Articles

  • Schnapszahl vs. Repdigit - 111,111 Plays on Last.FM

    26 sept. 2010, 23h35m

    I can't help myself, but I prefer the German term "Schnapszahl" (schnapps digit) to the mathematical "repdigit". The latter would make more sense in my case if it were spelled "rapdigit", because quite a few of the 111,111 plays I just hit at Last.FM have been rap and hip-hop songs.


    My 50,000th and 100,000th play on Last.FM happened to be Funkadelic's One Nation Under a Groove. The 111,111th play is a different version of "One Nation" - featuring just the duo of Dennis Chambers (drums) and Gary Grainger (bass): One Nation Under a Groove (Bass & Drums).


    It is an excerpt from Dennis' great DVD "In the Pocket".

    Here's my German blog post about Last.FM at Sozialgeschnatter.de (from 2007).
  • Paris? Hamburg? Beirut? Who Cares … It’s Bollywood!!!

    21 fév. 2010, 12h54m

    This is the opening song of the movie “An Evening In Paris” (1967) … please watch it, and enjoy the authentic depiction of Paris by night (runs until time code 2:20):

    You watched it? Okay. Now, allow me to elaborate for a second.

    I became aware of this masterpiece during an extended summer weekend in Paris last year. From Charles de Gaulle airport, I took a train to the station Gare du Nord. In order to get a feel for the city which I hadn't visited for quite a while, I walked around Gare du Nord ... and ended up in an Indian area at Rue FBG Saint Denis.

    One of the DVD shops sold Bollywood movies for €1 each. I bought four, including "An Evening in Paris" which appealed to me just because of the title. The same night, I watched the above opening sequence ... which I found hilarious.

    For the following reasons: Shammi Kapoor (who mimicks vocals by Mohd. Rafi) performs the title song on Reeperbahn, in the middle of Hamburg/Germany’s red-light district. You even catch a glimpse of the world-famous Moulin Rouge – although its smaller Hamburg version is actually a gambling hall (Spielsalon).

    You keep seeing local ladies prancing around with Kapoor. They look as if they don’t know what happened to them – they probably were talked into performing in the movie right on location.

    Shammi Kapoor is an unlikely romantic lead. His role is best described in the Hong Kong Cinema blog: “The first time you see Shammi Kapoor in a film you may likely wonder if this fellow has just wandered in accidentally and nobody noticed. This is the leading romantic man of the film? His stomach slightly hanging over his belt, his often disheveled hair lying like an unkempt birds nest upon his head and a fleshy unformed face that at first glance has the look and personality of a clump of dough.”

    The movie – which was partly shot at another Paris substitute (Beirut/Lebanon) and which is highly absurd even by Bollywood standards – still is fun to watch (if you can get it at a similarly decent rate as I did).

    For details, check out the movie’s IMDB page. Or a (German) review by Swiss journalist Marco who is running the best German-language Bollywood page (molodezhnaja.ch) .

    The movie’s soundtrack is available at my favorite MP3 dealer emusic:
    [urlhttp://www.emusic.com/album/Asha-Bhosle-Chorus-Mohd-Rafi-An-Evening-In-Paris-MP3-Download/10836296.html]"An Evening In Paris", by Asha Bhosle, Chorus, Mohd. Rafi
    (Here are two reviews I wrote about emusic, in English and German.)

    Additional videos from the movie:

    "Leja Leja Mera Dil" (Great song & dance number!)


    "Akele Akele" (Flirting on a gondola lift in snowy mountains)


    "Raat Ke Humsafar" (Singing in the rain)


    "Deewane Ka Naam" (Seems to actually take place in Paris)
  • R.I.P., Carl Smith!

    19 jan. 2010, 4h46m

    Another old-timer is gone: '50s honky tonker Carl Smith. You can get one of his best albums at emusic.com: "Smith's the Name" from 1957.

    One sentence in Last.FM's bio points out some of his major accomplishments ;-) : >> Known as “Mister Country”, Smith is the former husband of June Carter Cash and drinking buddy of Johnny Cash. Carl and June are the parents of singer Carlene Carter. <<

    With June Carter, he recorded "Times A Wastin'" (full-length version at BLIP.fm).

    With daughter Carlene, he later collaborated on the duet "Loose Talk" (full-length version at BLIP.fm).

    Catching up with his songs, I found some great lines.

    From 1967's "Life Turned Her That Way" (on the album "The Country Gentleman Sings His Favorites"):

    "She's been walked on
    And stepped on so many times
    And I hate to admit it
    But that last footprint's mine"
    (by Harlan Howard)
    ---
    "We live in two different worlds"

    "We live in two different worlds dear
    That's why we're so far apart
    You made your world out of vows that are broken
    I built a world in my heart"
    (by Hank Williams)
    ---
    "Time's A Wastin'""

    "Male: Now I've got arms
    Female: And I've got arms
    Together: Let's get together and use those arms
    Female: Let's go
    Together: Time's a wastin'

    M: I've got lips
    F: And I've got lips
    T: Lets get together and use those lips
    F: Let's go
    T: Time's a wastin'"

    F: A cakes no good if you don't mix the batter and bake it
    M: And loves just a bubble if you don't take the trouble to make it"
    (by Boudleaux Bryant?)

    Here are Carl & Carter as comedians:
  • R.I.P., Bobby Charles!

    16 jan. 2010, 10h52m

    I was very sorry to hear by way of an insightful obituary @AllMusic.com that Bobby Charles has passed away.

    If you are not familiar with his great songwriting and singing, check out the compilation "Last Train to Memphis" which is offered by the MP3 dealer of my choice (emusic). And: Some of his songs are available on his Last.FM artist page.

    My favorite country guitarist Albert Lee has covered some of Bobby's songs. Two of Albert's best versions are featured on the Albert Lee And Hogan's Heroes album "In Between the Cracks".

    You can listen to the songs (and buy them) on the album's emusic page.

    Here is a beautiful Bobby Charles song which was covered by Clarence "Frogman" Henry (among others):
  • Sheba, Sheba - You Can Do Better Than This! ;-)

    23 nov. 2009, 1h04m

    I just checked out singer Sheba Potts-Wright at my favorite MP3 dealer eMusic. With titles like "Private Fishing Hole", "Lipstick on His Pants", and "Need a Cowboy to Ride My Pony", she strikes me as a less classy version of Denise LaSalle. But I just found 24 songs on her five emusic albums which I considered worth buying.

    A word of warning: As it's the case on many releases by the Ecko label, the production of Sheba's songs sounds extremely cheap. I particularly dislike the cheesy drum programming and the '80s-style synthesizer sounds on many of the tracks. But have a listen yourself ...
  • Funky Suzi

    9 oct. 2009, 0h23m

    For Brit rocker Suzi Quatro, this is pretty funky. From 1975: "I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew" - produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (aka Chinn/Chapman, who were behind many Brit pop acts - including Sweet).
  • Steve Martin Funkin' (and Folkin') It Up With "King Tut"

    9 oct. 2009, 0h13m

    I rediscovered Steve Martin's rap song "King Tut" while listening his 1978 "A Wild and Crazy Guy" comedy album. Nice track!

    I initially assumed that Steve Martin was backed by session musicians (e. g., the baritone saxophone may have been played by Steve Douglas), or by the studio band of NBC's Saturday Night Live.

    Surprise, surprise: The real backing band are the Toot Uncommons - members of the country-folk group The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

    Here is the video (the saxophonist stepping out of the sarcophage is Lou Marini):
  • Looking Back at A.R. Rahman's First Sony Album "Vande Mataram" (1997)

    8 oct. 2009, 23h57m

    Thanks to the biography at AllMusic.com, I just encountered this interesting Rahman detail:

    "('Slumdog Millionaire' Oscar winner) A.R. Rahman became the first Indian artist to sign with SONY MUSIC, negotiating a three-year contract in 1997.

    His premier release for the label, 'Vande Mataram' (his first collection of non-film music), was a tribute to India, commemorating 50 years of the country's independence. The album reached record stores in 28 countries on August 15th of that year."

    The video shows the title track "Maa Tujhe Salaam":
  • Remembering Willy DeVille - A Visit in New Orleans

    16 août 2009, 21h06m

    I’m currently revisiting some of my favorite Willy DeVille and Mink DeVille songs – which remind me of a TV shoot I did with Willy in New Orleans in 1992, on the event of the German release of his album “Backstreets of Desire” (for the magazine “Das! Das Abendstudio” on the Northern German TV channel NDR). He had moved to the French Quarter around 1990 and recorded the album in the Big Easy (just like 1990’s “Victory Mixture”).

    On the night before the shoot, I visited him and his wife Lisa at their home in the Quarter. Instead of doing the usual interview about the album, he suggested that we shoot him doing a tour of his favorite spots in New Orleans.

    The following day, we started filming at St. Roch Chapel where the cover photo of “Backstreets of Desire” was taken. For the cover photo, Willy had picked a church dedicated to Saint Roch, the patron saint “against cholera, epidemics, knee problems, plague, skin diseases; [and for] bachelors, diseased cattle, dogs, falsely accused people, invalids, surgeons, tile-makers; gravediggers, second-hand dealers, pilgrims” (according to Wikipedia).

    It has a shrine accessible through a small door on the right side of the altar, filled with marble thank-you tiles, plaster casts of feet, polio braces, eyeballs, plus big spiders and cockroach parts. On the album cover, you can see Willy sitting on the shrine’s floor, surrounded by the above offerings.


    Next stop was a street market down at the south end of the French Quarter. Willy instructed us not to shoot the vendors because, according to him, many of them were camera-shy ex-prisoners (“ex” meaning: some of them escaped, instead of being released).

    We then moved on to the Voodoo Museum. Willy insisted on entering the museum by himself first, in order to inquire whether it was okay to shoot there. Otherwise, he said, “bad things” could happen to us.

    I did the main part of the album interview on the banks of the Mississippi River. Willy started to get tired and cranky at this point, which is why we only visited one final destination – a French Quarter Cajun restaurant serving a spicy soup in a hollowed-out bread loaf.

    A little later, I met Willy again at the after-show party of a concert in Cologne (where I lived back then). Maybe due to the tour stress, he appeared to be much less relaxed than I got to know him in New Orleans – which is why I prefer to remember him as tour guide in one of my favorite U.S. cities (New Orleans).


    [Originally posted in my blog Sozialgeschnatter.de.]
  • Keith Richards is to the Rolling Stones What Flavor Flav is to Public Enemy

    21 jui. 2009, 23h27m

    I recently looked into Sly & Robbie's back catalog which included a collaboration with The Rolling Stones ("Too Much Blood" on 1983's "Undercover" album). This made me revisit several of my favorite Stones albums as well.

    While doing this, I reencountered "Too Rude" from 1986's "Dirty Work" album - a song which features lead vocalist Keith Richards and which is closer to 'roots reggae' than "Too Much Blood" (despite Sly & Robbie's involvement in the latter). Here's a very nice 1988 version by Keith Richards & his Expensive Winos:


    This version reminded me of the fact that Keith Richards has always been my favorite Stone, and that his 'solo' songs on the Stones albums usually were personal highlights to me. His vocals are raw and uneven, but - to me - they are rock'n'roll. Kompared to Keef, Mick is a mere poser - more pop than rock.

    Which brings me to the Flavor Flav comparison. I like Public Enemy better than the Rolling Stones, and I certainly prefer Chuck D. to Mick J. But Flav's contributions to P.E.'s albums (like "911 Is a Joke" and "Get Off My Back") have always been among my favorite P.E. songs because they have a more distinct funk flavor than Chuck's political hip-hop. My mind prefers Chuck's heavy-hitting, angry lyrics and the Bomb Squad's noisy production, but my ass grooves to Flav's sillyness. ;-)

    In a (German-language) blog entry about a P.E. show in 2008 ("Public Enemy: Die großen alten Herren des Polit-HipHop in Höchstform"), I posted a 30-second video clip which (IMO) captures Flavor's live energy. Unfortunately, the sound quality is sub-par - better turn down your speakers' volume before hitting the "Play" button:


    For a more detailed praise of Public Enemy, check out "Meine 15 Lieblingsalben (3/3 – 1987-2004)" (in case you read German).

    [Before posting this article, I googled for similar comparisons of P.E. and R.S. In 2005, The Guardian published a very insightful story: "Still raging after all these years".
    Short excerpt: >> He (Chuck D) smiles. "You know, the brilliant aspect is that through all our controversies and trials and tribulations, Flavor is Flav and Griff is Griff. It makes it easier for me to be me. Flavor Flav is Keith Richards. Or Jagger. Maybe I'm Richards, who knows." He stops talking for a second, as if searching for the right soundbite. Then he finds it. "Public Enemy," he chuckles. "Rolling Stones of the rap game." <<]