Saturday, September 24, 2016

World History Project: Every Record Ever Recorded! (Not!)

Just a clarification on this whole World History Project thing. I will not be reading every book ever published or listening to every record ever recorded, because that would involve listening to Barry Manilow.

So I’ll just be reading books as I find them and listening to the records I already have.

And since I’m up to the 18th Century - and believe it or not Keith Richards was not born yet - I’ll be listening to a lot of classical music.

Having grown up in Brooklyn, it’s hard for me to separate the act of listening to classical music from wanting to punch someone in the face. And since I'm usually the punchee, it’s really saying something that I’d be the one to get that urge.

But classical music brings up images of foppish guys with British - or worse, French - accents, wearing flouncy wigs, and not even having the decency to be doing so in drag.

I can just see them sitting around the mansion, enjoying the latest Bach ditty on the family harpsichord, convinced of their superiority over the lower classes who were busy tending the fields and yet invented folk music. Isn’t that enough to make you want to take a swing?

Now that’s not the fault of the music. It’s just something I have a hard time getting out of my head. So I tend to enjoy classical music to the degree that I can forget that.

Anyway, back to the World History Project. I’m up to 1714, and reading myself some Alexander Pope. (Hey, Jeeves! Where’s my flouncy wig!) Now Pope isn’t as much fun as Neal Stephenson, but he’s not bad.

One of the records I’m listening to from that time is a Musical Heritage Society compilation of work by Vivaldi, Handel and Telemann by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.



I’ve had no luck finding this record at allmusic.com, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to recommend the album, but I guess I can tell you what I think of each piece.


Handel, Concerto Grosso in G Major  Opus 6, No 1.:

I know what you’re thinking. If this is Opus 6, what happened to the other five? And are they all in G Major? Wow, if so, how did he ever get to the rest of the alphabet? I guess they didn’t have a lot to do back then.

But maybe Opi (the plural of Opus, of course) 1 - 5 weren’t so hot. But by now it’s all good. And this is number 1. Is that it's highest Billboard position? I can’t wait for the rest!

Anyway, this one’s got a lot of violin in it, which I like a lot. Slow and stately, yet melodic and sweet.

Check it out!

B+


Handel, Concerto in A Minor Opus 6, No.4:

And now I’m all confused again. Is this a whole other Opus 6 or are we in the same Opus as last time? Who knows?  I mean, why not just call them Meet the Handels, A Handel’s Day Night, Magical Handel Tour, etc. I mean, we could all get a better - wait for it! - “Handel” on it!  (I just kill me!)

And what’s with the grosso? Hey guys, I just wrote a concerto and it’s kinda gross. Take a listen! It’s like when I barbecue and tell everyone that the food probably didn’t come out that good. Bon appetit!

This one’s a little quieter and the first part, the larghetto afffettuoso allegro (of course) is really very pretty. Slow and sad.

Just like me. 

B+


Vivaldi, Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins Op 3 No 10:

Four violins? Really?

You didn’t see old Ronnie Van Zandt call “Free Bird” Concerto for Three Lead Guitars Opus Awesome No.79, now did you ?  C'mon classical people, get a grip! Well, I guess I'm a little late with that, huh?

Anyway, you can kind of tell it’s Vivaldi. He’s got that stench of Masterpiece Theater on him, but he’s actually pretty cool. The violins stay pretty without getting too, you know, “no fun”. He changes the pace and gets a nice balance of sweet and serious.

Give it a whirl.

B+


Vivaldi, Concerto for Two Trumpets:

This one is soooo Masterpiece Theater it’s not easy to like. And I just can’t.

The trumpets remind me of those old Roman movies when whenever someone entered the castle a bunch of trumpets would play something to announce his arrival, when a doorbell really would have sufficed.

It’s kind of stuffy, and makes you feel like you should be sitting up straight.

All this tooting when all I really need to hear is the french horn from the Tommy “Overture”.

And note, no grosso for old Vivaldi! He’s got a better opinion of himself.

But not me.

Here’ goes.

B-


Telemann, Viola Concerto in G Major:

No Opi for this guy, thank god.

In all of these pieces, I find I like the slower quieter second movements. But Mr. T gets right to the slow part up front.

Violas are at a lower pitch than violins which makes them easier to take over the long haul.

It’s quite pleasant to listen to this piece, which says, hey I’ll just hang out with you and not talk too much. My favorite kind of guest.

But then he can’t help but pick up the pace and get a little loud and fussy. But it’s okay. He can stay for the barbecue.

Hey, Mr. T. Do your thing.

B+


So that’s it for classical music for now. I’ll have to slog through some more Pope, before I get to more Vivaldi and Handel.

But in between, I’ll get back to the apex of Western Civilization: Silly Love Songs and Pop Music.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

More Summer Music!?

But I wasn’t done searching for summer music.

And this record - the very name of it - promised to have exactly what I needed.



The Apples in Stereo: New Magnetic Wonder (2007)

And in several individual moments, it delivers. Which only makes it all the more frustrating that it doesn’t do so more consistently.

The title is actually pretty accurate.  Guitar pop, with synths added. Another weird voice that shouldn’t work but does.

So I would like to report that the tunes are so sharp that any quibbles I might have about overproduction or silliness are swept away in a sea of cascading melodies, lush harmonies and deft chord changes, because that’s what my first impression was.

Alas, it’s more complicated than that. Not all of the tunes rise to the level made in that first impression.

In a lot of ways this is the polar opposite of the Go! Team. That record was tuneful but rough, spontaneous and lo-fi, with the exuberance of youth throughout. This one is tuneful but slick, detailed and produced to a within an inch of its life, with the calculation of of a pop professional throughout.

That’s not exactly a criticism. After all, there are about six excellent and four great pop/rock tunes here. The problem is that they are surrounded by short musical interludes of varying quality, and are suffused with synths and voices channeled through said synths.  The treated vocals remind me of Trans, which is okay, but I’ve already got Trans.

It’s like they’re aiming for a masterpiece and give every single detail way too much attention, when just a couple of more great songs would have done the trick. That’s okay. A lot of records are like that.

Interestingly enough, mastermind Robert Schneider’s high, nasally voice - which sounds like he’s singing to you through a phone line - is not the problem.  The tunes are written with such cunning that they actually take advantage of said voice. The vague sci-fi surroundings help in that regard as well.  

We start off with two very bright and energetic rock oriented cuts, which are so well performed it takes you time to notice they’re not quite great.

But then we get to “Energy” and we’re suddenly on another level. You realize how melodic a songwriter Schneider can be. It ranks with some of the best pop of last decade. But then after several more good but not great songs, as pleasant as it’s been so far, “Energy” is the only one I love.

Don’t get me wrong, I love parts of all the other songs; the guitar part of “Play Tough”, the melody of “The Sunndal Song”, the lo-fi singing on “Sun Is Out”, the grandeur of “Open Eyes”. I could go on. And they do get stuck in my head, too. But not in the love-obsession way, more in the good-but-distracting way.

They score more often during the second half, with high points like “7 Stars”, “Radiation” and "Beautiful Machine, 1-2". It’s a shame we keep hitting minor bumps along the way that slow down the momentum.

So it’s fantastic in spots, frustrating in others. In a way, it reminds me of Badly Drawn Boy’s Hour of the Bewilderbeast, which via more consistent songwriting and less kitchen sink, is more successful.

And, not to be too unkind in the comparison, it's like the difference between the Beatles and ELO.

But if you put it on at a party, your guests may think it’s a great album. I just don’t know what they’re going to think the next day.

Still, having said all this, that party will be lots of fun.

A-

"7 Stars"

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Music!

I use the colder months to explore and go deep into other genres like jazz or classical. I’m usually kind of depressed anyway, so happy music would only taunt me.

When the weather warms up my musical (and mental, hopefully) habits change, too. My energy level increases and I start to look for rock n’ roll and pop music. Something energetic, joyful. Call it Spring or Summer music.

Such music is harder to find than one might think. One person’s “Happy” music is idiotic to another.  One person’s “pop” is another’s mindless commercial junk.
One’s joyful music is another’s sappy garbage.

Can you guess who the “another” is in this analogy?

But everyone once in awhile I’m the “one person”, and I live for those instances.

Anyhow, I realized, as I stated in the prior post a "masterpiece" probably wouldn’t fit the bill, and so went looking for something of note, but maybe not something held in awe by anyone.

There may be thousands of records released every year, but once you put them through the Jaybee strainer you’re lucky if end up with even a handful to seriously consider. It was encouraging to hit upon That Petrol Emotion, and a downright pleasure to find the Go! Team, who have made my Summer Album.



The Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

There is the quiet and pretty summer music that helps you beat the heat, like Beck's Morning Phase, and then there’s the fast loud summer music that allows you to revel in it.

This is the latter.

Now here is a group of young people - of both genders and several races - who make me almost happy to be alive.

And their debut album screams “Youth!”, even when it’s borrowings sound kind of old. And youth in the best sense. Like when you see a group of young people having a good time, and instead of wanting to call the cops, you raise your glass.

The end product is at least partially - and perhaps mostly - samples of other records. (If that sounds unpromising, you might want to check out DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…  which is comprised exclusively of samples and is, by the way, a masterpiece, and one of the great records of the 90s.)

Anyway, the samples are “borrowed” from all over. (I believe some legal action may have been taken to ensure everyone got their royalty check.) Yet, I’m ashamed to say, I barely recognize any of them.
Which makes it hard for me to tell where the samples leave off and the direct contributions of the band members begin.

But, I. Don’t. Care.

Because they manage to concoct a perfect blend of rock n’ roll, hip-hop, soul and pop on nearly every track. Hear a part you’re not crazy about? Just stick around a few seconds and another part will bring you right back. Don’t like that hip hop intro? Hold on, and the electric guitars will kick in shortly.

I admit the sixties style horns (a la “Hawaii Five-O” and Motown) can get a bit cheesy, but who doesn’t like cheese? Plus, it gives me pleasure to know that these young folks enjoy that music, too.

And to hear it mixed in - successfully!, in “Bottle Rocket” - with a young woman rapping, a young man playing - of all things - harmonica, soul guitar fills, and another young woman singing 2,4,6,8,10!, is damn near exhilarating.

And I almost wish I was the guy playing bass throughout.

I can imagine another person hating this music, either on principle alone or in actual practice. (Mrs. Jaybee does occasionally ask “Sooooo, what is this?”, and not in the good way.)

But I guess one person’s timeless music may be another person’s horror, but I’m definitely the “one person” this time around.

Thunder Lightning Strike! is fast, loud and most of all, joyful. Which is what I’m in this for.

A rare instance when youth is NOT wasted on the young.

A-
“Bottle Rocket”

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lucinda in Wonderland

Just about every year, we go to Rehoboth Beach - a small town in Delaware.

What’s best about Rehoboth is what it’s not:

While it’s got the boardwalk with the ice cream, arcades and rides, it’s not the bigger, louder Ocean City about twenty miles further south.

It’s also not the snootier Fenwick Island or Bethany Beach, which we probably couldn’t afford.

Instead, it’s a real nice balance of quiet and not too pricey.

And it’s definitely not that frat boy paradise Dewey Beach just five minutes away, which once appeared on the TV show “Cops”, in an episode that answered the question, Do people really get that drunk?

But Dewey is a perfect location for a place like Bottle and Cork, which purports to be the “greatest rock and roll bar in the world”.

Over our many years of coming to this part of Delaware, there’s been a running joke about how somebody good is always playing at the B&C, either on the day before we got there, or the day after we leave. But never while we’re there.

A couple of years ago, it was the Drive-By Truckers. Another year, it was the Monkees, I think.

But this year was different. Not only was someone playing while we were in town, it was Lucinda Williams. On my birthday, no less.

Now that circumstances were finally conspiring in my favor, the question being put to me was, Well old man, are you going to go to the show or not? I’m 59 years old, you see.

But Lucinda’s 63, so where do I get off wussing out?

I always feel bad for traveling musicians, even those with a bit of fame. Because despite that fame and the odd appearance on Austin City Limits, they still have long hours of travel, and the “joy” of playing in little shithole towns.

So, God only knows what Lucinda may have thought of Dewey. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it, since I rarely spent more than few minutes driving through it. And only during the daytime.

But it’s different at night. During the day, the B&C is closed up like a coffin, but at night it’s wide open, and the partially open air setting, along with the thankfully cooler air, added to the party mood.

So it was worth it to see the look on her face when she and her band came out on stage. She broke out into a big grin when she saw hundreds of folk primed and ready to see her.

Oh, and did I mention that the Bottle and Cork is a BAR? Well, I did, but it bears repeating since it’s really about a dozen little bars strewn about all around where the crowd stands. So a cold beer was always within arm’s reach. And for those with short arms, there were waitresses walking through the crowd with buckets of beer and trays full of jello shots.

To which Lucinda said approvingly, “Make way!”

Anyway, I don’t know if she did her standard set or if she modeled it to the crowd and the place, but the theme was unrequited love (lust, really) and low down dirty rock n’ roll. And the crowd - my age and older, and a good mix of gay and straight, but in various states of drunkenness - was down for it. The women, especially, were loving it.

And it made me wonder if this was what it was like to live out in the country and have, say, Bessie Smith come to town.

Lucinda’s such a great songwriter that it’s easy to forget what a great singer she is. That little quaver in her voice that I love so much took the night off, because this night she was a belting it out. It was a joy to see her just lean back and wail.

And she’s such a pro that, just when you think she seems on the verge of losing control, she still lands on the exact right note every time.

So, like I said, the set was made up mostly of rockers, with a good chunk of songs from Car Wheels On a Gravel Road. But she didn’t forget my favorite - “Crescent City” - from her third album, which is one of my all time favorites. It says something about a show that even though I have nothing by LW since 1998’s Car Wheels, I still enjoyed every song.

And to make sure we knew where she was coming from, during the finale “Joy” her guitar player threw in the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker”.

The encore opened with the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, a song I’ve always hated because it seemed like such a compromise for them.  But Lucinda owned it. The theme all evening was romantic discord, so it suited her and the moment perfectly.  Now everyone please stop playing the Clash version.

Anyway, it’s good to know that one can still be in the middle of nowhere (apologies to Dewey for the provincial attitude I’m now shedding), basically roll out of bed, drive five minutes and then stroll into the greatest rock and roll bar in the world to see a great singer and songwriter.

Now that I’m back in the big metropolis I doubt I’ll be so lucky next time.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chasin’ the Coltrane:

Another record I found in Roommate Mike’s-Record-Collection-Partly-Inherited-From-His-Uncle was History of the Saxophone” a three (five?) record anthology of saxophone music, which I now regret never listening to, and can't find on allmusic.com.

So it should have come as no surprise that when I asked him what his favorite musical instrument was, he would say “saxophone”.  (What? Not GUITAR?  The answer should ALWAYS be guitar!  Write that down, everybody!)

Anyway, there goes another shingle from the roof of my insular little world. And the resulting leak might have been what led me to eventually get Kind of Blue, my first jazz album, and the many others that followed.

Not that I'd notice for a while, but there was this guy who played saxophone on KOB named John Coltrane, whose name I'd eventually remember because of the several prior occasions when I saw people walking around with armloads of records. Never one record. Always an armload.

So my curiosity got the best of me, and over the years I'd get a number - an armload, really, except they're all on CD - of records by him, or at least, with him, like:

Miles Davis’ Round About Midnight and Milestones, Thelonious Monk at Carnegie Hall, and his own Blue Train, Giant StepsLive at the Village Vanguard, My Favorite Things, and A Love Supreme, which are all worthwhile, and some stupendous.

Another motivation for getting these records was hearing a song by him on the radio that was so damned good that I've been searching for it ever since.  I believe the song had the word, "train" in it, which led me to get "Blue Train", and Village Vanguard ("Chasin' the Train"), neither of which is the song I'm looking for. But I'm not really disappointed.

But did I really need another Coltrane? Especially one that has several songs I already had?  Depends what you mean by need.  Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it. But amazon $5 mp3s can be very persuasive.

And this one had bonus tracks, too, so I was sold.




John Coltrane: Afro Blue Impressions (Recorded 1963, Released 1973)

This is post-Miles and Monk, but pre-A Love Supreme, and here he takes several songs I’m already familiar with and begins his journey to outer space with them. But not too far out - I consider it a little mellower than Village Vanguard - but enough to make it interesting.

Which means this record now has some of my favorite versions of these tunes.

The sound is superb, and McCoy Tyner gets to shine, too.  This expanded version runs over two hours and that time just flies.

Admittedly, for a non-jazz fan, it might seem a bit repetitive, but since I've been hooked for a while, and have visions of having a John Coltrane Day at my house and playing all of the above records all day long on September 23, his birthday.

And no, that song I'm looking for is not here. But that's okay. I'll find it someday.

So here’s another journey by this, at first troubled, but then humble, courageous and deeply spiritual man.  It’s a privilege to ride along on.

A-

“Lonnie’s Lament”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Against Masterpieces

I find myself less than impressed with “masterpieces” and “classics” these days. They leave me kind of cold. I’m finding more pleasure in the simple “really good record”.  Which is an album that may be limited in some way, but that provides substantial pleasure, nonetheless.

Like that friend of yours who'll never win a MacArthur Fellowship, but is nonetheless pretty sharp, and fun, too.

So while I may look at my spreadsheet and see any number of albums that have gotten a lot of mentions from various Best of the Year/Decade polls, I also see genres that I’m either tired of, or that can only provide a limited amount of pleasure to the geezer I am now.

Or records that I suspect will impress me with their skill but leave me uninspired or a little down. Which is not to say I don’t like being depressed, just do it well. Mean to do it instead of just ending up doing it because I find you kind of, well, depressing.

So that’s why this record is such a pleasure:



That Petrol Emotion: Babble (1987)

So how did I come across these guys? Well, they were lurking in that spreadsheet but with not as many mentions as some other records I’ll not name (or buy).

I had heard about them back in the eighties. That is a cool name, after all. But since I’d never gotten to hear an actual song I relegated them to the “bands with a clever name and not much else” category.

It turns out that they have an actual history. They rose from the ashes of the punk band the Undertones (another band I’ll have to check out now).  TPE, though, evolved their sound into mostly mid to fast-tempo rock and roll, with lots of chunky guitars and a voice that shouldn’t work, but does. And there’s more melody than one would typically find in such a mix.  The formula is pretty consistent throughout. And why not? It works.

They’re an Irish band that’s darker and rockier than U2. Thank god.

And while no one song completely bowls me over, every single one makes me smile.

At the risk of damning it with faint praise, I'll say that, overall, this a very, very good record.

So the lesson here is to forget about those “masterpieces” and just try to track down those “really good records”.

And who knows?  After a few years, what will I think of it? Will it stay the same in my estimation, or will my affection for these songs continue to grow?  In other words, will I say:
Oh, yeah, that’s a really good record? 
Or
Wow, that’s a masterpiece?  

Who knows?

Who cares?

After all, that friend who actually does win the MacArthur Fellowship is a little too full of himself anyway.

A-

“Swamp”

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mixtape

The Little Plastic Vinyl Case:

We recently had some major renovations done, and in the course of throwing some things away and losing others, you also find some things.

Like an old, tiny vinyl carry case containing a bunch of cassettes. Some tapes were pre-recorded albums and the rest were “mixtapes”.


1963 PB (Pre-Beatles, or Pretty Boring):

If you asked me - at age 6 - what I liked, I might have answered toys or games. I would not have said girls or music.

Why would I like music? Perry Como, Andy Williams and their ilk dominated TV variety shows and I was too young for Elvis to make an impression on me.

And since both of my parents were from Ireland, the only music coming out of the Victrola was by Paddy Noonan, Bridie Gallagher or Mary McGonigle, who, in retrospect, are very good. But not at the time.

So neither television nor the living room was providing any musical inspiration.


Instant Gratification: AM Radio 1964-1969:

And how could it, especially when the Beatles finally arrived?

From 1964 on, turning on the radio meant instant gratification. You’d hear the radio playing on someone’s stoop, or from a passing car. But it always sounded great.

And in the rare moment when you didn’t like what you heard on WABC, you’d simply switch to WMCA and you’d be fine.


Singles:

But as good as radio was, you’d still buy your favorite singles. And when you had enough of them, you and your friends would play them - one after the other - on the stoop with your portable turntable. (I once saw a bunch of older kids marching down Fifth Avenue with their portable turntable in their arms playing a single as they went.  Sooo cool!)

To me, these hours-long singles sessions were the beginnings of the mixtape. We had begun to program our music.


FM:

By 1970 AM radio was getting increasingly frustrating, and the cool kids were moving to FM. But by its very nature it was more exploratory. So for each heavy revelation, there’d be at least a few minutes of boredom.  So we hadn’t given up on AM. Yet.


Albums:

But we were getting into albums by then. But albums - because of their variety of tone - often played better in the solitude of your bedroom than on the stoop or at a party.

So who could resist the urge to take the best of everything and put it all together in one place?


The Beach, or the Mixtape is Born:

By the mid-seventies, while others were still bringing radios to the beach, I’d already switched to just a tape player. I was doing my damnedest to minimize the chance of something awful coming on.

But if you did this, the music had to be energetic. It couldn’t be too slow or too mellow.

Oh, you could get away with middle period Beatles (Revolver, Rubber Soul) later in the afternoon when everyone was getting a little mellow anyway, but otherwise, that music had to move. And flow.

It was pretty challenging because we were no longer agreeing on what music was great.


When I Was Your Age!:

I can finally say that now.  But not about walking to school in the snow, or being without Netflix.

I’m saying it because, back then, it was a pain in the ass to make a mixtape.

At first, you’d simply play a record and try to record it with a microphone, and hope your mom didn’t shout for you to come down for dinner. Thank god they started putting in plugs so you could connect directly to the source.

But it still usually took about 3 hours to do a 90-minute tape. You had to have the right connections between your stereo and your tape player.  If you were very lucky, the tape player would record everything at the same volume. If not, you were subject to the sudden drops and rises in volume from song to song, based on how they were recorded and mastered.

If you were very lucky you had a pause button, which helped you edit out the sound of the tone arm being raised or dropped. Which could otherwise sound like a car crash.


Mixtape as Art: 

But that was the mechanics of it.  Once you had that down, you could do a fairly amateurish tape which had songs you liked in the order you happened to place them on the tape, and that ended simply when you ran out of room on it.

If you were lazy you wouldn’t worry about how much space was wasted at the end of each side. If you were like me (ie, didn’t have a girlfriend) you spent time on such things.

On the other extreme, you would try to build a sequence that naturally segued from one song to the next, and there would be a flow to the entire tape, hopefully with it ending in some sort of climax.

This required the math to calculate how much you could fit on the tape - and on each side of the tape, too.  Which meant editing on the fly when you got it wrong.


Aesthetic Differences:

I didn’t like it when someone would go to the trouble of putting a very popular song on a mixtape. Why go to that trouble when you were likely to hear it on the radio anyway?

There was a bit of snobbery at work here, too. If it was popular, I probably hated it.

So you’re songs had to:

  • Not be overplayed
  • Be recognizable, or at least very very catchy
  • Have decent sound quality, either in volume or overall dynamics.



Tapes Lost:

But then you get married and have kids and who has time for all that?

And there were a lot of tapes that were lost or went down with the cars.

I can think of dozens of songs that made it onto those tapes that have since been lost. This is a real shame because by then the whole pacing thing got easier. But I’d have to have the original playlists to put them back together.

Old, lost tapes, I salute you!


Tapes Found:

But I did find that vinyl case, and a few tapes survived.

The first one - from about 1987 - was pretty simple: All REM. It was relatively easy to make because it consisted almost entirely of  Chronic Town and Murmur with smatterings of later albums added and edited in along the way.  And all coming from vinyl.

And it still sounds very good.

But even I realized we couldn’t just listen to REM all day, so I’d made another one, which also survived.  And after almost thirty years, it holds up pretty well. I made it in about 1989, and reflects what we were listening to at the time, so it’s almost all music from the 1980s as opposed to “eighties music”.

I tell people I hated the 80s. Mrs. Jaybee says I'm full of sh*t. This tape is proof that we're both right. This tape is virtually hit-free! Just a bunch of relative obscurities that made the decade bearable for me.  This one must have been made in the fall. It just sounds that way.

David Bowie - “TVC15”, from Station to Station, which we’d only recently gotten. This is such an infectious song and a perfect opener. Never has Bowie been so damned playful.

The Bangles - “September Gurls”, from Different Light. This is the song that pretty much defines the tape.  El got Different Light for Christmas that year and this is probably the most Beatle-y cut of a very Beatle-y album. Very pretty and autumnal, naturally. I heard this before I ever heard the bonkers Big Star version. And the beat is ever so slightly faster than “TVC15”.

Neil Young - “Hold On To Your Love”, from the much-maligned Trans. I had the weird experience of hearing this for the first and second time in public on the very same day - once in a record store in Manhattan and then again that night at Adventureland in Long Island. I found it so pretty I had to have the album. I should have - and may have originally - put this before the Bangles given the slightly sci-if sound, but beat wise it’s in the right place.

The B52s - “She Brakes for Rainbows”, from Bouncing off the Satellites.  Continuing the spacey theme. But not as kooky as you’d expect from the 52s. Sweet, melodic, forgiving.

‘Til Tuesday “Voices Carry” – Probably the only hit here. A good segue from pretty to ominous. Aimee Mann’s voice and the 80s synthesizer are not embarrassing at all.

The Rolling Stones - “Child of the Moon” - Don’t know why I forced this one in here. Probably because it’s got that lovely guitar and melody.  It probably should have gone after the Bangles.

‘Til Tuesday - “Maybe Monday” because I did such a lousy job with the editing, I cut off a second or two of the beginning and this just explodes at the start. My favorite song by them.

U2 – “In God’s Country” - The guitar here picks up from where “Child of the Moon” left off but what the hell. And for once, I can take them without a grain of salt. It’s pretty enough and fast enough to carry the weight Bono puts on it. And with some memorable phrases, (Punch a hole right through the sky...every day the dreamers die...Sad eyes,crooked crosses, in God's country.) It almost makes me cry.

The Replacement’s great one-two punch from Let it BeSatisfied/Seen Your Video”. The first with the brilliant acoustic guitar intro, loud bang, shout to get things rolling, and great vocal.

And then “Seen Your Video” to take it out with a little comedy and a lot of rock and roll. It  starts off with a minute of a sleak show-business-y instrumental theme, and then changes to a rockier, guided-missile theme, and then, finally, the words arrive to tell you they’ve seen your video (you’re another band, you see) and they hate it. (Seen your video! Your phony rock and roll! We don’t wanna know!) Just what I wanted to hear in the mid-eighties

The B-52s “Wig” from Bouncing off the Satellites and one of the best tracks of the 80s, off of one of their lesser known but still quite good records. Never has a record started off so completely off-kilter and random and ended so focused and powerful. Along the way it gets funny, and then, between Fred’s and Kate’s vocals, builds and builds until the drumming – which seemed goofy at the beginning – is now joined by some power chords to bring it all to a stunning close.

And now from the ridiculous to the sublime, Kate Bush -” Hounds of Love” – from The Whole Story My favorite KB song. The dynamics on this are wonderful. It opens with someone announcing “It’s coming! Through the trees!” And the drums make me believe him. And it turns out to be Kate - or at least her voice - swooping down from heaven, and then sweeping back up again. Whatever religion this is, I’m joining it.

And that's it for side one.



Side Two:

Blondie “Picture This” One of the many gems on Parallel Lines. Debbie Harry is one of the realest singers ever in that she sings like people talk. Oh Yeah!!!!

The Divinyls - “Don’t You Go Walking” from What a Life! - So the Divinyls came and went and somehow we got their second album, supposedly not as good as their first.  So why do I think side one is one of the best of the decade? Which is why I put almost all of it on this tape, minus the actual hit, of course.  This one is kinda fast and kinda loud.

“ Good Die Young” They slow it down a bit but add emotion and it’s wonderful

“Sleeping Beauty”, and even slower, even more emotion,

“Motion”, okay, enough of all that. Now it’s back to fast and loud and not so much a vocal as a roar. A great, great rocker.

Peter Gabriel “Red Rain” - I don’t know. I guess I should have ended the tape with the Divinyls. Now I have nowhere to go but back down from here. So I start over with my third favorite PG song. A nod to Prince maybe?

Human Switchboard - “Who’s Landing in My Hangar?” Yeah, just try finding this album. So we go from the lush “Red Rain” to the plain tacky “Hangar”, but it’s worth it for the title alone, but also because of that rough guitar and messy farfisa organ.

The English Beat - “Best Friend” The first of two absolute classics by the Beat. The first, with a twelve string electric guitar combined with speeded up ska.

“Two Swords” - This time, punk guitar and ska. Intense and heartfelt. Two swords slashing at each other, only sharpen one another, and in the long run even he’s your brother…

Talking Heads “Pulled Me Up” This song answers the question What if Psychokiller (the prior cut on Talking Heads '77 was brought up right? Never has gratitude ever been quite so… scary.

The Eagles “Tryin”, courtesy of Randy Meisner, back when fame and cocaine hadn’t yet gone to their heads. A fine rock and roll song.

Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns “Don’t Bug Me Baby” from their first record. Joe takes up the mantle of Doug Sahm and Sam the Sham, but adds amphetamines. So we go out on one of the great themes of Western Civilization, at least from the male point of view. But then again, there’s no reason a woman couldn’t sing this song, too.

So that's it. Probably my favorite mixtape of all.  But there are others.

You've been warned.