Monday, July 30, 2001

The Strokes released Is This It

First posted 3/29/2008; updated 9/24/2020.

Is This It

The Strokes


Released: July 30, 2001


Peak: 33 US, 2 UK, 50 CN, 5 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.05 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: garage rock revival


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Is This It [2:35]
  2. The Modern Age [3:32] (1/29/01, --)
  3. Soma [2:37]
  4. Barely Legal [3:58]
  5. Someday [3:07] (9/14/02, 17 MR, 27 UK)
  6. Alone, Together [3:12]
  7. Last Nite [3:17] (11/10/01, 5 MR, 14 UK, 47 AU)
  8. Hard to Explain [3:47] (6/25/01, 27 MR, 16 UK, 66 AU)
  9. New York City Cops [3:36]
  10. Trying Your Luck [3:27]
  11. Take It or Leave It [3:16]

All songs written by Julian Casablancas.


Total Running Time: 36:28


The Players:

  • Julian Casablancas (vocals)
  • Albert Hammond Jr. (guitar)
  • Nick Valensi (guitar)
  • Nikolai Fraiture (bass)
  • Fabrizio Moretti (drums)

Rating:

4.231 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)


Quotable: “A pop version of the Velvet Underground with totally 21st-century lyrics,” ZS it was “crucial in the development of other alternative bands and of the post-millennial music industry.” – Wikipedia.org


Awards:

About the Album:

With their debut album, these “mod ragamuffins” RS from New York City “mixed Velvet Underground grime and skinny-tie New Wave jangle” RS with “late-‘70s New York punk;” AMG in essence, they combined “all the trademarks of pre-1977 rock” EW or “pre-alternative alternative music.” EW The music was “sometimes acidic, always full of great melody,” RS and marked by “off-kilter guitar solos,” EW “primitive tom-tom rhythms (shades of the Velvets’ Moe Tucker),” EW and “an insistently chugging backbeat.” AMG It was all accompanied by “attitude-heavy slurring (by singer Julian Casablancas)” EW and his “raw, world-weary” AMG and “half-buried vocals (à la ‘Louie, Louie’).” EW

The Strokes intentionally sought out “the raw, muddy sonics of garage-band 45s.” EW Casablancas said they wanted to sound like “a band from the past that took a time trip into the future to make their record.” WK However, “the Strokes don’t rehash the sounds that inspire them,” AMG namely Television, the Stooges, and aforementioned Velvets, but “remake them in their own image.” AMG The subject matter behind their songs “reflected their own early-twenties lust for life.” AMG and made “the timeworn themes of sex, drugs, and rock & roll and the basic guitars-drum-bass lineup seem new and vital again.” AMG

On one hand, the Strokes became “the most hyped band [in the UK] since Oasis in the mid 1990s;” TB the New Musical Express “placed the Strokes at the head of its ‘new rock revolution’” TB However, “haters threw whatever they had at them.” SY After all, these were were guys straight out of “the exclusive Dwight School in Manhattan” TB decked out in “expensive leather and denim.” SY However, the band’s “daily twelve-hour practices are so blindingly evident on Is This ItSY that “the Strokes prove to be one of the few groups deserving of their glowing reviews.” AMG “The record is considered crucial in the development of other alternative bands and of the post-millennial music industry.” WK Rolling Stone’s Joe Levy said it was “the stuff of which legends are made” WK while NME’s John Robinson said “Is This It was one of the best debut LPs by a guitar band during the past 20 years.” WK

The title track “sets the joys of being young, jaded, and yearning to a wonderfully bouncy bassline.” AMG It also “features a simple, metronomic drum line, a recurring feature in the rest of the record. Containing one of the slowest tempos, Is This It is the Strokes attempt at a ballad.” WK

“The band mix swaggering self-assurance with barely concealed insecurity on The Modern Age,” AMG “a rant about the oddness fo modern life.” WK It “includes a prominent guitar riff accompanied by a complementary drum line. Its staccato verse is followed by an upbeat, singalong chorus and a technically difficult guitar solo.” WK

The band “reveal something akin to earnestness on Barely Legal,” AMG which “concerns the subject matter of a girl who has just arrived at the age of consent.” WK It also “containes some of the album’s softer guitar melodies inspired by Britpop as well as drumming patterns that evoke the sound of primitive 1980s drum machines.” WK

Alone, Together continues the sexual theme by dropping hints about cunnilingus” WK and is “driven by a staccato rhythm, and climaxes first with a guitar solo, then a repeat of the central guitar hook.” WK That song and “Trying Your Luck develop the group's brooding, coming-down side.” AMG

Last Nite is another “guitar-driven song, but leans towards pop music influences. At its core, there are reggae-inspired rhythm guitar lines played by Hammond, and studio noise effects. The rhythm section plays simple interlocking notes and beats.” WK

New York City Cops was created as a pastiche of rock band Aerosmith,” WK a song which also “revamps [Iggy Pop’s] ‘Lust for Life.’” AMGTrying Your Luck, the album’s mellowest point, follows and shows more melancholic vocals.” WK

The Strokes combine “their raw power and infectious melodies on Hard to Explain, arguably the finest song they've written in their career.” AMG That song and “New York City Cops” incorporate “spliced ad-libbing extras from Casablancas” WK while “Explain” and Soma both contain “processed drum tracks using dynamic range compression and equalization studio techniques to make them sound like a drum machine.” WK The latter “incorporates jerky rhythms and starts and ends with the same guitar and drum chimes.” WK

Meanwhile, “Someday “is infused with rockabilly elements and interlocking guitar lines, …a recurrent element of Is This It.” WK That song and “Take It or Leave It capture the Strokes at their most sneeringly exuberant,” AMG both managing to “overcome the muddy, low-budget production.” EW The latter “is the only song in which Hammond used the bridge pickup of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.” WK

“The album’s cover photograph courted controversy for being too sexually explicit and was replaced for the U.S. market” WK with a “microscopic close-up of particle collisions.” WK “The American track listing was also amended in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks.” WK The song “New York City Cops” was replaced with B-side “When It Started.”


Notes: Despite being New York-based, the Strokes’ Is This It was released in the U.K. a month earlier than in the U.S. In between, New York’s World Trade Center towers were destroyed by terrorists and the less than flattering New York City Cops was pulled in favor of B-side When It Started. The U.S. version also went with less provocative cover art.

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Friday, July 20, 2001

In Concert: Eric Clapton

image from guitardevil.com

Venue: Kemper Arena; Kansas City, MO
Opening Act: Doyle Bramhall II
The Players: Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar), Billy Preston (keyboards), Andy Fairweather-Low (back-up guitarist and vocalist), Nathan East (bass), Steve Gadd (drums)


The Set List:

1. Key to the Highway
2. Reptile
3. Got You on My Mind
4. Tears in Heaven
5. Bell Bottom Blues
6. Change the World
7. My Father’s Eyes
8. River of Tears
9. Going Down Slow
10. She’s Gone
11. I Want a Little Girl
12. Badge
13. Hoochie Coochie Man
14. Five Long Years
15. Cocaine
16. Wonderful Tonight
17. Layla

ENCORE:

18. Will It Go Round in Circles
19. Sunshine of Your Love
20. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Here’s a timeline of when each of the above songs was originally released. It’s interesting that the entire decade of the ‘80s was neglected. He also avoided perhaps his three best-known covers: “After Midnight,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

  • 1939: Judy Garland in the movie The Wizard of Oz: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Not featured on any Clapton albums.
  • 1967: Cream’s album Disraeli Gears: “Sunshine of Your Love”
  • 1969: Cream’s album Goodbye: “Badge”
  • 1970: Derek and the Dominoes’ album Layla…and Other Assorted Love Songs: “Key to the Highway,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Layla”
  • 1972: Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles,” a #1 single from Preston’s album Music Is My Life. Not featured on any Clapton albums.
  • 1977: Slow Hand: “Cocaine,” “Wonderful Tonight”
  • 1992: Rush Soundtrack: “Tears in Heaven”
  • 1994: From the Cradle: “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Five Long Years”
  • 1996: Phenomenon Soundtrack: “Change the World”
  • 1998: Pilgrim: “My Father’s Eyes,” “River of Tears,” “Going Down Slow,” “She’s Gone”
  • 2001: Reptile: “Reptile,” “Got You on My Mind,” “I Want a Little Girl”

    Billy Preston is most noted as the only artist to share billing with the Beatles on one of their songs (“Get Back”). Also a successful solo artist; at his peak in the early ‘70s. He was playing keyboards for gospel diva Mahalia Jackson by the age of 10. Andy Fairweather-Low has toured and recorded with Eric Clapton since 1992. He has also worked with George Harrison, Roger Waters, Stevie Nicks, and Kate Bush, among others. In the late ‘60s, Andy was the lead singer of British group Amen Corner. Nathan East has worked with Clapton since 1986. He has also worked with Barry White, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, and Kenny Loggins. He also has been a member of the jazz group Fourplay in the ‘90s. Steve Gadd has worked with Clapton since 1998. Gadd also has worked as a jazz drummer with Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Bob James, Grover Washington Jr., and David Sanborn. All of the above, including opening act Doyle Bramhall II, were involved in the recording of the Reptile album. Only Dave Sancious, Bruce Springsteen’s keyboardist on his first three albums, was added for the tour. He has also worked as a solo artist, as well as a keyboardist for Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Bryan Ferry.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Alicia Keys debuted at #1 with Songs in A Minor

First posted 3/29/2008; updated 12/1/2020.

Songs in A Minor

Alicia Keys


Released: June 5, 2001


Charted: July 14, 2001


Peak: 13 US, 16 RB, 6 UK, 2 CN, 3 AU


Sales (in millions): 6.21 US, 0.9 UK, 15.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: R&B


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Piano & I
  2. Girlfriend (with Jermaine Dupri) (5/26/01, 24 UK, 73a RB)
  3. How Come You Don’t Call Me (3/23/02, 58a US, 26 UK, 28 RB)
  4. Fallin’ (5/5/01, 1 US, 3 UK, 1 RB, 24 AC, sales: 0.5 m, air: 0.6 m)
  5. Troubles
  6. Rock Wit’ U
  7. A Woman’s Worth (10/13/01, 6a US, 18 UK, 3 RB)
  8. Jane Doe
  9. Goodbye
  10. The Life
  11. Mr. Man
  12. Never Felt This Way (Interlude)
  13. Butterflyz
  14. Why Do I Feel So Sad?
  15. Caged Bird (Outro)
  16. Lovin’ U


Total Running Time: 63:04

Rating:

4.124 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“She may be beautiful, but Alicia Keys is a musician first and foremost.” SC “In retrospect, it was the idea of Alicia Keys that was as attractive as the record, since soul fans were hungering for a singer/songwriter who seemed part of the tradition without being as spacy as Macy Gray or as hippie mystic as Erykah Badu while being more reliable than Lauryn Hill.” STE

Her “debut album, Songs in A Minor, made a significant impact upon its release in the summer of 2001, catapulting the young singer/songwriter to the front of the neo-soul pack. Critics and audiences were captivated by a 19-year-old singer whose taste and influences ran back further than her years, encompassing everything from Prince to smooth ‘70s soul, even a little Billie Holiday.” STE

Indeed, she “plants herself firmly behind the piano keys on her debut, unlike many of the booty-waggin’ junior divas who are crowding the R&B videoscape these days. Though many of the tracks on Songs in A Minor are embellished with adolescent angst, …[her] substantial, gorgeously soul-drenched alto putties the cracks between notes with astonishing ease.” SC

“She swoops and soars over the spicy, flamenco-fueled melody that opens Mr. Mann, one of the many winning tracks gathered here. And she digs deep into a remake of the beloved Prince B-side, How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore? packing more heat into her melismatic wails than most singers twice her age.” SC

She also “had style to spare – elegant, sexy style accentuated by how she never oversang, giving the music a richer feel.” STEFallin’, the album’s first single, showcases Keys at her best. She wails plaintively and passionately over rolling blues chords, in the tradition of the greats that this young talent clearly wants to align herself with – Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Aretha Franklin.” SC

That song also demonstrates how her presentation “was rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing – though it was a big hit, … [it] doesn’t have much body to it – which is a testament to Keys’ skills as a musician.” STE “And, the fact is, even though there are some slips in the writing, there aren’t many, and the whole thing remains a startling assured, successful debut that deserved its immediate acclaim and is already aging nicely.” STE

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