6/20/17: CDs and OCD

I own many many CDs. LPs and cassettes as well, but it’s probably less than a hundred records versus a couple hundred cassettes versus over a thousand CDs.

I keep most of the CDs in these big zippable folders that hold about 200 each. They’re organized by artist (last name first), in chronological order by release date. Compilations and unclassifiable go at the end. Classical music is separate from jazz and rock/pop, and is organized by composer’s last name or artist’s last name. CDs with packaging that I like are not put into folders, but stored elsewhere.

This is the only area of my life in which I display any ability to be neat and organized, by the way.

But my weird control issue with CDs stops the minute one leaves the folder. After that, it can go drifting around the apartment for months before it gets re-filed.

Unfortunately, a few of my favorites are missing now, and have been for some time. Thanks to music streaming services and the internet, I can always listen to the music, but there’s something special about the actual physical object that you associate with the source of a musical experience. Also, I have a gap in my collection where a CD should be.

Image – publicdomainpictures.net

5/12/17: There’s Something Happening Here

I found out about this from Ken Michaels’s social media feed. Ken hosts the Beatles radio show “Every Little Thing,” which you should check out ASAP.

Eric Burdon of the Animals has released a cover of the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth.” Very appropriate, given the political crisis here in the U.S.

 

First of all, the drums. I love them. They’re just really interesting, and a nice sound.

And I like where Eric’s voice has gone. At 72, it’s only become more interesting. Of course, it’s always been unique. There’s a sternness to it, but he’s a good blues singer, too. He’s always kind of sounded like an old man. Here he is in 1965.

 
In 1970, Eric sat in with War for “Spill the Wine.” He is having so much fun in this video. I’m not sure it’s the original recording, but this is one of those songs where I think it really doesn’t matter too much as long as it’s a great performance, which it is.

 

And here’s the original “For What It’s Worth,” released in 1966 during a different time of political crisis. There are a lot of wonderful protest songs out there, but I wish there didn’t have to be any.

5/6/17: Rock & roll for grownups

There’s a lot of Who music going around the house these days. One of us is making a mix for a friend, and I just bought a Pete Townshend greatest hits album.

I’ve heard that girls supposedly don’t like the Who. I’ve also heard that about Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, two bands I love, but in my case it was kind of true with the Who.

I always liked their singles, and I saw and loved both “Quadrophenia” and “Tommy.” But that thing that makes you really connect with an artist’s music was just missing from my relationship with the band.

Things are changing now that I’m old and pruny. I’ve grown to appreciate Ringo Starr’s drumming and Bill Wyman’s bass playing, and I’m listening to lots of Pete Townshend. There’s that emotional connection now, and I keep going back to his music.

So you know what’s going to happen now. I’m going to be hitting all the Who albums, and inflicting them on you. But that’s a great kind of infliction. Like getting hit in the face with a bag full of awesome.

In the meantime, here’s Pete. I love the lyrics – they’re great in his songs – and also the chord choices. Not too elaborate, but sophisticated.

This is a duet with Ronnie Lane (of the Small Faces and also the regular Faces).

 

And here’s “Rough Boys,” because it’s fun.

 

 

 
Image by Annie Mole. License: Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

 

4/23/17: Rain and Sun and Led Zeppelin IV

Up here in the Northeast, April can feel like November. But not as bad.

The difference is what’s coming next. Flowers are already out now, and the trees are blooming. Springtime and sunshine and all that happy stuff are on their way, and nothing can stop it. No even a gloomy cold thundercloud day.

We just had one of those days; rainy and cold and grey and Novembery. So I made tuna casserole with my super-secret ingredient* and put on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. And I heard this, the second movement of the first Brandenburg (as opposed to the first movement of the second )

 

And I thought, what a great piece of music for a gloomy cold rainy night in any month.

 

April being what it is, the next morning was sunny and warm and perfect. And this came on my iPod Shuffle and I thought, what a great piece of music for a perfect spring day:

The universe is providing me with a soundtrack.

 

 
*mustard

 

Image by Elizabeth Walsh (copyright 2013)

April 4, 2017: Kansanthrax

It’s another one of those cold, gloomy April days when you know spring will never come. Everything’s dank and grey and brown and ick.

On days like this, the best thing to do is make yourself a nice cup of tea or vodka and crank up the Anthrax:

You can tell they love that song; I found it via the Aquarian’s interview with Charlie Benante.

Ebeth fun fact (sort of): I love to compare and analyze different versions of songs. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of U.S. folk music and the different ways it’s been interpreted over the years, but I’m always interested in how one band interprets the work of another.

Like “Carry On My Wayward Son” – Anthrax’s version is very respectful, and it really brings out just how well the guys play.

There’s another cover song they do that I love: Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time.”

I remember when I heard this for the first time. It was at an Anthrax show at Roseland. I didn’t know they covered it, and it was like getting slapped in the face with a wet sock full of awesomeness.

Roseland is a great place to see bands, by the way. Although I’ve got to say I think the shape of the room could bring out the bass too much in a live band. And I say that as a bass player.

But you know what? Sometimes too much bass is not nearly enough. I also saw White Zombie play at Roseland, and there was so much bass that night. Soooo much bass. And it was perfect.

 

 

 

 

Image: Screen Capture from Anthrax’s “Got the Time” video

1/23/17: Suffering for my craft

Folks talk about practicing until your fingers bleed as an indication of your dedication to your craft.

I only had that happen once, over a series of two or three gigs at a club in the suburbs of New Jersey. I was playing bass in an Irish/pub rock band, and this was a really fun place to play. Lots of dancing and conviviality.

So we did a series of three or four gigs there – something like every other Saturday night And it would be a three set night and we’d get paid something and it was great.

One of these Saturdays, I finished Set One, and noticed that I’d ripped open the ends of the third and fourth fingers on my right hand. My first reaction, of course, was “Cool! I’m bleeding! I’m a real rocker now!”

fonziecool

I think that using band aids (they have to be the right kind to allow for movement) and maybe switching to a pick would have been the best solution to deal with the next two sets. Naturally I had none of those things with me, so I just kept on playing with the open wounds.

The rest of the night was not as painful as you might have thought. It actually didn’t hurt while I was playing. Bass strings vibrate as you play, and that seems to have numbed the pain. By the end of the night, there was blood spatter on my nice white pickguard.

I went home after the gig, and spent the next two weeks taking really good care of my fingers. I also checked out my bass to see if there were any issues that might have caused them to bleed, and there weren’t.

When the next gig came, my fingers were healed and I was all set to play a night of music. I felt extra rock and roll that night because I just made my fingers bleed, man. I rock.

And the exact same thing happened again. Same fingers, even. Now I know my limitations when it comes to being cool, and although someone else might rock ’til they bleed at every gig, I don’t. I do not rock that much.

You may have noticed by now that it hasn’t occurred to me to check my amp. But finally it did, after a total of 4 sets (about 3 – 3.5 hours) over two gigs with no fingertips. And yes, that was the problem. The amp was gradually losing volume during the sets, and I would unconsciously respond by playing harder.

In my defense, that was a tough problem to diagnose. I couldn’t hear what was going on very well during sets, and when I went to check my amp before each new set, it would sound fine again.

But … I should have thought to check ALL of my equipment when something unusual happened. Lesson learned.

Still, I waited a long time to clean that blood spatter off of my pickguard. Kind of gross when you think about it, but rock and roll is not for the squeamish.

So in honor of my poor fingertips, here are a few songs that finger-bleeding cool.

10/19/16: Digging in the bins

These days I buy a lot of albums by digital download, but I also like to go out and purchase real-live, physical CDs. I’m lucky enough that I’m near a very good used CD/DVD/vinyl store, so I still experience the fun of discovering music that you thought about once a couple of years ago and now here it is again and you can actually afford it.

Today I had a good haul: “A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon,” Rilo Kiley’s: “More Adventurous” and Spirit’s “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” And of course, the latest copy of “Weird NJ.” One must stay up to date, after all.

“Dr. Sardonicus” was pretty intense. I’ll have to sit down and listen with headphones, but for now: Wow. There’s a lot going on there. In a good way, but I need to absorb that a little more.

I still have to check out the Warren Zevon album, but I’m loving the Rilo Kiley CD. A friend made me a mix CD a few years ago that had “Does He Love You?” on it. I loved the lyrics, and also how Jenny Lewis presents her vocals. She tells her stories so well.

The arrangements are country-esque in places, with some orchestral pop and folk. Very tastefully done.

Following a quick listen to the whole album, here’s a couple of songs I liked.

Photo by: Jane Rahman; Issued under CC 2.0 License.

No changes have been made to the image.

09/06/16: Personal motivation and audio cleanliness

Way back in 2011-12, I was unemployed, and it was really rough out there in the job market. Nobody was hiring. For anything.

It was easy to get discouraged, after sending out resume after resume after resume. And yes, cheesy as it sounds, there were songs I would listen to during that time specifically to encourage myself to keep going. This is one of them:

Featuring the late great Bernie Worrell. And note that David Byrne has solved the problem of what a lead singer can do during instrumental parts – just take a couple laps around the stage.

This is from the live movie “Stop Making Sense,” one of the great moments in rock cinema. Why? It’s just a bunch of really good musicians doing a live show and it’s one of those great nights where everything works out perfectly and it’s just magical.

As a rule, I’m not a big fan of live albums. I love when things are beautifully recorded in the studio and you can hear what’s going on. Like you hear on any Talking Heads studio album:

And the studio version of “Life During Wartime” is a great track:

But for me, the energy of the live version, along with the additional musicians, just takes the song to a whole new level. And that energy makes the lyrics have that much more impact – it goes from kind of ironically detached in the studio version to serving up the emotional equivalent of a punch to the stomach in the live one. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s recorded really well.

Of course, I can’t get too precious about pristine studio recordings. First of all, it’s so easy to go too far with that, in which case you wind up with a sound that’s overly sterile (see: The Eighties). Secondly, I’m a big jazz fan, and the stuff I listen to is generally either a live concert, or an album that was entirely recorded in one day.

Here’s “Samba Triste” from Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd’s “Jazz Samba,” an album that was recorded in its entirety in just one day. It went on to hit #1 on the Billboard Album charts, and won Getz a Grammy. It also reminds me of autumn, which is coming up way too soon:

 

Image by Jean-Luc Ourlin, CC License 2.0

8/17/16: The King

I can’t believe I missed August 16th. Elvis Presley’s death day.

We’ve always had some kind of ironic celebration to the great man. There’s a bar in Manhattan that did an Elvis death day celebration every year – there would be Elvis food (gummy bears, peanut butter and banana sandwiches), Elvis movies on TV, an Elvis impersonator. One year an Ann Margret impersonator stopped by.

At the very least there would be a toast to Elvis on the day in question.

My generation (X) is probably the last one that will have any kind of first-hand knowledge of him. From childhood, I mostly remember the existence of Elvis in that both he and Pope Paul VI died in August 1977.

This is, in fact, not true, something I’ve only learned just now when I went to check my facts. The Pope died in 1978, to be shortly followed by his successor, John Paul II, who died in September of that year. But I do remember when Elvis died.

Getting back to non-papal Elvis memories, there was, sadly, so much joke material about his life: the silly movies, the karate stuff, the bedazzled jumpsuits. Graceland. Unfortunately, all of this masked a man who made remarkable music, and whose life was also out of control.

Here are just a few of my Elvis favorites, with no silliness included.

 

 

 

 

Requiesce in pace, my friend.

7/26/16: Playing favorites

A lot of the decisions I made as a teenager are burned into my memory. I guess it’s because this is such an intense time in your life; everything is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

For example, there’s boys. When I was in junior high school, Duran Duran were The Thing. Of course, my girlfriends and I all had crushes on them. Everyone had a crush on a different guy – mine was Simon LeBon.

I mention this because since then, whenever I hear about him, I recall that he’s my “official” favorite member of Duran Duran. This is in fact not true – John Taylor is my favorite, because he is a KICKASS bass player. But, like the Supreme Court Justices, Simon LeBon seems to have the title for life, as determined by my 13 year-old self.

I mention this because it’s Mick Jagger’s birthday today, and by the same preteen reasoning, the Rolling Stones are my favorite band. Starting at the age of 13, I was hooked.

I immersed myself in the Stones as only a nerd with excellent research skills can. I knew that (at the time) Keith played a 5-string tuned to an open chord. I knew that Charlie collects cars, but can’t actually drive. I knew about the 1967 bust at Redlands and the untimely death of Brian Jones.

Nowadays, I’m still a huge fan. Of their music. I’ll still go and listen to Stones albums with headphones on and pick apart the songs and figure out how they were recorded. But I don’t really follow the boys’ personal lives or look up how Charlie’s drums were mic’ed on a particular track. Still, like Simon LeBon, the Rolling Stones retain their title as my Favorite Band Ever.

So here are a few favorites from the official Best Band Ever as Determined by a 13 Year-Old Girl, chosen by the lady she grew into.




 

Photo by Steve Denenberg (Creative Commons license 2.0)