Saturday, June 17, 2017

Short, Sharp Shocks, or Smaller is Better:

As you might recall (no, you don’t. Who’s kidding who? Only I’d recall something like this.) vinyl albums held about forty minutes worth of music. You could fit up to an hour or so, but forty was the average.

So my natural skinflintedness meant that, if for no other reason (other than not having to get up off my ass every 20 minutes to flip it over), I’d love the CD format (about 80 minutes of music per), even if they cost a bit more than vinyl.

Ah, but what if the music is there just to fill up the space? Whereas before artists had to pick and choose only the best of their new songs to fit on vinyl, now they could spread out like those guys sitting on the subway train, with results that could be just as uncomfortable.

So I eventually came to “appreciate” (ie, respect and even enjoy, while still writing to my congressperson about instituting unit pricing on albums) the "short album".

Early rock n’ roll albums were pretty short, mainly because the songs were short. Even twelve of them wouldn’t always hit thirty - let alone forty - minutes.

Songs are just longer now.

Now, if I were to fully embrace my inner (and soon to be outer) grumpy old man and combine it with my natural nerdiness...well, for one thing, I’d end up with one hell of a super-villain.

But I’d also endlessly debate the merits of musical unit-pricing based on songs per dollar vs. minutes per dollar.  I can just see the entire Marvel and DC Universe surrendering to me, on the one condition that I just shut the f*ck up. Now that’s winning, baby!

Anyway, last year’s Puberty 2 by Mitski was pretty short (about 31 minutes) but didn’t feel that way. Not sure if that’s a compliment, but it’s probably because there are eleven songs on it

And this year, I came across a few records that come up short timewise, but not aesthetics-wise.


Cloud Nothings.jpg
The Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory (2012)

Although it only has eight songs that run 33 minutes it feels complete, and even generous. Now that’s intensity!

This foursome plays aggressive-to-harsh electric guitars a la Parquet Courts but change tone often enough - and add melody enough - to keep it all from beating you down.

There’s even a burst of Feelies drone-guitar in the cheerier-than-average “Fall In”.

The mid 20s singer complains a lot, but his gravelly voice sounds old and vaguely threatening, verging on ugly. And when things get out of hand, they careen out of control and crash.

But they pull themselves out of the ditch and start up again, with guitars propelling them along the way.


"Fall In"

The Harsh Mirror:

Death Cab.jpg
Death Cab for Cutie: The Open Door EP (2009)

Damn, I lost focus again and forgot to keep it in the decade!

I have a hard time even saying their name, both for silliness and sheer mechanics. (You try saying it fast.)

And, admittedly it's an EP, not an album. But, like with the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor, just let it go.

I had already gotten a taste of Ben Gibbard’s songwriting from Postal Service. And like on that album, his melodies can seem a bit mechanical, as if he plotted them out on graph paper.

What works for it, though - like the atmospherics of Give Up - is the sturdy rocking band behind him.
So the outcome is a little more organic.

And the lyrics are filled with painful self-examination. Not the physical kind.  That comes later in life, boys!


"My Mirror Speaks"

Sweet (and Weird) and Lovely:

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine (2014)

 I’ve only had this for about a week, so I should really wait to digest it, but I just don’t want to.

Nutboy recommended this to me a while ago, but I immediately lost his email.  Well, I finally dug it up, and I'm glad I did.

Sweet, quiet, with odd and everyday sounds mixed in. King Creosote provides the former, with a voice so fragile you think it’s going to shatter. Jon Hopkins, who I will talk about in another post, provides the latter, and helps to keep this from going down too easy. Together, they make a Scottish Neil Young.

But you’d better play it early, before the neighborhood noises start to drown it out. Yes, it's that fragile.

But well worth it.


"Your Own Spell"

Saturday, June 10, 2017

World History Project: Costco Opera House, Part One

As is usual, I’m lying before I even get past the title (run for president, should I?), because it was probably BJs. And come to think of it, “Opera and BJs” makes for a more interesting title. It certainly catches the eye.

Still, it might have been Costco, but I’m remembering being in a big box shopping hell hole with the wife and then child when we came across the CDs and, what the hell, I also saw Morrissey’s Your Arsenal and REMs Automatic for the People, which Sister Mag was just raving about at the time, and well, you can’t beat those prices, can you?

I’ll probably remember it differently next time.

No, it was definitely BJs (maybe), and so even though all of the above probably wasn’t even the same trip, what it was was that I bought a Ten(!) CD set of Opera Highlights for ten bucks. That’s one buck per opera! (Notice that I saved you from doing the math.) So the price was right. It was similar to when I joined the Musical Heritage Society back when I was young and open minded, and got an eight record set of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies for fifteen bucks. (Always buy your classical music in bulk, I say!)

Actually, I’m suspicious of anything that you can easily purchase in such quantity, but in this case it wouldn’t go bad like that 50 lb. bag of potatoes we thought we would actually cook, or those twin economy boxes of Saran Wrap that I bought when I thought we were running out. (Of course, we weren’t. We were actually running out of tin foil! But that’s another crisis for another post.) Instead, we had a lifetime’s worth of Saran Wrap. And I mean that literally because although it was at least twenty years ago we still haven’t run out.

So I listened to them all ten of them once and then put them away for a very long time. Longer than the potatoes. Every once in awhile they’d come out again, but they never made it to heavy rotation.

But I'm going through the World History Project right now so why not give them a re-listen?

I’m currently stuck in the 1760s, where I’m trying to read, among other things, the Chernow biographies of Washington and Hamilton, and Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon, so I’ll be there for a while. I may never get to Costco again...

Which brings me to:

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (1762)

Not the whole thing, mind you, but good hour’s worth. Remember, it’s Highlights.

So I’ve listened to this dozens of times while I wait to get to to the Revolutionary War.

And it’s pretty good! A nice ratio of singing and playing. And the singing isn’t too melodramatic. In other words, not every operatic, which suits me just fine.

You don’t get that feeling that you’re watching it on PBS on a boring Sunday afternoon, waiting for something to happen, and then when it does happen, you wished it would stop.

I put it on before reading in bed (hence the dozens of times), and still wouldn’t be positive I’d recognize it in any other context.

But it doesn’t cause me to scream and go running for another viewing of Black Orpheus.

So, overall, you could do a lot worse than this one, and I swear if they ever do it at the Met again, I'll go.

But in the meantime, I'll see you Costco. I’ll be the angry one.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Blackstar 4: Five Hundred Miles(es)

Remember how I said it’s sad to go through the $3.99 mp3 pages? Well, it’s not always Sad sad. It’s just you spend a lot of time (400 pages worth) going through what looks to be pretty awful stuff before you stumble upon a gem. And you (and I) may not have that kind of time. Let’s agree to not do it when it’s sunny out, okay?

So, one dark and stormy night I found myself there and what do I do? I let myself get further distracted from the current decade, and, like someone who stumbled into The Time Tunnel, find myself back in 1969.


Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969-1974

Miles Davis was the Kanye West of his time. A genius, and egotist, who delighted in outraging white people, at a time when that was even more dangerous to do than it is now. Actually, Kanye seems a little nicer.

But there are many Mileses (Miless? Miles's?). There’s post-World War II trumpeter with Charlie Parker, who, frankly, had a hard time keeping up. The band leader for Birth of the Cool. The heroin addict who cleaned himself up before going onto his truly great achievements, like Kind of Blue (my favorite, but so what? That’s everybody’s favorite.) Oh, and he managed to fit in being the leader of at least two of the all-time great jazz small combos.

But as time went on, he was getting a little tired of toiling in relative obscurity - critical acclaim doesn’t pay the bills you see - and seeing rock n roll stars hitting it big, he began to change his music yet again.

First, there was In A Silent Way, which is a perfectly lovely and accessible, if not overpowering, mood record. And to a lot of jazz fans, maybe not jazz at all.

But if they thought that wasn’t jazz, they were in for greater outrage, because he then moved on to Bitch’s Brew, the highly-regarded - and highly controversial - jazz fusion classic.

My favorite from that period is Jack Johnson, which came right after Bitches. It has all of Bitch's thrills in half the time.

And he’d go on throughout the seventies in a genre that was kind of forbidding to me. He was always quite prolific, and he didn’t slow down until 1977, putting out album after album, many of the doubles.  I didn’t even start on Miles until 1980, so there was no way I’d be able to find my way through his catalog. Miles is one of those artists for whom you really need a guide.

But this record is a remix/re-edit of pieces from that era, and frankly, I can’t tell the difference between it and the originals. But it is a tight, condensed version of those sprawling records.

So this is a great starting point. If you like it, then move onto Silent and then maybe Johnson. And then, if you’re feeling dangerous, dive into this era with the original records. Of course, if this era isn’t your bag, then Kind of Blue is the way to go.

But it you decide to come here, and you’re willing to sit back and let it all unfold, you won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Blackstar 3: Wonder of the World

Damn you, amazon! You helped me focus me on my goal of catching up with the best music from the current decade with $5 mp3s by Kanye and Kendrick, only to pull me all the way back to the sixties.

Taj Mahal: The Best of… (2000)

But it does lead right back up to the present day since Taj is still out there playing shows.

An artist like Taj Mahal falls somewhere in between blues legends that you’d normally check out first if you wanted to explore that genre, and all the artists you already like in your favorite genre.  In other words, if you don’t know about him already, it might take some time before you check him out.

After all, the last thing I want is to get stuck in a banal genre exercise, especially from several decades ago. But I’m just making excuses because that’s what I did.

Anyway, amazon came to the rescue and gave me a cheap and efficient way of digging in. And I’m glad I did.

He starts out playing songs originally sung in the cotton fields, which might explain why I enjoyed it so much while planting the bulbs in my front yard! (Because those things are practically the same, right?)

So after I pulled my head out of my ass in that regard, I noted that this is where you will find the arrangement of “Statesboro Blues” that the Allmans used on Fillmore East. I love the Brothers but this is nearly a direct lift.

And “Leaving Trunk” has the guitar riff later used on “American Woman”.

If like me, you first heard “Take a Giant Step” done by the Monkees, you might not even recognize it here. His version came afterward, but he makes it all his own.

So in short order, he shot past the blues, and dipped into pop on his way to country and reggae, where he does a rocking “Six Days on the Road”, and a mournful “Johnny Too Bad”. And he keeps going from there.

The theme that runs consistently throughout this best-of is how Taj puts his personal stamp on songs both old and new.

So my fears of that banal genre exercise were completely unfounded, as we go from one wonderful song to another.

If you’re still not convinced, check out his funky “Oh, Susannah”, which says it all.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blackstar 2: Kendrick Lamar Doesn’t Care If I Like It Or Not

So I guess I was lying about dinner with Kanye, but facts don’t matter anymore, so sue me.

It’s usually after dinner when the amazon $5 mp3s strike. They say don’t go food shopping while you’re hungry. I shouldn’t go music shopping when I’m full. It gives me too much endurance. Like Superman, I could climb tall record-store racks in a single bound. So paging through a few dozen pages worth of amazon mp3s is a snap. (But my advice is to stick to the $5 ones, the $3.99 ones - 400 pages worth - are a little sad, even for me.)

But it does give me more opportunities to catch up on this decade. It’s where I found an artist whose record will definitely show up on a lot of Best of the Decade lists.

And he’s already released a couple of new ones! So here I am, as usual, one record behind.

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

“Be honest. Do you really enjoy that album?” Mrs. Jaybee asked me today

It’s a fair question. Hip-hop isn’t a genre I’d ordinarily gravitate to. Plus, she must have found it funny to watch a sixty-year-old white guy listening to this.

So we both went through the album, rating each song from ick/meh/pretty good/great. And I showed her that my overall answer to her question was a guarded, but definite, Yes.

Not that Kendrick Lamar is losing any sleep over this. He’s got more important things on his mind.

But I’ll do my best to say why, with some half-assed observations based on my limited knowledge. I’ll use Kanye (as a crutch) for comparison purposes.

Like Kanye, when he bothers to meet me halfway, I enjoy it the most. I could swear he’s sampling Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” on “These Walls”, but can’t prove it. (It’s really “Hit the Quan” by Iheartmemphis.)

And my oh my, what a cool piano on “What a Dollar Cost”!

And where Kanye’s always talking about himself, Kendrick, in talking about himself, is really talking about an entire community. So while any of us can have a good laugh over Kanye bragging or feuding with someone, For Kendrick, the stakes are just too high.

And while I enjoy the parts less where he doesn’t meet me halfway, there’s no doubt that it’s my problem. The samples he uses are almost uniformly unknown to me, which puts into greater relief how African American culture is doing just fine without me, f*ck you very much.

And as difficult and painful as the story is, by the time you get to “i” (sampling the Isley’s “Who’s that Lady?”) the joy is real and well-earned.

So while Kendrick isn’t as funny as Kanye he’s also less of an egomaniac.

And where Kanye uses rock n' roll on Fantasy as an obvious crossover move, Lamar gracefully deploys jazz because he likes it.

Kanye’s first album ends with a 12-minute monolog about getting a record deal, this one ends with a 12-minute meditation on what it means to be an African-American man in America. (Kanye tries to do this on Fantasy, but could only come up with a dated and sexist Gil Scott-Heron poem.

So I give the edge to Kanye on sheer entertainment value, Kendrick gives me much more to think about.

I don’t get all of this, by any means, but that’s on me.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Blackstar 1: My Dinner with Kanye

The end of the decade (and the planet) is looming, so what can be more important than making sure my “Best Albums of the Decade” (assuming we make it that far) list is respectable?  And how can I do that if I continue to avoid what a lot of people think is the decade’s best music?

I became a little gunshy regarding hip-hop. Being a melody and electric guitar guy, I could only seem to enjoy it up to a point. And I want to love music, not merely like or admire it.

But there are just too many artists I’ve bypassed for that reason - Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, the Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Danny Brown. And as a self-respecting music fan, I must do my due diligence.

And Kanye scores!


Kanye West: My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy (2010)

We all have a Kanye story.

We all have (at least) one occasion when - like President Obama - we deemed Kanye a jackass.

It’s like when they ask you "Where were you when Kennedy was killed?", or for the younger folk, when 9/11 happened. Now it’s "Where were you when Kanye said I’ma let you finish…?"

My last one was when he posed for pictures with Trump. Kanye, you may have thought that he was a fellow misunderstood genius, but he's not, and you mean nothing to him. You were used. I didn’t think you were that dumb.

Another one was when he married a for-profit attention whore whose name I refuse to further sully the internet with.

And then there was the time he trashed the Grammys for awarding Best Album to Beck (Morning Phase was my favorite that year) instead of Beyonce (or was it him? I don’t really care.)

Digression 1: My Purge of the Grammys

Now I’m always amazed when the Grammys like an album I like. (The time before that was The Suburbs by Arcade Fire) This is due as much to sheer demographics as taste. Now, I’m just too old to matter to the music industry. I was always too weird.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, I remember watching the Grammy's with frustration and ultimately disdain as they gave awards to unworthy musicians. (“Mrs. Robinson” over “Hey Jude” for Best Record? Please.) Sound familiar?

Digression 2: My Barbecue with Sara

A few years ago, we had the in-laws over for a barbecue. I was in the backyard cooking and listening to The Who Sell Out, (my all time favorite record) when my niece Sara - then a teenager - came out back.

Now, I should mention that I used to believe in the principle of Great Music Will Be Loved By Everyone Who Hears It.

Anyway, Sara says “Uncle John, what’s with the corny music?”

Another illusion shattered.

But I reassembled it somewhat, and it now reads Great Music Has the Potential To Be Recognized By Anyone Who Hears It. And I still believe this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t buy the records I do.

But I should have realized she'd react that way. Hell, I don't even think I liked the album the first time I heard it. Why should she?

But even given the chance, I still think she'd conclude it was corny because she just doesn't care as much about melody and electric guitars.

And although I haven't heard it, I suspect Beyonce's album is more to her liking and that she'd think Beck was corny, too. So, why shouldn’t Kanye? (Remember Kanye? It’s a post about Kanye.)

Dinner Time:

Which is why I can't get too annoyed with him. He cares, he's passionate. For all I know, he’s secretly in love with Beyonce. He sure loves himself. And now, after all these years, I can see how healthy that must be.

And judging from this record, he makes pretty great music too.

Up until now, I wasn’t sure. I liked his first record, but not the 12-minute monolog at the end about how he got a record deal.

This time out, he adds a hard rock texture - guitars (!) and melody (!!) - to a lot of the songs.

Every song has a great vocal, hook, texture or lyric to offer, and there are no dead spots at all. My only complaint is that he mars the otherwise stellar “The Blame Game” with a gross Chris Rock monolog.  But even that’s funny.

And while I still don’t quite love it, I’m really happy I got it. Kanye may have saved hip-hop - and my principle - for me.

So, to this impossible, egotistical, narcissistic self-proclaimed genius, I say, Damn!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Then She Died...

So there I was, just revving up for the new year, determined to catch up, not just with the current decade overall, but with the current year in particular.

I’d already gotten a couple of highly praised hip-hop albums (not exactly my go-to genre, but, damn it, I want to know) and then followed up with two more albums and an EP, because amazon $5 mp3s said so.

And then my mom died.

She was 95, so it wasn’t exactly a shocking development. I still managed to be surprised, though.

I was charged with/volunteered for creating a playlist for the funeral chapel.

We’re Irish and Mom was from the other side. In prior posts, I’ve described how Irish music was used by my parents as a kind of bulwark against the British Invasion of the early sixties. Me and my parents would always be at odds over music.

In a testament to his authority, my dad’s famous announcement in 1964 - “There will never be a Beatles album in this house.” actually held for almost two years. And our mutual incomprehension of each other’s tastes and enthusiasms would continue for the next two decades.

My dad had been long dead when mom moved to the assisted living facility. We sold the house and I somehow “inherited” their albums, which came in handy when I compiled the playlist. My siblings also gave me a couple of dozen suggestions.

There were some artists and songs that were obvious to me, like Bridie Gallagher, Larry Cunningham, The Clancy Brothers, The Wolftones and Anne Murray, plus anyone who’d do a song she really liked, like “The Patriot Game”.

And The Sound of Music.

Oddly enough, although she loved Bing Crosby, he didn’t make the cut. For some reason, none of his songs - even the Irish ones - stuck with me as being family favorites, no matter how popular they may have been.

So that got me about forty songs. But since the wake would consist of two sittings for a total of five hours, I felt I’d need quite a few more to fill that time. (Funny how simply replaying the list never occurred to me.) So I started going through my own collection and added songs I thought she’d like. Which was really just an excuse to add songs I liked.  (Uh, Jaybee, who actually died, anyway?)

Which I did and I ended up with nearly a hundred. I'll cut it down to 95, in honor of her age.

For the life of me, I couldn’t find “The Irish Rebel”. And forgot “Carrickfergus” (check out the Bryan Ferry version if you can) and a handful of others.

Sequencing them was a snap - I sorted them in order of duration. This is an extremely under-rated way to organize a playlist, by the way. Structure, pace and tone can be remarkably similar in songs that both run about 2:05.

So here they are. Sorry Mom! And may God have mercy on my soul:

  1. “At Last”, by Neko Case: A primal animal cry about our fragile existence, from the point of view of an unspecified animal.
  2. “Edelweiss”, from The Sound of Music, and one of mom’s favorites. And she’s absolutely right. It’s simple, beautiful, and patriotic.  
  3. “Redford”, by Sufjan Stevens. My choice. I’m not sure mom would have liked this haunting, mournful theme by Sufjan. I sure do, though.  
  4. “There’s a Heartache Following Me”, by Jim Reeves, included because I thought mom loved Jim Reeves and I knew the Pete Townshend version. In fact, she loved Eddy Arnold. My confusion continues below.
  5. “This Will Be Our Year”, by the Zombies. A song of renewal. I imagine it being about my mom and dad overcoming yet another tragedy and deciding they’d just carry on and things would get better.  
  6. “Faust Arp”, by Radiohead, included for no other reason than that it fits the mood I needed. 
  7. “The Sound of Music”. Not the famous version, with Julie Andrews shrieking like a B-52 strafing the Alps (although mom loved that one, too) but rather the one with the whole Von Trapp family joining in. It's quite touching when the Captain - a man who didn't think he'd ever sing again - joins in. It gives me hope.   
  8. “Snowbird”, by Anne Murray. I really want to hate this song, but the melody - and the words - wins me over every time.  
  9. “A Rose For Emily”, by the Zombies. This is a sad one a la “Eleanor Rigby”. It really doesn’t apply, except that it still does suck to get old.  
  10. “He’ll Have to Go”, another one by Jim Reeves, and pretty sexy, too. Mom liked to sing along to this one. Good for her. 
  11. “Last Thing On My Mind”Anne Murray again, and mom singing to it again. And as much as I’d like to dismiss her taste (she sure as sh*t dismissed mine) I can’t. A pretty folky version, too. 
  12. “Wild Mountain Thyme”, by the Byrds. I know she liked the song, but probably by the Clancy Brothers. But this is the version I love.
  13. “Lovely Leitrim”, by Larry Cunningham. We played Two Sides of Larry endlessly, and it actually “took” for us kids. There were some great songs on this album, but damned if I could find any on iTunes. This seems like a re-recording. But it’s pretty great nonetheless. 
  14. “Make the World Go Away”, by Eddy Arnold. This one used to drive me crazy when I was a kid, but mom loved it, so, given how much I like “Heartache” and “He’ll Have to Go”, and how I hadn't yet figured out that it was not Jim Reeves, I have to let this one slide.  
  15. “Underneath the Weeping Willow”, by Grandaddy. This one’s all mine. Mom would probably have mocked it as a real sad sack song. And it is! One of the sad sack-iest ever. Enjoy! 
  16. “Brennan on the Moor”, by the Clancy Brothers. This one is just about buried into my DNA. And yet, I don’t remember anyone ever referring to it. But we did play it, and I think I heard my brother - six years old at the time - singing it like he was one of the Clancys himself. 
  17. “Naples”, by Yo La Tengo. Just one of those happy collisions of mood and circumstance. 
  18. “Streets of Laredo”, by Marty Robbins. Just a perfect song, really. Yeah, mom had pretty good taste. And the story? Oh, just rip my heart out, why don’t you? 
  19. “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”, by Smashing Pumpkins. I dare you to tell me that this doesn’t belong here.  
  20. “Kevin Barry”, by the Davitts. Another rebel song. I know that, deep down, she could identify with anyone who was oppressed and who rebelled against it. 
  21. “So Long, Farewell”TSOM again. I love the end when all the guests say good night.  
  22. “San Francisco”, by Scott McKenzie. I’m so glad she loved this one. She didn’t let the flowers in their hair part bother her.  
  23. “John Riley”, by the Byrds. Another unabashedly romantic song that I think she’d love. The story of a stranger who asks to marry a maiden, who cannot accept because she’s already given her heart to someone who’s gone away for seven years. Spoiler alert! There’s a twist at the end. But it brings a tear to my eye every single time. 
  24. “Gentle Mother”, by Foster and Allen. I’m not sure which version mom liked, but this one fit the bill.  
  25. “Strange Boat”, by The Waterboys. It is probably meant for something else altogether, but it fits my mom and dad’s stories perfectly. 
  26. “Hills of Donegal”, by Bridie Gallagher, or as I like to call her, “She Who Shall Not Be Named” Get through this if you can. 
  27. “Carrie and Lowell”, by Sufjan Stevens. From his album of the same name, about the loss of his mom, with whom he had a strained relationship. I can relate. 
  28. “Caide Sin Don Te Sin?”, by Atlan. One of the better ones from Celtic Moods, which I leaned a little too heavily on, and is too slick by half.  
  29. “Could I Have this Dance?”, by Anne Murray. Another one she’d single along to. (Christ, she was always singing to me!)  
  30. “Something Good”, from guess what? About Mom and Dad, I’d like to think. 
  31. “Strangers”, by the Kinks. For most of our lives, mom and me were strangers to each other. Neither one quite understanding the other. I went from black sheep to saint (a finicky one, I admit) in her eyes. Thanks, mom, but wrong on both counts. I wonder now what I got wrong about her... Strangers on this road we are on, but we are not two, we are one.  
  32. “Red is the Rose”, by Nanci Griffin and the Chieftains. This one is pretty and I love Griffin’s voice. The Chieftains totally nail it, of course. It’s just not one of my favorites, but this list is about mom, right Jaybee?
  33. “Home to Mayo”, by the Screaming Orphans. I tried to find the version by Bridie Gallagher, whose power-drill voice scarred all of us kids way back in ‘63. Thank god for the Beatles, who rescued us shortly after. But really, this is not a bad song at all.  
  34. “The Coolin”, by Celtic Roots. Meh, I've heard better.
  35. “Holland”, by Sufjan Stevens. This lovely song has the perfect tone for a quiet funeral parlor, but maybe not a full, Irish one, though.
  36. “Little Beggar Girl”, by Richard and Linda Thompson, is one of the most amazing songs of the 70s. So full of life, wisdom and delusion. The title sounds sad but the melody is joyous about a rather bleak situation. I think my mom would have loved it.  
  37. “Withered and Died”, by Richard and Linda Thompson. Okay, there’s no mistaking the mood here. One of the saddest songs ever, because nothing makes us Irish folk happier than sadness. 
  38. “When I Get to the Border”, by Richard and Linda Thompson, who almost make death sound good. Mom, I’ll see you on the other side of the border some day. 
  39. “Brief Candles”, by the Zombies. Even though she made it to 95, the candles are still too brief. 
  40. “My Life”, by Iris DeMent, is the single greatest song to hear if you ever fear your life hasn’t added up to much. 
  41. “The Crib of Perches”, by Matt Maloy. Celtic Moods again! But at least this one’s actually Celtic. Again, mom may not have gone for the sheer prettiness of it.  
  42. “Always on My Mind”, by Willie Nelson, who wrote and recorded hundreds of songs before he hit it really big with this one. But if it wasn’t for my mom hearing it and telling me he could really sing, I may never have checked him out.  
  43. “Has He Got a Friend for Me”, by Richard and Linda Thompson. Another really sad one, and at this point mom may have drawn the line.   
  44. “Four Green Fields”, by the Clancy Brothers. I was really looking for the Mary McGonigle version but couldn’t find it. In the throes of teenage rock n roll I mistook this for a stupid little song about a farm until my mom pointed out that the Irish practically invented metaphor. 
  45. “Blackbird”, by Sharon Shannon, who does a lovely, jaunty little instrumental. What’s not to like?  
  46. “Gentle Annie”, by Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy. A little too stiff  in the singing department, as are a lot of the Clancy songs. But I’m glad I avoided a Celtic Moods version! 
  47. “All of Me Wants All of You”, by Sufjan Stevens, The line about masturbation slid in there without notice. So it counts as an improvement over my adolescence.  
  48. “In My Hour of Darkness”, by Gram Parsons. With a reference to a beloved elder’s impending death, it fit my mood perfectly. 
  49. "The Patriot Game", by the Wolfe Tones. This is one of the greatest songs ever written. (Dylan stole the melody for "With God on Our Side”.) To this day, I can’t tell if it’s pro or anti- war.  
  50. “Bonny Boy”, by Kathleen Fitzgerald. I couldn’t find the Larry Cunningham version. But this one’s pretty good anyway. 
  51. “Find A River”, by REM, at their very best. The climax of Automatic for the People, their death album. None of this is going my way…
  52. “Questions for the Angels”, by Paul Simon. Sweet, gentle and earned after a full life. Art Garfunkel was never really needed.  
  53. “Try Not to Breath”, by REM. Also from AFTP, directly confronting death. I have seen things you will never see. I’ll bet you have.  
  54. “Endgame”, by REM, but this time from Out of Time, one of my all time favorite albums. As beautiful as “Near Wild Heaven” is, it was too obtrusive to be here. This will do just dandy. 
  55. “For the Widows in Paradise…”. Another Sufjan Stevens gem. He’s got so many. 
  56. “Death With Dignity”Sufjan again. Every road leads to an end. 
  57. “Electrolite”, by REM. Maybe the greatest song of the 90s. Your eyes are burning holes through me. Well, that’s mom. I’m not scared. I’m out of here. I’d like to think that’s her, too. 
  58. “Brokedown Palace”, by the Grateful Dead - I’ll get to the reason this is here a little later. 
  59. “Love and Hard Times”, by Paul Simon. The word "love" appears a lot in this song. I’m normally suspicious of that. But if you’ve been around as long as Simon, you’ve earned the right to use it all you want. 
  60. “Ripple”, by the Grateful Dead. When I was a teenager, I was forever playing records to convince my mom that "rock and roll was good". I’d try to be subtle and just put something on when she was in the room. It NEVER worked. (“Celluloid Heroes”? “John, I think there’s a scratch on that record!”). But one day, this song was just playing, and without any prompting, she said “Oh, now that’s a nice song there, John”  Thanks mom. I love you. And that’s why “Brokedown Palace” - and an even greater song later on - is here, too, 
  61. “Dusty in Here”, by the Go-Betweens. I wasn’t happy about what the new owners did to my parent’s house, but it relieves me and my siblings of having to see an abandoned house, like the one the narrator of this song visits.   It’s cold.. It’s cold, it’s cold,  and dusty in here.  Brrr. 
  62. “Long Journey Home”, by Elvis Costello, from the film The Irish In America. My mom and dad have as much right to this as anyone.  
  63. “Nightswimming”, by REM. Yet another on from AFTP, but not about death, thank god. About youth, I guess. But after all these sad songs we all deserve a break. 
  64. “Sweetness Follows”, by REM. Readying to bury your father and your mother. What did you think when you lost another? The song promises a relief I’m not feeling just yet. 
  65. “Return of the Grievous Angel”, by Gram Parsons. And I remember something you once told me, and I’ll be damned if it did not come true. Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down, and they all led me straight back home to you. AND I saw my devil and I saw my deep blue sea.  
  66. “When She Sang About Angels”, by the Go-Betweens. It just feels right here. 
  67. “Samain Night”, by Loreena McKennitt. She sings too good by half, but I have to hand it to her here. Another Celtic Mood. If I had more Irish records I might not have had to rely on it so much. 
  68. “Dazzling Blue”, by Paul Simon. By now, after all this mourning, we need that haunting electric guitar, the harmonies and Simon’s words: And we’ll build a wall that nothing can break through, and dream our dreams of dazzling blue.  
  69. “Pilgrim’s Progress”, by Procol Harum. The words have all been writ by one before me, We're taking turns in trying to pass them on. The ending theme KILLS me. If you can hear it and not be moved, I don’t think I want to know you.  
  70. “America Without Tears”, by Elvis Costello.It seems we’ve been crying for years and years. Mom, Dad, I hope you copped some joy out of all of this.  
  71. “The Fields of Athenry”, by Paddy Reilly. Yet another Irish tragedy. 
  72. “Fourth of July”, by Sufjan. Maybe the most haunting one from Carrie and Lowell
  73. “Romulus”. Sufjan again. A painful song about an absent mother. Mom and I didn’t always get along, but she was always there. 
  74. “The Only Thing", by Sufjan. The most beautiful song on this album. 2:40 is the most sublime moment maybe ever. 
  75. “Don’t Be - Memory”, by the Chills - Kind of self-explanatory, really. 
  76. “Why Should I Cry for You”, by Sting. This list is so inclusive even this insufferable twit  makes it. 
  77. “Golden Slumbers”, by Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes. This version not only fits in better  at the funeral parlor, it has the bonus of ending with a gentle “Carry That Weight”. 
  78. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, by Gregg Allman. Of course the song belongs here, and of the many versions out there, why not Gregg’s?  
  79. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, by Elton John. My own seeds shall be sown in New York City. Yes, mom and dad. They were.  
  80. “I and Love and You”, by the Avett Brothers. These were always tough words for us to say. But we occasionally did, and Brooklyn did let us in. All of us. 
  81. “$1,000 Wedding”, by Gram Parsons. One thousand sounds about right, but mom actually went through with it.
  82. “The Bard of Armagh/Streets of Laredo”, by Vince Gill, Paul Leim, Michael Rhodes, John Jarvis, Stuart Duncan, Paddy Moloney, Se├ín Keane & Derek Bell. A nice combination of these two songs, the latter of which made an earlier appearance. The melody alone  deserves a second go round, doesn’t it?  
  83. “Deeper into Movies”, by Yo La Tengo. Again, there’s absolutely no thematic justification for the inclusion of this song, other than it sounds just right. 
  84. “From Clare to Here”, by Nanci Griffith. Mom liked this one, but for tales about failure and dissipation, I’ll take “Carrickfergus”.
  85. “Box of Rain”, by the Grateful Dead - The connection may not be obvious, but it’s about supporting someone through a hard time. I wonder if I ever played it for mom? One of my all time favorites.  
  86. “The Island”, by Paul Brady. Okay, another Celtic Moods piece, and nice enough. But "Box of Rain" - in its sheer empathy - blows it away. 
  87. “That’s the Way”, by Led Zeppelin. Yes, even those thieving bastards LZ deserve a spot here because of the sheer beauty and sadness of this one. 
  88. “Raglan Road”, by Loreena McKennitt, who very nearly overdoes it, but holds back just enough to allow this stunning melody to do its job. Did I say the Irish invented metaphor? They may have invented melody, too.  
  89. “In the Upper Room, Dance 2”, by Michael Riesman and the Philip Glass Ensemble. Wordless, but it may be the sound of going to heaven.  
  90. “Casimir Pulaski Day”, Sufjan, yet again. Young love abruptly ended by cancer, and yet the ending is so goddamned uplifting.  I think we’re nearing something approximating acceptance. 
  91. “Closing”, by Michael Riesman and the Philip Glass Ensemble. Still floating, but more mournfully. Maybe it’s for those of us left behind.  
  92. “On the Nature of Daylight”, by Max Richter - And what about that mourning? 
  93. “The Town I Loved So Well”, by Paddy Reilly. Okay the lyrics are slightly sappy, but again, the story is very real, and the melody captures every bit of the tragedy. 
  94. “Vito’s Ordination”, Sufjan again, with Jesus assuring us: Rest in my arms, Sleep in my bed,  There’s a design, to what I did and said.  But I’m so tired now I’ll have to take his word for it. 
  95. "In Reverse", by The War on Drugs - And I don’t mind you disappearing cause I know you can be found…  
So that's it.

Thank you Sufjan, REM, Richard and Linda, and even you, Celtic Moods.