Cool & Strange Music Vol. 3, Number 2

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Hey cats! Welcome to the new and improved edition of Cool & Strange Music Online Magazine. Why are we new and improved? Well, from this month we have some new features! For one we have become inter-active (well, sort of). From this month I’m asking you, the dear Cool reader to take part and send in your recommended albums and tunes! Just write to me and I’ll tell you how! And from this issue we are starting our own Cool & Strange Letters to the Editor Section where I get to be lazy and fill up column space by reprinting your letters! Is that a great deal for me, or what?

Seriously speaking, folks, many readers have some great treasures and gems of wisdom to share (also great online promotion videos, etc.) that you just gotta check out, so make sure you read pour letters section at the bottom of today’s article. It’s a gas!

Rumble! The Best of Link Wray
List Price: $9.98 On Sale Price: $7.97

It is with sorrow that I start out this edition of Cool & Strange Music. I must announce that the very first hero of Surf Guitar music, the man who invented the sound, Link Wray, passed away a few months ago on November 5, 2005. Link Wray was truly an American original. He was as all-American as apple pie or even Will Rogers! In fact, Link Wray was just as all-American as Will Rogers was because Link Wray was also a Native-American! Cool folks in the crowd already know that Link Wray was the first real rock and roll guitarist.

Link Wray was born May 2nd, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina and was three quarters Shawnee Indian. When Link was just a tyke he learned to play the guitar from a guy named Hambone, an African-American man, who was traveling with Barnum and Bailey’s circus. Hambone was walking by Link Wray’s house one day and spotted the eight-year-old prodigy banging on an old Maybelle guitar, and from there it’s all history. Because Hambone happened to be walking by at that moment, it was a very fortunate moment for everyone who loves the rock guitar sound. If Hambone hadn’t walked by, perhaps there never would have been a Beatles, Rolling Stones, or even an Elvis Presley (we can do without the big hair bands… Ahem).

At the age of fifteen, Link paid twenty dollars a night to sit in with the country and western musician Tex Ritter in order to further his musical knowledge. Twenty bucks a night in 1944!? That’s not a little bit of money for serious guitar lessons! Around that time, Link also played with the legendary Wild Bill Elliot!

Pulp Fiction (Collector’s Edition) [Original Recording Remastered] [Soundtrack]

List Price: $19.98 On Sale Price: $14.98

Probably today, most folks know Link’s work from the hit movie Pulp Fiction. That movie featured a song called "Rumble" the first monster hit Link Wray ever made. Rumble was released in 1958 and quickly rocketed to the top 20. That’s quite a feat for an instrumental song. All guitarists know Link Wray and know the hit song Rumble. It was voted the #1 Rock Instrumental of all time by the Book of Rock Lists (Dell/Rolling Stone Press) and sold over 4 million copies. Not bad for a guy that didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes!

Rumble captured the essence of threatening rock and roll music. Rumble was so threatening, in fact, that it was banned on most radio stations. Can you believe it? They banned an instrumental song? Now you know that’s got to be some hot guitar playing! Link’s second big hit was Rawhide that was released in 1959 and that record sold over 1 million copies.

Link Wray was the very first musician to experiment with the sounds that pioneered rock music. He often would punch holes in his speakers to create the fuzz sound that became so popular by the late 1960′s and he is also credited with creating the sound of distortion that is so widely used by rock guitarists by using the guitar and the amp to create feedback. Link Wray was a true pioneer.

The Original Rumble Plus 22 Other Storming Guitar Instrumentals — Link Wray
List Price: $19.98 On Sale Price: $16.99

Even though Link wasn’t a big radio star, he was very influential to many famous musicians in their early days. Elvis Presley was a big Link Wray fan and invited Link to his home many times in the 1950′s. People who contributed to Links works, or worked with Link in creating their own music reads like a list of Who’s who in rock and roll: David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townsend, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, just to name a few. John Lennon even carried Link’s music with him in his cassette player whenever he went on tour!

But as was the case with many early rock stars, Link Wray was cheated out of receiving money for his songs. That was okay by him though, because he did it for the love of music as he often told his audience, "God is playing my guitar, I am with God when I play."

Link Wray is up there in that old Rock and Roll Heaven jamming with the greats now. Thanks Link Wray for over 50 years of amazing music!

Champagne & Romance — Lawrence Welk
List Price: $9.98

Quick! Who looked like your nice old uncle Earl who always smelled like flowers and played organ at the Church on Sundays in his nice blue suit? He also spoke English funny yet still had a popular nationwide hit TV show? Who had a license plate on his car that read: "A1ANA2"? You don’t know? Here’s a hint: Think polka music and bubbles floating around while a very square looking retro couple dance. Why it’s none other than Lawrence Welk! You remember him. The guy had an eastern European accent and was on TV in the 60′s. Every time he started a song off, he’d say, "And a one and a two…" (Now you know why his car license plate said that) God! When I was a kid, my mom and dad used to watch the Lawrence Welk Show on TV and I hated it! Why did I hate it? Because they didn’t have long hair and they didn’t have any electric guitars and psychedelic sounds. Nope, they didn’t. But undoubtedly the Lawrence Welk Orchestra was one awesome musical assembly. Folks, these guys can perform. They are fantastic and the musical arrangements are brilliant.

Lawrence Welk was an accordion player, bandleader, and television star. He was born on March 11, 1903 in Strasburg, North Dakota to German Catholic immigrants from Czarist Russia. He passed away in 1992. Lawrence Welk is cool today because his music back in those days was the epitome of "square." I mean, we be talking four sides, straight-edged, 90-degree angles, cubes, dice, block-head… Squaresville, man! Welk lead an orchestra that would do elevator music version of top hits of the day as well as standards. He was most definitely a cool, smooth, easy listening style of musician; and he always smiled. Oh, that short hair, that bow tie and that constant smiling… It drove me nuts.

Lawrence Welk Songbook — Lawrence Welk
List Price: $9.95

Lawrence Welk hit the big time — well, as big as anyone can hit it in South Dakota — in the 1920′s where his band was the station band for WNAX. In the 1930′s Welk pulled up stakes and took his show on the road and wowed crowds in the big city of Chicago. By the 1940′s Lawrence Welk and his gang went to California and played a six-week engagement at the world-famous Aragon Ballroom where they often drew crowds of over 7,000 people. The Lawrence Welk Orchestra was so popular at the Aragon that their six-week booking turned into a ten-year stint.

In 1952, Lawrence Welk, charmed by the big city and the warm Southern California weather, decided to settle in Los Angeles. That same year, he began producing The Lawrence Welk Show for KTLA in Los Angeles. The show was such a hit that it became nationally syndicated in 1955 on the ABC network. The Lawrence Welk Show had a policy of only playing very famous hit songs or well-known standards — they never dealt with obscure music. This formula was perfect for the 1950′s and 60′s and rocketed Lawrence Welk into national stardom.

22 of the Greatest Waltzes — Lawrence Welk
List Price: $13.98

Lots of folks think of Ricardo Montabaln whenever you ask them to name a guy on American TV who spoke with an accent, but Lawrence Welk had to be one of the first. His "just escaped over the Berlin Wall" accent used to drive me crazy… I guess it drove a lot of housewives crazy too as the guy became very popular among the ladies. My mom and all her friends loved him. Go figure.

The Lawrence Welk show showcased his big band orchestra style but continually embraced changes on the musical scene over the years. The show continued to feature fresh music alongside the classics for as long as it existed. I think, perhaps, that Lawrence Welk was one of the first really famous orchestras to cover contemporary pop hits by the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, and the Everly Brothers (Don’t recall if they ever did the Rolling Stone’s Sympathy For the Devil, but I doubt it). After about ten years on air, the Lawrence Welk show went to color and that would really up the cheesy level of the bubbles while the polka music was playing.

Lawrence Welk was a true pioneer in cheesy, yet magnificently performed, easy-listening lounge music…Perhaps my parents were waaaay cooler than I thought?

Bossa N’ Stones: The Electro-Bossa Songbook of the Rolling Stones [Import] — Various Artists
List Price: $14.98

Sometimes I walk into this drug store here in the neighborhood and they have the coolest background music playing. I mean, it is so weird that this very cool music is playing as background music at a drug store… Kinda makes me want to stock up on supplies. One day I walked in and they were playing some music that was the Rolling Stones songs done in an electronica-bossa nova style. Wow! This is cool! I realized then, that it was my duty to you, the Cool & Strange reader, to do some more thorough investigation of said aural sensations and find out just exactly what they were. So, I asked the drug store clerk. She looked at me like I was some kind of nutty foreigner from outer space but she got on the in-store microphone and it crackled, "Manager! Store manager! Store manager to customer service at counter number eight please." She put the microphone down and told me to please wait, "Over there" as she shooed me away. I thanked her. She seemed nervous.

A few seconds later, the store manager came up and I asked what the music was that they were playing over the store BGM. The manager, too, looked a bit surprised, but told me to wait and a minute later and told me, "Japan Background Music Cable." Aha! I had a lead. I checked the clock and recorded the time. Then, upon returning home, I called Japan Background Cable Company (real name: Japan Broad-net) and asked the name of the delicious track. They told me. And now, my friends, here it is! Bossa N’ Stones: The Electro-Bossa Songbook of the Rolling Stones. Take the word to the streets chillin’! This might be the best CD you buy this year! There’s no one in the family who won’t dig this mighty fine groovin’ piece o’ wax.

Here’s what Amazon says:

Gather a group of musicians and producers of different latitudes that accepted a challenge: Mix the music of the Rolling Stones with the spirit of Bossa Nova and Contemporary Electronica. This way, one of the most popular rock bands in history acquire a subtlety and elegance which is set for success. Situated in a perfect place between traditional Bossa Nova and Chill Out, “Bossa N Stones” is quite a unique experience.

Buy it now, crazy cats. You will thank me later.

Jon Rauhouse’s Steel Guitar Airshow — Jon Rauhouse
List Price: $13.99

Check this out! I just LOVE it when artists have a sense of humor! Here’s what Jon Rauhouse has written about himself on his own bio:

Raised on Easter Island in the Southern Pacific, his destiny as the next tribal chief was derailed when he was struck on his ample head by an eleven-pound coconut. His three weeks of recovery where characterized by feverish rantings about Santo & Johnny and Speedy & Jimmy and cross-dressing. When fully recovered, Jon was uncontrollably lured to the rusty pedal steel guitar that lay for years in the hold of a World War II cargo plane that had crashed on the wrong side of the island many decades before. His playing was flawless; technically proficient, yet totally swashbuckling and swoony. The rest of the islanders quickly grew tired of his noodling and persistent good nature and shipped him off to the deserts of Phoenix USA, where he currently spends all his time justifying his six acres of lush, green lawn.

Throw in what Amazon has to say:

Back in the day, when musicianship was still valued by the music industry, any respectable record collection had more than a few instrumental records. Above all this music was fun. And it’s that spirit of fun that is captured on “Steel Guitar Air Show” We tried to convince Jon that the lounge revival was over. Undaunted, he donned his smoking jacket and broke out his pick and slide. Chock fill of classics like Perfidia, the Lonely Bull, and Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie, a mix of spunky originals and guest stars like Neko Case, Sally Timms, Calexico and more, it’s part Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant back from the grave and part Esquivel wearing spurs. Add up all these parts, throw in the unquestionable technical mastery of one tricky instrument and “Steel Guitar Air Show" will guarantee your next dinner party or lazy afternoon won’t crash and burn.

Finally add comments by one of the world’s greatest living guitarists — who just so happens to write regularly for Lew Rockwell — one Thomas Chartier (also known as Mr. Phester Swollen):

"I’ve seen this guy play live backing up Neko Case and he smokes. This is almost all instrumentals with some guest vocals by and fantastic. You’ll love it. It’s guaranteed to make you smile with songs like ‘Summer Saba’, ‘Glow Worm’ and ‘Perfida’. You know them all even if the names seem obscure. And then there’s a bunch of country instrumentals."

Buy this CD now. It rawks and comes with the Tom Chartier guarantee of quality! (Which means it’s A-OK by me too!)

Actually, to tell the truth, I’ve been asking some alert readers and followers of Cool & Strange music to help me out with this little column of ours. That’s right! Let’s make this a true online music magazine dedicated to truly groovy and fantastilistic sounds! If you find a very Cool & Strange album that you’d like to share with the world, then please do so! In fact, I’ll even let you write the album review! Just drop me a line and let’s get started on the next issue!

Arthur Lyman — The Legend of Pele
List Price: $11.98

Like with the above album by Jon Rauhouse, these next two are also recommended highly by Tom Chartier. Now, you folks don’t know this, but Tom truly is one of the finest guitarists around. When Tom toured Japan, he got scouted by some famous country artists asking him to become a professional studio backing musician for them — not bad for a guy who played guitar for a punk-rock band. But, no; Tom just ain’t that kind of guy. Tom didn’t really have a hankerin’ to play with a bunch of guys who spend their lives doing Hank Williams covers exactly like Hank did. Tom wanted to do his own thang. And he’s still doing it. That’s why I respect the guy. I figure Tom will become very famous someday… Like after his death.

Oh well, all in the name of art.

Here’s Tom telling you all about this fab album:

"Ok you know this guy. He played the fabulous Tradewind ballroom in Oxnard, California! I downloaded this off iTunes on a drunken whim to hear something I grew up with. Yup, it’s what I remember still pretty corny with all the fake bird calls but fun like a Godzilla movie. Totally stress reducing. And it includes a Hawaiian style Vibraphone and piano version of ’76 trombones’! What were they thinking?"

Here’s more information from the label:

“In her sleep, Pele heard the masterful beating of a distant drum. She heard male voices strong and tender, chanting. Pele’s spirit left her sleeping body in search of the phantom musicians…”

Could it be that Pele, the lusty and passionate Hawaiian volcano Goddess, was searching for the King of Polynesian pop and percussion, Arthur Lyman? Thanks to Rykodisc’s hifi re-release of The Legend of Pele, Sounds of Arthur Lyman (RCD 50432), she doesn’t have to look any farther.

Acclaimed for his vibe drenched lounge music, Lyman brings the mystery, power and exotica of the South Seas to the mainland. The sounds of bird calls and vibraphone, (an instrument similar to a marimba or xylophone with metal bars and rotating discs that produce a vibrato) are the basis of Arthur Lyman’s unique, tropical music and are complemented by four-mallet vibes, guitar, ukulele, flute, and glockenspiel. Joining Lyman are band members John Kramer, Alan Soares, and Harold Chang.

The Legend of Pele pays tribute to Pele, the volcano goddess, and to the myths behind Hawaii’s powerful legends and colorful landscapes. Pele is the personification of majesty and power, capable of being both fierce and destructive and calm and scenic. She is mysterious and elusive, and according to legend, she could appear as a beautiful young woman, an old woman, or a dog. Like its namesake, the album is a blend of sublime power, gentle sensuality, and fiery emotions.

Modern Jazz Quartet — Live at Lincoln Center, the complete final show
List Price: $31.98

Tom writes: This is the coolest of the cool at their coolest, still ultra cool after decades of being cool. Amazingly cool.

Here’s more from Rolf Aderhold in Hannover, Germany:

If you are looking for an answer to the question what the Modern Jazz Quartet is all about, you have come to the right place. In 1974, the MJQ had been in existence for almost 20 years, and vibraharpist Milt Jackson (now sadly deceased) became tired of the somewhat rigid structure of the quartet. Thus, the MJQ decided to disband and to give one more concert at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall. Here, sensing that this might really be the last time they had a chance to play these songs, the quartet gave every tune a special treatment.

The classical aspect of their music, so often likened to chamber-music, is well displayed in several tunes from their “Blues on Bach” album, but if you listen to Milt Jackson when he swirls and weaves his melody around the steady pulse by both drums and bass, you realize that this interpretation is beyond both classical music and Jazz. However, their reading of “Concierto de Aranjuez” is far closer to the original than the one done by Miles Davis on “Sketches of Spain”.

Standards such as “Summertime” and “‘Round Midnight”, as well as tunes that recall the quartet’s origin in Dizzy Gillespie’s band, such as “Confirmation” and “A Night in Tunisia”, are also present. But mostly the tunes are by pianist John Lewis and, with stronger leanings to the blues, by Milt Jackson. Lewis’ “Skatin’ in Central Park” and “One Never Knows”, for example, are both lovely ballads, whereas Jackson’s “Really True Blues” and “The Cylinder” are more deeply rooted in the realm of Jazz and Blues.

Modern Jazz Quartet: 1957 — Modern Jazz Quartet

List Price: $14.98 On Sale Price: $13.98

This only shows how much the music and the program of the band was always built around the contrasting musical personalities of John Lewis, the quartet’s musical director, and Milt Jackson, their main soloist, who embodies perfectly grace, style, time and swing at the same time. He was certainly one of the great masters of Jazz, and his at times forceful and energetic, but also often cool and crisp playing is to me the main attraction of the quartet. This edition is the first complete rendition of the now legendary concert — needless to say that they gave many more afterwards, and for that fact alone, the CD deserves six stars. If you’re new to the MJQ, you cannot find a better and more comprehensive collection of their playing. If you are a fan, what took you so long to get this marvelous highlight of their career?

Need I say anything else? If you are still not convinced, click here and get some free listens. I recommend Softly as a Mornig Sunrise, but heck, they are all fantastic. Check it out and you’ll agree!

Sunnyside Café Series: Pop Paris — Rock n’ Roll and Mini Skirts, Vol. 1 — Various Artists
List Price: $16.98

When I was an insolent little pup, the Brits invaded the United States for at least the third time and completely took over the world. Most of us were ecstatic about it too. No more short hair. The Beatles and a few-hundred rock bands that looked and played just like them were the happening thing. Fast-forward a few years and the hair had gotten longer and more and more of the kids were growing their hair very long and experimenting with various psychedelic "cocktails." London and San Francisco had become the Mecca for the youth of Western Society to much chagrin of the French.

Paris had long held fascination among the world’s youth for being the place where the fashionable and beautiful people hung out when something was happening. But when the British invasion happened, the French were shocked at losing their ultra-cool monopoly status to the British (of all people!) so the French took the rock and pop hits of the day and remade them in their own unique style.

Marie Laforet’s take on the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” Johnny Hallyday’s version of Billy Joe Royal’s “Hush,” Eileen’s sexy and suave style and her rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” and Frank Alamo’s version of the Turtles’ “Happy Together” (to name just a few) are a gas! (Or do the French say, "Gasseur"?) You will laugh and you will sing. But most of all you will sit up in your chair and be wowed at the freshness and originality and style brought to these well known songs. This is a CD you will just love.

Of course, the Swinging Sixties professed free love for everyone and who better to sing about it than the French? My favorite original track on this album is by Serge Gainsbourg. Serge sings a love song to "Marilu" and if you close your eyes, you can see that the kids are alright in their mod-attire.

Sunnyside Cafe Series: Pop à Paris — More Rock n’ Roll and Mini Skirts, Vol. 2 — Various Artists
Price: $16.98

Here are some comments that someone sent to me (sorry cats, I spaced on the heavy-duty psychedelia and forgot the name of who sent this to me — a thousand pardons Saheb!):

“I don’t know a lot about modern art, but I know what I like”; That’s what I feel about this collection of young French “divas”! I know very little French language myself, but do recognize the many covers of American hits done powerfully and with great style here. Even right down to the “bump-bah-bah-bah bump” put in to “Marie Doceur, Marie Colere” (Paint it Black) at the end just like the “Stones” version! You just have to also love the “one name” girls here — Eileen, Violaine, Jocelyne, Stone, Adele, Elizabeth, etc. Also included in the package are some fabulous vintage graphics of record singles and overlays of designs in this CD.

Are you having a party and you want to dazzle your guests with some strange, hip sounding French bubble gum? Then this is the album for you! You will find yourself giggling a little at first, because it is just such happy, silly music, but after a couple of songs, you will start having a strange urge to wear go-go boots, smoke cigarettes and act snooty. Definitely for the eclectic music lover!

Need I say more? This is some great fun and some great music cats! Dig it, if you can.

House of Flying Daggers [SOUNDTRACK] — Shigeru Umebayashi
List Price: $18.98 On Sale Price: $14.99

From Amazon.com:

The films of director Zhang Yimou have a panoramic sweep to them that deftly creates a fantastical vision of ancient Chinese culture for the screen. Yimou’s eye for color and sense of drama demands a score that conveys the emotion, tradition and action of his movies. Here Shigeru Umebayashi tells each part of the story with a mix of traditional flute, drums, string instruments and, to a lesser degree, orchestra and moody-sounding synthesizers. The lilting melody of “Lovers” is particularly effective, simmering with a passion that leaves no doubt about the tone of the scene; it comes back to dramatic effect at other times in the film as well — the soundtrack closes with a soaring version of it by soprano Kathleen Battle. Similar to but not as heavy as Tan Dun’s occasionally overbearing work on Yimou’s film Hero, Umebayashi leans toward the subtle for this love story, and the film is better for it.

Is the House of Flying Daggers just like Last Samurai? No way! Look, I like samurai movies as much as the next guy (who doesn’t like Westerns either). And, of course, I’m a big fan of that guy who starred in Last Samurai — what was his name? Brad, Bart? Bart! That’s it. Bart Simpson.

As you can probably guess, the musical soundtrack of a movie is very important to people like me. I wasn’t too impressed by the music of Last Samurai. Why? It sounded like the typically confused western idea of what Japanese traditional music should sound like.

Here’s what a House of Flying Daggers fan wrote:

This soundtrack is a wonderful mix of classical oriental music and a modern film score symphony, a taste of the Far East that’s accessible to everyone. The Chinese flute and stringed instruments are blended with modern synthesizers and orchestra instruments to create a moody, elegant and very romantic soundtrack. Most of the pieces are very short, around two minutes long, but there are several longer pieces as well and all of the works seem to flow together so when listening to the entire album you feel a sense of continuity. I would recommend this album to anyone who loved the movie or to anyone who enjoys oriental or new age music.

Wow! That sounds pretty enchanting, doesn’t it? If you want to get a free listen before you buy, go here and listen to samples for yourself. Also! If any of you cats are Kathy Battle fans and are wondering whatever happened to her, she sang the title song to this movie, "Lovers."

Here Come the Polka Heroes, Vol. 1 — Various Artists
List Price: $15.98

Yeah, yeah, I can hear it now, "That Mike Rogers guy only likes loud punk, bunk, and junk." Well, it’s true; I do. But I also like polka music. Heck, you give me a big cold glass of draft beer and I’ll yodel with the best of them! You too? Jaa, jaa. You like der polka? Jaa, vee all do, surely.

Jaa, my friend Sven recommended dis CD mit der 29 tracks of der best of der Polka Heroes and it is full of hits! A real fun (but tear-jerking) song is "If I Could Be Like You." In this great song a young child named Ryan tells Eddie Blazonczyk (“Eddie B”) that he wants to grow up to be just like him. Eddie B tells him that he is on his way to being loved as loving and pleasing people comes straight from his heart. It’s heartwarming as well as lively and entertaining. The sound is excellent even though one of the songs was obviously recorded off a record. If you folks want Polka or you want to hear the roots of yodel, then you are there with this CD. This album is tops. It is der wunder-polka!

And while you are there, ol’ Mike has something that you definitely want to check out! Go here cool cats to see a hilarious website that is dedicated to polka and polka only! It’s the Polka Page! It’s Polka Geek heaven! The record jackets are a blast! Check out THE POLKA PAGE!

Vol. 8-Buddha Bar [Import] — Various Artists
List Price: $44.49

Now this is for the modern kids in the crowd. This is a mighty fine collection of neo-ethno-electronica groove. If you guys and gals dig that, then you need to get this 2 CD album immediately. The Buddha Bar is a fab bar that really does exist in Paris and one of the club’s head DJ’s set up the mix this time. It’s a fantastic mix of eclectic and exotic sounds which are out of this world just like his own background. The man in charge is named Sam Popat. Sam was born in Madagascar, from Indian parents and raised in Paris. He sets us up with some nice, easy tempo on both CD’s with a rare combination of exotic vocals and instrumentation interlaced with his own distinctive and relentless background beats. The groove starts to accelerate a tad until it progresses to the end and finishes up with powerful beats and an array of melodic sonic and vocal textures in between. And let me tell you, this Popat guy can remix. He is awesome. The instrumentation covers almost every possible and imaginable combination of familiar and exotic musical instruments from around the world you can think of. Mix that with a great variety of vocals in different languages and you are ready for a voyage to aural nirvana. Two CDs with a total of 30 tracks of music that you can’t get anywhere! What are you waiting for? Take a trip to Paris for only $44.49!

Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I Am Not — Arctic Monkeys
List Price: $13.98 On Sale Price: $9.97

Regular readers of this column will know that I rarely ever recommend rock music. Why? Well, because Cool & Strange Music Online magazine is dedicated to cool, strange, and unusual sounds. The hit chart gets so much press that it doesn’t need yours truly to promote their million selling records.

Well, kids, today will be only the second time that I will have recommended a rock album. The first time was a group called Maximo Park. If you had any decent taste in rock music, then you’d already know that Maximo Park is way cool and was one of the most happening things of 2005. Well this year it’s a group called the Arctic Monkeys from Jolly Old.

These guys are heroes. They shocked the British music scene when their first three singles hit #1 on the English hit charts. The songs are fantastic and are all recorded live with no over-dubbing or retakes; even their promotion videos are that way! Then they shocked one of the world’s biggest record labels, Sony, by rejecting their offer of a sweet deal in Japan by going with an underground indie label called Hostess (a very cool label and distributor in Japan that is run by my good friend, and fan of the football team from Chelsea, named Plug who used to be a percussionist for the London Symphony Orchestra). Not only that, but they let yours truly direct and produce their TV commercials in Japan so you know that these guys have good taste!

Arctic Monkeys! UK #1! If you like cool rock and not that over-produced 148 track corporate rock-crap that the radio stations are all playing; if you like raw rock and roll like it’s supposed to sound, then you’ll get with it. Arctic Monkeys! These guys are so cool they are helping to destroy the old order created by the huge conglomerate record labels and offering tons of stuff on the Internet for FREE! Check out their videos for free too! I highly recommend "I’ll Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" click here to watch for free!

Letters of a Cool & Strange Kind

Mike,

Well, your recent tribute to Maria Callas brought up memories of the time I was a guest of Ari O. on the Italian isle of Sirmione, where Aria was building a house for Maria. This was way back when life was pretty sweet, and I can assure you, I had a wonderful vacation on that small exclusive island. Ari loved that woman, and it is sad to remember that his ambition broke-up that love affair when he married the ‘grieving widow.’ He realized his mistake too late.

Also might mention (and please don’t tab me as a name dropper) Frank Sinatra. His cousin, Prima Sinatra (married to Ray Sinatra) was my best pal for over 30 years. As a result, I was acquainted with Frank and can tell you that although he had a temper, he was a generous man to his friends and family.

Both Callas and Sinatra were contributing artists during my generation (I am now pushing 79.) Nowadays, well, Mike, music seems to sound like pots and pans clanging together, and if this the crap the younger generation likes, sobeit!! — Nancy

Dear Nancy,

Wow! You knew Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra!? Next time you are invited to a party, can I come along too? I promise not to make a fool of myself and I won’t be barfing in the street in front of the house after drinking too much either. I’ve learned my lesson! — Mike

Mike,

Just a quick note to identify with your Maria Callas piece, that chick was AWESOME! Recently, my family watched a Biography -type show on her, with a lot of concert footage. Seriously, one piece she performed moved my wife and I to tears, it was soooo overwhelmingly beautiful. Watching her do it was as emotional as hearing it.

My 7-year-old daughter is an Opera singer. And no, I don’t mean just kiddie-type things. She really does it, and has done numerous recitals already, and received an invitation to appear on the Tonite show, with Leno. I never much cared for Opera before this (there are no electric guitar solos!), but now I’m slowly becoming a convert.

After watching the Callas show, my wife and I had an almost identical conversation to your comments, that there are no singers today, especially pop singers, who can come remotely close to that level of singing. It also seems as if Opera is staging a comeback, as I hear it all the time in commercials, and particularly in new kid’s cartoons. We may soon be rid of the lame pop singers after all… — Peter Mackenzie

Dear Peter,

Chick!? Wow! Your daughter is going to become a classical singer? Awesome. Kids are amazing, aren’t they? Is there anyone else in your family with any musical talent? — Mike

Mike,

I LOVED your article about music today. I was born in 1951 so I listened to 101 Strings & Mantovani while my friends were buying Steve Miller I took sh*t for that & eventually started to hide the records (we had 45 & lp s back then) I still have boxes of hard to find records that I haven’t opened in 25 years.

After the hurricane I played Billie Holiday’s version of “Miss New Orleans” which immediately brought me to tears please try to hear it.

Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays (Vintage Original) (Paperback) — Camille Paglia
List Price: $14.95 On Sale Price: $10.17

PS: You seem to understand “camp” as Camille Paglia defines it whether you know it or not. — Len R

Dear Len,

Steve Miller? As my friend Phester Swollen would say, "Steve Miller blows bloated bovine turds." And you can tell your friends that I said so. Until then, keep on rocking me baby!- Mike

Mike,

You are aware, perhaps, that the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (Leonard Nimoy — Mr. Spock) was an early music video? No?

Well, check it out then. — Luv, Phil

Dear Phil,

Waaay cool! You get the Honorary Hobbit Award for this month! How about sending us more gems for next issue? — Mike

Mike,

Puh-lease! There were so many truly great opera singers in the 20th century; that for you to choose Callas as the absolute best is breathtakingly absurd. True she was a great singer for a very short time and a great actress as well, but for much of her short career she was an embarrassment. Have you heard all of her recordings? Her upper register became a shriek! I remember listening to one of her recordings on the radio at the conclusion of which the announcer and critic said, “Wasn’t that awful!”

And how can you eliminate such singers as Caruso, Horne, Nilsson, Pavarotti, Tucker, Warren, Pinza, Pons, Sutherland, Ponselle and so many, many more, male and female, with unbelievable voices and longer careers who with little effort would bring tears to the eyes and a lump to the throat.

And for you to mention and compare, even derogatorily, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey in the same essay as Callas is even more absurd. That’s like talking about a pack animal in an article about fine race-horses. In addition, perhaps I’ve been living in isolation, but I’ve never heard an opera singer referred to as a vocalist. Reserve that word for the pop pretenders to real talent, most of whom have never had a singing lesson in their lives. [Every time I hear the word "diva" in the context of a modern popular "vocalist" who doesn't have any idea what singing or beautiful music with soaring melody and deep emotion and with words that have meaning is all about, my stomach twists in pain. A "diva" was a term reserved for the best female opera singers, and means godesss.]

Just for the Record: The Golden Voice — Marilyn Horne

Marilyn Horne? Now, Mike, there’s a real voice!

I could be very wrong, but your article sounds as though it was written by a man who has finally become aware that there have been singers in this world for centuries of whom, until recently, you’ve never been aware, singers (men and women — although you mention no male opera singers whose voices are comparable in quality to the women’s voices) with voices, you have discovered, which are in a class far above the voices of modern popular “vocalists.”

You are a very intelligent man, Mr. Rogers, and the author of many articles that I have enjoyed and admired, but I think that this is one topic from which you should have distanced yourself. If you had been around when Callas was singing you would remember that at the time there were many people who did not admire her voice and found the voices of other female opera singers to be superior.

Please don’t ever write an essay that you’ve discovered a composer named Beethoven who wrote better music than the Beatles. — Sincerely, Sheldon Stone (very much an amateur opera lover)

Dear Mr. Stone,

Wow! What a cool name! Mr. Stone! I wish I could walk around and tell people that, "I’m Mr. Stone!" Cool! Of course I would walk around wearing sunglasses la Ford Fairlane whenever I did. But! I stand corrected! I wonder if anyone would complain if they knew that whenever I write Cool & Strange Music Online Magazine that I usually sit in my office listening to snotty nosed trashy British punk rock — the trashier, the better? Nah!… Don’t forget to throw in the Johnny Rotten in with your Robinson Caruso! So, eh, tell me, who’s this hot new composer you’ve found that sounds like the Beatles? Say what? — Mike

Did someone say, "Lovely British lasses making trashy punk rock?" I think they did!

Have Love, Will Travel — Thee Headcoatees
List Price: $19.98

Are you like me? Are you sick and tired of the putrid over-produced corporate rock and hip hop trash on the conglomerate radio? Everytime some crap band like Aerosmith comes on the radio, do you just want to turn it off? Of course you do; that’s why you are here. Cool & Strange is, of course, way cool, but for you real rock and rollers, do yourselves a favor and buy this CD! This is a CD you will LOVE! You tell anyone that gives you a hard time that Mike Rogers said that this is one of the best rock albums ever made.

Mike,

Well, okay, Maria Callas. I can’t imagine why you’re ignoring all of the male voices while claiming a “greatest of all time”. Wow, no objectivity in that, is there? Nonetheless, choices like this are, of necessity, subjective. Herewith, I present my choices for your consideration and edification; Nellie Melba, Joan Sutherland, Enrico Caruso, Jussi Bjoerling and, surely, the young Pavarotti. What think you, my friend? — Regards, John Schofield

Dear John,

Hey! Do you know this Sheldon dude in the above e-mail? — Mike

Mike! I agree with your assessment of Maria Callas. I heard a recording of her once on radio and it was absolutely enchanting. BTW, she was lovingly immortalised as a caricature by (opera hater) Hergé’s in his "Tintin" comics. — Robert Groezinger

Mike,

And who gets the award for the greatest male opera singer of the 20th century? Not Caruso, or Gigli, or Pavarotti; my vote is for one of Callas’ contemporaries, Jussi Bjoerling. Check him out. — Peter of Lone Tree

Artists Of The Century — Jussi Bjorling, The Ultimate Collection

List Price: $17.98

Mike,

Keep up the plugs for opera! Maybe you can do a piece on Natalie Dessay, or Leontyne Price (who hails from my native state of Mississippi). Better yet, find out what happened to Kathy Battle and be the first (?!) to do an interview with her in how many years! What a coup that would be … — David Butler, Omaha, Nebraska

Hi David!

Kathy Battle? Okay. Kathy, call me up. You know my number. Let’s forget the past and start all over… Like the time you called your manager in New York City on the phone to tell him to ring up the chauffeur of the car you were riding in to tell him to turn down the air-conditioner. I promise I won’t bring it up again! Promise! Call me baby! Operators are standing by! — Mike

Well, that’s it space cowboys and space cowgirls. Don’t forget to write and send in your recommendations for Cool & Strange Music and also don’t forget to write in and send me your hate mail! Until next time, Crickey! Get some real music and decent tunes on that car stereo of yours, will ya?

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of a mass-media production company and also runs a talent agency in Japan. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.

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