prince, sign ‘o’ the times

prince, sign ‘o’ the times

The gift of music is always the best and I was recently gifted a vinyl remastered copy of Sign ‘O’ The Times by Prince. And it is the best.

Originally released on March 30, 1987, the re-release on September 25, 2020, was a much-anticipated balm for this year of canceled live tours and shows. The songs on Sign ‘O’ The Times sound as fresh as they felt to audiences 30 years ago. Prince created a tour de force with wide-ranging genres, rock-solid vocals, and lyrics that stand the test of time. 

Although “Sign ‘O’ The Times” and “U Got The Look” were the two singles off the album that got the most attention, there are so many more choices that will become favorites on your playlists. “Play In The Sunshine” and “Housequake” are back-to-back songs designed to get you moving. “If I Were Your Girlfriend” also never disappoints. 

I have discovered my own new favorites – “Starfish and Coffee” is one of those. Written by Prince with Susannah Melvoin, it sparkles with fun lyrics and bright beats. It’s catchy and surprising. Additionally, Prince performed it with The Muppets in 2016, which makes it that much better!

I have played Side B of Album number Two three times now while I write and I see a fourth play in my future. “The Cross”, “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” and “Adore” are the three songs on this side. They are completely different from each other, but each one is brilliant. 

Sign ‘O’ The Times is becoming one of my favorite albums in my collection. Although I was aware of, and heard, all of these songs over the years, I had never purchased the album to listen to in its entirety . Now that I have it, I will make up for lost time.

for today… music

for today… music

I have sent letters. I have donated to organizations. I have studied the issues. I have had discussions. I have listened. I have voted. I have worn a mask and socially distanced since March 15th.

Now, I will listen to music. On room speakers, not my earbuds. Albums, CD’s and downloads. Recorded live music and acoustic. Artists I have just discovered and artists that I have loved forever. R & B, folk, rap, heavy metal, dance, rock and roll. I will sing all the words that I know and hum the ones I don’t. I will dance, regardless of the genre. I will remember all of the incredible live shows I have attended and anticipate the shows to come. 

Music is not a panacea for all the problems that we face. But today, it will help me through the day.

nostalgia in music: the great unifier

nostalgia in music: the great unifier

I’m a nostalgic person by nature.   This time of year brings out all the memory triggers – smells, sights, yearly movies, conversations with family. Thinking back on the gifts I’ve gotten through the years, the most memorable often include music.

As a kid, my cousins and I drew names for gifts.  Our family didn’t get together very often since we lived in different parts of the state, so Christmas at my grandmother’s house was a big deal. Christmas when I was eight was huge – the gift from my cousin was The Partridge Family Christmas album! Three of my cousins were slightly older than me, so they talked about songs and bands that were not on my elementary school radar. The Partridge Family, however, was on my TV every Friday night and now I had their album! The songs were Christmas standards, sung by David Cassidy, Shirley Jones and studio musicians. Very pedestrian by grown up standards, but that album meant the world to me. It even had a card attached to the front of the cover that was “signed” by the entire Partridge Family. What did I know about mass produced autographs? I nearly wore that record out playing it well beyond the holidays. 

As a teenager, I would often get albums as gifts – Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Don Henley’s Building The Perfect Beast, all the albums by Hall & Oates. Music is so easy to gift and so appreciated. I still have an extensive album collection, even though I have most of the music downloaded, because they bring all the great memories to the fore. Reading liner notes was the best because you would know an entire song and be able to sing along immediately. As I got older, albums gave way to cassettes, then CDs.  

Then came concert tickets!

I cannot hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” without thinking of the first time I heard him sing it – November, 1984. It was also the first time I had seen Bruce live in concert and that song closed the show. Even though everyone in the crowd should have been spent after the four hour show, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” just re-energized the full house.  There was very defined time line – those events before that show, and those events that occurred after that show. Although I had been to live shows before that, all that came after would be compared to Bruce Springsteen live. It’s a high bar, but one that most artists meet in their own way. 

Another special show was taking our family friend to see Barry Manilow. Her name was Mary Louise Weaver and she could not have been a bigger Barry fan. She was speechless, teary-eyed, smiling and singing – mostly simultaneously. She knew all of his music and had the best time. I was so happy to witness her happiness. 

I am now a grown up with grown children, but I still experience the same excitement when I hear a song from any time in my life. Fortunately, all three of my kids have grown up loving music, so my husband and I did something right. We have a great time listening to different genres and attending different shows. I love to sing at the top of my lungs driving in the car, around the house, or at any concert I am attending. Music is a great unifier and sharing music is a gift that we can all give each other.

Now, it’s time to fire up the turntable for that Partridge Family album.

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elizabeth’s favorite shows of 2019: don’t threaten me with a good time

elizabeth’s favorite shows of 2019: don’t threaten me with a good time

2019 has seen a plethora of music come through Kansas City, both large tours and one-off intimate shows. We are fortunate to live in an area that attracts artists of all musical genres.

Two of the shows I enjoyed most this year were Panic! At The Disco (February 2, Pray For The Wicked Tour) and Backstreet Boys (September 7, DNA World Tour). Before you think this is the opinion of someone who grew up on boy bands, understand that I am the mom of young women who listened to boy bands as a part of their musical repertoire. Road trip music did include the Backstreet Boys and Panic!, but playlists also consisted of Garth Brooks, P!nk, show tunes, The Temptations, and the Proclaimers among others. Music, and live music, are givens in our family.

When these two tours were announced, I knew that my two daughters and I had to go to both of them. I had never seen Panic!, but both of them had, so I was excited to see this show. It did not disappoint. The show was sold out and everyone was on their feet the entire time. Brendon Urie entered the stage by leaping out of a hole in the floor and the energy did not wane from there. With a full band that included strings and horns to back up Urie, the entire show was a musical gem. In addition to the songs, which everyone knew every word to, lights, pyrotechnics, and graphics were used to create an event, not just a concert. Brendon Urie also spent some time playing piano, both at the front stage, and an auxiliary stage which was then elevated over the crowd.

I can honestly say that I came away from that show hoarse from singing at the top of my lungs. It was so much fun to watch other people enjoy themselves. All 14,000+ of us were at a party together and no one left dissatisfied. Don’t threaten me with a good time!

Setlist
(Fuck A) Silver Lining
Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time
Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)
Hey Look Ma, I Made It
LA Devotee
Hallelujah
Crazy=Genius
The Ballad of Mona Lisa
Nine in the Afternoon
One of the Drunks
Casual Affair
Vegas Lights
Dancing’s Not a Crime
This Is Gospel
Death of a Bachelor
I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid cover)
Dying in LA
The Greatest Show (Benj Pasek & Justin Paul cover)
Girls/Girls/Boys
King of the Clouds
High Hopes
Miss Jackson
Roaring 20s
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
Emperor’s New Clothes

Encore:
Say Amen (Saturday Night)
I Write Sins Not Tragedies
Victorious

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Backstreet Boys were another first time show for me. Once again, my daughters had seen Backstreet Boys, so I was looking forward to going with them. What I didn’t expect was for this show to sell out as well! Although the crowd was slightly older than the crowd at Panic! At The Disco, there were plenty of younger people in the audience as well. And once again, these were people who did not sit down during the show!

Backstreet Boys employed a more traditional stage, but were in constant motion to cover the entire area. This also allowed them to take turns singing lead. There was not band on stage, but no one seemed to mind – these fans were here for the Backstreet Boys. The Boys, which I hate to say since they are all married men with children, interspersed medleys with their full length songs to cover most of their broad catalog. Everyone knew all of the songs, regardless of whether they were 20 years old or on the newest album. And they sang every word. 

And I sang every word and danced with my daughters, just like other moms in the audience danced with their daughters. Live music can help you create memories like none other.

Setlist
Everyone (First verse only)
I Wanna Be With You
The Call
Don’t Want You Back
Nobody Else (Brain Solo, First verse and chours)
New Love
Get Down (You’re The One For Me)
Chateau (Howie Solo, First verse and chours)
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
Incomplete
Undone
More Than That
The Way It Was (Nick Solo, First verse and chorus)
Chances
Shape of My Heart (No second verse)
Drowning (No second verse)
Passionate
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
As Long As You Love Me
No Place
Breathe
Don’t Wanna Lose You Now
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
All I Have to Give (Conversation Mix)
All I Have To Give
Backstreet Boys DNA Tour Remix
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
We’ve Got It Goin’ On
It’s Gotta Be You
That’s the Way I Like It
Get Another Boyfriend
The One
I Want It That Way

Encore:
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Larger Than Life

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What was your favorite show of 2019? Let us know on Facebook!

kings of leon, walls

kings of leon, walls

The notorious rock collective Kings of Leon dropped their new album Walls last fall. Being a massive fan of the band myself, I needed help getting more objective opinions on the piece. So, in the dimly lit dining room of my parents’ house after a dinner of fried chicken, my immediate family (and grandmother) sat down to add our two cents about the work. (This is one of my favorite posts from my Impose days.)

The first track of the album, “Waste a Moment”, allows swirling guitar to bring in a good little melody. It’s the uptempo single you may have heard on the radio, lending itself to the typical sound Kings of Leon is known for. But after that first track, the band seems to have attempted to deviate from their norm, nabbing bits and pieces from different genres to make the album into a diverse, warm body of tracks to feast your ears on. For example, when second track “Reverend” begins, you immediately notice the vintage 70’s feel to the keys, a mid-tempo track that starts slower as lead singer Caleb Followill reaches for octaves we didn’t realize were in his range, providing a hazy, more ethereal sound to his vocals during entire stretches of the song.

While “Around the World” may begin with a lightweight guitar riff, there is a solo that is borderline earth shattering awaiting your ears. It definitely makes us want to pack our bags and escape to a place unknown. “Find Me” comes in deeper, and gets straight to the point. 44 seconds in, Caleb starts to sing and the song loses some of its momentum by reducing the instrumentals for his vocals. The song gives off the impression that he is singing while he’s driving a car, and the momentum picks back up during the chorus. “Over” has a darker feel to it with the deep, consistent guitar riff. Sounds like The Killersblended with some David Bowie, something my entire family picked up on. (I will note that my grandma claimed it had a Phantom of the Opera feel to it.) We all agreed that Caleb’s vocals sound blatantly different on this track, although no less beautiful.

The song “Muchacho” proves the notion that when you add castanets to a song, it automatically becomes more vibey. Slightly reminiscent of some of our favorite R.E.M. tracks, Caleb’s voice is delivered at an even deeper range, if that’s possible. It’s slower, with a very tropical disposition and a tempo that reminds us of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Brilliant Disguise”. (Which was a brilliant move on their part.) Percussion leads in to “Conversation Piece” slowly, with lyrics like “take me back to california, to those crystal neon signs” allowing the listener to reminisce on days past. The song is low key, like the majority of the album, and could easily be played in the background of a back road drive with your significant other during the autumn months.

“Eyes On You” brings the tempo back up, the instrumentals noticeably reminiscent of some of our favorite Weezer tracks. The song deviates to a punk spectrum, although the way the melody is composed is actually very beautiful and works perfectly with Caleb’s scratchy bravado. “Wild” brings the album back to a warmer instrumental composition, and we’re led to a place of relaxation. The album rounds out with its title track, which sets in at a glacial – but incredible gorgeous – pace. Simple instrumentals allow the vocals to be highlighted moreso than its predecessors. Lyrics like “I can’t get there on my own / You can’t leave me here alone / I’m just trying to do what’s right / A man ain’t a man unless he’s fought the fight” make this a very introspective and personal piece. It’s a delicate way to end the album, and slows your heart rate down immensely. “Walls” can be summed up as an existential piece that leaves you questioning life, love, and your own pursuit of happiness.

As you may have noted, our evening included quite the roundtable discussion. As fleeting as it was, we all maintained the opinion that the album is experimentation at its finest.

Walls is available now.

**This review was written with the help of:
Elizabeth & Stephen Schneider
Patricia Streng
Erin & Tim Zimmerman