musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Daryl Hall’

Neil Young Never Sleeps

I just finished reading Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace. I can’t say that it’s a great book — too many clichéd phrases and repetitive references to Neil’s various side projects  dampen the “wow factor” — but for any diehard Neil Young fan, it’s still a must read. Like the man’s music output, you never know what expect from one chapter to the next — and that’s part of the fun. If you can tolerate Neil’s copious references to his car collection and the “PureSound” audio project he is obsessed with launching, you’ll enjoy reading most of this book. It’s packed with fascinating anecdotes and honest recollections of his life, both inside and outside of music. Particularly touching are the passages in the book that reveal Neil’s love and devotion to his handicapped son Ben, and also to his wife, Pegi. At times I think this book could have used a strong editor, one who could have cut out some of the weaker and sillier parts, but then again those parts are just Neil being Neil, staying true to his soul, and this book gives the reader a better idea of what he thinks and cares about. And in that context, the book hits the mark.

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Last year Neil released two excellent albums with his longtime band Crazy Horse. The first one, Americana, was billed as “a collection of classic American folk songs.” That may have been the case, but in the hands of Neil and his band, those songs were turned inside out and re-energized. The album included songs such as “Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, “Tom Dooley”, “This Land is Your Land” and “Waywarin’ Stranger.” But these were definitely not laid back, traditional arrangements of these old songs. Each one was electrified and transported by Neil’s new arrangements and the presence of Crazy Horse. There was also a clear social and political slant to the song selection, all of which made the album even more of a vital listening experience. If that “comeback” (it was the first Neil Young and Crazy Horse album in nearly 9 years) wasn’t enough, Neil and the Horse returned later in the year with Psychedelic Pill, a two-CD set of all new material. Not only was this a double album, but the songs themselves were sprawling opus-like creations. The opening track, “Driftin’ Back” was 27-minutes of electric guitar bliss, enhanced by Neil’s wacky lyrics. Pure genius. There are several other tracks that break the 10-minute barrier, so don’t go expecting a bunch of short, sweet folk tunes or a reprise of Harvest. All in all, there is nothing ground breaking on Psychedelic Pill, following familiar Crazy Horse territory. But if you are a fan of Neil’s other Crazy Horse recordings, you’ll love this one too. The energy and raw power is both thrilling and comforting. These guys, even in their 60s, can still deliver the goods!

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In addition to Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill here are the other CDs I’ve been playing in heavy rotation lately:

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George Jackson – Let the Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Vol. 2

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – Live at the Hammersmith Odeon ‘75

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Live from Alabama

Various Artists – Titan: It’s All Pop

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

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Daryl Hall – Sacred Songs

Lee Morgan – Lee-Way

Jim Boggia – Safety in Sound

UB 40 – Signing Off

Jackie Leven – For Peace Comes Dropping Slow

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Ronnie Dyson – One Man Band

Roy Harper – Songs of Love and Loss

Miracle Fortress – Miracle Fortress

Alabama Shakes – Boys  & Girls

Fun. – Aim and Ignite

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Aimee Mann – Charmer

Cannonball Adderley – Money in the Pocket

Cabaret Voltaire – The Original Sound of Sheffield: Best of 1983-87

Elvis Costello – Kojak Variety

Lyle Lovett – Release Me

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Alphonse Mouzon – Mind Transplant

Robert Glasper – Black Radio

Larry Young – Locked Down

Dr. John – Unity

Etta James – Rocks the House

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Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Outskirts of Deep City

Freddie Hubbard – First Light

Bill Fay – Life is People

Groundhogs – Thank Christ for the Bomb

Augustus Pablo – Skanking Easy

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Taj Mahal – Hidden Treasures: 1969-1973

Miles Davis – The Birth of the Cool

J. Tillman – Year in the Kingdom

Hank Crawford – Roadhouse Symphony

Dusty Springfield – A Very Fine Love

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Chris Difford – Cashmere if You Can

Various Artists – Hip Hammond & Soulful Grooves

Eddie Money – No Control

Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills – Super Session

Ken Stringfellow – Danzig in the Moonlight

 

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Rumer Has It

In case, you haven’t heard Rumer, get ready to meet the ghost of Karen Carpenter. Really, it’s almost eerie how much that Rumer sounds like Carpenter, the late, beloved singer of “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Close to You,” and other 1970s pop hits. Listening to Rumer (whose real name is Sarah Joyce) sing, the warm timbre or her voice, the phrasing; it’s like Karen Carpenter all over again. That comparison side, Rumer is not some sort of lame impersonator whose songs all sound like rehashes of Carpenters classics, but her music certainly does invoke a pleasant feeling of pop nostalgia.

 

Earlier this year Rumer released her second album, Boys Don’t Cry, a fantastic collection of covers of songs all written and originally performed by male artists in the 1970s. I was pleasantly surprised to find the CD at the Gram shop in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon mall earlier this month. Boys Don’t Cry features fairly well known tunes, such as Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Sara Smile” and Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel”, balanced with more obscure compositions from big names such as Leon Russell, Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, Isaac Hayes, and others. Impressively, Rumer didn’t select the “obvious hits” by these artists, but instead sought out album tracks that are less known. Clearly, Rumer did her homework in picking songs that were not only suitable for her voice, but ones that really meant something to her. Hearing her sings these songs, the passion is evident. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the album’s closing number, her cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.” That may strike many as an odd song for a woman to sing, but Rumer manages to put a new twist on those lyrics and transform the song into something less maudlin.

 

Besides fine music, another plus to the CD edition of Boys Don’t Cry is the accompanying booklet. In addition to the songwriting credits, each track listing has a cover photo of the album that the original song came from. Very cool touch! Hopefully, this might inspire a listener to seek out the original versions, songs by cool characters such as Townes Van Zandt, Terry Reid, and other fine singer-songwriters from that special era.

 

Rumer’s 2010 debut album, Seasons of My Soul, was a refreshing and striking blend of original compositions and a handful of covers. Her vocal style had that Karen Carpenter vibe, of course, plus the song arrangements brought to mind the classic Burt Bacharach-penned songs from the 60s and 70s. No annoyingly clunky hip-hop production or other unnecessary contemporary flourishes, just quality pop songs wrapped around a luscious voice with uncluttered arrangements.

 

Rumer has received lots of favorable press in the UK during the past two years, but sadly, she remains virtually unknown in the USA. Part of that is due to the tardy release of her albums in the states. For some odd reason, her American label has delayed the release of both albums, waiting several months after they’ve been available in the UK to finally make them available. But that practice seems to be par for the course for the clueless corporate clones that make such decisions. That’s a shame, because Rumer is a supremely talented vocalist and deserves to be much better known.

http://www.rumer.co.uk/

 

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