November 20, 2008 by kyle@wyep.org
Check out the new David Byrne and Brian Eno video "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" There's also a free song download.
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November 17, 2008 by mike@wyep.org

91.3 WYEP celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Beatles, the only double album released by The Beatles. The record, one of the few major albums in rock history that is rarely called by its correct title (mostly called by its nickname The White Album), was released in the U.S. on November 25, 1968.

Listen to our audio features on the White Album at our On Demand audio page. Additional information about the record and its music is below. Also, feel free to share your thoughts about The White Album (via the "Leave a Reply" box at the bottom of this post)!

Local support provided by The Priory and The Grand Hall at The Priory.

Here's a look at the songs on the White Album in the original vinyl record sequence:

Side A:

1. Back in the U.S.S.R. (written by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Ringo Starr made an enormous contribution to the success of The Beatles, from his distinctive and tasteful drumming to his quick wit at early press conferences to his superior acting abilities in A Hard Day's Night. However, he was surrounded by such towering talents that he often got the short end of the stick in recognition, certainly from the public but even from his bandmates at times. During the recording of the White Album everything came to a dramatic apex, especially when, as legend has it, Paul McCartney would sometimes re-record Ringo's drums tracks with his own secret sessions behind the drum kits. On the evening of August 22, 1968, Ringo became the first Beatles to quit the band. He stormed out of Abbey Road studios, and promptly left the country to go on holiday. To add insult to injury, the rest of the band recorded "Back in the U.S.S.R." quite well without him, as the Fab Three with Paul on drums, taking a mere two days to complete the track, making Ringo seem indeed superfluous. The song was a Paul composition, a nifty pastiche of Beach Boys and Chuck Berry musical and lyrical ideas. Of course, some anti-rock & roll crusaders took the song as final admission once and for all that the band was an elaborate Iron Curtain plot to destroy a generation of Western youth. The well-known Beatles detractor David Noebel, author of such pamphlets as "Communism, Hypnotism and The Beatles," wrote of "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "obviously the lyrics have left even the Reds speechless." (later covered by Chubby Checker and Billy Joel)

2. Dear Prudence (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) When The Beatles went on an extended retreat to India for meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John took advantage of the pastoral setting and wrote a particularly productive number of songs. It was quite the scene at the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh; not only were The Beatles and their wives in residence, but the singer Donovan as well as actress Mia Farrow. "Dear Prudence" was written about Farrow's younger sister, who was also at the retreat in India. Prudence Farrow became a virtual hermit in almost constant mediatation, and Lennon sang of his and George's efforts to get her to leave her room and join the others in communal gatherings. (later covered by Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Five Stairsteps, and the Jerry Garcia Band)

3. Glass Onion (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) John Lennon's compositions on the White Album are chock full of the clever and imagistic wordplay that was his hallmark. He also delved into montage, from the song quilt "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" to the sound collage "Revolution 9" to the tour of Beatles songs past, "Glass Onion." As put by a 1968 album review, the "Glass Onion" has "fun with all the Ph. D. candidates doing theses on their lyric content" with "all sorts of references to characters in their earlier works." The song alludes to five previous Beatles songs, including "Strawberry Fields Forever," "I Am the Walrus," "Lady Madonna," "The Fool on the Hill," and "Fixing a Hole."

4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Paul McCartney knew a Nigerian-born percussionist in London named Jimmy Scott who frequently used a Yoruba language expression "ob-la-di ob-la-da," or "life goes on." The Beatle plucked the saying for use in a song. From the beginning the song gave The Beatles headaches in the studio trying to record it. The band did numerous takes and retakes of the song, trying to satisfy the increasingly perfectionist McCartney. In the early versions, the song had an acoustic guitar-based arrangement. After one otherwise flawless run-through of the song, Paul realized that he mixed up the lyrics. Instead of singing, "Molly stays at home and does her pretty face" as he had written, he sang "Desmond" instead of Molly. After consideration, he decided to leave the mistake as is to give fans something to ponder. Of course, at this stage of The Beatles' career, listeners didn't need any assistance trying to decode hidden meanings in the band's lyrics. One contemporaneous reviewer, reading a little tenuously into the song's title, wondered if there was significance that the title was an anagram for "diablo," Spanish for "devil." The song used a ska beat, not very common at the time in mainstream pop songs. The beat is a little obscured in The Beatles' recording, but it's emphasized more in other cover versions. After so many attempts to get the sound right for the song, one night John walked into the studio in a fairly altered state of mind and sat down at the piano. Declaring to the others that "this is it!" he smashed the piano keys with a faster, harder, and somewhat more ragged intro to the song. That difference in energy turned out to be just the change that the song needed. (later covered by Marmalade, Youssou N'Dour, and Jimmy Cliff)

5. Wild Honey Pie (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) A bit of a nonsense song which merely repeats "honey pie" several times over some quirky music and concludes with a sung "I love you, honey pie!" Exactly the sort of song that makes one understand why George Martin wanted to trim the White Album to a single disc. (oddly, later covered by The Pixies)

6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) Written by Lennon in India after observing an American woman and her teenage son go tiger hunting and then returned to the meditation camp to continue their spiritual studies. It was described by one reviewer as "a cunningly simple ditty that flashes with hints of America's burgeoning violence and shrinking mythology." The song also marks the first time that a Beatles' significant other sang a lead vocal, if only for one line (the line "not when he looked so fierce.."). Both Yoko Ono and Ringo's wife Maureen sing on the recording, but only Yoko gets a feature line.

7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (composed by Harrison) George Harrison's greatest contribution to the White Album, and high up on the list of his crowning achievements on any Beatles album, was his song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The history of the track was interesting, beginning with the randomness which informed its very genesis. Inspired by the I Ching, Harrison picked up a book selected arbitrarily, opened up to a random page, and would write a song based on the first words he saw. The phrase was "gently weeps." The song began life as an acoustic guitar number, one which had that same plaintive emotion found in the final version. Originally, the song had an extra verse that George cut before recording the final version ("I look from the wings at the play you are staging/While my guitar gently weeps/As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but aging/Still my guitar gently weeps"). On September 6, 1968, while driving in London, George was telling his buddy Eric Clapton about recording this song and finally asked him to perform on it. While The Beatles had plenty of little known session musicians on their records, they had never had a guest star play on one of their records. However, the public wouldn't be initially aware of this musical cameo, as Clapton was never credited in the album's liner notes. After hearing his performance, Clapton was unsure how it worked with the song, thinking the solo didn't didn't sound "Beatley" enough. So they mixed the guitar part through an electronic device designed for John Lennon to use for his vocals, and the result was deemed quite suitable by all. (later covered by Peter Frampton, Jeff Healey Band, and Marc Ribot)

8. Happiness Is a Warm Gun (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) On this song, Lennon stitched together three different new song snippets to form the one final composition. There was the "I need a fix" section, the "Mother Superior jumped the gun" piece, and the section which gave the song its title (the "happiness is a warm gun, bang bang, shoot shoot" section). (later covered by Tori Amos, U2, and The Breeders)

Side B:

1. Martha My Dear (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Dan Wilson, formerly of the band Semisonic, underscores how a song can be diminished when you know its backstory with McCartney's tune "Martha My Dear." Actually written about McCartney's sheepdog Martha, Wilson says that when he found out that fact, "I was just deflated by the revelation -- I had had my own mental images... and to learn that" it was a dog "was such a letdown." (later covered by Slade)

2. I'm So Tired (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) John's companion piece to his earlier "I'm Only Sleeping." Following Lennon's "I'm So Tired," one can hear him mumbling, ostensibly saying "Monseiur, monseiur, how 'bout another one?" Listeners had been scouring Beatles' releases to divine special messages and hidden meanings for a long time, and beginning in 1969, the practice evolved into the "Paul is Dead" rumor, that McCartney had died in a car crash and was replaced by a lookalike, illustrated by a string of clues scattered throughout the band's albums. These rumor proponents believed that Lennon's mumbling was a backwards message saying "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him."

3. Blackbird (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) A song partially inspired by the civil rights movement in the U.S., but its message was horribly mangled by at least one listener. The mass murderer Charles Manson thought that the White Album was a personal message to him to try to start a race war and the word "rise" was scrawled at one of the murder sites, supposedly because of McCartney's use of "arise" in this song. (later covered by Bobby McFerrin and Sarah McLachlan)

4. Piggies (composed by Harrison) George's writing was often about the mystical and the sublime, he was also sometimes rather cynically worldly in his songs. Like "Taxman" several years before, Harrison mocked establishment types and English society in "Piggies." Originally, George had slightly different lyrics in the line about the piggies clutching forks and knives ("clutching forks and knives to cut their pork chops") but Lennon suggested switching "pork chops" to "bacon" making the metaphorical suggestion of cannibalism more clear.

5. Rocky Raccoon (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) A country-folk storytelling number. The Chicago Tribune's initial review of the album proclaimed it the critic's favorite from the record. (later covered by Richie Havens and Jack Johnson)

6. Don't Pass Me By (composed by Starkey) Up until the White Album, Ringo's songwriting credits included merely one-third of "What Goes On," the lone Lennon-McCartney-Starkey composition in the Beatles' catalogue, and the Magical Mystery Tour instrumental "Flying," attributed to all four band members. But Ringo finally completed a song that he had been working on since the group's early days, "Don't Pass Me By," Ringo's first song recorded with The Beatles. (later covered by The Georgia Satellites)

7. Why Don't We Do It in the Road? (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) The White Album was a sprawling collection of styles, from heavy blues-rock to folk-pop to fiddle-drenched country to old-time music hall. This diversity was a strength to some listeners and a weakness to others, particularly when contrasted to the previous year's masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. As Time magazine put it in their review, "skill and sophistication abound, but so does a faltering sense of taste and purpose." Producer George Martin suggested to The Beatles that they cut the number of songs down by half, but the songwriters didn't want to compromise their individual visions. Paul McCartney's contributions to the set were a large part of that sonic diversity, contributing the Beach Boys take-off "Back in the U.S.S.R." as well as the spare "I Will." But while all of Paul's songs are memorable, a number are clearly fluff, or at least ranking in the lower echelons of the Lennon-McCartney catalogue. Just as Lennon was adding to album's the signal-to-noise ratio with his sound effect pastiche "Revolution 9," McCartney was similarly adding empty calories to the album with several non-songs, like the two-line, raunch-rock of "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (later covered by Lydia Lunch)

8. I Will (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) "I Will" was a fairly straightforward song, a typical Paul dreamy love song made distinctive by its clip-clop percussion. Some complained that it wasn't even terribly original, sounding rather similar to the band's song "I'll Follow the Sun" from four years previous. Still, it turned out rather popular over the years with other folk-leaning performers, from Art Garfunkel to Hugh Masekela to Ben Taylor to Alison Krauss.

9. Julia (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) The White Album featured one song that ranked among the most personal of John's career, his ode to his late mother, "Julia." Lennon began the song with a reference to poet Khalil Gibran's 1926 piece "Sand and Foam." Gibran wrote "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you." John's version was "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you, Julia." "Julia" was the only song in the Beatles catalog that Lennon recorded solely by himself without any assistance from his bandmates. (later covered by Ramsey Lewis and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood)

Side C:

1. Birthday (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Despite Paul's reputation of tending towards schmaltz and syrupy pop in his songwriting, he always had a passion for Little Richard style belters and full-on rock 'n' roll. On the evening of Sept. 18, 1968, The Beatles took a break from recording and went a couple of blocks away to Paul's house to watch a BBC screening of the 1956 movie The Girl Can't Help It, which featured Little Richard himself, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, and The Platters. Afterwards, they went back to Abbey Road studios and immediately recorded "Birthday." "Birthday" was a song that Paul essentially wrote in the studio that same day it was recorded. (later covered by Underground Sunshine, in a version which charted in the U.K.)

2. Yer Blues (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) One of John Lennon's legacies as a songwriter is the absolutely fearless confessional style he evolved, particularly notably in his early solo albums. His songs for the White Album were a key part of this development in his approach. As early as the 1965 single "Help!," Lennon was trying to stretch the boundaries of pop music away from its usual light romantic fare and into expressions of his own insecurities. However, not all of John's musical expressions of misery and woe should be taken at face value. "Yer Blues" is full of heavy emotional imagery, but it was intended as a parody of blues and not a confessional at all. And yet in retrospect, one can't help but compare the lyrics to some of Lennon's early solo work. Just as "Yer Blues" refers to Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" ("feel so suicidal, just like Dylan's Mr. Jones") and proclaims rock & roll as little salvation from life's troubles ("feel so suicidal, even hate my rock and roll"), so too does Lennon's solo song "God" refer to Dylan, using his real last name ("I don't believe in Zimmerman") and proclaims a disbelief in both Elvis and The Beatles as figures of salvation ("I don't believe in Beatles").

3. Mother Nature's Son (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Paul wrote "Mother Nature's Son" while in India with the rest of the Beatles at a meditation retreat run by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi gave a lecture on nature one day that had strong impact on both McCartney and John Lennon. It inspired Paul to write "Mother Nature's Son" and John composed "Child of Nature" which several years later turned into "Jealous Guy." In another sign of growing tensions within the band, there was a moment while recording "Mother Nature's Son" when Paul was working with producer George Martin and several horn players hired for the session. Everybody was having a good time when John and Ringo walked into the room. Suddenly, in the words of a studio engineer present, "you could cut the atmosphere with a knife." The other Beatles stayed for only ten minutes or so, and then the tenseness disappeared as suddenly as it came on. (later covered by Harry Nilsson, John Denver, and Sheryl Crow)

4. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) A number of Lennon's songs are written about his then-new relationship with Yoko Ono, including "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey." During the sessions for the White Album, Lennon first brought Yoko with him to the studio. Not only was Yoko present but she felt free to offer suggestions and criticisms, ratcheting up the discontent and tensions between The Beatles. (later covered by Fats Domino and The Feelies)

5. Sexy Sadie (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) Originally titled "Maharishi," the song bitterly detailed how betrayed Lennon felt after the spiritual advisor (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) was accused of a romantic entanglement with one of his students, leading John and George to leave India and cease studying with the Maharishi. The song was written after the two Beatles had just left the ashram, actually in the car angrily heading away. George convinced John to retitle and slightly rework the song, so it wasn't so directly slanderous.

6. Helter Skelter (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Called upon its release as "perhaps the most frantic, compelling number the group has ever done." In fact, the song is a result of Paul's one-upmanship. He heard an interview with Pete Townshend of The Who talking about their famously loud, raucous sound, and Paul decided The Beatles needed to record a track as loud and sweaty as any band in the music scene. And rambunctious it was. Ringo's famous concluding yell ("I've got blisters on my fingers!") was the result of intense jamming on the heavy rock number. In fact, one unreleased take of the song is perhaps the most sought-after Beatles recording never to be bootlegged or heard by the public thus far: an epic 27 minute long version of the song. The song was among those that mass murderer Charles Manson interpreted as a personal message to him, assigning the name "Helter Skelter" to the violent race war that he believed it was his mission to start. The lyrics are actually written about a children's playground slide. (later covered by Siouxsie & the Banshees, U2, Pat Benatar, and even Mötley Crüe)

7. Long, Long, Long (composed by Harrison) The Beatles were always open to sonic accidents when recording their music. Sometimes it was a little touch and other times major, but one of these can be heard at the end of another George composition, "Long, Long, Long." A wine bottle left on top of a speaker began to rattle when a certain note was played on the organ. They kept it in the final version of the song to add a mysterious-sounding touch. (later covered by Low and Tanya Donnelly)

Side D:

1. Revolution 1 (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) The first song that The Beatles recorded in the studio for the White Album. It eventually became the only song on the album to also be released as a single, albeit with a different arrangement, and it was quite a rocker. The album one, officially titled "Revolution 1," is remembered for being the slower, somewhat bluesy version, compared to the harder-edged single. The Lennon-penned number began life as a chaotic, caterwauling epic, with one take running to more than 10 minutes long, but "Revolution 1," the less-intense album version, was John's original intent. Always looking for a way to make his voice sound different, John tried recording the vocals while lying on the studio floor. Perhaps the vibe was a touch too laid back, though; George and Paul didn't think the song was upbeat enough for the group's next single, so John goosed the tempo and ferocity for the single arrangement.

2. Honey Pie (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily Paul) Continuing Paul's forays into the music hall mannerisms he showcased on Sgt. Pepper's "When I'm 64" and in Magical Mystery Tour's "Your Mother Should Know." (later covered by Tuck & Patti and even Barbra Streisand)

3. Savoy Truffle (composed by Harrison) George's songs were finally starting to get their due with the White Album. Rather than his usual allotment of one song per album, this time he was accorded exactly one song per vinyl side. "Savoy Truffle" was inspired by George's close friend Eric Clapton, who had a vicious sweet tooth and simply could not pass up chocolates. George took many of the sweets mentioned in the song (the cream tangerine, ginger sling, and so forth) copied straight off the box of a candy sampler. Included in the lyric was a swipe at the sometimes toxic atmosphere between The Beatles in the studio during the recording of the album. George sings "we all know ob-la-di, bla-da" referencing both Paul's song and the Yoruba language translation of the phrase, "life goes on." Perhaps reminded of the endless takes the band attempted of "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" due to Paul's perfectionism, George also sings "But what is sweet now, turns so sour." (later covered by They Might Be Giants and Ella Fitzgerald)

4. Cry Baby Cry (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) Coming on the heels of the band's disastrous Magical Mystery Tour film, which took a merciless drubbing by the critics, the White Album was the real start of the band's latter-era intractable tension. Ringo quit the band for a couple of days at one point, only to be coaxed back. It wasn't only the band who was affected; during the recording of "Cry Baby Cry," one of the band's talented studio engineers, Geoff Emerick, who had no small contribution to the sound of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's walked out, unable to deal with the strained atmosphere. Even producer George Martin departed in the middle of recording to go on vacation and left his assistant in charge of recording The Beatles. But despite the unpleasantness, the music was still inspirational. John Lennon wrote a few classics for the White Album, but many of his more run-of-the-mill compositions were still top-notch. One example is "Cry Baby Cry." A critic wrote upon the album's release that "'Cry Baby Cry' demonstrates anew The Beatles' knack for rendering an Alice-in-Wonderland vision in a melancholy modern vein." Interestingly, after "Cry Baby Cry" concludes on the album, but before the next track begins, the "Revolution 9" sound montage, an unrelated Paul McCartney song pops in briefly. This brief snippet of song (which could be called "Can You Take Me Back," from its lyrics) is not included on the album tracklisting, is not part of the album lyrics that were part of the original packaging, and is not among the songs officially published by the band. It's almost like a brief, official bootleg of an otherwise unreleased song by the group. ("Cry Baby Cry" later covered by Richard Barone, Throwing Muses, and interestingly, punk band Samiam)

5. Revolution 9 (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) Lennon's vision for the song was to have the song "Revolution" segue into a montage of music and sound effects which would sonically depict the revolution sang about in the musical portion. The "Revolution 9" piece was eventually moved away from its parent song, and tucked away at nearly the album's end, but it remained a brutal assault on the ears, resembling not so much a revolution as a waking nightmare. While the other Beatles and producer George Martin were strongly opposed to its inclusion on the final album, John and his then-new girlfriend Yoko Ono were proud of it as avant garde art and successfully fought for it to remain. Despite "Revolution 9" being perhaps the most despised and least-listened to track on any Beatles' album, it does have its fans. The band Phish once covered the entire White Album in concert from start to finish, even doing a surprisingly faithful live rendition of the piece.

6. Good Night (composed by Lennon-McCartney, primarily John) Traditionally, Ringo was given one spotlight lead vocal per album, usually written for him by one of the others. Ringo had often tried his hand at songwriting, but without much success. He liked to joke that whenever he wrote a song, the others would laugh as they pointed out that he had merely copped the melody of another song. On the White Album, John contributed a song to be a Ringo's vocal turn. John had written "Good Night" as a lullaby for his son Julian, and he instructed producer George Martin to score an overly lush Hollywood-style orchestral arrangement for the track. Although it was tucked away at the end of the album after the ominous "Revolution 9," the piece attracted notice with both critics and fans. The Chicago Tribune opined that it "should prove once and for all that the Beatles can do anything." (later covered by The Carpenters, Kenny Loggins, and Manhattan Transfer)

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November 9, 2008 by laxhippy@netscape.net
It's been a week now since my last dose of Gov't Mule and I am still content.  As a longtime fan I had gone to the show with a touch of apprehension.  This would be my first time seeing the Mule since the departure of recent bass fixture, Andy Hess.   The Kinder Revolution tour, which runs through a two-night stand at the Fillmore in San Francisco on November 22nd, is Jorgen Carlsson's first trip out with the group.  I confess to not digging up any info on the man, because I didn't want to form an opinion before hearing him live. This was my first trip out to the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead and I have to say that I am thoroughly pleased with this venue.  Dig this:  once inside you can actually leave the venue and re-enter.   Let me repeat that.  This venue has no code against re-entry.  I was dumbfounded by this.  It seems every venue in town refuses to let you go outside and catch a breath of fresh air or take a little walk around the block if the mood strikes you.  Some venues are even charging you to get a wristband so you can take a cigarette break (without naming names, I'm looking at Carson Street on that one).  The absolute freedom of the venue was refreshing.  The two bands performing within it even more so. Back Door Slam, a blues-rock power trio from the Isle of Man, who fit perfectly with Gov't Mule's sound opened the night.  It's easy to see why Warren Haynes and company chose them to open.  They have the same spirit and level of talent of the early trio version of Gov't Mule.  They must have played a thousand notes and each one of them was the right note.  I'm looking forward to the next Pittsburgh show from this group. I do miss Hess's dirty rock 'n roll groove, but was not disappointed by Carlsson's playing.  The band came out fired up with a rendition of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," despite the one-song absence of Danny Louis on keys.  Then they jammed on their own composition "Painted Silver Light" from their debut disc.  The set covered a lot of ground, but had a definite early-Mule bent.  They reprised "I Think You Know What I Mean" (from Life Before Insanity) into Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" back into "I Think You Know What I Mean" like they did at their Byham Theatre show a few years back. In the second set, after a nice leisurely walk around the venue of course, "Temporary Saint" was another highlight.  Warren's voice had that cool Southern ache that only his guitar could match for emotional force.  A few tunes later the band left Matt Abts to stun the audience with ten+ minutes of primal drumming.  He rocked his first solo with sticks, his second with mallets, and his third with his bare hands.  The theatre went nuts.  The band's encore saw the return of Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam trading solos with Warren on the Muddy Waters tune "Champagne & Reefer" and Cream's "Politician". To me the evening's two sets played out like a sweet long road trip.  I'll most likely be picking this up from Mule Tracks and playing it in my car religiously.  Now I just need a destination... reprinted from www.mule.net Set 1 War Pigs Trio-without Danny Louis Painted Silver Light A Million Miles From Yesterday Slackjaw Jezebel I Think You Know What I Mean-> When The Levee Breaks-> I Think You Know What I Mean No Need To Suffer I Shall Return Lay Your Burden Down Little Wing Set 2 Ballerina Get Behind The Mule Temporary Saint Effigy-> Drums Left Coast Groovies Mule Encore Champagne & Reefer with Davey Knowles Politician with Davey Knowles
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November 9, 2008 by barbmstein@aol.com
This is a concert review from a figure skating event for charity.  Normally, I don't really care who is providing live accompaniment, as I'm there to watch what's moving on the ice.  This time, the artist almost out-shined the World and Olympic skaters. It was the 9th An Evening With Scott Hamilton and Friends in Cleveland.  The featured musical guest was Kenny Loggins along with The Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Carl Topilow, Conductor. The stage is at one end of the ice.  The skaters perform routines to the live music.  You've seen this format on TV.  The only difference is, these annual shows that Scott Hamilton hosts are one-time only live events that are not taped for future broadcast. When you see Kenny Loggins perform you realize how many songs he's written that have become hits.  From the Electric Prunes to Loggins and Messina and a successful solo career with many movie theme songs to his credit, Kenny Loggins' career has spanned over three decades. Kenny didn't really need to encourage the audience to sing along.  Many of us grew up listening to his music on the radio.  You instantly recognized songs like "Celebrate Me Home" or "Your Mama Don't Dance".  Kenny got one of the skaters (Caryn Kadavy) to sing along with him on stage.  Even though I was watching the skater's routines, I was singing and clapping. Kenny has a lot of energy and brought with him a four-piece band, who also provided backing vocals.  Kenny, at center stage, had the best view of the skaters interpreting his songs on the ice.  The Cleveland Pops Orchestra (especially the strings) provided a richer sound to Kenny's music.  Kenny did a song from his most recent CD "How About Now", which was just exquisite with the orchestra.  He did a couple of songs from his 1991 release "Leap of Faith" which were very well received. The 60-year-old singer-songwriter still knows how to entertain an audience, even when the main focus is not on him.  It was a very pleasant 90-minutes listening to Kenny Loggins while watching my favorite sport. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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October 28, 2008 by Andy C
Five years ago last Tuesday, Elliott Smith died of an apparent suicide. It always seemed pretty obvious that he was rather uneasy at times with life. I'm not going to offer some long writing on why he was important or why I think he wrote such great melodies. I obviously did not know him, and don't pretend I understood what made him so good. However, I will offer three things that come to mind immediately for me with Elliott Smith. 1)My cat. I have a cat named Adeline, who is named after his song "Sweet Adeline". Adeline is not sweet. She's mean, self-centered, and rude. I love her to death. 2)I saw him in concert for the first time when I was 18. The whole "Good Will Hunting" thing had just happened. He was opening for Ben Folds Five and Beck at Star Lake. He only did about 8 songs, but it was fantastic. 3)I then saw him again on Halloween about 3 years later at CMU. It was after his release "Figure 8" came out. The band and him were in Halloween costumes. Elliott was wearing a monk outfit, but with his thin frame, and long brown hair, someone mistook him for the lord almighty and shouted, "Jesus!!" in between the first and second song. He was obviously bummed out by this. In his soft voice he said, "Awww, no. It's just a monk outfit. It's not Jesus... I mean... I don't think I'm Jesus." The tenderness with which he said it made it rather funny to me. He is still missed.
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October 24, 2008 by barbmstein@aol.com

Joan Osborne came back to Pittsburgh after a long absence and hopefully she will return soon to do the songs she didn’t have time to get to in her 16-song, 1-hour and 20-minute set.

The 46-year old singer, by my count, did at least five songs from her latest CD “Little Wild One” which was released in September.  The song that seemed to get the loudest applause was “Hallelujah in the City”.  She did a nice duet with her opening act, Matt Morris, on “Cathedrals”.  Joan’s 7th studio album has a lot of the mid-tempo type songs that she’s known for.

With Joan was a 4-piece band consisting of a drummer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist (who, like Joan, also played harmonica).  There was also lighting that made effective use of the high ceilings in the former church.

Most of Joan’s songs had a beat, although she slowed things down at one point with a Grateful Dead song  Joan, of course, did “One of Us” near the end of her set and I can still hear it in my head.

Joan came back on stage for a 3-song encore, which included a song she sang at the Grand Ole Opry that was co-written by Roy Orbison.

http://www.joanosborne.com/site.php

Matt Morris, the son of country music’s Gary Morris, is a singer-songwriter who has had his songs recorded by Reba McEntire, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.  He opened the show with a 45-minute, 9-song set that included his own songs as well as a cover of The Beatles “Help!”.  It was Matt’s first appearance in Pittsburgh and he commented that he liked the “public radio listening audience.”  Matt performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this year and plans to release his first full length CD soon.

http://www.mattmorris.net/

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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October 22, 2008 by ChrisFridayNight@aol.com
It's that time of year when a young man's (or even slightly aging hipster's) fancy turns to thoughts of picking the best releases of the year. This list could change hourly, but here it is and I'm sticking with it.

1) What Made Milwaukee Famous / What Doesn’t Kill Us / Barsuk

Hook-laden and sometimes challenging, the sophomore release from the Austin band mixes New Wave and classic pop influences. It gets better upon repeated listening.

 

2) Paul Weller / 22 Dreams / Yep Roc

Weller’s most diverse solo album to date. A mix of songs and styles that most artists—and labels—wouldn’t dare to release.

 

3) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings / 100 Days, 100 Nights / Dap Tone

A great ’70s style soul singer with one of the tightest backing bands around—an unforgettable mix

 

4) Richard Hawley / Lady’s Bridge / Mute

The Sheffield crooner is back with another can’t-miss collection of velvety ballads

 

5) Joe Jackson / Rain / Rykodisc

His voice has never sounded better and his trio is sparse but powerful

 

6) The Last Shadow Puppets / Age of the Understatement / Domino

When the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and The Rascals’ Miles Kane collaborate everything is cool—down to the CD jacket. Hopefully it will lead people to discover earlier arbiters of cool David Axelrod and Scott Walker whose vibes flow through the disc.

 

7) Matthew Sweet / Sunshine Lies / Shout Factory

It’s not quite Girlfriend, but it’s pretty damn close

 

8) Portishead / Third / Mercury

A great return that moves beyond the whole trip-hop trap.

 

9) Mgmt / Oracular Spectacular / Sony

Psychedelic indie pop that out Flaming Lips the Flaming Lips

 

10) Jim Noir / Jim Noir / Barsuk

Second album from worshipper of Brian Wilson. More electronic and experimental but just as melodic as his first.

 

 

10) Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul / Reprise

Oasis likes The Beatles. Who knew? The influence is there but with a new spin. And there’s even a sitar!

 

Also deserving attention: Billy Bragg / Mr. Love And Justice; Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes; Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend; David Ford / Songs For The Road; R.E.M / Accelerate; James / Hey Me; Duffy / Rockferry; Jeremy / Pop Explosion; Band of Horses / Cease to Exist; Glen Campbell / Meet Glen Campbell; Crosby Tyler / 10 Songs of America Today; Old 97s / Blame it On Gravity; Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels / EP

 

 

Best reissue: The Jesus And Mary Chain / The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides and Rarities

 

Best tribute CD: Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies

Chris Fletcher

 

Best series: BBC live recordings

 
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October 19, 2008 by barbmstein@aol.com
To me he's not just the younger brother of James Taylor.  He's been performing for 40 years and has more than earned the right to no longer be in the shadow of JT. Livingston Taylor brought four-decades worth of experience along with a guitar and piano to The Carlisle Theater in historic downtown Carlisle, PA.  During week days Liv guides young talent at the Berklee College of Music; while in the evenings and weekends he instructs the rest of us what it's like to command an audience.  Going to a Livingston Taylor show you learn from the master who has honed his craft and continues to perfect it. I had a front row center seat, which isn't always the best seat in the house.  When Liv was singing at the piano, I only saw his face from the nose up.  So my focus turned to his feet.  Liv kept time, like a pendulum, with his feet.  I was fascinated.  He looked very comfortable wearing his brown Swede shoes and keeping time to the music.  Liv also moved his feet while he was standing and playing his guitar.  I also enjoyed watching Liv's facial expressions, especially his eyes. The 90-minute show began with Liv going to the piano to sing "December 1903 (The Wright Brothers Song)".  One of my favorite songs that Liv has yet to put on a CD.  Liv had on his trademark bow tie, with a colorful sweater vest over a long-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants. Throughout the show Liv would go from Broadway tunes by some of his favorite lyricists to his own compositions, many of which he presented seamlessly in a medley form.  Although the best response from the audience came when he did quirky songs with titles like "Railroad Bill", "The Dollar Bill Song", "I'm Not As Herbal As I Oughta Be" and a song about wishing he was born gay.  I don't think there was a set list, instead it seemed to be whatever struck Liv's fancy or what types of songs were receiving the loudest applause.  He rotated between playing the piano and guitar.  Liv even brings the audience into a sound check, by singing "Testing 1-2-3" into the microphone. Another highlight was his song about the Civil War called "Last Letter".  Liv came out for an encore, ending with a song that has been a part of his repertoire for many years "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." As his usual custom, Liv strolled out into the theater lobby after the show to sign CD's (they always sound better signed, he's fond of saying) and pose for photos. Now if only the powers that be (and you know who you are) could get Livingston Taylor back to Pittsburgh for a show.  Summers don't seem complete any more without Liv here to entertain us. http://www.livtaylor.com/ Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
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September 29, 2008 by kyle@wyep.org
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Posted in
September 29, 2008 by kyle@wyep.org
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be playing this year's Superbowl Halftime show in Tampa, Florida. Other recent halftime acts have included Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2.
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September 21, 2008 by barbmstein@aol.com
Once a guy who was playing his guitar while singing in front of a store met a gal selling flowers who needed her vacuum to be repaired.  They ended up making beautiful music together.  Only a good plot for a movie?  Maybe not. Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and The Frames came to Pittsburgh as The Swell Season.  Glen and Marketa were greeted with applause as they took the stage and began singing "Into the Mystic".  Usually performers save their most well known song for near the end of a show or even the encore, building momentum throughout the set.  The 2nd song they did was "Falling Slowly", and the concert managed to soar upwards from there. Glen has the craft of building a song and false endings perfected.  He's very entertaining, engaging, endearing; in addition to being gifted with a great sense of humor.  Some performers wear their hearts and emotions on their sleeves, Glen can't keep his emotions contained. Being a Presidential election year, Glen could not resist encouraging us to all go out to vote, and then suggested a candidate to cast our ballot for (and it sounded like the audience, for the most part, agreed with his choice). All the musicians had their time in the spotlight.  Glen and Marketa showcased their talents together and as soloists.  Glen often encouraged us to sing along (and we did!).  Each song was well received with generous applause. It was a 65-minute show, with a standing ovation, followed by a 35-minute encore.  The Frames were in a semi-circle on the stage with lights behind them at stage level, essentially framing them.  When Marketa was at the piano, her back was turned to the audience.  She did take center stage with the guitar to sing a couple of times and Glen went to the piano.  The Frames violinist shined on many songs throughout; he was given a chance during the encore to shine on his own. Glen seemed to appreciate the response from the audience and recalled how they are now able to play bigger theaters thanks to the success of "Once".  They sang many songs from that soundtrack, plus songs from The Frames as well as a couple of brand new songs, which may soon become fan favorites. What a swell evening of music.  I can't wait to hear more from Glen, Marketa and The Frames in the future.  Bill Callahan (also known as "Smog") opened the show.  He sang and played electric guitar; accompanied by a drummer for his 45-minute set. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host P.S. Glen's local musican friend who joined him on stage is Mark Dignam: http://www.myspace.com/markdignam
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September 16, 2008 by barbmstein@aol.com

A full harvest moon, a full club (with electricity!) and two talented singer-songwriters.

Shawn Mullins made his second appearance in Pittsburgh this year, opening for Dar Williams.  Shawn came on stage at 8 pm in blue jeans, white shirt with a tie, sport coat and hat.  Still out in support of “honeydew”, which was released in March, he sang a few songs from that CD, including the tragic true tale of “The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston” and the song that was heard in the TV show “Scrubs” “All in My Head”, adding his thanks to WYEP for the airplay.  Shawn remembered Rosebud across the river and said “Beautiful Wreck” was inspired by playing in such venues.  He reminded us that he was briefly in a group called The Thorns, with Pete Droge and Matthew Sweet (who he noted will be coming to Pittsburgh soon).  When Shawn talked about The Thorns CD, I clapped in recognition, not realizing I was the only one who was acknowledging the CD.  Shawn looked in my direction and said that his parents bought a copy of the CD and now he knows who bought the other copy.  Here's my copy of The Thorns CD, which I got signed by Shawn years ago (and it reminds me I should get Pete and Matthew’s signatures someday too). 

[gallery]

While Shawn was in high school, he took one of those career education courses.  One day Amy Ray (now of the Indigo Girls) performed for the class, and this apparently helped to inspire Shawn.  Amy even wrote Shawn a 10-page letter to encourage him.  I love it when singer-songwriters tell stories about their songs, even ones they did not write.  Normally I’m not a fan of “covers”, but Shawn’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” (written by a female and sung from that prospective) is a natural fit.  Shawn wrapped up his 65-minute acoustic set with his Australian hit “Shimmer” and a medley :) of his hit “Lullaby”.

Shawn Mullins and Dar Williams have been friends for years, so it’s only natural that they are now touring together.

Dar Williams came with her guitar, a percussionist, and a keyboardist to tell us that Pittsburgh is one of her favorite cities.  In fact if she had six houses, one would be in Pittsburgh.  Dar is an engaging performer who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about her music.  Almost bubbling over.  Dar mentioned a couple of times she was disappointed that she could not play at WYEP that afternoon (due to the power outage) and that she sent an email to her management company to book another show in Pittsburgh along with a visit to WYEP (she mentioned maybe in January).  Dar only played a couple of tracks from her new CD “Promised Land”, including the first release the catchy “It’s Alright”.  Requests were shouted from the audience, and Dar obliged her fans a couple of times.  Her back-up group gave the songs an even fuller sound from the small stage.  Dar’s blend of “folk-pop” was mostly up-tempo during her 95-minute set, except when she sent her band off-stage so she could sing a couple of songs without accompaniment.  She also returned to the stage alone to do one song for the encore.

A full moon shined down on the South Side, as we were treated to over 2-1/2 hours of music by 2 amazing singer-songwriters.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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September 15, 2008 by davidmhutchinson@gmail.com
I was going to write a mini-bio to precede the John Vanderslice interview below, but I can't really tell you anything that way that you couldn't read somewhere else.I can tell you that I did once ride the subway with him.  I sat a few seats away with a friend while John talked to two kids on an otherwise empty Manhattan train.  He asked them how they liked CMJ so far, what bands they had seen, how their stay in New York was going.  He never mentioned that he was a musician himself.  Never mentioned that he was also attending CMJ.  Never mentioned that he had his own showcase in the halls of Lincoln Center.  He was simply talking to some kids from somewhere that was not New York City about how their week was going.

I have the feeling that if I had written John 100 questions, I might have gotten 100 responses (or maybe 97 - one question I asked about his appraisal of the Rick Ross scandal went unanswered).  John Vanderslice is one of those people who seem to fill every second of every day re-recording entire albums in a chicken coop or taking a photo of a trebuchet or concocting a video blog tour or running a recording studio or opening for Death Cab for Cutie, in between eating a bagel or reading the paper or talking to his mom on the telephone.  It's like he takes all these stories and experiences we're all exposed to everyday and scraps them into beautiful little snowglobes. Below are my questions and John's answers, traded over email.  All punctuation and text credited to John are his own. -Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday WYEP: First of all, I have to say - I love the black coat you are wearing on the cover of Emerald City.  Where did you get it? JV: it's from my ex-girlfriend's store minnie wilde (http://minniewilde.com/). she was on the shoot helping out with clothes. it's a girl's jacket, maybe a few sizes too small for me. i really love that jacket. WYEP: And at whose feet are you sitting in that picture? JV: autumn dewilde, the photographer, saw my neighbor sitting in her open garage listening to dr laura. she told me to pull the car over and, in her calm and savvy way, talked the woman into sitting with me for some shots. i was sure they were throw aways, but like everything you do with autumn, they came out fantastic. i haven't seen her since. WYEP: Do you feel like you have to know someone pretty well to include their perspective in your songs, or is sketching in the details yourself more important? JV: the better i know someone the harder it is to write about them. for me there has to be a distance, or an absence. WYEP: Do you feel a responsibility to tell the stories of people (American soldiers, civilians in war) who might not have their own forum to speak? JV: i don't feel a responsibility, i'm mostly interested in telling interesting stories. sometimes that means writing about justin timberlake. WYEP: Do you worry about authenticity when you write from other peoples' perspectives? JV: oh yeah, i worry about that! WYEP: It's almost expected for hip hop artists to have some kind of cross promotional car/drink/clothing line endorsement deal.  Have you ever turned down a commercial offer on your music? JV: no, but i haven't been offered tons of stuff. placements don't really worry me, if it got invasive and stupid, like banners hanging from stage, i'm sure it would be a turn-off. WYEP: How do you decide what to charge money for?  You've given a lot away over the years - MP3 remixes, video blog tours, streaming albums. JV: we always try to have some free material released every cycle. for next year, there should be a free digital EP. we charge when we have to, so people stay paid. otherwise, music feels to me like it should be free. WYEP: Would you ever score a TV show?  If yes, what would be your dream opportunity in that realm? JV: oh yes, for sure. i'm a tv junkie. 30 rock, house, mad men, the office, the list goes on. WYEP: I think you and your current band would kill as the house band for a quiz show or detective series.  Speaking of which - how permanent is your touring band?  Ever fantasize about being back in a full band and sharing all the responsibilities and creative processes with other people? JV: well i wish they were more permanent but they play in a lot of other bands. i'll be lucky to keep them together next year. yes i would love to be a sideman in a huge band. getting a per diem and direct deposit. hell yeah. WYEP: Your current setup allows you some maneuverability to do things like the blog tour.  Is the old touring model -  spending two months driving around in a van crammed with gear - dying in the same way that the giant record label promotional approach is dying? JV: well, i am very attached to that old touring model, but price pressures and competition (the unbelievable number of bands out on tour at any given moment) may change how profitable it is. i've heard numerous bands talk about skipping smaller markets and doing more fly-ins to make money. i think bands are going to figure out all kinds of new ways to make a living doing this. WYEP: How has the last batch of recordings turned out?  Is there an album with a central idea taking shape? JV: well, things are starting to make more sense. we're at song #16, i'll write and record 24 before the end of the year. btw, that's really hard for me, i usually do about 12-15 a year. i set the number very hard to see if i can jar loose something in my brain and break some of the patterns i'm in. WYEP: You've been very personally affected by the policies of the current administration [ed. note - there was a time when John's Parisian girlfriend's visa application was put through the ringer by Homeland Security].  Was there ever a silver lining creatively in that experience?  Do bad times make for good art? JV: i wouldn't say there's been any silver lining for me, i think i'd much rather be challenged to find material than having all these awful things happen. WYEP: Guns, hockey, oil money, teen pregnancy...this stuff seems totally in your wheelhouse - can we look forward to a Sarah Palin-inspired song from you in the near future? JV: she's too calculating to get a song from me. there's nothing tragic about her...yet!   http://www.johnvanderslice.com/  
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September 2, 2008 by brian@wyep.org
This summer we asked WYEP listeners to vote for their 10 favorite songs from the 1990's. We tallied the votes, and turned the list into a countdown show that aired on Labor Day. There's some surprises here, along with some "sure things". Overall, we think its a pretty good list, our listeners have good taste. Here it is... 100 Cake - The Distance "Fashion Nugget" 1996 99 Grant Lee Buffalo - Mockingbirds "Mighty Joe Moon" 1994 98 Natalie Merchant - Wonder "Tigerlily" 1995 97 Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine "Blue Sky Mining" 1990 96 Cracker - Low "Kerosene Hat" 1993 95 Depeche Mode - Policy of Truth "Violator" 1990 94 Liz Phair - Polyester Bride "whitechocolatespaceegg" 1998 93 Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning "Rumour and Sigh" 1991 92 Nirvana - Come As You Are "Nevermind" 1991 91 Dave Matthews Band - Two Step "Crash" 1996 90 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris "Dizzy Up the Girl" 1998 89 No Doubt - Don't Speak "Tragic Kingdom" 1995 88 Pavement - Summer Babe "Slanted & Enchanted" 1992 87 Presidents of the United States of America - Peaches "Presidents of the U.S.A." 1995 86 Counting Crows - Round Here "August & Everything After" 1993 85 Pearl Jam - Better Man "Vitalogy" 1994 84 Aimee Mann - Save Me "Magnolia Soundtrack" 1999 83 Beck - Devil's Haircut "Odelay" 1996 82 Blues Traveler - Run Around "Four" 1994 81 Concrete Blonde - Joey "Bloodletting" 1990 80 R.E.M. - Man On The Moon "Automatic for the People" 1992 79 Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealin' "Ritual De Lo Habitual" 1990 78 Dar Williams - As Cool As I Am "Mortal City" 1996 77 Pulp - Common People "A Different Class" 1995 76 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give it away "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991 75 Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm "Siamese Dream" 1993 74 Tori Amos - Silent All These Years "Little Earthquakes" 1992 73 U2 - Mysterious Ways "Achtung Baby" 1991 72 Weezer - Buddy Holly "Blue Album" 1994 71 Wilco - Misunderstood "Being There" 1996 70 Ben Folds Five - Battle of Who Could Care Less "Whatever and Ever Amen" 1997 69 Blur - Song 2 "Blur" 1997 68 Counting Crows - Rain King "August & Everything After" 1993 67 Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me "Crash" 1996 66 Elliot Smith - Waltz #2 "XO" 1998 65 Iggy Pop - Candy "Brick by Brick" 1990 64 KD Lang - Constant Craving "Ingenue" 1992 63 Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray "It's A Shame About Ray" 1992 62 Tori Amos - Crucify "Little Earthquakes" 1992 61 Portishead - Sour Times "Dummy" 1994 60 Bush - Glycerine "Sixteen Stone" 1994 59 Cranberries - Zombie "No Need to Argue" 1994 58 Foo Fighters - Everlong "The Color and the Shape" 1997 57 Spin Doctors - Two Princes "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" 1991 56 They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople) "Flood" 1990 55 Pearl Jam - Even Flow "Ten" 1991 54 Belly - Feed the Tree "Star" 1993 53 Billy Bragg & Wilco - California Stars "Mermaid Avenue" 1998 52 Mazzy Star - Fade into You "So Tonight that I Might See" 1993 51 Soul Asylum - Runaway Train "Grave Dancer's Union" 1992 50 Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt "Us" 1992 49 James - Laid "Laid" 1993 48 Cranberries - Dreams Everyone "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993 47 Whiskeytown - 16 Days "Strangers Almanac" 1997 46 Cornershop - Brimful of Asha "When I was Born for the 7th Time" 1997 45 Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl "Under the Pink" 1994 44 Radiohead - Karma Police "OK Computer" 1997 43 Alanis Morrisette - Ironic "Jagged Little Pill" 1995 42 Seal - Crazy "Seal" 1991 41 Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching "Under the Table and Dreaming" 1994 40 Sublime - Santeria "Sublime" 1996 39 Fiona Apple - Criminal "Tidal" 1996 38 Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson "Gordon" 1992 37 Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy "New Miserable Experience" 1992 36 Indigo Girls - Galileo "Rites of Passage" 1992 35 Fugees - Killing Me Softly "The Score" 1996 34 The Wallflowers - One Headlight "Bringing Down the House" 1996 33 Lisa Loeb - Stay "Tails " 1995 32 Smashing Pumpkins - Today "Siamese Dream" 1993 31 Pavement - Cut Your Hair "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain " 1994 30 Oasis - Don't Look Back in Anger "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995 29 Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend "Girlfriend " 1991 28 Bob Dylan - Not Dark Yet "Time Out of Mind" 1997 27 Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees "The Bends" 1995 26 Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah "Grace" 1994 25 R.E.M. - Nightswimming "Automatic for the People" 1992 24 Blind Melon - No Rain "Blind Melon " 1992 23 Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" 1995 22 They Might be Giants - Birdhouse in Your Soul "Flood " 1990 21 The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991 20 Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way "Cruel Sun " 1992 19 Radiohead - Paranoid Android "OK Computer" 1997 18 Live - Lightning Crashes "Throwing Copper" 1994 17 Radiohead - Creep "Pablo Honey" 1993 16 Pearl Jam - Alive "Ten " 1991 15 Ben Folds Five - Brick "Whatever and Ever Amen " 1997 14 Cranberries - Linger Everybody "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993 13 Sarah McLachlan - Possesion "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy " 1993 12 Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares 2 U "I Do Not Want..." 1990 11 Pearl Jam - Jeremy "Ten " 1991 10 Beck - Loser "Mellow Gold" 1994 9 Pearl Jam - Black "Ten " 1991 8 Breeders - Cannonball "Last Spash " 1993 7 The Counting Crows - Mr. Jones "August and Everything After" 1993 6 Alanis Morrisette - You Oughta Know "Jagged Little Pill" 1995 5 The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony "Urban Hymns" 1997 4 R.E.M - Losing My Religion "Out of Time" 1991 3 Oasis - Wonderwall "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995 2 U2 - One "Achtung Baby " 1991 1 Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit "Nevermind " 1991
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August 29, 2008 by davidmhutchinson@gmail.com
ADD Surf Rock?  Jazzercise Punk? Joy-Thrash?  Baltimore's Ponytail creates music that is hard to define but pure fun to experience.  The foursome constructs beautiful, churning waves of melody that simultaneously evoke the technical proficiency and experimental vocals of jazz, and the aggressive and independent spirit of punk. 

(Clockwise from top: Jeremy, Molly, Dustin, Ken)

Their new album, Ice Cream Spiritual, sees the band adding to its high-energy approach with new sounds and multiple-movement song structures.  The four members passed the phone as I spoke to them while they travelled to New York for a concert.  An excerpt of that discussion after the jump. -Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday WYEP: You all met at the Maryland Institute - was music at all part of your education or was it a hobby in addition to what you were studying? Dustin (guitar): Well the class we took together - we knew that it was going to be a band thing - we were going to get formed into a band.  But we didn't know who was going to be in which band.  Of course, we love music.  We all listen to music and we're all big fans of music. WYEP: So Ponytail actually came out of a class you signed up for? Dustin: Yeah. WYEP: Wow.  What was the syllabus like? Dustin: The syllabus?  I can't really remember it from the top of my head, but it was you form a band and you work on one art project.  That's pretty much what the whole class was.  Every week the professor would show a film.  He showed Gimme Shelter, The Piano Teacher.   [Asking the others] What were some of the...what were some of the - Unidentified Ponytail Member:  -Nashville Dustin: -Nashville was another one.  Just like stuff that really kind of...you get a vibe of what music is about. WYEP: That sounds like a really interesting experience. Dustin: Yeah it was really great. WYEP: How many kids were in the class? Dustin: There were probably thirty-five kids. WYEP: Were you randomly assigned or did you play pieces and audition and then the professor put you together? Dustin: Oh no no, there was no audition.  It was just the professor pointing at each...he'd be like 'You're a hot girl, and you're a hot girl...' WYEP: [Laughs] Dustin: 'You're a band!' WYEP: It was a first day, just pairing people up and sending them on their way? Dustin: Well the first week he didn't form the bands, he Just kind of explained what the class was about and he let us out early.  And then the second week - it's really funny actually - we were all sitting in a circle.  It was a large classroom and each student was kind of in the circle and the professor was direct in the middle, [turning] 360s and observing the students.  And then he would pick people out. WYEP: So I guess it was in part based on your social interaction and what he saw happening. Dustin: Yeah.  He would kind of feel out each person's vibe and then put them together. WYEP: That's a really cool idea. Dustin: I think it's just fun to be in his spot, you know?  I'd love to do that. WYEP:  Did you start playing shows right out of that class or was it a long time before you got to that point? Dustin: No no, we practiced once a week until the end of the semester which was where all the bands would come together.  We had a big party - it was called Parapalooza - and all the bands would play the songs they'd written in the course of the semester.  It's just a good time, and we were just practicing up to that point and it was really fun.  We wanted to continue. WYEP: What was the initial reaction for Ponytail in Baltimore? Was it intimidating coming through [art crew/performance space] Wham City? Dustin: I was really nervous when we played our first shows, but there wasn't any sort of pressure, I don't think.  Everybody was really supportive and we love being supported. WYEP: Were there certain bands that were really helpful as far as when you were starting out and playing your first shows? Dustin: Yeah, yeah.  Double Dagger, whose a band from Baltimore invited us to play a show.  Dan Deacon has been super helpful.  It's great. --- WYEP: How was it starting out in Baltimore? Molly (vocals): Everybody is extremely supportive of each other and really wanted something to happen.  And it did. WYEP: How has your family reacted to Ponytail so far? Molly: My family's really into it actually.  My family is so so supportive.  My sister actually is super into it.  She made me a scrap book of all our early reviews. WYEP: That's awesome. Molly: It's really sweet.  Even my grandparents came to our show in Phoenix.  My grandpa's ninety now. WYEP: Wow... Molly: Yeah!  [laughs] WYEP: That's effort. Molly: Yeah - it's pretty amazing.  So I'm really lucky. WYEP: Your vocals are not usually word sounds, and you have song titles that are sometimes made up of punctuation.  Do you think there's a benefit to be a little harder to understand? Molly: I think we're interested in that - in not being able to fully understand.  I don't know if we fully understand, really. [laughs] WYEP: Do your songs change much show to show because of that? Molly: The feeling of doing it, from show to show, changes a lot.  The songs themselves have been pretty stagnant, staying the same.  But of course they change slightly - I guess I improv some every time. WYEP: Do you consider your music rebellious compared to what else is out there and what you grew up listening to? Molly; There's an element of rebellion, I think.  We're reacting to what we're surrounded by and what we grew up with.  We're all a little rebellious.  Also, at this point, we just really want to make something we're interested in more than just something different.  It's not all rebellion, but it is an element. WYEP: How aware of you of Pop culture?  Is what's happening in the rest of the world ever a direct source of inspiration for song writing? Molly: Definitely.  I think we've been referencing elements of Pop culture since we began.  With the Beatles drum line at the beginning of the song - [asking others] which song is it again? It's - Unidentified Ponytail Member:  - "Dear God" [Ponytail song "Dear God Plz Make My 2Eyes N2 One"] Molly: "Dear God." Beginning of...no no no, beginning of which Beatles song? Unidentified Ponytail Member: Oh, oh.  "The End." [The Abbey Road song] Molly: Yeah!  "The End."  The beginning of "The End."  That was the beginning of the end! [laughs]   I think we're definitely interested in referencing Pop culture.  We've always been aware of what we might sound like or what we might be taking from and we're sort of excited about that.  You can only go so far with it, but we're excited about that. --- WYEP: Ken, you were recently part of a Stereogum feature called Quit Your Day Job.  You talked about how you're currently a security guard at the Maryland Institute.  Have there been moments where you had to commit to the band, where you realized 'This is definitely what I want to do, I'm going to turn down this other job' or 'I'm going to turn down this grad school opportunity'? Ken (guitar): This week I worked my last shift, I think, as a security guard for that job because we're going to be away for so long. WYEP: Congratulations! Ken: Oh thanks.  It's the easiest Job.  Ever.  It was great for - it was easy to pick up shifts and stuff but it just didn't pay very well.  It was good to have that kind of Job, but I don't know if I want to do it during the school year.  As far as turning down opportunities, I think you fantasize about stuff - going places and doing things.  But the reality of the situation is that we've gotten so many opportunities by doing the band that it's been more like seizing opportunities than missing out on opportunities.  Getting to travel and meet lots of people and play great shows - just being humbled by opportunities like recording.  People listening to our records is an awesome opportunity in itself. WYEP: You guys definitely do play great shows.  It's a really interactive show - I don't think I've seen too many shows where the audience moves as much, if not more, than the band.  Are there things that you guys try to create live that make that kind of connection? Ken: The air around a show is always different, and it's unpredictable, but there's always an opportunity for it to get really fun.  When it's fun, we feel like we're channeling something, to be honest.  I don't know how that sounds, but when I'm playing I just close my eyes and stick my tongue out and play. [laughs]  It seems like in some places, kids have definitely been bringing the mosh and kicking up some dust.  It's cool.  I feel like it comes with the territory of what we play and we're excited so it's a compliment when the audience is excited to. WYEP: It's really rare to have songs that are as high energy and as complex as your songs are, so I don't know if people even know how to react to that. Ken:  [laughs] Thanks!  We stayed at a house last night.  Our friend, his dad [owner of the house], is an audiophile and has a really good sound system.  We were like 'Let's listen to one of our songs on it' and we listened to it and afterwards I was like 'That was intense!'  So I know how you feel. WYEP: When you recorded Ice Cream Spiritual, was there a lot of overdubbing or was it mostly live, all four in a room? Ken: Mostly live.  There were overdubs; they were mainly to add flavors in with panning.  There's a few things we probably could have done live, but we wanted to make some spaces and panning and stuff.  I don't know if I want to say almost all of it, but every song was recorded live and there were overdubs added on.  We met with J. [Robbins, producer] before we recorded and talked a lot, setting up the room in a way that we could really do it live.  I think it sounds pretty live. WYEP: It definitely does.  Speaking of J., how were you approached to do the Callum benefit? Ken: We got an email about it recently.  It was unanimous that we wanted to do it.  We love J. and working with him was incredible.  It was the least we could do. WYEP: It's been really cool to see people react in such a direct way.  Even people who aren't associated with the concerts, who aren't playing on the bills are still linking to the website and still saying 'This is really important, this kid deserves a chance and if you can do anything, try to help out.' Ken: After meeting J...he's Just one of the humblest and hardest working people I've ever met.  I think just the person that he is - we all owe J. Robbins.  If you ever met him, he's a great guy. --- WYEP:  What do you think makes a live show good?  When do you know it's been a good concert? Jeremy (drums): I love it when the crowd is having a really good time - it definitely reflects and bounces back to us.  But usually, we can kind of create our own space on stage, or if we're on the floor, on the floor.  If the connection is good between us, it's usually a good show for me. WYEP: Between the four of you? Jeremy: Yeah, between the four of us.  I always feel really good, even if there's three people a show and they don't like us - which luckily hasn't happened - if we all feel good about the way we played. WYEP:  When do you know when a song is done, as far as song writing goes? Jeremy: Usually what happens is it takes a while just in practice to flesh out all the ideas and get a basic structure together.  And then, once it feels pretty good, we'll kind of play it, try it out live.  That's usually a really good indicator if it's working.  Actually last night, we tried out something during sound-check that Just felt wayyy off, but felt really good when we were writing it. WYEP: This is probably my last question, and definitely my most important.  You guys have had really great spots as far as an opening band for Hella, and Battles, and Don Caballero and High Places.  Would you rather open for GWAR or Fleetwood Mac? Jeremy: GWAR or Fleetwood Mac?  Oh Fleetwood Mac, for sure! WYEP: What do the other three think? Jeremy: [Poses the question to the other three]  Fleetwood Mac.  Unanimous.   WYEP: Completely unanimous?  Jeremy: Yeah.  We're huge Fleetwood Mac fans.   www.myspace.com/jreamteam    
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