Thursday, July 29, 2004


I'm in love.... yes I am
I'm in love.... yes I am, um!
I'm in love
Hey baby-hey you know I am
In love
Uh-huh you know I am

Friends all wonder
What's come over me
I'm as happy as any girl could be
I'm in love
Believe me I am
I'm in love oh
(Love- love-love)

Yes-sir I am
Yes-sir I am
Yes I am
I'm in love

And I'm so glad
That it's me who had to change
I'm sproutin' and bloomin'
Like the last summer rose
I'm in love
I'm in love - I'm in love
I'm in love - I'm in love
I'm in love
I'm in ...

In the mornin'
(In-love in-love in-love in-love)
I wake up smilin'
Smilin' like love
I know where it's at
(In-love in-love in-love in-love)
(Oh I'm in love)
I'm in love
(In-love in-love in-love)
I'm in love
(In-love in-love in-love in-love)
Yes I am!
I'm in love.

-Aretha Franklin, "I'm In Love" (Let Me In Your Life, Atlantic, 1974)

This blog turns 2 tomorrow, FYI. Thanks for reading.
He turns, well, not 2. But it's his birthday, too. Yay!

Also, GaySexBlog.Net has apparently linked me. That pleases me immensely.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

So, the noms for the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards are out, and just like a year ago, the year's best video is actually a leading contender - and up for Video of the Year. In '03, it was Johnny Cash's "Hurt," and this year it's Jay-Z's "99 Problems" (both directed by the brilliant Mark Romanek, which is not a coincidence). Of course, just like "Hurt" last year, I thoroughly expect "99 Problems" to be largely snubbed. Though - again, like 2003, when "Work It" took the moonman for Video of the Year - if "Hey Ya!" is crowned king of videos, I won't be too upset. I'll be upset, mind, but not too upset. It seems silly to criticize the noms, so I won't; I'll just point out that Prince - yes, Prince - is actually up for Best Male Video for "Musicology." Wacky.

Steve Kluger's new novel, Almost Like Being in Love, is, well, almost like... no, it's not. But it's an awfully great read. The story is deceptively simple: at a boarding school in 1978, at the end of their senior years, a jock and a nerd fall in love. They share three months of bliss, and then commence higher education on opposite coasts, drifting apart thus. 20 years later, the nerd, now a professor on the west coast, realizes he's still in love with his first love, and decides to track him down. Almost is laugh-out-loud funny, while at the same time managing to pull of the dance of being touching and affecting as well. These are entirely believable characters Kluger's drawn; it's one for the true romantic in all (some?) of us. Definitely recommended. A

Let's talk tapes.

Recently bought a new (-to-me) car, a '90 Saab, which has a cassette deck. Since I don't have any cassettes at the present, the seller threw in Billy Idol's Rebel Yell (better than I'd remembered) and The Police's Every Breath You Take: The Singles (the original '86 release). Then on Monday, I hit Turn It Up!, which is the only place to go in southwest New Hampshire to buy rekkids, and dug through their used tape bins, ending up with a nice haul. To wit:

Steely Dan, Greatest Hits - Not as complete as I'd like (where's "Deacon Blues"?!), but a solid Steely primer for the uninitiated, and for those of us who are, a good sing-a-long cassette. [Most of these were bought, at least in part, for their sing-along potential.]

Aretha Franklin, 30 Greatest Hits - This is the Atlantic one from the late '80s. Again, it's not complete the way I'd like it - but in this case, that's chiefly because I prefer her '70s work to her '60s. But until the I-certainly-hope-it's-inevitable boxed set comes (and how is it that it hasn't, yet?), this is still the definitive Aretha collection.

ZZ Top, Greatest Hits - A bit heavy on their '80s work, but with enough of their '70s boogie crunch to make up for it. And the '90 "My Head's In Mississippi" is just great. Now I can finally wail "Rough Boy" at the top of my lungs while driving down the highway.

Rush, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows - Two of their more maligned records, and so so unfairly. I happen to believe that when Geddy, Alex and Neil added keyboards, their music improved, as the songwriting on these two classics shows (not that they've ever been slouches in that arena, but still...). Grace was one of the first cassettes I ever owned, way back in '84; I was spurred to purchase it after repeatedly hearing "Distant Early Warning" late at night on the great, late WLS.

U2, The Unforgettable Fire - I've never forgotten Kurt Loder's mostly-pan review of this classic, which is my favorite U2 album. Apart from some of Bono's limp lyrics, I disagree with Loder on this one almost across the board. The atmosphere they create with Eno and Lanois is so seductively scintillating, it thrills me every time (especially on the title track).

The The, Mind Bomb - Well, "Armageddon Days" are here again, aren't they? One more reason, in one word: Marr.

Less Than Zero (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - I'm rereading the novel, one of Bret Easton Ellis's best, for the umpteenth time, so when I saw the soundtrack for $1, I had to grab it. Plus, it contains two all-time classics amidst some dreck: Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and L.L. Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali."

Monday, July 26, 2004

I'm pretty sure that "Ain't no pussy good enough to miss award shows" - from Lloyd Banks's "Smile" (The Hunger for More, G-Unit/Interscope, 2004) - is still the lyric to beat in 2004. I mean, c'mon. He's right, you know.

In my alternate-reality better-than-this world, DeBarge's "I Like It" was a #1 R&B and pop record for about 8 weeks. [Their breakout hit, it spent four weeks stuck at #2 R&B behind the juggernaut that was "Billie Jean." It only scraped to #31 on the pop chart, because honkies don't know what's good for 'em.] This single is amazing, funkier than it should be - especially for a midtempo record - and funkier than you recall, chances are. Randy's bass pops and sways, bending-never-breaking, while El and James' keybs add just the right spice to the proceedings. Really, though, it comes down to less those elements than Bunny's creamy backing vocals and most of all - oh, most of all - El's indestructible vox, especially that falsetto, while he rides the track out on, vamping like he's Aretha or something. He sends chills up and down my spine, trust. Not to mention how encouraging the line "when I'm all alone with you/you know exactly what to do" is.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Hello, Andy. Hi, Jess. It's good to have you both back in the blogsphere, it is.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I've been reading a lot of music magazines lately, for the first time in some years.

I picked up Filter recently, drawn in by not only the great cover shot of Robert Smith, but the promise of articles on Digital Underground, New York Dolls, and Franz Ferdinand. [For the record: have only heard two FF songs, like 'em both fine, now shut up.] Filter strikes me as an attempt to mate Spin and Magnet, kinda pushing the commercial edge of genuine alt.rock, and seems to do a decent job at it. The articles were mostly well-written, the reviews are rather fine, and it's a good-looking mag. Keep drawing me in with articles on artists I like, and I'll keep reading.

Just what the world needs, another hiphop mag? But wait; Scratch promises to be different, covering "The Science of Hip-Hop." This is one for the turntable geeks and Timbo wannabes/strivers. Does it succeed? Well, their interview with Lil' Jon focuses on his studio gear, not ATL skrippaz. The one-pager with Jadakiss previewing his new Kiss of Death talks about the knob-twiddlers behind each track. And with cover star Dr. Dre, it's his lab that's of main concern. The puff pieces are kept to a minimum, and there's plenty of meat here - including DJ battle "transcriptions" (no joke!), and in their "Remix" column, Easy Mo Bee imagining a contempo, remixed version of no less a classic than Ready to Die (great reading, too). Scratch is starting out as a quarterly, so you should still be able to peep the Summer '04 issue, and if you've any interest in the minds behind hiphop, I'd suggest you do so. Let's hope it can keep it up; hell, if there's room for Guitar World and all its children, there's definitely room for Scratch.

And then there's Rolling Stone, which seems to be in the midst of a bit of a renaissance, artistically speaking. Coming on the heels of their "50 moments that changed rock" issue (while I didn't agree with all of their choices, the writing was fine) and the fact that they rolled the dice and threw, last-minute, the late Ray Charles on the cover of their summer double ish (respek due!), their latest cover includes (for subscribers, at least) absolutely no mention of music whatsoever. [On the newsstand, the mentions are just in small type in the lower right-hand corner.] The cover's "Doonesbury at War," along with a Garry Trudeau illustration. Also mentioned are an excerpt from Tom Wolfe's new novel, and an interview with Bill Clinton. Save for some of the names, this cover could've popped up in the late '70s, and you're damned right I see that as a good thing. Their political and world-affairs coverage has gone back up (after that unfortunate "we wanna be Blender" period which the eds seem to be leaving behind them), and there's a solid (sometimes stellar) team of reviewers working the back of the mag: Rob Sheffield, Jon Caramanica, Barry Walters, and Douglas Wolk foremost among them, plus the irascible David Fricke, who never fails to delight me. Could it be that RS is working hard(er) to become a must-read once again, like it's not been in nearly two decades? One can only hope.

Guess what's back in stride?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"In a funny way, when two gay people of opposite sexes make it, it's still gay sex. No heterosexual couple brings the same experiences and attitudes to bed that we do. These generalizations aren't perfectly true, but more often than straight sex, gay sex assumes that the use of hands or the mouth is as important as genital-to-genital contact."

- Pat Califia, "Gay Men, Lesbians, and Sex: Doing It Together," from Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex, 2nd Edition (Cleis Press, 2000), p. 194


The 1980s' college radio, boxed - and damned well, too.

Talking with Paul th'other night, he expressed surprise at my admiration - nay, obsession? - for/with Aretha's '70s work.

"I thought the '60s were her decade," he said.

"No, no!" I heatedly countered. "Just the timbre of her voice alone was better in the '70s. And the songs!"

And it's true: by the turn of the '70s, Aretha had a much firmer grasp of her immense instrument than she did in the '60s. Now this is not, of course, to say that she didn't know what she was doing in the '60s - cf. "Respect," obviously - but she didn't have the same level of control and nuance over her voice, I think, that she showed on her '70s recordings. [It should be noted here that I'm exempting her late-decade work, such as the disco stinker La Diva, and am exclusively discussing Aretha up until 1977's monumental "Break It To Me Gently."]

Even though the Queen's very earliest recordings were along jazz(ish) lines, the stuff she cut circa '60 for Columbia, it wasn't until records such as 1974's "Day Dreaming" when a true jazziness started showing up in her singing. Listen to the way she bobs and weaves with the music, playing off of and around her backing trio (the magnificent Dixie Flyers, including Cissy Houston, mother of you-know-who). The vamping we so often associate with Aretha truly blossomed in the '70s; she seemingly did it over every track she cut, and 9 times out of 10 (okay, 9.5), they were better for it - and so were/are we, as listeners.

Aretha soars on these recordings in ways I've never heard anyone else do, and I do mean anyone; not even the likes of Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, or even the inimitable Chaka Khan have the package quite the way the Queen does (which is, of course, why she's the Queen of Soul and they're not). Her gift for fitting her voice so perfectly with the song and arrangement, too, is another marvel. Whereas on "Break It To Me Gently" she's so heavy, she's everyone's sistah, on a more cotton-candy confection such as "Until You Come Back To Me" (listen to the arrangement, all swirly splashes of sun-dappled colors, especially due to the lovely flute riffing), Aretha's voice takes on an airy, summer-day quality.

I find it achingly difficult to write about Aretha, to explore her genius (and it's a genius of soul, folks); how do you write about perfection? Which is exactly why I attempt to do so. Won't get better otherwise, eh? [And if anyone would like a copy of Aretha: The #1s: 1970-1985, a disc I made of her R&B charttoppers during those years (there were 15), do let me know, won't you?]

Friday, July 16, 2004

Yes, I have tales to tell about my trip to Los Angeles; all in good time, kids, all in good time. Suffice it for now to say that I ate a lot of amazing food (from Brazilian to Japanese), saw a lot of gorgeous beaches, took a lot of photos of palm trees and mountains (thanks to some surprisingly smog-free days), fell for Starbucks' Vanilla Blended Frappucino, and saw a jaw-dropping performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at a tiny theatre in WeHo.

But what I really mean to say is that the import-only duet version of "If I Ain't Got You," by Alicia Keys and Man of the Year Usher, is the bomb. And so are the Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich albums (thanks, Daddino!).

And you absolutely must watch the vid for Linkin Park's "Breaking the Habit" (which you can do here, which gives Jay-Z's "99 Problems" serious competition for Video of 2004.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Amoeba Music, Wayfarers Chapel, L.A. Music Center, Arclight Cineramadome, King's Fish House, Jungle, Little Tokyo, the Sunset Strip, the Santa Monica Pier... I could go on, frankly.

And how fucking great is The Graham Norton Effect?! Hilarious.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Good fit, another good fit, superb fit, and, well, could anything else fit him so well?

And regarding Usher, I have three words for you: King of Pop. Who's gonna take him on? Anyone?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The problem with Jimmy Buffet's featuring-every-popular-male-country-singer-right-now cover of "Hey Good Lookin'" isn't George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, or Clint Black. The problem with it is Jimmy fucking Buffet, who grabs "Hey" from Hank Sr. and attempts to, well, Buffetize it. After hearing it once, you're set.

Speaking of hot country, can anyone tell me how the Gretchen Wilson album is? I think it's pretty much universally acknowledged at this point (or, at least, should be) that "Redneck Woman" is, simple-ly and simply fairly brilliant - i.e., brilliant in its simplicity. But what of Here For the Party? Responses to the usual address, please.

And speaking of Gretchen - and, in this case, and pals - how 'bout her cohorts Big & Rich proving me wrong and going top 20 at country radio with "Save a Horse (Ride A Cowboy)"? Half the country stations in the U.S. seem to have banned it - but it's the #1 record at the other half. Country divided, what?

Friday, July 02, 2004

"Love shouldn’t hurt, and, more importantly, neither should fonts."

Ladies and gents, reason #1207 why I'm so proud to call Johnny one of my best friends.

As per Roadtrippin' 2004, Volume 3, which I'll post the tracklisting for, in all likelihood, tomorrow:

The thing most folks seem to miss, or at least overlook, in regards to Frank Zappa's one-and-only brush with the top 40, 1983's "Valley Girl" (with a vocal assist from his then-teenaged daughter Moon Unit Zappa), is that it's not a novelty record. "Valley Girl" is the kind of record Frank was always making - cf. "Bobby Brown," It just so happened that this one time, he had such a lightning-in-a-bottle zeitgeist moment, a hit (albeit small) was not to be denied him. And heaven knows the motherfucker was due.

For the record, I think that Zappa would've loved the absurdity of "Get Low," even while having no use for Lil' Jon's genius 808-heavy production.

I was eagerly sharing my top 100 of the '70s with my friend Scott the other day, when he made a most notable point. Scrolling over my list, Scott - who's a decade my senior - pointed out, that my '70s were "secondhand."

"How do you mean?"

"Your list is your impression of the '70s. When Aja came out, you were what, seven?"

"Six," I sheepishly corrected him.

"Exactly. You were able to, in essence, pick-and-choose the music of the '70s which fits you, who you are."

I protested that I got into Aja in my late teens, but to no avail. And Scott's absolutely right. It's because of my, er, musical youth that I love "Public Image," for example, a record that Scott, to his knowledge, has never heard. In 1978, whilst Lydon was, frankly, re-becoming John Lydon following the Pistols' implosion, Scott was listening to Linda Ronstadt's Living in the U.S.A. en route to seeing her perform at the L.A. Forum. I, meanwhile, was being force-fed my Mom's Carpenters records. But in remixing my musical - what, formation? - I was a hip 20-something (early 20-something, mind), digging PiL and Chic in equal measure. Only, having been all of 7 at the time, I now make it thus.

For pete's sake, I only first heard my #20 record of the '70s, Timmy Thomas' magnificent demo "Why Can't We Live Together," in the last year. History's written and reported - but it's also created, in a fashion. Particularly our own individual histories, be they cultural or otherwise.

My own musical memories of the '70s are sketchy at best; when the decade ended, I'd just turned 9. There were the Carpenters, to be sure. My parents went to a Statler Brothers concert once (that was mostly Dad's doing, I think). And I distinctly recall a certain enrapturement (is that a word, I wonder?) with the sound of Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife," coming from the midway of the 1978 Indiana State Fair; my Mom mocked the way in which Bridges sang the word "action" (which, as we all know, was "act-SHAWN"). But apart from those few scattered memories, and some other records of Mom's (Barry Manilow Live comes to mind), that's it until 1981, when I discovered American Top 40. Last night a DJ saved my life, indeed...

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Roadtrippin' 2004, Volume 2
01 SWV, "Anything (Wu-Tang Remix)"
02 Inner City, "Good Life"
03 Herbie Hancock, "Rockit"
04 Underworld, "Born Slippy (Rick's 2003 Edit)"
05 Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, "The Chicks I Pick Are Slender and Tender and Tall"
06 Ja Rule f/Bobby Brown, "Thug Lovin'"
07 U2, "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"
08 Unique 3, "The Theme"
09 Go Home Productions, "David X"
10 Vesta, "Don't Blow A Good Thing"
11 All Saints, "Pure Shores"
12 Usher f/Lil' Jon and Ludacris, "Yeah!"
13 AZ, "Sugar Hill"
14 Aretha Franklin, "Call Me"
15 The Smiths, "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"
16 Electric Six, "Gay Bar"
17 EBTG vs. Soul Vision, "Tracey In My Room"
18 Exposé, "Point of No Return"
19 Jadakiss f/Nate Dogg, "Time's Up!"

I miss S-Dub; "Anything" is a constant spray of sunshine. That segues much better than you might expect into Inner City (talk about sunshine) and Herbie. I bumped "Slippy" and Jordan against each other to see if I could get away with it, and did. "Thug Lovin'" is, inevitably, one of those records I'll spend the rest of my days defending; it's not about Ja, folks, it's about Bobby! [See these remarks of mine for more on Mr. Houston.] The GHP track should've gone where the ill-fitting U2 one did, but sometimes you don't figure these things out until the post-op. 11-16 is the centerpiece of this mix, I think, and works charmingly. I'm especially pleased with AZ-Aretha-Smiths, which actually works. "Tracey In My Room" and "Point of No Return" back-to-back is fine, too, actually, bringing the sunshine of Miami after the UK rain.

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