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June 11, 2008


Music Today and Then Some (Pt 1)

Jim McPartland



I’m more into music than books. I can remember singing at the top of my lungs to Meet the Beatles in ’65 at age 6, air guitaring a fireplace shovel. Every home movie has me dancing and singing (albeit no sound). Everything that I like I must attribute back to The Beatles and my RIP Grandmother Hazel who bought me that record. I also recall being 8 listening to the BeatlesDay in the Life’ thinking—‘wow, that’s intense. What do these guys do to make themselves so creative?’ It wasn’t until I was 10 or so that I figured out it was certain drugs. I didn’t do drugs later because of The Beatles, although there were a couple ‘hits’ in my teens when I thought ‘Hey, if it works for Lennon, why mot me?’

I have XM Radio in the car. When I’m not listening to CD’s I listen to XM Café, The Loft and Top Tracks. Café and Loft are both Adult Alternative Rock, Top is rock hits mainly from the 70’s. Some of the music I list here I heard on Café/Loft first.

Technology wise, I’m behind the times. I don’t have an IPOD (Xmas gift anyone?) and refuse to download from Limewire because I think it rips off the musicians who deserve to make a living entertaining me.

A few years ago, I was telling Bob McManus how much I liked Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. He said ‘you know, Jim, you’re really into the chicks’. He was right- most of what I like is dominated by females. I’m not sure if it’s the higher, more soothing voices or the fact that, generally speaking, they’re better lyricists because the way they can express emotion .

In any event it’ll be too hard for me to give a top 10 list, so I think I’ll group them instead-

The Chicks

Aimee Mann- I caught Aimee fever when she was with ‘Till Tuesday. I then heard ‘Say Anything’ off her first sole CD ‘Whatever’ in ’92 on the radio and said- that’s cool- gotta have that. It has since blossomed into a love affair akin to Charles and Dianna/the Early Years.

Aimee has just come out with a new CD ‘Smilers’. I give it a B (Entertainment Weekly said B+). It’s good, but her earlier work with raging guitars is better. To start your AM collection, get ‘95’s ‘I’m With Stupid’. Every song is great. Follow that up with ‘Whatever’ and ‘Lost in Space (Special Edition)’. Stay away from ‘Ultimate Collection’ because she formed her own label and that rips her off. Also get the DVD of ‘Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse’. Whenever I’m alone and have a couple scotches, it goes on the TV so loud the rafters shake. Tremendous DTS sound. A close 2nd to seeing her live. She’s out touring now- go!!

Liz Phair- I didn’t catch onto this diamond until ’04 when I read that Michael Penn (Mann’s husband) produced her self titled ’03 effort. That features her hit ‘Why Can’t I’, which actually is one of the weaker songs on the album. Total A+. I then got ‘Somebody’s Miracle’ (’05) - (A-). I went backtracking and got ‘Exit to Guyville’. I didn’t like it at first, but I was listening to her other stuff so much, I gave it another try. It’s more basic- just her and a drummer. But she sounds like a cooler Stevie Nicks and there’s 18 songs, some of which are killers (Tracks 1,2,10,12,17,18). It’s being re-released and she’s touring now. Only 4 shows have been announced and the 2 in NYC sold out in 2 minutes.

Fiona Apple- ‘When the Pawn—‘ is perfect. It’s produced by Jon Brion (who also did IWS and Whatever with Mann). My profile has a pic of me with Jon’s mother Larue at Toad’s in New Haven at an AM show. Fiona is sultry, raspy. I’d be wet if I were a girl listening to this. Her latest ‘Extraordinary Machine’ is good, not great- B. WTP A+.

Others worth mentioning- Tracey Bonham’sBlink the Brightest’ (A). I caught ‘Eyes’ on XM. Alanis Morrisette’sJagged Little Pill’ (A+). Alanis not recovered yet, she has a new CD out soon- let’s see.

Sheryl Crow’s ‘Decades’ (B+), ‘C’mon C’mon’ (A), ‘Globe Sessions’ (A+). Sheryl lost her way for a while- that fucked up Kid Rock almost killed her career and she caught ‘TV commercials sell out fever’. The fever has dropped and with continued antibiotics, she may bounce back. Vonda Shepard’sBy 7:30’ with the beautiful ‘Sail Away’ (A-)

Older stuff would be Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and ‘Court and Spark’ (both A+). I think it’s fair to say that Mitchell broke ground for all these other women. Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Nick of Time’ (also A+-Grammy winner).

What women have I missed? What’s your earliest memory of music? Comment away----

Pt. 2 ‘The Boys and Bands’ next---