Soundman

I am a sucker for blues guitar. Really, there’s nothing like it for me; that raw, heavy, and grinding sound of a funky blues solo being wrenched out of the amp. I am enthralled every time I hear a blues song that really drives it home. Anytime I listen to it, I just want to crank up the volume and let it wash over me.

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There are way too many sub-genres in the blues. Blues is more categorized by the type of scale and arrangement patterns used than anything else, which means it’s a little all-encompassing. For example, the following artists are all known for having songs categorized as blues: Albert King, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, The Black Keys, ZZ Top, John Mayer, Etta James, Jack White, Led Zeppelin, etc. That’s just a small sampling, and some of those are not anything like another.

Here is a link to a list of blues genres if you’re interested. The page also has a list of blues-like genres at the bottom.

For the sake of the rest of this post, I will be talking about what has been called Texas Blues, the gritty kind of blues-rock I would stereotypically picture being played in a bar on the edge of town frequented by a couple of biker gangs. It is characterized by jazz-influenced improv and single string electric guitar accompaniment. It’s been around since the early 1900’s but really began to flourish in the American south in the late 60’s and 70’s pulling influences from country as well as other blues-rock sounds.

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It is really hard to stand out in a genre that has so many masters. Stevie Ray Vaughn, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, ZZ Top, Eric Clapton, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you can stand out in such a genre, more power to you. Most often when I’m listening to blues, I do so via internet radio stations and don’t actually know what artist I’m listening to at any given time. Occasionally, if I’m listening via Spotify, I’ll save a good song I like to my music library.

Which is exactly how I found the artist that inspired this post. Aynsley Lister is a good guitarist, and I enjoy his compositions. Despite how hard it is for contemporary artists to measure up to the famous blues artists of the past he does an admirable job. I had just one of his songs on my Spotify to start with, called “Soundman”. This song tickled my fancy since I have worked in the live performance industry and with various sound guys in my career; I found the lyrics relatable and humorous, and the guitar style enjoyable.

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Aynsley Lister hails from England and started playing guitar at the ripe old age of 8, performing his first concert at age 13. His guitar work is great, though I admit I find his voice a little annoying at times. Overall, kudos to him for finding something he loves so early on in life and continuing to work on it throughout his career. He’s been performing as a solo artist since 1995 and is still going strong. Well done, sir!

My top 5 tracks for Aynsley Lister are as follows:

“Soundman”

“Crazy” (a fantastic Gnarls Barkley cover)

“Inside Out”

“Upside Down”

“Always Tomorrow”

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Aynsley Lister is a good blues artist, and I’m glad he has inspired me to listen to so much Texas blues this past week or so, I have really enjoyed it! Makes me want to go find a blues bar to just hang out and listen to live music.

Check out some blues music this week! If you have any blues artists you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear it!

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And here’s a bonus: a clip from the movie Adventures In Babysitting which is where I derived the name of my blog from. Enjoy!

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A Rose Is Still A Rose

First off, let it be said there is no shortage of Aretha Franklin music out there. I mean, holy crap, there are more than 40 albums on Spotify alone and that’s not counting the singles and compilations. Actually that’s why it took so long for me to post again; I was busy listening to that massive library of Aretha Franklin music.

And she’s still going, by the way. Her most recent album was in 2014, and she still tours and performs.

It was interesting listening to the different styles and recording qualities as I listened backwards through time. Current era Aretha’s voice shows her age just a little bit. If you want an example, listen to her cover album Sings the Great Diva Classics.

00’s and 90’s era Aretha left me a little tickled. It sounds just like the rest of the R&B/soul music of that time that I remember. Recommendation: listen to the songs “Wonderful” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose”

80’s Aretha was par for the course (but don’t be fooled, par on this course is fantastic) though I would note she recorded a jazz album in 1984 that stood out. It’s called Aretha’s Jazz, and it shows off her voice in a beautiful way.

Classic 60’s and 70’s Aretha will probably always be my favorite. Her voice is and always has been incredibly beautiful and strong. There are so many amazing songs from this period, I would recommend all of it. Really, just check it out. If you want specific recommendations, I will include a list of some of my all time Aretha favorites at the end of this post.

When you get back into the early 60’s she was mostly recording Gospel tunes. As with many famous soul and gospel artists, religion was a huge part of her upbringing. Her father was a well known pastor and she had been singing in churches since she was a little girl. There are some excellent tunes there as well, a good collection of which can be found on the album Amazing Grace.

All in all, Aretha Franklin has earned her title as Queen of Soul ten times over. She is extremely talented and skilled. If you like soul music at all, you are probably already quite familiar with much of her music, but I would suggest checking out some of the deeper cuts.

However; if you want to just listen to a good sampling, there are many great compilation albums available that have the best of the best of her music.

Fun fact! She famously stepped in at the Grammys one year for an ill Luciano Pavarotti, singing the famous opera tenor piece “Nessun Dorma” and absolutely nailed it. Here’s a video clip: https://youtu.be/5PONptwUo-Y

She shaped a genre, her music moves people, and her legacy will last for a long time to come.

Happy Listening!

As promised, here is a short list of some of my favorite Aretha tunes:

“Today I Sing the Blues”

“Think” *

“See Saw” *

“I Say a Little Prayer”

“Chain Of Fools” *

“The Weight” *

“Fool On The Hill”

“Respect”

“I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You” *

“(You Made Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

“A Song For You”

“A Rose Is Still A Rose”

“Wonderful”

“Rock With Me”

“Son of a Preacher Man”

“Love For Sale”

Well, that turned out to be longer than I intended. I starred my top 5, if you want a shorter list. They are all great songs, though. And there are many more! Go check it out!

Super Rad!

The Aquabats! started as a joke band, and honestly, I really respect that. They set out to have fun more than anything else and I think that is what made them stand out so well. Their particular gimmick worked out really well for them in my opinion.

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I didn’t know much about The Aquabats! until just this past summer when I was exposed to more of their music and then had the opportunity to see them in concert. They are very fun to see live as a staple of their performances is the theatricality in their live shows. Each band member has their own super-hero identity as well as matching costumes. Villains and choreographed fights, as well as videos, are included in the performance and ultimately they are all good showmen. Their songs are fun and silly, their performance entertaining, and their attitude infectious. Altogether, you can’t really go wrong with a band like The Aquabats!

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As for their musical style, The Aquabats! definitely started out as a ska band with all the elements of the genre such as a walking bass line, off-beat rhythms, big horn sections, and driving guitar. Some other well-known ska bands to emerge from the 80’s and 90’s include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Sublime. This wave of the genre could probably more accurately be termed as Ska Punk as it includes many Punk elements. If you like Punk at all, I suggest you give Ska a try.

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As The Aquabats! continued in their career their music evolved to include influences of New Wave, Rock, and Synthpop as well as Ska and Punk. If you listen to some of their earlier music such as “Super Rad!” or “Idiot Box!” which are both on their 1997 album The Fury of The Aquabats! you immediately hear exactly what Ska sounds like. However, if you listen to some of their later music such as “Shark Fighter!” “Hey Homies!” and “All My Money!” from the 2011 album High-Five Soup! it has an obviously more new wave and synthpop influenced sound. It seems like they traded out the horns for synth. I wouldn’t say I prefer one style over the other, they are all obviously the same band in lyrics and arrangement and are fun songs to listen to.

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The Aquabats! had a TV show for 3 seasons called The Aquabats! Super Show! I haven’t watched any of it so I can’t give you any more info on it, but from what I can tell it is full of stories about the band as superheroes, uses a mix of live action and animation, and is fairly pointless.

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If you want a good example of how ridiculous (in a good way) this band is, here’s the video for “Super Rad!” Also here is a link for “Shark Fighter!” Listen to both and notice the difference in the instrumentation between the older and newer style.

The Aquabats! are kind of ridiculous. Their lyrics are not serious in the least, their musical style is upbeat and fairly fanciful, and they wear matching spandex and domino masks. Seriously. They are a freaking awesome band. How many musicians write songs about shool pizza day or giving out hugs? These lyrics are fun, lighthearted, and singable, and you may have noticed their habit of overusing exclamation points.

All I can really say about The Aquabats! is that they are extremely fun. If you want to listen to some of their music, I recommend the following tracks: “Super Rad!” “Red Sweater!” “Pizza Day!” “Pool Party!” “Hey Homies!” and “The Legend Is True!” There are many other really good songs by this band, but those might be my favorite

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Give it a shot, I really think you’ll enjoy it! They are super rad after all!

The Sun Always Shines On TV

a-ha is one of those bands who just can’t seem to quit. No, really, They started up in the early 80’s and went until 1994 when they went on hiatus for 4 years. They released an album in 2000 and kept on releasing albums until 2009, and then decided to split up after one last tour (named the Ending On A High Note tour) the following year. But then they reunited in 2015 for another album and 2 more years together.

Scandinavian bands tend to flare in popularity in the US hot and fast. Until I started listening to their other stuff, I had assumed a-ha was just another one hit wonder from the 80’s. Not so, they have released no less than 10 studio albums and have been widely popular pretty much everywhere else in the world. They are even in the Guinness Book for largest paying audience. 198,000 people showed up to listen to them in Rio.

a-ha’s best years are arguably the first decade, when new wave was all the rage. And that’s definitely what they are: new wave. Also a little alt-rock and synth-pop, but I digress.

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How many of you know anything by a-ha other than “Take On Me”? To be fair, “Take On Me” is a fabulous song: fun, catchy, sing-able (even if that high note is nearly impossible for most guys), and it can really bring people together. Who doesn’t love that song?! Combined with an iconic music video, it’s a hit for the ages. Here’s a link to the video for it:

That will probably always be one of my favorite music videos of all time. However! We are not here to talk only about the music you already know, but also the music you don’t.

Three was so much more to listen to by a-ha than I anticipated, I had to spread it out over a week or so. Their sound changed a bit over the years, starting out your typical 80’s new wave with a few stand out tracks such as “Cry Wolf” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Crying In The Rain” though that last one reminded me a little of Talking Heads.

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One of the defining traits of new wave bands in my opinion is a strong synth keyboard sound. That sound is very apparent in the songs I listed above, but some of a-ha’s later albums (and here I’m talking mostly about the album Cast In Steel) the synth became more understated and the track became more orchestral in it’s arrangement. I was honestly reminded of Keane a number of times throughout that album. To anyone who is a fan of Keane, you should check it out for sure. My favorite from that album is probably the title track.

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There is a collection alum on Spotify titled Time and Again: The Ultimate a-ha that had quite a few good tracks on it. Firstly I would mention “Did Anyone Approach You” which was one of the songs that made me think of Keane. Secondly, there were some good remixes there, my favorite being “Summer Moved On.” It is kind of an epic song in the first place but the remix gave it a “2000’s cool” kind of vibe that really worked well.

Moral of the story here is that one hit wonders aren’t really just one hit wonders. I got on board the new wave train for this post and found some good tunes to add to my collection along the way.

‘Til next time!

Homage/Fallin’

There are so many artists to talk about, so I decided to do a 2-for-1 special in this post. So without further ado, here you go.

Part 1: Alicia Keys

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Objectively, I am completely aware of the fact that Alicia Keys is a truly great musician. She writes and composes very well, and she represents the genres of R&B and Soul excellently. She has a large collection of very soulful music that most of it, for some reason, I just don’t really care about. I actually quite enjoy R&B and Soul music, though I typically go for the older stuff. I think Alicia Keys is a great artist, but her music just doesn’t really reach me. Everyone has their favorite genres, and even though I like this genre quite a bit and can enjoy her music when it is on, Alicia Keys is not an artist I seek out much at all.

Except, that is, her hit singles. These are possibly the exception because I have heard them so many times on the radio and being piped over speakers in various locations, but nonetheless they are great songs and I do really like them. My top 3 are “No One” “If I Ain’t Got You” and of course “Fallin'” I have to say “Girlfriend” is pretty good as well with, in my opinion, a Destiny’s Child kind of vibe. They are all ridiculously fun to listen to (and dance stupidly to if I’m hanging out alone in my apartment).

Here’s a video for “Fallin'” for your enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, if you like R&B at all, please go listen to her, she’s really good. I like her stuff, I just don’t listen to it often and wouldn’t bother trying to get a ticket to see her live. Make of that what you will.

 

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Part 2: Alien Ant Farm

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Alien Ant Farm is not my usual cup of tea either. I honestly have no problem with Metal (I believe this particular group is classified as either nu metal or alternative metal) or with Punk Rock (they also have that label) and in fact there are multiple bands in those genres I truly love. I guess I’m just a lot more picky when it comes to some genres.

I’m pretty sure most of you have no idea who Alien Ant Farm are. They are the band who did that alt-metal-punk-rock cover of “Smooth Criminal” that shows up on Alt-Rock stations. You know the one. It’s a pretty good cover; I like when a band covers a song and makes it their own a little bit. If you play it the same way as the original then nine times out of ten I’d rather just listen to the original. Anyway, “Smooth Criminal” is the reason they are on my Spotify.

While I was listening to their other stuff I did in fact find a few that I liked and have since added to my music collection, but other than that I didn’t much care about it one way or the other. A lot of their music is just filler for me, and didn’t leave much of an impression. The ones I liked more tended to be more on the pop rock side of their style as opposed to metal or punk, and most of them are from the album Always and Forever. Specifically, I like “Sidelines” “Movies” “American Pie” (not a cover of the Don McLean song) and “Homage”

That last one is my favorite, it’s pretty much nothing but music references. In fact I counted approximately 24 references. If nothing else, please listen to that song, it’s very fun and really hit home with me. In fact, here’s a link to a lyric video for you:

Well, that’s about it for me today. Two more artists down, hundreds to go. There is still a long musical journey ahead of me, yet I am undaunted! Onward we go!

All I Really Want

 

When you hear the name Alanis Morissette, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most, it is probably “angry rocker chick music” or possibly “90’s alt-rock angst.” Both are true to some extent. Let’s be honest, if you hadn’t heard her stuff before and then someone played “You Oughta Know” it would sound pretty angst ridden and angry rocker chick. Here’s the music video if you’re interested:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Jagged Little Pill came out in 1995 when I was 6 years old. Most of my exposure to Alanis came about a little later on when I finally reached an age demographic that can appreciate the music she produces. I can’t remember the first time I heard her music, but it was likely on the radio when I was a kid. It was background music for a large portion of my life and I didn’t give it much thought other than, “hey that’s a good song.”

This project has been great for me in a lot of ways, but I am especially glad I looked a little closer at Alanis Morissette.

In my opinion her most critically acclaimed album, Jagged Little Pill, is her best album. If you haven’t heard the acoustic version of that album she released in 2005 (tenth anniversary of the original release) you should check it out, it is a great return to that album and has phenomenal versions of the tracks you know and love.

You can’t go wrong with songs like “You Oughta Know” “Hand In My Pocket” “Ironic” or “Head Over Feet”, but you’ve heard all those songs hundreds of times on the radio. The other ones on that album that I now love would have to be “Right Through You,” “All I Really Want” (both are even better on the acoustic album), “Mary Jane,” and “I’m Not The Doctor.” Those are some really fantastic songs and hit home her aptitude as a lyricist.

Here’s the acoustic version of “All I Really Want” for your enjoyment:

Everyone knows Jagged Little Pill, and that’s great. The album you should really check out aside from that is Under The Rug Swept. This was the first album where she was the sole writer and producer, and I have to say I was impressed. It is chalk full of the same awesome Alanis Morissette sound on some all new tracks.

I am especially fond of “Hands Clean” and “21 Things I Want In A Lover” but really the whole album is good. There’s also a really nice yet very simple bass line going on in “So Unsexy” and we all know I love a good bass line. 

Speaking of bass lines, go listen to the bass line in “You Oughta Know” which was actually played by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Similarly, Dave Navarro took on the guitar line for the recording of that track. 

 A lot of artists have the curse of having all their music sounding the same, and with such a unique voice it would have been easy for her to fall into the same rut. I am glad she tried out some new things on some of her other albums, though personally I don’t think it worked all that well for her on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, yet she managed to stay true to her original style on Under The Rug Swept while still keeping it interesting.

All in all, Alanis Morissette is a great song writer. I really got into her stuff during this and was pretty blown away by how much I really liked it. I feel like some of it can really stand the test of time and is relate-able to a lot of people in various circumstances, and not just jilted women in their 20’s. I really recommend you listen to some of the songs I mentioned in this post, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

That’s all for now, keep an eye out for my next post which will be a double whammy and cover two separate artists.

P.S. Who on earth knew that she’s done some acting?! I certainly didn’t, and I have never seen any of the things she’s been in. Admittedly, it’s not a huge acting career, but it’s there. Random.

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Don’t Turn Around

All I can think of when I hear something like Ace of Base (very much early 90’s europop) is just how hokey it is. That might not be quite the right word… oh well. But that is likely because of my age (born in ’89). Ah well, I still enjoy a couple of their hit singles on occasion. Rare occasion. Obviously I must like it enough to have it on my Spotify, but that might just be childhood memories talking.

When I turned on this artist for this I was surprised and kind of annoyed to find so. Many. Remixes.

Not even good ones. I’ll be honest, I didn’t make it through all of the songs for Ace of Base; their particular style just does not do it for me. And the fact that there are apparently albums worth of remixes each dedicated to just one song gets kind of hard to listen to after a while.

The songs I like are most likely ones other people are familiar with. Unless under the age of 20. The songs in question are “Don’t Turn Around”, “All That She Wants”and of course “The Sign“. 

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Pitch Perfect kind of ruined that last one for me though. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I’m talking about. I liked the movie, because it is ridiculous and fun, but you know how one song can get overplayed on the radio, and over the course of a week or two you can get really sick of it cause you hear it so often? Pitch Perfect accomplished that feeling maybe half an hour into the movie. Hats off to them for that feat; now please never do that to me again. I can barely stand to listen to “The Sign” for more than a minute now.

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Ultimately, I don’t much care for Ace of Base as a whole. Kind of sad to say, but that’s the truth. None of their other songs mean anything to me, and it’s likely the only reason I like the ones I mentioned is they were around while I was growing up.

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Well, you can’t win them all. I guess I’ll stick with what I know on this one.

What’s Up?

Okay, firstly, how 90’s is this picture? For real.

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Just look at it. Gazing off apathetically into the middle distance. Cloudy painted backdrop. Dreadlocks. The one dude who actually kind of looked at the camera but isn’t in the foreground. Baggy clothes of thrift store style. Pretty sure the guy on the left is stoned… 90’s

Secondly, for a band with only one album and only one hit, 4 Non Blondes rock. Now, I know, I know: a lot of you probably hate her voice. It is very unique, and pretty rough, but I think she really owns it. I love when singers really own the unique sound of their voice (check out the Mountain Goats). And honestly, the way she does it is way fun to sing along with in a non entirely angst-y way (Yet still a little angst-y since you kind of have to gargle your voice a bit). I dare you to blare “What’s Up?” in your car and NOT sing along. Go on, try it.

Have any of you heard any of their other songs besides “What’s Up”?  Some of them are pretty dang rad. As you may know, I am a bass player (primarily, anyway) so if there is a good bass line in a song I probably pick it out. Gotta say, I love their bass lines, they can be kinda funky. Especially on the track “Superfly”, you should check it out.

So, my review? 4 Non Blondes know what’s going on. Good band, I’m glad I was able to add their songs to my list.

My only remaining question? What on earth was the 90’s love of weird hats? I mean seriously, just look at this:

This is all the same person… and these are all really big hats…