Monday, March 5, 2012

Musical Musings #1 - Down Home Jazz and Groovy Hospitality

Welcome to the first edition of T.A.A.'s Musical Musings, where every Monday I'll talk about my second love after writing fiction, music, give a review of various music albums, and profile an artist I love and why.

Now since this is the debut edition of Musical Musings, I want to start with two albums that speak to two parts of myself, the "Golden Oldie Lover Under 30" part of me, and the "Modern Eclectic Rebel, again, under 30" part of me. Sometimes at odds. But are equally vital pieces to myself.

Let's begin with a compilation of one of the most influential music duos in my life, and to give you a hint, they're not anyone on the current top charts, and have been dead nearly (if not over) three decades.

Give up? It's The Carpenters - Singles (1969-1981)

(Click the Album Picture to find it on Amazon)

If you're tired of songs about bashing politicians, glorifying gender inequality,shallow lyrics and perverse sexual escapades, stay with this blog post.

I first heard a Carpenter's song when I was eight years old on one of those Time Life CD collection commercials (For those born after the 90s, this was pre-1st gen iPod (Now called Classic) and iTunes was still a technological pipe dream).

But it wasn't until my early teens that I bought a copy of their most well known singles that spanned a wide range when they were on top in their career, before things got "Heavy and Trippy" as it might be described in the culture at the time.

Instead of listening to "My Generation's music", which was dense with hip hop and heavy metal stuff that was simply not my thing, often it was the ballads and show tunes of old that did it for me, when it wasn't Mozart and Beethoven (Yeah, I was not a mainstream kid, and proud of it, just wish it wasn't as lonely).

Back to the point, this album a great primer for newbies to the groovy, yet timeless feel of a group that may sound tame compared to the envelopes being pushed and pretty much torn to shreds today, turned many heads in their prime.

In one sense, you could say they were one of the many musical counterparts to writers like Judy Blume Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, or Ellen Hopkins who are no strangers to the banning and censorship challenges relating to their books,

Many of my favorite songs are in this complication, most notably are-

"Rainy Days and Mondays"

For being "The most hated day in the week" we got one heck of a righteous song for it.

"Goodbye to Love"

I guess you could call it "The love song for people who've had it with love songs" subversive kind of thing. But like many of the more serious matured tunes, it has a tinge of hope, which I certainly appreciate.

"It's Going To Take Some Time"

For impatient folks like me, this is a life mantra in addition to being a bang-up song.

"Those Good Old Dreams"

I'll wager you a cheesecake that you can't help wanting sing along to this one, even if you aren't musically inclined.


If you, or your kids/grandkids were raised on Sesame Street, you'll have heard this song before, but hearing Karen's take on it brings a more timeless feel to it, not that it needed any extra help there, but these days you flaunt whatever you can, right?

"All You Get From Love Is A Love Song"

In that same viral "Love song for folks who've had it with love song" vibe, but clearly more overtly cheeky and humorous than the more subtle and open-ended "Goodbye To Love."

Karen's vocals bring it all home, it's strong, while retaining that uniquely feminine pitch, powerful without beating you over the head. Sharp lyrics that aren't pretentious.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most enjoyable overall, Carpenters "Singles (1969-1981)" compilation gets a solid 9.

For something more modern, let's fast forward to the 21st century for my second pick for this week, a jazz

album by Catherine Russel titled "Inside This Heart of Mine."

(Click the Album Picture to find it on Amazon)

Now this may at first sound like the old-school lounge jazz your parents/grandparents/great-grandparents even, worshiped as their "Non-Gospel" Gospel, if you get my meaning. But these songs have a faster pace than some of the hardcore 1920s and 1930s Jazz, but don't sacrifice the charm, cheek, or experimentation this style of music was born with. The title song is a strong representation of what I mean.

Other songs worth noting-

"All the Cats Join In"

This is the kind of song that makes you want to open your own Honky Tonk. Well, me anyway.

"We The People"

Probably the only overtly politically inspired song I not only love, but want to dance to!

"Quiet Whiskey"

Only the world of Jazz can make drunks and family dysfunction sound almost spiritual, in a comedic sense, mind you.

This is Catherine's third album and in my opinion, one of her best, and one of the few albums where I feel nearly all the songs are equally well composed and performed.

Her fourth album, Strictly Romancin', came out around Valentine's Day this year, but this a great place to start if you've not heard Catherine Russell previous two albums, Cat or Sentimental Streak (Despite the name, don't think after-school special meets The Grande Ole Opry) it's the good, non-cheesy sentimental.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most enjoyable overall, Catherine Russell's "Inside This Heart of Mine" earns a 10.

That's it for Musical Musings, so until next time, this hep rat has left the cheese shop.

1 comment:

  1. I like this addition to the blog, Taurean. Very fun discovering albums I lost along the way.