A somewhat nostalgic look at rediscovered classics. The only rule is that each recording be at least ten years old. This is our comfort music. Brought to you by Pel, raven + crow studio, and friends.
The Grateful Dead
“Box of Rain”
American Beauty
Warner Brothers

Well, it’s fair to say, with the exception of the January guest post by our friend, Mary—for which we’re eternally grateful—the proverbial halls of Forgotten Favorite have rung pretty hollow in the not-so-new year.

We’re here to change that though, starting now.

american-beautyFirst off, I am likely one of the least qualified people around to write up such a highly lauded, much-loved band as the Grateful Dead. I came around to their music waaaaay late in life and, in fact, actively disliked the band, their music, and their fans in my youth, many of whom were represented by the jocks and nouveau hippies of my high school in the early nineties. I was much more of a Cure, Skinny Puppy, Ned’s Atomic, dye-your-hair-with-Kool-Aid type and—admittedly naively and unfairly—wrote the Dead’s music off as a waste of my very valuable listening time.

What brought me around? The final episode of one of the best television shows ever, Freaks and Geeks, which aired in 2000 and I didn’t even see until a few years after that, long after the show had (sadly) been canceled.

First off, if you don’t know what Freaks and Geeks is, forget the Dead—drop everything, fire up Netflix, and get ready for a marathon of joy. But I’m assuming most people reading this already know the awesomeness that was that early, then under-appreciated, early Judd Apatow-Paul Feig collaboration that launched many a young career. This isn’t a spoiler for the few who have no idea what I’m talking about here, but, in the final episode, the main character Lindsay is turned onto the Grateful Dead for the first time by her goofy, well-meaning high school guidance councilor and some fellow students (see the clip below). As I watched the show—well past the height of my youthful musical naivety—the music really appealed to me; honestly, it was the beginning of a new appreciation for the Dead and a realization of how informing and inspiring their music was to so many other bands I already loved. For my birthday that year, my very thoughtful wife Katie tracked down a vintage pressing of the album featured in the show, American Beauty, and we still listen to it on our turntable to this day.

A little over a week ago, one such inspired contemporary band, The National, and their label, 4AD, announced the track listing and release date for Day of the Dead, an epic, sprawling tribute to the Grateful Dead curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National that will benefit Red Hot, the elder organization that works to raise awareness and money to fight HIV/AIDS and related health issues. The collection boasts over 60 artists with their renditions of 59 newly recorded Dead tracks and it lasts almost 6 hours. The whole thing’s got the band and being turned on to them back on my mind. You can listen to some of the covers that have been released to date by 4AD over at our design studio’s web journal.

Here at FF, take a listen to my (and Lindsay’s) favorite Dead song, “Box of Rain”. And get your hippie dance on, man.

More posts soon. We promise.

The Grateful Dead - Box Of Rain
Guest Contributor:
Bonnie Raitt
“Nick of Time”
Nick of Time

Sometimes you can hear a song hundreds of times, pay no attention to the lyrics, but still enjoy it. There’s just something about the pitch, rhythm and instrumentation that draws you in. Perhaps even hearing the song years after its debut takes you back to a moment—or moments—in your life when you felt completely at peace.

I’ve encountered countless songs like this, and Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” is one of them. The title track on Raitt’s 1989 album, Nick of Time, kicks off the pace and sets the mood for the songs that follow. And they’re all great.

So when the song began playing in my head yesterday I decided to finally look up the lyrics. It’s actually quite sad in the beginning. “A friend of mine, she cries at night / And she calls me on the phone / Sees babies everywhere she goes / And she wants one of her own…” But it’s so upbeat and Raitt’s voice exudes a sort of soothing confidence that makes you feel like everything will be okay. So it’s hard to feel down while listening to it. Luckily, the song ends on a (lyrical) high note, of finding “love—love in the nick of time.” Bittersweet I suppose.

Come to think of it, a lot of the album is probably depressing. But, like I said, this is a song I never really paid much attention to lyrically.

To me this album symbolizes joy and simplicity. I can’t remember if it was just my mom or also my aunt who loved the album, but I definitely spent years hearing it during my childhood. Back when my only worries were deciding how tall to build my Lego structures, which Barbies needed haircuts and how many hours I should be practicing flute.

Bonnie Raitt - Nick Of Time
Guest Contributor: Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.
Janet Jackson
“Love Will Never Do (Without You)”
Rhythm Nation 1814
A&M Records

Janet JacksonThis past weekend my boyfriend was kind enough to join me for a Commodores and Jacksons concert. As we sat amid a crowd of folks significantly older than us — a typical weekend experience for a little old lady trapped in the body of a 32 year old — we watched Tito, Marlon and Jackie Jackson shuffle and twirl around in sequined jackets while singing Jackson 5 classics, as well as some Michael songs. After the show ended, all I could think about was listening to Michael and Janet when I got home. And two days later, here I am, still listening to them.

I’ve decided to write about Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” because the song always made me feel girly, good and hopeful about one day falling in love. Off the well-received Rhythm Nation 1814 album released in September of 1989, this song could have made a great duet (Prince was even considered!) and that’s exactly what R&B producer Jimmy Jam had in mind when he told Janet to “sing it low,” like a guy would. The result — a first verse in a low octave and a second verse in an octave above.

All I wanted was to be a dancer like Janet Jackson or The Fly Girls.

This album brings back so many memories for me. Like most young girls, I spent my early years in dance school doing jazz, tap and ballet. All I wanted was to be a dancer like Janet Jackson or The Fly Girls. And the sappy writer side of me was always a sucker for lyrics. So there I sat in my bedroom for countless hours with the cassette tape insert unfolded in all its glory, memorizing the lyrics and listening to the album — only breaking for cassette flips. (The accompanying dance routines came later.)

There was a certain smell the insert had, whether from the type of paper or ink or something that might make more sense to someone else. I still remember that distinct smell and think of it each time I hear a song from this album.

Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Guest Contributor: Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.
Chaweewan Dumnern
“Sao Lam Plearn”
The Sound Of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam In Thailand 1964-1975 / Lam Pu Thai Yai
1965-1975 (song); 2010 (compilation)

sound-of-siamAs we’re all well-aware, there exists an abundance of ways to listen to and discover new music these days. In addition to the tried and true methods of old, like borrowing records from friends or catching a new band live or choosing an album based solely on the cover (how I first discovered Sleater-Kinney), now you can stream entire albums the day they come out, download MP3s from Ukrainian Web sites for nickels, and—unfortunately for those of us who weren’t bigs fans of that last U2 record—simply exist and have an iTunes account.

Or, if you live in Southern California, you can get your hair cut.

One of the first things my wife Katie and I got lined up when we moved to Los Angeles were our respective hair-cutters—mine, a friend, Brian, who runs the New California Barbershop in Echo Park; Katie’s, a friend, Courtney, who runs Sunday Morning Hair in Eagle Rock. Note that we still have yet to line up a dentist 2+ years into our move—priorities, man.

An annual tradition that Courtney upholds at her airy, laid-back shop is to compile a year end mix CD that she and her fellow coiffeuses + coiffeurs give to their clients. We don’t listen to a lot of CDs these days, but we’ve got a player in our car, so last year’s mix literally remained in place for a full twelve months, only recently being replaced by—you guessed it—this year’s mix. The lineup’s always eclectic and doubtless full of little-heard (by us) gems that we’d likely never have experienced otherwise. One great example—the song “Sao Lam Plearn” by Lao band, Chaweewan Dumnern.

“And it’s not just that track — that’s just the one that got my attention. Some nutter put together the [collection].”

I know near nothing about the band (I’m not even 100% sure that photo above is of the woman singing). The little bit I do know—the song was recorded somewhere in the sixties or seventies for a Krishna LP—Lam Pu Thai Yai—and was part of a 2010 Soundway compilation, The Sound Of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam In Thailand 1964-1975. The comp and song got a mention in a 2011 piece the Los Angeles Times did, interviewing Mick Jagger on his personal playlist—influences and musical finds he’d gathered of late. Jagger talks about how he was sitting around in Argentina listing to an American college radio station—because that’s how legit Mick keeps it—and he heard this track, which takes the riff from “Jumping Jack Flash” and slows it down to a sludgy crawl in “Sao Lam Plearn”.  He told the Times:

“So I went on the playlist of the college station, and wrote it down because it’s in Thai. I thought, ‘OK, I’m never going to find that.’ And there it was! The record’s called The Sound of Siam. And it’s not just that track—that’s just the one that got my attention. Some nutter put together the [collection]. I’ve got a couple of Thai friends, and I played ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ and they said, ‘We can’t understand this. It’s actually not in Thai. It’s in some country dialect we don’t speak.’ You find the weirdest things.”

No, YOU find the weirdest things, Mick. And Courtney. And we’re glad you did. This is easily the coolest/weirdest song to have blasting from your ’92 Volvo 240 as you roll down, Sunset. Believe you me,  you get quite the looks. More to the point though, how great that someone is keeping this kind of music sharing alive—the art of ‘mixtape’ craft, when you find a crazy new band or song because your friend decided to put it on a CD for, not because some algorithm decided that you’d like a song because you like a similar one, making musical—and thus, cultural—experiences more and more insular, myopic, and one-dimensional.

Give “Sao Lam Plearn” a listen below and, if you’re in LA and in need of a trim, swing by Sunday Morning Hair for a cut and some expanding of your musical horizons. Below, Katie with this year’s track listing. It’s a good one.

Chaweewan Dumnern - Chaweewan Dumnern-Sao Lam Plearn www.myfreemp3.club


Guest Contributor:
“You Can Do Magic”
View From the Ground

In my life, as I am sure is the case in most people’s lives, music has always been an essential part of the formation of my memories. Sometimes I don’t even realize how hardwired these things are, how intertwined the notes and melodies are with the moving pictures in my mind, until I hear a song I haven’t heard in a long time and I am immediately transported back to the place it reminds me of.

This is the soundtrack of my childhood, the songs that remind me of what things were like when I was the age they are now.

The story of how this song was revisited is a funny one, actually. My husband and I were driving our oldest son to a local game store for a Magic: The Gathering event. Worried that he was going to be late for the draft, he was urging the car to go faster when we got caught up in traffic by the most notorious train crossing in town.

My husband, never one to let an opportunity to tease the kids pass by, found the song “You Can Do Magic” by America on his Pandora app and played it to many eye rolls and sighs coming from the back seat of the van.

The music buffs that my kids are, they all fell in love with the song almost immediately, even the kid who was worried about being late. Since that night, we’ve spent many hours listening not just to America, but to Jim Croce and Neil Young and The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers. Anything from that era will do. They can’t get enough of this music, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic that they love this stuff. This is the soundtrack of my childhood, the songs that remind me of what things were like when I was the age they are now. Sharing this piece of my past with them through the universal medium of song has been quite a journey.

If you listen just right, I swear you can hear my father singing along with us.

America - You Can Do Magic
Guest Contributor: Kelly is a native of Southern California transplanted to Colorado. She writes because it keeps her sane. She resists niches and writes about anything and everything that happens in life as she sees it, and is in the process of writing several books. If you aren't nice, she'll write about you...so be nice. She can be found on her blog DeBie Hive.
Dan Hartman
“I Can Dream About You”
Streets of Fire Soundtrack

Streets of FireThe other day in my not-so-beautiful singing voice, I began to serenade a friend mid-conversation with, “I can dream about youuuuuu…” But he didn’t get the reference, so I had to pull up the video on YouTube. He said he wasn’t familiar with the song. And in my astonishment, I began thinking… how many other people have been deprived of this cheesy ’80s gem?

Written and recorded by the late (basically) one-hit-wonder Dan Hartman, “I Can Dream About You” first appeared in the film Streets of Fire, where it was sang by fictional band The Sorels, whose performance is playing on the TV in the background of Hartman’s music video.

Hartman had originally written the song for Hall & Oates but they had just finished recording an album and missed the boat. The band did do a cover, with alternate lyrics, on their Our Kind of Soul album in 2004 though. As much as I love Daryl and John, I am partial to Hartman’s version because I think it captures the ’80s in a way the cover falls short.

I hadn’t even thought about this song for years until it popped into my head the other day. Though I was very young when it came out, I recall my mom blasting it in the station wagon time and again as we drove through the many jughandles (aka Jersey lefts) of the good ol’ Garden State. And it really holds up today!

Dan Hartman - I Can Dream About You

Guest Contributor: Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.
John Farnham
“You’re The Voice”
Whispering Jack
Wheatley Records

Bollywood has a time-honored tradition of generating songs inspired by (aka ripped off) non-Indian originals, usually western pop songs and the occasional classical riffs.

Here’s one that takes me back to my high school days— a 1986 track, “You’re The Voice” is probably the only song John Farnham will be remembered for outside of his native Australia. This one led me to promptly acquire Whispering Jack, which turned out to be a comparative disappointment. But regardless, I’ve always loved the plaintive note in his voice.

The choral/bagpipe backdrop of this song was lifted verbatim for a song in an immensely popular Bollywood musical from 1990 called Aashiqui. The movie was a seminal hit in India primarily because of its music, and turned its composers (a duo called Nadeem-Shravan) into stars that pretty much ruled the Bollywood music scene in the early-mid 90s and then (thankfully) vanished. Farnham’s original is way better.

John Farnham - You’re The Voice

Guest Contributor: Hrishi is a serial start-up junkie, having led the technology efforts of several successful companies in multiple sectors. He is a fan of classic Bollywood, western classical, and music in general. His close friends rely on Hrishi as their go-to reference for esoteric facts and slightly condescending but loving judgment.
The Afghan Whigs
“Crime Scene, Part One”
Black Love

So let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t really like The Afghan Whigs.

I just don’t get them, despite the best efforts of a good friend in college. She would tell me to focus on Greg Dulli‘s soulful vocals and the R&B musical backbone. I guess I preferred my R&B less watered down. But he’s soo cool, she’d say. Oh really? I guess deep down, I thought I was cooler (though you wouldn’t know it looking at my awkward exterior).

Dulli just seemed to be trying too hard and I wasn’t buying it. He was acting and as good old Holden would say, actors never act like real people, they’re phonies.

All of this, of course, is much too harsh to someone I’ve never met, but I think it’s excusable because it’s preamble. The point here is that he recorded one of my favorite songs, “Crime Scene, Part One.”

The song is beautiful, the song is cinematic, the song is tragic, and it speaks to me in a manner that few songs ever have. The evocative opening mainlines directly into my soul and never lets up as the track crescendos into a whirlwind of sorrow, death and violence. When you’re young and still figuring yourself out, this is how you feel pretty much all of the time, and this song served as the perfect soundtrack to my nights of indulgent misery and self-doubt, because you know, I was never really as cool as I’d hoped.

While researching this post, I came across a recent Dulli quote in which he acknowledges that “[this is] a song I feel deeply to this very day. And probably always will.” That makes sense, because this is the only song where I actually believed him.

The Afghan Whigs - Crime Scene, Part One