News for December 2010
As we get ready to put another year to rest, what better way to send you all off than with this standard performed by Grateful Dead. They had been closing shows with this song for over 25 years by the time of this 1989 performance. Many a-New Year’s Eve was spent in my youth listening to the Grateful Dead broadcasting from the West Coast on the radio as our own New Year’s Eve parties were beginning to wind down on the East Coast. Jerry’s gone…but not forgotten…2010 is gone…and in many cases…better forgotten…”And We Bid You Goodnight.”
Edited: December 30th, 2010
Known only as “The Beat” in their native England, The English Beat were one of the best bands to come out of the Ska revival of the late 1970s. They were 2-Tone label mates of The Specials and The Selector before forming their own Go-Feet label in 1980 and releasing the album “I Just Can’t Stop It” where this song hails. They went on to release two more exceptional albums before Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling formed General Public while Andy Cox and David Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals.
Edited: December 29th, 2010
Recorded in 1969 and inexplicably not released until 1984 on the compilation album “VU”…some bands would die to have tracks like this floating around in the can, but this was standard fare for the Velvet Underground. The VU lineup on this track includes Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and Doug Yule and was recorded between the release of their third album “The Velvet Underground” in 1969 and the “Loaded” album in 1970 when the band jumped labels from Verve to Atlantic.
Edited: December 28th, 2010
John Doe, Exene Cervenka, D.J. Bonebrake and Billy Zoom…better known as X, one of the greatest bands to come out of the L.A. Punk scene of the 1970s…and they still can be seen in action today! Whether performing as their Country-tinged alter egos The Knitters, or as X, they are still one of the most exhilarating, literate and tuneful bands around. This one comes from their 1983 album “More Fun In The New World” which was produced (like their first few albums) by Ray Manzarek of The Doors.
Edited: December 28th, 2010
By the time this song was released on the album “And The Feeling’s Good” in 1974, Jose Feliciano was a well-established star with hits like “Light My Fire,” “California Dreamin’” and “Hi-Heeled Sneakers.” In fact, his career was in decline until this theme from the TV series starring Jack Albertson and the late, great comedian Freddie Prinze temporarily put him back into the charts. His career is ripe for reinvestigation, especially the records he released on RCA between 1968 and 1975. Last week he was on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” performing his perennial holiday hit “Feliz Navidad,” plus snippets of his other hits including “Chico And The Man.”
Edited: December 27th, 2010
What seemed like sound production decisions made 27 years ago, do not always hold up today. Case in point is Elvis Costello’s 1983 album “Punch The Clock.” Featuring then-trendy production by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (known for their work with Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners), the addition of a horn section in the form of the TKO Horns and female backing vocals by Afrodiziak, practically sank what was a pretty strong collection of Costello tunes. That leaves us with the tunes, including “Everyday I Write The Book,” “Shipbuilding,” “Mouth Almighty,” “The Invisible Man,” “Shipbuilding,” and this song chosen more for its relationship to the day of the year than any other reason. Boxing Day, of course, is the day after Christmas in England… All in all, the album hasn’t aged so well…but the songs still hold their own.
Edited: December 26th, 2010
Merry Christmas everybody!
Edited: December 25th, 2010
I could go on and on about how The Ramones were one of the most influential bands in Rock history…but I’m hoping by now you all know this. If not…you really should! By the time of the release of their sole holiday offering, the band had been together for 13 years and the magic had long since worn thin. This one comes from their 1989 album “Brain Drain” which was the last album to include Dee Dee Ramone as a member. It was not one of their best albums, but it did include the tracks “Pet Sematary” and a cover of “Palisades Park” as well.
Edited: December 24th, 2010
From Brooklyn, New York comes Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings who, in my opinion, released the best album of 2010 “I Learned The Hard Way.” Here is their holiday release from last year that is clearly one of the best new original Christmas offerings to come down the pike in years. Mama’s got a brand new bag indeed!
Edited: December 23rd, 2010
Nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like “D**k In a Box!” Probably the funniest skit/song ever on Saturday Night Live and it happened on their 2006 holiday show…hence the holiday theme! The Lonely Island consists of three of SNL’s brightest writers: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone. Together they’ve managed to cut out a corner for themselves creating a series of Digital Shorts for the show including “Lazy Sunday,” “J**z In My Pants,” “Mother Lover” and “I’m On A Boat.” They were at it again this past Saturday with “I Just Had Sex” featuring Akon. Ho Ho Ho!
Edited: December 21st, 2010
In 1968, Alpert and company released their first and only Christmas album where this song was culled. Alpert didn’t sing on many of his recordings and his most famous vocal was on the Bacharach-penned hit “This Guy’s In Love With You.” So it’s a real treat to find a rare video of Herb singing this holiday favorite. It’s basically a solo performance here and on record, although it is still considered a Tijuana Brass recording. Herb Alpert will be embarking on a rare concert tour next year. He will be in the Chicago area in April!
Edited: December 21st, 2010
The Ventures are the biggest selling instrumental group of all time with sales of well over 100 million records. Their incalculable influence on guitar players has led to their being coined “The Band That Launched A Thousand Bands.” There hasn’t been a single holiday offering in its wake that has topped the ebullient spirit and rockin’ good fun of their Christmas album. This 1965 gem features the classic lineup of Don Wilson (rhythm guitar), Bob Bogle (lead guitar), Nokie Edwards (bass) and Mel Taylor (drums). While their popularity faded in the U.S. during the 1970s, The Ventures have remained superstars in Japan where they still tour regularly. They were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008.
Edited: December 20th, 2010
Top Albums Of 2010
For the past 25 years I have kept a Top Albums of the Year List. I send it to friends and love the comments I get back. I used to work in the music industry where I had access to almost all of the new releases every year and felt I was in a position to really judge what was good. It’s been years since I’ve worked in the industry and my relationship with the music has changed. I think I love and appreciate the music I hear even more, because it is no longer part of my job. While I don’t get to hear everything like I used to, I still keep up with lots of music and spend way too much money on this pursuit. So, if you really loved something this year and it isn’t on my list, suggest it to me. Perhaps, I didn’t hear it…or maybe I just didn’t like it. Let’s discuss it! Without any further ado…here is my list of albums for 2010…
TOP ALBUMS 2010
- Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings: I Learned The Hard Way
- LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening
- Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
- The Roots: How I Got Over
- The Black Keys: Brothers
- Cee Lo Green: The Lady Killer
- Apples In Stereo: Travellers In Space And Time
- John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up!
- Sufjan Stevens: The Age Of Adz
- Spoon: Transference
- Mose Allison: The Way Of The World
- Eels: End Times
- Sleigh Bells: Treats
- John Mellencamp: No Better Than This
- CasioKids: Topp Stemning Pa Lokal Bar
- Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid
- The Black Angels: Phosphene Dream
- Neil Young: Le Noise
- Grinderman: 2
- Mavis Staples: You Are Not Alone
- Los Lobos: Tin Can Trust
- Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part 2 – Return Of The Ankh
- MGMT: Congratulations
- Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs Of Love
- Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot
- Elvis Costello: National Ransom
- Elton John/Leon Russell: The Union
- Broken Bells: Broken Bells
- Peter Wolf: Midnight Souvenirs
- Joanna Newsome: Have One On Me
- Bruce Springsteen: The Promise – The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story
- Syl Johnson: Complete Mythology
- Frank Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim: Sinatra/Jobim – Complete Reprise Recordings
- David Bowie: STATIONTOSTATION (Deluxe Edition)
- Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (Deluxe Edition)
- Grateful Dead: Road Trips, Vol. 4, No. 1: Big Rock Pow Wow 1969
- Bob Dylan: Whitmark Demos 1962-1964
- Elvis Costello & The Attraction: Complete Live At Hollywood High 1979
- Madness: The Rise And Fall (Deluxe Edition)
- Tony Joe White: That On The Road Look (Rhino Handmade)
Edited: December 19th, 2010
I thought it was a joke last year when I heard that Bob Dylan was releasing a Christmas album. But lo and behold it was true…and while it wasn’t one of his royal Bobness’ greatest albums, it does stand up on its own merits in the cannon of holiday offerings. The highlight is this quasi-Klezmer flavored offering with a great video to match. Must be a joke? Must Be Santa!
Edited: December 19th, 2010
Between the years 2001 and 2006, Sufjan Stevens released five Christmas EPs of original holiday themed songs and favorite cover songs to friends and family. Two years ago he collected them all into the essential “Songs For Christmas” box set that is one of the few holiday offerings that can be listened to from beginning to end. The set also comes with comics, stickers, lyrics and lots of liner notes. This is essential Christmas listening!
Edited: December 18th, 2010
Christmas songs…really don’t like most of them! With the exception of this album, the “Ventures’ Christmas Album” and John Fahey’s “Christmas Album,” I can easily do without the rest. That includes the heralded “Phil Spector Christmas Album” which is a good record but is so overplayed that I don’t care if I ever hear it again! Don’t even get me started on that monstrosity of a Christmas song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, probably the single most cringe-worthy holiday song of them all! Guaraldi composed this song in 1964 for the classic animated “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special that first aired in December of 1965. At the time, he was already famous as a renowned Jazz pianist who worked with Cal Tjader, Woody Herman and Stan Getz…he was also known for the Grammy Award winning hit “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.” Close your eyes and you can almost feel the gently falling snow falling as you circle round your favorite ice rink!
Edited: December 17th, 2010
It’s all here on this track from 1947…the roots of rock ‘n’ roll…rap…and comedy all rolled up into one tall tale of hilarity. Although he was born in Arkansas, Jordan became the epitome of inner city hip jive and jump blues. He scored numerous hits between the years of 1938 and 1950 and he fronted his own band for over twenty years. I recently acquired a 5 CD set on the JSI label featuring 131 of his recordings…that’s over six hours of Jazz, Jump and Jive!
Edited: December 16th, 2010
One of the by-products of reading Keith Richards’ exceptional biography “Life” is rediscovering some of the Stones’ deeper album tracks. This one comes from the much-maligned “Goats Head Soup” album which has always been a favorite of mine. The album gets a bad rap because it came after “Exile” which is a tough act to follow. However, this was the first Stones album I ever got that was a new release at the time of purchase, so it holds a special place in my heart. Rock on Keef!
Edited: December 15th, 2010
There was a time when Rod Stewart wasn’t the ballad singing joke with the croak. He was once a credible rocker as seen in this 1971 live clip from the BBC performing a swaggering version of a classic Motown track by the Temptations. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a stellar backing band like the Faces with Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan. On one level, Stewart has managed to stay in the public eye selling millions of records long past his prime…and that’s not an easy thing to pull off. But listening to him murder the standards today is clearly not for me.
Edited: December 14th, 2010
Guilty pleasure? For some, maybe…for me Harry Chapin’s music holds up decades after his untimely demise in a 1981 car crash. His muse included story songs, Broadway musicals in the form of “The Night That Made America Famous,” children’s television with his brother Tom and activism as a passionate spokesman for World Hunger Year. It was always a treat when he would show up on Scott Muni’s WNEW FM Radio show in New York and perform live while raising money for world hunger.
Edited: December 13th, 2010
It’s been a great year for The Roots. They released two of the best albums of 2010: the one where this song is from and the equally essential “Wake Up!” album with Jon Legend. You may have seen them at the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” a few months back tearing it up on stage…or perhaps you’ve seen them nightly as the house band on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” where they not only provide superb music but aid Fallon in the comedy. The Roots hail from Philadelphia featuring ?uestlove (Ahmir Khalib) on drums and Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) on vocals. They are one of the few hip hop bands that use more live instruments than samples.
Edited: December 12th, 2010
Chick Webb was known as “The King of the Savoy” where he and his orchestra would regularly win battles of music against the other leading big bands of the day. He stood tall amongst big band drummers even though his diminutive frame was only a tad over 4 feet tall. His major discovery was Ella Fitzgerald whose jive vocals light up this gem from 1937. This stuff is as hip as the latest offerings from Kanye West!
Edited: December 10th, 2010
Clips of Phil Ochs performing are pretty rare, so forgive the sound quality on this performance from 1968. Here we have Phil singing one of his most biting protest songs originally from the 1965 album “Phil Ochs In Concert.” Don’t be fooled by the name of that album…it was really a studio album with dubbed applause! So much for sincerity… Ochs was a tragic figure who put himself forever in the shadow of Bob Dylan trying to top him throughout his career. While Dylan was far more media savvy and a lot more calculated, Ochs was far more genuine and sincere. There was plenty of room for both to exist…unfortunately Ochs didn’t agree…
Edited: December 10th, 2010
To my ears, the Grateful Dead were at their best from 1966 through 1969 when Jerry Garcia played guitar totally differently than he would do later. His guitar playing was more free-wheelin’ blues influenced and less exploratory noodling at the beginning. Even though, through the mid-to-late 1980s Jerry Garcia was probably the most original guitar player out there with a singular style all his own. Yes, I was a bit of a Deadhead…darn proud of it too! That said, from the mid ’80s on, show was really in the audience and not on the stage…and by the 1990s they were just dreadful. I’m sure I’ll get lynched for that statement…in the meantime…I’m just “Doin’ That Rag.”
Edited: December 9th, 2010
801 formed in 1976 by Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera after Roxy Music split and Manzanera found himself without a band. They formed for three concerts and released a live album featuring this Beatles tune. It’s been thirty years since we lost John Lennon…”Tomorrow Never Knows…”
Edited: December 8th, 2010
I love everything about this 1965 clip. The intensity of Bo’s performance…The Duchess on guitar keepin’ the groove…the girls and their grindadelic dancing…it’s really hard to top! And then there’s the Bo Diddley beat…the beat that launched thousands of great rock songs in its wake. If only he was able to copywrite that beat…
Edited: December 7th, 2010
Song Of The Day – “Mr. Record Man” by Willie Nelson
Before the beard…before the reefer (maybe)…before the duets, before the picnics and Farm Aid…there was a singular style of songwriting, phrasing and singing. It’s all here in this classic Nelson-penned track from 1961. And nearly fifty years later, it’s all still present in Nelson’s current performances around the world. It’s a shame he may be facing jail time after a recent bust on his tour bus turned up the dreaded wacky tobaccy…
Edited: December 6th, 2010
To my ears, Animal Collective sound like a modern day version of the classic rock group Yes. This track originally comes from the “Fall Be Kind” EP which was released after their amazing breakthrough album “Merriweather Post Pavilion” last year. This song is also notable because it includes the only legally licensed sample of a Grateful Dead tune. Listen closely and see if you can pick out the sample of “Unbroken Chain” in this track.
Edited: December 5th, 2010
Once you get on a TJB kick…it’s just hard to shake it…and why would you want to anyway. This chart topper is originally from the 1965 “Going Places” album. The clip is from the 1967 Singer Sewing Machine TV special starring the TJB answers the question: Is it really possible to lip synch and instrumental hit? I think so! Of course, many of us recognize this song from another TV show…”The Dating Game.”
Edited: December 4th, 2010
Before forming the TJB and a record company (A&M) that still lives today, Herb Alpert was best known for co-writing Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” and producing tracks for Jan & Dean. All that changed in 1962 when he recorded “The Lonely Bull” in his garage and gave birth to one of the biggest recording acts of the 1960s rivaling The Beatles. This Allen Toussaint-penned creation was heard regularly on TV’s “The Dating Game” as bachelorettes were being introduced to the audience. And then there’s the album cover…the most iconic in music…the cover that launched millions of young adolescent boys sex lives! The model on the cover, Dolores Erickson, was three months pregnant when the photo was taken! It was parodied by such artists as Pat Cooper, Soul Asylum and The Frivolous Five. Thanks to my buddy Kent, I am the proud owner of not one…not two…but 132 copies of this record…can you really ever get enough “Whipped Cream & Other Delights?”
Edited: December 3rd, 2010
Just the mere mention of his name raises the ire of the masses. Sure he pisses people off…that’s part of his charm! Kanye totally lacks a filter…and if he had one, he wouldn’t be the GENIUS that he is. Fact is, for many years now he’s been responsible for some of the most inventive music in Hip Hop. Move past your notions of who you think he is…and just listen to the music.
Edited: December 2nd, 2010
His first big gig was playing sax and singing with the great Chick Webb Orchestra. After striking out on his own, he landed 57 hits on the R&B charts including “G.I. Jive,” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Buzz Me,” “Beans And Cornbread” and many others leading to his being dubbed “King Of the Jukebox.” His unbridled charisma led to features in many films with his band, The Tympany Five, allowing us the pleasure of seeing him in action today.
Edited: December 1st, 2010