R.I.P. Lemmy

R.I.P. Lemmy

You know you’re some kind of monster in your given field when you can go by one name.

I was saddened to hear about the passing of legendary Motorhead bassist and singer Lemmy the other day, and felt I needed to write a few words about him, and what he meant to me.

I got into Motorhead because they were a seminal influence on my all-time favorite band, Metallica, and when I love something, I love it hard, and want to know everything about it. So from Metallica, I ventured into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands of the late 70’s and 80’s, which eventually got me to Motorhead.

And I never looked back.

British Summer Time 2014 - July 4th

 

Over the years, I would dabble with the band, going on all out binges of their raw metal sounds, even bringing some of their music to the most recent band that I played in, crushing cover versions of songs like “Hellraiser” and “Rock n’ Roll.”

There was something about Lemmy, and Motorhead, that was undeniably different. It was raw, unlike anything I have listened to before, or since. It had the speed of punk, the edge of metal, and in the end, it could only be described as one thing: Motorhead. The man behind the band, Lemmy, deserves all the credit, as the consistent piece to the band, over the course of tons of records and endless tours, and as the main songwriter.

Lemmy was prolific.

And he was great. He was just a badass, a throwback to a different time, when rock stars lived hard and left behind throngs of ringing ears behind them. Lemmy was a monster of rock, and it goes beyond the iconic symbolism of Motorhead.

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Despite the niche style to their music, he should be remembered as a legend in not just the metal genre, but all genres. He has influenced rock acts for decades, and his influence will live on.

It is a sad thing to see any great musician go, but the loss of Lemmy is one that I truly felt in my gut.

It pains me to say it, but Lemmy, Rest in Peace.

Pink Floyd: “The Endless River” (Album Review)

Pink Floyd: “The Endless River” (Album Review)

The Endless River is the final album, ever, by one of the most unique and influential bands of all time, Pink Floyd. Their legacy will live in rock annals forever, as they are a group of musicians that managed to make incredible, and everlasting music, constantly pushing the boundaries with their high-end concepts and intelligent music.

But is The Endless River really Pink Floyd?

Since the departure of Roger Waters in 1985, the band has carried on, led by the incredible David Gilmour, flanked by drummer Nick Mason and the now passed keyboardist Richard Wright. They have only produced three albums, including The Endless River (the others being A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell). There is little doubt that the band is not the same without the incredible creativity and storytelling of Waters, but there was something left to Pink Floyd, and their post-Waters albums were alright. Nothing compared to the legendary masterpieces they made with him, like Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, and The Wall, but still not bad. Something different in the music landscape.

endless2Once Richard Wright passed away from cancer, this album became his sending off, and the ending for the band, that had experienced great heights and great turmoil.

What they have come up with is, of course, something different from the usual musical released we have become accustomed to.

First off, the entire album is instrumental, save for the final song, “Louder Than Words.” What this creates for the listener is a sense of yearning. While the music, keyboard heavy and ambient, is pleasant to listen to, we yearn for it to be more like Pink Floyd. There are certainly glimpses, and some of Gilmour’s guitar work brings us to that place we want to be, it is as though there isn’t enough. I like the idea of a primarily instrumental album, but I missed Gilmour’s vocals, to be honest, and felt perhaps the album, the completion of the story of Wright and of Pink Floyd, would have been better served with at least a couple more tracks that contained lyrics and vocals. So that they could finish the incredible journey that they started back in the 1960’s, being led by Syd Barrett. I also would have liked to hear more guitar-driven songs, since Gilmour has produced some of the most memorable and understated guitar solos in rock history. Who wouldn’t want more of that?

One thing that I will give credit to on this album is that it manages to provide an escape while listening to it. It is possible to slip away, only hearing the quiet sounds of the music. Pink Floyd has always been able to do this, and it continues here.

Looking at the release of the album, and seeing how it reached number 1 in so many different countries, I wonder how the fan reaction is to the new music. Obviously, the name Pink Floyd still carries a ton of weight with listeners, and it was even the most pre-ordered album of all-time prior to its release in the UK.

Are we happy with the way that Pink Floyd has wrapped up?

Forgetting for a moment that this is Pink Floyd, it would be difficult to imagine that this album would have much commercial success. However, what we have here is a collection of pleasing music, with hints to the past, and taking us to the end of one of the all-time greats.

It is, of course, infinitely sad to know that Pink Floyd, in its most famous incarnation, with Waters and Gilmour at the creative helm, will never make another album. And while not perfect, The Endless River provides fans of the band with a quiet conclusion to the whole journey.

20 Feet From Stardom (Film Review)

20 Feet From Stardom (Film Review)

The best documentary of the past year, according to the Oscars, is 20 Feet From Stardom, the story of the men and women behind the greatest musical artists of our time: the backup singers.

Living in relative obscurity, these (primarily) women are the voices that we all know and love from our favorite records, but know nothing about them, and too often, never give them a second thought. The most poignant and true line of the film is when someone states that the backup singers are so important, to the point that when people hear their songs on the radio, it is the backing vocals they often sing along with, not the lead singer. And this couldn’t be more true. The backup singers sing the hooks, the parts of the song that we love and remember better than anything.

201In 20 Feet From Stardom, we are given the stories of some of the most famous singers of all time, if we only knew who they were. It is absolutely incredible to see and hear the lists of songs that these women sang on, and helped to make great. The film does an incredible job of letting us know how important they were to the great days of soul, R&B, and rock n’ roll music, and giving us their resumes of what they have accomplished over the years. It is also incredible to find out how only a small handful of people were the same ones on hit after hit, songs that we have sung along with on the radio for years.

These women were blessed with some incredible vocal talents, and the innate ability to listen to a song, and figure out what their parts should be, and how to harmonize perfectly along with them. This has created some incredible music, as many of our favorite songs would be nothing without the backing vocals. It is very interesting to see why their careers were as backing singers, and it is for a number of reasons. Some prefer to remain in the background. Some tried to have solo careers, but were victims of timing, or the industry, or bad contracts. Some couldn’t dedicate the time or ego to being a solo artist. The reasons are all over the place, and it is kind of sad to know that some of the greatest talents of our time were stuck singing “Oooh”s behind some of our favorite artists.

One of the more interesting tales is that of the famous Rolling Stones song, “Gimme Shelter.” One of their better songs, it is so inspired due to the wailing female voice that delivers some of the more poignant lines in the song. The story of how it came to be is amazing, and simply gaining an understanding of how important the female voice is to that song is what makes the storytelling in this film so memorable. It does its best to put a name and a face to the voices we all really do know.

As expected, 20 Feet From Stardom is chock full of great music. From Motown, to David Bowie, the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, it is all there.

This film is an excellent view into the lives of the backup singers. The hardships and the successes, the moments of glory on stage and the great tales of the recording studio. It is very humanizing, and makes us want to hear more from these great vocalists. It does a great job of letting us see behind the scenes in to the music industry, and why none of these women really “made it,” as we would typically describe making it. From the start, it is very interesting, and the movie never really lags in its story. We go from the origins of the backup vocals around the time of Motown hits, to the golden age of rock and roll, where they were given more freedom and leeway. We get to see their reactions to suddenly going from being singers, to being sexualized on stage, to forgotten and replaced by emerging recording technologies. It is a sad story, but one that allows us to see the strength and glory of these women and their accomplishments.

For fans of documentaries, and of music in general, 20 Feet From Stardom is a must-see. You may never listen to your favorite songs the same way again.