Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Five Best...Songs on Station to Station by David Bowie

#5. "TVC 15"

#4. "Word on a Wing"

#3. "Golden Years"

#2. "Station to Station"

#1. "Wild is the Wind"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Land of the Library

A few years ago, when I really started to get into Dylan, The Band, The Beatles and other similar bands, the main source of my music came from the library. And even now, it does too. In fact, right next to me on my desk are copies of Bo Diddley's Tales from the Funk Dimension, Wilco's Kicking Television, David Bowie's Pinups and John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic--all from the New York Public Library system.

Downloading music from iTunes has never had much interest for me because it'd be become too expensive rather quickly. I don't really download from other sources much also (although I have, especially in the case of Dylan) because, even if only for a week, I prefer having the actual CD case, linear notes and album in my hand. An album cover gives you a picture of the album that you'll still see when listening to it (I mean, is it possible to listen to Rubber Soul or Born to Run without seeing their respective photographs) and without that experience, the musical experience is slightly reduced.

At my library back home in Selkirk, NY, all of the librarians know me by name because of the massive amount of items I took out pre-college. During one memorable visit, I had 40 plus items waiting for me: movies, books but mostly CDs. To this day, if the Kurp account perks up, they'll know I'm home for a week or two.

It's weird to think that without the library, I might never have heard Louis Jordan, Blind Willie McTell, Modern Lovers, most of Zappa's catalogue, Memphis Minnie, Joy Division, The Mountain Goats and may never have read some of my favorite novels, including War and Peace and Portnoy's Complaint.

So, whether the nice, humble women of the Ravena Library or the rude, underpaid ones of Muhlenberg and Donnell, I wish to thank them all for the wonderful stockpile of music they've given me over the years.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Five Best...Songs from Yankee Foxtrot Hotel by Wilco

#5. "Heavy Metal Drummer"

#4. "I'm the Man Who Loves You"

#3. "Jesus, Etc."

#2. "Pot Kettle Black"

#1. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Five Best...Bands I Hate Myself for Enjoying

#5. Alice Cooper

His early stuff is actually quite good. But you just don't go around saying, "Man, I love the Coop."

#4. Led Zeppelin

I'm still not won over as to their being, as many people have told me, the "Greatest Band in the World," but I do find myself listening to Zeppelin III and IV more than I'd like to admit. My iPod knows something is amiss too: After shuffle came up with "Stairway to Heaven," the next two songs were by the Wolf and Muddy. In other words, real blues.

#3. Dire Straits

There is something undeniably perfect (in a pop sense, of course) about their album, Making Movies. The first four tracks are "Tunnel of Love," "Romeo and Juliet," "Skateaway" and "Espresso Love," and they all kick slights of ass--in a corny, FM radio kind of way.

#2. Joni Mitchell

She's very talented and better than the other bands/artists on this list, but whenever I listen to Blue or Court and Spark, I feel like I have to listen to Mastodon or Slayer right after to tell myself, "I am a dude, not a chick."

#1. Phish

Outside of the lead guitarist and vocalist, Trey Anastatsio, Phish just simply aren't that talented. But I love them dearly. On albums like Hoist, Lawn Boy and Junta, they do an impressive job of changing their sound, but still something is off. Maybe the lyrics aren't that good? The drummer kind of stinks? Whatever the case, I've been in a huge Phish mood of late...and I hate myself for it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

I've been waiting about a decade for The Simpsons Movie and it did not disappoint. The film is brilliant, beautiful, hilarious, good to both casual and hardcore fans and, most importantly, does a great job of including roughly 100 different characters.

More later

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fifteen Best...Tracks from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3

Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3 is simply one of the greatest albums ever released. It’s an odd thing to state because the album is essentially a compilation, but the amount of brilliant material on those three discs is staggering.

Released in 1991 during the low point of Dylan’s career, it was a nice reminder of how great the man was, and with the inclusion of “Series of Dreams” from 1989’s Oh Mercy, still is. It was meant to be sold to both new fans who were looking for a place to start (after all, The Essential Bob Dylan wouldn’t be released for another decade or so) and for the hardcore fans who were begging for outtakes since The Great White Wonder was released. And, amazingly, it did a pretty job with both.

Of course, once The Genuine Bootleg Series was released, fans were left wondering how, for instance, “Sign of the Cross” or the great version of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” or so much from Blood on the Tracks wasn’t put on Bootleg, but you can’t fault Jeff Rosen, Dylan’s manager and the person who selected the tracks, too much; the end result it still fantastic.

Take a look at some selected tracks from the first disc, which is arguably the weakest of the three, in the form of a Five Best list:

#5. “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”

Much of Dylan’s eponymous first album and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is about the dark side of death, but “Bear Mountain” shows that violence and chaos can be humorous too. Based on a true story of a cruise ship being overbooked, Dylan picked this song right out of the newspaper, much like “Who Killed Davey Moore?” It’s good that Dylan didn’t put this on Freewheelin’ because it’s a little too light to be taken seriously, but it’s a funny song with one great line: “I hate bears.”

#4. “When the Ship Comes In”

This version isn’t as fantastic as the one on The Times They Are A-Changin’, mostly because that one is pretty much perfect. The biblical allusion would make perfect sense when John Wesley Harding and, later, Saved come along. But as for “Ship,” this version was done as a Witmark demo on the piano and sounds lighter than the borderline-apocalyptic one on Times. The song is good though that even if it were done on the ukulele, I’d still listen to it.

#3. “Only a Hobo”

The first of Dylan’s hobo songs (the other being “I Am a Lonesome Hobo”), it makes perfect sense that he can see himself in a person without a home, especially early in his career. “Only a Hobo” is pretty simple lyrically (“As I was out walking on the corner one day/ I spied an old hobo, in a doorway he lay) but the vocal delivery is understated and Dylan actually sounds like he cares about the message he’s singing.

#2. “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”

So, remember the mention of death in Bob Dylan and Freewheelin’? Well, here’s a glaring example of it. It’s a great song that sadly got left off of Freewheelin’ in favor of junk like “Oxford Town.” The fact that 21-year-old Jew from Minnesota could sound so ancient and have such a great understanding of death is impeccable. Take a look at this line:

#1. “Moonshiner”

Maybe Dylan’s softest voice. But it’s perfectly soft and full of emotion.

On to Disc 2:

#5. “Call Letter Blues”

Why, oh, why couldn’t this have taken the place of “Meet Me in the Morning” on Blood? They’re pretty much the same song in melody, but the lyrics are so much better on “Letter” and it sounds a little fuzzier—in a good way, that is. This song is, to put it not very academically, kick ass.

#4. “Idiot Wind”

I’ll never be able to determine which version of “Idiot Wind” is better: this one, the officially released or the one from The Genuine Bootleg Series. But the great thing is that it doesn’t matter, they’re all pretty much perfect. Hell, even the one from Hard Rain is great. The main difference between this “Idiot Wind” and the others is that it sounds like Dylan is going to completely break down by the end of the track.

#3. “Farewell Angelina”

The lyrics are a little goofy (it seems as if Dylan is about to laugh during the next to last verse) but the tone of this song is haunting. One of two Dylan songs with Angelina in the title (the other being, simply, “Angelina”), this one is far superior and seems to be a more contemporary-sounding counterpart to a song like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

#2. “Santa Fe”

The Basement Tapes
is an album full of odd songs, but this might be the weirdest. Dylan sounds like he’s crooning the song out rather than singing. Or maybe he’s about to turn into Jimmie Rodgers and start to yodel-sing? Either way, it’s hilarious and features some great piano work by The Band’s Richard Manuel.

#1. “She’s Your Lover Now”

Possibly my favorite Dylan track. It's everything a good track should be: hilarious, catchy, thought provoking, good lyrics, great musical accompaniment. You gotta love this song.

Disc 3

#5. “If You See Her, Say Hello”

Much better than the version of “Tangled” on Bootleg, but not as great as “You’re a Big Girl Now” from Biograph. The song pretty much sounds the same and it’s the lyrical difference (especially when talking about their kid) that makes this song so touching.

#4. “Series of Dreams”

As the last track of the 3-disc set, it’s a great add. Oh Mercy is a pretty good album that could have been better with adding “Series,” but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I like how this song ties in with…

#3. “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky”

…this one. The version of “Night” from Empire Burlesque is about as close to disco as one can get without actually calling it disco, but this version is actually pretty good. I mean, it’s 80’s pop with overblown guitar solos, but it’s one of those great songs to listen to while you’re driving.

#2. “Foot of Pride”

Better known as, The Song Lou Reed Did at Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert. It’s a better lament at the state of the world—but in a more successful than most anything on Saved. Another track that would have made Infidels a stronger album. But it’s nothing compared to…

#1. “Blind Willie McTell”

The best Dylan track of the 80’s and one of his greatest songs. Everything about it is perfect: the lyrics, the vocals, the playing of both Dylan on piano and Knopfler on acoustic guitar, and the airiness of the recording is fitting. And it got left off of Infidels

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Five Best...Songs from Born to Run

#5. "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"

#4. "Backstreets"

#3. "Born to Run"

#2. "Jungleland"

#1. "Thunder Road"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Five Best...Songs from We're Only In It For the Money

#5. "Mom & Dad"

#4. "Let's Make the Water Turn Black"

#3. "Harry, You're a Beast"

#2. "Absolutely Free"

#1. "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter Mania, Vol. II

Well, it's done: No more Harry Potter. I finished reading the last book around midnight last night and I'm still reeling from it. I'll mention nothing about the plot or who dies (there's plenty of death going around in the book) because I know there are people who read this that haven't read the book yet, but I will say that it's the best one yet, contains the best chapter in the Potter series and is one of the best children's books I've ever read--although this book ain't for kids anymore.

I still can't believe I'll never read a new page of Harry Potter. That's going to take awhile to get used to. But what Rowling has left behind is an extraordinary series that will be read for years and years to come.

Anyways, below are some pictures from waiting to get a book at Barnes & Noble:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter Mania

There's really only one thing I can say:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is almost here!

This morning, I went to stand in line for a wristband at Barnes and Noble in Union Square and after about two hours, I finally got one. If you totalled everyone there, the line would have stretched roughly 5 or 6 blocks, I think. Anyways, the festivities begin at 5 pm, with the highlights being B & N made to look like Hogwarts and Jim Dale, the guy who does the audio for all the Harry Potter books, will be there too.

Once I get my copy, I don't intend to sleep until I finish the whole thing--which should prove interesting because I want to see the New York Dolls at the Siren Festival tomorrow.

Ah, to be a college student...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No, Not the Star Wars Guy...

As today is Commander Cody's 63rd birthday, here's a video of him playing "There's a Riot Goin' On" with, among others, Elvis Costello, James Burton and Jerry Garcia.

For some reason, Sammy Hagar is there too.

Bobby's Best...Sort of

For this blog, I’ll routinely do Bob Dylan lists because I know more about Dylan than any other artist and also because, maybe more importantly in a selfish sense, he’s my favorite. I’ve ranked all of his albums before, but never before haveI tried a massive list about his songs. Trying to do a Fifty Best… Bob Dylan Songs” would be impossible but I can go halfway and have a list on my Fifty Favorite… Bob Dylan Songs, listed in alphabetical order and is judged only by the official studio release.

Of course not all the songs listed are fantastic (“Billy #1,” for instance), but I’m not judging them on how good they are, only on how much I like them, which is really the only way “Joey” could make a positive Dylan list.

Oh, and I made it 55 instead of 50 because it seems more fitting considering the blog’s name. Anywho, to the list!

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
“Abandoned Love” from Biograph
“All I Really Want to Do” from Another Side of Bob Dylan
“Ballad in Plain D” from Another Side of Bob Dylan
“Billy #1” from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
“Black Diamond Bay” from Desire
“Blind Willie McTell” from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3
“Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” from Bringing It All Back Home
“Brownsville Girl” from Knocked Out Loaded
“Caribbean Wind” from Biograph
“Chimes of Freedom” from Another Side of Bob Dylan
“Desolation Row” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Drifter’s Escape” from John Wesley Harding
“Foot of Pride” from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3
“Highlands” from Time Out of Mind
“I Am a Lonesome Hobo” from John Wesley Harding
“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” from Another Side…
“I Threw It All Away” from Nashville Skyline
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” from John Wesley Harding
“Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks
“It Ain’t Me, Babe” from Another Side of Bob Dylan
“Joey” from Desire
“Jokerman” from Infidels
“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Like a Rolling Stone” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” from Blood on the Tracks
“Love Minus Zero/No Limit” from Bringing It All Back Home
“Mississippi” from “Love and Theft”
“Mr. Tambourine Man” from Bringing It All Back Home
“Never Say Goodbye” from Planet Waves
“Not Dark Yet” from Time Out of Mind
“Only a Pawn in their Game” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
“Positively 4th Street” from Biograph
“Precious Angel” from Slow Train Coming
“Queen Jane Approximately” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” from Blonde on Blonde
“Santa Fe” from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3
“She’s Your Lover Now” from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3
“Shelter from the Storm” from Blood on the Tracks
“Sign on the Window” from New Morning
“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” from Blonde on Blonde
“Tangled Up in Blue” from Blood on the Tracks
“Tell Me That It Isn’t True” from Nashville Skyline
“The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” from John Wesley Harding
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
“Tight Connection to My Heart” from Empire Burlesque
“To Be Alone With You” from Nashville Skyline
“Tombstone Blues” from Highway 61 Revisited
“Tomorrow is a Long Time” from Greatest Hits, Vol. II
“Visions of Johanna” from Blonde on Blonde
“When I Paint My Masterpiece” from Greatest Hits, Vol. II
“When the Ship Comes In” from The Times They Are A-Changin’
“Workingman’s Blues #2” from Modern Times
“You Angel You” from Planet Waves

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I've Just Seen a Face

While much of the focus concerning The Beatles is on Sgt. Pepper's or Abbey Road, we sometimes forget how great an album like Help! is. I'd even go so far to say that I'd rather listen to Help! or A Hard Day's Night multiple times rather than Pepper's even once.

Take the song "I've Just Seen a Face" from Help!:

I've just seen a face,
I can't forget the time or place
That we'd just met, she's just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see we've met
Na na na na na na

On the page, the lyrics aren't great but when they're sung by McCartney, the song becomes wonderful and endearing. The chord structure also seems very influenced by jazz, which would become a common trait for Paul's songs.

The first ten seconds of the song have Harrison, Lennon and McCartney playing in a rhythm that won't be heard during the rest of the song; it almost sounds like something from a classical score to me. When Paul starts singing, "I've just seen a face/I can't forget the time or place..." we hear an evolved Beatles that even a year before, with songs like "I'll Cry Instead," couldn't really be heard.

It's a song that doesn't sound complex when compared to "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," but in a different way, it's more complex rhythmically--and a much better song to boot.

It was recorded during the same session as "Yesterday" and was released on the American version of Rubber Soul, but I don't think it works as well on that album as it does between "Tell Me What You See" and the aforementioned "Yesterday" on the CD version I have.

Another interesting note: Help! came out on my birthday, August 6th--although 22 years before I was born.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Five Best...Songs about Levee's

#5. "American Pie" by Don McLean

I started singin'
Bye-bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
And singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

#4. "Friend of the Devil" by The Grateful Dead

I ran down to the levee
But the Devil caught me there
He took my twenty dollar bill
And he vanished in the air

#3. "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin

Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

#2. "The Levee's Gonna Break" by Bob Dylan

If it keep on rainin', the levee gonna break
If it keep on rainin', the levee gonna break
Some of these people don't know which road to take

#1. "When the Levee Breaks" by Memphis Minnie

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Monday, July 16, 2007

Five Best...Ginny Weasley Facebook Groups

I've sort of got a huge crush on Ginny Weasley, although Luna Lovegood and Hermoine Granger are right up there too. So, here is a list of different Facebook groups that are solely dedicated to Ginny, with the descriptions of each copy and pasted from the real group right under.

#5. Ginny Weasley is a Dirty Whore

"Obvi. Ginny Weasley (the resident slut of Hogwarts) ruins lives. She has many stds and possibly is preg. Hooked up with 1. Neville Longbottom 2. Michael Corner 3.Dean Thomas 4. possibly Seamus Finnigan (roommates with #3) 5. Harry Potter (hot). More to come in 7th novel possibly including Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape, the ghost of Albus Dumbledore, and the GIANT SQUID"

#4. Samwise Gamgee and Ginny Weasley: Most Badass Couple Ever?

"After a lengthy discussion this conclusion was reached: Harry potter is not cool enough for ginny and Frodo is too much of a self centered whiney bitch for anyone. Therefore the only Conclusion is for Ginny and Sam to hook up... could you possibly imagine a more badass relationship?"

#3. Save Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk

"This is a group dedicated to saving Ginny Weasley from the impending doom of the BASILISK. omg. Save her, do it NOW."

#2. Fuck Voldemort, marry Ginny

"There were a lot of tragic events at the end of the Half-Blood Prince. The worst one of all could have been avoided easily by young Harry. That is why this group is dedicated to all the people that know Harry needs to forget about fighting Voldemort, and run away with Ginny Weasley."

#1. Harry Potter & Ginny Weasley Belong Together

"For everyone who agrees that these two will eventually make it or if you believe they belong together! You are also welcome to post a link to any fanfiction you may have written. Enjoy this group!"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Playlist, Vol. III

Here's another chance for all you readers to see the bands and artists that I may listen to but haven't yet mentioned in a posting. I put my iPod on shuffle, write down what’s played and, for once, a song from Costello’s Goodbye Cruel World did NOT come up. It always seems to…Anyways, here’s what came up:

“See Line Women” by Nina Simone
“Slug” by The Ramones
“Susie Q” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Ocean” by The Velvet Underground (live)
“I Fall” by The Damned
“Josephine” by Fats Domino (live)
“Amie” by Wesley Willis
“Lord Protect My Child” by Bob Dylan
“Deacon Jones” by Louis Jordan
“Need a Woman” by Bob Dylan
“Tell Me” by Bob Dylan
“Kitty’s Back” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
“The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” by the Mothers of Invention
“I Ain’t Marching Anymore” by Phil Ochs (live)
“Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure
“Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World” by The Ramones
“Shake Your Rump” by Beastie Boys

Friday, July 13, 2007


A few years ago, I thought that the most depressing song in the world was “All I Really Want to Do” by Bob Dylan because I had just gotten out of a relationship and on the first time the ex and I met again, she put that song on when we were driving around.

I ain't lookin' to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

Now, because I’m no longer depressed, I think the song is hilarious, as does Dylan who laughs while singing one of the verses. I used to see it as a post-break up track but it’s actually Dylan, I believe, coming up with excuses so that he doesn’t have to get into a relationship he has no interest in. And the excuses get exceedingly funnier: “advertise you,” “define you,” “fake you out,” “forsake you out.”

I’m not writing this posting about solely “All I Really Want to Do,” but more along the lines of song’s that your perception of changes when your mood changes. Or, in the case of Frank Sinatra’s “Soliloquy,” it changes because of a friend.

Earlier this year or possibly even last, I made a mix-CD for a friend with “Soliloquy” as, if memory serves, the last track. Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and appearing on The Concert Sinatra, I was instantly drawn to the track because it’s lengthy, funny and fun to sing.

The first half of the song deals with Sinatra, a father-to-be, wondering what his son will think of him and of all the great times they’re going to have together. Then, it dawns on him, what happens if “he is a she”? After all, “You can have fun with a son/ But you got to be a father to a girl.”

The finale of the song takes on this kind of tone:

I gotta get ready before she comes
Gotta make certain that she won't be dragged up in slums with a lot o' bums like me
She's gotta be sheltered and fed and dressed in the best that money can buy!
I never knew how to get money but, I'll try, by God! I'll try!
I'll go out and make it or steal it
Or take it or die!

It’s way overdone but if anyone can handle lyrics this heartfelt, it’s Ol’ Blue Eyes. But I never gave much thought to this final verse, but after asking for feedback for the mix I had made my friend, she said that she started crying hearing the song.

I had forgotten while making it that she never really knew her father and that he wasn’t the “gotta be sheltered and fed and dressed in the best” kind of guy. Had I remembered, I’m not sure if I would put on the mix.

But it was odd seeing this song in a whole different light: instead of a funny tale about what life’s going to be like with a son or a daughter, it now dawned on me that it could also be seen as the act of a father being petrified on if he’s going to be a good Dad or not.

Stupid, clever Rodgers and Hammerstein…

Whenever I listen to these two songs and others like them, it’s unfathomable to me how I could have seen the other perspective of the lyrics. But I guess that’s the wonder of song.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Five Best...Ryan Adams Albums

Ryan Adams is the source of many jokes in the musical world because the amount of material he releases. Outside of the two albums a year he'll ship out, there's also the countless number of bootlegs and unreleased tracks that you can find on his website and all over the internet.

But I see this simply as a very good artist at the peak of his creativity. Did anyone fault Dylan for coming out with three amazing albums in a 15 month span? Granted, I'm not comparing Adams to Dylan in terms of how great the material is (after all, Adams is good, but he ain't Dylan), but simply in a numerical comparison.

Many artists don't really do this anymore and when something as great as Gold or Heartbreaker gets released, I consider it a blessing.






Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Five Best...Harry Potter Films

#5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

#4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

#3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

#2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

#1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Five Best...Random Thoughts While Walking to School Today

#5. I really like "Once More, With Feeling."

#4. Every time I see a poster for The Simpsons Movie, I get giddy. And I see about three on a 15 minute walk to The New School.

#3. Along that same line, whenever I see the stores Bang Bang Men and Lucky Wang's, I laugh a little to myself. Although, sadly, Bang Bang Men isn't in commission.

#2. Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain" is a great song to listen to when it's about 95 degrees outside.

#1. I'm beyond excited to be seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight at midnight. Although it wasn't a favorite when I first read it, I'm re-reading now (and attempting to finish it before seeing the movie) and it's much better than I'm remembering. Yes, Dolores Umbridge, the Grand Inquisitor of Hogwarts, is beyond evil and Harry is annoyingly angsty at times, but the politics between the Ministry and Dumbledore are quite interesting and the writing is actually pretty good--for Rowling's standards at least. The film is getting great reviews and I'll post my thoughts tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Across the country, a select group of 7-Eleven's got switched to look like the Kwik-E-Mart for The Simpsons Movie. Here are some photos:

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Five Best...Songs from Loaded by The Velvet Underground

#5. "Rock & Roll"

Despite all the amputations
You could just dance to a rock 'n' roll station

#4. "Who Loves the Sun"

Who loves the sun
Who cares that it makes plants grow
Who cares what it does
Since you broke my heart

#3. "Sweet Jane"

Well they're gonna tell you that everthing is just dirt
You know that women never really faint
And that villians always blink their eyes
That children are the only ones who blush
And that life is just to die

#2. "New Age"

Something's got a hold on me and I don't know what
Something's got a hold on me and I don't know what
It's the beginning of a new age

#1. "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'"

Say a word for Jimmy Brown
He ain't got nothing at all
Not a shirt right of his back
He ain't got nothing at all
And say a word for Ginger Brown
Walks with his head down to the ground
Took the shoes right of his feet
To poor boy right out in the street

Friday, July 6, 2007

Ten Best...Dylan Love Songs

#10. “Precious Angel” from Slow Train Coming

Sure it’s schmaltzy, overdone and features the word “angel” in the title, but Dylan never had a better love song during his religious period than “Precious Angel.”

Precious angel, under the sun,
How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?

#9. “Brownsville Girl” from Knocked Out Loaded

Through all the references to Gregory Peck and Henry Porter, the listener ultimately realizes that Dylan is really just trying to remember his Brownsville Girl, a mysterious figure who, I think, goes on adventures with Dylan throughout the country. Or something like that. Whatever it means, it’s an epic and touching at the same time.

Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.
I don't have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I'm gone.
You always said people don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.
And I always said, "Hang on to me, baby, and let's hope that the roof stays on."

#8. “Forever Young” from Biograph

This song isn’t meant for the type of love that appears on every other song on this list, but instead a love between a mother and daughter or, as Dylan wrote it, from a father to a son. I wouldn’t actually include this song on the list if we only had the Planet Waves versions, but I’m singling out the one from Biograph. It’s recorded at Dylan’s home, bad quality and features only an acoustic guitar, but it’s more heartfelt than anything The Band and Dylan recorded for the album. Although I am a sucker for “You Angel You” and “Never Say Goodbye”…

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

#7. “I Want You” from Blonde on Blonde

Much like another song from Blonde on Blonde on this list, I have no idea what most of this song is about. What does a “drunken politician” have to do with love? But during the chorus, “I want you/I want you/I want you, so bad/ Honey, I want you,” you figure everything else—and the confusion doesn’t really matter.

Well, I return to the Queen of Spades
And talk with my chambermaid.
She knows that I'm not afraid
To look at her.
She is good to me
And there's nothing she doesn't see.
She knows where I'd like to be
But it doesn't matter.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.

#6. “To Be Alone With You” from Nashville Skyline

Sometimes expressing love doesn’t have to be complex and this song readily captures that. It feels like something you’d sing to a new lover rather than one that’s been going for quite some time because the lyrics don’t go much beyond “Everything is always right when I’m alone with you.”

They say that nighttime is the right time
To be with the one you love
Too many thoughts get in the way in the day
But you're always what I'm thinkin' of
I wish the night were here
Bringin' me all of your charms
When only you are near
To hold me in your arms.

#5. “Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks

Yes, it is a love song. A very angry one, but about love nonetheless. Most relationships aren’t all puppy dogs and marshmallows, so a large part of being love is being able to wad through the muck and come to certain conclusions. Although it takes over 7 minutes, Dylan realizes this and goes from lines like “One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes” to realizing his mistake and ending the song with “We're idiots, babe/It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” Dylan figures out that they’re actually both idiots and how much they need one another.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You'll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I'll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.

#4. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” from John Wesley Harding

The last song on John Wesley Harding, “Baby” perfectly sets up Nashville Skyline, and Dylan even goes so far as to re-write this song on that album with “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” a great song but one lacking the country-feel of “Baby.”

Kick your shoes off, do not fear,
Bring that bottle over here.
I'll be your baby tonight.

#3. “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” from Blonde on Blonde

As of right now, I want this to be my wedding song. It’s obnoxiously long to dance to, but I like that aspect about it and it’s also beautifully structured—if you can figure out what the hell he’s singing about.

With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?

#2. “Mississippi” from “Love and Theft”

Before I really got to appreciate all of 2001’s “Love and Theft,” I would only listen to the “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee” and this song, Dylan’s ode to being down-and-out but still loving and staying in one place for “a day too long.” If I had the choice between the voice we hear on the actual track or his “better” voice from the mid-60s, I’d happily choose the current one because it just fits the song better. I mean, there’s no way you can top the phrasing of “All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime…” the way he sings it on “Mississippi.”

Everybody movin' if they ain't already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

#1. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” from Bringing It All Back Home

I’ve listened to the first half of Bringing so many times, I typically begin listening to consecutive songs on this album with “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” but I always make sure to listen to “Love Minus Zero.” A stunning song in its sound, lyrics and sincerity, who ever Dylan wrote this about is surely a lucky woman.

My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Five Best...Songs from Live by the Modern Lovers

#5. "I'm a Little Dinosaur"

Now the children upon their lawns
Will wake up and wonder where I've gone.
And the flies that buzz around where I now be
They're all gonna have to get along without me.

#4. "Hey There, Little Insect"

I say, hey there, little praying mantis, I have one complaint.
Each time on my arm you landed, it makes me faint.
I say, hey there, little insect, please calm down.
Then we'll have fun and fool around.

#3. "I'm a Little Airplane"

I fly in the dark,
Over the baseball park.
I can fly late at night. It's okay,
I got my little red light.
And wangity-wang wangity-wang
I'm a little airplane now.

#2. "My Little Kookenhaken"

And I've been walking long a year, and dear I'm tired of talkin',
So come on, honey, and listen here, and be my little Kookenhaken.
And I've been walkin' hill and dale, through vale and valley walkin',
So come on, honey, and read your mail and be my little Kookenhaken.

#1. "Ice Cream Man"

Now, ice cream man, (ice cream man) upon my street
Your little truck, you know, (ice cream man) is a-neat, neat
And ice cream man, (ice cream man) upon my block,
I heard your chimes, I know they reel and they rock

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Simply Simpsons

As everyone has their barbecues today, remember this:

*Reading Homer's invitation*

Lisa: "Come to Homer's BBBQ. The extra 'B' is for BYOBB"
Bart: What's that extra 'B' for?
Homer: That's a typo

Oh Beautiful for Berry and Bruce

After doing a search for "Patriotic Songs" on Wikipedia, I was ultimately not surprised to see that nearly every song talks about the America I don't recgonize. These include "You're a Grand Old Flag," "God Bless the USA," "Ballad of the Green Berets" and "America the Beautiful." Which American vision do you most associate with?:

Oh beautiful, for pilgrims' feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!


Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner café
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the U.S.A.

The bottom lyrics are that of Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA," the only truly American song on Wikipedia's "Patriotic" list. Sorry, Woody Guthrie...Berry's song is so good because, unlike talking about a "freedom beat" and, well, "God," he's singing about things that are quite attainable and make up an American's regular day. I mean, what shows America more than sizzling hamburgers and drive-in movie theaters?

Here's another lyrical difference:

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!


...Roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well, the nights busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heavens waiting on down the tracks

One of the most American of images is the car and Springsteen's "Thunder Road" completely understands this. There's nothing quite like gunning down some country back road with your girl in the passenger seat, wind blowing and Hank Williams on the radio. As for the "land of pilgrim's pride," not so much.

As today is specifically Independence Day, here's my favorite 4th of July lyric:

We carried you in our arms
On Independence Day,
And now you'd throw us all aside
And put us on our way.
Oh what dear daughter 'neath the sun
Would treat a father so,
To wait upon him hand and foot
And always tell him, "No"?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Five Best...Songs Mentioning Brooklyn

#5. "King of New York" by the Newsies

In nothing flat,
He'll be covering
Brooklyn to Trenton
Our man Denton

#4. "I Palindrome I" by They Might Be Giants

She king of Brooklyn she
Master of all she surveys
Lives a life unencumbered by me
She king of Brooklyn she

#3. "Downtown Train" by Tom Waits

The downtown trains are full
With all those Brooklyn girls
They try so hard to break out of their little worlds

#2. "Joey" by Bob Dylan

Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn
In the year of who-knows-when
Opened up his eyes
To the tune of an accordion

#1. "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" by Beastie Boys

Ain't seen the light since we started this band
M.C.A., get on the mic my man
Born and bred Brooklyn, U.S.A

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bob Dylan and His Band at Bethel

In November of 2006, when I saw Bob Dylan and His Band for the first time, I was much more excited than I was leading up to Saturday’s concert at Bethel Woods. It wasn’t that I wasn’t eagerly anticipating it, but I had seen so many great concerts of late (Richard Thompson, Wilco, Levon Helm Band) that it got slightly overshadowed. But after hearing the first few chords of a song I don’t really even like, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” I remembered why I was so excited in November and listen to Dylan more than any other artist.

Five Best…Songs from Bob Dylan and His Band at Bethel

#5. “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”

I’m in the minority when it comes to this song because I actually prefer the original acoustic version over the electric ’66 version and all other incarnations since then. But as Dylan doesn’t pull out this song that much anymore, it was nice to hear it. It was an early favorite of mine so, more than anything else, this is a sentimental pick.

#4. “The Levee’s Gonna Break”

The forgotten song on Modern Times. I actually happen to like it more than, say, “Beyond the Horizon” and even “Spirit on the Water” (although Dylan did a great version of “Spirit” during the show) but I have a feeling it’s going to become a live favorite very soon. The tempo gets picked up, Dylan’s voice rasps that much more and the band chugs along the Tennessee Two to Dylan’s Johnny Cash. Fitting that after the show, it started to pour—an event that makes perfect since Dylan played “Levee,” “High Water,” “Spirit on the Water” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

#3. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”

Dylan began the night by playing five songs from the 60s and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was the third of these, wedged between “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” “Baby” is one of the breeziest songs in Dylan’s canon and too place it between “Times,” a “protest song,” and “It’s Alright,” a song pretty much condemning everything in his path, is an inspired choice. The Bethel version contained very little of its original Hank Williams-feel, but felt more like a song you would happen to hear at a dive of a bar—a glowing compliment actually.

#2. “Blind Willie McTell”

If you were to plug your ears during this song and had only the audience interaction to judge what kind of song “Blind Willie McTell” is, you’d have thought it was on the level of Bowie’s “Modern Love” or “Twist and Shout.” But when you take away the noise blocker from your ear, you realize that “Blind” is, in fact, about a dead blues singer. Instead of playing it like the original version with Knopfler on acoustic guitar and himself on piano, Dylan and Co. amped up the song and make it more of a rockin’ number than anything else. Granted, it does take away from the “real” version, but this arrangement is quite good still.

#1. “Tangled Up in Blue”

So what if I’m a sucker for this, everyone’s favorite? It’s tough to find an example of a Dylan song that has remained consistently good over the past 30 years but “Tangled”— from it’s Rolling Thunder days to the mostly dark days of the 80s with a drastic lyrical change to the current version on the current Never Ending Tour—is one of the very few. Except for maybe “Blowin’ in the Wind,” (ugh) the crowd never got more into the show than they did during “Tangled.” I mean, it is pretty much a perfect song and one that, like I mentioned, is a favorite of both casual fans and the hardcore. A rare event, indeed.

Between the final two songs, "Thunder on the Mountain" and "All Along the Watchtower," Dylan introduced the band like he always does, but after he told the crowd: "The last time we were here, we played at 6 am...it was raining...it was muddy." And that's the most we'll ever get from Bobby Dylan at a concert.

Full setlist:

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. The Times They Are A-Changin'
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
4. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
5. Just Like A Woman
6. The Levee's Gonna Break
7. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
8. High Water (For Charlie Patton)
9. Spirit On The Water
10. Tangled Up In Blue
11. Blind Willie McTell
12. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
13. When The Deal Goes Down
14. Highway 61 Revisited
15. Blowin' In The Wind

16. Thunder On The Mountain
17. All Along The Watchtower

Be Le-von

Although they didn't come close to following it, here's the actual set list that was on the stage for the Levon Helm Band on Friday night at The Egg:

More later.