July 4th

5 07 2010

Independence Day has come and gone… hard to believe we’re this deep into the summer already. Hope everyone had a great weekend filled with BBQs and fireworks. A few songs always come to mind when I think about July 4th. The first is Paul Simon’s “American Tune” from his 1973 solo album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. It’s a great song from his early years (I love that mid-70’s stuff). This 1975 BBC performance is very intimate and really captures the essence of the song. The tone is cool and the lyrics are full of imagery that paints the picture of the true American spirit.

The second tune is an incredible performance from one of my favorite musicians David Bowie. It’s actually a cover of yet another patriotic Paul Simon song, “America”, from the post-911 concert for NYC. This live version really displays Bowie’s prowess as not just a musician but an artist. The arrangement is really cool. He plays a toy keyboard while sitting cross-legged at the front of the stage all by himself. Although you will hear some strings behind him at points, it’s all him… out there, front and center doing what he does. I love this one so much I often bring up this clip just to check it out, regardless of the time of year.

References:

More info on Paul Simon

More info on “American Tune”

More info on David Bowie

More info on “America”

More info on Concert for New York

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Partyup Prince

6 05 2010

Prince, formerly “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” (aka TAFKAP), played at the TIMES 100 Gala here in NY the other night. I just heard that they used the nearby Village Underground on W 3rd St in the Village as their practice space during the day. After the gala on Tuesday, they then returned for a short set that evening. Now, those are exactly the types of things you live in NY for. You just never know. One night Prince just drops by and plays for an hour… how cool is that? You got to love this city.

Anyway, with the viral nature of things these days, I saw a surprising amount of negative things being said about Prince. In the face of such negativity, I would like to officially stand up as a long time Prince fan and supporter. Sure, he’s a little weird but the guy’s a genius. He’s a modern day musical prodigy who writes, produces and plays almost all the instruments. As one of the most prolific artist of the last three decades, he has written over 1,000 songs. Sure, I only enjoy a handful of them but that collection of hits is unstoppable. It’s not just “1999” and “Purple Rain”. How about “I Just Want To Be Your Lover” or “Partyup” or “Delirious”. The list goes on and on (and on) because you can find a ton of GREAT material amongst his huge catalog of deeper cuts.

My allegiance to this pop legend goes back to my youth. I recently found the very first album (it was actually a cassette) that I ever bought myself. And, guess who it is? That’s right… Prince. Well, technically it’s Prince & The New Power Generation. My first purchase was the 1991 release Diamonds & Pearls. It was his 13th album and was a bit of a turning point for Prince. It was his first to be co-credited and marked a new hybrid of styles by including hip hop into his funky blend of Pop and R&B. I was about 9 years old when I bought this beauty…

How did I even know who Prince was? I remember first hearing the singles “Cream” and “Gett Off” on a friend’s stereo and I guess the next time I had the chance I bought it. I don’t know, the details are very cloudy. Ok, so maybe I wasn’t that cool back then, perhaps it was actually the hologram on the cover that played a big part in the allure. Who’s to say? It was either that or the look of those guys on the inside cover. For the early 90’s, that was about as cool as it could get. I mean, Prince was like the Miles Davis of 1991.

Of the 13 tunes on Diamonds & Pearls, here are a few of my favorites:

Willing & Able

Cream

Walk Don’t Walk

Gett Off

Diamonds & Pearls

For any of the naysayers out there, I beg you to watch this video of Prince playing in a tribute to George Harrison at the 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He plays lead guitar and takes the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. With all the immense talent on this stage it’s like he’s the only guy up there. His presence is just amazing. Clearly, the guy is an icon.

*If that’s not enough, there is always THIS CLIP from Batman. Apparently, when the The Joker is feeling mischievous he loves to listen to Prince’s “Partyman”.

Listen Online:

“I Want To Be Your Lover”

“Partyup”

“1999”

“Delirious”

“Purple Rain”

References:

More info on Prince

More info on The New Power Generation

More info on Diamonds & Pearls

Prince’s complete discography

Download the set from The Village Underground





NEW! On The Turntable

23 04 2010

I have been very delinquent with my updates to the On The Turntable page. So much so that I completely missed March. So, in order to keep a clean house and have everything in order I have updated for both April and March. April is up on the current page, featuring Herbie Hancock’s incredible album Fat Albert Rotunda. While March is in the archive on the side bar. Unfortunately, March never got a fair shot but you can still enjoy it. It features one of my favorite short lived bands Blind Faith and their self titled album. Take a look at both, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. For those desk jockey’s out there, these make for some great listening while hard at work in your cubicle. You can locate these links on the top navigation bar and the side bar archive… or you can just click the album covers below to listen to these albums in their entirety. Enjoy!

Blind Faith                                              Fat Albert Rotunda

As a little extra fanfare, there are few videos to get you in the mood. The first is Blind Faith live at Hyde Park in 1969. They do an awesome version of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Now, perhaps it’s just because I am a huge fan of young Steve Winwood but I think this rivals the original… Sorry Mic.

The next is the opening theme to Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon. For those not familiar with the Herbie’s Fat Albert Rotunda, it was inspired by the work he did for this show.  To be clear Herbie did not write this theme but he did some work for the show as he was friendly with Cosby. That said, the album is FAR superior to anything ever featured on the show but this will likely get you in the mood and perhaps even trigger some nostalgia.





The Ides of March

15 03 2010

Today being March 15th, aka the Ides of March, I can’t help but be reminded of the brass band from the 70s by the same. Although not well known, they had a huge hit in 1970 called “Vehicle”. At the time it was the fastest selling single on their label, Warner Bros Records. Even back then, people would often confuse them for the more popular Blood, Sweat & Tears upon hearing the track as their brass and vocal style is quite similar. Below is the original “Vehicle” as well as a live version from Sammy Davis Jr that’s really cool.

Beware… The Ides of March!

More on The Ides Of March (band) from Wiki

1979 TV version of Julius Caesar: Act III – The Assassination (“e tu Brute” @ 5:16)





Sly at his Slyiest

21 01 2010

This Sly tune is probably my all time favorite. It’s from the 1973 album Fresh, which is actually from his darker years. By darker, I mean both personally and musically. By this time Sly was very flaky and unreliable due to a nasty drug habit. In the same period, the music had also progressed to something much darker in tone in comparison to the hits of his earlier years like Everyday People, Hot Fun in the Summertime, Dance to the Music, Stand, etc. On this particular track there really is no Family Stone, though it’s still funky as hell. Sly plays everything himself except the drums and horns. His vocals are the real stand out though, the singing is just phenomenal on this one. It’s Sly at his Slyiest. There is an alternate mix that is available and some live versions too but this one is definitely the best.





Amazed

15 01 2010

Frankly, I’m amazed… that this is undeniably as good as Paul’s original. Well, in it’s own way of course. I may even dare to say it’s better. I know, I know… but there’s just something about it. Maybe because it’s so unexpected and yet so perfectly suited for this band. First, Ronnie Lane does a great McCartney impression in the beginning and then Rod takes over and pretty much seals the deal.

Digging that video up again after so long really got me in the mood for some more so I’m gratuitously posting two other favorites. Another great cover but this one is an old Motown song made a hit by The Temptations, called “(I Know) I’m Losing You”. They truly make it their own. Loads of energy. Just check out Kenney Jones’ drum solo.

And, of course,  my all time favorite Faces tune, “Ooh La La”. This one actually features Ronnie Lane as lead vocal. Sorry, there is no actual visual content here but that’s not what this is about anyway, right?








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