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Music

Mar 1 2016

Adele 25 Review

by Arthur G

Four years ago, Adele’s cathartic and solid album 21 erupted onto a totally unprepared music scene like a belting volcano, drowning her contemporaries in the sheer majesty of her voice and the strength of her plaintive lyricism. Riding the Contemporary R&B wave, this blue-eyed soul singer swept the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, netting a record-tying six awards, including Artist of the Year.  However, instead of following-up immediately on her phenomenal success, Adele took a three-year hiatus from the music biz, breaking only to compose the Academy Award-winning “Skyfall” for the eponymous 2012 James Bond film.  The drought finally ended with the release of the breathtaking “Hello” in late October.  The reaction was overwhelming, with the song practically lionized by the music industry as the official music video racked up over 400,000,000 views on YouTube in less than a month.  So with all this outpouring of praise and anticipation, does the final product live up to the hype surrounding it?  Well, yes and no: yes, in that the vocals and sincerity are as superb as one would expect from Adele, but it often sounds indistinguishable from previous efforts. The promise of cap-stoning her musical Bildungsroman never quite materializes in most of the tracks.

The lead single “Hello,” of course, needs no introduction. It sets the tone of the album and ultimately stands out as its most powerful song.  This classic ballad drips with regret over a failed relationship, appearing to all the world as the mature follow up to her signature “Somebody Like You.”  But beyond its poignant message is Adele’s commanding vocal range, stretching across multiple cords, all in tune with the piano’s melodic rise and fall.  “Hello” is that rare song with the power to carry an entire album on its own, and if everything else in 25 had been sub-par, it would be worth getting the album just to hear this searching ode in its full, uninterrupted glory.

Still, while the musicianship on the album is a testament to Adele’s continuing maturity as an artist, its content still sounds like more of the same.  Tracks like “Send My Love,” with its upbeat, almost popish rhythms, and the somber, reflective “When We Were Young” hit all of the right notes – and heartstrings – but will undoubtedly feel very familiar to anyone with even a passing familiarity of her corpus.  This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as Adele’s stratospheric vocals are nearly immune to anything mediocre.  But with the glimmer of lyrical maturity hinted in “Hello,” I’d hoped that the British songwriter would show a bit more inventiveness, especially with an array of talent as diverse as Bruno Mars, Paul Epworth, and Danger Mouse all contributing to the production.  “A Million Years Ago” is probably the most original track on the record – a calm, Spanish guitar lamentation, punctuated by Adele’s piercing voice at certain emotional peaks, that reminisces on the price of fame and its effect on those who knew her.  Otherwise, 25 is a retread over the same territory forged by 21, and while a few songs like “River Lea” and “Water Under the Bridge” stand out, respectively, for their striking imagery and retro 80s tempo, there’s nothing fundamentally adventurous here, and only the most attentive fans will spot the subtle differences between the two albums.

That shouldn’t stop anyone from giving 25 their full attention, though.  Adele is without doubt a once-in-a-generation talent, and while those looking for the much-vaulted maturity this album promised may leave disappointed, fans of this modern siren’s soulful wails of lost love will definitely find reasons to celebrate.

If you’re interested in Adele or any similar musicians we harbor here at DCPL, check out some of the hits below:

Adele – 19 and 21 are both wonderful albums, and well worth a listening even after her latest offering.

Amy Winehouse – Adele’s sister in the blue-eyed soul family, she had a rawer, more earthy voice that was tragically short cut, but still left a few gems like Back to Black and Frank.

Florence + the Machine – Though more ethereal and baroque than either of the preceding ladies, her music belts with the same maturity and range.  Definite must-haves are Lungs and Ceremonials.

 

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There is so much available on our library website. I’d like to discuss the RSS feeds with you today. They are listed on the right side of the DCPL homepage. One recommendation I make to patrons all the time is to check out these feeds, which are updated every Wednesday, to find out about new items at the Library. There are also feeds for popular reads currently available in the system–with no waiting. We have a feed for everyone!

Below are some examples of what DeKalb County Public Library offers when following RSS feeds.

New Adult Fiction

New Adult Nonfiction

Great Reads, No Waiting

Great DVDs, No Waiting

New Adult DVDs

New Young Adult Fiction Titles

New Juvenile Fiction Books

If you have a book club or want to have a movie night, the feeds for Great Reads, No Waiting or Great DVDs, No Waiting can provide the perfect option! If you see items of interest, but all of the copies are already checked out, you can make a request for a Hold to receive the next available copy. (See the information about Holds on Materials on this page.)

I hope you have a chance to check our RSS feeds out and let us know what you think!

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Billy Joel biography coverI grew up listening to the music of Billy Joel. My family would sing classics like “Piano Man” and “The Longest Time” on car trips and jam out to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “The Downeaster Alexa” when they came on the radio. To this day he remains one of my favorite musicians to sing along with.

I’m not alone in my appreciation of Bill Joel. On July 22nd, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, named Billy Joel as the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is an award given to a composer or performer for lifetime contributions to popular music. Previous recipients include such notable names as Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, and Carole King.

Billington explains the selection of Billy Joel as the next award winner:

“Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order. There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music. When you listen to a Billy Joel song, you know about the people and the place and what happened there. And while there may be pain, despair and loss, there is ultimately a resilience to it that makes you want to go to these places again and again.

Importantly, as with any good storyteller, the recognition experienced in a Billy Joel song is not simply because these are songs we have heard so many times, but because we see something of ourselves in them.”

Reacting to news of the announcement, Joel said, “The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career. And the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me.”

Joel has reached a number of impressive milestones throughout his 50 years in the entertainment industry; he is the sixth top-selling artist of all time and the third top-selling solo artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and is also the winner of six Grammy Awards.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, DCPL has a plethora of Billy Joel related material available in our catalog. For those interested in learning more about the man behind the music, check out this biography of him by author Hank Bordowitz.

Popular music has changed a lot over the past few decades, with rock music in particular experiencing various permutations and divisions. We have alternative rock, indie rock, southern rock, surf rock, soft rock, hard rock, classic rock…the list goes on. But no matter what varieties the modern scene has morphed into, the music of Bill Joel is still rock and roll to me.

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Jun 18 2014

Patsy

by Hope L

PatsyThe Wurlitzer All-Time Jukebox Hits lists Crazy as the #2 jukebox hit single. She would’ve been 82 this year. Her name was Virginia Patterson Hensley, aka Patsy Cline.

I once lip-synched the Patsy Cline song I Fall to Pieces at a convention, so I have  literary license to write about  Ms. Cline. Of course I remember Jessica Lange playing Patsy  in the 1985 film Sweet Dreams, but other than knowing that Cline died in a plane crash, I really didn’t know much about this 60’s icon of country music.  So I picked up Mark Bego’s I Fall to Pieces: The Music and the Life of Patsy Cline.

Many talented and ambitious people had hardscrabble beginnings and/or abuse growing up, and Patsy was no exception.  Now when I listen to her music, I have a whole new appreciation for the angst that can be heard in her singing of songs, my personal favorite being Turn the Cards Slowly.

Patsy Cline knew she would be a star, and at a young age she went about making it happen by singing everywhere and every chance she got, just for the experience: church, fairgrounds, restaurants, nightclubs.  At  age 15, “Ginny,” as she was known then, quit school to go to work to help support the family. Her first  paying  job: slaughtering chickens.

But Ginny found the time to nag her mother to take her around to Winchester, West Virginia’s small radio station and show off her singing skills to the likes of Joltin’ Jim McCoy–and eventually on to Nashville to try to get an audience with Wally Fowler, a big star of Southern Gospel with a regular radio show.

When I hear a song by Patsy, with its steel guitar intro, it brings me back to the days of country two-stepping and smoky barrooms of my  youth–fond memories, indeed.  Forgive me, young people–but they sure don’t  make music like this anymore. Click here to take a look at some of the items we have at DCPL.

 

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Jun 17 2013

ShareReads: Finishing the Hat

by Ken M

sharereads_intro_2013 If I could choose to be any Broadway composer of the 20th century, my choice would be Stephen Sondheim. While I love the music of Richard Rodgers, Fritz Loewe and any theater work Leonard Bernstein created for the stage, I’ve always felt that Sondheim’s art stands in a class by itself.

I recently reacquainted myself with his work by way of two recent books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made A Hat. I think these are the closest we’ll get to an autobiography or memoir from the man himself. In these books, he shares the wealth of knowledge gained in more than fifty years of writing for the stage. Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat takes you from the early show Saturday Night through 1981’s Merrily We Roll Along. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on West Side Story, which gives you the real dirt on who wrote what in the collaboration with Leonard Bernstein. I’m a big fan of Sweeney Todd, and I learned lots of new trivia from this chapter. I was surprised to find that Sondheim was always displeased by the last few lines of the Act 1 closing number, A Little Priest. He says he got it right, belatedly, for the movie version starring Johnny Depp. (By the way, if you only know that version, you really should see the television adaptation of the stage musical starring George Hearn and the marvelous, original Mrs. Lovett, Angela Landsbury.)

Look, I Made A Hat contains some of the shows I got to know first, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. I’ve played for high school productions of the latter twice, so I was fascinated to learn that cast input solved a particular problem for Lapine and Sondheim. I won’t tell you what that was – you should read this to find out. You also get the full explanation of the creation of his most recent work, last named Road Show. This one had a particularly difficult evolution, and he effectively guides you through the complicated maze of what stayed, what went, and what was completely rewritten. In fact, both books contain lots of cut lyrics, observations and musings, as well as reproductions of neat documents like handwritten drafts with lots of discarded ideas. You’ll also learn why rhyme and precision are so important to him.

While the words are wonderful, his music is equally exquisite. Hearing makes the reading even more fun, and you can enjoy cast and tribute albums from the DCPL collection to enhance your reading. I do hope you spend a little time with Sondheim this summer, and I really must go now. I have a meat pie in the oven…

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Apr 8 2013

The Art of The Album Booklet

by Jnai W

This past Saturday was just an ordinary weekend spent working at Decatur Library. I was downstairs checking in patron returns when my eye happened upon Fiona Apple’s latest album, the brilliant The Idler Wheel… This is an album I recently purchased from iTunes without hearing any singles from or having to know anything about because, hey, it’s Fiona Apple so I knew it would be remarkable. I downloaded the deluxe edition of this album which included the LP, three video clips of Ms. Apple’s live performance at SXSW, and a digital booklet featuring liner notes, artwork and lyrics to the songs.

The library’s copy of this CD was locked and ready to be placed on Decatur’s holds pickup shelf for one very lucky patron with discerning musical taste (You’ll love it, Patron-I-Don’t-Know! Trust me!). But I had to open it to see the booklet. Yeah, iTunes provided a digital booklet but to me nothing beats the simplicity, the tangibility of holding an album booklet in hand and carefully pouring over it. In this case, I scanned the booklet to read the production credits and the lyrics. Then, of course, I put the booklet back in its rightful place and got back to work.

That little booklet reading break served two purposes: 1) to clarify a lyric I’d been mishearing in the song “Jonathan” (“just tolerate my little fist/ tugging on your forest-chest”…oh, that’s what she’s saying) and 2) to remind me of why the digital-music experience will never completely replace a physical album in hand. At least, it doesn’t for me anyway.

Since Saturday I’ve been rifling through my CD collection making sure all of my album booklets were in their proper places. But also I’ve grown slightly regretful about digital music purchases I’ve made in the past. While I enjoy the convenience of being instantly able to obtain an album with the swipe of a finger and the confirmation of one’s Apple ID, the listening experience of a new album still seems a bit lacking without a fresh booklet to peel open and images to scan over as you absorb this new addition to your music collection.

There are several books in the Library that touch on how we music-lovers experience an album. Here are a couple that you may enjoy:

The Perfect Thing: How The iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness by Steven Levy:  With the advent of the iPhone and the iPad, the sweet little gadget that started it all, the iPod, seems a bit quaint in comparison. Still, author Steven Levy’s insightful and engaging 2007 book is a great read on the creation, the success and the cultural impact of the iPod.

100 Best Album Covers by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell:  Storm Thorgerson is the acclaimed designer of several classic album covers including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. I feel it only fair to mention this as folks may wonder what makes him an authority on the best album covers ever. This is still a cool book that offers fascinating back story on the creation of many well-loved album covers.  Of course, lists like this are subjective but they make for fun debate.

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Feb 22 2013

Great Rappers are Great Readers!

by Jimmy L

the Richie Perez Radical LibraryI’ve always believed that rappers possessed a type of literacy, though unconventional, that’s highly attuned to the intricacies of language. The best rappers use tone, diction, sound, and personas (unreliable narrators?) in impressive ways, an accomplishment equal to the best literary works of fiction and poetry. So I was pleased when I came across an article about a ‘radical’ community library for youth opening up in the Bronx.

Housed inside the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective headquarters in the Bronx, the same place that hosts monthly hip-hop open mic nights, the Richie Perez Radical Library was launched by the hip-hop-centric Rebel Diaz Arts Collective.

“I tell them, ‘The more you read, the iller you’ll be as an emcee,’” said Rodrigo Venegas, aka Rodstarz, one-third of the rap crew, Rebel Diaz, and a founding member of the cultural collective with an activist bent.

Read the rest of this story here.

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Dec 31 2012

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

by Jnai W

Will you be spending New Year’s Eve with friends and family? Will you have a fun, raucous night on the town with your gang? Will you be spending the last few hours of 2012 at a traditional watch night church service? Perhaps you’ll be scrambling to take down your Christmas tree by the stroke of midnight—that was how my family spent a particularly memorable New Year’s Eve when we were youngsters, racing against the televised Times Square Ball Drop to fully dismantle our faithful old plastic Tanenbaum. (I can’t remember if we beat the clock or not but I do remember that it was a blast).  I’ll likely be spending this evening at home with friends and family, swapping New Year’s resolutions, finishing off the last of the Christmas goodies and singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? However you spend the holiday be safe, be merry, stay classy and have a Happy New Year!

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Dec 20 2012

The Children

by Veronica W

Mine has been a seat of honor. For over twenty years I have been privileged to work with the little ones; from chubby-legged toddlers in Building Blocks to raucous teens in a library scavenger hunt. When they haven’t come to me, I have gone to them, in the schools and in the daycares. If you want an adrenaline high, stand in front of 30 upturned little faces and watch their glee as they roar like a lion or their wonder as a story unfolds.

Therefore, in the midst of the festivities of this holiday season and for the coming new year, I wish all parents and grandparents, all teachers, all caregivers and all who have a child to love, the joy of watching them grow up. For those of us who have only the memories to hold on to, may those memories gladden our hearts and bring us a measure of peace.

A song, written by Barry De Vorzon/Perry Botkin and recorded by the Carpenters in the 1980s, has always been very dear to my heart. May the words resonate with you as well.

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice, t
hey have no choice.
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be, t
he world they see.
Light their way w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm
Light their way, w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm.
The children
The children
The children.

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Dec 17 2012

Playlist Against Darkness

by Jnai W

As one may have gathered from any number of my blog posts on DCPLive, music is food for my soul, more than anything else. If I’m honest with myself music ministers more to me than an encouraging word, a psalm or even a hug from a loved one. I’m not exactly sure why that is.  Maybe listening to a song that someone else wrote is a filter through which I can pour my own emotions and connect to the world around me, if that makes sense. Wow, Sarah McLachlan must have been feeling how I’m feeling now when she wrote “Witness”. Maybe I’m not alone here.

I’ve got a list of songs that I come back to from time to time when I need comfort or space–away from the 24-hour news cycle, away from water cooler debates or living room repasts–to sort through my whirling emotions.  I’ve got a list of songs that carry me through dark times and speak to my heart in one way or another.  This list of songs is exhaustive so I’ve narrowed down to 3 of the top songs on my Playlist Against Darkness:

“Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison:  There is no shortage of brilliant and  timeless songs on the Quiet Beatles 1970 album All Things Must Pass.”My Sweet Lord”, a plaintive but hopeful cry for enlightenment from On High, was undeniably my favorite song on the album…until I heard “Beware of Darkness”. The lyrics warn of the pitfalls of bitterness, negativity and sadness (“it can hit you/ it can hurt you) . What I like about this song is that the lyrics which could have easily been admonishing and perhaps even trite, in the hands of a less-skilled writer and musician, are affirming and uplifting here. Sadness, when nursed and dwelt upon, can “make you sore/ and what is more/ that is not what you are here for”.

“All is Full of Love” by Bjork:  I’m a huge fan of the Icelandic idiosyncrasy named Bjork Gudmundsdottir. Her lyrics are honest, earnest and often sound as though they’ve been directly translated to English from her native tongue, adding a slight bit of quirkiness. Her voice is crystalline and magnificent. She wears swan-shaped dresses to the self-satisfied Academy Awards.  She’s also written this simple, elegant and brilliant song about opening one’s heart to love and light. “All is Full of Love” assures its listener that “you’ll be given love/ you’ll be taken care of/… you just have to trust it”.  Perhaps, dear Listener, you’ve shut the door or taken the phone off the hook too soon but love is out there and it’s everywhere. It’s a heartening message coming from a delightful source. If you’re not familiar with her work, treat yourself and check out her music from the Library.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” as sung by Nina Simone: I’ve written at length in previous blog posts about my devotion to Nina Simone. There are a few works of hers that would fit nicely into any Playlist Against Darkness such as “Feelin’ Good”, “My Baby Just Cares For Me” and “To Be Young Gifted and Black”. But I happen to love Nina Simone’s version of this song, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas. The lyrics are strong, challenging yet optimistic on their own but when combined with Simone’s passionate vocals and gospel piano, this song becomes an anthem for civil rights and for love in general. “I wish you could know/ how it feels to be me/ then you’d see and agree/ that every man should be free” appeals to its listener’s empathy and humanity, encouraging each and everyone to become a champion for equality and peace. It’s as timely a message now as it was during the era in which it was born.

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