Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Thousand Songs

I should have reviewed this fine, fun CD a long time ago (the reasons I didn’t are many and too self-indulgent to bore you with here) but better late than never (I hope.)

Ric Seaberg is such an affable and talented singer-songwriter that it’s almost impossible to listen to his music and not feel like smiling (and bobbing your head and dancing happily even…and maybe especially… when you’re all alone…try to resist the effortless bounce of the playfully rueful “Why Didn’t I Think of That?”, you’re a stronger person than I if you can :-)

A Thousand Songs is filled with charming love songs (name checking Richard Thompson on the wistful “When I Come Home” made me smile knowingly) and fanciful “real guy” ditties (that word used with unapologetic affection for the tunes…the grand ode “My New Truck” was featured on one of my favorite radio pleasures, NPR’s warm and wacky Car Talk and as football season comes back he makes me realize that I want a “Big TV” too :-) with Ric’s solid, unpretentious vocals ably supported by warm and sometimes muscular (but never overwhelming) musical backing (a special tip of the hat to Tim Ellis who plays some mighty fine guitar on all of the tracks including the jaunty “One More Beatles Song”, a tune that in a better world would be booming from car stereos all over the country on these bright summer’s days) and sweet harmonies.

A Thousand Songs is a lovely record for a summer’s day…full of unabashed and unapologetic love and passion, fun and wit, lovely melodies and heartfelt vocals…a lovely record anytime for anyone who likes their rockin’ pop music to be real and engaging and smile-inducing.

(Links to Ric's page (you can hear audio of the title track at the second link) and to the page of his music sold by my pals at CD Baby (tell 'em I sent won't get any discounts or anything but it may make them laugh :-) are included in the body of the piece above.)

* * * * *

MKW's writing stuff: Bread and Roses

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peanuts 1960's Collection

Looking back in abiding fondness I still smile at the things which delighted and informed and entertained me mightily when I was a child.

I still smile when I remember reading Dr. Seuss and Charlotte’s Web, Animal Farm and Greek mythology, The Mighty Avengers and Adventure Comics starring Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I still smile remembering the joys that television could bring right into my living room: Star Trek and BatmanLucy and Laugh-InMission Impossible and I Spy and Get SmartBonanza and Gunsmoke and Twilight Zone …and Charlie Brown.

The Charlie Brown specials were “must see TV” for me each and every year…I knew them by heart but, in the days before VCRs and DVDs, I anxiously awaited there annual returns with sweet anticipation.

The Peanuts 1960’s Collection is a 2-DVD set chockfull of lovely nostalgia, eternal laughs, and pure wonderfulness. Collected here are the 6 Charlie Brown specials from the sixties all gloriously re-mastered (they look and sound just great) featuring the perennial holiday specials A Charlie Brown Christmas (maybe the best animated Christmas show ever) and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (with the faithful Linus and the love-struck Sally camped out in the “most sincere” pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to come.)

The put upon, but ever resilient, Charlie Brown is, of course, at the heart of these shows (especially in the bittersweet charmer You’re in Love, Charlie Brown which centered on his crush on the unseen “Little Red Haired Girl”) but the ensemble of indelible characters…the wise and optimistic Linus, the bossy Lucy, the brassy Peppermint Patty, the piano virtuoso Schroeder, the assertive little sister Sally, and, of course, the irrepressible Snoopy (whose whimsical adventures and antics weave through all of the shows especially his showcase He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown.)

The great music by the amazing Vince Guaraldi is also an indelible part of the shows and his life is engagingly explored in the new 35-minute documentary, The Maestro of Menlo Park, that (along with downloads of 2 songs…”Baseball Theme” and “Happiness Is”…from the soundtrack of A Boy Names Charlie Brown) rounds out this charming collection that should bring smiles to the faces of children of all ages (even and especially old duffers like me.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Let it Roll: Songs by George Harrison

George Harrison, the so-called "Quiet Beatle", was out shined in that band by his more flamboyant cohorts but he added some great tunes to the Beatles catalog and he burst into solo stardom with the bright burst of pent-up creativity that he called All Things Must Pass.

George never quite hit that height again but he made a lot of fine records before his death. Enough fine records that it would be hard for a single disc compilation to really do it justice...but Let it Roll: Songs of George Harrison does a pretty fair job just the same.

The big hits..."My Sweet Lord", "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)", "Got my Mind Set on You", "Isn't it a Pity", "Blow Away"...are all here and they sound great on this collection.

George's tribute to John Lennon..."All Those Years Ago" (see below)...and his look back at Beatlemania..."When We Was Fab"...are also here as are lovely live versions of three of his Beatles tunes ("Something", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Here Comes the Sun".)

As a brief, but potent, overview of George Harrison's musical legacy, the 19-track Let it Roll: Songs of George Harrison is, well, fab.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson

The king is dead (in case you somehow hadn’t heard) and I think he would be pleased by the outpouring of coverage and consumption that has followed in the wake of his passing. Michael Jackson, by his own admission, just wanted to be loved…albeit loved on his own sometimes eccentric terms…and the breathless (and all too often lurid) media coverage, the lionization by fans (both those who stuck by the self-anointed “king of pop” through thick and thin and those who fell by the wayside along the way), and the booming sales of his music would have doubtlessly pleased him to no end.

In much of the world…and especially here in America…we regard our celebrities as royalty (something that proves a double edged sword for those put up on the pedestals) and no one reveled…and reviled…that status more than Michael Jackson.

His life was magical, strange, amazing, sad, imaginative, delusional, and, yes, thrilling…his death is something of a circus. But that’s par for the course and, again, I don’t think that he would see this as a bad thing.

The king is dead…and when all is said and done…when the circus has left town and the stranger aspects of his rollercoaster life have receded into the background…we’ll be left with the magic he strove so hard to present…with the astonishing dancing, with the quirky but entertaining videos and little films, with the often wondrous music. And when all is said and done, that’s cool with me.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hey Ya! Charlie Brown Style

There are some things from my childhood that continue to reverberate sweetly through my aging soul: Dr. Seuss and Charlotte’s Web, Greek mythology and super-hero comics, Motown and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the Charlie Brown specials (especially A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.)

Because of that, the mash-up video above…almost seamlessly matching images from the specials (most from Christmas) with OutKast’s insanely infectious “Hey Ya”…tickles the hell out of me (but then I am often easily amused.)

(FYI: This is the 400th Neverending Rainbow post. Yay! :-)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

B is for Bob

Many years after his untimely death, Bob Marley is still putting out “new” records (just like Elvis and Tupac and, in the years to come, Michael Jackson.) B is for Bob takes some of Marley’s tunes and remixes and re-imagines them for a younger audience (Bob’s son Ziggy, the executive producer of this set, stated aim was to “give the youngest their very own Bob Marley record”.)

This sort of remix business can be problematic sometimes but not so in this case, B is for Bob is a charmer for children of all ages (my own maturity level can be brought into question but, that said, I enjoyed it immensely.) Ziggy Marley adds additional production to a lot of the tracks here aided and abetted by Takeshi Akimoto (acoustic and electric guitars) and Daniel K. Mandelman (piano and percussion.)

Some of the songs are stripped down to the put the focus squarely on Marley’s soulful vocals (and the equally effective backing vocals by the I-Threes) such as on the delicate, yes still evocative versions of “Three Little Birds” and “Redemption Song” that open the disc.

The Wailers’ irresistible reggae beat and throbbing horns) are not absent from the disc as evidenced by the churning “Wake Up and Live”, the gentle remix of “Satisfy my Soul”, and the loping “Lively Up Yourself” (featuring some nice guitar work.)

“Jamming” is stripped down to its vocals and then built back up with percussion and acoustic guitar which gives it a more intimate feel than the original.

A children’s chorus is added to a couple of tracks: the sprightly piano-driven “Bend Down Low” and the delightfully infectious “Small Axe”.

“Could You Be Loved” is presented in the original (and incredibly potent, incredibly danceable) mix while “Stir it Up” is given almost lullaby feel (albeit a lullaby with a groovy beat) with new guitar and grand piano parts.

The disc finishes off nicely with the soothing “High Tide or Low Tide”.

Is this an essential Bob Marley record? Nah. But just the same it’s sweet without being saccharine and you don’t have to be kid to appreciate and enjoy it (though hopefully some young folks will be introduced to Bob and the Wailers by the grand music here.)