Monday, December 31, 2012

#620: Changes....

Looking ahead, the New Year might B a little diffrent around here....

DOING MY PART FOR THE ECONOMY: After years of driving broken-down wrecks, I was basically forced in2 buying a reliable good-quality 2nd-hand used car after putting more in repairs in2 my last beater than the thing was worth.
I'm now the proud(?) owner of a 2009 Pontiac G6, the nicest, newest car I've EVER owned. I'm still in shock about it, still can't believe my bank financed it. (They approved ME 4 a loan? No WONDER there was a banking crisis awhile back....) This is the sorta thing Xmas bonuses were meant 2 go 4, right? Still can't believe there R actually places where they'll sell decent non-broken-down cars 2 people like me. Isn't America wonderful...?
I'll keep you posted on how this works out -- I can swing the payments, but its gonna B TIGHT, & there's probly gonna B some 2nd-guessing when the 1st payment comes due early in Feb. Should B fun 2 watch....
But after my $$$ adventures with my last 2 cars, it was basically either do this or walk. & I'm 2 old 2 walk.
Which leads us 2 Item 2:

I'M ON A LOW BUDGET....: Needless 2 say, with so much of my future "disposable" income now locked-up 4 future monthly car payments, my days of $100 shopping sprees at R pretty much over with. & that might B a good thing.
I still have a pretty-good-sized stack of stuff that I grabbed cheap last Winter & Spring that I either haven't listened-2 or read yet, or have barely sniffed at. I will B forced 2 Deal With this stuff now 2 fight musical & literary boredom, + I still have 1/2adozen Strange CD's that Crabby sent me last Summer that I've barely gotten in2.
I will get 2 all this stuff in due time, tho it may take awhile. These items include:
MUSIC -- Mike McGear, Eric Burdon's SUN SECRETS, Be-Bop Deluxe's RAIDING THE DIVINE ARCHIVE best-of, Illusion's (2nd) & ENCHANTED CARESS, Soft Machine's THIRD & OUT-BLOODY-RAGEOUS best-of, Nektar's RECYCLED & DOWN TO EARTH, Barclay James Harvest's HARVEST YEARS best-of, Nick Drake's FIVE LEAVES LEFT, David Sancious and Tone's TRUE STORIES, The Wackers' HOT WACKS, Kracker's EL FAMILIA, & lots more.
BOOKS -- Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA (2/3rds of the way thru 4 the 2nd time, huge but pretty great), THE PROUD HIGHWAY & HELL'S ANGELS; Christopher Wren's HACKS, Lewis Shiner's SLAM, FOREVER CHANGES: ARTHUR LEE AND THE BOOK OF LOVE, Bee Lavender's ADVENTURES IN TAXIDERMY, NEVER COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU, & more....
Knowing me, this stuff will likely take most of 2013 2 get thru. But I've got nothing but time. & thanx 2 those new car payments, I've had 2 put-off my planned Caribbean cruise....
+, as of last June, I hava new girlfriend who's getting a lot of the free time I useta lavish here, so....

KEEPING UP THE PACE: So I'm thinking all the above stuff will likely get reviewed here, but at a slower pace than usual. + there'll likely B the usual Nostalgia pieces & attempts at humor. Meaning, when I have something 2 talk about, I'll post it, like usual. But my big post-a-day plan 4 Dec DID NOT WORK. I made it 2 mid-month B4 I hit the wall -- which was probly a good thing. & most of You Out There seem 2 B reading the Olde Stuff instead of the newer stuff, & that's great, thanx 4 reading here, & maybe someday I'll catch up....

LATEST PLAYLIST: Well, there isn't 1. I'm still playing off-the-wall music 2 keep me motivated at work, but it's pretty much the Same Old Stuff. No major shocked reactions 2 report, Xcept 4 1 drunk guy who LOVED Crabby Appleton's "Go Back"....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

#619: 3rd Annual TAD Awards

OK, we made it thru the End Of The World, but can we make it thru the end of the year? That Fiscal Cliff is looming & we're all about 2 plunge screaming over the edge.
& meanwhile, in the Midwest the Sun has been sucked in2 a black hole & states from Nebraska 2 Wisconsin have been buried in 2 feet of snow. Just ask my buddy Crabby....
But let's let all that go & get down 2 Business:
Barring any further miracles, here R the winners & losers of the 3rd Annual TAD Awards 4 the best & worst Strange Music & Books of the past year. It should B noted that this was all new-2-me stuff, unless noted otherwise.
I didn't think 2012 was a very good year, but consider this an early Xmas present anyway. Just without a big bow on it. Or the fancy wrapping paper. Or the annoying relatives who never leave....

WORST ALBUMS -- Against a LOT of heavy competition, the losers R ... Borbetomagus's (1st), screaming punk-jazz from 1980 without a single recognizable melody ... & Pat Metheny's ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SILENCE, 45 mins of screaming electric-guitar feedback. No melodies here, either.
MOST DISTURBING ALBUM -- Cromagnon's CAVE ROCK/ORGASM (1969). Thanx a LOT, Crabby....
BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR -- Love's FOREVER CHANGES (1967), The Kinks' VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (1968), Nick Drake's PINK MOON (1972). FOREVER CHANGES is mostly gorgeous psychedelia. VILLAGE GREEN is acoustic small-town British nostalgia, with some great songs. PINK MOON is pretty great 4 an album that's perceived as a sort of suicide note; it's as good as anything Nick ever did.
BEST SONGS OF THE YEAR -- Porcupine Tree: "The Sound Of Muzak." The Jam: "That's Entertainment." Sandy Denny: "The Simple Joys of Brotherhood." Left Banke: "She May Call You Up Tonight." Cocktail Slippers: "Keeps on Dancing."
WORST TREND -- I spent a lot of $$$ & time last Winter & Spring trying-out new-2-me music -- Butthole Surfers, Cramps, Wire, Gang of Four, & MANY others. It was mostly not worth the trouble. But I'm still open 4 suggestions, anything that will jolt me out of my ongoing musical boredom....
BEST AUTOBIOGRAPHY -- BETTER TO HAVE LOVED, Judith Merril & Emily Pohl-Weary. The 1st 2/3rds of this is gripping, as young SF fan Judy Merril goes to NYC in the '40s, marries writer Frederik Pohl, & befriends most of the world's most famous science-fiction writers. Later the story narrows down, but it's still a great self-portrait....
MOST DISAPPOINTING BIOGRAPHY -- Ray Coleman's LENNON. Not much new here....
MOST DISAPPOINTING MUSIC-RELATED BOOK: Andrew Hultkranz's FOREVER CHANGES. It's not based on much. Which is 2 bad, because the album it's about is GREAT....
BEST JOKES -- Keith Altham, THE PR STRIKES BACK. Altham zings Jagger, Townshend & dozens of other music stars in a book only a former publicity guy could write.
BEST NOVEL -- I only read 2 new-2-me novels all year. Shocking. It takes a lot 4 fiction 2 hold my attention these days. Both novels were by Max Barry. SYRUP is slightly funnier, with lotsa laffs, & with its non-stop jokes & 1-sentence chapters it's perfect 4 people with short attn spans. Like me. & its subject -- marketing & consumer society -- we're stuck up 2 R necks in.... Barry's JENNIFER GOVERNMENT is well worth yer time, 2. But it's even scarier....
MOST READ POSTS -- #523 "Laundry-doin' music" became the most-viewed post in the history of the Back-Up Plan, thanx 2 a link from the good folks at That post included a review of the Kinks' VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY. "Laundry-doin music" has about 100 more views than "Back to the Roots," which is now far behind in 2nd place. #582 "The Best!" included a LONG list of capsule reviews of the best Strange Music albums I've heard all the way thru.
WORST SONG OF THE YEAR -- Adele: "Someone Like You." Hey, didn't she win this award LAST year? Well, there's nothing in the rules that sez that can't happen....

Friday, December 21, 2012

#618: End of the world? Again?

So, supposedly according 2 the ancient Mayan calendar, the end of the world's sposta happen sometime today. Intresting how the Mayans could allegedly predict the end of the world, but they couldn't predict their own disappearance in2 the Central American jungle....
I don't even have any end-of-the-world-music suggestions 4 you, because I posted them 2 end-of-the-world predictions ago....
However, if it really IS gonna B The End, I'd suggest a really big party is in order -- in which case you should find the best upbeat party music you can lay your hands on, & I'm sure you don't need my help with that. Prince's "1999" would be a good addition 2 that pile. & his "Purple Rain" would make a nice -- tho still apocalyptic -- change of pace.
I think the period while we wait 4 the asteroids 2 come raining down (or whatever's gonna happen) could best B soundtracked by Wigwam's rumbling, ominous "Bless Your Lucky Stars."
& once the destruction begins, I think King Crimson's "Starless" might make the most appropriate funeral music.
But the end of the world doesn't havta B a bad thing. I've often thot that maybe there R just 2 many people out there crowding the globe -- & science-fiction writers have been toying with this idea 4 years. Every generation has their own end-of-the-world story: Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, Whitley Streiber & James Kunetka's WAR DAY, David Brin's THE POSTMAN, George R. Stewart's EARTH ABIDES, etc. & the idea of a suddenly depopulated Earth & the plusses & minuses of that go way back in fiction....
+ some happenings over the last week or so seem 2 B bearing this out -- that maybe there R too many people, & maybe The End could B a sort of cleansing thing. Ghod knows there seem 2 B enuf people Getting Ready....
& if the past week+ has taught us anything, it's that you never know when your particular world might end. "You never know what's out there, and you never know when it's coming for you."
I hope we all wake up just fine on Saturday morning. I want to keep doing this. I hope that if you do have a big "The End" party, the scariest thing you wake up with is a hangover.
Until next time then, keep your head down, keep smiling, & don't piss anyone off....

Monday, December 17, 2012

#617: Mid-month playlist

OK, so I took a coupla days off -- you're gonna havta sue me. Actually, I needed the break. There's still more big stuff coming B4 the end of the month, Best & Worst Of The Year Awards, etc. Meanwhile, here's the music that got me thru the week at work....

Bangles -- Dover Beach, Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love, Following, Not Like You, Manic Monday, In a Different Light, Walk Like an Egyptian, Return Post, Hero Takes a Fall, Going Down to Liverpool, Be With You.
Go-Go's -- You Thought, I'm the Only One.
Badfinger -- In the Meantime/Some Other Time, No Matter What, Baby Blue, Rock of All Ages.
Spinners -- I'll Be Around, I'm Coming Home.
Pam Tillis -- Homeward Looking Angel.
Darlene Love -- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
Beatles -- Ticket to Ride, Help!, Eight Days a Week.
Fleetwood Mac -- World Turning, Everywhere, Say You Will, Peacekeeper, Murrow Turning Over in His Grave.
INXS -- Disappear, Mystify, This Time, Don't Change, The Gift.
Rush -- Time Stand Still, Force Ten.
Guess Who -- No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, Rain Dance, Star Baby, Dancin' Fool.

Fleetwood Mac -- Warm Ways.
Beatles -- Two of Us.
Andy Williams -- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

NOTES: Still think the Bangles' DIFFERENT LIGHT is 1 of the great pop albums of all time, with only a coupla weak trax, + the great group-composed "Let it Go" & bassist Michael Steele's haunting "Following." & "Manic Monday"'s never worn-out 4 me, not with those great vocal harmonies on the choruses.... 1 of R Regulars recognized the girls from the dreamy "Dover Beach" & that's always good -- he said he always hadda crush on Susanna Hoffs....
Am likewise a big fan of the Go-Go's TALK SHOW, another classic pop album. I just wanna know why "Capture the Light" & "Forget That Day" Rn't on their GREATEST.... However, "You Thought" is Almost Heavy Metal, & "I'm the Only One" sounds better on CD than ever....
Badfinger's always a rouser, & it's intresting looking back how many of their songs revolve around $$$ -- "Rock of All Ages," a classic no-frills rocker, is a real good Xample. So is "In the Meantime," tho it's WAY more elaborate....
Big Mac's SAY YOU WILL album still mostly sounds pretty good 4 a bunch of past-it old geezers, & "Murrow Turning Over in His Grave" is GREAT noise.
Ditto INXS's "The Gift." & "Disappear" seems a good theme song 4 what we'd like 2 have happen 2 some other events that occurred nationwide over this past week....
"Rain Dance" is still hypnotic, "Dancin' Fool" didn't seem as good as I remembered -- & why isn't "Road Food" on the Guess Who's GREATEST HITS?
On the Bonus Tracks from the radio -- "Warm Ways" was a pleasant suprise, don't know how I missed it on the FLEETWOOD MAC album....
Been wanting 2 say something 4 awhile about a syndicated radio show called SOUND OPINIONS, co-hosted by rock critic Jim DeRogatis. Been looking 4 a replacement 4 LITTLE STEVEN'S UNDERGROUND GARAGE 4 months now -- on their good days, SOUND OPINIONS might B it, tho they didn't like Mumford & Sons' newest & wanted 2 melt-down Neil Young's latest awhile back....
On Sun nite, SOUND OPINIONS played an hour's worth of forgotten Soul/R&B Christmas songs -- nothing earthshaking, but some nice rare stuff I hadn't heard before, like Marvin Gaye's "Purple Snowflakes" & James Brown's "Santa Claus, Go to the Ghetto."
Around here, SOUND OPINIONS is carried by the University of Washington's FM station, KUOW, on Sun nites around 8pm, preceded by another promising show 4 new-music-fans, AMERICAN ROOTS -- which is where I heard the Beatles' "Two of Us," as the show's closer. They've also played stuff like Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" & the Beach Boys' "Trombone Dixie" B4, so as a source 4 mostly-unheard stuff they're Not Bad. Would still like 2 get Little Steven back, tho....
...& speaking of early-'60s whitebread, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is still a hoot -- straight out of a kinder, gentler early '60s when people were still filled with Christmas cheer & still said Hello to each other on the street ... without Xpecting 2 B hit-up 4 spare change.... The song would fit right in2 an episode of MAD MEN....
More soon....

Friday, December 14, 2012

#616: "Slopping the Hogs"

1st off, the phrase "Slopping the Hogs" comes from my son ADD, who 1nce Xplained 2 me that record companies HAVE 2 fill best-of albums with filler & crap in order 2 keep ALL the fans happy.
Which makes a certain amount of sense. Just Bcos I don't like a song doesn't mean SOME1 Out There doesn't LOVE it.
4 Xample: What would a Best Of Fleetwood Mac be without including "Dreams" & "Don't Stop"? I think they're filler & garbage, but millions love them & would B disappointed without them. So....
At their worst, record companies fall 4 the "Slop the Hogs" syndrome a lot. Especially on best-of's. Best-of's R meant 4 non-hardcore fans anyway, right? & there's nothing a record company loves more than selling you the same song 2wice....
4 me, a best-of really Slops The Hogs when it's thin or especially unrepresentative of an artist's work. When the assemblers don't even TRY 2 make it worth yer $$$. My son 1st used the phrase referring specifically 2 1 of the items below -- see if you can figure-out which 1....
Listed below R the worst best-of's I can think of -- submit your nominees 2 the Comments section below....

- Cheap Trick: THE GREATEST HITS -- A little thin, with just 14 songs from a band that could easily fill a 2-CD best-of. This is just the bare bones of what you need from these guys. The real giveaway? -- There's an address included where you can send complaints 2....
- Cheap Trick: AUTHORIZED GREATEST HITS -- Better, 16 trax. But there's a 'live' version of their #1 power-ballad "The Flame," which the Tricksters probly hate by now -- you can hardly blame them. But fans will be mildly disappointed. The Xcellent non-hit "Stop This Game" is included, but not the also-great "World's Greatest Lover" from their George Martin-produced ALL SHOOK UP. The real disappointment: Not included is the gorgeous Move-like "Voices," which was an actual hit....
- Manfred Mann's Earth Band: THE BEST OF -- This is a thin, 12-track, strictly-WarnerBros-era best-of, which means no "Runner" (which was released by Arista), & no "Living Without You" or anything else from their 1st 1/2dozen albums released by Polydor -- which some critics think was their best work.
Some pretty lame selections -- "Blinded by the Light" is here, of course, but also a weak 'live' "Quinn the Eskimo" & some other stuff you won't remember 5 mins later. There ARE 4 good later trax: Bruce Springsteen's "For You," "Don't Kill it Carol," "Hollywood Town" & Bob Dylan's "You Angel You." A couple of these were almost hits.
But where's "Stranded," "Heart on the Street," "Belle of the Earth," "Singing the Dolphin Through," "Waiter There's a Yawn in My Ear," "Angelz at My Gate," "The Road to Babylon"...? BONUS: The disc doesn't include "Lies (Through the '80s)."
- Gerry Rafferty: RIGHT DOWN THE LINE: THE BEST OF -- There R some cardinal Rules about best-of's. 1 is: All the hits MUST B included, no matter how small. This breaks that rule. Not included R hits like "Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light in Your Eyes)," "Home and Dry" & "The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin')" -- which 1 critic at the time called "the ultimate Rafferty track." 3 trax R remixed, "Baker Street" & "Bring it All Home" among them. "Night Owl" is edited -- sure the original track's 6+ mins long, but that's how long it took 2 set a mood.... There's maybe 2 much later stuff nobody ever heard, from after Rafferty had his 3 years of fame. There IS some good support material: "Bring it All Home," "The Way That You Do It," "Get it Right Next Time," "Family Tree." But there's 2 much filler, not enuf of the hits, & 2 much has been messed with. Fans were disappointed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

#615: 4 years blogging!

It was somewhere around this time 4 years ago that I started posting music & book reviews on-line at my old dead website. My son ADD got me started -- we talked about it 4 over a year B4 I finally jumped in & just DID it.
& after I had 3-dozen reviews posted, I hit-up a couple of my on-line reviewing buddies -- Mark Prindle, the Godfather of us all; & "Don Ignacio" Michael Lawrence -- 2 C if they'd B willing 2 post links 2 my new site. Thank Ghod, they jumped right in.
Things were a little diffrent back then. I was a lot more DRIVEN during my 1st year -- I posted 225 reviews & rants & humorous pieces in 8 months. Mostly, I was pretty serious. I think I wanted 2 establish where I was coming from, what my outlook was, how I was diffrent (IF I was....).
Then the old website broke down repeatedly & I got fed-up with it & moved over here 2 Blogger, where things have mostly been pretty smooth ever since.
I think I'm still driven sometimes -- this post-a-day thing should B evidence of that. This stuff is still pretty compulsive 4 me. If I don't post something every few days, I DON'T FEEL RIGHT. (Obviously, that isn't gonna B a problem this month....)
Thank Ghod 4 the Internet, so at last I can get my uncensored views out there, get my daily fix in, & maybe even turn you on 2 music you haven't heard or books you haven't read.
Things have been getting a little sludgy here recently -- can't remember the last time I did something just 4 the pure silliness of it. But I'll B working on that.
This is still fun 4 me, & it keeps me off the streets late at nite -- & it's helped get me thru a depression or 2. Tho there've been some slow spots, this blogging stuff has never let me down. My thanx again 2 ADD, 4 the gift that keeps on giving, the best Xmas present I've ever had.
I still want 2 do some pieces on what being a reporter on a daily newspaper was like; what it was like 2 schlog away 4 10 years in the Air Force; & I've got some more Nostalgia things I wanna do, tho I can't think of what they R right at the moment.
I also have more music & book reviews coming -- & I DEFinitely wanna do a piece on "Slopping the Hogs," a look at the WORST best-of collections of all time. Submit your nominees in the Comments section below....
Just wanted 2 say thanx 2 all you who read here. I'd keep doing this even if you didn't, but thanks 4 dropping by.
& I'm gonna keep doing this as long as the World's Smallest Laptop holds out. If nothing else, the writing exercise has been good 4 me -- & the regular dates with the computer have helped me re-connect with some parts of my past that I didn't know I could still remember.
& if I can get thru this post-a-day thing without Mbarrassing myself 2 badly, it'll B time 2 re-attack that rock group novel....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#614: Up all night

A year ago or so I did a piece on TV-watching where I basically admitted 2 only looking at the box on Mon nites -- when I was addicted 2 the entire evening's worth of televised events, specifically WWE's MONDAY NIGHT RAW & the crazy English car guys of BBC America's TOP GEAR ... along with an occasional glance at CNN, usually while waking up & trying 2 force down a couple cups of coffee.
Things have changed a bit since then. I'm now watching about 2wice as much TV as I used 2 -- usually during my "weekends" -- & I'm finding most of it 2 B pretty great.
I broke away from my WWE addiction awhile back & am finding it suprisingly easy NOT 2 return -- after surrendering 1/2 of my Mon nites 4 most of 4 years 2 the work of John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, etc. But I DO miss TOP GEAR....
Lately tho, it's mostly the dramas that have roped me in. Police-procedural dramas, especially. I've long been addicted 2 NCIS, & now refuse 2 miss it on Tues nites. I've never seen a bad episode, & most of them grab me with just the opening trailer. I think it's the best continuing drama currently on TV.
It took a few episodes B4 I grew 2 like NCIS: LA -- at 1st I just thot it was a cheap new-location version of the original -- but I've since been sucked-in by its occasional moments of quirkiness & its cloak&dagger CIA/FBI/Pentagon-intrigue back-story. & Linda Hunt, who plays station director Hetty, has always been great.
I've also recently been sucked in by RIZZOLI & ISLES and THE MENTALIST -- both shows I was kinda cool 2 4 awhile. A rerun of THE MENTALIST in which hero Patrick Jayne helps a co-worker (an aging coroner) die with dignity had me crying like a baby at the end, & I've seldom missed an episode since.
Lotsa great acting here, especially Tim Kang as the stone-faced Oriental investigator on the CBI team. & is Patrick Jayne ALWAYS RIGHT? That would B hell 2 live with. Does he REALIZE how annoying he is? I'd like 2 see 1 episode where he's wrong -- just 4 a change of pace....
Not sure why I resisted RIZZOLI & ISLES. It's gotta great cast, & Angie Harmon is marvelous as the put-upon Detective Rizzoli. Still getting 2 know most of these characters -- & I should probly check-out the Tess Gerritsen novels the series is based on. She's got a great reputation.
Have caught a few other episodes of some other series' I originally blew-off: LAW & ORDER: SVU is always compelling, as is the original. Have also caught a few CSI's -- always solid. Was hooked on CSI: MIAMI for awhile, a couple of years back. CRIMINAL MINDS is also a twisted high-quality whodunnit with very compelling crime stories -- have always liked Mandy Patinkin's acting.
Was also shocked 2 catch an episode of LEVERAGE a week or 2 ago that featured a highly subversive critique of a thinly-disguised WalMart-like department-store chain. Small-town residents approached Timothy Hutton's team & whined about how the new megastore would destroy their town's way of life -- & the team went in & shut down the new store within 48 hours, shaking up the new store's management team on a variety of fronts, everything from environmental scares 2 rumors of unionizing & strikes, 2 accidental massive-sale giveaways.
2 see this kinda story presented on commercial TV -- especially during the holiday gift-buying season -- struck me as Xtremely subversive, a very pointed critique of modern capitalist society. Hope you had a chance 2 catch it, Bcos I wonder 4 some reason if it'll ever B re-run. Also probly no suprise that WalMart didn't run commercials during the show....
Topping off my evening's TV watching is the always-reliable David Letterman (some pretty good new music acts on that show, occasionally -- also sometimes some stuff that leaves me wondering how it ever got on the air) ... & my favorite late-nite loony, Craig Ferguson, whose show makes me laugh like an idiot.
I don't love everything, I still think there's a ton of garbage out there. I tried 2 like VEGAS, but it's just 2 slow-moving & sludgy, despite the good actors. I WANT 2 like Dennis Quaid, but coming after the high-tech NCIS & NCIS: LA, his show probly can't help coming-in 3rd-best. I tried 2 like 2 BROKE GIRLS, but it just ain't funny. & I'd like 2 C MIKE AND MOLLY again, but somehow I keep missing it.
I occasionally still catch episodes of AMERICAN PICKERS, PAWN STARS, HARDCORE PAWN, DUCK DYNASTY (hilarious!), STORAGE WARS & others -- but I missed the Ultimate Episode of the PICKERS, where they met the guy with the 20,000 record albums in his garage....
My most recent round of TV addiction started this past summer with LONGMIRE -- great acting, great writing, & at least 1 totally unXpected fall-out-of-bed shocking suprise in every episode! They just got me hooked & reeled-in every week when the series STOPPED! & now I just hope A&E brings it back....
Tho the puzzles on these cop&crime shows R usually of intrest -- & R sometimes really compelling -- the shows that stand out 4 me R the 1's with moments of humor, or quiet moments where some of these characters can let down their guard & act like themselves. It's moments like that which convince me that these characters could almost B Real People.
& dramas that don't include moments like that just don't measure up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

#613: Hitting the wall

If it weren't 4 music, hot chocolate & cashews, I would've been a dead man on Sun nite at work, when I hit the wall at about 9 pm after a long work-week.
Without Xtra added stimuli, I woulda been sprawled-out across the front counter, snoring with my mouth wide open, drooling. I was Xhausted. It wouldn't have been pretty.
Here's a list of the songs that got me thru it:

Pete Townshend -- Jools and Jim, My Baby Gives it Away, Misunderstood.
Rolling Stones -- Tumbling Dice, Happy, Ruby Tuesday.
Keane -- Somewhere Only We Know, This is the Last Time, Bend and Break.
Vertical Horizon -- Everything You Want.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right, Julianna, Money Back Guarantee.
Sly and the Family Stone -- Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin.
Spinners -- I'm Coming Home, Mighty Love, I'll Be Around, Rubberband Man.
Albert Hammond -- Free Electric Band.
Badfinger -- In the Meantime/Some Other Time, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke?
The Move -- Message from the Country, Tonight, Do Ya?, California Man, Don't Mess Me Up, The Words of Aaron (demo/tracking session).

That's not a very long list. But even the NEWS was boring Sun nite, & the local music stations were No Help, busy playing the Same Old Shit. So, there R no Bonus Trax here....
I trust I don't havta Xplain 2 many of these. "Jools and Jim" is of course a rousing attack on rock critics, among other things. "My Baby Gives it Away" has some great bouncy guitar interplay along with the cheap-but-heartfelt lyrics. "Misunderstood" has some HILARIOUS lyrics, & is worth hearing just 4 that. What I wanna know is: Why Rn't greats like "North Country Girl," "Somebody Saved Me," "Face Dances Part 2," & "Gonna Get Ya" on Pete's ANTHOLOGY best-of?
The Stones just celebrated their 50th Anniversary. They were something when they were in their prime -- their FORTY LICKS best-of made me like songs I'd never even noticed B4, "Street Fighting Man" being the best Xample.
Also intresting how often their songs R about the SOUND, & not the lyrics: "Satisfaction" is about THAT guitar riff, "Jumping Jack Flash" is about Keith's slashing guitar, "Tumbling Dice" is about that boozy bar-band sound, "Happy" is about the little guitar bits Keith throws in -- the lyrics 2 all these R way 2ndary. On some of 'em who even CARES what the lyrics R...?
Keane still sounds great -- did they ever release anything after UNDER THE IRON SEA, which I could never get thru...? I miss the striking little pop band that was on display on HOPES AND FEARS....
The Spinners -- tho I'd always loved "I'm Coming Home" & "I'll Be Around," I thot "Rubberband Man" was basically just a joke (which it is, but it's so cool & stylish), & I don't think I'd ever HEARD "Mighty Love" until Sun nite. How come this kinda soul music died out? Bcos it was a whole diffrent time, I guess...?
"Free Electric Band" still sounds selfish & brash & insolent almost 40 years later, & that's why I've always loved it. 2 bad Hammond's "Air Disaster" & "99 Miles from L.A." Rn't on HIS best-of.... Not that I'm such a big fan of them, but it would B great 2 have all his good stuff in 1 place....
(BTW, Someday Soon I'm gonna B doing a piece called "Slopping the Hogs," which will feature reviews of the WORST best-of packages ever assembled -- classic Xamples of record co's doing it WRONG. My nominees/victims so far include Cheap Trick, Gerry Rafferty, & Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but nominees will B accepted up 2 the time I write the post -- submit your suggestions 2 the Comments section below....)
I suggest that the 2 medleys listed above might B Badfinger's best work ever. If all their stuff hit this hard, they might not have ended up as 1 of the tragic stories of rock. Both medleys R on Side 2 of their ill-fated WISH YOU WERE HERE album....
Haven't heard all that much by The Move, but have loved much of their later stuff since hearing "Do Ya?" on the radio -- THE Rock Single Of 1972, even tho it only peaked around #92 in the U.S. "Message from the Country" continues their big-production approach with lotsa guitars, great group vocals, a catchy-tho-ominous tune & almost-decipherable lyrics. "Tonight" is simple & catchy & silly & charming. "California Man" is just silly, as is the fake-rockabilly "Don't Mess Me Up." The final album version of "Words of Aaron" (from MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY) features more Big Production, but the session track included on the CD focuses on some really great non-overdubbed group vocals. These guys had a great vocal blend & could really create a big sound 4 just a trio....
More soon....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

#612: Good-time music!

Everybody knows I have an odd idea of a Good Time, but here's the mostly-upbeat stuff that helped get me thru a busy Sat nite at work....

Moody Blues -- You and Me, When You Wake Up, The Story in Your Eyes, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, My Song (by accident), Gypsy, Question, Don't You Feel Small?, It's Up to You, I Know You're Out There Somewhere, Blue World.
Modern English -- I Melt With You.
Pete Townshend -- A Little is Enough, Now and Then, Slit Skirts, A Friend is a Friend.
Kenny Loggins -- Conviction of the Heart.
Loggins and Messina -- Angry Eyes.
Cars -- Dangerous Type.
Church -- Under the Milky Way, Reptile.
Wackers -- I Hardly Know Her Name.
Police -- Omegaman, Secret Journey, Darkness.
Doobie Brothers -- Neal's Fandango.
When in Rome -- The Promise.
Florence + the Machine -- Shake it Out.
Steam -- Kiss Him Goodbye.
Three Dog Night -- Celebrate, Out in the Country, My Impersonal Life, Let Me Serenade You, Sure as I'm Sitting Here.
Stephen Stills, et al -- Love the One You're With.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Passionate Kisses, The Hard Way.
Lovin' Spoonful -- You Didn't Have to be So Nice, Summer in the City, Six O'Clock, Darling Be Home Soon.

...I trust I don't have 2 Xplain 2 many of these. Everybody knows the Moodies. 1 of R Regulars at 1st couldn't place them during "My Song," then realized who it was & said he saw them in concert with the Seattle Symphony & they were AMAZING....
I've been listening-2 "One More Time to Live" 4 years, & tonite I finally GOT IT -- the narrator is comfortable & happy, & doesn't understand why the idyllic world he sees outside his window is falling apart -- he doesn't GET that everybody isn't as comfortable & well-off & happy as he is. Coulda been Mitt Romney's theme song....
"I Know You're Out There Somewhere" is still real comforting & reassuring, summa the others R among the Moodies' best ever, "When You Wake Up" could get the whole world swaying back&4th in time, & the master of "Blue World" used on their TIME TRAVELER best-of is TOO SLOW. But it still works pretty well anyway....
"Conviction of the Heart" shoulda bn a bigger hit. Apart from some trite environmental lyrics in 1 spot, it's really heartfelt & packs a big dramatic punch, 2 me....
"Dangerous Type" is 4 my daughter. "Reptile" is 4 my son. I'm sure they know why.
"Neal's Fandango" continues 2 win new fans -- sevral customers have noticed it now. I think it's the Great Lost Doobies Song....
Saw a customer singing along with "The Promise," that was pretty great. He must've 1st heard it in NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, like I did.... NAPOLEON's still the Ultimate Idaho Movie....
"Out in the Country" still sounds great -- it's so relaxed, 1 of the few times the Dogs sound like they're not pushing the vocals.... "My Impersonal Life"'s still a killer, too -- great sinister keyboards.
Played "Love the One You're With" just 4 the GREAT organ work -- is that Leon Russell, Booker T? Whoever, that & the cast-of-thousands doing backing vocals make the song. By the end, Stephen Stills can barely keep up....
"Six O'Clock"'s a little odd. Hadn't heard it in YEARS....

Don't have much 2 say 2nite -- it's nearly the end of my work-week & I'm tired.
More tomorrow....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

#611: What NOT to do with old 78's

Back when I was a kid, around age 6, the 1st batch of records I ever got included 1/2adozen old 78's -- those 10-inch-wide discs of shellac, harder & tougher & thicker & heavier than vinyl, with the tiny hole in the middle? Yeah, those. They still made "record players" you could play those on, back in 1965.
I don't remember precisely where the 78's came from. Probably from my Cousin Carol, the world's biggest Elvis fan, who also let me take home a handful of 45-rpm singles from her collection, but shooed me away from mosta the Elvis.
There might've been more than 6 78's, but the only 1's I remember now R a couple by Ricky Nelson -- "Stood Up" & "Waiting in School" & "Be-Bop Baby," Lawrence Welk's "Calcutta," Red Foley's "Old Shep" & "Don't Dilly Dally (Down in the Valley)," the Bill Black Combo's "White Silver Sands" & "Stars Fell on Alabama," & Tommy Sands' "Goin' Steady" on the purple&silver Capitol label.
'50s stuff, mostly. The Red Foley songs were probly even older. Not Xactly huge hits, either. I was probly attracted by the labels with the neatest colors or designs. Like I was with my 1st batch of 45's.
I remember the Ricky Nelson songs were pretty good '50s teen-idol-rock&roll, pleasant enuf if not Xactly Chuck Berry -- not earthshaking, but definitely OK. The only weak track on those 2 78's was a lame version of "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" Nothing could save that song.
I also remember that Lawrence Welk's "Calcutta" was actually pretty great. (Shock. Horror. Has this guy COMPLETELY lost his shit?) Who would've believed it?
I still remember parts of Red Foley's silly "Don't Dilly Dally," but all I remember about "Old Shep" is that it was ENDLESS. (Maybe it was actually "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"? Can't remember clearly anymore. Anyway....) Can still sing the chorus of "White Silver Sands," but only the title line from "Stars Fell on Alabama." & I can only remember 1 line from "Goin' Steady."
Maybe that's why Cousin Carol had no trouble letting go of that stuff. It wasn't that memorable. But it WAS 47 years ago....
I remember the 45's I got from Carol were WAY better -- Freddie Cannon's "Palisades Park" (the best song in the world when I was 6) & the screamer "June, July & August," The Supremes' "Back in My Arms Again," Johnny Rivers' "Memphis" & "It Wouldn't Happen with Me," Nino Tempo & April Stevens' "Deep Purple" & "I've Been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I Burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart" (I am NOT making this up!), The Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back," Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" & the great rocker "Sweetie Baby"....
The 45's were a MUCH better selection than the 78's. They definitely left their mark on me.
Which might B why around 1971, when I was 1st in2 my teen single-buying frenzy, after some advice from some so-called friends about how old & uncool they were, & besides I never played them anymore anyway.... -- I took those 1/2dozen 78's & bounced them off the side of the house 2 see what it took 2 make them break.
They were WAY tougher than 45's or albums -- sometimes it took 2 or 3 smashes against the wall before they'd shatter. That's when I learned what 78's were made of -- that sorta shellac sandwich with a donut of paper in the middle. You coulda re-shingled the roof with those things.... & I'm sure that somewhere, somebody HAS....
I looked summa those old 78's up a few years back, when I had 1 of those record-collectors' price guides in the house. The Ricky Nelson's woulda bn worth between $35 & $50 each, if they'd been in good shape.
Of course mine looked like they'd been run over by a truck... even BEFORE I bounced them off the side of the house....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

#610: Powered by cashews

Hey, everybody needs SOMETHING, right? The stress of my job has turned me in2 a 2-pack-a-day man. & I'm not talking about cigarettes. I'm talking about an addiction MUCH more insidious, something that will send you to the Emergency Room MUCH faster.
I'm talking about cashews. Nature's perfect food. They're rich & tasty, they're salty, they're crunchy, they're not-too-filling. & there's something I think the weight-loss industry has missed-out on: If you overdo it on cashews, the weight will simply FALL OFF. Trust me on this.
I ought to patent "The Cashew Diet." I'm sure much of the reason 4 my still-fairly-trim figure is largely due 2 cashews. This isn't my 1st food addiction, but it's probly 1 of the longest-lasting. 4 at least the 9 years I've worked at the gas station, I've had 2 have at least 1 3-ounce package of cashews per day just 2 function. & on bad days that number goes up.
I'm not truly settled-in at work until I've started drinking a bottle of pineapple-mango-orange juice & started munching on a pack of cashews. Then I can Get On With It.
But the addiction goes back much farther. I remember discovering giant plastic jars of cashews at WalMart or Costco, taking the discount-priced treasure home, then going thru the whole thing in 2 or 3 days....
No wonder I ended up in the Emergency Room....
Of course, the longest lasting addiction I've had is coffee, with as much sugar & cream in it as I can stand. I don't think I'll ever break away from that 1. I started drinking coffee around age 13, even tho my Mother warned me away from it. In my 20's, my best friend Don Vincent & I could go thru multiple pots of coffee a day between the 2 of us.
Even now, I won't get out of bed if there's no coffee in the house. What's the point? & tho I can't drink much more than 2 big cups now B4 I start jittering 2 pieces, I've GOT 2 have it B4 I can get anywhere NEAR human. I never drive without at least 1 cup of coffee in me. & I can't face The Public without 2....
When I was younger, I had more food addictions, uglier 1's. I was a sucker 4 all kinds of candy & gum when I was a kid -- I'd chew gum til my jaws got tired. & 4 YEARS I was addicted 2 wint-o-green Life Savers, another perfect food. 2 bad you can't live on them....
After highschool, I became so hooked on cheeseburgers & chocolate milkshakes that it was practically a daily obsession. But 2 months of eating most of my meals at McDonald's while settling in2 my 1st newspaper job in Washington state may have ground that longtime addiction out of me. Now I can go MONTHS without a burger. & I can't REMEMBER the last time I had a chocolate shake....
Slightly later, when I was spending lotsa late nites at certain 24-hour cafes around the Boise, Idaho area, my perfect meal was a bacon&cheese omelette with a tossed green salad on the side, & a chocolate shake 2 wash it down. Guess you could say my taste "matured." Rumor had it that I married my X-wife because she made great omelettes. Mmmm, could be....
During my 2 years in Turkey with the Air Force, I lived on chocolate-frosted Pop Tarts -- for lunch, snacks, sometimes dinner -- 2 the point that when I left Turkey, my co-workers gave me a Turkish brass plate engraved with my name, the front of a box of Pop Tarts, & the legend "The Pop Tart Kid." The plate's still hanging on my bedroom wall. & the last time I saw a box of chocolate Pop Tarts, I finished it off in a couple of days....
These junk-food addictions, these guilty pleasures, they apparently run 4 awhile & then I'm cured. I figure I'll never get over my love 4 pizza, tacos, spaghetti, lasagna -- even a good burger. But this other stuff that's probly bad 4 me -- well, that's like listening 2 The Carpenters when you've got Led Zeppelin in the music collection, right?
I'm actually showing SOME signs of growing up, tho -- after years of struggling, a friend FINALLY got me 2 start taking vitamins & try 2 eat better. & it actually seems 2 B WORKING. At least sometimes.
Jeez, they'll expect me 2 start EXERCISING next....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#609: This 1's 4 Jeff!

My old buddy Jeff Mann pops up quite a lot in this blog. He was my best friend in highschool, & what 1st brot us 2gether was a shared fascination with The Beatles & STAR TREK.
That, & the fact that he was drawing hilarious cartoons 4 the Meridian High School newspaper, the WARWHOOP, & I was jealous cos as a sophomore I wasn't allowed 2 B on the newspaper staff. But Jeff was 1 of the folks behind-the-scenes who got me on2 the paper as a junior. So he sorta set me on the path 2 where I am now.
But at 1st there was music & STAR TREK. Long B4 I knew whether I could write 4 a school newspaper, I was pouring-out little-known musical facts about the Beatles 4 Jeff, & he was reading 2 me big slugs of Stephen Whitfield's classic behind-the-scenes book THE MAKING OF STAR TREK.
The rest of the time I was listening-2 the radio in my bedroom 24/7, & Jeff was at home drawing HILARIOUS comedy covers 4 Beatles albums nobody ever heard of, complete with all-new comedy song-titles. When he was a little more serious, Jeff could draw great rock-star portraits (usually John, Paul, George & Ringo, of course) in pen&ink, too....
I think the 1st time I ever went "out" on a schoolnite it was with Jeff, scrunched into the passenger's seat of his little Mercury Capri -- & later in2 the passenger's seat of his even-smaller Austin Healey (I think). Ghod knows how my long legs fit in2 that car -- my knees were probly in my face.
But Jeff had no trouble fitting in. At 5-foot-10, maybe 130 pounds max, thin as a stick, he LOOKED like a walking cartoon, like a drawing he might've come up with himself -- like a younger, skinnier Paul McCartney. He had no trouble contorting his body out the driver's-side window of the car to shout "ROCK AND ROLL!!!" at passing cars & passers-by as we cruised down Nampa-Caldwell Blvd., the sounds of The Beatles or Wings or Elton John's "Love Lies Bleeding" blaring out the car's windows.... We musta scared the CRAP outta the old folks who were out on the blvd. those nites, wondering what kind of young heathens were blotting the landscape of Southwestern Idaho....
Jeff put practically The Beatles' entire catalog on tape as soundtrack music 4 driving 2&from school or 4 those nites of cruising ... later 2 B followed by McCartney solo or with Wings, & then by the Elton catalog. There's whole albums by Wings & Elton that I've never owned, couldn't even identify, but I've heard them all the way thru, many times over, thanx 2 Jeff. I don't think I've ever heard all of McCartney's 1st solo album or RAM by my own choice -- but I know I've heard them while hanging out laughing & being silly with Jeff, & the loony circumstances just made the music sound stranger. & I remember "Smile Away" & "Monkberry Moon Delight" & "Uncle Albert" ... & something haunting off the 1st album that I thot was called "Dear Boy" but now is apparently lost in memory....
We tripped over other stuff later. When Kansas's LEFTOVERTURE came out we both thot the lyrics were overblown & stupid, & we plotted 2 write our own silly concept album with outrageous lyrics -- we even briefly talked about PERFORMING it, even tho I've NEVER been able 2 play ANY musical instrument.
On the way to the Newspaper Awards Banquet at the end of my junior year, Jeff turned me on 2 Queen's A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, & suddenly we had another classic 2 B in awe of. I'd already heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" by then -- but I wasn't ready 4 the hysterical "Death on Two Legs" or the gorgeous science-fiction folk-song "'39" or the stunning "Prophet's Song."
There was more later -- Jeff & I shared an apartment with our buddy Don Vincent 4 a year, & mosta the music Jeff picked up on during that year Don & I later adopted as Good Stuff -- Journey's INFINITY, REO Speedwagon's YOU CAN TUNE A PIANO BUT YOU CAN'T TUNA FISH, most Led Zeppelin albums, maybe a little bit of AC/DC -- jeez, even a little Ted Nugent.
Jeff never hadta convince us about early Elton John. But even 30 years later I was hearing stuff on GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD that I'd never been able 2 hear the 1st time around. I already loved "Love Lies Bleeding," "Grey Seal," "The Ballad of Danny Bailey," "Candle in the Wind," "All the Girls Love Alice" ... but it took me YEARS 2 notice "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll)," "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," "Roy Rogers," "Harmony," ... & possibly Elton's greatest song ever -- yes, "Social Disease."
It wasn't just the music, tho. When Jeff & I 1st started noticing girls, 1st started going out, just started developing a "social life," we'd call each other now&then 2 try 2 figure out What It All Meant. & pretty much neither of us had a clue. But it was fun 2 try 2 figure it out, years B4 either of us would get married....
+ Jeff gave me 1 of the greatest Christmas gifts ever. After I wracked my brain 2 try 2 find something more impressive 2 give him 4 Xmas than WINGS OVER AMERICA, he trumped me big-time. I opened up the box & inside was a bright orange T-shirt with the bold print saying JEFF MANN FAN CLUB -- OFFICIAL MEMBER.
And I laughed like an idiot, til I had tears rolling down my face, & I wore it 2 school the 1st chance I got. It was just freaking perfect. Everybody knew we hung-out 2gether constantly. It never even occurred 2 me that some1 might've thot something else.... Anyway, nobody ever said anything....
I do a lotta Nostalgia here, & this is another round. But this Xmas Jeff is 800 miles away, & is probly starting 2 wonder if I'm EVER gonna get back 2 him with a long-overdue phonecall, so....

Monday, December 3, 2012

#608: Where I live (Part 2)

Port Orchard, Washington, probably WAS a really nice place 2 live, 15 years ago. Now it has most of the problems of any major city, in a town of just under 12,000 people.
Local writer Debbie Macomber has sorta immortalized the place in her "Cedar Cove" series of best-selling romance novels, but I wonder how much of the Dark Side she sees. I should pick up 1 of her novels & find out.
I know what I see....
Located just south of Navy-city Bremerton & about 20 miles northwest of Tacoma, Port Orchard is a rapidly-growing town that's also the county seat 4 Kitsap County. Tho there R 12,000 people within the city limits, there's probly another 10,000 living in the south end of Kitsap who pour in2 PO 2 do their shopping & other business. There R only about 4 direct 2-lane roads in & out of town, & all of them connect 2 the freeway. As a result, the roads R jammed most daylight hours, with bumper-to-bumper traffic during Rush Hour.
& on Friday nights starting about 4 pm, you can pretty much FORGET about getting around easily....
I live & work along Bethel Road, a nothing-fancy 2-lane that should've been widened years ago -- it's 1 of the main roads thru the south end of town.
Bethel's lined with stores like WalMart, Fred Meyer, Safeway, RiteAid, Walgreen's, & supposedly more R coming. There've been rumors about a Costco or Home Depot coming in 4 years. All the current residential property along Bethel has been re-zoned 4 commercial development, but the boom hasn't happened as fast as residents thot.
It took 5 years 2 get city & county clearance 2 "super-size" the WalMart a mile down the road, & the traffic was already murder B4 the larger store opened. 1 recent week, there were 3 injury-involved car wrecks at the major intersection where I work.
A few months back, a huge crash just up the hill from the gas station where I work left 1 of our Regulars using a cane to walk. He was in the hospital for weeks & almost died. The driver of the other car was drunk, & bounced off 1 car B4 he totaled R Regular's truck. The Regular said he couldn't avoid it -- there was nowhere 2 go.
I've been keeping him updated on car wrecks near the store ever since, & we agree something's gotta change. He thinks tougher DWI laws will help -- but they're already pretty tough. & expensive.
I sometimes rant at work about how I wish people would SLOW DOWN a little. There's no real good reason 4 all the rushing around I see each day & people might B happier or less frenzied if they'd slow down a step. 1 Regular over the weekend told me "That's just the way it is." A blog post I read a couple years ago announced that "Slow is the new fast." Well, not here. & Good Luck selling it.
I'm not sure why a suburb, a bedroom community with 12,000 people, thinks it's Seattle. Maybe Bcos that's supposedly where all the Good Times are...? Every weekend, the train of cars heading over the hill 2 the east, 2 the ferry going 2 Seattle, stretches on 4 MILES. A good number of people who live here apparently commute there every day. Even more drive the 7 miles north, winding around the bay 2 jobs in Bremerton. I've been told that commute is even worse each day than the backup traffic we've got in PO.
Meanwhile, housing prices here R way 2 high -- even in a depressed market -- but they keep building more. Who can afford those houses? Who's buying them? Where do they work?
The state taxes EVERYTHING -- everybody in Washington has their hand out. It's EXPENSIVE 2 live here, & Wash has the highest minimum-wage in the country. I wonder why everything's so expensive -- what DRIVES it?
The state's voters recently approved legalizing up to an ounce of marijuana in your possession 4 personal use -- the state thinks they can tax the SHIT out of it (at a 40-percent tax rate, even higher than the state's cigarette tax), regulate it, & make MILLIONS of $$$ in new tax revenue ... if the feds don't stomp on it 1st.
I don't partake myself, & don't really care much -- & if you move here you still won't B able 2 smoke pot in public. But some voters seem 2 think this new cash stream will magically reduce the state's 8+ percent sales tax & other taxes. Don't hold your breath. I've yet 2 see a tax the state won't drop without a fight.
Besides, with possession of pot becoming legal in a few days I'm sure there'll B more cops out on the road looking 4 stoned drivers. & 2 B honest, there R 2 many police here already. In 1 recent arrest in our parking lot, a belligerent driver provoked HALF A DOZEN police cars 2 respond in less than 2 minutes. They must have wanted the guy BAD. I've been here 10 years & I've never seen a police response like that 4 1 PERSON....
Meanwhile, what else R we getting with our tax $$$? "Everybody" seems 2 know where the bad drug neighborhoods R -- supposedly there R 2 within a few blocks of my house. If I take a "wrong" turn on my street, I'm told I'll be drifting in2 a druggie neighborhood & any cop following me will pull me over just 4 that. Luckily I haven't experienced this. Yet....
Meanwhile, these neighborhoods R left alone, even tho "everybody" knows where they R. The meth freaks who R most definitely here R left 2 plot their own ruin apparently without interference -- unless they cause a scene in public. & then, Good Luck. The meth problem appears WAY less than it was 7+ years ago -- back then I got some1 UP on something in2 the store EVERY nite. Now I'm suprised if it happens more than 1nce a week.
So what R the police, county deputies & state patrolmen in my neighborhood doing? Looking for drunk drivers & writing occasional speeding tickets, near as I can tell. In 9 years at my job, where I've had 2 make numerous emergency calls, I've learned that police & fire crews will respond 4 a car wreck -- tho it may take them a few minutes. & that's with a fire station a 2-minute drive down the street.
But until some1 points a gun at me or threatens me with a knife, I have NO FAITH that the police will respond 2 any other issues I report. I've been threatened B4 -- & it took the cops 1/2anhour 2 show up. By then the idiots were long gone....
So I'm pretty clear that I'm On My Own. I try 2 B Careful. So far, a friendly attitude, a little joking around, & some decent music on the store stereo has fended-off most Problems. But sometime, when I have an Off Night....
It's all just points on a curve anyway. The highschools here look EXACTLY like prisons ... which is maybe where The Folks In Charge think most of R kids R gonna end up. 1/2 the people I see every day carry Food Stamp cards, & they're almost always the folks with the fattest wallets & the newest cars. As a member of The Working Poor, that's a gravy train I wouldn't mind getting on -- as long as I don't have to do anything Illegal.
I don't know how things got like this -- upside down & unfair & brutal & fast-fast-fast. Maybe I'm just old & out of touch. But not much of it seems Good, or good for people. Which is why I end up running 2 this blog 4 refuge. Until I let the ugly stuff in....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

#607: Where I live (Part 1)

(This rant probly would fit better over at THE GAS NAZI!, but whatthehell. I'm under the gun here, & this site gets a LOT more looks than The Nazi. So....)

Another WONDERFUL nite at work, 1 of the worst nites in months. A non-stop screaming blur from start 2 finish, & we didn't even make that much $$$. My customers at the gas station have been pretty mellow recently, but tonite many of them were rude & in a hurry. Must be Holiday Stress.
But I still think something about Living Here drives people crazy. Something about the pace of life -- the 24-hour go-go-go rush-rush-rush, we had Thanksgiving, let's go do Black Friday, now we gotta get a Christmas tree, what's next on the list?
& we wonder why we're raising a generation (or 2) of maladjusted, grumpy, dissatisfied, rude, short-tempered, in-a-hurry young people. Some of whom can barely speak English. Many of whom have to be medicated 2 get thru the day.
I saw a guy freak-out tonite in a display of impatience & rage the likes of which I haven't seen in MONTHS. & he wasn't mad at ME. He was mad because his nite wasn't Going Right.
Young guy, maybe 20, a little short, tattoos all up and down his forearms, came into the store & asked to use the phone because his newly-purchased cellphone wouldn't work. Talked to the cellphone company, they couldn't help him. Punched in some numbers on a card he had -- phone still wouldn't activate. Meanwhile, a woman he was with screamed at him from the parking lot. Sounded like gibberish.
"She's been doing that ALL NIGHT," he said. "Being mean to me. Wants to get gas with MY money."
Kept messing with his phone, then said "Sure wish I could get some smokes, that'd be good." He didn't have any ID on him. "I'm 20." He looked closer to 16, but in lite of his tattoos, I was willing to set him up. But he forgot about the smokes. Maybe he was ADD. Or ADHD. Or whatever.
The woman he was with was impatient & thot she'd waited long enuf. She left the gas pumps, screeched her truck up in front of the door, & threw out a coat and a hoodie, which landed in the parking lot in the pouring rain. Then she screeched out of the parking lot. He drifted outside, didn't pick up his clothes, & seemed to follow the vanishing truck. She didn't come back.
He came back inside. "How far is it to Gig Harbor?" he asked. It's about 10 miles down the freeway. "Can I walk on the freeway?" No. But he was wearing only a short-sleeved T-shirt & a pair of sweatpants. I suggested that if he was gonna B walking he might want to hold onto that coat & hoodie. "That's not my stuff," he said, went outside, & stuffed it all into the garbage can.
I rang-up a couple more customers, & the next thing I know he's screaming gibberish & throwing his apparently useless cellphone out into the traffic. Then he jumped over the concrete wall at the side of the parking lot, out into the greenbelt next 2 the street -- & he started crying, SOBBING, WAILING. I could hear him out there, loud & clear, all the way back inside the store.
This lasted maybe 5 mins, long enuf 4 me 2 wonder if I should call the cops 2 have him looked at. Then he came back into the parking lot, asked a customer pumping gas for $$$ or a ride, didn't get the answer he wanted, & started screaming again at the top of his lungs, & pulling the gas nozzles off the pumps, ripping away at the equipment like he couldn't care less about any damage he might cause. (I wasn't too worried -- the equipment's pretty tough.) He was just expressing his rage & frustration.
I stepped out the front door & said something like "If you want to wreck stuff, you might as well go somewhere else. I WILL call the cops on you...."
"Fuck you!!!" he screamed. "Fuck the cops!!! Fuck EVERYBODY!!! Wahrufglfrugleburzdgakkk...."
& he wandered off in the direction of the Fred Meyer store across the street. Thank Ghod.
There were witnesses. One woman waiting 2 buy a pack of smokes said the raver sounded like a customer she'd just tried 2 help over the phone. "He told me what he'd like to do to me in a dark alley," she said.
"Jesus," I said. "When did people stop being civil? Why do they get all angry? Don't they realize we're trying to HELP them?"
"Beats me," she said. "Just glad it's my Friday...."
...So the next time I start wondering if maybe MY sanity is getting a little bit shaky, I'll be thinking about this guy.... Where do these crazy people keep coming from? And why?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

#606: A post a day for Dec.?

I usually hibernate around here in the Winter -- it's cold & dark & the rain POUNDS down 4 months on end. I've already felt myself withdrawing, battening down the hatches Bcos Winter's back & I hate not seeing the sun.
After a not-very-productive November, I could use a challenge -- so I'm gonna see if I can do a post each day in December. I don't think there's a chance in Hell that I can DO it, but I need something 2 jolt me out of my lethargy, & maybe this'll help. I love 2 write, I'm just tired of searching 4 a topic 2 hang a post on. I'm also bored with most music lately. I don't know what I wanna hear, but I sure as hell can't FIND it....
Besides, I've got some Sure Things coming up: I'll be marking 4 years of blogging around mid-month; I've got the 3rd Annual TAD Awards 4 the best stuff of the year coming at the end of the month (I don't think it was a very good year, but I may have forgotten something); I'm slowly working my way thru 2 pretty good books: Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA, a collection of his letters from the mid-'60s thru the mid-'70s; & John Einarson's FOREVER CHANGES: ARTHUR LEE AND THE BOOK OF LOVE, which includes lotsa stuff from Lee's unpublished autobiography....
+ maybe this'll force me 2 write some of those Big Projects I've wanted 2 work on 4 ages -- newspaper experiences, Air Force experiences, more Nostalgia, etc. Ghod, could I really have that much I wanna write about? We'll find out.... Summa these posts might end-up as lists of whatever I'm listening 2 or reading, or rants about whatever's on my mind -- there may not B much of a framework -- automatic writing? Should B fun....
Maybe the higher production will also bump up the readership numbers, which took a real slide in Nov after 3 really strong months & a killer Oct. Course I only wrote 5 real posts in Nov, so....
Enuf of the hype, onward 2 THE LATEST AT-WORK PLAYLIST....

Cat Power -- He War.
Kinks -- Victoria, Apeman, Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street, Shangri-La, Well-Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion.
Outkast -- Hey Ya.
Aretha Franklin -- Daydreaming.
Steely Dan -- Dirty Work, My Old School.
Pogues -- Lorelei, Fairytale of New York.
Darlene Love -- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
Squeeze -- Pulling Mussels from the Shell, Another Nail in My Heart, Separate Beds, Misadventure.
Florence + the Machine -- Shake it Out.
Fairport Convention -- Chelsea Morning, Mr. Lacey, Book Song, I'll Keep it With Mine, Tale in Hard Time, Meet on the Ledge, Genesis Hall, Come All Ye, Stranger to Himself.
Wigwam -- Losing Hold, Grass for Blades, Eddie and the Boys, Tramdriver, Autograph, Just My Situation.
BONUS TRACK: Ray Conniff Singers -- The Twelve Days of Christmas.

OK, most of these I probly don't have 2 describe. Whatever keeps me motivated, ya know?
Cat Power's "He War" is a masterwork of rhythm & little bitty repeating guitar & keyboard parts -- mesmerizing. & she has a great voice. Lots of nice suppressed drama here.
The Kinks' stuff I've been a sucker 4 for years. Love that gtr sound on "Victoria," & the way Dave Davies screams in the background. "Shangri-La"'s a dramatic masterpiece 2. "Sunny Afternoon," "Dead End Street" & the others R fun singalongs. SHIT, I shoulda played "Days"! Maybe tomorrow....
"Hey Ya"'s just a scream. Who could resist it?
Now that I've adjusted after not hearing it 4 30 years, "Daydreaming" is Xactly the floaty masterwork I remember. Aretha's back-up singers R all OVER the choruses. & she sounds so relaxed....
"Dirty Work" I assume features early Dan vocalist David Palmer...? It's too smooth 2 B Donald Fagen. "My Old School"'s still great, whatever it means....
I think "Lorelei" was the Pogues' highpoint, absolutely gorgeous Irish folk, but "Fairytale of New York" is both hilarious & heartbreaking & should become a Christmas classic. It was featured in the romantic comedy movie P.S. I LOVE YOU. Haven't heard it played on the radio yet, somehow. Probly summa the lyrics R a problem, I'd imagine. But most people don't listen 2 lyrics, so....
After "Fairytale," I was bitten by the Christmas bug, so put on Darlene Love & Phil Spector's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which has all the crashing melodrama of any classic Phil Spector hit, & shoulda bn included on his best-of. You've heard it even if you don't think you have -- it ran under the opening credits of the movie GREMLINS back in '82 or whenever....
Squeeze's ARGYBARGY was their highpoint -- but a little of them goes a long way, I got 4 trax in. "Separate Beds" has some cute choruses, & "Misadventure" describes some stress-inducing Middle Eastern trips, if you can follow the lyrics....
Florence's "Shake it Out" is still the best thing I've heard in years, but tho the lyrics R great, it really relies on the booming loudness of the drums. Turn it down a little & it just doesn't hit. It demands 2 B played LOUD.
Fairport's version of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" is busy-busy, & Judy Dyble's voice is a nice contrast 2 their later stuff. "Mr. Lacey" is a funny blues. "Book Song" sounds like it could B any mid-'60s folk group -- with some nice atmosphere. Mixed among the rest is some of the greatest British folk music ever -- tho they sure liked their grim subject-matter. "Tale in Hard Time" is a little grim despite Ian Matthews' sunny singing, "Meet on the Ledge" is dark, "Genesis Hall" is brutal -- good thing I didn't play their version of Bob Dylan's "Percy's Song"!
By contrast, "Come All Ye" is a rockin' rouser -- my favorite of all their work. Their version of Dylan's "I'll Keep it With Mine" is just gorgeous. "Stranger to Himself" is the only track I've heard from their later stuff that could stand with their classic work -- an intense, hushed funeral march. & why isn't their hilarious version of Dylan's "Million Dollar Bash" included on their 2-CD best-of?
Wigwam's HIGHLIGHTS best-of doesn't include THEIR best track ever, the rumbling & ominous "Bless Your Lucky Stars." But "Losing Hold" is a nice long workout 4 organ, "Grass for Blades" is an intense piano-based blues that gets interrupted, "Eddie and the Boys" & "Tramdriver" R lite silliness -- & "Tramdriver" is really catchy. "Just My Situation" is another long bluesy number with downcast vocals & piano from leader Jim Pembroke. These guys R worth checking out, but track down their NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB 1st -- there isn't a really weak track on it.

1 local radio station -- WARM 106.9 -- is already playing nothing but Christmas favorites 24/7. While dialing thru stations Thursday nite I heard Ray Conniff's epic "Twelve Days of Christmas," which I hadn't heard in years. I'd forgotten what a hoot it was. 4 1, it goes on FOREVER -- in the old vinyl days they coulda filled a SIDE with this song. 4 another, it's so '50s/'60s whitebread it's hard 2 believe. Check out the way the guys sing "FIVE GO-OLD RINGS!" & "THREE FRENCH HENS!" You'll be seeing clones of Pat Boone in matching crewcuts.... & at the very end, where the chorus ... IMPROVISES a bit, it's just freaking hysterical. Check it out, if you dare. The best comedy Christmas song since Barbra Streisand's "Jingle Bells?" (And does anybody know who did the '70s satire of "Twelve Days" with the verses that ended "...and a Sony transistor radio"? Drop me a line if you remember -- I haven't heard it since about 1971.
More VERY soon....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#605: Post Turkey-Day playlist

Here's the at-work playlist 4 Thanksgiving Day & everything since....

Scarlet Rivera -- Day of the Unicorn.
Love -- FOREVER CHANGES: Alone Again Or, A House is not a Motel, Andmoreagain, The Daily Planet, Old Man, The Red Telephone, Maybe the People Would be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale, Live and Let Live, The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This, Bummer in the Summer, You Set the Scene, Hummingbirds, Wonder People (I Do Wonder), Alone Again Or (alternate mix), You Set the Scene (alternate mix), Your Mind and We tracking session highlights, Your Mind and We Belong Together, Laughing Stock; My Little Red Book, Seven and Seven Is, Number Fourteen, The Castle, She Comes in Colors, Singing Cowboy, Your Friend and Mine -- Neil's Song.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right, Julianna, Money Back Guarantee.
Fleet Foxes -- Blue Ridge Mountains.
Florence + the Machine -- Shake it Out.
Joe Jackson -- Invisible Man, Too Tough, Citizen Sane....
Nektar -- Fidgety Queen, King of Twilight, Do You Believe in Magic?
Sparks -- Eaten by the Monster of Love.
Can -- Uphill, Mother Upduff, Moonshake, Future Days, Cascade Waltz, Father Cannot Yell.
Squeeze -- Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels from the Shell, Is That Love?, Labelled with Love, Black Coffee in Bed, Annie Get Your Gun, King George Street, Last Time Forever, No Place Like Home, Hourglass, Trust Me to Open My Mouth, Footprints, If it's Love, Love Circles, Take Me I'm Yours, Goodbye Girl, Cool for Cats.
Jade Warrior -- A Winter's Tale.

Ghod, is that ALL? I thot there was MORE....
OK, so I've been using the holidays as an Xcuse 2 slowly work my way thru a good-sized stack of mostly-unheard CD's, with an occasional familiar item or 2 thrown-in 2 keep me motivated while working. This will likely continue til I get thru this new-2-me stuff -- still have 1/2adozen strange CD's from Crabby 2 listen-2....

NOTES: "Day of the Unicorn" is a rocking & rolling violin-led instrumental from a 1978 album (SCARLET FEVER) that is otherwise almost completely forgettable.
Love's FOREVER CHANGES is a 1967 psychedelic classic that only rocks in a few places, but it sure is pretty. Gorgeous vocals, strings & brass, & the songwriting is really strong. There's not a bad song on it -- I especially like "You Set the Scene," "Maybe the People Would be the Times" & "Alone Again Or." You can definitely tell it's from a Different Time, & there R some dark lyrical undercurrents running thru it, but mostly it's gorgeous '60s pop. Even summa the at-1st dumbest lyrics (try the opening of "Live and Let Live") lead in2 some Xcellent, memorable songs. There's also a few moments of flashy Hendrix-like guitar thrown in....
The other Love stuff listed here is from their DEFINITIVE COLLECTION, following the band from their punk/psych early daze 2 their bloozy later period. "My Little Red Book" is hysterical, "7 and 7 Is" is non-stop rush, "The Castle" & "She Comes in Colors" sound like The Byrds Go Baroque, & summa the rest ("Laughing Stock," "Singing Cowboy," "Number Fourteen," "Your Mind and We Belong Together") R just plain WEIRD. Great stuff....
5MEB's "Absolutely Right" is more adrenaline rush, "Money Back Guarantee" is silly & gimmicky, but it's cute & catchy ... & 1 older customer heard "Julianna" & said "This has GOT to be a CD...." Turns out he graduated from highschool in '72 & recognized the song, hadn't heard it in 40 years. I love it when that happens....
"Blue Ridge Mountains" sounds 2 me like SMiLE-era Beach Boys meets '60s folk music. It's also the EZest track 2 get in2 on Fleet Foxes' 1st album. "Shake it Out" is still my choice 4 Best Song of the 2000's So Far....
Followed these with 3 trax from Joe Jackson's CD/DVD RAIN, sent 2 me by my buddy Crabby -- "Invisible Man"'s pretty good, & I was impressed by the tightness of Jackson's longtime trio. "Too Tough" & "Citizen Sane" R equally moody, & there's some rather ornate piano from Jackson. Nice, impressive, but a little downbeat -- definitely not party music. More of this later....
The 3 rockin' Nektar trax R unbeatable, tho the mix on "King of Twilight" (from their DREAM NEBULA best-of) is REALLY trebly.... Sparks' "Eaten by the Monster of Love" has hilarious lyrics & great choruses -- it shoulda been a hit. You might've heard it in the classic early-'80s flick VALLEY GIRL....
Can might've scared some customers off. Ah well, I'll havta play MORE. "Uphill" is a killer riff that just keeps going&going, "Mother Upduff" is a long joke set 2 music. Summa their later stuff mellows-out a little, but it's still worth hearing -- there's always some great Jaki Leibezeit drumming or Michael Karoli guitar 2 grab on2. Then I backtracked 4 the brilliant "Father Cannot Yell" -- great trance-inducing pounding rhythms, & some marvelous almost-sensible chanting from Malcolm Mooney. I'll havta play more of these guys' early stuff & REALLY mess customers up....
Squeeze. Hmmm. I've wanted 2 like these guys 4 YEARS -- their ARGYBARGY album is good, solid early-'80s New Wave, not 2 weird, closer 2 Pub Rock. Their upbeat songs R usually pretty good: "Pulling Mussels from the Shell" is a classic that shoulda bn a hit, & I've grown 2 enjoy "Another Nail in My Heart" more over the years -- there R parts in the verses that R sung just perfectly (listen to the lines "Tryin' to be good by not bein' 'round" & "I want to be good, is that not enough?").
But despite Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook's clever lyrics, cleverness ain't enuf if the tunes don't grab you. There R 3 great songs on their GREATEST HITS, & the rest is just sorta flat -- gray stories about broken marriages & failed relationships & drinking binges. The added saxes on "Hourglass" REALLY set it off -- + it has a great repeating-mantra chorus. But summa the rest....
"Labelled with Love" adds a country twang that doesn't help. "No Place Like Home" is just ... disturbing. "Black Coffee in Bed" is boring. I stopped hearing "Tempted" years ago. Summa the others I can't remember well enuf 2 comment on. Summa the later, higher-tech trax brighten up a bit, but overall their best-of is kinda thin. & why isn't "In Quintessence" on here?
"A Winter's Tale" is pretty glorious -- it's an olde favorite of mine, perfect 4 Wintertime listening, with some great loud guitar at the end.
More soon....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

#604: Don's Greatest Hits

On Thanksgiving Eve I played some music at work 4 the 1st time in nearly a month. This lapse happened mostly because I became a news junkie before the election & it was tough 2 break away. I was also bored 2 death with local radio, bored with most music -- a friend thot I was depressed.
But facing a Bad Week, I took a bag of mostly-unheard new-2-me CD's 2 work Weds nite 2 help keep me motivated. & it worked, tho it took me awhile 2 get 2 them. I'll B taking them again tomorrow 4 Turkey Day.
Mostly I played Love's gorgeous 1967 psychedelic masterwork FOREVER CHANGES, which I'd never heard all the way thru B4. There's not a really bad track on it, from the Tijuana Brass-style horns of the shoulda-been-hit "Alone Again Or," 2 the Hendrixy guitar freakout at the end of "Your Mind and We Belong Together." Even the outtakes & bonus tracks & studio tracking sessions R good. I should have a review of this stuff posted soon.
But I started out with 1 of my old buddy Don Vincent's old favorites, Scarlet Rivera's riffing, rocking violin instrumental "Day of the Unicorn." It really woke me up like nothing else has in weeks. & after that I couldn't stop.
I've been wanting 2 do a "Don's Greatest Hits" piece since I discovered that Don had died suddenly early in Sept (see "An obituary," below). Without him, I probly wouldn't be on this continuing search 4 Strange Music. When we met after highschool, Don was the only guy I knew who's musical taste was farther out-there than mine. & he would take the wildest chances on stuff -- buy albums by artists he'd never heard of just Bcos he liked the covers. He didn't care if he blew $3.99 on a turkey.
He had pretty good luck, 2. Below is a sorta best-of list of music he discovered & then turned me on 2. Most of them I've written about B4. This list is 4 you, Don. Ghod bless ya.
* Gryphon -- "Lament," RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE, RAINDANCE. "Lament" is the most gorgeous progressive-folk-rock instrumental ever. RED QUEEN features that piece & 3 other lengthy tracks, & a unique wind-up-toy-band sound unlike any1 else, ever. Found in a cut-out bin 4 $2.99! RAINDANCE's 2nd side shoulda been minted in gold: 2 catchy short pieces & a 16-minute epic that continues their lighter-than-air sound & adds some punch 2 it.
* David Sancious and Tone -- TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE). YOU try buying an album with no band info on the cover, just a spacey painting of a guy hatching from an egg & crawling out 2 meet a prehistoric sunrise. With a cover that good, the music inside had 2 B great, right? & it was -- keyboard-based jazz-rock like an even-wilder Mahavishnu Orchestra, & Sancious himself was a synth wizard. The 18-minute title track is stunning -- there's even a melody....
* Hawkwind -- HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL. Another 1 pulled from the cut-out bin, with a crash-landed spaceship on the cover, & a landscape with 3 moons above it on the back. Inside is heavy space-rock with a few classics: The driving "You'd Better Believe It," the spooky "Lost Johnny," & the ominous mantra "Psychedelic Warlords." & then there's those spacey synth mood-changer instrumentals....
* Space Art -- A TRIP IN THE CENTER HEAD. Imagine the best synthesizer album you've ever heard, then double it. Better & more melodic than Tangerine Dream, Rick Wakeman, Synergy, Klaus Schulze, or any1 else I've ever heard. Jean-Michel Jarre (under a pseudonym) handles the keybs & performs pieces I can STILL remember even tho I haven't heard them since 1982. & the album's been out-of-print FOREVER....
* Amazing Blondel -- FANTASIA LINDUM and ENGLAND. Straight outta 1582. Take Gryphon's light folk tunes & add sometimes kinda-fruity (tho marvelous) singing, & you have perfect soundtrack music 4 THE THREE MUSKETEERS (the GOOD 1 from the early '70s with Oliver Reed & Michael York & Racquel Welch).
* Scarlet Rivera -- "Day of the Unicorn." The album this comes from is no big deal, but this violin instrumental starts all misty & shadowy & -- with just a brief pause 4 atmosphere -- a riff follows that drives on 4 7 mins of non-stop brilliance. & Scarlet fiddles her ass off.
* Nektar -- THRU THE EARS best-of. Great crashing British/German mid-'70s prog, dramatic & driving, with lotsa great guitar from Roye Albrighton. Best: "It's All Over," "King of Twilight," "Do You Believe in Magic?," & the great rocker "Fidgety Queen."
* Jade Warrior -- "A Winter's Tale." Another 1 from the cut-out bin. This ballad about being alone with your beloved on a snowy day starts out hushed & intimate & Xplodes out into a swaying, guitar-driven singalong. Some say they invented New Age, but the guitar here's way 2 loud 4 that.
* Charlie Dore -- LISTEN! Solid early-'80s mainstream pop with some added drama & comedy. Don played it non-stop when enduring a separation & missing his future-wife Robyn. Best: The dramatic "Don't Say No" & "Wise to the Lines," "Like They Do it in America," "Falling," title song, "I'm Over Here," "Sister Revenge."
* Pat Metheny -- PAT METHENY GROUP. Mellow melodic jazz with lotsa great guitar & keyboards. "San Lorenzo"'s best, but it's all very pleasant -- on the strength of this album, I bought these guys' stuff 4 years....
* Synergy. Keyboard whiz Larry Fast did some great stuff on his late-'70s albums SEQUENCER and ELECTRONIC REALIZATIONS FOR ROCK ORCHESTRA. Best: The dramatic 12-minute epic "Warriors," "S-Scape," "Icarus," "Classical Gas."
...Course I didn't love ALL the music Don liked. He was a BIG Rick Wakeman fan, & Xcept 4 RW's WHITE ROCK and CRIMINAL RECORD, I could never see what all the fuss was about. Don was also a sucker 4 rather delicate jazz-rock bands like Shadowfax & Ethos. I never heard anything distinctive from them -- it was mostly OK mood music. I never got in2 Chick Corea & Return to Forever back then, tho I'm doing a little better now. Bo Hansson's LORD OF THE RINGS was some of the most primitive & dated-sounding synth music I'd ever heard.
& Aphrodite's Child's 666 -- well, I NEVER figured out what the HELL was going on THERE....

Friday, November 9, 2012

#603: Isn't that interesting...?

I think I 1st heard classic mid-'60s psychedelic rock band Love when I was working at the record store back home in Boise, Idaho, around 1979 -- that's when I bagged an 8-track tape of their old Elektra best-of LOVE MASTERS for $3.99.
& tho my dying old 8-track player at home didn't always work right -- the sound was kinda mushy & the player's heads were slightly out of alignment so you couldn't always hear all the music channels -- still some of the music reached out of the speakers & grabbed me by the throat. Especially the best-of's closer, the epic don't-waste-your-life call-to-arms "You Set the Scene."
It was sorta like SGT. PEPPER with soul. Kinda. Definitely 1967, but with some intense feeling. Not all surfacey & flashy.
Thirty years later, I grabbed a copy of Rhino/Elektra's DEFINITIVE COLLECTION, 2 CD's of the best of Love, & I'm still trying 2 digest some of it -- like the psycho/punk "7 and 7 Is" or the really silly "Number Fourteen," or the disturbed & fragmented "Your Mind and We Belong Together." Or there's the band's 1st "hit," Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "My Little Red Book," in which Love-leader Arthur Lee tries 2 Do A Mick Jagger on 1 of those silly '60s pop songs you KNOW you've heard before. (But who did this 1 1st? Manfred Mann, maybe?)
The trax that work best 4 me on DEFINITIVE are the 7 taken from Love's magnum opus, 1967's FOREVER CHANGES, which over the past decade or so has been hailed as a forgotten psychedelic masterwork -- Lee's songwriting was at its strongest, weirdest & most melodic, & the string&horn arrangements are gorgeous.
Andrew Hultkrans' FOREVER CHANGES (2003) -- part of Continuum Books' 33-1/3rd series -- takes a look at the album & what behind-the-scenes happenings may have led Lee & fellow bandmember Bryan MacLean 2 write the songs.
But here's the thing: The book's not BASED ON anything. There R a few quotes from period interviews, but that's all. There is nothing in the book about the actual process of writing the songs & recording the album, very little about how the string&horn arrangements were chosen.
The rest is just supposition -- like an English teacher noting the similarities between Bram Stoker's DRACULA & the recent TWILIGHT series & then saying "Hmmm, isn't that interesting...?"
Well, maybe. MAYBE Arthur Lee based his lyrics on what he picked up from the Gnostic Gospels & Peter Weiss's play MARAT/SADE, but where is the proof? (But aren't the similarities intresting?) Certainly Lee must have been affected by the Watts riots -- he had to travel into Watts to check on his mother's safety while the riots were going on, according to Hultkrans. But where does this experience come out in his songs?
Hultkrans sez Lee thot he was dying at the time he wrote the songs for FOREVER CHANGES, & that therefore Lee felt called-upon 2 prophecize -- & Lee confirms in a period quote on Pg 6 that he really DID think the album was going 2 B his "last words." But not much is done with this. & Lee lived on in2 the 2000's. But the late '60s were an apocalyptic time....
Whatever inspired Lee, Hultkrans includes 1 great quote in which the songwriter sez he always writes about the people around him, his environment, "what I think needs to be changed and what I think shouldn't."  That 4 me is enuf to blow-off all the other theories about where Lee's inspiration may have come from.
There ARE some good things in the book -- mostly the quotes from interviews. Both Lee & MacLean (who wrote FOREVER CHANGES' gorgeous almost-hit "Alone Again Or") are dead now, so only the band's surviving members can set the record straight. Tho I think Hultkrans is on2 something when he writes about Lee's self-imposed exile in the Hollywood hills, I think most of the other theories about "influences" on his songwriting as outlined in this book R pretty-much hooey.
But if books like this get the word out about Love & their recorded legacy, that's gotta B a Good Thing. I just wish there'd bn more about the making of the album here. The rest is just mildly-intresting words, idle speculations. 1/2 the songs on the album R ignored.
(Ben Edmonds' liner notes 4 Rhino/Elektra's FOREVER CHANGES reissue R solid, detailed, & include a LOT more info about the writing & recording of the album than Hultkrans used -- so maybe Edmonds should've written the book...?)
Based on other reviews, I'd say Continuum's 33-1/3rd series is kinda hit&miss. Some of the books R supposed 2 B really solid, others a bit beside the point -- 1 book in the series, on Radiohead's OK COMPUTER, gets an average rating of 1 STAR at But I reviewed 33-1/3rd's best-of volumes a couple years back & found Good Stuff in each: Gillian Gaar on Nirvana's IN UTERO, Warren Zanes on DUSTY IN MEMPHIS, John Dougan on THE WHO SELL OUT, Dan Connelly on Phil Ochs' I AIN'T MARCHING ANYMORE, some others. Summa their other choices I wonder about, tho -- what new is there 2 say about PET SOUNDS at this late date? Or EXILE ON MAIN STREET? ABBA GOLD? LED ZEPPELIN 4?
Anyway, there R good things in this book. The postscript, which mentions the prison sentence Lee served late in life, & outlines the tour he went on in the early 2000's after his release -- during which he was hailed as a hero & a rock legend, especially in the U.K. -- is a positive, triumphant way 2 close. Hultkrans describes Lee's full-strength stage shows back then as "not preaching -- inciting to riot."
& Lee himself gives a positive, uplifting final quote -- a sort-of epitaph 4 him & a motto & goal 4 all of us. He went on working, he said, "because I have a lot more work, and I choose to do it."

Monday, November 5, 2012

#602: On becoming a news junkie

Before I became a reporter, I pretty-much hated the news. Never read it, watched it or listened to it. Had no real use for "current events." Closest I got to reading a newspaper was skimming thru some long non-fiction piece in ROLLING STONE.
But somewhere along the way I got hooked on the work of journalists like Hunter S. Thompson, John McPhee, Tim Cahill. & when I got to Journalism School, I hoped that -- if I had 1/2 the writing talent I THOT I had -- maybe I could figure-out some lighter, more personal, funnier approach to writing 4 newspapers.
"Personality features" were always my favorite assignments at J-school. Something where you could loosen the rules a little bit, let some of your subject's personality in -- have some FUN with the writing. Wasn't until YEARS later that I realized you could do the same thing with sportswriting -- practically ALL the time....
On my good days, when I could write some real-life comedy (33 Thanksgiving turkeys delivered to a local resident due to a computer glitch -- she donated them to the Senior Center; old couple gives up growing a lawn & replaces it with multi-colored carpets -- causing car wrecks in front of their house), I thot I DID contribute something new & unique 2 the newspapers I worked 4. It was a joy 2 share a laugh with readers on the front page. & every fun story was like a gift from God -- most of them practically wrote themselves. They were almost effortless.
I couldn't see why EVERY reporter didn't do them.
They were also a great break from the usual grind of car wrecks, murders, trials, council meetings, DWI arrests, drug busts & political stupidity that is the avg reporter's daily diet. Journalism is a great career 4 a young person with lotsa energy & no social life. If you're a little older, with a Significant Other & a family, the job will eat you up. Because it never stops.
I don't look at newspapers much anymore, because most of them just make me want to know MORE. Or I wonder why the reporter doesn't journey much past the just-the-facts approach. Why so few reporters seem 2 do the daily job with much STYLE. They may be accurate, but they aren't that much fun 2 read.
I DO read local newspaper COLUMNISTS. The FUNNY 1's. & I wish there were MORE....
I have a little more fun with TV news, tho it can B frustrating 2. I gave up on most TV political coverage months ago -- the way the national media were more intrested in Herman Cain's Women Problems or Rick Perry's Senior Moments than they were in Xplaining Romney's plan to save the country. Besides, I'm pretty-much sick of the prez election & grateful that by this time Tues nite our long national nightmare will be over. Or perhaps it will be just beginning....
In addition 2 being great waking-up TV, I'd agree that nothing unites us like the national news-media in times of crisis -- Hurricane Sandy (Proof that there's No God: The Atlantic City Boardwalk is destroyed, but Snooki's house is OK), Katrina, 9/11, the Challenger explosion, etc. I just wish they worked up 2 their potential more often.
On the night before Election Day, you may know where Obama & Romney stand on some of the issues, but do you know what their plans 4 the future are? Do they have any clear, substantial, detailed plans for saving this country?
I don't think turning the clock back 2 1980 is a vision 4 the future. But clearly there R millions of people who wouldn't mind going back there. Or who didn't learn anything the 1st time around.

My news addiction has even gotten in the way at work. I haven't been playing much music lately. (Still recovering from the batch of strange CDs Crabby sent me awhile back -- Cromagnon's CAVE ROCK may have scarred me 4 life....) I'll get back 2 it, of course -- but mainly over the past week or so I've been listening 2 Seattle's news-radio station, KOMO. Tho they have a definite format they repeat each hour, the great thing about the news is that it CHANGES -- unlike the playlists at all the local rock stations.
Have listened 2 a little music that's grabbed me, tho -- Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," Beatles' "A Day in the Life," Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me," Led Zep's "When the Levee Breaks," Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" & "I Want You," Cat Power's "He War" & "Speak for Me," part of a track off the new Neil Young album, "Walk Like a Giant" (which sounds a little like the return of "Like a Hurricane") -- & some great trax by classic late-'60s psychedelic band Love: "Alone Again Or," "Maybe the People Should Be the Times," "You Set the Scene," "Your Mind and We Belong Together."
These last replayed while reading Andrew Hultkrans's book-length look at Love's 1967 cult-classic album FOREVER CHANGES -- not sure I buy all Hultkrans' claims 4 what influenced Love-leader Arthur Lee 2 write the songs 4 FOREVER CHANGES, but the album turned out a mostly-gorgeous period piece anyway, a great forgotten companion 2 SGT. PEPPER and PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (and DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED). Should have a review of the book posted soon....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

#601: Last man standing...?

Is music blogging Over With? Is the blog as we know it dead? Are these even important questions? (And I was just getting rolling....)
Today I read that my buddy Crabby over at Crabby's Music Review and Top 10 Site is seriously considering retiring at the turn of the New Year. He won't be the 1st. But if he hangs it up, I'll miss his cranky ranting about local radio & his Xcellent Weekly Top 10 lists of the Overlooked.
But there've bn a LOT of music bloggers dropping out over the last year or so. Maybe the newness wore off. Maybe they didn't get enuf feedback. Maybe they have Real Lives 2 devote themselves 2 -- a much better choice than spending all your free time stuck in front of a computer.
Last time I checked, Groove Sandwich had become a working musician and college student. Layla hasn't posted in over a year at her formerly-very-popular Classic Rock blog. Drew has a family life, & tho he'll pop up every couple months with a nature/photo update, I guess you could say he's semi-retired. He's not even doing Green Bay Packers updates this year! (Go with the family thing Drew -- & Thank Ghod 4 the visitors you keep sending me....)
Perplexio hasn't posted 4 awhile at either of his websites. Seano at Circle of Fits has been taking a lot of breaks over the past year, most of them due to health issues. Lex Dexter at The PrisonShip is taking a LONG break over problems that I think he could maybe write his way out of -- it worked for me awhile back.
Even Mark Prindle -- the Godfather of us all, without whom I wouldn't be doing this -- hung it up awhile back.
A few R hanging in there -- Rastro is still posting stuff at his Tumblr site, & we R continuing 2 wreak comedy havoc on Hunter S. Thompson & Larry Niven at Fear and Loathing in Known Space 2x a week, but with the World Series & the prez election, R's bn a busy guy.
Gardenhead is continuing 2 post great stuff at Asleep on the Compost Heap -- he just recently posted a review of his favorite album of 2011! The NERVE! I don't see him ever stopping, either....
As 4 me, there R LOTS of things I still wanna talk about, time & energy permitting. I still have a box of weird CDs from Crabby I'm trying 2 get thru, & more stuff stacked-up that I hope 2 listen-2 someday. I still have Air Force stories & Newspaper stories I wanna write-up. I still have stories & novels I wanna read & talk about. & there's sure 2 B more fits of Nostalgia I'll B posting here without prior warning, & Ghod Knows what might set them off.
I'm still having fun here. But then, I've been a compulsive writer since age 10, & it always makes me Feel Better to have written something, no matter how meaningless & silly.
So I'm gonna keep going, as long as me & the World's Smallest Laptop hold out. Thanx 4 dropping by -- & for gosh sakes will all you good folks from the U.K. & Russia & the Ukraine & the Netherlands & France & Canada & Germany & wherever-else please leave me a comment so I can figure out what the heck you're all reading?
Take care, all You Out There. More soon!

Friday, October 26, 2012

#600: Good book/Bad proofreading

If you're a Todd Rundgren fan, or a fan of any of the dozens of albums he's produced 4 a variety of artists over the years, you should check out Paul Myers's A WIZARD/A TRUE STAR: TODD RUNDGREN IN THE STUDIO (2010), an in-depth recap of Todd's lengthy career as recording artist, engineer & producer.
While Todd's hadda handful of hits (he shoulda had MORE) & done some solid albums (SOMETHING/ANYTHING?, ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA), he's almost better known 4 the artists & albums he's produced and/or engineered: Meat Loaf's BAT OUT OF HELL, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk (twice), Cheap Trick, The Band, Patti Smith, New York Dolls (twice), Badfinger, XTC, Sparks, Tubes (twice), Fanny, Steve Hillage, Shaun Cassidy -- plus a dozen albums 4 his band Utopia.
Tho Todd's comments R featured all thru this book, the best thing about it R the Xtensive interviews with the people he's worked with -- the many members of Utopia, Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman, Rick Nielsen & Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, the Grand Funkers, Patti Smith & Group, David Johansen & Sylvain Sylvain of the Dolls, lotsa Tubes, & XTC.
Not all these people were thrilled with Todd's sometimes-trebly radio-ready hitbound productions of their work. Badfinger was disappointed at the time with Todd's mop-up work on STRAIGHT UP, tho it got them a coupla hits. Patti Smith's WAVE was perceived as a disappointment & a sell-out (I thot the 1st side was pretty great). XTC member Andy Partridge was frustrated by the Xperience recording SKYLARKING, but former member Dave Gregory sez Todd saved their career.
My only real disappointment with the content is there's only 1 paragraph about Todd's production of trailblazing all-girl rock band Fanny's MOTHER'S PRIDE (1973) -- not their best album, but.... & there's barely a namecheck 4 the updating Todd did on Shaun Cassidy's WASP (1980), which Shaun fans at the time called diffrent & Xciting & brave -- & it sank without a trace.
Myers did his homework. It is really neat 2 see folks quoted that you'd normally never hear from -- the backing musicians & engineers & folks behind the scenes who helped make this music happen. Each chapter that focuses on a specific album is like a little documentary -- The Psychedelic Furs come to visit Todd at Utopia Sound, & when he's delayed 4 a couple days they party down & rip-up Woodstock & Bearsville, N.Y., until Todd gets them 2 calm down & start working.
Todd also seems drawn 2 challenges -- both Cheap Trick & XTC were facing pressure from their record labels during their work with Rundgren. Ditto 4 the Tubes' swan-song, LOVE BOMB. Speaking of pressure & uncertainty, turns out Todd basically bankrolled BAT OUT OF HELL & got it finished while Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman worked 2 find a label that would actually RELEASE it....
Along with all this, Myers tracks Todd's ongoing solo career & the various incarnations of Utopia -- all covered in detail. I was happy 2 see so much space given 2 Utopia, who never quite broke thru despite the quality of their more pop-oriented later stuff.
Well worth your time, overall. But....
Nobody who mangles the English language like I do here should complain about this, but....
The folks at Jawbone Press have previously done some really Xcellent music books -- Bill Bruford's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Jeanette Leech's SEASONS THEY CHANGE, Richie Unterberger's WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN. They were a pleasure 2 read, & were mostly immaculate in terms of typesetting.
Not sure why, but WIZARD has problems in this area. They're minor at 1st -- little misspellings or words dropped out, quotes opened & never closed, minor stuff like that. But they get worse & more numerous as the book goes along.
Don't know why, but the book bottoms out in Chapter 19 -- which deals with the breakup of Utopia, recording Todd's A CAPELLA, & recording the Tubes' LOVE BOMB. Here words R dropped, sentences R mangled, words R transposed & repeated, quotes Rn't finished -- it reads like the composer or proofreader fell asleep, or was hungover -- or only had 2 days 2 get the whole proofreading job done. & when that chapter's done, the rest of the book is back 2 basically pretty-much OK.
Now, if you're writing a book, you use Real English. The inability 2 use Real English in a book format casts doubts on whether the writer knows what he's doing in other areas. Each time a sentence gets mangled or words get dropped out, it jolts the reader out of the Xperience & makes him wonder what's going on behind the scenes.
Clearly, Paul Myers knows what he's doing -- he couldn't have done dozens of interviews & made this 300-page story fit 2gether if he didn't. But the composing or proofreading coulda used more work, 1 more pass B4 the book went 2 press.
Other than that, no major complaints. As with other Jawbone Books, there's a discography & nice period photos. It's a good-looking package, & the info is worth the minor problems you might bump in2. & I'll B looking 4 more Jawbone Books -- there's 1 out there about Arthur Lee & Love that I've bn wanting 2 get ahold of....