If you missed it, click on the Hamilton tag for the first part of this review.

“Wait For It “— Usher. I was excited to see this on the album, because it instantly struck me as an excellent match of song and singer, but was underwhelmed on actual listen. It’s fine but he doesn’t make it his; as a cover, it’s nice but nothing special. Sorry Usher, it clearly wasn’t just you because I had that exact issue with a lot of the covers.

“An Open Letter” (feat. Shockwave) [Interlude] — Watsky. A cut song, Hamilton’s outraged letter to John Adams. It’s fun (and a good performance) but you can see why it was cut; Hamilton screaming, “Sit down, John, you fat mother—” and being drowned out by a chorus of shrieks and sirens goes beyond fun and into Crowning Moment of Hilarious.

“Satisfied” (feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah) — Sia. A cover, with slight lyrical changes. The part that’s very prettily and expressively sung by Sia is one of the better of the cover songs, but it also contains one of the two best covers on the album, which is the verse rapped by Queen Latifah. Without any lyrical changes at all, she takes that verse and owns it and makes it hers. It’s terrific. I would love to hear Queen Latifah do more Hamilton - actually, I’d like to see her perform in an all-women version. I think she’d be an amazing Jefferson.

“Dear Theodosia” (feat. Ben Folds) — Regina Spektor. Another cover, minor lyrical changes. Very pretty, not all that memorable.

“Valley Forge” (Demo) — Lin-Manuel Miranda. A cut song, or more accurately a cannibalized song; the majority of it was used in the show with a different melody and in different contexts. Like the other demos, it’s mostly interesting to fans as a "making of" Easter egg rather than something you’d want to listen to on repeat. I really wish all the cut songs had been given full productions rather than demos, because if they had been, you probably would want to listen on repeat.

“It’s Quiet Uptown” — Kelly Clarkson. A cover with minor-ish rewrites that feel more substantial than they actually are, because the performance sounds so different and the reason for them – removing the play’s specifics to make it a more universal song about grief and forgiveness— makes a big difference. I liked this a lot. It and Queen Latifah’s “Satisfied” verse are my favorite of the covers. (I’m counting Dessa’s as a cut song, not a cover; if you count it as a cover, it’s also a favorite.) It’s beautifully sung and emotional. And, bonus for me, I can listen to it because it’s not specifically about Philip Hamilton. I can’t listen to “It’s Quiet Uptown” on the cast album because it’s just so damn sad. This is also sad, but for me a lot less of gut-punch, and in this case that’s a good thing.

“That Would Be Enough” — Alicia Keys. Cover. Nice, not that memorable.

”Immigrants (We Get the Job Done”
— K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, Residente. FUCKING BRILLIANT. Go listen if you haven’t already.

A stunner of a song in every way: lyrics, music, performance. I was not previously familiar with the performers on this, and they’re so good. (And also very musically appealing to me personally, which as you’ll see is not always the case just because someone is objectively good.) Snow Tha Product gets more feeling and rhythm out of a single “Uh!” than a lot of singers get on an entire album.

This song samples two key bits from Hamilton: Hamilton and Lafayette’s bring-down-the-house line, “Immigrants: we get the job done!” and (referring to slavery in context, but also to racism in general) “Does this mean freedom?” “Not yet.”

The lyrics tackle various aspects of immigration, from sharply observed personal details (“I got one job, two jobs, three when I need them/I got five roommates in this one studio but I never really see them” (because the roommates are always out working their three jobs)) to equally sharply observed politics (“We’re America’s ghostwriters”) to the inner experience (“You can be an immigrant without risking your lives […] All you got to do is see the world with new eyes”), in multiple languages and from multiple perspectives, different journeys and backgrounds contrasting and finding unexpected correspondences, all of which is, of course, the essence of the immigrant experience: all those people with all their different stories from all their different places, converging on a single destination.

The hypnotic refrain of “Look how far I come” has multiple meanings— literal travel from afar, success against the odds, “look at where we are/look at where we started,” give me some fucking credit for what I’ve accomplished instead of blaming me for existing, let me tell you about my struggle to get here and then survive here, look at me instead of pretending I don’t exist— and sounds like an incantation, a blessing, a prayer, the spoken expression of the act of faith and hope required to leave everything behind for a leap into the unknown.

Like the best protest songs (which it is, though it’s also more than that) I think people will be listening to this one fifty years from now, when the topical references are incomprehensible without research and all the details that are now current have changed. It won’t matter. The heart of the issue will be the same. And it’s just that good.

“You’ll Be Back” — Jimmy Fallon & The Roots. Cover. The best thing I can say about this is that it’s not as terrible as its own intro led me to expect. It’s still not good. Worst song on the album, hands down.

“Helpless” (feat. Ja Rule) — Ashanti. Cover with fairly substantial rewrites placing the song in the present day. This is pretty adorable. Ashanti’s singing is really nice, and Ja Rule’s brief but memorable section amusingly takes the exact opposite tack from LMM’s. LMM’s delivery admits to his humble origins, but emphasizes that he’s risen above them now. Ja Rule’s says he doesn’t need to rise above anything: he is what he is, what he is is fine, come on baby you know you want me just as I am.

“Take A Break (Interlude)” — !llmind. Little musical snippet.

“Say Yes To This” — Jill Scott. Cover, moderately rewritten. Scott definitely makes this hers, as an old-school sexy torch song. It’s very well done, but musically not really my thing. However, that’s a “it’s not the song, it’s me.”

“Congratulations” — Dessa. Cut song. “You have invented a new kind of stupid.” Angelica tells Hamilton how she really feels about the Reynolds Pamphlets. I can see why it was cut— Angelica’s verse that this song was transformed into says basically the same thing in a much shorter space— but it’s a really good song in its own right. Dessa’s take is excellent: sarcastic, funny, bitter, heartfelt, angry, sad. Great delivery, great range of feeling and singing, just really well-done all round.

“Burn” — Andra Day. Cover, no or very minor rewrites. It’s fine but not memorable.

“Stay Alive (Interlude)” — J.PERIOD & Stro Elliot. Another snippet. I vaguely recall liking this one – I think it’s the one with a techno sound. The interludes are all literally 30 seconds long and I don’t think any of them add much to the overall experience whether I liked them or not.

“Slavery Battle” (Demo) — Lin-Manuel Miranda. MAN I wish this had been done as a full production rather than a demo. As is, it’s mostly of fannish/writerly interest. As a full production, it would be much more re-listenable. The Cabinet Battles on the show are fantastic.

It's a good song but probably would have been better with more drafts, which I assume it would have gotten if it had stayed in. It’s about slavery, and I agree that keeping the song wouldn’t have added that much to the points on the subject that did get made during the show. You’re always making choices when you have a limited length of time, and I can see why this song ended up being less central to the story LMM chose to tell than it would have been if the play took slavery as a central focus.

"Washingtons By Your Side" — Wiz Khalifa. Really interesting original song, very good performance. This re-interprets “Washington” to mean money (his face on the bill), and a lot of stuff that comes along with money (or the lack of it), good and bad. It’s a complex song and I’m not sure I understand all of it, but I like it a lot. It definitely made me want to hear more from him. It’s also noticeably original, with a much more non-obvious take on its inspiration song than the other new songs.

"History Has Its Eyes On You" — John Legend. Gospel version. Similarly to "Say Yes to This," he makes it his own and it’s very well-done but it’s not really my thing, musically speaking; again, it’s not the song, it’s my personal taste.

"Who Tells Your Story" (feat. Common & Ingrid Michaelson) — The Roots. Original song inspired by and quoting that line from the show. Really fantastic song, great performance, my fourth-favorite song on the album, just a hair behind my three faves.

This takes the theme of “who tells your story” to talk about the lethal racism of America that makes a black man’s sense of his own mortality far more present than it should be, how immediate that makes the desire for a legacy, and how “who tells your story,” is both the racism that endangers black men and their urgency to tell their own story before they’re cut down. And beyond politics and the death of the body, the spiritual implications of death and life after death.

I really like how it begins with very concrete matters and then shifts to more intangible ones, its structure mirroring the way we we start with a body and, if you believe, end as a soul. Lyrically complex, very well-structured, beautiful production, just all-around excellent.

"Dear Theodosia (Reprise)" — Chance The Rapper & Francis and The Lights. Cover. The song selection was a good album closer in concept (passing the torch to the next generation) but once again, it’s a solid cover that doesn’t rise above that. “Who Tells Your Story” would have been better to end on, IMO.
The Hamilton Mixtape isn’t a good introduction to Hamilton; if you want that, listen to the show on Spotify. The Mixtape is an odd mix of three completely different types of songs: completely original songs which are inspired by Hamilton and sample or quote a specific song from it (all of these are good to phenomenal), cut tracks or demos that didn’t appear on the show or appeared in substantially different form (interesting to excellent, but definitely for people who are already fans of the show), and covers of Hamilton songs, some slightly to moderately rewritten (a few excellent, some meh, one outright bad. (Jimmy Fallon.)

So, those original songs? AMAZING. Worth the cost of the entire album. Here are my three favorites, My Shot, Wrote My Way Out and Immigrants (We Get the Job Done on YouTube. Go listen! Those are the ones where you don’t need prior exposure to Hamilton.

They’re very lyrically dense, so hard to take in completely on one listen, but also musically excellent, so I have listened to all three of my favorites a minimum of 20 times and have not even begun to get tired of them. “Immigrants” might be the most accessible/striking on first listen, “Wrote My Way Out” will speak a lot to writers, and “My Shot” is just a great political/personal song. They’re all very American and about specifically American political issues in addition to personal/universal ones, but I don’t think you have to be American to enjoy them. Probably half the references went over my head anyway and I still loved them.

I am not very musically knowledgeable, so please feel free to chime in on genre, influences I missed, etc. Also, I want to listen to more music by some of these artists, so would love recs that are for songs or albums by them that sound musically similar to their work here. I talk a lot about lyrics because 1) they’re great, 2) I can talk sensibly about words. But I only listen to music if I like it as music, so that’s way more important to me in reccing than lyrics. If I like the sound, I’ll enjoy it even if I don’t know the language it’s in; if I don’t like the sound, I won’t enjoy it no matter how great the lyrics are.

I would especially like recs for K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Wiz Kalifa, and the Roots, all of whom, er, I never even heard of before. Also Common – yes, I know who he is, I’ve head songs of his that were clearly good but they didn’t jump out at me as “Oh I have to buy his albums.” What the hell, Nas too, same reason.

“No John Trumbull (Intro)” — The Roots. Very short but very good intro, sets up the themes, concept, and style of the entire album in about 30 seconds.

My Shot
(feat. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz & Nate Ruess) [Rise Up Remix] — The Roots. Brilliant, lyrically dense political/personal song about racism, the lack of opportunities and the determination to grab them anyway, some dazzling wordplay, and a whole lot more. I know it’s not exactly a surprise to say that Busta Rhymes’ verse has jaw-droppingly good rapping, but the bit where he storms from “Hamilton Hercules Mulligan” to “We in the guts again” is just SO GREAT. Again, I wish I could talk about music better, because though the lyrics are great this particular part is really striking because of the delivery. Also meta-cool because Hercules Mulligan’s style was inspired by Busta Rhymes.

Wrote My Way Out
— Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc. Of my three favorites, I actually don’t think this one is objectively the best song (I give the edge to “Immigrants”) but it’s unsurprisingly the one that I love most. It’s based on and samples “Hurricane.” It’s got a quite complex structure, interweaving four distinct parts on a single theme: writing your way out. Nas, Dave East, and Miranda rap their stories of writing their ways into a better life and what writing means to them; Aloe Blacc sings a refrain on the same theme.

They're personal stories, but not told in isolation. All their inner struggles occur in a complex social context of racism, immigration, poverty, family, people who help them and people who stand in their way. They're not just struck from above by inspiration and hope and ways out, they reach out to snatch them. And then turn around to reach back. The very last line isn’t rapped, but spoken with power and sincerity: “I thought that I would represent for my neighborhood and tell their story, be their voice, in a way that nobody has done it.
 Tell the real story.”

Here's Aloe Blacc’s refrain that spoke the most to me:

I was born in the eye of the storm
No loving arms to keep me warm
This hurricane in my brain is the burden I bear
I can do without, I’m here. I’m here.
Cause I wrote my way out

Set against some of the aggressively clever lyrics of other parts of the song, it’s almost cliched, but sung and written with a lovely simplicity that points out that the flip side of cliché is traditional, classic: some themes get repeated a lot because they’re powerful and true and resonant.

You probably know Aloe Blacc as the vocalist on the Avicii remix of “Wake Me Up,” a really catchy song that got tons of radio play. When I first heard it, in a cab in New Orleans, I was so struck by his voice that I grabbed a pen and wrote down some lyrics so I could figure out who he was. The Avicii video is the one with the people with the triangle tattoos. I’ve linked to Blacc’s original Wake Me Up here. It’s more stripped-down, and the video is a beautifully done and heartbreaking protest about the crappy way America treats immigrants; the people in it are acting out their real stories.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's verse, again unsurprisingly, especially spoke to me. It’s about his high school years, when he got beaten up for reading and being too smart (me too!) and was told to defend himself and scolded for not being able to (I got scolded for defending myself, which sums up how boys and girls are socialized). You can hear that he isn’t as technically skilled a rapper as, to be honest, pretty much all the other rappers on this album, but his raw delivery really works in his context – when he screams “fucking yes I’m relentless,” it points up how the relentlessness is what matters. He doesn’t have to be Busta Rhymes – he “draws blood with this pen, hits an artery.”

A line that gets repeated several times in the song, always spoken like a proverb that's existed for a thousand years, is “I picked up the pen like Hamilton.” This obviously makes sense to listeners because it’s on the Hamilton Mixtape, but it's spoken like a metaphor that of course everyone will understand, something grown into the roots of the language. How much do I love that maybe from now on, if I say “I picked up the pen like Hamilton,” people might actually know what that means? The most crucial and singular and defining act of my life suddenly has a huge cultural context that it never did before. Of course the general idea of “I wrote my way out” has a very long history, but now it also has a catch-phrase that it never had before, attached to something extremely well-known. (“Look, I made a hat/Where there never was a hat.”)

Look. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nas made me a hat.
It's the sequel to Prisoner, which is FREE at all stores.

DJ Torres, the dyslexic werewolf Marine, and Echo, the genetically engineered assassin who is probably not a platypus shifter, return! Can they take on a shady government agency armed only with a playlist of the world's worst songs, the dubious assistance of a pack of dysfunctional made wolves, the power of love, and a whole lot of stolen weapons?

Features banter, movie and music references, about two bingo cards worth of hurt-comfort, PTSD and other mental illnesses (warning: suicide attempt), Russian meat jello, adventure, comedy, and way more sex than in the first book.

If you contributed to the posts requesting songs with odd subjects or terrible songs, some of your nominees appear in the book.

Echo has devoted her life to protecting her sister.

In all her years as a genetically engineered assassin, Echo never met anyone like DJ Torres before. The captured werewolf Marine offered her trust, friendship, love, and the hope of freedom— not only for herself, but for the frail clone-sister she won’t leave behind. But will Echo’s dark secret destroy their hopes for the future?

DJ Torres would give his life to save his buddy.

DJ has spent his life accomplishing the impossible. But now he’s faced with a dilemma that threatens to crush even his bright spirit. DJ can’t rescue his captured buddy without fleeing the lab. Echo can’t flee the lab without abandoning her hostage sister. Will DJ be forced to choose between his best friend and the woman he loves?

Will love keep them together or tear them apart?

Still held captive by the shady government agency running Wildfire Base, DJ and Echo are forced to go on a series of missions, from undercover escapades at an excruciatingly elegant diplomatic party to a desperate battle in a terrorist compound. Their relationship grows stronger under fire… until they are confronted with a terrible choice.

Partner has a happy ending and no cliffhanger.

You can get Partner as a $3.99 ebook here: Amazon. Amazon UK. Barnes and Noble. Kobo. Apple.

The paper version will come out later. You can also get it direct from me by Paypaling the cover price to Rphoenix2 at hotmail (NOT gmail.) If you feel so moved, you may add a tip/patron gift, but that is absolutely not necessary. I only mention it because several of you have mentioned thinking that the prices of my self-pubbed books are excessively cheap.

Please consider reviewing it. If you do, please mention that it's a sequel and the first book is free.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 2nd, 2015 01:13 pm)
1. What are the instruments playing in this song before the vocals come in? An organ? And... a piano? Chimes? Glockenspiel?

2. Please name a few songs with unusual subjects. Ideally, not pure novelty songs like "Mommy Got Run Over By A Reindeer."
It just occurred to me that some of you may have never experienced possibly the most amazing song in existence, MacArthur Park. I refreshed my memory of it yesterday. It's not a parody song - I think - but appears to be very serious. Which makes it much more hilarious. Go on, check it out. At least the first minute or so.

Here, have the Donna "17-minute orgasm" Summer cover. I think I left the cake out in the rain. OH NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Please nominate the most irritating, ear-grating, vomitously sappy, wildly offensive, or otherwise horrifying song, of any era, in any language. Ideally, with a youtube link. (If the horror is partly due to lyrics and they're not in English, please tell me what they mean.)

This is open to anything, including joke songs, avant-garde songs that might secretly be jokes, etc. The only nominees I don't want are songs that you only dislike because you have completely personal bad associations, like that it was playing when your true love dumped you. They should be annoying because of inherent qualities in the song itself. Though being relentlessly over-played can add to the horror. You may make several nominations.

Yes, I am aware of Dave Barry's "Bad Songs" column. It's one of my all-time favorites.

I will start off the race to the bottom with a song that makes me want to rip my ears off every year, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Also They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha, which I believe has been scientifically proven to induce psychosis. In me, anyway.

ETA: This may be a case of "personal bad associations," but I had a much-loathed roommate whose alarm clock was John Denver's Leaving on a Jet Plane. She always played the entire song, so every morning I was forced to listen to John Denver leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaving on a jet plane. Go on! LEAVE.
Silup. Marvel at the possibilities of the human voice at about the 30-second mark.

I'm sure this would be even more impressive to me if I knew Tagalog, but I've been repeatedly annoying my neighbors with it anyway. Google translate informs me that it's about police corruption.

Pison (Steamroller). Also with some impressive rapping, and I actually like this one better as a song. I just had to share that mindblowing bit of "Silup."

ETA: And while I'm at it, here's the song that got me into Gloc-9. It's much more melodic than the two above, and comes with an awesomely angsty video. Magda (with Rico Blanco).

Since I currently mostly listen to music on CD in the car and on my laptop, I attempted to buy a CD from Amazon which, I was excited to see, was very cheap. When it arrived, I was perplexed to see a bunch of English tracks, including "Forever Thuggin" and "Fuck that Bitch."

I fed it into the player, already spinning a backstory in which Gloc-9 had done a first album in which some producers had twisted his arm to be commercial and do gangster rap in English. Clearly, after that he had been disillusioned, gone back to his roots, and started producing the socially conscious songs for which he is now known...

...and then the first track started playing, and I realized that in fact, there are two rappers of the same name, and I had the wrong one. I then sucked it up and paid out to order the actual albums I wanted from Filgoods, "Your online source for Filipino products."
I just now discovered that the lyrics in Sting's Fields of Gold are about fields of barley and not, as I had always thought, fields of parting, like lovers parted by fate. As in,

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley

I can't decide if my misheard lyrics are more poetic or more clunkily on-the-nose.
Singing America the Beautiful.

On America's Got Talent. The show is annoying (especially the cuts away to the irritating guy in the wings) and people are applauding during the song. But the clip tells their story.

I was also amused by the indignant youtube comments directed at the few people who voted "dislike" on the clip ("The word beautiful can't even describe there performance !!! Who the hell would dislike this video !!!!!" and "the ones who disliked this are terrorists") and at the "sisters with breathing issues" who ended up getting on the show instead of the vets.

Via [personal profile] kore, a choir of people recovering from addictions (not associated with New Directions) singing Walk With Me, the song Kanye West sampled for Jesus Walks.
I recently had [personal profile] oyceter visiting me, and we had a lot of fun playing songs for each other. Here's some music I either recently found or enjoyed or played, which you might enjoy too. Due to my total crash-and-burn last time I tried to offer download links, I'm instead providing links to individual songs on youtube, and to the CDs on Amazon.

Starwalker, by Buffy Sainte Marie. She's a history turner, she's a sweet-grass burner/and a dog soldier. Discovered at the National Museum of the American Indian, this is probably my favorite song I found this year.

Starwalker (MP3 download).

The whole CD is great, and also features this storming protest song (which I did know from the Indigo Girls' cover): Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (live with Robbie Robertson.)

Coincidence & Likely Stories

More Buffy Sainte-Marie

Remember the Name, by Fort Minor. Ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will. Fantastic song, ostensibly the autobiography of the group, really about being an artist. This is my favorite song off the album, but the whole thing is fantastic.

Remember The Name (Album Version) [Explicit] (MP3 download.)

Rising Tied (Album.)

I also introduced Oyce to Johnny Cash's wonderful "American" series: heartfelt, gritty, sometimes funny, always world-weary, amazing Johnny Cash. ("My favorite book is Cash, the autobiography of Johnny Cash, by Johnny Cash.") If you haven't heard of these, they're Cash's comeback recordings of old songs, new songs, surprising songs, filled with all the experience of his whole remarkable life up to that point.

Like a Soldier (video). This song got me through a lot of really bad times. I'm like a soldier getting over the war... I don't have to do that any more.

Heartbreaking original video of "Hurt". (A commentor remarks indignantly, "If U dislike this U have no soul.")

American Recordings (Reis)

One (video). U2 cover. I like Johnny Cash's version better. In fact I think that's true of pretty much everything he covers, except for the outtake of Steve Earle's "Red Right Hand" on the outtake set.

American 3: Solitary Man (Reis)

American IV: The Man Comes Around
rachelmanija: (Nick)
( Nov. 3rd, 2010 11:51 am)
I made [personal profile] oyceter a CD of murder ballads, and she has thoughtfully uploaded them for everyone's enjoyment here, complete with my original liner notes: ("Death by pirate;" "Millhaven: population: steadily decreasing.") They will not be up long, so grab them while they're there!

Also, don't miss the comments, in which people have posted downloads and youtube links, and in which there is a lively discussion of what exactly happens at the end of "Cat-Eye Willie Claims His Lover." Since both Oyce and I thought that Satan gets involved, I have uploaded more murder ballads: Special Satan Edition!

Up Jumped the Devil, by Nick Cave. (Satan kills the narrator.)

Sympathy for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones. (Satan killed the Czar, Anastasia, Kennedy, and many more.)

House Carpenter, by Joan Baez. (Satan seduces and kills the narrator.)

Play Me Backwards, by Joan Baez. (Satanists kill sweet little Baby Rose.)

Ben McCulloch, by Steve Earle. (An evil general slaughters many, ends up in the Devil's Infantry/)

More murder ballads (minus Satan). Note that there are additional ones that I didn't put in Oyce's comment post

Driveby, by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. (Girl gets randomly shot in a driveby.)

Billy and Bonnie, by Steve Earle. (Billy randomly shoots a convenience store clerk.)

Streets of Laredo, by Johnny Cash. (Someone shot a cowboy. It could have been random.)

Powderfinger, vy Neil Young. (Um... someone gets shot. I'm not sure why, or by whom, or if it was drug dealers or Civil War soldiers or the feds. Anyone have any ideas?)

The Highwayman, by Loreena McKennitt. (Bad guys shoot the highwayman. We know he's not a bad guy himself, because he has a bunch of lace at his throat.)

The Bonny Swans, by Loreena McKennitt. (Sister drowns sister.)

Matty Groves, vy Fairport Convention. (The classic angry husband song.)

The Mercy Seat, by Johnny Cash (Nick Cave cover.) (He's on death row, he must have murdered someone.)

Buffalo Skinners, by Woody Guthrie. (Sound quality poor due to being recorded in around 1940.) (They left the drover's bones to bleach out on the plains, but the SOB deserved it.)

El Paso, by Marty Robbins. (The narrator murders a wild young cowboy, then the posse murders him.)

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, by the Pogues. (Death by war; incredibly heartbreaking.)

Please comment with appreciation, links to downloads or youtube videos of other murder (or castration) ballads, or explanations of exactly what was going on in "Powderfinger," "Cat-Eye Willie Claims His Lover," "Flinty Kind of Woman," and other ambiguous songs.
Last week I was at the Jim Henson Company, and a guy I know, a musician who works at the music studio which shares the lot, came up and said, "Got fifteen minutes? Want to see something amazing?"

I followed him into the music building, where I got to watch and listen to Abe Laboriel Jr, a drummer and the son of a famous bass player, drum on a track that was being recorded for... a singer-songwriter whose name I didn't recognize, sorry. His drumming was amazing and he moved like a dancer, like he'd lost himself in music, so fluid and impassioned and graceful that I could have watched him with the sound off.

I wish I could share that session with you all, but since I can't, have some videos instead, though they don't do anything like justice to being able to watch him from ten feet away, in bright light and with nothing between us but a pane of glass:

Assorted videos.
Last week I was at the Jim Henson Company, and a guy I know, a musician who works at the music studio which shares the lot, came up and said, "Got fifteen minutes? Want to see something amazing?"

I followed him into the music building, where I got to watch and listen to Abe Laboriel Jr, a drummer and the son of a famous bass player, drum on a track that was being recorded for... a singer-songwriter whose name I didn't recognize, sorry. His drumming was amazing and he moved like a dancer, like he'd lost himself in music, so fluid and impassioned and graceful that I could have watched him with the sound off.

I wish I could share that session with you all, but since I can't, have some videos instead, though they don't do anything like justice to being able to watch him from ten feet away, in bright light and with nothing between us but a pane of glass:

Assorted videos.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 20th, 2009 12:01 pm)
In the comments to my prose poem Nine Things About the Oracle, I discovered that some of my readers were unfamiliar with the great singer-songwriter-giutarist Richard Thompson. The horror!

I lean toward his heartbreaking songs of heartbreak. But I've included some of his hard-rocking songs for those so inclined. I also highly recommend his song "Al Bowlly's in Heaven," which would go on my "Songs of PTSD" CD if I ever burned one along with Bruce Springsteen's "Shut Out the Lights" and Tori Amos' "Me and a Gun," but I don't have it to hand.

Though I unfortunately can't give you any Fairport Convention (I had quoted their song "Crazy Man Michael" in the poem), I do have some of his solo work on my computer, along with some he did with Linda Thompson. If you enjoy, please consider buying the albums.

Beeswing. Maybe that's just the price you pay/For the chains you refuse. Buy the album from Amazon: Mirror Blue

When the Spell is Broken. You keep handing me that same old line/It's just straws in the wind this time. Buy the album from Amazon: Across a Crowded Room

King of Bohemia. Did your dreams die young? Were they too hard-won? Did you reach too high and fall? Buy the album from Amazon: Mirror Blue

Oops! I Did It Again. Yes, really.

Waltzing's For Dreamers. Buy the album from Amazon: Amnesia

Put it there Pal. You're so full of love it leaks out like a sieve. Buy the album from Amazon: you? me? us?

Don't Renege on our Love. If love is a healing/why should we forsake it. Buy the album from Amazon: Shoot Out the Lights

ETA: "Crazy Man Michael" in comments.
This isn't music I grew up with, so most of my exposure consisted of people playing me songs with brilliant lyrics on the theory that I'd appreciate them because I'm a writer. But here's the problem: for me, music is primarily about sound, not lyrics. I can appreciate great lyrics when I don't like the sound, but I won't ever listen to the song more than once. So because my early rap recs were all based on lyrics, I got the impression that there were tons of fantastic writers in the genre, but I didn't like the sound, so as a musical genre, it just wasn't for me.

Then I heard Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" and experienced the exact same moment my Dad did when he first heard the Beatles "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" play on the radio. Three beats in, across forty years, both of us sat up straight and said to ourselves, "My God! What's that sound?!"

So when I ask for song and artist recs, please consider the musical qualities over the lyrics. I'm not worried about finding good lyrics; from my very limited experience, the genre seems to have a very high proportion of good lyrics. That's the easy part.

Unfortunately, I have a poor musical vocabulary, so rather than try to list musical qualities, I will list songs that I like musically, and maybe people who know more about music than me will be able to extrapolate from there.

I have checked out other works by the same artists, but if you want to rec specific albums by them, that would be great.

Songs with a sound that I like:

"Jesus Walks," Kanye West (Generally liked College Dropout, but that was far and away my favorite)

"None Shall Pass," Aesop Rock

"Without Me," "Mockingbird," "Like Toy Soldiers," Eminem

"Entrez Vous," Sniper

"Ode to O-Ren Ishii" RZA (Kill Bill soundtrack)

"Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot (It's catchy! I can play it over and over!)

Others seem to have vanished into the mists of memory and my car's CD stash. [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, what was that first song on the mix you made for me recently?

Recs for female artists would be nice.
Vote for the most angst-worthy traditional ballad! I have cited some, but forgotten the names of others, so feel free to make your own nominations and/or provide titles.

Note: Apparently strike-throughs don't work in polls. I did not mean to suggest that there is a traditional ballad where someone gets turned into a giant robot chicken, nor that there is a traditional ballad about myself.

Which is worse, to elope with the Devil or get pregnant by your brother? )
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Jun. 29th, 2006 10:45 am)
I present to you songs from my four favorite Suzanne Vega albums. I'm not so crazy about Days of Open Hand, and Songs in Red and Gray, the breakup album, works well as a whole but doesn't have any really stand-out tracks, in my opinion.

From Nine Objects of Desire, a very warm and sexy album, one of the warmest and sexiest songs on it, Caramel. The "nine objects of desire," as I recall, are four men, a photograph, a woman, her baby daughter, Death, and a plum. I cannot help but read the plum as a metaphorical as well as an actual fruit, though-- the Plum of Knowledge.

Two tracks from 99.9 F, an album which I thought was overproduced and discordant when I first listened to it, but which has grown on me a lot since the chance discovery that it functions as a soundtrack for one of the characters in Naruto made me dig it up and listen to it again. That discovery happened like this:

[livejournal.com profile] octopedingenue: "I think of Blood Sings as so-and-so's theme song.

Me: "You mean Blood Makes Noise, right?

Both of us: "Whoa, check out some of the other tracks on that album."

Suzanne Vega is her first album, with lovely melodies and a cool, controlled tone in the lyrics overall, though not so much in the two tracks I'm hightlighting, Undertow and
Marlene on the Wall.

Solitude Standing had two famous tracks, "Luka" and "Tom's Diner," but I especially like the title song.

Order the series from Amazon: Naruto, Volume 1
1. Most people learned that the good fairy turned Bunny Foo-Foo into a goon, though there are a few outliers voting for "goose," "goo," and "gnu." What did you all think a goon was, anyway? I pictured a big blobby-looking, yet sinister creature, like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man.

2. Nobody but me has ever heard of "Bangum," which my Dad taught me. I knew this before I did the folk song poll, but lived in hope. While writing the poll, I discovered that it's a variant of Child Ballad 18, "Sir Lionel." And also possibly a variant of "Froggy Went A-Courting," though I think that just refers to the tune, and frankly I don't see the resemblance. Apparently the traditional refrain is "dilly down."

This is "Bangum;" Dad used to occasionally vary it by making it a dragon instead of a wild boar.

There is a wild boar in these woods,
Killy quo, killum
There is a wild boar in these woods
Killy quo
There is a wild boar in these woods,
And it breaks men's bones and drinks their blood
Killy quo, killy quo, killy quo qum.

Bangum took his wooden knife
Killy quo, etc...
And swore that he'd take that wild boar's life

Bangum came to the wold boar's den...
And he found the bones of a thousand men

They fought nine hours in that day...
And the wild boar fled and it slunk away

"Oh Bangum did you win or lose?"
And he swore by Jove he'd won the shoes.

3. "Pat Worked on the Railway" seems quite obscure, as well, but I've seen it in folk song books, while I've never seen "Bangum." Dad has no idea where he learned it, either.

4. Paul Robeson recorded the best versions ever of "Motherless Child," "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho," "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Shenandoah," and "Balm in Gilead." If I had any of his albums on CD instead of tape, I'd prove it.

5. Stagger Lee was a bad, bad man. He shot Billy Lyons/DeLeon/Dilly for his brand-new Stetson hat, or sometimes just because, and sometimes did other, unspeakable things to him. Billy had a wife, and sometimes she takes revenge. In all the versions of "Stagger Lee" that I've come across, if anyone ever gets back at him, it's a woman. In Nick Cave's unspeakably obscene version on Murder Ballads, Stagger Lee's woman throws him out in the cold and rain, and tells him never ever to come back here again. This makes Stagger Lee's woman the biggest bad-ass on the entire album, in my opinion.

6. I found a couple articles on "In the Pines," but none shed much light on its essential mystery. It's a spooky, haunting song. Who else knows these lyrics: "His head was found in the driver's wheel/And his body it never was found"?

7. I can guess where everyone heard about Mighty Casey, but I was surprised that so many people knew about Casey Jones. Is "one hand on the whistle, one hand on the brake" a story you learned in school?
In honor of Bruce Springsteen's excellent new album "The Seeger Sessions," and Kate Nepveu's recent poll about the Erie Canal, I give you...

a poll! Click if you know or want to know what Stagger Lee might have done to Billy DeLyons )
While listening to Luka Bloom's very nice live album, Amsterdam, I noticed a phenomenon which I have observed before: the desperate search for a rhyme, with resulting funny lyrics in otherwise serious songs.

The song "Perfect Groove," which is generally fairly serious, includes the couplet,

I'm looking for the perfect food
That's not undercooked or stewed.

Shades of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland!

Hearing it, I was reminded of an extremely intense song by the Call which has one line that consistently makes me burst into inappropriate laughter (a common problem with me, admittedly):

I saw a sick man
On a sick bed
Scorned by the world
Like he had two heads.

Tell me your favorite examples of poets whose search for a rhyme turned up corkers like, say, Neil Diamond's intelligent furniture:

I am, I said,
But no one was there
And nobody heard me
Not even the chair


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