Saturday, August 21, 2010

Like Vanilla Ice Cream for Your Shave Ice

Get out your Mai Tai and beach chair- Hawai'i is brought to you on this outstanding recording.

Artist: Sonny Chillingworth
Album: Endlessly
Recording #256

So I had to go out of order for this one- I couldn't find the whole album online so I skipped it, but I was really disappointed to have to do that based on the write up in the book. So last week I was checking the library to see if they had any of the recordings I liked, and I found out they had this one. From track one I knew I had something special. While I believe most, if not all, of these are covers, Sonny's voice and guitar fully capture the songs and make them his own. His deep, clear voice is classic crooner, and while I found it very enjoyable, the real stars here are the guitar instrumentals. The perfectly kept island rhythm, the intricate finger work, including hitting all those well-placed harmonics, is as entrancing as it is relaxing. If you enjoy acoustic guitar you can't go wrong picking up this one.

Buy this album here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues

As advertised, here is the 2nd summer song in a row.

Artist: Eddie Cochran
Recording: "Summertime Blues"
Recording #255

With only a few days left in the summer, anyone who had the summer off is starting to feel the summertime blues right now. This song works perfectly with that sentiment, but if you listen to the lyrics the song is actually about the pains of parents and bosses during summer. Great lyrics, great riff, but I still can't figure out whose version of this song I've heard, because I've definitely never heard this version before (after some research I think it was the George Thorogood version). I have the Black Keys cover song, but even when I downloaded it I knew I had heard someone else do it. Cochran's version is much older and earler rock than I thought it would be. I was expecting a harder, more electric blues version. So while I enjoy the song, I prefer most of the covers-- even the very rockabilly Alan Jackson version. So pull up the above playlist and pick your preferred version to round out the summer. Mine is presented below. Goodbye best summer ever (not only due to the birth of my first son), I hope next summer can compete with the bliss of this one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't Talk Back!

First of 2 summer hits to wrap up the summer.

Artist: The Coasters
Recording: Yakety Yak
Recording #1?

Is there a person reading this that doesn't know this song? I'm pretty sure I heard this song on Sesame Street or some other show as a very little kid. Is there any better song to represent the child's viewpoint of parenting? The Coasters nailed it, right down to the silly bass "Don't talk back" made to represent the authority figure. As demonstrated by my 2 year old nephew, who was recently heard having a conversation with himself in which he impersonated his mom by lowering his voice, you don't have to have much time as on this planet to get the reference. Now that I am a parent I wonder if I'll quote this song as much as my mom did when I was a kid. Although the song definitely sounds dated, coming from the very early days of rock, it still works in a different format: surprisingly good raggae reinventions here and here. But if the original doesn't take you back to your childhood, I feel bad for you. This one brings back all the best parts of the worst parts of being a kid, and I'm starting my son early-- he's sleeping in my arm as I type this, so maybe he'll have an even earlier memory attached to this classic.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Country Music Playing on the Radio

The title is a reference to a dirty lyric in NOFX's "Together on the Sand." I won't go into why it's inappropriate, but the next part is " I turned it off." This was generally my opinion about country music for a long time-- it belonged in pickup trucks and on the beaches of the gulf coast. But I've come around and realized there are very specific country music styles that I dislike; mostly anything considered "pop" or "Nashville." I slowly became a country fan through the genre, specifically through Ryan Adams' work, and then I finally came to enjoy what I consider "classic" country when I heard Johnny Cash. So I knew who Patsy Cline was, but never really heard her music.

Artist: Patsy Cline
Album: The Patsy Cline Collection (4 discs)
Recording #254
Stream all 103 songs here
So at first listen, I thought "well this is nice, but I don't think I need 4 CDs worth of Patsy Cline." FALSE! The more I listened, the more I craved. My favorite track, "Lovesick Blues," I had never heard until this book and the Hank Williams version. It's one of those standards that everyone has done, but Patsy's version is really the only one that I can put up there with Williams' as just an awesome song (want to hear other versions, including Ryan Adams and LeAnne Rimes?) By the time I got to the more famous songs, like "Crazy," I had already fallen in love with the stripped down versions of her stuff she was doing on the radio before she became big. Her voice is so big, and I see the influence it had on some of my favorite female singers (Neko Case and Jenny Lewis at her most country-tinged) and she just knows how to sing a love song. So if you've heard Patsy before, and found her stuff not bad, then I think you might want to start this box set at "Walking the Dog" and just sit back and take in the breadth of her catalog. Worth the trip.

Buy the album here

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don't Stop This Train

Sometimes I am woefully ignorant of the history of music I enjoy. The next album is on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums, and the title track is on the 500 Greatest Songs list, and yet I had never heard of Jimmy Cliff. Pre-parenthood my wife and I used to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report every night, but now it's just if it happens to be on, and yesterday Jimmy Cliff was the guest on Colbert. At least now I know who he is.
Artist: Jimmy Cliff
Album: The Harder They Come
Recording #253
Stream this album here

Everyone knows Bob Marley, and that's about where my raggae knowledge ended. But Cliff preceded the mainstream explosion of Marley, with a raggae style that took more from R&B than Marley. I actually first heard Cliff on NPR's All Songs Considered when Tom Moon went on and played a few tracks from the book, and I believe he played the song "Pressure Drop." Even back then I thought this sounded like a good album, and now that I've heard the whole thing I know I have to add it to my collection to become my 2nd raggae album, next to Marley's "Legend." Songs like "Draw Your Brakes" (the chorus that Vanilla Ice lifted for one of his songs on his debut) and "River of Babylon" (which is much better than the other version I had heard by Sublime) are incredible. And start to finish this takes you to that island vacation, even while laying down the heavy political and social message. If you like Bob Marley, and who doesn't, this is definitely the next step.

Buy the album here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Things are ramping up for the school year, both teaching and taking my master's classes. That combined with my son's continued sleep strike and all the standard household chores make every day a race against the clock to get anything done. So it's nice to come across a recording like this one that helps to smooth out my day.

Artist: Van Cliburn
Album: Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3, Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3
Recording #252
Stream the first concerto here and the second here

I have already stressed my general apathy towards classical music, but it turns out I really like the sound of piano soloists. The first concerto here is really good, particularly the "intricate fingerwork" in the first movement. It all sounds very nice, calm, steady; the right soundtrack for background baby music. The 2nd, however, sounds like the accompanying music to a silent film. If I had to use an adjective for it, it would be melodramatic-- like those new 1-800 Contacts commercials with the "overly dramatic reenactments." I felt like if I was a music critic I could MST3K this one. But I can recommend the first concerto if you need some chill music.

Buy the album here

Friday, August 6, 2010

When They Kick At Your Front Door, How You Gonna Come?

I had the chance to go back and revisit this one, and it was nice to see that I got a different perspective.

Artist: The Clash
Album: London Calling
Recording #120ish
Stream this album here

I guess I had heard this whole album before, as most of the songs were rated on my iPod, but I'm not sure I ever sat down and heard the whole thing consecutively. So I started the whole thing at the start, with the incredible title track, and I found out my initial impression (that this was noisy, dated music) was actually a bit off the mark. A lot of the songs on this album sound pretty fresh for the fact that they are over 30 years old. The raggae is popping, and punk is angry, and the themes are as potent today as they were back then. Are there some clunkers? Yeah, but it's a double album-- there are very few double albums that should be double albums in my opinion. Being overblown is usually part of the joy of a double album, rather than 2 full discs worth of great songs, but there's definitely enough here for 1 CD worth of 4-star songs. The great neighborhood banger "Guns of Brixton," the fun and poppy "Rudie Can't Fail," and the blistering title track are great examples of how good this band can be, even if you have to plow through some mediocre songs ("Spanish Bombs," which is a recommended track by Tom Moon, is one of my least favorites.) Anyways, glad I went back and heard it.

Buy the album here

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cool Struttin'

After a night like I had last night, Sonny Clark is the perfect jazz to listen to. That's right, I used "perfect" and "jazz" in the same sentence.
Artist: Sonny Clark
Album: Cool Struttin'
Recording #251

Enjoy the Peanuts' Christmas theme music? Does it make you feel relaxed and happy to hear Schroeder laying it down? Well, this has that same feel-good, beat-poet happy jazz feeling. For some reason I had the chance to be asleep last night between midnight and 2:30 AM and I could NOT sleep. This is not a common occurance for me, but today I had to teach class, and it was the first time I ever taught my own material, and everyone else was teaching the same material. I guess I just couldn't stop thinking about different things I had to fix or check up on or add-- so I am beat. But the sweet, smooth trumpet, piano, sax combination of this recording, added to the staccoto drums and walking (strutting, I guess, is more accurate) bassline are making me feel pretty relaxed, even though I feel kind of pissed off. I was going to talk about how this is great dinner music, but it's even better cocktail music-- just use it to take the edge off.
Buy this at amazon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mike's 1000: Entry #2

Wow, I cruised through those last 25 entries pretty quick. I guess it's time to start listening to a few more 2010 albums, or maybe revisit some of the classics I already own. But it's just so easy to listen to classical and (some) jazz when you are trying to get an infant to fall asleep-- plus my work schedule is so light that I don't spend that much time at work where I like listening to new music. Anyways, here's another one Tom missed the boat on.
Artist: Sun Kil Moon
Album: Ghosts of the Great Highway

A lot of the recordings in this book are pretty obvious, at least to the people who care about a particular genre. No big surprise to see Radiohead's "OK Computer" or The Beatles' 6 albums. Tom goes a little obscure at times, but it's always because the pure joy of listening to the band is worth the detour off the beaten path (see Baby Huey and the Babysitters for an example of one of these suggestions that caused me to buy the album the same day I heard it). In my opinion, Sun Kil Moon's debut, the solo project of Mark Kozelek of The Red House Painters, is one of those "Oh My God" listening moments. It might not hit you the first time-- I think I probably liked it just fine the first listen, but after having it in my car for a couple months I found myself going back to it over and over again, whether early morning driving, nighttime sleepy time, rainy day. There was never a bad time to hear the amazing layers of guitar, fuzzed out crunchy chords or softly fingerpicked, driving behind Mark's otherwordly voice. It's hard for me to say what the standout feature of the album is: the vocals, the intricate guitar, the stellar songwriting or the "rend your heart" lyrics. Take the album opener, "Glenn Tipton," for example; Mark's open tuned strum sets the tone immediately for his pleading voice singing a song about the way things used to be. Kozelek has a "Midas Touch" ability to turn any phrase into melancholic gold, and the shrouds of reverb he surrounds himself with give his voice the sound of a memory itself. From the 6 minute plus "Carry Me Ohio," which on paper should fail with its midtempo beat and one guitar lick, but somehow ends up as a masterpiece, to the fact that "Salvadore Sanchez" and "Pancho Villa" are the same song in different packaging (you would never have noticed if I didn't say something), this album is just a wonderful listen. Feeling blue never felt so good.

Catalog Choices: April, Tiny Cities, The Red House Painters Songs for a Blue Guitar
Next Stop: Nick Drake Five Leaves Left

Buy this work of art at amazon, or better yet, go see him live

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Week of Recordings Part II

A continuation of the post below:

Artist: The Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners
Album: Irish Drinking Songs
Recording #248
Stream the album here

Not a whole lot to say about this one-- good raucous drinking songs, just like the title says. Tom has a whole entry about why this album is historically important, but it just sounds like the soundtrack to the trivia night I am going to up the street at the Irish Pub. Actually, maybe I should buy this album for their stereo...

Artist: Clannad
Album: Macalla
Recording #249
Stream the album here

As soon as this one started, I thought "this is not your typical celtic music!" I was all excited, and really enjoyed the brooding, harmony heavy first track. After that this turns into a bit of a trainwreck, if the train was carrying marshmallows and pillows. There is so little substance here that I hardly noticed it playing. Enya is evidently the keyboardist, and although I'm not really familiar with her work, I'm pretty sure even her stuff has more going on than this. This sounded like The Corrs playing just the bridges of their songs-- no real striking melodies or hooks. I won't say I wouldn't recommend it, because I just tuned it out, so it must not be too terrible.
Artist: Guy Clark
Album: Old No. 1
Recording #250
Stream the album here

Nothing wrong with this country-- although I would actually put it more in the "Americana" genre, which I guess is why Nashville didn't really back this guy. As Tom points out, he has a "gravelly" voice that didn't really appeal to the standard country fan back in '75 (or probably today, even), but I love this kinda stuff. This is what country should be, great songwriting and major chords. "Rita Ballou" and "Like a Coat from the Cold" are my favorites, but all of these songs are decent.