Afternoon Listening

Monday, August 18, 2008

It turns out I love Kurdish traditional music.
Aynur Dogan doesn't have any CD's in my store yet --
but, hopefully, one of my distributors will
eventually pick her up

Friday, November 23, 2007

Now here's a rare discovery -- a disc found at the bottom of a plastic tub of worthless promos -- which, feeling adventurous, I actually auditioned one afternoon.

Is she obscure ? You bet ! This one isn't even available new on Amazon -- and I'm not sure that Amanda Walker wants to be a professional musician.

She started out as an art student -- I assume the above cover is the result of that enterprise -- and ouch! She's even worse than Joni Mitchell.

But what a singer songwriter she is !

I've played her about about 6 times so far -- until she finally made me cry (it always takes a while for me to get into music/lyrics) -- and this one finally got me on track 7 ("Rosie") -- about the love between her grandparents.

But most of the tracks are about the love of the singer herself -- or, more accurately, the disappointed love of the singer. Oh, those wretched men ! (a girl can only trust Paul McCartney)

The narrative, real quality of her voice -- her simple, but perfect piano accompaniment -- and story songs that seem to be autobiographical --- she's quite a package.

I'm just afraid she's going to end up being an attorney.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saw the Brando/Sinatra "Guys and Dolls" (1955) last night -- since I seem to be on a kick for Broadway musicals now.

As other reviewers have noted -- the casting is a bit unusual -- since the romantic leads (Brando and Simmmons) are actors who can also sing -- while the great singer, Sinatra, is left with the novelty songs. (though everyone agrees that the Broadway actors who fill out the cast are amazing -- and they give the show the lively background on top of which the story is told -- especially Michael Kidd, the choreographer --whose whacky, naughty chorus dances are so enjoyable)

But the big moment for me -- both dramatically and vocally -- had to be Jean Simmons singing "If I were a bell".

God, I love that song ! -- and I've finally discovered its original setting: as that delicious moment when the ingenue awakens to sexual desire. "If I were a bell, I'd be ringing" .. indeed !

So I was a bit surprised to discover that Jean Simmons had no more of a singing career than Marlon Brando -- and she was primarily a movie (and later, television) actress.

She really carried the colorful emotion of that moment in song (and it didn't hurt that it was preceded by some rather acrobatic fight scenes in a seedy Cuban bar)

I was hoping I'd find an album of her just singing -- but, alas, it was not to be.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I thought I had written about Patty Griffin early last year -- but I'm afraid that post got lost into the black hole of cyberspace.

Anyway -- I love this album ("Impossible Dream")-- almost every song -- since the lines seem so well written -- and she sings each one with such conviction.

(that's a beef I have with so many folk singers with beautiful voices: the lyrics just seem to be an excuse --rather than the reason -- for singing)

Her characters are such ordinary-desparate people -- but their condition feels so poignant ! Here's some lyrics from favorite song (the one that chokes me up --just about every time -- as it builds up to its climax of despair)

"and the sky turns to fire
against the telephone wire
and I'm getting tired
of all these useless desires"

O.K. -- I'm a sucker for Patty Griffin -- and as I now listen to an earlier album -- "Living with Ghosts" -- I realize I should be writing about that one too -- indeed -- maybe I will ! -- as I compare Patty singing her "Let him fly" with the way Natalie Maines carries it for the Dixie Chicks in "Fly"

Patty shows (personal) sadness while Natalie shows (crowd pleasin') anger -- and I guess I prefer the sadness. (it's fun working in a used record store)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We saw the film version of "Dreamgirls" last night -- and were blown away by the lead singer -- Jennifer Hudson -- who clearly carried the two-hours of that ponderous soap opera on her amazing/emotive voice.

If the singing voice can ever be considered a dangerous - heart-breaking weapon -- she's got one.

(and I felt sorry for Beyonce -- who faithfully delivered the mediocrity that her role called for)

And as if to continue the story of show-business mendacity and diva intransigence -- from the big screen to real life -- the Dreamgirls website doesn't even mention her name -- while Hudson's website doesn't mention "Dreamgirls" -- even though each was indispensible to the success of the other.

Will she ever make a record album that I like ? Maybe -- but probably not -- so much depends on the material and production that she gets -- and it's doubtful she'll get the autonomy of a singer like Norah Jones.

I just read the Rachael Abramowitz (Chicago Tribune) interview with director, Bill Condon -- who told how Hudson was selected from among 750 actors under consideration -- and referring to her climactic song, said "that song has to rip your guts out because it has to feel so real".

And that's exactly how it felt to me - and presumably to the rest of the audience -- who applauded at the end (of the song -- not the movie)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jennie Stearns is another accidental discovery -- I put this kind-of-folky album on last week and still haven't taken it off -- which doesn't mean that I'm following the lyrics yet -- it just means I like her fresh but world-weary presence -- that feels endlessly sincere -- even if it's a bit derivative of Lucinda Williams -- with voice dragging so far behind the beat, it might get left behind. Gillan Welch also seems present -- especially when Jennie's husband joins her on banjo.

I'm liking the ambience -- but I guess that includes the songwriting -- and especially "Garden of Delight" (the only one she didn't write) It's short -sweet -dark - mysterious -- I may be having a sixties flashback here -- back when every album seemed revelatory, rather than contrived.

Just like the ivory/horn gates of dreams -- there are gates for songs that true or false --- and these songs all feel like they're straight from the gate of truth.

Come and pick a flower
from the garden of delight
tell no one where you are going
just be sure to come at night
Nothing's real until you kill it
nothing's missed until its gone
In the garden there's no mercy
Flowers know no right or wrong
Lost souls crowd the garden
look, you'll find me there
you can recognize me
by the bloodstained clothes I wear

...Johnny Dowd

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Nellie McKay is kind of outside my usual area of interest --- she's so young !-- she doesn't do standards -- and occasionally she does -- gasp -- rap. (ughhh)

But I forgive her everything -- because she is so musical.

When she draws a line with her voice -- I gasp -- I follow -- I obey.

She reminds me of Van Dyke Parks back in the sixties -- with that sophisticated feeling of fractured tin-pan alley. That's how she's different from all the other angry-women-singer-songwriters.

Regrettfully -- she's quite feisty -- not pandering to my middle-age romantic fantasies -- but full of the sarcasm and anger appropriate to a young person -- and I guess she was too feisty to stay with her record label (Sony) -- so who knows what she'll do next. Grow up and start singing romantic ballads ?

She can sing ! and play piano -- and write a funny song.