The Darkness, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us"

Listening booth — The Darkness, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us”

The Darkness, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us"

The thing about the Darkness is, it was hard to separate the sincerity of their music from the almost painfully ironic image they cultivated. Even so, Permission to Land was an excellent rock record. The follow-up LP, not so much.

After that, the Darkness went dark for several years. They’re back now, and their as-yet-untitled third album should drop some time this year. The first taste is “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” a rousing, electric slab of hard rock. Justin Hawkins still has a great set of pipes, which is the key to the whole thing. But the tune itself is pretty damn catchy and fun, which is really all this band is about.

Check out the video, and then download the song for free from the band’s website.

Bruce Springsteen has a new song and I kinda dig it

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not a very big Bruce Springsteen fan, despite being Jersey born and bred. This gives me one advantage over Boss diehards, in that I can approach his new music with a fairly objective ear.

This leads me to “We Take Care of Our Own,” the first single from Bruce’s upcoming Wrecking Ball album. To me, it sounds like the Bruce I know best. It’s hooky and anthemic, as was his classic ’70s and ’80s material. But it also sounds modern, which is what keeps the song from sounding too overblown.

And I gotta hand it to Bruce, he still sounds passionate and a little angry at age 62, which is more than most people half his age can claim.

I may just have to pick up a copy of Wrecking Ball, which would be the first new Bruce album I’ve ever bought. It comes out on March 6, by the way.

Pop Culture Capsule — January 5-11, 1992

Here’s a look at America’s top movies, music, and books for the week of January 5-11, 1992. While a lot of the Top 10 movies have since faded into the mists of memory, look at those albums. Most of those were huge then and are still. Sorry MC Hammer, no one cares about you anymore.

Note: Old Nielsen TV ratings seem to be hard to come by, so if anyone can point me toward a reliable source I’d be most appreciative.

Hook movie poster (1991)Top 10 Movies

1. Hook
2. Father of the Bride
3. The Prince of Tides
4. Beauty and the Beast
5. JFK
6. The Last Boy Scout
7. Bugsy
8. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
9. The Addams Family
10. Cape Fear

I can say that I’ve only seen two of the movies on this list. Can you guess which ones?

Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)Top 10 Albums

1. Nirvana, Nevermind
2. Garth Brooks, Ropin’ the Wind
3. Hammer, Too Legit to Quit
4. U2, Achtung Baby
5. Michael Jackson, Dangerous
6. Boyz II Men, Cooleyhighharmony
7. Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion II
8. Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion I
9. Metallica, Metallica
10. Michael Bolton, Time, Love & Tenderness

Other than owning the Guns N’ Roses and Metallica albums, I was obviously already out of touch with popular culture by 1992. And I hadn’t even graduated high school yet.

Top 10 Singles

1. Michael Jackson, “Black or White”
2. Color Me Badd, “All 4 Love”
3. Mariah Carey, “Can’t Let Go”
4. Boyz II Men, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”
5. Hammer, “2 Legit 2 Quit”
6. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
7. Hammer, “Addams Groove”
8. George Michael and Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
9. CeCe Peniston, “Finally”
10. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “Wildside”

Yup, same deal here.

Alexandra Ripley, ScarlettThe New York Times Best-Selling Fiction Books

1. Alexandra Ripley, Scarlett (Gone With the Wind sequel)
2. Stephen King, Needful Things
3. Danielle Steel, No Greater Love
4. Tom Clancy, The Sum of All Fears
5. Sidney Sheldon, The Doomsday Conspiracy
6. Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express
7. John Grisham, The Firm
8. Ken Follett, Night Over Water
9. Janet and Allan Ahlberg, The Jolly Christmas Postman
10. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

I was never much of a reader, but The Firm was pretty damn good.

Katharine Hepburn, Me: Stories of My LifeThe New York Times Best-Selling Non-Fiction Books

1. Katharine Hepburn, Me: Stories of My Life
2. Robert Fulghum, Uh-Oh
3. James B. Stewart, Den of Thieves
4. Sam Smith, The Jordan Rules
5. Ralph Emery with Tom Carter, Memories
6. Oliver L. North with William Novak, Under Fire
7. Bill Cosby, Childhood
8. Erma Bombeck, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home
9. James A. Michener, The World Is My Home
10. Susan Faludi, Backlash

I don’t see ever getting around to any of these.

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Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth at Cafe Wha?, 1/5/2012

So this is the new Van Halen song I guess. (“She’s the Woman”)

Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth at Cafe Wha?, 1/5/2012

And not a trace of spandex to be found...

As most music fans know by now, Van Halen played at the Cafe Wha? last night to get things going in anticipation of their upcoming album, A Different Kind of Truth. I spotted a picture of the setlist on Twitter and my eyes were drawn to a tune called “She’s the Woman.”

Hmmm, I thought to myself, that name sounds familiar. And sure enough, it’s actually a song that pre-dates the group’s debut LP and has circulated in demo form among VH fans for years. Here’s what it sounded like circa 1976:

VH fans will doubtless recognize the main riff and bridge here, which was used in the all-time classic track “Mean Street.” I haven’t heard a clip from the 2012 version, so I can’t say how much of the original is intact. I have to imagine that Eddie wouldn’t quite so lazy as to duplicate the song note-for-note, but then again Eddie’s never been very predictable, has he?

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Space Age Santa Claus

Album Cover of the Week: Space Age Santa Claus

This cover has made the rounds for at least a few years, but I just stumbled upon it this year. It’s a delicious slice of mid-century Christmas cheer called Space Age Santa Claus.

Space Age Santa Claus

According to the entry on this 45 rpm single (on a post that is now only available through Google cache), “Space Age Santa Claus” is the A-side of this single (from Delhi Records, 1961), and the B-side is “When Christmas Bells Are Ringing.” Both tunes were written by Ross Christman — which sure sounds like a pseudonym to me — and performed by the Hal Bradley Orchestra with Patty Marie Jay on vocals.

I’m a little confused as to the perspective in this drawing. Is that a regular-sized Santa holding a really small tree? Or is the tree normal and Santa is just colossal? Because if it’s the latter, what kind of freaky children would be big enough to play with those toys?

Anyway, I’ve got a special treat for you this holiday season. In addition to the full-size cover scan from my Flickr group, you can also enjoy “Space Age Santa Claus” right here! And as an extra-special bonus, here are the lyrics:

Santa Claus has a rocket sleigh

Getting ready to zoom away

On his first trip into space

In his pressurized suit with the fur along the border

And a long white bearded helmet made just to order

He’ll take the Christmas spirit every place

His eight reindeer will travel by jet

They’ll go farther than they’ve ever gone yet

With the Space Age Santa

Space Age Santa Claus

He’ll loop tinsel ’round through the stars

Light up Christmas trees all over Mars

He’ll take the dark clouds out of the air

And hang up fluffs of angel hair

He’ll start a gift shop on the moon

Set the moon folk humming Christmas tunes

He’ll stir up egg nog in the Milky Way

To fill the Dippers for the holiday

Space kids will hang up nylon hose

Hear the song about Rudolph’s red nose

Saturn will stroll down Santa Claus Lane

And swing a jaunty candy cane

The Gemini twins will whirl with joy

When he makes the Swan a wind-up toy

He’ll show them how to add to all the fun

And make it orbit ’round and ’round the sun

Oh, Santa Claus has a rocket sleigh

Getting ready to zoom away

On his first trip into space

In his pressurized suit with the fur along the border

And a long white bearded helmet made just to order

He’ll take the Christmas spirit every place

His eight reindeer will travel by jet

They’ll go farther than they’ve ever gone yet

with the Space Age Santa

Space Age Santa Claus

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Black Sabbath, 1973

So fresh: 10 Black Sabbath songs that will never get old

Black Sabbath, 1973

Last Friday the original, legendary Black Sabbath lineup — Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward — announced that they are reuniting once again for a tour and a 2012 Rick Rubin-produced album. I’m holding out hope that it won’t be a disaster, as the quasi-Sabbath Heaven & Hell project (R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio) was quite good.

So to honor the godfathers of heavy metal I’ve put together this compilation of ten songs (from the original foursome) that are not their biggest hits, but are still true genre classics.

1 — “Black Sabbath” (from Black Sabbath, 1970)

This is it, people. Scholars can debate the origins of metal all they want, but for my money it starts with the first song from Sabbath’s first album. Those opening three guitar chords from Iommi are the sound of your doom, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Ozzy’s plaintive wails only enhance the dread and when he screams, “Oh no, no, please God help me!” you know God’s not listening. Feel the darkness envelop you, and revel in it my friends.

2 — “The Wizard” (from Black Sabbath, 1970)

One of the many great things about really early Sabbath was that as pummeling as they could be, they also really grooved. Few songs showcase this better than “The Wizard,” featuring Ozzy on harmonica and Bill Ward making great use of the cowbell.

3 — “Hand of Doom” (from Paranoid, 1970)

Speaking of sick grooves, check out the delicate stick work from Ward that starts this one. I love the dynamics on this track, which alternate between the subtle dread of the verses with the full-on power of the choruses. And of course the trademark Black Sabbath mid-song breakdown (which is almost like a new song entirely) is in full effect here.

4 — “Into the Void” (from Master of Reality, 1971)

It amazes me how Tony Iommi can draw upon a seemingly endless supply of great riffs. This is one of his best. Listen to that sludgy Geezer Butler bass part. Awesome.

5 — “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” (from Vol. 4, 1972)

Vol. 4 was my entry point into Black Sabbath’s music, and to this day it’s my favorite album of theirs. This is clearly the point where drugs started to heavily influence the band’s sound, but they held it together for awhile. The intro to this song is the soundtrack to a bad acid trip, but then it settles down a bit. Fuck that peace and love crap, man, this is the music I float away to in my mind.

6 — “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” (from Vol. 4, 1972)

A masterpiece. One mind-melting riff after another. The intro was one of the scariest things I ever heard as a kid.

7 — “A National Acrobat” (from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1973)

I have no frigging clue what the title of this song is supposed to mean, but it matters not. This is a very good song for about the first five minutes, then the coda kicks in and it goes to the next level.

8 — “Spiral Architect” (from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1973)

One of the things people tend to overlook about Black Sabbath is that they were just as adept at conveying genuine beauty in their songs as they were menace and power. Witness both the delicate acoustic guitar intro to “Spiral Architect,” as well as the choruses, backed with a string section. Few metal bands could pull off lines like, “Of all the things I value most in life / I see my memories and feel their warmth / And know that they are good” and not be laughed at.

9 — “Symptom of the Universe” (from Sabotage, 1975)

The song that launched a thousand thrash metal bands. I hate to sound like a broken record, but listen to that fucking riff. That riff alone should be encased in gold and put in the Smithsonian. Never mind that Ozzy sounds possessed and Bill Ward is playing with what I’m sure was a cocaine-fueled frenzy. I think I just cracked a rib listening to Geezer’s bass.

10 — “The Writ” (from Sabotage, 1975)

Despite being cast as Satan worshipers, a lot of Sabbath’s lyrics were fairly positive and actually spoke out against evil. But the band saved the most venomous lyrics for “The Writ,” directed at former manager Jim Simpson. But in true Sabbath fashion they change things up, and the song shifts to a yearning, hopeful tone at the 5:30 mark. Great stuff, and possibly my favorite Black Sabbath song.

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Field Music - Plumb

Listening booth — Field Music, “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing”

Field Music - PlumbI now have a reason to stay alive until February 2012, because that’s when the next Field Music album — Plumb — will be released. More specifically, February 13 in the U.K. and February 14 (Valentine’s Day) in the U.S. The lads have been kind enough to provide a sneak peek of Plumb, courtesy an advance single release of “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing.”

You can enter your email address to download the song on Field Music’s website (as well as place your pre-order for the album and check out upcoming tour dates), or you can check it out here!

Field Music – (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing by memphisindustries

I dig it. It definitely carries the sound of the Measure album forward. Love that booming, slightly fuzzy bass part. Is it February yet?

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Satchmo (Louis Armstrong)

Sunday Jazz: My favorite Satchmo songs

Satchmo (Louis Armstrong)

Because it’s never a bad time to play Louis Armstrong, here’s a handful of my favorite Satchmo tunes.

(Spotify users — you can listen to these and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

“You Rascal You” (with Louis Jordan)

“Rhythm Saved the World”

“I’m in the Mood for Love”

“Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”

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The Roots - "Make My" (feat. Big K.R.I.T.)

Listening booth — The Roots, “Make My” (feat. Big K.R.I.T.)

The Roots - "Make My" (feat. Big K.R.I.T.)

If nothing else, the Roots are insanely prolific. Despite their day (night) job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show, they find time to record and release project after project.

It’s barely been 18 months since How I Got Over came out (and even less since their collaboration with John Legend), the followup album — Undun — is scheduled for a December 6 release.

The first single from Undun (which the Roots say will be a concept album), “Make My,” was just dropped. Check it:

The Roots “Make My” featuring Big K.R.I.T. by okayplayer

I wasn’t expecting anything this mellow, but I really like it. I love that keyboard riff, and the bridge is a hunk of vintage soul right off one of Stevie Wonder’s classic ’70s albums.