Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Brief Musical Review

I was doing some organizing of our music collection, including uploading all of our CDs and converting them to mp3s for use on our iPods. This has been no small task, but it's also been very cool to review the variety that we have. As I was stacking some CDs I came across a few new additions to the collection and felt like I wanted to share. It's a little different from all the posts about our family and tae kwon do and Stacy's random thoughts and our usual fare. Here are some albums that I think are definitely worth checking out.

1. Mumford and Sons, "Babel" and "Sigh No More"


 OK, I cheated. I already slipped two albums into one entry, but this is my post so I can do that. Mumford and Sons were nominated for the Grammy for Best New Artist and that is where I first learned about them. I had been on a Flogging Molly kick at the time so another folksy band from across the Pond was very intriguing to me. They blend an English folk style with some southern and bluegrass stylings. A lot of their recordings, especially some from their first album, "Sigh No More," are very haunting and should stick with you.

They were on Saturday Night Live not long ago and their live sound is phenomenal.

They were also featured on the closing credits of Pixar's "Brave." The song is another success.

2. John Mayer, "Born and Raised"

Those of you familiar with Mayer will know that he is bat-crap crazy, but his music is incredible. His music incorporates so many genres that it's tough to pigeonhole him at all. He can play pop, the blues, jazz, rock, country, folk, bluegrass, whatever. John Mayer is one of those artists that I will listen to anything he does because I know it's that good. "Born and Raised" is a total departure from his previous work, and he said he wanted to do something completely different this time around. I particularly like "The Age of Worry" and "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967," though the entire album is great.

OK, this video isn't from his newest album, but it's one of the best songs I've discovered this year. There was a two-week period earlier this summer where I couldn't stop listening to it.

3. Dave Matthews Band, "Away from the World"

Dave Matthews is another one of those artists that is really a can't miss in my opinion. There is nothing musical that I've heard from him that has disappointed me. His live performances are fantastic, as evidenced by the huge volume of live albums he's been able to release successfully. This guy is an incredible musician, as evidenced by the variety in his albums and the unique instrumentation that he uses. "Misery" is one of the tracks on his new album and it has a great feel.

Watching the Kimmel video I can see exactly how American Idol winner Phillip Phillips has channeled Dave Matthews in his performance style. I'm so excited to see what he comes up with on his debut album.

Another great album by Dave Matthews is his collaboration with Tim Reynolds on Live at Radio City. Oh, and don't forget Matthews and Reynolds on Live at Luther College. Three albums. One entry. Again, my post, my rules.

4. Sting, "Live in Berlin"

So, a few months ago I get a text from our friend Dave asking if I'd heard this album yet. I hadn't, so I went and sampled the tracks on Amazon. It was so incredible that I put it on my list of must-haves. Then the Johnsons came to our house and surprise, surprise, this CD/DVD was in my birthday gift bag. I haven't had a chance to sit and watch the DVD, but the album is one of his best. I've got to say that discounting Sting in my teen years is one of my biggest musical regrets.

Once I went back and gave an honest listen to his work I realized that Sting is one of our generation's musical geniuses. I was so into jazz in high school that I didn't listen enough to non-jazz artists, but if I had half a brain back then I would have realized that Sting's music is so infused with jazz that I should have been listening to him alongside J.J. Johnson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington. Compare his work with The Police to the work he's done recently and you see how many genres he can cover. I mean, he has an entire album of Renaissance lute music! And he's an artist that keeps reinventing himself, whether he's doing solo guitar work or fronting a symphony you can't miss with Sting.

5. Casey Abrams, "Casey Abrams"

Casey was one of the American Idol contestants from two seasons ago so it's very easy to sort of cast him aside as a reality TV wannabe. Let's pretend that he came through a more traditional route, toiling in the jazz clubs, blending bass lines with great vocals. This album is worth checking out. He was unique on the show and his album has not disappointed. The first track, "Simple Life," is a great intro to his abilities as a bassist and vocalist. "Get Out" has already charted on the adult contemporary charts, and "Midnight Girl" is one of my favorite tracks from the album. I hope he sticks around because his is one of the best Idol albums I've heard to date.

How about a Maroon 5 cover?

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So, there they are. Five suggestions (plus a few additional picks) for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!


Jimmy said...

Thanks for the clips! Nice way to start of a slow Friday morning at work.

Emily Foley said...

I like Mumford & Sons and loved John Mayer, I haven't listened to him in forever. Dave Matthews is always a score.

Jagged Rocks said...

The Cave is my favorite Mumford & Son's song, however I Will Wait is slowly catching up.
I like some of John Mayer, mostly his first album. I don't mind his cover of Free Falling, but he just can't measure up to Tom Petty (in my opinion).
I love Dave Matthews. My all time favorite Dave Matthews is The Space Between. Misery sounds awesome though!
Fragile is one of my favorite songs. I remember Sting had a concert the day of 9-11, that ended up being the only song he played. I love how Sting puts so much emotion and feeling into his songs.

Jagged Rocks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jagged Rocks said...

Here is a link to the recording of 9-11 concert.

Jagged Rocks said...

One last thing. Mumford & Sons Lover of the Light, is beautiful.

Zelia said...

I always thought Sting was a hard rock group. Boy was I wrong. I am very impressed and cannot get the refrain"on and on" out of my head.

Dr. Mark said...

Glad I could liven up your Friday morning, Jimmy.

Emily, if you're going to start listening to John Mayer again, seriously, listen to his new album. It's an incredible departure from his earlier work, in a good way.

Kim, thanks for all the comments. "I Will Wait" is fantastic. We've been trying to introduce the kids to Mumford and Sons, and they both really liked this song. "Lover of the Light" is great, too, as are all the tracks I've ever heard from them.

There's nothing wrong with Tom Petty's original, I'm just not a huge Tom Petty fan. I was blown away by Mayer's acoustic version. I didn't realize he had it in him.

And Sting is incredible. Interestingly, Sting had planned an outdoor concert at his home in Tuscany for 9/11/01 where they would do a DVD and CD recording. When he saw what happened all the musicians decided to go ahead with it as planned. Here's an article about the CD.

A minha sogra, glad you learned something new. I never thought he was a hard rocker, but I did not understand all that he could do.

Boquinha said...

Ooooh, these are good! Thanks for the post. I looooooove that video of Casey Abrams. He sounds fantastic, plus it got me thinking, "What WOULD I do if I were sitting in an audience and all of a sudden Casey came up and sat on my lap?" And that's not something I ever really think about.

I can listen to ALL these songs!/Ross

Doug said...

John Mayer doesn't get enough credit for his blues stuff. If you haven't already heard the live album Where the Light Is, you should check it out.

Dr. Mark said...

We've got that album, Doug. It is one of the better live recordings I've heard in a long time.

J Fo said...

WE LOVE MUMFORD AND SONS! Got their first album a few years ago, and pre-ordered the new one. I love their lyrics and and the beautiful harmonies. I like that it's a bit blue grass, a bit folk, a bit country, a bit pop. Love them!

WE have currently been obsessed with another group called Imagine Dragons. You should check them out. I went to high school with the lead guitarist. :)