They say things happen in threes. So let's see if I can get all these things rectified as soon as possible. I haven't done a blog in a while. There are a variety of reasons. I got a little burnt and felt like I was forcing myself to listen to stuff instead of wanting to. secondly, to save some money I stopped going to record stores for a few months (gasp!). Third I got completely obsessed with my fantasy football teams. Yes teams, I had one which I acquired last year since someone had quit the keeper league I joined as a favor to my friend. My friend subsequently left the league in the middle of the year. It being a keeper league I was frustrated knowing it would be a while before I could fix my team. So when my exiled friend started his own league I joined (along with several of the keeper league members) that one as well. Shortly before real football season started my "Pick 'em League" (pick winners against the spread) decided to convert to an autodraft fantasy football league. Hence I ended up with three teams for the season. Like I said, things happen in threes...so in July my credit card expired which caused my storage account and my domain to expire. I've tried to keep this domain going but have yet to get the response I need for help. Hopefully someone within google apps reads this so I can get what I need to keep this blog here, otherwise you may see it move within the next couple of months. It's a simple fix really, I just wish I could do it.
This brings me to my second customer service conundrum, Halloween is right around the corner. I usually buy a couple large bags of candy each week in October. That way I have a variety to pick through before the actual holiday. I bought a "Snickers Variety Mix" last week and of course promptly opened it. It was supposed to have Snickers w/Almond, Snickers Peanut Butter Squares, and the traditional Snickers bars. I opened the bag, reached in, and pulled out 3 Snickers with Almond. My OCD was pleased to have 3 of the same and off I went, satisfied. The next night I did the same thing and was surprised to find that I'd once again pulled 3 of the same bar and once again they were all Snickers w/Almond. Intrigued that I'd managed to do that 2 nights in a row I inspected the bag and it looked like it was all Snickers w/Almond, pouring the bag out confirmed this. So I filled out the form for feedback on their website, that was a few days ago, no answer yet.
Meanwhile a few weeks into football season I decided to get a Colin Kaepernick jersey. I had him on two of my three teams then and decided I'd show my support to no in particular. So I also have an account on the NFL website which gives you coins for reading articles and watching videos, then you can redeem them for prizes, contest entries, and the like. I redeemed mine for a $15 coupon enabling me to buy the "Elite" jersey instead of the "Game" jersey. I excitedly ordered and tracked the shipment and it arrived just in time for Week 5 (the first week of October). I opened the package, dumped out the jersey, and noticed something was wrong. I'd received a women's jersey. I was really disappointed and went back and checked my order history and clicked a bunch of links to carefully figure out where the mistake had happened. My best guess is the jersey link on their front page took me to the women's jerseys. The product descriptions on the item's page and once the item is in your cart leave that helpful bit of information out. I called customer service without much hope of getting it solved quickly since it was a Saturday night. To my surprise a friendly fellow named Dave with what I think was Texas accent answered. I explained that I'd gotten the jersey but not being a woman it would be tough for me to wear it. He apologized for the confusion and walked me through filling out the return form to make sure I had the right product in the exchange. He also said that they'd add a $10 in fan cash for my next purchase. He said to send the jersey back and once they got it the exchange would take about 10 days to process and get a new jersey out to me. I was so pleased with my experience that I noted it on the return form. And I sat and waited for my jersey figuring any day I'd get the mail and it would be there. Just this week I started to think it should be getting here soon and I checked the website but it was down for maintenance so I couldn't see a status. I figured I'd give it another day and it would probably show up in the mail. Instead I got an email and a refund. I couldn't figure out why and I was annoyed since I'd been waiting a while for the jersey. So I checked the site and sure enough the jersey was still in stock. I tried to reorder but my coupon code had expired. So I called customer service for an explanation and figured based on my previous good experience that it would be an easy fix. I explained what happened and I asked why I hadn't gotten an email asking if I wanted a refund or to wait and was told I should have but didn't for whatever reason none was given). Then he said I could just reorder the jersey since it was in stock. I said OK but what about the coupon? He said he could give me $10 fan cash (the second time I'd heard that offer) but anything else would have to go to a supervisor. I said. "Ok give me a supervisor." He said "No, they would have to contact me and it would be within 24-48 hrs." Really, all of this to get the other $5 I earned in "rewards." So now I'm sitting here halfway through football season without a jersey, waiting for a call from customer service, and hoping maybe I'll get it in time for the playoffs. I'm still really disappointed and more than slightly annoyed that despite him being able to see my coupon he couldn't authorize another $5 in rewards.
Which brings me to my actual music related conundrum this week. I, as you long time readers know, am a Pearl Jam fan. I buy all of their albums on CD and vinyl too, despite not currently owning a record player. They played here twice this week and I, of course, went both nights. At the second show I ran into a friend who said she'd been following the blog and she asked why I'd stopped writing. I told her about the domain thing and said I wanted to get it squared away to make sure all these posts had a home (a forever home as the pet adopters call it). Then I got my "Lightning Bolt" vinyl in the mail. I opened it, looked it over, and put it on the shelf with the other albums. Later that night I saw a post on their website saying there was a problem with the packaging that may have damaged the album. Seeing as how I don't open them I have no way of knowing if there is a defect or what it is. I sent off an email explaining this and once again am still awaiting a response. So, obviously I felt like I needed to get that off my chest. If you can help with the domain or know someone at google apps I can contact that'd be great. Meanwhile I'm going to try and get this started again. Next up will be The Who's "Sell Out."
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
BOGO Week #3: Well, it has taken more than a week, but here we go again. Here we have a pair of entries from one of alt-country’s founding fathers, Gram Parsons. In addition to these, his only solo releases, he also appears on The Byrds’ “Sweetheart of The Rodeo” and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Gilded Palace of Sin” which are included in the book. His debut, “GP” is not listed in the book but it was included on this CD which I tracked down at Princeton Record Exchange for $3.99. Another alt-country notable, Emmylou Harris provides harmony vocals on both albums and her own “Red Dirt Girl” is in the book too. Her vocals are on almost every song except, oddly enough, one called “She,” which includes the lyric, “she sure could sing.” Parsons had originally approached Merle Haggard to produce the album but Haggard turned him down, feeling there was something unauthentic to Parsons. Odd considering both were outside of what was considered acceptable by country music standards of the day. Parsons recorded the follow-up, “Grievous Angel,” but passed away before it was released. As the book says “$1,000 Wedding” could pass muster as one of The Stones country efforts. One of the odder efforts, which leads some fans to claim Parsons foresaw his demise is the “Medley Live From Northern Quebec,” which was neither recorded live nor in Canada (audience was added to live in studio tracks when a liver performance couldn’t be arranged). It does however include Parsons’ yodeling and thanking the non-existent crowd. It does sound convincing enough that some fans have clamored for the rest of the performance to be released. As the liner notes point out that is clearly impossible. It is however quite possible to see the influence Parsons’ approach to country music would have on any number of artists in the future. While I don’t necessarily hear the “rock” parts the brooding darkness of alt-country is strewn throughout these two albums.
Friday, July 5, 2013
BOGO Week #2: Over the years I’ve occasionally had a subscription to Rolling Stone (usually when it comes free after I buy concert tickets). Merle Haggard was the subject of the interview back in 2009 and I remember reading it and parts of it sticking with me, notably this quote:
“Johnny Cash once told me, ‘Hag, you’re the guy people think I am.’”
Indeed, more so than anyone else, Cash included, Haggard defines “outlaw country.” In fact he was an inmate at Cash’s San Quitein concert (and subsequent album, which is also included in the book). His career has been notable that despite many number one hits (including “Okie From Muskogee) he has avoided publicity. I think that’s what stuck with me about the interview, he just didn’t care about how he was perceived and did what he wanted to do. I missed the subsequent follow-up the magazine did other wise I probably would’ve known about this documentary, done by PBS (available here http://video.pbs.org/video/1549070911/), called “Learning To Live With Myself.” I intend to give I a watch as soon as I get through these albums (assuming the cat lets me). The album opens with the title track and the cover features a great photo of Haggard hanging from a freight train. Other stand-out tracks include the ballad “All Of Me Belongs To You” and the heartfelt “If You Want To Be My Woman.” His tunes have been covered by The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, and many others but the best track I felt was “Someone Told My Story.” It’s a typical country song in many ways but his take on the story really stands out. I found the album on ebay after searching many country sections repeatedly. I paid $3.95 plus another $3.00 for shipping from eBay since I couldn’t find a copy in stores as I imagine it’s out of print. It’s an import from England and while it doesn’t include much in the way of expanded liner notes it does include Haggard’s next album, “Branded Man.” Again it opens with the title track and also includes the classic “Long Black Limousine.” I particularly enjoyed “Don’t Get Married” which tells the tale of someone going to jail for stealing the diamond he wanted to get engaged with. He then asks for her to wait from behind prison walls. A great pair of albums from a true American original.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
The book's only entry for Nina Simone is "Wild Is The Wind." I found it at Princeton Record Exchange for $1.99 along with its follow-up, "High Priestess Of Soul." The book contends that a pair of tracks contained on “Wild Is The Wind,” “Why Keep On Breaking My Heart” and “Either Way I Lose,” were “targeted at satisfying the mainstream pop audience.” However I found in further reading on Simone that she was generally unconcerned with her popular appeal and more concerned with studying music, specifically jazz. The book says the album is “best example of how Simone’s eclecticism could gel into a cohesive musical statement.” The songs’ musical styles range from showtunes to jazz to soul but it is her voice that stands out on all of the tracks. The first surprise was “Lilac Wine,” a tune I know from Jeff Buckley’s version. It’s a pleasant, slightly more laid back, version contained here. The standout track for me was “If I Should Lose You” although I found the jaunty piano bit at the end a little much for such a somber song. Closing the album with “Either Way I Lose” is a good showcase for her voice although the underlying vocal is a bit distracting. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one but despite its bleak overtones it’s a solid listen. The follow-up was “High Priestess Of Soul” which kicks off with the uplifting “Don’t You Pay Them No Mind.” It also includes takes on Duke Ellington (“The Gal from Joe’s”), Chuck Berry (“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”), and the traditional (“Take Me To The Water”). I found this further exploration of Simone’s talents a bit more accessible. In turn it made me think that perhaps with as diverse a talent as Simone’s perhaps another album may have be warranted for inclusion. Her swinging version of “I’m Gonna Leave You” is right up there with Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as far as break-up empowerment songs go and closing with a take of “I Love My Baby” shows her great range stylistically and vocally. A diverse artist who may have been responsible for side-tracking her own fame but one I’m glad I finally gave a listen to.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Well, the reviews have been few and far between the last few months, but I promised myself I would pick up the pace. I’m house-sitting again but I can’t find any of the CDs I need to review in my friend’s collection. However, I thought that might happen so I brought some albums with me. Over the course of the next week (or so) I’m going to review 5 albums in the book and as a bonus you get 5 additional reviews for free! Quite a deal! For those who don’t know the CD can hold approximately 80 minutes of music whereas vinyl could hold slightly over 40 minutes. When many of the older vinyl albums were transferred to CD, especially back catalog artists, the companies often included another album to fill out the disc. So all of the albums reviewed this week will include a bonus “free” album with them. So I’ll be cranking up albums and cranking out reviews of Nina Simone, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Curtis Mayfield, and The Everley Brothers. Enjoy!
Monday, June 24, 2013
I had originally planned on attending all three days of the 2nd annual Firefly Festival but as the dates approached my friend and I decided to part ways with our tickets. Then Thursday night I got home from work only to discover that The Lumineers had been forced to cancel and Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite would replace them on the bill (despite having played in Colorado the night before). We decided it'd be worth the trip considering I'd gone to the DC show earlier this year. It rained right before Ben's set and the crew actually asked the crowd to back-up so they could dump some of the rain off the stage's covering during the band's set up. Looking none the worse for wear despite travelling cross-country the band took stage a few minutes after 4 PM and launched into a 70 minute set. I tried keeping a setlist but the off and on rain made it impossible so I apologize in advance, these notes are based on my memory (which is usually pretty good). I'm sure the setlist will appear online shortly. They kicked off with "I Don't Believe A Word You Say" and then "Get Up!" Charlie took the mic with the "The Blues Overtook Me." After this point the songs may be out of order but Ben intro'd the band and mentioned that "She Got Kick" was about his daughter. They also took turns on the vocals of "Homeless Child." "I'm In I'm Out and I'm Gone" was in there as well as Charlie on vocals for "Long Legged Woman" and one other I don't remember the name of (I think it was "I'm Goin' Home). I think "Blood Side Out" was in there and then a killer version of "I Ride At Dawn." As the skies threated the band went back and forth as Charlie and Ben joked with each other over who would kick off the closer, a cover of Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks." It brought the crowd alive again and the band jammed on the riffs throughout the song. They thanked the crowd and despite chants of "one more song" the band left the stage. Charlie returned shortly afterwards to claim his harmonicas and case however another song was not to be. It was worth the trip however and as Ben's shirt said, "Gracias." For those wanting to see The Lumineers, they're currently scheduled to play WXPN's XPOnetial Festival (www.xpn.org for info) next month.
|Ben & Charlie|
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I woke up this morning and said to myself, “Self, you better work on that blog…or go to the gym.” So of course I grabbed this off the shelf and popped it in. When I first saw this included I felt that it was on the basis of the title track. Granted it is one of the most popular songs of all time and the biggest hit of McLean’s career. I can remember hearing it on the radio when I was a kid and thinking “that song is important,” even if I had no idea why. McLean is quoted in the book saying: “What does ‘American Pie’ mean? It means I don’t have to work if I don’t want to.” The book goes onto to say “The track has unjustly overshadowed “Vincent”…(and) “Crossroads” is an outstandingly constructed…song.” I think “Empty Chairs,” rumored to have been the inspiration for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” is probably the next best song on the album. The book and I do agree that “Everybody Loves Me, Baby” is the album’s weakest track. If I’d done the track listing it would’ve closed the album as its tempo is out of joint with the subdued acoustic twang of the rest of the songs. Overall that’s probably the only complaint, the album shows very little variance from song to song. There is a deluxe version of this album that includes two bonus tracks but I eventually settled on thus copy for $1.99 at Princeton Record Exchange (although the cover photo, in my head at least, bears a slight resemblance to Steely Dan’s “Aja.”) After giving the album a listen I think it is still a one trick pony but it’s a really good pony.