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February 4, 2011

Super Bowl Jeopardy 2011: Answers and Questions

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Sports — Steve Krupa @ 2:54 pm
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SUPER BOWL JEOPARDY 2011 Answers and Questions

Okay – here we go.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

If you want to try it without the solutions, i.e., just the answers (no questions) click here.

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin

The Quarterbacks:

1.             A:  These two (2) starting Super Bowl quarterbacks both started their career with the same team and wore the number 10 in the Super Bowl.

Q:  Who are Fran Tarkenton (VIII, IX, XI) and Eli Manning (XLII)?

2.             A:  These three (3) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the (Baltimore/Indianapolis) Colts.

Q:  Who are Earl Morrall (III), Johnny Unitas (V), and Peyton Manning (XLI & XLIV)?

 

3.             A:  These three (3) Super Bowl winning quarterbacks played their college football at Alabama, although only two of them played for famed Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

Q:  Who are Bart Starr (Packers: I&II) (Bart did not play for Bear Bryant), Joe Namath (Jets: III) and Ken Stabler (Raiders: XI)?

 

4.             A:  This starting Super Bowl quarterback, who remains in the NFL as of the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, holds the record for the most pass attempts (39) in the Super Bowl without a touchdown pass.

Q:  Who is Kerry Collins (Giants: XXXV)?

5.             A:  This quarterback and current broadcaster holds the record for the highest single game Super Bowl passer rating (150.9).

Q:  Who is Phil Simms (Giants: XXI)?

 6.             A:  This quarterback, known for his ability to make clutch plays late in close games, among other things, also holds the record for the lowest single game Super Bowl passer rating (22.6) for a winning quarterback.

Q:  Who is Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers: XL)?

7.             A:  This quarterback not only made a recent appearance on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” but he also holds the record for most pass attempts (45) without an interception in one Super Bowl game.

Q:  Who is Kurt Warner (Rams: XXXIV)?

8.             A:  This quarterback played his college ball at Grambling State and became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl game.

Q:  Who is Doug Williams (Redskins: XXII)?

9.             A:  These four (4) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the Washington Redskins (5 total team appearances).

Q:  Who are Billy Kilmer (VII), Joe Theismann (XVII & XVIII), Doug Williams (XXII) and Mark Rypien (XXVI)?

  10.          A:  These three (3) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the New England Patriots (6 total team appearances).

Q:  Who are Tony Eason (XX), Drew Bledsoe (XXXI) and Tom Brady (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLII)?

 

 The Head Coaches:

11.          A:  The only Super Bowl head coach to attend John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.

Q:  Who is Don Shula?

12.          A:  This three-time Super Bowl head coach known for his devotion to the phillosohpy of “Power Football” also played linebacker at Wichita State University.

Q:  Who is Bill Parcells?

 

13.          A:  These two (2) Super Bowl head coaches played football for Brigham Young University.

Q:  Who are Andy Reid (Eagles) and Brian Billick (Ravens)?

14.          A:  These two (2) Super Bowl head coaches played their college football at the University of Minnesota.

Q:  Who are Bud Grant (Vikings) and Tony Dungy (Colts)?

15.          A:  This legendary head coach holds the record for most Super Bowl appearances (6).

Q:  Who is Don Shula (Colts/Dolphins)?

16.          A:  These three (3) head coaches represented the (Los Angeles/St. Louis) Rams in the Super Bowl.

Q:  Who are Ray Malavasi, Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz.

17.          A:  These three (3) head coaches are winless in each of their 4 Super Bowl appearances.

Q:  Who are Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Dan Reeves?

18.          A:  These five (5) head coaches have made Super Bowl appearances with two different teams.

Q:  Who are Don Shula (Colts/Dolphins), Dan Reeves (Broncos/Falcons), Dick Vermeil (Eagles/Rams), Bill Parcells (Giants/Patriots) and Mike Holmgren (Packers/Seahawks)?

 

 

 19.          A:  These three (3) head coaches represented the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl (6 team appearances).

Q:  Who are Red Miller (XII), Dan Reeves (XXI, XXII, XXIV) and Mike Shanahan (XXXII, XXXIII)?

 

 20.          A:  These four (4) head coaches represented the (Oakland/Los Angeles) Raiders in the Super Bowl (5 team appearances).

Q:  Who are John Rauch (II), John Madden (XI), Tom Flores (XV, XVIII) and Bill Callahan (XXXII)?

 

 The MVPs

21.          A:  These three (3) players won the Super Bowl MVP award while playing for the New York Giants.

Q:  Who are Phil Simms, O.J. Anderson and Eli Manning?

  

 22.          A:  This wide-receiver and Super Bowl MVP, now with the New York Jets, made the game winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII.

Q:  Who is Santonio Holmes?

 

23.          A:  This Super Bowl MVP and controversial first round draft pick played his college football at Morehead State.

Q:  Who is Phil Simms?

24.          A:  These two brothers won sequential (first one then the other) Super Bowl MVPs.

Q:  Who are Peyton Manning (XLI) and Eli Manning (XLII).

25.          A:  This linebacker is the only Super Bowl MVP to play for a losing team.

Q:  Who is Chuck Howley? (Linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys who lost to the Colts in Super Bowl V (16-13), a game known as the Blunder Bowl for its sloppy play).

26.          A:  This player holds the record for the most Super Bowl MVP awards (3).

Q:  Who is Joe Montana of the 49ers (XVI, XIX and XXIV)?

27.          A:  This team produced the only set of Super Bowl co-MVPs.

Q:  Who are the Dallas Cowboys?

28.          A:  These two defensive lineman were the only set of Super Bowl co-MVPs.

Q:  Who are Randy White and Harvey Martin?

 

 29.          A:  This Heisman Trohpy winner is the only Kick Return specialist to win a Super Bowl MVP.

Q:  Who is Desmond Howard of the Green Bay Packers?

The Teams

30.          A:  These four (4) current NFL teams have never made a Super Bowl appearance.

Q:  Who are the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars?

 

31.          A:  These two (2) current NFL teams have not made a Super Bowl appearance since 1970.

Q:  Who are the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets?

32.          A:  These three (3) teams are tied for the most number of Super Bowl losses (4).

Q:  Who are the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills?

33.          A:  This team holds the Super Bowl record for the most points scored in a quarter.

Q:  Who are the Washington Redskins (35 pts – XXII)?

The Players

34.          A:  This Raiders lineman is the only player to appear in a Super Bowl in three separate decades.

Q:  Who is Gene Upshaw?

 

 35.          A:  This linebacker, TV commentator and former President and CEO of the Detroit Lions is the only player to earn a Super Bowl ring with 3 different teams (Raiders, 49ers and Redskins).

Q:  Who is Matt Millen?

 

36.          A:  This running back and fifth round draft pick out of Texas Tech holds the record for most rushing yards in a single Super Bowl game (204 yards).

Q:  Who is Timmy Smith (Redskins: XXII)?

37.          A:  This defensive lineman was known as the “Minister of Defense” and holds the record for most sacks in a single Super Bowl game (3).

Q:  Who is Reggie White (the “Minister of Defense” – Packers: XXXI)?

 

38.          A:  This wide-receiver and first round draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State holds the career Super Bowl record for touchdowns (7).

 Q:  Who is Jerry Rice (49ers)?

 The Venues

 39.          A:  This stadium hosted Super Bowl I.

Q:  What is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum?

 

40.          A:  This city has hosted the Super Bowl a record 10 times.

Q:  What is Miami, Florida?

41.          A:  This city is scheduled to host its first Super Bowl (XLVI) next year.

Q:  What is Indianapolis?

42.          A:  This city hosted the first Super Bowl after the commencement of Operation Desert Storm.

 Q:  What is Tampa, Florida?

 

 

 

 

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January 28, 2011

Super Bowl Jeopardy 2011

Filed under: Casual Fridays,Sports — Steve Krupa @ 5:23 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Every year Mike Francesa of WFAN (radio) in New York puts together an excellent contest featuring Super Bowl trivia.  If you can answer four of Mike’s very difficult trivia questions you can win a trip to the Super Bowl.  It’s a lot of fun to listen to, and it inspired me to create my own take on Super Bowl trivia, Super Bowl Jeopardy 2011, which is certainly less daunting than Francesa’s, but challenging nonetheless.

Since my favorite Super Bowl is XLII (Giants 17 Patriots 14), Super Bowl Jeopardy 2011 features 42 answers.  I will publish the questions next Friday before Super Bowl weekend.  Obviously you can find most of these answers on-line, but if you want to keep the wheels turning, feel free to write in for hints.

The idea is to structure your responses in the form of a question.  For example:

A:  This quarterback won the MVP award in the first two super bowls.

Q:  Who is Bart Starr (Packers)?

Ok – so that’s how it works.  Enjoy.

SUPER BOWL JEOPARDY 2011

The Quarterbacks:

1.             A:  These two (2) starting Super Bowl quarterbacks both started their career with the same team and wore the number 10 in the Super Bowl.

2.             A:  These three (3) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the (Baltimore/Indianapolis) Colts.

3.             A:  These three (3) Super Bowl winning quarterbacks played their college football at Alabama, although only two of them played for famed Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

4.             A:  This starting Super Bowl quarterback, who remains in the NFL as of the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, holds the record for the most pass attempts (39) in the Super Bowl without a touchdown pass.

5.             A:  This quarterback and current broadcaster holds the record for the highest single game Super Bowl passer rating (150.9).

6.             A:  This quarterback, known for his ability to make clutch plays late in close games, among other things, also holds the record for the lowest single game Super Bowl passer rating (22.6) for a winning quarterback.

7.             A:  This quarterback not only made a recent appearance on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” but he also holds the record for most pass attempts (45) without an interception in one Super Bowl game.

8.             A:  This quarterback played his college ball at Grambling State and became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl game.

9.             A:  These four (4) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the Washington Redskins (5 total team appearances).

10.          A:  These three (3) quarterbacks started in Super Bowls for the New England Patriots (6 total team appearances).

The Head Coaches:

11.          A:  The only Super Bowl head coach to attend John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.

12.          A:  This three-time Super Bowl head coach known for his devotion to the phillosohpy of “Power Football” also played linebacker at Wichita State University.

13.          A:  These two (2) Super Bowl head coaches played football for Brigham Young University.

14.          A:  These two (2) Super Bowl head coaches played their college football at the University of Minnesota.

15.          A:  This legendary head coach holds the record for most Super Bowl appearances (6).

16.          A:  These three (3) head coaches represented the (Los Angeles/St. Louis) Rams in the Super Bowl.

17.          A:  These three (3) head coaches are winless in each of their 4 Super Bowl appearances.

18.          A:  These five (5) head coaches have made Super Bowl appearances with two different teams.

19.          A:  These three (3) head coaches represented the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl (6 team appearances).

20.          A:  These four (4) head coaches represented the (Oakland/Los Angeles) Raiders in the Super Bowl (5 team appearances).

The MVPs

21.          A:  These three (3) players won the Super Bowl MVP award while playing for the New York Giants.

22.          A:  This wide-receiver and Super Bowl MVP, now with the New York Jets, made the game winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII.

23.          A:  This Super Bowl MVP and controversial first round draft pick played his college football at Morehead State.

24.          A:  These two brothers won sequential (first one then the other) Super Bowl MVPs.

25.          A:  This linebacker is the only Super Bowl MVP to play for a losing team.

26.          A:  This player holds the record for the most Super Bowl MVP awards (3).

27.          A:  This team produced the only set of Super Bowl co-MVPs.

28.          A:  These two defensive lineman were the only set of Super Bowl co-MVPs.

29.          A:  This Heisman Trohpy winner is the only Kick Return specialist to win a Super Bowl MVP.

The Teams

30.          A:  These four (4) current NFL teams have never made a Super Bowl appearance.

31.          A:  These two (2) current NFL teams that have not made a Super Bowl appearance since 1970.

32.          A:  These three (3) teams are tied for the most number of Super Bowl losses (4).

33.          A:  This team holds the Super Bowl record for the most points scored in a quarter.

The Players

34.          A:  This Raiders lineman is the only player to appear in a Super Bowl in three separate decades.

35.          A:  This linebacker, TV commentator and former President and CEO of the Detroit Lions is the only player to earn a Super Bowl ring with 3 different teams (Raiders, 49ers and Redskins).

36.          A:  This running back and fifth round draft pick out of Texas Tech holds the record for most rushing yards in a single Super Bowl game (204 yards).

37.          A:  This defensive lineman was known as the “Minister of Defense” and holds the record for most sacks in a single Super Bowl game (3).

38.          A:  This wide-receiver and first round draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State holds the career Super Bowl record for touchdowns (7).

The Venues

39.          A:  This stadium hosted Super Bowl I.

40.          A:  This city has hosted the Super Bowl a record 10 times.

41.          A:  This city is scheduled to host its first Super Bowl (XLVI) next year.

42.          A:  This city hosted the first Super Bowl after the commencement of Operation Desert Storm.

December 31, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #10 – Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago – 2008

“I toured the light; so many foreign roads, for Emma, forever ago.”

Something like Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, or Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, or Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s Master and Everyone, music that is both beautiful but somehow cool, simple but thoughtful, alone but seeking to connect, heartfelt but not overwhelming – that is Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

“There’s a black crow sitting across from me; his wiry legs are crossed
And he’s dangling my keys – he even fakes a toss
Whatever could it be
That has brought me to this loss?”

It’s hard to tell if this record is entirely about loss, but it is certainly introspective and personal, the way we all get after a break-up.  She is in there throughout, sometimes aggressively in love and sometimes sinister and indifferent, poetic references that imply an otherworldly magic, left behind as dream remnants, pure feeling, a metaphor for the many things held close to the heart.

“Sold my cold knot
A heavy stone
Sold my red horse for a venture home
To vanish on the bow —
Settling slow”

There is a theory that she, at times, takes the form of a long-lost band.

“(Or so the story goes)”

Justin Vernon is Bon Iver (pronounced bone ee-vair).  Bon Iver was born in winter (a riff on “bon hiver” – French for good winter), a Wisconsin winter, spent in a hunting cabin after the disbanding of DeYarmond Edison, Vernon’s indie quartet.  They were all old friends.

“Go find another lover;
To bring a… to string along
With all your lies,
You’re still very lovable.

Justin’s thick falsetto can be icy cold, sometimes alone, oftentimes in overdub.

The instruments, resurrected from an icy thaw, unplayed for a time, wake-up slowly, appear without warning, and leave again, certain to be missed.

The music moves from thin to thick, from a limp to a rumble, changing subtly, like the ebb and flow of a cold winter wind.

Notables:

Here’s Skinny Love:

Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

I tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in the moment this order’s tall

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And in the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
And I’ll be holding all the tickets
And you’ll be owning all the fines

Come on skinny love, what happened here?
Suckle on the hope in light brassieres
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Sullen load is full, so slow on the split

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And now all your love is wasted
And then who the hell was I?
And I’m breaking at the britches
And at the end of all your lines

Who will love you?
Who will fight?
Who will fall far behind?

December 10, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #9 – Bob Dylan – “Love and Theft” – 2001

I am sure many expected old age to take Bob Dylan away, allowing him to rest on his laurels and continue his eternal tour, playing to those old and young that still obsess over his string of 1960/70’s epic albums, thinking, “it cannot and will not ever get any better than this,” a notion that were it not for the extraordinary nature of his recent output, just might have come true.

From 1962 through 1970 Zimmy released at least 10 bona fide, mesmerizing, five-star classics(1), albums that continue to affect the progress of folk, rock and pop music to this very day.  By 1970 Dylan was suddenly 29, with arguably the best work of his lifetime behind him.  For the next 27 or so years he continued, perhaps in an effort to keep busy, but more than likely in an effort to top his earlier work, creating multiple, deformed versions of his past-self, from recluse, to born-again Christian, to the leader of the Rolling Thunder Revue, his musical caravan, white pancake make-up included.  By continually changing with the times he did deliver the occasional, unexpected studio classic along the way(2), but, with the exception of the sequential Blood on the Tracks and Desire in 1975-76, he never came close to recreating the hot streak he achieved through his 20’s(3).  However, in 1997 he released Time Out of Mind, presenting us with his latest and potentially last character, the aging sage, narrator of the secret oddities of America’s underground history, embracing his gravelly, somewhat pitchy voice as a tool to unify near-spoken-word with history-defying-poetry – music included at no additional charge.

It turns out that Time Out of Mind was the precursor to an amazing decade of creative output – Bob in his 60’s is every bit as interesting as Bob in his 20’s.  He has stories to tell, and he’s read and experienced a lot in the last 30 years, providing him with a deep, obscure library of influences to draw (steal) from.  Time Out of Mind was the beginning of his recent winning streak, which was followed by “Love and Theft” (2001), Modern Times (2005), Together Through Life (2009), and yes, the covers record, Christmas in the Heart (2009).

While deep down I would love for this to be a review of Christmas in the Heart so I could introduce you to the creepy-old Uncle Bob, lurking in the corner, kids on his lap, bourbon bottle in his pocket, butchering Christmas carols with good cheer – the task at hand, I suppose, is to pick his best album of the decade – and that I will – with the caveat that they all stand up to the best work of Bob’s career, regardless of his then-age and predilections.  In fact, they all stand up to the very best of any genre of music released over the past decade.  Go figure – from the age of 56 through his up coming 70th birthday – Bob Dylan has equaled in quality his historic output from 36 years prior while remaining relevent as a contemporary artist, no doubt a once-again, near one-of-a-kind achievement.

“Love and Theft” came out on 9-11-2001, but I did not get my hands on a copy until at least six months later, and I did not start listening to it obsessively until years later, when I decided I liked Modern Times so much I wanted to compare it to “Love and Theft”In truth it was in the earlier part of this decade when Bob Dylan’s music really began to blow my mind again, but then it was the old stuff I was focused on.  I was working with several musicians as their artist manager and I was interested in what they were accomplishing lyrically and in turn they were inspiring me to dig more deeply into Dylan (thank you Jason Darling, Tara Angell, Kristin Hoffmann and Jesse Malin), so I began listening to everything Bob.  By 2005 I was ready for his contemporary stuff, the library being so large one has to sift through it patiently, and there they were, a modern trilogy, Time Out of Mind, “Love and Theft” and Modern Times, all shiny and new and ready for me.

At his best Bob Dylan tells his stories through characters that often seem to possess his very sense of being.  One character that has always been around is the purveyor of American folk-lore, primarily influenced by ancient American music the likes of which is archived in Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (AAFM), a six LP set released by Folkways Records in 1952 that archives the finest of underground folk music from the late 1920’s and early 1930’s – music that  explores the lives of con-men, rogues, gamblers, cheaters, gunfighters and the like, those who, despite the backdrop of the American Dream, spin their yarns knowing they have nothing to lose.  On “Love and Theft” Bob “borrows” their minds and perhaps some of their melodies, recasting new tales of weirdness and desperation along a line of contemporary poetry, the superiority of which requires forgiveness of his overt melodic theft – these are vivid stories inside of songs that you know you’ve heard before, but where?

“Love and Theft” sounds like it is playing on my grandmother’s old Victrola, scratchy and weary with age, capturing perfectly some of the best melodic and orchestral tricks from the old days, jumpy blues, slow-nasty blues, rockabilly, slow dance, country ballads, up through early Rock ‘n’ Roll a la Bill Halley and Buddy Holly, stuff that moves you out-of-body to a unique time and place.  The stories and the sounds evoke images of a dusty old home conservatory, occupied with an old music man, spending his day singing great old songs, soft light bleeding through the antique linen curtains.  “Love and Theft” feels old and new at the same time, so familiar, yet so oddly riveting, cheating time like nothing else of its day.

It turns out that Bob made a decade’s work of reminiscing and molding the old into something uniquely new.  First with his studio records (produced under his pseudonym, Jack Frost).  Second through his never-ending schedule of live shows, that serve as a platform for him to perform wholly new versions of his entire catalogue in the image of his newest character.  And third through the fascinating collection of radio programming he produced for XM titled Theme Time Radio Hour, where Bob spent an hour each week exploring his record collection for theme-driven gems (if interested, you can download all of the shows here).

From start to finish, “Love and Theft” captures the essence of Bob’s immense creative effort over the past decade and at times I think it might be my favorite Bob Dylan record, but more often my favorite Dylan record is the one I happen to be listening to at the time.  Nonetheless this is his gem of gems from this past decade, for sure.

Notables:

The album’s title, “Love and Theft” is from Eric Lott’s book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class.

Bob’s ability to adapt other art forms into his music has led to an occasional accusation of plagiarism, most recently from none other than Joni Mitchell.  In “Love and Theft” Bob not only borrows a few melodies, he also borrows phrases, most notably from Japanese author Junichi Saga in his book Confessions of a Yakuza. It’s an interesting subject and it’s handled well by Dylan historian Sean Wilentz in his article “Is Bob Dylan a Phony?”

This past decade was a busy period for not only Bob, but for his fans and critics, with numerous packages of Dylan reminiscence released, the most notable being Martin Scorsese’s awesome made-for-TV film No Direction Home and Todd Haynes’ odd interpretation of Dylan’s life through a group of fictional characters called I am Not There (Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of late sixties Bob).

It’s hard to find video of the “Love and Theft” tracks on youtube, but here’s a quick commercial for the album:

Footnotes:

(1) Here are the 10: 1 – Bob Dylan (1962), 2 – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963), 3 – The Times They Are a Changin’ (1964), 4 – Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964), 5 – Bringing It All Back Home (1965), 6 – Highway 61 Revisited (1965), 7 – Blonde on Blonde (1966), 8 – John Wesley Harding (1967), 9 –Nashville Skyline (1969), and 10 – New Morning (1970).

(2) If you attempt to weed through the 20 some-odd Dylan studio releases from 1970 through 1997, consider these, which I regard as his best from that era, and are every bit as good as his sequential masterpieces from his early career: Blood on the Tracks (1975), The Basement Tapes (1975 – recorded in the late 1960s and in many ways a long ago precursor to themes explored in his more recent albums, “Love and Theft” included – see above), Desire (1976), Slow Train Comin’ (1979 – Bob talkin’ about Jesus), Infidels (1983), Empire Burlesque (1988), and Oh Mercy (1989 – his first collaboration with famed U2 producer Daniel Lanois, who also produced Time Out of Mind).

(3) All told I am recommending 17 studio albums from the period of 1962 through 1997, almost too much of anything!, yet amazing through and through, and as if that weren’t enough, the entire Bootleg Series, now numbered up to 9, most of which are multiple CD collections, is fantastic, bringing the total number of Bob Dylan albums worthy of devoted attention, including the four from this past decade, to 31!

November 19, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #8 – Arcade Fire – Funeral – 2004

FAD (Casual Fridays) is back with the goal of discussing its final three albums (8, 9, 10) before the New Year (and don’t expect Bob Dylan’s X-mas album to finish the list, b/t/w).

Arcade Fire is one of two super-indie bands hailing, in part at least, from Canada, the other being Broken Social Scene, a band best known for spawning the solo career of Feist (yes the one-two-three-four-tell-me-that-you-love-me-more hot-crumbly voice from past iPod commercial fame).  Unfortunately commercial success is not the unifying element between Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire, massiveness is, as in sound and sometimes members; as in, how to make Indie-music fill every square inch of your brain, as in, there is no way this is a small club band.  Both are super-cool, particularly when they play small clubs, when you can walk from the bar into the live room and feel your hair blow back, like the sedentary audiophile of old Maxell cassette-tape fame.

Indie bands with a big sound demand massive, unforgettable songs, like take-me-to-the-Jersey-shore-for-a-big-enough-hook-I-can’t-forget, big sounds that fill your ears for hours, days even, after their final note.  It’s in this area (unforgettable songs) where Arcade Fire broke away from their indie brethren, delivering song after song to near perfection on their first big time studio effort, Funeral, an exploration of orchestral pop music played up against the lyrically weird awkwardness of being young and confused by the behavior of supposed adult role models.

With Funeral Arcade Fire began their exit from the club scene, probably for good, now using their big sound for evil by filling large arenas (I saw them early this summer at MSG), but no worries, even those shows are about as good as live indie rock can get.

What often distinguishes much of the indie music scene is its unique definition of musicianship.  Unlike some of the older school rock, where musicians dominated their instruments, a la Jimmy Page over his Gibson Les Paul, many indie musicians like to mix it up, interchanging instruments throughout a live performance, a trick captured by Arcade Fire from the wake of bands like Yo La Tengo, You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and yes, even, Radiohead.  It is a trip to watch the lovely chanteuse Régine Chassagne switch from accordion, to xylophone, to keyboards, to banging it out wildly on the drums, all while delivering haunting backing vocals to the bombastic wails of husband Win Butler, himself a multi-instrumentalist.  Of course, as most musicians will admit, it is one thing to play many instruments, it’s another to master them, and within Arcade Fire’s music you get the feel that they have not so much mastered their instruments, but rather rhythm and orchestration.  This music thrives on beat and ambience as a backdrop to very catchy melodies and songs that are not necessarily structured in a way we would expect, but that are long-lasting nonetheless.  There are few bands that walk the edge between innovative and catchy successfully, but with Funeral, Arcade Fire  does this about as well as any.  It’s memorable, it’s musical and it’s fun, especially if you can remember what it was like to be a simultaneously confused and idealistic teenager.

Notables:

The band is a family affair (like another favorite Kings of Leon). Régine Chassagne (the true Canadian in the band) is married to Win Butler (a Texan), with Win’s brother William included on backing vocals and instruments.

Funeral is the beginning of a run of three great records from the band, the second being Neon Bible and third, the Suburbs, was released this year and is definitely in the running for my favorite album of 2010.

Here’s a video of my favorite track from Funeral, Wake Up, from back in the band’s early days, six years or so ago, when they were shaking up the clubs.  Stay with it – the last minute and a half offers a nice surprise and illustrates one of Arcade Fire’s pop tricks… I love it!

Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’,
someone told me not to cry.

But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms turnin’ every good thing to
rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’ to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’
With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am, go-go, where I am

You’d better look out below

August 6, 2010

A-Rod and the Game of Shadows

On Monday, April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron was 40 years old and returning home to Atlanta where his Braves would face the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I was 9 years old and all I could think about was baseball.  Four days prior Aaron hit career home run number 714 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, matching the mark of the legendary Babe Ruth and creating immediate anticipation of a new home run record.   The Braves were selfish, giving Aaron sparse playing time while on the road, with the hopes that he would break Ruth’s record in front of his hometown fans.

Young Hank

I was allowed to stay up late that night to watch the Braves vs. the Dodgers on NBC’s Monday Night Baseball, with announcers Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola.  Sure enough, in the fourth inning, with a 1-0 count, Aaron hit 715 off of Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, one of the great moments in sports history, and I got to see it.  Today, few doubt Hank Aaron’s credentials as a bona-fide sports hero, a legend.  For me it was a moment that cemented my life-long love for baseball.

Not that my love hasn’t been tested…

In the early summer of 2007 it became pretty clear that Barry Bonds was going to break Hank Aaron’s 33 year-old home run record, it was just a matter of time.  I remembered Aaron as beloved (I met him once, an autographed photo from his playing days with the Milwaukee Braves sits in the window sill of my office).  Bonds, on the other hand, seemed to be despised by everyone, save the diehard San Francisco Giant fans.  Bonds was both personally difficult and an accused doper, a focal point of a steroids scandal that was discrediting many baseball All-Stars of his era.

Barry Before and After

As Bonds honed in on the record I became more and more interested in understanding the controversy, reading an absolutely fascinating book called Game of Shadows, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle.  The book, subtitled Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports, is unrelenting in its presentation of facts and evidence supporting Bonds’ obsessive steroid use, much of which was reportedly documented in the files of BALCO’s Victor Conte (1), the Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) kingpin, and Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson.  In 2001, the year Bonds broke Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record with 73, the book alleges that Bonds used the following PEDs: (a) “The cream and the clear,” two designer steroids distributed by BALCO; (b) Human growth hormone; (c) Insulin; (d) Testosterone decanoate; (e) Trenbolone; and (f) Stanozolol.  The value-added BALCO brought to the table was access to the goods and the knowledge of how to mix and match them in a way that would be virtually undetectable by the blood and urine tests available at the time (2).    The authors make it pretty clear that we should be suspicious of the performance of most of the top performing athletes, particularly from the period of around 1995 (post the last baseball players strike) through 2003, and particularly baseball players and track stars, areas of sporting where Conte had the greatest influence.(3) Today Bonds is scheduled to go to trial on March 11, 2011, when he will face 11 felony charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for his 2003 testimony to the grand jury that was investigating BALCO.  In that testimony Bonds claimed, among other things, that he did not know that the substances Greg Anderson injected him with were PEDs.  Meanwhile, Anderson spent a year in prison for contempt of court as a result of his refusal to testify in Bonds’ trial.

To this day Bonds refuses to admit to PED use, maintaining his claim of innocence and ignorance and making him one of the biggest overt liars of our time.

This is the tragedy of baseball, and its newest Home Run King, an anti-hero and a near-destroyer of the legitimacy of our national sport.

Game of Shadows is not the only source to the claim that PEDs marred baseball from around 1995 through at least 2004.  This position is further supported by The Mitchell Report, released on December 13, 2007, which named 89 baseball players that were believed to have taken PEDs primarily through their relationships with either Kirk Radomski or Brian McNamee, the latter being famous for his testimony in front of Congress regarding his provision of Steroids and Human Growth Hormone to Roger Clemens, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers.  Also, during the 2003 season baseball conducted anonymous PED testing of 1200 randomly selected players with the support of the Players Association.  Of the 1200 tested, 104 tested positive, a rate of nearly 9%, providing enough evidence to move major league baseball toward mandatory testing of all players beginning in 2004, with penalties for discovered violations.

Young A-Rod

Although the 2003 testing was intended to be anonymous, the names of several of the players that tested positive ultimately leaked to the press in February 2009.  One of them was the great Yankee, Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod, perhaps the best all around player in baseball history, who had been, up to that point, an adamant denier of any PED use.

On August 3, 2010 (2 days ago) Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career home run at the very young age of 35, expanding the List (see below ) to seven players that have hit over 600 career home runs, that’s 7 of the 16,000+ players in major league history, or 0.04%, quite an elite club.  Four of these players, Bonds, Griffey, Sosa and Rodriguez are from the “Steroids Era,” with only Griffey escaping accusation or admission of PED use.

Player HRs
Barry Bonds 762
Henry Aaron 755
Babe Ruth 714
Willie Mays 660
Ken Griffey Jr. 630
Sammy Sosa 609
Alex Rodriguez 600

W/r/t  A-Rod’s 600 HRs, 578 were hit over the past 14 seasons, a mean and median of about 41 HRs per year, with a standard deviation of 9, meaning A-Rod inevitably hits between 30 and 50 HRs a year, although his current 17 HRs appear to be behind pace for his reaching 30 this year(4).  Nonetheless, assuming A-Rod stays somewhat healthy through the remaining 7 years of his contract with the Yankees, he should hit close to 800, maybe more, and surpass Barry Bonds’ record of 762 HRs by the age of 40 (Bonds hit his 762nd home run in 2007 at the age of 44), somewhere around 2014-2015.

There is little doubt A-Rod will be the Next Home Run King.

But will he be the next Barry Bonds?  A hated icon perceived as a self-interested cheat?

Who among us have not sought redemption?

Unlike Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez is not adored, not even before his implication as a steroid user.  Many perceive him as selfish, being all about statistical achievements and money.

“All my years in New York have been clean.  Back then (the 2001-2003 seasons he played with the Texas Rangers), [baseball] was a different culture.  It was very loose. I was young.  I was stupid.  I was naïve. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”

That’s what Alex had to say, a pretty tough moment for him I am sure.

This summer Yankee owner George Steinbrenner died.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s many Yankee fans hated George.  He was getting into a lot of trouble and screwing up the team.  He was banned from baseball from 1990-1993 for unethical behavior.  He came back a different man.  He made amends with his detractors and went on to become loved and respected by players and fans.  And he won 5 more World Series.

Perhaps A-Rod will follow similarly.  He definitely feels different recently.

I hope the 9 year-olds that see Alex hit number 763 have the opportunity to feel the way I felt about Hank.

Baseball is truly great when the hero and the record go hand in hand.

Notes:

(1) BALCO =  Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, its legitimate business was blood and urine analysis and selling legal training supplements, most notably ZMA (Zinc monomethionine aspartate and Magnesium Aspartate) which BALCO’s founder Victor Conte claims helps increase strength levels in athletes.  Conte served four months in jail in 2007 as part of his pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids and a second count of money laundering.  Today Conte claims that he has reformulated BALCO into a legitimate sports training lab where he continues to advise professional athletes such as Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs on strength training and conditioning.  Over the years Conte has turned into a major whistle-blower in PED investigations and is expected to release his own book, BALCO: The Straight Dope on Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and What We Can Do to Save Sports, in the near future.

(2) The jealousy of another doper/trainer ultimately led officials to the key to developing a test that could capture Conte’s regimen.

(3) Olympic gold medal track star and current WNBA player Marion Jones was a client of Victor Conte and eventually plead guilty to lying to federal agents.  She was ultimately stripped of her gold medals and served 6 months in federal prison in 2008.  She currently plays Guard for the WNBA Tulsa Shock.

(4) There has been all sorts of speculation as to why A-Rod’s HR pace lags this year, especially when his RBI totals are right on track.  One theory relates to the hip injury A-Rod has been suffering from since early last season.  He is expected to undergo surgery on his ailing hip this off season.

July 16, 2010

Strung Out in Heaven

My last Casual Fridays post featured my favorite neo-psychedelic artist of the last decade, Animal Collective, coming in at number 7 in my Favorite Albums of the Decade list (FAD) with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.   That put me more than halfway through the list, with Number 8 on its way – soon – once I get through a recent distraction.

I often consume music through serial obsessions which have certainly served as a filter for putting together my FAD list, a recollection of all the new records and artists I could not get enough of at some point during the last decade.  I also get re-obsessed with older music, often in regular cycles.  There’s a yearly all-out Beatles orgy.  I remember listening to nothing but Bob Dylan for about three months after seeing Todd Haynes’ 2007 Dylan fetish film I’m Not There, a pass I repeated recently after reading Greil Marcus’ Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes.

File:Album Cover Strung Out In Heaven.jpgThe absence of a FAD post in previous weeks is a result of just such a re-binge.  I have been Strung Out in Heaven, if you will, with the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM), a band I suspect many of you have not heard, but one I really want you to hear.

It all started about five weeks ago, on June 5, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

This was not the first time…

Indie Music – a technical definition – from Wikipedia  – “a term used to describe independence from major commercial record labels and an autonomous, Do-It-Yourself approach (DIY) to recording and publishing.”

Indie Music – a working definition – music most people have never heard made by artists most people have never heard of.

Indie Music – a reality – often great music made by artists that fail to achieve mainstream notoriety during the most active portion of their careers, either because of their avant-garde nature or because of a deep flaw in their actions or temperament that leaves them incompatible with the uncompromising workings of scaled commerce, a/k/a the music business.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is Indie Music, complies with each of these definitions, and is a complete mess, in some ways a real massacre, of itself.  It’s an Indie band for life, featuring throughout its history over 40 different musicians, most leaving the band as a result of impossible differences, or a violent exchange, or both, with BJM’s founder, the sole constant over the band’s history, and apparently a complete and utter psychopath, Anton Newcombe.

There is always wonder surrounding a BJM live show.  Will Anton blow-up on stage, resulting in a completely ridiculous gig, probably cut short by his and the band’s inability to resume peacefully, or will the band be tight and musical.  In either case it is entertaining, but if you are lucky enough to see a show where all goes well, as I was on June 5, you’re likely to see and hear some of the best 60’s-influenced psychedelic-pop music in the world.  The band is really that good, particularly its catalogue of music created from the Mid-1990’s through around 2004.

It turns out there’s a lot in a name if there is enough thought put into it, and Anton is a purposeful and revealing namer of his band, its songs and its albums.  The name Brian Jonestown Massacre tells us a lot about the sound, a wacky tribute to: (i) one Brian Jones, the long-dead founder of the Rolling Stones and one of rock’s first multi-instrumentalists, (ii) cultism, (iii) violence and (iv) hypnotics.  Not surprisingly, Anton, an American from California, is: (1) a devoted anglophile, (2) a lover of late-sixties-early-seventies trip music, a la Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles, Jones-era Stones, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, (3) a shoegazer (think My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain), (4) underground, and (5) obsessed with the sound of 1960’s guitars underneath the beat of maracas and tambourines.  BJM picks up these classic sounds and movements, revitalizing them in a contemporary context, combining candor, abstraction, irony, love, and, oh, some damn catchy hooks.

This band should have been ample competition for Oasis and Blur in the 1990s, but even as messed up as both those Brit-rock 90’s favorites were, BJM had them beat.  BJM just could not be counted on; they were a bad investment, blowing every opportunity for mainstream exposure.  Today they exist primarily as an influence on many current, highly successful revivalist bands like the White Stripes, the Black Keys and the Strokes.  They still play to small clubs and ballroom audiences that learned of them primarily through indie rags and their starring role in the 2004 award-winning documentary  DIG!, a terrific film that presents the absurdity, comedy, violence and occasional genius of Newcombe and his ever-changing band of followers over a seven-year period where they regress from leaders of the Indie Music scene to also-rans to their major-label-neo-psychedelic contemporaries The Dandy Warhols.

Despite all of its flaws BJM is not lazy.  Anton is an obsessive worker and a super-prolific songwriter with a discography that includes at least 19 available EP/LPs made mostly by the band themselves.  Most BJM’s records are of the DIY variety, made on low budgets and pretty much anywhere the band could find recording equipment.  From 1993-2004 the songwriting quality is outstanding and consistent, but some of the recordings are not.  The one major label record (for TVT Records in 1998) is the herein referenced Strung Out in Heaven, a higher budget affair and the perfect entry point for BJM newbies.  If you like the Beatles, the Byrds, the Animals, the Velvet Underground and/or early Rolling Stones, I believe you will adore this album.  If that’s not enough, and for me it wasn’t, try Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request followed by a greatest hit compilation of sorts, Tepid Peppermint Wonderland.  The good news is that if you get hooked, and you might, there is plenty more great material to explore.

_____________________________________________

Notable(s):

Dig! is a fantastic film – check out the trailer below – see it.

Whoever this drfostersmith is, he’s got some great footage of the new BJM line up on youtube.  Here’s one of my favorites, Anemone, from the BJM album Their Satanic Majesty’s Second Request, a two chord hypnotic that my wife plays along with at home on her lefty guitar.  This version was performed during BJM’s recent 2010 tour, featuring Anton’s reunion with founding member Matt Hollywood.  Check out all those gorgeous 60’s guitars.  How many are there?  Too many to count, man!

I – I think I know how I feel
cause I – I only play it for-real
you should be picking me up
instead you’re dragging me down
flying over my head
you’re landing all over town

you – you know that I try
try to tell you the truth
oh baby don’t make me lie
you should be picking me up
instead you’re dragging me down
now I’m missing you more
cause baby you’re not around
now that you’re not around
I – I want to know how it feels
cause I – I only play act for-real
you should be picking me up
instead your dragging me down
I could be giving you love
but you’re not around
now that you’re not around
now that you’re not around
glad that you’re not around
If your curious about BJM’s personality, check out this interview with “Anton the Vessel,” which speaks for itself.

June 4, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – # 7 – Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective is special.

And weird.

And maybe psychedelic.

Or maybe folk, like avant-garde folk, sort of like experimental art music, sometimes it sounds like rock, often times you can dance to it, the vocals almost always remind me of The Beach Boys, the song structures and the lyrics, however, do not.

It is a “collective” (not a band, really), because they are not always ALL together.  They like to have other projects, creative outlets, the freedom to play and experiment without one another, and the freedom to come and go as they please.  Over the past decade, the collective, in whole or in part, including solo stuff, has released over 13 albums.

Each of the collective has an alias:

Sometimes they wear masks and pretend they are animals, or other things.

Each is from Maryland (Merriweather Post Pavilion – the album name, see above – is also a famed music venue located in the woods between Baltimore and DC – I think Hendrix and Janis Joplin played there once).

Each knew the other as kids, transplanted separately to NYC and formed the collective in 2000-ish in a loft on Prince Street (a few blocks from my place, b/t/w).

Not ALL live in New York any more, only 2.

Each is now in their 30’s.

The collective is a deep part and a major influencer of a very vibrant, US-based alternative (rock/folk) music scene, much of which is housed in NYC, and Brooklyn in particular (primary neighborhoods:  Williamsburg, Ft. Greene, Red Hook, D.U.M.B.O.).  This scene features tons of bands/collectives, many growing in popularity, slow and steady.  If you are young and you are NOT into hip-hop, classic rock or American Idol-esque pop, this might be your scene.  You also might be a hipster.

It is often hard to tell what instruments the collective plays.  I know there are bass and drum sounds.  My friend Jason thinks they play computers.  I think they do, sometimes, sometimes I know I hear guitars though.  To me, their signature sound is in the vocals, they are gorgeous, and most of the time they are not computers.

Up and to the release of Merriweather it was a challenge for me to recommend the collective.  Its greatness was not obvious, and for some it still may not be obvious, in the same way Kid A can baffle even the most sincere music fan.  Nonetheless, I think it’s time.  It’s music for the patient, the hungry, the anti-pop, those with ears craving something new.  It’s also damn catchy and beautiful.

The lyrical themes of Merriweather center around love, loss and family, which I don’t think is weird at all, and doesn’t feel very hipster, does it?

Here’s my introduction to the band and the record, a tune called My Girls.

 .

There isn’t much that I feel I need
A solid soul and the blood I bleed
With a little girl, and by my spouse
I only want a proper house

I don’t care for fancy things
Or to take part in the vicious race
But to provide for mine who ask
I will, with heart, on my father’s grave

I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things
Like our social stats
I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls

May 28, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #6 – Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker – 2000

 Heartbreaker                                                                                  

“Up here in the city [it] feels like things are closing in
The sunset ‘s just my light bulb burning out
I miss KENTUCKY and I miss my family
All the sweetest winds they blow across the south

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home”

In my most recent post in this series I talked about Beck’s Sea Change, a break-up record felt at first listen, a super-sad extravaganza that came as a wonderful surprise, especially considering its source.  I was used to Beck being great musically, ironic lyrically, and weird generally, but rarely authentically sad.

Ryan Adams, on the other hand, is always sad about something, usually girls, break-up records being his forte.  Where does all of this sadness come from?  Have you ever spent any time in a small southern town like Ryan’s hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina?  These are places where sadness reins, a fundamental part of the environment, hanging there inside the thick, hot, humid air.  These are also places drenched with quiet, where the slightest sounds feel amplified, an approaching car moving along a gravel road (Lucinda), the crickets and the bullfrogs calling from the trees in the dark, a lone acoustic guitar from off in the distance, cutting its way through the last rays of sunset.

This sad, slow, sparse feel of the rural south is the mood that is beautifully captured on Heartbreaker, with the primary tools of southern folk music, acoustic guitar and trampled-on voice.  The opening track, a misleading, fun-sounding, Elvis-like romp announces the subject, To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High), and stands along with the fight-riddled Shakedown on 9th Street (I was just gonna hit him but I’m gonna kill him now) as the two up tempo rockers on the album.  As terriffic as these two tunes are, the heart of the set sits in the sparse, country folk of songs like My Winding Wheel, Oh My Sweet Carolina, In My Time of Need and the underground hit of sacraficial-heartbreak-to-the-max, Come Pick Me Up.

This album stands up nicely against classics like Neil Young’s Harvest and Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and it is on my list primarily because it I listen to it so much.  It’s permanently in my car, and I break it out regularly for long drives.  Adams followed it up with the almost as good, but maybe a little bit too long, Gold in 2001, beginning an incredibly prolific decade constituting 10 full-length studio releases.  I own and listen to them all, but Heartbreaker remains my favorite, an excellent starting point for anyone interested in Adams and folk-country-rock music at its best.

Notable(s):

My favorite track on the album is Oh My Sweet Carolina, a harmonious love song featuring Emmylou Harris on backing vocals.  Here’s a really super sad version of the song with just Ryan and his acoustic guitar.

During my Miles High Artists days I got the chance to spend some time with Ryan.  He is very close friends with Jesse Malin and produced Jesse’s 2003 release The Fine Art of Self Destruction, which is a great record in and of itself.  Ryan plays guitar on the record and other releases by Jesse including The Heat and Glitter in the Gutter.

Ryan’s band, Whiskeytown, was a peer to and competitor with Uncle Tupelo (Jeff Tweedy’s band prior to Wilco) and there exists and underlying rivalry between Ryan and Jeff for tops in the Alt-Country genre.  My favorite Whiskeytown album is Strangers Almanac (1997), with standout tracks Inn Town and Everything I Do.

Ryan’s solo discography from this past decade is massive, averaging about 1 release per year, and spanning a number of genres, including an all out rock album (titled Rock ‘n Roll).  Recently he has been sharing the bill with his touring band the Cardinals.  The double disc set Cold Roses, by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, shows off Ryan’s Jerry Garcia-esque guitar chops and Grateful Dead song writting influences, affects that have been working their way into the longer, generally terrific jams featured in his live shows.

Next we move away from the songwriters for a while and back to the bands, including couple of hipster transplants to the now very active alternative music scene in Brooklyn (and New York City)…

April 30, 2010

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) – #5 – Beck – Sea Change

5.  Beck – Sea Change – 2002 

 Breaking up with someone just isn’t fun(ny), especially if you’re still in love. 

So is the case with Mr. Post-Modern wise-ass, Beck, who apparently had a hard time conjuring up anything to laugh about in 2000, after ending a nearly 10 year relationship with designer Leigh Limon.  The result, Sea Change, might be the second best break-up record ever made (after, of  course, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, see my great break-up albums list below).  

Reportedly Beck wrote all twelve of the songs for Sea Change in one week after the break-up, songs that express an entirely different side of one of the great, but difficult to characterize, artists of the last two decades.  Go back and listen to Beck’s work of the 1990’s (namely: Mellow Gold, Mutations, Odelay and Midnite Vultures).  Beck is very much the vocal actor, taking on an accent and tone for the part he is playing, be it brit-hipster (The New Pollution), the country bumpkin (Cancelled Check) or, in its most extreme, the neo-Prince impersonation throughout much of Midnight Vultures, his preceeding, slamming 1999 party-satire record. 

Beck Hansen and Leigh Limon Photograph

Beck and Leigh Limon

Beck’s character in Sea Change might actually be himself, and so I imagine we’re experiencing his creative sound, the voice he starts with as he writes, and man is this character in a bad way. 

Sea Change is produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead:  Kid A, et al, Paul McCartney:  Chaos and Creation in the Backyard), and no doubt part of the album’s appeal is its sound.  Most tracks start off with acoustic guitar and sad vocal, front and center, with all sorts of ear candy atmospherics surrounding the singer, orchestral strings and effected guitars enter and exit as if tiptoeing into and out of the songs, creating mood and intensity, but never overwhelming the simplicity and sadness of the music.  Beck, with 3 chords and the truth, creates a hipster Hank Williams, visiting from the Lower East Side.  He is sitting in the corner of your living room, playing for therapy, and hoping for direction out of his funk, a new girl, a shoulder to cry on. 

Unlike Blood on the Tracks, where Dylan tells many of his stories of heartbreak through the voices of angry third-party characters, Beck’s break-up record is pure first person.  He is singing to us, but he desperately wants her to hear it, almost as if he imagines mailing her the record and having her come running back into his arms days later asking forgiveness. 

It looks like it might have taken heartbreak to create the best set of songs Beck has ever written.  Sea Change is an addicting monologue on the frustrations of lost love and sadness that I believe will stand the test of time as his true masterpiece. 

Notable(s): 

My favorite Sea Change track:  “Lost Cause” – check out video below. 

10 Great Break-up Albums 

  1. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks – 1975
  2. Beck – Sea Change – 2002
  3. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – 1977
  4. Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love – 1987
  5. The Cure – Disintegration – 1989
  6. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker – 2000
  7. Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – 1970
  8. Lucinda Williams – Essence – 2001
  9. Kristin Hoffmann – Divided Heart – 2002
  10. Jason Darling – Monster (unreleased) – 2009
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