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Show some love for Josh Rouse

November 28th, 2007 3 comments

There are many mysteries in the world. I will not bore you with a few witty examples of such mysteries as a set up for stating the conundrum which occupies me today: how the fuck is it that Josh Rouse remains some sort of best-kept secret?

Since his debut set in 1998, Dressed Up Like Nebraska, Rouse has released seven proper albums, plus a couple of EPs and collaborations. Two or three of these are bona fide classics, the others are “just” very good indeed. Rouse has yet to make a mediocre album. That is a pretty good strike rate.

His first couple of releases were solid albums which didn’t stray far from the singer-songwriter Americana pop recipe, with hints of indie. Some tracks take some getting into, others are easily accessible. Test drive Late Night Conversation from the debut, or Directions from his sophomore effort, Home.

2002’s Under Cold Blue Stars ushered in a trilogy of outstanding albums. Here, Rouse began playing with different genres without departing much from the sound of his previous albums, as songs like Ugly Stories (which could be a Wilco song) and Women And Men show.

The real innovative leap came a year later with 1972, a concept album of sorts titled after and inspired by the year of his birth. The idea was to recreate what Rouse thought to be the vibe of that year while still creating a contemporary sound. He succeeded admirably: the album is evocative of the 1970s without ever being retro, other than the excellent cover art. Check out James (a song about alcoholism featuring kick ass blaxploitation flute), the sexy Under Your Charms and the lilting 1972 (which certain motel chains might wish to use in an advertising campaign), as well as Love Vibration, which I posted a few weeks ago. It’s an upbeat and charming and smooth and funky album with some lyrics hinting at a darker side to Rouse. It is possibly one of the albums of the decade.

1972 gained Rouse much critical attention, and in 2005 he matched its high quality with Nashville, his farewell paean to the city that he had called home for some years. On Nashville, Rouse recalled the ’80s “” there is more of a Smiths influence than C&W “” but more than that Rouse provided a combination of attributes that should appeal to fans of those artists he is often compared to: a bit like Elliott Smith, but less morose; a bit like Jeff Tweedy, but more relaxed; a bit like Ben Kweller, but more mature and consistent; a bit like Sufjan Stevens, but not as weird; a bit like Ryan Adams, but less smug. Add to that some stunning lyrics and catchy tunes, and you have an album people will rediscover in 20 years time and hold up as an example of why the 00s were a fine decade for music. Highlights include the regretful Middle School Frown (about betraying school friends in a bid to be seen as cool), poppy openers It’s The Nighttime and Winter In The Hamptons, and especially the astonishing Sad Eyes, a song that grabs you with its quiet pleading and then slays you an emotional crescendo (if you sample only one song from this lot, make it this one).

After Nashville, Rouse moved to Spain, fell in love, put on his slippers and relaxed. The result was 2006″s more tranquil and a little underwhelming Subtitulo, at least by Rouse’s standards. It’s not a poor album by any means. Some of it is pretty good. But unlike other Rouse albums, it packs no punch. It’s dinner party background music. And yet, as I try to choose two songs, I’m torn. Try Looks Like Love (Josh is in love and unsoppily tells us about it) and the one song that matches anything from the previous albums, the decidedly non-laid back His Majesty Rides.

This year”s Country Mouse City House, has been the most difficult Rouse album to get into since the first two. Here, Rouse hops genres at an alarming rate, which can be a bit disorientating. Its lack of cohesion betrays a deficit in focus, though not in quality. Take the songs in isolation, and there is plenty of material to include on a Josh Rouse retrospective. Sweetie is as cute as the title suggests, and Hollywood Bassplayer, God Please Let Me Go Back, and Italian Dry Ice, which he sings with a disconcertingly low voice, as well as Nice To Fit In (which sounds like it belongs on Nashville) are as good as anything Rouse has produced. See my review of the album here.

Josh Rouse – 1972.mp3 (from 1972)
Josh Rouse – Directions.mp3 (from Home)
Josh Rouse – God, Please Let Me Go Back.mp3 (from County Mouse City House)
Josh Rouse – His Majesty Rides.mp3 (from Subtítulo)
Josh Rouse – Hollywood Bassplayer.mp3 (from County Mouse City House)
Josh Rouse – Italian Dry Ice.mp3 (from County Mouse City House)
Josh Rouse – James.mp3 (from 1972)
Josh Rouse – Late Night Conversations.mp3 (from Dressed Up Like Nebraska)
Josh Rouse – Looks Like Love.mp3 (from Subtítulo)
Josh Rouse – Love Vibration.mp3 (from 1972)
Josh Rouse – Middle School Frown.mp3 (from Nashville)
Josh Rouse – Sad Eyes.mp3 (from Nashville)
Josh Rouse – Ugly Stories.mp3 (from Under Cold Blue Stars)
Josh Rouse – Under Your Charms.mp3 (from 1972)
Josh Rouse – Women And Men.mp3 (from Under Cold Blue Stars)

15 tracks: your Josh Rouse Best Of comp right there. Visit Josh Rouse’s homepage for tour dates and more.

Previously, love was shown for:
Jens Lekman
Rilo Kiley
Richard Hawley

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Intros Quiz – '90s edition

November 28th, 2007 3 comments

The 1990s edition of the Intros Quiz. As always, 20 intros to songs, from 1990-99, all 5-7 seconds in length. When I put it together I thought there were a few tough ones, but playing it back it seems quite easy. Let me know what you thought (comments are always most welcome).

Answers will go up in the comments section over the weekend. If you’d like to get hem before that, feel free to e-mail me at halfhearteddude at gmail.com.

By the way, I’m testdriving Divshare, instead of the customary ZShare. Please let me know if it does or doesn’t work for you (click the “Download Original” link).


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The Locomotion: 60s Soul – Vol. 1

November 21st, 2007 1 comment

In the 1980s, the soul music of the ’60s ““ Motown, Atlantic, Stax et al ““ made a huge comeback in Britain, in large part fuelled by the Northern Soul scene, and giving rise to classics by the likes of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Percy Sledge, BB King and Marvin Gaye hitting the top 3 (the Levi 501s commercials helping to spread the fashion). In London, ’60s and early ’70s soul found a clubbing outlet at the Friday nighters at the Kentish Town & Country Club, named The Locomotion, obviously after Little Eva’s hit. As a ’60s soul devotee, I was a regular at Wendy May”s fantastic gig. The only new track played there was Terence Trent D’Arby’s If You Let Me Stay, seeing as the Trout lived in Kentish Town, two stops on the Northern Line from my abode in ugly, ugly Archway. So, here’s the first part of the ’60s soul series dedicated to The Locomotion. Read more…

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The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.1

November 18th, 2007 1 comment

A little fun diversion. Put the iPod on Party Shuffle, and take the first five tracks that come up. It seems my iPod was in a kicked back mood, coming up with five songs that are pretty mellow.

Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.mp3
I’m a great fan of the former Men At Work singer when he is in wistful mood. This song, from the great 2000 album Going Somewhere, is an anthem to restlessness, a “is this is all there is to life” song which hints at depression. Our man is unhappy, but probably is still good company. And what a great vocal performance! (More Colin Hay here)

The Weepies – All I Want (live).mp3
A Christmas song that works all year around. The lyrics basically say that getting the “you” in the song would be the perfect Christmas present. The studio version even has jingling bells, absent on this stripped down live version from the superb-quality (and artist approved) bootleg of a gig in Ohio in 2004 (find it here). I love the Weepies, name notwithstanding. I love them so much that I’ll repost the links for previous files I’ve posted. Listen to them, and then go and buy their CDs, including the lovely Deb Talan’s solo CDs. Check out the Weepies’ hompage.
The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3 (From this post)
The Weepies- Gotta Have You.mp3 (From this post)
Deb Talan – Forgiven.mp3
Deb Talan – Tell Your Story Walking.mp3 (From this post)

Judith Sephuma – I Remember.mp3
A late-night or Sunday morning jazzy vibe from South Africa, with keyboards that clearly are influenced by the Crusaders’ Joe Sample. Judith Sephuma, whose ex-husband, South African jazz guitar maestro Selaelo Selota, appeared on the album, fuses SA jazz (which tends to be melodic), Aftrican vibes and old-style R&B. Sephuma (homepage here) won an award for being Africa’s best female singer a couple of years ago for this album. Hear her, and decide that she is in fact one of the best singers in the world.

Foo Fighters – Walking After You (live).mp3 (link removed)
I’m never sure what the Taste Police makes of Foo Fighters. Well, those who don’t like them can get stuffed. The new album is excellent, especially since it guest stars the very fine and quite unique guitarist Kaki King. This classic is the live version from last year’s Skin And Bones acoustic(-ish) set. It is certainly one of the highlights of the album (great DVD, too), though the Foo’s take on “Everlong” is a real mindfuck. (More Foo Fighters here and download the acoustic version of Everlong here)

Phil Campbell – Maps.mp3
I don’t remember how I came across Phil Campbell, but his second album, Joy, was a very pleasant discovery, good enough that I set out to buy it. As if South African CD shops stock albums by obscure artists… “Maps” is great, in the folk-pop tradition, and a fine song to sing along to (which, in my book, elevates a song from being good to great). If this dude was not English but American, he’d be quite big, in a Ryan Adams kind of way. Checking on Hype Machine — the fools who won’t list this blog — there has been one blog featuring the music of Campbell, of all things the track off Joy I like least. On the album cover he looks like the actor Elijah Wood, which I find slightly disconcerting. His friends on MySpace look impressive: Ben Folds, Rilo Kiley, Ryan Adams, Ben Lee, Ray LaMontagne, Jesse Malin and a few more big names.

Intros quiz: '60s edition

November 17th, 2007 2 comments

And moving back further in time, the ’60s intros quiz. As always (except last time), 20 intros of hit songs from the decade, 5-6 seconds length. You guess them, I’ll post the answers by Tuesday. If you really can’t wait to know what the blasted number 11 is (and that one is a tricky one), e-mail me ““ I really don’t mind. All of these songs were big hits in the US or UK, or both.

I promise not to go back to the ’50s. Next time, it’ll be the ’90s.

Intros Quiz – 1960s.mp3

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Albums of the Years 1960-65

November 15th, 2007 2 comments

Continuing the series of albums of the year, I am condensing the years of the ’60s prior to that of my birth. It was not a time for albums yet, at least not in pop. There were classic jazz albums, such as Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, an essential album of the decade with which I have never been able to close a friendship. In the ’60s the great Sinatra left Capitol and Nelson Riddle to become a crooner for the people following him into middle-age. There was one final great Capitol album, some goofing with the Rat Pack, then straight into bloated easy listening territory. Sinatra became so bland, he made Engelbert Humperdinck seem like the muse for the New York Dolls.

But the early ’60s also saw the rise of the Beatles as a pop band which could churn out good albums at an alarming rate. Consider that between the ropey debut of Please, Please Me to Rubber Soul, not quite three years passed. Only two years after Rubber Soul came the ludicrously influential Sgt Peppers. Two years later, the Beatles were finished. Such a rich body of work and astonishing artistic growth in seven years. Think about it: an act starting out in 2000 and breaking up about now, leaving behind a legacy like that. No wonder the Beatles are represented in this top 10 three times, with some consideration for two of the remaining three albums.

As ever, my top 10s are also not representative of the “best” albums of the year. Some are, but others will be included simply because I like them, knowing well that they are not as innovative or influential as others I have listed.

1. The Beatles – Help (1965)
On Sunday I bought the new DVD set. The movie looks and sounds great. Its cinematic merits aside (it is a bit ropey), Help! the film is a fascinating time capsule, coming after The Goons and before Monty Python. Add to that the Fab Four in action, and the songs, and it is a richly rewarding DVD, at least for the Beatles fan. And the album is my favourite Beatles set of all.

Help was the culmination of the Beatles” innocent period, before lyrics started to acquire deeper meanings; before musical innovation became a hallmark of Beatles albums; before George Harrison was given the opportunity to express himself. Notable is the Dylan influence on both Lennon and McCartney “” on “You”ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” (my all-time favourite Beatles song, by John) and on the country-flavoured “I”ve Just Seen A Face” (Paul). “Ticket To Ride” and the title track hint at the leap the group would make just a few months later with Rubber Soul. For now, though, the songs were mostly still uncomplicated and sometimes even a bit goofy (“You”re Going To Lose That Girl”, “Another Girl”, Ringo”s cover of Buck Owen”s “Act Naturally”).

Perhaps because Help was recorded just as the Beatles became musically more adventurous, but before such innovation turned up some aberrations, it is their most perfect pop album. Even the inappropriate Dizzy Miss Lizzy, a throwback to the first three albums that should have been replaced by I”m Down (b-side to the single release of Help), cannot detract from the album”s perfection “” positioned, as it is, at the end of the album, one can just switch it off.
The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.mp3
The Beatles – You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.mp3
The Beatles – I’ve Just Seen A Face.mp3

2. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
In preparation for this post, I listened to the three Beatles albums under review. I was going to rank Rubber Soul higher, but was reminded that there was more guff on that album than there is on the Beatles’ first soundtrack album. Somehow, my respect for Beatles albums tends to be based on the quality not of the singles but that of the tracks that were neither singles nor included on the 1973 red and blue compilations (a question of overfamiliarity, probably). And the album tracks on A Hard Day’s Night are just great: Anytime At All (how was that never a single?), I’ll Cry Instead, If I Fell, I’ll Be back. The singles/red album numbers ““ the title track, Things We Said Today, I Should Have Known Better, Can’t Buy Me Love ““ are outstanding as well. Oh, and the movie was really good as well (“He’s such a clean old man”).
The Beatles – Anytime At All.mp3

3. Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
The soundtrack to the Peanuts Christmas special. It is a sublime film and a sublime record. Both are immensely comforting, I find. This might be the only jazz album which people who hate jazz can love, and which jazz lovers can forgive for being loved by jazz novices. Nominally it is a Christmas album. If one is familiar with the Peanuts film, it will evoke Christmas. If not, it might well do so anyway, but it works at any time of the year. Listen to O Tannenbaum, a cool bass and piano driven version of the quintessential German yuletide song (Silent Night is Austrian, don’t you know?): it extends far beyond the Christmas spirit and fir trees. And yet, if you want it to be about Christmas, it can and will be. Even the 4 minute version of the Peanuts theme song (properly titled Linus And Lucy).
Vince Guaraldi Trio – O Tannenbaum.mp3

4. Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain (1960)
First off, I love the album cover. But if that were enough to qualify, Herb Alpert would be included in this post. Sketches Of Spain delivers what it promises: Davis interpreting Spanish music. Rodrigo’s classical Spanish guitar piece Concierto De Aranjuez gets the trumpet treatment, with Gil Evans’ luscious, deeply affecting arrangement producing 12 minutes and 43 seconds of utter bliss. I have said it before, to appreciate Miles Davis’ powers of innovation, one must look to his subtle works, certainly not to the jazz fusion wankery of Witches Brew. On Sketches Of Spain, things sway gently one moment, next a jolt as the tune segues into a film noir mood before it regains its whispering, ominous beauty. It is indeed a sad album, perhaps the saddest instrumental album I know besides Morricone’s wonderful soundtrack of Once Upon A Time In America. It is a rare and special thing when being a passive participant to such sadness can make one glad to be alive. Listen to this track, and, for the sake of experiment, cue your favourite upbeat pop song to follow it. My bet is that you will resent the pop song for crashing in on the afterglow of the emotion Davis has created.
Miles Davis – Concierto De Aranjuez.mp3

5. The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)
Never mind Revolver, it was Rubber Soul that represented the quantum leap in the Beatles’ artistic trajectory. Suddenly all kinds of strange instruments ““ especially George’s sitar ““ crept into the music, and the lyrics became increasingly surreal and, at times, cynical. Lennon seemed to be a bitter chap at that point. Run For Your Life, even by his own admission, is a nasty song, and Drive My Car is far from the polite tone of previous records (though Another Girl on Help is pretty mercenary). Some of the generic lyrics are still evident on the songs by Paul and George; it is John who first breaks out of the easy-going ghetto. Two songs stand out: the nostalgic In My Life, which seems to have been written by a man twice Lennon’s age, and Girl, which fuses a beautiful melody with much exasperated bitterness. The latter also has the best single sound on the album: the sharp intake of air through closed teeth, which serves to emphasise the protagonist’s frustration. The counterpoint is McCartney’s Michelle, an atrocious song which the greasepot crooners quickly latched on to as they had done with Yesterday and would do with Something. But where Yesterday is a brilliant song (spoiled by overexposure) and Something is sublime, Michelle is just horrible.
The Beatles – Girl.mp3

6. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto (1964)
When I picked this album up in a charity thrift shop in the ’80s, I had no idea what a classic I was buying. To be honest, I had no idea who Gilberto was, only a vague idea about Getz, bossa nova was a mystery to me, and I regarded The Girl From Ipanema as a cheesy elevator muzak tune which punk forgot to kill. I bought the album solely because I liked the cover. I need not explain what happened when I played the record, at least not to those who love it as I do. This is a late-night, kick-back record, intimate and warm. It is a great lovemaking record, I imagine (I’ve never thought of testdriving it for that purpose). Astrud Gilberto may not be the greatest singer of all time (she was roped in only because she could sing in English), but her relaxed and cute voice, when it appears, provides the varnish to Getz’s cool sax, Joao’s warm vocals and Jobim’s astounding compositions.
Getz/Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema.mp3

7. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
I am not a Dylanisto. To me, not every Dylan album is a masterpiece, even as I have most of the older ones. This one, however, is superb, with the relative sparseness of the music (in contrast to Highway 61 Revisited anyway) all the more emphasising Dylan’s poetry. There are some songs one may happily overlook when compiling the definitive Dylan anthology (Down The Highway!), and the inclusion of two self-referencing songs smacks of egotism. But when Freewheelin’ hits, it hits so well. The hits are obvious ““ Blowin’ In The Wind, A Hard Rain’s…, Don’t Tink Twice… ““ but lesser known tracks like Corrina Corrina, Girl From The North Country and the quite funny I Shall Be Free are very good indeed. The surprise track is Talking World War III Blues, a song that engrosses the listener with its sermonising and satirising storytelling ““ despite the unappealing title, Dylan’s terrible vocals and the overbearing harmonica. I suppose the astute Dylan fan might wonder why, if I like that, I am not a Dylanista. It just ain’t me, babe.
Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.mp3

8. Otis Redding – Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)
It is tantalising to imagine what might have become of Otis Redding had he not died in a plane crash in 1968. Would he have adapted to the smoother sounds of ’70s soul? Would he have dabbled in disco? Might the future of soul music been shaped along a different path by this great singer’s influence? Or would he have gone the way of many of his contemporaries, into oblivion and largely excised from public consciousness until the ’60s soul revival of the ’80s (Londoners may well recall the Friday night club at the Kentish Town & Country Club, the Locomotion). The question I’m really posing is this: is Otis Redding a legend because of his music, or because of his dramatic death when he was in his prime? On the evidence of this album (the title and cover of which suggests that Otis was a country singer dabbling in soul as Ray Charles did in country), I’m inclined to think that Redding is a legend because he is. Redding took the Stones’ Satisfaction, and replaced Jagger’s great insolent vocals with mature emotion (the story goes that Otis had never heard the song before recording it). There is Respect, the original, done so in such a unique way that Aretha Franklin could take the song and shape it in her own image. There is the Temptations’ My Girl, no longer a cute spark of sunlight, but deflowered by the soulman. Redding even manages to nearly match Sam Cooke’s soaring A Change Is Gonna Come. But the highlight is I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, which Redding co-wrote with the great Jerry Butler (a song Isaac Hayes should have covered in a 15-minute epic). Redding’s performance of it at the Monterrey festival shortly before the plane crash is even more fantastic. And so I’m offering that live version rather than the one on the album.
Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You (live in Monterrey).mp3

9. Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘n’ Easy (1960)
This album (which I bought at the same charity shop as the Getz/Gilberto LP) marked the beginning of the end of Sinatra’s glorious Capitol/Nelson Riddle era. A few albums on the label followed, but the decline was beginning to set in amid a rapidly changing musical landscape. The besuited swing stars of the ’50s were beginning to fade, and a new batch of groovily clad and chesthaired poseurs like Humperdinck and Tom Jones were taking their place. All the more the pity. The killer track on this album is the title song, with the great spoken line, “Like the man said, one more time”, symbolising the last great hurrah of Sinatra’s credibility, just one album before he recorded Old Mac Donald, for crying out loud. But while the title track swings , the rest of the album is Sinatra in relaxed balladeering mood. It might have been false advertising, but the listener is not being cheated. Tracks like I Got A Crush On You, That Old Feeling and Try A Little Tenderness (just a few years before Otis Redding totally revamped and appropriated the song) showcase Sinatra’s capacity for investing himself into a song, before he descended into the greasepit of covering Yesterday and Something for our mothers’ uncles.
Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘n’ Easy.mp3

10. The Rat Pack – Live At The Sands (1963)
I am cheating now. This album was released only in 2001, presumably to cash in on the Rat Pack retro hype inspired by the remake of Ocean’s 11 and fed off by the likes of Robbie Williams trying to capture some of the cool. Oh, but the Rat Pack dudes were cool (it was Humphrey Bogart, of course, who founded the original Rat Pack, of which Sinatra was not a member). At least on stage they were cool. This collection captures the three principal members, the vocalists, on a great night. The banter is very amusing (though by today’s standards definitely not politically correct), with zinging teasing taken in good spirits and reciprocated. I have appropriated Sammy’s line: “…and these are the best friends I have”. Sammy Davis Jr certainly has his wits about him when he tells Dean Martin during a set of impressions to “be nice…or I’ll do Jerry [Lewis]”, with whom Martin was famously feuding. Sammy’s impersonations are great ““ especially that of Dino (“just having a little bit of fun folks”). It takes guts to impersonate somebody while that somebody is watching you. The vocal performances on the album are fine, but it is not enjoyable for that primarily; as Dino tells the audience: “if you want serious, buy a album”. It is just great fun, with three witty pallies riffing off one another. I was sad to note that Joey Bishop, the comedian of the Rat Pack, died last month at 89.
Sammy Davis Jr. – All The Way (impressions).mp3

Make 'em laugh

November 13th, 2007 8 comments

I’m good at telling jokes. Which would be great, except there are only two jokes I remember. Both have been my staple for donkey’s years. This means that once I’ve told them, I’m sold out of jokes. So my stand-up routine is rather limited, and to entertain I need to rely on recordings of my favourite stand-up comedians. Some of these, and some other stuff that makes me laugh, follows below. First, however, let me share with you my two staple jokes. You will have to forgive the absence of my physical “comedy” (machines rattling, basically) and fake German accents (as opposed to my natural German accent). The first joke requires us to move back in time, to the early ’90s.

Hitler in the Amazon
The time is the early ’90s. Germany has just been reunified, but things are going poorly. In short, Germany is in terrible political and economic trouble, and the politicians can see no way of solving the problems, until some bright spark ascertains that the only man who can help Germany now is in fact still alive, living in a little hut in Paraguay. And so a delegation is dispatched to South America to persuade Adolf Hitler to return and save Germany from ruin.

And so the delegation is cutting its way through the jungle, until the group happens upon that little hut. They look at the door bell. Sure enough, it says “A. Hitler”. They ring the bell, the door opens, and there stands Adolf Hitler. The figure is a little bent now, the greasy hair with the side-parting has over the years turned white, and so has the Chaplin moustache. Nonetheless, it is unmistakably the Führer.

“Ja, vot do you vont?” Hitler barks.

“Führer,” the head of the Federal Republic’s delegation says, “we have come to ask you for your help. You see, things are very bad in the Vaterland now. We’ve had this unification, and that has created all sorts of problem. Only one man can help our Deutschland now, mein Führer, and that man is you. We have come to ask you to become the Führer of Deutschland once again.”

“Nein,” shouts Hitler. “Zis is out of ze kvetchon. Ze last time you peeple didn’t apprechihate me, and I vill never go back to Deutschland agaen.”

“But, Führer, please reconsider, for the welfare of the Volk and of our beloved Vaterland.”

“Nein, nein, nein,” Hitler replies with the kind of agitation which made him such a favourite with cartoon movie producers. “I am out of ze Füher buzinezz!”

But the delegation continues to persuade Adolf until he caves in.

“Ja gut, I vill be your Führer agaen,” says Hitler. “But only under vun condition!”

“Yes, Führer?”

“Zis time …. No more Mr Nice Guy.”

The health machine
A man sits in the bar when he notices a new machine standing against the far wall. Curious, he goes to investigate. On the machine, he reads the instructions. “Take a styrofoam cup from the dispenser, go to the toilet, urinate into the cup, insert a fiver, pour the contents of the cup into the machine, and the machine will tell you your health.”

The man is intrigued. He takes a styrofoam cup, goes to the toilet, urinates into it, inserts the fiver into the machine, pours in the content.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes. Out comes the slip: “You have a tennis elbow.”

“A tennis elbow,” scoffs our friend with scornful incredulity, “really!” So he decides to really test the machine. He takes a styrofoam cup, and goes home. There, he gets his wife to urinate into it, then his teenage son, then his 14-year-old daughter, then his dog. And for good measure, he wanks into it, and gives the stew a good stir.

Next day he returns to the bar, making a beeline to the machine. He inserts a fiver, and pours the contents of the cup into the machine.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes…and finally out comes the slip.

It says: “You wife is having an affair, your son has the crabs, your daughter is pregnant, your dog has fleas, and if you don’t stop wanking, you’ll never get rid of that tennis elbow.”

Thangyouverymuchyou’vebeenaterrificaudience.

And on that note, a few audio files which cause me to laugh.

Gin And Juice.mp3
A “Desiderata” style interpretation of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin And Juice”. I’ve had that file for close to a decade now, but have never been able to ascertain who might be the the genius performing it. If anyone knows, I’d be obliged to be informed accordingly. Never mind such details, though, this is a wickedly funny parody (except, the word parody sounds so lame).

Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit.mp3
I uploaded this a few weeks ago with what must be the most spectacularly unsuccessful post ever on this blog, on the subject of hip hop. So nobody downloaded it. All these nobodys made a massive error: Ben Folds interpretation of Dr Dre and Snoop’s misogynistic anthem is viciously funny. And then he turns it on its head by making his straight take so damn catchy that even the most PC among us can’t help but sing along to the appalling lyrics of the chorus. Deliciously subversive. This is a live version from Dutch radio (excellent quality though).

Chris Rock – Crazy White Boys.mp3
Chris Rock – Rap Standup.mp3
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance.mp3
To my mind, Chris Rock is the best stand-up comedian in many a decade. Yeah, better than George Carlin (a mean-spirited bastard). Rock’s observations are acute, and sometimes surpringly conservative. I might have posted his piece on drugs being banned only if they come from countries with dark people, yet cigarettes are legal. But, “could you imagine if the Phillip Morris family was a bunch of jheri-curled niggas from Mississippi? Do you know how illegal a pack of cigarettes would be. You would get 60 years just for a pack of Newports.” Ouch! “Crazy White Boys” coincides with the aftermath of the Columbine massacre. Rock’s opening gambit is that he got out of an elevator, scared out of his mind, when some young white dudes got in. “You ain’t killin’ me”. The other two files I posted last month alongside the Ben Folds track. “Rap Standup” is Rock’s take on contemporary hip hop (“love rap, tired of defending it”), the other is one of the few studio bits that are actually funny: an “homage” to the rap star hanger-on. The line about night vision goggles is pure genius.

Woody Allen – A Love Story.mp3
Woody Allen is rightly regarded as some sort of (patchy) genius for his movies, so much so that his stand-up comedianship is widely forgotten. This clip, from the ’60s, shows why this is a shame. How can one not be slayed by a line like this: “They fixed the ballet. Apparently there was a lot of money on the swan to live.”

Jerry Seinfeld – Olympics.mp3
The silver medal: “You are the number one loser.” Presumably, Jerry Seinfeld will be remembered for that show about nothing. Rightly so, for Seinfeld was excellent. Happily, his stand-up tied in with the TV show, up to a point, even if they dropped the stand-up routines from the programme after a while. In contrast to the scatalogy of Rock, the patronising rudeness of Carlin, the self-deprecation of Allen, the sentimentality of Crosby, or the utter rubbishness of Robin Williams (improvisaion is not funny in itself), Seinfeld’s comedy is understated. There is no shtick to his act (other than a certain smugness), just great observational comedy delivered with impeccable timing. This bit always tickles me: “Why can”t sweat smell good? Be a different world, wouldn”t it? Instead of putting your laundry in the hamper, you”d put it in a vase. Go down to the drugstore, pick up some odorant and perspirant. You”d have a dirt sweat sock hanging from the rearview mirror of your car. And then on a really special night, maybe a little underwear coming out of your breast pocket, just to show her that she”s important.”

After he TV series, Seinfeld returned to stand-up. Good thing too. The man is a comedy genius. As Homer Simpson said: “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

Monty Python – The Penis Song.mp3
I’m not one of those people who recite Monty Python one lines ad nauseam. In fact, Any Minor Dude, 13, is the bigger Python fan in the family. But I do appreciate a bit of Python once in a while (though having watched the Beatles’ Help! again after a long time ““ the new DVD is fantastic ““ I am inclined to think that Monty Python weren’t quite as original as many people think). “The Penis Song”, from the very uneven The Meaning Of Life, is one of my favourite Monty Python moments, mainly because of the gormless laugh at the end. The melody is pretty good, too.

Rowan Atkinson – The Preacher.mp3
Oh the blasphemy! This sermon is full of little quotable delights. “Do you do children’s parties?” and “They didn’t have so much fun since Nazareth won the cup”, to name just two in an effort to produce a couple of spoilers for you. It is a pity that future generations (and, perhaps, present ones) will remember Atkinson for Mr Bean. If we’re lucky, also for Blackadder (another Any Minor Dude favourite). Alas, Atkinson is not going to be remembered widely for his excellent stand-up comedy. Here we can hear why that is a great pity.

Peter Sellers – She Loves You.mp3
I am not a great Sellers fan. The Goons are not particularly hilarious, though I understand their pivotal role in British comedy (Hancock is funnier anyway). I don’t like the Pink Panther thing (though the Sellers movies easily trump that horrible crap served up by the once very funny Steve Martin recently). I do like Sellers’ affecting, rather than affected, performance in Being There. And his takes on Beatles songs are fantastic. Best of the lot is the teutonic version of “She Loves You”. “She says you hurrrt her so”, pronounces Sellers in an accent you might like to use for my Hitler joke above. “Gut,” ad libs the sidekick. At which point Sellers audibly cracks up. Should I need a reference point for Sellers’ much vaunted comedy genius, this is it.

Ricky Gervais – Freelove Freeway.mp3
I am a big fan of the British original inception of The Office, and was quite prepared to hate the US version. Actually, the American take is quite good. But it cannot beat the Ricky Gervais/Steven Merchant version. The episode when David Brent gets out his guitar, recounting how he basically gave Texas their big break, is comedy at its best. On the surface, it is very funny, and in the details it is inspired. Watching the programme, you could never laugh out loud if you were busy trying to penetrate the many levels on which a gag was funny. Few comedies are like that. Off hand, The Simpsons and Arrested Development spring to mind. And so in the episode in question, David Brent sings his composition “Freelove Freeway” (with some pretty good impromptu harmonising). The lyrics are typical Brent: poorly thought out and cliché ridden. But the melody is pretty good. No, it is good. It’s a hit.

And therein lies the tragedy of David Brent: beneath the bluff and buffoonery, there resides some talent. The products of that talent ““ here a great melody ““ are however undone by buffoonery ““ the lyrics ““ and an inability to exploit the bit of talent there is. Later in the series (the Christmas special), Brent releases a single. But instead of releasing “Freelove Freeway” (perhaps with reworked lyrics) as the a-side, Brent opts for a gloriously terrible rendition of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (the video of which is jawdroppingly, and of course intentionally, bad). Brent aims to, and believes himself able to, measure up to Teddy Pendergrass, when he has a decent work of his own which could make things work for him. Gervais later recorded the song with one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis (the surly one wit

h the monobrow). It’s a decent version, but the song really requires Gareth Keenan’s harmony of “she’s dead” or Tim’s interruption for clarification on the potentially homosexual subtext.

Intros quiz: '70s edition

November 10th, 2007 7 comments

You know the drill: 19 song intros of about five seconds each. This intro quiz comprises hits from the ’70s. All of them charted in the top 10 in the US or UK (or, of course, both). Nothing obscure, though a couple could be tricky.

Just over half of the songs have featured on this blog at some point…

Answers will go into the comments by Tuesday.

Intros quiz – 1970s.mp3

And to get into the ’70s mood, look at these fashions (in case nobody has e-mailed you the link yet).

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In the middle of the road: Part 5

November 8th, 2007 6 comments

Big middle of the road update to nearly conclude the series. I still have a handful of suitable tracks in my back pocket, but I think five installments should do for now. I’ll post the others when I can think of something nice to say about Jackson Browne.

Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen.mp3
Cocaine Rock at its cokest (I take it everybody knows the stories about Nicks’ alleged methods of coke ingestion). A song about the death of Stevie’s uncle in Phoenix, and that of John Lennon, the nervous riff was an obvious sampling choice for that other deeply affecting song about the vagaries of the inevitable mortality that comes to all living things: Destiny’s Child “Bootylicious”. The thing I like best about this song is the clashing cymbals throughout.

Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right.mp3
Lyrically, this song “” about life on the road “” is unremarkable. Musically, it has classic written all over it. The vocals in particular are quite special, with two-octave dual voices and the rest of the sextet joining in the harmonies. So, yeah, one to croon along to.

Gino Vanelli – I Just Want To Stop.mp3
Here’s a bit of trivia: Gino Vanelli was the first white singer to appear on Soul Train. The Canadian veered between creating fusion and straight soul-infused rock which was similar to the sound of the great Boz Scaggs. This soaring ballad, from 1978’s excellent Brother To Brother album, falls in the latter genre. You just have to dig the saxophone solo, but what I really like is the short pause when our man sings the title’s line (for example at 2:04), with the drum beat virtually accentuating the letter p in the word “stop”.

Larsen-Feiten Band – Who Will Be The Fool Tonight.mp3
Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten were better known as session musicians, highly respected in jazz fusion circles especially, than as recording artists in their own rights. As far as I know, they released only one album, whence came this pretty funky track. Guitar and bass guitar enthusiasts may recognise Buzz’s name from the tuning system he invented.

Loggins & Messina – Danny’s Song.mp3
As I mentioned a couple of episodes ago, Jim Messina is generally regarded as the second banana in this duo, unfairly so. Fact is that Messina “” a sound engineer, former drummer of Buffalo Springfield and then of Poco (which he co-founded) “” was brought in to help out the budding talent Kenny Loggins, who was struggling getting his debut album together. One thing leading to another, the two decided to form a duo. The best work on the Sittin’ In, from which “Danny’s Song” comes, album is Messina’s. This ballad, a Loggins composition, is the sweetest song, though. Dude is newly-wed and sings about all the bliss and chains of love and there being a family where there once was none et cetera. On my mix-CD in the car, I follow “Danny’s Song” with Gram Parsons’ version of “Love Hurts”, just to remind myself that “Danny” is just a dreamy idealist whose heart is bound to be broken when Mrs Danny goes fogelberging elsewhere.

Hall & Oates – Rich Girl.mp3
How incomplete this series would be without a bit of Hall & Oates. Amid the collective memory of Hall’s mullet and Oates’ moustache, it’s easily forgotten just how good they were back in the day. The trilogy of “Rich Girl”, “Sara Smile” and “She’s Gone” should dispel any notions of our two friends being as naff as their hair suggests. Of these three tracks, I used to like “She’s Gone” the best, until I saw the mindbogglingly, hilariously bad video (even for its time). Instead, here’s “Rich Girl”, which Hall intended as a jibe at an ex-boyfriend of his then girlfriend (the Sara of the smile). Hall’s vocal performance here is quite excellent.

Poco – A Good Feelin’ To Know.mp3
Ah, the harmonies of West Coast country-rock, a genre Poco helped invent. I love the chord changes, and check out the drumming. It seems nobody told the drummer that this was supposed to be a mid-tempo wind-in-the-hair kind of number, because he plays this as a hard rock song. And it works very well, giving the song a bit of edge. Along with Jim Messina, a founding member of Poco was Randy Meisner. He left the group in 1969, unhappy with the musical direction it was taking, presumably the country rock thing. So who did Meisner find fortune and fame with? The Eagles. Of course. Meisner was replaced by Timothy B Schmitt. And when Meisner left the Eagles, guess who replaced him there.

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat.mp3
More trivia: Al Stewart was the first singer to commit the f-word as part the lyrics of a recorded song, the line “Love being more than a fuck” on “Love Chronicles” in 1969. Soon after, Jefferson Starship used the word “motherfucker”, the first intentional use of an expletive on record (disregarding swearing in the background, as the drummer in the beginning of “Louie Louie”). Anyway, so much for the idea of Al being a little prissy. Fair enough, he did very little to advance the punk revolution, and his music was mild-mannered. It was consistently beautiful though, and at times quite at odds with the lyrics. And any song that references the great Peter Lorre deserves my vote. Though I prefer the Time Passages album, this song is rightly regarded as Stewart’s masterpiece.

Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around And Fell In Love.mp3
He was through about a million girls??? Not disputing Elvin’s charm, sex appeal and stamina here, but I think he’s not levelling with us. Usually the guys who count their conquests in six figures or more actually are still virgins. Anyway, Elvin Bishop doesn’t really sing this. The blues guitarist handed the vocal duties for this West Coast pub song to Mickey Thomas, the singer in Bishop’s band. This is one of those songs you crank up the volume for and sing along to, possibly aggressively out of tune.

Elkie Brooks – Fool If You Think It’s Over.mp3
You wouldn’t guess it, but Elkie Brooks is one of the most successful female British singers of all time. To be honest, I can think of only three songs by her which I’d recognise: “Pearl’s A Singer”, “Only A Fool” and this one. Oh, but the Chris Rea-penned “Fool” is a fine song, with its rich orchestration and gently swinging chorus.

Journey – Who’s Crying Now.mp3
Great keyboard intro, enter Steve Perry, set the song up for the sing-along chorus. Perfect. Randy Crawford covered this song to great effect (Randy Crawford covers any song to great effect). The story has it that guitarist Neal Schon disliked this song so much that, when called to play a guitar solo at the end, he cobbled together what he thought was the most hackneyed bit of guitar wankery, hoping it would offend enough for excision. As it turned out, the other band members liked it so much that it was retained. With Journey you want a bit of cliché CocRock, so the solo is absolutely perfect.

Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love.mp3
Don’t let the torture that moron Kid Rick inflicted upon this great song undermine your enjoyment of it. In its original incarnation, it is near-perfect. I starts out as a West Coast track of the sort the Eagles would have been proud of “” remarkable in itself, since Bad Company was an English blues-rock band. Suddenly, as the chorus approaches, the heavy rock guitars kick in, and Paul Rodgers (him of Free) repeatedly roars out the song’s title, before it goes all Eagles again. Marvellous stuff for the long road. The song is from the band’s second album, titled Straight Shooter, the sort of cliché used by people who claim to have fogelberged about a million women.

Andy Gibb – I Just Want To Be Your Everything.mp3
Admittedly, including this song in this series is a bit of a stretch. It’s really a pop song “” and one of the finest of the ’70s. Andy’s career, if not his entire life, suffered from living in the shadows of his older brothers (hence the dancing, ho ho). His career certainly was not helped by the reputation the Bee Gees earned when they became the supposed “Kings of Disco”: those who liked the Bee Gees’ disco stuff regarded Andy as Bee Gees Lite; those who hated it would not give Andy a fair shot. Yet, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” is an exquisite song which swings beautifully and evokes sunshine. A very happy song from a very unhappy man.

Steve Miller Band – The Joker.mp3 (link fixed)
Can one still sing along to this song without launching into a Homer Simpson parody? Recorded in 1973 (it really doesn’t sound as old as that), it is as self-referencing a song as they come. Other Steve Miller Songs were called “Enter Maurice”, “Space Cowboy” and, of course, “Gangster Of Love”. The song caused a bit of a mystery over the lyric “the pompatus of love”. the mystery is solved here. Listen to “The Joker”, and then play “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors to hear a most shameless rip-off.
Homer Simpson – The Joker.mp3

Intros quiz: '80s edition

November 4th, 2007 4 comments

As usual, 20 five-second intros to songs for you to guess. This time, all 20 songs are from the 1980s, and as far as I know, they were all hits in the US or UK or both.

I’ll post the answers into the comments by Wednesday.

The past quizzes have been downloaded a fair number of times, which means that the concept is popular. But what about the quizzes themselves? Too easy? Too difficult? Just right? Do people do them on their own or as a group effort? Anything I should do or not do? Let me know. The comments section is free.

Intros Quiz: 1980s.mp3 (Mediafire)
Intros Quiz: 1980s.mp3 (ZShare)

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