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Archive for the ‘Musicals’ Category

june2020SOUNDTRACK: HADESTOWN-Tiny Desk Concert #977 (June 1, 2020).

hades

It’s unusual for a Tiny Desk blurb to tell us when the Tiny Desk happened.  Sometimes there are clues, but this blurb tells us straight out it happened on March 2, in “the Before-Times.”

Which you can tell because there are “16 performers bunch[ed] up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera.”

I’ve never heard of Hadestown, but it sounds pretty interesting.  Evidently it is a Tony-nominated hit musical.

They’d wanted to get this Tiny Desk done, but kept running into delays until they finally managed to coordinate when “playwright Anaïs Mitchell–who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based–was eight months pregnant.”  She also plays guitar and sings.

This is a “five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production.”

A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes the messenger (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony–he also plays the train whistle) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene.  I love that Marable is acting (with her face) while listening to Hermes sing.  The song is a kind of piano-based rag song (played by Liam Robinson who later plays accordion) until midway when the whole band kicks in with a muted trombone solo from Brian Drye (who also plays glockenspiel!).

The musical is really about two loves stories: Orpheus and Eurydice and Hades and Persephone.

A medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love.

Gentle guitar from Ilusha Tsinadze opens as Orpheus sings his (comical) lyrics.

A singer , huh?
I also play the lyre.
Oh a liar and a player too.

As the song builds, strings are added from Megan Gould (violin) and Malcolm Parson (cello) and a pulsing upright bass from Chris Tordini.

“When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman (who also plays accordion), Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (who also plays violin) and Kay Trinidad (who also plays percussion).

It opens with some interesting picked and harmonic’d guitar and a bouncy piano and a funky off kilter beat (and percussion) from Ben Perowsky.  Liam Robinson also get s a fun piano solo.

In “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

Mitchell herself plays guitar and sings the opening and then lets Eva take over vocals.

Finally, the set concludes with “Why We Build the Wall,” which quickly became Hadestown‘s most talked-about number. (Mitchell wrote it a full decade before the 2016 election, but you’d never know it.) Though the song includes the full cast, it’s also a show-stopping showcase for the sonorous thunder of Patrick Page, who performs with a gravity befitting the king of the underworld.

It opens with two acoustic guitars playing a slightly discordant melody. Page’s deep voice is incredible.  It’s a call and response song that is remarkably prescient:

The enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemny and we build the wall to keep us free.

I don’t know what will happen to Broadway after the virus is gone, but it would be a shame to lose a show like this.

[READ: June 4, 2020] “Still Life”

This is an excerpt from Oates’ new novel Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.  The blurb tells what the story is about but this excerpt seems like the beginning of the story and context rather impacts the way you think about what you’re reading.

The story is about John Earle “Whitey” McClaren.  He is sixty-seven and is in the hospital trying to piece together what happened.  I feel like not knowing the reason he is in the hospital would make this story more compelling.  But having just the except without context would make the excerpt far less interesting.  So I won’t spoil.

He tries to explain what’s happening, but he can’t talk.  He realizes he’s not even breathing on his own. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: May 17, 2020] clipping. / Cartel Madras

indexS. and I saw clipping. open for The Flaming Lips.  It was an unlikely pairing to be sure.  clipping. are a noisy glitch hop band fronted by Daveed Diggs.  Their songs are noisy and violent and more than a little unpleasant.

I won’t say that I enjoyed their set, but I was thoroughly engaged by it.  I’d be very curious to see what they are like as a headliner–more noisy, more abrasive even less pleasant, but a total experience, I’m sure.

clipping.’s new album “absorbs the hyper-violent horror tropes of the Murder Dog era, but re-imagines them in a new light.”  I have to assume the live show for this album is very intense.

Cartel Madras is a Canadian hip hop duo from Calgary, Alberta, consisting of sisters Priya “Contra” Ramesh and Bhagya “Eboshi” Ramesh.  Both sisters emigrated from Chennai, India and identify as queer women of colour.  They classify their music as “Goonda Rap”, a play on a term used in South Asian circles to describe a “thug.”

Their music has an original sound underneath it and I’ll be they are dynamic live.

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK THOUGHT-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #7 (April 9, 2020).

?uestlove is (in my mind at least) the heart (or at least the face) of The Roots.  So it’s easy to forget that Black Thought is the man behind the voice.

This video is fascinating because Black Thought is sitting in a comfy chair, legs crossed, casually sitting as he raps the hell out of these songs.

While our culture adjusts to the New Normal, artists are revealing the threads of our common humanity as they find new ways to bring their work to virtual communities. In this installment of Tiny Desk (home) concerts, hip-hop wordsmith Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought of The Roots crew, took the occasion to premiere three new songs.

On “Thought Vs. Everybody,” Thought calls for unity in response to the conditions of an encroaching dystopia.

It’s really fascinating that he can sound so powerful while chilling in his chair like that.  I also love that it starts with a sample saying “introducing the most powerful black man in the world.”

Thought talks about the Streams of Thought project that he’s been working on.  It started as a Steams of Thought mixtape/EP series he started in 2013.  “Thought Vs. Everybody” and “Nature of the Beast”  will appear on Streams of Thought Vol. 3.

Although the second song, “Yellow,” easily one of my favorite rap songs in years, is not on this EP.

“Yellow,” is song from his upcoming off-Broadway musical Black No More, an adaption of the 1931 Afrofuturist novel by George S. Schuyler, set during the Harlem Renaissance.

He is writing, producing and starring in the Broadway musical.  He says the plot is hard to summarize, but essentially, the main character a black man has decided he’s over the black experience.  There’s a machine that can turn black people white in an attempt to change the racial landscape of America.  Now this man wants everything yellow: yellow money, yellow women, yellow taxis.

Thought says that as a proud black man it challenged him to write from this perspective and to connect with feeling’s he’s never felt.

It is a fantastic song with a great 1920’s jazz score and although the lyrics are tough, he delivers them wonderfully (although I don’t really care for the chorus just repeating the word “yellow”).

He closes with “Nature of the Beast,” a collaboration with Portugal. The Man, who pop up on screen from a remote location.

This song has a really catchy singalong chorus.  I wonder how much of the music was from Portugal.

[READ: April 18, 2020] “The Media”

This was a real challenge to read and honestly I’m not sure what happened in it even after reading it three times.

It begins with Ben walking at dusk recording “this prose poem on his phone.”

He calls someone to ask about their trip–asks the person to call him back.  He’ll be around “until late nineteenth century, when carved wood gives way to polished steel.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LESLIE ODOM, JR.-Tiny Desk Concert #909 (December 2, 2019).

I knew I had heard of Leslie Odom Jr. but I couldn’t remember from what.  Apparently I have heard of him from….everything.

A Tony- and Grammy-winning star, Odom has added a slew of achievements to his portfolio since 2016, when he left his role playing Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton. He’s continued his work in television and film, written a book and released jazz and Christmas albums. He co-wrote most of the songs on his latest project, Mr; out earlier this month, it’s his first album of original material.

Dang.

His singing voice is fantastic and these songs that he wrote are really wonderful.

“Cold” is a hopeful ballad with a beautiful melody and a hint of contemporary musical theater.  It opens with a lovely acoustic guitar from Jeremy Ting and piano from Tommy King.  Odom’s voice is powerful and strong and he hits some nice falsetto notes.  This is all accented by rim shots and cymbal taps from Garrison “G-Beats” Brown.

His backing vocalists, Christine Noel Smit, Nicolette Robinson (Odom’s wife) and Astyn Turr add some nice calla and response and then harmony voices. There’s a pretty acoustic guitar solo as well.

And all the while Odom’s voice and lyrics are fantastic.

When it’s finished he says, “you are the second group of people to hear that song.”

Then he

recalled advice he’d received from a friend: “You have to get used to it — you are part of a cultural phenomenon in New York City,” Odom said, before quipping, “I feel so blessed to be a part of … Law & Order: SVU for three magnificent seasons.”

Up next is “Foggy,” which he says is the most personal song on the album.  It’s much more spare, a love song filled with the regret of failed good intentions.  It’s almost entirely just he and the piano.  Although half way through some xylophone notes add a cool echoing sound.  As the song nears its end, Astyn Turr sings along with him.

Introducing the final song, “Hummingbird,” he says “This song is admittedly… I think it’s a bop, but it’s an odd little bop.  But it has been tested by my 2 year old and it is her favorite song on the album.  For this song Tommy King and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster switch places so “Neff-U” (who worked with him to make the record) is now playing piano.

The song features some wonderful violin from Andrew Joslyn.  It’s a fun boppy song and I love that everyone raucously sings the “you’re my hummingbird” line.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this set, but Odom has a fantastic voice and his songs are really very beautiful.

[READ: August 2019] Gods Without Men

I had read a review of this book by Douglas Coupland on two occasions and each time it made me want to read the book.  So I decided to read the book.  And what a book.

Coupland had warned, in a sense, that there were UFOs and aliens–but not to be put off by them.  And he’s right.  The book centers around aliens and such, but there are no “little green men.”

Rather, the book looks more at a location and the spiritual power it has had on people throughout history.

The book bounces back and forth between various eras and the present.  In most summaries of the book, the present takes prominence–and it is the most often visited timeline in the book.  But at times I found the story in the present to be less interesting than those in the past.

The book begin in 1947 with a man named Schmidt.  Schmidt drove out to the Pinnacles “three column of rock that shot up like the tentacles of some ancient creature, weathered feelers probing the sky.”  He used his diving rods and sensed the power here.  He paid $800 to a woman who owned the property and then settled in.  Schmidt built an underground structure to live in.  He bought an Airstream trailer and set it up as a diner.  Then he put in an airstrip and a fuel tank.  Soon enough pilots were stopping in for fuel as they sailed across the desert.  Schmidt is an interesting character (with a reprehensible past).  He also, every night, lit up the lights on top of his property that said WELCOME.

One night a ship descended from the sky. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK. COME FROM AWAY: Tiny Desk Concert #890 (September 11, 2019).

When I first heard about story of Come From Away, I was intrigued.  Could you make a musical–a musical–about the events of September 11, 2001?

At the end of this performance, the narrator says that this is really a story about September 12, 2001.  And that is true.  And the story is powerful and fascinating and really really interesting.  And yes, the music is fantastic.

So is this story about the attacks?  No.  The story is set

In the aftermath of the Sep. 11 attacks, 38 planes carrying thousands of passengers were grounded in remote Gander, Newfoundland in Canada for five days. The creators of Come From Away traveled to Gander 10 years later and collected the tales that make up the musical.

In Gander there’s an expression that, if you’re visiting, you’ve “come from away.” The people of Gander took in the come-from-aways, and their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide. The Broadway cast recently celebrated 1,000 performances and there are simultaneous productions running in London, Toronto, Melbourne and a national tour.

I listened to the soundtrack when it was streaming on NPR.  I was able to get through about half of it–the songs were great and the kindness shown was incredible.  I have yet to hear the end and I sort of imagine I might try to see the performance someday.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy these excerpts.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen’s desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

In the show, the songs have full orchestration.  But here, the songs are played with great Irish instrumentation: keys, accordion (Chris Ranney); fiddle, fiddle in Gb; (Caitlin Warbelow); high whistles, low whistles, flute (Ben Power); bodhran, cajon (Romano DiNillo) and acoustic guitar (Alec Berlin:)

I don’t know who the lead vocalists are.  But two women take the majority of the songs.  And one of the men narrates the truncated version of the story.  The vocalists here include:

Petrina Bromley; Holly Ann Butler; Geno Carr; De’Lon Grant; Joel Hatch; Chad Kimball; Kevin McAllister; Happy McPartlin; Julie Reiber; Astrid Van Wieren and Jim Walton.

They sing five tracks:

“28 Hours/Wherever We Are” sets the stage–people were on the planes for 28 hours–just imagine that.

“I Am Here” is wonderful. The way the singer has to interrupt herself as if she were on a phone call–it’s a great performance.

“Me and the Sky” is based on an interview with Beverly Bass the first female pilot for American Airlines.  She was flying from Dallas to Paris when she was grounded.  It’s an amazingly personal story–I’ll bet she loves it.

“Something’s Missing” is a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s amazingly powerful–the reactions of people who returned to New York and New Jersey to see what they didn’t know anything about–and to see what’s left.  The most incredible line:

I go down to Ground Zero which… its like the end of the world.  It’s literally still burning.  My dad asks were you okay when you were stranded?  How do I tell him I wasn’t just okay. I was so much better.

They end with the uplifting “Finale.”

As one of the actors explains, “The story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s a story about the power of kindness in response to a terrible event, and how we can each live, leading with kindness.”

This is a great tribute to not only Gander, but also to the victims of the attacks.

[READ: June 20, 2019] The War Bride’s Scrapbook 

Seven years ago, Caroline Preston created The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt.

I summarized it:

it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

For this book, take that premise and move it forward twenty years.

This is the scrapbook of a woman, Lila Jerome, who was a bit of a wallflower, who then married a soldier just before he went off to World War II.  The book is structured in four parts: (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-INUI 4 (2007).

a2911123677_16Kawabata Makoto [河端一] is the guitarist and mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple. The band is hugely prolific. But he still had time to record solo albums. Often times without any guitar.

This was Kawabata’s fourth solo LP, now available on bandcamp

NUI 4 is the fourth volume in Makoto’s series of occasional solo releases for VHF. While widely and rightly known for ear-splitting Deep Purple style guitar demolition with Acid Mothers Temple, Gong, etc, Kawabata’s INUI works are highly personal and introspective, with lots of room given to cosmic atmosphere and acoustic instruments. INUI 4 is a single 68 minute track, a slow building and evolving multi-layered swath of acoustic & electric guitars, electronics, and hurdy gurdy. The final 20 minutes of the track features prominent “glissando” guitar, ala Daevid Allen, a very fine sound to be lost in.

This album consists of 1 hour-long song called RYO (01:07:51).

A piercing high note lingers throughout the track as a beautiful bouzouki melody plays and trippy space sounds swirl around.  The piercing note seems to fade into the background as soaring swirling sounds begin around 5 minutes with a kind of high whistling melody running through from about 8 minutes.

AS the song  continues, new sounds continue to enter.  At 15 minutes, warping and buzzing sound swirl in.  At 23 minutes, deep moaning sounds cycle through.  At 30 minutes swirling spaceship sounds float in.

Around 35 minutes a melody seems to come through the hazy distance (possibly from the hurdy gurdy).  Around 40 minutes a “beat” (made of possible reversed guitar chords) starts to come in.  This adds a kind of quiet propulsion to the sound as the soloing in the distance gets more intense (yet still quite).

Then at 46 minutes it shifts dramatically.  All the drones drop away and the song starts fresh with gentle swirling guitars.  Everything feels like it is ringing and chiming and it stays in this beautiful glissando style for the next 20 minutes.

Not a bad way to spend an hour.

[READ: September 13, 2019] “On a Bad Day You Can See Forever”

This story seems mostly like an opportunity for Woody Allen to throw in as many fifty-cent words as he can.  Which is kind of funny since it is about overpaying for renovations.

You’d never quite guess that’s where this story is going from the opening.  As it opens the narrator is at the gym and has just thrown out his back (“my spine suddenly assumed the shape of a Möbius strip”) trying to “tickle pink the almond-eyed fox” doing push ups near him.  Given Allen’s history, this is unfortunate to say the least.  Not the least of which is because this character is married.

But whatever, it’s a comic story, right? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “BE MORE CHILL” Tiny Desk Concert #862 (July 1, 2019).

Be More Chill is a musical based on the YA novel by Ned Vizzini.  I hadn’t heard of the musical, but this Tiny Desk Concert makes me wish I had seen it [it closed August 11] (or that they make a movie out of it).  Or at least I’ll read the book now.

This performance was done on the night after the Tonys [June 9] where it went 0 for 1.

winding down a disappointing awards season. Even its big Tonys moment — a skit in which host James Corden parodied the musical’s breakout song, “Michael in the Bathroom” — passed by without anyone bothering to name the source material.

But you wouldn’t have known it the next morning, as the Be More Chill crew — composer Joe Iconis, all but three members of the principal cast and a handful of musicians, each of whom held a key role in shaping the musical’s sound — bused from New York to NPR’s D.C. headquarters.

Their arrival was a genuine event: For our Sesame Street Tiny Desk concert earlier this summer, we’d encouraged our coworkers to bring their young children, but this time around, we asked for their teenagers — the young theater enthusiasts in their lives, and anyone else they knew who’d fallen under the spell of Be More Chill and its pair of prolifically streamed cast albums.

All the performers seem to be having a great time (especially Lauren Marchus who is a treat to watch).

From the moment they arrived for their Tiny Desk debut, the cast and crew of the Broadway musical Be More Chill radiated kind exuberance. They posed for selfies behind the desk, shared stories from the previous night’s Tony Awards and clowned around with cast member Jason SweetTooth Williams, who’d torn a muscle in his leg 48 hours earlier and used a wheelchair to get from the charter bus to the desk and back

Joe Iconis wrote the music and plays piano. He also introduces the story of an avergae kid named Jeremy.  But there’s a thing called a squip, a supercomputer inside of a pill which tells you how to behave.  The story is how Jeremy now navigates high school.

Iconis also explains that this isn’t a show where people play instruments (like Once), but everyone in the cast CAN play an instrument, so they decided to rearrange the songs for the Tiny Desk.  In the show, the music is

set to wiry, hard-driving synth-rock music.  The show has been a true cult phenomenon, with an intense online following and one of the youngest audiences Broadway has ever seen.

So rather, for this show, there is acoustic guitar, upright bass, melodica and even a washboard.

The blurb is one of the longest and most detailed of any Tiny Desk Concerts as it provides a lot of context for the songs.

In the run-up to “The Pants Song,” Jeremy’s recently divorced dad (played by Williams), who’s been embarrassing his son by moping around the house in a bathrobe, senses that Jeremy is in trouble. So he enlists Jeremy’s newly estranged best friend Michael (played by George Salazar) to step up and intervene. As lighthearted as it is, the song conveys a powerful message about loyalty, parenthood, friendship, forgiveness and advocacy, all wrapped up in a simple mantra: “When you love somebody, you put your pants on for them.”

It is funny and really catchy and features the show’s musical director Emily Marshall on melodica, Charlie Rosen who did the orchestration on upright bass, Gerard Canonico who plays Rick on guitar and Tiffany Mann who plays Jenna Rolan with a tasty backing vocal part.

Britton Smith  washboard

A Guy That I’d Kind Of Be Into” is a showcase for Jeremy’s crush, an oddball theater kid named Christine, who’s played on Broadway by Stephanie Hsu. But Hsu couldn’t make the Tiny Desk, so she’s replaced here by the charming Lauren Marcus, who normally plays Brooke Lohst onstage. It’s a sweet song about the early flowering of romantic interest, but it’s also a wise and insightful nod to the way declarations of young love can be so guarded and tentative that they seem, by design, almost nonexistent.

This song is catchy and very funny.  It’s a wonderfully endearing song.  I can’t comment on Hsu, but Lauren Marcus is terrific.  She plays ukulele and is so visibly emotive.  She totally makes the song come alive.  Britton Smith who plays Jake also does vocals [he played washboard in the previous song].  There’s backing vocals from Emily Marshall and Will Roland who plays Jeremy.

“A Guy That I’d Kind Of Be Into” holds its emotions at arm’s length, but “Michael in the Bathroom” is an atomic bomb of teenage feelings — not to mention one of the most broadly relatable songs from any genre in recent years. The backstory is simple enough: Michael, having been abandoned by his best friend, shows up at “the biggest party of the fall,” only to sequester himself in the bathroom and practically dissolve under the weight of his alienation, self-doubt, betrayal and regret. How George Salazar didn’t get nominated for a Tony will have to remain a mystery, because his performance — like the song itself, which feels like a true standard — will be talked about for years.

George Salazar is really fantastic in this performance.  He is funny and nervous and mad and scare and his voice is terrific.  I love the little Whitney Houston musical quote.  Emily Marshall adds xylophone to the melody.

Before the finale, Iconis says that after Vizzini killed himself, Iconis was able to complete this finale in Ned’s memory.    He then notes that this is the first time they’ve done this arrangement so it could be a total train wreck.  But it isn’t.

Finally, “Voices in My Head” closes Be More Chill — and this Tiny Desk concert — with a rousing celebration of Jeremy’s return from the brink. Played by Will Roland, Jeremy seizes center stage here, taking mental inventory (“might still have voices in my head / but now they’re just the normal kind”) as the other cast members pipe up with their own commentary on his life. Above all, it’s wonderfully rousing, building to a buoyant finale.

Will Roland really impresses with his singing–especially at the end when his voice really soars. The whole cast chimes in in sequence: Jason SweetTooth Williams, Gerard Canonico, Tiffany Mann, Lauren Marcus, Britton Smith.

I really enjoyed this and am very curious to hear what the original soundtrack is like.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Son of Friedman”

This is an interesting story of a father, a son and fame.

George was once a famous actor.  He could pick his own scripts and lived fairly large.  He had divorced twice.  He was meeting his old friend William.  He and William worked together on many projects, although William’s star never really sank like George’s did.

While they are sitting in the restaurant, George is aware that people are checking out William–but ignoring him.

When George’s son Benji was born, George asked William to be the boy’s godfather.  And he was a great godfather–he celebrated Benji and spoiled the boy.   George and William hadn’t been in touch much in the last decade because of their mismatched celebrity.

But Benji brought them together–somewhat inadvertently. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCROON AND SWOON: A Classic Christmas (1998).

I grew up listening to big band and crooners.  Bugs Bunny taught me a lot about crooners, too.  So if there’s a Christmas album dedicated to them, I’m all over it.  It’s amazing how many songs are here that are not on other compilations as well (even though it’s really hard to tell since all of the singers basically did all of the songs at some point).

BING CROSBY & THE ANDREWS SISTERS-“Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  This is a pretty traditional take on the song with a but of fun from the Sisters.

LENA HORNE-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”  This is done with Lena’s typical zest and verve.  It’s a really fun version.  I have come to really appreciate Lena this year.

JOHNNY MATHIS-“Winter Wonderland.”  This version sounds a bit fast, frankly.  It doesn’t quite sound like his smooth voice although he still sounds great.  The middle section includes an extra verse I don’t know

Over the ground lies a mantle of white
A heaven of diamonds shine down through the night
Two hearts are thrilling
In spite of the chill in the weather, ooh the weather
Love knows no season, love knows no clime
Romance can blossom any old time
Here in the open
We’re walking and hoping together
Together, together, together

Although I understand that other singers have included it as well.  He has a lot of fun with the song after this including a wonderful run through some octaves after the other kiddies knock him dooooooooooowwwwnnnnn.

LEROY ANDERSON-Sleigh Ride.  This is the classic instrumental that is used all of the time.  It’s awesome and comes complete with the woodblocks for horse hooves and a horn whinney.

ANDY WILLIAMS-“Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Pure Christmas spirit wrapped around a singer.

PERRY COMO-“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” This is sung by a big group of happy people.  Classic-feeling.  Although the line “gee the traffic is terrific” is always hilarious.

ANGELA LANSBURY-“We Need a Little Christmas” This is taken from the musical “Mame”  Its a fun musical version with a full cast which really adds to the song.

BING CROSBY-“It’s Beginning To Look a Lot like Christmas.”  A classic crooner from Bing.

GENE AUTRY -“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”  This one sounds sweet and cute, almost like a children’s version.  Even the instrumentation feels kid-friendly.  I love it.

DORIS DAY-“Here Comes Santa Claus.”  I associate this version with children as well, but Doris Day is kinds of sexy right?  I don’t know much else by her, but this song is sweet.  She has a chorus of men singing with her. They sing the “Santa knows that we’re Gods children.”  That and “gives thanks to the Lord above ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight” is always a weird disconnect.

TONY BENNETT-“My Favorite Things”
Not a Christmas song in any way.  It’s a crazy over the top Tony Bennett croony version.  I don’t care for what he’s done to the song and it doesn’t belong here anyhow.

JUDY GARLAND-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  A Christmas song by Judy was on the other day.  I can’t recall the song but I hated it, it sounded so mournful and depressing.  For this song she sounds so wavery and frail that I can’t stand it.  I don’t know if this is just how she sings all the time or if it’s a particularly bad recording but it hurts! it hurts!

RAY CONNIFF-“Silver Bells” This is a strangely stiff version of the song.  The men in particular are very dull but the women add some spark

MABEL MERCER-“The 12 Days of Christmas”  No idea who she is but she is operatic and formal and over the top and its fairly strange–the way she rolls her rs on “five golden r-r-r-rings is pretty funny.  But i know she is deadly serious despite the absurdity of the song

GENE AUTRY-“Frosty the Snowman” is also cute and kid-friendly.  It’s very sweet with a clopping feet rhythm.

PEGGY LEE-“Days of Christmas.”  I don’t know this song at all..  How is there an old-timey Christmas song that I don’t know?  It’s very sweet.  I like that it starts with the melody of “The First Noel” and then turns into something else entirely with the lyric:  “This song of mine in three-quarter time.”

PERRY COMO-“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” This version is slow and croony and lovely.

ROSEMARY CLOONEY-“White Christmas.”  This is a lovely straightforward version of this classic song.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.

[READ: December 10, 2018] “One Gram Short”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story appeared in the New Yorker on December 1, 2014.  I enjoyed it then and I think I enjoyed it more this time.  here’s some of what I wrote then: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: REIGNWOLF-“In the Dark” (Field Recordings, June 29, 2012).

This is another Field Recording set at Sasquatch! Music Festival [Reignwolf: A One-Man Rock Show].

I’d never heard of Reignwolf and I’m still not sure if Reignwold is typically a solo project–like here or a band.  “In the Dark” is a simple blues rock song–like Led Zep via the White Stripes.

Jordan Cook plays a noisy, distorted guitar with a metal slide so that there’s pretty much always something coming out of the amp.  After some pretty simple verses he plays a wild, sloppy (broken stringed) solo.

The way he was tearing it up during an impromptu set at the Sasquatch Music Festival, you’d barely notice that Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, broke a string midway through his fiery rendition of “In the Dark” — that is, until you saw the mangled remnants of his guitar, smoldering on the ground after he’d wrenched every wailing chord from its guts.

The song works best when he plays the kick drum.  It adds just enough oomph to make it not seem like a guy playing a guitar.

The Saskatoon native and recent Seattle transplant never misses a beat — literally. When he’s not with a band, he accompanies himself on kick drum and makes enough noise to match a dozen metalheads. In this video, recorded at the artist campground between sets at the festival, Reignwolf causes a ruckus beside his RV and rousts a crowd of sleepy campers into dancing and cheering.

The soloing goes on for a while and the people around him seem to like it.  Although the soloing behind his head is a bit much, but hey, if you can do it, then go ahead!

[READ: February 1, 2017] “The Sightseers”

I really liked a main aspect of this story, and so many of the details.

The story begins with an overprivileged New York family.  They have a maid/cook/gofer named Kiki from Tibet and the husband marvels at Kiki and “their calm, those people.”

The father, Robert, is happy that they no longer go to North East Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving–the round nephews and the piles and piles of food.  For their Thanksgiving they would be having salmon as Robert was training five times a week with a Navy Seal.

When the salmon turns out to be halibut, the son says that wasn’t on the menu (the menus were designed ahead of time to limit daily stress by preparing the children for their dinners ahead of time–there would be no surprises.  The son asks if the next time they have halibut it will be salmon.  The father thinks that’s an excellent suggestion. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 1, 2018] Evan Dando

Back in 2015 I saw that Evan Dando was playing at the New Hope Winery.  I had no idea that there was a concert venue so close to me and that Evan Dando would be there.  For some reason, I was unable to make that show, (Thurston Moore was also playing there around that time and I couldn’t make that either, so we must have been away).

Since then I have monitored the Winery to see what other cool bands would be playing there.  Sadly, pretty much since that day, aside from Dar Williams (who is awesome) everyone playing there is a cover band.  Which sucks.

I have loved The Lemonheads since college and It’s a Shame About Ray is a stellar album.  I’d never seen him play, so when I saw he had announced one show (which has since turned into a small tour) at Monty Hall in Jersey City, I knew I had to go.

Evan came out pretty late by any standard.  But I wasn’t even sure if he was going to show up.  He seemed surprisingly discombobulated (he forgot his capo) and it took a pretty long time or him to get set up.  This was all fairly surprising since he’d been doing this forever.

He had a total artist look: pants that were filthy and a suit jacket that had a giant rip under the armpit (and which seemed too small for him).

He was wearing glittery flip flops!  (more…)

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