#263 – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

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The sole list appearance from Tracy Chapman is her debut album.  The 1988 release was produced by David Kershenbaum, after several producers turned the album down.  The album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200, as well as topping charts in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Sara

Since I own this on vinyl and listen to it about once a week, this one wasn’t tough to find time for on my calendar. This album is truly brilliant.  Tracy Chapman was discovered at a coffeehouse where she performed at Tufts, after a protest organizer was told she’d be a great performer for an upcoming anti-apartheid rally he was planning.  His father happened to be executive producer Brian Koppelman with Elektra records, and Tracy thought he was full of it. She did not take Koppelmen’s offers to help her record an album seriously until he had attended many of her shows.  ‘Talking bout a Revolution’ had been recorded and played on a Tufts radio station but the rest was recorded for the first time when she was signed.

The first track ‘Talking bout a Revolution’ is one of my favorite two Tracy Chapman songs of all-time. Never has it resonated with me more than in these current times, but I’ve always been head over heels for this song (I also love the song ‘Head Over Heels’ by Alanis Morrissette, which appears on the biggest scorn of this whole list, ‘Jagged Little Pill’). If you’re wondering what song was most popular in radio play in Tunisia during the 2011 Tunisian Revolution, this is it.  It was also frequently played before speeches during the campaign of a popular democratic candidate from Vermont who supported Hillary Clinton when he did not win the Democratic nomination. It’s pure, it’s inspiring, and it’s to the  point. A beautiful song.

Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs
Don’t you know
You better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
Oh I said you better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
 

My other favorite song on this album (Yes, I obviously love ‘Fast Car’ too) is ‘Baby Can I Hold You.’  On the rare occasion that I don’t just listen to this album straight through and I’m just going to listen to one TC song real quick, it’s frequently this one. It’s a brilliant song about the key ingredient to any successful relationship, communication.

If you want to have your mind absolutely blown, listen to this duet she performed with freaking Pavarotti:

 
Sorry 
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still 
Words don’t come easily 
Like sorry like sorry
Forgive me
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still 
Words don’t come easily 
Like forgive me forgive me
But you can say baby 
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
At the right time you’d be mine
I love you 
Is all that you can’t say 
Years gone by and still
Words don’t come easily 
Like I love you I love you
But you can say baby 
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
Ooh, at the right time you’d be mine
Baby can I hold you tonight 
Maybe if I told you the right words 
Ooh, at the right time you’d be mine
You’d be mine
You’d be mine
 

It’s political. It talks about some serious issues, like poverty, racism, and domestic violence. It’s about love. It’s a window into someone’s diary. Considering it’s almost exclusively one voice and an acoustic guitar, it’s remarkable.  I’d love this one for a top 100 spot, but glad it made it on here at all given some of the glaring omissions from this era/gender/genre.

 

Steve

I had never listened to Tracy Chapman beyond her radio presence.  She has a very distinct voice, and the combination of her voice and excellent lyrics is pretty powerful.

“Fast Car” is an excellent track.  It tells the story of a poor woman trying to hitch a ride to anywhere to escape poverty.  This song still gets radio airtime on a variety of formats.  It is that kind of song, it fits into several genres, and the lyrics are pretty timeless.

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won’t have to drive too far
Just ‘cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

See my old man’s got a problem
He live with the bottle that’s the way it is
He says his body’s too old for working
His body’s too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody’s got to take care of him
So I quit school and that’s what I did

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

One of my favorite tracks that I had not heard before was “If Not Now.”  There is nothing ground breaking here, but I enjoyed the song.  It is about not procrastinating when it comes to love.  I’m going to try to apply the advice in this song to completing these posts.

If not now then when
If not today then
Why make your promises
A love declared for days to come
Is as good as none

You can wait ’til morning comes
You can wait for the new day
You can wait and lose this heart
You can wait and soon be sorry

Now love’s the only thing that’s free
We must take it where it’s found
Pretty soon it may be costly

If not now what then
We all must live our lives
Always feeling
Always thinking
The moment has arrived

 

My apologies for these being so sporadic lately.  It is all me, Sara has passed me by several albums, but I am going to sit down and catch up!

#264 – Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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The second of four Grateful Dead albums on the list is their fourth studio album.  The 1970 release was recorded in nine days at Pacific High Recording Studio in San Francisco.  The album stepped away from the band’s psychedelic roots and was recorded in a more Americana style.

Sara

Friendly reminder: my parents wouldn’t let me go to what turned out to be one of the last shows Jerry Garcia was alive.  There are many bigger Dead fans than I, but I sure do love this album.  I owned it in high school and listened to it constantly. I think “Uncle John’s Band,” which kicks off this album, is one of the Dead’s best songs. The acoustic guitar combined with beautiful harmonies form a perfect end-of-the-60s anthem. Oh, and Richard Nixon hated it because it contains the word “goddamn,” which apparently was too offensive for an altar boy like himself.

As to Uncle John’s identity, there are three theories. First, blues legend Mississippi John Hurt, nicknamed ‘Uncle John,’ was an influence on the band. Second, it may be about New Lost City Ramblers member John Cohen, who was also a photographer and filmmaker.  Cohen has called this theory a “true rumor.” Finally, some think it’s about John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus (“he’s come to take his children home).

 

When it comes to harmonizing, none are better than the Indigo Girls, and they crushed a cover of Uncle John’s Band for the tribute album Deadicated.  Check it out:

 Well the first days are hardest days
Don’t you worry any more
Cause when life looks like easy street
There is danger at the door
Think this thought of me, let me know your mind
Oh oh all I want to know is-are you kind
It’s a buck dancer choice my friend
You better take my advice
You know all the rules by now
And the fire from the ice
Will you come with me, won’t you come with me
Oh oh all I want to know, will you come with me
God Damn I declare have you seen like
Their walls are built like cannon balls
Their motto is Don’t tread on me
Come hear Uncle John’s band playing-to the tide
Come along or go alone
He’s come to take his children home
It’s the same story that the crow told me
It’s the only one he knows 
Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate barely time to wait
Oh oh-all I want to know is where does the time go
 

I listened to this one straight through and was enjoying the trip down memory lane. I didn’t even read about it as I went, and instead was just soaking in the experience. I know it’s  not the best of the Grateful Dead but it’s damn good. The album keeps you interested the whole way through, but I love that it starts and ends with the two best songs. I’ll leave Casey Jones alone so Steve can have it.

Steve

Starting an album with a song as strong as “Uncle John’s Band” is never a bad thing.  Sara already talked about it, but I think the track is the perfect way to start this experience.  I tend to prefer this style of the Dead’s music.  This album and American Beauty (coming soon) are probably my two favorite Grateful Dead albums.

I let this one play through several times before I moved on to the next album.  There is some really great stuff here, and the whole thing is incredibly easy to listen to.  I like “Cumberland Blues.”  This is the tale of a worker in a company mine town.  He struggles to balance his life and his job, while worrying about losing both.

I can’t stay much longer, Melinda, The sun is getting high.
I can’t help you with your troubles, If you won’t help with mine.
I gotta get down, I gotta get down, I gotta get down to the mine.

You keep me up just one more night, I can’t sleep here no more.
Little Ben clock says quarter to eight; You kept me up ’till four.
I gotta get down, I gotta get down, Or I can’t work there no more.

A lotta poor man make a five dollar bill, Keep him happy all the time.
Some other fella’s makin nothin’ at all And you can hear him cry,
“Can I go, buddy, can I go down Take your shift at the mine?”

Gotta get down to the Cumberland Mine.
Gotta get down to the Cumberland Mine.
That’s where I mainly spend my time.
Make good money, five dollars a day. Made anymore, I might move away.

Lotta poor man got the Cumberland Blues He can’t win for losin’
Lotta poor man got to walk the line Just to pay his union dues.
I don’t know now, I just don’t know If I’m goin’ back again.

This album closes as well as it starts, with “Casey Jones,” probably one of the most recognizable Dead songs to the casual fan.  The song is about a train wreck that is about to happen.  Casey Jones is coked out of his mind and speeding down the same track as an oncoming train, due to a sleeping switchman.

Drivin’ that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you’d better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind

This old engine
Makes it on time
Leaves Central Station
About a quarter to nine
Hits River Junction
At seventeen to
At a quarter to ten
You know it’s trav’lin again

Trouble ahead
The Lady in Red
Take my advice
You’d be better off dead
Switchman’s sleepin
Train hundred and two
Is on the wrong track and
headed for you

Drivin’ that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you’d better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind

Trouble with you is
The trouble with me
Got two good eyes
But we still don’t see
Come round the bend
You know it’s the end
The fireman screams and
The engine just gleams

Drivin’ that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you’d better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind

We are going to see the Grateful Dead twice more in the next several albums, and I am really looking forward to it.

#265 – Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles

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The first of three listed albums from the legendary Ray Charles is his sixth studio album.  The 1959 release reached #17 on the Billboard 200 chart.  This album was a step away from Charles’ soul roots, to reach a broader musical audience.

Sara

This is one for the ages. Ray Charles is absolutely remarkable and I could easily listen to him every day. This album contains one of my favorite Ray Charles recordings, his version of “It Had To Be You.”  This timeless song has been recorded by countless legends, including Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ginger Rogers and many more.  It’s also appeared in some of the most beloved films ever, such as Casablanca, A League of their Own, and When Harry Met Sally. It’s amazing to think that this song is almost a century old, having first been recorded in 1924. Talk about staying power

 
It had to be you, it had to be you
I wandered around and finally found, that somebody who
Could make me be true
Could make me feel blue
And even be glad just to be sad, thinking of you
Some others I’ve seen 
Might never be mean
Might never be cross, or try to be boss
But they wouldn’t do
For nobody else gave me a thrill 
With all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you 
It had to be you
 

The slow, melodic “You Won’t Let Me Go” is what put me over the edge for Ray Charles. His voice is just amazing and the song is something Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan should be slow-dancing to on a riverboat to close out a romantic comedy, as the camera slowly gets farther and farther away from the happy couple (ok, maybe I still have When Harry Met Sally on the brain). 

The big band arrangements get the butts shaking on the first half of this one (arranged by Quincy Jones) and side two is comprised of ballads performed with strings and woodwinds.

Steve

Ray Charles hits this list in style, starting off with the classic “Let the Good Times Roll.”  Written by Sam Theard and first recorded by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five in 1946, this song has been recorded by several artists over the years.  It is a great way to get pumped up, and the perfect upbeat way to start off this album.

Hey everybody,
Let’s have some fun
You only live but once
And when you’re dead you’re done

So let the good times roll,
I said let the good times roll,
I don’t care if you’re young or old,
You oughtta get together and let the good times roll

Don’t sit there mumbling
Talkin’ trash
If you want to have a ball,
You got to go out and spend some cash

And let the good times roll now,
I’m talkin’ ’bout the good times,
Well it makes no difference whether you’re young or old,
All you got to do is get together and let the good times roll

Hey y’all tell everybody, Ray Charles in town,
I got a dollar and a quarter and I’m just ringing the clock,
But don’t let no female, play me cheap,
I got fifty cents more than I’m gonna keep.

So let the good times roll now,
I tell y’all I’m gonna let the good times roll now,
Well it don’t make no difference if you’re young or old,
All you got to do is get together and let the good times roll

Hey no matter whether, rainy weather,
If you want to have a ball, you got to get yourself together,
Oh, get yourself under control, woah, and let the good times roll.

My favorite track on this album was “Don’t Let the Sun Catch you Cryin’.”  This is another song first done by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, although this one was written by Joe Greene.  Just like “Let the Good Times Roll,” this one has an long list of covering artists, including Paul McCartney.

Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’
Cryin’ at my front door
You done daddy dirty
He sure don’t want you no more

Don’t let the sun catch you lyin’
Lyin’ at my front door
Daddy’s done turned salty
And baby, you made him so sore

You can cry, cry, cry
Yes baby, you can wail
Beat your head on the pavement
Till the man comes and throws you in jail

Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’
Cryin’ at my front door
You done your daddy dirty
I tell you, he just don’t want you no more

Don’t let the sun catch you lyin’
Lyin’ at my front door
Daddy’s done turned salty
Baby, you made him so sore

Whoa, you know you done me dirty now
And I just don’t want you no more

This was a fun album from a truly amazing talent.  I don’t think that this showcases Ray Charles as much as some of his work, but it was a good listen.

#266 – Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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The sole list appearance from Blood, Sweat & Tears, is their debut album.  The 1968 release reached #47 on Billboard’s pop charts.  Al Kooper, the band’s organizer saw Maynard Ferguson play a show in 1960.  This influenced him enough to start a rock band with a horns section.  Almost 50 years later, they are still around in one form or another.

Sara

I mean, this is the album cover, for crying out loud:

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The cool things about the album? Lots of instruments, particularly horns. This includes the alto sax, flugelhorn, trumpet, trombone, and more. We’ve also got viola, violin, and even some shaker and cowbell action. The problem?  What they do with these cool instruments largely sucks.  A contemporary jazz-rock /psychedelic rock outfit, Blood Sweat and Tears are a very good example of why this music is not popular.

To be fair, these a-holes have stood the test of time.  Including all pieces, B,S&T has had over 150 members throughout the decades the band name has been hurting ears. In fact, they’re still kicking around, currently headed up by non-famous American Idol loser Bo Bice. 

I swear to you I tried to like this, and there were some fleeting moments in there, but there’s just no way it’s happening.  What sealed the deal of dislike was that the only palatable songs were covers. Ready to move on.

Steve

In a word…”Meh.”

This was all over the place.  There are some good parts, but most of it is so confused it just comes across as kind of odd.  It’s too sunny outside to waste more time on these idiots.

#267 – The Who – Quadrophenia

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The second of seven appearances from British rockers The Who is their sixth studio album.  The 1973 release is the band’s second rock opera, both of which appear on this list.  This is the only Who album to be entirely composed by Pete Townshend.

Sara

It’s INSANE that I’ve known and loved Tommy for decades, to the point of knowing every word, and have never heard ‘Quadrophenia,’ The Who’s other huge rock opera. This is the only album entirely composed by Pete Townshend and it’s a masterpiece.  A play on ‘schizophrenia,’ it’s was inspired by Jack Lyons, one of the original Who fans, who suggested Townshend come up with a look back at The Who’s history and audience. Jimmy, the main character, was created with inspiration of 6 early Who fans and given four personalities, hence ‘quadrophenia.’ It also contains four ‘themes,’ one for each member of the band. Talk about some multi-layered madness.

 “The Punk and the Godfather” was the first song that I fell in love with. It’s like I’m listening to a bizarro Tommy that I like just as much and yet haven’t ever heard. Here’s how Townshend describes the plot of this one: “The hero goes to a rock concert. He queues up, pays his money and he decides he is going to see the stars backstage as they come out the stage door. And one of them comes up and says ‘fuck off!’ And he suddenly realizes that there’s nothing really happening in rock & roll. It’s just another cross on his list.”

When I’m listening to musicals/rock operas, my favorite songs tend to be the ones where someone really lets their freak flag fly. Here that’s Roger Daltrey’s ‘theme’ “Helpless Dancer.” The vocals are amazing in this one and it evokes a lot of emotion. It’s unbelievable that Pete Townshend wrote this, as I’d bet anything that Roger Daltrey was singing his own words here.  He just nails it.

 
When a man is running from his boss
Who holds a gun that fires cost
And people die from being old
Or left alone because they’re cold
And bombs are dropped on fighting cats
And children’s dreams are run with rats
If you complain you disappear
Just like the lesbians and queers
No one can love without the grace
Of some unseen and distant face
And you get beaten up by blacks
Who though they worked still got the sack
And when your soul tells you to hide
Your very right to die’s denied
And in the battle on the streets
You fight computers and receipts
And when a man is trying to change
It only causes further pain
You realize that all along
Something in us going wrong
You stop dancing
Is it me, for a moment
 

I was super psyched to watch the Quadrophenia movie until I read about it and learned that, unlike ‘Tommy,’ the songs in the film are not performed. They’re mostly just background music. Well, that might be great if you’re a stupid idiot who hates good stuff, but I’d like to see a rock opera performed as such, thank you very much. Can someone please make this happen? Phish sort of tried to when they performed this album in its entirety in 1995 and released it as a live album, but I’m not a collector of Phish stuff. Are they on this list? Just realizing we haven’t heard them yet. Hmm. I’ll have to ask Mr. Piusz when next we speak.

This was great. Definitely made me want to come back for more and also listen to Tommy more often. It was huge in my rotation in college but I haven’t given The Who their due airtime since. Awesome experience. Townshend himself thinks of it as the ‘last great album that The Who ever recorded.’ Agreed.

Steve

The best part of this album is the underlying theme of “Love Reign O’Er Me.”  This is the title of the album’s closing track, but the chorus appears throughout the entire album at various times.  The song is about the opera’s main character finding solace in the pouring rain.  Pete Townshend himself described the song in a much more eloquent way than I ever could:

It refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God’s Voice. It’s another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness. He’s in danger of maturing.

The song was also the inspiration for the 2007 Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle film Reign Over Me.  It is a pretty powerful film about a man who lost his family on September 11, and a long separated friend trying to help him through it.  In my opinion it is Sandler’s best performance, and the song plays a large part of the film, in a very similar way that it snakes through this album.

Only love can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers layin’ in the fields

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

I can’t sleep, and I lay, and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

Love, reign o’er me
Reign o’er me, o’er me, o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, o’er me
Love

The point of an album like this is not individual songs, but rather the entire story.  The best art is based on real life, and this album is no exception.  Townshend based the main character on early followers of the band.  It is crazy to think that a band as large as The Who became started so small that they had personal relationships with fans like this, but everyone starts somewhere.  The main character is essentially schizophrenic and has four distinct personalities, hence the name.

I had never listened to this album before was it was an amazing experience.  Most bands that attempt it cannot succesfully pull off a rock opera, while The Who has recorded two, both of which are home runs.

Also Sara, no Phish on the list.

#268 – Paul Simon – Paul Simon

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The first of Paul Simon’s two solo albums on the list is his second solo studio album.  The 1972 release came two years after his split with Art Garfunkel.  The album topped charts in the UK, Japan, and Norway; but only reached #4 in the US…This is why the rest of the world hates us, we can’t appreciate a masterpiece.

Sara

Now this is what I’m talking about. Something that probably drives Art Garfunkel crazy is that everything Paul Simon does is amazing. If he sneezed, I’d keep the tissue. This isn’t my favorite of his work (that’s ‘Graceland’) but this is brilliant.
The first track, ‘Mother & Child Reunion’ is a special one that’s often forgotten simply because Simon has so many gems it’s silly. The image the title invokes in one’s mind is quite different from how the title was inspired:  a chicken and egg dish on a Chinese restaurant menu. Yep. Sucks the glamour right out of that one, right? Well, let me hit you back in the feels and tell you it’s about how Paul’s dog was hit by a car and killed. It was the first death he experienced and caused him immediately to think of what he’d to if his then-wife Peggy died. The organ and background singing give this one a very spiritual, gospel feel, and bring to mind an image of singing in church pews with a large group of people. It’s been years since
 
No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again


I didn’t know track 2, “Duncan,” but obviously have to talk about it since it’s the name of one of our two friends who actually read these posts.  The third and final single from the album, “Duncan” is a story told to us by a fisherman’s son, who is reflecting on his life one night in a motel, as the couple in the room next-door is having a loud romantic encounter. Duncan mulls over his own experiences in life and love as he distracts himself from what’s happening next-door
 
Couple in the next room
bound to win a prize:
they’ve been going at it all night long!
Well, I’m tryin’ to get some sleep
but these motel walls are cheap:
Lincoln Duncan is my name,
and here’s my song, here’s my song.
My father was a fisherman,
my mama was a fisherman’s friend,
and I was born in the boredom and the chowder.
So when I reached my prime
I left my home in the Maritimes,
headed down the turnpike for New England, sweet New England.
Holes in my confidence,
holes in the knees of my jeans,
I was left without a penny in my pocket 
Oo-oowee, I was about as destituted as a kid could be
and I wished I wore a ring so I could hock it 
I’d like to hock it
A young girl in a parkin’ lot
was preaching to a crowd,
singing sacred songs
and reading from the Bible.
Well, I told her I was lost
and she told all about the Pentecost,
and I seen that girl as the road to my survival,
my survival.
Just later on
the very same night
when I crept to her tent with a flashlight
and my long years of innocence ended:
well, she took me to the woods,
sayin’ “Here comes something, and it feels so good!”,
and just like a dog I was befriended, I was befriended
 
Another thing that makes this one beautiful is the addition of the Andean group Los Incas. Simon’s acoustic guitar is joined by Los Incas’ flute, charango, and percussion. Urubamba, the founder of Los Incas, partnered with Paul Simon on this and a few other ventures, and the sound that results is original and beautiful.  Paul Simon has a penchant for involving sounds from around the world and musical spectrum to his music. He’s probably the American musician who does this best, as a matter of fact.
 
“Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” is one of Paul Simon’s best solo songs.  As a huge Dave Matthews fan, I also love it because of a live cover they used to perform. I also love any song I can whistle along to, so that helps too. It appears in The Royal Tenenbaums, which is one of the most hilarious, brilliant and under-rated movies of my time.
 
Listening to this was truly awesome.  Paul Simon is such a unique and wonderful musician, and his lyrics are among the best. It gets better in terms of Paul’s catalogue, but this one has a rightful place on this list.

Steve

I listen to a lot of Paul Simon in my day to day life.  Google Music has a radio station based on an obscure demo version of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and I play it at least once a week.  Check it out, it spits out some really great alternate versions of songs you already know.

This is one of a handful of albums that was already on my ipod when we started this project.  Graceland was another, so Paul Simon gave me no headaches searching for his music.

Obviously, based on my streaming choices mentioned above, I am a big fan of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”  Maddie only knows the words to a few non-Disney songs, and I am proud that this is one of them.  It was an easy one to sneak into her playlist without hearing any complaints.

There has been much debating over the years about what this song is about.  People have their opinions about what the crime was that “mama pajama” saw, and who “the radical preacher” was in real life.  I have never given it a great deal of thought, considering it was released ten years before I was born.  I was happy to find out that Paul Simon himself says there is no real life crime.  It’s just a song.

The mama pajama rolled out of bed
And she ran to the police station
When the papa found out he, began to shout
And he started the investigation

It’s against the law
It was against the law
What mama saw
It was against the law

The mama looked down and spit on the ground
Every time my name gets mentioned
The papa said, “Oy, if I get that boy
I’m gonna put him in the house of detention”

Well, I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way
I’m taking my time
But I don’t know where
Good-bye to Rosie, the Queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard

In a couple of days they come and
Take me away
But the press let the story leak
And when the radical priest
Come to get me released
We was all on the cover of Newsweek

So I’m gonna switch to a few lesser known songs, that are in no way less enjoyable.  Another one I have long enjoyed is “Run that Body Down.”  As I get older I appreciate it even more.  It is a great track about aging, and the toll that life takes on your body.

Went to my doctor yesterday
She said I seem to be O.K.
She said
“Paul, you better look around
How long you think that you can
Run that body down?
How many nights you think that you can
Do what you been doin’
Who you foolin?”

I came back home and I went to bed
I was resting my head
My wife came in and she said
“What’s wrong, sweet boy, what’s wrong
Ah, I told her what’s wrong
I said “Peg, you better look around
How long you think that you can
Run that body down?
How many nights you think that you can
Do what you been doin’
Now, who you foolin?”

Kid, you better look around
How long you think that you can
Run that body down?
How many nights you think that you can
Do what you been doin’
Who you foolin?

One song, which I had all but forgotten, was “Paranoia Blues.”  It is another lesser known track, that pops up every once in a while when I am on shuffle.  To me the song is about the paranoid mindset a person has to live in a huge city, in this case New York.  I’m not saying you need to be paranoid, and neither is Paul Simon.  To me the song is about the sheer enormity of the place, and reminds you to be wary, because you have no idea who you may be dealing with at a given moment.  The song also makes me laugh at the idea of someone stealing Paul Simon’s Chinese food.
I got some so-called friends
They’ll smile right to my face
But, when my back Is turned
They’d like to stick it to me
Yes they would
Oh no no, oh no no
There’s only one thing I need to know
Whose side are you on

I fly into J.F.K.
My heart goes boom boom boom
I know that customs man
He’s going to take me
To that little room
Oh no, no. Oh no, no
There’s only one thing I need to know
Whose side are you on
Whose side are you on

I got the paranoia blues
From knockin’ around In New York City
Where they roll you for a nickel
And they stick you for the extra dime

Anyway you choose
You’re bound to lose in New York City
Oh I just got out in the nick of time
Well I just got out in the nick of time

Once I was down in Chinatown
I was eating some Lin’s Chow Fon
I happened to turn around
And when I looked I see
My Chow Fon’s gone
Oh no, no. Oh no, no
There’s only one thing I need to know
Whose side are you on, whose side are you on
There’s only one thing I need to know
Whose side, whose side, whose side

 

#269 – The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy

0269.jpg

The sole listed album from these Scottish rockers is their debut album.  The 1985 release was noted for its use of guitar feedback mixed with traditional music.  The style influenced many following acts, and started the “shoegazing” subset of alternative rock.  Apparently shoegazing is music that uses heavy effects, and thus the musicians spend much of their time on stage looking down at various effects pedals.

Sara

It makes me feel pretty cool to say I’ve listened to the J&M Chain in the past, but I didn’t like it nearly as much this time around. I just felt like they were mad at me.  It’s good. It’s damn good. I was expecting for it to be some amazing trip down memory lane and I think I set the bar too high.
 
The best song for me is the first song “Just Like Honey,” and that’s exactly how it goes down. Since this is a debut album, it’s cool to think that this is truly their first ‘hello’ to us. As I got into the lyrics I realized that I don’t know what they mean and why I like them, but I do. I’d say I’m moderately good at articulating my thoughts about a song in general, but in other forms of art I’m TERRIBLE. I think my brain lacks the ability to truly understand creative endeavors such as painting, but I know what I like when I see it.  “Just Like Honey” is a painting I like a lot. I couldn’t even tell you about it after walking out of the museum, and I don’t know or care what ‘period’ the artist was in or what kind of paint or technique it is, I just know it’s cool by me. It’s their most popular song too, so I award myself no points for creativity.
 
As she takes on half the world
Moving up and so alive
In her honey dripping beehive, beehive
It’s good, so good, it’s so good
So good
Walking back to you
Is the hardest thing that
I can do
That I can do for you
For you
I’ll be your plastic toy
I’ll be your plastic toy
For you
Eating up the scum
Is the hardest thing for
Me to do
Just like honey
 
I don’t know.  This is a good album.  Maybe I was off when I listened.  I’d love to see it at about the 400-mark on here.  Will be back for more, but not in a hurry.

Steve

This was a rough one for me.  I spent most of my time listening to it “shoeglaring” while I waited for it to be over.  There are a lot of albums on here that don’t seem as long as their run time, this one is thirty-nine minutes that somehow stretched into four hours of audio torture.  Critic Dom Gourlay described it best as “melody with obnoxious bursts of white noise.”

This is the kind of album that really illustrates the influence my mood has on what I am listening to.  In the right mood, I might have enjoyed this more.  I was having a really shitty day, and it just made it worse.

Maybe I didn’t give them a fair chance, but I’m not risking another listen.