Monday, April 14, 2014

Song of the Week from Yellow Submarine

The less said about Yellow Submarine the better.  The title track is one of the few popular Beatles tunes that I just can't stand.  The pickings are slim for best song on this record, so by default the winner is "It's All Too Much".

Monday, April 7, 2014

Song of the Week from The Beatles

The Beatles (commonly referred to as The White Album) is a double album released in November of 1968. This album was recorded during a tumultuous period for the band. Ringo briefly left the band during the recording of the album, forcing Paul to play drums on a couple tracks.  My view of this album is that it isn't quite a Beatles album. It's more like a collection of solo work from each of the members, put together under the Beatles name.  If it wasn't for the existence of Yellow Submarine, this would probably be my least favorite album.

Since it's a double album, I'm going to cheat this week and share two songs.  One of them is extremely well known, but I have to pick it because a) it's a great song and b) it's one of the few good songs on this album.

First, the cheat. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a George Harrison composition, and is unique in the Beatles' catalog as it features a guest performer.  Eric Clapton, while not credited, plays lead guitar on the track. George and Clapton were friends for many years, despite Clapton stealing George's wife. Everything from the lyrics, to the guitar work, to the opening piano riff make this one of the great rock songs of all time.

The second, more obscure, song this week also deals with Eric Clapton. Like I mentioned above, George and Clapton were friends, and George couldn't help but notice Clapton's strong chocolate addiction.  "Savoy Truffle" is a reference to the guitar god's love of sweets.  In fact, most of the candies named in the song were real treats at that time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Last Five Books I Bought

I haven't done one of these in a while.  Here are the last five books I bought and a quick reason for each.

Brilliance by, Marcus Sakey.  If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know I'm a fan of Sakey's.  Here's the text from the back cover: In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

God Save the Child by, Robert B. Parker.  After reading The Godwulf Manuscript, I decided not to wait as long between Parker books. Appie Knoll is the kind of suburb where kids grow up right. But something is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Kevin Bartlett disappears. Everyone thinks he's run away -- until the comic strip ransom note arrives. It doesn't take Spenser long to get the picture -- an affluent family seething with rage, a desperate boy making strange friends...friends like Vic Harroway, body builder. Mr. Muscle is Spenser's only lead and he isn't talking...except with his fists. But when push comes to shove, when a boy's life is on the line, Spenser can speak that language too.

Churchill by, Paul Johnson.  Winston Churchill is one of the most revered men of the 20th Century and one of the greatest leaders in history.  I don't know as much about him as I'd like and Paul Johnson's histories are supposed to be sharp and readable.  At 200 pages, it probably won't give me a full picture of the man, but it looks like it'll be a good start.

The Accidental Creative by, Todd Henry. I got this book because the concept seemed interesting and Henry blurbed a recent book by someone I respect.  I did a capsule review here.

In the Arena by, Richard M. Nixon.  After visiting his presidential library on my vacation last year, I felt the urge to reacquaint myself with the man.  My review is here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Song of the Week from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper is the eighth studio album of The Beatles, released in June of 1967.  It has sold more than 30 million copies, making it one of the world's best selling albums.  Rolling Stone magazine named it #1 in their list of 500 Best Albums of all time.

"A Day in the Life" is one of my favorite Beatles tunes, but definitely too well known to make the cut for this project.  As you can probably guess, the finalists for this week are from Paul and George.

First up is "Fixing a Hole" by Paul McCartney. It's a catchy, upbeat tune that I find myself singing at random times.

Next is "Within You Without You" by George Harrison.  Like "Love You To", this is George embracing both the Eastern influences in instruments (sitar) and philosophy.

But the winner this week is Paul's beautiful composition "She's Leaving Home".

Friday, March 28, 2014

MST3K Friday: It Lives By Night

"Oh, this one's gonna hurt like hell."
"Geez! All he's missing is the feather boa."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Song of the Week from Revolver

Revolver is the seventh studio album of The Beatles and was released in August of 1966. It is generally considered The Beatles's best album, and one of the best albums of all time. I'm more partial to the ones preceding Revolver, but there are a lot of great tracks on this album.

The finalists are:
"Love You To" by, George Harrison. It really takes the sitar and Eastern influences first used by The Beatles in "Norwegian Wood" to a whole new level.

"She Said She Said". Quite often this one randomly pops into my head. Very trippy lyrics and I love the tempo changes.

"Tomorrow Never Knows". Turn off your mind relax and float downstream. I love the opening lyric. This is probably the song that ushered in the more psychedelic era of '60's music.

But the winner is Paul's "For No One". It's a baroque love song about the end of a relationship. Everyone called Paul the cute one and said he wasn't as deep as the other Beatles (still a criticism of him). But this song had amazing heart and is beautifully composed. You can listen to the studio version here, but here's a great version Paul did after The Beatles.

Friday, March 21, 2014

MST3K Friday: Mike Nelson is Lord of the Dance

It looks like I've already posted the Kathy Ireland Song, so here is Mike and the 'bots making fun of Riverdance.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Song of the Week from Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul was released in December 1965 and was only the second Beatles album to contain 100% original material (the first was A Hard Day's Night). Rubber Soul usually comes in the top 10 of albums all time whenever magazines put together lists. It was #5 on Rolling Stone's 2012 list. From the dreamy "Girl" to the sitar infused "Norwegian Wood", the Sixties are in full swing on this one. "Norwegian Wood" is a favorite, but, again, we're looking for the under-represented song.

I'm intrigued by "Run For Your Life". The Beatles are known for songs about love and happiness, but this song is quite different.  If you're unfamiliar with it, the chorus goes "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man". It's not the winner, but it deserves a listen no matter what.

This week's song is "If I Needed Someone":

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Moonlight Mile by, Dennis Lehane

All in all, it was an interesting Christmas Eve.

Amanda McCready was four-years-old when she vanished from her Boston home. The police were short on clues and the people her mother associated with weren't the kind to talk to cops. Amanda's aunt, Bea McCready, hired private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro to find her; which they did.  Now, twelve years later, Amanda is sixteen and missing again. Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro are forced to question if it's possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong.

Moonlight Mile, the sixth book in the series, is Lehane's first Kenzie/Gennaro book since 1999's Prayers for Rain and a direct sequel to 1998's Gone, Baby, Gone.  Kenzie and Gennaro are now married and have a four-year-old daughter of their own. Angie is retired from the detective game, spending most of her time as a stay-at-home mom, but going to night school to get a degree. They closed their office and Patrick is now bucking for a job at a prestigious Boston investigations firm. They're older, wearier, and tired of seeing good people get screwed.

With it's parallels to Gone, Baby, Gone, it's hard to discuss the book without spoilers, so consider this a spoiler alert.

Amanda's mother was an unfit parent who left the four-year-old alone as she went out to get drunk and do drugs. She left her daughter alone in a car so hot that it left little Amanda with second degree burns over most of her body. Her uncle, Lionel, talked to a detective he knew, and they kidnapped Amanda and sent her to live with a police captain and his wife. Patrick found the girl and, despite his misgivings, returned her to her mother. Amanda was kidnapped to give her a better life, but it was still kidnapping.

In Moonlight Mile, Amanda herself is doing what Patrick could not. This time, she disappeared because she kidnapped the infant daughter of a Russian mobster and his crazy Mexican wife. She did what her Uncle Lionel did: take an innocent child from horrible parents in order to give her a better life. There are some highly charged conversations late in the book between Patrick and Amanda where Patrick explains to her why he did what he did. Lehane hasn't lost the ability to tap into Patrick's heart and show us the suffering he endures by being a heroic knight in a fallen world.

I will say, though, I was disappointed a bit with Angie's role in the story, and I thought the denouement was a little too convenient.  Still, it was nice to spend time with the duo again, and Lehane's descriptive powers of a New England winter are beyond peer.  The whole Kenzie & Gennaro series is well worth your time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Song of the Week from Help!

Help! was released in August 1965 and doesn't get as much respect as it deserves. Perhaps because it was sandwiched between Beatles for Sale and Rubber Soul, it gets lost. I love Paul's "The Night Before". I love "Tell Me What You See", which comes in second place to this week's winner.

This week's song is the George Harrison composition "I Need You":