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Tragic KingdomTragic Kingdom is the third studio album by American rock band No Doubt. It is the final album to feature original keyboardist Eric Stefani, who left in
1994. The album was produced by Matthew Wilder and recorded in eleven studios in the Greater Los Angeles Area between March 1993 and October
1995. Between 1995 and 1998, seven singles were released from it, including Just a Girl, which charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles
Chart; and Don't Speak, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and peaked in the top five of many international charts.
It has sold over sixteen million copies worldwide; and was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the United States
and Canada, platinum in the United Kingdom, and triple platinum in Australia.1. Spiderwebs
2. Excuse Me Mr.
3. Just A Girl
4. Happy Now?
5. Different People
6. Hey You
7. The Climb
9. Sunday Morning
10. Don't Speak
11. You Can Don It
12. World Go Round
13. End It On This
14. Tragic Kingdom$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Ranked 316/500 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
They say you can never go home again.
Yet, on their new Interscope Records release and fifth album, Rock Steady, No Doubt has embarked on a globe-spanning musical adventure that proves, once and for all, that home is where the heart is.
At the heart of the quartet's fifteen-year musical journey is a sound, a style and a sensibility that celebrates their enduring bond with millions of fans worldwide: the sheer pleasure of pure pop - danceable, hummable, instantly accessible songs that have become indispensable additions to the soundtrack of our life and times. And now with Rock Steady, that soundtrack signals a return to some of the key creative elements that have made No Doubt one of today's most popular and enduring bands. Simply put, No Doubt is ready to party.
"It's the hardest thing in the world just to be simple, to let the music and the words speak for what you're feeling and, hopefully, to share that feeling. And the feeling we all shared on this album turned out to be pretty simple, too: we were in a good mood."
So says vocalist, lyricist and glorious gamine Gwen Stefani on the inspiration that ignited the dozen deliriously entertaining new tracks comprising Rock Steady. With all-original material penned by Gwen and No Doubt's dynamic songwriting duo of Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont and a roster of producers that pretty much covers the cutting edge of the studio art, Rock Steady, recorded in such far flung locations as London and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Jamaica, is without question the most eclectic, wide-ranging and stylistically diverse offering in the band's extraordinary career. It is also a loving tribute to the musical roots that have nourished No Doubt from their very inception.
"We were on tour pretty much all of last year," explains drummer Adrian Young, "and whenever we had some down time, we found ourselves listening to lots of dancehall. It was kind of like getting back to where we once belonged." Dancehall, the exuberant evolution of reggae, ska and calypso currently rocking the clubs and studios of Jamaica, proved a potent point of departure for the group when they convened in early 2001 to begin work on a new album. "We were part of the whole ska revival back when we first got together," continues Adrian. "The fact is, we had to work hard to prove we had a wider range, and I guess we did that. Because this time around we didn't feel like we had anything to prove. The whole point was to follow the music, wherever it led."
"Following the music" would lead the quartet to a variety of exotic locales as they indulged their instincts and experimented with sounds and settings that would capture the sensational new music beginning to emerge. "This album was less about technique and more about attitude," asserts Tony. "We took it one day at a time and it became a very spontaneous process. Tom had set up a studio at his place in L.A. and we'd meet there just to try out different ideas. Whereas before we'd write everything with a guitar or bass, this time we started with just beats and grooves and keyboards and built from there. After a week or two of songwriting, Gwen had a trip planned to London. Since we were having such a good time we just packed up and followed her over there. We knew we were onto something."
"It felt like starting over," is Tom's assessment. "We had spent two years working on Return Of Saturn because we felt it was important to prove we could do a record that had depth and substance. Once we got that out of our system it was time to have some fun."
Return Of Saturn, the group's smash 2000 release, did indeed establish No Doubt's ability to fashion songs of substance as well as style. It also conclusively demonstrated that the group's 1995 breakthrough release, Tragic Kingdom was more than a flash in the pan, although it was a distinctly dazzling flash that elevated the group to world class status with a solid string of hit singles. "We'd already done most of what we'd set out to accomplish," continues Tom. "We wanted try something fresh."
Something fresh and, as it turned out, something tried and true. "With all the dancehall we'd been listening to it was only natural that some of that rhythm would seep into our new songs," Gwen adds. "We ended up going to Jamaica without really knowing exactly what we'd find when we got there. That was the whole plan from the beginning not to have a plan."
What No Doubt found in the lush musical environs of the island was a creative collaboration with some of Jamaica's most revered producers including the legendary team of Sly & Robbie who sat behind the board for the album's debut single "Hey Baby" and "Underneath It All," a tune written by Gwen with Eurthymics mainstay Dave Stewart during the group's London sojourn. They would also go on record with the fast rising dancehall duo of Steely & Clevie, who worked their magic for the incendiary selection, "Start The Fire." Remarks Tom, "Going to Jamaica and working with the great artists there had always been a dream of ours. Having that opportunity is one the best things about having some success. It's more important than any amount of fame or fortune."
As the spring of 2001 turned to summer the pace of recording stepped up, along with the group's increasingly bold ventures into new creative territory. In Los Angeles they added hip-hop to the mix with the streetwise sensibilities of The Neptunes, co-writers on the album's opening track, the scorching "Hella Good." Next they huddled with high-profile mixmaster Nellee Hooper on Rock Steady's title track as well as such standout selections as "In My Head," "Running," "Detective" and the above mentioned "Hella Good." Along the way they logged time with William Orbit for "Making Out," Ric Ocasek on "Platinum Blonde Life" and "Don't Let Me Down," and the inimitable Prince who co-produced and provided backing vocals on the drop dead gorgeous "Waiting Room."
But mixing and matching songs and producers was only part of the creative evolution that took place with Rock Steady. Says Tony, "Our attitude from the beginning was that we'd do whatever it took to make the music work. We've always been a very self-contained unit. This time we wanted to open it up, to find out what other people could bring to the party."
"The whole album was an exercise in spontaneity," adds Gwen, "and that challenged me to write more directly from my thoughts and feelings. I threw away my thesaurus and put aside my influences, everyone from Joni Mitchell to Sylvia Plath. I wanted to write songs about how it felt to be alive right now and that feeling, despite everything that going on in the world, is optimistic and full of hope. This is a time to affirm what's good and positive in our lives and if we can convey even a small part of the fun and excitement we had making this music, then we've done what we set out to do."
Hot on the heels of Rock Steady's release comes news of an extensive touring schedule that includes select dates with U2 as well as an extensive itinerary of international headlining dates. "We're primarily a live band," comments Tony. "That's how we started and that's how we maintain contact with our fans. Over the past couple of years, as the No Doubt machine got bigger, it's been more difficult to maintain that connection. But this time around,we're determined to stay true to the spirit of the music. It's about having a good time, about dancing in aisles and singing along. We all need that and it's what this tour is going to be about."
"After fifteen years together you naturally create all kinds of rules about how things should be," concludes Gwen. "There comes a time when you've got to throw the rules out and start all over again. That's what keeps it fun and interesting. For us that time has come."
It's a sentiment that gets to the heart of the brilliant music on Rock Steady, an album that finds No Doubt comfortable at home with the risks and rewards of true originality. It's also proof positive that, when No Doubt throws a party, everyone's invited.LP1
2. Hella Good
3. Hey Baby
4. Making Out
5. Underneath It All
7. Don't Let Me Down
1. Start The Fire
3. In My Head
4. Platinum Blonde Life
5. Waiting Room
6. Rock Steady$24.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Return Of SaturnJust like the heavenly occasion which inspires its name, Return of Saturn, the latest album from Southern California rock band No Doubt, is best experienced with both feet firmly on the ground, and with eyes and ears held wide open.
The album's title refers to the notion that in the first 29 years of someone's life (the same time it takes the planet Saturn to orbit the Sun), a person is only beginning to understand himself or herself, which, singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani explains, helped her to discern her own place in life as she turned 30 years old. I wrote the song 'Artificial Sweetener', Gwen says, which has the line, 'the Return of Saturn, assessing my life, second guessing.' From the time you're born till the time Saturn returns to that point is a time of reassessment and a growing period, where you second-guess everything, and you clear out things that are going to be in the way of moving on in your life. I really did feel like I was going through a transitional phase in my life as I made this album. I think the name Return of Saturn is relevant in the sense that it shows how we've grown as a band, and as songwriters.
The culmination of two years of creative blood, sweat and tears for the quartet, Return of Saturn is a bold and exciting coming-of-age saga. An intimate view of the world as seen by a group of musicians and friends who watched their humble worlds turned literally upside-down by the unexpected (though well-deserved) success of No Doubt's third album, Tragic Kingdom. While that youthful recording reflects the concerns and observations of a band at the edge of possibility, Return of Saturn represents that same group looking collectively inward. What they saw and what they created those two years, will surprise and fascinate you. Who am I, and how did I get to this point in my life, when I thought I was going to be something completely different? -- that pretty much sums up the subject of this album, says Gwen.
Return of Saturn was recorded in two Los Angeles studios during 1998 and 1999. Twelve of the album's 13 songs were produced by Glen Ballard, (Alanis Morissette, Aerosmith), whose contribution was a key ingredient in the album's creation. In our band, everyone has such strong opinions that if you put the four of us in the room together you could have some troubles, says bassist Tony Kanal. But if you get somebody as experienced as Glen, not only as a producer but as a songwriter, you can bounce ideas off him and get some really cool objective answers, and it helps level the creative playing field.
One song on the album, New (also heard on the GO soundtrack) was produced by the band with Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads, Live). It was fun to start with a clean slate and create something brand new, says guitarist Tom Dumont, who also wrote much of the album's music. We hadn't really done much writing on the road, so when it came time, we had to come up with the entire record. Every time we wrote a song it was like having a baby. It's such a good feeling to sit down with an acoustic guitar and a tape recorder, and later to have created something really cool.
In light of the international success of Tragic Kingdom (more than 15 million copies sold worldwide, including over 11 million in the U.S.), the four band members were bound to be subject to any number of outside influences and pressures when it came time to make their follow-up.
But as it turned out, the band was able to turn any outside distraction to their ultimate benefit, beginning with pre-production and writing sessions at a rented Hollywood Hills house. I remember being in a very open, optimistic mood, says Tony, getting the house up in the hills, and just feeling like we had time to do it right. There was no deadline to deliver a record, so I remember not feeling pressure. It just felt like a good place to be, creatively.
Drummer Adrian Young agrees: We were just more conscious of the fact that we're following a huge record, and we need good songs, but I don't know what kind of album we wanted, or expected to make. It was very experimental most of the time. In fact, we didn't have any predisposition about it. That's always a good way for us to approach the music. We've always been across the board, stylistically, and I'm glad we didn't lose that part of the band, he says.
Songs on Return of Saturn like Marry Me, Simple Kind of Life and the album's first single Ex Girlfriend show vocalist Gwen Stefani in a reflective and unashamedly romantic mood, traits which she says are often overlooked in her hectic life. I think I am a romantic at heart, but my life in a lot of ways these days doesn't reflect that, she remarks. So I have this inner conflict about it, and this guilt about it. I'm very hopeful that someday those things will happen in my life, because it's all I've ever dreamed of. But right now it seems like my life doesn't have any room for it, and I won't make any room for it because I'm so passionate about what No Doubt is doing right now.
The music on each of No Doubt's three previous albums (1992's No Doubt, 1995's Beacon Street Incident, Tragic Kingdom) runs the stylistic gamut, mixing in as many influences as the band members can think of, and this collection is no different. Tom says the band has few rules when it comes to songwriting. We discovered a way to write on songs like Just a Girl and Spiderwebs and some of the older ones, which we incorporated when we started this album, and that was that there were no preconceived ideas at all. We would sit down in a room with a tape recorder and acoustic guitars and start improvising things. All the songs were written very spontaneously, starting from a blank slate every time.
The truth is, I feel like I've been turned inside-out after writing this album, adds Gwen. It's everything that I have been in the last two years, which have been really hard years for me. I just feet this sense of accomplishment, and this lightness has come over me since the album has been finished. It's so rewarding to be done and feel so proud of it, I can't wait for people to hear it.LP1
2. Simple Kind of Life
4. Six Feet Under
5. Magic's in the Makeup
6. Artificial Sweetener
7. Marry Me
2. Too Late
3. Comforting Lie
4. Suspension Without Suspense
5. Staring Problem
6. Home Now
7. Dark Blue$24.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Old RamonOld Ramon, the sixth Red House Painters album, recorded in the
fall of 1997 through the spring of 1998, was intended for release
that summer. But the mega-major label merger catastrophe that
left hundreds of bands homeless spared few. Red House Painters
looked for a brief moment like survivors, but subsequent delays
eventually turned into permanent layoff. Old Ramon sat in limbo
and grew into legend as another great, lost album only the
privileged few would ever properly hear. They've unintentionally
put the wait back into the term "long-awaited."
Singer Mark Kozelek kept busy with a series of other projects. He
served as producer for Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver.
As archivist for the 4AD Red House Painters Retrospective album,
assembling rarities and live tracks. As solo artist with several
tracks on the Shanti Project album, and two albums Rock 'n' Roll
Singer and What's Next to the Moon, a collection of AC/DC songs
reinterpreted. As live performer, touring the United States, United
Kingdom, Spain, Sweden and his first ever shows in South Korea.
As film scorer for the independent film Last Ball. And, finally, as
actor in Cameron Crowe's critically acclaimed Almost Famous.
But while playing a musician in a movie-Kozelek appears as the
bassist of Stillwater in Almost Famous-was an exciting diversion,
it also pointed out the absurdity and irony of the situation. He'd
been writing and performing his own music since the 1980s, with
Red House Painters since the early 1990s. He was a musician, not
just someone who might play one on TV.
With Old Ramon sitting on the shelf, it was like reading a book
with a chapter missing. Kozelek had written most of the album
throughout 1996 and 1997. There were "Between Days" and
"Wop-a-din-din," written during the months he stayed in Oaxaca,
Mexico about his time there and his cat waiting at home in San
Francisco; "Cruiser" written on an airplane ride from Los Angeles
to San Francisco about a friend he'd met during the John Cale
tour; and "Golden," a song in tribute to John Denver, written and
recorded in a single day during December of 1997, just a few
months after Denver's tragic death. "Michigan" and "River" had
been road-tested on the band's previous tour.
The album, in fact, had come together with a good feeling, reuniting
the band with their old friend and engineer Billy Anderson,
who'd worked on their earlier records Down Colorful Hill and the
two self-titled releases (Rollercoaster and Bridge by their covers).
Sessions in San Francisco, Mendocino, California and Austin,
Texas resulted in several hours' worth of music being recorded.
The band had spread out and worked up various arrangements for
a majority of the tunes. Sadly, a twenty-minute version of "Michigan"
fell to the cutting room floor.
But the ten songs packed onto Old Ramon (the title comes from a
Spanish children's book that caught Kozelek's fancy) well
represent the band that will take to the road for the first time in
several years with extensive touring throughout the United States
and Europe. Once freed from their major label commitments,
reputable independent labels bid for the band's services. This,
however, is the album exactly as it was intended-untouched-three
years to the month of its completion. Good news:
The wait is officially over.1. Wop-A-Din-Din
2. Byrd Joel
4. Between Days
10. Kavita$22.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Ulysses (Awaiting Repress)
Includes Two Unreleased Tracks Not Available Anywhere Else
Victoria, B.C.'s Current Swell is set to release their new album, Ulysses, on May 6, 2014. The 12-tracks
on Ulysses perfectly deliver the band's textured, deep-groove sound while capturing the energy of their live
show, which has earned them scores of fans across The Americas, Australia and Europe. The band will
debut many of these new songs next month in Austin during SXSW.
Ulysses was produced by Nathan Sabatino (Dr. Dog, Neko Case, Giant Sand) at Vancouver's iconic
Greenhouse Studios. The album captures every bit of warmth the studio's massive Neve console could
provide, as heard on "Rollin'" (a showcase for Stanton's exemplary slide work), the title track "Ulysses,"
rocker "Keys to the Kingdom" and the readymade sing-along "One Day I'll Be Rich."
While Current Swell spent the better part of six months recording their previous album (and Nettwerk
debut), 2012's Long Time Ago, the four band members entered the studio with a clear goal and knocked
Ulysses out in 20 days.
From appearances at key festivals from Australia to Canada (Byron Bay Bluesfest, Peats Ridge, Rock
The Shores, Ottawa Bluesfest and more), to sold-out headline tours of Brazil, to support slots with such
established artists as Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Dispatch, Xavier Rudd, K'Naan, The
Tragically Hip and even The Beach Boys, Current Swell's infectious sound and raucous live shows have
earned the quartet scores of devoted fans around the word. In 2011, Current Swell earned first place at
Vancouver's Peak Performance Project and headlined a Canada Day concert to a crowd of 45,000.1. Ulysses
2. Keys To The Kingdom
4. One Day I'll Be Rich
5. Bad News
6. Who's With Us
8. Man Of Maps
11. We Will Run
12. Flesh and Bone$24.99Vinyl LP - Sealed AWAITING REPRESS Buy Now