Song of the Day #3,232: ‘The One I Love’ – R.E.M. vs. Stew

I opted for random seeding in Montauk Madness, but the other avenue is to seed each particpant based on stature. That’s how March Madness works, with the #1 teams (based on record) facing off against the #16 teams in Round One.

That prevents any heavyweight matchups early in the contest. Ideally, you don’t want the two best teams in a division to battle on Day One.

Going that route in this contest, however, felt wrong. If I were to rank the participants before even setting the bracket, wouldn’t I be defeating the purpose of the game? If a top contender loses in Round One because of an unlucky matchup, well, that probably would have happened in Round Three of Four anyway.

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Song of the Day #2,680: ‘Cold Parade’ – Stew

naked_dutch_painterHere’s the third straight 2002 album that I discovered only after its release. It’s probably telling that the albums I discovered when they came out that year are sitting higher on my list (we’ll get to most of those next week).

I learned about Stew just a year later after the release of 2003’s Something Deeper Than These Changes. My wife heard a segment on the album on NPR and suggested I check it out. I was instantly smitten and sought out the rest of his discography.

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Song of the Day #2,539: ‘Black Men Ski’ – Stew & The Negro Problem

stew_making_itBetween 1997 and 2003, Stew released six albums (half under his own name and half under the moniker The Negro Problem). Every one of them is excellent — in fact, his first two solo albums were named as the best of their respective year by Entertainment Weekly.

Then he disappeared.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Fans of the New York theater scene might have caught him performing a couple of autobiographical musicals during the past decade, winning awards and eventually performing both on Broadway and in a filmed performance directed by Spike Lee.

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Song of the Day #1,524: ‘Statue Song’ – Stew

Stew (stage name of Mark Stewart) is another of those oddball artists who don’t really fit well into any of my musical genome categories.

Both as a solo artist and with his band The Negro Problem, Stew has explored jazz, punk, avant garde and cabaret. He has written a couple of musicals, one of which (Passing Strange) became both a Tony-winning Broadway play and a Spike Lee movie. He’s really unlike anybody else I listen to.

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Song of the Day #935: ‘Gary Come Home’ – Stew

One last Stew offering before I put this extended theme week to bed.

Stew’s a funny guy. In his website bio, he once referred to himself as a “critically-acclaimed (ie., broke) singer-songwriter.” He has since replaced that with a laundry list of his accomplishments culminating in this sentence:

“But what Stew will ultimately be remembered for is having composed ‘Gary Come Home’ for SpongeBob SquarePants.”

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Song of the Day #934: ‘Tomorrow Gone’ – Stew

In 2003, Stew released his third “solo” album, Something Deeper Than These Changes. This was the album that introduced me to him, just in time for him to not release another studio record for the next eight years. Fortunately I had the back catalog I’ve just finished exploring to occupy my time.

After this album, Stew turned his attention to writing and performing in an off-Broadway show titled Passing Strange, which received excellent reviews and was eventually filmed by Spike Lee. The soundtrack to the play culls from several of his previous albums and includes new material as well.

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Song of the Day #930: ‘North Bronx French Marie’ – Stew

Two years after Guest Host, Stew released his second album under his own name, 2002’s The Naked Dutch Painter and Other Songs. This was his second straight album to top Entertainment Weekly‘s year-end best-of list, and again, I don’t know how I missed that. It would be another year-plus before I discovered him.

Naked Dutch Painter was mostly recorded live, though a few songs have studio parts blended in. It’s not a concert album but rather an album he chose to record in front of an audience. You don’t hear the crowd except for some polite applause at the end of some songs.

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