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06 Aug

The Listen List

Sounds that are not silent this week:

Albums

1. “Elton Duck” by Elton Duck – After 30-something years, an album of terrific pop/new wave finally sees the light of day from a group that included future Bangle Michael Steele. Little bits of Blondie, Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello, and Sparks rolled into a tasty, yet too-long-delayed, set.

2. “The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2” by Joss Stone – The reviews have not been glowing on this, yet I have really enjoyed it. Some lost R&B gems get a new life here and I appreciate it and think she does a very good job with them. BTW – yes, I have heard all the originals and frankly, not all of them stand the test of time. So this refresh is, well, refreshing. So to all the reviewers out there who are dissing her for doing these songs, I say go blow your pretentiousness out yer arse and just relax and enjoy.

3. “Fleetwood Mac” and “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac – Thanks to a sale at Amazon, I got these to revisit and marvel at all over again.

4. “Electra Heart” by Marina and the Diamonds – It’s like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga had a baby. It’s not awesome, but it is pretty fun. How can you resist a song called “Bubblegum Bitch?”

5. “The Very Best of Chicago” by Chicago – I’ve resisted buying any Chicago product ever since seeing them in concert way back in 1987. The concert was bland and they were truly assholes on stage. I think they were pissed that the audience was about 1/2 full and were requesting stuff like “Colour My World.” But it was hard to resist and I finally had to give in to hear both the brilliant early years and the latter day David Foster schlock (although pretty damn good schlock).

Songs

1. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac – I dunno. This song gets me every time. Brilliance by Ms. Nicks.

2. “First Taste of Hurt” by Joss Stone – This song is an extra track on the deluxe version of the album above. Not sure why it was an extra because it bests a lot of the songs that made the regular release. This is one where the original by Willie Tee is pretty damn sweet.

3. “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea – Just such a great country song by a wonderful artist.

4. “Yo, Mister” by Patti LaBelle – Ms. LaBelle vs. Prince. Dee-lishus. She goes all freaky crazy near the end. Did well on the R&B chart, but should have been a pop hit as well.

5. ” Bubblegum Bitch” by Marina and the Diamonds – C’mon, the title alone belongs on this list.

 

Categories: Music, The Listen List Tags:
24 Jul

Headline: Titanic Exhibit Sank!

A couple of weekends ago we went to the Henry Ford Museum to see the Titanic exhibition which featured stories and artifacts from the doomed ship. I was quite excited because we have some (very) minor family history with Titanic. The story goes that my grandfather, who was emigrating to America, was offered a ticket on the Titanic. This ship left earlier than the one he was already booked and I believe he was going to do some work on the ship as well. He ended up declining the ticket, yet his friend decided to go ahead and went on the Titanic. Of course, as a 3rd class male passenger, the guy didn’t survive. However, my grandfather made safe passage on Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympia, a few weeks later. It is odd to think about because that one decision is the reason our family exists. Had he gone on the Titanic, we would most likely not be here. Life is strange.

So we got our tickets and stood in line for our time slot. They give you a “boarding pass” that has the name of a Titanic passenger along with some history about the person, which I found interesting. Once we got in, the disappointment started immediately. First thing while you start to file into the first room is they have a bow of a ship by a green screen and you can go up and get your picture taken – people usually do something corny like the Kate/Leonardo pose in the movie “Titanic.” Of course, it costs you money. Nice commercialism on a disaster exhibition. It was kind of downhill from there. It was basically room after room of artifacts from the ship (which were very interesting) and there were some plaques on the wall describing some passengers, or how the ship was built, or about some areas of the ship. Overall, there was very little rhyme or reason to the layout or to any theme. The flow was awful. People were following kind of an imaginary trail, but then there were things in the middle of the room and elsewhere, so a line didn’t make sense. It was chaotic. There were even things that were just plain, well, stupid. Like in the darkened room where you are supposed to “experience” the night of the sinking, there was a big chunk of ice that people could touch. Why? I think we all know what ice is.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I had thought there would be a specific theme and a story along the way where you can see the artifacts and somehow try to experience or put yourself there. I really wanted a moving experience but all I really got was a barely moving line. At the end there is a large wall with all of the crew and passengers names listed by class. Here is where you are to look at the person on your boarding pass and check for their name on the wall to see if they were a survivor or not. The concept of this was quite interesting, but there was no follow through within the exhibit. Some of the best parts of the exhibit were recovered artifacts that specifically belonged to a passenger. Some were really amazing that they survived – even paper items. Shoes and clothes were quite chilling as were personal objects like combs or jewelry. Or even corked bottles of liquor or perfume that still contained the original liquid. Had they set it up where artifacts from the person on your boarding pass were present along with a story about them along the way – even where they might have been on the ship during the voyage with artifacts from those rooms – something to really connect you with the ship, it might have been a terrific experience. Instead, it ended up like most any other museum exhibit where you look at stuff and move on. Highly disappointing.

And to top it off, there were tons of kids there. Why? Most of them have no clue what this was or is and from what I could tell they have never even see the movie. Kids were running around, yelling, making fun of things and being overall pains in the ass. It was disrespectful and made everything worse. For the most part, I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents. Most parents were not even explaining anything to the kids or interacting with them at all throughout. As far as the kids cared, they were dragged there and were killing time waiting to get out. The worst of the worst is when you go to the final board to see the names of all the passengers. Kids were running around and screaming “mine’s dead! Mine’s dead!” Meanwhile, the parents were doing nothing and discussing what they were going to do for dinner. Lovely. So glad you came.

Overall, it was the worst exhibit of this type I’ve ever been in – and most disappointing because I really wanted such a great experience and to really be respectful and in awe of the people who did and did not survive that awful, historical night. Instead, I got a tossed together, commercialized exhibit attended by a bunch of uninterested and rude people. Oh, I think I forgot to mention there is another pay photo op on the grand staircase replica and a whole gift shop where you can buy everything from a Titanic bottle opener to replica china sets! Ah the commercialism of a disaster. How sad. Can’t wait to get to New York and buy a 9/11 shot glass! Pah-thet-ick.

Afterwards we toured around the Henry Ford. I had not been there since I was a kid and it was far, far more interesting than the Titanic exhibit. The cars were really incredible and I actually learned quite a bit along the way. I’d go back again too – just as long as the Titanic exhibit has moved on to it’s next unfortunate destination.

Categories: Commentary, Review Tags:
25 Jun

The Listen List

What the shooby-dooby in my drums are this week:

Albums

1. “Heaven” by Rebecca Ferguson – she was runner-up in the UK’s “X-Factor.” Usually these albums after the competition are a mixed bag at best, but this is a quiet stunner. Beautiful R&B/Pop all co-written by her. Simply lovely.

2. “Our Version of Events” by Emile Sande – the UK is pushing out terrific artists lately like this one. Oddly enough, her lead single is called “Heaven” (see above, but not the same). A bit different from Rebecca Ferguson, but another nice disc to seek out.

3. “The One, The Only” by Chantal Claret – I discovered this young retro throwback a couple of months ago. If Duffy took one step closer to rock, then it might sound like Chantal.

4. “Best of” by Kylie Minogue – really was never too much of a fan, but if you put all of her UK hits on a disc and give it a spin, it is pretty terrific dance/pop. Especially diggin’ the song “Slow.”

5. “Synthetica” by Metric – a total all-female top 5! This female-fronted group is along the lines of Goldfrapp and has a nice edgy sound.

Songs

1. “Hurry Hurry” by Air Traffic Controller – from their Bleu-produced new disc, this song should be a hit. Poppy, jumpy, frantic and quick – much like what the message of the song is. Will probably be one of my favorites of the year.

2. “Shoulder to Shoulder” by Rebecca Ferguson – I dare you to find a more beautiful song out there right now. Brilliant. (Bonus points for using the word “whilst” in the lyrics.)

3. “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” by Chris DeBurgh – remember his mushy “Lady in Red?” Yeah, this is not that.

4. “Bella Donna” by Stevie Nicks – downloaded the witchy woman’s solo disc and forgot about this title track.

5. “New Song” by Howard Jones – I was stuck in the 80s again this week. Just try listening to this without smiling or bopping your head side-to-side….just throw of your mental chains!  Woo-woo-woo!

Categories: Music, The Listen List Tags:
25 May

The Listen List

What is beatin’ on my eardrums this week:

Albums

1. “Blunderbuss” by Jack White – This album has really grown on me. I like it from the start, but now I’m lovin’ it. I always appreciated the White Stripes but was never a huge fan. But this one is turning me into a big Jack White fan.

2. “Vows” by Kimbra – Hopefully here guest vocal on Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” will provide enough exposure to get folks to buy this. Great voice, songs, and production. A really good listen.

3. “The Ultimate Bee Gees” by Bee Gees – Another brother goes away too early…

4. “Trespassing” by Adam Lambert – His debut had moment, but like most Idol debuts it was messy. This album as a whole is far more cohesive and sounds like an artist’s album rather than one dictated by producers and such. Surprisingly good album.

5. “Out of the Game” by Rufus Wainwright – Finally, he lightens up the mood! Welcome back!

 

Songs

1. “Sixteen Saltines” by Jack White – It is the hardest song on the album and one of the best. And there is something really both funny and creepy about the lyrics that gets me. Starts right off in the opening line of “She’s got stickers on her locker…”

2. “Oh My!” by Haley Reinhart – An Idol alum from last year, she’s not someone I’d thought I’d be listening to, but her debut disc is actually pretty good. This opening track is a funky retro jam and fits her perfectly. It’s like Amy Winehouse and Duffy had a baby that is being babysat by Nancy Sinatra.

3. “Kickin’ In” by Adam Lambert – The song on the disc that I kept playing on repeat. Love the mish-mash of vocals on the chorus.

4. “Into the Wild” by LP – I thought I was over this song, but I’m not. Still in love with it and her siren voice.

5. “When the Rain Begins to Fall” by Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora – We found this great 80’s station on the radio in Portugal. They played tons of great songs and it took a few days before repeats snuck in. When this song came on I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t heard it since I bought the single back in the day. It’s pretty awful. It must have been a big hit in Europe because it was repeated several times. It has an equally horrific video…

Categories: Music, The Listen List Tags:
24 Apr

Ik hou echt van Marco Borsato!

No, auto-correct did not screw up the post title. It is Dutch – a language I’ve heard quite a bit through friends I have vacationed with over the past couple of years. I’ve been to the Netherlands (many, many years ago) and have gotten to know the culture a bit through my Dutch friends, but being a music person I realized that I never really explored any type of music from Dutch artists. With a vacation looming with the Dutchies, I thought it might be interesting to explore some Dutch popular music and maybe surprise them with what I’ve learned – or better yet, just start playing it on the iPad and see if they notice it…

I found some data from the Dutch pop charts that pointed towards the most popular artists. In addition to other worldwide artists like the Beatles or Madonna, there were several superstars that are basically just based in the Netherlands. From the list I took a listen to some of the past and current artists. I have to say, well, I wasn’t impressed. It seems popular Dutch music, or Nederpop as it was called in the 60’s and 70’s for Dutch-language pop, is quite folky and bouncy – much like the German schlager music (the Dutch equivalent is levenslied). I think a good example of this was a worldwide hit for the George Baker Selection – who are from the Netherlands – and the song “Paloma Blanca.”  It’s very oom-pa-pa-ish. And even in some of today’s Dutch stars this still runs through their music. I’m not a fan of this style so I was not connecting with anything.

I tried Jan Smit, who is very schlagery. Andre Hazes, who is a bit better and kind of country-ish. Then an earlier hit group called BZN (who, discovered Jan Smit). Still, that schalger was all over the place. Another comparison might be through ABBA. Some of their songs, especially earlier hits like “Waterloo,” border on schlager but lean more towards what we know as mainstream pop. But none of these folks were ABBA. Some of their rock bands like D.A.D. are better, but they typically sing in English and therefore have potential for a wider world audience. I really wanted to find a Dutch artist that I could get into. Then, I came across Marco Borsato.

Marco Borsato is the number one Dutch artist in the Netherlands. In pop chart accomplishments he is only second to the Beatles in most #1 hits, most weeks at #1, and most weeks at #1 within a year. Where he actually tops the Beatles (and everyone else) is that he has the biggest #1 single of all time. His song “Dromen Zijn Bedrog” was #1 for 12 weeks. Plus, another #1 hit of his is tied in second at 11 weeks, “Rood.”  He has had 14 #1 hits all together from 1994-2011. By comparison, the Beatles had a 16. No other artists come close to this record. Therefore, I had to take a listen. And I was really pleased.

I think the difference is that Borsato’s music, although in Dutch, has a more worldwide pop sound. Several of his songs you could easily translate to English and hear them on the radio in the States or elsewhere. Only a minor few of his songs tend toward the home-style levelslied, and even then it sounds more updated and less folky. There were songs that only after a listen or two stuck in my head. I figured I needed to get a collection of his songs and on his website he recently released “#1,” a hits collection of 32 songs. Perfect! It was a bit of a bear getting it downloaded as I had to figure it all out in Dutch and pay via PayPal, but I got it. And I’m glad I did. I’ve been “singing” his songs for a while now, and I have know idea what I’m saying – or even if I’m saying it right! But regardless, I can feel the music and really enjoy it. Some of the words I started to recognized and thought – hey, this may mean such-and-such. I’d look it up and sure enough, I was right! So I must be understanding something. It’s a shame that foreign language songs really never get a change here in the States. There is some really great music out there that should be heard, regardless of the language. I just know I’m glad I discovered Borsato. Now, if I ever get back to the Netherlands, I’ll have to coincide the trip with a concert!

Here are three Borsato songs I’ve really enjoyed. The first, “Binnen,” reminds me of Robbie Williams. The second, “Wit Licht,” is his most rock-oriented outing. And “Dochters” is just a really fine tune. P.S. If you like “Binnen,” then YouTube the live symphonic version – pretty awesome.

 

 

 

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