What’s on Your New Year’s Eve Playlist?

Looking for something fun to fill your New Year’s Eve playlist? How about something from the Postmodern Jukebox?

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What’s a Postmodern Jukebox, you say.

According to The Huffington Post, Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox broke out in 2013.  Scott Bradlee is the creator of the viral phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, a diverse group of musicians who have turned Ke$ha into country, given Justin Bieber a bit of swing and most recently garnered praise — and more than 4.3 million views, as of this writing — for replacing Miley Cyrus’ twerking with some classic doo wop.”

Still confused? Here’s Scott Bradlee & PMJ on TED.

I stumbled upon the Postmodern Jukebox while scrolling through Google Play for something new, which used to take me hours flipping through record bins at local Sam Goody’s or Sound of Market record stores. I was immediately hooked.

The song featured on Google Play that month was a Jazz cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” featuring Kate Davis on lead vocals and bass.

Fun, right?

Of course the first thing I did was create PMJ radio stations on Pandora and Spotify, which is how I first heard their 1950’s ‘sock hop’ style cover of Magic’s “Rude” featuring hyper animated vocalist, Von Smith, with Robyn Adele Anderson and Jen Kipley singing backups. There’s a stunning moment at 2:27 when Von cuts loose. He hits and holds an impressive high note. It’s a little touch that makes this cover worth it.

If you listen closely, you might notice that Von Smith’s voice is reminiscent of 80s Star Search winner, Sam Harris, with whom Von sang a duet in 2010.

Led by Scott Bradlee, the Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collection of musicians and singers who produce covers of pop songs in various styles of music; such as jazz, swing, doo-wop, and gospel.

One of the things I like about PMJ is their creativity. Their ragtime cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, with Robyn Adele Anderson’s camp vocals, is incredibly fun.

Turning Jason Derulo & Snoop Dogg’s “Wiggle” into a 1920s ‘Broadway’ number takes guts.  But taking the Guns & Roses classic, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and rearranging it into New Orleans jazz style Mardis Gras anthem was a stroke of genius! Having the remarkable Miche Braden belt out the lyrics doesn’t hurt.

Guns and who?

Speaking of New Orleans, PMJ took Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” and turned it inside out. Sink your teeth into this vintage New Orleans jazz cover featuring Casey Abrams.

I don’t know what I was doing on 2013 that I didn’t take notice. Though, it’s probably better that I found PMJ after they’ve accumulated a decent catalog of music. I’d hate to think I might have written them off after hearing the Miley Cyrus cover.

I’ll leave you with the PMJ cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, in the style of a vintage Irish Tenor, featuring Mitchell Jarvis and Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the underlying campiness of this version. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also pretty good.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Hope 2015 brings peace, love, happiness and plenty of chances to “get lucky”! 😉


 

Bonus Track!

Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox covers Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” in a “Great Gatsby” ragtime style, featuring Robyn Adele Anderson and, as always, Mr Bradlee on keyboards.

For more Scott Bradlee & PMJ, check out ScottBradleeLovesYa on YouTube.

Cheers!

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‘Tis The Season for Warm Fuzzies! …and a couple of Capra Classics.

Tis the season for family, friends, and lots of warm fuzzies. But like almost everyone else I know, I haven’t been feeling very warm or fuzzy lately. So, when the warm glow of the season starts to sputter and dim, I do what any self respecting sentimental cinephile does. I turn to classic Hollywood.

When it comes to classic Hollywood, no one did warm and fuzzy quite like Frank Capra.

Ask anyone for a list of their favorite holiday movies and somewhere on the list you’ll probably find Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, It’s a Wonderful Life is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, and a cast of Hollywood mainstays. It’s explained by IMDB as “An angel (Clarence, played by Henry Travers) helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey (Stewart), by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

While watching ‘Wonderful Life’ for the umteen-hundredth time the other night, I couldn’t help a despairing feeling that bank CEOs apparently haven’t changed since 1946. Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Potter could very well be the CEO of Citi Group or Goldman Sachs.

‘Wonderful Life’ is an excellent movie with a superb cast but I always feel a little sad for George Bailey. He dreams of someday seeing the world but spends his entire life being the responsible citizen, putting the needs and wants of others ahead of himself. Indeed, if uncle Billy hadn’t been so careless George might not have considered such desperate measures. The extreme nature of George’s crisis is probably what makes the ending so effective. It’s why we root for George Bailey. He’s our ‘everyman’ who fights the system and wins.

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Trivia: Thomas Mitchell (Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy) plays Judge Henry Blake in Pocketful of Miracles


On the other end of the spectrum is Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles (1961) which, in my humble opinion, because of it’s bright view of the world and almost absurd optimism, is a better representation of the spirit of the season.

In Miracles, gangster Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend Queenie (Hope Lange) try to turn pan handler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) into a society dame when they learn that Annie’s daughter (Ann-Margret) is coming to visit from Spain with her fiance, a royal. The storyline is convoluted and far-fetched but it hits all the right bells and whistles.

What appeals to me about Pocketful of Miracles is it’s charm. Unlike the seriousness of It’s a Wonderful Life, Pocketful of Miracles is utter nonsense. It’s how we wish the real world worked. It’s a sickeningly sweet saccharine saga full of hope and improbable expectations and I love every single minute of it!

large_pocketful_of_miracles_02_blu-ray_So, whether you’re a George Bailey or an Apple Annie, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Holiday!

May 2015 bring Peace, Love, Happiness, and Good Health to all.

The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

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Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

A Quick Word of Appreciation for our Veterans

It’s no secret that I am morally opposed to war. I was vehemently against the invasion of Iraq. But no matter how I feel about any particular conflict, I will always, always, support the men and women who, at the request of our government, drop everything and risk their lives defending our country’s best interest.

Flag2Here is where I would normally go off on some political rant about “false patriotism” but I think the majority of United Sates citizens, regardless of their political slant, are patriotic. So, for now, I’m setting aside the political posturing for a more important message.

To every man, woman, and beast who has risked or lost his or her life in the defense of these United States, I thank you.

Military-dogs-06For more on military dogs, check out NPR’s “Military Dogs Enjoy Brighter Future After Service” by Gloria Hillard

Summer Detour

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This gallery contains 22 photos.

So, over the week of July 4th we took a drive through New Jersey in what seems to be a new tradition. — Though, putting it in writing will probably put an end to it.   We chose the hottest … Continue reading