Monday, August 30, 2010

Brian Wilson hits #1...on Billboard's JAZZ chart!

That's right.

Just one week after its release, the legendary pop maestro's new album is perched atop Billboard's Jazz Albums chart.  Take that Michael Buble (Buble's latest is at #2). 

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is also #26 on Billboard's 200 album chart, and #6 on the magazine's "Tastemaker" chart (I have no idea what "Tastemaker" means, but it sounds like a bunch of hype & hooey to me. Or a toaster oven).

Congratulations to Brian and his band for this grand achievement!  I smell a Grammy nomination....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On my turntable: DEVO - Something For Everybody

I noticed that the 5:15 afternoon sun was beaming on the turntable, which motivated me to spin something on colored vinyl. Seriously - how pretty is this new DEVO record?

Something For Everybody (2010) is possibly the comeback of the century. The band's sound can only be defined as "DEVO", and they have stayed true to formula. If I had to identify one difference between this LP and their older material it would be that it's sonically thicker, yet it remains cold and electronic as a robot. It's jam-packed with synth-driven hooks and lyrics that speak of the often ridiculousness of humans and the stupid choices we make. In other words, there is nothing un-DEVO about this record.

The album's only shortcoming, in my opinion, is the absence of "Watch Us Work It" (a digital single from a few years back), which at one point was rumored to be part of Something's track list. Still, if I could only own one DEVO LP, I would have to choose this one.

So long, summer...

Today is officially my last day of summer "vacation".  I use scare quotes around "vacation" because I didn't get so much of a break this year like I did the past two summers, and yet these past three months have been pretty spectacular.

I don't need to rehash the events of May and June (you can review over at our Big Gay Wedding Blog if you like), but I do want to state once more how life changing the trip was.  Once we returned to Minneapolis I had a couple of days to ease back into reality before prepping for my PhD written prelim exam.  I was fortunate to work with a stellar study group who challenged me to process and stay on my toes. I hope that my contributions to the group were as helpful to them as theirs were to me.  The test was taken a week ago (I get my results in five weeks), leaving me with one week of no responsibility before the academic train starts a'rollin' again.

So Monday I return to my campus office and begin preparing for the two courses I'll be teaching fall semester. This is my fourth year as an instructor in the department, and I am eager to jump in and collaborate with the other instructors to create some exciting new stuff. After having just reviewed all of this student development theory and the ins & outs of higher education, I am intent on having a productive and enjoyable year.

This next year will be my last year of coursework, after which I will dive head-first into the research for my dissertation. I probably could have finished classes sooner, had I not tacked on a minor in Political Psychology. The content of these courses has pushed me outside of my comfort zone at times, which is a good thing.  My philosophy is that learning takes place in those occasions when we are challenged to create new ways of thinking for ourselves.  Taking these courses has also been an asset for me when I'm wearing the hat of political activist, particularly during my trips to D.C., both in spring '09 and again this past spring before Leo and I got legally hitched.

Closing thought/reflection: This September marks my fifth year of fanciful blusters and occasional tirades on this blog thingamybob.  I got distracted this past year by facebook for a little while, but found my way back here because it's such a better forum for writing about one of my favorite things, the first love of my life: my record collection.  Shout-outs to all of the music heads that have contributed your comments over the years. I've developed a handful of cyber friendships here that I really do value, so an extra shout goes to my cyber music/vinyl peeps and fellow bloggers.  It is motivating to know that there are like-minded geeks like you out there that give a sh*t as much as I do!

Rock on, y'all.

Friday, August 27, 2010

On my turntable: Blondie - 21/09/77 Old Wardorf, San Francisco

Found this festive chunk of wax at the record store earlier today. It's an obvious boot, which is always a gamble sound-wise, but luckily this is a good-quality recording, probably from the sound board.

 The show was recorded on September 21, 1977 in San Francisco. The set list consists mostly of songs from the band's debut album, with a few songs from their soon-to-be-released new album at the time, Plastic Letters. The band lineup consisted of the four core members (Debbie, Chris, Clem, Jimmy), plus new member Frank Infante on bass.

Library trip

(above: A view of downtown Mpls from the library)

I love visiting the library during the summer. On scorching hot summer days when we were kids our mom would often take us to the Northeast Minneapolis library, which was 1) free, 2) quiet, and 3) beautifully air conditioned.

This morning I made a trek to the downtown library to get a book needed for one of my fall classes. As libraries go, it's pretty fancy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Drums - "Best Friend"

8.26.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.
 Although I found The Drums to be annoying at first, their upbeat 80's sound grew on me pretty quickly. Their full-length album comes out on vinyl next month, but with such cool colored 7" singles I may choose to go with those instead.

The Beatles: 73

1973 was a busy year for The Beatles. On top of releasing the career-spanning "Red" and "Blue" albums (the first authorized "best-of" compilations to feature tracks hand-picked by the band), each Beatle was experiencing varying levels of chart success of their own as a solo artist.

Starr had a banner year in '73 with his RINGO LP, which included  instrumental, vocal, and songwriting contributions from each of his former bandmates. George scored his second #1 hit with "Give Me Love (give me peace on earth)" from the Living In the Material World album. Paul also rose to the top of the charts with the enormous summer hit "My Love", and achieved great visibility for his new band Wings with their title track from the James Bond film, "Live and Let Die", which was masterfully scored by Beatles producer George Martin.  Surprisingly, John had the least amount of chart success in '73 with only one mediocre single, "Mind Games", from an arguably lackluster album of the same name.
(above: My fancy artwork for the fake Beatles 73 CD)
So it occurred to me that with so much good 1973 solo material it would be wise to compile a nice fake Beatles album.  Obviously I'm not the first genius to assemble such a "mix tape"; In fact I always find it interesting to see what different people come up with when assembling such collections of their own.  Anyway, here's a track-by-track breakdown of what I came up with for 73:
Imaginary Side 1:
  1.  "Here We Go Again" (Lennon/Spector). Recorded in 1973 but unreleased until the 1986 Menlove Ave compilation. A lush Spector production that seems like a perfect album opener.
  2.  "Give Me Love (give me peace on earth)" (Harrison).  The #1 single that continued the spiritual tone George's began with his first global smash, "My Sweet Lord".  Tracks from the Material World LP featured either Ringo or Jim Keltner (or both) on drums.
  3. "Tight A$" (Lennon). An upbeat rocker and one of the more interesting tracks from the Mind Games LP.
  4. "Helen Wheels" (McCartney). A top 10 single for Wings, appended to the Band on the Run album in the U.S. but not in the UK (Band on the Run became a monster success in 1974, and is still considered by many to be Paul's most cohesive work).
  5. "Photograph" (Starkey/Harrison). A George/Ringo collaboration that hit #1 on Billboard in November 1973.  From the RINGO LP.
  6. "Living in the Material World" (Harrison). Features Ringo's distinctive drumming and lyrics from George referencing the fab four: "Met them all here in the material world, John & Paul here in the material world; Though we started out quite poor we got Richie on a tour..."  
Imaginary Side 2: 
  1. "I'm The Greatest" (Lennon). With three ex's on the track, this is in essence a Beatles record. Features John on piano & vocals, George on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Starr on drums and lead vocals. 
  2. "Little Lamb Dragonfly"(McCartney). A lovely McCartney ballad that showcases Paul's knack for constructing songs that weave together multiple musical themes. From the "Red Rose Speedway" album.
  3. "Intuition" (Lennon). A mid-tempo rocker from Mind Games.  Nothing groundbreaking, but certainly a pleasant little toe-tapper.
  4. "My Love" (McCartney). The biggest hit on 73, this song dominated the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the month of June, 1973.
  5. "Meat City" (Lennon). A scorching rock track from Mind Games, also the b-side of the "Mind Games" single. (Note: Let's address the elephant in the blogroom. If you're wondering about the absence of the song "Mind Games" on this collection, it has been my personal opinion that it's just not a very good song. So there.)
  6. "Live and Let Die"(McCartney/McCartney). Had this been a Beatles single, it would have been #1 out of the gate, but for Wings it still reached #2.  This is one of my favorite records of all time. (Trivia: It was Mrs. McCartney that penned the reggae-flavored middle section, "What does it matter to ya...".  Linda was a huge fan of reggae music, something she exhibited beautifully on her first solo single, "Seaside Woman",  credited as Suzy & the Red Stripes).
  7. "Be Here Now" (Harrison). A soft acoustic track from Material World, this song seemed a fitting way to wind down a fake album by a band that so many of us wished would never die.  But, as George says in the song, "The past was. Be here now, as it's not what it was before." In other words, let it be.
    If you are interested a zip file of this collection leave a comment to this post & I'll follow up with you. Offer expires within one week!


You're Catch-22!

by Joseph Heller

Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You could coin a phrase that replaces the word "paradox" for millions of people.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top 10 LPs of 2010 (so far)

8.25.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.
 10. Eli 'Paperboy' Reed - Come and Get it!
9. Free Energy - Stuck on Nothing
8. Hole - Nobody's Daughter
7. Ringo Starr - Y Not
6. The Like - Release Me
5. Stone Temple Pilots
4. Crowded House - Intriguer
3. DEVO - Something for Everybody
2. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
1. Kula Shaker - Pilgrim's Progress

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Witnessing Social Change

Today I accompanied Leo as he picked up his last prescription from Target pharmacy. After the payment was completed Leo asked to speak to the manager on deck, kindly explaining that this would be our last purchase from Target (I had already transferred my prescriptions elsewhere), on account of their political activities/contributions. The woman behind the counter appeared saddened, as if she fully understood our position and was sorry.

I felt mighty proud of Leo today, and proud to be standing with him as we explained our need to take our business elsewhere.  It was a powerful little moment, one in which I understood that I was witnessing social change as it was happening. The country is changing, and it feels great to be an active participant.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cheap Trick @ Treasure Island Casino, Red Wing MN 8.21.2010

Tonight's show was one of the tightest, most eclectic sets I've ever seen from the band. Outstanding.

Set List:
Way of the World
California Man
Clock Strikes Ten
I Want You To Want Me
These Days
The House Is Rockin' (with domestic problems)
Heaven Tonight
Didn't Know I Had It
Magical Mystery Tour
The Ballad of TV Violence
Baby Loves To Rock
Sick Man of Europe
Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda
Dream Police
Goodnight Now

Thursday, August 19, 2010

final preparation

Tomorrow I take my written prelims -- a five hour exam that determines whether or not I move forward in my program as a "PhD Candidate".  At this point I'm either prepared or I'm not, so I have no plans to cram today.  I am doing some final reviewing and writing out some practice questions, but also getting proper rest and de-stressing.

Of note: Check out the looming presence of Austin in the far upper right of the photo (above). The buns have been great company for me these past several weeks.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On my turntable: Kula Shaker - Pilgrim's Progress

Kula Shaker's fourth LP, Pilgrim's Progress (2010) is a mind-altering psychedelic folk-rock masterpiece. The album represents a slightly new direction for the band, injecting more acoustic and folk influences into some of the tracks.  Overall the record is Harrison-meets-Donovan-meets-XTC, and it's a really groovy trip. "Peter Pan R.I.P." opens the LP with an intense, almost spooky string arrangement followed by bells, drums, percussion, and various swirling sounds.  Of the album's 13 tracks, "Modern Blues" does best at achieving the more "vintage" Kula Shaker style, which is very upbeat and sonically spectacular. My favorite song on the album by far is the simple acoustic ballad "Ruby" which consistently captures me with its acrobatic use of melody and its subtle lyrical reminders of Crispian Mills' life as a dedicated Krishna devotee ("Beware of Maya, don't let her get you down...My love is like a simple prayer.").

Pilgrim's Progress could easily be my favorite album of the year.  The vinyl edition is rather bare-bones, with a plain white inner sleeve & different custom labels for sides A & B. The disc sounds beautiful, and from what I can tell it is a fully independent pressing for the band's own Strange F.O.L.K. Records label.  I ordered this copy through, which is one of the best online stores for new import 7" vinyl, and also a good place to check for non-domestic LPs. This LP was much more expensive at some of the other sites I looked at. 

Check out the video below for "Peter Pan R.I.P.", which does a terrific job at capturing the mood of the song itself (in my humble opinion).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On my turntable: Eli 'Paperboy' Reed - Come and Get It!

Being on a graduate student budget, I try to be thrifty and thoughtful when it comes to purchases of new vinyl. Once in a while however, an impulse buy can be sweetly therapeutic.  A couple of days ago one of the music e-newsletters I receive featured a blurb about the new Eli 'Paperboy' Reed LP (released this week), along with a stream of an electrifying new track called "Explosion".  This morning I had an unexpected free hour on my hands, so I stopped by the record store to see if the vinyl was in.  And so it was.

Come and Get It! (2010), Reed's major label debut, is an all-out honest-to-goodness American R&B record, in the Tamla/Motown tradition of the late 60's/early 70's.  Lots of bass, sizzling brass & funky grooves. The vinyl itself is probably 200 gram so it's quite heavy, as is the LP's sleeve, which is pressed on old-school cardboard like the records of 40-some years ago.

When I make new record purchases based on impulse it's usually hit or miss, but this time I think I nailed it. Check out this alternate "performance version" video for the album's title track, "Come and Get It":

"love and mercy"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On my turntable: Deee-Lite - World Clique

There's a meme in the blogosphere today where folks are identifying "A song that you can dance to".

My own personal greatest booty shaker entered my life in 1990, and nothing has been the same since. The song was "Groove is in the Heart" by Super DJ Dmitri, Towa Tei, and the ever delicious Lady Miss Kier, collectively known as Deee-Lite. Back in the day, I was lucky to see Deee-Lite on their support tour for World Clique (1990) performing at Glam Slam, the relatively short-lived Minneapolis club partially owned by Prince.

Almost 20 years later Rhino records has re-issued World Clique on great sounding, house-shaking, booty-licious vinyl.  If you were like most music consumers who bought this album in the 90's you owned it on CD. My tip of the day is to find the LP and get ready to rediscover how awesomely timeless and unique the day-glo dance-tacular named Deee-Lite truly were.

Dig it, baby.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Happiness is...

Happiness is finding a record that
gets you closer to completing a collection.

This is a challenging record to find in good condition, in a sleeve that is not all ragged and beaten like it's been dragged around the block behind someone's Big Wheel. Is This What You Want (1968) by Jackie Lomax is part of the Apple Records catalog, which is one of the collections I'm working on.  I saw a really nice copy of this album when I was in DC recently, but it was $30 so I passed.  Today I found this beautifully preserved specimen for $8.  As a record geek I get immense pleasure out of filing these rarities alongside the rest of the collection, as shown in the picture above. 

*huge sigh of satisfaction*

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

NEW Crowded House!

Intriguer (2010) was released on vinyl this week. It's a mellower offering from the band, recalling some of the softer moments on Temple of Low Men (1988). Overall it is unmisakenly Crowded House, so if you are even a casual fan, you'll probably enjoy this.

Standout tracks: "Saturday Sun", "Twice if you're Lucky."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

T minus 15 days

8.4.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

Love wins in California!

Today's Prop 8 ruling is a HUGE victory for all of us who have fought the fight for equality. Our constitution guarantees us all the same rights; Today in California we saw the constitution in action.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

On my turntable: Prefab Sprout - Protest Songs

Knowing some of my readers as I do, I expect that some of you will understand this:  There are some bands of which I consider myself a "fan".  I follow their work and tend to buy whatever they release (if it's on vinyl, otherwise I'll usually just go digital).  In some rare cases I am a fan of a particular album by a band, but the rest of their work, for whatever reason, fails to create any spark of interest.

For me, Prefab Sprout has been one of those bands. Their 1985 masterwork (that's right, I said it) Two Wheels Good (or Steve McQueen as it was known outside of America) totally captured me in the summer of '96 when I was on a trip to Saranac Lake, NY, where I interviewed for a job at a community college. As I was packing for the trip I tossed cassettes of Two Wheels, The Byrds' Younger than Yesterday, and Elvis Costello's All this Useless Beauty into my backpack, hoping that it would be the proper music for the trip. It turned out to be an incredible week (I was offered the job but turned it down), and Two Wheels Good cemented its position among my favorite LPs of all time.

Last week I found a sealed copy of Two Wheels Good for $5, along with a couple of import Prefab Sprout 12" singles for a buck each. A few days later I stumbled across Protest Songs (1989), which I'd never seen before, but since I was riding a Prefab Sprout high I bought it. After a little googling I learned that Protest Songs was actually supposed to be the follow-up to Two Wheels Good, but was temporarily scrapped.  One writer speculated that the album was too similar to TWG, and that the band wanted something more fresh.  Of course I'm thinking TWG pt II!!  While I've only listened once, I do agree that this album is indeed similar to TWG, and for that reason I am so glad I found it. I expect to listen to this a lot in the next two weeks as I attempt to de-stress in preparations for my upcoming prelim exam on 8/20.

purple booty

Scored this handsome 45 yesterday for $2.50.  When I've come across copies of this in the past they've been either too pricey or too beaten.  This one was juuust right (suddenly I've become the Goldilocks of the record store)!  Great song to boot.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bunny Lovin'

For the 2nd time in two weeks, we've managed to get our feuding rabbits together for some non-violent bun-on-bun quality time. This morning things got so dang cute that I ran for the video cam.

Make-out music by The Jefferson Airplane: