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What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Songs in the Key of Saturday
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Every once in a while, the wife ande baby go to see a friend for a visitin' and shoppin' trip, and they do this on a weekend day, and we all understand that part of the idea is that I get some along hang time-- which for me means music time. Today they had plans, so I kicked back with the NYT crossword puzzle, some work reading, some fun reading, and a bunch of music. To wit:

Pat Metheny, New Chataqua. Its a solo, overdubbed guitar record from 1979 that seems to stop time, twist it up into a pretzel. "Sueno Con Mexico" is lovely. This was the first thing I played all morning, because the baby was playing in the living room, the wife still asleep, we needed something soft.

Billie Holliday, Lady in Satin.
What can you say about Billie Holliday, really, that hasn't been said? Just that she works as well on a Saturday morning as on a Satrurday night, and that after playing a record like this, that Norah Jones jones you have is going to seem awful silly.

Chet Baker Sings.
I played this for my wife to keep the mood going, but I didn't hear it, as I was on baby duty in the other room. I don't fancy him in the same league as Billie, but the missus loves him, and this is one of her favorite records.

Ani DiFranco, Knuckle Down. Artists hate when you call one of their records their "break-up record." But this is. After a sub-par (for Ani) Educated Guess, this one is back to the hights of the one before, Evolve, wherein she shed the skin of her long-time 4-piece and then 6-piece band. Some new musical partners appear; she co-produced with Joe Henry. Playing many of the tunes with bass player and musical partner in crime Todd Sickafoose, this album has a full, lush sound to go with some shamanic, poetic, piercing break-up lyrics that are either obviously or obliquely about the break-up of her marriage to "Goat Boy." Ani is best when she uses her writing to observe the small detail-- relationships, one person losing his job, the steam rising from two cups of coffee-- as opposed to when she writes about, say, Bush's economic policy. I think her most poignant work has been her finely honed charicter studies and story songs, or at least the songs that begin that way. I love the sound of this album, sparse instrumentation that makes a lush sound, and as the flow of the day suggested it would be playing when my wife headed out, it was the perfect segue from "our" music to mine, that devil music I like so well.

My "devil music" can in extremis mean only one thing: King Crimson, about which my wife aptly observes, "It makes me want to go kill someone." Today, the live set from 2003, ElekCtric. But it wasn't working for me, so I moved on.

Ryan Adams, Rock'n'Roll. I love Ryan's solo work. Gold is a stone cold classic. The numerous studio bootlegs that have come out-- I'm convinced he had a hand in that-- have been great. But I could never get into this one. The critics' rap on Rock'n'Roll was that it was too much a homage to the solo work of Paul Westerberg (and right after it was released, the two of them proceeded to have a celebrity feud.) And I'd never much taken to Westerberg. But since I've been digging Westerberg's Folker and Dead Man Shake, maybe suddenly this homage thing wasn't such a bad thing. Long story short, I loved it, the thing rocked my world. A highlight of the day. Pure rock'n'Roll with a hint of Stones, a hint of "alt.country," but with the feeling like the wheels might come off at any moment. Aside to Ron E. in Charlotte: I get it now.

Phil Lesh, cd 2, 7-6-02 Soundboard recording. The classic quintet-- Lesh, guitarists Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring, drummer John Molo, and keyboard player Rob Baracco-- reminds me of Coltrane's classic quartet (with Garrison, Tyner, and Jones) or either of Miles's classic quintets (Chambers, Jones, Kelly, Coltrane; and Carter, Williams, Hancock, Shorter.) Lesh will move on, but that line-up will always be special. They would approach a concert as one lengthy jam, from which periodically songs would emerge, and they'd play the song, then wade back into the jammy murky ether, grooving along until yet another song reared its head. As I begin to believe that Lesh has moved past using this quintet-- realistically, how many bands can Haynes be in at once?-- I've begun to treasure the recordings I have even more. Lesh has been great about making free soundboard recordings available for fans to download. And at their best, as on here, this quintet spins unparalleled improvisational derring do. There is a stretch labelled as "Terrapin Station" > jam > "Not Fade Away." (In Deadspeak, the ">" symbol indicates a seamless segue.) "Terrapin Station" devolves into a freeform jam before the section actually called jam begins. This is an exciting section of music, although "Not Fade Away" is a tad anti-climactic, but after running through the chorus a few times the band dips back into the neverland of the jam.

Next up is a boot of the New Barbarians set from April 20, 1979, what I call the Keith Richards Punishment Concert. Remember when he was busted in Canada back in '77 and dodged jail time by committing to playing a benefit concert and banging Margaret Troudeau? Well, the show that he eventually played featured the debut of the New Barbiarians, opening for the Stones.

The Barbarians were a short-lived but now lamented combo. If you forgot, or if you never knew, the band was essentially Keith, Ronnie Wood, and Stanley Clarke. Bobby Keys was along on sax as well, and Ian MacLagen on keys. Now, at the time I remembered this band as a Keith vehicle, but clearly, with Woody touring behind his Gimme Some Neck solo album and doing most of the singing, The Barbarians were a Woody vehicle. Without the focal point of Jagger's singing (Woody and Keith on vocals make Dylan sound like Pavoratti) and absent the metronomic Charlie Watts, these guys were free to be as ragged as they wanted to be, the text book opposite of polished, and on them it worked. I'm a Woody fan, and I really dig the New Barbarians (who never recorded and can be heard only via bootleg.) I saw the tour, and I remember Keith, Woody and Clarke all smoking (as in, cigarettes-- or something) throughout the show.

The music? Joyous drunken (or whatever) enthusiastic, expert Chuck Berry guitar groove, the guitars up front in the mix from the first tune, the master's own "Sweet Little Rock'n'Roller," a song recorded by Woody on the Rod Stewart album Smiler. The songs off of Gimme Some Neck all sound better live.

Jeff Buckley, Grace.
I never listened to him until very recently. I won't rehash the history here. A lot of people who's tastes I respect-- including Minty-- love this guy. It is tragic to think about the records he'd have made if he didn't die; this one is of itself, almost impossible to describe via comparison. Each time I've played it I am reminded of Led Zeppelin more than anyone else, and I don't know why. I suppose there is something in the music's power and-- yes-- grace. He manages to sound big even when he's singing and playing ever so softly. It is a pleasure to be able to "discover" this album and artist so far after the fact... His version of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" is a perfect creation, as already nailed by Minty in her entry in the music meme... Now "Corpus Christi Carol," and he's singing like a chick... and now the song after, and he's thrashing it up like Page. Great record.

The Allman Brothers, disc 3, Instant Live, Knoxville, 10/4/04. Disc 3 features Allmans alum Jackie Pearson, as humble and self-effacing a gent as you're wont to meet but a slide guitarist extraordinaire. First you get an extended work-out on the Muddy Waterrs-performed, Willie Dixon-penned "The Same Thing." Since Haynes brought this back to the set in 2001, and as a result of bass player Oteil Burbridge's ability to turn this "on-the-one" blues into a stone cold funk cold sweat during his solo, this has been a highlight of the band's repertoire the past 4 years.

Then "Mountain Jam," one of their extended instrumentals that, with drum solo and bass solo in the middle, goes on all told for about a half an hour. I timed my CDs so that this piece would start while it was sunny out and end after the sun went down; Oteil Burbridge's funky bottom out of his solo provides a nightfall sort of anchor as the rest of the band comes back in and picks up, improvising on the melody. With Pearson on board with Haynes and Trucks for a three-guitar attack, this is one of the best showpieces thay played all summer last year.

"One Way Out" was anti-climactic, so I skipped it.

Calexico, Hot Rail
. Kirk West, tour manager for the Allman Brothers, is a big proponent of ths band, and he says this is their best. My first time playing it; all Spanish and moody, very little singing. Great for a swampy Saturday night; wife and daughter return, though, and I'm straining to hear this exquisite music over the incessant racket of toys that must erupt in digitized gibberish at the slightest touch. Apparently it isn't enough you play with the toy; no, it has to scream at you too.

Next up is one of the two new Bright Eyes records, the folkier one, I'm Wide Awake Its Morning. My first exposure to Connor Oberst. I'll fill you in later.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:59 PM  

At 3/17/2005 2:24 PM, Blogger Jim said...   

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/17/2005 2:30 PM, Blogger Jim said...   

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/17/2005 2:42 PM, Blogger --josh-- said...   

Thanks so much for the post, Jim. That is a wicked cool thing to note. I will go listen for that response very carefully. And good to know someone sees what I mean about those classic improvisational jazz combos and the PLQ. Sometimes I think I'm typing to myself here.

And maybe I ought to grab at least that disc of the audience version, if not the whole show.

At 3/17/2005 3:13 PM, Blogger Jim said...   

I was at the Phil Lesh show mentioned (Gathering of the Vibes 7/6/02) and couldn't agree more with your review. It was one of the best Phil shows we've seen. I'm a huge Miles and Coltrane fan and I don't think it unreasonable to compare this incarnation of P&F with those illustrious ensembles.

I want to draw your attention to a memorable moment in the concert first pointed out to me by my wife. Being the July 4th weekend, fireworks were going off all the time. One particularly loud whistler firework got set off during the jam after the first verse of Cumberland. Warren immediately mimicked the sound on his guitar and the rest of the band joined in in great swooping tones. Listening to each other (and your environment) is the foundation of great group improvisation. This is a fine example of their doing just that.

The soundboard is available at: Archive.org

In this soundboard recording you can hear the firework at 28:35 into the Uncle John's Band track. The band's reaction follows a few seconds later. [Note that this SBD is mistracked; the band is well into Cumberland Blues at this point.]

{This is a rewrite of my previous comment with more accurate timing info.}

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