Category Archives: 2001

Today’s Top 5: Natalie Merchant

Life. It’s sweet. Every day is a gift, every moment a treasure, despite the pain and misery we sometimes endure. Those are cliches, I know, but I believe them – especially while listening to The Natalie Merchant Collection, which I’m doing as I write. The set, for the uninitiated, features her seven studio albums alongside one disc of new and old songs performed with a string quartet, and another disc of, as the press release states, “rare and previously unreleased tracks recorded between 1998 and 2017.” It’s due out on July 14th, but those of us who preordered received it early.

Much has and will be written about the collection, I’m sure, and I plan to write about it myself this weekend, after I’ve had time to digest the new material and contemplate what the set, writ large, means in the scheme of things. I will say, however, that if you had told me back in 1986, when I first heard Natalie with the 10,000 Maniacs, that I’d still be listening to her all these years later…well, I’m not sure how I would have responded. But I’m glad she’s still making music, and glad to still be a fan.

Anyway, for now, here’s today’s Top 5: Natalie Merchant. Not necessarily her greatest songs (though some are), but great songs and performances, nonetheless.

1) “Carnival.” (From Tigerlily.)

2) “Life Is Sweet.” (From Ophelia.)

3) “Break Your Heart.” (From Ophelia.)

4) “I’m Not Gonna Beg.” (From Motherland.)

5) “Space Oddity.” (From 1999’s Live in Concert, which isn’t included in the collection.)

And three bonus tracks:

6) “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May.” (From Leave Your Sleep,)

7) “Ladybird.” (From Natalie Merchant.)

8) “Frozen Charlotte.” (From Butterfly, the collection’s disc of new and old material recorded with a string quartet.)

Of Concerts Past: Garland Jeffreys at the Tin Angel, Dec. 14, 2001

img_0459And so it’s finally come to pass: the Tin Angel closed its door on Feb. 4th, a fate expected since the announcement of the building’s sale last fall. The plan, according to owner Donal McCory and booker Larry Goldfarb, is to re-open at a different (and larger) location by the end of the year.

Diane and I saw many shows at the intimate 115-seat venue through the years, from the early 1990s to last year. One memorable concert: Maria McKee in 1998. Another: Garland Jeffreys in 2001.

The Brooklyn-bred singer, songwriter and reggae-infused rock artiste has been making music since the 1960s, but most folks likely remember him from his remarkable run in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when he released a string of excellent albums, including Ghost Writer and Escape Artist, and was frequently heard (in Philly, at least) on AOR radio with such songs as “Wild in the Streets,” “Cool Down Boy,” “35 Millimeter Dreams,” “Matador” and his cover of “96 Tears.”

This Wikipedia entry goes in-depth into his career. If you read through it, you’ll know that he took a break from music for much (though not all) of the ‘90s; and then re-entered the music arena during the summer of 2001.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another salient point: Diane turned me from a radio fan to an actual fan. It was she who discovered he was playing this specific show, in fact, and convinced quite a few of our friends to attend it, too.

garlandtinangelAnyway, my memory of this show, which saw Garland accompanied only by longtime guitarist Alan Freedman, was that it was hypnotic. I don’t recall many of the specific songs performed, unfortunately, though I imagine they included the ones featured above. What blew my mind: an extended excerpt from a psychodrama-like musical play he was writing at the time, Spook House. The protagonist was named Bolden; and the extended scene, if I remember it correctly, involved Bolden and his departed mother. It was powerful, dramatic and spine-tingling.

I also remember this: a sterling rendition of “New York Skyline” closing the show. That was but a few months after 9/11, of course, and I’m sure my – and everyone’s – reaction to it was colored by the emotions of the time. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

In the years since, we’ve seen Garland more times than we can count. He’s released two excellent albums – The King of In Between (2011) and Truth Serum (2013) – and has now embarked on making a PledgeMusic-backed documentary and album.

Today’s Top 5: #Remember911

wtc82Every other day of the week, month, year and decade began the same as it did that Tuesday morning. I rolled out of bed, communed with the cat, made and drank coffee, and hopped online for a spell. That meant, at the time, checking my email, reading the latest digests from the Rust List and Lee Shore (Neil Young and CSN email groups), and then scanning the headlines on MSNBC (now NBCNews), CNN and the Philly Inquirer. It’s a routine I still keep, actually, though the email groups have been replaced by Facebook and, some days, Twitter.

Weather-wise, it was a nice late-summer/pre-fall day in the Delaware Valley; by the time I left for work, a few minutes before 9am, it was in the mid-60s. The car radio was tuned to KYW-1060, the all-news radio station; I hadn’t even backed out into the street before learning that a plane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was thought to have been a tragic accident involving a small plane. Minutes later, news broke that another plane had crashed into the south tower.

My main memory of the day: watching the tragedy unfold on a TV in the chief assignment editor’s high-walled cubicle office. It was beyond comprehension. It still is.

For today’s Top 5: #Remember911. The first four videos come from the America: A Tribute to Heroes broadcast, which aired 10 days later. The last comes from U2’s halftime performance at the 2002 Super Bowl.

1) Bruce Springsteen – “My City of Ruins”

2) Alicia Keys – “Someday We’ll All Be Free”

3) Dixie Chicks – “I Believe in Love”

4) Neil Young – “Imagine”

5) U2 – “Where the Streets Have No Name”

And two bonuses (also from America: A Tribute to Heroes)…

6) Mariah Carey – “Hero”

7) Sheryl Crow – “Safe and Sound”