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The CHIRP Blog

Entries on the topic of “Mp3” 183 results

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Ray Davies Edition

Ray Davies is one of the most important figures in ‘60s rock music. He’d be deserving praise if he had only written “Waterloo Sunset”, which former Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau called (and I’m paraphrasing) the best song in the English language. Utilizing the same blues and rock ‘n’ roll influences as his British Invasion counterparts, Davies (with the help of brother Dave) created some of the first riff rock on classics like “You Really Got Me”, planting the seeds for heavy metal and punk. He quickly advanced to more sophisticated territory. In so doing, he got away from aping American sounds (especially vocally) and really creating a British vocabulary for rock music. His initial observational songwriting was closer to Dylan in spirit, but soon he was creating lovely vignettes that touched on specific experiences that were sometimes witty and sometime poignant. While their commercial prospects waned somewhat, The Kinks reeled off one of the great album sequences in history, from Face To Face to Something Else to Village Green Preservation Society to Arthur (and one could argue Lola... too). Davies’ influence loomed large on many British acts, including XTC, Madness and Blur, inspiring even more classic music. Of course, he couldn’t keep up that pace, but he is still a warm and wonderful live performer and still might have classic song or two in him. Let’s celebrate Ray’s birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday David Thomas Edition

It’s time to wish a happy birthday to the man once known as Crocus Behemoth. David Thomas helped found the short lived but extremely important proto-punk band Rocket From The Tombs, and once they split, formed Pere Ubu, the self-proclaimed avant-garage band. With the large and oddly compelling front man whose quavering high voice somehow was perfect for an ultra-arty take on rock tropes, Pere Ubu has been making important music over five decades. From spooky to rocking to pretty darn catchy (the band’s Cloudland album is one of the great pop albums of the ‘80s), Thomas has managed to put his stamp on everything he’s done. And he’s had some nifty side projects too. In honor of Thomas, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Prince Edition

He’s enigmatic, charismatic, and a-u-t-o matic. Prince turns 54 years old today, and while he hasn’t wowed anyone with his new recordings lately, he is still a king on the concert stage, and why not? With his deep catalog, ace bands, killer guitar skills, amazing dance moves and total command of an audience, he is one pop music’s all time great live attractions. On top of that, he built a musical empire in the ‘80s. A studio rat, he played everything on his earliest records, mixed funk with new wave sounds, and pushed the envelope lyrically and visually, taking an androgyny page out of the David Bowie playbook. Then, in the mid-80's, he was one of the biggest stars, and deservedly so. I still remember the electricity at the Yorktown Theatre, watching Purple Rain in packed movie house, everyone going nuts when “Let’s Go Crazy” kicked in. In honor of this legend, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Wesley Willis Edition

Today, let’s pay tribute to a local legend, the late Wesley Willis. When I moved into the city from the ‘burbs in the early ‘90s, he was a ubiquitous presence. Wesley was a big dude who you’d see at shows or in the middle of the street, hawking his ink pen drawings of cityscapes and other things. He’d greet many folks with a head butt. Wesley was schizophrenic, and in addition to his visual art, he bought a cheap Casio keyboard and began composing and recording brief songs, often depicting shows he’d seen, with direct, narrative lyrics, ending almost every song with “Rock over London/rock on Chicago” followed by some advertising catch phrase, like “Cadillac – it’s got style.” He later fronted the hard rock Wesley Willis Fiasco. As with other outsider art (ex. – Daniel Johnston), the question was always whether Wesley was being exploited, and that can be debated. All I can say is that he was a memorable part of the Chicago music scene and he sure seemed to enjoy being a part of it. In honor of Wesley, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Bob Dylan Edition

You may call him Bobby, or you may call him Zimmy – yep, it’s Bob Dylan’s birthday! I’m not sure if there’s any brief way to fully pay tribute to one of the major composers and performers of the ‘60s, whose influence changed rock and pop music about as much as anyone. Let’s just say, thanks to Bob Dylan, popular music could go in directions well beyond simple two and three minute ditties. And Dylan is still capable of putting out great music, even as his vocal capabilities diminish, as evidence by 2012's fine Tempest album. As the video from that album and his satellite radio prove, Dylan remains cool beyond all belief. In honor of Mr. Dylan, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Bill Bruford Edition

What do Yes, King Crimson, Roy Harper, Savoy Brown and Genesis have in common? They all have, to varying degrees, employed Bill Bruford on drums, which is always a great decision. From the three gigs he played with Savoy Brown in 1968 to his three separate tours of duty with King Crimson, Bruford has brought the skills of a great jazz drummer and rock power to some of the most challenging rock music of the past four decades. While Bruford made his reputation as one of the great prog rock sidemen, he also lead his own projects, like Earthworks, constantly exploring and challenging himself as an instrumentalist. He never drew attention to himself, which might be why he was so effective in so many bands. Let’s pay tribute to Mr. Bruford by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Donovan Edition

Let’s pay tribute to the biggest star of the British folk rock movement, Donovan. Mr. Leitch started off in the thrall of Bob Dylan, but didn’t take too long to progress, both as a lyricist (for example, the great protest song “Universal Solider”) and composer (great pop songs like “Sunshine Superman” and “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”). He may have been the victim of Dylan’s contempt, as shown in the documentary Don’t Look Back, but Donovan carved out a very impressive and varied career. And, as of four or five years ago, he showed Chicago he still had his charm, charisma and talent. He played a show at Park West that got raves, and I saw him promote his memoir at the old downtown Borders and he told stories and played short versions of nine of his songs. Whatta guy! In honor of Donovan’s birthday, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday James Brown Edition

Today we pay tribute to one of the giants of American music, James Brown. A juvenile delinquent, Brown was paroled after serving time for armed robbery and joined a band called the Famous Flames. By the late ‘50s, Brown was in charge, and his incredible string of R & B chart hits. At first, he was a testifying soul shouter, who crossed over with his Live at the Apollo album. Brown was the ultimate road house trouper, with his dynamic live show. As his bands got tighter and tighter, the first seeds of funk were planted. Combining syncopation with precise guitar parts and simple vocal lines, Brown broke down his music into the simplest of elements, but put them together in complex combinations. The reverberations of funk are still being felt today, around the world. I go could on and on about Brown’s political songs, how he stopped a riot, and many other things, but I only have so much time. He’s right up there with Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Hank Williams among the most important figures in American. In his honor, grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Duane Eddy Edition

Today, let’s give birthday wishes to the king of the twang guitar, Duane Eddy. Eddy hooked up with Lee Hazlewood on a series of classic instrumentals in the late ‘50s. In order to get the proper echo for Eddy’s records, Hazlewood purchased a 2000 gallon water tank for Duane to record in. This only added to robust instrumental classics like “Rebel Rouser”, his version of the Peter Gunn theme and “Cannonball”. Eddy amassed 15 Top 40 hits in all, and is one of the most influential guitarists of the pre-Beatles era. He is still active today, and just last year, released an album produced by one of his disciples, Richard Hawley. In honor of Mr. Eddy, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—In Memory of Scott Miller Edition

Monday, a cult figure in power pop passed on. In the early ‘80s, Bay Area musician Scott Miller formed Game Theory. The heady name was a bit of a give away – Miller and crew conjured up some of the brainiest power pop ever created. Taking cues from Big Star’s Radio City, The Beatles, The Raspberries, Brian Eno and other art poppers, Miller managed to marry strong melodies and oddball hooks to dense lyrics that sometimes had a James Joyce influence. Taking a break after Game Theory, he formed The Loud Family which found him further exploring his muse. He was planning the first new Game Theory record in about 25 years when he died this past Monday. While neither of his band’s never made it, Miller was influential – some of his acolytes include Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt, Aimee Mann and Carl Newman of The New Pornographers. In honor of the later Mr. Miller, please get out your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Sarah Cracknell Edition

Sarah Cracknell exudes class and elegance, in a low key manner. Moreover, she is seemingly ageless. The Saint Etienne frontwoman is the perfect fit for the urbane dance and pop music her bandmates Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have put together for over two decades, though they tried out some other singers before realizing how perfect she was. She emphasizes interpretation of lyrics and engagement in the material, exuding warmth and a sophistication that is down-to-earth rather than elitist. Let’s celebrate her birthday in style, by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—In Memory of Roger Ebert Edition

Roger Ebert was the first Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and the reason for that is no mystery. He was simply a wonderful writer. He just happened to write about film (and later, on his blog, many, many other things), with such an expressive voice. Even before he teamed up with Gene Siskel to co-host the influential At The Movies, Ebert was already showing, on a weekly basis, how to make real film criticism accessible to everyone. Thanks to Ebert and Siskel, more indie films got a shot at success, obscure directors and actors became famous, and moviegoers became more aware of things like product placement and letterboxing versus pan and scan.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Perry Farrell Edition

Jane’s Addiction built an audience organically, offering a fresh take on Led Zeppelin-styled hard rock with a compelling, albeit limited, lead vocalist, Perry Farrell. No one could have suspected that Farrell would become a major music entrepreneur. He started the Lollapalooza package tours back in 1991, and they were an immediate hit, cleverly realizing that he could find bands that by themselves might not fill a shed, but together could draw a crowd of alt-rock fans. After that ran its course, Farrell shrewdly picked up on the fact that stand alone festivals were picking up steam and he brought back his brand and planted a flag on the lakefront here in Chicago. For better or for worse, Lollapalooza, combined with the earlier Pitchfork Festival, makes Chicago the center of cool music in the summer. Let’s pay tribute to Perry on his birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Keith Relf Edition

Today, let’s pay tribute to a man who fronted one of the more important British Invasion bands, yet no one remembers him. The late Keith Relf was born today, the lead singer of The Yardbirds. Relf was a versatile vocalist who was able to handle the different styles the ‘birds essayed, from blues to rock to pop to psychedelia to bubblegum. While he was understandably overshadowed by the great guitarists in the band (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), he certainly was a key part of many great records. In honor of Mr. Relf, get your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Gary Numan Edition

He was the first electronic rock star. Shy Gary Numan got his start playing aggressive punk inspired music with Tubeway Army, already exploring sci fi themes, along with introspective looks at loneliness and alienation. Legend has it, while recording the first Tubeway Army full length, he stumbled on a synthesizer in the studio, and by his next album, keyboards became the prominent part of his sound. The chilly yet warm tones were perfect for his paranoid anthems, and Tubeway Army’s next album yielded the amazing “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”. Numan then went solo and upped the synths on the classic Pleasure Principle, as “Cars” gave him a worldwide smash. His career has had its ups and downs since then, as he discovered he had Asperger’s Syndrome and that he influenced legions of keyboard rock acts (like Nine Inch Nails). He is still a vital artist and a must see live performer. In honor or Mr. Numan, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Conor Oberst Edition

Today we pay tribute to an indie rock giant, Conor Oberst. During the latter part of the ‘90s, Oberst brought back folk music to indie prominence, starting with his highly successful band Bright Eyes. Over the years, Oberst expanded his palette to include everything from electronic music to country, winning a loyal group of fans, many who cling to every word in his lyrics. He also moved on to other projects, including a solo career, the rocking Desaparecidos and the Monsters Of Folk. Let’s pay tribute to Mr. Oberst by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Terry Melcher Edition

This week, let’s pay tribute to a background figure in rock music, Terry Melcher. Melcher was the son of actress-singer Doris Day. He teamed up with Bruce Johnston to wax some hit records, first as Bruce & Terry, later as The Rip Chords. Bruce went on to join The Beach Boys and Terry had significant success producing a folk rock band from L.A. named The Byrds. Melcher found further success behind the boards for Paul Revere & The Raiders. He also introduced Van Dyke Parks to Brian Wilson, which led to the legendary Smile album. Then things got weird. Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson met a guy named Charles Manson and introduced him to Melcher. Melcher gave Manson an audition but did not sign him. Melcher and his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, soon moved out of their Cielo Drive home. Director Roman Polanski and wife Sharon Tate rented that house, which Manson and his “family” targeted in a grisly multiple murder. Perhaps understandably, Melcher stepped back somewhat from music, his last big success co-writing The Beach Boys’ number one hit, “Kokomo”. Let’s pay tribute to Terry, by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Big Boi Edition

He’s half of one of the most acclaimed and successful rap duos of all-time, Outkast. And Big Boi has continued to make an impact as a solo artist and guest on many fine records. Antwan Patton met Andre 3000 while in high school in Atlanta. Over the course of six albums, Big Boi and Andre continually expanded the breadth of their music and lyrics, paying off in the amazing commercial success of their dual solo album/Outkast project, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Moreover, Big Boi established himself as a terrific emcee with a distinctive flow, and someone with an eye for talent, as shown by his work with Janelle Monae and Killer Mike. Let’s pay tribute to Big Boi by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Etta James Edition

Today we pay tribute to a true legend of R & B who passed away last year, Etta James. She made her splash here in Chicago, as her new deal with Chess Records in 1960 yielded her signature song, “At Last”, along with other pop and R & B hits. James lived a rugged life and that came through in her interpretive abilities, which influenced generations of singers. In honor of James, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday R. Stevie Moore Edition

R. Stevie Moore is a cult figure of the highest magnitude. The son of a Nashville session musician, Moore started out making his own music in mid-‘60s, finally releasing his debut album Phonography in 1976. The album is at turns catchy and eccentric (and sometimes both) and kicked off a staggering number of releases over the years. Moore makes Robert Pollard look lazy, having released hundreds upon hundreds of tunes (and he had the good taste to cover one of my all-time favorite Sparks songs, “Fletcher Honorama”). Moore plays many instruments, is an expert in lo to mid-fi recording, has a keen melodic sense and can pen a hook. He’s the original bedroom indie pop artist and current fans of artists like Ariel Pink (who has collaborated with Moore) would be well advised to track down his music. Let’s pay tribute to this original and enduring talent by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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