Friday, October 30, 2009

Led Zeppelin “Dazed And Confused”

All Time Top Five Movies That Cribbed Their Name From A Good Song, And Managed To Be Pretty Good Themselves . . .

Thing that never get old to me . . . Led Zeppelin I and “Dazed And Confused.” I’m not saying I watch/listen every single day. But every couple of months when it comes around on cable/iTunes, I can find something new about it to enjoy. Textures, layers, nooks and crannies. Even after all these years, it still makes an impact.

Hear a sample of Led Zeppelin “Dazed And Confused”

See the a rare live Zeppelin clip, and a movie scene that sums up High School awkwardness.

Buy Led Zeppelin I, the movie on DVD and the movie Soundtrack.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

R.E.M. “Man On The Moon”

All Time Top Five Movies That Cribbed Their Name From A Good Song, And Managed To Be Pretty Good Themselves . . .

It’s not that uncommon for a film to take its name from a popular song. This week I’ve been writing about some of the good ones. And there are certainly many, many bad ones.

But good, bad or in between, I don’t know of another song that actually helped get a movie made.

Danny DeVito had worked with Andy Kaufman on “Taxi,” and as a producer, he wanted to bring Andy’s story to the big screen.

Supposedly, when he was running into the resistance from studios, worried that “the kids these days” didn’t know or care who Andy Kaufman was, DeVito pointed out that R.E.M. had recently had a hit that was all about Kaufman.

The kids knew. The kids cared. The movie got made. The kids came.

Hear a sample of R.E.M. “Man On The Moon”

Hear the whole song, sung live by R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen, see the R.E.M. music video, and a scene from the movie.

Buy ”Automatic For The People” and the Movie on DVD.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry”

All Time Top Five Movies That Cribbed Their Name From A Good Song, And Managed To Be Pretty Good Themselves . . .

When I was a kid, I HATED baked beans. I mean, I didn’t just not like them. I would actually gag while trying to eat them. My Mom was from the “You have to have at least one bite” of everything being served that night, school of thought. But even if she’d make me try the asparagus, the beets and the mushrooms, anytime she was serving them, she finally just gave up on the baked beans.

Twenty years later, I was at a barbecue at my friend Eric’s house. Eric had relocated to South Carolina after high school, and had learned the ways of southern cooking. Lard and bacon.

Okay, so I can’t refuse anything with bacon in it. And he was raving about how good his baked beans recipe was. So I took a scoop from the crock pot.

And I loved it.

I can’t explain it. I don’t think baked beans had changed since I’d last tasted them. So I guess I had.

I had some close friends in college, with whom I shared a strong musical connection. It was great to come out of high school---where you weren’t cool unless Van Halen was your favorite band---and meet people who were into R.E.M. and Jim Carroll.

But they all loved The Cure. And The Cure made me gag.

I just could not warm up to that band.

I could comprehend that Robert Smith was talented, and that the music was different and interesting. But listening to him sing made me want to retch.

And them something happened. It was half a dozen years after college, I and heard “Boys Don’t Cry” and it moved me.

And I don’t mean it made me nostalgic---though it did that too.

I mean, I GOT it. That emotion he’s trying to convey connected for the first time. That sense of dislocation, and of having to control your emotions for societal reasons outside of yourself.

When it became the name of a forthcoming indie film about the Brandon Teena story, I knew exactly what emotional notes the movie was going for. And I guess that’s why the titled the movie the way they did. Smart.

See the Cure video and a little bit of Hilary Swank’s Oscar winning performance.

Buy the The Cure’s “Greatest Hits” and the "Boys Don't Cry" DVD.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bobby Vinton “Blue Velvet”

All Time Top Five Movies That Cribbed Their Name From A Good Song, And Managed To Be Pretty Good Themselves . . .

It’s kind of hard to image all these years later, but director David Lynch was pretty unsuccessful at the time of “Blue Velvet,” having come off the disastrous “Dune.” Same for Kyle McLachlan. Isabella Rossellini was just another model who wanted to act. Laura Dern was just another actor’s daughter. Dennis Hopper had long been washed up and written off. And Bobby Vinton hadn’t had a hit in more than a decade.

A pretty unlikely combination of folks, to all be part of one of the most influential films of the 80s.

Having the film center on Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” (Rossellini sings it; Hopper fondles to a swatch of actual blue velvet; the song plays a number of times) managed to make the film feel both like a throwback to early noir, AND up the contemporary unease of the film, with its yearning croon against a backdrop of violence and grotesquerie.

Some other time, I’m going to have to do an All Time Top Five Songs Ruined By Movies. Because I can’t hear Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” without shuddering to think of this scene.

Hear a sample of Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet”

See the Isabella Rossellini sing, Blue Velvet

Buy Bobby Vinton’s ”The Best Of Bobby Vinton”, The ”Blue Velvet” movie soundtrack, David Lynch’s ”Blue Velvet” on DVD, or be like Dennis Hopper and fondle your own swatch of actual Blue Velvet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Elvis Costello “High Fidelity”

All Time Top Five . . .

When my friend Martin gave me the book “High Fidelity” back in the last 90s, he said, “This is your kind of book.”

The protagonist, is a 30-something record store owner, music-obsessed, commitment-phobe, who is going through dating drama trauma. Switch record store owner, to radio DJ, and the story and the sentiment were pretty much my life (at that time), on the page.

Rob, the main character, had a lot of very familiar philosophies and concerns, and even his transformation at the end of the book was strikingly familiar.

Throughout the book, and the movie version starring John Cusack, Rob and his friends compile “All Time Top Five” lists, including his “Top Five Side One Track Ones” and “Top Five Floor Fillers At The Groucho” (where he was a DJ).

So in the spirit of “High Fidelilty,” Every Day I Write The Blog brings you occasional All Time Top Five lists.

A couple of rules: These are MY All Time Top Fives. Despite the title, I don’t mean for the lists to be universal or definitive. I’m sure your Top Fives will be radically different. And honestly, I don’t even mean for these lists to be definitive for ME. My Top Five today, is probably going to be different if you give me the same category next week. And I’ve got a pretty strong memory, but I know that as soon as I post a list, I’m likely to think of something else I wish I’d included.

All this to say that I hope my lists spark a little discussion, some suggestions and a bit of exploring on your part. Don’t get hung up on the results. It’s the process.

This week’s All Time Top Five . . . All Time Top Five Movies That Cribbed Their Name From A Good Song, And Managed To Be Pretty Good Themselves.

Number Five is, of course, “High Fidelity.”

Yes, it was a book before it was a movie, but before it was a book, it was an Elvis Costello song.

Elvis had come out of a trilogy of tight, strong album, and expectations were high, by the time a newly devoted fan base got ahold of 1980’s “Get Happy,” which featured the song “High Fidelity.”

Nick Hornby had written a couple of strong, beloved books, and expectations were high by the time a film version of “High Fidelity” was making its way to theaters.

Maybe the expectations were too high for the fan base.

Neither the album nor the movie was a smashing success upon first release—modest, but not smashing. The R&B style of the Elvis record was a bit of a curveball for those fans hoping that Elvis would keep churning out “This Year’s Model.” And the movie was cute, but edited out much of Rob’s internal monologues, the heart and heft of the book.

But critics were kind. And in fact, time has been kinder. The reviews of the “Get Happy” reissue are among the best of Elvis’ back catalogue. The movie has become a staple of weekend TV, leading to adaptations of two other Nick Hornby books. And most tellingly, after being a song, a book and a movie, “High Fidelity” became a successful Broadway musical.

Check back here all week long, as I count down the rest of this All Time Top Five list.

Hear a sample of Elvis Costello’s “High Fidelity,” here

See a rare music video for Elvis’ “High Fidelity,” complete with some horrific dancing, get the full R&B, horns feel, in a really great live version, featuring Allen Toussaint.

From the movie, see Rob give his Top Fives, and see a special, not-in-the-movie Top Five List.

Get “Get Happy” here, get The Book here, get The Movie here, get The Soundtrack here, and get The Broadway Cast Album here

Friday, October 23, 2009

R.E.M. "These Days"

Every Day I Write The Blog has a companion site, called Every Day I Video The Blog, a name that makes no sense, I realize. But it's a place for me to post videos related to the songs I'm writing about on EDIWTB (yeah that's right, I used an acronym).

R.E.M. have a new live album coming out, called "Live At The Olympia," with a companion documentary called "This Is Not A Show." It's pretty dynamic stuff, and the trailer at least (and hopefully the movie) captures the live energy these guys are still capable of.

You can jump over to EDIVTB, or you can see the trailer here.

And Amazon and R.E.M. are making one track available FOR FREE! Check this out:

Sample the whole damn album here (hit the forward button to skip tracks):

Buy the album 2CD/1DVD set called "Live At The Olympia," here

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Baseball Project “Ted F---ing Williams”

I was watching a bit of the ALCS the other night . . . watching the Yankees pull away from the Angels, when that four letter word passed my lips. And it made me think of this song.

The Baseball Project practically constitutes a genre of its own---a band that writes song only about specific baseball players. Some of the musicians behind the project are probably familiar, including Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Scott McCaughey who plays in R.E.M.’s touring band and leads both The Young Fresh Fellows and The Minus Five.

Steve Wynn, the group leader, is a big baseball fan, and spearheaded the debut album, (which also spawned a follow-up EP), featuring songs about Fernando Valenzuela and the story of Chavez Ravine, Curt Flood and the rise of Free Agency and Mark McGuire’s testimony before Congress on steroid abuse in Major League Baseball.

But as a Red Sox devotee, I loved hearing their take on the oft-repeated legend that Ted Williams used to, while taking batting practice, yell out “I’M TED FUCKING WILLIAMS AND I’M THE GREATEST HITTER IN BASEBALL!!!”

Ted Williams was not the cuddly sort, and the song looks at baseball fandom from the perspective of someone who is perhaps the greatest, but not the most beloved. And he can’t understand why.

Hear a sample and buy the song:

Check out all the lyrics, and a little bit about each song on the album, then buy the album here.

See the band live, and on Letterman, here

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Will Hoge "Even If It Breaks Your Heart"

I saw Will Hoge at an artist showcase a few years ago, and his performance was confident and stirring, and I thought to myself, okay, I'll keep an ear out for this guy.

Keeping an ear out is part of the whole job. Putting on a great show, doesn't mean you can make a great record. And a lot of the time, seeing a promising artist really means that I'll be following their coming records, to see how the young artist matures.

So what do you make of the new Will Hoge track? He's continuing to put out strong songs, but every week when we look at what we might add to rotation at mvyradio, he always seems to be last cut.

Should he make the cut?

See this previous post, for details on how a song gets into rotation on mvyradio, then let me know what you think.

Hear a sample of Will Hoge's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart"

See Will and his band perform on TV, here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Obiligations "Don't Go There"

How to avoid an angry mob of bagpipers from assembling outside your door . . .

Having a musician in the family provides some fun insights into the creative process, and the business process of the creative process, too.

My brother-in-law James spent much of his 20s playing in bands around Boston. But the pressures of adulthood and marriage and family and work led to that road many once-responsibility-free musicians have to take. He shelved his music career.

And so did his bandmates. All of them grew up, had families, moved to various spots around the country.

But here in 2009, in the digital age, those hurdles aren’t as big as they used to be. Starting a couple of years ago, James and his geographically scattered musical mates, started making music again. They shuttled tapes and files from Cape Cod to Phoenix to Philadelpia, building out demos one step at a time. And this summer, they were able to take a week, book a studio, and bang out the debut album by their new band, The Obligations.

Back last Spring, James was spending a weekend afternoon working up another demo song, in his bedroom in Brewster. Living on 6A, there is certainly a lot of traffic noise on an average day. But on this particular day, during Brewster In Bloom, there was a noisy parade winding its way past the house. So James stuck a microphone out the window, to catch some of the bagpipe players as they marched by.

Fast-forward a couple of months, as The Obligations are putting together the tracks. James suggests putting the scrap of bagpipe sound as an outro to the song “Don’t Go There.”

Fast-forward again, as The Obligations drop off their ready-to-be-mastered disc at the plant where the CDs and artwork will be generated. The engineer mastering the album asks, “Now you have clearance from the bagpipe band, and for the song their playing, right? Because I don’t want you to pay for a few thousand copies, only to find out that you don’t have the rights.”

Yes, you don’t want to have a bunch of P.O.ed Scots, their kilts in a twist, at your door looking for their Mechanicals.

So James visited with, and got clearance from, The Highland Light Scottish Pipe Band, and this track is good to go.

Hear a sample of “Don’t Go There” here.

And a sample of the Pipe Band sample here.

Buy the CD here.

And as a PS, check out the band’s website, featuring lots of graphic art created by none other than Mrs. Finn, who has also started her own design business, called Peekaloo Art & Design.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Eskimo "Kandi"

This one recently went into the mix at mvyradio. What do you think of it?

Did it ring any bells for you? It uses the hook from a song called "He Called Me Baby" by Christian/Dance music legend Candi Staton. It cribs a pretty healthy chunk of the original, but the songs is surprisingly strong.

Do you like this one? Care to hear more of it?

Hear a sample of One Eskimo "Kandi", here.

See the video and hear the whole song for "Kandi," and see Candi Staton do the original, here

Buy the One Eskimo album, here; get Candi's album here

Friday, October 16, 2009

W.P.A. "Always Have My Love"

One of the cool things about doing an interview with an artist, is that even though you are recording it, or broadcasting it for all to hear, there is a part of you that is just a fan, who's getting a little concert-for-one.

Glen Phillips was on the road a couple of years ago, with his old band Toad The Wet Sprocket. But he also had a solo album out at the time, so I headed over to The Cape Cod Melody Tent to chat with him. They gave us some space in a "dressing room" which was basically a large walk-in closet with a mirror. And there we sat. He played some songs, and talked brightly about his new record.

As often happens, the conversation continued after the tape stopped rolling. We talked current events for a few minutes, and some trouble in the Middle East prompted him to offer to cover Randy Newman's "Political Science."

And we talked about Pete Thomas.

Pete Thomas has been part of Elvis Costello's Attractions and Imposters. And Pete had worked on a side project with Glen a few years previous. I'd been to the Melody Tent a few weeks earlier, and had seen Pete play with Elvis. And just the mention of how good he was, sparked Glen's excitement. We talked with great enthusiasm about how incredible Pete is.

So it wasn't a huge surprise to get the W.P.A. record in, and find out that it's Glen, and Pete Thomas, and some other folks Glen talks about in the interview, Sean and Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek.

Hear a sample of W.P.A. "Always Have My Love"

Hear the interview, here

See Glen Phillips perform the song solo, here

Buy the album, here

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bruce McCulloch “When You're Fat”

Good comedy albums are pretty rare, and good musical comedy albums are even more rare. But even among that small sub-genre, I can’t think of too many records that stack up to “Shame Based Man” for originality.

Most comedy album songs are parodies of other songs, or of the style of a particular artist or genre. That’s the starting point for what makes the song funny.

But with the 20 tracks on this record, it’s the joke first, with a song built to serve the joke.

It’s appropriately Kids In The Hall style weird, with non-sequitors and full non-winking commitment to the concept (Stalker, Doors fan, Dave enthusiast).

I haven’t listened to this record in years, and I didn’t really remember this track, as it’s #19 of 20. There are certainly bigger faves on the record, but “When Your Fat” fulfills all the above requirements, entertainingly.

Hear a sample of "When You're Fat" Here.

See Bruce's most famous video and song, here

Buy the album, here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jack Johnson “Better Together” (Live)

I think Jack Johnson is lovely and talented. His songs are pleasantly enjoyable, and he seems like a solid individual. Am I a fanatic? No. So when he put out this new concert CD/DVD, did I think it was essential listening, or essential that mvyradio play it in regular rotation? No. But I can't deny that people go crazy for this guy, and his every new release.

So this song has made it's way into regular rotation at mvyradio. Is it essential to you? Or is it just another Jack Johnson song that sounds like all the others---this time with some audience applause?

Hear a sample of Jack Johnson “Better Together”

See him perform it live, here

Buy the album, here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Whiskeytown “16 Days” (Acoustic)

Do you have a favorite album, that you’ve listened to so often, it doesn’t really surprise you anymore? And you wish, somehow, it had a new song on it? One that was recorded in the style and spirit of the album, but you’d never heard before?

Ryan Adams is one of those guys who can do all sorts of things. His tastes and talents run from folk, to Americana, to punk rock, to Dead-inspired grooves to straight-up Rock And Roll. Some fans will follow him, no matter what he does. And some just pine for the sound he created when they first discovered him.

I heard Ryan Adams around 2000, as his first major label band, Whiskeytown, was winding down with the album “Strangers Almanac,” and he had just recorded a stunning solo debut, Heartbreaker, with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Whiskeytown certainly never had a hit, but one of their most memorable tunes, and a fan favorite, was “16 Days.” A tremendous song, no doubt. But I was blown away by the version that came out last year, as a bonus part of the “Strangers Almanac” Deluxe Edition.

Recorded in a style similar to the songs on “Heartbreaker”---stark and acoustic, emotionally raw---it reminds me why I loved Ryan Adams so much when I first heard him. Like discovering a new song on an old favorite album.

Hear a sample of Whiskeytown “16 Days”

See the band perform it in 1997, here

Buy the album, here

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bob Dylan "I Feel A Change Comin' On"

Bob Dylan in 2009. Brilliant journeyman? Master of reinvention? Or stuck in neutral?

I've heard these arguments and more, pro and con, for Bob Dylan's current material. Undeniably, he's produced a huge canon of genius work. But not everyone feels like his current material qualifies as genius.

A few will say he's got nothing to offer. Some will say he's brilliant, but could never reach the heights he achieved in the 60s and 70s. And some see the work of a Master in the tunes of his 5th decade of recording and performing.

Where do you fall on this continuum? And do you think this song merits inclusion on mvyradio's regular playlist?

Hear a sample of Bob Dylan's latest single, "I Feel A Change Comin' On"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jackson Browne "Here"

"Shrink" the movie, didn't exactly get blazing reviews. Heck, did you know it was already out on DVD? Did you know that it came out at all?

But how many Soundtracks are in your CD collection, where the music is 10 times better than the movie? Happens all the time.

Jackson Browne doesn't have a new record, but he does have a cool new tune featured in "Shrink" and on the Soundtrack.

Oddly, he sounds a little like Paul Westerberg on this one, don't you think?

Hear Jackson Browne "Here"

See the video featuring Jackson Browne in the studio, and see the movie trailer, here

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers "Shady Esperanto"

How old were you when MTV came to your town?

Me, I was probably just the right age. I was a 7th grader when I watched the cable guys hook up a box to our TV, and flip on Quarterflash singing “Harden My Heart.”

It’s hardly a new thought for me to note that you don’t see videos on MTV these days. Music seems to be such a tiny, inconsequential part of their programming.

But it can’t be underplayed, at least in my life, how influential MTV was in the early-to-mid-80s.

While memory sends you back to the One-Hit-Wonder anomalies like Flock Of Seagulls, The Buggles and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, MTV was also my first glimpse of more than a few important artists.

Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army,” Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” and U2’s “Gloria” were just a few of the songs and videos that had profound effects on my future listening (and hey, my vocation, too).

You go back and look at these videos, and yes, they are pretty chintzy-looking, especially compared to the high-gloss videos of MTV’s 90s heyday.

But these videos and the song in them, won me over with their charm. There’s a sincerity in there ineptness.

All this to say that I can’t tell you the last time I was won over to a song’s charms, with the aid of a music video. Certainly, it’s been more than a decade.

But it happened last week.

Stephen Kellogg’s “Shady Esperanto And The Young Hearts” song is something that’s been on the bubble of songs mvyradio is likely to add. I thought it was a fun song, something right up my alley. But every week, we’d add into rotation something that was a little more “mvy-sounding.”

I got sent the link to the “Shady Esperanto” video last Friday, and I’ve been humming the song ever since, and laughing at the video.

It’s by no means the funniest viral video I’ve ever been sent (hello Dramatic Groundhog), or even the funniest music video I’ve seen. But I can not deny it’s low-budget charm. It’s just so exuberantly goofy.

And for full disclosure, I went to UMass, so I have a soft spot for the video’s location and extras.

I loved the song before I saw the video, but after seeing the video I said to myself, “What are you waiting for? Spread this joy on the radio.”

Hear Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers "Shady Esperanto And The Young Hearts"

See the low budget video, a buoyant live performance, the old school MTV music videos for “Oliver’s Army,” “Cruel To Be Kind” and “Gloria,” and behold the mesmerizing power of the Dramatic Groundhog.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Black Joe Lewis And The Honey Bears “Sugarfoot”

Is this song the “S.W.F.” of James Brown idolatry?

Do you remember the Jennifer Jason Leigh/Bridget Fonda post-“Fatal Attraction” thriller, “Single White Female”? Fonda puts an ad in the paper looking for a roommate. Leigh show up, and promptly appropriates Fonda’s style, haircut and boyfriend? It was creepy, right?

So why am I not as creeped out by Black Joe Lewis And The Honey Bears, despite their transparent attempt to not just have James Brown’s instrumentation and groove, but even their recording style? Does this song not sound as if it was recorded in 1973, instead of present day?

Should Black Joe Lewis not be sued as an imposter? Given a restraining order as a stalker? Told to cease and desist from using the phrases, “Take me to the bridge!” “Hep Meh!” and “Uuuggghhhhh!!!

You Decide.

Hear Black Joe Lewis And The Honey Bears “Sugarfoot”

See the band perform on Craig Ferguson, here

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rosanne Cash with Bruce Springsteen “Sea Of Heartbreak”

I'm looking for your opinion on this one.

Some mvy listeners really like the Americana side of mvyradio. They follow that line skirted by The Band and The Grateful Dead, across to Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson.

But some mvy listeners find country, any country, too much country.

But then again, a great song is a great song. It transcends.

Does this one transcend for you? Should mvy be playing it regularly?

(For an explanation of how songs get into rotation on mvy, see this post)

Hear Rosanne Cash with Bruce Springsteen “Sea Of Heartbreak”

See Rosanne sing it live, here