Jason’s Jukebox: Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Nominations

It’s that time of year, time to analyze the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame’s Nominee list and unveil my picks. This year, we have a whopping 19 performers, some of which have been nominated for the first time. Of these, only 5 will be inducted.  Let’s get started. Note: performers in orange are my picks.

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1. Bad Brains: Some of these nominees were chosen not because of popularity, but because of influence. Bad Brains is one of those chosen because of their influence.  If you are a fan of bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Black Flag, or Dead Kennedys, chances are they were influenced by Bad Brains. Notable songs and albums:“Banned in DC”, I Against I

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2. The Cars: This band started in the late 70’s, and was a big hit on both the rock and new wave scenes throughout the 70’s and 80’s. They were one of the first performers who used MTV to promote their music. Notable songs: <“Let the Good Times Roll”, “You Might Think”

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3. Chaka Khan: This disco performer was in a funk band Rufus before breaking off into her own act. She appeared in the movie “Blues Brothers”, and her music has been sampled by many hip-hop acts. Whitney Houston covered her song “I’m Every Woman” for The Bodyguard’s soundtrack. Notable songs: “I Feel For You”, “Ain’t Nobobdy”, “I’m Every Woman”
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4. Chic: This disco act dominated the genre in the 70’s. One of the members, Nile Rodgers, later became a producer and produced albums for David Bowie, INXS, and Duran Duran (does that sound rock enough for you, snobs?). Their song “Good Times” was sampled in the very first rap song ever, “Rappers’ Delight”, by the Sugarhill Gang. Notable songs: “Le Freak”, “Good Times”

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5. Depeche Mode: One of the most prominent New Wave acts, and one of the few New Wave acts to thrive past the 90’s. Notable songs and albums: “People Are People”, Music For the Masses, “Personal Jesus”

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6. Electric Light Orchestra: Formed in the 1970’s by Jeff Lynne, this band was one of the innovators of the “progressive rock” movement, along with Yes, Rush, and Pink Floyd. Notable albums: Out of the Blue, El Dorado

jgeils6. J. Geils Band One of the premiere rock bands of the 80’s and one of the earliest stars of MTV’s golden age. It should be noted that J. Geils is the lead guitarist, not the lead singer. The lead singer is Peter Wolfe, who had a solo career of his own after the band split. Notable songs: “Freeze Frame”, “Love Stinks”, “Centerfold”

7. Jane’s Addiction: One of the most controversial acts of the 90’s. When their cover for Ritual de lo Habitual got pulled from record stores for its shocking cover, they re-released it, replacing the offending image with a copy of the First Amendment. Perry Farrell, the lead singer, was the founder of the Lollapalooza Music Festival, which showcased many performers of the 90’s alternative scene. He also formed another band called Porno For Pyros. Notable albums and songs: Ritual de lo Habitual, Jane Says”

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8. Janet Jackson: Michael Jackson’s sister finally gets her chance in the spotlight. Janet didn’t make her music just like Michael’s. She was a bad girl, maybe not as bad as Joan Jett, but she was not someone to take lightly. Her album Rhythm Nation was one of the best-selling albums in the 80’s. Let’s forgive her for that infamous “wardrobe malfunction”. I’m sure she’s learned from that mistake. Notable albums and songs: Rhythm Nation, “Nasty”
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9. Journey: Journey was one of the premiere groups of the 80’s rock scene. Journey has had a bit of a revolving door with its lineup. In fact, Steve Perry, their most popular lead singer, was actually the second lead singer in the band’s history. (If you listen to Greg Rollie’s era as leader, it’s markedly different from when Steve Perry eventually took over) Even if Steve Perry doesn’t actually show up, I see no reason to not induct them. Notable songs and albums: “Don’t Stop Believing”, Raised on Radio Escape

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One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons

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My Facebook Friend Arri was my first interviewee for my “One Faith, Many Paths” series. You can read her first interview here. She asked for a follow-up interview, so I sent her some new questions. Arri had a troubled past to say the least, and she’s since risen above it. Here’s what she had to say.

  1. When you decided to become a Christian after being a Buddhist, did anyone help you in your conversion? Yes and no, maybe? It’s hard to say. Thinking back on it I was a kid that was angry, grieving, and depressed. At the time, my grandmother and best friend had passed away close to the same time. My thought was what many others tend to think when losing a loved one: if God was kind then why did He take them away? I turned to Buddhism when my biological father mocked about being one, and so I began to study it and several other religions. Buddhism is a philosophy, and so I gravitated towards that aspect.  My path to being a believer in Christ happened one evening when I was home alone; I was hurt and angry and over all of it and grabbed a knife. Before I could go further, I felt a great presence wash over me which I still cannot adequately describe. It felt as if someone was there to tell me I wasn’t alone. I broke down and had my first real talk with God. Since then, I have done my own study of Christianity through the lens of artwork. Mostly, if anything has helped me continue my religious path, it has been the people I have become close to–you, being one. It has given me a new perspective to look at God, which to me has helped immensely. Religion isn’t a fixed thing; it’s also about the journey, not just the destination.
  2. Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons”

Film Freak: God’s Not Dead

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Ever since Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, there’s been a growth of Christian films in the market, with movies like Fireproof, War Room, and a remake of Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. Most rarely are released theatrically, but instead make money through direct-to-video sales and rentals, as those more easily lead to impulse purchases. One notable exception is the movie God’s Not Dead and its sequel. The first movie boasts a cast consisting of Kevin Sorbo (who you may remember from the Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess TV series), Dean Cain (of Lois and Clark fame, and William Robertson and his wife from the AMC Duck Dynasty reality show. I have several problems with this movie, so let’s get started.

Problem 1: Too many subplots: The main plot concerns Josh Wheaton, a college student taking a Philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Raddison, a stereotypical atheist. On the first day of class, Raddison has all the students write on index cards the famous Nietsche quote “God is dead.” Josh is defiant and writes “God’s not dead instead. Rather than fail him outright, (as he had promised) Raddison proposes to debate him on God’s existence, letting the class decide the winner. In addition to the main plot, the movie pads out its run-time with the following subplots:

  • Two priests try to go on vacation at a water park, but keep getting cars that break down.
  • A female Muslim student wishes to convert to Christianity, but has to contend with her abusive father.
  • An agnostic Japanese student (or at least it’s implied that he’s agnostic) is attending Josh’s class, and may or may not be convinced. He talks to his father via cell phone, but is pressured to focus on his studies.
  • Raddison’s Christian fiancée, who he is trying to convert to atheism by ridiculing her faith and forbidding her from practicing it in her presence.
  • An atheist liberal blogger hounds William Robertson and Christian rock band Newsboys about their faith. She then discovers she has cancer. The Newsboys, being the “good Christians” they are, pray over her before their next concert. (I happen to be a fan of the Newsboys, but I was still disappointed with this scene.)

Most of these subplots have little to do with the main story. In fact, I’m sure you could throw some of them out and nothing of value would be lost.

Problem 2: Almost all of the “bad people” are non-Christian: the professor, the abusive father, the defiant son, and the liberal blogger. All the “good people” are either Christian or at least agnostic. Folks, this is unrealistic finger-pointing. Raddison is an embodiment of the strawman fallacy. Yes, I am well aware that many Christian students are facing the same situation as Josh on both high school and college campuses and having atheism beaten into their heads. They are being forced to renounce their faith in order to get a passing grade. But not all colleges are doing this. My alma mater, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana allowed Christians to practice their faith. We even had a Baptist church and a Catholic church on the campus grounds. (The fact that I live in the “bible belt” is irrelevant, by the way, so don’t bring that up) I’m well aware that atheists are ridiculing and bullying Christians online, as I’ve been the victim in groups on Facebook and in message boards. But I’ve also met atheists and other non-Christians on Facebook who are willing to at least tolerate my faith, if not ignore it. Some have even defended my right to express my faith in the Facebook groups. In the movie, there is only one Christian who isn’t good, Josh’s girlfriend, who pressures him into dropping the class.

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Jason’s Jukebox: My Nominees for the Rock Hall’s Class of 2017

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Me standing in front of the Eliminator coupe from ZZ Top’s music videos

It’s almost time for the Rock Hall to unveil its nominees for next year’s induction ceremony. Last year, they picked some great acts. However, there are still people who are always negative about the Rock Hall, especially when they’ve passed over so many performers. I’ll admit, I’m disappointed myself. But at the same time, I’m happy for the people who actually have gotten in. That’s mostly because I’ve actually been to the Hall. When you see firsthand the dedication of everyone who works there, it’s hard to be disappointed. So here are some people I think are long overdue.

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  • Yes: Yes should’ve been inducted last year at least, especially with the death of their founding bassist, Chris Squire. Jon Anderson, the lead singer for Yes, has often joked that the reason they haven’t been inducted is that there’s been too many changes to the lineup. I disagree. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd all had lineup changes over the years, and they’ve been inducted. I think it’s just the fact that Yes has never really had that big of a presence on the radio. They’re more of a “cult” band.

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  • Duran Duran: They just celebrated their 35th anniversary together, so they’ve passed the eligibility requirement. Not only that, but Duran Duran was one of the most popular bands of the 80’s. New Wave acts should be in the Hall, even if the fad didn’t last all that long.

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  • Journey: Like Yes, Journey has had a bit of a revolving door with its lineup. In fact, Steve Perry, their most popular lead singer, was actually the second lead singer in the band’s history. (If you listen to Greg Rollie’s era as leader, it’s markedly different from when Steve Perry eventually took over) Even if Steve Perry doesn’t actually show up, I see no reason to not induct them.

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  • Iron Maiden: Heavy Metal has had a bad history with the Rock Hall, and it’s a shame. The only Heavy Metal acts in the hall now are Metallica and Black Sabbath. But there’s so much more to the genre than those two. Iron Maiden has had a long, faithful legion of fans. I remember seeing Eddie (their zombie mascot) on so many notebooks and T-shirts in school. He’s an iconic mascot that every metalhead recognizes. And Bruce Dickinson’s pipes are pipes of legend!

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  • Rainbow: Last year, Deep Purple was finally inducted. Now that means we can start inducting the bands that were formed after they disbanded. The first of these is Rainbow, which launched the career of the late Rodney James Dio, another musician who I feel is long overdue. I feel before Dio gets inducted, we should induct the band where he started.

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Jason’s Jukebox: Led Zeppelin

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I hear the horses’ thunder
Down in the valley blow,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon,
Waiting for the eastern glow.

After the Yardbirds split, their founder Jimmy Page wanted to form a new band, tentatively called the New Yardbirds.  His friend Keith Moon, (drummer for The Who) quipped “That’ll fall like a lead zeppelin.” And that is how the legend of Led Zeppelin began. This time for Jason’s Jukebox, it’s time to rank all 9 Led Zeppelin studio albums. Let’s meet the band:

  • Robert Plant: Vocals
  • Jimmy Page: Lead guitar
  • John Paul Jones: Bass
  • John “Bonzo” Bonham: Drums

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Led Zeppelin I (1969) ****

Singles: “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Communication Breakdown”

From the very beginning, Led Zeppelin was a hit. There has never been a debut quite like this, either before or since.  It doesn’t matter that “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” are actually covers.  Led Zeppelin takes them and makes them their own. “Good Times, Bad Times” is a solid opening track.  “Dazed and Confused is like two wizards dueling. “Communication Breakdown” is a frantic onslaught. This is a great debut.

Best Tracks: “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”

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Led Zeppelin II (1969)*****

Singles: “Heartbreaker”, “Whole Lotta Love”

It’s not easy to top a debut like Led Zeppelin I, but II is the best of the “numbered” albums. To think it only took some weeks to record, between breaks during the tour for the first album.  So many standards in Classic Rock radio are here: “Whole Lotta Love”, “Ramble On”, and “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)”. “Moby Dick”, the band’s sole instrumental song, is a showcase for John Bonham’s awesome drumming, and doesn’t need lyrics to pull it off.

Fun Fact: On the original LP, the running time for “Thank You” is incorrectly listed as 3:30 due to a false fade. This was corrected in subsequent reissues.

Best Tracks: “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid”, “Ramble On”, “Moby Dick”

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Led Zeppelin III (1970) ***1/2

Single: “Immigrant Song”

This album doesn’t have the airplay of its predecessors, but it’s still great. It’s the most acoustic of the albums so far, not discounting II’s “Ramble On” or the debut’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.

Best tracks: “Immigrant Song”, “Celebration Day”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “Gallows Pole”

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Untitled (1971) *****

Singles: “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”

Call it 4, Signs, Hermit, whatever–this album will forever be known as a classic. Don’t dismiss “Stairway to Heaven” because DJ’s play it for bathroom breaks. And don’t let Spirit’s lawsuit for the track get more press than it deserved. “Stairway to Heaven” has much more riding on it than a short riff. “When the Levee Breaks” is an excellent cover.

Best Tracks: “When the Levee Breaks”,”Black Dog”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Battle of Evermore” “Misty Mountain Hop”

Fun Fact: “When the Levee Breaks” was sampled by the Beastie Boys for their song “Rhymin’ and Stealin'”

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