Video Fridays: The Kinks

The thing is, I normally fancy myself quite the musicologist.

I don’t just listen to music…I study it!

(For purposes of illustration, might I refer to two posts I wrote about two of my chums from grade school who share my obsession: I Lived High Fidelity Before High Fidelity Was High Fidelity! and My Latest High Fidelity Moment.)

How to explain, then, that despite my love of many British Invasion bands from the mid to late 1960s, I never listened to much music by The Kinks.

Oh, I was well aware of and enjoyed, to an extent, hits like You Really Got Me, All Day And All Of The Night, then, jumping ahead, Well Respected Man, and Lola, and jumping even further ahead, their 1979 comeback hit album, Low Budget, which was on heavy rotation during the 1980s.

But then, one day recently, I heard their 1965 song Dedicated Follower of Fashion, a song I’d heard many, many times over the years, and something just hit me, a dim bulb in the deepest recesses of my brain lit up brightly and exploded, all of a sudden I remembered all the great things their contemporaries said about The Kinks, remembered how much I’ve loved the way filmmaker Wes Anderson has used Kinks music in several of his movies, and I was compelled to devour the Wikipedia article on the band while I listened to, by this writing, every album from 1965 through 1972.

Now, I have to say that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. There’s so much good stuff there that it’s hard to get my head around the fact that these guys were not in my regular rotation these past 40+ years.

It’s.Just.Crazy.

I will say that their music evolved quite a bit over those eight albums. The early stuff contains remnants of their early R&B, their fondness for old British Music Hall music, and lots of Sgt.Pepper-esque stuff, years before Sgt. Pepper. In fact, look what I found on Wikipedia:

Music historian Jonathan Bellman argues that the song [1965's "See My Friends"] was “extremely influential” on Davies’ musical peers: “And while much has been made of The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ because it was the first pop record to use a sitar, it was recorded well after The Kinks’ clearly Indian ‘See My Friends’ was released.” Pete Townshend of The Who was particularly affected by the song: “‘See My Friends’ was the next time I pricked up my ears and thought, ‘God, he’s done it again. He’s invented something new.’ That was the first reasonable use of the drone—far, far better than anything The Beatles did and far, far earlier. It was a European sound rather than an Eastern sound but with a strong, legitimate Eastern influence which had its roots in European folk music.”

By 1970, you can start to hear more American music influencing their sound, and the 1971 Muswell Hillbillies album is a funky mix that isn’t really all that different, in terms of musical (not lyrical) DNA, than The Band, but with more muscle and more funk.

The lyrics throughout, meanwhile, range from Rolling Stones-esque silliness to a biting social commentary that’s all Ray Davies.

Anyway, sadly, there aren’t many live clips from this period on YouTube (a bunch of the following are from the same 1973 TV show), but here’s a few chestnuts:

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Starbucks

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, 90 miles north of Seattle, for close to 20 years, and in this corner of the world it’s almost unbearably cliché to blog about how much I love coffee.

Suffice to say, despite my February 2011 rant against my state’s coffee fetish

…I LOVE the java!

And, despite my preference for supporting local businesses, I even admit to loving that multinational megacoffeecorporation, Starbucks. (What can I say? I’ve tried many, many coffees from all kinds of roasters, some good, some bad, some ugly, but I always know, when I walk into a Starbucks, that I will like what they serve.)

And while they can certainly be doing more, Starbucks has incorporated sustainable practices in their operations, for years, and today I read about another new initiative, perfect for a new installment in my Celebrating Eco-Progress series.

Via GOOD.is:

Starbucks Is Funding Research That Would Turn Food Waste into Useful Stuff

Who’s got tons of old coffee grounds headed for the trash? Starbucks. And who’s got great ideas for repurposing waste? Scientists. It’s a promising match.

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong are working on a new “biorefinery” that would turn food waste into something useful, and it’s been getting funding from Starbucks Hong Kong, which produces 5,000 tons of spent grounds and bakery waste each year.

According to a press release, the biorefinery (above) uses a mixture of fungi, which excrete enzymes that break down carbohydrates (like the ones in those coffee grounds) into simple sugars, which then go into a fermenter to become succinic acid. That succinic acid can then be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Starbucks has been giving away, free of charge, sacks of spent coffee grounds since 1999, for use in composting, but this new effort is exciting for the decidedly larger positive impact it could have.

Way to go, Starbucks! Keep up the good work!

Video Fridays: Fleetwood Mac

If there was one band that seemed to dominate the airwaves when I was growing up, it was Fleetwood Mac. Oh, there was some stiff competition in the mid 1970s to early 1980s, and Fleetwood Mac was by no means my favorite group, but if I had to choose just one band that I recall hearing — on the radio, in stores, at parties — more than any other, it was them.

Starting with their 1975 hit eponymous album, Fleetwood Mac, and then followed up in 1977 by an even bigger hit, an ENORMOUS hit called Rumours, their music just.simply.saturated. Their next album, the double LP Tusk, generated a few hits, but neither it nor any of their subsequent albums ever came anywhere near the success of Rumours

But now, this interesting thing has happened. A tribute album has been released, titled Just Tell Me That You Want Me, I’ve given it a listen on Spotify, and I’m surprised by my reaction to it.

You see, I have a longstanding preference for albums over singles, more specifically, I prefer what are sometimes called the deeper cuts, the songs on albums that weren’t played to death on the radio.

And yet, as I look at the track listing for the tribute album, I’m shocked by how few of their megahits are included. Out of 17 songs total, only four are culled from the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums.

So, you might say, this must be my kind of album, right?

Well, surprisingly, this just wasn’t the case.

See, I love the art of interpretation, and while I rarely find myself wanting to hear Fleetwood Mac music, much less the megahits, from those 1975 and 1977 albums, the one thing that could get me excited about those songs again would be for contemporary musicians to record new versions, versions that aren’t note-for-note reproductions, versions that put a fresh spin on the originals, changing up the instrumentation or the tempo, therefore breathing new life into tunes that had been played to death.

And so, much to my surprise, as I listened to the album I found myself missing songs like Monday Morning, Over My Head, and Say You Love Me, or Second Hand News, Never Going Back Again, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, and I Don’t Want To Know.

There are some great tracks on Just Tell Me That You Want Me, really, there are. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame does a very cool, slowed down version of an 1970 song Oh Well, Swedish pop singer Lykke Li does an interesting, reverb-drenched take on the Rumours-era B-side Silver Springs, The Kills do a stripped down, low-fi version of the Rumours megahit Dreams, and The Crystal Ark reinvents the Tusk title track as an all-out electronic concoction.

But for now, since the tribute album got me thinking of the old hits from the mid to late 70s, I thought I’d choose one of them for this week’s Video Fridays installment, just because.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Tweet of the Day: @colinmeloy

Back in July 2011, I wrote of my excitement at the pending release of a young reader’s novel, Wildwood, the first of a planned trilogy by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, with illustrations by his wife Carson Ellis.

Well, Wildwood was fabulous, a wonderful, imaginative adventure through a fictional fantasy world in a wooded area in modern day Portland.

And now my excitement is renewed, with the news that the follow-up, the second book in the trilogy, titled Under Wildwood, is due out September 15th!

Check out the link to the article, which contains a teaser video interview with Meloy and Ellis: