31 August 2010

Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Who'll Stop The Rain "

With this classic, now 40 years old and aging well, songwriter John Fogerty pulls off what great songwriters do: he writes a song that's a bit of a downer if you think of it that way, but I don't know anyone who does. Part of the magic is in the uplifting, we're gonna keep-on-keepin'-on music, in essence denying the sober realities of the lyrics.

One of three double-sided singles off CCR's 1970 album Cosmo's Factory, the folk rock groove the band establishes becomes an anthem for the post-flower power generation -- an anthem fully aware that movements and governments aren't going to "stop the rain from fallin' down".

Punch it up on the jukebox next chance you get. I always do.

26 August 2010

Johnny Cash at San Quentin: The Song "San Quentin"

Johnny Cash Playing San Quentin Prison, 1969

When the double album Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969) was released, a good bit of the show had to be edited out for space. The DVD special edition released in 2000, featuring almost the entire show, includes performances by supporting players Carl Perkins and June Carter Cash.

One little nugget Cash wrote just for this show, the song San Quentin, was the highlight of the evening for the inmates, but sadly left off the initial release. Here it is below. Even if you are not a country music fan, check it out -- it's an unparalleled musical commentary on prisons.

21 August 2010

Scorsese's "Shutter Island": "Someone is Missing"

In Martin Scorsese's latest film, Shutter Island (2010), we find the great director tackling yet another film genre, the psychological thriller. I saw it on DVD a few months ago, twice, and have been struggling to find a way to write about it since. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's excellent 2003 novel of the same name which I read about around the time of the book's release. My first reaction when I heard Scorsese was tackling this book was twofold: first, what is Scorsese doing working in this genre, and second, how is he going to make a film of that book.

That's not to say I had any doubts that Scorsese could pull it off, but I knew the master had his work cut out for him. As usual, he didn't let me down. This film more than anything makes me think of Hitchcock in his prime, but with a little something extra that represents, to my mind, a renaissance of the genre.

One thing I can tell you without playing spoiler is that Shutter Island does a fine job drawing you into the protagonist's perspective on the mystery. This is a film mentor of mine's observation. She, however, was disappointed in the simplicity of the solution to the mystery. As I note above, I wasn't. Though not a perfect film, I would recommend it highly.

That said, my recommendation is don't see Shutter Island with any knowledge of the plot or expectations about the world this film will take you to. I also recommend seeing the film twice in order to sort out the mysteries you're left with after your first viewing.

07 August 2010

Joni Mitchell: "A Case of You"

My buddy whiteray up at Echoes in the Wind just turned me on to a new tool that will allow me to place a song I'm discussing right into a post. Instead of being limited to what I can find on YouTube, where sound quality is hit or miss at best, I've now got my entire music library to work with, with high quality audio.

So let's try it out. All you have to do is click the play button below. Before you know it you will be wrapped in the arms of Joni Mitchell's A Case of You from her 1971 album Blue, arguably one of the best albums of our era -- it's listed at number 30 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

With A Case of You Joni stripped the record down to the essentials: in this case her hammer dulcimer, her voice and her songwriting, in this song examining the ebbs and flows of a love affair. (This record is from when Joni was in her late twenties; in a more recent interview, a mature Joni says of love, 'Yea, I got that all figured out'.)

I hope you enjoy this favorite of mine as much as I enjoy having a way to let you listen to it. Just hit the play button below and sit back.


02 August 2010

Los Lobos Has Still Got It

I've written about Los Lobos here before. I followed them in their early years -- their first major label release was in the mid-80s -- but I lost track of them in the late 90s while the members pursued side projects. Until last Friday night. The band played a gig in St. Petersburg (Florida) and I got a chance to see them live for the for the first time. The show was all I could have hoped for: rock/latin/jazz fusion with an East LA spin that is unsurpassed.

Los Lobos often close their sets with their 1987 cover of La Bamba (clip above), recorded for the film about the late Richie Valens, the first artist to infuse this Mexican folk song with a rock rock beat (back in '58). Los Lobos had an international with their '87 cover and theirs remains the definitive version of the song.