Posts Tagged ‘Paul Weller’

We finished the second and final season of Joan of Arcadia yesterday. For those of you counting at home, that means we whipped through the 23 Season 1 episodes and 22 Season 2 episodes in exactly 22 days. One of the things I like about the series is that it avoids the typical pitfalls associated with dramas that explore faith and humanity. Within the show, as in real life, faith leads to questions, doubts and realizations, but never easy answers.

One of my favorite moments comes near the end of its run, in the “Common Thread” installment. God commands Joan to return to knitting, a hobby she stopped when she was a kid. As always, there’s far more to the episode than just that; we don’t just see Joan casting on, stitching and purling for the next 40+ minutes. I’ll skip the rest of the story, however, to the moment in question, when Joan gently rebuffs her folks, who are trying to ease her guilt regarding a bad decision made by her former boyfriend, Adam. “I mean, we’re all connected like the scarf. One piece of yarn, if you cut it up into little pieces, it’s useless. You can’t make anything out of it. I am responsible, partly. We all are…for everything that we touch and everything that touches us.”

It’s never us vs. them, as much as we sometimes wish it so. It’s us vs us. 

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Of Questions & Faith (aka Joan of Arcadia, Part II)…

1) Kasey Chambers – “Abraham”

2) Van Morrison – “When Will I Ever Learn to Walk in God”

3) Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – “Into My Arms”

4) Bruce Springsteen – “Rocky Ground”

5) Paul Weller – “Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)”

And two bonuses…

6) Natalie Merchant – “I May Know the Word”

7) Maria McKee and Bryan MacLean – “Sweet Dr. Jesus”

Last week, Diane and I began re-watching Season 1 of Joan of Arcadia, about a teen (Amber Tamblyn) who speaks to God – and by “speaks,” I mean has actual conversations and debates with Him. He – and She, as God changes bodies and genders episode to episode and often within episodes – often has what seems to Joan to be a mundane, silly or overwhelming task for her to perform, such as joining the chess club or debate team, or throwing a party. Inevitably, however, it leads to a larger, positive event occurring within Joan’s world.

Interwoven throughout are the stories of Joan’s family – her father (Joe Mantegna), a cop in a big (but not too big) Maryland city; her mother (Mary Steenburgen), who works at her school; older brother Kevin (Jason Ritter), who’s still coming to terms with being a paraplegic following a car accident a year-and-a-half earlier; and younger brother Luke (Michael Welch), a brainiac who should never, ever, drink caffeine.

That summary doesn’t do the series, which lasted a scant two seasons (2003-2005) justice, I should add. 

All in all, it’s good with glimmers of greatness. The cast is excellent. The stories are a mix of sweet and bittersweet, with some surprising grittiness thrown into the mix – and not just when focused on the father, who faces evil – and politics – on the job. The give-and-takes between Joan and God are adroit, funny, smart, and even philosophically deep. And the growing concern of Joan’s folks over her eccentric behavior rings true. (They don’t know about her pipeline to the above, after all.)

Anyway, it’s a series I wanted to watch when it first aired, but in those days we were often out on Friday nights, and OnDemand didn’t include much network fare. We’d unhooked our VHS recorder in favor of a DVD player by then, too, so recording it was out. I did keep an eye on the DVD sets when they became available (and when I remembered to look), but was unwilling to fork over the $45-60 per season retailers originally wanted to charge. I was also shocked by its lack of availability on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. But, finally, God heard my prayers: Two years back, I stumbled across a sweet deal on Amazon. ($16 per season. Woo hoo!) 

We watched it in about a month, filed the DVDs away, and moved on. As one does.

But, as I said at the outset, we’re watching it again. I love the philosophy behind it. The notion that a good deed, no matter how small, can cause a domino-like run of goodness in the wider world that eventually circles back to you is the essence of karma, which I’ve subscribed to since I first heard “The End” by the Beatles a long, long time ago: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” What we put out is what we take in. Good begets good.

And Joan of Arcadia begets a smile. It’s a perfect escape from the insanity that has befallen the world, where kindness is too often seen as a vice.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: God, Faith & Joan…of Arcadia.

1) Joan Osborne – “One of Us.” The theme song to Joan of Arcadia is this song, written by Eric Brazilian of the Hooters. It reached No. 4 on the pop charts.

2) Courtney Marie Andrews – “May Your Kindness Remain.” Kindness, goodness, sympathy and empathy all go hand in hand. This clip is from Courtney’s appearance in the Paste Studios earlier this week…

3) The Stone Foundation with Paul Weller – “Your Balloon Is Rising.” The Stone Foundation has a new album in the works, but this one – from their last studio set, Street Rituals – says it all. “May your words go on forever/May your kindness show no measure/Keep on breathing your life into every little thing…”

4) Paul Weller – “Above the Clouds.” And speaking of Weller and clouds…

5) Rumer – “Love Is the Answer.” The British singer-songwriter’s cover of the Todd Rundgren song was a match made in heaven when she recorded it in 2015, and remains so three years later. Love is the answer, indeed.

And in the end… the Beatles – “The End.”

When we moved from the apartment to the house in the spring of ’14, I assumed the outdoor yard work would be a relative breeze – especially since we have a guy to mow the lawn. But the side of the house features a column of bushes and flowers and things that, quite frankly, I have no idea what they are, just that they’re green, grow, and grow close to and onto the front porch and house, and sprawl into the driveway. And the lawn guy just does the lawn. Which means that, every so often, I have to cut everything back.

And, this morning, I did just that. I spent close to two hours cutting this and grabbing that, and stuffing full four big paper refuse bags. All in all, I’d rather have been here, at my desk, reading this or that blog, listening to music new and old, or surfing the waves of YouTube, where one clip leads to another and then another and, before you know it, you’ve whiled away the day pruning the good from the bad.

There’s much good music, these days. And, as always, there’s much bad. If you’re on the lookout for the former, here are five artists and acts that, in my estimation, are worth the download. 

1) Whitney Rose – “Can’t Stop Shakin’.” I learned yesterday that the honky-tonkin’ Texas transplant from Canada – she hails from the land of Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island –  is slated to play the City of Brotherly Love come November. Here, she and her band perform “Can’t Stop Shakin'” in the Netherlands:

2) Middle Kids – “Mistake.” I drove Diane to the airport early Friday morning – as in, we left home at 3:45am, as she had a 6am flight – and then headed into work, only to discover once I arrived that I left my work laptop at home. Argh! I dutifully drove home, and did the roundtrip in less time than it normally takes to go one way. And this intoxicating song from the Aussie rock band served as the perfect pick-me-up when WXPN’s morning show featured it at 5:25am. Here they are performing it on CBS This Morning’s “Saturday Sessions” a few weeks back:

3) Anna Calvi – “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy.” The British operatic rocker – one of David Bowie’s spiritual heirs, in a way – unveiled this video today. It’s the first taste of her forthcoming album, Hunter, which promises to be a tour de force. She explained in a lengthy Instagram post on Monday that “I’m hunting for something – I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess. I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me. I’m fighting against feeling an outsider and trying to find a place that feels like home.”

4) Mikaela Davis – “Other Lover.” In March 2017, Diane and I were lucky enough to see the Staves at the World Cafe Live. Mikaela – who plays harp – opened. As I said in my review at the time, “When I first saw the harp on stage, I braced for a set of elevator music. Far from it. She was, in a word, hypnotic.” And those weren’t empty words on my part – they were preceded by action: I purchased her five-song EP, Pure Divine Love (The Mission Sessions), after the show. Anyway, next month – just in time for my birthday – she’s releasing her first full-length effort, Delivery. Here’s the latest teaser track…

5) Amilia K. Shirer – “Lightning.” Sometimes I hear an artist or band, like the Stone Foundation, and wonder why I’ve never heard of them before. Here’s another. Amilia K. Shirer released a few albums in the early 2000s, placed songs on various TV shows, and…well, I’m not sure of her entire backstory. But I am sure that the 2017 album this song is from, Wow and Flutter, is just plain great. After one listen, you’ll swear it’s been with you forever. (Among the supporting players: guitar great Gurf Morlix, former Lone Justice/X guitarist Tony Gilkyson, and bassist extraordinaire Daryl Johnson.)

And speaking of the Stone Foundation… I discovered the British soul band a while back via Paul Weller, who produced their 2017 album Street Rituals. They are, in a word, phenomenal. Here’s hoping that they tour the States someday soon…

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

On back-to-back days in November 1983, I bought two double-LP compilations by two paradigm-shifting British bands: the Who’s The Kids Are Alright and the Jam’s Snap! I thoroughly enjoyed both right from the start. The Who’s set is, obviously, the odds-and-sods soundtrack to the 1979 documentary film about Messrs Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle & Moon. The comprehensive Jam collection, which was released the previous month, contains 29 of the then-recently disbanded group’s songs, including their 16 U.K. singles, b-sides and the “That’s Entertainment” demo.

Both sets are great, but only one – in my estimation, at least – is essential: The Jam’s Snap! It’s one of the greatest best-of collections ever released, and remains my go-to choice when in the mood to crank the Jam.

If you’re curious about Paul Weller’s first group, it’s the best place to start. If you’re a longtime fan, it’s still the best way to experience the taut trio’s top tracks in rapid-fire succession. Even in the streaming age, where “new-and-improved” compilations and playlists are a mere mouse-click away, it’s the only such set that matters.

About it’s only competition: Compact Snap!, released in 1984, which trims eight songs from the set (so that it could fit onto one CD). I picked it up a few years after that, in late 1987 or early ’88, at a now-defunct CD-only store in Jenkintown, Pa., that was called (if my memory is right) 21st Century Sound. The excised songs were “Away from the Numbers,” “Billy Hunt,” “English Rose,” “Mr. Clean,” “The Butterfly Collector,” “Thick As Thieves,” “Man in the Corner Shop” and “Tales from the Riverbank.”

The original Snap! eventually made its way to CD in 2006, and both the original and “compact” versions are available on most streaming outlets. Give it a go.

The track list: