Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

It feels like I have said in nearly every post that I am so happy with all of the great music people have recommended, so today I have decided to say something different.  I am "elated" with the suggestion I received on "Grace Potter and the Nocturnals".  I can't help it, its the truth but to what extent?

"Grace Potter and the Nocturnals" was suggested to me when I posted a desire to hear something new and had yet to hear of.  Using the powers that be on "Facebook", as well as the 4400+ friends I have there (thanks to Mafia Wars), the aforementioned band was mentioned and honestly the reason I listened was because of the name (it sounded interesting).  Thanks to the poster, she was dead on, the band is phenomenal.

Using the latest technological tools to investigate the band, YouTube, I began to delve into the unknown (wow that sounds pretentious).  The first song (or video for that matter) was "Paris (Ooh La La)" and honestly I thought the music might be a little "Edie Brickell and New Bohemians" like.  To preface that description of the band I thought that the music would be like, for lack of a better description, "college music", and that isn't meant in a bad way for that matter.  "College music" would be that bohemian, politically charged fare that became almost its own entity in the '80's, and uhm...  I was wrong.  Dead wrong.

What I found was a product that felt like high brow jazz with the vocals of Janis Joplin and Ann Wilson (I'll get to Ann Wilson in a bit), that can kick out the jams mothe... (sorry I almost went all MC5).  Here's an honest explanation of what I heard, it was hotter than all get out.  What was heard when that first song fired up was a primal grunt and great guitar, and that's hard to do with a video after all.  I make it a point to start a video and then switch to a different screen so the video won't distract me and I can hear just the music, but about 15 seconds after the grunt, I had to watch the video.

Honestly I'm glad I did, I could hardly contain my interest in hearing more from the band, and the wonderful world of YouTube didn't disappoint.  The band is this incredible mix of retro '70's television shows, and the deep, soulful, brash bass and that college feel intertwined with big mustaches and simple ass-kicking vocals.  This band is the reason to listen to the music of today and it is also the reason to run away from that regurgitated "Madonna Lite" vile ickyness that permeates radio (Yes that does mean that Gaga person).

I would be remiss (or at least called out on it) if I didn't talk about the band and their eye catching, magnetic power looks and I understand, I saw it too.  I have never in my life seen anything as amazing as the mustache on the drummer, it is straight out of the '70's and damn if it doesn't look good (you thought I meant the singer and the bassist didn't you).  I was seriously transported back to my youth (I'm 42 so stop with the old jokes), and I remembered seeing "The Doobie Brothers" on the TV variety shows "Midnight Special" and "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert", and I swear that the 'stach looks like the one sported by one of the Doobie's.

All kidding aside, this band flat out rocks, and no matter what era they would have been in they would still rock.  I have no excuse that I do not own a copy of any of their CD's (I will be rectifying that), and neither should you.  As I dug through the YouTube videos, I came across two songs that I have to talk about (it will bring the who "no matter what era" thing to light).

The '60's were a flashpot for civil strife and change, the modern culture was as affected by the music as well as the political scene and the Vietnam War in an almost parallel course.  The "hippie" culture and the "Establishment" were at odds because of the politics of the day as well as the war and the music portrayed that.  Bands like "The Doors" and "The Grateful Dead" were at the forefront of the psychedelic world and at the same time, "Jefferson Airplane" was born.

Jefferson Airplane and its music drove headlong into the psychedelic era (that's a trip isn't), and the iconic "White Rabbit" helped that "trip" (okay enough with the trip references, I promise).  The vocals of Grace Slick and the music in the song felt as if it were some tribal version of "Alice In Wonderland".  The song "White Rabbit" is a song that no one should attempt, EVER and the reason for that is the fact that no one will ever be able to do it close to the way Grace did, let alone better.  Until I heard the version that GPN (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals keep up with me people) that is.

I will go out on a limb and tell you that the version that I heard tonight is by far the best version of that song I have ever heard (excluding the original but its darn close).  Vocals aren't necessarily the thing that makes that song by itself, the music has to be on par with the original and this version is flat on.  Their version of "White Rabbit" is now one of my favorites (and will be added to my YouTube favorites).

With that, the era of the '60's is down (as is the '80's, I already mentioned Edie and I now hate myself because of it too) and despite the Doobie Brothers reference there was more, much more in the '70's.

When one thinks of the '70's there were so many great bands (stop thinking about disco, that didn't count) but of those bands there was one that personified a female fronted band that could rock, Heart.  The nice thing about YouTube (I'm really going to have to write about them one day) is that one can compare songs back and forth if you so desire (and I do) so I bounced back and forth between the studio version of "Crazy On You" by Heart and the live version by GPN.  There is a symbiotic element to any remake, and then there is the possibility that said element may have been crushed in the attempt, and quite frankly that is not good music.

The version of "Crazy On You" was first of all musical bliss, the beginning solo of the song was fun to watch (and in fact I watched it three times because I liked it that much) and Nancy Wilson be damned (she's the lead guitarist of  Heart, keep up), it was a behemoth of awsomeness.  It was fun to watch and oh so good to listen to and then the there were the vocals.  The song by itself should never be remade, by anyone because they cannot match the huge vocals of Ann Wilson, her voice is part of the tapestry of rock history (tapestry?), she makes the song that much better than anyone else, period. 

This is the point of the article where I tell you how over the top great Grace's vocals are and how she, once again can take on a legendary song and make it her own.  I struggle for words to describe it because I am that taken by the quality of her voice and I'm guessing that its probably a good thing.  Good in the sense that you, the reader then have to take a portion of your music listening pleasure to compare the two versions for each song thus making it possible for you to decide.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a musically superior band to so many current bands, and the proof is in the pudding.  I mentioned earlier that despite of the era that "this band flat out rocks, and no matter what era they would have been in they would still rock", and its true.  GPN transcends eras, they would fit smoothly into any era but I'm so glad they are in this one, modern music needs a band like this.  I'm a fan, now let's make sure you too become a fan of "Grace Potter and the Nocturnals".  Bravo!

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