I wasted 3 hours of my life last night watching "Nuremberg" on TNT. Starring Alec "Center Square" Baldwin and Jill Hennessy, it's a retelling of the Nuremberg trials - the post WWII trials of Nazi war criminals. Unfortunately, TNT thought, in its infinite wisdom, that a cheesy love story was a necessary element of the plot - necessary enough to take up about half of the movie. Only in Hollywood . . . the Nuremberg trials are only the most important courtroom event in the history of man (excepting, perhaps, Jesus in front of Pilate)! That's not dramatic enough? You need a clumsy love story to help carry it? Come on.
Today’s Selection - Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy - The Refreshments
Concept albums very rarely work well, but sometimes they blow the roof off. The Refreshments, a little known band, put out two albums in the late 90s. Both albums work off the same idea, which is “Let’s see how many songs we can write about girls, beer, and Mexico.” And the absolute beauty of it is that it works brilliantly! It’s remarkable that they got one album about those three things; it’s really remarkable that they got two albums about them.
The big radio hit from FFB&B was “Banditos” – a song about robbing a bank in (where else) Mexico:
Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people
So meet me at the mission at midnight, we'll divvy up there
Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people
But I got the pistol, so I get the Pesos
Yeah, that seems fair
“Mexico” is more of a melancholy drinking song:
Now the good guys and the bad guys
Never work past noon around here
They sit side to side in cantinas
Talk to senoritas and drink warm beer
There’s an awesome love song, “Down Together,” that’s a bit of an antidote to the Michael Bolton-esque pap that’s so prevalent: I could give you a star/You could give me one too/That way we'd be even.
On the flip side, “Girly” is sort of a “anti-love song” love song. Beat me till I'm black and blue/And I'm hangin' by a thread/Then I can get back up/And we can do it all over again. You gotta love the anti-pc, don’t-give-a-crap-about-domestic-violence-sensitivity feeling in this song.
There’s really not too much to say about The Refreshments. The records are full of life; they’re completely invigorating. Musically, it’s a lot of guitar, lots of up-tempo percussion. Nothing particularly innovative, but very competent.
Here’s the thing: there’s no philosophy, no wisdom, no innovative thought. Just lots and lots of songs about drinking, Mexico, and girls. It’s worth every minute.
Oh, yeah, and they wrote the theme song to King of the Hill.
I aired my little secret long ago – I’m a Monkees aficionado. I have over 30 Monkees CDs and I love most of them (some of them are absolute crap). Head, however, has a very special place in my heart.
A brief mention of the movie bears noting. Released in 1968, Head was critically and commercially a flop. Nobody liked it – except for Burt Rafelson and Jack Nicholson. It was trippy, confusing, and decidedly non-linear. And the music was great. The critical opinions have changed in the past thirty-five years, it’s seen in a much more positive light these days.
The soundtrack is, without a doubt, the best part. Featuring contributions from all four Monkees (fortunately, Davy only has one song), there is some great experimental stuff here. Some of it doesn’t particularly work, and some only really works in the context of the film, but most of it is pretty successful.
He album’s first song, “Porpoise Song,” is dreamy and languorous. It sort of meanders along with completely nonsensical lyrics – Clicks, clacks/Riding the backs of giraffes for laughs is alright for a while/The ego sings of castles and kings and things/That go with a life of style.
The “Ditty Diego (War Chant)” makes far more sense when placed within the confines of the movie, but it’s not exactly a radio song. It’s a chant, just like the name says.
One of the especially noteworthy things about Head is the contribution that Peter Tork makes. He wrote two of the songs on the album, and they are probably the two best songs of his career. “Can You Dig It” could be an anthem for the late sixties, with its trippy lyrics and equally trippy instrumentation (you gotta love the sitar). Tork also contributes “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again,” a strong track that, although well-written, is more proof of the undeniable fact that Mr. Tork is not a lead vocalist.
Davy’s “Daddy’s Song” is syrupy (intentionally so, I think) and saccharine and waaay over the top. Maybe he did do it on purpose, but it still doesn’t work. A sample:
Years have passed and so have I
Making it hard to cry
And if and when I have a son
Let it all be said and done
Let all that sadness pass him by
Mickey contributes vocals throughout. A competent version of Carole King’s “As We Go Along” is his weakest performance. But he makes up for it on “Can You Dig It” and “Porpoise Son.g”
The best song on this record is “Circle Sky” – a Mike Nesmith rocker. The original album includes the studio version of this song. However, in the film, a live version is used. The live version is far superior – it’s energetic and vigorous. The newer CD reissues of Head make up for the oversight by including both versions.
You really owe it to yourself to see the movie, if you haven’t already. It’s completely trippy (notice I use that word a lot? I can’t think of a better descriptor) and lots of fun. Mike, Davy, Mickey, and Peter play dandruff for cryin’ out loud. Some great cameos from Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, and Jack Nicholson himself make for a fun time. But the real prize is the soundtrack. It’s worth your time.
Yesterday’s selection was one from my past. Today’s selection is one from my present.
I have been a Counting Crows fan since the beginning – by the time Mr. Jones hit the radio and MTV circuit, I had already had the album for a month. Radio and music video success have largely eluded Adam Duritz and company since then ( can you believe that August and Everything After came out in 1993? Ten years ago!). But, even though they can seemingly no longer compete commercially with the likes of Britney and 50 Cent, they haven’t stopped making intelligent rock and roll.
1996 saw the release of Recovering the Satellites, which, (I can hear the boos now . . .) is a better album that August, musically and lyrically. A live album called Across a Wire was released in ’98, and then, in 1999, This Desert Life came out. One big single off of this one – “Hanging Around” and that was about it.This Desert Life is an album that almost lives up to its predecessors, but doesn’t quite make it.
Finally, last year, Hard Candy came out.
Adam Duritz has spent the last ten years telling us about how he wants to be a rock and roll star. Well, he got his wish – and Hard Candy lets that fact be known. Adam is no longer an outsider to the fame scene.
The new album comes from a decidedly different perspective. While still angst-ridden and looking for someone to love him, he’s now a rich and famous guy who is angst-ridden and looking for someone to love him. Now, please understand that this is not a bad thing. Although he sometimes comes across as a pretentious prima donna (case in point, there are guest appearances from Ryan Adams and Sheryl Crow - how hip), the change is welcome. And, he’s lost none of his songwriting skill in the process – if anything, he’s improved it.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on songwriting. But, I do know a thing or two about meter and rhythm and this record contains some of the most finely crafted lyrics that I’ve heard in a long time. The attitude and the style may be a bit rough around the edges, but the technique and the method are anything but. Consider a relatively simple verse from “If I Could Give All My Love to You”:
It was cold when I awoke, and the day was halfway done
Nearly spring in San Francisco, and I cannot feel the sun.
A simple rhyming couplet, but it’s indicative of the entire album. Rhythmically, it is dead-on.
Musically, there are quite a few interesting choices that very few other artists would have made. For instance, in the melancholy “Good Time,” there is a persistent banjo is the background that pushes the melody along. Also, the gorgeous piano in “Goodnight, L.A.” and “Black and Blue” is not exactly the norm for a rock and roll band.
There’s a breadth of style across the album, rollicking guitar numbers like “Why Should You Come When I Call,” downhearted burns like “Black and Blue” (I’m tired of feeling nothing, goodbye), even a new-wavey pop song (“New Frontier”).
If I have to have one complaint, it’s the hidden track – we’ve all heard “Big Yellow Taxi” on the radio. Now, my complaint is not with the album version, it’s just fine. But that darn radio version, with Vanessa Carlton (why?) and those incessant “doo-wahs” is mind-numbing. But the one actually on the album is pretty good.
I resisted this record for a long time – I thought it was being unfaithful to the legacy of the Crows – but it’s really an extremely good album.
-Happy Father's day to all those men who really try to take it seriously...
-Happy Father's day to those who feel the burden of their labors, weep over
their failures and still carry on against all the counterfeit forms of
happiness that compete these days for their son's and daughter's attention...
-Happy Father's Day to each of you...happiness over all that strange and
wonderful terrain the modern textbooks trivialize and sterilze by calling it
-Happy Father's Day to those who feel as if they are failures at the daunting
task of bringing little ones in this broken world and shielding them,
nurturing them and guiding them in the reverence and admonition of the Lord...
-May all courage be yours through the joys and sorrows, even in the fits and
...May the Father of all Grace and hope and joy fill us with
tenderness...tenderness towards the things of God....tenderness towards our children and
spouses...tenderness towards a hurting world getting colder by the minute...
And finally, may all those prayers to the Holy Spirit we offer up for the
children whom God has charged us with (even those desperate prayers we offer when
there is nothing left to offer of ourselves)
I say, may those prayers be answered beyond our wildest expectations and
dreams for our children's lives...
May those prayers be answered by the Great Shepherd and Father who is
extravagant in His love for ALL His children, straying and obedient, as His sure and
certain last word in their lives...and our own...