Monday, August 31, 2020

Heavy Fuel -- Dire Straits

I have a soft spot for this song. Like "Deacon Blues" before it, it's so over-the-top on favoring the hard drinking and living lifestyle of rock and roll, it has to be satirical. Several people have criticised it as derivative of Money for Nothing, but I'm not going to go down that path.

Any day hearing Mark Knoffler singing and playing the guitar is a good day. Seeing Randy Quaid pre-breakdown is fun too (not enough to qualify for our "Better in Video" Saturdays, but close...).

Amazon Associates Links for On Every Street: CD MP3

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Better In The Video -- Rollin and Tumblin (MTV Unplugged) by Eric Clapton

For the next few Saturdays (until I run out of songs), I'm going to talk about songs that are good (or even just OK), but whom have a video that is something special.

The Song: Rollin' and Tumblin' is a stable of Eric Clapton's blues songlist. It's a classic, and every time he comes to it, he makes it special. The MTV Unplugged version here is a great and fun rocker. Clapton and the band had run through the songs to record the first time, and several takes weren't that good (the audience was too loud, the band was too tight, etc.). The band and crew went on break, but Clapton stayed out. Supposedly the audience talked Clapton into starting another song, and he got the band back out to run through Rollin and Tumblin again, jam style. The recording crew (audio and visual) had to run to get back into position to record, and they actually missed the first little bit of the song (the record catches Clapton's "Did you get that?" at the end of the song).

Why the video is better: Mr. Tamborine Man.

Ray Cooper is a percussionist most famous for playing and touring with Elton John, but he has played with Eric Clapton quite often, and Clapton tapped him for the Unplugged sessions as well. As you watch the Rollin and Tumblin video progress, you can see Mr. Cooper get more and more energetic and flamboyant with his tamborine, until the audience catches him and starts cheering around 3:15. Clapton at first doesn't really notice, but around 3:40 Clapton sees it (you can hear the little "Cought you" when he stops playing the guitar).

It's not quite a tamborine solo, but it's the best tamborine feature I've ever seen.

BTW, I'm using DailyMotion here instead of YouTube because the video quality is a LOT better...

Friday, August 28, 2020

Country Trash (American 3) - Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash made a third career out of covering other people's songs towards the end of his life, in the American Records series. It's only appropriate that we talk about a song that he did himself earlier in his career, and then "covered" again in American 3, "Country Trash". It's an upbeat, traditional song about country living in the late 1800s. As Johnny was want to do, he sets the final expectations at the end: "We'll all be equal under the grass / And God's got a heaven for country trash".

Amazon Associates Links for American 3: CD MP3

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Settle Down - Kimbra

I first heard Kimbra from Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know", and then collected a couple of her songs for free. I picked this album up in the cheap rack, I believe.

Like "Hey There Delilah", this is a "lover" song with a creepy twist. Delilah wasn't in a relationship with Tom Higgenson and barely knew him (although she was flattered enough to go to the Grammys with the band when the song was up for an award). Settle Down starts off a bit sweet, but then you start feeling a bit sorry for Mr. Jones.... And the video turns that knob up past 11.

Amazon Associates Links for Vows: CD MP3

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ocean Floor - Audio Adrenaline

This is an all-time classic from a really great CCM album. How can I improve on the lyrics?
All my selfish thoughts
All my pride
The things I hide
You have forgot about

There is something incredible about knowing that all we have to do is ask, and all of our sins are as far from God as the east is from the west....

Amazon Associates Links for Lift: CD MP3

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

People Get Old - Lori McKenna

This was one of the last good festival mixtapes I was able to download. AmericanaFest 2018 released a mixtape of the participants on Noisetrade (long deleted, unfortunately), and I have kept 53 of the 68 songs for occasional listening.

One on regular rotation is Lori McKenna's People Get Old. I never understood the "old people" complaining about getting old, feeling bad, etc. Then I hit middle age, and have probably sailed a bit past it, and I get it.

It's hard enough with the people who you are watching grow up or grow older. It's even harder for the people who no longer are.

Amazon Associates Links for Songs: CD MP3

Monday, August 24, 2020

Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing -- Chris Isaak

Anyone familiar with MTV in the 80s and 90s knows Chris Isaak from Wicked Game (which is in our playlist), but he kept making music and kept getting better. This song is off of Forever Blue, and is an incredibly playful song for being a real-life story of a lover who actually did Chris wrong. It was used in Eyes Wide Shut according to Wikipedia (a movie I don't care to see to confirm the report....).

Normally, I'd use the music video here, but I had forgotten how provokative and R rated it was. You get the official album version instead:

Amazon Associates Links for Forever Blue: CD MP3

Friday, August 21, 2020

Price Tag -- Jessie J (featuring B.o.B)

I love this song, but Jessie J had disappointed me. Price Tag is a bit more rappish than I'd normally like, but you have to love any song that's about rejecting the excesses of musicians and scantily clad women, and just embracing the music. Then she went and sang a song with Ariana Grande and Nicki Manaj with a video full of scantily clad women.... At least she's gone on to redeem herself slightly with "Not My Ex", which I just found searching for the video for Price Tag, and which will go into my playlists once I buy it.

Sorry, having trouble finding a non-explicit version of the album. I'd recommend considering just buying the one song on MP3 or the Apple Store if you really like it.

Amazon Associates Links for Who We Are (Deluxe Edition): MP3

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Layla (MTV Unplugged) -- Eric Clapton

When this song came out, I had a friend who hated it. She said "it wasn't Layla, it was an enntirely different song." A lot of critics panned Clapton for the Unplugged album, and others damned it with faint praise. I have to disagree: Clapton nneeded Unplugged, and Layla, to fid his way into the early 1990s.

The MTV Unplugged version of Layla isn't the same song that came out of Derek and the Dominos, because Clapton's not the same man in 1992 that he was in 1970. In the original rock version, I can hear and feel the young man "knowing" that life will end without his impossible woman in his life, but that if she comes to him, life will be perfection. The older, wiser man of 1992 is more world-weary, wondering how in the heck he has managed to get himself in this bad situation, knowing that there probably isn't a happy ending to the story after all.

Clapton needed this album financially, artistically, and personally to get himself in a place to influence the 90s, and he leveraged it for all it was worth.

The remastered, deluxe version of Clapton's MTV Unplugged album on MP3

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Acapella -- Kelis

This is a free video from the era of Apple giving away neat songs in audio or video form. Kelis wrote this song after the birth of her son Knight, and it celebrates his effect as a child upon her life. It is a positive, uplifting song and it's electronica, so it checks off multiple boxes in my "favorites" categories. Knight even makes a cameo at the end of the video.

Amazon Associates Links for Flesh Tone: MP3

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Just a Gigolo / I Ain't Got Nobody -- Louis Prima

No, David Lee Roth didn't create this combination of two songs, and neither did The Village People. The two songs Just a Gigolo and I Ain't Got Nobody weren't at all related; Just a Gigolo is a reworking of an Austrian song of 1929 into English lyrics, I Ain't Got Nobody is a 1910s standard that was light of depth.

It was Louis Prima who paired the songs together in the late 40s, and then converted them to "jump jive" in the 50s. He recorded the song in 1956, and the rest is history.

(This isn't quite as official a version of the song as the other under the Louis Prima account on YouTube, but I REALLY dislike the picture they used on the album cover for that song.)

Amazon Associates Links for Capital Collectors Series (I strongly recommend the MP3 here, because the CD is not available directly from Amazon): CD MP3

Monday, August 17, 2020

Running On Empty — Jackson Browne

This song continues to deepen and grow on me over the years. When younger, I could understand the literal side of the song; you often felt like life was running on almost nothing in the tank. Now I can start looking back and actually see distance and depth.

It's unfortunate that they didn't record the actual show they recorded the song, but Jackson Browne and his people have created a montage video to the song of the pictures taken in the tour for the Running on Empty album:

They've also remastered Running on Empty and released it: CD MP3

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday Special -- OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Speakers

I'm going to vary my pattern a little here, and talk about music equipment. I still have very good hearing, but I admit that I'm not tremendously picky on music and speakers. I can listen to a song on my phone and think "that's good enough", but then be happy that I've got a better set of speakers available.

We had a set of Bluetooth speakers that I used with the AppleTV downstairs, but they had developed a hum that wouldn't stop even when a song was on. I'd had it for years, so out it went. I went searching for a replacement.

After some Googling, I foung the OontZ Angle 3 Ultra speakers. They were inexpensive, waterproof, battery powered and USB charged, and supposedly sounded really good. More importantly, you can buy 2 of them and link them together so that they acted like a single set of stereo speakers.

The black speakers are Bluetooth 5 connected, which means that, if you have a newer phone, it won't drain your phone battery. They can work at up to 100 meters as well.

I bought two, and have them both plugged into a two-port charger, and I have them connected together to make a single speaker. The sound is really good, and I could unplug them and pack them around the house if I wanted. They're also loud enough I can hear them through the whole house if I wanted, but soft enough to use for sleeping music. Pairing them isn't that hard, you just have to follow the instructions. I had them cease to pair correctly once, but I turned them off and back on, and they connected back together easily.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Drinkin' and Smokin' Cigarettes -- Reverend Horton Heat

I was able to download a Best of Yep Roc album for free from Amazon, and several songs made it into my regular rotation. One that has stayed near the top is this rockabilly classic from Reverend Horton Heat (Jim Heath and his band).

While I'm hardly a drinker, and I think I'd develop asthma if I tried to smoke, I understand the urge to say "why take that good of a care of myself". While we all actually need to fight that feeling, that's the fun of songs: we can sing about what we really wouldn't do ourselves...

Amazon Associates Links for Laughing and Crying with The Reverend Horton Heat: CD MP3

Thursday, August 13, 2020

From This Valley -- The Civil Wars

The story of The Civil Wars is a sad one. Joy Williams said that she and John Paul White couldn't love each other and sing a song with the lyrics "I hate you, and I always will", but somehow they couldn't work together as friends either. That's sad, because I've seen lots of live performances from them, and they clearly worked together well. I don't own their second album, because I've heard reviews that it's basically a Joy Williams album with White singing backup occasionally, and I don't want that.

One of the last non-live songs the pair recorded pre-breakup is off a compilation album "Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us": From This Valley. It's a powerful original song about waiting and praying to God.

Normally I will post an official video rather than a live version, but I'm not that fond of the lyric video version. This live version is better, and it's neat to see them have fun with the song ("I'll be even more undignified than that...."):

Amazon Associates Links for Mercyland: CD MP3

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Sing Along - The Blue Man Group (with Dave Matthews)

In 2003, The Blue Man Group decided to branch out from accoustic only music, and put together an album that included vocals. This album introduced me to Tracy Bonham, and was on my regular album rotation (and I listened to it again Monday night just because I remembered it). It's an interesting fusion of techno, punk, and pop, although it's nothing like seeing The Complex tour live (Wesley and I got to do that show in 2004 or 2005, I forget which.)

Sing Along stays in my favorites playlist, because it is an incredibly catchy tune that still carries an incredible message about isolation and loneliness. "If I tell you I'm strong, will you play along?" and "If I follow along, does it mean I belong?" Dave Matthews and the Blue Man Group's unique instrumentation make a powerful song.

Amazon Associates Links for The Complex: CD MP3

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Way I Am -- Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is one of the singers I first found through NoiseTrade, through a duet she did with AJR. (More about that duet when it comes around on the guitar. AJR will show up too.) The song for today though is a catchy little ditty called The Way I Am.
One of the things I loved about the relationship with Paula was that, while there were areas where we would work to help each other improve, we could take each other the way we were.
For the video, I'm not a big fan of clowns, but it does make the song even more poinant.

Amazon Associates Links for Girls and Boys: CD MP3

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Pink Panther Theme -- Henry Mancini

For being written for such a silly (albeit funny) movie, The Pink Panther Theme is one of the most iconic jazz movie (and character) themes out there. Like The James Bond Theme, all it takes is a few notes to bring to mind either Peter Sellers or the Pink Panther cartoon character, depending on which you saw first. However, the song is a sophisticated, rich jazz piece that can stand alone on its own merits, which is why it's in my song rotation.

Amazon Associates Links for The Greatest Hits of Henry Mancini: CD MP3

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday Special - The HU

Last year, I happened to catch a link to probably the most unique band I've ever heard: The Hu. The HU are Mongolians who use traditional instruments and traditional singing techniques (including throat singing) to play heavy metal. Here is the first song of theirs I heard, Wolf Totem (turn on closed captions for English lyrics):

The second, and even better, was the song Yuve Yuve Yu:

I lost track of the band while Paula was sick. While looking up these links to write this article, I also found that they've been doing collaborations with English/American singers, including the incredible Lzzy Hale:

I am in general not a fan of heavy metal. While I think Lzzy Hale is an incredible singer, I am not fond of Halestorm (for example). However, The Hu take such an unapologetic romp through heavy metal territory while turning the knob past 11 (they sing about how they killed us all last time, and why they aren't able to unite and do it again....), and then they turn around and sing a song like Song of Women... They may not be in my Favorites playlist, but I did just order the MP3 version of their album.
Amazon Associates Links for The Gereg, Deluxe Edition (The Hu's first album): CD MP3

Friday, August 7, 2020

Arkansas Traveler - David Grisman and Jerry Garcia

During one of my $1 CD runs to Half Price Books, I found an album by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman that I just had to have. I had no idea what the subject matter was, it was just by the two of them.
The album was Not For Kids Only, an album of mostly kids songs. However, I was incredibly attracted to one song on the list, Arkansas Traveler.
I never realized that this tune was quite so popular, or that so many versions of the tune and story exist. There are an incredible number of very good musicians who have covered this song, but I still like Garcia and Grisman's take on it. Their lyrics tell the old Dad jokes over again with a fresh veneer, and of course nail the music.
As the album says, it's not for kids only.

Amazon Associates Links for Not For Kids Only: MP3

Thursday, August 6, 2020

When I Get Low, I Get High -- The Speakeasy Three

Recently I've been getting into neo-swing and electro-swing. As usual, I'm trailing the hipsters, but there's still good bands and acts joining my music collection. One is The Speakeasy Three.
This group of ladies don't have a whole lot of music on YouTube, but they've made up for the lack of quantity with a definite abundance of quality. I can't come up with enough adjectives; just hit play and enjoy.

Amazon Associates Links for When I Get Low, I Get High: MP3 only

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Hallelujah -- The OC Supertones

Just as I was entering the world of Contempory Christian Music, ska started hitting both the Christian and secular music markets. (Think early No Doubt.) One of the bands I started listening to then was The OC Supertones, and one of my favorite songs was Hallelujah.
This is not a cover of the Leonard Cohen song, but an independent composition. It's a happy song with lots of horns and a really good, Christ-centered message. Take a listen:

(Sorry, no music video that I've found.)
Amazon Associates Links for Supertones Strike Back: CD MP3

Monday, August 3, 2020

Come Along -- Pentatonix

I can't say that I was so hipster that I liked Pentatonix when they were on The Sing Off, because I never watched The Sing Off. I did learn about Pentatonix when they covered Radioactive with Lindsey Sterling (a song that we'll get to on the blog eventually). Of course, I started following them from there.
They've been combining original songs with covering other peoples' tunes as well. Occasionally they aren't as good as the original, and sometimes they do better.
In this case, Pentatonix covered Cosmo Sheldrake's Come Along, and I like it a lot better. It's more cheerful and playful a song than Cosmo's flatter range can provide. If you don't recognize his song, it was used in an Apple commercial.

Amazon Associates Links for Come Along (digital only): MP3

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday Special — Suzanne Ciani

Rather than focus on a song or album this Saturday, I'm going to pick a musician, Suzanne Ciani. I have no idea whatsoever how I got the first album by Ms. Ciani. I expect that someone had taken a collection to Half Price Books or the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and they were all for sale together. The more albums I see for a musician I don't know, I will at least Google the musician and see if I want them (the opportunity to find that many albums at once may never happen again). When I heard her mentioned in similar terms to Enigma and Robert Miles, I had to buy them. After the first couple, I have worked to collect more.

She got her start in doing synthesizer sounds and beeps in commercials. Here's a GE appliance commercial that strikes close to home because of Bo:

While continuing her commercial and movie work, she branched out into synthesizer-based "new age" and neoclassical music. Here's a song from an early album:

While I don't have a single song of hers in my favorites playlists, I have begun sleeping with one of her all-accoustic albums playing as background music on the Bluetooth speakers. As it goes, I'm probably listening to more per-minute of her music than any other singer right now.

Here's the Suzanne Ciani store on Amazon.