Saturday, August 7, 2010
I ordered it on Amazon, from a seller who offered it in new shrinkwrapped condition at a slightly lower price than retail. But this seller was special, as he used some interesting LP covers to protect the Devo album: Barbra Streisand's Superman, George Chakiris' Memories Are Made of These, and the original soundtrack to You Light Up My Life.
This seller gets Devo, and he gets me.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
(Tip: At 'embedding disabled' message, click Watch on YouTube. Press F5 to skip any advertising that might pop up.)
Could this be the defining song of Iggy's long and storied career? I lean toward "yes."
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Emotionally it feels a bit like this.
I was taking a long walk several weeks ago and the Rush song "Marathon" came on the iPod; the perfect song for that moment. It wasn't the direct reason I signed up today, but it did start me thinking. The lyrics do inspire me:
You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
Lyricist Neil Peart, in an interview with Canadian Composer magazine, said the song "is about the triumph of time and a kind of message to myself (because I think life is too short for all the things that I want to do), there's a self-admonition saying that life is long enough. You can do a lot -- just don't burn yourself out too fast trying to do everything at once. Marathon is a song about individual goals and trying to achieve them." Couldn't agree more, Neil!
Musically, the song starts grandly with some big chords, then kicks into a nice loping beat with a killer bass riff. Great walking pace!
See you down the road!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
He sang an Italian version of Space Oddity, titled "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola," which literally translates as "Lonely Girl, Lonely Boy."
The original "Space Oddity" was Bowie's first hit song, and blew me away when it came out in 1969. The title was a play on the great Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and also tapped into the zeitgeist surrounding the US/Russia race to the moon. The lyrics, however, are not so much about space travel, but of isolation and hopelessness.
He became famous and I became an instant fan.
Getting back to the Italian version: According to the liner notes of the recent reissue of the album Space Oddity, Ivan Mogul had written the lyrics for a cover by the Italian group, Computers, and Bowie used those lyrics as well. But here's the funny part: The lyrics had nothing at all to do with the original song!
Tell me lonely boy where are you going,
Why so much pain?
(See Italian and translated English lyrics here.)
Bowie, not knowing the difference in the lyrics, learned them all phonetically and sang this version, not knowing the words portrayed a much more conventional story of love. (The liner notes conclude, though, that he "took it well.")
Mogul went on to write another Italian translation, recorded by I Giganti (The Giants) in 1970, which, after a truly spacey opening, breaks into beautiful multi-part harmony. I Giganti sings "Corri Uomo Corri" (Run Man Run).
To round out the European covers, a French version was recorded in 1971 by Gerard Palaprat, titled "Un Homme a Disparu Dans le Ciel" (A Man Who Fell From The Sky). That alternate title is interesting, as Bowie would star in a movie 5 years later titled "The Man Who Fell To Earth."
The song "Fill Your Heart" from Hunky Dory (1971) was written by Biff Rose and Paul Williams, and was originally recorded by Tiny Tim as the B-side to his hit "Tiptoe Through The Tulips." (And what a grand version that was! No irony intended.)
Over the 40-plus years of Bowie's career, very few of his songs have been what you would call "optimistic," as he tends to focus on existential themes of the human condition such as loneliness, mortality and angst. But the lyrics are fearlessly positive, which should've tipped me off. They begin:
Fill your heart with love today
Don't play the game of time
A real change of pace for a guy known for song titles like "The Man Who Sold The World," and "I'm Afraid of Americans" (me too, Dave!).
Well, here's the original in all it's glory. I love it:
The album it appeared on, The Thorn In Mrs. Rose's Side, is wonderful from first track to last, and if this song appeals to you, is worth checking out. It provides a nice little mood lift in between Bowie discs.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The album artwork (strangely, a deep blue) entranced me but the song "Hush" really blew my mind (man) and I became an instant fan. Up until then, I had enjoyed the occasional AM radio hit: The Beatles, The Monkees (on the same level as far as I knew then - hah!), The Turtles, etc. But this was hard rock - a doorway to a new, more powerful, more exciting world of music.
I recently came across this "live in the mansion" version. Clearly the stars of the show were Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and Jon Lord on keyboards. (I also couldn't help noticing that none of the ladies had breast implants in those days - nice.)
Up until now, I hadn't thought much about whether Deep Purple wrote the song or not. Turns out, they didn't, Joe South did. However, he wrote it for a fellow Alabaman, Billy Joe Royal, which peaked at number 52 on the US charts in 1967:
Then, I found out that Australian Russell Morris had covered the song in 1968, several months before Deep Purple released theirs. It reached #15 on the Australian charts (though I doubt very many Americans heard it at the time). There's an innocent charm not found in other versions:
Russell is still performing it in 2010 , a little slower but with more soul.
There have been a handful of other interesting covers, including an over-the-top French performance by Johnny Hallyday (a comination of Rod Stewart, Roger Daltrey and Tom Jones) from 1969; a 1992 metal version by Gotthard, most notable for the sexy pics accompanying the video, and a spirited version by the UK's Kula Shaker from 1996.
But at the top of Hush mountain, Joe South stands tall as the originator of the song, and to my ears the most soulful. This performance, recorded in 1969, is "more than brilliant, it is electric, innovative" as Joe Viglione writes on Allmusic.com. Backing vocals, impassioned lead vocal, thumping bass, swing, this song just kicks it on all levels. Turn it up!
Sadly, Joe South will never be as well known as some other names associated with this song, but he deserves to be. At least we know...
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I sometimes lose faith that modern rock bands can actually write hooks and complete songs like they used to (read pre-2000's). Take for example Caribou's latest, Swim, which just bleeps along amiably but doesn't really amount to anything, song-wise (despite the warm AMG review).
But the New Pornographers (unfortunate name, that - still awkward to tell friends about them) just keep cranking out one memorable song after another. And it's not just great "power pop," either, as there's real emotional weight to a lot of their songs. For example, check out "Challengers," from the album of the same title.
The NP's are one of the few bands that when I hear they have a new release out, I just order it retail, no questions asked - my way of saying, "I really respect this band and want to support them."
Here's one of Bejar's songs with a trippy video, to give you a sample of what he adds to the band:
And so, just out today, the new album: Together. (Allmusic review.) Here's the Amazon listing, only $7.99 plus shipping! Judging by the song samples, I'm not going to be disappointed.
Love that album art, too...it's got a magical, hard-to-define quality about it. Click image to enlarge:
Can't wait for it to arrive and play it in the Corolla for full Car-Surround Sound!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The Creation, "How Does It Feel To Feel"
1967 was a time a great social contrast: Peace movements, hippies, mind expanding drugs and free love, as well as violence, race riots and escalation in Vietnam. The Creation, a mod band from England, seemed to straddle both sides of the times with this song:
The lyrics start out darkly and would make Edgar Allen Poe proud:
How does it feel when a shadow moves you
How does it feel rustles by your bed
How does it feel when it finally holds you
How does it feel when you're thinking your dead
but then the mood lifts:
How does it feel when you wake in the morning
How does it feel feeling sun in the shade
How does it feel when you slide down a sunbeam
How does it feel bursting clouds on your way
How does it feel now that the night is over
Maybe it was the harshness and feedback of the guitars that turned listeners off, who weren't quite ready for the sound that would make groups like Led Zeppelin huge in a couple of years. So maybe it was a case of "ahead of their time?"
In 1994, the Oxfordshire, England group Ride did a nice cover of it. Critics have called Ride a "neo-psychedelic" band, and this really cemented their reputation.
I liked their original songs the best, though, especially 1992's Going Blank Again.
Monday, April 12, 2010
I was very disappointed to read this today:
After releasing a collection of classic singles and six great studio albums, [Supergrass] announce that we've split due to the 17 year itch. We are playing 4 farewell shows in June, details to follow. “Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years. We still love each other but, cliché notwithstanding, musical differences have led to us moving on and of course we all wish each other well in the future”
The Oxford-based band has been my other favorite "Super" band for the past 15 years. (I wrote about Super Furry Animals in a previous post.) I'm sad because I know that many people haven't even discovered them yet! Now it'll have to be posthumously. I've been planning to write one of those "Why I love Supergrass" posts for some time now. So, I guess now is the time.
A few reasons why I love(d) this band:
- Good singing. Lead singer Gaz Coombes has a distinctive voice with great range. Plus they do multi-part harmonies frequently, which makes the music more multidimensional.
- Song topics that go beyond "power pop." Here's a sample lyric, from "Mama & Papa:"
Walk in the park, and it's getting dark, and I don't wanna be alone,
Miss my Mummy and I miss my Daddy won't you please bring them back home,
Tire of the trail as the daylight fails and the shadows of the east do grow,
Miss my Mummy and I miss my Daddy won't you please bring them back home
- An ever-present sense of silliness lurking in the depths. Well, they were silly quite often on their first album, with songs like "Mansize Rooster" and "Caught By The Fuzz." They got more serious as time went on, yet never lost that ability to have a laugh, musically, like on "Coffee In The Pot" from 2005's Road To Rouen (love that album title!).
- And most importantly, of course, they never lost the ability to create memorable songs & hooks, sometimes beautiful, sometimes rocking. When I need some grounding, something new yet familiar, to take a break from my daily listens to newest releases, I often put on a Supergrass album.
One of their strong suits has always been their videos, and if you like the music, I highly recommend you pick up their DVD "Supergrass Is 10: The Best of 1994-2004." Beware though, it's been "discontinued by manufacturer" and will probably become a hard-to-find collector's item soon.
My favorite Supergrass video,
“Pumping On Your Stereo”
Here's one of their harder rocking songs. From their second album winkingly (and ironically) titled In It For The Money, with a noir-ish video:
“Richard III." Bonus points for using a Theremin!
And from one of their more commercially successful albums, Life On Other Planets:
My second favorite video, and a great song to boot, is "We Still Need More" which features the boys driving a car off a ramp through a pyramid of TV's. How cool is that?
They're playing 4 final shows early this summer, and damn, they're playing London and Paris just days before I go there on vacation! :-(
It's been a good run boys; over twice as long as the Beatles made it, so well done, and best of luck in your future endeavors!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
In honor of St. Patrick's day, I've put together a few peak moments of my favorite Irish band (sorry, U2).
Most fans of 70's rock are quite familiar with Lizzy's breakthrough (so to speak) release from 1976, Jailbreak, featuring one of the all-time radio classics "The Boys Are Back In Town," as well as highlights "Cowboy Song" and "Jailbreak."
But I also love their earlier stuff, when they were a funkier three piece, with Eric Bell on guitar. This track is from 1971...you can certainly hear the Hendrix influence but (forgive my sacrilege) I actually prefer Lynott's voice.
Another early highlight was a traditional folk song cover, which in turn was nicely covered later by Metallica. (See that video here. It scares me how much this reminds me of my college days!)
In 1973, Thin Lizzy let rip with one of the greatest songs ever about rocking out (you gotta love the 70's when it was cool to do that), called, obviously enough,
"The Rocker." This is an abbreviated version. Check out the full studio version, where they really, er, rock out.
But they could do ballads, too. This really set them apart from a lot of the hard rocking bands of their time.
They lost their classic "twin guitar" lineup of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson in the late 70's but issued one last great album in 1979, Black Rose: A Rock Legend, featuring a pyrotechnical Gary Moore just before he hung up the black leather pants and went all blues. Here's the lead track from that album. I love the lyrics:
Sadly, it was not to last. After a few more albums with diminishing results, Phil passed away from heart failure (he played hard in more ways than one) in 1986 at the ridiculously young age of 35.
Happy St. Paddy's Day, Phil and the rest. All you surviving members: Keep rockin!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
So, my first official “best of” for 2010: Yeasayer’s “Madder Red” from their second album Odd Blood. It doesn’t rock out, it doesn’t have an “oh wow” hook, but it gets by on cool charm and a slightly retro vibe:
Nice tune, with vocals that remind me of mid-70’s Moody Blues. The whole album is quite an aural extravaganza, with enough musical weirdness to keep it interesting, but not so much as to completely disorient the senses (see Animal Collective).
Allmusic.com review of Odd Blood.
As for OK Go, you’ve probably already see them, but just in case, here are the two videos of “This Too Shall Pass,” both worth checking out:
Marching Band version
Rube Goldberg Machine version
I actually like the lyrics as well (usually an important consideration for a Best Of compilation), but I had to listen without video before I could really focus on them. Mysterious yet hopeful:
You can't stop these kids from dancin'.
Why would you want to?
Especially when you're already gettin' yours.
'Cause if your mind don't move and your knees don't bend,
well don't go blamin' the kids again.
Let it go
This too shall pass
Sunday, February 21, 2010
So I risked the eight bucks and bought it. Turns out Palmer had already moved on by the recording of this, their third album, but it was a satisfying purchase anyway: A good mesh of heavy rock and funky jams, with strong singing by one-and-done member Pete French. The remastering sounds great, too.
So, I did a little reading to find out what album Carl Palmer did play on, and it turns out only the first, self-titled Atomic Rooster from 1969. Check out the sample below, especially starting at the 1:39 mark: An early sign of drumming greatness to come in the 70’s! (It's also interesting to hear how much keyboard whiz Vincent Crane sounded like Keith Emerson – or was it the other way around?)
I’ll be checking out the other Rooster remaster, Death Walks Behind You, very soon.
As for what happened to Palmer after he left the Rooster? If you’re a fan of "sabre rattling" (Palmer's phrase) prog rock, you are already well familiar with Palmer’s work with E,L&P in 70’s. I’ve never quite decided who I liked more, Palmer or Rush’s Neil Peart – but hey, why not a tie?
Flashing forward a bit, I saw the Carl Palmer Band in Portland a couple of years ago and was amazed at how great he plays still. They played a bunch of classic ELP songs, taking a break in between each so Palmer could tell some stories and tall tales of the 70’s (which the audience loved), as well as catch his breath for the next song, which was quite understandable, as these songs require incredible power and speed. He also revealed a great sense of humor, which was a nice surprise.
It was fascinating to see how they transposed the very difficult keyboard parts to guitar!
As an added bonus for the night, he appeared after the concert to sign (purchased) items – hey, a guy’s gotta make a living now that record sales don’t do it! – and I was thrilled to obtain a set of drumsticks. I also got the bass and guitar players to sign them and had a little conversation – very nice folks, all.
There are two CDs available that capture this latest incarnation of the CPB experience, and they’re both quite good (and apparently a 3rd volume is set to be released very soon).
Working Live, Vol. 1
Working Live, Vol. 2
I’ll leave you with a story from my college days. I was living in a dorm with my best friend from high school, but our relationship was becoming strained due to his interest in funk and disco, and my persistent passion for heavy rock. "Stereo wars" ensued with the main loser being our ability to concentrate on homework. He had posters of bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament Funkadelic, and I had a poster of Carl Palmer circa the Works, Vol. 1 album. One morning, I saw my poster lying at the foot of his bed. I said,
“Ed, why is my Carl Palmer poster lying at the foot of your bed?”
He replied, “You won’t believe me if I tell you.”
“Give it a try.”
“Okay… In the middle of the night, you stood up in your bed, carefully pulled the poster off your wall, laid it on the floor in front of me, and got back in bed. I tried to ask you what you were doing, but you wouldn’t answer and went right back to sleep. I’m pretty sure you were sleepwalking.”
“I guess my subconscious was trying to tell you something, that rock really is better.”
“I guess so, but I still love my funk.”
I’ll never know for sure if he was telling the truth about the sleepwalking, but why would he lie? I had done it before (and after) so it’s not too hard to believe. It would have been nice to be able to tell Mr. Palmer that story when he was signing my drumsticks but all I could manage was “Your playing has meant so much to me; thank you.”
Oh, the thousands of stories he could hear if fans all had their chance to tell him…
Official Carl Palmer Website
p.s. I know he got his start touring with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (but didn't appear on the album), and sold about a gazillion records with Asia in the 80's, as well as experience with lesser-known groups P.M. and 3, but those bands didn't really showcase his special talent at the drums, so I will leave those phases for another time and/or place.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The first time I came across David Byrne’s music was with the Talking Heads and their 1977 song “Psycho Killer.”
At the time, I cited the simplistic song structure, considered them just another offshoot of the new punk movement, dismissively predicted they wouldn’t go very far. (My favorite bands at the time were prog rockers like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.) Wow, was I off on that one! They not only became hugely popular through the 80s, but became one of my favorite bands (as well as turning out one of my Top 10 songs of all-time, "Once In A Lifetime").
Click here for Kermit the Frog's interpretation of this classic.
They hit a creative peak in 1984. I saw this concert when it came through Portland, and was quite unprepared for just how great it would be. It's somewhere at the top of my list of Best Concerts Ever.
There wasn't much room to grow from there however, and they released their last album in 1988. Although many people still bemoan the end of the band, I can certainly see why Byrne felt it was time to move on.
He hardly missed a beat though: While with the Heads, he had released three side projects: In 1981, the futuristic (and sampleriffic) My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with Brian Eno; also in 1981, the soundtrack to The Catherine Wheel with choreographer extraordinaire Twyla Tharp; and in 1985, a set of musical interludes for a Robert Wilson opera, The Knee Plays.
Then one year after the last Talking Heads album, Byrne released his first solo album proper in 1989, Rei Momo, which expanded on his interest in Latin music. My favorite of his Latin-themed albums was his next, 1992's Uh Oh.
He returned the debt to his Latin influences by forming the label Luaka Bop and releasing music by (and exposing me to) his favorite South American artists, including Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso, and Jorge Ben.
In addition, Byrne wrote orchestral scores, for Robert Wilson's play The Forest and most notably for the film (and Oscar Winner) The Last Emperor.
In 2008, Byrne released a second project with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which is beautiful, almost spiritual music, while still catchy and warm. Well worth checking out.
Now he can add “author” and “bicycle rack designer” to his resume: The Bicycle Diaries, published in 2009, is a collection of observations from his bike travels around the world, as well as musings on the human condition. I wouldn't call it scholarly, in spite of the inside picture:
I recommend it; consider it some time spent with an interesting and informative friend.
This year’s (2010) project looks intriguing: A collaboration with “Brit-hop” producer Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) – a logical matchup if ever there was one – a funky musical journey exploring the life and times of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love, coming out in February. I’m really looking forward to it! Here’s a sampler:
And all the while, he continues to play concerts with inventive touches like interpretive dancers and (now expected) additional musicians to add new life to the old hits, as well as the solo numbers. I caught his show in Portland last fall, and the surprise appearance of San Francisco’s Extra Action Marching Band for the encore was a special treat.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Then, in keeping with the principle of synchronicity, the next album I put on was "Dimensions" (also from 2009) by Australia's psych/pop band The Lovetones, which featured the track "Love & Redemption." Just lovely. Notice a common theme?
Note: Weezer's tune is not the same as the Stylistics' 1974 pre-disco song by the same name:
Sunday, January 17, 2010
(I couldn't find any samples of this song on the internet, so I made one myself.)
One article I read called this "crossover-prog," which is as close as one could get to categorizing this wonderful, slightly wacky music. If you haven't heard Kayak's 1975 album Royal Bed Bouncer, track it down. Tuneful and joyful; it never gets old. If this appeals to you, check out their other three early albums (Kayak, See See The Sun, The Last Encore). It's timeless music that fits any mood.
I'm also happy to say that after breaking up in the 80's, they reformed in the 2000's and are still recording and performing. Check them out: Kayak homepage
(Thanks again Steve, for giving me this album out of the blue, back when we were teens. I've still got it!)
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Then, there was a dire prediction for 2010, of overpopulation and competition for scarce resources:
Fortunately, we haven’t quite gotten there according to the Census, which informs that we’re at about 6.8 billion people on the earth as of December 2009. (Still too many, but not too late to do something.)
But further dystopia is on the horizon for 2019, according to Ridley Scott (soundtrack by Vangelis)
And things will get pretty restrictive around 2112:
Beyond that, from 2525 on, things just get worse:
Well, with all these dire prognostications, is it any wonder I like the music of bands like Yes and Nektar, whose spacey/futuristic lyrics and album-long works of music reveal a powerful tendency toward radical positivism*. These guys were “green” way before it was fashionable:
Let it grow, you know you need no sympathy
You don’t realize how much you needed me
you will never realize it’s better when you give
'Cos your life is longer than you live
The laws of nature are to heal the wounds of man
Use them right and they will help you if they can
Wrongly used and you’ll only harm yourself
Then it’s too late to come to me for help
Don’t walk away give it a chance
Let it grow!
(From Remember The Future, 1975)
Nektar (pre-MTV) video of “Let It Grow” in 1974
Without music like this (and Yes), I don’t think I could bear to think about our future.
* A term introduced to me by Bill Martin in his book Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock