Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shake, Shiver, Rattle, Roll III: The Annual Halloween Music Playlist for 12014

I thought that I had my annual Halloween playlist carved in stone a couple of weeks ago… but instead I have been tinkering with it to no end. I like the songs to have variety and to contrast with each other in both tone and style, and I like the transitions to be as seamless as possible, and the list this year just wasn’t gelling for me. I have been distracted most all of the year, and the last month has been especially, ehm, “diverting.”

But at last, with a little more work just this morning, I think I have the coffin lid nailed down on this puppy. At last — at last — I am able to present my annual Halloween playlist for 2014.

This year I’m going to make you an offer. Some folks have wondered where to find these cuts, and you know, the thing is you find them everywhere and I’ve been kicking around a fairly long while now. A handful of my closest friends will get copies of this list on CD, but I obviously can’t include every Bela, Boris and Morticia on the distribution list. However — if you want to send me a blank CD and a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient return postage already affixed, I’ll be happy to burn you a copy of this year’s list. Include three CDs if you want the lists for all three years that I’ve been doing this. Click on the “Contact the Duckmeister” link in the sidebar and shoot me an email if you’re interested.

And without further ado, let’s draw back the moth-eaten curtain on this year’s sampling of music for the only worthwhile Holiday Season!

1) Emilie Autumn is a recent discovery for me… but instead of her music, I open the playlist with an evokative spoken-word piece of hers called “Words From The Asylum.” It makes for an arresting opening… the more so because this girl really is crazy (I mean that in the Nicest Possible Way… she’s one of My People) and the piece is only slightly fictional.

2) So far, I haven’t been able to resist using a cut from The Birthday Massacre somewhere on the list. They add a purple bite. This year’s entry is “Falling Down,” from their album Walking With Strangers

3) Heaven help me, I actually love a group called Adrian H and The Wounds. I’ve got both of their albums. Adrian himself has a voice like sandpaper and the group takes advantage of it. “Murder In the Forest” from their self-titled second album is one of their absolute best: a clunky, noisy, broken-down truck of a song.

4) Arch Obler, the great Horror Impresario of Old-Time Radio, creator of Lights Out, is up next with a cut from his LP Drop Dead. It’s a remarkably efficient (and also very funny) example of gross-out horror called “I’m Hungry”… and I don’t know who the actor is, but he gives the best bang-on impression of Peter Lorre ever, bar none.

 5) The Hi-De-Ho Man, Cab Calloway is back on the list this year with an early version of “The Saint James Infirmary Blues,” one of his signature songs and kind of an obvious choice, really…

6) How I managed to leave that crazy Screamin’ Jay Hawkins off of last year’s list is beyond me… but he’s back this year with “Frenzy,” — a song that I first heard when it was used in the X-Files episode, “Humbug.” It is Pure Crazy and wonderful.

7) I always try to include a classical piece and this year’s selection is more whimsical and evocative than scary: “Aquarium,” from Saint-Seans “Carnival of the Animals.”

8) From Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows I needed something short that also was representative of his/hers/its inherent gruesome weirdness. “The Dog Burial” certainly fits the bill. 

9) Making her debut appearance (but not her last) on these playlists, Blues Diva Besse Smith serves up her “Graveyard Dream Blues,” from the two-record set, Any Woman's Blues, that I inherited from my buddy Bruce Canwell (he of the great Library of American Comics) when he made vinyl a thing of the past in his music collection. 

10 and 11) Next up are two cuts from a long-defunct jazz ensemble known as The West Coast Workshop. They’re from The Wizard of Oz, an album from the late ‘60s that uses Harold Arlen tunes as a jumping off point for the most amazing modern jazz riffs. “The Dowser and the Thaumaturgist” is both eerie and wistful (two good qualities for All Hallow’s Eve), while “Ozwind” starts out almost painfully nostalgic before going full-out mystical and spooky. I’ve written about this album elsewhere on the blog. Great stuff!

12) After a one-year absence from the list, Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt Kickers are back — not, as you might expect, with their hit “The Monster Mash,” but with an even funnier piece that led off side two of their only album, “Me and My Mummy.”

13) … which is the perfect lead-in to a selection from Tales of The Frightened, a spoken-word story of love from the other side, told by the genuine Boris Karloff!

14) The only problem I have with “Flood II” as a blood-pumping mood piece is that it runs six minutes, which is about two minutes too long. Still, it makes for a good contrast to the last few cuts. It’s by The Sisters of Mercy (who are all men) from their album Floodland.

15) Nox Arcana’s albums are all largely of a piece, and any one of them will do for the season. From their Poe-inspired album Shadows of the Raven, I selected “Melancholia.” The music certainly captures the spirit of the title, and I imagine Morticia Addams’s melancholic sister Ophelia sitting beside an old gramophone, cuddling her lilies, with this piece playing.

16) 2014 was the year I officially “discovered” the musical sub-sub-genre Gothabilly… here, from a group called The Spectres, I offer “Blooduckin’ Cowboy.” It’s from a Skull Records “sampler” album called Gothabilly Razin’ Hell.

17) Johnny Cash joins the list this year with a song I can’t listen to without tears: “Wayfaring Stranger.” 

18) And again for a change of mood (because we need one after the seriousness of Cash’s cut) here’s the head-banging, pulse-pounding metal group Halestorm with a little number from their album The Strange Case Of… called “Love Bites — And So Do I.” 

19) While your head is still pounding from that baby, you’ll appreciate the much more soulful Loreena McKinnett with her soft, melancholy, seasonal ballad “Samhain Night.”

20) Almost there: Just for fun, Inkubus Sukkubus is back with one of their more whimsical cuts, “Goblin Jig.”

21) And I wind it all up by going all serious on you again, as Folk legend Ola Belle Reed regales us with her unique Southern Gothic style in “My Epitaph.” Don’t bring me flowers after I’m dead!

And we’re out of here! I’m tired of typing and my head is ringing. See you in the graveyard!

— Freder

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