Missed Music

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The Friday mix: celebrating the written word

In my house we accumulate books. After decades of collecting them, today we packed my trunk and back seat with 7 boxes of books and carted them off to Half Price Books to sell or trade them. While we waited for the woman to total up an offer for the books, I got to wander around and shop for what I would be reading next. I love bookstores. I worked in one of Cleveland’s last great independent bookstores in 1991 and 1992. To this day it remains the best job I ever had. Anyway, I left with a handful of books and a fistful of money. Nice haul.

Books and music: two great tastes that taste great together.

For the mix this week, I want to celebrate the written word. And while I’m at it, I want to champion a personal cause of mine. It’s very simple. Parents, read to your kids. That’s all. I teach sometimes and I know a lot of parents just don’t do it. It’s good bonding time; they love your attention. They learn new words and new ideas. They travel to places and times they could never go in real life. They hear how inflection works and how sentences are constructed. It makes book lovers of kids. I am convinced that short of inoculation, it is the best thing a parent can do for his or her kid.

So today, enjoy music that celebrates enjoying books.

  • This Red Book – Pinback
    Pinback’s album, “Summer in Abaddon,” has many songs in it with a measured, mathematical feel but it still has soul for all its precision. This has a patient, plodding pace and appealing guitar and vocal work.
  • Every Day I Write the Book – Elvis Costello
    What a great songwriter he was. I put that in past tense because I haven’t been knocked out by a lot of the stuff he has released in the last decade or so. This is a typically wonderful song by Costello from the mid-1980s.
  • I Can’t Read – Tin Machine
    By way of contrast, David Bowie is a guy who never stopped writing great songs. I think if you comb through his 25 studio albums for dogs you MIGHT be able to put together 1 album that was merely good.
  • Reading My Mind – John Cale
    I am a fan of The Velvet Underground, but I don’t have a lot of solo John Cale. This is a cool track, built around a neat little descending piano riff.
  • Paperback Writer – The Beatles
    This was released as an A-side single with ‘Rain’ as the B-side, which makes this my favorite duo of songs released by the early Beatles.
  • Just Read the Poems – Don Was
    This is from the Backbeat soundtrack. Not the one with all the Beatles covers, but the incidental jazz score by Don Was. This is some really hip, smooth jazz. I highly recommend this album.
  • Trick in the Book – Cornell Campbell
    I can’t listen to a lot of reggae all at once, but, man, I love it when some reggae pops up on my iPod and I always like it in a mix.
  • Did You See the Words – Animal Collective
    Animal Collective is often not very accessible. Still, the more I hear them the more I like them. I love that so many of Panda Bear’s melodies have this backwards tracked Brian Wilson feel. The rotating personnel in the group nearly always bring interesting instrumentation and fat harmony vocals.
  • I Write Sins, Not Tragedies – Panic! At the Disco
    The music is good, but this one is all about the great lyrics. What a brilliant if sad song.
  • Same Page – Virginia Coalition
    Virginia Coalition writes bright, poppy songs that remind me of some of Blues Traveler’s cuddlier material. This song will make you happier when it comes on.
  • Books Are Burning – XTC
    I’ve been an enormous fan of XTC since about 1983 (after they had stopped touring, dammit). The seeming ease with which they tossed off brilliant pop melodies makes their breakup very sad. I like this anthem.
  • Empty Pages – Traffic
    Homer Simpson hates traffic – the phenomenon and the band. I love the band, particularly this track off of “John Barleycorn Must Die.”
  • All Your Words – Bleeding Heart Narrative
    OK, so this song isn’t as wonderful as ‘Colours Turn Colours‘ from the same album, but it has the same feel, a pretty melody, and a big, layered sound.
  • Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
    I love Harriett Wheeler’s voice. And not just the clear, breathy tone. I also like her diction, the way she pronounces the words. This is probably my favorite song by them.

Enjoy this mix with some Shakespeare Vodka and grapefruit juice. In fact, make it a double. Enjoy your weekend.

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October 15, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Indie, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: pack your suitcase

Travel. There is nothing like it to broaden the mind, heal the soul, and make you appreciate home. My wife is on a plane to Korea right now. I also have an old friend who just got back to the U.S. from Thailand. He visited me this week and is driving back home to Texas via Chicago this weekend. This put me in a mind to assemble a mix of travel related songs.

Oh boy. I still have another pair of shoes to fit in there.

  1. Stay Where You Are – Ambulance Ltd.
    Everyone needs time off. I have friends who take “staycations.” I don’t do that very often. It’s affordable, but why do you work if not to be able to go cool places. No, you have to get out and…
  2. See the World – Gomez
    This is why everyone leaves home, right? OK, business occasionally, but everyone likes to see someplace new at times. This is a sweet acoustic melody about traveling and finding yourself a mate.
  3. Leaving Home Ain’t Easy – Queen
    One of the things that makes Queen so fantastic is all four members are great songwriters. This is one of Brian May’s songs about how setting out into the world is hard on you and on the people you leave behind.
  4. Go Outside & Drive – Blues Traveler
    If you want to travel, this is inevitable. This is from “Save His Soul,” which was always my favorite Blues Traveler album. In BT’s typical sunny pop fashion, John Popper is overcome by inertia in this song.
  5. Setting Forth – Eddie Vedder
    Vedder did the soundtrack for Into the Wild and it is fantastic all the way through. My favorite song on the album is a cover of “Hard Sun,” but this one is also great.
  6. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – Sting (feat. Rankin Roger)
    Sting does a much more up-tempo version of this song without The Police. The version released on The Truth About Cats and Dogs soundtrack features Rankin Roger (of The English Beat and General Public). Sadly, this sample doesn’t give you much, but here is a mediocre live version with Rankin Roger.
  7. Woman Driving, Man Sleeping – Eels
    Well, instead of missing your significant other, bring him/her along. I love a road trip. E completely captures the feel of a late night drive on this track. Love it.
  8. The Way – Fastball
    I included this for the chorus, “Where were they going without ever knowing the way?” The downside of driving is getting lost. This tune always makes me think of Smash Mouth. I like the retro feel and the keyboards.
  9. Airline to Heaven – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Well, you can always fly. You can’t get to most places without doing it. This is a fantastic track from “Mermaid Avenue Vol. II” that features the winning combination of joyful acoustic guitar and handclap percussion.
  10. Plane Crash – moe.
    This is the genius of Rob Derhak, the bass player. The song is towering, with several distinct passages, but the lyrics are just perfect. And I have to confess, I think about this song most times I get on an airplane.
  11. Mr. Cab Driver – Lenny Kravitz
    If you flew – and didn’t crash – you need a cab. Kravitz tells us of the difficulty a dreadlocked black man has getting a cab. It’s from his first album and the energy is unbelievable.
  12. Camping Next to Water– Badly Drawn Boy
    OK, so it’s not how you get there, but what you do when you get there. One of my favorite reasons to travel is to go camping. Damon Gough has a delicate hand with this pretty acoustic tune from “Hour of the Bewilderbeast.”
  13. Homesick – Kings of Convenience
    If you’re gone too long from home, no matter how cool your vacation is, you miss it. Seems like more than half the songs the Kings write are melancholy, but they are nearly all beautiful. They’re very Simon and Garfunkel, but that’s OK with me.
  14. Many Rivers to Cross – UB40
    UB40 does a fantastic job with this old Jimmy Cliff song about struggling against adversity to find your way home. Both the lead and backup vocal performances are wonderful.
  15. Souvenir – Neil Finn
    “It’s nice to go traveling, but it’s so much nicer to come home.” — Frank Sinatra. Hopefully, you picked up a souvenir to remember it. Finn has a great talent for pop songs. This is a pleasing melange of strings and guitar with well-mixed percussion.

As I put this mix together, I discovered it is a rich topic and I imagine I will put together a few more mixes along these lines in the future. Enjoy this with orange juice from a can and a teeny tiny bottle of airline vodka. Have a great weekend.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Alternative, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | Leave a comment

Bonnaroo 2010 recap: Saturday

Saturday is probably the most grueling day at Bonnaroo. Thursday starts late and ends early. The first few years, there wasn’t much music at all on Thursday. Now there is music, but it’s an abbreviated day. Friday is your first full day, with music going from noon to 4:00 AM, or thereabouts, but you’re still pretty fresh. Sunday starts at noon also, but ends at around 11:30 PM when the final headliner ends. But Saturday… You’re coming off a long Friday, you probably haven’t had much sleep, and it’s another noon to 4:00 AM day.

The weather varies from year to year, obviously. Some years it’s hot, dry, and dusty. Some years it’s rainy and muddy. This year we had rain the week before so people were setting up camp in some mud, but once the festival started there was no rain (except for a blessed 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon). Temperatures and humidity were both in the low 90s. You’re so sweaty and oily with sunscreen that your skin becomes flypaper for every particle of dust that wafts your way. There is a fountain for people to play in, but I think the same water flows in it all week, so you have to be pretty dirty for that water to actually make you cleaner. You can buy a shower for $7 or do the old shower-in-a-bottle between cars at the campsite. I have done both. Still, the crowd is all in it together and no one is there for comfort. It’s all about the music.

One of my companions knows The Melvins' road manager, Dave. We got backstage passes and met a variety of cool people.

I stayed in camp a little longer Saturday to rest (OK… and to drink) and headed for the venue shortly after noon. I caught a few minutes of Norah Jones. Jones is as talented as she is adorable but a lot of her music is a little too sleepy for me. I like the more upbeat, poppy direction she took on her latest album but the few live tracks I heard were very mellow. I was headed in search of larger game so I didn’t stay long.

The first full show I saw Saturday was Isis. If you aren’t familiar with this band out of Boston (via L.A.) they play metal that ranges from math rock to slowcore, reminiscent of Neurosis or Tool. They played a great set that was heavy and tight, which is why I was disappointed to discover the band has announced they are breaking up after this summer’s tour. If they have any dates left in your town, go check them out as it looks like they won’t be around in the fall.

Immediately following Isis on the same stage came The Melvins. This was apparently no accident because Isis and The Melvins are reportedly releasing a split EP together in July of 2010. The Melvins’ stage presence is strange. All four guys were in different dresses, from one of the drummers’ pizza print dress to the bass player’s 70s futuristic gown (think Logan’s Run or Battlestar Galactica) to lead singer King Buzzo’s black frock. I thought the set was just going to be heavy and weird. Well, it WAS heavy and weird, but it was also very engaging and extremely cool. I had never heard much from The Melvins, beyond what came up on some of my friend’s iPods, but I was much impressed and will start going through their 20+ years of albums (suggestions, anyone?).

I went from there to the main stage, where The Dead Weather was playing. This is Jack White’s (White Stripes, Raconteurs) new new band. The music on their debut album was good (I have but have not listened to the new album) and the performance was intense, but I couldn’t help wishing that the Raconteurs were playing again. In fairness, I only got to see a little bit of their show because I had to go see a personal favorite, Ozomatli. (whom I have written up more than once: here and here).

Ozomatli never disappoints. Amazing energy, individual talent, tight work as an ensemble, and great songs make this a danceable show every time. I was also delighted when Trombone Shorty (see my previous post) joined them on-stage. This was a highlight of the weekend for me.

I watched their entire show and then went to the great highlight of the entire week: Stevie Wonder. I have been excited about this show since the line-up came out. I thought I would never get a chance to see Stevie Wonder but the music gods smiled on me this year. Conan O’Brien introduced him, saying, “Let me get real serious for a moment. There is no one better than Stevie Wonder. I am honored – honored! – to be standing within 500 yards of this man. He has done it all.” I was glad Conan tried to give the kids some perspective and I couldn’t agree more.

Stevie, wearing a pure white dashiki, was led to his keyboard and the music began. He had 12 or 15 musicians on the stage with him and you know that to get the gig in Stevie’s band you have to be an absolute monster. The band were all great improvisers and tightly rehearsed. Stevie would occasionally call out, “Go to A flat!” or, “Go to E! Now F!” and the band never missed a beat or a note. The singers danced and Stevie sang with all the energy and fluid power you remember. He hasn’t lost a step. It was a celebration. He played songs spanning his entire career, including a few from my favorite, “Songs in the Key of Life.”

My only complaint about the whole show was that Stevie kept asking us to sing. Please, Stevie, don’t make us sing. You have almost as many Grammys as I have teeth. Please sing to me. I came here to hear you, not the drunk, off-key schmo next to me. Anyway, the show was amazing and all too short.

I ended my Saturday with a set from Thievery Corporation. Theivery Corp is ostensibly just DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. However, they had a two-tiered stage filled with a variety of instrumentalists and singers. Their music touches dub, chillout, jazz, bossa nova, and other world influences. It was a cool set and I sank into the grass and relaxed after a long, hot day.

I had intended to write a single post covering Saturday and Sunday, but I think this is enough for today. I’ll cover Sunday tomorrow, though it was a short day and I only took in four shows.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Metal, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, Soul | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: Songs of war and peace in honor of our veterans

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. I couldn’t quite get the Friday mix posted yesterday, so here it is a day late.

I am grateful for the work done and sacrifices made by our armed forces. While I don’t always agree with the way and places they are deployed, I recognize that the life I live would not be possible without the work they do. In honor of Memorial Day, I have compiled a mix of songs about soldiers, war, and peace.

Sincere thanks.

Of course, the world would be a better place if no one needed armed forces and many of these songs are of a protest nature. I appreciate what they do, but I think we can all agree that it would be better not to have to send soldiers into harm’s way in the first place.

  1. Both Sides of the Gun – Ben Harper
    This song is a protest specifically against the Iraq War. He talks about an archaic doctrine that no longer serves us and brings a war that can’t be won.
  2. Goodnight Saigon – Billy Joel
    A powerful song that follows marines from training to deployment in the Viet Nam War.
  3. War Pigs – Cake
    The Black Sabbath classic covered in Cake’s droll indie-funk style.
  4. Spanish Bombs – The Clash
    I have no doubt that this is the catchiest, happiest sounding song about the Spanish Civil War (‘36 – ’39) ever written.
  5. Running Gun Blues – David Bowie
    Some seriously old school Bowie from “The Man Who Sold the World.” It’s about a soldier who has completely lost it and sneaks out at night to kill more civilians after peace has been declared. No disrespect intended to our honorable veterans. The song is cool.
  6. Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret – The English Beat
    OK, so the first half of this song is just a ska song about a girl, but the second half is a protest song asking Margaret Thatcher not to start World War III.
  7. It’s a Mistake – Men at Work
    Colin Hay tells a tale of accidental war a la Dr. Strangelove, and points out that the casualties are just as dead, regardless of why a conflict starts.
  8. World Wide Suicide – Pearl Jam
    Eddie Vedder said of this song, “It’s about [Pat Tillman] and a bunch of the guys who didn’t get as much coverage—the guys who barely got a paragraph instead of ten pages.”
  9. Goodbye Blue Sky – Pink Floyd
    This song about the aftermath of war is beautiful and chilling.
  10. Us and Them – The Easy Star Allstars
    This is from the brilliant reggae cover of the Pink Floyd classic. It isn’t so much a protest song as much as a discussion of the causes and senselessness of war. The Allstars do a fantastic job with it.
  11. People Get Ready – Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Phoebe Snow
    The classic peace ballad by The Impressions given a gentle and soulful treatment with the incomparable vocals of Ladysmith.
  12. What the Fuck Are We Saying? – Lenny Kravitz
    Another plea for peace and sanity, this time from my favorite of Kravitz’s album, “Mama Said.”
  13. Melt the Guns – XTC
    This is a weird as anything XTC has done, and that’s saying something.
  14. Don’t Kill – Hammel on Trial
    Hammel is from Syracuse, NY and he plays a lot of smart, funny songs. Here’s a heartfelt protest song that absolutely rocks.
  15. One World (Not Three) – The Police
    Sure Sting can get preachy, but this one has a sunny melody, a great positive message, and horns.
  16. Peace – Los Lobos
    Los Lobos are in my top 5 favorite bands, largely because David Hidalgo is an incredible songwriter. I love the heavy acoustic groove and the lyrics are inspiring.
    Enjoy with a glass of iced lemonade to kick off your summer. Have a great long weekend.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Mix CD, Popular, punk, reggae, Rock, Soul | 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: Deep and passionate rock from Ben Harper

For the Friday mix today I want to do one of my favorite things: make a mix of the best of a single artist. Today I hope to turn any stragglers on to Ben Harper. Harper is a phenomenal guitar player, a brilliant songwriter, a strong singer, and an electrifying presence on stage.

Aaaaa! I'm so talented it hurts!

I’ve been lucky enough to see him numerous times as an opening act, as a headliner, and at festivals. If you haven’t seen him, don’t miss your next opportunity; he puts on a great show and his band is amazing. If you haven’t listened to his music somehow, start buying them one at a time (so you have a chance to digest each one before the next).

I will confess I don’t have all of his albums, so this mix is just my favorites from what I know. If I’ve missed something that you feel strongly about, feel free to let me know.

  1. Breakin’ Down – From his second album, “Welcome to the Cruel World,” this has a great up-tempo energy.
  2. How Many Miles Must We March – Harper is a passionate man with strong opinions on issues of race, equality, and freedom. This is one of his earliest anthems.
  3. Faded – The opening track on the first Ben Harper album I ever bought. I love the way he will play an absolutely ripping guitar riff, but sing gently and sweetly.
  4. Homeless Child – The album is well sequenced, and this track follows ‘Faded’ perfectly. In fact, I knitted the two together in my collection because I am so used to them coming up together on the CD.
  5. Roses from my Friends – The lyrics to this song are beautiful and my understanding is they relate the feelings of a middle eastern man who is facing some corporal punishment – being placed in stocks, which some people don’t survive – for sharing banned books. On his way to the stocks, he says goodbye to his family. Stones are thrown at him by his enemies, which doesn’t affect him much, but he is heartbroken by his friends giving him roses.
  6. The Will To Live – Great bass work in this song and, of course, the guitar work is superlative.
  7. Mama’s Trippin’ – This might be my favorite track on this album. The funky horns make me think of something off of Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule.”
  8. Steal My Kisses – The second Harper album I got was “Burn to Shine” and it contains this, my daughter’s favorite  Harper song. It’s a fun feel-good tune, too.
  9. Forgiven – There are only live versions of this one on YouTube, but I’m sending you there anyway. You get a good look at his setup on this one. He usually has a big area rug down and a comfy chair to sit in while he plays slide guitar. Oh, and the song utterly rocks.
  10. Burn One Down – What a pleasant, peaceful tune. And you know what? It’s just possible that Harper is a fan of cannabis. “Herb is a gift from the Earth and what’s from the Earth is of the greatest worth. So before you knock it, try it first and you’ll see it’s a blessing and it’s not a curse. If you don’t like my fire, then don’t come around ‘cos I’m gonna burn one down.”
  11. Ground on Down – You may have read some of these song descriptions without following the links, but this one is not to be missed, particularly with the fabulous video they made for it.
  12. With My Own Two Hands – Whenever I hear that song by John Mayer, “Waitin’ for the World to Change,’ I think of this song in which Harper proclaims, “I can change the world with my own two hands.” The inspiring message is right at home in this reggae groove.
  13. Diamonds on the Inside – Pop genius with a guitar hook so fat you may have to change your screen resolution to watch the video.
  14. Everything – This is a pretty, up-tempo love song but he has a gift for lyrics and avoids sounding cliché. “The colors of your garden, they’re yellow, blue, and green. And the sound of your sweet voice, it’s better than all my dreams.”
  15. Better Way – This is off Harper’s 2006 release, “Both Sides of the Gun.” He chooses some interesting harmonies and rocks a little sitar for this one.
  16. Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating – Another great rocker and it has a different feel from a lot of his older stuff. Harper continues to grow and stretch. This is a live performance, but it the studio version isn’t any tighter.
  17. Take My Hand – Harper put together a gospel project with The Blind Boys of Alabama in 2004 called “There Will Be a Light.” It’s a brilliant pairing. Forgive the narcissistic photo montage somebody put up with this song. It’s the only studio version of this song on YouTube. I’m not gay, but if I was…
  18. Strawberry Fields – Harper contributed this one to the great “I Am Sam” soundtrack. It’s not very far from The Beatles’ arrangement but he handles this with a delicate touch and keeps it moving and lyrical.

Alright I’m going to stop now, but I have many more on my iPod. If you haven’t delved into Harper’s catalog, I hope this list inspires you to do so. Enjoy this with a fine wine that has improved with age. Have a great weekend.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Jam Bands, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, Soul | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Music to celebrate a new year.

I didn’t get to post this mix last week because my eight year-old daughter has been off school and though we had a blast over break, it’s actually kind of difficult to get a time-consuming mix post up with her around. You parents know what I mean. She went back to school this week, but we got a snow day today. Right now she’s spending a few quality minutes with the big square baby sitter watching a Scooby Doo DVD so I’m taking this chance to post.

Here's hoping you're surrounded by friends in the new year.

It’s a new year and though there were some definite highlights to the past year, I think many people will be pretty glad to see the ass end of 2009. At heart, though, I’m not a negative person and I’m celebrating the arrival of a new decade with a mix of songs that see the end of things and look forward to new things. Here’s to a great new year.

  1. Sacrificial Bonfire – XTC
    One of my very favorite solstice / New Year songs because the melody is pretty and the string arrangement is so nice. “Change must be earnt.”
  2. New Beginning – Tracy Chapman
    Tracy Chapman writes a lot of mournful, depressing songs. I love it when she writes an up-tempo track like this one.
  3. When the Sun Rose Again – Alice in Chains
    From their new album, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” which is surprisingly good (surprising to me anyway). This one is dark and oozy, but has a hopeful note in it.
  4. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More – The Allman Brothers Band
    You know this song. It’s about getting up and getting on with your life because time goes by like a hurricane. Here are the Brothers live at the Beacon Theatre in 2003.
  5. Morning – Amel Larrieux
    A beautiful song about the start of a day. Check out the deep lyrics as you listen.
  6. (This If for the) Better Days – A Band of Bees
    Hoist one and drink to better days to come. A Band of Bees, or just The Bees as they’re known in the UK, do a lot of different kinds of music. This is a vamping groove.
  7. With My Two Hands – Ben Harper
    This kind of inspirational song is one of the things I love about Ben Harper. Contrast this with John Mayer who is “Waiting for the World to Change.” Get to work, punk.
  8. Another Lonely Start – Billy Boy on Poison
    Making a new start can be lonely. In this case, it’s ending a relationship and starting out alone. This is a pretty straight-ahead Beatles-influenced pop song. I like it.
  9. Change – Blind Melon
    It’s not just the title, the entire song has a hopeful feel. Plus it contains one of my all-time favorite lyrics, “And when your deepest thoughts are broken keep on dreamin’, boy, ‘cos when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die.”
  10. The Day Brings – Brad
    Another song about hope and change, this time from the sometimes spotty and sometimes brilliant supergroup, Brad. This is my second-favorite song from these guys.
  11. Darlin’ Do Not Fear – Brett Dennen
    A sweet little acoustic tune. I got this on a free disc someone was giving away at Bonnaroo. This is a live performance, but it sounds pretty close to the studio version.
  12. Gonna Be Some Changes Made – Brudce Hornsby
    The piano riff sounds a bit like ‘That’s Just the Way It Is’ but this is a very different song. Sadly, you have to sit through 60 seconds of terrible interview from The View before the music kicks in, but it is a good recording.
  13. Setting Forth – Eddie Vedder
    From the Into the Wild soundtrack, which is definitely worth getting. This one is barely 2 minutes long, but it’s cool. So this guy set forth to eventually starve to death in the forest. Not a great omen as songs go, but it is about a beginning.
  14. No Turning Back – G. Love and Special Sauce
    This is the opening track from “Philadelphonic” and it’s a great, high-energy kickoff to this album and to the new year.
  15. People Get Ready – Phoebe Snow with Ladysmith Black Mambazo
    Definitely a song about looking forward to a world of peace. This is my favorite version of The Impressions’ classic.

Enjoy with a drink you’ve never had before. Have a great weekend and a great new year.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock | Leave a comment

Well executed Dub / Electronica from DJ /rupture & Matt Shadetek

Amazing skills at the mixing board.

“Solar Life Raft” is the new release from DJ /rupture and Matt Shadetek. It’s not a wall-to-wall winner, but there’s some outstanding dub on it and I have to say it is the best produced piece of music I have heard in a long time. They pull in a variety of samples, instruments, and cultural influences and mix them with amazing skill. Check out my review on Altsounds: http://hangout.altsounds.com/reviews/113682-dj-rupture-and-matt-shadetek-solar-life-raft-album.html

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Chillout, Electronica, reggae | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: No theme. Just good music.

When I’m riding around in my car and a song comes on my iPod that I particularly want to share, I tag it for later. So this week I don’t really have a theme other than this being a round-up of songs that I’ve tagged over the last few weeks. I hope you like.

Things I like.

  1. You Make No Bones – Alfie
    Every time this song comes on, I think it’s Gomez for a minute. I like Gomez a lot, so I like this song. Great mix of harmonica and strings behind an appealing melody.
  2. Spreadin’ Rhythm Around (Lady Bug vs. Lady Day RR Remix) – Billie Holiday
    Fantastic, fantastic song. In the first place, you’ve got Billie so you can hardly miss. The old instrumentation is still there, so you’ve got lots of wailing clarinet and muted trumpet. Then you add in updated percussion and Lady Bug (Digable Planets) alternating verses with Billie and it’s such a winner.
  3. Arc of Time – Bright Eyes
    Kind of a cool contemplation of life, death, and what comes after. I like the funky, clap-laden percussion, the multi-octave vocals and the kind of deep lyrics.
  4. Happiness – Built to Spill
    I really like Built to Spill. The juxtaposition of the slide guitar with his nasally alto verses is really cool
  5. Dim the Lights – Ekolu
    I can only take so much Reggae in one sitting but the well placed Reggae tune is a thing of beauty, which is why I like to throw the occasional one into a mix. This has all the standard elements: keyboards on the upbeat, a little horns, a sweet melody. It makes me smile.
  6. I Don’t Care – Fall Out Boy
    Not a whole lot of Fallout Boy really grabs me, but this is one of them. It’s a great stomping groove with cool background vocals thrown in and a really catchy guitar hook. I find a lot of their stuff kind of basic, but this is some advanced songwriting, in my opinion.
  7. All Rise – Further Seems Forever
    This has kind of a grungy feel to it, but it doesn’t do so much of the minor chord thing. The verses are wispy and thoughtful but the chorus you don’t get to hear in this sample is big, sweeping, and melodic.
  8. Thursday – The Futureheads
    Fat harmony vocals like this get me every time. The jangling guitars and simple percussion don’t bowl you over, but the lead and backing vocals and even the peculiar lyrics give this song appeal.
  9. Do It for Free – G. Love & Special Sauce
    “Philadelphonic” was an atypical album for G. Love, but this is my favorite. Everyone has heard the Jack Johnson song ‘Rodeo Clowns’ off this album, but this one is a lesser-known but equally catchy Pop song from the same release.
  10. Sirens – The Gabe Dixon Band
    Gabe has some busy fingers on his piano in this track. The melody of the verses is pretty, the chorus swells and ebbs, and the bridges feature some cool guitar work. Gabe is doing the heavy lifting keeping the groove going, so the guitar can sort of ooze around and set mood. They do a really nice job with it.
  11. She Knows – Gnarls Barkley
    Charles Barkley is a prick. Gnarls Barkley, however, is a collaboration between one of my favorite producers, Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), and rapper Cee-Lo Green. This track is from “The Odd Couple” and it’s a quiet, pretty groove. Like all of their stuff, the production is worth listening to and the lyrics demand your attention.
  12. Sweet Emotion – Mike Gordon & Leo Kottke
    This really is a great version of this song, though why Amazon picked this nondescript segment as their clip I don’t know. Mike Gordon (Phish) is an amazing bass player and if I could play a guitar like Leo Kottke I would never put it down.
  13. Crosseyed Beautiful Youngunz – Love as Laughter
    Just a simple song with some clean electric guitar and gentle electric piano, but the melody is just beautiful.

I think that will do it for this week. Enjoy with an early Christmas Ale, which is something else I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. Have a good weekend.

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Hip Hop, Indie, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Movie and TV soundtrack music

One of my favorite things to pick up at the library is a movie (or TV show) soundtrack. They are always hand picked tunes, often with a similar sound or feel. I’ve got a ton of songs on my iPod from movie soundtracks. Way more, in fact, than I could put in one mix today, so expect to see more soundtrack mixes in the future. If you have a great soundtrack that isn’t represented here, please let me know about it. Thanks.42-21916038

  1. Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That – Robert Randolph & the Family Band
    Robert Randolph performs perennially at music festivals all over America. If you get a chance to see them, do it. This is a rollicking rock tune with absolutely sick slide guitar. The ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ folks found this one and put it on their soundtrack.
  2. Why Can’t I Fall in Love – Ivan Neville
    Remember ‘Pump Up the Volume’ with Christian Slater waaaay back in the day? Well, they found about the only song by any Neville brother I like. Great , soulful song.
  3. Everybody is Someone – Lifehouse
    Here’s another rarity: a Lifehouse song I dig. In fairness, I should mention I haven’t listened to their albums because I haven’t like the singles I’ve heard. The guys who put together the ‘Wicker Park’ soundtrack did, though.
  4. Porpoise Song – The Monkees
    No, really. This is a good song. I don’t know who wrote it, since The Monkees weren’t really a real band, but this one sounds like they were ripping off one of the Rolling Stones’ old psychedelic tunes instead of The Beatles. I had never heard it before it hit the ‘Vanilla Sky’ soundtrack.
  5. Where Do I Begin – Chemical Brothers
    Also from the ‘Vanilla Sky’ soundtrack and my favorite track on the disc. It opens with a beautiful melody and a familiar-to-everyone feeling and crescendos to a really cool dance beat. Funny, Beth Orton tracks often don’t grab me, but I love it when she works with a very modern producer or someone regrooves her songs.
  6. The Equaliser – Clinic
    This one isn’t going to be for everyone, but I love the percussion, whining keyboard, and haunting vocals. I found this one on the ‘Thirteen’ soundtrack.
  7. Move On – Mike Doughty
    OK, so this isn’t really a soundtrack song because it’s from the album ‘Future Soundtrack for America,’ which was basically a protest album against the Bush administration. This is a fantastic song that contains the great line, “I love my country so much, man. Like an exasperating friend.” I actually can’t find the studio version anywhere at the moment. Listen to this live version and see if you can find the studio version.
  8. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – Sting
    This is better than the original, which he has done before (“Shadows in the Rain”). For this one, Sting taps Ranking Roger (English Beat, General Public) to sing with him and he does his thing very well. This was a surprising pick (to me, anyway) from ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs.’ You can’t hear Ranking Roger in this sample, but he rocks.
  9. All I Need – Air French Band
    The folks from ‘Felicity’ found this one for me. This is a patient, pretty song with a modern, Chillout sound and beautiful vocals.
  10. Come Una Pietra Scalciata (Like a Rolling Stone) – Articolo 31
    I like rapping in foreign languages, if it’s well done. There’s something I like about  hearing the vocal rhythms and rhymes without being distracted by the meanings of the words. This is a great use of the old Dylan classic from the ‘Masked and Anonymous’ soundtrack.
  11. Angaju (The Latin Project Remix) – Bebel Gilberto
    More Chillout music and more foreign languages too. This is from Volume 2 of the ‘Six Feet Under’ soundtrack. Great keyboards.
  12. Funky Nassau, Pt. 1 – The Beginning of the End
    The Elizabethtown Vol. 2 soundtrack has this seriously old school funk with cleanly strummed guitar and island horns. The percussionist(s?) keeps this irresistibly danceable.
  13. Dry the Rain – The Beta Band
    John Cusack should be given the task of compiling all movie soundtracks. I love the gems he digs up. This was on the wonderful ‘High Fidelity’ movie and soundtrack.
  14. Time of the Season – Big Blue Missile with Scott Weiland
    Best version of this song ever recorded. Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) rocks the vocal line and the band is heavy.

Enjoy with a $5 coke and the contents of a hip flask. Have a good weekend.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Alternative, Chillout, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, reggae, Rock, World Music | Leave a comment