December 19, 2006

Yabba dabba doo

Joe Barbera, half of the famous animation duo Hanna-Barbera, died yesterday at the age of 95 from natural causes at his home in California. Just the name Hanna-Barbera makes me smile, and remember how it would always flash across the screen at the beginning of the best cartoons from the Saturday mornings of my youth.

Alongside recollections of watching questionable shows like The Gummy Bears or Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers (I can still sing the songs for both, wanna hear it? Didn’t think so), as well as better ones like He-Man and The Smurfs, I spent lots of weekend mornings with The Jetsons and The Flintstones. The duo also created Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo.

Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book Of Mice And Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Barbera brought the comic gags and skilled drawing, while Hanna brought warmth and a keen sense of timing.

Hanna, who died in 2001, once said he was never a good artist, but that Barbera could “capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Yay for the both of them, for all the joy the’ve added into countless kids’ artificially-sweetened-cereal fueled Saturday mornings.

Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)
[from The Jetsons] – Violent Femmes

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? – Matthew Sweet

Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In
[from The Flintstones] – Frente!

(I just remembered that I totally had the original version of this song on vinyl record)


Sugar, Sugar [from The Archie Show]
Mary Lou Lord & Semisonic

The Tra-La-La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)
[from The Banana Splits] – Liz Phair & Material Issue

[Parts of this post are lifted from the AP article, and the songs are from the excellent mid-’90s snapshot of nostalgia Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, which has more great tracks from the likes of The Ramones, Sublime, Reverend Horton Heat, and Juliana Hatfield/Tanya Donelly]

September 1, 2006

This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies and The Kinks

So if you find yourself out and about this weekend near a record store, and you are tempted to duck in and browse the bargain bin (as I am wont to do), here’s one of those great tribute CDs that you should definitely pick up:

This Is Where I Belong: Songs of Ray Davies and The Kinks (2002, Rykodisc) is an excellent little collection of covers by many artists that I enjoy. The variety of folks selected to contribute to this CD serve to illuminate the literate and consistently superb songwriting of Ray Davies, regardless of the musical lens you choose.

The great Pete Townshend is quoted as saying: “The Kinks were . . . quintessentially English. I always think that Ray Davies should one day be Poet Laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for Pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning.”

It’s a treat to read the liner notes, as they are written by Davies himself; join him as he talks about his recollections of each song, when it was written, who it was written for. He also muses on the artists covering the songs with interesting results (“I haven’t eaten a lambchop since 1975 but I really miss the mint sauce.”)

1. “Better Things” – Fountains Of Wayne
(Davies writes, “Who is Wayne, I wonder?”)
2. “Starstruck” – Steve Forbert
3. “Stop Your Sobbing” – Jonathan Richman

(a ha! In a recent interchange I had about Jonathan Richman, I knew I had seen his name somewhere very recently. This is spirited rendition from Jonathan; Davies shares, “I nearly produced The Modern Lovers years ago, but unfortunately our schedule did not allow it. I hope Jonathan Richman has forgiven me.”)
4. “No Return” – Bebel Gilberto
(an interesting flamenco-tinged interpretation; Davies writes, “‘No Return’ with Bebel Gilberto is quite ironic because I certainly wrote the song with her mother in mind to sing it.”)
5. “A Well Respected Man” – Josh Rouse
6. “Victoria” – Cracker
7. “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” – Queens Of The Stone Age
8. “Big Sky” – Matthew Sweet
9. “Art Lover” – Lambchop
10. “Picture Book” – Bill Lloyd & Tommy Womack
11. “Muswell Hillbilly” – Tom O’Brien
12. “Get Back In Line” – The Minus 5
13. “‘Til The End Of The Day” – Fastball
14. “This Is Where I Belong” – Ron Sexsmith

(Davies writes: “I did get a sneak preview of [this track] and hearing it helped me rediscover it for myself.”)
15. “Fancy” – Yo La Tengo
16. “Waterloo Sunset” – Ray Davies & Damon Albarn (of Blur)

The Yo La Tengo track is a completely new invention, the Josh Rouse tune has that sly smoothness to it that I love about him, and the Lambchop (needs no mint sauce) version of “Art Lover” is fuzzy and melodic and extremely enjoyable. Matthew Sweet turns in an expansive cover of “Big Sky,” and Cracker rocks on “Victoria,” a la their best Kerosene Hat-era material. Overall this is a solid, quality album (and highlights really the best of the tribute album genre — how adventurous and diverse it can be).

As Davies also says in the notes: “Some of you may be discovering these tracks for the first time. In a way, as I listen to it I will be re-discovering part of myself.”

July 8, 2006

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (aka Sid & Susie) on NPR’s World Cafe

Ooh, I’ve been looking for this show. The day after their U.S. release of their fantastic little gem of an album stuffed full of ’60s covers (Under The Covers, Volume 1) Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs visited the WXPN studios in Philadelphia on 4/19/06 to discuss their collaborations as “Sid & Susie,” their song selections for this album, and how they met as Austin Powers’ backing band in the movie.

A really nice listen for a Saturday afternoon.
See The Rain (The Marmalade cover)
03. Interview (2)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover)
05. Interview (3)
Different Drum (Stone Poneys/Linda Ronstadt cover)
Interview (4)
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June 13, 2006

Check the Bargain Bins: Sweet Relief

Occasionally you open the old CD cabinet (which heart-breakingly gathers dust due to the prominence of your iPod with its sleek digital casing and nyah-nyah ability to hold thousands of CDs) and find an old cracked case containing a gem of a disc.

You can probably find the Sweet Relief benefit CD at any number of used record store bargain bins (or on Amazon for a blessed PENNY) – for reasons unknown to me because this is a GREAT album.

Released in 1993, this was a fundraiser for musician Victoria Williams, stricken with degenerative neurological disorder multiple sclerosis. All of the songs on this album are Victoria’s songs. In most cases (may God strike me dead), I prefer the covers to the original because Victoria has a voice that can best be described as unusual (although quite haunting as background atmosphere in “Crazy Mary” with Pearl Jam). But she is a phenomenal songwriter, and this album shows the beauty she is capable of.

There is a lovely alt-country vibe to this disc, featuring Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Lou Reed, Pearl Jam, Buffalo Tom, among others – and these two favorites:

Frying Pan – Evan Dando
I love this song dearly, and found myself singing it the other day on a late golden afternoon (which inspired this post). Evan Dando was meant from Day One to sing this song. I love the simple imagery of the opening:
“One laugh in the middle of a struggle
A diamond at the bottom of a puddle
Did you ever stare at the moon ’til you saw double?”

This Moment – Matthew Sweet
Fabulous to have in your pocket for all those goodbyes, all those *moments* that you want to capture, appreciate, and pin down in your memory before they vanish.

By the way, the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is still doing good works for the ill & struggling.

December 14, 2005

Matthew Sweet Coverville

Matthew Sweet is The Man. He has the perfect golden, dulcet voice and writes radiant songs. I spent a good part of 1995 listening to Matthew Sweet (100% Fun is a gem in my collection), so here are two fine covers of his music that I have come across in the last few weeks and been duly pleased.

“Girlfriend” – Benjamin Wagner (thanks to stereogum)

“Sick of Myself” – Death Cab for Cutie (thanks to Yeti Don’t Dance)

…And how about to round things out, a nice cover done by Sweet himself?

“Let Me Be The One” – Matthew Sweet (Carpenters cover)

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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