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Monthly archives: December 2006


Scott's Top 20 Music Releases of 2006
2006-12-29 14:20
by Scott Long

No business model seems to be more in a state of flux than the music industry. Each year the idea of selling a traditional record is less likely to happen, as downloading music on to MP3 players is the new mechanism. While Youtube and Myspace were around prior to 2006, it was during this year that they made a large leap in helping sell product. Groups like OK Go and Buckcherry used viral video to put themselves on the radar.

The power of singles hasn't been this strong since the early 60's, which has to be affecting the motivation of music artists to make a great long player. The plus side of this new model is that record companies and corporate radio have lost some control, giving more bands a chance to be heard. 2006 lacked an American Idiot or The Bends, but the depth was impressive. The rock music system seems to be echoing the NFL, as parity rules.

Welcome to our 3rd annual list. For those of you interested in our 2004 or 2005 Top 10 lists. Also, if you haven't done so, check out Will's Top 10 list below this post.

One final thing to mention. If you are just interested in being validated on how cool your obscure music tastes are, please visit Pitchfork or any of the numerous other sites listing their top choices of the year. Will and I try to be honest in what we listen to. We also don't penalize a band for being heard on a larger scale and I personally think it's the ultimate artistic peak to be able to push boundaries within the mainstream.

TOP TEN for 2006

1. Muse- Black Holes and Revelations

It's remarkable when one of music's most derivative bands mangages to take all their different influences and from them create one of the most original sound collages of the past decade. It jumps from prog to electonica to glam to goth to dancepop to metal to baroque, while somehow making it all sound seamless. Read the review from July, as my opinions haven't changed a bit.

2. Gnarls Barkley- St. Elsewhere

The unlikely pair of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse come together to make the record Andre 3000 has been dreaming of. Cee-Lo brings the best Sam Cooke pipes to the radio since Terence Trent D'Arby. Oh and Crazy was the best single of 2006.

3. Eagles of Death Metal- Death by Sexy

Josh Homme's takes a break from Queens of the Stone Age to play drums with EODM leader Jesse Hughes. Putting a modern spin on classic rock, this release should be played in every strip club in America. The new and improved Foghat? I don't say this as a knock, as the Hat were the funkiest classic rock band of its day.
Download: Cherry Cola, Don't Speak, Poor Doggie

4. Raconteurs- Broken Boy Soldiers

What Jack White does on his free-time is pretty remarkable. (see Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose) While many have focused on the union with Brendan Benson, the rhythm section of Cincy's great 60's revivalist group the Greenhornes is a very underrated element of the Raconteurs. The Raconteurs remind me of some of the early 70's English rock bands like Uriah Heep. Kind of like 1o cuts worth of "Easy Livin'".
Downloads: Steady, As She Goes, Broken Boys Soldiers, Call It a Day

5. Deadboy and the Elephantmen-

So take one part guitarist with a focus on the past and one part slammin' drummer, then record it with a lo-fi, live sounding feel. Despite what you might think it doesn't sound much like the White Stripes, as frontman Dex comes from the Peter Murphy School of singing. This is the album David Bowie should be trying to make.
Downloads: Stop, I'm Already Dead, Blood Music

6. The Hush Sound- Like Vines

Will Carroll turned me on to this great Chicago band. Have you ever wondered what a union of Ben Folds and the Cardigans would sound like? Look no further than here. Sugary sweet deliciousness.
Downloads: Don't Wake Me Up, Wine Red

7. Dixie Chicks- Taking the Long Way

While it is very cool in the rock and roll world to slag the President, in country music you could wind up never getting back on the radio. Before Natalie Maines took a shot at Dubya during the height of American jingoism, the Dixie Chicks just might have been the most popular country band in the world. Pathetic that much of country radio has turned it's back on such quality music. I would argue the first 3 songs on "Taking the Long Way" are the best beginning of any record of 2006. Produced by Rick Rubin, the band has taken the next step up the ladder, as Maines' voice had never sounded purer.
Downloads: Long Time Way Around, Easy Silence, Not Ready to Make Nice, Silent House

8. Little Willies

While her first 2 albums sold better, this is the best work of Norah Jones' career. Taken a collection of old country tunes and making them their own, this band also features Richard Julian on vocals, as well. Julian's Lyle Lovett-esque tone blends nicely with Jones' gorgeous pipes. While the cool kids go for Neko Case or Jenny Lewis, I take off my cowboy hat to the biggest selling female artist of the past 5 years making an eclectic recording that purposedly stayed away from the soft jazz moneymaker she is well-known for.
Downloads: I Gotta Get Drunk Richard Julian Night Life

9. The Hold Steady- Boys and Girls in America

From the Twin Cities by way of Brooklyn, Craig Finn produces the Springsteen album that the Killers only hinted at. Finn brings the snarl of an Afghan Whigs to the Born to Run grooves of the music.
Downloads: First Night, Stuck Between Stations

10. Prince- 3121

Taking the next step after Musicology , 3121 is the triumphant return of Prince at what he does best. The most rocking album he has put out since "The Gold Experience". Don't think the funk isn't represented as well. While recorded before James Brown's death, it is a tribute in many ways to the Godfather of Soul. Black Sweat is the best electro funk song since Kiss.
Downloads: Lolita, Get On the Boat

11. The Pernice Brothers- Live a Little

The great British Pop album this year is recorded by a guy named Joe from Massachusetts. Furthermore, this Joe guy used to front a band named the Scud Mountain Boys. Yeah, I know it sounds hard to believe, but if you have been looking for music which sounds somewhere between early Bee Gees and Badfinger, "Live a Little" is for you. Downloads: Grudge Fu**, Somerville.

12. Phoenix- It's Never Been Like That

The second best British Pop album this year is recorded by some cats from France. Reminds me of some of the good pop/synth groups of the 80's and early 90's.
Downloads: Consolation Prizes, Long Distance Call, Lost and Found

13. Artic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

The latest example of the next great British rock band hype machine. While not as good as some think, the record does have some great singles on it.
Downloads: Scumbag (When the Sun Goes Down), Dancing Shoes, Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor

14. Cold War Kids- Robbers and Cowards

One trend that I think has been great in 2006 is the strong return of piano in rock music. Considering that the Cold War Kids have influences such as Dylan and Waits, the question might be "why don't you have the real thing on your list?" I will agree that Dylan and Waits have put out quality works, but I don't hear anything from their 2006's records that they haven't done better in the past. Lead singer Nathan Willet's voice is more in the vein of Jeff Buckley, which is something I can handle with repeated listening. Waits and Dylan will stand the test of time, where I'm guessing the Cold War Kids will be disbanded within 5 years, but of all the 3 releases mentioned I would choose the Cold War Kids to listen to right now.

15. Wolfmother

Sure they are derivative, but has anyone done the Sabbath/Zep better since Soundgarden? Who they really remind me of is Deep Purple when a young David Coverdale fronted them.
Downloads: Woman, Love Train

16. John Mayer- Continuum

Mayer is probably smarter, probably funnier, probably better looking, and most definitely can play guitar better than you, so why wouldn't you hate him. Oh and then throw in that he's banging smokin' bimbos like Jessica Simpson. Yes, I feel your blood boiling. After his debut record that sold a bajillion copies and put him on the map with every college girl in America, he chose this year to come after their Moms, with one of the top MILF seduction releases of all-time. Mixing Curtis Mayfield vocals and Slowhand Clapton guitar licks and you've got the white boy blues album of 2006. Take that Soul Patrol.

17. Ben Kweller

Kweller puts out pop rock delights every couple years and this is no exception. Listen to the song "Sundress" or "Until I Die" and then tell me you don't feel better about life.

18. Deftones- Saturday Night Wrists

I would argue that the Deftones have been the most consistent hard rock band of the past 10 years. "Saturday Night Wrists" is the most stylistic diverse record of their careers, showing the influence of bands like the Cure, My Bloody Valentine, DJ Shadow, and the Pumpkins. Check out the opening track, "Hole in the Earth", which is better Coldplay than anything Chris Martin put out on his band's last release.

19. Josh Ritter- Animal Years

Best record of the year, with "Girl in the War" one of the best songs of 2006.

20. Matt Mays + Torpedo

Not far behind the Hold Steady in putting out the best Springsteen-influenced record of the year, Mays goes more the Wallflowers/Petty in his interpretation of the Boss.

Perfect Disco Rock Record of 2006 Scissor Sisters- Ta-Dah; Under the Influence of Giants; Electric Six- Switzerland

While none of these records are a top 20 release, take the best Mp3's from each of them and then you have one of the Top 5 records of 2006. Here are the 12 Songs you should download to make your alternative dance pop mix tape for this year.

Scissor Sisters: I Don't Feel Like Dancin; She's My Man, Ooh, Everybody Wants the Same Thing
Under the Influence of Giants: Mama's Room, Got Nothing, Aha, In the Clouds
Electric Six: Radio Gaga Gaga, Dance Epidemic, Pulling the Plug on the Party, Rock and Roll Evacuation

Best 2006 Release to Make Sweet Love to a Suicide Girl The Twilight Singers- Powder Burns

I've always thought Greg Dulli was similar to Paul Weller in that he has an inner soul man trapped in a brain developed under punk rock's influence. Weller decided to get his Marvin Gaye on after he left The Jam, but Dulli has stuck to his alternative roots. The Twilight Singers, though, show him pushing a little closer towards traditional soul.

Best Emo Release of 2006*** Click on link to unveil my choice and then go to the end of this piece to find out my reasoning.

The Rap Record that Most Connected with Me in 2006- P.O.S. Audition

The Twin Cities is always been one of the most underrated music scenes. Now the land of Fargo has their own rapper, doncha know? Old school style points for using guitar riffs between beats like classic DMC or Beasties, plus eclectic lyrics like De La Soul makes P.O.S. ill.

Most manipulative record of 2006 that I Still Couldn't Resist Snow Patrol- Eyes Open

While not as good as the band's last release, "Final Straw", Snow Patrol has figured out the genre kind of like a Scottish Stone Temple Pilots. Sure it was overplayed, but it was hard to top its monster single "Chasing Cars". This was the ultimate Grey's Anatomy/O.C. tune of the year.

Top Mash-up/re-release of 2006 Beatles- Love

Well it's not like you can screw up some of the greatest songs in music history, but I guess I was hoping the Martin's would have been more creative here. They were under the microscope, though, as they were instructed not to add any music to this that wasn't recorded by the Beatles. I would rather hear Danger Mouse's version, but he wouldn't want to work under these restrictions. As I said, I liked it, but don't think it's that much better than Stars of 45.

Best rock covers album of 2006 Grant Lee Phillips- Nighteeneighties

One of music's best singers takes on some of the best alternative rock songs of the 1980's. "The Killing Moon" and "Love My Way" are good places to start.

Best Record of 2005 that Slipped by Me until 2006 OK Go- Oh No

Loved this Chicago band's 2002 self-titled debut especially "Get Over It", but somehow didn't check out their follow-up, until I caught the video for "Here It Goes Again." If you've never seen it, check it out, as it is my favorite music video of all-time. (It also happens to be my 3 year-old daughter's favorite song of 2006) In regards to the "Oh No" album, if you have ever wondered what the Kinks would sound like today, this release I think answers it.

I Really Tried, but It Just Didn't Happen for Me TV on the Radio

Just Don't Get It Album of 2006 Joanna Newsom

Good, but Liked Their Last Release Better Decemberists and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

***Emo Phillips is one of the great standups of the past 20 years. Sadly, someone this creative is unknown to so many, while Emo bands wreck the covers of your favorite rock music magazine. Many point to Jimmy Eat World as being the original American emo band, but I guess I see them as more of power pop group, which is the reason I like them. The typical whiny vocals of most emo bands just don't connect with me. Take it from someone who has been under the magnifying lens of a critic numerous times, it's important to keep in mind that reviews are just the thoughts of one person. Feel free to vent in the comments section.

Will Carroll's Top 10 Music Releases of 2006
2006-12-29 13:37
by Scott Long

Well look who's back, thejuiceblog's originator, ESPN and Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll. This is our 3rd annual year-end Best of Music list. I have split up my picks from Will's this year, as my post is too long. Look for mine, tomorrow.


1) Tom Waits -- Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
Look, you either love or hate Waits. His percussive music and voice provoke black and white reactions, but is it as big a surprise as it should be that this collection of outtakes and misfits going 52 tracks deep is his most accessible work since "Heartattack and Vine?" He goes across the board here with his Scotch and gravel scream, his distinctive piano, his Brecht and Weill fetish, as well as playing liar's poker with his soul on some of his songs and spoken word pieces. Waits has become more than a songwriter; he's a character in his own stories, singing them along in a way that we don't seem to be doing anymore. Warren Zevon's gone, Randy Newman's gone Hollywood, so Waits and Tom Russell are all we have left from that generation. There are actually songs here, not sound experiments, from Ramones covers to his own demented blues-jazz. The second disc is full of heartbreakers that sound as if Waits recorded them just past closing time at a bar that existed only in his mind. The trio of "World Keeps Turning", "Tell It To Me," and "Never Let Go" have to have Rod Stewart salivating at a cover version that will sell a hundred times better with a tenth of the soul. If the album was only there to get "Children's Story" out into the world, it's worth it, but this is so, so much more. There's your story.

2) My Chemical Romance -- The Black Parade
Let's see ... emo kids, a concept album based on their friend's death from cancer, and production from the man that brought us "American Idiot." That could be either a recipe for disaster or the breakout album that many thought MCR had in them. It's the latter. Always dark, but always accessible, it takes a different direction than the band had gone without reeking of sellout. Songs like "The Black Parade" and "Teenagers" should be radio staples if they didn't scare the living crap out of any adult in the vicinity. Like Green Day, I have no idea how this band will -- or even can -- follow up this work. Any album that dares to start with the beep of a heart monitor and ends with "The Patient" spitting out his final words as he dies has a higher goal than most and MCR delivers here.

3) The Decemberists -- The Crane Wife
Stephen Colbert's favorite band isn't an easy one to categorize. With their latest album, they've pulled closer to pop than the sober Pogue pub shanties they often leaned to in the past, in large part to production from a member of Death Cab For Cutie. Two songs here are three part epic tales, always challenging for a pop oriented audience. The crisp sound draws you in and holds you, even when they up the ante by putting Part 3 of the title track as the first song on the disc. The album builds through the single "O Valencia" to "When The War Came," a song unlike anything the Decemberists have done previously and the sound shocks just enough to get the message through. You'll probably be on the tenth listen or so before you notice the high-pitched wind just above the instruments in this song, but there's hidden gems on nearly every track that hide subconsciously. No album has ever made my Shure earphones work harder.

4) Drive-By Truckers -- A Blessing and A Curse
An off album from the Truckers is good enough to rank this high. No, it's not as good as "The Dirty South." No, it doesn't have a classic song on the order of "Outfit." No, it doesn't match up to the epic "Southern Rock Opera" but if that's the standard you have, you're going to be disappointed a lot. From Patterson Hood's plaintive cry of "Be my valllll-en-tiiiiine" on the opening track to his talked out world view on the closing track, Hood, Cooley, and Isbell prove themselves more than just the best Southern rock outfit since their sainted Lynyrd Skynyrd. They're a collection of singer/songwriters that match up with anyone out there. I'm scared that all three could put out solo albums -- Hood has, the brilliant but spare "Killers and Stars" he released to stop bootlegs -- and fail to remember that they're more than the sum of their parts. One interesting comparison point is that the Truckers often echo The Eagles - different lead singers with different feels for each, but somehow cohesive enough to not sound like a supergroup trading leads. Live, this band is as powerful as any, an American Led Zeppelin who you do not want as an opening act. Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post sent me a CD of the Truckers playing at their Christmas party from a few years back. The sound is crystal clear, to the point where in the midst of a guitar solo, someone speaks at the party, looking for another drink and I never fail to turn my head as if the person is next to me. One Maker's Mark isn't enough to thank him for that.

5) The Beatles -- Love
I'm having the same debate about this album as I did when Brian Wilson released "Smile" a few years back. It deserves it's place, but is it "new?" It's my list so it's my rules and the work that the Martins did to make what's old new again is worthy of inclusion on any list. The "reimagining" of the Beatles catalog doesn't stray far from the original in most cases, but the clarity is often revelatory. Where the music does go off path usually goes great places. The version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is almost an entirely new song. I can only hope that the rumored digital remaster will extend to the rest of the catalog soon.

6) John Mayer -- Continuum
Mayer stunned me with his 2005 turn with the John Mayer Trio. Sure, he'd been a solid album guy, one that many college freshmen swear by for seduction and who seemed to have something deeper than most gave him credit for. Still, I never saw anything like his Stevie Ray Vaughan turn of "Try!" or what his sudden distoritification would do for his guitar skills. This album is more an amalgam of "Try" and "Heavier Things", a continued maturing of both his musical and songwriting skills. I don't agree with his sentiments on "Waiting For The World To Change," but I can appreciate that he's fast becoming the voice for the generation trailing mine. I can't think of any artist aside from The Black Keys who play electric blues with as much sincerity as he does on "I'm Gonna Find Another You" or "Slow Dancing In A Burning Room." A couple tunes make studio changes from versions heard on "Try!" and are solid as expected, but the high points of this album are ones that will not just be heard for years, but will be felt.

7) Lupe Fiasco -- Food and Liquor
Jay-Z's not on the list, but Lupe is? Hard to believe, I know, but listen to both and tell me which one's more important, which one has the better production, and which one sounds like an artist who's next album will be more important. Lupe's another Chicago hip-hopper in the mold of Kanye West but he's more socially conscious than self-conscious. Kanye's worried about his girl and his bling; Lupe's Muslim background forces him to worry more about his community and his people. Ignore all that if you want because the album sounds as good turned up in the car as any from this year. In fact, "Kick Push" is the song that Pharrell has been trying to write for years.

8) The Fray -- How To Save A Life
Bill Simmons says the soundtrack to "Gray's Anatomy" makes him feel gay. This album probably makes Bill look for pink and glitter in his closet, but is good, catchy pop something to keep in the closet? It's light, airy, and sticks in your brain like nothing since the theme to The Banana Splits. More than anything else, this album reminds me of the first disc from The Wallflowers and I think The Fray could end up down the same career path. Funny that Jakob Dylan is now doing TV as well.

9) Brand New -- The God and Devil Are Raging Inside Me
Anytime you find a new band, it's a good thing. Anytime you find a new band and the story starts with "So I woke up in bed with Miss Pennsylvania ...", it's better. I wish I could give credit to the friend who clued me in, but it's better that he stays anonymous, unlike Brand New. I don't think they will, given a big leap and a more mature sound, according to reviews that often focus on the three year gap between this and their last album. This album goes well beyond the emo label with complex song structure, a lack of irony, and an underlying religious tone that wouldn't be out of place with one of the "stealth Christian" bands like Switchfoot or Needtobreathe. The title isn't the giveaway it should be since we've grown accustomed to the emo convention of the title having nothing to do with the song (see Fall Out Boy's new single "The Carpal Tunnel of Love" for an example.) It's not as radio-friendly as much of the pop-punk coming from this corner of the music world, but in an XM-Sirius universe, that doesn't matter as much.

10) Muse - Black Holes and Revelation
Scott's going to have this one much higher. From the Pink Floyd-esque cover to the over the top prog-rock inside, Muse have somehow gone from being the new Radiohead to the new Rush. I'm a big fan of Geddy, Neil, and Alex, so don't take that as a diss. Over the top doesn't begin to describe this album and while initial listens will sound like a big departure from its previous work, it's not. Muse is facing the Radiohead curse in the US, popular, but not nearly the level of acclaim they get elsewhere. In a world without Clear Channel and payola, that wouldn't happen.

Just Missed:
James Dean Bradfield -- The Great Western: First album from the lead singer of Manic Street Preachers is just like his old band. Socially conscious, solid, and doesn't get a tenth of the audience it deserves. Bradfield has a chance to go further than MSP ever did. Tragic.
Neko Case -- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood: Great album that in most years would have made the ten. It's not as accessible, at least to me, as her previous albums, but Neko is always pushing the boundaries.
Rock Kills Kid -- Are You Nervous?: I can't believe this really isn't higher. A very solid album that recalls The Cure and does mood better than almost any other album this decade.
The Roots -- Game Theory: Wow, just wow. The Roots are the bridge between old school Motown/Stax and new school hip-hop. You'll never knew how much live musicians added to hip-hop until you hear this.
Prince -- 3121: Musicology showed he still had his purple magic. This album feels like 1999, like something big is coming next.

NFL Picks
2006-12-29 13:20
by Scott Long

Mr. NFL consistency, with a 6-1 record 2 weeks ago, followed by a 0-6 record last week. Which Scott will show up. Kind of like figuring out the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here we go.

4 star Pittsburgh(+6) Cincy
3 star Tennessee(+3) New England
3 star Oakland(+13) NY Jets
3 star Buffalo(+9.5) Baltimore
3 star Atlanta(+9) Philly

Dogs have been ruling lately and I'm jumping back on.
Steelers are better than Bengals at this point of the year.
Patriots have little to play for, while I will take the Vince and Jeff express.
Raiders defense will keep the Raiders in the game.
Bills are playing well down the stretch, while Ravens have little to gain.
Falcons put it together for one week, as game goes down to the wire.

College Bowl Game Selections
2006-12-26 12:39
by Scott Long

It's finally time for me to weigh in on the College Bowl season. This season my college choices have been a shiny, happy 35-25, with a plus 22 number on the star basis. They are listed in order of when they are played. They are 2-star selections, unless noted.

Florida St.(+4) UCLA
Okla St.(-2) Alabama
K-State(+7.5) Rutgers (3-star)
California(-3.5) Texas A$M

Hard to see Bowden having his first losing season while at Florida St. (**** The Griddle's Bob Timmermann shares with me that Bobby's first season in Tallahassee, the Sems had a losing record. ****)
Something you will notice here is that the 2006 SEC is overrated.
Another league that got way too much play is the Big East.
California is a better team than they showed much of the year.

Oregon St.(-3) Missouri
Minnesota(+6.5) Texas Tech (3-star)
Purdue(PK) Maryland
Boston College(-6) Navy

The Pac-10 I think will have the best overall record in the bowl games.
Minnesota will run the ball successfully, winning the time of possession game.
The ACC sucked this year, while Purdue played a better level of competition.
Well coached BC will not look past Midshipmen.

Iowa(+9) Texas
Penn St.(+4) Tennessee
Auburn(1.5) Nebraska (3-star)
Wisconsin(+2) Arkansas (3-star)

While the game looks to be a mismatch, the Big 10 usually wins the Alamo Bowl.
As you can tell from my picks, I'm leaning heavily towards Big 10 teams to cover.
Talent and coaching levels don't look good for the Huskers
The Badgers are the most underrated team in the country. They will smashmouth the Razorbacks.

USC(-1) Michigan
Oklahoma(-7) Boise St. (3-star)
Wake Forest(+10) Louisville (4-star Bowl Game of the Year)
LSU(-9) Notre Dame

Best match-up of the bowl games. Don't feel strongly about the Trojans, but the combination of it being a virtual home game, plus Carroll being a far superior coach to Carr has me leaning USC's way.
Boise just hasn't seen this type of talent. The Sooners were screwed out of the Top 5, with the Ducks debacle in Eugene.
Louisville is explosive, but the Demon Deacons will play a deliberate pace which will keep the game close.
Like many other recent Fighting Irish teams, they are playing a superior bowl opponent who will be inspired to kick them all over the field.

Ohio St.(-7) Florida

I think there are 5 or 6 better teams than Florida, but concerned that the Buckeyes already feel like they have played their national championship game versus Michigan. Not playing a game since Nov. 18, while the Gators played as recently as Dec. 2. Mild play on the Buckeyes.

Happy Holiday to Our Readers
2006-12-24 19:34
by Scott Long

I hope the season turns out well for you. Hopefully you didn't follow any of the selections by America's Worst NFL Handicapper (See below...6 BIG Losers...Ouch Babe.) If you did, please disregard my holidays greetings. Of course, the positive of this happening right before Christmas, you can take back all your gifts and get the money back for them to help pay your bookie. This is a similar reason why I refer to December 26th as Junkies' Christmas. This is a day when drug addicts take back all the presents they received from loving relatives, so they can get enough cash to score Meth or Crack. Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.

America's Top NFL Handicapper Weighs In
2006-12-21 21:13
by Scott Long

So after having a remarkable week picking games last week, what will Scotty the Sleek offer up? (Hey, this is my last chance to gloat after last week.) Try not to be greedy, try not to be greedy.

4 star Pittsburgh(-3) Baltimore

The Steelers are playing as well as anyone besides the Chargers in the whole NFL. Despite what has happened during 2006, the Steelers are the better team.

3 star Jacksonville(-3) New England
3 star Denver(-3) Cincinnati
3 star Miami(-2) NY Jets

Keep in mind when betting on the Jags. Pick them to cover when they play a high profile team. The Patriots fall this week.
In what probably amounts to a playoff elimination game, the Bengals are at a major disadvantage having to travel to a really tough place, with a day and half left to prepare and recover. (Monday night hangover)
Remember when the Dolphins were considered a Super Bowl team by Sports Illustrated, while the Jets were seen by people like me as one of the NFL's worst? Well, talent wins out in Miami this weekend. ****Note I did have the Dolphins as a 4-star, but have dropped them down a notch. (Scott on Saturday)

2 star New York Giants(-3) New Orleans
2 star Atlanta(-6.5) Carolina

The Giants have to win this game. Getting Strahan will really help.
I have been betting against the Falcons all year, but the Panthers appear to have mailed it in. Plus, Matt Schwab might play, which is in the best interest to the team.

Reality Music Stars Part 2: Rock Star Supernova, plus Sexy Photos
2006-12-21 07:50
by Scott Long

The other 2006 reality music show, Rock Star Supernova, has released its debut release. As I mentioned from the outset, whoever they chose better be able to write hit songs, as none of the members of the supergroup had any bankable track record in songwriting. Producer Butch Walker seems to have left a heavy imprint on Supernova's music, as it follows the T.Rex glam sound that is a trademark of his solo albums or when he was with the band Marvelous 3. Walker has toned down some of contest winner Lukas Rossi's most over the top Billy Idol vocal tricks, which is a good thing. The problem the band has is that unlike Chris Daughtry's new release, it doesn't have anything that fits on current radio. They needed to produce a couple All-American reject type tracks, but choosing Rossi wasn't going to accomplish this.

While their music style seems to fit Tommy Lee well and Gilby Clarke should be happy to get a gig with anyone with a profile, it didn't seem like a good career move for bassist Jason Newsted. In a very Spinal Tap moment during October rehearsals, a 90 pound bass amp fell down towards Newsted and in his actions to protect himself, he ended up with a rotator cuff and bicep tear on his right side and a anterior labrum tear on his left shoulder. Talk about bad luck. From now on I'm referring to Newsted as the Mark Prior of the rock scene. We will have to check back with Will Carroll this spring to find out Newsted's outlook, but in the meantime he's been replaced by former Black Crowes member Johnny Colt. It has been said Colt is a temporary replacement, but considering how poor the album is selling, by the time Newsted recovers Tommy Lee will be back with the Crue and Clarke will be touring the mullet-sporting rock clubs with some Guns and Roses tribute band.

If the group is really interested in creating a buzz about themselves, they should release the video of the 90 pound bass amp fall, because it would be a huge hit on YouTube. The vision I have of it makes me laugh like something out of a Monty Python sketch. "How to Protect Yourself Versus Someone Who Attacks You with Fresh Fruit" should be their next song title. Sure it's a long title, but it's still shorter than the average Fall Down Boy track. If you want a download from Supernova, I would suggest "Leave the Light On", as it's such a fabulous Marc Bolan rip-off that it could have appeared on "Electric Warrrior".

Personally, I would download first the single by Juke Kartel. Juke Kartel is the band fronted by the most talented contestant from Rockstar, Toby Rand. Rand's band is opening up for Supernova and his incredibly catchy "Throw it Away" is in the vein of other Aussie rockers like the Hoodoo Gurus.
Oh and let me recommend to click on the (NSFW) pictures of the gorgeous Storm Large. Storm's sexy looks and talent puts most Suicide Girls to shame. I'm sure Jason Newsted wishes she would have been the thing that fell on him, instead.


NOTE: Our annual Top 10 music lists will be appearing here sometime during the next week. This will include a return of ESPN's Will Carroll. Make sure to check in to find out if Clay Aiken finally makes our best of the year countdown.

File Taylor Hicks' New Release Under the Karaoke Category
2006-12-20 21:24
by Scott Long

Time to do a short review of the debut releases from the 2 break-out stars of last season's American Idol. Taylor Hicks was polished and has a friendly persona, but the guy always seemed so calculated in his choices. It won him enough votes from the Clay Aiken audience to win the show, but it makes him a really lame rock star. His self-titled debut at least doesn't contain the worst song of 2006, his single "Do I Make You Proud", but it is sadly the album you thought he would release. Warmed over white-boy soul. Truly, if you like this stuff, just pick up one of Michael McDonald's recent Motown tribute CD's, because the former Doobie Bro is a superior singer and the songs are brilliant pop classics. Hicks' only hip song choice on American Idol was covering Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble". I mention LaMontagne, as if you want to hear a modern day white soul singer, check him out. LaMontagne is to Van Hicks is to Curtis Stigers.

The contestant that most thought would be in the finals against Hicks was Chris Daughtry. One problem he had from the beginning had to be choosing a name. Since he's trying to sell himself as a rocker, he couldn't go by his complete name like Hicks, but at the same time to take advantage of his AI celebrity, he had to mention it. The compromise name is a band he fronts called "Daughtry". Hey, I don't know what else he could have went with, but the name sounds like some Southern rock band who would be opening for Molly Hatchett.

When watching Daughtry on American Idol, the question was would he go in a more of a creative direction like a band he professed love for like Live or would he follow the sell-out Nickelback style? He is somewhere in between, which is what he needed to do to get played on modern rock radio. (It's been a long time since the Secret Samahdi days.) While the songs are formula in style, Chris Daughtry's pipes are so good that he raises the quality of the product. Remember that Paul Rodgers' Bad Company or Lou Gramm's Foreigner music was pretty unimaginative, but their strong voices were capable of making the songs memorable. As someone who grew up listening to classic rock, I still am capable of giving props to someone who can sing for his supper and Daughtry is one of the best I've heard in awhile.

While some critics compare his new album to Nickleback or Creed, I would suggest his music is more influenced by bands like Tonic and Vertical Horizon. When he rocks out more, it's done in a Shinedown vein. Hey, I like bands like The Hold Steady, but there are times when I want to get some ear candy. While it's not saying a lot, Daughtry has put out the best debut of any American Idol contestant. I doubt he can follow-up with one as good as Kelly Clarkson's second offering, but he has shown that he is not strictly some reality show creation.

Oh and if you were interested, Elliott Yamin (the best singer in American Idol history) is set to put out his debut release in 2007.


NOTE: Our annual Top 10 music lists will be appearing here sometime during the next week. This will include a return of ESPN's Will Carroll. Make sure to check in to find out if Clay Aiken finally makes our best of the year countdown.

Gloating, Plus Letterman Parody Clip
2006-12-19 09:52
by Scott Long

So let's go over how my big NFL picks weekend turned out.

Game of the year choice on Bucs almost won outright. Both 4 star picks won handily, with Tennessee winning outright. 3 star double digit underdog Redskins win outright. 3-star Colts destroy Bengals. 2-star Browns cover versus overrated Ravens. Only my 3-star choice on Chiefs was a loser. Going down the final tally that is a record of 6-1, with a plus 18 on the stars scale. There couldn't of been a handicapper in the country who had a better weekend. And it was presented free of charge to all my juiceblog clients!


I haven't discussed the sketches much at the NFL on Fox pregame this season, but it has been a good year. I have listed a link to all the sketches. I would try out last Sunday's (week 16 as Letterman) as I think it was one of the best. Just to give you a flavor of how diverse Frank's range is check out week 13 (Leno), week 9 (Pacino), week 4 (Madden), and week 1 (James Brown). These would be my top 5 favorites of 2006.

Best NFL Week So Far (Plus 2006 NFL Pick of the Year)
2006-12-16 19:51
by Scott Long

I haven't seen a schedule all year that sets up better than this week. Even have my first 5 star release of the year. Here we go.

5 star Tampa Bay(+14) Chicago

While Devin Hester continues to save the Bears on offense, something has been happening to the formerly stout D. It began when big play safety Mike Brown went out for the year. Now All-Pro caliber tackle Tommie Harris has joined him on the IR, while the other tackle run-stopper, Tank Johnson is facing illegal weapon charges and won't play against the Bucs. Tampa is better than their record, Gruden won't be stupid enough to kick to Hester, and the weather is warm for the Windy City, so that won't be a factor. At least, this is how I've convinced myself it will happen.

4-Star Tennessee(+3.5) Jacksonville
4-Star Denver(-3) Arizona

In the year of the rookie QB, I see 2 of them leading their teams to victories. Here's what I wrote about Vince Young on January 10.

As someone who has never been sold on Michael Vick, you might be surprised to know that I believe Vince Young can be an excellent NFL QB. Young is a leader and has the type of body that can absorb hits, two things I question about Micheal Vick.

The combination of Vince Young and Jeff Fisher's coaching have revived a team which might have been the worst squad in the NFL, just 8 weeks ago. The Jags are a very up and down team. After the biggest win the franchise has had since there early days when the Brunell-led Jags went into Denver and won a playoff game, this week screams for a major let-down.
Sure Cutler has struggled, but Shanahan will get the Broncos back on track. The AFC's superiority will shine again in this game, despite the quality play of another rookie QB formerly of USC, giving the Cardinals a chance.

3-Star Washington(+10) New Orleans
3-Star Kansas City(+9) San Diego
3-Star Indy(-3) Cincy

Here are 3 other games, with last week's game having a major say on what will happen this week.
The Saints look to be due for a letdown, after their perfect play vs. Dallas. The Chargers played a similar flawless game against Denver. The Colts come home with a game they should be inspired for considering that their run defense looked like Reginald Denny by the end of the game in Jacksonville. I suspect Bob Sanders comes back to fortify them against Rudi Johnson enough to win by at least a TD.

2-Star Cleveland(+12) Baltimore

I know I'm starting to look like a fool with my weekly shots at the Ravens, but I just don't believe they are as good as their record. This is too many points for them to cover.

Free Tickets to See Scott Performing at the Chicago IMPROV
2006-12-13 19:38
by Scott Long

I will be back at the Chicago IMPROV (located in Woodfield Mall) and have been told I can offer free tickets to the Dec. 20-22 shows. The Wednesday and Thursday shows are at 7:30, while the Friday shows are at 8:00 and 10:15. I will be there Saturday as well, but ain't nothing free on Saturday. I'm guessing there is a 2 drink minimum. This is the biggest and most beautiful comedy club in the country.

Contact me at if you are interested.

Is Kenny Williams the Ultimate Market Timer?
2006-12-09 22:34
by Scott Long

I would argue that no General Manager has been more unfairly ripped during his career than Kenny Williams. Go look through the archives here and you will see quite a few posts of me defending him. Yes, I'm a White Sox fan, but I can honestly tell you that I lean towards wanting to rip deals the team makes, as I want to come off as a non-biased observer. Once again, though, I like the deal they have made with the Phillies.

I've read many rate the trade of Freddy Garcia as a bad one. The common wisdom seems to be that during the tulip mania period that we are going through for starting pitching, Garcia was worth more than a couple of b-level prospects. Let's break down all the elements that make up the trade to better grade it.

Freddy Garcia is a hard guy to analyze. Let's first go back to how he initially came to the White Sox, in a trade that most in the sabermetrical world thought was a horrible deal. The Mariners received Baseball Prospectus' most highly overrated prospect, Jeremy Reed, plus Miguel Olivo and throw-in Mike Morse. Well, it's not too early to say that this was a slam-dunk trade for the Sox, as Reed has been dismal and Olivo sucked so badly the Mariners practically gave him away. While Morse provided a little juice to Seattle, until he was busted for being on it, Garcia was a solid starter chewing innings up in both 2005 and 2006.

Outside of his stellar 2001 season, Garcia has been just slightly above average, though. It is certainly valuable to have a guy who can consistently give you over 200 innings, but he's basically a solid No. 3 starter. Garcia is similar to another Sox hurler, Javier Vasquez, in that he is prone to hang a curve ball and give up a big inning most times he toes the rubber. Unlike Vasquez, though, Garcia has lost velocity off his fastball and looks to be on the downward slope. Not a good mix, when you are moving from one launching pad, US Cellular to another, Citizen's Bank. Declining 31 year-old pitchers on the last year of their contracts are not going to get you an A plus prospect.

In many of the trades that I've supported that Williams has made during his tenure, there has been this concept floated out there that a better deal was available. In the trade mentioned above, many said why didn't the Sox send Joe Borchard instead of Reed? This would be because the Mariners wanted Reed. (Later on, the Mariners did obtain Borchard, giving up Matt Thornton, who was one of the best relievers in the AL last season.) This kind of monday morning quarterbacking by reporters and bloggers alike wreaks of radio call-in trade talk. I never heard of any other deal out there for Garcia that was better.

Williams has made a tactical move, realizing that the off-season market for pitchers is going off the rails. Being an organization that doesn't like to sign pitchers beyond a 3-year contract, the White Sox are retooling the way they are going about things. Knowing that that they have Brandon McCarthy ready to step in to the rotation and having a couple other young pitchers who at least look capable of being a 5th starter, they have offered up not only Garcia, but Jon Garland and Mark Buerhle, asking in exchange for more young, cost-efficient arms for the future.

This is very similar concept to what Billy Beane did a couple of seasons ago, except that Mulder and Hudson were a grade above on the quality front. Both Beane and Williams share a large egotistical streak, but the A's GM knows how to manipulate the press, while on the South side of Chicago, both the Owner and GM seem to pursue angles to antagonize the media.

The White Sox have the utmost confidence in their pitching coach, Don Cooper, being able to take other teams highly touted flame-outs and make them successes. (see Thornton, Jenks, and Contreas) They see Gavin Floyd fitting this category. I'm not sure I buy this, but I do like them getting back Gio Gonzalez, who I think will be in the rotation by 2008.

The only trade I rated even slightly negative by Williams over the past few seasons was giving up Chris Young for Javier Vasquez. I'm guessing that Williams saw a window of opportunity over 2006 and 2007 to win another World Championship, realizing that the starting staff had been pushed really hard in 2005 and thought Vasquez would provide needed depth. The White Sox felt good enough about their depth in center field with Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney, and Jerry Owens that they could give up Young. Despite last year's offensive struggles, I still think Anderson will continue on his second half of the season improvement, in which his OBP was 90 points higher.

By the way, there was those again who said why didn't the Sox give up one of the above mentioned prospects, instead of Young? The D-backs wanted Young or the deal doesn't get made. Even though the D-backs picked up some of Vasquez's contract, I think this will go down as a bad deal for the Chicago. Anderson and Young in the outfield together I think would have been better financially and defensively, instead of Podsednik manning left field. Guillen and Cooper were convinced that they could bring back the vintage Vasquez days. We will see if 2007 is different than his disappointing 2006.

In the investing world, the number 1 rule is that it's impossible to time the market. Williams sees the current landscape of Major League Baseball being one where veteran starting pitchers are extremely overvalued. He knows that he has a surplus of what others want, so he is taking a different approach of trying to stockpile young arms who won't blow the budget. We will see if his bet succeeds. I think Garcia's P/E was too high and I would rather invest in a couple cheap growth stocks than a blue chip company on the downslide.

You can have your Meche, Petitte, Lilly, and Marquis deals, I think the world of free agent pitching signings is at its most insane levels. Unless you have unlimited funds to spend, the only way to win in the future will be to be develop your own starters. I think Williams is out in front on the idea. Unless Liriano makes a strong recovery from his injury or the Indians learn how to play MLB-quality defense, I think the White Sox will be atop the AL Central once again in 2007.

***Yes, I do realize that I left out the Tigers. I think they will be closer to a .500 team in 2007, as their young starting pitchers have to all be looking at Will Carroll yellow to red health report lights.

NFL Picks
2006-12-09 20:21
by Scott Long

Unfortunately, my hot college picks will have a little time off, but the NFL slate is a good one.

(ALL are 3 Star games)
Washington(+2) Philly
Miami(+3.5) New England
Indy(PK) Jacksonville
Denver(+9) San Diego
New Orleans(+7.5) Dallas
KC(-3) Baltimore

What the Perfect Woman for a Baseball Nerd Would Be Like
2006-12-06 20:55
by Scott Long

So if a baseball geek was to go all Weird Science and plug in the characteristics to make the perfect woman, what would she be like? Well obviously she would be a baseball fanatic... she would be sexy...she would love beer and chicken wings...maybe play in a weekly poker game...oh and of course, be a total nympho.

Welcome to TBS' new comedy, "My Boys". The show is set in Chicago, with Jordana Spiro playing the part of a sportswriter who hangs out with a group of guys. The pilot episode uses baseball as an analogy to relationships. While it does have moments that seem forced in trying to stay true to the baseball theme, for a comedy pilot "My Boys" is very well done. There is nothing harder to do in television writing than making a watchable sitcom pilot. Trying to explain a bunch of new characters, while managing to be funny doing it is next to impossible. (If you don't believe me, check out the pilot show of your favorite all-time sitcom. I would bet 75% of them are surprisingly lame.)

"My Boys" centers on Spiro and she pulls off the difficult job of not performing her sports driven dialogue like it's just another acting gig. Instead, Spiro seems very comfortable in her character's skin, with her voice and mannerisms matching what a really cute tomboy would be like. Her profession on the show is one of being a Cubs beat reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. In this first episode, she ends up falling for another Cubs beat reporter who works for the Chicago Tribune. Kind of like if Carol Slezak and Teddy Greenstein hooked up. This is bit much, but considering I'm a White Sox fan, maybe I'm not the most objective reviewer.

Actually, the weakest part of the show is when Spiro discusses her specific passion for baseball. During the initial five minutes of ever speaking to my wife, she mentioned that she loved the White Sox and hated the Cubs, so I know there are cute girls who love baseball. What I don't buy from the lead character of "My Boys" is that she would brag about having a 1955 Ernie Banks rookie card. Hot babes do not collect baseball cards. Also, I have a lot of doubt that sports reporters during their time off root for their local team like Spiro's character does.

These aren't big enough problems, though, for me not to give a positive review for "My Boys", especially when you add that Jim Gaffigan plays the part of Spiro's brother. Let me offer advice to the creators of the show. In the 3 episodes I've seen so far, more of Mr. Hot Pockets is needed, as he's been severely underused.

As good as Spiro and Gaffigan are in the show, the real breakout star in "My Boys" is Jamie Kaler. Kaler plays a wise-cracking friend, kind of like Chandler from "Friends", if Matthew Perry's character would have owned an actual pair of testicles. Kaler is dynamite and is the most authentic character in the show, as when he's on screen, the "My Boys" has an acerbic edge to its comedy that makes things pop. (I should mention that I've spoken to Kaler one time, for about 10 minutes at an IMPROV comedy club. Pretty non-descript meeting, as it took me half of the pilot to place where I knew him from. )

"My Boys" has a narrative and visual style like "Sex in the City", but does a 180 degree turn in its dialogue. "Sex in the City' always came off to me like what gay men thought women were like, where "My Boys" is written how a sports fanatic would like to hear his dream girl speak. It will be interesting to see how this show develops, but it's the best new sitcom I've seen of 2006.


If you want to catch all the episodes of "My Boys" go to, as they all can be accessed there. Since TBS is owned by Time Warner, they have merged their website with fellow corporate family member AOL to create a cool online entertainment site.

TBS has been transitioning over the past year into being like Comedy Central 2. They have become the cable home of Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Family Guy reruns. Step 2 of their process is creating new original programs and "My Boys" is an excellent start. Last week the network premiered another new sitcom titled "10 Items or Less", which also seems promising.

From the clips I caught of their other new sitcom, "Love Bites", it doesn't have such a good future. While "Friends" was the exception to the rule, if you want to be a funny comedy, don't fill your show with a gorgeous cast. The beautiful people haven't had to go through the minefields which are needed to develop the painful angst which is at the heart of comedy. "Love Bites" lead actors seem too pretty and speak in a fakey dialogue that makes the characters come off like they are giving speeches. I recommend that you go to and check them all out for yourselves.

Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
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