Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oh Yeah, THOSE guys!!

Ok, so Aerosmith month was kind of a bust...but only kind of...I did listen to them all month and I did enjoy them but it turns out, go figure, I already knew them pretty well and just didn't realize it. Even thier B sides I had heard before and most of thioer popular stuffI easily knew all the words to. The thing is that I always thought thier tunes were either Bon Jovi's or the Stones so I was surprised to learn that there was no new ground to cover here. Kind of a cheaty month so I apologize but I'll make up for it in June with ameaty topic I have many, surprising preconceptions of....Brittany Speares!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No Really, Never Heard of Them!!

The decision to choose Aerosmith as one of my 12 bands started, little to my knowledge, a few years ago while my wife and I were vegging on the couch and channel surfing. We ended up on a random movie channel in the middle of Armageddon. It was the scene where Ben Affleck was exploring his girl friends wild places with animal crackers. While I made lude, stupid jokes to that affect Mandy mentioned that the habitat in question was Steven Tyler's daughter."Ok" I say "So?..whose that??". I had went to middle school with a Tyler Stevens but that was the closest reference I had. It took a little while to convince my wife that I wasn't just fucking with her and I really didn't know who Steven Tyler was and while I had heard the name before couldn't name a single Aerosmith song. She thought I was a complete mutant but the episode of Project Runway we were waiting for finally came on and the matter slipped away not to be remembered until now.
  The next time I even thought about Tyler or his band was when he was announced as the next American idol judge. My presumption was, only bolstered by bthe fact that he was replacing Simon Cowel, was that he was going to be a stereo-typical rock and roll douche bag. Much to my surprise the show premiered and lo and behold he was actual a really nice guy with a genuine passion for music, respect for all around him and a wacky, gentle, unique presence. Antonio Banderas will always be my #1 but I think I developed a bit of a man crush.
So with both of those incidents under my belt adding Aerosmith to my list was a no brainer. I've been listening to them for a few weeks now and in my next post we 'll talk about how this month almost feels like cheating.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Legendary ?

Ok, so I admit that when I first dove into the music of the Duke I was totally confused, befuddled and not quite sure what was going on. Most of the first disc was instrumental..which was fine..I kinda knew the Duke was a jazz legend so I kinda figured he was playing the trumpet. Of all the instruments in the music it was the strongest and usually the center of most pieces. Then I hit a run of songs with lyrics....was that a lady singing? yeah and then a string of songs each with a different male voice..then a few with no trumpet at all. I had no idea what the hell was going on. As is my habit each month I go in blind to get the music at face value and then after my first impression is formed I back it up with research and digging around about the artist. That left me woefully unprepared this time and set me up for a cool surprise. You see, after my initial bout of cluelessness I did what I always do when I know less then I need to; I Googled it!!!
   What I found was a bit of a shock for a brain that has a certain set of expectations set by a modern understanding of music and how the industry works. You see, Duke Ellington wasn't any of the singers, nor did he play the trumpet and while he did in fact play the piano in most of his works it was usually a tempo setter to show off the stylings of his musicians. You see the Duke was a composer and a conductor. His legendary status is as a band leader. I mean sure I heard of Big band but I never gave it much thought as being anything but an outdated, has been genre that was never that cool to begin with. Man, was I wrong. the Duke IS jazz music and he and his orchestra defined the genre from their pit in Harlem's legendary Cotton Club.
  As a modern music lover I can't say I give much thought to composers. They are all moldy dead guys who used to wear white wigs and say guvner alot, right? Sure, we have a few today but they mostly score our movies or run in tight insular circles that don't really affect pop culture all that much.And conductors? really? Last one I saw was on a train! Goes to show how little I know about music history. It turns out back in the day the composer/conducter was THE man. You could be the best trumpet player in the world, Scott Joplin on the ivory or have a set of pipes like Ella Fitzgerald but if a band leader didn't invite you into his pit then you weren't making least not on a national stage. Of course that changed as the singer/song writer dynamic we know today came to life but the cool thing is that the Duke never sold out. He stuck with his orchestra and led it for 53 years!! he took the hit in popularity and loss of audience in the 60's and kept on going until he came out the other side a living legend.
  Not only are the tunes cool but I also had the chance to question my conception of music and stretch my understanding of the world. If that isn't what this project is all about then I don't know what is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

David and the Duke

First, let me apologize for the lateness of this post. A nasty reoccurring flu\sore throat/coughy thing has been taking the household by storm and even when I haven't been down for the count myself Mandy and I have been trying to keep these little kiddos safe despite their coughs and fevers.
 Now we're mostly healthy and I'm back on track. Even though I haven't been posting I have been listening intently to the great Duke Ellington over the last week and a half. It's kind of taken me by surprise but we'll talk about that in our next post. Before we get into the dealings of the Duke I need to talk about how he got on my plate in the first place.
   When I started the project my good friend Katrina contacted me and suggested that I might consider Duke Ellington. Her father David, who is sadly no longer with us, was a huge fan and she even offered to let me borrow his collection of Duke Ellington recordings. How could I say no? Not only was my friend offering me an idea for my blog but she was also offering to share her heart and her dad with me so I could share it with you. I'm thrilled to explore the music of Duke Ellington, not only because he's a legend and one of the all time greats but because David Smith loved him and frankly I can't think of a better reference. I remember David Smith well even though it was over twenty years ago(Really? Yikes!) that I first met him while dating his daughter. He was always laughing and making the worst puns you could imagine. If the joke was bad he loved it, if it was terrible he'd laugh like hell and find a way to make it even worse and afterwards you'd be laughing so hard you wouldn't even know where it started and what you were laughing at. He was a kind, gentle man who always had his nose in a book and his arms around his children. Along with my step father David is one of the templates I aspire to now that I'm a dad.
Through Katrina Duke Ellington is a gift that he's giving to me and I'm honored this month to share it with you. Now go call your dad, tell him you love him and asking him what music he's listening to.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dogg Gone; My Month With Snoop

So March pretty good for me...I'm kinda digging the whole Gangster Rap thing and Snoop was a great showcase, I think, for the genre. Even better then that Snoop isn't a one trick pony. Sure the gritty street level gangsta play is his bread and butter and the foundation for everything else but he also makes a point to slip in all kinds of other goodies that hint at a deeper level beneath his already apparent genius. There are some songs where he sings straight up and I just know if he ever followed it he could do a decent run at modern pop hip-hop or even R&B. His country themed tribute songs are pretty damn cool too and if he ever decided to shelve the same old same old and take a risk he just might be able to create a new genre of Hick Hop Country Rap. He'll always be the D O G and the Big Boss, Uncle Snoop of the rap world. He's great at what he does and I know, I know, you don't go to Pizza Hut for a hamburger but he's shown enough versatility and interest in stretching that I wish instead of a few songs tacked on the back of solid rap we could get a whole album of his alternative, for the rap world, stylings.
  Also, and this is really my only criticism of an artist I hope it's apparent that I like very much, he just plays it safe and sticks with image centric and sometimes superficial topics. Now look, I love me some songs about pimping, banging, puffing and being OG but after twenty albums I feel like that's not enough for me. Don't let his proclivity for herbal recreation fool, this is an intelligent man, a savvy business person and someone whose lived through some shit. I'd give up one track about representing the street if I meant I could have one about what "The Man" on the street thinks about what's going on in the world today. I'd love to hear him blast both the GOP and the Dems and call them on their bullshit. Or what does he think about the wars in the middle east or the obvious war on the poor that's about to happen with all these institutionalized budget cuts about to ravage this countries infra structure. I'd even be interested to hear about things closer to home, the man has several kids including a daughter...pimpin ain't easy but it has to be harder when you have a little angel of your own growing up in the big bad world. I suppose I shouldn't bitch..I love what I heard so far and Snoop will stay in my car for later listening but I just get this itch to see deeper and hope we eventually will.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The N Word

Ok, look...we have to talk about it.
I know it's gonna make some of you uncomfortable but it's an important factor in his life and any discussion about Snoop Dogg would be incomplete if we didn't just bite the bullet and talk about...
why are you looking at me like that?
 You think I'm talking about THAT n word!!
Well, I was thinking "Narcotics", (you know the D O G loves him some ganja) but since you bring it up, yeah, that word IS kind of important too considering 8 out of 10 Snoop songs includes it, and in the majority of those it's said an average of 20 times. I wasn't gonna go there because the word coming from me is ignorant at best and offensive at worst. While Dr. Laura may get some sick pleasure from pressing social boundaries just for fun I try to take every opportunity I get to avoid being a douche bag. So like I say, from me; not so good but from Snoop, that's a different's authentic and not because he's black. Well, yes because he's black but not JUST because he's black. Mostly because it's the language of the streets and Snoop takes on no airs. He knows who his audience is, who he wants them to be, and he speaks to them in their language, his language. The language of the streets. Color may be involved but it's just as likely to be about gang colors or the color of money or ones true colors then it is to be about the color of skin. If Snoop did beg off and censor himself to be politically correct he'd lose his realness and his authentic voice. So few sages take the time to offer wisdom to those in the streets below and what many will see as offensive language, or racial aggression or a point of contention I see as simply being the word on the street.
          Uggh, here I was all set to take about weed and how pot heads in music and Hollywood (Snoop, Seth Rogan, Woody Harrelson, the whole cast and most of the writers of the Big Bang Theory) tend to do better and be less affected by their drug of choice then say those who choose smack (Poor Kurt Cobain), cocaine ( say it with me now...Charlie Sheen!!!) or even alcohol (How you doing, Mel Gibson?) but we need to move on so I guess that will need to wait until Fall when we get to Willy Nelson month!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Legacy of Gangsters: My Month With Snoop Dogg Begins

It feels really good to be off the sickly saccharine high of polka and into some honest funk and grime and Snoop certainly offers that with his litany of rhymes. As I do every month I first prepared my self by blasting my brain with a variety of his work to get a feel for what I was dealing with before going back and giving each release a deep and thoughtful listen. As I was doing so I felt a weird deja vu I couldn't put my finger on. I had heard Vato on the weeds sound tarck and I know Snoop is doing a Pepsi commercial but aside from that I haven't had much exposure to his work or even other rap fpr that matter. Still there was something subtle about what I was hearing that caught my attention subliminally and made me like it instinctively. Who did this guy remind me of? I was drawing a blank but thankfully Snoop Doggy Dogg provided me the answer just a few songs later with the following dedication;
"I'd like to dedicate this song to Mister Johnny Cash..a Real American Gangster"
  ..then he launched into one of the best and most inventive rap songs I've ever heard called "My Medicine" and I had my answer.
 It seems crazy and certainly not intuitive at all but when you think about it it does make perfect sense. They both consider themselves outlaws and that along with guns, women and trouble are an underlying themes in everything they do. We can even take it a bit further and look at the mythologies they both represent. Being a gangster and the lifestyle that comes with it really isn't all that far from the wild west and the gunslingers that Cash is known for immortalizing. The moral "Life is hard and sometimes ugly and surviving is a triumph" is a moral I would expect to hear from both. Also, we can take it from the height of mythological significance down to to the lowest common denominator; the common man. Neither make music for the industry, hell Cash was thrown out of the Grand Old Oprey for being to rowdy, but rather for regular people. Snoop said it.."I'm not a musician..I'm Gangster".."I write my songs for gangsters, bangers and bitches". I can't prove it but I bet if you polled all the prisions in the US Snoop and Johnny would be two of the most listened to artists even to this day. That's because for both thier music begins and ends in the streets and while Laredo is a long way from South Central the themes are the undeniably the same.
I love Johnny Cash and this connection is a good start for the month...I look forward to learning more.