Archive for January, 2014

Beggars Banquet


So I remember going to see “Interview With the Vampire” back home at the Ashtabula Mall.  I can’t remember exactly why I went to see it, because I really don’t dig vampire stories (don’t tell the Princess) and I pretty much hate Tom Cruise (“Collateral” is basically the only movie of his that I enjoy…and he was the bad guy in that one too), but whatever, I was there.  IMDB lists the release date for the movie as November 1994, so it was probably over my first winter break from college and I was probably with Black Cloud and the Gear Head.  And if that was the case, I was probably nursing some pretty grievous wounds that had been inflicted by Her.  But regardless, my favorite part of the movie was most certainly the ending credits, and not just because I didn’t have to watch Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt fight over who was better looking anymore, but mostly because the Guns ‘N Roses version of “Sympathy for the Devil” played over the closing credits.  I even went out and bought the CD single release of the Guns’ version of the song.  And when I listen to it today, I admit its a bit over the top (in the way only Axl Rose can do), but it was my first exposure to the song and as covers go, it’s pretty great (even if it did lead directly to Slash leaving the band).

But of course, the original is great too, and it’s here on this record.  Actually, it was the only song on the album that I had heard before when I found it at the Half Price Books by me on Bethel Road (Bethel Road, where all the bad boys hang out…) for $8.99 (minus my huge edumacator discount) on a night when the Princess was searching for geometry books.  And to be honest, it’s a fun record, but there aren’t really any other tracks other than “Sympathy” that really jump of the album.  It’s kind of funny that Jagger gives us a Biblical lesson in “Prodigal Son” right before he tries to pick up an underage runaway (and her friend) in “Stray Cat Blues”.  I guess he had his bad boy image to protect.  The album is actually very acoustic and bluesy, and I guess you could say that every Friday for the past 15 years I’ve had more than just a few drinks for the salt of the earth (yup Mick and John, a working class hero is still something to be!)

Other lists: “Sympathy for the Devil” is #32 and “Street Fighting Man” is #301 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the the Top 500 Songs of All Time.

Ch-ch-changes: This album also dropped one spot from the original list due to the rise of “Meet the Beatles!”

My favourite track: “Sympathy for the Devil”

Honourable mention: “Salt of the Earth”

Quote: “Let’s drink to the hardworking people, let’s drink to the lowly of birth.  Raise your glass to the good and the evil: let’s drink to the salt of the earth.”


Songs in the Key of Life

I purchased this album on Amazon for $13.58 and this is the first time I have ever listened to it, yet somehow this album is deeply connected to my personal musical history and my journey to becoming a music edumacator.  Or at least one song on it is.  See, “Sir Duke” was the first song I ever learned as a member of the G.I.’s (aka Geneva’s Image), the show choir in my hometown of Geneva, Ohio.  I remember doing summer rehearsals between my sophomore and junior years in some random person’s basement, and this was the first song we learned.  The group had done it the year before (someone had learned it at the famous show choir camp at Heidelberg University) and so it was an obvious choice as a starter song for all the newbies like me.

Now, my road to joining the show choir was not obvious at all.  In fact, it was a somewhat random occurrence (which makes it all the more strange that I have made a career out of it).  At that time I had never been in choir, and honestly, I had never wanted to be in choir, even way back in 5th grade when Mr. Parker pretty much recruited anybody who wanted to sing into choir.  But I had decided at the time on being a band guy, and the alto saxophone (and for a little while in 9th grade the tenor sax) was all I really wanted to play.  But then at the beginning of my sophomore year, Black Cloud auditioned for the fall play and got in.  It was “The Crucible”, and as I sat there and watched him on stage, I had the old “anything you can do, I can do better” thought.  Add to it that the girl who I had a huge crush on was in that play (and also in the show choir), and my path was set…I auditioned for the next show, which was a series of one-act plays, and got a small part.  Well, next up was the spring musical, “The Sound of Music”.  I didn’t sing at all in that point in my life, but I knew some Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes from the marching band, so I worked up “Memory” from Cats (yes, I know a chick sings that song in the Broadway show) and tried out.  And I got in…in a non-singing role.  But the two male leads in the show, who were the only two tenors in the show choir, were graduating and were looking for their own replacements.  So I got a crash course in singing and along with Black Cloud and Nascar Sheets, I auditioned for the G.I.’s and by some minor miracle I got in.  The rest is history, and hear I am now, the proud director of my very own show choir, with a gold medal show choir competition trophy on my mantle (well, actually its on top of a filing cabinet in my office at work).  You can feel it all over, people…go!

So this album is a monster…a double album plus an EP that clocks in at almost 90 minutes.  And musically its all over the place, with a bit of prog rock (“Contusion”) and big-band jazz (“Sir Duke”) mixed in with Wonder’s usual mix of R&B, funk, and soul.  There is even a bit of classical chamber music thrown in on “Village Ghetto Land”.  Yet, despite the wide musical variation, it all holds together through Wonder’s Beatles/Lennonesque vision of love and humanism (filtered through a Motown lens of course). A couple of the longer tracks probably could have been edited down a bit (I’m looking at you, “Joy Inside My Tears”), but when Wonder really gets cooking, like he does vocally on “As”, it’s pretty great. This is also one of the more parodied album titles, with “Songs in the Key of X” for the X-Files and “Songs in the Key of Springfield” for the Simpsons among the more amusing variations.

Other lists:  Oddly no individual songs from this album made the list of the 500 Greatest Songs.  For a rundown of Stevie’s accolades, see the entry on “Innervisions”.

Ch-ch-changes: This album was also bumped down one spot from its position on the original list by the rise of “Meet the Beatles!”

My favorite track: “Sir Duke”

Honorable mention: “Pastime Paradise”

A word from the Princess: “Hey, isn’t that Coolio?”

Quote: “We can’t trust you when you take a stand with a gun and bible in your hand”

Elvis Presley


The movie “True Romance” begins with the main character, Clarence, declaring his love for Elvis to a girl he unsuccessfully tries to pick up in a bar on his birthday.  Then, throughout the movie, Clarence is given advice by his “mentor”, a blurry Elvis-like figure who usually appears while Clarence is using the restroom.  The “mentor” gives Clarence the confidence to do the things that move the plot forward, like killing his girlfriend/wife’s pimp and selling a suitcase full of cocaine to a Hollywood film director.  And in usual Quentin Tarantino fashion, these events usually lead to a gunfight.  I’m starting to think that Tarantino is an Elvis man, not a Beatles man (although oddly I don’t think he’s ever used an Elvis song on one of his soundtracks…maybe the royalties cost too much).  At the end of the movie, Clarence’s wife, Alabama, names their son Elvis.  Don’t mess with the King.

So I found this album one day at the Half-Price Books out East on Brice Road, and I snagged it for $5.99 (minus my teacher discount).  This was the first album Elvis recorded after his Sun Records contract was sold to RCA, and it sounds mostly like a continuation of his Sun recordings.  There are even a few of those early Sun recordings thrown in to fill up space on this record.  The big difference is the addition of drums/percussion to the newer material.  By this point in his career, Elvis had also started to develop that “uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh” vocal pattern that made him so famous, but which honestly I find annoying and distracting.  The music is good though, and it’s interesting to hear him play covers of R&B songs like “I Got a Woman” and “Tutti Frutti” right beside country western covers like “Blue Moon”.  Actually, I guess you could consider the entire album to be a cover album, since Elvis never wrote any of his own material.  But he was the King, and the King does what he wants, right?  And apparently the King wanted to mesh R&B and country into a new form of music called rock ‘n roll.  Long live the King.

Other lists: “Blue Suede Shoes” is #430 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (“Heartbreak Hotel” which was included on this CD reissue, but which was not on the original album, is #45 on the same list).

Ch-ch-changes: This album also dropped one spot from its position on the original list due to the rise of “Meet the Beatles!”.

My favorite track: “Blue Suede Shoes”

Honorable mention: “I Got a Woman”

Quote: “Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go, cat, go!”