Posts Tagged music discussion

A Boy And His Guitar – Tony Lucca – Music Monday

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing quite like seeing music live. Well, last Saturday I got to attend the Tony Lucca show at The Prophet Bar down in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. I brought along my dear friend Kelly and had one of the best nights I’ve had in recent memory.

There were three acts slated for that night: Griffin Schmucker, Zach Balch, and the headliner Tony Lucca.

Griffin was…okay. The drummer was awesome, actually. Everyone else seemed to be going through the motions. They didn’t feel connected to the music. I blame this on Schmucker himself. He was a little too high on the smell of his own “glory” to care about servicing the audience or the music. He was serving his own ego. From what I have seen, that never works out well. Now, he may have just been nervous. However, when you mention you’re doing a charity show, you should know all about the charity instead of being dismissive about it. How can you get people to care enough to come out and spend their money on a cause if you don’t care? Further, he made some snotty comment about the audience not being able to spell his name so of course Kelly and I took out our phones and spelled it exactly right in order to Google him. Don’t talk down to me. Don’t assume your audience can’t do something. Don’t be rude to people there just because they may have come to see someone else. This is how you lose potential fans! Plus, he introduced only himself and his BFF the guitarist. Um, now you’re rude to the band? Wow. No, thank you.

Zach and his band were great, thankfully. Every one of them, especially Balch himself, was engaged in the music. They LOVED what they were doing and it showed. Sitting ten feet from the stage I could feel the drums in my chest. Especially, I enjoyed the two songs that were just Balch, his back-up singer, and a violinist.  The banter was great as well. He engaged with the audience, he engaged with his band, heck, he introduced them all and gave them credit equal to himself. He played to us, with us, and that is priceless.

That being said, Tony blew them both out of the water.

I knew he would, but I was not prepared for how MUCH he would. It was just him and his guitar up on the stage and yet he filled the room. He wove pictures and emotions that were touchable and filled up little corners in my heart. His banter was real and inclusive, reaching out to share his experience with us and make it ours. My favorite song was Anchored, a love song for Los Angeles. I also really enjoyed Fight Song, Long Love Letter, Starting Over, Foxy Jane, and Death of Me. If I don’t stop there I’ll just start listing every song off the three albums Kelly and I bought after the show.

At one point during the encore, when he was singing a song called Always, I felt tears filling my eyes and beginning to roll down my cheeks. Looking over at Kelly I saw that she was right there too. Now that, right there, is the mark of a master to me. He didn’t just fill our ears with joy, he touched our souls.

If that weren’t impressive enough, he didn’t just stand there playing his guitar and singing. He used his voice and the microphone as instruments in and of themselves. I’ve said that music is my drug and my religion. Well, some of the things he did with his voice made me feel like I was flying high and in church all at the same time. I wanted to yell “amen” and “hallelujah” after certain of the vocal acrobatics he performed.

After his performance, Kelly and I nearly tripped over ourselves to buy the three available CDs. As we stood there, clutching our treasure, Tony came out to mingle. I made a couple aborted attempts to speak to him, but was stymied by people wanting photos. Kelly told me to stop being shy and I smiled. When the young ladies wanting their photos were done, I touched Tony’s arm and he turned to face us, smiling.

Now, you all know I am a goof. I say embarrassing things to people who have awed me. So this was the portion of the evening where I babbled my thanks for his performance and that listening to him was like being in church, and how he was part of Kelly’s live show education. He took all of this in with grace and charm, thanking us for coming and for our kind words. He shook our hands, and we floated away, blissful. In the car, I realized that we had neither asked for him to sign the CDs, nor asked for pictures to be taken with our phones. Duh.

That being said, we had a fanTAStic time with just a boy and his guitar.

 

Who have you seen live recently? How was it?

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Music Monday – You Must Drown

Zly

Image via Wikipedia

Drowning is easy, especially if you have ear-bud headphones. That way, you get to bypass all the white noise of your surroundings. The music goes straight into you and if you close your eyes you get a private show. Any kind your brain associates with what you’re listening to.

Is it any wonder then that most of my favorite singers are men? **shivers with pleasure** Ahem. Where was I? Ah yes, drowning. It’s good for the soul.

Depending on which music hits us and how it hits us, we can fuel just about any state of mind with the right playlist. Writers frequently use music to get into the mindset of our work. We want an action scene? Something fast and furious might help us focus better. Romance? Lord is there a wealth of music out there to help us out.

What’s even better? We can use music to frame our minds for the rest of our lives as well. We’ve all used music to set the mood in romantic situations, for working out, and even to help us wake up in the morning. Why shouldn’t we use it to amp us up or calm us down for other situations? It’s no accident that a lot of therapies involve beating the crap out of some sort of drum.

What music gets your motor running? Soothes the savage beast inside? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!

 

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Immortal – John Taylor

For a few years, John Taylor struck out on his own, got away from Duran Duran. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he was the most brilliant solo artist, because he wasn’t. He was… okay on his own. Mostly it’s the cauldron of creativity fired by his Duran band mates that makes him the Almighty Bass God. He needs that conflict to push him to greatness, as do they all. Still, there are a few bright gems that he cut, and Immortal from his Techno For Two album is one of them.

There’s got to be a reason to this rhyme
There’s got to be a message here this time
You’re not one of us, but I’m one of them
You know it’s not that easy
It’s so much harder to be real

Now I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to satisfy me
A social disorder

There’s gonna be moments here living with me
I know it’s not easy to satisfy me
I’m no immortal
But I think like a king

I’m not gonna let go of my prize
I wanna keep the symmetry alive
There’s so many changes
One day to the next
Sometimes I’m disappearing
But you know where to find me
Under the gun

Now I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to ratify me
A social disorder

A strange situation, apparently
It takes more than order to civilize me
I’m no immortal, but I think like a king

Give me everything
I’ll not settle for less
That’s my ceiling
Method to this rhyme

No I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to satisfy me
A social disorder
But I sting like a bee

I’d like to say the lyrics speak for themselves and be done, but there’s so much to them, so many things to be gleaned. He’s known in some circles (okay, Duranie knitting circles, but still) for telling on himself. Sometimes it’s inadvertent, but sometimes he very clearly goes out of his way to share, to connect with his listeners.

With that in mind, these lyrics are astonishing and heartbreaking in their honesty. Before I wax on too much more about what *I* see in these lyrics, I want to know what *you* think, without my opinion biasing you. What sort of man wrote these lyrics? What was he feeling? What was he struggling with (or, conversely, conquering)?

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Old 97s – Doreen – guest blog by Nigel Blackwell

I was stunned and inspired by the way a new friend of mine was able to apply his writer’s sensibility to the dissection of song lyrics. So please welcome our guest blogger, Mr. Nigel Blackwell!

If it can ever be said that I grew up, I did it listening to the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Squeeze and everything in between. I ended up with a mixture of musical tastes. There are some that would say “taste” isn’t the first word that comes to mind looking my music collection. At least they did say that until I sent the boys round (governor).

The Old 97s were an instant hit with me. Pounding melodies, a vocal line that shouts “I don’t do melodies,” and no %$*#@! Disney channel vocal effects.

What’s that you say? Disney doesn’t use a million dollars of equipment and software on anyone they select for stardom? Yeah, right. In which case I bet you can’t wait for Mitchel Musso’s “live” tour. I’m on tenterhooks. (what’s sad is that Disney used to care about talent -ed)

I digress, back to the Old 97s., specifically Doreen, from Hitchhike to Rhome.

Don’t know it? Well, iTunes has the first minute to give you the idea (and maybe buy a copy).

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/doreen/id6557602?i=6557584

Pounding melodies – check.

Banjo front and center – check.

And then there’s the vocal line. Hot damn (as they might say). Alt country. No whining about “ma dogs done gone left me” here. There’s a story, and like the best stories it’s shown, not told.

To start with there are the cheesy rhymes.

When I first met Doreen
She was barely seventeen.

And

Well you can roll your eyes and nod
But I swear that I saw God,

Rhett Millar’s delivery is so no-nonsense that it all just works.

And the lyrics show, not tell.

In the first four verses we’re shown how he falls in love with her. No blatant “I’m in love” lines here (even though Sir Paul’s made a fortune through that route).

When I first met Doreen
She was barely seventeen.
She was drinking whiskey sours in the bar.

The way she tossed ’em back
I would’ve had a heart attack.
But as it is I let her drive my car.

We galloped through the boroughs
Like a pair of horny thoroughbreds,
Until I said, “Stop the car, Doreen.”

Well you can roll your eyes and nod
But I swear that I saw God,
In the moonlight on a side street in the wreckage we call Queens.

Brilliant. Not only do they show us he’s in love, they keep the car theme going with “side street” and “wreckage.”

Then we hit the chorus. The awful dream. The dark threat of new lovers (esp the ones started with Whiskey sours. So I’m told, anyway).

Doreen, Doreen, Last night I had an awful dream.
You were laying in the arms of a man I’d never seen.
Come clean Doreen. Come clean Doreen.

So we’re shown he’s worried about her being faithful and (hot damn) we’re shown how he’s separated from her and has to admit his feelings to the band.

Well I’m pulling into Cleveland
In a seven-seater tour van.
There’s eight of us, so I’m sleeping on the floor.

The guy that plays the banjo
Keeps on handing me the Old Crow,
Which multiplies my sorrow, I can’t take it anymore.

Now I’m begging and I’m pleading,
“Well pull over guys, I’m bleeding.
There’s a Fina off the highway with a phone.”

Keeping the threads going, we’re still traveling and the whiskey hasn’t been forgotten. The best lines are surely, “so I’m sleeping on the floor,” “I can’t take it anymore,” and best if all, “There’s a Fina off the highway with a phone.” Everyone knows what he’s taking about, but the sound of the word “Fina” is such a great contrast between the “ing”s and “o”s of the previous verses.

Finally we’re shown that she’s dumped him. The inevitable conclusion. His dread manifest.

I’m calling you Doreen,

But it rings and rings and rings.

Where is it that you are, if you aren’t in our bed at home.

Even the last line is nothing ordinary. It’s a great reversal of the normal word order to put “home” as the last word, the final take-away. They wanted you to understand, if you hadn’t got the picture by then, the guy’s dream of home was gone.

Show, show, show. No telling. Brilliant.

Course, I can hear lots of you saying serves himself right, moral of the story – don’t pick up chicks under alcohol. But really guys, are you so pure you can throw that stone? Have a heart.

Better still, put that stone down and spill the beans. Do whiskey sours ring bells in your past? Margueritas in Austin? Or was it Poire Williams in the Swiss Alps (if you’re rich)? Don’t worry. Your secrets will be safe with us.

And we’ll be sooooo sympathetic. Really…

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The Surprise Next Door

co-written by Laura Christian

 When I was growing up, there were a lot of Saturday morning shows my sisters and I watched through the years. Not counting the cartoons, there was Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, and my all-time favorite: The Guys Next Door (GND).

Sadly, GND lasted for only one season in the fall of 1990. I was sixteen. Now, this show was on the order of The Monkees, with both skits and music videos. I’ve heard it described as “Saturday Night Live” for kids. NBC had pulled together a group of five “Guys” to meet every teen’s dream: Patrick J. Dancy, Eddie Garcia, Bobby Leslie, Damon Sharpe, and Chris Wolf.

 At the time, I had two favorites, Chris and Damon. Chris was the “bad boy” (although how bad could you be on Saturday morning TV?), and Damon was the… fashionable one? Actually, I think I liked him because he was the one true triple threat. 

 Sure, Eddie was the dancer, Patrick was the actor, Bobby was the “funny” one (read: stoner, though I didn’t know it at the time), and they all sang. Heck, they even recorded an album. But Damon could do it all. WELL. He made me laugh, he danced, and he sang like this made for TV band was his big break.

My favorite of their songs was and still is their comedic spoof, “Bad Hair Day.” It was sung by, you guessed it, Damon Sharpe. Yes, it’s a silly song. It’s also the most fun song I’ve heard to date and has a special place in the soundtrack of my life. Every time I hear it, I am filled with joy and must sing along. And he’s the reason I’m writing this post, to introduce you to who I believe is a truly talented, amazing artist.

 

Now, thanks to Laura, who is also a GND fan, I found out that Mr. Sharpe has kept himself quite busy since 1991. His career has been pretty impressive actually. He’s worked with J-Lo, Anastacia, Sharon Stone as both producer and songwriter, and written award-winning songs for the movie musical Chicago. Bless his heart, he even produced his own CD in ’99 which was surprisingly difficult to get a copy of. Of course, Laura has 2 copies. He’s worked with more artists than I have space to list.

The last time she was in town, Laura and I YouTube searched Damon and found a recently released song called “Break My Bank” and fell in love with him all over again. One thing you pick up on following his career – Damon believes in himself, and his music reflects that conviction and passion. Watching all of the little clips available and reading about him, it’s impossible to imagine him doing anything else with his life and enjoying it. He’s just so happy in music, and you can’t help but feel that when you listen to him.

 

 

Unfortunately, he hasn’t released an album recently. Believe you me, we looked. There are songs here and there, and he’s on the Twitter (@damonsharpe), so of course we follow to see on what projects he might be working. But mostly, Damon has been busy producing other artists and sharing his passion for music with them.

As fans of his particular artistry, we want an album. Possibly a tour. Maybe see him on Ellen or Jimmy Fallon or another show. His cameo in the first season of Buffy, short though it was, is still one of my go to clips for a little smile. I love that I can tie him to one of my other loves.

My friend Kristen, author and social media expert, does something called the Mash-up of Awesomeness. Here, today for my amusement and your hopeful enjoyment, we’re going to do a Mash-up of Damon-ness.

Damon Sharpe on:

 Wikipedia

Myspace

IMDB

Facebook (fan page)

and a couple more videos for your enjoyment:

What’s Good Witcha?

 

Alter Ego (Damon, feat. Rob Allen & Andre Merritt)

 

 

 

…and a little GND for all the vampire lovers out there (Patrick J. Dancy on lead)

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Music Monday – The Soundtrack of Your Life

The first music I remember, really and truly know, is the Imperial March from Star Wars. You know, the music that plays as Darth Vader enters Princess Leia’s ship? That’s because that is actually my first memory. I was three years old, in the movie theater with my mom and dad, in 1977. When that music plays, it’s a visceral thing for me. My muscles tighten and my nerves hum with anticipation. Every cell of my body knows that music.

I have a similar reaction to Hungry Like the Wolf, the first Duran Duran song I ever heard. I was ten, and the twelve-year-old boy I had a crush on played drums on it with his friends for the school talent show in the spring of 1985. Instead of anticipation, this song fills me with the imperative to move, dance, and sing along. It fills me with life and light.

We all have those songs, don’t we? Songs that, by us listening to and loving them, have become a part of us. They make up the soundtracks of our lives.

Why are those songs so important? Music is good for the soul. It can be cathartic, helping to leach out pain or anger so that we can continue through our lives. It can help us express our joy, or even show our love to someone. It binds us together on a level that can’t be reached through speech alone.

What happens when people hold candle-lit vigils? That’s right, they begin to sing. It’s usually something simple that one person starts and gradually others join in. Why? Because it brings them closer, chases away the darkness.

I always joke that music is my drug of choice, but it’s true. Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries can get me emotionally high for hours, as can Walkin’ on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. Eclectic, moi?

Skeptical? Go to a concert, a really good one where the band (or singer) engages the crowd. Ride the wave of hundreds or thousands of people singing and dancing and chanting along.

Let me know, what songs get you high? What’s the first music you remember? What gives you that visceral, gut-and-soul reaction? What is the soundtrack of your life?

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Fangirl Friday – All You Need Is Live

Welcome to a new edition of Fangirl Friday! Snowbound in the frozen north (of Texas) mostly because I’m afraid of the loony toons on the road who have no idea how to navigate in weather that we normally don’t get, I’m pretty cozy. It’s all Duran Duran‘s fault.

Last night, I got to see them play live with two of my best friends and one of my sisters. Y’all, I’ve got a confession to make. I am now in love with All You Need Is Now. All the problems I had with it were absent in a live performance. It was a short set because they shared the evening with two other acts, but it was a lovely way to induct my friend Kelly to the wonders of Duran Duran live. Laura and I had spent the morning and afternoon “schooling” her in the ways of Duranies, playing songs they were likely to play, teaching her some of the audience participation stuff they like, and so on.

We braved the icy roads and idiot drivers to get to the Verizon Theater for the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam and ran into my sister, Alia, who had scored a free semi-VIP ticket thanks to one of her friends. After they had been ushered away, our threesome went to find our seats… in the far right corner where we could barely see the stage. While that seems bad, that was a pittance compared to how badly VH-1 managed the evening. But I get ahead of myself.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic time. That, however, was due to the excellent performances despite the poor management of the event. In a three-performer show that started at seven at night, Duran was billed second. That usually means they play second,or at least they would at any other such event. What that means is that Duranies who had no desire to see the first act has no way of knowing that Duran would actually go on first, their bits being recorded to air in the middle of the televised event. Thanks to Twitter, some knew that Duran would be up first. Thanks to my personal paranoia of being late to anything, our group arrived just after the doors opened at six. We saw the Twitter notice after Duran had played.

 As soon as it was announced that Duran was taking the stage, the three of us jumped up, manning our far out post like good soldiers, cheering, hollering, and dancing to save the world. Admittedly, it had been a few years since I’d last seen them, and hearing them again, even at our far away station was happy. They opened with a classic: A View to a Kill. In the proverbial fan groove, when they announced  they were playing a song from the new album, I was admittedly apprehensive. My friend Laura said that my face and posture actually fell at the prospect. However, midway through the first verse, I finally felt what other fans have been saying this far. I was caught up in the brilliance of Being Followed to which my friend next to me was going crazy.  After the next song, Hungry Like the Wolf, VH-1 stopped the show and made my band wait on stage. SOMEONE MADE DURAN DURAN WAIT. I started ducking for fear of flying pigs.

We waited, mostly impatiently, and then a miracle happened. Laura thwapped my arm, pointing. “There’s your sister.” Sure enough, there she was. She leaned over the railing with a half-smile and gestured. I couldn’t believe it. She was inviting me to come with her. Eyes wide, I said, “Can they come with me?” She nodded and the three of us chased her across the venue until she turned into the pit, and they let us down into the pit! And we SCREAMED. The difference was amazing. The band chatted on stage, and my fangirl heart was imagining all the ways they were thrilled to see us get to move closer. Surely we’d made enough ruckus from way out in proverbial left field to get us noticed. And surely we made their evening by cheering like mad women from where we stood a few dozen rows back. I’m almost certain our little group caught at least Simon’s eye once or twice. I mean, Duran knows who belongs to them, you know?

The rest of the concert passed in an overheated blur including two new songs, All You Need is Now and Girl Panic, as well as such classics as Notorious, Come Undone, (Reach Up for the) Sunrise,  and Girls on Film. My sister even took video of me dancing without me being in any way aware of her doing so. I do remember, however, that the two men in front of us just standing there like lumps actually started to clap and dance after a song or two of us singing along and screaming behind them. The big surprise of the evening was that we didn’t hear Rio! Don’t get me wrong–I’ll never turn down Rio if someone happens to play it. However, for the last ten years, the band has closed EVERY show with this song, and I do mean every. When I hear Rio I start mentally preparing to leave wherever I am. To not hear it was lovely.

The joy of the evening, however, was introducing Kelly to one of the loves of my life. Kelly’s a bit younger than me, but she’s been incredibly gracious to indulge my hobby. I was far more excited about taking her to the show than myself even. I wanted to witness that joy I remember feeling when I first saw them live. And as I mentioned before, Kelly didn’t have the history with them that I did. Her main frame of reference for the band was having played along with their music on “Band Hero.” Bless it for existing. So when they concert started, she knew almost none of the songs, despite her brief introduction to the band. She cheered and danced and clapped along with us, and I figured at that point it was mainly due to being swept away with the crowd. All that changed when Girls on Film played. I looked to my left and there she was, screaming loudly enough to be heard above the others, twenty-year old hands in the air waving, and cheeks pointed so far skyward I thought she might float away! She bounced and danced along finally really feeling like one of us. The energy rolling off her was restorative for me, knowing that my well-aging band could capture an entirely new generation who weren’t born until after their fame had withered away. In that way, the band definitely has a point: all I needed was now. Right that moment when we were all surrounded by pure joy and magic. My ego forced my chest out a bit because for all time I will be part of Kelly’s first memory of Duran Duran. In that way, my legacy lives on with theirs.

When we got home, we stayed up to watch the re-airing on VH-1. If I hadn’t been there, and had to rely solely on their representation of the concert, I would’ve been incredibly disappointed in and for my boys. Their set looked short (only 2 songs aired), boring, and the fans look disinterested when they were shown at all. Which brings me back to the subject of my post. Live shows. Nothing beats live. Don’t ever think that seeing a concert aired on “live tv” is the same as watching my band live. If you can go: GO. Always. Every time. No exceptions. No matter how tired, no matter how complicated, no matter WHAT–make the effort. I’ve yet to regret it.

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Duran Duran’s “What Happens Tomorrow”

What Happens Tomorrow

Image via Wikipedia

Welcome to Wordsmith Wednesday, Duran Duran week edition! I chose What Happens Tomorrow off their 2004 album, Astronaut for our discussion pleasure today because, honestly,  I thought we could use a little dose of hope after all the world events that have been unfolding of late. So, without further ado, the lyrics:

What Happens Tomorrow by Duran Duran

Child, don’t you worry

It’s enough you’re growin’ up in such a hurry

Brings you down, the news they sell ya

To put in your mind that all mankind is a failure

But nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

We’ll try not to show how frightened we are

If you’ll let me, I’ll protect you however I can

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright again

Fighting because we’re so close

There are times we punish those who we need the most

No we can’t wait for a saviour

Only got ourselves to blame for this behavior

But nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

We’ll try not to show how frightened we are

It would seem lonely

If you were the only

Star in the night

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

You’ve got to believe it’ll be alright again

And nobody knows

What’s gonna happen tomorrow

So don’t let go

Now we’ve come this far

Hold my hand please

Understand we’re never alone

We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end

(Nobody knows)

We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright my friend

(So don’t let go)

And yes we believe it’ll be alright again

(So don’t let it go)

Ooooh ooooh ooh oooooh

Ooooh ooooh ooh oooooh

 

So, we can see that the song starts out reassuring someone else. As it progresses, we can tell by the switch from “you” to “we” that the lyricist is reassuring himself as well as his audience. The fear has spread, but by reaching out to one another, we can make it through. It’s also, I think, a commentary on the band’s history itself. It was a big leap of faith for John, Simon, Nick, and Roger to work with Andy again. After he had left the first time he, for several years, was nicknamed Mr. Lawsuit Of The Week because he literally kept throwing lawsuits at them over and over. They even mentioned it in the song Notorious, “who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit.” Oh! And look! He flakes out on them AGAIN and they have to scrap almost an entire album to keep him from pulling the same shenanigans.

For me, this song represents hope in the face of fear, despair, and mistrust. Whether that hope is misplaced or not isn’t the point. We need hope more than just about anything, especially when things are at their most bleak. The first time I heard this song I cried, because it filled me with a hope I desperately needed. I felt safe, protected, for the first time in years. The point is that hope and solidarity makes us stronger, more able to face the unknown of tomorrow.

It shocked me, although it shouldn’t have, how relevant this song still feels after seven years. The simplicity of the lyrics belie the depth and breadth of their scope. “We’ve got to believe it’ll be alright in the end.”

What do these lyrics say to you?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre (album)

No, your eyes do not deceive, I am posting Music Review Monday on a Tuesday. Fact is, my internet was down yesterday. Sorry about that, you guys!

Welcome to Duran Duran week on the blog! Why? Well, I’ll be going to see them perform live at the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam on Thursday. You know how it goes, you get so excited about who you’re gonna see that you can’t think of anything else, so I thought, why fight it?

Now, having thirteen studio albums, not to mention all the various side projects and whatnot, there’s a plethora of material from which to choose. In the end, because I’m also a gamer, I asked a friend to roll a twelve-sided die. I attributed a number to each of the first twelve studio albums since we’ll have a review of lucky number thirteen when it comes out on CD.

Left with a roll of twelve, we get to discuss Red Carpet Massacre. Duran Duran’s twelfth studio album was released in November of 2007. If asked to describe it in one word, I’d have to go with lush. The sound is just full and sensuous, beckoning you to enter their magical, musical world. A large number of Duranies would disagree with me. They didn’t like it, thought it contrived and/or lackluster.

It was the album I’d been waiting for my whole life.

 I’ll admit, I was as  leery as everyone else of them working with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Danja. Personally, I thought they should have worked with Timberlake’s former band mate, JC Chasez. I was never so happy to be wrong, let me tell you! The overall style of the album is tight, consistent, well-balanced among vocals and instruments, really a testament to what brilliant producers can do working with brilliant artists.

We start off with The Valley. Already I’m swaying in my seat to the beat, before Simon starts singing. The lyrics take me on a journey “through the cities and the towers, turning minutes into hours” as I sink into the instrumentation. When John’s bass solo comes up, it’s like being lifted into the storm clouds where the gods thunder. Sometimes my heart starts to beat in time to Roger’s beat, even as my veins sing along with Nick’s keyboards. Side note: everyone in the world should hear Simon Le Bon sing the word “mischievous” because it gets under your skin in all the best ways. Normally I don’t dig heavy breathing in a song, but the I’m-running-from-something feel really fits in here.

 Red Carpet Massacre opens with a dream-like interlude from Nick that alters to a pounding synth and drums tempo that wakes your senses with its brightness. Simon comes in with fast-paced lyrics that create a complementary rhythm all its own.  The chorus slams in with vocals and all instruments like a  wave of sound, carrying you away and giving the whole thing a sort of stylishly embattled feel. In interviews, Simon has said he was inspired by seeing the worst-dressed lists after an awards show, that the stars in question were being massacred by the reporter. “Enter the battle of the lenses” indeed! There’s even a warning to those who would brave the red carpet: “Ain’t the place to mess around when someone wants to take you down!” It’s fast, unrelenting, and an energizing shock to the system.

Nite Runner, one of the two songs in which Timberlake was involved, is a throbbing, pulsing club song about, as near as I can tell, falling for a  vampire. “You’re nocturnal, only come out at night,” the opening lines, definitely draw you into the concept, especially with Simon’s voice luring you on and Timbaland’s providing a deep counterpoint. From the liner notes I can see that Timberlake has also contributed backing vocals, but his voice blends so well that it’s indistinguishable unless you really hunker down and search for it. “Love is haunting,” and that’s just what this song does, deliciously haunts us into dancing.

Falling Down, the only other song on the album to which Timberlake contributes, and the only single is a danceable ballad. Inspired by Simon’s motorcycle accident, both vocals and keyboards undulate in a constant rise and fall, the rhythm section holding steady and strong. The effect is that of a body tumbling through space, the solid ground the only constant as you hit, bounce up, and fall again continuously. “Why do the cruel barbs fly? Now when disgrace can no longer hurt me?” reminds us that, even in their less popular times the press seemed to have taken joy in mocking Duran for the crime of refusing to fade into obscurity back in the eighties. Dom Brown provides a beautifully haunting guitar piece that melts into the piano outro.

Box Full o’ Honey starts out simply, just Simons voice and acoustic guitar. The other instruments come in one by one, building into a round, full sound that fills you up. The pipe sounds dimly echo, or at least recall Save A Prayer in some ways, a welcome familiarity. The centerpiece of this song is definitely Simon’s voice, the instruments lifting, supporting, highlighting him as we flow along.

Skin Divers, probably the first song they should have released, thumps in, demanding you be caught up in the beat. Simon croons in the lower regions of his range, beckoning you to move with him as the disco ball comes down, getting caught up, up against the wall… Ahem.  The song, for all it’s driving beat, flows through your veins, Timbaland’s voice a perfect, heartbeat-like counterpoint. It also contains my very favorite lyric of all time: “A blushing rose is torn from these sugar walls, I misplaced my future, could I please borrow yours?”

Tempted slides in, more airy and floaty than the rest of the album, but no less compelling. It’s poppy and peppy from top to bottom, carefree, tempting you once more out onto the dance floor. “Like you know it’s meant to, oh yeah.” It feathers along our nerves, through our veins, until we’re flying along, lost in the beat.

Tricked Out is an instrumental piece, a bit helter-skelter for my tastes. Even so, I like the way it sounds as though it’s what the aliens have playing on their spaceship as they check out the strange humans.

Zoom In is about Second Life, a virtual world where users can interact with one another through infinitely customizable avatars. In 2005, before Andy Taylor left Duran for the second time, there were plans in the works for the band to create their own islands and have an in-world concert. We’re still waiting. The song itself is just as surreal as SL itself can be, neatly capturing the spirit of the Linden Labs creation. It’s definitely a fun, danceable song that’s letting you in on a secret joke. “Now she arrives in a flaming crash like a falling star!”

She’s Too Much is a beautiful ballad that Simon has said was inspired by his middle daughter, Saffron. It’s reassuring, sweet, and full of love, letting her know that Daddy’s watching and will be there to catch her when she falls, be fighting in her corner.  All too often we hear of absentee fathers and deadbeat dads, that part of the beauty of the song is that it reminds us that there are fathers out there who love their children, want the best for them.

Dirty Great Monster is a great source of debate among certain Duranie factions. The band firmly states that it’s about an abusive home, the monster being the abuser. However, at first superficial blush, much to the glee of the fandom slashers, it sounds almost like the band are admitting something about their inter-relationships with one another. “Do you ever wonder about the days when we were straight?” The music is haunting and would be right at home in the soundtrack of a horror film about parental abuse. “We’re all afraid of each other, we’re the victims in this show.” It captures that hunted mistrust rife in such an atmosphere. So well in fact that, brilliant or no, it makes me uncomfortable listening to it sometimes, recalling my own episode of abuse at the hands of a roommate from years ago.

Last Man Standing is the final song on the album. It ties everything up together, just as a good finale should, pulling in the dance-ability, musicality, and themes of previous songs into a neat little package. Rather than having dessert at the end of the musical repast, it’s a cup of rich, dark coffee over which we gather and reflect about the meal just finished.

So what do you think? Is there an album that makes a full meal for you?

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Morrissey’s “The Ordinary Boys”

Welcome to the second Wordsmith Wednesday. Today we’re going to look at the lyrics of Morrissey‘s The Ordinary Boys. I was having trouble deciding on something from my own collection. Spoiled for choice, you could say. So I jumped on Twitter and put out a call for help. Semibold responded almost immediately, asking if I liked Morrissey and The Smiths. I told her like wasn’t an issue so much as interesting was. She then pointed me to the song we will be discussing today. Here are the lyrics:

The Ordinary Boys by Morrissey and Stephen Street

Ordinary boys, happy knowing nothing

Happy being no-one but themselves

Ordinary girls, supermarket clothes

Who think it’s very clever to be cruel to you

For you were so different

You stood all alone

And you knew

That it had to be so

Avoiding ordinary boys

Happy going nowhere, just around here

In their rattling cars

Ordinary girls

Never seeing further

Than the old, small streets

That trap them

But you were so different

You had to say no

When those empty fools

Tried to change you, and claim you

For the lair of their ordinary world

Where they feel so lucky

So lucky, so lucky

With their lives laid out before them

They are lucky

So lucky, so lucky

 

True confessions time. That is a lot of how I felt in high school…the isolation of being unique, feeling like the “normal” kids had it easy, that they were out to get me. When I read those words, I was instantly transported back to that time in my life.

By turns, the lyrics are hurt (“think it’s very clever to be cruel to you”), condescending (“those empty fools”), and jealous (“they are lucky”). It sounds as though a bitter teenager is venting his spleen. I looked up the dates and found out that Morrissey was nearly thirty in 1988 when Viva Hate, the album on which the song appears, was released. Seriously? You get to almost thirty and still can’t get over the mean kids in high school? Still, the lyrics made me think.

When I was in high school, everything felt so difficult, bewildering, and hurtful. There were kids that I thought were “so lucky”. The rich kids, the popular kids, the pretty kids, all of them had to have had it easier than me! Gradually, I learned how wrong I was. Nobody has it easy in high school. Nobody has it easy EVER.

Life is difficult. Some days it goes well, others go horribly wrong. Money, popularity, and looks only change the types of problems one has. I didn’t like these lyrics, they brought me back to a time of petty meanness and sadness. However, they got my brain whirling, and for that I kinda love them too. What about you? What do these lyrics say to you?

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Music Review Monday – Duran Duran’s “All You Need Is Now” (the single)

We’re going to do a little something different for this, the second edition of Music Review Monday. I’m going to review a single, rather than the whole album. That single is called All You Need Is Now. Why? Several reasons. It’s off a brand-new iTunes album that’s only nine songs long, and the full fourteen song CD won’t be available until late March. I want to wait for the additional five songs to do a full album review.  Also? I’ve been dreading this review so much that I broke out into a flop sweat every time I sat down at my computer this past week.

You see, I am what is referred to as a Duranie. I’ve been one since the spring of 1985. I was ten years old. It’s fair to say that listening to Duran Duran is one of the major reasons I am who I am today, why I think the way I think. I’m freaking terrified of this review. You can imagine my excitement at the announcement of their thirteenth studio album. I’ve always been able to count on them to create something I at least like (Pop Trash), if not something I adore (Arena).

I guess, by the law of averages, it couldn’t last. Okay, enough stalling. On to the review.

It starts off with a highly annoying techno keyboard sequence from Nick Rhodes. You remember me talking about him in last Friday’s post? Where I called him God? Yeah. There’s a steady if uninspired rhythm provided by Roger Taylor, our heroic drummer. Then Simon Le Bon begins to sing, sounding more bored than I’ve ever heard him and muffled and distorted by some “nifty” effect. John Taylor (also known to Duranies as the Almighty Bass God) then fills things out a teensy bit with his bass guitar. They all sound pretty much like they’re phoning in their performances. The song drifts out of techno-land into a semi-lovely chorus that almost gives me hope. It’s soft and sweet, tasting of reminiscences and longing. Everyone’s at least bringing their B game. Rinse and repeat. I’ll admit the extended dream sequence after the second time around that segued into and out of the chorus again was beautiful and ethereal, but then it dragged back into that incessant techno-twaddle to fade out on… crowd noise?

Admittedly, I don’t like techno music as a general rule, although some people can do it brilliantly. This was not done brilliantly. It sounded hollow and dry, devoid of emotion, boring. When I played this song for my mother (whose favorite Duran song is Taste The Summer) she wrinkled up her nose and asked, “What happened to them? They used to be so full of life.” Guys, you are doing something wrong when a 67-year-old thinks your song is a big yawn.

In the interest of full disclosure, all my Duranie friends LOVE this song. Some even find it uplifting. Desperately worried that I’d lost the plot somewhere, I played it for friends outside that circle. All of them asked me to turn it off, like yesterday. I even played it for one of my sisters. She and I don’t usually agree on much of anything. After listening to the single she looked at me, eyes filled with confusion, and asked why they didn’t just do mash-ups of their old songs instead of re-hashing and re-packaging them in new and uninteresting ways.

I was so worried about this review. I didn’t want to do it. Then someone said a brilliant thing to me. “Someone needs to put the mirror up so they can see the egg on their faces,” they said. “Who better than you, someone who loves and respects them?” I stammered something about owing it to them to give them a glowing review since they had given me so much joy in the past, so that they go on selling and making music. They countered with, “Gigi, do you want them to continue making songs like this?”

No, I don’t.

 What do you think?

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Wordsmith Wednesday – Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)”

Welcome to the very first Wordsmith Wednesday! I thought we’d take the way-back machine to 1928 and look at Cole Porter‘s Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love). Now, there are several versions of this song, first played in the musical Paris. However, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll be looking at the version from the 2004 soundtrack of De-Lovely, a film about Cole Porter’s life, as sung by Alanis Morissette. Why? Because that is the version I own and have transcribed.Yes, I sat down and listened to the song over and over again to write down the lyrics. Here they are:

Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) by Cole Porter

But that’s why birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it, Not to mention the Finns

Folks in Siam do it, think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines without means do it

People say in Boston even beans do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Romantic sponges they say do it

Oysters down in Oyster Bay do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams ‘gainst their wish do it

Even lazy jellyfish do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it, though it shocks ’em I know

Why ask if shad do it, waiter bring me shad roe

In shallow shoals English soles do it

Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The dragonflies in the reeds do it

Sentimental centipedes do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Mosquitos heaven forbid do it

So does every katydid do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The most refined ladybugs do it, when a gentleman calls

Moths in your rugs do it, what’s the use of moth balls

The gusts in trees do it

Bees do it

Even over-educated fleas do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

 

Now, this song is quite obviously about mating, sex. However, since it was considered vulgar to talk about that sort of thing too blatantly when the song was originally written, you can see Porter ameliorated the bluntness by inserting the bit about falling in love for what “it” is. This also neatly equates sex with love which, in my humble opinion and experience, should be true, but often is not. Oh, and for those of you wondering, click this link for another set of lyrics I found on the internet.

There are quite a few clever turns of phrase, like the mention of electric eels being shocked and the moth balls. It’s light and frothy, winking at you and seeming to say that, as George Michael put it, “sex is natural, sex is good” and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. After all, what about those randy beans from Boston?

It occurs to me, so many people snipe and grumble about how vulgar today’s music is, how it focuses on sex and candy violence and all that jazz. Thing is, music has always been about those things, the composers were just more sneaky about how they expressed it. Or more…what’s the word I’m looking for? Classier? Euphemistic? ARTISTIC! Yes, that’s the answer!

No one listening to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries can say it’s about happy bunnies frolicking. Likewise The Star-Spangled Banner. They are both definitely about battle. Bombs are bursting in the air! Jerry Lee LewisGreat Balls of Fire and, of course, today’s selection are prime examples of songs about sex from so-called innocent times.

I think my favorite line in Let’s Do It is the opening one about the birds and the bees, a classic euphemism for what the song is all about. It simply and elegantly sets the stage, letting you know what the real score is. It doesn’t need to be excessive or slap you in the face to get the message across.

What do you think? What do these lyrics say to you? Can centipedes really be sentimental?

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Music Review Monday – Michael Jackson’s Thriller album

I thought I’d kick off the music reviews with the very first album I ever bought, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Music has always been a part of my life, from the scores in the movies I watched to the songs we sang in school to the music my family played at home. But the first record I ever bought (with my hard-earned chore allowance) was Thriller. Yes, I said record, and I meant it. Back in the dark ages, there was no such thing as digital media. Computers took up whole rooms, far too large to have a personal version. We used record players, cassette decks, and radio to get music. However, thanks to technology, I’ve linked each song to their Amazon.com page where you can listen to them, just in case you haven’t heard them or just want to listen along with me.

I listened to this particular album until the needle on our player went smooth…several times over. Play just about any song on it, and I can happily sing along. I have pulled out my own vinyl copy to check the track listing. We’ll start with side one.

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘ is, perhaps inevitably, the first song. When I hear it, my shoulders automatically begin moving left and right to the beat and if I’m standing, so do my hips. So what if it’s one of the most repetitive songs on the planet? It’s too high to get over, too low to get under. It infects you with the beat, the Almighty Beat, until you just can’t be still. Go ahead, try it, I double-dog dare you! Even if you do nothing more than nod in time, you’ll see. Interesting side note? There’s mention of that naughty Billie Jean and how she’s always tellin’ lies. Who says foreshadowing is just for novels?

 Second, we come to Baby Be Mine. The beat’s still there, still strong, and yet it’s unmistakably a ballad. You’ll come to see that the beat is the underlying commonality throughout the album, in fact. At any rate, this song has everything a ballad should have – expressions of devotion, confessions of desire, promises of fidelity and eternity. Yet it doesn’t feel insincere or facile. To me, it sounds honest, sweet.

Third is The Girl Is Mine, a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. Their voices don’t just provide a beautiful counterpoint when they’re going back and forth. They harmonize. Near the end, there’s a “conversation” that feels natural rather than contrived. Two of my friends and I lip-synced a little skit for this song for our school’s talent show when I was ten. I played Michael’s part, Julie was Paul, and Whitney was the girl we “fought” over. Good times, man.

Fourth, finishing off side one, is the reason I bought the album in the first place, the reason I can watch zombie movies even though my “ick” tolerance is way low. Thriller, the title track of the album, is definitely one of my top ten songs/videos of all time. The alien keyboard starts us off, nice and spooky, escalating as the beat asserts itself. Maybe because the video is so deeply entrenched in my psyche, the tension builds as Michael starts to sing, infusing the song with a more concrete story-telling feel. I don’t just see the video behind my eyelids every time I hear the song, my body fills with the tension and excitement I felt when I first encountered it. Somewhere, deep inside, music was forever changed for me. There’s something about his voice, at times trembling, at others pleading, warning, even mocking, that draws me in, makes me feel like an audience of one. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And then, Vincent Price, the master of creeptasticness, begins to speak. **shivers** This isn’t just a song, it’s an event. Lift the needle, carefully reposition it, listen again.

Thus ends side one. Flip the record to side two.

We open with Beat It. Bright, funky, and with mind-blowing (at least for me) guitar riffs all blended into an anthemic dance tune. “You have to show them that you’re really not scared. You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no Truth Or Dare. They’ll kick you then they’ll beat you then they’ll tell you it’s fair, so beat it. But you wanna be BAD.” And no, I haven’t stopped dancing around, why do you ask?

Now we come to Billie Jean, that girl doing all the lying from earlier. Only, this story seems to be leading us to believe that maybe she isn’t lying, at least not wholly. “She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one” falls flat next to “the lie becomes the truth” and “so take my strong advice: remember to always think twice.” Of course I didn’t think any of this when I first got the album as a very sheltered nine-year-old. I didn’t even know what a “lover” was.

Ah, Human Nature, the most ethereal cut on the album. Breathy and almost haunting, I fall in love each time I hear it. Even for all that, the beat is very present, an undercurrent that pulls you along so that you sway to the rhythm.

I always wanted to be someone’s P.Y.T., their tenderoni, in need of T.L.C. Now was the perfect time. It just sounded like so much fun! Sometimes though, I couldn’t wait for it to finish to get to the next and final song.

The Lady In My Life, the culmination of it all, the soothing balm after all the dancing, monsters, being bad, lying girls, and did I mention dancing?  I don’t know what I’d do if a man sang this to me. It makes all my cynicism and bitterness just melt away. Adult me knows he’s singing about sex… slow songs get you laid, after all. But kid me just wanted to snuggle in his (and later, others’) arms and make with the smoochies… go nowhere and stay with him, whatever that meant.

Each piece of this album has something to pull you in, keep you listening. Puzzle pieces that interlock, complementing each other and completing the whole. I’ll admit, I have NO objectivity where this album is concerned. Who does in regards to their first love, really? I’ll also confess that it took several hours to write this review. I had to stop after each song and take a break to keep from all-out weeping. The world is a poorer place without Michael Jackson in it making music.

So, what was your first love, musically speaking, and why? Let me know in the comments what record, album, CD, whatever, spins you right ’round.

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Greetings and salutations!

Like many others, music has made me who I am. It fills me, moves me, provides a soundtrack for my life. The music I love (and even some that I loathe) becomes an inextricable part of me. Just recently, I reconnected with a childhood friend who asked, “Why don’t you blog about that?” She’s a big fan of social media, is Kristen Lamb.  So much so that she wrote a book called We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I tried to tell her that I’m not really a blogger. Oh sure, I have my Livejournal, which is basically an online diary that some friends read, and my Facebook page where I play games, but tri-weekly blogging? Please.

“Well, you love to talk about music,” Kristen pointed out. “Why not talk about it with other like-minded people?”

“But I don’t know how I would come up with enough content!” I retorted, my eyes shifting from side to side as a wave of fear crashed over me. She gave me many good reasons as to why I was wrong, but the most eloquent persuasion was silent. Her hands planted on her hips, she just arched an eyebrow.

So here I am, out of excuses, starting a WordPress blog about music. There will be Music Review Mondays that can mean anything from a full album review to an artist or video review… possibly even a rockumentary review, if you guys are up for it. Wordsmith Wednesdays we’ll be taking a song and looking at just its lyrics, see what makes it so compelling (or not, as the case may be) from that angle. Fangirl Fridays will be devoted to those moments that make a fan – hearing a song in a store, meeting an idol, concerts, interviews… you get the drift.

So join me on this Magical Mystery Tour to expand our minds, and possibly our iTunes folders!

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