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Archive for the ‘Good Songs’ Category

I have been listening to a lot of violin lately. One of my current students is an immensely talented violinist and listening to her has piqued my interest in how this instrument is used in pop music. There are two contemporary bands I can think of whose prominent use of the violin significantly shapes the music’s emotional depth. One is Dave Matthews Band. I hardly think I need to discuss or introduce them. The other is Camper Van Beethoven.

They hailed originally from Northern California and performed in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They play everything. Rock, Country, Punk, Eastern European Folk Revival, and some songs that are all of the above at the same time. They opened for the Dead and R.E.M. Someone once described them as talented party animals with music degrees. The main violinist is Johnathan Segel. Technically he was a multi-instrumentalist and was largely responsible for their playful, eclectic sound. However, on their 1989 release Key Lime Pie, Morgan Fichter took over. She has a much warmer tone and the songs became darker. Key Lime Pie was released after the band had already started to splinter. And while the original band reunited in 2004 for an album and tour, they were never able to capture a huge following.  They continue to perform together occasionally.

The mix is made up of the following albums:

Telephone Free Landslide Victory (their first and truest “classic” album)
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I and II (their second album, folkier and less cohesive than their first)
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Camper Van Beethoven (The tour for this album is when I saw them for the first time. I was a freshman in college. They played at the U of O Ballroom and I can still smell the weed and patchouli)
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Our Bloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (The closest they ever came to a perfect album)
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Key Lime Pie (Their darkest, most serious album)
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LISTEN: 

DOWNLOAD:  Camper’s Best (a single mp3 file)

Serious Songs (kinda)
1. When I Win The Lottery
2. All Her Favorite Fruit
3. Pictures Of Matchstick Men
4. Borderline
5. Sweethearts
These first five songs are from the Key Lime Pie (mmmmm, pie) album. Pictures of Matchstick Men is a remake of a popular song from the 60’s. Around 3:00 min. into All Her Favorite Fruit, Fichter breaks out and you know this is a song about wanting what you can’t have.

6. O Death
An old folk song made hauntingly contemporary. It was performed acapella on the O’ Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

7. She Divines Water
8. One Of These Days
These are my two favorite Camper songs and two of my favorite songs of all time. The violin carries both songs creating an ethereal, transcendent sound. These songs and number 6 and 12 come from Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.

9. Good Guys & Bad Guys This one always makes me smile.

10. Still Wishing to Course
11. Sad Lovers Waltz

No Singing Songs
No, these are not Romanian Folk songs from 1925. But I do feel like a Gypsy when I listen to them. Except for number 12, they are all off of the first two albums.
12. Waka
13. Vladivostock
14. 9 of Disks
15. Payed Vacation: Greece
16. No Krugerrands for David
17. ZZ Top Goes To Egypt
18. Skinhead Stomp

Silly Songs (All from the first two albums)
19. Wasted
A remake of a 30 sec. punk rock song by Black Flag

20. Take the Skinheads Bowling “I had a dream last night, I forget what it was.”
21. Ambiguity Song
22. Tina
23. I Love Her All the Time
24. Where the Hell Is Bill?
25. Opi Rides Again/Club Med Sucks
(“Club Med sucks, authority sucks, I hate golf, I wanna play lacrosse.”)

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How is it possible that so few Americans have heard of Paul Kelly? He has been called Australia’s Bruce Springsteen. He has also been called the greatest song writer you’ve never heard of. I haven’t coined my own clever moniker, but the breadth and depth of his work is on par with Springsteen. I was first made aware of him by an essay called Deeper Water by Brian Doyle from his book Spirited Men. I scoured the internet for free songs. I downloaded a couple and found myself unimpressed. A year later I had my ipod on shuffle and the following song came on.

If I Could Start Today Again

I was confused. I had never heard this song before. It was beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. And it spoke deeply of regret without being maudlin. When I looked at the display and saw the name Paul Kelly I had no idea who the hell he was. So I got online and started looking him up. And then I remembered. I re-read Doyle’s essay. I went to Amazon and proceeded to order anything of Kelly’s that was used and cheap. (Much of his work is out of print in the States)

If you want to read more about him a link to Doyle’s essay is below:
Deeper Water

Below is a mix I have put together. Enjoy and consider buying something by Doyle or Kelly. A perfect place for Kelly is his greatest hits collection: Songs From the South Vol. 1 & 2.

Listen:

Download: Paul Kelly

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“Deeper Water”
Deeper Water

‘Where I’m going next, I’m going alone’

“I’ve Been a Fool”
Deeper Water
You could sell a poor man a bottle of air


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“If I Could Start Again Today”
….Nothing But a Dream
I know my prayer’s in vain/But for a second I’ll pretend/That I can start today again

“Midnight Rain”
…..Nothing But a Dream
But not too loud ’cause the neighbours complain

“Every Fucking City”
.….Nothing But a Dream
Now I’m in a nightclub in Helsinki/And they’re playing ‘La Vida Loca’ once again/And I can’t believe I’m dancing to this crap but I’m a chance here/Yeah, every fucking city sounds the same


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“From St. Kilda to King’s Cross”
Post
And all around me felt like all inside me


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“To Her Door”
Under the Sun
She said: ‘I’m not standing by, to watch you slowly die/So watch me walking, out the door’

“Bradman”
Under the Sun
Now shadows they grow longer and there’s so much more yet to be told/But we’re not getting any younger, so let the part tell the whole


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“From Little Things Big Things Grow”
Comedy
Vincent said ‘uhuh we’re not talking about wages/We’re sitting right here till we get our land’


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“When I First Met Your Ma”
Hidden Things
Then her dad came pounding and kicked me out of there/I walked two miles in Melbourne rain
I could have walked ten more/When I first loved your ma


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“How to Make Gravy”
Words and Music
And later in the evening, I can just imagine,/You’ll put on Junior Murvin and push the tables back

“I’ll Be Your Lover”
Words and Music
One day you notice a change/And then nothing’s the same


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“You’re 39, You’re Beautiful, & Your Mine”
Stolen Apples
You still take my breath away in the morning light


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“Beautiful Feeling”
Ways and Means
You’re the one that breaks me open wide

“King of Fools”
Ways and Means
But a fool always has a song

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Not Fade Away

On the evening of  June 14, 1999 Bob Dylan played a surprise show at the University of Oregon.  There were 1000 tickets sold.  He ended his concert playing the classic Buddy Holly song, “Not Fade Away”.  I almost missed it.  Not because I couldn’t find a ticket.  I had one fall in my lap.  Not because I couldn’t afford it.  Tickets were only 30 bucks.  Not because it was far away.  It was a 7 minute drive.  No, I almost missed this once in a life time event because I was tired and didn’t feel like leaving the house.  Not fade away indeed.  What nonsense.  How much of life have I missed because I was tired or afraid or uncomfortable?

M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled has called inertia the root of all sin.  Kathleen Norris in a more recent book explores a similar phenomenon known as Acedia or a slothful indifference that can lead to a soul wearying lassitude.  Whatever you call it I am familiar with it and know that it is possible to fade away.  I also know that the antidote is the imagination and a profound act of will.

Not Fade Away (Soundboard recording from the June 14th 1999 performance)

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Enjoy this song off the new Steve Earle album.

To Live Is To Fly

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