Here's Beaker's rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy. It's pretty similar to the way in which I sing it to my new baby daughter.
"I've never seen anything like that before..." — Statler and Waldorf.
I was always curious of what Michael Jackson (1958-2009) would have looked like if he had forgone plastic surgery had not mutilated his face. Recently I came across a YouTube video of an excerpt from a September 2002 British Documentary titled Michael Jackson's Face. The video features a computer generated image of what Michael Jackson would have looked like at age 44. Interesting. Let's leave it at that.
This week the Purple One, Prince, released three new albums: Lotusflow3r, Elixer and Mplsound. It’s a continuation of his “comeback period” which included albums, Musicology (2004), 3121 (2006) and Planet Earth (2007) and a Superbowl Appearance in 2007.
On Lotusflow3r, Prince performs a nice axeified version of “Crimson and Clover”. “4ever” and “$” are among the best here. Elixer introduces singer Bria Valente. Nothing to write home about here. In Mplsound, Prince, returns to his earlier ‘80s funk sound. …Very interesting selections and is perhaps the gem among the lot here.
If you’re expecting more great hits from Prince like “1999”, “Purple Rain”, “Kiss” or “Raspberry Beret”, this is not the offering for you. “Serious” Prince fans will enjoy these “deep cut” albums from the Purple One …to a degree. Nevertheless, with genres of swing, fusion jazz, funk and rock perhaps there is something for everyone in these three albums which are sold together as a unit.
Not to be overlooked is the artwork on these offerings. We aim to make this an “edifying blog” so silence here in not way implies consent!
Today I learned of a real shocker: New Age Greek musician Yanni is going ‘stacheless when his new music album Voices is released on March 24th. The iconic mustache and flowing black hair are no more! At first glance this seems to be an iconoclasm in the same category as when Weird Al Yankovic dropped his glasses.
Although it’s not the end of the world, I wonder how we would react to Fred Rogers (1928-2003) without a sweater or to Brian Johnson without a scally cap. Time is a measure of change. Now we will have a new division in time: the post-stache-Yanni era!
'stacheless Yanni ... say it ain't so!
Images: Yanni Ethnicity (2003 Virgin); Yanni Voices (2009 Walt Disney)
Musically, I'm not quite sure what one gets when combining Hanson, Smashing Pumkins, Cheap Trick and Fountains Of Wayne. But on April 21st we will find out. Tinted Windows, a new group featuring Taylor Hanson [Hanson] (lead vocals), James Iha [Smashing Pumkins](guitar), Adam Schlesinger [Fountains of Wayne] (bass), and Bun E. Carlos [Cheap trick](drums).
I like all four groups. This collaboration may make sense since Taylor Hanson should pursue a solo career apart from his brothers and after listening to Cheap Trick's Rockford (2006) it should be obvious that their best days are behind them.
Tinted Windows'swebsite has a sample song already posted: Kind of a Girl. The song sounds like Fountains of Wayne adding Taylor's distinct vocal inflections with Hanson's sentiments and Bun's familiar drumming. It sounds very upbeat and I look forward to hearing the totality of their collaboration. This album may be one to keep tabs on.
Coldplay released their fourth the album this week: Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (EMI/ Capitol Records). The cover of Viva la Vida features a painting of Eugène Delacroix's (1798- 1863) Liberty Leading The People of 1830 that commemorates the French Revolution — with graffiti added for "artistic merit" I suppose.
After a successful X&Y of 2005, I suppose Viva la Vida will be surely be heard all over the airwaves, on the music charts, and will propel the band’s tour which arrives in Boston on August 4th.
With a painting that commemorates the French Revolution on the cover, I was unsure of what to find inside. Irony, pretense or simply cluelessness about the horrors of the French Revolution were my top three initial expectations. After a few spins irony could be safely ruled out. With Chris Martin gracing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine this week in 19th century dress pretense took the top slot as the next likely candidate.
Why not irony? Well, Guns and Roses’ “Used to Love Her” (1988) is the model example of a song with objectively bad lyrics in terms of subject matter. However, given its simple and upbeat nature, “Used to Love her” clearly is irony.
In Viva la Vida, Coldplay, once again, showcases their familiar knack for beautiful melodies. However, the lyrics of Vida la Vida, in my estimation, show that Coldplay’s writing skills are quickly nearing the lower levels of quality. They may be trying to compete with Sting in the genre! I’m really disappointed that they are depressing and somewhat problematic in juxtaposition to the mostly catchy tunes. They are very much non-inspirational in contrast to say the lyrics of U2, The Fray, or early R.E.M..
Clueless? Case in point: “Strawberry Swing” … well, it’s easy to link this song the horrors of the French Revolution. A macabre “celebration” is not my cup o’ tea!
At times I wanted to consign Vida la Vida to the category of “make it stop”. (To date, I have only consigned two albums to this category: Wendy & Lisa’sFruit At The Bottom (1989) and Cheap Trick’sRockford (2006)). Vida la Vida was spared.
Nevertheless, Vida la Vida has its merits. Coldplay with organ, traditional melodies (found at an English soccer match?), and the falsetto voice of Chris Martin present something familiar and a sound that should be welcomed. The band taps into the John Lennon piano heritage with the greatest of ease. Perhaps songs like “42” would be what a “modern Beatles” would sound like? “Strawberry Swing” and “Violet Hill” are favorites here already. These melodies are already in my head and will perhaps be there for a while. The soundtrack to the summer of ’08 may have arrived this week!
Overall Viva la Vida is a pretty good album but not a great one.
Well, I haven't had time to post items lately. I've had some in mind. However for now you're stuck with a Rick Astley re-print from Stuck in the '80's blog. I though it was really funny and worth a wider-viewing. Mmmm, no I'm not personally "stuck in the '80s" ... if you are wondering but they were my "Wonder Years." "What would you do if I sang out of tune..." (Theme song to The Wonder Years TV show).
The late summer and early fall are always the time,it seems, for some good new music releases. As we wait for Bruce Springsteen’s Magic next week, I want to highlight some recent picks that I came across.
Cold in California (2007) by Ingram Hill Into the Wild Soundtrack (2007) by Eddie Vedder The Walk (2007) by Hanson Anthem (2007) by Christian Scott
Here we go...
Cold in California (2007) by Ingram Hill
Starting in the 4th quadrant, er… Tennessee, Ingram Hill recently released Cold in California as their full-length sophomore album. I really enjoyed June’s Picture Show (2004) as a refreshing “alternative” alternative. With Cold in California Ingram Hill stays true to their “alternative” genre. However, they definitely go deeper into their Southern roots (Lynyrd Skynyrd would be proud). Ingram Hill might just revive Southern Rock for the 21st Century!
The single Cold in California sounds so familiar as a bullet example of Southern Rock. Nonetheless it is a completely enjoyable song. As a bonus, Ingram Hill enunciates all of their lyrics. Something different indeed!
I’m not quite sure why Ingram Hill is not more popular than they are. Cold in California and some well-placed movie soundtrack songs might just get them over-the-top. Give Ingram Hill a chance. I'm sure they will please many tastes.
The iTunes "cherry pick": What You Want, She Wants to Be Alone and Cold in California.
Into the Wild Soundtrack (2007) by Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam and Illinois native, goes solo on this one. If you like Pearl Jam or "grunge rock" in general, then Into the Wild is a "must have". Vedder wrote most of the songs. However, the two best songs Hard Sun and Society were written by others. Nevertheless, Vedder performs these off as only he can. Great inflections and the like.
Unfortunately Vedder’s overtly political No More and Here’s To the State (written by Phil Ochs) are the sour notes on this album. They are angry, way too negative and, well frankly, dated and tiresome. "Here’s to the land. You tore my heart out…" "No more evangelizing..., no more president sliding..." Come on. In addition, including "Dick Cheney" in one's lyrics is just bad music. However, Into the Wild , save for these flaws, is a nice mellow and enjoyable listen. Vedder certainly lives!
The iTunes "cherry pick": Hard Sun and Society.
Anthem (2007) by Christian Scott
I’m on the cusp of my fourth distinct effort to get into enjoying jazz on a regular basis. Jazzman Christian Scott from Louisiana may just be what the doctor ordered! Instead of re-hashing the traditional jazz standards or trying to consciously form new ones in the same genre, he pushes jazz into the 21st century by incorporating hip-hop beats and the like into the rhythm and so forth. I really enjoyed this one. Simply nice. Simply recommended.
The iTunes "cherry pick": None. Buy the album and enjoy.
The Walk (2007) by Hanson
Finishing up in the 3rd quadrant is the fourth studio album from the three Hanson brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They are no longer the three long-haired teenagers from the MMMBop days of 1996. They are all well into their twenties. 2004’s Underneath was just a really fun album from them. So I had somewhat high expectations for The Walk.
The Walk is a mixed bag compared with their past offerings. It features the “classic Hanson sound” on Been There Before, Georgia and One More. As expected, they push their range with Great Divide and go with an early '80s funky sound with several offerings: Tearing It Down, Running Man (Hall & Oates would surely recognize their musical sons on this track, in particular).
Unfortunately, Hanson has their "Mike D." in the form of brother Isaac. He does his own thing with Watch Over Me. Bear it and grin, I suppose. Their ballad offerings may suite some tastes immediately. Here they certainly require a few spins to appreciate. Unfortunately, filler ballads like Your Illusion may never be appreciated in any sense.
The iTunes "cherry pick": Been There Before, Georgia.
Well, here's the Boss' new video: Radio Nowhere. The URL is here. The tour with the E Street Band kicks off in Hartford, CT on the same day! A Boston stop at TD Banknorth Garden will be Sunday November 11th.