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Archive for the ‘Cat Stevens’ Category

6616 SOUNDTRACK: GLEN HANSARD-Tiny Desk Concert #225  (June 17, 2012).

glenWhat can I say about Glen Hansard that I haven’t said already—he’s a powerful singer and a great storyteller.  This is his second appearance on Tiny Desk (although his first solo) and his fourth or fifth concert on NPR.

With The Swell Season, they played for 34 minutes (a Tiny Desk Record).  And this Concert is no shortie either at nearly 22 minutes.

He’s playing songs from his solo album (on that same beat up guitar).   Although he is distinctly himself, without the band(s), he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens and sometimes like Van Morrison (and he looks like Gordon Lightfoot).

He sings rather quietly and then impressively loudly–powerful and passionate.  He is clearly into what he does.

“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is rocking folk song (he throws a coda of RESPECT at the end) in which he really belts out a few parts.  He’s got a delightful “La la la” middle section, and the overall melody is great.

“Bird of Sorrow” is  much more mellow song.  It builds through some verses and allows him to belt out a few lines near the end.

“Come Way to the Water” has him on a 4 string tenor guitar.  Although it is quite clearly a Glen Hansard song, the guitar is much more timid sounding compared to his voice.  And it really does give the song a very different (darker) feeling.  In fact when it’s over, he says, “that was kind of depressing wasn’t it?”

“Lucia” is a “song he hasn’t finished yet” but he’s going to play it because “it’s a little bit happier.”  Although the lyrics are “Lucia, you’re letting me down again / Lucia, your heart’s not in it babe…. And if your heart’s not in it, then your heart’s not in it, babe.”  Not exactly a happy song.  But very pretty.

“The Song of Good Hope” is slower with no big powerful singing, but it’s really heartfelt and intense.

And as always, he is unfailingly polite and thanks everyone for listening.

My friend Jonathan says that he will always try to see Hansard live, and it seems like I should be doing the same next time he comes around.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “At Home in the Past”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

As soon as I started reading this, I knew that Sarah would want to read it as well.  For although I have not, Sarah has read The Secret Garden, which is what Tessa Hadley is writing about here.

Tessa says that she didn’t own many books as a child–mostly she borrowed from the library.  But the ones she did own she read over and over and “some of them soaked in deep under my skin, composing my private mythology and shaping my mind.”

She says she had a Puffin paperback of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.  The cover picture of a dark-haired girl in a white coat standing among thorny bare rose bushes looks just like Mary Lennox is described in the book.

Although it was published in 1911, she felt no separation from the Edwardians.  She felt at home in the past and often preferred it to modernity, which seemed somehow inferior. (more…)

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rjSOUNDTRACK: YUSUF/CAT STEVENS-Tiny Desk Concert #411 December 9, 2014).

catAs this Tiny Desk Concert opens, Bob Boilen tells his story of being 17 years old and saving up money to buy a guitar so he could learn Cat Steven’s “Father and Son.”  He says he’s now old and has a son and the song still means a lot.  And that introduction makes the song even that more emotional when he plays it later.

It’s a shame that he is so known for the controversy about the fatwa back in the 1980s, but his conversion to Islam is pretty interesting: “In 1976, Cat Stevens almost drowned off the coast of Malibu. In his panic, he says, he shouted, “Oh, God! If you save me, I will work for you” — at which point he recalls a wave that came and carried him ashore. He converted to Islam, changed his name and left the pop world after one last album in 1978.”

He released his first non-spiritual album in decades in 20o6.  He released another one in 2014, which was a record of some originals mixed with standards and blues covers.  He plays two songs from this album here (which is a bit of a disappointment, as I could have easily listened to him play the entire Greatest Hits album).  But these two songs are quite nice.  “I was Raised in Babylon” is a bit dark, although his voice sounds great.  “Doors” was originally written for the musical Moonshadow.  It’s a delicate ballad.  And it also as a religious impact with the final line being “God made everything just right.”

In between these two he says he doesn’t know what to play next, but he has some kind of gadget that he scrolls through.  And he chooses “The First Cut is the Deepest.”  He comments maybe some people know I wrote this one, it wasn’t Rod Stewart.  I really like this song a lot.  It sounds different from the record because it’s just him and his guitar, but his voice is unmistakable. and he sounds great.  And if it makes him feel better, I’ve never even heard the Rod Stewart version.

He dedicates “Father and Son” to Bob and it’s just as beautiful as the original.  And yes, it should make you tear up, especially if you have a child.

After listening to this Tiny Desk I really wanted to see him play live.  I know that he is currently on tour and will actually be in Philly on this very night.  There are still tickets available, but since the cheapest seats cost nearly $200, I’ll be skipping this one.

[READ: April 4, 2016] The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, in which the zoo animals put on a play of Macbeth.  Well, the zoo is ready again for their next performance.  I enjoyed that the audience is aware of the previous play–the kids are even wondering why it’s another tale of woe instead of something happy.  Later when the lion (who was in Macbeth) comes out, someone addresses him as the character from that play.

What I thought was interesting about the way this play was done was that they made the story kid friendly.  I liked this and that it allowed me to share this story with my kids.  Rather than being lovers, Romeo and Juliet want to have a play date, and rather than killing themselves at the end, they wind up hibernating. (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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julySOUNDTRACK: CHADWICK STOKES-Tiny Desk Concert #432 (April 13, 2015).

chadI had recently been hearing about Chadwick Stokes on WXPN.  But I didn’t really know anything about him.  I just looked him up and found that he has been making music for almost twenty years, with the bands Dispatch and State Radio (under the name Chad Urmston) and now as a solo artist.  He apparently is a big time activist as well, and his accolades ring high.

The three songs he plays her are wonderful.  He has a great voice that reminds me in some ways of Cat Stevens (even though Stokes is from Boston and certainly rocks harder than the Cat).  Although he even mentions Stevens in the third song.

I love the way the first song, “Pine Needle Tea” starts out slowly (with Stokes on the guitar) and a delicate xylophone playing along.  Then half way through, both accompanists start playing floor toms–one with stuff on it to deaden the sound and one (Will’s) with no deadening to really pound away.

I love the faster parts in the second song “Horse Comanche” and also how in the slower parts both guys sing lovely high harmonies.  It makes me laugh that the fellow who plays the melodica solo stands almost ramrod still while waiting for his time.  (He is actually Stoke’s brother, Will).  I have grown to really enjoy the melodica lately.  I love how the end of the song has the repeated refrain with great harmonies and the melodica all playing together.

Chad jokes after the song that “Comanche” has a dropped D E string and he always forgets to retune it live (and his brother says he forgets to remind him to re tune it) so half way through the next song “it goes Wah.”

The final song is called “I Want You Like a Seatbelt” which gets a laugh.  It is a funny title but it proves to be a great simile.  I love the vocal melody of this song.  And when it really gets going it is infectious.  It’s just way too short.

I need to dig into his back catalog.  And here’s a link to this great Tiny Desk.

[READ: April 10, 2015] “Democracy in Batumi”

Sometimes an excerpt from a novel (Waiting for the Electricity) piques my interest. In this case, however, it really didn’t.

In this excerpt, Slims Achmed Makasvili is from Batumi on the Black Sea.  He is writing to Hillary Clinton (we’re not told why to her specifically).  He says that Batumi is not very well-known.  The local dictator is tearing down old buildings, but Slims wants Clinton to know that Batumi is a natural port for petroleum deliveries.  He says that there are great business opportunities available for America here. Then he asks if she knows the movie Jesus Christ Superstar.

The next letter (they are undated so it is unclear how far apart they were written) talks about how Clinton’s version of democracy and his are quite different.  The Batumi Center for Democracy has expanded and even has an air conditioning unit. (more…)

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oloveSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Jackson Park Express” (2014).

jpaThe final song on Mandatory Fun is a nearly 9 minute epic which is a parody of Cat Stevens’ style of music.  I would never have guessed that without having read this information online.  However, on listening to it more and more I can hear a lot of Cat Stevens-isms (piano lines and style of chord progressions, although definitely not in the singing style).  I also don’t know if the content is meant to be in reference to the Cat (well, a twisted version of the Cat, of course).

I typically love Al’s longer epic songs, but this one didn’t grab me at first.  Yet after a few listens, I’ve really come to appreciate the twisted humor going on here.   The song starts with some simple pretty acoustic guitars but quickly turns epic with swelling strings and backing vocalists.

The story is about two people on the Jackson Park Express bus in Chicago.  The entire relationship that unfolds is entirely in the narrator’s head.  He bases everything that happens upon the looks she gives him and implies everything through his own looks to her.  As with many Al songs, it starts not just mundanely, but actually sweetly.

I was riding to work on the
Jackson Park Express
Seemed like any other day
Then my whole world changed
In a way I never could have guessed
Cause she walked in
Took the seat right across the aisle
I knew we had a special connection
The second I saw her smile

Pretty nice, right?  And so we see the two communicate (in his mind) nonverbally

She smiled as if to say
“Hello, Haven’t seen you on this bus before”
I gave her a look that said
“Huh, Life is funny, you never know what’s in store
By the way, your hair is beautiful

Again, pretty sweet, until we get to the first wonderfully odd Al line (about her hair)

“I bet it smells like raisins”

And it just gets funnier as it goes on:

Then, she let out a long sigh
Which, I took to mean, “Uh”
“Mama, What is that deodorant you’re wearing?
It’s intoxicating
Why don’t we drive out to the country sometime?
And collect deer ticks in a zip-lock baggie”
I also really enjoyed this punchline:
I gave her a penetrating stare
Which could only mean
“You are my answer, my answer to everything
Which is why, I’ll probably do very poorly
On the written part of my driver’s test”

The song gets really dark and creepy, with (hilarious) lines like:

I gave her a look, that said
“I would make any sacrifice for your love–
Goat, chicken, whatever

And the far more creepy:

Whoa-o-Oh, “I’d like to rip you wide open
And french-kiss every single one of your internal organs
Oh, I’d like to remove all your skin, and wear your skin, over my own skin–
But not in a creepy way”

This is also Al’s most “sexual” song ever, with a line about french kissing (true, it is her organs, but whatever), and this hilarious dramatic pause:

Then, I glanced down, at her shirt, for a second
In a way that clearly implied–
“I like your boobs”

and this other hilarious dramatic pause:

I want you inside me…
oh, like a tapeworm”

But the romance was not to be.  She leaves the bus, despite his nonverbal pleading

Think of the beautiful children we could have someday
We could school them at home, Raise them up the right way
And protect them from the evils of the world
Like Trigonometry and Prime Numbers, oh no
Baby, please don’t go”

There is to be no romance on this bus line.

This is truly a love it or hate it song, but as with most of Al’s epic songs, the more I hear it, the more I love it.  And I can’t wait to see if he plays it live.

[READ: August 3, 2014] On Loving Women

This book is a collection of brief stories about women’s first crushes on other women.  I don’t know how the collection was compiled exactly, but it appears that various women told Obomsawin their stories and she made these fun little comic strip panels out of them.  (Helge Dascher translated them into English–she also did Pascal Girard’s book, that I posted about yesterday).

Each story is named (presumably) after the woman who related it to her.  And each one becomes a simple (but not overly simple) version of the attraction.

Mathilde is obsessed with horses and falls for girls with horse faces (the drawing that accompany this are funny because Mathilda is drawn like a kangaroo or something and the girls she likes are horses.  The ending of this one, about how she learns sign language was very touching.

Indeed, in all of the stories, the women have animal heads and human bodies (but not weird hybrid creatures, just cute cartoony creatures). (more…)

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tny 11.3.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: Once Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007).

onceSarah and I saw a preview for this film a long time ago and promptly forgot about it.  Then, she remembered it was called One or The One or something….  Luckily Netflix set us straight, and we rented Once.  We were amazed at how much we liked it.  It’s clearly a labor of love for the creators.  You can tell it didn’t cost a lot of money to make, but the performances are top notch.  What was particularly cool about the movie (aside from the music) was that it starts like a typical romance of boy meets girl: they play music together and he falls in love.  But it very quickly deviates from that path and turns into a much more complex storyline.  It’s not hard to follow, but it’s a lot more complex than you’d at first think.  But clearly the movie is a showcase for these songs.

We were also delighted that about a week after we watched the film. “Falling Slowly” won the Academy Award for Best Song.  That was nice synchronicity for us.

“Falling Slowly” is a beautiful song, as are just about all of the songs on this soundtrack.  Glen Hansard (the redhead in the Commitments, currently of The Frames–who I’ve not heard aside from this disc, but who I’m led to understand are quite good) has a great, strong, rough voice that sounds a bit like Cat Stevens mixed with some Van Morrison.  Marketa Irglova (about whom more in a moment) is a Czech singer with a really heavenly voice.  Together, their harmonies are really something.  His, rough and strong, hers soft and delicate.

One of the strongest songs on the disc, and in my opinion better than “Falling,” is “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”  The movie shows the band recording this song in full in the studio.  I was happy that the scene wasn’t one of those where the band screws up and they do take after take.  Rather, they play it through solidly and it sounds great. It really makes the song stand out in the movie.  And, there’s something about the way that Hansard screams the chorus as it builds to an impossible crescendo that is really breathtaking.

The rest of the disc features more songs from the movie (there’s a special version of the disc with extra tracks but we didn’t feel compelled to get it).  And the selection is fairly diverse within the strictures of his acoustic guitar and her piano.  She has a ballad of her own, and they do many duets.

As for Marketa Irglova, I didn’t know this until I just looked her up, but apparently, she was “discovered’ by Hansard when she was 13, and she toured the Czech Republic and Ireland with the Frames.  Evidently she and Hansard started dating sometime around the filming of the movie.  I’m not really prudish but there’s something about the 38 year old Hansard dating the 19 year old Irglova that’s a little creepy.  Nevertheless, the music they make together is pretty great.

[READ: November 6, 2008] “The Fat Man’s Race”

The author’s name sounded familiar so I thought I’d give this a read.  Then when I saw it was about a page and a half long, how could I refuse?

Recently I’ve read a number of stories that seemed like the weren’t finished.  I am happy to say that despite its length, this story was clearly done.  (more…)

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