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Archive for the ‘Homer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SPIKE JONES-Let’s Sing a Song of Christmas (1994).

I like Spike Jones’ comedy music.  I feel like my dad was a fan.  I know he knew a lot of Spike’s songs, whether or not he knew they were from Spike, I don;t know.  So when I was looking for non-traditional Christmas music, I saw this and thought it would be a zany collection of songs.

Well, it is not.  In fact I remember being really disappointed at the time because it’s pretty straightforward.  Although now, some 14 years later, I listened to it again and realized it’s a lovely collection of Christmas music.  There are some “funny” songs, but they’re more traditionally funny and not so zany.

This is a collection of twenty songs and my version has pretty much no information about the songs.  But the recording is top-notch if you like mid-50s, big band, “very white” (my term) singers.  The City Slickers and the City Slicker Juniors along with The Jud Conlon Singers take on all of these classics:

Jingle Bells Medley: Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town / The Christmas Song / Jingle Bells; Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer; Silent Night; Sleigh Ride;  Snow Medley: The First Snow Fall / Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; Deck The Halls Medley: Deck The Halls With Holly / Away In A Manger / It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / The First Noel; White Christmas Medley: Winter Wonderland / Silver Bells / White Christmas; Hark Medley: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing / O, Little Town Of Bethlehem / Joy To The World / O, Come All Ye Faithful; Christmas Alphabet Medley: Christmas Alphabet / Merry Christmas Polka / Christmas In America; Victor Young Medley: It’s Christmas Time / Sleep Well, Little Children and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

They also do a couple of songs with the Saint Victor’s Boys Choir:  The Night Before Christmas Song and Christmas Cradle Song.

Interspersed with these songs are the ones featuring George Rock.  Rock is the quintessential voice of “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”  You know the one where it’s clearly an adult, but somehow he sounds like a tiny kid.  Well, that was George Rock.  And Rock has a pretty fascinating history himself.

A large man, he attended Wesleyan University on a football scholarship, before turning pro as a musician at the age of 20. His first national exposure was in the Freddie Fisher’s Schnickelfritz Band. In 1944 he signed up with the Spike Jones Band.

It must have been fun to see the large guy singing like a little kid.  This collection includes, “Two Front Teeth” as well as “My Birthday Comes On Christmas,” and “(I’m The) The Angel In The Christmas Play.”  They also had a few songs sung by actual kids, The City Slicker Juniors.  They perform “Nuttin’ For Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

None of these songs are particularly funny, but I think people laughed a lot easier back then.  Nonetheless, if you’re not freaked out by the voice (or wondering why anyone would WANT to say “Sister Susie sitting on a thistle,” these songs should raise a smile.

This collection would work well on random with all the modern Christmas songs at your holiday festivity (as long as the volume is mixed loud enough).

Interestingly, I can’t find the cover of my CD version (only a cassette version of it).  So I must have a less popular version that the one that’s above.

[READ: December 3, 2018] “Endless City”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story comes from Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey (apparently it was printed in the first, small-press edition, but not the second major-press edition, which seems weird).

So, this is, as the book title notes, a side story of Odysseus .  What a weird, thankless project it seems to add to The Odyssey. (more…)

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olymmpSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 11, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 11, 2004. This was the 1st night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  This show was exactly 13 years ago!

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the repeated songs are new ones–they played a lot from 2067, which makes sense.  But for a Fall Nationals, there’s really not a lot of “popular” or “rare” stuff.  But the band is in terrific form for all nine shows and the recordings are consistently great.

PIN is kind of sweet sounding, Martins guitar “sounds” even “smaller” than usual.  As with many versions of this era, he’s changed the line to, “you’ve got the key to my bosom.”   Then you hear Mike say, What are we playing, I don’t have a setlist.

They are playing “Soul Glue” which is delightfully chaotic with all kinds of backing vocals (MPW is great with the b voc).  Tim is having a bit of fun with this song, calling the “poliziei” and adding the line: “execrate, take a big dump on.”  It jumps right into “Polar Bears and Trees.” Martin is making some really cool scratching sounds before he brings in the big riff.   The “can’t do it” part feels like a fun improvised section with lots of different vocal parts overlapping.

Martins guitar sounds great on “Marginalized.”  I love the little fills and of course the crunchy guitar.  This song does loud and quite together very well.

Introducing “The Tarleks,” Martin says we made a new friend the other day.  His name is Frank Bonner and he played a brilliant character Herb Tarlek in the WKRP TV show.  He knew what was going on.  You never know when you meet somebody what their situation is, but his was good.”  The song is really great with lot of keyboard accents from Christopher…  Lots of banter from the band:

We got a new guy, Chris Stringer.  He’s shy but he’s new.  He’s just checking us out.  He got the elite week pass–sit on stage and play synthesizer with the group.  Did you win that off the radio station or something?  He didn’t go far enough to get the vocal mic.  Oh he got it, he went for the super deluxe gold.  He helped us make our last record and he’s up here to help us remember how to play it all.

This is the first song on our new album “Shack In The Cornfields,” it’s about growing up as a kid in Kitchener and wandering around cornfields.  Next comes “Pornography.” The intro sounds like “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  When the song ends Mike shouts: Four. More. Beers!

The keyboard solo on “Here Comes The Image” is pretty similar to what Mike plays but with a few more frills.  “Try To Praise This Mutilated World” starts out quietly with some picked acoustic guitar.  Then Martin throws in some gentle solos and Tim adds some bass.  I love this song as it gets bigger and bigger–the guitar lines and the harmonies are just wonderful.  Its unclear who does the spoken word–recording or live?  I assume recording.

“The Royal Albert (Joey Part 2)” starts almost comically with a really strange pacing before Martin starts singing about Joey.  Midway through the song they start the riff to “Satisfaction.”  As it ends, Mikes says, “that was corpulent.”

Dave introduces a “couple of songs that kind of go together thematically.”  They play a quick two-minute romp of “Torque Torque” which segues right into “Claire.”  Martin gets a great solo which is followed by a rather strange keyboard solo.

Torque, Torque is a quite 2 minute romp that segues right into Claire  after a great martin solo there’s kind of an odd.

Send those two out to Paul Quarrington our friend nominated for the Giller Prize tonight–didn’t win but it looks good on him.  A friend of his daughter will be opening for us on Sunday: Hebrew School Drop Outs.  All ages, late afternoon matinee.

Dave: I got my beer back.  Touch and go for a minute there.  It’s called “Trailhead,” I’ve never seen of it before either.  Is that a kind of fish, Martin?  Nope. “A mythical beer fish?  Canada’s national animal is a mythical beer fish.”

“It”starts out slow and then has a roaring guitar solo in the middle.

Our new back drop for 2004 (up at the top).  Designed by Martin.  We’re auctioning them of at the end of the run and all profits will go to ….charity?  Mike: “yeah, that’s right, charity.”

“Making Progress” has a cool creepy synth opening and a very pretty acoustic guitar ending.  The more I hear “It’s Easy To Be With You” the more I’m surprised it wasn’t a hit.  There’s certainly some weird lyrical content what with it being from a kids’ album, but it’s so catchy.

“Stolen Car” starts out slow with a lengthy intro.  Martin sounds great and there’s a terrific solo from Martin.  He ends it in the middle of a line though, I think he should have stopped but kept going.

“Little Bird, Little Bird” is slow but nice.  There’s some lovely, quiet work from Martin throughout the song.  When it ends, Dave says, Happy remembrance day.  Do you say happy Remembrance Day?”  We’ll do two more for you.  It’s getting late.  Don’t want to overstate our case.

They play “Aliens” which sounds great.  There’s a cool spacey solo and some fun bass work from Tim in the middle of the song.  It gets extended with Tim playing a faster bass line and Martin saying “jamming!”  Martin gets into it with some crazy guitar sounds muttering “gabba gabba hey” and then the group singing all kinds of classic rock lines: “Mother…” “Voodoo Chile.”

Dave thanks everybody but Martin starts playing the opening to “I Dig Music.”

Tim: he said two more.

They have a lot of silliness with this song, appropriately.  Mike: there’s only so many more times I’m going to come out here and do this.  This is one of them. During the end part “some say I’m an animal,” Tim sings “too bad,” “too fucking bad” in falsetto.  The full song is called “I Dig Music (The Jazz Animal)” but by the end they are singing “Jazz enema.”

During the encore break, Dave says “Chris will be with us every day but tomorrow.  It’s his brother’s wedding tomorrow (Mike says: “he’s got to spend the night in jail).

Tim: thanks to By Divine Right for starting this whole thing off in the rockingest way possible.  We have a weeklong pass that’s available for sale.

When they mention the all ages show, Mike points out: “there will be a little bowl of earplugs for the young ones.  Dave says: “You can eat em too.”  And cigarettes for the youngsters.  Dave: they don’t call them candy cigarettes anymore they call them candy stix.

They play the mellow instrumental “Who Is That Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” which I would find a disappointing encore, except it’s followed by a rocking intense “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”

This is a terrific show and runs almost 2 hours and 15 minutes.

[READ: Summer 2017] Olympians 9

I’m still not sure how many books O’Connor has planned for this series, although in his introduction he talks about saving his favorite books for the end, so I assume there are at least two more (although 12 seems reasonable).

Here’s the summary of the man himself:

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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TNY 8.25.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: BIG THIEF-Tiny Desk Concert #562 (August 29, 2016).

bigthiefBob Boilen absolutely loves Big Thief’s debut album (it made his top ten this year).  I think it’s really good, but I don’t quite love it the way he does.

But I think their first song, “Masterpiece” is really a great song.  And in this Tiny Desk Concert, they play it with a slightly different feel.  It seems to allow the sounds of the guitars to come through a little more.  Like the album, though, the harmonies are wonderful.

When the video started, the camera focused on just Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, and since the first song starts with just the two of them I wasn’t even sure of the whole band was there.  They are, although it’s odd how isolated the rhythms section looks in this video.

“Paul” is a mellow song with a strangely subdued and yet catchy chorus.  It’s kind of funny to watch Buck Meek really getting down to what is a fairly mellow track–although his guitar parts are pretty cool blasts of music.

“Lorraine” also get a mellow treatment here.  For this version it’s just her singing and playing the guitar.  It works very well in this Tiny setting and her voice really shines.

[READ: March 1, 2016] “Awake”

This story is about a college Economics major who just can’t get enough sex.

Well, that’s how it starts anyhow.  Richard is lying in bed next to Ana.  He moves in close behind her, hinting.  But she moves away quickly (she is actually asleep, so that’s a reflex).  He is annoyed although he shouldn’t be–I mean they did it twice already that night.

So instead of thinking about sex he decides to think about something else.  But what? (more…)

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olymmp SOUNDTRACK: WATKINS FAMILY HOUR-Tiny Desk Concert #471 (September 18, 2015).

wfhThe Watkins Family Hour began a dozen or so years ago as a way for a group of friends to get together and play old and new tunes. For Sean and Sara Watkins, it served as a monthly bit of magic: a musical variety show filled with extraordinary talent in the world of folk, bluegrass and beyond at L.A.’s famous Largo.

Sara and Sean Watkins took this fun on the road, with pianist Benmont Tench, drummer Don Heffington and bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and they made a stop at the Tiny Desk. They even brought along Fiona Apple to sing on “In the Pines” the old blues song.

The first song “Steal Your Heart Away” is sung by Sara (with violin melodies between verses) and Sean (on guitar).  It’s a bouncy folk song with a lovely piano added (which seems to move it out of the folk style a bit).  It’s a really catchy song with a great melody.

For “In the Pines” Fiona Apple sneaks out from behind the desk to sing.  Sean jokes that there’s some howling moments in this song and Fiona (who seems pretty nervous) jokes that she gets to be a dog.  I don’t know that I would have recognized Fiona’s voice as she puts on an accent and whoops (And Sean is a pretty good whoop-er, too).

The final song is “Hop High” another old song written by the hills–burbled up from the ground.   Sara and Sean take lead again on this slow brooding song.  Well, slow and brooding for the first verse, as the rest of the song takes off with Sara singing in her best gravelly voice the verse and Sean Sara and Fiona singing the chorus.

It’s a fun set full of great bluegrass-ish music

[READ: Summer 2015] Olympians 7-8

Last summer I read the first six book in the Olympians series. I’m not sure how many books he has planned for this series, although I see that he has another book planned for 2017.

Since I like what I wrote about the series for my previous post, I’m going to keep that here and then talk about each book.

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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olymmp SOUNDTRACK: TORRES-Tiny Desk Concert #461 (August 10, 2015).

torresI’ve really enjoyed a lot about Torres’ music this year.  Mackenzie Scott has an interesting delivery which reminds me of certain aspects of PJ Harvey, and her songs are angry but measured.

Her songs seem to have a lot of low-end in them (without being bass heavy exactly–in fact in this Tiny Desk, there is no bassist).  And her singing voice is often rather low (and sometimes growly).  There’s a moment in the first song “New Skin” in which the music drops out and then Mackenzie Scott starts playing her guitar anew and it’s a sound unlike any in the song before (even though she has been playing all along).

Guitarist Cameron Kapoor adds cool sounds to what I think is her best song, “A Proper Polish Welcome.”  Erin Manning provides wonderful harmony vocals along with keyboards on this song which is as powerful as it is understated.  The song gives me chills.

“The Harshest Light” is a slow song that has glimpses of light as she sings slightly higher notes in the chorus.  And when her voice breaks near the end, you can hear the intensity in her singing.

It’s a great three song set that only leaves you wanting more.

I had resisted getting this album, but realizing just how good these songs are might tip the tables to a purchase.

[READ: Summer 2015] Olympians 1-6

While I imagined that I might read all of the First Second books this year, I paused about mid way through (more for me next year).  But one of the last things I read from First Second was this series of outstanding mythologies about the Greek Olympians.  It also turned out that a few years back I got these books for C., not realizing they were under the First Second imprint.  I was intrigued by them then, but I’m really glad that I read them now.

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: JOHN GRANT-“GMF” (live on The Late Show with David Letterman) (2014).

grantI was introduced to John Grant with this song.  And since the G stands for Greatest and the MF stands for what you think it does, I was really surprised to hear that he played this live on Letterman (Grant’s network TV debut, no less).

He sounds great live (his voice is rather gentle for such a song title).  He has a full band but the song is primarily acoustic guitar with swells of keys.  The backing vocals on the later verses really flesh out the song.  And it is immensely catchy.  I’ve been singing it to myself for days.

But the best part of course are the lyrics.

In the first chorus of this version he dares to sing the dreaded MF words, which get silenced (sophisticated recording keeps the music playing though).  The rest of the choruses he changes it to “I am the greatest living creature” which I find funny and possibly even better.  I also love the way the percentage of laughing you could be doing decreasing as the song ends.

They edited down the song (the original over 5 minutes), removing a middle section that adds dimension to the song, but is not missed in this version.

Even Letterman enjoyed it, saying those same bleeped words at the end of the song.  It’s a great live performance

[READ: September 17, 2014] “You Can Find Love Now”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

Interestingly, this one was very short as well (possibly shorter than some of the essays).

This story actually reads like a Shouts & Murmurs piece.  It is a funny conceit dragged to its logical ends.  In this case, the story pokes fun at online dating.

The story opens with a pitch from the dating company saying that after creating a profile, within 24 hours “you’ll be on your way to eternal happiness.”  The first joke comes when the profile creator writes, “Find me at cyclops15.  Cyclops 1-14 were taken.”  Then in his second typed section we learn that, indeed, he is really a cyclops: “I am eight feel tall and I have one giant eye.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: stickman2JUSTIN ROBERTS-“Pop Fly” (2008).

popflyThis is a wonderful pop song from Justin Roberts.  Roberts is regarded as a top-notch children’s song writer.  I hadn’t heard him before, but i was totally sold by this one.

It’s a poppy almost dancey song–it certainly makes you want to move around, anyway.  There’s a catchy acoustic guitar and a fast beat and Roberts’ voice is really solid and warm.  Interestingly I didn’t even realize this song was about baseball when I heard it on the radio (I missed the song title).  I was totally hooked by the pa pa pa pa pa pa chorus.

And there’s a great third section of the song that changes the mood but not the tempo.  This reminds me a bit of Ralph’s World, but a bit…more full, perhaps?  Or maybe like something from Phineas and Ferb.  I’m going to have to check out more from him.

Oh, and the video, while cheaply made, is quite funny when the chorus kicks in.

[READ: April 8, 2014] Stickman Odyssey, Book 2

I enjoyed Book 2 of this series more than Book 1. It felt like it had a little more plot and was a little less slavish to the original myths.  or maybe I just like quests.

The story starts in the middle, with Nestor having captured Zozimos and having tied him up for failing to avenge Sticatha (which was Nestor’s plan all along).  He says that Zozimos has been doing nothing all this time. But Zozimos says no, he has been on an epic adventure.

Which brings us to where book one left off.

Praxis (the strongest man in the world) Atrukos (a guy who looks like a frog) and Zozimos set off to find a piece of the sky.  In book one, Praxis had knocked a piece of the sky out when he hurled a cyclops at it.  He wanted to retrieve it to prove to his love that he was actually a worthwhile person.  This story is left all of a sudden (in a very funny way) so they can help Atrukos with the witch who cursed him before Book 1 even started.  That’s when Nestor captured Zozimos, as he was on his way to help Atrukos. (more…)

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