Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas: The Youtube Essentials

I've been usually wrapped up in holiday spirit this year. In keeping with this anomaly, I've been listening to quite a lot of Christmas tunes, admitting to myself that yes, even the super-sentimental ones (as if any weren't) have that special charm that wears out just as the 25th comes to a close. Since my (and probably   your) desire for such celebratory, sticky-sweet numbers has such a short shelf-life, I didn't go through the trouble of making an actual mixed file. Instead, I chose a more disposable medium - the youtube channel. Here's the track listing for the channel, which you can find here:

1. Paul McCartney - "Wonderful Christmas Time"

How could I not start off with this energetic number by Sir Paul? Some of my readers probably know how I carry a candle for this often maligned Beatle, so here it is: the man can write a hook. That synth line!

2. Donny Hathaway - "This Christmas"

The man with the golden voice (Sorry, Sinatra). 

3. The Ramones - "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

Love this video. This track got the edge on that Kinks song, I just feel like soul, not snottiness.

4. The Drifters - "White Christmas" 

Recently watched "Home Alone" for the first time since childhood. What's the deal with that aftershave scene? Did Kevin actually shave and get razorburn or what? The furnace scene wasn't as scary as when I was a kid.

(Two I almost forgot!!!!)

5. Clarence Carter - "Back Door Santa"

6. James Brown - "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto" 

7. Louis Armstrong - "Zat You, Santa Claus?"

Honorable mention: that song about "all that meat and no potatoes".

8. Run-DMC - "Christmas in Hollis"

This is a new one for me this year. Great video, signature sound. Pretty sure that's the Clarence Carter song in the sample, too.

9. Ray Charles - "Merry Christmas, Baby" (Live in a German Monastery)

Oh yeah.

10. Stevie Wonder - "I Wish"

So this isn't a christmas song by genre - but he mentions it in the first verse, and it's all about growing-pains nostalgia, certainly a part of the holiday experience... plus this is way better than anything on "Someday at Christmas".

11. Jacob Miller and Ray I - "Natty No Santa Claus"

Because if there was ever a time for feeling irie, it's the holidays.

12. Bruce Springsteen - "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"

I don't even like this guy that much (Sorry, Tim!), but this song rules.

13. Tchaikovsky - "The Nutcracker Suite"

Jammed to this last night in "Fantasia". Something that lines the floor of my subconscious and that will never be removed :) ... but what better way to close this list out? This is actually a shorter version, you can the Op 71a version here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nahawa Doumbia - Didadi (Shanachie, 1989)

Been wanting to put this up for all of you since I found it, I was so excited! Like many, I bet, I was turned on to this beautiful voice via Awesome Tapes' (re-?) release of "La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3", which you can check out and buy here (see the left side of the page). 

I've already posted a video floating around youtube of Doumbia singing "Banani", just her vocals and a guitar accompanying... I love that version, but you've got to hear how it was recorded on Didadi. Floors me.

Although some of the soukhous recordings I hear from Earthworks/other labels from around the same time are somewhat off-putting in their super-clean production values, for my taste, this album hits the sweet spot. I love those drums! Nice guitar work throughout. 

Enjoy, and here's hoping Doumbia and her loved ones are safe during this very dangerous time in Northern Mali.

Another gem, "Mogoya (Generosity)": 

BTW, that's not Nahawa on the youtube still, here's a sassy shot:

Get "Didadi" here 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

David Byrne - The Catherine Wheel (Sire, 1981)

For the past week, I've been pretty locked into individuals on the fringe of rock, people whose work I've loved and respected for years, but who I never sought out apart from their well-known stuff...Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker...but my fascination with David Byrne has been going on for a while now. And there's so much to love right now! I'm afraid to post his new album with St. Vincent, for fear that some nebulous internet overseer will have my head, but here's the first song from it, which I can't get out of my head: 

The video's not too shabby, neither. So, there's his great new album with St. Vincent, the tracks he did a few years ago with the Dirty Projectors, this recent TED talk that takes up an egalitarian approach to music and its production/use, his label and all the great stuff they put out...

The man's a fine wine, people. What he's doing is the proof! But hey, what more do you expect from someone who spent their formative years around Baltimore?

So, instead of that new release, I've got "The Catherine Wheel", a series of songs DB was commissioned to do for a dance performance in the early 80's. Sounds very close to the stuff he was doing with Eno on "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" around the same time. Really tight, funky studio band, this is my favorite moment of the Talking Heads years.

P.S. From some inexplicable reason, the song "Ade" is missing on my copy of this album. As I listen to it now, I realize what a shame that is! Oh well, I'm having trouble finding the track anywhere else but youtube, and since these links are for preview purposes only (riiiight?), if you love it, go find it and support your local record store. A used vinyl copy'll run you 2.99. 

The missing link:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pyrolator - Pyrolator's Wunderland (Ata Tak, 1984)

From what I've heard so far, a uniquely silly (in the best possible sense) album from this German synth whiz, still active and formerly of Der Plan. Expect lots of off-putting tropical bird and monkey noises, other humorous sound effects, and super crisp synth arpeggios. This is way cleaner than "Ausland", production-wise (make of that what you will)... For fans of Ray Lynch, J-M Jarre, Suzanne Ciani...

Here's the highlight track for me, to get you started:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Soft Machine - Third (Columbia, 1970)

Maybe you already have this one...but if not, you should. There's a lot more room here than on "Vol. 2" (not a preference, "Vol. 2" is great) - but just when you are lulled into what the band is doing, they change up the tempo, or there's a cut in tape and something else happens...moving between jazz moments, crescendos, organ-led riffs, atonal passages...

My favorite on this second go-around (I lost my first copy a while back) is "Out-Bloody-Rageous", segueing from some oscillating-time organ loops (read: Terry Riley) to the band rocking at its best.

Thanks Robert Wyatt and Co.!

(Here's a video of that song that I can't watch now because I don't have an extra 15 minutes...lemme know if it's good ;))

Friday, December 7, 2012

This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears (4AD, 1984)

So, this seems appropriate, considering this has been playing all night on repeat on my iPod. I've been on a dreamy 80's kick for a little while (never knew how good Roxy Music's "Avalon" was! Maybe I'll put that one up too). Don't know all the guests on this first TMC album, but the songs really hit home. Liz Fraser's vocals on "Another Day" knock me out. Here it is: 

(Disclaimer: this is not my rip, and it definitely sounds sped-up on a few tracks...I can tell the difference on "Another Day"...still sounds good to me)

Relax and enjoy