Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blog News 10/23/12

After a long period of this blog being inactive, I will finally reopen the blog next month.  This time around, there won't be music reviews but rather mini-reviews every once in a while.  There's been some new releases that I really like as of late while I've been delving into several phases for the past several months.  In response to the phases.  I'm going to do monthly profiles that I will call the Essentials as I will delve into the discography of an artist or band.  There was one this past January on the works of David Bowie from 1969-1980.  For November in anticipation for the upcoming release of Celebration Day, I will profile the music of Led Zeppelin where I will be ranking all of their studio and live releases.

If there's any plan for me to write any full album reviews, it would only be a small handful of artists like Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Radiohead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a few others.  That's practically it.  I don't think I will be doing album essays anytime soon unless I feel inspired to do so.  So of as of now, this blog is back.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blog News 3/26/12

Due to lack of interest and enthusiasm, I will be temporarily closing the blog for the time being.

During that time when I was writing for Epinions.com, I used to enjoy writing about films and music and there was a great balance for it. There were periods where I would often shift from one thing to another. Once again, that shift has been towards films. There's a lot in that spectrum that I can write about while I've also been divulging into writing screenplays which I'm still doing though sporadically.

While the stuff I'm listening to right now varies, none of the music I listen to has been anything new. In fact, I've been very disenchanted with the music scene altogether. I don't go to concerts very often because I'm always broke. There's really nothing out there that interests me. I have no desire to re-post old reviews from Epinions.com because I don't know what to put out there for the time being. I don't have the desire to re-edit or re-write music reviews either.

Well, that is all to say as I'm going to be posting more on Surrender to the Void which has been my mainstay for now. Until I feel like writing something that relates to music, this blog is now temporarily closed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Various Artists-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou OST

The soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an album that features a different array of music that is led by longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. Along with some of Motherbaugh’s score pieces, the soundtrack includes various cuts by David Bowie that is performed by one of the film’s cast members in Seu Jorge. With additional material by Ennio Morricone, the Stooges, Scott Walker, and the Zombies. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of music that is fun although it is the weakest of all of the soundtrack albums made for the films of Wes Anderson.

Opening the album is Sven Libaek’s Shark Attack Theme which is a song that is a mixture of soothing flutes and woodwinds with an accompanying background of lush string orchestras and vibraphones that play up to the music of Steve Zissou’s documentary. Mark Motherbaugh’s Loquasto International Film Festival is an orchestral score piece that includes soothing string arrangements, a flourishing horn solo, a somber flute, and an acoustic guitar that plays to the world of the film festival that Steve Zissou and crew attends. The next two cuts are songs by David Bowie as the first is the soaring ballad Life on Mars? that plays to a scene where Zissou meets his supposed long-lost son Ned Plimpton. The second Bowie track is in the form of an acoustic cover of the song Starman performed by Seu Jorge as his character sings the song to play up the quirkiness of the film.

The Mothersbaugh score piece Let Me Tell You About My Boat is a mid-tempo piano instrumental that features soft percussions, flourishing woodwinds and string instruments as Zissou takes Ned on a tour of his boat. Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s Rebel Rebel is another acoustic cut as Jorge sings the song to play up the Belafonte’s departure to find the Jaguar shark and kill it. Motherbaugh’s Zissou Society Blue Star Cadet/Ned’s Theme Take 1 is another score piece that is led mostly a soft percussion and a calm piano as it then becomes an upbeat electronic track led by warbling analog synthesizers to play up Team Zissou’s exploration underwater. Devo’s Gut Feeling is a frenetic post-punk track that starts off a bit slow and then build up into something faster with its guitars, drums, and keyboards as it plays up Team Zissou’s continuous journey on sea.

Sven Libaek’s Open Sea Theme is a swift yet calm jazz-piece led by a flourishing piano melody with soothing woodwinds and guitar melodies that plays to the exotic world of the sea that Team Zissou is fond of. Seu Jorge’s cover of Rock N’ Roll Suicide is another acoustic ballad cut that has Jorge playing to some of the somber moments of the film. Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez’s Here’s To You is a mid-tempo track that is led by Morricone’s broad yet sumptuous musical accompaniment as Baez sings the song in an operatic quality as it’s a song that the Jane Winslett-Richardson character listens to in her room as she falls for Ned. Mothersbaugh’s We Call Them Pirates Out Here is a chilling score that includes cadence drum fills and sinister string arrangements as it plays to the arrival of the pirates who decide to take control of the Belafonte and its crew.

Iggy and the Stooges’ Search and Destroy is a raucous proto-punk with blazing guitars and Iggy Pop’s snarling vocals as it’s a scene where Steve Zissou goes on a rampage to attack the pirates aboard on his ship. Paco de Lucia’s La Nina de Puerta Oscura is a flamenco-based piece led by rhythmic claps and flourishing guitars as Steve Zissou seeks aid from his estranged wife Eleanor at her private home. Seu Jorge’s cover of Life On Mars? is presented as a poignant acoustic ballad as he sings to the melancholia that surrounds the Belafonte. The Mothersbaugh score piece Ping Island/Lightning Strike Rescue Op is an electronic instrumental led by a tapping drum machine, fuzzy synthesizer melodies, and soothing flutes and strings that play the same melody as Team Zissou goes on a rescue mission to fight off remaining pirates.

Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s Five Years is another acoustic ballad as Jorge’s character sings to reflect the moments Team Zissou had dealt with following the rescue mission. Scott Walker’s 30 Century Man is a mid-tempo folk piece as Scott Walker sings in his baritone vocals as Ned Plimpton decides to get the team back on track to find the Jaguar shark. The Zombies’ ballad The Way I Feel Inside is a poignant piece with somber lyrics as it is a melancholic tune that plays to a key moment of sadness that occurs in the film. Closing the album is David Bowie’s upbeat rocker Queen Bitch as it plays to film’s final moments as Zissou finds redemption as he and his team walk to the Belafonte.

While the music presented in the soundtrack is fantastic, the big flaw with the soundtrack are what is missing in the soundtrack. Along with more of Seu Jorge’s covers of David Bowie songs that would appear in his The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions album that featured more proper recordings of those songs. The other notable omission is Sigur Ros’ Staraflur which appears in one of the film’s big moments as well as New Order’s Ceremony that was in the film’s trailer. Despite these omissions, the soundtrack for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is still a pretty fun album to get from Wes Anderson and score composer Mark Mothersbaugh.

© thevoid99 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Various Artists-The Royal Tenenbaums OST

The 2002 expanded reissued version of soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums is an album that features lots of music from the film including its score by then-longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. Along with cuts by John Lennon, Bob Dylan, the Ramones, Nico, Elliot Smith, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, Emitt Rhodes, the Clash, and Paul Simon. It is a soundtrack that is truly eclectic as well as enriching to the whimsical tone of Anderson’s acclaimed film.

Opening the album is a 38-second score piece 111 Archer Avenue by Mark Mothersbaugh that opens with sound of an orchestra tuning up that is followed by a melodic-chiming sound with an orchestra playing briefly. Nico’s evocative These Days is a somber ballad led by a soothing guitar melody, a soft string arrangement, and Nico’s haunting vocals to complement Richie Tenenbaum’s feelings for his adopted sister Margot. The Ysaye Quartet’s performance of Marcel Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major (Second Movement) is an upbeat track filled with string plucking and soothing arrangements performed by the quartet. Paul Simon’s upbeat, acoustic-driven Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard is a wonderful cut that plays to Royal Tenenbaum’s growing relationship with his grandsons Uzi and Ari as they delve into various forms of mischief.

Mark Mothersbaugh and the Mutato Muzika Orchestra’s performance of George Enescu’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Minor is an instrumental piece that delves into various instrumental breaks that includes a sturdy cello, various percussion performances, a somber piano, and a flourishing harpsichord that plays to Chas Tenenbaums’ paranoia. Bob Dylan’s Wigwam, from the much-maligned 1970 album Self-Portrait, is a track that includes mariachi-horns, a slow piano, and a country-style presentation with Dylan singing along to the melodies. Motherbaugh’s Look at that Old Grizzly Bear is a short score piece that is played to a smooth jazz rhythm that is led by a chiming keyboard to play up an object Royal finds. John Lennon’s Look at Me is a haunting acoustic guitar track filled with Lennon’s entrancing lyrics about love as it reflects on the sense of longing between its characters. Emitt Rhodes’ Lullaby is a soft, acoustic guitar track that plays like a lullaby to play up some of the film’s melancholia.

Mark Motherbaugh’s Motherbaugh’s Canon is a plaintive score piece led by a calm harpsichord and a soothing string arrangement as it plays up to Royal’s departure from the family home as he comes to the realization that these brief moments with his family were the best moments of his life. The Clash’s Police & Thieves is a mid-tempo punk track that is quite calm and playful as it’s one of the many Clash songs that often accompanies the character of Eli Cash. Motherbaugh’s Scrapping and Yelling is a playful orchestral cut led by plucking strings, a harpsichord, and a flute to play up some of the film’s whimsical elements. The Ramones’ Judy is a Punk is a short yet fast-paced song with driving guitars and Joey Ramone’s intense vocals as it plays to the scenes of Margot Tenenbaum’s secretive life and numerous affairs. The short score piece Pagoda’s Theme is led by flourishes of sitars and vibrant Indian percussions that plays up to the character of Pagoda.

Elliot Smith’s Needle in the Hay is a dark, folk-track filled with cryptic lyrics and a fast-paced acoustic guitar strum as it plays to one of the most chilling moments of the film. Nick Drake’s Fly is another folk-inspired track that features a soothing cello accompaniment and flourishing harpsichords as Drake sings in a soaring vocal to evocative imagery as it plays to Richie and Margot’s feelings for each other. Mothersbaugh’s I Always Wanted to Be a Tenenbaum is a smooth yet rhythmic piece led by a melodic piano and harp to play up Eli’s own issues including his lack of being in a family. Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Christmas Time is Here is a calm piano-piece that features a children’s choir as it plays to the melancholia that surrounds Richie. The Velvet Underground’s Stephanie Says is a dream-laden track led by melodic guitar chimes, soft rhythms, and Lou Reed’s swooning vocals as it’s a song that accompanies Mordecai’s flight as he returns to Richie.

The next two tracks are score pieces by Mark Mothersbaugh with the first being the reflective Rachel Evans Tenenbaum (1965-2000) that is led by a soft organ that is accompanied by chiming organs and a somber string as Royal visits the grave of Chas’ wife wondering what he can do to help his son. Sparkplug Minuet is led by a tapping piano melody with a chiming vibraphone and soft, frenetic drum fills to play up the aftermath of Etheline Tenenbaum’s marriage to Henry Sherman as Royal watches with a sense of pride. Nico’s The Fairest of the Season is mid-tempo track led by a melodic guitar and a soothing string arrangement to accompany Nico’s vocals as it plays to Margot and Richie having a moment. The closing track is a soaring orchestral cover of the Beatles’ Hey Jude played by The Mutato Muzika Orchestra as it is filled with wonderful arrangements of harpsichords, strings, and all sorts of instruments to play up the early accomplishments of the Tenenbaum children.

The soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums is an extraordinary album from Mark Mothersbaugh and Wes Anderson. While it doesn’t feature other material from the film like music from the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Erik Satie, and more songs by the Clash. It is still a fantastic album that serves as an accompaniment to the film as well as being one of the best soundtracks to come from Wes Anderson. In the end, the soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums is a superb album from Mark Mothersbaugh and the artists that contributed to the album.

© thevoid99 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Various Artists-Bottle Rocket OST

The soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 1996 debut film Bottle Rocket is a collection of tracks that largely features the score music of Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh. Filled with an array of jazz pieces, the soundtrack includes music from Oliver Onions, the Proclaimers, Rene Touzet, and SETI. The music plays up to the trials and tribulations of three young men as they try to become criminals in this very fun and playful soundtrack.

Opening the album are five score cuts by Mark Mothersbaugh which begins with Voluntary Hospital Escape. A short, 54-minute track with upbeat, tapping percussions that is filled with flourishing guitar melodies, flutes, and an array of bells. Gun Buyers is an upbeat cut with fast-playing jazz guitar riffs that is played with great flourish to emphasize a scene of Anthony, Dignan, and Bob doing shooting practice. Bookstore Robbery is a vibrant, drum-driven piece with bombastic bass fills and frenetic bongos to play up the energy of the robbery. Dignan’s Dance is a snazzy jazz-piano piece with tapping percussions as it plays to Dignan’s celebration of the robbery. And Also Because He Fired Me is a short piece led by a sleigh bell and a swooning vibraphone to play up the melancholy of Dignan’s ordeal as he, Bob, and Anthony are on the run.

Oliver Onions’ Zorro is Back is a folk-driven piece with a harpsichord intro and guitar flourishes that has a country feel to the song as it has the three men going onto a road trip. Motherbaugh’s Cleaning Rooms with Inez is an upbeat jazz piece with tapping rhythms and smooth vibraphones that plays to Anthony’s infatuation with the cleaning lady Inez. Another Mothersbaugh score piece in She Looks Just Like You is a mid-tempo yet somber guitar-driven piece with tingling keyboards as it plays to Anthony’s fascination with Inez. Rene Touzet’s Pachanga Diferente is a Latin-based track with samba rhythms and blazing horn arrangements that plays up to Anthony’s fascination with Inez. The score piece No Lifeguard on Duty is a low-key jazz piece led by a soft guitar strum, smooth vibraphones, and a soaring violin solo.

Touzet’s Mambo Guajiro is another Latin-based track led by vibrant piano riff with rhythmic congas and a swooning horn section for the bar scene where Dignan and Anthony hang out at with Inez. Rocky is an upbeat jazz piece from Mark Mothersbaugh as it is filled with arpeggio-laden guitar melodies, bopping rhythms, and a soft keyboard riff as it plays more to Anthony’s feelings towards Inez. Doesn’t Sound That Bad in Spanish is a low-key score piece driven by shaking percussions, an oboe, a swooning violin and a melodic acoustic guitar to play up more of Anthony’s feelings towards Inez. The Proclaimers’ Over and Done With is an upbeat folk track led by wailing Scottish vocal harmonies as it plays up to Anthony and Dignan’s departure from the motel as they go back on the road.

The last seven tracks on the album are more score pieces from Mark Mothersbaugh such as the smooth vibraphone-driven of Snowflake Music/Mr. Henry’s Chop Shop that features a shaky sleigh bell as it then segues into a flute-driven jazz piece with a sumptuous bass riff and boppy drum fill. You’re Breaking His Heart is an upbeat jazz piece led by walloping drum fills and a soaring flute as Dignan and Anthony meet up with Mr. Henry about some plans. Goddamnit, I’m In is a piece led by a tingling xylophone with a bopping percussion accompaniment as well as a soft accordion played early in the track. No Jazz is an upbeat jazz piece led by a wailing flute solo that is accompanied by a blazing piano and a steady drum fill to play to a party attended by Dignan, Anthony, and Bob about the upcoming heist.

Highway (Reprised) is another jazz cut led by a flute with a Latin-based guitar solo as it revolves around Anthony wanting to contact Inez. 75 Year Plan is a variation of Voluntary Hospital Escape with more tingling percussions in the mix as well as more Spanish-laced guitars and steady drum fills. The closing track is Futureman’s Theme, a more folk-based cut with a playful jazz rhythm in tapping percussions, washy string instruments, and a wailing accordion as it is a cut that plays to the character of Futureman as well as being the piece played in the final credits.

While the soundtrack isn’t perfect due to the exclusion of the Rolling Stones’ 2000 Man and two songs by the band Love, notably Alone Again Or from their 1967 landmark album Forever Changes. The soundtrack for Bottle Rocket is an excellent album from Mark Mothersbaugh and the artists that appear in the film. It’s a record that is very playful and fun as it is the perfect piece of music played to Wes Anderson’s widely-beloved debut film. In the end, the soundtrack for Bottle Rocket is a superb album for fans of the film.

© thevoid99 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Various Artists-Fantastic Mr. Fox OST

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/1/09.

The soundtrack to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is a compilation of material featuring score music by Alexandre Desplat. Desplat's score is a mixture of orchestral music that ranges from various styles of composers such as Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone. Even as the music dwells into elements of folk and twangy music with help from Jarvis Cocker of Pulp who contributes an original song to the film. Along with tracks from Burl Ives, the Wellingtons, Georges Delerue, Nancy Adams, the Bobby Fuller Four, the Beach Boys, and regular Anderson musical trademark in the Rolling Stones. It's a fun, exhilarating soundtrack from Wes Anderson and company.

The album opens with a 15-second track called American Empirical Pictures after Wes Anderson's production company. A simple banjo track with chimes all by Alexandre Desplat as it serves as an intro for the next track. The Wellingtons' The Ballad Of Davy Crockett which is a simple, bouncy folk song led by a banjo and great harmony vocals about Davy Crockett as it serves as a backing track for Mr. Fox's exercise to steal food. Mr. Fox In The Fields is an instrumental piece from Desplat that serves as theme music for Mr. Fox with a flourish of banjos and chimes with a smooth orchestral arrangement. The Beach Boys' Heroes & Villains from Smiley Smile, is an amazing track with bouncy rhythms, Mike Love's wailing vocals, and cosmic lyrics from Van Dyke Parks. Featuring strange arrangements of sounds and a harpsichord solo bridge from Brian Wilson, the song plays as a backing track for Mr. & Mrs. Fox stealing food.

Fooba Wooba John by Burl Ives is a playful, one-minute-and-seven-second song that has Ives singing to bouncy melody with old-sound ragtime jazz as it serves as track that reflects the lives of the Fox family. Boggis, Bunce, and Bean is a score piece by Desplat that features bouncy chimes and smooth-stomping beats as it reveals the personalities of the three villains in the story. Jimmy Squirrel And Co. is a banjo-led instrumental with swooning flutes and chimes as it is a score piece with violin plucks as a contractor reveals to Mr. Fox a brand new home. Love by Nancy Adams is a swooning ballad with melodic guitar chimes as Adams sings the serene song with her angelic vocals. The song is a perfect backing track to the relationship between Mr. & Mrs. Fox. Burl Ives' Buckeye Jim is a mid-tempo folk track led by Ives' baritone vocals as it is simple song that recalls the new home life of the Foxes.

High-Speed French Train is a score piece with bouncy orchestral melodies and woodwinds as it's accompanied by tingling chimes as it serves as a musical cue for Ash's train set that his cousin Kristofferson is amazed by. Whack-Bat Majorette is an upbeat instrumental where Desplat goes into the circus-like world of Nino Rota ala the films of Federico Fellini. Led by a pounding rhythm and a broad brass sound with wailing flutes, it's a killer instrumental that serves as a backing track for the unique sport that is whack-bat. The Grey Goose by Burl Ives is a playful folk track led by Ives' vocals as it has a holiday-like feel as it plays to friendship of Mr. Fox and Kylie. Bean's Secret Cider Cellar is an Ennio Morricone-inspired track with washy acoustic guitars, pounding rhythms, whistles, and Jew-harp twangs. The track serves as a great piece where Mr. Fox and the Rat duel it out for cider. Un Petite Ile by Georges Delerue from Francois Truffaut's Two English Girls, is a serene, chime-like track led by a harpsichord and soothing string arrangements as it reflects on Mrs. Fox's heartbreak that her husband is stealing again.

The Rolling Stones' Street Fighting Man is a rocking track with pounding drum fills, driving guitars, and Mick Jagger's lyrics about revolution. Featuring swirls of sitars, it's a song that serves as great piece where the Fox family and Kylie dig their way underground away from the tractors. Fantastic Mr. Fox aka Petey's Song by Jarvis Cocker that he co-wrote with Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach is a playful folk track led by a banjo, twanging Jew-harp, foot-stomping rhythms, and Cocker's cool vocals about Mr. Fox and his fantastic thefts as it is great, playful song. Art Tatum's jazzy-piano cover of Cole Porter's Night & Day is a great piece that plays to the feast as Mr. Fox and his friends are celebrating the big theft he and his friends have done. Kristofferson's Theme is a score piece by Desplat that is led by brimming chimes and playful melodies as it marks the arrival of Kristofferson as well as his attempt for he and Ash to steal back Mr. Fox's tail.

Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail (Behind a Chinese Restaurant) is a continuation of sorts of Bean Secret Cider Cellar with the character of the Rat returning. Led by its Spanish guitar, twanging Jew-harp, and whistle along with a wailing flute, it marks the Rat's attempt to take a ransom until he's confronted by Mrs. Fox and later, Mr. Fox as it's later accompanied by soothing, melodic-laden track with chimes and soothing string arrangements. Le Grand Choral by Georges Delerue from Francois Truffaut's Day for Night, is an orchestral piece with wailing trumpets and sumptuous string arrangements where Mr. Fox and company go on a rescue mission. Great Harrowsford Square is a score piece, with credit to the late Roald Dahl, is a track where Mr. Fox and his team face an unexpected enemy. Led by a slow banjo and pounding timpani fills, it's a haunting track that features a whistle reminiscent of Morricone's film scores. It is then followed by boys singing Dahl's lyrics about the villains of the film with a banjo accompaniment.

Stunt Expo 2004, another score piece with Dahl taking credit, is a continuation of the previous track with slow snare fills and pounding timpani tracks. Featuring a melody of the song about the villains, it's a playful track that mixes Morricone's spaghetti western pieces and sumptuous melodies as the vocals of the boys appear for an adventurous track where Mr. Fox and company escape. Canis Lupus is a short score piece where Mr. Fox meets a wolf in a serene background of wailing, operatic vocals with soothing string arrangements. Ol' Man River by the Beach Boys is a somber piece where the band sing Rodgers/Hammerstein song with just their serene vocals as Mr. Fox and family deal with the aftermath. The closing track is The Bobby Fuller Four's Let Her Dance which is a playful song led by melodic guitar tracks, bouncy rhythms, and fun lyrics about dancing as it serves as a great closing piece for Mr. Fox and friends to dance to.

The soundtrack to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is a superb and enjoyable album that features a lot of great score pieces and tracks for people of all ages to dance around to. While the only track excluded from the soundtrack is the Beach Boys' I Get Around, its exclusion doesn't affect the flow of the album nor its replay value. While it may not top such other classic Anderson soundtracks for Rushmore or Seu Jorge's The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions. It is certainly up there with those two while being one of the best film soundtracks of the year. For anyone who enjoys the film, the soundtrack to Fantastic Mr. Fox is a must have for anyone that loves great score pieces, nice folk ditties, and killer rock tracks.

© thevoid99 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Various Artists-The Darjeeling Limited OST

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 10/29/07 w/ Additional Edits.

The soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited marks the first film soundtrack to not feature any music or contribution from longtime Wes Anderson music composer Mark Mothersbaugh. Instead, Anderson seeks tracks from the early films of the famed Merchant-Ivory productions as well as the films of late Indian film auteur Satyajit Ray. While a lot of the film's soundtrack is mostly instrumental pieces from those old films that includes a few traditional cuts, the soundtrack also includes three tracks by the Kinks from their 1970 album Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. Assembled by Anderson and music supervisor Randall Poster, The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack is delightful, exotic film soundtrack that introduce fans to the world of India.

The soundtrack opens with Peter Sarstedt's UK number-one hit Where Do You Go To My Lovely? Appearing in the accompanying short film Hotel Chevalier and parts of the feature film, the acoustic-driven number that features an accordion-like accompaniment is a wonderfully ballad that plays to Jack Whitman's (Jason Schwartzman) heartbreak as he meets his girlfriend (Natalie Portman) for one final night before he leaves for India. The song conveys the girlfriend's mean attitude as Jack is mentally fried in this poignant, heartbreaking ballad. The second track is by renowned Indian sitar player Ustad Vilayat Khan. The title track to Satyajit Ray's film Jalshagar is an intense, fast-paced instrumental with layers of sitars and strings performed by Khan. The track is played during an intense sequence that involved a speeding taxi and a businessman (Bill Murray) running to catch a train where he eventually races Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody).

The first of three Kinks songs arrive in the form of the melancholic yet upbeat acoustic-driven song This Time Tomorrow. Featured on the trailer and the film, the song emphasizes the melancholic state of Whitman through Ray Davies' heartfelt lyrics that plays true to the dysfunctional relationship of the Whitman brothers and their feelings over their deceased father. Another score piece from Satyajit Ray's film comes from the late film director himself with the title cut to Teen Kanya is a wonderful mix of string instruments and sitars that is filled with wonderful layers of melodic strings and sitars just pounding through the track. Jyotitindra Moitra and Ali Akbar Khan bring another wonderful instrumental cut which is the title music to the Merchant Ivory film The Householder. The track is opened by a fuzzy recording of a violin track that is later accompanied by a bouncy sitar track and a flute that emphasize the world that is India as the Whitman brothers including the eldest Francis (Owen Wilson) explain the itinerary for their spiritual journey.

Two more Ray instrumental pieces arrive in the film. First is Ruku's Room from his film Joi Bab Felunath which is basically a serene yet timbre cut filled with string plucks and flutes playing in the background. Charu's Theme from Ray's Charulata that also appeared in the film's trailer is an intense, guitar-driven track led by an acoustic guitar and then a sitar to play to the film's romantic drive of Jack Whitman and the Darjeeling Limited train stewardess Rita (Amara Karan). Shankar Jaikishan brings a wonderful piece of music which is the title cut to the Merchant Ivory film Bombay Talkie with its opening, reverb percussions and bass vocals that is later accompanied by a melodic sitar, serene string arrangements, and vibrant percussions. Ray returns with a montage music from Nityananda Datta's Baska Badal is a wonderful orchestral cut filled with sweeping violins and a piano accompaniment that shows the brothers exploring the exotic world of India with bits of sitar joining in.

A traditional track which is a prayer from Jodphur Sikh Temple Congregation that emphasizes the worldly, spiritual atmosphere that is India with all of its energy and exotic nature. Jyotitindra Moitra returns with Farewell To Earnest from the Merchant Ivory film The Householder that is a wonderful, drone-like violin piece that is wonderful in its playing with accompaniment from its vibrant percussions and a flute piece. Satyajit Ray brings another track from another Merchant Ivory film, Shakespeare Wallah with the track The Deserted Ballroom that is a mournful, orchestral piece that emphasizes the troubled and fragile relationship of the Whitman brothers as they find their spiritual journey derailed by small incidents including the train lost in its direction. Alexis Weissenberg brings a wonderful, classical piano piece entitled Suite Bergmasque: 3. "Clair De Lune" that is a melancholic piano piece forcing the brothers to reflect on their relationship after their journey had soured.

Shankar Jaikishan brings a song from the Merchant Ivory film Bombay Talkie with Typewriter Tip, Tip, Tip that is essentially an Indian pop song. One of the soundtrack's big standouts, though played in the background softly in the film, it's a vibrant pop song that just goes all over the place. It's bouncy, filled with great Indian vocals from a man and woman that is accompanied by percussions, horns, and xylophones, that is straight from a Bollywood film. Next is a memorial piece performed from the film that is a traditional track of sorts, with acoustic guitars and percussions, to convey the tragedy that the Whitman brothers have encountered. That tragedy is emphasized further with another Kinks song Strangers by Dave Davies that recalls the brothers' fragile relationship and their own estrangement they've been in. Davies' lyrics play true to the film's tone that included the line "When we are not two, we are one". It's that line that is also from the film's trailer that rings true to the film's theme. Praise Him is another traditional track that is performed by the Udaipur Convent School Nun & Students featuring Anjelica Huston, as their mother Patricia Whitman, in the background. It's a wonderful, spiritual track.

Ludwig Van Beethoven arrives with his composition Symphony No 7 In A (Op 92) Allegro Con Brio by Fritz Reiner & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The piece is played in one of the film's blend of comedy and sadness that is shown in a flashback scene that involved the Whitman brothers dealing with a possession of their father. Anderson favorite the Rolling Stones finally allow a track onto a film soundtrack with their 1965 song Play With Fire from their album Out of Our Heads. The haunting, acoustic ballad written by the band is really one of the most outstanding cuts on the film. Notably for a sequence where the Whitman brothers and their mother reflect on the individuals that meant something to them in a great sequence.

Ustad Vilayat Khan returns with Arrival From Benaras from the Merchant Ivory Film The Guru that is a wonderfully bouncy, upbeat track led by Khan's sitar that marks as a wonderful conclusion for the brothers as they have found their mother and rejuvenation for their spiritual journey. The last Kinks song Powerman arrives which is a mid-tempo rocker that is pure Wes Anderson in terms of concluding moments as it becomes a rallying cry of sorts for the Whitman brothers. The final track is the French pop song Les Champs-Elysees by Joe Dassin that is a bouncy song that bops along the way that is played during the closing credits as everything is fine with its catchy, upbeat vibe.

The Darjeeling Limited is an amazingly crafted, diverse, and enchanting soundtrack from Wes Anderson and company. Fans of Anderson's work will no doubt enjoy the array of Indian-inspired film scores with its mix of classical music, pop songs, and British Invasion songs. Anderson fans will no doubt get the soundtrack to complete their collection while those new to Indian music will definitely get a great introduction to the music of Satyajit Ray and others. The record is also a great introduction to the lesser-known work of the Kinks who are one of Anderson's favorite bands. In the end, for a great soundtrack that is wonderful to play on the road or for some crazy, emotional journey, the soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited is a must-have.

(C) thevoid99 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Seu Jorge-The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/12/08.

In Wes Anderson's 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the director employed a soundtrack that not only featured a music score from longtime collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. He also found inspiration in the music of David Bowie, particularly Bowie's legendary period in the early 70s that peaked when he was in his Ziggy Stardust persona. While Anderson ended up using two of Bowie's recordings for the film's soundtrack, he decided to use many other songs from Bowie in the film. Except that he decided to have them performed by Brazilian actor Seu Jorge who plays the character of Pele dos Santos, a crew member on Zissou's Belafonte ship. In the film, Jorge's character often does covers of David Bowie songs sung in Portugese to bring a whimsical humor and melancholia to the film. The reaction to Jorge's interpretation spawned an accompanying album of Jorge's covers of Bowie songs entitled The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions with Seu Jorge.

The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions is an album featuring 14 songs by David Bowie sung and performed by Seu Jorge with nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar. Featuring many of Bowie's songs from classic albums like Hunky Dory and The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders of Mars and a few obscurities. The album also includes an original song from Jorge as the album is basically a stripped down interpretation of David Bowie's beloved classics reinterpreted in a very different language. The result is a fascinating record that fans of world music and most of all, David Bowie fans will sure to enjoy.

The album opener Rebel Rebel from 1974's Diamond Dogs is given a slower tempo than Bowie's original but the song's bouncy melody remains intact through Seu Jorge's performance on an acoustic guitar as well as his bass-heavy vocals. The song remains fun as Jorge's interpretation as it is sung in Portugese still has the same, sing-a-long spirit that Bowie's original had. Life On Mars? from Hunky Dory is presented in the same, slow, and dramatic tone of Bowie's original as Jorge strips its down just to his bass-like vocals and guitar as he emphasizes the melancholia of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and the rest of the Belafonte crew. Jorge's vocals on the song, notably its sweeping chorus is amazing as Jorge's vocals have an amazing quality that is similar to Bowie's own vocals.

Starman, from the Ziggy Stardust album, maintains its pop-rock sensibilities as Jorge ups the tempo a bit with a swift, guitar track and taps on the guitar as his vocals shine through this amazing classic. Even as he hums the melody of Mick Ronson's guitar solo from the original as it's an amazing cover that captures the spirit of Bowie's original. Ziggy Stardust from that same album has Jorge maintaining the song's same tempo with its washy guitar track and Jorge's wailing vocals as he captures the same sense of angst and spirit of Bowie's original classic with growls and grunts on the vocals. Lady Stardust, another cut from Ziggy, is a slower yet soothing song with Jorge humming the song's original piano accompaniment in this wonderful, melancholic song as Jorge's vocals are the real highlight as he shows his range in also doing a bit of falsetto from his bass-like vocals for the song's third verse.

Changes from Hunky Dory is another Bowie classic that Jorge does in maintaining the song's pop sensibility while slowing the song's original tempo just a bit as he uses a low vocal register for the verse only to heighten it through its famed chorus. Even as he says, "Ch-ch-changes" like Bowie's original song. Oh! You Pretty Things from Hunky Dory plays up to the song's wonderful melody from its original piano track as Jorge's vocals give the song a wonderful, haunting quality through his vocals while maintaining its sense of pop sensibility. Rock N' Roll Suicide from Ziggy Stardust is a wonderful ballad of angst and melancholia as it's performed in the film to emphasize more of Zissou's melancholia and his relationship with his supposed long-lost son Ned (Owen Wilson). Jorge's vocals are amazing as he conveys the sense of loss and angst just like Bowie's original song even as he captures his emotions as he sings the last bit in English.

Suffragette City, from the same album, is given a slower tempo than its original, rocking presentation as Jorge maintains the song's same melodic riff and an amazing vocal that features Jorge doing some wonderful acoustic guitar riffs to make up for the song's original, fiery guitar solos of Mick Ronson. Five Years, another cut from Ziggy, opens with a scratchy guitar to maintain the song's original tempo and dramatic style as Jorge's vocals swoon through the song as the guitar work maintains a haunting quality through its performance. Queen B*tch from Hunky Dory, is a wonderful, up-tempo rocker that is performed in the second half of the final credits as Jorge wails on the vocals and his guitar as it's a great cover that captures the same spirit of Bowie's original.

When I Live My Dream, from Bowie's 1967 self-titled debut album, is an obscure Bowie song that is played following a tragic moment on the Belafonte as Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston) is distraught over the tragedy. Jorge&#146s vocals are amazing as he brings new light to an obscure Bowie song that is often overlooked and makes it his own. Quicksand from Hunky Dory is a haunting ballad as Jorge's guitar and vocals channel that same sense of doom and melancholia from Bowie's original song. Even as Jorge sings the vocals, he presents a wide range in his vocals with a mix of bass and falsetto. The original song Team Zissou is a wonderful, upbeat song with swift guitar work and Jorge's swooning vocals as he pays tribute to the crew of the Belafonte. The album closer, that's an exclusive bonus track from iTunes is a cover of Space Oddity. The classic Bowie song is presented in its slow, momentum-driven quality as Jorge pays true to its dramatic quality as he channels the same sense of alienation of Bowie's original through his haunting vocals.

While the versions of Jorge's covers of Bowie's songs in the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic are performed on the set but with a rough mix. The versions on this record has a clearer, amazing production that is true to Jorge's presentation of these songs. The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions with Seu Jorge is an amazing album that features many of David Bowie's classics songs sung in a different language while not being lost in translation. Fans of David Bowie will no doubt enjoy this record and maybe get a language lesson in learning how to speak Portugese from David Bowie songs. Probably the best complement for this album should come from the Thin White Duke himself who loved Jorge's interpretation as well as the way his songs can be done in a different language. In the end, for an album that is just fun to listen to while singing along to them, Seu Jorge's The Life Aquatic-Studio Sessions is the album to get.

(C) thevoid99 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Various Artists-Rushmore OST

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/25/08 w/ Additional Edits.

The soundtrack to Wes Anderson's Rushmore is a wonderful soundtrack that features Anderson's love for British rock music, notably the British Invasion period of the 1960s. Along with a film score by one of Anderson's collaborator, Mark Mothersbaugh of the band Devo, the score and music emphasizes on the moods and journey through the characters of Anderson's unique world in the film. With contributions from Cat Stevens, the Kinks, the Who, the Creation, Unit 4+2, Chad & Jeremy, the Faces, Zoot Sims, Yves Montand, and John Lennon. The soundtrack to Rushmore is a wonderfully energetic, joyful, and powerful compilation of music.

The soundtrack opens with Mark Mothersbaugh score instrumental entitled The Hardest Geometry Problem In The World with its fast-paced string plucks and jazz-like guitars to convey the intensity that then slows down to something dreamy with chiming instruments as it is later followed by a jazz, acoustic guitar and flute accompaniment. The track serves as a wonderful opener to the dream world of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) as he dreams about solving the hardest geometry problem ever. The next track is the Creations' Making Time which is a fast, rocking track that sounds similar to the Who in its intensity and angst. Yet, this British Invasion classic works to emphasize Max Fischer's reality that includes numerous extracurricular activities that he is a part of in his school Rushmore. Unit 4+2 bring in Concrete & Clay is another British Invasion obscurity that is a kinetic track featuring jazz-like guitar riffs and calypso rhythms in this wonderful song that plays to Max's love for his school Rushmore.

The Kinks arrive with a somber song called Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrin' Bout That Girl that plays to Ray Davies' plaintive lyrics and acoustic presentation as the song is a wonderful track that conveys the melancholic behavior of Herman Blume (Bill Murray) in a scene where he has everything but is unhappy. The next two tracks are from Mark Mothersbaugh's film score. First is Sharp Little Guy is a fast, 43-second instrumental filled with chiming keyboards, xylophones, and guitars that is one of several music themes to Max and his unique world. The Lad With The Silver Button maintains that intense, fast score of chiming, whistling music with organs and guitars in a scene where Max meets and falls for the school's new kindergarten teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). The classic Chad & Jeremy song A Summer Song in its lovely, folk-like presentation with amazing vocal harmonies and an orchestral accompaniment is a lovely track that emphasizes Max's crush for Miss Cross. While the song conveys a sense of nostalgia, it's a great song that definitely proves that it's still relevant during that era of rap-metal and teen-pop of the late 1990s.

Edward Appleby (In Memoriam) by Mark Mothersbaugh is another 43-second instrumental led by a harpsichord with harp plucks to convey the sense of melancholia as she is still saddened by the death of her late husband (played by Owen Wilson via photograph). Cat Stevens arrives with one of his earlier songs Here Comes My Baby with its chiming piano accompaniments and 60s pop instrumental background as Stevens sings this lovely song that brings together the trio of Max, Miss Cross, and Blume in all of their moments including a pep rally at Max's new public school. This song is a wonderful discovery as it shows what Cat Stevens was doing before his famous singer-songwriter era in the 1970s.

Next is a live version of A Quick One While He's Away from the band's 1970s live album Live At Leeds. While the version from the Rolling Stones' Rock N' Roll Circus in 1969 was used in the film, the classic mini-opera track from the Who about an extramarital affair is great piece that emphasizes the feud between Blume and Fischer for the affections of Miss Cross. Especially since the song in all of its angst through Pete Townshend's writing and guitar work with Keith Moon's frenetic drumming is amazing as the song changes tempo where its coda of "You are forgiven" is what was used in the film. Snowflake Music which appeared in Wes Anderson's 1995 debut film Bottle Rocket is another piece by Mark Mothersbaugh which is a 38-second instrumental with holiday chimes and melodic keyboard bells playing in the background to convey the sense of holiday in Max's world as well as the world of Dignan & Anthony in Bottle Rocket. Another Mothersbaugh piece comes in the instrumental Piranhas Are A Very Tricky Species which is essentially a percussion-based track filled with rollicking drums and percussions beating frenetically which is also used in other Anderson films to convey a sense of action.

Zoot Sims' Blinuet is a jazz, instrumental piece featuring the saxophonist playing nice jazz riffs through a smooth, mid-tempo presentation with pianos and drums as it's a track that conveys Max's love for Miss Cross during a drunken dinner with Mr. Blume. Mothersbaugh's Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends is an instrumental that is played during Max's expulsion from Rushmore as well as his dissolution with friend Dirk Calloway (Mason Gamble) who says the track's title line as the track features a dirge-like organ and pounding bass drum accompanied by holiday chimes. Rue St. Vincent by Yves Montand is a French ballad sung in French to convey the melancholic mood of Miss Cross as Max tries to discover her sadness as well as her breakup with Herman Blume. Kite Flying Society by Mark Mothersbaugh is another instrumental that features the same, chiming presentation with a looped organ accompaniment and harp plucks as the track conveys Max's new discovery in a girl named Margaret Yang (Sara Tanaka) through a remote-controlled airplane.

Cat Stevens' The Wind is one of Stevens' classic songs as its wonderfully soft, plaintive acoustic presentation and Stevens' soft voice conveys Max's growing development as a person while seeking redemption for things he's done wrong. John Lennon's Oh Yoko from Imagine is a wonderful, upbeat song with Phil Spector's amazing production in this wonderful love song from John to Yoko Ono as the song plays to Max's renewed friendship with Herman Blume as he helps him get his life on track as it's a wonderful song for the film and its use. The last song on the album is the Faces' Oh La La sung by Ron Wood is a wonderful acoustic-driven number from the band's final studio album of the same name.

Used for the film's end and final credits, it's a fitting closer with its wonderful, folk-like presentation as its' a wonderful sing-a-long song with its great chorus of "I wish that I knew what I know now". The album closer and final Mark Mothersbaugh instrumental Margaret Yang's Theme is a jazz-like theme with fast guitar plucks, washy pianos and accordions to mark the arrival of Miss Yang while the track is also played in the final credits. Not in the film's soundtrack that includes jazz cuts from Django Reinhardt and two other songs that appear in the film. First is Donovan's Jersey Thursday and the other is the Rolling Stones' I Am Waiting. The Stones' track is used to convey Fischer's melancholia but the reason the wonderful acoustic number isn't used was because a lot of the Stones' early music was not allowed to be on any film soundtracks due to legal reasons.

The soundtrack to Rushmore is truly one of the best film soundtracks of the 1990s and an essential soundtrack from the world of Wes Anderson. Fans of Anderson's films must have the soundtrack as its collection of British Invasion songs and Mark Mothersbaugh's lovely score is truly wonderful. With songs that will give a sense of nostalgia or maybe a memory of the film, it is a great mix of music as it has a wonderful energy of angst, romanticism, melancholia, and joy. In the end, the film soundtrack to Rushmore is a wonderful gem of great music assembled by auteur Wes Anderson.

(C) thevoid99 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Favorite Albums #2: Hunky Dory

The Gospel of Reinvention According to David Robert Jones

Throughout his nearly 45-year career in the music industry, there has been no artist, with the exception of Bob Dylan, that has manage to change constantly from one style/persona to another better than David Bowie. Throughout his career, he’s dabbled in all sorts of genres ranging from folk, Philly soul, glam rock, electronic music, pop, alternative rock, and many others. In those years, he would influence many in the world of popular music as there is still debate on what is his greatest achievement in music? It’s obvious that it is somewhere from the 1970s that saw him dabble with elements of hard rock and proto-punk with The Man Who Sold the World to the electro-rock of 1980’s Scary Monsters. Yet, it is 1971’s Hunky Dory that would be the real starting point to one of the most defining careers in the history of popular music.

While glam-rock albums such as The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane may have brought David Bowie to stardom. It was Hunky Dory that would really give people a taste of things to come throughout the entirety of his career. Not in terms of what he can do musically but how he would delve into various subjects of alienation, nostalgia, and other lyrical themes and put different personalities into the songs he would make in his career. While the album was also a transitional record of sorts from the hard-rocking sounds of The Man Who Sold the World and the more folk-inspired 1969 album Space Oddity that would pave the way for the thrilling glam of Ziggy Stardust. Hunky Dory was an album that showed Bowie’s range as a songwriter and performer.

While Bowie’s musical career had started out in the early 60s through various bands when he was just known as Davie Jones where in 1964, he and the R&B band the King Bees released their first single Liza Jane that didn’t go anywhere. Changing his name from Jones to Bowie, to avoid confusion with the already-famous Davy Jones of the Monkees, Bowie would finally go solo where he released his first album in 1967 to good reviews but never went anywhere as he struggled with his career for two years until he achieved a breakthrough with the song Space Oddity about an astronaut disconnecting himself from Earth.

The song would be a hit while the Space Oddity album showed Bowie transitioning from the music hall pop of his self-titled debut for a more folk-driven sound for its follow-up. Still, Bowie struggled to find an identity that would make him standout against what was happening in popular music at the time. With friends like Marc Bolan was just starting to emerge with his group T. Rex while schoolmate Peter Frampton had formed the blues-rock band Humble Pie with another Bowie friend in former Small Faces vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott. Bowie however, would meet one of the key figures that would shape his musical outlook in a guitarist named Mick Ronson.

Having already played with Michael Chapman and Elton John, Ronson was an accomplished yet talented musician who also could do string arrangements and play piano. Bowie and Ronson decided to form a band with Space Oddity producer Tony Visconti on bass and Bowie’s friend John Cambridge on drums that was called the Hype. With the band wearing costumes and playing a harder, rocking music that featured covers by one of Bowie’s favorite bands in proto-punk/art-rock legends the Velvet Underground. The concept of the Hype would give Bowie future ideas for Ziggy Stardust while the sound he created with Ronson and Visconti led to the creation of The Man Who Sold the World.

While the album also featured a new drummer named Mick Woodmansey where he and Ronson would be the part of Bowie’s new band at the time. The album itself showed a major development of Bowie as an artist through the lyrical themes he discussed as well as what Ronson would bring to the sound. Visconti’s role on bass would later be filled by Trevor Bolder as the lineup of Ronson, Bolder, and Woodmansey would become Bowie’s greatest backing band in the Spiders of Mars. By late 1970/early 1971 during the tour to promote The Man Who Sold the World, Bowie would meet artist Andy Warhol as well as former Velvet Underground vocalist/guitarist Lou Reed and Iggy Pop of the legendary proto-punk band the Stooges.

These meetings as well as Bowie’s personal life in his marriage to an American woman named Angela Barnett and the birth of their son Duncan Zowie Heywood Jones would impact a lot of what Bowie would write for Hunky Dory. Notably the song Kooks, a bouncy folk-pop song where Bowie sings about the arrival of his son as well as the possibilities of what Duncan’s parents would do. It’s a very strange yet unique song that features lyrics that are playful but also comforting as Bowie sings these words:

And if you ever have to go school
Remember how they messed up this old fool
Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads
‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching
Other people’s Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown

These lyrics are an example of Bowie’s genius as man of words as well as providing some hope to his newborn son who would become the man that helmed the 2009 acclaimed sci-fi film Moon. Kooks is one of the few songs in the album where it features an air of optimism to an album that is mostly bleak and dramatic. Another song that has an upbeat feel to it but more in the confines of an orchestral pop tune is a cover of Biff Rose’s Fill Your Heart that was written by Rose and Paul Williams. While Bowie’s version is quite faithful in terms of its string presentation, a saxophone accompaniment, and a melodic piano riff, the major difference in Bowie’s song that it doesn’t have a percussive accompaniment along with more emphasis on the saxophone and piano flourishes. It’s a song that is very upbeat as it fits into the album’s varied emotions which complements a lot of what Bowie was going through at that time.

Particularly with what has happening in 1971 when the music scene was changing following the break-up of the Beatles the year before and a lot of new things were happening. There was a new era of artists who were known primarily as songwriters finally stepping out to perform the songs they had written as it became the period of the singer-songwriters. Artists like Cat Stevens, Elton John (with lyricist Bernie Taupin), Carly Simon, and James Taylor were emerging with songs that spoke more about themselves and their own personal stories rather than play into the aesthetics of folk music that was more about social and political ideas. While a lot of the songs in Hunky Dory that shared traits with that genre, Bowie added an element of fantasy, darkness, and an abstract sense of the world into the songs he sings.

One of the key cuts of the album that fits in with the singer-songwriter mold in terms of an acoustic ballad is Quicksand. Led by a soft, washy acoustic guitar riff with a soft keyboard accompaniment and crisp yet evocative production by Bowie and Ken Scott. It’s a ballad that does feature reflective lyrics but the tone is very dark and direct in what Bowie sings as he’s later accompanied by Mick Ronson’s swift string arrangements and steady yet pummeling rhythm from drummer Mick Woodmansey and bassist Trevor Bolder. With Bowie also playing piano flourishes in parts of the song, the song’s highlight is what Bowie is singing in a calm approach to the vocals for its oblique lyrics filled with Bowie name-checking the likes of Aleister Crowley, Heinrich Himmler, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, and Brigitte Bardot in reference to the Golden Dawn society. The song is an attack of sorts on faith in these lyrics that is inspired by the works of Nietzsche:

I’m not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with potential of a superman
I’m living on
I’m tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
Can’t take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith

The song is later followed by these lyrics that was heard prior to that verse as Bowie sings:

Don’t believe in yourself
Don’t deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death’s release

These words indicate a far grim outlook into the world where the year before, John Lennon sings “I don’t believe in Beatles… I just believe in me” in the song God from his post-Beatles solo debut Plastic Ono Band. Quicksand is definitely one of Bowie’s great album cuts which shows the growth he has a songwriter at that time while showing that he has a much broader view of things that goes beyond the parameters of the more personal, reflective world of what the singer-songwriters are singing. Another key example of that broadness in his songwriting is in another acoustic ballad in its closing track The Bewlay Brothers. Armed with just a slow acoustic accompaniment and later, a eerie Mellotron accompaniment by Mick Ronson that is backed by a simple yet exotic production.

It’s a song that is among one of Bowie’s most personal tracks despite being filled with a lot of ambiguous and obtuse lyrics that can really confuse listeners on what Bowie is saying. Yet, the most popular interpretation is that the song is partially about Bowie’s older half-brother Terry who suffered from schizophrenia and would eventually commit suicide in 1985 at age 47. Bowie would revisit the subject of his brother in the song Jump They Say from his 1993 album Black Tie White Noise as it’s one of the very few songs where Bowie revealed himself on a personal level as he often chooses to remain ambiguous about his personal life and his life as an artist in his music.

With the array of light-hearted material and dark-themed cuts comes other material that show a sense of complexity such as the upbeat Oh! You Pretty Things that featured future Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman playing piano along with Changes and Life on Mars?. Yet, Oh! You Pretty Things is a song that is also inspired by Nietzsche in terms of what Bowie is saying to the youth growing up in the early 70s that seemed very tired by the idealism of the 1960s. Led by Wakeman’s melodic piano riff and a bouncy rhythm, the song has a very catchy chorus that mixes humor and fear about the arrival of beings from another planet which would pre-date what Bowie would explore with his next album in The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars.

Eight Line Poem is probably the most overlooked track on the album as it’s a song with only eight lines and a simple presentation of Bowie’s vocals, a soft piano, sparse production, and a country-laden guitar from Mick Ronson. The simple presentation alone is what makes this song an album cut that should be exposed more as Bowie doesn’t sing the song for more than a minute as the lyrics seem to follow up everything else that Oh! You Pretty Things was saying with an air of melancholia.

If there’s one song that pretty much defines Bowie throughout his career, it’s Changes. The ever-changing artist who would do one thing and move into another throughout his career is something that not many could do and make it successful. Changes is a song about many things. Finding the individual in a person. Speaking to those who feel all alone as they want to find a world that they can be a part of. Reinventing one self to stand out from the others. There’s a lot in what Bowie is saying as he’s accompanied by Wakeman’s bouncy piano, Ronson’s flourishing string arrangements, and a bopping rhythm from bassist Trevor Boulder and drummer Mick Woodmansey. Still, it’s the lyrics that drive the song that is indicated in this verse:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultation
They’re quite aware what they’re going through

These lyrics mean something to someone like legendary 80s filmmaker John Hughes who use these words to open his heralded 1985 film The Breakfast Club. A film about five different high school kids who are forced to serve detention on a Saturday as they vent about their own issues as well as the fear of not wanting to be like their parents. What Bowie is saying in these words that these kids will be much smarter than what their parents might seem to be as they’re hoping not to make the same mistakes their parents have done. It’s a very bold statement from someone who was in his early 20s yet has managed to make it more relevant in the years to come.

If Changes is Bowie’s signature song that would define what he would do in his career. Then it’s the ballad Life on Mars? that really speaks for those seeking escapism from a world where they feel ostracized. While the inspiration for the song came from Bowie’s experience as a lyrical translator where a French song he tried to translate had its rights bought by Paul Anka who turned into the famous song My Way.

While Bowie meant for Life on Mars? to be a parody of My Way, it became much more than that in the lyrics Bowie sang as it’s accompanied by this somber, melodic piano riff from Rick Wakeman that becomes very dramatic. Soared by Mick Ronson’s wondrous string arrangements and slow, thundering rhythms for the song’s chorus. It is later followed by this amazing yet heavenly guitar solo from Ronson that is unlike anything heard in pop music. What balances the song in terms of its musicality is the lyrics as Bowie sings about a young girl whose reality is horrible as she escapes to the world of film as she feels sad about not being part of that world. At that time, it represents what Bowie could do vocally when singing a ballad like this as it’s one of his most defining songs of his career.

The three remaining songs on the album are tribute cuts to the people who have influenced Bowie not just musically but also artistically. The first is Andy Warhol after the famed pop art icon who redefined the world of modern art in the 1960s. Bowie met Warhol in his first trip to America in 1970/1971 where he also would meet Lou Reed for the first time. Bowie’s tribute song to Warhol came in the form of a folk song dominated by brimming acoustic guitars with Ronson’s flamenco riffs and a strange keyboard intro concocted by Ken Scott’s production. The lyrics are very abstract in Bowie’s description of Warhol as it is filled with imagery about the world of Warhol. Though Warhol reportedly didn’t like the song very much, he did maintain a rapport with Bowie. More than 20 years later, Bowie would play Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat in the 1996 bio-pic about the troubled 80s street-artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The song that would follow Andy Warhol is a mid-tempo, country-blues cut called Song For Bob Dylan. This smooth track with a steady rhythm, flourishing blues-style piano, and Ronson’s wailing guitar is the second of three songs where Bowie pays tribute to an icon. This time, it’s on Bob Dylan as the song Bowie sings is a tribute to Dylan that is filled with humor and weird imagery in its lyrics. Particularly in the way Bowie describes Dylan’s voice:

Hear this Robert Zimmerman
I wrote a song for you
About a strange young man called Dylan
With a voice like sand and glue

The song features a lot of references to Dylan as it’s obvious that Bob Dylan is an influence on Bowie. Though Dylan reportedly wasn’t really fond of the song, it is still a very quirky tribute from a student in the art of reinvention.

The last tribute track Bowie made is probably the first song that really exemplify what Bowie could do with his backing band at the time in the Spiders of Mars. Queen Bitch is a rock song to the fullest as it is a song that serves as a tribute to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Armed with Bowie’s 12-string acoustic guitar washes with Mick Ronson’s driving electric guitar riffs and the bouncy yet thundering rhythm section of Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder. It’s definitely a song that has a raunchy delivery with free-flowing lyrics that are very playful as if Bowie is being Lou Reed. It’s the song that if the Velvets had stayed around a little longer, they would’ve made this song but this is definitely the best tribute anyone could’ve given to that band.

Released on December 17, 1971, Hunky Dory would gain superb reviews in its initial release as Bowie would perform of two of the songs from that album for a taping of The Old Grey Whistle Test along with a new song from the upcoming The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars that would come in June of 1972. While Bowie would perform a lot of the songs on that album throughout his career though it remains rumored that he’s retired from the music scene following health issues in 2003.

In the 40 years since its release, Hunky Dory remains one of Bowie’s defining albums of his career as it showcased everything he was able to do and what he could do for the rest of his career. In fact, it’s the most diverse thing he’s done. There is never a weak song in that album as song by song in sequence. It’s a record that refuses to be dull or heavy-handed. It has something for everyone. That is probably why it’s an album often go back to because of what David Bowie was able to do. He made an album that encompass everything he was about and bring voice to those who feel lost. Though it might be one of his many masterworks, Hunky Dory is still probably the greatest thing David Bowie has ever created in his much-revered career.

© thevoid99 2012