From sweet and smooth classics, to new names, to old names with new music...the focus here, is to shine a little light on some damn fine music.

I'll find it. You can listen, review, or tell me I wouldn't know good music if it kicked me in the ass. I personally don't give a shit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lucinda Williams: Can't Go Back

Today I need to get back to basics.

Featured today is an artist who can play it all. A little blues, a little country, a little rock. Lucinda Williams started out more country oriented in the late 70's. Over the years her influences have moved her into much broader categories.

Coming out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Lucinda has traveled the road from singer-songwriter, to Grammy winning singer-songwriter, to being named "America's Best Songwriter," by Time magazine. In 2007 She performed a 5 day series of concerts in Los Angeles and New York where she performed her entire catalog on consecutive nights. Haven't you always wanted to hear an artist do that... play all the songs you love, but are not necessarily the ones which make the regular set list.

Her latest album, Blessed, was released in 2011 and is her tenth studio album. It features guest appearances by Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet.

Today we will have a taste of a song from her 1998 Grammy winning album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her first Gold album. The song was written by Randy Weeks of Lonesome Strangers.

Lucinda Williams "Can't Let Go"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Got It Covered: Got an Urge for some Neil

Happy Birthday Neil Diamond.

One of the 20th Century's greatest songwriters, Neil Diamond has written hit songs for so many artists, as well as saving quite a few for himself. Down the road there will be a full blog on Neil Diamond, but for this installment of Got It Covered, on his birthday, I thought we could just taste one song that has a pretty well-known cover.

Originally released in 1967, "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," reached the #10 spot on Billboard's Pop Chart. Then in 1992 it was covered by Chicago alternative rock band, Urge Overkill. Their version was later used by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction in 1994.

First up, Neil's version of  "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" with that great opening line...

"Love you so much
Can't count all the ways
I'd die for you girl
And all they can say is
"He's not your kind"

They never get tired
Of puttin' me down
And I never know
When I come around
What I'm gonna find
Don't let them make up your mind

Don't you know
Girl, you'll be a woman soon
Please, come take my hand
Girl, you'll be a woman soon
Soon you'll need a man

I've been misunderstood
For all of my life
But what they're sayin',
Girl, just cuts like a knife
"The boy's no good"

Well, I finally found
What I've been looking for
But if they get the chance,
They'll end it for sure
Sure they would
Baby, I've done all I could

It's up to you
Girl, you'll be a woman soon
Please, come take my hand
Girl, you'll be a woman soon
Soon you'll need a man
Soon you'll need a man....."

And the wonderful cover by Urge Overkill "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon"

Not too different in approach, but the gritty vocal of Diamond and the smooth voice of Nash Kato are beautiful in contrast.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sometimes in Winter

In the late 60's a band came onto the scene with music incorporating a little jazz, a little folk and a little rock. They had a horn section, played a variety of music and would record songs by writers such as Laura Nyro, James Taylor, the Rolling Stones and Billie Holiday.

Over the years band members would come and go, but the era where they had their greatest success was when David Clayton-Thomas was their lead singer. The band was Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Many of their songs are quite well known: "Spinning Wheel,"  "And When I Die," and "You Made Me So Very Happy," to name a few. All those songs were sung by Clayton-Thomas. But there was one song by BS&T which always stood out to me, and with seasonal storms and cold weather throughout the country, it seems like a good time to shine a little light on it.

From the Grammy winning Album of the Year, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and written and sung by Steve Katz, one of the founding members, the song is "Sometimes in Winter."

"Sometimes in Winter 
I gaze into the streets 
and walk through snow and city sleet 
behind your room 

Sometimes in Winter 
forgotten memories 
remember you behind the trees 
with leaves that cried 

By the window once I waited for you 
laughing slightly you would run 
trees alone would shield us in the meadow 
makin' love in the evening sun 

Now you're gone girl 
and the lamp posts call your name 
I can hear them 
in the spring of frozen rain

Now you're gone girl 
and the times slow down till dawn 
It's a cold room
and the walls ask where you've gone 

Sometimes in winter 
I love you when the good times 
seem like memories in the spring 
that never came 

Sometimes in winter 
I wish the empty streets 
would fill with laughter from your tears 
to ease my pain"

and a rare live performance from 1971...

The stark crispness of the vocal contrasts perfectly with the lush orchestration. Wonderful.

It's just a song to keep you warm...sometimes in winter.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating Our Government and a Man of Peace

Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Today is also the day we hold the second inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States. Bob Dylan would call it a "simple twist of fate." I would call it "just desserts."

Today, I'm re-posting my blog from Martin Luther King Day 2012. Take the day to enjoy your civil rights and celebrate your government.

The Civil Rights Movement: The Times Were A Changin'

“You are not only responsible for what you say, 
but also for what you do not say.
...Martin Luther King Jr.

The time of the civil rights movement was also the time of Vietnam war protests.  A lot of the music from that time was interchangeable between the two, in the ideas put forth.

In "Blowin' in the Wind," Bob Dylan wrote "How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free. How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see."  The song also contains the line "How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned."  

A song that was sung on the steps of the Washington Monument along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps one of the greatest songs ever written...listen to "Blowin' in the Wind" performed by Peter, Paul & Mary.

For a personal view of a moment from the civil rights movement era, read "Martin Luther King Jr.: Defining a Life" on Kat's Theory of Life.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Little Girl Lost: Janis

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943, Janis Joplin would have turned 70 years old today.

Not the prom queen, the brain or the most popular girl by any stretch of the imagination, Janis did have something none of the other kids had...she had soul, and the voice to share it.

Her teens were hard years, she didn't fit in and increasingly turned to music to soothe her inner turmoil. Moving to California, the San Francisco music scene was much more welcoming.

As a kid, when I first heard Janis sing "Piece of My Heart", her voice and style was something both amazing and unnerving at the same time. If you listened close enough, you knew it wasn't screams coming out, it was pure raw emotion. Janis threw every bit of what she felt into her singing. But even with all her success and talent, her demons eventually won the battle on October 4, 1970.

A couple of my favorites from the Little Girl Blue.

"Summertime" ...the classic song from Porgy and Bess, with an incredible interpretation
"Ball and Chain"...showing every bit of her soul.
"Move Over" and on fire

She didn't look like anyone else, she didn't act like anyone else and she didn't sing like anyone else.

Forever she is known simply as Janis.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lightning Crashes: Feel It Comin' Back Again

In the Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life, there's a famous line:
 "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

What if every time there's a crash of lightning, a birth or death takes place?

In 1994, a rock band out of Pennsylvania released a song which basically ponders the circle of life, within the concept of lightning crashing. The band's name was Live and the song was called "Lightning Crashes."

"Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door

Lightning crashes an old mother dies
Her intentions fall to the floor
The angel closes her eyes
The confusion that was hers
Belongs now to the baby down the hall"

A baby is born as an old woman angel of life balances out the angel of death.

"Oh now feel it, comin' back again
Like a rollin', thunder chasing the wind
Forces pullin' from
The center of the earth again
I can feel it."

The new life force pulling against the force of death

"Lightning crashes a new mother cries
This moment she's been waiting for
The angel opens her eyes
Pale blue colored iris
Presents the circle
And puts the glory out to hide, hide"

Pale blue colored iris...the circle of life is complete.
Stunning imagery, a vocal which builds like thunderheads ready to explode and a perspective of life rarely seen in a rock song. Absolutely wonderful.

"Lightning Crashes" as written by Edward Joel Kowalczyk, Chad David Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Alan Gracey
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hungry For Some Good Music? It's Just Like Me to Give You a Good Thing

Sometimes a band is ahead of its time, where even though they have commercial success, you can't really appreciate just how inventive they actually were. Add in the fact that they dressed in Revolutionary War costumes, and the tendency was to dismiss them for not being serious musicians.

That's why it's my job to make you listen to the music.

Paul Revere and the Raiders were an Oregon based band popular in the mid-late 60's and into the 70's. Led by Paul Revere Dick, they had a string of great songs, many of which dealt with topics not usually written about in song at the time. "Kicks," was written by the famous songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and was a cautionary tale about trying to find the magic of life through drugs. "Just Like Me" would later be covered by Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. "Hungry, about wanting all the good things in life, would be covered by Sammy Hagar. They sang about the plight of the American Indian in "Indian Reservation." In 1967, there was an strike of the major airlines, the Raiders had a hit song about it.

Back in the 60's Dick Clark had an afternoon TV show called Where the Action Is, and Paul Revere and the Raiders were regulars on it. Later they also were part of another couple of video heavy shows called Happening '68 and It's Happening. While the group changed members over the years, the front man for their heyday was Mark Lindsey, a pony-tailed hearthrob back in the day, who along with many of the members of the group, was well respected in his field.

Paul Revere turns 75 today and is still going and all.

Listen to some great stuff.

"Hungry"  ...I can almost taste it now
"Just Like Me" ...change the arrangement and this could be a hit in any decade
"Kicks" ...complete with the dancing girls
"Midnite Ride" ...a very tongue-in-cheek story of Paul Revere
"Good Thing" of the sexiest starts to a record, ever.
"The Great Airplane Strike" ...just fun

Happy Birthday Paul...still getting a kick out of your music after all these years.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Greetings, Forty Years Later

"Yeah, from small things, mama, big things one day come"

Indeed they do.

On this day in 1973, the first studio album from a Jersey boy was released to not much initial commercial success. Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ  from Bruce Springsteen.

In its first year of release, 25,000 copies were sold. Slowly however, the word started to spread from critics and fans about this kid who wrote with passion, and played live like a whirling dervish. The Springsteen saga was beginning and still has not stopped.

Greetings offered a few songs which would become Springsteen standards, including "Blinded by the Light." which was a huge hit for Manfred Mann, along with "For You," "Growin Up," and the always wonderful "Spirit in the Night."

Those were the fan favorites. The more hard core you were, the more you got into the obscure tracks including "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City," "Lost in the Flood," and "Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street."

The promise of what was shown on this first album was realized in the next few years with the release of The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River. All before the blockbuster Born in the USA. Never afraid to change his sound, Bruce later released the somber Nebraska, paid homage to the thousands lost on 9/11 with The Rising, and had a blast recording The Seeger Sessions, a tribute to Pete Seeger.

A couple of tastes from Greetings.

One magical 1975 live version of  "Spirit in the Night"

And from the same show "Lost in the Flood"

The sun started shining in Jersey, forty years ago today.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Snow Turned Into Rain...

Well, well, it has been a busy week hasn't it? It's a new year, still filled with all the same crap, but wide open in the possibility department.

Because he is busy getting his novel ready for publication (aren't we all), Lance has asked his lovely wife Deana to handle the duties this week for the 100 Word Song Challenge. Apparently, Deana with three kids, a job, a household and her own writing, is still able to take up the slack left by her husband's absence. Imagine that.

Deana has chosen a song that I can never listen to without tears filling my eyes. The song is by the late Dan Fogelberg, and there are several of his songs which have that effect on me. He was one great songwriter. A perfect choice to end off the holiday season, this weeks challenge is "Same Old Lang Syne."

A bittersweet song, remembering an old love, the what ifs and the road traveled. Beautiful phrasing, haunting melody and the feeling we have all gone through these emotions. You can't tell a story in a song much better than this.

For those unfamiliar with the challenge, we take the song as a prompt and write a poem, story, conversation, anything, but it must be in 100 words exactly.

Same Old Lang Syne

"BFF’s. Always. 
For almost thirty years, they had spent the last night of the year together. 
Jules knew this New Year’s Eve would be different, had anticipated what it would be like, 
and was sure it wouldn’t be a big deal. 
She was wrong.

She was his best man. He was her everything. 
She was happy for his new life; it was hers she mourned. 
Sooner or later she would become…insignificant. David’s wife was already glowing, 
three more months and a child would further redefine their friendship.

Shivering, she walked alone as the snowflakes met the tears on her face."