“Teaching For What?” – New book by Michael Fusco

Available for sale now on Fountain Blue Publishing is “Teaching For What?” by Michael Fusco.  It’s the story of a long teaching career in public schools and the toll that career took on this man’s life.  From such hopeful beginnings in the profession, it’s sad to see the progression of events that lead him into depression and early retirement.  The politics, egos, and unknown workings of the teaching profession in public schools are revealed in this frank and sometimes scathing memoir.  Teachers, students, and parents will all gain a greater understanding of the widely misunderstood teaching profession- let’s just say that big “vacation” they get over the summer isn’t just for time off- it’s to keep from going insane!

You can order the book now on Amazon by clicking HERE! The book is available in both print and electronic (Kindle, Nook, etc.) versions on Fountain Blue Publishing’s website, as well, by clicking HERE!

Teaching for What? by Michael Fusco

(#1-10) – The 50 Best Rock Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

Originally posted 2010-01-03 12:30:04.

By Chris Moore:

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…  The unveiling of the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten rock albums of the 2000′s.  For anyone who loves music — who loves albums — as much as I do, the artists and album titles that follow are among the best offerings in the past ten years.  Even in a decade that saw a marked decline in physical album sales and an increasing number of rock fans suggesting that good music hasn’t been made for ten, twenty, or more years, these albums are proof positive of the opposite.

Good and, occasionally, great music continues to be made each year.

As you read the final segment of this top fifty list, consider which albums you’ve heard and consider picking up those that you haven’t.  I encourage you to share your own thoughts below, if you feel so inclined.  I spent countless hours thinking, discussing, compiling, arranging, and rearranging this list, so I’ll be the first to tell you it is the imperfect work of an imperfect human being, albeit one who has approached this task with the seriousness of a full-time job.  I hope it gives you some food for thought, and that you enjoy it!

1) Red Letter Days (2002) – The Wallflowers: Their finest work and the overall best rock album of the decade for so many reasons.  Click HERE for my full review.

2) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco: The album that singlehandedly catapulted Wilco out of the “alt-country” caverns and into the full light of day as one of the decade’s foremost alternative rock bands.  Click HERE for my full review.

3) Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001) – Ben Folds: This is Ben Folds at his finest, pounding the piano relentlessly and lyrically tracing the outline of what it means to face loneliness in a modern world.  Click HERE for my full review.

4) Figure 8 (2000) – Elliott Smith: His fifth and final studio album before his death three years later, Figure 8 is Elliott Smith’s masterpiece.  Each of his albums — Either/Or and XO most dramatically — just kept getting better, and this is no exception.  Click HERE for my full review.

5) Maroon (2000) – Barenaked Ladies: From front to back, this is the quintessential Barenaked Ladies album, demonstrating their knack for humor, keen eye for expressing serious issues and emotions poetically, and, as per usual, their considerable instrumental talents.  Click HERE for my full review.

6) In Between Dreams (2005) – Jack Johnson: In many ways, Jack Johnson has been the spokesperson for albums this decade as, more and more, consumers seem less and less interested in them as an art form.  Johnson not only made a name for himself entirely within this decade, but did so by releasing hit records without any significant hit singles.  And there is no better example of Johnson’s prowess than In Between Dreams. From beginning to end, the acoustic guitars are crisp and clear in the mix, and Johnson cleverly balances the cheesy and the serious — even politically charged — aspects of his lyrics better than he has before or since.  It’s a wonderful album, and it’s always my first choice for a hot summer day — perfect for any top-down drive, car wash, or beach trip!

7) Brainwashed (2002) – George Harrison: Posthumously released, George Harrison’s Brainwashed is an album created out of the most pure sense of an urgent mission at hand with which a human can be faced — imminent mortality.  Having been diagnosed with cancer, Harrison did what he knew best — returned to the studio to record the album of a lifetime.  And this is not said lightly, considering the catalog that he produced over a lifetime.  Far from rusty for his fifteen years outside the studio, Harrison is at his lyrical, vocal, and instrumental best on this record.  Completed with care by producer and friend Jeff Lynne with Harrison’s son Dhani, Brainwashed is perhaps THE post-Beatles studio album.  It deals with all the classic topics — religion, politics, mortality, and love to name a few — with such ease and expertise that it almost makes up for the absence of new George Harrison records after Cloud Nine.  It’s just that good.

8 ) Extraordinary Machine (2005) – Fiona Apple: As unstable as she might be in her personal life, Fiona Apple’s modus operandi concerning studio albums has consistently been defined by a measured approach at self-improvement.  With each album, she has only gotten better, and Extraordinary Machine is her masterwork.  Oozing with a sharp cynicism and a guarded smirk always lurking just beneath the surface, Apple’s album cleverly orchestrates a number of instruments around her piano which, characteristically, leads each song.  Combining this with her inimitable vocals setting the mood for each track, this is one of the best albums of the decade.  Rock music fans everywhere, just pray that she can put together another one (or two?) next decade!

9) Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008) – Counting Crows: Not since Recovering the Satellites have Adam Duritz and his band produced such a brilliant, enjoyable album — the best album of 2008 and one of the best of the decade.  Click HERE for my full review.

10) The Last DJ (2002) – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: It’s never been as much fun to openly despise the state of the modern music industry, particularly the system by which most corporate-run radio stations choose and broadcast music.  The undertone throughout The Last DJ is sarcastic, most brilliantly on “Joe” and the title track.  In between trips to his soapbox, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also find time to create some of the most beautiful (“Dreamville,” “Can’t Stop the Sun”) and most rocking (“When a Kid Goes Bad,” “Have Love Will Travel”) music of their career.  The only Heartbreakers album of the decade, The Last DJ can only serve to stir up more desire for at least one more go-round in the next.

“I’m Into Something Good” (Herman’s Hermits Cover)

Originally posted 2008-09-21 23:15:07.

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to your Sunday, Sunday, Sunday edition of The Laptop Sessions here on the best (explitive) music video blog on planet earth.  Don’t believe me?  This is my 120th Laptop Session, Chris debuts his 100th music video cover song tomorrow, and I’m sure Jeff is knocking on that door very soon…  All this adds up to over 300 music videos all done to perfection with love and care for the music that made us who we are.  I suggest, if this is your first time here, clicking on the band categories in the left sidebar and clicking on your favorite band.  I’m sure you’ll find at least one great acoustic cover music video in there!

On to tonight’s video.  Well, after a long day at the Big E fair in West Springfield, MA, I had to come home to do my video.  Regulars to the video blog know that I usually have quite a backlog of videos handy, but with my recent cold, that stash was depleted.  I’m still not at 100%, but I can fake it, as I did tonight.

I didn’t realize that Brian Wilson did a cover of this song on his new album, “That Lucky Old Sun”.  I guess it was on the Best Buy exclusive disc.  I ended up buying the CD/DVD version, so I’m without the bonus tracks, but luckily Chris has them, as he bought the standard edition (some fan HE is! j/k) at Best Buy.

I saw Herman’s Hermits, or at least some derivitive of them, at the North Haven, CT Fair a couple years ago.  They were really good.  At least they had Peter Noone.  I learned the Creed from the Office was actually a real member of Herman’s Hermits back in the 60s, and he plays a character of himself on the show.  Needless to say, I don’t think Creed was at the North Haven Fair show.

This is an easy song to play, but it’s a lot of fun.  It’s definitely one that you should learn if you’re just starting on guitar and also have a tenor voice.  I’m sure Brian doesn’t sing it in this original key, but who knows- no one expected an album like TLOS during this stage of his career.

Stay tuned, folks.  I, of course, extended New Bands Week by a day, but sadly, Chris will be ending that streak tomorrow.  It’s okay- he’s been planning his big 100th Post Bash for a long time.  And if his camera is still functional after seeing his chest hair, he’ll be back for Thursday’s video, as well.  Until then!

“The Last Ride” (The Pretenders Cover)

Originally posted 2008-10-25 23:45:53.

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to your Saturday session of the best acoustic rock cover song blog on the web today!  This is actually a combination of my favorite type of post (a brand-new song) and Jim’s favorite type of post (a new artist to the music blog)…  The Pretenders’ “The Last Ride.”  This is a brand-new song from their 2008 album Break Up The Concrete.

I’m not really a big Pretenders fan, but I’m on this big new albums kick for 2008, so I figured I would try out their new album this year.  It’s called Break Up The Concrete and it’s actually pretty good — I especially liked the “First Edition” packaging, which included a piece of paper with the title of the album and name of the band on it.  But it wasn’t just a piece of paper to highlight the specifics; it has instructions on it to dampen it with water, plant it in the ground, and wait for it to grow a plant.  I like this as a piece of the theme of the album — to break up the concrete could include planting new and natural things that, when they grow, break through the man-made pavement. In fact, the back of the album is a picture of a flower.  Most artists include bonus tracks or music videos, but a seed patch… that’s original!

I’ve only heard this song about three or four times, but I decided that this was the one for me to record from this new Pretenders album.  To be honest, I don’t really know any Pretenders songs, but I’ve definitely heard of them.  I think I have a song of theirs on one of my “80s greatest hits” albums.  Let me go check…

And I’m back — I knew I’d heard of them.  The Pretenders had a hit with “Back on the Chain Gang” in the early 1980s.  I first heard this song when I was a senior in high school, trying to learn all the big periods of American pop music.  There was always something about Chrissie Hynde’s voice that I really liked.

Now, is Break Up The Concrete the best album of the year?  No.  But I’ve found it really interesting adding them to my collection this year.  They’ve got an upbeat sound and, if that wasn’t enough, they’ve got my favorite drummer of all time… also known as the fifth Traveling Wilbury… Jim Keltner!  I’m on my way now to do some research on the Pretenders, but their drummer on the new album is indeed Keltner, a drummer who’s not only played with the Wilburys, but has also been a session drummer for such rock acts as Bob Dylan.

As you’re watching the video, you might notice that there’s a blue flash every so often.  That’s the menu of “Mission Impossible III,” which I rented tonight, thanks to the Jimmy Fund promotion at Burger King.  I donated money to the fund and got a scratch off ticket that ended up being a free rental at Blockbuster video.  So a special thanks goes out to Blockbuster — whose ever-increasing rental fees have discouraged me from renting recently — for participating in this worthy cause.  I absolutely loved the first “Mission Impossible” and found the second to be pedestrian at best.  Now, I’m half way through the third installment and loving it.  I had to stop it at 1:03:51, as it’s good enough to be very distracting to me as I type this most recent post on the best acoustic cover song music blog in the universe… the Laptop Sessions!  It was a really cool feeling, coming home tonight and knowing I had to record a session.  I translated and posted the chords to “The Last Ride” earlier this afternoon, and I was really excited to be one of the first people in the world to record a cover of a song from the new album.

What a cool project this session-a-day is…  I realize it’s really annoying and tedious at times.  But, at the end of 2008, Jim, Jeff, and I will have posted 366 (leap year!) videos this year.  What other musicians are as ambitious?  If you haven’t already, you need to check out Jeff’s album at the Fusco-Moore Store (one of the best of the year — and, trust me, I can judge this, as I’ve bought something like 20 new albums this year) and stay tuned for Jim’s best album yet, to be released some time soon; probably early 2009…

Well, that’s it for now.  The last thing I want to mention is how much I’ve been into Wilco and the Counting Crows recently.  They’re both great 90s bands, and I’ll certainly be posting acoustic cover songs from them soon.  But, for now, the focus is on new additions to the blog — I hope you enjoy the first Pretenders song on this music blog — come back tomorrow and the next day for Jeff and Jim.  I’ll see you again on Tuesday…

See you next session!

From the Music Blog Archives:

“(Just Like) Starting Over” (John Lennon Cover)

Originally posted 2008-05-03 16:56:48.

By Jim Fusco:

Today, “#1 Week” ends with a great tune from John Lennon’s last album, “Double Fantasy”. I was surprised that this song reached Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 instead of “Woman”, which made it to #2.

I’m typing this description while listening to these two fartheads talk. I’m talking about Chris and Jeff, who just bet me to type that, so there you go, guys.

Anyway, I really love this song, too, and it came out great on my nylon string guitar. I had to record this one on my digital camera, as my laptop has been making a lot of fan noise lately.  Also, we were preparing the basement studio to record “Jamnation 1″, so I couldn’t record my cover song music video where I usually do.  I must apologize for the background here- would’ve it have killed me to clean up the blanket on the bed?  But, I guess that’s part of what makes the Laptop Sessions fun for me.  I can set up a camera and play a reimagined acoustic version of a great song like “(Just Like) Starting Over” any time (and anywhere) I want!

You know, it’s funny that the John Lennon album I took “(Just Like) Starting Over” from is called “Double Fantasy”, because only half of the album is listenable.  The version I have on my iTunes is great- I weeded out all of the Yoko Ono songs (which are simply unlistenable) and I’m left with a great album by John Lennon.  He had taken a long hiatus from the music business to focus on his personal life and finally came back with some of his best-ever songs.  “Beautiful Boy” is one of the saddest songs ever, but it’s truly an amazing work of art.  It pains me to think of the music John Lennon would’ve made had he lived longer.  The style he had on “Double Fantasy” was perfect for the time- is has a bit of that late-70s sound to it, but it sounds updated and modern.  This album definitely wears better than many others from the same time period.  I know John Lennon would’ve kept the music that I love on the charts longer and it’s a shame he never got that chance.

I heard recently that John was having some trouble singing the original songs he wrote for Double Fantasy.  I guess, over the years, his voice started deteriorating.  So, he had to double-track every lead vocal part on “Double Fantasy”.  I really had no idea about this- his vocals seem pretty strong.  But, when you listen to the demos he was recording around this time (many of them are out there on boxed sets), you hear a much weaker voice than he had years earlier as a member of the Beatles.  But, John Lennon was a performer at heart and he knew how to make his songs sound the best they could.  So, he double-tracked everything and we got some great original songs out of it!

I will be doing more John Lennon songs from this album in the future, but I hope you’ve all enjoyed “#1 Week” here on the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!