Listen to YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE by Renee Fleming.
Tough on Liverpool, today's loss. Their luck definitely ran out against Chelsea, what with the 95th minute own goal, suspicion of offside in a couple of the goals tonight, and the ref not buying Ryan Babbel's attempt to manufacture a penalty at the end (not that I'm bitter or anything!)
Kudos to them for making it as far as they did, anyway. Now for Chelsea and Manchester United in the final. Another classic in store, I'm sure.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Listen to YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE by Renee Fleming.
Listen to ALWAYS COMING BACK TO YOU by Scott Walker.
Speaking of artists I'd like to devote a blog to, Scott Walker would rank high on the list. Certainly, someday soon we'll put together a series on Scott Walker and the 90s or something like that. Whatever we do, one of the essential arguments is that his music has always sounded best in the spring, in that period after it's not too cold and right before it's too hot.
In Texas (and probably everywhere else), that period of time is fleetingly short, and triggers huge amounts of nostalgia and regret. The good weather of spring is "over before it starts," it's "slipping through our fingers." Every good night out makes you question whether it's the last one as good, or whether you missed one even better the night before.
For some of us, Scott Walker is really good for that kind of weather. I'm not sure I can describe why that is, but something in the way he attacks this material (that even (especially?) when it was being recorded, was already a little quaint) with such conviction. Is he acting or is he not? What does he know that I don't? Scott makes you question your premises (and/or write fruity blog posts!)
Photo: Grey units (3).
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Listen to L'AMOUR C'EST COMME UN JOUR by Charles Aznavour.
When it comes to things that Charles Aznavour released in 1962, this song comes a very, very distant second place. But just because this tune isn't Bob Dylan's favorite movie doesn't mean it's not worth hearing.
L'amour C'est Comme Un Jour is Aznavour in his prime--I love listening to him because he's like Frank Sinatra with no...not baggage, but no reference points. (If you're American), you can listen to him sing and not have any preconceived notions on how he should be heard or who the music is for or what it means. Of course, he's much more beloved and ubiquitous in Europe, as these youtube videos of the song suggest (I have to say, though, the first and only comment on this offering cracks me up).
Have a good Tuesday!
Photo: Grey units (2).
Monday, April 28, 2008
Listen to COWBOY by Harry Nilsson.
It may be that I have the best, most successful blog on the internet...but what I would really like is to have the best, most successful blog on the internet about Harry Nilsson. Unfortunately, that market has been pretty well covered. If you click over here, you'll see what I mean.
So, it may not make sense to do the whole blog about Harry, or even a two week series, but that doesn't mean we can't post one of his songs every now and then. Today, I wanted to share one of the tunes from "Nilsson Sings Newman," which, on most days, is my favorite Harry Nilsson album.
At the end of the day, I picked Cowboy. And I picked it solely for what this recent review of the album called the only anachronistic moment on the record. Let me quote: "'Nilsson Sings Newman' is 30 years old, and, with the exception of the Incense-and-Peppermints-style harpsichord during the fadeout of Cowboy, it sounds like it could have been recorded last week."
That harpsichord fadeout simply blows. me. away. I don't know why. Something about the song, about Harry's vocal, about how the part comes out of nowhere, about how the player (Randy Newman, presumably) pauses an instant just after starting.
I don't know. Obviously, it leaves some people on the internet cold (see above). But it's one of my favorite musical moments.
Photo: Grey units (1).
Friday, April 25, 2008
Listen to ONE SURE THING by Fairport Convention.
Listen to ONE SURE THING by The Conspirators.
Friday's not usually my day, but Jason is off composing paeans to himself, so I had to step in.
Which is nice, actually, because I get to share with you a song that I had wanted to anyway. Short little backstory: Corbett had been pestering me about Fairport Convention for months (years!), saying they were the greatest folk-rock group he'd heard in years (decades!) Eventually, I broke down and got "Unhalfbricking," the first album featuring Sandy Denny, thinking that would be the one to get. I didn't dig it too much. So, to wrap this up in a sentence, Corbett told me I was wrong, and to get the first Fairport Convention album full stop, so I did last weekend, and it really is amazing!
One Sure Thing is buried down on side two, but it's become one of the group's better known songs. With justice, because it is top class. I had hesitated to include it in the "slow and moody" category, because if you just listen to the tempo, it's not that slow--quite brisk, actually--but Judy Dyble's vocal is so powerful, the accompaniment is the last thing you should focus on.
Speaking of Judy Dyble, she only just reappeared last year after thirty years out of the music business with a few songs with a group called The Conspirators. One of the songs they recorded was a remake of One Sure Thing, which I've included as a bonus (don't say we never have new music here) Quite like the guitar on this one, as I'm sure do Franz Ferdinand's lawyers! Today we'll be watching Amy's return trip to New York and waiting for the weekend. Enjoy.
Photo: Empire State Building series (9).
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Listen to GIRL OF CONSTANT SORROW by Barbara Dane.
Today is a little selection from Barbara Dane, a woman who would be extremely well known if you all lived on my street and it was 1960. Dane was one of the original Greenwich Village coffeehouse folk and blues traditionalists. Her interpretations of all the old standards were meant to be authentic and meant to educate her mostly-white audience. (Not that she was unusual in that respect--the entire folk scene in the mid-fifties through mid-sixties was organized around this principle.)
Tied up with the music was an active participation in the civil rights movement, and Dane has the distinction of being the first performer to play in Cuba after the revolution.
Sorry if this sounds all a bit academic--don't let it affect your enjoyment of the song. Girl of Constant Sorrow is of course the same tune that was made semi-popular a few years ago in O Brother, Where Art Thou? But whereas the rendition(s) in that movie is all jumpy bluegrass, this version is, well, slow and moody. It's a fine rendition.
Photo: Empire State Building series (8).
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Listen to BABY, I'LL COME by Mary Love.
This song has been one of my favorites for a long, long time. I recall making a mix CD about four years ago where I was really gutted I couldn't find a way to fit it on. But like they say on the label, Baby I'll Come was a little too "Slow 'N' Moody" for that, but that means it's perfect for a week like this.
The tune basically speaks for itself. What can I add to Mary's vocal performance? I mean, when she says that "All you have to do is call me and I'll come... right away," you believe her don't you? It's very moving.
One thing I don't like: I originally got this song on a Mojo sampler called "Raw Soul." Why is it that a stunning vocal like Mary Love's is considered "raw," and a stunning vocal like Mary Weiss's is considered "dramatic"? Could it be that Love's recording mic is a little overdriven? Or something else?
In other news, Amy and Martin made it to Oklahoma last night. Hee haw!
Photo: Empire State Building series (7).
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Listen to DRESSED IN BLACK by The Shangri-Las.
I've discussed many times, even on this blog, the strangeness of the Shangri-Las. They're a group that was very popular in their time, but are almost forgotten now, and to the extent their remembered, it's as a bubblegum teenybopper group. A little like the Beach Boys actually, and like the Beach Boys, their reputation completely obscures how f*@#%*%g weird some of the music is.
In the case of the Shangri-Las, the disjunction is even more acute. The catalog of disturbing, unnerving, creepy, frightening tunes is quite long, and yet these same songs are beloved on oldies radio and cherished by music fans. It says a lot for the quality of the music, doesn't it?
Dressed In Black is hard to describe, except it's one of the most melodramatic performances of all time, chronicling as it does a girl's ever-growing love for... *SPOILERS* ...her dead boyfriend. And as it builds and builds, don't lie and say you were ready for how the song drops all the way out to Mary's whispered incantation, and then ends. Seriously, it's a miracle of pop music, and as an added bonus, it causes nightmares.
Photo: Empire State Building series (6).
Monday, April 21, 2008
Listen to ROSES GONE by The Ashes.
Hello again! It's good to be back after a week off, though it's a shame we had to let Stu's series go. Great stuff that was.
This week it's back to the archives. Last night I was listening to The Walker Brothers, and settled on a theme for this week: "slow & moody songs from the 60s." These are songs from a particular era of pop music, where it was okay for emotional songs to be a little theatrical, before the rock 'n' roll era made "authenticity" the key quality for any pop music performance, but also before soul music (in particular) went baroque and started putting a premium on vocal gymnastics.
Today is a good example what I'm trying to get at, even if the group is obscure. The Ashes were a West Coast folk group who recorded a couple of singles, and morphed into a group with a well-developed cult following, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. And it's not just for the name--the music is really good!
Roses Gone, as I said, was recorded in 1965 by the group when they were The Ashes, and it's got a great 2 AM quality. I love the slight reverb on Sandi Robison's voice. It's a great performance, which is good, because her voice is basically the entire song. Won't you give it a try?
(By the way, Amy & Martin aren't contributing to the blog this week because they're on an epic (halfway) cross-country road trip this week. You can follow their progress here!)
Photo: Empires State Building series (5).
Friday, April 18, 2008
Listen to LUCKY OLD SUN (Live in studio) by Ólöf Arnalds.
I became aware of Ólöf Arnalds midway through last year after she released her solo debut. It kinda knocked me sideways with it's simplicity and beauty. Nearly a year on and with some perspective i can honestly say that for mine, it's the best album of the past 15 years. Iceland's biggest news paper, Morgunbladid, voted Ólöf's "Vid og Vid" the best Icelandic album of 2007, accompanied by the following words: "On 'Vid og Vid' Ólöf Arnalds opens her heart and lets us in. The music is delicate but never pretentious, the lyrics are tender and the performance altogether prominent, especially the broken vocals. An incredible emotional and warm record which is sure to leave its traces." (Morgunbladid)
I first heard Ólöf cover Lucky Old Sun by Johnny Cash at a 12 Tonar instore during the Iceland Airwaves. Since my dodgy point and shoot camera made a shit sound recording I've been pining for a quality audio version of the track. As she shares a rehearsal space with Amiina, we had the good fortune of using one of their million dollar microphones.
I recorded a couple of sessions with Ólöf while I was in Reykjavik and this was taken from the first. She told me on the way to the studio that she'd recently played a gig where her entire set was comprised of country covers. On that tip she also played a kicking version of Hank Williams Please Don't Let Me Love You along with Neil Diamond's Solitary Man and some new originals.
Since we're winding this series up and it's a family affair, I thought I'd bring in Ólöf's young cousin, Ólafur Arnalds. As well as playing drums in a death metal band, Ólafur happens to make pretty lush classical music with his string quartet. As covers are the order of the day, here's his cover of a Death Cab For Cutie tune.
I hope you've enjoyed the week's tunes. I have no doubt you'll be hearing a lot more from the musicians herein.
These tunes were recorded for an Iceland Music Monthly radio show that i'm set to start producing and presenting soon. The video's are a spin off from the Iceland Airwaves Podcast series that I've been making since 2005. An exhaustive list of the videos from that series can be found here.
Heck, since I'm on a roll, why not have a listen to me talking up the current music scene in Iceland on Zan Rowe's morning program on Australia's Triple J
You'll hear tracks by FM Belfast, Seabear, Hjaltalin, and today's featured artist, Ólöf Arnalds.
Photo: come out and play, by Arnþór Snær.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Listen to ÆJI, PLÍS (live in the studio) by Reykjavik!.
A slight change of pace. I bumped into Haukur, who plays guitar and sings in Reykjavik! one eve while having some hashed fish downtown and he invited me to the band's rehearsal. Turns out they had their friend Jói \7ói recording the session as they were set to go lay down some tracks for their second album the following weekend with famed producer Valgeir Sigurðsson (Bjork, Bonnie Prince Billy).
The track, Æji, plís translates as "Oh, please". Haukur tells me that it is a song that was written about Reykjavík city politics around the time that fine city's majority collapsed. It's a pretty early incarnation of the song and Haukur assures me that the song has shaped up a bit since we recorded it. This band puts on possibly the best live show you'll ever see. I've got a very good feeling that this next album will put them well and truly over the top and I'm not the only one. As Valgeir's Bedroom Community label mate Ben Frost pointed out to me a couple of nights later over a Tapas meal of Puffin, Foal, and Kangaroo, "If I was in A&R, I'd just sign that band already and go live on the beach in the Caribbean". Word to that.
Side note - Reykjavik! share their rehearsal space with a few other bands including Skakkamanage (check the spatial déjà vu here), Amiina, Ólöf Arnalds, and FM Belfast).
Photo: entity, by Arnþór Snær.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Listen to IN THE EARLY MORNING RAIN (live outside his studio) by Benni Hemm Hemm.
(Just to be clear, that's Gordon Lightfoot's In The Early Morning Rain!)
Benni Hemm Hemm has been a fave of mine for a good minute and it's taken me a few visits to Reykjavik be able to organize a session with him. Benni was kind enough to let me come by a little later than we'd planned as i was being fed an outrageously good Chicken Penang curry by FM Belfast's Árni Vilhjálmsson. It turns out that Benni was in a teenage rap group with Árni called Motherfuckers In The House (MITH). By all accounts Benni was a blazing drummer before he followed Dave Grohl's lead in fronting the band. But I digress.
I've selected the second of four tunes that Benedikt H. Hermannsson and Róbert Sturla Reynisson played for me later that evening. I asked Benni if he performed any covers and he said that they'd performed a Gordon Lightfoot tune that I wasn't schooled on. After a quick internet search and lyric printout, the fellas nailed this first take. You may also want to check the first song they played, titled Whaling In The North Atlantic which Benni plans to record for his upcoming album.
Here's the video of today's selection:
Photo: colour scheme, by Stuart Rogers.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Listen to BEAUTY (Live in her Reykjavik lounge room) by Lay Low.
The country-blues of Lay Low is next up in our week long live series from Reykjavik. Like most who made the Easter weekend pilgrimage to Ísafjörður for the Aldrei Fór Ég Suður (I Never Went South) festival, Lovisa Elisabet (who records as Lay Low) returned with a nasty flu. She trucked on regardless when I popped by to record her and managed to complete this one song, Beauty, before she realized that her voice was cactus.
As is the case with many musicians in Iceland, Lovisa is not content with playing in just one band. Her other, Benny Crespo's Gang, are renowned for their guitar driven, synthesized-pop-metal-rock stew. Check out their 10-minute jam Conditional Love here.
Be sure to check out the accompanying videos each day as they feature the sound synced from the featured track. So, without any further ado, the video for Law Low's Beauty (live in her Reykjavik lounge room):
Photo: fresh, by Arnþór Snær.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Listen to TEENAGE KICKS (Live in Studio) by Seabear.
Howdy. Stuart popping by to bring you a week of new Icelandic tunes. Why? For mine, the music coming out of this far flung island is more compelling, unique and fresh than anything out there right now. I'll spare you my tome on why this is for now and instead let the bands and tunes do the talking.
All five of this week's recordings were made in Reykjavik during the last weekend in March. In a 26 hour period I recorded a few dozen songs with 10 bands. I filmed the sessions with a lo-fi point-and-shoot camera and synced the sound that was recorded and mixed for the most part by the bands themselves.
First up is Seabear. I caught the band in their Reykjavik studio during the recording of their second album. They played me a few songs from their debut, "The Ghost That Carried Us Away." This one, a cover of the Undertones' Teenage Kicks, was the third take after Inga tried a couple of different xylophones. The other songs recorded at the session were Seashell and Cat Piano.
(Late update, from the editor: we don't yet have permission to let everyone download the mp3, which is why the link is back to the youtube of the performance. But you can also still stream the song on the right, like usual.)
(Even later update: Permission granted! You can and should download this live track now, at the usual link above. ...plus, enjoy it all properly punctuated)
I hope to see you back here again this week. Enjoy.
Photo: set speed, by Arnþór Snær.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Listen to STRAY CAT STRUT by The Stray Cats.
Listen to TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP by The Romantics.
Jason dropping in.
Wtih Bill's current theme of "Jukebox classics", I've decided to decidedly stay on-piste this time.
I've gone for 2 tracks that leave you awash with over-familiarity and guilty pleasure. And that's the joy of the jukebox - either you're slouched against the 'box in your local, flipping through albums that you haven't heard in eons, looking for that long-forgotten classic; or you're sitting in that same local and someone else puts something on that makes you look around to find others that are experiencing their own silent "hell yeah!".
That's how I feel when I hear these two songs. Reminiscent of 80s music television, bouffant hair and leather. To properly bring you into this, I'm going to have to reach for the vids.
The Stray Cats were a neo-rockabilly band from Long Island, New York. Brian Setzer on vocals, the super-cool Slim Jim Phantom (great name for someone born James McDonnell) on drums and the "I-didn't-really-have-enough-time-to-pick-my-name" Jim Rocker (real name Leon Drucker) on double bass.
The video below is not the poxy "official video" with the wedge-tail hair from 1981. This is the "real" Stray Cats, playing live. Brian Setzer's look begat Pete Doherty and Billie Joe Armstrong and the sassy vocal delivery and lyrics are smooth, but its Rocker's swaggering bass that provides the track with such panache: check out the slap solo at 2:38!
Singing the blues while the lady cats cry
"Wild stray cat, you're a real gone guy."
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
but I got cat class and I got cat style.
The second song was created two years later by The Romantics from Detroit. The Romantics were a boundary band - they crossed the 60s British Invasion sound of the Kinks with the 70s punk of the Ramones. A power-pop song with a new-wave clip - and the video may be the singular one that straddled the transition from 80s pop-big-hair videos to 80s soft-metal-big-hair videos. Think of Duran Duran's "Reflex" performance vid compared with Bon Jovi's "Runaway". The clip even has the old "focus on drummer double-hitting the tom" at 3:00 which I was sure hadn't been "invented" until at LEAST '84 (sheesh!).
Singer Wally Palmar (there are those names again) is the original new wave nerd - you just can't explain that "Anthony Michael Hall" type of coolness (I NEED to learn that little sway he does at 3:16). Man, to my then-teen eyes, these guys were the bomb.
You know, in writing this, I've watched The Romantics vid about 20 times - seems I just can't get enough of it (I'm not alone - 43,500 views on YouTube and counting). I'm struggling to think of another vid that embodies the 80s any better. Jukebox please!
Photo: PLACE DES VOSGES, PARIS, 2003. Photo taken by Jason Bryant.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Listen to LET ME BE THERE by Olivia Newton-John.
Australia's greatest export in a country stylee. This was her first big international hit (I say international because who knows what she was up to down under before this), and as everyone knows, she got her start as a kind of watered down Linda Rondstadt/John Denver countryish songstress. Let Me Be There was so big it hit top 10 in the U.S. pop charts, and so good that it won a Grammy. Oh, and Elvis loved the song and sang it repeatedly.
Readers may detect a bit of snark today, and I really should do better. I'm listening to the song, though, and it sounds exactly like a different song and my failure to pin it down is making me irritable. That, and those brain-piercing synth strings and the totally, totally odd bass vocalist she's singing with. This isn't from Australia, it's from an earworm factory.
17th Street (4)House on 21st Street.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Listen to BLANKET ON THE GROUND by Billie Jo Spears.
Blanket On The Ground was a huge hit in 1975, but it missed me in the womb. The first time I heard it was on a random "not available in stores"-style compilation. Really the only thing people know about Ms. Spears (no relation) these days is that she had a bluesy voice that sounds a little between Loretta Lynn and Jeanie C. Riley (weaker voice than, stronger voice than, respectively).
But whether you've heard this song a hundred times or never, I'd like to call attention to how well arranged it is. How smoothly the band drops out before each verse and how they come back in Beatles style one at a time to really drive the song forward. Nice fuzz bass too.
If you like this song, I have to recommend that you go back to Stu and Ben's radio show from Saturday. Ben dug up this ridiculously funny/good track in the country-girl-goes-to-the-city-then-back-to-the-country vein, called Mr. Walker, It's All Over. It's really fun.
Photo: 17th Street (3).
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Listen to APARTMENT 21 by Bobbie Gentry.
Apartment 21 was just about Bobbie Gentry's last charting single before she went all Salinger. It was so good it didn't even chart on the country side! Seriously, though it's obviously much less well known than Ode To Billie Joe, it's a great song--easily my favorite of hers. She sounds so mellow and in control. Also, the production on the record is so fine. A little conga, a little fuzz guitar (stolen from the Carpenters?), a little flutey keyboard, plus the strings are so tasteful (must be why it bombed in Nashville). Many times I've floated down the street with her la-lala, la-lala, lala-la-las on my mind.
Even so, as the single only hit #81 on the pop charts, no matter how classic it is it's probably not on many jukeboxes. That's a shame isn't it?
Photo: 17th Street (2).
Monday, April 7, 2008
Listen to GOODBYE TO LOVE by The Carpenters.
Stu and I have decided to postpone for another week his sure-to-be amazing series on contemporary Icelandic music (and by contemporary, I mean stuff that hasn't been heard anywhere--seriously, I'm excited about it), but til then you're stuck with me another week. I've been enjoying these jukebox classics, so let's have some more.
Because basically any obscure single from the 70s or 80s could conceivably fit our criterion, let's limit ourselves a bit again. Singles featuring female vocalists in a country-ish vein, that's what we'll do. ...Well, today's song isn't too country, it's classic soft rock.
Goodbye To Love was released as a single on June 19, 1972, but it was the first Carpenters single since Ticket To Ride not to reach number one. Don't let that discourage you, though, it really is one of the best, and most enduring, Carpenters singles, with a great vocal by Karen (though sorry to burst your bubble, it's not Karen on drums--that's Hal Blaine) (and before I forget my audience, yes, The Carpenters were a great group. I accepted this a long time ago and forget that lots of people look down on them. They shouldn't).
Having said that, let's keep things in perspective. One thing I enjoy about Wikipedia entries for musicians is that they're not necessarily written by critics. In fact, as a general rule, they're written by whoever has the most enthusiasm for the job, i.e., fanboys. The Goodbye To Love entry is a nice example. You may not know it, but it's an innovative song! See: "with its fuzz guitar solo in the center of a "middle of the road" (MOR) song (which had not been tried before)," Goodbye To Love "had a significant impact on the power ballads which were released afterwards." Well, how about that!
Photo: 17th Street (1).
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Dear friends and family,
For the 20th anniversary of the MS Walk (and my 10th anniversary participating), a group of students at my school have agreed to walk the 10 mile route on April 13th.
Many of my students need to raise at least $50 to participate. Won't you support them by donating on their behalf? I typically ask you to support me, but this year I am asking you to support them since they care!
If interested, please follow this link, choose a student and donate some $$ using the web site:
Want to walk? Join the team through the same link and ask your friends to donate!
We thank you!
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The less said about today's match, the better, so instead I'll report that Amy and I attended the Beach House concert at the Bowery Ballroom this week. This was kind of a superfluous act of devotion, since they play the songs pretty straight live relative to what's on record. Also, Amy pointed out that hearing them live you start to notice that their main trick is a slow-building crescendo of Victoria's voice and organ, but I don't mind that. As I've said before, I think the album is excellent and you all should buy it.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Listen to STIR UP PROBLEMS (McSLEAZY BOOTLEG) by Charlatans v Jay-Z.
Jason dropping in.
I've never been a big fan of the Charlatans. They were one of those Indie breeds who promised much in the music but never raised it above the level. And their song "Stir It Up" is a perfect example. The guitar riff builds but the song just drifts...
...and drifting is kinda what I've been up to recently. Just back from a snowboarding trip in Austria, I'd made a shuffle comp for the mountain which turned out to be 108 songs. On random, I probably only heard half of them (not including when my shuffle decided to play the same 3 songs in "random" because it was a widdle bit cold.)
But, hands down, the pick of the mix turned out to be this.
Jay-Z's "99 Problems" has been mashed to death, but it works in many places because its such a laconic, iconic delivery. This mash completes "Stir It Up". It takes the Charlatans riff, overlays Jay-Z's story....but most crucially it drops a bass at 0:40 which must have only come from Scottish DJ McSleazy (who impressed enough to join the Charlatans on tour).
Just imagine beginning your run down the mountain....the riff begins....the bass kicks in.....and then its a whole new drift...
A shout out to the trip's board brothers - Boss Hogg, Rubber Ducky, Prescious, Sheriff, Shrek, A$$ Helmet and The Freak.
PS I have no idea how many people read Bill's ballistic blog...but if you're interested in the other 107 songs from the mountain mash, just comment and ask for a song. I'll post a reply to each one with another from the mix. Let's see how far it goes.
PPS Props to McSleazy for agreeing that Depeche Mode's "Violator" is the "best synth pop album in history".
Photo: ZELL AM SEE, 2008. Photo taken by Jason Bryant
Thursday, April 3, 2008
On the occasion of my mom's XXXXtieth birthday, my friend (and like Philip, "occasional commenter") John and I visited the top of the World Trade Center to give her a visual birthday message (see the title of this post).
Amazingly, that was ten years ago. Happy Birthday Mom!
To the rest of you, enjoy Jason's "off piste" selection tomorrow, and we'll see you back here soon.
Listen to SHE'S GONE by Hall & Oates.
We're fair and balanced here, so today we present you a counterexample to the thesis that all pop songs should be under three-and-a-half minutes. Most of you know She's Gone by Hall & Oates. Let me clarify: most of you know the 3:28 version of She's Gone, and frankly, it's awful. Not because the song is bad--the song is brilliant--but whoever edited down the 5:17 LP version (posted here today) down to the 3:28 radio edit should have their monkey license revoked. (But whoever directed this video should be given it back.)
I won't bother posting the radio edit here, but it's a real Frankenstein's monster. There's a brutal edit at the fifty second mark, the sax solo is strangled, the tempo changes abruptly because it doesn't have a chance to breathe.
The LP version, by contrast, eases you into it, and has a much more honest, organic feel to it.
Photo: Merritt Parkway (4).
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Listen to EYE IN THE SKY by The Alan Parsons Project.
Another from roughly the same period. Eye In The Sky is one that really scared me as a kid. This one and In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins were the ones that would give me the chills. (Speaking of, and since we're talking about Alan Parsons, have you seen those Dark Side of the Rainbow youtubes? Eerie.)
I can't really say why Eye In The Sky scared me, or even why it holds up well today. I think it's another one of those songs that has charm, because the singing isn't quite as polished as the rest of the production.
But it's also a song that would make a good exhibit in my campaign to force pop songs to stop after three and a half minutes. Those radio DJs in the 50s and 60s who wouldn't play anything over four minutes weren't dumb--there's only so much 99% of artists can put into a song without running out of ideas after a couple of minutes.
Eye In The Sky has an excellent lyric, and an excellent sense of dread, especially in that keyboard figure. They should have done a couple of verses, and then ridden those creepy keys right on out. Instead, the Project had to make it plain they were out of original thoughts by doing one last modulated verse and a totally lame and pointless guitar solo. Just like 689,543 other too long pop tunes. It could've been a classic, but now it's just a jukebox classic.
Photo: Merritt Parkway (3).
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Listen to WE DON'T TALK ANYMORE by Cliff Richard.
This is such a strange song for me. I am as big an anglophile as I hope you'll ever meet--collecti[ng] NMEs in college, knowing more about the Johnstone's Paint Trophy than who made the Final Four, to name two examples of thousands, but every once in awhile, I'm reminded I don't actually know much about that culture at all. Like, how do you explain Cliff Richard?
When I read the man's biography, I don't even know where to start. It reads like it's in a foreign language, I don't recognize any of it. I don't know any of the Shadows tunes, I don't know any of the scores of movies he's been in, I can't fathom how he's had a chart hit in England each of the last six (!) decades (today's song gave him his only chart-topper in the 70s). The man has had like 140 singles, he's bigger than Elvis over there. Yet the only song I know, and what reminds me that at the end of the day, I'm an American, is We Don't Talk Anymore.
This 1979 tune hit pretty well over here, and I think even had an MTV video, which is where I think I first heard it, as a 1st grader. It's a good tune, but nothing too special, which makes me wonder why I always play it on every jukebox I can. It must be patriotism.
Photo: Merritt Parkway (2).