Halloween at Murfie!

It’s Halloweeeen time! Even though it’s not the 31st, it’s safe to say that many folks will be celebrating the year’s spookiest holiday this weekend.

Our staffers have some great Halloween album picks for you, along with great stories to share (with pictures)!

Hey pumpkin!

Name: Gao
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Thriller (by Michael Jackson) has always been a favorite. In fact, my family did the Thriller dance at my sister’s wedding reception.
Best Halloween costume ever: My sisters made me a dinosaur costume one year. They even built a tail! I stomped around and called myself Gaozilla.
What I plan to dress up as this year: This is the first year I’ve bought a costume and didn’t make it. I’ll be a pirate. ARGH!

Name: Jeff
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Scream, Dracula, Scream! by Rocket from the Crypt.
Best Halloween costume ever: Andy Warhol (really sad I don’t have a picture).
What I plan to dress up as this year: Washed up, out of shape Justin Bieber.

Scary!

Name: Daniella
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas by Danny Elfman.
Best Halloween costume ever: Nerd costumes have included Companion Cube (from Portal), Cthulhu, Harry Potter, and more nerdiness…
What I plan to dress up as this year: This year I’m going as Lumpy Space Princess (assuming I can find myself a purple beehive wig).

Goodnight moon!

Name: Tiffany
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Bloodletting by Concrete Blonde.
Best Halloween costume ever: It’s a toss-up between Poison Ivy, Medusa, and a dead woman. I don’t have a digital picture of any of those, but I’ve got a picture of my costume as the Moon a few years back.
What I plan to dress up as this year: Not sure yet. And even if I knew, I never reveal my costumes before Halloween.

Name: Zach
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Scary Sound Effects (because I remember ripping it).
Best Halloween costume ever: Rorschach because I have a mask with an ink blot that warps because of the temperature of your breathing vs. the cold air.
What I plan to dress up as this year: I’ll probably hand out candy.

What a ghoul…

Name: John
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Litanies of Satan by Diamanda Galàs (Close second: Schrei X).
Best Halloween costume ever: A few years ago, my band Fambly Fun! performed a Halloween show as Will Smith. That’s right, we had FIVE Will Smiths. We played all the classics from Big Willie Style and Willennium, and even Willow Smith’s then-new “Whip My Hair.” It was a ton of fun.
What I plan to dress up as this year: I like to dress up as something timely, yet unexpected. Last year, I dressed up as the Russian feminist punk rock protest band Pussy Riot. This year, who knows!

Go Go Ranger!

Name: Steve
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: John Denver, classic fall Americana.
Best Halloween costume ever: I went as a Power Ranger when I was about 9. I had a glove that makes karate chop noises when you squeezed the thumb to the rest of the fingers. It was sooooo freaking cool.
What I plan to dress up as this year: The Man in the Yellow Hat. My girlfriend is going as Curious George.

Life is a cabaret!

Name: Noah
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Halloween’s all about the movies, right? And what’s a better combination than Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable scores to Alfred Hitchcock’s most terrifying movies.
Best Halloween costume ever: I went as Sally Bowles from Cabaret, but the makeup ended up looking a bit like Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange. It kind of worked anyway.
What I plan to dress up as this year: I’m thinking of going as a Mondrian painting, but I have a habit of changing my mind at the last minute.

Bah, humbug!

Name: Matt
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Watermark by Enya (music for relaxing until Halloween is over).
Best Halloween costume ever: I’ll be the party pooper in the group and go on the record that I’ve never really enjoyed dressing up for Halloween—not as a kid, and certainly not as an adult. I find it a bit disturbing that Halloween has become a bigger draw for adults than children. If Halloween need be celebrated at all, at least let the kids regain the run of things.
What I plan to dress up as this year: I’m not planning to dress up again this year, for obvious reasons.

Eeeeek!

Name: Marc
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: The Good, the Bad & the Queen. Meticulously somber, strolling music for when chill winds throw leaves past your feet.
Best Halloween costume ever: A few years over the past decade I’ve iterated a costume inspired by a recurrent nightmare I used to have. I once made a bellhop at the Concourse jump back as I crept along the street.
What I plan to dress up as this year: Probably no costume, since I probably won’t have the time to put into making one.

Name: Preston
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: October Project :)
Best Halloween costume ever: My best? That was Satan working to recruit a manager ready to to Sell Their Soul to get in “Below Ground Level!!” managing the exclusive franchise I had just negotiated to open a line of Starbucks cafes in The 9th Circle of Hell. My pitch was that it’s “…the only place in the universe where another Starbucks can possibly improve the neighborhood.” It was a play on a joke in this animation, but you might want to watch the whole set for context.
What I plan to dress up as this year: It’ll be a game day decision. One possibility is that I’ll dress in a suit with a giant American flag lapel clip holding a pacifier on a red, white, and blue ribbon, with “I <3 Ayn Rand” stenciled on an Elephant on a T-shirt underneath. I’ll blackmail people into giving me some of their candy by threatening to do something that would embarrass us both. If they foolishly give me candy, I’ll come back later, scream and cry loud enough to be heard that they have way too much candy, and whine that they won’t negotiate with me to meet me part way and give me some of the rest. Ideally, this will be a team costume and include someone who plays the world’s tiniest violin each time I don’t get what I want. If things go poorly for them, I might also just go as The Ghost of The Republican Party, or conversely if democrats cooperate in sacking the poor, I might be an old person looking for information on which cat food tastes best.

The fam!

Name: Jason
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: This year, Featuring: Dr. Gruesome and the Gruesome Gory Horror Show by Snow White’s Poison Bite.
Best Halloween costume ever: Probably Zeus.
What I plan to dress up as this year: Was going to be Magneto, but didn’t have enough time to assemble the required high-voltage power supply…

Ooo là là!

Name: Leah
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Something about Nick Drake is just perfect for an autumn stroll.
Best Halloween costume ever: A tie between Pam from the Office (I found Jim on State St!) and a Frenchman (fake cigarette, I promise). Oh and I went as an old woman when I was in second or third grade, which was hilarious.
What I plan to dress up as this year: A flower :D I found directions for an awesome DIY flower headpiece thing online, and my rest of the body will be the stem – a “Leahlac”, you might say.

Name: Tyler
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. An album to listen to bundled up with your favorite blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.
Best Halloween costume ever: Don’t know what the name of the costume is, but I was dressed as a headless guy who was carrying his own head in his hands and the head was my head. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a picture :(
What I plan to dress up as this year:
 I’ll be handing out candy this year, so no dressing up for me. But our two dogs will be dressed in Packer uniforms!

Barney!!!

Name: Kayla
Favorite album for fall/Halloween: Anything with The Monster Mash.
Best Halloween costume ever: Probably last year when I was a strawberry, since I made the costume by myself. The only thing is, everyone thought I was a watermelon—even though I had yellow seeds! =\ Some other notable costumes: Esmeralda, Avril Lavigne, and Zombie Tinkerbell.
What I plan to dress up as this year: Amy Winehouse (I bought a wig!). I’ll have fake tattoos, thick eyeliner, an empty bottle of Jack, and all that good stuff. My roommate and I are planning on having a séance for her on the 31st.

Big thank you to all the moms who had fun picking out pictures for this post! Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!

Happy Earth Day 2013!

Happy Earth day to all our fellow Earth citizens! Today is the perfect day to pick out some tunes that deepen our appreciation for this great blue/green planet.

What music inspires you to think about nature? What music ignites your environmental activist flame? What music makes you think of flowing waters, fields of flowers, and happy squirrels?

Here’s what our Murfie staffers have to say!

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Steel PulseAfrican Holocaust
Kayla: The song “Global Warning” is a smash hit. It points out the harsh reality that a lot of environmental problems are created by humans. But it is hopeful, calling us towards a common goal to re-arrange.

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Earth – Pentastar: In the Style of Demons
Jeff: A wall of slow, crushing sludge-rock from the forefathers of doom. How could this album not make you think about the Earth, especially its immense size, and how it would feel if it rolled over you?

1dbb9dc8-e007-11e1-af0b-12313d184814Ani DiFrancoRed Letter Year
Noah: The song “The Atom” is almost a hymn, calling for taking care of the Earth and disparaging the use of nature to destroy.

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R.E.M.Green
Matt: Look at the title and cover. Need I say more?

MI0000392903Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack
Matt: Best experienced while sailing on a windy night, listening to this soundtrack really puts me in the groove of the ocean.

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Yo La Tengo I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Glynnis: “Green Arrow” has always perfectly encapsulated a lazy, aimless summer evening for me. Follow it up with “Autumn Sweater”, and you’ve got me longing for all my favorite kinds of weather, ready to go outside and enjoy a nice evening breeze.

e1d4cafe-85cb-11e1-9f65-1231381d530bBen Sollee 
RJ: My pick for Earth Day is any album by Ben Sollee. The reason I picked this wonderful musician is because he travels by bicycle when he tours. You can’t get any more earthy then Ben!

Bob DylanThe Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan6840-large
Tiffany: Bob Dylan hails from Minnesota and his music always seems to come straight from the agricultural heart of the Midwest. This album was the one that put Dylan on the map as a folk protest singer.

MI0001645112Nick Drake Fruit Tree
Pete: Fruit Tree by Nick Drake is my choice. As well as being a great song in itself, it’s also the title of a four-disc box set featuring all three of Nick Drake’s studio albums. His music always reminds me of the English countryside. 6748-large

 

Midnight OilDiesel and Dust
Preston: The track “Dreamworld” in particular makes me feel all warm and full of hope.

MI0001767347GojiraFrom Mars to Sirius
Keith: Not many people know this, but a lot of metal can be spiritual. Many of Gojira’s songs are about getting energy from the Earth and from nature. This is a great album, although it’s not for those who are new to the traditional death-metal sound.6351-large

RadioheadHail to the Thief
Henry: Stick it to the man.

We’re hoping that everyone gets a bit of sunshine today, and a chance to think about the great planet that we call home! Maybe one of these albums will become your top Earth Day pick too!

Pete’s Picks: An Introduction to John Martyn

Uncovering one of music’s sweet little mysteries…

For music lovers, one of the most exciting aspects is the discovery of a new artist or album and being able to share that excitement with others—something that Murfie members know plenty about! So when the opportunity to offer a recommendation for Murfie Staff Picks came along, for me it was not a difficult choice. The hardest part was choosing which album to recommend.

John Martyn was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist whose career spread across 40 years and 21 studio albums. He’s had contributions along the way from Eric Clapton, The Band’s Levon Helm, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Steve Winwood, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Phil Collins. John has also inspired a wide range of artists from Beck, The Cure’s Robert Smith, David Gray, Devendra Banhart, Snow Patrol and many more—yet John remains pretty much unknown to many.

The music of John Martyn captured my soul from the very first listen. Island Records was John’s musical home for 22 years. He recorded 12 studio albums during that time, none of which were of any real commercial success, so it is a testament to Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell who signed John (who was just twenty years old), making him the first white artist to join the otherwise Jamaican-based music label in 1967. Chris Blackwell stuck by John for over 20 years, purely because he liked John and the music he made.

John described himself as an incurable romantic, which is evident in his ability for writing and delivering perfect love songs, without sounding cheap or blatantly inauthentic. What is even more astounding is his guitar playing, considering he didn’t know one chord from the next, but knew the shapes and positions his fingers needed to make to produce the the sound he wanted.

Like so many treasured and talented artists, John’s life was not without controversy. He suffered with drug abuse and alcohol addiction. He was uncompromising, and could become quite violent at times. In 2003, John’s right leg was amputated below the right knee due to septicemia brought on by diabetes. This would not slow him down, however. He continued to tour, performing with his band from a wheelchair.

In 2008, John was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was included in the Queen’s New Years Honors list, receiving an O.B.E. (Order Of The British Empire). Sadly on January 29th, 2009, John died in a hospital in Ireland due to double pneumonia. Eric Clapton payed tribute to John claiming he was, “so far ahead of everything, it’s almost inconceivable.”

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Sweet Little Mysteries: The Island Anthology (1995)

This two disc collection highlights John’s most innovative and treasured moments during his time with Island Records, with a selection of tracks taken from eight studio albums from 1971-1986. This collection is certainly a great start in the discovery of the music of John Martyn, but is by no means the end of the journey. The tracks from each album represented on Sweet Little Mysteries are just a few from this golden period of John’s career. Below I have included a little background information relating to the albums that are featured in this collection.

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Bless The Weather (1971), Tracks 1-3

Bless The Weather is at times a delicate and beautiful album. It was recorded in just three days, as John preferred the spontaneous approach, and many of the songs were even written the day of recording. This album earned John some of the strongest reviews of his career. The album blends gentle yet complex acoustic guitar styles with John’s increasingly jazzy vocals. In 1999 (28 years after it’s original release), Q magazine suggested that Bless The Weather was one of the most essential folk albums of all time.

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Solid Air (1973), Tracks 4-8

Solid Air is considered to be John’s landmark album, which showed him move towards a more experimental folk, jazz and blues direction. Here John delivers his lyrics with a more slurred expression, almost using his voice as an instrument. From the first few opening notes of Solid Air, you are immediately seduced and on a journey into a real after-hours classic. The British music magazine Q listed Solid Air as the 67th Greatest British Album Ever and was also included in their list of Best Chill-Out Albums Of All Time—not bad for an album recorded in 1973.  The title track was written for and about John’s close friend and Island label mate Nick Drake. Also included from the Solid Air Album is the tender “May You Never”, a track that earned John the most royalty checks he ever received—not from his own version, but the version Eric Clapton recorded for his 1977 album Slowhand.

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Inside Out (1973), Tracks 9-11

Following the critical appeal brought by Solid Air, Inside Out was described by John as everything he ever wanted to do in music. It was his insides coming out. He began to experiment more with electric guitar, leaving the acoustic to take more of a backseat role. Experimentation with effects pedals also began to enter into the mix, and the introduction of the Echoplex tape delay machine was being used to try to make his guitar emulate a sustained sax sound, influenced by Pharoah Saunders‘ Karma album.

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Sunday’s Child (1975), Tracks 12-18

Having unleashed his experimental side through Inside Out, John appears a little more settled and content with the release of Sunday’s Child—and the Echoplex still makes an appearance, shaping some very interesting soundscapes to accompany his ever present messages of love. The songs within Sunday’s Child are of a more conventional structure, as demonstrated on the beautifully simple “You Can Discover” and “One Day Without You”. While promoting Sunday’s Child, John played support for Pink Floyd on their Wish You Were Here tour in the UK. As he took the stage with just his acoustic guitar in hand, he was met by a wall of abuse from the crowd, who made it perfectly clear that they were not prepared to sit and listen to a bunch of folk songs. Undeterred, John proceeded to plug his guitar into the Echoplex and blasted the audience with a performance that resulted in a standing ovation.

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One World (1977), Tracks 1-6

After Sunday’s Child, John decided that he needed some time away from recording and his ever-skeptical view of the music business. He headed out to Jamaica, and while he was there, was introduced to the master of dub, Lee “Scratch” Perry. When John finally returned to the UK with the desire to re-enter the studio, he recorded One World, which saw John introduce some of the influences from his trip to Jamaica in tracks such as “Big Muff” (written with Lee Scratch Perry) and “Smiling Stranger”. The album was produced by Chris Blackwell, and is another example of John’s hunger for experimentation. The album also features Steve Winwood on Moog synthesizer. One of the many highlights from this album is the incredible and truly ambient track “Small Hours”, which was recorded around 3:00 in the morning, outside in the open air, next to a lake on a farm owned by Chris Blackwell. It features the sounds of nature’s very own session musicians, as the geese and the lapping water can be heard playing their part along with a passing mail train in the distance.

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Grace And Danger (1980), Tracks 7-12

Grace and Danger is a deep, painful and openly honest account of the breakdown of John’s relationship with his wife Beverley, a singer-songwriter in her own right, who he met and married in 1969. John was originally hired to be Beverley’s backing guitarist, which eventually lead to them releasing two albums (Stormbringer and The Road To Ruin) as John & Beverley Martyn for Island records. The songs on Grace and Danger are not in anyway spiteful or of a bitter naturein fact, they are quite the opposite. At times they are reflective, optimistic with false hope, a plea to be understood. Unlike a Hollywood movie, there is no happy ending here. The release of the album was delayed for over a year due to the fact that Chris Blackwell found the album too openly disturbing, given that he knew both parties so well. John eventually demanded that the album be released, telling Blackwell, “Please get it out! I don’t give a damn about how sad it makes you feel—it’s what I’m about: direct communication of emotion.” Rolling Stone described Grace and Danger as “a very strong outing, placing him in a class with such intelligent eclectics as Joan Armatrading and Joni Mitchell.”

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Sapphire (1984), Tracks 13-14

For a brief period after Grace and Danger, John Left Island Records and signed to Warner Brothers releasing two albums, Glorious Fool (1981), which was produced by Phil Collins and featured Eric Clapton on guitar, and Well Kept Secret (1982). Both releases saw John’s guitar playing taking more of a backseat role, with keyboards and  drum machines featured more prominently and s well as live shows with a full band. John rejoined Island in 1984 and headed for Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to record Sapphire with the help of Robert Palmer, who somewhat rescued the sessions as John was constantly falling out with the assigned production team. Again very little of John’s guitar playing is distinguishable from the now favored synth layers, as even his own guitar was now being fed through electronics, unfortunately with no real groundbreaking results.

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Piece By Piece (1986), Tracks 15-16

Piece By Piece was my introduction to the music of John Martyn and was played to me in 1987 on vinyl by a good friend of mine. I was 18 at the time and the thing that struck me on that very first listen was the honesty pouring out of John’s lyrics and the vocal delivery that convinced me that this guy means every word. The production and songwriting on Piece by Piece in my mind is far superior to that of the previous two records (Well Kept Secret and Sapphire) it indicates John on a more settled path once again, although it would not remain settled for long. Piece By Piece was John’s last studio album for Island as Chris Blackwell sold the company to the major label PolyGram, and John was later dropped and was without a record deal for the first time in over 20 years.

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Johnny Boy Would Love This! (2011)

In 1995, I met  and became friends with John and was fortunate to be in a position to help him sign a record deal with a label that I worked for in the UK. I worked with John on four albums before he sadly passed away in 2009. Later that same year, I was approached by John’s good friend and Chicago-based record Producer, Jim Tullio, to help coordinate and compile a tribute album to John that he was putting together. The album would contain brand new recordings of John’s classic songs performed by artists who had been influenced by John’s music. We secured thirty artists including: Beck, Snow Patrol, David Gray, Robert Smith (The Cure), Phil Collins, Joe Bonamassa, The Emperors of Wyoming (featuring Butch Vig) plus Academy Award winners, The Swell Season. Released in August 2011, the album titled Johnny Boy Would Love This: A Tribute to John Martyn received critical acclaim, helping music lovers to discover the sweet little mystery of John Martyn.