08 March 2011

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 124] (Special Mardi Gras Edition!)

Let The Good Times Roll
b/w "Do You Mean To Hurt Me So"
Shirley & Lee
Written by Leonard Lee
Produced by Dave Bartholomew
Aladdin 3225
Recorded & Released, New Orleans, Louisiana 1956

One of the quintessential rock and roll singles to come out of New Orleans, Shirley & Lee's "Let The Good Times Roll" sold a million copies in 1956, reaching #1 on the R&B chart and #20 on the Pop chart.

Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee were high school classmates who caught the ear of Aladdin Records owner Eddie Messner. The duo's first hit was "I'm Gone" in 1952 (it zoomed to #2 on the R&B list), a scattered beat blues that is credited by some as a precursor to ska and reggae.

But Shirley & Lee took a real right turn with the driving "Let The Good Times Roll." Produced by Crescent City legend Dave Bartholomew, the secret of the song is the driving drum beat of one of the true masters of the instrument, Earl Palmer. It gives the tune its bawdiness along with the cool contrast between Goodman's soprano and Lee's baritone.

After a split with Lee, Shirley Goodman continued to work in the music business through the 1960s as a session singer for Dr. John, Sonny & Cher, and others. Notably, she was a background singer on The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St. Goodman briefly came out of retirement in 1974, when she was convinced by her friend Sylvia Robinson to record what became one of the seminal hits from the disco era, "Shame, Shame, Shame."

Shirley returned to New Orleans and lived there until her death in 2005.

"Let The Good Times Roll" is true classic to enjoy over and over again, especially while The Big Easy leads the celebration of Mardi Gras today. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

07 March 2011

The Strokes Rock Saturday Night Live

The Night Owl is going to try his best to find his way into a sold out Strokes show scheduled for this weekend at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Encouraging our presence was their especially fine form this past weekend on NBC's Saturday Night Live, with Julian Casablancas throwing off an obscenity near the end of "Under Cover of Darkness" that scooted by the censors delay button.

The band's fourth LP, Angles, comes out 22 March.

Robin Pecknold Releases Non-Fleet Foxes Tunes

Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold took to Twitter today and dropped three new musical treats on us, presumably to tide fans over until the 1 May release of the band's sophomore effort Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop). Pecknold indicates that they were recorded in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago: "These aren't Fleet Foxes songs, but I didn't know where else to disseminate it. Pretty mellow jams." The first is a contemplative rambler titled "Derwentwater Stones":

"Derwentwater Stones" - Robin Pecknold

The second piece is a collaboration with Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste. It reminds us of the David Crosby compositions from the first CS&N album as well as his initial solo effort If I Could Only Remember My Name . . . :

"I'm Losing Myself" - Robin Pecknold with Ed Droste

The final selection is a beautiful cover of English musician Chris Thompson's "Where Is My Wild Rose," a Gaelic lament that fits right into Pecknold's vocal wheelhouse.

"Where Is My Wild Rose" - Robin Pecknold

If you want to download your own copies, follow Pecknold on Twitter.

06 March 2011

My Morning Jacket Offers Free Downloads, Preps New Album

My Morning Jacket's sixth studio album is set for release this spring. Titled Circuital, a writer from Rolling Stone opined that the record “feels like the culmination of the sonic adventures the band began with 2005's Z—while also capturing the power and dynamics that have made MMJ one of the greatest live bands of their generation.”

No argument on the comment about MMJ's live prowess. To hear for yourself, the group is offering a series of downloads from their recent shows at New York City's Terminal 5. (The first tune available is "Butch Cassidy" from 1999's The Tennessee Fire.) Just click here to be directed to the MMJ website to sign up for the series of songs, which will also include the title track to Circuital.

04 March 2011

Ben Gibbard Premieres New Death Cab and Soundtrack Songs

This past weekend Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard introduced two new songs at San Francisco's Noise Pop Festival: "Codes and Keys," which will appear on the upcoming DCFC album of the same name, and a solo tune from the upcoming Arthur 2.0 soundtrack, "When The Sun Goes Down On Your Street."

Codes and Keys, the band's seventh effort, will be released 31 May on Atlantic. Back in December, bassist Nick Harmer spoke with Stereogum:

Recorded at various studios over the course of several months in 2010, the new Death Cab for Cutie album — Codes And Keys — represents a departure of sorts for the band, but perhaps not one as radical as initial press reports have implied. The band employed a more cut-and-paste style of songwriting — as well as more of guitarist/producer Chris Walla’s compositions — on the record, but it will still sound very much like a Death Cab record. Despite comments from front man Ben Gibbard that likened the new record to Brian Eno’s Another Green World, Harmer is quick to point out that there will still be plenty of guitars as well.

“Oh, there are definitely guitars on this record,” he says, “there are just less of them than before and we’re using them in different ways this time. Ben was really inspired by writing on acoustic guitar and on a piano, so often those parts become voices or keyboard lines, rather than guitar parts. We really experimented with piecing the songs together in different ways and using the studio differently, so this a much less guitar-centric album than we’ve ever made before.”

In other Death Cab news, Consequence of Sound reports this morning that the Washington State group will appear at the Hop Farm 2011 Festival in Kent, England this summer. Other performers include Lou Reed, Morrissey, Iggy & The Stooges and Patti Smith.
You can sample the two new songs below:

Ben Gibbard, "Codes and Keys" (SF Noise Pop Festival, 27 February 2011)

Ben Gibbard, "When The Sun Goes Down On Your Street" (SF Noise Pop Festival, 27 February 2011)

03 March 2011

Pick To Click: Amos Lee - "Windows Are Rolled Down"

We've had our eye on Amos Lee since his self-titled debut album was released in 1995. Now the Philadelphia/Cherry Hill, NJ singer-songwriter has released his fourth long-player, Mission Bell, on Blue Note Records. The record went to number one on the charts and Lee will begin his American tour at the end of March; many of the mid-size venues are already sold out.

"Windows Are Rolled Down" is a breezy melody juxtaposed with lyrics from the point of view of a broken down soul. It is in the great tradition of John Prine and Neil Young, and TNOP thinks you will enjoy it.

02 March 2011

This Day In Rock History: 2 March

On this date in 1942, Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is the founder (along with John Cale) of one of the most influential bands in rock and roll history, The Velvet Underground. Since 1970, Reed has crafted a prolific solo career, pushing the creative envelope and collaborating with countless artists, from Andy Warhol to David Bowie to Robert Wilson to Patti Smith to Laurie Anderson.

And he just may have written the perfect rock and roll song. Aptly titled, of course.

01 March 2011

Dylan Muse Suze Rotolo Dies

Susan Elizabeth "Suze" Rotolo, whose image will endure forever in rock and roll lore on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, has died of lung cancer, according to a Los Angeles Times report quoting Rotolo's son Luca. She was 67 years old.

Dylan and Rotolo met in the summer of 1961 in New York City at an all day folk music festival held at a local church. In his memoir Chronicles, Part One, the singer-songwriter wrote of their first encounter: "Right from the start I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian ... We started talking and my heart started to spin ... She was just my type."

Rotolo was credited with exposing him to the work of Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky, Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Together they went to see Picasso's Guernica and François Truffaut's Shoot the Pianist. After she told him the story of a 14-year-old African American boy who had been brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, he wrote "The Ballad of Emmett Till," one of his early broadsides against injustice.

Many Dylanologists claim Rotolo inspired some of his finest early songs, including "Boots of Spanish Leather," "One Too Many Mornings," "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."

As Dylan's star rose dramatically in 1964, the couple broke up, amid reports of his romantic liaison with Joan Baez. The demise of the relationship is supposedly the subject of Dylan's "Ballad In Plain D."

Rotolo shunned interviews for years, but broke her silence for Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home. She then wrote a memoir of the early years, A Freewheelin' Time, published to warm reviews in 2008.

In addition to her son, Suze Rotolo is survived byEnzo Bartoliocci, her husband of 40 years.

Elvis Costello Writes About Paul Simon

As we've been reporting over the past few months, a new Paul Simon album is in the offing. His tenth solo effort, So Beautiful or So What, will be released on Concord Music Group on 12 April. It reunites Simon with producer Phil Ramone, who manned the sound board for some of the singer-songwriter's more memorable efforts (There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years).

In today's Huffington Post, we get a sneak preview of the liner notes for the record, which were penned by none other than Elvis Costello:

How do the fingers of this thing entwine? Which foot falls first upon the trail?

Is it the word? Is it the music?

It generates few visible blisters, so may even be mistaken for an unearned reward.

As Fred Astaire once wisely sang, you have to "Let Yourself Go."

So how do you begin? When do you know when you've reached your destination? What do you cut and when do you run without painting over the picture?

A thing of beauty?

Who needs it?

But that's the very mystery and fascination of it.

The trick is, as I know it, is to care like hell and not give a damn at the same time or as more elegantly proposed here; So Beautiful Or So What.


I believe that this remarkable, thoughtful, often joyful record deserves to be recognized as among Paul Simon's very finest achievements.

It's a lot to add to what you've done when those songs are titles anyone could name but Paul's greatest songs will find worthy, easy company here.

This is a man in full possession of all his gifts looking at the comedy and beauty of life with clarity and the tenderness bought by time.

It seems no accident that three of the song titles contain the word, "love" and most of the others consider it in its many manifestations.

The record begins with a fragment of a sermon underpinning the promise of the song, "Getting Ready For Christmas Day."

Within it is the voice of the Rev. J.M. Gates, who waxed warnings of eternal punishment from his first hit homily, "Death's Black Train Is Coming" to his last caution in 1940, "Hitler and Hell."

These days it might court shallow mockery to sing so openly of our humanity, mortality and divinity but not with music to make these themes fly or words containing such wit, grace and humility.

The musical shapes and shades arrive from all over the world and back in time to illuminate the heartfelt intelligence of the writer.

Central to the picture is Paul's vivid singing and own beautiful guitar playing - which doesn't always get full measure in the shadow of his writing.

Throughout the record, I kept coming up against what I can only call, rock and roll surprises; not some orthodox formula but indelible, hypnotic guitar motifs and swinging, off-center rhythms tipping your expectations into a new kind of thrill.

Then there are the ballads...

In "Love and Hard Times," two-thirds of the Trinity arrive on earth only to disagree over who and what is worthy of salvation. This bold and, for any other songwriter, completely humbling piece of composition took my breath away on first hearing.

The opening statement is as lovely as anything Paul has written. I felt as if I was suddenly within the idyllic scene of natural beauty that it describes, only for it be leavened by the Lord's blue aside, "We'd better get going," as He departs the scene.

The song concludes with recognition that it is the reassuring touch of a lover that calms an uneasy but grateful heart near dawn. If love is discovery made in a moment, then it is still one for which we must give thanks.

Equally startling is the rushing, telescopic journey from creative to destructive explosion and the making and undoing of the world in "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light."

These wonderful songs refuse to despair, despite the evidence all around us. "So Beautiful Or So What" rejects the allure of fashionable darkness and the hypnosis of ignorance - better to contemplate and celebrate the endurance of the spirit and the persistence of love.

Here's the track listing for So Beautiful or So What:

"Getting Ready For Christmas Day" – 4:06 [SAMPLE HERE]
"The Afterlife" – 3:40 [SAMPLE HERE]
"Dazzling Blue" – 4:32
"Rewrite" – 3:49
"Love And Hard Times" – 4:09
"Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" – 4:02
"Amulet" – 1:36
"Questions For The Angels" – 3:49
"Love And Blessings" – 4:18
"So Beautiful Or So What" – 4:07

16 February 2011

Radiohead: Setting The Bar High

Right off the heels of this year's Grammy telecast came the surprising -- but exciting -- news of the arrival of a new Radiohead album. King of Limbs can be downloaded starting this Saturday 19 February; presale is taking place now by clicking through here.

And that also got us thinking of their last superlative effort (which ended up in TNOP's top five albums of the year for 2009), In Rainbows, and the stunning performance of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood at that year's Grammies, accompanied by the USC Marching Band on "15 Step," which you can revisit below. [Tip of the hat to CO'B for the reminiscence.]

Radiohead - 15 Step