11/28/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

I remember seeing Mos Def play this on “Letterman,” and immediately bought the single. I love the way the way everything is so laid back and restrained, but there’s also this underlying tension that permeates the whole song.

 

And of course, the timpani. From the Ronettes to Pizzicato Five, I love my pop music with a big side dish of kettle drum.

The clip at the beginning is Fela Kuti, by the way.

11/18/16: Leonard Cohen

Oh Leonard.

Eighty-two is a good long life, but for me he’s been taken away far too young, He’s one of my favorite songwriters. Every song is a novel, condensed into three or four minutes.

I’ve got to be honest – I prefer it when other people cover his music, for the most part. I’m not a fan of the production used on his stuff. There are a few exceptions, of course.

I was introduced to his music by the tribute album “I’m Your Fan.” It was a European release, and I only have it on cassette. You can find it out there on the internet.

Here are a couple tracks from there:

 

Johnny Cash was born to cover Leonard Cohen songs; here’s “Like a Bird on a Wire.” Supposedly, Kris Kristofferson told Cohen that he wants the lyrics from this on his tombstone. So do I.

 

Of course, everyone recognizes “Hallelujah;” here it is by Jeff Buckley, another good soul who left us too soon.

 

I’ll close with Cohen performing “Famous Blue Raincoat.”I’ve covered several of his songs, but I’ll never do this one; I’ll never be able to do it justice.

Thanks for the trouble you took from my eyes, L. Cohen. Requiem in pace.

 

 

 

Image by Shawn Carpenter CC 2.0 License.

11/07/16: Special Election Edition

Tomorrow the United States will be electing its next president. This is one where the stakes are really up for grabs; we could wind up in an awful, awful place for real if this goes the wrong way.

As a momentary distraction, here’s some dancing that reminds me of American things. A bluegrass jam and clog dancing. A family (or group of friends) enjoying themselves together. I’ll bet you there’s a pot of coffee on the stove and something good in the oven. Nothing too fancy, and a lot of fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs2j8f7H2WY

10/31/16: Scary Halloween Dance Party

I made a playlist on Spotify this week, with some scary creepy music.

The music I picked isn’t usually associated with Halloween (except for “Red Right Hand” and “Goo Goo Muck,” but I picked out some of the darkest, most unsettling songs I could think of.

No “Monster Mash” this year – trust me, I love that song, but that’s for another Halloween playlist.

It’s a dark world inside this music – stabbings, murders, monsters, and whatever it is Lux Interior is going to do to us.

This is a test-drive for the Spotify playlist; please let me know if it doesn’t work, or tries to get money out of you, or steals your car.

Tomorrow we return to happy shiny music that’s just bursting with joy.

10/24/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

I sometimes work as a dance class accompanist, and have spent a certain amount of time hanging around ballerinas.

First of all, I want to point out how much respect I have gained for dancers through this job. Dance requires the strength and coordination of an athlete, extraordinary self-control, and dedication to the craft. If you don’t believe me, go take a class. You will be lying on the floor weeping in pain within the first eight minutes. I know I would.

It also appear that everyone who studies western classical dance for a while will have to learn some version of “Four Little Swans,” from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gApOfm4qd0

I was goofing around on the piano one day between classes, and began to play the music to this. Immediately, a row of dance teachers came through the door in perfect formation. I laughed so hard I had to stop playing.

Ballet Fun Fact: The technical term for four people dancing together is “pas de quatre.” 

Here’s an interesting interpretation of the piece. The swans have become frogs, and the choreography reflects that. It’s a lot of fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDy_XrWfxHY

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

10/19/16: Digging in the bins

These days I buy a lot of albums by digital download, but I also like to go out and purchase real-live, physical CDs. I’m lucky enough that I’m near a very good used CD/DVD/vinyl store, so I still experience the fun of discovering music that you thought about once a couple of years ago and now here it is again and you can actually afford it.

Today I had a good haul: “A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon,” Rilo Kiley’s: “More Adventurous” and Spirit’s “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” And of course, the latest copy of “Weird NJ.” One must stay up to date, after all.

“Dr. Sardonicus” was pretty intense. I’ll have to sit down and listen with headphones, but for now: Wow. There’s a lot going on there. In a good way, but I need to absorb that a little more.

I still have to check out the Warren Zevon album, but I’m loving the Rilo Kiley CD. A friend made me a mix CD a few years ago that had “Does He Love You?” on it. I loved the lyrics, and also how Jenny Lewis presents her vocals. She tells her stories so well.

The arrangements are country-esque in places, with some orchestral pop and folk. Very tastefully done.

Following a quick listen to the whole album, here’s a couple of songs I liked.

Photo by: Jane Rahman; Issued under CC 2.0 License.

No changes have been made to the image.

9/26/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

It’s one of those rough allergy mornings, the kind where you feel like all the sinus cavities in your head have been filled with cement.

In times like these, all I can say is: thank goodness for Gloria Estefan.

The video’s fun, too. Yes, ladies really had hair like that back in the 80’s. And grumpy foreign ambassadors could always be relied on to fall prey to the seductive rhythms of a Miami evening.

Image: Royalty-free, courtesy of British Museum

9/12/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

If you’re on the East Coast, it’s pushing 3PM right now. Which means it’s just about time for some B-52’s.

See if you can get a conga line going around the office.

And BTW, the whole album is great. Treat yourself to a copy for the next time it’s 3PM and you need a conga line.

 

 

Image: JD Hancock. Creative Commons License 2.0

09/06/16: Personal motivation and audio cleanliness

Way back in 2011-12, I was unemployed, and it was really rough out there in the job market. Nobody was hiring. For anything.

It was easy to get discouraged, after sending out resume after resume after resume. And yes, cheesy as it sounds, there were songs I would listen to during that time specifically to encourage myself to keep going. This is one of them:

Featuring the late great Bernie Worrell. And note that David Byrne has solved the problem of what a lead singer can do during instrumental parts – just take a couple laps around the stage.

This is from the live movie “Stop Making Sense,” one of the great moments in rock cinema. Why? It’s just a bunch of really good musicians doing a live show and it’s one of those great nights where everything works out perfectly and it’s just magical.

As a rule, I’m not a big fan of live albums. I love when things are beautifully recorded in the studio and you can hear what’s going on. Like you hear on any Talking Heads studio album:

And the studio version of “Life During Wartime” is a great track:

But for me, the energy of the live version, along with the additional musicians, just takes the song to a whole new level. And that energy makes the lyrics have that much more impact – it goes from kind of ironically detached in the studio version to serving up the emotional equivalent of a punch to the stomach in the live one. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s recorded really well.

Of course, I can’t get too precious about pristine studio recordings. First of all, it’s so easy to go too far with that, in which case you wind up with a sound that’s overly sterile (see: The Eighties). Secondly, I’m a big jazz fan, and the stuff I listen to is generally either a live concert, or an album that was entirely recorded in one day.

Here’s “Samba Triste” from Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd’s “Jazz Samba,” an album that was recorded in its entirety in just one day. It went on to hit #1 on the Billboard Album charts, and won Getz a Grammy. It also reminds me of autumn, which is coming up way too soon:

 

Image by Jean-Luc Ourlin, CC License 2.0

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