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Archive for the ‘Oprah’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STEVEN PAGE-Heal Thyself Pt. 1 : Instinct (2016).

This is Steven Page’s second solo album since leaving Barenaked Ladies.  This one features his voice sounding utterly fantastic amid a large variety of styles of music.

“There’s a Melody” opens with a tiny harmonium sound.  It’s a one minute song that has this fascinating lyric:

There’s a melody somewhere inside of me,
I can hear it but can’t get it out of me,
In my head it soaring but when it comes out it is all the same note

Ironically it is sung to a terrific melody and it will be revisited later in the Reprise which builds and builds with full orchestra.

On Page’s previous album he played around with dance sounds and that continues on this record with “The Work at Hand.”  It opens with crazy electronic noises and then shifts to a soaring dance number.   The chorus sounds a bit like Pet Shop Boys (although not in the vocals).

“Here’s What It Takes” is a fast shuffle with prominent trumpets in the melody.  It’s catchy and was the first single.  But I’m more focused on the lyrics again.  For such a peppy song the lyrics are really dark:

An 8-ball of coke / You’re angry and broke / My Mother misspoke / by telling me the truth
Here’s what it takes to believe  / Drink down the Drano ’til the demons all leave
The fridge door was open again / There’s leftover blame / You’re eating your shame / and choking on the truth

What was funny was that I heard this couplet first and thought it was an amusing song before digging deeper:

What we once kept hidden from our parents / Now we keep it hidden from our kids

That’s a great line and it’s even darker with the above verses.

“I Can See My House From Here”  is a funny/dark song about Jesus, or at least a self-identified messiah.

Jesus came to me last night
To tell me everything will be alright
He said, “Thank you for rolling the stone,
but you’re gonna have to go it alone”

Hey, have you heard the Good News?
We’re gonna make you King of the Jew

But it’s also chock full of nods to the Beatles.  Both in the backing vocals (the Hallelujah and Hare Krishna below) but also in unexpected ways

[Hallelujah] Mother Mary
[Heal Thyself] You had me
[Hare Krishna] And no religion
[Hope that helps] So Let It Be

As he sings this section, it plays with the melody of “My Sweet Lord”

And if you can’t then you know it’s a lie
Goodbye my Lord, goodbye my Lord

and he even sings the next line “I really want to…” as if it were part of “My Sweet Lord” before jumping back to the melody of the song.

It end with the guitar melody of The Beatles’ “The Two of Us” and him singing “we’re on our way home.”

The best song around is “Manchild” which features Page’s soaring vocals and terrific self-deprecating lyrics that morph over the song

Darling, you’re talking to a man now / You’re talking to a man, now, child /
Speak slowly, speak slowly
Darling, you’re talking to a manchild / You’re talking to a manchild now /
Speak slowly, speak slowly

But the album is not all big powerful songs, “If That’s Your Way” (“If that’s your way of saying you’re sorry – I don’t mind”) and “Hole In the Moonlight” are both ballads with piano and strings.

“Mama” is a kind of almost reggae romp with some excellent snark in the lyrics.  And “Surprise Surprise” was the lead single and does a great job rhyming

I was feeling shamed / you were feeling stupid
because I knew what was wrong with me / long before you did

“Linda Ronstadt In the 70s” has a harpsichord and a chamber pop feel with an emphasis on pop.  I had no idea of the origin of the song.  It was apparently written because Colin Meloy requested people write songs about Linda Ronstadt.  You can see the original acoustic version here.

“No Song Left to Save Me” ends the disc with the unmistakable bass line of “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” but the song quickly changes tempo and direction with swinging horns and big old catchy Steven Page chorus.

This is an excellent, fun disc and really shows the range that Page is willing to experiment with.  I wish Barenaked Ladies would take more chances like this, too.  But I am especially excited to see Page next month with the Art of Time Ensemble.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “My Holocaust Memoir”

You don’t expect something funny to have a title like this.  Of course once you see that the first line is “Dear Ms Winfrey,” you can expect to not take this seriously,

Greenman begins his letter to Ms Winfrey by saying how much he admires the show, although he doesn’t watch every day).  He says he was watching “Best Life Week ” (is that really the name of segment?) in which guests discussed the challenges they’ve overcome.  He says that he has had some challenges–which he is currently putting into book form.  And he would like her to take a look at them.

It begins: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT-Slanted and Enchanted (1992).

I decided to go back and give a good listen to Pavement since I’ve always liked them but never loved them And, yes, they were in Central Park the other night).  So I started at the beginning.

I listened to the disc about a half-dozen time at work and I really started enjoying it a lot more by the end. It’s a difficult album, one that doesn’t actively embrace its listeners.  It’ a noisy, sloppy album (and that’s one reason why I like it), but there are hints of melody within.

Because I’m not in the moment, I can’t decide just how revolutionary this album was.  Nearly twenty years later it sounds like any number of noisy distortion fueled, lo-fi recordings of the period.  You can hear all kinds of influences on the band, Sonic Youth, The Fall, even The Replacements.  So, it’s not like they created something out of the blue.

Perhaps they were the first band to consolidate these influences into this particular stew.  No songs really stand out for me, as this seems more of an album of sounds that a collection of songs.  I rather enjoyed some of the oddball instrumentals and the use of keyboards, (which seem too polished for their sound: out of tune guitars and scratchy vocals).

It’s a fun record, and it certainly sets a tone and an agenda for the band.  I’m just not blown away by it.

[READ: September, 22, 2010] “Meet Me in St. Louis”

As I mentioned in the Franzen article the other day, I missed the whole brouhaha with Oprah and Franzen.  This article, which touches on that somewhat, gives Franzen’s perspective on what happened.  But primarily it shows (his take on) the videorecording that happened for his big Oprah TV show.

Mostly it involves Franzen driving around St. Louis.  Franzen grew up in St. Louis but spent most of his adult life in New York City–which is where he considers his home.  However on the book tour for The Corrections, he stopped in St. Louis.

The producers of Oprah wanted to film his great homecoming, even though he never felt it was one.  About two years before this event he and his brothers sold their family house after his widowed mother died.  That was the last time he had been to the house, and he had planned to never return. (more…)

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nealSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Made in USA (1986 released in 1995).

usaThe liner notes explain a lot of what was behind this disc.  The then largely unknown Sonic Youth was asked to score a cool indie film, which later became a less cool more mainstream film and ultimately went straight to video.

The CD is mostly background music, but it is notable for how mainstream it sounds (for Sonic Youth in the mid-80s) and for how bad it sounds–like it was recorded in a can.

It’s mostly completely listenable soundtrack mood music.  It’s nothing to rush out and buy, especially if you like the noisier SY stuff, but, and this is something of a shock, its sounds quite nice, almost ambient at times.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, it’s worth noting that “Secret Girl” from EVOL appears in a slightly different form (twice actually).

[READ: July 29, 2009] The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature

This is the first book published by McSweeney’s Books.  And it is indeed handsome, with a nice yellow ribbon for marking your page.

And so, who is Neal Pollack?  Well, as you all know, Neal Pollack is the greatest living writer today.  He has been writing for decades and has written some of the most important books, and the most important articles that anyone has ever read. His book on life as an African America has not only impressed Oprah, but it has inspired Toni Morrison and Henry Louis Gates.

And, as you can see from the back of the book, everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to Normal Mailer sings his praises. (more…)

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