Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

American classics by Harold Arlen from Ella Fitzgerald

I’m probably not going to introduce anyone to Ella Fitzgerald today. The First Lady of Song is well known and widely beloved. Famous for the liquid sheen of her voice, her precise diction while singing, and her amazing improvisational scat abilities, Ella is a must in any music collection, in my opinion. So hopefully, you already have some Ella.

Let me Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate how great this album is.

I do want to turn your attention to a particular gem of hers that is perhaps my favorite Ella Fitzgerald album. In 1961 Ella released a collection of songs by the great American composer Harold Arlen, who wrote over 500 songs in his life. You know many of them: the music from The Wizard of Oz, for example.

The album is unimaginatively titled “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook.” All the creativity went into the music. Ella worked with arranger/composer/trumpeter Billy May (who among other projects composed the TV theme songs for The Green Hornet and Batman). Sadly, it was the only time the two worked together, but May created inspiring arrangements that made the songs swing and showcased Ella’s amazing voice. Here are just a handful of the winners on this disc.

  • Blues in the Night – I love the horn arrangement in this version because they don’t jump up and give you a black eye right at the start. They lay back and leave it to Ella to knock you flat for a while, which she does, before they come in with some great accents and soloing.
  • Let’s Fall in Love – This might be my favorite Harold Arlen song. It’s just as smooth and sweet as frosting and this arrangement in particular is jazzy. Ella is, of course, flawless and captures the feeling perfectly.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – I have heard many covers of this song, but I like Ella’s best. The band lays back for her but Ella puts in an athletic performance, bending notes, playing tricks with the melody, and embellishing notes with lots of quick vibrato. It’s beautiful.
  • That Old Black Magic – Ella rocks this song and the horns play everything from cool accents to a great countermelody.
  • I’ve Got the World on a String – I’ve heard some peppy versions of this song. In this version, the intro is up-tempo, but she takes the song way down and croons it at a deliberate, bluesy pace.
  • Ac-Cent-Thu-Ate the Positive – Ella’s joyful delivery was made for an optimistic song like this one. She absolutely makes it her own.



January 27, 2011 Posted by | Jazz, Lounge | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: on the road again

For the Friday mix this week, I wanted to hit my travel theme again because I found a bunch of songs that fit and I love a lot of the music on this topic. This week is more locations. Give a listen because this is some great music.

Seeing things that I may never see again.

  1. Streets of Calcutta – Ananda Shankar
    The Rough Guide folks came through for me again with this rock-influenced Asian song. Sitar, flute, and clean electric guitar. It’s a cool mix.
  2. Brazil – Antonio Carlos Jobim (from “Stone Flower”)
    This is my favorite version I have hear Jobim or anyone else do of this song. It’s quiet but completely groovy.
  3. Back to Africa – Aswad
    Reggae has roots in West African music and this tune takes us and reggae back there.
  4. Commerce, TX – Ben Kweller
    This fellow has a bright future in pop music. It’s not necessarily fresh, since it sounds exactly like Weezer, who are themselves derivative of other bands. That said, I really like this track.
  5. Say Goodbe to Hollywood – Billy Joel
    Maybe it’s because I’m old, but I really like Billy Joel. And I think this track is superior to the Eminem song of the same name.
  6. St. Petersburg – Brazilian Girls
    My love of Brazilian Girls is welldocumented. This has a simple, catchy melody and the best whistling since the Andy Griffith theme song.
  7. South of the Border – Chris Isaak
    Many people have chosen to do this song, but I really like Isaak’s Orbison-esque crooning and the Hawiian-sounding guitar.
  8. Mushaboom – Feist
    Mushaboom is a rural community near Halifax in Nova Scotia and an irresistible little song from Feist. I think this was used in a car commercial or something.
  9. Back in N.Y.C. – Genesis
    Hey, kids! Have you ever heard of Peter Gabriel? Phil Collins? Well, they used to be in a band together and back when Gabriel was doing more drugs than your average audience at a Phish show, he wrote this brilliant concept album. This is my favorite track on that album.
  10. Trains to Brazil – Guillemots
    The kids in this video don’t seem to be digging this 80s throwback pop. Or maybe they’re staring at the hot bass player.
  11. Lookout Cleveland – The Band
    I also have a great version of this classic by Jackie Green.
  12. Guayaquil City – Mano Negra
    This is perhaps my favorite song on today’s mix simply because of the fantastic horns.
  13. New York Hustle – Mick Jagger
    This is from the Alfie soundtrack. You wouldn’t believe this was Jagger because he barely sings a note on the album and it’s full of really cool music like this one. No offense intended, but I honestly thought Jagger’s best years were behind him. The old boy’s still got some juice left in him.
  14. Baton Rouge – The Nixons
    Southern rock meets grunge and the pairing is good.
  15. Taj Mahal – Sam Roberts
    Ringing piano, a Donovan-esque melody, and fat harmony vocals can’t miss me.
  16. Cayman Review – Trey Anastasio
    Trey’s 2002 solo album, recorded during “The Hiatus,” has some great songs and some fun music, like this one.
  17. Back to Basom – Ween
    Basom is apparently a tiny little hamlet in New York. Ween is often weird and frenetic, but I think this patient, evocative tune is simply beautiful.

Enjoy this mix with a tequila sunrise, because I’ve only ever had this drink on vacation. Have a great weekend.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Jazz, Lounge, Mix CD, Popular, Rock, World Music | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: more music you and your children will both like

Happy Friday, everyone. Today I am returning to the topic of music I share with my daughter. There are two things I would encourage all parents to do. First, read to your kids. Really, they learn so much from it. Vocabulary, sentence structure, inflection, how stories work… Plus, although I’m not a fan of the concept of “quality time,” reading qualifies if anything does.

Mine does this when it's time for homework.

The second thing all parents should do is share music with your kids. It’s even better if you make music of your own. If you play an instrument you can teach them, let them play an easier instrument, or just let them sing along. If not, you can still appreciate music with them. They learn a lot from that as well and teaching them how to enjoy music – to really listen and appreciate it – will give them joy all through their lives. My daughter is 8 and already has a pretty sophisticated ear. I love to watch her develop her own tastes and to be enthusiastic about something she’s hearing.

I’ve written up a couple of mixes on this topic already and I might return to this topic again some time. If you’re struggling to think of songs that would be appropriate for kids and that you would both like, try these. I’ve had a lot of success with them.

  1. Angelique Kidjo – Voodoo Child
    I have some Jimi Hendrix doing his own music on my daughter’s mix, but this cover is updated and funky. This song is on her album, “Oremi,” but here’s a link to a good live performance.
  2. Billy Joel – Don’t Ask Me Why
    Billy Joel made an appearance on Sesame Street, which gave him an in with my daugter. She likes the bossa nova beat and the “I told you so” lyrics.
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart
    I must have played “Born to Run” for my daughter a dozen times, but this is the Bruce song she likes best.
  4. Cibo Matto – Spoon
    My daughter likes Cibo Matto, which is one of the reasons I think she’s the coolest kid in her class.
  5. David Mead – I Like to Run, I Like to Jump
    From the compilation, “For the Kids Too.” A pretty little song with some delightful flute work.
  6. Frank Sinatra – On the Sunny Side of the Street
    A song this happy and catchy can hardly miss. We sang this together walking around San Francisco while on vacation this year.
  7. Harry Belafonte – Jump in the Line
    Calypso beat, horns, and Harry’s energetic delivery make this irresistible.
  8. Jack Johnson – Mudfootball (For Moe Lerner)
    The entire Curious George soundtrack is good for kids, but this one from “Brushfire Fairytales” is my daughter’s favorite one to sing.
  9. Jessca Hoop – Summertime
    This is just a great melody and if you’ve never heard it, you will like it as much as my family does.
  10. Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule
    The positive message, uplifting chord progression, and broad harmony vocals make this a winner. The sax solo is just gravy.
  11. Macy Gray – Hey Young World
    I like Macy’s cover more than the Slick Rick original. Check the lyrics; it may be the most positive message a kid can hear.
  12. Musical Youth – Pass the Dutchie
    My daughter is delighted that the lead singer was only 15 when they recorded this international hit.
  13. Peter Frampton – Rocky’s Hot Club
    A cute song about how much he loves the dog he got for Christmas as a kid. He also gets a little help from Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
  14. The Puppini Sisters – Walk Like an Egyptian
    Sounds like the Andrews Sisters covering the Bangles. The lyrics are cool and the jazz is hot.
  15. Raymond Scott – Powerhouse
    You know a lot of Raymond Scott music because Carl Stalling adapted it for use in over 100 Warner Brothers cartoons. The two melodies in this song are instantly recognizable and fun to listen to.
  16. Three Dog Night – Black and White
    A song about racial harmony that makes you want to clap your hands and sing along.
  17. Train – Hey Soul Sister
    My daughter introduced me to this song. She requested it after hearing it on her mom’s satellite radio. Poppy but appealing.
  18. Yael Naim – New Soul
    A simple melody with uncomplicated horns and handclaps. It sounds like it was written for kids, though I don’t believe it was.

Enjoy with some Sunny D, if you can still drink the stuff. Have a great weekend.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Children, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jazz, Lounge, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, reggae | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: more of my favorite female artists

Well, when I started this mix today, I thought this might be the final installment of female artists. I hadn’t realized how many artists I have that start with the letter S. Give a listen to these and, as always, let me know if there is someone you feel I grievously missed.

  1. Shelby Lynne – Your Lies
    This isn’t my favorite song by Lynne, but it’s the single from her great album, “I Am Shelby Lynne.” She has kind of a bluesy crossover country thing going on that is great.
  2. Sheryl Crow – Riverwide
    Crow is known for a lot of fun, rocking songs, but she is also deep enough to drop a beautiful, heartrending song like this one. I love her versatility as a singer and a songwriter.
  3. Shirley Horn – Return to Paradise (Mark De Clive-Lowe Remix)
    I actually saw Shirley Horn in Manhattan a few years before her death. She was always an amazing jazz pianist and singer and she still put on an enjoyable show. This one is actually from the great series of Verve Remixed tracks where people mine the fantastic catalog of old Verve recordings and turn them into club tracks by updating the percussion and production.
  4. Sia Furler– Death By Chololate
    Sia sings some of my favorite Zero 7 songs, but she is an accomplished solo artist who has collaborated with top acts and won awards. This video gets you a good listen to her voice, a good look at her face, and a good feel for her style.
  5. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Kiss Them for Me
    OK, so she isn’t one of my favorite artists. I saw them at the first Lollapalooza in 1991 and they weren’t very good live. I’m not crazy about a lot of their other music either, but this one song has been in rotation in mixes and my iPod for nearly 20 years.
  6. Sneaker Pimps – 6 Underground (Nellee Hooper Remix)
    I have several Sneaker Pimps tracks on my iPod, but this one is far and away my favorite. It is a remix by Nellee Hooper (formerly of the Wild Bunch, that would eventually become Massive Attack). That takes nothing away from the Pimps, who have had varying levels of success over the years. Kelli Dayton’s vocal performance on this track is right in the pocket, which is probably why it has been remixed by so many producers).
  7. Put a Lid on It – Squirrel Nut Zippers
    Yes, the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I have 4 albums by the Zippers and there is a lot of fun music on them all. Katharine Whalen and Jimbo Matthis split duties at lead vocals and both sing songs I love. This one is probably my favorite sung by Whalen, or at least my favorite up-tempo piece of hers.
  8. Stacey Kent – So Nice
    Kent sings mostly songs from the American songbook. Her orchestra plays a pretty standard torchy nightclub sound, but she has a beautifully expressive, liquid voice. This one is gorgeous.
  9. Stevie Nicks – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
    She has to at least get a mention. I’ve been listening to Stevie Nicks my whole life. I don’t have a ton of Fleetwood Mac on my iPod because I grew up listening to classic rock radio, so I’ve heard a dozen or so songs hundreds of times. I always liked this one, and my daughter has just turned on to Tom Petty so it lives on her mix now.
  10. The Story – When Two and Two Are Five
    My wife turned me onto The Story. Jonatha Brooke eventually left the band and went on to put out a bunch of great music as a solo artist, but their 1993 release, “Angel in the House” has a lot of great music on it, including this one.
  11. The Sundays – Here’s Where the Story Ends
    Harriet Wheeler has one of my very favorite voices of all time. It’s so pretty and sweet and the melodies she chooses make the lyrics even more moving. “Static and Silence” is a desert island disc for me, though this one is off Reading, Writing And Arithmetic.
  12. Suzanne Vega – Rock in this Pocket (Song of David)
    Vega has a fine voice, but what has always drawn me to her music is the instrumentation and particularly the percussion. This one has a great feel, but I also love ‘As a Child,’ ‘99.9f,’ and a host of others.

Well, that was quite a crop just in the Ses. There might be enough in my collection for one more mix of great female artists. I hope you enjoy these. Have a great weekend.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Classic Rock, Electronica, Jazz, Lounge, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Halfway through my favorite female artists

Today I think I’m going to return to my mixes of my favorite female artists. I’m going through my iPod from A to Z so if I missed an artist you love or think I would love, please drop a comment and turn me onto her work.

  1. Macy Gray – Hey Young World
    Macy Gray (from Canton, OH, thank you very much) is a great songwriter and a charismatic performer. Reportedly, she doesn’t like her own voice, but the rest of us do. This song is from her 2001 release, “The Id.” This album didn’t do well (maybe in part because it was released 1 week after the September 11 attacks) but I loved this album. I put this song on my daughter’s mix on my iPod and she loves it too.
  2. Madeline Peyroux – Don’t Wait Too Long
    Although she hates comparisons to Billie Holiday, her voice does sound like Billie’s and some of the songs she sings are in the American Songbook tradition. Others like this one have a more modern jazz sound. This is from the album “Careless Love,” which you should go out and get later today.
  3. Madonna – Beautiful Stranger
    I can count the Madonna songs I like on one hand, so I’m not sure she belongs on a list of MY favorites, but she has been a force in music throughout much of my life and has released some great music. I like this one from the Austin Powers soundtrack. Side note, this mash-up of ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Beautiful Stranger’ is insanely brilliant.
  4. How about that Marilyn Manson? Isn’t she just the best?
  5. Meshell Ndegeocello – The Way
    This is from “Peace Beyond Passion” (1996) but I could have easily picked any song from “Bitter” or even her new one, “Devil’s Halo.” She is an amazing talent who has put out great album after great album since her debut in 1993.
  6. Missy Elliott – The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
    Misdemeanor is such an incredible genius. You’ve got to love her. First off, she finds all these new things to do in hip-hop, you can’t look away from her when she performs, and as a bonus she comes with Timbaland. I went back to her 1997 debut, “Supa Dupa Fly,” for this one but only because this video is so great. She is still a vital force in music.
  7. Monique Ortiz – Black Feather Wings
    OK, so I don’t own any other Monique Ortiz with or without Bourbon Princess. This is such a cool song, though, that I wanted to include it.
  8. Najma – Ghoom charakhna
    Najma Akhtar was born in England and has a degree in chemical engineering, but somehow she wound up an Indian pop star. She works mainly in traditional Indian music, though she has turned up on a DJ Cheb I Sabbah album and worked with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, so she gets around a bit. Here she is collaborating with Tjinder Singh of Cornershop. If you want some traditional stuff, check out “Forbidden Kiss: The Music of S.D. Burman,” a collection of musical numbers from Indian cinema.
  9. 10,000 Maniacs – Candy Everybody Wants
    I love Natalie Merchant’s voice. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s that is has a smoky quality but is still very liquid. Anyway, I’ve always liked this song.
  10. Neko Case – Deep Red Bells
    Case is a member of The New Pornographers and they rock but you can get more of sense of her work from this solo track. She is a great songwriter and I like the Texas country / folk space she plays in. She also has a great voice. I saw her perform at Bonnaroo last year and really enjoyed her show.
  11. Nellie McKay – David
    I saw McKay at MoeDown a few years back. She comes off as very smart and she is one hell of a piano player. She may have flown under your radar thus far, but check her out.
  12. Nikka Costa – Everybody Got Their Something
    So she isn’t doing anything ground breaking. She does a fantastic job with the whole funk / soul sound. This is the song by Costa you’ve probably heard. Listen to her take a page out of Stevie Wonder’s book.
  13. The Noisettes – Scratch Your Name
    These guys hit the scene in 2007 with their great, energetic debut, “What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?” Most of that energy seems to come from lead singer and bass player Shingai Shoniwa, who reminds me a bit of Grace Jones.
  14. Norah Jones – Chasing Pirates
    Of course, Norah blew the lid off with ‘Don’t Know Why’ and other mellow, torchy songs. On her new album she goes a little more poppy and upbeat, which I think is a great move. Check the new single, if you’ve somehow escaped it so far. Don’t get me wrong, I totally take her seriously as an artist, but God she’s adorable.

Well, that’s M and N, and that seems like a good place to stop. Enjoy this one with a Left Hand Breweries Milk Stout, because that is my wife’s favorite beer right now. Have a good weekend.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Chillout, Classic Rock, Electronica, Folk, Hip Hop, Indie, Lounge, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul, World Music | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: more of my favorite female artists

I know more than one musician who admits he got into the business to meet chicks. More than 2, in fact. Sure, they like music and performing, but the #1 reason they started performing was to meet girls. So, why do women start performing? To meet guys? That hardly seems necessary. Most likely, they do it simply to play their music to people. I’ve read interviews with female musicians who say they can’t imagine doing anything else. I like that.

Continuing on with my multi-part series of my favorite female musicians, here are the letters K and L. If I recommend a video, make sure you follow the link. There is some great stuff from YouTube today.

  1. k.d. lang – Love’s Great Ocean
    Lang used to do really goofy country music.  Thankfully, she left that behind to become more of a torch singer. Some artists do their best work when they’re sad and lonely. Lang writes the best songs when she’s in love.
  2. Kami Lyle – Boys
    Honestly, this is the only Kami Lyle song I have, but I love this loungy song. It reminds me of Rickie Lee Jones.

    I suppose some of them DO get into music just to meet guys. Or chicks.

  3. Karrin Allyson – A Felicidade (Happiness)
    Karrin Allyson is a jazz singer and pianist from Omaha Nebraska. I’m not sure how she came to speak and sing in English, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish, but she does so brilliantly. The New York Times says she has, “a feline touch and impeccable intonation,” which is a really great description. I guess that’s why they earn the big bucks. This one is from her 2008 release “Imagina: Songs of Brazil.”
  4. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
    Bush is an odd and eclectic musician and producer and some of the stuff she does loses me entirely. However, some of it stands the test of time, like this 80s classic.
  5. Kate Nash – Birds
    Nash hasn’t been on the music scene long. Her first album came out in 2007 and promptly went platinum in the UK. Her melodies are pleasing and her lyrics are incredibly honest, sometimes to the point where they sound a little odd, like this one. ‘Nicest Thing’  is a better song, but it’s so heartbreaking I didn’t want it to be the first song of hers you ever heard.
  6. Kidneythieves – S&M (A Love Song)
    Free Dominguez leads this industrial rock band. I love women that truly rock and Dominguez is one of them. This song will put hair on your chest.
  7. KT Tunstall – Black Horse & the Cherry Tree
    If you’ve heard one song from Tunstall, this is probably it. I am linking to this live version from Later…with Jools Holland because it was her breakout performance and it will knock you out. This is just one of her cool songs, by the way. For example, check out “Hold On.”
  8. Laurie Anderson – From the Air
    Chicago beat poet and performance artist Laurie Anderson wins the distinction of being the weirdest performer in any of my Women mixes. This is just a clip of one song from the brilliant 1982 release “Big Science.” Go out and find a copy of this disc today. It’s funny, beautifully played, and still crazy hip. Fun fact: after many years together, she and Lou Reed got married in 2008.
  9. Lauryn Hill – To Zion
    I already mentioned Lauryn Hill as part of the Fugees in a previous mix, but her solo album, “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill” is worthy of a second mention. This song explains her much lamented departure from pop music, to some degree.
  10. Lena Horne – Stormy Weather
    Harold Arlen didn’t write this song for Lena Horne, but he should have. Watch this video to see how lovely she was in 1943 and how wonderfully she sings this song.
  11. Letters to Cleo – Here & Now
    OK, so I think this is a nostalgia piece for me because of where I was in my life when this was on the radio. It’s a cool song, but I don’t know anything else by them and the band broke up in 2000. Kay Hanley sings a good one here, though.
  12. Lily Allen – Smile
    Love, love, love Lily Allen. She writes such great melodies and the lyrics are smart and funny. She seems very genuine, generally, and is a hilarious evil bitch in this great song.
  13. Linda Lyndell – What a Man
    Here is another artist by whom I have only one song. This one is an insanely good old school soul song.
  14. Lisa Mitchell – Neopolitan Dreams
    This song is Feist-esque in its simplicity and its appeal. I love the use of glockenspiel in the background. This is a strangely compelling video.
  15. Liz Phair – Uncle Alvarez
    One of my all-time favorite female artists. I could have chosen anything at all off of “Exile in Guyville,” but instead went with this great song from “Whitechocolatespaceegg.” She lost a lot of fans by striving unashamedly for commercial success and money, but she is undeniably a talented songwriter and frankly, I like to get paid too.
  16. Luscious Jackson – Deep Shag
    I mentioned LJ front woman Jill Cunniff last time, but this is the best work she ever did. This is from the 1994 release “Natural Ingredients.” This album has lots and lots of great music and was years ahead of its time. This is probably my favorite song off this release.

Enjoy with a trusty beer or something else social. Have a good weekend.

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Hip Hop, Indie, Jazz, Lounge, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Spooky and cool music for Halloween

Halloween has been my favorite holiday since I was about 9. Maybe it’s because October is such a great month in NE Ohio. Maybe it’s the brazenly pagan nature of the holiday. Maybe I was just a macabre little kid. Anyway, this year I put together a mix of songs some of which are creepy, some of which just have Halloween themed titles, but all of which are cool. I hope you like them.

  1. This Is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
    Manson’s version of this song is fantastic. They never made a video that I know of, but here it is synchronized with the original footage from Nightmare Before Christmas.
  2. Black Feather Wings – Bourbon Princess
    I first heard this song on the Respond benefit compilation CD. It’s a bass-heavy, oozy song with a cool lyrics and a great feel.
  3. Scarecrow – Beck
    “Guero” was a great album, but then, Beck hasn’t put out a bad album that I’ve heard. Typical funky Beck groove, lots of effects, great vocal melody, and engaging lyrics.
  4. New Killer Star – David Bowie
    Bowie continues to put out cutting edge music year after year. He has never lost his ability to write catchy melodies and has reinvented himself more times and more successfully than Madonna. I like this song and it is nearly impossible to look away from this video.
  5. Vampires and Failures – Grandpaboy
    The solid Pop guitar riff, dark lyrics, and vocal delivery give this track kind of a vintage Rolling Stones feel. I found this on “Not the Same Old Blues Crap: Vol 3,” and indeed it is not.
  6. Pretty Girls Make Graves – Dada
    Not The Smiths’ version. This one is an entirely different song and it’s much cooler. The Amazon sample only has the quiet intro, but about 10 seconds after this clip ends, the guitars kick in and it turns into a rocker.
  7. See You Dead – Helmet
    True Halloween fare here. “I’d like to see you in two pieces. You won’t be walking. Barely breathing.” It’s actually a love song, believe it or not. A stalker love song. Ah, Halloween, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of decapitation.
  8. Necromancer – Gnarls Barkey
    If you thought “See You Dead” was creepy, wait ‘til you get a load of this one. What could be better than a little “naughty necrophilia?” The lyrics to this are truly disturbing.
  9. Little Death – +44
    The Horror

    I sent this mix to my brother on CD with this cover art and the title "The Horror."

    I’m not actually a big fan of a lot of +44, but this song reached me. I like the quiet acoustic groove at the beginning with the verses sung in two octaves and then the slamming chorus. This track is well produced too. In particular pay attention to what they do with the percussion. It even has good lyrics.

  10. Invisible Man – Joe Jackson
    Joe Jackson has put out over 20 albums since “Look Sharp” came out in 1979. I came upon this one and was stunned to find several really good tracks on it, including this one. I say stunned not because I thought he would suck, but just because he hasn’t had a Billboard hit in the U.S. since 1984. I hear this and I’m not sure why not.
  11. Grey Ghost – Mike Doughty
    When Doughty was with Soul Coughing, they were the coolest band in the land, in my opinion. Since then he has largely left that sound behind and does the singer/songwriter thing these days. That said, he’s still a talented songwriter and this is a cool acoustic song.
  12. Devil’s Pie – D’Angelo
    A little D’Angelo goes a long way for me, but this is one of my favorite songs of his (Spanish Joint is better). A funky groove, almost eerie keyboards, and deep lyrics. Good stuff.
  13. War Pigs – Cake
    They screw up some of the lyrics, but I still love this version. Every time this song comes on my iPod, people are intrigued and want to know who it is.
  14. House of 1000 Corpses – Rob Zombie
    More good Halloween fare. The movie was a bit ham fisted, but I suppose it was exactly what it set out to be. This song, on the other hand, is great. The guitar hook is inescapable and Rob Zombie’s gravelly vocal delivery works really well. Shrieking background vocals and some movie sound bytes add some nice texture.
  15. She Said – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
    This song is about becoming a werewolf. I love the song, but I’m not sure what the hell is going on in this video.
  16. (Antichrist Television Blues) – The Arcade Fire
    These guys have listened to a lot of Bruce Springsteen. I’m just saying. Nothing new here, but I still like the song. Plus it has “antichrist” in the title, so into my Halloween mix it goes.
  17. Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives – Mel Torme
    I can’t believe this entire song isn’t on YouTube (except for a dreadful version of some woman dressed as a witch singing it karaoke style [shudder]). This is from Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters and is one more reason Mel Torme is one of the coolest singers ever.

Enjoy with a Bloody Mary and have a great Halloween, everyone!

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Alternative, Blues, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Lounge, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul | Leave a comment

Fantastic Radiohead covers: Jazz, R&B, Electronica

I listened to the coolest CD this morning. Last Wednesday, I wrote up RJD2 and mentioned I was going to look for more of his music. My order came in. Sadly, RJD2’s album, ‘The Third Hand,’ was disappointing. I only liked one song, “Work It Out” (Great video, too).

Great. Great. Great. Do yourself a favor and listen.

Great. Great. Great. Do yourself a favor and listen.

However, I also ordered ‘Exit Music: Songs with Radio Heads,’  a tribute album to Radiohead to which RJD2 added a track. They got some other cool acts to contribute to the project too, including The Bad Plus, Sia, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, and others. The great thing about the project is no one bothered to just redo the same song; everyone went somewhere new with his or her chosen track.

6 songs from this disc now have a cozy home on my iPod. Check them out.

I almost pulled Pete Kuzma’s “High & Dry”  but it barely missed the cut. About half of this disc didn’t do much for me but as I listened to these songs again to write up the descriptions I liked them even more.  I am so impressed with how great these versions are. Just on the strength of the 6 I ripped, this is probably the best multi-artist tribute album I’ve heard since ‘I Am Sam.’ Click the links and listen.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Chillout, Electronica, Jazz, Lounge, Popular, R&B, Rock | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: Music from the American Songbook

I have a friend who I have trouble convincing that good music wasn’t invented in 1964. This is the same guy who won’t watch black and white movies. It’s definitely his loss because he’ll never listen to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Vaughn Monroe, Count Basie… Some of the best music ever recorded.

I have a mix on my iPod of a couple hundred songs of the crooner / Jazz singer variety. Obviously, I can’t scratch the surface of this great body of music in a single post, but today I’m going to recommend a dozen or so of my favorites.

  1. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Billie Holiday
    Billie didn’t usually do the Nelson Riddle sweeping big band arrangement; this one is a jazzy little version of a classic of the Irving Berlin classic and Billie is, of course, fantastic.
  2. I’m Beginning to See the Light – Bobby Darin
    Hard to choose a song from Bobby Darin. “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea” are both great. “Splish Splash” was a big hit for him. I love this one.42-21391634
  3. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) – Louis Armstrong
    We can all stop singing this song now because Satchmo wins. He spends nearly 9 minutes putting together this brilliant, funny, inspired version of this Cole Porter tune.
  4. Are You Hep to the Jive? – Cab Calloway
    The Hi De Ho Man was a dynamic singer and led an outstanding ensemble. I love the way the guys all sing roughly behind him on this.
  5. Plenty of Money and You – Count Basie
    The Swingers soundtrack is full of great music I had never heard and this is one of them. I don’t usually go in for the blasting brass you often get with some big band, but this one is a minute and half long and follows Calloway nicely. Ignore the photos of whoever these people are on YouTube.
  6. You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You – Dean Martin
    Here’s another from the Swingers soundtrack. I was never a big Dean Martin guy, but he really nailed this song vocally and the arrangement is fabulous. People seem to be fascinated with the romance between these two CSI characters. I’ve seen more than 1 song with footage of the two of them on YouTube.
  7. East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) – Dianna Krall
    OK, so she’s not one of the traditional crooners. She still sings in that style, she’s a crack piano player, and I love this song written by Brooks Bowman in 1934. This might be my favorite song on this mix.
  8. Always True to You in My Fashion – Blossom Dearie
    Blossom Dearie died last year. She was so hip. You probably remember her voice from a couple Schoolhouse Rocks she did (‘Figure 8’ & ‘Adjectives’). Her almost childlike voice was at odds with her unbelievable Jazz sensibilities.
  9. C’est Si Bon – Eartha Kitt
    The amazing Eartha Kitt. Her career included movies (‘St. Louis Blues,’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ ‘Erik the Viking,’ ‘Fatal Instinct’, ‘Harriet the Spy,’ to name a few), TV (‘I Spy,’ ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘Batman,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ more), stage (more than 25 shows on Broadway and around the world), and planty of music on the pop charts, including this song, which hit #25.
  10. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive – Ella Fitzgerald
    The first lady of song. She swings this Harold Arlen song better than anyone I’ve ever heard sing it, but sadly, you only get the slow intro on this sample. Trust me, though.
  11. At Long Last Love – Frank Sinatra
    This is from my favorite recording of Frank Sinatra, a live performance from 1958 in Melbourne, Australia with vibes player and bandleader Red Norvo backing him. It’s a great recording that turned me into a Sinatra fan. I’m linking to the whole album, since I can’t like directly to this song. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
  12. Stormy Weather – Lena Horne
    Ms. Horne did several great versions of this song. Here is one. The version I have is available here (track #16).  Nobody ever did this song better, as far as I know. Smooth, soulful, and just beautiful.
  13. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter – Madeline Peyroux
    Ms. Peyroux objects when she is accused of imitating Billie Holiday. I find that just a little ridiculous. She’s channeling Billie Holiday. Still, this is a cute song and she does a nice job with it
  14. Love Is Just Around the Corner – Mel Torme
    I know why Judge Harry Stone from ‘Night Court’ loved Mel Torme. Give this song a listen. He sings scat almost as well as Ella. He also has an amazing ability to go from any note to any note without bending his way into the right pitch.
  15. Paper Doll – The Mills Brothers
    The dreamy intro gives way to a swingin’ lament about a girl who done him wrong. Recorded in 15 minutes and released as a B-side, this song sold 6 million copies. In 1943.
  16. Old Cape Cod – The Puppini Sisters
    OK, so they do it almost exactly like Patti Page did it. The modern production and slightly updated arrangement makes it sound a little better to my ear. Side note, check out the Sisters’ versions of “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Crazy in Love.”

Enjoy with a vodka martini, I think. In fact, make it a double.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Jazz, Lounge, Mix CD | 1 Comment