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Here is your list of required listening for the summer (and unlike your teachers, I'll try and give you some reasons for my selections) My cd collection is threatening to engulf my whole house, so please bear with me if some of the choices seem a little esoteric....

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

  • Miles had set the standard years before this album was released. He was part of the vanguard of musicians who created bebop, along with guys like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Everyone played like that.Everyone was starting to sound the same. Miles, as usual, tired of this and decided to try a new direction. Instead of having everyone solo over changes that came flying by as fast as possible, he wanted to stretch each tonality as long as possible. Now instead of more II-V-I's than you could shake a stick at, players had to contend with 16 measures straight of Em modality. It revolutionized jazz, yet again. Miles would set more standards, namely helping to create fusion with such releases as "Bitch's Brew," "On the Corner," and "Live Evil." If you want to know why rock sounds the way it does, take a good listen. Besides, you also get to listen to John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, among others. That's ok in its own right.

    Vernon Reid - Mistaken Identity

  • Vernon was the guitar player in Living Colour, the band that spawned "Cult of Personality" and the ska-influenced "Glamour Boys." After the band broke up, Vernon went into the studio and spent months laying tracks and bringing in guest musicians to add to the project. After several months had gone by, his record label told him to send them some of the tracks, it was time for an album. This is the result...a fusion of rock, hip-hop, jazz, funk, metal and rap, with large amounts of sampling and creativity. I have no idea what to compare this album to, I just know it is amazing. From Vernon's ability to break out of standard blues box shredding to his creativity with song structures, there is something for nearly everyone to learn here.

    Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom

  • Although they kind of made it big with their last two albums ("Irresistable Bliss" and "El Oso"), they started out as a New York City downtown alterna-jazz-rock-spoken word thing. Though I didn't care much about them on first listen, I had the pleasure to work a concert they played. Wow....that was all I could think. Again, this is song writing far outside the norm, and for inspiration, they just can't be matched. Their ability to go from slacker-groove funk to upbeat to serenity is unmatched to the best of my knowledge. Give it a listen. Its not punk, but it has the same attitude towards MTV and VH1 (note, i am *not* refering to pop bands like Green Day there).

    Blind Man's Sun - Blind Man's Sun

  • If you can find their first album, I highly recommend it. Sadly, they've already broken up, but this first album was a shining example of what can be done when several musicians come together and pool their talents and create something bigger than all of them. Ska, funk, classical, rock, and 4 and 5 part vocal harmonies...sigh. With two guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, and percussion, this 6 piece from Syracuse NY was one of the greatest bands of all time. Though often written off as a jam band (a la Phish), they were nothing like them. True, some of the grooves are similar, but the writing is above and beyond anything Phish ever came up with.

    Size 14 - Size 14

  • Another band that I don't think is around anymore. Punk. Pop. Hilariously funny lyrics. Should have been a huge hit, but their record label, Volcano, had an identity crisis, and in the same fall that nearly erased the careers of Tool and Mattew Sweet, crushed the life out of Size 14. From the first track, "Clare Danes Poster" ("...every once in a while I pretend she's my hand.") through to the end of the album, this group rocked hard and proud. One of the greatest pop-punk albums of all time. Everytime I hear Blink-182, I think how much better Size 14 was. Sorry about that, its just the way it is.

    Carl Orff - Carmina Burana

  • Yes, classical music. Take off your dress and stop being such a damn pansy. This work got ripped to shreds by the prudish critics when it first got premiered. Its like the 2LiveCrew of its time! Taking texts written by monks, dealing with, well, let's call it "un-monkish" topics (heh heh heh!), Orff set them to some of the most amazing music ever written. Chances are, you've already heard the first movement, O fortuna, about a million times, and you always said something to the effect of "I wish real classical music sounded like that!" It does, so go get the album, turn up the volume waaay loud, and rock out with some real heavy metal...er, weighty brass (a tip of the hat to Bloome County)

    Ani Difranco - (anything she's ever released, trust me!)

  • Going back to 1990, when she was 17 and founded her own label, Ani has set her own pace and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to the ways of DIY. And she's not just for your little sister anymore. On her first album, which features her acoustic guitar and her incisive poetry, she redefined the role of folk-songstress forever. First of all, she deals with topics like rape and abortion, government and relationships. She has slowly increased the size of her band, first bringing in Andy Lochanski on drums and backing vocals, then a rotating cast of bass players, and now she has keys, horns, and all manner of oddities. But the lyrics have remained the focus of her music, through it all. I highly recommend the following albums:
  • Not a Pretty Girl
  • Dilate
  • Ani Difranco (the first album)
  • Not So Soft
  • uh, all of the others, too.

    Tuatara - Breaking the Ethers

  • I forget when this album came out, but I remember reading about it in Guitar Player or something. The long and short of it is this: Peter Buck (REM), Skerik (Critters Buggin'), Barrett Martin and Justin Haywood all came together from their respective bands, and created music for the sheer hell of it. The influences coming together are just amazing. From Martin's command of all sorts of ethnic percussion, meshing with Buck's dreamy guitar textures, making room for Skerik's saxes, all with Haywood's bass foundation....sigh. This album sounds like sound paintings of cool movies. I can't think of a better way to explain it. Just try to check it out, I can nearly guarantee you won't be disappointed. I sure as hell wasn't!

    Ok, that's enough for now. Trust me, check these out, and even if you don't immediately like them, give them a chance. Put them in your rotation, and see if they open up new directions of musical exploration for you. Remember, even if you don't like it, that's ok too. Afterall, a world filled up with clones of me? SCARY THOUGHT! 'til next we meet, may the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

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