Amazing Instrumentals

while back we referred to Nickle Creek’s “Smoothie Song” as the first instrumental to reach the top of the AAA charts. An astute and musically enlightened reader, Craig Handyside, asked about the AAA charts and drew my attention to one of the greatest instrumentals ever written or performed, reaching the top of the pop charts in 1967, Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”‘ First note that the AAA charts are a reasonably recent phenomenon in the music world and as far as can determine, not available online so we can’t do much research into their history. However, if we cast aside all this “which chart are we using” pontificating, “Classical Gas” surely stands, if not alone, at least head and shoulders above the plethora of guitar instrumentals before and since.

[l1]A[/l1] while back we referred to Nickle Creek’s “Smoothie Song” as the first instrumental to reach the top of the AAA charts. An astute and musically enlightened reader, Craig Handyside, asked about the AAA charts and drew my attention to one of the greatest instrumentals ever written or performed, reaching the top of the pop charts in 1967, Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”‘

[az]B000002KAK[/az]First note that the AAA charts are a reasonably recent phenomenon in the music world and as far as can determine, not available online so we can’t do much research into their history. However, if we cast aside all this “which chart are we using” pontificating, “Classical Gas” surely stands, if not alone, at least head and shoulders above the plethora of guitar instrumentals before and since.

Williams has been oft quoted explaining the song’s original title “Classical Gasoline” and the fortuitous mistake that shortened it to “Classical Gas“, carrying the additional groovy connotations of ‘gas’ which Williams hadn’t even considered in the original title. The original release on the Mason Williams Phonograph Record seemed doomed to commercial failure as an album, since this blistering jazz, rock, acoustic guitar instrumental was surrounded by country music, silly pop songs, novelty tunes and elevator music (all of which is spectacular beyond belief),

For example, “The Prince’s Panties” engages in fantastical word play and mental imagery while leading to a painfully punny finale, all the while accompanied by silly, spritely, hummable music. The country tune “Long Time Blues” is worthy of airplay on any country station in any decade. While Williams has included “Classical Gas” on two recordings, the “Phonograph Record” and “Classical Gas” with Mannheim Steamroller, the final track on the “Phonograph Record”, “Baroque-A-Nova” actually appears on all three existing Williams albums in different arrangements; one choral, one guitar, and one [az]B0000005MN[/az]Chip Davis/Mannheim Steamroller special deluxe extra.

Williams, a brilliant guitarist, composer, and comic writer, has received too little praise and recognition for so great a contribution to the arts. Here’s hoping for another solo effort or even another collaboration with Mannheim Steamroller.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (4)

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

  • “walking in memphis”—Ah, Marc Cohn‘s voice and piano . . .
  • “what s it s like to be the bad one” and “to be the bad one”—Actually, it’s “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man; to be the sad man behind blue eyes . . . ” Often touted as the best rock album of all time (it’s at least in the top 10) “Who's NextWho’s Next” needs more time than I have at the moment. Half beautiful ballad, half angry snarling, “Behind Blue Eyes” is often overshadowed by its position on the album, which places it just before one of the all-time-great crankers, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We’ll come back to it; honest.
  • “gypsy jazz”—Django, or Robin Nolan?
  • “beethoven”—mentioned in Boating with a Finn and Renaissance Woman’s Journey Within
  • “jude cole”—”A View from Third Street
  • “tank”—Jumping Japanese Jazz!
  • “boyz 2 man”—nope
  • “circle of two”—Though I’ve never heard Steve and Annie Chapman, you’ll find all you need to know at their website, including links to buy their music.

Songs in the Key of Timberlake?

arely have I seen such an egregious display of ignorance. The August 10th review of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 masterpiece “Songs in the Key of Life” at Amazon.com is so hopeless it seems to be a carefully prepared troll for intelligent commentary to offset its ridiculous stance.The alleged reviewer says “It’s sad that we live in a day and age where people like Stevie Wonder are trying to make a quick buck by ripping off other artists without paying their own dues. I’m sure Justin would be fuming if he heard this record, for it sounds just like his own.”

[l1]R[/l1]Stevie Wonders' 'Songs in the Key of Life'arely have I seen such an egregious display of ignorance. The August 10th review of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 masterpiece “Songs in the Key of Life” at Amazon.com is so hopeless it seems to be a carefully prepared troll for intelligent commentary to offset its ridiculous stance.

The alleged reviewer says “It’s sad that we live in a day and age where people like Stevie Wonder are trying to make a quick buck by ripping off other artists without paying their own dues. I’m sure Justin would be fuming if he heard this record, for it sounds just like his own.”

Hello? Stevie Wonder was stealing from Justin Timberlake five years before Timberlake was born?

Know your music. As Samuel Clemens wrote, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (3)

his month’s search entries show a definite trend. Apparently some of you watched this year’s Grammys. If you saw James Taylor perform, tell me how it was. I somehow managed to miss the entire thing.This month’s search phrases:

[l1]T[/l1]Lee Michaels' 'Fifth'his month’s search entries show a definite trend. Apparently some of you watched this year’s Grammys. If you saw James Taylor perform, tell me how it was. I somehow managed to miss the entire thing.

This month’s search phrases:

  • don’t know why by norah jones
  • and i don’t know why i didn’t come
  • come away with me
  • norah jones—Okay, we get the point. Eight Grammys. It’s been a very long time since anyone managed that trick. Plenty of details at Norah’s official site.
  • 14 days since i don’t know when you know what i mean—Lee Michaels—Do You Know What I Mean? from his album ‘Fifth’, released in 1971. One of the last great albums of the 60s; if you know what I mean.
  • Graham Nash's 'Songs for Beginners'chicago—The group? Terry Kath was an amazing guitarist and writer. The song? On Graham Nash’s stellar 1971 debut “Songs for Beginners.” “Better Days”, “Simple Man”, “There’s Only One”, “Chicago”; an album full of brilliant lyrics and marvelous melodies. One of the most significant albums ever released.
  • finding forresterRight here.
  • jazz—Well, no shortage of it here.
  • royal carribean commercial musicSingles, posted May 2002; about half way down.

Hope to see you again soon.

My Lover’s Gone

f the only track you’ve heard from Dido’s “No Angel” is the ubiquitous “Thankyou” (spelt just like that) it would be easy to assume that this is just another fluffy collection of love songs. Nothing could be further from the truth.Tip to Those Who Suspect Their Relationship May be in Trouble:If your significant other is playing “No Angel” often, singing along with vigor, this may not be a good sign.

[l1]I[/l1]f the only track you’ve heard from Dido’s “No Angel” is the ubiquitous “Thankyou” (spelt just like that) it would be easy to assume that this is just another fluffy collection of love songs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.Tip to Those Who Suspect Their Relationship May be in Trouble:

If your significant other is playing “No Angel” often, singing along with vigor, this may not be a good sign.

The bulk of “No Angel” is, instead, a trove of odes to the bitterness and anguish of love lost; lost through attrition, lost through apathy, lost through anger, lost through rivalry and conflict. While there is, in fact, more than one love song on the album, that group is the minority.

Dido's 'No Angel'Dido was christened Florian Cloud De Bounevialle Armstrong, and nicknamed after a mythological woman whose loss of two loves drove her to suicide. The simpler nickname is apropos of the album’s lyrical content.

Unconventional and interesting percussion seems to play a large part in the ambience of many of the tracks. A largely acoustic feel pervades the arrangements, with piano, guitar, and the occasional flute or organ to add highlights and flavor.

  • Here With Me—Despite the heavy drums, it’s the quiet piano at the beginning which sets the tone for the album’s opener. A ‘widow’s walk’ song; waiting for a lover who will never return.
     I can't hide I won't go I won't sleep I can't breathe Until you're resting here with me I won't leave I can't hide I cannot be Until you're resting here with me
  • Hunter—The message is no secret:
     I want to be a hunter again want to see the world alone again to take a chance on life again so let me go.

    For some reason, this is the melody that comes to my head when I’m humming the album; complex, but catchy; rising and falling like the roller coaster ride of some relationships.

  • Don’t Think of Me—Acrimony set to music. The music is, to be honest, forgettable; the lyrics are not. Essentially, “I hope you’re happy with your new lover; your best friend sure seems to be . . . ” It’s not easy to avoid the demon of vindictiveness.
  • My Lover’s Gone—One of those glorious pairings of deeply moving poetry and emotionally inspiring music. At first, slow and quiet; strings, echoey harmonies; then, some very Celtic drumming in two rhythyms simultaneously, but still, the slow and quiet feeling.
     My lover's gone I know that kiss will be my last No more his song The tune upon his lips has passed I sing alone

    Soulsick, embracing the wrenching pain of despair.

  • All You Want—”I like to watch you sleep at night, to hear you breath by my side.” The tender lyrics are a deception. You could have had it all, right here with me, but if you think she’s what you want, I hope you find it there with her. Delicate verses alternate with a powerful, angry chorus. Although the final verse offers best wishes for their happiness, it sounds sarcastic, not sincere.
  • Thankyou—The primary exception to the compilation’s dark and brooding feel, the album’s biggest hit is a warm tribute to the way true love takes the sting out of life’s little aggravations.
  • Honestly OK—But she’s not; she’s in the depths of despair, in so much pain—”I’m so lonely I don’t even want to be with myself anymore.” Ambient sounds fill the background, but the vocals lay, cold and bare, against insistent, almost relentless drumming. “I just want to feel safe in my own skin.” I know the feeling.
  • Slide—A counterpoint to “Honestly OK”, an attempt to believe that the pain will pass; there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s around a corner.
     It's all right to make mistakes, you're only human Inside, everybody's hiding something
  • Isobel—Lyrically, about the disappearance of a friend who could no longer face the pain of life. “Oh Isobel, I hope you’re well, and what you’ve done is right . . . ” A slow march, almost a dirge.
  • I’m No Angel—A plea for forgiveness; an admission of her imperfection, as if admission were required; an acknowledgment of her own part in the distance between them, but without apology.
  • My Life—Same message as the title track, but even slower and more anguished.
  • Take My Hand—One of the exceptions to the acoustic feel of the album, it’s also unique in its percussion. A fast beat and undisguised electronic drums and cymbals give the album’s final cut an almost disco feel; not as driving, not as harsh, but certainly wanting to be danceable. The ever-present piano and acoustic guitar stand out starkly against the digital backdrop of the rhythym section. The words are strangely ambiguous. At the same time, a plea for trust and a warning of unfaithfulness:
     Take my hand, and if I'm lying to you I'll always be alone
    
     If I'm lying to you
    
     Take your time, if I'm lying to you I know you'll find that you believe me

While I don’t mind simple lyrics if the accompanying music is fun enough, I prefer depth and insight. “No Angel” has them in spades.

Can’t Wait for ‘Everything Waits’

‘ve long been a fan of Art Garfunkel, and I think his new album with Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock is going to be a real treat. With apologies to his fans, I’m not familiar with Mondlock’s work, but with Garfunkel’s voice and arranging abilities, and Maia’s voice and sax, I find it difficult to believe that “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” will be anything less than spectacular.

[l1]I[/l1]‘ve long been a fan of Art Garfunkel, and I think his new album with Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock is going to be a real treat. With apologies to his fans, I’m not familiar with Mondlock’s work, but with Garfunkel’s voice and arranging abilities, and Maia’s voice and sax, I find it difficult to believe that “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” will be anything less than spectacular.

You can listen to “The Thread” from “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” at MP3.com. Maia takes the lead vocal, and it’s delightful. For more background you can read my ravings over Maia’s first album, “Hardly Glamour.”

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (2)

Search review time again:

  • ‘hendrix’—Only mention so far is “The Watchtower, All Along”
  • ‘white potatoes’—This led me to the PBS special “The Irish in America” which I’ve seen twice. I don’t remember this tune, and I’ll have to track it down. If you get the opportunity, this is a must-see. In the meantime, more info at PBS’s site, including some of the words to “White Potatoes” in various audio formats. If you’ve never heard Gaelic spoken, give it a listen; it’s one of the most mysterious, evocative, and romantic languages on earth.
  • ‘white sandy beach’, ‘israel kamakawiwo ole’ and ‘bruddah iz’—Hopefully you found “Finding Iz”
  • blank query—Gotta write some form validation to prevent this. If you’re searching for nothing, you won’t find it here. I think.
  • ‘allison krause’—Forget About It. No, I mean, that’s the only Alison Krauss I’ve written.
  • ‘and the morning sun has yet to climb my hood ornament’—The only mention of Neil Young’s “Roll Another Number” is in the little quotes under the KnowYourMusic logo which change every time you load a page. Randomly chosen from my mental stockpile, they’re links to a little more information.
  • ‘david gray’—This should have returned a flood of possibilities, with more on the way. It’s no secret to regular readers (or anyone within earshot of me) that David Gray is one of my all

[l1]S[/l1]earch review time again:

  • ‘hendrix’—Only mention so far is “The Watchtower, All Along
  • ‘white potatoes’—This led me to the PBS special “The Irish in America” which I’ve seen twice. I don’t remember this tune, and I’ll have to track it down. If you get the opportunity, this is a must-see. In the meantime, more info at PBS’s site, including some of the words to “White Potatoes” in various audio formats. If you’ve never heard Gaelic spoken, give it a listen; it’s one of the most mysterious, evocative, and romantic languages on earth.
  • ‘white sandy beach’, ‘israel kamakawiwo ole’ and ‘bruddah iz’—Hopefully you found “Finding Iz
  • blank query—Gotta write some form validation to prevent this. If you’re searching for nothing, you won’t find it here. I think.
  • ‘allison krause’—Forget About It. No, I mean, that’s the only Alison Krauss I’ve written.
  • ‘and the morning sun has yet to climb my hood ornament’—The only mention of Neil Young’s “Roll Another Number” is in the little quotes under the KnowYourMusic logo which change every time you load a page. Randomly chosen from my mental stockpile, they’re links to a little more information.
  • ‘david gray’—This should have returned a flood of possibilities, with more on the way. It’s no secret to regular readers (or anyone within earshot of me) that David Gray is one of my all

Link Death

ink rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

[l1]L[/l1]ink rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at Amazon.com, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?

Forget About It

hese two subjects weren’t related in my conscious mind, but as I was writing this I realized that they were indeed connected.Alison Krauss is renowned for her ability with a fiddle. What I don’t read about as much is her angelic voice. Perfectly controlled; delicate, but with clear evidence of latent power; sweet and kind. On the title track to her 1999 album “Forget About It” her glorious voice is nicely matched with her fiddle, Sam Bush’s mandolin, and Jerry Douglas’ dobro. A bittersweet song about finally giving up on a relationship in which bravado doesn’t quite manage to hide the tragedy of a broken heart. Sometimes it helps to sort out your own feelings when you give yourself over to a piece of music which reflects what’s already in your heart.CDNow has abruptly decided to terminate their affiliates program. I’ve been asked to remove all their cover art from this site, and all links to their products. They recommend signing up for Amazon.com’s associates program. They don’t suggest a simple method for converting the approximately 250 existing links to albums at CDNow into Amazon.com linkage.

[l1]T[/l1]hese two subjects weren’t related in my conscious mind, but as I was writing this I realized that they were indeed connected.

Alison Krauss is renowned for her ability with a fiddle. What I don’t read about as much is her angelic voice. Perfectly controlled; delicate, but with clear evidence of latent power; sweet and kind. On the title track to her 1999 album “Alison Krauss' 'Forget About It'Forget About It” her glorious voice is nicely matched with her fiddle, Sam Bush’s mandolin, and Jerry Douglas’ dobro. A bittersweet song about finally giving up on a relationship in which bravado doesn’t quite manage to hide the tragedy of a broken heart. Sometimes it helps to sort out your own feelings when you give yourself over to a piece of music which reflects what’s already in your heart.


CDNow has abruptly decided to terminate their affiliates program. I’ve been asked to remove all their cover art from this site, and all links to their products. They recommend signing up for Amazon.com’s associates program. They don’t suggest a simple method for converting the approximately 250 existing links to albums at CDNow into Amazon.com linkage.

Amazon.com requests that associates limit their use of cover images to 100 images. I’m already there. Do I need to get special permission to use more? Who knows.

The newsletter is careful to mention that “CDNOW will . . . continue to operate.” Why have affiliates been asked to remove links to CDNow products from their sites? You can imagine I’m asked about music and where to buy it quite often. Will I continue to direct folks to CDNow?

Forget about it.

Falling Free

lesh – the title to David Gray’s second album is misleading, whether regarding the album or its title song. I’ll have to write about that some day.

[l1]F[/l1]lesh – the title to David Gray’s second album is misleading, whether regarding the album or its title song. I’ll have to write about that some day.

Before reaching “David Gray's 'Flesh'Flesh” (track 10 on the album) you make a brief pass through “Falling Free”, a gorgeous piano and vocal tune. While many of David’s love songs are sad, this one is gloriously happy; passionate almost to the point of being spiritual. It’s hard to resist poetry like

 All of my senses overthrown by the might of your skin and the lamplight on your cheek

or

 See how the sky is made of sapphire the colours flowing through our hands the moon is fire in your hair a million miles beyond what science understands

Accompanied by marvelous music like “The Light”, “New Horizons”, and “Flesh”, this 1994 release is a must-have for the Celtic/folk music lover. Or for that matter, for lovers of all kinds.

Roar of the Ocean at My Window

hen I sleep with the window open, I can hear the ocean from my bedroom. Last night, it fairly roared; I’ve never heard it so loud. The storm at sea seems to have whipped it to a frenzy, pounding the shore to release the energy absorbed from the sky.Almost (but not quite) completely unrelated, on my way home to sleep by the ocean I heard a new (to me) version of a song I love: “Herman’s Hermits, singing “Wonderful World.” Not the very different song covered by Louis Armstrong and a host of others (including Israel Kamakawiwo’ole), but the Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, and Lou Adler composition. Yes, Lou Adler should sound familiar. He was the producer behind Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers, Carole King, among others. I first heard his name in a truly great Simon and Garfunkel tune from “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” called “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)” in which Adler is one of many names in what Drew Wheeler of CDNow calls a “stream-of-consciousness laundry-list of ’60s cultural touchstones, delivered as a self-consciously Dylanesque rant.”

[l1W[/l1]hen I sleep with the window open, I can hear the ocean from my bedroom. Last night, it fairly roared; I’ve never heard it so loud. The storm at sea seems to have whipped it to a frenzy, pounding the shore to release the energy absorbed from the sky.

Almost (but not quite) completely unrelated, on my way home to sleep by the ocean I heard a new (to me) version of a song I love: “Herman’s Hermits, singing “Wonderful World.” Not the very different song covered by Louis Armstrong and a host of others (including Israel Kamakawiwo’ole), but the Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, and Lou Adler composition. Yes, Lou Adler should sound familiar. He was the producer behind Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers, Carole King, among others. I first heard his name in a truly great Simon and Garfunkel tune from “Simon & Garfunkel's 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” called “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)” in which Adler is one of many names in what Drew Wheeler of CDNow calls a “stream-of-consciousness laundry-list of ’60s cultural touchstones, delivered as a self-consciously Dylanesque rant.”

Having been written by three famous names in the music world, I’ve always found it appropriate and fun (and heavenly) to have it recorded by three names perhaps more well known: James Taylor, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel. Released on Art Garfunkel’s “Art Garfunkel's 'Watermark'Watermark” way back in 1977, I was introduced to this version by my sister’s boyfriend (to whom she’s been married for over twenty years now.) Danny’s a sensitive and intelligent guy who has introduced me to a lot of wonderful music over the last quarter century.

Herman's Hermits 'Greatest Hits'This particular “Wonderful World” has also been recorded by Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, Don McLean, and, as I mentioned, Herman’s Hermits. But don’t buy their greatest hits for this version; buy it for “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am”, “There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World”, and “I’m Into Something Good”, a Carole King composition that lifts my heart every time I hear it.

Raise the Roof

ew pop stars show up in high-tech magazines as icons of what the biz calls ‘branding’, the business of creating a business of recognition. Reading about Moby makes me regret the fact that I never took my show on the road. A genius at branding, Moby has created an entire genre around his funky persona and infectious music. If you don’t own “18”, you should. You haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.One track I just can’t stop playing is “The Rafters”, as in ‘raising the’ — the vocals are only the strident humming of an emotionally supercharged heart; an old-time spiritual, taken to the extreme. Playing it for my son Tristan just now, I asked him if he’d heard it before. He said, “No, but it’s Moby, right?” The vocals aren’t even a man, let alone the man. Branding. When you hear Moby, you know you’re not hearing someone else. He is a genre. “The Rafters” is pure emotion; pure fun; no think, all feel. Not that the machine is limited; Moby does plenty of intellectual, thought-provoking music. But I’m thrilled by this tune that transcends lyrical limitations and drives right into your heart.

[l1]F[/l1]ew pop stars show up in high-tech magazines as icons of what the biz calls ‘branding’, the business of creating a business of recognition. Reading about Moby makes me regret the fact that I never took my show on the road. A genius at branding, Moby has created an entire genre around his funky persona and infectious music. If you don’t own “18“, you should. You haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.

One track I just can’t stop playing is “The Rafters”, as in ‘raising the’ — the vocals are only the strident humming of an emotionally supercharged heart; an old-time spiritual, taken to the extreme. Playing it for my son Tristan just now, I asked him if he’d heard it before. He said, “No, but it’s Moby, right?” The vocals aren’t even a man, let alone the man. Branding. When you hear Moby, you know you’re not hearing someone else. He is a genre. “The Rafters” is pure emotion; pure fun; no think, all feel. Not that the machine is limited; Moby does plenty of intellectual, thought-provoking music. But I’m thrilled by this tune that transcends lyrical limitations and drives right into your heart.

Oh; at least one of you will find this amusing; the nickname isn’t just new millenium chutzpah. His real name is Richard Melville Hall. Melville. As in, Herman, author of, you guessed it, “Moby Dick” — great-great-grand-uncle of the current holder of the title.

I think we should thank the Powers That Be that he didn’t grow up to be a rapper named Great White.