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Month: October 2009

Powderfinger

Yeah, well, I can’t enough of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger”….

Shelter me from the powder and the finger
Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger
Think of me as one you’d never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love,
I know I’ll miss her.

That’s the final and most goosebump-inducing verse of the song. And this 10-22-78 performance at the Cow Palace near San Francisco (the shows that spawned the Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust albums) ratchets the intensity up even further. Especially when guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro comes over to Neil’s mic to join in for the final verse.

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The Friday Five: October 30, 2009

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Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Hanson – “MMMBop” (mp3) (from Middle of Nowhere, 1997)

From The Osmonds to Taylor Swift every generation has its own batch of teeny-bopper talent. The ‘90s spawned the trio of Hanson brothers and their über-catchy blend of sunny post-grunge, alternative-pop and Motown informed harmonies and what could possibly be the most ubiquitous hit of the ‘90s. No small feat for a group of adolescents from Oklahoma. And for the record, yes this album is in my library.

The Beatles – “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)

While I’ve just recently come up for air from my prolonged dive into the Beatles remastered collection I still cannot hear these songs enough. If you’ve not picked up any of the collection yet I cannot suggest strongly enough that you put the entire collection on your Mellowmas list.

2Pac – “California Love (long radio edit)” (from How Do U Want It, 1996)

California knows how to party… Proof!

Everything But the Girl – “Time After Time” (mp3) (from Acoustic, 1992)

I’m certain that I’ve said before that covers of a classic song can sometimes exceed the original performance. More often than not, the cover is merely a dutiful facsimile. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” has been recorded by no less than 45 artists in the 25 years since its original release and of the versions that I’ve heard not one comes close to the original but this rendition by the British duo holds its own.

Prince & The Revolution – “Raspberry Beret” (from Around the World in a Day, 1985)

After the success of Purple Rain Prince surprised everyone by releasing the neo-psychedelia opus Around the World in a Day with little fanfare. The music was closer to the less radio-friendly fare of 1999 and showcased the increasing input of the members of the Revolution. “Raspberry Beret” itself was more straightforward pop than anything else and to this day gets play when Prince tours.

Hit that shuffle button and drop yours in the comments!

2:28

A lot can be accomplished musically in two minutes and twenty eight seconds. What brought this to mind was a Little Feat tune I heard on my way to work recently: “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. It funks and it rocks & rolls and grooves…makes me wanna strut down a crowded street with a sweet hat and some big fat shades – a grin on my face. “GIT the hell outta my way people, I’m coming THROUGH!”

I sorted my iTunes by Time, and found 37 tunes in my online collection that clock in at 2:28 (three of ’em by Jim Croce, go figure). Here’s that sweet-ass Little Feat tune and eight other nuggets of under 2:28 goodness…

If you’ve got a spare 22:12, listen to ’em all now…

Little Feat – Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (mp3) – from Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Steve Earle – South Nashville Blues (mp3) – from I Feel Alright

Reverend Horton Heat – Baddest of the Bad (mp3) – from Liquor in the Front

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who’ll Stop the Rain (mp3) – from Cosmo’s Factory

Old 97’s – Coahuila (mp3) – from Drag It Up

The Byrds – I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (mp3) – from Mr. Tambourine Man

Calexico – Sunken Waltz (mp3) – from Feast of Wire

Jim Croce – Time in a Bottle (mp3) – from The Definitive Collection

Paul Weller – Spring (At Last) [mp3] – from Illumination [Limited Edition w/ Bonus DVD]

Thrasher

A couple weeks back, I finally got a couple of good CD display cabinets, mounted them on the wall, and released my CD’s from years of exile in plastic storage bins. It’s nice to have them in my face again, and it’s making me revisit a lot of favorites from my past that haven’t yet made it to the iTunes rip machine.

One such CD is Neil Young & Crazy Horse‘s Rust Never Sleeps, which I initially bought because of my love for the song “Powderfinger”. But upon listening to it recently, it was the beautiful lyrics, intense imagery and the simple & sweet melody of “Thrasher” that hit me.

The amazing lyrics have undoubtedly been absorbed and closely studied by longtime fans of Neil, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around them – even just the last few lines:

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.

But me I’m not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, I’ll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I’ll know the time has come
To give what’s mine.

There’s magic in those words. And the sort of melancholy, matter of fact style in which Neil sings it…  Wow… Such a good tune…

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Thrasher (mp3)

Buy Rust Never Sleeps

So Much World Outside The Door…

“I’m going to die.”

This is what I was thinking as I drove, barely 40 mph, east on Interstate 94 from my home in the Twin Cities to the party capital of the world.

It was last Friday afternoon, October 23rd, and I was on my way to hang out with my friend George. He had called me up two months ago to inform me that Fran Healy and Andy Dunlap, of the Scot band Travis, were playing an intimate acoustic show at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. I was about to buy tickets for the show in Minneapolis when I decided it might be fun to trek down there and see them with a pal I had known for quite some time.

George and I met on Day One of seventh grade. I had just started at a new school and walked into my home room. Sitting there, at a table by himself, was a somewhat dour looking George..also starting at a new school. I walked right up to him and said,

“Hey, my name is Mark.”

He looked at me warily and said, “mmm…George,” and shook my hand. That was September of 1979 and we have been great friends ever since.

We have always been VERY into music over the years and have seen many great bands throughout the course of our friendship. In too many ways to tell here, the bands we listened to were the soundtrack to our lives and, on many occasions, quite literally saved us. George had never seen Travis and was especially amped to see them at the Majestic. He had been raving about the venue as being a great place to see shows because of how small it was. Was it ever!

The Majestic Theater in Madison is only slightly larger than my finished basement. Even Fran, as he first came out on stage, wondered if he was in the right place. “Is this a town hall meeting for the borough of such and such?” he asked laughing. We all chuckled along but I certainly wasn’t laughing mere hours before.

Mother Nature, in her North Woods infinite pranksterism, decided a blizzard on October 23rd might a fun thing. For nearly 45 miles, with my knuckles whiter than a sheet, I drove (slid) through blowing winds, sideways snow, and exit signs – every one of which seemed to read “Alma Center.” Changing lanes literally made my testicles recede into my body cavity as my car fish-tailed constantly. The hope, warmth, and love that what I knew was going to be a mega show was the only thing keeping me going. I imagined myself sipping a beer and hearing the voice of an angel.

Just like that, I was there! And Fran was singing the first track of the night, “20.” He informed us straight away that this was going to be  a chronological journey through the Travis back catalog. In addition, he mixed a Powerpoint presentation and humor with each story he told before all of the songs in the set. “Falling Down” was inspired by the Michael Douglas film of the same name and…Joni Mitchell? During the song “Slide Show”, he and Andy literally showed one which included several pictures of the band and Paul Fucking McCartney, as the big red letters put it with an arrow pointing to Macca in a few of the snaps from over the years.

When “Driftwood” started, George leaned over to me and said, “This is my favorite Travis song of all time.” Definitely one of my faves too, and it sounded wonderful in this quiet and intimate setting. About half way through the song, George put his arm around me and gave me the bromance, two pats on the back. George has never been the hugest fan of physical affection so I counted this as being quite extraordinary and felt very blessed. Dude…

The rest of the set included “Sing”, “Side”, “Indefinitely”, “Love Will Come Through”, and “Closer”. Next up was “My Eyes”, which Fran dedicated to his son. Asking us not to take pictures during this song, he put up a few home pics of his boy and played the song with all of the love of a proud parent. “Big Chair”, one of my faves, was next and sounded magnificent. A new song called “Holiday” was played, which finished the set proper.

Out for the encore, Fran asked us what we wanted to hear. Several people shouted “Battleships” and still more asked for “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, the Britney Spears tune which Travis covered back in 1999. He said he would play both. “Hit Me” was just as good as I remember it, with the audience singing “still believe” in high falsetto which made Fran crack up several times. Andy came back out and they played “Good Feeling” followed by the last number of the night, “Battleships”, as promised.

As we left the venue, I spotted an official bootleg at the swag table for 10 bucks and snatched it up immediately. It’s the whole show complete with stories separated via track numbers from the music, so you can just hear the tunes if you like. I highly recommend it. George bought one too and we headed out into the night for an evening of pub hopping on State Street.

Played early in the set, the words from the song “Turn” reverberated in my ears in the crisp and cool autumnal night. I could have stayed home and seen them in Minny but went on an adventure instead. Sure, I almost careened off the road in a bullshit October snowstorm, but so what? The experience of the Majestic was completely worth it. More people in our “grandma and grandpa” nation need to fucking do shit like this.

As the song says…”there’s so much world outside the door”:)

Check TravisOnline for dates near you. There are several in NYC….wow!

The Friday Five: October 23, 2009

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Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Nirvana – “Come as You Are” (from Nevermind, 1991)

If I’m being completely honest this is probably the first time I’ve listened to anything from the seminal grunge record in probably the last couple of years.

The Gaslight Anthem – “Casanova, Baby!” (from The ’59 Sound, 2008)

The ’59 Sound is one of those records that gets under your skin and just hangs with you. Since discovering the band I’ve found myself coming back to the record time and again for a blast of tried and true rock n’ roll.

P.M. Dawn – “I’d Die Without You” (mp3) (from The Bliss Album…?, 1993)

Boys and girls, during the summer of ’93 this track was my ‘jam’.

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds – “Granny” (from Live at Luther College, 1999)

Quite simply this is a perfectly simple and sweet love song.

Dream Theater – “Another Day” (mp3) (from Images and Words, 1992)

As much as I like this song I’ve come to realize that in the context of the rest of the band’s discography that this tune stands out as possibly the worst. With its Kenny G inspired sax breaks (lest we not forget that Mr. Gorelick’s Breathless was one of the biggest records of 1992) and overall adult contemporary leanings – I swear, it would not surprise me at all if David Foster had a hand in its creation – it could easily represent the group’s weakest moments.

What is shuffling up for you this week?

My Night With The Pogues (@ the Marquee Theater)

Check another one off of my bucket list – I have now seen the Pogues.

Last night’s show at the Marquee Theater in Tempe was their first stop in Arizona. Ever. And it was my first chance to catch a band I’ve long admired – a legendary British band masterfully playing Irish folk music since 1982. A band fronted for most of their years by the notoriously erratic and often [always?] inebriated Shane MacGowan.

This was the 7th show of a relatively short swing across the West and central U.S., and reports in from their Los Angeles show a few nights ago had me reconsidering the steep $60 ticket price. Shane wasn’t in great shape at the Nokia Theater – stumbling and fumbling around, falling down multiple times; at one point finishing a song lying on his back.

But Shane is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. He has his good days and his bad days, and I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see these legends.

After a couple pints of Guinness at my old haunt, Casey Moore’s Oyster House (I lived around the corner for five years back in my single days) – it was off to the Marquee Theater across the Mill Avenue bridge.

It was a little after 10pm when the band sauntered on  stage to the sounds of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” on the PA. 10-15 seconds after his bandmates came out (just enough time for the crowd to think “Uh oh” to themselves), Shane MacGowan – drink and cigarette in hand – shuffled out to center stage in a seasoned drunkard’s stagger.

Then the opening notes of “Sally Maclennane” kicked in, and there was no looking back. My friend Todd and I spent the show front and center, just on the outer edge of the drunken mosh pit that would vary in intensity throughout the evening (but was never still). Even during songs like “Dirty Old Town” and “Rainy Night In Soho”, there were at least a few testosterone-laced brutes jostling around.

As the show progressed, a pattern began to take shape: a couple songs with Shane, and one without – while Shane took a breather side stage (I assume). But like clockwork, Shane would make his way back to center stage, grab the mic in his signature style, and sing the great songs of the Pogues. Unlike his earlier shows in San Diego and L.A., he stood the entire time. It seems funny to be thankful that an artist you paid $60 to see was able to simply stand for a whole show. But this is Shane MacGowan we’re talking about. I’d be interested to know if Shane has ever been sober for a performance.

Clearly it was one of Shane’s “good” nights. Maybe it was the Arizona sunshine at the Biltmore luxury resort, where the Pogues stayed; or maybe it was the U2 concert in Glendale the night before, where Shane was in attendance, and prompted a shout out from Bono himself (and a segue into “Dirty Old Town”). Maybe the U2 show inspired Shane to pull it together for his fans.

Whatever forces of nature were in place, it resulted in over 90 minutes of unbridled Irish-inspired joy and revelry. The crowd – old and young alike – swayed, danced, and most notably, smiled. This was one of those live music experiences where time stood still. Before I knew it, the final song,”Fiesta”, was playing, Spider Stacy was smashing a pizza pan against his forehead, and Shane was leading the crowd in a singalong:

“Come all you rambling boys of pleasure / And ladies of easy leisure / We must say Adios! until we see Almeria once again”.

And then it was over.

I may never see the Pogues again. God willing, Shane MacGowan will continue to defy all odds behind his self destructive behavior, and he will continue to front this amazing band. But I thank the Music Gods I had an opportunity to experience the spirited majesty of a Pogues show.

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On Twitter: well, people do read the Twitter ramblings of @ickmusic! Check out this Phoenix New Times article.

On Youtube: 1123Mozart captured this great quality video of “Rainy Night in Soho”..

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Set ListMarquee Theatre – Tempe, Arizona – 10/21/2009

Sally Maclennane
Streams of Whiskey
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The Broad Majestic Shannon
Young Ned Of The Hill
White City
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Tuesday Morning
Transmetropolitan
Kitty
Sunnyside of the Street
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
Body of an American
Old Main Drag
Thousands are Sailing
Dirty Old Town
Bottle of Smoke
The Sick Bed of Cuchulain

Star of the County Down
Rainy Night in Soho
Irish Rover

Paddy on the Railway
Fiesta

Ick’s Pick: En’ A-Free-Ka

Unpredictable.
Otherworldy.
Fuunnky.
Indescribable.

The new album from Shafiq Husayn is blowing my mind. En’ A-Free-Ka is an hour long journey through strange sounds, funky Parliament-arian grooves, futuristic hip-hop soundscapes.
Seriously, when I listen to this album, it feels like I’m listening to sounds I shouldn’t be hearing for another 20 years. It feels ahead of its time.

Thanks to SiriusXM’s Subsoniq radio show on Backspin for the Shafiq interview and spins.

I had to include these two – favorites right out of the gate…

  • The U.N. Plan (mp3)
  • Major Heavy feat. Sonny Coates and Count Bass D (mp3)

BUY: En’a-Free-Ka

Visit: Shafiq’s Enafreeka.com