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Posts Tagged ‘David Bowie’

The Daily Record: “Blackstar”–David Bowie (2016)

In 2016 music, Rich's House of Vinyl on January 12, 2017 at 3:23 am

 

There is, of course, a real danger in saying that one is going to perform any sort of creative ritual “daily,” but, hell, I live on the edge. I’ll try to post short Daily Record posts here for awhile, beginning with a set of records released in 2016.

Today’s “Daily Record” is David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. Released just over a year ago, two days before Bowie’s death. I have already written about how Bowie’s death hit me and about Blackstar itself, so I will keep this entry brief (and, in fact, I’ll keep all future Daily Records brief).

I bought Blackstar late in the morning after Bowie’s passing. I’ve listened to it many times since then, so many times, in fact, that I released in late December that it was pretty much the only album released in 2016 that I paid any serious attention to it. I am making up for that now, but for the time being, let’s talk briefly about Blackstar.

Knowing that Bowie was seriously ill during the recording of Blackstar and died just days after its release certainly colors the perception anybody will have when they hear the album, but minus those circumstances, I’d still rank Blackstar among Bowie’s best work. It’s probably among my favorite five Bowie albums, and I’ve heard my share. It is of course, a spooky work. It’s sad. It’s horrifying. But it’s all beautiful, transcendent and, dammit, pretty funny at points. I mean, the chorus of the song I’m listening to right now is “Where the fuck did Monday go?” over and over. And it’s weird and funny and oddly life-affirming knowing that Bowie, in the midst of a serious illness, sat or stood in a recording studio near his home in New York City and sang that line over and over again.

Blackstar isn’t merely “oddly” life-affirming though. It’s gloriously, oddly life-affirming.

So, I’ve listened to a bunch of 2016 albums recently. I like all of them in different ways and if this latest “Daily Record” iteration takes off, I’ll write about them all before I move on to older records. But Blackstar is the king of them all. My favorite record of 2016.

 

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DriveTime Diary 1/8-10/13

In 2013 music, David Bowie, Drive Time music on January 13, 2014 at 4:36 am

I thought I might attempt to keep track of the music I listen to during my morning commute this year, jotting a few lines about each CD.

Oh no, I certainly don’t listen to morning radio. It probably sounds ultra snobbish (I don’t even listen to NPR!), but my bottom line is simply that I just want to hear some cool tunes in the morning. Of my choosing. Or at least of the choosing my 20-sided dice.

Here’s what I listened to during my three morning commutes last week. I will be focusing on music of 2013 for awhile, but gradually will move on to other randomly-selected albums.

1/8/13 The Next Day-David Bowie (2013). I celebrated Elvis Bowie Day by listening to both of the birthday gentlemen, but started off with Bowie in the morning. It had been exactly one year earlier that Bowie gave us all the first inkling that he had a new album on its way, when he debuted the moody ballad “Where Are We Now?”, with the album following a few months later, to generally positive reviews. Generally. Not everyone loved The Next Day, but my initial impression was good.

You hear much these days about the “death of the album,” but I can think of several CDs released in 2013, across genres from country through mainstream pop, that were made to be listened to as album-length experiences, whether the listening public wanted such experiences or not. The Next Day is one such album. There are no catchy hit singles here for Bowie to ride up the charts. Just a collection of songs the make more sense together than they do separately.

As it happens, my patience with the concept of the album has become more limited just like so many other people’s. Therefore, it wasn’t until months after the release of The Next Day that I gave it a few good solid beginning-to-end listens. But, as so often happens, with each successive listen I found more to like. This is not Bowie being revolutionary, but this is Bowie touching on where he is today, while using elements of his past music to structure the new songs. And I like that.

1/9/13 Love Has Come For You-Steve Martin & Edie Brickell (2013). This not-quite-bluegrass album (banjo melodies written by Martin; lyrics by Brickell; various other instrumentation as needed) couldn’t be more musically different than the Bowie album, but it shares that same core trait: Love Has Come For You works best when you giv e it a full listen in one sitting (which is easier to accomplish than it is with the longer The Next Day). This is because there is no apparent hit single to drive you to the album, but it’s also because the cumulative effect of Martin’s tunes and Brickell’s lyrics is more compelling than playing any one particular song. While I haven’t followed Brickell’s career, I like her storytelling on Love Has Come For You and listening to the entire album allows her recurring themes–childhood/parenthood and mortality in particular–to build in intriguing ways. Not a concept album by any means, Love Has Come For You is, instead, more like a collection of short stories, each one different but ultimately inter-related.

1/10/13 Now That’s What I Call Music 46-various artists (2013). Much more than any year in quite awhile, I was aware of Top 40 radio in 2013. I think that’s why, on New Year’s Eve afternoon, I felt compelled to pick up the 2013 Now CDs. My 16-year-old son tells me that these CDs aren’t really indicative of what music was really like in 2013 (where’s Kanye?) and on a certain level he’s correct, but as snapshots go, Now CDs serve pretty much the same function as the K-tel records of years gone by did.

This particular CD, the 46th in the U.S. series, starts out strong with one of my favorite hits of the year, and the greatest Police song not written or recorded by the Police, “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars. From there we segue directly into Justin Timberlake’s catchy return to pop, “Suit and Tie.” A nice pair of tunes and it saves me the trouble of actually buying an entire Bruno Mars CD (though, as we’ll find out in some future week, I eventually caved on Timberlake).

After that magic pair of tunes, things are hit-and-miss, which is par for the Now course, particularly if you are outside the demographic for these tunes, which I most certainly am. But there are other highlights for me: I particularly like Taylor Swifts “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Flo Rida is always fun. Speaking of fun, though, I know that many people love the band fun. (represented here by their own “Carry On” and “Just Give Me a Reason,” the Pink/Nate Ruess duet) but I spell their kind of fun, “eh.”

That’s it for last week. Tomorrow begins a new week of morning commutes, so you may find me reporting back here next weekend with another edition of DriveTime Diary.

45s@45: Vol 6–Bon Jovi to Bow Wow Wow

In 1970s, 1980s, 45 r.p.m., 45s@45, pop, Rich's House of Vinyl, singles, sports on October 9, 2010 at 12:50 am

Here’s the back story: when I turned 45 in June of this year, I vowed that over the course of this year I’d listen to every 45 r.p.m. single (a- and b-sides)  in my collection. In the process, I planned on digitizing them.

I got a little distracted from that project, but I’m ready to present Vol 6 in my 45s@45 series. If you’re interested, you can read about the previous five volumes in my Dichotomy of the Dog Livejournal (http://marimbadog.livejournal.com). In fact, I’d say I need to post this entry–I’ve contractually obligated myself to keep the entire contents of the following playlist on my MP3 player until I post this and I need to get “You Light Up My Life” off the player immediately.

1. “Runaway”(live)-Bon Jovi (1989, b-side of “Lay Your Hands On Me”).

2. “Livin’ In Sin”/”Love Is War”-Bon Jovi  (1989, reached #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart). I like a handful of Bon Jovi’s singles, but I think my appreciation of Jon and the boys is tempered by the fact that I was deeply into my college-era fandom of bands like R.E.M., the Replacements, Talking Heads, Hoodoo Gurus and others at the time of Bon Jovi’s rise to hair metal glory. I was just never going to take them all that seriously, as evidenced in the karaoke version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” that Greg and I did one day in a recording booth on campus.  I have to admit that the guys have occasionally had their way with a rockin’ pop tune, and that their best songs have aged rather well, but “Livin’ In Sin” is just the kind of Bon Jovi ballad that I’ve never cared much about then or now.

3. “You Light Up My Life”/”He’s a Rebel”–Debbie Boone (1977, #1). Here you have it, folks. The biggest song of the 1970s, at least in terms of chart performance. Mom and Dad had seen You Light Up My Life and I got the

 idea in my head that Mom would enjoy receiving the original movie soundtrack album for Christmas, which doesn’t even have Debbie’s version of the song on it. Anyway, the legend goes that not even Debbie Boone liked this song, though she tried to ease the pain of recording it by thinking of her relationship with God as she sang the lyrics. I say, if God helped Debbie Boone get through the recording of “You Light Up My Life,” then more power to her.

4. “Harlem Nocturne”/”I Hear a Rhapsody-Earl Bostic (circa 1956). This, on the other hand, is one of my favorite singles in my collection.  Earl Bostic was a jazz/R&B sax player that you just don’t hear much about today. “Harlem Nocturne” has a film noirish feel to it, while “I Hear a Rhapsody” is a more upbeat tune. Both are excellent.

5. “Nadia’s Theme (The Young and the Restless”)/”Perry Botkin B-side”-Barry DeVorzon and Perry Botkin Jr. (1976, #8).  Boy, this song has a history. It was originally used in the movie Bless the Beasts and the Children  and then became the theme to The Young and the Restless. It reached the height of its fame as the music used by Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 summer Olympics.  Since playing this single, I’ve had an imaginary punk rock instrumental version of “Nadia’s Theme” rolling through my head. In my version, a cool surf guitar replaces the string section.

And the B-side is not actually named “Perry Botkin B-Side.”

6. “Ting-a-Ling Double Play”/”Ting-a-Ling Double Play”-Larry Bowa & Dave Cash (1975). This is a goofy novelty song recorded by Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa and 2nd baseman Dave Cash, who were known for their double plays. I have a copy of this single, signed by both Bowa and Cash that a student in a writing class I once taught gave me. She never came back to class after giving me the single. And sadly, “Ting-a-Ling Double Play,” never charted, not even in Philadelphia, but it’s a worthy edition to the Sports Stars Who Sing Hall of Fame.

7. “Dancing In The Street”/”Dancing In The Street” (instrumental)-David Bowie & Mick Jagger (1985, #7).  Here’s a classic piece of ’80s camp courtesy of Bowie & Jagger, who cooked this up especially for the Live Aid concert. Apparently there were thoughts of a transoceanic duet, with Jagger in Philadelphia singing with Bowie in London, but cooler heads with an eye for logistics prevailed and this record/video was made instead. I’m pretty certain I’m not the only person who has watched the “Dancing In The Street” carefully, looking for clues as to what was going on with Jagger and Bowie that day. They seem kind of annoyed with each other.

8. “Absolute Beginners”/”Absolute Beginners” (instrumental)-David Bowie (1986, did not chart). The theme from a movie I’ve yet to see, this is a passable mid-’80s Bowie tune. However, this was the beginning of one of Bowie’s lesser periods.

9. “Day-In Day-Out”/”Julie”-David Bowie (1987, #21). Bowie’s Never Let Me Down album was a bit of a letdown actually. Even the hugely theatrical Glass Spider tour that Bowie mounted couldn’t save the album from widely being considered being one of Bowie’s least inspired. And while the tour itself could be due for some revisionist history, the album seems destined for obscurity. Having said that, “Day-In Day-Out” is a catchy little tune and “Julie” is a wonderful non-LP B-side.

10. “”Never Let Me Down”/”’87 and Cry”-David Bowie (1987, #27). I’d have to compare this to the album, but I think this single version of the title track to Bowie’s Never Let Me Down is a completely different mix, not as good as the album version.  I seem to remember “Never Let Me Down” having more of a John Lennon vibe on the LP. The late-’80s sax that winds its way through this version kills the song for me though.

11. “I Want Candy”/”Elimination Dancing”-Bow Wow Wow (1982, did not chart!). I find it hard to believe that Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” did not hit the Top 40 but Joel Whitburn, leading expert on charts, doesn’t lie.