Michael Wudtke sent in this request with the following comment: “I saw Jeff and his band in Berlin and this was phenomenal!” Here’s the late Jeff Healey and his band with “Blue Jean Blues.”
Here’s another terrific request from Mark Mazer. I’ve always been fascinated by songs in different time signatures, and here’s a classic example – “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.
We’ve seen to many changes in technology over the last generation or so that some of the greatest innovations from the childhood of a Generation X-er (like me) are completely obsolete today. For example, my nieces have been aware of what “listening to records” is for a long time because I have a record player at my house. But a couple of years ago, when the oldest of the girls, now 9, saw a record outside the sleeve for the first time, she said, “Wow! That’s a big CD!”
It’s fascinating to see kids react to older technology. The Fine Bros., who have created some of the funniest videos anywhere with the React Series on YouTube, have tackled that topic with their latest video, “Kids React To Walkmans.”
Of course the kids’ reactions are priceless. One girl immediately thinks she’s looking at a phone, while another, when she can’t figure out how to use it, exclaims, “I feel so judged right now!” The kids “ooh” and “ah” at the cassettes and laugh at the headphones — “My grandpa has some of these!” To a man – er, to a child – all of them prefer today’s digital technology to the old school cassette player. Then again, who wouldn’t? Check it out for yourself:
Mark Mazer has shared a great request. Here’s “Maracaibo Oriental” by Benny More.
The first thing I thought when I saw this announcement of Lana Del Rey’s new single “West Coast” off her upcoming album Ultraviolence, was, “Oh, wow, she’s brunette now. I wonder where she’s going to go with that.”
I’ve written before about the importance of Lana Del Rey’s image in her music, and how that image has also inspired waves of internet hate. “Lana Del Rey appeals to good girls because she’s the quintessential romantic bad girl: sultry, pouty, with thin white tee shirts and tiny denim shorts, the kind of girl who’d be leaning up against her boyfriend’s hot rod in the school parking lot,” I wrote about her first album.
Why is Lady Gaga praised for her careful cultivation of an image, while Lana Del Rey is consistently derided for it? A few reasons. Gaga has proven herself a masterful performer, bringing her image to life. Del Rey’s live performances are frequently described by those who have attended as low-energy, somewhat awkward and unpolished. That creates the impression that her image is just that — an image, not a living force. Lana Del Rey’s persona exists in a photograph; Lady Gaga’s exists on a stage, in a taxi cab, on the street, on the catwalk.
I think there could be another factor at play, though. Lady Gaga’s image is built on high fashion, decadence, sophistication. Lana Del Rey claims a trailer trash origin story and a blue collar aesthetic. She infuses romance into seedy, rundown places and unlike Taylor Swift (another carefully cultivated pop-image with a blue collar, small town origin story — despite being the daughter of a banker), Del Rey doesn’t make them cute. In Swift’s high school fairytale, the tomboy falls in love with the football star and pines for him from the bleachers while he hangs out with his cheerleader girlfriend. In Del Rey’s fantasy high school, the heroine is getting pregnant under those bleachers, and the football player still doesn’t love her.
Maybe some people just prefer the glamour of a Lady Gaga (or the tamer glamour of a Taylor Swift) over Lana Del Rey’s trashy bad-girl image. Maybe some people resent that she claims a hard-knock reputation that she didn’t really “earn.” But maybe there’s another factor at play: Del Rey is singing about things people like to sweep under the rug. No, not in a big social-change way; it’s probably hardly intentional. But look at her early videos, which frequently starred tattooed model Bradley Soileau — he looks like the kind of guy you’d see in a parking lot, who’d make you want to get to your car a little faster. And then there’s the rumors (and derision) surrounding Del Rey’s supposed plastic surgery — sometimes I wonder if she wants people to wonder. Her songs are so often about the things women do to seem attractive and desirable in a world that expects flawless beauty. Del Rey would be far from the first singer to get plastic surgery to fit a popular image — but she would be one of the first mainstream artists who used it to make people feel uncomfortable about beauty standards.
I have to admit, “West Coast” doesn’t have me excited for the new album — it’s very repetitive, and it doesn’t have the drama of “Blue Jeans” or “Born to Die,” or the sweet sadness of “Video Games.” But I’m excited for the collaborations with The Black Keys’s Dan Auerbach, and I’m interested in where Del Rey is going next.
Here’s a request from Adrian Reilly. Enjoy Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too.”
Welcome to Part 5 of our series on Walt Disney’s contributions to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. If you need to catch up on the rest of the series, here’s where to look:
Part 1: ‘The Kind Of Service We Can Offer’
Part 2: ‘Something No One Has Seen Or Done Before’
Part 3: ‘I Won’t Open The Fair Without That Exhibit!’
Part 4: ‘At The Intersection Of Commerce And Progress’
This week we’re looking at an attraction that made its debut at the World’s Fair and is still beloved today – It’s A Small World. It’s one of the attractions that appears at every Disney resort, on three continents. Because of its ubiquity all over the world, according to Disney, the title song “is always playing somewhere around the world.” During the course of a 16 hour day in any one of the parks, the song plays 1,200 times. Love it or hate it, It’s A Small World is one of the quintessential Disney attractions, but it almost didn’t make it off the drawing board.
A scant nine months before the Fair, Pepsi approached the Disney Studios requesting that the Imagineers develop an attraction that the company would sponsor to benefit UNICEF. Bob Thomas picks up the story in Walt Disney: An American Original:
A Disney executive, believing that three projects were more than enough to occupy WED, sent the Pepsi-Cola people to an engineering firm that specialized in children’s playgrounds. Walt was angry when he heard about it. “I’m the one who makes those decisions!” he declared. “Tell Pepsi I’ll do it!”
Walt detailed to stunned Imagineers his plan for “a little boat ride” in which guests would see simple, childlike figures representing the cultures all over the globe. He enlisted some of his most trusted artists to design the attraction. Mary Blair, whom Walt called his “favorite artist,” imprinted her unique stamp on the look of the ride. Marc Davis oversaw the animatronics, while his wife Alice and Joyce Carlson designed the costumes for the dolls. Claude Coats engineered the layout of what Walt would call “the happiest cruise that ever sailed.”
Allston has brought us another request. Here’s “Once Before” by Barry & The Remains.
Here’s another amazing request from Allston – I LOVE this song! Here’s “Work To Do” by Average White Band.
Once in a while, Allston will bring me a song that totally stumps me. Here’s one I’d never heard before, but I kind of dig – especially the guitar solo. Enjoy “Prettiest Girl” by The Neighborhoods.
1. The Chainsmokers selected perhaps one of the most obnoxious-sounding people on the planet to “narrate” the song. It’s almost caricature.
2. The beat is in a minor key, often used by musicians to designate something dark or ominous.
I could be completely wrong, of course. Still, what are your thoughts?
Enjoy another terrific request from Allston: Soul Survivors with “Expressway To Your Heart.”
I can’t help but share one of my favorites by a legendary Atlanta band. Here’s “Honeysuckle Blue” by Drivin’ N’ Cryin’.
It’s bad enough that Cat Stevens — a.k.a. Muslim weirdo Yusuf Islam — will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday night.
(Don’t blame me — I tried to stop it…)
But I was hoping he’d at least be banned from entering America, based on his habit of wishing aloud for the murder of Salman Rushdie and such.
No luck there, either. Stevens performed on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night, so we know he’s in the country.
I can only wish that fellow inductee Gene Simmons of KISS — being Jewish and all — will at least diss Stevens during the show.
Of course, KISS have already been dissing the Hall, and each other, daily in the run up to the event.
Andrew Loog Oldham, who is being honored as The Rolling Stones’ original manager, says he’s not showing up because, among other things, he says the ceremony isn’t as much raunchy fun any more now that it’s televised.
Meanwhile, surviving Nirvana members seem to be hinting that, for their Hall induction performance, Joan Jett will be taking the place of their obviously absent lead singer, Kurt Cobain.
Now, I have all the time in the world for Joan Jett, despite her asinine politics, but if true, this decision is just… strange.
Joe Strummer died shortly before The Clash’s 2003 induction, and no one in the band said, “Hey, let’s just shove Patti Smith up there instead.” They stayed classy and didn’t perform.
Having said all this, will I watch this stupid show tomorrow night? Probably.
After all, sometimes something fun happens…
Here’s another great request from Allston – Blackfoot’s “Train, Train”
For those of you unfortunate enough to not have grown up Gen-X, today is #RexManningDay, the day in the fictional world of the film Empire Records during which pretty boy “pop star Rex Manning was scheduled to do a CD signing at Empire Records, one of the last vestiges of what has come to be known as “independent rock”.
Released in 1995, Empire Records celebrates the small independent music store, planting the seed for what would eventually become Record Store Day. A Breakfast Club-esque group of staffers celebrates alt rock and all things un-pop while ex-Hippie store manager Joe Reaves (Anthony LaPaglia) struggles to keep his uptight yuppie brother from selling out to a chain music store. All sorts of drama ensues as Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger fight over guys, Robin Tunney dabbles with suicide, and Ethan Embry gets accidentally high to Gwar. A lot of great music is played, culminating in a rooftop concert that raises enough funds to keep the store open, proving there is a good side to community organizing after all.
Of course, there’s an official website for Rex Manning Day, but if you’d like to travel even further down memory lane, check out 13 Favorite Empire Records Memories, get 9 Fashion Lessons from the movie, or read 5 Fun Facts about the film. Better yet, head on over to your local record store and celebrate the things that make America great: small business, independent music, and a healthy dose of snark.
We’ve learned that you can count on Allston for some quality requests, and here’s another: Steely Dan’s “Josie.”
Allston brings us another awesome request. Here’s “I Will Dare” by The Replacements.
I don’t know how big this song was nationally, but it was all over the radio in Atlanta. It still sounds fresh to me to this day. Take a ride on Angie Aparo’s “Spaceship.”
Here’s a little slice of the ’80s, courtesy of Allston – a live version of “I Got The Message” by Men Without Hats.
Allston’s back with another request. Here’s “(Outside The Gates Of) Cerdes” by Procol Harum.
Disney’s animated hit Frozen has turned into quite the phenomenon. The film, starring the voice talents of Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, recently passed the billion dollar mark in worldwide box office. It has become the highest grossing animated movie of all time and entered the top ten among films overall.
The Walt Disney Studios’ seventh billion-dollar release, “Frozen” has earned an estimated $398.4 million at the domestic box office and $674 million internationally.
“Frozen” is the first billion-dollar film for Walt Disney Animation Studios and its first film to receive the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature. “Frozen” opened wide domestically on November 27, 2013, posting the #1 all-time Thanksgiving debut ($93.6M five-day, $67.4M three-day) and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ biggest opening ever. It remained in the top 10 films at the domestic box office for 16 consecutive weeks, the longest run by any film since 2002.
Other records that Frozen has claimed include:
- The biggest Thanksgiving debut weekend.
- The biggest debut weekend for a Disney film.
- The highest grossing Disney or Pixar film in 27 countries, including Russia, China, and Brazil.
- The highest grossing foreign film in South Korea.
- The highest grossing animated film in Venezuela and Denmark.
- The fastest selling home video in digital format.
In its first day, Frozen sold 3.2 million DVDs and Blu-Rays. Additionally, the soundtrack has topped the Billboard 200 charts for seven nonconsecutive weeks, selling 1.6 million copies along with 5 million individual track downloads. The soundtrack has also approaching 110 million streams worldwide on Spotify. The movie’s hit song “Let It Go” won an Oscar for writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Menzel’s version of the song has reached #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 as of last week, selling 2.6 million copies and besting by far the “pop” version by Demi Lovato, which only reached #38. The video of the song’s sequence from the film has garnered over 166 million views on YouTube.
What other records are left to break? With a track record like this in just a few months, we can safely bet that Frozen will join the pantheon of Disney classics.
Here’s another great request from Allston: “Birdland” by Weather Report.
Glenn Gould used to be my favorite interpreter of Bach. Since Simone Dinnerstein’s recordings of Bach began appearing, beginning with her Goldberg Variations in 2007, Gould has assumed the somewhat less exalted status as “one of my favorite interpreters” of Bach. My absolute favorite these past 6 or 7 years is Dinnerstein. Indeed, she is not only my favorite interpreter of Bach, she is my favorite pianist, period (if one can still enjoy that now-freighted locution.)
Membership, as the AMEX people keep telling you, has its privileges. Last night, at a semi-secure undisclosed location, members of the Friends of The New Criterion, were thrilled to have Ms. Dinnerstein perform Schumann’s haunting “Kinderszenen,” the 13 “Scenes of Childhood” that Schumann wrote in 1838, followed by Bach’s “Inventions,” the 15 short pieces Bach wrote to introduce his children and students to the mysteries of counterpoint. (Ms. Dinnerstein has just released a CD of Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias for Sony, and she often performs one or more of the Kinderszenen.) It was a magical evening, reminiscent of the evening some of us spent at Bill Buckley’s New York apartment in 2007 where Ms. Dinnerstein performed all 32 of the Goldberg Variations for a rapt audience.
I have written about Simone Dinnerstein in the space before (here, for example, and here). Last night’s performance prompts me to repeat what I wrote in 2008 after hearing her perform at Lincoln Center:
Perhaps the most ravishing musical experience of my life was listening to Simone Dinnerstein play Bach’s Goldberg Variations’s at the home of a friend in Manhattan last autumn. In the weeks before the performance, I had listened several times to a CD of Dinnerstein’s remarkable 2007 interpretation of the work, but hearing her en famille, as it were, in the intimate setting of a living room with a dozen friends dramatically heightened the experience.
But it was the performance as well as the setting that made the evening so special. Hitherto my gold standard for renditions of this majestic piece of music was Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording. (Gould made a second recording shortly before his death, age fifty, in the early 1980s.) I especially admired the astringent clarity and architecture of Gould’s playing. Gould burrowed deep into the structure of Bach’s music, revealing its bones and sinews. His astonishing technical command allowed him to exhibit latent conversations within the music, rhythmic and emotional exfoliations that elaborated themselves with pristine lucidity, like crystals forming and dissolving in an ice-cold, light-inflected mountain stream.
Dinnerstein’s Bach is a warmer, but no less lucid creature. Like Gould, Dinnerstein commands a breathtaking technical mastery. And like him, she has made the music her own. She does not simply play the Goldbergs. She inhabits them, moving through its 30 variations like the rising sun through the rooms of a palace. Each chamber is suddenly illuminated and its distinctive character gradually revealed as the light lingers in loving dialogue with the soul’s furniture. And just as each day’s light has its own discoveries and omissions, so it was with Dinnerstein’s performances of the Goldbergs. Anyone who had heard the CD of her performing the work would have instantly recognized her stamp on the performance that evening. But what was remarkable was how distinctive each rendition was: like a familiar landscape seen at noon and then again an hour before dusk.
Dinnerstein is a master of rubato–listen, for example, to the way she coaxes Variation 4 to unfold itself before us–but also she handles the presto passages with breathtaking aplomb: her joyful unpacking of Variation 14 is a case in point. Dinnerstein’s Bach is perhaps less cerebral than Gould’s, but no less intelligent. There is an amplitude to her convocations that Gould’s austerity wouldn’t countenance.
But I revisit Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs merely as a prelude to mentioning her performance yesterday at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. Her late-morning concert, part of the Center’s Great Performers series, included two preludes and fugues (numbers 9 in E-major and 3 in C-sharp-major) from book II of the Well-tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s Sonata 13 in E-flat major, and Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik, a curious, amusing and bemusing work by the contemporary American composer George Crumb. As an encore, Dinnerstein played the lovely A-major intermezzo from Brahms’s opus 118 suite of piano pieces.
It was a memorable occasion. Dinnerstein’s signature combination of technical command and patient lusciousness informed every moment. Her playing is less idiosyncratic than Gould’s, but no less distinctive. Her taste – witness the Crumb – ranges widely, yet there is a clarifying purity to her playing that inoculates it against mannerism. Her personality touches and enlivens all she plays, but one always feels that the focus is on the music, not the music maker. This is true artistry, a sort of musical midwifery in which the point is not the performer but the thing performed. I hope you’ll have an opportunity to hear her (her concert schedule is posted here). You’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about her.
And so you, if you pay any attention at all to classical music, have. Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs catapulted her to classical musical stardom, and her several subsequent CDs — I recommend in particular “Bach: A Strange Beauty” — have consolidated that impressive debut.
image via bach-cantatas.com