Despite the freezing cold, I got my shit together and jumped on the Blue Line to hang out in Bucktown. I love taking the train to Bucktown because when I catch the O’Hare-bound train on Jackson, the cars start to get filled up by hipsters. Behind a book or magazine I like to do some great people watching – especially hipster watching. I feel a bit like an anthropologist, observing another culture – the clothes and hairstyles never make much sense to me, but I find it great to see how creative folks get with their outfits.
So, getting off the Damon stop on the Blue Line, I have two of my favorite shops in Bucktown: Myopic Books and the Bucktown location of Reckless Records Chicago. I used to live around North Avenue and Milwaukee, just a few blocks west of the intersection, and would spend hours hanging out at Myopic, and wandering the shelves of Reckless, before making my way to the Filter – one of the most awesome cafes, that was huge with crazy-large couches.
Anyways, I got some books and music from Myopic and Reckless – as usual, click on the titles to buy them from amazon.com.
First the music:
Lena: A New Album by Lena Horne – I’m a huge fan of Lena Horne – she’s a great pop singer with a very distinct enunciation and affected diction. Most of the CDs I have from Horne were recorded in the 1990s, so her voice was deepened and strained by age. This is a record Horne put out in 1976 – when Horne was at her vocal peak (think The Wiz). This is a collection of prewar pop songs and standards like “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and “I’ve Got the World on a String,” among others. It’s hard to find studio albums by Horne – compilations and live albums are everywhere – but this was great finding this album, which I saw on vinyl years ago, and searched forever to find it on CD.
That’s Entertainment III (Original Music from the MGM Motion Picture) by various artists – That’s Entertainment was an excellent franchise of documentary films that highlighted the musicals of MGM. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but MGM put together some great films – Singin’ in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, etc. The first installment was classic and featured the most memorable cuts, but this – the final in the trio of films that was released in 1994 – is still a good entry with some good music. MGM’s biggest star Judy Garland is a personal favorite of mine, and the rare “Mr. Monotony” is included – the CD was only a dollar, and the inclusion of that song pretty much convinced me to get this CD – she’s got like four or five other tracks on the album. It must’ve been a Lena Horne evening, because she’s included as well with a rare outtake from Cabin in the Sky. Also on the CD is Ava Gardner’s version of “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” from Showboat – Horne was meant to play Gardner’s role, a multi-racial character.
The Mambo Kings (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by various artists – I was watching some I Love Lucy episodes and enjoyed listening to Desi Arnaz, so got into a Latin mood and wanted to hear some mambo music. This is a soundtrack to a 1992 Antonio Banderas-Armand Assante film that had a great sequence with Arnaz’ son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., playing him in a strange sequence. Anyways, the soundtrack has a great collection of artists – including some of my personal favorites like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Los Lobos. Also Linda Ronstadt has a couple tracks. Banderas also is featured on a song. This album was nominated for an Oscar – unfortunately, Arnaz isn’t included on the soundtrack.
MTV: The First 1000 Years: Hip-Hop by various artists – I like rap music, and like the older early 1980s old school rap music – much of it was socially conscious (unlike the party rap records that are played on urban radio). I got this album specifically because of “The Message” by Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five as well as “Tennessee” by Arrested Development (one of my favorite alternative rap bands ever). I was looking for LL Cool J’s debut record and was hoping one of its cuts would’ve been included, but it wasn’t; I also was excited to get “Jump Around” by House of Pain – it was a great record that I listened to all the time when I was in junior high. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Digital Underground, and OutKast are on it, among the other artists.
Boys on the Side (Original Soundtrack Album) by various artists – yup, another soundtrack. Boys on the Side was a great 1995 dramedy starring Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Mary Louise Parker. It was a road tragi-comedy with a great female-driven soundtrack. It’s a mix of classic songs – Annie Lennox’s “Why” and “Power of Two” by Indigo Girls. I specifically got the song because of Joan Armatrading’s beautiful “Willow.” The new songs are excellent, though: Bonnie Raitt’s fantastic cover of Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” (the soundtrack also has Goldberg’s melancholic take on the song, too), the Pretenders’ wonderful version of Morrissey’s “Everyday is Like Sunday.” Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge and Sarah McLachlan are also on the album – it’s very Lilith Fair.
Paul McCartney’s Working Classical by Paul McCartney and the London Symphony Orchestra/Loma Mar Quartet – I never heard any of McCartney’s classical work, but this was only a couple bucks so I bought it. The album contains orchestral versions of some of McCartney’s best solo stuff like “Maybe I’m Amazed” (my favorite ex-Beatle song of all time) and “Calico Skies” as well as his lovely tribute to his late wife “The Lovely Linda.”
“Hope of Deliverance” (Maxi-Single) by Paul McCartney – I was hoping to find McCartney’s Press Play, but found this maxi-single of “Hope of Deliverance from his 1992 pop album Off the Ground. I have the remix of Hope of Deliverance, and the production is Julian Mendelsohn – the guy who does the Pet Shop Boys music. The single has 4 tracks, 3 of which are unreleased. This wasn’t considered Macca’s brightest period in his post-Beatles career, but I found the work highly underrated.
The Best of Billie by Billie Piper – I was on a Doctor Who kick lately because I love Catherine Tate – so I went through a marathon of her season on the BBC show. Piper is a British pop star who preceded Tate as the titular character’s partner, but she made some cameos and guest appearances throughout Tate’s season. Piper had a brief music career – her music is similar to Kylie Minogue – fun, shiny dance pop. She only had two albums, but she had a handful of top the UK hits and a pretty voice, so I picked this album up.
Mach 6 by MC Solaar – I love MC Solaar, he’s the sickets MC from France. American audiences are familiar with him because his hit “Belle et le Bad Boy” was featured on the final episode of Sex and the City. The rap song had a haunting orchestral hook, which is typical of MC Solaar’s sound – he uses jazz, rock, pop, and reggae in his sound. My French isn’t good enough to understand what he’s singing, but I can look at the liner notes.
The Color Purple (Original Motion Picture Sound Track) by Quincy Jones – I loved Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie version of Alice Walker’s classic novel, that starred a then-unknown Whoopi Goldberg. Jones, known primarily for his jazz work, does a great score for this film – incorporated elements of African folk, jazz, blues, as well as traditional film score. Jones isn’t known for being subtle, but there’s something wonderful about his expansiveness. The music swells and hits emotional highs that match the film (I still get teary-eyed when listening to “Reunion/Finale” where in the movie Celie – played by Goldberg – is reunited with her kids and sister after 40 years).
The Patsy Cline Story by Patsy Cline – I love country music, but there’s something extra special about a great female country singer – none greater than Patsy Cline. She had a great, big, throbbing voice. This is a great CD with over 20 tracks, including her big hits “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces.” There are lots of other great songs – some not as well known, but wonderful nonetheless. Cline’s country sound isn’t all that traditional – instead it sounds influenced by the pop music, and there’s an elegance and sophistication to Cline’s sound.
American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods by Bonnie Tsui – I love multicultural studies – and this is a great look at some Chinatowns in the United States – it would’ve been even better if Tsui included the Chinatowns of London and Paris. This is a great history of how these neighborhoods were formed. She also looks at the residents and explains how each one is distinct from each other.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, with an introduction by Chuck Palahniuk – Levin’s classic horror story about a woman who gives birth to the devil is of course known because of the infamous Roman Polanski film with Mia Farrow. My partner loves this book (and its sequel), and I really enjoyed Levin’s other book The Stepford Wives. He’s a great writer and Stepford was creepy and I was told that this book is very scary. The edition I have is from the UK, so the link is for amazon.co.uk. The British version has an introduction by Chuck Palahniuk. The U.S. version has an introduction by Otto Penzler.