Thursday, June 30, 2005

Who needs the real Earth? I have Google Earth

I have heard from many of you about your grave concerns that my iPod will suddenly make me "cool."
This Route1 entry should lay those fears to rest... permanently.
I hereby reestablish my
GEEK credentials with the following admission: I routinely read blogs devoted to maps.
Yes. Maps.
Those picture things with lines for roads and blue spaces for water. Those things that are impossible to fold the same way twice.
There are entire blogs singularly (anal retentively?) devoted to maps. Such as the wonderful Map Room.
Those of us entirely uncool people who frequent map blogs have been all a-titter recently. Here's why: Google has unveiled Google Earth.
In case you haven't heard, Google Earth is the greatest mapping invention in decades. Probably since the invention of those globes with bumpy bits to show where the mountains are located. Yes, it is really that great.
Google Earth is a three-dimensional mapping service that uses satellite imagery and a variety of overlays to give the impression that you can FLY from one place to another!
Oh yeah... Planes let you do that.
Well, you can FLY without getting up from your computer! How's that?!
I have been toying with Google Earth as soon as I got home from work. I found an aerial view of the condo we lived in when I was in elementary school in Concord, Calif. I found the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I found the Sydney Opera House. I found Bloemfontein, South Africa. I found a bunch of places I have never even heard of before.
And that's a tough thing to do: I visit map blogs!
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to play with Google Earth some more.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

3,657... 3,658... 3,659!

My intensive interface with modern technology -- namely, loading songs onto my iPod -- has come to a close.
No, really!
I wanted to stop loading songs after I had filled about 15 GB of the 20GB iPod. I want to have some space in reserve. After this morning, I have filled 14.71 GB of the iPod with 3,659 songs.
I am not quite finished fiddling with it, of course. I still want to create a few more playlists.
Thus far, I have created the following playlists:
1. 2_tone_classics -- A 40-song collection of ska revival songs from 2Tone record label artists such as The Specials, The Selecter, early Madness and others.
2. 66_hits -- Just what the name implies, 66 of my favorite songs (that are not found on any of the complete CDs I uploaded onto the iPod).
3. 9_hour_mega_mix -- The 117-song juggernaut of dance music. I might use it to open a club in my basement.
4. anarchy_plus -- A 90-song collection of UK punk, powerpop and mod revival songs circa 1976-1982. "It's not just 'anarchy,' it's 'anarchy_plus!'"
5. honky_tonkin -- A 55-song trawl through vintage (1950s and 60s) honky tonk tunes. It opens with Johnny Horton's majestic "Honky Tonk Man."
6. sun_records -- Again, just what the name implies: Hits from the Memphis-based Sun Records stockpile, including early gems from Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and some guy named Elvis Presley.
I would like to compile a dub reggae playlist, and perhaps a hard-rocking playlist, so I still have some work to do with my iPod.
For now, however, I am going to take a break and actually LISTEN to the thing for a change.
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Monday, June 27, 2005

Am I hot , er... black... enough for you?

Where was I? It is so hot I can barely think straight, let alone remember where I was this weekend.
Oh yes... camping...
It was miserably hot. I remember that much. Overnight thunderstorms forced the children from the tent into the pop-up camper shared by the adults. Little Annika, age 6, used the occasion of sleeping with mommy and daddy (the latter would be me) to practice her sleeping karate. She must have kicked me a dozen times, ultimately forcing me to the side of the pop-up camper, where I "slept" while "resting" on a length of metal framing. Oh yeah... Now I remember.
It wasn't all bad. It was fun relaxing (in the shade) during the daytime and listening to my newest CD acquisition. I found the newest Trojan reggae compilation: "Am I Black Enough For You? Jamaican Songs of Freedom, 1970-79."
This fantastic collection of classic reggae -- songs such as Ken Boothe's "Is It Because I'm Black," Gregory Isaacs' "Black a Kill Black" and The Chosen Few's "Am I Black Enough For You" -- serves as a perfect accompaniment to a SEARING HOT day.
Like today! The National Weather Service forecasts a record-setting 96 degrees in Dubuque today. I think I will be spending some of my day off today at the pool.
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Friday, June 24, 2005

What are you listening to right... NOW?!?!

Dutiful Route1 assistant Annika H. (pictured above during a routine research mission) provided this week's FRIDAY QUESTION: What was the last song you heard and what did you think of it?
Jill H. -- "1985" by Bowling for Soup. I remember it because Annika was singing along: "Stacy, Madonna, way before Vadonna."
Rick T. -- "Look at Us" by Vince Gill. Says it all! The steel guitar player is Conway Twitty's steel player. Makes the song extra special.
Scout S. -- "Life is Killing My Rock n Roll" by Singapore Sling. Could be the theme song to the movie of my life; about wanting to live the classic sex, drugs & rock and roll lifestyle, only to have decorum rear its ugly head. The refrain: "I wanted to die before I got old, but my life is killing my rock and roll."
Mary N.-P. -- "Reggae Got Soul" by the Maytals. It is on a compilation CD, "Mary, Meet the Maytals" of which I own the only copy. It is one of my all-time favorite songs now and I play it (and the entire CD) often at night in the newsroom while I'm working and trying to drown out distractions.
Dave B. -- "How Far is Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys. My thoughts about this particular song? It could be the second-worst song ever written, right behind "MacArthur Park" (I am still looking for that bastard that left the cake out in the rain).
Inger H. -- "Portions for Foxes" by Rilo Kiley. I heard it last not because I listened to it last, but because it's been playing in my head for the past few days. See? Just thinking about it started it up again... "We'll all be... portions for foxes..."
Jim S. -- "Whip It" by Devo, from the "Like, Omigod the 80s: Pop Culture Box" set of seven CDs. It is playing in the TH features department and Gary is rocking out. I like it... like it good.
Mike D. -- I heard the theme song from "The Wiggles" TV show before I left for work this morning: "We know a world, a magic world, come with us and see. Anything can happen in a special world, it can happen to you or me." Have there ever been written more inspirational lyrics? Overall, it's a pretty good tune, though not as infectious as one of the Aussies' other hits, "Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack (Cock-a-Doodle-Doo)."
Diane H. -- I think it's unfair that I have to answer this question right now. I'm embarrassed to admit that the last song I heard was "Beautiful Soul" by that cheesy 15-year-old boy (Jesse McCartney). It was on the radio when I was pulling into the parking ramp at work and I was too lazy to change the station.
Steve M. -- "Ruby, My Dear" by a soloing Thelonious Monk. Love it. The solo is just what I need to wind down from a hectic week.
Matt. K. -- The last song I heard is the one in my head. The one that I played on my guitar yesterday, I think, at home. I'm pretty sure it was Los Lobos' "When the Circus Comes" from "Kiko" -- an album that can't command enough superlatives. I've strummed that song at least 25 times now (having recently picked it out) and it still resonates in that place in my soul that speaks a truer language than I'm capable.
Erik H. (me) -- "Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17" by Pavement. I just loaded some Pavement on the iPod. There are so many reasons to love this song: Pavement were from Stockton, Calif., where my step-father is from... Pavement were unabashed fans of my favorite band, The Fall... Oh yeah... and the song itself is infectious against the odds. Pavement often punctuated their sheets of sound with shards of jagged noise. On "Trigger Cut," the catchy "la-la-la-la-la-la ooh-oooh" element of their work wins out. Brilliant.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I think I need help

Professional help. Seriously. Like, right now. Please call somebody!
I wanted to make a playlist of dance music for my iPod.
I even thought of a title for the playlist: "3_hour_mega_mix," with those little underlined things... you know, like how "computer people" write things. Yeah... a three-hour mega mix. Just pump the music.
By hand-picking songs from various dance music CDs in my collection, I could get the songs I like on the iPod without loading the entire CD onto the iPod. That concept is straight out of "iPod 101."
So, when I got home from work tonight, Jill and the girls were at my father-in-law's house for dinner. Perfect! I could use that time for my "3_hour_mega_mix!"
So I dutifully began loading songs onto the computer. And more songs. And more songs.
Jill and the girls came home and the girls wanted to go to the municipal pool for an hour of evening swimming. Fine. I was three-quarters of the way done with loading the songs for the MEGA MIX. An hour of swimming would be... healthy.
We came home from swimming. I loaded a few more songs on the computer and clicked on the "3_hour_mega_mix" icon to begin ordering songs.
One... small... problem...
My "3_hour_mega_mix" actually contained NINE HOURS OF MUSIC.
NINE HOURS! I could listen continuously from the time I got to work, through the lunch hour and all the way to walking out of the staff entrance back to my car.
Then, I could replay the playlist and go for a casual, nine-hour drive somewhere. Only... I think if I drive for nine hours, I either end up in another country, in an ocean or in a state where the good folks park their confederate flag-laden trucks in a Winn-Dixie parking lot.
What am I going to do with a NINE-HOUR playlist on my iPod?
I knew exactly what I would do with it.
I changed the name to "9_hour_mega_mix."
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Eat. iPod. Sleep. iPod. Drink. iPod.

We just experienced a wonderful Father's Day weekend.
We swam at the pool. We enjoyed a massive Father's Day brunch cooked by my wife Jill with help from daughters Kerstin and Annika. We listened to a friend play a gig at a pub. We enjoyed grilled steaks on a sunlit deck at my father-in-law's house. It was nothing short of idyllic.
Oh, who am I kidding.
Every SECOND that I wasn't doing those aforementioned things, I was planted in front of this computer, loading songs onto my new iPod.
The thing is addictive as heck. I would be sitting there on that sunlit deck, listening to my iPod, and I would think: But I don't have THIS on there... I don't have THAT on there...
So, by the time we got home last night, I had planted myself in front of this computer again. In two days of intensive work, I placed 1,313 songs on my 20GB iPod. Clearly, I have so much more to do.
For those keeping score (namely, well, me), here is a list of the FIRST 51 ALBUMS or BOXSETS placed upon my iPod (I was going to stop at 50 in the wee hours of this morning, but, well...). Note: This list is not my enumeration of my top 51 albums. I just wanted to ensure a good mix of music on the iPod.
1. SIMPLE MINDS -- Sons and Fascination (see Saturday's blog entry for more information) 2. THE BEATLES -- 1 3. MILES DAVIS -- Kind of Blue 4. FRANK SINATRA -- The Best of the Columbia Years (four discs) 5. SEX PISTOLS -- Never Mind the Bollocks 6. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Reggae Pulse: Heartbeat of Jamaica 7. THE FALL -- 50,000 Fall Fans Can't be Wrong (two discs) 8. THE LOUVIN BROTHERS -- When I Stop Dreaming 9. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Bollywood4ever 10. HOODOO GURUS -- Ampology (two discs) 11. THE SKATALITES -- Phoenix City (two discs) 12. DENNIS ALCAPONE -- Guns Don't Argue (two discs) 13. GEORGE JONES -- The Definitive Collection: 1955-62 14. MUD -- Best of the 70s 15. ABBA -- Gold 16. SLADE -- Feel the Noize: Greatest Hits 17. AUGUSTUS PABLO -- King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown 18. T.REX -- Electric Warrior 19. CHARLIE PARKER -- Classics 1945-47 20. CHET BAKER -- The Best of Chet Baker Sings 21. FARON YOUNG -- Absolutely the Best 22. FARON YOUNG -- Walk Tall: The Mercury Hit Singles 23. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Simmer Down: Jamaica in the 60s 24. THE BYRDS -- Sweetheart of the Rodeo 25. THE SMITHS -- Best I 26. THE SMITHS -- Best II 27. THE JAM -- Greatest Hits 28. THE UNDERTONES -- Teenage Kicks 29. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- The Harder They Come soundtrack 30. TOOTS & THE MAYTALS -- The Very Best of... 31. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- The Very Best of Lee "Scratch" Perry 32. BOB DYLAN -- Highway 61 Revisited 33. ROBERT JOHNSON -- King of the Delta Blues Singers 34. NEW ORDER -- The Best of... 35. THE ROLLING STONES -- The Singles Collection (three discs) 36. THE KINKS -- Something Else 37. JEAN SIBELIUS -- Sibelius' Greatest Hits 38. JUDAS PRIEST -- Living After Midnight: The Best of... 39. MOT?RHEAD -- The Best of... (two discs) 40. NICK DRAKE -- Way to Blue 41. UNCLE TUPELO -- 89/93 An Anthology 42. DEF LEPPARD -- Vault 43. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Reggae Pulse: Protest Songs 44. THE FUTUREHEADS -- The Futureheads 45. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Trojan Dub Box Set (three discs) 46. DIZZY GILLESPIE -- The Champ 47. LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY -- Dub-Triptych (two discs) 48. VARIOUS ARTISTS -- Trojan D.J. Box Set (three discs) 49. THE REZILLOS -- Can't Stand the Rezillos 50. THE FACES -- Five Guys Walk Into a Bar (four discs) 51. ROD STEWART -- Combed My Hair in a Thousand Different Ways
Want to know a secret? While I was typing this list just now, I loaded another FIVE CDs on the iPod. Help...
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

From LP to iPod

I admit it: I am the type of person who would obsess over the first album to place in my iPod (cue laughter from those who know me).
I received an iPod as an early Father's Day preset and I could have easily closed my eyes, pulled any of 10 CDs off the shelves and stuck one of them in the computer to import into the iPod. But that is sooo not my style.
No, my style is much more comically obsessive.
I had internal debates about the first of my CDs to enter the true digital age. I weighed and reweighed merits, balancing these out with a host of (imagined?) cons.
The Beatles? Sex Pistols? Dennis Alcapone? Miles Davis? Frank Sinatra?
All good choices.
But I chose Simple Minds' "Sons and Fascination." This Scottish band's 1981 breakthrough (in the UK, silly) release becomes the first album that I have owned in all four formats -- LP, cassette, CD and iPod.
It just made sense.
I adored Simple Minds in high school -- years before "Don't You (Forget About Me)" provided the band its first American success. As is always the case with me, as Simple Minds rose in American consciousness, I began to lose interest.
(The word "cult following" was made for a music geek like me.)
I remember pumping my fist in the air to "The American" at a Simple Minds' concert at San Francisco's Warfield Theater. I remember hearing "Love Song" on a Salt Lake City alternative radio station (can you believe it?!) en route to my freshman year at an Iowa college. I remember requesting the headlong rush of "Wonderful in Young Life" on San Francisco's majestic alternative station The Quake (to no avail -- they would much rather play Echo and the Bunnymen or Depeche Mode).
This album -- originally a double album that included a second set titled "Sister Feelings Call" -- has played a part of my life for nearly 25 years. It has crossed a continent with me and provided a soundtrack since adolescence.
The question is not "How could I make this album the first on my iPod?"
The question is "How could I NOT make this album the first on my iPod?'
So I did.
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Friday, June 17, 2005

I never really liked (fill-in-blank) before!

Some music grows on you. You never really liked it before, then you suddenly love it.
This week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked readers to fill in the blanks:
"I never used to like ____________ before, but now I love them/it/him/her. I guess because _______________."
Ann M. -- Country music. I can understand what they are saying instead of making up my own words (that is what I do when I listen to rap music).
Diane H. -- Bluegrass music. It's got great harmony and musicianship. I no longer view it as bad hillbilly music because I'm older and wiser.
Dave B. -- Female lead singers. Now I love them because of the alluring voice of Shirley Manson of Garbage.
Kerstin H. -- Reggae. I head Natty Nation perform it.
Ellen G. -- 80's hair bands. They seem novel and safe compared to the pop slop of the most recent decade.
Jim S. -- Disco music. Now I can listen to it without feeling an urge to ask strange women in discoteques to dance beneath disco balls.
Rick T. -- Rock & Roll when I was a kid. Now I love it because it was tame compared to the rock you hear today. Bring back the 50s!
Erik H. (me) -- Jazz. I didn't appreciate it.
When I was younger, I found jazz inscrutable or worse... boring.
Then I bought a cassette of Charlie Parker. His fast-as-lightning improvisations on the alto saxophone sounded like Eddie Van Halen guitar solos.
After my jazz-collecting dad passed away, I began to explore some of the artists he had loved -- Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington. I started to appreciate what they had accomplished with instruments I had always associated with a junior high school band class.
Ultimately, I took a jazz appreciation course at a local music school. It was like prying open a locked book of magical secrets. One night after class, I drove home listening to John Coltrane. It was like suddenly understanding another language.
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Meet Joe. Joe was a bad man.

Hey! This entry isn't about music or soccer!
I forgot to tell you: My musical and soccer obsessions become nearly eclipsed during the summer months by an obsessional reading scheme.
Each summer, I generally select a theme or author and proceed to read EVERYTHING I can about that theme or by that author.
Here is a recap of the previous five summers:
2004 -- Musical biographies. I read about a dozen, including books on the lives of Woody Guthrie, Miles Davis, Gram Parsons, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan.
2003 -- Georges Simenon. The prolific Belgian mystery writer was a favorite of my late grandmother. I inherited a bunch of Simenon's books featuring his most famous character, the French detective Inspector Maigret.
2002 -- OK... It was a World Cup year, eh? So I devoted my reading time to "The Sunday Times Illustrated History of Football" and "The Rough Guide to European Football."
2001 -- E.M. Forster. I read as many of his novels and short stories as I could find, including "A Passage to India," "Howards End" and "Maurice."
2000 -- Raymond Chandler. Novels like "Farewell My Lovely" and "The Big Sleep" never seem to age for me.
This summer, I have begun reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's fantastic biography of one of the world's most despised despots: "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar." The book opens with the night in 1932 when Stalin's wife Nadya commits suicide. Montefiore argues that this episode proved to be a pivotal moment in Soviet history, contributing to the horrible mass executions which characterized Stalin's reign.
Here's a tip: If you are going to read about Soviet history (as I intend to do the remainder of this summer), select recently published books. No-longer secretive Russian authorities opened long-sealed archives for Montefiore, so he supports his biography with documented happenings, rather than mere speculation.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A dubby good morning to you all

I came up with a novel way of waking up the girls for another morning of swim lessons at the municipal pool: The thudding LOUDNESS of some mid-1970s dub reggae music! BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOO-BOOO-BOOO-BOOOOOOOM!
"Do you mind turning down the music next time?" sleepy Kerstin asked.
Equally groggy Annika barely knew her own name.
'Tis the power of "Dub Pon Dis Ya Side!"
Actually, dub reggae is another example of music I once hated, but now I love.
I used to consider the meandering, hypnotic and dully pounding sounds of dub to be the exclusive domain of the permanently stoned. I was never among the permanently stoned (I only briefly inhabited the domain of the occasionally stoned... and only then in college), so I thought dub was not for me.
Now, I have a much broader appreciation of jazz and I can see the similarities.
While the jazz trumpeter or pianist heads off on an intellectual journey of improvisation, so too does the dub reggae studio engineer.
By removing parts of the song (the vocals, a horn line, the guitarist's contributions, etc.), the dub engineer creates his own improvisational journey.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I'm telling you now and I'm telling you this

"I'm not saying they're really thick, but all the groups who've hit it big/Make the Kane Gang look like an Einstein chip." -- The Fall, "Gut of the Quantifier."
I am listening to "This Nation's Saving Grace," the 1985 classic from The Fall and I am trying to remember the first Fall song I ever heard.
It's difficult for me to remember, because I HATED The Fall. They sounded dead weird. Mark E. Smith can't sing. He barks or he chants and his thick northern accent places an "-uh" at the end of most words. "Couldn't get ahead-uh. Just couldn't get ahead-uh," is what he sounds like singing.
I am sure I first heard The Fall on The Quake, San Francisco's first (and greatest) and now defunct alternative music station. The radio disc jockeys were unabashed anglophiles -- like me -- so listeners would be more likely to hear the latest from Manchester, England than you were to hear anything from Los Angeles or New York. I am sure I heard The Fall on The Quake. Was it "Totally Wired?" "New Face in Hell?" or something from "This Nation's Saving Grace?" Something in the very back of my mind tells me it was "How I Wrote 'Elastic Man.'"
However, it is all a blur.
There are so many things in life we once liked but now ignore. How rare are those things we once ignored but now adore? The Fall are one of those things to me.
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Sunday, June 12, 2005

This man knows 15,000 songs

It's true.
Not only does Dubuque's Rick Tittle know 15,000 songs, but he will play one for you if you ask politely.
I know, because I have asked him before.
Tittle has become somewhat of a Dubuque, Iowa institution, leading his country band for three decades.
He and I share a love for 1950s' honky tonk music, and Tittle routinely dedicates Faron Young songs to me.
"This is for my friend who works at the TH," he says.
This evening his band played a free gig at Dubuque's Jackson Park.
Families gathered in park, carrying coolers from their cars and lugging camp chairs to spots under the trees.
Tittle and his band played for two hours. Kids lined up to get free hot dogs and adults sipped beers as the sun went down.
There is something special about music in a park on a warm evening. It feels as if music was meant to be heard in an open space on a warm evening. Perhaps it was. Perhaps early man gathered outside a cave somewhere to share music. Perhaps such a scene has been passed from generation to generation for eons.
I bet early man didn't know Hank Thompson's "Wild Side of Life," though.
Tittle does... as well as 14,999 other songs.
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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mix for the Raggamuffins

I made a mix for the youngsters this afternoon.
It is a Reggae 4 Youth mix, packed with pop-reggae tunes for my daughters, 9-year-old Kerstin and 6-year-old Annika.
We are heading out to a graduation party at a campground this evening, and this mix should provide a suitably bright-and-sunny soundtrack.
Check out the track-listing on the Art of the Mix Web site!
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Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1979

It is sure a great time for me to be a rock fan.
This morning I am cleaning the kitchen (well, not at this exact moment... I'm typing) to the sounds of Bloc Party, arguably the best of the current crop of (post-Franz Ferdinand) British bands.
Like so many of their comrades, Bloc Party bear an indelible mark of influence by post-punk notables such as The Fall, Joy Division and Gang of Four. The post-punk notables I mentioned arrived on the scene just as I was about to start high school and they left an indelible mark on me, too.
Straight from the opening song, "Like Eating Glass," Bloc Party's debut "Silent Alarm" signals that it has something special to offer.
Singer Kele Okereke sounds like Damon Albarn on Blur's more punk-oriented numbers. Guitarist Russell Lissack and bassist Gordon Moakes sound like they have stepped right out of Manchester circa 1980.
The key to Bloc Party's greatness, though, lies in the talents of Matt Tong.
Tong's drumming throughout "Silent Alarm" is nothing short of a revelation.
I used to think drumming was just, well, drumming until I heard Stephen Morris drum for Joy Division and then New Order.
Tong is like Morris. He makes you notice the drums -- not in an obtrusive way, mind you. You notice how the spectacular drumming augments and even elevates the rest of the song.
It is a great time for me to be a rock fan and Bloc Party -- fuelled by their ace drummer -- are one of the primary reasons.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

Music industry? Feels better already!

Who says the music industry is ailing? Not Route1 readers, who share their answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION: What was the last record you purchased?
Steve M. -- Muddy Waters' "Live at Newport." Remaster of the classic appearace at the jazz fest. Fairly cheap, with discount coupon, and a good addition to my limited blues catalog. Got to have some Muddy!
Gary D. -- "The Blues Comes Home" by James Kinds & The All-Night Riders. I love the blues, and James Kinds puts on a great show. He reminds me of the great ones, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
Ann M. -- I bought Kenny Chesney, because there are some really good songs on the CD.
Brian C. -- Wish you would have asked about my SECOND TO LAST purchase (a Three Dog Night 35th anniversary compilation). However, my most recent purchase was a bargain-bin special "Hits of the 70s" or some such. I picked it up largely because it included 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."
Inger H. -- Last CD purchased: The Killers' "Hot Fuss." Why? To jump on the bandwagon.
Shannon H. -- I bought the White Stripes Tuesday, the first day it was for sale. The simple reason: They're the best band making rock today.
Mary N-P. -- It was an old Blues Travelers CD I found at a garage sale for $1 -- lots of blues for a buck. Tip: You have to be patient and perservering to find anything of worth in dusty old boxes of CDs at garage sales (there is usually a reason they are being discarded), but every now and then, you'll find a gem.
Kate G. -- The last CD I bought was Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" and I bought it because I find her voice really soothing and she helps me chill out when I'm super stressed.
Dave B. -- Bowling for Soup, "A Hangover You Don't Deserve." Read a review in the newspaper, saw the video "1985," looked like a fun-loving band, went out and bought it, I listen to it all the time. It is an outstanding CD, highly recommend it.
Jill H. -- The last CD I helped purchase was the FACES box set because it was on the top of my husband's Christmas list... he is the musical genius you see!
Mary Rae B. -- I gotta tell you, since the boys gave me XM at Christmas, I've probably played a CD no more than a half-dozen times. And that's sad, because I love (most of) the CDs I have. I think the last one I bought was my Van Morrison, a compilation of his popular recordings.
Diane H. -- I'm going after work tonight to Target to buy the new Coldplay and the new White Stripes. But if you want to get technical about it, the last CD I purchased was "The Great Destroyer" by Duluth, Minn.-based band Low.
Bob H. -- After watching the movie, "Shall We Dance," we were compelled to buy both the DVD and the CD and without regret. The score has everything -- intrigue, romance, international rhythms and is very lively. We enjoy every track.
Mike D. -- ZZ Top's Greatest Hits, to get a song for a soundtrack on a video I was making. Plus, I like their music and always tend to buy "greatest hits" albums to avoid filler songs.
Rick T. -- The last CD I bought was "Country Classics," a 4-CD set. It has original country artists from 1955 to 1995, containing 85 songs! The key word in the name is "classics."
Amanda M. -- Breaking Benjamin, "We Are Not Alone." I bought it at Target because it was $6, and I was on spring break so I decided to spend even MORE money. Turned out to be an awesome CD though.
Ellen G. -- Neil Young's "Harvest" and Radiohead's "The Bends" -- at the same time. My CDs were heartlessly stolen from my car last week and those were the first two CDs that I craved.
Erik H. (me) -- I purchased Dennis Alcapone's "Guns Don't Argue," a two-disc best-of compilation off of Amazon. Trojan Records only recently released this title in the UK and it has yet to make an official appearance on these shores, so it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get here. I decided earlier this year to build on what had been a meager reggae collection, and Alcapone's exuberant, early deejay hits constitutes an essential addition.
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Stone-cold Classic No. 347

Lou Donaldson's "Midnight Creeper" (1968) is one of those great jazz records for people who don't realize they like jazz.
It is a perfect "night" record, but it also works when you are driving around town on a hot-and-steamy day, because it is so funky.
Lou Donaldson was one of the better alto saxophone players in the post-Charlie Parker era.
However, this great record's funkiness comes from the Booker T. & The MG's-style vibe produced by organist Lonnie Smith and drummer Idris Muhammad. Oh... a certain George Benson on guitar.
I have been listening to this great record throughout the day. So if you see me tapping my feet and bobbing my head for no discernible reason... this is why.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Greater than Cassius Clay, Sweeter than Sugar Ray

Someone once wrote that nothing could compare to walking into an early 1970's English school disco with a mood lightened by cider and Dennis Alcapone toasting from the speakers.
Last night, I could finally appreciate what that anonymous writer meant.
I received an eagerly anticipated package from Amazon: "Guns Don't Argue," the recently released (UK only) two-disc "best of" compilation of Alcapone's hits.
Dennis "Alcapone" Smith was not the first Jamaican deejay to spout jive talk and catchphrases over the music (and sometimes, the vocals) of previous hit songs. However, from 1971-73 he might have been the best of the "toasters."
Songs such as "Ripe Cherry," "The Great Woggie" and "My Voice is Insured for a Half Million Dollars" serve as enjoyable precursors to hip-hop. Alcapone boasts of his greatness ("I'm as cunning as a fox and I can sting you like a wasp!") over classic rhythms that had filled Jamaican dancehalls since the mid-1960s. His rhyming chatter also includes exuberant whoops and sometimes he even "talks back" to the original song's vocalist. Alcapone never loses step with the beat, so last night I could dance around the living room over the course of the discs while laughing and marveling at his skills.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mesopotamia + Sodertalje =

They might not have their own country, but at least they have their own soccer team.
Assyriska Foreningen -- a team of Assyrians based in Sodertalje -- are enjoying their first season in the Swedish top flight this summer.
Traditionally a Christian minority living in present-day Iraq and Syria, the number of Assyrians has been estimated at about 2 million. Many fled persecution by the Ottoman Empire in the early decades of the last century. A fair number settled in Sweden and founded the Assyriska club in 1974.
After eight matches, Assyriska occupy the 12th spot in the 14-club Allsvenskan.
As I sweat in Dubuque's heat and listen to reggae music today, I am also thinking about this club for fans without a country.
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Sunday, June 05, 2005


I needed a mix for a fine summer day... so here it is!
The objective? To craft a CD of mostly disposable pop, since summer is usually all about disposable pop. There are a few deviations from the theme, but not many. Note the nationalities of the artists. Can you say "Scandinavian-centered?"
1. The Streets (featuring The Futureheads) - "Fit But You Know It"
This one almost sounds like a mash-up, as British post-punk band The Futureheads back a strictly hip-hop tune by The Streets (aka Britain's Mike Skinner).
2. BT (featuring Rose McGowan) - "Superfabulous"
Washington D.C.'s techno-whiz Brian Transeau teams with actress (and goth hottie) Rose McGowan for a guitar-laden romp. Mmmm...
3. Robyn - "Be Mine"
The latest single from the Swedish pop star.
4. Junior Senior - "Move Your Feet"
The acclaimed dance-pop gem from Denmark's Jesper "Junior" Mortensen and Jeppe "Senior" Laursen.
5. Aqua - "Barbie Girl (extended version)"
Can't get enough of this catchy and annoying Danish tune? Well, here's the EXTENDED version!
6. A-Teens - "One Night in Bangkok"
Please try and follow this: A quartet of Swedish teenagers who usually produce crappy covers of classic ABBA tunes shift gears, producing a rather credible cover version of Scottish one-hit wonder Murray Head's crappy song about Thailand. Huh?
7. t.A.T.u. - "All The Things She Said"
Only in Britain could a pair of Russian would-be lesbians (perhaps) top the charts for a month. I hope only in Britain.
8. Crazy Frog - "Axel F"
The most famous ringtone of all time... much to the world's dismay.
9. Vengaboys - "Up and Down"
Insanely catchy ditty from Holland.
10. China Dolls - "Yali's Boyfriend"
Thailand has pop stars? Thailand has pop stars!
11. Pop! - "Someone Like You"
Sort of like Britain's 2005 version of ABBA. Only... no one will remember them by 2006.
12. Kylie Minogue - "Confide in Me"
I hope she wins her battle against breast cancer. She is classy.
13. Dannii Minogue - "Nervous"
An Aussie currently living in the shadow of her way more famous sister.
14. Tiger Tunes - "(Angry Kids of the World) Unite"
Denmark strikes again.
15. Roots Manuva - "Rebel Heart"
British rapper. Real name: Rodney Smith.
16. Shaggy - "Dance and Shout"
Jamaican/American deejay/MC. Real name: Orville Richard Burrell.
17. The Similou - "All This Love"
Not too much to do during the Swedish winter EXCEPT make music.
18. Annie - "Helpless Fool for Love"
Might become the greatest pop export EVER from Norway. a-ha, consider yourselves warned.
19. Antique - "Time to Say Goodbye"
Swedish band fronted by Swedish-born, Greek winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Remember... ABBA got their start by winning the Eurovision!
20. Boy George - "The Crying Game"
Kerstin, 9-year-old pop expert, on Boy George: "The reason why his name is Boy George is because he looks like a girl. His voice is so good, it can surprise you."
I called this mix "Superfabulous" and used the above bikini shot of Marilyn Monroe as the cover art... because she is so... ooh-laa-laa.
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They couldn't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule

You couldn't hope to summarise a band that has been producing genre-bending and genre-defining material for 30 years.
Good luck for me, then, that everything I love about The Fall is encapsulated in one song.
"Shoulder Pads #1B" was the second of two B-sides on the "Hey! Luciani" 12-inch single from December 1986. ("Hey! Luciani" itself merits further study: The song details the history of a murdered pope.)
Musically, the song features the repetitive rhythm guitar work of Craig Scanlon and a simplistic synth line that hints that this tune is a conventional pop song.
The Fall could never produce a conventional pop song ("Knew I was right all along," Mark E. Smith sings, "It wasn't then a Beatles song."). Out of nowhere, Stephen Hanley provides a booming, monolithic bass that drives the song along.
The Fall's music has passed from harsh post-punk to refashioned rockabilly to obtuse Krautrock to would-be pop to electronic dance music back to harsh post-punk.
"Shoulder Pads #1B" falls into the would-be pop category.
Then there are the words.
The Fall are all about words. Mark E. Smith has ranted and railed for decades in a voice that drives most people up the wall. I love it, because he sounds like an everyman. This man is no crooner emerging from a chauffeured car. He could be Erik Hogstrom complaining about the poseur music fans "cursing black singers 10 years dead," as Smith sings.
You have to work to enjoy the Fall.
You have to read the lyrics to fully enjoy "Shoulder Pads #1B." Smith sings that "the Macca lads stayed at home" picking antiques in a world in which passing fads among the lads equate to shoulder pads.
All the people around him have succumbed to these dim-witted fads ("it was like being back at school," he sings), so Smith wraps himself in the fad to subvert it. He turns the fad on its head, showing its stupidity by becoming the thing he despises.
"Hop on, lovers of fads/It's shoulder pads."
More than that: "Look out, lovers of fads?It's M.E.S. in shoulder pads!"
Then the music -- with its seemingly simplistic stab at the pop mainstream -- makes perfect sense.
Mark E. Smith in breezy lightweight pop shocker? As if!
That is what I love about The Fall. Like the best jazz or the best films or the best books I have ever read, The Fall have layers. You can only hear repetitive post-punk riffs and off-key rants-uh if you like. Or, you can dig a little and learn about society and yourself, perhaps. "Then my powers did return," Smith sings.
All this in one song!
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Friday, June 03, 2005

Come on! Come on! Come on! Come on!

They made better records, but The Beatles' enthusiastic debut still sounds flushed with energy. That's why I choose "Please Please Me" as my Saturday night record.
The kicks off with "I Saw Her Standing There," an adrenaline-rush of an opener, and closes with their version of "Twist and Shout," providing a certain template for punk rock. In between, this record provides some early originals and some of the band's favorite covers, all done in a rockin' style they honed through almost constant gigging. This disc is just about perfect for a Saturday night!
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Saturday night sounds

This week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked blog readers for their essential "Saturday Night" records -- those records you would choose as the soundtrack for Saturday night fun.
Dave B. -- My Saturday night records are the three compilations Erik made for me of my DJ nights at Spanky's (a former Cedar Rapids, Iowa nightclub), the Spanky's-Woody's dance mix I made and The Reaganomics. For me, all music is about the 80s and these five CDs put me in a wonderful mood on a Saturday night.
Emily S. -- My favorite Saturday night record is anything hip-hop. Particularly, OutKast or 50 Cent. They just get you pumped up and in the mood to go out and be social.
Jim S. -- I'll age myself a bit (a lot?) by picking "Machine Head" by Deep Purple and "Fool for the City" by Foghat. Both have great, hard-driving, Saturday-night, party type songs. For the more contemporary music fans, I'd pick "Get Born" by Jet, and skip over the slow songs.
Rick T. -- My favorite one is by Gene Watson called "Got No Reason Now for Going Home!" Written by Johnny Russell.
Scout S. -- As everyone knows, the best Saturday night record is the mixtape you make on Saturday afternoon. Mine would include: "Chinese Arithmetic" (Eric B. & Rakim), "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" (A Tribe Called Quest), "Swing Set" (Jurassic 5), "Hey Ladies" (Beastie Boys) and "Running Out of Angels (extended version)" (Elvis Costello).
Jill. H. -- I loved the old "Saturday Night Cruise" (radio program on KAT-FM). They played all the old songs you could sing along to, and your parents and aunts and uncles would reminisce about what the songs meant to them. You could learn a lot of family history.
Brian C. -- Two that come to mind (and my CD player) are "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (Foghat) and "Fire" (Jimi Hendrix). You don't even have to turn up the volume much; they already are "loud" and edgy.
Bob H. -- Since I am retired, every night is Saturday night! If I don't have a good Netflix movie or just want to check out for awhile, I would lay down between the speakers with my feet up and listen to the Joy of Cooking, an all-girl, Bay Area rock group from the mid-60s.
Mary N.-P. -- I love KUNI's Saturday night music (radio program) with Bob Dorr. It is so eclectic and Saturday night should never repeat.
Diane H. -- "Add it up," the greatest hits disc by the Violent Femmes, is one of my favorite fun CDs, because how can you not be in a great mood after you listen to "Blister in the Sun?"
Matt K. -- My Saturday night record, back in the day, might be "The Doors," the self-titled breakout album from the L.A. dark knights that taught us how to "Break on Through" to the other side, and the epistemology of death in the seminal "The End." Come to think of it, I was quite a morbid bastard "back in the day."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The greatest vocal group you've never heard of

Imagine if a quartet of angels descended from heaven, visited Jamaica and recorded a handful of classic singles in the mid-1960s.
That's how I began a recent Amazon review of my latest CD I acquired: "Run Come Celebrate," a compilation of the greatest hits of the Techniques.
The Techniques were among Jamaica's greatest vocal groups in the pre-Bob Marley golden age of the island's popular music. There are a few of us reggaeologists (Yes! It really is a word!) who believe the Techniques were the finest of all Jamaica's vocal groups. I received their CD from Amazon in the mail last night. I can't quit listening to it!
Songs such as "Love is Not a Gamble," "Queen Majesty" and "Little Did You Know" stand up against anything recorded by the Platters or the Impressions or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or any of the American vocal groups of the era.
At two points in their career, the Techniques were led by two of the finest, sweetest falsetto male vocalists from Jamaica -- Keith "Slim" Smith and Pat Kelly. Both went on to solo success after their tenures with the Techniques. (More on Slim Smith's tragic demise in a later post on Route1.) That's not too surprising. Here is the surprising thing: Three backup singers in the band ALSO went on to enjoy massive solo success after singing with the Techniques -- Bruce Ruffin, Jackie Parris and Lloyd Parks.
The group's founder, Winston Riley, named his successful record label after the Techniques and later became a hitmaking producer (Tenor Saw's "Ring the Alarm" might be his crowning glory in the recording studio).
Here's a bit of reggae trivia to close this post: Another founding member of the Techniques, Frederick Waite, emigrated to England. Eventually, he managed and produced a group begun by a pair of his sons -- Musical Youth (of "Pass the Dutchie" fame).
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Rock's underrated heroes

Someone once wrote that Thin Lizzy were a "one-hit wonder" because of "The Boys are Back in Town."
I have always countered that Thin Lizzy are one of the most underrated bands of all time in spite of that ubiquitous, 1976 single.
I have been listening to the Irish band while driving around Dubuque. As I listened to such gems as "Rosalie," "Wild One" and "Waiting for an Alibi," I checked off the attributes that placed Thin Lizzy into a master class of rock 'n' roll:
1. Phil Lynott's voice is among the most soulful in hard rock. Lynott, who died in 1986 of a heroin-related problems at age 34, put all the "screamers" in rock to shame. He could really sing.
2. Lizzy's twin-lead guitar approach produced some of the most melodic guitar lines you will ever hear in rock. The pairing of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson worked the best, but on-again off-again guitarist Gary Moore also produced a wide range of unheralded guitar work.
3. Catchy! Catchy! Catchy!
Even hard-rockin' cuts such as 1975's "Fighting My Way Back" fall into the sing-along category. Try listening to 1976's "Don't Believe a Word" and not sing along.
One-hit wonders? Based on chart hits in the U.S., perhaps. Based on a body of work that epitomized all that was great about 1970s rock? No way.
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