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Video of the Week: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan May 24, 2010

It’s been months, I know, but I want to let you all know that school’s out for the summer (but has not been blown to pieces) and my blog is back with a vengeance (not really sure what that’s supposed to mean; just wanted to say it).  Anyway, in celebration of the return of this blog, the return of “Video of the Week” (which will hopefully be posted once a week from now on, as its title would suggest), and the 69th birthday of Robert Allen Freakin’ Zimmerman (a.k.a. Bob Dylan), I now present to you what I believe to be (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) the very first music video ever made, Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, which was filmed way back in 1965 and was featured as a prologue of sorts to the documentary Don’t Look Back, which followed Dylan on his 1965 tour of the UK, not too long before he “sold out” at the Newport folk festival.  The documentary was not released until 1967, I believe, so I’m not totally sure that this may have been the first music video ever seen (though I do believe it was used to promote the film.  In fact I think the trailer might have consisted entirely of this video), but I do think it was the first one ever made.  Of course, since this was eons before the music video was considered an art form in and of itself, the video has a simple concept, yet still manages to be both clever and visually interesting.  So without further ado, here it is, the first music video ever made that I’m currently aware of.  Enjoy.

And for your further enjoyment, here are a couple of videos which pay tribute to “Subterranean Homesick Blues”:

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Video of the Week: “Going up the Country” by Kitty Daisy & Lewis August 15, 2009

There are two reasons why I chose this video for “Video of the Week.”  The first is that I was made aware of Kitty Daisy & Lewis – a British musical trio made up of two sisters and a brother – earlier this week when they performed their jazzy cover of Canned Heat’s “Going up the Country” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and I thought they were phenomenal.  The second reason is that Canned Heat performed “Going up the Country” at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969, and can be heard during a memorable scene in Woodstock – the epic documentary film which covers the three-day festival – during which the audience gets its first glimpse of the far-out concert-goers as they arrive.  The song sets the scene perfectly and really depicts the attitude most of the festival’s attendees brought to this hog farm in upstate New York:  they’re attempting to leave behind the pressures of American society – if only for a few days – by traveling far into rural New York to mingle with like-minded flower children.  And this weekend just happens to be the 40th anniversary of this groovy congregation.

 

But enough about Woodstock (don’t worry; I’ll be posting plenty more about Woodstock for the next couple of weeks, as it’s probably the event that I most lament not being alive for), on to the video.  One of the things I like about this video is its Wizard of Oz-esque use of color.  Much like a certain video featured as Video of the Week a few weeks ago, in the video for “Going Up the Country”, the city is depicted as a dull and nearly colorless place, while the open country is a bright, beautiful place awash with color.  Another great thing about this video is the grainy quality that gives it that old-fashioned appearance to suit the very old-fashioned style of this song, which sounds as if it could have been recorded decades before the original version was.  The video itself looks like it could have been made at any point between the 1950s and now.  To top it all off, the video’s setting places the siblings in a rural area which could be – for all we know – in upstate New York.  But I probably only think that because I know of the song’s history and have seen Woodstock more times than I can count.  Anyway, enjoy the video.

 

Oh, and if you want to hear the original “Going up the Country,” here’s a rather amusing video someone made on YouTube, implying that Canned Heat’s vocalist Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sounds suspiciously similar to a certain lovable amphibian.  And I’d have to agree with them:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM5VZiaPvys

 

Jack White: The Discography (So Far) July 12, 2009

There are several reasons right now for me to post a (sorta) complete retrospective of Jack White’s albums (definition of “complete” depends on whether or not you count movie soundtracks he’s contributed to, guest appearances he may have made on other artists’ albums, or bands he was in prior to The White Stripes.  If you count any of those, this list is far from complete.  Sorry.  I kind of jumped on the Jack White bandwagon late and was not able to delve that deeply into his work.  So sue me).  One reason is that Jack White’s birthday was a couple of days ago (Thursday, to be exact).  Happy 34th, Jack.  Another reason is that his latest band, The Dead Weather, are coming out with their debut album, Horehound, later this month(and when I say “later this month,” I mean really really really soon.  Like in 2 or 3 days soon).  It’s about time, too.  I’ve been waiting for this thing since early March (actually, since around the same time this blog was started).  So in preparation for Horehound, and in honor of the birthday boy, I now present to you a detailed discography — in chronological order, mind you — of all the albums Jack’s released with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs.

 

The White Stripes

The White Stripes — The White Stripes (1999)

Way back in 1999, long before The White Stripes hit the mainstream, and shortly before lead singer/guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg White filed for the most amicable of divorces (though to this day they still claim to be siblings.  I’m sure they know they’re not fooling anyone anymore, but to be fair, maybe the whole reason why they got divorced was because their bond was too fraternal to last as a marriage.  So, for all intents and purposes, they have a brother-sister relationship), The White Stripes released their self-titled debut album.  Released when Mr. and Ms. White were still living in their hometown of Detroit, The White Stripes features a raw, savage sound best described as “punk blues” (it makes a lot more sense when you actually hear it), combining the structure and rhythm of blues music with the fast tempo and high volume of punk rock, while also embracing the minimalism that both genres share.  Minimalism is a key ingredient to The White Stripes’ credo, contributing to everything from the band’s primitive recording techniques to its very strict dress code (as The White Stripes, Jack and Meg are only ever seen wearing red, white, black, or any combination of those three colors), and though they’ve never abandoned their minimalist approach to music, on no album did they adhere to it more than on their very first album.

Recommended Tracks:  “Sugar Never Tasted So Good”; “Cannon”; “Broken Bricks”; “Screwdriver”; “I Fought Pirhanas”.

 

De Stijl

The White Stripes — De Stijl (2000)

The White Stripes’ sophomore album — named after an early-20th-century Dutch art movement (translation:  “the style”) that valued minimalism and geometric shapes — was released one year after the band’s debut album.  De Stijl saw the band dabbling in a more diverse range of genres, from the mid-1960s-pop-rock-sounding “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)” to the bouncy piano tune “Apple Blossom”, to the country-tinged cover of bluesman Blind Willie McTell’s “Your Southern Can is Mine”.  Still, the punk blues sound that was so pervasive on The White Stripes still radiates heavily on De Stijl, most notably on songs like “Hello Operator”, “Let’s Build a Home”, and the band’s cover of Son House’s “Death Letter”.

Recommended Tracks:  “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)”; “Hello Operator”; “Death Letter”; “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise”; “A Boy’s Best Friend”; “Let’s Build a Home”.

 

White Blood Cells

The White Stripes — White Blood Cells (2001)

This is the album that launched the Stripes into the stratosphere of stardom, and all it took was one minute and 55 seconds of energetic retro-rock and the lego-filled video that went withit.  I’m talking about The White Stripes’ very first hit single — “Fell in Love With a Girl”.  A mere four years after Jack and Meg formed their candy-colored musical duo, they’d made the big time.  Soon to follow would be MTV apperances, speculations revolving around the nature of the pair’s relationship (one minute the public buys the idea that they’re brother and sister — I mean, heck, they look like they could be siblings! — and the next minute their divorce papers are circulating around the internet…someone has some ‘splaining to do), and the inclusion of “We’re Going to Be Friends” (in my humble opinion, the greatest song ever released by The White Stripes, and quite possibly the greatest song Jack White has ever written.  So far, that is) in the opening credits of the love-it-or-hate-it (I happened to love it.  Though I didn’t love those of my peers who quoted it ad nauseam.  Way to ruin a good film, guys) teen cult film Napoleon Dynamite.  The band’s sound was remarkably different on White Blood Cells than on their previous two albums, relying less on the punk blues sound and more heavily on straight-up garage rock.  However, in spite of the slight change in style, White Blood Cells is no less ecclectic a collection than De Stijl, gathering influence from country (“Hotel Yorba”), 1970s hard rock (“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”), 1970s soft rock (“The Same Boy You’ve Always Known”), folk (“We’re Going to be Friends”), scat (“Little Room”), mid-1960s proto-punk (“Fell in Love With a Girl”) and Citizen Kane (“The Union Forever”).

Recommended Tracks:  “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”; “Fell in Love With a Girl”; “The Union Forever”; “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known”; “We’re Going to Be Friends”; “I Can’t Wait”; “I Can Learn”.

 

Elephant

The White Stripes — Elephant (2003)

If White Blood Cells was the springboard from which The White Stripes leapt into stardom, Elephant was the huge splash they made when they landed in it.  Elephant features the riff-driven “Seven Nation Army”, which remains the Stripes’ biggest hit to this day.  And that’s just the beginning of the impact Elephant made on the band’s career.  Elephant won the Stripes their first two Grammy awards in 2004 (Best Alternative Album; Best Rock Song for “Seven Nation Army”).  Also on Elephant is “The Hardest Button to Button”, the video for which was parodied a couple years later on an episode The Simpsons in which The White Stripes themselves made a brief cameo.  Once Elephant was let loose, the Stripes were practically unstoppable.  Pretty soon they had a week-long gig on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Jack White started doing crazy celebrity things like appearing as a minor character in a war epic, dating an actress or two, getting into a tussle with a former protegee, making occasional onstage appearances at Bob Dylan concerts, and collecting taxidermy (oh, wait — he was already doing that).  But anyway, back to what’s really important about Elephant:  the music.  The White Stripes’ fourthalbum saw them returning to their blues-rock roots with songs like “Black Math”, “In the Cold, Cold Night” (featuring Meg White’s first ever lead vocal), and the unbearably sexy “Ball and Biscuit”.  Yet the Stripes also continued to experiment with a variety of different styles.  “Seven Nation Army”, though undoubtedly a rock song, has a beat that can be easily danced to (Mom, if you’re reading this, please spare me the Dick Clark reference), while “There’s No Home for You Here” features multi-tracked vocal harmonies that sound like a weird hybrid of The Beatles and Queen.

Recommended Tracks:  “Seven Nation Army”; “Black Math”; “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”; “In the Cold, Cold Night”; “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket”; “Ball and Biscuit”; “The Hardest Button to Button”.

 

Get Behind Me Satan

The White Stripes — Get Behind Me Satan (2005)

Sometime around 2005, Jack White evidently felt the need to unleash his inner Leon Russell.  Thus, he grew some facial hair, developed a strong attachment to wide-brimmed hats, and released the piano-heavy Get Behind Me Satan.  In spite of the album’s title and cover art, Jack White’s quasi-gothic appearance at the time, and the dark quality of the album’s first single, “Blue Orchid”, as well as the eerie video that went with it, Get Behind Me Satan contains some of the lightest, most pop-oriented material The White Stripes have yet produced.  Though, in my opinion, Get Behind Me Satan is altogether a relatively weak album (especially when it had the misfortune of following Elephant), it does contain some of Jack White’s most beautiful, introspective songs, with “Ugly as I Seem” and “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”.

Recommended Tracks:  “My Doorbell”; “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)”; “Little Ghost”; “The Denial Twist”; “As Ugly as I Seem”; “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet”.

 

Broken Boy Soldiers

The Raconteurs — Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)

In 2006, the music world was introduced to Jack White’s new band, The Raconteurs.  Joining forces with solo artist Brendan Benson and The Greenhornes’ Little Jack “LJ” Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, Jack and his new bandmates preferred not to call their supergroupa “side project”, but instead a “new band made up of old friends.”  Their retro-style brand of modern hard rock proved that The Raconteurs had potential for staying power and appealing to a wide audience.  Having three additional band members rather than just one also helped take some of the pressure off of Jack’s performance, as he got to share vocal and guitar duty with Benson.  The Raconteurs also gave Jack some room to play withsounds completely separate from The White Stripes’ material.  It is quite easy to distinguish a Raconteurs song from a White Stripes song, and there are many Raconteurs fans who prefer them to The White Stripes.  That fact alone is enough evidence to suggest that The Raconteurs were more than just a side project.  As for me, I enjoy bothbands about equally (though I lean a little more towards The White Stripes, if only because they have more material out).  Listen to both if you want to decide for yourself.

Recommended Tracks:  “Hands”; “Broken Boy Soldier”; “Together”; “Yellow Sun”; “Blue Veins”.

 

Icky Thump

The White Stripes — Icky Thump (2007)

To the relief of all the White Stripes fans who thought Jack had abandoned his soul sister so he could continue playing with the boys, Jack and Meg returned again with Icky Thump.  And for all we know, Mr. White may have needed that year off with another band to refuel his peppermint-flavored creative juices for The White Stripes.  Because Icky Thump is a darn fine album, and showcases a diversity of musical styles that spans further than the Stripes had ever dared to reach before.  Jack celebrates his Scottish heritage with the bagpipe-driven “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn” and “St. Andrew”.  And though The White Stripes have performed many covers before on previous albums, few — if any — are as unusual as their latin-flavored cover of Patti Page’s 1952 hit “Conquest”.  Yet, with the Stripes’ ever-increasing exploration of different styles on Icky Thump, there’s still plenty of room for the classic garage rock/punk blues sound that The White Stripes started out with, which can be heard on such songs as “Bone Broke”, “Little Cream Soda”, “Rag and Bone”, and “Catch Hell Blues”.

Recommended Tracks:  “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)”; “300 M.P.H. Outpour Blues”; “Little Cream Soda”; “Rag and Bone”; “A Martyr for My Love for You”; “Catch Hell Blues”.

 

Consolers of the Lonely

The Raconteurs — Consolers of the Lonely (2008)

In 2008, The Raconteurs set out to prove that they weren’t just a one-album wonder.  And what a way to prove it.  This is the very album that made me a Jack White fan, and so will always hold a special place in my heart.  I was convinced that good rock and roll had gone down the tubes (and I don’t mean the London subway system — though I do remember seeing huge ads for Consolers on subway walls when I was in London last summer) until that fateful day in late January when I went out on a limb and decided to check these guys out (well, that and I needed a recent album to review for my reviewing and publishing class.  The same class responsible for me starting this blog, now that I think about it).  But enough about me.  This album is a prime example of how modern rock can still…well, rock.  The trick is to pay homage to older music, without adhering too firmly to any one genre.  Take, for example, “These Stones Will Shout”, which begins with a Cat Stevens/Donovan type of gentle folk, and gradually builds up to a powerful Zeppelinesque hard rock sound.  And that just barely scratches the surface of how awesome and diverse this album is.  Within the fourteen songs featured on Consolers, one can hear the essence of such genres as folk, blues, country, punk, bluegrass, 1970s metal, southern rock, hard rock, soft rock, and spaghetti-western-soundtrack-type-music (see “The Switch and the Spur”).  So please excuse my gushing; after all, this was the first album — the first anything, really — that I ever wrote a review for.  And before I go about paraphrasing the entire review I wrote for class, let me just finish by saying this:  Consolers of the Lonely was robbed of a Grammy.  Coldplay can stick their Rock Album of the Year award…uh…somewhere where it will be very painful to stick a small metallic gramophone.  Like…up their nose or something.  And that’s the end of my uncharacteristically biased rant.  My apologies to Coldplay and anyone who may be a huge Coldplay fan.

Recommended Tracks:  “Salute Your Solution”; “Old Enough”; ‘The Switch and the Spur”; “Hold Up”; “Top Yourself”; “These Stones Will Shout”; “Carolina Drama”.

 

Dylan may have turned 68 today, but he’s still got it! May 25, 2009

Filed under: Bob Dylan,Reviews — yourbirdcansing88 @ 1:49 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Together Through Life album coverI apologize for the delay, everyone.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to post anything for the past three weeks, but now I’m back with that Bob Dylan review I promised.  And just in time for Dylan’s birthday, too!

 

Mr. Dylan’s career spans nearly fifty years, and if his latest release, Together Through Life, is any indication, he’s far from becoming a has-been.  Though perhaps not quite as good as 1997’s Time Out of Mind or 2001’s “Love and Theft”, his latest album exceeds 2006’s Modern Times, if only slightly, and that album was by no means a subpar effort.  The album starts off with the Latin-flavored “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”, followed by “Life is Hard”, which, in spite of its title, has an extremely laid-back sound reminiscent of “When the Deal Goes Down” and “Beyond the Horizon” from Modern Times.  The third track, “My Wife’s Hometown”, tells of a wife from Hell — literally — and closes with some sinister cackles from Dylan.  “If You Ever Go to Houston” is pretty, and told from the point of view of someone who lived a century or two ago, or at least that’s what I’m assuming from its reference to the Mexican War.  “Forgetful Heart” is, alas, the most forgettable track on the album, though still enjoyable.  “Jolene” is one of the standout tracks and, contrary to what I initially assumed, has nothing to do with the Dolly Parton classic of the same name.  One of the things that makes “Jolene” so great is a catchy, upbeat guitar riff delivered by none other than Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), who provides the entire album with his excellent guitar playing, as well as lovely Mediterranean-inspired mandolin work on “This Dream of You”.  “Shake Shake Mama” is a raunchy blues number that will likely get you out of your seat and dancing.  “I Feel a Change Coming On”, is, quite possibly, the best song Dylan has released in over a decade, and sounds like it would have fit perfectly on one of Dylan’s late-sixties or early-seventies albums, like Nashville Skyline,  New Morning, or possibly even Planet Waves.  Likewise, the final track, “It’s All Good”, a harsh satire on blind optimism, sounds almost like it could be an outtake from 1988’s Oh Mercy

 

My only complaint with Together Through Life is this:  this is a ten-track album, with none of the tracks being exorbitantly long (which is actually pretty unusual for Bob Dylan, who has released at least four songs that exceed eleven minutes), so I cannot fathom why the vinyl version of the album is a double disc set, with only two or three songs on each side.  They could have easily fit all ten tracks on one disc, but noooooo, they had to go and waste plastic like that in these trying times, and make me get off my butt twice as many times to flip the record over.  But since that’s my biggest complaint regarding Together Through Life, I’ll let these mild annoyances slide and just enjoy the album.

 

Together Through Life was released last month and is Bob Dylan’s 33rd studio album.