Thursday, March 25, 2010

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Welcome to a very special edition of "Sounds from the Cave." As many of you know, my friend Trevor used to be my roommate, and he left a couple boxes of old LPs in my basement when he moved out. After he found out about my new blog column, Trevor suggested that I dig through his records and feature something from his collection. So that is exactly what I am doing for this week's post. Think of it as "Sounds from the Cave: Mad City Edition."
I chose Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway because it'd been an album that I'd heard good things about but had never actually heard. It is widely considered to be one of the great albums of the 70's, but despite my many years of music listening, Lamb somehow always managed to elude me. I guess you could say that it was my white whale. I mean that literally- the album cover is white, and it's massive: four sides of epic progressive rock, with elaborate cover art to match. So why did I avoid listening to it for so long? For one thing, my earliest memories of Genesis are of the 80's Invisible Touch-era band. I hated that stuff so much that I pretty much swore off listening to them ever again. The other thing is my general disinterest in progressive rock, which is the musical style that Genesis played on Lamb. Don't get me wrong- I do like rock music that is artistic and inventive, but sometimes progressive rock just sounds too pretentious to me. There's also a vague Dungeons & Dragons vibe that I get from listening to it, which is not a good thing in my book (although I will admit that Rush were one of the first bands I ever liked).
Well, I've decided to confront my fears and dive head first into this so-called masterpiece. So what is this album all about? It is, in a word, fancy. There are fancy song structures. There are fancy time signatures. And there are fancy lyrics which create a complex narrative throughout the whole album. It is the quintessential rock opera. And after listening to it once all the way through, I can say that I enjoyed it. Quite a bit, actually. I could even imagine liking it more with repeated listens. That hasn't happened yet - this record is freaking long, people - so time will tell if this record ends up spending much time on my turntable. But one thing's for sure- this band used to be pretty damn weird, which makes it all the more puzzling that they ended up being Top 40 pop stars in the 80's. I'm still trying to figure out how a band that started out like this eventually ended up like this. Anyway, here's a selection from Lamb:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hiatt's Rule

What's the deal with John Hiatt? He's sort of the anti-Lyle Lovett: so normal-looking that it's hard to imagine him playing rock 'n roll. And the truth is, his music is just as boring as you would expect. Just remember "Hiatt's Rule": Never listen to music made by someone who looks like a mid-level office manager. Ah, never mind...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Legendary Joao Gilberto

Hello, and welcome to another edition of "Sounds from the Cave." Before we begin, I would like to offer an apology of sorts. As you recall from my last post, I said some rather mean things about Lyle Lovett, the basic message being that he is overrated. This is a bit unfair, since I haven't really listened to him that much. I'm sure he's probably a really nice guy, and I will admit that he's got a great voice. But I still stand by what I said. Like Leon Redbone before him, he belongs in the musical dustbin of freaks and curiosities. What I do regret about my post is the crack I made in the comments section implying that my parents (and old people in general) have terrible taste in music. There is a kernel of truth to this, since I typically do not like the same music as my parents. But there are some big exceptions, the most obvious of which is the subject of this week's post.
Today I'm going to talk about Joao Gilberto. He is the Brazilian singer/guitarist who, along with the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, basically invented the musical genre known as bossa nova. You probably know the song "The Girl from Ipanema" (sung by Joao's wife, Astrud); it's the song that started the bossa nova craze in the 60's and spawned countless cheesy tunes heard in elevators all over the world. What you probably haven't heard are the earliest bossa nova recordings, which were made by Joao in the late 50's and eventually compiled on a fantastic CD called The Legendary Joao Gilberto. The songs on this disc represent the purest (and best) examples of the form, and many of them have since become standards. Joao's jazzy guitar chords and ultra-mellow singing make for some of the most relaxing music ever recorded; even my mom likes this stuff. It's a shame, then, that this CD is no longer in print (which is why I've included it in "Sounds from the Cave"). But you can probably find a copy at your local public library, so it's definitely worth checking out. Your mama would be proud.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Lovett

Hello friends,
I'm taking a break today from my "Sounds from the Cave" series to talk about a subject that's really been bugging me lately. The subject is this: Lyle Lovett. Specifically, I would like to know why this guy is famous. He's a good enough singer, I guess, but his songs are totally unmemorable. If you saw him in "Short Cuts", then you know how limited his range is as an actor. So what, exactly, is so special about Lyle Lovett? Here's my theory: people are intrigued by his weird face and hair. And that's all. They think that someone who is that strange-looking must have artistic talent. But ask yourself this question: If Lyle Lovett looked like Mr. Joe Average, would people still listen to his music? I doubt it. Now, I will admit that I have only heard a few of his songs, but the ones I did hear sounded like nothing more than generic bar-band material. It's the sort of stuff that I imagine middle-aged couples listening to when they're drinking margaritas out on the deck. But is it possible that I'm missing something here? Does he actually have some great songs that I haven't heard? If you are a fan, I would like to hear from you. To use a phrase that Mr. Lovett probably knows all too well, I'm all ears.