Saturday, July 28, 2007

My other review--Red Hot Chili Peppers

OK friends and fans, I figured it was time I put something else here. Anywho, I put up my Nacho Libre review for my feature writing class from last fall. Here is the other review from that class. Although I'm a bit critical, I am a fan of both things I reviewed; but it's a critic's job to critique, right?

Uncle Sam’s Music Reviews

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have talent – and money

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have made a career out of being unconventional. Too bad their “Greatest Hits and Videos” CD/DVD follows the conventional route – sort of.

The Chili Peppers use a number of marketing tricks to help sell this 2003 compilation. First, they combine a CD and a DVD into one package. Because of the burgeoning popularity of multimedia, this phenomenon has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The CD is also sold separately for those who prefer not to cough up a few extra bucks to watch bass guitarist Flea jam out while dancing half-naked in the band’s music videos.

This leads us to their next marketing ploy. The songs on the CD are not all the same ones that are on the DVD. For example, the two biggest joints from the 2002 album “By the Way,” besides the title track, are “Can’t Stop” and “The Zephyr Song.” While these songs can be found on the greatest hits DVD, they are conspicuously missing from the CD. Considering “By the Way” was released only a year before “Greatest Hits,” it stands to reason that the band was hoping to sell some more albums in addition to the greatest hits disc.

Furthermore, the album’s release was carefully planned to allow it stocking-stuffer status in time for the holidays for the times when, you know, you just gotta have a new music CD.

Despite the usual shenanigans artists and record labels use to sell their product, the fact remains that the vast majority of the music on this disc is both unique and of high-caliber artistry. Their innovative fusion of rock, funk and rap have made them pioneers of a difficult-to-define genre that has musicians from “Around the World” – the title of one the band’s cuts – copying their style (on the off-chance that you’re Chilean, you may have heard of Chili Peppers sound-alike Chancho en Piedra – “Pig on Rock”).

Many of the videos are well produced and include relevant subject matter. The computer animation for the “Californication” video – whose lyrics and visual content are not what you would expect based on the track’s title – would probably challenge the graphics quality of the new PlayStation 3. The band members, as gaming characters, take turns running, swimming, jumping and generally avoiding destruction in the video. This destruction symbolizes Californication – buying into what Hollywood tells us is cool. A telling lyric from the song: “Pay your surgeon very well to break the spell of aging. Celebrity skin, is this your chin, or is that war your/you’re waging?”

The versatility of the Red Hot Chili Peppers shines through on “Greatest Hits.” They play the kind of stuff you can rock out to, such as the up-tempo, catchy “Fortune Faded,” one of the two mandatory previously unreleased songs, and the early ’90s classic “Give it Away.” However, although the Chili Peppers still know how to make you move with their pulsating beats and wailing guitars, they’ve added a finer sense of melody and usage of hooks, especially in their most recent albums, starting with “Californication” in 1999.

It is this ability to combine seemingly unrelated musical elements – driving rock, mellow ballads, classic funk sounds and even a Stevie Wonder cover – into a coherent end product that expands both the group’s audience and Chili Peppers’ wallets.

The release of greatest hits albums often signifies the end –or at least the beginning of the end – of a group. Not so with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 2006, they released “Stadium Arcadium,” which has enjoyed both critical and commercial success, selling millions of copies worldwide.

Despite some flaws and the previously mentioned annoying marketing tricks, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s greatest hits album delivers a combination of melodies, guitar riffs and percussion that show the true range and talent of this entertaining group.

Plus, Warner Bros. Records wanted to find a way to reach the fans who hadn’t yet bought any Chili Peppers albums.

Extras: cover/insert with photos and commentary; DVD commentaries/tours with the band and “making of” videos.

Overall grade: B

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