Random Shuffle – 5/29/06

Many apologies for lack of input here at Brewster's Millions. Last week just got away from me. I should have lots of posts comng this week. And to start it off I've got a 10 song version of Random Shuffle

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg“Father and Daughter” – Paul Simon
from soundtrack to The Wild Thornberrys

A lovely latter day Paul Simon pop ditty. It has wonderful cascading guitar part, and a nice bouncy rhythm. Simon is still a master of the pop craft. He can write a brilliant buoyant melody coupled with his artful, poetic lyrics.

It plays like an update to “St Judy’s Comet” both are simple, lovely songs sung which won’t win any literary awards for lyrics, but will surely be sung by countless parents to their countless children.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_1.jpg“Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” – Wilco
from Being There

Being There is the first Wilco album I ever bought. I was a member of BMG’s music club at the time. You know how it goes, you get 8 free CDs at first and have to buy several more over the next year. They ran a blurb about how great Wilco were so I got the sucker then didn’t know what to do with it.

At first listen the songs sounded two weird, the melodies were off and I couldn’t really sing a long to the lyrics. I dug the more countrified songs like “Forget the Flowers” but the distortion and loud guitar noise turned me way off.

Still, periodically I would pull it out and give it another listen. In time I always found the song craft to be really interesting. I’d listen to a disk, think I had misjudged the album, vow to listen to it more and promptly put it aside and forget about it for months.

Eventually I got a copy of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and fell in love with it. Revisiting the Wilco back catalog, of course, brought me back to Being There which I now elevate quite a bit higher than ever.

This is one of my favorite songs from the album, and of the band, truth be told. The album is a two disk set and contains this song twice. In this version it is more acoustic and has a little country twang, on the other disk it becomes more electric, more rock. I’ve always preferred this one, but the other will do in a pinch.

And though I originally thought there were no lyrics to sing along to, this one is full of new favorites worthy of road trip shout outs.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_2.jpg“You Can Call Me Al” – Paul Simon
from Graceland

Another Simon tune, this time one of his best, with one of the all time classic videos to go along with it. Funny, I grew up watching MTV where my wife never had cable growing up. So I spend my days asking her if she remembers this video or that and her having absolutely no clue.

This one was so simple, just Simon and Chevy Chase sitting in chairs. But Chase is singing the lead vocal with Simon doing the bass line in the chorus. It is so simple, but brilliant in its deadpan delivery.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s backed by a great freaking song. My favorite off of the South Africa inspired Graceland album.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_3.jpg“Friday I’m in Love” – The Cure
from Wish

Ah, remember when the Cure tried to be happy? It never really worked, but this one song is pure joy. It is a song that doesn’t remind me of a specific time or place, but more of a season of my life.

I was a teenager, thinking I had discovered something new, exciting and different. I had recently discovered “alternative” music and with it, the Cure. This was post Nirvana’s onslaught to the world, where me and about a billion other depressed teenagers found the “alternative” and thought ourselves unique.

Still, much of the music I found was really rather good, and can still move me to this day. This one is shake your booty, bob your head nostalgic happiness.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_4.jpg“Let it Bleed” – The Rolling Stones
from Let it Bleed

If the music wasn’t so danged good, I’d be disgusted by the lyrics. Changing the lyrics from lean to bleed to cream to cum all over me gives the listener that ‘did he just say what I think he said’ feel.

No matter, the rhythmic country honk of the music washes over any disgust in the lyrics.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_5.jpg“Something’s Got A Hold On Me” – Steve Forbert
from Evergreen Boy

I first heard this song listening to the fabulous East Tennessee radio station WDVX while tooling down the road twixt the rolling mountains. There is a lyric that goes

Oklahoma looks alright, when I’m in Montreal

The rest of the song is all about being on the road, and the sense of longing one gets when not in the place you really want to be. This particular lyric hit me pretty hard because the girl I was dating at the time, who did become my wife, was spending the winter in Montreal and I’m originally from Oklahoma. It was as if Forbert was speaking directly to me.

Actually I’m getting my history a little wrong. I wasn’t actually dating her at the time. We had discussed it quite a bit, because initially she was going to go to graduate school in Tennessee instead of Indiana, where she wound up. The lyrics gained new meaning for me because I wondered if I wasn’t something more to her because I was away.

I feared the idea of this dream guy who was hundreds of miles away might not be stronger than the reality of me when we finally were in real physical space together.

It all turned out all right, and this song is still a beauty.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_6.jpg“Heart of Gold” – Tori Amos
from Strange Little Girls

Where I had the Cure to speak to my teenage insecurities, it seems every girl my age had Tori Amos. Her first album Little Earthquakes is still a masterpiece of angst, loneliness and being misunderstood. I pretty much tuned out after that, but she still has legions of fans.

This is from her album where she covers very masculine songs, like Eminem’s tribute to murdering his wife. Most of it is pretty awful, and this song is no exception. I only have it because my wife is still a periodic Tori fan, and she wanted this album to add to her collection.

This sounds nothing like the original Neil Young song. It is all dark synthesizer and squelching from Tori. Where is your piano Tori?

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_7.jpg“Lean On Me” – Rockapella
from ????

This mp3 says this is Rockapella, but after some internet searching they don’t seem to have ever released a version of this song. My guess is another similar a capella outfit covered it, and some Gnutella kid labeled it Rockapella not knowing any other group it could be.

At any rate, it is a decent, upbeat version of the classic soul ballad. Nobody can beat Bill Withers, but these kids do a decent job. The soul is taken out of the song, but there is a nice dance rhythm that the kids might like.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_8.jpg“Plush” – Stone Temple Pilots
from Core

Nobody mimics Eddie Vedder like Scott Weiland. In the wake of Nivana’s flood, seems everybody was trying to be grunge. Stone Temple Pilots are one of the better bands that stole the sound trying to grab a piece of the alternative pie.

There were a lot of Pearl Jam comparisons to STP, and this song certainly shows you why. It sounds like something cut out of Ten, and Weiland does his best Vedder impersonation, even mimicking the earnest facial expressions in the video.

All jokes aside, this song is still a butt kicking rocker. All loud guitars and dense baritone.

B00006NSJQ.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_9.jpg“Jack Straw” – Grateful Dead
from Dicks Picks 7

The primary Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, took much of his inspiration from the myth of the old west. Many of his songs sound as if they were lifted right out of the tumble weed. This is one of his best.

It is a story song about two outlaws running from the law. The lyrics tell a concise story in just a few versus. Yet Hunter allows the listener to draw his own conclusions. As the song draws to a close the singer laments

Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down Dug for him a shallow grave and laid his body down

Are we to assume Jack Straw killed his friend and took the money for himself? Or has he cut him down from the gallows and given him a final resting place? This is the beauty of Hunter’s lyrics. In a sense we make of the story what we like.

The show is from the late 1980’s and it certainly isn’t the Dead’s finest musical moment. It is performed aptly, with Jerry and Bob Weird trading versus on lead vocals. They don’t expand upon it musically, and thus it clocks in at a paltry 5 minutes and 19 seconds. It is a song worth tracking down in other versions, though. Personally I’d try to find something from 1972.

DVD Review: Dirty Pretty Things

Amelie speaks English. 

The beautiful goddess that is Audrey Tautou speaks my very own language. There is a god after all.

She speaks a very odd English with a British accent, in a rather dark, disturbing film.

Over the last year I have become more and more (enamored? mystified? lets just say) intrigued with British culture. This began while I was living in France. I became friends with a number of folks from England and we had many a conversation over the differences between American and British cultures.

French movie theatres also show a great deal more British films than their American counterparts. An ongoing writing friendship with some of my blogcritic companions residing in Great Britain has also engulfed me in the interesting world of British rock. Great bands like Babyshambles have come to my attention across the great blue sea.

It is a fascinating thing to see how very much similar we all are, and yet how completely different we remain.

Dirty Pretty Things takes place in the dirty, back streets of London. It concerns the dark world of illegal immigrants and the sometime shady deals they make trying to stay.

It opens with a mysterious man who works at day as a cab driver, nights as a motel watchman and in between as some kind of underground doctor (who is taken to a back room to look at a man’s genitals). It’s all unexplained, mysterious and weird.

We find that he is an illegal working multiple jobs all of the time so that he may stay in England because he cannot return to his homeland. It all remains unexplained, mysterious and weird.

This man, called Okwe, is a good, honest man. Through the course of the film he must do very bad things in order to stay in the country and not be turned in. The movie works as a competent thriller, while trying to say something about the current state of British immigration. Like US immigration there are a myriad of problems, not the least of which is the underground black market that revolves around illegals.

Stephen Frears does a good job of keeping the politics in the background and the suspense right up front. It isn’t pleasant looking, for it delves into the back alleys and dark corridors of a city, but it tells that story with a true eye.

Tis not a perfect film by any means. The plotting by its end is a little heavy handed and it tries to say more about society than it is really able to. And even that pixie Audrey speaks in an accent that makes me cringe more than it excites my nether regions, but it is a film well worth watching. If nothing more than to give me more pleasure from my new found English fixation.

DVD Review: Super Size Me

Between Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me it is a rare thing indeed for me to eat at a fast food joint.  Both Eric Schlosser’s book and Morgan Spurlock’s documentary go to great lengths to show the average Joe just what he’s picking up at the 99 cent menu. 

Like Michael Moore, Spurlock has a definite agenda with his film. From the onset the viewer understands that he is out to attack the fast food corporations.  This is not a balanced agenda.  If everyone who watched the film never eats fast food again, I suspect Spurlock would be very happy. 

The reality TV concept of the documentary is that Spurlock will eat nothing but McDonalds for 30 days and document it’s effects on his body.  Indeed the effects are enormous.  His weight balloons and by the end his doctor’s are literally begging him to stop eating fast food. 

The drama of Spurlock eating another McSandwich  is interspersed between various factoids about the fast food industry.  It is all very entertaining and mostly informative. 

Certainly there are dangers in eating so much fast food. The US obesity records are obscene.  The amount of junk food consumed is enormous.  However, laying this completely at the feet of fast food, and even McDonalds is a bit much. 

Part of Spurlock’s plan is to eat everything on the menu at least once.  He certainly doesn’t consume moderately either.  Often he is seen gorging himself on large burgers, large fries, large drinks and finishing off with a milkshake or ice cream.  As with many overweight people, Spurlock’s battle should be more with his own habits than anything coming out of the double arches.

DVD Review: Audition

Audition is a peculiar type of horror film. It is not a bloody, gorefest that you might expect from the new stream of Japanese horror films, and certainly not from Takashi Miike, director of such bloodfests as Ichi the Killer and Full Metal Yakuza. It is also not the suspenseful, scare them with what you don’t see type of horror film that say an Alfred Hitchcock might make.

In fact, for the first 2/3s of the movie, it is more akin to a family drama than anything you’d call horror. The plot concerns a middle aged widow, Aoyama, who is encouraged by his teen age sun to start dating again. Not knowing how to go about this, he decides to hold auditions for his new wife. Real life auditions, like you’d do in hiring actors for a movie.

Lots of women show up and are interviewed for the life long role of wife. Aoyama is intrigued by one woman, Yamazaki, and begins to date her. Eventually we find that Yamazaki is not all who she seems to be and thus the horror begins.

Miike’s ability to turn the conventions of an old romantic formula completely on its head is nothing short of masterful. Watching the first thirty minutes or so of the film you would have no idea that horrible, bloody things were going to take place later on. Had I not known what to expect from a Miike film, I would have thought I was watching and old style romance.

Yamazaki at first seems like a natural mate, she is beautiful, sweet and shy. Miike let’s her twist in character come in slow, short and shocking bursts. The screw tightens and the horror glows.

The gore is actually pretty minimal, but when the horror comes it comes quick and merciless.

Asian extreme horror is not for everybody. The blood and the gore is too much for a wide audience. But for those with the proper stomachs, Takashi Miike is a master and Audition is one of his best.

A Dream

I was in my high school during some sort of break period.  I was with two young men, who I actually did go to school with, Billy Medford and Brett.  We decided to ditch the place and began walking the hallways.  For some reason I was sitting in a big office chair, which I did not leave and in fact rolled through the halls in. 

In reality my high school set in a building that was very close to my junior high building.  The junior high building was in fact connected to the middle school and elementary school building.  In the dream even the high school building was connected to the others via hallways. 

We began slowly walking down the halls to the elementary school.  We looked at the young kids walking by, studied our old lockers and generally reminisced.  Eventually we came to the end of the building and walked outside, me finally leaving the chair. 

It was recess, and there were all kinds of kids running and playing.  Over there was the BigToy, and just in front was a lively game of softball. 

I watched the boys play softball as the batter lobbed a ball directly to the third baseman.  A pudgy kid, the third baseman was, and he promptly dropped the lob, the proceeded to fumble with it off the ground, allowing a man to score.  When he finally got the ball under control the play was over and he tossed it to the pitcher amongst some good ribbings from his teammates. 

At this time an elementary school teacher, Mrs. Buchfink, noticed us and asked what we were doing.  Billy immediately walked over making up a story about it being break time at the high school and we got bored playing a game. 

I, too, walked over and began discussing how long it had been since I was on this side of the school.  I waxed nostalgic with Mrs. Buchfink on how things had changed and how old it all made me feel. 

A current coworker, Monique, appeared and I asked her how long she had been at this school, to which she replied she came last year. 

I began talking about the parking situation with the teacher and then I awoke. 

While this may seem a very bland and boring dream to most, and in fact it is rather dull, there is something I find quite interesting about it.  You see Billy Medford was a real student at this school and one I had an odd relationship with, and have dreamed about before. 

I was very shy in school, and quite unpopular.  Like a lot of kids not on the popular roster, I wanted very much to be there.  I was simply too shy to get anywhere near it.  In order to not be a complete loser and absolutely alone I often hung together with other unpopular kids, even if I didn’t particularly like them.  As if being seen with some jerk was better than being seen alone.

Billy Medford was one such kid.  I never particularly liked him, but for different classes and projects we grouped together.  Mostly we tolerated each other, though sometimes we fought both verbally and even once physically (though the pacifist in those days I deflected most of the punches without throwing my own). 

Since leaving high school for good, I have often dreamed of Billy Medford.  In those dreams he is always the annoyance and tormentor.  In my dream life he is that much more of a jerk and spends his time doing everything to irritate me to my last nerve.  The dreams are never exactly the same, but his role in them is identical.

It is in this most recent dream, which he has taken on a new role.  For the first dream ever, Billy is not tormenting me but rather being nice to me, if not exactly a talkative friend. 

Random Shuffle – 05/15/06

PurpleSM.jpg"River of Gold” – Donna the Buffalo
from Donna the Buffalo

I caught these guys live at the Lotus festival here in Bloomington a few years back. They played an intimate show literally under a tent. I was way up close whirling and twirling my head off. My lovely wife was enjoying the music, but not being real familiar with their songs was less enthusiastic as myself. We were very close to the speakers and the sheer volume started to get to her, so she backed away and hit the far end of the tent.

Enjoying myself too much I let her go while I stayed. A dumb move for a married man, I know, but darn these guys were flippin’ fantastic, and I wasn’t about to give up my good seat just to please my wife. And besides, she’ll get over it, right?

Turns out, at the end of the show, she wasn’t mad at me for not joining her, she was mad at me for dancing too close to some groovy hippy chick. Most of us at the front were doing what I call the white man’s groove which consists of lots of short step hops, maybe a twirl or two, and the flailing of arms like drunken chickens in a coup. While doing this, many of us get kind of entwined and may bump each other on accident.

Apparently, I was grooving too close to an attractive girl. I can’t say that I didn’t notice this girl, or didn’t enjoy being in close proximity, I am male and human after all. However, I really was way more into the music, than the girl. Come on, I’m happily married, and I know my wife is somewhere behind me, probably already mad at me. No chance I’m going to try anything.

She stayed mad for a few days, and it was all worth it. Being that close to one of the best bands playing music today was so totally worth a little married madness that I’d do it again.

Donna the Buffalo is a hard band to describe. They have influences from reggae, ska, classic rock, folk and old country music. They play the type of music that I’d play, if I played music. It is fun. It’s music to groove to, to get up and dance to, to close your eyes and get off to. The lyrics are lightly political without sounding preachy or political.

“River of Gold” is a great bouncy tune with a chorus to shout a long too.

I want the river to rock
I want the river to roll
I am willing to lose complete control.

Tell me that’s not something to get lost to while chanting with a thousand other fans.

B0000011NL.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg“And I Love You So” – Don McLean
from Tapestry

One of a handful of songs that makes me sit down and listen, no matter where I am or what I am doing. It is a song that can make me weep, and always makes me tearful with rembrances. Funny thing for a love song to do.

Though it is a delicate love song, there are lines about loneliness that remind me of times in my own life when I was alone. I listened to this song a great deal towards the end of my college career when the course of my life was unclear, when there was no true love in sight. When Don sings of knowing “how lonely life can be” I feel that loneliness somewhere deep inside. Even now, while happily married I can still remember all those lonely nights through my life and I must take pause.

letitbleed.jpg“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones
from Let it Bleed

This song reminds me of two things vividly; the opening scene to The Big Chill of course, but also of a night sitting in a friend’s dorm room.

The friend in question made a comp tape with what he called the “Big Three.” It included “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Inagaddadavida” by Iron Butterfly. Late one night he lit some candles, burned some incense, turned off the lights and cranked it up. A bunch of us boys were in there, as we always were hanging out and talking about everything and nothing at the same time. The tunes fell out like wine and we had a great, great time.

I’m not sure what the neighbors though, what with the ten minute drum solo, but man we sure dug it. I mostly remember the Iron Butterfly tune and its psychedelic craziness, but the Stones song is what remains in my music collection. The funny thing about that version was that my friend had taped it off the radio, so the first few seconds consisted of some annoying DJ chattering over the opening organ bits. But the rest was all rabid rock and roll.

What a night it was.

nevermind.jpg“Drain You” – Nivana
from Nevermind

Anytime I think of Nirvana now, I think of a lovely young lass I met at some summer camp way back when. It was shortly after Cobain had killed himself and the uncertainty of everything was still in the air. I was a senior in high school and uncertainty was always in the air, but after the icon of my generation (or my life at least) whacked himself things were even more so in turmoil. This maiden and I stumbled upon a conversation at the side of an auditorium where some uninteresting musical group was singing. She like my hair (it was long and not so receding back then) I like her…well I just liked her, she was all girl, and I liked girls.

She had big scars up and down here arm, where she had cut herself over the deal of Kurt Cobain. Written things like “Kurt Lives Forever” into her skin. I dug the crap out of Nirvana, but not enough to ever carve anything into my body. Like many girls of her age and persuasion I suppose she was just trying to feel something, but at the time all I could think about was “cool.” Well maybe not cool, but my brainwaves weren’t far beyond anything but hormone.

I’m older now, and while I appreciate the intensity of youth, and the historical significance of Nirvana, my ears prefer much gentler thing these days. Once in awhile I find some old punk/metal records and play them loud whilst driving down the road. But mostly I leave the angst to the kids these days.

cracker.jpg“Low” – Cracker and Leftover Salmon
from O’Cracker, Where Art Thou?

An odd, interesting mix to leave this weeks Random Shuffle. Leftover Salmon teamed up with Mark Lowry of Cracker fame in a bluegrass mixing of some of Cracker’s songs. It works in more ways than it has any right to. Their version of “Low” being one of the exceptions. The original has a deep forboding sound too it that just can’t be conjured with a banjo.

Leftover Salmon can create panoplies of musical gyrations, but here they leave too much out. There isn’t enough going on musically to keep my interest. In the final coda all the instruments come out, and it becomes something to listen too, but by that point I’ve already tuned out, or hit forward.

DVD Mini Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

B000CDGVOE.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgIt seems Japan is the country of mention when it comes to film these days. Not only have they produced some of the best horror films of the last decade (see Ichi the Killer and Ringu) but they’ve made some of incredibly imaginative animated films as well.

The most well known animated director is a man named Hayao Miyazaki. A few of his films to make it over the pond are Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and most recently Howl’s Moving Castle.

Most of his films live in a fantasy world where mysterious, enchanting creatures roam freely with humans in a land where time seems to have escaped. People use modern conveniences along with ancient methods of living. There is usually a small, weaker protagonist up against massive odds.

In Howl’s Moving Castle, a young, unconfident girl, named Sofi has a spell cast upon her by an evil witch causing her to appear as an old woman. As this woman, Sofi gains some confidence and takes off for the moving castle which wanders through the countryside.

In it, she meets up with a young boy, a demon living in the body of a constant fire, and Howl himself. Howl is a wizard himself, who has nearly slipped into oblivion over self doubt. He does, however, slip out of his castle to help stop a war going on between his own country land and another.

It is a moving story of characters finding their own character and becoming strong human. It is told in a creative, beautiful way and is truly a cartoon means just as much for adults than children.

Miyazaki creates animated features that are fit for the whole family in a way that is entirely different than those films from American companies like Pixar. Films like Toy Story appeal to all ages in that they are hilarious to everybody. The jokes hit on kid levels and adult levels without ever becoming saccharine or too mature. I love Pixar films, but Miyazaki films are so incredibly different.

There is humor in his films, but it comes from a very human place. In Howl’s Moving Character the only really jokey character is the demon fire, and that mainly comes from the fact that Billy Crystal does the English voice for the character. Mostly, there aren’t a lot of jokes as much as humor that comes from the situations.

It is more of a fantasy than a comedy, with fantastic characters and mesmerizing animation. Fully and highly recommended for anyone.

Bootleg Country: Frank Sinatra – 05/22/68

With the advent of inexpensive, high speed, broadband internet, actual tape trading has almost died out. There is no longer any need to look up tape lists, find good traders and go through the hassle of mailing packages. Now all you have to do is point, click and wait while the internet brings you a new concert recording.

Bootleg collectors are a notoriously cranky bunch. They also have the ears of an audiophile. Back in my trading days I had to adhere to numerous rules to make the serious collector happy. Before CDR, all music had to be recorded on Maxwell XLII tapes, anything else was sub par in terms of quality. I had to write down source material and what generation of tape I had. Each recording from tape to tape reduced the quality of the actual sound.

Even in this new world of exact digital copies, and easy downloads; one still has to be precise as to where ones bootleg collection comes from. Serious collectors will collect several versions of a particularly fine concert to get the best possible source material.

The problem with downloading concerts is that they are often very large files. A Grateful Dead concert often went for three sets, lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Three or four compact disks worth of music can add up to several gigs for a download.

Though the rest of the digital community has converted entire music collections to the .mp3 format, bootleg collectors of stature, cannot stand the degradation in quality that comes from such a compression. Yet, .wav files are much, much too big for a conceivable download.

There are a couple of formats that are now used to compress sound files into something downloadable, without causing any compromise in the sound quality. Both .shn (or shorten) and flac are acceptable compression files.

Both types of files come with their own software to decode the compressions (or compress .wav files). Each also create special signals which can be read by the software to ensure the compression still contains exact data. You can find .shn software at the immensely informative etree site and flac software is available at their own website.

There are numerous website out there in which to download new and old bootlegs. One of the most useful, and expansive is archive.org. Archive has thousands of concerts available in a myriad of compressed and uncompressed files.

One of the most popular formats in which to download bootleg concerts today is bittorrent. This format has gotten a lot of flack lately in the media because it has also become the primary source of illegal downloads as well.

Bittorrent is kind of an evolution of the peer to peer download software as developed by Napster and Gnutella. Bittorrent’s ability to allow everyone to download small parts of the shared file from everyone allows for simple and fast downloads.

There are torrent sites out there for nearly every band that has ever played a concert. One of my favorites is bt.etree.org. It’s very jam band friendly, but well, so am I.

If Wilco is your band of choice then let me introduce you to Via Chicago Torrents.

Is bluegrass your thing? Then check out the Bluegrass Box.

None of this suit your fancy, then drop on down to Pure Live Gigs, where they torrent everything from the Rolling Stones to Frank Zappa to Stevie Wonder. With a few searches you can find just about anything you would ever want. It’s a big bootleg world out there, so come on in, the music’s just fine.

Frank Sinatra
Oakland, CA

One of the interesting things that has happened to my collection since going broadband is my ability to collect a myriad of bootlegs from a variety of genres.. In my tape trading days, I generally stuck to the Grateful Dead and other jam bands. The trading scene consisted mostly of bands that actively allowed tapers into their midst and legally allowed their concerts to be traded, freely amongst fans. Where a lot of your big name acts actively pursue punishment for concert recorders, most jam bands, following in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead, accept and encourage the sharing of their concerts.

However, as my horizons expanded with each available download, I found live concerts of nearly every type. While Frank Sinatra may not sing “Fly Me to the Moon” in 50 different ways, it is still interesting to hear how he sounded in a live setting. At under a quarter per blank disk, and only a few bucks a month for the internet connection, the price was completely right to find out.

This show is a lovely sounding soundboard of Sinatra singing many of his standards and fan favorites. The backing band is swinging and his voice is in full form.

Apparently there were some hecklers at this show, for a few times Sinatra cuts his singing off to take a crack right back at them. Just before he sings “Nancy (With the Laughing Face)” he jibes, “Oh the back the back…” obviously frustrated with the hecklers. Yet, through it all he is the ultimate professional, never breaking the rhythm of the song.

Sinatra has such a fluid, real voice that many of the songs sound almost exactly like the studio versions. It is a voice so strong that it doesn’t need the digital clean up of the studio to make the girls swoon.

More than once I’ve gotten a few queer looks from other drives as I buzz down the road singing at the top of my lungs with Frank on “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Sinatra seems to love all the songs he sings. To introduce them he announces this is one of the greatest songs ever written. Towards the end he nearly runs out of adjectives to describe the songs (the greatest/sweetest/loveliest American/folk/contemporary songs every written by a left footed Bulgarian ballerina.)

Personally, I could do without some of the slower ballads like “It Was a Very Good Year,” and the very rich, and very white Sinatra really can’t pull off the powerful slave songs “Ol’ Man River,” even if it was written by two very white men.

But this is Sinatra, and to complain over a few song choices is trivial. The voice is there and that’s enough to win points with any lover, playing over a candle lit dinner.

Random Shuffle – 05/08/06

“Back in the Saddle Again” – Gene Autryfrom the Sleeping in Seattle soundtrack

Though a bit of a cheesy romantic comedy, Sleepless in Seattle sports a very nice soundtrack consisting of great vocal jazz, old country and classic standards. This Gene Autry number is the kind of country music I love. Before country was bastardized by slick production and the anti-christ named Shania Twain it was full of old cowboy songs and blues inspired cheatin’ songs.

It is music with a heart. Everyone’s heard the old joke about what you get if you play a country song backwards – you get your wife back, your house, back, your dog back… – but there is a sincerity and a joy to that music not felt in Nashville proper for years.

“You Don’t Miss Your Water” – Otis Redding

from Otis Blue

Nobody sings soul music like Otis Redding. There is so much heartache in his voice he could make a statue of Hitler cry. Yet he could jump out of his soul with some rhythm and blues.

He does a version of “Satisfaction” that even Keith Richards sounds more like what he wanted than the Stones version.

This is a slow, soulful number with heartbreaking lyrics, but it’s not my favorite Otis tune. It’s just a tad too slow for my liking, without a great melody to back it.

It’s still powerful Otis soul, but if I was recommending at Otis Redding sad songs, I’d head for “These Arms Of Mine” or “Pain in My Heart” before I led anyone to this song.

“When Doves Cry” – Prince

from Purple Rain

Ah, Prince when he was just Prince. They say his last album was pretty smokin’ but I have to admit I haven’t given it a spin. Judging from his appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of years back, he’s still got it though.

This song reminds me of my sophomore year at college. My sister pledge class at Phi Lambda social club were nick named the doves. Pledges had to sing this song at will, or maybe they had it on a t-shirt. Anyways this was their song.

A great freaking song it is. Killer guitar, sweet back beat and Prince doing his Prince thing like no other.

wilco album cover.jpg“I’m the Man Who Loves You” – Jeff Tweedy

from 3/05/05

From a live acoustic solo gig he did in Chicago. Well, later he was joined by most of Wilco, but the first set is nothing but Tweedy and his guitar. He does some old Tupelo numbers, and lots of Wilco favorites.

This version suffers a little without the band, but it’s cool to hear these songs stripped down to just the basic melody and Tweedy’s oddball lyrics. He actually manages some pretty good fast picking on his little acoustic.

I keep expecting to hear the crowd really sing a long, since it must have been an intimate show, but I never do. I guess they had respect for the man and the song and didn’t want to disturb him.

appetite for destruction cover.jpg“Paradise City” – Guns N Roses

from 10/2/87

There has been a lot of brouhaha over Axl Rose and the new Guns N Roses album that has supposedly been coming out for several years now. This is the stuff that keeps people talking about a band who really hasn’t done anything since the early 1990s.

The sound quality on this live performance is a little muddled, but the blazing, explosion coming from the band is enough to blow out the speakers, and make the neighbors call the cops.

Axl is all over the place screaming like a mad chimpanzee on fire. Slash tears the mutha up with his solo. The rest of the band blazes like a blind demon on Judgment Day. I just got this bootleg in the mail yesterday, so I can’t say much about the rest of the disk, but if this version is anything like the rest, then sign me up for the reunion tour.