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Archive for the ‘Elvis Presley’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ORVILLE PECK-NonCOMM (May 16, 2019).

I have been intrigued by Orville Peck what with his masked face and all.  But then I heard this set and was disappointed.

What was even more disappointing was this blurb

Yeehaw is having a moment … country’s future has never seemed brighter.

My only hope is that the moment is brief and goes away soon.

Toronto-based Country crooner, Orville Peck, treated NonCOMM attendees to a taste of that future.

It’s interesting when you read a review of something and you wonder if you are listening to the same thing.

With his bulletproof voice, punk-inspired playing, and masked face, Peck put on a rousing and fringe-filled set.

His “bulletproof” voice sounds like a preposterous Elvis impersonation for most of “Dead of Night.”  I’d heard this song on the radio, but his voice is even more insane here. I mean, if someone came out and started singing like that I’d be on the floor laughing, assuming we were both in on the joke.

Although reading this, I’m inclined to like him more:

His backing vocalist joined only for the line “see the boys as they walk on by,” perhaps to highlight the novelty of a country song being about a gay relationship.

And, yes, I do like that part of the torch song because his falsetto is much better than his Elvis.

Punk-inspired? Well, “Turn to Hate” has some fast guitars for sure, although it slows down in a way I don’t like by the end.

“Big Sky” just sounds so absurd to me, like he is trying so hard to hit those notes that it is comic.  Again I feel like I listened to a different song that the blurb:

The somber “Big Sky” started slow, and dripping with melancholy. By the time Peck reached the second verse, it exploded.

In this case, exploded means it got slightly louder.  Weird.

I do agree with the “thunderous stampede of ‘Buffalo Run’” which would have been great aside from the “head on by” croon.

The final song, “‘Take You Back’ was played like a straight-up country jam, complete with a whistled intro and outro.”

I obviosuly don’t like country music, but I do enjoy a good stomping track like this.  Once again, it would be so much better if he didn’t try to croon like Elvis.

I guess people like him for this voice, but I don’t and, even worse, I found his voice mixed too loud throughout the show–it always seemed to be louder than the music.

His masks are cool, though.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “European Wedding”

I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Klam, but I found this story to be a little offputting.

It’s the story of, yes, a wedding in Europe.  I enjoyed many of the details of it, but the characters all sucked.

Nobody wants to get married in France except for the bride’s mother who has family there.  Gynnie the bride doesn’t want to get married there.  No one in the groom’s family wants to even go to France.

The groom, Rich, is terrible. (It’s also odd that I recently read his 2017 novel Who is Rich about a man named Rich.  It’s not the same Rich, but it is weird to have recycled the name).

Anyhow, as the story opens Rich is having sex with Nora, a client of his.  He wanted to have a little makeout session as a kind of last fling before his wedding.  But as soon as he kissed her, Nora took it really far. As she stripped, he found himself revolted by her.  And as she was sitting on his face and he was gasping for breath, he was revolted by himself. (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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SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-Live at Massey Hall (July 10, 2014).

Baia Bulat is an adorable singer.  She plays autoharp and ukulele and seems incredibly upbeat.  She also has a soaring, delightful voice.

About Massey Hall she says, “It’s not a stadium or a club, it feels huge and intimate ta the same time.”

She opens with “Run” in which she plays the autoharp (and you can actually hear it amid the other instruments).

Next up is a new song “Five, Four” with Basia on guitar with a cool almost sinister bass line.

For “Wires,” she stays on guitar.  This song is almost aggressively upbeat and is much more upbeat.  It also has a fun middle section in which she sings an Ooooh melody  (like a solo) into a microphone with a distortion that makes it sound a bit like a kazoo. Its super catchy.  She even takes that microphone and walks around, ultimately hopping of the stage and sitting in the front row (and the guy next to her of course pulls out his phone) to continue with the oohs.

“Tall Tall Shadow” is a slow moodier song with a great big chorus. They leave the stage and come back (I’m surprised they left in the whole encore scene).

When they comeback she says, “We’re on a curfew so we’re going to try to not get in trouble.”  For an encore it’s her and two other women.  One is playing a small 8-string ukulele as they sing “Before I Knew.”

When it’s over she asks, Am I allowed to sneak one more in?  Try not to get kicked out of Massey Hall!  She gets out the ukulele and plays that wonderful melody of “It Can’t Be You.”  Then she walks away from the mic and sings her heart out.  You can’t always hear her that clearly, but you can hear her hitting the soaring notes.

It’s funny that she worries about curfew and then sings a rather long song.

But it’s a great collection of songs and a beautiful set.

[READ: March 15, 2018] Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

I really enjoyed Kristin Cronn-Mills’ book Ugly Fake which was kind of novel/graphic novel hybrid.  This is one of her earlier stories and it is all novel.  It is about music and teen angst and high school.

And it’s about a girl named Elizabeth who is in fact a boy and wants to be known as Gabe.  He has recently revealed this to his parents and his best friend, Paige.  Paige has been nothing but supportive.  His parents are a little more mixed about it.  And of course he hasn’t told anyone at school.  But since he dresses gender-neutral he has always been made fun of a school–where they know that he is Elizabeth.  He is somewhat surprised that the boys make fun of him more than the girls–calling him he-she-it.  Undoubtedly they are threatened by his looks.

But he is a senior, and school is almost over.  He can certainly cope until it’s time to move away to the city.

In the mean time, he has a DJ gig that is the best thing ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Vegas 96 (2007).

This show was recorded at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 6, 1996.  The set also includes a DVD.

The show has a great amount of classic songs, a few big rarities, some cool covers and a whole lot of surprises.

Wilson has a really rocking beginning (everyone is going nuts during the can you still have any fun) until just before the “blap boom” part when it slows to a halt with about 20 seconds of squalling feedback.  Then they launch into an excellent non-jamming version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”  It is followed by a fast romp through “Poor Heart”—one of the fastest I’ve heard.  It ends really noisily and then segues into a funky jam that’s mostly keyboard.  After 5 minutes it resolves into “2001,” which also ends noisily with scratchy guitars that segue into a very fast “Llama.”

This has been a simply rip-roaring show thus far.  And then they settle down for a 26-minute “You Enjoy Myself.”  The “Boy Man” section is very funky and the following jam stays funky with a lot of high-pitched bass soloing from Mike and a lot of percussion thrown in as well.  The song ends with a vocal jam but instead of doing weird sounds and screams, trey starts singing “doh doh doh donuts, I like donuts.”

I tend to think of “YEM” as set-enders (since that’s my experience with them), but this is still mid-set and they follow up with a synth and piano version of “Cars Trucks Buses” which seems like it’s going to morph into “Kung” but instead it becomes a loud, brash “Down with Disease.”  The set ends with a rocking “Frankenstein.”  I tend to thing they play this and “YEM” a lot because they seem to be on a ton of official live recordings.

Set 2 opens with a funky “Julius” (a song I always assume is a cover but which isn’t), and a nice version of “Sparkle” (with a super fast “laughing laughing” section at the end).  “Mike’s Song” runs about 10 minutes with a really noisy middle section and then segues into “Simple.”  There’s a lengthy piano section that turns into a rocking jam that goes on for quite a while (the whole song is over 18 minutes).  It winds down eventually and returns to a lot of piano.  It is followed by a noisy and raucous “Harry Hood” that feel really raw.  The song is 15 minutes and there’s a long solo before the “you can feel good” part.

Then comes a big, 11 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”  About midway through the jam the whole band stops dramatically and perfectly. They run through a bit again and stop perfectly again (except for an extra snare hit).  It’s amazing how tight they are.  The end grows very quiet as the band prepares for a quiet a capella “Sweet Adeline” (it’s so quiet all you hear is the crowd shushing everyone–this is the major downside to them doing these barbershop songs).  They come out of that with a set-ending, totally rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” with Fish singing the “I know what it means to be alone” part.

The encore proves to be about 35 minutes long.  There are lots of guests and surprises.  And the band walks through a version of the “Harpua” story.  Ler and Les from Primus come out to start the song.  The chorus is done in half time—which is rather unsettling.  The story leads to Les singing Don Bowman’s “Wildwood Weed.”  I had assumed he made up but he obviously didn’t.  Then it’s back to “Harpua.”   In this version of the story, Jimmy walks to Vegas with his cat Poster Nutbag (Trey tells everyone to put all their money on 17).  As they get “closer to Vegas” they hear voices singing “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (a song by Patsy Montana).  It is sung by the Yodeling Cowgirls.  (There’s some “Happy Trails” in there as well).  Then there’s more of the “Harpua” story and as they approach Las Vegas they see Four Elvises.  Which leads to a singoff of “Suspicious Minds.”  This contest was between four Elvis impersonators with Fish joining in at the end.  Unmentioned (as far as I can tell) are John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on backing vocals) and actor Courtney Gains (on percussion). And then everyone launches into a wild “Suzy Greenberg” including the Elvises.  During the jam at the end, one of the Elvises turns the song into “Susie Q.”

This is one of my favorite shows.  The inclusion of the Primus guys and the crazy version of “Harpua” is just spectacular.  And by the end, everyone is having a great time.

[READ: April 1, 2017] “Las Gaviotas”

I enjoyed the way this story seemed really unsettled, just like its protagonist.

Finley is a in a relationship with Neil.  But she is currently hanging out at Brace’s apartment.  Brace is Neil’s old roommate.  Neil is in the other room with Brace’s girlfriend Alice.  They are all pretty drunk.

Brace is everything that Neil is not: he is big–not fat, just big–with a voice and presence to match.  And while Finley loves Neil–she keeps telling us that–there’s something about Brace (that name!) that she is drawn to.  She also hates Brace’s girlfriend Alice who has “otherworldly beauty.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-The Beat Goes On (1968).

I thought the first Vanilla Fudge album was odd–covers of contemporary songs done slowly and with little resemblance to the originals.

Well, this second album was downright bizarre.

It  doesn’t really have any “songs.”  Rather, it’s more of a collage–a history of recorded sound as interpreted by the Vanilla Fudge.  There’s a few snippets of classical pieces, some rocks songs, historical vocal recordings and final words from the guys in the band.  All sandwiched between snippets of them playing The Beat Goes On, the Sonny Bono song.

It’s a weird enough record on its own, but when you read just a little but about it, it gets even weirder.  According to the Wikipedia entry:

The group was at odds with producer George “Shadow” Morton during recording, as Morton made his own concept album without significant input from them. In the liner notes of Sundazed Records’ 1990 CD reissue, the band denounces it as a failed experiment on the producer’s part.     ….
In his autobiography Stick It!, Carmine Appice declares: “Even listening to it now – which, let me tell you, I rarely fucking do – The Beat Goes On sounds like an album that Spinal Tap would be wary of making.”

The album opens with an instrumental “sketch.”  It is primarily the Vanilla Fudge keyboard sound with some occasional piano and guitar sounds washing in and out.

After a recording of Thomas Edison reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb, a ponderous voice says PHASE ONE and they start with the first iteration of “The Beat Goes On.”

Then comes what is now probably the fourth surprise already.  The track is titles “Eighteenth Century: Variations on a Theme by Mozart: “Divertimento No. 13 In F Major”” and it’s 45 seconds of Mozart on harpsichord!  It’s followed by a 45 second version of “Old Black Joe” by Stephen Forster, this time sung quietly with acoustic guitar and bass.

That was meant to represent the nineteenth century.  The twentieth century has a bit more diversity with Cole Porter, Glenn Miller and Elvis.  There’s rags on piano with a trap drum.  “In the Mood” sounds like it’s in a roller rink and “Hound Dog” sounds really tinny and awful.  The music is played perfectly, but the quality of the recording is deliberately (I assume) poor.

The next section is called The Beatles, because they clearly didn’t record enough Beatles on their first album.  But this time they do it more like the originals, not like the Vanilla Fudge.  In less than two minutes, they run through excerpts from “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “She Loves You,” and “Hello Goodbye.”   Except that for the final track they sing “You say hello and I say goodbye…”  And they laugh into…

PHASE TWO.  This has another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by six minutes of Beethoven (if you;re keeping track, Beethoven was before the 20th century).  They play “Fur Elise” & “Moonlight Sonata” on keys with bass.  But it builds up with rocking drums and   build rocking with drums and keys and guitar.  It gets crazy fast and loud.

Then another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by another version of it (the original would have switched sides at this point.

PHASE THREE is called “Voices in Time” and it is literally 8 minutes of historical recordings by: Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.

Then on to PHASE FOUR which after one version of “The Beat Goes On” is talking sections with the band members.  They are labelled “Merchant/The Game is Over”

Vinnie on guitar says a few things concluding with “As life goes on, the beat goes on.”  Tim on bass does an “interview” in which he (or someone) asks him questions which he answers–about sex, politics and ice cream among other things.  He sounds pretty much  like an ass.

Carmine says “I play drums.  Listen to my drums if you wanna hear me talk.”  And finally after some Indian style music comes Mark the lead vocalist.  He uses his time to read a bit of the Bible, a passage about Moab.

The whole business ends with the longest yet version of “The Beat Goes On.”

The CD comes with a Bonus Phase.  There’s a cover of The Beatles’ “You Can;t Do That” and an original  These two songs are certainly the highlight, especially their original song “Come By Day, Come By Night.”  I love the bassline and choral voices.  This really points out what a waste it was not to record their own songs.

The sixties were a weird time.

[READ: July 22, 2017] Some Recollections of a Busy Life

The beginning of this book includes Dave Eggers’ essay that was in the New Yorker, July 20, 2015 issue.

Read about it here.

T.S. Hawkins was Dave Eggers’ great-great grandfather.  In 1913 Hawkins wrote Some Recollections of a Busy Life and printed 300 copies.  Now 102 years later, Eggers was able to use his press to get it reprinted,

What’s even more disconcerting is that we’re prepared for the book to be 102 years old, but it starts with Hawkins talking about what it was like seventy years ago.  So the beginning of this book is actually set in the 1840s and 50s.  He was born March 6, 1836 in Missouri about 12 miles from the Mississippi River. His grandfather had been from Virginia and then moved to Kentucky and then on to Missouri.

He is writing his recollection not believing that the general public would care about them but he hopes his children and grandchildren might be interested in the changes which have taken places over the years of their grandfather’s life.

He grew up West of the Mississippi with no railroads and no telegraphic or telephonic communication with the rest of the world.  News in the East took weeks to reach them.  Electrical lighting was a thing undreamed of.  They made their own soap with the ashes from their fires.  Their clothes were homemade. (more…)

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profSOUNDTRACK: THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-Christmas on Big Island (1995).

blue ha I was to get this disc used because I already knew one of their songs and I thought that a surfing Christmas album would be fun.

So I was pleased to add this to our collection.  But upon listening to it, I learned that while I enjoy surf guitar instrumentals, I do not enjoy the Hawaiian style of music popularized by Elvis.  This album features both of these types of songs.

The songs that I like include these instrumental surf guitar renditions: “Christmas Time is Here” (the Peanuts song); “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” (the guitar is a little too untamed for my liking in this version).  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a good instrumental, but there’s a very lengthy middle section that makes the song too long.  “We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)” is my favorite track on the album and the one that made me look into more from them.  It’s a great surf guitar rendition of “We Three Kings” with some excellent tribal drumming as a segue into a surf version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

The vocal songs are fine, they’re just not my style.  “Jingle Jangle” and “Blue Christmas” are just way too Elvis-y for my liking (we actually just watched some of Blue Hawaii so it’s in my head).  “Big Island” stars with Hawaiian style drums which I like, then it turns into a kind of blues song.  “Mele Kalikamak” is my favorite song with vocals, probably because of its nontraditional nature (to me).  It ends with about 20 seconds of waves breaking.

“Enchanted Xmas” ends the disc with some Western sounding guitars and some cool wordless backing vocals.  It gives the whole thing an eerier (or enchanted) feel.  Pretty cool.

So something of a mixed bag, but a great album to select tracks for a fun Christmas mix.

[READ: December 15, 2014] The Professor’s Daughter

From the team who brought us Sardine comes this very different kind of story.  Interestingly, in this book, it is Sfar who wrote it and Guibert who drew it.  And I have to say I like it a lot more than the Sardine books (both in content and drawing style).

The story is quite unexpected.  As it opens, a young lady (in Victorian times) is seen stepping out with, well, with a mummy.  It turns out that he is Imhotep IV and she has taken him from his holding spot and is going about town with him.  (And no, it isn’t all a dream.  At least I don’t think it is).

They go out for tea (which makes him tipsy).  He causes all manner of mayhem, including offending someone who slaps his face and challenges him to a duel.  Later when the police come, the professor’s daughter takes matters into her own hands (which only makes the situation worse!).  A man is killed and the mummy is the suspect (which leads to a few very funny scenes). (more…)

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one moreSOUNDTRACK: OLD NAVY HOLIDAY HITS (2003).

oldIt seems that every year stores release their own Christmas mixes.  I feel like Old Navy was one of the first stores to do so (especially in their weird retro style).  What is surprising is just how much I enjoy this compilation.  It has a great mix of traditional and unusual.  There’s some cool remixes, there’s some unexpected “space-age” tracks and it’s just boppy and light and fun.  Until the end where they go for an unusual (although it somehow makes sense for Old navy) but unenjoyable song to end it with.

PEGGY LEE-“Winter Wonderland” A great, slightly space age version of this song.
ANDY WILLIAMS-“Sleigh Ride” I do love an Andy Williams Christmas song—earnest and clean and lots of fun.
HOLLY COLE-“Christmas Is” I don’t know this song that well.  It’s a fun, different Christmas song, done on a jaunty piano.
ELLA FITZGERALD-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” I love Ella, and I love the horn blasts as the song opens and closes.
PATTI PAGE-“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” I don’t love this version, which is surprising as I love this era, but I think I don’t like her voice that much.
CAPITAL STUDIO ORCHESTRA-“Cha Cha All the Way” one of my favorite swinging weird holiday songs.
THE PENGUINS-“Jingle Jangle” has a fun “native” beat to it. It’ sa n odd song and I don’t love the singer’s voice, but the music is fun.
RAMSEY LEWIS-“The Twelve Days of Christmas” a piano instrumental that sounds nothing like the song…fun though and appropriately Christmassey somehow.
DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES-“The Land of Make Believe” I didn’t even realize this was Diana Ross—the production is so low key. And the shuffle beat and strings seems very much unlike the Supremes to me. It fits in well with these songs.
DUKE ELLINGTON-“Jingle Bells (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)” I love this remix a lot, it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs.
JACK JONES-“Mistletoe and Holly” another retro-seeming, very clean-sounding song. It’s kind of mockable but fun at the same time—like the best Christmas stuff.
MARVIN GAYE AND TAMMI TERRELL-“Two Can Have a Party” I really don’t like this song in general and it doesn’t feel holiday enough for this disc.  But it’s a harmless end to an otherwise fun collection of Christmas songs.

[READ: December 1, 2014] One More Thing

I really enjoyed Novak’s short piece “The Man Who Invented the Calendar” in the New Yorker (which is included in here). So I was pretty excited to read this collection of his “stories.”

There’s over 60 stories in this book. Many of them are really short (some are just a few lines).  And typically the shorter the pieces the funnier they tend to be (the super short ones are pretty much a perfect set up for a punchline).  But interestingly, there are several really long pieces (some over 10 pages) and these are more thoughtful and, while kinda funny, not meant to be laugh out loud funny.  It’s an interesting mix.  It’s especially interesting because at the end of the book, he has a piece called “Discussion Questions” in which he asks:

Did you flip through the book and read the shortest stories first?   The author does that, too.

If you do that, you will laugh a lot at the beginning and then have precious few laughs at the end, so don’t do that! (more…)

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