Unique greatest hits albums

My first forays into buying music as a kid were through greatest hits collections: The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, The Grass Roots. Record label contracts commonly require releasing a greatest hits album after a certain threshold of records, and they come out like clockwork if the artist or band is fortunate enough to have songs that chart from multiple albums and/or a large, devoted fan base. Such albums end up being obvious and predictable, released without much thought, sometimes sweetened with the bonus of a new song. But a few artists put their own unique twist on the “best of” concept, and those examples stand out from the crowd. Continue reading →

What the world needs now Is love

jackie-de-shannon-what-the-world-needs-now-is-love-libertySomething happened in the 1960s that doesn’t often get discussed. Brotherly love became an increasingly common subject for pop music lyrics. Only rarely was this topic deemed sufficiently interesting in previous decades or centuries. What caused this shift? Several societal factors coincided and likely played a role: the explosive number of Boomer youth and further differentiation of a separate youth culture; the high profile of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the instantly televised, blatant inequities faced by American blacks; a reaction against the conformist, materialistic 1950s and growing interest in non-material, spiritual consciousness. Continue reading →

Insight into the music of Joni Mitchell

The Music of Joni MitchellReading Lloyd Whitesell’s The Music of Joni Mitchell, my esteem for Mitchell’s artistry has grown even more. I already knew her music was rich in imagery, harmonic adventurousness, and sensitivity to the way that music and words work together. But this book exposed me to far more than I had observed myself. Whitesell explores how the songs are put together and how they work — their “sound, syntax, design and effect.” Continue reading →

Musical locations in Manhattan

Washington Square ParkOn a recent trip to Manhattan, my partner and I visited specific locations referenced in songs by our favorite artists while we listened to the song. The concept of a musical tour of the city made for an intriguing plan. Our first stop was Washington Square Park. In “Garlands,” Tori Amos sings about two lovers meeting up here to go see a Chagall exhibit uptown. The paintings seem to chronicle elements of their love. The song was a bonus track on The Beekeeper. Tori originally considered titling the song “Washington Square.” Continue reading →