Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Video of the Week: “Video” by India.Arie March 9, 2013

Filed under: India.Arie,Video of the Week — yourbirdcansing88 @ 12:22 AM
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This week’s music video is a feel-good number from way back in the year 2000.  I remember VH1 used to play this video a lot back when I was in seventh grade (back when I was a VH1 junkie and the channel’s motto was still “Music First”), which was a very self-conscious time for me.  I really don’t want to go into detail about how much I’d learned to hate myself at that time, but I will say this much:  the great thing about this song is that it not only declares the singer’s own-self esteem, but it does so in a way that actively encourages self-esteem in others.  Which is a really big deal, since it seems that most works of self-praise (especially those done for and/or about women) imply that one has to put others down before one can feel good about oneself.  But self-esteem need not be a zero-sum game, as India.Arie so effortlessly demonstrates with “Video”.  Enjoy.

 

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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”:

 

Thanksgiving’s Right Around the Corner… November 22, 2009

Filed under: Arlo Guthrie,Holidays — yourbirdcansing88 @ 4:48 PM
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…which can only mean one thing:  it’s high time to break out the ol’ Arlo Guthrie CDs and play “Alice’s Restaurant” over and over again until I start screaming “Kill!  Kill!” in my sleep.  I don’t know about you guys, but “Alice’s Restaurant” is a family tradition in my household.  Not only do we listen to the song more times a day than any person reasonably should (considering that you can only fit about three plays of the song into one hour, you can imagine what a huge chunk that takes out of one’s day), we also watch the movie based on the song.  But this year, we’re actually doing ourselves one better:  we’re going to see Arlo Guthrie IN CONCERT around Thanksgiving.  So, yeah, Arlo’s a pretty big deal in my family, especially this time of year.  For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure to hear “Alice’s Restaurant”, or if you’re just hankerin’ to hear the song again (sheesh, I’m starting to talk like Arlo now I’m so jazzed about this song), I’ve included here a video of a live performance of the song from a few years back.  Also includes footage from the film.  And one more thing for you “Alice’s Restaurant” virgins out there:  don’t be dismayed by the 18-and-a-half-minute length of the song.  You’ll stay amused the whole time.  Trust me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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

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

 

A Few Words on Bob Dylan March 12, 2009

Filed under: Bob Dylan,lists,Rants and Raves — yourbirdcansing88 @ 4:05 PM
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The "unwashed phenomenon" himself, in 1966.

The "unwashed phenomenon" himself, in 1966.

I think before I post anything else, I should say something about Bob Dylan.  Bob Dylan’s name will probably come up more frequently in my posts than anyone else’s, and there’s a very good reason for this.  Bob Dylan is, quite simply, the greatest singer/songwriter that popular music has ever known.  Yes, I know his voice is anything but conventionally beautiful.  I know he was never an extraordinary instrumentalist (although his backing bands over the years have consisted of quite a few).  I know his lyrics can be indecipherable, or just plain weird.  And yes, I’m well aware that he did that  Victoria’s Secret commercial.  But none of those things matter to me.  If anything, Dylan’s imperfection and lack of convention are what make him the one-of-a-kind artist that he is.

 

Dylan is an acquired taste for some, mostly because of his voice.  For those who’ve never heard Dylan sing, I can best describe his voice using any combination of the following adjectives:  “raspy”, “gravelly”, “rough”, “nasal”, even “whiny”.  I know many people who think Dylan is a lyrical genius, but prefer to hear other people cover his music because they can’t stand his voice.  For me, his voice was never a problem, because I started listening to him when I was about ten or eleven years old, back before I even knew or cared what a “good voice” was.  Furthermore, I find that Dylan’s voice complements his songs like no other voice could.  Especially in Dylan’s earlier songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, in which he sang of suffering, his weathered-sounding voice could convince his listeners that he’d been through all that suffering, despite the reality that he was just a kid in his early twenties from a comfortable middle-class background.

 

Now before I get out of control singing the praises of Mr. Dylan, I should probably take the time now to post some recommendations to those who might want to get more acquainted with the man’s work.  Here are some Dylan songs (and a couple of albums) that I think are essential:

  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – a good song to begin with.  Not really one of his stronger songs, in my opinion, but it is his original “signature song”, it’s the song that first got young revolutionaries in America to notice him, it was probably the first song I ever heard by him, and its message is still somewhat relevant today, even though it was written in 1962.
  • “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – probably the first song to have that ambiguity that Dylan later became famous for.  This song, rife with ominous imagery and warnings about an impending “hard rain”, was thought to be about nuclear war, but Dylan has always denied this assumption.  It could be about any huge and catastrophic event that’s just beyond the horizon, but just what it could be is unknown.
  • “Talkin’ World War III Blues” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – very few artists could pull off a song that’s this hilarious and this tragic all at the same time.  Dylan did a lot of “Talking Blues” songs during the first few years of his career, but this is probably the best.
  • “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (from “The Times They Are A-Changin'”) – perpetually relevant, as long as the world continues to change.
  • “Chimes of Freedom” (from “Another Side of Bob Dylan”) – a powerful song from Dylan’s “protest” period that calls for the freedom of “every hung-up person in the whole wide universe”.
  • “Mr. Tambourine Man” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – one of my three all-time favorite songs (tied with two other Dylan songs: “Visions of Johanna” and “Shelter from the Storm”).  The Byrds did a very melodic cover of it which I quite like, but lyrically there’s so much more going on in Dylan’s version.  Many think the song is about drugs (I blame The Byrds for this.  They had to omit every verse except the one about the “magic swirling ship”, didn’t they?), but I think it actually is literally about easing one’s emotional pain through music, and not drugs.  Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m naive.  I don’t care.
  • “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – one of Dylan’s contemporaries, folksinger Arlo Guthrie (whose father, Woody Guthrie, had a profound influence on Dylan) called this “the first rap song”.  I’ll let you be the judge.  Rap song or not, I doubt that R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” would have even existed without this song’s influence.
  • “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – it’s a shame Dylan isn’t more well-known for his plethora of beautiful love songs.  This is one of the best.
  • “Like a Rolling Stone” (from “Highway 61 Revisited”) – one of Dylan’s other “signature songs”, this song is not just one of Bob Dylan’s best, but also one of the greatest rock songs from the 1960s, or possibly ever.  “Rolling Stone” magazine (I wonder where they got their name from?) even called this the #1 rock song ever.  It’s also allegedly the song that made Bruce Springsteen realize he wanted to be a musician.  I don’t know If I’d consider “Like a Rolling Stone” to be THE greatest rock song ever, but it’s a darn great song, and I think every music fan should hear it at least once in his or her life.
  • “Blonde on Blonde” (whole album) – one of Dylan’s finest albums.  It includes “Visions of Johanna”, which I consider to be, quite possibly, the greatest song ever.  This was my favorite Dylan album until I got “Blood on the Tracks”.  By the way, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” (better known as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”) is not about drugs.  “Stoned” means “ostracized” in this song.  Although I’ve read that everyone in the studio was stoned when the song was recorded, so one could argue that “Everybody must get stoned” is a double-entendre.
  • “I Want You” (from “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits”) – unbearable longing never sounded so good.
  • “Lay Lady Lay” (from “Nashville Skyline”) – A beautiful seduction song, and a good song to start with if you’re not crazy about Dylan’s voice.  He was apparently getting voice lessons or something when “Nashville Skyline” was being recorded, so his voice sounds a lot smoother on this album than on any other (he started singing again in his regular voice by the next album).
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (from the soundtrack to “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”) – and you thought it was a Guns ‘n’ Roses song, didn’t you?
  • “Blood on the Tracks” (whole album) – truly Dylan’s masterpiece.  Many of the songs are wrought with sorrow, anger, and regret, since Dylan’s marriage was starting to unravel when he recorded this.  Yet, there’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, which, in spite of its title, is a relatively upbeat song.  And “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” tells a story that’s just begging for a movie adaptation.
  • “One More Cup of Coffee” (from “Desire”) – just a cool sounding song.  I recently discovered a pretty awesome cover of this song performed by The White Stripes, which just goes to show you how much Dylan has stood the test of time.
  • “Love Sick” (from “Time Out of Mind”) – Dylan’s a different kind of love sick here:  he’s sick of love.  This song was used in the Victoria’s Secret commercial that marked about the 50th time that Dylan could have conceivably “sold out”.  But who cares?  This song has a hypnotic organ part, that’s good enough for me.
  • “Thunder on the Mountain” (from “Modern Times”) – from Dylan’s latest studio album (at the time this was written.  I hear he’s coming out with a new one soon).  One needs no further evidence than this song to know Dylan’s still got it.  So this song makes a reference to Alica Keys.  Dylan’s “I Shall Be Free” from the early 1960s made reference to Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Sofia Loren, and Anita Eckberg.