Monday, December 27, 2021

My Favorite Songs of 2021

A Year Of #NewMusicMondays
Last Year, I began a monthly feature called #NewMusicMonday. This post is a culmination of 12 months of searching, sifting, and sorting new music every month across the Internet. YouTube Playlists have a built-in limitation of 200 songs when embedded into a web page like Monday Monday Music™.  This 200 song limit can be a blessing and curse. I basically had to revisit over a 1000 handpicked songs and whittle that down to 200 of my favorite favs, including any new songs from December. 

Last week, I did the same for my Fifty Years of Music series with the same process for songs from 1971. That was a much easier task for the many songs that were already part of my rock 'n' roll DNA. Here, this was a bit more work of current listening. In 2021, there are fewer great rock 'n' roll songs being written and recorded, but at the same time the 'Americana genre' continues to evolve often blending Rock 'n' Roll, Folk, Indie, Bluegrass, Country, and Blues.

Genre bending and blending is basically what music has been, is, and will be. For me, I'm a 'folkie' at heart... with a rock 'n' roll soul.

Rickenbacker 360 Fireglo
That bent leads to what some (me included) would call, 'jingle-jangle' rock 'n' roll with the blending of acoustic and electric guitars. I'm going to start with The Beatles as my personal reference point in time, and John's early use of his black Rickenbacker 6 string electric guitar, and then in 1964, adding George's use of his Rickenbacker 360 Fireglo twelve string electric guitar shown here. 

In 1965, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds quickly follows George's lead and uses his Rickenbacker 360 'Mapleglow' 12 string on all their hit songs, including Mr. Tamborine Man and Turn, Turn, Turn

This tradition continues through the years most notably with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, The Bangles, and The Jayhawks to name a few. 

By jingle-jangle, I'm basically identifying the signature sound of bands with typically two guitar players playing off each other in complement rhythm and riff of each other, like The Beatles' George and John, or The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Brian Jones (and later Ronnie Wood). These bands do not have an identified lead guitar god à la Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page to drive that rock sound. I love that sound too, but it often comes at limiting a song's lyrics with a melody and vocal harmonies to produce a more balanced sound. That last sentence, kind of defines the root elements of folk and I guess my bent to artists and bands and that sound.

In 2021, I found both older and newer artists and bands all over the world that satisfy my folk and rock 'n' roll DNA with their new music releases. Here are the artists, bands and albums that grabbed me this year (in somewhat of a slipshod rated order): 
  1. Joy Oladokun (Nashville, TN), in defense of my own happiness
    Joy Oladokun gets the top slot in that she taps into the heart of our times of 2020-2021. I found her lyrics compelling matched with a pure rich voice to carry her message, and one worth listening to.

    I've paddled upstream where the river ran
    I've turned sticks and stones to an olive branch
    I've made a full house from a shitty hand
    Yet, here I am, still gotta be bigger than the bigger man
    – Bigger Man, by Joy Oladokun and Maren Morris

  2. The War On Drugs (Philadelphia, PA), I Don't Live Here Anymore
    I said a couple of posts ago that Adam Granduciel the leader of The War On Drugs had me when he pulls out his Rickenbacker 330 Fireglo to go with this outstanding 2021 rock 'n' roll album.
  3. Madison Cunningham (Los Angeles, CA) 
    Madison Cunningham did not release an album in 2021, but she and many other artists took to Youtube and social media to record a plethora of songs on the Internet. In 2020-2021, the f*%#ing pandemic may have stopped live music in its tracks, but recorded music actually found a way to reach us (even in lock-down) and saved many souls. I found Madison on Youtube in 2021, and words can not express how I love this young singer-songwriter's work. 
  4. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Denver Colorado), The Future
    I'll be honest, Nathaniel Rateliff at first pass was interesting, liked him some, but was not a fan. The Future album changed all that. I just love his new songs to go with the passion and the horn section!
  5. Watchhouse (formally known as Mandolin Orange) (Chapel Hill, NC), Watchhouse
    The name Mandolin Orange has always been one of my favorite band names ever. So why change your band brand after a decade of hard work to get exposure as a folk duo? Anyway, the new album is fantastic, so well crafted and a complete standout in the Americana pack. 
  6. Teenage Fanclub (Scotland), Endless Arcade
    These guys have been around since 1989, who knew? I'm a slow learner and still catching up to all the great UK jingle-jangle bands out there. Endless Arcade is endless fun!
  7. Lord Huron (Los Angeles, CA), Long Lost
    If you're a fan of David Lynch's Twin Peaks music, you'll be right at home in the Red Room. 
  8. Guided By Voices (Dayton OH), Earth Man Blues
    This album simply rocks! The riffs on this thing takes me back to the day.
  9. Dori Freeman, (Galax, VA), Ten Thousand Roses
    This woman simply stands out with her songs. I hope she will get her due down the road as she is miles ahead of many young artists with much bigger names and smaller songs.
  10. Crowded House (Australia), Dreamers Are Waiting
    I love Crowded House, I love this album and part of the 80's-90's bands revival of 2021.
  11. Big Red Machine (Ohio, Wisconsin), How Long Do You Think It's Going To Last?
    An Indie Folk supergroup? With Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon at the helm, and with drop-in's like Taylor Swift, this album is a standout.
  12. Shannon Lay (Los Angeles, CA), Geist
    I had never heard of Shannon Lay until I heard a song from Geist on a streaming service. Then, that gets me interested and I listen to the whole album, and I'm picking songs right and left for the monthly playlist and then, songs left and right for this final playlist. Yeah, I like Shannon Lay a lot.
  13. Gary Louris (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Jump For Joy
    Gary Louris is the founding member of one of my favorite bands, The Jayhawks. Of course I'm going to love this solo album of folk and jingle-jangle rock 'n' roll!
  14. Bleachers (New York, NY), Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night
  15. Kings of Leon (Nashville, TN), When You See Yourself
  16. Jackson Browne (Los Angeles, CA) Downhill From Everywhere
    Jackson is simply one of the best still at the top of his game. I'm enjoying his ongoing collaboration with Val McCallum on electric guitar and vocals.
  17. Dylan LeBlanc (Shreveport, LA), Pastimes
    An EP of some of the best covers I've ever heard. 
  18. Elise LeGrow (Canada), Grateful
    Great soulful sound and nobody's heard of her? Grateful is so much better than Adele's 30, but that's just my little opinion.
  19. The Wallflowers (Los Angeles, CA), Exit Wounds
    Not bad for a band who haven't played together in nine years. The very wonderful Shelby Lynne provides backup vocals on several tracks.
  20. Natalie Hemby (Nashville, TN) Pens and Needles
    One of Nashville's best songwriter to the stars, gets to shine here on her second solo album.
  21. Allison Russell (Canada), Outside Child
  22. The Killers (Las Vegas, NV), Pressure Machine
  23. Death Cab For Cutie (Bellingham, WA),  The Georgia E.P.
  24. The Fratellis (Scotland), Half Drunk Under A Full Moon
  25. David Crosby (Santa Ynez, CA), For Free
  26. The Black Keys (Akron, OH), Delta Kream
  27. Flyte (England), This Is Really Going to Hurt
  28. Real Estate (Brooklyn, NY), Half a Human
  29. Hearty Har (Los Angeles, CA), Radio Astro
  30. Toad The Wet Sprocket, (Santa Barbara, CA), Starting Now
  31. Kings Of Convenience, (Norway), Peace or Love
Okay, I'm going to stop here at 31, I got to get to the finish line.

Now before I send you to this great 2021 playlist below, I have to give myself a little squeak of the wheel and pat on the ol' back. 

In January, I made a promise to myself (and Paul Hobbs) that I would write a Monday Monday Music every Monday for the entire 2021 year. Well boys and girls it's week 52 and this is my 52nd post for 2021! Heck, I could have done it with 48 in 2019, and 50 in 2020 if I had been paying attention and kept my eye on the ball. But now that I've done it, I have decided to pull the plug on the blog, and learn how to play piano... 

Just kidding. I hope I didn't make Paul's heart skip a beat. Yes, I'll be back next Monday, January 3 to start a new year of music posts. I actually do want to learn to play piano and work on my house a bit, so I'll just take it a week at a time, and a transition to...

Thank you dear followers for reading my post every week and making the time to dive into the playlist, most weeks. There's a lot of great music being made every day and remember pilgrims, Music Saves!

Now for starting the playlist this week the first video I picked back in January was Katy Perry's, Firework for Joe Biden's Presidential Inauguration. Her performance made me cry tears of happiness for the fact that the orange fat fascist was actually NOT the President anymore. I follow that with Joy Oladokun's, i see america, and then complete my little trilogy of American life with Harry Styles', Treat People With Kindness. After that, the songs in the playlist are in a random order and are not ranked, including a bunch of songs not mentioned in the albums listing.

Enjoy these 200 songs my friends, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2021

My Favorite Songs of 1971


Music is playing inside my head
Over and over and over again
My friend, there's no end to the music

Ah, summer is over
But the music keeps playing
And won't let the cold get me down

Pictures are forming inside my brain
Soon with the colours they'll rain together and grow
Then don't you know, don't you know there'll be music

Ah, it's not always easy
But the music keeps playing
And won't let the world get me down
–Carole King, Music

This blog is a twelve month culmination of my ongoing series Fifty Years of Music where I feature a month and year fifty years ago. 

In 1971, I was a sixteen year old sophomore and then in the fall started my junior year of high school. Here's a look back at the historical, film, and musical events of that year. (The following selected dates are from Wikipedia in italics: 19711971 in Film and 1971 in Music. I have also added my own little commentary in regular text on some of the date entries.)

  • January 2 – A ban on radio and television cigarette advertisements goes into effect in the United States. I think my mom banned my dad from smoking in the house around the same time.
  • January 12 – The landmark United States television sitcom All in the Family, starring Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, debuts on CBS. Brilliant script writing, so funny and serious to expose the underbelly of prejudice and belief systems through the eyes and mouth of a lovable bigot.
  • January 25 - In Los Angeles, Charles Manson and 3 female "Family" members are found guilty of the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders. The word, "psychopath" is integrated into my vocabulary.

  • February - Carole King releases her second solo album, TapestryThe album was certified 13× Platinum by RIAA and it is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 25 million copies worldwide. It received four Grammy Awards in 1972, including Album of the Year. The lead singles from the album—"It's Too Late" and "I Feel the Earth Move"—spent five weeks at number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts. In 2020, Tapestry was ranked number 25 on Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. And if that isn't enough for 1971, she releases her third solo album, Music in December. 
  • February - Yes releases its third album, The Yes Album, and turns around and releases Fragile in November. 
  • February 3 – Davy Jones announces he is leaving the Monkees. Davy, Peter and now Michael this last week (12/10/21).  Rest in peace dear lads. 
  • February 5 – Apollo 14 lands on the Moon
  • February 9 - Satchel Paige becomes the first Negro league player to become voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Social justice happens very very slowly in America.
  • February 13 – Vietnam War: Backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos. Maybe LBJ wasn't so bad after all, sure could use him now dealing with Joe Manchin.
  • February 28 – Evel Knievel sets a world record and jumps 19 cars on a motorbike in Ontario, California. Knievel was the race car crash everybody was waiting for, just on a motorcycle.

  • March - Elton John releases the soundtrack album to the movie, Friends. Then, turns around and in November releases, Madman Across the Water. Creativity is simply on fire in 1971.
  • March 1 - A bomb explodes in the men's room at the United States Capitol; the Weather Underground claims responsibility.
  • March 8 - "Fight of the Century": Boxer Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in a 15-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. I was bummed, always rooting for Ali.
  • March 11 – THX 1138, George Lucas' first full-length film, premieres in theaters. I saw it several years later in a community college film class.
  • March 12 - The movie,  The Andromeda Strain is released. I just love 'the last person' scenario in Sci-Fi.
  • March 12–13 – The Allman Brothers Band plays their legendary concert at the Fillmore East. Friend Gary Hill is all in with this band.
  • March 28 – The Ed Sullivan Show airs its final episode. End of an era. We saw all the pop and rock 'n' roll bands first on Ed Sullivan. What a fantastic format of entertainment and music right in our living room. Topo Gigio forever!
  • March 29 - U.S. Army lieutenant William Calley is found guilty of 22 murders during the My Lai Massacre and is sentenced to life in prison (he is later pardoned). For me, this was one of those 'end of the innocence' moments. 
  • March 30 – Starbucks coffee shop is founded in the U.S. state of Washington. At Pikes Place Market in Seattle you can go to the original Starbucks and see the original mermaid logo on the storefront window complete with her breasts not covered by her long flowing hair.

  • April 24 - An estimated 200,000 people in Washington, D.C. and a further 125,000 in San Francisco march in protest against the Vietnam War. At 16, I naively thought there would never be another proxy war like Vietnam with America sending its teenagers to fight and die in another country's war.

  • May - Paul McCartney releases Ram, an album I played to death in my bedroom. Then in December, Paul releases Wildlife with his new band Wings. On this one, Paul seems to be wandering in the wilderness, looking for his dear friend.
  • May 1- Amtrak begins intercity rail passenger service in the United States.

  • June movies released - McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Klute, Carnal Knowledge, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  • June 13 - Vietnam War: The New York Times begins to publish the Pentagon Papers. The antiwar movement is picking up steam.
  • June 17 - President Richard Nixon declares the U.S. War on Drugs. Nixon just liked war... and oh, how did all those drug wars work out?
  • June 27 – Promoter Bill Graham closes the Fillmore East in New York City with a final concert featuring The Allman Brothers Band, The Beach Boys and Mountain. Patrons are given commemorative posters at the door and find red roses on their seats

  • July 3 – Jim Morrison is found dead in a bath tub in Paris, France, aged 27. Alain Ronay would claim, years later, that he assisted Morrison's lover, Pamela Courson, in covering up the circumstances. Courson surely wouldn't be the last to help a famous person OD.
  • July 4 – The Fillmore West is closed in San Francisco with a final show featuring Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead. I was just young enough to miss all this cool hippie stuff that was starting to fade away...
  • July 5 – Right to vote: The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, formally certified by President Richard Nixon, lowers the voting age from 21 to 18. In 2021 looking back- How does a Republican President, no less Richard Nixon pass voting rights legislation??? Nothing like that would ever happen today with a Republican President.
  • July 7 - The movie 'Two-Lane Blacktop' is released starring songwriter James Taylor, the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, and Laurie Bird. James Taylor has said he has never seen this movie! I loved this movie and thought James was great!
  • July 9 – Grand Funk Railroad becomes only the second band (after The Beatles) to perform a sold-out concert at Shea Stadium breaking The Beatles record of selling out the venue. Listen, young people make mistakes. You were once young and stupid yourself. How does this entry even make Wikipedia?
  • July 23 - Alison Krauss, American country singer is born. She's a baby and her future musical collaborator, Robert Plant (23 years old at the time) is having another monster year in Led Zeppelin.
  • July 31 – Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin become the first to ride in the Lunar Roving Vehicle, a day after landing on the Moon. Americans are starting to take this for granted.

  • August 1 - The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, New York, starring George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and Leon Russell; also featuring Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Jesse Ed Davis and Badfinger. George was on a roll.
  • August 1971 - The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premieres on CBS. From Ed Sullivan to now Sonny & Cher on Sunday nights, was the fall of western civilization far behind?
  • August 14 – The Who release their fifth studio album Who's Next, reaching Number One in both the UK and the US. I wore this album out! Like Tapestry, this album is a greatest hits album all by itself. The one thing that always stood out for me even at 16, was Keith Moon's drumming on this album, simply the best I've ever heard over one album. What a birthday present this must have been for someone?
  • August 31 – John Lennon leaves Britain for New York City and will never return. Now the shit that John got from Tricky Dick and his government FBI thugs trying to deport him didn't work and he eventually won permanent residency status in 1976.

  • September 6 – Dolores O'Riordan, Irish singer (The Cranberries) is born. Don't you just love bands named after bugs and fruit.
  • September 8 – In Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is inaugurated, with the opening feature being the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Nothing like watching the Kennedy Center Honors or any other arts honors ceremony when Trump isn't in the White House.

  • October movies released - The French Connection, Play Misty for Me, The Last Picture Show.
  • October 1 – Walt Disney World opens in Orlando, Florida. My wife and I went there several years ago and were not impressed. Nothing beats the OG.
  • October 29 - Duane Allman, American rock guitarist, co-founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band is killed in a motorcycle accident. He was only 24 and one can only imagine if he would have been around longer, same for Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Gram Parsons.

  • November movie releases- Fiddler On The Roof, Duel (TV), and Brian's Song (TV).
  • November 8 – Led Zeppelin release officially untitled fourth studio album, which would become the biggest-selling album of the year (1972), the band's biggest-selling album, and the fourth best-selling album of all time. I wasn't a huge hard rock fan but no one could deny their presence and power in the 70's. They came along at such a critical time reminding the world what great Tier 1 Rock really sounded like- as so many crappy Tier 2 and 3 rock bands emerged in the 70's to fill the airwaves with just hot air.

  • December movies releases - Mary, Queen of Scots, Sometimes A Great Notion, A Clockwork Orange, Harold and Maude, Dirty Harry, Straw Dogs, and Diamonds are Forever.
  • December 4 - The Montreux Casino burns down during a Frank Zappa concert (the event is memorialized in the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water"). Now Deep Purple, that's a Tier 1 Rock band. I remember teaching in the early 90's and my young assistant who loved to talk music didn't know Deep Purple or the song Smoke on the Water, I was perplexed?

1971 is often called by music critics as the "Best" year of rock 'n' roll. I can't deny that this week's playlist of 200 could have easily taken on many more songs but for the fact that YouTube stops embedded playlists at 200. 

I know I lose marketing hits to the blog by using the term, "Favorites" but so be it, people want to be told what are the "Best" songs to listen to.

Here's my Favorite 'Top 40' albums of 2021. I did rate them, blending my 16 year-old self with my 66 year-old self. The majority of the 200 great songs in the playlist this week come from these 40 albums. I did not rate the songs themselves but simply created my standard handmade random-feel mix. 

Shuffle icon
This mix got me thinking about the first cassette mix tapes I started making in the 70's and playing in my car. In 1979, Sony created the Walkman® and revolutionized taking your personal music with you on a walk or run. When the Apple iPod came out in 2001, it continued making personal music portable and lighter, but also freed songs from being in a linear order with the digital 'Shuffle' feature. For me, Shuffle has been a concept I have fully embraced for twenty years now for listing to playlists, or when listening to all your songs on a device or service. My YouTube playlists are almost always designed to create a handmade random-feel of the Shuffle button I use on my smartphone music app. 

But putting all order aside, this is an endearing if not enduring group of albums and songs from just one year in rock 'n' roll. Long live 1971!

  1. Who's Next, The Who
  2. John Prine, John Prine
  3. Nilsson Schmilsson, Harry Nilsson
  4. Tapestry, Carole King
  5. Madman Across The Water, Elton John
  6. American Pie, Don McClean
  7. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones
  8. Teaser And The Firecat, Cat Stevens
  9. Ram On, Paul McCartney
  10. Mudslide Slim And The Blue Horizon, James Taylor
  11. Year Of Sunday, Seals and Crofts
  12. If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby
  13. Imagine, John Lennon
  14. America, America
  15. Stephen Stills 2, Stephen Stills
  16. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
  17. A nod is as good as a wink... to a blind horse, Faces
  18. Straight Up, Badfinger
  19. Aqualung, Jethro Tull
  20. The Yes Album, Fragile, Yes
  21. Live At The Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers
  22. Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse
  23. Bryter Layter, Nick Drake
  24. Friends, Elton John
  25. Music, Carole King
  26. The Low Spark Of The High-Heeled Boys, Traffic
  27. Mudlark, Leo Kottke
  28. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
  29. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart
  30. Tupelo Honey, Van Morrison
  31. Anticipation, Carly Simon
  32. Thirds, James Gang
  33. The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, Howlin' Wolf
  34. Liv, Livingston Taylor
  35. If You Saw Thro' My Eyes, Iain Matthews
  36. Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot
  37. every good boy deserves Favour, The Moody Blues
  38. Mirror, Emitt Rhodes
  39. The Point, Harry Nilsson
  40. Grin featuring Nils Lofgren, Grin

Enjoy my Friends and Happy Festivus... for the rest of us!

Monday, December 13, 2021

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume IX

 Volume I • II • III • IV  • V • VI • VII • VIII • IX • Team Tortoise Blogs

The #BestSongIHeardToday series is often centered around hearing great songs while exercising. These posts will tend to drift into health related topics but will always come back to the music that brought you here. This particular series is probably more about a self journal to help me stay on the path of healthy living that includes, listening to old and new tunes. If you're looking for a great mix playlist of 25-30 songs, just click on one of my Volumes above.


This is part of a text thread I recently had with an old friend of mine. Personally, I think
RollingStone 
magazine lost its way in the 1990's trying to be all things to all music listeners.

First issue cover, 11/9/67
Rolling Stone started in 1967 when rock 'n' roll songs dominated the Billboard 100 popular music charts. It quickly became the gold standard for rock journalism and nurtured a dedicated following of readers. You knew you were in a rock fan's house if you saw Rolling Stone mags on the coffee table, if not in the bathroom.

Today, Rolling Stone still covers popular music it's just that now rock 'n' roll is not center stage. The magazine's name sake, the Muddy Water's Blues song Rollin' Stone is now a distant memory from the current magazine's musical focus. 

Is rock 'n' roll dead? NO, it's very much alive and even kicking along with– Folk/Americana, Blues and R&B new music releases coming out every month. The difference now is that you actually have to look, even dig a little deeper on the Internet to find it.

Rolling Stone still covers all the genres that sprang from the Blues to keep that older reader, but current pop music is a completely different animal in the 21st century, and thus my friend's text comment to me. 

February, 2021 issue cover
So with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to see if Rolling Stone's The 50 Best Songs of 2021 is anywhere close to YOUR personal tastes in music. I've often said, "Best" is a strong opinion when talking music and you'll see that I use the word, "Favorite" in making my lists. I would encourage you, younger or older, to click on their link above and check it out. Personally, I found only three songs that I have featured this year on my new release playlists - #29 Bleachers, Stop Making This Hurt; #23 Kacey Musgraves, Breadwinner; and #5 Lucy Darcus, VBS (Vacation Bible School). 

Next week, I'm going to present my Favorite Songs of 1971 to wrap up a year's worth of my Fifty Years of Music series.

In two weeks, I'm going to present my Favorite Songs of 2021 to wrap up a year's worth of my #NewMusicMonday series.

Now Rolling Stone as a brand is a powerhouse, but I think you'll find my Monday Monday Music™ 'the little rock 'n' roll engine' alternative if you're feeling neglected as a rock 'n' roller or folkie. 

For this week, I'm going to wrap up my #BestSongIHeardToday series for 2021 with a variety of songs that grabbed my listening ears recently that are indicative of my taste in music and hopefully yours too! Thanks for your support this year, and hey I'm only two weeks away from writing a blog with a playlist for every single Monday of 2021! 

Enjoy my friends & Happy Festivus...
for the rest of us!

Monday, December 06, 2021

Christmas Mix 2021

Christmas Mix
2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020 • 2021

When I started to Photoshop the original photograph above into my own visually-sampled graphic, I thought of the lyrics to Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. However, I screwed up the second line and wrote in caps, "May your days be bright." Here's the first verse-

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Christmas time is a mixed bag, it can be full of bright days and dark days. I'm not here to tell anyone how to feel, to put on a smile and be of "good cheer." I do hope that this season finds you in a good place as I wish all my readers bright days ahead. I've taken my little screw up to heart by embracing it as is.

Now the Christmas Mix this year is typical of my past mixes, mostly positive songs mixed with a few 'dark days' songs just to keep it real. My favorite two in this vein are Burn Down This Town by Rosanne Cash and Something Good Coming by Tom Petty.

My wife's favorite, Carol Of The Bells by John Williams from Home Alone is tucked in its traditional second track spot for this seventh edition. Beatles songs are always sprinkled and clustered about. I've also included some interesting video clips to help round out the spirit of my little yin-yang thing. I will say, Europe makes the best Christmas commercials these days. 

Kelly Clarkson wins best break-up song of the year with her, Christmas Isn't Canceled (Just You) (in a year of notable breakup themed albums including, Kacey Musgraves and Adele). 

Here are a couple of my favorite things that struck me about this new Christmas song.

First off, I found Clarkson's 'Official Lyric Video' of the song on Youtube and busted a gut for a completely different reason than Kelly's breakup response with her husband. Look at the graphic below from the video - Who does the young smug cad in a top hat remind you of?

The young Donald playing the part?
Is it just me... or is this a spitting (and I mean spitting) image of the young ass, Donald Trump!

The graphic with his expressionless dour face complete with the little yellow duck-tail over his collar is perfect. Not only is the graphic perfect, but then juxtapose it with Kelly's lyrics, and what a great new song this becomes. I can't believe this video is an accident, jeez I can't be the only one who sees this?  This video is funny as hell to me.

Second, Christmas Isn't Canceled (Just You) also touched a chord within my heart regarding the shallowness of most Christmas music over the decades, and the fact that many of these songs are dependent on being with a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend. Mariah Carey's 1994, All I Want For Christmas Is You comes to mind and has become a Christmas standard that carries the torch as a traditional classic. Sorry, I'm just the guy at Thanksgiving that's sick of turkey after six decades and just wants a little variety in my holiday meals and music. For me, Christmas Isn't Canceled (Just You) becomes a fresh 21st century contrast, a bright new day for women not needing to be dependent on a man for their happiness.

Okay, the last thing about this song that is absolutely self-empowering and hilarious at the same time is these two verses setting up this last line - 

Lost at first
Thinking that I might (I might)
Be cursed
Winter wonderlands weren’t made for one
So we’ve all been told since we were young

Ooh oh oh 

But I’m not feelin’ incomplete (feelin’ incomplete)
Turns out I don’t need a thing underneath my tree

Oh my, you go girl!

Now if you've only experienced my Youtube playlists on your phone, this time around you may want to watch it on your tablet or computer or better yet, use theYouTube app on your smart TV device. I have included a lot of videos in this mix. Here's my YouTube Channel if you would like to Subscribe.

Happy Festivus from Mary Kit & Doug


References

Monday, November 29, 2021

#NewMusicMonday • November, 2021

 November is usually a big album release month to cash in on the holiday season notwithstanding the mega Taylor Swift and Adele albums released this month. (Hey I even included an Adele song in the playlist this week.) 

This month was a good month for me finding new music that lead me back to discover older recorded material by artists and bands. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that the majority of my writing is inspired by my younger days in the 1960's and 70's, and not as much from the 80's and 90's. Now even though this is a #NewMusicMonday, you'll find that I've found newly recorded songs that were originally recorded in the 80's or 90's, or new songs that have an affinity and influence from those past two decades... or some new/old blues, and if you can believe it, some new Deep Purple from the way way back of my youth.

Acoustic Hymns Vol 1 (Amazon)
I'm going to start with the 90's band, The Verve that took me back to something older. Richard Ashcroft just released Acoustic Hymns Vol 1 this month which is much more than just the former Verve's lead singer and songwriter's greatest hits album. I think every track has been carefully re-crafted to breath fresh life into each one of his songs. I included all of these songs in the playlist this week and think you will enjoy the new arrangements.

Natural History (Amazon)
Acoustic Hymns Vol 1 also reminded me of another great album that was done in the same vein, J.D. Souther's, Natural History, a wonderful album of his reworked greatest hits as a songwriter. 

What makes me bring these two albums together is their acoustic flavor with songs stripped down to enhance the songwriters lyrics with their fantastic singing voices. I highly recommend both.


The next band, The War On Drugs has a mixture of rock 'n' roll influences, but I guess their name says it all being emblematic of the Nancy Reagan 80's and her infamous and ridiculous, "Just say no to drugs" campaign. The band's leader, Adam Granduciel was born in 1979 so he obviously grew up through that 80's D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) period at school and probably even had to wear the t-shirt to a D.A.R.E. program in the school auditorium hosted by a local sports hero. Need I digress more... The band's new album, I Don't Live Here Anymore, is simply fabulous and the songs have grown on me the past several weeks. I have included all the songs from the album in the playlist this week, but Adam had me when he pulls out the Rickenbacker 330 Fireglo for his live version of Change and is the song to lead off this mix.

Rufus Wainwright's new album just came out November 26th and in waiting for that release I actually got listening to his back catalog last week and came across his 2020 release of Unfollow The Rules that totally passed under my radar last year. So, I have included several songs from that album that are at least new to me. 

Here's the new albums I'm featuring in the playlist this week including a few famous names from the 80's
and 90's.

  • I Don't Live Here Anymore,
    The War On Drugs
  • Acoustic Hymns Vol 1, 
    Richard Ashcroft
  • Bright Lights, Susanna Hoffs
  • Raise The Roof, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
  • The Bridge, Sting
  • The Future, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  • Heavy Load of Blues, Gov't Mule
  • Queens of the Summer Hotel, Aimee Mann
  • Grateful, Elise LeGrow
  • Turning To Crime, Deep Purple
  • Rufus Wainwright and Amsterdam Sinfonietta Live, Rufus Wainwright and Amsterdam Sinfonietta
  • Unfollow The Rules, Rufus Wainwright (2020)
And now a shameless plug. Please tune in next week for my seventh annual Christmas Mix 2021. I've been collecting traditional and non-traditional songs all year that fit into both hot and cold climates zones not to mention rock 'n' roll and Americana music zones as well. 

Happy Festivus... for the Rest of Us!



Monday, November 22, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back


'The Beatles: Get Back' is an upcoming three-part documentary series directed and produced by Peter Jackson. It covers the making of The Beatles' 1970 album 'Let It Be', which had the working title of 'Get Back', and draws from material originally captured for Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 documentary of the album. Conceived originally as a feature film, each episode of 'The Beatles: Get Back' is about two hours in length, making up a total of six hours.

Jackson characterized 'The Beatles: Get Back' as "a documentary about a documentary". Commentators have described it as challenging longtime beliefs that the making of 'Let It Be' was marked entirely by tensions between the Beatles, showing a more upbeat side of the production. It will premiere on Disney+ consecutively on 25, 26 and 27 November 2021.
(Wikipedia)

Photo Source - 60 Minutes
Peter Jackson down in the Apple Corp film vault
Sometime in 2018, Peter Jackson met with The Beatles company, Apple Corp in London. They just said, "we've got it all. We've got-- 57 hours of footage. We've got 130 hours of audio." And then they said that they were thinking about making a documentary using the footage. I just put up my hand and said, "Well, if-- if you are looking for somebody to make it-- don't-- please just-- think-- think of me." (60 Minutes)

In the last four years, Peter Jackson and his team went to work using his cutting edge film and audio restoration techniques, not to mention his general magic as a gifted film maker to craft this new documentary. 

Cover of the aborted Get Back album,
mirroring the cover of the band's first album,
As a huge Beatle fan, Peter Jackson has tapped into every Beatles' fan dream to see their favorite band writing, rehearsing, performing, and most importantly, having fun. The documentary essentially explores the creative process within a collaborative group. It's a bit of the good times and raw emotions all mixed together. Did The Beatles fulfill their vision to create a "live performance" that took them back to their days playing in clubs? As a fan, I'm more grateful for the treasure of songs that came from the Get Back project. Humans are complicated and when combined with art... creativity is messy.

I believe the upcoming movie will capture the true spirit of the band creating a new adventure. Here's the film trailer that came out last month to represent the six hours that awaits us on Disney+.

 

 Okay, You might be saying, "I don't have Disney+." Is Disney+ going to have a free 3 or 5 day trail offer? The answer is no, but here's what you can do. Like most subscription services Disney+ is month to month for $7.99. Think of it as a good ticket price if you were going to a movie theater. You can unsubscribe after 30 days. In any event, Disney+ might be a good solution for some holiday shows with family and friends in the weeks ahead.

Imagine, many of us old Beatle fans actually have some new Beatle material to experience for the first time! And that my friends is truly something to be thankful for.

Now the playlist for this week is my own hodgepodge YouTube Playlist from the new Let It Be: 50th Anniversary (Super-Deluxe Edition (2021) and Let It Be... Naked (2003).  

The Super Deluxe Edition is 57 tracks representing three versions of the Let It Be album from: hired gun-toting Producer Phil Spector, the 1969 Get Back Mix by Glyn Johns, and the 2021 remix by Giles Martin. It includes tracks featuring Beatle banter which I can't get enough of, and rehearsals of several songs that will later appear on Abbey Road

The 2003 version of 'Let It Be... Naked' is presented in a form which Paul McCartney considered closer to its original artistic vision: to "get back" to the rock and roll sound of their early years rather than the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector to three of the songs in the production of the final 'Let It Be' album. McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the "Wall of Sound" production style of the Phil Spector mixes of these three tracks, especially for his song "The Long and Winding Road", which he believed was ruined by the process. (Wikipedia)

I do want to explain that my playlist is squarely in the Paul McCartney camp of rejecting Phil Spector's extensive remix that completely got away from the live album concept that Paul originally brought to John, George and Ringo for the January, 1969 recordings. For example, The Long and Winding Road has both the Spector and Glyn Johns production versions in the Super Deluxe Edition, and Naked has the final take recorded on January 31, 1969, instead of the original album take from January, 26, 1969. I personally like the Naked final take, and maybe you can get a feel for how I put together the playlist here. 

Although as I write this, I've been listening to all these versions for a couple weeks now and I'm pulled towards the Glyn Johns 1969 mixes that The Beatles ultimately rejected. Glyn Johns' use of vocal echo I thought was brilliant in that he captures a live feel as if the listener were sitting in an auditorium or concert hall, and lends itself to the live performance part of Paul's original vision for the project. In any event, here is what I eventually came to with the goal of not having multiple versions of any of the songs mixed with a selection of banter tracks and jams to capture a bit of that Beatle spirit and joy in their creative process.

The Beatles: Get Back Playlist
  1. The Beatles: Get Back - A Sneak Peek from Peter Jackson (12/20/20- Montage featuring the song, Get Back)
  2. Two of Us (2021 Super Deluxe Mix from 1970 album)
  3. I Don't Know Why I'm Moaning Discussion (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  4. I've Got A Feeling (Naked Version / Remastered 2013)
  5. Dig A Pony (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
  6. Something (Rehearsal) (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  7. For You Blue (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
  8. Can You Dig It (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  9. Let It Be (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
  10. Medley: I’m Ready (aka Rocker) / Save The Last Dance For Me / Don’t Let Me Down (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  11. Don't Let Me Down (This is not the version of Don’t Let Me Down heard on the single but the version from the Let It Be… Naked album – a composite of both versions that were performed on the roof of Apple in Savile Row)
  12. Maggie Mae / Fancy My Chances With You (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  13. I Me Mine (Naked Version / Remastered 2013)
  14. Polythene Pam (Rehearsal) (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  15. Across The Universe (Naked Version / Remastered 2013)
  16. Octopus’s Garden (Rehearsal 2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  17. Without A Song feat. Billy Preston on vocal (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  18. One After 909 (Take 3) (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  19. The Walk Jam (2021 Super Deluxe Mix)
  20. The Long And Winding Road (Naked Version / Remastered 2013)
  21. Get Back (Reprise / 1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
  22. Inside the story of the Beatles documentary “Get Back”
    (60 Minutes Overtime 11/14/21)
Happy Thanksgiving... and Happy Beatles weekend my friends! 


References / Resources

Monday, November 15, 2021

Under the Influence • Songs of 1952-1955

Songs of 1949-1951 • 1952-1955

1952 through 1955 is a real transitional period in popular music. Rock 'n' roll is a baby as the dominate pop standard hits of the day come from singers like Patti Page, Frankie Lane, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Rosemary Clooney. However, the top record producers are guys like Mitch Miller ruling the airwaves with homogenized cheery tunes with little innovation or imagination. Remember, Sing A-Long With Mitch.

        

In the 1950's, emerging star Pat Boone would specialize in taking original R&B hits from black artists and cover them with softer arrangements for the larger white market. Boone was certainly not the first or last to capitalize on this practice, where the music money stream almost never flowed back to the source, the black musicians creating songs in the early to middle 20th century.

Let's take a look at some of the musical events and songs that would influence a generation growing up in the 1950's. Kids who would jump at the chance to get out of the house and into a car with friends listening to some new rock 'n' roll while cruising Broadway... and away from their Father Knows Best world.

1952 in Music

  • March 21 – First reported rock and roll riot breaks out at Alan Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland, Ohio. Teenage excitement is blamed for the frenzy.
  • September – Bill Haley and His Saddlemen change [their name and] image to become Bill Haley & His Comets. (27 year old Bill Haley's no dummy, he dumps the country swing and jumps on this rock 'n' roll thang!) 

  • Jambalaya (On the Bayou) – Hank Williams
  • Juke – Little Walter
  • Wimoweh – The Weavers
  • I'm Confessin' - Les Paul & Mary Ford 
  • I Only Have Eyes For You - Billy Holiday
  • Tis' Sweet To Be Remembered - Flatt and Scruggs
  • Bloomdido - Charlie Parker / Dizzy Gillespie
1953 in Music
  • January 1 — Hank Williams, due to play a New Year's Day show in Canton, Ohio, dies sometime after midnight in the rear seat of his Cadillac, somewhere between Knoxville, Tennessee and Oak Hill, West Virginia. He was 29. Stories conflict on what happened in the final hours of his life, but what is not disputed is that his death gave rise to the legend. In the 60-plus years following his death, Williams' songs would be covered countless times, singers and songwriters would directly cite him as an influence. The last song released in his lifetime was 'I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.'
  • July 18 – Elvis Presley makes his first recordings at Sun Records.
  • Hound Dog– Big Mama Thornton. Her #1 R&B hit would be recorded three years later by Elvis Presley making it a #1 smash hit selling 10 million copies.
  • Crazy Man, Crazy, recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets, becomes the first rock and roll single to make the Billboard national American musical charts.

  • I'll Go On Alone, Marty Robbins
  • Mess Around – Ray Charles
  • Please Don't Leave Me – Fats Domino
  • Your Cheatin' Heart – Hank Williams
  • I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Hank Williams
1954 in Music
  • February 1 – Johnny "Guitar" Watson records 'Space Guitar' pioneering reverb and feedback techniques on guitar.
  • April – Fender Stratocaster electric guitar first produced in California.
  • April 12 – Bill Haley and His Comets record 'Rock Around the Clock' in New York City for Decca Records.
  • July 6 — Elvis Presley releases his first single, 'That's All Right' [and the B side 'Blue Moon of Kentucky']. A month later, Billboard gives the song a positive review, with the reviewer calling Presley a "strong new talent," and by September is a No. 1 hit in Memphis.
  • Les Paul commissions Ampex to build the first eight track tape recorder, at his own expense.
  • The Drifters form.
  • The Isley Brothers make their first recordings, featuring only the three eldest brothers, O'Kelly Jr., Rudolph and Ronald.[8]
  • The Newport Jazz Festival is established by George Wein.

  • I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man – Muddy Waters
  • Shake Rattle And Roll – Big Joe Turner
1955 in Music
  • January 14 – In New York City, Alan Freed produces the first rock and roll concert.
  • March 15 – Colonel Tom Parker becomes Elvis Presley's de facto manager.
  • March 26 - My first day on this earth and rock 'n' roll is off the launch pad in my birth year of 1955, not to mention Disneyland opens that summer. 
    Bill Hayes tops the US charts for five weeks with The Ballad of Davy Crockett and starts a (fake) coonskin cap craze. In the playlist this week, I'm going to include the 1955 Walt Disney TV intro to Davy Crockett sung by its star, Fess Parker.
  • April 14 – Imperial Records in the United States release 'Ain't That a Shame' by Fats Domino. It reaches #1 in the R&B chart and becomes over time a million seller, bringing Domino to prominence and quickly covered by Pat Boone making this song a Billboard #1 hit . 
  • May 13 – First riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • May 21 – Chuck Berry records his first single, 'Maybellene', for Chess Records in Chicago.
  • May 22 – Bridgeport, Connecticut, authorities cancel a rock concert to be headlined by Fats Domino for fear of a riot breaking out.
  • July 9 – Rock Around the Clock becomes the first rock 'n' roll single to reach #1on the Billboard charts.
  • July 17 - Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California. My wife Mary Kit will be born six months later and it will be her "happiest place on earth."
  • October - 'Tutti Frutti' is a song written by Little Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie that was first recorded in 1955, becoming Little Richard's first major hit record. With its energetic refrain, often transcribed as "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!" (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined), and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself. The song introduced several of rock music's most characteristic musical features, including its loud volume, powerful vocal style, and distinctive beat and rhythm.
  • October 15 – Elvis Presley plays a concert in Lubbock, Texas. Opening act is local duo Buddy and Bob, Buddy being future rock star Buddy Holly.
  • November 20 – Bo Diddley makes his debut TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan show.
  • November 22 – Colonel Tom Parker signs Elvis Presley to RCA Records.
  • December 15 – Sun Records releases 'Folsom Prison Blues' recorded by Johnny Cash on July 30.
  • Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel write their first song, The Girl For Me, and begin singing together as a duo while still in high school in New York City.
  • In 1955, Lonnie Donegan's fast-tempo version of Lead Belly's Rock Island Line becomes a big hit in the UK where it helped trigger the skiffle craze. It flew up the English charts. Donegan had synthesized American Southern Blues with simple acoustic instruments: acoustic guitar, washtub bass and washboard rhythm. The new style was called 'Skiffle' .... and referred to music from people with little money for instruments. The new style captivated an entire generation of post-war youth in England. In the 1960's, many English bands including The Beatles would site Lonnie Donegan and Skiffle as a huge influence in their music development. 
Enjoy my friends!