For my last blog of 2019, I'm going back to the 1969 well to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite movies of all-time, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, released October 24, 1969.
The film won four Academy Awards: Best Cinematography; Best Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical); Best Music, Song (Burt Bacharach and Hal David for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"); and Best Original Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Sound. Wikipedia
As kids in high school, my friends and I would reenact favorite scenes over and over as it instantly became our favorite western. The John Wayne torch of the Western had moved over to a new generation of movie fans that would champion new Westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman in 1970.
I think what completes this perfect movie of script, cast and direction is Burt Bacharach's music. The score is a masterpiece that breathes so much life into the action and cinematography. For me the highlight of the soundtrack is the South American Getaway montage with Newman, Redford and Ross robbing banks and avoiding the Bolivian soldiers. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a quality video of the sequence but the audio track is classic Bacharach pop that should just take you back to the 1960's and start your Monday Monday with a little pep in your step.
I'm just an album guy at heart. If I like an artist or band I tend to like more than one song on the album. So it's really about my favorite albums of the year, and the 100 songs I have chosen here are mostly grouped with at least two or more of what I think are premium cuts of songs from the same album.
My favorite song of 2019 is There Goes My Miracle by Bruce Springsteen from his Western Stars album. Bruce once said that with his plain voice and looks he better be a damn good songwriter if he was going to make it in the music business. I think his vocals have actually improved over the years as Bruce works so hard in everything he does. His vocal on There Goes My Miracle got the hairs on the back of my neck to attention the first time I heard the song. I think the song's a masterpiece of writing, arrangement and a simply fantastic vocal that drives the emotion of the song.
Another song that got me literally tinkling with pure joy was Street Song by The Whofrom their just released album, WHO. Street Song is an instant classic in my mind because Pete Townshend throws in a little bit of everything that you would associate with the sound of the band in the 1970's. Roger Daltrey's vocal is outstanding, but the thing that brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it (very loudly in my earphones), was Zak Starkey's (son of Ringo) drumming. Zak doesn't imitate his godfather Keith Moon, but the spirit of Keith just came back like a wave through Zak's drumming! Keith Moon is in fact my favorite drummer of all-time because of his unique double tom-toms sound that just rolls like no other in rock. In the 1970's, you could be in any car with crappy speakers and a song from Who's Nextwould come on the radio and you could hear Keith's drumming just like it was making the car hum down the road.
2019 goes down as the year the 'California Sound' made a comeback. Composers such as Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb come to mind that hark back to a time and sound of great songwriting combined in pop with sweeping orchestrations and in rock 'n' roll with great harmony and electric guitars blending with acoustic guitars.
In Western Stars, Bruce embodies Bacharach and Webb and channels Wichita Lineman. In the folk rock documentary, Echo in the Canyon, Jakob Dylan does a similar exploration of groups like The Byrds as the California Sound evolved from beach music to folk rock. Both albums are peppered through my favorites playlist this year.
Album making is hard work combined with the talent to pull it off. It's a special magic to write, sing, play, and produce 10 or so songs woven together as an album and out into the world. A good album is a great find, a great album is a treasure for life.
So here's 100 songs I really liked this year and mixed together to represent some good and great albums by some fine rock 'n' rollers and Americana musicians in 2019. Enjoy my friends and here's to more great music in 2020!
The Who's twelfth studio album, WHO was just released last week but you would swear it was straight out of the 1970's. Roger Daltrey at 75 still has his vocal chops and is a model for how to take care of one's self. Pete Townshend at 74 still has his songwriting, singing and guitar chops, and together these lads just made a fan pleasing classic album to go with their current tour.
I finally saw the band for the first time on their tour stop in San Diego this year, and this album will just keep The Who selling out arenas until they say, "WHEN." This just might be the best rock 'n' roll album of the year as I'm picking songs right and left here to include on my year ending blog, My Favorite Songs of 2019. I've got both a Spotify and YouTube Playlist of the new album.
Next up is almost 72 year old (Dec. 30th) Jeff Lynne and his band now updated from ELO to Jeff Lynne's ELO. Jeff wrote every song and plays every instrument (minus the orchestration) on the new album just released in November, From Out of Nowhere. Much like the new album title, ELO is back with new material to keep the fan base rocking on tour that I caught for the first time this past June at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Jeff Lynne just blew me away at this show with his voice preserved like a 1970's time capsule that continues to blast off on this new album. I saw a lot of bands and solo acts in 2019 (including Paul McCartney) but I have to say, Jeff's performance at the Honda Center had the highest sound quality production of any live act I heard in 2019. This new album will take you back and forward at the same time.
Here also, I've got both a Spotify and YouTube playlist of the new album.
With these two new 2019 releases, these rockers all born in the 1940's continue to prove why they are part of the greatest generation of Rock 'n' Roll.
I first heard Let It Bleed on friend and childhood next door neighbor Ron Zieman's bedroom record player. I recently recall him saying, "I wore the damn thing out."
Fifty years later and on this spin of the digital turntable, two things stand out. One, Keith Richards playing almost all the guitar parts because Brian Jones was so far gone that the Stones had to kick him out of the band in June, 1969. Brian was found dead in his swimming pool less than one month later.
Jones and fellow guitarist Keith Richards developed a unique style of guitar play that Richards refers to as the "ancient art of weaving" where both players would play rhythm and lead parts together; Richards would carry the style on with later Stones guitarists and the sound would become a Rolling Stones trademark. Wikipedia
The second, is my respect for the craftsmanship on ALL the songs beyond the hits. The Rolling Stones idolized the Blues and the men and women who created the genre. I was listening to a live song by B.B. King on tour with the Stones the other day on Amazon. King says in the intro before the song that he wanted to thank the Stones for having him open for them, because "without the Rolling Stones you wouldn't be listening to B.B. King." Sometimes this world is just ass-backwards...
The new Let It Bleed 2019 remaster on YouTube is outstanding! Take a little holiday time on this one, but don't forget to go back to my Christmas Mix 2019 - Going Home. Baby gimme some shelter!
Our ol' pal Ron is currently visiting his father Ray in Rochester, New York. Happy Birthday Ron and Merry Christmas to you and your family and stay warm by the fire.
This is the 5th anniversary of my Christmas Mix Playlist! I've linked all the previous mixes right here, so you'll be covered for the holidays. As always, my Christmas Mix is a blend of traditional and non-traditional music because after 60+ years of listening to Bing and Nat, ya gotta mix it up.
I remember Paul Simon talking about the song Kodachrome many years ago and his inspiration for writing the song was not photography but rather the sound of the phrase 'going home,' now say, "Kodachrome," and there's another hit from Rhymin' Simon. If there ever was a color film for the holidays, it was Kodachrome. It was my film of choice until this digital stuff took over...
One of the central themes of Christmas is in fact, going home. Children have Santa with all the presents under the Christmas tree, but adults get a holiday theme too- the loneliness, and/or longingness to be back home with family, friends, and possibly that one person you love more than anything.
Since vinyl records became popular in the 1940's, songwriters have created countless hits using the 'going home' theme. In 1943 and in the middle of World War II, Bing Crosby's hit, I'll Be Home For Christmas was written for the soldiers longing to be home at Christmas. It remains today a Christmas standard sung by countless singers that still can elicit tears... I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.
McKee Anderson DeVoe
Here's a current shout out to McKee Anderson DeVoe who just graduated from Marine Boot Camp down here in San Diego at MCRD and is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton. Mary Kit and I attended the ceremony with his proud dad Bill and his family, and we all wish him the best in the days, months and years ahead as a proud Marine!
This past week I headed up the coast to my OG hometown, Santa Maria, CA. I spent Thanksgiving with my mom, brother and sisters in the house we all lived in growing up. It was nice for all of us to be back together again under the same roof on Tunnell Street. I'll be home for Christmas this year in San Diego with my girls and grandkids. I cherish everyday with all my family spread out across California and Washington.
Happy Holidays to all , and may your days be filled with good spirits and cheer wherever you are!
Also, a very special Merry Christmas wish to Ray Zieman who is in his 95th year and truly one of the finest human beings on the planet. Ray spent his career at Kodak and did some incredible top secret work with the military for Kodak at Vandenberg Air Force Base to keep our country safe. Merry Christmas Ray, Ron and Retta too!
Yesterday's sunrise on the mystical 'Ventura Highway' just out of Santa Barbara, going home to San Diego.