Friday Music

Eclectic mix this week:

The traditional theme song that appears in pretty much every film made about Chinese historical hero Wong Fei Hung is a Manchu-era folk song, called “Under the General’s Orders.” In the “Once Upon A Time In China” films of the 1990s, they added lyrics to the folk song, and recorded it as “A True Man’s Will.” The closing credits of the first OUATIC film featured the song sung in Cantonese. The closing credits of the sequel, however, OUATIC 2, featured a modernized version of the song, in Mandarin, and sung by no other than Jackie Chan (or, as he’s known in China, Chen Long). Yup….Jackie sings. He’s Peking Opera trained, and is considered to be a good singer! So, here’s that version: Jackie Chan – “Nan Er Dan Zi Qiang (A True Man’s Will)”

This is one of my favorite songs, and up until recently, I had no idea who recorded it, or what it was called. Thanks to the Dastardly Best Friend, however, that has now been remedied. This starts with a wonderful string arrangement, and then fades into the song itself, which is (in my opinion), beautiful to the point of being painful. Badly Drawn Boy – “The Shining.”

This track was used in the background of the BBC3 documentary series “Doctor Who Confidential”, and I immediately had to track it down. This is, perhaps, one of the best versions of this song, apart from Nina Simone’s — Muse – “Feeling Good.”

This is the opening track to Curtis Mayfield’s 1970 solo debut, Curtis. Like most of his work, it’s overtly political, and shockingly blunt (Work warning — he uses some language which is not appropriate for the office…even now….and he recorded this 36 years ago). I love this song, for several reasons: One, it’s not as well known as his work on “Superfly,” but I think it’s better. Two, the early 70s is one of the last times that musicians used orchestral arrangements — strings, horns, the whole nine yards. It was before the advent of cheaply-priced synths. Don’t get me wrong — I love synths, but it’s hard to beat the “wall of sound” that full instrumentation provides. Lastly — I really like the message of this song– the world is messed up, and it’s *everybody’s* fault. Curtis Mayfield – “(Don’t Worry) If There’s Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go.”

Speaking of cool instrumentation — here’s my favorite song from one of Radiohead’s most experimental albums, Amnesiac. In an album full of envelope-pushing electronics, the use of a grand piano really grabbed me. Radiohead – “Pyramid Song.”

I discovered this band this week. Their debut album came out in 2005, and some folks say that it’s one of the overlooked treasures of last year. This song is definitely a good one–sharp, piano-driven uptempo indie pop. I’ll have to track down the album. Eagle*Seagull – “Photograph”

Cut Chemist is a turntablist who has been a part of Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, as well as having collaborated with DJ Shadow. His solo debut, The Audience Is Listening is coming out in May. This track is an excellent example of his abilities, backed by two skilled MCs. Cut Chemist – “Storm (featuring Edan and Mr. Lif)”

Donald Fagen recently released his third solo album (which brings him up to the rate of one per decade — one each in the 80s, 90s, and 00s). It is, naturally, an absolutely brilliant mix of rock and jazz in Fagen’s established style. In fact, I like this new album much better than the last Steely Dan album, Everything Must Go. Here’s the title track: Donald Fagen – “Morph The Cat.”

There you go, kids. Enjoy.