The Ramones were one of the truly great rock and roll bands; showing the world in the '70s, a time of excess, that all you really needed were three chords and an attitude. Celebrating their spirit are more than a dozen modern bands on Columbia's We're A Happy Family – A Tribute to Ramones. Opening with Red Hot Chili Peppers' lazy cover of "Havana Affair" and moving into the more intense rock of "Blitzkrieg Bop," courtesy of Rob Zombie (who helped put the collection together with Joey Ramone), the disc finds old-timers Metallica, U2, Kiss and The Pretenders handling "Beat on the Brat," "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio" and "Something to Believe In." Younger punk bands, such as Green Day, Rancid and The Offspring, handle the classics like "Sheen Is a Punk Rocker," "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Outsider." It's not the Ramones, but it does make for a rockin' listen.
Speaking of punky bands, Love & Death, a new EP from The Sun, produced by Wilco's Jay Bennett is out on Warner Brothers. Over the course of six songs, it captures the skinny-tie, neuvo punk attitude of The Hives and The Vines, as well as the more ska-influenced style of early Clash. Nostalgic but "now," this one's definitely worth a listen.
If you are a Grateful Dead fan, but could not afford to pick up last year's $150 box set that included a slew of remastered early albums, all with bonus tracks, now you can pick and choose which of those remastered albums to buy individually. Rhino has reissued the albums from the band's first, most productive period in the late '60s/early '70s: The Grateful Dead, Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa, Live/Dead, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. All but the live disc include a handful of bonus tracks from the period. Included on these albums are some of the Dead's best-known songs, from "Truckin'" and "Sugar Magnolia" to "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," "Dark Star" and "New Potato Caboose."
The Power to Believe
King Crimson has gone through a number of incarnations in its four-decade history, its latest lineup focusing on reptilian guitar stomp rock and long threads of wandering, scalar guitar plucking. Surrounding guitar maestro Robert Fripp on this trip into Crimson are longtime member singer-guitarist Adrian Belew, along with guitarist Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto. Recent albums have followed a theme of album covers featuring gas-masked figures (as this one does) and titles with inappropriate Ks (ThraK, The ConstruKction of Light).
The Ks have all but disappeared this time out (only appearing in the song title "Elektrik"), but the music continues to follow the same theme that Fripp has explored with this and similar lineups over the past 10 years. Belew's vocals are minimal, and the trobbing, tense instrumentals dominate.
"Eyes Wide Open," with its shimmering guitar and Belew's smooth delivery, harks back to Crimson's '80s incarnation on Three of a Perfect Pair. But the industrial factory crunch and noise of "Facts of Life," which finds Belew crying out "Nobody knows what happens when you die" over a whining guitar wail is what this version of Crimson is really all about.
"The Power to Believe II" opens with an Eastern melody and drumbeat that sounds like dripping pipes before moving into a more jazz-influenced bass groove. That graduates into a beautifully ambient section with echoing Belew vocals that speaks of the power of love and belief.
That segues into "Dangerous Curves," a six-and-a-half-minute stretch of edge-of-your-seat driving music that seems to be leading up to the sudden appearance of Freddy Krueger with bladed fingers ready to slice — horror movie soundtrack music if I've ever heard it. Much of the album, in fact, with its extended instrumental experiments, sounds more like soundtrack music than a standard album of "songs."
There aren't any radio hits lying in wait on this disc, but then, King Crimson has never been about that. This is music to put on in a dark room and be mesmerized.
King Crimson will play two sold-out shows this weekend at Chicago's Park West on March 13-14.