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“X” Artists – Challenge!

Much like with the Qs, the pickin’s aren’t quite so bountiful here.

Therefore, also much like with the Qs, it’s time for another challenge!

Rules & Regulations:

Set a timer for 60 seconds.

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Fetch a writing utensil.

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Now….

(start the timer once you finish reading the next sentence)

Write down as many “X” artists of you can think of…that contain more letters than merely the letter X (or X repeated), GO!

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Time’s up.

Don’t feel bad, it’s my game and I only got one.  The good news is, that band has two records on the 1001, I’ll review their second entry later this week.

In the meantime, please let me know what other X bands exist in the comments below, thanks for playing!

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

[Album 352/1001]220px-WilcoYankeeHotelFoxtrot

Hindsight is effortless.

Some publisher decisions seem ludicrous with the rear-view mirror advantage.  Harry Potter? Rejected a dozen times!

Record labels & their executives have racked up some equally nonsensical rejections/objections over the years.

I talked about two of my favourite label gaffes (Sloan & Marvin Gaye) in my first review of the 1001 project, the exemplary What’s Going On.

Add a third to the list: the saga of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (YHF).

They say a standard hit song has the foreseeable format of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wants girl back.

Classic albums often follow another 3-step predictable pattern: Band records great album, Label doesn’t smell a hit & rejects accordingly and finally one way or another, the album eventually gets the glowing reception it deserved in the first place.

To be fair, companies need sales to remain solvent.  Decision-makers must act in the best interest of stake/stockholders.  Also, in the early 2000s, Garage rock was ‘in’ and Wilco lacked the requisite ‘the’ in front of their band name.

But seriously, what was Reprise Records thinking?!

Reprise was right in one sense: YHF doesn’t have a surefire single like Being There‘s Outtasite (Outta Mind).

Instead, it is a cohesive & decadent 11-song set that is more than worthy of the many plaudits it has received.

A slow-burn perhaps but it’s another gem from Jeff Tweedy & co.

The Who – Who’s Next (1971)

[Album 351/1001]220px-Whosnext

CSI Miami: both a heck of a show & a major argument against having cable TV.

You see I’ve enjoyed any & every episode I’ve seen but I can’t remember ever sitting down at home and watching it intentionally.  It’s the kind of show that comes on after something else, I get drawn in, and then 60 minutes later I realize that an hour has just passed.

Why bring this up now?

For many of those born in the last few decades, the name The Who may not immediately ring any bells.

Play the first few seconds of Won’t Get Fooled Again and that same younger demographic will likely have visions of a red-haired detective dancing in their heads.  Or at least, one who is constantly removing his sunglasses while simultaneously delivering a zinger about a gruesome crime scene.

horatio-caine

For me, Who’s Next reads like a CSI Miami episode:

1) The dramatic beginning.  No dead body per se, but the line “they’re all wasted” could be taken out of context to improve my argument.  The similarity instead is that much like the show, the album starts with a bang.  Few who have heard the opening track, Baba O’Riley. will forget the “Teenage Wasteland” payoff.  Many will forget however that the song is not actually named Teenage Wasteland!

2) The middle 30-odd minutes of interesting twists & turns.  Changes in scenery, some plot exposition.  Different characters getting some time in the spotlight, sharing lead roles.  In this episode, Daltrey handles most of the lead vocals but Townshend (Going Mobile) and Entwistle (My Wife) each get some time front & centre.

3) The big finish.  There just aren’t many closers bigger than Won’t Get Fooled Again.

The 44-minute running time also lends itself conveniently to the episode + adverts hour-long TV format.

I’ll spare you my full detective Horatio Caine impression but *sunglasses removed* Who’s Next is a heck of an album but Next to the other Who records from the list, it’s currently holding down the bronze.  With Tommy & My Generation still to come.

As of now, I’ll happily consume Who’s Next if it ‘comes on’ but I won’t miss it terribly if it doesn’t.

Just like I haven’t missed cable TV for the last few months.

Robbie Williams – Life Thru a Lens (1997)

[Album 351/1001]Life_Thru_A_Lens_(Robbiei_Williams_album_-_cover_art)

When I looked at the Life Thru a Lens tracklist, I realized I was very familiar with two of the songs:

1) Let Me Entertain You.  My wenderful wife & I worked at a soccer (football, rather) store in England during the 2004 Euro Cup.  Ostensibly to get the customers in the football spirit, a cd of pump-up tunes was played.  And played.  The same 45 minutes, on repeat, until England was sadly/mercifully eliminated.  The morning after the loss, the British staff weren’t exactly cheerful; the rest of the imported staff however were secretly jubilant, different music, at last!

I’m a huge believer in the saying “comedy = tragedy + time.”  10 years later, the Let Me Entertain You/Euro Cup over-saturation is approaching funny!

2) Angels.  Back in the day, I may have been overexposed to this one as well.  This time however, the fault was entirely mine: I have fond memories of driving around with my friend Michael listening to a mix cd with this & DMX, certainly a mix!

With the exception of Angels and later Rock DJ, I have no memory of Robbie Williams being terribly successful in Canada.

Even with his boy band, Take That, the only song I can remember getting much air time ’round here was Back For Good.

So whereas my UK friends may have grown tired of Robbie years ago, I don’t want to cheapen the record by calling it a guilty pleasure, but I really enjoyed this!

Some tracks don’t hold up as well on repeated listens but there’s some terrific pop in the set.  He’s as effective on the radio-ready toe-tappers (i.e. the title track) as he is on the slower acoustic numbers (e.g. One of God’s Better People).  Though I was a bit disappointed he pronounced ‘thru’ as ‘thru’ and not ‘froo’ like my daughter’s English soccer coach.

If you got sick of Robbie (and at least with Let Me Entertain You, I can relate), the overexposure wounds may still be too fresh; listening with fresh ears may be easier said than done.

If you’re not still suffering from Williams overexposure and you’re in the mood for some fun, give this a spin.

I for one am glad that I took Robbie up on his offer: I allowed him to do so and entertain me he did.

Top 5 “W” Artists

I tend to be quite fond of many things beginning with W (including my wondrous wife, naturlich).  No exception here with the Dubya artists!

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5. Welch, Gillian
I’ve gone back to Time (The Revelator) as much or more than any other album from the past year.  What a title track.

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4. Wilson, Brian
Good Barenaked Ladies tune, an even better songwriter.

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3. Who, The
Would not have made my Top 5 a couple years ago.  At that point, of course, I hadn’t heard Live @ Leeds or The Who Sell Out.

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2. Wilco
Really enjoyed seeing Jeff Tweedy on Parks & Recreation last year.

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1. Weezer
No group has been more infuriating (with the possible exception of Radiohead) over the last 19 years.  Then again, no group produced two better mid-90s albums (also with the possible exception of Radiohead).

The (aforementioned) Who, Wilco & Williams, Robbie are up next, enjoy!

Sarah Vaughan – At Mister Kelly’s (1958)

[Album 350/1001]Atmisterkellys

Wikipedia (1957) & my book (1958) disagree on the release date: as per usual, tie goes to the book!

I was chatting with my sister & my cousin last weekend about the benefits of having an unrefined palate.

For example, there’s only been the odd glass of red wine I haven’t enjoyed; most of the time, I can’t tell the difference between a $7 or $70 bottle.

I feel that way about a lot of vocal jazz.  There’s the occasional singer I may not appreciate but for the most part, even if I can’t tell if I’m listening to a contender or a pretender, I tend to be a fan.

So take any jazz praise from me with an unsophisticated grain of salt: like most red wines, I liked At Mister Kelly’s!

This concert doesn’t feel like a ‘must-hear’ historic document (like Dylan’s 1966 show) but more like the sound of an artist in her element.

Her voice is never less than appealing & her trio’s understated backing fits neatly throughout.

Two moments in particular made me smile:

1) When the host introduced Ms. Vaughan as “the divine..” – much like Cam from Modern Family, I overuse the term divine.  I can’t help it, I’m a celebrator!

2) When Sarah sang Alone – I didn’t recognize the song at first but was simply ebullient once I did.

The song hails from one of my all time favourite films, A Night At the Opera, released 40 years before the Queen album of the same name.  Vaughan’s take is divi lovely, albeit several octaves lower and with, oh, a tad less vibrato.  Thank you Youtube:

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Like many live albums, I may not revisit At Mister Kelly’s all that often (anyone else sometimes feel like they’re listening to someone else’s memories when hearing a live show they didn’t attend?).

But that’s more of an “it’s not you Sarah, it’s me” situation as opposed to any shortcomings in her performance.

Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

In lieu of a typed review, I wrote this at a surprise babysitting gig last night.Van_Halen_-_1984

The pencil felt like the appropriate writing utensil for this record.

Enjoy!

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