Thursday, June 24, 2010

Life, Soundtrack Included

So, as part of my constant search for new music, I am often trying to educate myself on the history of the music I already enjoy and stretch my boundaries. So when I heard Tom Moon on the NPR show All Songs Considered talking about his new book, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die I picked it up for my best friend John87, who is probably more obsessed with music than I am. I tried wrapping it as a Christmas gift, but ended up reading it as I wrapped all the other presents. When I finally wrapped it, it was the last present left, and my wife was starting to get irritated, so I finally had to finish up. A couple months later I went back to the store and bought the book for myself. My goal is to hear every song.

I am already 221 recordings (mostly albums, but some songs scattered here and there, and also some box sets) into the book, and I just now decided to start recording the trip. Partly it's because there is so much music I often can't remember what the stuff I listened to sounds like. Partly it's because most of the recordings here are worth sharing, and this is a great way to point others in the right direction. And partly it's just fun.

So, with that said, I am now keeping a record of my journey through a great book, and a great challenge. As I said, I have already listened to 221 of the recordings. This includes about 125 that I have now listened to alphabetically starting with ABBA on page one, plus nearly 100 other recordings scattered throughout that I had already heard when I picked up the book. Since my interest in music generally lies in the rock and blues genres, I realized if I picked my way through the book, in the end I would be left with opera and classical, and I would never go back and listen to those recordings. So I started at the start, and I have choked down my medicine of British opera and experimental jazz, and along the way already discovered lost greats like Baby Huey and the Babysitters, Dock Boggs and others. So you might be wondering, am I listening to one of the recordings right now? Hell yes I am.

Artist: Nati Cano's Mariachi los Camperos
Album: Viva El Mariachi!
Album #222

I didn't know what to expect from this one, but it comes charging out of the gates from the start with "Los Arrieros." It was the perfect start to my morning, as I actually got a decent amount of sleep for the first time in a week. My son still has a problem with being put in his crib, but he is finally eating better, which helps to knock him out, and lowers the stress level for my wife and myself. The voices on this album are so plaintive and strong, and the strings twist in and around each other, raising the whole affair to heights so much higher than what you would expect mariachi to sound like. In fact, there are a couple songs, "El Gustito" and "La Maleguena," where the falsetto singing sounds almost like something you would hear in a traditional Hawai'ian song. Now that isn't to say that I'm not craving some Mexican food right now (specifically a fried avocado, but I don't know where to get that besides La Playa in Corpus Christi, TX), but in general this recording surprised me. I should really stop being surprised at this point though, because so many of these recordings shock me with their incredible sound, in genres I had never even considered.

Many of the albums I listen to can be found on Grooveshark, one of my favorite websites ever. I discovered it a few years ago when it first came out, and now it seems pretty mainstream with ads for Rock Band interfaced right into the player, so hopefully it won't go the way of so many websites I have loved before and disappear. I used to use, but iTunes just bought them out last month, so my classical music hookup is gone now, and classical is very difficult to find on Grooveshark. I know eventually I will have to start paying money to finish this list, first with an account to Napster or Rhapsody to stream music, and then eventually buying the very rare albums. But for now, free streaming and the library are the keys to making it through most of the book. I know the above playlist is glitchy, but if you open it in Grooveshark you can rearrange the tracks and eventually they will all play.

Buy Viva El Mariachi! on Amazon

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