The Beastie Boys

I don’t use the words groundbreaking or revolutionary very often, but I am going to with these guys.

I don’t use the words groundbreaking or revolutionary very often, but I am going to with these guys. The Beastie Boys, along with Run DMC, broke the mold for rap groups by including hard rock guitars into their sound. What made the Beasties unique though was their sometimes odd lyrics and funny stories they tell in the songs. Like their obsession with White Castle or the way Yav would just make up words to rhyme with the previous line. As a young Midwestern kid, it was something that I have never heard anything like before and I liked it.

License to Ill

license-to-ill-gatefold

I bought this tape soon after hearing Fight for Your Right on the radio. It was one of those tan cassette tapes and I listened to it mercilessly in my brand new ghetto blaster that I had just gotten for my tenth birthday. Of all the tapes I owned, I’m surprised this one survived. My brother and I would rap the songs on it, each of us taking one of the singers. In fact, we got so good at Paul Revere that we could actually perform the song without the music.

One last story about License to Ill. My friend A.J. from the neighborhood got to see them in concert when they went on tour for this album. For about 5 minutes, anyways. They were pumping up the crowd before their first song and let loose so much profanity in those first couple of minutes that his mom turned right around and marched him out of the arena. So, he was the luckiest guy in the neighborhood for just a short period.

No Sleep Til Brooklyn, this song rocks hard. It’s a parody they made about glam metal bands and the video is hilarious. One of the few videos from the 80’s that is actually good. Enjoy… (sorry, you’ll have to click the link, it isn’t showing up in the post right)

https://youtu.be/07Y0cy-nvAg

There’s some other really good stories about this album, like what you see in the mirror if you look at the album cover. You can find them on Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licensed_to_Ill

 

Paul’s Boutique

pauls-boutique

So, time moved on and musical interests changed. As a kid that happens very quickly. About three years later, my brother Tommy comes home from a friend’s house all excited and tells me about this new album he heard by the Beastie Boys. “The Beastie Boys?”, I say. “Those guys aren’t cool anymore”.  To this day, almost 30 years later, I STILL feel rotten about saying that, because he ended up not getting it and didn’t listen to it anymore. I admit, I was so wrong.

A good friend of mine, Larry, whom I met while I was working second shift at the GM factory set me straight about ten years later. He was an audiophile, much like myself and introduced me to all kinds of music that I had missed out on. You never know when or where you’re going to make great friends with similar interests. He told me a story about this album, where with all of the sampling of Beatles and other songs that’s done on it if it were done today it would cost several million dollars to make.

Read more here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul%27s_Boutique

This album was very deep with some awesome songs. Here’s Egg Man, which is very groovy baby.

Shake your Rump is another great track. Love the funky guitars in this one.

And finally, Hey Ladies, which is probably their biggest hit off this album. Totally sweet. the video for this song is totally inappropriate and totally ridiculous. My favorite part is the mariachi band saying “Hey Ladies”. Just crazy, which is exactly what you should be expecting from them by now.

Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got. These guys are one band that I’d like to expand my collection. Up next is The Beatles, probably my favorite band of all time.

Until next time, never stop listening.

D

 

Aware Michigan – The Compilation CD

One of my dreams as a teenager was to get in a band good enough to play gigs around Michigan. To be part of “The Scene”

 

I LOVE local music. These bands that are often times just as talented as major label performers, but that you can actually see live in small venues and even talk with after their show is over.

One of my dreams as a teenager was to get in a band that was good enough to play some gigs around Michigan. The clubs we’d walk past in East Lansing when spending the day out there seemed so mysterious. I’d been to concerts before, but these were different. You were up close with the musicians and really part of the music.

Well, my dream came true back at Michigan State when a friend I’d met, Isaac VanderSchuur, had invited me to play rhythm guitar in his band, The End. This kicked off a whirlwind of rock shows across the state, late night drives home, crashing on people’s couches, and most importantly meeting other bands when playing shows together.

I was actually part of the Michigan  music scene. Once I got past the “fan boy” awe of these guys and sat down to talk with them they were actually pretty down to earth people. They liked music like me and spent a lot of their time listening to it and playing it. They worked at a music store or guitar shop usually, regular blue collar dudes. Another reason to like local bands, they’re just like you and me. Regular people.

Aware Records (from Chicago) came out with a complication CD of the most popular bands around the state from this time (1997-1998). We didn’t make the cut obviously, but it was great to see our local heroes making it big. If you are interested, they still sell this CD on their website. Really big fan of Aware and the work they do with local bands. You’d be surprised how many big acts they found when they were unknowns.

http://awarerecords.com/discography.php

Nineteen Wheels – Colorado

Track 1 on the CD: Nineteen Wheels. These guys have the most polished sound of the group and the singer has a “rock star” voice. On a side note, most of the guys in this band worked at Music Manor in south Lansing and I bought several effects pedals from them. Colorado, good song.

 

Papa Vegas – Bombshell

These guys, along with The Verve Pipe and Fat Amy were our local heroes. They were the ones that really made it big from “the scene” and were great guys to boot. Papa Vegas was from the west side of the state (Grand Rapids area), so we didn’t get to know them, but their music is incredible.

Dorothy – Morning After

Another band we didn’t get to meet, but liked their music greatly. Dorothy just rocked out. They put out an incredible CD and then just kind of faded away. Some bands do that, unfortunately.

 

Fat Amy – Bourbon

This finally brings us to Fat Amy. These were OUR GUYS. I had hung out with the guitarist Mark on several occasions, once even showing up at some friends dorm late on a sunday to surprised them with a party. So many good times with this band. The singer, Bob Guiney, ended up being the most famous of all of them. You probably know him as Bachelor Bob, from the TV show The Bachelor. Fame comes in really weird ways sometimes.

Bachelor-Bob-Guiney

The good side of this is that it rekindled an interest in his old band and they were able to make a few come backs, which was great. Really miss these guys. To me they (along with The Verve Pipe) really stood for what local music was all about. Super talented local guys who were good people just trying to make a living doing what they love.

 

There are plenty of other great songs and bands on this album. I highly recommend checking it out. And really, I encourage you to go see some local music no matter where you are. These people need your support and encouragement. You may meet some really cool people and discover some unique music you really enjoy.

Never stop listening.

D

 

 

Audio Adrenaline

So what exactly is a Christian Artist? A musician that is a Christian? Not exactly…

So what exactly is a Christian Artist? A musician that is a Christian? Not exactly… According to Christian Music radio stations, a Christian Artist is an artist that is signed to a Christian Music record label. If you’re a “secular” musician, meaning signed to one of the more popular record labels, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian or not. You will NOT be getting air play on the “Christian” radio stations like K-LOVE or Air1.

Sound hypocritical? Well, if you don’t believe me, here is the history of the Gospel Music Industry on Wikipedia. This quote in particular, backs up my assertion:

“Christian music is sometimes cited as a “ghetto,” meaning that the majority of artists in the industry are pigeonholed to operate solely in it. These artists are isolated from the mainstream public, to Christian media, including radio, magazines, and book stores. For many this is a conscious choice, however others, not content to stay in an isolated industry segment, attempt to “cross over” and gain acceptance in the general market.”

This speaks to a larger issue that many have talked about in the church, which is treating your church like a spiritual bomb shelter. You are huddled together, only doing business with people in your church, hanging out only with people in your church, and attending only events hosted at your church. It’s very common, especially in today’s megachurches. I’ve heard several sermons addressing this problem, reminding what Jesus asked us to do, which is to leave our comfortable spaces and go out to meet other people who most likely don’t share our beliefs and to share the gospel with them.

Getting back to music, I was part of the praise and worship band when I attended Shoreline church in Austin, TX. We would play to crowds of between 2000 and 3000 people every weekend. It was an amazing experience to perform to crowds that size that were truly into the music.

One of the bands that came through on tour of the megachurches in our area was Audio Adrenaline, the band featured here. Up until that point, much of the Christian music I’d heard didn’t really speak to me. It was slow and boring to be honest. And then in comes these guys, guitars cranked and rocking out. Finally!! I didn’t have to “settle” in my listening anymore. After that I was able to find more bands that I enjoyed, like Casting Crowns, Hillsong United, and Toby Mac, but these guys were the first to really break the K-LOVE mold.

Is it hurting bands that only stay within the Christian Music “ghetto”? I would say no, because they get a ton of promotion and captive audiences that they normally wouldn’t get. Just don’t get mad when I call U2 “The Most Successful Christian Band of All Time”, because in my mind it matters whether you believe in God, not what label you’re signed to.

Here’s my tribute to Audio Adrenaline, a band that I think is great, no matter what their label.

Worldwide

audioA_worldwide

In my opinion, the best album these guys ever put out. It just rocks from the start and continues on with great songs from there. It was recorded in several locations, so it naturally has a variety of sound throughout the recording. That makes for a more pleasurable experience to my ears.

Worldwide (title track)

 

Another great song from this album. Leaving 99. It’s about sheep, but really about us.

Lift

A solid album with a great message, but a bit of a let down after Worldwide. It does have one of my favorite songs on it, Ocean Floor. Nice message about taking your sins as far as the East is from the West. It sounds so much like Oasis, but I don’t care. Great song.

 

I only have the two albums I bought at the concert, so there could be more good music out there. It might be worth a trip to youtube to see what’s new. A musician friend of mind told me a bit about the band, that basically they’ve been swapping out band members like you’d change out parts to a car lately. Just swap out somebody and keep on truckin’. Guess that’s cool, keeping the legacy alive.

Thanks for listening. Up next is a compilation that the end of the A’s. It shows my love for a local music scene that I was a part of for 3 wonderful years.

D

 

 

The Ataris

California surfer rock never sounded so good! Or you could use the official name: Pop Punk.

California surfer rock never sounded so good! Or you could use the official name: Pop Punk. You either like these guys or you don’t, there’s really no middle ground. I heard their cover of “Boys of Summer” on the radio several years back and was hooked. I love the singer’s voice and I like the straight ahead guitars and upbeat rhythm. Kind of a poor man’s Blink 182. And ironically, I don’t actually have any Blink 182 albums.

I prefer the lyrics in the The Ataris songs over Blink 182. More substance, it’s actually worth listening to IMO. The songs are about coming of age, heartbreak, and moving on, but they seem more genuine. I’m a sucker for “coming of age” movies like Juno, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Paper Towns, as my brother David pointed out to me a while back. Makes sense I’d identify with these songs. One bit of trivia, the lead singer who created this sound is actually originally from Anderson, Indiana. About as far from an ocean as you can be, but he moved there as soon as he could.

End is Forever

the-ataris-end is forever

I had more of their albums, but eventually sold off some after listening more than a few times. They were so cheap online, I just ordered them all at $1 each. These two made the final cut. End is Forever is their 3rd studio album and I feel they really hit their stride in this and the next one, So Long, Astoria.

This is the song that started it all for me: Boys of Summer. Is has their signature sound. Like I said above, either you like it or you don’t. I love it.

 

So Long, Astoria

theATARIS-So-Long-Astoria

A much more “complete” album than any they made before. The best songs are not covers, but ones they wrote themselves. I’ll highlight a few of my faves here.

The title track, So Long, Astoria. The guitars build a wonderful moving harmony through the chord changes.

I absolutely love this song. It’s beautiful. Plus it’s a break from their usual style. It’s a song about growing up without your dad. So sad, but beautiful.

 

Fiona Apple

Forget Barry White and Snorah Jones, if you were in college in the late 90’s, THIS is what you wanted on the stereo when your girlfriend came over.

Forget Barry White and Snorah Jones, if you were in college in the late 90’s, THIS is what you wanted on the stereo when your girlfriend came over.

Tidal

Fiona-Apple-Tidal

Fiona Apple hit the scene with a vengeance. Tidal was a slow, sensual experience, with provocative lyrics and a sound that hadn’t been heard in a years.  Her smokey voice and piano playing was mesmerizing, putting you in a sort of trance.

Her lyrics were very personal and she bared her soul on this album, putting it all out there. As a musician, that’s the only way you can be true to your art. In reading interviews with her, it seems like the rise to fame was too much for her to handle at times. The “Criminal” music video, for instance, when she was parading around in her underwear, was a very negative experience for her that she just wasn’t prepared to handle.

When you write music, you do it alone, just you, your instrument, and something to write on. But now when you’re instantly famous and performing these very private songs for the entire world it’s jarring. It’s a stark difference playing the songs under the bright lights and it’s no wonder that many musicians and performers put on airs to hide who they really are. Many are very private, introverted people, who need to put on a “rock star” persona to deal with it. Totally understandable.

Here is Slow Like Honey, which is a deep track off Tidal. Shadowboxer and Criminal were much bigger hits, but to me nothing can beat the emotion and passion of this song.

Hearing this song reminds me of some of the great ladies of the past and their music. Fiona reminds me a lot of Etta James with that same swing and sultry voice. At Last was the song my wife Julie and I danced to at our wedding. Compare this to the song you just heard above, the similarities are striking.

 When the Pawn…

when-the-pawn-504d50a3d7515

Every time I hear this album, intellectually I know it’s very good music, but it just doesn’t have the impact of Tidal. The songs are a bit more complex and they have more groove rather than the slow swing of the last album. I can’t be sure, but I think she was trying to get away from that sexy lounge singer vibe that was hard to perform to huge audiences.

Another thing about this album is that there’s much more electronic drums and synths in it. Again, it’s done very well, it’s just hard to transition from Tidal to this. I listened to this a second time a few days later by itself and it was a much more enjoyable experience. I recommend going that route.

Here’s a great song off the album, Fast As You Can. It’s a perfect example of this album. Very different, but still good.

And of course, Limp is a very cool song from that album as well.

According to Wikipedia, her career took a nosedive after this album, which also happens to have the third longest title in history (you can read it on the album cover). Hey, it happens. But for two albums she was on top of the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if she made a comeback sometime, because the talent is obviously there. Maybe she just found herself and got happy, no more inner turmoil to fuel all that songwriting. We can only hope.

Stay tuned, next episode we take a dramatic turn to something with straight ahead, rocking guitars.

D

 

 

 

Tori Amos

Tori Amos was famous for several things, typically associated with women’s rights and feminism. She’s also remembered for her stunning good looks and bottle red hair. The one thing that’s often forgotten was the actual music she performed.

Tori Amos was famous for several things, typically associated with women’s rights and feminism. She’s also remembered for her stunning good looks and bottle red hair. The one thing that’s often forgotten was the actual music she performed. Her early albums, covered in this post, were simply amazing. These were my favorites because it seemed like it was more about her, the piano, and her song writing. All the extra crap that got added into her later albums (synth, extra effects, etc.) just muddied down the mix and diluted the strong voice and piano playing that were so good in these ones.

Little Earthquakes

amos_earthquakes

When I first heard this in college it blew my mind. Thank you to Marcus Moore for introducing me. Never before had I heard such strong piano playing outside of classical music. It was almost like heavy metal piano at times it was so intense and then she would back off and play something so beautiful and soft moments later. This album does such a wonderful job of exploring the dynamic range of her instrument and voice. The songs build and release, lilting through a pretty passage and then crashing down in an intense crescendo, only to resolve again. Wonderful songwriting and musical production.

Crucify is probably the most popular song from this album, but I believe that Silent All These Years may have had the most social impact. A song about the hurts and pain of growing up in an abusive home. It’s sung from the child’s perspective and then the adult, which really is still the same child living inside. Very touching and impactful, great music video.

One of the very unique songs from this album is Happy Phantom. Looking forward to the afterlife? Well, if it’s as great as religion says it is, then we should all be looking forward to it, right? It should be a blast.  Right?

Crucify (CD single)

amos_crucify

I collected several of her singles. Some people love singles, some hate them. Before the internet really took off, this was the best way to distribute unreleased B-sides that wouldn’t make a full length album. So what do you think, are you a fan of CD singles or is it just annoying to collect them all?

Crucify was a fairly famous single in that Tori did versions of some very popular songs, such as Angie by the Rolling Stones and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Everyone went wild for the Teen Spirit remake, which I’m posting here. Have to admit, it has a very unique take on that song. If you’re going to do a cover, at least do it in your own style. If you don’t, you might as well sing in a tribute band.

Under the Pink

amos_under_pink

Her “mega popular” album, this is much like the previous one with a very expressive piano and vocals artfully mixed with complimentary instrumentation. The songs build and resolve at all the right places. One observation I made back in the day was that the guitar on these albums was only used to compliment the piano, mostly with bends and other distorted notes that were not possible to produce on a standard piano. That way, the driving rhythm of the chords was accented by the bends and swoops of the guitarist. You can tell there was a plan going in to this recording session as to what type of sound they wanted. Major props to her for doing this with a real guitar instead of a pitch bender wheel on a keyboard. No matter how good someone is with one of those, you can’t reproduce the vibrato and expressiveness of an electric guitar and the way an amplifier distorts and feeds back the notes.

I really enjoyed the first track, Pretty Good Year. Nice video, but I’m still not sure exactly what this song is about, even after all this time. This is a great example of the dynamic range a song can have. Without quiet, there is no loud and vice versa.

 

Cornflake Girl (CD single)

Tori_amos_cornflake_girl_us_cover

She writes a song about being a “Cornflake Girl” then gets mad that everyone calls her the Cornflake Girl? Yeah, that’s about a dumb as this video. An expressive dance routine centered around an old pickup truck… SMH. Great song though.

 

Talula (CD single)

amos-talula

This is probably my least favorite single out of the bunch. She was starting to venture into electronica and rave style remixes at this point and it really wasn’t my thing. I have to be honest here, part of why I didn’t sell off this single like I did some of her other albums was the cover. Wish I had kept a few of her other CDs and gotten rid of this one.

At one time I had more of her CDs, but sold a bunch around 2002. The direction she went into the electronic music genre never really spoke to me.  I have heard that her newer stuff is more like her older stuff, which means I should definitely check them out.

Hope you enjoyed this installment.

Up next, the Barry White of the late 90’s….  You’ll have to wait to find out who.

Alma College Choir

Alma College Choir – One of the things I loved about attending a small, liberal arts college was that it gave me the opportunity to do things a pre-med major couldn’t do at a regular Division I university.

This is the first of a few albums on this list that I actually perform on. I’ve never really been a fan of the name “Men’s Glee Club”. I prefer Men’s Choir or Men’s Chorus, it’s a bit less hokey and conveys the strength a group of trained men’s voices can attain. But, Glee Club is what it’s called, so I must deal with it.

One of the things I loved about attending a small, liberal arts college was that it gave me the opportunity to do things a pre-med major couldn’t do at a regular Division I university. For example, I played on the college basketball team for a bit (pre-season only), was a radio DJ on the Alma College radio station with my own show Saturday nights, and participated in the performing arts (classical guitar and glee club). I knew almost all my teachers. In fact, I spent a year as a teaching assistant for the Chemistry department and even gave a few of the pre-lab lectures. It was wonderful being able to have such a rich and diverse college experience.

Alma College has one of the best music programs in the state, despite being a small college. Dr. Nichols and Tony Patterson are two extremely talented guys, who have blessed the school with their passion for teaching for several decades. I went from being a rock and roll guy who could sing OK to someone who was actually pretty decent. It was thanks to their training and instruction that this transformation happened.

I get my rock and roll side from my dad, who is a drummer and played in my first few bands. But, for these CD’s it’s my mom who gets the credit. She gave me my folk and classical music influences with piano and guitar, so it is to her that these performances are dedicated.

In His Care

001

I was late to the game with joining glee club. My friends Marcus and Joe encouraged me to join after hearing me play guitar and sing at several open mics. Before that I didn’t think it was “cool” to be in choir, but it really was. We had a great time and fellas there’s nothing sexier to a lady than a guy in a tux, which is what we wore on stage. Lesson learned.

The one song that stands out to me on this CD is Loch Lomond. Alma, MI is known as Scotland, USA. They have their own tartan and have a bagpiper at every school event. Every year at graduation, the Alma College choir sings this song for the commencement ceremonies. The seniors in the choir sing the song with them in their caps and gowns before sitting in the audience. It is the senior’s final performance with the choir before they walk off into the crowd. I cry every time I hear this song, it brings back so many emotions and feelings from that time. Most of all, I just miss the friends and good times we had there.

NOTE: I put these videos together while watching the hockey game a few nights ago, so don’t be too hard on them 🙂 You can’t just find these songs on youtube, you need to post them yourself.

Shenendoah is another song performed by the combined choirs. I love this song, there’s so much longing and reflection. Perfect for looking back on your college days.

Beneath a Star

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I prefer this CD to the previous one, but not because I’m on it more. The reason is the song selection. I felt that this year (1996-97) the songs were stronger for the men and more pretty and complex for the women. The upbeat songs have more swing and don’t feel forced, the slow songs had more going on beneath the surface.

“Nu ar det Jul igen” is my favorite song off this album and it’s sung by the girls. It’s a Danish Christmas song and is very pretty with a nice, upbeat rhythm.

The lyrics are “Yuletide is here again, O Yuletide is here again, We’ll dance and celebrate ’til Easter. Then when it’s Eastertime we’ll dance and celebrate til Yuletide.” Gotta love their positive attitude.

And finally, the grand finale, Do You Hear What I Hear? Like the last song, it was from our Christmas concert, which was our biggest every year. There’s just something special about the holidays. This song has been done by almost every choir, but I like our version. The Heritage Center acoustics are interesting because it’s a medium sized theater, but it feels smaller, like you’re right there in front of the performers. You can hear that on the recording.


Thanks for coming with me on my walk down memory lane. In my next post, I will be switching gears and covering the works of Tori Amos. Until then, hope you have a great week.

D