Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cocteau Twins

Nevermind that for the last 18 years I've had no clue what they were singing. And, many years ago, I could barely make out what they were saying when they hosted MTV's 120 Minutes due to their thick Scottish accents.

But you know what? I don't care.

Heaven or Las Vegas coverPrepare yourself to ride a musical sine wave of multi-layered guitar, bass, keyboards, an unobtrusive drum machine and silky smooth vocals. Just the cover of the CD is hypnotic enough to enter into their world. Trust me, if you don't own Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins, then your missing out on some seriously good music that defined the early 1990's and influenced lots of bands. The title track, Fotzepolitic, Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires, and Iceblink Luck are just some of the highlights on this CD. I know it sounds weird, but even though I can't make out what their singing (at best I can make out a few words here and there), there's an overwhelming feeling of dreamy happiness that permeates the entire CD. It's the groups most successful CD of their 15 year career.

Interestingly, Elizabeth Fraser clearly feels that music is beyond words. She admits using words that she has no idea what they mean. Personally, it's taken me a while to realize this, but sometimes, you just need words to convey a mood or emotion -- and you know what? That's great. Sometimes words just don't mean anything despite our desire to know otherwise. Several people have taken a crack at deciphering the groups lyrics, and Frazier has complimented their attempts indicating that some of the "words" are more beautiful than anything she could've imagined.

From the group's website:
"We have had people on the Internet who have written translations and they obviously have a natural talent for writing. Their interpretations are so beautiful that sometimes I have preferred what they have written to what I actually sang, it has been much more eloquent. Those people are not so precious about us [Cocteau Twins] and just enjoyed using their talent and it is lovely to witness. But some people are very...It seems that some people are convinced they know us better than we know ourselves, and that we ought to listen to them. They want to steer us and they are very precious about us and they do not want other people to have us. If you really love something, then you have to let it go and endorse everything about it that attracted you to it in the first place. It's just like a love affair or any relationship: you have to treat it in the same way or you'll just suffocate and destroy it in the end if you don't." [BOYZ: Saturday November 11, 1995, page 8].
The prevailing thought of the band and fan websites seems to be this -- just listen and enjoy the music. And I've got a lot of respect for that sentiment.

Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins - Music You Need to Hear

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Michael Hedges

How's this for a story from Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records...
I was accosted on the street by Randy Lutge of the New Varsity Theater. He said, "Look, I’ll give you two free tickets to the movie tonight and dinner if you’ll come hear this guy play." I’m hearing that all the time and I’m thinking, "Oh God, but two free tickets and a dinner, that’s pretty good." So he takes me to that little upstairs room overlooking the courtyard, and Michael was there playing for just a handful of people. At the time, he was playing most of the stuff that’s on Breakfast in the Field [his first album, 1981], obviously some pretty impressive stuff. I started writing out what I could remember of a contract on a napkin and had him sign it. It was a way of saying to Michael how completely overwhelmed I was and how sincere I was about wanting to work with him. That was one of the quickest propositions in the history of Windham Hill.
Writing a contract on a napkin?!

"Michael" is Michael Hedges an American guitarist who revolutionized the acoustic guitar. Using alternate tunings, percussive tapping and a phenomenal technique, he had a huge sound which would leave you wondering how one person could get so much music out of one instrument. In short, he revolutionized the acoustic guitar.

His defining CD's are: Breakfast in the Field from 1981 and Aerial Boundaries from 1984.

Live on the Double Planet was recorded on tour in the US and Canada. A close look at the program notes from that CD, and you'll see that two tracks, All Along the Watchtower (great cover of the Bob Dylan classic) and A Love Bizarre (from Shelia E) were recorded live at the University of Maine at the Hutchins Concert Hall. And, as I write this, in an act of total geekdom, I get to tell you that I was actually in the audience that night. That's right, my applause is on the CD. Seriously, the live feel of this CD is great and it totally captures the mood of the concert that brisk night in Orono, Maine. Hearing the song Silent Anticipations live (also on Breakfast in the Field) will leave you speechless. Be prepared to be wowed.

Michael Hedges - Music You Need to Hear