Monthly Archives: September 2011

It’s So Easy To Fall In Love With This Excellent Buddy Holly Tribute Album

buddy holly

ALBUM REVIEW FOR: Listen To Me: Buddy Holly

I love Buddy Holly. When I was a little kid, my dad used to play his songs for me on the guitar, especially ‘Everyday’ and ‘Peggy Sue’. They were such amazing tunes — seemingly simple, yet so catchy — and they always made me happy. The fact that they could be equally enjoyed by a 5 year old (me) and a dude in his 30s (my dad) speaks volumes, I think. As an adult, whenever I’m feeling a little blue I always return to those songs that made me feel such joy when I was young. And Buddy Holly really did write joyful songs. You can hear the enthusiasm and optimism in all of his tunes. Even the ones about heartbreak are strangely (and pleasingly) cheerful, as if he’s saying “well, that’s the way life goes! You win some, you lose some”. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that for someone who was only 22 (!!) when he died, his songs, though straightforward, resonate with an emotional and lyrical maturity that is fairly extraordinary.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to review Listen To Me: Buddy Holly, a new tribute compilation featuring iconic artists such as Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Linda Ronstadt. There’s also newer artists included too, from Pat Monahan to Zooey Deschanel to The Fray and Cobra Starship.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the 16 tracks:

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Oh Baby Please Give A Little Respect to the ’80s

a little respect

I’ve been thinking about the ‘80s a lot lately. I mean, I always think about the ‘80s, because I am obsessed with them. But I’ve been thinking about them even more than usual, because I’ve been reflecting on my childhood and realizing that I had it pretty good as a kid.

I know people argue that nostalgia is a lens that makes the past look better than it actually was, and they’re not wrong — but you guys, growing up in the ‘80s was pretty awesome. I mean, I was too young to be worried about the economy, or Reaganomics, or doing too much coke. No, for me the ‘80s were all about ALF, John Hughes movies, sitcoms starring Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman, and sleepovers where we listened to Debbie Gibson and experimented with blue eyeshadow (bad) and crimping our hair (worse). When people think about the ‘80s now it’s reduced to stereotypes — everyone was running around in acid-wash jeans and neon socks with new-wave hairdos. This is sort of true. I remember owning a lot of day-glo clothing and loving it. I also had an acid-wash jean skirt (ruffled no less!) that was my pride and joy. But the ‘80s were a lot more nuanced than we give them credit for, and there was some pretty rad stuff going on. I read a great book recently, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s set in 2044 and the world is looking pretty grim. A series of climate crises have ravaged the earth and the general population is living in crippling poverty. Most people spend almost all of their time plugged into a system called OASIS (like the Matrix, but people are actually aware that it isn’t reality) that was designed by an eccentric billionaire obsessed with the ‘80s of his childhood. When he dies without an heir, he leaves a series of clues to his vast fortune hidden within the OASIS, and each clue requires those seeking his treasure to be well-versed in ‘80s pop culture. I won’t say too much, but check it out if you get a chance & are so inclined — I couldn’t put it down.

Anyway! As much as I loved the ‘80s of my childhood, I can’t help but be a bit jealous of the Finn — I was a mere youngster during that decade (I turned 14 in 1990) but the Finn was an actual TEENAGER in the ‘80s! When I look back through hid photo albums it’s all there — prom pictures featuring girls in pink and blue pastel puffy-sleeved dresses, the guys decked out in white ruffled tuxes. The hair is simply amazing — new wave, mullets, hair-sprayed bangs for the girls, and even one adventurous friend with a mohawk. Everyone just looks like they’re having so much fun — and yes, I know, nostalgia is a lens — but I’ve asked the Finn, and he tells me that they were having fun, that high school in the ‘80s was awesome. Those halcyon days before the advent of grunge and the inherent angst and apathy of the ‘90s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘90s too, they were the decade that saw me through my teenage years and young adulthood. But the ‘90s bounced from one extreme to another, from the too-cool-for-school pessimism of grunge (everyone’s a sellout! damn the man!) to the soulless cheese of Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys-era pop. And don’t even get me started on the age of irony and contrarian hipsters that the new millennium has spawned.

the finn

The Finn as a teen. You know why he's so happy? Because the '80s rule.

Anyway, my favorite stories of the Finn’s are the ones about his high school dances, where everyone in his group of friends would pile onto the dance floor as a collective group and sing along with the words to Roxette’s ‘The Look’ or Gowan’s ‘Moonlight Desires’. Apparently everyone knew the moves for Men Without Hats ‘Safety Dance,’ and when to do the hand claps during Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. How awesome is that? I picture it as a utopia of synth riffs, dance beats, and unbridled enthusiasm. And yeah, maybe I am idealizing the past. But I’ll tell you this: if anyone ever gets around to inventing a time machine, I’m setting the dial back to 1985 and hightailing it to the nearest high school prom. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one in the white suit, pink shirt, skinny tie and day-glo socks.

In honor of the ‘80s, my Song of the Day is one of my faves from that era, Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’. See ya on the dance floor!


Pearl Jam Rocks the ACC on Ten’s 20th Anniversary Tour

pearl jam

Plaid shirt? Check.

Hate on for Ticketmaster? Check.

Yup, ready to see Pearl Jam.

It’s been 20 years since Ten was released and I was feeling a bit nostalgic, but I didn’t want the show to be a nostalgia trip. I just wanted to Rock Out in the here and now.

It was hard, though, not going back to the 90’s — angst, aggression and apathy. The whole concert for me was a mix of feeling very connected to that 90’s stuff (I am a Gen X’er) and very removed from it (I’m 43). It was easy feeling the rage in ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Corduroy,’ screaming along with everyone else. Damn it feels good to scream amongst thousands. And then they played ‘State of Love and Trust,’ which used to take me instantly to a violent and angry place, but I was now somehow removed from Vedder’s screaming and pleading and had difficulty connecting with his energy. Like I said I’m 43 — I only have so much angst and aggression…or maybe that just says a lot about me because the band had no lack of it. They were near the start of their tour in Toronto and they were fired up — Eddie was always close to his bottles of red wine.

Stone Gossard’s family was in the house and during an extended ‘Even Flow’ jam Gossard filled his solo with reckless aggression and emotion. It felt like he was pushing the guitar further than it could go — but it still went there. I kept thinking that if his guitar just split apart after the solo I wouldn’t be surprised, maybe even a little relieved. It was a great ride and the crowd responded with amped-up enthusiasm.

Eddie dedicated ‘Wishlist’ to Doug Gilmour and I thought to myself “nice one Dougie”. I smiled as I thought of Dougie rocking out to Pearl Jam and how fucking amazing he was in the ‘93 playoffs and how good it felt to believe in the Leafs.

Eddie talked about how NYC stood for Neil Young Country and the crowd went nuts — like I said, it’s so good to scream with thousands of people — especially in praise of Neil.

And that was the night for me: sometimes screaming, sometimes feeling far away from the 90’s and the way I felt then, and sometimes thinking about hockey. I will give the concert a 7, and the band a Ten.


Song(s) of the Day: a couple of classics from a man who knows his music

roy orbison

patsy cline

I hope that everyone had a good holiday weekend! The Finn and I were out of the city, at his dad’s cottage in Haliburton. It’s a beautiful spot. On Sunday night we sat around listening to old 45s and drinking shots of Grand Marnier, which is actually really good, you guys. I totally thought it’d be super strong and difficult to drink, but it turns out that it’s quite delightful. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic! No matter. Anyway, as you may recall, a few weeks ago The Finn’s dad called me out for not including any Patsy Cline songs on my list of top breakup tunes. So this weekend I guess he decided it was high time that we ignorant youth received some schooling in some of the classics of his generation.

A little background information about the Finn’s dad — we’ll call him Finn Sr. If you are at all familiar with the Finnish as a people, you will know that even though they often have hilarious, subversive senses of humor, they generally appear fairly stone-faced. If you are not aware of this, hanging out with them can be a little intimidating. Before I met Finn Sr. for the first time, the Finn and his friends tried to prepare me. “It may seem like he doesn’t like you,” they said, “but don’t worry. He just doesn’t smile that often”. I definitely spent the first few years of my relationship with the Finn worried that Finn Sr. thought I was a complete fool, since he’s pretty no-nonsense, and anyone who has met me knows that my genetic makeup is about 80% nonsense. Anyway, over the years I have gradually gotten to know Finn Sr. better and have come to appreciate the depth of his humor and character. He is a very cool dude. This past weekend he was telling me about the Finnish word sisu. There’s no real English equivalent, but basically it means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity”. It’s a quality that Finns are very proud of. If you want to know more, you can read about it here. (The one example of the Finnish heavy metal singer injuring himself without noticing makes me laugh because it reminds me of the time that the Finn and his brother went out on a winter walk with Finn Sr. When they returned home after an hour and a half of tramping through the woods, Finn Sr. removed his boots and one of his feet was bleeding profusely. He had stepped on a large nail that had embedded itself in his boot and the sole of his foot. “Oh my god, Dad!” the Finn and his brother exclaimed. “Why didn’t you make us stop so you could get the nail out of your foot??” Finn Sr.’s reply: “I didn’t want to cut short our walk”. That’s stoicism, people).

Anyway, as I was saying, we listened to a lot of music on Sunday night (including some rather spirited Russian folk music) but the two records I enjoyed the most were Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison. I’ve always liked Orbison — Finn Sr. and I agree that he has the best voice of all time — but I’ve had only a casual acquaintance with Patsy Cline’s music. Well, let me tell you, Finn Sr. is right — no one does ‘hurtin’ music’ better than Patsy. Seriously, the emotion in her voice is incredible, and I love it how pretty much every song is about a man who’s done her wrong but she still loves him anyway. Even the song below, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” though relatively upbeat (for Patsy), is still about a woman out in the middle of the night searching for her (presumably misbehaving) husband/lover.

So please enjoy ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” along with Roy Orbison’s cover of ‘Love Hurts’ (so, so good. GAH! That voice!!)

You know, life can be tough, kids. But with a little Patsy for the pain, a little Roy for the soul — and lot of sisu — we just might make it through.


Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection

Muppets

When I was a kid, the Muppet Show was like, THE SHIZZ, people. I loooooved it so much. Confession: until about the age of 5 or 6, I TOTALLY thought the Muppets were real! Like, alive & breathing and running around and stuff. I used to have dreams that I was pals with them. I think this is partly due to the fact that my parents found a cassette tape somewhere that was a recording of all the Muppets telling bedtime stories and singing songs. I don’t know where it came from, but it had all sorts of great stuff on it. Each Muppet told a different bedtime story, and I remember particularly liking Kermit’s which involved a prince and a castle and a riddle. Anyway, listening to the tape as I drifted off to sleep was like having a little party in my bedroom every night with characters that came to feel like old, familiar friends.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was in a Starbucks recently (like, c’mon Spencer, do you live at Starbucks? Why don’t you just marry it?) and discovered that someone decided to make a record of bands COVERING CLASSIC MUPPETS SONGS!!! Amazing. Perusing the back of the CD jacket I could see that all the old standards were there — the Muppet Show theme song, ‘Movin’ Right Along’ (one of my faves — in fact I still sing it to myself on a fairly regular basis), ‘Mahna Mahna’, ‘Bein’ Green’, ‘I Hope That Something Better Comes Along’, and, of course, ‘Rainbow Connection’.

YOU GUYS. You have no idea how much listening to this record brought me RIGHT BACK to feeling like I was 6 yrs old again. I was amazed to see how many of the songs and lyrics I still remembered, even after all this time. I guess if you listen to something every night for years, it seeps into the old brain channels. Anyway, I think that they did a great job with these covers. Standouts for me are Alkaline Trio’s version of ‘Movin’ Right Along’, My Morning Jacket’s ‘Our World’, and Sondre Lerche’s ‘Mr. Bassman’, but I would say that the album as a whole is quite delightful. And I would imagine that for you parents out there, this is something you could play for the kiddies.

muppets

OK Go with my pal Kermit

Anyway, my Song of the Day is my favorite track on the album, Weezer and Hayley Williams of Paramore covering ‘Rainbow Connection’. Hayley Williams’ voice fits surprisingly well with Rivers Cuomo’s, and I love it when the full band kicks in about halfway through the song. (Sidenote: is anyone else slightly confused by the line ‘Why are there so many songs about rainbows”? Because the only other one I can think of is Judy Garland’s ‘Over the Rainbow’. Am I missing something — are there others??)

So Happy Friday everyone! This one goes out to all the lovers, the dreamers…and me!

**There’s no vid for this one — ya gotta click here to listen!

But here is a video, of OK Go performing the Muppet Show Theme:


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