Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I try to jack off, he ask me who is you playin' wit? But I know he love you, he told me you was his favorite.

Peep my Q&A with John Legend in Boston's Weekly Dig:

[defend yourself]
By Isabelle Davis

He used to be a session musician for Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Kanye West. Now, he's like Liberace, only much more attractive and talented, with ladies simply losing their shit at his concerts. The man is currently on the first leg of a huge North American tour to promote Evolver, his first full-length studio album in two years.


[laughs] Well, it woulda been that way anyway, but we have a lot of couples more than anything. A lot of couples come to the shows.


Well, I'm glad to know that, I never heard that before, I'm very glad to know that!


He's focused on a lot of different things, I think—his acting career and all that. But you know, he loved the song and he wanted to do it. He just got inspired and tried it when he heard the song and the beat. And felt like it was just something he wanted to be a part of.


There's so many great artists out there and I've already worked with a vast majority of them. I haven't worked with Beyoncé; I haven't worked with Amy Winehouse yet; Feist maybe would be cool, too.


[laughs] I don't think people do that panties thing anymore. You would think they would do it at my show if they still did it. I don't think it's the normal thing to do anymore.

[John Legend with Raphael Saadiq. Tue 12.2.08. Orpheum Theatre, One Hamilton Pl., Boston. 617.482.0650. 7:30pm/all ages/$46-$70.50.]

defend yourself: John Legend [Weekly Dig]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hack/Genius/Both: Kanye's Breakthrough

Kanye's album 808's and Heartbreak is out this week, and I for one never thought I'd be writing this post. The album does not suck. Kanye West's career trajectory has been anything but promising. After producing almost all the tracks on Jay Z's The Blueprint, one of the greatest hip hop records of all time, and one of the most timeless, his 2004 debut College Dropout was a fun if all-over-the-place collection, lacking focus but bursting at the seams with five-star jamz. Following that up was 2005's Late Registration, co-produced by studio genius Jon Brion. This record, while more cohesive, was nowhere near as strong. That being said, the songs were more fleshed out and at the time I thought they pointed to a more cohesive direction for Kanye. Boy, was I wrong: Graduation dropped in 2007 and had a few excellent tracks (I think "Good Morning" could go on a list for my favorite of all time), but the album as a whole sounded tired and phoned in.

So when it came to light that Kanye's next album, 808's and Heartbreak, would be an Autotune -heavy breakup album, my hopes were not high. Sure, it sounded interesting, but I thought Kanye was gonna blow it. Hard. I held out a miniscule amount of hope that Kanye's take on Autotune would take the tool beyond gimmick to valid studio tool. Someone's got to take this fad and make it worthwhile, right? Well there is good news and bad news about 808's and Heartbreak. Bad news: Kanye's use of Autotune doesn't look like it's broken any ground. Good news: it stands up as a cohesive concept album and a break with the style that seemed so damned tired on Graduation.

The sad state of hip hop is something I've posted about before. Good things happening in the genre seem to get buried in the underground, while sub par performers are hailed as saviors of the form. I think it's great that Lil' Wayne appeared on something like 1,674 songs over the last two years, but if those songs range from boring to grating are they really worth the words that so many critics write about them?

It is the responsibility of artists already in the canon to branch out and try new things. Not all of these experiments are going to work. Some of them are going to be outright failures. But anything is better than more albums that don't stand up to the hype. Kanye's album is not one of my favorites, but here's hoping other producers and emcees of his caliber take his cue and start pushing more boundaries.

808's and Heartbreak stream [; you have to dig around but it's there]

Photo courtesy The New York Times

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Simply Beautiful.

So this was originally published in Boston's Weekly Dig, my former stomping grounds, yesterday. But I wanted to wait until the extended interview was up and running online to post it on Two Day Old Shit. So here it is. Ladies and gentlemen, the most important professional moment of my life, the greatest opportunity I have ever been handed by any editor (thanks again, David Day) and the most personally satisfying and meaningful interview I have ever conducted. The legendary Reverend Al Green.

[defend yourself]

By Isabelle Davis

Extended Interview: Web Exclusive

The greatest Southern soul singer of all time. The man responsible for many conceptions. The 62-year-old reverend with a flawless falsetto. The crusader of love and happiness. The legendary Al Green.


I don't know.




Trying to get reregulated back to American time.




Sold out.


OK. Number one.




Did you like it?


No, I mean did we do a good show?


It was like this trance thing they was talking about overseas, "He goes into some type of trance or something performing these songs." But I mean, I don't mean to, but the songs themselves have a transcendental type of motion, of movement to them or something.


Well, those are nice words you're using now Ms. Davis, but I don't know, I don't do anything. I didn't give it to me, so I don't really know how to keep it. All these songs I didn't give it to me either, so I kinda, like, don't know. I know they were talking about me walking, prancing, back and forth, backstage, walking from end to end of the dressing room before you go on, I just get, it's not upset, I'm just nervous. I have a lot of emotion, I guess, pent up on the inside and I'm trying to just, while they're getting prepped, you know, ready to call you on, I'm trying to, I'm just a total wreck. And I'm trying to—and then when I get out there, then, slowly it goes away.


Ohhh! See! I shoulda thought of that. See, stage fright, that's what it's called.


I mean, I guess I still've got it, because it just amazes me. I don't know, I don't call it that. I'm just nervous before, well, you know.


That's amazing because, we kinda like, didn't plan it. We planned to do a duet album. That was a plan. But who, was to do, who was Al gonna do the duets with? That we didn't plan. And the people that we had wrote down in the car on the way to the studio was either, well, one was Justin Timberlake—he was in Australia so he couldn't do it—there was other folks that we had—they were on tour in Canada or someplace so they couldn't do it. And the very people that we didn't think could do it, like John, just so happened to be in New York and heard about the album and came over to hear one of the tracks, John Legend, and he liked "Stay with Me (By the Sea)". And there you go, it's weird stuff, I mean, it's just kinda weird, we didn't plan it, Anthony Hamilton came to the studio, brought his wife, he heard the song "Lay It Down," he said, "Hey, man, lemme put some background vocals on it," and we already, me and Corinne, had already put background vocals on it, so we told him, "Go on and put 'em on there" and he put it on there and we used it, it turned out to be the background vocals for the song. I don't know. It's me and Anthony singing. I don't really know how this stuff came to be, but it's very miraculous how it did come out, you know, because we're all kinda amazed that it came out as well as it did. Free-for-fall, like free-for-fall, not planned it.


I don't know what the differences is because if you see the video on the quick clip—


It's just, like, everybody's gathered around, Al's sittin' on the floor, with 10,000 papers scattered around everywhere, and everybody, the bass player you know, Adam Blackstone, all these people are gathered around, the organ player, all these people are gathered around him in the center of the floor, we were writing these songs.


Yeah, it's like on an inspiration. You just do something on inspiration. I'm not planning it. [It's not like], "These eight songs we done had in the trunk for 50 years." I mean these songs we just wrote in February.




No, I was on tour when they were doing that part [laughs], but I'm telling you the whole thing, I mean it's weird—when they did the mixing, I wasn't even up in New York, I was on tour, and you know, all the musicians were calling me telling how it was turning out and it was like, "Oh, OK fantastic, can you send me a cut of it?" They would send me maybe a cut. But I wasn't really there to tell them to take this out, put this in, trim this down. I wasn't there to do that, no.


Oh, I'd love to.


Oh, it's uh, it's uh, you can't just go into a studio that's costing you four or five thousand dollars a day, and you got all these musicians that you gotta pay, studio session costs, and you don't know what you wanna say [laughs]. No, you know what you wanna say and we wrote this, but the design is like, "Take me to the river, wash me down, cleanse my soul, and put my feet on the ground."


Right, it could. How could anybody say, for instance, if you use it metaphorically, "Take me to the river, wash me down," cleanse me, and then they said "cleanse my soul." Well how is a person gonna cleanse your soul and put my feet on the ground? That's like I'm talking to somebody that's gonna be higher than somebody who just simply says, "I love you and I'll see you after dinner." Of course the songs have a meaning. "Lay it down" means, a secular connotation, it means, you know, like what Al says on the stage, he say "lay it down," he say "lay your love down," it's intertwined like that because he has a design he wants to follow and he has a desire to follow a certain design and he's leaving himself space and room.


Yeah, I would like to hang her. [laughs] No, she's a sweetheart and she's got a beautiful voice and the girls, Valisa too, is a friend of hers, and they just do a great job and I'm real proud of them.


Yeah, I mean, that's Dad, and on the road I just, I kinda let her and Valisa handle a lot of things I don't have to do on the road. Because this is my daughter, and this is Valisa, and Valisa is a member of the church also, and my daughter is a member of the church also, and I'm the pastor of the church also, and therefore we on the road also, singing "Love and Happiness" also. So it's kinda like a trip, it's far out; I mean people are out here. I mean I don't know if He's trying to draw people to a certain idea. I'm trying to draw people to a certain lifestyle. A better lifestyle.


Guns and drugs and this and that and violence and shooting and killing and cutting—I'm trying to draw people to a "Love and Happiness," yeah, you know, right, right.


Well, I live in Memphis. So living in Memphis, people give you your space. But [laughs] they'll follow you to a restaurant. They love you and [are like], "I don't wanna impose, but could you sign the back of my T-shirt?" And I'm like, "You got the T-shirt on!" And the lady says, "I don't care! Al, just sign it!" And I just laugh and hug her and sign it for her because I know it ain't about nothin' man, it ain't about no big thing, man. I mean, I been living here 26 years so I mean, everybody know me and they know me, but still, [they're like], "I don't want him to think I'm just starstruck, but still, I'm drawn to him and I love his music and I love the songs that he's made and he's still making." And it's kinda like that, yeah.


Thank you, Ms. Davis, it was a pleasure talking to you.

[Al Green. Fri 11.21.08. Showcase Live, 23 Patriot Place, Foxborough. 781.461.1600. 8pm/all ages/$80-$175.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Girl, lemme talk to you for a minute...

So my iPod was on shuffle as I walked home tonight, and one of my all time favorite songs popped up: Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name." Produced by Kanye, the song features gorgeous background vocals from a then relatively unknown John Legend, a baller Main Ingredient sample and best of all, a fabulously executed spoken monologue mid song. Now, for those of you who don't listen to old school soul and R&B, perhaps you aren't familiar with the origin of the random spoken breakdown. A staple in '70s and '80s slow jams, the spoken breakdown is a rare and hilarious musical nuance that when done properly, really takes a song from good to great in no time. When done wrong, it is painful and awkward. And it's become nearly extinct. And I am not talking about intros or outros on songs, because trust me, those are in no danger of going the way of the polar bear (too soon, my b). I'm talking straight up "baby, let me explain" speeches and "come over and let me rub you down" pleas. You know what I mean: Jodeci, Teddy Pendergrass, Bobby Womack, Boyz II Men, Barry White...the soliliquies that made you stop singing along and just go, "hmm mmm, I know that's right." Or laugh, really, really hard.

In spirit of a lost art form, I have compiled a list of my favorite, desert island top five monologues. Feel free to comment and add your own. I hope to everything sacred I am not the only person under the age of thirty who holds these special addresses close to my heart.

5. Boyz II Men "End of the Road." Michael McCary, the Philly group's bass harmony (or the dude with the cane) was ALWAYS on the monologue tip. He couldn't dance because of his scoliosis, and his voice was so Barry White deep, that he was the natural candidate for the vocal breakdown. But even as a 3rd grader I was like, this motherfucker has NO self respect. I mean, come ON dude. You have a cane and a bad ass voice. You should not be using your spotlight moment to say things like this:
"Girl, I'm here for you. All those times at night when you just hurt me and just ran out with that other fellow, baby, I knew about it, I just didn't care. You just don't understand how much I love you do you? I'm here for you. I'm not out to go out and cheat all night just like you did baby, but that's alright. I love you anyway and I'm still gonna be here for you, till my dying day. Baby, right now I'm just in so much pain baby, because you just won't come back to me will you? Just come back to me."
GET A GRIP man. You get the doormat prize and come in at number 5.

4. Lenny Williams "'Cause I Love You" Alright, not only is this one of the better sample sources that Kanye sped up, but it has one of the greatest breakdowns. Lenny cries throughout the whole damn song, and it culminates in this:
"You know, one time things got so bad until I had to go to one of my friends and talk to him. And I told him, I said, “You know, I’m having problems with the woman that I love. It seems that I call her on the phone and I just can’t get her to answer.
And then I went to her house and I saw a car parked in the driveway
I knocked on the door, but still my knocks went unanswered.
And then I went home and I watched television until television went off.
And then I played my records until I just didn’t want to hear them anymore.
And finally I went to bed, but I found myself waking up a few hours later.
And the tears were running down my face." And my friend told me, he said, “Lenny,
You just oughta forget about her." But I told my friend, I said, “You know, maybe you’ve never been in love like I’ve been in love. And maybe you’ve never felt the things that I’ve felt." But this is what I told my friend, I said, “You know, sometimes you get lonely. You get lonely, you get lonely."

I didn't even know television went off.

3. Alicia Keys "You Don't Know My Name" Well, this is the song that sparked this post and one of my all time favorite R&B tunes. Kanye West didn't become famous for nothing and the lush production coupled with John Legend's beautiful cascading harmonies and Alicia's coquettish charm make this a killer "unrequited crush from a far" jam. And when Keys says "Wait, my cell phone breakin' up" I lose it. Oh, and Mos Def is a BABE in this video.
"Well, I'm gonna just have to go ahead and call this boy.
Hello? Can I speak to -- to Michael? Oh hey, how you doin'?
Uh, I feel kinda silly doin' this, but um, this is the waitress from the coffee house on 39th and Lennox. You know, the one with the braids?
Yeah, well I see you on Wednesdays all the time
You come in every Wednesday on your lunch break, I think
And you always order the special, with the hot chocolate.
And my manager be tripping and stuff, talking 'bout we gotta use water
But I always use some milk and cream for you, 'cause I think you're kinda sweet.
Anyway, you always got on some fly blue suit 'n your cuff links are shining all bright
So, whatchu do? Oh, word? Yeah, that's interesting. Look man, I mean I don't wanna waste your time but, I know girls don't usually do this, but I was wondering if maybe we could get together, outside the restaurant one day? You know, 'cause I do look a lot different outside my work clothes. I mean, we could just go across the street to the park right here- Wait, hold up, my cell phone breakin' up, hold up. Can you hear me now? Yeah. So, what day did you say? Oh yeah, Thursday's perfect, man."

2. Prince "Insatiable" I couldn't leave this one out, despite the fact that Prince kind of talks his way through out the whole song. He gets really nasty and makes me feel uncomfortable towards the end and this is basically sonic sex. But really I just wanna know who "Martha" is and why he chose that name, because it's about as sexy as "Mildred."
"OK, so all U do is push the little red button
And I belong 2 U in your little video box
Nah, don't look at the clock, yeah
It's 2:45, we got all night
First, U gotta tell me what U want me 2 do...
Do U really want all my clothes off? (Yes)
What are U gonna do 2 prove it? (Ooh)
Aren't U afraid we're gonna be found out? (No)
Well, let's get on with the show...
Doesn't my body look good in the shadows?
Ooh, baby knows what 2 do
Have U done this before? (I don't know)
U say U want my hips up in the air (Yeah)?
Oh no, I don't care...
I know I could be nasty with U."

The video is edited so his royal nastiness can't truly be conveyed.

1. Teddy Pendergrass "Come and Go With Me" And here it is. This gets the number one spot for two reasons. First of all, it's the flip side: this time it's the object of the song, the lady he sets his sights on, giving us a piece of her mind. They go back and forth, but obviously she goes home with him, but only because he agrees to buy her drink and drive her home after. My kind of girl. And secondly, Teddy Pendergrass was one of the originators of the slow jam spoken word. He has to be on my list. So here's to you Teddy P. The clip is a live one.
"Come on over to my place
(No, not tonight, no)
You see it’s not far from here
(I believe you)

Would you just take a minute and think about it?
(Oh, man)
Would you just think about it, think about it? Yeah...
(I’m thinkin’ about it but I really have to say no)

Come on and go with me
Come on over to my place
(No, I know)
You’re sittin’ here, you’ve been sittin’ here for quite a long time
(Yeah, I’m slightly bored, I hate bein’ bored)

See, I’ve been watchin’ you
(I’ve been doin’ the same thing)
I’ve had my eyes on you
(I’ve been checkin’ you out all night long)
You look so nice and you look so sweet
(Oh, thank you)

Come on and go with me
(That was sweet)
You look like you oughta be with me
Come on, over to my place
(Yeah, but what are you gonna with me? That’s the problem)

Seems that you feel the same way I do
(I think it would pretty interesting)
It seems that you need some company, too
(Oh, boy)

Come on and go with me
(You said your car is right outside, right in front)
Come on, over to my place
(And you’re gonna bring me home after)
But would it be all right with you?

Come on and go with me
If we left here and we went somewhere else, baby
(Come on over to my place)
Somewhere where it’s nice and quiet, nice and quiet
(That’s nice, yeah, that sounds a little better than this place)
Where we could sit down by a cozy lit fire
We could sip a little wine, work things out
(Oh, yeah)

Come on and go with me, work things out
(Well, I cannot stay long)
Come on over to my place
(We got an hour, no more than that)
Lady, you won’t be under any kinda pressure
(Please, I cannot stand pressure)

I wouldn’t do that, baby? No
(Okay, well, would you get my coat?)
See, I wouldn’t do that, baby
See, I just wanna sit down
And get to know you a little better
(Okay, just for a little while)

I swear you look so good to me
(Are you gonna pay for my drink?)
Come on over to my place
You look so good to me."

Monday, November 17, 2008

You Got Me.

Alright. I wasn't even going to do a post about this but...

Everyone from Gawker to stereogum are blogging furiously about Thursday's rather shocking announcement that the Roots are going to retire (Forever? Forever ever? The band is staying mum for now.) from touring to be the house band for Jimmy Fallon when he takes over Conan's seat in 2009. The news was broken via a video interview (that has since been pulled, as well as the okayplayer update about the band's decision) during the Philly outfit's Chicago pit stop last week. And while everyone who has access to the internets has been commenting about this blow to the live music scene, what naysayers, haters, Debbie Downers and trick ass marks forget is this:

The Roots tour non fucking stop. Almost 350 days a year or something outrageous like that. I saw them twice in a two and a half week span. That's nuts. Sure, they love playing live and love playing music with each other, even after twenty years. But guess what? Touring blows. Hard. And these are grown ass men. With families, significant others, friends, homes, side projects and real lives (longtime bassist Hub left the group last year to pursue a film scoring career and to spend more time with his family). They have been on the grind for two decades now, and are just starting to get the mainstream respect they deserve. So they want a steady gig, a place to hang their ridiculously talented hats. So what. So fucking what. Who cares that Jimmy Fallon is a dick cheese? I don't. Good for them. Seriously and completely. Not only will this make me want to watch late night TV again, but it will raise the house band bar (also, I do want to see Fallon trade riffs with ?uestlove. He's no La Bamba.). If they had the chance to do a Celine Dion style Vegas run I would hope they would take it too. These dudes deserve all the opportunities in the world. They deserve stability and financial security. The right to do something different. And hello, they said retire from touring, not retire from music making. So quit hating. Musicians are real people. They're not your friends. You can be sad about their choices, but you have no right to be angry. They aren't promoting child molestation or anything. So shut up.

And for those of you who haven't had the honor and privilege of seeing this legendary group live, that's your own fault. You blew it. Kill yourself now, because live music does not get any better. You had your chance. In fact, you had plenty of them. I've seen them 19 times and I'm only 22.

Besides, musicians change their minds all the time. And if you're that bummed, fly to fucking Europe and be one of the lucky few at their last tour.

The Roots To Be Jimmy Fallon's Band; We Are Old And Sad [Gawker]

I Give Up

I haven't paged through this week's New Yorker yet, but apparently it contains some stuff I'd rather not hear about Prince's religious and political beliefs. Gawker's Ryan Tate has a post today with the following excerpt:
When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’
Wait, what? This is beyond homophobic. While I wouldn't encourage this kind of proselytizing, I do think that it is impressive that even in a league of bat-shit crazy zealots (the anti-gay marriage camp) Prince still manages to out-crazy everyone. Still, some questions remain:
  • What will Wendy & Lisa think?
  • And does this mean I can't play "Little Red Corvette" at my wedding when I get gay married?
  • Why am I giving Prince the attention he is so clearly seeking by blogging about this?
  • Prince isn't gay?
Gotta go for now, I have longstanding marriages to de-sanctify and kids to make gay.

Prince Says God Against Homosexuality [gawker]
Soup With Prince [the new yorker]

Those Meddling Kids

There are plenty of artists working in hip hop who are really into cartoons and comic books, but I don't think they take it far enough. You know who does? MF Doom, the metal mask-wearing emcee who has based his entire persona on Fantastic Four villain Dr. Doom. Exhibit A: "Hey," a song from his debut solo LP Operation:Doomsday, a track built entirely on Scooby-Doo samples.

MF Doom - Hey! [youtube]

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Roots + Cee-Lo, The Vic, Chicago, 11.13.08

Quite possibly one of the most fun Roots shows that I have ever attended (and that's saying a lot since this was show 19 for me.), the Miller Genuine Draft "Genuine Flow" show at the Vic was, despite the MGD name drops every 6 minutes (which none of the artists could take seriously, case in point, Cee-Lo must have been reminded back stage to name drop the beer and since he could give less of a fuck, told us that "my voice is scratchy. I need something cold, something refreshing. I need...a Miller Genuine Draft" and then burst into laughter with Black Thought) all about genuine musicianship and genuine camaraderie. DJ 33 1/3 kept the mostly older and black crowd (which was very refreshing to see, a Roots show that wasn't all bros) excited by playing what everyone wanted to hear: De la Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, ODB and straight up classics. WGCI's Tony Sculfield played MC and after his tired jokes about weed smoking and how Obama is going to have a DJ spinning at his State of the Union address (you, know, cause he's black. Get it?), the legendary Roots crew took the stage around nine, filing out in processional fashion, ?uestlove wearing a kuffiyeh like a hipster and Black Thought wearing a Cosby sweater looking blazer, and kicked off a nearly two and a half hour set in which goof ups, laughs, inside jokes, two-stepping and the soul machine Cee-Lo Green would all be a part of.

Their set was very similar to the set I saw at the Congress a few weeks back, but the beauty of the Roots, and one of the many reasons that I consider them to be my favorite band and favorite live act, is that no two shows are the same, regardless of set lists and current tricks they have up their sleeves. The subtle nuances, the tempos, the riffs, the solos, the impromptu joints, all change in various degrees, and the organic nature of their show always feels real. So, when "string assassin" Captain Kirk took over for his standard "You Got Me" operetta, he not only turned his scatting into "Sweet Child O' Mine," as he had done at the last show I saw, but he threw in a very Ike Turner move: sexualizing his strings and turning their high pitched moans and sighs into "Love to Love You Baby," which he sang beautifully, because his falsetto is terrifyingly woman like. ?uestlove missed his vocal cue during the Fela tribute, and Black Thought just started laughing at him, which made the whole band laugh at him, and the genuine bro love they all have for one another was beyond endearing. Last night, more than ever, was evidence of the fact that these guys play together every single night, but still love doing it, and still love each other.

Midway through the set, Cee-Lo emerged with his very unnecessary hype man, looking more like a regal Buddha than ever (he was not wearing the outfit shown above, unfortunately). The Roots backed his set, which included "I'll Be Around," an amazing reggae tinged slow burner version of "Crazy," that had everybody doing the dutty wine (it then morphed into a quite excellent cover of "Seven Nation Army" before going back to it's dance hall vibe) and a pretty straight ahead "Who's Gonna Save My Soul." The usually reserved Black Thought told us that "Cee-Lo is one of the few people in hip-hop I love and respect" and they recounted first meeting back in the Goodie Mob days. It was all very, "late night jam session"- just a few close friends hanging out and being fabulous - and the small atmosphere of the Vic was perfect for it. And then, my favorite part: after leaving the stage, ?uestlove urged him to come back out, and off stage we could hear his Atlanta drawl: "well, I don't wanna wear out my welcome and shit, but..." and he treated us to an epic a cappella (well, almost, Knuckles provided minimalist percussive snaps) version of the song that introduced us to Cee-Lo: OutKast's "Git Up, Git Out." He then left the stage, telling us not to spend all of our time trying to get high. Just "some of our time."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Five: Reasons I'm Not That Mad At The Beatles

In the interest of Not Whining Too Much, and in light of my last post about the Beatles, I thought I'd run down five things that don't suck about the Beatles.

5) Ringo Starr has discovered YouTube:

...although he appears to be using it for evil, not good. No, I don't know what the story with this is either. Moving on...

4) The films A Hard Day's Night and Help! released in very nice double-disc sets. It's nice to see these again; I watched them a lot when I was little. A Hard Day's Night really holds up, though while Help! was certainly fun to revisit, it didn't have the energy or cultural cache of its predecessor. Don't get me started on the most overhyped rock movie of all time.

3) The Beatles Anthology, both the documentary and the companion albums. The DVD is a pretty comprehensive, if at times biased, look at the complete history of the band. Sure, it smoothes over some of the rough edges of the story, but it also lets us see how much of a dick Paul can be. Exhibit A: what kind of schmuck would think it a good idea to record his documentary testimony from the steering wheel of his yacht? The soundtracks, six discs in total, gives us maybe our only glimpse so far of the wonders that lie waiting in Apple Corps' archives, if they'd just open them up.

2) The Capitol Albums rereleases. These box sets packaged the first eight Beatles albums as they were originally released in the United States. They're shorter, and they sound different: much more trebly, with the vocals higher up in the mix. Why exactly they were altered is something I'm not going to get into (for that, I urge you to pick up a copy of Dave Marsh's The Beatles' Second Album, which tells the story contextually and compellingly as a war between rock 'n' roll and the status quo of pre-Beatlemania America). Sure, they prey on the nostalgia of those who grew up with these versions, and they are overpriced and underpackaged (the box looks kind of cheap and rushed). No, these are not the albums the Beatles intended to release. But who cares? These are the records my parents lost their minds to and I can feel them in my blood, even if I never heard them until this set came out a few years ago.

1) The albums. Sure, the sound quality could be better. But regardless of that fact, there is no stronger catalog in the history of popular music than that of the Beatles. The crappiest 8th-generation blank tape copy of a poorly compiled Beatles best-of would STILL be one of the crowning achievements of rock music. Abbey Road? Revolver? Meet the Beatles? Sgt. Pepper's? Even the aforementioned Beatles' Second Album, clocking in at just under 30 minutes with only 4 original tunes (the rest are covers) is completely unfuckwithable in every way.* I'd love to have remastered versions, really I would, but I'm not rushing to burn these copies anytime soon.

*It's one of my favorite albums of all time, despite the naysayers.

I Am...Ann Powers

Back in October I wrote a defense/review of the two new B singles (and B as a pop artist in general) from her impending I Am...Sasha Fierce. I just got a chance to hear the whole album (well, just the normal release, the deluxe edition has a few extra tunes per personality and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition circa 1997 inspired cover art) and the two sides of Ms. Hov.

So, I am never embarrassed when I am wrong and have no problem with admitting errors in judgment. Lucky for me, I wasn't completely overly hopeful about the overly ambitious double album: it has some classic Beyonce cuts ("Single Ladies" most notably) and the Sasha half has a sass and sexual aggression that suits the club jam aspect of Sasha's party girl rep well. But in my earlier post I guessed that the Beyonce "ballad" portion would be akin to B'Day's "Resentment," a gorgeous and slightly disturbing song about broken trust, an adulterous relationship and um, a thinly veiled real life experience softly and gut wrenchingly sang over a well chosen Curtis Mayfield sample ("Think" to be precise). And that wishful hypothesis was very very very wrong. I Am...Sasha Fierce's ballads aren't terrible. They are just songs that I never want to listen to again. And would be better suited to Carrie Underwood.

L.A. Times pop guru and my adolescent hero, Ann Powers, has an excellent take on the split diva's record. The best review I have read so far. Pay special attention to what she says regarding the "racial undertone" that separates the two Bs. Very very very spot on and intriguing. The article after the jump.

In the news release for her new, ambitious, somewhat befuddling double album -- the deluxe edition, with extra tracks, is currently streaming on her MySpace page -- Beyonce Knowles discusses her newly revealed alter ego, Sasha Fierce. "She's the party girl, she's Bootylicious," says the singer-songwriter-movie star-mogulista. "She is but I'm not. She's my alter ego. I'm finally revealing who I am."

The contradiction built into that brief comment says much about Beyonce's artistic predicament. A child talent-show winner molded into a pop star by her notoriously driven father, she is a creature of the stage, like Britney and Christina, the pop stars with whom she might have continued to be lumped if her father-figure husband -- and, more important, her own "rapperly" vocal gifts -- hadn't helped her secure a spot in hip-hop's firmament. Yet because the world of hip-hop soul expects its divas to be "real," she's often criticized for seeming distant within her own performances and refusing to expose herself.

For Beyonce, to say that an identity she is not can also "reveal ... who I am" is not a contradiction. As an artist, she is a role-player first -- a brainy, often showy interpreter instead of a gut singer on ballads, and a brilliantly varied rhythmic innovator on her club hits. "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" shows her further refining both of those tendencies, and it's full of interesting choices. But her misplaced worries about authenticity cause Beyonce to make some unfortunate missteps (mostly into the puddle of excess) that often afflict artists in mid-career.

Her first mistake, noted in other early reviews, was to separate "Beyonce" from "Sasha" and give each lady her own disc. Dispensing with the idea that the one sharing her name is any more genuine makes it clear that Beyonce has accepted standard thinking about what "real" is for a woman.

For T.I. (the other hip hop star who recently tried this schizophrenia thing) real-versus-fake meant thug-versus-pop-star, and ultimately the two were inseparable. But that's the male rapper's version of this struggle -- the ascendant entrepreneur trying to reconcile with the streetwise, marginalized youth still fighting for control of his psyche. (That's also the Jay Z story, so B knows it well.)

Might as well quote B herself (or whoever wrote the lines -- she had many collaborators, as always) to define the split she makes. "My heart used to be cold 'til your hands laid on my soul," she intones in "That's Why You're Beautiful," in which she compares herself to a diamond that finds its sparkle only when bought. This is the "real" Beyonce -- romantic, interdependent, brought to life by love. Her modus operandus is the power ballad.

Then there's Sasha, whose manifesto is the Lil Wayne-inspired "Diva," anchored around the line, "Diva is the female version of a hustla." She is nobody's baby, and if she finds love in the club, she's not necessarily dirtying her apartment with it after closing hours.

Her motif is the club banger -- electro elements optional. When she does go into mid-tempo territory -- say, on the R. Kelly-meets-Rihanna vocal workout "Hello," or on "Ego," in which B shows off the spunk she developed playing Etta James in a movie (much to longtime James supporter Christina Aguilera's chagrin, we're sure )-- Sasha's still all about sonic complexity and challenging singing, rather than the cleaner, more open style of the Beyonce tracks.

The weirdest thing about this split is its racial undertone. The Beyonce ballads fall into that soft-rock zone that incorporates elements of crossover country, Celine-and-Whitney style divadom, and U2-derived guitar hymnody. They're vehemently not R&B, and Beyonce enunciates them in a firmly post-racial style, in the same ballpark as her multi-culti rivals Alicia Keys and Leona Lewis. ("Halo," written by the hip hop world's latest rock crush, Ryan Tedder, was originally intended for Lewis.)

There's also the clear influence of Beyonce's idol, Barbra Streisand. The cowriters on these songs are mostly white, though Babyface, long soul's ambassador to soft rock, makes an appearance. The unrelenting uplift of these tracks conjures thoughts of transcendence, and that universal tone is vehemently not grounded in a "black" sound.

Sasha Fierce, on the other hand, knows where her home is. Enlisting top urban music producers including Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Sean Garrett and Jim Jonsin (who's white, but a veteran of Flo Rida's dirty rap scene), she stars in songs that manically reference the current lingo of the dancefloor and the mixtape.

As a vocalist, Beyonce seems more comfortable in Sasha's stilettos. Her performances on those cuts feel unforced and fun, like she's thinking on her feet. Stretching for deep meaning on the Beyonce ballads, she risks sounding ponderous -- communicating thoughtfulness weighs her down. Still, when she finds the right balance, as on the first single "If I Were a Boy," she can be exquisite -- accessing the timeless quality she's clearly bent on mastering.

So consider "I Am....Sasha Fierce" Beyonce's Obama album. Through it, she is imagining a pop sound that doesn't foreground race, but which still respects its roots in the black community. She's not there yet, but the effort is fascinating, and hopefully she will keep on this path. After all, the Obama that Beyonce invokes with the name of her alter ego is still only a child.

--Ann Powers

Snap Judgment: Beyonce's 'I Am...Sasha Fierce' [The L.A. Times music blog]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best New Band: Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! are a band out of Wales that came out of nowhere in the beginning of summer only to completely knock my socks off. Like Belle and Sebastian hopped up on more speed than their twee brains can handle, their debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster... is sure to come out very near the top of my best of 2008 list, and it's been on heavy rotation on my iTunes since I first downloaded it off of eMusic. Songs about teenage angst and teenage love thrown in with a good sense of humor and dueling boy-girl vocals, it's a high energy affair from start to finish, with exclamation point heavy song titles like "This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics,'" "Death to Los Campesinos!" and "You! Me! Dancing!" It was the kind of album that seems to pop up so randomly it feels like a little gift from the music gods. See for yourself:

So imagine my surprise when perusing the interweb this morning, I learned that Los Campesinos! have released their! second! LP! entitled We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. That's two in well under a year. Quality rules over quantity, I know, which is why I'm happy to report on first listen that this LP is just as much fun as the first one, albeit a bit more laid back the energy level is down from 18/10 to a more reasonable 12 or so). Thanks guys! I'm so pleased that I'm going to go ahead and call my Best New Artist way ahead of year-end-list season. This one's for you, Los Campesinos! Now come back to America so I can see you live, kthx.

UPDATE:  Either I have great luck, or Los Campesinos! care about me way more than I thought.  Not 24 hours passed from this post before the band announced a slew of US dates!  Check 'em out if you get the chance. I missed 'em last time, but I'm sure its gonna be a helluva show.  

Los Campesinos!
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed [eMusic]
Hold On Now, Youngster... [eMusic]

When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You: The Anthony Hamilton Edition

So idolator picked up on Southern soul man Anthony Hamilton's new (kinda) single "Cool" today. The post is entitled "Anthony Hamilton, R&B's Tough-Luck Story" and bemoans the fact that he gets the music industry's back burner when it comes to video rotation (besides Vh1 Soul and mtvU) and airplay outside of urban stations. The tone is all, he's so great, he has gold and platinum albums and his new video clip is so "charming" so why does he get snubbed when it comes to exposure on mainstream video channels? Well, Dan Gibson of idolator is right; the video for "Cool" is charming and should get more attention. And yes, Hamilton is good. But good shouldn't mean boring. And that's what Hamilton is slowly becoming. Very. Boring. And it hurts me to say that, because his voice is so amazing. He has always been a vocal throwback (in a good way), to Al Green and Otis Redding: his voice drips with feeling and grit. He's great live too. But the best part of an Anthony Hamilton song should never ever ever be a David Banner (yes, that David Banner) rap. 

The song is all about love providing everything this couple needs and the video follows suit: they have no milk for their coffee, their TV breaks, their car overheats and Anthony gets hit by lightning while fixing it (with the assistance of Mr. Banner, who drops the hilarious line: "we can call our white friends up and drink our Miller Genuine Draft/then kick 'em all out of the house, take us a bath") but through it all they laugh and shake it off because they have each other. Sweet sentiment and all, but sonically, the bouncy banjo hydraulics are way played and it is so repetitive, I feel like I'm listening to a snippet on loop. It sounds like a Nappy Roots song from like, 5 years ago. This bums me out. When did Anthony Hamilton become so derivative? His 2003 album Comin' From Where I'm From is so beautiful and textured with his gravelly and gut wrenching vocals ("Charlene" makes me cry, "Float" makes me wanna take my pants off and the James Poyser co-written "Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens" is one of my all time favorite tunes) and every single song sounds rich and layered with Muscle Shoals like complexities. His 2005 "sophomore" effort (he's had a few compilations, a barely recognized 1996 debut and some re-releases too) Ain't Nobody Worryin' isn't my favorite but it had solid production from the likes of Raphael Saadiq, ?uestlove and James Poyser and garnered major critical acclaim. But if this single is indicative of the rest of his upcoming The Point of it All (which is slated to drop this December, after being pushed from it's original summer release), I'm even more concerned about him than I was when he sang the chorus on Nick Cannon's plea to save the babies. And Dan is right again, Hamilton has been around for a minute and deserves a great amount of success (fun fact: he sang back up for D'Angelo during the Voodoo tour) but I'm not rooting for this "tough-luck" story until the new album drops. Oh, and your contribution to the Soul Men soundtrack is NOT helping. Hamilton, you're on notice. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can't Stay Mad: Conor Oberst + Ben Kweller, Terminal 5, NYC, 11.9.2008

Early last spring, buzz started about Conor Oberst's then-forthcoming self-titled solo album. Oberst, who fronts the folk rock outfit Bright Eyes, had never recorded an album under his own name before. Bright Eyes was an ever changing, ever growing exercise in recording and playing, a revolving door of a band where anyone in the recording studio at the time of the recording was a member, however temporarily. Everyone from Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) to Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch have popped up on Bright Eyes records, and while the whiney emo reputation precedes them, they were always a sonically interesting band, playing with varying genres and textures to make really great records (see Lifted or my personal favorite I'm Wide Awake It's Morning). The results were of varying quality, but as far as early 00's indie rock goes, Bright Eyes were one of the most interesting and influential, whether or not anyone wants to acknowledge that fact.

So, why would Oberst jettison a stage name he's cultivated for over a decade? It's not like the "band" broke up, since Conor Oberst basically is Bright Eyes. Actually, that's not exactly true. One key member who's been a part of every Bright Eyes track since the very early days is Mike Mogis, multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire. This was the man who, along with brother AJ Mogis, a talented producer in his own right, defined the Omaha sound. Mogis was the head knob-twiddler for a scene in which Oberst was the poster boy. Saddle Creek Records, the label started by Oberst and his contemporaries in Omaha, bloomed in the early 00's and went on to define a sort of post-rock eclecticism where there was no definitive style. Keeping up with Bright Eyes from their breakthrough LP Lifted to their latest release Cassadaga, it became clear that Mogis was the silent partner in what was often presented as a one man band. Seeing them perform together, Mogis brought a kind of quiet leadership to the troupe, and while Oberst was the face, it was clear that there was more at play beneath the surface. Oberst has said in interviews that his choice to record and perform as Conor Oberst on this latest album and tour had to do with Mogis's lack of involvement in the project. Details of the how or why Mogis is absent haven't been discussed in public, as far as I have read, but the producer's conspicuous absence, coupled with the self-titled album being released on indie heavyweight Merge rather than Saddle Creek, makes one think that something must be up (even the fan site appears to have lapsed!). Last night's show at Terminal 5 only furthered those suspicions for me.

I arrived around 9, for the end of Ben Kweller's set. What can I say about Ben Kweller? His first album, 2002's Sha Sha, is one of my favorites, an album that will always have a special place in my heart because I listened to it so much during high school. I know the whole thing by heart, and while each new LP by Kweller has deteriorated slightly in quality (2004's On My Way is good, 2006's Ben Kweller is okay) I generally support the guy and his all around good vibes. I must admit I was not too psyched to see him last night, certainly I wasn't dreading it, but it wasn't the main draw for me as I only found out he was playing after plunking down the dough to see Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band. Unfortunately we only caught a handful of songs, but the classics sounded better than ever and the new songs sounded really promising. His band was tight, adding even more country twang than ever before, and having a good time doing it. I ended up wishing I'd gotten there earlier. Play more shows, Ben! I'm ready to return to you.

After the set change, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band took the stage at 11:00 on the dot. They started with a song sung by another guy in the band, and then went into "Get Well Cards," I believe, from the new album. The set was made up of songs from that album and new songs. No Bright Eyes classics, which was fine with me, but not with the audience who kept calling requests out for "Lua," "You? Will" or "Anything from I'm Wide Awake." They did not get their requests fulfilled. The set was just alright. It wasn't so bad I felt like I was watching a train wreck, so I guess that's good. But I must say, I've seen Oberst perform as Bright Eyes a number of times before, and it was always an inspired performance, from the time Ben Kweller played as his guitarist at the Knitting Factory in 2003 to the engagement last year at Town Hall that featured those mind-blowing live drawing visuals and, on the night that I went, a guest appearance by Steve Earle. This was nothing like those Bright Eyes shows. There was very little spontanaiety, but more than that, there was very little interest on the part of Oberst himself. He seemed out of it, and like he didn't much care about entertaining the crowd. As I left with my friends, before the encore started, we felt definite disappointment regarding the performance. Something seemed off. I don't know what's going on with Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes, but here's hoping a return to form is on its way.

Conor Oberst [myspace]
Ben Kweller [official site]
Conor Oberst's Mexican Adventure [paste]
(Photo Credit: Nicholas Roberts for the New York Times)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ball of Confusion.

Coincidentally coming on the heels of the Nutella to my spoon's post about the Beatles and revisionist history, comes Idolator's post about Vanity Fair's December 2008 feature, "It Happened in Hitsville," an oral history of Motown. And while Paul McCartney's jive turkey approach to life irks me, what really grinds my gears is the enigma that is wrapped in a riddle that is covered in a David Lynch film that is rolled in a pile of bullshit that is the "real story" of Motown. Over 50 books have been written about the rise and fall of the greatest pop label in music history (I like this one) and Berry Gordy's 1995 autobiography was his big attempt to "set the record straight." But it seems like every time the record needs to get straightened (most recently with the release of the film Dreamgirls, and FYI Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson are still pissed) the same song and dance gets performed, and it's no Cholly Atkins routine either.

It comes down to this: I am sick and tired of Berry Gordy fellating himself. Yes, he did the unthinkable and created a black owned musical dynasty that united races via the magic of pop music. He paved the way for so so so many people in the music industry and with an $800 loan from his family he managed to create one of the greatest legacies the music world will ever know. But at the same time, he isn't playing fair. When he says "set the record straight" he means telling us that he wasn't involved in the Mafia, didn't believe in payola and is in no way shape or form portrayed accurately by Jamie Foxx. But that isn't the real story of Motown. His part in the oral history only focuses on what a victim he was and spends little time talking about the music. And Martha Reeves, Smokey, Stevie Wonder and Holland-Dozier-Holland all come out and defend Gordy, be it about the various artist lawsuits he was involved in (HDH's being rather significant, but the composers say that they have nothing but love for their former boss), his decision to move the label to L.A. (the biggest fail of all time) or about special treatment that Diana Ross, whose testimony is noticeably absent from the piece, may or may not have received. Gordy on Ross and the Supremes from the VF article:
"It just came time when it was best for them to split up. I don’t really remember my part in that—I was always objective. The fact that I went with Diana Ross—she never took advantage of that and I never gave her an advantage. She didn’t want any favors; she wanted to do what was right. If she got more attention at Motown, it was because she was good; it was all about the work. That’s why we broke up. We always said [we would] if [the relationship] came in the way of her work. I knew she wanted to be a superstar."
Bitch PLEASE. Ross got no special treatment? You didn't groom her to be a star? I find that very hard to believe, especially when you say things like:
"It’s very clear why I fell in love with Diana—because she was my star, and she came from the bottom up. With her it was not only fun, it was just like heaven working with her because she would surpass anything … and she always kept her self-esteem. She always told me, “If you think it, I can do it.” And she did."
Everybody at Motown came from the bottom up you clownshoe. She was no better and no different than most girls there. I love a good Diana tune every now and again but she is not the reason I love those songs. HDH and the Funk Brothers are the reason why I love those songs. I love a Marvin Gaye song FOR Marvin Gaye. Same with Stevie. But she was not an artist. She was just a singer, a puppet, a style, a look. She was the face of Motown in many ways, but that doesn't mean she was an actual musician. Her Tweety Bird shtick was never my bag and as long as we're being honest, I think the Supremes were the least interesting and provocative group musically at Hitsville. But that's just me.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Motown's remaining alums are all liars or that they live in fear of angering Chairman Gordy (well, maybe a little bit) but reading this piece just reminds me that certain people, namely the Funk Brothers and Marvin Gaye (and what about Tammi? Poor Tammi Terrell. While I have to read more snooze inducing anecdotes about Diana and Berry's special and magical union, I could be reading about Tammi and Marvin's heartbreaking secret/rumored but confirmed by many in the Motown circle, notably Martha Reeves and Brenda Holloway, affair), get a very specific kind of treatment when Gordy decides to take a trip down memory lane. And while Gaye and most of the Brothers aren't here to tell their experience, it pisses me off that some of the labels greatest contributors get pat remarks from Gordy like:

"Marvin had a divided soul. He looked upon me as a father figure and friend, but he wanted to have his own independence, and he would disagree with you all the time just for the sake of disagreeing. At the same time, he was a pure, wonderful, spiritual person who was looking for truth, honesty, and love. But I had major fights with Marvin Gaye because he did not think it was legal to have to pay taxes. He was convinced that it was not lawful, and I said, “Well, I don’t want to debate that with you, Marvin, but I do know if you don’t pay your taxes, you’re going to jail.”

Really Berry? Is tax evasion what you guys fought about? Not about him being married to your sister Anna who was 17 years his senior and the complications that grew out of your brother-in-law/boss role? Not about the cluster fuck that was his divorce from your sister and the ensuing legal battle that produced the greatest break-up and fuck you album of all time, Here, My Dear? And about What's Going On, the watershed album that ushered in Gaye's musical independence?:

"I heard the album [What’s Going On], and I thought it was really meaningful, but he was a pop singer, and I told him, “Marvin, think about your great image that you built up: do you really want to talk about police brutality?” I could see he had pain and passion and he wanted to awaken the minds of men. He said, “B.G., you gotta let me do this,” and I was really hesitant. Not for me, but for him. I didn’t want his career to be gone. I said, “O.K., Marvin, but if it doesn’t work, you’ll learn something, and if it does work, I’ll learn something.” So I learned something."
Stop B.G., you're making me blush. Your modesty is truly inspiring. Quit playing. You were about as hesitant for him as I am hesitant to eat a burrito right now. And if you knew me, you would know: I am never hesitant to eat a burrito.

It's OK though. I just know not to turn to the label's founder for true insight. I have Standing in the Shadows of Motown for that. And I have this to cheer me up:

Watch more Megavideo videos on AOL Video

It Happened in Hitsville [Vanity Fair]
Today's Must-Read [idolator]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Perhaps the most important night in many peoples' lives: the election of Barack Obama. My 92 year-old grandfather did not think that he would be able to vote for a black candidate, let alone live to see that candidate accept the presidency. My 54 year-old mother didn't believe she would live to see this. She instead hoped that her children, ages 17 to 22 years-old, would someday witness real change and progress. The White House will finally be home to a First Family that better represents America, but not only that, the White House will finally be home to a president that will better represent me. My beliefs, my issues, my rights, my freedoms. Barack Obama is not just the first black president. Barack Obama is the first president I can be proud of.

Tonight, I am proud to be a part of Chicago. Tonight, I am proud to be a part of democracy. Tonight, I am proud to be a part of history.

Read. Celebrate. Change.

"Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Change is Gonna Come


(Shout out to Hip Hop is Read on this one, who posted the same track earlier.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dropping the Ball: The Beatles

Great. Harmonix and its parent company, MTV, announced that they are working on a game similar to Rock Band (but not quite the same thing, somehow) based on the Beatles' catalog and Apple Corps is on board with the original master recordings of the songs. Great! Too bad I can't buy them online, or even in record stores. Great?

I'm not some kind of purist who believes that the Beatles' music has no place in such a project. In fact, it sounds alright to me--certainly better than a commercial for PCs or dick medication. No, Rock Band: Beatles or whatever its called actually sounds like fun to me (pop pills to stay pepped up through stage shows in Hamburg! Don't let George Martin see you smoking cigarettes! Erect a bed in the studio before Paul wigs out on you!). My issue is with Apple Records' handling of the Beatles' catalog.

Did you know that the Beatles' catalog has not been remastered since... ever? That's right. The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, you name the classic artist and they've seen their catalog get overhauled. As for the band that started it all, we have a smattering of projects that run the gamut from masturbatory--see Paul tell his favorite stories of the Beatles from the driver's seat of his yacht!--to what borders on revisionist history. In the most glaring of these, Let It Be...Naked, Paul McCartney tries to make us forget that the group were in such a shambles on the completion of that album that no one wanted to stick around to do it themselves (If you know where George Martin was at this point, please post in the comments. I've always wondered about that). That's why Phil Spector was hired. Did Spector butcher it with his wall of sound? Maybe. But that's how it happened, Paul. You can't change it by trying to make us buy Let It Be for the 18th time. Just like you can't decide that certain songs in the Lennon/McCartney catalog are "McCartney/Lennon" songs. I don't care if you wrote "Yesterday" and John wrote "Revolution." Even being one of the chief songwriters in the most influential band in the history of pop music does not mean that you can change history. Coming soon: Revolver with George Harrison's solos completely erased! New cut of A Hard Day's Night where Paul plays every role!

Not all of these projects are so terrible, though. Okay, well, one of them isn't: The Beatles' Love album, a surprisingly great byproduct of the Cirque du Soleil's show of the same name, running now in Las Vegas. This album, often referred to as a "Beatles mashup" was produced by George Martin and son Giles (skilled producer in his own right), merges a veritable shitload of Beatles classics into one glorious, lush soundscape. Sound cheesy? Yeah, I know, but check it: this was the first project ever where Apple cracked open its vault and let out some of the rich sounds contained within. The audio quality on this record will blow you away if you've been listening to the CDs, which were mastered in 1987, when CD mastering was still a bit of an experiment. 1987! Two decades and counting. The freaking Monkees have been remastered since then. More than once. Compared with their remastered versions on Love, songs like "Lady Madonna" and "Good Night," to name just a few, sound harsh and cheap on the original CDs.

Love gave us hope that Apple might be finally working on a remastered set, and last year Macca himself even announced that they were (of course this was during the publicity run-up to his latest album, so who knows how much credence should be lent). Certainly they'd sell a ton of copies without doing very much of anything. If Apple Records has the time and money to strip the production off of Let It Be or create a video game, why can't they get this remastering project off the ground? I'm at a loss. Leave your conspiracy theories in the comments.

The Beatles Stay Alone from Rock Band [idolator]
McCartney: Beatles Should Go Digital Next Year [billboard]