Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘James Taylor’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMES TAYLOR-At Christmas (2006).

James Taylor is a folk icon with a smooth voice.  It seems like it would be perfect for a chill Christmas album.

Well, since I last heard Taylor (1976’s Greatest Hits album) he has gotten a little away from that folk sound (imagine that) and more into a kind of bland(er) adult-contemporary sound.  This album has hints of light jazz in it too.  And, worse yet, he tries to lighten some of it up with humor.  Gasp.

When we got this disc we were so disappointed that I don’t think it has been listened to since.  Well, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but it’s a pretty long slog through the holidays (and it was nominated for a Grammy, of course).  Almost any one of these songs is a fine addition to any Christmas mix, but too many will put everyone to sleep.

This was originally released in 2004 and distributed by Hallmark Cards, which really does tell you all you need to know.  This was resequenced and a couple new songs were added.

“Winter Wonderland” has all the jazz trappings–muted trumpet, brushes on drums and Taylor’s voice which isn’t quite as comforting as it used to be.

“Go Tell It On the Mountain” sees him modifying this song somewhat and turning it far away from the gospel tradition.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” has him scatting and be-bopping a little…which is not really his forte I hate to say.

“Jingle Bells” has him making it jazzy.  It’s a bit too much frankly.  Especially when it’s followed by

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” a duet with Natalie Cole, which really tells you everything you need to know about this disc–safe, safe choices.  The “joking” in this song was meant to be cute, but it comes off a little creepy.

After getting annoyed by the first half, I felt like the rest of the album worked pretty well.  He lays off the jazzyness and focuses on his voice.

“River” open with a pretty “Good King Wenceslaus,” on the acoustic guitar.  It switches to a fine version of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”  This is my favorite song on here and it was not included on the original Christmas release of 2004.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sticks in my head because he changes the words from “from now on” to “in a year our troubles will be out of sight.”  Why so specific?  And why every time?

“The Christmas Song” In this nice version, he sings “some holly and some mistletoe” like Paul McCartney does.  Interesting, as I don’t think he’s a vegetarian.

“Some Children See Him.”  This is a song I was unfamiliar with until a couple of years ago.  It’s quite sweet and suits him well.

“Who Comes This Night” I didn’t know this song at all.  But again the piano and bells suit his voice better than the jazzy songs.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a slow song, but man he slows it down even more.  And the disc ends with “Auld Lang Syne” which is surprisingly long and would be much better served without the “wailing” guitar solo.

Not every Christmas CD can be a winner.

[READ: June 16, 2017] Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

This is the third McSweeney’s book in a row (all read around the same time) that I really didn’t like.

It’s not surprising, as I tend to not like Diane Williams’ stories at all (looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever liked anything she’s written).  I only read this because McSweeney’s sent it to me.

The book jacket is just covered with hagiography about what great writer she is and how she upends convention and stuff like that.  But to me, these aren’t stories at all.  And most of them don’t even make sense as themselves.

Rather than saying much more, I’m just posting some stories in full, to show what I mean. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-Call the Office, London, ON (April 18, 2008).

Dave Bidini played some solo shows in 2007 but by 2008 he had cobbled together a band: Bidiniband.  The band includes Dave, Paul Linklater, on lead guitar, former Rheo Don Kerr on drums and Doug Friesen on bass.

I’m not sure when they started playing together, but this is the first live show at Rheostatics Live.  The set list hasn’t changed much since his solo shows, but the songs sound really different with the full band.

Some of Dave’s solo work is about telling real life stories of unsung people.  They

re usually really interesting the first one or two times you hear them, but they kind of lose their power after multiple listens.  So “Zeke Roberts” and “The Land is Wild” (except for the fantastic chorus) wear out their welcome a bit.  But again, it’s a nice change to hear them with the full band.

“Fat” is interesting to hear with other musicians.  The ending isn’t quite as wild as with the band but these guys chant the “everyone’s a robot” with great energy.  After the song Dave says “Good  night everybody” to much laughter.  For the next song he says, “This is basically the same song but with a more ironic joke.  The irony is not in the tuning or lack thereof.”

Someone says, “You guys and your new strings. I haven’t changed my strings in like two years.”  “I thought t would be cool, you know, on a new tour.”

“This Song Ain’t Any Good” has a very different delivery than the folksier style that I’m used to.  He asks the band, “You want to do it sad, what did you mean?” They do the chorus in a kind of repeated downbeat “singalong.”

Thanks to Andy and The Two Minute Miracles for playing tonight.  We’re gonna do another song based in our country: “The Moncton Hellraisers.”  It has a rather country flair to it.

Someone shouts, “Do a hockey song.”  Dave says, “I think you’re out of luck tonight  Oh, no there’s a longer one later tonight….we’re making you wait for it.”

I love the jazzy opening of “Memorial Day.”  But even better is the full band rock of “Terrorize Me Now.”  Who ever in the band is screaming “And then we killed again,” is totally intense.

Dave asks, “Could anyone deliver a water to the stage, or I could put my guitar down…  From off stage: “only whiskey and cold coffee!”  “cold cuts?”

This next song is gonna feature Dog Paul’s on double bass for a song about cannibalism and Canadian rock.  “Desert Island Poem” features the line   “Rheostatics eat their drummer who would cook and season the body?”

Dave once described the song: “Yeah, and that’s sort of a true story in a way. I mean not the cannibalism part. But one time the Rheos were stranded in Drumheller [Alberta] and we were listening to the radio and we heard this story about that plane that crashed in Alaska. And we began to wonder what would happen to us if we never got out of Drumheller.”

For “The List”, the replaced Zack Warner with Sass Jordan (a Canadian singer) which features the line “you say I suck but it’s that suckdom of which I’m proud.”  Some one shouts, “that’s a fucking song that needed to be written.”  Dave says he has one more verse but he can’t remember who its about.

“The Continuing Story of Canadiana and Canadiandy” has a cool slide guitar solo in the middle of the folk.  Dave, “That’s from back in the day where all the Canadian folk singers looked like Jesus.  Those nice sweaters on, a nice beard.”  Mitsou?  “When I think of Canadian folk I think of Mitsou too, ironically.”

Someone in the band proposes the “Top five Canadian folk albums: Summer Side of Life, Old Dan’s Records,”  Dave notes: “That’s two from Gordon Lightfoot are you allowed to pick two from the same artist?” “And The Way I Feel.” Dave: “You’re just doing Gordon Lightfoot.”  “That’s what I’m trying to say, dude. “I’m getting your drift that you like the Gord.”  “Gordon never looked like Jesus did.” “No, he looked more like Bruno Gerussi.”

“Is everybody ready for a long death ballad?  You look like the kind of crowd who would like a long death ballad.”  Someone in the crowd shouts: “kill us, kill us Dave.”

We haven’t performed this song successfully ever life.  “Zeke” sounds better with the guitar sliding up and down and in the middle when there’s a few complex moments  and the band really takes off.  But there’s all kinds of flubs at the end.  Dave says, “you’re too kind.  That was the best first half we’ve done for sure.”

They play “My First Rock Show” at a slower pace.  “A bit of banjo for this, Paul?”  After the swan dive, there’s some crazy feedback and effects manipulation and then Dave starts singing “Happy Jack.”

They finish “Rock Show” and then begin with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and then Slade’s “Run Run Away.” (did that song have a chorus?).  And then it shifts to Bidini’s “Pornography.”

“Rock Intro?  Is it a rock intro nigh?” “Progtro.”  Someone says something about YouTube.  Dave says “Whats YouTube. They’re an Irish rock band, right?”  There’s great noisy opening to “The Land is Wild.”  It quiets down but sounds great with the full band.  I like the lead guitar line that runs through the song.  During the slow part, the person who mentioned Gordon Lightfoot sings “Ode to Big Blue” as the song gets bigger and noisier.

It segues into a really fast version of Rheostatics’ “Earth.”  Its rocks.  “Don Kerr on the drums everybody.”  And then a romping “Horses.”  Midway through the song he starts reciting the lines to “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and then some of “Another Brick in the Wall. Pt 2.”  He also throws n the “facts” portion of Talking Heads’ “Cross-eyed and Painless.”

This all segues into a stomping, guitar-light version of “Life During Wartime.”  Dave starts singing lines from “One Thing Leads to Another” (“one gun leads to another”), “Relax Don’t Do It”  then “When Two Tribes go to war, war is something you can’t ignore.”

As the song ends Dave thanks everyone for coming: “a small but mighty crowd for a small but mighty band.”  Then he introduces the band: Douglas Friesen from Manitoba, Paul Linklater from Manitoba, Dave born and raised in Etobicoke, Ontario.  Donald S. Kerr from Mississauga, Ontario.

As they finish, the crowd is screaming screaming for an encore with one guy even telling him not to put their instruments down.  But there is no encore.

[READ: April 15, 2017] Writing Gordon Lightfoot

The title of this book is unusual–it’s hard to even figure out what it means (until you read the book), but it’s also deceptive.

The title means writing to Gordon Lightfoot.  Bidini is basically writing Lightfoot a series of letters. But it is far more than that.  In fact the scope of the book is really the Mariposa musical festival that took place in Toronto in 1972.  Lightfoot appeared (along with many other folk luminaries).  Interspersed with his documentation oft he festival (he was too young to go so it’s all research) are his letters to Lightfoot.

The reason he is writing letters to Lightfoot in a book is because Bidini believes that Lightfoot won’t speak to him.

His band Rheostatics, recorded a cover of his “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  It was one of their big songs when they were first starting out.  And then, as a brash young kid, Bidini once said that it was actually based on an old Irish melody and that it really wasn’t Lightfoot’s song anyway.  Yipes.

So, assuming that Lightfoot will never talk to him (I wonder if he actually tried), he decides to write letters.  But the letters aren’t “hi how are you” letters, they are a biography of Lightfoot’s life as written by a fellow musician.  He bases most of his notes on things that were in other biographies and he says he makes a lot of it up too.

So it’s an unusual book in many ways. (more…)

Read Full Post »

daiper2SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Even Worse (1988).

evenAfter the slump of Polka Party, Al took a little time off and then released Even Worse.  It features his second Michael Jackson parody and this one was destined to be huge!  The song and especially the video for “Fat” was amazing–a big budget extravaganza that really captured the original (amazingly).  The jokes are awful throughout the song (every fat cliche ever) but there’s something about singing them in a Michael Jackson style that is really funny).

“Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White” is an 80’s metal type song about nightmares   It’s pretty funny and it actually rocks pretty hard–and might fool those who don’t really listen to  the lyrics.  “This Song is Just Six Words Long” is a genius parody of the dreadful George Harrison song “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” which really is just six words long.

“You Make Me” is a funny, weird song about the kinds of crazy things that being in love makes you do.  The song is frenetic with crazy sound effects.  Wikipedia says it is a style parody of Oingo Boingo which I never would have guessed, but I can certainly see it in retrospect.

“I Think I’m a Clone Now” is a pretty fun parody of that ubiquitous Tiffany song.  “Lasagna” is a parody of La Bamba and it starts with a very proper-sounding Italian accordion Italian solo.  The song turns into a preposterous over the top Eye-talian accented song about food.  “Melanie” is a song to a girl who won’t go out with him.  Perhaps because he is a stalker (and a weirdo!).  “Alimony” is a parody of “Mony Mony,” a song I particularly dislike, but I like Al’s parody which doesn’t exactly duplicate the sound of the original.

“Velvet Elvis” is in the style of The Police and you can certainly tell, but it doesn’t hit you over the head.  And yet when you hear all of the musical details, you realize just how genius the song is.  And I find that the more I listen to it the better it sounds. And the more you know The Police, the more you should be impressed by the musicianship of Al’s band.  “Twister” is a style parody of The Beastie Boys. It’s basically a commercial for the game and it works well in the style.  It wouldn’t work if it was longer than a minute, but for what it is, it works very well (and is funny to imagine the Beastie Boys doing it (especially circa 1987).  “Good Old Days” ends the disc as a sweet James Taylor-esque ballad about how things were so good way back when.  Of course it’s written from the point of view of a serial killer, so there is that.

This album showed Al really improving his musicianship and the quality of his parodies.  And more importantly, his originals (and the style parodies  were really taking off.  Al looked like he was on a major roll.  And then he made UHF.

[READ: March 13, 2013] Super Diaper Baby 2

As this sequel opens we see that professor Krupp was not amused by George and Harold’s first Super Diaper Baby comic book.  And he demands to know why all they can write about is poo.  Their answer, logically: what else is there?  But they take the Principal’s words to heart and decide to write about something else for the sequel.

And it has some surprisingly sensitive ideas in it.  As the proper story opens, we see Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog come to the rescue in a number of situations.  But they realize that Billy’s dad is feeling a little bummed because the people came to him for help first but the superheros took over.  It’s not easy being the father of  superhero.  They’re not sure what they can to help Billy’s dad.

Meanwhile, Dr Dilbert Dinkle, a mad scientist, has created the Liquidator 2000.  It will change anything into water.  And he demonstrates on the wall of a bank.  He explains the machine to his evil cat, Petey, who is bored by the doctor and does nothing but mock him.  (He is quiet evil).  Petey says it’s boring being the lookout for him.  But Dr Dinkle replies that that’s a Y.P. not an M.P (your problem not my problem).  Petey is not amused by this and continues to mock the Doctor’s breath.  Then he accidentally leans on the lever and turns the doctor into a puddle of water. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_12_17_12Sorel.inddSOUNDTRACK: JONI MITCHELL-“The River” (2002).

joniMuch like Zadie Smith in the article, I was never much of a Joni Mitchell fan.  We may be one of the only houses in America without a copy of Blue somewhere.  Much of my ignorance about her comes from simply not being exposed to her.  Which also seems absurd and yet it is true.

I know her from covers, which should establish her as a great songwriter, if nothing else.  And by now I know a number of her songs, like this one.  This is kind of a Christmas song (it has the word Christmas in it), although it’s not very Christmassy.  I have a hard time believing that Zadie Smith’s husband never noticed that she is quoting the music from Jingle Bells in the beginning of the song though, as it’s really quite obvious.

It’s a  pretty song, and hey maybe it’s time to see what else is on Blue.

[READ: December 20, 2012] “Some Notes on Attunement”

I love hearing about Zadie Smith’s family–her hip black mother and her dorky white father.  I love that she embraces both sides of her life.  And when she writes about it, she presents it so fully.  So growing up her parents listened to Burning Spear and Chaka Khan and Duke Ellington and James Taylor and Bob Dylan and yet somehow never Joni Mitchell.  And she wonders how they didn’t know or perhaps why they didn’t like her.  [My parents were to old for folk music, so that’s my excuse].

She talks about the first time she heard Joni, at a college party (it was Blue, of course) and frowned at it.  Her friends, both black and white said, “You don’t like Joni?”  But, she explains, “Aged twenty, I listened to Joni Mitchell–a singer whom millions enjoy, who does not, after all, make an especially unusual or esoteric sound–and found he incomprehensible.”

And then at 33 she had another experience–listening to Joni Mitchell in a car with her husband on the way to Wales.  Which is where we hear her saying “And that bit’s just Jingle Bells.”  She says she didn’t expect to get much out of that line “and was surprised to see my husband smile, and pause for a moment to listen intently: “Actually that but is Jingle Bells–I never noticed that before.  It’s a song about winter…makes sense.”  Wait, how could he not hear that before??? (more…)

Read Full Post »