Monday, June 20, 2011

Redlight King Brings Old Man Around

Redlight KingIn the midst of reinventing himself again, Kaz (a.k.a. Kazzer a.k.a. Mark Kasprzyk) has stirred up some controversial dust related to his new single Old Man, which samples the 1972 original by Neil Young. The single was released in anticipation of the upcoming Hollywood Records LP Something For The Pain.

Most people love it or hate it. And it's very likely they will feel the same way about the Redlight King debut, which will attempt to balance and sometimes fuse alternative rock with rap rock and hip hop.

Although Kaz, under the name Kazzer, has done much the same, early samplings suggest rootsier material after hard luck and liquor derailed his career. More concerning might be how the song plays live, given that it was produced with significant studio polish.

Why the love it or hate it buzz up just doesn't matter.

Old Man was originally written for a man named Louis Avala (and his wife, Clara), who were caretakers for the Broken Arrow Ranch. Young first performed it live on a BBC broadcast in 1971 before it was released the following year.

When Avala asked Young how a young hippie like him could afford the ranch, Young mused with all sincerity that he was just lucky (perhaps as lucky as Avala to be there too). The song ties the two men together, considering that they are more the same than they could ever be different.

Although the song only reached #31 on the charts during the year it was released, Old Man has since become a folk rock classic and one of the most powerful of Young's career. It has been covered almost a dozen times, with most never coming close to the deep, emotive qualities of the original. It has also been featured in several films, most notably Lords Of Dogtown.

Redlight King reconnects a singer-songwriter with his roots.

While it has been repurposed several times, it has never been sampled (which gives an artist permission to take considerable liberties with any elements of the song). Young rarely entertains sampling requests so it was no surprise that Kaz was quickly denied on the front end. Still, you have to give him credit for persisting until Young heard the material.

As much as some feel the sampling detracts from the original, setting sentimentality aside might produce a different consideration. The embellishment connects a new singer-songwriter to a legendary one as much as it connects a father and son. It brings 1971 into 2011, and indirectly passes a torch between generations.

It's very unlikely Young approved the song because Hollywood Records is billing its new artist as stubborn. It's more likely that Young personally approved the sampling because, regardless of what others think about it, Kaz does deliver an impassioned recognition that everything he was reluctant to learn as a teen has played an important role in his life.

Old Man By Redlight King Stops At 5.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

All of this isn't to say that Young is passing a torch. Kaz has talent, but tends to be inconsistent, sometimes wavering from solid to sloppy during live performances. The same can be said about early acoustic previews of the upcoming album; City Lights and Come Back features brilliant songwriting but questionable live delivery.

However, as a studio single release without allowing preservation prejudice to color a pick, there is more than enough to like about it. You can pick up Old Man by Redlight King and Old Man by Neil Young on iTunes. The Redlight King version is also on Amazon. Something For the Pain is available for preorder at Barnes & Noble. It will be released on June 28.
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