First, blasphemy: Pink Floyd is kind of boring.
OK, OK, once the arguing dies down, I stand by my point, which is that the Floyd while truly a great band, one of the best, in fact too often gets bogged down in dour seriousness for its own good.
Which is where Toledo s the Polka Floyd Show comes in. Cutting a vast swath across Pink s entire discography, the band injects the late great classic rock band s music with much-needed fun. This live album recorded at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street perfectly captures the group s sound, thanks to a killer set list and the overall vibe you get by combining spacey music, scorched-earth guitar, and a polka beat delivered by an air-tight band.
Equally cool is Polka Floyd s willingness to plumb the depths of Pink Floyd s archive, serving up odd tunes like Seamus from Meddle or weird tracks from the Syd Barrett days like Jugband Blues, followed by fierce renditions of more familiar songs like Metal Machine Music, Pigs (with Black Sabbath s War Pigs seamlessly worked into the mix), and Comfortably Numb.
Any discussion of the Polka Floyd Show requires a caveat to ensure the uninitiated that the band s raison d etre polkafied versions of Pink Floyd is not schtick. The band doesn t take itself too seriously, but it also never sells the music short. Crank this up loud and perhaps for the first time in your life, you ll actually dance to Floyd s music.
The band is having a CD release party Friday at Culture Clash Records at 7 p.m. and at Mickey Finn s Pub at 10 p.m.
It says something when a concert that occurred 40 years ago remains an icon of one of the country s most pivotal eras.
Woodstock always was and always will be revered not so much for its technical prowess, but for its symbolism as an event that became bigger than the music itself. That s why it s easy to be sentimental about these reissued and expanded versions of the two-part soundtrack one minute and cynical about them the next.
Musically, there were historic performances from some of the biggest names in 1969, from Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix to The Who, Santana, Joe Cocker, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Woodstock Two, in fact, contains expanded material from the legendary Hendrix and CSN&Y sets, which is pretty nice.
Still, it s a bit odd hearing the concert in a cleaned up CD format, remastered from the original analog soundboard tapes. The enhanced technology proves to be unforgiving when it comes to instruments or vocals just a hair out of key. Then there s the chore of wading through the extraneous narrative, sound checks, and the public service announcements that obviously mean even less now than they did four decades ago.
Yes, some artists stood the test of time. Others, such as Melanie and Mountain, who appeared at the concert but not on either of the soundtrack releases until now, make us wonder why we were so enamored of them in the first place.
They are teen and tween idols who have sold millions of records actually, more than 8 million worldwide have a hit TV show, sell out concerts, win all kinds of awards. All the trappings of mainstream pop success. And it may be easy to categorize the trio as making conventional music aimed squarely at the mainstream.
And for part of this CD, that observation is accurate. But there is enough more here to require listeners to keep an open mind when approaching the JB (Sorry: just picking up on the heraldic-like shield the lads use on the disc cover).
That s because they are a pretty competent band with a keen sense of what their audience wants, but aren t afraid to push the boundaries a little, as three tracks show in defying expectations.
But first, the other 10 tracks, including Keep It Real from their TV show. These songs are professional though way over-produced and listenable enough in a pop kind of way. The three interesting tracks show something more.
The lead-off World War III comes over with shades of 80s hair rock, power chords, thumping drums, funky horn section, gritty vocals, and a snotty lyric. Nice one.
Next, near the middle of the disc, the trio goes country on Before The Storm, with a startlingly good vocal assist from Miley Cyrus. It s a lovely song with a killer melody and basic country arrangement. This sounds like crossover time to country radio.
And last wait for it is a collaboration with rapper Common, Don t Charge Me For The Crime, about getting caught up in criminal activity, then just getting caught. Unlikely fodder for a teen idol band, you might think.
But here is a group that while it has an audience at its feet and could churn out hits in its sleep, it s also one that seems to want to stretch out a little, to try something new.
And more power to them for that.
Cleveland-based saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio is not a household name. But any musician who can pull you into a trance the way he does is worthy of recognition. Working off some fine original compositions that explore many of the delicious nuances of jazz, from cool backbeat rhythms and hearty tempos to an intricate use of pauses, he also offers a fair amount of ad-libbing and improv. T.H.