Archive for November, 2009

On My Record Player Part 10

Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston (1985)

I picked this little gem up at a thrift store in Norfolk around 2005  for $1 when I started collecting records. The main reason I was compelled to buy this and listen to it was the connection it had in the movie American Psycho where “The Greatest Love of All” is played in a scene with Christian Bales’s character listening to it and analyzing why the song is a masterpiece that is under-appreciated for its important message. Either way, I am a big fan of a lot of pop music from the 1980’s and Whitney Houston is definitely one of the most talented of the era. This was her debut album and it shows an artist who is hungry and wants to showcase her gift. Listening to “Saving All My Love For You” is a real treat for me. Her conviction in this song is so honest and heartfelt it almost brings tears to my eyes. What a classic, this is as romantic as it gets in my book. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off like she did at this early part of her career. This record is just filled with hits. “How Will I Know?” is one of my favorite songs of all time. It is such a joy to hear this again after many years. As I listen to it, I can say this is one of my most joyful moments since I began my record review blogs. I love the innocence and excitement of this song, this just sounds like the incredible feeling of that early stage of a very special romance being created. Oh to be in love… Brilliant! I forgot how amazing this album is. Great hooks, and that voice. Where did this girl come from? The feeling you can hear in her voice is what I wish every human being could feel in their lives. “All at Once” is sublimely genuine and hauntingly beautiful. There are a few duets with Jermaine Jackson that are alright, but don’t compare to her solo work. The album closes with the song that inspired so many and gave people the courage to accomplish their dreams. “The Greatest Love of All” speaks profoundly about believing in yourself and Whitney sings this with incredible passion and the declaration of inspiration.

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On My Record Player Part 9

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York (1994)

Recorded on November 18, 1993 at Sony Studios in New York City for MTV Unplugged. I became a fan of Nirvana I think in 1997, the summer before 9th grade. There was me, Brian, Kenny, Scarface, and the lovable Old James, oh hold on. Wait a minute. Old James, Old James wasn’t there. I don’t even know nobody names Old James. Shoot Go on!  I used to watch a lot of MTV back then and they would show Unplugged episodes and I discovered the softer side of Nirvana when they played for the show. This performance and set-list was too simply put it, incredible. I am curious to know how much rehearsal and thought was put into this before they performed. Kurt Cobain had so much heart and feeling in these songs. There is a beautiful delicacy in every note played that you can only hear in something intimate as this. His choice of cover songs from David Bowie, the Vasolines, the Meat Puppets, and Lead Belly is so intriguing and beautifully executed. You really get a sense of his powerful emotional state in his final months alive and you can tell how satisfying it was for him to perform in this aesthetic compared to the common routine of loud rock in crowded clubs and arenas. He was a very sensitive, irritable spirit that needed specific outlets to nurture his poetic creativity. Thank God for the brains behind MTV Unplugged and Nirvana for agreeing to do this. Its funny to hear band members like Dave Grohl play this lite rock drumming when he was known for his bombastic loud fast drumming. These guys were (are) super talented in their craft. I love the harmonizing Dave and Kurt execute on some of these tracks. The sound on this record is truly timeless and sounds so fresh after 16 years, it also helps on 180 gram Vinyl going through multiple speakers. More bands known for their loud rock should try this acoustic thing. Its kind of like a great football player playing golf or something. Its just a matter of focus and adapting to a different setting. Nirvana really set the standard for showing how sweet they can sound in contrast to their otherwise loud angry rock n roll. The closing track “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” is gorgeously haunting and stays with you.

5 out of 5 stars – http://www.allmusic.com

If In Utero is a suicide note, MTV Unplugged in New York is a message from beyond the grave, a summation of Kurt Cobain’s talents and pain so fascinating, it’s hard to listen to repeatedly. Is it the choice of material or the spare surroundings that make it so effective? Well, it’s certainly a combination of both, how the version of the Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” or the three covers of Meat Puppets II songs mean as much as “All Apologies” or “Something in the Way.” This, in many senses, isn’t just an abnormal Nirvana record, capturing them in their sincerest desire to be R.E.M. circa Automatic for the People, it’s the Nirvana record that nobody, especially Kurt, wanted revealed. It’s a nakedly emotional record, unintentionally so, as the subtext means more than the main themes of how Nirvana wanted to prove its worth and diversity, showcasing the depth of their songwriting. As it turns out, it accomplishes its goals rather too well; this is a band, and songwriter, on the verge of discovering a new sound and style. Then, there’s the subtexts, as Kurt’s hurt and suicidal impulses bubble to the surface even as he’s trying to suppress them. Few records are as unblinkingly bare and naked as this, especially albums recorded by their peers. No other band could have offered covers of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and the folk standard “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on the same record, turning in chilling performances of both performances that reveal as much as their original songs.

On My Record Player Part 8

Bjork – Vespertine (2001)

In late August of 2004, I arrived at Old Dominion University for my Senior year of college with virtually no friends. The 2 friends I invested on my social life in previously at college had begun new chapters of their lives in other parts of the country. I don’t now what exactly first drew me to buy the CD when I did, but after listetning to it a few times, it soon become pretty music the most important thing in my life. This was a situation where music like this was everything I needed to be happy and satisfied in life, it was that significant. What she said how she made the music sound was exactly what I needed in my life when I was 21 and lonely in my final year of college. I don’t necessarily have regrets, or look back at that period with sadness, but rather a special joy that only a true introvert could appreciate. I needed this experience in life to understand and appreciate my soul and spirit and I couldn’t imagine a better soundtrack than Bjork’s Vespertine. Bjork herself said that this album is about a special kind of quietness, being indoors, hearing music in your head. Listening to this and thinking about my past, I really cant emphasize how important and satisfying this collection music was and always has been to my spirit. This gives me the impression of how people felt in the 15th and 16th century viewing Renaissance masters works of art when shown to the public for the first time and being profoundly affected by its beauty, meaning, and intensity that stays with you. I have to bring up the fact that Bjork, being from Iceland, knows something special about being alive, human, the earth and the power of those 3 forces and the history and culture that Iceland has been through. Sometimes I feel like when Bjork sings, it is the closest thing to the sound of the Earth itself crying or expressing its feelings.

Rolling Stone – 4 out of 5 stars.

Bjork Gudmundsdottir made her first album, Bjork, in Iceland in 1977. She was eleven years old, a child-thrush packaged in disco cheese, Arctic reggae and Icelandic-language, lounge-candy covers of Melanie and the Beatles. Twenty-four years later, Bjork has made the best solo record of her career, Vespertine. She still sings like an arrested schoolgirl, a vocal rainbow of fragile chirp, pleading falsetto and jubilant shriek. But Bjork has also passed into a spectacular new divahood. She now whoops and coos with the poise of an innocent primed by experience, a wise spirit with a juvenile glow. At the age of thirty-five, Bjork sounds like she is eleven – going on infinity.

She has taken the long road to the meticulous sparkle and deep feeling ofVespertine. The teen queen of Reykjavik’s early-1980s punk uprising, Bjork hit the world stage with the Sugarcubes, charging the band’s pop-art mischief with operatic force and lyric vulnerability, a combination that at its best – on the 1988 album Life’s Too Good – felt like a young girl’s diary thrown into a tornado. Bjork’s first records after leaving the Sugarcubes, Debut (1993) and Post (1995), were piquant stews of hip-hop gesture, gingerbread electronica and fairy-tale parable. But in spite of all that imagination and Bjork’s good taste in collaborators (Nellee Hooper, Talvin Singh, 1970s-fusion maestro Eumir Deodato), those albums now seem incomplete, shotgun displays of her remarkable vocal range and the unresolved differences between the worldly Bjork and her perpetual inner elf.

Vespertine is a particle beam in comparison, as weightless as light but concentrated with direction. There is nothing remotely close to drumming on any of the album’s twelve tracks. The flurry of rhythm at the start of “Cocoon” has the gravity of a spider scurrying across linoleum. The electronic beats running under the glassy ballad “It’s Not Up to You” are mostly drips and squishes, the soft gallop of baby boots in fresh mud. Vespertine is awash in strings and choirs, but Bjork exercises care in spreading the spangle. In “Pagan Poetry,” she deploys the implied heaven of Zeena Parkins’ harp and a flotilla of music boxes with an Asian-teahouse touch. The faint winds of synthesizer in “An Echo a Stain” magnify Bjork’s cries and purrs with such reverbed clarity that she even seems to breathe in melody.

The tidy drama of the programming and arrangements on Vespertinesuits the physical electricity of Bjork’s voice. Her self-consciousness on earlier albums is gone; Bjork moves through this music with focused, contagious pleasure. It is no accident that Bjork’s helpmates onVespertine include the San Francisco computer duo Matmos and that the long, gorgeous “Unison” features a sample from the German group Oval.Vespertine is the closest any pop-vocal album has come to the luxuriant Zen of the new minimalist techno, even beating Radiohead’s nervy Kid A. Where Kid A sounded like a record of risk, the work of a band on unfamiliar ground, Bjork sings here as if she owns and knows every inch of space and shadow in these songs.

That musical and emotional breakthrough might not have been possible without Bjork’s controversial triumph last year in Lars von Trier’s filmDancer in the Dark, in which she played a bedeviled single mother – slowly going blind, accused of murder – who finds refuge in dreams of old movie musicals. In her screen performance and on her soundtrack album,Selmasongs, Bjork captured with acute tenderness the wonder of interior music, the way a lonely soul can burst inside with healing song. OnVespertine, she goes even further. When she opens her mouth, words and notes don’t come out – you go in, swept up to a box seat inside her head.

It’s a busy room – as naked as the music is, Vespertine is dense with sensual obsession and fear of loss. “He invents a charm that makes him invisible/Hides in the hair/Can I hide there too?” Bjork wonders in the floating beauty “Hidden Place.” “Aurora” is a song about literally dissolving with pleasure; Bjork prays to become one with the pure color of the northern lights. And in “Pagan Poetry,” she likens her carnal urges to “swirling black lilies totally ripe” and the transforming imprint of one hand held in another (“Crooked five fingers/They form a pattern/Yet to be matched”). One of the album’s most addictive passages is the haunting exchange, at the end of the song, between Bjork and an overdubbed chorale of Bjorks, all hypnotized with need and shimmering with certainty: “I love him, I love him . . . She loves him, she loves him.”

Vespertine is also an album about the sheer joys of voice. In “Heirloom,” Bjork likens the art of singing to swallowing and exhaling “glowing lights”: “During the night/They do a trapeze work/Until they’re in the sky/Right above my bed.” She also borrows the verse of the poet e.e. cummings in the brief, gleaming “Sun in My Mouth”: “I will wade out till my thighs/Are steeped in burning flowers/I will take the sun in my mouth/And leap into the ripe air alive.” They are the sound and sentiment of a woman exulting in the power and possibility of her.

On My Record Player Part 7

The Doors – The Doors (1967)

So, I really cant say at this point that I have ever been a fan of The Doors. I have casually listened to them through random radios and on certain soundtracks over the past 10 years, but I never took the time to listen to them like I am now. I acquired their Debut Self Titled LP from leftover records my uncle left my grandparents house and I got this an inheritance. I usually like to write a review with an anecdote, but here I am raw, just alone with the music. One of the main things to hear out in this band’s music is their prominent use of the organ as a lead melodic instrument. I get a feeling of some anthemic biblical storytelling in the mood of much of their compositions. A special kind of poetry in music put into motion. Jim Morrison has a very dark gravitating force in his voice and soul that is very enjoying to connect with. The groove and jamming on “Light My Fire” is hypnotizing. There is a profound sense of honesty and heart in the communication of the group playing this classic work of art. I didn’t realize how innovative this band was as far as starting long jam recordings that expanded the known structure of rock and pop music. I feel like music like this can only really be appreciated at its best when played on a record player. It has the Bohemian spirit that reminds me of laid back hispter stoners living in the city that reject new technology and nightclubs and come together with their close circle and get together to be artistic and talk about the deep issues of life and creating magnificent ideas of the future. I like the vibe.

Rolling Stone – 5 out of 5 stars.

The Doors arrived in 1967, the same year as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; both were psychedelic touchstones and among the first major rock discs that truly stood as albums, rather than collections of songs. But whereas the Beatles took a basically sunny view of humanity, the Doors’ debut offered the dark side of the moon. Their sound was minor-keyed and subterranean, bluesy and spacey, and their subject matter — like that of many of rock’s great albums — was sex, death and getting high. On “End of the Night,” the band invited you to “take a journey to the bright midnight.”

The key to the band’s appeal was the tension between singer Jim Morrison’s Dionysian persona and the band’s crisp, melodic playing. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger’s extended solos on the album version of “Light My Fire” carried one to the brink of euphoria, while the eleven-minute epic “The End” journeyed to a harrowing psychological state. Scattered among these lengthier tracks are such nuggets as “Soul Kitchen” (“learn to forget”) and Morrison’s acid-drenched takes on the blues (“Back Door Man”) and Kurt Weill (“Alabama Song”). Though great albums followed, The Doors stands as the L.A. foursome’s most successful marriage of rock poetics with classically tempered hard rock — a stoned, immaculate classic.

On My Record Player Part 6

The Mars Volta – Amputechture (2006)

Ok, this is very special to me. Franics the Mute came out in March 2005, so I had all of that year and half of 2006 to really listen to as much as I could to understand it and hear all the complexities that made that record so unique and when I turned 23 in 2006, my life changed drastically. I quit my job at Olive Garden and I made plans to move to Los Angeles to try to break into show business, or something of the sorts. Well, that p;an didn’t really work out and I think it was for the best. That being said, things just started unfolding. I had one of the greatest summers of my life. I went to many many Washington Nationals games with Dave, Hayden, Dan, Andrea, Martin, Robyn, that whole gang and we just had the time of our life. I was introduced to Trailer Park Boys, a comedic mockumentary that takes place in Nova Scotia Canada that became an obsession of mine, I quickly found a way to watch all 6 seasons of that show through the course of a month or 2. I took care of my dying cockapoo Dash that we got in St. Charles, Missouri in 1989 and was fighting for his life in his 17th year and I was happy to be home most of the time to take the best care of him that I could. Now, going back to the music. Around July of 2006, a leaked version of The Mars Volta’s new album was released on the internet and I couldn’t help myself from downloading it and it became the soundtrack to my crazy life like you could barely imagine during the summer of 2006. Track 2: Tetragrammaton had a huge effect on me. First of all, it is 17 minutes long. It really has a story to tell. The story happens to be about a Romanian nun who told her priest that she was hearing voices from the devil. The priest decided that it was in her best interest to be locked in a room, tied up, un-fed, given some sort of a failed exorcism, and she ended up dying from asphyxiation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4107524.stm  Mars Volta’s singer Cedric Bixler Zavala was so affected by this story, decided it was his purpose in life to write a song that honored this woman and her experience that was religious, but should have ended more positively. This album really touches on the experience of intense moments that deal with spirituality and examining what is true and real to each person and the unfortunate recurrence of mistreated people from misguided religious leaders. They also touch on the history in America of sacred burial grounds that have been disgraced by industrialist capitalists that have built architecture on land that should have never been affected by. Most of the guitar on the album is recorded by John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers who is a good friend of the group. Omar Rodriguez Lopez wanted to focus on the duties of being the Producer of the album. Day of the Baphomets is a really special song that showcases all members of the band flexing their musical muscles and having fun. A great way to recognize this is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8YLDb2hiLU Another cool thing about this album was that it was officially released on my friend Nathan Hale’s 21st birthday. We had a nice little keg party up the street from where I live now on that day. This was also the first album to feature artwork by Jeff Jordan who they have used ever since for all their album art. Jordan has a really unique style of surrealism that the Mars Volta guys really connect with when it comes to appropriate imagery to go with the music they make. This is probably the go to album I reccomend for anyone who is curious to hear what Mars Volta is all about.

http://www.allmusic.com 4 out of 5 stars

The Mars Volta are continual contenders for the mantle of most experimental high-profile metal group, along with System of a Down, an artist they’ve toured with but who usually sell 20 times more records. Mars Volta aren’t as popular, not because their riffs are less memorable or innovative but because their cycle of musical buildup and release, although similarly jarring, can last at least 20 minutes instead of System‘s two. (It’s the difference between having a background in acid rock and having one in thrash.) While the early reports on third album Amputechture commented that the duo of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had learned a few lessons about silence and forsaken the concept album, don’t believe it. The album is little different than their two previous atom bombs, De-Loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute — tense and anxious, continually pushing the boundaries of extreme production, with long periods of dynamics that rise ever higher, followed by an explosion of release (usually screaming hard rock with storms of atonal brass and horns). The album opens with “Vicarious Atonement,” five minutes of spectral effects and piercing guitar that gets a boost at the beginning of the next track, “Tetragrammaton,” and then blooms into full riffing glory after a few more minutes (and they’re still nowhere near the end of the 16-minute track). John Frusciante, eccentric genius from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, returns on guitar, but Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez exert so much control over the sound of Mars Volta that Frusciante makes virtually no individual impression on this record, although most of the guitar work is his. (Granted, his presence leavesRodriguez-Lopez open for more intricate work on production.) The Mars Volta are one of the most intriguing bands in rock, but their huge musical power is often deflected by Bixler-Zavala‘s conceptual themes (which are difficult to follow, but also, perversely, impossible to ignore) and blitzkrieg dynamics that are either dialed down to one or up to ten (but rarely in-between).

On My Record Player Part 5

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)

Well, what can any guitar player really say about Jimi Hendrix that hasn’t already been said? I can’t even remember when and where I really first discovered this guy. Either way, while anyone can really say they appreciate Jim Hendrix and call him the greatest guitar player to ever live, I think there are really only a select few who have really really listened to him very closely, and all that he recorded between 1966-1970. He, himself with his wild music style went through stages of evolution that showed the fire of his spirit in his songwriting. He was one of those special musicians that came along that was young yes, but had something very important to say with his guitar and his own unique modern approach to pychadelic innovative electric rock n roll music of the late 60’s. One funny thing to mention is that Jimi Hendrix said that after seeing the record cover for Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, he really understood the direction where music was going and meant to go as well as admiring a pop-star that had an afro hairsyle that wasn’t even of african descent. I got my copy of Are You Experienced at Record and Tape Exchange in Fairfax, VA in 2005 after owning a burned copy of the CD my younger cousin Ryan Hecht made for me from a Christmas visit almost 2 years prior I believe. What can I say about Are You Experienced? Well, its a great display of this band’s dynamic. A 3 piece that worked geniously in sync showcasing the combination of British and American psychadelic sound of 1967. It is so different than the Beatles Sgt. Peppers in how deep it goes towards creating just a new musical experience that takes pop music to a new dimention. All that being said, its Jimi Hendrix! the guy played guitar with a headband containing absorbing acid on blotter paper. He played left handed, guiatr upside down, he taught himself. He connected to a higher power of creativity when playing guitar that probably has never been seen before. he left this world all too soon, but left some really fucking cool music. Check out Bnad of Gypsys to see exactly where he can go with the guitar.

Rolling Stone – 5 out of 5 stars

Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest rock instrumentalist of the Sixties. His blunt attack contrasted sharply with the meticulous virtuosity of an Eric Clapton; Hendrix preferred and angry metal whine, molten steel to Clapton’s polished chrome. His rough edges conveyed far more than his awesome dexterity. In a genre where computerized pyrotechnics seem the rule, Hendrix played with a rawness transcending idiomatic formalities.

http://www.Allmusic. com – 5 out of 5 stars

One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era. On Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix synthesized various elements of the cutting edge of 1967 rock into music that sounded both futuristic and rooted in the best traditions of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It was his mind-boggling guitar work, of course, that got most of the ink, building upon the experiments of British innovators like Jeff Beckand Pete Townshend to chart new sonic territories in feedback, distortion, and sheer volume. It wouldn’t have meant much, however, without his excellent material, whether psychedelic frenzy (“Foxey Lady,” “Manic Depression,” “Purple Haze”), instrumental freak-out jams (“Third Stone From the Sun”), blues (“Red House,” “Hey Joe”), or tender, poetic compositions (“The Wind Cries Mary”) that demonstrated the breadth of his songwriting talents. Not to be underestimated were the contributions of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, who gave the music a rhythmic pulse that fused parts of rock and improvised jazz. Many of these songs are among Hendrix’s very finest; it may be true that he would continue to develop at a rapid pace throughout the rest of his brief career, but he would never surpass his first LP in terms of consistently high quality. The British and American versions of the album differed substantially when they were initially released in 1967; MCA’s 17-song CD reissue does everyone a favor by gathering all of the material from the two records in one place, adding a few B-sides from early singles as well.

On My Record Player Part 4

Bjork – Greatest Hits (2002)

So, this is an interesting moment of nostalgia for me, remembering when I first discovered Bjork. I think it was around the same time I was obsessing over Rolling Stones Top 500 albums of all time and Post was on there somewhere and I noticed that. Ok now I remember. On an MTV episode of cribs featuring Incubus that aired in 2002. It showed the room of guitarist Mike Einziger and he had a poster of Bjork, he also wore a Bjork shirt during the video for Nice to Know You. If you knew me in 2002, my obsession in life was Incubus and to discover the guitarist who I admired being a guitarist myself, being a big Bjork fan, I had to check out this artist he was into. I saw the musicv video for “It’s oh so quiet” a while back and wasn’t really impressed. I think I came cross just the image of the way she branded her name in 2003 and I was mystefied.

I had just begun getting into creating art myself and I felt like the imagery of this really accentuated the appreciation and enjoyment of this music when I was just getting into it. I guess you can from my blogs and use of the word obsession, I am one to get fixated on things for a few months or so and really throw all my passion and focus onto a particular aspect of culture that excites me. That being said, when I came back to ODU for my Senior year of college, my interest in Bjork was massive. I went out and bought her most recent record Medulla and I really enjoyed this and appreciated that she created just about the entire thing with human vocals. I also happened to pick up and discover my favorite Bjork album that I had never heard that changed my life forver…. I just decided at this point that I will make a seperate blog post for this record I was just about to announce, so I’ll save that. Anyways, I took a class my senior year that involved making our  own web pages that represent us and I really geeked out and covered the website with images of Bjork art as I felt that displayed my spirit the best I could imagine in late 2004. So, 6 months later, on my 22nd birthday, my sister wanted to get me a birthday present and the one thing I wanted more than just about anything that was reasonably priced was the Vinyl edition of Bjork’s Greatest Hits from Relative Theory records in norfolk, VA. To have a compilation of Bjork’s “greatest” hits is really neat, especially when  DJing vinyl and introducing people to Bjork who are not familiar with her. Bjork’s music? I am really into vocals and avant garde and with a modern pop structure. This is perefect music for me, and she uses a lot of intense emotion and passion with so much her love for her Icelandic culture and history. Beautiful.

Pitchfork 9.2/10

Many regard Björk’s enduring past as evidence of genius at work, but in a Lutheran city with a population of 110,000 and no internal music industry to speak of, it’s considerably easier to make waves in Reykjavik than in, say, New York City. Add to this a UK music press obsessed with novelty in the post-punk era, and you’ve got a microwave recipe for compartmentalization via xenophile adoration. Or, Enter The Pixie.

Björk was inextricably linked to that somewhat belittling moniker for more than a decade, treated as a misfit toy, adored for her wardrobe, demeanor and delivery, rather than the gripping lyrics and revolutionary music she composed. Composed, I should add, with a little help from her friends: as much as critics fawned over Björk, fellow musicians descended like praise harpies once she left The Sugarcubes, eager to prop up their own careers through her arresting beauty and shattering voice.

Few artists enjoy the kind of universal acclaim Björk has basked in since the beginning of her solo career. The press fawned over Björk’s cutting edge productions, but most focused on her unique pipes; as her success exposed– or, some would argue, created– other Icelandic acts (Sigur Rós, Múm), her voice became increasingly familiar, a recognizable product of her environment. The result: the rest of the world has been immunized to the Icelandic cadence, and Björk is no longer supernatural. Though it’s mostly in contrast to her defining Homogenic that her last full-length, Vespertine, shouldered a somewhat lukewarm reception, at last, we were able to focus on the music, which by its release in 2001, Björk had been ignoring for too long. To lift a quote regarding her latest single “It’s in Our Hands” (included on Greatest Hits): “It was nice to do a full-blooded song after doing a whole album that didn’t have any blood in it.”

She may not have had the blood to give: after Homogenic, Björk dove headfirst into distraction, starring in the critically lauded film Dancer in the Dark, for which she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival (unbelievably, she was booed by much of the audience). The soundtrack, composed by committee, was a forgettable showtune restaging of Homogenic, largely ignored by critics and fans (though the latter class certainly embraced its opening and closing tracks). She had always played coat-hanger to chic designers, but took it to a whole new level at the Oscars, donning that infamously absurd, headline-grabbing swan dress to launchVespertine in a questionable appropriation of her celebrity. She wears the dress on the album cover, but it wasn’t shot until weeks after the ceremony. Given her untarnished history of independence, it’s safe to assume the album’s swan motif was determined well in advance of Marjan Pejoski’s quack gown, but it’s a load of nonsense Björk would rather put behind her. It’s a perfect time to review the reason she has access to global media channels: her music.

An absolute tidal wave of Björk releases hit shelves this year: four concert DVDs, two singles (on CD and DVD), a book, a second compendium of her videos (Volumen 2), the endlessly delayed rarities box set Family Tree (featuring a pair of tracks from her days in the excellent new-wave punk band Kukl, who would evolve into The Sugarcubes), and this single-disc Greatest Hits, whose tracklist was determined by fans (Family Tree includes a hits disc of Björk’s choosing). Oddly, it’s the fans’ disc that offers the best look back, stocked with both her catchiest and most dramatic work.

Björk’s website offers voluminous, detailed and extremely juicy histories of each song on Greatest Hits. Discussing them here may well be pointless in lieu of all that data, and anyway, with a Greatest Hits package, it’s the album itself that needs to serve a valuable purpose. We already know all the songs. The only questions here are why would fans buy it, and is it a worthwhile summary of her career?

Like many radio-friendly solo artists, Björk’s albums house a modicum of filler. Hers less than most, but only a handful of great songs didn’t make the cut for Greatest Hits. Of the singles she’s released, only “Violently Happy”, “It’s Oh So Quiet” and “I Miss You” aren’t included. A few stellar long-players like “Headphones” and “The Anchor Song” also fall by the wayside, but it may be worth whatever sacrifice for the bubbling keyboards and clicks behind her latest single “It’s in Our Hands”, and “Play Dead”, a bellowing, early attempt at orchestra-backed pop written with Jah Wobble in 1993 (for a forgettable British gangster film).

With music as unique, affirming and joyous as Björk’s, exploration is almost unnecessary; though some dares have worked wonders (see Funkstörung’s genius remix of “All Is Full of Love”), in the end, many of her drawn-out album tracks aren’t bad as much as comparatively boring. With so many glorious singles to her credit, the remainder of her catalog plays increasingly as afterthought: a Greatest Hitspackage has rarely made this much sense, and though a few classics are left out, there isn’t much more to Björk than this.

On My Record Player Part 3

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

So many Bob Dylan fans will ask others, “Where did it all begin?” I remember driving around in Dan Brown’s Toyota Camry that he bought from laura Gunlicks between 2000-2002 and he would occasionally play Bob Dylan and I didn’t quit get it yet then, but I could tell it was cool. Fast forward to December 2003 and Rolling Stone came out with an issue of the greatest 500 albums of all time and Bob Dylan’s Highweay Revisited was ranked #4. I quickly began to research as much I could on Dylan and began checking out more songs and slowly growing a greater appreciation. I remember seeing the image of his Blonde on Blonde record and being mesmerized. My friend Nathan Hale was getting into him pretty big on his own, I cant remember exactly how, but I remember getting him a 3 disc copy of some of Dylan’s bootleg for Christmas of 2004 when his mom and him invited me to Europe for that holiday. I had a burned copy of Blonde on Blonde that I brought with me and I have great memory of us listening to that in our room in Nathan’s mom house in Germany. Bob Dylan music is cool. I began really collecting vinyl records at the beginning of 2005 after just wanting an excuse to use the turntables at the station in my college radio station as well a s discovering the mars volta who releases the exclusive vinyl recording of the song “Frances the Mute” with “The Widow (acoustic live performance 2004). This begun my obsession with collecting records and I noticed all those great albums featured on Rolling Stones 500 greatest albums of all time were not too difficult to find and I think I found my copy of Highway 61 Revisited at Relative Theory records in Norfolk, VA where I bought a lot of my first records and bought much of my favorite “underground/indie/less-know pop music of the past 30 years.” I really became focused and a fan of Bob Dylan when I first saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary about Bob Dylan during the summer of 2005 on PBS. I bought the DVD and I would watch it over and over again. His story is just so incredible and a journey I would dream to experience if I had the talent, ambition, and focus at such a young age like he did. This was special for me, being 22 and seeing him accomplish these things and be recognized at such an age, knowing he had the energy and passion and revolutionary ideas that only a person in their early 20’s really feels. He just so happen to live and achieve success during the Kennedy administartion, Beatlemania, and the onset of the Vietnam war. I like Bob Dylan most seeing him in these early videos, for his attitude, sense of humor, and watching him create ideas and work on his craft, and I guess most especially the very unique way he expressed himself through the 60’s on stage as he evolved drastically. Highway 61 Revisited is considered his masterpiece, which he wrote most of and recorded in just 6 days. It is really great to hear this on Vinyl in loud volume. Bob Dylan is cool!

Rolling Stone – 5 stars out of 5 stars

Bruce Springsteen has described the beginning of “Like a Rolling Stone,” the opening song on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, as the “snare shot that sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” The response of folk singer Phil Ochs to the entire album was even more rhapsodic. “It’s impossibly good. . . .” he said. “How can a human mind do this?”

Recorded in a mind-boggling six days and released in August 1965,Highway 61 Revisited — named after the road that runs from Dylan’s home state of Minnesota down through the Mississippi Delta — is one of those albums that, quite simply, changed everything. In and of itself, “Like a Rolling Stone,” which was rumored to be about Andy Warhol acolyte Edie Sedgwick, forever altered the landscape of popular music — its “vomitific” lyrics (in Dylan’s memorable term), literary ambition and sheer length (6:13) shattered limitations of every kind. But that was literally only the beginning. “Ballad of a Thin Man” delivered the definitive Sixties comment on the splintering hip/ straight fault line: “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mr. Jones?” If anyone questioned whether or not Dylan had truly “gone electric,” the roaring rock & roll of “From a Buick 6” and “Tombstone Blues” — both powered by legendary guitarist Mike Bloomfield — left absolutely no doubt.

The album ends with “Desolation Row,” a swirling eleven-minute surrealist night journey of indescribable power. Confronted with the dilemma of providing an ending to an album so bursting with ideas, Dylan evokes a Hieronymus Bosch-like season in hell that, in retrospect, seems to foretell all the Sixties cataclysms to come. “The Titanic sails at dawn,” he sings wearily near the song’s end. “Everybody is shouting, ‘Which side are you on?’ ” That “Desolation Row” is an all-acoustic track — a last-minute decision on Dylan’s part — is one final stroke of genius: a spellbinding new vision of folk music to close the album that, for the time being at least, destroyed folk music. The gesture was simultaneously touching and a devastating “Fuck you!”

Not that Dylan wasn’t having fun all the while as well. The toy siren that opens the album’s title track was keyboardist’s Al Kooper’s playful way of policing the sessions for Highway 61 Revisited. “If anybody started using drugs anywhere,” he explained, “I’d walk into the opposite corner of the room and just go whooooooooo.”

On My Record Player Part 2

C A M E O – WORD UP! (1986)

My parents bought the cassette tape to Cameo’s Word Up! probably right after it came out and I was so lucky to keep it in the family without it ever getting lost or likely stolen considering how freakin unbelievably awesome this music is. So I was driving a 95 Saturn the early to mid part of this decade that had a sweet cassette deck and I rocked out to this many times. Most memorably, on May 4th, 2005 after midnight driving from Philadelphia back to Northern Virginia afer my first Mars Volta concert, when Francis the Mute had just come out and Mars Volta were playing these songs live for the first time. An epic 3 hour concert with no opening acts. Anyways, me and Mikey Everson were coming home and he discovered I had this treasure and we listened to the entire tape probably several times and really experienced the pure joy and genius of Cameo music. Needless to say this stuck with Mikey, and while he was in Colorado during the summer of 2009, he came into a record store and stumbled upon the LP Vinyl record of Cameo’s Word Up! and stood there in joy with his eyes lit up and found the perfect present for Andrew Blakney. He presented this treasure to me the same day that I was going to board a flight to Italy for my incredible life-changing wine trip. I believe that right now as I am typing this is the first time my ears have heard the beautiful music of Cameo through the magic of Vinyl recording. I hope that the people reading this blog will have an opportunity to check out the music of Cameo, particularly their most recognized album, Word Up !

4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 – allmusic http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:hifoxqw5ldhe

Review by Alex Henderson
Many of the funk bands that were big in the 1970s had a hard time surviving in the 1980s, especially if they were horn bands. Having a killer horn section was something that a lot of 1970s funk outfits prided themselves on, and it was no fun when, in the 1980s, they were told that their horns sound dated and that urban contemporary audiences only wanted to hear synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines. But Cameo, unlike many funk bands that emerged in the late ’70s, really thrived in the 1980s. Lead singer/producer Larry Blackmon insisted on changing with the times, and he did so by making Cameo more high-tech and seeing to it that albums like 1985’s Single Life and 1986’s Word Up! were relevant to the urban contemporary and hip-hop scenes. Nonetheless, Cameo still sounded like Cameo; Word Up!, in fact, is one of its best albums. The wildly infectious title song was a major hit, and Cameo is equally captivating on other funk treasures that include “Fast, Fierce and Funny,” “Back and Forth,” and “Candy.” To the young urban contemporary and hip-hop fans who boughtWord Up! in 1986, Cameo’s funk was fresh and cutting edge; and at the same time, slightly older fans that Cameo had won over in the late ’70s were still buying its records. Both commercially and creatively, Word Up! was a major triumph for Cameo.

The Hottest Wines on the Planet Part 3

It will be hard to top my last wine post about those awesome 2007 Rhones, but when those sell out and all we have are the memories of those beauties. I will be the first, on my own, and recommending to others, the best place to gravitate towards are the High Quality, Great Value, Big Fruit and Well Balanced wines of Spain. What I want wine consumers to feel about Spain is what I felt a little over a year ago and that is, “Where have you been all my life?!?!” The rockstars of Spain? Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Monastrell to name a few, and we can’t forget about those vastly planted old old vines that produce highly concentrated low yields. The definition of delicious complex Fruit! Here are some of the shining stars in my set:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Borsao Garnacha – $7.99 (JO). This firm red offers ripe black cherry and boysenberry fruit, backed by notes of smoke, mineral and herb. The tannins are well-integrated, and floral and smoke notes linger. 89 Points – Wine Spectator

Altalaya Almansa – $14.99 (JO). The 2007 Atalaya is a blend of Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, and other red grapes. The wine was aged for eight months in French and American oak. This purple-colored wine has an expressive bouquet of violets, spice box, leather, game, blueberry, and black cherry. On the palate it comes off as borderline kinky and definitely sexy with lots of easy-going flavor, superb depth, complexity, and a 45-second finish. Although it can be enjoyed now, it will evolve for another 2-3 years. 91 Points – Wine Advocate

Sabor Real Vinas Centenarias – $14.99. Comes from vines over 100 years of age. Purple-colored, it offers up a complex perfume of pain grille, violets, mineral, spice box, black cherry and blackberry. Bigger, richer, and more sweetly-fruited than its younger colleague, it would benefit from 2-3 years of additional cellaring. Balanced, lengthy, and altogether hedonistic, it should drink well through 2015. 91 Points – Wine Advocate

Juan Gil Jumilla – $15.99 (JO). Opaque purple. Blueberry, boysenberry and smoky Indian spices on the nose, with a sexy floral quality coming on with air. Juicy, sweet dark berry flavors are framed by velvety tannins and enlivened by zesty minerality. Gains depth and fleshiness with air, finishing on a strong boysenberry note, with excellent sappy persistence. This is delicious right now. 90 Points – Josh Raynolds (Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar)

Tres Picos Garnacha – $17.99 (JO). Opaque purple. Exotically perfumed bouquet of dark berry preserves, smoky minerals, potpourri and Indian spices, with a strong note of cracked pepper; smells like a high-end northern Rhone wine. Very spicy and tightly focused, offering juicy red and dark berry flavors and sexy notes of candied flowers and cocoa powder. Finishes with a wallop of sweet red berries and lingering, seductive spiciness; as ridiculous a value as one can find these days. 91 Points – Josh Raynolds (Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar)

Pesquera Ribera Del Duero – $36.99. The 2005 Tinto Pesquera Crianza is purple in color with an excellent bouquet of cedar, tobacco, spice box, and blackberry. On the palate it offers layers of ripe black fruits, mineral notes, outstanding depth, and a lengthy finish. It will evolve for several years and be at its best from 2012 to 2025. 92 Points – Wine Advocate

El Nido Clio Jumilla 2006 – $50 (JO). The purple/black 2006 Clio is composed of 70% old vine Monastrell and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 26 months in new oak. It offers up a super-sexy nose of underbrush, incense, lavender, blueberry muffin, and black currant. Voluptuous and creamy on the palate, this loaded, well-balanced wine is a total turn-on. For those who prefer their flavor in moderation, look elsewhere. Drink this pleasure-bent effort from 2011 to 2021. 95 Points – Wine Advocate

San Roman Toro – $54.99. We would not have expected anything to match the stellar 2004 San Roman, but this newest vintage is up to the task. It`s opaque as midnight without a moon, and the nose is a delectable blend of vanilla, spice, hickory, mocha and meaty blackberry. The palate is both magnetic and sly; it pumps black fruit galore, but augments things with controlled chocolate and spice. Finishes a mile long, with cream, intensity and guile. This wine does not mess around. Best from 2010–2016. 95 Points – Wine Advocate

Lan Rioja Culmen – $62.99. This beautiful modern red offers a velvety texture supported by ripe, well-integrated tannins and plenty of sweet toasty oak. Plum and boysenberry fruit is ripe and fresh. Very expressive, yet with great concentration. Mineral and tobacco notes add complexity. Powerful and complete. Drink now through 2025. 750 cases made. 96 Points – Wine Spectator

The wines with (JO) refer to wines that are selections from Jorge Ordonez who catapulted the Spanish wine business. I had the amazing opportunity to meet this great man in October of 2009. I discovered him here: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2008/12/02/jorge-ordonez-spanish-wine-tasting-episode-588/ This changed my life and I was fortunate to view this very shortly after getting my job as a wine buyer and I realized I could build massive displays of inexpensive but good Spanish wines and have no worries about them selling. All I have to say is Thank You Mr. Ordonez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the flagship wines that have Jorge Ordonez stamps on that I am hustling every week to get on my shelf as they are highly highly allocated for only the best restaurant establishments. As you could see from above, I was able to get the 2006 Clio and here are the 2007’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Nido El Nido Jumilla – about $125

El Nido Clio Jumilla $50-60

Atteca Armas Garnacha – $40-50

All this being said, I want to stress that most of the Spanish wines you will see in a retail setting are between $7-15 and they are all good and I will never say that about other country’s wines. So check them out!

Next up in Part 4: 2004 Brunello di Montalcinos  and 2006 Tuscans from Italy.

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