Archive for the ‘Robbie Robertson’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STARBUCKS Hi-Fidelity Holiday (1998).

This is one of my favorite Holiday CDs.  Say what you will about Starbucks (and I know you will), they know their audience (even if I don’t drink coffee).  Almost the entire CD is excellent, or at least in that groovy Hi-Fi style.  There are a few songs that don’t quite fit with the others, but overall, this is a keeper.

ESQUIVEL-“Jingle Bells”
I love Esquivel, and this space age jingle Bells is just the most fun.  You look ravishing tonight.

KEB’ MO’-“Jingle Bell Jamboree”
Keb’ Mo’ is a great performer, but this song doesn’t quite fit on this CD.  Especially after Esquivel.  Maybe if it was a little later in the sequence?  But the song itself is great and should be heard more at Christmas time.

COCTEAU TWINS-“Winter Wonderland”
I have loved Cocteau Twins for decades.  This version of “Winter Wonderland” has been a perennial favorite.  I love what they do with the song and how they keep it faithful but make it their own.  This should have followed Esquivel.

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
This song is problematic for many reasons.  But if you can get past the creepiness, Dean’s version is fun.  It’s interesting that the female singers are practically a chorus of voices.

I’ve pretty much forgotten about Combustible Edison, but I love this swinging instrumental version of this song.  It’s totally terrific.

LEONARD COHEN-“Hallelujah”
This is not a Christmas song.  At all. It is also so over played that I never really want to hear it again.

XTC-“Thanks for Christmas”
I love this song.  It’s bright and happy and the XTC voices and guitars are just perfect.

EL VEZ-“Christmas Wish”
I have a soft spot for El Vez, but man I don’t care for this version of this song.  It’s not bad, but I kept thinking it was some B list actor form a 1950s rock n roll film (like Arch Hall).  I suppose if it was more in the El Vez spirit I’d enjoy it more.

JAMES BROWN-“Merry Christmas, Baby”
I like this song except it always bugs me that there’s a line about not being drunk but being all lit up like a Christmas Tree.  James seems a little not into this recording, to be honest.

THE ALARM-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
This song bugs me.  I think it’s the obnoxious (but well meaning) idea that war can be over if we want it.  But whatever.  This version is kind of flat, which is springing given The Alarm is all stadiumed out most of the time.

THE TEMPTATIONS-“Little Drummer Boy”
This song is tough to pull off.  The Temptations were a little flat at first I thought, but they pulled through to the end and won me over.

PEGGY LEE-“I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells)”
This song is weird and fun.  The “I like a sleighride” chorus is weird and kind of creepy, but it’s got a real fun feel overall.

ROBBIE ROBERTSON-“Christmas Must Be Tonight”
So I listened to this song and had literally no recollection of ever hearing it before–even though I have listened to this disc every year for a decade.  And even now, I have no recollection of it either.

THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)”
Is it because I have heard every Christmas song a million times that I gravitate to the oddball recording?  Probably.  I love this surf guitar instrumental version of “We Three Kings,” it brightens my day.

BOBBY DARIN-“Christmas Auld Lang Syne”
This is a classic.  It used to bug me that he goes so over the top with the LOOOOOOORD business at he end, but it doesn’t bug me much anymore–its makes me smile.  I really like the melody and the way the songs are conflated.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.  It’s not all as groovy and space-age as it appears, but it’s still good holiday fun.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Skinks”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story is told by a little boy, Wendell, who wants to be called Dilly.  He tells us that Jesse doesn’t like it when he calls him Dad.  Jesse always says “Two things.”  Like “One, your dad left a long time ago and two, although you don’t want to say he’s your dad, he still is.  I’m not.  Clear?

Clear.  Clear as mud, he says.

Jesse is now in the hospital and the boy has been talking to his mom a lot.

When he goes into Jesse’s room the pastor is in there.  “He thinks all the answers are in that book,” his mother says to him.  She then says to the pastor, “I know it’s serious, but that was years ago when you both loved getting into trouble.  He’s different now.”

The pastor bristles at this and says “some of us know better than to get into fights over things people say.”

There’s a lot of observations from the boy about his mother (and what both she and Jesse say about women in general)

And sometimes he just goes in and talks to Jesse, which he thinks is weird, but he does it anyway.  When he heard there was skink in the hospital he knew Jesse would want to see it. “It’s a weird word but I like it.”

But mom and a police officer enter and Dilly hears the officer say, “I’m sorry, but things have changed.”  Before he can leave the room he sees that Jesse is now restrained.

The pastor comes out while Dilly is outside and asks Dilly what he’s doing.  When Dilly mentions the skink, the pastor gives him some suggestions about bait and ways to catch them.   During this brief conversation, a lot of truths come out.  About Jesse, about Dilly’s father and about the pastor.

But I feel a little too much like Dilly in this story–like everyone is talking around me.  There’ a few too many gaps that I can’t fill in to fully get what happened.

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CV1_TNY_3_23_09_09.inddSOUNDTRACK: DEAR MR. PRESIDENT-Dear Mr President (1988).

dearSo, I mentioned these guys in a previous post about The Airborne Toxic Event.  I said maybe I’d listen to the disc again (it’s been at least ten, maybe fifteen years since I listened to it).  Sarah walked in and said it sounded like Bon Jovi, which may or may not be true.

The band is a weird amalgam of things.  They look like Ratt, almost exactly like Ratt, in fact.  And yet musically they are all over the place.  The opening, rather cool, track is “Hey Daddy Have You Ever Been Arrested?”  It starts slow with the singer’s weird, sort of whiney, but almost bitterly angry voice reciting some lines over bass.  A distorted guitar comes in and the chorus rocks out.  There”s some heavier stuff as the song ends, including a rocking solo.

What’s most notable about the song, and the disc though is the lyrics.  Certainly not the first or even the most “political” band, but for the supposed genre they are in, lyrically they are thoughtful if not thought provoking.  And, even with doses of humor, they’re a lot more than a sex drugs and rock n roll band.

But after that first track the album diversifies.  “Fate” is a ballad, with the singer’s hesitant voice opening the track.  “Love and Violence” sounds like a late 80s metal song, but with a twist: the singer’s voice is just off-kilter enough to keep it interesting.  Meanwhile “Where is the Love?” is positively funk-filled, with a slapping bass line and big horns.  And then there’s “Flesh & Blood” which has something of a smooth jazz trumpet solo as it winds down.  It also seems to get more mellow as the track progresses.  Keep a mental note about this song title.

As the disc continues, things get really weird: horns start featuring in the songs with more and more frequency.  And at one point there’s something of a disco vibe.  There’s even a song about wanting to dance like Fred Astaire. (full of sizzling keyboard blasts!).

“Reality” is  slow ballad with era-appropriate keyboard splashes in the chorus.  And “Fatal Desire” sounds not unlike a Pearl Jam track (except for the vocals of course). The last three tracks on the disc have their track number in red (the others are in white) which leads me to think that maybe they were bonus tracks?  They include an 8 minute song “Get It Together” that sounds like it could be a background soundtrack to a 80s show like 21 Jump Street, especially the atmospheric guitar washes.  This disc ends with a weird little 1 and a half minute thing called “Who Killed Santa Claus?”

Whats amazing is that even with the internet’s omnipotence, there is virtually no information about this album, or even the band, anywhere.  Nor what happened to them (I discovered that two of the members played on other bands’ records).  You can’t even find anything about their other band name.  For some reason, the powers that be didn’t like the name Dear Mr President, and they had to change the band’s name to Flesh & Blood.  They released the album as Dead White and Blue.  I’ve never actually seen that disc though.

But after some searching around, I found one article about the band.  It answers some questions, like about their name change.  And evidently I have one of the few copies of the original disc.  Huh.  And to think that I bought it on a whim back in college when I bought bands without knowing anything about them.

So, for all of your Dear Mr. President needs, check out this article.  There’s even two downloads, too!

[READ: March 27, 2009] “She’s the One”

This story is one of the few stories I’ve read that is about writing and writers in which the main character isn’t a writer.  Ally works at a writer’s workshop as the secretary.  She encounters all kinds of writers, but in this particular term, she encounters a Canadian woman with short, white hair named Hilda.  Hilda is in her late fifties, has lived a pretty full life, and since most of her faimily is in England, she has settled down there too.

Ally runs into Hilda at the supermarket and casually asks how her novel is going. Hilda is very guarded and quite rude, until a few minutes later when she apologizes and takes a keen interest in Ally and her life.  Ally, caught off guard, reveals a family secret that she never feels comfortable talking about.  And, she soon finds comfort in this off-putting stranger’s cozy cottage.

Ally also learns more details about Hilda’s novel, and her fascinating family story about a Canadian folk singer’s impact on all of their lives.

I really enjoyed this story both for its unconventional look at writers, and for its interesting dealing with family crises.  A very strong story.  Although I have a quibble.  Ally and her coworkers can only think of one Canadian folksinger: Robbie Robertson.  Now, I realize that I’m a Canuckophile and all but, come on.  At least include Neil Young in the list.

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