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Saturday, 10 January 2009

My Christmas Presents

It was a good year for musical Christmas presents for me - I hope it was for you too. Here's some of them.

On the actual music front, my brother-in-law got me the excellent Neil Young live album, Sugar Mountain, which is funny because I got him the exact same CD. He also got me a very nice Okkervil River t-shirt, but it was pretty big for me, so hopefully I'll be getting that in my size soon. My father-in-law got me the Love/Hate album on CD and vinyl, which is awesome - if you're not familiar with them, they were a scuzzy LA rock band in the early nineties (their singer was called Jizzy Pearl, would you believe), and the closest they came to a hit was Blackout In The Red Room. It brings back a lot of memories but perhaps most surprisingly it actually holds up pretty well. My sister got me the vinyl of the Beastie Boys last record, the all instrumental The Mix Up.

I'm big on music books at the moment, and the word was out, so I got lucky on a few of those.

Top of that pile is a book based on a great idea. It's called I Shot A Man In Reno by Graeme Thompson. Its subtitle sums it up pretty well - A History of Death By Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease and General Misadventure, As Related in Popular Song. How could I resist? That one came from my in-laws too.

Next book down in the pile is called The Long-Player Goodbye by Travis Elborough and was from friends. I'd never heard of it before but it's a great little history of the record, through all of its guises.

Next is Love Me Tender by Max Cryer. Technically not a Christmas present as it was bought by me, for me. Still it was around Christmas, so I guess it was just a present for myself. It's an awesome little book telling the story of some of the most famous songs around the world, songs such as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Greensleeves, White Christmas, Happy Birthday and some pop hits like Yesterday and of course the track the book's named after, Love Me Tender.

And the big book at the bottom of the pile is one of I've wanted for a while - The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross. It's received a lot of plaudits all year (winning the Guardian newspaper's book award I believe). I think I'm right in saying that it's broadly a history of classical music, but seen through the eyes of modern music i.e. how much classical music has influenced and informed more recent compositions. The upshot of reading this book, apparently, is that classical music becomes de-mystified and popular music gets looked at through new eyes. That might not be entirely accurate, but I haven't read it yet so what you gonna do?

Away from books, my final musical present was brilliantly something that I'd already put on here as a great Christmas present, and what did My Wife do? She only went and bought it for me! And there was me thinking she didn't read the blog. It was this frame, which I think we'd all agree carries a sage piece of advice...

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