28 December 2010

TNOP's Top 25 Songs of 2010

The Night Owl presents his personal jukebox of the songs he enjoyed listening to (over and over) in calendar year 2010. Comments and additions welcome. Let the countdown begin!

25 FREE ENERGY: "Bang Pop"

24 DELTA SPIRIT: "Bushwick Blues"

23 JAILL: "The Stroller"


21 TROMBONE SHORTY: "Hurricane Season"

20 PAUL SIMON: "Getting Ready For Christmas Day"

19 THE DECEMBERISTS w/Gillian Welch: "Down By The Water"

18 CRYSTAL CASTLES w/Robert Smith: "Not In Love"

17 LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: "Dance Yrself Clean"

16 SPOON: "Who Makes Your Money"

15 ROLLING STONES: "Plundered My Soul"

14 MGMT: "Congratulations"

13 THE NATIONAL: "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

12 VILLAGERS: "Becoming A Jackal"

11 CARIBOU: "Odessa"

10 SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS: "I Learned The Hard Way"

9 SHE & HIM: "In The Sun"

8 MUMFORD & SONS: "Little Lion Man"

7 ALOE BLACC: "I Need A Dollar"

6 THE BLACK KEYS: "Tighten Up"

5 GORILLAZ w/Bobby Womack & Mos Def: "Stylo"


3 LOCAL NATIVES: "Sun Hands"

2 CEE-LO GREEN: "F*** You"

1 JANELLE MONAE w/Big Boi: "Tightrope"

7 March Release Date For New Elbow Album

Our UK pop & jazz correspondent Miles Gallagher reports today that Elbow have announced a UK release date of 7 March for their eagerly anticipated new album. Build A Rocket Boys! will be the Mancunian quintet's fifth long-player. A handful of tour dates in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have been scheduled for March. Expect the music to compliment the size of the venue. “It’s impossible not to consider where you’re going to play your music live when you write it,” Guy Garvey told BBC 6 Music. “We very arrogantly assumed we were going to be playing arenas very early on.”

The track listing for Build A Rocket Boys!
01. Lippy Kids
02. The Birds
03. With Love
04. Neat Little Rows
05. Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl
06. The Night Will Always Win
07. High Ideals
08. The River
09. Open Arms
10. The Birds (Reprise)
11. Dear Friends

Here's hoping a proper trip to America is in the cards for 2011. Meantime, here's a tasty track from the new record.

27 December 2010

Gorillaz Cover Steely Dan's "FM"

. . . or technically if you follow all the antics of the Jamie Hewlett characters, it is a 2D "solo" effort (voice of Damon Albarn) along with the help of New Zealand saxophonist Nathan Haines covering the Becker/Fagen tune which originally appeared on the soundtrack for the very forgettable film of the same name. You'll find it on the web-only accessed new Gorillaz album The Fall. And it will not be titled "FM." Go to Track 6, under the playfully misleading title "Little Pink Plastic Bags." Some wags on the internet have indicated that the cover was recorded two years ago, and therefore cannot be part of the claim of Albarn that the new collection of songs was recorded on the road solely via iPad. Whatever. Haines puts his smooth jazz imprint on the song but doesn't try to replicate the original of Pete Christlieb. And if that's Albarn on guitar, cheers to him.

25 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Times Square, New York City, 1969.

22 December 2010

First Listen: R.E.M. with Eddie Vedder - "It Happened Today"

A second track from the upcoming album Collapse Into Now from R.E.M. (due to drop 8 March) has leaked: "It Happened Today," a catchy bit of jangly pop complimented by the backing vocals of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

Paste reports that other guests on the CD include Patti Smith (long considered the band's musical godmother), Smith's long-time musical cohort Lenny Kaye and Peaches.

R.E.M. - It Happened Today (Feat. Eddie Vedder)

Must See TV: Merry Christmas From Darlene Love!

Tomorrow evening 23 December on The Late Show With David Letterman marks one of our favorite annual viewing experiences of the holiday season. The fantastic Darlene Love will appear for the 25th consecutive year to sing the Spector-era classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" along with Paul Shaffer and The CBS Orchestra - and probably their own augmented "Wall of Sound." [Check your local listings, but in the US the standard starting time of the show is 11.35pm EST/PST and 10.35pm CST.]

And this year should prove to be all the more festive with the recent news that Ms. Love was finally notified that she will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Our Christmas wish granted.

To get you in the spirit, here's the original recording from 1963's A Christmas Gift To You From Phil Spector:

21 December 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#28]

"She Belongs To Me"
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh & Jerry Garcia
Original Dylan version found on Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

It is well known that the Grateful Dead - as well as its family tree of side projects - has accumulated a treasure trove of performances of Bob Dylan songs. Indeed, Dylan has toured with The Dead. So we won't spend time going down that road when there are many more ardent followers of that prolific band who continue to aptly record that history.

But we did find a fairly rare, and touching, take by the three core members of The Dead playing Dylan's "She Belongs To Me." Apparently, this is a clip from a VHS tape circa 1992 called Backstage Pass. Bob Weir trades verses and then harmonizes with a fragile looking Jerry Garcia. Phil Lesh provides a solid bass bottom and Garcia his signature guitar picking.

The song itself is a deceptively gentle, waltz-like melody partnered with another classic Dylan lyric. Speculation has always centered around Joan Baez as the artist who commands constant attention bordering on idolatry from her lover, but cannot be conquered by a mere male: She's nobody's child/The law can't touch her at all.

"She Belongs To Me" is curiously placed on Bringing It All Back Home between two rockers which train a laser on the social ills of the day (the two singles released from the album: "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Maggie's Farm"). Produced by Tom Wilson and recorded at Columbia Recording Studio in New York City on 14 January 1965, Dylan (on harmonica and acoustic guitar) is backed by John Hammond Jr and Bruce Langhorne on electric guitar as well as William E. Lee on bass and Bobby Gregg on drums.

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "She Belongs To Me" (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)

Another Cover: Leon Russell, "She Belongs To Me" (Leon Russell & The Shelter People [CD bonus track], 1971)

Yet Another Cover: Buffalo Tom, "She Belongs To Me" (Velvet Roof [EP], 1992)

20 December 2010

The Dictionary of Soul: General Johnson

General Norman Johnson was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1941 and began singing in church as a boy. By the age of 12, young General (his real given name) had formed his first group, dubbed The Humdingers.

By the late 1950s, Johnson and his mates - Milton Wells, Gene and Dorsey Knight, and Leslie Fleton - thought they were on the verge of something big. "We had a contract with Atlantic as The Humdingers," recalled Johnson in a 1987 interview with Soul Express. "We did some demos, but they were never released because [of a conflict with management] and our careers went down the tube. The music we did was kind of doo-wopish."

The Norfolk quintet headed down to New Orleans and had its first bit of luck. Renamed The Showmen, their breakout single was a B-side: "I Will Stand." The 1961 The production board for that 45rpm single was helmed by a then-unknown Allen Touissant at Minit Records. The tune made it to the bottom of both the R&B and Pop charts. The New York Times called "I Will Stand," written by Johnson, "a defiant ode to the power of rock 'n roll." The listener can hear the doo-wop influence laid over the unmistakable Crescent City beat.

The Showmen's upbeat brand of rhythm and blues became commonly known as "Carolina beach music." Another prime example of their unique regional sound - as recognizable as the soul strongholds of Chicago or Philadelphia - is the fine "Our Love Will Grow."

General Johnson moved to Detroit in 1969 to join a group being formed by famed Motown songwriters and producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. The hitmakers had had a famous falling out with record titan Barry Gordy and were starting their own label, Invictus.

The name given to the fledgling four vocal stylists was The Chairmen of the Board. And they immediately lived up to their grandiose title when they hit No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart with the all-time soul jukebox (and now oldies radio) classic "Give Me Just a Little More Time." Johnson is captivating on the record, providing a pleading, searing vocal punctuated by his unforgettable "Bbbrrrrr!" that lands near the end of the track. With that signature move, General Johnson made his own mark on rock and roll.

The Chairmen of the Board scored a few more minor hits ("Dangling On A String," "Pay To The Piper" and "Everything's Tuesday") before breaking up, mainly as a result of a salary dispute that Johnson had with Invictus.

But the early 1970s found Johnson's writing skills also earning him some money and industry recognition. The Top 10, Grammy winning "Patches" launched the career of Clarence Carter. And girl group the Honey Cone had success on the charts with songs like "Want Ads" and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show."

Johnson took off to Europe after the dispute with Invictus, gaining some acclaim as a practitioner of what that continent dubbed as "Northern Soul." Upon his return to the States, he struck a deal with Clive Davis of Arista Records. "I stayed there two, three years. [Davis] paid me well, but I only did one album (1976's General Johnson)," recalled Johnson.

This led to a production gig for Martha Reeves, and then a meeting in California with Barry Gordy. "He was trying to get me to come to Motown. I would have loved to work with him, but my Ma was sick and I wanted to do something on my own, a business of my own," Johnson told Soul Express.

Thus was born Surfside Records in 1979, owned by Johnson and his partner Michael Branch. He returned back to the Carolinas and continued to practice his craft as an independent. The two also became booking agents, producing large shows over the years in the area starring the likes of The Chairmen of the Board, Cornelius Bothers and Sister Rose, The Tymes and The Emperors.

In one of his last interviews in June of this year, Johnson told The News & Observer that he preferred that type of musical life because he valued creative control and savored beach music. "That's the thing about a good song," he said. "Let's say that song was put out 10 years ago, the recording company is done, whoever wrote the song is dead or just ain't writing songs no more. But that song is still there."

General Johnson died this past 13 October in Atlanta due to complications of lung cancer. His friend Chris Beachley said, "He was the king of Carolina beach music."

[Ed. note: Thanks to our pal and reader Paul for the tip and initial research.]

16 December 2010

Happy Christmas, Eh?

Good day, eh. Today's topic: "The Twelve Days of Christmas," courtesy of two hosers from the Great White North, brothers Bob & Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas of the epic 1980s classic cult TV series SCTV). So grab a Molson, don your touk and cook up some back bacon. In the holiday spirit, TNOP brings you a seasonal gem.

15 December 2010

Jeff Tweedy & The Autumn Defense: "God"

Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy hopped on stage with The Autumn Defense (the side project of fellow Wilco-ites Pat Sansone and John Stirratt) in Charlottesville, Virginia on 8 December. In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, the group tackled "God," the epic track from Plastic Ono Band. Listen for Tweedy's little twist on the original lyrics.

14 December 2010

Macca At The Mecca

Fifty-three years after his boyhood idol Buddy Holly played the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Paul McCartney finally took the stage last night at one of the most famous music venues in the world.
In its review of the show, The New York Times reported that Macca told the audience, "It's the holy grail. I dreamed of playing here many a year."

McCartney follows in the footsteps of a pantheon of stars who have graced the venerable space that first came to prominence in the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-World War Two years: Ella Fitzgerald. Sarah Vaughan. Billie Holliday. Chuck Berry. Sam Cooke. James Brown. The Supremes. Marvin Gaye. Stevie Wonder. Aretha Franklin.

The concert on Monday night was heavy on the hits - both The Beatles and Wings - as expected. But The Cute One bowed in reverence to the occasion by pulling out Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike," a Motown tune that The Fabs took a swing at in their "back to basics" Let It Be sessions. With six women behind him on a platform dancing go-go style, "it was going pretty well . . . then the house speakers turned off, only the stage monitors were audible, and a screech of feedback made Mr. McCartney recoil."

Perhaps recognizing the ghosts of the Apollo's luminous past at work, the band leader rebooted and ordered his mates to take it from the top. After all, McCartney has been playing American rhythm and blues since he was 15, when he first appeared on stage singing Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally." Even at the ripe age of 68, another take was natural for the eternal Beatle boy from Liverpool who still loves the beat.

13 December 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#27]

"Maggie's Farm"
Solomon Burke
Original Dylan version found on Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

One of the bigger losses to the music world in 2010 came on 10 October when the "King of Rock and Soul" Solomon Burke died at the age of 70.

A man seemingly bigger than life literally (he was over 300 pounds) and figuratively, Solomon Burke had essentially been on stage since he was seven years old when he delivered his first sermon at his church in Philadelphia. Like many to-be soul artists, Burke's roots were in gospel. "The Wonder Boy Preacher" stepped into the secular world with a recording of Patsy Cline's "Just Out of Reach (Of y Two Open Arms)." The country standard became a surprise R&B hit, and Burke's career on Atlantic records was born.

Classic titles followed. "Cry To Me" (1962) a gospelish pot-boiler, was a top five hit in 1962 which found another life on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in the 1980s. The swinging "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" (1964) would be covered by the Rolling Stones and again earn popularity in The Blues Brothers; ironically, Burke saw the film - incorrectly crediting the song to Wilson Pickett - and called his old Atlantic boss Jerry Wexler to complain. The story goes that Wexler was simply happy to hear that Solomon was still alive, and sent him a sizable royalty check the next day. And then there was the fantastic "Got To Get You Off My Mind" (1965), a tune Burke wrote in the throes of a divorce and mourning the tragic death of Sam Cooke.

Burke's on stage presence was memorable. Back in the day, his contemporaries were in awe of his raw power. "Solomon could command a stage better than anybody," said Sam Moore. "We (Sam & Dave) used to finish our set and go sit in the audience and watch him." L.C. Cooke, Sam's brother, was quoted as saying: "On one tour with James Brown, Solomon started with 20 minutes, but he was kicking James Brown's butt so bad that he cut Solomon's time down to one song!"

Solomon Burke got a second encore on the popular music stage. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. And rock's royalty lined up to play and write with him. The remarkable Don't Give Up On Me (2002), produced expertly by Joe Henry, saw Burke perform original contributions from Bob Dylan ("Stepchild," apparently culled from the Street Legal sessions circa 1978), Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson and others. The record won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He followed with three other solid efforts: Make Due With What You Got (2005); the duets LP Nashville (2006); and Like A Fire (2008).

Burke's take on "Maggie's Farm" is notable as it is probably the first significant recording of a Dylan song by a soul singer, recorded shortly after the original was released in 1965. The majesty of the melody and lyric are perfect for the King of Rock and Soul's muscular style and hearing the song on 45 rpm just drives home how truly memorable Solomon Burke is to the history of popular music.

Still Another Cover: Ben Sidran, "Maggie's Farm" (Dylan Different, 2010)

09 December 2010

Open A Free Gorillaz Album On Christmas

Now here's some intrepid surfing: Consequence of Sound dug out a recent interview on Perth Now with Jamie Hewlett, the visual mastermind of Gorillaz, who spilled a significant surprise. "On Christmas Eve, a video for one of the new songs from the iPad album will be released," Hewlett said. "Then, on Christmas Day fans get the whole album downloaded to their computer for free as a gift."

This confirms Damon Albern's earlier hint that an album was being written and recorded by the band on an iPad during the course of its US tour. "I wanted to make sure that it came out at the end of the tour because I don't want anyone to think I'd tampered with it," he says.

As for the overall sonic vibe of the record, Albarn revealed last month that the record is more "American-sounding" and a departure from his Blur days. "It sounds like an English voice that has been put through a vocoder of America," he said.

The record will be available as a free download on the band's official website, courtesy of the Gorillaz Advent Calendar, where the band is unveiling all sorts of ephemera (videos, computer wallpaper, and downloadable masks) leading up to the big day.

A Holiday Treat From Los Campesinos!

Cardiff, Wales popsters Los Campesinos! have started their own quarterly fanzine and to celebrate have cut a couple of original holiday numbers. Celebrate the season with a listen to one of them, "Kindle A Flame In Her Heart."

Los Campesinos - Kindle A Flame In Her Heart

08 December 2010

John Winston Ono Lennon (1940 - 1980)

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York City, USA

07 December 2010

This Date In Rock History: 7 December

Happy birthday to Thomas Alan Waits, born on this date in 1949 to Pomona, California schoolteachers Jesse Waits and Alma McMurray.

Devotee to singers and songwriters as diverse as Hoagy Carmichael, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Howlin' Wolf, Marty Robbins and Stephen Foster, young Tom caught the attention of record executives in the blossoming Southern California music scene of the early 1970s. His lyrics commonly echoed the style of authors like beat writer Jack Kerouac and noir-novelist Raymond Chandler, and along with his whiskey-soaked vocals, created a unique corner of popular music that is still unmatched today.

The Night Owl's first encounter with a Waits composition was probably typical: The Eagles' cover of his "Ol' 55," which appeared on the group's On The Border album. By my days of university, Waits had become somewhat of an underground phenomenon; his tragi-comic tales of the underbelly of society played to the sweet spot of students vicariously searching for their own bit of Bohemia. One of his crowning achievements remains the opening track from the 1976 LP Small Change, intriguingly titled "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)". Written during a particularly tumultuous period in Waits' life, producer Bones Howe later recalled when the singer first introduced him to the song:

He said the most wonderful thing about writing that song. He went down and hung around on skid row in L.A. because he wanted to get stimulated for writing this material. He called me up and said, 'I went down to skid row ... I bought a pint of rye. In a brown paper bag.' I said, 'Oh really?'. 'Yeah - hunkered down, drank the pint of rye, went home, threw up, and wrote 'Tom Traubert's Blues' [...] Every guy down there ... everyone I spoke to, a woman put him there.

Relax, pour yourself a wee bit of Jameson's, and toast this bit of brilliance in honor of Tom Waits' 61st birthday.

02 December 2010

Ron Wood w/Mick Taylor: "Fancy Pants"

Without much fanfare, current Rolling Stone Ron Wood released his solo album I Feel Like Playing at the end of September. Last night he turned up at London's 100 Club for a benefit performance, hoping to help save the venerable small venue which has been the site of early gigs for groups like The Stones, The Sex Pistols and Oasis.

Joining him on stage was his predecessor on guitar for The World's Greatest Rock 'n Roll Band, Mick Taylor. After being in the shadows for a number of years, Taylor seems to be coming back into the light, albeit slowly. Earlier this year, Mick & Keith brought Taylor into the studio to record new guitar overdubs on the Exile On Main St. outtakes included in the deluxe reissue. Here's a video of the two jamming on "Fancy Pants," a track off of the new Woody record.

30 November 2010

The Jayhawks To Tour Behind Album Reissues

Well! Hear is some exciting news to start out the coming new year. The Jayhawks will reform in January 2010 to play seven dates in five cities in support of the deluxe reissues of their first two major label albums, Hollywood Town Hall (1992) and Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995). In Chicago and New York the band will perform the records in full along with other tunes. The Jayhawks line-up is: Gary Louris, Mark Olson, Marc Perlman, Karen Grotberg and Tim O'Reagan.

The concert dates are listed below. (Check here for the venues as well as pre-sale and box office sale dates.)

18/1 Toronto
20/1 New York (Hollywood Town Hall)
21/1 New York (Tomorrow The Green Grass)
22/1 Philadelphia
27/1 Chicago (Hollywood Town Hall)
28/1 Chicago (Tomorrow The Green Grass)
29/1 Minneapolis

As a reminder of how golden these two albums remain, enjoy a couple of their key cuts.

28 November 2010

The Dictionary of (Celtic) Soul: A Listener's Guide To The Soundtrack of "The Commitments"

--We'll ask Jimmy, said Outspan. --Jimmy'll know.
Jimmy Rabbitte knew his music. He knew his stuff alright. You'd never see Jimmy coming home from town without a new album or a 12-inch or at least a 7-inch single. Jimmy ate Melody Maker and the NME every week and Hot Press every two weeks. He listened to Dave Fanning and John Peel. He even read his sisters' Jackie when there was no one looking. So Jimmy knew his stuff.

So begins The Commitments, Irish novelist Roddy Doyle's first book of his "Barrytown Trilogy," a celebration of American soul music via the struggles of a group of Irish unemployed youth who form to become "Dublin's hardest working band."

Director Alan Parker's 1991 movie adaptation probably pulls a little more drama out of the story than Doyle intended, but the saga of Jimmy Rabbitte and his management of a band of vagabonds never takes its eye off the star of the show: the music that bled so successfully into the English and Irish music scene from the 1960s onward. In her review of the film for The New York Times, critic Janet Maslin said, "The Commitments finds Mr. Parker again doing what he does expertly: assembling a group of talented newcomers, editing snippets of their exploits into a hyperkinetic jumble, and filling the air with song. [It is an] exuberant valentine to American soul music and the impoverished Dublin teen-agers who think of it as magic."

TNOP proudly brings you a listening guide to the entire soundtrack of The Commitments in sequential order, along with the context in which they are played. Use it as a guide as you watch the movie or click the links where available to enjoy the originals as your own private playlist. [While the majority of the songs listed are performed by the film's cast, we have listed the artists who made the songs popular for your information.]

Cathy's Clown (The Everly Brothers) - Backdrop is a "boot sale" (or as it is known in the States, a "garage sale," in which Jimmy attempts to sell bootlegged tapes while sporting a Paul McCartney t-shirt.

24 Hours To Tulsa (Gene Pitney) & Needles & Pins (The Searchers) - Performed at a wedding reception by Jimmy's pals and their insufferable synth player.

I Can't Stand The Rain (Ann Peebles) - Amidst scenes of working class North Dublin and a series of often comic auditions, Jimmy declares: "We're gonna be playing Dublin soul!"

Can't Help Falling In Love (Elvis Presley) - The camera pans the wall of the Rabbitte household, showing photos of Pope John Paul II and Jimmy at his First Communion, then rises to reveal a large portrait of Elvis above both of them. Jimmy to his Dad: "Elvis is not soul!" The incredulous reply of his Father: "Elvis is God!"

Who's Sorry Now? (Connie Francis) - The Rabbitte's neighbor lady, clearly a product of a by-gone generation, sings a few bars of this song and looks hopefully at Jimmy and his mates, asking "Any chance for me lads?"

Only The Lonely (Roy Orbison) - The core of the new group is in the local pub when the attractive character Imelda Quirke (who will become a backup singer) is introduced to the story. As all the boys ogle her, Jimmy says with a manager's bravado "When this band is successful, the girls will be throwing their knickers at you." [Speaking of the Big O, later in the movie, looking to hock for amps and gear to play with, one of our protagonists will declare "everything's shite since Roy Orbison died."]

Watching vintage film of James Brown on The T.A.M.I. Show - "That's what you've got to measure up to: The Irish are the Blacks of Europe. Dubliners are the Blacks of Ireland. And North Dubliners are the Blacks of Dublin."

Slip Away (Clarence Carter) - In which we are introduced to the grizzled horn player Joey "The Lips" Fagan, who defensively indicates to the others that "I'm 16 years younger than B. B. King." Declaring "God sent me," Joey confidently states that "Our Irish brothers wouldn't be shooting the ass off each other if they just had soul."

Destination Anywhere (The Marvelettes) - This song introduces the three girls (Imelda, Bernie McGloughlin and Natalie Murphy) in the story, who will become singers with The Commitments. Jimmy uses the opportunity to preach that "Soul is the sound of sex and the factory: it grabs you by the balls and lifts you above the shite."

Nowhere To Run (Martha & The Vandellas) - The classic Motown track is a backdrop for a panorama of scenes starring the aspiring members of the band: Declan "Deco" Cuffe serenading first communicants on a local train; Imelda, Bernie and Natalie cautiously trying out their dance moves; guitarist Outspan Foster working his day job in a slaughterhouse; Jimmy seeking rehearsal space in the back of an ancient pool hall; and Steven Clifford and his mates loading an upright piano on the back of a VW pick-up truck.

Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett) - The fits and starts of initial rehearsal center around this classic gut-bucket soul tune.

Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (Aretha Franklin) - The scene centers around Bernie's family's apartment in the North Dublin projects, where she is missing rehearsal in order to help her mother care for her younger siblings. A character remarks that Bernie - stuck in the traditional role of young women in Ireland - "needs the band more than any of us."

A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harem) - Steven is seen playing the prog rock classic on the church organ when the young parish priest walks in. He convinces the father to allow The Commitments to play their first gig at the church community center in support of the "anti-heroine" campaign.

Too Many Fish In The Sea (The Marvelettes) - The second appearance of the marvelous Marvelettes mark the girls' first stab at carrying the vocals on a number, much to Deco's chagrin.

(Tell Me Why) I Don't Like Mondays (The Boomtown Rats) - This nihilist punk anthem is chosen for microphone check by the group's self-appointed bouncer (and later replacement drummer) Mickah Wallace, blatantly marking not only his opposite musical tastes but also lack of hope of any economic mobility.

Mr. Pitiful (Otis Redding) - While Deco shows no fear at the band's first appearance at the community center by ripping into an Otis Redding roof-raiser, the limited space on stage proves an . . . um . . . impediment.

(Theme From) "Shaft" (Issac Hayes) - Joey "The Lips" drops this unforgettable blaxploitation movie theme on the turntable in his room (located in his mother's house) in his process of seducing and bedding Bernie. The scene is cleverly juxtaposed with Joey's mother downstairs playing a hymn while positioned in front of her shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Take Me To The River (Al Green) - An apt choice marking The Commitments' formal baptism in front of their first "real" crowd at a pub gig.

The Dark End of the Street (James Carr) - This obscure, mournful ballad fits perfectly in back-to-back scenes. In the first, Jimmy is pictured at the sound board while the band plays. He looks around in a subtle fashion and sees for the first time that his creation - his band - is making a real connection with the audience. Unfortunately, that feeling is doused by his realization that everyone around him - the promoters, the equipment people, the band - all want money, instead of the simple satisfaction he feels. The action then moves to the local parish, where outside a poster reads "The Commitments - Saviours of Soul" and the parish priest is shown walking away into the church. Next we hear Steven. "When I was studying, I used to sing hymns," the young man whispers in the confessional. "Now I'm always humming 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' by Marvin Gaye." The priest corrects him: "It was Percy Sledge." The power of popular music permeates even the most traditional, powerful institution of Ireland.

Destination Anywhere [REPRISE] - Some of the band members, reduced to schlepping around their gear in a old, broken down portable fish 'n chips van (former business of trade: "Mr. Chippy"). Unsuspecting boys approach the truck looking for food. "Got any salmon wraps?" they inquire. The logical retort: "We only got soul (sole)."

Hard To Handle (Otis Redding) - What little bit of success the band has had is starting to go to everyone's heads. Shy Dean Fay, tutored by Joey "The Lips" to play the sax, now fancies himself a jazz hipster and wants to improvise during stage performance. Meanwhile, Jimmy, flush with 200 quid in his pocket from a successful door take, has to use it to pay off loan sharks instead of the group members.

Chain of Fools (Aretha Franklin) - Tempers finally boil over and The Commitments are literally at each others' throats.

Mustang Sally [REPRISE] - Jimmy has lured the band back together with the anticipation of an appearance at the gig by The Wicked One himself: Wilson Pickett. The group is now really polished; Deco riffs like a real soul man, and there are unexpected flourishes by Steven on piano and Joey and Dean on brass.

I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You) (Aretha Franklin) - Natalie takes the mic and sings this The Queen of Soul gem, a code of her unrequited love for Jimmy.

Try A Little Tenderness (Otis Redding) - As The Commitments wait in vain for Pickett to arrive, we see the bi-polar behavior of stage demeanor vs. backstage bickering, culminating with the victory of the dark side: the public humiliation of Jimmy by his own band.

In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett) - The clock figuratively strikes twelve, and even though a record executive has showed up in the audience, all hell finally breaks loose with the band. And Jimmy finally walks away, saying the hell with it all. He'll conduct the post-mortem in his final "interview".


"The Commitments." Directed by Alan Parker; screenplay by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and Roddy Doyle, from the novel by Mr. Doyle; director of photography, Gale Tattersall; edited by Gerry Hambling; production designer, Brian Morris; produced by Roger Randall-Cutler and Lynda Myers; released by 20th Century Fox. Running time: 120 minutes. This film is rated R. Starring: Robert Arkins (Jimmy Rabbitte); Michael Aherne (Steven Clifford); Angeline Ball (Imelda Quirke); Maria Doyle (Natalie Murphy); Dave Finnegan (Mickah Wallace); Bronagh Gallagher (Bernie McGloughlin).

The National's "High Violet" Double-Disc Version

A contender for one of the best records of the year, The National has now released a double-disc expanded version of High Violet. In addition to the lauded album, the new package includes B-sides, live tracks and a few new tunes, including "Wake Up The Saints," which you can sample below. "Wake Up" almost jaunty, featuring honky-tonk piano, finger snapping (!) and the horn section that the band has been using extensively on its latest tour. (Not that Matt Beringer is cooperating lyrically with the optimistic sounds . . .)

Here's the track listing for the extra disc:

1. Terrible Love (Alternate Version)
2. Wake Up Your Saints
3. You Were A Kindness
4. Walk Off
5. Sin-Eaters
6. Bloodbuzz Ohio (Live on KCMP)
7. Anyone's Ghost (Live at BAM)
8. England (Live at BAM)

The National - "Wake Up The Saints"

25 November 2010

New Paul Simon Single Drops

Paul Simon has revealed the name and release date of his new album due in the Spring of 2011. So Beautiful Or So What reunites Simon with producer Phil Ramone.

The first single is "Getting Ready For Christmas Day" and it surely is not your standard holiday fare. It's a catchy pop melody mashed up with African rhythm and a sampled 1941 track from Rev. J.M. Gates, preacher and gospel artist. The lyrics are typically thought provoking. To our ears, the song is already one of our favorites of 2010.

Through 27 November, you can download "Getting Ready For Christmas Day" for free by going to Just provide an email address and you'll receive a link directing you to the tune. Or sample it right here (via The Telegraph).

23 November 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#26]

"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"
Shawn Colvin
Original Dylan version found on Blood On The Tracks (1975)

Shawn Colvin was born in Vermillion, South Dakota in 1956 and spent her formative teenage years in the college town of Champaign, Illinois, where she first performed in front of audiences. Colvin would come to the forefront of the so-called "new folk movement" in the late 1980s.

Strongly influenced by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, she landed a contract with Columbia, and released two very noteworthy albums, Steady On (1989) and Fat City (1992). The former won her a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording, and the latter earned her two more nominations.

In 1994, a collection of interpretation of songs written by some of her favorite artists, Cover Girl, was met with decidedly mixed reviews. In retrospect, the set list is more than suited to her strong points: fluid acoustic guitar work and a marvelous, interpretive voice. The closer on the album is Colvin's take on Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

The Dylan cover is a courageous choice; the lyric is surely one of the most beautiful and memorable that the author has ever written. Colvin makes it work by stamping the tune with a female perspective and an adventuresome guitar run. (Why she puts the third verse in front of the second, though, I do not know.)

Shawn Colvin's career triumph was yet to come. Her LP A Few Small Repairs would win Record of the Year honors in 1997.


The content of "You're Gonna Make me Lonesome When You Go" lends itself to intense personal memories for many a listener. Perhaps the last word is best left to writer Pete Hamill, who wrote the original liner notes for Blood On The Tracks:

There are some who attack Dylan because he will not rewrite "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Gates of Eden." They are fools because they are cheating themselves of a shot at wonder. Every artist owns a vision of the world, and he shouts his protest when he sees evil mangling that vision. But he must also tell us the vision. Now we are getting Dylan's vision, rich and loamy, against which the world moved so darkly. To enter that envisioned world, is like plunging deep into a mountain pool, where the rocks are clear and smooth at the bottom.

So forget the Dylan whose image was eaten at by the mongers of the idiot wind. Don't mistake him for Isaiah, or a magazine cover, or a leader of guitar armies. He is only a troubadour, blood brother of Villon, a son of Provence, and he has survived the plague. Look: he has just walked into the courtyard, padding across the flagstones, strumming a guitar. The words are about "flowers on the hillside bloomin' crazy/Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme..." A girl, red-haired and melancholy, begins to smile. Listen: the poet sings to all of us:

But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass,
In the ones I love.
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

22 November 2010

Pick To Click: Adele - "Rolling In The Deep"

The second album from Adele will drop at stores and on the web 24 January 2011 on XL/Columbia. Titled 21, the record is produced by Rick Rubin and Paul Epworth (Florence & The Machine, Bloc Party). The Tottenham, London native says the latest effort is "different from (2008 release) 19 - it's about the same things but in a different light. I deal with things differently now. I'm more patient, more honest, more forgiving and more aware of my own flaws, habits and principles - something that comes with age I think."

Here's the official video for the first single, "Rolling In The Deep," a stomping, up tempo number that highlights Adele's powerhouse voice.

In Memoriam: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

20 November 2010

Miles Gallagher Reports From The UK

Our music correspondent in the United Kingdom, Miles Gallagher, reported in this week with a couple of stories.

Miles is still tracking one of his fave new groups this year, Free Energy. The Philadelphia foursome has been making their mark in Europe, and Miles sends us a clip from a recent appearance on the French program Album de la Semaine. The song is "Bang Pop," one of TNOP's favorite singles of 2010.

And he also tells our readers to check out Frank Turner, an English folk punk singer who has been building a steady following on his home turf. Next year he will release his fourth proper CD in early 2011. But this 8 December Turner will provide us with a five song EP entitled Rock & Roll. The centerpiece (and only tune which will also appear on the CD) is "I Still Believe," which struck quite a chord with festival audiences this past summer. It reminds us of some of the very best of Billy Bragg - a good thing to be sure.

19 November 2010

The Decemberists & Gillian Welch: "Down By The Water"

Portland's The Decemberists will release their new record The King Is Dead (a nod to The Smiths?) on 11 January 2011 via Capitol Records. They provided a sneak preview the other night on Conan along with the fine Gillian Welch. "Down By The Water" is a departure from the prog-heavy The Hazards of Love; it will be interesting to listen to the full album and learn the group's set list for their tour which begins on 25 January in New York City, extends across the US and then over the pond to Europe.

Here's the list of dates revealed thusfar:

January 25, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY* SOLD OUT
January 26, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY*
January 28, House of Blues, Boston, MA* (onsale Saturday 10AM ET)
January 29, House of Blues, Boston, MA* (onsale Saturday 10AM ET)
January 31, Olympia De Montreal, Montreal, Canada*
February 1, Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada*
February 2, Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI* (onsale today 5PM ET)
Feburary 4, Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL* (onsale Saturday 12PM CT)
February 5, Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee, WI#
February 6, State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN# (onsale Saturday 12PM CT)
February 7, Uptown Theatre, Kansas City, MO# (onsale Saturday 10AM CT)
February 9, Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO#
February 10, Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO# (onsale Saturday 10AM MT)
February 12, The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA#
February 13, House of Blues-San Diego, San Diego, CA# (onsale today 12PM PT)
February 14, Fox Theater, Oakland, CA# (onsale Sunday 10AM PT)
February 18, Paramount Ballroom, Seattle, WA# (onsale Saturday 10AM PT)
February 19, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR# (onsale Saturday 10AM PT)

* with Wye Oak
# with Mountain Man

March 4, Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland
March 5, ABC, Glasgow, UK
March 7, Birmingham Institute, Birmingham, UK
March 8, Bristol Academy, Bristol, UK
March 10, Manchester Academy, Manchester, UK
March 11, Leeds Academy, Leeds, UK
March 13, Trix, Antwerp, Belgium
March 14, Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 16, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK

18 November 2010

UPDATE: Patti Smith Wins National Book Award

From The New York Times:


The rock musician Patti Smith won the National Book Award for nonfiction on Wednesday night for “Just Kids,” a sweetly evocative memoir of her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe and life in the bohemian New York of the 1960s and ’70s.

Accepting the award to applause and cheers, Ms. Smith — clearly the favorite of the night — choked up as she recalled her days as a clerk in the Scribner’s bookstore in Manhattan.

“I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf,” she said. “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.” “Just Kids” was published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.

16 November 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#25]

"Changing of the Guards" Patti Smith
Original Dylan version found on Street Legal (1978)

Patricia Lee Smith was born in Chicago and raised in New Jersey. Her dream of attending school derailed for a number of personal and economic reasons, she adopted the bohemian life by moving to New York City in 1967 in order to write poetry and study art.

Patti Smith's early years living in Brooklyn and the lower east side of Manhattan with her closest friend Robert Mapplethorpe and their eventual involvement in the orbit of other noted artists is vividly portrayed in her memoir Just Kids, recently nominated for the National Book Award.

In the book Smith writes of her reverence of Dylan, especially as poet. They both share a particular fondness for the work of Frenchman Arthur Rimbaud, a like-minded restless and rambling soul who influenced music, art and literature in the Europe of the later 1800s.

One of Mapplethorpe's first Polaroid pictures taken in 1970 shows Smith surrounded by three album sleeves: a Lotte Lenya LP of Weill/Brecht songs, as well as Blonde On Blonde and Bringing It All Back Home.

By 1975, she had taken to music and formed the Patti Smith Group. The band was starting to make its mark on the New York City music scene at places like Max's Kansas City and CBGB. But on a summer night that year Smith "merely had to lace up my boots, throw on my jacket and walk to work" at the Other End in Greenwich Village. It would be the group's first performance with a drummer. Smith continues:

The night, as the saying goes, was a jewel in our crown. We played as one, and the pulse and pitch of the band spiraled us into another dimension. Yet with all that swirling around me, I could feel another presence as surely as the rabbit senses the hound. He was there. I suddenly understood the nature of the electric air. Bob Dylan had entered the club. This
knowledge had a strange effect on me. Instead of humbled, I felt a power, perhaps his; but I also felt my own worth of my band. It seemed for me a night of initiation, where I had to become fully myself in the presence of the one I had modeled myself after.

In just a few months, the Patti Smith Group would record their debut album, Horses, at Electric Lady studios.

And so it should come as no surprise that on the 2007 compilation of covers Twelve, Patti Smith would finally record a nod to one of her chief muses. But the selection of the song was somewhat curious . . .

I only had one friend who would listen to Street Legal with me. She was very intellectual and artistic, and would sit cross-legged on her couch smoking cigarette after cigarette. We both thought that the newest Dylan record (save the horrible "New Pony," for which we would take turns getting up and lifting the phonograph stylus up and over to the next cut) was quite daring from both a musical style and lyrical standpoint; it was what attracted to us about Dylan: his chameleon-like persona, from large arena rock god with The Band to pancake makeup troubadour wandering the countryside in the Rolling Thunder Revue. And now here was Street Legal, drenched with background female call and response singers seemingly influenced by Bob Marley's I-Threes.
And it wasn't just a whim limited to a disc; he took the album on the road and plowed through almost all of it, much to the audience's chagrin . . .

"Changing of the Guards" has been interpreted by many as a thinly veiled history of Dylan's career up to that point (literally, "sixteen years," the opening line of the song). It is the aggressive seven minute opening salvo which opens Street Legal and was oddly chosen as a single (it did not make the Top 100).

Smith's take is much gentler and almost wary, and the lyrics are more pronounced as a result. Why did she choose this song above all others? Who knows. Maybe its apocalyptic nature fit the time in which it was released in 2007, with the country mired in two wars and partisan bickering more intense than usual. Maybe it is the stark imagery in Dylan's poem. Maybe both. Maybe neither. But isn't that the point?

Original Listening: Bob Dylan, "Changing of the Guards" (Street Legal, 1978)

Another Cover: Frank Black, "Changing of the Guards" (All My Ghosts, 1998)