Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lesley Gore - "You Don't Own Me" (the song remains the same)

I should acknowledge the recent passing of Lesley Gore.  Best known for popular but fluffy songs like "It's My Party", "Judy's Turn to Cry", and "She's A Fool", Lesley made her lasting mark on music with the feminist anthem "You Don't Own Me", the 2nd single from her 1964 LP "Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts".  Even though all of these songs came out in 1963 and 1964, they still sound like the 1950s -- before the Beatles ushered in the "modern" sound of music.

Tame by today's standards, I can only assume it packed quite a punch in 1964.  And while "You Don't Own Me" was covered by many different artists, its feminist message seems to serve as a safer, surrogate message for artists that would later come out. 

Lesley Gore: Live TV (I'm pretty sure this is not lip synced), studio
Dusty Springfield: studio
Joan Jett: studio

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Avett Brothers - Austin, TX 2014-10-11 (concert)

The picture to the left is from Herbert and Lisa at the Avett Brothers concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico 2015-02-04 (setlist).  They went to the show on my recommendation and although they I think they enjoyed it, the Avett Brothers didn't resonate with them as much as they do with Danette and me.  One thing they mentioned about the NM show is that the venue, the Santa Ana Star Center, was too large for a band like the Avett Brothers.  Judging by their picture, it looks like their seats were pretty good, but they still felt the venue was not intimate enough for the kind of music they play.  This echos our experience in the NYE 2014 show in Raleigh where we had really bad seats in the PNC Arena.   Our experience almost surely would have been better if I had ordered tickets sooner, but then perhaps they should not have played in a venue where bad seats were even possible?

This brings up an interesting question: can a band grow too popular for their ideal venues?  Obviously you'd prefer to see bands in the smallest possible venues.  On the other hand, you can't fault a band for gaining popularity and filling (or nearly so) increasingly larger venues.  But some bands' sound transposes to larger venues with less of a problem.  The Avett Brothers are high energy, and they've slowly accreted band members to help them have a consistently bigger sound, but they're still not really an arena rock band, either in terms of popularity or sound.  Is there an ideal venue size for an indie/folk/roots/country/bluegrass band like the Avett Brothers?  David Byrne in his 2010 TED Talk (transcript) explored the relationship between venue and music, but did not really explore the idea of an optimum venue size for a particular sound.

I could only find a few uploaded videos from the New Mexico show ("Love Like The Movies", "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa", "Laundry Room", "Satan Pulls The Strings", "Murder In The City", "I Wish I Was"), and the quality isn't consistently as good as the NYE show I was able to reconstruct.   So instead, I'll include a professionally recorded show at the 2014 Austin City Limits Festival recorded about four months earlier than the NM show.

The setlist is available for this as well, and it amounts to about an hour of music (shorter than a headliner concert).  I'm not sure if there was more music and it was edited down to an hour, or if their hour simply straddled sunset (the sun appears to go down at the ~45 minute mark).   Apropos to the venue size question above, note at about ~31:50 how Seth leaves the stage and tries to pump up the audience by running around the WWI style trenches that separates the band from the audience.  I get that it's a large, outdoor festival, but that just doesn't seem like the best way to see the Avett Brothers.

Continuing on this theme, here is a short, five song 2015 Austin City Limits TV show appearance where the venue is small and intimate but the audience appears sedated if not fully dead.  Once again it falls to Seth to venture into the crowd and inject some life (~14:20).  Perhaps it is just the nature of TV audiences to be lifeless, cf. my review of  Wire's 1979 concert "On The Box".

In summary, I'm very thankful that in years past we have been able to see the Avett Brothers in the Portsmouth Pavillion, which might be the ideal size (~6500 people) in addition to its absolutely beautiful outdoor location right on the Elizabeth River.  I'm also glad Herbert and Lisa got to see them even though it's not exactly their thing.  So far their tour page doesn't list a return to Portsmouth, but right now there are only a few dates booked for May, June, and July so I would expect more dates to be announced soon.  I'm hoping they return to the area and that we're in town for them (we missed them last year for the 2014 Power Tour).  Between Michele & Chris, Joy, Marilee, and possibly some others we'll be a good chunk of the audience in what might be a perfect venue for them. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jill Sobule ‎– "I Kissed A Girl" (forgotten song)

Another Super Bowl has come and gone, and with it a pretty good halftime show, featuring Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, and Missy Elliott.  Katy Perry was Katy Perry, I'm not sure why Lenny Kravitz was there (having him sing "I Kissed a Girl" isn't really a stretch), and most people celebrated the return of Missy Elliott.  And then there were the sharks, or more specifically "left shark".  If you didn't enjoy the sharks, trees, and beach balls then you're dead inside (see also: Aqua's "Barbie Girl").

I've already (sorta) blogged about Katy Perry once and that seems like enough.  The third song in the Super Bowl setlist was Katy Perry's first single from 2008, "I Kissed A Girl", but instead I want to focus on another song by the same name that you might not have heard.

In 1995 Jill Sobule released "I Kissed A Girl" as a single off her second LP "Jill Sobule" and it received minor airplay.  Although she's been active continuously I don't think she's had a hit since then.  Katy's song is a different song altogether, even though they share a title and theme.  Obviously Katy played the bi-curious theme to much more commercial success than did Jill.  In a 2009 interview Jill said, tongue-in-cheek:

When Katy Perry's song came out I started getting tons of inquiries about what I thought. Some folks (and protective friends) were angry, and wondered why she took my title and made it into this kind of "girls gone wild" thing....

As a musician I have always refrained from criticizing another artist. I was, "Well, good for her." It did bug me a little bit, however, when she said she came up with the idea for the title in a dream. In truth, she wrote it with a team of professional writers and was signed by the very same guy that signed me in 1995. I have not mentioned that in interviews as I don't want to sound bitter or petty...

Okay, maybe, if I really think about it, there were a few jealous and pissed-off moments. So here goes, for the first time in an interview: Fuck you Katy Perry, you fucking stupid, maybe 'not good for the gays,' title-thieving, haven't heard much else, so not quite sure if you're talented, fucking little slut.

God that felt good.
I watched the halftime show, and I liked it...

Jill Sobule - "I Kissed A Girl"
Katy Perry - "I Kissed A Girl"
Full Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Iron Maiden - "Iron Maiden" (LP Review)

Although Budgie is typically credited with inventing the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), perhaps the most well-known and successful example is Iron Maiden, whose self-titled 1980 debut LP is the subject of today's post.

I really liked Iron Maiden growing up although perhaps not as much as Robert Gordick, my friend & neighbor who was a super fan.  But I always held a minority opinion: I prefer the vocals of Paul Di'Anno to that of Bruce Dickinson.  Di'Anno only appears on the first two LPs (this one and 1981's "Killers") while Dickinson is far more well-known and appears on the classic line up (which, more or less, has been reformed & active since 1999).  I don't dislike Dickinson, and I'll be the first to admit that Dickinson is technically a much better singer, but I just prefer the gravelly, growling punk style of Di'Anno.  While I have most of the classic-Dickinson LPs on tape somewhere (recorded from Robert Gordick's collection), I only felt compelled to buy the first two LPs on CD later in life.  When I was in HS, I preferred "Killers", but over time I've come to prefer "Iron Maiden".  Today, I still enjoy both LPs, even without a hint of irony or nostalgia.

What makes this LP so enjoyable to me is the range of songs & the tight production (this is the only LP in their early years to not feature super-producer Martin Birch).  "Killers" has an arguably heavier sound, but it is a bit muddy where "Iron Maiden" is pretty crisp.  Bassist & primary song writer Steve Harris (he & guitarist Dave Murray are the only ones to appear on all Iron Maiden LPs) is clearly the centerpiece here, effectively playing bass as a lead instrument (esp. on "Phantom of the Opera").  "Strange World" is a standout while being barely a metal song (without being a sappy ballad), and "Remember Tomorrow" is a rich and complex song as well.

Di'Anno was kicked out of Iron Maiden in 1981 for substance abuse problems, something I'm not sure he ever really got past.  He sang in a lot of bands afterwards but with little critical impact.  Of course, post-Di'Anno Iron Maiden went on to become one of the world's most successful and long-lived bands, with the kind of loyal fan base that other artists envy.  Iron Maiden probably would never have achieved their success had they stayed with the unstable Di'Anno, but I still think the first two LPs are their best.

Standout songs (contemporary live versions): "Prowler", "Remember Tomorrow", "Running Free", "Phantom of the Opera", "Transylvania", "Strange World", "Iron Maiden"

Full LP (use these for studio versions): original 1980 tracklistremastered 1998 version with bonus tracks

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 10/10.  While Iron Maiden did not get big in the US until "The Number of the Beast", this is probably the first really big NWOBHM LP.  While the classic "Iron Maiden Sound" wasn't fully developed yet, you can hear it emerging on this LP.