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Archive for the ‘Marvin Gaye’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: D12-“Bizarre” (2001).

Hornby said that this track, a skit on the D12 album, was “I think the single most dispiriting moment of my professional life so far this millennium.”  Which meant I had to see what was so horrible.

I didn’t want to listen to the whole D12 album because I basically agree with his sentiments, I just think he;s way over the top into curmudgeonland.

So this skit starts with guys talking about hos and general sex ideas.  Then a guy introduces Bizarre (one of the D12) to Cindy.  She asks about Eminem (which is pretty funny) and he says he doesn’t know who that is.  He starts hitting on her and then farts very loudly.  When she protests, “the fuck you didn’t” he says, “Girl chill out, that shit came from my soul.” Which also made me chuckle.

Then he farts loudly again and asks for a kiss.  And that’s pretty much it.

It’s juvenile and light-hearted (which is probably necessary given how dark and misogynistic the rest of the album seems).  But I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hear it more than once if you were actually listening to the album.

Nevertheless, you have to be a real curmudgeon to not enjoy humor in music.  And, given his reaction to Blink 182, I’m guessing Hornby likes his bands to be Sophisticated, only.

[READ: September 10, 2020] “Pop Quiz”

I have enjoyed recent essays by Hornby in which he jokes about being a curmudgeon.  But boy was he ever a real musical curmudgeon in 2001.

He says that back in July 1971, the top ten list included Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, Whats Going On by Marvin Gaye, a live album by CSN&Y and Aretha Franklin Live at the Fillmore East.  He says even the most curmudgeonly critics probably gushed over this list.  [Let’s gloss over the fact that there were a lot fewer albums released back in 1971 and that record sales were pretty well determined by radio airplay etc–so you had a pretty set idea of what would be popular].

But now there are many different top ten lists, probably because most critics don’t like what’s on the actual top ten list.  Many of those critics from 1971 are still critics today.

He says there is literary, critically approved pop–Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Nick Cave–none of whom trouble the Billboard statisticians much.

But he was unfamiliar with most of the people on the top ten on July 28, 2001.  So he decided to listen to them all (more…)

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april2301SOUNDTRACK: LOS LOBOS-“Guantanamera” (1978).

220px-Los_Lobos_del_Este_de_Los_Angeles_coverI never listened to much Los Lobos, although their recent tiny Desk Concert opened my eyes to the,

This review from Hornby made me want to check out some of their music.  I’m not interested in their rock n’ roll songs, but I am quite interested in their Mexicali and more diverse songs.

Their debut album was mostly traditional songs.  I hadn’t heard their take on “Guantanamera,” a song that is in my consciousness, although I’m not sure from where, exactly.  I know the Pete Seeger version, but that can’t be the one I am most familiar with, right?

The Los Lobos version is, surprisingly, slower and a but less catchy that the version I am familiar with.  Although I imagine their version is more accurate.  Los Lobos has three lead singers.  It’s interesting that the guy with the fewest lead vocal songs, bassist Conrad Lozano is the lead singer here.

[READ: September 10, 2019] “The Entertainers”

This essay is about Los Lobos and the art of box sets.

The turn of the century was a pretty big time for the box set.  I have too many of them myself.

You get home busting with anticipation, and sit down to listen to the first half-dozen songs of a beloved artist’s recording career, and to read the weighty accompanying essay and then, somewhere along the line, a vague disappointment kicks in.  You become irritated that your favorite song is represented only by a demo or a live recording or an alternate mix that omits the horns.  Pretty soon, you find that you’re playing only the last few tracks on the second CD–tracks that you probably already own.  A few weeks later, you realize, guiltily, that the fourth CD has not yet been removed from the box and that it never will be.

This is a bit excessive in my experience, but the general tenor is spot on. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AIMEE MANN-Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo (2000).

Aimee Mann writes really pretty (often sad) songs.  From seeing her play live (in person and on video), she is very upright when she plays.  And I feel like this uprightness comes forth in her music.  She is very serious–not that she isn’t funny, because she can be–but that she is serious about songcraft.  Her songs, even when they are catchy, are very proper songs.  I don’t know if that makes sense exactly.

It also means to me that most of her music sounds similar.  She has a style of songwriting and she is very good at it.  For me, it means that a full album can start to sound the same, but a few songs are fantastic.

“How Am I Different” opens up with a super catchy melody and a guitar hook that repeats throughout.  “Nothing is Good Enough” is a bit slower and less bouncy.  But “Red Vines” brings that bounce back with a super catchy chorus (and backing vocalists to punch it up).  The piano coda is a nice touch.

“The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist” starts slow but adds a cool guitar riff as the bridge leads to a catchy, full chorus.  “Satellite” slows things down as if to cleanse the palette for “Deathly.”

Now that I’ve met you
Would you object to
Never seeing each other again

The chorus is low key but the verses have a great melody.  It stretches out to nearly six minutes, growing bigger as it goes with a soaring guitar solo and better and better rhymes.

“Ghost World” has some wonderful soaring choruses while “Calling It Quits” changes the tone of the album a bit with a slightly more jazzy feel.  It also adds a bunch of sounds that are unexpected from Mann–horns, snapping drums and in the middle of the song, the sound of a record slowing down before the song resumes again.  It’s probably the most fun song on the record–unexpected for a song with this title.

“Driving Sideways” seems like it will be a slower downer of a song but once again, she pulls out a super catchy intro to the chorus (with harmonies) as the rest of the chorus trails on in Mann’s solo voice as we hang on every word.  It ends with a tidy, pretty guitar solo.

“Just Like Anyone” is a quiet guitar song, just over a minute long.  It’s a surprisingly complete song and shows that not only can she pack a lot into less than 90 seconds, she should do it more often.

“Susan” is a surprisingly boppy little number that bounces along nicely on the two-syllable rhythm of the title character.  “It Takes All Kinds” slows things down with piano and gentle guitars and “You Do” ends the album with Mann showing off a bit of her falsetto.

This is in no way a party album, it’s more of a quiet autumn day album.  And it’s quite lovely.  Thanks, Nick, for reminding me of it.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “It’s a Mann’s World”

Nick Hornby wrote High Fidelity and became something of a musical expert because of it.  As such, he wrote a half a dozen or so musical review sections for the New Yorker.

This was his first and, as one might guess from the title, it is about Aimee Mann.

He begins by talking about the British magazine Mojo and how every month they ask a musician what he or she is listening to.  He says that many musicians of a Certain Age seem to have abandoned rock and roll and are listening more to jazz or classical.  They are doing this “for reasons I can only guess as: Prokofiev! Ellington! Take that Hanson and Wu-Tang Clans fans! ”

These performers seem to suggest that pop music is dead.  Much in the way that people say fiction is dead.  Meanwhile good, talented musicians continue to make albums that people continue to listen to and good talented authors continue to write novels that people continue to read. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Ventura (2013).

Not content to have just one concert on a release, Ventura contains two complete concerts from July 30, 1997, and July 20, 1998, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

It’s an opportunity to compare the band at the same location one year later–these two shows exist in the vacuum between the release of Billy Breathes (1996) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), so there’s a few “new” songs in 1997, but it also doesn’t mean that they are playing the same sets–not by any means.  In fact, between the two shows they repeat only two songs: Water in the Sky (new) and Prince Caspian (from Billy)

1997 sees the band in good form.  After two solid openers with “NICO” and “Wolfman,” they play a wild “Chalk Dust” which has some crazy dissonant soloing in it.  “Water in the Sky” is a slow countryish version with piano and twangy guitar.  There’s a great “Stash” with appropriate audience clapping (I really want to see that live) and then a typically fun “Weigh.”  This is followed by lovely versions of “Piper” and “Cars Trucks Buses,” and the set ends with a slow funky version of “Character Zero.”

Set two opens with a groovy “Pinch You in the Eye” (9 minutes) and a great jamming version of “Free” (almost 12 minutes) with a funky solo.  “Free” is one of my favorite songs by them and I always think of it as “new” because it is rather poppy.  But it’s from way back in 1996 so it’s surely not new. After about four and a half minutes of trippy sounds and echoes. they start “David Bowie” (which includes The Simpsons riff and a Doh!).  The solo is long with a lengthy piano section and a mellow jazzy middle before it turns a little funky and then to a groovy jam to the end.  It runs for just over 21 minutes and the end of the song starts the chords for Talking Heads’ “Cities,” which the band segues into perfectly and then segues back into “Bowie” fop another 6 minutes.  There’s a scorching end of the song with a lot of noise before the end.  Those last scorching solos each have a break where the band sounds like they are collapsing before resuming perfectly.  It is a spectacular 32 minutes of music.  (Their live releases have me believing that they “Cities” a lot more than statistically they do).

They slow things down with a relatively mellow version of “Bouncing around the Room” (as mellow as that song can be anyhow) and then the bluegrass version of “Uncle Pen.”  The end of the second set comes with a mellow jam to start “Prince Caspian.”  Even the jam is mellow for about 9 minutes, but the set ends with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire.”

The encore is a rollicking run through “My Soul” with a very fast “mymymymymymmysoul oh my soul.”  It’s a great show with lots of perfect peaks and valleys.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute soundcheck jam.  There’s some casual singing of some “dah dah dahs” and some high pitched “ooohs.”  A keyboard solo follows and it ends with a noisy section and a scream of delight.

In 1998, the band opened the show with a 21 minute “Bathtub Gin.”  It’s not that often that their opening song is a big ass jam.  (I’m sure someone has stats to back that up).   There’s a lot of piano riffage in the middle too.  After this, the band plays mostly short songs for a while: a mellow version of “Dirt.” Then a  fast and fun “Poor Heart” (in which Trey introduces Mike as the author–which he is).  Then a jazzy “Lawn Boy.”  There’s a romping “My Sweet One” which segues into a rocking “Birds of a Feather.”  By the time the get to “Theme from the Bottom,” which sounds great, they’re ready to stretch out.  It’s about 9 minutes long with a nice long solo.

They repeat “Water in the Sky” from last year.  It’s pretty although a minute shorter than 1997.  There’s a 4 minute jam before “The Moma Dance” starts proper (that will be on Ghost).  The set ends with a 14 minute “Split Open and Melt.”

Set 2 opens with a really long (14 minute) version of The Who’s “Drowned” and a dark moody jam although the reggae chords of “Makisupa Policeman” start long before “Drowned” ends.  And as the reggae jam starts, Trey sings “woke up this morning… SKUNKED” to much cheering.  The song ends with a trippy synth section that segues into “Maze.”  Page continues The Who theme with a solo version of “Sea and Sand.”  It’s interesting that in 1997 their second to last song was “Prince Caspian” (about 9 minutes). A year later their second to last song is also “Caspian,” this time 12 minutes with a rocking solo.  It segues into a stellar set-ending fifteen minute “Harry Hood.”

The encore is a crazy “Sexual Healing” sung by fish.  It’s goofy and it goes on way too long (nearly 8 minutes), but they follow it with a 12 minute jam of “Haley’s Comet.”  I love the harmonies.  The song ends with some rumbling noises as the guys leave the stage.

The bonus soundcheck is a reggae riff with them reciting the lyrics “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire.”  It’s a decent enough jam for a soundcheck although I’m most impressed with how Trey ends with a wrap-up riff instead of just stopping the song.

The bonus soundcheck songs aren’t that great to have–more like special feature on a DVD.  But the main sets are fantastic.  And you get 35 different songs between the two shows.

[READ: November 22, 2016] Tales Told in Oz

I read the 16 Madras Press Books some time ago and posted about half of them.  So here’s the other half coming up.  So what is Madras Press?

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.

For this particular book, “The author of the bestselling Wicked Years series returns to Oz with a compendium of folktales.  Proceeds to benefit Friends of West Hartford Library.”

I’m probably the only person who would read this book not knowing who Gregory Maguire was.   Well, I’ll amend that.  I knew who he was and I loved Wicked when I read it.  But I forgot who he was (his name  did sound familiar, though).

As I said, I loved Wicked but didn’t read anything else in the series.  I was only vaguely aware that there was a series–evidently there are 4 books and this book is considered 0.5.

All of this is introduction is to set up why I didn’t really enjoy this book that much.  Not realizing that it was part of Maguire re-imagining Oz, I thought it was weird and arbitrary that it was “set” in Oz.  Why not just make up your own world to tell these stories about.

Now realizing what was at stake, I appreciate it more, but since I’m not invested in his series (or really in Oz itself–I’ve never read more than the first book of that series either), these were just amusing tales. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 21, 2016] An Evening with Todd Rundgren

2016-05-21 22.05.52I was astonished to learn that I’ve gone most of my life not knowing that Todd Rundgren wrote “Hello, It’s Me” and “Bang the Drum All Day.”

How did I not know this?

Indeed it turns out I didn’t know much about Rundgren.  I knew he was in the band Utopia and that they played weird prog rock.  And I also thought he was kind of a control freak.  But I didn’t realize he had those huge hits (which might explain how he makes so many weird albums–and he has a lot of weird albums).

I don’t even know what made me get a ticket of this show.  I had recently been hearing a bit about him. I had looked him up on line or some reason (that’s how I knew he wrote those songs) and I recognized the photo to the right, an iconic photo from Something/Anything (which was used as the backdrop for the show).  When I saw that he was playing at McCarter, I decided it was time to check him out.  Now, I was going to see a show the night before and normally I don’t like to do two nights in a row, but since this show was so close by (and I knew I’d be home by eleven) I decided to go.  And I had a great time.

The blurb for this show started: “The classic rocker Todd Rundgren may be 67, but he shows no signs of slowing down.”  And that’s very true.

I managed to score a seat in Row J, which was so close to the man I could see him sweat (ew).  The only problem was the very tall man sitting in front of me (I should have asked him to switch seats with his tiny wife).

While I was waiting for the show to start, a woman sat down next to me with her husband and some friends.  She was super friendly (and a bit drunk) and we started talking.  She asked how big a fan I was of Todd.  And I had to admit that this was my first show.  She told me that she first saw Todd when she was 16 (or 19 who can remember) and has seen him every tour since then (she’s in her 50s).  She said he tours constantly and she will see him twice a year sometimes.

Normally I’m not much of a talker during a show, but I enjoyed having her next to me to occasionally guide me through what I was hearing.  Unlike the louts at the end of the row who were talking really loudly and making jokes throughout the show (and getting up to go to the bar every couple of songs).  They were big fans I could tell (they knew every song), but such disrespect I’ve never seen.

The lady (whose name I never got) told me that Todd makes a new playlist for each show and decides what he’s going to play an hour before he goes on.  That was pretty cool.  She told me a few other things that were interesting about him (he has a house that he built in Hawaii but he never goes there because he is always touring).  And that, amazingly, she’d never actually met him after all these years.

And then the lights dimmed and the band came out.  Followed by Todd.  And the crowd went berserk!  It was especially amusing because it was practically like a  Tom Jones show, with women throwing themselves at him (my seatmate remained remarkably composed).  These women (mostly) stood and applauded after each song, waved their arms and were so utterly into it, I was amazed. (more…)

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