Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables: Peaches

The Presidents of the Unites States of America: Peaches


It's a bit under the wire here, but I realized this song hadn't been posted yet, and in my book it would have been some sort of crime to let a fruit theme go by and not post this fruit-eating anthem.

Fruits and Vegetables: The Apples and Oranges Edition

There really *is* no place like home - so comforting to once again be under my own roof, with my own family and dog... and my own CD collection!

It's taking a bit of time to catch up and get back in the proverbial "swing of things"... so I thought I'd offer up some apples, oranges and a wayward plum as my Star Maker Machine re-entry - hope you've all had a juicy summer...

Barenaked Ladies: These Apples


What's not to love about a Canadian folk/pop/rock "boy" band singing of romance and postcards and grammar, oh my! - "these apples are delicious!"...

Osborne Brothers (featuring Steve Thomas): Orange Blossom Special


The notes on the back of my CD state that "Orange Blossom Special ranks as probably the most popular fiddle tune of all time. Written in the mid-thirties by fiddlers Chubby Wise and Ervin Rouse, the song took its title from a southeastern train on the Seabord Airline Railroad. Originally an instrumental, verses were later added and it has evolved into a favorite showpiece for other instruments as well" - enjoy!

Suzanne Vega: My Favorite Plum


I remember hearing Caramel on the Sessions at West 54th TV program in Spring of 1998... and rushing right out to buy her (at that time) new CD - food has long been a metaphor for desire and, as Suzanne sings of her longing, the temptation to indulge is strong and seductive...

"Can all this fruit be free?" indeed...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables: The Plum Blossom

Yusef Lateef: The Plum Blossom


While scouring my music library for fruit and vegetable songs, I kept finding myself coming back to this Eastern-influenced meditation from jazz multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef. Yusef plays the Chinese xun, a kind of flute, on this track, while bassist Ernie Farrow picks up the rabaab, Barry Harris tinkles the ivories, and Lex Humphries adds some sympathetic percussion. It all adds up to a simple, hypnotic piece as softly pretty as its title.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables: The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

XTC: The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead


What would Jesus do? It’s a valid question. But here, XTC asked, what would we do to Jesus? Andy Partridge and Co had expressed their doubts about religion elsewhere. But here, they stated their case against the hypocrisy of the modern-day political and religious establishment. To do so, Andy Partridge created the character of Peter Pumpkinhead as a Jesus figure whose appearance threatens both governments and churches in today’s world. Peter seems more like a hippie than a minister. When the powers that be find that they cannot discredit Peter, he suffers the same fate as his predecessor.

I don’t know where Partridge got the idea for or the name of this character. But, I wonder if Peter might be related to the character Jack Pumpkinhead from The Land of Oz. Jack, as a character from a beloved series of children’s books, represents the innocence of childhood, and, as a magical creation, the belief that anything is possible. These ideas, Partridge would be saying, cannot endure in the face of the evils of the modern world. I find that this explanation for Peter’s surname adds resonance to the song for me. However, if anyone knows what Partridge was really thinking, please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables: Raspberry Beret

Hindu Love Gods: Raspberry Beret


In the mid-80s, while three-quarters of R.E.M. were helping Warren Zevon record his Sentimental Hygiene album, they banged out an album's worth of covers one night. In Several years later, the results of that night were released as the Hindu Love Gods one-and-only album. Most of the songs on the album were covers of blues standards, but the standout was this rockin' take on Prince's ode to scarlet headwear.

It's a fun track, but the real reason I picked this song is because I love raspberries. They are my favorite fruit. Every time I eat one, I am reminded of summer mornings in my youth, picking raspberries from the bushes in my parents' backyard to add to my breakfast cereal. It's a memory I cherish.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fruits and Vegetables: Bananas and Blow

Ween: Bananas and Blow


I'm a bit too old for Bonnaroo. Fighting crowds of up to a hundred thousand in the southern heat to hear music until the wee hours is no dream date for a 36 year old dad with waning stamina and a high preference for intimate stageside seating.

But I've been living vicariously though live recordings from the festival since it started, and the 2002 inaugural Live from Bonnaroo CD, from back when the festival was still almost exclusively a haven for jam bands and hippie funk, is as good as it gets: Galactic, Soulive, String Cheese Incident, Jack Johnson, a recently-solo Trey Anastasio, even a Les Claypool cover of an old Jethro Tull tune. Throw in Del McCoury and Norah Jones as a nod to the much broader musical diversity which would soon become the norm at the annual fest, and you've got a recipe for success well worth purchasing, whether or not you even planned to make the trip.

Neo-psychedelic oddballs Ween are technically an alt-rock or "stoner rock" band -- I saw them a decade ago, at an early HORDE tour -- but this fruity tune is a perfect example of what I love about jam band music. From the bass-and-steel drum intro to the sing-along wind-in-the-trees wail, the tune stays light and bouncy through tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and a set of silly drug-referencing lyrics clearly written for rhythmic trip than for any particular narrative sense. It's like being there, but much closer to the stage. And without all the mud, heat, long entrance lines, hilarious patchwork corduroy pants, and bad acid.

Fruits and Vegetables: Coconut

Harry Nilsson: Coconut


OK. Let’s get this produce party started.

This strange little ditty caught my ears the first time I heard it, and it hasn’t let go all these years later. And I have no idea why. The song consists of just a few lines of lyrics, sung over and over, with only slight variations. It’s almost simple minded. The production is weird, even for the 1970s. And the groove is fun, but it never goes anywhere. So call this a guilty pleasure, I guess. But I can remember when this was all over the radio. I think it even charted. So whatever mysterious power this song has over me, at least I’m not the only one.