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Archive for the ‘Leonard Cohen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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endofloveSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-LEONARD COHEN: Songs of Leonard Cohen (2010).

leonardcohenI won’t say anything because no one ever listens to me anyway. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.

-Neil from The Young Ones.

This second recording from Beck’s Record Club is, indeed, a Leonard Cohen record.  I like Cohen and have a bunch of his stuff.  Although he’s never been a huge favorite, I find his songwriting to be top notch.  And, since his arrangements are usually pretty sparse, it’s easy to cover his songs in a myriad of ways, which these artists certainly do.

But just to catch you up to speed about this whole Record club business:

According to the Beck/Record Club website:

Record Club is an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. A track is put up here once a week. As you will hear, some of the songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering. There is no intention to ‘add to’ the original work or attempt to recreate the power of the original recording. Only to play music and document what happens. And those who aren’t familiar with the albums in question will hopefully look for the songs in their definitive versions.

Introducing this second recording, Beck explains:

This time around the group includes Devendra Banhart, Ben, Andrew and Will from MGMT, Andrew from Wolfmother, Binki from Little Joy, and Brian and Bram returning from the first Record Club.  ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen’ by Leonard Cohen was chosen by Andrew from MGMT. For those interested, our close second choice was Ace Of Base, which we’ll keep on the list for next time.

So, here we have Cohen’s debut.  I own it and am familiar with about half of the songs, but I didn’t want to listen to it before hearing their covers.  And so, the track listing and comments:

Suzanne (4:54)–A classic song, here given respectful treatment.  And yet they’re not afraid to play around with it, so they give it a dance beat and group vocals, all of which sound great.
Master Song (6:37).  I don’t know this song, and I don’t recognize it from this cover which is perhaps the greatest twist of a Leonard Cohen song ever. They sample Metallica’s “Master!” every time they sing the chorus.  The song is done as a rap with the voices pitched differently in every verse, there’s also a great funky bass throughout.  I assume the lyrics are the original, but I’m not sure.  The only problem with it is that it goes on for way too long.  But otherwise this is what record Club is about–having fun experimenting with songs.
Winter Lady (2:46). This is done as a pretty folk song, the way Leonard intended.
Stranger Song (5:26). This song is also dancey (with MGMT, that makes sense).  It has big drums and cool harmonies.
Sisters Of Mercy (4:36).  This is also pretty, done on an acoustic guitar with multiple singers taking turns.
So Long, Marianne (6:54).  This is also pretty faithful (of another classic).  There’s a group chorus which again sounds great.  The one difference is buzzy guitar solo.
Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (4:27).  This has a cheap Casio vibe, yet it still sounds good.  Beck sings and the whole things is quite nice.
Stories Of The Street (5:06).  The songs starts with a simple bass and xylophone, but it gradually builds into a full band song which sounds great.
Teachers (4:04).  This is an insane punk version of the song.  It is super fast with a crazy guitar section and shouted vocals.  It shows just how adaptable Cohen’s music is
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (5:42).  This is a pretty, slow version of this song with keyboards as the main instrument.  It’s a very nice song until it nears then end when the singer just starts screaming and going nutty  Which is okay, but that goes on for too long at the end.

So overall, this is a very enjoyable collection of covers.  The faithful ones sound wonderful and the silly songs are, yes, silly, but they are not just tossed off (except maybe Master Song.  This must have been a lot of fun to record.

[READ: March 14, 2014] The End of Love

The End of Love is four long short stories.  Each one is about the end of a relationship.  Even though I enjoyed all four stories quite a lot, the book was a lot slower to read than I would have anticipated from its scant 163 pages.  And surprisingly, the stories weren’t sad or mopey–rather, they looked at the relationships via a slightly distant narrator who was engaged and engaging.

I have been reading a lot of Latin American writers, but this book, which was written in Spanish and translated by Katherine Silver, was written by a Spanish writer.  So that’s a little bit different in feel.

“We Were Surrounded By Palm Trees”
This story is not set in Spain. It is set on an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.  It is about a man and his girlfriend, named Marta.  They have gone to this remote island for some secluded time alone.  But it turns out that they have to share the small boat (and therefore the small island) with another couple.  Christine and Paul are a German couple who are not outgoing and friendly as the narrator fears (he doesn’t want to spent his romantic vacation with those two), but are cordial and looking to share some of the troubles of their vacation.  One such trouble is meeting with the village elder and the chief, which Paul offers to do.

The details of the island were a little unclear to me.  I think that is somewhat intentional, but there is some confusion about the nature of the power structure on the island and what exactly people get up to there.  So when Christine goes missing, Marta is instantly concerned.  And then when Paul and Christine don’t turn up for dinner, they decide to go and find them.  Christie and Paul are involved in something that I found a bit confusing, but which involved elders of the island.

As the story draws to a close and there is yet more confusion as to where the Germans are, Marta and the narrators are at odds with each other about what to do.  And the strain begins to form between them.   Even though the details of what happened with Paul and Christine are vague, the details of Marta and the narrator are very powerful and really tell the story.  It was wonderful. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_07_01_13Brunetti.inddSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER–Live at Newport Folk Festival (2013).

palmernewAmanda Palmer has been in the news a lot lately, although more for her actions than for her music.  First she crowdsourced for her album (earning praise and vilification), she gave a TED talk about the experience and recently made the British tabloids because her nipple popped out at the Glastonbury Festival.  (Of course, unlike another famous incident like that. Palmer handled it wonderfully, criticizing not only the Daily Mail but also the entire media industry for caring so much about (female) nudity).  I’ve gained a lot of respect for Palmer in the last year or so and yet I (still) didn’t know all that much about her music.

So there she is at the Newport Folk Festival.  I don’t really know what her “normal” music sounds like, but nearly this whole set was performed on a ukulele (as befits a folk festival).  She plays a few songs on piano and also has some surprise guests–her dad (duetting on Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot be Wrong” and Neil Gaiman (her husband) coming out to sing the very disturbing song “Psycho”).  She also did a Billy Bragg cover (which was actually a cover of a cover, but Bragg’s version is more well known) of “The World Turned Upside Down.”

The rest of the set included, as I said, mostly ukulele songs (with an occasional foray into piano).  Some highlights include “Map of Tasmania” (a very funny song based on Australian slang) and “Coin-Operated Boy” a Weill-ian song (which is very vulgar).  The rest of the songs are long(ish) meanderings about Palmer and her reactions to life.  Her songs are interesting in their story-telling sensibilities.   Like, “The Bed Song” and “In My Mind” and “Bigger on the Inside” (which is her response to things around her and a fan’s questions to her–it’s very long and rather samey, but lyrically it’s quite effective).   Her delivery is a bit over the top (in perfect theatricality that some will hate).  Her melodies are quite nice (although it must be admitted the piano based song “The Bed Song” has some of the prettiest music)–you can’t really do a lot with melody on the ukulele.

My favorite song is “Ukulele Anthem” a funny song about rocking the ukulele.  I think it speaks to Palmer’s strengths–stream of consciousness, funny and sardonic lyrics set to a simple melody.  It’s a fun song to listen to and see how it evolves.

So overall I enjoyed this set quite a lot.  Although interestingly I still don’t really know what her music normally sounds like.  I assume she doesn’t often play the ukulele, but who knows.  This was an interesting set and Palmer is proving to be a fascinating person.

NPR had this show online although I don’t see it anymore.

[READ: July 30, 2013] “Mastiff”

I read this story the day after I read “Stars,” and while I know there’s no connection between the two, this story also features a woman walking in the woods.  She is also something of a misanthropist (“Sometimes, in the midst of buoyant social occasions, something seemed to switch off.   She could feel a deadness seeping into her, a chilly indifference…and the coldness in her would respond, I don’t give a damn if I ever see any of you again).  And there is a big dog (never described like a wolf but it is about as a big).  That’s a bit too much coincidence for me.   In fact, JCO is so prolific I wouldn’t be surprised if she read McGuane’s story on Monday and wrote her response to it for the following issue.

This story begins with a man and a woman on a trail.  They see a huge mastiff pulling a youngish guy up the trail.  The woman is terrified of the beast (and is embarrassed to have shown that to her boyfriend), but she has a huge sense of relief when the dog and the young man take a different trail.

Her companion makes a joke about the woman’s unease.  They have been dating for a short period and she hated her role in their relationship (she also hated that she was petite which tended to keep her submissive, anyhow).  She resents his comments but says nothing.  They continue hiking.

The man loved to hike and he asked her on this hike as a special treat.  He had told her to pack accordingly but she didn’t listen—no backpack, no extra layer, not even a water bottle.  This seemed to upset him (and made him patronize her).   [We have a third person narrator who is mostly with the woman but occasionally seems to peek into the man’s head—I found this a little disconcerting].  After a few minutes when they reached a plateau (and she was ready to leave), he took out his camera and started taking pictures—more or less ignoring her.

While the man is taking pictures she muses about him and her bad relationships in the past.   She as popular among her fiends, but she was insecure especially around men.  After the dog incident, she had made a point of being friendly to other dog owners (there were a lot on the trail)—just to show him, you know, that she wasn’t afraid.  She also spoke to the strangers, although he wondered, “What’s the point of talking to people you’ll never see again.”

As happens in a story named “Mastiff.” they run into the dog again.  There’s a part earlier in the story where we learn that she was attacked unprovoked by a German Shepard.  Once again, we have an unprovoked dog attack–the mastiff charges at her growling and snarling [although the breed is not known for this].  But then the man jumps in to save her—absorbing much of the abuse himself.

And suddenly the story goes in another direction, with the woman accompanying the man to the hospital, going through his things to find his cards and suddenly feeling much closer to him than she felt that far—being rescued will do that.

There were some wonderful turns of phrase that I liked: “Naked and horizontal, the man seemed much larger than he did clothed and vertical.”  Although I had to take issue with this character owning an art gallery—that easiest of cliche professions—although it wasn’t really relevant to the story.  But aside from that, this was an enjoyable fast paced story.  It explored people’s darker moments and used the dog as a catalyst for human interactions.

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SOUNDTRACKART OF TIME ENSEMBLE WITH STEVEN PAGE-A Singer Must Die (2009).

According to their website, “Art of Time Ensemble is one of Canada’s most innovative and artistically accomplished music ensembles. Their mandate is to give classical music the contemporary relevance and context it needs to maintain a broader audience to survive.”

So what you get is a modern orchestra playing contemporary music.  It’s not a unique idea, but in this case, it works very effectively.  And what you also get is Steven Page, former singer of the Barenaked Ladies as the vocalist.  Page has an awesome voice.  I’ve often said I could listen to him sing anything.  And here’s a good example of him singing anything.

The great thing is that the song choices are unusual and wonderful–not immediate pop hits or classic standards–it’s a cool menagerie of songs with great lyrics and equally great compositions.  This is no heavy metal with strings, this is majestic songs with orchestral scoring.  The orchestra includes: piano, sax/clarinet, cello, violin, guitar and bass.

And the song choices are fascinating.  And with Page’s amazing theatrical voice, the songs sound quite different, mostly because the original singers don’t have powerful voices.  They all have interesting and distinctive voices, but not operatic ones.  So this brings a new aspect to these songs (I knew about half of them before hand).

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS-Lion’s Teeth.
This is a very dramatic reading of this dramatic song.  It pushes the boundaries of the original song.

ELVIS COSTELLO-I Want You.
I had never heard this Costello song.  With Costello you never know what the original will sound like–punk pop, orchestral, honky tonk?  It’s a fascinating song, though and Page hits some really striking and I would say uncomfortable notes.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-Foolish Love
I don’t know Rufus’ work very well, although I immediately recognized this as one of his songs.  Page plays with Wainwright’s wonderful theatrics and makes this song his own.

BARENAKED LADIES-Running Out of Ink
Covering one of his own songs, this is fascinating change.  The original is a fast, almost punky song, and it seems very upbeat.  This string version brings out the angst that the lyrics really talk about (Page is definitely a drama queen).

LEONARD COHEN-A Singer Must Die
This is one of the great self-pitying songs and the lyrics are tremendous.  Page takes Cohen’s usual gruff delivery and fills it with theater. It’s a great version.

JANE SIBERRY-The Taxi Ride
Coming from her early album The Speckless Sky, this is a wonderfully angsty song with the premise that is summarized: “it’s a long, long, lonely ride to find the perfect lover for your lover.”  Page hits one of the highest notes I’ve heard from him here.  Very dramatic.

THE DIVINE COMEDY-Tonight We Fly
This is one of my favorite Divine Comedy songs.  Of course it is already string filled, so this version isn’t very different.  But its wonderful to hear it in another context.

THE WEAKERTHANS-Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
I love this song.  This is a guitar filled pop punk song, so the strings add a new edge to it.

THE MAGNETIC FIELDS-For We Are the King of the Boudoir
I know the Magnetic Fields but not this song.  It’s quite clever and funny (as the Fields tend to be) and Page makes some very dramatic moments.

RADIOHEAD-Paranoid Android
I recently reviewed a covers album of OK Computer, wondering how someone could cover the record.  The same applies to this song.  A string orchestra is a good choice for it, as there is so much swirling and crescendo.  And while nothing could compare to the original (and they don’t try to duplicate it), this is an interetsing choice.  As is Page’s voice.  He has a much better voice than Thom Yorke, but that actually hinders the song somewhat when he gets a little too operatic in parts.  Nevertheless, it is an interetsing and enjoyable cover.

The whole record is full of over the top drama.   It’s perfectly suited for Page and it’s a side of him that has peeked out on various releases but which he really gets to show off here.  As an album, the compositions all work very well–they are, after all, trying to make classical pieces out of them–not just covering them.  And the choices of songs are really inspired.  Dramatic and interesting and when the music slows down, the lyrics lend to a wonderfully over the top performance.

If you like Page or orchestral rock, this is worth tracking down.

[READ: November 28, 2011] “Leaving Maverly”

For some reason I was under the impression that Alice Munro was no longer writing.  I’m glad that’s not true, and really, what else would she do with herself–she has so many more stories to tell.

I think of Munro’s stories as being straightforward, but this one was slightly convoluted and actually had two things going on at once.  It opens by discussing the old town of Maverly.  Like many towns it once had a movie theatre.  The protectionist and owner was a grumpy man who didn’t deal well with the public, and that’s why he hired a young girl to take the tickets and be the face of the theatre.  When she got in the family way, he was annoyed, but immediately set out to hire someone else.  Which he did.  The new girl, Leah, came from a very religious family.  She was permitted to work there under the stipulation that she never see or hear a movie or even know anything about them.  And that she get a ride home.  The owner balked at this second idea–he surely wasn’t going to drive her home.  So instead, he asked the local policeman Ray, to walk her home.  Which he agreed to do.

The next section of the story looks at Ray.  And although the story is ostensibly about Leah, we get a lot more history of Ray.   He was a night policeman only because his wife, Isabel, needed help at home during the day.  We learn about the scandalous way he met his wife and how they managed through the years until she became ill.

Ray talks with Leah on their walks home, something he found terribly awkward because of how cloistered she was.  Then he would get home and talk with Isabel about Leah. This young girl who meant nothing to him was suddenly a significant part of his life.

And then one day the theater owner came to report that Leah was missing.  They went to see her father at the mill, but she wasn’t there.  And there was really no other place where Leah went, so they were at a loss.  It was winter and they feared the worst. (more…)

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