05 November 2007

Norah Jones - "Not Too Late"

Not Too Late
Norah Jones
Original release date: 30 January 2007
CD list price: $18.98

Not Too Late may as well have been called Corpse Bride: Alternate Soundtrack.  Between the melancholy, often morose lyrics and the alternatively dreary and bombastic arrangements, this album feels as though it were Jones' tribute to Danny Elfman more than an artistic outgrowth of her own.  The album's opening number, "Wish I Could," tells of a woman who has not only lost her love to time and another woman, but to war.  It is a peculiar album opener, in that it does not instantly draw one's ear to the album.  In truth, on nearly any other album, this kind of song would be toward the middle or end.  The fact that Jones starts with it is telling; this is not an album meant for the background while you do housework.  This is a work of art and much as one cannot appreciate Claude Monet's efforts to create a snapshot with paint in one glance, one must truly listen to connect with Not Too Late.

Lyrically, as mentioned above, Not Too Late walks the line between melancholy and morose.  Indeed, one of the most upbeat lines from the entire album is on "Little Room": "There's bars on the window and if there was a fire, we'd burn up for sure/But that's just fine by me because we would be together ever more."  "My Dear Country" starts with a description of the ghosts of Halloween, and how quickly they were overshadowed by something far more sinister: Election Day.  It's at first unclear whether the song is in jest, but soon  Jones scathingly takes the media to task, remarking that they "know less than what they say," and bemoans the absence of a hero candidate.

If there is one chief complaint about Not Too Late, it might be that by its conclusion, the album feels dark.  Sometimes, a darker album makes sense in an artist's career (a perfect example being Gary Allan's Tough All Over, made in response to his wife's suicide).  Not Too Late leaves one wondering not what Jones was feeling or thinking while producing this album, but rather where she will go next.  Will she continue down this darker path, or will this album excise whatever demons rattled around in her this go-round?

For dedicated fans, there is a deluxe edition with an accompanying DVD, and you can also purchase five live tracks from iTunes.

28 August 2007

What He Left Behind

It's funny, growing up and being told how similar you are to a person you never met. All my life, my family has told me how much I remind them of my deceased uncle, Stuart, who drowned a few years before I was born. Characteristics in common (from what I'm told) include our ability to enjoy being by ourselves, our apprehension to confrontations (although I seem to handle that apprehension differently), an interest in comic books and the arts in general, and a studious, thoughtful level of consciousness.

Recently, I cataloged Stuart's records. Mostly, I've done this because, as a historian, I have a compulsion to do such things, but I also wanted to get a sense of what I could glean from him through what he left behind.

At first glance, I see that Stuart's favorites apparently included Pink Floyd (4 albums), the Beatles (5 albums, plus John Lennon's Imagine and Paul & Linda McCartney's Ram), Jefferson Airplane (5 albums) and the Rolling Stones (9 albums). Not being someone who ever "got" the Beatles' music, I'm not sure how much alike he and I really could have been.

Still, I've never really listened to the albums, so for all I know I'll discover something there that I never found in the singles on radio. Never been all that drawn to the Stones, either, but this is clearly the place to start. Always liked "Satisfaction," which I mentioned in my blog comment yesterday about enjoying Vanilla Ice's cover on his Extremely Live album. Yeah, that's right, I was ga-ga over Vanilla Ice and never "got" the Beatles. Go figure.

I couldn't help but notice as I rummaged through that box of LP's how eye-catching most of the album jackets were. One of the Jefferson Airplane albums was packaged inside what amounted to a big brown paper sack. Grand Funk Railroad's self-titled album is in a round jacket patterned after the quarter; they even rounded the entire thing, making getting the record in and out actually easier than it is with the normal square shaped ones. And that's not even mentioning the colorful artwork (my favorite being Jethro Tull's Aqualung, whose blatantly religious imagery visually compels me to want to play the record).

I also happen to think that the first reason Stuart felt the need to own the Shocking Blue's self-titled album is that the foursome appear to be naked on the cover and the chick in the group makes up for the three guys. In truth, they're probably all in swimsuits or whatever, but you can't determine that from what's actually shown, and when I consider that he was still in high school at the time of the album's release and I consider that he and I might have been somewhat similar, I'm pretty sure she's the reason he owned that record. Of course, as mentioned in another blog of mine, I still haven't bought Mariah Carey's Christmas album despite being drawn to its cover for, what? A decade now?

The only country album in Stuart's library was Glen Campbell's By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Technically, the only country album jacket in his library was that one, since the record is absent. I immediately thought of the fact that that album won the Album of the Year Grammy award in 1969 and wondered whether he had that as a curiosity. Kind of the way that I've owned some non-country albums over the years but never felt comfortable exploring that musical world.

I can't quite say what it is that keeps me from delving into more popular, non-country, music other than this sense that maybe I don't belong in that world. Maybe that's how he felt about country. Makes me wonder what he would make of my musical taste had he been around. For that matter, it makes me wonder what my musical taste might have been had he been around. Hell, I might have turned out to be the biggest Beatles fan of my generation had he been there to influence me.

27 August 2007

Rolling Stone's Coolest Albums of All Time

While in ear-X-tacy this afternoon, I saw a poster that reprinted a Rolling Stone cover that included their list of the "Coolest Albums of All Time."  So, naturally, going along with my list hunting & gathering, I have found the list and repost here the top 20 of the 50.

1. Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat
2. Rolling Stones - Aftermath
3. James Brown - Live at the Apollo
4. Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight
5. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
6. Blondie - Parallel Lines
7. Aretha Franklin - Spirit in the Dark
8. Massive Attack - Protection
9. Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis
10. The Beatles - Revolver
11. Sly & the Family Stone - Fresh
12. Pavement - Wowee Zowee!
13. Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy
14. Prince - 1999
15. Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding
16. Bjork - Vespertine
17. Various - Heavyweight Sound: Blood and Fire Sampler
18. Otis Redding - The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul
19. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full
20. Chic - Real People

Hey, look!  I don't own ANY of the coolest albums!  I would like to give a shout out to Merle Haggard, though, for placing 42 with "Songs I'll Always Sing."  Not even the mythically revered J.R. Cash placed an album on this list.  And I thought for sure At Folsom Prison would be on there.  Hell, I expected it to be among the top three.  I certainly never expected it to not even be among the top 50.

Cowboys & Indians Greatest Country Songs of All Time

Whilst rummaging through my magazine library (mostly because I knocked some off a coffee table chasing the cat), I was reminded of an issue of Cowboys & Indians published in 2004 that included the "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time."  So, without further adieu, the top 20 were:

1. "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams
2. "Crazy" by Patsy Cline
3. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones
4. "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette
5. "El Paso" by Marty Robbins
6. "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" by The Carter Family
7. "Sweet Dreams" by Patsy Cline
8. "Help Me Make It Through the Night" by Sammi Smith
9. "Wabash Cannonball" by Roy Acuff
10. "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson
11. "You Don't Know Me" by Eddy Arnold
12. "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Loretta Lynn
13. "Hey Good Lookin'" by Hank Williams
14. "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton
15. "Tennessee Waltz" by Patti Page
16. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" by Kitty Wells
17. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams
18. "Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson
19. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" by Willie Nelson
20. "She Thinks I Still Care" by George Jones

Like the Rolling Stone list of greatest songs, I'm sure the actual title of this list should be, "Greatest Country Recordings of All Time," but, again, it's their list, not mine.  I have several thoughts as I peruse this list, the first of which being how many recordings I don't think I have.  If I have "Wabash Cannonball" or "You Don't Know Me," I'm unaware of them.  The second thought I have is how the issue in which this list appeared featured a cover article on the passing of Johnny Cash, who didn't even hit in the top 20.  Finally, I'm reminded just how badassed Hank Williams was (or is, depending on your perspective).  I mean, the guy placed three songs in this list, wrote all three by himself, and I don't know that I could argue with any of them being on this list.

Rolling Stone Greatest Songs

Another list from the editors of The Rolling Stone.  This time, they ranked the 500 greatest songs of all time.  Once more, I will only post the top 20, but I encourage you to visit their website to view the complete list.

1."Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan
2. "Satisfaction," The Rolling Stones
3. "Imagine," John Lennon
4."What's Going On," Marvin Gaye
5. "Respect," Aretha Franklin
6."Good Vibrations," The Beach Boys
7."Johnny B. Goode," Chuck Berry
8."Hey Jude," The Beatles
9."Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
10."What'd I Say," Ray Charles
11."My Generation," The Who
12."A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke
13."Yesterday," The Beatles
14."Blowin' in the Wind," Bob Dylan
15."London Calling," The Clash
16."I Want to Hold Your Hand," The Beatles
17."Purple Haze," Jimi Hendrix
18."Maybellene," Chuck Berry
19."Hound Dog," Elvis Presley
20."Let It Be," The Beatles

You know, I have made no secret of not "getting" The Beatles, but can even a Beatles fan explain to me what makes "I Want to Hold Your Hand" a greater song than "Let It Be?"  I'd also like to note that it seems the RS editors really meant to call this a list of Greatest Song Recordings, because there are several songs on the list that are the same song, but recorded by different artists.  Whether Elvis sings "Hound Dog" or I do, the song is still "Hound Dog."  His iconic recording, however, will probably stand out more to the average listener than mine.  And, I will confess right now that there is about an entire quarter of the top 20 that I don't even know how the song goes, including "Like a Rolling Stone."By my count, I think I have five of the top 20 in my personal library.  Maybe.  I can't say for sure about "Respect" or "What'd I Say," but I know I have "Good Vibrations,""Johnny B. Goode" and "Hound Dog."

25 August 2007

Country Weekly's Greatest Albums

One more subjective list against which to check your own library.  This list was compiled by the editorial staff of Country Weekly and was published in their 10th anniversary issue.  I should note that they only ranked albums released during their publication run, which began in 1994.  The cover date of the issue in which the list appeared was March 16, 2004.

1. Fly, Dixie Chicks
2. Double Live, Garth Brooks
3. Drive, Alan Jackson
4. The Woman in Me, Shania Twain
5. Not a Moment Too Soon, Tim McGraw
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
7. Blue Clear Sky, George Strait
8. Breathe, Faith Hill
9. American Recordings, Johnny Cash
10. How Do You Like Me Now?! Toby Keith
11. Blue, LeAnn Rimes
12. Red Dirt Road, Brooks & Dunn
13. New Favorite, Alison Kraus + Union Station
14. Did I Shave My Legs for This? Deana Carter
15. The Key, Vince Gill
16. Wide Open Spaces, Dixie Chicks
17. Come on Over, Shania Twain
18. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Kenny Chesney
19. Unleashed, Toby Keith
20. Nothin' but the Taillights, Clint Black

The only one I don't have is Vince Gill's The Key.  I've got the rest of the list if anyone wants to see it and can't find it online.

23 August 2007

Rolling Stone's Greatest Albums

The following are the top twenty albums according to The Rolling Stone.  Check to see if the critics like what you own!  Please note that the list shamefully includes hits compilations.  Check The Rolling Stone's website for the complete 500 album list!
  1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles
  2. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys
  3. Revolver, The Beatles
  4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan
  5. Rubber Soul, The Beatles
  6. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
  7. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones
  8. London Calling, The Clash
  9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
  10. The Beatles ("The White Album"), The Beatles
  11. The Sun Sessions, Elvis Presley
  12. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
  13. Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground
  14. Abbey Road, The Beatles
  15. Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  16. Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
  17. Nevermind, Nirvana
  18. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
  19. Astral Weeks, Van Morrison
  20. Thriller, Michael Jackson
Somewhere I think I have a copy of Born to Run...and that's it for me.  Stupid Rolling Stone critics and their Beatles obsession.  Give me one good reason that William Shatner's Has Been isn't better than Abbey Road!

RIAA Top Selling Albums of All Time

The RIAA has certified the following albums as the best selling of all time.  Check to see if the masses agree with what you've bought!  These are the top 20, and unfortunately, the RIAA does not exclude hits compilations from their albums list.  Check with RIAA.org to see the entire list of albums certified for 5 million or more units!
  1. The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (29m)
  2. Michael Jackson, Thriller (27m)
  3. Pink Floyd, The Wall (23m)
  4. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (23m)
  5. AC/DC, Back in Black (21m)
  6. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits, Volume I & Volume II (21m)
  7. Garth Brooks, Double Live (20m)
  8. Shania Twain, Come on Over (20m)
  9. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (19m)
  10. The Beatles, The Beatles (19m)
  11. Boston, Boston (17m)
  12. Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard (Soundtrack) (17m)
  13. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti (16m)
  14. Garth Brooks, No Fences (16m)
  15. The Eagles, Hotel California (16m)
  16. Elton John, Greatest Hits (16m)
  17. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (16m)
  18. The Beatles, The Beatles 1967-1970 (16m)
  19. Hootie & the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View (16m)
  20. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (15m)
Put me down for 5, believe it or not!  I have the two by Garth, Shania and Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II and, as I recently discovered, I have the greatest selling "album" of all time!

19 June 2007

Crohn’s Stamp...One Day

Crohns & Me, a wonderful online resource for us Crohnies, has an article up in their current newsletter about Gideon Sofer. Sofer is a 22-year old Crohnie with a stamp-collecting habit who stopped and asked if the Post Office could issue breast cancer awareness stamps to raise funds for that cause, why it couldn't do the same for IBD. He's working now to demonstrate to the USPS Postmaster General that there is sufficient demand for such a stamp, and you and I can help him out. Click on the link below and add your picture to show your support for this effort. Kudos to Gideon for his work. I've thought myself that we needed a stamp, but I never took it past thinking about it and saying so to my wife; he's done the legwork and should be commended for doing so.