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Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde: A Contrarian Review

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

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For years Zac Brown Band has walked an interesting line between country and rock. Those of us who had the privilege of seeing them before they became famous can remember shows that featured more rock than country moments, and every one of their albums has featured moments of Southern rock, Buffett-style island pop, reggae, and jam band stylings.

Two weeks ago, the band released Jekyll + Hyde, their most ambitious and eclectic album to date, and the critics just don’t know what to do with it. Some reviewers have complimented the record, with Billboard magazine stating that the band “captures its onstage madness” on the new release, and Rolling Stone says “they bang out styles with such preposterous ease — Seventies Philly soul, old-timey gospel, Celtic folk, metal, reggae, jazz — they could incorporate as a single-band music-placement agency.”

But then there are the complaints. Consequences of Sound‘s review sounds positive on the surface, but read deep and you’ll find plenty of backhanded statements that come across as negative (especially coming from a reviewer who calls herself an “elitist” when it comes to country music). The New York Times characterizes the album as containing “the kind of omnivorousness that went in and out of fashion in hip-hop more than a decade ago, but still feels novel in country” and repeatedly trashes Brown’s voice on a record where he stretches his range further than ever. Entertainment Weekly gives Jekyll + Hyde a grade of C+ and accuses the band of “self-indulgence.”

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But the best bad review has to come from Saving Country Music. I usually love the way this blog pokes holes in the current bro-country genre that has become so popular and highlights some traditional country acts who might otherwise fall through the cracks, but their reviewer seems to have plenty of daggers for Zac Brown Band while admitting what all of us longtime fans know: that they’re not strictly a country band. Reviewer “Trigger” seems to have real issues with the band being good at what they do, regardless of musical style:

Music is not a skills competition. This isn’t the decathlon. They don’t hand out Grammy Awards for the band that can play songs from the most genres. They give Grammys to the artists who steady themselves and prove they are the best in a given musical discipline. I’ll give credit to the backing band of Weird Al for their alacrity. With the Zac Brown Band, I just want to hear good songs. I’m not impressed that they can segue from a Frank Sinatra-inspired sonnet into progressive grunge. If I’m feeling in those moods, I’ll go listen to the bands and artists who’ve mastered those mediums and made music from inspiration, instead of someone trying to impress me with their shape shifting ability.

Here’s the thing: Jekyll + Hyde is a mess of an album, but it’s a glorious mess. Leadoff single “Homegrown” proves that Zac Brown Band still knows how to deliver a country hook, but the band hops from genre to genre throughout the album, stretching their impressive chops and covering territory they’ve never ventured into before. As mainstream country embraces dance-pop, the opening track “Beautiful Drug” dives headlong to irresistible effect, while “Tomorrow Never Comes” incorporates electronic elements into its country/folk foundation, though the acoustic version at the album’s end is more haunting.

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Tunes like new single “Loving You Easy” and “One Day” combine breezy pop and classic soul elements that sound retro and fresh at the same time. Pop chanteuse Sara Bareilles joins in on the playful big band number “Mango Tree,” which sounds far less like a band tune than a straight duet with Brown and Bareilles. The sweet folk of the first half of “I’ll Be Your Man (Song For A Daughter)” will certainly bring tears to many a dads’ eyes – at least until the song devolves into a bizarre ad-lib competition. The one cover tune, Jason Isbell’s “Dress Blues,” tells of a soldier’s funeral in a moving story song.

But Zac Brown Band is at its best when walking that rock line. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell adds his distinctive voice to “Heavy Is The Head,” a hybrid of grunge, progressive rock, and Southern rock that topped Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for two weeks. “Junkyard” revisits a tune from their first independent album and gives it an even edgier rock kick. The touching country ballad “Bittersweet” morphs into an even more powerful rock track by its end.

The highs and fascinating moments on Jekyll + Hyde don’t mean that the album is without its low points. “Castaway,” the record’s requisite Coral Reefer nod suggests that the band may have drawn from the Buffett well one too many times. The quasi-gospel of “Remedy” loses its power in a muddy universalist message that’s tough to get behind. And some of the least appealing numbers are the ones that fall most squarely into the country vein – “Wildfire” and “Young and Wild.”

With Jekyll + Hyde, Zac Brown Band has delivered one ambitious free-form radio station of an album. It’s one that demonstrates the true capabilities of these guys as both musicians and vocalists, and it’s sure to please the band’s longtime fans just as it has managed to confound so many critics.

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Lambert and Stamp: The Men Who Made The Who

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 - by Ed Driscoll

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In 1979, The Who, at the peak of their career, released the documentary summing up the band’s first 15 years, The Kids Are Alright. As veteran rock critic Dave Marsh wrote in his 1983 biography of the group, Before I Get Old, published to coincide with the band’s “first” farewell tour that year:

Kids is one of the most anarchic documentaries ever assembled, running two hours without a shred of narration and with not so much as a subtitle identifying characters or dates. Kids was the perfect cult item, and Who fans flocked to it. Hardly anyone else did, however, so even though it remained a staple of the midnight movie circuit, part of every kid’s introduction to the verities of the Rock of Ages, the film had little impact outside of the Who’s cult. The Kids Are Alright is, nevertheless, one of the great rock and roll movies, capturing all of the Who’s sass and humor and taking the wind out of the band’s pomposity at each and every opportunity.

Naturally, Keith Moon stole The Kids Are Alright, which became a summation of his career as the Who’s anarchic drummer, who passed away nine months before its release, choking on an overdose of the pills he was prescribed to battle his alcoholism.

This year, filmmaker James D. Cooper released Lambert & Stamp, a documentary about the Who’s first managers, a film that can be thought of as the liner notes to The Kids Are Alright. If you’re a fan of the band, you owe it to yourself to see this film while it’s in the theaters (I saw it last night at a sparsely attended showing at the Camera 3 in San Jose), to get a sense of two men who did so much to shape the group in the 1960s. How much you know about the Who will shape how much you enjoy this new documentary, which is built around a lengthy series of interviews with Chris Stamp (1942-2012), the younger brother of veteran actor Terence Stamp (Superman II, Wall Street, The Limey), who also appears in the film, along with Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Daltrey’s wife Heather, and other Who insiders.

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The Who were one of the most unlikely of bands; Pete Townshend, art school devotee and later follower of Sufi mystic and guru Meher Baba, was essentially the timekeeper of the group, even though he was the rhythm guitarist. Keith Moon’s anarchic surf-music-inspired drumming provided brilliant percussive colors; but keeping time was not his metier; he was not a man in search of a simple backbeat on the 2 and 4. With his fluid single-note runs, John Entwistle was in many ways the band’s lead guitarist, despite being the bassist. And Daltrey, the founder and nominally the frontman of the group, was forced to fight for attention as singer as his three innovative sidemen roared away alongside him. Somehow it worked — brilliantly — in spite of themselves.

Similarly, Lambert and Stamp were the most unlikely of rock managers. They hadn’t really planned to be managers at all. Kit Lambert (1935-1981) was the son of composer/conductor Constant Lambert, who sought to make a name for himself in the shadow of his famous father, who died, as Wikipedia notes, in 1951 “two days short of his forty-sixth birthday, of pneumonia and undiagnosed diabetes complicated by acute alcoholism.”

Britain didn’t legalize homosexuality until 1967; the upper-class Lambert was very much gay during that era. And the handsome, modish Stamp was equally aggressively heterosexual and working class, the son of a tugboat captain. The two originally didn’t want to be managers; after meeting while both were working at Shepperton Studios in the early 1960s, they were looking for the perfect rock group to feature in a documentary on the exploding British rock scene in the wake of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, when they stumbled into the Railway Hotel in Harrow where the Who were playing Motown songs to an overpacked room crammed mostly with hundreds of young Mod men. As the documentary explains, Lambert and Stamp were instantly convinced they had found the perfect group for their film; the band was instantly convinced they were the authorities, about to close down the gig as a fire hazard. While they did shoot some early footage of the group, Lambert and Stamp decided instead they’d rather be Brian Epstein than filmmakers, and quickly began managing the group.

Keith Moon brilliantly summed up the tone of the two men in the early days in his 1972 Rolling Stone interview:

Kit Lambert came to see us playing at the Railway ‘Otel in ‘Arrow. We had a meeting. We didn’t like each other at first, really. Kit and Chris. They went ’round together. And they were . . . are . . . as incongruous a team as we are. You got Chris on one hand [goes into unintelligible East London cockney]: “Oh well, f**k it, jus, jus whack ‘im in-a ‘ead, ‘it ‘im in ee balls an’ all.” And Kit says [slipping into a proper Oxonian]: “Well, I don’t agree, Chris; the thing is . . . the whole thing needs to be thought out in damned fine detail.” These people were perfect for us, because there’s me, bouncing about, full of pills, full of everything I could get me ‘ands on . . . and there’s Pete, very serious, never laughed, always cool, a grass-’ead. I was working at about ten times the speed Pete was. And Kit and Chris were like the epitome of what we were.

Lambert was a brilliant ideas man; he shaped The Who’s image as sharply-dressed mods, encouraged Townshend and Moon’s guitar and drum smashing, and hired a graphic artist to design The Who’s iconic “Maximum R&B” poster (a copy of which is hanging behind me in my home office as I write this). Lambert also moved Townshend into Lambert’s flat in the posh Belgravia section of London, giving the band a veneer of success far beyond what they were earning as working musicians. Meanwhile Stamp was largely funding the band’s early days via his work as a second assistant director on the Kirk Douglas WWII movie, The Heroes of Telemark.

Lambert fueled Townshend’s composing skills, convincing him to link together several short, incomplete songs into one nine minute number in 1966 called “A Quick One,” which the two called “their mini-opera,” and which Townshend credits for inspiring some of the ideas on Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles’ landmark concept album the following year. That album would go on to inspire the Who’s double album “rock opera,” Tommy, released in 1969.

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Jeff Beck Vs Stevie Ray – You Decide!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Allston

Stevie Ray Vaughan versus Jeff Beck, “Blowing it up at the Honolulu Convention.”  They were both in town for a CBS Convention; while there, Stevie Ray invited Beck up on stage with him.  What follows is excellent!

“Honolulu Convention”

Beck wins this matchup. Even Stevie Ray agrees.

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Is This Led Zeppelin Track the Greatest Rock Song Ever Recorded?

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by Allston

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’90s Alternative: Which of These 13 Songs Were Your Favorites?

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Allston

Liz Sheld recently had an article up titled “The 10 Best ’80s Alternative Songs.” 

This is a durn good list. I recollect all of those acts from during their heyday quite well, and I enjoyed them all very much.  But I must respectfully disagree with the premise – “Alternative” as a genre is really a phenomenon of the ’90s, not the ’80s.  Having been a ’70s rocker turned ’80s New Waver and all, I suppose I can attest to this as well as anyone.  Maybe even better than most – me, Ogg, really got around during those early-on Troglodyte days of Punk and New Wave.  Rawr!  Remind me someday to tell you what CBGBs and “The Underground” were like back when.

To me, here are some of what I might consider as ’90s “Alternative”  As usual, this is a highly subjective list in no particular order, some restrictions may apply, batteries not included:

I liked their sound, but they appeared and then pretty much disappeared, just like that.  So it goes…

1. Swervedriver – “Duel”

They had their run, head-music for the Alternative set.  Wow, I am lost into the song, whoah, Dude…

2. Curve – “Horror Head”

I like Dub Star as well.  They got the “Trippy” stuff down, but never went off into that kinda trancy stuff.  Kept you active, not staring at6 your navel.

3. Dub Star – “Anywhere”

My friends and I at that time referred to Mazzy Star as angsty Heroin chic.  Which, according to popular legend, they basically were, all musically inclined Heroin addicts.

4. Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You”

Expansive, trippy, what a lush sound, late in the Irish music “invasion.”  These guys should have done better.

5. Chimera – “Slow Burn”

The story of “Jeremy” says to me that he ultimately took his own life, and that is tragic.  But it’s a damned good song, always worth the listen.

6. Pearl Jam – “Jeremy’s Spoken”

Yes, Courtney Love.  Like her or not, her band had its run, and did fairly well.

7. Hole – “Violet”

“Sneaker Puimps?”  Sounds Like White Boys try to be ‘da Hood, with mixed results.

8. Sneaker Pimps – “6 Underground”

“Do you have to let it linger?”  Yes, we humans do seem to be programmed for Drama, aren’t we?

9. The Cranberrys – “Linger”

I never “got” Kay Hanley’s appeal, but the song is good.

10. Letters to Cleo – “Here and Now”

“I Love my Sister, she’s such a Bitch.”  I have this same relationship with mine.  My older sister is such a Grandee, making humorous but snide proclamations from her Settee with a wave of her hand, but I love her so.

11. Juliana Hatfield – “My Sister”

The Verve Pipe deserved better. They were pretty damned good, and should have gone national in a much bigger way.  Regrettably, they came and went, just like that.

12. Verve Pipe – “Villains”

Finally, Catherine Wheel.  These guys also should have done much better.  What a sound.

13. Catherine Wheel – “Judy’s Staring at the Sun”

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Is It Time Women Start Apologizing for Being Feminists?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With her song “Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist” comedian and songwriter Katie Goodman reacts to the onslaught of millennial celebrities who refuse to take on the title of “feminist” with reasons ranging from the practical (“like voting, like driving?”) to the politically stereotypical rants about online conservatives (perhaps she has yet to encounter Christina “Factual Feminist” Hoff Sommers via AEI?) and obnoxious commentary about math being “hard.”

Where’s her line about being sexually subservient like Queen Bey, going on a local Slut Walk, or falsely accusing a male college student of rape? What about the needs of women in the Islamic and third worlds? She mentions education, but never bothers to acknowledge the anti-feminist mentalities that lead to generations of women growing up ignorant, sexually mutilated, or forced into marriages or sex slavery.

After hearing her rhyming rant of a tune, would you want to call yourself a feminist, or is Goodman merely personifying the many reasons why women are turning away from the feminist movement today?

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Music Trivia Today: Who Was the First Act To Sign Onto the Concert at Woodstock?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Allston

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son”:

Answer: Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first major act to sign onto the concert at Woodstock, but (by their own request) do not appear in the film?

Recent “Superstars,” Creedence inspired numerous others to do so as well. However, they found themselves scheduled to appear beginning at 3 AM! They were more than a bit put out by that.

“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there  were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.’ I played the rest of the show for that guy.” – John Fogerty

Sources: WikipediaMusic History Calendar

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3 Tracks For This Day in Music History: March 27

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Allston

1. In 1957, the song “Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera)” from the movie The  Man Who Knew Too Much wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song:

2. In 1979, Eric Clapton marries George Harrison’s former wife, Patti. Harrison attends the wedding ceremony, and he and Clapton remain good friends. Patti was the subject of Clapton’s song, “Layla,” performed by Derek and the Dominos:

3. In 1980, Pink Floyd’s album The Wall surpasses Carole King’s Tapestry as the longest charting album.

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Mike Rowe Singing the National Anthem in a Baseball Uniform Will Blow Your Mind

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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Who knew? The popular star of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs (and the tireless promoter of all-things-that-are-good-about-America) is also an opera singer!

According to his Wikipedia biography,

Rowe sang professionally with the Baltimore Opera. He says about this job, “I joined the opera to get my union card and meet girls. I was a saloon singer, so I went down to the Baltimore Opera and learned an aria and auditioned. I figured I’d do one show and quit. But the girls were everywhere and the truth is, the music was really decent.”

How can you not love a man who works hard, gets dirty, and knows what an aria is? Here he is “performing” the aria he sang for his Baltimore Opera audition (in Italian!) on CNN last fall. Is there anything Mike Rowe can’t do?

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VIDEO: Israeli Sisters Mash Up Yemeni Folk With Hip-Hop Beats

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need further proof that Israeli Jews are anything but racist towards their Arab counterparts? Listen to the music. A-WA brings the Yemeni folk beats made famous by Ofra Haza into the 21st century with style. They put a new twist on classic Barbie Jeep imagery, and as far as those fez baseball caps? Yes, please.

Read more about A-WA (pronounced Ay-wa, Arabic for ‘Yes’) here.

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VIDEO: What’s More Sexist, Meghan Trainor Singing to Her Future Husband, or JCPenney’s Butt-Firming Jeans for Teens?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You have to admit the retro stylings of YouTube star Meghan Trainor make for some catchy little tunes. But in her latest video, Dear Future Husband, the siren dons pinup-wear while scrubbing the floor of a 50′s kitchen and warning her husband he’d better compliment her every day and buy her jewelry. Contemporary feminists are in an uproar over the classic imagery, but does Trainor have a better grip on the inherent power of her sexuality than the teenage girls who feel the need to buy “butt-enhancing jeans” at JCPenney?

The national department store catalog includes:

The “YMI Wanna Betta Butt Skinny Jeggings” boasts: “With a slight lift and shift and contouring seams, our wanna betta butt skinny jeggings hug you in just the right places to give you a firmer, more flattering look.”

Rewind Smoothie Super Stretch Booty Buddy Skinny Jeans” features “rear-end-enhancing structure” designed to “augment your jean collection — and your backside” and comes in an acid wash finish.

Penney’s isn’t alone. Several online stores including Modaxpress, Hourglass Angel, and even Amazon offer butt enhancing denim to a teenage crowd. Where’s the feminist outrage over a wardrobe enhancement specifically targeted to those vulnerable teen girls suffering all those dreaded body-image issues? Perhaps they’re too busy in Trainor’s kitchen arguing over who gets to make the pie.

 

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VIDEO: On This International Day of Happiness, Just Shut Up & Dance

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The 10 Best ’80s Alternative Songs

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Liz Sheld

Next week one of my favorite ’80s movies (and of all time), The Breakfast Club, will return to theaters with a newly restored version for its 30th anniversary. I feel old.

In honor of The Breakfast Club re-release, here are my picks for the top ten thirteen ’80s alternative songs. These songs most remind me of my life in the ’80s so this is hardly a definitive list of the best. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites in the comments.

I tried to pick no more than one song from each band. Here they are in no particular order: (LANGUAGE WARNING ON SOME OF THESE)

1. “Eighties” by Killing Joke, released 1985

Why? It’s called “Eighties!” And it’s a great song.

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 2. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, released June, 1980

This one barely makes it on to the list since it was released in 1980, but it’s important because it appeared a month after the tragic suicide of band member Ian Curtis. (ProTip: watch 24 Hour Party People.)

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3. “Still in Hollywood” by Concrete Blonde, released 1986

This song has such an ’80s alternative beat, you can’t help but want to rock out to it. “She had purple painted cheeks and glitter on her eyes” — it doesn’t get more ’80s that that.

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4. “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult, released 1985

It’s hard to pick one song from The Cult — “Rain” and “Nirvana are close — but “Sanctuary” will always be my favorite. Albums Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple from the Cult will never do you wrong. Also great: “Spiritwalker” off Dreamtime.

Obligatory picture of Ian Astbury:

The Cult in concert at the Fillmore, Silver Spring, Maryland, America - 20 Aug 2013

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5. “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies, released 1983

Yes, it’s sort of obvious that this song would make the list, but really, all I wanted was a Pepsi and she wouldn’t give it to me.

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6. “Desire (Come and Get It)” by Gene Loves Jezebel, released 1985

“I’ve been a ball of fire in your arms desire.”

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7. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Specimen, released 1983

Whenever I hear this song, I smell clove cigarettes and Aquanet. No one cared that much about the ozone layer back then.

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8. “Cities in Dust,” Siouxsie and the Banshees, released 1985

I never wore as much eyeliner as Siouxsie, but how could anyone? Best line in the song: “Hot and burning in your nostrils, Pouring down your gaping mouth.”

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9.Blue Monday” by New Order, released 1983

It’s tough to pick one New Order ’80s song and “Blue Monday” is tied with virtually every song off of Power, Corruption and Lies; Low-Life; and Brotherhood.

Here’s the video to the ’88 version. I prefer the version off Power, Corruption and Lies

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10.This Is Not a Love Song” by Public Image Limited, released 1983

What else is there to say other than Johnny Rotten’s got a great voice for expressing teen angst. And just a great voice. PiL is another band where it’s hard to pick just one. Same Old Story is another favorite.

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BONUS SONGS:

11. ”Pigs in Zen” by Jane’s Addiction, released 1987

Jane’s Addiction is one of my favorite bands. Perry Farrell has such a distinctive and beautiful voice. This is another band with many great songs in the ’80s, I could listen to the entire album of Jane’s Addiction or Nothing’s Shocking without thinking about moving on to something else.

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12. “Rise Above” by Black Flag, released 1981

Because it’s Black Flag. Damaged is a great album and so is Slip It In.

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13. “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth, released 1990 (yes, it’s 1990 but really close to the ’80s so I’m going to go with that)

“I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?/I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls/From male white corporate oppression?”

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So that’s my list — let me know in the comments what songs most remind you of the ’80s.

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Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Allston

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“This machine kills fascists.” ― Woody Guthrie

Since the end of the Cold War, many a suspicion has been confirmed of how devious Communist operatives worked their way into our national institutions. After the fall of the USSR, for a brief time, Russian authorities were fairly forthcoming in their release of documents and secrets: Academia, Hollywood, the State Department, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs. Among these (not generally known to most) was Sean Penn’s Blacklisted father, a Hollywood writer, which explains a great deal about his angry Liberal act, doesn’t it? Truly, the acorn fell very close to the tree indeed.

Consider Folk music.

Folk renders down to two distinct themes – “a song all about the plight of the common man,” and, “a song about how we’re all outraged, and we’ll fix all of the problems facing the common man – or else!” The former may be considered authentic, simply a chronicle of good times and bad times, a lament, if you will. The latter is a vehicle for social unrest, public dissension, rabble-rousing. Chanting crowds, with flaming torches and sharpened pitchforks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Knowing this is why Communists latched on to the art form so eagerly.

So let’s look at the sordid affair of Pete Seeger and the Folk music act “The Weavers.”

You may remember the Weavers from their 1951 song, “Wimoweh” (a later major hit by the Doo-Wop group, “The Tokens,” reprised as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”):

Pretty tame 1950s fare, isn’t it? Well, understand the message behind the song: it’s all about Shaka Zulu, the Lion, he who fights against the forces of the white Imperialists. He sleeps yet, to someday awaken to righteously destroy the Colonizers, woe be unto them. A definite “Progressive” message embedded there.

“Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy thought there was something awfully fishy about this band and their shady past associations, so he called in the two leads, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, to make a deposition before the 1955 hearings held under the auspices of HUAC – the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” The Senator from Wisconsin wanted answers, and by God he was going to find out.

Each, in their own way, threw this back in the face of McCarthy. In the case of Hays, he simply refused to acknowledge anything, citing First Amendment rights; Seeger did answer, but prevaricated. Despite this, he broadly declared where his allegiances lay. This was exactly the kind of thing he had been deposed about – Seeger’s associations with Communist groups had been known going back to the 1930s.

Seeger’s deep Communist roots and his influence are mentioned in Richard A. Reuss’s 2000 book, American Folk Music and Left Wing Politics, 1927 – 1957:

“David Noebel, once a young minister in Billy Hames Hargis’s Christian Crusade, observed in a similar vein, The Communist infiltration into the subversion of American Music has been nothing short of phenomenal and in some areas, e.g. Folk music, their control is fast approaching the saturation point under the able leadership of Pete Seeger, SingOut!, Folkways Records, and Oak Publications Inc.’”

The “able leadership of Pete Seeger?” In other words, he was a known, active Communist subversive, dedicated to utilizing his status in the Folk music world to spread propaganda and affect the minds and opinions of Americans.

Seeger’s refusal to honestly testify ended with his indictment for Contempt of Congress. In March of 1961, he was convicted and sentenced to jail time, although his conviction was overturned on appeal.

As to the Weavers: ultimately, in 1962, and having been dogged by their known associations, they had been scheduled to be guests on the Jack Paar Show on NBC. At the last minute, the network required the band to sign a statement indicating their non-Communism. The entire band refused. End of appearance. The act broke up shortly thereafter.

Seeger continued on as the “Folkie Emeritus” of the genre until his death earlier this year, having inspired entire generations of Folk musicians to follow. Dylan, Baez, Mitchell, et al., and all their successors, who proselytize us to this day.

So the next time Billy Bob is singing folk to you about the plight of someone, be very cautious. He may well be plucking at your heart-strings, working you up to overthrow your leaders, and install a pack of Socialists in charge. For your own good, Comrade!

Kinda like today…

*****

Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-second in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

image illustration via Wikipedia 

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Awesome: This Video of 3 Beautiful Ladies Lip Synching ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Will Make Your Day

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

If you love “Bohemian Rhapsody” as much as I do – it’s one of my all-time favorites – be sure to watch this version of the epic Queen song. Trust me, you’ll start your day with a bang.

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The 10 Most Amazing Women of Heavy Metal

Friday, March 6th, 2015 - by Lisa Richards

Today’s female metal rocker is not your ’80s Lita Ford. Modern metal women are classically trained opera singers whose wide-ranging, breathtaking vocals embody heavy metal with an extraordinary resonance that soars up and down the scales with beautiful dramatic coloratura, demonstrating the musical capability of the human body that indeed defies gravity.

This musical style is called symphonic rock. These women perform heavy metal as epic opera recitatives. They sing each piece in aria fashion, their bands open with overtures, and background singers perform in traditional operatic chorus. The new metal woman is Puccini-meets-Metallica on the set of Game of Thrones.

This is grand opera.

Ranking these women is difficult, because all are extremely gifted with gorgeous vocals. Some of the women are lyric soprano (the highest operatic range, capable of soaring beyond the high C to D, E and F ranges), while others are mezzo soprano (able to sing in the high C range and lower alto actives) and dramatic soprano (the most powerful operatic vocal with the widest range: mezzo through lyric).

No matter the vocal range, these women are listed according to classical music standards, each able to sing every operatic level, proving they are heavy metal at its best.

10. Katra Solopuro

One of the newest symphonic rock voices out there, the Finnish lyric soprano’s vocals are a combination of opera, jazz, and rock. Katra performs songs in her native Finnish as well as English. The bright vocals deliver a jazzier pop metal that appeals to music lovers of all genres. With her live performance of “Vaaratar,” sung in Finnish, and “One Wish Away,” sung in English, I believe this newest edition to the modern metal sound has much to offer those not quite ready for the heavier Wagner-esque sounds of symphonic rock.

9. Charlotte Wessels

The lyric soprano combines opera, rock, and pop. This compilation also introduces listeners to the lighter side of heavy metal. Here, with her live Christmas Metal Symphony performance, Wessels gives metal fans both the heavy and light.

8. Anette Olzon

The Swedish lyric soprano’s vocals make heavy metal sound angelic as her vocals flow like clean crisp air on a winter day: high, light, lilting. Olzon’s solo album is enjoyable on every level for both heavy metal and classical fans: “Like A Snow Inside My Head”  and “Lies.”

7. Manda Ophuis

The Dutch lyric soprano’s vocals are lilting and beautiful. Ophius’s musical sound has a more gothic metal blended with rock and pop: “Angel in The Dark.” Ophius’s background vocals, like many symphonic rock bands, have the aggressive “La Fortuna” beat and chant, while Manda’s vocals drive home her high-pitched, lyric-soprano head voice heard in “Release Me.”

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Press Start: Lord Reptile’s 7 Ultimate Heavy Metal Albums To Begin Your List Quest

Friday, March 6th, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

All of you feeble mortals can consider this list Lord Reptile’s love letter to classic heavy metal albums. The Reptile does not necessarily like any genre of metal more than the other, but that might be because the standards that he holds metal to are actually quite narrow. If you want to begin to have a true grasping of what metal is, you must go back to the beginning. Only then will you notice when some heavy blues and psychedelic rock bands shed their flower rock influences and evolved into something darker and much heavier.

1. Judas Priest – Stained Class (1978)

Judas Priest may have been the most important band when it came to the full realization of heavy metal in the eighties. Their album Stained Class is but one of several monstrous heavy metal albums that they released back when heavy metal was only a term and had yet to be truly defined. But Stained Class was far more metal than anything that came before it.

From that often-imitated double kick bass at the beginning of “Exciter,” to Rob Halford’s hair-raising falsetto screams throughout the entire album, or Glen Tipton and KK Downing’s blazing riffwork on tracks like “Savage” and “Beyond the Realms of Death,” this album appeals to the heavy metal maniac in all of us.

Essential Tracks for biker metallers: “Exciter,” “Better By You,” “Better Me,” “Savage,” “Beyond the Realms of Death”

2. Motorhead – Overkill  (1979)

If Stained Class raised the question “Just how much is a 70’s heavy metal band capable of?” Then Motorhead’s Overkill album is the answer. Although Lemmy may simply refer to Motorhead’s music as “Rock n’ roll,” this album is the closest sounding thing to speed metal. If Black Sabbath is responsible for creating heavy metal, then Motorhead invented speed metal. With those punk-influenced lyrics and fast tempos, Motorhead was arguably the biggest band to influence thrash metal until Venom released their debut Welcome to Hell. Overkill is the perfect album for going fast.

Best tracks for going fast: ”Overkill,” “Stay Clean,” “(I Won’t) Pay Your Price,” “No Class,” “Damage Case”

3. Rainbow – Rainbow Rising (1976)

Ritchie Blackmore was arguably just as important as Tony Iommi when it came to his influence on heavy metal. Deep Purple’s early albums were ridiculously abrasive for early 70’s hard rock, and Ian Gillan’s high-pitched shrieking left a huge impression that would later influence falsetto giants like Halford and King Diamond.

But why would the Reptile review one of Deep Purple’s albums when Rainbow Rising is vastly superior? As much as I acknowledge Ian Gillan as one of the very first metal vocalists, he has nothing on Ronnie James Dio. Before Dio’s solo band, before he replaced Duke Osbourne in Black Sabbath, RJD had already established himself as the greatest heavy metal singer of all time in Rainbow.

Personally, my favorite release from them is the live album Rainbow On Stage but I’ll talk about that at another time. When you hear the song “Stargazer” you’ll be hooked on Rainbow Rising. That was the first epic metal song ever made. Ritchie Blackmore’s neo-classical harmonic minor scale abuse, which was somewhat rare at the time save for Uli Jon Roth’s early mastery of shred, also served as an influence to the power metal genre.

Top tracks to listen to while praising Lord Dio: ”Tarot Woman,” “Starstruck,” “Stargazer”

4. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971)

Black Sabbath’s debut is widely recognized to be the very first heavy metal album, making Black Sabbath the very first metal band. But it wasn’t until a year later that Reptile is convinced the master doom rockers released the album that truly DEFINED heavy metal once and for all: Master of Reality. This was the very first metal album young Reptile bought on vinyl.

When Sweet Leaf comes on you know this is the album that if it could talk, its breath would reek of liquor, stale beer and great weed. Sweet Leaf was the first anthem of stoner doom metal. The galloping song of doom that is “Children of the Grave” might as well be my funeral dirge. Then you flip the side and “Lord of this World” comes on and crushes that nerd Eric Clapton and his silly flower rock band Cream into bits. As the placid flute ballad Solitude comes on take a minute to reflect on your pathetic life until the low tuned opening riff of “Into the Void” lurches into the scene like a George Romero zombie. Near the end As Lord Iommi rips some nonsensical guitar solo over Master Butler’s heavy bassline you ponder if this flawless slab of metal could have come from human hands. Well they didn’t: Tony Iommi’s fingertips are fake.

Best tracks to listen to while blazing: EVERY SONG. THE REPTILE ENDORSES EVERY SINGLE SONG ON LORD IOMMI, MASTER BUTLER AND DUKE OSBOURNE’S TIMELESS METAL MASTERPIECE.

5. Mercyful Fate – Melissa (1983)

Heavy metal simply doesn’t get much better than Mercyful Fate. King Diamond is arguably the most iconic frontman of all time. His early lyrics focused on themes of Satanism and witchcraft, and this album stands out for telling a story of sorts. Concept albums were an almost non-existent gimmick in metal at the time, as was corpsepaint. Mercyful Fate was really the first band of their kind. To this day I still think King Diamond is one of the only legitimate heavy metal musicians to use corpsepaint.

But when you peel away all the theatrics and evil lyrics, you’re left with an undeniably solid heavy metal band. Hank Shermann and Michael Denner are easily one of the most underrated guitar duos in the genre. The solo exchange in “Evil” can match the intensity of any Judas Priest or Iron Maiden solo. Mercyful Fate’s twin guitar approach was as groundbreaking as it was heavy and melodic.

Top tracks for your Halloween metal playlist: ”Evil,” “Curse of the Pharaohs,” “Black Funeral,” “Satan’s Fall”

6. Iron Maiden – Killers (1981)

Iron Maiden’s last album before their acrimonious split with frontman Paul Di’anno is one of the last truly memorable albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Although Bruce Dickinson was definitely the right frontman for Maiden and they went on to create some of the greatest ’80s metal albums with him, to me Killers stands out by representing everything that one could possibly hope for in a NWOBHM album.

The sheer intensity of Di’anno’s vocals on tracks like “Wrathchild” and the titular track are simply unmatched. Steve Harris serves as an example to all bassists that even when there’s two dueling guitarists like Adrian Smith and Dave Murray trying to blow everyone away it’s those galloping and abrasive bass licks that really make the songs move. “Genghis Khan” is also arguably the finest instrumental heavy metal song of all time, very technical but also unforgettable.

Top tracks to listen to while stalking the subway: ”Wrathchild,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Another Life,” “Genghis Khan,” “Killers,” “Purgatory,” “Twilight Zone” (special edition only)

7. Angel Witch – Angel Witch (1980)

The most heroic sounding band of the NWOBHM was years ahead of everyone else when it comes to their heavy riff game. If you don’t get hyped when you hear the first solo on the title track you should probably check to make sure you still have a pulse. Guitarist/vocalist Kevin Heybourne sings in the melodic yet gritty style that NWOBHM is known for but his high-pitched wailing is a far cry from that of Biff Byford of Saxon or Paul Di  Anno of Iron Maiden. Still, he makes up for this with his fantasy-themed lyrics and the fact that he’s handling both lead and rhythm guitar duties while still being a competent vocalist.

Tracks for NWOBHM enthusiasts: ”Angel Witch,” “Atlantis,” “White Witch,” “Gorgon”

******

This article begins PJ Lifestyle’s Culture List Project, in which we begin looking backward at the section’s previous years of lists that argued about and ranked everything in popular culture, while also starting to think about the future for new approaches to the infamous “Listicle” genre that has come to conquer the internet both to jeers and applause.

What pop culture lists and debates do you want to have at PJ Lifestyle in the future? We want to figure out the best, worst, most overrated/underrated across all categories and genres. Movies, TV, Video Games, Food, Books, People, Culture and History — on Fridays it’s List Day. Get in touch with The Brothers Swindle on Twitter with your suggestions and ideas for what you want to read and argue about. (Submissions can be emailed to DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com Here’s an assortment of Lifestyle lists across genres to chew on in the meantime:

Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

The 20 Best Films of the 1930s

The 10 Most Overrated Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time

The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

10 Movies Much Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

4 Fallacies Killing Feminism

The 10 Worst Horror Films on Netflix: Drinking Game Edition

The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2014

13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Lana Del Rey

15 Songs Millennials Must Listen to in Order to Understand the 1980s

The 10 Most Irritating Fast Food Items You Must Avoid

The 20 Best Films of the 1990s

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Is This the Most Bizarre Bar Mitzvah Video of the Year?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There’s a subset of Jewish culture that has so much money to blow on their kids that celebrations like Bar Mitzvahs turn into outrageous, television-worthy affairs. If you want the full story in the form of a cute, thoughtful comedy, check out Keeping Up with the Steins. If you want to skip straight to the awkward horror of the real-life version, watch the video above, posted by the UK Jewish News with the one line comment:

Usually, we’d write something here, but we are a little speechless.

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Revolution vs Tradition For Your Morning Music: Mahler vs Schoenberg

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

This month we’re considering head-to-head match ups, starting with these 28 composers left as a comment in “10 Classical Music Composers Recommended by Charlie Martin”:

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.22.59 AM

After Tuesday’s opening match-up pitting William Byrd vs Thomas Tallis, another of PJ Lifestyle’s classical music experts offered his suggestions for match-ups:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.55 PM

The first week of February we featured the Trombonist’s first head-to-head on Wednesday (Tchaikovsky Vs Rimsky-Koraskov), his second on Thursday (Brahms vs Wagner), and then Shostakovich Vs Prokofiev on Friday.

This week we’ll conclude the Trombonist’s “Tradition vs Revolution” matches, here’s Mahler Vs Schoenberg, on piano and violin:

Vs.

***

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this feature. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, on twitter to @DaveSwindle, or via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Felix Mendelssohn

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Antonio Vivaldi

10 Recommended by Charlie Martin

Franz Liszt

Rimsky-Korsakov

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin

Mily Balakirev

Cesar Cui

Frederic Chopin, Gabriel Faure

Charles Gounod, Erik Satie

 

 

28 Recommendations from Markham S. Pyle

William Byrd and Thomas Tallis

Aaron Copland

Dvorak

Elgar

Holst

The Reformed Trombonist’s Match-Up Suggestions:

Haydn Vs. Mozart

Beethoven Vs Schubert

Shostakovich

Brahms

Verdi

Rossini

Gesualdo

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10 Songs From the Early ’70s To Improve Your Snow-Covered Week

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Allston

“American Pie” was written as a paean to the sudden demise of Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in 1959.  At that time, McLean was a boy, delivering newspapers, hence the line, “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”. Otherwise, he’s been remarkably cryptic about the exact meaning of the lyrics, but has said he will finally reveal their true meaning when the original manuscript for the song goes on auction next month.

1. Don Mclean – “American Pie”:

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Morning Music Piano Fight: Beethoven Vs Schubert

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

This month we’re considering head-to-head match ups, starting with these 28 composers left as a comment in “10 Classical Music Composers Recommended by Charlie Martin”:

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.22.59 AM

After Tuesday’s opening match-up pitting William Byrd vs Thomas Tallis, another of PJ Lifestyle’s classical music experts offered his suggestions for match-ups:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.55 PM

The first week of February we featured the Trombonist’s first head-to-head on Wednesday (Tchaikovsky Vs Rimsky-Koraskov), his second on Thursday (Brahms vs Wagner), and then Shostakovich Vs Prokofiev on Friday.

This week let’s explore more of the Trombonist’s “Tradition vs Revolution” matches, here’s Beethoven Vs Schubert, on piano:

Vs.

***

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this feature. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, on twitter to @DaveSwindle, or via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Felix Mendelssohn

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Antonio Vivaldi

10 Recommended by Charlie Martin

Franz Liszt

Rimsky-Korsakov

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin

Mily Balakirev

Cesar Cui

Frederic Chopin, Gabriel Faure

Charles Gounod, Erik Satie

 

 

28 Recommendations from Markham S. Pyle

William Byrd and Thomas Tallis

Aaron Copland

Dvorak

Elgar

Holst

The Reformed Trombonist’s Match-Up Suggestions:

Haydn Vs. Mozart

Shostakovich

Brahms

Verdi

Rossini

Gesualdo

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Classical Combat: William Byrd Vs the Murderer Carlo Gesualdo

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

This month we’re considering head-to-head match ups, starting with these 28 composers left as a comment in “10 Classical Music Composers Recommended by Charlie Martin”:

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 5.22.59 AM

After Tuesday’s opening match-up pitting William Byrd vs Thomas Tallis, another of PJ Lifestyle’s classical music experts offered his suggestions for match-ups:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.25.55 PM

The first week of February we featured the Trombonist’s first head-to-head on Wednesday (Tchaikovsky Vs Rimsky-Koraskov), his second on Thursday (Brahms vs Wagner), and then Shostakovich Vs Prokofiev on Friday.

This week let’s explore more of the Trombonist’s “Tradition vs Revolution” matches: William Byrd Vs Carlo Gesualdo

Vs.

Interesting factoid via Wikipedia:

In 1586 Gesualdo married his first cousin, Donna Maria d’Avalos, the daughter of the Marquis of Pescara. Two years later she began a love affair with FabrizioCarafa, the Duke of Andria. Evidently, she was able to keep it secret from her husband for almost two years, even though the existence of the affair was well known elsewhere. Finally, on October 16, 1590, at the Palazzo San Severo in Naples, when Gesualdo had allegedly gone away on a hunting trip, the two lovers took insufficient precaution at last (Gesualdo had arranged with his servants to have keys to the locks of his palace copied in wood so that he could gain entrance if the doors were locked). Gesualdo returned to the palace, caught them in flagrante delicto and murdered them both in their bed. Afterward, he left their mutilated bodies in front of the palace for all to see. Being a nobleman he was immune from prosecution, but not to revenge, so he fled to his castle at Venosa where he would be safe from any of the relatives of either his wife or her lover.

Details on the murders are not lacking, as the depositions of witnesses to the magistrates have survived in full. While they disagree on some details, they agree on the principal points, and it is apparent that Gesualdo had help from his servants, who may have done most of the killing; however, Gesualdo certainly stabbed Maria multiple times, shouting as he did, “she’s not dead yet!” The Duke of Andria was found slaughtered by numerous deep sword wounds, as well as by a shot through the head. When he was found, he was dressed in women’s clothing (specifically, Maria’s night dress). His own clothing was found piled up by the bedside, unbloodied.

The murders were widely publicized, including in verse by poets such as Tasso and an entire flock of Neapolitan poets, eager to capitalize on the sensation. The salacious details of the murders were broadcast in print, but nothing was done to apprehend the Prince of Venosa. The police report[4] from the scene makes for shocking reading even after more than four hundred years.

***

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this feature. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, on twitter to @DaveSwindle, or via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Felix Mendelssohn

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Antonio Vivaldi

10 Recommended by Charlie Martin

Franz Liszt

Rimsky-Korsakov

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin

Mily Balakirev

Cesar Cui

Frederic Chopin, Gabriel Faure

Charles Gounod, Erik Satie

 

28 Recommendations from Markham S. Pyle

William Byrd and Thomas Tallis

Aaron Copland

Dvorak

Elgar

Holst

The Reformed Trombonist’s Match-Up Suggestions:

Haydn Vs. Mozart

Shostakovich

Brahms

Verdi

Rossini

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David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Hey, remember the early days of rock & roll?

Even if you don’t remember them, surely you’ve heard the story:

How white people stole rock & roll from black musicians, paying them a pittance (if that) for their music, then getting rich and famous?

How decades later, a bunch of almost forgotten, destitute black artists sued and won millions in royalties?

Not everybody knows the other side of the story, though, because naturally that would ruin the liberal narrative.

The “other side” being that sometimes, black artists were ripped off by… other black artists.

That’s right: Rock & roll was a black-on-black crime.

For instance, Little Richard is revered today, and quite rightly, as a musical pioneer.

But whenever I see him referred to as “an original,” I smirk.

Many insist that Little Richard lifted his whole “thing” from a guy named Esquerita and — contrary to that prevailing narrative — made quite a bit of money in the process.

(Esquerita, on the other hand, died of AIDS, broke, at age 48.)

And by the way, Little Richard wasn’t even that busted up about Wonder-Bread-white Pat Boone doing insipid covers of his incendiary tunes:

After all, he said, the kids bought both records, so he got paid twice.

And I’ll ask again:

If America is so evil, how the hell did TWO out-there black guys — one of whom was obviously bisexual — who wore makeup and hairspray, banged on pianos and screamed about loving either teenaged girls or Jesus not get either locked up or lynched?

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R40: The 6 Best Rush Albums

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by J. Christian Adams

This summer Rush launches the R40 tour celebrating 40 years as a band. The Canadian trio was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, years after other acts like ABBA, Jefferson Airplane and Grandmaster Flash were inducted.  Unlike those era-centric acts, Rush has 24 Gold, 14 Platinum and three multiplatinum albums spread across 40 years. Their most recent studio album, Clockwork Angels, debuted at #2 on Billboard’s 200 album chart in 2013. Only the Beatles and Rolling Stones have more consecutive gold and platinum albums.

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been producing music since they they first took the stage together at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in August 1974. Peart was the new guy in the band then, but has since become its voice, penning lyrics that made hipster critics cringe – touching on, in chronological order – Tolkien, male baldness, the Solar Federation, starship Rocinante, forced equality of outcome, FM rock, automobile bans, Space Shuttle Columbia, concentration camps (Lee’s parents survived Auschwitz), Enola Gay, China, clever anagrams, chance, AIDS, the internet, expectations shattered by 9-11, more expectations shattered and finally, carnies.  It’s hard to find a list of rock’s greatest drummers that doesn’t include Neil Peart.

Over the decades, hipster critics praised acts like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and the Talking Heads while they mocked Rush. But 40 years later, Rush fills arenas and tops album charts, forever reinventing a sound that defies categorization. It’s just Rush.

This summer, you can catch Rush in hockey arenas as well as lots of outdoor venues starting May 8.  Here’s a PJ Lifestyle ranking of the six most important (and best) Rush albums.

6. Roll the Bones (1991)

Roll the Bones is the album where Rush got its groove back.  The first Rush album to hit the Billboard Top 5 since Moving Pictures (eventually going Platinum) Roll the Bones marked the end of a ramble through the electronic wilderness where the songwriting and the sonic grandeur returned. After Moving Pictures in 1981, Rush released a series of roaming (yet often very good) albums dabbling or drenched in synthesizer and driven by aural tones rather than raw guitar energy. Grace Under Pressure, for example, was a very good, but very alienating work. By the time Hold Your Fire was released in 1987, the biggest rock power trio was drowning in synth. Presto in 1989 broke free from the trend with excellent songs that were shrunken by timid production.  It was Roll the Bones where it all finally came together.

“Dreamline” received massive radio airplay in an era when massive radio airplay mattered. “You Bet Your Life” is about how everyone rolls the bones on their life, they take their chances and either win or lose. “Heresy” might be the only rock song about the fall of Soviet Communism:

The counter-revolution/ at the counter of a store/ people smiling through their tears/ who can given them back their lives/ and all their wasted years?

The album is simply filled with good songs, period.

Highlights: “Dreamline,” “Bravado,” “The Big Wheel.”

We travel in the dark of the new moon
A starry highway traced on the map of the sky
Like lovers and heroes, lonely as eagle’s cry
We’re only at home when we’re on the fly, on the fly

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