Have I mentioned that I love music?
I play no instruments, but both my children do.
My great grandfather came here from Sicily. According to family stories, he was a classical music conductor and composer who worked with Arturo Toscanini. Supposedly, he wrote the music for the song, "Yes, We Have No Bananas". Every time my grandmother would tell that story, she would adamantly state that he had nothing to do with the lyrics. Whatever. I do remember seeing Vittorio's conducting baton, which is in the possession of someone else in the family.
I have always had music around me from the time I was very little. I remember the songs my folks would play on their old record player, and I remember how my mom would sing around the house all the time. As a result, I know all the words and melodies from the music of my parents' generation.
I setting up the new house, I have been working diligently to set up the sound system I have always wanted. So far, I've pulled over 300 feet of speaker cable through the walls and attic. The main room has 6 speakers, 4 of them flush mounted in the ceiling and walls, and two on top of the cabinets in the kitchen area. The result is the sensation that no matter where you move in the room, the music follows you.
I have set up the coat closet as a media center, with shelving for all the components, and the connecting cables exiting through the ceiling into the attic. Still lots of work to be done, but it's starting to shape up.
One of the new components is a 400 disc CD player. I've loaded and named about 80 discs so far and have purchased a number of new Cd's. This is meant to be a review of some that are really worth hearing.
"Pay The Devil" by Van Morrison.
Do you like Van? I do, but I've never purchased one of his recordings. I love hearing his old hits like "Moondance" on the radio, but that's about it. But when I heard a piece on NPR about his new one, it caught my attention. All the songs are covers of old country favorites from way back. Some familiar ones like "Cheatin' Heart" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It", as well as some others I had not heard before. Now, I'm a big fan of older country music, but I was a little worried when I ordered this one. No need, because Morrison's voice and delivery is perfect for these songs. Just about every song on the CD knocks me out. He's got great musicians backing him up and it just sounds like they are having a great time. I hear hints of Bob Wills in the fiddles on one song, and a touch of very early Bonnie Raitt in the instrumentation on another. Not to be missed are the songs, "There Stands the Glass" and "This Has Got to Stop". Those are just the highest points on an album with many highs.
"The Seeger Sessions" by Bruce Springsteen
Being a New York boy, I feel like I grew up with Springsteen. I always thought his blue collar ballads rang true. Success, however, has led him away from that. I have tired of his political statements, as I have with many of my old rock favorites. The fact is, I would really prefer not to know the political opinions of celebrities. It affects the way I feel about the artist (usually negatively). If you have something to tell me, do it with your particular art form, it's much more likely to make an impression. Between his need to share his opinions and his separation from his roots due to being fabulously wealthy, my feelings about old Brucie have cooled. And his last CD "Diamonds and Dust" bored me to tears. So I almost didn't buy this new one, but I am so glad I did. Again, here is an artist covering some very old songs, most of them traditional, and backing himself up with terrific musicians. It's a collection of songs that had been recorded in the past by Pete Seeger. The message on many of them is way more liberal than would normally appeal to me, but I just can't resist them. I love the way he just shouts "Old Dan Tucker" and if you are going to feed me an anti-war song, you couldn't do it any better than "Mrs. McGrath". Just the fact that a modern artist recorded one of my all time favorites "Erie Canal" will bring me back to buy the next CD. The high point on this recording, for me, is "My Oklahoma Home", just fantastic. The musicians and the instruments are the best. Here's violins, tuba, accordion, mandolin, banjo, stand up bass, pump organ, piano, sax, trumpet all played with obvious joy and reckless abandon. Not just good stuff, but great stuff. Just one little request Mr. S : drop the Dual Disc stuff, just give me the music.
"All The Road Running" by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Not too much going on here. I had high hopes after Knopfler's last CD "Shangri-La". Not a bad cut on that one, but this one drags. The great guitar playing that Knopfler has done since the Dire Straits days is there, but not enough of it. And there is something about Emmylou's voice and his that doesn't work for me. To be completely fair, I haven't listened to this one enough yet, I've been too hung up on the previous two. Maybe it will grow on me.
Other recent purchases have been "Mob Hits", yep, that's right, all of them 1, 2 and 3. Many of these songs are the ones I used to listen to my mom sing around the house. The musical equivalent of comfort food. I also found the CD reissues of both Duane Allman Anthologies. I had these long ago on vinyl (still have them, in fact). What a pleasure to hear them again after all these years. What a shame he died when he did. I am convinced he would have been the American version of Eric Clapton had he lived. I would have enjoyed hearing how they would have followed up their collaboration on "Layla".
Thank all gods for music.
I sure have needed it lately.