I picked up his 2-albums-on-1-CD set which included his solo debut G.P. and his swansong, the posthumously released Grievous angel. Both are very solid albums, but Grievous angel hits a few more emotional chords with me -- from the lucid storytelling of the opening semi title-track, to the poignant closer In my hour of darkness (with chanteuse-for-hire Emmylou Harris sharing vocal duties), via the emotive honesty of centrepieces Brass buttons and $1000 wedding, this is music with heart and soul from a talented musician who left the world way too soon.
I think that I may prefer High violet even more. I've talked a lot about how claustrophobic production can affect my enjoyment of music, but this is one of those albums where the production actually adds to the vibe of the album. Where Boxer was more about rhythms and textures, this album puts frontman Matt Berninger in centre stage where his haunting vocals take the spotlight on most of the songs here.
Opener Terrible love is a bit of a false start for me; it's a song where the production hinders rather than improves the song. The mid-album peak of the ominous Afraid of everyone and single Bloodbuzz ohio (with the outstanding lyrical imagery of "I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees") seems like it would be hard to beat, but the lower-key ballads on the latter-half of the album (Runaway, Conversation 16, England) all maintain that beautifully eerie tension that makes The National one of the better bands releasing music these days.
I needed a Phil Spector primer in my collection, or at least a way to get a copy of the Ronettes' Be my baby (one of the great pop singles in musical history). I picked up the 2 CD box-set which contains a retrospective of his infamous "Wall of sound" production numbers, and his secular holiday album A Christmas gift for you.
Wall of sound retrospective contains many of the classic songs of the era from his favourite girl bands including The Ronettes, The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and Darlene Love. It's capped off with a few songs by The Righteous Brothers (You've lost that lovin' feeling, Unchained melody) and the song which he considered to be his finest moment (but a commercial flop in America) -- River deep, mountain high by Ike & Tina Turner. It's all essential listening; an important part of musical history.
A Christmas gift for you is often considered as one of the great holiday albums. The formula is simple -- take some famous songs from Christmas time (Rudolph the red nose reindeer, Santa Claus is coming to town), add some of Phil's favourite girl bands, cover the songs in dense wall-of-sound production, and listen to the magic. I have never celebrated Christmas, and I don't have the nostalgic attachment to these songs that I'm sure a lot of others would. But listening to this album makes me wish I did, just so I had an excuse to play it at that time of year. Christmas (Baby please come home) by Darlene Love is a stunning number and one of my musical discoveries of the year.
Despite the name, this isn't a live album. It's a tongue-in-cheek name from a band who you probably haven't heard of, who were certainly not afraid to have a bit of a laugh.
NRBQ stands for New Rhythm & Blues Quartet, a band with rotating lineups who formed in 1967 in Miami, Florida. It's hard to describe their music, but if you imagine a pub band who delve into jazz-rock, power-pop, swing and R&B, you'd have a pretty good idea of their sound.
I think I read something about this band when doing a bit of research about Brinsley Schwarz, Nick Lowe's former band. NRBQ were mentioned as a very underrated and under-appreciated band, and this album was singled out as a "lost classic" worthy of consideration.
There are a few covers here -- country-blues chugger Get rhythm (made famous by Johnny Cash), the rock 'n' roll classic Shake, rattle and roll, the R&B number The same old thing -- but the heart and soul of the album rests with the original NRBQ numbers. Just ain't fair is one of those songs that you feel like you've known forever; I love her, she loves me is a beautiful love ballad.
At Yankee Stadium is a tight, filler-free and fun rock album that doesn't outstay its welcome and makes you pretty goddamn happy for 35 minutes. What more can you ask for?