Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Elis Regina! 1945-1982

I'm completely taken with Elis Regina, both as a singer and a personality, what a smile she had! Some singers, the best ones, have a way of connecting directly with the emotions of the song they are singing and investing that song with all their empathy for and understanding of the lyric and how it works with the melody, Sinatra had this too.  This is why listening to, and even better watching, Elis Regina sing is so special, for shorthand I guess you could call it soul. There was no need for overly showy vocalizations or demonstration of technique for its own sake, something much more subtle and beautiful was going on when Elis sang, she took you directly to the heart of the song and all the beauty was there in the small details and inflections in her voice.

You can hear in her voice and see in her face a profound recognition and appreciation of life's moments of joy and sadness and an understanding of their intertwining. Some artists you feel a special kinship for, this is how I feel about Elis, maybe its a Pisces thing, as we share the same birthday.

Elis's MPB special from 1973 with a small band is a particular favorite, there's a dvd of this special but I believe its out of print, but there's downloads out there if you look around, thanks to Bob for getting me one! Here are some clips of Elis in action from the aforementioned special and then one of her and Jobim doing Aguas de Marco together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

That Summer Feeling


It was hot today, it was hot yesterday, forecast says the same tomorrow.  Today is officially the first day of summer, never mind that the sun burns your skin in a minutes time, that Central Texas is fast becoming a desert and that in triple digit heat the natural inclination is to stay inside.  If it's good for nothing else, the summer has inspired some great songs.   Here's a collection of some of my favorites.

1. Here Comes the Summer-The Undertones- Short and sweet as always.

2. Little Honda-The Beach Boys- Go!   "just a groovy little motorbike"

3. American Pie-The Brady Bunch- An upbeat, slightly ragged (almost punky) reading of the ponderous Don McLean song about the death of Buddy Holly and/or by extension rock n' roll. This easily outclasses the original on sheer energy (and brevity) alone, check out the studio drummer going for his, especially near the end.  I never get tired of hearing the Brady Kids sing the opening "helter skelter in a summer swelter, the byrds flew off with the fall out shelter, eight miles high and falling fast". Maybe its my affection for the series itself but I find this version more sweet and sincere than the sanctimonious original.

Here I am with Maureen McCormick aka Marcia Brady.

4. She Don't Care About Time-The Byrds-  following the Byrds reference above with a Byrds tune was a natch, no direct summer connection, but one of Gene Clark's greatest songs.  The Byrds are for all seasons.

5. What A Beautiful Creature You Are- Donovan and Lulu- Donovan and Lulu studying each other, learning about the birds and the bees and finding much to like.

6. Summer Nights- Marianne Faithfull-  The beautiful Marianne Faithfull!

7. Summer Song- Slade- Front if you want, but it's your loss because this is a great pop song.

Ev'rybody needs a by the sea affair
Where you get the urge from something in the air
Helter Skelter on a mat "Kiss me Quick" is on my hat
and you do it on the ghost train for a dare.

8. Are You Feeling Good?- Jonathan Richman-  Unreleased Jonathan Richman from the early 1980's. Favorite line is the "aren't you still in debt? well debt-ah, but the debt can only make me get a little upset-ah".  This would have appeared on the Jonathan Sings album from 1983.

9. In Brooklyn-Al Stewart- See? Not bad for the guy who gave you the year of the cat.  Not clear on why he's "down on his knees in Brooklyn" sounds dirty though.  

10. Summer's Cauldron- XTC- Skylarking was a special record for me as a kid, and I still remember the extreme let down of the record that followed it, which I haven't heard in years, maybe it wasn't so bad.  But nothing beats the one two punch of the opening of Skylarking's Summer's Cauldron going directly into Grass.  Todd Rundgren does have his uses.

11. Grass- XTC- Things we did on grass, indeed.

12. Summertime- Sam Cooke-  Sam Cooke could sing the shit out of anything, but give him one of Gershwin's best and he really knocks it out the park.   Nik Cohn was a great writer, but the fact that he didn't rate Sam Cooke always gave me serious pause.

13. Girls- Iggy Pop- Another great one from Iggy's late 70's Arista records period, specifically New Values a record I have championed here before.  This is your typical dumb/smart Iggy lyric that he excelled at and he incorporates Summertime to boot.

14. 20th Century Fox- The Doors- One of my favorites from their debut,  part of its appeal is that it hasn't gotten as much play as the rest of the first album.  The Doors' Venice Beach origins are well documented, with Morrison spending the Summer of 1965 on Venice beach, taking acid daily, sleeping on the roof of an apartment building and composing the songs that he heard as a concert in his head.  The apartment building is located at 12 Westminster Ave.Venice, CA 90291 and has apparently been renamed in his honor, here's a picture of the building.

15. Rooming House on Venice Beach-Jonathan Richman- One time hippie-phobe Jonathan recounts fondly the time he spent in the early 70's in a rooming house on Venice Beach.  Particularly funny is the lyric about how "eerie" the local "followers of Watts and Leary" were.  Nice beatnik vibe on this one.  For a fun, if not exactly even handed, account of the dark side of 1960's mysticism check out former Blondie bass player Gary "Valentine" Lachman's book Turn Off Your Mind.

16. California Sun- The Rivieras- Covered by the Ramones and the Dictators, it's the archetypal California ode from an outsiders pov, the Rivieras were from Indiana.  I've romanticized the west coast so much in my mind that I'm certain to be disappointed when I finally get there.  In fact I think I'll just stay home, fuck 'em all, squares on both sides, as the man once said.

17. Things We Said Today- London Jazz 4- More bongos for your summer fun on this Beatle cover by the London Jazz 4.

18. Bummer in the Summer- Love- Dig the little Bo Diddley beat in the middle section.

19. Crossroads- Mike Tingley- No obvious summer connection here I just like the way it fit, and it signals the end is in sight.

20. Summer's Almost Gone- The Doors- early demo version from 1965 I believe. 

21. Funny How Time Slips Away- Georgie Fame- our emergent theme of summer passing continues with this Willie Nelson cover by the great Georgie Fame, yeh yeh!

22. That Summer Feeling- Jonathan Richman- One of Jojo's greatest songs, might be his best, with a message that rings true and sums up the theme of the majority of his solo material.  I don't think anyones music has helped me get through the bumps of life as much as Jonathan's, and I'm not talking about music as a distraction or diversion, but as serving up concrete good advice, inspiration and perspective on how to live. My favorite story concerning this song is how before a concert some fans drove by and saw Jonathan and stopped and started talking with him and he proceeded to serenade them with an a cappella version of That Summer Feeling.  

23. Sun Will Follow- Pianosaurus- Lest you despair or get too nostalgic here's something to keep your spirits up.

24. Summertime- Billy Stewart- A song so nice it's on here twice, but this is a radically different reading from Sam Cooke's.  

25. In the Summertime- Roger Miller- Not sure how I forgot to put this on the first time I posted this 
mix, but its here now and better for it.

Have a nice summer y'all!

Friday, June 17, 2011

EDAN-Logically Advanced with a Knowledge of the Past

Here's something nice from the 21st century that I love without reservation, EDAN's Beauty & the Beat album. This record, released in 2005, is a perfect synthesis of slow flow 80s' hip-hop and psychedelia, not an easy trick. Nothing else in the universe sounds remotely like it.  Since 2005's Beauty & the Beat he's done a couple of mix tapes, a dvd and guest appearances but no new record.

If you don't have this album, buy it asap, it's a modern day psychedelic masterpiece, hopefully someday soon he'll make another.

Here's the trailer for the Echo Party Mix DVD

In Paris cutting and rhyming at the same time over the Thin Lizzy "Johnny the Fox" break.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Catholic Boy-Tell Me A Story

Tell Me A Story Mix
Growing up Catholic shapes you, whether you like it or not- embrace it, rebel against it, or try to carve out territory somewhere in between, either way you are left with a resonant and powerful group of images and symbols, that stick with you and continue in some fashion to be a prism through which your reality is filtered.

In addition to ritual, mystery and techniques for transcendence, one of the positives of Catholicism is the wide range of Saints that among other things give expression to a greater range of of the human psyche than the more strident forms of Protestantism with its emphasis on one masculine God (no veneration of the Mother of God and the Saints) and the absolute literal interpretation of what was intended to be metaphorical, mystical teachings.  Luke 8:10- And he said to them: "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.  But to the rest, it is in parables, so that seeing, they may not perceive, and hearing they may not understand."  

I went to Catholic schools from Kindergarten through High School. The schools were co-ed until I got to my Jesuit high school.  And though I don't have much to compare it to, my public school friends did appear to be having a much better time, particularly in relation to girls.  The days of caning and lashes were over by the 1980's, though we did often get hit with PH (Penance Hall) for such innocuous offenses as hair over the collar or lack of a belt or socks.  Penance Hall was the Catholic School equivalent of detention, and involved writing lines.   And there was the occasional outbreaks of violence, at least one friend of mine was assaulted by a teacher (not a priest though) and another supposedly had a priest make a pass at him on a ski trip.  All things considered it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been in the past, though still a drag.  We did what we needed to get through it.

This mix is a tribute to Jim Carroll (pictured above in the Trinity School Yearbook), the great Catholic writer and musician who sadly passed away in 2009.  It features Jim reading from his first book the Basketball Diaries.


1. Catholic Boy- Jim Carroll Band- "Redeemed through pain not through joy"- though on a deeper level we're talking about two sides of the same coin.  Extra points for the mention of extreme unction when running down the sacraments.

2. Moving-Upper Tip of Manhattan-Jim Carroll- "most likely they'll be my scene"

3. Tell Me A Story- Iggy Pop- From Iggy's underrated New Values record, one of his finest pop songs, perfect even.  "What did they do to chill the joy away?"

4. A Minor Genius-Jim Carroll- "she was a minor genius with adorable freckles"

5. Hey! Little Child- Alex Chilton- two chords, under the influence of the Ramones?

6. Cold Saturday/"A" Train Uptown-Jim Carroll- I fall prey to the same shit on the city bus, the weirdos and drunks seem to make a bee-line for me.

7. Saint Behind the Glass- Los Lobos- "Saint behind the glass watches me while I sleep"

8. Catholic School Bullcrap-Jim Carroll- I once got a poor progress report in a prayer class elective for "lack of effort"- a prayer class!  And I was probably one of the most sincere kids in the class.  It was my friend John who would fall asleep, always having to nudge him if he started snoring.  I'd actually sit there and listen, which is all that was required, but I guess by then I had gotten a bad rep, hanging with the wrong crowd.

9. Jesus Christ- Big Star- This song reminds me of my first apartment in South Austin.  My next door neighbor was this "older" guy (he was probably in his 30's but when your 19 that seems ancient) who drove a cab, he would stop by sometimes and hang out.  One day when he dropped by I was listening to Big Star's 3rd Record (Sister Lovers) and this song came on, he listened for a minute and then turned to me quizzically and asked "Is this Christian Rock?"  I can't remember what I said, but hey I guess it is and beautiful at that!

10. Dome of Stars-Jim Carroll "Stare into the star machine and jerk myself off, is that strange?".  This entry reminds me of Kerouac's "Belief and Techniques for Modern Prose" specifically "scribbled secret notebooks...for your own joy".

11. Up On the Roof- The Drifters- Forgive me, but sometimes the obvious choice works best, and the juxtaposition with the previous track puts a new spin on this old chestnut.

12. Celia Sisters-Jim Carroll- "I don't want to soil my diary with a description of that."

13. My Lonely Sad Eyes- The Them- "pretending everything's fine till I see your sad eyes"

14.  Beavers Flashing-Jim Carroll-"these are the fans that bring out a player's true inspiration"

15. I Want You to Want Me- Cheap Trick- This is an early version recorded around the time of their first album, clearly they had not figured out how to end the tune yet.  As a little kid I inherited a 45 from one of my older siblings of the hit Live at Budokan version and it along with Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" got played constantly. This early version has a charm of its own, until the lame fade out at the end at least, its hard not to miss the Japanese girls from the live version echoing the "cry cry cry" part on the chorus.

16. My Marxist Pal-Jim Carroll- "one of the requirements seems to be that you have to be ugly.  I was wearing my seediest clothes and I still came off looking like Arnold Palmer or something" and "I dig these motherfuckers, but the speeches bore the shit out of me" are two of my favorite lines from the Basketball Diaries.

17. Commando- The Ramones- "first rule is- the laws of Germany, second rule is- be nice to mommy, third rule is- don't talk to commies, fourth rule is - eat kosher salamis".  Genius.

18.  Frankly Lewd-Jim Carroll- this seems to be a not uncommon problem for the young Jim Carroll and there he is just trying to enjoy a little H and a magazine.

19. The Way Girls Talk- The Undertones- Good God I love Feargal's voice especially on the "ahhh" part.  The Undertones were perfect.

20.  Dry Dive-Jim Carroll- "these things happen".

21. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue- The Them- "Change is the only constant"- Heraclitus

22. I Just Want to be Pure-Jim Carroll- nuff said

23. Just to See You Smile-Spacmen 3- Sonic Boom goes a courting, old world style, walking the girl home, holding her hand and all for the opportunity of what?  Just to see her smile.  I have an old cassette of Recurring in my car that, perhaps initially due to laziness, has been played repeatedly these past two months.  This song in particular makes me feel like I'm driving around encased in a huge cloud- very soothing, I've come to prefer Sonic's side of the cassette to Jason Pierce's, though I don't think this is the general consensus.  Here's a Sonic Boom interview by monkey man Ian Svenonius-

24. All Star Game--Jim Carroll- "I read Music by Frank O'Hara and begin thinking of the Plaza Hotel"


      If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35¢, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
      I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
      of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting, up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
      But no more fountains and no more rain,
      and the stores stay open terribly late.


25. All Kindsa Girls- The Real Kids- Jonathan Richman's younger next door neighbor and one time Modern Lover John Felice sings the praises of the infinite varieties of the fairer sex.

26. The Scene at Home-Jim Carroll- "it's all so simple its the most complicated shit I've ever had to put up with."

27. Jesus- The Velvet Underground- "help me in my weakness, cause I've fallen out of grace"

28. It's Poetry Now-Jim Carroll- "This is no bullshit"

29. I Want the Angel- Jim Carroll Band- "I want the angel whose darkness doubles, it absorbs the brilliance of all my troubles, I want the angel that will not shatter, every time I whisper girl it does not matter".