Saturday, October 22, 2011

1996: Inside

Patti Rothberg: Inside


1996 was an important year for me musically. It was the year I discovered music could mean something, that it wasn't just about being catchy and fun to listen to. As I've written on here before, my breakthrough came as a high schooler discovering Lisa Loeb's album "Tails" and it grabbed me so much and made me think "wow, is there more music like this out there?". Luckily for me, this was the start of the beautiful few years where female singer-songwriters actually got airplay on mainstream radio, so my mind (and music collection) expanded at an alarming rate.

One of those first discoveries after "Tails" was hearing this single on the radio. I loved it immediately and remember turning the volume up in my dad's car as we drove home from dinner one evening to hear if the radio would say the artist's name so I knew what to look for when I got to the music store. I played this CD a lot that year, and I still really love it. It's one of those singles that a lot of people wouldn't remember if you asked them about it, but if you played them some of it they'd say "oh yeah, that was a pretty good song!". And the whole album is like that, not a bad song on it. It was a shame that the album did not get more recognition, but since then I've come across a number of people who get so enthusiastic if I mention this album because they have such fond feelings towards it as well.

1996 was a good year.

1996: Farewell Angelina

Tim O'Brien: Farewell Angelina


Former Denverite Tim O'Brien released his brilliant tribute to Bob Dylan in 1996. He wittily named it Red on Blonde (he's a redhead, get it?). Darius posted another song from this album back in 2008 (Man Gave Names to All the Animals). I waffled a bit on which one to pick since they're all great, but I've gone with this one because it features his sister Mollie on vocals. Really, though, if you like "newgrass" you really should check out the whole album.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1996: The Barricades of Heaven

Jackson Browne: The Barricades of Heaven


Jackson Browne has been known since the early 1970s not only for his performances, but also as a great songwriter. That makes the writing credits on his 1996 album Looking East interesting reading. Each of the songs is credited to the same seven writers, including Browne. Looking at who plays on the album, I assume that Browne wrote the lyrics, and then brought them to his working band at the time. They then would have created the melodies and arrangements together. The lyrics are personal, as they often are in Browne’s work, so I have to assume he created those himself. On the other hand, it is possible that Browne always worked this way, but he felt it was high time his band got a share of the writing royalties. It must have made some music industry types nuts, especially with all of the different publishing credits.

As for the song I have chosen, The Barricades of Heaven finds Jackson Browne looking back at his youth, when he was just discovering the joy of making music. The song has some of the feel of early Bruce Springsteen, only in LA instead of Asbury Park. The title refers to Browne being on the verge of becoming a professional musician with a major label contract.

Monday, October 17, 2011

1996: Penthouse in the Woods

Scud Mountain Boys: Penthouse in the Woods


Joe Pernice holds an MFA in creative writing from The University of Massachusetts where he apparently learned less is more. His lyrics are sparse. They give flavor to the often moody songs he writes, but they explain nothing. "Penthouse in the Woods" could be about anything...but I'm thinking a murder is involved. The weapon: an airtight garbage bag. The singer's guilt can't be washed off stained gloves. The song comes from 1996's Massachusetts, the last album Scud Mountain Boys would record before Joe would head off with brother Bob and record the sensational Overcome By Happiness as The Pernice Brothers. Those who mourn The Scud Mountain Boys will be pleased to learn The Scuds have a five-date East Coast reunion tour beginning in mid January of next year. In 2009 Joe realized a life long dream by publishing his first novel, It Feels So Good When I Stop  via the hip Penguin imprint Riverhead Books.

By the way, the photo is of a Free Spirit Sphere I visited on Vancouver Island,BC.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

1996: Requiem Aeternum

GSA Mile High Concert Chorale and Orchestra: Requiem Aeternam (John Rutter)

(unavailable for purchase)

This one's just for kicks and giggles. My first song celebrating 1996 features…me!

Well, me, a choir, an orchestra, and some soloists. And how we all came together to make this recording is pretty unusual.

The Geological Society of America holds an annual meeting every October, frequently in Denver. For the meeting in 1996, for some unexplained reason, GSA's head honcho also organized a performance of John Rutter's Requiem for any geoscientist who wanted to participate. GSA sprang for the venue (St. John's Cathedral), the professional orchestra (and some talented geologists), and the 4 soloists (who were terrific). We were mailed the sheet music and a tape ahead of time so we could learn it on our own. In fact, we had only one rehearsal and one final run-through before this performance. I think it sounds pretty decent, and I loved the piece, especially this first movement.

I still haven't worked out why it all came to pass—after all, it really has nothing to do with geology—but it was a great experience.

1996: Up in the Attic

Carrie Newcomer: Up in the Attic


We all have parts of our lives that we pack up in boxes and stash away, never to be seen again. In Up in the Attic, Carrie Newcomer’s narrator finds one of these boxes, and the memories it contains. The song comes from her album My Father’s Only Son. Newcomer plugs in and rocks out in some songs on this album, and those songs sound better than the rock efforts of many of her contemporaries among folk artists of that time. But Newcomer really shines in the quieter moments on the album, and they give a better idea of how she sounds today.