Friday, January 21, 2005

Lotus Friday Catbloggin' in Bloom


The king and his bodyguard.

Sorry for the extra light blogging week (and, of course, by "extra light" I mean non-existent). It's been a little crazy. The final line of this particular novel, however, is that, at long last, I have a job offer. Assuming Company B doesn't come through with a better offer pronto, I start with Company A on the 31st. This new job will require me to wake up at 5:00 am (at the latest) every day, and I am not a morning person (see time stamp below). But it's a paycheck and the bennies are rather spectacular.

Regular Christmas tune posting should resume shortly, and once I have my internal clock set properly to my future work environment, posting will probably start happening in the early to mid-evenings. No more wee-hour posting of Jingle Cats for me. No sir.

Speaking of the kitties, this week's Kitty Treat is exceptional, in my opinion. Grab it (courtesy of Better Propaganda). For comments readers, as usual.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Buggy Friday Catbloggin'


Conrad peeks out the window behind "his" window shade (obviously).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ochre's Electric Atari Bells



Jingle Bells - Ochre
Album: A Very Unschooled Christmas

Buy it!

Think: You've somehow snuck an Atari 5200 console (and a TV) into Disneyworld and you're playing it while you watch the Electric Light Parade (listen: disc 2, track 9) on Christmas Eve. That is Ochre's "Jingle Bells." Right on!

This disc is available from the fine folks at CDBaby (much love to those guys). Ochre has some OGG downloads you should check out over at his site, as well as one song on the "SAMPLE + HOLD" compilation over at iTunes*.

*Which is still not providing me with timely links.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Double Links

No, I don't know why the links to the left are doubled up suddenly. It appears to be a Blogger software problem. They're in there only once in the template code. I swear. If I get a chance I'll try to do a little tweaking and rebuilding to see if I can make the problem go away.

Mckay & Murawski on a Northbound Train



I Know You Rider - Mark McKay & Scott Murawski
Album: Ain't No Grave: A Tribute to Traditional & Public Domain Songs

Buy it!

Resolution January continues with a bit of restlessness. Travel as a means of change is a trope as old as the hills. People have been hopping on trains, buses, planes, wagons, and their feet to escape their troubles ever since agrarian societies started telling them to stay put for the good of the community. The itch to go seems hard-wired in us. Words and music seem particularly enamored of the train for cultural reasons too numerous to recount, but due, at least in part, to the unique convergence of technological revolution and intimacy that the train represents. The rails revolutionized the way people thought about mobility and came, in fact, to symbolize mobility and freedom, but unlike the later air travel revolution, the train was an intimate affair... intimate with your fellow travelers and intimate with the land. The length of a journey by train forced you to set up temporary home with strangers, and most unlike air travel, you watched every mile, every tree, every road, every silo and hill, as it passed. You were intimately connected with distance, time, and humanity on a train. It's no wonder the human yearning to move and go is so achingly expressed through train travel.

McKay and Murawski's version of "I Know You Rider" (a traditional tune off the remarkable compilation of such, "Ain't No Grave"), for all its jam band bombast, is actually a lot more subtle about it's train-iness than most other train-related songs. There are no obvious train whistle effects, no telegraphed here's the part where I make my guitar sound like the clack-clack of train tracks. The feeling normally generated by such trickery (and it can be done quite well) is unmistakably there nonetheless. The sloppy licks are restless and the wailing guitar is distant and by turns breathy and piercing, like the far off whistle of a passing train. When the inevitable chugging rhythm makes an appearance, it does so in a distinctly understated way (for a train) as it builds to the climax in the first lyrical appearance of the "northbound train."

Interestingly, there are a number of different versions of lyrics for this traditional song, and this one (that performed by the Grateful Dead) is the only one that seems to emphasize the generalized restlessness of the urge to travel in search of something better. The others, (e.g., Janis Joplin) emphasize the story of a failed (or troubled) relationship. In fact, nowhere else but in the Dead and Hot Tuna versions is there even a train. Bluegrasslyrics.com (a truly invaluable resource) is just "going down the road." These differences yield very different songs.

If you're a fan of traditional music, or just interesting music, you really must pick up this disc. Listed as one of the top albums of 2003 by RollingStone.com's Meredith Ochs, who also picked the title track as one of the top songs of the year, this album lives up to its (not-nearly-enough) hype. You can pick it up at Amazon.

Mark McKay also covers "Fatal Wound" on the Uncle Tupelo tribute album "For Anyone That's Listening," available on iTunes* or Amazon. You can visit Mark McKay at his site, and Scott Murawski at the site of his band, Max Creek.

Happy travels.

*iTunes is still being stingy with the link-generating process. Sorry. You'll have to search for it.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Ming & FS Shimmer



Snowflakes Falling (Movement III) - Ming & FS
Album: Christmas Eclectic
Buy it!

I had a hard time choosing just one song from this album. This disc, purchased on a whim, was one of the nicest surprises of the past year's finds. If you don't like the whole electronic music genre, this may do nothing for you, but if you do, this is really worth picking up. In the end, I ended up choosing this particular song just out of sheer limbic pleasure. "Snowflakes Falling (Movement III)" by Ming & FS is a chill-out joy, layered with contrasts and a beguiling spookiness. A delicate piano and a light tick-tocking beat give way to a swelling children's choir, who in turn give way to a drum and bass line, around which the choir echoes and swirls lightly like ghosts. Before bringing us back home, they layer in an eerie but gorgeous falling note sequence that reminds me a bit of "Tubular Bells" (without the whole possessed head-spinning thing). It grabs you by your beating heart and takes you, Peter Pan-style, on a flight through an icy moonlit night. It simply shimmers.

You can pick this CD up at CDBaby or at iTunes (link coming as soon as iTunes forwards it to me). Ming & FS also have a number of other things available at iTunes (link coming), as well as several mp3 downloads at their own site.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Friday Catbloggin' Heaven


Hemingway, Master of the Sink


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Better British Teletubby Things



Merry Xmas Everybody - Tweenies
Album: The Christmas Album
Buy it!

The Tweenies are sort of like older Teletubbies on speed... with a British accent. And they're pretty much taking over the world, one arena at a time. But, see, here's the thing: for a "kids'" song, this thing really... uh... rocks! I mean, seriously! It helps to start with good material, and the Slade original "Merry Christmas Everybody" has always been a favorite, but this thing will force your booty to bounce. Go ahead. Try it. See if you don't wiggle.

You can pick this album up at Amazon, or download it at the iTunes music store.



Better Things - Fountains of Wayne
Album: This Is Where I Belong (Songs of Ray Davies and the Kinks)
Buy it!

I'm going to gush a little bit, and I don't care if Fountains of Wayne have become radio darlings and aren't "cool" anymore (which is an indie progression that has always irritated me, anyway): I love this song. This is a tremendous cover of a tremendous tune (and one of the highlights of this Kinks/Davies tribute album). At the risk of appearing completely self-centered, this song actually helped me deal with a close friend's brush with a major round of adversity. As many people do when going through tough times, this person was engaged in a push-pull act with his friends that left many of us increasingly hurt and angry and struggling to find ways to help him. It became very difficult to express how I felt about him and what I wished for him. "Better Things" invariably soothed my nerves and reminded me what the struggle was about. I never did share the song, itself, with him, though. So, hey Leo, here you go (now it's my turn):

Here's wishing you the bluest skies, hoping something better comes tomorrow,
Hoping all the verses rhyme, and the very best of choruses
To follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on their way.
You can get this at Amazon or at the iTunes music store.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Annoying Music



Do You See What I See? - John "Bowtie" Barstow
Album: The Annoying Music Show's The Annoying Music Show Holiday CD
Buy it!

The picture above is not of John "Bowtie" Barstow. I have been unable to locate a picture of Mr. Barstow, as he seems to only exist in the general vicinity of Jim Nayder, the creator and host of NPR's The Annoying Music Show. They're not the same guy, mind you. But I can't seem to dig up anything on Barstow other than that he keeps showing up on Nayder's compilations. And he can't sing. At all. This rendition of "Do You See What I See" in particular kills me. The best part, though, comes about a minute into the song when someone (Nayder, presumably) drops in a brief commentary, right about the time when you are, yourself, thinking, "Sweet Lord!" I fall out of my chair every time (sometimes not even metaphorically).

The Annoying Music Show's The Annoying Music Show Holiday CD is not just a Christmas album, by the way. When they say "holiday," they mean that in the loosest possible way. There's even a Columbus Day song on this thing. You can pick this up at the NPR store. You can also visit Nayder's personal site, as well as the AMS page at WBEZ Chicago, from whence the show originates.



Something to Think About: Change - Space Ghost, Brak, Zorak
Album: Space Ghost's Surf & Turf
Buy it!

Resolution January careens from the sublime to the stupid (but delightfully so) with this nugget from the Space Ghost crew. This stuff actually originated not from the long-running(-ish) Space Ghost: Coast to Coast show, but from the (alas) short-lived offshoot, Cartoon Planet. Cartoon Planet was a fever dream, stream of consciousness, acid trip of a show that consisted of largely non-sensical animated sketches, songs, and the occasional live-action vignette of a beer-gutted dude in a Space Ghost costume (AKA Andy Merrill, one of the show's creators) being chased by a goat or a donkey or somesuch other thing. Pure genius. This particular track from the Surf & Turf album is a short meditation on the idea of "change."

Neither Amazon nor the Cartoon Network Adult Swim store stock this album anymore, but you can get it used over at Half.com.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Amazing Grace - Judy Collins

I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, but in combing through my 14,000 mp3s, I'm finding that the vast majority of the songs about transformation, redemption, forgiveness, and new beginnings are country, folk, or (obviously) gospel. Go figure!



Amazing Grace - Judy Collins
Album: Whales & Nightingales
Buy it!

I'm kicking off Resolution January with this classic because there simply aren't many more powerful musical statements of personal revolution. The lyrics are, of course, overtly Christian (or, at least, overtly religious), but I don't think you need to be Christian or even religious to appreciate the sentiment. While theologically unsound (if you're of that persuasion), grace can come from any number of places, including within. When you have been blind and suddenly find that you can see, the sublime vastness of such a transformation is a fundamentally human experience.

Judy Collins, the songstress/activist with the doe-eyes of a Disney character, charted with this tune in the early 1970s. Recorded in St. Paul's Chapel in New York, it begins in a haunting a capella, Collins' voice echoing off the walls of the cathedral. Once she's joined by the choir, the song takes on a swelling and ragged feel, as if you were sitting in the front row, listening to 100 individual voices missing their cues ever so slightly, but coming together to produce a moment of beautiful imperfection. Lovely. It almost makes up for the fact that Ms. Collins is responsible for my least favorite song of all time, Send In the Clowns (shudder).

You can pick this up at Amazon, at Judy Collins' own site, or from the iTunes music store.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

What a Year for a New Year

Well, so here it is. Another new year. A nice round-figured one at that. I hope everyone got home safely and well-kissed and well-champagned.

For the month of January, in addition to the Christmas tunes, I'll be focusing on songs of transformation, change, redemption, forgiveness, new beginnings, and the odd goodbye. They're not strictly Christmas tunes as such, but they are apropos of the most introspective of all months, and so there it is.

As for me, I'd like to try Largehearted Boy's 2004 idea: a book a week for 52 weeks. First up: a book I borrowed from someone too long ago, "Politics on the Couch: Citizenship and the Internal Life" by Andrew Samuels.



What A Year For A New Year - Dan Wilson
Album: Maybe This Christmas
Buy it!

Truly one of the most beautiful of the post-holiday, New Year's genre. If 2004 has been a difficult year for you (as it certainly has been for me), this will resonate with you as if your inner cello were singing low and sweetly. Go visit Dan Wilson.



After New Year's Eve - The Heartbeats
Album: Doo Wop Christmas
Buy it!

Here's hoping this is how your January 1 is shaping up. Squeeze the nearest loved one.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Friday Catbloggin' With Our Borracho Amigos


Conrad surveys the wreckage.
Conrad has resolved to shred more furniture in 2005.



Auld Lang Syne - The Cucumbers
Album: Ho Ho Ho Spice
Buy it!

Fun fun fun. This version is actually off of one of screenwriter and infamous Christmas music collector Eddie G.'s holiday compilations (thus the weird little Barbie and Ken moment tacked onto the end), but if you're not lucky enough to have one of those hanging around, I suggest getting this tune (sans Barbie) on a charity compilation called Ho Ho Ho Spice. Ho Ho Ho Spice is a hospice awareness project, and at 15.98 at CDBaby.com, this double-CD, 49-track compilation is an unbelievable bargain. Feel good in your heart and your ears. The Cucumbers appear to have numerous sites out there, so feel free to visit any or all of them.



Auld Lang Syne - Tingstad & Rumbel
Album: The Gift
Buy it!

This album has long been a favorite of both mine and my mom's. It's pretty. It's relaxing. It's equally suitable for wrapping gifts or sipping wine. It won't scare cats or old people (unlike many of my holiday faves). You can pick this up at Amazon or download it at iTunes. By the way, I can say from experience that "The Gift" does, in fact, make an excellent gift. Tingstad & Rumbel have an official site, and it's chock full o' goodies, including rare unreleased audio. They have a long and lovely discography. Show them some love by buying some of it and playing it for your cats and grandparents. Trivial fact of the day: I briefly dated one of the producers for their label, Narada. I didn't know this until he was over at my apartment one day and started pulling my CDs out and showing me his name. When you don't even know your Significant Other is producing the albums you're buying, that's a pretty good clue that your relationship is doomed.



Auld Lang Syne - Esquivel
Album: Merry Xmas From the Space Age Bachelor Pad
Buy it!

"Thanks so much for coming. Muchas gracias. It's been my pleasure to host this holiday happening. I hope you have a wonderful time. Don't be a stranger. Stop by again. Well, I must attend to getting a space shuttle to get some of our borracho amigos on a safe journey home. May you have a fabulous and festive holiday season. Until next time, adios!"

Ah, Esquivel. I do love you so.

Take care of sus amigos borrachos, y'all. Give the shuttle keys to the keymaster. Catch you on the flip side.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Aled Jones, Maggie Sansone, Kemper Crabb



Still, Still, Still - Aled Jones
Album: The Christmas Album
Buy it!

Aled Jones was a Welsh child-soprano phenom in the 80s. Now the boy wonder is all grown up and doing theatre and recording albums in a voice not quite as high, but just as sweet. You can buy this album at Amazon and chat about Aled at the official Aled Jones Forum at his site.



Nowell, Nowell/Tidings True/Riu, Riu, Chiu - Maggie Sansone
Album: Ancient Noels
Buy it!

Maggie Sansone is the founder and CEO of Maggie's Music, a label featuring Celtic and ancient music. She's also a top-notch hammered dulcimer player and instructor. Her album, Ancient Noels, was honored as a finalist for the Association for Independent Music's INDIE award (the AFIM, sadly, has folded after 32 years of serving the indie music community). If you live in the Maryland area, you can check her schedule for an upcoming performance. Do the label a favor and order the album directly from them. Amazon makes enough money already.



Good King Wenceslaus - Kemper Crabb
Album: Midieval Christmas
Buy it!

Kemper Crabb, though he's recorded some lovely midieval music, is a bit of a Renaissance man. An Episcopal priest, Kemper also teaches, writes, and has played in a string of progressive and folk rock bands since the 1970s. You can read his interesting bio and listen to more of his music (including the entire Midieval Christmas album) at his bio page over at Fever Dream Records. You can buy the whole album in MP3 form at Fever Dream, or get the old-fashioned CD at Amazon.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Frosty Friday Catbloggin'



Two frosty treats for you today, the first in honor of Friday Catbloggin' and in honor of the greatest Christmas music site on the Internets.

Christmas Litter - Noah Simon
Album: (none)

This semi-exclusive was an answering machine message left for Brad (aka The King of Jingaling) by his friend Noah. The King of Jingaling runs the greatest of all Christmas music sites, FaLaLaLaLa.com. If you haven't been hanging out over there over the last month, you've really been missing out on a musical feast. Get your butt over there today and pick up the table scraps at least. You won't be sorry.



Frosty the Snowman - Leon Redbone (with Dr. John)
Album: Christmas Island
Buy it!

The second offering today is a special request by someone in e-mail. In the spirit of the season, I won't hold the fact that he's a Buckeye against him. Here ya go, dude. Merry Christmas! Don't forget to visit LeonRedbone.com and go buy the whole album at Amazon. Not available on iTunes, alas.

Tomorrow, three sweet and pretty and thoroughly nice treats for your Christmas enjoyment.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Duotang & Prince and The Revolution

Tunes now, words later... gotta run.



Another Lonely Christmas - Prince & The Revolution
Album: The Hits/The B-Sides
Buy it!




Old Man Davie's Christmas Kingdom - Duotang
Album: A Team Mint Xmas 2
Buy it!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Storyteller Slam (Liberace v. Cypress Hill v. Stan Freberg)

I'm sick as a dog, so short on words. I offer you three very different versions of the story, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (warning: the last one is naughty but bleeped):



'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Liberace
Album: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Buy it!




'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Stan Freberg
Album: Christmas Kisses
Buy it!




'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Cypress Hill
Album: KROQ 2001 Swallow My Eggnog
Buy it!