20 April 2017

Top Ten List Redux

So, I didn't realise I wrote and posted the intro already. There was actually another one I started to write, not quite sure where that incomplete article is. Well, here's my re-do…

My iPod is one of my favorite things that I own. I have always liked to have music with me wherever I am. It’s an amazing progression: from mix tapes, mix CDs and now to playlists.  I bought my first iPod in the Spring of 2010. It was the impressive 160 GB iPod Classic, the iPod with the largest capacity. For my own amazing music collection, nothing else would suffice.

I can honestly say that every song on my iPod has been hand selected to be added.  I am not someone to just put a whole cd on there.  If I don't like a song, it doesn't get added, simple as that.  I spend a lot of time listening to new music – or new to me music – and deciding what gets added.

In 2005, I had the idea to list my favourite artists and my favourite songs by them.  It was at the beginning stages of MP3 players. While most of them were financially out of my reach, I was able to find a Sony Discman that would play data cds containing MP3 files.  I spent a great deal of time in 2005 listening to my music collection and cataloging each of the songs I liked. When that was done, I picked and listed the ten (sometimes twenty) that I liked the best.  I made ten MP3 discs of these favourites – one with all the number one songs, one with all the second ranked songs and so on.

In 2006 I got my first MP3 player, a Creative Labs Nomad. 30 GB of portable music.  The MP3 discs became obsolete.  As did the top ten lists, because I could now have all those songs with me on this new device.

In 2012 I found a 6th generation iPod Nano on Craigslist for a very cheap price.  I had the idea to have a separate iPod with songs of just my favourite artists.  It was then I remembered my previous cataloging and decided to revive it. This time, it would be strictly my own personal top ten songs from each artist.

I find it very interesting as to how my musical tastes have expanded from 2005 to now.  It's also interesting to see the changes of favoured songs from certain artists. Since 2012, I have updated the lists as I encounter new music from different artists, as I've also updated the iPod from an 8GB 6th generation Nano to a 16GB 7th generation Nano.

My top ten songs are chosen for what they mean to me.  They’re chosen because they remind me of a certain time in my life, things I went through or how they make me understand humanity. It's easy to include ‘Margaritaville’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ even though they are the obvious choices for both artists, because they are excellent songs that evoke many memories. But I also have gems like ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On’ and ‘My Love, My Life’ that most people wouldn't know, but are truly amazing.

Music has been my constant companion my entire life. The words and music have always helped me carry on day to day.  There's always that question about your ‘desert island albums.’  I'd rather have my Top Ten iPod.

15 January 2013

The Top Ten Lists

In 2005, I saw the future of personal music was going to be carried on an MP3 player.  I had a vast collection of cds.  I always wish I had kept track each time I did an inventory as to where I was.  So when I wrote something like this, I could say something smart like, “in the summer of 2005 I had 1,328 cds in my collection.” 

The Rasselas, 2003-2006
In my car, I had a 72-disc case that I filled with burned cds.  Mix cds of my favourite songs from my favourite artists.  It was a great collection.  But I knew of the size limitations on MP3 players.  I knew that I couldn’t fit everything I owned on one.  I probably couldn’t even fit all 72 of those mixed cds, plus everything else that was missing from those onto an MP3 player. 

I came up with a plan: I’d make a list of my every song I liked from my top artists, and then pick a top ten.  That way, at least I’d get ten of those songs on there.   I had seventy-nine top ten lists.

Flash forward to the summer of 2012.  While browsing on Craigslist, I happened to find a seller practically giving away a new 6th Generation 8GB iPod Nano.  I got it, but then wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it.  As I said in a previous post, my main iPod is a 160GB iPod Classic.  It’s got everything I cherish musically on it.  While going through a box of old stuff, I found the old composition book from 2005 with the lists in it.  I decided to do a current version, and put that music on the new iPod. 

I didn’t even look at the old book when I made the new lists.  I flipped through my iPod and listed the artists that would be included.  I came up with 134 of them.  As I started the process, I realized there were other artists that I needed to include, that I had forgotten.  I’m currently at 167 artists, with at least six more in the “research” mode.

So, the question becomes, who’s your favourite artist?  What are your top ten songs of theirs? Why?

I'll start going through mine, and even comparing and contrasting the 2012 lists with the 2005 lists.  It's amazing how they've evolved...

15 August 2011

Bad Boys (1983)

When Amy isn’t home for the night, I tend to stay up way too late.  With August upon us, that means that Amy is once again at her camp as the director and will be spending a few nights each week there.  Once I get all my household chores done, I then have time to sit around and watch movies that, more likely than not, Amy would never watch with me.

Last week I watched Bad Boys.  No, not the one with the Fresh Prince and Martin Lawrence.  This one came out in 1983 and starred Sean Penn.  I remember first seeing this on HBO back in either ’83 or ’84.  It was on at like one or two in the morning.  I remember my older brother Petr goading me to stay up late to watch it.  At one point he made me put a cold washcloth on my face to stay awake.  I remember this movie scaring the crap out of me.  At the time I didn’t understand all of the criminal aspects of what was going on, but did begin to think that if you did bad things then you’d end up in a nasty place like the juvenile detention center in the movie.  I remember hearing about bad kids being sent to “juvie hall” or “reform school” and always picturing this is where they went.

Watching this movie now at this point in my life, I find it to be a really good movie.  Sure it’s got your typical prison movie clich├ęs, but they don’t detract from the story.  I always find the portrayal of high schools in movies from the 80’s to be quite interesting.  The high school here looks quite unwelcoming and past its’ glory days. It seems like existence as a student there is tough in such an intimidating place, and that you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  This setting is familiar to the high schools in Wildcats, Lean On Me, and many episodes of 21 Jump Street. Other smaller details also popped up that I found funny, watching from a 2011 perspective: The RC Cola machine in the detention hall.  I think it cost a quarter for a can of soda.  Then there’s the kids who go around selling name-brand cigarettes for ten dollars a carton!

It’s interesting to see actors who emerge later in their careers here, too. Clancy Brown plays the cell block alpha male ‘Viking Lofgren,’ and will go on to play such memorable roles as ‘The Kurgan’ in Highlander and prison guard ‘Byron Hadley’ in The Shawshank Redemption. Also, Alan Ruck plays Sean Penn’s character’s best friend.  Ruck, of course, will live on forever as ‘Cameron Frye’ in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  It’s hard to imagine a young Sean Penn and not think of ‘Jeff Spicoli,’ but he is excellent in this role, even when he doesn’t have many lines to speak or much to say.  Because of his roles in this movie as well as La Bamba, I can’t help but subconsciously always think of Esai Morales as a bad guy.  After watching the movie and reading reviews about it, I was surprised (in an, ‘oh that’s interesting’ way) to find out this was Ally Sheedy’s first film (as well as Esai Morales).  Upon further research, I also found out that the actor who played Ramon Herrera, the social worker who believes some of the kids can be rehabilitated, Reni Santoni, would go on to play Poppy in a few classic episodes of Seinfeld.

I’ll always remember watching this movie as a six or seven year-old and the profound effect it had on me.  I always figured some kids are just bad because they’re bad, I guess.  But now, I understand that there are reasons some kids are bad: poverty, family situations, the people they associate with, etc.  I may have been way off base on that, but maybe this movie did help me in one way: the scary juvenile hall scenes made me realise I never wanted to end up in a place like that.

05 January 2011

Greatest Hits

Greatest Hits albums are one of the biggest swindles of the music industry. Well, Greatest Hits albums and Cher Farewell Tours, of course. But, I have to admit, they do serve their purpose. Back in the days before iPods, when we had to carry several cds or tapes with us, like when we were going on a trip and couldn’t bring all our music, it was convenient to just grab Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits I & II and leave Glass Houses, An Innocent Man and Storm Front behind. But unfortunately, people began to just buy a Greatest Hits cd and forget about the albums that came before. I will not deny that Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits I & II isn’t a phenomenal double-cd. It truly is. And there’s a reason why Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) by the Eagles is the best selling record with 29 million copies sold in the United States alone (tied with another record for that title). But albums like An Innocent Man, Turnstiles, and Piano Man by Billy Joel hold amazing material not present on his Greatest Hits Volume I & II. Sometimes, greatest hits albums go too far. Do you know that Poison has released seven studio albums? They’ve also released seven greatest hits collections.

Whenever I met somebody at Oswego, and I’d be in their room, presumably drinking a few beers or whatnot, I’d always take a look at the cds they had with them. I always found it interesting to see what other people listened to. When I first came to Oswego, I brought with me my entire cd collection that numbered at just under 500 cds. I remember one girl I was involved with said that she was a he Billy Joel fan, and as proof she had his Greatest Hits cds. When I asked her if she liked ‘Summer, Highland Falls’ or ‘If I Only Had The Words (To Tell You),’ she wasn’t aware of those songs. ‘I’ve Loved These Days’ is probably one of Billy Joel’s greatest songs, but it’s not on Greatest Hits Volume I. 

To me, all those albums that come before a greatest hits package are the true treasures. Sure, maybe you can skip over 1974’s Streetlife Serenade, but still, if you did, you would totally miss out on ‘Souvenir,’ a song I only recently truly came to appreciate as a gem.

I will admit, until May of 2001, the only Springsteen cd I owned was the Greatest Hits cd that came out in 1995.  My parents had a few of the albums, Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and Born In The USA as well as the Live/1975-85 box set, which would be the next Springsteen entry to my collection. Over the next year-and-a-half I would accumulate the remaining albums of his catalogue. These have absolutely broadened not only my musical horizons, but also affected the way I feel for others, the way I write, and the way I feel about the world around me.

I know most people don’t ‘get’ music like I do. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who has such a constant need to have music surrounding them. I have come to accept that some people are content with their greatest hits collections, and that they are quite fine turning off their radio when that last track finishes.

25 December 2010

My Top 25 Christmas Songs

Christmas music drives me crazy. People who say they love Christmas music remind me of people who truly believe the Warren Commission on the Kennedy assassination. I remember growing up when we’d drive to my aunt & uncles house in Penfield on Christmas Eve all the radio stations played Christmas music. Then, a few years ago Warm 101.3 here in Rochester decided to start playing Christmas music 24/7 starting on Black Friday right through the season. I think that’s what did it to me. But like most music, I can handle it when it’s played on my terms.  I actually do own quite a few Christmas cds. So, through the 2010 Christmas season, I decided to compile a list of my Top 25 Christmas Songs. I’m sure there are a few on here you have never heard of. I encourage you to seek them out and give them a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find them quite enjoyable as well.

Here we go…

#25 – Joey + Rory – “It’s Christmas Time” (2009) – Although being a year old already, I first heard this song this December while I was compiling this list. It really caught on with me and I think it’s a very sweet pure country Christmas song.

#24 – The Beach Boys – “Santa’s Beard” (1964) – When I was young and my whole family participated in putting up the Christmas tree and decorating, one of the albums I always remember my parents playing was The Beach Boys Christmas Album. This song reminds me of those days many years ago. It showcases that Beach Boys harmonizing sound that made them so great.

#23 – Even In Blackouts – “Infinite Holiday Song” (2002) – This is a great band with a great sound. This song covers all the bases of the holiday season. It’s a quite simple and fun song and runs at just a minute long.

#22 – The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” (1981) – Most examples of 80’s white rapping makes me cringe (see Blondie’s ‘Rapture’), but this is a fun song with a good story about how sometimes we get too caught up in our lives and forget about the important things.

#21 – Taylor Swift – “Santa Baby” (2007) – Let’s get one thing straight: I cannot stand the Madonna version of this song, very campy. This song fits Taylor Swift perfectly. Of course she’s been a good girl and is hoping for Santa to reward her, she’s Taylor Swift for Pete’s sake!

#20 – Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” (1979) – A true classic song from my younger days. I remember when I first heard it and how funny it was. Then 98 PXY decided to play it for what seemed like 24 hours straight. By high school this song had worn out its’ welcome. Thankfully I don’t listen to radio anymore, so now the song has been redeemed.

#19 – Melissa Etheridge – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (2008) – Probably my favourite ‘classic’ Christmas song. The line, ‘Through the years we all will be together, If the Fates allow…’ is one of my favourite lines of any song. Etheridge’s version is very bluesy and she sings it exactly how it should be sung.

#18 – A Fine Frenzy – “Winter White” (2009) – Don’t let the peppy music fool you, this is a pretty sad love song with a Christmas setting. How frustrated must one be to sing, ‘Merry Christmas, Happy Goddamn New Year?’ I saw A Fine Frenzy in Indianapolis right before I moved back to Rochester, she really was amazing. Check out her first cd, ‘One Cell In The Sea.’

#17 – Adam Sandler – “The Chanukah Song” (1994) – This is not just to show a sense of diversity or a nod to my Fraternity. This song was truly groundbreaking when it came out in ’94. I had never heard a Chanukah song on the radio before – no one had. So it’s good that the first one that was played was pretty funny, and it still is. This is Sandler at his best.

#16 – Jimmy Buffett – “Ho Ho Ho And A Bottle Of Rhum” (1996) – This is everything you’d expect from a Buffett Christmas song. How does Santa get through the busy holiday season? I think he feels a lot like most of us: Christmas is more work than fun. His escape plan? ‘Ho ho ho and a bottle of rhum, Santa’s run off to the Caribbean!’

#15 – Eagles/Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home For Christmas” (1978/1995) – A wonderful sad and lonely Christmas song. It’s tough to choose between the two versions because they’re both so good.

#14 – The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” (1963) – Again, the roots of my affection for this song goes back to my childhood and my family putting up the decorations together. But this song follows in a long line of great Beach Boys songs about cars. The song even sounds just like “Little Deuce Coupe.” But they are right, for Santa to make all those deliveries, his sleigh has got to be pretty fast and would probably out race anyone.

#13 – Jimmy Buffett – “Merry Christmas, Alabama (Never Far From Home)” (1996) – To most casual Buffett listeners, they may think all of his songs are about drinking and beaches. There are a lot of those, but there’s a whole other side which is probably even better: his sentimental side. At this time of year, it’s good to look back and remember all those who have helped us along our journeys to where we are now.

#12 – Melissa Etheridge – “Christmas In America” (2008) – This song is as contemporary and modern as you can get. It’s a Christmas song about 21st Century America. Missing the one you love as they’re overseas at war, and the only present you want is for them to be there with you.

#11 – Mariah Carey – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (1994) – Think what you may about Mariah Carey, but did you know she wrote this song (as she has written almost all of her songs throughout her career)? This is such a fun song that makes you just want to get up and dance and sing along.

#10 – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (live)” (1985) – This is a classic E Street Band Christmas song! It might be a kids song, but Bruce sings it perfectly and you can hear every part of the band in there. And as usual, Clarence’s presence on the song is invaluable.

#9 – A Fine Frenzy – “Wish You Well” (2009) – A sweet and sad song about missing a family member at Christmas time.  I find it to be quite an honest song about how things can get so far out of whack that we don’t even know the ones we should know the most. To me it says that we need to do what we can to reach out those people at this time of year no matter what. Again, check out A Fine Frenzy’s debut album!

#8 – Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984) – Ok, maybe it has all the trappings of pure 80’s cheese, but it’s a great song. Taylor Swift recorded this on her Christmas album and it could definitely fit right into her songbook.

#7 – U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1987) – Once again, a familiar theme of being without someone at Christmas time. Not sure why that theme resonates with me. But this song has that awesome classic U2 sound – that one that dominated the late 80’s with ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘Rattle & Hum.’ I miss that sound on their recent albums.

#6 – Taylor Swift – “Christmases When You Were Mine” (2007) – This is a perfect Taylor Swift song no matter the season. This is one of her originals and plays out in the same manner of most of her excellent songs. It’s a sweet song about a girl missing a boy at this time of year. And as like most of her songs, there are little details that make the song sound so real.

#5 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992) – This is fun and rocking Christmas time. Definitely an underappreciated song for such a big artist. This is truly the Heartbreakers at their best.

#4 – Melissa Etheridge – “Glorious” (2008) – This song is truly a modern classic. Etheridge pulls lines from a variety of other songs and weaves them together with her own lines to make a beautiful song.

#3 – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1987) – Again, the E Street Band lends it’s magic to a classic seasonal tune. The opening of the song has all the trimmings of a classic E Street jaunt. Bruce adds his well tested 50’s Rock and R&B impressions into the song.

#2 – Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984) – This song just has that feeling of having a higher purpose than just holiday cheer. It is probably THE 80’s Christmas song of all 80’s Christmas songs. You can make all the comparisons you want to “We Are The World,” but this one came first. A few years ago, I think it was on one of those stupid VH1 shows where hacks mock every thing, there was mention of this song and the person said something like “of course they don’t know it’s Christmas time because it’s not their culture.” Well, I’d like you to know that Ethiopia is actually a major Christian nation and it always has been. 

#1 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1971) – A perfect John Lennon song. I have always been drawn to the simplicity of the song. The song has many similarities to “Imagine” as John calls out all the different labels that differentiate us and tells us that we’re all in this together. It took me a while to truly understand the ‘War Is Over’ part of the song. I think the opening lines, ‘And so this is Christmas, And what have you done, Another year over, And a new one just begun,’ will forever haunt me. Such amazing lines. I can listen to this song all year round, as it’s truly one of John’s greatest songs.

23 December 2010

This is The Schultheis Review...

Music. What does it mean to you? How does it make you feel? To me, the answer to both of those questions is 'everything.' A song is the ultimate time machine. Put it on, close your eyes and you can be magically transported to another place and time. 

'Let's Hang On' by The Four Seasons (but according to new findings, it might have been the Barry Manilow version) makes me think of driving to my grandparents house in the station wagon down in Wellsville with my mother when I was like six.

'The Stranger' by Billy Joel reminds me of running errands on a Saturday afternoon with my mother - going to some shop over near East Main Street and North Winton Road. 

'Greatest Hits Volume I & II' by Billy Joel remind me of cleaning the house on weekends.

I remember the first time I heard 'Father & Son' by Cat Stevens.  In 1988, Maxi Priest released a cover of 'Wild World.' I fell in love with that song almost instantly. When I heard it was a cover, and that my dad actually had the record for the original, I had to listen to it. I found 'Tea For The Tillerman' in my parents record collection (they have a great collection) and was amazed at the lyrics printed right on the back of the cover.  I noticed the one song that was shown as a duet, but there was no other artist listed as singing it.  I read the words and was quickly affected by them.  I brought the album up to my room to listen to it in private. It's still one of my favourite songs of all time.

I remember my brother Chris and I being transfixed by Traveling Wilbury's 'Volume One.' We brought that one up to our room as well.

I don't know how I ever lived before I owned an MP3 player. I do remember one Thanksgiving I brought about twenty cassette tapes with me to my grandparents house because I couldn't figure out what I wanted to listen to during the four days we would be there.

I think it was in fifth grade that I started listening to music when I went to sleep. I remember the one and only time my brother and I had a volume fight on our respective radios as to what was going to play that night as we slept. I remember when my friend Ryan had moved into our house, and on one of the first nights there, he came over to my radio and turned it off after I had fallen asleep. No sooner had he turned it off had I jumped up and asked him what he was doing. From then on he understood the rule of my room: music played at night.

A lot of people say music speaks to them. That they love listening to the stories in the lyrics. I understand that. But when I listen it's not only the words that speaks to me, but also the music, the instrumentation, the background sounds, the 'do do do' of the background singers keeping the beat. I love Springsteen songs where you can hear the entire band playing. I'd do anything to see Bruce playing 'Thunder Road' on piano solo, but to see the E Street Band come alive with 'Sherry Darling' or 'Rosalita' is something else entirely.

My parents raised me in a classic rock and roll tradition: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Boston. There were some pop trappings in there: ABBA, Billy Joel, Elton John. The introduction of MTV was a defining moment in my life. I was swept away with the New Wave that came in the 80s - The Cars, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Nena, Soft Cell. My 6th grade teacher believed that an education without the classics was a waste. He gave us Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. In high school I was drawn to musical theatre - Andrew Lloyd Webber, 'The Man Of LaMancha,' 'Miss Saigon.' An argument can be said that it was the girls I dated that brought me towards country music, three of them were bonafide country music fans. But I think it was a natural evolution of my musical tastes. Sooner or later it was bound to happen.

My first MP3 player was a 30GB Creative Labs Nomad. I got it in December 2006. By December 2008 I had upgraded to a refurbished Creative Labs Nomad with a 120GB card in it. Multiple problems with that forced me to turn to the best of the best - a 160GB iPod Classic. It took me nearly two months to transfer my music. I verified the song information on each song, catalogued it on a spreadsheet and then added it to the iPod. Right now, I have 95GB free. I bring it with me everywhere I go. I get cold sweats if I leave it home or at work. I've even gone back to work at 1am (it was after a movie) to rescue the iPod (it was also a Friday, so I wasn't going to leave it there for the whole weekend!).

So, here's my blog. It's about music and movies mainly. Random ideas that I come up with.