Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, Aug. 29, 1958-June 25, 2009

Whether you remember him fondly as the King of Pop or as a bizarre freak show whose every move was a public relations nightmare, it's impossible not to acknowledge the world lost a musical legend yesterday with the passing of Michael Jackson.

Growing up in the late 70s/early 80s, MJ was larger than life for a great deal of my childhood. And let's be honest with ourselves, Thriller remains to this day a phenomenal album. Sure, the titular video scared the bejeezus out of my at the time, but had I not broken my leg literally six weeks before my wedding, you can bet your sweet bippy that the first dance for the Missus and I would have been zombified.

In tribute, I present to you this little gem from Soul Coughing. It's about as weird as the man's life became, a rather apropos gesture, I believe. Enjoy.

(The quality isn't spectacular, but the glitches are in the beginning)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LP Lust: Happy Birthday to Me Edition

So yours truly turned the big 3-0 last week. It shocked the hell out of me, too. In between being wined and dined (major emphasis on the wined, though several delectable meals were also had) by my beautiful friends and spending some less than quality time at the Broad St. DMV (Dear Commonwealth of Virginia, I am not a fan of the new drivers licenses), I (naturally) found the time to engage in a little birthday shopping (it's my birthday and I'll buy if I want to? Sorry, couldn't help myself). Surprisingly, I didn't go as crazy as I have on other spending sprees, which may or may not be a sign of my advancing age leading to some much-needed fiscal resolve (though I strongly suspect not). The vinyl in question came from a variety of sources, some from friends and some purchased in retail outlets. I probably missed the chance to excuse doing some major spending, but the birth month isn't over yet. Here's the skinny on the records that contributed to my milestone:

*Doves: Kingdom of Rust (Thanks, Tombo!)
*Dionne Warwick: Dionne!
*The Man With the Golden Arm OST
*The Rolling Stones: Tattoo You
*Lynyrd Skynyrd: Second Helping
*Nancy Sinatra: Movin' With Nancy
*Split Enz: Dizrythmia
*Nick Lowe: Nick the Nife
*The Guess Who: Wheatfield Soul

My collection has officially outgrown its' storage unit, thanks to this latest batch, so I'll soon be heading to Ikea to procure another cube to fill with heavenly vinyl.

Happy Birthday, Jeff

There is seemingly no end to the list of prolific, legendary, or otherwise fabulous people celebrating birthdays in the month of June (hey, even yours truly is a June baby). Obviously, June is a month inspiring creativity and beauty. And today it's Jeff Beck's turn, and as far as guitarists go, it's hard to get more legendary than the newly-minted Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer Mr. Beck.

Whether you prefer his Yardbirds days, his golden age with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (before they abandoned ship) in the Jeff Beck Group, or dig on his solo stuff (or any of his other projects), there's no denying the extreme virtuosity (and eccentricity) of Jeff Beck. Intense, moody, mysterious, and a little odd...just the way I like my guitarists (and my men, but that's neither here nor there).

I'll be throwing on my copy of the seriously atmospheric Truth this evening, to pay homage to one hell of a guitar player. I hope you'll do the same. Enjoy this brief interview between Jeff and good old Kurt Loder (you remember the days when MTV cared about good music, right?). Happy Birthday, Jeff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Album Review: Pink and Purple by Alan Wilkis

It's officially summertime, so LET favorite Alan Wilkis must be at it again, making some of the most dance-friendly summer jams to come across my speakers in a while. For those of you who somehow forgot, I gave MUCH LOVE to Mr. Wilkis' debut, Babies Dream Big. His signature sound is once again in full effect, immediately bringing to mind early '80s synthesizer funk a la Prince, Rick James, Funkadelic and Stevie Wonder. Clearly, a good crowd with which to associate oneself.

Pink and Purple is a six track EP that clearly showcases Wilkis' sound, but brings in a number of heavy hitters to play back-up, too. He enlists Gunnar Olsen on drums (Earl Greyhound, Asobi Seksu), guitarists Grey McMurray (Bell, Matmos) and Ryan Ferreira (Bell), and Eric Biondo (Atibalas, Shakira, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Tony Barba (Youngblood Brass Band) on horns. Impressive company, to say the least.

This is Saturday night roller skating music, so lace up those skates, free your mind and your ass most definitely will follow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Live Review--Nouvelle Vague, La Maison Française, 6-18-09

Every one's favorite French bossa nova cover band, Nouvelle Vague, (I know it's hard to pick just one, but work with me here) blew through D.C. in a cloud of sexy last week. Headlining at the French Embassy, the band came on late, but still managed to give the crow what it wanted--namely, a bit of French chic on a balmy, summer eve. Following a line of slappily thrown together jokes about the fair Parisians (decide for yourself whether or not "cheese monkey" is funny; obviously, the answer is yes, it is), I settled towards the back of the room to enjoy the latest incarnation of the band. While the band may well have been founded by Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, the evening definitely belonged to the two exquisite and lovely chanteuses, Melanie Pain and Nadeah Miranda. (The line-up of singers tends to rotate, similar to Zero 7.)

As the band began to play, a very stunning Miranda came out dressed in a black cloak, while an almost too cute Pain came out in a tasseled flapper dress. The two proceeded to work the crowd, posing like runway models, looking alternatively bored and ennui-filled as the mood dictated. I believe I honestly can say it was the first time I'd seen voguing in a long, long time. Between song commentary was delivered in both French and English, as the band never could seem to get a handle on whether the house was predominately local or foreign. Of course, to my ears, this made the show all the more appealing. Who doesn't love attractive French women giggling and encouraging the crowd to yell "Fuck" ("It is good to yell 'Fuck' in an Embassy.)? Nobody. Not even your grandfather.

The band ran through its full repertoire, from Nouvelle Vague ("This is Not a Love Song") and Band A'Part ("Ever Fallen in Love") to the latest, 3 ("Blister in the Sun," "God Save the Queen," "The American"). The highlight of the night, however, was the mid-set "Too Drunk to Fuck," played far closer to the Dead Kennedy's original than the band's own interpretation, complete with Miranda spitting a mouthful of water onto the adoring crowd. The only real complaint to be had was in the song progression choice. Seldom have I seen a show that would amp the crowd up, then go slow for a few songs, then up, then down, etc. Whoever did the set list for the night probably could have thought it through a bit better is all I'm saying.

Of course, that was a moot point for the audience, as Nouvelle Vague clearly had us at, "Bonjour."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Album Review: Jay Stay Paid

I'm guessing you've already heard the back story on the latest, posthumous release from Jay Dilla, Jay Stay Paid, but just in case...

The late hip-hop artist extraordinaire James Dewitt Yancey (aka Jay Dilla aka Jay Dee) has a new CD out, produced by his mother, Maureen Yancey, and his hero, Pete Rock. The two salvaged untold hours of unreleased beats by the genius to put the project together. The conceit is simple, playing out like a radio show, over both beats and radio clips from the past several years. Artists such as DOOM, Black Thought and Raekwon do guest duty.

What's most amazing about the project is how organic and fresh this thing sounds. There's no dust on these tracks whatsoever. Of course, that was always the beauty of Dilla's work. To describe his work is nearly beyond my humble abilities, coming across as some kind of futuristic Space Cowboy Ninja Pimp soundtrack with enough old school tastiness to make you want to smack your momma, as I believe the saying goes. (Don't ask where I get my sayings.)

While the instrumental tracks are truly amazing, the vocal appearances are just as incredible, if not more so. This is all the more amazing to me, as no one has any idea what Jay Dee had intended with these samples, yet these artists found more than enough material to create some off-the-chain rhymes to accompany the beats.

Sure, this thing is a labor of love, but the genius shines through nonetheless. As beloved a member of the hip-hop community as J. Dilla was, it would have been forgivable if this was a "mail it in" project. Thankfully for the listeners, this project is worthy of his best work ever. As the man allegedly left more stuff behind than Prince has in his own vaults and as well as this turned out, I'm a bit pumped to see what comes next from Jay Dee's estate.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Live Review--TV on the Radio, 9:30 Club, 6-8-09

While I'm a huge TV on the Radio fan, I've got to admit, I wasn't blown away the last time they blew through DC. The problem for me is the difference in sound--the band sounds incredible on wax, benefiting from superb production work and an obvious ear for combining numerous sounds into a coherent whole. Live, though, a number of those elements are missing, from various instrumental touches to vocal over-dubs and the like.

Suffice to say, I wasn't expecting too, too much from the gang this time around. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the best damn show I've seen at the 9:30 in recent memory.

I didn't get there in time for openers The Dirty Projectors, having had an important hockey game to lose earlier in the evening. To make matters more interesting still, I apparently ordered four tickets when I only meant to order two. While the guy I gave freebies to in front of the club seemed delighted, this was not the way I particularly wanted to start the evening.

And then the show started. TVotR played predominantly from Dear Science, ("Red Dress," "Family Tree"), but didn't shy away from earlier material, either ("Wrong Way," "Wolf Like Me"). The highlight, though, clearly came in the encore. A brilliantly played "Young Liars" led into TVotR and DP taking the stage together for a tribal drum-along version of "A Method." The fact that those are two of my favorite songs by the band certainly didn't hurt that situation. While the songs still sounded light years away from the CD versions, the band was much tighter than their previous show, seemingly inspired to new heights. There was a lack of chatter with the audience beyond thanking the openers, but every band has their own style, right?

The best part for me arguably had nothing to do with the music, surprisingly enough. Somehow, I managed to find the one perfect spot in the back of the club where I had a nearly clear view of the stage AND, far more importantly, I HARDLY WAS BUMPED INTO ALL NIGHT. Yes, yes, I know, let's not blow things out of proportion or anything, but is there anything better at a show than that? Of course not.

Anybody see the second night of the tour on Tuesday? Was it as good?

Friday, June 5, 2009

It's Covered--Let's Go Get Stoned

(Ed. note--this post was inspired in part by the always wonderful She'll Grow Back blog and their dedicated mission to bring multiple covers of a given track.)

A sad, but true thing happened to me the other night whilst I was attending the St. Vincent show at the Black Cat. Out of nowhere and apropos of nothing, a couple seemingly not much younger than me approached and asked if I could settle a bet. They had seen my iPhone and wanted to know if I could Google to see if Joe Cocker still was alive. There was no need for that, however, as I knew the answer, having already secured tickets to his upcoming gig at Wolf Trap for myself.

I understand Joe has been off the main radar for years, if not decades, but still, this harmless question somehow hurt me. My Pop got me into JC years ago. Pop tells of seeing the gravely voiced belter during the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, and how, at one show, Joewas so drunk he fell off the stage not once, but twice! For whatever reason, I still consider that the height of concert viewship--seeing someone so messed up, s/he falls off the damn stage. I came close at a Pogues concert a few years ago, but, alas, such an occurence has escaped me thus far. One of the first times I ever smelled pot was at a JC show. The fact that it was being smoked by an obviously very pregnant woman who was then apprehended by an over six foot woman security guard still ranks as one of the more surreal things I've ever seen. And don't get me (or any other Gen-Xer for that matter) started on The Wonder Years. It was Joe that heralded the arrival of our favorite mathematician-to-be once an week and then heavily in syndication.

While I understand Mr. Cocker has long since cleaned up his act and gone the path of the sober, that's no reason to dismiss the man's legendarily infamous past. In fact, Let's Go Get Stoned. And with that, it's covered.

Originally performed by the late Ray Charles, the song was penned by the soon-to-be-famous-in-their-own-right Ashford & Simpson, as well as Joey Armstead. Others have covered it, too, including the Hardest Work Man in Show Business himself. Ray obviously set the standard, while JB goes the instrumental route here. Joe updates the lyrics to reflect a more contemporary selection of, um, "party favors," so there's that. I'll leave it up to you whether or not any advice offered in the music is worth heeding yourself.


mp3: Let's Go Get Stoned (Joe Cocker)

mp3: Let's Go Get Stoned (Ray Charles)

mp3: Let's Go Get Stoned (James Brown)