Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coming soon... maybe

Just this afternoon, I remembered that I have a blog.  Since I've been trying to convince myself that the artform of the album isn't dead (or dead to me), I've been listening to some recent albums I bought and never (or barely) listened to.  Since the rediscovery of my own blog and my attempted rediscovery of listening to music in album form have occurred simultaneously, perhaps I will start doing some album reviews, to exercise some writing muscles.  If I still have any.  If I ever get around to listening to the albums.  And then sitting down to write about them.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lust U Always

Some old Prince outtakes have leaked in the last month or so.  A vocal version of "Lust U Always" (1982, below), "An American In Paris" (1989), "Our Destiny" (1984) with Lisa Coleman on lead vocals, and an extended remix of "Vicki Waiting" from the Batman soundtrack that adds some funky rhythm guitar.

Supposedly these are all coming from a new bootleg of new and upgraded classic-era outtakes called "Connections" some time in the near future. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

R.I.P. Donna Summer

"One day in Berlin ... Eno came running in and said, 'I have heard the sound of the future.' ... he puts on 'I Feel Love', by Donna Summer ... He said, 'This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.' Which was more or less right."  -- David Bowie

Another one of my earliest music memories is my mom's cassette of Donna Summer's "On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II," another one we wore out, just like Whitney Houston's debut, which I unfortunately I had to reference in another dedication post not so very long ago.

Donna Summer was so much more than the "Queen of Disco," but hey, not everyone gets such stately honorific, and I see it as no slight whatsoever that disco is what she's known for.  Such a beautiful voice, and so many great songs.  So many great memories are associated with her music in my mind. 

Despite the undeniable awesomeness of all of the classic '70s disco and the mid-'80s pop-rock, I think my favorite Donna track remains her latter-day club rendition of of "Con Te Partiro" that she recorded in 1999.  (Not crazy about the video though, and can't find the live version from her VH1 special where she debuted it).  Rest in peace, Donna.

UPDATE:  Then again, in the last several days, I find myself returning to the full 18 minute "MacArthur Park Suite."  Taking such an oddball song and doing something even more ambitious with it than even its original Richard Harris incarnation - by weaving the other songs, "One Of A Kind" and "Heaven Knows" in and out of it - and creating something incredibly fun and joyous makes it, as one of the commenters on the YouTube video below states, "the Himalayas of disco."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4/5)

I'd been looking forward to this release for 3 years, so when it came out last summer, what did I do?  Bought it and then never listened to it.  That was partly because, as I mentioned a few posts down, I haven't really been listening to music - or at least new music - for the last cople of years.  The main reason, however, is because I was afraid to listen to this one.

Adele - 21 (4.5/5)

I know, I know, I'm way late on this.  This came out, what, a year ago(?) and has been the biggest story in music ever since.  But I'm catching up on stuff I missed, so I ought to go ahead and include this as well.

There really isn't anything left to say about it at this point with (fittingly) 21 million copies sold worldwide, is there?  I'll just add that while it may inevitably not live up to the massive amount of hype and the juggernaut that its success has become, it is a fantastic pop album and it's easy to see how it's become what it has in the music buying consciousness.

But there being nothing left to say on a particular subject is never a deterrent for me, so let me continue to beat this dead horse...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tori Amos - Night Of Hunters (3.5/5)

So I've been catching up on some new music that I hadn't listented to (or barely listented to) after buying in the last year or two to see what I've been missing.  Figured I might as well write about it, since that's kind of one of the reasons I started this blog.  This blog that I seem to have abandoned since I don't really listen to much music, or watch any TV or movies, or read too many books or comics lately. (Huh.  So what do I do in my leisure time, any way?  That might be a question worth exploring in a blog some time soon as well, if I could only bother to try to figure out the answer.)

So, anyway, here we go....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

R.I.P. Whitney Houston

Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston.... these were some of my first experiences with music, my first exposure to celebrity and what it meant. And these titans are slipping way from me.  Large chunks of my childhood are dying.  Whitney Houston's first 2 albums are some of the first pieces of music I was exposed to when I was a child, through a Columbia House subscription that my mother had.  Incidentally, this his also how I was first exposed to Madonna, before my mother took her away from us after she got racy with "Like A Virgin" and I didn't have another one of her albums for 8 or 9 years.  "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" was my favorite song when I was 10 years old.  I was at a wedding when I heard the news, and the first thing I did was go to the DJ and request that she play a Whitney Houston song, thereby breaking the news to her as well.  Only fitting that it was this song that she played.  Several of us took to the dancefloor to celebrate Whitney.

I am very saddened by the news of her death.  It really seemed like she was trying to get her life and her career together after a decade in the wilderiness.  My most distinct Whitney Houston memory is standing in right field during Little League games, singing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" to myself, out loud, not giving a shit who could hear or what anyone thought.  Gay from the get-go and in some ways, proud of it at 10 years old.  R.I.P. Nippy.  Your struggle has ended.  I feel for her family, especially her daughter, Bobbi Kristina and her mother Cissy.

I know it's very in vogue to say that Dolly Parton's original version of "I Will Always Love You" is the definitive version, but even before her death, Whitney's version has always been the go-to version for me.  You just can't beat her voice on this and her treatment of the song. 

And no one ever beat her version of the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV.  Right after the launch of the first US war with Iraq, it was an unparalleled moment in history, and she tapped the zeitgest of the country's optimisim about a war that may or may not have been necessary and just and made us all feel just a little bit better about being American, inciting a wave of nationalism with her voice alone.  No one has ever performed this song better, or more beautifully - either when it really mattered or when it still meant something in a time before America was bitterly divided by partisan politics on a personal level.  She sang this song exactly how it was mean to be sung.  It was such a crowning acheivement in her own legacy and in the nation's consciousness that it was included as a hidden bonus track on her Greatest Hits album.

There are many that feel that she ruined R&B and turned it into adult contemporary schmaltz.  This is to completely misunderstand who and what Whitney Houston was.  She was, first and foremost, a singer.  At her peak, she sang the songs that she felt could best be helped by her angelic, pure voice.  That didn't nececessarily mean that she was singing the hippest, most cutting edge material.  She was a singer of songs.  She was the greatest singer of songs.  She had a voice that cut through all others and impressed you with its effeciency -- unlike modern divas, such as Beyonce or Christina Aguilara or modern day Mariah Cary, who are much too impressed with their own voices and are constantly trying to convince you to be impressed with them as well.  She knew how to read a song and deliver it to you, without "impressive" vocal pyrotechnics and other shenanigans that distracted you from what you were supposed to hear and feel.  She only used her impressive voice to deliver the song to  you, and deliver it she did, in the most pure, beautiful way that she could.  And beautiful it was.  And this doesn't even touch on what a physically beautiful woman she was in the 1980s and 1990s. 

I will miss Whitney Houston.  I feel so sorry for the life that she led and the legacy-diminishing behavior that she exhibited in the last 10 years.  But she seemed to really be trying to once again establish herself and to make what originally won the hearts or America and the world the most important aspect of her career:  her voice. 

Unfortunately, that opportunity was cut short for whatever reason.  But speaking as that 10 year old gay boy standing in right field, hoping that the ball wouldn't be hit to him so he could daydream that he was Whitney Houston singing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," all I can say is that "I Will Always Love You."

PS:  lest anyone think that I'm only fond of her her '80s and early '90s material, from her last great album (2009 comeback excluded), she still had it as late as 1998.

and possibly the best of all, and most appropriate for a eulogy.... "sing mommy"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Madonna - Hard Candy (3/5)

Since there's a new Madonna album just around the corner (and a Madonna Super Bowl Half Time Show only hours away), I thought maybe I'd revisit her last album, "Hard Candy," partly because I haven't heard the whole thing in over 3 years, shortly after I wrote the review below, and partly because I'm looking to migrate some of my various ramblings from all over the Internet in the past to to this blog.  I listened to it again last night, just to see where we're starting from with this new release, and then I remembered that I had reviewed it here.

Nothing has really changed from what follows, except that I probably like it even less than I did 3 and a half years ago.   And some sort of temporary insanity caused me to rate it 4 stars.  I'm scaling that back to 3.  At the most.  I'm being very generous. She was definitely phoning it in for the last full-length album of her career-long tenure at Warner Bros.  It's as garish and uninspired as its cover.

Everything I wrote after the track-by-track review still holds true. Even moreso, when considering songs like "Celebration," "Revolver," and "Masterpiece" that have been released since this album.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Madonna Video - Give Me All Your Luvin'

I might have something to say about this at a later date if I ever figure out wtf is supposed to be happening here.  She looks good, though.

I like the song, though.  Not her best.  And nowhere near one of her best lead singles.  But it's fun and extremely catchy.  The quality is miles ahead of the nonsensical and even-more-pandering "4 Minutes."  A friend on facebook described the video (or song?) as Madonna continuing to struggle for relevancy.  On the contrary, I think she's finally given up on trying to stay relevant. Hard Candy, the new songs from her last GH album, and this seem to show her just going with what works more than anything else. Gone are the days of the thought-provoking, button-pushing Madonna or the one that had her pulse on the barely underground trends and sacrifcing them on the altar of Pop as the backdrop to a new Re-Invention. I like the song well enough. It's catchy and fun. Lightweight to be sure, but then that's what made her golden in the 80's.  She's just trying to stay afloat in a sea of mediocrity. I'm fine with it. I can still enjoy it to some extent, but she's not the balls-out hero to me she used to be. You could say she is still trying to stay relevant by being just as irrelevant as everything else out there.  And she finally seems to have given up on giving a shit about music videos, like everyone else did 5 to 10 years ago. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

David Bowie, Senior Citizen

If you happen to see the Thin White Duke today, make sure to wish him a happy 65th birthday!

Unsettling, isn't it?