Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

Tonight Leo and I saw the new Tribe Called Quest documentary. Aside from being an excellent film, it put me back in touch with a part of my own history.

After the movie I was on friggin' cloud nine & yapping a mile a minute as we walked to our car. I was telling Leo how the Native Tongues posse (ATCQ, De La Soul, Jungle Bros, Monie Love, to name a few) were like The Beatles for me when I was in college. Leo said "No, The Beatles were like your Beatles". Well played. I went on to explain that groups like Tribe were coming out at a time when I was forging thru a big personal/academic/spiritual evolution. As a fan I had gotten into the Native Tongues on the ground level and followed them as they exploded onto the scene. Looking back, I feel like I grew up with them (unlike The Beatles, who had broken up when I was four).

Some of the Native Tongues: De La Soul,
Jungle Bros, ATCQ, & Monie Love (on drums)

I saw ATCQ perform with De La Soul in December, 1993 (at 1st Avenue in Minneapolis), and it was one of those pivotal, transformational shows. I had no idea (until seeing tonight's movie) that A Tribe Called Quest had begun its slow dissolution right around that time. They broke up five years later, in 1998.

I won't give away the rest of the story because this movie is worth seeing, even if you don't have much of an idea about who these guys are. Their individual personalities, along with their story, make this movie a super interesting ride.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Time to Change"

I've got hella lots of transitions happening at the moment: academically, professionally, and personally.  In my efforts to keep life from getting too complicated I am striving to eliminate some of clutter and get more organized. This includes my life online.

September will mark my 6th anniversary as a blog-type person, and it feels like a good time to start fresh.  Over the past year I've seen quite a few bloggers migrate over to tumblr, and after some preliminary investigation I've decided to give it a trial run.  The process is very streamlined and clean, which I like. I expect to feature more pictures than text at the new site, with more focus on vinyl than anything else. I'll see how it goes. For now I intend to keep this original site up as an archive of the past 5+ years.

Here is the link to the new site:

To commemorate this change, here are the Bradys singing that old chestnut we all know and love:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Time to Get Alone"

Prior to 9/11 I don't recall tragic events that prompted me to create personal time for processing and healing. That's not to say that there weren't tragic events prior to 9/11, but I think the way in which I frame the world has been changed. Much of today has been devoted to processing the terrorism in Norway, as well as the sad news about Amy Winehouse.

I never officially jumped on the Amy Winehouse bandwagon, although I do own the Back to Black (2006) LP and have enjoyed it very much. I think her passing stings so badly because of the level to which her persona managed to seep into our collective consciousness. Her struggles with addiction played out like a reality program, and it was tough to see her slip further into the grips of addiction. I always privately hoped that she was going to pull through and show all of her naysayers the strength that she probably didn't even know she had. Having lived through my own family's addictions I can say that there were times when I saw no way out, no way that things could ever get better.  I am saddened to know that Miss Amy will never get to experience the triumph of her own spirit.

I have felt considerable urgency to process the tragedy in Norway. Being part Norwegian myself and growing up in Minnesota (which has the largest concentration of Norwegians outside of Norway), this feels like an attack on family.  As such, it is deeply personal.  I can't help but wonder if I actually have relatives in Norway that have been directly affected by these senseless killings.  I am frustrated by the fact that America, prior to our invasion of Iraq, was always seen as a world leader.  Since then we have increasingly become a country of extremists -- religious evangelical hate-mongers versus everybody else.  I can't help but wonder how this division has affected the rest of the world, including Norway. This is the stuff that I am struggling to process, and I have a lot of questions but few answers.  My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering.

If you are so inclined, please feel free to discuss in the comments, especially if you are someone who benefits (as I do) from putting your thoughts into words. Thanks, as always, for visiting my humble little web space.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Yes "Fly From Here" official video

On my turntable: Yes - Fly From Here

When I first learned that the new Yes album, Fly From Here (2011) did not include singer Jon Anderson I rolled my eyes.  The idea of a new Yes record without Anderson, I thought, was an incredibly bad career choice.  Once I saw that the album was coming out on vinyl I decided to have an open mind and at least give it a proper listen.

Fly From Here reunites the Yes lineup featured on Drama (1980) plus new lead singer Benoît David. Drama was the first Yes album in my collection.  I remember buying the record at the Target in Fridley and quickly riding my bike home with the LP tucked under one arm. What made Drama so exciting for me at the time was the new addition of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, aka The Buggles, who had very recently released their debut album, The Age Of Plastic (1980).  The combination of prog-rock Yes and new-wave Buggles (prog-wave?) worked very well, and Yes suddenly sounded like a fresh young band ready for the new decade.

Sadly the Drama configuration of Yes only lasted for one tour, after which a new Yes lineup evolved (under the working name of Cinema), eventually including Jon Anderson again on vocals and Trevor Horn producing.  It was this Yes configuration (Anderson, Squire, White, Kaye & Rabin) that released the highly successful 90125 LP (1983), including the #1 single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart".

Fast-forward to 2008. Yes was touring with members Anderson, Howe, Squire, White, and Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick Wakeman, best known for his work with Yes in the 1970s).  When the tour was interrupted by Anderson's unexpected hospitalization (for respiratory problems), Yes hit the road without him, hiring young Canadian singer Benoît David to fill Jon's shoes.  In 2010 Yes began working with Trevor Horn on the new album, and soon it was announced that Geoff Downes was back in the band, thus bringing together the Yes that created Drama thirty years ago.

Fly From Here is written mostly by Horn & Downes, but the musicianship is unmistakably Yes. The album is highly engaging and fresh.  By the third spin I had grown accustomed to Benoît David's presence on the Yes landscape. While it's still too early to say (I've only had the LP for three days), Fly From Here may just end up being my 2nd or 3rd favorite Yes album, next to Drama.

Fly From Here Track listing w/songwriting credits:
Side one:
Fly From Here - Overture (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt I - We Can Fly (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt II - Sad Night At The Airfield (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt III - Madman At The Screens (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt IV - Bumpy Road (Howe)
Fly From Here Pt V - We Can Fly reprise (Horn, Downes, Squire)
Side two:
The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be (Squire, Johnson, Sessler)
Life On A Film Set (Horn, Downes)
Hour of Need (Howe)
Solitaire (Howe)
Into the Storm (Squire, Wakeman, Howe, Horn, David, White)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quote of the week: Boy George

7.6.2011 Talking with Dave Pearce on BBC Radio about being a teen in 1970's record shops:
Boy George
"People were passionate about music. It was very different I think, but also because it wasn't everywhere. I think nowadays music's everywhere. You lift up your foot and someone's doing a performance - on every t.v. show, every consumer program. But (back) then you had to kind of look around, you had to have a slightly pioneering spirit to kind of hear new things. Plus you were passionate about hearing new things."
Boy George may as well have been talking about life for my brother and me in Minneapolis record shops in the late 70's. Before MTV happened you really did have to have a passion for finding new music. Disco was fading fast and radio didn't provide many options outside of very safe & schmaltzy AC stuff like Christopher Cross and Dan Fogelberg. I found a lot of my stuff through music magazines and by simply hanging out in record stores, browsing new releases and imports that were coming over from England.  Even if I didn't buy anything it felt good to be in the stores, catching up on what was happening.  I was very much the quiet kid and kept mostly to myself, but I was absolutely in my element at the record store.

I have written about this topic before, but I don't mind being vocal about my love and devotion for record stores. To be honest, I don't know how I would have survived the dreadful pre-adolescent and early teen years without them. I feel sorry for kids born post-internet, since their music reality is so dramatically different and disposable.  In retrospect I can see how the hunt for records really gave me a purpose in my young life.  That "purpose" (whatever it may be) is something that young people need, I believe, in order to navigate through all the turbulence and uncertainty. 

Coming from the old school of hunting for music in brick & mortar stores, long before the advent of the internet, has had a huge impact on how I search for new music today.  I use the internet to scour music blogs and various sites because it's a great way to sample new music, but I still go to the record store 2-3 times a week to find the actual product. I am an active participant in the process because the personal payoff is so great.  As much as the internet has enhanced my record store experience, it could never serve as a replacement for the indie stores.  They are the heart and soul that keeps music alive for all of us.

Support your local indie store today! 

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On my turntable: Crowded House - Intriguer

When I was walking around Dupont Circle hunting down record stores in DC last summer, "Saturday Sun" was one of the tunes that I had handy in my iPod.  "Saturday Sun", the opening track on 2010's Intriguer, is classic Crowded House.  The rest of the album is more current day Crowded House than it is "classic", which is fine by me, although I do understand that many listeners would prefer that the band stick to the upbeat tunes that defined them in the late 1980's. To each their own I reckon.

Intriguer, much like its predecessor Time on Earth (2005), is like a good soup - it gets better the longer you let it simmer. This is probably my fifth spin of this LP since my first listen on 8/5/10, and I appreciate it five times more today than the first time I heard it.  In many respects the Crowded House on Intriguer has evolved significantly since its inception some twenty five years ago. At the same time, many key elements of that original configuration remain unchanged; Crowded House continues to make highly sophisticated, beautiful, and sometimes rather moody pop.  Personally, that's more than enough to keep me coming back.

Look through my window

9:20 AM - front porch

Monday, July 11, 2011

On my turntable: Michael Jackson - This Is It (eight song EP)

I found this tonight at the record store. I'm convinced it's not an "official release", since most of the tracks are demos or lo-fi outtakes.  I bought it for the title track, specifically the "Orchestra Version", which was thoughtfully done, in my opinion. The addition of Michael's brothers on backing harmonies totally completes the song. The rest of the EP is an interesting listen, but nothing earth shattering. The sound is only slightly sub-par,  the most glaring sound problem being the thin-ness of Michael's voice on "This Is It".  Considering that the full "official" vinyl release of This Is It costs around $60, I was plenty content shelling out $15 for this little knock-off.

This Is It EP tracklist:
A1. "This Is It"
A2. "Planet Earth (Poem)"
A3. "She's Out of My Life (demo)"
A4. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (demo)"

B1. "This Is It (Orchestra Version)"
B2. "Beat It (demo)"
B3. "Hot Street (bonus rare track)"
B4. "Sunset Driver (bonus rare track)"
Correction: I just checked, and it turns out that all of this EP's songs were released as digital tracks as part of the full This Is It CD, with the exception of "Hot Street" and "Sunset Driver", which appear to be unique to this release.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On my turntable: Smithereens - "House We Used to Live In"

This Smithereens EP caught my eye at one of my stores yesterday because it includes two "previously unreleased" tracks. One of the tracks is a live recording of the title track, with origins that are a bit confusing. The sleeve says the track was recorded live in May, 1988 at The Bottom Line in New York, but the label says the song is actually "Blood and Roses", recorded live in October, 1986 at the Ritz.  Which is it? 
Back of sleeve
(kind reader: If you happen to know the answer please share!)
record label

I may have solved the puzzle! The CD version of this EP includes live versions of both the title track (recorded live at The Ritz in 10/86) and "Blood and Roses"(recorded at The Bottom line, 5/88).  Thus, I would bet that the vinyl Blood and Roses is the same as the CD track from 10/86.  Thank God for the internets!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Vinyl wishlist revisted

About 4.5 years ago, on 2/22/2007, I wrote about the 14 records that I was having the most trouble finding for my collection. I revisit that post today because two of the albums are being reissued on vinyl in the next few months: Ben Folds Five's debut LP (released on 7/19/11 by Plain Recordings), and Spilt Milk by Jellyfish, which gets its first domestic vinyl release on 9/27/11 (Omnivore Records).

This means that, of the 14 albums on my '07 wishlist, five have since been reissued (BF5, Jellyfish, Lemonheads, Stone Roses, Queen).  That's pretty damn cool if you think about it.  Since posting my wishlist, three additional albums have found their way to my grubby little mitts: The Ramones' Mondo Bizarro and Prince's Diamonds & Pearls I've found in local shops, and Julian Lennon's Help Yourself was found on eBay.

So here's my revised 2007 wishlist:
Stone Roses (self-titled) (1989)
Posies -
Dear 23 (1990)
Jellyfish - Spilt Milk (1993)
Julian Lennon - Help Yourself (1991)
Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (1992)

Redd Kross - Third Eye (1990)
Stray Cats -
Choo Choo Hot Fish (2x10")(1992)
Prince & NPG - Diamonds & Pearls (1991)
Ben Folds Five (self titled) (1995)

Ramones - Mondo Bizarro (1992), Adios Amigos (1995)
Duran Duran -
Wedding Album (1993), Thank You (1995)
Queen - Innuendo (1991)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Monkees @ MN Zoo Ampitheater, 7.1.2011

What a nite. The Monkees were stupendous, even tho they were unable to perform their show as planned. Six songs into their set, just as the band was starting "Papa Gene's Blues", Peter Tork stopped the music to inform the crowd that a thunderstorm was approaching and they were going to have to stop. He said they would cram in as many songs as possible, which ended up being just one tune before we all got evacuated to a building for shelter. At that point we didn't know if it was the end of the concert or not.
Set list, 7.1.2011 You can see where I just gave up.
After an hour or so the rain-soaked audience (who were beginning to resemble a gang of wet campers) received notification that The Monkees were going to give it a shot.  Following some vintage Kool-Aid and Rice Krispies commercials, Davy Jones came out to perform his solo tune "Rainy Jane", which I have never seen live before. Micky casually walked out and stepped behind the drums. It was a definite highlight of the night.

The highly unfortunate LOW point for me as a hardcore fan was missing out on all of the rare songs The Monkees intended to play, including the full HEAD album. After "All of Your Toys" (another mammoth highlight) they focused the remainder of the show on playing all of the hits. Being the pros that they are, they really gave it 110%, although I'm sure they felt at least a little frustrated over all they had to cut.
7.1.2011: Peter, Micky & Davy at the very start of the show
The last song of the night that I attempted to write down was "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round", which featured Peter on lead vox and banjo.  I say "attempted to write" because my pen gave out. I knew I had another pen on me somewhere but I just said "f**k it - enjoy the damn show!"  From here on I really paid attention to being in the moment, and was able to catch some little great bits of interaction between the guys, as well as spots where The Monkees themselves seemed to be really digging the sounds they were making onstage. Seeing that human element in the show as it's happening is pretty special -- it's something you can never get from a recording.

So here's what I believe is a complete list of all the night's songs (not necessarily in order after "Hangin' Round"...):
  • I'm a Believer
  • Mary Mary
  • The Girl I Knew Somewhere
  • When Love Comes Knocking At Your Door
  • Randy Scouse Git
  • Valleri
  • Papa Genes Blues <followed by thunderstorm break>
  • Rainy Jane
  • All of Your Toys
  • What Am I Doing Hangin' Round
  • Your Auntie Grizelda
  • Goin' Down
  • I Wanna Be Free
  • That Was Then, This is Now
  • A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
  • Daydream Believer
  • I'm Not Your (Steppin' Stone)
  • Last Train to Clarksville
  • Listen to the Band
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday
  • I'm A Believer (last song)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Tonite: The Monkees 45th Anniversary Tour

This is only my 2nd concert at the MN Zoo Ampitheater (following the Go-Go's in torrential rain), and the weather peeps are predicting early evening *storms* again for tonight. WTH?   Storm or not, I'm still pretty damn excited.