It may be that after “I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas,” I was feeling the need to balance out my Christmas karma, but mostly I was just poking around YouTube listening to various Rufus Wainwright tracks and I ran into this, which is actually from Renee Fleming’s 2014 album, Christmas in New York. The album is basically composed of duets between Renee and another artist, and “In the Bleak Midwinter” is the one song she does with Rufus. It’s also a lovely poem which I distantly remember from my school days, composed by Christina Rossetti of Goblin Market fame. The sad and slightly stern woman who appears twice in the slideshow is Christina (she’s the speaker, and I use those stills of her when she talks about “I”). While I’m not quite sure, I think the heart shaped key fob that appears near the end of the slideshow may actually be Ms. Rossetti’s. The music is by Gustav Holst, who some will remember as the composer of The Planets. I was trying to achieve a sombre but reverent mood, in keeping with the tone of the song, and I hope I have come close to achieving it, but obviously the final arbiter wil always be the audience.
This is a real change of pace, but it’s kind of an unusual song for Rufus, one that I suspect he wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. Written with Guy Chambers, “WW III” was intended to be a pop song, although the subject of global apocalypse is an unusual choice for someone interested in pop success. It actually appears on the second disc of the deluxe edition of Rufus’ “Best of” album. Since I pretty much had all of Rufus’ major lp releases, I never really bothered to listen to “Best of” collection and–in fact–only heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago. I was immediately struck by its beautiful piano line and the remarkable criss-crossing, building harmonies of the conclusion. The subject was also arresting, in that Rufus doesn’t usually write songs with such an overt political meaning (“Going to a Town” would be the exception). Granted, there is a romantic layer, but the song comes across as about 70% geopolitical. In the YouTube comments to the original video, I can see some people found the lyrics rather awkward (e.g. “Don’t bore us / Get to the chorus”), but I actually see them as an astute expression of the limits audience’s can impose on pop stars; people who want catchy hooks, not bleak ruminations about coming disaster. It is, of course, very Rufus-like to express all of these complexities and contradictions in a pop song, and a breathtakingly beautiful one at that. Hope you like it.
Loudon has long had an affinity for holiday songs that take slightly unusual perspectives. Family dinners (“Tnanksgiving“), the 1st day of April (“April Fools Day Morn“), and of course throwing out the old christmas tree at year’s end (“Suddenly It’s Christmas“), I was seriously considering the latter song as a possible topic for a slideshow when I ran into this one, again (like “Brand New Dance“) from Loudon’s 2014 studio album, Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet). It takes a rather different approach to the holiday, and is in fact the darkest Christmas song I can think of off hand (I suppose “Granda Got Run Over By a Reindeer” might be sort of in the same ballpark). Rather unusually for Loudon, it seems to come close to taking a stand on a controversial social issue, albeit an ironic stand. Apparently, at least in the U.S., Christmas day is among the most violent of the year, although less so than New Year’s (the safest day, strangely, is January 5th, presumably everybody is either too pooped from assaulting people on New Year’s, or just too hung over to commit any more crimes). The murders directly referenced in the slideshow are the Lawson Family murders (Germantown, North Carolina, 1929), the Covina Massacre (2009), and, with the stills at the end largely being of people who had the misfortune to be murdered around Christmas (including JonBenet Ramsey, who actually did not die from a gunshot). A number are from holdiay themed horror films (the Covina Massacre, which included a murderer in a Santa Suit and a home-made flame thrower, was for instance is referenced in the 2012 film, Silent Night, where a number of the stills come from). Most of the other photos are from advertisements or Christmas cards people have posted on the web, and are probably in no way intended the be ironic. While I admit to a certain curiousity about what comments I’ll get (if any), it’s a curiousity tempered by sadness in that I have pretty good idea about what a number of them will probably be. But hey, it wouldn’t be a family holiday without a few death threats.
This one is pretty self-explanatory (it originally appeared on my Unofficial Joe Walsh Cat Video page). It’s just one of those costs that comes from being a cat guardian, and it still seems like we humans are getting the better deal. The song is from Joe Walsh’s Analog Man album. Hope you enjoy. (and make sure your kitties know you are thankful for them this week).
While on the subject of adorable creatures who sometimes drive us crazy, here’s a charming song by The Wainwright Sisters (Martha and Lucy Wainwright Roche) that appears on their Watching the Dark album (the song was originally composed by Rosalie Sorrels). “Baby Rocking Medley” (aka “Hostile Baby Rocking Medley” and “Hostile Baby Rocking Song) is great fun, but you probably shouldn’t take it too seriously. Let’s face it, the original lullaby has some rather dark undertones (what’s that baby doing up in the tree anyway?) Hope you enjoy it.
Ever since I first saw and heard Elbow on an episode of Live from Abbey Road, I felt an immediate connection with the band. Not because we were from similar backgrounds or anything, because I recognized the beauty in what they were doing, and I’m pretty sure they recognized it too, although they were modest about it. They are a top ten band in the UK, filling stadiums and large halls, but tending to play small halls and large clubs in the U.S. Last week, I had the good fortune to see them first in a large club (The Observatory in Santa Ana) and then in a large hall (The Wiltern in Hollywood). Here’s a nice version of “The Bones of You” from their performance in Orange County Tuesday night.
And here’s a lovely version of “One Day Like This” from The Wiltern on Thursday:
Here’s the one Elbow slideshow I haven’t yet posted here, and its probably the least interesting in that it doesn’t really evolve or develop as much as it needs to. Still it’s a lovely song from the band, taken from a sensitive performance of it in 2015 on YouTube. I don’t think it’s terrible, but coming after “Scattered Black and Whites,” which I really think of as my best slideshow to date, it was a bit of a let down.
As you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of this band, although they aren’t especially well known in the U.S. I believe I first became aware of them when they appeared on an episode of Live from Abbey Road. I was impressed enough to buy their new album at the time, The Seldom Seen Kid, and was even more impressed by their i-tusnes concert. After Build a Rocket Boys, I was a fan, and after seeing them in oncert at The Wiltern on The Takeoff and Landing of Everything tour, I became a devoted follower of this Manchester band. Guy Garvey’s voice–rather like Rufus Wainwright’s although their voices aren’t that similar–just connects with me on some deep level. Their arrangements are intriguing, varied, and not really like anbody else, while their lyrics are deeply evocative of memories and emotions I had thought were private. I’ll be seeing them twice this week–once tonight in Santa Ana at The Observatory, and then on Thursday at The Wiltern. Their fans seem like genuinely nice and friendly people, an attitude the band seems to consciously foster by, for example, encouraging fans to post band-related material to their Facebook group.. This slideshow consciously recalls some of my other Elbow slideshows, including “Lost Worker Bee,” “Kindling (Fickle Flame),” “Scattered Black and Whites” (which frankly I consider my best slideshow to date), and “The Night Will Always Win.” The audio for Newborn is an extended version of the song from a Kendall Calling performance in 2015 (the song originally appeared on Asleep in the Back ).
“Poorman’s Sunshine” is a track from Donovan’s Beat Cafe album (2004). A very intriguing album that revisits Donovan’s early experiences with beat culture, this is a standout track, with some terrific upright bass playing and some simple yet fascinating lyrics, delivered with conviction by the Glaswegian bard. The slideshow was great fun to do, with the last section kind of deliberately recalling the Atlantis/1983 slideshow/video from a couple of months ago. Certainly part of the meaning of the song is that music can be a “poorman’s sunshine,” although I sort of expanded the meaning to suggest that sunshine–or happiness-exists wherever you find it, which is probably true for everyone, but it is probably more true for those living on the margins. Anyway, I hope you like it (I’m really quite proud of myself for this one), but even if you don’t, just close your eyes and groove on this fantastic, little-heard song.