Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Well I've been out walking, I don't do that much talking, these days...

As coincidences would have it I've had two occasions today to think about Jackson Browne. The first was via a relief teacher that comes to school often - Mike. We've swapped music DVDs and today we were talking about Bonnie Raitt. I mentioned a great version of 'My Opening Farewell' that I saw recently with Jackson and Bonnie singing as a duo. The second was a Facebook page by a new friend - Heather Browne - when she quoted from 'These Days'.

I've loved his stuff for years - beginning with those first two albums, on through the big time years sharing stages with people like Bruce Springsteen, then the political agitator years into the faded glory years (Naked Ride Home was a disappointment). So here's my top 5 Jackson songs (and albums). First the albums:

The songs you get in video form whenever available - The aforementioned These Days; My Opening Farewell; For Everyman; Running on Empty; Sky: Blue and Black.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Groove - let the madness in the music get to you. Life aint so bad at all, if you live it off the wall.

The blogosphere and interweb generally will be chocka with posts and thoughts on Michael Jackson who will not age another day past his 50th year on the planet. I guess for most people he'll be frozen in history as a teenager singing with the Jackson Five or at the Motown birthday show doing that amazing version of Billie Jean, rather than as the freakish fifty year old man he became. Everywhere I went today people were telling me that Michael Jackson died. No one seemed particularly sad about that though. Instead there was a sharing of cruel/stoopid jokes that referred to Michael's predilection for the company of young children, or else a kind of resignation, as if this was just another of his weird behaviours. The music will be forgotten for a while but then we'll rediscover his genius. We're a strange bunch - humans.

Top 5 MJ moments/songs: The video to Beat it; Jackson Five 's ABC and I'll Be There; The whole of Off The Wall; the Motown 25th bash with Billie Jean and the moonwalk; and The Making of Thriller video that pictures him clowning around with Jon Landis and cast.

Some magic moments from a real iconic figure from the 20th century (let's not dwell on the last 9 years).

Remember him this way:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Here come ole flat-top, he come grooving up slowly.

My eldest daughter was home recently and hired some movies she thought I'd like. I watched one last night - Across The Universe. I'd seen it in the video stores but it looked a little teen drama-ish for my tastes. Not a chick flick y'unnerstand - I'm actually not averse to my daughters chick flicks (like the Amanda Bynes film - She's The Man). And my hopes weren't increased any when I found out it was a musical.

I.don't.like.musicals. Why don't I like them? They're fake. I struggle and fail to suspend a sense of disbelief. The songs are usually terrible and it takes a stunning actor to transition between singing to the camera in one second to serious actor in a musical in the next. The plot is usually farcical. The themes are simplistic, if present at all. And the production values are too fantastic to be believable. It's tough, if not impossible to pull off. Name me your favourite musical and I'll snort in derisive laughter (if that's possible). Sorry - but they do nothing, repeat - nothing - for me.

So I loved (most of) Across The Universe. Go figure. I didn't set out to. It just snuck up on me. The 'most of' refers to the weaker second half. In truth it was all downhill after Joe Cocker appeared in the STUNNING version of Come Together. More of that later, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The plot centres on scouser Jude who travels to America to find his long lost father (which he achieves in the first reel). He's befriended by a narcissistic student called Max (as in Maxwell, as in Maxwell's silver hammer) and his sister Lucy. Lucy and Jude fall in love and yadda yadda yadda. Boy loses girl, boy finds girl. The screenwriters (successful sit-comedy duo Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement) probably used a (small) table napkin to write out the storyline. So tick the box - farcical for plot.

The film opens with Jude singing John Lennon's 'Girl' and I'm hooked right there.

Is there anyone going to listen to my story - all about the girl who came to
I don't know - but I was game. The Beatles songs are from then used as a bridge, an audience aid, and a thematic device (the movie's depth comes solely from the song lyrics). Okay - I love the Beatles. But I don't usually love cover versions of Beatle songs. By and large the film does a good job of rediscovering the heart in most of these classics. The segue from action to song was, again, by and large, handled well too. As the actors didn't react self-consciously my disbelief is suspended for great chunks of the film.

It's definitely worth staying the course. At least until the sublime version of Come Together that had me leaping around the room like an idiot. It is quite simply the best piece of filming to a soundtrack since Gene Kelly got wet wet wet in 'Singin' in the Rain'. Turn it up!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

I've just seen a face, I can't forget the time or place where we just met

I've had fun adding the gallery on the left (after the bloglist). Inspired by my son's (black and white) gallery of film and music icons on his blog I've now added mine.

All my musical heroes are there from when I started collecting until now. There are 62 pictures for you to recognise. I wonder how many you can get.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just find your place to make your stand and take it easy

I was told today, as I made tracks to the stereo system, to not put on "any boom boom crash stuff, your horrible hillbilly music or jazz". This means she wanted 'nice music'. Boom boom crash = noise (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zep, Mastodon, Beatles et al), Hillbilly is reserved for the worst insult = twangy or nasal (Dylan, all blues, folk, Patti Smith et al) and Jazz includes everything else pretty much. Which doesn't leave a lot - soothing classical or a fringe act that somehow combines things into a new genre - Jacky music.

As you can probably tell I don't live with a music lover. In this instance I came up with David Crosby's 'Thousand Roads' album, The Thorns, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor - long since proven safe bets. I wasn't asked to take any off so I must have succeeded.

It got me thinking though as I was searching - what are the albums that stack up as quality but still qualify as 'nice music'. Clearly Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica' is a non starter.

The following five albums are the ones that bear repeat showings and (through bitter experience) are 'nice music':
5) Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira' is absolutely there, so is 4) Bon Iver's brilliant 'For Emily, Forever Ago'. There is an other-worldly aspect to this music - they all sit outside established genres. So does 3) Aimee Mann 'Bachelor No.2'. She doesn't conform to female singer/songwriter norms, releases her work in the margins and has a maverick persona.

There are elements of pop and jazz and folk and it all makes a perfect sense. Plus she sounds superb. 2) Mike Oldfield's 'Ommadawn' stitches together prog and celtic music over two seamless sides and 1) Van Morrison's 'Moondance' combines jazz, the spiritual, the sexual, the lyricism of 'Astral Weeks' to make a sublime album that is the epitome of 'nice music' and sheer quality.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And I get a kick, you give me a boot, I get a kick out of you

Sinatra eh. Now there's a name I never thought I'd get around to in a post but I have a marathon season of a BBC music programme to thank for this. A few weekends ago the Documentary channel played all 8 episodes of 'Walk On By - The story of the popular song' one after the other. I'd never seen it and I'm a sucker for music documentaries like this. So I recorded it. I'm glad I did!

One of the episodes was centred on Sinatra and I guess I'm now of an age to appreciate his voice and persona. There have been a few pointers of late. When the New York Yankees had their final game at Yankee Stadium, Sinatra's 'Theme from New York New York' was played over and over and over again as the players waved goodbye to the place in typical American hoopla style. It sounded great - the perfect setting actually. I've always liked the power and passion of the song but it took this for me to finally want to own a copy.

The other prompt: at the end of that 'Walk On By' episode Sinatra sang 'I get a kick out of you' over the credits. Wow. It was loose, smiley, full of chutzpah and fun in a twice shy kind of way. This youtube version gives a glimpse of what I mean, although it's not what was on 'Walk On By'.

Anyway - so I actually searched for a (cheap) compilation of Sinatra and came across a good one. Incidentally - the shop assistant looked at me strangely cos I also bought an Avenged Sevenfold CD at the same time. 'Sinatra - Nothing But The Best' concentrates on the Reprise years so it has a limited range but is a nice mix of some classics with some things I'd never heard before.

The best bits for me - 'Come Fly With Me' leads off the collection and it swings! A great 'Girl From Ipanema' as a duet with Antonio Carlos Jobim really surprised me - I've never liked the song much but this one works well and makes sense. And then there's 'Theme from New York New York' to end it all in style. And that's pretty much what Sinatra was - a style. It's a style that's long disappeared and will not be back anytime soon. It's certainly not a style I can identify with but I can admire it from a distance. Now...where's that Avenged Sevenfold album?