Video of the Week: Steven Wilson–“Routine”

Animator Jess Cope beautifully evokes the sadness in Steven Wilson’s story of loss, denial and eventual acceptance.

Recommended Albums #65

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Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare (1975)

alice 1Welcome to My Nightmare is so many things.

This is the album that ushered in Alice’s solo career after the Alice Cooper band’s half-decade of success with hits such as “I’m Eighteen”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “School’s Out”.

This is Alice’s only top ten album as a solo artist (it peaked at #5). He never again equaled its success or its excellence.

This is a concept album and the template for several other conceptual records Alice would release over the years–but Nightmare is by far the best in terms of execution.

Speaking of execution, Nightmare was tied in with a new live show that essentially brought Halloween and Rock music together onstage and culminated with the protagonist’s grisly nightly demise, a concert format that continues to this day.

Welcome to My Nightmare exchanged the musical gut punch of the Alice Cooper band for a more polished, fully-orchestrated Bob Ezrin-produced sound. The strings, horns and harmonies gave the album a broader palette and a deeper resonance; the creepy bits were creepier and the weepy bits weepier. Listen to a sample of Ezrin’s orchestration from “Steven” and note its similarity in feel to “Beth” by Kiss, released the following year and also co-written and produced by Ezrin:

“Devil’s Food” features a cameo by horror legend Vincent Price, who lends just the right element of creepy camp to the proceedings.

alice 2“Some Folks” takes things into cabaret territory, adding one more flavor to a record more diverse than anything the Alice Cooper band had done.

“Only Women”, with its acoustic guitars and muted horn charts reaches an emotional crescendo Alice had never before been able to achieve with his old band. The #12 hit added a new dimension to Alice’s career as a singles artist, that of credible balladeer; his next three albums would feature a love song as a hit single (“I Never Cry”, “You and Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now”).

“Cold Ethyl” is just your everyday run-of-the-mill paean to, um, necrophilia.

But it’s with “Years Ago”, “Steven” and “The Awakening” that things get really dark. The overarching concept of the album is the ongoing nightmare of Alice’s protagonist character, but here on what used to be the vinyl album’s side two (as it happens) Alice delves into a world of schizoid delusion. Terrificly horrific stuff, well conceived and arranged. Where “Cold Ethyl” is a comic lark, these songs are truly chilling.

Producer/co-writer Bob Ezrin and guitarist/co-writer Dick Wagner are the unsung heroes of this album, the greatest of Alice Cooper’s long solo career. Without them this record wouldn’t be what it is: a true classic.

Listen to: “Devil’s Food/The Black Widow”

Listen to: “Some Folks”

Listen to: “Cold Ethyl”

Listen to: “Years Ago/Steven”

Listen to: “The Awakening”

Video of the Week: 80-Year-Old Bob Wood Shreds it Up

Tower Records: Where the Good Stuff Was


(via purple clover)

by Charles Paikert

I’m not usually big on nostalgia, but record stores?

Oh, baby.

My first was Walt’s Record Shop on South Salina in downtown Syracuse. I was in grammar school, and that was before malls, when people still went shopping downtown. Walt’s wasn’t even a great record store, but it had a better selection of LPs and 45s than Woolworths or Grants.

If you liked rock and roll, a record store was a gateway drug. Everything was there! You could hold albums and singles in your hands, look at the covers, read liner notes, smell the vinyl. Records were real, tactile objects, which you brought home, put on a record player, heard the pop and hiss of the needle as it hit the disc’s revolving grooves on the turntable and then—bam! loud rock music filled the room before your parents told you to turn it down…

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Recommended Albums #64


Arlo Guthrie: Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys (1973)

Arlo Guthrie’s follow-up to 1972’s Hobo’s Lullaby didn’t produce a hit single to follow his sole top 20 “City of New Orleans” but it’s as fine a collection of covers and originals as he ever released.

arloFortunately his somewhat fluky 1972 hit didn’t convince Arlo to steer his career toward a more contemporary and chart-friendly style, or even the prevailing James Taylor singer-songwriter sound of the time. Woody Guthrie’s son was far too steeped in authentic folk, cowboy ballads and old time Country & Western music.

If the late 60’s/early 70’s British folk movement of Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention revived centuries-old folk songs and murder ballads and introduced them to another generation, Arlo’s work in this era did the same for American folk chestnuts of decades past.

But his great talent was to make these tunes his own. Just as Steve Goodman’s original version of “City of New Orleans” disappoints after hearing Arlo’s masterful cover, so Guthrie’s versions of songs previously recorded by Ernest Tubb (“This Troubled Mind of Mine”) and Hank Williams (“Lovesick Blues”) sound definitive–more so to my ears in fact than the original versions.

And speaking of originals, Arlo sprinkles in his own compositions here too (“Last Train”, “Uncle Jeff”) and they blend seamlessly with the standards to form the tapestry of one of the 70’s strongest folk albums.

Incidentally, do you think Arlo’s “Uncle Jeff” may have inspired a certain John Denver hit of two years later?



Listen to: “This Troubled Mind of Mind”


Listen to: “Lovesick Blues”


Listen to: “Last Train”


Listen to: “Uncle Jeff”


See also:

Video of the Week: Why ‘Over the Rainbow’ Takes us to a Magical, Musical Place

Video of the Week: Mark Knopfler Shows How to Play Guitar Finger Picking Style

Songs You May Have Missed #554


Lost Frequencies feat. Janieck Devy: “Reality” (2015)

Lost Frequencies is Belgian music producer and DJ Felix Safran De Laet, whose previous single, “Are You With Me” went to number one in seven countries in 2014.

“Reality” also topped the charts in his native country, as well as Austria and Germany, but like its predecessor looks to miss the U.S. charts entirely.

Maybe if they’d put some nudity in the video…

Music Matters

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20 Weird And Not So Weird Facts About “Weird Al” Yankovic and His Songs


(via mental floss)

by Roger Cormier

Starting with his first professional recordings and appearances on the Dr. Demento radio show almost 35 years ago, “Weird Al” Yankovic has managed to stay on the pop culture map and change with the times, even while so many of the bands and artists he has parodied lost the spotlight. Here are some facts about “Weird Al” Yankovic and his songs.


The legend—verified by Al Yankovic in the liner notes of his 1994 box set Permanent Record: Al in the Box—reads that on the day before Al turned 7, a door-to-door salesman came through Lynwood, California, to solicit business for a local music school, which offered its pupils a choice between guitar or accordion lessons. Because Frankie Yankovic shared the family’s surname and was known as “America’s Polka King,” Al’s parents chose the squeezebox for their son. Al would gradually learn how to play rock n’ roll on the instrument, mostly from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, playing it “over and over” and trying to play along with it. Frankie and Al weren’t actually related, but the two would eventually collaborate, with Al playing on “Who Stole the Kishka?” on Frankie’s Songs of the Polka King, Vol. 1, and Frankie’s “The Tick Tock Polka” played by Al as a lead-in to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” on the Alpocalypse track “Polka Face.”

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