Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Wendy’s Word Meets Open Culture September 6, 2011

Filed under: Books,Music,Uncategorized — wendy @ 6:07 pm
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Two great blogs together — Wendy’s Word and Open Culture. Will there be enough air in the room? Uh, yes. Wendy’s Word doesn’t require much air, and Open Culture, well let’s just say that Dan Colman, of the great Open Culture blog, is modest and doesn’t take up the air he deserves.

I jest about the two great blogs thing. But I really did spend part of a day with Dan Colman, and he is genuinely nice, talented, capable, indefatigable, and extremely modest. All of which gives me a good excuse to introduce you to his blog.

Open Culture is an incredibly informative blog. Every day, there’s at least one posting of a video clip or link on a vast array of subjects, including classic film, philosophy, art, science, and much more. For example, there was recently a 1970’s clip of the Velvet Underground singing Sweet Jane along with a current one of Lou Reed singing it with Metallica. There was also a clip about a graphic novel about Richard Feynman’s life. Such is the diversity of Open Culture.

But Open Culture’s raison d’etre is to provide readers with easy access to free educational content on the internet. There is an exhaustive (or should I say exhausting) list of free educational resources available on the web. Everything from college courses to foreign language podcasts to classic movies and literature available as free mp3’s.  Classes or lectures are available from every school you never got accepted into for college — like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Columbia.  Best of all, they’re free, and no pressure to get a good grade!  Just the great lectures without the stress of schoolwork, finals, or tuition.  Check out today’s posting.

I guarantee you will love Open Culture.  One of my friends frequently forwards me postings he loves, and I have to remind him that I’m the one who introduced him to Open Culture in the first place!!

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More Playing for Change March 4, 2011

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 6:10 pm
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My first posting for this blog was about Playing for Change, the wonderful documentary that filmed musicians around the world recording a song together.  The song from the documentary that I first heard was Stand By Me, and I have since seen the entire documentary and watched all the video clips on the Playing for Change website.  Playing for Change has become a much larger effort, with a foundation that operates music schools in poor towns and villages throughout the world with the goal of promoting positive social change through music education.  The foundation walks the talk by employing local musicians and buying instruments from local artisans.

The music is fantastic, and I didn’t realize that they periodically add new videos to the website.  I recently discovered videos for two songs that I love, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, and John Lennon’s Imagine.  Enjoy.  And go back and watch the earlier videos if you haven’t seen them.  You’re in for a treat.

 

 

 

 

The Grammys 2011 February 14, 2011

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 7:24 pm
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I never used to watch the Grammys until one year in college when we had an impromptu Grammy party in my dorm room.  Not sure if it was the Grammys I enjoyed or the cheap wine coolers, but I’ve had a pleasant association to the Grammys ever since.  Fast forward many years.  I had many Grammy-free years until my kids became pre-teens and I was vaguely familiar enough with popular music for the Grammys to be fun again.

A few years ago, I posted a slightly snarky review of the Grammys and I hate to say that I think they’ve gotten worse.  I had high hopes for this year, with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Barbra Streisand performing, but my hopes were misplaced.  The Grammys are more about the performances and less about the awards, which seems you’d get the fun without the boring speeches.  The problem is that the performances are more or less alike, with their huge production values overshadowing the musical value.  The unusual pairings of artists don’t really work well, since it’s generally one artist doing a number followed by the other artist, with little overlap.  At least with the awards, you have a rooting interest, so it’s more exciting.

There were some performances I liked.  Despite the peacock get-up and the muppets, I liked Cee-Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow’s rendition of “the song otherwise known as Forget You.”  I revere Bob Dylan, but his voice is not so hot on a good day, and this was definitely not a good day.  Despite that, having Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, both of whom gave excellent performances, back up Dylan on Maggie’s Farm more than made up for Dylan’s past-prime voice.  Mick Jagger is pretty much still Mick Jagger, and Barbra Streisand has still got pipes, albeit more restrained than in the past.

I was disappointed at the thin field for the awards.  Take Best Rock Album as an example.  The nominees were Neil Young, Jeff Beck and Tom Petty – hello!!  It’s 2011!  I love them all, but really?  There was Pearl Jam, yet again from an earlier generation although at least they were from the 90’s.  Then there was Muse, the only “today” band, and of course they won.  The numerous awards that Lady Antebellum won had me shaking my head, not that I don’t like them, but not like I love them either.

I went on the web site later to see all the winners and I felt somewhat reassured.  I forgot that one of my reasons for watching the Grammys this year was to see whether Black Keys or Vampire Weekend would win anything but that award wasn’t even shown.  (Black Keys won Best Alternative Album.)  John Legend & The Roots won for best R&B song and album for Wake Up!, which is a great album.  And Michael Buble, my secret guilty pleasure, won for something or other.  There are too many categories to keep it all straight.

Perusing the Grammy website made me want to check out some albums, particularly in some of the more obscure categories.  Examples include Bela Fleck’s album, Throw Down Your Heart (Fleck is an amazing banjo virtuoso), Genuine Negro Jig by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Imagine Project (features many artists including Herbie Hancock), and Jeff Beck’s Emotion and Commotion.  What I won’t be checking out is Lady Antebellum or Lady Gaga.

 

Hussalonia Covers January 19, 2011

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 11:23 pm
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Regular Wendy’s Word readers know that I love cover songs.  This blog entry is not about the band Hussalonia, because despite the fact that they’ve recorded tons of music, I’ve only ever listened to their cover songs.  Which I love.  They have two cover albums, Steely Danielle, which — no surprise — is Steely Dan covers, and the other covers Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album.

I’ve listened to Deacon Blues from Steely Danielle about a hundred times.  Unlike Steely Dan’s smooth sound, Hussalonia’s version is more rock and roll, but still sounds like Deacon Blues, just a harder edged version.  At one point, the song goes into a lower octave, which sounds dark and kind of creepy but also kind of cool.  The other songs on the album are just as good.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I really like the original Glass Houses album.  My good friend in high school was a Billy Joel fanatic, so we knew that album backwards and forwards.  Which is why it’s so fun to hear the Hussalonia cover.  Hussalonia picks up on the pop beat, but makes it a little harder edged, almost punk (particularly since the songs are so short, as are many punk songs).  Far from being self-serious, the covers are funny without being mocking.  Some of the songs are (gasp!) pretty and melodic, such as C’Etait Toi and Don’t Ask Me Why.  If you know the album Glass Houses, you should definitely give Hussalonia’s version a listen, and if you don’t, then start out with the hits, like It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me or You May Be Right.

And the best part is that they’re all free downloads.

 

Levi’s® Pioneer Sessions: 2010 Revival Recordings July 2, 2010

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 8:49 pm

Would I sell my soul for a good cover song?  Apparently.  Those of you who know me or have read earlier blog postings know that I love cover songs.  So when I heard about Levi’s Pioneer Sessions, a series of covers available for free download, I was on it.  And actually, I didn’t have to sell my soul, I only had to sign up for promotional e-mails and most likely give Levi’s access to all my internet habits.  But who doesn’t have that access these days?

At any rate, the Levi’s Pioneer Sessions are fantastic.  I love all of the songs.  In a way, I’m not a fit reviewer for these sessions, since I’m not familiar with some of the songs being covered and most of the bands doing the covers.  But that allows me to say that the songs all stand up on their own, whether you’re into covers or not.

Covers of songs that I am familiar with seem close to the original — no dramatic style changes — but sound fresh and modern.  My favorite is Raphael Saadiq’s rendition of The Spinners’ “It’s a Shame.”  It’s thoroughly Motown, but still sounds contemporary.  I was skeptical about The Shin’s cover of Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl” until I heard it.  They did a great job — very similar to the original, but with their own flair.  You can never go wrong with a Bob Dylan cover, since his songs are brilliant but his voice is less so, and Dirty Projectors (which I have to confess to never having heard of) do a great job with “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”  Folksy and indie at the same time.  One cover that differs in style from the original is The Swell Season’s cover of “Young Hearts Run Free.”  Not a trace of disco to be found.

Since I downloaded the songs, two more have been added.  I think that might be it, but you never know.  Listen for yourself.

Welcome to Levi’s® Pioneer Sessions: 2010 Revival Recordings.

 

Album Side Wednesday March 26, 2010

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 5:29 pm

Last Wednesday I heard a Billy Joel song that I’ve never before heard on the radio.  Come to find out that it was Album Side Wednesday on 100.3 FM, and they had just played an entire side of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album.  Album sides all day, woo hoo!

In an earlier posting, I bemoaned the decline of the album in favor of ipod playlists.  I love my ipod, possibly more than I love my husband, but I do miss listening to whole albums.  So I was quite excited by the prospect of Album Side Wednesday.  I did have to work, so I couldn’t listen all day, but I got a good dose of albums in.  Here are the ones I remember:

Glass Houses, Billy Joel: only heard the last song, but it took me back to high school.  I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this, but Billy Joel was the first person I saw in concert.

Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin: I didn’t have a proper appreciation for Led Zeppelin when they were actually recording their music.  All the stoners liked Led Zeppelin and I was a nerd.  Not to mention the fact that Stairway to Heaven was always the last song played at dances, and oh yes, did I mention that I was a nerd?  But years later when I’m not as much as of a nerd, I can say that Physical Graffiti is a great album.

The Cars, The Cars: I had this album and I can still predict what song was going to come next.  I was wishing they could play the other side as well, because there are great songs on the other side too.  The popular songs are on side 1, but Moving in Stereo is on side 2.

Rebel Yell, Billy Idol: I almost didn’t listen to this one, but I did because it took me back to my college days.  This album was so 80’s!  But it’s pretty kick-ass for 80’s music.

Achtung Baby, U2: It’s U2.  Do you think I wouldn’t listen?  I wasn’t as familiar with this album, other than One.  It’s a great album.  Listening to the songs that weren’t hits reminds me why we need to listen to whole albums.

Tupelo Honey, Van Morrison:  We were eating dinner when this came on, and I must  say that this was great dinner music.  Which isn’t to put it down as background music, because it deserves more that that.  It’s a beautiful album.

Beggar’s Banquet, Rolling Stones:  I’m not as familiar with this album as with other Rolling Stones’ albums, other than the super-popular songs like Sympathy for the Devil, but it’s classic.

Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan:  Need I say anything?  It’s Bob Dylan! It’s Blonde on Blonde!  Amazing how much great music that man wrote.

After the Gold Rush, Neil Young:  I sometimes find Neil Young’s high voice annoying, but I have to admit, this album has some great songs on it.  I especially like Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

Axis: Bold as Love, Jimi Hendrix: Starts out weird but is a great album.  Has Little Wing on it, which is one of the all-time greatest songs in the world.

Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads: I remember exactly when this album came out.  I was in college and a friend of mine had it.  I loved it from the start and still do.

 

Ben Harper March 8, 2010

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 6:48 pm

Shh…Don’t tell my husband but I’m having a love affair with Ben Harper. Our relationship started years ago, when I was working at LAC+USC Medical Center and a painter came in to paint my office and we started talking about music. Why a painter was painting my office in the middle of the day while I was working in it is a good question, but then again, this is the county we’re talking about. As I said, we were talking about music, me raving about Lou Reed, and he asked me if I liked Ben Harper. I didn’t know who Harper was at the time, but I soon found out, and we’ve been together ever since.

Ben Harper has such a distinctive voice, soft and sweet, but also soulful and passionate.  His guitar playing is also incredible.  He plays acoustic guitar on many songs, but he can also rock it Jimi Hendrix style.  He played the national anthem for one of the 2007 NBA finals games on slide guitar only.  It was great!

Harper’s music is diverse.  Many songs could be called mellow, although in my mind this is a misinterpretation because of the passion in his music.  Other songs clearly fall under the “rock” label.  One of my favorite (and first) albums was There Will Be A Light, which is all gospel music that he recorded with the Blind Boys of Alabama.  I love authentic roots music, so this album was a winner all the way around with me.   Another of my music interests is cover songs, and Ben Harper does some great covers, such as Sexual Healing and Strawberry Fields Forever.

I’ve long owned a couple of Harper’s albums from mid-career on forward, but have only recently acquired his older albums, so I’ve been on a Ben Harper listening kick lately.  He has so many albums that it’s a bit overwhelming.  And I don’t want to burn out and ruin my relationship with Ben Harper forever.  So  I’m taking it one album at a time.  Have I mentioned that Fight For Your Mind is a great album?  Ask me next month, and I’ll have a different recommendation.  As far as I can tell, they’re all great.

So there you have it — my love affair with Ben Harper.  With all the music he’s put out, I’m sure it will last a long time.