Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 27, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Constantine Maroulis does.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: The Rev. Gets Revving: Al Green Returns to His Pre-Gospel Sound on His New Album (Sunday, May 25, 2008)

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J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings, peoples.

Had a they-booked-who-where? moment yesterday at Nationals Park when the anthem was sung by none other than ... Tom Wopat! Clearly he was there to bond with Elijah Dukes. (Also, I guess he has a recording career now. Who knew?)

Anyway, what's up?

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Take Me To New York, NY: Amercian Boy: The new single by Estelle f/ Kanye on the radio:

I despise Kanye but this song is soo damn catchy.

The beat is solid and she has a voice I don't normally hear on the radio here.

Your thoughts?

How long before the Leona Lewis song pisses me off due to overplay? I give it another week.

J. Freedom du Lac: I like Estelle and hope to write about her at some point in the not-too-distant. Her album, "Shine," is plenty likable, even if it's not necessarily groundbreaking. As much as you like her singing voice, I think her rapping is even better. She has charm, wit and verve to spare. My only real quibbles after giving "Shine" a spin is that it feels a little bit disjointed (too many different producers, probably) and Estelle sounds bit too much like Lauryn Hill at times. The second track on her album, "No Substitute Love," eg, sounds straight-up like a microwaved "Miseducation ... " leftover. (I was very, very amused to read in the credits that it was produced by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis.)

Kanye's showing on "American Boy" is pretty great. "Dressed smart like a London bloke/Before he speak his suit bespoke." Classic.

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Anonymous If you had your choice, which actress would you like to make a musical album?

J. Freedom du Lac: Lauryn Hill, star of "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit." She's definitely missed on the musical scene.

Otherwise, I can't really say that I have a wish list of actresses (or actors) who need to make music. Nope.

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Winston-Salem, NC: At what point, if ever, do you think that the powers-that-be will stop distributing music by country/region? For example, there are a handful of groups that I hear about or hear on satelite radio that I really like. I can't buy their music on iTunes, though, because they don't have a US distribution deal, and I would have to order through amazon.co.uk (or .de, etc.) and pay international shipping rates. Or, I could try to find a copy on the internet. At what point do people come to their senses, get with the times, and try to make a buck when they can rather than try to protect a buck that they aren't going to earn? Thanks for letting me rant.

J. Freedom du Lac: This very topic came up the other night at dinner with Radiohead's publicists. We were talking about a British TV show whose name escapes me because I don't watch it, and Steve (publicist) said that Thom (errr, singer) had grabbed some recent episodes from iTunes UK - and that it was annoying as hell to Steve that they weren't yet available in the US.

Of course, this happens all the time with music, which makes no sense whatsoever, especially since those who really want to hear a song that's not yet available through iTunes US might be compelled to just find it on the giveaway table known as the Internet, meaning everybody (artist, distributor, iTunes) just lost out on a sale.
Are you sure you weren't sitting at the next table over?


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La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico: Just where is the spirit of the '60s'-'70s' musicians who stood up to the government in addressing the crimes that it was committing then? Or is it all now just more commercial sales of CDs-DVDs capitalism at work, which does not care about the real issues that affect Americans and people around the world that are dieing as a result of the U.S. governments' illegal wars? Freeodm Rock should be about freedom, but where are the peoples Constitutions and Human Rights that are the basis of freedom? Nero sang and danced while Rome burned.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's there, and if you can't find it, you're not looking/listening hard enough. Why don't you start with James McMurtry? Or maybe Steve Earle?

Or if you want something more subtle, try Josh Ritter's "Girl in the War" or John Legend's Marvinesque"Coming Home."

Or, let's see: Springsteen's new album. The new Roots album, "Rising Down." Neil Young's Bush broadside, "Living With War." The Coup's "Pick A Bigger Weapon." Etc etc. Long list.

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If you had your choice, which actress would you like to make a musical album? : Rene Zellwegger. Hopefully that would kill off her career and I wouldn't have to see her anymore.

J. Freedom du Lac: You think? Shatner still seems to have a pretty decent career. I'm sure ScarJo won't be hurting for work, in spite of the reviews.

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Tom Wopat?: Wasn't Erik Estrada in town recently, as well? Who next, Eve Plumb?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes. Her or Spencer Milligan.

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Richmond, Va.: Please help settle a debate that was brewing over dinner with some friends on Sunday night - whose version of "Proud Mary," the original by CCR or Tina's cover - would you say is considered the definitive version. To put it another way, when people think of that song, which version do you think more people think of first?

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow, that's a tough call. It was CCR's first big hit and the original still sounds great. But it also remains one of Tina's signature songs.

The tiebreaker might have to go to Ike and Tina even though Fogerty wrote it. The crazy legs win out.

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washingtonpost.com: Eve Plumb? Are you sure you don't mean Eve's Plumb? I saw that very-forgettable '90s "alternative" band back at the old 9:30 club... but that was before Colleen "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick went on to bigger and better things, like Radio Disney.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow, nice pull. They only had, like, half a hit, didn't they?

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Shut up Al Green!: Surely you have seen the Al Green documentary, right? He is certifiable! But also brilliant.

J. Freedom du Lac: Oh yes. It's a great, great documentary - very revealing. Some great performances, too, including this one. One of my favorite parts of the film is when the reverend gets to talking about writing "Tired of Being Alone" - and how his then-girlfriend got really irritated because he kept playing that chord progression over and over. Shut up Al Green, indeed!

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Beltsville, MD: Politics in music? You can throw in the last Green Day album, the most recent Linkin Park album had at least 4 songs that were direct broadsides at the current president, System of A Down, Willie Nelson, Kanye, NIN, Disturbed......

It's there, and it's not really hidden. Music just aint as big as it used to be.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or, people are too busy romanticizing the old days to notice what's happening now.

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J. Freedom du Lac: By the by, Producer Fritz (pinch-hitting for Producer David, who is recovering from the big Pirates series against the Cubs) has a "Dukes of Hazard" fanboy story that he needs to share. Fritz?

J. Freedom du Lac: Okay, Fritz is hiding. So, I'm just going to copy his version of the story from the chat's secret chat room:

"did i ever tell you about the time my friend Jeff and I drove out to Cooter's Place in Sperryville VA to meet John Schneider, get our picture taken with John and the General Lee (an autographed polaroid!) and listen to him sing his Christian country songs?"

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Re: Throwing money away: I'm shocked (yes, shocked!) that labels and other rights holders aren't more proactive at putting more OOP stuff on Itunes. How much could it cost to rip an old CD? You don't have to print a booklet or ship it anywhere...

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm sure it gets somewhat complicated when different companies own the rights in different territories. But hey, it's not 1983 anymore people. FIGURE IT OUT.

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Richmond, VA: What's the most embarrassing song on your iPod? Mine is a

draw between Clarence Carter's "Patches" and Janet Jackson's

"Let's Wait Awhile."

J. Freedom du Lac: I used to have Kid Rock's "Yo Da Lin In The Valley" on my iPod, but then it popped up in shuffle mode when I had some people over and, well - it's gone now. I stand by every single one of the other 9,732 (or so) songs I have on the thing.

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"Proud Mary": I think you're right. Ike and Tina over CCR, in a split decision. The clincher for me - Tina's breathy little spiel at the beginning ("We don't do things nice, and easy..we like to do things, nice and rough..") Is it hot in here today?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's just you.

Is anybody planning to pony up the big bucks to see Tina at Verizon later this year? Her showing on the Grammys, with Beyonce, wasn't great. But...

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Yay politics!: Because "Living with War" is the best Neil Young record ever!

Well maybe #2 after the robot voice record!

J. Freedom du Lac: Hey, the poster asked where the protest music was. Not the good protest music.

Though pretty much all of my other examples qualify as good. Neil's album, not so much. (At least not to these ears.)

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Fritz's "Dukes of Hazard" fanboy story: Tell him not to worry. My college roommate and I joined the Bangles fan club; of course we were pi$$ drunk at the time, but still....

washingtonpost.com: Okay, see, we did it as a joke ... but when we made to return trip a year or so later to meet Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach at "Dukesfest," it was obviously a pilgrimage.

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, there you go.

I like that Fritz feels like he has to ID Catherine Bach, btw. He must think there are, like, young people participating in the chat. People who thought Jessica Simpson invented the character. Silly Fritz.

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La Paz, Indeed: You know who lives in La Paz? Rich ex-hippies who sold their Marin County houses to rich dot-commers. Get back to your Time-Life 60's collection, you old fool.

J. Freedom du Lac: See what I mean? No young people.

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Phoenix, MD: Another debate that needs to be settled:

I recently refused to let my friend leave our local record store (Sound Garden in Baltimore-- awesome place) without purchasing a copy of OK Computer, which he had gone over 10 years without.

He later reported back that he thought it was overrated "ambient" music.

My question: Is OK Computer brilliant enough to survive on its own merits and stand the test of time? Or is it like the Citizen Kane of rock albums in that in order to appreciate its brilliance, the listener has to understand that it was revolutionary because there was nothing like it before its release?

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't know, I think the art should speak for itself. You shouldn't have to provide context, especially for an album whose lyrics were - and still are - hailed as being rather brilliant.

Personally, though, I've always preferred "The Bends." To me, that's the epochal album from the band's catalogue.

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If you had your choice, which actress would you like to make a musical album?: I'm still for Salma Hayek. If her voice broke glass and made dogs whine, I'd still buy it.

J. Freedom du Lac: My good friend DEJ would consider, as well.

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Anonymous: For a generation that expects music to be free, is waiting to be asked by Barry Obama to serve their country through civil or public service and thinks that a political involvement extends no further than voting in a primary, it's no longer a question of a lack of political music compared to the 60s and 70s. I don't think people care about politics as much as they used to. We could spend all day come up with an extensive list of political songs from the last 5 years. Do you think people even realize that American Idiot is a political album? I thought it was about American Idol. Bring back the draft!

J. Freedom du Lac: Or it might be that blogs are the new music. (Do you really think the people lighting up the comments sections don't care about politics?)

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Baltimore, MD: Comments on the new Usher album (assuming you've heard it)?

I got it this morning but haven't listened to it yet. However, I did read the liner notes and was particularly amused that there's a page listing "Accolades for 'Here I Stand'" with quotes from basically no-name magazines and a quote from someone who apparently works for his label's A&R department. Now that's an impressive compliment!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Hilarious. I'm going to have to look this up.

I have an album somewhere on (or under) my desk with a promotional sticker that quotes a "review" posted by a fan on the artist's MySpace page. I guess it was easier to come by than a rave from the British rock press, though those sure do seem to be pretty common based on what I tend to see while going through my new-music bin.

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Ipod Embarrassment: I was mowing the lawn this morning and right after a sharp Torme track I got blasted by the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb."

Ecletic, or stoopid?

J. Freedom du Lac: That just might be the weirdest, least likely back-to-back in the history of the iPod shuffle. (You would've gotten even more points if it had been Shonen Knife's version.)

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Proud Mary : Lisa Simpson's version.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, it's this one.

And on that pitch-distorted note, we're done here today, folks. I'll be out next week. Producer David should be replacing me in the lineup. Be sure to ask him lots of Doors and "White Album" questions.

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