Labels: The politics
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.
Labels: The tunes
Now, to put that 80 million figure in perspective, Bush got 60.6 million votes for president in 2004. If you ask me, these two facts taken together explain an awful lot.
On the other hand, for many people who came of age in the 60s, or in the wake of the 60s, Thompson holds a dear and nostalgic place. He remains one of the quintessential chroniclers of that era, for better or worse. And he is probably a fitting one, distinctly of the times about which he is best known for writing.
Thompson and others (Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer) were at the forefront of what was called "New Journalism," which essentially involved placing the journalist within the story. Nowadays this is commonplace; Aaron Brown does it every night, ad nauseum, on CNN. Thompson's Hell's Angels, and Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests, are archtypal examples, in book form. Thompson is probably best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his drug-addled account of his coverage of a motor sport event in Vegas, made into a film starring Johnny Depp.
Personally, on balance I thought Thompson was one of the good guys. His excesses were clearly self-destructive, and one wonders whether a sober romp through Vegas might have made for better journalism, if not a less engaging book. But his political contributions to Rolling Stone magazine, his printed page home base until the very end despite his increasing scarcity of contribution, were always welcome breaths of fresh air from the left, an increasingly scarce and valuable commodity. I don't know who is going to take his place. Al Franken? I remember fondly the good Doctor's interview with candidate Bill Clinton, wherein Thompson seemed to feel like he was an ambassador there to bestow the youth vote upon him.
I've read a lot of testimonies and elegies over the past few days wherein writers have said that Hunter THompson was the reason they decided to get into journalism. That in and of itself is a fitting tribute to the man and his impact.
Honestly, I can't tell if the song is straight or a goof. And I'm too shy to ask Lane.
Reading of Louie's youth in New Orleans put me in mind of a magical day I spent there once, and I wanted to jot down my memories of that day here, before they're gone and all I can do is complain about why the kids never pick up the damned video phone.
It was September of 1995, and I had two back-to-back trade shows in N'Awlins, one ending Friday, the next commencing Saturday night. So I had Saturday to myself, free and clear. It was a beautiful early fall day, not too sticky, breezy and comfortable shirtsleeve weather. And sunny. In short it was the kind of day I dream of. I began the afternoon by walking into a cigar store by my hotel and a block east of Antoine's, on Rue Saint Louis in the French Quarter. The woman behind the counter, a black woman of I'd guess 27, 28, was knowledgable and energetic as she assisted me, and we got to talking. She said she was studying opera. With that, she proceeded to sing for me-- a capella, and all out-- an aria. And I mean, like an angel. I told her to stop, I was embarrassed, but no, she was taken over by the music. I'm no opera buff-- I don't even know, truth be told, if it was an aria-- but
I stood there mesmorized by my one-on-one concert, and I thought to myself as I left, only in New Orleans will the chick in the cigar store sing opera for you.
As I made my way through the Quarter toward the river-- my plan was to find a place on the water to have lunch-- most blocks were closed off, and there was a band in the middle of the street almost every block. At Bourbon Street-- which crosses Rue Saint Louis-- there was a trio, anchored by a rather large black woman sitting in a chair, singing and playing the tuba. Her voice was one of those deep, throaty, soulful, gutteral things, and the bass lines she laid down on tuba were impossibly funky. Her name was Doreen; I know because I bought (and still have) her CD. The CD has, of course, "Bill Baily" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" on it. Doreen was attracting quite a nice-sized, good-timey crowd. One Cajun man, missing a few teeth, in hat and suspenders and in need of a shave, turned to me with a broad smile and said, perfectly, in a deep French accent: "She sing pretty good"-- and then, pausing the perfect beat, he added, "fo a girl!" I could only laugh. She sing pretty good, period.
I made it to the water and found an open air cafe with a dixieland band playing, and I took a table for myself right up front. I had fried crawfish as an appetizer-- imagine different-shaped Calamari-- and then Jambalaya (imagine Jambalaya.) I sat in front of the stand-up bass player, and the band moved through a classic repertoire: "All of Me," "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out," "When the Saints Go Marching In," like that. I have been known to play a little bit of guitar, and when the band took a break I asked the bass player something about which I had recently been pondering. "When you play a fretless instrument," I asked, "how do you know where to put your fingers?" On the stringed instruments I've played, there are always frets, the raised metal bars that go crosswise on a guitar neck, and against which you press the strings; you know that this string on this fret will produce an F, say.
"How do you know?" he asked, repeating my question. "You just know." He gestured over to his bandmate, also setting up for the next set about to begin. "How does the trombone player know how far out to move the slide?"
"And if you're a little off," I said, getting hip to the whole groove thang, "that's OK too." My bass player friend thought this was funny, and called over to the trombonist. This had obviously been a point of discussion between them. "Hey," he said, gesturing at me, "he says that if you're a little off, its OK!" The trombone player looked at me, smiled, and replied, "Hey man-- that's jazz!"
Labels: The tunes
When I was 9, my dad took us to our first hockey game. He made a sweeping gesture to the ice during the pre-game warm-ups (the Rangers versus the Flyers; it was, I later learned, the first game in the new Madison Square Garden, now known as the current Madison Square Garden) and announced to my brother and me, "We're the guys in blue." We, as in them and us. But also we, as in him and his boys. And so with that wave of the hand, we became Ranger fans.
A lot of people may have grown disenchanted with sports over time, but I can pinpoint the exact week. See, being a Ranger fan was like being a Red Sox fan before this year, like being a Cubs fan. There was a Sisyphisan agony to the experience, the perpetual pushing of the rock up that hill. You knew that each year your heart would be broken; you just didn't know how. But in 1994, miraculously, Mark Messier (the Messiah, this was lost on none of us) led the team to the promised land, to the sweet nectar of sweaty champaigne drunk from the grandest of all sporting trophies.
And did I mention my brother and I were at the game?
Now, not a lot of people remember this, but the Rangers won the Stanley cup on a Tuesday. Three days later, the following Friday, was OJ's white Bronco chase. These two events-- the fulfillment of the ultimate sports longing, coupled and contrasted with the brutal fall from grace, the loss of innocence, that was OJ-- combined to color sports for me in a way that permanently made me care a whole lot less. In the same week, you get your sports fantasy come true, you totally shoot your sports fan load, and then Charles Manson finds his way into the backfield. Really, who needed it after that? And I've felt that way ever since.
But I do still follow the NHL, even if only in the sports section of my local papers. And I can't believe the players and owners are this dumb. See, here is the nightmare scenario: hockey goes away, and nobody gives a damn. There are already too many sporting events on TV, where a whole lot of the money is made; no one is crying into their protein shakes over dead air. No, everything the broadcast and cable networks have asked viewers to watch in place of the NHL-- more college basketball, poker shows, yeast growing-- has outpaced the NHL in the ratings. TV doesn't care. The fans don't seem to care (outside of Canada, but the truth is, the big money NHL teams are in the states). Players are flocking to European leagues. Its the opposite of "What if you threw a party and no one showed up?"; this is, what if you canceled your party and no one noticed?
I think it is a lead pipe cinch that when (or if) the league finally does resume play, there will be less teams. If the economics are so bad, some of them are going to go chapter 11.
There have been all sorts of hare-brained schemes to "put a better product on the ice." Yo, NHL, here's some free advice. You want to put a better product on the ice? Get rid of the helmets. Take a look at Bobby Orr. Or Brad Park. Or Bobby Hull. And these are mostly isolated shots, not action shots. If you're as old as I am, you probably remember all three faces. Now honestly-- is there any NHL star today who you'd recognize if you shared an elevator with him?
If you can picture an old time NHL game in your mind's eye, you know how much more vibrant and exciting and irresistable and intimate the game used to be, before helmets. I remember when all you had to do to make a fan was bring someone to a game. The players used to have personality; now you root for generic cyborgs.
I know this is an unpopular position. Head trauma and all; you can't even ride your damn bike around the block without a helmet these days. But trust me, you want to make a quantum improvement in the product on the ice, lose the headgear.
1. Total amount of music files on your comoputer? A lot. I keep my 40-gig iPod backed up on my hard drive (and also on an external hard drive). So I have about 32 gigs just from that. Then another 24 gigs of wav files, compressed or unpacked, of live shows and unreleased demos that I downloaded and have yet to burn to CD. Then another, say, 6 gigs of stuff that I DID burn to CD but still have in Fuerio (my burning software) in case I want to burn another copy for me or someone else. So all total that looks like 70 gigs.
The last CD you bought was... Well, I don't buy 'em one at a time. I usually wait until I have 4 or 5 I want and go get them all at once (usually online), unless something comes out this week that I just have to have. So the most recent batch included: The Chris Stamey Experience, A Question of Temperature; Calexico, Feast of Wine; Ollabelle, self-titled (2004 release; this one I really like. I saw them open up for Ryan Adams; Adams played guitar with them their whole set.); North Mississippi All Stars, Hill Country Revue; and, Chris Isaak Christmas. The last, I didn't get until well after Christmas, so I won't actually play it until November. I'm listening to the Stamey right now; I'm a sucker for him, but not so much for Yo La Tengo, who back him here. Couple nice songs so far, a couple are noise-infected in that Yo La Tengo way.
3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message? Didn't play any music today before reading the message. Last song last night before hitting the hay-- "D.M.S.R." by Prince, off the notorious bootleg Small Club, a pristine soundboard of a 1988 show and one of the best boots ever. If I stayed awake a little longer I could have said Prince's cover of "Just My Imagination," the next track, on which his guitar work is just sick. But then, as I think of it, I also could have lied.
Hey-- turns out Stamey covers "The Summer Sun" on this CD-- from his own catalog, a very early dB's track, I think it was a single but not on an album. Cool.
4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you. Hmmm... as I use an iPod a lot, I am finding that I have more comfort with some songs than others-- you really have to like a song sometimes to want it inside your head, the effect of using headphones. So here's 5 that seem to wear well on me in the iPod:
--"Locked Away," Keith Richards. Love the guitar work on the outro. We know him as a rhythm player; perhaps that is why his solos are so delightfully understated, there and not there.
--"Aja," Steely Dan. Comfort food for the ears.
--"A Long December," Counting Crows. I remember my brother's kids (now 8 and almost 12) liked this. That is probably a lot of why I like it; I am definitely reminded of them when I hear it. Its got that line, "If you think you might come to California...I think you should," and they live in California. Generally I find Durnitz to be a preening twit, but he says this song contains his best line: "All at once you look across a crowded room / To see the way that light attaches to a girl." Yeah, like I said, pretentious.
--"Be My Baby," Ronettes. Sang it to my wife in our wedding.
--"Autumn Leaves," Cannonball Adderly. Off Something Else, which has Miles Davis on it. Lovely piece.
5. What 3 people are you going to pass this baton to and why?
Lane, because he's a music library as well as a musician.
Jill, same reason.
My brother, who probably won't play.
Labels: The tunes
It was as garish and ugly as I was expecting, and then some. I mean, if I went to Walden Pond and streamed toilet paper through the trees-- have I just created an art installation? Central Park is a beautiful place; even on a gray winter day, with the trees bare, it has a beauty. To litter the park with these garish orange gates, with orange cloth hanging from them and blowing in the wind-- well, the one thing that kept popping into my head was, "I hope the construction is over soon and the park is back to normal." It looked, if anything, like the lovely park was filled with "construction ahead" warnings. The aesthetic of the orange was industrial, HAZMAT.
Defenders of the Gates (when you put it like that, is sounds kind of cool, like something out of Lord of the Rings) pointed to the massive scope of the work. Yes, I conceded, excellent project management. But project management isn't art. Well, they said, look how many people came out to see it! Yes, I grant, indeed it is a magnet and a spectacle. And so is a ten car pile-up-- all the more so if one of the cars is on fire and there are cops. And that isn't art either.
Art is supposed to speak to the soul. If this said anything to my soul, it was, "Look, I took an orange dump all over your beautiful park."
I will admit that it was fun watching all the snooty New Yorkers and tourists pretentiously trying to verbalize why they liked it, because they assumed they were supposed to... and finally I'll add that I didn't see one black face in all the time I was there (which wasn't long; maybe 40 minutes?) It was a very White New York kind of event, which surprised me.
Sorry I haven't been posting more. I guess politics is boring me, and I figure my personal life would bore you. Something about Kim Jong Il makes me think "little dickens" every time he does something. I don't know why. And the more I see of Condi Rice, the less I like her.
The kid is great, a little wondrous angel. I read this yesterday in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink (he's the guy who wrote The Tipping Point, which became 2003's ubiquitous buzz word):
"If you were to approach a one-year-old child who sits playing on the floor and do something a little bit puzzling, such as cupping your hands over hers, the child would immediately look up into your eyes. Why? Because what you have done requires explanation, and the child knows that she can find an answer on your face."
She isn't a year old yet, but that's where our daughter is at now. Those searching looks as she gazes into your eyes, such intensity furrowed into her tiny adorable brow, such trust as she lies on my chest, grabbing onto my hair so she can get a fix on me, its just unfathomably rewarding. She vocalizes a lot-- cooing, gurgling, nonsense syllables (I guess they call it "baby talk") but no actual talking yet, but I know she understands things, and I can talk to her about certain things and she understands (two things I know she understands: "Baby want bottie?" and "Play with toys?") I love her more every day.