Today’s clip is “Farewell to Paradise” by Emitt Rhodes.

Rhodes is most often referred to as “the one-man Paul McCartney,” because he wrote, performed, and recorded his music entirely on his own in his garage studio. And yes, his music absolutely has a mid-60s-to-mid-70s McCartney sound. He’s been a cult favorite since his debut album came out in 1970, and legions of ProTools- and GarageBand-equipped home musicians have recently embraced him as one of their own.

A blogger at mog.com named Spike_1 wrote a great review of Rhodes’ last album, 1973′s Farewell to Paradise, which also serves as a nice introduction to the artist and his music. I suggest starting there if you’re interested in learning more.

I came into “Farewell to Paradise” via, of all people, Vic Damone, who did an easy-listening version of the song in the early 1980s. Despite the sugary arrangement I found something truly haunting about the tune and the lyrics, and I had to learn who was originally responsible for the song. Once I did, I was down the Emitt Rhodes rabbit hole.

The song is a lament and a lullaby, with feelings of both sadness and hope. You may find that once it gets in your head you won’t be able to let go of it, and knowing that every sound in this recording is the product of one guy will impress you.

Here are links to the Emitt Rhodes best-of collection at iTunes and Amazon.

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This is a new discovery for me: Olivia Newton-John’s 1971 cover of “Love Song.”

For the longest time I was only familiar with Elton John’s version, which appeared on his Tumbleweed Connection album from the previous year. In later years I became familiar with the version recorded by Lesley Duncan, the person who wrote the song.

What I really like about this version is how haunting the arrangement sounds: it really adds another dimension to what’s basically a very simple love song. Also, this was recorded early in Newton-John’s career so she doesn’t quite have the confidence in her voice that we came to know later.

Love Song
(Lesley Duncan)
The words I have to say
May well be simple but they’re true
Until you give your love
There’s nothing more that we can do

Love is the opening door
Love is what we came here for
No one could offer you more
Do you know what I mean
Have your eyes really seen

You say it’s very hard
To leave behind the life we knew
But there’s no other way
And now it’s really up to you

Love is the key we must turn
Truth is the flame we must burn
Freedom the lesson we must learn
Do you know what I mean
Have your eyes really seen
© 1969

One of my favorite TV shows in the late 80s was NBC’s Sunday Night (later known as Night Music). This was a late-night show that featured musicians that didn’t typically get airtime on the more mainstream programs. They featured many jazz, blues, and World Music artists playing live with the in-house band, which included hosts David Sanborn and Squeeze keyboard player Jools Holland. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page, which shows an impressive and very eclectic lineup of guests.

For anyone with a good TV signal and a HiFi Stereo TV and/or VCR, this show was a real treat. I recorded most of the shows and transferred the performances I liked to cassette so I could listen whenever I wanted.

One of my favorite performances, embedded above, was Debbie Harry’s rendition of “Calmarie,” written by Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos. Naná’s recording of this song is very trance-like but Harry’s version takes it further– almost dreamy– which is why I liked it. (You can find Debbie Harry’s studio version on her 1989 album Def Dumb and Blonde.)

It’s cold outside here now, but whenever I hear this song it warms me up.

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Here’s a video of Marisa Monte performing “Carnavália,” which originally appeared on the 2002 album Tribalistas. This is one of my all-time favorite albums, and this song still gives me chills.

Carnavalia

(Antunes/Brown/Monte)
Vem pra minha ala
Que hoje a nossa escola vai desfilar
Vem fazer história
Que hoje é dia de glória nesse lugar
Vem comemorar
Escandalizar ninguém
Vem me namorar
Vou te namorar também
Vamos pra avenida
Desfilar a vida
Carnavalizar
A Portela tem Mocidade
Imperatriz
No Império tem
Uma Vila tão feliz
Beija-Flor vem ver
A porta-bandeira
Na Mangueira tem morena da Tradição
Sinto a batucada se aproximar
Estou ensaiado para te tocar
Repique tocou
O surdo escutou
E o meu corasamborim
Cuíca gemeu
Será que era eu
Quando ela passou por mim
Lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá
Aonde?
Lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá lá
Me diga, aonde?

(English translation:)
Fall into my row
Because today our Samba School
Will Parade
Come make history
Because today is a day of glory
Around here
Come celebrate
Scandalize no one
Come love me
I will love you too
Come down to the avenue
Put life on parade
Carnivalize
Portela has got Mocidade
Imperatriz
Imperio holds
A very happy Vila
Beija-flor come see me
The standard bearer
Mangueira has got a member
from Tradicao
I feel the drumbeat approaching
I am rehearsing to play for you
The repique played
The surdo heard it
And my heart sambatambourined
The cuica moaned
Could it have been me
When she passed me by
La, la, la…
Where?
la, la, la…
Tell me, where?

Poppies

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May 252010

(This entry originally appeared here on May 20 2004.)

As we approach Memorial Day, veterans all over the country will be accepting donations and distributing poppies in honor of the people we’ve lost in war. This effort seems much more poignant these days.

The significance of the poppy and its relation to veterans goes back to World War I. During the conflict, there were three battles in the region known as Flanders (covering parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands). Beginning on April 22, 1915 and continuing for 17 days, one of the bloodiest conflicts took place, with over 100,000 casualties on either side. This area was (and is) known for their poppy fields, and the resilience of these flowers to grow there year after year despite the battles and bloodshed.

Later that year, a Canadian army surgeon named John MacRae who served in Flanders wrote a poem called “In Flanders Fields” which was the inspiration behind Remembrance Day in the UK, and the use of the poppy as a device to remember those who served and died in battle. The poem and a good analysis of it can be found here.

Additionally, the final episode of Black Adder Goes Forth, which takes place in the trenches in Flanders (a fine setting for a comedy show :-), ends with the cast ‘going over the top’ in one of these battles. The final scene dissolves from a raging battle scene to a peaceful poppy field.

On the next page, you’ll find the lyrics to the Renaissance song “Remember.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was a nice little ‘nothing’ song about poppies. It wasn’t until a few years later when I learned the significance of everything mentioned in the song.

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This is a nice little song from Marisa Monte’s 1991 album Mais. “Diariamente” runs down a list of everyday things, set to a simple acoustic guitar.

I bought this CD just before my daughter Becca was born, and this was one of the songs that I used to play for her when she got fussy. It seemed to work back then. :)

Here are the lyrics in Portuguese so you can sing along, and as they appeared in the English translation on the American pressing of the album, which will help the video make sense.

Diariamente
(Nando Reis)
Para calar a boca: ricino
Para lavar a roupa: Omo
Para viagem longa: jato
Para difíceis contas: calculadora
Para o pneu na lona: jacaré
Para a pantalona: nesga
Para pular a onda: litoral
Para lápis ter ponta: apontador
Para o Pará e o Amazonas: Látex
Para parar na Pamplona: Assis
Para trazer à tona: homem-rà
Para a melhor azeitona: Ibéria
Para o presente da noiva: marzipà
Para Adidas o Conga: Nacional
Para o Outono a folha: exclusão
Para embaixo da sombra: guarda-sol
Para toda as coisas: dicionário
Para que fiquem prontas: paciência
Para dormir a fronha: madrigal
Para brincar na gangorra: dois
Para fazer uma toca: bobs
Para beber uma Coca: drops
Para ferver uma sopa: graus
Para a luz lá na roça: 220 volts
Para vigias em ronda: café
Para limpar a lousa: apagador
Para o beijo da moça: paladar
Para uma voz muito rouca: hortelã
Para a cor roxa: ataúde
Para a galocha: verlon
Para ser moda: melancia
Para abrir a rosa: temporada
Para aumentar a vitrola: Sábado
Para a cama de mola: hóspede
Para trancar bem a porta: cadeado
Para que serve a calota: Volkswagen
Para quem não acorda: balde
Para a letra torta: pauta
Para parecer mais nova: Avon
Para os dias de prova: amnésia
Para estourar pipoca: barulho
Para quem se afoga: isopor
Para levar na escola: condução
Para os dias de folga: namorado
Para o automóvel que capota: guincho
Para fechar uma aposta: paraninfo
Para quem se comporta: brinde
Para a mulher que aborta: repouso
Para saber a resposta: vide-o-verso
Para escolher a compota: Jundiaí
Para a menina que engorda: hipofagi
Para a comida das orcas: krill
Para o telefone que toca
Para a água lá na poça
Para a mesa que vai ser posta
Para você o que você gosta: diariamente

For shutting up: mouth wash
For washing clothes: Tide
For a long trip: a jet
For difficult sums: a calculator
For a flat tire: a jack
For a pair of trousers: a patch
To leap over the wave: shoreline
For a pencil to have a point: sharpener
For Para and Amazonas: latex
To end up at Pamplona: Assisi
To bring to the surface: frogman
For the best olives: Iberia
To give to the bride: marzipan
For Adidas the Conga we make
Autumn to the leaf: left out
To use in the shade: parasol
For all things: a dictionary
For things to get done: patience
To sleep under sheets: madrigal
To play on a seesaw: two
To put your hair up: curlers
To drink a Coke: soda pop
To boil a soup: degrees
For the lights in the country: 220 volts
For the watchman on his rounds: coffee
To clean the blackboard: an eraser
For the young girl’s kiss: flavor
For a very hoarse voice: peppermint
For the color purple: a coffin
For rubbers: vulcanize
To keep up with fashion: a melon
For the rose to bloom: a season
To turn up the record player: Saturday
For the box spring mattress: houseguests
To shut the door tight: a lock
What’s the hubcap for: Volkswagen
For someone who won’t wake up: a pail
For crooked writing: lines on the page
To look new again: Avon
For the day of the exam: amnesia
To pop popcorn: noise
For someone who’s drowning: styrofoam
To take us to school: transportation
For days off: a boyfriend
For a car that turns over: a towtruck
To secure a bet: a sponsor
For someone who behaves: a treat
For a woman after an abortion: rest
To find out the answer: see the back
To choose your preserves: Jundiai
For the girl who gets fat: diet pills
To feed the killer whales: plankton
For the phone that rings
For the water in the well
For the table that’s about to be set
For you what you like: everyday

Jul 072009

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For the last several years, I’ve said that my ideal job for when I retire– or win the lottery– would be as a starter at a golf club. It’s not so much for the love of the game (I’m an average player at best) as it is the fact that it’s just a very cool place to be. Think about it: it’s very difficult to not be in a good mood when you’re heading out there first thing in the morning. I want to be the guy who looks down at the first green, sees a putt sink, and then says, “Okay, guys, go ahead.”
Well, that’s my ideal retirement job, anyway.
The song in today’s posting is Renaissance’s “Carpet of the Sun,” from their Ashes Are Burning album. Renaissance was a folk/rock/classical band that grew out of the end of the 60s band The Yardbirds: one set of guys went off and became Led Zeppelin, the others became Renaissance, and the two groups couldn’t be more unlike each other.
(For more information on the group, visit The Northern Lights Renaissance Web Site, of which I am co-editor. I also wrote the liner notes to the 1997 reissue of Ashes Are Burning.)
Now back to golf.
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The first time I heard “Carpet of the Sun” was probably sometime in my late teen years. I remember listening to the song and suddenly a visual popped into my head of the time my dad and I played a round of golf at the Mt Prospect Golf Club. I was probably 13 or 14 at the time we played, and when I heard this song a few years later the memory of that early Saturday morning was still fresh in my head: the summer sun shining brightly over the fairways, the grass still wet from the night before. And it was so quiet except for the birds and the occasional voices from my dad or the people playing nearby.
Over the years, I would occasionally drive by the golf club and every so often “Carpet of the Sun” would pop into my head as that vivid memory came back. I’d always thought about taking my camera out there early one morning and trying to capture what’s been lurking in this brain of mine for all these years. This morning, I hopped on my bike and rode the two-and-change miles to the course and snapped the photos on this page. I think I was successful.
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It’s moments like this that make me hope I’m giving my girls happy memories that, while very simple, will stay with them for years. And maybe Emma or Becca will connect this with a song that calls back those moments so vividly.
There are several versions of “Carpet of the Sun” available, but I prefer the original arrangement. This is a YouTube video that contains that version of the song while showing a visual of the album cover.

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Oct 162005


We’ve had great weather this weekend, mostly in the upper 60s. I snapped the photo above from my dining room window, but the picture doesn’t do justice to the color that was blazing there.
This reminded me of a song by The Dream Academy, called (coincidentally enough) “Indian Summer.” This was from their 1987 album Remembrance Days, an album I was playing a lot at that time because the stock market had just crashed and the group I was working in had to be at the Chicago Board of Trade Building around the clock, and the team’s cassette player was the only way of keeping our sanity. (This was the other album I was listening to a lot, along with this.)
The Dream Academy was a post-punk folk-almost-progressive-rock band that was discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. They had a top-10 hit in the US with their song “Life in a Northern Town,” which has appreared on many 80s compilation CDs. Their music was also a favorite of John Hughes, and Dream Academy songs are all over Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes Trains and Automobiles.
When I was searching for the lyrics on the next page, I found this Dream Academy fan site which, in addition to having lots of information about band, lists me in their “thank yous.” I probably gave some info on the band to a Usenet group back in the day, since I owned a bunch of Dream Academy rarities. That was a nice little discovery for a Sunday afternoon.
Enjoy the weather. Soon we’ll be closing the windows.

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Jun 192005


This was one of the first Elton John albums I owned. It was his second major-label release (in this country), and shows what Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin were capable of before all the flash that followed a couple years later.
The album has an old-west feel to it, which Taupin attributes largely to his hearing The Band’s Music From Big Pink. What makes it fascinating is that Tumbleweed Connection is a British album by British artists, yet you can see and almost hear the trains in songs like “Country Comfort” and “Son of Your Father” and the girl in the haystack in “Amoreena.” “Come Down in Time” and Leslie Duncan’s “Love Song” still stand as great expressions of love lost and discovered.
Since today is Father’s Day, this lyric, while somewhat sad, fits in as a tribute to fathers.

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May 102005

Today would have been my brother Dick’s 51st birthday. In his memory, here’s one of his favorite Beach Boys songs.

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