Tuesday, December 29, 2015

And my mind is proud but it aches with rage

I remain gobsmacked by the pop band Lucius, fronted by two absolutely killer young lady vocalists. Due to job scheduling issues I have now missed them in Portland on three occasions. So the best I can do for now is enjoy their amazing YouTube live performances.

Here is their cover of The Kinks "Strangers", a Dave Davies nugget from "Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Pt. 1". I love how this song keeps cropping up. It was used to devastating effect in Wes Anderson's film "The Darjeeling Express". The Lucius girls bring a vocal intensity that this beautiful song richly deserves.

So where are you going to I don't mind 
If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die 
So I will follow you wherever you go 
If your offered hand is still open to me 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No, you are the Messiah!

"Porpoise Song" is possibly The Monkees finest musical moment in terms of production and music.  Carol King outdid herself in capturing the sad aftermath of the Summer of Love, and her partner Gerry Goffin took George Martin and "I Am The Walrus" to the next level.   The final coda - only on the 45rpm single - is awash in organ, chimes and strings.  As far as I know, Micky Dolenz is the  only actual Monkee on the track.  It is a true one-off, never to be replicated.  I barely remember it from back in the day but it has become a dear favorite.

By the time this was released The Monkees TV show had been canceled and the subversive movie Head was about to crash in the theaters, quite literally.     Preceded by the top 5 showing of "Valeri", then the unfortunate release of "D. W. Washburn", "Porpoise Song" would only climb to 62 on the charts.  Peter Tork ditched the group soon thereafter.  The writing was on the wall but the remaining three held together for a couple more LPs.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We got no time for your silly toys

Thanks to The Kinks for one of my favorite Christmas songs - one that did not get much airplay back when it came out.   Probably due to the depressing subject matter of the song, but damn if the tune isn't a killer knock-off of Pete Townshend circa "Tommy".

Without further ado, from  1977 here is "Father Christmas":

But the last time I played Father Christmas
I stood outside a department store
A gang of kids came over and mugged me
And knocked my reindeer to the floor

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Road to a Real Good Time

Time for a brief break from my Monkees Marathon for a tune that has been stuck in my head for months.  I am a big fan of the neurotic comedy of Kristen Wiig, and recently watched the movie "Welcome To Me".  Since this is not a film review blog I won't go into details other than to say that Ms. Wiig was fabulous even if the movie itself could have been much tighter.  But during the end credits I heard a song that was new to me.  What I heard was a bizarre amalgamation of the Barry Manilow and Scott Walker, with lyrics that have to be heard to be believed.  The song is "ESP Switch" by Michael Farneti, a South Florida musician on his self produced album Good Morning Kisses.  On first listen I laughed at the outlandish lyrics and enjoyed the groove.  But hell if it has not stuck with me and I find myself dialing it up on Rhapsody on at least a weekly basis.  There is a joy in this song that just floats my boat.  The "is it love?" chorus is pure musical gold.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I have all the time in the world

For many years my least favorite Monkee was Davy Jones.   Not because of his voice, I just did not care for the songs that I associated with him.  Only late in the game did I discover that towards the end of the band - after Peter left - he had developed a knack for finding good songs by interesting songwriters and assisted with producing them.   Probably my favorite of those twilight years Davy songs is "Someday Man".  Originally released as the b-side to Mike's awesome "Listen To The Band", it never made it on an original Monkees LP.   Written by songmeisters Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, it has fine bass line that drives the verses along with an understated horn arrangement.  Then that killer chorus comes in and I get a big smile on my face.   The more I listen to this the more I like it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Standing In A Landslide

In 1968 Michael Nesmith recorded a slew of his songs in Nashville with the apparent intent of including them on an upcoming Monkees LP.   For reasons unknown to me almost none of these tunes had an official releases while the Monkees were still a working entity.   Many would later be covered on Nesmith's fine 1970s solo records.   "Listen To The Band" was one of the few exceptions and was released as a single in 1969.

Many years later Rhino records obtained exclusive license to release a gigantic backlog of unreleased Monkees material.   Between three Missing Links sets and expanded releases of the original albums almost everything they recorded is now available.  Among the gems recorded in Nashville is "St Matthew", a semi psychedelic country number with phased vocals and killer twangy guitar.  Like many Nesmith lyrics these are bathed in pathos. On the surface they tell the story of a woman who lives life in the fast lane, but underneath there lies a sadness that belies the upbeat arrangement that encircles the song.

She walks around on brass rings that never touch her feet
She speaks in conversations that never are complete
And looking over past things that she has never done
She calls herself, "St Matthew" when she is on the run 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The emptiness in her eyes was cruel to see

With a blog named after my favorite Monkees' song, one would think I would have posted an entry about this band long before now.  For most of my adult life I enjoyed their hit singles but had no knowledge of their albums.  Only in the last few years have I made that leap, and in the process discovered several things.  (1) Mike Nesmith is a top notch song writer.  (2) They recorded dozens of songs that were never officially released until long after they broke up, and many of these are some of the best music they ever committed to tape.  (3)  They could actually play their instruments, although that really only occurred for a couple of LPs in the middle of their career. (4) I don't care that many of their songs were recorded with session musicians.   I love most of it regardless.

That said it is about time I featured them in some blog posts, so here goes.

According to Wikipedia "Love Is Only Sleeping" was planned as the preceding single to the Pisces, Aquarius, Carpicorn & Jones Ltd. LP, but "was canceled due to fears that the title of the A-side might be too risqué".   It was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, of course one of the top notch songwriting duos of all time.  I just love the syncopated guitar riff and Mike's Texas drawl.  And to top it off it ends in a flurry of psychedelic feedback.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Martha My Dear

The new Beatles 1+ release with two Blu Ray disks of videos is just about the best Beatles product ever.   The CD portion is fine although the Fab Four community is up in arms over the omission of "Please Please Me" since it was a #1 on some charts in the UK.  The new mixes are nice, with more clarity in just about every regard.  The guitar in "Paperback Writer" is absolutely pummeling.

But the videos are the real star here.  Going chronologically, they really kick in with "I Feel Fine" and never let up.   Options of stereo and two version of 5.1 surround are great but I am really in it for the actual videos.   To see those four together, singing, playing, laughing, enjoying themselves is what floats my boat.  Apple has pretty much shut down all Beatles videos on You-tube but who needs them now that we have top notch versions in an official release.   The videos that were initially created on film are just stupendous.   Restored with care and just bursting from the screen. 

Some days I think "Strawberry Fields Forever" may be my favorite song ever.   So thanks to Apple the new version is up on Youtube, and here it is.  But take my word for it, the actual blu ray version is twice as clear and deep.

Just a quick note to say that I have been away due to health issues.  Thanks to my doctors and my partner I am just about back to myself after nearly a year of recovery.  Howdy to all who may have wondered where I disappeared to.

And yes, Martha the sheepdog does make an appearance at the very end of the video, a detail I had never noticed before.