Friday, May 9, 2008

Two weeks late

Well I should have had this list up a long time ago, but, here is my list of the top 10 albums of year 1990. Since my machine at home has crashed I don't have much time to write comments about the albums as of right now. I will go back later and add them though.

10 Bossanova- Pixies

9 The La's-La's

8 Songs For Drella-Lou Reed and John Cale

7 GodWeenSatan: The Oneness-Ween

6 Superchunk- Superchunk

5 Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Funk and Rhythm- A Tribe Called Quest

4 No Depression- Uncle Tupelo

3 Goo- Sonic Youth

2 Fear of Black Planet- Public Enemy

1 Repeater- Fugazi

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thoughts on the 90s

The 90s were an important decade musically for me. I turned 16 in 1990, and that's a pretty big year for teens to start making their own choices. I know that was when I decided that I would start watching heavier films, and listening to more than the music that my older brother was listening to.

Up until about 1989-1990 I mostly listened to 80s punk bands, Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys. I also liked a little bit of metal, in the form of Metallica, and Megadeth. I had friends that were very into industrial dance, like Ministry, Meat Beat Manifesto, and Skinny Puppy. There was also a good friend of mine that liked The Cure, and Depeche Mode.

My brother, around the time of my early teens years, was in a phase of his life where he was no longer listening to anything modern or mainstream. He had grown up with the typical schlock rock of his generation, he's 8 years older than I am. So we had a lot of Aerosmith, AC-DC, and Kiss albums around the house. He also enjoyed Styx, and Def Leppard, as well as Loverboy. But at the point when I had reached 13 or 14 years old, all he listened to was blues. Nothing modern, all old blues. Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and Howlin' Wolf.

My folks were mostly not music listeners by the time I had reached my teens. But before that my father was very big into country, and his favs were Willie Nelson, and Kenny Rogers. My mother liked Neal Diamond, who I still have a soft spot in my heart for, and Lee Greenwood. My mother however, as a child, listened to a great deal of Motown. We had a very extensive collection of Motown 45s, along with a few Beatles, and Elvis. I loved them all, I would listen to them all in order, and then start over at the beginning again.

We had a big console stereo to listen to them on. The coolest thing about that console was the turntable had a multi-record servo like arm that would allow you to stack 4 or 5 lps or 45s on top of each other at the top of the spindle. It would then play the first record till it ended, then the next record would drop and it would play.

So in a way I was exposed to a very wide range of popular music, from Bluegrass to Blues, Rock 'n' Roll to Soul. I also joined the school band when I entered Junior High School, that would be Middle School to the rest of you, and that opened my eyes to many forms of modern and classical music compositions.

I felt by the time all of this was filtered through my brain and ears, that I had a pretty good grasp of where music had been and where it was going.

So by the time I reached 16 I was starting to branch out and away from the music that I had known. I sought out new, to me at least, sounds. Mostly these new sounds I was being turned on to were college/indie rock. As well as all the bands that influenced them. These were new and amazing bands to me, they didn't sound like anything I had heard before. Yet, they sounded like everything I knew at the same time. These bands had taken the sounds I grew up with, and turned them into something new and amazing. I quickly learned that most of these lo-fi bands started in the 80s as a post punk movement.

I started this journey in earnest with R.E.M., of all bands. I heard the Green album and then listened to the whole back catalog starting with the Chronic Town ep. I found the sound to be rich and filled with amazing vocal harmony, and strangely to me at the time very bass driven. Most of what I had listened to up to that point was very guitar based rock/punk. R.E.M. had an album called "Dead Letter Office" it was b-sides and covers. There were a few covers of a band named "The Velvet Underground". These were clearly the best songs on the album. I knew then that I had to hear The Velvet underground. I bought the album, I loved it. It was raw, and primal, it sounded so influential. I could hardly believe it was from 1967. I had to have more, I bought Lou Reed's whole back catalog.

I also took a very strong liking to the folk-rock sound from the 60s by way of the Byrds and early Dylan. Then as the decade moved on grunge broke, that was all very strange to me. I embraced it full on, but for some reason it seemed very strange. The way that the record labels were searching for the "next Nirvana" was very alarming to me. It lead to the homogenizing of the whole genre. To the this day I still maintain that the only true "grunge" bands were Mudhoney and Dinsaur Jr. and Dinosaur Jr. wasn't even from Seattle. But the big sound from Seattle drove me to find older bands from the region. I learned of the frat rock scene in Tacoma, and the effect that they all had on the greater whole of popular music.

Then came the new garage rock revival, and it was based in Detroit! I fell for it. It was so great, so raw and rockin'. I missed the 80s garage rock revival. I've caught up with it since though.

The journey musically through the decade that was the 90s was very fun for me. I learned so much about music. I discovered bands that will always get me to go to see them live whenever they come to town. That I will be sure to get their new albums the day they are released.

As a tribute to the decade that taught me so much, I have decided to make a series of lists. I love making lists. I'm going to list my top 10 albums of the 90s by year. Then I'm going to make a list of my top 10 albums of the whole decade. I'm planning on it being a weekly series that will start this Saturday. I hope everyone sticks around for the whole list, and please feel free to comment on my choices. You my think I forgot the greatest album ever, if I did tell me what a fool I am.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hannibal arrived!

A member of our game group received his copy of Hannibal Rome vs. Carthage on Monday of this week. We had a chance to sit down with it last night and go through the rules and play about 2 turns of a learning game.

First let me talk about the components. The counter stock is really thick and all the counters fell right out of the frames, so very little to no "flashing" on the edges. All of the cardboard components are top notch. The game board comes in 10 jigsaw puzzle style pieces that when put together make for a very nice looking map of the Mediterranean area. The board has lots of charts on it that help speed up game play, although the attrition chart has a misprinted die roll modifier on it. All the city spots on the board have names printed on both sides so that both players can see the names. The biggest problem I have with the board is that each province on the map is made up of several cities, and in order to be in "control" of a province you must have a minimum number of the cities within it under your control. The only problem is that number is not printed on the board. So you have to keep looking in the rulebook to see if you have enough or not.

The cards which are the most the used component of the game are made of very high quality linen stock and seem like they will hold up to years of play. Which is good because they will be shuffled quite a bit. The artwork is very well done on them, and the text is very readable.

The rule book is laid out fairly well. The names of all the components are laid out at the beginning of the book and then those terms are used throughout the rulebook. This helps to keep everything consistent. There is also a player aid that I'm assuming is to highlight important details related to the actual game play in order to keep rulebook thumbing to a minimum. Well you might as well just throw that player aid away, it has no turn order chart. It lacks pretty much all the information you need to look up, and yet it is so cluttered with text you can't find the few useful things that it does have on it. One other little problem that bugs me a bit more than most I'm sure. The game comes with two custom six sided dice, one with Roman numerals on the faces for the Roman player. The other with Phoenician numerals for the Carthaginian player. The Roman die has proper numbers on the faces, meaning the sum of any two opposite faces is 7. Well the Carthaginian die has the faces laid completely randomly. That kind of bugs me, you go through all the trouble to make this special die, which forces the printing of chart so that you know which number is which. And you can't be bothered to get the faces right. Grrrr

Now for the game play, for anyone that has played We the People, or Twilight Struggle, or Paths of Glory, or any of the other "card driven war games" you will find the game play very familiar. Each side is given a hand of cards, these cards have an event printed on them that works for either the Roman, the Carthaginian, or both. The cards also have a number value from one to three. You may play a card for the number and use it to move a general with some troops, or place some political control markers on the map, or for some reinforcements. You may also play the card for it's event if it applies to your side. Pretty simple stuff, the goal of the game is to have the more provinces under your control at the end of the game than your opponent. Or if you are Carthage to conquer Rome, and for Rome you need to conquer Carthage, these are instant win conditions if either of those cities fall Rome or Carthage will win.

So as far as the few turns of learning I did last night. Well, I chose to play Carthage, I decided based on the hand of good cards that I had that I would take Hannibal who starts in Spain all the way through France and cross the Alps into northern Italy. And as I was making my way I would try to seize some of the northern Italian provinces and gain a little on the Romans. Well Hannibal had a couple of very strong victories just after crossing the Alps and with Rome in sight I got greedy. I decided to launch a siege on Rome, which as you might think can be quite hard. I managed to get a siege going though, but on the next turn the Italian consular army came and wiped out Hannibal and his men. It was all very downhill from there. But I have gained a bit from these two turns and they served the purpose of seeing the system in work and getting an idea of how all the game mechanics work together, and next time we should be able to play the whole war.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Collection of early folk music source material

I found this book while kicking around Wikipedia today. It seems to contain a lot of ballads that would later become American Folk songs.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The American music tradition

I've been spending a LOT of time with Bob Dylan's music lately. I've always had respect for Bob, although I never real dug that deeply into his catalog. I've been digging about as deep as I can as of late, scouring the internets for bootlegs and rare live outtakes. Listening to Bob really does something to you, he's a living text book of American music. He has the tradition of American music within him, no, he has become American music tradition. You can hear it in the songs, he's not trying to sound like early folk, or early blues, or country, he just does. It really is like the music flows through him, like he's a conduit for it. It's effortless, you can hear it in every note. Nothing is strained, if you listen to Bringing it All Back Home, you will hear almost everything to come in contemporary popular song. And he does this all in a manner that sounds like it was meant to be the this way. Like the album simply had to be made and was waiting for the right person to make it. Like the music chose Bob, and not the other way around. The very man who refused to be defined by the expectations that his audience had for him, has become such a huge icon of American music.

I was listening to Woody Guthrie well before I started my exploration of Dylan's work, I was also very familiar with the early blues and rootsy traditions of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, and Son House. I've always had a fascination with hearing something a little older and more influential than the last thing I had heard. I loved trying to get to the roots of this American music tree and then winding my way up through the little branches and leaves that spread out from it. You end up at so many wonderful places, garage rock, psych rock, punk rock, indie rock hip-hop, they are all so deeply rooted in the traditions and spirit and exuberance of early American music. As you wander the path you find very few artists that seem to carry a little bit of each progression that music made on it's way to them. Woody had it, Bob has it. I feel like Lou Reed has it, Patty Smith has it. Allen Ginsberg has it. But, to me the one guy who has it over everybody except for Bob, is Jack White. That man really is a walking American songbook. He lives it, and breathes it, and speaks it. And he does know his song well before he starts singing.

It's a little embarrassing the way I learned about the White Stripes. I'm not ashamed to tell the story though, I saw the video for Hotel Yorba on MTV2. There it is I learned of the White Stripes after they were already in MTV. Sad, I know. But sometimes you just miss stuff. But, when I went back and listened to their first album I was blow away. Here was this kid, playing with only drum accompaniment doing Robert Johnson and "Blind" Willie Johnson covers. He had balls, huge ones. Jack has a "Basement Tape" in him somewhere, I want him to sit down and play everything he knows from the American tradition and record it and release it. The music flows through Jack, he doesn't have to force anything, he is American music.

I've gotten myself into such a strange space, I want to spend a year or two in a room with a record player and whatever record I need to listen to at that moment. I don't need to eat or sleep or talk to anyone. I just need to immerse myself in the amazingness of the American sonic tradition. I want to hear it all, country tearjerkers, sonic room filling jazz, slave songs, hopscotch songs, field hollers, gospel calls, protest folk, blues, all of it. Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Gram Parsons, Beck, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly, Ike Turner, Phil Spector, The Band, Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, Nirvana, The Flaming Lips, Brian Wilson, Sonic Youth, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Black Lips, Miles Davis. I want to hear them all I want to sit and make connections, piece it all together like a quilt. A sonic quilt that can wrap us all up and keep us warm with musical salvation. Rock 'n' Roll has the power to destroy evil, it helped to destroy racial divides. Woody Guthrie would write on all his guitars that "this machine kills fascists" and I believe him. Grab something powerful from your music collection this weekend and put it on, play it really loud, yell along with the lyrics. Let it free you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Manny says who cares about ALCS

Manny Ramirez told a bunch of reporters at a news conference after losing game 4 of the ALCS to go down 3-1 in the series, "If we don't do it, we'll come back next year and try again. If it doesn't happen, who cares? There's always next year. It's not the end of the world."

The reaction has been crazy. He also celebrated a solo home run, that merely cut a lead, as though it was a game winning walk off shot. All this has many people in the press up in arms. I had a lot of thoughts on this story. Mostly to do with the fact that the Red Sox have made a bunch of moves for some high dollar players that haven't jack in the post season. And yet Manny has hit .429 with 4 home runs, one of them a series winning walk off, and 11 RBIs. Yet he is going to get heat for saying something after the game.

Dan Wetzel from Yahoo sports said it all a lot better than I could have though. So I will just link to his article. Good stuff.;_ylt=Ail77i7Y65z5hm1seOhTUDcRvLYF?slug=dw-manny101707&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Friday, October 5, 2007

Now he puts the Lou in Loser.

What the hell happened to "sweet" Lou Piniella? He's one of the greats. He won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds, and has been back to the post season 5 times since. But in game one of his Cub's NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks he made the same mistake he would have been slamming from the announcers booth last year. Instead of playing each game as it's own game he started thinking about a game that might not even get played.

He had his ace on the mound, Carlos Zambrano. He was pitching a strong game, he was locked in a 1-1 tie, he had just retired 9 of the last 11 he had faced. Then without warning, in the sixth inning, after only 85 pitches, sweet Lou pulls him. The next batter at the plate hits the game winning home run.

Lou would later say in the post game press conference that he wanted Zambrano fresh should he need him again in a "potential" game 4. Someone forgot to tell Lou that on the schedule for the series it says "if necessary" next to games 4 and 5. If you win game 1 that forces the other guys to worry about making game 4 happen. You don't need to worry about that game till it happens. Win the game that you're playing, not the one you may or may not have to play.

Of course if the Cubs had won the game, and then needed to play a game 4 everyone, myself included would have been calling Sweet Lou a managerial genius. Such is life when you take risks. He said he had faith in his bullpen, that they have been there for him all year. But, the post season is different, games are won and lost on momentum swings, and pulling a pitcher who has the other team funked, for no reason sends a message. The Cub's players and the Diamondback's players got that message loud and clear. The Cub's were slumped over on the field, they were defeated. They felt like they had the game, they had their best man on the mound, he had his best stuff. Many D'backs players were quoted after the game saying that they thought it was Zambrano's game. They weren't quite sure why Piniella pulled him, but they sure were happy he did.

The Cubs lost game 2 in Arizona as well, and they sure look like the will be ending yet another fruitless run at the title that has eluded them for 99 years. It turns out Lou might have been saving Zambrano's arm for the 2008 opener.