What We Saw from the Cheap Seats by Regina Spektor

I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor for four or five years now and love her quirky, whimsical lyrics and her lovely piano work. Her new album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is another wonderful addition to her oeuvre.  Some of the songs on this album are a bit more mellow and serious than those included on her previous albums, but her signature oddity and ability to look at things from an unexpected perspective still appear in spades. I particularly enjoyed “All the Rowboats” in which the rowboats in museum paintings are trying to row away. “Violins in glass coffins” and “Masterpieces serving maximum sentences” fill museums and galleries. Her frustration with politicians (one I think we all share, no matter which side of the aisle) can be heard in “Ballad of a Politician.”

None of the songs on What We Saw from the Cheap Seats are “throw away” songs, in each song Spektor’s beautiful voice and piano playing and interesting use of percussion and changes in tempo hold interest and bring the album together as a whole.

Genius Loves Company by Ray Charles

One of my memories from childhood is sitting entranced, hearing Ray Charles play piano on television.  His voice still affects me the same way.  In Genius Loves Company, his last album recorded before his death in 2004, he teams up with some all-time great voices, including Norah Jones, James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Elton John, and even Willie Nelson, making them sound better than ever.  I found that this album did not make good background music.  I found myself shushing my family so that I could catch every note.    So sit back, relax, and savor the legendary tones of Ray Charles and company.

Best Albums of All Time

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I love “Best Of” lists.  They seem so definitive.  So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled across Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  It’s a bit dated, but still a valuable resource for exploring the world of great music.  Here are the top 10 albums from the list that we have at the library.  I would love to hear what you think they missed, or what you would add that’s come out since the list was created.

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
2. Revolver by the Beatles
3. Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan
4. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
5. Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones
6. The Beatles by the Beatles
7. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
8. Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix
9. Nevermind by Nirvana
10. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

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Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan is a benefit CD that celebrates both the 50 years of Bob Dylan’s music career and 50 years of Amnesty International. The four discs of the collection contain 75 tracks by over 80 artists. And there is something for nearly everyone in this collection.

The artists represented in the collection range from old favorites like Patti Smith, Diana Krall and Sting to newer artists such as Miley Cyrus, Adele, and State Radio. The styles run the gamut from Irish punk (Flogging Molly) to alternative metal (Queens of the Stone Age) to country (Dierks Bentley) and international (Ximena Sarinana). Most of the artists have managed to make Dylan’s songs their own, so listening to each interpretation is a pleasure and new experience of some old favorites.

One of the strengths of this collection is that it doesn’t just include Dylan’s most well-known songs, though. At 75 songs, some of them obviously had to be a bit more obscure. Ke$ha’s version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is wonderful and raw, but hearing Raphael Saadiq’s interpretation of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” not only introduced me to Raphael Saadiq, it introduced me to a new, more playful version of Dylan I had never before encountered.

Definitely don’t expect to love everything in this collection. Most people’s musical tastes aren’t quite this varied. But do expect to hear Dylan in a new way from some very talented artists.

Grammy Nominated Music Available at Your Library

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Although many of us are rushing around getting ready for theholidays right now, this is also the time of the year for awards nominations,including the Grammy nominations which were announced last week.   For your listening pleasure, we have a goodcollection of the nominated titles available for you at Manhattan PublicLibrary.
The two most prominent performers that you’ll be hearingabout are Adele and Bruno Mars.  Adele isa British singer classified as Pop, although her album 21 exhibits influencefrom blues, gospel and even country. Also classified as Pop, Mars’ album doo-wops & hooligans carriesstrains of Reggae, R&B, soul, and hip hop. 
The Best Pop Duo category has some genre-crossing songs, aswell.  “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster thePeople is on the album Torches which is also nominated in the BestAlternative Album category.  A tributealbum called Rave On Buddy Holly includes “Dearest” performed by The BlackKeys.  Other nominated Pop albums you cangrab at the library are Teenage Dream by Katy Perry, Born This Way by LadyGaga, Loud by Rihanna, The Road From Memphis by Booker T. Jones, and The Gift by Susan Boyle who rose to world-wide fame after a TV appearance on “Britain’s GotTalent.” 
 
For those who want their music a bit more on the edge, checkout Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, a London indie rock quartet that strives tomake “music that matters, without taking themselves too seriously.”  Recorded entirely on analog, Wasting Lightby the Foo Fighters brings in 4 nominations. 
If you like Rock, you might like this royal roundup: The King is Dead by The Decemberists, The King of Limbs by Radiohead, and Come Around Sundown by the Kings of Leon. You might also enjoy the Alternative category nominations Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie and Circuital by My Morning Jacket. 
The highlighted R&B albums are Love Letter by R.Kelly, which pays tribute to Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke and F.A.M.E. by ChrisBrown, which includes collaborations with Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne andothers.  Also in the R&B category is theBob Marley cover “Is This Love” from Corinne Bailey Rae’s album The Love EP,Raphael Saadiq’s “Good Man” from his album Stone Rollin’, and El DeBarge’s Second Chance, which he describes as his “spiritual memoir”. 
Moving into rap, we have Lasers by Lupe Fiasco, which hecalls “an album with a mission.”  WizKhalifa’s debut album, Rolling Papers has songs that were nominated for bothBest Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. A nomination for Best Rap/Sung collaboration comes from the ever-popularBeyoncé along with André on her album 4.

Going in a completely different direction, the Countrynominations are led by recent Country Stampede performer Blake Shelton’s Red River Blue and Taylor Swift’s entirely self-composed album, Speak Now withnominations also for My Kinda Party by Jason Aldean, Play On by CarrieUnderwood, Blessed by Lucinda Williams and Own the Night by LadyAntebellum.  The group Civil Wars appearsin both Country and Folk categories for their album Barton Hollow.  In other Folk nominations, we have SteveEarle’s tribute to Townes Van Zandt entitled I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes, and The Harrow & the Harvest by Gillian Welch.  InBluegrass we have Paper Airplane by Alison Krauss and Rare Bird Alert bySteve Martin, yes that SteveMartin.  Remember the banjo he often usedin his comedy?  Now we get to hear thefull range of his talents.
Starting off our Blues category is husband/wife teamTedeschi Trucks Band with their album Revelator, followed by Gregg Allman’s Low Country Blues and Warren Haynes’ Man in Motion.  Rounding things out with a bit of Jazz is Bird Songs by Us Five.
Quite a list and there’s still time to listen before theawards are given!  Stop by and we’ll behappy to assist you.  Or you can alwayscheck our online catalog to see what’s  available or to place a hold on an itemthat’s currently checked-out.  If youjust like to see what new music we have, there is always a list on the frontpage, “Library Info” tab, of the catalog. 

Re-make/Re-Model: Becoming Roxy Music

>Roxy Music.
Really the name says it all.
Roxy Music has been one of my favorite bands for a long time. Mainly due to the fact that you had Brian Eno in the band. This month we got a new biography in about the history of this influential band: Re-Make/Re-Model. Full of awesome pics of the band members in art school, moments on the rise to stardom, and then as they grew apart and went down their own paths.
Ferry went on to be the leading innovator of what was to become New Wave, and Eno, well, Eno went on to chart territory no one could have conceived when rock and roll first started.

How big was Roxy Music? In America, just another band in weird clothes, in England, the beginning of the Brits love affair with all things odd and glam. Certainly, punk rock and new wave might never have occurred without this band.

I heart Roxy Music.

Here, check out this video of the television appearance that launched their careers. Many critics liken this performance to other pivotal performances such as the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, the Elvis comeback show, and Ricky Martin at the Grammys.

Enjoy:

Runnin’ Down a Dream

>Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. For me the name brings back memories of cruising around in the summer time with the windows rolled down and the radio blasting rock and roll. For those fans of rock in the 70′s and 80′s, Tom Petty was the essential roots based rocker, who wrote number one hit after number one hit.

This book is full of pictures of Tom and his band from his early days as a 15 year old touring musician, to his first known band “Mudcrutch”, and culminating with his years spent as the frontman for the Heartbreakers. Personal favorite pictures are Tom as a young rocker, and Tom recording with Johnny Cash.

Read the book with your favorite Petty record on, flip through the pages, and remember how it felt the first time you heard a Petty song cutting through the airwaves.

The Rockabilly Legends

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The rockabilly legends : they called it rockabilly long before they called it Rock and Roll / Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday.

Whether you are a fan of rockabilly music or just want to learn what put the fire in rock and roll, this book is a wonderful collection of stories and pictures about the beginning of foot-stomping rock.

This book covers, for the most part, the careers of six rockabilly giants: Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. Not only do we get the story of each man’s rise to fame, we also are enlightened with the personal stories of thier families and friends.

And as if the wonderful layout and pictures in the book were not enough, there is an accompanying DVD Documentary on Rockabilly in the back of the book.

A must read for the casual music lover and the aficionado.

Graphic Novel Grab Bag #4–Metal Vs. Blues

>Today’s Graphic Novel Grab Bag covers two music-based novels, but that is where the similarities end.

The “metal” part of today’s grab bag is Black Metal volume 1 by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. The story follows two young boys with a love for the darkest of heavy metal music: Black Metal. Life would be one rock adventure after another if not for an over-protective mother and a snot-nosed little brother, and there is that thing about having to go to junior high school everyday.

It makes you wonder how they ever find the time to battle the dark forces of evil. This is volume 1 in what I hope is the first of many. Wonderful action shots and a pretty amusing story make Black Metal a fun read.


The “blues” portion of today’s grab bag is the Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo.

This three-volume series follows the journey of a blues musician in the deep south and his struggle to make a living. Wandering from juke joint to juke joint, the main character finally catches a lucky break. The only problem is when he and his partner find themselves in a situation in which the Bluesman is the only survivor. Who killed who and whose fault it is , are questions left for the local sheriff, who has to figure the whole mess out before his town erupts in a race war.

On the run and still dreaming of pressing that first single, we follow the Bluesman on his road to vindication. The surprise at the end is bittersweet and tear inducing.

There you go. Perfect reading for those with not only a love for music and of graphic novels, but of a good story as well.