Month: August 2011

So fresh — 10 Billy Joel songs that will never get old

So fresh — 10 Billy Joel songs that will never get old

Music
If you came here expecting or hoping to find an article bashing Billy Joel as an overrated, mediocre pop songwriter, you've come to the wrong place friend. I happen to love the man's music -- most of it anyway -- and think he takes an unfair slagging from hipper-than-thou music critics and fans. Sure, he hasn't exactly helped his case with his less-than-stellar later material and his troubled personal life. But buried in 13 studio releases are some of the best pop music of the '70s and '80s. I've gone through those albums -- having listened to them for years -- and picked ten songs that represent Joel at his best. I've tried to avoid including his biggest hits, although in some cases those are his best songs. Enjoy! 1 -- "Don't Ask Me Why" (from Glass Houses, 1980) This is the tune...
Album cover of the week: Hotel Shampoo

Album cover of the week: Hotel Shampoo

Album Cover of the Week, Music
The internet is the greatest thing for discovering new music since... well I'm not sure. But thanks to Turntable.fm I found out about a neat album by Gruff Rhys, front man for Super Furry Animals. It's called Hotel Shampoo and it's got one heck of a neat album cover. Not much I can add here. The concept is simple -- the song's titles are presented as items for sale and their lengths shown as prices -- but it's very well executed. Graphic design credit goes to Pete Fowler, who has worked with Rhys and Super Furry Animals before. As an extra treat, the vinyl edition has a message for us. Stamped on the Side A center ring is "YOU CANNOT DO MUCH ABOUT THE LENGTH OF YOUR LIFE" and on Side B is "BUT YOU CAN DO A LOT ABOUT THE DEPTH AND WIDTH". Indeed. Related articles Gruff Rhys -...
Sunday Jazz: Happy birthday Lester Young

Sunday Jazz: Happy birthday Lester Young

Music, Sunday Jazz
Yesterday was the 102nd birthday of saxophone immortal Lester "Pres/Prez" Young who was born in 1909 in Woodville, Mississippi. His contributions to jazz are immeasurable, and his story is typically tragic. Young was in the grip of alcoholism for the last years of his relatively brief life, and he died at the age of 49 on March 15, 1959. Prez's lyrical and relatively subdued sound is cited as a major influence of not only later players like Charlie Parker and Stan Getz, but of the entire Cool/West Coast Jazz sound. His pre-World War II recordings tend to have a little more fire in them, but there is plenty worth hearing from his late '40/early '50s period as well. The notion that Young's experience in the U.S. Army robbed him of his ability has by now been thoroughly debunked. The fi...
Listening booth — Queensrÿche, “Before the Storm”

Listening booth — Queensrÿche, “Before the Storm”

Listening Booth, Music
Here in central New Jersey, we're just hours away from the first major rains of Hurricane Irene, so this song popped into my head. It's Queensrÿche's "Before the Storm," from their 1984 debut LP The Warning. Stay safe everyone! Related articles Hurricane Irene News Update II (thedailywh.at) Post photos of Hurricane Irene preparation (nj.com) N.J. is only hours from starting to feel effects of Hurricane Irene (nj.com)
Cross-pollination: “Are We Still Rolling?” book review (on Popdose)

Cross-pollination: “Are We Still Rolling?” book review (on Popdose)

Blogstuff
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I offered to review Phill Brown's music career memoir, Are We Still Rolling? Studios, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll – One Man’s Journey Recording Classic Albums. I had never even heard of Brown before, although he was apparently already well-known to music aficionados. It ended up being a very good read, even though it did get a bit bogged down in technical blather -- but after all, Brown spent the bulk of his career as an engineer. One of the more pleasant and unexpected benefits of reading the book was that I got turned on to some albums and artists I might otherwise have continued to ignore. For instance, it turns out that not only is Robert Palmer's debut LP -- Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley -- a really well-produced and engineered album, it's al
Vintage View-Master: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, reel 1

Vintage View-Master: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, reel 1

Ephemera, TV & Radio
Here's one of the more bizarre View-Master reel sets in my collection. It was issued to promote the short-lived live action series Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which ran for just 16 episodes in 1976. It was one of the segments aired during the first season of The Krofft Supershow, which itself only lasted for two years. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl followed the adventures of two comely reporters for Newsmaker magazine -- Lori/Electra Woman (Deidre Hall) and Judy/Dyna Girl (Judy Strangis). Over the course of the series the pair battled an array of colorful villains like the Pharaoh, the Sorcerer, Glitter Rock, Ali Baba, Spider Lady, and the Empress of Evil. The segments seemed to be a none-too-subtle homage to the Batman TV show from the '60s, as you'll see in this clip of the opening the...
Listening Booth — Peter Gabriel at Rock Werchter, 1983

Listening Booth — Peter Gabriel at Rock Werchter, 1983

Listening Booth, Music
Another day, another listening booth, another great concert for your listening enjoyment. Today I offer up a recording of Peter Gabriel at the seventh annual Rock Werchter festival in Belgium. Gabriel took the stage on July 3 with four solo albums behind him, most recently 1982's Peter Gabriel (aka Security in America). Gabriel was already popular in his native Britain after his time as the lead singer of Genesis, but was just now on the verge of stardom in America thanks to the "Shock the Monkey" single. Remember, although everyone loves "Solsbury Hill" now it wasn't a hit when it was released in 1977. Gabriel and his band are in excellent form here, and the mixture of songs from the first four LPs is great. We even get a preview of "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)," which wasn...
Game over for Gaddafi?

Game over for Gaddafi?

People
Yeah, I'd say so. The rebels are knocking on his door, and NATO is blowing it off. I wonder if a sequel to Commando Libya is in the works? Whoever takes over from Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, I hope it's easier to agree on a spelling for their name. (image created in part thanks to C64 Yourself) Related articles Gadhafi's son defiant as rebels overrun Tripoli (calgaryherald.com) President Obama Calls for Gadhafi to Relinquish Power (onebluestocking.wordpress.com) No Accounting for Gadhafi and His Billions (abcnews.go.com) NATO says it will continue Libya operations (seattletimes.nwsource.com) life: In 1969, 27-year-old Capt. Muammar Gaddafi overthrew the... (shortformblog.tumblr.com)
More Posters of the WPA (Works Progress Administration)

More Posters of the WPA (Works Progress Administration)

Ephemera, Featured Posts
Just when you thought you'd seen the last (well, only) gallery of posters from the Works Progress Administration, BAM! Here comes another one, only four years later. According to Wikipedia, the WPA was the largest and most ambitious of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal agencies, employing millions of workers to carry out public works projects. Agency workers constructed public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. Nearly every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western areas. The budget at the outset of the WPA in 1935 was $1.4 billion a year (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP), and in total it spent $13.4 billion. That's all well and g...