Monday, February 16, 2009

To Blog/Twitter, or Not

Originally uploaded by adamchose
I had a thought to twitter or blog the upcoming labor/birth of our second daughter. I'm not sure if it is feasible or not, or interesting. It might be an easy way to keep family informed of what is going, and it might also be cool - it would make her a very "web 2.0" baby. I am open to thoughts on the issue...

That's Josephine of course, such a sweetheart at less than one day old even!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The Final Installment: Top 10 Is Complete! It is now safe for me to fly and end up stranded on a tropical island with a CD player and unlimited batteries forever.

Roxy Music - If There is Something - Viva! Live Roxy Music

First of all, this Roxy Music live album should be the only live album they ever released, because it rules, and their other ones, well, I think they leave something to be desired. There is an every and crispness to these performances that I don't hear on later live albums. It's sort of amazing, they never really had a full time bass player. Between live preformaces and studio sessions, they had more than 10 different bass players play with them (maybe you don't think that's amazing, but bass players are much more important than a lot of people realize).

I think that Bryan Ferry is one of those guys who is polarizing to a lot of music fans - you either really like him or you really do not like him. There is a certain pretentiousness about him that can be off-putting - he doesn't seem like the kind of guy you would want to sit down and have a beer with. (Isn't it amazing the traits that we assign to rock stars, I mean, I don't know the guy, but I am willing to state publicly that I would not have a beer with him. Talk about judging a book by its cover!) But he has a cool voice, a good look, he is very sure of himselg, and he likes what he is doing. When he let's it fly at the end of this one, it's sweeping and glorious, and he takes you with him - right back - when you were young.

Phil Manzanera had a great look in the 70's, with long hair and outrageous outfits. He was more than serviceable on guitar as well, although Ferry wrote almost all of their music. Basically, you look at him and say, "well, let me guess. This is where British art-rock came from right?"

This song in particular shows a lot of what makes Roxy Music so great, and powerful live performers in the 70's. Nice long solos help build from a simple beginning. By the time the guitar solo and violin solos come, it's a completely different song. Then, in the final section. Ferry really lets us have it. What a joy.

The posted video here is from The Old Grey Whistle Test, which is must viewing for anyone who likes 70's and 80's live performaces. Just look at him in this video - Ferry's look is no less than 10 years ahead of its time. And is that Brain Eno on keys? Oh my.

I also have to mention that they were #98 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest bands ever. I am sorry, but that is just plain wrong. It makes me crazy to think about it.

Last, and not least...

U2 - Walk On - from America: A Tribute to Heroes

There was no way U2 was not going to make this list. I consider them the best band of all time. We can argue about it forever if you want, but that's how I think of them. They have produced 3 of the 10 albums of all-time: The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby! and All That You Can't Leave Behind. That's remarkable, to have created truly seminal albums THREE TIMES in their career. And my absolute favorite show I have ever seen in person was not Phish, but U2, at Target Center in 2001. We were behind the stage, and paid $55 per ticket, but they made it worth every single penny. For three hours I was in almost total and complete ecstasy. They know how to give a live performace.

There's a lot of good stuff on the Tribute to Heroes discs. Mariah Carey singing America the Beautiful with Willie Nelson still gives poor Willie nightmares I am sure. Neil Young's Imagine performance was also amazing. But the best performance of all was U2, in a studio by themselves, singing their signature single of that time, Walk On. (They were closing most shows with it at the time, with PEACE written in many different languages spinning around the arena. U2 walks the line between awesome and lame, emotional and cheese, more than any other band I know. They often cross over it, but most of the time they are right on it, and the results are beautiful).

From the beginning softly spoken words "I'm sick of hearing/ again and again/ that there's never gonna be/ peace on earth", and his "Goodnight from London" (always reminds me that there was no flying still at the end of that week), you know they are not going to mail in this performace. And while they stay under control the whole time, I think you can see some strain on their faces, even these guys (Edge is possibly the coolest individual of all-time). There are so many lines that get me in this one, like, "we're packing a suitcase for a place/ none of us has been/ a place that has to be believed/ to be seen". Then in the end his promise: "See you when I get home!" Well, it sends the softer ones among us to the brink of emotional release. Even to this day. It's an amazing performace, and it's connection to 9/11 makes it that much more poignant, without taking emotional advantage. A few months later, they performed at halftime of the Super Bowl, another incredible scene. That might be the best Super Bowl halftime ever (although if you put a gun to my head, I would probably say Prince in 2007 was the best ever, I mean, he was able to make it rain in Miami for the love og God. Who else could do that?)

That's it! The List is complete! Here is the final tally:

  1. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

  2. Bad Religion - Skyscraper

  3. The Velvet Underground - Heroin

  4. Phish - Harry Hood (live)

  5. Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor

  6. Coldplay - The Hardest Part

  7. Neil Young w/ The Band - Helpless (live)

  8. Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up (live)

  9. Roxy Music - If There is Something (live)

  10. U2 - Walk On - (live)

Four songs that start with H. 5 songs that feature a violin/viola at some point. 5 LIVE recordings. I didn't set out to make that happen, it just did, but I guess it is not THAT surprising. I might have to publish the list of songs that came close but fell short. And I'll burn mp3 discs for anyone who wants one!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Top 10 Continued

Now that I have caught my breath after the Super Bowl, it's time to get back to the top 10. Jonathan's is all wrapped up, so if we want to get together to have beers and listen, I better get mine done too. Without further ado, and also without any of the cool videos that Jonathan uses, here's more from my Top 10 list:

Neil Young - Helpless

I would have a hard time accepting any list of this kind that did not include at least one Neil Young track. Arguably the greatest singer/songwriter of the past 50 years (don't get excited Bob Dylan fans, I said arguably), I could have filled an entire Top 10 list with his songs alone. What is it about Neil that is so awesome?

1. Lyrics - I do not consider lyrics, especially most rock lyrics, to have much weight. Too often the rhymes are so forced, and the imagery so childish, that it is more fun to make up my own lyrics. Not so with Neil. Here's the opening from Helpless:

There is a town in north Ontario,With dream comfort memory to spare,And in my mind I still need a place to go,All my changes were there

That's good stuff. The lyrics of this song in particular make you think while you enjoy them, which adds to the awesomeness of this song.

2. Music and Voice
He can do beautiful, poignant, angry, rockin, folky - whatever you want. He can absolutely do it all - you cannot put him in a box. And the quality is always top notch, too. He can make noise too (Sleeps with Angels is an often overlooked album, or it is only considered as part of the Kurt Cobain saga). This particular recording, on my top 10 list, is from The Last Waltz concert, with The Band. It starts out acoustic, mellow. His haunting voice (no other word describes it so well, I think) let's the audience know what's coming, and then... By the end, they are absolutely ROCKING on this song, and I can hardly stop myself from screaming it along with them. Talk about having a good time - you can see it. An excellent performance.

3. Attitude/Mystique
My favorite story is from the MTV Unplugged sessions, when he got up and walked out during rehearsals because the band they brought in was not ready. They came back a couple of months later and did it right. Not many rock artists out there would have the guts to maintain that kind of a standard. Another one was one of the guys in Crazy Horse saying that they basically had to operate knowing that any day Neil might show up and say, "that's in, I'm leaving for awhile", and there was nothing they could do about it but accept it. That's the kind of crazy I want in my rock stars! I really think that for Neil it is not about himself, but about the music, which sounds really silly of course, except that for him it is true, so you have to love it.

Last note - this recording features Joni Mitchell singing in the background - they hid her behind a curtain so that the audience wouldn't know she had her own set coming up. And it was very hard for me to cut Coyote from this list, but Neil hits an absolute home run here.

Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up - Live at Red Rocks
Here's another violin song, and believe me, I would LOVE to play along sometime. If you have ever been to Red Rocks, you can imagine what this set opener must have been like - you're about ready to pop waiting for the show to start and then they come out with 15 minutes like this - I am surprised anyone had any energy left be the end.

This one has all of the things that I liked about Dave, and none of the things I don't like. I like his voice, the rhythm section, and the solos in the long jams. I don't like pretentious Dave, Dave that talks too much telling stories, and Dave talking about girls. That's annoying Dave, and it's covered up nicely here. They do a good job of making you wait, not giving away the jam too soon. And the end section with him wailing and the violin freaking out in the background sounds like a lot of fun. Excellent stuff. This song is a fantastic way to spend 15 minutes!

Here's a summary of what I have so far:

  1. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
  2. Bad Religion - Skyscraper
  3. The Velvet Underground - Heroin
  4. Phish - Harry Hood (live)
  5. Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor
  6. Coldplay - The Hardest Part
  7. Neil Young w/ The Band - Helpless (live)
  8. Dave Matthews Band - Seek Up (live)

Two more entries left, and I am very excited about them. Classics, both of them. One you've heard and one you haven't! (Unless you have been over to my house recently, then you would have heard both of them.)