Thursday, December 28, 2006

Interstate '76 Revisited... again.

I just can't get over my newly renewed obsession with the Interstate '76 soundtrack. As I'm prone to on occasion, I went into a mad frenzy last night at 2am scouring the net for I76 soundtrack news. Someday I hope to uncover the "lost" tracks of the official soundtrack. So I snatched up some cheap copies of the original game off eBay to replace my missing CDs and the Nitro expansion pack, which supposedly has a few new tracks.

But I also hit the jackpot: Not one, but TWO live Interstate '76 cover medleys. JOY OF JOYS! Check 'em out on mySpace! I hate mySpace, but I could kiss it right now.

Five Alarm Funk - Suite of '76 (live in Vancouver)
This is probably THE cover find of the year for me. An 8 1/2 minute jam of three of my favourite tracks from the original soundtrack. Wow. My mind is completely blown by finding this cover. And it's Canadian to boot, ha!

Federation of the Disco Pimp - Interstate '76 Medley (live)
Not as instantaneously great as the other track, but 1000 points for covering Interstate '76 anyway. It's actually pretty sweet since it covers some different I76 tunes than the other medley, although it replaces the rousing horn section with a frenetic synthesizer thing. Not bad, just different. Finding these two covers is proof of the lasting influence of the Interstate '76 soundtrack.

If anyone's feel particularly left out of this recent string of Interstate '76 nostalgia, check out this video of the game's intro in all of its polygonal Dire-Straits-Money-for-Nothing-music-video 70's retro glory. And don't worry, I'll be back to posting other covers soon.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, people. Be safe!

The OneUps - Super Mario's Sleigh Ride
How can this song not brighten your day?

Have a good one.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Interstate '76 Revisited

I try not to repost things, but someone requested this and it's just too good to remain unavailable. I'm talkin' about the soundtrack to Interstate '76, oh yeah. This amazing funk soundtrack is arguably better than the stuff it's paying homage to. Simply fantastic, get it while you can.

Rehashed from my April 18th post:
"Nearly 10 years ago, Activision released a computer game called Interstate '76 that featured muscle car mayhem, afroed sidekicks, and a protagonist named Groove Champion. I remember it being fun (but barely running on our computer) and it was followed by a dismal sequel Interstate '82.

The key ingredient that made the original game so good was the wicked funk soundtrack that accompanied the vehicular combat. Heavy on the wah-wah pedal, lots of fuzz, and sexy sax. You can totally imagine this groovy music overlaying a 70's police car chase or possibly porn.

This was one of the first games (that I remember) with professionally recorded soundtrack where the game CD could actually double as an audio CD. As you raced around blowing up other cars, this awesome music played on endless rotation off the CD , which made it easy to ignore the choppy, repetitive gameplay and mediocre graphics (hey, they were cool at the time).

The soundtrack was performed by the one-off band Bullmark headed by Arion Salazar (bassist of Third Eye Blind) and made up of Brian "Brain" Mantia (drummer for Primus), Santana's keyboardist, and other session musicians. Some of these songs are among my most played iTunes tracks, which goes to show how these have long outlasted the novelty of the game."

Interstate '76 soundtrack by Bullmark

"NOTE: these are the 16 tracks that came off the actual game CD. In fact, I only know these songs by track number. Activision actually released an official soundtrack with even more tracks (with real names), which you can read a review of here."

I have yet to hear this official soundtrack since I was too stupid to buy it at the time (if in fact I knew it even existed). Here's a pack of extra Bullmark tracks that I withheld from the original post. I think I downloaded them from Arion Salazar's website, which no longer exists.
-Can You Feel
-DESTRON Super Jam
-Interstate '76 Theme (Slight Return)
-Ovum Bisquit
-Pocket Full of Yanni
-Skaebae Ranger GO!
-The Crab Style
-Track 12
-Track 16
-Track 24
Get 'em all: Interstate '76 bonus tracks by Bullmark

And would you believe it, an Interstate '76 cover?
Aqua Viva - Interstate '76 Theme [originally by Bullmark]
That is, if by "Interstate '76 theme", you mean Song #1. I always remembered Song #16 being the main theme... I have no idea where I got this cover and google's no help here.

Vaguely related, semi-cover:
Velvet Revolver - Interstate Love Song (acoustic on KROQ) [originally by Stone Temple Pilots]
This would be the equivalent of Audioslave "covering" Soundgarden.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ben & Neil

Ben Folds - Songs of Love [originally by the Divine Comedy]
This cover off of one of Ben's EPs is the first time I had ever heard of The Divine Comedy (the band, not the poem). Recently though, the Divine Comedy and the man behind the music, Neil Hannon have been cropping up in a bunch of notable covers and such. For example, the Life on Mars? cover I posted a while back and a Queens of the Stone Age cover (see below). The Divine Comedy toured with Mr. Ben Folds in 2002, which later led to a co-headlining tour of the UK. The three live covers below come from an October 2002 gig at Brixton. I just read now that Neil Hannon also sung So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish in the closing credits of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film. It suddenly occurs to me that I should investigate the music of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy more thoroughly...

The Divine Comedy - Brick (live) [originally by Ben Folds Five]
Ben Folds & The Divine Comedy - Raindrops are Falling On my Head (live) [originally by Burt Bacharach]
Ben Folds & Neil Hannon - Mess (live) [originally by Ben Folds Five]

Ben Folds & Neil Hannon - Race for the Prize [originally by the Flaming Lips]
This is from a Jonathan Ross BBC radio show.

The Divine Comedy - No One Knows [originally by Queens of the Stone Age]
I forgot how much I liked the original when it first came out, so this sweet cover was a nice reminder. Banjo solo!

Unbeknownst to me when I started this post, Obscure Sound just recently posted a bunch of Neil Hannon covers too. Go check it out.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stop the Presses! The Squirrel Nut Zippers are back!

About 3 months ago I was prepping a post on the ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers chanteuse Katherine Whalen who put out a solo album earlier this year. I got sidetracked and never finished the post, but now there's a damn good reason to revive the post. I just randomly checked out her website and found out that the Zippers will be back and performing a select few dates next year in the southeast US! That is, without key members Ken Mosher & Tom Maxwell, who aplit from the band and tour separately as the aptly named Maxwell/Mosher Band... more on that later. The Squirrel Nut Zippers are one of my favourite bands ever and criminally underrated. They were often lumped in the same group of 90's swing craze bands that included Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, though I think the Squirrel Nut Zippers were vastly superior and whose music was much more multi-dimensional, covering a wide range of musical styles that defied easy categorization. Yet it all went belly up about 5 years ago. Once I was wearing a SNZ shirt at work and a patron was like "Squirrel Nut Zippers, eh? Whatever happened to them?". I didn't know then, and now I kinda know.

Up until recently, I was oblivious to the traumatic series of events that eventually tore the Zippers apart, but I came across this article from this past May that absolutely broke my heart. Go take a read and come back, I'll be waiting... Yikes, one sad part was Whalen was forced to sell her banjo and return to waiting tables (!). No, not the banjo! From the article: "Yeah, I ran out of money, so I sold it," she says. "But that's OK. It's just a banjo. Getting divorced was much more stressful. Much sadder." Whalen was married to fellow member Jimbo Mathus and the band, in fact, grew out of impromptu jam sessions at their home. The Zippers went from playing at Clinton's inauguration and a platinum-selling album to vicious in-fighting and legal action that befits a particularly jam-packed episode of Behind the Music, a fact alluded to by ex-member Tom Maxwell in the article. Another article I just read here, describes the acrimonious period recording the record label contract-induced Christmas album (phoned it in) and "band-not-talking" recording process of the album Perennial Favourites. During that album, the band couldn't even stand being in the same room together so they recorded in little groups or at one point cobbled a guitar solo together out of some half-hearted takes...Yikes! Man, even at their worst, the Squirrel Nut Zippers were unbelievable. It's a testament to the immense talent of the Zippers that amidst the behind-the-scenes hell, they put out a fantastic album chock-full of some of my favourite tracks including the wicked Ghost of Stephen Foster, which features honourary band member Andrew Bird who went on to become a great artist in his own right. It's a shame that all sorts of crap happened to bring down such a great band.

Here's a mish-mash selection of Zippers-related paraphenalia including covers, semi-rare live performances, and tracks from the SNZ family of artists.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell (Springfield remix)
Back in the Napster days, I stumbled on the Squirrel Nut Zippers quite by accident with this remix while searching for Simpsons mp3s. From the "Sauter Sonic Labs", someone cleverly took the Zippers one hit song Hell and mixed in Simpsons quotes about hell and the Devil. After a few listens I started wondering about the underlying song, which was actually quite catchy. As was the case with a lot of crap from Napster, the MP3 was mis-labelled and required some lyric searching to finally find out it was the Zippers. Luckily the ol' Edmonton Public Library was well-equipped to fuel my new-found Zippers obsession, carrying almost all their albums plus spin-offs like Katherine Whalen's Jazz Squad, the Jim Mathus Knockdown Society, and Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. The SNZ continue a strange tendency I have to latch onto a band after they break-up or go on indefinite hiatus, only to resurrect years later (see: Harvey Danger, Presidents of the United States of America, or The Philosopher Kings). I'm still waiting, Moxy Früvous...

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Lover's Lane (Live on Conan O'Brien)
Squirrel Nut Zippers - I've Found a New Baby (live in Munich, Germany)
I really wish I could have seen them live... The long defunct site Passed Out on the Landing (from a SNZ lyric) serves as a handy guide to their side projects, compilation tracks, old/new bands and so on.

Katherine Whalen - Dirty Little Secret
When I was working on the original post, I was going to focus on Katherine Whalen's new-ish solo album Dirty Little Secret. It's a far departure from her days in the Squirrel Nut Zippers, but her voice is as hypnotic as ever. Whalen also put out a great album of jazz standards under the title Katherine Whalen's Jazz Squad. Seriously, it's great.
Katherine Whalen's Jazz Squad - After You've Gone
Katherine Whalen's Jazz Squad - Yesterdays

Jim Mathus Knockdown Society - Blues Jumped a Rabbit
Zippers co-founder, Jimbo Mathus branched off into the blues with his solo act The Knockdown Society.

Ben Folds Five - Army
Tom Maxwell and Ken Mosher of the Zippers joined the horn section on fellow Chapel Hill artists Ben Folds Five. I've read that the distinctive cackle heard just after Ben sings "My redneck past is nipping at my heels" is none other than Mr. Maxwell himself. After leaving the Zippers, Maxwell would later tour with ex-Ben Folds Five bassist Robert Sledge as The Minor Drag. Ben also did a cameo in the Zipper's music video for Suits are Picking Up the Bill. When I was travelling this summer, I was dumbfounded to find out my room-mate at a hostel in a Salzburg, Austria was from North Carolina. This was the day after my Edmonton Oilers beat the Carolina Hurricanes in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals (Carolina would ultimately win... grrrrr), and here I was halfway across the globe in a room with this guy. So random! But amazement at the coincidence turned to disbelief as I found out he barely knew they had a hockey team and had only vaguely heard of Ben Folds and the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who are two of the most prominent acts to come out of his homestate. So much for local pride. Bah to him!

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Under the Sea [originally from Disney's The Little Mermaid]
I posted this last year, but here it is again. I say more bands should do Disney covers. Future post mayhaps?

Asleep at the Wheel featuring Squirrel Nut Zippers - Maiden's Prayer [originally by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys]
Sorta a old-school country swing song with the always lovely Katherine Whalen on lead vocals.
EDIT (12/13/2006): I was just checking out the liner notes and this is actually Asleep at the Wheel with the Squirrel Nut Zippers as guests.

Maxwell/Mosher - Little Boxes [originally by Malvina Reynolds]
They were announced as one of the artists performing this song for season 2 of Weeds. I'm not sure what happened, but it looks like it was never used. Well, I found it so take a listen.

Andrew Bird & Nora O'Connor - Oh Sister
[originally by Bob Dylan]
Andrew Bird - Case in Point
Semi-regular Zipper, Andrew Bird has the distinction of making my Top 10 most played iTunes tracks twice. I'm eagerly looking forward to his new album next year, tentatively named Armchair Apocrypha. Should be a keeper for sure.

Covers of the SNZ are hard to come by, but here are a couple:
Streetlight Manifesto - Hell (live 2005-04-22 at The Forum, Tunbridge Wells UK)
My-Tea Kind - Blue Angel (live)

Other unexpected SNZ appearances:
Their hit Hell strangely used In a Turkish Rinso(?) commercial on where else? YouTube.

Anyone have a MP3 or video of the Squirrel Nut Zippers on Sesame Street? Apparently they performed a parody of their own Put a Lid on It. You can read about it here, but that's about it...

If you ever wanted to hear Put a Lid on It re-imagined as a political rally for change, go get the MP3 from here. Rickie Lee Jones performs with Maxwell/Mosher.

Some seasonal tunes:
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Santa Claus is Smoking Reefer [originally by Johnny Guarnieri with Slam Stewart]
This hidden track from their EP is actually a cover of a song called Santa's Secret originally recorded in 1944 (!).

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Carolina Christmas
From their holiday album Christmas Caravan, which was forced upon them by the record label and they reluctantly churned out. That doesn't mean it's not good though.

(Pssst... their entire 1998 Christmas album can be snagged here)

If you're not a fan already, I'd seriously consider checking them out. If you're stumped for X-mas gifts, share the Squirrel Nut Zippers with a loved one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Curses! I lost my post!

I just deleted a massive post I was working on when I closed Safari instead of just the tab. My heart sunk in the split second after accidentally hitting command-Q. Sigh.

Please hold.

Harvey Danger - Save it For Later [originally by English Beat]

Lesson learned... until next time it happens.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Viva Las Vegas! Viva Brazil! Viva Terry Gilliam!

Less than a day after the post, somebody e-mailed me the correct answer (no wiki/no google I am told) to Cover Riddle #5, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Written, of course, by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman, and adapted by Mr. Terry Gilliam into a film starring Johnny Depp. Depp is included among the "friends" of Oasis and he plays guitar on the track if I remember correctly.

So, my top 3 Viva Las Vegas [originally by Elvis Presley] covers:

1. Dread Zeppelin - Viva Las Vegas
Most people probably don't take Dread Zeppelin as serious as I do, but I think they managed to take a novelty concept and make it work quite well. An Elvis impersonator fronting a reggae Led Zeppelin cover band... okie dokie, crazy but I like it. I think they're still around, but I basically stopped listening to their stuff after "The Fun Sessions" (quite good), a Dread Zepp cover album of classic rock songs, the first to stray from Led Zeppelin material. This is one of their best Elvis/Led Zeppelin mash-ups as Viva Las Vegas clashes with Zeppelin's Custard Pie.

2. Dead Kennedys - Viva Las Vegas
I don't really have anything to say about this, except that it's over-the-top goofy yet vaguely unnerving in a "scary clown" way. It's also really good. This cover was actually used in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well.

3. Bruce Springsteen - Viva Las Vegas
The Boss covers The King.


And now on to the real reason for my post:
One of the highlights of this past summer's 2-month trip to Europe was getting to actually meet TERRY GILLIAM, the American member of Monty Python and one of my favourite directors, at the Filmmuseum in Brussels. Twelve Monkeys is one of my favourite all-time films, so this opportunity was just absolutely crazy for me. I just happened to be in Brussels for a couple days and I found out he was going to be previewing Tideland three days later on June 6 (6/6/06). Fate methinks? Of course, I changed my plans to go to Amsterdam and did everything in my power to go to that screening. In the month preceding this event, the Filmmuseum was having a mini-Gilliam retrospective, which included screenings of all his films and select Gilliam-approved picks. So the night before Tideland, I was lucky to be able to see the 60's Czech version of Baron Munchausen which was a clear influence on Gilliam's version.

I was actually quite bummed out on the day of the screening because all attempts to get tickets failed since it had been sold out for weeks in advance. In fact, some old Belgian ticket guy chastised me for being so stupid as to think I could actually secure a ticket. Bwahaha, I sure showed him later! Since I couldn't get into Tideland, I decided I'd go see Jabberwocky, Gilliam's first post-Python film, which was showing next door for only €2. I was hoping that Gilliam would possibly show up at Jabberwocky since the Tideland screening wasn't until later in the evening. And guess what? He did. Following Jabberwocky, Terry came out in a typically Gilliam-esque Hawaiian shirt and briefly talked about the making of the film. Actually it wasn't quite a Hawaiian shirt, but it was loud, garish, and most people would not be caught dead in it, but Terry wears these sorts of shirts very naturally. So I guess that puts him in the same company as Weird Al.

The major coup for me was after his brief talk... He was whisked away to the lobby, but I was near the front so I quickly followed and luckily he wasn't off to Tideland quite yet. I gingerly approached and asked him to sign my copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, which I had been carrying around Europe as train-reading material. To understand the sheer magnitude of this event, you have to understand that Neil Gaiman is my favourite author (see sidebar)and Terry Gilliam has on/off been planning to make Good Omens for years. Upon seeing what I had in my hands, he exclaimed "Oh! Look what he has." (or something to that effect) and he told me that this was his next project once the financing comes together, though hopefully this doesn't end up like another Lost in La Mancha. And that is the tale of how Terry Gilliam signed and doodled in my paperback copy of a Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett book in Belgium. Damn sweet.

To make a long story longer, I did actually weasel my way into the sold-out Tideland screening/film talk despite not speaking any Flemish (and scant French). Standing around with a lot of other unlucky schmucks who didn't have tickets, I was one of the last people to squeeze into the €30 event after a bunch of no-shows didn't claim their tickets. Bonus! One of the most memorable days of my life.

Now, Brazil covers! The details of the original are not completely known to me, but I vaguely remember that "Brazil" is the English title of an older Brazilian song, the title of which I don't know.

Some variations on Brazil from the soundtrack of Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult classic:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra with Kate Bush - Sam Lowry's 1st Dream/Brazil
The National Philharmonic Orchestra - Central Services/The Office
The National Philharmonic Orchestra - Bachianos Brazil Samba
Geoff Muldaur - Brazil

The Arcade Fire - Brazil
I just heard this cover for the first time recently... It starts off fairly normal, then some wonderfully sinister strings creep in. I love it!

8½ Souvenirs - Brazil
A band I discovered recently from their sweet cover of After You've Gone.

The Toronto All-Star Big Band - Brazil
During a street jazz festival in Toronto this summer, I saw this awesome youth orchestra crank out classic standards including this one. This album version is from an earlier incarnation of the band.

Beirut - Brazil [live]
Live accordion-based cover. I'm pretty sure I nicked this from over at Mocking Music.