Sunday, October 31, 2004:

Just vote

just vote

Hey!! Stop what you're doing! You're not going to find that Arcade Fire live bootleg today, you're not going to stumble across the b-side to "Hand In Glove", and you're not going to find the unreleased Pixies album. What you need to do is get ready to vote in the most important election of our lives.

Find your nearest polling place and get prepared to vote. Tell your friends to vote, tell your enemies for that matter. But just vote. If you are not a U.S. citizen than please call or email all your American friends and make sure they plan on voting. Participation by all is crucial.

Many artists/organizations are stepping up and helping with the Get Out the
Vote campaign. Below are some links but please continue to add your own. And since this is an mp3blog we've added a song or two as well.

And since this is an mp3blog we've added a song or two as well.
V.O.T.E. by Chris Stamey and Yo La Tengo
Tom Lehrer -- We Will All Go Together When We Go
Get Out And Vote On Novemeber 2nd. Regular Blogging Will Commence On November 3rd.


Bloggin' For Democracy
and everyone that has agreed to post
the big ticket
last sound of summer
Moebius Rex
Pregnant without intercourse
Bars and guitars
radio babylon
Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again
The Napkin


Saturday, October 30, 2004:


Oh, I almost forgot. Go here and download the "Thriller" track; it will make you smile.

Also check out Martinibomb and the Coconut Monkeyrocket's track "Munster Beat!"; it's a lot of fun.

from somewhere on the Long Tail

Teddy Randazzo -- Shall We Gather at the Boat Dock
Joseph Mullendore -- Requiem for a Sideman
Thought I'd drop a couple tracks today from a CD compilation that a friend turned me on to; the compilation is one of out-of-print LPs digitized by Basic Hip Digital Oddio. The compilations are organized by theme, and both of the ones that I've heard have some real gems on them. These tracks are both from the Soundtracks Of The Sixties Volume 1 and are, as you might expect, orchestral jazz; the CDs had them at 320kbps, really great sound, but I've dropped them down to 128 here so they're quicker to download.

Historically about 95% of everything published goes out of print and stays out of print. With the evidence of online music sales--that everything sells for the right price, and typically does so every month, many times--maybe that will change. Here's hoping: there are some fantastic pieces that haven't ever been rereleased. Wired's article on The Long Tail article argues (convincingly, I think) that even the misses can be hits in a digital store. And I think digitizing and offering an entire label's catalogue, once you get past the initial outlay, could be hugely profitable, especially on these big labels, where they have just acres and acres of vinyl. (So much to explore, you'd never run out--you'd just need some network to poke around, making connections clear--either a database of who worked with whom, or "if you like x have you heard y?"... And maybe a "random" function like you get sometimes in real vinyl collections.... It could be a music geek's paradise).

On that note, I'm still (periodically) looking for this one version of a Cannonball Adderly track I heard nearly 10 years ago. It would be much easier to have it available for download than to have to try to track the record down in hopes of digitizing it. I'd gladly pay the 99¢.
Get hip

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Friday, October 29, 2004:

Bury Me/Hard Road

Alejandro Escovedo -- Bury Me/Hard Road
Track today from Alejandro Escovedo, whom I looked up as a result of a favorable mention in an Emmylou Harris interview. A strong recommendation from a singer I like? That's all I need.

It was worth it.

Escovedo's been active in music since the late 1970s; he played in the band Rank and File, which released one album and had his label refuse to release the other; then the group broke up and the album was released on a different label. This track is from the re-release of Escovedo's solo debut, which includes a second disc of live performances. This track is off the second disc.

Last year Escovedo collapsed while on tour and was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. If you don't know anyone with Hep C: it's a devastating, fatiguing disease. His friends and fellow musicians started a fund to help cover his medical bills, as he doesn't have insurance; the site has an unreleased track you can download for a PayPal donation, but I'm not going to pass that one along. ^_^

About the music on this disc: it ranges from rockabilly to folk-rock. It took me a minute to warm to it, but I'm just strange like that (I hated Abbey Road when I first heard it). It's grown on me since--wonderful music, really.
Official site
Alejandro fund


Thursday, October 28, 2004:

I think I see the light

Cat Stevens -- I Think I See the Light
Track today from that notorious singer/songwriter/humanitarian Yusuf Islam, whose peace activism so alarmed the United States they had him deported. (To be fair, the U.S. claimed he contributed money to charities which contributed to Hamas, which isn't the sunshiniest group around; but, to be logical, W. and Osama have a similar relationship; and Bush's pop and Noriega did as well, so why is the administration pretending outrage?)

This song is from Harold and Maude, in the scene where Harold is in bed blowing bubbles. Quite the change from his previous hobbies--all macabre failed attempts to get his mother's attention.


non-partisan political message follows:
Everyone in the U.S., please be aware that you can vote early, and please do vote. And, if you're in California, please know that you have the right to vote on a paper ballot. Spread the word.

I am very skeptical of e-voting machines: you get a paper record even for buying a Coca-Cola at the gas station, so why should your voice in your own government be any different? Is it less important?

Representative democracy hinges on accountability and transparency, and with no paper record, there's no possibility of a recount. So please do vote and please do request a paper ballot. If you've got one of these confounded e-voting machines in your area, you should take it up with your elections supervisor: the purpose of HAVA was to get away from things like hanging chads; that can be accomplished as easily with an optical scan machine (they work as expected and leave a paper record that can be recounted if need be. So they are, IMO, a thoroughly superior solution--the voice of the people being important and all). There have already been numerous reports of e-voting ballots being "lost," of people pressing the box for one candidate and a check-mark appearing for the other, of the machines crashing.... Please, please, regardless of whom you're voting for, vote on paper.
Official Site

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004:

Lou Rawls

Lou Rawls -- What Makes the Ending So Sad
Lou Rawls -- My Ancestors
Lou Rawls today, mostly because I've had him on repeat a minute. Rawls is a soul/gospel/jazz singer from Chicago's south side, born in the mid-1930s. He was friends with Sam Cooke; and this first track is a Sam Cooke cover. The two of them sang together a bit in a group called "The Teenage Kings of Harmony," which seems not to have recorded anything--which is a damn shame since Cooke tears it up and Rawls does too. He has a four-octave range; he can belt it out warm and high or take it low but smooth. It sounds easy until you try it; most singers have a fairly limited range. You can expand it with practice but it takes time, and Rawls has put in the time.

Rawls is in his late 60s and still active; he put out a Sinatra tribute CD last year, does the occasional voice work or acting, and frequently does fundraising for the United Negro College Fund.

These tracks are both from Rawls' two-disc Anthology set, which is mostly focused on his bluesier side, with some live performances (complete with Rawls' "raps" interspersed throughout) on the second disc. Give it a listen; it's good. writeup on Lou Rawls
IMDb: filmography
Official site


Tuesday, October 26, 2004:

Blind Willie Johnson

Blind Willie Johnson -- Mother's Children Have a Hard Time
Tune today from Blind Willie Johnson, blues guitarist who was blinded at the age of seven when his father and his stepmother got into an argument. Accounts about how or why differ, except they all involve the argument and a bit of thrown lye (even allmusic can't decide among the stories--the 2nd edition of their blues guide says "George Johnson caught her with another man and beat her up; she retaliated by throwing lye into the face of seven-year-old Willie to deliberately blind him." Their website says "When Johnson was about seven years old, his father and stepmother fought and the stepmother threw lye water, apparently at the father, but the lye got in Willie Johnson's eyes, blinding him.") So.

After he was blinded, Johnson continued to learn the guitar, and his father began taking him to town to play for change. He was religious and considered himself a gospel singer, though most people today would probably classify him as blues. This track's about how no one can take the place of a mother, even if they try: fathers do the best they can; sisters will get married and leave you; wives and husbands love you but it's not the same. His voice is fierce, rough; the guitar is spot-on, controlled and sweet. I can't help wondering if he wrote this one when he was very, very young. says the title is "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time" and that it is "often understood as 'motherless children'" but, I don't know, that doesn't sound like what he's singing. I don't doubt that the shellac had "Mother's Children" written on it; I do doubt that that's what Johnson meant.
Brief bio and discography of Blind Willie Johnson; writeup on him; for more downloads;
[] The complete recordings: two discs, 30 tracks.


Monday, October 25, 2004:

In which I post a song and then rant a bit

Le Tigre -- Fake French
I put off today's post because I still hadn't decided what to post by the time I had to go to work. Then I came back and picked up this month's Wired, not because I wanted to read it--I didn't; I'm not that tech-savvy and not sure I want to be--but because I wanted the CD that came with it. It's got 16 tracks under a Creative Commons license, all cleared for sampling and sharing: from Dan the Automator to David Byrne to Zap Mama to My Morning Jacket.

I'm posting one of these because I think they are, in general, pretty damn good. Especially for $5. There's a brief writeup and track list here; the tracks are free to share so you can probably find them on your favorite p2p network.

Feel free to skip all the following: I haven't decided if I'm really making sense or if I'm just being a pretentious windbag. But if you do read it, I'd love to hear which you think it was. ^_^

I think the Creative Commons is exciting because it reverses the traditional position of copyright: copyright assumes that you must get permission before doing anything with anyone else's creation, which is a problem if you can't find the copyright holder or if the copyright holder doesn't want you using his or her work (that happened recently with a documentary made criticizing Hollywood's glorification of violence. Obviously for a film like that it's helpful to use the footage you're talking about, but the studios weren't interested in cooperating, so the film never got distribution.) Apparently the First Amendment is for the wealthy only--licensing footage, samples, excerpts etc. is not cheap--and sometimes it's not even for them, if you're saying something too much against what the copyright holders already think. I'm not sure if I agree with the film maker's premise--I haven't seen the film--but I would have liked to have a chance to see the work and decide for myself.

People tell you to vote with your pocketbook, but copyright is standing there like a poll tax collector--if you can't afford to buy the right to free speech, your only vote is an abstention; you are not allowed to speak in public.

Creativity results from the intersection of ideas, right? Metcalfe's Law, talking about the value of a computer network, has it that the value of any communication system grows exponentially with the number of users on the network--it makes sense, if you've ever logged onto AIM when none of your friends are on. Just a decade ago it was nearly unimaginable to have first-person accounts of something going on on the other side of the world, and to be able to talk frequently and at length with people on the other side of the world, but it's becoming increasingly common. Globalization is networking the world. IMO the value of that network is in the communication; and the value of the communication is in the number of ideas available on the network: with each new input the potential for creativity increases exponentially. Or it would, except for copyright.

Intellectual property isn't property; I can give my idea to you and it doesn't diminish its value--all it will diminish is my ability to make money off that idea, and then that will happen only if you can execute my idea better than I can. The only intellectual property I can have is an idea that I never share, and even then people can still arrive at "my" idea independently. It's happened with any number of inventions, so why not be able to patent or copyright everything, up to and including the combination of beans and rice? IP is an artificial monopoly, and it's getting an unhealthy bit of government protection. Creative Commons matters, and the public domain matters, and every time copyright is extended there's much less you and I can talk about meaningfully and forcefully, and public discourse loses.

I'm not sure when it was decided that commerce should trump freedom of speech, but that's not a decision I agree with. I think it's exactly backwards. Using economics as a barrier to free speech is inherently classist and undemocratic; the public welfare is more important than private wealth (and no, I don't believe trickle-down works--if it did, would the middle class be vanishing, and at such an alarming rate?)

Anyway, now that Creative Commons has come about, artists have a clear and easy way to be proactive about allowing others rights to their work. I think it's a good start towards a solution of a thorny problem.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004:

She Said

Pharcyde -- She Said
Pharcyde came out of L.A. in the early 90s, when N.W.A. and Ice Cube were already big and ahistorical white politicians were going off about violence in gangsta rap (Someone should do a hip hop remix of "Folsom Prison Blues" or "A Boy Named Sue"; those songs are tough.) Anyway, Pharcyde weren't thugged out; they were about having fun, smoking out, and failing to score, in about that order. A lot of the first album is whimsical and upbeat, but it's got a few bruised songs on it (esp. "Otha Fish" and "Passing Me By," both about women that won't give them the time of day). "Passing Me By" is probably their best (and best-known) song, immediately recognizable by that organ sample from an out-of-print Quincy Jones track.

Their second (Labcabincalifornia) was more serious, even depressed. By this time they'd had a gold album and toured with Lollapalooza, in 1994, but their lifestyles and their luck apparently hadn't changed.

This track is off Labcabincalifornia, before FatLip left for a solo career (and long before their last album, when Slimkid had left too, and it was just Imani and Booty Brown).


I thought of posting "Pandemonium" instead but I really can't recommend buying the Street Fighter soundtrack. ^_^ And the movie? van Damme ... Raul Julia ... Kylie Minogue? It's on the IMDb bottom 100, and I don't doubt that it belongs there, but I'm oddly tempted to see it.


Saturday, October 23, 2004:

Wild Wood

Paul Weller -- Wildwood (Portishead Remix)
Tune today from Briton Paul Weller, formerly of The Jam and The Style Council. Those of you who are familiar with his career (punk, pop, jazz, house) won't be much surprised by this one: a Portishead remix of the acoustic title track to his second solo album. You can hear the Portishead touch, but barely--there's no theremin, no burning sense of doom; the track is catchy but very chill. It makes for a nice closer to a mix CD.

Official site (bells, whistles, and gongs.) It does have some samples, though you can't play them in the background and navigate anywhere else.
[The Trip Hop Test, Vol. 1] (allmusic gives it 5/5; the two amazon reviewers give it 2.5/5)
[Special Brew] (amazon users give it 5/5; allmusic 4/5)


Friday, October 22, 2004:

Sheila Chandra

Sheila Chandra -- Missing the Voice
Occasionally I notice discussions about the "timelessness" of music, which leads me to think that "dated" is often used as a criticism, but I'm not sure I agree that it should be. You know 1950s teenybopper-rock when you hear it, and it evokes a certain nostalgia (mostly because of a belief in a 1950s world that never existed outside of sitcoms--but that's a different matter entirely).

Here's something emphatically "dated," but I love it for what it is: a bit of mid-1980s Indian synth-pop. I dig the fake drums, the sitar, the unbridled energy, the overdubbed vocals. That woman can sing.

Sheila Chandra is an Indian raised in the UK, and formerly of the London trio Monsoon. She left her label once it became clear they were more interested in her looks than her talent; she and her two band members set up their own label, Indipop, and then they produced and released her solo debut. Her early work on Indipop focuses on a dance/pop/Indian fusion (like her work just before with Monsoon); her later work on Real World is still fusion but drones a bit. Allmusic favors her Real World work; and, though I think the Real World label does have an excellent track record, I favor her work on Indipop. I prefer the vocal range she shows on it, and think the arrangements are more dynamic and immediately accessible--but, as always, ymmv.

This song is from Chandra's solo debut, Out on My Own.
Allmusic biography
Official site
[buy the album]


Saw Shaun of the Dead tonight, which was clever and amusing and worked quite well when it was on the tightrope between horror and comedy. Loved the use of music throughout, starting with the synchronization in the credit montage, but for $25 I'll skip out on the soundtrack until it has U.S. distribution. There are definitely some post-worthy tracks on it.


Some mp3blogs focus on a certain genre ... is it clear from the writeups here what's being offered any given day? Are there any genres you'd rather avoid? Would you like the posts labeled by genre?

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Thursday, October 21, 2004:

empty bed blues

Big thanks to Badger from Orbis Quintus and to Simon from Spoilt Victorian Child for looking at the CSS problem, and to SJ for figuring it out and posting a solution. Teh internets are much smarter (and cooler) than I. ^_^

Bessie Smith -- Empty Bed Blues (parts 1 & 2)
Smoking jazz/blues tune today from Bessie Smith. I thought I had posted something from her already, but looking it over now I see that I haven't.

Bessie Smith worked with Ma Rainey in the early 1900s, followed it with a stretch in vaudeville, and then cut a number of albums in New York over the course of a decade. In that time she worked with a number of people including Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong, and became known as the "Empress of the Blues." It's easy to see why here--she's got a set of pipes on her; her voice is strong and confident enough I can imagine her onstage rocking the house without a mic.

Smith was extraordinarily popular throughout the 1920s but then in the early 30s Columbia dropped her from the roster. The redhotjazz site linked below states that it was because Smith's style of singing was no longer popular and Columbia was suffering competition from radio and sound films, as well as financial troubles from The Great Depression. That's as good an explanation as any, and better than some I could think of.

Smith cut one more album--for Okeh in 1933--and continued to tour; then in 1937 her vehicle rear-ended a truck. Smith broke some of her ribs in the accident and died on the way to the hospital.

Bessie Smith is covered in the Allmusic Guide to the Blues but not the Allmusic Guide to Jazz--which is, I think, a somewhat arbitrary distinction: much of her work would fit in either. Her records for Columbia were re-released in the 1970s as five double LPs, but that's a bit much for most people so I've linked a 16-track introduction instead.

This is a bawdy track, in the same league as Smith's "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl" (famously covered by Nina Simone). NSFW, rated R, etc., hilarious and audacious at the same time.
bio and RealAudio samples

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004:

web help?

Hello, any CSS whizzes out there? I hacked this template into what you see here, but the problem is that what you see here might not be what I see here. Firefox and Mozilla display the page one way; IE another. I didn't know this until recently, as I avoid IE because I think it's buggy and insecure. But about half of the visitors here are using it. (If you're not being forced to use it at work, could I suggest trying Mozilla or Firefox? They have tabbed browsing and per-site cookie permissions [e.g. always refuse from doubleclick, always accept from IMDb]; they block popups; they have any number of useful extensions.)

I've tried a number of things to get IE to display the page like Mozilla. Here's the closest I got. Which caused this in Mozilla. So: I'm missing something here.

What's the cause of this? Which browser is at fault? Is it possible to configure this page in such a way that most browsers (especially Moz and IE, but also Safari, Camino, and linux browsers) display it the same way (dividing line at the same point, same amount of space between items in a list)?
Tuesday, October 19, 2004:

Night and Day

Django Reinhardt -- Night and Day
Now I'm going to ask the question that's been on my mind for several years:

What is up with these these douchebags running our country?

They got nothing. They've trashed the economy, cut countless social programs, eviscerated the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, and cut every environmental protection they can think of. And then there's that war on a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no WMDs (and no, did not have "38,000 liters of botulinum toxin" and "the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent" "in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad," or anywhere else). What did they find? A hazmat suit. Big deal; there are half a dozen in the chem lab building on campus. Then when someone brings that up, they fall back on the "isn't the world better now that Saddam's out of power?" bit as if the whole thing were just some grand humanitarian mission, nothing whatsoever to do with Bechtel and Halliburton contracts and Bush's complaint "he tried to kill my Daddy."

They try to cover it all up by sending out a steady stream of messages that reduce to "here's why you should be afraid," and painting dissenters as unpatriotic and immoral--always on about their own peculiar brand of "Christianity," which is so thoroughly divorced from what Christ taught that it's both hilarious and enraging. Christ taught love, humility, fairness, acceptance, and voluntary poverty; and Bushco are into pre-emptive war, profiteering, torture, and taxcuts for the wealthy. Not quite the same thing.

All those pederast priests were religious, so I don't see why faith is supposed to prevent evil. It's absurd. I know that one definition of "Christian" is that you aspire to be like Christ, and I'm well aware that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," but I really don't think that definition excuses anything Bush has done. I might as well call myself a "Jordanian" because I'd like to be like Mike, even though I can't dribble and don't practice.

So here's a track in honor of Bush and Christ. It's a Cole Porter tune; Reinhardt was most known for playing acoustic guitar with Stephane Grappelli, but here he is on electric. As you probably know, he was in a fire that badly burned his left hand, leaving two of his fingers mostly immobilized. It had a dramatic effect on his guitar playing, but I think he rallied nicely. Our democratic principles are currently on fire in the U.S., but maybe those can rally as well.
[Verve Jazz Masters 38 @].

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Sunday, October 17, 2004:


China -- Time
Forgive the posting schedule. Class is kicking me around a bit--or, rather, I'm kicking myself around a bit. I'm starting to think there should be more weedout classes, or that any given program should have some cranky old bastard like in Kill Bill vol. 2, only you'd have to go to the mountaintop and answer the question "how bad do you want it?" A lie would get a sharp crack on the skull, and so would anything less than "with all my heart," and sometimes that would too. That would be just to get in the program. You'd have to do it again for every class.

How bad do I want this degree? Well, it would be nice. Currently I've got the Pillow of +8 Drowsiness. My bed's going to eat me, only it won't be like in that one Nightmare on Elm Street; I'll just simply be gone. Maybe with my Castells book left behind, as that book's mostly indigestible anyway. The detectives will glance through it briefly, looking for some kind of note, skimming through the marginalia: check marks, asterisks, counterarguments.

So here's a song about being disorganized and having your life in a mess. It's by China Moses, who goes by the google-proof name China. She was raised in France, is the daugher of jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, and sings on this track in English and French.

This is off the Putumayo disc Global Soul--they piqued my interest with Mississippi Blues, and this is another good one (though I'd be interested in a boxed set of global R&B and hip-hop--maybe Moebius Rex and Benn loxo du tàccu could compile one).

The liner notes aren't bad, though I would disagree with their classification of 1 Giant Leap as a band--it was the title of a documentary featuring collaborative international music and interviews about a number of big subjects (sex, death, religion, etc.) but I don't think the musicians ever formalized into a band. The Speech/Neneh Cherry track is from that film.

Each artist in this disc gets a page writeup and a photo--that's good to start with, I guess, though it hasn't yet been enough to track down a CD from some of the artists. And I'm still looking for more music from Sanjay Kumar Verma (Indian classical guitarist) and Revetti Sakalar (vocalist) as a result of seeing them on 1 Giant Leap. Anyone with tips, please share.

update: July 15, 2005: I've gotten a comment from China Moses, but Haloscan continually eats the comments, so I'm adding the substance of it here: China Moses has a website here; she also has a myspace account under "china moses" or "mllemoses." And I'm delighted she was not unhappy with the post.


Saturday, October 16, 2004:

You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks

Café Tacuba -- Metamorfosis
Anyone see Jon Stewart on Crossfire? Tucker and Carlson expected him to come on and talk a bit about his book, make a few jokes, do a little song and dance, and leave. Instead he played along very briefly then started pressing the point that they were failing at their job of improving democratic discourse in the U.S.. It was very impressive. "Must see TV," indeed--or, if you're like me, and try to avoid TV whenever possible--must-see downloading.

STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one.

The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey.

Now he's in a bit of a strange position, because his show is political but he's trying to say it's "only" comedy. Well, it's only comedy about very serious stuff, but as long as people can laugh it off his show doesn't get canceled, so he's toeing a line. I'm happy to see him do it as long as it keeps his show on the air, though I know it's uncomfortable and--honestly--the Kerry interview was Not Good. Not deep or thought-provoking and, yes, the questions were generally weak. But this Crossfire appearance was awesome. I wanted to send the man a telegram reading "RAWK!!! \o/"


Cafe Tacuba are a Mexican rock/metal/ska/jazz/hip-hop band started in 1989. The singer & lead guitarist "Anónimo" isn't entirely anonymous, though he is ... what? multi-pseudonymous? (... Suddenly I feel like a Coen bros. character--"Jesus, Tom, I was just speculatin' about a hypothesis.") Dude changes his name a lot, I mean. Two brothers, Joselo and Queque Rangel, on guitar and bass; Emmanuel Del Real on keyboards & guitar.

"Metamorfosis" seems appropriate enough today--not for the lyrics; they're about a woman that the singer met who used to be down to earth and became a snob--but for the jaunty happiness of it. Whistling down the street twirling a cane. It's a cover song, like everything else on Avalancha de Éxitos and, like everything else on that album, I've never heard the original. I'm guessing it's a lot different.

Will Stewart's appearance change anything on Crossfire? I doubt it. Will it change his own life? Maybe. Maybe the format of his show, or maybe whether he works on it. But what had me so excited about it was not the sincerity or the persistence of it, but the audience reaction. At first they were taken aback--this isn't what I ordered--and then they were applauding.
bittorrent -- Jon Stewart on Crossfire

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Thursday, October 14, 2004:

Edwards and Mancini

Henry Mancini -- Walkin' Bass
Henry Mancini -- Blue Steel
Two from the Mancini vaults. These were bonus tracks on the 1999 re-release of the Peter Gunn soundtrack. I'm not sure why they weren't released in the first place, as I think they're great.

These won't do much for you if you don't like orchestral jazz, but I love them--the walking bass on, uh, "Walkin' Bass," the flute, the baritone sax--and "Blue Steel" is as fine a bit of orchestral jazz as I've heard, even if the start of that baritone sax solo does borrow a bit from "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else But Me)." (Brubeck borrows--or "samples"--from Glen Miller from time to time also, as well as from Thelonious Monk and countless others. It's very very common in jazz. But never mind about recent brain-damaged Supreme Court decisions).

The liner notes tell a story about Mancini being fired from the studio where he'd worked, and going afterwards to get a haircut. In the next chair was Blake Edwards; they started to talk and Edwards asked Mancini to write for him. And there you have it. If you're an unsuccessful musician, maybe you need to get a haircut more often--you too can write "Peter Gunn" and the Pink Panther theme.

An aside here. Actors used to work under what was called the studio system, which is that, say, Cary Grant was signed on to a certain studio and could not work with any other until the (sometimes decades-long) contract ran out. Actors and directors started making enough noise about it, saying it was an illegal monopoly, that eventually the U.S. filed suit against the studios under anti-trust laws; the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the actors. (Obviously the Supreme Court used to be a bit more serious about illegal monopolies--look at the difference between the scope and reach of the "trust-busted" railroad companies in the early twentieth century, and the scope and reach of Microsoft, which got a slap on the wrist.)

So. About the studio system. There were some brilliant and amazing films produced under the studio system, and any restriction will have its costs and its benefits. Now an actor can work with any director he wants, and a director can work for any studio he wants. Often an actor or director will have the rights to something and shop it around until finding a studio interested in financing it--it's the film they're interested in, not the studio. ... So would things be better or worse in music if the "label system" were abolished and a band could shop any album around until finding a label that liked it?
The Studio System

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004:

Leone and Morricone

Ennio Morricone -- The Man with the Harmonica
I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly last night and, aside from not thinking that the Good was particularly good or that the Ugly was particularly ugly, I thought it was a good film. I liked it much more than when I last saw it, about ten years ago, but I still don't think it was better than Once Upon a Time in the West--in my opinion that entire scene around the bridge is bunk, though the rest is very good. I didn't have any crisis of belief watching Once Upon a Time in the West.

Throughout the film, there's this man with a harmonica--played by Charles Bronson--who's one of several men after this merciless killer who's after a woman who, in my first guess, will be killed before she has enough time to figure out what's going on. But things don't work out exactly as expected. I kept wondering why Bronson's chracter had the harmonica and why he was after the killer (played, oddly enough, by Henry Fonda--quite the difference from that unshakeable noble juror in 12 Angry Men). This track is part of the theme that plays throughout, culminating at the climax, when all you can do is sit back and say "holy shit." It's wicked, in the truest sense of the word; it's almost too much to believe but the music pushes it through. It wails, it screams, it moans: "it's all true, every bloody last bit of it."

The track starts with the harmonica, lone and haunting, then adds in seesawing strings and a distorted electrical guitar, and a brief orchestral section. It sounds like the opening number for the four horsemen of the apocalypse in concert; it's as brilliant and memorable a piece of film scoring as I've heard.
[] Get the re-release, with previously unreleased tracks.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004:


Soft -- You Make Me Wanna Die
It's getting chilly here. This is Florida, so "chilly" means you think about wearing a jacket and sometimes you do. "Cold" means you wear a coat and you think about buying some gloves.

This song feels like spring to me--spring in the air and a spring in your step, the chill leaving, the sun warming your skin, a big middle finger to winter--but I didn't want to hold it until then. It's got a solid construction; it's fun and immediately accessible and puts me in mind of what Radiohead might sound like if they weren't so mopey (I do like Radiohead a lot, but I take them in small doses).

The song is by a Brooklyn-based rock band named Soft. John from the band emailed me asking me to take a look at their tracks; I liked what they'd done and had no post planned for today, so here we are.

If you like this song, please leave the band comments or email them at soft (at) thebandsoft dot com. And check out their site; they have more posted.
The band Soft.


Monday, October 11, 2004:

honk honk

Tommy McCook & The Aggrovators -- A Gigantic Dub
A quick post for now--busy day today.

This is one of the most hair-raising films I've ever seen, better than about half of the IMDb's list of top 50 horror films. Starts a bit slow but from the 45 second mark on, it's cinema gold.

So here's a track I invariably associate with traffic, though it's much more sedate. I love the horns on this; they're fun. This track is from the Trojan Dub box set, which for $20 gets you 2:46:57 of mellow (not mellow gold; you'll have to find that somewhere else).


Sunday, October 10, 2004:

Mississippi Blues

Chris Thomas King -- Come on in My Kitchen
After weeks of chancing it on new and used CDs that turned out mostly crap, I've stumbled onto only a few gems. Then this one about the Mississippi Blues, on a label called Putumayo that specializes in "world music," makes up for it all. I grabbed it because the cover caught my eye and the disc had a Memphis Minnie track I hadn't heard before. rates the disc poorly, saying it's not fully representative but, well, it is only 11 tracks long so I'm not sure why they continued to expect it to be.

Collections are typically hit or miss throughout, but for me this one's a hit, bullseye, icing on the cake, cherry on the sundae. I struggled awhile trying to decide which song to post, and finally just shuffled a deck and drew a card. Scooby. 8. I put it back and pulled another, thinking "maybe I'll post two." Shaggy. 8.

All right then. Six of my twelve loyal readers probably already know about Chris Thomas King, so this is for the other six. This is stripped down blues and a voice like velvet, with the unusual addition of an electric voicebox. It's jarring at first but only because of expectations: blues==guitar and voice, maybe harmonica, certainly not a voicebox. Well, it fits with King's M.O.--he's long been mixing blues with hip hop, adding beats and scratches, so he's not inclined to treat it as something immutable and sacred. (Remember that scene in Scratch where MixMaster Mike worked over a Robert Johnson LP? 10/10, right? Damn right.) Still, a lot of his earlier music has met with controversy. His later music has become more traditional.

In O Brother, Where Art Thou? King played Tommy Johnson, a musician who supposedly sold his soul to the devil--funny that, this is a Robert Johnson song.

Keb' Mo' covered this track on his first (and in my opinion best) album, but here it is a bit less raucous (it's a classic, of course, and been covered many times--Taj Mahal's version of it on An Evening of Acoustic Music is also great, and is so subdued it sounds like a different song entirely).
Official site writeup


in which things do not go as expected

I had written a post telling about meeting a documentary film maker I'd expected to be soft-spoken and thoughtful, but instead he was some fast-talking slickster with a runny nose. Then sobriety spoke up and whispered that that was a good way to get sued. So. You shall not hear about that. Yes, it was related to a song, and yes I'll probably post it later.

I also wrote up and then axed a long boring post about seeing Jurassic 5. Short version: if you're ever tempted to see a hip hop concert at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville FL, don't. The acoustics suck; it echoes a lot and you won't be able to make out the words. Through most of the concert I couldn't even tell what track they were on. I managed to recognize two of the tracks--the last one was a Julius Brockington track that Soul Sides posted in March, and it is a great song. But the only reason I recognized it was that all four MCs were shouting out together, "you'd better hold on ... to this ... feelin' ... FREEDOM." When it was just one of them, skip it. What's he saying? Hell if I know. It was somewhat better when there was a long slow melody, but still conditions were decidedly subpar.

So there was yet a third attempted post; this one seemed good to go but my hosting isn't cooperating. If the problem can be sorted out you'll get a tune later today.
Friday, October 08, 2004:


The Coup -- Pimps
The Coup are a radical hip hop group made up of Boots Riley, Pam the Funkstress (the DJ), and (formerly) E-Roc. Kill My Landlord is a solid album that came out in 1993 when gangsta rap was big; it got a lot of critical praise and not much in the way of sales. Genocide and Juice is a better album that came out the next year, also got a lot of critical praise, and also didn't sell much. The Coup left their label and quite making music; E-Roc took off in search of greener pastures; their first two albums went out of print; Pam and Boots started making music again and have released two recent albums that aren't as good but are still in print.

This is a track from Genocide and Juice. The previous track, "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish," has the narrator going to Burger King, picking pockets along the way, flirting with the cashier to get a free meal, and meeting his cousin coming out of some high society meeting where he's working. He changes into his cousin's tux so he can go in and pick some more pockets--"they be thinkin' all black folks is resemblin'"--and hears all the businessmen and the mayor of his city talking about exploiting the poor and playing the media.

"Pimps" is the next track and is also satirical and sharp--David Rockefeller, J. Paul Getty, and Donald Trump stand around drinking martinis and trading raps about their wealth.

Honey, Where You Been So Long? posted "Kill My Landlord" last month, and Soul Sides posted "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish" in August. If you missed those, you missed something good ("Fat Cats" is my favorite Coup track).
Official site Poke around a bit, pick up "5 Million Ways To Kill a CEO"
[] Used and expensive.
ebay isn't much better.

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Thursday, October 07, 2004:

Truth Hides

Asian Dub Foundation -- Truth Hides
A track in honor of the recent debates, mostly because I'm reading this spotty ponderous text for class but the author recently got interesting when he brought up Karl Popper's "Worlds of Knowledge" theory and implied that people spend their time in deeply ideosyncratic personal worlds, unaware of or unable to perceive "objective" reality. (It sounds sensible enough to me--I've been puzzled enough by peoples' reactions to various things not to question it--and I'd like to think the theory also calls into question what we can know. But that's probably just my agnostic bias, and it's certainly more than I can expect a politician to admit.)

At any rate. Asian Dub Foundation don't want to get into discussions of objective reality or subjective personal worlds. The truth is out there, even if we can't always find it, and they're pissed when people hide it.

I was listening to the Asian Dub Foundation a few years ago when one of my friends asked if I had anything by them that wasn't dub. Um. No, I don't. Sorry. They do tend to focus on dub, though they cut it with rock and ambient and punk and Bengali and dancehall and whatever else they take a mind to. But it works.

The group hails from the U.K. and came about as a result of a project to teach Asian children the basics of music; the group is unabashedly political, anti-racist, and collectivist; they can get a little didactic at times, but I think they're great. (On that note ... tomorrow, a track from The Coup).

Official site (with downloads)
review of the band--their place in, and reaction to, British culture.
[] Behold the puzzlement of distribution systems--no US distribution for this disc.


I was thinking of posting Salif Keita's "Ananaming" tonight, but benn loxo du tàccu beat me to it. All right then. I should have known better; the man did say he was on Mali this week. So go give "Ananaming" a listen; it's very good. And check out everything else he's posted; they've all been winners.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004:

I ain't skerred ... ok, maybe a little

David Byrne -- Fear
David Byrne -- Main Title Theme (Last Emperor)
Over the last year David Byrne music has turned up on a number of mp3blogs I wouldn't expect to be interested in him. In hopes of keeping the Blogger Cred Police from kicking my door in, here's some trippy funk from the out of print In Spite of Wishing and Wanting. The disc is a soundtrack to a dance routine, and if you can't listen to this track and see why then you just might be The Squarest Person Alive.

And then here's something hip and cool and achingly beautiful from The Last Emperor soundtrack. Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto each composed half of the music; the soundtrack won both an Oscar and a Grammy. The film deals with the last emperor of pre-Communist China and the hardships he faces once communism is established; it won a number of Oscars, BAFTAs, and other awards but didn't make it onto the IMDb top 250.... Well, the IMDb list has been more consitently entertaining that most film lists I've seen (here's looking at you AFI, Maltin, Time Out, National Registry).
Discography. And Samples!
[]: The Last Emperor

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004:

cuts, crates, and scratches

Quannum -- Quannum World
UNKLE -- Be There (feat. Ian Brown)
Hop on over to moistworks and listen to Chicago Gangsters' "Gangster Boogie" before it's gone. And, at The Number One Songs in Heaven, there's an excellent track by Timi Yuro called "What's a Matter Baby."

There's a scene in Scratch where DJ Shadow goes into the basement of this music store he frequents, and it's this dimly lit place crowded with stacks of vinyl, some taller than he is. The stacks are packed in dense enough to make passages between them; the sheer volume of it is overwhelming: rich with potential and just waiting for some attentive person to come along and sort it all out. That could never be done--there's too much to listen to in a lifetime--but Shadow's there looking through it for hidden gems, quiet and respectful, knowing that each musician thought they had hit it big when they got that recording contract.

I started all that to talk about crates and how London Lee, Christopher Porter, and Oliver Wang are consistently killing it with tracks I'd never heard before but wish I'd grown up with. But now I want to post something by DJ Shadow.

Quannum is one of of the many side projects Shadow is involved in; the band's roster changes a bit but often features Lyrics Born, Blackalicious, Lifesavas, and Joyo Velarde. The lyrics on this track are swaggering, cock-sure, hilarious, and pointed: "Couldn't find a cut shaving"? Quite the difference from Shadow's point above; these men have made it and they damn well know it, and they take time to rip on some pop stars. "They be bringin' home the bacon and that validates the garbage they be makin', right?" "Wrong." ... The track is full of braggadocio: "I'll rip arms and have you clappin' with your shoulder blades," the man says, and I'll take him at his word.

Isaac from informs me that Jumbo from Lifesavas produced this track; and DJ Shadow produced the flipside, "Put Your Back Into It." So in a post about Shadow this doesn't really fit, but I like it enough to leave it in anyway....

"Be There" is a remix of "Unreal" off UNKLE's Psyence Fiction (what is it with DJs and science fiction?--notice all the aliens in Scratch). The mix has been tweaked a bit and the muffled electric guitar has been replaced with vocals by Ian Brown from the Stone Roses. I'm not sure what the lyrics mean but that doesn't distinguish it from most pop/rock songs; doesn't dig it but I find it oddly fascinating.

Anyway, if you haven't seen Scratch, you should. It's a good overview of turntablism, from "Rocket" to the late 90s; it's entertaining; it's informative; it's emotionally involving. It does have some omissions, particularly DJ Jazzy Jeff, but after watching all the bonuses, I think I see why. Maybe he's well-spoken in general, but in those interviews he's not., with track previews.
Quannum World Tour on iTunes for your Quannum. The acapellas are tempting.
[OOP Be There EP @]


Monday, October 04, 2004:

Outside / Aphex Twin

update: aurgasm informs me that the reason I can't find this CD (or even the song on a compilation) is that it's not, in fact, by Aphex Twin. I've changed the file name and the link below but left the rest of the entry as it's 2:00 a.m.; I have class tomorrow and no time to research Outside, whom I know nothing about; and I'd like to leave this bit of evidence to show both the strength & weakness of internet research. Anyway, thanks a million to aurgasm for solving that--it's been puzzling me for a few years now.

Outside -- To Forgive But Not Forget

Aphex Twin is the stage name for Richard D. James, a British electronic musician who began making a name for himself in the 1980s. His work ranges from acid techno to symphonic works with little discernible beat at all; his biggest hit was probably "windowlicker," whose video featured a number of women in bikinis, dancing with grotesquely distorted faces, James himself driving around with a computer-distorted mug. The music was good: weird, fun, and danceable, as are his remixes of various video game soundtracks such as "Power-pill Pac-Man" and "Tetris." That he can make such catchy tunes makes it all the more confounding when he releases albums so experimental that it's hard to find a footing to approach them from--but, obviously, musicians do the most inspired work pursuing whatever they find most interesting.

James is inclined to jettison anything about music he takes a mind to, including melody and rhythm or, in his remixes, everything about the original song. (His 26 Mixes for Cash famously included remixes of Nine Inch Nails songs that he had never heard; James couldn't resist adding that he didn't want to hear them, either). The man strikes me as nihilistic and pissed--in the American sense--very talented but also blunt to the point of unkindness.

So here's a slice of warm, friendly musical brilliance. I got this song on a strange but interesting mix CD a friend made me; apparently the album it's from (Mix) is out of print. doesn't have it; hasn't heard of it; hasn't either.

The track starts off melodic and unchallenging: a violin solo that must have been recorded in some empty high-ceilinged room, and is soon joined by programmed drums and a bass. Towards the end, it breaks down into a frantic mess that at first struck me as jarring and later struck me as perfect. The least you can say about the man's work is that it's consistently provocative.


Saturday, October 02, 2004:

And now for something completely different

Banco de Gaia -- Sinhala
Banco de Gaia is a British fellow named Toby Marks who's released a number of ambient/trance albums since the early 1990s. His site is a bit cagey about biography, making you select answers until you pick the right combination (London --> heavy metal --> Beatles in Portugal --> Maxwell House), but since Marks has at various times claimed that his stage name comes from Mussolini's gay lover and at others that it's from the most boring opera ever written (about a day at work), you might want to take that biography with a grain of salt. As for the name, personally I like to think it's just a wry or wistful reference to a very different kind of World Bank.

At any rate, "Sinhala" is a slow-building track, like much of Marks' work; it puts me in mind of the chugging steam engine on "Last Train to Lhasa"--steadily making its way up a mountain, all good things in due time, no sense rushing.

The track starts with a bit of looped electrical hum and crackle, joined by the barest melody, an echoey American voice buried in the mix talking about spirituality. It's thirty seconds in before the drums start; nearly a minute later the bass and a backbeat start to propel the song, a guitar beginning its dubbish punctuation. This song is not out to dazzle you, it's out to paint a picture of a strange and sedate world--one that's intriguing, dream-like, and totally foreign.

For some reason, reviewers on like to recommend that people put Marks' music on while driving. I've never tried it, but I wouldn't recommend it--the music is oddly hypnotizing, something I'd very much prefer to listen to when I'm not in a car interacting with other several-thousand-pound vehicles at 75mph. It's perfect for listening to at night, in the dark, when it's cold outside and you're snug under the blankets.
Official site (with RealAudio samples)


Friday, October 01, 2004:

Oscar Brown Jr.

Oscar Brown Jr. -- Dat Dere
Oscar Brown Jr. -- Brown Baby
John at The Tofu Hut has tipped me off to some amazing music since I first found the site, and one of the artists that's made me giddiest is Oscar Brown Jr. A jazz lyricist and vocalist, Brown wrote words to the jazz classics "Afro Blue," "Sleepy," "Watermelon Man," "Work Song," and "Dat Dere." Now that's ambition, not hubris; he pulls it off. Nina Simone covered some of his songs, and, as much as I like her work, I think Brown's versions are better.

Brown was born in 1926 and has kept himself busy: an actor, a playwright, a director, and a former communist ("too black for the reds," he said); he's still sharp and has stayed radical, I'll give him props for that. Here are two tracks about fatherhood from the middle of his first album Sin and Soul ... and Then Some.

The first is "Dat Dere," a snappy, humorous take on a childhood I must have shared: "Inquisitive child / But sometimes the questions get wild / Like 'Daddy, can I have that big elephant over there?'" As fun as the track is, it's also smart, alluding to parental anxiety and the need to prepare children for the world.

The second is "Brown Baby," a more serious number about the emergence of civil rights. This record came out in 1960, at the start of Brown's recording career, but it hasn't aged a bit. It doesn't hurt that the lyrics are touching and humane--dude wants to leave something better for his children! Now that's universal.

If these tracks move you at all, check out the disc. Best $10 I ever spent on music. (Best $10 I ever spent period was tempeh fried rice and a beer, but that's another story.)
[Oscar Brown Jr. -- Sin and Soul ... and Then Some]