Monthly Archives: September 2013

“How wonderful life is”: Listening — always! — to Elton John

Still on an Elton John kick — and I suspect I will be, for a while, since I’ve just gotten tickets to see him for the very first time ever when he comes to Madison Square Garden this December. His songs have been a fundamental part of the soundtrack of my childhood; “Rocket Man” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” absolutely captivated me with EJ’s musical melancholy — and, of course, lyricist Bernie Taupin’s evocative stories of the lonely astronaut in the soul-aching emptiness of space, the rich men rising and hobos drowning, the sons of bankers and sons of lawyers who know not if it’s dark outside or light. Deep, mind-expanding stuff, for a kid — and for a grownup, for that matter. And I cannot wait to see this living legend and hear the voice that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

Anyway. Here’s “Your Song,” one of the sweetest love songs ever penned, and one of late-era EJ’s best performances that I’ve seen online. Enjoy.

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Listening to Lena Hall (or: yes, I am a total sucker for badass female rock n’ roll)

Lena Hall

For whatever reason, there aren’t a lot of great renditions of Elton John’s “Have Mercy on the Criminal” on YouTube. There’s the unbeatable original, of course. But all of John’s live renditions are either poor audio bootlegs from the 1970s or more recent performances in which his mature (and admittedly richer) voice isn’t quite nimble enough to hit the frenzied highs which, in my opinion, are what give the song its frisson of feverish desperation. And there aren’t that many covers of the song either. By and large, musicians seem to be either unaware of it or afraid of it. What gives?

Here’s a shining exception. Celina Carvajal (aka Lena Hall) picks up Elton John’s long-disused falsetto notes and gives “Have Mercy on the Criminal” a blistering workout. If you can bear the not-great video quality and the muddy audio on the instruments, Hall’s astonishing pipes are well worth the listen:

Oh hell yes.

Hall is a Broadway belter currently on Kinky Boots as well as the frontwoman for the rock band The Deafening. More of her YouTube videos here. And here’s hoping for a studio-quality version of “Have Mercy”; EJ fans (this one, at least) would be eternally grateful.

(Photo via Playbill)

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“People wake up”: Watch the trailer for “99%,” the Occupy Wall Street film

As of this writing, the documentary is being shown in exactly two theaters in the United States — in New York and LA. This seems like preaching to the choir, and a real shame. Is this the last gasp of a fleeting movement, or a valiant attempt to keep the conversation going? The message of the Occupy movement resonates (or should resonate) with more people than just the liberal moviegoers of Manhattan and Hollywood, and deserves to be spread more widely.

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They’ve got the touch: Listening to the Cybertronic Spree

So it’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted on this blog. What could possibly have brought me back? Some incisive political commentary I’ve needed to get off my chest? Some new paean to science or the necessity for optimism? Some disquieting or uplifting observation on the human condition?

Nope. I’ve simply come to testify to the fact that Arcee shreds it. Behold, performing “Instruments of Destruction” from the soundtrack to the 1986 Transformers animated movie, the Cybertronic Spree:

Hat tip to io9, which links to the obligatory video for “The Touch.” In my opinion, they chose the wrong song; how could the performance of a woman cosplaying as the Autobot Arcee, and absolutely killing it on the Decepticon-themed “Instruments of Destruction,” NOT be the video that completely makes your day?

Thanks for being awesome, Cybertronic Spree. You’ve got the power.

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