Monday, December 26, 2016

My Favorite Songs 2016

I have been working on this playlist for several months now as I've been adsorbing the wonderful music of 2016. I'm trying to avoid the very subjective word of Best and stay with an eclectic group of my favorite 50 songs which for the most part, probably gets little to no air play on the radio. The beautiful thing about services like YouTube, Amazon Music, Spotify and iTunes is that we get to make our own playlists and essentially make our own personalized radio these days.

Now I don't claim to have listened to every album recorded this past year, but I've listened to at least 50+ different albums as they were either released, or started to appear on lists like Rolling Stone, etc. If you follow Monday Monday Music, you're going to get a young and old mix of rock 'n roll, Blues and Americana music, so this list should sound familiar if not flipping fantastic!

With the wonderful world of YouTube, I usually can listen (and watch) an artist's entire new album of songs. This kind of gets me back to my roots of listening to entire albums and then naturally experiencing which songs will be short or long-term favorites.

Here is my short list of my top five favorite albums of 2016.

1. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Let Me Get By
This album didn't make any music critics list that I found, so I guess I'm doing something right or at least different. Derek Trucks is my current guitar hero (Gary Clark Jr. too). I got to see Susan, Derek and their wonderful band this year in San Diego and what a show! These guys have the old school rockin' blues full sound of, shall I say, Derek and the Dominoes or a Leon Russell ensemble. I start the playlist with the 2016 Anyhow song/video from Derek Trucks and the band. I end the playlist with Derek Trucks playing with Eric Clapton in 2007 in the 2016 release of Eric Clapton Live in San Diego!

2. Mudcrutch 2
If you love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a twist of old school country rock, welcome back to 1970. Mudcrutch is the early terrible name for the original Tom Petty band before the Heartbreakers. Tom brings together the original line up with all the band members that started together in Gainesville, Florida. This is a fantastic album with the best album cover of 2016!

Also, If you love Tom Petty and are doing some holiday couch surfing, catch - Runnin' Down a Dream (4 hour Documentary) on Netflix.


3. Colvin and Earle - When two of your favorite musician's get together and make an album, you want it to be as good as this album. I wasn't disappointed and the first time I heard it, (thanks Ken Forman) I couldn't believe how all the originals and covers sounded. This is an Americana dream album made in heaven, well probably, somewhere around Tennessee.






4. Van Morrison - Keep Me Singing
Again, the first time I heard this album, I keep saying to myself, that's a really good song, hey that's a good song too, on and on. Let It Rhyme is as fine a song as Van Morrison has ever written. This album is so well-crafted as the master continues to produce a batch of fresh songs.





5. Jack White - Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016
Jack is one of those musicians that just grow on you. So what better album to get as your first Jack White than this one. I just loved how Jack White strips everything down to the raw essential heart of the matter. His song writing and playing is pure storytelling in the finest tradition. We're Going to Be Friends is in my opinion, one of the purest songs ever written and he delivers it here in singular clarity.

Go buy this album, hell go buy all five of these albums.

Okay, now that was just the warm up. From good albums, come really good songs. I've picked my favorite 50 from 2016 to share with you today.

Happy New Year!!! I'll be back in 2017 on consecutive or random Mondays, whatever strikes me to put something down in this little blog. Enjoy my friends.



Monday, December 19, 2016

Remembrance 2016

Come together right now over me
                                     John Lennon

December is a time to reflect and remember. I remember December 8, 1980, the day John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City. It was my first year of teaching in a very intense special education class for children with severe multiple disabilities. I believe one of my classroom assistant's had quit and I then had a series of long-term substitutes for awhile. One fellow, (who for the life of me I can't remember his name) was a struggling musician who had various part-time jobs. We had been working together a couple of weeks and often talked about music and bands we loved. As I recall, this really wonderful guy came to work in my class the morning of December 9th and hadn't heard about the shooting. Now, I can't remember his name, but I'll never forget the look on his face and breakdown when I told him that John Lennon had been shot in front of his apartment building, The Dakota and died. In the days following, many news outlets and public mourning activities in Central Park would play, Come Together as John couldn't have possibly imagined this scene and the context of this song being used to actually bring people together over his tragic death. Like millions, I took John's death hard. I was 25 and not too many of my own loved ones had yet died in my first quarter century.

Today, I still take some musicians passing with a bit of a jolt. These wonderful artists have been in our hearts and minds for so many years, they touched us and we shall never forget the impact they had on us. I know older people in especially smaller towns will scan the obituaries in their daily local paper to see if an old friend or acquaintance has died. I guess for music I get a similar experience when my Rolling Stone phone app pops up to tell me this kind of news. 

2016 has been an exceptionally hard as many giants of music have passed this year. I went to this web site, We Heart Music and got the monthly list to prepare for this blog. I like their across the board approach as they acknowledge many lesser know artists in the music business.

As I get older myself, I'm sure this might be an annual blog on my part. At the Grammy's and Oscar's I now always get a bit teary-eyed when they do their annual remembrance segment. The beautiful thing about people in the arts is that we have their performances preserved in various media formats that we can enjoy again and again.

Here, I've embedded a memorable track under each artist.

Happy eggnog and wishing you a healthy year and as Glenn would say, "Take it Easy."

2016 Remembrance

January
1/10 - David Bowie, 69



1/18 - Glenn Frey, 67 (Eagles)



1/28 - Paul Kantner, 74 (Jefferson Airplane)



February
2/6 - Dan Hicks, 74 (Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks)



March
3/8 - George Martin, 74 (Beatles Producer Extraordinaire, "The 5th Beatle")



3/10 - Keith Emerson, 74 (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)



April
4/6 - Merle Haggard, 79



4/21 - Prince, 57



June
6/3 - Mohammad Ali, 74 ("Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee")



6/28 - Scotty Moore, 84 (Elvis Presley's lead guitar player)



July
7/24 - Marni Nixon, 86 (Best known for dubbing the singing voices of the leading actresses in films, including The King and I, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady.



August
8/11 - Glenn Yarbrough, (The Limeliters)



September
9/1 - Fred Hellerman, 89 (The Weavers (Fred on Guitar),
Fred also produced Alice's Restaurant for Arlo Guthrie)



November
11/7 - Leonard Cohen, 82



11/13 - Leon Russell, 74



December
12/7 - Greg Lake, 69 (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)


Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Time Mix 2016

I wanted to start this blog off with a lovely gift I found for myself on the Internet wires this past week that I would like to share with you as well. If you're a faithful reader of this blog, you know I use YouTube as my musical engine to craft an unique playlist for each Monday Monday Music. Lately, it appears that the good folks at YouTube have been ramping up the ads. I don't have stats on this, but it seems you get about 2-3 ads for every 10 videos you play. This has kind of put a damper on my playlists by just the sheer number of commercials you have to endure or quickly delete with the Skip button (if the ad has a skip button).

Well I have a computer solution that seems to be working quite well. It is an extension for the Chrome Browser called, Block YouTube Ads - Skip Right to the Video! So first, you need to be using the Chrome Browser and if not, download Chrome here.

Next, go to the Chrome Store by going directly the
Block YouTube Ads - Skip Right to the Video! link here. Then, click on the ADD To CHROME button. After installing, I got an ad from YouTube a few minutes in. So, I restarted my computer and after viewing over 100 music videos the past couple of days (does this guy have a life), I've had only 3 ads. Now that's a much better ratio to tolerate. Anyway, I've been giving it a go and here is another test I did. I opened up my now rarely used Firefox browser and went to the new Rolling Stones album playlist, Blue and Lonesome on YouTube. There are 12 new tracks here of wonderful Chicago Blues covers that the Stones do very well (and Mick kicks it on harmonica)! Anyway, I got two ads using Firefox in the Blue and Lonesome Playlist and then went back to Chrome and got zero ads playing the same linked playlist. Success!

Update 12/18/16 - My friend, Alex Dominguez told me of another Chrome extension he uses called uBlock Origin (install here). Now remember this only works with the Chrome Browser. Anyway, I installed it last week, and with the combination of these two blocking ads extensions, I've had zero ads! 

from Ugly Christmas Sweater.com
I understand, free means enduring ads but online services like YouTube just seem to keep pushing it to the limit. So, this little free extension is my little push back. Speaking of commercial, it is temping to buy this Festivus sweater. Isn't it especially fun to watch Seinfeld at the holidays, I know Frank Costanza is yelling right now somewhere on cable.

Now on to the playlist. This is my second Christmas Time Mix (CTM) and hope to make this an annual tradition. John Williams' Carol of the Bells is the only original repeat as I plan to also make that a tradition of the CTM every year.  If you didn't catch my Christmas Time Mix 2015, here is the link.



My goal with the CTM is to collect an eclectic Americana spirit of traditional and non-traditional Christmas and winter time music. Enjoy my friends.

Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Festivus for the rest of us!


Monday, December 5, 2016

From Stockbridge to Boston

Now the first of December was covered with snow
So was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston 
The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting 
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go... 

from Wikipedia, Sweet Baby James (Song)
This of course is the very notable verse from James Taylor's famous song, Sweet Baby James. I had just included this song on My 100 List that I posted last week when I got an email from one of my loyal blog readers, Ron Ouellette. Ron is the father of Jeremy, my son-in-law to my step-daughter, the now just married, Alexandra Ouellette. Ron and I have been getting to know each other over the past couple of years and as the topic of music came up, well need I say more.

So Ron writes me an email (on December first) with the following line, "the 1st of December was covered with snow and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. 'It has happened once that I can recall but it won't happen this year. Love that song!' "

Ron and his lovely wife Karen live in Londonderry, New Hampshire and represent the New England region well with their roots and support of the sport teams and music too. Recently, Ron gave me three CD's of lesser known bands I had never heard of before. It's always great to get new music and continue to expand my rock n' roll repertoire a bit more.

I've also been trying to expand my travel repertoire too, as I had never been to New York State, or for that matter, most of the eastern United States. This past October, I had an opportunity to speak at a Librarian's conference east of Syracuse and just off Interstate 90 in Vernon, New York. It is called the Leatherstocking Conference, referring to the region where James Fenimore Cooper lived in nearby Cooperstown and his famous book series called the Leatherstocking Tales about the frontier, including The Last of the Mohicans. So, from Syracuse, one takes Interstate 90 east through Albany and then south and east into Massachusetts and towards Stockbridge. In looking at a map yesterday, I realized the continuous Interstate 90 turns into the Massachusetts Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Okay, I'm just trying to get a little more connected here with my recent visit east and James Taylor's turf.

The irony here is that I wasn't going to feature any other James Taylor songs in this week's playlist, but then I couldn't help myself as I sneak in another one. My real aim is to feature the lesser known artist's with the three CD's Ron gave me. I will however keep that theme going and end my playlist this week with Livingston Taylor who is James' lesser known brother, who by the way had success in the 70's too.

The first band is The Alternate Routes from Bridgeport, Connecticut  (and yes, extending the New England connection). Ron gave me their 2007 album, Good and Reckless and True. I love this band and want to explore them more as I venture into their catalog.

Next up is Eric Bibb, born in New York (see I got that in there again too), who is an acoustic Blues singer-songwriter. Eric Bibb has grown on me the more I listen to his 1999 CD, Home to Me and listen to him on YouTube. After making this week's playlist, I'm a fan.

and then, Vintage Trouble, a R&B band from Los Angeles, CA and why do I not know this? I would love to see these guys in a bar, just seems that alcohol would be involved. I've been listening to the 2015 CD, 1 Hopeful Road and enjoy their videos too.

Lastly, Livingston Taylor, currently a faculty member of the Berklee College of Music, in Boston. Livingston and I once had long sandy brown curly hair, take care my friends.