Stream On, Stream On…new releases by Elvis and Elton: try before you buy

Is it my imagination or are more and more artists these days allowing their latest discs to be streamed before their release dates? I for one love this idea. Here are two great examples:

Wise Up Ghost, the new Elvis Costello & The Roots collaboration which comes out September 17th, is now streaming on NPR’s site. You can listen to the whole thing here.

And one of the biggest stars of ’em all, Elton John, has a new disc entitled The Diving Board which doesn’t hit stores until September 24th. Want to hear it now? Amazon.com is happy to oblige. Check it out here.

If you’re the more of the visual type, check out the lyric videos for the EC/The Roots track “Walk Us Uptown” and Elton John’s “Home Again”.

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The 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now (at least according to Rolling Stone)

Rolling Stone_bruceSo the cover story of the new issue of Rolling Stone is all about the hottest acts on the road. Of course, any kind of top-whatever list will lead to all sorts of disagreements (just check out the comments on the magazine’s website), but I can heartily agree with their choice for number one on the list. Hint: It’s the fella on the cover.

Yeah, yeah, I know…I’m biased. But c’mon…who else could it be? I’ve seen Springsteen 13 times since 1984; three of those on the Wrecking Ball tour that just finished up in Europe. Whether it was with the E Street band, solo, or with the “other band” (well, maybe not that last one), every show was a unique and memorable experience. No two shows were ever exactly alike. And on the most recent tour, he played a whopping 223 different songs over the course of 129 shows.

Here’s what the magazine had to say about their top choice:

Springsteen has always brought nearly superhuman levels of energy to his shows, but his current Wrecking Ball tour stands as one of his greatest and most thrilling. (It even featured the longest Springsteen show ever – four hours and six minutes, in Helsinki, Finland, on July 31, 2012.) For more shows, Springsteen shreds the pre-planned setlist and collects request-bearing signs from the crowd, leading the band in impromptu renditions of covers by everybody from The Ramones to Jackie Wilson. “I don’t look at the setlist very much during the night,” he recently told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. “I’m listening to the song we’re playing – it’s talking to me about what to play next. And I’m watching the audience. Sometimes it’s the look in someone’s eyes about how bad they want to hear that song they’ve written on a piece of cardboard or their head.”

I’ve listed the top 20 below, and you can find the rest and read the whole story here. And check out the great fan-filmed clip at the end of the post from the Springsteen show at Toronto’s Rogers Centre last August. I was there, and it was outstanding.

1. Bruce Springsteen

2. Prince

3. The Rolling Stones

4. Arcade Fire

5. Neil Young

6. Jay Z

7. Radiohead

8. Jack White

9. Rage Against The Machine

10. My Morning Jacket

11. U2

12. Wilco

13. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

14. The Black Keys

15. Paul McCartney

16. Alabama Shakes

17. Nine Inch Nails

18. Metallica

19. The Roots

20. Kanye West

New release news: Stephen Stills new project, The Rides; Elvis Costello & The Roots

The RidesWhat do you think of when you hear the name Stephen Stills? Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), right? Or his solo output? Well, you can add more descriptor to that list. While his work with one of the most famous rock trios in history continues, Stills has a new side project: a new trio. Stills has gotten together with blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg (Electric Flag) and formed The Rides, a blues-rock outfit whose debut album Can’t Get Enough hits stores August 27th. The album will contain a mix of group-written originals and covers of  artists like Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Iggy Pop and…Stephen Stills. Rolling Stone has posted a link to the track “Word Game” which originally appeared on Stills’ album Stephen Stills 2 released in 1971. The new version is nothing like the original; this time it really cooks. You can listen to it here. BONUS: Preview an additional track form the album, “Don’t Want Lies”, here.

In other new release news, back in January I posted a story about a new Elvis Costello album with The Roots to be released sometime this year. Well, we now have a date: September 17th. Entitled Wise Up Ghost, the album will be the first for Costello on Blue Note Records. According to the Blue Note website, Costello has described the record as “the shortest distance between here and there” and containing “both rhythm and what is read”.  The Roots’ ?uestlove says, “It’s a moody, brooding affair, cathartic rhythms and dissonant lullabies. I went stark and dark on the music, Elvis went HAM on some ole Ezra Pound shit.”

Ok then. Like I said back in January, should be interesting to say the least.

Here’s a great fan-filmed clip of ?questlove guesting with Costello and The Imposters at a NYC performance in 2011:

This should be interesting: Elvis Costello and The Roots are doing an album together

From billboard.com:

Since becoming the house band on NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” in 2009, the Roots have backed everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon to Bon Iver and Carly Rae Jepsen. And now, another collaboration with a legendary artist that began on the “Late Night” stage is leading to a full-length album. 

Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has exclusively revealed to Billboard that the group is prepping a collaborative project with Elvis Costello that should be out sometime this year. “It was really love at first sight,” Thompson says of Costello, who has made three “Late Night” appearances, including a performance in February 2012 during a week-long tribute to Bruce Springsteen. “The second time he came on, we surpassed the first one. So by the third time, he was like, ‘Let’s stop messing around and do something together.'”

The initial plan was to cut just a few tracks, but those sessions proved fruitful enough for the artists to keep going. Says Thompson, “we had 13 or 14 songs, but then we said, ‘Ooh! Wait a minute! Let’s replace four of these songs with four better songs! And now we have the tightest 12-14 song collection out of about 20 songs that we made.”

In the near future, Costello and the Roots plan to mix and master the as-yet-untitled LP with assistance from Roots engineer Steven Mandel, who is co-producing the project with them. It is unclear at deadline which label will release the album. “We kind of have the freedom to take it around, whether it’s to Elvis’ people or Def Jam’s people,” says Thompson. “I can just say that it is brilliant.”

Sounds like a winner to me. The Roots are a talented group of musicians and I think this is an inspired pairing.

Elvis sighting: I was fortunate to be in the audience for the taping of the last episode of Elvis’ tv series Spectacle which was shot in Toronto. You can read about my experience here, and below is a clip from that episode: