Albums… What A Concept, Part II:

Uggh... "concept album." I read a review dubbing Goodbye Yellow Brick Road “a concept album without a concept.” This bugs me. Firstly, that kind of sounds like a bad thing, and I’ll be gosh darned if I sit by and let anyone say anything bad about pre-1976-slash-post-1994 Elton John. Secondly, if Yellow Brick is truly a “concept album without a concept”—or “album” as I like to say—what constitutes a concept album? A running storyline like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, song-cycle like construction ala Tommy, a musical theme like Pet Sounds, or simply cross-fades and a reprise like Sgt. Pepper’s?

He is still burning bright

Today, November 28 is the 250th birthday of poet William Blake. Blake was only four years old when he began seeing visions of angels. He began drawing and when his parents saw his talent sent him to art school to become an engraver. He produced engravings for works of Chaucer, Dante, the Bible and books on architecture, botany and medicine. Blake's work became more infused with his visions and not as saleable. He had also been writing poetry for most of his life and began printing it on his own printing press. He wrote his poems on copper plates and engraved illustrations around them. He sold these small collections himself.

Albums… What A Concept, Part I: When Greatest Hits Are Okay

I remembered the words of Canadian poet Bruce McCulloch--“Greatest Hits are for housewives and little girls”--as I checked out a Larry Williams compilation. His words are dead on for acts like The Doors (I hate to think of anyone missing meaty album cuts,) but for Larry Williams, Bruce is wrong, as albums were not standard for early rock and roll. Were this 1963 or earlier, anyone in the market for pop(ular music) records would not be rifling through LPs, rather the 45s, because… pop LPs reeked. Here: a sample discussion between a label’s A&R guy and an artist, “So you had two successful singles?” “Uh-huh.” “Okay, you remember those six songs of yours we rejected as ‘not good enough for a single?’” “Uh-huh.” “Well, we’re going to take your two singles, their B-sides, your six reject songs, have you cover two songs that were a hit for others artists on our label, print the LP; it’ll run under thirty minutes, we’ll call it ‘[Your Name Here] Sings The Hits,’ and hopefully we can cash in before you lose your sex appeal, nn-kay?” “Uh… Huh?”

AMERICAN GANGSTER (Jay-Z's Audio CD)

Don’t Worry. Help Is On The Way!

Help! never gets a fair shake. As a Beatle movie, A Hard Day's Night completely outshines it. While undoubtedly the inferior film, Help! certainly has merit. As a Beatle record, Help! finds itself eclipsed over by 1965’s Rubber Soul, with critics pointing to Soul as The Beatles’ turning point to more artistic endeavours, overlooking Beatles For Sale in ’64 and Help! earlier ’65, both featuring darker lyrics and more diverse musical influences. The movie, though, has only been available on VHS until last week, when Apple Corps released a brand new DVD package. Basically I could not be more excited.

In A Word, Dynamics. In Three Hundred Seventy-Six…

During an audition with my band The Pinheads, as we were tearing it up with a cover of “The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis cut us off and said, “I’m sorry, you’re just too darn loud.” …Wait. Was that me or… Marty McFly? Not important; those words stuck. I thought of them at the They Might Be Giants concert last night, asking who, by Zeus, miked the drums? They overpowered the vocals. Why did the guitars blend innocuously into the background, and why bother, John Linnell, bringing a keyboard when no one could hear it? I loved the concert (save for the atrocious opening act,) but TMBG fell into the current rock trend of loudness.

C-H-E-E-S-E-A-N-D-O-N-I-O-N-S Oh No!

Forget John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I’ll take Ron, Dirk, Stig, and Barry any day of the week (even the eighth one.) The Rutles, scousers as well, made it just as big as those other four guys. Maybe even bigger. Maybe even smaller. They almost definitely “made it” a larger, smaller or equal amount as The Beatles. Unfortunately, like so many of those great bands from the sixties (e.g. The Turtles or The Beau Brummels,) problems with their label have doomed The Rutles’ back catalogue lost to history except for a greatest hits and Archeology, a collection of rare and unreleased songs. AADL fortunately has both records as well as a Rutles documentary.

What is "throat singing?"

If you want to find out, go to the Ark this Saturday, November 17 to hear Huun-Huur-Tu, a male vocal ensemble from Tuva in East Asia. They are known for the other-worldly sounds they make by voicing two or three different notes simultaneously. They perform traditional nomadic songs sometimes accompanying themselves on an igil, a horsehead fiddle, and other stringed instruments. Huun-Huur-Tu has made some recordings on the Shenachie label. One earlier recording is titled Voices which is in the Library's collection. Don't miss a great opportunity to hear these entrancing sounds.

Little House on the Prairie Tunes Come to Life

hapylandhapyland

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are noted for telling tales of frontier life. Not often mentioned are the over one hundred musical references in her books. Happy Land Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder is a CD that features a selection of these classic American songs that are ready to get your toes tapping if you’re not already setting off to reread your favorite Little House book. Fans of the Little House on the Prairie books might call this a soundtrack to the books that brings the sounds and music of the stories to life. Pa Ingalls would have his fiddle in high gear with this CD!

“Oh, Listen, Sweetie. They’re Playing Our Song.”

In a committed relationship, a couple inevitably chooses a slow-dancy, romantic tune as “their song.” Choosing the number is tricky. Sometimes it chooses you; at a relationship milestone (first kiss, dance, visit to Red Lobster) you hear faintly a beautiful ballad and boom! Song chosen. Of course, if you and your sweetheart meet at, say, a Beastie Boys concert, and “Sabotage” doesn’t send your hearts aflutter, you might have to choose a song. You could go with the easies, “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel, Elton John’sYour Song,” etc., great songs you’re guaranteed to hear a lot, prompting an alarming rate of swooning. Of course, thousands of other couples will be swooning around you. Now, if as a loving couple, a popular love song is your song, that's great, so don’t go changing. But for you still looking for a song to be your song and don’t want to write one—and, come on, why would you?—then I have a list of rarer love songs. And don’t be afraid to pick one you like thinking lots of people will snatch them up, because no one reads my blogs.

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