7 Old Albums

One of my goals while I’m 40 is to listen to 40 albums that were important to teenage me. I’ve gone back and heard seven so far.

1. U2, The Unforgettable Fire

This one’s a bit of a cheat–I’ve listened to parts of this pretty consistently over the years, but I haven’t heard the whole album, start to finish, in who knows how long. My preferred tracks probably hurt this, though: the tracks I tend to avoid–“Fire” and “Indian Summer Sky”–sounded out of place now. Besides, they’re harsher than the soft, mellow, flowing tracks that attract me to this album: a lot of late work nights this last semester were capped off by a long drive home to the trio of “Promenade,” “4th of July,” and “Bad” on earphones (but of course I still love “Pride,” so go figure).

New Verdict: B+

2. The Cure, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

I remember this being a long, rambling, uneven album…and this re-listening confirmed that. The surprise here was that some of the highly visible singles from my childhood–like “Hot Hot Hot!!!” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”–are just annoying now, and some of the more obscure tracks from later on towards the end of the album–such as “The Perfect Girl,” “Like Cockatoos,” and “A Thousand Hours”–are more catchy and pleasant than I remembered.

Still a deeply uneven effort. Why make the album so overstuffed with discordant filler like “The Snakepit” and “Icing Sugar,” the later of which sounds like a ripoff of their own classic “The Hanging Garden?”

New Verdict: B-

3. The Cure, Disintegration

Holy crap, this is even more of a perfect classic than I thought it was! The themes are explored so deeply that the album has more variety than I recalled, but every detail is tightly in service of the overall effect. It’s genuinely moving. No surprise that the lesser tracks now strike me as just as powerful as the well-known ones: though not a popular single or anything, there’s a reason why the track below gave the album its title! Really, a total masterpiece from the first note to the last.

New Verdict: A+

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Reviewed: Desire–A Tribute to U2

I saw this great tribute band play for $10 at the Cannery in North Las Vegas on Friday night. Their set was a decently wide range from the U2 catalog–ranging from two tracks off the 1980 debut Boy album through 2004’s “Vertigo.” Most tracks came from The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Basically, it was a roll of greatest hits, well chosen with the longtime fans in mind.

The lead singer does a pretty decent Bono impression–not as obnoxious as Ben Stiller‘s by a long shot, but still in that vein. His performance was faithful and loving, but avoided any arrogance that impersonating Bono might invite.

Still, his friendly, casual approach to the role led him to do some good stuff (like adding bits of classic rock lyrics to the end of songs, Bono-style), and some questionable stuff (like warbling improvised lyrics several times, off time to the point where it clearly confused the rest of the band–tighten this up in rehearsal, guys).

The rest of the band was strong, too. Some tracks had some weak spots–as good as the guitar was, on a song like “In God’s Country,” the searing, soaring sonic harmony of Edge’s work must be impossible to duplicate–but overall the sound was solid, and on some songs, even stellar. Their cover of “Running to Stand Still” was positively inspired–a heart-wrenching elegy worthy of the original.

The tough job this tribute band has is their own fault–they’ve chosen to imitate one of the best groups in history!  :)  As talented as they obviously are, much of their playing only served to illustrate just how amazing the men in U2 are. With that in mind, they were very entertaining. Somewhere out there is a Nickelback tribute band with the easiest job in the world.

The appearance of the guys in Desire was even impressive. Though their bassist doesn’t look anything like Adam, the other guys have enough similarity to pass on stage. (Then again, most any guy with a square jaw can get an earring and a crew cut and look like Larry.)

If you have any interest in U2 and you ever get a chance to see these guys live, I highly recommend it. Ten bucks well spent; I’ll gladly go see them again.

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“Bad”

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“All I Want Is You”

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“With Or Without You”

Best of the 60s Girl Groups

On a recent family road trip, we brought along a CD I got from the library called The Best of The Girl Groups, Volume 1.  It’s a collection of popular songs from the early 60s, and a lot of these songs will instantly ring a bell for anybody.  What surprised me was that, as familiar as these songs are from nearly a half century of pop culture references now, I’ve never actually heard most of these songs in their original, entire forms.  They’re terrific listening, and were a big hit with the whole family.  These are all definitely required enjoying for music lovers. 

Some highlights:

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The Life Affirming Song List

Today, like most every day, is having its share of heartbreak and discouragement.  So much of what we care about in life is beyond our immediate control, and when we do care deeply about things, their failure to work out smoothly can lead to especially poignant pangs.  If we insist on concentrating on the sour tastes, they can come to dominate our palate. 

Yes, life is frequently full of bitter sorrows.  There’s no way around it, and we live with the sure knowledge that our problems won’t magically disappear anytime soon, and that there’s plenty more grief in the future.  On top of all that, there’s always a steady, whispering feeling in the back of your mind that no matter what…everything will be all right.  I’ve felt like that a lot this year, and on that note (get it?), here are 15 songs that help remind me that despite the large measure of sadness dished out to each of us (not after the sadness or without it, but despite it), life is sweet. 

Steven Spielberg once joked in an interview about E.T. that he was “a nice Jewish boy who keeps making movies about the Resurrection.”  I’d modify that slightly.  His movies, like most of the really popular adventure, romance, and science fiction movies–and the most moving songs–aren’t about Resurrection so much as they’re about Restoration–not rising from the dead so much as rebuilding something beautiful that had been broken or lost.  You see that in Spielberg’s movies (think Hook), and you see it in most of these songs. 

Guaranteed to make you feel good, and alphabetical by artist, here they are:

The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”

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Recommended Listening: Grieg’s “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”

On the way to work Thursday morning, I heard this little peice on the radio.  I wasn’t paying much attention to the DJ’s introduction, so when the music started and I was into it right away, I tried to remember what he’d said about it.  The words “Grieg,” “piano,” “wife,” and “anniversary” came to mind.  Googling those terms that afternoon told me that the song I’d heard was “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.” 

I picked up the first CD I found at the library that had that track on it.  It was Grieg: Lyric Pieces (Performed On Grieg’s Piano),performed by Leif Ove Andsnes. 

This isn’t the dark romance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata;” Grieg gives us a sprightly march that wraps us up in the ongoing fun of a relationship that’s as comfortable as it is exciting.  As with the heroic marches that we might expect to hear over the end credits of an action movie, there’s even a lilting slow section in the middle before the familiar melody bubbles back up to carry us to the tune’s satisfying conclusion.

Of ocurse, this is only one of 24 pieces on this album and, so far, the rest seem just as effectively accomplished. 

Read more reviews and listen to some excerpts at its Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Grieg-Lyric-Pieces-Performed-Griegs/dp/B00005UUOC/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1211046529&sr=8-5

Recommended for listening to while:

  • transitioning from the hectic pace of real life at the start of a date night
  • waiting for the commercials to finish when you’re really listening to talk radio
  • getting up enough motivation and optimism to last one more day as you drive to work (especially between April and August)
  • trying to think of a positive entry for your surprisingly somber blog
  • eating candy
  • more pleasantly passing the time as you do grunt work around the house
  • connecting to the subtle, sublime joy that permeates daily life, just under the surface of it all

 

Also, if you haven’t read it, you might go back and read my previous music review, of Hilary Hahn: https://gentlyhewstone.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/recommended-music-the-essential-hilary-hahn/

Recommended music: The Essential Hilary Hahn

 

I recently checked this out from the library, and love it!  Hahn is a young violinist whose career already warrants this “greatest hits” CD.  Not only is her playing spot-on perfect, but a fine set of works has been chosen for this collection.  From Beethoven and Bach to Shostakovich and Stravinsky, these works are surprisingly cohesive, yet diverse enough to form an interesting collage. 

Further, I was impressed by her lucid, passionate written comments about the music she plays, in another disc I checked out.  Spurred by that, I went to her website, where I found a fantastic playground of music-related writing by Miss Hahn.  Read, among other things, “What To Do With Your Instrument When You’re Bored”– http://www.hilaryhahn.com/favorites/fav_07.shtml.

I also noticed her website revolves around her music, not herself.  No spoiled ego, no incongruously vamp-y photo section here (unlike some other classical musicians that I know cough-cough-Charlotte-Church-cough). 

Finally, a Hilary I can like! :)  Borrow the CD, add her to your collection, and definitely check her out if she comes to your area. 

Recommended for listening to while:

  • gardening on a partly cloudy day
  • doing crossword puzzles in the bath tub
  • drawing dramatic landscapes
  • preparing simple meals for two or fewer
  • driving home from work, if you get off around dusk
  • posting sycophantic comments on obscure pseudo-intellectual blogs