Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring & Flowers: Poisoned Rose

Elvis Costello: Poisoned Rose


Can I slip one more flower song in under the wire? I've read in a couple of places that King Of America is Costello's favorite album from his own catalogue. If this is the case, then I have to agree with him. His streak from This Year's Model through Imperial Bedroom is almost unmatched in pop music, with Trust and This Year's Model being personal highlights for me. But King Of America is where the Attractions take their leave for the first time, and Costello stands front and center.  The song writing is top notch, and the emotional intensity of the album is, in my opinion, unlike anything that we had heard from him up until this point.

Interestingly, the writing is all credited to Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus. This wasn't just a marketing trick, Costello had legally changed his name back to his birth name, adding Alysius, just prior to the release of the album.

Costello sounds characteristically angry on this record, but there are more subtle and delicate songs too. He was going through a divorce when he wrote the album, and Poisoned Rose is one of the songs where you hear this painful reality come through clearly. It's one of only a couple of slow-tempo tunes on the album. Really beautiful stuff.

Spring & Flowers: Roses In The Snow

Nico: Roses In The Snow


A few days ago it was over 70 degrees in Minneapolis. This morning (read: afternoon) I wake up to snow?!?! Shesh...

Quite disillusioned by that smirking trickster, Mother Nature, I simply don't have much to say. Nico's glacial delivery seems to express my feelings well.

"Roses In The Snow" is an outtake from either The Marble Index (1969) or Desertshore (1970), released on the 2007 compilation The Frozen Borderline.

Spring & Flowers: When It's Springtime In Alaska

Johnny Cash: When It's Springtime In Alaska (It's Forty Below) [purchase]
Johnny Horton: When It's Springtime In Alaska (It's Forty Below) [purchase]

Cash's posthumously-released version of the Johnny Horton hit is extremely cool. Horton's version ain't half bad either.

Famous last words: "I didn't know Lil was Big Ed's wife-to-be."

Spring & Flowers: The Flowers Of Guatemala

R.E.M.: The Flowers Of Guatemala


I've been in a real R.E.M. mood lately. Here's an old one that always said "Spring" to me.

For more about Guatemala, see here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring & Flowers: For The Roses

Joni Mitchell: For The Roses


Well, I guess this song oughta get posted, huh?

Here's what Joni, herself, has to say about the song:

"That was my first farewell to show business. I was in Canada, where I have a sanctuary where I still go sometimes, and I had decided to quit show business and get away from all the pressures I felt. To me, this was an unfair, crooked business and it has nothing to do with real talent. ... I was up in Canada about a year and I guess it strengthened my nervous system a little, so I finally came back." - From Here

I'm glad she came back, because her next release was the phenomenal Court and Spark. If she hadn't recorded that album, then we may never have heard a song called "Free Man In Paris." And if we'd never heard that song? Well, you see where I'm going with this...


Although this song was never released as a single, the album it is from (also named For The Roses) reached #11 on the U.S. charts, #5 on the Canadian charts, and #19 in Australia.

Spring & Flowers: Sunflower

[ purchase ]

The Beach Boys - Cool, Cool Water

Beautiful album, I think I'll listen to it in full as soon as possible. Spring and Summer are finally here and that always piques a little more interest, a little digging deeper still, in my 2nd favorite musical group of all time. Wild Honey, Friends, 20/20, Sunflower, Surf's Up... what a run. Thank you summer, thank you Beach Boys.

of note:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring & Flowers: English Rose

The Jam: English Rose


For me any excuse to feature a song by The Jam is a good excuse. This tune is not about spring, or even really about Roses, but it does have the word Rose in the title and several times in the lyrics. This is one of the more melancholy Jam songs, with Paul Weller traveling the world, but pining for his native land, his English Rose.

Spring & flowers: Sugar Magnolia

The Grateful Dead: Sugar Magnolia

"Sugar magnolia, ringing that bluebell..." One of the highlights on what´s about the only Dead album I can stand: the rootsy American Beauty (´70). None of their endless trademark guitar doodlings here. Written by Bob Weir and Robert Hunter, Sugar Magnolia is a relaxed ode to love in bloom. And hey, who wouldn´t love this girl? "She´s got everything delightful, she´s got everything I need, takes the wheel when I´m seeing double, pays my ticket when I speed..."

Spring & Flowers: The Flower Called Nowhere

Stereolab: The Flower Called Nowhere


Stereolab is, to me, a quintessential springtime group. The light, airy vocals floating above busy, growing-and-flowing soundscapes make it perfect headphone music for meandering walks. It works good as a garden-tending soundtrack, too: I can almost percieve the little flower-shoots and vegetable stalks basking in the glow of this sunny music.

"The Flower Called Nowhere" can be found on Stereolab's 1997 release Dots And Loops, which, as far as I can tell, didn't chart anywhere.

Incidently, flowers are mentioned nowhere in the lyric.

More information on the band can be found on Wikipedia, of course.

*edit* Dots and Loops did chart! It rose to #111 on the Billboard 200.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring & Flowers: Good Year For The Roses

Elvis Costello: Good Year For The Roses


This has to be one of the saddest country songs ever written. The poor guy's life is falling apart around him and things that he used to think were important, like gardening or mowing the lawn, now seem menacingly inconsequential.

You can find the George Jones version here.

Spring & Flowers: Daisys Up Your Butterfly

The Cramps: Daisys Up Your Butterfly


This one really needs no further explanation. It's especially Springy because it has both daisies and butterflies. (I've got another great one to post from this album if the theme is ever beachwear or firearms.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring & Flowers: (Nothing But) Flowers

Caetano Veloso: (Nothing But) Flowers


According to Wikipedia, David Byrne wrote these lyrics while admiring the flowers at the Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens. I, too, have been inspired while roaming the grounds down there, but I've never come up with anything like this. I guess that's the difference between a guy that's been the leader of one of the coolest New Wave bands (and a damn-fine solo artist!), and a guy that, well... a guy that basically lives in a closet! Huh. Funny, that.

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it's nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it's all covered with flowers
you've got it, you've got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you've got it, you've got it


I've always liked the Talking Heads version of this song, which was on their 1988 release Naked, but don't have a copy of it to share, at this time. Fortunately, I've got a most excellent cover version by a gentleman named Caetano Veloso.

I don't know much about the guy, but his Wikipedia page let me know that he is sometimes considered the "Bob Dylan of Brazil", has been releasing albums since 1967, and has won five Latin Grammy Awards. Good enough for me!


"(Nothing But) Flowers", the Talking Heads version, made it to #73 on the UK Singles Chart.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring & Flowers: Wildwood Flower

The Carter Family: Wildwood Flower [purchase]
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Wildwood Flower [purchase]
Joan Baez: Wildwood Flower [purchase]
Duane Eddy: Wildwood Flower [purchase]

Wildwood Flower is one of the classic American songs. Originally entitled "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets," it was written by Maud Irving Joseph Philbrick Webster in 1860. The song has a very simple melody that will get stuck in your head.

The most popular recorded version is by The Carter Family. The version by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from the essential album Will The Circle Be Unbroken features Mother Maybelle Carter on vocals.

I like Joan Baez's traditionally folky interpretation from her first album--recorded in 1960 while she was still a teenager. Duane Eddy's twangy guitar rendition is also pretty cool.

Spring & Flowers: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most

Rickie Lee Jones: Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most


I've got a couple more Springtime & Flowers ideas for later on, but right now I've got to go outside and move around about 1/2 ton of soil for my mother's flower garden, so this'll be a short post.

A rather subdued Springtime song, from Rickie's 1991 release "Pop Pop".

Something about the laconic pace, in addition to a drowsiness inherant Miss Jones' delivery, makes me want to laze about a porch, drinking iced-tea (with perhaps a measure of Jack Daniels mixed in!) and watch the clouds roll past. Unfortunately, like I said, I get to move dirt around instead.

Spring & Flowers: April 5th

Talk Talk: April 5th


I stopped recommending Talk Talk to people several years ago after consistently receiving tepid responses, at best, from friends. I admit that they are a bit moody and difficult at times, but I love the band (late period only) and I think they are more musical than people give them credit for.

Talk Talk started off as darlings of the New Romantic movement in 1981, getting heavy rotations on MTV. But by their third album, front man Mark Hollis had led them away from pop music into the netherworlds of a particularly haunting brand of jazz-infused post-rock. In my opinion their two great albums are The Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, with Spirit of Eden being the clear high point. I also think Hollis's first solo offering is worth hearing.

But, like I said, I don't officially recommend this band to people anymore. Purchase or download at your own risk.

That being said, you can't help but love the lyrics of this featured track:

Here she comes
Silent in her sound
Here she comes
Fresh upon the ground

Come gentle spring
Come at winter's end
Gone is the pallor from a promise that's nature's gift
Waiting for the colour of spring
Let me breathe
Let me breathe the colour of spring

Here she comes
Laughter in her kiss
Here she comes
Shame upon her lips

Come wanton spring, come
For birth you live
Youth takes its bow before the summer the seasons bring
Waiting for the colour of spring
Let me breathe

Reader submission by Berrett

Spring & Flowers: Flowers On The Wall

The Statler Brothers: Flowers On The Wall


I've always loved this one. Ever since I saw Pulp Fiction, which has a great soundtrack by the way.

Just thinking about that poor guy playing solitaire with a deck of 51 is sad. It's not really a springtime song, but it tecnically fits the theme.

Spring & flowers: Sunflower Suit

A new theme. It´s spring. La primavera, le printemps... Need I go on? My favorite season. Trees are budding out, flowers are starting to bloom, the swallows have returned from whatever exotic countries they spent the winter months in, while other birds are already looking around for nest-building material. The sun is out, the light is perfect. Time to put on your sunflower suit and strut into town.