Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finally at home

I have my own domain now. Visit Any Major Dude With Half A Heart at


All archives are there. Don't forget to bookmark www.halfhearteddude.com

See you there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

He's leaving home

As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to leave this arbitrarily post-deleting shithole for a new home at Wordpress. The new URL is:

http://halfhearteddude.com (new URL, as of January 2010)

Thank you Google for providing me with a free platform, but don't anyone think that Google is a cuddly maverick outfit. Google is one with The Man.

Anyway, I haven't figured out how to operate the 301 redirect thing (it seems to work only if you have your own domain), so I'll lose my Google rankings. That's a fifth of my traffic. But 36% is direct traffic (over the last 30 days), and 43% is referred, i.e. links on other blogs and, of course, referrals from the wonderful Totally Fuzzy. Since I hooked this show up to Google Analytics in July last year, there have been 222,490 visitors, 55,2% of whom were first-time visitors. I have no idea whether that is any good, but I'm happy that more than 110,000 people have landed up here at some point over the past 18 months (20,000 of them from Totally Fuzzy), and that some have returned.

Over and out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 20 albums of 2008

Everybody's doing it, so I might as well dabble in the conceit that anybody is really interested to know which releases of the year I liked best. I don't think it has been a vintage year for music, or perhaps I have not paid much attention. I've also found myself falling off Planet Indie, so the "singer-songwriters" boss the list. I've put sample tracks into one file, in case somebody is interested. The featured titles appear below my brief comments. Full tracklisting in the Comments section.

1. Jay Brannan - Goddamned
Strong, idiosyncratic lyrics and melodies one can sing along to by the antidote to all the depressingly boring corporate stars. And Jay was interviewed on this blog, so he rules.
(Bowlegged And Starving)

2. Ron Sexsmith - Exit Strategy Of The Soul
Perhaps Sexsmith's most consistently engaging album yet. It's as beautiful as any Sexsmith album (the man has never made an ugly album), and as warm as any. This is music to make long, slow love to, and cuddle afterwards.
(This Is How I Know)

3. Tift Merritt - Another Country
Merritt's third album is easily her best. Returning to the softer alt.country/folk sound of her debut, some of the songs here qualify for the dreaded cliché "achingly beautiful".
(Hopes Too High)

4. The Weepies - Hideaway
My go-to album when I don't know what I want to listen to. Bright, melodic folk-pop which seems to be written for Saturday mornings with a croissant and a good cup of coffee. The album is a few songs too long, but with none being offensive, should I complain?
(Takes So Long)

5. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Rilo Kiley singer goes back to her alt.country roots. It's nit an easy album to get into, and it features Elvis Costello on one song, which in my book is not a recommendation (the song isn't bad though). Jenny's voice is as sexy as always, which compensates for a couple of duff songs. The title track is perhaps the year's best song.
(Acid Tongue)

6. Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
Kathleen Edwards lets rip with sardonic wit on an album which gives a withering look at her homeland Canada, loafing partners, the war lobby and more, and then surprises with vulnerable moments. Another album which requires a few spins before it catches on.
(Oil Man's War)

7. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Hyped as the new Dylan since he could walk, on this solo album Conor finally lives up to the promise. Meaning, it all sounds a bit like Dylan in his prime. One can hear Dylan singing most of these songs. It sounds not unlike last year's Bright Eyes album Cassadagia, which was fine, but not a patch on I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, one of the best albums of the decade.

8. Ben Folds - Way To Normal
I have apologised for not liking this album much at first. It's too much like Ben Folds Five, when I prefer the two solo albums. Folds actually released two albums: a "leaked" version, which he especially recorded and then, well, leaked; and the real CD. Some fans prefer the leaked version, which isn't bad at all. But it would be a conceit to rate it more highly than the real Way To Normal.
(Free Coffee [Leak Version])

9. Hello Saferide - More Modern Short Stories...
Yet another album which initially failed to meet my big expectation; and another one that required a few listens. Annika Norlin (who is Hello Saferide) has largely abandoned the twee indie-pop of the debut album and EP. More Modern Short Stories... has an edgier sound. It sounds good, but detract from the lyrics, and it's in the lyrics (and that cute accent) where Norlin's strength resides.
(X Telling Me About The Loss Of Something Dear At Age 16)

10. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
A couple of years ago, Neil Diamond made a comeback with the Rick Rubin-produced 12 Songs, which was quite outstanding (even if later bonus tracks rendered the title nonsensical). Home Before Dark continues in a similar vain, laying to rest the scandalous notion that ND is in any way "uncool".
(Pretty Amazing Grace)

11. Joshua Radin - Simple Times
And another album that delated my expectations. Radin's full debut album, We Were Here, was my top pick for 2006, an intensely intimate affair. This is rather lighter and, well, more mainstream. Thing is, I think I'd like it a lot better if I didn't know Radin's previous output (there was a very good EP as well).
(Friend Like You)

12. Lenka - Lenka
Sunny, bouncy pop. It's light and hugely enjoyable. What Colbie Caillat was to 2007....
(Anything I'm Not)

13. Micah P Hinson & The Red Orchestra
After all that time, Hinson remains some sort of insider tip. A Tom Waits for these times.
(Throw The Stone)

14. Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
When I first heard it I was impressed. After a while it felt like a Pink Floyd record. The trouble with Narrow Stairs is not in its quality — it's a very good album — but in finding a reason to play it. If you want Death Cab songs you can whistle along to, try 2005's Plans or the earlier albums. If you want an intricate tapestry of sound, your better off with the mighty Transatlanticism.
(Grapevine Fires)

15. Jack Johnson - Sleep Through The Static
The surprise inclusion here. I have nothing against Jack Johnson's songs. They are nice, in a Michael Franks kind of way. But his albums are mind-numbingly boring. I got this for review. I listened to it for a few times, gave it a half-hearted approval. Then I gave it another go. And another. And more. And I realised that I was enjoying the CD.
(If I Had Eyes)

16. Yael Naïm - Yael Naïm
I know, it was released in some places in 2007. Yael Naïm's New Song got plenty airplay, but it's nit really representative of this intriguing album, on which Naïm sings in English, French and Hebrew.
(Far Far)

17. Emiliana Torrini - Me And Armini
Yes, she's from Iceland. No, she's not like Bjork. Though this album, a much more raucous affair than the whispering The Fisherman's Wife, has a few rather crazy moments which would not seem out of place on a Bjork set.
(Dead Duck)

18. Looker - Born In The Desert
I'm trying to remember the marketing comparison for this, which was pretty spot on. Something like the Ramones through the filter of '60s Phil Spector. Not consistently brilliant, but always good fun.
(Born In The Desert)

19. Kaki King - Dreaming Of Revenge
On her latest offering, the very beautiful Kaki King goes easy on her unique guitar stylings, which were impressive for the first four songs, but became wearying. Here she sings more than she did before. An album one listens to for atmosphere.
(Bone Chaos In The Castle)

20. Jordan Trotter - Jordan Trotter
A rather unknown country singer who deserves some attention. The debut album starts with a trio of quite lovely songs, which would not have disgraced Tift Merritt's wonderful CD. After that things slide a little, with a couple of daring covers (The Wind Cries Mary, Chain Of Fools) which aren't at all bad but, well, redundant.
(I Want You)


On a different note, this blog will soon migrate to Wordpress, who I hope will not denude its subscribers’ blogs in the spineless manner Blogger has done (six DMCA notices in the past two days!). Don't let me ever hear again how Google are so alternative and so sticking it to The Man. I'm struggling with a few features in Wordpress, but the whole blog – including posts deleted by Blogger (except my Obama post, probably zapped by James Brown's people, which I failed to back up) — should be up in a week or so. The URL will be http://halfhearteddude.wordpress.com, and of course I'll have a notice here. Or I might even figure out how to redirect things...


Friday, December 5, 2008

Elvis movies quiz

What it says in the title... Guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all these movies were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section. Not that I'd know any of them. Except two. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean's mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn't even inherit Bing Crosby's mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

Full article here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Intros Quiz - Classic rock edition

Here is the last intros quiz of the year, this time on the theme of classic rock, covering the period from the late 1960s to 1979. It's pretty easy, I think. In fact, some are so easy, they are bound to insult somebody's intelligence. But the easy ones will make Uncle Fred very happy when you run the intros quiz by him when he comes visiting on Boxing Day. One thing I learned in my brief career as a pub quiz master is to mix up the reasonably challenging questions with really tough ones (give the experts something to chew over) and a few very easy questions, so that the casual participant will also know an answer or three.

So, as always, 20 song intros of 5-7 seconds in length. I'll post the answers in the comments section on the weekend. If you really need to set your mind at ease with that blasted #12, drop me an e-mail (or drop me an e-mail anyway), and I'll let you have the answers sooner.

Intros Quiz - Classic Rock editon (Go HERE to download the file)


Monday, December 1, 2008

A Renaissance Christmas

I am not in a habit of uploading full albums. There are blogs that specialise in that. So I have ever only posted two albums which are not easy to find (at least if you don't do amazon, which is sticky with deliveries to some countries) and which I think are quite special. One of them was A Renaissance Christmas by the Boston Camerata. Since DivShare wiped out my entire account coinciding with the orgy of blog deletions, the link is dead. A reader asked very nicely if I could re-upload the album. And, since Advent kicked off yesterday, and that reader has periodically left comments, I have gladly done so. It was a very popular download, with 2,000 downloads or thereabouts.

A Renaissance Christmas (as I wrote a year ago) was recorded in 1986. As the title suggests, the Boston Camerata recreate the sound of Christmas from the 15th, 16th and 17th century, spreading the international flavour liberally with songs in English, French and German. I'm no expert in such things, but those who are say it is flawlessly performed. Especially fascinating are the brief readings from the Gospel of Luke that intersperse the album, delivered in what is supposed to be the English accent of the 16th century.


Read more about A Renaissance Christmas
Buy A Renaissance Christmas

And by another request, I have re-uploaded the notional Beatles album of 1981, titled The Beatles - Finally (previously on ZShare, which seems to be permanently up the creek).


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Revisiting '60s Soul

I don’t think I’ve so much fun putting together an Any Major Mix as I had with this one. So much great music to choose from, so much great music I hadn’t played in a while. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R.

This mix is not a representative overview of ’60s soul. Some essential artists are not represented here: Sam Cooke, James Brown, Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield (well, he is very much present on Major Lance’s deceptively titled track. And the Five Stairsteps, with a song released four years before their famous Ooh Ooh Child, evidently have heard a Curtis song or two before). There are some well-known tracks on here – hopefully not too obvious, though – complementing some less famous tracks. Perhaps some songs will provide surprises. Dionne Warwick takes time out from bacharaching to provide a nearly camp girl-band type song. Johnny Adams gives Release Me, most famous in its Engelbert Humperdinck rancid cheese version, the soul treatment, showing that this is in fact a great song.

Philly soul exponent Bunny Sigler found some fame in the 1970s; the closer on this set was his isolated hit (reaching #22 in the Billboard charts) of the 1960s. DeeDee Sharp, another successful Philly singer, represented here (with a b-side track), even married the co-doyen of the city’s famous sound, Kenny Gamble. Some songs set the scene for the sound of '70s soul, perhaps none more so than the Delfonics La La Means I Love You, which created a lush sound which would be widely copied by the likes of the Chi-Lites, Stylistics et al. And going back to the essential sound of '60s soul, check out Peggy Scott on the cover with Jojo Benson: you’d not think that she could belt out a song as she does here. The wonderful Carla Thomas and Otis follow them: by comparison with Peggy & Jojo, those two are pictures of restraint.

There are some fascinating stories behind many of the artists represented here. The most tragic is that of the Bar-Kays, Stax session musicians, who were decimated in the plane crash that also killed Otis Redding, with whom they were touring. And who'd think that the Soul Survivors, another Philly band with a Kenny Gamble connection, were all white?

And, since you ask, my favourites of this mix? Today, it’s Tighten Up and Loveland.

1. Archie Bell & the Drells - Tighten Up (1968)
2. Major Lance - Monkey Time (1963)
3. Soul Survivors - Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
4. Aretha Franklin - Since You've Been Gone (1968)
5. Peggy Scott & Jojo Benson - Lovers' Holiday (1969)
6. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - Bring It On Home To Me (1967)
7. James Carr - Dark End Of The Street (1967)
8. Jerry Butler - I Stand Accused (1964)
9. Johnny Adams - Release Me (1969)
10. Irma Thomas - I Wish Someone Would Care (1964)
11. Brenda Holloway - Operator (1965)
12. Dionne Warwick - Get Rid Of Him (1964)
13. The Tams - Hey Girl Don't Bother Me (1964)
14. Stevie Wonder - Until You Come Back To Me (1964)
15. Dee Dee Sharp - There Ain't Nothing That I Wouldn't Do (1965)
16. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Jimmy Mack (1967)
17. Jr Walker & The All Stars - What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) (1969)
18. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - Love Land (1969)
19. David Ruffin - My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me) (1969)
20. Robert Knight - Love On A Mountain Top (1968)
21. The Delfonics - La La Means I Love You (1968)
22. The Five Stairsteps - Don't Waste Your Time (1966)
23. O.C. Smith - Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp (1968)
24. Sonny Charles & the Checkmates - Black Pearl (1969)
25. The Marvelettes - Don't Mess With Bill (1966)
26. Robert Parker - Barefootin' (1966)
27. The Bar-Kays - Soul Finger (1967)
28. Bunny Sigler - Let The Good Times Roll (1967)


More mixes
More 60s soul (links are all dead though)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reflections of my life

Last weekend I was strolling around Cape Town's Waterfront – a brilliant place despite being aggressively touristy around which all kinds of normal harbour functions are taking place – when I passed a structure I have walked by many, many times over the years: a garage type of thing in which is parked a quick response boat run by the National Sea Rescue Institute (although I have lived by the sea for all but three years of my life, I am rather clueless in matters of maritime jargon). This time, the boat garage – which is probably not its correct appelation – looked different: the sun shone just so as to create a mirror effect against this ordinarily unremarkable structure I had not seen before. I had my camera with me, and it is that this point that my boring story of a leisurely Saturday walk assumes some kind of relevance.

Suddenly, somebody in Ohio whom I've never met and have exchanged perhaps a couple of dozen of comments with came to mind. As I looked at the structure, I thought: "Oh, Dane from the All Eyes And Ears blog would definitely take a picture of that." The geometry of the structure and the effect of the reflection of a boat and a building on the glass through which one can see the sea rescue speedboat seemed to me just the kind of thing one might find on Dane's blog, if Ohio was at the seaside. So, inspired by Dane I took the picture below, which I think is pretty good. Of course I could never claim to have as astute an eye for detail as Dane has, though I have taken some photos I am rather proud of. Perhaps I'll post some of them at some point. I think it is quite remarkable, however, that a blogger in far away Ohio should have spontaneously entered my mind during an afternoon walk, and inspired me to take a particular photo.

And, in keeping with Dane's concept of posting a song to illustrate an illustration:

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yet more '80s soul

I'm not sure whether it is due to popular demand after last week's compilation, but here is a second '80s soul mix, with a third and final installment in the works. The first mix was an attempt to create a fairly representative cross-section of the genre. This mix is less self-conscious about that. What we have here, then, are some of my favourite soul tracks from that comparatively barren decade. As in any compilation of favourites, the measure of quality may be secondary to the compiler's emotional connection to a song. Is Smokey's Just To See Her any good? I don't rightly know. It may not be a better song than Being With You. But much as I like Being With You, it does not transport me back to a particular time. Play Just To See Her, however, and I smell the girl's hair, taste the vegetarian gunk I used to eat, feel the anticipation of going to the club and the anxiety of missing my friends in London. And so it is with many songs in this mix (especially Pendergrass' wonderfully Marvin-esque Joy).

This mix includes two Gospel songs. Invoking God in soul music was nothing new. Curtis Mayfield did it habitually before Al Green swapped his silky sheets for a silky collar. By Gospel was still indentifiable by its distinctive features. The Winans family, who breed like the Wayans but have more talent in their chosen field, led a revolution which appropriated the contemporary soul sound into their songs of praise. The lyrics were usually not as direct as those of traditional Gospel – less of the hollering hallelujahs and summonsing of witnesses, lawrd. Indeed, hear the Winans or Steve Arrington songs without being aware of the lyrics, and you'd have no idea which genre you're tuning into.

I'm saving the best for last though. The very last. When the bizarrely named Oran 'Juice' Jones berates his cheating girlfriend, he cracks wiser than any heartbroken man ever did. He gets vicious ("I gave you things you couldn't even pronounce") and funny ("You without me is like..." oh, let's not give away the punchline). Doesn't sound as good in print as it does when "Juice" says it. Amusingly, Jones seems to be quite at a loss as to why the girl would cheat on his charming, non-condescending and gender-role sensitive self. The cover of The Rain pretty much sums up our boy Oran's demeanour vis-a-vis the laydees. Still, cracking song. And, don't touch that coat!

1. Isley Jasper Isley - Caravan Of Love (1985)
2. Smokey Robinson - Just To See Her (1987)
3. Randy Crawford - Rainy Night In Georgia (1981)
4. Larry Graham - One In A Million You (1980)
5. The Winans feat. Anita Baker - Ain't No Need To Worry (1987)
6. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly - Before I Let Go (live) (1986)
7. Teddy Pendergrass - Joy (1988)
8. Timmy Thomas & Nicole - New York Eyes (1985)
9. Cameo - A Goodbye (1985)
10. Force M.D.'s - Tender Love (1986)
11. Cheryl Lynn & Luther Vandross - If This World Were Mine (1982)
12. The Temptations - I Wonder Who She's Seeing Now (1987)
13. Steve Arrington - Feel So Real (12" version) (1985)
14. Gwen Guthrie - It Should Have Been You (1982)
15. Cherelle & Alexander O'Neal - Saturday Love (1985)
16. Oran 'Juice' Jones - The Rain (1986)



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Swooning for Swedes

This one is for all the laydees out there who like themselves a bit of man hunk: promo photos of 1970s dance bands in Sweden. Even if we elect to make allowance for the gung-ho crazy fashions of the day and the ill-judged exuberance with which Scandinavia’s musical heart-throbs adopted these – and not only sartorially, but also in the domains of coiffure, facial hair and corrective eyewear – there were some dodgy-looking characters making Swedish audiences swoon back in the day. How did that nation ever manage to produce such wonderful performers as Hello Saferide and Jens Lekman?

Full article here

Friday, November 14, 2008

More '80s Soul


1. Marvin Gaye - My Love Is Waiting (1982)
2. Sadao Watanabe & Roberta Flack - Here's To Love (1984)
3. Phil Upchurch - When And If I Fall In Love (1983)
4. Sherrick - Just Call (1987)
5. Windjammer - Tossing And Turning (1984)
6. Eugene Wilde - Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight (1984)
7. Freddie Jackson & Melba Moore - Just A Little Bit More (1986)
8. Amii Stewart - Friends (1985)
9. Mtume - Juicy Fruit (1983)
10. Mica Paris - My One Temptation (1988)
11. Will Downing - A Love Supreme (1988)
12. Tashan - Strung Out On You (1987)
13. Atlantic Starr - Silver Shadow (1985)
14. Jeffrey Osborne - You Should Be Mine (Woo Woo Song) (1986)
15. Womack & Womack - Teardrops (1988)
16. Curtis Mayfield - Do Be Down (1989)
17. Bobby Womack - I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much (1985)
18. George Benson feat. Patti Austin - Moody's Mood (1980)


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Music for Bloggers Vol. 9


Sometimes I visit a favourite blog and, David Byrne echoing in my mind, I wonder: how did I get here? Totally Fuzzy is an obvious source of discovering favourite blogs. Links on blogs I like are another pretty reliable source (shared tastes, and all that). Some I might have stumbled upon while searching for a particular song, using a variety of search engines and aggregators. And many I’ve discovered when their owners left a comment. Occasionally I encounter members of my circle of blogging pals – people whose blogs I read and who read mine – in comments sections of other blogs. Did they get there through my links, or did I find them through theirs, or what other permutations might have led to our congregation at a third blog?

And how did people find my blog? No doubt, Totally Fuzzy, Elbows and good old-fashioned googling are a major source of exposure, as are Retro Music Snob and All Music, All Blogs. Some blogs clearly are so popular and trusted that their readers click on links to mine (Echoes In The Wind, DeaconBlues1103 and Dr Forrest's Cheese Factory are the most prolific sources of traffic in that respect). And if you’re reading this having read The Guardian's blogroll last weekend, welcome (also featured was the excellent Ghost of Electricity).

Not so welcome is whoever DMCAs me to Blogger. Another post was zapped yesterday; Blogger again won’t say who complained. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve not capitulated. Nor have many of the bloggers I particularly enjoy. Anyway, all this to introduce or highlight six more blogs I particularly enjoy. There were more on my shortlist, so if yours has not yet featured, it may well do so in the future.

Modern Acoustic
Rich K puts out a PDF-based magazine featuring some of my favourite contemporary artists: Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Borges, Josh Ritter, Patty Griffin etc. To go with the mag (which can be downloaded at modernacoustic.com), he runs a blog with copious links to the official sites of the acts he is writing about. Rich is DMCA-safe because he posts no music, but he has taken an interest in the War on Bloggers situation . He wrote to me saying that he is researching an article on the subject. If fellow victims of the terror campaign, or other interested observers, would like to share their views or experiences with Rich, he can be e-mailed: rich [at] modernacoustics [dot] com. One act Modern Acoustics has not featured yet are The Weepies, whose cause I promote with undiluted enthusiasm. From a perfectly legal and band-approved top-notch bootleg:
The Weepies - Gotta To Have You (live)

The Gentlebear
To illustrate a point I made in the introduction, I found this blog just a few weeks ago and have no idea how I came by it. Whichever route it took, I am delighted to have arrived there. Gentlebear is one of those bloggers who educates and entertains with some fine writing and great song selection. I was particularly impressed with his recent post on The Temptations’ song “I Wish It Would Rain” – possibly my favourite by the Temps next to “Since I Lost My Baby” – featuring a couple of great covers. When I discover a new blog I really like, I trawl through back posts until I have no more energy or time. I read all of the ursine’s blog in one sitting (well, it goes back to only June, but the point stands: this is a very fine blog). The song dedication comes from a 2005 charity compilation, War Child - Help: A Day In The Life. War Child is going to release a new comp in February 2009. Check it out.
Damien Rice - Cross-Eyed Bear

The beauty of la musique
A bilingual blog from Canada which takes as its theme appealing or otherwise remarkable graphic artistry from yore. The blog pictures old LP or magazine covers, photos, posters, record labels and so on with a succinct illumination to explain its presence. Sometimes the narrative is very funny. I enjoyed this one for an early ’60s record cover depicting a rather predatory sleazedouche doing the twist: “Here's a stupid and ugly one, for a change. Richard Anthony was a popular French singer of the 1960's. On the cover art of this single, he seems to have other projects than twisting. Look at the way he's watching this girl... Help ! Police !”
Status Quo - Pictures Of Matchstick Men

Silence Is A Rhythm Too
Here’s a blog that has been running since I was a little boy in Lederhosen (which reminds me of a boy at school in Germany who once pissed into his Lederhosen. As visitors to München’s Oktoberfest may know, not only is piss in Lederhosen eminently conspicuous, but it also produces a nasty aroma). Funk-loving Michael of SIART describes his blog as “an on-going mix-tape”, which seems to me quite an accurate description, though songs are mostly posted individually. Including a bootleg version of the song this blog is named after (though you’ll have to go back a couple of months to find that). Those still on an Obama-high can get an Obama Mix at SIART. It’s all stimulatingly eclectic stuff.
Gene Kelly - I Got Rhythm

Jay Brannan: The Morning After
Jay's debut album, Goddamned, might well turn out to be my most-played of 2008. The long-standing reader will recall that I interviewed Jay back in July. What came across was an appealing personality with some strong opinions and a healthy dose of wit. This is reflected in his apparently very popular blog (featuring a number of video clips from his gigs around Europe), which we can take for granted is written by the artist himself, not an intern at the management company. Jay is certainly building up a strong following around the world, and – this is particularly pleasing – across the sexual spectrum. As he said in the interview, why should his sexuality matter when he sings about stuff in his life? I imagine that Jay's blog is named after this, the theme from The Poseidon Adventure:
Maureen McGovern - The Morning After

The Music Blog of the Infonistacrat!
I feel a little guilty about not having featured the Infonistacrat before. I have found some great music there, especially from the ’90s, which is a bit of a blind spot for me (fatherhood and lack of access to sources of decent music – DMCA fans might note that had there been blogs then, I’d have bought plenty more CDs then). The Infonistacrat also calls back into action songs from the ’80s, including a lot of half-forgotten material. A great and frequently updated source of alt.rock, punk, indie, new wave and so on. The Infonistacrat will have this song already, probably. It's that sort of song.
The Ramones - Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael's World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut's Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain't That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing
Music For Bloggers Vol. 6: my hmphs, Visions of Wrong Terrence, Don't Burn The Day Away, Mine For Life, 3 Minutes 49 Seconds
Music For Bloggers Vol. 7: Uncle E's Musical Nightmare, Jens Lekman, Ain't Superstitious, AM Then FM, Psd Photoshop Disasters, SIBlingshot on the Bleachers, Dr Forrest's Cheese Factory, NME & Melody Maker
Music For Bloggers Vol. 8: dustysevens, All Eyes And Ears, Bob Evans, Retro Kino, Retro Music Snob

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba RIP

The South African singing legend Miriam Makeba died last night of a heart attack after performing at an anti-Camorra concert in Italy. She was 76.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Intros Quiz Junior Edition AND why Prince can piss off

A friend asked me to put together a quiz aimed at a more youthful audience, covering roughly hits from the past five years. I may as well share it here: if the regular visitors don't their MTV from their VH-1, perhaps their kids might like to have a crack at an intros quiz. Family friendly, I am. (The illustration on the right? A Rolling Stone cover from July 2005, more or less the midpoint of the time period covered by this quiz. That Ms Alba... she isn't very ugly at all.)

Answers in the Comments section soon.

Intros Quiz 2003-08

Oh, and while I'm here, the recent flurry of post deletions on this blog still puzzle me, but I've noticed that three of the deleted posts included links to songs by Prince (two of them on perpetually screwed ZShare). The artist formerly known as pretty damn good has stated that he objects to his music being featured on blogs. It's a shame that Prince's people acted without asking me to remove the offending links. Way to piss off a fan, Prince. Our little hero has not created one decent CD in the past 15 years, so my consumer boycott of Prince albums will have no effect. But even if he makes another great album, I'll be damned if I buy it. Consider me an ex-fan of Prince. Another act that has asked their blogging fans (!) not to review their album is – here's a surprise – Metallica. Happily, that outfit of wankbuckets are unlikely to ever feature on this blog. I'm delighted to declare that I own nothing by them, and I wouldn't give those overblown pricks more time of the day than I already have wasted writing half of this paragraph.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Intros Quiz - Motown Edition

The November intros quiz: 20 songs released on Motown (or subsidiaries like Tamla) from the '60s to early '80s. Each intro is 5-7 seconds long. Many of them are fairly obvious, with a few tougher ones thrown in to make it interesting. But nothing obscure.

I will post the answers in the comments section over the weekend. In the meantime, if that pesky number 14 is driving you insane, feel free to e-mail me.

Intros Quiz - Motown Edition


Monday, November 3, 2008

Any Major Groove Mix

Think about it: if a song title riffs on the theme of grooviness – as a noun, verb or adjective – it is almost certain to be an affirming, cheerful tune and lyric. So as most friends of this blog are entering the dark, depressing days of winter I thought they might need some groovy, sunny cheer...

This mix covers several genres – pop, soul, funk, indie. Much of the material here is old, though there are two recently released songs: Rio En Medio's great a cappella cover of Earth, Wind & Fires' Let's Groove, and Swedish indie-pop outfit Billie The Vision & the Dancers fine opener of their latest album. One song features twice: the Young Rascals' carefree Groovin' and Aretha Franklin's quite different cover.

Ask me which songs I dig the most, and I'd have to decide between those by Gene Chandler, P.P. Arnold, Alan Price and the Mamas and the Papas. Or the Equals. Or Mr Bloe (best pop instrumental ever?). Or... oh, listen to it and find your own favourites.

1. Mr.Bloe - Groovin' With Mr Bloe
2. Young Rascals - Groovin'
3. The Equals - Soul Groovin'
4. The 5th Dimension - Working On A Groovy Thing
5. Letta Mbulu - What's Wrong With Groovin'
6. Bobby Wells - Let's Copp A Groove
7. Archie Bell & The Drells - Let's Groove
8. Gene Chandler - Groovy Situation
9. Simon & Garfunkel - The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (live)
10. PP Arnold - (If You Think You're) Groovy
11. The Mamas and the Papas - Somebody Groovy
12. Alan Price - Groovy Times
13. Average White Band - Groovin' The Night Away
14. Heatwave - Groove Line
15. Harvey Mason - Groovin' You
16. Rodney Franklin - The Groove
17. Lou Rawls - Groovy People
18. Aretha Franklin - Groovin'
19. The Mindbenders - Groovy Kind Of Love
20. Rio En Medio - Let's Groove
21. Billie The Vision And The Dancers - Groovy
22. Ace Frehley - New York Groove
23. The Smithereens - Groovy Tuesday
24. Ciccone Youth - Into The Groove
25. Raquel Welch - I'm Ready To Groove


If you liked the Billie The Vision & the Dancers song, you can download the whole album (and previous albums) on their website, and set your own price, or none ("If you want to download our songs there are two ways to do it. Either you can afford to pay us, or, if you are just as poor as we are, you can download it for free. We appreciate both choices!" Aren't they just lovely people?).


Friday, October 31, 2008

Frothy court jester

If I sounded a little disheartened by my post (EDIT: Now deleted, ha dee fucking ha. EDIT2: And now reposted) about the post deletions on this blog and others, the comment by Mephisto from Totally Fuzzy was greatly encouraging. Mephisto and the people of Totally Fuzzy have seen it all before. I recall a series of deletions being subject to big debate on Fuzzy’s previous incarnation a coupler of years ago. For the benefit of those who haven’t read Mephisto’s comment, here’s an excerpt:

The idea that this would be done by some record company or label or whatever industry branch doesn't make much sense to me to be honest. I know hundreds of blogs that post a dozen of freshly leaked albums on any given day, and they never seem to have to go through this. There are blogs out there that are genuine Free Record Stores, posting brand new releases every day again and again and they get away with it. If there would be any interest from the industry, those are the ones they'd be going after. It can't be that they're too dumb to just use google to search for the latest AC/DC album for example. I'm pretty sure that their visitor numbers are a lot higher than your blog too, so they should be the ones attracting the attention.

Given the fact that there doesn't seem to be any logic behind any of this, I still think it is some lone cowboy, having what he understands as fun at other people's expense. And it seems that it are especially the dedicated bloggers that get hit.

Another thing that really is very interesting is that I never see any foreign language blog get hit. Through the years that has consistently been the case. Whoever is doing this is English speaking and he probably gets off reading this kind of comments.

[...] should this blog be deleted, just start another one. We will promote it on totally fuzzy and most people will find it again. In the end we will always win, because we have way more patience and dedication than the freewheeling assholes.

I am persuaded that we’re dealing here with a court jester living a sadly empty life who no longer gets his kicks (yes, I’m sure it’s a male) from porn sites depicting women with heads shoved down a toilet. My post yesterday might have had our detractor wanking himself into a froth. The expression of his sexual disfunction is perhaps best confined to playing power games with the blogging community, because the alternatives to that are ghastly. People who get off on the exercise of coercive power are liable to also be rapists. The deletion of some posts (which, if one has backed up, can easily be reinstated) is a small price to pay for the safety of women and, perhaps, even children.

Of course I would prefer it if the frothy court jester would just piss off, as I’m sure he will when he realises that the blogging community will not be intimidated. Perhaps he will up the ante and force feckless Blogger (who just couldn’t be bothered to distinguish between authentic and frivolous complaints) to close down those blogs who’ll not be discouraged by his antics. Should that come to pass, I’ll simply start a new blog, with all my previous posts – or at least those preserving – intact. I have tussled with much more powerful people than the frothy court jester in my time. What delusion to think that he is anything more than a nuisance.

No music for this post, so there’s nothing for Blogger to delete but the whole account.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

War on bloggers

[Reinstated post after The Man deleted it for defiantly featuring songs by the Doobie Brothers, Rosie Thomas, Barry White, Melanie and Rage Against The Machine]

Even when you know it’s coming, when it does it is disturbing. Blogger deleted four posts of mine, The Originals Volumes 6, 7 and 8, and one from the dormant CD rated blog. Happily I backed up the Any Major Dude blog on Monday night after reading Whiteray’s post on Echoes In The Wind. In my comments to whiteray’s post I was defiantly bolshie. The essence of my response was “fuck them, we should not be bullied”. And I won’t be. I expect the arbitrary deletion campaign a passing phenomenon. And the fewer disheartened bloggers throw the towel, the sooner it will pass.

Of course I’m angry. I’m angry with those who demanded that Blogger remove pages, and I’m angry with Blogger. Of course, we music bloggers must acknowledge that we do play loose with intellectual property. Most of us, at least those of us who post music as a companion to a narrative, don’t seek to profit from doing so (no Google Ads here, nor pleas for donations. And the measure of glory we get is not going to inflate our egos unduly). Indeed, I think most of us post music to promote the artists and their music, to attract notice to lesser known or half-forgotten artists. In short, we do what we do in service to music. Many professionals in the music industry know that. Some contact us with a view to having their clients featured on blogs.

The post on CD Rated that was zapped by Blogger was a review of Brandi Carlile’s excellent The Story album. The review was glowing, encouraging the reader to buy the CD. Does it benefit Ms Carlile that my words of acclamation have been removed from the public domain? Most music blogs run a caveat asking copyright owners to tell us what links to remove, so that undisputed content can remain undisturbed. But why was the post on CD Rated (which nobody reads anyway) removed and not the post on this blog, much more popular and googlable than CD Rated, from which it borrowed the link? Maybe that will still happen. But if it doesn’t, then I should assume that this exercise is random and arbitrary. And if it is so, then this campaign has a purpose unrelated to copyright protection. But we cannot discern that purpose if we do not know who our accusers are. W can only guess at it. My guess is that those behind this campaign seek to obliterate the arena of music blogging with all the subtlety of Sarah Palin in a library and all the common sense of Dick, Don & Dubya before invading Iraq.

I understand Blogger’s dilemma. I am grateful to Google for providing bloggers like myself with a platform on which to communicate our thoughts. I accept that Google/Blogger must protect themselves from legal difficulties. My anger at Blogger is not directed at their self-protective action. My anger relates to the fact that Blogger did not notify me who told them to remove my words. Is it the RIAA, and individual record company, a private saboteur who gets his kick out of this? I understand that it would be a lot of work – and Google is a struggling small business which presumably cannot muster the required manpower – but my expectations might have been to communicate to the bloggers which links are being objected to, with an instruction (it needn’t even be polite) to remove the link in question.

I have pledged to continue blogging. I might change platforms – perhaps finding a host in a country where US copyright laws do not have force – or try to double-guess what Blogger will and will not zap. At the same time, I’m feeling a sense of blogging burnout and diminished time. If the rate of my updates decreases, then it will not because I have submitted to The Man, but because I am facing new challenges. Apart from the job which pays me my monthly salary and being engaged in an NGO I helped found*, I have taken on the editorship of a book project, revising another book, and plan to write one myself. And my family would like to remember my face as well. Which means I will not devote as much time to this labour of love as I have previously. But I won’t go.

* If anyone is interested in knowing about it, e-mail me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Originals Vol. 12

Article here

Comme d’habitude/My Way
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Dedicated To The One I Love
Jersey Girl
Here Comes The Night


Saturday, October 18, 2008

iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol. 7

The iPod Shuffle function is very useful in bringing to the listener's notice songs that have bypassed them. Of course, there is always the temptation when being confronted with a song one is not in the mood for to skip subsequent tracks, thereby compromising the arbitrary purpose of the random shuffle. And sometimes iPod comes up with a fantastic sequence, as it did this morning, compelling me to violate my no-weekend-posting rule to resurrect the iPod Random 5-track Experiment series, which last ran in March.

Full article and DL links here

Nick Heyward - Whistle Down The Wind.mp3
Alas, poor Nick Heyward. He was just too clean cut, too cute and too saddled with a insurance salesman's name to be respected. When the barely pubescent girls put up their Nick Heyward posters from Smash Hits, the deal was sealed: Heyward would not...

Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart (live).mp3
This version is from the box set of Broooce live recordings released in 1986. It captures the energetic bonhommie between headliner, band and audiences beautifully. You don't need to see ...

Herman's Hermits - No Milk Today.mp3
I posted this before on the Teen Dreams mix, but can't understand how No Milk Today failed to be included in the Perfect Pop series (which came to an abrupt end when I misplaced my shortlist of yet-to-be featured songs). Written by Grahame Gouldman, later of 10cc, the song was ...

Blondie - X-Offender.mp3
I posted this before in the 1970s Time Travel series. Few moments in pop music are sexier than Debbie Harry's spoken intro. Oh, but the '70s were an innocent age, when acts like Blondie were ordered not to feature the word "sex" in the title of a song which ...

Weezer - Island In The Sun.mp3
I tend to make my own cellphone ringtones. At one point, Island In The Sun was the personalised ringtone alerting me to calls from Any Major Wife. I don't think I am exaggerating when I note that my wife ...