Nov 19, 2009
I want to thank you, thank you...Thank you to all the lovely people who sent me birthday greetings last week. It was overwhelmingly wonderful to get so many well-wishes, and I guess I should also thank Facebook for making it so easy to feel so good.
To express my thanks more melodically, let me recruit the help of Natalie Merchant who does it perfectly, starting at the 2:40 mark of Kind and Generous :
For Facebook folks who can't see the embedded video, click here please.
Sort of related: a certain friend of mine once referred to Natalie as "bone ugly". I disagreed both then and now but speaking of other short, dark-skinned women of a similar shape: tonight I saw Ugly Betty for the first time. Holy cow that show is good. Then I watched part of the new show Community and thought it was really sharp. Then I watched part of 30 Rock (perhaps my fourth episode ever). Where did all this amazing television come from?!?!
Sep 05, 2009
Erasure - Chains of Love, Acoustic/LiveOld enough to buy liquor, Erasure's Chains of Love*:
I recently read that Matt Mullenweg -- chief of Automattic/WordPress -- swears by music as a productivity enhancer.** And not long ago, a business colleague said the same thing about students with ADHD whose brains need something extra to chew on while they're studying.
So I'm trying it this weekend -- looking for music that helps me work. Some artists definitely don't help (e.g., Dave Brubeck), but Enrico Caruso's Italian Songs did the trick for helping me focus this afternoon. Enrico Caruso rolled alphabetically into Erasure on my media player, so I got to hear a few tracks of Pop! The First Twenty Hits*** while I finished a task I've been struggling through for weeks. Now, of course, I'm blogging instead of working. But hey, didn't you read? I finished my task!
*Enjoy the video. A little different from the synth-pop version, eh?
**"Music helps me when I'm coding, which is still my priority. When you're coding, you really have to be in the zone. I'll listen to a single song, over and over on repeat, like a hundred times." -- The Way I Work: Matt Mullenweg, Inc. Magazine.
***"The First Twenty Hits." Hyperbole aside, can you imagine having twenty hits at all, never mind a first set?
Jul 16, 2009
In B-flat, "A collaborative musical/spoken word project" by Darren Solomon
In B-flat is a "collaborative musical/spoken word project" by Darren Solomon. It's brilliant. Various folks recorded riffs in the key of B-flat, and Darren assembled them into a multi-voiced web instrument that you can mix and play however you like. I started with the xylophone (upper left) plus the voice (guy with California t-shirt).
Note:each panel has an independent volume control.
Wired magazine brief notes on In B Flat
NPR notes on the strange life of B-flat, the note (not the art piece).
May 31, 2009
Horns Phil Likes, Vol 1.
Note -- these liner notes are still in progress, but I've been distributing the CD so now I have to post it. There will be updates, but feel free to click the many video links now.
14th Street - Rufus Wainwright. Rufus performs 14th Street live at the Fillmore in SFO. At ~3'10" and other places notice how the women sing loud and low while the men provide falsetto "woo". :-) See 2'05" for a cute facial expression.
I Confess - English Beat. Back in ~'98, My office mate Tom wondered why there weren't more cover bands that focused on the late New Wave. I dunno. I Confess is a boppy song strangely matched with dark lyrics that are hard to understand without help from the internet. I love the solo that starts at 2'27" on the CD. The solo in the video isn't as nuanced, but you can still watch it here. I dig the opening ~10 seconds just before vocals. No it's not a joke / It's cards on the table time.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone - The Temptations. Speaking of bass lines... this song has what some consider the mother of all bass lines. Was (Not Was) does a fine cover of and somewhere (not here) there's a great story about how they decided who should sing the parts. Part of Was (Not Was) also performed with Lyle Lovett. Now check out this extensive cultural and musical analysis, excerpted below:
"In ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ the bass line is absolutely unrelenting. It is uncompromisingly fixed in the minor 7th/minor 3rd axis that ‘announces’ the climate of blues. The bass line never stops. There is no let up in this situation which is about the eternal consequences of sin which just cannot be brushed under the carpet."
Strangely, it does not make the top 50 bass lines of all time in this article.
Solo Te Echaron Un Medio - Irakere. Song performed by José Miguel Meléndez, (possibly the author, as well). Irakere was founded by Chucho Valdés (whom I've mentioned elsewhere). The best translation I can give for the title is "They only gave you the half of it." Check out Sylvia and Lisa's Onda Carolina blog if you're interested in Latin-origin music, especially if you live near Durham NC.
Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen. A confession: one afternoon in the summer of '86 or '87, my mom and I were listening to the radio while driving home on Durham's Constitution Dr. I explained that Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were both chroniclers of blue collar America, but that Mellencamp was the more sophisticated writer. Argh. I accept that I'll never write with a 1/16th of Springsteen's strength and creativity. I'm just glad I can listen to the genius at work. The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves / Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays / Roy Orbison singing for the lonely... Man, what a break between "plays" and "Roy". Of course, the miracle is how he puts these words with the music. Here's Thunder Road in a duet with Melissa Etheridge.
Penguins - Lyle Lovett. I have seen him in concert and you should, too. Go for the cello player. Here's the first Lyle Lovett video I ever saw, She's No Lady, She's My Wife. Junior year in college. I was living in two closets at Crew House, whose residents were kind enough to take me in. My three-hundred-percent favorite video from that time was George Michael's highly polished Father Figure. So Lyle Lovett's tune, gone 180 the other direction in terms of costume, models (and color) was a real awakening for me. "Wow," I might have thought, "you don't have to do a stupid Phil Collins video to get away from slick hotties." If you still need slick, check out the little cadenza at 2'27" in the video.) Come to think of it, why didn't I put She's No Lady on this CD instead of Penguins? Probably because of the too-fun five-part entrance: crowd, announcer, drums, horns, backup singers and bass player. And yes, I jab my finger at the speakers just as the horns come in. Every time.
Wild Women Don't Get the Blues - Francine Reed. Sure, we don't get to hear her tell Lyle Lovett, "Well you ugly too," but in this track she gets to sing more. Do you wonder how singers (and comedians, etc.) keep track of what city they're in so they don't yell "Are there some wild women here in Baden Baden" when they're actually in Brussels? And do they ever forget their bandmates names when they introduce, mid-song? Watch Francine do it up here: Wild Women Don't Get the Blues
I Just Want to Make Love to You - Etta James. Isn't it a shame that she didn't like Beyonce covering At Last for one of Obama's inaugural balls? I just hope she was more offended by the TV commercial that used this song. Here's a later-Etta performance of At Last. And here, an unexpected rendition of I Just Want to Make Love to You.
Sexy M.F.- Prince. The song that inspired this mix CD theme. "Horns, down please." is what I -think- Prince says in the middle. Very frustrating that I can't be sure. I've never seen Prince in concert. I feel like I've deprived myself for that. Xta and Mary and friends have, and that makes them -even cooler-. Lately people are asking whether Prince has jumped the shark. I remember a Keyboard magazine article that said... No video because, you know, it's Prince.
Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves. I remember watching this video on a small TV set in the kitchen of my aunt's Indonesian restaurant in Chambersburg, PA, summer of 1982. I knew even then that the song was cheesy. But good! In '84 I met a girl who I thought looked a lot like Katrina, in a very nice way. A decade later, I remember noticing it on the radio one afternoon while exiting the parking lot of my old place at Five Oaks. "Gee, I like this song," I said to myself. Because I do. Another song that gives me a similar smile: Don't Get Me Wrong. I think that because the Pretenders are doing it, DGMW is actually cheesier than WoS. And yes, I still like it. Nobody plays either of these songs on the radio any more, but you can play Katrina on YouTube, and Chrissie Hynde live from 2007: Don't Get Me Wrong.
Dos Gardenias - Ibrahim Ferrer. You heard this on Buena Vista Social Club, yes you did. when Dave and I were in Cuba, we wondered how often we'd hear people covering the tunes. I think we heard them only once, in Havana Vieja (the tourist side of the capital). Ferrer sings on stage in a rendition that features the piano more than the horn. A tu lado viviraaaaan!
El Calderito - Compay Segundo. The original source is gone so I've put them here. El Calderito -- lyrics took forever to find. They are here now (must link to my own site). A silly song if you sang it only in English. Folk songs and children's songs. OK to be simple. Is simple OK for others as well? A sketch. Not even a scene. Just flashes of what's there in the story. I don't normally like the "quack/beep" style of horn but in this song it works just great for me. Horns aside, I love the guitar in this song, especially the short set of chromatic descending chords at ~2'16", echoed at ~2'45". Sorry no video available for El Calderito, but here's a neat Compay Segundo performance of Como La Avellaneda (aka Camagüey ?) with dancers. It's not Segundo's best music, but the dancing is fun. For a better Segundo track online, try Es Mejor Vivir Así with subtitles so you can sing along, even if you don't speak Spanish.
My Brain is Like a Sieve - Thomas Dolby. My housemate David Kamp introduced me to this album our junior year in college when somebody (Steve? Me?) cooked a spicy dinner that made Kamp think of Hot Sauce while we were living at this neat house. I overplayed the hell out of it senior year in this beautiful house, and never got tired. Along with Joe Jackson's double Live 1980/1986 album (and Body and Soul which includes Happy Ending), they were the first pop albums that I seriously listened to for their musical structure and technique. It may be because I'd taken a music theory course the previous semester. Pal Dave says, "you know, of course, that you don't listen to Joe Jackson for the singing." But I digress. What I loved about this song was the harmony, with the alto singing harmony on top of the title words. Can you tell whose voice adds the one word "murder"? You know him. I know you do. Live performance (unappealing to me) here. Studio version (the one I love) here. Harmonies begin at 0'17". Previous blog on backup singers. Enrevanche's blog on backup singers.
Toledo - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. I think this album is stunning and thought about finding a way to do one of its tunes at karaoke. But a very cool person I was seeing at the time suggested, "You'd have to do it as an "over the top" cover." Huhn? Apparently she thought it was too cheesy for the "younger generation" of which was she was. I considered her advice and decided to leave well enough alone. Pal Dave who introduced me to this album has family in Toledo. (Ohio, that is.) Toledo, from Sessions at West 54th. Did you know that Elvis Costello is married to Diana Krall?
What the World Needs Now - Jackie Deshannon. Elvis Costello also does this Burt Bacharach tune in Austin Powers (music only), but I'm giving you the Jackie Shannon performance, since you already have a Costello/Bacharach collaboration. I took this from the soundtrack to My Best Friend's Wedding, which is worth seeing if only for this awesome Main Title featuring Ani DiFranco's Wishin' and Hopin'. The opening scene in the restaurant might be enough to put off anyone who knows -anything- about restaurant reviews, but really, the whole movie is pretty cool (OK, Dermot Mulroney acts a poorly written part, but never mind). The story line could have gone on a much lesser route. Rupert Everett's character keeps nudging things the right direction. BTW -- do you think we don't need any more mountains and meadows? I can't find the Jackie Deshannon version online, but here's another song of hers, When You Walk In the Room. Or "Put a Little Love in Your heart." Which is also covered by Leanord Nimoy.
Nightswimming - REM. Here's the video.(With some nudity. Where did it run?) And here at Wikipedia, I learn it was an oboe, not a horn. I'm pining for the moon / And what if there were two / Side by side in orbit / Around the fairest sun? What does good art require? Some blend of imagination, composition and technique are three of the first things that come to mind. REM puts them together so well in this piece. I seem to recall others that try to approximate the effect of Nightswimming, but the magic reaction never happens, and the piece doesn't bubble into greatness.
Bonus Track : If I ever do a volume 2 of horns, it will probably have Ain't Even Done with the Night, just so I can share the video again.
May 14, 2009
Drums in Downtown Durham -- Let the Asheville-ization BeginAt Five Points on Tuesday: one dude with drums, beating out the same pattern for like two hours.
Will we soon have our own Asheville Drumming Circle?
Zoom to Glide -- Watts Club Mix ca. 2007
Zoom to Glide was my first-ever mix CD. I made it for the "Watts Club", a quartet of former colleagues who thought back in 2006 that we might meet once a a season for dinner and music swaps. You can guess how that schedule worked out, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. I look forward to seeing them again before long.
Though MP3 players have killed the habit of listening to a single CD straight through, I arranged the tracks in Zoom to Glide with the assumption that they'd be heard in order. It starts fast and loud, then slows to something less lively. It's good for people like me: I still use a CD player in the car, and I don't enjoy it when my ears go from steady to revved up. Kind of like my clutch doesn't like it, either. Let me know if you'd like a copy. Below, my very first liner notes (which I produced this week, two years after the CD) with many links to the music:
Pacific 3-2-1 Zero [Excerpt] - Phil Dadson. From Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones. I learned only now that this piece "was conceived as a clear and passionate response to nuclear testing and dumping in the Pacific". You'll recognize the opening from the Greek folk song Miserlou (Dick Dale video), which you've heard extracted in other settings.
Pump It - Black Eyed Peas. And again with the Miserlou. I first saw the BEP in some TV commercial that had will.i.am yelling "Louder!" I thought, "Damn, that's impressive stuff for just a TV commercial" but soon learned that it was those "Black Eyed Peas" I'd been hearing about for a year. Cool. I mean, "Louder!" (apl.de.ap is from Pampanga, Philippines, the province next door to my mother's home.) A naval carrier squadron lip syncs. Chuckles.
Sell Out - Reel Big Fish. Do you remember the ska comeback of 1997-1998? No? Hmm. I remember that my friend Brian Rice liked this song and that I saw the video exactly once while hanging out with him and friends in Mountain View (CA) during the early tech boom, right around the time Google incorporated in nearby Menlo Park. Google now owns Mountain View. And many other things. They might even own Reel Big Fish. "Baby don't you sign that paper tonight." Unless Google's buying. For a change, this song does not start with Miserlou. Watch the fun Sell Out video here with the intro skit dubbed in Japanese. (As commenter mayday992 asks "is it possible to be sad listening to reel big fsih")
Happy Hour - The Housemartins. Twenty-three years I've been listening to this song and I still don't know the words. What a shame. By the way, the album this comes from is pronounced "London NIL, Hull 4", not "London Zero..." See The Housemartins play, and dance and sing in a mid-80s pop video from when MTV still let performers run a non-musical skit for 60 seconds before the tune.
Me, Myself and I - De La Soul. They're shilling for Nike now? Remarkable. They play on Arsenio.
Stolen Car - Beth Orton. "You were sitting, your fingers like fuses. Your eyes, cinnamon." I read that this song is a work of Orton's "folktronica" - a fusion of of folk and electronica. Very well, then. It is good. Best friend Dave introduced me to this track and the next. Stolen Car mix.
Central Reservation [Ben Watt Mix] - Beth Orton. Where did I read that opera allows us to sing words we could never just say? And that asked, how does the universe decide who has the skill to put lyrics, voice and music together like Beth Orton? Central Reservation, live.
Oh What a Night - Wyclef Jean. When I was a junior or senior, the Brown Concert Agency announced Wyclef Jean as our headliner for Spring Weekend. Wyclef who? One day I'll know something big before it's been big for five years. Until then, I'll stumble around. I remember listening to this track at the first of September last year, while winding west down the mountains from Yosemite National Park. Before each series of tight curves, the California road managers tell you how many you'll see. "Nine ahead," says the first sign. "Eight more curves" says the second. Oh What a Night remix.
Les Portes Du Souvenir - Les Nubians. "The Doors of Rememberance", according to Google's translation. As this song begins, I can imagine that Wyclef Jean will come in after the intro. Instead we get one of the Faussart sisters. Pulled from Dave's CD collection on a visit to San Francisco. Video.
11:11 - Rufus Wainwright. From the same mix CD that brought me Beth Orton. (It seems that if you like Zoom to Glide you'd also like Dave. Or at least his music.). Once in 2003, model blogger Rebecky mentioned Rufus Wainwright as if we all knew who he was. I didn't. Some of my first Rufus Wainwright listening happened two years later, right here. Live performance from 2006.
Lagrimas Negras - Bebo Valdes and Cachao. What good fortune brought me to Calle 54? Dave and I looked for the street while we were in Havana, the former home of Bebo Valdes and current home of his fantastic son Chucho. We never found the street because of course it is in New York. Dave has declared that Bebo has no dynamic range in this piece, and that he shows his age. Whatever. I believe that I read somewhere that Bebo and Cachao were friends for decades and decades before making this first recording together in 2000. Watch the video (I'm not asking, I'm telling. Music starts around 1'30".) Sometimes when I'm in bed, waiting to fall asleep, this piece enters my head and just plays and plays and plays.Other times, the duet of Bebo and son.
Terra Zona - The Burnt Earth Ensemble. This is another track from Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones. If you're interested in alternative musical instruments but don't already have this album and book, you know what I'd advise. This piece and Pacific 3-2-1-Zero both remind me of Indonesian music though neither one is, so far as I know.
Erang-Erang Subuh - Gandrung Banywangi. On the other hand, this piece is from Indonesia -- more specifically the eastern part of Java. My father's ancestral home. A place I don't visit enough. Read more on this recording (sorry, no music).
Una Notte a Napoli - Pink Martini. See Pink Martini play it here in Italy. And grazie mille to K for introducing this band to me, I think on the first night we ever visited at her home. Not long after, she gave me a beautifully wrapped package that I assumed was a hand-made notepad like the ones I'd seen in her art space. The paper and ribbons were so pretty that I left the package intact for days. It wasn't until she nudged me that I realized I ought open it. Not a notepad but rather the Pink Martini which had impressed me so. "One night in Naples / With the moon and the sea / I met an angel / Who could no longer fly / One night in Naples / We forgot about the stars / And even without wings / He took me to the sky." In cielo mi portò.
Makeda - Les Nubians. Hélène and Célia Faussart traveled from France to Chad to France and then the United States with a Top 10 R&B hit. Good travels. See them sing.
It Must Be Love - Rickie Lee Jones. If I am sometimes sentimental, it is songs like this that feed the mood. I remember bedtimes back in ~'91 when I'd play this song over and over on my cheap stereo, trying to decide whether I'd go to sleep or hear it again. It might have been the last song on one side but I couldn't just let it play out while I drifted off. You remember tape players, don't you -- the strain, squeal, and bam as they shut themselves off? That's no way to fall asleep. No video available, so here is just the music.
Lean On Me - The Housemartins. This is a different Lean on Me than the Bill Withers song that all of us know and most of us love. I won't say that this one is better but I will say that I love it more. Know it for yourself. Music and rest. Peace.
May 06, 2009
Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears for Fears
Antwerp, 2006. Tres cool. I'll bet those tickets were dear.
Song on my mind because I just found out that an article I wrote for a client is now titled "Sowing the Seeds." Song also on my mind because you should visit this Name That Number One music quiz blog of mine, if you haven't already. Or even if you have -- because the videos are great, dammit, and I put a lot of time into it! :-)
Feb 13, 2009
John Gorka Tonight -- Benefit for Urban Ministries of Durham (Friday, 13 Feb)
Date: Friday, February 13, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Location: Parish Hall, St. Philip's Episcopal Church
Address: 403 E Main St (enter on Queen St.)
City: Durham, NC
$20 at the door; $8 children 8-12; childcare available; refreshments available, including local brews from Triangle Brewing Company; free, monitored parking.
All ticket proceeds to Urban Ministries of Durham.
Feb 03, 2009
Name That Number One!
Last September, Billboard published its number one hits from 1958 to 2008. Riffing on the 80s-song quiz you've seen before, here's my quiz for the Billboard list. Hotlinked lyrics go to some fantastic videos.
Name That Number One!
(all songs in chronological order)
1961 to 1970
Clap your hands just a little bit louder
We're all sensitive people
With so much to give
Cause I'm right here, right here, right here, right here at home
She's black as coal but she burn like a fire
Warm smell of colitas
Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass
It's been too long since we took the time
No-one's to blame, I know time flies so quickly
Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul
Dream if u can a courtyard
This can be my testimony
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
Still I believed
Somehow the one that I needed
Would find me eventually
So Cosmo says you're fat
Well I ain't down with that!
I would only be in your way
My mind is telling me no but my body -- my body's telling me yes
From Oakland to Sacktown
The Bay Area and back down
Gimme your heart, make it real
Or else forget about it
So you do what you gonna do
Come on and talk to me
Alright, alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright, alright
..got me thinking that it might good idea to take her with me,
Come let me make up for the things you lack
Anytime you want to, pick up the telephone, you
know it ain't nothin', drop a couple stacks on you
1. Here's an answer key. Please advise of any errors.
2. Videos -- some are covers, and some (like 1978) are from movies. One (like 1967) is from a commercial -- so don't click that if you're a purist (or if you hate sellouts). I'll try to add more in the future. I'm almost begging you to click on 1983. And I really like 1976 and 1985, but for different reasons.
3. Here's a blog with extensive notes on the 2000-2008 songs. If you can find links to the earlier decades, please let me know.
5. Oh, here's a Wickedly Difficult 80s lyrics quiz with COOLER ARTISTS and 262 songs. Holy crap. Celeste, do this one at home, not work :-)