This is Choice Sides. Brought to you by Chick Counterfly and myself out of a love and passion for music. This post stems from a prior Open Thread I wrote a while back which was basically a music review of singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe. And people who are often silent kind of came out of the woodwork to talk about the music they love and feel. Chick Counterfly brought up music and so did I and began a conversation and a sharing of music.
Every one of us loves music; we came to the idea that just clicked to have a weekly post where we (and possibly other contributing writers) share their music and knowledge of with everyone here.
There’s nothing better than having a weekend to kick your feet and become immersed in music for a while, for entertainment, for sanity. This is to share our love with a group of like-minded people: Our peeps here on the ODeck.
We’re doing this to foster a weekly (during the weekend) set of playlists for people. To possibly enjoy music they never heard of or reawaken interest for music forgotten, and inspire great conversation and share their own musical loves.At the least, we’re giving ODeckers a weekend full of choice tunes by two different members putting out their own musical sensibilities to last all week long (until the next weekend’s edition of Choice Sides.
It’s a weekly thing, to be published on the weekend. It’s the place for ODeckers to go for their music fix in order to not open the flood and drown out the science and sci-fi, fantasy, horror mission statement of Observation Deck. So, instead we have the one weekly post dedicated to music.
Choice Sides is a work in progress that gives everyone a forum to write, discuss, and share, at the same time consolidating all and relating music topics. It would be great to have guest writers, possibly rotating contributors to keep it going and fresh.
I came up with the name Choice Sides from American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar himself; it means the best songs, as in “this album/record has some choice sides of 40s jazz.”
Let’s get to it!
My first love of music is Rock & Roll in all its sub-genres. Or put another way, rock is the staple of my musical diet. And my first choice (of many I hope), will be the review of a very under rated and tragically forgotten gem of a rock document: Spilt Milk by Jellyfish. Released in 1993, a masterpiece from a band not easily labelled in any one sub-genre, they however, chose Power Pop as a definition. It comes from the sound made famous by The Banana Splits and The Partridge Family and infused with bouts of hard rock. Jellyfish has also been described as Queen meets Power Pop. From its anthemic rock songs to the more somber acoustic guitar number to a lullaby intro piece, this album has it all.
Jellyfish debuted with Bellybutton in 1990, a good first effort but the album was more into flighty melodies, with Split Milk however, they gave their music a more hard rock directive which picks you up from the mellow and melodic parts and stuns you with all its power and glory.
The first track 1 Hush, sports its choir-like sensibilities a la Queen and then kicks right into the bombast of
Track 2 Joining A Fan Club:
Joining a fan club with my pen.
Filling my bathtub with Holy water and amens
The song means just as the title implies and a bit prophetic with the lyrics:
I wished I’d loved him,
Before fate crashed his car.
Say a prayer for the fallen star.
Track 3 Sebrina, Paste, and Plato really sports its Power Pop influence of The Partridge Family at the beginning and is about the dizzying experience of elementary school.
Track 4 My New Mistake is a ballady rock number of love and unexpected pregnancy and all that comes with it.
Track 5 Glutton Of Sympathy - In a relationship, even a self-centered person has a few decent qualities.
Fumbling through a cut glass vase
Passing lipstick, cotton spools
Burning jealous pictures of marriages of friends
You’ll never cease to be
The glutton of sympathy
She writes over and over again
Track 6 The Ghost At Number One was an ironic tune in that it was the biggest hit, though didn’t real chart so high up On Billboard. Still, the most rockin’ song:
Ugly apparition, God’s gift to oxygen
The puffed up immortal son
How they love him cause he’ll become
The ghost at number one
And the catchiest chorus:
How does it feel
To be the only one?
How does it feel
To be the only one that knows that you’re right?
How does it feel
To be a loaded gun?
How does it feel
Inside a chamber packed with piss and spite
Track 7 Bye, Bye, Bye like most songs is about heartbreaking love, but an interesting number with its oom-pah-pah delivery, this band had no fear of scrutiny for not being a Robot Of Cool.
Track 8 All Is Forgiven is by far the heaviest song and diddles your ears with feed back from the glory hole in its wall of sound. And angry lyrics of surrendering:
Throw away your daggers and pills
‘Cause everything’s still forgiven
Though he soured the milk of
Human kindness all is forgiven
Track 9 Russian Hill remembers a great time in life, but no way of getting it back. Again, going to a musical place not expected by the band’s signature sound. The second most quiet song, though not lacking in heart.
Track 10 He’s My Best Friend At first, I only paid attention to the chorus and I thought this ditty was about the singer coming out, but on closer examination: it’s about masturbation, ‘cause you know...
Track 11 Too Much, Too Little, Too Late - you can hear a little SuperTramp and that 70s pop rock jam. Its sports the sound without reservation.
Track 11 Brighter Day has a tip of the hat to XTC, while maintaining the Jellyfish formula of merry-go-round melody and blasts of power rock.
In a nutshell: Spilt Milk was a great and unique accomplishment in rock, but fate stepped in and tucked this musical treasure trove into the vaults of relative anonymity. In 1993, among all the other mainstream music out, rock had its share of best sellers. Nirvana and Pearl Jam released their long awaited follow ups respectively with In Utero and Vs. Tool dropped its first with Undertow and a little known band by the name of Rage Against The Machine fucked everybody up. And even though Blind Melon put out their debut album in ‘92, it wasn’t until the hit No Rain was released in ‘93 that they took off, giving the band a huge boost in popularity.
Not to mention, that sometimes great bands like Jellyfish face a problem creating music that is different from the average sound. Its complex arrangement, diverging harmonies, and the unique blending of Partridge Family Pop and hard rock was too much for people to take. Remember, this band came up with this sound. I don’t know of any other before or after that has tried to take the rock to that place. The music has too many notes* for some.
Unfortunately, their second was also to be their last record. That devil creative differences was the final straw. If Spilt Milk had been a success, who knows? They may have stayed together. But as with many things in life it was not to be.
So, this is DeapGreanDream with a word to the wise: Be a better friend to yourself and get this fucker. If there are no records stores near you, Amazon is the place to find it. You’ll fall in love... Or at least, in lust.
Here, I brought just you can sample the entire work. Enjoy.
* This is the first of my series-within-a-series entitled Too Many Notes. Taken from the movie Amadeus, the king of Austria enjoyed Mozart’s latest work, but in order to be perceived as being all knowing, he had to find something to criticize in the play, though not able to find any negatives, the king turned to a lackey for meaning, to which the lackey uttered the laziest, most unimaginative of music critic’s observation, “Too many notes, Sire.”
I want to thank CC for his patience. Life has a way of throw shit at you and takes you away from the things you enjoy, but here it is. Thanks Buddy. And take it away, CC!
On the Observation Deck, we all share one instantly recognizable thing: we are iconoclasts who love and love to share with each other all kinds of our passions in a litany of forms and genres: from science fiction to fantasy, from novels to comic books, from AI and other ground-breaking science experiments tomustelids.
Two of my favorite comic book writers, Ed Brubaker and Kieron Gillen, often list the tracks that either they listened to as they wrote their books or provide “recommended track lists” that they would love for you to hear as you read the book. Inspired by that concept, FromDarkToDeapGreen and I are each providing you with two different takes, an A-Side and a B-Side. - Chick Counterfly
I’m Chick Counterfly here today to share some of my favorite music from recent years that has its roots in jazz. If you like any kind of music at all, you will find something to love here. I can promise you that, but I can’t say that you’ll like all of it because what follows here is a wide-ranging sampler. There’s something for everybody, but as with all creative work, not everything is for everybody. (And, for extra geeky fun, I’ve added recommended pairings, coupling the music with either comic books or fantasy/sci-fi television shows, much like a foodie would recommend pairing a certain wine with and a certain entree.)
First, let me get this out of the way immediately: I love jazz. I love it. I spent most of my money in high school and college buying the albums of the greats, from the classic and well-known albums to the nigh-impossible-to-find imports from countries like Japan and Germany. You name it; I hunted for it. On our high school trip to NYC, I spent all my cash finding and buying the most obscure cuts of live jam sessions ever put to vinyl. In college, I went on some weekend trips back to NYC because I was finally old enough get into clubs like the “Blue Note” to record bootleg live sessions of some of the giants that were still alive and still always playing.
These days when most people think of “Jazz”, the big names pop up: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane.
Most people who think of Jazz probably only imagine the Golden Age: the Mid-Twentieth Century. It was during that era when this new genre was born from its parent: The Blues. (The Blues also birthed another fantastic child called Rock. Just ask The Beatles!) One way to imagine this revolutionary musical era goes like this: a bunch of upstart, music-loving kids sold everything they had and got ahold of “classical” musical instruments (e.g. anything brass) and moved to whatever city was famous for being “the scene,” that magical place where their own musical icons lived and played and lived to play. They became the “rock stars” of their age, and inspired writing movements (like the Beats) long before rock and roll was ever a thing.
People think of Charlie Parker, the saxophonist nicknamed “Yardbird” or just “Bird.” He innovated, he created, and mastered the style known as “Bebop.” Or they think of trumpeter Miles Davis and his seminal albums “The Birth of Cool” and “Kind of Blue.” They think of John Coltrane, or “Trane”, the man whose career started by sitting in with Charlie Parker and continued with Miles Davis before breaking new ground with the genres of “Hard Bop” and later “Free Jazz.”
I’m not here to talk about them or that era, though, because that’s not all there is to jazz. Jazz is still alive, pushing boundaries and thrumming, today.
This is my opportunity to share some modern jazz artists and their works from the end of the Twentieth Century and well into the Twenty-First. These are artists most people probably don’t know, and that is a shame. They continue pushing the limits of the jazz genre by returning to its roots in some cases, and in others by fusing other music genres such as rock and folk into the jazz sound.
If you love guitar, you can’t go wrong with ”John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia, Al DiMeola - Friday Night in San Francisco Live” (1981). This guitar trio simply make magic. You will be mesmerized. It’s easily one of my favorite albums from the 1980's, and I would argue that this is one of the greatest guitar recordings in existence. If you’re going to send some music into space on a probe for aliens to find, this needs to be on the list. Recommended comic book pairing: Any of your favorites. No wrong can be done.
Now for something completely different (but still starring John McLaughlin), “McLaughlin with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame” (1971) is an earlier work of his. This is some true “fusion-era” style, combining jazz, progressive rock, and heavy metal. I know! It sounds crazy. This 1971 album is really quite ahead of its time using not just “fusion” style but also “jam band” style. This jam band style is familiar to many people these days, from the work of such early groups as “The Grateful Dead” and “The Allman Brothers”, to later groups like “Phish” and “Bela Fleck and the Flecktones”.
Give it more than 30 seconds; after that, you’re in for a real aural treat. Heed this warning, though: You might want to save listening to the whole thing until you can get somewhere isolated to listen to it as loudly as you want. If there’s one section you dislike, I dare you to find another section that you don’t simply love. It has that much of an astonishing range. Recommended comic book pairing: early Paul Pope or early Grant Morrison.
In the 1990's Jimmy Smith took his mastery of the organ to create funk-infused jazz. Check out this version of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” off of his album “Damn!”. And, really, give the whole album a listen when you have the time (or any of his other cuts). Recommended comic book pairing: Deadpool or any good Image books.
Among more modern releases, give a listen to 2007's Grammy Winning AlbumThe Joni Letters, a collaborative tribute to Joni Mitchell by the legendary pianist Herbie Hancock. (Hancock has cut 47 records since the 1960's!) River is just one of the tracks, but there are many great pieces with guest vocalists such as Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, Nora Jones, and, of course, Joni Mitchell herself.
The melding of Hancock’s great jazz background coupling with the folk music of Joni Mitchell is not the kind of fusion a lot of people could imagine: folk-jazz fusion? But it works, and it works so well that it undoubtedly earned its award for Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Recommended comic book pairing: Squirrel Girl, A-Force, Runaways.
Joshua Redman is an amazing modern sax talent; I love his album Back East, but here’s a live recording with commentary that showcases his and his group’s talent. It’s well worth the listen. His most recent works are “Trios Live” and the collaboration “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.” (The latter has a great Coltrane feel to it, and the bass player is downright outstanding.)Recommended comic book pairing: Marvel’s Civil War II and its Tie-Ins because it can only make them better.
Finally I want to give mention to Holly Cole’s cover album of Tom Waits songs called Temptation. Cole is a talented jazz vocalist with the kind of voice that invites you to share some bourbon in the smoky shadows of a club in either heaven or hell, and you won’t care which one it is. The whole album is great: here are her jazz vocalist versions of I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, Take me Home,Train Song, and Falling Down. This album is perfect for when you’re in a quiet mood, perhaps feeling moody or melancholy, and, let’s be honest, for making love. Recommended comic book pairing: Alias, Jessica Jones: Alias.
From other Holly Cole albums, her cover of I Can See Clearly Now is phenomenal, as is her original piece Cry (If You Want to). This song (“Cry”), and I cannot overstate this, is best saved for when life force feeds you a sack lunch of shit and you really need a few minutes of catharsis to buoy your spirits before drowning in your own emotions. I can’t recommend it enough for that purpose. Recommended pairing: If you watched the Game of Thronesepisode “The Door” or Person of Interest’s episode “The Day the World Went Away”, then you know exactly what I mean. Cry (If You Want to) is always there for you when you need it. (Especially with the last couple of episodes ofPerson of Interest about to drop...)
Jazz is, and has been, alive and well both today and in recent decades, taking many forms and fusing with many different genres, with new instruments (like Jimmy Smith’s organ), new influences, and a myriad of artists crossing into the medium, making the sound their own or making their own contributions to the Jazz Oeuvre.
My hope is that I’ve turned you onto something new, a sound or an artist to explore, songs that are now yours, whether it’s for spending time creating, reading, relaxing, or looking at mustelids. They’re yours now, so enjoy, and always remember to share.
It’s simply too hard for me to go without mentioning at least one of the lesser known but astounding contemporaries of Bird, Miles and Trane! Do you love amazing drummers? If you love percussion, if you love amazing drum work from any kind of music at all, check out this track “A Night in Tunisia” from the inimitable drummer Art Blakey working with his group The Jazz Messengers from the album: Art Blakey: “Theory of Art”. Recommended comic book pairing: Mark Waid’s and Geoff John’s “Flash” No one but The Flash can keep up with Art Blakey’s speed on the drums.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the kick-axe Mods. (Kick Axe was a hard rock band from the ‘80s, btw.) It’s super fuckin’ cool that they opened up the discussion like this. Truly, very cool of you. And all I had to do was ask... Thanks RIYLM.
That’s it for this week, folks. Tune in next week when I ask the ultimate question that has everyone baffled: Banana or cucumber?