Thursday, December 8, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
On CD: Tommy James and the Shondells Anthology
Friday, September 9, 2011
I remember hearing Ry Cooder doing a guest DJ spot on the radio in the early seventies. He was known as a fine guitarist and idiosyncratic artist with a resume that included work with Captain Beefheart, the Rolling Stones and Van Morrsion. This day he was playing old 78s from obscure marching bands and municipal orchestras. The lumpy rhythms and slightly out-of-tune horns presaged the music that would become the album "Paradise and Lunch." After that came recordings of Conjunto music, a number of fine film soundtracks, and projects like the hugely successful "Buena Vista Social Club." Looking back over the decades of avant garde music, slide guitar, Elvis remakes, blues excursions, African (and Indian, and Hawaiian) collaborations and tons of great albums it wouldn't be at all unfair at all to ask "Who is that guy?"
* * *
That seemingly unanswerable question is addressed by a new compilation assembled by Cooder's son Joachim. The UFO Has Landed is a two-disc retrospective that samples the decades, styles and bands that have made up Cooder's career. Humor, vitality and great guitar playing weave these diverse recordings into a tapestry of world music, Americana, and film work, and illustrate why Ry Cooder has remained relevant to generations of listeners. Check this one out.
Other Ry Cooder recordings at the library:
A Meeting By The River
Buena Vista Social Club
Paradise and Lunch
My Name Is Buddy
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
"I was cutting the rug down at a place called "The Jug" With a girl named Linda Lou... "
"I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand walkin' through the streets of Soho in the rain..."
Monday, August 8, 2011
More from the Kinks:
BBC Sessions: 1964-1977
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround
Something Else (another significant recording from the year after Face to Face)
The Kink Kronicles
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Although Nina Simone enjoyed great popularity during her life, recording over 40 albums and performing around the world, her fame had begun to ebb by the time of her death in 2003. Her recordings continue to be reissued, though, and have reached an audience too young to have heard her in the 1950s and 1960s. Loved by her fans, she is still less than a household name today, so it is surprising to learn that the one recording owned by the library, Nina Simone Anthology : The Colpix Years, has been borrowed 101 times. To that popular collection of her earlier recordings, the library recently added another two-cd set titled simply, Anthology. These recordings represent Simone's work up through the 1960s and even early 1970s. The singer continues to blend blues, soul, standards, jazz, and Broadway tunes, bringing to each her understated but powerful sound. Pop songs like "The Glory of Love" and "To Love Somebody" show what she can do with a hit of the period, while "My Baby Just Cares For Me" shows her skill with more classic pop. Of particular interest are some of the later recordings. Her versions of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" and Sandy Denny's "Who Knows where The Time Goes" are reason enough to listen to this wonderful recording, with the added bonus of some beautifully expressed soul and jazz.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Various Artists - Blues Gold
I can't say this with 100% certainty, but when I was in grade school I think took some form of music appreciation. I remember there being a teacher, naturally, and singing. There was a piano and a few others instruments. But I don't recall what songs, or why we were even there to begin with. What was the meaning of it all? At that age you don't fully understand the significance of music. You know you like it. You know other's like it. But you don't realize its true power, how it has defined cultures, started movements and changed lives. I must have been nine or ten, give me a break. I think my favorite song when I was that age was Modern English's "Melt With You." What a hopeless romantic.
What I'm getting at is that music programs absolutely should be part of a student's curriculum, and at an early age too, not just in college. The arts seems to be non-existent in school these days. At least they were when I was younger.
I'm not talking about showing a copy of The Sound of Music. Or watching Barney. I know stuff like that has its benefit and I'm certainly not against them. I know songs like Do Re Mi are fun and innocent. But let's go beyond that. Let's teach our kids to be passionate, unafraid to be unique. How do we expect to inspire our kids? (Inspiration isn't found solely through music, mind you, but this is a music blog after all). Whenever Lamb Chop was on when I was a kid, I was always a bit freaked out by the woman's overexcitement when she was singing. The music I found most enjoyable was what was in the background of my favorite afternoon cartoons: Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, etc, which played a lot of jazz and classical. Beautiful stuff.
We should open people up, not just kids, to what's out there. I know I'm beginning to beat a dead horse here, but it's like we're being too manipulated and influenced by savy advertisers. Tabacco companies, anyone? I mean, ever heard of Kidz Bop? Kids go nuts over songs that corporations carelessly churn out, and thanks to radio stations like KIIS FM, there is no end in sight. Ever find a Muddy Waters song on any kids compilation? Get real! Big Mama Thornton? Now you've lost me.
Funny thing, during school dances the music was always my least favorite part. Not the feeling of embarrassment I felt as I flung my arms and legs around the dance floor. But the not-this-song-again feeling in my chest.
Blues, I think, out of all the genres I've covered, is my favorite. My favorite changes everyday, but whenever I go back to blues, it always puts me in such a good place. The close-your-eyes-and-feel-all-the-pain-and-suffering-disappear place. Not that I go through very much pain and suffering. But blues songs have always found me at my most vulnerable. Like when I'm driving home at night, feeling lonely, and on comes "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Etta James. Everything is suddenly perfect. The moon is suddenly larger and brighter and all the lights are green. Or when you're in Seattle and a street performer is playing "My Babe" by Little Walter down at Pike Place.
Do check out the Etta James song I mentioned. You'll know what I'm talking about. And if you don't get it, then I don't know what to say.
I know Pop Music will never fade out, and I'm ok with that. I just hope one day people will realize what they've been missing before stuff like blues gold is forgotten. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the generations that grew up with most of the music I've covered is getting older, let's keep their memories alive.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
James Brown - In the Jungle Groove
Like most people, my knowledge of James Brown didn't go much further than his biggest hits: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You (I Feel Good) or It's a Man's Man's Man's World; K-Earth 101 material. Those don't even scratch the surface. James Brown didn't earn "The King of Soul" reference because of three radio hits. If you really explore his entire career - if you haven't, you should - those songs are weak in comparison (really, they're wonderful songs). In particular, listen to his late 50s stuff.
Jungle Groove is the definition of funk. In fact, there is no definition of funk in the dictionary; I checked. This album plays when you look it up, like one of those cheesy Hallmark cards that play music. Only this is ten full, incredible, danceable songs from an artist who unabashedly did his thing, his way.
Really, I chose Jungle Groove to highlight one track in particular, "Funky Drummer." Consider the happiest moment in your life: graduation, birth of a child, marriage; that's what hearing Funky Drummer is like. It's smooth, cool and just the right amount of funk to tap your foot to. The real winners here are the musicians, though; James Brown merely directs traffic while occasionally grunting out a line or two.
As James Brown compilations go, you couldn't do better than Jungle Groove.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Brandon Russell - I'll be your resident music blogger on behalf of the Huntington Beach Public Library. When I'm not doing this, you can find me searching through the library's music catalogue or shelving books on the adult floors.
In celebration of it being lover’s day (I know, I’m a week late), this choice was a no brainer.
Django Rei... Who? Doesn’t he play for the Red Wings?
What are you first thoughts? Confusion? Nostalgia? Sadness?
Try bringing that name up to the MTV generation and I’m sure you’ll receive plenty of bewildered looks. Flash, excess, robotic regurgitation. That’s what we know and love today. Heck, I’m sure 90% of successful pop artists today wouldn’t know who you were talking about.
How about this: Django Reinhardt was responsible for inventing an entirely new jazz guitar technique that is now synonymous with French gypsy culture. Further, he did it with only three functioning fingers on his left hand (thumb, index, middle). By the way, he received first and second degree burns over half his body, paralyzing his right leg and injuring his hand. Doctors gave him no hope he would ever play again. I can't even play guitar with two healthy hands. But with much dedication and practice, Django relearned his craft and made it his own. That is passionate, unadulterated love of music. You can hear it, feel it in every song.
We should be so lucky that the library offers up an artist like Django Reinhardt. His music was solely responsible for getting him through World War II unscathed, that’s how endearing his gift was to nazi soldiers. You think Lady Gag would have survived being carried around in a plastic egg? I implore you, don’t let him and his music go unnoticed.
Am I coming on too strong? Forgive me.
Snap your fingers, tap your knee, swing your sweetheart. Pass the hours in a smoke filled dive somewhere off a hidden Paris street. Hemingway, anyone? I think I can picture Brett now.
Un cafe s’il vous plait.
See? Nostalgia. And I’ve never even been to France.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
Let me start by saying that I don't profess to be an expert. Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson are ostensibly the industry's true pundits. Who knows? Telling people they can or can't sing is I guess reserved for those with only the keenest ears and bad temperaments. I'm still a bit incredulous.
When I'm not doing this, you can find me searching through the library's music catalogue or shelving books on the adult floors. If we run into each other, say hi, ask questions, give me suggestions; I'm here to help.
I immediately knew who I'd choose for my first post if given the opportunity. Evocative, passionate, and tender, Otis Redding is an artist who came into my life a few years ago per a friend's suggestion, and he's been one of my favorites ever since. Coincidentally, the same album I listened to back then is in the library's catalogue.
For a career that barely lasted five years, Otis Redding's ability to convey deep emotion through his powerful, affectionate voice has certainly stood the test of time, and at the very young age of twenty-six, was held in similar esteem to that of the then late Sam Cooke, even garnering him the "King of Soul" crown.
The Ultimate Otis Redding covers a number of Redding's favorite chart toppers, leading off with some a few of his most well known songs, including (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay. Incidentally, it was a song he recorded just three days prior to his death in 1967, and also his most famous.
The first half of The Ultimate exhibits a man of great romantic despair, truly beautiful love ballads, last song of senior prom material, whereas the second half ups the tempo with his more exuberant high energy and signature shouting. A true showman, Otis Redding could have you dancing and crying to the same song and everything in between.
If you are new to Redding's music, or even a returning listener, I implore you start with These Arms of Mine, That's How Strong My Love Is, and I've Been Loving You Too Long on the highest tolerable volume. You will feel Redding's pain, understand his hurt, and after he's done, renewed. Like you'll wonder why you haven't heard such beauty up until this now, and you'll want more of that feeling. It's a backwards way to feel happier, but music can have that parallel effect.
Otis Redding was significant in that he was able to traverse racial boundaries, and relate to a wider audience. He awakened a generation and passionately shouted his way into the consciousness of the music world. One of the most dynamic singers of his time, Otis Redding's The Ultimate Otis Redding is a wonderful primer into what was a beautiful, and far too short, career.