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Archive for the ‘Funny (strange)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GRUFF RHYS–American Interior (2013).

Gruff Rhys was (is?) the singer and composer in Super Furry Animals, a fantastic indie-pop band from Wales.   After several years with SFA and several solo albums, Gruff decided to do something a little different.  Actually, everything he does is a little different, as this quote from The Guardian explains:

“The touring musician can feel like the puppet of consumer forces,” he writes, bemoaning the way that “cities have now been renamed ‘markets’ and entire countries downgraded to ‘territories'”. So, over the last five or so years, he has come up with the idea of “investigative touring”: combining the standard one-show-a‑night ritual with creative fieldwork. In 2009, he went to Patagonia to trace the roots of a disgraced relative called Dafydd Jones, and the Welsh diaspora in South America more generally, and played a series of solo concerts, as well as making a film titled Separado!. Now, Rhys has reprised the same approach to tell another story, and poured the results into four creations: an album, another film, an ambitious app, and this book – all titled American Interior, and based on the brief life of John Evans: another far-flung relative of the singer, who left Wales to travel to North America in the early 1790s.

So yes, there’s a film and a book and this CD.  This album is a delightful blend of acoustic and electronic pop and folk.  Rhys’ voice is wonderfully subdued and with his Welsh accent coming in from time to time, it makes everything he sings somehow feel warm and safe (even when it’s not).   Rhys creates songs that sound like they came from the 1970s (but better), but he also explores all kinds of sonic textures–folk songs, rocking songs, dancing song, even songs in Welsh.

“American Exterior” is a 30 second intro with 8-bit sounds and the repeated “American Interior” until the piano and drum-based (from Kliph Scurlock) “American Interior” begins.  It’s a catchy song with the repeated (and harmonized) titular refrain after each line and it’s a great introduction to the vibe of the record.  It’s followed by the super catchy stomping “100 Unread Messages” which just rocks along with a great chorus.  You can see Gruff “composing” the lyrics to this in the book.

“The Whether (Or Not)” introduces some electronic elements to this song.  It’s basically a great pop song with splashes of keys and some cool stabs of acoustic guitar.  “The Last Conquistador” and “The Lost Tribes” are gentler synthy songs, as many of these are.  “Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be)” returns to the acoustic sound with some really beautiful piano.

“Allweddellau Allweddol” (English translation: Key Keyboards) is the only all-Welsh song on the record and it romps and stomps and is as much fun as that title suggests it would be.  There’s even a children’s choir singing on it (maybe?).

“The Swamp” is a simple electronics and drumming pattern which leaps right into “Iolo” one of the most fun songs on the record.  It’s a nod to the Welsh poet who inspired but backed out of Evans’ expedition at the last-minute but also a rollicking good time with the chanted “yoloyoloyoloyolo” and great tribal drums from Kliph.

The end of the album slows things down with “Walk Into the Wilderness” a slow aching ballad and the final two animal-related songs.  “Year of the Dog” is kind of a mellow opus when it is joined by the instrumental coda “Tiger’s Tale.”  Both songs feature goregous pedal steel guitar from Maggie Bjorklund.

Gruff Rhys is an amazing songwriter.  He could write the history of an obscure Welshman and still get great catchy songs out of it.  And that’s exactly what he’s done here.

[READ: December 2018] American Interior

How to explain this book?

I’ll start by saying that I loved it.  I was delighted by Rhys’ experiences and, by the end, I was genuinely disappointed to read that Evans’ trip didn’t pan out (even though I knew it didn’t).  The only compliant I have about the book is that I wish he had given a pronunciation guide for all of the welsh words in there, because I can’t even imagine how you say things like Ieuan Ab Ifan or Gwredog Uchaf or Dafydd Ddu Eryri (which is helpfully translated as Black David of Snowdonia, but not given a pronunciation guide).  But what about the contents?

The subtitle gives a pretty good explanation but barely covers the half of it.

Here’s a summary from The Guardian to whet one’s appetite for Rhys himself and for what he’s on about here:

[John] Evans was a farmhand and weaver from Waunfawr on the edge of Snowdonia, who was in pursuit of something fantastical: a supposed tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans said to live at the top of the Missouri river, who were reckoned to owe their existence to the mythical Prince Madog, a native of Gwynedd who folklore claimed had successfully sailed to the New World in 1170. In 1580, this story was hyped up by Elizabeth I’s court mathematician and occultist John Dee (born of Welsh parents), in an attempt to contest the Spanish claim to American territory. Two centuries later, with the opening of new frontiers, talk of a tribe called the Madogwys and “forts deemed to be of Welsh origin” began to swirl anew around Wales and North America, and became tangled up in the revolutionary fervour of the time, along with a radical Welsh spirit partly founded in nonconformist Christianity.

All this was moulded into a proposal made by a self-styled druid named Iolo Morganwg (“a genius”, but “also a fraud of the highest order”, says Rhys), who “called for the Americans, in the light of Madog’s legacy, to present the Welsh with their own tract of land in the new country of the free, so that the Welsh could leave their condemned royalist homeland”. Morganwg stayed put in Cowbridge, near Cardiff (the site of his “radical grocery” shop is now occupied by a branch of Costa Coffee), but Evans was inspired by his visions, and eventually set sail.

Rhys goes on a “journey of verification”, following Evans’s route from Baltimore, through such cities as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and then up the Missouri river to the ancestral home of the Mandan tribe of Native Americans, who had been rumoured to be the Welsh-speakers of myth, and among whom Evans lived, in territory argued over by the British and Spanish. Along the way, he does solo performances built around music and a PowerPoint-assisted talk about Evans’s story, keeps appointments with historians, and also tries to glimpse the America that Evans found through the cracks in a landscape of diners, what some people call “campgrounds”, and Native American reservations.

The Guardian’s review also talks about why the book works: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary AB (November 15, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.  This is the 6th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

Dave introduces the show: “Hello people of Southern Alberta, let us entertain you.  Let us kick your ass.”

The show starts with “Fat” and Martin gets some cool wild guitar sounds.  The backing vocals are great and the end of the song really jams out.

Tim’s “All the Same Eyes” seems to rock out a bit more than usual with some scorching guitars from Martin.  They follow it with “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” and they have fun with it.  Dave has to announce, “stop making faces, this is serious stuff.”  During the middle part, Dave chants, “Michael’s getting married,  Michael’s having a baby, Michael’s going down.”  They stretch out the “it feels good” part with a mellow jam and Martin doing some great falsetto.

Dave talks about Melville millionaires sticker on his guitar.  He says “we played in Melville, Saskatchewan–the best town in Canada.  Martin talks about them playing The National hotel.  They had two nights there and after the first night, someone spray painted outside of their door: “Go home noise pigs.”

Martin introduces “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine” and Dave says “and we’re not going home.”   Martin makes some great weird noises from his guitar and, once again, there’s more amazing backing vocals from the band.

Don announces: “We’ve got a new record out, it’s been out about a week.  This next song is on it, that last one was on it.  It’s available tonight.”

Then comes two songs from Tim.  It starts with “Bad Time to Be Poor” which has scratchy guitars from Martin.  It sounds great and Dave says “That’s getting played on the radio and we’re awfully happy about that and thanks to those who are playing it.”  Up next is the second Tim song with “Claire.”  Dave says this next song is from Whale Music, underwater music–aquarium rock, they’re calling it.

Dave says they played hockey last night at Max Bell Arena–home of the Calgary Canucks–Calgary’s greatest team. It was them and the Hip & the crews.  The score was 17-17.  It was a great game–we were fortified on ice.

After a rocking “Self Serve Gas Station, ” Dave says, “The people in Edmonton said the people in Calgary didn’t know how to rock.”  Tim: “That’s not true.”  It’s a great intro to another blistering version of “RDA” which they sing as “Rock Death Canada.”

Even though I love the Rheostatics’ longer sets, these 45 minute nuggets are really tasty.  And the band is in peak form at these shows.

[READ: March 4, 2019] On a Sunbeam

I really enjoyed Walden’s memoir Spinning, which was all about competitive skating and a young girl coming out.  So this story threw me a bit because it is about a crew of workers aboard a space ship whose job is to help repair derelict structures.

And it starts right in the middle with no explanation.  We just see a teenaged girl looking out a window at a floating city.  Her name is Mia and she is being brought to a crew that she’ll be working with for the foreseeable future.  The crew consists of Alma, the de facto leader, Char, the actual captain, Jules, a young girl who is actually Alma’s niece, and Elliot.  Elliot is a mechanical genius, is nonbinary (goes by “they” rather than he or she) and does not speak.

Mia and Jules bond pretty quickly, but it’s going to be tough work–up at 5AM and a lot to learn.

The story flashes back to five years earlier.  Mia is at school and, although a freshman, is already defiant.  She gets in trouble for skipping out on a mandatory assembly and sneaking into the gym to look at what turns out to be flying machines.   While in detention, she meets Grace.  Grace is shy but a defiant in her own way.  They form a pretty quick bond. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Northlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 13, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.  This is the 5th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recordings of Shaved Head and Earth from this tour.

This is their second night in Edmonton and they play some of what I consider their more risky opening-set songs.  The show begins with Martin playing “Digital Beach.”  It’s a quiet song but the crowd seems really respectful.  And Martin sounds in great voice with his falsetto hitting all the right notes.

The end segues perfectly into “Earth.”  I feel like it takes a little while to get Earth going (again, thinking as an opening act and it’s such a slow song)–I find a very risky.  But the loud part of “Monstrous Hummingbirds” roars out and Martin’s guitar sounds great and they have surely won people over by now.

Up next is “Claire.”  Tim sounds in good voice and Martin has some cool phasing for his guitar solo.

Dave doesn’t sing a ton, but he thanks Edmonton.  “Thank you, Edmonton the whole city’s here tonight.  I see the mayor.  I see the coach.  I see the wizard.”

They rip into a great “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” (some of you are here tonight).  Everyone is right on and the vocals are terrific.  There’s even a bit of a drum solo.

Dave mentions the cross country tour, the big crowds, the hockey rinks–shrines to the game of professional hockey.  They’re happy to be there “despite the fact that they still let Peter Pocklington in here [Pocklington owned the Oilers and is quite a divisive figure–he sold Wayne Gretzsky to Los Angeles, among many other things.  He will appear again in this show, shortly.]

Dave also says that they just released a record The Blue Hysteria, and if you get a chance to buy it we’d like that very much.

Up next is an amazing “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The vocals are wonderful–Martin is in top form tonight.  I believe Tim is singing the really high backing vocals too.  The song feels like a show stopper the way Martin’s voice soars majestically at the end–higher and higher.

Despite how amazing that is, they start right up with “Horses.”  For years I have wondered what events this song commemorated.  I wasn’t really sure how to find out. And then, here Dave introduces the song and tells all: “This is a song about the strike at the Gainers meat-packing plant in the mid-1980s.  It is a privilege to sing this song here tonight.

This is where Pocklington returns.  Dave doesn’t mention this, but I looked it up and found out [from Wikipedia]

Perhaps Pocklington’s most notorious setback was the result of a six-month strike with the United Food and Commercial Workers union that crippled Gainers, which at the time was Canada’s second-largest meat packer. Pocklington used strikebreakers, primarily from Quebec, to keep the plant operating despite the picket lines, a decision that earned him the enmity of Canada’s labour movement. Eventually, he agreed to settle the strike and rehire the striking workers at the request of the Alberta government.

So not only did Pocklington trade Gretzky, he was the inspiration for “Horses.”  No wonder Dave hates him so much.

“Horses” is energized and spectacular and Martin plays a noisy, wild electrified solo with some great horse sounds at the end.

Normally this might end a show but they segue right into “Shaved Head” (someone in the audience screams twice–loudly like an actual shriek–I wonder if that was good or bad).  Martin continues to sounds great–he’s hitting those high notes like nothing.  A beautiful, powerful ending leads into the jolly intro of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Once again, everyone sounds great with this song.

They end the show with everyone repeating the refrain of “It feels good to be alive.”  The voices all stop except Martin who sends everyone off with his gorgeous falsetto singing “it feels good to be alive.”

What a great opening act to see.

[READ: February 5, 2019] “All Will Be Well”

This story opens with a comic line, but the story is hardly a comedy.

“Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.”

I have really enjoyed the way Yiyun Li develops character and setting.  In this story the salon is run by Lily.  The magazines are in Chinese and Vietnamese and the TV is tuned to a Mandarin channel.  It is in a neighborhood where armed robberies were common.  Lily unlocks the door when she sees customers coming and immediately locks it again.

The narrator teaches at a local college, but she pretends that she is going to school for fiction-writing.  The best part of her character is that she lied and told Lily that she “had been adopted by a couple from Holland when [she] was a year old and moved to America when she was in Middle School.”   Because of this she was forgiven for not speaking one of the preferred languages.

She went to the salon more often than was necessary.  She says if she had been superstitious, she would swear Lily put a spell on her.  The narrator seemed mostly entranced by Lily’s stories–Lily loves to talk, and it gave the narrator a way out of her own life.  “I listened, smiled, and asked questions–these were my most tiresome traits, and I used them tirelessly.”  Normally she had to give her opinions all day (she was a teacher after all) but here she could forget about herself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 15, 2001).

This was night 2 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern‘s 53rd Birthday bash.  Clark (the band) opened the show.

The Rheos play seven songs from their soon to be released Night of the Shooting Stars (those songs are bold), including the two songs they didn’t play the previous night.

Jeff Cohen, owner of The Horseshoe gives a great intro to the band.

“King Of The Past” is an exciting opening.  Tim seems to get lost on the lyrics but musically it sounds great.  It’s followed by “Christopher” which also has a nice slow intro and some great jamming during the solo.

“The Fire” is a new song that I feel they didn’t play much after this tour–it features alternating leads from Martin and Dave and a harmonica!  “The Reward” is the other new song they didn’t play the night before.

There’s some talk of Napster.  Dave says, “I don’t know if it is shut down but there’s a lot of neat stuff on the Rheostatics section that we don’t even have tapes of.  He says to check out “our performance of “Claire” with Rik Emmet (I would love to hear that).  People may have already heard “P.I.N.” on Napster.

“Christopher” was dedicated to Jeff of Kansas City.  Dave thanks the people who come from out of town to make a vacation of their four night run.

“We Went West” is followed by two songs from Harmelodia.  “I Am Drumstein” is kind of crazy, with Don singing parts of it.  At the end Dave tells him, you would have been asked to leave Drumstein’s orchestra for that last cymbal hit.  It’s followed by a sweet “Home Again.”

The crowd finally gets to hear “Record Body Count” which has a slow opening. Tim and Martin have a hard time with the words in the beginning prompting Martin to ask “Who wrote this?”

Then they call Ron Sexmith up on stage for his song “So Young.”  During the set up, Dave says that years ago when Ron released his first album Grand Opera Lane Don Kerr was on drums.  Ron sounds a bit like Jim James.

Then comes the old song “Bread, Meat, Peas & Rice” which is simple and fun.  Martin does a kind of trumpet solo with his mouth.  Dave says “That’s for the premieres over in China.”  Someone shouts “They’re in Korea.”  Dave: “Did they move?  I didn’t get the memo.”  It’s followed by “Remain Calm” which almost seems like a response to the previous one.

Martin introduces “The Sky Dreamed” as a sweet song called “Bug’s Song.”  Is it possibly Don singing on it?  Then Martin plays a lovely “Song Of Flight” which segues into a terrific “California Dreamline.”

There’s two more poppy new songs, “Song Of The Garden” and “Mumbletypeg.”  They miss the spoken middle part, and it sounds like DB is still tinkering with the lyrics, but it sounds great nonetheless.

Heading into the encore break, they play an amazing “Horses” (Martin even busts out the robotic voice to recite part of it) and a stellar “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  (I wonder if I’ll ever get to see that live).

After the encore break, someone requests “PROD” but Dave says we’ve got four nights to play that one.  So instead, he sings “My First Rock Concert” and then a terrific take on “Aliens” with a little jam section in the middle.  Dave starts singing “Artenings Made of Gold,” but Martin doesn’t remember it.  But there’s some very cool drums in this part.

The tape ends with a delicate version of “Bad Time To Be Poor” which gets cut after a minute or so.

This was another fantastic show.

[READ: February 13, 2019] “Plastic Parts to Help with Life”

This was actually a series of short micro-fictions or flash fictions or whatever we’re calling them these days.  Although these are not really that short (1/4 to 1/2 a page as opposed to just one paragraph).  They’re all mildly amusing slices of modern life–each with an absurdist twist.  This comes from the author’s “third book in a trilogy of miniature fiction.”

“In the Privacy of Their Own Condo”
He agrees to watch a Woody Allen film because she wants to watch Blue Jasmine.  He finds Woody Allen movies too emotional and loud.  Sure enough, there’s a car scene where they yell at each other for a full minute while driving. He flings off the covers and flees the room, naked.  She’s not going to give up on the movie, although she does turn the volume down.  Can anything salvage this debacle?

“Protest”
This one opens, “Bryce said to me during dinner, ‘You look like Jack Nicholson when you smile.'”  Of course, this leads to a discussion of The Shining.  Why do I look like I have a drooling leer?  The talk was interrupted by protesters in the driveway.  They are out there most nights anyway with bullhorns and signs.  And they had many things to protest. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JÜRGEN MARCUS-“Ein Festival der Liebe” (1973).

Schlager (see the end of the book entry below) has become a catch-all term for (European) inoffensive pop music.  But apparently in the 1970s it had a slightly different and more specific connotation/sound.  The more I dove into this explanation, the more confusing it became.  Until someone posted a link to this song.

It’s easy to see how people reacted against the music back when it was super popular–it is so safe and inoffensive as to be totally offensive to any one with artistic sensibility.  But now that pop music has become something so radically different, often aggressive and vulgar and very electronic, this kind of bland, fun sing along is actually charming and kind of appealing.

The chorus is easy to sing along to, you can clap along without anything complicated going on and it’s all happy and sweet (even the ahhs in the backing vocals are super happy).  The music is soft, even the little piano “riff” in the middle is obvious.  I love that the song gets a little “risky” in the end third with a “drum solo” and Jürgen singing a kind of tarzan yell, but it’s all returned safely to th end.

The video is spectacular with Jürgen’s brown suit, big hair and even bigger collars.   It’s quintessential warming cheese.  It’s the school of music that ABBA came from as well.  It’s Eurovision!

And I find it quite a relief from the pop schlager of today.  This song was given example of contemporary German schlager:  Helene Fischer “Atemlos durch die Nacht”.  Her delivery is inoffensive by the music is so contemporary and dancefloor that it doesn’t feel anywhere near as delightful as the 1970s song,

[READ: February 9, 2019] How to Be German

I saw this book at work–the German side–and it looked like it might be funny.  I wished I could read more than the very little German that I know.  And then I flipped the book over and discovered it was bilingual!  Jawohl!

This manual is a very funny book about being German.  It was written by a British ex-pat who moved to Germany many hears ago and has settled down in the country he now calls home.  The book gently pokes fun at German habits but also makes fun of his own British habits and cultural components.

I studied German for one year which makes me in no way qualified to judge the quality of the humor or the accuracy of the cultural jokes.  The book does a very good job of cluing the unfamiliar in on what he’s talking about.  Although there are about a dozen exceptions where no context is given to the ideas that he’s talking about, which is quite frustrating, obviously.

I’m not going to go through all 50 of these ideas, but there are some that are particularly good and some that I found especially funny. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIANA HATFIELD-Sings Olivia Newton John (2018).

When I was a kid, I loved Grease.  My parents took me to see it multiple times and I loved the soundtrack.  There are still things from the movie that I am just “getting” now because I was so young when I first heard it.  I listened and sang along to Grease thousands of time.  I didn’t care for Saturday Night Fever (too dark and grown up), but i did love Xanadu.  So clearly I loved Olivia more than John.

I did not love “Physical,” the only other ONJ song I had heard, but honestly who didn’t dance around singing the chorus.

Aside from those songs I didn’t know a lot about ONJ’s career.   I had never heard of “Have You Never Been Mellow” until I bought the 1984 album by The Feederz.  They covered the song in the only way that a band whose album cover was literally sandpaper (to mess up the neighboring albums) would do.

Decades later I loved Juliana Hatfield.  I saw her live at Boston College (she opened for the B-52s and I left between acts because I was too cool for the B-52s).  She sung heartfelt and direct songs in a sometimes childlike voice.  But she rocked pretty hard too.

Juliana seems like an obvious choice to cover Olivia, except I didn’t think that Juliana had the range.  But boy was I surprised.  She hits high notes that I don’t recall her hitting before.  And while her singing style is still pretty soft, she really powers through a lot.  She also multitracks her voice from time to time to give it more power.

Plus, how great is that cover?

I didn’t know all of the songs on this but I grew to like the all.  I like the gentle synths and the cool guitar line on “I Honestly Love You.”  But she really impressed me with her take on Xanadu’s “Suspended in Time.”  She hits some beautiful notes and really makes the song wonderful.  I particularly like the e-bow.  “Magic” from the soundtrack also sounds great.  I’ve always liked this song so a cover has to meet some tough standards.  “Xanadu” is another great version–JH nails this soundtrack.

She hits some really wonderful high notes on “Have You Never Been Mellow?”  I’m still not sure if I’ve heard ONJ’s version.

“A Little More Love” adds some of Juliana’s crunchy guitar to the verses, but the chorus is pure ONJ.

I also had no idea she sang “Please Mr. Please,” which I remember from when I was a kid.  Who was listening to country stations in New Jersey back then?  Apparently much of ONJ’s pre-Grease career was in the country realm.

As I was going through this collection I discovered that ONJ sang a ton of versions of songs that I had no idea about.

Songs that she did a cover of which do not appear here:

  • God Only Knows
  • Jolene
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • If You Could Read My Mind
  • Angel of the Morning
  • Take Me Home Country Roads
  • Summertime Blues
  • Ring of Fire
  • He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother [!]
  • Don’t Cry for Me Argentina [!]

And that was all before she did Grease.

This collection mostly covers her records from Grease (1977) to Physical (1981), but there’s a couple of older songs too.

I had given up on her by Physical, but JH’s version of the title song has some nice chunky guitars and emphasizes the cool riff in the song–it’s much less discoey than the original.  There’s even a loud (but short) guitar solo and some cool noise at the end.  She also sounds a lot more like Juliana than Olivia on this one.

I didn’t know anything from Totally Hot, the album in which she dressed all in leather (like Sandy!).  I feel like “Totally Hot” is the least successful song here.  The lurching style is kind of clunky.  Although JH is clearly having fun by the end with the multitarcked vocals.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is not the Journey song.  It sounds so very ONJ to me (with the high vocal notes at the end of each line).  JH sounds a lot like ONJ on this one.

The biggest challenge has to have been “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”  It’s the only song from Grease that she tackles. JH sounds a little flat (not in notes, but in…power?) during the verses.  But the multi tracking on her voice makes the chorus sound wonderful.

“Dancin’ Round and Round” comes from that rockin’ Totally Hot album and JH covers it perfectly.  “Make a Move on Me” has some interesting guitar and synth sounds.

The “I Honestly Love You” reprise is more fun because of the extended noisy guitar at the end.

This is a really fun collection of songs, including many songs I had forgotten I liked.

  1. I Honestly Love You [various, depending on country of release, you know, like The Beatles]
  2. Suspended In Time [X]
  3. Have You Never Been Mellow [HYNBM]
  4. A Little More Love [TH]
  5. Magic [X]
  6. Physical [P]
  7. Totally Hot [TH]
  8. Don’t Stop Believin’ [DSB]
  9. Please Mr. Please [HYNBM]
  10. Hopelessly Devoted To You [G]
  11. Xanadu [X]
  12. Dancin’ ‘Round And ‘Round [TH]
  13. Make A Move On Me [P]

X = Xanadu ; HYNBM = Have Yo Never Been Mellow ; [TH] = Totally Hot ; [P] = Physical ; [DSB] = Don’t Stop Believin’ ; [G] = Grease

[READ: January 29, 2019] Is This Guy for Real?

I enjoyed Box Brown’s Andre the Giant book.  In fact I’m quite the fan of Box Brown’s work.  So you bet I was going to read Brown’s biography about the enigma who was Andy Kaufman.

I was old enough to be aware of Kaufman (from Taxi, mostly), and young enough to be interested in the wrestling aspect of what he was doing.  Even if I had no idea what was real during the whole thing.  Apparently no one else did either.  What’s interesting is that you probably couldn’t get away with these kinds of stunts now because of the pervasive media.

Andy Kaufman grew up as a pretty normal kid who liked Mighty Mouse, Elvis and wrestling.  He also liked to imitate all three.  The one unusual component of his arsenal of favorite things was Babatunde Olatunji a Nigerian drummer who played his high school.  Andy was transfixed by the drums and set his mind to playing them.  All of these would comprise his stand up act, (more…)

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