Tag Archives: bill withers

#FridayFinds: Beastie Boys Flashbacks and Nuovo Neapolitan Music

photos courtesy: ourstage.com, bostoniano.info, nbc.com, legacyrecordings.com
photos courtesy: ourstage.com, bostoniano.info, nbc.com, legacyrecordings.com

The last few weeks have I’ve been terrible about putting up new stories here, and I feel terrible about it. I talk a lot about keeping positive, pressing on, and pressing through, and yet I still have trouble committing to a few hours a week to share some of my favorite music with you.

It’s a fresh new season and I’m ready to turn over a new leaf. And it all starts with this new segment I’m calling #FridayFinds, a space where I can share some of the excellent odds and ends I’ve discovered over the last few days that didn’t fit elsewhere in the week’s entries.

And so, without anymore overture… #FridayFinds

1. Rediscovering An Old Favorite Album

I had not been under the swoon of adolescence long when I bought the Beastie Boys’ record Hello Nasty at the local Borders Books and Music. The entire duration of the trip home from the store I must have turned the CD cover over and over in my hands, marveling at the artwork– the sight of the three MCs literally “packed like sardines in a tin” on the cover and the outer space themes and motifs that carried o’er the rest of the carefully folded, biodegradable cover. I felt much like a young father bringing a young babe home from the hospital, my heart all aflutter with feelings of excitement and pride coupled with nervousness and anxiousness as I brought it inside, up to my room, and laid it down on the bed of my Aiwa 3-CD stereo.

It wasn’t my first introduction to their stuff, having heard whiffs of their work on local rock radio, but it was definitely my first formal introduction to the larger, more complex arc of their oeuvre. And I ate it up. The sheer amount of material on the record was impressive to my formative mind that had until then not seen so many tracks on cassette or CD (21—nay, 22 tracks!). And all those samples, intros, and outros so meticulously sampled and spliced to create a masterful cacophony of cool. It was with me throughout middle school, high school, and on through college.

And then, at some point, it disappeared from my library. Never to be seen again. Even though it was still available to me on my computer, it was a crushing blow.

Then this week I happened to see it again as I was browsing the stacks at the local Newbury Comics. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular that day, but then that’s when the best things happen– when you least expect it.

And it’s still just as good as I remembered it. I’d even wager it’s gotten better with the time that’s passed since I last listened. One thing’s for sure: I definitely get a lot more of the references now. And for all their playful and gonzo antics lyrically and otherwise throughout the album there’re some particularly deep and poignant moments as well. It’s the album of a band confidently hitting their stride.

2. Making Musical Connections in Rather Unlikely Places

I’ve never thought of asking the tellers at the bank for music recommendations, but I might start doing so after a trip to my local branch the other day. I’d gone to make a deposit, not to mention take a much needed break from work with a midday stroll around the neighborhood. Over time the guys at the bank have gotten to know me, and although I really shouldn’t be surprised by this since it’s probably part of their job to be personable and friendly, considering the number of people they must see day in and day and the fact that I come by so infrequently, it’s worth mentioning that they’re really good at it. Really, really good.

For example they know that I not only play guitar but also that I play guitar every so often at a restaurant nearby. Whereas on other occasions I might have made my deposit and left, this time around I stayed and chatted with the 3 tellers behind the counter about music and culture. Which brought us to sharing stories of time spent abroad; which brought us to sharing our favorite folk music; which led us to the shores of Italy and the Neapolitan music tradition, and which led one of the tellers, Victor, to recommend this nouveau Neapolitan music band out of Boston called Newpoli. You don’t have to understand the music, Victor said, to know that the stories in the song are crafted from only the most delicate but deliberate language. When the protagonist is in love, feels betrayed, or even makes a simple observation on the transient nature of life– you know it’s the real deal.

Amazing how in just thirty minutes we were able to travel halfway around the world, and all it required was a quick walk down the street from my office. Music is powerful stuff.

3. Finding New Ways To Discover Music

It was just a simple little NPR Music Spring Survey, nothing major or earth shattering. Little did I know that one simple question would alter the way I listened to music. Forever. Or, at least, for a few weeks.

When I got to the question about where I usually go to find out about new music, I noted that I was familiar with every source it mentioned. With one exception: Stitcher. It’s an online, made-for-mobile emporium of radio shows and podcasts that lets you make playlists of thoses shows. No sooner had I started exploring than I fell in love. In addition to the shows I knew I loved– All Songs Considered, Alt. Latino, and WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, i found some awesome new ones too from their impressive library including the New York Times Popcast, KQED’s Noise Pop Podcast, and non-music centered gems like WTF with Marc Maron and Go Fork Yourself With Andrew Zimmern. If you’ve been on the fence about downloading podcasts before like I was, this is definitely a great way to get familiar with the medium in a way that keeps things organized and leaves your iTunes uncluttered.

And check out Marc Maron’s recent interview with Jason Isbell. It paints a colorful version of modern southern rock history.

4. Centering Idea of the Week: Keep Your Promises

Never have I been more appreciative of Elvis impersonators. Well, I suppose not all of them, just this guy, a high school teacher in Oklahoma by the name of Frank Cooper. He’s as charismatic a teacher as ever I’ve seen, and he does a really, really good Elvis impression, not from time to time, but for every day of Elvis’s birthday month. To do this you’d have to be wildly courageous, and he’d have to decide a long time ago that if he was going to do this, he was going to have to commit to it. And he does.

And his motto: Keep Your Promises. It’s a wonderful window into how he’s able to carry out this philosophy. If you say you’re going to do something- do it. Make it so. Make it happen. Deliver. And I think being humble is part of that too. Because you’re going to have your share of troubles. You’re going to make mistakes, get of track, even loose sight of the goal from time to time. But carry on and follow through.

5. Song of the Week: Bill Withers – Lovely Day

I’ve had it with this cold weather. I want weather that, like this song, makes me want to do nothing more than take a leisurely walk in a vibrant, green garden or lay around all day in the sun like a contented little puppy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this song’ll keep you feeling fresh and clean all week long, which isn’t to say it’s any substitute for a good ol’ fashioned shower. Practice good hygiene y’all.

And have a great weekend!

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Monday Mixtape: ‘Tis the Season for Ballads and Slowjams

love - it's right in front of you
it’s right in front of you.

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but love is always in the air. At the very least it smells better than the old snow and rock salt combination that’s been so prolific these last few days and weeks. Just like with any other special occasion  Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time to celebrate love and appreciation for someone else. It’s something to be acted upon often and appreciated always.

When words fail, as they conveniently seem to do when you’re saddling up close with that special someone, music has a remarkable way of filling in the gaps and saying it all for you. It doesn’t really require a lot of breath to say the “right” thing anyhow. A few lines will do it.

With this in mind, here are a few songs to help you carry that Valentine’s Day flavor throughout the week and feed into the moments that come after, each song’s individual merits described… in 5 lines or less.

1. Bill Withers – Lovely Day

Timeless, thy name is surely Bill Withers. This breezy ballad has the power to transform even the most mundane task into the most euphoric and blissful experience of one’s waking hours. Trust me. You will never look at shoveling the driveway or cleaning the bathroom the same way after giving this song permanent residency on your daily chores playlist. Go forth in good spirits.

2. John Splithoff – Love Affair

And after the working day’s done… a helpful, healthy little attitude adjustment. Something to use while you’re fluffing the pillows, lighting the candles, creating the after-hours ambience, and setting the mood for an intimate little evening (while maintaining some pep in your step). Have some fun, go all out, and put it all on the tab of this up-and-coming music maker’s debonaire baritone. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Tedeschi Trucks Band – That Did It

No denying it: TTB does a phenomenal job with their cover of the sultry 60s blues/soul classic, selling it on every possible level, from horns to high hats, guitar licks and tantalizing vocal tricks. This one goes out as much to the single people as it does to those non-single people… and perhaps even more so. It shivers and shakes, beckons– but never begs– you to get good and close so you can know it’s every last breath. It clocks in at just under 8 minutes, which might be just enough for some. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting more.

4. Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, and Mr. Green is the genuine article when it comes to the genre of soulful love songs and slowjams. This one hits all the quintessential bases (not to mention high notes): an airy, heavenly high tenor and falsetto accompanied by a faithful, complimentary cacophony of horns, backing female vocals, and groovin’, happ’nin’ beat. This puts the delicious strawberry jam topper on your three-day weekend toast of wholesome wheat goodness. Play on, Mr. Green, play on.

5. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Slow Down Love

Days get hectic, people get crazy. Put this one on and do as the lady says. Slow it down, keep it cool, count your blessings, and reconnect with what really matters: making time for intimate moments with the ones you love. The rest of the world can wait. Get yourself back in the moment you’re in right now.

Now doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that feel right?

photo by Robert Egger