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Archive for the ‘Stevie Wonder’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Someday at Christmas” (2004).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

“Someday at Christmas” is a cover of the Stevie Wonder song.  I don’t know the original, but this version is a delightful Christmas song, one which I’m really surprised isn’t in regular Christmas song rotation.

The song is simple and catchy.  After a little guitar jingle of “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” the songs moves fluidly along with some nice bass lines from Jess Ament.

The lyrics are really wonderful, too

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

After the first two verses the song moves up a note and there’s some nice wah wah guitars added in.  There’s no chorus, just a bunch of verses which plead for a peaceful Christmas time.

There’s a slightly downer note at the end, although the song remains ever optimistic and ends with the guitar line playing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, once again.”

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime.

Now that it’s out in the ether, lets mix it in with the standard radio songs, eh?

[READ: December 3, 2019] “Save-A-Lot”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is by Anthony Doerr.  I thought I had read a lot more by him, but apparently I’m mostly just familiar with his name.  Which is a shame because this story is really enjoyable, even if it starts very dark.

The story is broken into fifteen numbered sections.

I was amused that the first one started “On the one hand there’s Bunny.”  We learn about Bunny’s life–she fled Texas at 17 and earned a nursing degree and a job in Bangor, Maine.  She is beloved at Woodlands Assisted and is so energetic, she is nicknamed The Prius: small, sensible, an a million miles to the gallon.

Then, when Bunny turned 22, Mike Ramirez impregnated her and fled for Tampa.  She keeps hearing her mother’s drunken voice–you’re as dumb as box of hair, you’re not worth spit.

But the baby, whom she names Hanako after the oldest elephant in the world, is very smart.  And Bunny is resilient.  She is doing okay. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALLEN STONE-“Sleep” (Field Recordings, November 1, 2012).

I read this performer’s name as Alien Stone and was kind of excited.  Far more than when I realized his name was just Allen Stone.

This [Allen Stone: A Rollicking Moment, Performed On The Wind] is the final Field Recording set backstage at the Sasquatch Festival.

It amused me as the song started that they start singing “Danger Zone”  And the opening moment where:

“I feel like Zeus,” Allen Stone announces with a laugh as gusts of wind whip his long hair in dramatic fashion. With a mountainous vista behind him, he’s found himself in the kind of majestic rock ‘n’ roll moment that requires a callout to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

I was thinking that Stone sounded a bit like Stevie Wonder as he sang (which the blurb agrees with), but I also sensed a bit of Jamiroquai.

I thought the song was kind of dull, but maybe that’s because it is normally much bigger.

Usually, Stone performs his bluesy soul with the aid of a crack band, but here, we got the 25-year-old belter to perform his single “Sleep” — usually a big, rollicking rave-up — with just a guitarist (Trevor Larkin, performing unplugged) to supplement Stone’s voice. Channeling Stevie Wonder in all but appearance, Stone demonstrates here that his sound can withstand just about anything, even as it’s stripped down to its skeleton and performed on the wind.

I’ve not heard of him since this, so I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m not really that curious to find out.

[READ: January 11, 2017] “The Hanging of the Schoolmarm”

This is a short, simple story in which the title pretty much tells the whole thing.

But Coover has some fun as it gets there.

The story opens with the schoolmarm playing poker in the town saloon.  At stake is the saloon itself.  The men are awed by her refined and lofty character–they cuss a lot, but never around her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 12.7.97 Nutter Center, Dayton, OH (2007).

This concert included five covers out of a total of nineteen songs.

The show opens with a fairly slow “AC/DC Bag,” but there’s a seamless segue into an excellent cover of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer” (only the second time they’d played it).  There’s some spacey sounds in the jam which then segues nicely into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” a groovy blues.  The whole thing ends in a jaunty bluegrass “My Minds Got a Mind of Its Own.”

I have to admit at this point I’m pretty bummed by the setlist.  The songs are all good and the jams are fun, but if I were at this show I’d want to some actual Phish songs, you know?  I know a lot of people love the covers, but that’s not what I’m here for.

They rectify this with a fun “It’s Ice.”  There’s a lengthy piano solo and then the song segues into two deep cuts from Billy Breathes–a one minute “Swept Away” and then a one minute “Steep”–before closing “It’s Ice.”

Up next is a 10 minute “Theme from the Bottom” with a long solo and great harmonies at the end.  Then the band plays a great funky “Tube,” a non-album track with some great 70s sounding keyboards from Page.  After a pause (apparently the lights went out).  You can hear them chatting a bit and then they pick up a 6 minute instrumental called “Dayton Jam” that plays with the themes from “Tube.”

The set closes with a 12 minute “Slave to the Traffic Light.” There’s a great solo from Trey followed by a mellow section before coming to a good solid end.

Usually there’s a few really lengthy jams in the second set, but this upcoming set is full of mid-length songs.

It opens with a jam-filled 9 minute “Timber” and then a 7 minute “Wolfman’s Brother.”  This segues into yet another cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” before settling into a fast-paced 14 minute “Reba,” the longest song of the night.  The solos in the song remind me a bit of Frank Zappa.  It’s really amazing how tight they are during these jams.

Before they begin the next song, you can hear Trey ask, “Guyute?” and they play a 10 minute jam with a really fun middle section.  The show ends with a 12 minute “Possum.”  So while there are no really super long jams, there are a number of pretty long jams.

The Encore is a great loose version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”  I love how they handle the end.  The classic chord progression that ends the song is done sort of like that but more just fun noisy chaos.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Forbidden Stone

I really like Tony Abbott books. He has tackled many different stories and I’ve found that I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s written.  This series, The Copernicus Legacy is in the vein of The 39 Clues, although there are plenty of differences.  But as an outline, the premise is the same–some kids (and an adult) are trying to save the world from bad guys by collecting a bunch of things that cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Whereas The 39 Clues divides the family into 4 warring clans, this series seems to be basically good guys and bad guys.  The good guys are inspired by Copernicus.  This works out well because the main family loves astronomy.

So the main family is Wade Kaplan and his father Roald Kaplan.  Wade follows in his father’s footsteps and loves the stars and science. Roald is re-married to Sara (who is on a business trip as the book opens).  Sara has a son named Darrell.  Darrell is hip and cool and plays guitar.  He is also always hungry (a trait that Abbott loves to have in at least one character, although I haven’t seen it as being very important yet–and it seems to fade as the book goes on). I assume that Roald is not Darrell’s father as well, but I got a little lost in the family tree.  The crux is that Wade and Darrell are stepbrothers–and they get along really well.  The rest of the crew includes Wade’s cousin Lily and her friend Becca.  Lily is a techie girl who is able to wield a smart phone like a librarian.  And then there’s Becca  who is, interesting. Wade has had a crush on Becca (who is super smart and can speak several languages because her parents traveled so much) for a long time.

Okay, so there’s five people.  How does the excitement start? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHANCE THE RAPPER-Tiny Desk Concert #633 (July 5, 2017).

I first heard about Chance the Rapper from NPR–what Robin is talking about in the blurb below. I downloaded his free album and liked it enough.  But I didn’t think much about him beyond that.

So I was really surprised a year or sop ago to see him in a Kit Kat commercial and then to discover that he was apparently huge.  Like mega huge.  I know many people who have gone to see him with their kids, he’s that big.  I’m puzzled because his album Coloring Book is the one that came after the free one I downloaded.  How did he become famous?

Well, good for him.  He seems like a really nice guy.  He’s wonderfully calf and understated as he comes out.  He introduces everyone nicely, with special attention to the drummer, “my good friend, Stix.”

He says “I’m a big fan of the series.”  Bu then admits “I didn’t know it was actually actually in an office.”  How?  But he later mentions some performances that he likes, so maybe he just never thought about it.

The night before arriving for his Tiny Desk set, Chance performed for more than 23,000 people at Jiffy Lube Live, an outdoor theater in Bristow, VA. The sold out arena and amphitheater shows of his current tour offer a stark contrast to the first time I saw Chance in concert back in 2013. Then, he was a 19-year old upstart rapping and singing for a handful of people at a tiny club in Austin, Texas. A lot has changed since then, and quickly. Chance’s most recent mix tape, Coloring Book, was widely ranked among the best albums of 2016 (some called it a masterpiece) and featured collaborations with a cast of hip-hop luminaries, from Kanye West to Lil Wayne and T-Pain.

Maybe that’s how he got so famous.

He plays two songs.  The first is “Juke Jam.”  It’s got a cool 70s sound on the keys and some popping drums–I’m really taken with the drummer.  I didn’t notice until about half way through the song that the only instruments are the keys and a trumpet, which is pretty interesting.  Chance has an infectious smile as he raps/sings.

I didn’t love the song on first listen–it’s a little too smooth/r&b for me.  But on the second listen I rot to appreciate the words.  and how it’s kind of a sweet (but dirty) tribute to roller rinks.  I enjoyed this section:

All the kiddies stop skating
To see grown folks do, what grown folks do
When they grown and they dating

And the backing vocalists really bring it all home nicely.

Chance The Rapper knew he wanted to try a different approach for his Tiny Desk performance, so he decided to do something he said he hadn’t done in a long time. He wrote a poem. More specifically, he wrote a poem in the short time it took him to ride from his hotel in Washington, D.C. to the NPR Music offices. Calling it “The Other Side,” Chance debuted it in the middle of his remarkable set, reading from his notes written out in black marker on sheets of typing paper.

I really liked this poem.  It was real and it was funny.  He also didn’t read it in that awful coffee house style of reading that poets love these days.  And before starting, he says, “Forgive me, I haven’t written a poem in a long time.”

“I still have all the keys that are of no use to me,” he began. “They used to, though. On the other side was a mansion on a hill, complete with L.A. pools and fireplaces and a rim made specifically for people that lie about being six feet to dunk on.”

Chance didn’t get much further before he was interrupted by one of the hazards of performing in an actual, working office: a building-wide page for someone to call the mailroom. But Chance rolled with it, cracking a quick joke before starting over again.

After the announcement, he paused and said, it’s all right, I’ll start again.  Then he smiled and covered his mouth and said, “he’s like shut the fuck…no more poetry!”  He also tells everyone, “There’s humor in this poem so you can laugh at it. Unless it truly offends you.”

Chance’s poem “The Other Side” was sandwiched between an opening version of “Juke Jam” from Coloring Book and another special gift just for his Tiny Desk appearance, a moving cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1974 song “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

“They Won’t Go When I Go” (written by Stevie Wonder) is gorgeous.  He has Stevie’s vocal stylings down, but he makes them his own.  The music is really lovely-minimal and spot on.  And when the backing singers kick in, it  elevates his own singing even more.

I kind of thought he’d do more, but he really did a lot of interesting things in those 12 minutes.

As the credits roll, he says, “Give it up for Third Story.  Give it up for the Players of the Social Experiment and the beautiful Rach Jackson on vocals

Not sure which people are in which “group”. but here’s everyone: Chance The Rapper (vocals); Nico Segal (trumpet); Peter Wilkins (keys); Rachele Robinson (background vocals); Ben Lusher (background vocals); Elliot Skinner (background vocals); Richard Saunders (background vocals); Greg Landfair Jr., aka “Stix” (drums)

[READ: May 1, 2017] “My First Car”

I just don’t see the appeal of Joy Williams’ stories. This one absolutely feels like it is an excerpt and yet I am fairly certain it isn’t.  It also feels like a couple of stories wedged together, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that either.

In one part of the story, the narrator is asked by the caretaker of Mrs B’s Baby Village Day Care to look after the babies there.  She has no experience (except that she was once a baby) but agrees anyway.  Mrs B (Mr B is dead) needs to go pray for the world.

Mrs B had for some time wanted to go visit the great barrier reef.  To see it in its full bloom.  But then she found out that it was mostly dead.  She was made about that of course, so she was going to pray for the world. (more…)

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nessSOUNDTRACK: BEN WILLIAMS & SOUND EFFECT-Tiny Desk Concert #170 (October 24, 2011).

ben williasmBen Williams is a jazz upright bass player (I didn’t realize bass players made band leaders, but clearly they do).  In 2009, he won the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition.  And is an up and coming star.

He plays two original songs from his album State of Art.

It’s not often that the blurb describes a song, but it does a better job than I could have so for the first song, “Home”

the guitar (Gilad Hekselman) and drums (John Davis) lay down an aggressive, snappy foundation. The bass and electric keyboard (Christian Sands) fill out the polyrhythms. That groove, with its snappy hip-hop flavor, feels at home cruising down Georgia Avenue, then turning right on U Street NW, the historic African-American commercial district of Washington [D.C. where Williams is from]. Then the saxophone (Marcus Strickland) enters, and it’s game on.

That saxophone really runs the show on this song.  There’s an interesting keyboard solo (I like the sound he chose, very Stevie Wonder-ish, but it’s a little quiet).

The sax switches to a smaller sax for the second song, “Dawn of a New Day.”  The song is much slower and is more than twice as long as “Home.”

There’s a pretty lengthy bass solo (which sounds very old-school to me).  It’s followed by an electric guitar solo that has an interesting effect on it which made me think at first that it was a horn.  The horn comes next with a lengthy sax solo.  The final solo comes from the keyboard (which now sounds like a piano).  And then the song returns to that interesting main riff.

[READ: April 20, 2016] The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Sarah brought this book home and told me the premise–imagine what the stories of the other kids in the Buffy Universe would be like–wondering about all of those weird kids fighting vampires or whatnot.

At first I thought she meant that the other kids didn’t know what was going on, which would have been funny.  But in this story, the kids know that there are vampires and other mystical things, they just aren’t any part of the action–they are not the Chosen Ones.

It’s a very funny premise for a book, and I looked forward to how Ness would create a story around people who aren’t “doing” anything.

But that’s not the only thing that the story is about.  Ness makes the lives of the other kids so compelling and so, human (even if one of them is a quarter god). (more…)

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