The 10 Most Overlooked Albums of 2014

Photo by Jack Gorman
Down, seen here at Warehouse Live earlier this month, came back strong on the second half of their Down IV EP series.
Every year we all rush to start making our end-of-the-year bests lists, and inevitably, we miss a few. Usually the comments section will let us know how bad we fucked up by not including such and such record, usually one we didn't like to begin with, often by some forgotten '80s band nobody except the author cares about, but every now and then some legitimately great records will fall by the wayside.

Since most of us have turned in our year-end lists by now, it's time we turn our attention to those albums that nobody talked a lot about but that deserve every bit of the recognition all those Top 10 picks got. Here are the best, most overlooked releases of 2014 for your listening pleasure.

More »

Best Christmas Ever: Big Freedia Launches Twerking App

Screenshot YouTube Big Freedia Twerk App
We have three words for you: Unlock all twerks.

Those three words are from the New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia and a little thing called the "Twerk App," which -- as you may have guessed -- is an app created with booty-bouncing connoisseurs in mind.

Christmas obviously came a little early this year.

More »

RIP Ian McLagan, Rock Legend and Adopted Texan

Ian McLagan (second from right) and the Bump Band in 2006
Austin is in a state of shock this afternoon after the passing of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Austin music icon Ian McLagan. McLagan, 69, suffered a stroke at his home in Austin on Tuesday night.

According to sources who wish to remain anonymous, McLagan, who was scheduled to play with Nick Lowe in Minneapolis tonight, suffered severe head trauma when he fell in his bathtub as a result of the stroke. According to a post in the Austin Chronicle, McLagan died at Austin's Brackenridge Hospital at 2:39 p.m.

More »

Houston's Historic Starday Records: The Earliest Singles

Handbook of Texas Online/Texas Historical Foundation
Houston businessman Harold "Pappy" Daily's sons Don and Bud founded Cactus Records in 1975.
In 1952, Houston jukebox operator and record distributor Harold "Pappy" Daily and Jack Starnes, Lefty Frizzell's manager, formed their own record label. A combination of both men's names, the tiny Starday actually began recording operations in Starnes' house in Beaumont and released its first 45, Mary Jo Chelette's "Gee It's Tough To Be 13" b/w "Cat Fishing," in early 1953.

Over the next five years, Starday went from a bedroom operation to one of the most important regional labels in the country. Along the way, it would serve as a regional springboard for the popular new craze known as rockabilly as well as a label noted for its roster of important regional artists and eventual national country stars.

Daily and Starnes released 16 singles in their first year of operation, and seem to have skipped over No. 8 and No. 13, as no information is available on those series numbers. Several of these were by the same artists, as it was not unheard of to release several singles per year to feed the bulldog that is mainstream radio. While only one of the tunes from the first year caused much of a ripple outside the Gulf Coast area, they do give a fascinating representation of the sounds that certainly filled local joints and radio stations, and also offer a measure of how much talent there was in the local market.

More »

Sampling Joe Sample: 1977

Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample (left) and his TSU students, 2013
By 1977, the individual members of the Crusaders were so successful that the pressure to record two albums a year no longer applied. There was no new Crusaders album in 1977, but that doesn't mean the members weren't working, and working hard.

Trombonist Wayne Henderson was trying his hand at producing records, Stix Hooper could play anytime anywhere he wanted to, and Wilton Felder's career was in overdrive as he stepped up his session work with the bass guitar and his saxophone.

Meanwhile, Joe Sample kept on keeping on, working some very high-profile sessions in Los Angeles. While 1977 was not a banner year like 1975 and '76, he would end the year with one of the most significant sessions of his career, playing on Steely Dan's Aja.

More »

The Brief, Bizarre Wave of Good Synth-Metal Bands

Photo by Joe Dilworth
Enter Shikari
Earlier this year, I wrote about the wave of dubstep metal that is ruining everything. That might have led some readers to believe that I'm fundamentally against the idea of mixing synthesizers and other electronics into metal, but that is absolutely not true.

The problem with dubstep metal is that it's horribly executed, but the concept itself could be successful. Back in the day, a lot of bands actually used synthesizers to great effect in a brief wave that unfortunately ended way too soon. These five managed to get it right.

More »

Sampling Joe Sample: 1976

The Crusaders' album Free as the Wind
If 1975 was a whirlwind year for Joe Sample, the Crusader who passed away last Friday, 1976 was a full-blown hurricane. The newer, funkier Crusaders were increasingly popular, so much so that United Artists began to repackage and reissue some of the early 1960s Jazz Crusaders tracks the group made for the Pacific Jazz label, but titling the reissues The Young Rabbits. There was also another reissue, Best of the Crusaders, a compilation of tracks recorded for Blue Thumb.

The Crusaders themselves issued a live album, Live: Midnight Triangle, and one of their finest studio recordings, Free As the Wind, in 1976. But these efforts aside, Sample worked a string of sessions that kept him on the move both physically and musically. Following are his most notable sessions of 1976.

More »

Sampling Joe Sample: 1975

Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample at Texas Southern University in 2013
With the wild, platinum-selling commercial success of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark in 1974, Joe Sample's studio-session career went into warp drive. Throughout the remainder of the decade, he would sprint from one important project to the next.

Sample's Crusaders dropped Those Southern Nights in early 1975 and Chain Reaction later in the year; before the year was over, they would open for the Rolling Stones. But in between Crusaders gigs and tours, Sample stayed busy with a broad array of sessions with other artists. His part in the success of Mitchell's Court and Spark and its megahit "Help Me" did not go unnoticed by other producers and artists. Following is only a partial list of the credits Sample, who passed away last Friday night at age 75, racked up during 1975 alone.

More »

Sampling Joe Sample's Album Credits: 1964-75

Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample being inducted into the Houston Music Hall of Fame, 2013
Anyone who follows jazz or has much sense of Houston's music history knows that Joseph Leslie Sample, who passed away Friday night after a losing battle with lung cancer, is a giant. But Sample was not simply a virtuoso pianist, a prolific composer and one of the inventors of jazz-funk via the Crusaders.

With more than 50 years in the business, Sample amassed credits as a session player that are mind-blowing. While the Crusaders (nee Jazz Crusaders) were his main emphasis, in 1964 he began offering his services on the open market, and by 1968 he'd become a go-to Los Angeles session pro. Below are just some of Sample's most high-profile recordings as a side man from when he first began hiring himself out through 1975. Check back with us soon for more on Sample's stellar career as a session pianist, composer, and arranger.

More »

Nine Things Playing In Rock and Roll Bands Taught Me

Photo by Badulake/Wikimedia Commons
You have a long way to climb if you want to reach the "Dio" level of rock stardom.
Most people have entertained the fantasy of becoming a wealthy rock star, and a lot of them buy an instrument to fiddle around with. The majority of them eventually just throw that instrument into a closet after they move to another hobby, while a few become proficient players but never leave their bedrooms. This leaves a small number that actually form bands and take a stab at playing live to real audiences.

So what are some of the lessons that these aspiring rock stars are likely to learn or encounter on their way up (or down) the ladder of live music success? It's not all mountains of cocaine and groupie gang-bangs on the tour bus waterbed, is it?

Let's explore this further.

More »