If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

December 2, 2012

iawlOn one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life. Most years, since I first watched the seasonal classic in my mid-twenties, I’ve made an annual viewing a habit.

(Paloma finds the flick too depressing and annually doesn’t watch it)

Instead, I’m watching the alma mater’s top-ranked basketball team as they finally lower the boom on a plucky low major that has hung tough but is gassed.

When I went to bed last night, it was still November. The last remnants of the Thanksgiving bird are still in the fridge.

(Paloma wants to dispose of the remaining scraps; I’m having separation anxiety)

And though I have – surprisingly – already finished some holiday shopping, the windows behind me are open as it is twenty-five degrees warmer than would be expected for this time of year.

It certainly doesn’t seem to be time for It’s A Wonderful Life, just yet.

Meanwhile, across the street, a local university’s recital hall is emptying following a Christmas pageant. Since late afternoon, holiday-themed music has been blaring from a sound system that had been assembled earlier in the day which left us – particularly the three felines – feeling a bit like we’ve been re-enacting Manuel Noriega’s last stand.

(I’ve heard Greensleeves at least a dozen times since dinner)

During the past week, I did hear Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band barrel through a rollicking version of the Darlene Love staple Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) on Sirius’ Springsteen station and I also caught Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas on the ’80s channel.

I didn’t change the stations, but, as I stared up at sunny, blue skies through the open sunroof of Jeepster, the songs seemed a bit like green bananas.

(and, I should remind Paloma that while there is a Sirius station devoted to Bruce, there still isn’t one for The Smiths)

There’ll be plenty of time for holiday songs over the next three weeks and change and they’ll seem a bit more fitting when I can see my breath in the air.

And, I do hope that NBC will rerun It’s A Wonderful Life, perhaps a week before Christmas as I believe happened last year.

(and, I hope it’s on an evening when my school’s team isn’t turning an outgunned non-conference foe into steak tartare)

For now, here are four random songs…

New Radicals – You Get What You Give
from Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998)

Few albums tickled Paloma’s fancy more as the ’90s drew to a close than Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, the lone release by the musical collective led by producer Gregg Alexander. The group included former child actress Danielle Brisebois, who had been an addition to the cast of All In The Family toward the end of the groundbreaking show’s lengthy run.

So, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too came out, garnered comparisons to power pop icons like Todd Rundgren, notched a smash hit with the ebullient You Get What You Give – which took some shots at Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, and Hanson – and, then, Alexander promptly split up the outfit to focus on songwriting and producing.

The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin’
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)

I can’t say I’m overly familiar with The Beautiful South (despite owning several albums), but what I have heard is consistently wonderful. And, the British group’s version of the lovely, melancholic Everybody’s Talkin’ seems tailor-made for their classic pop stylings.

Fleetwood Mac – Think About Me
from Tusk (1979)

The last of Tusk‘s trio of Top 40 singles, the sassy, upbeat Think About Me serves as an excellent reminder that, although Stevie and Lindsey might have gotten most of the attention, Christine McVie was an integral part of the Mac’s period as a ’70s pop music juggernaut.

Shivaree – Stealing Home
from Rough Dreams (2002)

I became curious about Shivaree after reading reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. It was understandable.

The reviews were glowing, the band had named their debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump, and the outfit was led by a singer/songwriter named Ambrosia Parsley.

So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana.

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At Least You’re Not Trapped In A Chilean Mine

September 4, 2010

I overheard a co-worker bitching about a “delivery charge” being added to a pizza she had delivered for lunch.

Not surprising as she issues perceived grievances in fifteen to twenty minute monologues sprinkled throughout the course of eight hours.

As she railed against the injustice of the two-dollar fee, I thought, it could be worse – you could be trapped in a Chilean mine.

(and, yes, I admit that for a moment I considered that this might only be worse from her perspective)

It must have been two weeks ago that the story of the miners trapped in San Jose, Chile burst onto the front pages on news sites and it was riveting stuff.

As I read the details, I immediately thought that there had to be someone, somewhere, already working on acquiring the rights to the tale for books, movies, action figures – that might be cynical, but I’ve experienced the corporate world.

Then, as the timeline for rescue was projected to be months, I realized that this situation would be something which the entire world would follow – hour by hour, day by day – until the group was topside.

I thought of 1979 and the Iranian students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking those working at the consulate hostage.

I was in fifth grade and every morning would begin with Sister Marie providing us with details about one of the individuals being held which I imagine she had culled from the numerous print articles and television coverage.

The event gave birth to Ted Koppel’s long-running Nightline program which helped kill off the brilliant late-night show Fridays by cutting into its timeslot.

(I’d like to see Iran sanctioned by the UN for that)

So as I read about the plight of these miners and the extraordinary measures that would have to be undertaken in their rescue, I envisioned how the story might play out.

And I imagined the world hanging on each new development and pondered a happy ending that might provide the entire planet with a reason to feel good for a moment.

(whenever I catch the movie Apollo 13, I wonder what the vibe around the world must have been like at that time)

Here’s hoping that the situation in Chile does end with a successful rescue. I couldn’t imagine being trapped in such confines with my co-workers for months.

Eight hours…that’s my limit.

And, no matter how slowly those eight hours pass, at least I’m not trapped in a Chilean mine.

I was stuck once in one of our building’s elevators for about ten minutes. As I had my iPod and cigarettes, I think I could have lasted twice that long. So, here are four random songs that I might have heard…

Shivaree – After The Prince And The Showgirl
from Rough Dreams

I first came across the name Shivaree reading enthusiastic reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as lead singer Ambrosia Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana stylings.

Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
from Song Review: Greatest Hits

The second major hit single of the legendary Stevie Wonder’s career, Uptight (Everything’s Alright) was the first to be co-written by the musician and helped establish Wonder as a staple on pop radio for the next two decades.

As for the song, it’s a dose of joyous R&B delivered in a tightly-packaged three minutes.

Dramarama – Incredible
from Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

Dramarama is a band that has left more than a few listeners puzzled as to why the alternative-leaning power pop act never broke through to major success. Beginning with 1985’s Cinéma Vérité, the band issued five albums that earned them attention at college radio but were mostly ignored by mainstream audiences.

By 1993, alternative rock had exploded, making stars of acts like Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls. Blending humor and poignancy along with hooks galore, Dramarama’s Hi-Fi Sci-Fi deserved similar attention, but it would prove to be another undiscovered gem in the band’s catalog.

George Benson – Give Me The Night
from The George Benson Collection

Guitarist George Benson cut his teeth performing straight-ahead jazz with organist Jack McDuff as well as performing with the great Miles Davis. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Benson also notched a number of pop hits with songs like This Masquerade, On Broadway, and Turn Your Love Around.

Give Me The Night would prove to be one of Benson’s biggest hits. Written by Rod Temperton – who would go on to pen several hits for Michael Jackson’s Thriller Give Me The Night is a silky smooth ode to nightlife with a light disco feel.