Archive for the ‘The Sopranos’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.


[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)


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[ATTENDED: October 28, 2015] Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical

bobI have been a fan of Woody Allen’s movies since I took a class on him in college circa 1991. I loved the movie of Bullets Over Broadway which was a fun period piece (1920s) that starred John Cusack and Dianne Wiest among others.  The script was punchy and funny and addressed issues of morality and art.  And there were gangsters too.

Who would have guessed that the 1994 movie would have been turned into a musical twenty years later.  Evidently Allen did not want it turned into a musical until the idea of using songs from the period was introduced (with modified lyrics) and then he agreed.

The show ran on Broadway for about five months, which seems like it must not have been well received.  And yet, it did garner 6 Tony nominations and there were many positive reviews.  I don’t know enough about Broadway to know if a five month run means anything.  The Broadway version starred Zach Braff and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy from The Sopranos).

The touring version of the musical is listed as Non-equity (I had to look up to see what that meant).  The long and short of it is that it means that you won’t have heard of anyone in the performance.  The director is also different.  I don’t know if that means things are very different from the original production.  I had read that typically a non-equity show has a lower budget, but I was quite impressed with the sets in this one.  The “train” was amazing, and I really liked the way they created the rooftop and the car and several other scenes. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:


[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.


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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-BANG goes the Knighthood (2010).

I’ve really enjoyed The Divine Comedy since their earliest Michael Nymanesque music.  I loved the orchestral pop that Neil Hannon seemed to effortlessly create.  His last few records have been less exciting to me.  He has toned down the orchestration and made his songs more subtle.  They’re still beautiful but they’re not always as immediately arresting.  I thought that was true of this album as well, although I found that when I sat down and really listen to the music and words together (what a novel idea) the music played so well with the lyrics that the album overall is easily one of his best.  Although I still prefer the pomp and full orchestration of the earlier music, this newer stuff is very interesting. An artist has got to grow, right?

The new sound is more Tin Pan Alley.  It’s piano with guitars and occasional horns–very limited strings are present at all.  And, as any fan knows, Neil writes wonderful songs about love, and the songs on here are some more great love songs.  The non-love songs span the gamut of ideas–from emotionally wrenching to downright silly.  Neil is definitely a “get to know him” kind of songwriter.  And it’s rewarding when you do.

“Down in the Street Below” is a piano based song that morphs into a jaunty little number after some quiet verses.  It features yet another of his great melodies.  “The Complete Banker” is a jaunty piano song that mercilessly mocks the banking industry.  Not terribly original but certainly fun and lyrically it’s quite clever.  “Neapolitan Girl” is a faster song (reminds me of a Broadway musical or movie instrumental) which is (as they all are) very fun to sing along to).  “Bang Goes the Knighthood” is a musical hall song that is really quite funny despite the somber sound of the music (it’s about a knighted man who indulges in certain proclivities that might cost him what he has).

“The Indie Disco” is the exact opposite, it’s bouncy and shuffly and yet understated as only an indie disco can be (this may be the softest, least excited “yea!” in any song ever.  Name checking Morrissey may not be original but it would be a less real picture without him.  The songs he mentions are kind of dated, but are probably pretty accurate to what gets played in an indie disco these days.  “Have You Ever Been in Love” could be used in any rom-com film montage.  Although maybe it’s too obvious?  Sweetly filled with strings (yes strings).

“Assume the Perpendicular” is a slightly faster song, as befits lyrics, “I can’t abide a horizontal life while “The Lost Art of Conversation” is another bouncy tune with a whistle for an ending!

“Island Life” is one of the first duets I can think of from the Divine Comedy–it sounds like something out of the movie Brazil.  “When a Man Cries” is an emotionally wrenching song.  It seems somewhat out of place for Hannon’s usual topic, but it’s quite beautiful.  The silly fun of “Can You Stand Up on One Leg” is the perfect antidote.  Each verse provides something that’s harder to do than you think.  The final verse offers, “can you hold a singing note for a stupidly long time…. Let’s see how long you can hoooooooooo….oooold on to a note.” For the record, Neil’s note is 29 seconds long….stupidly long!  Is that really him holding that high note for 29 seconds?

The final song “I Like” is a wonderful poppy ditty, in which the full band rocks out (more or less) to another great melody.  It’s a perfect love song (even modernized to include a kind of rhyme with sexy and texting).

Initially I was a little disappointed by this disc, but it really proved to be fantastic.  More, Neil, more!

[READ: December 28, 2011] Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Mindy Kaling a big enough celebrity to write a book (memoir or otherwise?).  To use her own in-book comparison, she’s nowhere near Tina Fey’s level of fame, right? (although I actually think she is funnier).  I mean, she’s a minor character on a popular show.  True, she’s also a writer and producer, but that’s not going to lead you to fame or anything.  The more I read about her in the book, the more I wondered exactly who would know her aside from fans of The Office.

None of that is to say that Kaling isn’t awesome.  She is.  She’s funny and talented and I am thrilled she wrote a book–sometimes within an ensemble your individual voice will get lost.  But I have to wonder how much name recognition she has.  And the book doesn’t do a lot to dispel this sense for me.  I mean, she tells about everything she’s done, and really all she had done was write Matt & Ben (which sounds awesome and which I remember hearing about back in the day) and work (a lot) for The Office.  Not minor accomplishments by any stretch, but not a fame-inducing resume.  Nevertheless, good for her that someone was interested in letting her write a book.  And good for us who read it.  If you are amused by the use of the subtitle of the book (which I am) you will like enjoy the humor here.

I had read some excerpts from the book so I assumed it was all funny essays and whatnot, but it’s not.  It’s actually a memoir with funny essays mixed in.   Of course, Mindy’s life before Matt & Ben isn’t really very “interesting” (the book is very funny during this time of her life, even if she really didn’t do much more than babysit for rich folks and watch Comedy Central).

In the Introduction, Mindy provides a FAQ about the book.  One of the questions is if she is going to offer advice and she says yes.  And here’s the thing, Mindy’s advice is outstanding.  She offers advice about many topics and I don’t think I disagreed with her about anything (except maybe pea coats).  She’s like the voice of reason in a world gone mad and an excellent role model for anyone. (more…)

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harperSOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS: Tindersticks [the black and white one] (1995).

tinderThis second album (often called II, but according to the band, is called Tindertsticks) continues the coolness of the first disc.  But this disc seems to have a few more “singles” (or what could have been singles) on it.  “A Night In” has a great slow building, string filled chorus that reaches tremendous heights.  Staples’ voice sounds even better, too.  A bit fuller, a bit less hesitant.

It also features the gorgeous, vibe-fueled, spoken word tale called “My Sister.”  And then there’s the fantastic, monumental “Tiny Tears.”  (It was featured in a Sopranos episode (Season One, Episode 12: “Isabella”) perfectly, and I was delighted to hear it. (I’m not the only one who thinks it was perfect, see here]).  It begins as a quiet piece with the fantastic opening lyrics:

You’ve been lying in bed for a week now
Wondering how long it’ll take
You haven’t spoke, or looked at her in all that time
It’s the easiest line you could break
She’s been going round her business as usual
Always with that melancholy smile
But you were too busy looking into yourself
To see those tiny tears in her eyes.

And of course, it builds into a string filled melancholy ballad.  Beautiful.  Another great track, “Talk to Me” gets so intense as the song progresses (dissonant strings and horns cranked to ten), that it’s almost scary.  This is followed by the contrite and very mellow “No More Affairs.”  Oh, and then comes the stunning duet “Travelling Light” which is sheer beauty.

I also really enjoy the two instrumentals “Vertrauen II” and “Vertrauen III” for their creepy atmospherics and theremin use.

It’s another stellar collection from Tindertsicks.  And another triumph of atmospheric music.  And, frankly, it’s just as well that they gave this disc the same name as the first as they are practically a continuous cycle of awesomeness.

This disc was reissued with the previously hard to find “Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95.”

[READ: October 19, 2009] “Prosperous Friends”

This story of a disaffected married couple didn’t really appeal to me at first.  The characters (especially the wife) seemed very caustic but there hadn’t been enough setup or explanation for the causticity.  When they visit his old (girl?)friend, the four people have an uncomfortable meal together.  I also had a but of trouble keeping the two men straight: Ted and Ben are a little too similar as names. (more…)

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sonmob.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GORDON LIGHTFOOT-The Complete Greatest Hits (2002).

gordon.jpgIn keeping with the Gordon theme of this post, I’m going to mention Gordon Lightfoot. He is an iconic Canadian folk singer that I was sure I must have heard in the past. He seemed to be mentioned a lot recently, so I decided to get a hits collection and see what’s up. I was somewhat surprised to see that I knew only one song by him (“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”) and one other one “For Lovin’ Me” because it was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary.

So, after a few listens, I find that Lightfoot’s melodies are really strong, and I found myself singing along to most of the catchy choruses. It’s interesting to see his career evolve over the years: from the 2 minute folkie to some longer, more complex songs, to the 70s AM radio songwriter, to the very unfortunate 80s period, and finally back to basics in the 90s.

I know I won’t need any other records by him, but he’s a great addition to my folk collection. This album seems to cover a track or two from most of his records (although he was quite prolific). I prefer the earliest, most spare folk tracks, especially the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” but some of his later songs, while more produced, are even catchier: “Summer Side of Life” “Sundown.” And, even though some of these later songs are a little cheesey (in a 70s AM radio way), they’re still pretty good: “Cotton Jenny” and “Daylight Katy.” But still, the highlight is “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” what a great great song. And what a great great mustache too!

[DIGRESSION]: There’s a song on Moxy Fruvous’ b record called “Gord’s Gold” which I never understood. It was only after investigating Gordon Lightfoot that i realized he has two greatest hits records called “Gord’s Gold.” The Moxy song must be some kind of light footed parody of Mr Gordon. Also, Barenaked Ladies’ first record is called Gordon, and in the back of the liner notes they list all kinds of famous people named Gordon.

We figure that Gordon must be the quintessential Canadian name. I was surprised to find out that Gordon Korman is from New York.

[READ: March 2008] Son of the Mob

This is the YA book that Sarah has talked to me about the most. When we were first dating she used this book in her booktalks to the local teens in school. A booktalk is a compelling introduction to a book, designed to whet your appetite for more. Her booktalk for this title stuck with me, even if I didn’t remember the whole thing. But I knew I’d be checking this one out. (more…)

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sacred.jpgSOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-They Can’t All Be Zingers (2006).

primus.jpgSuch a great name for a greatest hits album. I’m delighted to know that Primus is still fun after all these years. How on earth they were every popular is simply beyond my comprehension.

[READ: May 2007] Sacred Games.

Here’s a link to Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games blog.

Whew, I thought this day would never come, but I finished Sacred Games, and what a trip it was! (more…)

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