Saturday, March 10, 2018

John, Paul, George, Ringo by The Beatles: A Fantasy Marco Mix

My friend Greig recently posted this clip from the film Boyhood, where Ethan Hawke's character presents his son with a copy of what a he calls, The Black Album, a mix of the best solo songs from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

The idea for such a compilation actually belongs to the real life Hawke, who created the mix for his 13-year-old daughter Maya after his divorce from Uma Thurman. The track listing for Hawke's mix is available here and it is an absolute must-listen for any Fab Four fan (just search for "Beatles Black Album" on your favourite streaming site).

I've long thought about creating my own Black Album, and so for the past month, I've listened exclusively to Beatles solo recordings, weeding out the worst of the boys' 70s excesses (John's sloganeering, George's boringness, Ringo's showtunes and Paul's goddamn flutes) in order to dig up the many, many gems. (N.B. There is flute on one Paul song.) After endless tinkering with concepts, song selections and track orders, I present my mix, which I call John, Paul, George & Ringo. If you're a Google Play subscriber, you can listen here. Some liner notes follow the track listing below:

Side One
1. (Just Like) Starting Over - John
2. Arrow Through Me - Paul
3. Blow Away - George
4. It Don't Come Easy - Ringo
5. Nobody Told Me - John
6. Jet - Paul
7. What Is Life - George
8. Back Off Boogaloo - Ringo

Side Two
1. What You Got - John
2. Coming Up - Paul
3. Got My Mind Set On You - George
4. Oh My My - Ringo
5. Whatever Get You Thru the Night - John
6. No More Lonely Nights (Playout Version) - Paul
7. Wah-Wah - George
8. Goodnight Vienna (It's All Down To) - Ringo

Side Three
1. Watching the Wheels - John
2. Let 'Em In - Paul
3. Cloud Nine - George
4. No No Song - Ringo
5. Borrowed Time - John
6. Goodnight Tonight - Paul
7. Awaiting On You All - George
8. Photograph - Ringo

Side Four
1. Out of the Blue - John
2. Waterfalls - Paul
3. Let It Down (Acoustic) - George
4. Blindman - Ringo
5. Oh My Love - John
6. Junk - Paul
7. All Things Must Pass - George
8. Early 1970 - Ringo

-The concept (for sides one to three at least) was an imagining of what The Beatles might have sounded like as a full-fledged party band in the mid/late-70s, complete with keyboards, a horn section, backing singers and percussionists. Sort of a "back to The Cavern plus" idea. So many saxophones! Chronologically, in terms of when these songs actually came out, this doesn't make much sense, but I do think you could have a pretty great dance party with these tunes.
-As you can see, I ended up with a sequence that cycles through songs from  all four performers. Although this meant leaving off a number of great Paul cuts that would have fit, it meant I could give Ringo his fair due, as there are a lot of great feet shufflers in his solo discography.
-Side four is softer, quieter, and more introspective--the after party.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear, a great band, has yet to release a truly great album. Their debut, Yellow House, created a gorgeous aural landscape and had some fine songs, but it's ultimately too fey and sketch-y to hold up as a true classic. Veckatimest, from 2009, had two perfect tracks ("Two Weeks" and "While You Wait for the Others") and a handful of killer chunes ("Southern Point," "All We Ask," and "Ready Able") but the middle section of the record was packed with obvious filler.

This year’s offering, the forgettably titled Shields, despite featuring the best playing and production of any Grizzly Bear record yet, surely won’t crack the top five of Pitchfork’s year end Best Albums list; I bet it won’t even infiltrate the top ten, despite the taste-making website’s obvious cheerleading of the group. The songs on Shields tend to drag on a minute or two longer than they should (the average song length is 5:04) and the vocal melodies, for the most part, aren't memorable. Shields certainly impresses for its sophistication and meticulousness, with careful, complex arrangements and unusual rock chords and song structures, but-- and there's really no other way to say this--it just doesn`t have enough heart. do love these guys, though. We live in an age where we don't even know the names of most of the songs on our iPods, so it's fun to have a band to dig deep into and really care about and this is certainly a band worth caring about. First of all, they are fantastic live. Shields feels a lot like an album written to perform in front of an audience; it's louder, busier, and more dramatic than any of the earlier records, and drummer Chris Bear, the group's not so secret weapon, gets plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his hard-hitting but jazzy prowess. Technical virtuosity is a far greater merit on stage than on record (especially in the still shred-shy world of indie rock) and these guys lack for nothing in that department; the stretched out song lengths are also more forgivable in concert. I've seen them many times, including this year at Massey Hall. With just their dynamics, superior playing, and "holy shit they actually sing that good" harmonies, they do Rock and Roll Communion as well as anyone.

The fan culture around the group seems like a throwback to an older way of appreciating bands; we know the names of every band member, we differentiate between the vocalists and songwriters and fall into either the Ed or the Dan camp, we read the interviews with careful interest and we try to figure out the internal politics based the facial expressions they give each other on stage.

Also, they're ridiculously cute and have amazing band photos.

Still, every time I give Shields another try, I find my mind drifting. It's got some very good moments (opener "Sleeping Ute" is a jazz-rock riffage masterpiece) and works well as background music, but I don't think I'm the only one who thinks we've yet to hear Grizzly Bear's Sgt. Pepper.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Over Easy, Feb. 18

Poster by Carrly Gooding

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Musical Screenplay: "Secret Meeting" by The National

Instructions: Start the song. Read along.

[Twinkle Guitars/Half Disco 1]

(Low, despondent.)

I think
this place
is full of spies.
I think they’re onto me.
[Voice/Drums 1]
“Didn’t anybody? Didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you
how to gracefully disappear
in a room?”
[Twinkle Guitars 2]

I know you put in the hours to keep me
in sunglasses.
I know.
[Voice/Drums 2]

And so and now,
I’m sorry I missed you.
I had a secret meeting
in the basement of my
[Edge Guitars 1]
(Hint at tears.)

It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
And how,
I’m sorry I missed you.
I had a secret meeting
in the basement of my
[Twinkle Guitars 3]
(With more feeling.)

I think this place is full of spies.
I think I’m ruined.
[Voice/Drums 3]

“Didn’t anybody? Didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you
this river’s full of
lost sharks?”

[Twinkle Guitars 4]
I know you put in the hours to keep me
in sunglasses.
I know.
[Voice/Drums 4]

And so and now,
I’m sorry I missed you.
I had a secret meeting
in the basement of my
[Edge guitar 2]
[Enter Shouting Chant, Slow Crescendo]
(With more life.)

It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.

(Gaining confidence.)
And how,
I’m sorry I missed you.
I had a secret meeting
in the basement of my
[Shouting Chant Gets Slightly Wilder]
(With conviction.)

It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.

[Shouting Chant Adds Higher Pitches. Loose and Free.]

It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.
It went the dull and wicked ordinary ways.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Phil Kessel

The most popular explanation for the general suckiness of the Maple Leafs since the 2004* NHL lockout goes something like this: “Leafs fans are so dedicated to the team—so faithful—that MLSE has no incentive to ice a winner.

“The only way we’re going to win,” the theory implies, “is when the fans stop showing up.” Leave it to Torontonians to turn loyalty, the greatest virtue of sports fandom, into a cause for self-flagellation.

It’s those loyal fans, though, who never hesitate to lash Leaf players and management when things go wrong. This season, the whip has often landed on the back of a 23-year-old Madison, Wisconsin-native by the name of Phil Kessel.

To acquire the speedy right-wing sniper from Boston, Leafs GM Brian Burke traded two first round draft picks, a much-maligned move amongst the talk radio and message board chattering classes, who always seem to favour a “slow rebuild,” until the team actually hits the ice, where boo birds chirp at every lacklustre period. (I realize this "Monolithic Fan" is a straw man , let me spear him anyway, OK?) Kessel despite his undeniable technical and physical skills, is streaky, a deficiency magnified greatly in a city where Leafs post-game analysis gets more media space than the Jays, Raptors and Argos combined.

A winning franchise needs a franchise player; basically, a guy who makes the all-star game every year. Kessel has to be that player for the Leafs. Dougie Gilmour** knows he has the the talent. He skates swiftly and rips it in into the top corner. He hasn't had linemates*** all season yet still netted 19 goals.

He displayed his class to me very early this season at the ACC: With the home team up 2-1 late in the third period, the Florida Panthers pinned an exhausted Leafs first line in their own zone; and, just as a tying goal seemed inevitable, Kessel stripped the puck from a Panthers forward, sprinted past his former Bruins teammate Dennis Wideman, and whipped the puck into the top corner with his trademark quick-release wrist shot. It was an all-star play from an all-star player. And in a hockey-obsessed town that hasn’t seen the playoffs in half a decade, Kessel can’t afford to be anything less.

*Some of you will think, “Haven’t the Leafs sucked much longer than this? Like, since 1967?” This isn’t true. The Leafs before the lockout were strong--they finished fourth overall. And I how could you ever, EVER say the Gilmour-era Leafs sucked? If it not for Wayne Gretzky’s NHL Mafia, we totally woulda won the Cup that year.

**I apologize for using the Lord's name in vain.

***Come on, Joey Crabb!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Roger Daltrey

I think Pete said it best:
"As soon as Keith joined the band, we became four people vying for the audience's attention, and I think in the end, Keith and I won over Roger and John. Well, actually, John never bothered to join the fight and Roger just lost, really."

Monday, December 20, 2010

On music

I play it
usually with drums
sometimes with other people
sometimes for money.
I sing and bang piano, too,
but no one’s offered to pay me
for that.

I listen to it
through headphones
through my computer speakers
and sometimes
when people in the room with me are playing it
through a P.A.
I prefer headphones, but the big ones make my ears hot and the buds
give me wax.

I read about it, daily
and my favourite critics right now
are Sasha Frere-Jones, Mark Richardson, and Carles
from Hipster Runoff.

I think about it
with my brain
probably too much.
Lately, though, I mostly think
about math.

I write about it.
Then I dance about architecture.