Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 8 of '08-The Fleet sets sail

Sub Pop has come a long way since the heyday of Grunge. Not a label to rest on its laurels nor let itself be branded by any one genre (except maybe the generic 'Alternative'), SubPop continues to diversify and mellow with age, as Folk made a return during 2008 in the form of Fleet Foxes.

This Seattle quintet released both the 'Sun Giant' EP as well as their eponymous debut LP to rave reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and Stereogum all the way down to Rolling Stone.

Their ambient harmonies are haunting and sublime. Reminiscent of Folk's founding fathers.

Great for a road trip or a quiet, snowy afternoon with a cup of hot mulled cider.

I'm just sayin'.

Fleet Foxes- Sun Giant
Chad Mitchell Trio- Blues Around My Head
Kingston Trio- Sloop John B

Fleet Foxes- 'Sun Giant/Blue Ridge Mountain (La Blogotheque, 2008)

Fleet Foxes - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Kingston Trio- Shady Grove/Lonesome Traveler (Early 60's)

Chad Mitchell Trio- 'Four Strong Winds' (1987)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Never Ending Song of Love

The obits I read over the last few days for guitarist/songwriter Delaney Bramlett were so abbreviated, you would hardly know how prolific a songwriter and performer he was.

As part of the husband wife duo Delaney & Bonnie, Bramlett released several successful albums either with or supporting Eric Clapton.

In addition to his performing, he penned some of the biggest hits of the late 60's and early 70's, including 'Let it Rain' (Clapton), 'Superstar' (w/ Leon Russell for the Carpenters) and 'Never Ending Song of Love' the 'New Morning' countrified hit which has been recorded by over 100 different artists.

I was however, surprised to learn that he was also responsible for teaching George Harrison how to play slide guitar. I had always figured it was Slowhand.

Nonetheless, he leaves us with a legacy of great tunes.

Never Ending Song of Love
Let It Rain (original mix)

Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett w/ Eric Clapton- 'Poor Elijah' (Price of Fame, 1969)

Delaney & Bonnie w/ Eric Clapton & George Harrison-'Comin' Home' (1970)

The New Seekers- 'Never Ending Song of Love' (TOTP 1971)

The Carpenters- Superstar (Promo, 1971)

Eric Clapton-'Let it Rain' (Montreux, 1986)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pay To Play-Mustang with a broken neck

A few months back I posted about the continued earning potential of Kurt Cobain. I came across this related story the other day (from the AP):

"A guitar late rocker Kurt Cobain smashed on his first tour of the U.S. has sold for $100,000 US.

An unidentified private collector bought the guitar, according to Jacob McMurray, senior curator at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

"It's a really cool-looking guitar because it's smashed and held together with duct tape and Kurt Cobain wrote on it," McMurray said on Tuesday.

"There's not a huge amount of broken Nirvana guitars out there," he added.

After breaking the Fender Mustang guitar on stage while on tour in New Jersey in the late 1980s, Cobain needed another one and made a trade with Sluggo, the punk rocker who recently sold the damaged instrument.

At that point, grunge band Nirvana was living hand-to-mouth. Cobain was staying with Sluggo, who goes by a single name and played with The Grannies and Hullabaloo, and his girlfriend.

Nirvana had its big breakthrough with Smells Like Teen Spirit in 1991. Cobain died in 1994.

Helen Hall, a broker in England, says a Cobain guitar sold for a higher price in 2006, when his Mosrite Gospel Mark IV guitar went for $131,000 US at auction.

I wonder if it was a lefty or rightie?

I'm just sayin'.

Pay To Play (Demo, 1990).mp3

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cohen for Christmas-Hallelujah!

Just saw this story come over the wire. (Like there's still some kind of actual telegraph.)

"Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" made British chart history Sunday when it became both number one and number two in the Christmas singles charts -- although both versions were covers.

Alexandra Burke was almost guaranteed to take the top slot with her version after winning television talent show X Factor this month, and the song became the fastest-selling single by a female solo artist, figures show.

But in what appeared to be a protest at the manufactured music industry, fans of US musician Jeff Buckley kicked off an Internet campaign to get his classic version to number one instead, through downloads.

It reached number two, making it the first time in 51 years -- and the first time ever at Christmas -- that the same song has held the two top spots in the singles charts, the Official Charts Company said.

The last time was in January 1957, when Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell held the top two places with Singin' The Blues.

In another twist, Cohen's own version of the song -- which he first released on his 'Various Positions' album in 1984 entered the charts as a new entry at number 36.

The tune has been covered numerous times, but Buckley's haunting version is widely considered the best. It remains strongly associated with the singer-songwriter, who drowned in Memphis in May 1997 aged 30."

An amazing song, no matter who's performing it. I, myself have a hard time deciding whose version is best. Cohen wrote it, but Buckley's version is so personal and intimate, he kinda took it over. Tough call. That said, I could live without the Alexandra Burke rendition.

I'm just sayin'.

Hallelujah-Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah-Jeff Buckley

Bonus shout out to the Lord!
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing their own original, and equally haunting 'Hallelujah' from 2001's 'No More Shall We Part'.

Hallelujah-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Leonard Cohen-Hallelujah (1984)

Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah (1994)

Alexandra Burke-Hallelujah (2008)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-Hallelujah (2001)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mirth! Merriment! MonkeyMix!

Christmas is to Rock as Egg is to Nog.

MonkeyMix Vol. 1 No.5: MonkeyXMix:

Jingle Bell Rock- Bobby Helms
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree- Brenda Lee
Run Rudolph Run- Dave Edmunds
Little Saint Nick- Beach Boys
Father Christmas- The Kinks
Little Drummer Boy/ Peace On Earth- David Bowie/Bing Crosby
Happy X-Mas- John Lennon/Yoko Ono
Thank God It's Christmas- Queen
Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You- Billy Squire
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town- Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
2000 Miles- The Pretenders
Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)- U2
Please Come Home For Christmas- The Eagles
Do They Know Its Christmas? - Band Aid
Step Into Christmas- Elton John
Christmas Wrapping- The Waitresses


Hall & Oates (w.GE Smith on Guitar) - Jingle Bell Rock (1983)

The Kinks- Father Christmas (1977)

Billy Squire- Christmas is the Time to say I Love You (1983)

Pretenders- 2000 Miles (1984)

David Bowie/Bing Crosby- Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth (1977)

U2- Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) (1987)

Band Aid- Do They Know Its Christmas? (1984)

Elton John- Step Into Christmas (1974)

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (1978)

Santa Claus Vs. The Martians (1964)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas from me and Wilco. But mostly Wilco.

To celebrate the holiday season as well as Actual Monkey's first anniversary, I come bearing gifts. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Wilco @ Edgefield - Troutdale, OR August 22, 2007

1. Either Way 2. You Are My Face 3. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart 4. Remember The Mountain Bed 5. Handshake Drugs 6. Pot Kettle Black 7. A Shot In The Arm 8. Side With The Seeds 9. Shake It Off 10. War On War 11. Impossible Germany 12. Too Far Apart 13. Jesus, Etc. 14. Walken 15. I'm The Man Who Loves You 16. Hummingbird 17. On And On And On

Encore 1: 18. Bob Dylan's 49th Beard 19. The Late Greats 20. Hate It Here 21. I'm Always In Love 22. Outta Mind (Outta Sight)

Encore 2: 23. California Stars 24. Heavy Metal Drummer 25. Via Chicago 26. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

If you like this, I insist you go out and but Kicking Television. Now. Right now. Get up and go buy it. Now.


Christmas x 2

Another of my favorite Christmas LPs, Noel! Noel! is little more than a hodge podge of different artists from a bygone era. What makes this such an incredible collection, is the range of artists represented. What seems as a throwaway from the catacombs of Sony Records, is in reality, a brilliantly calculated tome for the season.

Lets start with the cover. As if the advent of the birth of the Savior isn't reason enough to celebrate, the repetitive Noel! Noel! (with exclamations) surely drives the point home. And the generic front door visual doesn't begin to give this amazing record its due.

That said, let's review, shall we?

Nothing says Christmas more than a stiff egg nog and Steve and Edie belting out 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. This Borscht Belt duo has me craving Christmas ham and a suite at the Nevele.

I am especially fond of Ande Kostelanetz's spirited orchestral rendition of 'Sleigh Ride'. I can just feel the leather of the cracking whip. Ouch! Hurts so good!

We follow that with The New York Philharmonic, under direction of the legendary Leonard Bernstein delivering a triumphant and angelic version of the holiday opus, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. A nice job for a song that is approximately 11 stanzas too long.

Not to be outdone, my favorite track on the album is the sappy yet haunting 'Ring Christmas Bells', performed by the Ray Coniff Singers. The Major/Minor 7th chords supply just the right creepiness that enables this to sound like it ought to be on the soundtrack for the Exorcist. Move over Mike Oldfield.

If that wasn't a perfect way to close this magnificent album, then Carol Burnett's (yes, Carol Burnett) performance of 'The Christmas Song' surely is.

I'm so glad we had this time together.

I'm just sayin'.


Ray Coniff Singers- Christmas Medley (Mid 60's?)

Steve & Edie Sock Pupets- Sleigh Ride (2007)

Johnny Mathis- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1993 TV Special)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Music X-travaganza: The Gang's all here

I am a sucker for Christmas music. Always have been, always will be. Not sure why. Most likely for sentimental reasons. A memory, a certain event or person attached to the season and the music. Nonetheless, whether I'm feeling the Christmas Spirit or not, I still indulge in the tunes.

In an effort to spread the good cheer, Actual Monkey has painstakingly compiled some favorite X-Mas music. So get ready to deck the halls!

We begin with a perennial favorite, albeit somewhat annoying, Mitch Miller and the Gang's 'Holiday Sing-A-Long'. Miller was a renaissance man of American popular music in the 50's and 60's. His resume includes stints as the top A&R man at both Mercury and Columbia Records. In addition, he was an innovative producer and accomplished performer. Not a big fan of Rock and Roll, Miller focused on traditional, wholesome American popular music as his sounding board. To this end, he utilized a chorale group, 'Mitch Miller's Gang' to do his bidding. So popular was this approach, that 'Sing Along With Mitch' was a staple of American television in the early 1960's.

By today's standards, the music seems cornball and out of touch. But it is awfully happy. So please join me as we follow the bouncing ball along to some of the season's finest songs. And remember, all smiles.

I'm just sayin'.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Third time's a charm- Wilco/Neil Young MSG 12.16.08

To my great surprise, I write this after returning from the Everest/Wilco/Neil Young show at MSG tonight. Happenstance that I got a few freebies just yesterday. The show was amazing. Of course Wilco was the highlight, cranking out an abbreviated set of greatest hits, including Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer celebrating his 13th B-day right there at The Garden taking over the skins on a rousing rendition of 'Late Greats'.

This was the third time this year that I saw Wilco live. And although tonight's performance was stellar, my favorite performance was their August gig at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn. Mostly for the fact that we brought our 6yo twins. A proper initiation into the world of Rock and Roll. No?

As far as Neil, he was equally amazing. Opening with the feedback power ballad 'Love and Only Love', he too effortlessly breezed through his own portfolio of greatest hits including such faves as 'Powderfinger', 'Cinnamon Girl', 'Cortez the Killer' and 'Heart of Gold'.

Not sure what will wind up under the tree for me this year, but tonight was probably the best gift I could have received.

I'm just sayin'.

Wilco- Impossible Germany (2007)

Neil Young- Heart of Gold (1971)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

But he could play a guitar just like a ringin' a bell

Just in St. Louis for an overnighter so what better way to celebrate than with the music of one of the Gateway City's prodigal sons.

Although steeped in the history of Jazz (Scott Joplin, Miles Davis, etc.), St. Louis has had it's fair share of legendary rockers. Among then, the absolute standout is Chuck Berry. Rock's first badass (and badboy) lead guitarist, Berry's music was so damn good, his message so universal and appealing that it's just as relevant and kickass today as it was over 50 years ago. To say he was a/the seminal, influential rocker doesn't even begin to do him justice.

I'm just sayin'.

Chuck Berry Collection

Chuck Berry- Johnny B. Goode (live in Paris 1958)

Chuck Berry- Roll Over Beethoven (195?)

Chuck Berry and John Lennon -Johnny B Goode (Mike Douglas Show, 1972)

Chuck Berry- Reelin' And Rockin' (Midnight Special, 1973)

Chuck Berry- You Never Can Tell (Pulp Fiction, 1994)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We are all of us in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars

Originally released in April 1981 as a stopgap prior the their second full release, The Pretenders 'Extended Play' distilled the phenomenal songwriting of Chrissy Hynde & Co. with the raw energy of their live act in just five songs.

Two of the studio tracks ('Message of Love' and 'Talk of the Town') would all appear on the subsequent LP 'Pretenders II', which was released just two months later.

The blistering version of 'Precious' was recorded at their legendary gig in Central Park on August 30, 1980. Thanks to The King Biscuit Flour Hour and the novelty of the Blogosphere, you can hear it here.

Message of Love
Talk of the Town
Cuban Slide
Precious (Regent Park Demo)

Check out the man on the Moon introducing the band on the ABC's Saturday Night Live clone 'Fridays'.
Pretenders- Message of Love ('Fridays' Feb. 27, 1981)

Pretenders- Talk of the Town (1981)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The other Ringo

At the onset of the British Invasion, and the zenith of Beatlemania, a different Ringo ruled the airwaves. On this day in 1964, actor Lorne Greene wrangled himself a No. 1 hit with 'Ringo'. This spoken cowboy ballad also lassoed the top position for six straight weeks on the 'Easy Listening' charts. Giddyup!

Based loosely on the famous gunslinger, Johnny Ringo, Greene tells the tale of how he nursed the wounded outlaw only to later face him in a showdown. After our narrator accepts his fate, staring down the barrel of Ringo's six-shooter, cooler heads prevail and a happy ending ensues.

No drummers were harmed in the recording of this song.

I'm just sayin'.

Lorne Greene- Ringo

Bonanza Opening Credits

I just had to include this:
Daniel Boone Opening Credits (Spanish translation)