Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Ray Conniff and The Ray Conniff Singers - "Ring Christmas Bells"
Mom used to play Ray Conniff and The Ray Conniff Singers' We Wish You A Merry Christmas around the house during December. As a little kid, I was a big fan of it. Then I got older and thought it cornball. I dug it out of my stash of inherited parents' vinyl (my folks are still with us, but gave me their LPs years ago) one recent Saturday evening fully prepared to make fun of it as preparation for listening/scribing to Marah's excellent A Christmas Kind Of Town album.
I knew my plan was in trouble as I glanced at the album cover. I had forgotten that the gal on it always gave me a certain glad/uneasy feeling throughout my youth. She sports a miniskirted Santa outfit with strategically-placed belt, Santa hat, black boots, plus no ring! (After sorting through my Mom's LPs, I see that Conniff regularly put yeah-baby gals on his album covers. A sly one, that Mr. Conniff. Sell the albums to America's housewives and once the husbands spot that eye candy they won't complain or insist Johnny Cash be played instead.)
Then all my snideness was blown away a few seconds into side one. Turns out this Conniff album is pretty good. I quickly reached a decision to add this one to my Christmas music rotation, it'll be a mandatory listen along with Bob Dylan's Christmas In The Heart, A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, Marah's aforementioned album (which I will tell you about, someday), and Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You. The Conniff album holds up because: 1) It's traditional songs which they do quite well, and 2) I'm a sucker for this type of Christmas music.
Also We Wish You A Merry Christmas brings up memories of winter and Christmas in West Fargo, North Dakota, where my family lived until 1972. Santa at the Nodak store, lots of snow, huge holiday dinners with my Mom's sister and her family, my brother and I being on a toboggan tied to a snowmobile as our neighbor Punchy pulled us, his looking back at us, grinning.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Refreshments - “Banditos”
To be clear: This music-listening phase I’m now going through is not “nineties nostalgia.” As Michael Ventura wrote: Nostalgia cheapens, corrupts, and, finally, destroys memory, leaving in its place a bright plastic artifact that pretends to be one’s past.
See, lately my mind has been running through a lot of nineties memories. And with me, memories heavily go hand-in-hand with music. But I’m not being nostlagic for the nineties. I mean, why would I be? For the first half of the nineties I worked for a cheapo outfit of a corporation, where I got to hear nonsense about “team” and “teamwork” on a daily basis, got lied to and stabbed in the back, and (among other cultural insults) had a coworker ask if The Black Crowes were “a new wave band.” It was horrible, kept getting worse, yet somehow I got it through my thick skull that it didn’t have to be permanent. The last half of the nineties were some of the best times of my life as I worked on being a writer (instead of merely thinking I could be one someday) and started a zine. But still, I was doing temp jobs for low wages. The days weren’t all that great, reading the newspaper with my brown-bag lunch was easily the highlight. If it wasn’t for MPR/KFAN/Radio K on that little radio I kept in my cubicle, I would have been one miserable little accountant.
But that mid-point of the nineties, when REV-105 was going strong and breaking ground and The Edge was trying to play catch-up here in Minneapolis was some joyous fun while spinning around the FM dial. I keep meaning to assemble a playlist of faves from those few short years. Most of them would be one-hits, and that's fine with me, I hear that era as single-servings, not Bold Statements By Major Artists. (Not that bold statements weren't being made, just my radio-listening experience was typical one of hearing a bunch of fun songs by various artists.) I should assemble this playlist soon, before I totally forget all the songs I loved. Case in point, a few weeks ago I heard The Refreshments' "Banditos" on SiriusXM Lithium and realized I had completely forgotten it. It's a beauty of a one-hit wonder, hooky garage rock with a certain contagious exuberance over its slacker tale. In the Jukebox of My Mind, this tune is the much-heralded B-side to Beck’s “Mexico.”
This is the only song I know by The Refreshments. Maybe they recorded other such gems, but this one is the only one I care to hear. Because I have a very specific memory of hearing this in on my car radio on Emerson Avenue South in 1996. I was in a very good mood that day, I don’t remember why. Maybe it was just hearing this song. Some days, something like that is enough.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Lorence Hud - “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”
A Tuesday Tuneage sorta sequel to last week’s April Wine piece. It turns out that the Wine’s “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” is a cover, orginally done by a Canadian rocker named Lorence Hud. If someone said the name “Lorence Hud” wouldn’t you immediately think “must be a Canadian rocker” without knowing his occupation?
Hud’s lumberjack looks remind me of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Not a good thing, as I’ve never seen any of the X-Men movies, and have only liked Jackman in one thing: The Prestige. I don’t have a Dr. Cox-like disdain for Jackman, I just don’t have much use for the guy. Same goes for Liam Neeson (notable only Christopher Nolan has done anything good with these guys lately.)
And now when I hear “Hud” I’m going to think of a pretty good Canadian rock song and Hugh Jackman and not necessarily Paul Newman and Patricia Neal. Not sure that was fair to my mind, but I brought it upon myself.