“Thirteen” (Big Star Cover)

Originally posted 2009-01-05 23:43:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Big Star chords, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to my first Laptop Sessions post of the new year!

Yes, 2009 will be even better than 2008.  I hope…

Seriously, though, I’m excited for all the improvements and updates that have already taken place, even in the brief five day period since New Year’s Day.  If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you should notice some of Jim’s handiwork on the front page of the site.  Go ahead, check again.  You’ll see the new scrolling pictures of our original albums (click and take a listen!!).  You’ll see the weekly calendar of sessions: Chris Moore Mondays, Jim Fusco Tuesdays, Original Wednesdays, Jeff Copperthite Thursdays, and Guest Sessions Fridays — learn ’em, love ’em!

And my personal favorite addition is our new Fusco-Moore original (well, technically, it’s just a Fusco original… :- ) loading bar with four squares.  There are some excellent features that we’ve built up over the past year, and I hope you’ll take the time to acquaint yourself with all the great material that’s available on the site.  Go ahead, explore…

For tonight’s session, I chose a pretty obscure one.  In fact, I haven’t even found a copy of the original version.  This is Big Star’s “Thirteen.”  I first heard this song when Elliott Smith’s acoustic version was released posthumously on New Moon.  This is an amazing song and Smith’s version, as far as I’m concerned, is the quintessential version.  The combination of his fingerpicking style and voice is a beautiful thing.

Just last night, I heard the Wilco cover of this song, recorded originally in 1997.  As Jeff Tweedy began to sing the lead, I instantly remembered the song.  Only, I didn’t know where I had heard it.  Thus, I rediscovered the beauty of the iPod.  I searched “Thirteen,” found my Elliott Smith version, and set out to learn the song myself.

It’s as simple as that.

That’s what we do around here.  So don’t go too far — hurry back for the very first Jim Fusco Tuesday of 2009 and I’ll see you again soon!

Elliott Smith’s “Figure 8” (2000) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2009-12-13 20:30:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

** This is the second in a five part series of music reviews, counting down from the #5 to the #1 albums of the decade, 2000-2009.  On January 2nd, 2010, the #1 album will be revealed, along with the complete Weekend Review picks for the Top Thirty Albums of the Decade. **

By Chris Moore:

RATING: 5/5 stars

Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 is undeniably one of the most hauntingly beautiful studio albums ever recorded.

This album — his fifth and final before his death — came at the peak of his career, blending his early acoustic fingerpicking styles with the orchestration that characterized his later work.  When it was first released, some reviewers criticized it as lacking the “subtlety” of his previous work.

Excrement.

Figure 8 has all the subtle brushstrokes of his tremendous early work — Roman Candle, Either/Or — with a much better grasp of the big picture.  Even XO, released two years previously as his major label debut, never quite attained the cohesion of Figure 8.  The concept of the album title alone is compelling, possibly taken from a Schoolhouse Rock! song (which he recorded during the sessions).  In a Boston Herald interview, Smith explained the concept by saying, “I liked the idea of a self-contained, endless pursuit of perfection.  But I have a problem with perfection…”  Conjuring the image of a skater, he continued, “So the object is not to stop or arrive anywhere; it’s just to make this thing as beautiful as they can.”

If this doesn’t encapsulate Smith’s worldview, then what does?

For better or worse, Figure 8 — not to mention all of his previous work — is often, perhaps unavoidably viewed through the lens of his death in 2003, generally considered to have been a suicide even though homicide could not be ruled out.  Knowing the circumstances of his death, it is difficult not to bestow additional layers of meaning on tracks like “Everything Means Nothing to Me” and “L.A.”

Whatever your take on his life and death may be, the music on Figure 8 speaks for itself.  Ranging from stripped down acoustic crooning to full-band electric romping, not to mention some honky tonk piano thrown in for good measure, the instrumental and vocal textures are well-layered, somehow achieving complexity without distracting from the songs themselves.

Elliott Smith's "Figure 8" (2000)

Elliott Smith's "Figure 8" (2000)

“Son of Sam” is, of course, the perfect album opener.  As my girlfriend has pointed out, you really have to remind yourself of the topic of this track to avoid being taken in by how catchy and pretty it is.  And how many songs about serial killers are simply this good?

Not many, I would hope.

Smith immediately takes it down a notch for track two, declaring his emotional distance in “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which is all acoustic and double-tracked vocals.  Classic Elliott Smith.

No sooner does that song fade then “Junk Bond Trader” kicks up on piano, spewing out disdain in a manner that only Smith ever could.  The next two tracks — “Everything Reminds Me Of Her” and “Everything Means Nothing to Me” — continue along the same theme, but in a more openly vulnerable voice.  The latter sounds every bit as stripped down as the former until about a minute in, when the characteristically double-tracked vocals are joined by heavily reverbed drums, building up to a spine-tingling crescendo.

The album continues in this manner, spare instrumentation at times and all-out rock n’ roll at others.  While Smith is an excellent piano player, guitar is clearly his instrument.  His use of timing with guitar riffs, electric solos, clean and distorted sounds at various times, and even palm mutes is unsurpassed.

Somehow, Figure 8 achieves an eclectic, indie sound that is both very modern and very nostalgic, particularly of mid to late Beatles work.  It seems no coincidence that Smith purchased authentic Beatles recording equipment throughout his career and even recorded several tracks for this release at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.

It is difficult to imagine any other singers being more emotive, any other songwriters being so diverse in their styles and interests, or any other performers being so talented, much less all at the same time.  For these reasons, Figure 8 is one of the absolute essential albums of the decade, 2000-2009. It may have barely cracked the upper half of the Billboard Hot 200, but anyone who rejects the radio and the Grammys as the best source for new music knows that this is an unreliable judge of musical character.  Rolling Stone‘s panel of judges came a bit closer by voting this album as the #42 album of the decade, but this is drastically underselling it.  After all, I love Love & Theft, I think Magic is rocking, and White Blood Cells is great, but how these albums can place higher than a true masterpiece like Figure 8, I’ll never know.

And don’t even get me started on U2, Coldplay, Radiohead, and Green Day…

Truly, if you have ever felt rejected, needed to distance yourself from a negative influence, tried to mentally process the pressures of society, or simply been human, Figure 8 is an essential album.

“Thirteen” by Big Star – Chords, Tabs, and How to Play

Originally posted 2009-01-26 19:33:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Thirteen”
Big Star

(Capo III)

G               Cadd9   G              Cadd9        G
Won’t you let me  walk you home from school?
G               Cadd9  G            Cadd9    Am7
Won’t you let me meet you at the   pool?
Em        Am7      Em                   Am7
Maybe Friday I can get tickets for the dance,
Em – D           G
And I’ll take…   you.

Won’t you tell your dad, “Get off my back”?
Tell him what we said about “Paint it Black.”
Rock and roll is here to stay; come inside where it’s okay.
And I’ll shake you.

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of?
Would you be an outlaw for my love?
If it’s so, well, let me know.
If it’s no, well, I can go.
I won’t make you…

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

“Needle in the Hay” (Elliott Smith Indie Rock Cover)

Originally posted 2008-09-25 11:59:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Trying to find great acoustic cover songs on the web is like trying to find a needle in the hay…

…and now you can find both in the same place!!  (In this case, a great acoustic cover song music blog AND a “Needle in the Hay”)

Seriously, though, it is my pleasure to bring you the Laptop Sessions’ second installment in the Elliott Smith category (see our 100+ band categories in the drop-down menu above) with his great song “Needle in the Hay.”  This is track one on his second, self-titled album.  I truly love Elliott Smith’s work, but I’m really a fan of his third (Either/Or), fourth (XO), and especially fifth (Figure 8 ) albums.  His first two releases are solid and I’ve grown more and more fond of them after multiple listens.  I think what really holds them back for me is the fact that they’re predominantly Smith and his acoustic guitar.  There is, of course, double-tracking and soloing, but it simply doesn’t stand up to the mixture of simple acoustic tracks and lively, fully-produced, upbeat tracks on the aforementioned three later albums.  I just discovered XO recently, and I was so into it that I decided to record my first Elliott Smith session based on “Waltz #2 (XO).”

So, you may be wondering why I chose this track from the early two albums.  The answer is simple — what better song to record for an acoustic cover than a song that is already based on vocals and acoustic guitar alone?  I hope you enjoy this song as much as I enjoyed learning and playing it — I’ll certainly be digging into Smith’s catalog again at a later date, after I’ve helped patch some holes in our category offerings (can anyone say, “The Rolling Stones” or “Simon and Garfunkel”?…).

For now, you’ll have to rush back for a Jeff Copperthite fix tomorrow (wasn’t his first of “Fa Fa” one of his best??) and then a Saturday dose of the man, the myth, the legend: Jim Fusco (whose version of “I Need…” reminded me how much I love his My Other Half album!); I’ll be back on Super Sunday.  Is that what we’re calling it now?

See you next session!