The following is an edited transcript of a chat with readers Friday by Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers.
Q: Thought your five-album list was solid, but no American artists? I thought “Born to Run” would have been a solid pick. Plus, would there be an “OK Computer” without “Dark Side of the Moon?” How close was “Who’s Next” to making the cut?
JM: Glad you brought that up. That assignment caused me great trepidation. The way it was put to me was “If you were going to tell someone who knew nothing about rock music where they should start, what five albums would you recommend?” I am not a huge fan of these types of things because they are IMPOSSIBLE. Today, I’d pick five different albums.
Q: Why are you such a fan of Joni Mitchell?
JM: I think she’s one of the great artists of the 20th century. Her chord voicings, her melodies, her lyrics, her thirst for more knowledge about music, her love of jazz and her ability to channel jazz into her own art in a believable way - she just kills me.
Q: Did you like the Ohio Players?
JM: Absolutely! And those album covers – iconic! And kinda nasty, too!
Q: The DJs that started the mixing of music became famous . I guess it was how they combined parts of songs in unique way?
JM: Yes. For me, watching a real, old school DJ with two turntables and a microphone is an awesome experience. We have several in town. DJ Cutler is one of the guys who makes this an art form. I am far less impressed with the use of iPods, iPads and laptops. Less risk. Less excitement.
Q: Thought your tribute to Lou Reed was wonderful. Lou seemed to have resonance in Buffalo - not the big city issues, but the ideal of a people being themselves without judging. I think that is a Lou, and Buffalo, message.
JM: Wow, that is really well put. Nice.
Q: How are we going to get David Crosby to come to Buffalo after he hits Chicago? .. Sinead did it!
JM: That’d be up to a promoter who wants to make it happen!
Q: How do you rate the Allman Brothers Band? Some rate them as great musicians .
JM: There is absolutely no question that they are great musicians. I see them as one of the greatest American bands. Brought into their blues a genuine understanding of the modal jazz Miles Davis was exploring. “Whipping Post” is Miles mixed with Southern rock and blues. That alone is just … huge!
Q: I saw Sinead O’Connor twice in the early ’90s in Cleveland. Even then, she seemed tremendously shy and almost embarrassed. Applause after a song was met with an almost withdrawing lowering of her head. So I was not surprised at what happened at the Riviera. True artists are sometimes living on the edge of sanity.
JM: Many are, it’s true. I just wish she could’ve soldiered through.
Q: Fire Darcy! Fire Darcy!
JM: Apparently, if you say something enough, it actually DOES happen.
Q: You’ve been writing a lot more pieces of late it seems. Are they something you’ve been thinking about or is it timing?
JM: It’s stuff I’m always thinking about. I’m really not writing that much more; it’s just that it is ending up in places where I wasn’t often used in the past. Although, now that I’m thinking about it – yeah, the workload is definitely bigger!
Q: How hard is to have conversation with 20 people at the same time,I would have to think its difficult?
JM: It is, but you guys make it fun.
Q: Not to be crass, but when performers appear at a Benefit Show or concert, do they get no fee?
JM: Most of the time, no. Although I’ve heard some horror stories.
Q: I’ve enjoyed the fact that you give Miley and Gaga much-deserved poor reviews. But, I noticed Rolling Stone very seldom gives low reviews anymore. With the changes to music sales over the last 10 years, do you think some rock critics are concerned that poor reviews will make it even harder for bands to make it in the music industry in today’s marketplace?
JM: Unfortunately, I think you give them too much credit. I think many of them are motivated by trying to appear cool and in-touch so that they can keep their jobs. It has to be about the music. Not the trend. Not the lifestyle associated with it. The music.
Q: Jeff, are you hip to Gretchen Parlato yet? Her Albright show a while back was unreal.
JM: She’s awesome! My colleague Jeff Simon digs her, too.
Q: Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious … I imagine you regard that as a low point in music history?
JM: I consider Sid a low point in music history because he had no respect for music, or human life. Junkie nihilists do not impress me. There’s nothing romantic about Sid. But “Never Mind the Bollocks” is a huge thing for me. That album still kills. And I loved Public Image LTD even more. Lydon is a hero to me.
Q: Guts me you gave the Arcade Fire record a rotten review …GUTS ME!!! I don’t want to bash the way you champion the legacy records and shows but man come on!!!!
JM: I gave my honest opinion.
Q: I know you hate autotuner. But wouldn’t you like to play with it and listen to your own voice in a variety of ways?
JM: I have. I’ve made records with people who use it, albeit in subtle ways. Technology is never the enemy - it’s people who abuse technology who are the enemy.
Q: Have you ever seen the Trans-Siberian-Orchestra in concert for the holidays?
JM: Once. That was enough. That might have been more than enough.
Q: I was glad you noted Todd Rundgren’s show at the Harbor as a summer highlight. Todd wears so many faces sometimes- prog, hard rock, experimental- it was great to see him do a lot of old school blue eyed soul. The soul medley ending with Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and reaching back to Nazz for “Gotta Get You a Woman” were highlights for me.
JM: Me too! Todd never sits still, creatively.
Q: 107.7 has hired their program director, and the music being played seems to be more inclusive of older stuff. I’m concerned we’re heading towards a “modern rock” station as opposed to “alternative.” Thoughts?
JM: I’m cautiously optimistic. But I very rarely listen to the radio. I don’t find that it’s useful for discovering new music too often, and I don’t want to listen to the radio just to hear things I already have in my own collection. Anyone else have thoughts?
Q: Is it fair to say you detest the music of Madonna and Justin Bieber?
JM: I find nothing redeeming in Bieber’s music. Madonna I’ve enjoyed sporadically – the “Ray of Light” album, “True Blue,” which sounded like ’60s “girl group” pop. I think her music is far superior to Bieber’s.
Q: I agree with Jeff on Arcade Fire. They’ve got a unique brand of bottled magic, but to me they often take themselves too seriously and in doing so make over-thought music that’s hard to connect with.
JM: To me, it sounds like a Talking Heads album without any of David Byrne’s great song-writing.
Q: Did you like the music of Queen and Freddie Mercury?
JM: Good god, yes. Favorites: “Queen II,” “Night at the Opera,” “Sheer Heart Attack.” Brilliant.
Q: TSO is great Christmas fun. We all have our guilty pleasures!!
JM: Fair enough!
Q: Were you a Johnny Cash fan? Unique performer. Classic songs. “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”
JM: Yes, absolutely! I mean … How could anyone not acknowledge him? It’s like not acknowledging the importance of oxygen.