Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Video Fun: Gotye & Whatever happened to Jem - They , Wish I, & Just a Ride (all 2004)

With the video still being posted on Facebook, and with now regular airplay on WXPN, I've been hearing that Gotye single, "Somebody That I Used to Know" quite a bit. Also, that Canadian band Walk Off the Earth who does the good sounding cover version, got flown this week to Los Angeles by the Ellen show, to perform "Somebody That I Used to Know" on her daytime talk show. No matter which version you hear, the song has a riff in it that clearly reminds me of a song by Welsh singer-songwriter Jem. That song is called "They" and it's our video of the week. To get the full effect, first jump back two weeks and listen to about the first minute of the Gotye single.

In 2004, Jem (Jem Griffiths) was all over the airwaves, both radio and MTV on both sides of the Atlantic with hit singles from her album Finally Woken. "They" was the first single; it was followed in short order by "Just a Ride".

Once the Gotye song made me think of Jem, the next logical question is whatever happened to her. Jem came back with her second album, Down to Earth, in 2008. It was a solid album with a sound somewhat more evolved than the danceable riffs that her earlier songs were built on. Unfortunately, the second album didn't have any hits and is relatively unknown. According to her official website (which has apparently not been updated since last summer), she had planned to release on September 1, 2011 an album commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That album was never released and no further information is available. Jem is a talented singer and songwriter and hopefully we will hear from her again. Meanwhile, here is the third single from Finally Woken, "Wish I".

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Video Fun: RIP Kodak, Paul Simon - Kodachrome (1973) & Cyndi Lauper - True Colors (1986)

The Eastman Kodak Company declared bankruptcy this week marking a sad chapter to their 100+ year history of providing photographic equipment, supplies, and services to the world. You didn't have to be a photographer to feel a trace of sadness at the news on Thursday. If you grew up before there were digital cameras, you most certainly have used either a Kodak camera, film, processing, or more likely, all three.

In my life before digital, I shot only color slides. Kodachrome 64 was my film of choice. Kodak developed my slides and I looked at them on a Kodak Carousel slide projector that I bought with money I earned one winter shoveling snow in the neighborhood when I was about twelve.

Paul Simon captured very well the love that photographers had for Kodachrome in this song from his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon. They weren't making videos in 1973, but there are a plethora of homemade videos on YouTube, of which this one is the best.

In 1986, Cyndi Lauper had a number one hit with "True Colors", the title track to her second album. She also got a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance. It didn't take long for the song to be licensed to Kodak for use in television commercials that ran all through the late 80s, and forever linked this song with Kodak.

For a bonus video this week, here is one of those Kodak commercials.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grover Washington, Jr. - Grover Live (2010), A True Gift

Grover Live

Listen to "Winelight"

Yesterday I made a huge find on Amazon. As a longtime fan of Grover Washington Jr., I, like everyone else who knew and loved the man or his music, was saddened by his death in 1999 when he was just 56. Somehow news of this album's release escaped me until now. I'll let Amazon describe it.

"America's greatest R&B-funk and soul-jazz saxophonist, Grover Washington, Jr., (December 12, 1943-December 17, 1999) was one of the first musicians to successfully fuse R&B, pop, funk, blues, and jazz. "Grover Live" is a previously unreleased live recording. Captured on June 7, 1997 in Peekskill, NY, this album reveals Washington and his famous backing band blowing the roof off the sold out 1,500-seat Paramount Center for the Performing Arts."

Listen to "East River Drive"

This was not anything slapped quickly together to cash in, this was a true labor of love, a magnificent addition to his legacy, and a real gift to his fans, family and friends. Grover Liveis a live album done right, the way I wish all live albums would be done. For starters, it was recorded at one show, with all his song intros and comments to the audience included, and you can hear that Grover was the complete performer, bringing the audience along with a friendly rapport that's totally endearing.

He played a wonderful set that nicely touched on all parts of his career and included most every favorite that his fans might want to hear. Grover is known for having a fabulous band and this night was no exception, here's the personnel.

Grover Washington, Jr. - Tenor, Soprano, Alto, Baritone Sax
Donald Robinson -Keyboards & Musical Director
Adam Holzman - Keyboards
Gerald Veasley - Bass
Richard Lee Steacker - Guitars
Steven Wolf - Drums
Pablo Batista - Congas & Percussion

Listen to "Just The Two Of Us"

The production on this project is outstanding; the sound quality of the recording is superb, and the level of care that went into the package and the ten page booklet is commensurate with everything else about this album. There are two user reviews that speak to the beauty of Grover Live.Anne A "jazz woman" really nails it when she says

"He plays with such splendid intensity, deep soul, funk & groove, and passion. He's a true genius at melody and improvisation. Superb audio quality, and a feast of his biggest hits played live. It's a lot of music, about 80 minutes - and conversation. To hear the warmth of Grover's voice makes this such a special experience."

Listen to "Let It Flow (For "Dr. J")"

But the best thing I found perusing the user reviews, was this from Grover's daughter Shana.

"5.0 out of 5 stars Grover's Daughter, Shana, August 31, 2010
By Shana B. Washington "littlebeigegirl" (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

Hi everyone! We are really excited about all of the feedback from all media! This was a labor of love... 10+ years in the making. We had to edit the concert down which was really hard but we feel like we got the true essence of who my father was on stage. It was a TEAM effort! Much love and respect to everyone involved.

I love it! My daughters... Grover's grandchildren, go to sleep to this cd and love it as well. Thank you to all the fans who haven't forgotten great music and an even better man! Enjoy!

This CD is a great bargain, even at Amazon's normal price of $16.85, but through the end of January, you can get the MP3 download for just $5.00 as part of Amazon's 1,000 albums for $5.00 promotion.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Video Fun: The First New Hit of 2012, Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know

Eight days ago, I had never heard the name Gotye. A week ago yesterday, blog friend and UK correspondent Lee posted this video on his Facebook page with the comment "...An early favourite song of 2012 - already been huge in Australia, out here shortly". Over the next few days more people posted this same video to Facebook, and by mid-week the thing seemed to have gone viral. By Friday the song had been added for airplay on WXPN. Check it out.

Gotye's real name is Wouter "Wally" De Backer, and he's Belgian/Australian. In the last half of 2011, "Somebody That I Used To Know" was a huge hit, selling 6X platinum in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and Holland. The recording also features New Zealand musician Kimbra.

Not fifteen minutes after I first saw Lee's post of the Gotye video, a Canadian friend posted the following video of an excellent cover version by the Canadian indie band Walk off the Earth featuring Sarah Blackwood from another indie band, the Creepshow.

Gotye's Website
Gotye's Facebook
Walk off the Earth's Website
Walk off the Earth's Facebook

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rosie Thomas to Release New Album, With Love, on Valentine's Day, Plus Lots of Free Music

Rosie Thomas, whose last album, These Friends of Mine was one of my favorite releases of 2007, will release her next album, With Love, on February 14th. Right now you can listen and download for free, a song from the new album, "Where Was I", which sounds pretty great.

Last month, Rosie also released a new Christmas song, "Remember When It Snowed". This song is still available, you can listen and download it free below.

Rosie's last effort (not counting her Christmas album) was a beautiful collection of songs exquisitely written and performed and recorded by Rosie with her friends Sufjan Stevens and Dennison Witmer called These Friends of Mine. If you don't already have it, now you can listen and download it for free right here. It's truly a special record, enjoy.

Rosie Thomas' Website
Rosie Thomas' Facebook

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Best XPN Songs of 2011

Every year WXPN asks the listeners to submit lists of their top ten albums and top ten songs of the year. I normally only consider albums for my year end blog review and I submit same to XPN. Usually most of my picks are albums that don't get played on XPN (this year two of my picks got played).

So this year when it came time to fill out the year end survey, I decided to play nice and do a real top ten list of songs that XPN actually played in regular daytime rotation. So here are my picks of the best songs XPN played in 2011.

1. Lana Del Rey - "Video Games"

Listen to "Video Games"

Lana Del Rey was already a star in Britain and elsewhere even before her first single, "Video Games" was released thanks to the video having gone viral several months prior. In the months since the single's release, "Video Games" has reached number one on the iTunes sales charts in nine countries, and number three at U.S. iTunes.

2. Mayer Hawthorne - "The Walk"

Listen to "The Walk"

"The Walk" comes from Mayer Hawthorne's third album, How Do You Do. This song is unstoppable with its heavy dose of sixties soul influences; it really sounded great on the XPN airwaves.

3. Laura Marling - "Sophia"

Listen to "Sophia"

"Sophia" comes from Laura Marling's third album, A Creature I Don't Know. I first saw Laura three years ago at the Mercury Lounge in NYC; she had just released her first album in England and she was just seventeen. Mumford and Son was her back up band and they also opened the show, they were all unknown in America at the time. Laura is a super talented singer-songwriter with a very distinctive voice; it was good to finally hear her on XPN.

4. Booker T. Jones - "Representing Memphis"

Listen to "Representing Memphis"

Booker T. Jones has an amazing history as the keyboard player in the house band at Stax Records and he played on nearly every one of those classic sixties soul sides. In 2009, after a twenty year layoff, he dusted off his B-3 organ and made a great comeback album, Potato Hole with the Drive By Truckers as his backup band. This time around, he's working with The Roots; the album is called The Road From Memphis. This catchy track features duet vocals by Sharon Jones and Matt Berninger from The National.

5. The Civil Wars - "Poison and Wine"

Listen to "Poison and Wine"

The group is named The Civil Wars to reflect the many facets that a committed relationship can have over the course of a lifetime. The lyrics of their signature song, Poison & Wine (I don't love you, I always will) make perfect sense as they refer to the dichotomous emotions that such a married couple might have. Barton Hollow is filled with songs that play like intimate and personal conversations. The magic happens when their two voices intertwine within a simple and open production style that boils down to just an acoustic guitar accompanied by either violin or piano, depending on the song. The Civil Wars are Joy Williams and John Paul White, and for the record, they are both married but not to each other.

6. Tom Waits - "Back in the Crowd"

Listen to "Back in the Crowd"

After all the years of deconstructing his voice, singing through a megaphone, etc., it's nice to hear that Tom Waits still has some of his crooning voice left which he puts to good use on "Back in the Crowd". This comes from his latest album, Bad As Me. It was also nice to hear XPN give some play to the title track which features Waits' roughest voice which is growing on me day by day. Waits is one of our best songwriters and like Dylan you are as likely to hear his songs done by others as well as by him.

7. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - "Two Against One" (feat. Jack White)

Listen to "Two Against One" (feat. Jack White)

Danger Mouse worked with Italian composer Daniele Luppi to produce Rome, a loving tribute to Italian film music, especially the spaghetti westerns that were done by the great Ennio Morricone. Interspersed with the atmospheric period music are vocal tracks featuring Norah Jones and Jack White. "Two Against One" features White on a song with hooks enough to be the first single.

8. Keb Mo - "The Whole Enchilada"

Listen to "The Whole Enchilada"

"The Whole Enchilada" was the lead single from Keb Mo's tenth album, The Reflection. A great song from a great album. The album also made my best albums list.

9. John Hiatt - "Damn This Town"

Listen to "Damn This Town"

The main thing you need to know to appreciate this song is that John Hiatt, who has written his share of autobiographical songs, also writes fictional characters and it can be a little unnerving if you think he's talking about himself. "Damn This Town" is one of those. It's a great song but most of the other songs on Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns are even better; it's the strongest set of songs that Hiatt has written in years and it's sort of a shame that XPN only ever played "Damn This Town". This also made my best albums list.

10. Ryan Adams - "Typecast" feat. Norah Jones

Listen to - "Typecast" feat. Norah Jones

This catchy tune sounded great every time XPN played it. It comes from Ryan Adams' double album III/IV which was essentially leftover tracks recorded during sessions in 2007 but not used. Adams is one prolific singer-songwriter and with songs like this you could add gifted to that description.

See The Best Albums of 2011.