Feature Fridays: Kenny Rogers

Feature Fridays: Kenny Rogers

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Emily-Claire Nemmers will review Kenny Rogers, 20 Great Hits.

Kenny Rogers

Today I would like to feature Kenny Rogers, 20 Great Hits.  This CD features 20 different songs dated before 1989. Each track allows the listener to move between country and pop songs for a unique listening experience.

Kenny Rogers, a member of the country hall of fame is an 80-year-old country singer who was especially popular in the 1970s and 80s. He has more than 120 hit singles across various music genres.

Interestingly, this CD does not feature any songs from his most popular album The Gambler, which was ranked as one of the “200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever”. In fact, many of Kenny’s number one songs are missing from this disc, such as “Lucille” and “Coward of the County.” However, this provides the listener a unique opportunity to hear other songs by Kenny.

Each song has a special backstory behind it and gives the listener an insight into the history of the time.  In “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” Kenny is talking about a paralyzed veteran of the Vietnam war whose wife gets all dressed up and goes out without him.  In this it is not explicitly stated that the Vietnam War is what they are talking about but given its time of release, 1967, and quotes such as “crazy Asian war” it is widely assumed.

As of 2017 Kenny Rogers is officially in retirement from touring, though he has stated the possibility of recording another studio album. If you are looking for more music like this be sure to check out She Rides Wild Horses and Grammy’s Greatest Country Moments, Vol. 1 from 1994 at the AU Music Library.

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Hidden Gems: “Song Reader” by Beck

Hidden Gems: “Song Reader” by Beck

Hidden Gems is an exploration of the music library’s extensive selection of music scores and CD collections. Student Assistant Matthew Francisco reveals this week’s hidden gem: Beck’s “Song Reader”.

In my last review, I exhibited Beck’s Morning Phase as a notable album available in our collection. Despite Beck’s stature, he has released many other work in his lifetime that never saw the same success, or was never even intended to achieve that same level. Song Reader is one of those works– it’s a collection of 20 songs written by Beck that were never recorded, but written on a page.

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It’s a reference to popular music before there were records. As Jody Rosen recalls in his introduction, “before the Edison phonograph and wax-cylinder records, before gramophones and 78-rpm discs, before radio, LPs, CDs, MP3s, and iPods, there was sheet music– the original pop music technology. Sheet music was the engine of America’s musical industrialization, the medium that transformed the pop song trade from a poky mom-and-pop enterprise into a billion-dollar business”. The choice is quite intriguing—by releasing only the sheet music, Beck is asking the listener to put in the effort, to discover, and to create their own vision of each song.

Not only is the work a fantastic collection of musical literature– it’s also a beautiful effort of visual art. Each song is printed on its own with vibrant paintings, illustrations, and design adorning the covers. On some pieces—such as “Just Noise”—the visual elements extend to the sheet music, framing the music on the page as its own work of art.

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In all, Beck’s collection Song Reader is a fantastic revival of history, and is definitely worth checking out. Whether you want to discover some new Beck music, learn some new songs to play, or have a look at some beautiful visual art, there’s something for you!

If you’re interested in learning more about this format, we also have a box set of Stephen Collins Foster sheet music, reproductions of song sheets from the mid-1800s in our collection. Many of them are classic Americana hits, and come from the same period that Beck references in his work! We are also in the process of digitizing our collection of Historical Sheet Music.

Editor’s note: When Song Reader was released in 2012, there was an accompanying website where one could upload one’s own version(s) of the songs. The site is no longer active, but you can see a snapshot of it at WaybackMachine here. Many fan and professional recordings are still available on YouTube.

Feature Fridays: Nina Simone

Feature Fridays: Nina Simone

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Daniel McCahon will review Nina Simone’s Anthology.

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Nina Simone was one of the most influential and powerful singers of the 20th century. She was a champion musician and a Civil Rights activist. The Nina Simone: Anthology is a collection of 31 of her songs. It is a vast account of Simone’s broad range of musical ability and prowess.

Disc 1 begins with “I loves you, Porgy” and ends on “Do I move you?” While Disc 2 starts on “I want a little sugar in my bowl” and concludes with “A single woman”. These 4 tracks are fantastic on their own, and are only complimented by the sheer diversity of Simone’s vocal talent in the other 27 tracks. The anthology is the “first collection of Nina Simone’s music to bring together her best work from multiple labels” and is accurate and correct in that, as well as the fact that Simone’s legendary work put together into two discs is a fantastic legacy of “liberation, empowerment, passion and love.” Nina Simone is the High Priestess of Soul, and this anthology is a testament to her priesthood.

The music library is home to many other works by influential female jazz singers. To explore more from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Etta James, make sure to come by and browse our CD collection!

New Batch of CD’s & Scores

Here is the last batch of new CD’s and Scores before 2018 comes to a close! Before sure to check them out before you go.

CD’s

Original Cast Recording Ernest Shackleton Loves Me CD 10570

Paul Chihara Take The A Train CD 10572

Original Cast Recording The Band’s Visit CD 10571

Original London Recording Calendar Girls CD 10568

Original Cast Recording Prince of Broadway CD 10567

Original Cast Recording Escape to Margaritaville CD 10569

 

Scores 

Richard Peaslee Arrows of Time (For Trombone and Piano) M 263 .P36 A676 1997

Dale Wood Hymn Tunes (Organ Accompaniments with Descants) M 14 .W85 N42 1968

Joseph Haydn Six String Quartets Op. 76 M 425 .H42 op.78 2009

John Adams Nixon in China (Score) M 1503 .A2137 N5 1999

Benjamin Britten Complete Folksong Arrangements (High) M 1620 .B858 W33 2006

Kirke Mechem The Rivals (Score) M 1503 .M497 R58 2017

Bacharach Promises, Promises (Score) M 1508 .B32 P7 2010

Pietro Florida Early Italian songs and airs M 1619 .E28 F4 v.1 

Feature Fridays: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

Feature Fridays: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Caroline Salant will review Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco.

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Fronted by alt-folk singer and guitarist Jeff Tweedy, Wilco describes itself as an “eclectic indie rock collective that touches on many eras and genres.” This wonderful blend of sounds comes from the diverse backgrounds of its members, from Tweedy to jazz-rock guitarist Nels Cline to experimental multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone. Nothing about Wilco is straightforward, and nowhere is this more evident than their critically acclaimed 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The first track on the album is “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” a somewhat gibberish tale of love and regret.

I am an American aquarium drinker
I assassin down the avenue
I’m hiding out in the big city blinking
What was I thinking when I let go of you?

These somewhat nonsense lyrics eventually amount to a profound resolution by the final line. Many songs on this album have that sort of confusing emotional buildup, but combined with the often-ethereal instrumental sounds, it makes for a unique and delightful listening experience that will make you smile, tap your foot, and perhaps even cry. If you find yourself in need of a musical anchor, listen for the frequent presence of a heavily strummed acoustic guitar. If you find yourself looking for a lyrical theme, don’t waste your time; Yankee Hotel Foxtrot covers a wide variety of topics such as love, death, deceit, heartbreak, self-improvement, and war.

The most iconic track on this album is perhaps Wilco’s best-known song, “Jesus Etc.” Also not to be missed are “Ashes of American Flags,” “Heavy Metal Drummer,” and “Poor Places.” The self-described “rock impressionism” and poetic talents of Wilco shine on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It has been my favorite album for just under a decade and I cannot recommend it more.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is album 2448 in the Music Library’s compact disc collection.

Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Ryan Jacobs will review Like Minds by Gary Burton with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland.

Like Minds

Like Minds is a jazz supergroup album featuring Gary Burton on vibraphone, Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Roy Haynes on drums, and Dave Holland on bass. Each musician is a legend in their own right, having worked with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Lester Young, and many others between the five of them.

The liner booklet contains a recollection of the recording process from Burton’s perspective. It is an insightful look at how the album came together and the mutual respect between the musicians, and was a very interesting read. It recounts the initial conceptualization of the album and how each of the musicians brought in some of the best songs; each wrote at least one new one specifically for this project.

The album showcases the group’s immense musical skill and mastery of jazz, and I would like to highlight the opening track, which sets up the rest of the album perfectly. Metheny’s “Question and Answer” is a melodic masterpiece showcasing Burton and Corea, and demonstrates the guitarist’s compositional ability.

The entire record is filled with first-rate ensemble skill, composition, and improvisation, and I strongly recommend anyone interested in experiencing true jazz masters display their craft check this album out immediately.

 

Broadway Double Feature Friday: Heathers The Musical

Broadway Double Feature Friday: Heathers The Musical

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Dan McCahon reviews Heathers The Musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy.

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Heathers The Musical is based on the cult-classic film of the same name released in 1989. It is a dark comedy of twists and turns, with the main protagonist Veronica grappling with the dramas and woes of high school, strung together by the girls at the top: the Heathers.

The opening track “Beautiful” is a ballad based on Veronica’s diary entry, as she struggles with the changes that come with growing up. “Then we got bigger that was the trigger…college will be paradise if I’m not dead by June.” Veronica’s morbidity and cynicism are put up against her hope for the future: “If we changed back then, we could change again, we can be beautiful…life can be beautiful.” The song introduces the Heathers, the main antagonists for a majority of the show. “They float above it all,” referencing their inability to be bothered by the stressors of high school, which students attribute to their beauty. Veronica aims to cozy up to the Heathers to make high school more bearable, and succeeds, with the song concluding with Veronica becoming beautiful just like the Heathers. “Heather, Heather, Heather, and Veronica?!”

“Candy Store” is the second track and denotes the first act conflict between Veronica and the Heathers as Veronica tries to understand her identity among the Heathers against who she is to her childhood best friend. These two songs underscore the main themes of the show, at least until it runs off the rails into the second act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that this is a musical worth listening to if not for its fantastic vocalists, then for the plot twists that accompany its stellar tracks.