Archive for the ‘Brian Wilson’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 4, 2019] Pete Lee

Exactly one year ago S. and I attended the Brian Wilson Christmas Special.  This year we were in Philly for the She and Him Christmas Party.  Clearly December 4 is the day for Christmas specials!

A few days before the show (we were the first stop on the tour) it was announced that comedian Pete Lee would be opening the East Coast dates while Patton Oswalt would be opening the West Coast dates.  (It’s not often that I wish I was on the West Coast, but this is one of those times).

I had never heard of Pete Lee. When I looked him up I saw this on his bio:

Pete Lee was the first stand-up comedian to get a standing ovation on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and it resulted in him appearing on the show three times in the last year.


That’s all I read before the show.  But looking at the bio after the show I see that it really does sum him up pretty well:

Pete’s joyful humor comes from his Midwestern roots. Raised in Janesville, WI by divorced parents and a 19-inch television, he was destined to pursue a career in entertainment.


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[ATTENDED: December 4, 2018] Brian Wilson

I have never been a huge beach Boys fan.  They’re just not my thing–especially the early stuff.  And yet, at the same time, I know all of their hits and will undoubtedly sing along to every one of them.  So the thought of seeing Brian Wilson (especially at the stage in his life) never really appealed.

And then he announced this short tour in which he and his band and special guests would be doing The Christmas Album, I was on board because I love his Christmas album What I Really Want for Christmas.  It’s probably my favorite Christmas album.  So as soon as I saw the show was in Englewood (the closest place to my house, but not exactly close) I bought S. and I tickets.  She is a bigger Beach Boys fan than I and has seen them live before.

Not being a huge Beach Boys fan, however, meant that I didn’t know that “The Christmas Album” was the name of the Beach Boys Christmas Album from 1964.  So it wasn’t the album that I wanted–boo!  But I guess I should have realized that a showed billed as Brian Wilson presents The Christmas Album Live with special guests Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, would not be exactly what I thought it would be anyhow.  I mean I’m still not exactly sure who Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin are. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 4, 2018] Beat Root Revival

I had called BergenPAC to see if Brian Wilson would have an opening act and I was told it was Beat Root Revival.  I hadn’t heard of them and they sounded interesting, so I had hoped to get there in time to see them.

I didn’t quite know where BergenPAC was, so we arrived in Englewood a little later than I intended.  We also needed to grab a slice before the show–it’s awkward to have to drive through dinner.  So we walked in during the duo’s first or second song.

So just who is this band (which I misunderstood as Beet Root Revival at first).  They describes themselves:

Beat Root Revival are a multi-instrumentalist roots duo, combining elements of Folk, Blues, Country and Rock n Roll to create a foot stomping, melodic sound, made up of power house harmonic vocalists Andrea Magee and Ben Jones.  Originally from England and Ireland, Ben Jones and Andrea Magee came to the USA 3 years ago like their ancestors before them, looking for a new life and to share their music far and wide.

And that really sums them up nicely. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN WILSON-What I Really Want for Christmas (2005).

I was never really a fan of The Beach Boys. I mean, sure I liked some of their songs, but to this day I don’t even own Pet Sounds.  Shocking right?

So I was flabbergasted to find out how much I liked this Christmas album.   It’s partly his voice, but also the backing vocals and the wonderful arrangements that really make this disc special.  I also really love that he wrote some originals to go with the traditional carols (and his own earlier songs).

“The Man with All the Toys” Brian updates his own song for this record.
“What I Really Want for Christmas” I really like this new song, written by Brian and co-written by Bernie Taupin.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” I love the way this is sort of undersung, almost casual and fun for a religious song.
“O Holy Night” I love this song in general, but the production on this is terrific.
“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” I love hearing the bass harmonica on this song.  And of course that they sing about figgy pudding.  The backing vocal notes and flute are also quite lovely.

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” I love that he doesn’t try to falsetto this song up–his voice is great at the tone he chose.  “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” More bass harmonica and great backing vocals.  “The First Noel” Sung slowly and beautifully with (again) great backing harmonies.

“Christmasey” Written with Jimmy Webb this is my favorite “new” Christmas song.  The music is great and the lyrics are wonderful.  “It didn’t snow but we all agree its so Christmasey.”   “Little Saint Nick” I just like that his voice is deeper–I like this version better than the original even though it’s almost exactly the same.

“Deck the Halls” Guitar and “Wooweeooo” backing vocals make this a fun version of this song.  “Auld Lang Syne” is delightful in this a capella version.

“On Christmas Day” This is fun song with a really catchy chorus.  “Joy to the World” Some great backing vocals on this song and a cool vocal melody at the end of each verse.  “Silent Night” is one final a capella number.

Maybe I should check out this Pet Sounds after all.

[READ: December 18, 2017] “Chemistry”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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I used to not like Christmas songs very much.  Mostly because they;re unavoidable at the holidays but also because if you subject yourself to radio and mall versions, you get a really really bad selection of tunes.  The lowest common denominator of low denominators.

Sarah is a huge fan of Christmas music (even intentionally putting on Magic ninety-eight point threeeeeeeeee) during the holiday season (which may indeed be 50/50 when it comes to music and commercials and which tends to play quite a bit off my least-favorite song list, but they at least mix it up).  And, buying some of our own Christmas music (including alternate versions and new songs) has really helped get the monotony out of our mix.

This is a list that I created in 2008 and I see that it hasn’t really changed much at all.  There are some albums that we have recently acquired which I haven’t digested enough to see if they rank here or not.  But perhaps by the end of the holiday I’ll have a new post about new favorites.

Sarah’s comments are in red.  And, interestingly, she has created her own favorites list on her site.  Let’s see if anything has changed for her.

So, here’s my favorite Christmas songs circa 2008. (more…)

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I received my second issue of Prospect magazine just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I’m pleased to say that this issue not only confirmed my suspicions of the magazine, it actually impressed me a little bit more.  And it sort of made me wish I had done something similar with all the magazines:  do a write up and then see how the latest issue compares (but I won’t).

I’m not going to go into extravagant detail with this issue, since I just wrote about the previous issue, but I wanted to mention the article that I was not only fascinated by, but that made me wonder why I had to cross the Atlantic to read about them. (more…)

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After getting the dislikes out of my system, it’s time to bring in the positivity.  Now that I have a lot of different Christmas discs to choose from, I don’t get inundated with the same songs over and over.  This has really allowed me to appreciate the old songs for what they are.

So, here’s 12 things I like about the holiday tune season (in no particular order)

1. “O Holy Night”
oholyI feel like I never really knew this song until I heard Cartman getting cattle-prodded for not knowing the words.   I listened to that version all the time (but I can’t tell if I like that version or the one on Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics better [“Fall on your knees, and hear the angels… something” “VOICES!”]), and what it did was give me a real appreciation for what a cool song this is.  The chord changes are very satisfying without being really obvious.  And, it’s not an easy song to sing.  But I have liked every tooversion I’ve heard: from Cartman to Avril Lavigne (whose first two verses on Maybe This Christmas, Too are the most vibrato-free singing I have ever heard.  I’m quite certain she’s flat all the way through, and yet her voice is so unaffected it’s totally disconcerting.  Tell me what you think…it’s available here).

Sarah: This truly is a beautiful song and I love all its versions as well, from Cartman to Tracy Chapman. I’m not a religious person but I always feel a little holy when I sing this. (more…)

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Last year I listed my 12 favorite Christmas discs.  This year I figured I’d do 12 gripes and 12 raves about Christmas music in general.  Of course, I’ll start with my gripes.

Note: This list only includes songs that we personally own (mostly on compilations we’ve bought over the years).   This is why “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and Paul McCartney’s “A Wonderful Christmas Time” are not included here, because I don’t own them, so I don’t have to hear them.

This is Sarah here, chiming in as the co-owner of all this Christmas music and lover of Christmas music and person who makes us listen to it all December long.  I felt compelled to butt in, so you’ll see my comments below.

In no particular order…

1. “Santa Baby”
earthaBoy I can’t stand this song.  I know it’s supposed to be cute and racy and risque or whatever, but I simply can’t stand how crassly materialistic it is.  And I’m not one who thinks Christmas is all about, like, Jesus’ birth or being good or anything.  I know it’s all about the presents; however, this song is just….so…wrong.  And if the Eartha Kitt version (the one you hear most of the time) veryspecialweren’t bad enough, the Madonna version (on A Very Special Christmas) is just abysmal.  She sounds like a sexually deranged Betty Boop (which I suppose is not unusual for her circa this release, but still).  Stop trying to seduce Santa!  Make it go away!

Sarah: I concur. (more…)

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onlyrev.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Everything to Everyone (2003) & Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

bnl-every.jpgEverything to Everyone. I was pretty down on this album when it first came out. I remember being rather disappointed in it because BNL had, gasp, matured somewhat, and were making more “serious,” less “wacky” songs. To me, the whole CD was somewhat flat. But, after a recent listen (possibly the first time in 4 years) and expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the record.

“Celebrity” is a decent start off, although it breaks from their standard set up of rollicking lead off tracks. “Maybe Katie” is a somewhat disappointing track 2 (a track that seems to produce great results for them)…. It seems to be so close to a single, yet it just misses. There is a somewhat zany song “Shopping,” which sets off a run of three or four good songs. It also ends on a pretty high note with, “Have You Seen My Love?” being a slow, but, sensibly, short song, so it doesn’t just drag on.

The noteworthy thing about this album, is what its title alludes to: everything for everyone. It seems like this album has fifteen different styles at work. There’s an Irish jig type song, a crazy rocking song, a soft ballad, a salsa beat. Basically everything is on here. It’s either crassly commercial or (more likely) a funny jab at their complex styles.

The overall sound of the album is definitely more mellow and “mature” than their earlier ones. There’s not a lot of outright silliness involved, and the tunes themselves have certainly calmed down a lot. If you’re not expecting the zany BNL of old, then the album works pretty well. Just don’t have high hopes for “If I Had $1,000,000.”

bnl-holiday.jpgBarenaked for the Holidays. This has become one of my favorite Christmas/holiday records (and it’s a good time of year to be writing about it.) It ranks up there with Brave Combo’s It’s Christmas, Man, brave.jpg South Park’s Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, hankey.jpg Sufjan Steven’s great boxed set Presents Songs for Christmas, sufjan.jpg and Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas, wilson.jpg which has also quickly jumped to the top of my Xmas list.

BNL’s is definitely silly, but it is also somewhat reverential for the time of year. They mix classics with originals (and if Jews don’t adopt “Hanukkah Blessings” as an official Hanukkah song, then they have no taste!).

The recording is a mix of old and new tracks (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded almost ten years (more…)

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