Header by Hilary - Go Ahead - Click The Pic

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Tragically Hip

While everybody (rightfully) talks about Nashville, New Orleans, New York, London, Memphis and Detroit as hotbeds of music, a lot of good stuff has been spawned right here in the Great White North. I'm going to bid farewell to 2010 with a nod to the group I consider Canada's best over the last 25 years. Oh, I hear the grumbling from you Rush fans. Tough tamales. Start your own blog. (Without actually checking, I bet there's a few already dedicated to Geddy, Neil and Alex.)

But my vote for the maplest of leaves goes to The Tragically Hip. Fronted by the brilliant, if a tad erratic, Gord Downie, The Hip's music is every bit about the land as Gordon Lightfoot's. The light weave of their melodies is shot through with threads of black. This is, after all, Canada -- a country of stark beauty, some of which is shrouded in darkness for months at a time.

The Hip are always interesting musically. The band is tight. And Downie's passionate and poetic vocals reflect both the delicate beauty and harsh reality that epitomizes our country.

I'm going to open with a young Hip and their very first single. The video is just about as puzzling as the lyrics. But Blow At High Dough still kicks ass.

Bobcaygeon is another favourite, only partly because the town isn't far from me and I've been there many times. Mostly it's because it's just a good song. Here, we find a considerably more mature Gord Downie starring in another bit of a head-scratching video (albeit with a brilliant ending). But again, the song's the thing. And it's a beauty.

My absolute favourite song of theirs is the hauntingly melodic Ahead By A Century. By now, none of you will be suprised to find another enigmatic tune and video. I admit it. Many of the songs I like best have an element of the obscure. Few things bring me greater joy than hearing a song for the 1000th time and finding something new. The Hip's songs have that sort of layering.

At midnight we're going ahead by a year, but for now, let's skip ahead with The Hip by a century.

Thanks for keeping me company. I wish you all a healthy and fulfilling 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Not Really Christmas

until Darlene Love takes to the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater on the Dave Letterman show and sings Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

She did so last night for the 17th (or maybe 18th) consecutive year. Unfortunately, as of this posting, I could only find two videos of last night's performance and each is less than stellar. So, I delved a little further into the stacks and found last year's.

The year doesn't really matter. Darlene's the thing. Turn up those speakers boys and girls. (The darkness fades in a few seconds.)


Merry Christmas folks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Damaged Genius

In the 1980s, unless you lived in the British Isles or Canada's east coast, you probably never heard anybody that sounded remotely like The Pogues. Fronted by lead singer and chief songwriter Shane MacGowan, they originally became known in their home country of Ireland as traditional Celtic musicians. They never lost touch with those roots but they expanded on them.

Their 1988 album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, was a shining beacon of joy in that dreary musical decade. It gave me a whole new genre to love.

Let's start with the title track for a 2 1/2 minute dose of typical Pogues fare. (As always, please turn up your speakers and make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened.)

Now, the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that Shane has some orthodontic issues. Well, truth be told, he has other issues as well, particularly with alcohol. He's an erratic performer with a devilish problem but, by many accounts, the possessor of an angelic soul.

All I know is he writes and performs some wonderful, wonderful tunes. This next one is one of my all-time favourites, a lovely duet pairing the pure, sweet soprano of the beauteous Sinead O'Connor with the growly, slurred vocals of the Adonis-challenged Shane MacGowan.

Somehow, musical magic happened (after the boring 15-second intro).

That magic didn't surprise anybody familiar with Shane's earlier, classic duet with the late, much-lamented Kirsty MacColl: Fairytale of New York. It's a song about two people whom society would likely dub "losers." Despite the sordid conditions of a New York City jail and a bitterness spawned of despair, two fallen angels find love.

It's my favourite Christmas song but make no mistake - it is very much not a carol. There's lots of versions out there but I'm going with the audio from the original release accompanied by subtitled lyrics. Normally, I wouldn't consider the lyrics thing because it's distracting - but in this case, I think it might be helpful for first-time listeners.

It was 10 years ago this week that Kirsty MacColl was tragically killed while on vacation. She was swimming with her two sons when she was struck by a passing motorboat. She was 41.

Since you've stuck around this long (and now that you know the words) here's a live version of Fairytale featuring the lovely and talented Kirsty MacColl (and an enthusiastic and helpful crowd).

Merry Christmas.

Thanks to antmusique, zttrecords, boobiieezmum and niceandeasy for posting the videos.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maybe "The" Guitar God

As one of the world's worst two or three guitarists (Fumble Fingers is my nickname) I have an abiding appreciation for pretty much every other guitarist on the planet. Some, however, elevate themselves as high above the pack as I rank below it.

We all know their names, even their first ones will do in most instances: Jimi, Eric, Jeff, Stevie Ray, (insert your fave here) ________ .

But there's this guy...this blues guitarist named Joe Bonamassa, who just might be the best of the best. If you love brilliant guitar work (and darned impressive vocals) sit back, turn up your speakers and treat your ears to 9 minutes of wondrous artistry.

Told ya'. Didn't I?

I have one more folks, and this is a nice treat. Joe is joined on the Royal Albert Hall stage by Eric Clapton. Check out the near non-stop grin from Clapton as they start trading riffs around the 4 minute mark. He's enjoying himself hugely and why not? Those two make beautiful music together. Look. Listen. Enjoy.

Thanks to AlruneRod2811 and lukebest88 for posting the vids on YouTube.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best Male Rock Voice + The Perfect Song

If you've been listening to rock n' roll for 50 years like a certain old fart, there can be little dispute as to who has the best rock voice. (Although I'd be tickled if you'd beg to differ.) The guy who can best whisper, growl, croon and howl is another gift from the great state of Michigan: Mr. Bob Seger. (Eddie Vedder is 2nd. I'll get around to him one of these days)

But Seger is not just a pretty set of pipes. He's a terrific storyteller and has written, recorded, and charted more classic tunes than most artists could dream of. There are so many songs to choose from to illustrate my not-so humble opinion but I'm going to limit myself to (and beg your indulgence for) three. Sadly, I couldn't find any clips of live performances that satisfied my ears' quality criteria.

First up is a tune that didn't get the airplay that many of his did and still rarely appears on the playlists of oldies stations. But it's a gem.

As always, please turn up your speakers and enjoy Fire Inside.

If Nat "King" Cole's voice was buttery caramel, Seger's is whiskey and a fine cigar. The richness and maturity of tone is evident in Like A Rock. (And there's a sweet slide guitar for some aural dessert.)

You folks know me. I don't toss around terms like "perfect" lightly. For about 20 years, my all-time favourite (and also perfect) song was Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. Somewhere around 1990, this next tune came on the radio. It was probably the 200th time I'd heard it -- but for some reason it felt like the first. I cranked up the car radio during the guitar intro and knew Good Vibrations had just slipped to 2nd place - where it remains.

Seger wrote and recorded a tune that touched my soul and probably that of millions of people who were teens in the 60s. It's about youth and dreams and immortality - sung from the standpoint of weary, yet defiant resignation.

And it's perfect.

Thanks to metalboombox, jonny1214 and shutterbugger24 for posting the videos.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Underappreciated Then And Now: Dave Mason Still Kicks Butt

One of my favourite bands of the late 60s was Traffic. Their sound was a wonderful blend of psychelic pop/rock with a nod to the blues and jazz. They were blessed/cursed with two musical geniuses, Steve Winwood and Dave Mason.

Two geniuses in one band generally leads to the math of division. And so it went with Traffic. But not before they graced us with a handful of interesting, intelligent albums. Winwood went on to great fame, forming one of the first "Super Groups," Blind Faith, with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech.

Mason's career was lower-key. His (arguably) signature tune, Feelin' Alright, was covered by a lot of musicians, most notably Joe Cocker. A few years later, he had a hit with what I think is his masterpiece, We Just Disagree.

The latter is the song I'm going to feature first. It's a brilliant tune, telling the tale of a break-up without a villain -- the way perhaps, of most break-ups.

Thanks to HudyRockinRoll, wttv and Riahsha for posting the videos.

First - Dave then:

And Dave now - (give or take a year):

He hasn't lost a thing. And he's maybe gained something.

Hang on, we're not done.

Mason is one of the best guitarists ever - then and now. I mean an all-time top 10-er. Don't believe me? Check it out. The video isn't the best but all you really need is your ears. Use them for all four minutes. The old man's still got it. (Charlie - this one's for you.)

Tell me I was wrong.

Frickin' right you can't. ;)

Never stop Dave.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Favourite Song + The Cutest Baby Of 2010

Remember way back to my 2nd post here, the "Placenta" one? Yeah, last week. Anyway, I said you wouldn't see many officially-released videos here. Well, one isn't many....

The video is fun and fits the mood, so what the heck.I hope you'll give a look/listen to my latest favourite tune.

Turn up those speakers boys and girls and please, do up your seatbelts.

I hope you enjoyed that. I wasn't very familiar with the tune until I came across this next video last week. When you see it, you'll understand that my tastes are shared by a discriminating young man. This lad is not only a musical connoisseur he can...well...see for yourselves. (And thank goodness he was wearing his seatbelt!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Ain't Music If It's Got No Soul

I don't care what kind of music it is - classical, rock, bluegrass, rhythm & blues - it's got to have soul. A tune may be melodic and mellifluous but without real emotion, it's just aural wallpaper.

I love Motown, one of Detroit's many musical gifts of the 60s and early 70s. The mix of pop, rock, gospel and r & b was irresistible. The singers were passionate and the beat contagious. My favourite practitioners of the Motown sound were the Four Tops, led by the room-filling, soulful pipes of Levi Stubbs.

The word "unique" may be the most abused in the English language. It can't be modified, yet on nearly a daily basis in newspapers, magazines or online, I see "really unique" or "most unique" or some other disturbing variant.

Few voices can be described as unique -- as sounding unlike any other. I can suggest Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Roy Orbison and Van Morrison. No doubt there are a handful of others.

And Levi Stubbs.

Mr. Stubbs had a particular resonant timbre that set his pipes apart. If you're over 40 years old, you're probably nodding right now. If you're younger, you won't have to take my word for it for long. A couple of examples are coming up.

Sadly, Mr. Stubbs passed away in 2008.

Happily, his voice will never be stilled.

Here's the group early in their career. (Thanks to Mkheire75 for the video.)

Yeah, but did they still have it some 35 years later?

Uh-huh. And the moves. (Thanks to adamweishaupt81 for the video.)

I'm going to wrap this one up with a wonderful ballad that was new to me. There are only a few still pictures in the video making it, at least for these ears, easier to focus on the soulful, unique voice of Levi Stubbs. Unfortunately, I can't embed the video here but I can link to it. I hope you'll click here and listen. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A few times over the past couple of years, at BaronItAll, I've done a music-related post. Judging by the few comments and paucity of emails, they didn't go over especially well. But music is important to me. And I know it is to a lot of folks. Hearing it, making it, sharing it -- all are wonderful ways to spend time. And one of the greatest gifts this computer age has given us is the ability to watch and listen to musicians from around the world. At the merest click of a mouse you can find some old footage of Duane Allman, or Solomon Burke or Ella Fitzgerald. And a gazillion other folks, famous and not, from yesteryear or today.

So I decided to start another blog. Yeah, one of those annoying people with multiple blogs. (Of course I didn't mean yours!) On the plus side, you dasn't hasta visit...well, either one really. But if you're interested in music and would like to see if (this time) our tastes mesh (or don't) I hope you'll check it out. And feel free to comment if you think my featured choices suck.

Most of what you'll see here are YouTube videos, probably with an intro. I hope you enjoy a goodly portion of them. (Being as how there's no accounting for taste, you're unlikely to love 'em all.)

And that heron pic in the header? Well, that's probably a tale for my other blog.

Hmm...or maybe another blog....

Best Song Ever With The Word "Placenta" In It

It's no contest really. Live's Lightning Crashes is a marvel. The lazy, hypnotic intro is soothing, despite the disturbing lyrics. The slow build into a powerful, seismic wave of music inspires with every listen.

There are three pretty good videos of the tune on YouTube. The most-watched one, with over 3 million views, is the official video of the song. The sound quality is good but, as is usually the case, I felt the video interfered with my own interpretation -- force-feeding images I found distracting. You won't find many officially-released music videos here. For the most part, I'll feature live performances - still and always the best way to determine if musicians (and their songs) really do have the right stuff.

And a live, Live (huh?) performance is what I chose. An overall pretty darn good one from May, 2000. Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk is in fine voice. A voice, by the way, that hints at both the delicacy and vibrancy of Roy Orbison but delivers occasional gusts up to Freddy Mercury.

Lightning Crashes isn't just one of the best songs of the 90s. It's an all-timer. Turn up those speakers. I hope you enjoy.