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Archive for the ‘Top 5’ Category

RIP MCA

Bestie Boys - Licensed to Ill

Rest in peace, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch. You were taken far too soon. For just about as long as I’ve been listening to music the Beastie Boys have been a part of my life. When Licensed to Ill was released in 1986 I was in the 8th grade. I remember discovering the Beastie Boys from someone at school. He was singing “Girls” in my English class and I had to ask him what he was singing. From there it was literally almost overnight that everyone in school was turned on to the Beastie Boys. I picked up the cassette tape and began listening to it immediately.

Portable Casette Recorder

In those days, I’ll I had to playback tapes was a portable cassette recorder like the one above. Later on, my parents upgraded me to something better but that was one of those all-in-one shelf systems with a tuner, cassette deck, turntable and two crappy little speakers. They bought it at KMart. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the Licensed to Ill had bass. I couldn’t believe my ears the first time I heard “The New Style” on a real system with real subwoofers. I was blown away by the awesome bass. Ever since then I have been skipping ahead to the 3:20 mark in that track when I want to test the bass response of any system. “EeeeDrop” {boom} “Coolin’ on the corner on a hot summers day. Just me and my posse and MCA…”

I played the Licensed to Ill cassette so many times that I wore it out and had to buy a new one. My friends and I learned every lyric on that album in probably less than a week. I would play that tape almost every day after school from start to finish and sometimes even more than once. Tracks from this album have been playing on the radio for decades. You can hear Beastie Boys tracks on Pop, Hip-Hop and Modern Rock stations.

The Beastie Boys played a part in defining the music of my generation. Did you know that Licensed to Ill was the first Rap Album to hit number one on the Billboard 200? Here’s a look back at the number one Rap albums by fuse. The B Boys have been making great music for 26 years. “Make Some Noise” off the 2011 album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is every bit as good as anything the Beastie Boys have released over the past 2 and 1/2 decades.

The 30 minute long video for “Make Some Noise” was directed by MCA and I would argue it’s one of his greatest accomplishments in entertainment. I rank the video right up there with some of the best music videos of all time. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video comes to mind when I think about the video for “Make Some Noise.” It’s that good. The video features an all star cast to boot, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Elijah Wood, Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, Ted Danson, Amy Poehler, Steve Buscemi, Maya Rudolph, Kirsten Dunst, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Jack Black just to name a few. If you haven’t yet seen the video, do yourself a favor and watch it on YouTube.

While I’ve embedded the video here, I encourage you to jump over to YouTube and watch in HD.

MCA - Adam Yauch - Nathan Wind - Cochese

Once again, rest in peace, MCA. You will be missed.

Weird Songs of the 70s

Top 5

Every decade has it’s share of weird music. I’m not talking about novelty, parody or comedy songs like those from Weird Al Yankovic or something you might have heard on the Dr. Demento radio show. No, I’m just talking about music that’s odd, strange, off-beat, or peculiar. These are songs that feature unusual lyrics, funky sounds, or something really odd like a marimba solo for example. My last post featured music from the late 60s and early 70s so let’s continue with that theme and listen to some of the weird tracks from the 1970s.

The tracks that I’m including on my list all achieved at least some commercial success on the pop charts. I’m not going to include music nobody’s ever even heard before.

5. “Coconut” – Harry Nilsson – 1971iTunes
This song was featured on the 1971 album titled, Nilsson Schmilsson. Nilsson is the only singer on this track but he plays the role of three different individuals, the narrator, the sister, and the doctor. As best as I can tell the sister put lime juice in coconut milk and “drank em both up.” This gives her a stomach ache, so she calls her doctor, wakes him up, explains what shes done and asks if there is something she can take for relief. The doctor thinks she’s a bit crazy and needs to confirm she’s really drank this concoction. Once that’s cleared up, the doctor tells her the remedy is to put more lime juice in more coconut milk and call back in the morning. Humm, weird!

4. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” – Creedence Clearwater Revival – 1970iTunes
Here’s a song that sounds like it should really be about drugs. “There’s a giant doing cartwheels, a statue wearing high heels, look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn.” What was John Fogerty smoking when he wrote these lyrics? Not to mention, “Won’t you take a ride on the flying spoon?” The wikipedia states that it’s really a song for Forgety’s son about a parade and that it was inspired by a Dr. Seuss book. I don’t know if I believe that.

3. “Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur – 1974iTunes
Okay, this is “love” song with some suggestive lyrics about getting freaky but, weird none the less. With lyrics like, “Send your camel to bed” and “Cactus is our friend” you have to admit that this is an odd choice for a song about having sex. I realize the lyrics suggest some middle eastern desert love affair but I still find it strange. What about the lyric that says, “And you won’t need no camel, no, no.” What’s that supposed to mean?

2. “Spill the Wine” – Eric Burdon & War – 1970iTunes
Here’s a song about a dream so I guess that’s why the lyrics are about some odd stuff. The lyrics for most of this song are more like spoken word rather than singing. It’s not until at least half way into the song that we really hear Burdon begin to sing. I’m not going to get into the lyrics on this one, you just have to listen for yourself. You figure out why you should, “Spill the wine and take that pearl.”

1. “Moonlight Feels Right” – Starbuck – 1976iTunes
A marimba solo, seriously? What other pop songs can you think of that feature the marimba, much less a solo? Like the rest of the songs on this list, this song was actually successful. It made it to number 3 on the charts. Like I mentioned at the beginning, this track was not intended to be a novelty. It seems like a summertime love connection. The lyrics, “I finally made a tricky French connection. You winked and gave me your okay.” seem to indicate that the singer was trying to hookup with a girl and he finally got the timing right and his girl agreed to have sex with him. Everything about this song is just a little odd and that’s why I’ve selected it for my number one on this list.

What do you think? Do you have your own list of weird 70s songs, share it with us in the comments.

Vietnam War Era Music

Vietnam Era Music

I’m not a history buff nor do I know a lot about politics or the military. I remember from the time I was in Jr. High and High School having an interest in Vietnam and things surrounding the Vietnam war. I don’t see every war movie but I have watched a number of films about the Vietnam war. I don’t know what it is about that part of history that sparks interest for me. I think it might have to do with the fact that it was more current. I think, when I was in Jr. High studying Vietnam felt more relevant because it had only happened a couple decades earlier. I think another really important factor that sparked my interest was the music of the era.

I remember watching a documentary at school, I think in the 9th grade, called Letters Home from Vietnam. In the film, real letters written by American soldiers to their families during the Vietnam war are read by popular actors. DeNiro, Fox, Penn, Dafoe and many others narrate the letters featured in the film. What I remember most about the film was the music. The soundtrack for the film features a number of popular tunes from the era or about the Vietnam war. “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones, “Born in the USA” by Springsteen, and “Fortunate Son” by CCR are just a few of the tracks featured in the film. One song however, struck a cord with me and a number of my male friends and classmates. That song was “Walk Like a Man” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. I remember asking our teacher who sang that song and I remember walking the halls of my Jr. High school with a few of my friends singing, “OOoooooo WEeeee oooo oooo ooo ooo ooo”, “Walk like a man, talk like a man, walk like a man my son.” All of us trying to emulate Frankie Valli’s Falsetto voice. Thinking about it now it seems all too appropriate. We were young, puberty was setting in, and we were all boys looking to become men.

So I thought coming up with a Top 5 list of music about the Vietnam conflict would be easy. I’ve listened to plenty of music from that era and I know some good music about the war in Vietnam. Well, when I started digging in a bit to come up with my Top 5, I did some research on my track picks. It turns out most of the songs I thought were specifically about Vietnam are really about other things. So while a few of the tracks I picked are specifically about the war or are in protest of the war, others that sound like they should be were written about something else entirely. Interviews with the artists and bands revealed that they were just thinking about something personal going on in their lives and the masses mistook the lyrics to be about the war.

So this list is about Vietnam era music that sounds like it should be about the war but, may or may not actually be about that. Make sense? No… Okay, it’s a list of late 60’s and early 70’s music. 🙂

5. “Mother Freedom” – Bread – 1971 – iTunes
4. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones – 1969 – iTunes
3. “Get Together” – The Youngbloods – 1967 – iTunes
2. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival – 1969 – iTunes
1. “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield – 1967 – iTunes

As a bonus, here’s a a video of The Four Seasons performing “Walk Like a Man”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tWvYaiOmRs

As always, if you have a favorite track from this era, share it in the comments.

2011 Holiday Top 5 * 3

It’s that time of year and it’s time for my Holiday Top 5 but I thought five tracks just weren’t enough for this list so I’m delivering you a bonus. This Top 5 list is actually my top 15 (5 times 3) favorite holiday music tracks for 2011. When it comes to holiday music, I’m a fan of the classics but I’m betting you’ll find a few surprises in this list as well. I hope you enjoy the list and find something new to add to your collection of holiday music.

Holiday 2011 Top 5

Starting with number 15 and counting down, here’s the first set of five.

15. “Hannukkah Hey Ya!” – Smooth-E – YouTube
14. “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra – iTunes
13. “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry – iTunes
12. “Santa Stole My Lady” – Fitz & The Tantrums – iTunes
11. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Kelly Sweet – iTunes

Yes I know “Hannukkah Hey Ya!” is goofy but, I like it. I’m sorry I couldn’t find this track available for for download, though I’m willing to bet not many of you want to add it to your collection anyway. Just check out the YouTube video and if you enjoy that, check out Smooth-E, a.k.a. Eric Schwartz’s other videos and his website. “Oy is just Yo backwards.”

Though the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is featured in just about every over-the-top Christmas lights video these days and though by now it’s probably the bane of any neighbor who lives next to one of those Clark Griswold meets Las Vegas strip holiday home decorators, I still enjoy “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”.

At number 12, “Santa Stole My Lady” is a new track for 2011. It reminds me of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” Perhaps these artists are on to something, is Santa just a gigolo in disguise? I have seen plenty of young women sitting on his lap and smiling. Guys, don’t say you weren’t warned about the jolly old man in the plus red suit. Santa’s got game! If you enjoy this track from Fitz & The Tantrums, be sure to also listen to “MoneyGrabber”.

If you like Kelly Sweet’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” then you’ll want to look for her music on Amazon. Overall, Kelly Sweet doesn’t have a large collection of music but iTunes only offers a few of her tracks. You’ll find a better selection on Amazon.

10. “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth” – Bing Crosby & David Bowie – iTunesYouTube
9. “Sleigh Ride” – Ella Fitzgerald – iTunes
8. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”- Brenda Lee – iTunes
7. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms – iTunes
6. “Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys – iTunes

There’s no real surprises here, my favorites from number 6 to 10 are all classic versions of holiday tunes that I’m sure you’ve all heard many times before. I’ve included links to iTunes for all of these tracks but for the Bing Crosby / David Bowie duet, you really have to watch the YouTube video so see the interactions between Bing and David. There’s a bit of awkwardness to the whole thing. My friend Tom does this really funny bit about what Bing really thinks of David. I can’t remember how it goes but it’s something along the lines of how Crosby has more integrity in his pinky finger than Bowie. “You kids get off my lawn!” 🙂

So that just leaves my Top 5. Here they are…

5. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Lee Ann Womack & Harry Connick Jr. – iTunes
4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – David Archuleta & Charice Pempengco – iTunes
3. “Sleigh Ride” – Johnny Mathis – iTunes
2. “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year” – Rosie Thomas – iTunes
1. “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole – iTunes

Holiday 2011 Album Covers

At number 5 it’s one of many renditions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. I enjoy a lot of vocal jazz tracks and this is one of them. I can’t say I listen to Lee Ann Womack much. Including this track, I only have three of her songs in my collection. I’m also not a fan of Harry Connick Jr. but I like the pairing of these two on this track.

Coming in at number 4 on my list this version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a great one. Here again are two artists that I can’t say I really know much about. David Archuleta has a pretty nice collection of Christmas music on his album Christmas from the Heart. Charice Pempengco is a young singer from the Philippines who I first discovered on the Ellen show back in 2007. If you haven’t see her perform “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” on Ellen, search for it on YouTube. It’s an incredible performance from a 15 year old girl.

My Dad was a big fan of Johnny Mathis and because of this I know the lyrics to more Johnny Mathis tunes than I care to admit. My Dad would always break out the Johnny Mathis Christmas albums at this time of the year. Johnny’s version of “Sleigh Ride” is my favorite. For all my childhood memories of Christmas and of my Dad this track has made it to number 3 on my list.

Number 2 on my list is a track that I found almost by accident. If I’m not mistaken, Amazon offered “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year” in their 25 Days of Christmas collection of free downloads a few years ago. This song by Rosie Thomas is different, fresh, upbeat and just plain fun.

Finally, at number 1 on my list is another classic. When I was growing up, Nat King Cole received just about as much “air play” as Johnny Mathis. Nat King Cole’s Christmas album would faithfully be loaded on the turntable every year with my Dad as the DJ. Aptly named, “The Christmas Song” is the epitome of Christmas music. This version of the track is actually the fourth time Nat King Cole recorded this track. This version was recorded in 1961 and is the version that I remember my Dad playing. This is the first version of the song that was recorded in stereo. The original recording dates back to 1946.

Before I close out this post, I wanted to take a moment to recognize my father and the influence he had on my life. Though my Dad hasn’t been with us to celebrate the holidays since 2005, he’s always with us in spirit. I’ll always remember my Dad when I hear Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” or any time I hear Johnny Mathis. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you and here’s to the loved ones that you may be thinking about this holiday season.

Hottest New Dance Tracks – Winter 2011

Top 5

I think it’s time for another Top 5 list. Before we get into this one, I just wanted to point out that the Top 5 list is going to become a regular feature on my blog. Several years ago, I had the idea for a blog where everything was a Top 5 list. Inspiration for a blog based on Top 5 lists came from one of my favorite films, High Fidelity. In the film the main character Rob Gordon, played by John Cusack, laments a breakup with his girlfriend Laura. Rob is an audiophile, record store owner and a obsessed list maker. Throughout the film Rob takes the audience through several his own Top 5 lists, including his Top 5 most memorable breakups.

I’m not a compulsive list maker like Rob but I can relate to the character. If you’re into music there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth renting.

This time I’m taking a look at the hottest new dance tracks for Winter 2011. All of these tracks are recent releases that seem to be filling the dance floors. Though some of these tracks may have been released months ago, they are still the most recent releases that are popular with guests at my events.

5. “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5 – iTunes
4. “Where Dem Girls At (Ray Core Remix)” – David Guetta – iTunes
3. “Blackout” – Breathe Carolina – iTunes
2. “You Make Me Feel…” – Cobra Starship – iTunes
1. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO – iTunes

What are your favorite new dance tracks?

One-Hit Wonders

Top 5
My definition of a one hit wonder is this, “The one single or track from a band or artist that produces a solitary popular or ‘hit’ song in their career.” I realize there is always the possibility that a someone could produce another hit years after their first though that doesn’t often happen for these bands. Other individuals must have a different definitions of what qualifies as a one hit wonder because I often find myself scratching my head at some of the tracks popular mainstream media classify as one hit wonders. For example, I have often seen “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot classified as a one hit wonder. Sure this track is the most recognizable track from Sir Mix-A-Lot but he had plenty of other popular songs, “Posse On Broadway”, “Beepers”, “My Hooptie”, and “Testarossa” to name a few. Billboard has list of one hit wonders on their site that is defined as, “Artists who reached No. 1 in their first and only chart appearance.” As you can imagine that is a short list of tracks.

So here is my Top 5 One-Hit Wonders, following my own definition as best as possible.

5. “I Wish” – Skee-Lo – 1995 – YouTube
4. “I Got A Man” – Positive K – 1992 – YouTube
3. “Don’t Want To Fall In Love” – Jane Child – 1989 – YouTube
2. “In A Big Country” – Big Country – 1983 – Dailymotion
1. “You Get What You Give” – New Radical – 1998 – YouTube

It was tough to come up with this list. I had a hard time finding tracks in my collection that met my definition of a one hit wonder. Technically, I should probably remove Big Country for their popularity outside of the United States. I should probably also remove Jane Child since she did have another track from her self titled debut album that received some limited success but, I bet nobody remembers it anyway.

What are your top 5 one hit wonders?

Repeating the Same Old Lines

Hall & Oates is one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve heard people refer to Hall & Oats as a “guilty pleasure”. I don’t have any guilt when I say that I love Hall & Oates. This duo, popular in the 1980’s, is one of the greatest R&B and Soul duos of our time. Hall & Oates have six number one singles and six platinum albums to their credit. I could go on and on about Hall & Oates and my favorite tracks but what I want to share with you are some Hall & Oates covers. Hall & Oates have successfully covered a number of tunes, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” made popular by The Righteous Brothers in the 1960s, for example. However, what I want to share with you today are some classic Hall & Oates songs that have been covered by other artists.

Rock N' Soul Part 1
One of the first pieces of real adult music I ever “owned” was Hall & Oates – Rock ‘N Soul Part 1 on cassette tape as it’s shown here. I think, I can remember convincing my Mom to purchase the tape at a local drug store after we got a car with a cassette tape deck. Our old car only had an 8-Track deck. I remember listening to this tape on both a portable battery powered tape player/recorder as well as a few different knock off Walkman players. Rock N’ Soul Part 1 is a compilation album of greatest hits released in 1983. I was in the 4th grade when this album was released so Hall & Oates music has been with me for a long time.

In addition to the greatest hits, the singles for both “Adult Education” and “Say it Isn’t So” were released as new tracks on this album. “Say it Isn’t So”, the first single from this album reached number 2 on the charts in November of 1983 and remained there for a total of 34 weeks. “Adult Education”, only made it to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1984.

Okay enough nostalgia, let’s move on to some of the great Hall & Oates tunes that have been covered by other artists. Looking at my iTunes music collection I have four different covers of “Sara Smile” in addition to the Hall & Oates original. Artists covering “Sara Smile” include After 7, The Bird and the Bee, Joan Osborne, and Jimmy Wayne. Both After 7 and Joan Osborne keep the track squarely in the realm of R&B. Though these two covers retain the rhythm and blues / soul feeling of the original, each artist delivers their own unique and interesting alterations. Jimmy Wayne, a country artist, released his own twist on “Sara Smile” in 2009. The Bird and The Bee probably have the most intriguing interpretation of the song. Released in 2010, The Bird and The Bee’s cover of “Sara Smile” has the slightest hint of an electronic sort of chill vibe to it, which I find quite pleasing.

Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates

The Bird and The Bee’s 2010 release entitled Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates is a complete album of Hall & Oates covers, well almost. The first track on the album titled, “Heard It On the Radio” is actually an original tune which in part explains the importance of Hall & Oates music in the eyes of the band. It serves as a great introduction to this tribute album. For me, the standout tracks on this album are “I Can’t Go For That”, “Private Eyes” and the track I’ve been talking about “Sara Smile”. I also find The Bird and The Bee’s cover of “One on On” unique and unusual with it’s combination of both airy and buzzing noise synth sounds. If you’re a fan of Hall & Oates you owe it to yourself to check out this album. I realize that it might not be for everyone but, I appreciate these interpretations of some great Hall & Oates recordings.

Okay I want to finish up this post with something I’ve done before, a top five list. This time it’s my top five most-liked covers of Hall & Oates tunes of course. In this list I’m not going to repeat any artists. So here we go…

5. “Rich Girl” by Nina Simone – 1978
4. “She’s Gone” by Tavares – 1974
3. “Sara Smile” by After 7 – 1997
2. “I Can’t Go for That” by The Bird and The Bee – 2010
1. “Sara Smile” by Joan Osborne – 2007

I think I would be remiss if I didn’t also include my all time top five Hall & Oates originals. Choosing just five is going to be tough but, here goes.

5. “Wait for Me” [Live Version] from Rock ‘N Soul Part 1 – 1983
4. “Kiss on My List” from the album Voices – 1980
3. “Private Eyes” from the album Private Eyes – 1981
2. “Rich Girl” from the album Bigger Than Both of Us – 1976
1. “You Make My Dreams” from the album Voices – 1980

What about you; are you a fan of Hall & Oates? Do you have a different top five you would like to share?

Most Requested Rock Songs

My clients often need help choosing songs for their event. I always provide resources, music lists and personal assistance planning the right music for every event I host. With my new blog, I’ll periodically post lists of the top five tracks in different categories. Here is the first of those lists.

These are the top five most requested Rock songs by my clients and their guests. Just to be clear we’re talking about about music in the Rock genera.

5. Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger
4. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
3. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
2. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
1. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

Journey’s – Don’t Stop Believin’ is such a great song and it’s really seen a resurgence in popularity over the past 3-4 years. The song was recorded in 1981 and you’ll consistently find it on iTunes top 200 tracks. I often play this track later in the evening when I can tell people are ready for a bit of a break from the fast paced dance tracks. Everybody knows the lyrics to Don’t Stop Belivin’ and they always sing along.

You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC is another track that’s always successful. It’s not really what I would call a dance track but people love it. People love it so much it’s almost always at the very top of my charts of the all time most request tracks in any genera. I think everybody just wants that opportunity to throw their horns up in the air and Rock!

What are your top five danceable Rock songs?