Friday, October 30, 2009

Boo!: Halloween Mix Tape Spectacular

Somehow, boys and ghouls, Halloween is nigh upon us already. I don't know how, either, but tomorrow night is once more my oh-so-favorite holiday of all holidays. I've already made plans to go commune with ghosts at a haunted plantation, and I hope you've got some killer plans yourself.

In the meantime, why don't you give the following songs a listen to help get you in the mood for some good old fashioned trick-or-treating. I've tried to put together a nice little compendium of all sorts of things that go bump in the night, and I hope you'll enjoy this heaping of songs about vampires and ghosts and blood oh my! Unlike my dear partner's zombie mix earlier in the month, this probably isn't the greates All Hallow's Mix you'll ever hear, but I hope it'll make your top 5...

I decided to kick things off with one of my favorite ghostly tracks, the Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost In You." The stark synths and epic builds make this a glittering example of what made 80s music so amazing. It's also got that inherent touch of melancholy that characterizes so much of the best music. At least, in my mind.

mp3: The Ghost In You (Buy: Psychedelic Furs)

Next up, a lovely, lovely ballad to the undead. Pink Mountaintops are fantastic anyway, and this tender, acoustic guitar driven ode to vampires is a must on any Halloween mix. You can find it on their splendid new record, Outside Love.

mp3: Vampire (Buy: Pink Mountaintops)

I couldn't not throw in a zombie jam, so next on the list is the most fabulous Beat Happening's "Zombie Limbo Time." I love the juxtaposition of droll, monotonous vocals and such a hilarious song concept.

mp3: Zombie Limbo Time (Buy: Beat Happening)

Next on the Halloween docket is I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, one of the multitudinous bands from Austin that I am pretty much in love with. They're also, in my humble opinion, one of the spookiest bands around. They manage, with their adaptation of moody English post-punk with a hearty dose of theatrics, to create a feel of ominous darkness in pretty much all of their music. It's mood music for damn sure. And it's great.

mp3: The Ghost (Buy: I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness)

A Halloween mix probably wouldn't be a good Halloween mix without a song about Halloween, so to the rescue comes The Dream Syndicate. One of the many reasons I love my former roommate, Chelsea, she introduced me to a number of great bands, TDS included. It's spare, 80s goodness, perfect for all of us music snobs. Use it to impress even the most discerning of your friends!

mp3: Halloween (Buy: The Dream Syndicate)

Mazzy Star makes an appropriate addition to the mix, because I find Hope Sandoval's voice to be one of the most mystifying and haunting this side of ever. "Fade Into You" might be their most famous, but there are some gems on all the Mazzy Star records, including this one.

mp3: Ghost Highway (Buy: Mazzy Star)

For the past couple years (thanks, Chelsea) I've been getting more and more into New Zealand bands. Sure, I've long had an appreciation for the new ilk, like Die! Die! Die! and Cut Off Your Hands, but the older ones were totally unknown to me. Flying Nun has to be one of the best labels EVER, I kid you not. How so much good music spawned from such a tiny country I'll never know. Goblin Mix's "Travelling Grave" is fitting on so many levels.

mp3: Travelling Grave (Buy: Goblin Mix)

Back in the day, I was HUGE into Britpop, as I'm pretty sure I've mentioned at least ten thousand times. I always had a soft spot for The Bluetones, and not only because I thought the Morriss brothers were beautiful. I enjoyed their melodic, delightful poppiness. And so, here they are.

mp3: Vampire (Buy: The Bluetones)

Sticking with friends from across the pond, I present to you Pete & The Pirates. My love for them is well known around these parts, and I feel their dark newish song "Blood Gets Thin" is an apt addition to this here mix. And oh, how wonderful they are.

mp3: Blood Gets Thin (Buy: Pete & The Pirates)

Band of Horses is another band I find fitting for this time of year. They're moody, atmospheric, and perhaps not spooky, but definitely haunting. Sub Pop is offering up several BOH mp3s, including this one.

mp3: Is There a Ghost (Buy: Band of Horses)

After years of wanting to, I finally got to see Viva Voce live a few months ago. It was so goddam wonderful, I can't even fully explain it. Their dirty little ditty fits in nicely on a Halloween mix, so here you go.

mp3: From The Devil Himself (Buy: Viva Voce)

I'm pretty sure that this is one of the best song titles around, especially when you're thinking of Halloween songs. The Mountain Goats know what's up, that's for sure. And this, this is a creepy song.

mp3: The House That Dripped Blood (Buy: The Mountain Goats)

And finally, just because, Does It Offend You, Yeah?

mp3: Dawn of the Dead (Buy: Does It Offend You, Yeah?)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

LP Lust: Kind Of, Sort Of

OK, I'm a bit hesitant to lay this one out there for all the world right now, as I'm sure the news will spur activity on the stock market, change the migration patterns of blue footed boobies and pretty much just blow your mind, but I'm working on not one, but TWO updates to The Greatest Zombie Mix You Will Ever Hear. Once all three parts are complete, they will merge and form a near perfect Mecha-Gundam-Mix, kind of like Voltron. As you can imagine, I haven't had a lot of time to put together any other meaningless tributes to century old hos or musings on the sad, sad decline of beat boxing.

Whilst I was ruminating on what made the greatest zombie mix of all times and perfecting what is sure to further blow your mind, however, I stumbled across these blasts from the past and knew the universe might well collapse if I didn't share them with you, oh faithful readers.

You've probably noticed by now a lot of very cosmic happenings depend entirely upon what goes on here at LET. If that freaks you out, how do you think I feel? It's one of the many crosses I bear, I suppose. It's hard being me, you know?


Since I have virtually no clue about any of the demographics of LET's readership, let me take you all back to a simpler time, back in the late 80s, when people actually ordered LP record compilations from TV commercials. While there were literally hundreds of these bad boys out there, two somehow stood out from the pack and ingrained themselves into the minds of me and countless others. As far as I'm concerned, Soul Brothers and Stoner Dudes could go round for round with Clara Peller or Mrs. Fletcher any day of the week, kids. You can decide for yourselves.

And for the mp3 greedy amongst you, here's the only song I can think of in my collection that's actually about record collections. It's full of all sorts of country goodness, but its real strength lies in the name dropping dichotomies in the lyrics.

Oh, and while we've got the time, get off your lazy ass and write up a haiku to win TWO FREE BETTY DAVIS CDS. Based on the number of entries so far, your chances of winning are pretty near one in one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Covered: I Want a New Drug

I threw my back out again last week, and, seriously, I am far too young to be falling apart the way I am. I'm pretty sure my spine is in complete decay right now. I was pretty sure it was spina bifida before I knew what spina bifida actually was. Hey, it had "spine" in it and sounded pretty damn bad, so you obviously can see where I was coming from. I'm also a whiny baby when I'm not feeling 100%, so I suppose that should be taken into consideration, too.

Of course, I called the doc's office last week to get a refill on the pain meds, but couldn't get an appointment until tomorrow. All of which led me to today's track, "I Want a New Drug." Huey Lewis wrote the track, allegedly in just a few minutes, after a long night of having the good times, so to speak. On a more salacious note, Lewis sued Ray Parker, Jr. for plagiarism in the Ghostbusters theme song. They settled out of court, contingent upon Lewis not speaking about it publicly. Lewis later did on VH1, resulting in a counter suit by Parker. That's like a perfect pop triangle of utter minutiae right there, kids.

Side note, Huey Lewis and the News was the first concert I ever attended. My brother missed catching the harmonica ol' Hue threw to the crowd by mere inches. I haven't seen him since, but they put on a damn fine show at the time, if memory serves.

Enjoy the indie rock version by Apostle of Hustle, the industrial version by the Greenskeepers, the version that falls somewhere in-between by Mardo, and the alt-country version by Glenn Phillips (formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket) while you're here. Now it's time for me to go suck down some more aspirin. If, however, you have any new drugs you think might help my cause, feel free to send me a smoke signal, and let's chat.

mp3: I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis and the News from Sports)

mp3: I Want a New Drug (The Greenskeepers from Polo Club)

mp3: I Want a New Drug (Glen Phillips from Mr. Lemons)

mp3: I Want a New Drug (Mardo from Mardo)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Album Review: Nebula – Heavy Psych

You will rarely find an album with a more apt title than Nebula’s record Heavy Psych. It’s an album full of, wait for it, heavy psych. However, it’s not just that simple. Nebula, from the City of Angels and borne out of the demise of Fu Manchu, has honed a most appealing blend of the swirl of late 60s psych rock with ballsy, driving hard rock. The result is striking, and very, very loud. To give you more of an idea, they’re somewhat akin to Black Mountain, but with more of an emphasis on the rawk, and wouldn’t be out of place at a show with Dark Meat, though they’re not quite as, well, out there. While no less expansive, they seem a bit more structured.

Things get going right from the word go on
Heavy Psych. First track “Pulse” is full of intricate guitar play, from crazy frenetic riffs to more focused, studied solos. It’s just one of the tracks that demonstrates Nebula’s ability to veer from one of the spectrum to another, sounding like Motor City rebels one minute and San Fran trippers the next. “Aphrodite,” third song on the album, is a true gem. “Woman,” howls frontman Eddie Glass, “set me free/I’ve done my time,” and it is staggeringly, ferociously sexy. The song is pure rock, distorted most magnificently through fuzz and noise. I’m also pretty well enamored with “In The Depth’s,” and love the line “cuz in my head/everything’s alright/in my mind/everything’s alright.” It, and the album as a whole, is heady, disorienting, and intoxicating.

Heavy Psych is not for the faint of heart. If you’re into, say, all twee all the time, you’re probably going to be a little afraid. And rightly so. But for fans of balls-out, full-speed ahead rock, you couldn’t do much better than Nebula. They’ve pulled the best bits from all the greats and whipped up one hell of a sonic magic carpet ride. And yours truly is pretty much in deep smit. Far out, brothers and sisters. Far fucking out.

mp3: Aphrodite (Nebula)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's Covered: Don't Step on the Grass, Sam

I prefer not to get into much politics here at LET because, frankly, that's not what we're about. Personally, I'm all about the benevolent dictatorship wherein I am the dictator, but we don't really need to get into that now. For what it's worth, though, I do have plans for the world's first all-nude military that will blow your mind, but I'm really getting off topic. Seriously, though, think about it--all-nude military is genius. When the invading forces come, they'll be too busy gawking at my very buff, co-ed, nekkid ninja personnel to notice me and the rest of the royal harem escaping. It's genius in it's simplicity, I know. I came up with it, after all.

Which brings me to my tipping of the hat towards the Obama administration. I've been a tad lukewarm on what his team has actually accomplished thus far, but I say kudos to you, sir, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., for directing federal prosecutors to back off on medicinal users. Yes, the pot lobbyists have been piggy backing on the health issue to get their agenda moving forward, but as a left leaning libertarian/hopeful benevolent dictator, I'm behind the methodology here, kids.

And what better acknowledgement could I give to our friends in D.C. than to do a small bit on "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam?" The track first saw the light of day on Steppenwolf the Second, and has been a burner fave ever since. So much so, that Steppenwolf trotted it out again on Live. And if that weren't enough, Gov't Mule does a downright electrifying take of their own that can be found on Hempilation, a perhaps not-so-surprisingly hit or miss collection whose proceeds benefit NORML. (Personally, I prefer to give my time and money to the Marijuana Policy Project, but we're all on the same team here, right?)

I'm guessing it's 4:20 somewhere in the world right now, kids, so have at it.

mp3: Don't Step on the Grass, Sam (Steppenwolf from Live)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fast Break Breakfast Raps

On-going LET favorite Passion of the Weiss did it again recently, introducing yours truly to a damn fine MC by the name of Danny! In a kush addled haze, I distinctly recall him posing the question, "Who else rhymes about breakfast?" I took that clearly rhetorical musing, of course, as a direct challenge to put together a brief mini-mix of rap songs specifically about the alleged "most important meal of the day."

Of course, upon re-reading the post just now, there obviously is no such question posed, rhetorically or otherwise. But I still have a mini-mix of breakfast raps here, so you're gonna take 'em, and you're gonna like 'em. Along with real food, it's part of a well balanced meal. Or something like that.

To get things started, we're going with the original culprit in this whole thing, Danny! As Passion sagely points out, any song with the lyrics “fuck rhyming about a broad, rhyming about a necklace, rhyming about some sex, I’m rhyming about my breakfast” obviously deserves to kick things off. Next in the line-up is an older jam I've dug for years, "Milky Cereal" by Ladies Love Cool James himself. For those of you old enough to have been around, do you remember when LL did his unplugged performance on MTV? To this day, the one thing that sticks out most in my mind is the screamingly blatant deodorant pits the guy was sporting. As I attempt to return from that tangential line of stream of consciousness, I'll point out that LL uses the names of various cereals as euphemisms for what essentially is one of his trademark sex raps. Following that, Biz Markie does what Biz Markie does over a smooth beat by the always excellent DJ Yoda. Afterwards is the track that drove me coo coo for Cocoa Puffs for both Murs and DJ Z-Trip. This track is as much about watching 80s cartoons as it is about breakfast, but that simply makes it that much more awesome and amazing, right? I possibly should have stopped there, but I found I simply couldn't, so sue me. "Bitties in the BK Lounge" by De La Soul really only opens with a line or two about breakfast before going on to describe an encounter with less than helpful BK workers. Wait for the second half, though, when the argument starts between the manager and Shoshana. That's comedy gold right there, kids. And that, I would hope, should be enough to fill you up for now.

mp3: Breakfast Cereal (DJ Yoda ft. Biz Markie from The Amazing Adventures of DJ Yoda)

mp3: Breakfast Club (DJ Z-Trip ft. Murs and Supernatural from Shifting Gears)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Skool Review: Kid 'n Play

Among the litany of complaints I had with hip hop for the better part of the past decade or two was the stunning lack of genuine fun to be found anywhere. As soon as gangsta became the only way to go, the idea of rap simply being about having a good time went the way of the dodo. You know what? That was a damn shame, so today we're going to discuss an act from the past that always seemed to be having a blast--Kid 'n Play.

Christopher "Kid" Reid and Christopher "Play" Martin did not write lyrics that were meant to change the world. They weren't political, though they did have an underlying sense of positivity that pervaded their tracks. They certainly weren't violent, unless you considered cafeteria confrontations with Full Force some sub-sub-sub-genre of gangsta. They were, however, light hearted, upbeat and a good time generally was had by all in their presence, I imagine.

While they had a few strong singles, the duo really became more well known for everything other than music that they did. For starters, they were one of the first rap groups that incorporated dancing into their performances in a big way, even perfecting their own dance. Kid's hi-top fade is a thing of legend to this day, assuming you run in the right circles or are a retired urban barber. Arguably most important of all, their run of "House Party" movies still is held in high regard by the likes of numerous syndicated local cable networks. I'd like to give a special tip of the hat to whoever cast those movies. You've got essentially an unknown Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell, as well as George Clinton and Robin Harris. Not to mention it introduced at least one white teenager from the 'burbs to the wonders of Dolemite.

For my money, though, you know you've pretty much reached the pinnacle of success when you get your own cartoon.

After their halcyon days of yore, Reid bounced around low budget television for a bit, while Martin became a born-again Christian and played the music producer game. To remind you what we're all missing, today's track features Kid 'n Play riffing with none other than Salt 'n Pepa. Incidentally, both acts were managed and produced by Herby "Luv Bug" Azor. All of which leads me to believe that there's a deeper story here concerning Azor's insistence on adding "'n" to all his band names. Nobel Prize for Investigative Reporting, here I come!

mp3: I Don't Know (Kid 'n Play from Funhouse, featuring Salt 'n Pepa)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's Covered: For What It's Worth

Sorry about the lack of posting yesterday, but I fell a bit under the weather, as it were. Of course, dear ol' Ma immediately thought it was swine flu, but I'm pretty sure it was just an alien exploding in my gut. I'm all better now, though, thanks for asking.

Between that and the fact that the weather in DC today is miserable, I decided it was only fair to write a little sumfin sumfin for the people. As the Bard proclaimed, "give the people what they want when they want and they wants it all the time." Keeping with the laid back mood I'm digging right now, today we're covering "For What It's Worth."

Though written and originally performed by Stephen Stills as part of Buffalo Springfield in 1967, the song has since been covered by any number of artists. Probably owing to its funky bass line, it's seemingly a standard now on the groove circuit. Everyone seems to think it's a Viet Nam protest song, but Stills maintains it actually was written in reaction to cops fucking with club kids back in the day. And you thought your parents weren't just as much a bunch of punks as you fancy yourselves. Think about it.

A quick, meaningless aside about Buffalo Springfield, first. BS is the only way I can stomach Neil Young. There. I've said it. His nasally delivery is like my aforementioned alien birth, but in my audio canal versus my stomach. If the Mynah Birds (Neil's prior band) had managed to keep Rick James in their line-up (swear to Dolemite; see for yourself), I'm sure I would have felt differently, but there you have it.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the grooveliciousness of "For What It's Worth." Well, instead of me just rambling on, let's get into it, shall we? In addition to the original, today we've got the following menu items. Keb Mo' puts his spin on things, adding a bit of additional soulfulness to the procession. Next up is a Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 cover that probably is going to free your mind, with little doubt that your ass will follow. If it is humanly possible, an arguably even funkier version by Sex Mob. It's instrumental, and it's not just awesome, but it's amazing, too. And just to muddy the waters even further, Public Enemy's slant, wherein Chuck D. was able to get Stephen Stills to re-record the bridge.

And that, children, is all you need to keep your rainy days funky. But since I'm in a giving mood, you probably want to hear the Muppets version, too. At heart, I'm a reductionist--all incredible music that predates the early 90s has to be featured prominently in either a Muppets or Looney Toons feature.

mp3: For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield from Buffalo Springfield)

mp3: For What It's Worth (Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 from Stillness)

mp3: He Got Game (Public Enemy from He Got Game Soundtrack)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Contest Time: Win Two Free Betty Davis CDs!

Much like a very young Ronald McDonald or a very old whore, the LET crew is delighted to announce that we've recently served our 20,000th satisfied customer! While it took us more than a year to reach 10,000 sets of unique eyeballs, we've kind of been rolling here lately, so the second 10,000 came much quicker. (I could make another very old whore joke here, but I won't. I respect us both too much for that softball.)

Obviously, the masses yearn for multiple takes on various old tunes just as much as they want to know the outcome of the Roxanne Shante vs. The Real Roxanne battle. You also seem to really like Ella Fitzgerald and zombies, in the for-whatever-its-worth category. Fortunately, these are just my lines of bullshit, so I see ours as a symbiotic relationship. I haven't decided who is the tick to the other's exposed skin in the woods, but I fear I'm running the risk of just rambling now.

To celebrate and/or bribe you fine folks to keep coming back for more, we've decided to have Contest Time! Our good, good friends over at Light in the Attic Records have kindly provided us with the two new re-releases from Betty Davis (Is It Love Or Desire and Nasty Gal) to give to you. For those of you somehow not in the know, we're not talking about the one with the eyes, we mean none other than Miles Davis' second wife. The former Miss Mabry is credited with funking up Miles' sound and thinking, acting as inspiration for both Filles de Kilimanjaro (that's her picture on the cover) and Bitches Brew (allegedly, Miles originally wanted to call it Witches Brew and she changed his mind). Legend even has it that it was Betty that introduced Miles to Jimi Hendrix. Suffice to say, the woman is so funky you're going to have to scrape the goo off your speakers every time you're done playing her grooves. Consider yourself forewarned.

While I was more than willing to accept pictures of our readers in various compromising positions and pick a favorite, it was brought to my attention that such a contest might actually cost us readers, as well as whatever legal fees arose from various lawyerly action take against us for giggling and posting the pix on your ex's FB page. Megan felt we should do a contest wherein participants described how funky they were and why they deserved these two excellent albums, but I couldn't figure out exactly how to set the parameters, so they went by the wayside. I got all meta for a moment myself, and was going to have two contests--one where the readers came up with a contest and a second where the previously mentioned winning contest actually was enacted. Then I realized just thinking about that made me dizzy, so that was dropped, too.

And so it happened
That I opted for haiku
To pick a winner

Your job is to write
A haiku describing why
You should win these discs

U.S. residents
Are the only ones who can
Participate now

Because contests hate
All you foreign-type people
Or so I am told

Drugs not required
To play along, but it sure
Doesn't hurt, either

Now have at it, kids. Deadline of whenever we arbitrarily feel we've received enough submissions and, more importantly, have enough good ones. And just so you know what you're getting for your troubles, some titular tracks for y'all:

mp3: Is It Love or Desire (Betty Davis from Is It Love or Desire)
mp3: Nasty Gal (Betty Davis from Nasty Gal)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CD Review: Yeah Ghost by Zero 7

As a music blogger, I am legally required to say I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen a whole lot more love of the Interwebial type out there for Zero 7's latest, Yeah Ghost. The more I think about it, the more I think they're just a tad criminally underrated. Look, folks, they brought the world Sia, and for that alone, they deserve our laurels and hardy handshakes. What's more, their debut, Simple Things, is unquestionably the greatest hangover CD of all times. Seriously, have you ever listened to that thing the morning after a bender? It's like audio aspirin for the spiritual stomach or some other less poorly imagined simile. And their subsequent CDs were top notch, too. Sure, it might take a listen or two to fully get into The Garden, but the trip will be well worth the effort. And yet these cats never seem to get the same kudos as those afforded to Air. It's a damn shame, I tells ya.

Yeah Ghost is a slight detour from the "usual" Zero 7 sound in that the tracks tend to be more upbeat and, well, peppier than most of their predecessors. Let's get this out of the way quickly--oh so sadly, Sia does not appear on this one. In my mind, you couldn't have Zero 7 without having Sia bang out a couple of powerhouse slow burners, but let's not forget that Zero 7 is a joint project comprised of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker. Thus far, they've had quite a strong history of bringing impressive singers to the fore. Martina Topley-Bird, Jose Gonzales, (did I mention Sia?) the track record is there and maintains the pace on Yeah Ghost. Eska Mtungwazi takes the lead with five tracks, highlighted in my mind by "Mr. McGee," "Sleeper" and "Medicine Man." Martha Tilston and Rowdy Superstar also perform more than admirably, as does Binns himself on "Everything Up (Zizou)."

This one is a definite toe tapper. I defy you to put this one on and not feel like busting out an impromptu move. No, seriously, I'm defying you here. So don't bust that move at your own risk. That's all I'm going to say about that.

mp3: Everything Up (Zizou) (Zero 7 from Yeah Ghost)
(There are now far too many parentheses ending this post.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Covered--It's Only A Paper Moon

I swear to Dolemite, there was something else I was planning on writing about today, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was. Probably had something to do with ninja bears, so I'm truly sorry for your collective loss, but sometimes, things happen.

As such, it's time for another fan fave, It's Covered. Today, we're going to tackle "It's Only a Paper Moon."

Way back in 1933, the team of Harold Arlen (writer) and E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose (lyrics) penned the little ditty. Originally, it was intended for a soon-to-fail Broadway show by the name of The Great Magoo. While I'm not personally familiar with that one, I'm guessing it was the lack of a little blind dude that made the show sink. The tune didn't become famous, however, until it began to be covered by a series of popular artists, including Buddy Rich, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Even today, love for the song seemingly hasn't diminished, as it's a regular for Fiona Apple. Speaking of which, we not only have a version for you with Fiona and her sister, Maude Maggart, but a second with Fiona, her longtime musical companion Jon Brion and John C. Reilly. Yes, THAT John Freaking C. Reilly! Gawd, I love indie musicians.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out it also was a titular episode of Deep Space Nine, too. Much love to my geek peeps, yo.

Plus, the Muppets took a shot at it, too. Or, at least, tried to.

Class dismissed.

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Miles Davis)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Buddy Rich)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Ella Fitzgerald)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Frank Sinatra)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Nat King Cole)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Maude Maggart and Fiona Apple)

mp3: It's Only a Paper Moon (Jon Brion, Fiona Apple and John C. Reilly)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Monique Oritz

Certainly, you didn't think we were done with all things Morphine-related yet, did you? Didn't I threaten, er, promise, more pictures, music and the like from the recent Mark Sandman Tribute Concert? Good God, kids, your memory is worse than mine if you forgot already. Maybe it's time to consider cutting down on the whipits and increasing the ginkgo biloba. I'm just saying.

Today, we're going to delve into the musical stylings of Ms. Monique Oritz. Yes, we've spoken about her in the past, but that was for her role in A.K.A.C.O.D. Now we're going to discuss her work with Bourbon Princess.

The way I hear it, Monique was so inspired by the late Mr. Mark Sandman that she decided to pull up roots to get into the Cambridge/Boston music scene, furthering an already growing fan base from Pennsylvania. As with seemingly all my favorite bands from the area, members of Morphine are active players in Bourbon Princess, namely Dana Colley on various horns and Jerome Deupree on the skins. Jim Moran rounds things out, supplying guitar and piano. While there are obvious comparisons to the aforementioned Morphine sound, Oritz instills a world weariness to the proceedings that gives the music an edge of its own. While we're on the topic of subtle nuances, Monique has a voice that stands out on its own, too. For a little slip of a thing, her singing voice might be deeper than mine. Combined with her chilling grooves on fretless bass, it sounds like rumbling thunder on the horizon, a burbling brook of heavy syrup washing over your ear holes. And when is that not a good thing? Never.

Please to be forgiving my not-quite-in-perfect-focus picture of the lovely Ms. Oritz above. My camera is kind of crappy like that. As if I needed to mention, the shot came from the recent Mark Sandman Tribute Concert. Later that night, I ran into Monique and asked her if she minded if I posted some music of hers for all you greedy LET readers. Being the gracious lady she is, of course, she agreed. So it's only fair for you to check her out the next time she's in town (see that widget in the upper right hand corner?) and/or pick up a CD or two before she does.

mp3: The Dream (Bourbon Princess from Black Feather Wings)

mp3: Sleep Deep (Bourbon Princess from Black Feather Wings)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Old Skool Review: Salt 'n Pepa vs. Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick

Since so many of you apparently dug the Roxanne War post a while back, I figured I'd take a moment to point out another memorable "battle" from back in the day.

You've almost definitely heard of today's two sides, which may not always be the case for some of the MCs and bands I lecture on during our Old Skool Review seminars. (Speaking of which, I'm still waiting on all of you to start picking up your text books. Otherwise, I'm not sure anybody is going to buy any copies of "Lumpy White Guy's Guide to Early Hip-Hop," so let's get cracking on that.)

First up, the always brilliant Doug E. Fresh, a.k.a The Human Beat Box. Now, it's no secret that I'm a huge proponent of all beat boxers, but Fresh clearly has cemented his place among the "Best of the Best." While he had gained some small notority for a single or two, plus a star turn in the movie "Beat Street," it wasn't until he dropped the single for "The Show" that his career went sky high. It certainly didn't hurt that the B-side contained one of rap's other greatest tracks of the time, "La Di Da Di." By this time, Doug had his own posse, The Get Fresh Crew. From that group, you should recognize another stalwart of the game, Slick Rick (though he then went by MC Ricky D). As I believe I've mentioned ad naseum before, I got to see Slick before he went to jail, but it wasn't until years later that I finally got the chance to see Doug E. And at what show was that, you're possibly asking yourself? No shit, Chet, he toured with Prince during the New Power Soul Tour (he also rapped on that titular CD, as well as the "1999, the New Master" EP), and let's be honest with ourselves, that's not a line-up you're going to see just any day.

I know, I know, you really wish you were me. I get that a lot. Seriously, it's my cross to bear, but I somehow manage.

And now for one of the more bizarre turns in the story. One Hurby Azor decided to produce a rap record for a college project and called upon the talents of two female MCs and a soon-to-be-replaced lady DJ (hip hop's fifth Beatle) to create "The Showstopper." The song gained the band its own bit of the spotlight, but their climb to the top of the all-time best female MCs ever list came a bit later when a San Fran DJ by the name of Cameron Paul remixed their "Push It." Yep, that aforementioned producer went on to become Hurby the Luv Bug. And those ladies would come to be known as Salt ' Pepa.

And that's your Old Skool review of the day, kiddies. Enjoy the weekend, but be prepared for a quiz early next week.

mp3: The Show (Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew; originally released as a single on wax, can be found on his Greatest Hits)

mp3: The Showstopper (Salt 'n Pepa from Hot, Cool & Vicious)
And for an early Christmas present, the aforementioned Beat Street clip. And yes, that is Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Covered: I Go To Sleep

I'm afraid you're only getting a quickie today, kids. Before you can respond, "that's what she said," the truth of the matter is I'm plum tuckered out today. The old man back has returned in all it's wonky glory, so the trip to the doctor yesterday resulted in me now ingesting a variety of pills that are making it hard to keep my eyes open. Now, kids, I don't want any of you getting the wrong idea here. Your good, ol' Uncle Chris wants you all to know that he firmly endorses pharmaceuticals. Better living through chemistry, I always say. Don't let my currently overwhelming desire for a nap keep any of you from hours and hours of wonderful experimentation.

As such, it's only apropos that today's tune is "I Go To Sleep." Written by Ray Davies and originally recorded by Peggy Lee, it's since been covered by everyone from the Pretenders to Cher on her debut solo album. According the the Interwebs, who we all know would never lie to us, Davies wrote the song while waiting in the hospital for the imminent birth of his daughter. My first encounter with the track was with the ever lovable pixie, Sia, but I'm not sure that has anything to do with the price of potatoes, so do with it what you will.

For today's special, we're offering the following versions by Sia, Samantha Jones, The Kinks, Celine Mastrorelli, Works Progress Administration and Zero 7. Yes, Sia is singing in that version, too, but that's hardly a bad thing, now is it?

mp3: I Go To Sleep (Samantha Jones from A Girl Named Sam)

mp3: I Go To Sleep (The Kinks, demo version, from Kinda Kinks)

mp3: I Go To Sleep (Celine Mastrorelli, unreleased demo)

mp3: I Go To Sleep (Works Progress Administration from WPA)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Greatest Zombie Mixtape You Will Ever Hear

Here at LET, we abhor hyperbole, so you know that what you're about to sample is, in fact, The Greatest Zombie Mixtape You Will Ever Hear. Forsooth, even.

Now, I've actually been debating on when to post this bad boy. Are you ready to handle an undead mix of such proportions as to change the very parameters of your mind? Is it fair for me to alter reality as you know it? Halloween still is a few weeks off. Should I wait until closer to the actual date for to unleash this horrifying masterpiece? As a friend of mine pointed out, though, this is the High Holy Month, so the more time you have to listen in preparation of All Hallows' Even, probably the better for you. Plus, I still feel bad about not getting more posts up while I was on the road, so I figured I'd bring you this little treat today.

First, a little back story. My wife's best friend (and my good friend, too, of course), Dex, is one of the most intelligent women I know. She's a top notch computer nerd and is a problem solver of the Nth degree. And yet, she does have one peculiarity amongst her many talents--she's deathly afraid of zombies. Now, I don't mean she doesn't like zombie movies, I mean she's literally worried about a world overrun by necrotic ghouls lusting after brains. Now, I'm petrified of sharks myself (which makes us an excellent match, actually, but more on that in a bit), so who am I to talk about irrational fears? I didn't realize the true depths of Dexy's concerns, however, until my bride told me to stop sending her BFF daily zombie clips from YouTube because it was really bothering her. Imagine my disappointment then, when I compiled this, The Greatest Zombie Mixtape You Will Ever Hear, for Dex's wedding and was told there was no way in hell I was allowed to give it to her as a gift.

Well, kids, her loss is your gain, as you are about to find out.

Without further ado, The Greatest Zombie Mixtape You Will Ever Hear.

mp3: Wild Zero (Guitar Wolf from the Wild Zero Soundtrack)

When people speak of the best zombie movies of all time, the discussion quickly turns to the works of Romero. The more contemporary might point out Shaun of the Dead. Well, they're all completely wrong. The greatest zombie movie of all time is, hands down, Wild Zero. I won't go into too much detail, but you've got zombies, Guitar Wolf, guitars that turn into samurai swords and a transvestite surprise that makes The Crying Game look tame by comparison. Now THAT'S movie making, people. I will admit, however, that Versus (it's about zombies AND ninjas!!!) is a very close second. God bless low budget Asian movies.
mp3: Zombie Killer (Leslie Hall from CeWEBrity)

At first listen, this track seems appropriate, but nothing too spectacular. It's about destroying the undead, but what's so big about that? That's where the guest vocals become important. No, children, your ears do not deceive you. That's ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE NIGHT! That ups the cool factor by one gagillion by pretty much any measure.

mp3: Zombie Girl (The Terrordactyls from The Terrordactyls)

A twee love song for your undead gal. Plus, I love kazoos. And who doesn't? Nobody. Not even your grandfather.

mp3: Zombie Jamboree (Banjo Kate from Nice Day for a Walk in the Park; sorry, couldn't find a purchase link for this one)

First off, the artist's name is Banjo Kate. If your mix doesn't have someone with a name like that in it, it's probably a sub-par effort. I'm just saying. Furthermore, it kind of has a "Teddy Bear's Picnic" feel to it, and the idea of shambling, animated corpses feasting on teddy bears makes me smile.

OK, this one is just kitsch-y and sounds like a good Dr. Demento submission. But those zombie noises that kick off the track are worth the price of admission on their own.

mp3: Zombie (Nellie McKay from Obligatory Villagers)

I've had a thing for Ms. McKay since her debut CD and have seen her live a few times (including her run in Three Penny Opera; the less said about that, though, probably the better). While I haven't loved her newer stuff quite as much, this track is a fave of mine. The monster noises she supplies are pretty kick ass.

mp3: Zombie Prostitute (Voltaire from Ooky Spooky)

The title pretty much says it all, doesn't it? An entire song dedicated to bad "sex with zombie" puns. Seriously, I'm pretty sure this is what Shakespeare truly aspired towards.

While I could argue the mix simply needed an industrial breakbeat inclusion to round out the full sound, I'm going to stick with the fact that it comes from an album entitled Necrobestial Sadobreaks. 'Nuff said.

Obviously we had to have something from Rob, and I went with this one.

mp3: Zombie Song (The Besties from Singer)

Zombie love songs make me smile.

mp3: Zombie Boy (The Magnetic Fields from Distortion)

I'm a Gen X-er. It's in our contract to include The Magnetic Fields in every mix we ever make.

If the Raveonettes were more interested in the undead, they'd probably sound something like this. Plus, the song AND the band have "Zombie" in their name, so this is like a two-fer. Also, it raises interesting religious questions you might want to consider the next time you're really high.

This song interests me particularly because I can't envision zombies doing the Watusi without losing what remaining body parts they still might have.

It's important for a good mix to have a dance song with literal instructions on how to do said dance in the lyrics. You know, so you'll look cool doing it at the next Halloween party. Or something.

There's an earnestness to this song that is totally out of left field. But you know what? I know have little doubt that Elf Power actually did walk with a zombie last night.

mp3: Rock 'n Roll Zombie (Erazerhead from Apeman)

In case the last few tracks were making you complacent, you've got to have an injection of loud, pointless screaming.

mp3: Zombie Hop (Zombina & the Skeletones from Mondo Zombina!)

If this band was going to go to the effort of basing their entire identity on zombie mythos, of course, I had to add it to this mix.

mp3: Taco Party (1-800-ZOMBIE from Holy Shit!)

OK, the only zombie link here is the band's name, but this spazz fest apparently about cunnilingus was necessary for all of our souls.

The title alone ensures its inclusion.

mp3: Zombie (The Cranberries from No Need to Argue)

In college, we used to substitute the "bombs" refrain with "bongs." Come to think of it, we smoked a lot of pot in college.
mp3: Zombie (Fela Kuti from Zombie)
It seems very few zombie songs actually are about zombies, and this one leads that list. Still one hell of a jam, though.

mp3: Zombies (The King Khan & BBQ Show from What's for Dinner?)

If you haven't seen King Khan live yet, well, you're concert going experiences are incomplete. Here he is with one of his other outfits.

If I didn't include The Zombies on The Greatest Zombie Mixtape You Will Ever Hear, well, I would have been lying about the title now, wouldn't I?

mp3: My Body's A Zombie For You (Dead Man's Bones from Dead Man's Bones)

Lest you grow concerned there wasn't anything new here, here's the first single from Ryan Gosling's new band. The children's chorus alone is worth the price of admission.

Remember my mentioning the shark/zombie connection earlier?