Archive for the Music Category

Rakim, minus Eric B., of course, but not all by himself

Posted in Journalism, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by macmystery

https://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=622595890&mediaId=622597776

While procrastinating late Monday night, as I so often do when I have a viable writing topic, I found myself listening to music.

It’s not an uncommon activity in my life. A large percentage of my disposable income (and a lot that should have never been disposable) has been spent on music, not to mention my time, both disposable and indisposable, as well. Concerts, records, tapes, CDs, road trips.

But I’ll admit that over the last few years of my marriage, which LEGALLY ended in 2016, aside from time spent in the car, music had all but disappeared from my life. And maybe that should have been a sign. But that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, as I said, I was listening to music, something I do again, typically late at night. A strange mix … Dierks Bentley, the Cowboy Junkies, Henry Mancini, Metallica and Dave Brubeck. (I’ll admit, there was 10 minutes of George Carlin mixed in there, as well.)

I was listening to this strange mix as I put off writing something more substantial than my Facebook post from earlier Monday evening about former two-time National League Most Valuable Player and longtime Atlanta Braves standout Dale Murphy. Ironically, I’m still going to write that post, but it’ll be another day now, at least.

That’s because, while perusing Facebook, I came upon the New York Times story (How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media) about the relationship between its reporter Ali Watkins and a man who handled security for many years for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

So, of course I was going to write about that. Being a former journalist — being a former journalist is like being a former Marine … there’s no such thing — the story presents some interesting and frustrating dilemmas during a time when the press is badly needed, as well as badly maligned.

And then Rakim happened.

Someone I know from high school, a lifetime ago, had shared the latest installment of National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert. Featured for June 25, 2018 was Rakim, initially, at least, of Eric B. & Rakim fame.

I’ll admit it. Aside from straight up classical music, the least represented major genre in my music collection is rap. Or hip-hop, if you will. Old school Run D.M.C., some Sir Mix-A-Lot, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar … but not much else. A lot of it doesn’t interest me. A lot of it I respect but simply don’t enjoy.

I have read a lot about Rakim. But I haven’t listened a lot to Rakim.

But I did Monday night.

And I was treated to 9 minutes and 37 seconds of brilliance that maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for 30 years ago, when Eric B. and Rakim were on top of their game. Kind of the same way I have a different appreciation for jazz now than I did as a young man.

And in a lot of ways, comparatively, Rakim’s style is jazz, at least vocally. His lyrics and voice are his instrument, and while aggressive, he is not necessarily loud and not in a hurry. Much as Willie Nelson brought jazz phrasing and guitar to his otherwise solid country gold lyrics, Rakim in some ways does the same thing.

It’s evident with the live band, rather than a DJ, backing him in the small NPR studio. The musicians are tight and work infectious grooves through three songs, allowing Rakim’s lyrics to shine as his instrument.

I was impressed. I had a moment, really. Usually, though, it’s when I hear something new that blows me away. I am admittedly not used to, at this point in my life, hearing songs more than two decades old, performed by the original artists, that pique my interest so completely.

My son, Dylan, possibly in the wrong place at the wrong time, can attest. He walked in the room in a moment of boredom after his computer crashed, expecting to wander in and wander out.

Instead he was detained by me and forced to surrender 9:37 of his evening, too, to sit and watch this Tiny Desk Concert. Not surprisingly, to me, he found himself, like I did, enjoying the video, foot tapping and hands popping.

The final two songs of Rakim’s three-song set, were “Paid In Full” and “Know The Ledge,” … classics and songs I will now seek out. But they followed “King’s Paradise,” a song released a few days ago and featured in Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix.

“King’s Paradise” is Rakim’s first new release in a decade. Suddenly, seemingly, I’m hoping it’s not his last.

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The words matter, Donald …

Posted in Humor, Music, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 6, 2018 by macmystery

Just for Donald Trump, since he doesn’t seem to come close to knowing them, here are the lyrics for Irving Berlin’s song God Bless America:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

It would seem as though Mr. USA Patriotism would have this down by now.

Missing the Big Man

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by macmystery

Tramps like us …

It’s been almost three weeks since I heard the news.

I was working on the sports desk on that Saturday night, when Rob, a guy I’ve worked with for sometime who knew of my affinity for all things Bruce Springsteen, said, “I’m sure you’re all over this, but in case you haven’t seen it, Clarence Clemons died.”

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Bob Marley, 1945-1981

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by macmystery

In remembrance of the death of Bob Marley 30 years ago (May 11, 1981), here’s a version of “No Woman, No Cry” recorded July 21, 1979 in at Harvard Stadium in Boston, Mass.

The Promise delivered

Posted in Music with tags , , , on November 6, 2010 by macmystery

Pitchfork.com posted a complete in-studio film and recording of Bruce Springsteen’s long-unreleased classic “The Promise” on Friday. It’s awesome.

I can’t wait for the box set on Nov. 16.

Enjoy.

A glimpse of Bruce Springsteen’s Promise

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by macmystery

Frank Stefanko's cover photo for Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town album.

Whatever mistakes NPR made in the handling of the Juan Williams situation, I forgive them.

For the next two weeks, they’ve guaranteed I can begin loving 15 of the 21 songs on Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming release, The Promise, subtitled The Lost Sessions: Darkness on the Edge of Town, a collection of 21 unreleased songs from the Darkness sessions.

NPR is streaming 15 songs individually, or you can choose to listen to them all together randomly in one stream.

No matter how you listen, the fact is that you can right here. At least until Nov. 16, the album’s release date.

Among the 15 songs are:

  • The original version of “The Promise.” Not only is this the centerpiece of THIS set, it very well may be one of Springsteen’s best, period. There was an updated version released on the 18 Tracks album, but it can’t compare to the original. Seriously, in my book, this is a top-10 Springsteen song.
  • Studio versions of “Fire,” made popular by the Pointer Sisters, and “Because the Night,” completed by Patti Smith. The lyrics are slightly different than the Smith version we’ve become used to.
  • “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)” is basically an alternate version of “Factory,” which made Darkness. The music is essentially the same and it has that same country feel, but the lyrics are quite different. At least one line in the song, about Elvis Presley’s death, we would later see in “Johnny Bye-Bye.”
  • “Ain’t Good Enough For You” is kind of a goofy, fun, 60s-type pop song. It’s closer to something that might have made The River. But it’s not hard to see how it didn’t fit with Darkness.
  • “City of the Night” is a kind of a tight-but-mellow three-minute soul piece.
  • “It’s a Shame” has a nice guitar rhythm or groove going on between Bruce and Steven Van Zant.
  • “Save My Love,” for which there is a video that I linked to out of this post, is the only song of the 15 that was totally re-recorded. So it’s essentially a 2010 E-Street Band version of a 1978 Springsteen tune.
  • “Candy’s Boy” is one of two songs that eventually were combined and morphed into what we now know as “Candy’s Room.” (The other was called “The Fast Song” and essentially was the musical framework for “Candy’s Room”). It’s kind of slow and this version is cut from the one found on Darkness outtake bootlegs. But I really like it. why? I don’t know. I always have.
  • “Rendevous” is much the same as the live version heard on Tracks, but there are a couple of slight lyrical changes I’m not sure I like.
  • “The Brokenhearted” is a very Roy Orbison-esque song. The title gives away the subject matter.
  • There’s a heavier version of “Racing in the Street,” with some substantial lyrical differences from the track we’ve come to know. The core of the song remains the same though, and I think this one will grow on me.
  • “The Wrong Side of the Street” is another 60s pop song.
  • “Gotta Get That Feeling” recalls the Phil Spector sound, and there’s definitely an Orbison feel to it.
  • “Outside Looking In” is pure Buddy Holly.

The tracks NPR doesn’t preview are “Spanish Eyes,” “Talk to Me,” “The Little Things (My Baby Does),” “Someday (We’ll Be Together),” “Breakaway,” and “One Way Street.”

The Darkness outtakes still missing from this collection are numerous and include “The Way,” maybe one of Springsteen’s most romantic songs ever. There’s no telling if it will ever see the light of day.

Nonetheless, if you listen to these 15 tracks, and the other six on the album, I think you’ll find that even Springsteen’s cast offs during this period were gems.

Save My Love

Posted in Music with tags , , , on November 1, 2010 by macmystery

Bruce Springsteen’s new video for the song “Save My Love” from The Promise, the soon-to-be-released collection of outtakes from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions was posted on Monday by the New York Times.