Jason Mraz: Who Needs Shelter
This comes from Jason Mraz's first album, Waiting for my Rocket to Come. So what's a track from a hit album doing on Star Maker Machine? Well, if you hear the name Jason Mraz, you probably think of the songs "The Remedy" and "Curbside Prophet". I f so, you know Mraz as the modern master of polysyllabic hyperverbosity. But here he slows it down and calms it down, and comes up with a thing of beauty, a midtempo ballad greeting the morning sun. And, unfortunately, most people have never heard it.
Submitted by Darius
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Posted by dean at 11:09 PM
Friday, July 25, 2008
XTC: Minature Sun
For some people, XTC may invoke the punk/new wave sound they had in the 80s. Ten years later, (the time this track dates from), they became known for songs like "King for a Day" and "Mayor of Simpleton". Those songs are both from the album Oranges and Lemons. As you will hear or just heard, they also developed a more adventurous side musically, but it was only to be found in album tracks, as opposed to singles. That's why I would never want a greatest hits collection from XTC; too many great songs nobody ever got to hear would be left out.
Little Village: Solar Sex Panel
Last week was John Hiatt's first visit to Star Maker Machine. This week , he brought friends. And what friends they are! Here are Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner. The album was a one-shot, collaborative project, but this track has always sounded like pure Hiatt to me, albeit with a dream list of sidemen.
Submitted by Darius
The Idle Race: Morning Sunshine
Quite the scene! The Idle Race's debut album, Birthday Party, featuring a Pepper-like gatefold (shown above), is a Jeff Lynne masterpiece. This is a band that ought to be a household name in any music shop. "Morning Sunshine," captures a rapt attention every damn time with its striking beauty and delicate pysch production. The slightly distorted lead vocal. The crazy echo on that rare guitar slide. The knockout harmony on the chorus. The kind of track that can worm its way into your heart forever.[*]
If you're curious who came to the party, click the photo above. Answer key here.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Stevie Wonder: Blame It On The Sun
Blame It On The Sun comes from 1974's Talking Book album, which won Stevie Wonder three Grammys. Like Marvin Gaye right before him, many of Talking Book's songs contained stark lyrics that explored societal ills. But being Stevie, you know he's not going to give short thrift to his love songs, with tunes such as You Are the Sunshine of My Life, You've Got It Bad Girl, I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) and today's selection - Blame It On The Sun.
Rage Against the Machine: People Of The Sun
Did you know Rage Against the Machine's vocalist, Zack de la Rocha, is angry? In fact, he sounds like he always is - but that's what I like best about him. Is there anyone in the history of Rock that's ever sounded angrier? Don't tell me Johnny Rotten/Lydon, he's a mere piker in comparison. Genius is pain, d00d, genius is pain.
The Sixties were a pretty sunny decade when it came to pop music, as these relatively obscure tunes demonstrate:
The Millennium: Some Sunny Day
Skeeter Davis: Summer Sunshine
Hearts And Flowers: Try For The Sun
See also: Margo
Further research: The Millennium: here and here, Skeeter Davis: here, Hearts And Flowers: here and here.
Smash Mouth: Walkin' On The Sun
It's been about a decade, so I think it's a fair call to say Smash Mouth belongs to the pantheon of two-hit wonders. They last made the charts in 1999 with All Star, from Astro Lounge, which followed 1997's Walkin' On The Sun.
Nick Lowe says if you're going to nick a tune, do it outright and be shameless about it. Smash Mouth followed that advice and "borrowed" the opening riff of Swan's Splashdown from the 1966 landmark Electronic music album, Perrey and Kingsley's The In Sound From Way Out!
Perrey And Kingsley: Swan's Splashdown
A tune calling out the Boomer generation for hijacking hippie idealism in exchange for commercial faddism was stealing the hook of their hit song from some dirty hippie musicians. As Homer Simpson once said, "the ironing is delicious."
The Police: Invisible Sun
Time for a metaphorical Sun song - Invisible Sun was the first single to be released from the 1981 album Ghost in the Machine, it reached #2 in the UK charts. The ominous sounding number, quite a departure from The Police's typically upbeat Pop, is about the violence in Northern Ireland during the 80s. The BBC banned the video for including footage referring to the conflict.
"Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us." - Sir Thomas Browne
There has to be an invisible sun
It gives its heat to everyone
There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole days done
The Police - Invisible Sun
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
JJ Grey & Mofro: The Sun Is Shining Down
What a perfect week for the theme to be sunshine. I spent 3 days last weekend standing under the sun watching a blues festival and have these random red patches where I missed sunscreen on a given day.
This track comes off of JJ Grey & Mofro's 2007 effort, Country Ghetto. I've always thought it would be a perfect song to be played as people were leaving a funeral to remind them that life is about living not mourning.
JJ Grey and Mofro will be releasing their new album, Orange Blossom on August 26 via Alligator Records.
Submitted by Autopsy IV
Velvet Underground: Who Loves The Sun [purchase]
"All of us were intent on one thing and that was to be successful. What you had to do to be successful in music was you had to have a hit and a hit had to be uptempo, short, and with no digressions. Straight ahead, basically. You wanted a hook and something to feed the hook and that was it. 'Who Loves The Sun' was done exactly that way for that reason ... to be a hit.
--Doug Yule, guitarist and lead singer on "Who Loves The Sun"
"Loaded showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records. We usually opted not to because our material was incompatible with standard pop music treatment. But people would wonder, 'Could they do it if they had to?' The answer was, 'Yes, we could.' And we did."
--Sterling Morrison, guitarist and stoic badass
"For someone who is accused of not being able to sing, my melodies are all over the place. Plus the guitar solos ... many of those (on Loaded) were very melodic solos. 'Who Loves The Sun' is a good example of that. But no one ever noticed."
--Lou Reed, songwriter, guitarist, and professional grouch
X: Under The Big Black Sun [purchase]
"Smoke in one hand, looking for a drink,
Drink in the other hand,
Pointing out midnight."
Here's a "sun" song off a "sun" album from sunny southern California. And by sunny, of course I mean dark, seedy, noir-ish underbelly. Where some folks turn to The Doors for a Bukowskian visage of Los Angeles, I always opt for X, and this was X at their peak. Actually, with Ray Manzarek on board as producer of their first four albums ... that classic run from Los Angeles to More Fun In The New World ... it was both a bridge between generations and a passing of the torch. Of this tune, the album's title track, John Doe says, "The lyrics are mostly Exene's. I was listening to a lot of Bo Diddley then, so the melody was influenced by him."
"I'm doing everything alone,
Rave on children and try to sleep."
Margo Guryan: Sun
If you're into 60s sunshine pop like the Beach Boys, Free Design, and Nilsson, then you already know and love Margo Guryan. When she first heard Pet Sounds, Margo shifted gears from jazz composition to pop, offering the gorgeous and unique Take A Picture in 1968. This version of "Sun," a toned down, wurlitzer driven demo, missing the orchestral arrangements and psych touches of the original, is from the wonderful 25 Demos release.
*Note: Margo was the first artist featured as part of a theme on Star Maker Machine.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Soundgarden: Black Hole Sun
Like Soundgarden, Black Hole Sun is the name of a sculpture found in Seattle's Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, which is pictured above. It's placed so you can see the Space Needle through the center of it.
Black Hole Sun was the third single released from the 1994 Soundgarden album, Superunknown, and most likely their most popular song, as it topped Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
The lyricism of Superunknown is often dark and mysterious, most likely chalked up to the fact songwriter, Chris Cornell, was inspired by the writings of Sylvia Plath at the time.
"It's just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song. Lyrically it's probably the closest to me just playing with words for words' sake, of anything I've written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you'd begin to take that one literally. It's funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember. Other than that, I sure didn't have an understanding of it after I wrote it. I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across." - Chris Cornell
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
The Doors: Waiting For The Sun
Waiting for the Sun was recorded for the 1968 album of the same name, but didn't show up on a Doors record until 1970's Morrison Hotel. Though their previously released record, The Soft Parade, was criticized for being too commercial, Morrison Hotel's return to their bluesy, no-frills roots still allowed room for Waiting for the Sun's airy mysticism of old.
The Chemical Brothers w/ Noel Gallagher: Setting Sun
The Chemical Brothers add Noel Gallagher of Oasis, mix in a Beatles-inspired rhythm track and come up with Setting Son, which in 1996, *entered* the UK Pop charts at number one, quite a feat for an Electronic band.
The rhythm track sounded so much like The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows that Virgin Records hired a musicologist to prove that they didn't sample the classic 1960s psychedelic song. Setting Sun is a fun and continuous kaleidoscope of sound sure to get your head spinning and feet tapping.
They Might Be Giants: Why Does the Sun Shine?
If there is any song solely about the sun, it is this one. They Might Be Giants released it on an EP by the same name in 1993 and it has since been a staple, and a favorite, at their shows.
The original version of this song was a track from one of the 1950's educational records produced to promote science education for children called "Space Songs" and was written by Lou Singer and Hy Zaret. The song explains the dynamics of the sun in perhaps the catchiest way possible, and allows us to learn and dance at the same time.
For those curious about the original version of the song, you can hear it, as well as the rest of the Singing Science Records, here.
Submitted by enna of Curiously Tasty
The Kinks: Sunny Afternoon
The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset
The Kinks are probably my favorite rock band (the other contenders being The Band and The Beach Boys). Two of my favorite Kinks songs feature the sun. Waterloo Sunset might be my favorite pop song of all time. (Of course, Brian Wilson would have something to say about that too.)
Now that the superlatives are over, let's make a sale, shall we? If you don't own any Kinks records, but are thinking about checking them out, the best way to get a feel for their entire career would be to purchase the two disc retrospective from Sanctuary Records called The Ultimate Collection (not the only Kinks' greatest hits collection with that name, but the best one). It's a great compilation with good sound.
Once you have this, you'll want to run out and buy and discover the rest of the Kinks' catalog, or at least the annual masterpieces released during their most creatively fertile period from 1966 through 1971:
1966 - Face to Face
1967 - Something Else by the Kinks*
1968 - The Village Green Preservation Society
1969 - Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
1970 - Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1
1971 - Muswell Hillbillies
*Something Else features two additional "sun" songs.
Scott Miller and The Commonwealth: Goddamn The Sun
Giver of light…
Provider of Heat…
It makes the roosters crow and the grass grow.
It is the center of our solar system.
A wondrous blazing ball that blesses the Earth with its light and warmth…
Hey, Scott Miller. How do you feel about the Sun?
Submitted by Nelson
Jonathan Edwards: Sunshine
This song may have been overplayed at one point on the radio (and recently on various movie soundtracks), but don’t hold that against Jonathan Edwards – or his stellar self-titled debut from back in ’71. It is easy to see why this catchy, feel-good tune received the mainstream attention it did.
Since finding this record in a vinyl bargain bin, I have spun it more than any other in my collection. It’s a perfect mix of harmonica-blasted twangers and sentimental love ballads. If you’re looking for something to use up your eMusic downloads on – try this one.
Bonus: Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) has a version of this tune that showed up on a Friends Soundtrack. Naturally, he slides a little punk in on it….
Paul Westerberg: Sunshine
Submitted by Payton
Monday, July 21, 2008
The green and red splotch in this image is the most active star-making galaxy in the very distant universe. Credit: NASA
In Star Maker Machine news, NASA reports that a rare "star-making machine" has been found "in the distant universe. (Via Physorg.com.)
Oh yeah, here's a sunny little number:
Django Reinhardt: The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise [purchase]
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Beatles: I'll Follow the Sun
The Quarrymen: I'll Follow The Sun
Paul McCartney wrote I'll Follow The Sun when he was sixteen, I included The Quarrymen version along with The Beatles one. This song is a perfect example of the band's transition from Merseybeat to sophisticated Pop/Rock. I also came across a clip of I'll Follow The Sun from the old animated Beatles 60s cartoon show, it can be found here.
The Sunrays: I Live For The Sun
The Sunrays came together under the tutelage of the domineering Murry Wilson, father of Beach Boys members Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson. He was trying to rebound after being fired as their manager - if you ever wondered why he was let go, you *must* check out WFMU's I'm A Genius, Too! The Murry Wilson Tapes.
The Sunrays organized around singer/songwriter/drummer Rick Henn, a friend of Carl Wilson and included guitarists Eddie Medora, Byron Case, bassist Vince Hozierand pianist Marty DiGiovanni - they formerly recorded as the Snowmen. In 1965, I Live for the Sun charted at #51, but that wasn't indicative to its influence, it's one of those songs that seemingly hang on forever on soundtracks and commercials. Check out the fellas on one of them 60s music shows, courtesy of YouTube.
I Live for the Sun - The Sunrays
If you dig Sun-themed songs, I have a whole slew of them in my summertime, summertime post from a few weeks ago, enjoy!