time, really happy. I wrote earlier this year that it was likely that Bruce Springsteen would retire the E Street Band name and tour in another configuration, based on what I heard from various insiders. Though I'm still not sure about how I feel keeping the E Street Band moniker after the deaths of both Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, I'm thrilled that Springsteen announced a new album and tour for 2012 via his official website. And yes, both album and tour are with the E Street Band. I'd heard that some of the album had been recorded before Clemons' death -- but as noted above, I've been wrong before.

Expect more info soon, and try to put it out of your mind that Springsteen recently turned up backstage at a Taylor Swift concert.


10 years after Clash leader's death, a peek inside his world

By Mark C. Brown Nov 17, 2011 6:31PM
Joe Strummer
It's downright painful to realize that it has been nearly 10 years since The Clash's co-founder Joe Strummer died unexpectedly of a heart attack. My God, he was just 50 and had been making great music for more than a quarter-century. That's Joe up above, giving money to a homeless person in a snowstorm.

His website Strummerville is selling a series of calendars and Christmas cards with never-before-seen photos like the one above. The calendar, the site says, is "12 months of Strummer’s most inspirational quotes, previously unseen images and hand-written artifacts from his personal archive." Proceeds go to the Joe Strummer New Music Foundation.

Sounds like the perfect gift for your favorite. Strummer/Clash fan. You're welcome!

Meanwhile, see the preview in the video below.

And check out one of the Clash's best songs and performances, live at the US Festival.


There's really nothing a joke can add to this story

By percy thrillington Nov 16, 2011 9:06AM

Legendary rockers STYX--Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young, Chuck Panozzo, Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips and Todd Sucherman—have teamed up with jewelry designer Diana Warner to create the "Diana Warner for Styx" jewelry collection, which was made available exclusively on the band's official website on November 11, just in time for holidayshopping
Each piece is hand-made in Diana Warner's New York City studio, with prices ranging from $55-$200. The first items available are eight dog tag necklaces made of 30 inch chains of gunmetal, antique gold or antique silver plate over brass. The charms are made of pewter and rose gold, gunmetal, antique gold or antique silver. They'll also be selling guitar pick earrings available in 4 finishes: gunmetal, rose gold, antique gold and antique silver, as well as antique gold and silver charms with one of the band's well-recognized lyrics, "Come Sail Away With Me."
This is only the first part of the "Diana Warner for Styx" collection. Multiple styles of limited edition charms will be created in 2012, which will be sold in a small number and will be considered collector's items. A full line of "Diana Warner for Styx" jewelry will be made available in 2012. This is the first collection Diana has designed for a band and collaborated on this project with singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw's wife, Jeanne Shaw.
"The second we saw Diana's pieces, we knew we wanted to work with her," says Jeanne. "We're so thrilled to be able to offer something very special to STYX's fans that's worlds different than anything we've done before. We hope they love the collection as much as we do."
In touring news, STYX is continuing to criss-cross the U.S. in support of "Regeneration, Volume I & II," a double-disc collection of re-recorded classics that was released on October 4 via Eagle Rock Entertainment. In addition to thirteen STYX classics and a brand new song "Difference In The World REGENERATION, VOLUME I & II also includes interpretations of "High Enough," and "Coming Of Age," originally recorded by Damn Yankees, which featured Tommy Shaw, along with Night Ranger's Jack Blades, Ted Nugent and drummer Michael Cartellone. The band had originally re-recorded these acclaimed anthems to sell only at their live shows, as they continued to tour the globe and introduce a new generation of fans to their chart-topping hits. Now, for the first time, this music has been made commercially available.

Business, man tries to monetize Occupy Wall Street

By percy thrillington Nov 15, 2011 3:15PM
It goes without saying that Americans respect success, especially successful artists, and perhaps successful hop-hop artists above all—at least in music—for a variety of reasons that need not be dwelled on here. We all know Jay-Z is all about entrepreneurship, but the sight of him trying to make profitable fashion out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is predicated on poor people trying to make their frustration with hyperentitled rich people known to the world, is as close to a Marie Antoinette moment as we have seen so far.

"For any image or symbol or creative act to mean something, it has to touch something deeper, connect to something true." – Jay-Z, writing about wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, in Decoded (Virgin Books/Random House, 2010).
As a Jay-Z fan, I find myself depressed and a little angry. Shawn Carter and his Roc-a-Wear company have decided to create and sell a T-shirtostensibly supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests, and, while perhaps not actively planning keep all the proceeds for themselves, don't intend to disclose if any money will be donated to the cause they're trading off. And yet, also as a Jay-Z fan, I have no right to be surprised. If his 15-year career has revealed anything about the man, it's that he's determined, self-reliant and focused on making money. So why do I expect something better?
The CEO of several successful companies who has rapped on various occasions about his desire to be taken seriously by America's business elite, Jay-Z is an unlikely OWS supporter. Almost certainly a member of the 1% rather than the 99, expecting him to donate commercial earnings to a protest movement aligned against the capitalist system that's served him so well seems faintly ridiculous. Hip-hop's version of socialism relies entirely on entrepreneurialism to function: the average rap star's (laudable) commitment to spreading their wealth around their immediate circle, employing childhood friends as managers, or even just giving their rapping mates a leg-up by introducing them as guests on album and mixtape tracks, is an exercise in making capitalism work in their favour.
Ideological consistency is an overrated virtue in an artist anyway, and major rap stars are the last people to look to for revolutionary credentials – so this doesn't seem to matter most of the time. But when artists stress their connection to the "streets" and the "hood" to the point it becomes afundamental part of their commercial offering, perhaps fans have a right to question where they choose to draw those lines.
Another exhibit for the defence is the garment itself. The T-shirt takes the movement's name and plays word games with it – literally crossing out the "W" and adding a final "S" to graffiti-spray its new message: "Occupy All Streets." It can be considered an act of creativity, in the same way that a parody of a work of art constitutes a new work, not a derivative of the original – so why shouldn't Roc-a-Wear profit from it? (Even if they were not the first to come up with the slogan). It's not as if the shirt is making a definitively aligned political point: in this context, it's really just an extension of Brand Jay. The new phrase could be interpreted even more broadly than the OWS protests and their inchoate aims. Is it more likely to be a call to arms against the financial elite, or a blank-canvas slogan that could mean different things to Jay-Z's audience? This is just Jay being Jay, wanting to have his cake and eat it – and if he's eating someone else's cake while doing so, so be it.


New album now streaming online

By Mark C. Brown Nov 14, 2011 10:11AM

Kate Bush

Kate Bush fans were right to be confused when she released The Director’s Cut earlier this year, an album reworking her earlier songs. Bush has never had a traditional career, so it wasn’t a surprise so much as a puzzle.

No matter. It led directly to 50 Words For Snow, a new album due Nov. 21 that is being hailed in some quarters as her best work ever – a mighty high benchmark. It is a lush, dreamy song cycle having to do with snow, mythology, Yetis and more. Now you can listen to it in its entirety on NPR and make up your own mind. And for some explanation of the themes behind the songs, there are a couple of in-depth interviews out there. This one is a little too twee, with the writer intent on talk about himself as much as Bush’s music; this one has better focus, though the writer’s awe in talking to Bush is still palpable.

And PETA, don’t worry – that’s fake fur she’s wearing in the photo.