Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

A couple of Christmas albums …

December 25, 2013

For the past couple of days, I’ve listed some Christmas songs. Today I’d like to highlight two of my favourite Christmas albums.

Loreena McKennit, “A Midwinter Night’s Dream”

Celtic Woman, “A Christmas Celebration” (which is playing right now).

Merry Christmas.

More Christmas Songs …

December 24, 2013

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to like funny songs, even if outside of Christmas they don’t hit my top 10, and so here are some of the songs I really liked as a child but haven’t really heard for a while:

Be careful, ’cause Santa Claus is watching you.

And while my actual heritage isn’t Ukranian, I like this two Ukranian Christmas song: 11 Days of Christmas. There’s another one that’s a retelling of the Night Before Christmas which I think is by the same person, but I can’t find it.

And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t include Bob and Doug MacKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Some of my favourite Christmas songs …

December 22, 2013

Well, t’is the season, and so this year I think I’ll post up some of my favourite Christmas songs. Today will be some of the more well-known ones, but I’ll try to dig up some of the songs from my youth over the next couple of days.

To start with my favourite, which is “Grandma Got Run Over By Reindeer”, the Irish Rovers version. I have a very hard time finding the version that I heard on the radio all the time in full, but I think a snippet is here.

Then there’s this song from the Trans Siberian Orchestra. When I went to get Christmas CDs, this was one that I had to get, although I don’t like the rest of the CD as much as I like this song.

I also like the “Carol of the Bells”, vocal versions and the version done with actual bells, which I can’t find on youtube at the moment.

Still more of my favourites …

September 1, 2013

So continuing on from my post last week, this time I’ll do AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alice Cooper.

Starting with Alice Cooper, I have less of his stuff than I do of the others, who almost literally fill my CD collection, but there are a number of songs that I listen to frequently. “Hell Is Living Without You” is probably my favourite song, but “He’s Back(The Man Behind the Mask)”, “Teenage Frankenstein”, “The Great American Success Story” and “Poison” are also favourtes. And you should also add to that list “House of Fire”, “Bed of Nails”, “Only My Heart Talkin'”, “This Maniac’s In Love With You”, “Life and Death of the Party”, and “The World Needs Guts”. Alice Cooper is, I think, the one performer that I like where I like the songs that I, well, really shouldn’t like due to the subject matter and even the musical style.

I have a lot more of Ozzy Osbourne, and one of my best buys was getting “The Essential Ozzy Osbourne”, which contains most of my favourites, like “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Goodbye to Romance”, “Diary of a Madman” (which I just used as a character piece for Boomer in my latest BSG game), “You’re No Different”, “Rock and Roll Rebel”, “Mama I’m Comin’ Home”, “No More Tears”, “Time After Time”, “Road to Nowhere”, “I Don’t Wanna Change the World”, “Perry Mason”, “I Just Want You” (which might have been the Ozzy candidate to make the top 10 list), and “See You on the Other Side”. There were some others that didn’t make the cut for the essential, like “Revelation (Mother Earth)”, which also might have made the top 10 cut, but my absolute favourite song of his did make the cut, and is “Fire in the Sky”, a great song that also speaks to me and my personality rather deeply.

Now, to AC/DC. Aside from the aforementioned “Ride On” and “Hell’s Bells”, we have: “For Those About To Rock”, “Evil Walks”, “C.O.D”, “Night of the Long Knives”, “Spellbound”, “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”, “Big Balls” (mostly because it’s hilarious), “Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ ‘Round To Be a Millionaire)”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” (which was THE party song when I was growing up), “Thunderstruck”, “Money Talks”, “The Razors Edge” (which I always thought would be an excellent song for a Wolverine movie), “Are You Ready?”, “Got You By the Balls”, and my favourite Christmas song, “Mistress for Christmas”.

After “Razor’s Edge” (Helena Cain’s favourite album), we have: “Hard as a Rock”, “Cover You In Oil”, “The Furor”, “Burnin’ Alive”, “Hail Caesar”, “Safe in New York City”, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”, “Rock and Roll Train”, “War Machine” (my favourite from “Black Ice”), “She Likes Rock and Roll”, and “Rock and Roll Dream”. Which doesn’t include songs that I don’t have the CDs for like: “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Highway to Hell”, and “Back in Black”.

When I first heard, AC/DC, I didn’t like them. But my brother did, and since he could drive and I couldn’t, I heard it a lot, and eventually came to like them, so much that they’re one of my favourite bands.

My Top 10 Favourite Bands/Performers …

August 26, 2013

When I showed my list of my top 10 favourite songs to a friend of mine, he was surprised, but mostly by the fact that there was nothing by Ozzy Osbourne on it. In writing my expansion on that theme and listing some of my other favourite songs, I pointed out that while I had a longer list of favourite Meat Loaf songs than songs by The Cars, I still thought that I liked The Cars better overall, at least in part because the songs didn’t stand out; they were all good and I could listen to all of them. So, favourite songs and favourite bands/performers don’t always align, which makes perfect sense; after all, that’s precisely how one-hit wonders work.

So, I thought it would make sense to list my top 10 favourite bands:

10 The Odds
9 Huey Lewis and the News
8 Heart
7 Alice Cooper
6 Meat Loaf
5 Ozzy Osbourne
4 Duran Duran
3 Dire Straits
2 The Cars
1 AC/DC

Again, this is done with a bit of thought, but in the middle and at the end a lot of it was just going from the bands that I thought of quickly, so there might be ones I’m missing.

More of my favourites …

August 23, 2013

And these won’t be in order, but will probably be grouped in terms of various bands. Today, I think I’ll do “The Odds”, “The Cars”, Chris De Burgh and Meat Loaf.

The Odds are an old little group, but they’ve put out some wonderful songs, and there’s one of their songs that I often quote in posts as an side, which is this one: “It Falls Apart”. But that’s not their best and probably not their most famous song. That might be “Eat My Brain” or Someone Who’s Cool, which are among my favourites as well. What highlights them the most is the fact that their lyrics are, well, quite odd, and so very entertaining to listen to. Some my other favourites are I Would Be Your Man, which might be my all-time favourite of theirs, and Make You Mad. I think the only CD of theirs that I don’t like that I’ve had is “Neapolitan”, as I like “Good Weird Feeling” and “Bedbugs”.

I bought a greatest hits CD of Chris de Burgh for “The Lady in Red”, but ended up liking a number of other songs from him. My favourite of his might well be “Borderline”, “The Lady in Red” made the top ten due to history and being the one I remember when I think of him. I also like “Don’t Pay the Ferryman”, which has an odd background. During at least one of the times that I was obsessively listening to that CD, I was watching “Murder in Small Town X, which was one of the better reality shows that came out — and ran for only one season, unfortunately — of the reality TV boom, and one of the main suspects was, indeed, the ferryman, adding a new dimension to the song. I also like “A Spaceman Came Travelling”, “Say Goodbye to it All”, but mostly as a continuation and completion of “Borderline”, “Diamond in the Dark”, and “High on Emotion”. But everything on the “Spark to a Flame” compilation CD is good.

For Meat Loaf, I think his best CD is “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose”, with the title track maybe being the best song, although it gets stiff competition from “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, “Blind as a Bat”, “Bad For Good”, “In the Land of the Pig, the Butcher is King” and “If God Could Talk”. And I could probably list others. See why I say that this is his best CD? There isn’t a bad song on the whole CD. On other CDs, on “Bat out of Hell II” we have “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, “It Just Won’t Quit”, and “Objects in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”, as well as others that are good but probably don’t qualify as favourites. From “Bat Out of Hell”, I’m not that fond of the obvious ones, aside from “Bat Out of Hell” itself, but prefer “For Crying Out Loud” which is probably my favourite on that CD and liked better than anything on “Bat Out of Hell II”, “Heaven Can Wait”, and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”.

As for this other CDs, I own and like “Bad Attitude”, and put “Cheating in Your Dreams” in the same category as “Porcelain”, except it isn’t done anywhere near as well, and also like “Surf’s Up” and Nowhere Fast. And from “Welcome to the Neighbourhood”, in addition to “I’d Lie to You (And That’s the Truth)”, there’s “Original Sin”, “Not a Dry Eye in the House” and “Left in the Dark”.

That leaves only “The Cars” — and Ric Ocasek –to handle in this rather long list. Aside from “Drive”, my favourites of “The Cars” are “You Might Think”, “Magic”, and “Dangerous Type”. And despite having a relatively short list of favourite songs (which might be more if I wasn’t just going off of the greatest hits CD I have), they are one of my favourite bands because pretty much all of their songs are good, even if they aren’t standouts. Or maybe one of the reasons they don’t stand out is because they’re all pretty good.

I also have a number of Ric Ocasek CDs, which I generally like. From “This Side of Paradise”, I love “Emotion in Motion”, “True Love”, and “Hello Darkness” (the first song I can’t find a youtube link to!). From “Fireball Zone”, there’s “Rockaway”, “They Tried”, “Fireball Zone” and what competes with “Emotion in Motion” as my favourite of his, “The Way You Look Tonight” which in my opinion, like “Drive” is one of the most realistic and yet still romantic love songs I’ve ever heard.

So, that’s this segment, but we still have AC/DC and Dire Straits to go through, as well as the favourites that I didn’t even list on my top ten like Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper. So much more to come.

Better than the Beatles …

August 22, 2013

Over at Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne went on an old man, get off my lawn rant about the state of modern music, listing the Beatles, the Stones, and The Band as groups that modern rock and roll simply can’t match, comparing them to an Avril Lavigne song, in this post. Then, when a lot of people said that they didn’t like the Beatles, and some did, hedecided to post his favourite Beatles song and use the title and the text to — semi-seriously, I hope — challenge people to match that song.

Okay, I’m not a Beatles fan, although I don’t hate them, but that’s not even my favourite Beatles song, so I came up with a number of songs that were, in my opinion, better, and then decided to actually post something here by listing, with links to youtube if I can manage it, my top 10 favourite songs in some semblance of order. (Some of the songs that I listed there will not be among the songs I list here. See if you can find them!).

10 Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart. I bought her greatest hits CD because of this song. This was the only song I really liked.
9 Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This was played in my grade school class as a way of examining poetry and music, and I was hooked. I still love it.
8 Chris De Burgh – Lady in Red. Surprised the heck out of the people in my group at work when I told them that I liked this song, especially since they knew I liked AC/DC.
7 Mark Knopfler – Prarie Wedding. The best song on “Sailing to Philadelphia”.
6 Meat Loaf – I’d Lie For You (And That’s the Truth). My old suitemates would never believe that that’s my favourite Meat Loaf song, since I listened to “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) for pretty much an entire semester in university.
5 AC/DC – Hell’s Bells. My second favourite AC/DC song. And yes, former co-workers, I did fib when I selected this at the Christmas activity, but this was the more appropriate song for a party.
4 AC/DC – Ride On. My favourite AC/DC song ever.
3 The Cars: Drive. The Cars have a lot of great songs. This is probably the best.
2 Amy Lee and Seether – Broken. I bought the Punisher CD for this song. I played it over and over and over again … this song, not the CD, which is not that great.
1 Better than Ezra – Porcelain. The most beautiful and disturbing song I’ve ever heard.

The top three are pretty much a wash; depending on the day, I might choose one of them over the other (today, I was leaning towards Broken being number 1, but couldn’t put it ahead of the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard).

Why most of these are on the list is that, in my opinion, you can’t listen to these songs and not be affected by them or drawn into them, while others didn’t quite have that effect despite my remembering them first. And I can’t think of one Beatles song that does that to me, and absolutely no Stones song that does that to me.

You know what? I think I’ll make a series out of this, because this one was tossed together in a bit of a hurry and a lot of my favourite songs didn’t make the list.

And Canada’s Dorothy is …

November 6, 2012

… Danielle Wade.

I actually managed to get the final order right, with Danielle winning it, Stephanie being the runner-up, and AJ finishing third.

While I still think that Danielle had the weakest voice, I think that when she sang on her own instead of with the other girls you didn’t notice, and also that she had a stronger vocal performance this week. I hadn’t seen her performance of “Hey, Big Spender!” that was voted her best performance (she did that one, I presume, before I started watching) but she did it well and again highlighted how she acts performances. And she also had some very good lines in the discussions around her performance and coron … er, ruby-slippering?

Daryn: So, if you become Dorothy, how would you react?
Danielle: [something like a nervous and giddy twitter]
Daryn: Well said.
Danielle: Thank you.

And also, when she had won:

Danielle: This is the first time I’ve ever auditioned for anything. I hope all of them go as well!

All that needs to be said about Stephanie, I think, is that the song chosen as her best performance was “Hello, Buenos Aires” … a performance that resulted in her being in the bottom two that week. It was absolutely a breakout performance, but somehow Canada didn’t warm to it … although they saved her the next week.

Now, while trying to find something to watch I’ve tuned in to “Next Top Model” for the past few weeks, and there’s one thing that I noticed about last night and the whole competition when compared to it: AJ and Stephanie, watching Danielle sing after winning, seemed genuinely happy for her. Sure, they could be acting … but these are the two that I thought weren’t that great as actresses, so it seems unlikely. And for the most part, it seemed like all of the competitors on “Over the Rainbow” were happy and sad for each other, without all of the sniping and backbiting that you see on “Next Top Model”. They never seemed to suggest that someone else should go home. Watching the performances, they generally seemed sad as opposed to happy when someone went home. There seemed to be less, at least, of a sorting out of who their competition was and arguing over that. Good performances were applauded, and they were appropriately respectful when people were at risk or going home. They seemed to, well, like each other, which is clearly not what happens on “Next Top Model”.

I could say that it’s cultural, and that’s likely part of it. But the real reason for this, I think, is that while almost all of the girls were convinced that they could be Dorothy — except for poor Colleen, due to the judges commenting that they weren’t sure that she could — none of them thought that they ought to be Dorothy. Even Danielle, the front-runner, was reminded that she couldn’t let up and due to her inexperience had to feel that the others might well have an inside track. That feeling of being capable but not necessarily deserving it, I think, led to them all thinking that if they didn’t make it, one of the others really did deserve it, which led to less direct competition and more of a “I have to do my best, and we’ll see if it’s good enough” attitude than a “I’m the best, and so I can only be cheated out of my victory” attitude. It was nice to see, and much more entertaining that what we see on “Next Top Model”, because I can actually like the girls and want one, or more, of them to win.

Of course, now that “Over the Rainbow” is over I’ll be able to avoid watching “Next Top Model”, which is a good thing.

Anyway, congratulations Danielle and you deserved it … about as much as the other two did [grin].

Over the Rainbow Performance Nov 4 …

November 4, 2012

So, I just finished watching the final performance episode of “Over the Rainbow”, and thought I’d get my comments down now because I’ll be out for a good chunk of the day tomorrow.

AJ was up first, singing “Memory” from Cats, a song that I’d heard a little of before. She was definitely trying for a more subdued performance than she normally gives, but unfortunately she looked a little stiff early on. However, when it came time for her to pull out the dramatic gestures, she really delivered, as usual.

Danielle was next, singing I think “Never Say Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard, which I hadn’t really heard before. As usual, she just nailed it in terms of acting and voice work. For all of the episodes I’ve watched, Danielle has consistently just done what had to be done.

Finally, Stephanie sang, a song from a production that hadn’t been done much if at all in North America called “The Woman in White”, and the song was I think “I Believe in My Heart”. It was a really good song for her and demonstrated that she has an absolutely lovely voice and the looks to go along with it … but she still didn’t move much. AJ and Danielle incorporated a lot more movement into their songs, even though their songs were of a similar tone to hers.

The performances were book-ended by round-robinish group songs featuring songs from “The Wizard of Oz”, and to me a few things became clear:

Danielle has the weakest voice of the three … but she also acts far better with her voice than the other two.

Stephanie has the strongest voice of the three. It really is effortless.

AJ fits a bit into the middle. She’s not as strong an actress as Danielle in all facets, but she’s better than Stephanie is. She also doesn’t have as strong a voice as Stephanie, but it’s stronger than Danielle’s.

For me, acting is the key, and so if I was given the choice I’d probably choose Danielle. The only argument against that is that it might be easier to teach acting than to give Danielle a stronger voice, at which point Stephanie is the better choice. So, my final ranking is:

1) Danielle.
2) Stephanie.
3) AJ.

Now, with it being a popular vote, the most talented person may not be the winner, and I agree with the judges that basically any one of them could perform the role well. So I shall watch with interest who Canada decides is the best Dorothy.

What the Judges Criticized Colleen For …

October 31, 2012

Well, now that Colleen has been eliminated, and since I’ve seen some comments about Danielle’s latest performance claiming that she was out of tune (and I think I read that about Cassandra once in similar circumstances), I thought I might make an attempt to explain what the judges were criticizing Colleen constantly for in simpler terms. Because I’m pretty sure I know what they were talking about but they put it in technical terms.

It all comes down to something that I’ve been talking about a lot, which is acting. There’s a difference between singing and acting through song. When you do musical theatre, obviously your primary purpose is to act through song, and not to sing. If you’re giving a concert, the opposite is true; you want to sing, and don’t really have to act. Colleen, for the most part, sang in her performances. She sang very, very well, but the comments about her being too perfect and having to be able to let it slide a bit were basically comments that she tried so hard to hit every note right and sing every word clearly and with absolute perfect projection, to make it a memorable vocal performance. But when you’re acting, that sort of perfection isn’t always what you want. That sort of perfection is stale and devoid of emotion and passion, and without that it’s hard to make people feel like they’re actually watching the story. You have to express, for example, that you are feeling what you should feel in that situation, and sometimes that means sacrificing vocal perfection for emotion.

The best analogy for this might be just regular acting. You can, in regular acting (especially on stage) learn how to do perfect projection and enunciation, and how to keep nerves and quavers from your voice. All good actors learn most of these things. However, these are just a means to an end, which is of making it so that people understand what you’re saying and believe it, and so get into the story that you’re presenting. But if your character is supposed to be someone who is shy and mumbles, a good actor will deliberately mumble. If it’s a case where they’re supposed to be nervous, they will deliberately stutter and speak nervously. If they’re supposed to be half-crying, they’ll half-cry. The very best actors can incorporate all of these things that make their speech less clear artfully into their performances while still having what they’re saying be perfectly and completely understandable. Except when it’s not supposed to be, of course. Thus, you end up with a less perfect performance, but one that captures the emotion of the situation better.

The same thing applies to the songs in musical theatre. The catch in Danielle’s voice when she was singing was artfully done to express the emotion. For the most part, when it was complained that they were “out of tune” I will say that I didn’t notice, but it likely was artfully being out of tune, sacrificing the perfect tone and clarity of the music in order to better express the emotion of their songs. And what Colleen didn’t do was that, was sacrifice the singing for the sake of the emotion. And if you’re going to star in musical theatre, you really do have to do that. If you can pull off the emotions properly, most of the audience won’t notice if you slip a little in the singing because they will be so wrapped up in the moment, if those slips don’t enhance it themselves. The same thing applied to Stephanie’s missing of a line in her song. Not knowing the song, I didn’t notice … but if she’d acted like she’d slipped, I would have. But when all you offer is the song, then if you miss, I’ll notice because that’s all I’m paying attention to. The more you give me to think about, the more you can get away with … and likely the more I’ll enjoy it.

This is why I’d like to see Colleen go more the Charlotte Church route than the musical theatre route; her natural attributes are simply perfect for listening to her on CD or watching her in concert, and they work against her when she tries to act.


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