OOC Recipients 011: Sigers and Chanteuses

Loreena McKennitt
Loreena McKennitt

In the early 1980s, Manitoba-born Loreena McKennitt was busking in Toronto in order to finance her first album, Elemental. It led to a career in performing Celtic music that would sell 14 million records worldwide over the course of her career. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2004. That was a few years after my favourite album of hers, The Book of Secrets, was released.

Celine Dion
Celine Dion

By the time she received the Order of Canada in 1998, Celine Dion was considered by most music critics and industry insiders as being one of the most influential voices of music of that decade, ranking with Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Influential in the sense that her voice helped to shape how power pop ballads were sung, as well as influencing the “adult contemporary” genre of that time.

Recognizable OOC Recipients 002: Anita Best

Anita Best

Newfoundland is known for, among other things, its own brand of music. Anita Best was music in a space of her own. People not hep to Newfoundland culture would very likely take to her music, since most of it is free of button accordions, harmonicas, bagpipes and the like (sometimes she’s a capella). In my opinion, some of her best music was done alongside Pamela Morgan, and I am not sure if I am the only one who wore out their cassette of The Color of Amber.  She was born on an island in Placentia Bay, and currently is active in preserving Newfoundland folk culture though her office at Norris Point, near Corner Brook.

She received her appointment to the Order of Canada in 2011.

 

All-time top-10

This top 10 music list is inspired by a YouTube video. The problem with the video was that it didn’t seem to be going for what was really all-time status; it seemed to be aimed at people whose memories go back no more than 20 years. That is, so long as we trust The Beatles, The Stones and Elvis as so iconic that no one will ever forget them (since, yes, they were mentioned).

Madonna was “popular”, sold a whole lot of recordings and videos, but no one back in the day ever accused her of being talented. However, she challenged social norms through her videos — at least, that’s what the video tries to tell itself, since most of the “challenges” were aimed at a more prurient level. She did not elevate the discussion on feminism; she debased it. I am sure, however, that Madonna does not give a whit about what I think. I could go on with how reviewers have said that she was a woman “totally in control of her career”, but exposing that fallacy would take us off topic and could fill a whole other article.

The top 10 of all-time is a hard list to make, since that would mean that I have to think for everyone. Rolling Stone Magazine seem to be the most serious about the idea; Watchmojo.com, maybe not so serious.

The bottom 5 were difficult because there were a lot of musicians I could have placed there. I didn’t consider any

  • rap and hip-hop: sometimes great for novelty tunes, and sometimes for actual music; but no staying power musically IMO. Much of it is too negative and self-hating. If the KKK owned the same record labels that churned out the Hip-hop and Rap tunes, I don’t think either the music or concerts would change one bit. Many musicians in this genre are doing to people of color what Madonna did for feminism: debase the discussion. Except that they do it much more efficiently: calling women “Bitches” and “Hoes” for example, are well-known.
  • Punk rock. White man’s hip hop. Also too negative IMO.
  • heavy metal: Mojo mentioned AC-DC and Metallica, for example. Both popular in the 80s, but these bands have faded. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are still remembered, and are more than a decade older. I was more selective.

The bottom 5 for me were:

  1. Michael Jackson. Mojo placed him at #3. I think that is over-rating him, although having lived through the 80s, and having found myself to be the owner of a Thriller album (while not being enamoured of his persona or music generally), I think he should be placed somewhere. The Thriller album alone could have made any musician’s career. Of the 9 tracks on the album, 7 were top-10 hits according to Billboard, and the album is the #1 all-time best selling record album.
  2. Pink Floyd. Their 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon  was another all-time bestseller (second only to Thriller), having remained on Billboard for a staggering 741 weeks (14 years, three months, and one week). The Wall did not enjoy such longevity, but it too was a monster seller, and has long since enjoyed an iconic status of its own. But Pink Floyd’s output was small over the 35 years or so of its existence. Dark Side of the Moon finally left the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart in 1987.
  3. U2. They heavily influenced youth culture in the late 80s to the mid-90s, and had a consistent output. They also elevated discussion about human conflict, religion, and social inequality through their music.
  4. Bruce Springsteen. It’s quite something when my aging English prof (recently deceased) started comparing the lyrics of the songs of Bruce Springsteen to the poetry of William Wordsworth. Both chronicled social change from the point of view of the underdog. Springsteen has influenced many musicians, and comes from a musical pedigree of amazing musicians from the East Coast of United States. He has also had a prolific musical output and a strong following.
  5. Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin took heavy metal to a level beyond what anyone would have thought. Most of Led Zeppelin is an acquired taste, but some of it gets you in the solar plexus right away. If if you check out any “greatest song of all time” list you can find on the Internet, 1971’s  Stairway to Heaven would either be #1 or at least in the top 5 for most of them, even today.

It was difficult to get the order right on the top 5. But I think this comes somewhat close. The top 5 of the top 10 were:

  1. Elton John. Elton Hercules John (aka Reginald Kenneth Dwight) is a hard act to pin down. In some ways, he was overexposed, but he did pen enough monster hits with the aid of Bernie Taupin over the past 40 years to fill three greatest hits albums and three more compilations. For the first few years we saw him diving for his piano at concerts (in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis before him), except he dressed more flamboyantly, to put it mildly. I don’t think he ever needed to be that flamboyant, but I suppose he needed to stand out among all those other great 70s musicans.
  2. Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones dominated for five decades, and by the 1980s finally outsold and out-charted their old rivals, The Beatles in pretty much all categories. But it took them a while. If you add to their 29 studio albums their compilations and live albums, their career output (so far) is 66 albums. And that’s not to even mention bootleg albums.
  3. Jimi Hendrix. You may have your favourite metal guitarist, but without Hendrix, there would be no blues metal, no heavy metal, and none of the metal varieties including punk that came later. He is number 3 mostly due to his sheer influence on the dozens of genres that were made possible due to him. But his popularity mostly spans to those who know something about music, and to those who know that playing lead, rhythm and bass on the same guitar at the same time is a feat that few musicians can accomplish.
  4. Elvis Presley. The much-impersonated Elvis Presley, for the sheer number of hits over two decades spanning genres which include blues, country and gospel (all without ever losing what modern marketers call his “fan base”), has been a huge influence on muscians and performers over the decades. People still idolize him, even young people.
  5. The Beatles. They only lasted less than 10 years, but their legacy will be remembered for decades to come. In 1967 they had to stop performing because the din from screaming fans was so loud that the band members and other audience members had trouble hearing them play. And while their album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did not have any singles (that was the group’s desire), it still sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide and reached #1 on nearly every rock album chart in the world.

In a world where all noise are created equal VI: “Christmas” music

Only 5 days to Christmas, and you need some music. Let me help out …

It’s that time of year again, and here are some musical genres listed at Every Noise at Once that have “Christmas” in the names:

celtic christmas This is a good, Irish-influenced way to hear Xmas music: Clannad, The Chieftans, Enya, …
christian christmas  As opposed to …?
christmas  The standard fare
christmas product  More standard fare
classical christmas Another nice addition to the holiday spirit. Why do you need to hear Burl Ives or Bing Crosby for the bazillionth time anyway?
country christmas Just about any country musician will do. Too many to list: ranging from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Dwight Yoakam.
folk christmas Folk? I am unsure how they justify listing Elton John, Natalie Marchant, and Bruce Springsteen as Folk. I can see Peter Paul and Mary, and Bob Dylan, but Death Cab for Cutie? Really? My favourite Christmas song, “Calling on Mary” by Aimee Mann is listed here. More bluesy than folky, though. Most of the names listed under “Folk” are notable for pop music.
heavy christmas If you want your Christmas tunes sung by bands like Warrant, Dokken, Faster Pussycat, or Ted Nugent, you’ve come to the right place.
indie christmas For those who wish to drink their egg nog to the musical styings of Fountains of Wayne, The Dandy Warhols, Ben Folds, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Weezer, Liz Phair, among many others.
jazz christmas There are all the standard Jazz names there: Chick Corea, David Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, and while Miles Davis is listed, there is no musical sample available of him. Boo!
latin christmas Latino Christmas music, not Christmas in Latin. Both exist. Could confuse people.
pop christmas A near-copy of the Folk genre. In addition, you have Cher, Bowie, Mariah Carey, Backstreet Boys, Carly Simon, and too many more to list.
punk christmas If you would rather kiss under the mistletoe to Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, or NOFX, then this is the genre for you.
soul christmas Now, wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen to your favourite carols to the vocal stylings of Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, or Gladys Night and the Pips?
world christmas From what I can tell, what is listed here is mostly South American influenced.

In a world where all noise are created equal V: “Black” music …?

Music genres with “Black” in the names …

atmospheric black metal
black death
black metal
black sludge
black thrash
blackgaze
chaotic black metal
dark black metal
depressive black metal
more symphonic black metal
pagan black metal
raw black metal
symphonic black metal
unblack metal

In a world where all noise are created equal IV: names that sound like something else …

If you thought long enough about these names, they would have other (non-musical) connotations. Just sayin’. And yes, there are people who claim these genres really exist.

big room
bouncy house
catstep
charred death
corrosion
deathgrind
deep chill
deep house
deep liquid
experimental psych
fake
fallen angel
full on
funeral doom  If it was my funeral, I wouldn’t care
future garage
goregrind
gothic doom
guidance
hands up
hard alternative  Then, is it worth my while?
hauntology
jerk
lowercase
microhouse
minimal wave
nordic house
power violence
psychobilly
relaxative
rock steady
soda pop According to the samplings, this seems to be torch songs from the late 50s and early 60s.
space rock
steampunk
trapstep
vaporwave

In a world where all noise are created equal III: Absurdly obtuse genre names

Whether due to the fusion of too many genres or names which relegate the band to certain obscurity, these are ones I chose which I cannot even imagine what the sound must be like. To know, the website Every Noise at Once gives sound samples of most bands and genres they list.

alternative new age
ambient psychill  Most of these could just be labelled “techno”
ambient trance
anti-folk
antiviral pop  Pop that will never be viral … ?
crust punk
deep alternative r&b  More “deep” genres
deep happy hardcore
deep filthstep
deep space rock
e6fi From now on, genres will be given serial numbers
fidget house
ghettotech
gothic americana
grim death metal
happy hardcore
hatecore
heavy christmas
martial industrial
mathcore
melodic death metal  For your melodic death
melodic metalcore
necrogrind  Who gets to decide what the difference is between “melodic death metal” and “necrogrind”?
post-post-hardcore
progressive psytrance
progressive uplifting trance
rock noise
technical brutal death metal  For your technical brutality
turntablism  For all those turntablists out there
underground latin hip hop
vocaloid

In a world where all noise are created equal I: Genres I know nothing about

The website everynoise.com deals in some way with plotting the musical classification categories of all music that exists (to which they are aware) on their web page. The next few articles form a small sample of the nearly 1500 genres listed. On that website, if you click on a genre, you are given a sound sample. Click again, you are led to another page consisting of band names in that genre. Now, as a former college DJ, I have heard of a lot of these genres, but here is a list I have not heard of at all:

acousmatic
atmospheric post-metal
australian alternative rock
brazilian indie
brutal death metal This is actually one of many genres that are made new by placing the word “brutal” in the genre name.
christian hardcore
christian punk
classic chinese pop
classic peruvian pop
columbus ohio indie
freakbeat
funky breaks
hurban
hyphy
liquid funk
serialism
stomp and whittle
stomp pop
technical death metal Where music goes to technically die, I suppose.
triangle indie
ye ye
yoik

This is the first of a series of lists of strange music genre names listed at the site. For a complete list along with band names and music samplings, visit the site Every Noise at Once.

Why it doesn’t Suck: Music from the seventies VI

Today, I’m featuring The Carpenters, and will do it without any sense of irony — not even a wisecrack, promise! The Carpenters was the bane of 70s FM album-oriented radio (meaning that AM radio was their domain). The Carpenters was as commercial as it got. This was far away from Pink Floyd, Blue Cheer, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, all of whom tried to expand the boundaries of music, often creating music that was, uh, rather challenging to listen to; but when the “experiment” worked, it produced many of the masterpeices of rock music for which the seventies have become identified.

The Carpenters would have none of that. No experimentalism here. They were going for what sold. The sure thing. We all know that. But The Carpenters did the “Sure thing” very well. The sure thing was their thing, and it suited their style, their image, and their talents. What I respect is the fact that they came upon their commercialism honestly, without the slightest hint of awkwardness. They sung the songs they were meant to sing, inviting you into their perfect world, for a short time.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote “Close To You” in 1963, which, as was the case for all Bacharach/David songs, was first recorded by Dionne Warwick but not seeing the light of day until buy tramadol from india arrangements were added to the demo in 1964. Richard Chamberlain released it first in 1963, as the title “They Long To Be Close To You” (no parenthesis), the flip side to his hit “Blue Guitar”. This was later picked up by Dusty Springfield in 1964. It was sitting around in the vaults until 1967 when it finally appeared in her album “Where Am I Going?”. It was also covered by Herb Alpert during that time also. Even Burt Bacharach himself tried to make it a hit in 1968, but it flopped. The song remained in obscurity until Karen and Richard Carpenter recorded it in 1970. The song, whose title was slightly modified to “(They Long To Be) Close To You”, became a huge hit, staying at #1 for four weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100. No one I’m aware of was ever able to make it a hit before or since. Not even Frank Sinatra, who sung it a year later. It became the song that was immediately identified with The Carpenters, winning them a Grammy Award in 1971. This song seems to make cameo appearances on The Simpsons from time to time also.

This is a great video in that we get to see Karen both sing and play drums.

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the Seventies V

You Should Be Dancing was the first serious disco hit for the Bee Gees in 1976, a year before Saturday Night Fever. The song later made it on the soundtrack as well, although it was not played on the film. Neither was Jive Talking.  It used the signature falsetto that was found in many of their subsequent hits throughout the 70s and 80s.

I like the rock drums and guitar on this tune, since it makes it rise above the plasticity and superficiality of all disco that came later (by nearly everyone including the Bee Gees). This song was culled from their mid-seventies comeback period, where many of my favourite Bee Gees tunes reside. I am not all that fond of their music before or after, but Jive Talkin’, Nights on Broadway, Fanny, and  You Should be Dancing are my all-time Bee Gees favourites. All of these hits occured in a short period between 1975 and 1976.

Bee Gees – You Should be Dancing: [audio:http://stridersjournal.net/other/[Bee_Gees]_-_You_Should_Be_Dancing.mp3]

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies III

It was 1972, and while commercialism of the music industry was on the rise, there was still enough genuine and original songs to call 1972 a high water mark in popular music. Things got even better in ’73, but then a long, slow decline happened that persists to this day. In my opinion, 1972 was also the high water mark of Kenny Loggins’ music. After this, he started over-commercialising himself, especially with the soundtracks: Danger Zone (Top Gun), Footloose (Footloose), and I’m Alright (Caddyshack) are three over-played songs on radio that immediately come to mind.

“Danny’s Song” is a tune penned by Kenny Loggins during his time with Loggins and Messina that fits in with a number of songs of that period that you can imagine a kindergarten or grade 2 teacher teaching their kids to sing. It is wholesome, with just the right pharmacy in sacramento that requires no perscription to buy viagra amount of sentimentality that, I think, hits everyone at a basic level. Kind of like “Yellow Submarine”, or “This Land is Your Land”.  When Anne Murray sung this tune a year later, she was nominated at the 1974 Grammies for best female vocalist. She was up against Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”), and won the Grammy in 1974. It is one case where, while the cover was a bigger hit than the original, the original still stands on its own.

The period had a raft of similar tunes, but some of them were trying to hit you over the head with this Kindergarten teacher idea to such an extreme so as to bring actual children in as backup singers.  Two over-the-top examples that immediately come to mind are: “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., or “Sing” by the Carpenters.

[mp3t track=”Kenny_Loggins_-_Dannys_Song.mp3″]

 

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies II

Singer and former porn actress Andrea True had a major hit with a disco tune in 1976 in the early months of the Bee Gee’s second comeback. “More More More” had Andrea’s words and vocals, and Gregg Diamond’s music. The hook two-thirds of the way through the tune was ripped off by a Canadian Hip-Hop artist named “Len”, and the hook became the repetitive background to the song “Steal My Sunshine“. Reportedly, Len’s entire 1999 album “You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush” is a “nod” to the band The Andrea True Connection. I think if you want to perform Andrea True’s material, you ought to do what Bananrama and Kylie Minogue did, and record your own cover version.

The song “More More More” is mostly a self-referential tribute to her past in the porn industry (“get the cameras going/get the action going”). This disco occured before Saturday Night Fever, and because of that reason alone, it does not suck. I would group it in with Vicki-Sue Robinson, George McRae, Barry White, and early KC and the Sunshine Band. Even the Bee Gees themselves didn’t suck during that period. It was recorded in Jamaica as she was recording commercials for another contract. She got an impressive band of musicians together to provide musical backup, and it was all done in an evening for under $2000.00. An impressively low budget, even in 1976 dollars.

It is most unfortunate that Andrea True doesn’t sing these days, owing to throat surgery to remove a goiter. According to rumors coming from my hired paparazzi spies who troll her lawn and her trashcan, True was working as a drug rehabilitation counsellor in Florida, and did a bit of astrology counselling on the side. She is around 68 years old today.

Here is Nashville, Tennesee native Andrea True, with the video to her hit “More More More”. While the video seems a bit lame, the music isn’t:

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies I

This new series is inspired by another blog where writers Wes Clark and Bob Hargus just list out a raft of seventies songs that “suck”, with some subjective criteria included, not to mention the odd bit of commentary. Among those listed are, of course, the music we all think about when we think of tacky songs of that period: a good chunk of ABBA, “Feelings” by Morris Albert, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (I once saw this single nailed to a pillar in front of a Toronto used record store on Yonge Street, south of Bloor — rotate that!), Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, and most things found in any K-Tel catalogue.

You probably expect me to list those things, along with the predictable tut-tutting of what we all listened to, and how it makes us feel foolish. But you know what? I won’t. And that’s because what passes for a monster musical hit these days is worse than the worst seventies song. Yes, there are exceptions, there are always exceptions, but there are many good reasons that songs these days suck so much, mostly having to do with the changes in the music industry. It seems to me, that in an attempt to become a predictable source of revenue to its shareholders, the hit songs of today have to sound like previously existing hit songs. Punk rock also saved the major labels a load of money in not having to book so much studio time so that the band could get its act together. This was because not rehearsing or even checking to see if their instruments are in tune is the whole point of punk rock. But as music fans started to understand the political statement behind being a punk, they probably started to discover that they can take control of their lives and improve their communities without needing to listen to such shitty music while they’re doing it. It also doesn’t seem quite as necessary as it used to be to dye your hair purple, wear a mohawk, or stick a clothes pin through your nostril to rebel against vanity and fashion. Although, that kind of fashion idiocy has been replaced by another form of fashion idiocy, inspired by Rap and Hip-Hop. I have already previously commented on the similarities in tastes in clothing and how it is worn, to that of rednecks. What goes around comes around.

So, for my first instalment in this series, I present to you my reasons for why Diana Ross, and “Touch Me In the Morning”, does not suck. I think this song is actually a good song, foremost because of the fact that it is better than any torch song or ballad sung these days. But even on its own merit, it is classic motown, and the song reached number 1 and charted on Billboard for nearly 6 months. Most motown artists worked through the sixties making hit records, but it wasn’t until the seventies that the craft of artists like Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye was perfected, and we heard the best motown could offer. The part I like best in this song is the beginning, as it builds up. When it does build up, I imagine that people might say it sounds too much like disco. But remember, this was 1973, and disco did not become big until much later. Maybe disco was trying to sound too much like Diana Ross.

[mp3t track=”Diana_Ross_-_Touch_Me_In_The_Morning.mp3″]

 

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan I

Welcome to the first episode of The Difficult Listening Moment. On today’s episode, we explore some music by Bob Dylan. Those who know the music of Bob Dylan knows that his songs had been made a whole  lot more popular by other acts such as The Byrds, The Band, Joan Baez.  In fact, nearly anyone who sung Dylan can do it better than Dylan does.

Nearly anyone. Yes, there are those in the minority, who make it into the dustbin of popular culture, who, when they attempt to sing a Dylan tune, actually sing it worse than Dylan himself, if such a thing is possible. When you think about the way Dylan sings — sort of like a cat being run over by a car that needs to be put out of its misery — you can appreciate that this is something of an achievement.

Here, then, for your perusal is the late Sebastian Cabot (1918-1977) reciting “It Ain’t Me, Babe”.

[Video Monday] Ocean – One More Chance

A professional audio engineer calling himself mojofilter seems to have made a reputation for himself with his plethora of old and new Canadian hits transferred from vinyl or some other analogue source into digital form. I have showcased a few of his transferred recordings already. You can click here to subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you click on the YouTube video below, you can be sent to the page which houses this video, and you can hear the full story on the 5-member group from London, Ontario calling themselves Ocean, and their rise and fall.

“One More Chance” was their second hit, peaking at #12 in 1972.

[media id=7 width=400 height=300]

Crappy Album Covers #248 — De Agony of de Feet

The thing about Michael Franti, is that I like his style of music. Edgy, folky, and socially conscious, and entirely listenable.But, Michael, why did you have to ruin your latest record cover with your damn, *&#$!! foot? It’s not that pretty!
Here is what they did to Franti’s CD cover at amright.com.
Next up, Dvorak’s Slavonic Rhapsody #2 by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.

While another classical LP we’ve featured, called “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” left clues on the cover for the Italian-challenged, there is precious little here to explain th depiction of holding one’s feet in what appears to be a nearly impossible flexibility move for many, which would relate that to the music.

Crappy Album Covers #247 — Arguing over the death of God

J. C. Crabtree questions Nietsche’s assertion that God is dead. It is likely that Crabtree didn’t read Frederich Nietsche when he made this record, but who knows?

There is no information I could find on this person, although a search turned up this J. C. Crabtree, but makes no mention of a ministry or of making records.

Here is Gertrude Behanna for the second time, here to just show up J. C. Crabtree with her assertion that God is in fact not dead. Heck, with her it’s not even a question.

This album was already discussed here.

To finally settle Nietsche’s question, well, I was talking to God the other day, and He told me Nietsche was dead. That final assertion is much more provable.

Crappy Album Covers #246 — CAC Enigmas

David Gray’s 1998 CD “White Ladder” did not reach the top of the British album charts until 2001, giving it the record for the longest un-interrupted climb to the top of the British charts.

No one in the CAC blogosphere that I have read about can even speculate upon what the artwork is about, and this makes it a Crappy can you buy viagra over the counter in canada Album enigma.

1979 was the year Disco was still making too much noise, and prog rock was in a slow decline.

As part of that decline was Camel’s “I can see your house from here”. This album had shorter tracks and was less “proggy” than their previous LPs.

Their successive LPs marked a return to the prog rock format.

Crappy Album Covers #245 — Man’s Inhumanity to Man

… or this woman’s inhumanity to herself. The fuse is lit, and it’s almost going to be like the 1812 Overture, with the world’s first classically-trained suicide bomber providing us with fireworks.

Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985) owes much of his enduring reputation to his long-lived tenure with The Philadelphia Orchestra, lasting from 1936 to 1980.

This doesn’t look like an “inhumanity to man” cover until you notice that the croquet “balls” are the shrunken heads of humans.

This 1971 LP is the third from Genesis but the first to have the “classic” lineup led by Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins. It is interesting that this album, and the next two afterward never charted all that well in North America. Only the last two did with this lineup.