Missed Music

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

The weekend mix: Here’s to new parents

I’m an uncle. Very exciting stuff. Little Rainey was born into the family yesterday. My own daughter is 9 now. I hazily remember the first few weeks after she was born. We didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a stretch for 6 weeks. You don’t know problems from normal baby stuff. Having a baby can be hard adjustment for the body, the bank balance, and the bedroom. It’s a tough job.

Good luck with that.

Of course, there is no greater source of wonder, joy, and fear than your own baby. You can have an academic understanding of how having a baby will change your life, but until you actually do it… It’s the difference between reading the ingredients list and actually eating ice cream.

A lot of artists have been moved by their own experiences as children, lovers, and parents. Here are some I got to thinking of when I heard the news.

  1. Joy – Phish
    Phish has written a lot of songs about nothing in particular (“Stun the puppy, burn the whale. Bark a scruff and go to jail.”) and about fictional situations. This is a heartfelt song Trey wrote to his daughter. “We want you to be happy, ‘cos this is your song too.”
  2. Mama’s Always on Stage – Arrested Development
    These guys were talented and had a positive message. I wish they could have kept it together. This track has it all: a fast, danceable groove, rocking harmonica, exuberant backing vocals, and praise for mothers from Speech. It’s a must-have for your collection.
  3. All U Can Eat – Ben Folds
    In this song, a father advises his son not to be an ugly American.
  4. Isn’t She Lovely? – Stevie Wonder
    From one of my top 5 desert island discs, “Songs in the Key of Life.”  This is one of Stevie’s most celebratory songs. Every second of the 4-minute harmonica solo is worth close attention.
  5. Three Is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
    15 years later, I’m still sad about the untimely death of Shannon Hoon. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Nico, and shortly before he died, Blind Melon covered this Schoolhouse Rock classic.
  6. You’re My Girl – Neil Young
    Neil Young visited Motown on his album, “Are You Passionate,” and wrote this great song about taking his daughter out into the woods to show her some things.
  7. Wild World – Cat Stevens
    Old school. Before he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and called for the murder of Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam and Allah (may he be praised eternally), Cat Stevens was a loving father and great songwriter.
  8. Daughters – John Mayer Trio
    “Try!” was fantastic live album, which I just realized I should write up this week. Some of the pop Mayer writes loses me, but he’s a tremendous talent and rocked that album. This is a live performance at the GRAMMYs.  “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.”
  9. Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
    This wonderful, soothing John wrote for Sean is part lullaby, part fatherly advice and also contains a favorite lyric of mine, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
  10. Mother Mother – Tracy Bonham
    Ms. Bonham writes a letter to her mother about going out into the world. The gutsy and honest vocal performance makes this track rock.
  11. A Father’s Son – Citizen Cope
    Greenwood laments a man’s life gone wrong because he didn’t grow up like his father.
  12. When You Dream – Barenaked Ladies
    This is a surprisingly sober and beautiful song from these goofballs. He wonders what a child with so little experience could dream about.
  13. Robots for Ronnie – Crack the Sky
    This 70’s rock band that almost made it big reminds me of Phish in their goofy lyrics and brilliant, often jazz-influenced music. This ballad is about parents buying a robotic friend for their fat loser of a son.
  14. To Zion – Lauryn Hill
    People advised her to think of her career, but she decided to have the baby. She says, “Now the joy of my world is in Zion,” referring to her son, Zion David-Nesta Marley (grandson of Bob Marley).
  15. New Mistake – Jellyfish
    They wound up sounding an awful lot like Queen on their second album, but since I like Queen, that’s not a problem for me. This is a cool power pop examination falling in love and having a baby.
  16. Alligator Pie – Dave Matthews Band
    Dave Matthews is still putting out great music. His daughter, Stella, asked, “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song?” 2009, apparently.
  17. Kooks – David Bowie
    My all-time favorite song written by a father for his child. Bowie invites his child to “…stay in our lovers’ story.” Listen and read along.
  18. Sons & Daughters – Decembrists
    I like the hopeful tone of this song. He promises a better world for our children, which is what we all hope for.

I may return to this topic, because I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of songs inspired by artists’ children. Enjoy this song with a coke because, you know, we have to stay straight for the kids.

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March 6, 2011 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The weekend mix: Some gentler highlights and recent acquisitions

Last week’s mix wound up being mostly rocking music so I’ve had some mellower stuff piling up. This week I want to catch up on that. This isn’t sleepy stuff or even all ballads, but these have a consistent relaxed feel. This would actually make a pretty nice mix in your living room, which some of my themed mixes would not.

Relax

  1. I Don’t Know What to Do – Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson
    I will be writing this entire album up next week, I think. It is surprisingly good. Johansson has a sweet voice and this track has an appealing organic pop vibe.
  2. Cosmic Rays – Helium
    This is a beautiful and contemplative song with passages of pretty harmony vocals and passages of heavy chords and strings.
  3. Free Until They Cut Me Down – Iron & Wine
    The ominously quiet acoustic groove persists for about half the song before the percussion kicks in. It never really builds much, though. The vocals stay almost whispered while banjo and acoustic guitar see us to the dwindling end.
  4. Birthday – The Sugar Cubes
    Before Bjork struck out on her own, she was with The Sugar Cubes. I like exactly two songs by that band and this is one of them. It might be my favorite song Bjork ever did, too.
  5. Ain’t It So – Pigeonhed
    Shawn Smith is the voice behind Pigeonhed, Satchel, and Brad. He’s a great songwriter and a singularly talented vocalist. His voice works particularly with this funk/soul vibe.
  6. Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight
    This track has gotten a lot of run in TV soundtracks lately, which is how it came to my attention. It has kind of a Coldplay meets old U2 thing going on. I like it.
  7. Go Get Some – David Lynch & John Neff
    The David Lynch movie Mulholland Drive really stuck with me. There were a couple songs from the soundtrack that did the same. This instrumental is over 7 minutes long and it gets weird at times, but it’s a great vibe.
  8. Failure – Kings of Convenience
    The Kings remind me of Simon and Garfunkel in that many of their songs are pretty, mellow, and feature guitar and two-part harmony. This one actually has a bit more of an arrangement with some strings and horns joining in by the end. They are my favorite group that fits into the indie category.
  9. Why Did You Call? – The Magic Numbers
    I just wrote up the Numbers’ debut album a few weeks ago, but this is from their new album. Their sound on this one is much more produced, though not overly so, and the songs are as appealing as ever. This is a minute-long sample on YouTube.
  10. Wilted Daisies – Joshua James
    My ex turned me onto this guy last week. He’s got the most interesting and expressive new voice I’ve heard since Ray LaMontagne and this track comes in pretty and small before becoming a big, country-influenced jam.
  11. Sugar Never Tasted So Good – The White Stripes
    My girlfriend recently turned me onto this track, which had somehow flown under my radar even though I’m a big Jack White fan. It’s simple but catchy and sparkles with lyrical genius.
  12. On and On and On – Wilco
    Jeff Tweedy used to write a lot of cute and goofy songs, but as he has matured and seen greater success, his songs have deepened and now Wilco routinely puts out songs that are daring or complex or moving, like this one.
  13. Inside and Out – Feist
    The album version of this song sounds like disco-era Abba or something, but when she plays this unaccompanied on her guitar you hear what a beautiful melody this is.
  14. Machines – Mason Jennings
    Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and dropped out of school to pursue his musical career… in Minneapolis, MN. I didn’t realize MN had such a hot music scene but it seems to have been a good move. Or maybe that tells us this guy would have succeeded no matter where he went.

Enjoy this mix with a mimosa, because mimosas are yummy and not too hard. Have a great weekend.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Alt Country, Chillout, Indie, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The weekend mix: Happy days are here again

2011 is shaping up. I landed a job I applied for late last year. It looks like a good one, too. So at last I’m leaving the ranks of the under-employed and I’ll be making some money. Things are going swimmingly with my girlfriend too. (What is the genesis of that odd expression, anyway? Swimmingly?) I’m going to a posh wedding tonight that promises to be fun. All in all, I’m feeling pretty damn good.

Working again and pretty happy about it.

On that note, I put together a mix of songs that are either about good times or have happiness in the title.

  1. This Will Be Our Year – OK Go
    You remember their treadmill video for ‘Here It Goes Again’ and you might remember their awesome Rube Goldberg machine video for ‘This Too Shall Pass.’ These guys are about a lot more then gimmicky videos, though. They are about joyful, inventive pop music like this.
  2. It’s About Time – The Lemonheads
    I’ve always been a big Evan Dando fan. He writes the most pleasing melodies and he has a great vocal delivery.
  3. Finally Made Me Happy – Macy Gray
    A lot of people took notice of Macy Gray’s debut album and then she faded a bit, but I don’t thing she’s lost a step. I always check out her albums when she releases one. This is from her 2007 release, “Big.”
  4. Joyful Noise – Derek Trucks Band
    This aptly named nearly-all-instrumental composition is such a high-energy, upbeat song. This is a good live performance, too. Trucks is an amazing guitarist and a heck of a bandleader.
  5. Happy Hour Hero – moe.
    Go out and pick up “Tin Cans and Car Tires.” Oh, and go see moe. next time they come to your town. Give a listen to the lyrics in this great Rob Derhak tune.
  6. Awesome – Satellite Party
    Satellite Party is a Perry Farrell project. This is a surprisingly pretty love song. It’s almost cheesy, but somehow Farrell sells it to me.
  7. Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy – The Kinks
    Vintage Ray Davies. Thank you once again to John Cusack for turning me onto this great song I may not have found otherwise.
  8. Stupidly Happy – XTC
    I love XTC. This is nearly a silly filler track for them but many songwriters would kill to be able to generate infectious guitar riffs and vocal melodies that they seemed to toss off so effortlessly.
  9. Joy – Bettye LaVette
    LaVette has been in the business a long time and has come to mainstream success comparatively late in life. Check out this live performance and you’ll wonder why it took us so long to notice her.
  10. Happy Feet – 8 ½ Souvenirs
    These guys play fun, jazz-influenced music with a throwback feel, kind of in the mold of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but more polished.
  11. Action Figure Party – Action Figure Party
    This is the title track to one of the coolest party jazz albums I own. Listen to the great lyrics as you groove to the funky jazz.
  12. Wonderful Night – Fatboy Slim
    I have never heard of Lateef the Truth Speaker, but he really lays it down on this track. The energy is great, but watch out for the lyrics, parents.
  13. Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
    This song has been used in many TV shows so you’ve probably heard it before. If not, though, don’t miss it. Honestly, I think it’s better than Judy Garland’s version of ‘Rainbow’ and as good as Satchmo’s version of ‘Wonderful World.’
  14. Happiness – Built to Spill
    The fantastic slide guitar on this track makes it my favorite from Built to Spill’s great release, “Ancient Melodies of the Future.” As always, Doug Martsch gives a great vocal performance, too.
  15. I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
    No one did bitter like Elvis Costello. The instruments play an upbeat, poppy song, but the lyrics contain sarcastic gems like, “But you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever.”

You may have noticed that I only got two posts up this week and the “Friday Mix” got posted on a Saturday. I think I’m going to be busier now that I’m working. I will still try to get up a least a couple album reviews during the week, but I may start calling these the Weekend Mixes instead so I can get them up on Saturdays when I will have more time. Enjoy this mix with a glass of champagne and let the good times roll.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Hitting the hard stuff

I decided today I was just going to put together a random mix of some good music I had been listening to lately. After I was done, I realized nearly all of them were pretty hard rockers. So I pulled out the mellower tracks to use another day and refined this into a mix of hard rock, heavy pop, and metal. What can I say? The holidays are over. Time to get serious.

From the looks on their faces, that had to be Jägermeister. Hopefully, you'll like this hard stuff more.

  1. If That’s the Case then I Don’t Know – The Electric Soft Parade
    This combination of electric power chords and a U2-worthy, friendly pop hook grabs me. I recommend the amusing video too.
  2. Lazy Gun – Jet
    There are people who can write a great guitar hook like this and there are people who write nice vocal melodies. These guys are on your radio because they can pair them up with each other.
  3. Parish Sinker – This Moment in Black History
    These guys are not for everyone. In fact, my dog got up and left just now while I was cranking this song. Sorry, buddy, but this is some smoking hot punk/metal. Bonus fact: these guys are from my hometown of Cleveland. This whole region has spawned some great avant-rock and we’re back with some more for you.
  4. Run Away – Staind
    Staind has been at it for more than 15 years. This gem from 2005 is heavy but ear-friendly.
  5. Rapid Fire Tollbooth – Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
    Mars Volta member and master of modern prog rock Omar Rodriguez-Lopez sounds like the musical child of Traffic and Rush in this great 8-minute track. Well, the first 5 minutes of it, anyway. Then it gets weird.
  6. Under My Feet – None More Black
    This doesn’t sound very far from the ubiquitous neo-punk I hate so much, but while they are definitely a punk band there is a certain… integrity? …creativity?  Not sure, but it keeps the sound fresh. The energy is unbelievable too.
  7. Get Down Moses – Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
    If I’m going to put some new punk on here, I feel I should include this fantastic ska groove from punk legend Joe Strummer.
  8. Why I’m Here – Oleander
    Yes, yes, I know. This song sounds like an alternate take of ‘Lithium’ by Nirvana, or something out of that session anyway. I don’t care. I like the vocal performance and the way the guitar lands after he sings, “I can’t love you anymore.”
  9. Lazy Gun – JET
    Most of the songs on this mix rock harder than this one. It’s pretty straight ahead pop/rock but it’s built around a good, hard guitar hook even if the chorus and bridge are mellow.
  10. Hooch – The Melvins
    What I love about The Melvins is that they really mean it. Not the lyrics so much, because they write some strange and ironic lyrics. But the hammering guitar, gunshot percussion, and growling vocals? Yeah, they mean that stuff alright.
  11. Destroy the Dancefloor – Skindred
    I’ve been through several Skindred albums and although I like the blend of ska/punk/metal they play, a lot of their music misses me. Every one of their albums has a few great tracks like this one, though.
  12. Love Empire – Big Collapse
    Sadly, I’ve heard other songs by these guys and they were a lot like this one, only not as good. They really hit on something here, though. Grinding pop guitar and shouted backing vocals provide a relentless energy that sets up the chorus nicely.
  13. Mr. Pink – Satchel
    I’ve been listening to Shawn Smith’s music for a long time. He’s the lead vocalist for Satchel and Pigeonhed. If you haven’t heard either of those you may have heard his work with the supergroup/side project Brad, which he formed with Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. He’s a talented singer and songwriter and his projects almost invariably rock.
  14. Psycho – Puddle of Mudd
    I think even I heard this song on the radio at some point even though I almost never listen to the radio. I read that it topped the charts for 9 weeks. Still, I had completely forgotten about it until I heard it at a friend’s house. Great song.

Enjoy this mix with a Founder Imperial Stout,  or something else surprisingly hard. Have a great weekend.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Hard Rock, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, punk, Rock | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: somebody get me a doctor

My girlfriend spent the day seeing a bunch of doctors today. Tests at the hospital is a lousy way to spend a Friday. I started singing Eels’ ‘Hospital Food’ to her last night and though she’s an Eels fan, she didn’t know that one. That convinced me. It is a good topic for a mix. Listen in good health.

"Are you sure this is covered?"

  1. Hospital Food – Eels
    “Next thing you know you’re eating hospital food. Delicious hospital food.” Isn’t that the way it goes?
  2. I’m So Sick – Flyleaf
    I wasn’t quite sure what to think of these guys at first. Lead singer Lacey Mosley has a sweet voice and she’s cute but this song is really heavy. Think of some raspy dude’s voice singing this when you listen to it. It would work. Then I read they play Christian rock and metal. I still don’t know what of think of them.
  3. Attack the Doctor – Blockhead
    I threw this one on my chill out mix. The drums and guitar vamp while various atmospherics wander through the groove. It’s cool.
  4. Love Can Damage Your Health – Telepopmusik
    Also from the chill out mix. Telepopmusik is a French duo who play some smooth electronica. This is a simple song, but the arrangement is interesting and it has grown on me.
  5. Hospital Up – The Melvins
    The Melvins do some stuff that can get pretty weird. This is a straight-ahead rock song that is accessible and appealing…except for the last minute and a half, but I edited that off of my copy.
  6. Healing Is Difficult – Sia
    Healing is difficult, but Sia is easy to listen to. She has a distinctive voice and you may have heard her work with Zero 7. This one, though, is the title track from her great 2000 debut.
  7. Monster Hospital – Metric
    Cool song that reminds me of The Breeders. Creepy freaking video that reminds me of David Lynch.
  8. Miracle Medicine – Jason Falkner
    Falkner is an alum of Jellyfish and has written some great power pop, like this.
  9. Lock Doctor – James Harman
    Here is some down home oozy blues for you. Harman lays it down.
  10. She’s a Healer – Neil Young
    Neil Young has been at it a long time, but you still have to listen to what he’s doing. He explores every corner of this 9-minute bass-driven groove and it doesn’t get stale.
  11. World Sick – Broken Social Scene
    Broken Social Scene isn’t as much of a band as it is just a musical collective. No fewer than 25 musicians have contributed to albums and live shows and most of them live in and around Toronto. “You Forgot It in People” is my favorite album by them, but this is my favorite song off of “Forgiveness Rock Record.”
  12. Dr. Jimmy – The Who
    From the brilliant “Quadrophenia.” The main character, Jimmy, has 4 personalities. This one is a bastard.
  13. I Don’t Want To Die (In The Hospital) – Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
    “You gotta take me back outside. Help me get my boots on.” The energy of the song fits the proud desperation of the lyrics.

Enjoy this mix with a Flaming Moe. Because it’s medicinal. Have a great weekend.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Classic Rock, Electronica, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: Celebrating the end of a very strange year.

It’s been a weird year for me, particularly the last month or so. I have been dealt some tough blows this year and I’ve had some tremendous breaks. Some things that were begun this year aren’t over yet and the relative merits of their outcomes have not been revealed. I’ve done things this year I never thought I would do. Never contemplated doing, actually.

It's been that kind of year.

So 2010 did not go according to my plans, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Or as Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” So we make plans and hope things go our way, but it’s important to roll with the punches and simply enjoy the time that is given to us. With that in mind, this end-of-year post celebrates the strange and bizarre. Hey, it’s better than a boring life, right?

  1. Stranger than Fiction – moe.
    This is from my favorite moe. album, “Tin Cans and Car Tires.” Bass player Rob Derhak is a great songwriter and here’s a gem.
  2. Weird – The Sebadoh
    “Paranoia’s contagious. I’m coming down with it too.” It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
  3. Stranger – Draven
    These guys do throwback metal. I’d put it in the early 90s, maybe, but they do it really well. This nearly 9-minute epic has brooding verses and ass-kicking instrumental bridges.
  4. Strange Groove – World Party
    This is from the little known but brilliant World Party album, “Egyptology.” This one is strange, but it’s funky.
  5. Strange Times – The Black Keys
    God bless Carney and Auerbach. OK, the song is great, but this video concept is the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.
  6. Stranger Things – Soul Hat
    “Stranger things have happened. Won’t you explain how I can keep from tripping on the acid rain.” This was a pretty obscure album my brother turned me on to. They are/were an Austin-based band that I saw many years ago. They had a rocking single that hit #25 back in the 1990s, but this song was from a prior album that was a little gentler.
  7. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead
    Radiohead started to lose me for a bit, there, but “In Rainbows” is a beautiful, rocking album. Here is one of the gorgeous tracks from this album.
  8. Strange – R.E.M.
    “There’s something going on that’s not quite right.” I’ve felt this way all year.
  9. Strange Condition – Pete Yorn
    I only discovered about a minute ago that Yorn did a collaborative album with Scarlet Johansson in 2009. The single isn’t that bad and the album apparently went platinum in France already. I’ll get back to you on that. This song is from his solo debut “Musicforthemorningafter.”
  10. Crazy Dream – Los Lonely Boys
    These guys can sound a lot like Stevie Ray Vaughn, but then they’re also out of central Texas so I suppose they come by it honestly.
  11. Very Strange – Gomez
    I’ve recommended Gomez in the past. They are great songwriters and versatile players. Ben Ottewell drops a good hook and some moving lyrics on us here.
  12. Strange – Built to Spill
    The muddy guitar, harmony vocals, and tambourine backing Doug Martsch’s whining delivery somehow create a broadly appealing combination.
  13. Nobody Told Me – John Lennon
    “Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.” Lennon wrote this for Ringo Starr, but died before Starr recorded it. Lennon’s demo take was released 3 years after his death on “Milk and Honey.” It was the last John Lennon song to reach Billboard’s top 10, hitting #5.
  14. Strange Apparition – Beck
    Beck gets up to some strange shenanigans musically, but this one is a pretty straightforward piano-based pop tune. The video, on the other hand, is another matter.
  15. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed – David Bowie
    This year has left me feeling somewhat slightly dazed. So here is some seriously vintage Bowie from way back in nineteen hundred and sixty-nine. The intro is pretty spacey, but it soon ramps up into some sweet country rock.

Enjoy this mix with a gin martini garnished with pickled octopus Or, if your year has been weird enough already, just some bubbly. Have a safe holiday and a great coming year.

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Old school Christmas music

I’m sitting in the front window of a coffee shop writing this post. I have a hot mocha and I’m watching the snow fall outside. Seems like a perfect week to compile a mix of Christmas music. I have a Christmas mix on my iPod with 167 songs totaling 8 ½ hours of music. I like Christmas jazz because you get fresh and interesting takes on some standards, but I often have trouble finding links to the versions I love. Also, nothing is quite as Christmasy as the classic versions.

There's no school like the old school.

With that in mind, today I’m posting a mix of my favorite old school Christmas songs (except for Diana Krall, but she kind of leans old school anyway). I thought I had posted a version of this mix another year, but I went through my records and it looks like I never have. I think I always run out of time Christmas weekend.

Many of these songs have been covered well multiple times, but these are my very favorite versions. I hope you like them.

  1. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
    One story says that when Irving Berlin wrote this song, he told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!” Bing nails this song and this particular arrangement is my favorite.
  2. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo – Billy May
    This was always my least favorite Christmas carol, but May’s 1958 version is hip and energetic, even now. This is a cleverly edited video, too.
  3. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin
    This is such a cute song and Martin is exactly the mischievous type to deliver it. Incidentally, there is a fantastic remix of this song on a great album called “Merry Mixmas” on which they regroove the classic vocal track. This is the original, though.
  4. The Christmas Blues – Dean Martin
    Why not a double shot of Dean Martin? He never shied away from a double shot.
  5. Christmas Everyday – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
    Smokey’s voice is classic and the great Motown sound is wonderful. The best thing about this song, though, is I haven’t heard it 1000 times.
  6. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
    EVERYONE has done this song. I think my version is out there on YouTube somewhere. No one has done it as beautifully as Nat King Cole, though. This arrangement is gorgeous and Cole’s voice is as warm and gentle as a down comforter.
  7. Christmas Time Is Here – Diana Krall
    You should already have the original Vince Guaraldi version of this song. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the best Christmas album ever made bar none. Krall’s version of this song is lovely, though.
  8. Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee
    A lot of people have covered this song too, but Peggy Lee’s 1960 version of this great Sammy Cahn tune makes me feel like a kid when I hear it.
  9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lou Rawls
    I love the way Rawls swings this song and every note the horns drop is gold.
  10. Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
    I know this isn’t a great song but, God help me, I still like it. I watched the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every year as a kid and this is the closer.
  11. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Frank Sinatra
    Bing Crosby and Perry Como both had hits with this song first, but I like Frank’s version. The lyrics were written by Buck Ram when he was a homesick college student, but they came to symbolize the wishes of American soldiers in both World Wars.
  12. Jingle Bells – Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sistes
    Here is another song I don’t often like to hear at Christmas, but this zippy version with Bing and the Andrews Sisters is so much fun.
  13. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Vaughn Monroe
    Monroe himself recorded this song multiple times, but this is his best rendition. It’s the one they usually use in movies, too (Die Hard, for example).
  14. Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
    Best. Christmas. Song. Evah. The “Peace On Earth” counterpoint was added for this TV special, which was recorded just a month before Bing’s death, because Bowie hates “Little Drummer Boy” and wanted to sing something else. The music starts about 1:45 in.
  15. The Holly She Bears a Berry – The Chieftains
    This is from The Chieftains’ pretty good Christmas album, “The Bells of Dublin.” Traditional Irish music is kind of Christmasy anyway, in my opinion.
  16. Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown
    More blues for your Christmas mix. We’ve all had a sad Christmas or two and this one might make you feel better.
  17. Winter Wonderland – Lena Horne
    Another standard that has been covered over and over. I like Lena Horne’s version, if we’re talking old school.

Enjoy this mix with – what else? – egg nog with nutmeg and a generous shot of rum. Have a great week and a Merry Christmas.

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Children, Mix CD, Motown | 1 Comment

The Friday (late) mix: More wonderful world music

My Orchestra Baobab post the other day got me listening to my world music playlist. I thought it was time I shared more of my better discoveries with you.

It's all good.

  1. Alento – Luisa Maita
    I joined an iTunes Facebook group that gives away free music occasionally. This was one of their free tracks and it’s a winner. Good energy, good melody.
  2. Sona Moyo – Richard Bona
    Richard Bona came up one day as a recommendation if you like Mino Cinelu, which I do. Bona is a little more smooth jazz-ish, but he occasionally hits on a really nice groove like this one.
  3. Strip Tease – Serge Gainsbourg
    I knew of Charloette Gainsbourg, but I was unaware of her more famous father until a reader turned me on to him. This collaboration with Warhol Superstar Nico has a great, smoky Parisian nightclub feel.
  4. Ab-I Hayat – Mercan Dede
    There are a couple different traditions represented here. It’s mostly Middle Eastern, though I hear some western percussion and some didgeridoo.
  5. Ku’u Pua Lei Mokihana – The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band
    Hawaiian music isn’t for everyone, but this is a textbook example of the tradition. It’s what you think of when you hear the words “Hawaiian music” and it’s good.
  6. Aba Alem Lemenea – Abyssinia Infinite
    The soul of this track is African, but the keyboards are very American and the saxophone sounds straight off a vintage Van Morrison album.
  7. Toura Toura – Cheb I Sabbah
    This version is cool. There is also a great remix by Medina (?) that I found on “La Ghriba: La Kahena Remixed,” but not on YouTube. I believe this is a traditional song but Sabbah gives it a modern treatment.
  8. Sandesa – Swati Natekar
    This live performance shows that they captured the vibe pretty well in the studio version I love so much on “Tandava II.” It’s a beautiful song.
  9. Hava Nagila – The Barry Sisters
    Some geek decided to set this song to clips from Start Trek, but this is a fantastic authentic version of the classic Jewish song by The Barry Sisters. It is, in fact, the best version of this song I’ve heard, though I’d be tickled if someone could point me to a better one.
  10. Rafiki – Zap Mama
    I was actually looking for ‘Allo ‘Allo but it was disabled on YouTube. This one is also cool. Contrary to what you would think from the heavy African influence in her music, Zap Mama is Belgian and want to bridge European and African music. She does a fine job.
  11. Yashanti – Yael Naim
    There is a lot of gorgeous music on this album. ‘New Soul’ was used in a MacBook Air commercial. The music is sad but hopeful and completely beautiful. After some looking, I found a translation of the lyrics and it turns out it’s just sad.
  12. Sakura Sakura – Jean Pierre Rampal
    Rampal is a famous French flautist who shares my love of Japanese music. This track opens the disc and is my favorite. Listen to this sample and the rest on this album and you may decide to find it. The whole disc is simple and wonderful.
  13. Laulutytto – Varttina
    Check out this live performance of this song. It’s just a carnival. It looks like every person at the show is having a blast. It’s a great, high-energy closer.

Enjoy this mix with a Cosmopolitan. Why not? Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Mix CD, World Music | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Not sleepy, but sleep-related

I haven’t been sleeping. First off, I seem to have trouble actually going to bed. I putter around and I mean to get to bed, but I don’t actually lay down until it’s already pretty late. Then I often have trouble actually falling asleep. Last night I actually was sleeping and I had a dream that woke me.

It's not working.

I was on a hillside somewhere and noticed that I had sat down next to a little garter snake. Harmless little fellow. Well, then it pulled its head out from its coils and I noticed it was quite a larger snake than I had thought. Not a python or anything, but maybe a 5-footer of some kind. I scooted about 3 feet away from it figuring it wouldn’t be interested in me. It looked at me and then struck suddenly. I was so startled that I jumped and woke myself. It was 4:30 AM and I was wide-awake, heart pounding. I didn’t get back to sleep last night.

As I lay there contemplating the vague outlines of my dark room, it occurred to me that a sleep mix might be a good topic for today. This isn’t sleepy music, but all of the songs have sleep in the title (save one). Sleep has inspired some great music. I hope you enjoy them.

  1. Sleep – Crack the Sky
    These guys were a classic 70s act that never quite broke through, but I was into them back in the day and they’re still great. A lot of their songs are tongue in cheek, but this alternately energetic and beautiful song is one of their more serious tracks.
  2. Sleeping Beauty – A Perfect Circle
    Well, you’d never fall asleep with this one on but it’s fantastic. Guitarist Billy Howerdel wrote songs for Tool’s Maynard Keenan to sing and their album “Mer de Noms” is packed with winner after winner.
  3. Majik City / Sleep Logging – Glocca Morra
    Glocca Morra’s vocalist spends a fair amount of time screaming on this album, but the melodies are pleasing and the arrangements are interesting. I like this two-parter.
  4. Can I Sleep in Your Arms? – Willie Nelson
    I’m not a big country music guy, but Willie’s “Red Headed Stranger” is a masterpiece. Give a listen to this gorgeous track. Most of the album has this emotional, mellow feel.
  5. Sleeping Lessons – The Shins
    This is apparently what I need. Kind of a cool fan-made video for this song of two distinct halves. I really like how the unusual melody Mercer sings plays with the repeating keyboard and guitar arpeggio.
  6. A Song for Sleeping – Stone Temple Pilots
    This was the best song on “Shangri-La Dee Da.” My daughter just aked me to put it on her mix, too, for anyone still looking for more kid’s music. Incidentally, how many hundred times do you have to play this song on Guitar Hero to nail it like this?
  7. Sleepless – Soul Coughing
    “I got the will do drive myself sleepless. Skeedunt. Stunt the runt, smoking Buddha blunt.” Where do the lyrics come from?
  8. Sleepwalk – Santo and Johnny
    What a fabulous vintage instrumental, circa 1959. I can see the bobby soxers slow dancing with their letter-wearing boyfriends now.
  9. Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) – Radiohead
    Radiohead kind of lost with Amnesiac / Kid A but, man, they came roaring back on Hail to the Thief. These guys remain the best current band I have never seen live.
  10. A Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd
    Out of their entire impressive body of work, I believe this is the most beautiful song they ever wrote.
  11. Sleepyhead – Moke
    These guys only put out a few albums before they broke up in 2001, but the one to pick up is “Superdrag,” which has this one.
  12. Sleep to Dream – Fiona Apple
    Apple was only 19 when this was released so presumably she was even younger when she wrote it. It’s a remarkably mature song to come from such a young woman.
  13. Sleep on the Left Side – Cornershop
    “When I Was Born for the Seventh Time” has a bunch of fascinating, irresistible songs like this one and, sadly, some weird stuff that is hard to listen to. This one always makes me happy when it comes up.
  14. Sleep Comes Down – The Psychedelic Furs
    Not the typical sound you expect when you think about the Furs. It’s a cool track, though, that has aged really well.

Enjoy this with a Daylon’s Bedtime and get to bed. Have a great weekend.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Country, Indie, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The Wednesday mix: Love Beats Hate

Someone organized a blogging event today called “Love Beats Hate.” I’m down. I wanted to blog about love today. Romantic love, brotherly love, family love. There is a lot of hate and fear in the world but though hate can win some devastating advances, I truly believe love triumphs.

"Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT: a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich..."

I usually do a mix on Fridays, but in participation with this great event, here is a collection of songs about love and peace. I hope you enjoy them, but more than that I hope you are inspired to make more room in your heart for love, respect, tolerance, and peace.

  1. Love’s in Need of Love Today – Stevie Wonder
    Stevie is a spiritual and peace-minded musical genius who just wants to increase the peace. “Hate’s going round breaking every heart. Stop it, please, before it’s gone too far.”
  2. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) – George Harrison
    And speaking of peace-minded musical geniuses…
  3. Better Way – Ben Harper
    Harper is a modern preacher of peace and love. He feels it, he believes it, and he makes you believe it too with this beautiful song.
  4. Any Love – Massive Attack
    Good old Massive Attack leaves behind the dark and ominous vibes they often lay on us for this upbeat pop song. “Any love that you feel is for real.”
  5. Peace – Los Lobos
    I am the biggest Los Lobos fan I know. This is from a kind of breakthrough album for them, “Kiko.” David Hidalgo is a great songwriter and he penned a great song here about bringing peace to the world through love.
  6. Border Song – Elton John
    Eric Clapton does a pretty cool, rollicking cover of this song, but John’s original version is gorgeous and more moving.
  7. Love in a Trashcan – The Ravonettes
    So this one is here mainly because it’s a great song. My point, though, is that the worst love you can think of is better than any hate at all.
  8. Message of Love – The Pretenders
    Chrissy Hynde lays it out for us. “And the reason we’re here as man and woman is to love each other, take care of each other.” Can I get an “amen?’”
  9. P.S. You Rock My World – Eels
    This is a beautiful love song all about living in the moment and living for love and if someone wrote this for you or even if they just dedicated it to you it’s a good, good thing.
  10. Funny How Love Is – Queen
    Some seriously vintage Queen, from their second album in 1974. Freddy sounds like he’s 12, but the harmony vocals and May’s buzzing Red Special are there. Listen to Deacon’s work on bass as well. It’s a little saccharin, but God help me, I like this song.
  11. Give Me Every Love You Got – Gravity Wave
    This is kind of oozy and a little strange, but I like the vibe and I love the lyrics. “Give me one of every love you got. Have you got the one with youthful courage, blowing off tomorrow’s test?”
  12. I’m Always in Love – Wilco
    Wilco has put out some amazing, deep, and textured albums, but I think my favorite remains the sunny “Summerteeth.” Here’s a typical uplifting pop song from the album.
  13. Crazy Love – Van Morrison
    When Van fell in love, he got it bad. This is as sweet and gentle a love song as you could ever ask for.
  14. Love Is Best – World Party
    This seems to be a sad and pretty song of loss, a cautionary tale by a man who has realized that love is the most important thing.

I didn’t put any John Lennon on here, but you could have picked any one of a half dozen songs. If there was ever a musician more dedicated to increasing love in the world, I don’t know who it would be. Anyway, enjoy this mix with a glass of milk and some cookies for dunking, because I love that.

November 18, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock | 3 Comments