Music has always played an important role in my life, and though I could probably be considered to be fairly musical, I've never really seriously pursued it. I play several instruments as well as having done a fair amount of singing (and not just singing in the elevator at work back in the day!) Music is one way I connect strongly with people, times, and emotions, and I often have songs come into my head, mostly unconsciously, that are fitting to a situation. Besides associating certain music to certain times, I also feel as if I have, at times, had my own "theme songs" throughout certain periods. My music collection is pretty eclectic, ranging from classical and sacred music to folk to rock to rap (though I'd have to say that rap is probably my least favourite genre).
I really became a hard-core Beatles' fan in high school, and so they remain always quite near and dear to my heart. As far as I'm concerned, they're the best pop group that has ever been. Their songs exude hope in hard times, and the range of their style and interests remain unmatched.
The Beatles' catalogue has been a perennial best-seller, and new releases consistantly reach high levels in the sales charts. 2009, in particular, was a great year for the Beatles not just with the released of the newly remastered CDs, but also the release of the Beatles' Rock Band games.
A short list of Beatles sites:
I'm not even going to attempt to put all the Beatles' stuff here, but here are a couple things that could be interesting.
I happened to catch part of a short radio tribute in memory of Jim Croce in 2003 marking the 30th anniversary of his tragic death in a plane crash at the very young age of 30. Some of his music was familiar to me, and so I ordered a CD of his greatest hits (now out of print) which became one of my very favourite albums to listen to. Jim Croce was never a big rock star; at the time of his death, his career was just really starting. He left behind a wife, Ingrid, and two small children. His songs really tell the story of "small town" America by way of the characters he created and sang of. He recorded six studio albums, and in the years since, many albums and compilations have been assembled of his music.
Piers Adams is considered to be one of the world's top recorder players. As a recorder player myself, it is an absolute joy to hear him play. Red Priest is a group which he put together to play early music - "Red Priest" is in reference to the composer Antonio Vivaldi, whose music figures prominently in Red Priest's repertoire.
Red Priest is definitely worth seeing live. The group dresses in costume, and there is quite a bit of humour the whole way through. Besides this, in the concert that I was able to attend, the group took the time to talk about the pieces and their instruments and why they do the things the way they do.
Red Priest's albums were extremely hard to find in the United States for quite awhile. However, in the last year or so, it seems as though they have found a US vendor, and so their albums are more readily available.
Ten years after originally performing as a group at Indiana University, Straight No Chaser became an "overnight" success thanks to Youtube after one of the members in the group posted old videos of themselves back in college to share with family and friends. After millions of plays on YouTube, they were offered a record contract, and have since recorded two holiday albums, an exclusive Amazon.com EP, and, most recently, a non-holiday album.
Straight No Chaser is an a capella men's singing group who not only excel in their musical talents, but add plenty of humour through the twists and turns their songs take, and the "acting" done in concerts.
Like many, my first introduction to Urban Trad was through the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest where they placed 2nd with their song "Sanomi". (My thoughts on Eurovision 2003 can be found here.) They are a Belgian band, headed by Yves Barbieux, and their music has a lot of Celtic influence, though the instruments range from the traditional to very modern. Their music is very lively, and in the tracks that feature voice, they have songs in at least five languages, ("Sanomi" is actually in no language at all, but rather nice sounding syllables.) For a very long time, their albums were almost impossible to find outside of Belgium - which is where I had to order mine from - but recently they have been made available for download via Amazon.