Friday, February 21, 2014

Ladies Figure Skating

Home cookin's a B...
This is no way to live. I can't go on Twitter anymore, I haven't dared to open my New York Times app for almost two weeks, and I threw a perfectly good microwave dinner in the garbage today. Who am I??!!!!!

Oh well. Given that you've probably already watched it and know exactly what happened, here's my coverage of the end of the last round of Ladies Figure Skating, which I won't publish until tomorrow. 

The personal tidbits supplied by the commentators sound like little cards filled out by the skaters while they wait their turn: "Adelina's favorite drink is orange juice, and she liked the first Hunger Games movie."

Whoops, Polina Edmunds just took a dump right on her can (that's skatingspeak for "she fell down"). See you in four years, toots.

Oh boy, Yulia's skating to "Schindler's List" again. Maybe she's just a huge Liam Neeson fan, in which case I'd suggest "Darkman Returns (Theme)" or the music from the closing credits of Taken. She fell twice, so she's definitely out. 

Carolina Kostner did a great job, despite her awful choice of music. Did she rip the score from Mothra right off of YouTube? She didn't fall, which puts her in first place by default. 

Next up is Adelina Sotnikova. At least she looks like she's having fun and kinda doesn't give a shit! Jeez now she's crying out on the ice... No, she's in first!

I hate this McDonalds commercial where they're biting their gold medals and then they're just biting their McNuggets. Maybe I'll unmute it next time so I can understand it. 

Here come the heavy hitters. Gracie Gold is my favorite American skater. It worries me that she's been skating around in circles for at least a minute without a single jump. Here she goes... BOOM right on her ass. Not so good. 

Anyone else want to see them bring back the compulsory figures? You know, when the skaters had to skate perfect figure eights for like thirty minutes, after which a team of scientists measured and graded their etched designs? Could be cool in HD!

Okay, here's the top dog: Yuna Kim. I watched her the other day and she was absolutely perfect. So far so good... Yep, another Wu Banga for Yuna. She's gotta win. 

Whoa, the second Russian won. I can't tell if Yuna Kim is crying or blowing her nose. Either way, she was robbed. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Biathlon: Women's Pursuit

Girls with guns.
Just took a late night Ambien and turned on the O-Limpics. Immediately I watched a German speed skater disqualified for two false starts. She trains for years and doesn't even get to skate. Sucks to be an O-limpian. 

I was hoping to catch something called the Biathlon Women's Pursuit tonight. That's really what it's called! Sounds like me for the two years following my divorce, except I never had skis or a gun. 

Biathlon just came on! Whoa, she just whipped a rifle off her back and started firing. Now there's at least fifteen women in spandex on skis lined up firing guns. I guess the "pursuit" is when they're all chasing after the one in front in the green tights? This is a bit nuts. 

It's a hectic scene. Why are they holding this event at night? No, I know it's not one am in Russia right now but it's actually dark where they are. Or this taped from nine hours ago?? They're all absolutely exhausted and lurching around on their skis with rifles on their backs. Looks like the green one from Belarus won, although right now she's curled up in a fetal position in the snow.

Apparently this race/hunt was 10K long. I've run my share of 10Ks and there's no way I could have stopped right in the middle and fired with any accuracy at a target. However I did once projectile vomit all over a race volunteer at the finish line. 

I witnessed history twice today. This afternoon I proudly announced, "Kids, we're going to watch the Olympics." As an image of women with brooms crouching on the ice materialized on the screen, I proudly announced "Kids, this is curling." Hey, it's the USA team! Unfortunately we were getting our pots clocked by the Brits. My entire family watched our national curlers give up seven points in a single end, which is kind of like allowing 25 runs in an inning. I screamed for mercy as my terrified children shuffled Legos around on the floor. 

Redemption arrived later when Erin Hamlin won the first ever US medal of any kind in any singles luge event. It was just a bronze, but she clearly had no chance against the Teutonic duo of Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hüfner, luge's version of McGwire and Canseco. Let's hope it's not another 50 years before our men get something. 

They're back to speed skating again. This Zhang Hong has something going on. She races like a crazy red spider on the ice, then rips off her cap at the finish to reveal a strangely alluring face. I guess the cap wasn't covering her face, so maybe it's alluring hair she possesses. Is that even her name? My google search brought me a third century Han Dynasty warlord. I think it's time for bbed.   

Monday, February 10, 2014

Team Figure Skating

Romantic warriors
The first-ever Olympic Team Figure Skating event concluded yesterday, with the gold going to the Russian Federation. I guess showing the same stuff a few times works in gymnastics, so why not in skating too?

I shouldn't complain, since I'm strongly in favor of anything giving Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir more televised ice time. The 2010 Vancouver winter games took place a couple of weeks after my baby girl was born, and I distinctly remember thinking the Moir/Virtue ice dancing gold medal routine was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life. Well, one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my life.

This time around my mind was only partially fried, and the Canadian anges sur glace were once again mesmerizing. The judges opted for style over beauty and gave the top ice dancing score to the Americans. Maybe it wasn't style they favored, but it certainly wasn't beauty.

However, it was the Russian Federation team that earned gold all-around, largely on the tiny shoulders of Yulia Lipnitskaya. Her short routine on Saturday ended with a spin of such astonishing torque that she nearly drilled herself through the ice into the bowels of the Iceberg Skating Palace. The fact that her foot (w/skate) was contorted behind her head for the dizzying spin-finale pushed things into the absurd. Oh yeah, she drew a little heart on the ice as the music ended.

"Little Nikita" (I couldn't find a nickname for her anywhere except "кренделек," which I believe loosely translates into "spinning pretzel") put in another phenomenal performance on Sunday in the free skate portion of the event. She drew ire from many for choosing to skate to the theme from Schindler's List- I mean, couldn't she at least use "Love Theme from Schindler's List"?!!

Speaking of odd music choices, American bad girl Ashley Wagner skated to Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" for her short routine. NBC's commentators apparently found nothing strange about doing triple lutzes to an extended Dave Gilmour guitar solo, simply stating, "Well, she certainly is a crazy diamond."

COMING SOON: Women's curling, Men's biathlon

Friday, May 17, 2013


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Z is for Zebra

Looks like we made it! This took way too long; as a result, I'm abandoning the "DVDz from A to Z" series I was planning as a follow-up. I'm looking forward to finally posting some of the great stuff I keep talking about that sits in my Drafts folder: a piece about Estes model rockets, some new suggestions for inspirational movie clips at sporting events, and something titled "Calling All Nipples." Thanks for reading!

Dan Zanes - Cool Down Time
I've mentioned this fine record before, I believe. An album with well-written songs, expert musicianship, and smooth production, which distinguished it from 90% of the music I was listening to in 1995.

Frank Zappa - "Peaches en Regalia"
I'm listing this as a separate entity from Hot Rats because: 1) I traded in my Hot Rats CD for beer money in Providence, and 2) I'm a proud owner of the "Peaches en Regalia" CD3 issued by Ryko in 1987. This rare "mini-CD" release is one of the more valuable items in my collection, and I-- Well, looks like you can find it at just about any price you want at Discogs, eBay, Amazon, etc.

Either way, I love this song. They used to play it VH1's New Visions around 1986/87 all the time, along with lots of crappy "new age" and smooth jazz stuff. If you got lucky, you might catch a Lounge Lizards track or even Al Di Meola's "Sequencer" video, which was almost fair compensation for enduring hours of Spyro Gyra and Yellowjackets clips. 

Zebra - Zebra (1983)
If you threw up grew up on Long Island in the 70s/80s, you probably knew about Zebra. If you aren't familiar with the Cajun-cum-Commack trio, they were a cover band that finally got a deal and made a good record, then a not-so-good record, and then a record I've never heard, and apparently made one more that I just learned about. If I were actually a member of Zebra, I'd simply say, "OK, so we're just a derivative mixture of Led Zeppelin and Rush, but we're really fucking good at it!!! And since there's only three of us, we make shitloads of money playing the clubs!"

Someday will my son will wear this.
To be fair, I really loved my Zebra cassette. "When You Get There," "As I Said Before," and "Don't Walk Away" are as good as the bigger hits, and the bigger hits are really darn good. Watching the follow-up, No Tellin' Lies, hit the cut-out bins in real time was almost as depressing as actually listening to the album itself (except "Wait Until the Summer's Gone" and "Bears," I guess). At least they were on MTV for a while there.

*WAIT!!! Look at this incredible cruise concert on Zebra's site! Yes, U.K., Tangerine Dream, Saga, Carl Palmer, Nektar, and Zebra??!!! I feel seasick already...

John Zorn - Naked City (1989)
"Eh, excuse me... I believe this record should be categorized as an 'N' release, since Naked City was an actual band."
"Perhaps you're right (whoever you are), but in case you haven't noticed, the Zs are a bit lean in the artist department."

I'm certain that I've never successfully played this recording from start to finish when I wasn't alone. At least not that I can recall.

ZZ Top - Degüello (1979)
This is the ZZ Top record I've listened to more than any other. I used to crack myself up when I'd sneak "Manic Mechanic" onto a respectably indie rockish mix tape back when people still made mix tapes. Maybe we stopped making mix tapes because it was such a pain in the ass for people to fast forward past songs like "Manic Mechanic." I used to crack myself up thinking about the recipients of my mix tapes having to fast forward past songs like "Manic Mechanic." Again, I've listened to Degüello more than any other ZZ Top record.

ZZ Top - Eliminator (1983)
I'm told that I once declared that Eliminator "was the Kick of its time." This bizarre and ridiculous statement surely requires an explanation.

First, I was referring to the 1987 INXS album. This is immediately problematic, since 1983 and 1987 are chronological next-door neighbors by most standards; many older people would have difficulty making clear distinctions between the two "eras." But one can also argue that popular music in 1983 did sound different than popular music released in 1987, so let's move on.

If I meant that Eliminator and Kick each featured remarkable runs of hit singles that were unprecedented for their respective artists, then maybe I had a point. In hindsight (which is the only way I can interpret or understand many musical claims I made in the 90s), I was probably referring to the fact that both bands incorporated sequenced rhythm tracks to a greater degree than on previous recordings. I'm also pretty sure I was riffing on some slurred comments another friend once made about Kick, but that's beside the point. I stand by what I said.

I love when something I say seemed really stupid at the time, but actually turns out to be only a little stupid.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Y is for Yanni

"I complete you..."
Yanni - Live at the Acropolis (1994)
This clearly goes down as one of the Seven Wonders of World Music. God! I used to love watching this and Tribute on PBS on a slow night. Like an elite few artists (Zeppelin, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kris Humphries...), Yanni is at once sublime and absurd, mighty and mortal, profound and fucking stupid. Features the brilliant percussionist and music therapist Kalani.

Yazoo - "Don't Go" (1982)
"Holy shit, that sounds kinda like Keith Emerson! Whoa, that's definitely not Greg Lake singing! Jeez, these drums sound much tighter than Carl Palmer's and don't seem to be fluctuating in tempo! This is definitely not E.L.P.!" -me, in 1982

Yello - "Bostich" (1980/1981)
I didn't exactly know about this seminal cut by Boris, Carlos, and Dieter back when it was released, but I recall being fully aware of the influence (both direct and indirect) that European electronic music seemed to be exerting on the development of hip hop. I also loved going to Baskin-Robbins.

Yellow Magic Orchestra - "Computer Game" (1979)
That makes three electro/synthpop tracks in a row! So I used to take lessons at the L.I. Drum Center, and the first guy I had was all about chops and pretty much nothing else. I told him I didn't want to do paradiddles every week, and I was immediately reassigned to the "weird" guy they had on staff. My new instructor was awesome-- we bonded on Allmans, Jeff Beck, and Tangerine Dream (true!). Soon he started inviting me to jazz fusion shows in Queens (?), adding that we could see some friends of his before the show. I'm pretty sure he was into Sri Chinmoy, but... Oh yeah! He was really into Yellow Magic Orchestra too. Cool dude.

Too bad I drunk-dialed him on my birthday in 1993 (along with my grandmother and at least two girls much closer to my age) and slurred about my Tama kit that I was still playing and my Zildjians and record deals and all sorts of bullshit. Embarassing and ill-advised.

Yes - The Yes Album (1971)
scenario #1
THEM: "Fragile is the best Yes album ever made."
ME: "Well... The Yes Album is pretty darn good, too! In fact, I'll argue that it's more consistent than Fragile. Not a weak song on there, although "Perpetual Change" mostly succeeds due to one of the more insane moments in the group's entire catalog near the six-minute mark. "Starship Trooper" might be my favorite Yessong ever, you dig?! The triumphant "Würm" rises like a slow-motion psychedelic leviathan from the Atlantic, leaving Led Zep and CSNY treading in their respective acoustic tidepools. And of course, "Your Move" is one of the great singles of the early 70s."

scenario #2
THEM: "The Yes Album is the best Yes album ever made."
ME: "What are you, fucking crazy??!!!"

Yes - Fragile (1972)
If The Yes Album is pleasant, ambitious psychedelia, then its successor Fragile is a rocky trip on some speedy but strong acid Fragile is a bit more challenging than its predecessor, which is somewhat ironic considering its popularity. It's insane that we used to hear "Roundabout" all the time on the radio, right?! Fragile is certainly the best sounding Yes record (unless you're a friend or relative of Trevor Rabin), and I'd say the most daring as well (unless you consider how in the world they dared to release something as lousy as Tormato). I can listen to "Long Distance Runaround" at any imaginable moment under any possible circumstances and love it dearly. While "LDR" is supremely visionary in the halls of prog, "Heart of the Sunrise" has very, very few peers when it comes to sheer musicianship. Only three examples are coming to mind at the moment, and only one isn't by Rush or Al Di Meola.

Too bad most of the rest of the cuts stink. The bass guitar and guitar "showcase" tracks are the only ones I'll even consider listening to, so just put on the second side and cut your losses.

Yo La Tengo - President Yo La Tengo (1989)
This was the first thing I bought by the hobos from Hoboken, and boy did I like it. I liked their next record too, but it seemed just a little bit boring compared to the one before it. I liked their next record too, but it seemed just a little bit boring compared to the one before it. I liked their next record too, but it seemed just a little bit boring compared to the one before it... You get the idea.

As their records became more and more boring, my behavior at their shows became more and more outrageous. I've been thrown out of at least three Yo La shows, all in different clubs for different reasons: 1) throwing up on bar and trying to order another drink right away, 2) falsely lumped in with group of people that were heckling James McNew, and 3) extreme intoxication. Hey! I've also seen them lots of other times and behaved like a perfect gentleman, so back off.

Neil Young - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969)
Somehow this was never one of my favorite Neil albums, even though I'd consider nearly every song it contains to be among my favorites. I'm an asshole.

Neil Young - After the Gold Rush (1970)
This is the one that really blew my mind. I still believe that the entire album is from outer space, with the exception of "Southern Man." I added the exception when I introduced my theory at a party years ago, knowing that wisdom on the fringes usually needs to be reeled in a bit for the masses. Point is, the album is extraordinary.

Neil Young - Tonight's the Night (1975)
One of the first Neil records I owned. Honestly never thought it was that depressing until I was old enough to puke from drinking, and even then I could still rock out to it. OK, I've never danced to "Tired Eyes," but I've sure as hell boogied down to the likes of "Lookout Joe" a few times. Just a few tracks shy of a freaking party album.
Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
This has always been my favorite, start to finish. "Thrasher," "Pocahontas," "Sail Away," and "Powderfinger" are every bit as important to me as protein, baseball, prescription drugs, and crossword puzzles. Can't count the number of times I reached for this one when nothing at all sounds interesting.

Neil Young - Ragged Glory (1990)
I was crawling in the swamps of grunge when this baby dropped, and it was damn fine to finally remember how to walk again. Neil and crew had good songs, took their time without wasting it, and had fun. One of the best album intros ever.

YoungBloodZ - "85" (1999)
Lord, did I groove to this joint when it came out... The whole "Southern rap" thing was either totally happening (for most of us) or totally played out already (for Southern hipsters), but who gives a shit?! This song was IT for me, even more than Outkast. Funny, since Big Boi delivers the bomb verse of the whole tune, somehow avoiding a single downbeat for the duration. Spacejace, you still out there? You know you loved this one!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

X is for X

X - Los Angeles (1980)
They truly broke the mold...
Tough for me to separate this record (or the band itself) from The Decline of Western Civilization, a film in which X totally outperforms a handful of other classic L.A. punk bands like Black Flag, Fear, and the Circle Jerks (exempt are The Germs, who defy conventions of musical criticism/appreciation). DJ Bonebrake taught me that there was nothing cooler than being a really good drummer in a punk rock band.

X - Wild Gift (1981)
"We're Desperate" and "White Girl" rule, but I still like the debut better.

X - Under the Big Black Sun (1982)
I can't find my copy of this one.

X - More Fun in the New World (1983)
Great songs, but lacks the danger of the earlier sides. That's what happens when punks get old, right?

XTC - English Settlement (1982)
How many great major label British pop-rock records came out in 1982? Tons!!! You couldn't show your face in public if you weren't a reverent fan of this one, although I always wondered how many "fans" could actually make it through the whole thing in one sitting.

XTC - Skylarking (1986)
I tried to call "bullshit" on this one, and completely missed the point. "Earn Enough For Us" is awesome.

XTC - Oranges and Lemons (1989)
Think it's tough to make it through English Settlement? Try listening to this one soup to nuts with a hangover! Better to call it quits at track 7.

X-Ray Spex - Obsessed With You: The Early Years (1991)
This is my wife's CD. I like the handful of songs I actually know...

Xymox - "Phoenix Of My Heart" (1991)
Also my wife's CD. Back when we still though we were cool/young enough to go to rock shows in Brooklyn, we spent a night giggling on the side of the stage at North Six watching bands rip off LCD Soundsystem. We giggled so much that we ended up popping a few Ambiens and "walking around" Williamsburg after the show. We somehow made it home, and discovered that we each purchased (hopefully) two used CDs at some point that night. One of mine was Freestyle Greatest Beats, Volume 10, which has "Body Rock" on it. If it sounds like I'm bragging, I'm not; I still don't know what my other CD was, or is.

My wife scored a cracked Xymox single and a horrible Ofra Haza CD (also cracked). Don't do drugs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

W is for Weather Report

Scott Walker - Scott 3 (1969)
One of my favorite moments from my first wedding was my friend blasting Scott Walker in his car by himself in the hotel parking lot. I guess I should have taken that as a bad sign.

Weather Report - Black Market (1976)
Groove like uranium
When you're a kid listening to cassettes, liner notes aren't always much help. I bought the cheap-looking white and red Columbia tape of this one, saying to myself as I rode my bike home, "Cool, this is the one with Jaco and Chester Thompson..." I was right about that, sort of.
Barely a teenager, the idea that different guys might play on different songs on the same album wasn't exactly familiar to me. So when I popped this one in and got my mind completely blown by the opening song, "Black Market," I naturally imagined Messrs Pastorius and Thompson steering the ship. No big deal, except that we're talking about one of the heaviest grooves ever waxed, period. Waxed by Alphonso Johnson and the insane Narada Michael Walden, not Jaco and Chester. Imagine going through your formative years thinking Jimmy Page sang "Black Dog." That's what I was up against as a teenager.

Ween - The Mollusk (1997)
Maybe not the best one (or maybe it is), but certainly my favorite to listen to. They nail British prog & folk to the wall like the Edict of Nantes, demanding the right to respectfully issue musical grievances to the pretentious.

Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator) (2001)
This one grabs and doesn't let go. More than enough beauty to keep you from hanging yourself.

The White Stripes - The White Stripes (1999)
I dismissed these two until I actually listened to their records. Now I dismiss those that still dismiss these two.

Chris Whitley - Dirt Floor (1998)
I've already talked about this one in the context of "bargain bin" finds, which is a little insulting to the power of the recording itself.

The Who - Tommy (1969)
I could easily be writing about any of the first eight Who albums here, but I'm gonna stick with the juicy middle of the Moon era. Tommy still captures the lads in their discovery period, yet reaps the rewards of experience in instrumental prowess and studio chops. Plus, the '96 remaster is insanely good.

The Who - Live at Leeds (1970)
Pretty tough to top this one as a live document. I used to ramble about the Allmans' Fillmore East spanning the entire expanse of American popular music in the 20th century (except showtunes and doo-wop, maybe?), but Live at Leeds hints at genres uninvented in its time. I've also rambled about this being the best Who record, period.
Speaking of uninvented genres, I still prefer the brutal original to the awesome remastered repackaged version. Then again, I also prefer the crappy original of Who By Numbers to the far superior remaster, so don't listen to me. 

The Who - Who's Next (1971)
When I'm not rambling (whatever that means), I'll tell you that this is the best Who record, period. The innocence of Tommy is long gone (after only two years!), replaced by sheer mastery and a dark feeling that's hard to describe. Townshend's all-consuming frustration with the sprawling Lifehouse project(s)? Mounting equipment/rehab expenses? Anyway, this HAS to be one of the five best classic rock records.

Hank Williams - 40 Greatest Hits (1978)
Hey, who cares if it's just a "collection?!" The man was a singles machine, so let's hear 'em!
About twenty years ago (!) I put both discs of this set and my Ray & Pete CD in my changer, and taped a shuffled mix of the three. I thought it was utter genius, but the other two people driving around the country in a van with me didn't exactly share my lust for depravity.

Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
I was right in the middle of a multi-layered personal disaster when this miraculous record came out in the summer of '98. To be precise, I was pulling myself out of the first pile of wreckage and a few months away from being completely blindsided by the second phase of the disaster. By the middle of '99, I was finally heading in the right direction and only months away from getting my ass kicked on a daily basis... and loving every second of it.
Car Wheels got me from point A to point F and back again. She knew exactly what I'd lost, exactly where I ended up, and exactly what I was trying to find. Thank you, Miss Williams.

Wire - Pink Flag (1977)
Wow. That's all I can say about this one.

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (1973)
I'll put Talking Book right beside this one, but Innervisions gets more plays.

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
I used to love buying rap records on Thayer St. in early '90s Providence, RI. I could count on (1) finding a cheap promo of what I was looking for (because nobody ever bought rap records there), and (2) being stared at like a had a screwdriver sticking out of my forehead (especially by record clerks I knew!).It took me a month or two to fully dig this record; the songs I loved immediately were "Can It Be..." and "Tearz." Understand that I was essentially listening to it by myself, as I was stuck with the same two people on tour that didn't exactly correspond to the Wu. As soon as I had another head to bob with, the hits kept coming.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

V is for Venom

Some guy told me that products with names starting with the letter V never sell as well as competing "non-V" brands. I always preferred Vivarin to NoDoz, and it's my understanding that Vagisil is the industry standard of the yeast infection world, but I believed the guy. I made a solemn vow to never name one of my bands with a V first letter-- a vow I've kept to this day.

Van Halen - Fair Warning (1981)
I've already written about this record at least twice (#1, #2), so I'll spare you. I like Van Halen, Diver Down, and 1984 almost as much for lots of reasons, but Fair Warning is the best.

Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter (1977)
My first favorite Townes record was Live and Obscure, which I've since lost. I still tell myself that the L & O versions are better than the Old Quarter ones, which doesn't seem possible but sure is fun to believe.

The Vaselines - The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History (1992)
Me and my friends I lived with in Providence once found an unidentified mixed tape in our house. The cassette was mysteriously and beautifully labelled white hot bee shot through flesh. Either (1) it belonged to former tenants of the house, (2) it was accidentally left behind by a girl that came over, or (3) it was a gift from a girl that came over. We knew it was made by a girl because the label on the tape was exquisitely written in very cool lowercase letters no male would be capable of rendering. Scenario (1) seemed ridiculous, so it had to be (2) or (3). Since we were drunk at least 85% of the time we lived at this particular house, (3) was the clear-cut winner.

Anyway, side A of white hot bee opened with "Son of a Gun," as I'm sure thousands of other cool tapes have opened across the world. The frightening thing about this mix was the B side, which featured an ambient "song" featuring what we believed to be a young child whimpering, possibly while being tortured. The "crying song" was so terrifying that I almost had a nervous breakdown listening to it one morning while I was deathly hung over. We never tried very hard to solve the mystery of the tape, probably out of mortal fear.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood (1983)
So fucking good.

Velvet Crush - In The Presence Of Greatness (1991)
So fu Here's a record that just feels right. I (barely) remember staggering around pushing this one on anyone forced to listen, calling it "what the new Fanclub should sound like." Unfortunately, when Velvet Crush got their turn to make a "studio" album, they just couldn't make it stick. Too bad, because Teenage Symphonies... is really good too.

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
I made a name for myself for a while with asinine jukebox hijinks, like playing the Scorps' "Ветер перемен" (the Russian version of "Wind of Change") three times in a row at a bar in Montreal, or pulling the "00" trick to play awful albums like Jagged Little Pill in their entirety. I was nearly thrown out/beat up for delivering another three-fer at a joint in Kenai, AK: the Velvets' "All Tomorrow's Parties" with two encores.

The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat (1968)

If the third VU made me want to write my own songs, this one made me want to record them. Myself, that is. I had to play "Sister Ray" at least three times in a row the first time I heard it, just to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. One of the most important things I've ever listened to.

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (1969)

If the second VU made me want to record my own songs, this one made me want to write the songs first. Tough to make an album this perfect, especially when it contains nine minutes of embarassing garbage.

The Velvet Underground - Loaded (1970)

I've slagged this record so many times, it's a bit surprising that I have any friends left at all. Of course it's great! I just thought it should've been their best record instead of their worst. And if it's not their worst, which of the other three is it better than?

Venom - Black Metal (1982)
Drawn by Satan?
OK, I've never even heard this record, but I believe it's the one to have if you're interested in Venom (it features a song called "Countess Bathory," OK?). There was a weird guy named Vinnie at my high school that was pretty much the biggest Venom fan on Earth, or any other realm. I figured Vinnie listened to Venom because they were the only metal band that had yet to disappoint him; perhaps no other group of men could possibly live up to his unspeakably evil standards. Slayer? Used to like 'em. Metallica? Fucking sellouts. Maiden? Please!!!
Vinnie had lots of Venom shirts (at least five, anyway), but the Black Metal one stuck with me. Not that I ever let Vinnie know that I was looking at it or him, of course.

The Verlaines - Bird Dog (1987)
A great record to listen to by yourself.

Versus - "Let's Electrify" EP (1993)
I can't find my copy. Probably lost in the "take whatever the fuck you want as long as I can keep the computer" portion of my divorce. Pretty hard to find, but has to be their finest release. Recorded at the legendary Studio Red in Philly, pre-flood.

V-3 - Photograph Burns (1996)
I think Joey Pants gave me a promo of this, but maybe not. Dark, great, and tragic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Game Changers"

One of my favorite games to play with friends is something we call "Roll the Bones." To play, one distributes ten fair dice (ten-sided dragon dice are optimal, but not required) amongst all players (as equally as possible), and the players roll all ten dice simultaneously. Each player creates their own distinct ten-digit number sequence (not starting with "0" or "1") using the digits randomly generated by the dice, and then enters their unique sequence into their cellular phone. The players depress their "call" buttons at the same time, and upon connection with a receiving party begin screaming at maximum volume into their phones. The player that keeps their target receiver on the phone the longest wins that particular round.

Another fun game is to create specific musical criteria for bands, albums, musicians, etc., and name as many examples as possible that satisfy or exemplify the conditions. Example: Bands whose second album was generally considered to be their finest, or Bands named after a member other than the lead singer, or "Good" bands whose album catalogs contain a majority of releases that are "not good."

Of course the answers are highly subjective, which is why the game is so fun. Anyway, here's a new one I thought of a few nights ago... It expands on an earlier topic I came up with: Bands that were successful in two different incarnations, each featuring a different lead singer.

[note: You might have some better ideas than the ones I'm suggesting-- please share/discuss via comments! It's really fun!]

"Game Changers"
Bands that replaced or added a member(s) and reached new levels of success.
The band must have a minimum of two proper full-length releases before the addition/replacement, and the new member must be an integral part of the newfound success. So, no Peart for Rutsey.

Fleetwood Mac - Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham replace Bob Welch (1975)
Tough to beat this one. Bob Welch was a major Mac member, but the Buckingham/Nicks upgrade was like getting Ruth/Gehrig for Jimmy Dykes. Or like getting Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton for Bob Welch...

Journey - Steve Perry replaces Robert Fleischman (1977)
Perry really was recruited to augment the existing vocalists Neil Schon and Gregg Rolie-- a job Fleischman apparently couldn't hack. Have you ever heard Gregg Rolie sing "Open Arms?" Me neither.

AC/DC - Brian Johnson replaces Bon Scott (1980)
Before you accuse me of blasphemy, I love Bon Scott. It's just that Back In Black is one of the biggest selling albums in the history of mankind, so I think this qualifies.

Doobie Brothers - Michael McDonald replaces Tom Johnston (1975)
That's gotta suck... "Hey bro, sorry about your ulcer. Listen, Mike's just gonna fill in for a while."

Faith No More - Mike Patton replaces Chuck Mosley (1988)
I owned records by these guys both before and after the above switch, and I can attest to the fact that Faith No More became a better and more popular band as a result.

Genesis - Phil Collins replaces John Mayhew (1970)
'Nuff said.

More Drummers:
Sleater-Kinney - Janet Weiss replaces Laura Macfarlane (1996)
Completed the new definition of power trrrio with vocals, style, and kick-ass drums.

Flaming Lips - Steven Drozd replaces Nathan Roberts (1991)
They just happened to start selling lots of records when this guy starts playing drums? Hmm...

Simple Minds
- Mel Gaynor replaces Mike Ogletree (1982)
Listen to "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and report back to me. Don't forget.

Sort of:
Red Hot Chili Peppers - John Frusciante replaces DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight (1988)
Tough one. They've gotten so big it doesn't seem to matter who plays guitar at this point.

Survivor - Jimi Jamison replaces Dave Bickler (1984)
Most people think "Eye of the Tiger" when Survivor comes up, and that's Bickler. On the other hand, I think of "High On You," "The Search Is Over," "I Can't Hold Back," and other hit singles featuring vocalist Jimi Jamison.