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Posts Tagged ‘musicians’

Chuck Berry

Posted by purplemary54 on March 18, 2017

I’ve got two or three other posts I’m working on right now, one of them a much more personal remembrance, but this news today has to come first.  Dammit.

The passing of Chuck Berry at age 90 isn’t really a surprise; his health had been slowly failing for years.  But it is sad to see one of the original Rock & Roll greats leave us.  Even though I now concede Elvis Presley’s undeniable talent and status as the King, for many years I argued that Berry was the true King of Rock & Roll.  He did so much to create and shape the sound so many of us love so much.  He made some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard, and I never get tired of hearing it.  His guitar style was iconic.  His performances were magnetic and charismatic.  Yeah, he was kind of a jerk as a human being (and more than a little problematic for this feminist), but he was a legend.  The world is a slightly poorer place without him.

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“Tougher Than the Rest”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 13, 2017

My adoration for Shawn Colvin knows no bounds.  As a songwriter, she pens intensely, deeply, personal songs that are somehow universal. As a performer, she can take other artists’ songs and turn them into her own intensely, deeply, personal experiences.  It’s a gift that as a music fan I do not take lightly.

In 1994, Colvin released Cover Girl, a collection of songs she loved by artists she loved; it is to this day one of my favorite albums.  In 2015, Colvin decided it was time to collect a few more covers and released Uncovered.  I finally got a copy for myself and although I don’t think it’s quite as passionately felt as Cover Girl, I think it shows her gift of turning covers into her own quite nicely.

Take “Tougher Than the Rest” for example.  This song by Bruce Springsteen originally appeared on his Tunnel of Love from 1987, an album that is full of some of his most intensely, deeply, personal songs (it’s his divorce album, presciently written and released before his divorce from Julianne Phillips).  Colvin switches a few pronouns, and presto, it’s her song not Springsteen’s.

If you know anything about Colvin’s history, you know how utterly heartbreakingly poignant this version is.  She imprints herself all over the romantic yearning for a real relationship.  She’s had a rocky romantic life, due in part to her struggle with mental illness.  When she sings the title refrain, “honey I’m tougher than the rest”, you know it’s true.  The last verse really gets to me.  She delivers it so quietly, so matter-of-factly: “Well it ain’t no secret, I’ve been around a time or two.  I don’t know baby, maybe you’ve been around, too.  But there’s one more dance.  All you gotta do is say yes.  If you’re lookin’ for love, honey I’m tougher than the rest.”  Her eyes show all the hope and fear those words encompass.  Just one dance, just one chance to prove she’s the one for him.  I like to think she did, but of course, that’s where the song ends.  There’s room for both love and heartbreak.  How the story turns out is up to the listener.

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“A Whole New World”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 29, 2017

Some years ago (at least three, but probably more) the Disney behemoth began advertising its Hawaiian resort Aulani with this utterly enchanting version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Even in the little bit they played in the commercial, I was in love with it.

I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know much about Yuna, the singer who created this song (anyone who does can click here).  But she gives me the general impression of being quite charming.  I also believe she is a Muslim, which means she is persona non grata in Trump’s worldview; all Muslims are terrorists to him.  Even the one’s who sing songs as wholesomely American as Disney songs.  Of course, this particular Disney movie is now suspect in Trump’s vision of the world.  It is, after all, set in an Arab country and features brown people as characters.

I didn’t mean to make this one political at all.  The song is just an innocent romp meant to further the Disney-fied romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  And this cover is, as I stated earlier, utterly enchanting.  I just wanted to share it with you.  And to remind you that not all Muslims are out to get Westerners.  Some of them just want to create music.

 

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“Borderline”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 7, 2017

Psst. . . over here.  Wanna here something really cool?  There’s this song called “Borderline” and it’s really awesome.

Oh, you thought I meant the original version by Madonna.  That’s okay; totally natural mistake.  And to be fair, Madonna’s version is a great song, one of her earliest and best hits.  It’s an 80s classic.  But in the hands of the Counting Crows, aka the Kings of Mope, “Borderline” turns into a loose, almost sloppy, Country Rock ramble.  A different song, not quite as good as the original but still pretty damn good.  Fun.  It sounds a little bit like Adam Duritz and the boys had a few beers, maybe smoked a joint, and let it fly.  Underwater Sunshine is the Crows’ cover album, released in 2012 to little fanfare (it also features their equally loose version of the Faces’ classic “Ooh La La”).  The Crows have long since lost any cultural cache they had in the 90s, but they’re still an awesome band, and Underwater Sunshine one of my favorites.  I like hearing musicians play the songs they like by other artists, the stuff they probably jam to when they’re hanging out in someone’s living room or backyard.  And that’s exactly what this song and album sound like.  It’s easy and relaxed, and you won’t be sorry if you listen to the whole thing.

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“Love is All Around”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 4, 2017

One of the things I love most about music is that there is a never-ending treasure trove of incredible, wonderful songs to discover.  While watching Jeopardy! today, I discovered this little gem from Husker Du.  It might sound a little familiar to sitcom fans.

Yes, that’s the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show performed with fuzzy guitar and whipcrack drums by one of the darling bands of the post-Punk 80s.  Husker Du, for all their rage and raging sound, could be surprisingly gentle and tender.  This is one of the most optimistic songs ever about one of the most optimistic TV heroines ever, played by one of its most wholesomely appealing stars.  But while Bob Mould and company manage to keep that optimism and wholesome appeal intact, they can’t help but add a slight edge of Lou Grant style curmudgeon.  “You got spunk.  I hate spunk.”  There is absolutely nothing about this I don’t love.

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Leon Russell

Posted by purplemary54 on November 13, 2016

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Unfortunately, it seems to be raining Manolo Blahnik’s lately.  What may go down as the crappiest year in history just got a hell of a lot crappier for me.

Leon Russell has left this world.

That might not mean much to a lot of you, but it breaks my already beat up heart into a million tiny little pieces.  I love Leon Russell.  He’s one of the oddest of the odd ducks in music, a musician’s musician, an influence and a mentor to so many others.  He had a brief moment in the sun in the 70s, but he mostly toiled in semi-obscurity.  He toured with Joe Cocker on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour.  He helped organize the concert for Bangladesh.  He wrote hits for so many others, and it’s a crying shame that not more people know who he is.

I’m crying, anyway.

 

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The Georgia Satellites

Posted by purplemary54 on September 28, 2016

It is entirely possible that I’ve posted this album before, but I’m feeling a little too lazy to search through my old posts to see.  It’s the kind of thing I would do, though.  I’ve been evangelizing about this band for years.  To be fair, they only made two really great albums and one really crappy one (with the exception of the song “Sheila”).  Their debut was just pure, perfect Rock & Roll.  Barroom style.  You know, the kind of place where the band plays behind chicken wire to keep the crowd from throwing things at them.  Where the band is happily drinking right along with the rest of the patrons.  You know.  The really, really good kind.

 

By all rights, the Georgia Satellites really should’ve just been a forgotten cover band playing–behind chicken wire, of course–in some humid bar somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta.  But they had a fluke hit with “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” in 1986, which led to a decent career and some pretty heavy airplay on MTV.  They were too loose to hang together for very long.  Lead singer and songwriter Dan Baird left after their third album, In the Land of Salvation and Sin in 1989; although the rest of the band reunited in the 90s, they were never the same.  Whatever magic there had been was lost.

But we still have these terrific songs.  Skip “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” if you’ve just heard it too many times (or think it’s really stupid).  Give “The Myth of Love,” “Red Light,” or the stunning combo “Nights of Mystery/Every Picture Tells a Story” a shot.  (The last recommendation is based on the fact that on the original album, those two tracks are bled together seamlessly; it’s just goddamn perfect.)  If you really enjoy their first eponymous LP, track down In the Land of Salvation and Sin.  It is arguably their best album and shows some signs of artistic growth in their hard rocking style.  No matter what else you might think of the Satellites, you cannot every accuse them of dishonesty.  They wear the barroom like a badge of honor.

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“Trudy and Dave”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 23, 2016

This song just makes me feel good.  Hell, the whole damn album makes me feel good.

The video is a tiny bit odd for the song, but it doesn’t do it any harm.

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Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip

Posted by purplemary54 on August 22, 2016

The Tragically Hip is one of those bands that seems like they’ve always been around.  You don’t think about them very much (unless you’re a fan) because they’re like the furniture: a solid, steady presence that gives you comfort and entertainment, but otherwise doesn’t get in the way. I’ve never been much of a fan, so this particular band has always been more like furniture in someone else’s house, but I still feel a little bit like the rug’s been pulled out from under me.  See, because The Tragically Hip was always there, I always figured I could catch up with them somewhere down the line.  There wasn’t any real urgency to listen, since I could always rely on them to be there.

Not so much, anymore, it turns out.

When lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he decided to go out on one last tour with the band he’s fronted for some 30 years.  Keep working as long as you can, go out doing what you love.  That seems to be what musicians faced with the end of their lives these days are doing more and more.  (Dying music looks like it’s gonna become a whole new sub-genre, kind of like divorce albums.)

Last night, The Tragically Hip played their last show in Downie’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario.  By all accounts, it was an awesome concert. I might go back and watch it someday, after I’ve caught up with the rest of their catalogue.  Because just listening to this one tune from their final album, Man Machine Poem, this is one band I should’ve been paying attention to all along.

I’m sorry there isn’t going to be any more of this ageless music.  The style is such that it could be perfectly at home in the 80s, 90s, or right now.  Americans suffer from a great deal of myopia as far as music from other countries goes, and this Canadian band has been fairly tragically neglected by the mainstream American press.  It might even go as far as Criminally Underrated.  So there might not be more music coming, but at least I have plenty to discover.

As Gord said to the audience last night, “Thank you for that.”

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Pete Fountain

Posted by purplemary54 on August 6, 2016

My daddy played the clarinet.  He said he fell in love with the sound it made when he saw a performance of Peter and the Wolf as a child.  He didn’t keep up with it after high school.  He wasn’t interested in making it a career, and hobbies like drinking and talking were more fun to him.  But he always loved clarinet music.  Which is why I immediately thought of him when I heard that clarinetist Pete Fountain had passed away at 86.  This makes the great concert of the afterlife a little more entertaining, and it’ll certainly make my father happy.  Of course, it sadly leaves this plane of existence just a little more bereft.

 

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