Monday, March 28, 2016

The Very Best of KPLU's "All Blues"

I promised y'all this list MONTHS ago. Here's 170 really great blues, soul and R&B songs I would NEVER have heard without KPLU-FM's "All Blues" show, airing every Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time, streaming worldwide at
All these songs are recommended and well worth your trouble to track down -- or just visit and listen for awhile. You might discover even more stuff you'll like. (I may have missed a couple of greats, but this is the best I can do right now.)
By the way, KPLU's trying to raise $7 million by June 30 so they can stay a locally-programmed blues, jazz and news station. So if you've got a couple million dollars available to donate, it would go to a good cause. (Maybe they'd start running "All Blues" every night and make my work week a little easier....)
Here's the list, in no particular order:
Sonny Landreth -- Howlin' Moon, Walkin' Blues, Congo Square, The High Side, Zydeco Shuffle, Illinois Blues.
Eric Bibb -- Drinking Gourd.
Sue Foley -- Howlin' for My Darlin'.
Danielle Nicole -- Breaking Up Somebody's Home, You Only Need Me When You're Down.
Trampled Underfoot -- Bad Bad Feeling.
Lloyd Jones -- Trouble Monkey.
Aron Jones and The Way -- My Love Remains.
Kim Wilson -- Gotta Get Out.
James Cotton -- Cut You Loose.
Gene Taylor -- Mississippi Heavy Water Blues.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins -- I Put a Spell on You.
James Harmon -- If the Shoe Fits Wear It.
Professor Longhair -- Big Chief.
Tracy Nelson -- Down So Low.
Junior Wells -- Messin' With the Kid.
Otis Redding -- Shake (live), Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, Hard to Handle.
Staples Singers -- You've Got to Earn It.
Ry Cooder -- Crow Black Chicken, The 13-Question Method, Fool for a Cigarette/Feeling Good.
Tangle Eye -- Oh Death, Work Song.
John Mooney -- Sacred Ground.
Cassandra Wilson and Wynton Marsalis -- Rosewood.
Paul Reddick -- One Way Trip.
Dave and Phil Alvin -- Mr. Kicks.
Tedeschi Trucks Band -- Anyhow, Made Up Mind, The Storm, Come See About Me.
Derek Trucks Band -- Wade in the Water, Down in the Flood, Crow Jane.
Joe Bonnamassa and Beth Hart -- I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know, Sinner's Prayer (live).
Joe Bonnamassa -- Drive, Jelly Roll Baker, Dust Bowl.
Aretha Franklin -- I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Dr. Feelgood, The Night Life, Try Matty's, Trouble in Mind, Rock Steady, The House That Jack Built, As Good to Me as I Am to You.
Dr. John -- Why Come it is?
Lowell George -- Two Trains.
Little Feat -- Candyman Blues, Fat Man in the Bathtub, Dixie Chicken.
Howlin' Wolf -- Sittin' on Top of the World, 300 Pounds of Joy.
B.B. King -- You Might Have Made Your Move Too Soon, Why I Sing the Blues, Understand, Days of Old (with Eric Clapton).
Slim Harpo -- Tina-Nina-Nu.
Joan Osborne -- Shake Your Hips.
Janis Joplin -- Kosmic Blues, Turtle Blues.
Heritage Blues Orchestra -- Sealine Woman.
Delbert McClinton -- B-Movie Boxcar Blues, One of the Fortunate Few, Better Off With the Blues.
Imelda May -- Johnny Got a Boom-Boom.
Etta James -- Losers Weepers, The Jealous Kind, Shaky Ground.
Earl King -- Trick Bag.
Elmore James -- Madison Blues, Stranger Blues.
Shamekia Copeland -- Lemon Pie, Devil's Hand, Never Goin' Back (KPLU live studio session available at, I Can't Let Go, Isn't That So?
Otis Grand -- Ham.
Ray Charles -- Mess Around, Lonely Avenue.
Ronnie Earl -- Ernie's Gospel Groove.
Boz Scaggs -- Cadillac Walk, Sick and Tired.
Marvin Gaye -- Can I Get a Witness?
Kari Lee -- Voodoo Woman.
Eric Clapton -- Tore Down.
Delta Deep -- Bang the Lid.
Susan Tedeschi -- You Got the Silver.
Ian Segal -- Now I Am the Blues, Swagger, The Revelator.
John Hammond -- Black Maria.
Euphoria -- Back Against the Wall.
Grady Champion -- On the South Side.
Johnny Winter -- Medicine Man.
Johnny "Guitar" Watson -- Gangster of Love.
Jimmy Thackery -- Mercury Blues.
Shaun Costello -- Don't Pass Me By.
Johnny A. -- Wichita Lineman, I Had to Laugh, Hip-Bone, Oh Yeah.
J.J. Cale -- Lies, Call Me the Breeze, Don't Wait.
John Mayall -- Room to Move.
Bob Dylan -- Maggie's Farm.
Ann Peebles -- Read Me My Rights.
Bo Diddley -- Mona, Can't Judge a Book by its Cover.
Irma Thomas -- The River is Waiting, I Think it's Going to Rain Today.
Irma Thomas, Tracy Nelson and Marcia Ball -- Sing It.
Marcia Ball -- That's Enough of That Stuff.
Geneva Magness -- You Were Never Mine, Bad Blood.
Duke Robillard -- Alimony Blues.
Tom Waits -- Emotional Weather Forecast, The Heart of Saturday Night.
Leo Kottke -- Busted Bicycle.
Buddy Guy -- Meet Me in Chicago.
Taj Mahal -- Fishin' Blues, Swat That Rabbit, Good Morning Miss Brown (live).
Keb' Mo' -- Suitcase.
Neville Brothers -- Hey Pocky Way, Bird on a Wire.
Bonnie Raitt -- Gypsy in Me, Two Lights in the Nighttime, Angel from Montgomery, Guilty, Hell to Pay (with Boz Scaggs).
Wild Magnolias -- Coochie Molly, Pocket Change, Party.
John Hiatt -- Riding With the King.
Alabama Shakes -- You Ain't Alone, Gimme All Your Love.
Coco Montoya -- Casting My Spell, Tumbleweed.
Lyle Lovett -- She's No Lady, My Baby Don't Tolerate.
O.V. Wright -- I'd Rather be Blind Crippled and Crazy.
Jimi Hendrix -- Little Wing, Midnight Lightning.
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Little Wing.
John Cleary -- Viva La Money, Boneyard.
Nina Simone -- Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter, Do I Move You? (live).
Daveena and the Vagabonds -- I Try to be Good.
Joe Tex -- The Love You Save, Show Me, I Want to do Everything for You.
ZZ Top -- Jesus Just Left Chicago.
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore, I Walk Alone.
Allman Brothers -- Come and Go Blues, Southbound, You Don't Love Me, One Way Out, Don't Keep Me Wondering (live).
Walter "Wolfman" Washington -- Mary Ann.
The Five Blazes -- Mary Jo.
Rory Block -- Rock Island Line.
Lou Rawls -- All Around the World, Your Good Thing's About to End.
Little Willie John -- I'm Shakin'.
Lazy Lester -- I'm a Lover Not a Fighter.
Roy Rogers -- Slide of Hand.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grab bag

Here's some quick reviews of what I've been reading over the last week or so....

Peter Greenberg: DON'T GO THERE! (2009) -- Greenberg is the Travel Editor for NBC's TODAY SHOW. His book was filed in the Humor section of my favorite local used book store, so I thought it might be funny. It wasn't. Basically, Greenberg spends 250 pages warning you about lots of places NOT to visit in your travels, all of which illustrate Karl Malden's First Rule Of Travel: Don't Leave Home. I can see where Greenberg might be funny on TV, but after the first couple chapters warning you away from Chernobyl, Bhopal and Love Canal, it all gets kind of dull.
I was also shocked that none of the places I've lived made any of Greenberg's "Must Avoid" lists. Ankara, Turkey didn't make it into the Top 10 for Worst Air. Worland, Wyoming didn't come anywhere near Most Boring. And Washington didn't break into the Top 10 Suicide States -- though Wyoming did....

Richard Burton: DIARIES (2012) -- A former big-time actor, Rich had all the same problems as the rest of us lower-earners: Hating his job, being bored, not wanting to be around most people, and whether he should buy ANOTHER million-dollar diamond ring for his wife. His diaries are surprisingly readable, very good waking-up reading. I was reminded in places of another actor's diaries published a decade or two back, Charlton Heston's AN ACTOR'S LIFE. But Burton goes into more depth -- when he's in the mood, and not drinking heavily. And it's interesting how much stuff he pours out onto the page when he's happy with his wife Liz. When she's not around, he pretty much clams up. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, but there's 650 pages of it.

Alice Sebold: LUCKY (1999) -- It takes me awhile to Get things, sometimes: The Cars, Madonna, Prince. Sebold was quite a publishing sensation a decade or so back when she published the Number 1 bestselling novel THE LOVELY BONES. This memoir came first: It tells how Sebold was beaten and raped while a student at Syracuse University. It is brutal, shocking, and absolutely riveting to read. You THINK the toughest, hardest-to-read part of the story is right up front. And it IS tough. But more shocking stuff follows. There are signs that Sebold maybe didn't know where to END her memoir, but it was worth the trip. She was lucky that she was a strong and quirky person, and she's doubly lucky that her family was a bunch of fruit loops who stood behind her and helped her hold her life together.

Pat O'Day and Jim Ojala: IT WAS ALL JUST ROCK AND ROLL (second edition, 2003) -- O'Day was a disc jockey and station manager for Seattle's KJR AM in the '60s, back in the days when that station was one of the premiere AM stations in the country. His descriptions of what it was like to work in radio back in those days are unique, solid and enjoyable, and when he talks theory about what he -- as a manager -- thought made for an enjoyable AM station and talented AM DJ's, he's on solid ground. I still think there's a great book waiting to be written about working in AM radio in the '50s and '60s, and O'Day has a good start on it here.
But this isn't the book. Much of O'Day's rock-'n'-roll history-writing is from the first-the-earth-cooled-then-the-dinosaurs-came school, and his stories about hanging out with rock stars (Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, more) aren't funny or revealing (even the story about Hendrix returning to his alma mater, Seattle's Garfield High School), they're just kind of sad.
O'Day writes ONE PAGE about his alcohol problem -- the cure for which he's been doing radio and TV commercials about in the Seattle area for a decade. There was maybe the basis for another book there -- but O'Day says he was a happy drunk, and that all his friends and co-workers agreed with him....
There are other problems. Glen Campbell and Ahmet Ertegun are among the well-known names who get their names misspelled more than once. Pat sometimes writes women (plural) when he means woman (singular) -- this also happens more than once.
This is the updated second edition of Pat's book. It looks great, and there are some nice black-and-white photos of Hendrix, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Mamas and Papas, The Lovin' Spoonful, and other stars who played in Seattle. But did anyone proofread the book?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Grumpy old men

I first heard about Manny Farber while reading David Thomson's excellent NEW BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF FILM (see review under "Movie-ing 2," below). Thomson described Farber as a longtime movie critic who never liked anything much, and was well known for his crankiness.
Hey, a grumpy old guy who spent years finding faults in lots of classic old movies? Sounded like this was right up my street. I wondered why I'd never heard of Farber before.
Now I know why. Because I grabbed FARBER ON FILM (2009/2016), a complete collection of Farber's movie reviews from the early '40s through the late '70s.
Man, was he grumpy.
Farber started writing movie reviews for magazines like THE NATION and THE NEW REPUBLIC, then moved to CAVALIER in the mid-'60s, and later wrote for FILM COMMENT and ARTFORUM. And though he occasionally admits to liking or admiring some aspect of a movie, most of the time he picks stuff apart, or gives one paragraph of attention to movies you've actually heard of.
I didn't realize there was going to be 800 pages of this. But I got through a huge book of Graham Greene's writing on movies awhile back, so I figured I could handle this, too. And I thought seeing lots of old movies through the eyes of an old grump might be amusing.
And I was wrong. I got about 150 pages in before I started skimming, then skipping around. There may be some hidden gems in there somewhere, but I doubt it. Farber hits a real low point in the late '60s -- hey, it was a bad time for movies -- but he comes back to life briefly in the mid-'70s, just in time for a whole new generation of filmmakers. Most of whom he doesn't like. Also just in time to retire to become a teacher (on film studies) and a painter. He died in 2008.
Farber wrote like a college professor. He knew a lot, but it's often really technical, or it's really dry.
He seemed to get very little joy out of his work. Even when Pauline Kael was reviewing a really bad movie, at least she got something out of it so you could sympathize with her suffering. Manny just grinds it out, like he started out tired.
He didn't like CASABLANCA, for instance. He called it hokum. It was -- a big dish of wartime feel-good hokum. But how sour would you have to be not to enjoy it? Not to enjoy Bogart saying almost everything you ever wanted to hear him say in a movie? Or Claude Rains when he says "I'm shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you -- that there's GAMBLING going on in this establishment!" What kind of clod couldn't enjoy that?
Farber hardly ever cracks a joke, unless it's to make fun of someone's name -- pretty much the lowest of the low when it comes to humor. He doesn't ever seem to be enjoying himself much -- though he DID seem to like putting together lists of REALLY BAD movies. Maybe he just SAW too many REALLY BAD movies.
Even in the late '60s and early '70s, he was still complaining. He grudgingly admits to admiring some parts of EASY RIDER and THE WILD BUNCH. He enjoys Marty Scorsese's work, first MEAN STREETS, then he goes on for pages about TAXI DRIVER. (Is this why there's a laudatory quote from Scorsese on the back of the book?) But by late 1975 he's already got a grudge against Steven Spielberg.
For years I've wanted to see a book called something like THE COMMON MAN'S GUIDE TO MOVIES -- what an educated non-film-expert thinks of a batch of movies, without getting into all the critical theories and biases that even Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert got sucked into.
This is not that book. And unless you like hearing someone complain for hours on end, it ain't worth $30.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sell, sell, sell!

Money got tight, so on Monday I took four boxes of books and music to Half-Price Books in Tacoma. They took half the stuff I'd packed up and gave me $100, which I thought was pretty fair. I've got a little breathing room in my checking account now.
It's hard to predict what they will and won't take. I swore before I made the trip that I wouldn't sell anything I had an emotional attachment to -- no music that I'd miss later because it wouldn't be around to remind me of old friends, old times, good times.
After all that soul-searching, Half Price only took a little bit of the vinyl. I'm stumped on why they took ELO but left ELP, took a Can best-of (which you'd think would have fairly limited appeal, nothing personal) but left English-import albums by Caravan, Camel and Gentle Giant. They took The Headboys, but left Squeeze and The Jam. They took Heart, but left CCR and John Fogerty. They took the Dixie Dregs, but left a King Crimson best-of. They took almost all the travel-writing I couldn't get into last fall, but left short-story collections by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg
They took almost all the CD's. They took ALL the rockstar memoirs I've given bad reviews to over the last month.
Not that I'm complaining. A year ago they paid me $160 for a pile of what I thought was mostly pretty dire stuff. So it all balances out.
Naturally, I didn't come home empty-handed. I grabbed a new edition of THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ, which I first fell in love with when I grabbed a previous edition at Half-Price back in 2008. This new version is -- good God! -- TWICE as big as the old edition. And I'm sure there's more great criticism and more hilarious jokes.
I grabbed science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick's EXEGESIS and have already started it. It's a monster. On Page 21, he takes a pretty good shot at describing what happened to him back in early 1974, when he started seeing funny colored lights and started dreaming in Greek. At first he thinks it's some ancient Greek trying to communicate with him. Then he thinks it's his late friend Episcopal Bishop Jim Pike trying to communicate from The Other Side. Then Dick thinks he might have been contacted by some Vast Autonomous Living Intelligence System transmitting from space. And all through it, he's cracking jokes.
God knows if I'll finish it. I've already started skimming and skipping things. But what a story.
I hit the Clearance section and brought home Joe Queenan's CONFESSIONS OF A CINEPLEX HECKLER (2000), a couple dozen articles about movies, only $2. Queenan writes for MOVIELINE magazine.
These aren't really movie reviews -- well, a couple are, and one's a brief book review of a Hollywood producer's memoir. The rest are silly articles about films and some of the BS around them -- how Hollywood presents views of life that have nothing to do with reality; how many ears have been severed in a decade of Hollywood films; how many Merchant-Ivory movies can Queenan watch before his brain turns to Swiss cheese, etc.
In two pieces entitled "Don't Try This at Home," Queenan proves some things done in movies simply can't be done in reality. He dunks himself in cold Atlantic waters to prove Leonardo DiCaprio couldn't have done a five-minute monologue near the end of TITANIC -- he would've been dead in two minutes. (Queenan lasts less than 30 seconds.)
But Queenan IS able to walk through busy Manhattan traffic while wearing dark glasses and pretending to be blind, like Al Pacino did in SCENT OF A WOMAN. Taxis don't run over Queenan -- possibly a first for NYC.
I don't recommend reading this book in one sitting, like I basically did. Though it's funny, the humor tends to wear out. Queenan tends to pick on the same movies over and over, and his stories tend to repeat themselves in structure and punch lines. So read one essay a day for the next few weeks and you'll be happier than I was. I wish the book had been funnier.
But for $2, I'm not complaining.