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A Conversation With Dean Friedman (Continued)

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It was 40 years ago this month.... 
Where We Last Left Off: I was asking Dean to reflect upon the current "politically correct" atmosphere, and the chaos it has wrecked on songwriters - more specifically: Should artists self-censor if the subject matter might be considered offensive, even if (as in the case of Randy Newman) that language is actually being used to make a salient, sociopolitical commentary?
DG: Speaking of Randy Newman, I wonder if he dares sing his classic tune "Rednecks" in concert anymore - does he perform it unapologetically, does he exclude it from his setlist, and if not, how does he get around the fact that his song's refrain is "we're keeping the niggers down"?
DF: I think in the case of Randy Newman, anyone who's familiar with his history and all his writing, and can grasp where he's coming from there, would give him a pass on that - on the other hand, I can see there might be certain situations where....not necessa…

Dean Friedman on Rocking Chairs, Anniversaries, American Idol and The Bottom Line

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There are moments during my extended interview with Dean Friedman where I find myself asking, "How did a nice Jewish boy from Jersey end up in this crazy music business?" After all, so much has changed in an ever-changing industry - and as a recording artist who lived through those changes, from his 'rock star days' in the late 70's, to his workmanlike DIY ethic that has earned him considerable singer/songwriter cred on the other side of the pond (Friedman spends a considerable amount of time living/working in the UK, where his tours are met with effusive praise), you have to wonder: in an age of reality shows, viral videos and Indiegogo campaigns, where does a veteran musician and songwriter find his niche?
Friedman has certainly found that niche when you compare him to many of his 70's contemporaries who have long left the business behind; you have to admire both Dean's tenacity, commitment to touring and connection to his loyal (and often vocal) fanba…

Stone Temple Pilots, 2018 - Or, The Consequences of Denial

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STONE TEMPLE PILOTS Stone Temple Pilots(Rhino) -
Let's play a little game, rock'n'rollers - I'm going to pick some groups, and I want you to name the first person that comes to mind: The Doors? Jim Morrison. Led Zeppelin? Robert Plant. U2? Bono. Radiohead? Thom Yorke. Cream? Eric Clapton. Stone Temple Pilots? Jeff Gutt? I didn't think so. Well, it's 2018, and we have a new album by an old band from the days of 90's alternative rock and MTV, refurbished with a lead singer chosen from a tv singing competition show. You might be wondering what motivates Robert and Dean DeLeo and Eric Kretz to soldier on under the STP banner, insisting on recording and releasing material bearing its brand.
Persistence? Loyalty? Perseverance? Or is it more likely, denial? I don't pretend to know what it was like for the members of STP to deal with the addictions and erratic behavior exhibited by deceased lead singer/lyricist Scott Weiland (who died tragically of a drug overd…

Weekend Edition: My First Review; What's New, Klaatu?

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Once upon a time...........1979 to be precise, I answered an ad in the Village Voice looking for artists and writers for a new underground, counter-culture magazine - appropriately named The Daily Dope. I met with publisher Steve Becker, armed with a portfolio of art collected during my years majoring in cartooning at the High School of Art and Design. My primary objective was to start a little panel cartoon which would run monthly, not unlike some of the contributions I would see in the Voice. On a whim, I also brought along a couple of LP reviews (yes kids, I said vinyl!) I wrote of new releases.

I can still remember this burly bear of a man saying to me, "Hey Dave - I really like your drawings, they're good. Frankly, I've got a lot of artists contributing work for me to consider. But what I really dig is the reviews you wrote. I'd like you to write a music column for my magazine, with reviews and interviews. Would you consider that?" And that my friends, is ho…

Reviewing The Klaatu Discography [1976-81]

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Klaatu (aka: 3:47 EST) [1976] - The album that started it all: from the circuitous rumors surrounding the group's members (probably didn't help that Klaatu was on the same label as The Beatles, Capitol) to the deliciously Beatlesque minor single, "Sub Rosa Subway", Klaatu's debut not only showcases the musical dexterity of the band, but as pop albums go in general, is one very impressive album. From the ambitious opener, "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" to the Beach Boys-inspired "California Jam", Klaatu seamlessly integrates the classic rock of the 60's and 70's, while their songcraft is equally on-par with the sonic influences on display. The delightful "Doctor Marvello" is a sonic collage of psychedelia (from the backwards piano-chord intro to the shimmering sitar filigrees and reverse-engineered guitar to the Turtles-influenced harmonies circa "You Showed Me"), while the goofy "Sir Bodsworth Rugg…

December Edition: Beck's Pop Sellout, Klaatu Revisited

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Beck Colors (Capitol/Fonograf Records) -

After 2014's gorgeous but highly derivative love-letter to 70's AM pop, Morning Phase(which snagged him a Grammy for Album Of The Year), one would've expected Beck to get his freak flag back on, and deliver an au courant, stylistically eclectic and, well, challenging follow-up. Instead, on Colors, Beck appears to acknowledge how much the pop landscape evolved in the 40 plus years since that decade held sway on album and radio charts. That is to say, Colors is as contemporary as anything dominating Billboards Hot 100, and frankly, by extension, everything about today's music worthy of (a much overdue) critique.

Working (and co-writing) with producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Gwen Stefani) Beck's wordplay on Colorsis deceptively analytical of the pop pastiches it cheerfully embraces, which makes this either ironic, or merely schizophrenic. "I'm on a one-man waiting list/I'm bored again/I've buried all my memories&q…

Steven Wilson Plays It (Mostly) Safe On "To The Bone"

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Steven Wilson - To The Bone (Caroline International)

Somewhere in a parallel universe, Steven Wilson's seminal band Porcupine Tree would occupy the same stratosphere of exalted recognition as Radiohead: indeed, Wilson was delivering his brand of sonic wizardry as Thom Yorke and Co. were just embarking on their journey toward becoming so fucking special. As a prog rock/art rock savant, Wilson's penchant for embracing elements of folk, progressive rock and ambient/cinematic textures made such albums as Signify, In Absentia, and Fear of a Blank Planet light years ahead of their time.

Considering Wilson's resumé includes internships with the likes of King Crimson, Opeth, Yoko Ono and others, it's surprising he would feel the need to dissolve Porcupine Tree to focus on a solo career - though Wilson has never publicly stated Porcupine Tree was a closed chapter. Nonetheless, Wilson's stepping into the spotlight by name has caused more folks to sit up and take notice. Taki…