Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The York Daily Record has a nice article on Gerry that gives you some sense of what a special person he was. Gerry was York's first Poet Laureate. He was a painter, a playwright, and an actor. He was a WWII Veteran, a peace activist and a humanitarian. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. He was a good man and an inspiration to all who knew him. Gerry radiated the kind of wisdom that sometimes comes with age, yet with none of the bitterness and cynicism that also sometimes comes with age. He was one of the most interesting and creative people I've ever met, and I feel blessed to have known him. I'm going to miss him terribly.
There will be a memorial service for Gerry today at 6:00 PM at Dream Wrights Youth and Family Theater in York. In lieu of flowers, please consider honoring Gerry's life with a memorial donation to the SPCA of York County.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ellis was certainly one of baseball's more flamboyant and interesting figures during the seventies. His 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates beat my beloved Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, but I'm too young to remember that. Despite the fact that the Pirates beat my Orioles twice during the 1970s, I have tremendous respect for those Pittsburgh teams: Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Omar Moreno...those were great teams. The 1979 World Series was my first real exposure to sports heartbreak. I still get a little angry every time I hear Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."
Dock Ellis, who infamously claimed he pitched a no-hitter for Pittsburgh under the influence of LSD and later fiercely spoke out against drug and alcohol addiction, died Friday. He was 63.
His wife, Hjordis, said he died at the USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“It’s a tremendous loss to the family,” she said. “He’s been struggling for about a year with the end stages of liver disease.”
In 1971 Ellis was the starting pitcher for the first all black starting lineup in MLB history. Here's one song I can listen to anytime with no problem: It's Barbara Manning and the S.F. Seals tribute to Dock Ellis from their Baseball Trilogy EP. The psychedelic feel of the song is a perfect tribute to the pitcher's wild days in the seventies.
Monday, December 15, 2008
As a peace offering I've made a few of the tracks I might play at your party available for download in advance. Once again I've made a
Bud Logan - Sock It To Me Santa
This is not the same "Sock It To Me Santa" that was originally recorded by Bob Seger and The Last Heard. It's a totally different song.
The Sonics - Santa Claus
I can't understand why Little Steven did not include this one on his (highly recommended) Christmas A Go-Go compilation. There would have been more than enough room on the CD if the Joe Pesci track had been left off.
"Sugar Chile" Robinson - Christmas Boogie
Detroit Junior - Christmas Day
Unfortunately, many find themselves depressed during the holidays. If you are among those feeling down this holiday season Detroit Junior is here to kick your holiday blues in the ass.
The Marquees - Christmas In The Congo
You might remember the Marquees from their other holiday classic from the durable "Santa traded his sled for a rocket ship" genre, "Santa Done Got Hip."
Bobby Lloyd And The Skeletons - Do You Hear What I Hear/You Really Got Me
Bobby Lloyd's mash-up of "Do You Hear What I Hear" and the Kink's "You Really Got Me" perfectly captures the tension between the sacred and commercial aspects of Christmas. I remember this one getting a lot of play on WHFS during the holiday season.
Esquivel - Frosty The Snowman
The Louvin Brothers - Santa's Big Parade
Augie Rios - Donde Esta Santa Claus
This is a dangerously catchy song. My kids have been calling my wife "Mamacita" ever since they heard this. Careful or you will find yourself humming this in August.
Lord Nelson - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Sound Of The Trumpet
For some reason Bob Marley's entry in the Christmas song sweepstakes did not make the cut on Legend. I'm sure this is solely because Island was unable to secure the rights to the masters.
Paul & Paula - Holiday Hootenanny
"Hey, hey Paul, we need another hit." "Hey, hey Paula let's try a Christmas song." "Hey, hey Paul I hear surfing songs are big this year." "Hey, hey Paula folk hootenanny songs are big this year too." "Hey, hey Paul let's do a surfing/folk hootenanny song.'" "Hey, hey Paula this is why I love you."
Senor Tonto - Hooray for Santy Claus!
It just wouldn't be Christmas without Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.
Beck - Little Drum Machine Boy
The best thing about this song is the title, but it allows me to give a token shout-out to my Jewish and Scientologist homies this holiday season.
Julius Wechter & The Baja Marimba Band - Partridge In A Pear Tree
What would Christmas be without the dulcet tones of Julius Wechter's marimba?
Ike & Tina Turner - Merry Christmas Baby
A lot of people have sung this song over the years. No one has ever sung it better than Tina Turner.
Hank Snow - Reindeer Boogie
The Martels - Rockin' Santa Claus
Jack Scott - There's Trouble Brewin'
Jack Scott is best known for "The Way I Walk" which was covered by The Cramps. This is a pretty great "I'm in a sexual competition with Santa Claus" song.
Los Lobos - Rudolph The Manic Reindeer
Albert King - Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'
My favorite raunchy holiday song is Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa." Not even the fact that Bon Jovi covered it can ruin it for me. Albert King's "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" is a good one too. This time Lynrd Skynrd were the white dudes who did their best to ruin the song for me, but didn't succeed.
Gary Walker - Santa's Got A Brand New Bag
"Santa's Got A Brand New Bag" reminds me of another song, but for the life of me I can't quite put my finger on which one.
Marshall Crenshaw - Sock It To Me Santa
This is a cover of "Sock It To Me Santa" as originally recorded by Bob Seger and The Last Heard.
Edd "Kookie" Byrnes - Yulesville
Sonic Youth - Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope
Because even the best holiday parties must come to an end, I've included Sonic Youth's cover of Martin Mull's yuletide favorite. This should clear out anyone who hasn't gotten your subtle hints that the party's over.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
1. Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
Last year I was the only blogger to list Teddy Thompson's Up Front And Down Low on their year-end "best of" list. So what does the usually non-prolific Teddy do? He releases an even better album in 2008. A Piece Of What You Need finds Teddy in about as upbeat a mood as you can imagine from the young man for whom "End Of The Rainbow" was written. Producer Marius de Vries (Bjork, Madonna) adds enough pop flourishes (handclaps!) to keep things bright, even if he can't stop Teddy from turning the gun on himself. A Piece Of What You Need is simply a brilliant album that takes Teddy out of his famous parents' shadows once and for all (Richard & Linda who?).
2. Duffy - Rockferry
My wife likes to listen to our local pop music station in the mornings. Because I'm a good husband I only complain about this semi-incessantly. One morning something really weird happened. I actually liked a song they were playing. This was a good song. No, actually it was great. "Who is this?" I asked (they never say who they're playing on pop radio, you're just supposed to know). Soon enough I figured out it was a young British woman known as Duffy. I picked up the CD at Starbucks that very day (remember when Starbucks used to sell music?). Later I picked it up on LP too, not because the CD sounded bad, but because the music was so good I just wanted to own it on LP. As I noted in a previous post, Rockferry (on CD or LP) has lots of dynamic range relative to most contemporary productions, proving that an album can be massively successful in 2008 without having every last bit of life compressed out of it.
3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
I don't think I need to say much about Vampire Weekend. This will be on every other blogger's list. This might be the most over-hyped album of the year, but that doesn't mean it isn't also good.
4. Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
Mudcrutch's debut album was already the subject of much discussion on this blog.
It's an iconic story. A rock band torn apart by external forces over thirty years ago reunites to see if they can recapture the old magic. Against all odds they do, and the now middle-aged rockers find their belated debut album on the bestseller charts. It's a story that would carry the force of Greek Mythology were it not for the inconvenient fact that one of the members (a guy named Tom Petty) has a day job as one of the world's most successful rock-stars, and two others (Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench) punch the clock as members of his long-running backing band the Heartbreakers. Guitarist Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh haven't kept quite as high a profile over the past thirty odd years, but from the sounds of the album they have lost none of their considerable chops.If you can still find a copy, it's worth the extra money to pick up the LP with bonus "uncompressed" CD.
5. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
Neil Diamond has never made music to impress rock critics, and in return rock critics have never been very impressed by Neil Diamond. But Home Before Dark sounds like a different kind of Neil Diamond album. No, it doesn't sound like it was made with the approval of rock critics in mind (heaven forbid), but it does seem to be an attempt to make a "serious" album in the way that even his previous collaboration with super-producer Rick Rubin, 12 Songs, did not. It's a quiet album intended for intimate listening. I don't see how these songs reach the back rows at a Neil Diamond show. Nevertheless, the songs are full of the kind of drama and showmanship that characterizes Diamond's best work, it's just a quieter, more subtle kind of drama than we're used to from Neil. Unlike Rick Rubin's other big production this year, this album is emphatically not a victim of the "loudness wars." There's oodles of dynamic range on this album, and those shifts in dynamic range really are an essential ingredient in allowing the drama inherent in the songwriting to unfold. Congrats to Neil on the first number one album (and perhaps the best studio album) of his career.
6. Beck - Modern Guilt
This is another album I wrote a bit about already. At the time I was more interested in writing about the novelty of the album being offered on LP with an MP3 download sourced from vinyl than the music itself. Now I'd like to say a few words about the music: it's terrific. (I realize that technically this statement only counts as a few words if you consider the contraction "it's" as two words, but I believe it is legitimate to do so.)
7. She & Him - Volume One
I do not care that "She" is a pretty actress. I do not care that "Him" is M. Ward. This is very enjoyable classic pop music. If you've ever found yourself with a lump in your throat while listening to The Stone Poneys' "Different Drum" you need to add this album in your collection.
8. Orchestra Baobab - Made In Dakar
Hey kids, are you interested in checking out the roots of Vampire Weekend's Afro-Pop influenced sounds? Well, you won't find them here (for that check out Paul Simon's Graceland). Senegal's Orchestra Baobab came roaring back to life in 2002 with the release of Specialist In All Styles, and Made In Dakar suggests they are back to stay. Orchestra Baobab present a potent mix of Afro-Pop and Afro-Cuban sounds. Honestly, I'm not knowledgeable about this kind of music to say anything intelligent about it (that never stopped me before), but I really enjoyed this skillfully played and passionate album.
9. Mudhoney - The Lucky Ones
Twenty years into their career and Mudhoney are still the loudest thing going on. The secret to their longevity? Clean living. Mudhoney doesn't offer anything groundbreaking with their latest album; maybe their primal fuzz sounds a little wiser with age ("the lucky ones have already gone down"), but never sounds grown up. Mudhoney still offers retrograde, knuckle-dragging, loud fun. When Mudhoney debuted twenty years ago, few would have predicted they'd still be going strong in 2008. Even fewer would have predicted the long playing record album would still be going strong as well. But here it is 2008 and I bought Mudhoney's new album on LP with a code for a free MP3 download and a bonus 7" single that includes covers of Pere Ubu's "Street Waves" and The Troggs' "Gonna Make You." This is almost as much fun as collecting limited-edition, colored vinyl Sub-Pop 7" singles circa 1989.
10. R.E.M. - Accelerate
R.E.M.'s most exciting music in years was definitely a victim of the "loudness wars." On CD Accelerate sounds like total crap. Eric Zimmerman at REMring diagnosed the problem with this album quite effectively. The expensive 45 RPM double LP sounds better than the CD, but the relative lack of dynamic range (while made worse by CD mastering) seems to have been a choice made at the recording and mixing stage of this production. Pity, because there are some really good songs here. Personally, I think they would have sounded better with a little more room to breathe.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Marjorie and I were reduced to hysterics. After all our planning and shopping, Will would have been genuinely and sincerely thrilled to have gotten the gift of cat litter for Christmas. Heck, he probably wouldn't have cared if it was fresh cat litter or not. Of course this was the one moment that morning we failed to capture on video, so it's a memory I make an extra effort to treasure.
This year, our two year old daughter Amelia has discovered Will's set of Thomas the Tank Engine Trains. As you can see, there is a lot to discover. This is very good news as far as I'm concerned. Will had kind of moved past his Thomas stage and this guarantees a bit more return on a considerable investment. And since Amelia has been playing with the trains, Will has once again become obsessed with them. So it looks like Santa will be bringing more presents from the Island of Sodor this year. (And maybe if Amelia is really good Santa will bring her a bucket of cat litter too.)
Roger Miller's sentimental Christmas song "Old Toy Trains" beautifully captures a young child's sense of anticipation on Christmas Eve. A few years ago Dean & Britta released a nice cover of it as a free MP3. I imagine it's still floating around in cyberspace somewhere. This version is by former Beach Boys' session musician Glen Campbell, and it's nice too.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
But as BangSplat notes, mastering engineer Greg Calbi was fairly liberal in his use of dynamic range compression on this reissue. According to BangSplat's measurements, on the original CD the first track, "Radio Free Europe," averages -19.73 dB and -20.85 dB (left and right channels, respectively), while the remaster clocks in at -12.76 dB/-12.93 dB. In other words, the remaster is around 7 dB louder on average than the original. I recently transcribed the album from vinyl and after normalizing "Radio Free Europe" to 0 dB got a result that looks very similar to the original CD (-19.1 dB/-19.6 dB). You can see what the difference between the LP and remastered CD looks like below.
So what does the difference sound like? Not as dramatic as you might think. I hate to admit it, given the obvious application of dynamic range compression, but the deluxe edition sounds pretty good to my ears. Whatever peaks got compressed out are (in my opinion) not entirely essential to enjoying the music. I would have preferred a reissue that matched the original master tape a little more closely, but sonically the new version is decent.
In fact, I'm not at all surprised that many of the reviews of this set claim the deluxe edition is a sonic upgrade over previous editions. Compared to the original domestic CD, it almost certainly is an upgrade. The original CD of Murmur (released sometime in the mid-eighties) was a nasty sounding thing. It featured a harsh, grating midrange that made it all but unlistenable to my ears. I sold my copy a long time ago. It was exactly the kind of poorly mastered CD that forced me to the conclusion that "perfect sound forever" was a big lie. It was my repeated experiences with crummy sounding CDs like Murmur that made the idea that CDs are inferior to LPs something of a sacred cow for me.
But whatever the original CD's problems were, lack of dynamic range was not among them. As you can see from BangSplat's measurements, the original CD pretty closely matches the LP in terms of dynamic range.
Listening on headphones on my computer or my iPod, the new deluxe edition sounds particularly good. The version I ripped from LP also sounds good, but (after adjusting for volume differences) the new version sounds slightly more focused. I've always felt like there was a slight gauzy haze that hung over Murmur, and I hear less of that on the remaster. The version I ripped from LP sounds kind of like the album cover looks; like everything is in soft-focus. The remastered CD brings everything into sharper focus without really changing the way the album sounds too dramatically (don't worry--you still won't be able to figure out what Michael Stipe is singing).
But when I compared the two versions on my stereo it was a different story. The CD-R I made of the version I ripped from vinyl sounded far more appealing to me than the remastered CD. While listening through speakers instead of headphones, the remastered CD did not sound harsh or fatiguing in the way that overly-compressed CDs often do, but the LP sourced CD-R bettered it in ways that are difficult to quantify. The LP sourced version sounded bigger and more involving, and the gauzy, soft-focus quality of the album sounded both less noticeable and more appealing than it did through headphones. I'm honestly not all that inclined to pick apart the differences in sound quality between the two versions, the fact was the LP sourced CD-R was the version I wanted to keep listening to.
Honestly, I'm at a bit of a loss to explain why I preferred a version of the album sourced from an LP and digitized using an $80 analog to digital converter, but I don't think it had anything to do with dynamic range compression. Some of you will no doubt think I'm either nuts or deaf, but I know what I heard; at least when played through speakers, my LP sourced CD-R sounded better than the remaster done by a professional with access to the original master tapes. A lot better to my ears. I can think of a few possible explanations for this, but none of them involve me being some kind of sonic wizard; I'm just a nerd with a semi-decent turntable and a cheap USB analog to digital converter.
Analog and LP boosters are often quick to dismiss digital sound altogether, but my experience with digitizing music from vinyl has convinced me that there is nothing inherently wrong with digital sound. Even resolution limited 16 bit, 44 kHz CDs are capable of fantastic sound quality. This experience has forced me to the (inescapable?) conclusion that some aspect of LP playback adds something to the sound of music that I happen to find appealing, but which is not strictly speaking "hi-fi." And whatever that LP magic is, it can be captured digitally (or at least most of it can).
To sum up, the deluxe edition of Murmur will likely sound like a major sonic upgrade to anyone who is only familiar with the original CD. Those familiar with the LP (or Mobile Fidelity's mid 90s audiophile reissues) might feel differently. Oh, and sacred cows make delicious hamburger meat.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Recently I found a CD called Peppermint Stick Parade, a compilation of singles released on Iowa's Bus Stop label, nestled among the $1 flotsam and jetsam. It's a real treat for anyone who is a fan of Velvet Crush with no less than 8 tracks by such V.C. related acts as Bag-O-Shells, Honeybunch, The Stupid Cupids, The Springfields, Paulie Chastain, and Velvet Crush themselves.
I really do hope there is another CD compilation of early Menck/Chastain stuff in the works, because between Paul's Halo EP and stray cuts by The Stupid Cupids, Bag-O-Shells, etc. there is a lot more tuneful ground left to be covered. If you don't already have them, Hey Wimpus and The Ballad of Ric Menck are essential purchases for fans of 60s flavored pop music (I know I've mentioned this before, but that doesn't make it any less true).
These two tracks from Bag-O-Shells have yet to be released on CD anywhere oustside this rather obscure compilation. They're both killer cuts. In fact, I'd rank "Whatever Happened To My Life" right up there with the best tunes on any Velvet Crush album--it's that good. Not bad for a buck. Sometimes checking the bargain bins pays off.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
It's definitely worth getting if you are interested in hearing a different side of the Boss.
This is the most sparse, hypnotic music he's released since Nebraska.
Monday, December 01, 2008
As I said last year when I put together a post of my favorite albums of the year, I am about the last person whose opinion on current music should be taken seriously. I'm old and mostly listen to old music. Even the new music I buy leans toward new releases by established artists. That said, somebody has to balance out the whippersnappers, so I'll enter.
Here are my current contenders, although I'm probably forgetting something.
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Wye Oak - If Children
Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
Sun Kil Moon - April
Stereolab - Chemical Chords
She & Him - Volume One
R.E.M. - Accelerate
Paul Westerberg - 49:00
Orchestra Baobab - Made In Dakar
Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
Mudhoney - The Lucky Ones
Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
The Last Of The Shadow Puppets - The Age Of Understatement
Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Momofuku
Duffy - Rockferry
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Beck - Modern Guilt
Various Artists - Daptone 7 Inch Singles Collection, Volume 2
The Fireman - Electric Arguments
Belle & Sebastian - BBC Sessions
Ida - Lovers Prayers
Adele - 19
Old New Music:
Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House, 1968
Buena Vista Social Club - Live At Carnegie Hall
Mingering Mike - Super Gold Greatest Hits
I don't know if these should count or not. The Neil Young and Buena Vista Social Club were both released for the first time in 2008, despite having been recorded 10 and 40 years ago. The Dennis Wilson has been out-of-print long enough to practically qualify as a new release. Mingering Mike's not gonna make the cut anyhow (sorry Mike).
So what am I missing? What would be on your list? What do you think will make it to my final list of 10?
Friday, November 28, 2008
Anyway, I'm not sure how much holiday themed music I'll be posting this year. I do have a few things, including some cuts off this nice Capitol Country Christmas sampler I stumbled upon recently. Some of the tracks on this set are also on the great (and criminally out-of-print) Rhino compilation, Hillbilly Holiday. But there's lots of nice stuff on it that was new to me as well, including "It's Christmas Time" by the Louvin Brothers, which strikes me as a nice way to kick off the holiday season.
Strangely, neither this song, nor the wonderful "Santa's Big Parade" are available on the MP3 download of Christmas With The Louvin Brothers, although they were added as bonus tracks to the CD version (which is of course out-of-print).
I think it would be fair to call this song corny. But at the same time it is impossible deny the heartfelt beauty of Charlie and Ira's harmonizing.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I only mention this because with Neil Young involved, you never know when a release is going to appear or disappear. Speaking of which, hardcore fans might be happy to know that his long-promised, massive Archives Volume One box set is now available for pre-order on DVD or Blu-Ray at Amazon. It has a current street date of January 27, 2009 (and with a little luck it just might actually be available for purchase for next year's holiday season).
I'd be shocked if the long-delayed archives set actually meets a January 27th release date, but in the meantime, those hoping to find a little Shakey in their stocking this year might consider adding Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 to their wish list (this one is promised for December 2nd, and so far its release date has only been pushed back once).
Of course, if you don't already own it, you can't go wrong with the Buffalo Springfield Box Set. Even if you own all three albums, there's lots to be discovered in the box such as nice acoustic demos like this one for "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong."
There's also a wealth of previously unreleased material such as "Down, Down, Down," a Young-penned song that formed the basis for "Broken Arrow."
The box also features a number of previously unreleased songs recorded after the second album as the band was falling apart. Tracks like the Richie Furay sung "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night" prove that The Springfield's posthumous swan song, Last Time Around, could have been a much stronger album if it had been assembled more carefully.
Of course whenever Neil Young compiles something there are bound to be as many complaints about what's missing as excitement about what's there. A few tracks from Last Time Around are not represented, but the most common complaint is the absence of the nine-minute version of
Legend has it that either Neil or Stephen Stills, or possibly both, never wanted the long version of "Bluebird" released in the first place. Despite their objections, once released the track became a minor staple of classic rock radio, and many fans of the band consider it the version of the song to hear. Whatever you think of the then ascendant tendency to turn pop songs into extended semi-improvisational rock jams, the long version of "Bluebird" holds an important place in the Springfield canon: the band was known to end their live sets with epic-length versions of the song. I imagine Stills and Young view this version as a poor substitute for the legendary live performances of the song. But since no quality Buffalo Springfield live recordings are known to exist, this is all we have.
As extended guitar epics go, I would rank this somewhere between Love's "Revelations" (tedious) and Television's "Marquee Moon" (sublime). There is some nice guitar interplay between Stills and Young, but at times Stills falls back on blues cliches that make the jamming sound predictable. Or perhaps it only sounds predictable in retrospect, this kind of thing probably sounded a lot fresher before the seventies happened. Maybe you had to be there.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Baltimoreans (and those like me who grew up in the Baltimore/Washington suburbs but chose to identify with Baltimore over Washington) are a proud, stubborn, and--it must be said--slightly insecure people. John Elway refused to play for us. My blood pressure still rises slightly every time I see that tool on TV. Then we lost our football team and after years of being jilted and screwed by the NFL (and Washington Redskins) we had to steal another town's to get one back. (I'm sure that sucked for Cleveland, but at least they got to keep their team's name and records, ours skipped town in the middle of the night on Mayflower moving vans). Our own airport changed its name to include the dreaded "W" word (some of us still defiantly call it "Friendship Airport"). At least we never had to endure the insult of an official name change like "the Washington Orioles of Baltimore." Thank God for that.
But today is a day to set past insults and slights aside and celebrate. Today is a great day because the Baltimore Orioles are once again the Baltimore Orioles. Crack a cold Natty Bo in celebration.
The team has also tweaked their uniforms slightly in other ways, including yet another relatively minor change to the bird logo that appears on their caps:
The new bird is a little better than the old one. It's a little more streamlined and stylized, and they mercifully dropped the pointless yellow highlights. But in terms of branding it still says "Audubon" to me more than it says "Baseball." Also, the bird's black head is (still) not sufficiently distinguishable when put on a black baseball cap--from a distance it kind of gets lost.
Of course, there is a logo that works much better. Graphically bold, at a glance it says both "Baseball" and "Baltimore." I have no idea why the Orioles don't just give up on all these variations on orthinologically correct birds and go back to the logo that was associated with the franchise from the 1960s through the 1980s:
There is a reason you see more Orioles fans wearing throwback caps than the new ones, and it's not just because the team hasn't been worth a damn in so long. This is a butt-kicking logo.
Bringing "Baltimore" back to the road jerseys is most welcome (and long overdue) development. I'll take it. Would it be greedy to also hope for a winning season?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sony/BMG have disabled embedding, but you can check out clips on Cheap Trick's YouTube channel. In terms of musical and visual impact, Cheap Trick was the greatest mainstream rock act of the late 70s. I generally despise arena rock from this era, but by incorporating some of punk's energy and goofing on arena rock's more bombastic tendencies, Cheap Trick made their music irresistible. Or to put it another way: Rick Nielsen rules!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Our first Halloween collection finds us probing the subconscious to confront our most persistent demons on Garage Rock's favorite holiday. We are visited by some of the usual cast of characters one would expect, Dracula, the Wolfman, Ghosts, Zombies, and Witches, but are far more horrified by that which cannot be touched, controlled, bargained with, or avoided. Our own dreams. During the course of these proceedings you will find yourself dancing with the Devil, laughing in the face of the apocalypse, transported to the mystic forests of your deepest darkest secrets and insatiable lusts, and shocked by the helplessness of your own confessions of the sacred and the profane. But afterward, if you live, one fact above all will remain clear. Now you will learn why you fear the night!
The Flaming Lips - "Halloween On The Barbary Coast," or perhaps "Unconsciously Screamin'."
Mudhoney - "Halloween" (face it Mudhoney's version kicks butt over Sonic Youth's original).
Meat Puppets - "Attacked By Monsters" "Snakey is awakey and he wants a little piece of the pie." Lock up your daughters, this is scary stuff! "Vampires" isn't nearly as frightening, but it's a good rejoinder to anyone who claims the Meat Puppets didn't make any good music after leaving SST.
Meat Puppets - Vampires (Live)
This one sounds good anytime of the year.
Ben Vaughn - She's A Real Scream
I make a point of re-posting this Velvet Monkeys' rarity every Halloween.
Velvet Monkeys - Spooky
Anybody have other suggestions?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Posting all this spooky Halloween music must have brought me back to the fact that one of my favorite records as a kid was a Halloween themed album. I couldn't remember the name of the album, but I could vaguely picture the album cover in my mind...the dominant color was green, it had writing dripping with blood...What did it say? Was it Monster Mash? Maybe.
What were some of the tracks on the album? "Monster Mash" was definitely on it. I was pretty sure "Dinner With Drac" and "Purple People Eater" were on it too. There were some other novelty songs that had nothing to do with Halloween or monsters, "Itsy Bitsy Tiny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Over Night" were two of them. It must have been a budget compilation with re-recordings of hit songs. That didn't prevent me from playing the record over and over again during all times of the year. I must have driven my parents nuts.
Okay, time for a Google search. A couple pages into a google image search on "monster mash album" I see it. That's the album cover! Another blogger has made the entire Peter Pan "Monster Mash" album available. Wow, now the memories really come flooding back. What an awesome album cover! No wonder I loved it. Look at those dancing monsters. Hey, that vampire chick's kinda hot. And what's with the monkeys playing the instruments? And the maze on the back. I remember that.
Listening to the album brings back more memories. I remember my mom explaining to me that the narrator singing "Feet Up Pat 'Em On The Po-Po" didn't literally want his son to grow up to be a "lady-killer just like his pa." "Lady-killer" is just an expression you see, it means a man who is popular with the ladies, not a serial killer.
I'll have to make a CD-R of this for my kids. They'll probably hate it.
According to Wikipedia, Tom McKenzie, a former member of the Doodletown Pipers, provided vocals for much of the music featured on the show. Maybe he's the one singing on this track, "First Annual Semi-Formal Combination Celebration Meet The Monster Population Party," which is the most enjoyable track on the Groovie Goolies' sole album.
I suppose I'm being a bit hard on these monsters, but I think this was a real missed opportunity. The Groovie Goolies show offered the perfect chance to turn young kids on to something a little bit musically wilder and more aggressive, a chance to subvert the dominant musical paradigm. Instead the show's producers offered chewing gum that had lost its flavor on the bedpost overnight. If you're looking for cartoon rock with a more exciting garage-rock flavor, check out The Hardy Boys, they (seriously) rocked.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"Til The Following Night," released in 1961, was the A-side of Sutch's first single, and was produced (along with his next four singles) by the legendary Joe Meek. No mere Halloween novelty number, "Til The Following Night" (aided to a large degree by Meek's bizarre assortment of production techniques) sounds genuinely macabre and deranged. It almost sounds as if it's being sung by a person who genuinely believes himself to be a vampire (or perhaps someone who really is).
Sutch borrowed his name and stage persona from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, but took the horror quotient further than anything Hawkins ever attempted. "Til The Following Night" and follow ups such as "Dracula's Daughter," "Jack The Ripper," and "Monster In Black Tights" stood zero chance of earning airplay on the conservative BBC, so in 1964 Sutch founded one of the first pirate radio stations in the UK, Radio Sutch.
Sutch also had a habit of attracting some of the UK's best rock musicians before they became household names including, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Nicky Hopkins, Matthew Fisher (Procol Harum) and Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple). Many of those musicians, especially Jimmy Page, returned to work with Sutch on his debut LP in 1970, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends. The collective wrath of millions of confused Led Zeppelin fans has regularly earned the album showings at the top of various "worst album ever" lists.
Sadly, Sutch committed suicide in 1999.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
...this year there's a bunch of evil hippies who don't want Reagan to be president. So to disrupt the election, they're going to inject the candy with heroin. Turn kids into addicts.
If I remember correctly, this was an actual rumor that made the rounds back in 1980. Unfortunately, the liberal media covered up the devastating consequences of this plot. Back then we didn't have fair and balanced media outlets like Fox News that were willing to report on the radical left's attempts to destroy our country from within.
I highly recommend you adhere to my five updated Halloween safety tips so that you don't become a victim of whatever nefarious schemes the evil hippies have planned this Halloween in order to prevent a McCain presidency.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This informative educational film from 1977 is exactly the sort of thing we used to watch in school when I was a kid.
Halloween Safety (Centron Educational Films, 1977) Part One
Halloween Safety (Centron Educational Films, 1977) Part Two
Unsafe costumes, razor blades in candy; these were the things children of my generation were taught to fear on Halloween. But let's face it, the world is a lot more complex and dangerous in 2008 than it was in 1977. And while this film offers some information that is still helpful, it is hopelessly out-date today. Because the dangers we face today are greater, parents must work harder than ever to keep their children in a constant state of fearful paranoia.
It is in that spirit that I have created five updated Halloween safety recommendations for 2008:
1. Rather than merely cutting candy bars or fruit in half to check for sharp objects, I recommend that parents purchase x-ray machines to examine all Halloween treats.
2. After they have been x-rayed, all treats should be sent to a lab for a complete chemical analysis to check for harmful substances. The yummy, safe treats should be back in time for Ground Hog Day, so you might want plan another super fun event for when the kids actually get to eat the candy.
3. It's important for the modern parent to remember there is more to worry about these days than hippies trying to turn our kids on to acid. Today's parent should be very concerned about terrorists lacing Halloween snacks with dangerous substances like ricin or weaponized anthrax. That is why I recommend that all children wear hazmat suits over their Halloween costumes. (The hazmat suits should, of course, also be covered in reflective tape so that they are clearly visible to oncoming cars.)
4. Parents should always accompany children while trick-or-treating, and in addition to hazmat suits, I recommend at least one parent carry a concealed firearm (something along the lines of a Kimber Pro Carry should do the trick in all but the worst neighborhoods).
5. Certain houses should be avoided altogether on Halloween. Ask yourself a few questions before you approach a neighbor's home. Does the house look a little run down? If so, move on to the next one. Can you pronounce the name written on the mailbox? If not, don't let "political correctness" interfere with the well-being of your children. Finally, any house with an Obama yard sign or rainbow flag should be avoided for obvious reasons.
So long as you follow these five simple rules, you and your kids are sure to have a safe, happy Halloween.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Back when I taught film history I used to show a clip from Birth Of A Nation and juxtapose it with a clip from Dolemite in order to generate discussion about depictions of race in American film. I'm not sure what point I was trying to make, but the juxtaposition usually got people talking.
As Moore once immodestly said of himself:
These guys Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac claim they're the Kings of Comedy, they may be funny, but they ain't no kings. That title is reserved for Rudy Ray Moore and Redd Foxx.
Moore was 81.
Monday, October 20, 2008
"Vampire Husband" was cut by the Boston based Sterling label. Vocalist Shelley Stuart was the wife of label owner, Lew Tobin, who likely plays the keyboards on this cut. This song and many others song-poem classics are available for download for free from WFMU on the I Like Yellow Things: MSR Madness, Vol. V compilation.
And is it just my imagination or did Lew Tobin have Rod Argent's keyboard playing with the Zombies in mind when they cut this spooky track?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Speaking of which, no Halloween party would be complete without the Frantics' brilliant instrumental "Werewolf." The Frantics hailed from Seattle and recorded for the Dolton label in 1959 and 1960. The spoken intro and sinister snarls truly take this song into rarified territory among werewolf songs, it's only competition being "Werewolves Of London" by Warren Zevon and "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" by The Cramps. The Cramps appropriated massive portions of this song for "Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk" (which by the way is good advice when you're out trick or treating, take it from the voice of experience).
Just keep telling yourself, "It's only a song, it's only a song..."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Wender's film provides ample evidence that the band absolutely tore down the house at this show. The live version of "Candela" in particular is among the most, er, incendiary music I've ever heard. The only sour note is the knowledge that vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, pianist Rubén González and guitarist/vocalist Compay Segundo have all passed on since this historic night of music making.
Best of all the album is being released on double LP with a bonus CD set included. Other recent Nonesuch LPs I've purchased have been outstanding pressings, among the best I've heard, so I'm really looking forward to hearing this.
I didn't move to Rhode Island until 2000, so I have no idea what Providence was like in the early 90s. But in my mind I picture a city populated exlusively by people who looked like the audience I stood amongst at a Heavenly/Small Factory show at Under Acme in New York City sometime in the early 90s: lots of twenty-something women wearing baby doll dresses and Hello Kitty barretts alongside men wearing thick-rimmed glasses, thrift store clothes and Hello Kitty barretts. In my estimation these were men and women who in other times and other places would have already been forced to lead adult lives for the better part of a decade, but were hopelessly clinging to an idealized notion of childhood innocence. Perhaps that assessment will sound less harsh if I admit that, in essence, I was one of them. I don't think I went quite so far down the road of spectacularly hip scenesterism as others, but without realizing it, I was hiding from the adult world in graduate school at exactly the time I should have been making my way in it.
On one level, the obsessive tweeness of the 90s indie-rock scene was a legitimate, perhaps inevitable, reaction against the world-weary posturing of grunge. On another level it was simply cloying and cute, a temporary hiding place from the world of adult responsibility and its mundane demands. But setting scene politics aside, Small Factory's singles still hold up for the same reason I found them appealing at the time: it's solid pop music delivered with passion.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thanks to Guy for pointing this YouTube video out to me. It's Stevie Wonder doing an epic take on "Superstition" live on Sesame Street. Guy remembers being completely freaked out by this as a four or five year old. I can understand why, I am not sure children that age should be exposed to music this funky. I have to say, this version completely crushes the studio version of the song from Talking Book.
Unfortunately, I don't remember seeing this. I would have been three years old on April 28, 1973, so I would have been the right age. Perhaps it's buried somewhere deep in my subconscious.
It's always been a bit disappointing to me that neither of my kids has ever shown much interesting in Sesame Street (although as I type this Will is wearing an Elmo t-shirt that Amelia picked out for him to wear today). Will also completely wore out a Cookie Monster shirt (Cookie Monster is pure id, so of course children love him). But just a couple weeks ago, I could not talk Will into letting me buy him a Bert t-shirt. "Come on," I said, "you'll be the only kid in school cool enough to have a Bert shirt." He told me if I could find him another Cookie Monster shirt, he'd wear it, but Bert wasn't happening (Bert is all superego, so I guess he's a tougher sell).
Anyway, from the little bits of Sesame Street I've seen over the past several years, I can tell you without a doubt it is nowhere near as cool, or dangerous, as this. Check out the kid with the long hair in a full-on funk freak-out on the fire escape. Awesome!
And here's Stevie teaching Grover a little bit about soul.
Finally we have a Wonder's vocoder drenched classic written specially for his Sesame Street appearance.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Despite my complaints about Rhino's remaster of Pleased To Meet Me, I went ahead and picked up the reissue of Tim as well. I'm glad I did. To make a long story short, they got this one right.
I wish I could compare the remaster to my original LP, but I can't. Years ago I loaned my LP copy of Tim to a friend who made the mistake of leaving it locked in his Ford Fiesta on a hot day. When he returned it to me it was warped to the point of being unplayable. I replaced the LP with a new-fangled CD, but I have never been happy with the way the album sounded on CD.
The remaster makes for a much more satisfying listen than the older CD (which was probably issued a couple years after the album was released on LP and cassette). The older CD suffered from the kind of thin and tinny sound I often associate with CDs from the mid 80s (which is what initially turned me off about the medium). Tommy Erdelyi's production had a tinny quality to it anyway, and the flaws in the original CD only exacerbated the problem. The remaster, while preserving the original qualities of the recording, sounds richer and fuller. So yeah, the snare drum still sounds like it's being channeled through a tin can, but it least it sounds like it's coming from a bigger tin can.
Unlike the Pleased To Meet Me remaster, Rhino preserved the dynamic range of the original this time. Yes, the volume is boosted a bit compared to the older CD, but I see (and hear) little, if any, evidence of dynamic range compression. Likewise, the dynamic shifts between songs have been preserved on this remaster (the quiet songs don't sound as loud as the loud ones). I'll try to post images when I get a chance, but for now you'll have to take my word for it.
Tim was the first Replacements album I bought, and as such holds a special place in my heart. And I have to say, nostalgia aside, I still think it's a kick ass album. Look at that album cover. What the fuck is that? It's awesome. And the songs. Nearly every song on this album is killer. Yes, the hard-rock numbers "Dose Of Thunder" and "Lay It Down Clown" sound a little forced. But even though "Clown" is the weakest song on the album, it still contains the classic line "the only exercise you get is the shakes" (which I have to believe was written about Bob Mould). You can't entirely slag a track with a line like that. Every other song on the album is a bona-fide classic.
I'd go so far as to say that it is very difficult to think of a run of classic albums as strong as the Replacements had from Let It Be through Pleased To Meet Me. Maybe the Stones from Beggar's Banquet through Exile On Main Street were better. But as great as those Stones albums were, I'll always have more affection for the Replacements, because they were a band that I felt belonged to me, not to some bunch of sell-out old farts whose primary pleasure in life seem to consist of lecturing me about how much cooler everything was when they were my age. On these albums Paul Westerberg and his crew spoke directly to the issues and concerns of alienated kids coming of age in the late 80s in a way that "classic rock" couldn't.
Little things: There's a little less bonus material on Tim, but what's there is great. As others have noted, the short bit of studio chatter that precedes "Left of the Dial" has been eliminated on the remaster (personally, on a scale of 1-10 this rates somewhere between 0-1 as a concern for me, although I realize others feel differently). "Nowhere Is My Home" an Alex Chilton produced track previously only available on the Boink! EP is clearly sourced from vinyl (it doesn't say so in the liner notes, but I guarantee it). I have no problem with this whatsoever. The truth is, sometimes a vinyl copy is the best source available. I'd rather hear a good vinyl transcription over an attempt to reconstruct a deteriorated master tape any day. (And who knows, maybe this is one of those masters sitting at the bottom of the Mississippi?) They got the cover image right, with yellow text that matches the original LP art instead of the white text on the old CD (that always bugged me more than it probably should have). The liner notes by Bob Mehr are first-rate, shedding a lot of light on Westerberg's songwriting and the creative tensions within the band at the time.
This goes a long way toward restoring my faith in Rhino as a premier reissue label and trustworthy guardian of our musical legacy. This reissue is a nice, I would say essential, upgrade. Oh yeah, one more thing: Hey kids, things were so much cooler when I was your age.