Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Neil Young – Living With War

Neil Young – Living With War

First and foremost, Living With War is a Neil Young album.

It’s good and bad for all the reasons that Neil Young albums are. There’s good writing and ok singing, but there’s also a lot of heart.

As for content, let me put it this way…I’m 34 years old, I missed Vietnam and the Antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s...which is why I’ve never heard anything like Living With War before.

You are presented with ten (nine if you don't count Young's rendition of America The Beautiful as the album's closer) melodic, seemingly "nice" songs that are orchestrated in such a way to add to that impression and yet within them, they contain such politically scathing lyrics that they just ooze contempt for the current U.S. administration and its policies.

Rather quickly, the term “Protest Album” comes to mind, and vividly at that.

I think Living With War, as an album, can best be summed up in the lyrics of one it’s songs…Let’s Impeach The President

“Let's impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean

Thank God”

If Neil Young wasn’t being listened to, watched or followed by the Bush administration before…he is now.

Good luck Mr. Young, good luck.

If you would like to listen to
Neil Young's Living With War in its entirety,
please click the album cover below.

You can purchase Living With War @

Monday, May 22, 2006

Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two

Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two

Composers: Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori

So Master Chief, Cortana and Sergeant Johnson walk into a bar…

If you don’t know about Halo, then odds are you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the last few years as Microsoft has been hyping this Xbox game so much you’d think it was the second coming. I, being of the techno-geek persuasion, would tend to lean towards the second coming side of things myself, but that’s another story.

Halo was the flagship, the killer app if you will, of the original Xbox launch several years ago and has since spawned a sequel, three novels, a plethora of action figures, an upcoming big budget Hollywood movie and a soon to be released third game, which will be the reason I buy Xbox 360…like I said, I’m a techno-geek.

The second game in the series, Halo 2, told the continuing story of Master Chief, Spartan-117 or just John to his friends (uh, wait...he has no friends, they were all killed during the fall of Reach...oh, forget it), and humankind’s ongoing battle for survival against the forces of the Covenant, a theocratic alien civilization bent on eradicating all traces humanity from the annals of galactic history. (Apologies to all of my English teachers for the run-on sentence.)

With the release of Halo 2 in 2004 came the Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume 1. The album contained songs from and inspired by the game and featured artists such as Breaking Benjamin, Incubus and Steve Vai. There were portions of the score included on Volume 1, but the majority of music was supplied by guest artists. Now, two years after the initial release of the game, Sumthing Else Music Works has decided to release Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume 2. Written by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, Volume 2 is made up of the original game score from Halo 2.

I can hear you saying to yourself, why do we need a soundtrack album, much less an original score album from a video game? Ok, I can see your point...but if you’ve played Halo or any other video game in recent years, you will have already realized that game music is not what it used to be when you were pumping quarters into Ms. Packman back in the day. Technology has allowed game developers to include full, rich, dramatic and best of all, real music in video games. In Halo 2, the music is as much a part of the game as the visual effects are.

Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori have created some serious music here. Its music that could be, and would be, right at home with any film score. A full half of the album is presented in Suite form, giving you a lengthy view into the themes that made up a specific section of Halo 2. The remaining six tracks are individual, shorter, thematic slices of the game.

Volume 2, as a whole, contains an interesting mix of acoustic and electronic elements that give the soundtrack its own voice. From start to finish, you can find orchestral movements, choral movements, percussion pieces, electric guitars, tribal drums and several other unique elements. A stellar example of this is the Mombasa Suite. It begins with an orchestral piece that morphs into a modern drum and bass piece. From there you’re given a sampling of vocals, synth, electric guitars and drums which lead you into the percussion finale of the piece.

One of the more interesting facts about the album is that it was produced by Nile Rogers. Yes, that Nile Rogers…of the 70’s band Chic and producer for artists such as Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, The B-52’s, the Vaughn Brothers and David Lee Roth to name a few. Sumthing Else Music Works is actually Nile Rogers' own company.

With all that having been said, would I recommend you listen? Well, soundtracks aren’t for everybody and I would have to imagine that original score albums probably appeal to an even narrower group of people, but this album is a great example of what music for new media can be. It’s very lush and eclectic and intense. If you like soundtracks and scores, or if you’re looking for something a little different, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

Personally, I hope that both Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori are tapped to write the score for Halo 3.

...and the film while we're at it.

You can purchase Halo 2: Original Soundtrack Volume Two @

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New On the pod

New On the pod

Dead Can Dance - A Passage In Time
Dead Can Dance - Aion
Dead Can Dance - Into The Labyrinth
Dead Can Dance - Selections From North America 2005
Dead Can Dance - Spiritchaser
Halo 2 - Volume 2
Mattias IA Eklundh - Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled
Midnight Blue - Take The Money And Run
Mr. Mister – Live USA August 1986 (Live Recording)
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Soul Sirkus - Soul SirkUS 2005.04.05 (Live Recording)
Joe Stump – Night of the Living Shred
Vertical Horizon - 08/05/05 @ 930 Club in Washington DC (Live Recording)


Audiobook: The Best of Fantasy & Sci-Fi Magazine (Listening Now)


Quick Audiobook Review:

Kevin Brockmeier - The Brief History of the Dead: A really cool book about the living, the dead and the end of the world...and how they relate to each other. It’s based on the premise that there are two stages of death, the first being that when we die we exist on another plane as long as someone alive still remembers us and the second begins when we pass out of human memory.

The Brief History of the Dead
B&N.com: The Brief History of the Dead

David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas: This is one of, if not the, most ambitious book I have ever listened to or read. This book is actually six individual stories woven into an expansive narrative that encompasses all of the characters in the stories. The book spans an enormous timeline that begins with a ship sailing toward an early San Francisco and ends in a future populated with clones and massive corporations. Each section of the Audiobook was read by different people, including Scott Brick, a personal favorite, adding an individual voice to each of the characters. It’s a really wild read.

Cloud Atlas
B&N.com: Cloud Atlas


Christopher Moore: Author

I know I mentioned him before, but I just finished reading Christopher Moore’s first book, Practical Demonkeeping and the book that came before A Dirty Job, The Stupidest Angel. If you have a slightly twisted sense of humor, or for some reason want to develop one, read his stuff. He’s just funny, no two ways about it.

Christopher Moore
Practical Demonkeeping
B&N.com: Practical Demonkeeping

Christopher Moore
Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
B&N.com: Stupidest Angel:
A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror


Other Stuff: Part i

There’s a new On the pod.net podcast up over at Pod-O-Matic that you can check out. I posted it on Saturday (05/13/06).

Other Stuff: Part ii

Well, if you’ve been looking around you might have noticed some of the changes to www.onthepod.net. I’ve been busy updating some of the links for the page and adding new ones. I’ve also been working on the On the pod.net Myspace page @ www.myspace.com/onthepod and trying to make it look a little more like this one.

The Myspace thing is a little weird but I’ve managed to add a bunch of friends that may or may not be people I really respect in some form or another…and no, I don’t mean the girls with the pseudo-porn sites that keep asking for add’s. If you end up there, check them out…I think the list is kind of impressive. (Small and easy for anybody to do, but impressive)

Other Stuff: Part iii

In other non-On the pod.net news, but news I want to share none the less, yours truly was actually “hired” by Krista Camputaro, owner of Sogno, Boutique of Dreams to write music for a fashion show on June 10th as part of the Audubon Arts On The Edge Festival in New Haven, CT. The opportunity came along out of the blue and it’s just something I never thought of doing before. It’s actually going very well, but I am seriously crunched for time with the project happening so soon. Still, it’s very cool to be writing again and I can’t wait to see how it turns out, not just the music, but the whole thing.

If you’ll be in the area and want to check out the fashion show, as I said before it will take place on June, 10th 2006, which is also the kickoff day of the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas, so there will be lots to see in the area.

The show itself will happen in front of Sogno, Boutique of Dreams which is located at 83B Audubon Street in New Haven, CT. It will begin at 4:00 p.m. and run somewhere between 40 & 50 minutes.

For directions to Audubon Street and Sogno, Boutique of Dreams, you can check out the Contact Us section of the Sogno website at http://sognoboutique.com/contactus.html or CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Jake Shimabukuro – Dragon

Prairie Music

Jake Shimabukuro – Dragon

To quote Monty Python, ”…and now for something completely different.”

This is the best Ukulele album I’ve ever heard!!!

No, wait…come back!

Seriously though, Jake Shimabukuro’s latest release, Dragon, is amazing. You would be missing out if you wrote it off. I have rarely heard other instrumentalists capture the voice of their instrument as clearly and passionately as Jake Shimabukuro.

My introduction to Jake came from a friend at work who excitedly told me that, “You just have to see this.” “This” as it turned out was a video clip from youtube.com of some guy in Central Park playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps on the Ukulele. Enter, Jake Shimabukuro.

So, I watch the video clip and I’m just floored. I mean, this guy is just ripping it up on…the Ukulele. I have played guitar for nineteen years and I was just floored by this guy playing what I had always assumed to be just kind of a “toy.” This one video clip made me realize that I was hideously ill-informed and frankly I was kind of embarrassed by thinking of myself as a musician and yet being so ignorant about music.

The very first thing I did, after picking my jaw up off the floor, was hit the web and try to find out who Jake Shimabukuro is. I found his website at www.jakeshimabukuro.com. I did some digging and found out that he has had five albums out since 2002: Skyline, Sunday Morning, Crosscurrent, Walking Down Rainhill and his most recent, Dragon.

I stumbled on a copy of Dragon at a local Borders a few weeks later and instantly convinced a friend to buy it after a, “you gotta hear this” and a quick listen. We ended up splitting the hefty eighteen dollar price tag (why Borders, why?) and now I have an album to tell you about.

Dragon is not a Ukulele album. It’s a very well crafted instrumental album where the main instrument happens to be a Ukulele. You’re presented with twelve songs that showcase Jake Shimabukuro’s command of the Ukulele and also his very accomplished songwriting talents. The songs are all fleshed out with good structure and melodies, while his playing is incredibly fluid and spot on.

For any musicians reading this, if you’ve never heard two-hand tapping done on a Ukulele, listen to the title track on Dragon. Here’s another stray thought, I wonder if the distorted “guitar” track on Shake It Up! was done on the Ukulele? Hey, if Bela Fleck can have an electric banjo, why not an electric Ukulele?

If I had to categorize it for anyone without my iPod and their very own "Prairie Music" genre, I guess I would place it under the Jazz section. However there are echoes of several different musical styles on Dragon including Latin, Rock and New Age as well as Jazz.

Overall, Dragon, while having its roots in Jazz, is a very easy album to listen to. Its acoustic vibe doesn’t get overly complicated just to show that it can. Instrumentally, the album is flawless and sonically, I think you will be as surprised by what the Ukulele actually sounds as I was.

To Jake and all of the other Ukulele players out there in the world, I think I owe you an apology for taking so long to figure out what a great instrument you have.

You can purchase Dragon @

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Podcast


Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Here’s another podcast that I continually find myself listening to. If you’re a fan of NPR, specifically weekends on NPR, you’ve probably heard Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! If not, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The podcast is posted every Monday and essentially replays the preceding weekend’s radio broadcast. I know what you’re thinking…big deal, right? Well if you missed the show you can still hear it and, the best part is, it’s free. Other shows broadcasted on NPR are available for download, but several of them you have to pay for through services like audible. Don’t get me wrong, I love audible, but it’s nice not to have to pay for something once in a while.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is based out of Chicago and is a “co-production” of Chicago Public Radio and NPR. It's hosted by Peter Sagal who is assisted by “Official Judge and Scorekeeper” and NPR veteran, Carl Kasell. Every week, you can also find a trio of panelists more often than not made up by Roy Blount Jr. (Author), Sue Ellicot (London Times/New York Times), Adam Felber (Writer/Performer), P.J. O’Rourke (Author/Atlantic Monthly), Charles Pierce (Boston Globe), Paula Poundstone (Comedian), Roxanne Roberts (Washington Post) or Mo Rocca (Contributor to all things great and small).

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is set up as a quiz show where questions based on current events are asked to the panelists and they are awarded points based on their answers. It may sounds dry, but with segments like Who’s Carl This time, Carl Kasell’s Way Back Machine, Listener Limerick Challenge and Carl Kasell’s Countdown, the silliness that is the world we live in becomes apparent. There are two listener call in segments and another called Not My Job where they have various celebrity guests try to answer questions on topics they know nothing about.

If your still reading this and think it sounds geeky…yeah, it probably is. But it’s entertaining. Think of it as fun for the educated masses…I mean, come on it is NPR after all. That being said, it’s funny and clean and topical and it’s definitely worth a listen…oh yeah, and you can win Carl Kasell’s voice on your answering machine.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Little Willies – The Little Willies


The Little Willies – The Little Willies

The Little Willies, The Little Willies, The Little Willies…it’s just kind of fun to say, don’t you think? Well, the self titled album by The Little Willies is just as fun to listen to.

In case you were wondering, The Little Willies are Lee Alexander, Jim Campilongo, Norah Jones and Dan Riser with The Ordinaries singing background vocals and special guest Jon Dryden playing organ and accordion.

The Little Willies offer up thirteen songs, four originals and nine covers that are easy to listen to and feature an eclectic mix of country, jazz and bluegrass influences.

All of the recordings on this album sound as if they were done by people with huge smiles on their faces who really love what they do. Nowhere is that more apparent on this ablum than the must listen closing track, Lou Reed. I don’t want to spoil it for you but my favorite line of the song has to be, “He was just tipping them over, he wasn’t eating them.”

Like I said…fun stuff.

Here’s the track listing with writer credits for the album:

1. Roly Poly
(Fred Rose)

2. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
(Fred Rose, Hank Williams)

3. Love Me
(Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)

4. It’s Not You It’s Me
(Richard Julian, Ashley Moore)

5. Best Of All Possible Worlds
(Kris Kristofferson)

6. No Place To Fall
(Townes Van Zandt)

7. Roll On
(Lee Alexander)

8. I Gotta Get Drunk
(Willie Nelson)

9. Streets Of Baltimore
(Tompall Glaser, Harlan Howard)

10. Easy As The Rain
(Richard Julian, Jim Campilongo)

11. Tennessee Stud
(Jimmy Driftwood)

12. Night Life
(Walter M. Freeland, Paul F. Buskirk, Willie Nelson)

13. Lou Reed
(Lee Alexander, Richard Julian, Norah Jones)

You can purchase The Little Willies @