Robyn Hitchcock visits The Ark

My first introduction to Robyn Hitchcock was a cassette tape of Perspex Island that I purchased at a dollar store because it had members of R.E.M. playing on it. Years later Hitchcock brings his quirky guitar laden lyrics to The Ark in Ann Arbor on Sunday, November 11 at 7:30pm. The artist says of a recent album, “To me, the whole record is sadness cloaked in fun. But under that sadness, more fun.” How intriguing is that.

Knights In White Satin

Pet Sounds did not invent concept albums, and Sgt. Pepper’s did not invent psychedelia, but by 1967, critics were fawning over The Beach Boys’ record, and The Beatles were finishing theirs, inviting guests to the “A Day In The Life” session where they recorded their orchestral backdrop. The studios read the writing on the wall: concepts albums and psychedelia were the future. Deram Records commissioned The Moody Blues, an in debt R&B band, to record a rock version of Dvořák's Ninth with the London Phil. But left with the orchestra and no supervision, The Moody Blues ended up recording Days of Future Passed, an original record perfectly integrating the orchestra not as a backdrop, rather integral members of the band. The record, with a cover reminiscent of classical albums, combines classical motifs, vocal harmonies, and lyrical complexity with rock and roll, pop, country.

A High School Musical of a Different Sort

There’s something perfect about a person expressing their innermost feelings through spontaneous song and tap dancing. Agreed? I thought so. Then you shouldn’t miss Pioneer High School’s performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie November 3, 4, and 9-11. The dance moves are up to you, but brush up on the lyrics by checking out the soundtrack at AADL. Tickets can be bought at Morgan & York or at the door.

Van Morrison Said (Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile))

Sure the radio plays “Brown-Eyed Girl” constantly (occasionally with the line about making love in green grass dubbed out,) but that song was just Van Morrison getting started. Astral Weeks, his record following Blowin’ Your Mind (containing “Brown-Eyed,”) defies classification, as it spins a combination of folk, soul, blues, jazz, rock, and everything else for a hypnotic forty minutes. No one sounds like Van Morrison, and, especially during his purple period betwixt ’68 and ’74, he released a stream of great albums. With records like Saint Dominic’s Preview, you can really just turn it on, sit back, and become completely lost in the sound.

Today In Music History

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It’s time once again to look into music’s past for a reminder of what once was. Musicians are always up to something, such as making #1 hits, getting divorced or breaking up and going their separate ways. Here’s a glimpse of what was happening on October 28 throughout the decades:

-In 1956 Elvis Presley’s "Love Me Tender" was #1 on the Billboard Pop Chart.
-In 1968 John Lennon and wife Cynthia filed for divorce. Next up: Yoko Ono!
-In 1982 At the end of their UK tour, punk band The Jam announced they’d be splitting up.
-In 1997 R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry announced he was leaving the band after 17 years with them. The band did not break up even though decades earlier they had made a pact to break up if any member left the band.

And now it’s all history!

Quality music for free

The The University of Michigan School of Music offers a rich array of student and faculty performances that are open to the general public. These often free events are all on the University of Michigan campus including the Duderstadt Center, on North Campus, formerly called the Media Union. This Friday, October 26, the Symphony Band performs the premiere of New York City opera composer Daron Hagen's "Banner of My Purpose", an operatic scena based on a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife written just before a battle in which he dies. Familiar tunes from West Side Story as well baroque and neo-classical pieces fill the evening. The performance will be at Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m. Check out other events on their calendar.

This Ark Is Your Ark

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The Ark’s 11th Annual Fall Fund Raiser features Odetta, Jimmy LaFave, The Burns Sisters, and Joel Rafael – in A Celebration in the Spirit of Woody Guthrie. This Ark Is Your Ark takes place Saturday, November 10 at 8pm at The Ark in Ann Arbor. There are four ticket levels currently available for purchase and a portion of the cost is tax deductible. Proceeds from the event will benefit The Ark and will assist in continuing to bring world-class folk music to Ann Arbor.

Those Ghastly 80s, Part II: Why People Should Love The 80s

The decade has a bad reputation; I personally find it difficult see past hair bands playing pointless power ballads with vapid lyrics, or how Joe Piscopo was considered sexy, or how at Live Aid, Phil Collins played in London, jumped the Concorde, then played in Philadelphia… and people cheered! People cheered because Phil Collins played music. You can’t tell me that wasn’t just a messed up decade. But fixating on 80s pop culture’s ludicrousness only prevents us from appreciating some truly great music. The punk scene of the 70s evolved into alternative in the US (The Replacements, Violent Femmes, and They Might Be Giants) and ska revival (Two Tone) in the UK (Dexys Midnight Runners, Madness, UB40, and The Jam.)

Those Ghastly 80s, Part I: Why People Should Hate The 80s

As far as “classic rock” goes, the 80s were a bad decade. For two decades, so many rock stars like Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Elton John, all of Fleetwood Mac, even my hero George Harrison had been doing drug (and hard ones at that,) but by the beginning of the 80s, so many had overdosed, Lennon was shot, and so rock stars everywhere were saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t kill myself with drugs.” The 80s thusly became a time for rock stars to detox, and, with their attention diverted toward not dying, their music suffered.

My First Love? Love On The Rocks

I don’t know if I would like Neil Diamond nearly as much as I do were it not for Will Ferrell’s unique interpretation of the man, but needless to say he does not get enough credit from rock circles as he should. His music, though oft disregarded as bubblegum, has contributed as much as Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and all of the other authors from the sixties-era Tin Pan Alley.

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