Archive for July, 2011

CD music review: Adele; 21

July 28, 2011

[Bill L.]

Release date: 19 January, 2011


When you are the 600 pound gorilla in the room you tend to forget or at least ignore everybody else. So it is with the United State of America, and so it has been since the Armistice on Nov 11, 1918 when by default we became “top nation”. Not for nothing until recently, was the “Group of 8”, and not without irony, known as “America and the 7 dwarves”. It was not inaccurate, just unkind. For America was and is so much greater than its allies and adversaries as to be without peer. Period. That there are others of ability and talent in the world is quite apparent. It is just that we Americans do not even notice them, so preoccupied are we with ourselves.

Our closest friend in the word, the UK, is in many ways a much smaller, slightly different, if vastly more neurotic, mirror image of us. The Brits are just unlike enough to be fun, without being foreign. We have our Grammies, they have The Mercury Awards. Like the Grammies they are held each year and there is, as with the Grammies, a great deal of speculation as to who will win. There is also a short list of nominees and there is much discussion as to their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Topping the list this year is the astounding English singer Adele [Adkins].

If you have been living with a former Vice-President in an undisclosed bunker for the last year, or so, you may be forgiven for not having heard her sing. “21” is Adele’s second CD, written when she was 21, her first is “19”, written when, well, you get the idea… I am at a loss as to how to describe her ability, apart from as has everyone else commented, “what a set of pipes”.  Here is a woman who can really belt it out, who croons, who wails.

But what is she? Is it Blues? Rock? Folk? Country? The short answer is Yes. Here is an English gal who sounds American, perhaps thus her success here in America. Her “heartbroken soul” sounds like “one of us”. Misery indeed loves company. Be that as it may, I must say that I have yet to hear a poor song from Adele. And many are great, at least in my opinion.

Adele was unknown to me until just after the New Year, when a friend of mine suggested that I listen to her. I was silent as I had never heard of Adele. And so when a friend who is not known for suggestions makes one I like to think I am smart enough to listen. I did and I am hooked. So thanks to Tricia for her excellent suggestion earlier this year. You would be wise to take her advice too and listen to Adele and “21”. A pretty good trick that, getting Americans to pay attention, notice and listen. And that is not monkey business.

bill littlefield


CD music review: Amy Winehouse; Back to Black

July 25, 2011

[Bill L.]

Release date: 4 October, 2006


And so Amy is dead.

The day which we have all dreaded has come to pass.

No more the throaty bluesy, irony and agony.

No more the outrageously smooth tunes and songs, of unique crossover quality.

Having been alive when Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and, alas, others also went prematurely at age 27, I wish that they could have surmounted their post teen angst. Alas for them. Alas for us.

Most of us inhabit the mundane obviously of necessity. A few, a very few are of the [again] unique ability, mindset and temperament and are thus considered great. At least by some and have at least a little immortality that once again of necessity escapes the rest of us mortals.

We at the WML have “Back to black” in our CD music collection. It is not appropriate for me to comment on its quality at this time. Suffice to say that it won five Grammies and many other accolades and, obviously, a Google will tell you more than I possibly can. I will say that Amy’s voice was [and how it breaks my heart to have to use the past tense…] utterly remarkable. Folk may disagree and of course they can, have and will. But I would ask people to be just a bit charitable and try to put themselves into the shoes of the other person. It is all too easy to find fault.

I would also recommend “Frank” Amy’s initial 2003 work. I really do not “do the Blues” and so for a Rocker like me to say that I personally think it is even better than “Black” is saying something.

We are told that Amy was working on several projects and no doubt there will be hopefully be, after a decent interval, releases of those songs. Surprisingly one is with Tony Bennett, or perhaps one should say unsurprisingly. For Amy did ever march to the beat of her own drummer. But is this enough? No. Not by a mile. Selfishly we wanted more but must now settle for what we have.

I will mourn her. Indeed I am even now. May we celebrate the music of this remarkable woman whose songs I am certain will be with us for a very long time.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

bill littlefield

Music CD review: Stevie Nicks, In Your Dreams

July 20, 2011

[Bill L.}

Release date: 5/3/11

It is a fact of life that there is a lot of crap in the music world. This should surprise no one as it merely reflects that sad dreary world itself. There is however a bright spot if a very small spot. And it comes from a most unlikely place. Indeed one of the last people you might expect. Stevie Nicks.

“In your dreams” is Nicks’ seventh solo album and one of the best tracks is “Secret love”. In it with its music video, we reprise for 3-4 minutes [at least] the world of the mid 70’s, the world of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” and it is delightful. Stevie has aged well, I wish I will look that good at 63 as she is now, and her voice is still beautiful. She and Mic Fleetwood’s performance is [again] a delight, in fact the whole album is superb. Well recorded and mixed. I suppose, I ought to “fess up” that “The Mac” are one of my all-time fav bands. So if I am prejudiced, at least I am honest.

The hedonism of the group Fleetwood Mac is legendary. And rightly so. They were and are a paradigm of and for my generation. Which probably says more there then I ever can. Even so, recently, as I was researching “In your dreams”, I came acrost a really great story. It was so great and selfless that it deserves to be told here and now at least in brief. I call it “Stevies’s iPod”, although she calls it “Soldier’s iPod”. So I have just cut and pasted from Wikipedia the paragraph below.

“In late 2004, Nicks began visiting Army and Navy medical centers in Washington, D.C. While visiting wounded service men and women, Nicks became determined to find an object she could leave with each soldier that would raise their spirits, motivate, and give them something to look forward to each day. She eventually decided to purchase hundreds of iPod Nanos, load them with music, artists, and playlists which she would hand select, and autograph them. She now regularly delivers these tokens of her appreciation, bringing her closest friends to share the experience. “

It is always great to be able to pass on a nice story and this one has a very nice ending. When Betty Ford died last Friday, July 8th aged 93 and there was a really great article in CNN Entertainment, the link is below, on how Stevie acknowledges that Betty Ford and her clinic have saved her [Stevie’s] life. The point is that Stevie spoke at length of how her addiction[s] were threatening to kill her by the mid 1980’s and that Betty’s attitude towards life essentially saved her.

I hope I am not being mawkish, as it is hard for a cynic [like me] to believe that there is unrequited love in the world, but there is, even if it is rare. It would seem that both Betty and Stevie have something in common, love for others, and that is simply beautiful. Please listen to this CD, but more importantly please buy it. It is a delight from a living legend.

bill littlefield

This Life is in Your Hands, by Melissa Coleman

July 12, 2011

[Lesley]  I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t heard NH booksellers (Michael Hermann of Gibson’s, Dan Chartrand of Water St. Books) on NHPR’s the Exchange all saying that it was one of the best books/memoirs they had read. I would have expected it to be focused on the back to the land movement — and it probably would have been if written by the author’s father — but instead it is really about a childhood and the relationships that defined it. The description about how they lived their lives was definitely interesting and I learned a lot more about the beginnings of the movement than I knew about before, but I was drawn in by Coleman’s voice, memories and the vividness of her childhood experiences. It is also very well written. This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Available as an audiobook on Hoopla.

This Life Is in Your Hands