Archive for November, 2007

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

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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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.”


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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In the middle of the road: Part 4

November 1st, 2007 4 comments

And more songs from the middle of the road, West Coast, yacht club and so on. Hold on before cutting your AOR Mix CD-R “” the final installment of the series (for the time being) will run next week.

Average White Band – Atlantic Avenue.mp3
It has always tickled me that the Average White Band is known by the acronym AWB, which it shares with the South African white supremacist Nazi movement, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging “” which doubtlessly would not approve of the band’s multi-racialism or black music influence. “Atlantic Avenue”, from 1979’s excellent Feel No Fret, is a great driving song (preferable over a member of the racist AWB), with its fantastic bassline, horn section, percussions and whistles. The vocals are great for singing along, especially the ad libbed “Oh-ooh-woah-oh-woh-woh-wouooh” before the backing singers repeat the sing title in falsetto.

Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgetting.mp3
Jens Lekman might remember Warren G and the sweet summer of 1993 (though I think it was in ’94); I remember Michael McDonald and the slightly crappy summer of 1982. Warren G and Nate Dogg pulled a masterstroke by sampling “I Keep Forgetting” on their “Regulate”, but the McDonald song remains superior, thanks to the man’s distinctive voice. The song is a cover of a Leiber & Stoller R&B composition, but McDonald very much makes it his own. The highpoint is his impassioned interpretation of the line “everytime you’re near”, which to me sounds influenced by the vocal stylings of the Four Tops’ Levy Stubbs.

Bob Seger – Against The Wind.mp3
Bob is one of the AOR gods, and “Against The Wind” shows why. The lovely keyboard solo at 2:45 with those great guitar chords, the lyrics about lost time”¦it’s quite perfect. And that line, “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” is simply fantastic. To me, this song is a companion piece to Springsteen’s “The River”.

Dan Fogelberg – Longer.mp3
Every AOR collection needs a couple of ballads. It might be Loggins & Messina’s “Danny’s Song” (perhaps next week). Or it could be “Longer” by the man with the rock ‘n rollest of names (there must be colleges where “fogelberging” was a euphemism for acts possibly banned in 23 states). Oh, but “Longer” is a very pretty song, with the little horn solo (is it a flugelhorn?) and the promise of everlasting love. Awwww!

Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son.mp3
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the good gentlemen of Kansas looked like back in their day, but I should be very disappointed should I find out that there was even just a hint of hirsute deficiency. This is hair rock v1.0 “” and much better than the coked up gimps in spandex tights who peddled their comedian music in v2.0 (yes, New Jersey hairspray goon, I mean you). “Carry On Wayward Son” has it all: the West Coast country-rock, the CocRock which anticipated the advent of Journey and Boston, folkish harmonies, the prog guitar solo which just demands that the listener go seriously crazy on that air guitar’s sorry ass”¦

America – Lonely People.mp3
America’s SoCal country rock is essential for the road (or the yacht, if one seeks to perpetuate the useless cliché). “Lonely People” has that wonderful moment just before the harmonica solo kicks as one the Americans issues the instruction: “Hit it”. I’ve uploaded it before. If you missed it the first time around, there’s more America here.

Linda Ronstadt – It’s So Easy.mp3
The queen of AOR returns with an upbeat country-rock number to offset the heaviness of our possibly very hirsute friends from Kansas. Ronstadt succeeded in translating her country roots into rock (as did the likes of the Eagles and Gram Parsons), thus helping diminish the stereotypes of country being by definition uncool “” a definition informed by the caricature of yee-hawing good ole boys who bang their big-haired cousins on pooltables and cry when their doggy gone died. For that, thank you, Ms Ronstadt. Trivia fact: with “It’s So Easy” and “Blue Bayou”, Ronstadt was the first artist since the Beatles to have two simultaneous US top 5 hits.

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way.mp3
The song for when “Longer” has run its course and you want to go folgelberging elsewhere. Apparently written by Lindsey Buckingham to Stevie Nicks (whom I’d have joyfully fogelberged back in the day) as a break-up song. His guitar solo and the harmonies are quite brilliant. The whole Rumours album is brilliant, in fact.

More Middle of the Road