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Archive for January, 2008

The Age of the Afro: '70s Soul Vol. 1

January 29th, 2008 9 comments

My brother is currently visiting me. He has noted with some amused disdain my facility to jump musical genres within minutes. So, one minute I might be listening to a song by AC/DC, then a Motown track, followed by Wilco and Dean Martin. And it’s true, I love music so much, and for so many different reasons, I take joy in hearing a song I love, or even just like. But the one genre I will always return to is the soul music of the 1970s. And so, proceeding from the ’60s soul three-parter, here we inaugurate my series of ’70s soul, revisiting the age of the afro. Read more…

Intros quiz: Women edition

January 26th, 2008 2 comments

The usual drill, with the focus this time on female singers from the ’50s to the ’00s. Almost all are solo artists. Intros to 20 songs, about 5-6 seconds in length.

Answers will go up in the comments section by about Tuesday.

Intros Quiz – Women Edition

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The Locomotion: 60s Soul – Vol. 3

January 18th, 2008 5 comments

The third and final part of the ’60s soul series opens the way for my real passion: the soul music of the ’70s, when the sharp suits, raw sexuality and growls of the ’60s gave way to afros, falsettos and flamboyant outfits. In the meantime, enjoy the final eleven classics of ’60s soul. Read more…

Once Upon A Time In America OST

January 16th, 2008 2 comments

When asked to choose my all-time favourite movie, I usually give three, representing different styles and decades. Casablanca, Singin’ In The Rain, and Once Upon A Time In America. The latter, Sergio Leone”s 1984 epic of crime, friendship and betrayal, should not really appeal to me. It is very long, at almost four hours. I tend to dislike movies that exceed the two hour mark by much. It is violent and full of organised crime. I don’t like violence and organised crime very much (though I do love GoodFellas). And yet, when I first saw the film, in a cinema in Cologne in late 1984, I came out and immediately bought a ticket for the next show. The film touches me at an unexplored level, I think, and much of that has to do with Ennio Morricone’s delicate, haunting soundtrack.

Once Upon A Time In America is a film about nostalgia and loss, of melancholy brought on by missed opportunity, betrayal, and loss of love. The score captures that melancholy, interspersed with the jauntiness of good times. As Noodles (Robert de Niro) encounters the bitter-sweet memories, he tries to resist the impulse to be haunted by them. If he were to hear the panpipes of the score, he’d join the viewer in experiencing just that emotion.

Rarely is a score as much a character in its film as is Morricone”s greatest masterpiece. Violent a film as Once Upon A Time In America is, the music is is at once powerful and tender. “Deborah’s Theme”, the hymn to unfulfilled love, evokes a yearning and sadness which may move to tears even the listener who has not seen the film. When the soundtrack livens up to record a light mood, these moments are brief and quickly followed by more of the sad sounds “” achingly beautiful, to dabble in cliché “” of loss and nostalgia.

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Pissing off the Taste Police with Lionel Richie

January 14th, 2008 17 comments

Before anyone presumes to judge me on basis of this thread, I ought to point out that most times, I”d gladly don a long leather coat and join the Taste Police in seeking to neutralise the influence of Lionel Richie. It is unfortunate that the man is still recording music. He was a scandal when every professional football player would list him, along with Phil Collins (an singer who will never feature in this series), as their favoured artist to bleat forth from their Fords XR6.

Much, then, as I would like to join the critical consensus on Lionel”s legacy, I feel I can do so only by stating a few caveats through the medium of Pissing Off The Taste Police. You see, Lionel was a funky cat back in the day. As a Commodore, he dressed brighter than many a member of Earth, Wind & Fire and was party to some songs that were almost good enough to compete with EW&F. Check out the disco-funk of the fantastic “Machine Gun”, a huge Motown hit.

Then it happened that the Commodores, who used to rule the joint with too hot ta trot badass funk, scored their biggest hits with Lionel in ballad mode. Don”t be fooled by a notion that these ballads were bad, though. They were damn good. Yes, even “Three Times A Lady”. It might have sounded terrible to people who thought, or wished, punk had won. But it is a fine song. It is nothing on the brilliant “Easy”, with its fuzz guitar solo and Richie’s excellent vocals though. “Still” is utterly lovely. Try to time the spoken “still” after that long pause after the line “I do love you”¦”. “Sail On” is a great slice of country, till the climax kicks in with Philly-type strings and horns, and a funky fade-out. Likewise, the gorgeous “Lucy”, from the final Commodores LP with Richie, builds up slowly to reach a dramatic conclusion.

Trouble is, with the ballads scoring big, Lionel decided he was not really a funkmeister but a black Barry Manilow. So he went solo, and released an album that didn”t so much scream as assault you with the message: “I ain”t got no funk no more.” And that was just the cover, on which our man looked like a new member of Sesame Street’s monster gang. Or like the accountant brother-in-law your once wild sister married for stability.

The fuzzy and green accountant came up with a few tracks that were better than the monster slices of cheese such as “Truly”. “You Are” is a glorious slice of pop-soul, and “Wandering Stranger” continues Lionel”s country ballad trajectory kickstarted by “Sail On” (and continued by his writing the hit “Lady” for Kenny Rogers).

The debut solo album was just the set-up for the biggie: Can”t Slow Down. On the cover, your brother-in-law shows that he now is a chartered accountant, and his vocational accomplishments have bought him an air of cool. See, he owns a chair now. And look at the back cover: no socks. Like Don Johnson. And a pastel jacket. Daddy Cool! The hair and ‘tache were stupid, even by the standards of the horrible ’80s.

I”d love to say that Can”t Slow Down merits our bile. “Hello” is a revolting song. “Penny Lover” (WTF is a “penny lover” anyway?) is cliché. But the mega-hit “All Night Long””¦well, it”s fantastic. Hey jambo jambo, the tune rocks. Obviously. Better still is “Love Will Find A Way”. I cannot speak for people who don”t agree with me that Boz Scaggs is a bit of a genius, and if the esteemed reader found nothing in The Middle Of The Road, then I cannot promise they’ll like this song. But if one has regard for Boz and likes ’70s AOR, then one will concur with me that “Love Will Find A Way” is a glorious song. “Running With The Night” is, by the same token, pretty good.

And if one has to choose only one of Lionel”s post-Commodores ballads, surely it would have to be “The Only One”. And whisper it softly, the soft-country tones of “Stuck On You” don”t offend me at all. So, five good songs, a weak one, a revolting one, and one I can”t remember (the title track). That”s a pretty good strike rate.

The follow-up, however, was awful. I might give some kind of sympathy vote for “Dancing On The Ceiling” (if only for the video, which was said to be revolutionary — even if Fred Astaire did the same thing three decades earlier), and “Deep River Woman”, with the country band Alabama, was quite good. But whatever goodwill there might have remained for Lionel was nuked by “Ballerina Girl”, a self-conscious attempt to out-Hello “Hello”. Despicable. And then there was “Say You, Say Me”, which had a slow part that was rubbish, and a fast part that wasn”t awful. Nothing there that I wish to inflict upon you.

After that, Lionel took off a decade before making a comeback. It was all rather poor stuff. You have to give credit to our man for his great Ice Cube impersonation on the cover of 2002″s Encore.

And so, to piss off the Taste Police, here”s Lionel Richie redeeming himself:

Commodores ““ Machine Gun (1975).mp3
Commodores ““ Easy (1977).mp3
Commodores ““ Sail On (1979).mp3

Commodores – Lucy (1981)
.mp3
Lionel Richie ““ You Are (1982).mp3

Lionel Richie ““ Love Will Find A Way (1983).mp3

Lionel Richie – All Night Long (All Night) (1983).mp3

Fiesta forever, muthafuckah!

Previously on Pissing off the Taste Police:

The Carpenters
Billy Joel
Neil Diamond
America


Music for Bloggers Vol.4

January 8th, 2008 5 comments

After some months without, here’s more love for blogs I enjoy. As always, if your blog isn’t featured, but you think it should be, there will be more music for bloggers. I like an awful lot of blogs. Please open the links (in the red headings) by right-clicking and opening a new window or tab; I’d hate to lose you. In each entry, the first dedicated song is a new upload, the second has been posted here previously (except in the bit for Sunset Over Slawit, who gets two fresh tunes).

Popdose
Many mourned the sudden death at the hands of moronic interfereniks of the much beloved jefitoblog. Good news is, Jeff is back and has roped in a few skilled pals to create an Internet culture magazine called Popdose (among these pals is John Hughes, who used to write the excellent Lost in the ’80s blog). Popdose runs articles on music, film & TV, current events and more, and represents a welcome addition to my bookmarks. There are loads of fine MP3s, and best of all, Jefito still presents his weekly mix tape. Hooray!
Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town.mp3
Clout – Substitute.mp3

Todger Talk
Men tend to talk about sex like they might talk about automotive mechanics. But would you ask your mates for advice if you had blood gushing out of your fractured penis? It was that experience (hilariously related) which moved “Nottingham’s Mr Sex” to start up a blog, with two qualified colleagues, which will dispense sound, valuable advice on sex and relationships specifically to men. But don’t expect condescending earnesty or laddish phwoarisms (it will be in the dictionary one day, you’ll see). If the first couple of posts are an indicator, the serious subject matter (you don’t think sex is fun, do you?) will be interlaced with a healthy dose of humour. And to get you in the mood, this horny soul classic from the ’70s, followed by Serge’s seduction technique.
Sylvia – Pillow Talk.mp3
Serge Gainsbourg – Cargo Culte.mp3

Holy Goof
Another fairly new site, Holy Goof is an absolute treasure trove of comedy albums from the ’60s up to last year (some ripped audio from DVD), with perceptive commentary. And, best of all, everything’s available on Sharebee, which serves those of us who are excluded by Rapidshare and Megaupload. Get your Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard, Woody Allen, David Cross, Tom Lehrer, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Billy Connolly, Ellen Degeneris, Albert Brooks, Richard Pryor, Bill Maher, Dave Attell, Paul F Tompkins, George Carlin, Kathy Griffin, Denis Leary, Patton Oswalt, Steve Martin, Sara Silverman and a shitload more (even the deathly unamusing Robin Williams, if you must) at the Holy Goof.
Dave Davis – Death A Clown.mp3
Manfred Mann – Ha! Ha! Said The Clown.mp3

Echoes In The Wind
One of the Major Dude winners in the music blogs category last month. Some might have chosen a blog that features obscure, cutting edge artists or provide acute and learned reviews. There are many such blogs I like to visit. Echoes In The Wind isn’t such a blog. Whiteray writes from his own, seemingly vast personal experience. Reading his blog is like enjoying a visit from an erudite friend who, over a few bottles of good dark beer (or, in my case, a pot of coffee and a pack of smokes) shares his stories, and of himself. Whiteray’s music selection is almost exclusively and unsentimentally nostalgic, sometimes featuring stuff that is obscure and surprising, and occasionally exceedingly rare. It was Whiteray who had me give John Denver a chance when he uploaded Whose Garden Was This, a long-forgotten but rather lovely 1970s album by the man whom I had dismissed as a bit of a grinning muppet (which at one point he had actually become). Early in his career, Denver might not have been cool, but he was pretty good. Check out “Sunshine On My Shoulders” from 1971’s gorgeous Poems, Prayers & Promises, and imagine it, if you need to, being sung by somebody else, without prejudice. The second song is a lovely slice of sentimentality by a South African artist. If you like Whiteray’s stuff, you should like this.
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder.mp3
Andr̩ de Villiers РMemories.mp3

Sunset Over Slawit
Much as Whiteray is a regular visitor to my monitor, so is Rol Hirst, another blogger with whose prose I feel instantly comfortable. Rol’s blog does not offer conspiracy theories, profound sociological analysis, political polemic or comedy writing (though he knows how to turn a witty phrase when circumstances demand it). There are fine blogs that offer these, sometimes all in one, and I appreciate these. Rol’s blog appeals on a different level. It succeeds in making you feel that he is a friend sharing his engaging thoughts with you (even though you’ve never met him); his writings suggest that he is a really nice guy… Conveying one’s {perceived) personality in such a persuasive way is a skill not many writers have.
Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten.mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown.mp3

The Hits Just Keep On Coming
A self-confessed angry ex-radio DJ lets rip on his blog, which he presents as a music station of sorts. The concept works very well. JB apparently still presents a weekly radio show. If it is anything like his well-written blog with such judiciously selected music, it should be required listening wherever it is broadcast. The One Day In Your Life feature is especially good, a time travelling blitz. And I wholeheartedly agree with JB about how the Hype Machine aggregator has become less inviting since the redesign, which I think has a terribly cluttered corporate feel now. Like JB, I very rarely venture there any longer. For JB, a great 1995 song from alt.country-rock supergroup Golden Smog, and a fine track by one of the underrated songbirds.
Golden Smog – Radio King.mp3
Kathleen Edwards – Another Song The Radio Won’t Like.mp3

The Ghost of Elecricity
In my lists of links, The Ghost of Electricity is filed in the non-music section, which isn’t strictly accurate, because it does feature MP3s. It would also not be strictly accurate to file Davy H’s site among the music bloggers, because his subject matter isn’t always music. Rather, the music Davy posts often is intended to illustrate his entertaining and frequently insightful ruminations on any given subject. Much in the same way as the songs dedicated to the bloggers in this series fulfill an ancillary function. Wherever one may want to file The Ghost of Electricity, it’s a bloody good read with some fine music (check out the funk here).
The Strokes – Electricityscape.mp3
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davy’s On The Road Again.mp3

Guitariotabs
Two and a half years ago my son, then 10, decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar. After securing a firm commitment from him, we enrolled him with a first-class tutor, a former session musician for South African blues-rock legend Robin Auld, who continues to verse him in the technically correct mechanics of string plucking (or whatever). Occasionally Michael visits sites offering guitar tabs, and sometimes finds that the authors have failed in providing scrupulously correct tabs. So he decided to set up his own tabs blog, with relevant MP3 files and links to the lyrics as an added service. The lazy sod hasn’t updated it in a while “” apparently it’s not a simple task to write tabs, and time consuming as well. Still, I’m immensely proud of my boy, now 13. So visit his blog. In the meantime, here’s something by the wonderful guitarist Kaki King, who featured on the new Foo Fighters album, and the Beatles song Michael announced he really liked when he got into the Help! album, and which happens to be my all-time favourite Beatles tune.
Kaki King – Happy As A Dead Pig In The Sunshine.mp3
The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated

The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.5

January 7th, 2008 4 comments

When the mood grabs me, I scroll down to the Shuffle function on the iPod and see where it takes me. Here’s the first 5 that came up today:

Joshua Radin – Someone Else’s Life.mp3
A song from my album of 2006. I really like Radin’s calming voice, on this track almost a whisper. Comparisons to Nick Drake are easy when a dude sings quietly, accompanied only by his guitar, but Radin certainly is channelling Drake, with a hint of Simon & Garfunkel. This song was apparently written for his girlfriend, Schuyler Fisk, at a time when he was pursuing her. It must have been an intense pursuit: “Somehow, I”ll make tonight our own, show you every way I”ve grown since I”ve met you.” Some time ago I gave the We Were Here album to my 15-year-old nephew. He is now a massive fan. What better influence can an uncle have but to educate his nephews in the ways of good music? More Joshua Radin here.

Alan Price – Groovy Times.mp3
A beautiful song I don’t hear often enough. Released in 1978, when people weren’t saying “groovy” a lot anymore, it sounds like it was written at a time when people still were saying “groovy”. The arrangement is interesting: it is a mid-tempo ballad in the style of the groovy times of about 1972, but it features restrained Philly-soul strings and a funky disco guitarline. And Price is giving us a great keyboard solo at the end. An insanely happy song. More Alan Price here.

Dusty Springfield – Just A Little Lovin’.mp3
In the late 1960s, British songstress Dusty Springfield went to Memphis and, produced by the great Jerry Wexler, recorded the greatest ever soul album by a white singer. Including the efforts of overrated old Amy Winehouse. Having said that, Dusty in Memphis is a bit overrated itself. It’s a very, very good album and I like it a lot, but it is not quite the masterpiece the critics would have us believe it to be. “Just A Little Lovin” kicks off the album, and if ever there was a song Diana Ross should have sung to show that she was more than the radio-friendly soul-pop princess of Motown, this would have been it. Instead, Dusty nails it perfectly, with a restrained vocal performance and an arrangement that plays entirely to the singer’s strength. More Dusty Springfield here.

Dean Martin – Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.mp3
I cannot claim to be a big fan of the various incarnations of the Idols shows. I do, however, make it a point of watching the local auditions, because there will always be a few laughs to be had. Like the dude who turned up somewhere in South Africa, and announced that he’ll sing a song which he found on a Westlife album, but was originally recorded by Michael Bublé: “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”. He won in the end. The award for worst audition.

Ben Kweller – Until I Die.mp3
Another fine song from 2006, from Kweller’s self-titled album. A lovely but sad song, and the dude is a bit pathetic (in the proper sense of the word) in his fear that the relationship he is in won’t last. Newsflash, Ben: it probably won’t. If you have to beg her to phone you (“I”m in for the night. You”ve got a phone; keep me in mind”) and then ask her to give you a try, then either she’s not that into you, or your self-confessed paranoia and lack of confidence will drive her away. In other words (to quote another Kweller songtitle), this song tells a story many people know all to well from their own bitter experience.

Intros quiz: Rock edition

January 2nd, 2008 2 comments

Happy new year everybody. And to kick off 2008, a retro-heavy intros quiz: 20 intros of 5-7 seconds each of rock songs from the ’50s to whatever we call this decade. Well, one from the ’50s, two from the ’60s, five from the ’90s/’00s, the rest from the glory days of the ’70s and ’80s. Absolutely nothing obscure here. And no hair rock, as I realised after putting the thing together.

Answers will go up in the comments section over the weekend. If you are dying to know that tricky number 12, feel welcome to e-mail me at halfhearteddude at gmail.com (really, I enjoy receiving blog-related e-mails).

Intros Quiz – Rock Edition (Zshare)

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