Saturday, March 31, 2012

#541: Steve and Sandy

2nite, reviews of albums by Steve Tibbetts & Sandy Denny. Strange bedfellows? Well, I'm still looking 4 Steve Tibbetts' ultimate meltdown-guitar album. & Sandy Denny's name keeps popping up in this Al Stewart biography I'm trying 2 read (Neville Judd's AL STEWART: THE TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES OF A FOLK-ROCK TROUBADOUR, pretty solid on the details). So....

Steve Tibbetts -- EXPLODED VIEW: Name Everything, Another Year, A Clear Day and No Memories, Your Cat, Forget, Drawing Down the Moon, The X Festival, Metal Summer, Assembly Field.
Fairport Convention -- Chelsea Morning, Fotheringay, Mr. Lacey, Book Song.
Sandy Denny -- SANDY: It'll Take a Long Time, Sweet Rosemary, For Nobody to Hear, Tomorrow is a Long Time, The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood, Listen Listen, The Lady, Bushes and Briars, It Suits Me Well, The Music Weaver.

EXPLODED VIEW (1986), like Steve's THE FALL OF US ALL which I reviewed last week, was also sposta B LOUD. & it is. There's lotsa screamy feedback & a lot less of the Indian/Oriental sound that was on FALL. But as a gtr-meltdown album it still doesn't beat 1980's YR. & it's still a little short of tunes....
"Name Everything" opens with some nice loud, washy electric gtr & Steve's buddy Marc Anderson's propulsive tribal drumming. There's lotsa nice screechy feedback thruout, & LOTSA heavy drums & more feedback near the end. THIS is more like it!
"Another Year" sounds very much like an outtake from YR -- but with more screeching electric & some nice nimble tabla & percussion from Anderson. A pretty acoustic theme comes in later. "A Clear Day" adds wordless vocals & a lite acoustic gtr -- dreamy, washy orchestral sounds with occasional heavy tones. Then Anderson's loud percs kick-in again. Later, a straight delicate acoustic with some added echo takes over -- it ends unXpectedly: YR crossed with FALL.
"Your Cat" has a silly New Age-ish title, but there's some nice loud electric & feedback, & loud, pounding drumming. "Forget" has nice feedback & more pounding, rhythmic drums. At less than 2 mins, it's much 2 short.
"Drawing Down the Moon" adds what SOUNDS like keyboards, tho none R mentioned in the credits. & there's a definite spacey Indian/Oriental flavor.... "The X Festival" adds more wordless voices, with (according 2 the credits) either Claudia Schmidt or Jan Reimer briefly pulling-off something similar to Clare Torrey's vocal on Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky." That goes directly in2 a nice heavy gtr riff that short-circuits way 2 soon....
"Metal Summer" features more pounding drumming. There's lots more percs & occasionally some washy electric. Anderson gets a solo composing credit on "Assembly Field" -- he has co-writer credits on 2/3rds of these pieces. Wordless chanting is followed by some kalimba & thumb-piano & heavy percs, then more chanting ... & DOGS BARKING! IN RHYTHM! (They also Rn't credited.)
Sorta a silly way 2 end, but another 1 I'll keep 4 the heavy gtr. But Steve needs more tunes....

Ah, Fairport. Judy Dyble sings lead on Joni Mitchell's very busy "Chelsea Morning," which is sorta built around the late Martin Lamble's bouncy drumming. Dyble was definitely no slouch as a singer -- the only other place I've heard her was on the Xcellent demo version of King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind," which you can find on KC's YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE best-of, if you can find any of those....
...But then in comes the haunted voice of Sandy Denny on "Fotheringay," & it's like being serenaded by an old friend. (BTW, the best writing I've ever read on Sandy Denny & the impact of her music is at Adrian Denning's music-review website, where -- in a review of Sandy's BEST OF -- Adrian practically writes her a love letter ... & it's WONDERFUL.)
"Mr. Lacey" is a silly blues with some nice gtr from Richard Thompson -- & the lyrics R hilarious. "Book Song" has some very nice harmonies -- it's almost Mamas-and-Papas-ish. All these R from Fairport's MEET ON THE LEDGE best-of.

SANDY (1972) is 1 of the late singer's 4 solo albums -- I'd previously heard only 1 song. Denny wrote all but 2 of the songs, & her husband Trevor Lucas produced. There R spots of real brilliance in it, but I'm thinking I mighta bn better off with a best-of.
"It'll Take a Long Time" opens, & it's kinda a dirge, but it gains in strength. There's some nice gtr from Richard Thompson & good keybs from Rabbit Bundrick. "Sweet Rosemary" has some nice violin from Fairporter Dave Swarbrick, but at 2-1/2 mins it's way 2 short. "For Nobody to Hear" is a big production with added horns arranged by Allen Toussaint. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is a countryish arrangement of an old Bob Dylan song.
These songs R all OK, but they're rather sombre & serious. I wish they were lighter or bouncier or hadda bigger impact. Sandy's voice is still beautiful, but....
Then things get good. Sandy's acapella version of Richard Farina's "The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" is just gorgeous -- they shoulda opened the album with it. Denny sings the 1st verse unaccompanied, then overdubs herself 4 some neat clashing harmonies. Swarbrick fiddles alone at the end. Hushed, stark & not-too-pretty, it's pretty freaking brilliant. It's the best thing here so far & will stop you in your tracks. & then there's Farina's amazing, ironic lyrics....
"Listen Listen" is gorgeous -- but I already knew that. It's bn a fave of mine since about 1984, when I 1st heard it on Fairport's CHRONICLES best-of. "Listen" makes a great 1-2 punch with "Brotherhood." & "Listen" itself has such great singing & such a perfect production that it'll have you in tears. I guarantee....
"The Lady" adds heavy strings. "Bushes and Briars" is countryish but nice. "It Suits Me Well" is a nice gypsy ballad with more good Bundrick keybs. "The Music Weaver" -- supposedly a portrait of Richard Thompson -- is a very pretty closer. Thompson doesn't play on it, & there's some painful distance Xpressed in the lyrics.
There R some really good songs here -- especially in the 2nd 1/2. But they R mostly not-very-happy songs....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#540: The worst Prom date EVER

So, you think maybe you've had some bad dates? Yeah, uh huh, sure. Ever had your date interrupted by YOUR JOB?
Spring 2000: The X-wife had moved out months earlier, taking the only working vehicle, emptying the checking account, & leaving me to feed our 2 kids with absolutely NO kitchen skills. Lucky the 3 of us didn't starve 2 death. But I'm not bitter.
Confused, heartbroken & lonely, a co-worker at my then-newspaper job tells me she knows some1 who'd love 2 meet me. She sez this unknown woman is Pretty Hot, too. Bring her on, I say, trying to put on a brave face. My co-worker sets us up.
This unknown woman calls me later the same nite. We talk. She has a nice voice, seems friendly. I make her laff. A lot. She's a great audience. We spend a couple hrs gabbing. We agree 2 go out the following Sat nite.
Meanwhile, the Evil Management at my then-Newspaper job (the Willapa Harbor Herald, Raymond, Wash.; look them up & complain 12 years late, they'll just ignore you -- that's what they always did with ME when I worked there) hatches a plot 2 destroy my life:
Late Fri aft, the Evil Editor tells the rest of us Lowlife Minions that he was told by the Clueless Publisher 2 go photograph the local highschool Prom, 25 miles up the road in Aberdeen, on Sat nite. But Ed sez even tho he's gonna B right down the street at WalMart while the Prom's goin on, he's not gonna bother stoppin in 4 pictures of the Prom Royalty, & he's gonna tell Clueless Pub 2 Pound It.
We cheer. Ed's not such a bad guy sometimes.
Fast-forward 2 Sat aft, I'm getting ready 4 my Big Date. Phone rings. Ed sez there's bn a change of plans. I've now bn assigned 2 photoize the Prom.
Ed knows I have no car, no $$$, no way 2 get there. What he doesn't know is I have a date the same nite. So I tell him this. Can't he find NE1 else? Some1 with a CAR? He's gonna B 5 mins down the road at WalMart with his family -- can't he just pop in 4 a few quick photos?
"No," he sez. "YOU do it, or else you're fired."
I take a deep breath. This has bn building 4 months. It's all a conspiracy 2 get me 2 quit. The writing's on the wall. No matter how good a reporter I am, I'm 2 big a pain in the ass 2 deal with, & they don't know how 2 get rid of me. I won't quit -- they'll havta fire me.
I dive in. The phone conversation quickly descends in2 screaming & threats, all by me. Ed hangs up. I scream some more, then call Clueless Pub.
Can I at least use the Company Van so I can GET 2 the Prom? "No," he sez, "find out some other way to get there."
What the Hell am I sposta do? WALK?
"Cover it, or you're fired."
More screaming & threats, also all by me. Pub hangs up.
My daughter -- a very mature 9 years old at the time, who has chosen 2 spend the weekend with me rather than go see her Mother 4 the weekend on Fri -- has heard me screaming in2 the phone 4 the past 15 mins. She wonders if maybe I've lost it. I reassure her: I HAVE.
There's only 1 thing 2 do. We sit on the couch & wait 4 my date, who's already en route 2 my house. This is going 2 B an intresting evening....
My date -- I can't remember her name, but let's call her Trudy -- arrives within the hour. She's a fairly attractive blonde, pleasant & friendly -- & with a pair of breasts approximately the size of New Jersey. (Thank you, David Steinberg....)
She takes a seat on the couch & I make my pitch: If she doesn't mind hauling me 25 miles up the road to Aberdeen so I can take a few quick photos at the Prom, then we can go out 2 dinner afterward. We can talk on the way there. She can get 2 know my charming daughter -- who I wasn't Xpecting 2 have home for the weekend. I know it looks like a total disaster, but we might B able 2 salvage a nice nite from it if she can forgive me & bear with me.
I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd told me 2 Stick It. But Ghod bless her, she said Sure, Why Not?, I Didn't Have Anything Else Planned Anyway.... & other nice things people say when they're stuck in an Mbarrassing no-win situation.
So we hit the road & talk along the way. She's really nice. She laughs at all my bad jokes. She banters with my daughter. I start thinking I may B on2 Something Good here.
But I'm wrong. The disaster is still ahead.
We arrive. The ballroom is PACKED. It's DARK. There's a TON of highschool kids here. I leave Trudy & my daughter on a bench near the door & promise I won't take long.
I'm lying.
It's REALLY DARK. When I look in2 the camera, I can't C what I'm pointing it at. & this lame, primitive early-model digital camera won't focus or shoot without enuf lite. I hang from the ceiling, I pose in lighted doorways, I perch behind spotlites -- there isn't enuf lite in the ballroom 4 me 2 shoot. The flash on the camera won't even kick-in 2 help me lite things up, the room is so friggin dark.
I blow what seems like 2 hrs trying 2 get 1 decent shot. Finally, they announce the Prom Royalty & I drag them outside under some of the ballroom's outside-walkway lites 2 have enuf lite overhead 2 get some faces in focus. I take 1/2adozen awful, poorly-lit, posed photos & realize that's the best I'm gonna get. By then it's nearly 11 pm.
Me, my daughter & Trudy stumble out of the ballroom & set off 2 try 2 find a late dinner. I've learned that in the 2 hrs I've bn hanging from fixtures & begging highschool kids 2 B patient & give me some room, Trudy & my daughter have gotten 2 know each other pretty well. Wish I could say the same....
I am stunned 2 find there's NOTHING still open in Aberdeen. McDonald's is closing down, they won't even serve us up 3 measly cheeseburgers. A really good Oriental-food buffet closed at 10 -- there is NOTHING left.
We all heave a sigh -- my daughter is starting 2 get tired & cranky -- & Trudy drives us back home. It's really quiet in the car on the way back. I don't see how the evening could get any worse.
In the driveway, I let my daughter in2 the house, then turn back 2 the car. "I'm really sorry about this," I begin....
"It's OK," Trudy sez. "It wasn't that bad. I had a good time. You're funny, and your daughter's an angel."
"You're lying," I say. "At least about SOME of it. But will you forgive me? Can we try this again when I don't have to work?"
"Sure," she sez, & smiles. & I think: Maybe this isn't such a disaster after all.
"I'll call you," she sez. & she drives away.
Monday: Trudy hasn't called, of course. I'm angry, the photos I wasted a date 4 look like crap, & nobody at work will talk 2 me -- until my & Trudy's Mutual Friend comes in & stares at me.
"Man, what happened?!" she sez. "You really F'd that one up! Trudy says don't bother to call her -- she's not interested in seeing you again. She says there was no 'spark' there at all."
Yeah, This Just In. No Suprises Here. She was a really nice taxi service, tho....

(This post is 4 Allison, who nudged me....)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

#539: Wanted -- More meltdown guitar!

I 1st heard Minnesota jazz-rock guitarist Steve Tibbetts in 1980 in The Musicworks' old Capitol Blvd. store in Boise, Idaho -- a barn-sized former Odyssey Records store that was huge enough to hold a football game in, complete with 50,000 fans.
Cranked-up, Tibbetts' homemade album YR shook the walls. Especially the amazing opening track, a GORGEOUS heavy-guitar instrumental called "Ur" that is still my all-time favorite speaker-melting rock instrumental. Beautiful, delicate opening tune, fast-fingered dramatic complications, thunderstorm-like walls of feedback -- if Tibbetts was THAT good all the time he'd B a retired bazillionaire by now.
The rest of YR, Tibbetts' 2nd homemade album, was a little mellower -- gorgeous electric & acoustic gtr work, vaguely Indian or oriental-sounding instrumentals, beautiful washes of sound, & great percussion work by Tibbetts' buddy Marc Anderson. & practically every track hadda memorable tune.
YR was re-released by ECM a few years later -- if you're a jazz-rock gtr fan you oughta track it down, you won't B sorry. But don't Xpect a heavy metal masterpiece, cos Tibbetts only really rocked out that 1 time. I've bn Waiting For More ever since.
A few years back I found a cheap copy of 1 of Steve's later ECM albums, SAFE JOURNEY, which opened nicely with the sustained rumble of "Test" -- which leans toward heaviness but never quite gets there. It won't melt your speakers, it's just sorta a distant echo of "Ur." The resta the album was REALLY quiet, including a 10-minute closer I can't remember a note of.
Finally thot I'd found Steve's ultimate "heavy" album when I read the reviews of THE FALL OF US ALL (1994), which was where Steve reportedly answered the calls of his dozen-or-so fans worldwide who've bn waiting 4 him 2 Crank It Up. (His earlier EXPLODED VIEW is also sposta B loud & is On The Way 2 me....)
The fans were right -- THE FALL OF US ALL does start out loud. But unfortunately it gets quieter as it goes....
The opener, "Dzogchen Punks," makes it sound like heavy fans R gonna B rewarded at last -- opening with swirling, screeching gtr feedback & trance-like drums. Then lotsa lite atmospherics, like outtakes from the gentler parts of YR. The tune turns vaguely oriental, with some distant thunder followed by torrential congas & percussion from old buddy Marc Anderson.
"Full Moon Dogs" adds wordless vocals & some very nice, gentle, melodic acoustic gtr. Later on Steve goes electric & there's lots of droning & then the percussion takes over. Anderson, Tibbetts, Mike Olson on Linn drums, & Marcus Wise on tabla really get a workout on these 1st 2 trax. A little more TUNEAGE would B nice, but the trax R LOUD & ACTIVE, so I've got no real complaints. ... But then there's some "ohhh, chaa" chanting, followed by some torrential drumming that resolves in2 a lite, chanted relaxed-breath finale.
"Nyemma" adds more wordless female vocals & pounding congas. It's very tribal-sounding. "Formless" (nice description of all of these pieces, actually) has more delicate acoustic with added big bell sounds. Again, it's vaguely Indian-sounding (as in India). "Roam and Spy" has lotsa nice screechy, spacey feedback with more ongoing relentless percussion.
"Hellbound Train" has a nice mix of electric & acoustic with the constant percussion. Anderson really keeps the beat going -- he musta beaten his hands 2 death on the congas. His drumming is really the bed over which Tibbetts launches his arcs & drones. They oughta B co-billed.
"All for Nothing" has some nice fleet-fingered acoustic. "Fade Away" opens with forceful electric gtr over a booming, ominous background. Then the acoustic duets with the tabla -- more delicate, oriental sounds. "Drinking Lesson" is low-key & kinda sleepy. "Burnt Offerings" has some almost bell-like tones coming from the acoustic. Tibbetts sounds like he's almost playing a saw by the end.
"Travel Alone" has more oriental bell-like tones -- possibly a marimba? There's some atmospheric loudness, but then it devolves in2 "typewriter music" -- the marimba (or whatever) & congas playing in unison.
Overall, this is nice atmospheric stuff that starts loud & unfortunately gets mostly sleepier as it goes. You'll have pleasant dreams, but that wasn't what I was looking 4. Unlike SAFE JOURNEY, this album WILL hold your attn. I'll probly even play it again 2morrow....
But there isn't a single memorable melody on the whole album. If it was all LOUD enuf, I wouldn't care about that, but....
I'll hang on2 it, but this was not the meltdown-gtr album of my dreams. Maybe the next 1...?

Monday, March 19, 2012

#538: This week's work

...which, of course, has very little 2 do with My Job....
Along with My Usual Overplayed Oldies, this week's playlist at work included:

Aaron Copland/Eduardo Mata/Dallas Symphony Orchestra -- El Salon Mexico; Rodeo: Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Saturday Night Waltz, Hoedown.
Bee Gees -- Spirits Having Flown.
Martika -- Toy Soldiers.
The Church -- Under the Milky Way.
Bangles -- Glitter Years, I'll Set You Free, A Hazy Shade of Winter, Going Down to Liverpool.
Human League -- Human.
Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper -- Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child.
King Crimson -- The Great Deceiver, Lament.
Stories -- Darling, Love is in Motion, Circles, Words, Please Please, What Comes After.
Rollers -- Hello and Welcome Home, I Was Eleven, Stoned Houses #2, Washington's Birthday.
Shoes -- Tomorrow Night, Too Late, In My Arms Again, Now and Then, Every Girl, Three Times, I Don't Wanna Hear It.
Split Enz -- Hard Act to Follow, History Never Repeats, Albert of India.
Joni Mitchell -- Raised on Robbery.
Strawberry Alarm Clock -- Incense and Peppermints.
Camel -- City Life, Drafted, Never Let Go, West Berlin, Mother Road, Breathless, Echoes, Unevensong, Ice, Sasquatch, Manic, A Heart's Desire/End Peace.
Nick Drake -- Hazey Jane II.
Steely Dan -- Third World Man, Pretzel Logic, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Deacon Blues, Josie.
Caravan -- Place of My Own.
Tricia Yearwood -- She's in Love With the Boy, Woman Walk the Line.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Downtown Train, This Shirt, Passionate Kisses, You Win Again, Middle Ground, The Hard Way.
Brenda Russell -- Piano in the Dark.
Sly and the Family Stone -- I Wanna Take You Higher, Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin.
Simon and Garfunkel -- Keep the Customer Satisfied, The Only Living Boy in New York.
Ramones -- I Just Wanna Have Something to Do.
Sex Pistols -- God Save the Queen.
Celine Dion -- Nothing's Broken but My Heart.
XTC -- Senses Working Overtime.
Icehouse -- Icehouse, Can't Help Myself, We Can Get Together.
FM -- Phasors on Stun, One O'Clock Tomorrow, Journey.
Byrds -- Ballad of Easy Rider, I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better.
Spirit -- I Got a Line on You.
Beatles -- Rock and Roll Music, Slow Down, Got to Get You into My Life, Tomorrow Never Knows, Oh! Darling.
Grateful Dead -- Uncle John's Band, Passenger, Terrapin Station.
Fairport Convention etc. -- Bridge Over the River Ash, I'll Keep it With Mine, My Girl the Month of May, Million Dollar Bash, The Way I Feel, Learning the Game, Tale in Hard Time, Come All Ye, Listen Listen, Meet on the Ledge.
Spider -- New Romance (It's a Mystery), Burning Love, Shady Lady, Everything is Alright, Crossfire.
Renaissance -- Rajah Khan.
Troggs -- Love is All Around.
Deodato -- Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001).
Tears for Fears -- The Working Hour.
'Til Tuesday -- Don't Watch Me Bleed.
Gryphon -- Lament, Ethelion.
Happy the Man -- Service With a Smile.
Group 87 -- One Night Away from Day.
Alan Parsons Project -- The Gold Bug.
Boston -- Hitch a Ride, Used to Bad News, It's Easy, A Man I'll Never Be.
Cyndi Lauper -- Change of Heart.
Jefferson Airplane -- Good Shepherd.
Bob Dylan -- Subterranean Homesick Blues.

What radio station anywhere offers you such a variety? Such a cross-section of musical types? Such unXpected suprises? Such a wide range of stuff? In my next life I want 2 B reincarnated as a radio station that plays nothing but Good Music 24/7.
I of course vouch 4 the high quality of the music listed above, ESPECIALLY the stuff you've never heard of.
More & more folks seem 2 B Getting It as I continue in this path of off-the-wall Musical Evangelism. Even had 1 old guy bouncing around pretty good 2 Camel's "Unevensong"! 2 women in a row told me "You always have the best music playing whenever I come in!" Ghod bless you both. On Fri & Sat, lotsa people noticed I had stuff turned up pretty loud. Made 4 a good weekend. Even Sun nite was pretty smooth. If I coulda figured out 8 years ago the positive impact some decent tunes woulda had on my work environment, I woulda bn a much happier person then, & probly a lot less run-down 2day. But there R still Good Times 2 B had....

As my other random act of kindness 4 the week, I gave a coupla dozen CD's I'd piled-up over the past coupla yrs 2 a friend who set me up with a (FINALLY) decent CD player awhile back. When he was in2 the store over the weekend he was Really Down About Life, everything was Negative. I know the feeling....
So, since he put music back in2 my life awhile back, I tossed him some CDs that have Not Worked 4 Me lately -- since altho he seemsta have lotsa good sound equipment at home, he doesn't seemta have much 2 PLAY on it.
So, lotsa stuff that got rather lukewarm reviews here over the past couple yrs now has a new home. Bye, Weather Report's BEST OF. See ya, Mahavishnu's APOCALYPSE. Animal Collective, you're outta here! Same with Television Personalities. Also the Cramps, Butthole Surfers, Gang of Four, Wire, & lotsa other stuff that I either got cheap on CD or already had duplicated on vinyl. Pretty much a complete strike-out on "take a chance" Xperimental CDs on my last trip 2 Goodwill -- they all went in2 the big bag.
I don't think I'm gonna miss NE of it 2 much. & my friend said NE of it he doesn't like can B passed on2 a friend of his who's Into The Weird. I don't think NE of it's gonna go 2 waste.
Heard NE good NEW sounds lately?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#537: Toenail-clippin' music!

...or, if you prefer, Yet Another Jazz Moment....

Kansas -- Can I Tell You?, Journey from Mariabronn.

Mahavishnu Orchestra -- APOCALYPSE: Power of Love, Vision is a Naked Sword, Smile of the Beyond, Wings of Karma, Hymn to Him.
Weather Report -- 8:30/LIVE: Black Market, Teen Town, A Remark You Made, Slang, In a Silent Way, Birdland, Thanks for the Memory, Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz medley, 8:30....

Kansas's "Can I Tell You?" almost sounds like there R saxes in it -- that's the keyboards mixed with the violin. There R some Xtremely fast unison keyboard/guitar/violin riffs, but the vocals R kinda rough, & the lyrics R nothing much.
However, "Journey from Mariabronn" is The Great Forgotten Kansas Song. A bit over-arranged & show-offy, a bit mock-operatic, it also has sections of great beauty & drive, & it rocks. At almost 8 mins, it's actually 2 short. Right up there with "Miracles Out of Nowhere" & "Song for America," 4 me. It's from the band's 1st album (1974), & is included on NE decent Kansas best-of. These 2 R from THE MUSIC OF KANSAS.

I've tried 2 look at the Mahavishnu Orchestra as King Crimson Without The Tunes, but it hasn't helped much. APOCALYPSE is a later version of the Orch, with Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, Narada Michael Walden on drums, Gayle Moran on keybs & vocs, & the London Symphony Orchestra on strings. George Martin produced. I figured: Big guitars, big orch, big production, could B kinda cosmic, right? Well, it's a little cosmic. In places. Mostly it's just ick.
"Power of Love" is an OK opener, but it's not jazz -- more like a soundtrack; very sweet, gentle, lyrical acoustic gtr with strings.
"Vision is a Naked Sword" opens ominously. THIS is more like it, the kind of loud thrashing you'd Xpect from HahaMissedYou, but the thrashing is done by the orchestra. It's almost Happy-the-Man-ish sounding in places -- heavy on the keybs & percs, tho there's not much of a tune. Walden's drumming is a little 2 impressed with itself. John McLaughlin's gtr is solid & nimble, not overbearing.
Then comes a definitely soundtrack-y orchestral break near the end -- it's OK but kinda schlocky, & you've heard the tune B4: it sounds like 1 of those shifting, elemental riffs off the 1st 2 MO albums, "Awakening," say, or "Resolution." There shoulda bn more of this....
Gayle Moran sings on "Smile of the Beyond" -- in an operatic style, unfortunately. THIS is REALLY soundtracky. & schlocky. & where's the guitar? ...Finally, 4 mins in, it goes mostly instrumental Xcept 4 a vocal chorus. McLaughlin does summa his trademarked lightning-fast runs ... under the chorus. Why'd they havta mess-up perfectly good playing with SINGING, huh? Toward the end, Ponty's violin gives McL's gtr a run 4 the money, but it's brief.
The orchestral opening of "Wings of Karma" reminded me vaguely of "Peter and the Wolf." Then more soundtrack -- nice, but it's not jazz. ... A coupla mins in, the jazzers take over. This section sounds a little like David Sancious -- heavy on the keybs & gtr. Then the orchestra returns 4 a subdued ending.
"Hymn to Him" is a monster -- 19 mins! There's some firey gtr work around 7 mins in, followed by some twinkly, cocktail-lounge keybs from Moran. Ponty has some OK moments. Later on it sounds like the old lightning-fast Maha with the orchestra thrown-in. There shoulda bn more of THIS, 2.
Overall, disappointing. It's not bad, it's kinda pretty in places thanx 2 the orch, some of it's OK mood music, but it's still a soundtrack. & where's McLaughlin's huge, crashing riffs & earthshaking drama? I didn't like the MO's 1st 2 albums THAT much, now I'm gonna havta go back 2 'em.
& why is there a guy with a flute depicted on the cover? There's no flute solo-featured in the music. Shouldn't it have bn a guy with a guitar? Or a violin?
The album's liner notes mention ELP's "unconsciously kitschy" versions of classics.... Well, THIS is kitschy 4 sure, & there's very little power on display here. 1 4 the trade-off pile....

Coming 2 Weather Report's 8:30 live album is a relief. WR didn't have NE trouble turning it up 2 play live, & Joe Zawinul's keyboards make everything sound like it's gonna turn in2 "Boogie Woogie Waltz" -- & that's a GOOD thing.
"Black Market" is an upbeat, rockin' opening with some nice honking from saxist Wayne Shorter & some intresting thunder in the background. The late Jaco Pastorius's "Teen Town" is a nice workout, screaming fast by the end. If there's gonna B live electric jazz-rock, it should sound like these 2 trax.
"A Remark You Made" is a nice mellow ballad with lotsa nice blowing from Shorter -- tho Zawinul's keybs sound like they've got a headcold. Pastorius's "Slang" is basically a bass solo, & is as boring as those usually R, tho Jaco had fast fingers & the piece picks up rhythm & funkiness a coupla mins in.
"In a Silent Way" is a pretty, barely-recognizable version of the tune Zawinul wrote 4 Miles Davis. Very pretty sax from Shorter. I made lunch during "Birdland" cos I knew I wouldn't miss much -- but it DOES swing a bit, & it's less schlocky than the original studio version. "Thanks for the Memory" is another Xcuse 4 Shorter 2 blow the roof off the place, & he does -- solo.
The whole album's worth it 4 the "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley, which is still the same brilliant screaming monster I thot it was when I 1st heard it 4 yrs ago. Far as I know, this is the best thing these guys ever did. Rock & prog fans should love it.
This creature shifts gears & picks up speed at least 4 times as a very definite, vividly visual story is told in a way the original studio track absolutely DOES NOT: A guy who's late 4 work runs breathless 4 his subway train as his wife hollers "honey-do" reminders out the apartment window at him ... Then he catches the train, which -- just his luck -- starts barrelling downtown at top speed, out of control ... See the stations & lites flashing by in a blur? This baby is NOT gonna stop....
The last 3 mins of this thing absolutely SCREAMS: It's impossible not 2 tap your foot or bounce around the room with the rhythm, even tho you know The Big Crash is coming. ... & when it comes at the end, the train sprawls in a steaming, wrecked heap across the stage.... Crank it up, it's freakin awesome.
On the studio side, "8:30" itself fades in on a radio Bing tuned. Zawinul's keyboard sounds like an accordion. This is less impressive than the live trax, kinda moody & washy....

COMING SOON: More Of That Jazz....

Friday, March 16, 2012

#536: Things haven't changed much....

Checked-in over the last coupla days with an old friend, a book I hadn't re-read since 1983. & it showed me that no matter how high-tech we R now, TV news hasn't changed much.
I 1st read Michael Arlen's LIVING ROOM WAR (1969/1982) in journalism school, when I was researching how the media covers the military 4 a "term paper" I hadta write. Arlen's book shows clearly that TV news never got much of a handle on the Vietnam war, & we still don't really know What The Hell Happened. Maybe somehow we didn't WANT 2 know, cos we keep making the same kinds of mistakes in Iraq & Afghanistan. (Michael Herr's Vietnam-era psychedelic/autobiographical masterpiece DISPATCHES  was my other research book -- I'll probly B re-reading it next.)
Arlen points out that TV news is VERY good on details. Where they mess up is the overview -- showing what all the little pieces added-2gether MEAN. TV news is still messing up in that area.
When I 1st read the book, mosta the political stuff went right over my head. This time around, I noticed Arlen's amusing look at "media consultants" (who have bn advising politicians about TV at least since the Kennedy/Nixon debates in 1960), which brot him 2 the conclusion that with the help of these high-tech advisers, "even someone like a movie actor could be elected president."
Hahahahaha. Pretty funny, right? & this is B4 Arlen even MENTIONS then-Calif Gov Ronald Reagan....
I know what you're thinking. This book sounds awfully dated. & it is, a bit. But just substitute current names 4 those Arlen uses, & the critiques still work.
Bsides, as Arlen points out, as the use of TV consultants grew, presidential candidates worried more & more about creating an "image" that voters could latch onto, something like a "real person" they could relate 2.
& as a result, Issues were talked about less & less.
& of course this is still happening.
When was the last time your favorite news outlet talked about Issues surrounding the current presidential campaign?
When was the last time you heard CNN talk about how the Republican presidential candidates plan 2 put 14 million unemployed Americans back 2 work?
It's bn MONTHS.
CNN & other daily news organizations R more locked-in2 who won the latest primary, & which candidate said something stupid this week.
Have you seen or heard NE news broadcast discuss the economy or jobs in-depth in terms of the presidential race lately? Have you heard them outline Mitt Romney's jobs plan? Or Rick Santorum's? Or Newt Gingrich's?
No. & do you know why? Because -- at least 4 the purposes of TV news -- they don't HAVE any plans. Look 'em up. I did. It's just rhetoric. The only thing all 3 agree on is tax cuts 4 the rich, under the assumption that the Xtra $$$ will create new jobs. Tho there's nothing in the current economic climate 2 guarantee that'll happen.
& if the rich corporation-owners Dcide 2 keep their Xtra tax $$$, then what?
Obama's no better. Even when he comes up with a jobs proposal, his own party in Congress stonewalls him.
As long as Congress remains a joke, it doesn't matter WHO's president. Nothing's going 2 change much. Americans should stop Xpecting their president 2 somehow "save" them or rescue them -- that sorta feeling was what got Obama elected in the 1st place. & tho I thot he had some good ideas, none of them have come thru in the way he'd hoped. The only thing left is his rather good speech-making abilities....
I would LOVE 2 C CNN or some other network sit down with the candidates & talk IN DETAIL about their plans 4 the future -- apart from winning whatever the next primary-state is. Talk about fixing the economy, putting people back 2 work, fixing Social Security & Medicare, keeping gas & food prices down, making it so people don't havta squeeze every dollar til it screams.
But TV news doesn't do that -- it's 2 busy focusing on Herman Cain's women problems, or Rick Perry's senior moment, or Mitt Romney's inability 2 connect with 1/2 of his own party.
& we all lose. TV news should take the chance 2 B BORING in order 2 do the public good. If the upcoming presidential election really is that important -- & 14 million unemployed people should make it the most important election we've had in awhile -- our media owes it 2 us 2 get us as well-informed as possible. Not just 2 discuss 4 days who's most likely 2 win Ohio....
...Oh, Arlen's book? It's the best, most detailed, most passionate, sometimes most angry book of TV criticism since Harlan Ellison's THE GLASS TEAT. There's even some laffs in it.
There's even a Romney in this book....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#535: What I'm on about 2

Some people drink 2 manage their stress. Some people smoke. I just turn the music up louder.
At work, keeping some music on -- NE music, whether it's the radio or homemade tapes or loaned CD's -- keeps me moving, keeps me motivated, keeps me happy. It works WAY better than a good cup of coffee or hot chocolate. & if I'm stressin cos it's busy & I can't keep up or people R grumpin at me or I've pissed some1 off, I just turn the music up a little louder, & most of the time it all goes away. & all my work gets done. I get thru another nite enjoyably. & I'm another step closer 2 payday.
It doesn't ALWAYS work. Sat nite, 4 some reason, it didn't: Thru the early part of the evening I was playing PET SOUNDS & a homemade late-'60s Beach Boys Best-Of. & tho it's all great stuff & I still love it, most of it didn't keep me going in the usual fashion. Great music, just the wrong environment.
As soon as I switched 2 something else, the magic kicked back in, & I was bouncing around & laffing & joking & dancing a little in addition 2 getting my work done -- & not minding summa the draggier aspects of my job.
Tho it wasn't the best work week ever, it was OK. Least I GOT a job. & I know people can tell when I'm in a good mood, when I'm not letting things bother me, when summa the downsides of the job R'NT getting hold of me. When the music's playing, I'm nicer, friendlier, less stressed, feel less rushed. The bad stuff just floats away. & the evening goes by in a blur. A good 1. & I'm not stressin.
NEthing that gets me thru work with a minimum of stress has gotta B a Good Thing.
+ there R bonuses.
In the past week, I've turned-on people who've Xpressed intrest 2 music like Wigwam's "Bless Your Lucky Stars," Grateful Dead's "Passenger," Golden Earring's "Snot Love in Spain," Sandy Denny and Fotheringay's "The Way I Feel," Pentangle's "Light Flight," & The Mamas and the Papas' "Twelve Thirty."
I usedta B a little Mbarrassed about playing summa my favorite music in-public, worried that the 1st person 2 say "This sucks" is gonna crush me. But now I don't care. I don't care if they hear me howling along with Cyndi Lauper's "When You Were Mine" or Paula Abdul's "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" or Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Or Bread's "Been Too Long on the Road." I just don't care. Cos I know what works 4 me, what keeps me motivated, what makes me a better, nicer worker, a nicer person 2 deal with & B around.
+ I'm doing my part 4 the good of my neighbors. If I'm not stressing or freaking out or screaming at work thanx 2 the music I play, that's gotta B good. + if some1 else likes this stuff & I can help them track it down, that's gotta B good 2, right?
There's gotta B people all over the country doing this, but I've never heard about them or read their blogs.
As is, I'm now taking a large overnite-bag full of cassettes with me 2 work every day 2 keep me going. & tho I sometimes play my favorite Old Stand-By's, I'm adding stuff all the time. This week I added Fairport Convention & their various offshoots. Last week it was Bread -- even summa their softer stuff rocks pretty good. While back I tried out Camel & Pat Metheny. & nobody's complained yet.
Haven't tried NE King Crimson yet, I don't think. Might B worth seeing what "Frame By Frame" or "Sleepless" or even "The Great Deceiver" might do 2 an unsuspecting audience. Should probly try-out some Caravan & Gryphon & Gentle Giant, 2. Hang on a minute....
-- OK, there, tossed in the bag. I'll B back at it on Weds, inflicting off-the-wall music on unsuspecting members of the American public. The job pays the bills. The Xtras -- turning people on 2 new music, or just getting them 2 relax & talk a little -- gives my life meaning.

There'll B Yet Another Jazz Moment coming up eventually, hopefully including work by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Miles Davis, David Sancious and Tone, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Return to Forever, & possibly more.
I've also bn trying 2 get in2 a supposed jazz-reporting classic, A.B. Spellman's FOUR LIVES IN THE BE-BOP BUSINESS (1966/1985), but am finding it rough going. Spellman's whole point seems 2 B how hard the jazzman's life is -- or was, in the mid-'60s. Well, duh. Especially if the performer's music is "difficult." So hard is the jazzman's life that 1 of the subjects of Spellman's book -- composer/pianist Herbie Nichols -- died B4 the book was published. Parts of it R valuable -- there R long reminiscences from the 4 subjects, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean & Nichols -- but a lot of it so far seemsta B just dead-obvious. Possibly more on this later.
Oh BTW, Philip Larkin's ALL WHAT JAZZ? (which I mentioned last time) is a lotta fun if you Njoy snarky putdowns of jazz stars. Sometimes I do. Mainly what it shows is how much Larkin missed Louis Armstrong/Duke Ellington/Benny Goodman/Glenn Miller-era jazz. It also illustrates at great length Larkin's theory that the more "modern" jazz Bcame, the closer it got 2 pure noise. Sometimes his illustrations of this theory R hilarious -- as when he calls Miles Davis "the Charles Addams of the trumpet -- without the humor, of course," or his description of a side of John Coltrane's MEDITATIONS as "the most astounding piece of ugliness I have ever heard." If this sounds like fun 2 you, go 2 it -- but make sure you get it cheap.

1 of R Regulars came in2 the store Sun nite & laffed: "I have relatives in the house -- I need more WINE!" Then she asked how 2 get unwanted relatives 2 leave -- I said putting on & cranking up David Sancious and Tone's TRANSFORMATION: THE SPEED OF LOVE always worked 4 me -- even tho I loved it, within 5 mins the strange & abrupt twists & turns of this keyboard-based mid-'70s jazz-rock would have my unwanted guests glancing at their watches & looking 4 the door. I also suggested later Coltrane & NEthing by Coleman. She wondered about Barry Manilow or Barry White. "Well, it's gotta B a sure thing," I said. "Just make sure your guests don't get the wrong idea...."

Friday, March 9, 2012

#534: Another Jazz Moment....

Due 2 circumstances Byond my control, this isn't quite as BIG a Jazz Moment as I'd hoped, but more stuff is in the works as time & energy permit. 4 now, however....

Gong -- Mystic Sister, Magik Brother, Mister Long Shank/O Mother I Am Your Fantasy....

Thelonious Monk -- UNDERGROUND (expanded CD): Thelonious, Ugly Beauty, Raise Four, Boo Boo's Birthday, Easy Street, Green Chimneys, In Walked Bud, Ugly Beauty take 4, Boo Boo's Birthday take 2, Thelonious take 3.
Sun Ra -- THE FUTURISTIC SOUNDS OF....: Bassism, Of Sounds and Something Else, What's That?, Where is Tomorrow?, The Beginning, China Gates, New Day....

PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ, Richard Cook & Brian Morton.
Philip Larkin: ALL WHAT JAZZ?

Still not sure about Gong. Spacey & jazzy, but often 2 silly 4 me. "Mystic Sister" features Gilly Smith's giggly, gasping voice doing nothing much. Daevid Allen takes over on "Magik Brother," which is much lighter than their later stuff, almost folky. Didier Mahlerbe's distinctive flute & sax is already part of the early mix. But it all turns 2 silly psychedelic mush with "Mister Long Shank." Their later stuff works better 4 me. From ABSOLUTELY THE BEST OF....
Now then. Like John Coltrane's GIANT STEPS, Thelonious Monk's UNDERGROUND is 1 of my fave jazz-blowing albums of all time. I've loved it ever since I found a beat-up vinyl copy of the record in a 2nd-hand store In The Middle Of Nowhere in Wyoming. & Blieve me, there is NO jazz in Wyoming.
2 me, UNDERGROUND just conjures up jazz blowing sessions in smoky out-of-the-way nearly-deserted bars that I'd probly never B caught dead in. I've read some reviews that call summa the performances on this album "tired," but I've got no other Monk 2 compare it 2, so it sounds good 2 me.
I can tell you that, like GIANT STEPS, Monk's themes R memorable, & U can go YEARS Btween listenings (like I did) & still remember the tunes. I can even take the 1 track where Jon Hendricks sings ("In Walked Bud").
I love Monk's sorta "off" piano, his short, jagged phrasing -- the sorta off-kilter or off-balance tunes that sometimes leave you Xpecting more. There's also great work by the resta the quartet -- Charlie Rouse's bright sax, the beautifully-picked-up brush-work by Ben Riley, & Larry Gales' solid bass.
4 me, "Thelonius" is the best thing here, but "Ugly Beauty"'s a close 2nd. On "In Walked Bud," Hendricks' scat-singing of his impromptu lyrics sometimes sounds like another horn. It doesn't much matter what words he's singing. It might B better 2 hear a sax playing that melody line, but the vocal does contribute something Xtra.
The 3 bonus trax R nice but not earthshakingly diffrent from the originals. All the trax R un-edited vs. the original 1968 album which trimmed sevral trax 2 fit on2 vinyl. Summa the pieces run 13 mins.
Now then, the spacey stuff! Or not. Sun Ra's FUTURISTIC SOUNDS is a CD re-release of (what I assume is) a mid-2-late-'60s album originally on Savoy -- Tom Wilson produced.
But here's the thing: Gong is stranger.
"Bassism" has some nice flute from Marshall Allen, & later some nice unison saxes from Allen, John Gilmore & Pat Patrick. "Of Sounds and Something Else" has a swingin' big band sound! The horns mix it up a lot more on "What's That?" Ra also glides all over the piano, but it's not what I would call "spacey."
The trax R SHORT. Not sure what's so "futuristic" or Out There here. This is almost like Monk, but with lots more horns.
"The Beginning" is a little more abstract -- a nice percussion workout with flute & sax coming in later -- vaguely Indian-sounding. "China Gates" has an OK bass vocal, some nice atmosphere with bells & shakers & Ra's lite-oriental piano theme. "New Day" has more nice atmospherics & Patrick's Xcellent baritone sax. Gilmore & Allen join in later. This is also vaguely Indian/African, & there's some nice propulsive rhythms....
Tho time ran out 4 me on this, I'll B returning 2 it. There's nothing stunning here, but there's some nice blowing & atmosphere. Thot Ra was Out There a bit...?

Have also bn trying 2 get in2 some books on jazz. The ALL MUSIC GUIDE TO JAZZ is a huge 1,400-pg monster (nearly as big as their ROCK guide), chock-full of reviews, which is of course why I bot it -- but just a touch thin on personalities & histories of the musicians -- which led me back 2 Richard Cook & Brian Morton's superb PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ, which not only has reviews, but also has great stories about the jazz giants + some really Xcellent writing. They have some Issues with jazz-rock, but then so do I, so....
THE ROLLING STONE JAZZ GUIDE is a thinly-Xpanded version of the jazz reviews originally printed in their original red RS RECORD GUIDE (1979) -- thin & disappointing, but at least it was cheap.
Philip Larkin's ALL WHAT JAZZ? is a collection of jazz reviews he wrote 4 London's DAILY TELEGRAPH Btween 1961 & '71. It just arrived 2day & I've barely had a chance 2 sniff at it. But the 1st thing I read was a vicious & hilarious piece on the death of John Coltrane that -- not suprisingly -- went unpublished at the time it was written. Looks like Larkin doesn't much like Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, or Ornette Coleman, either. & since I enjoy direct, brutal criticism in summa my weaker moments, this could B a lotta fun. Is Larkin the kinda guy hipsters useta call "moldy figs" back in the '40s & '50s? He's hilarious, tho a bit of a stick in the mud. More soon....

Coming next: Yet Another Jazz Moment, featuring Mahavishnu Orchestra's APOCALYPSE & others, Miles Davis's IN A SILENT WAY, Weather Report's 8:30/LIVE, Keith Jarrett's EYES OF THE HEART & others, David Sancious and Tone, Return to Forever, etc etc etc....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

#533: Gettin' in tune....

Slightly-off-the-wall music-therapy continues at my job, & I think a good number of my customers R finally starting 2 Get It. Along with all my usual overplayed oldies hits, recent nites' playlists have included....

Todd Rundgren -- Dust in the Wind, I Saw the Light, Intro/Breathless, The Night the Carousel Burned Down, Saving Grace, Real Man, You Make Me Crazy, The Very Last Time, Song of the Viking, A Dream Goes on Forever, We Gotta Get You a Woman, Just One Victory, Couldn't I Just Tell You?, Bang the Drum All Day.
Carlene Carter -- Little Love Letter #1, Every Little Thing, Sweet Meant to Be, Little Love Letter #2, Heart is Right.
Brewer and Shipley -- One Toke Over the Line.
Christie -- Yellow River.
Jeff Lynne -- Every Little Thing.
Bruce Springsteen -- Rosalita.
Go-Go's -- Head Over Heels, You Thought, Forget That Day, Capture the Light, I'm With You.
Bangles -- If She Knew What She Wants, Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love, Not Like You, Manic Monday, In a Different Light, Walk Like an Egyptian, Return Post, Hero Takes a Fall, Dover Beach, Going Down to Liverpool, Everything I Wanted.
Kate Bush -- This Woman's Work.
Pat Metheny -- Praise, The Search.
Van Morrison -- Caravan, Into the Mystic, Wild Night.
Neil Diamond -- Crunchy Granola Suite, Holly Holy, Soolaimon.
Gordon Lightfoot -- High and Dry, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Summer Side of Life.
Bob Dylan -- One of Us Must Know.
Billy Joel -- All for Leyna, Traveling Prayer.
Jefferson Starship -- Find Your Way Back, All Nite Long, Fading Lady Light, Freedom at Point Zero, Save Your Love.
Blue Oyster Cult -- Astronomy (IMAGINOS version).
Dion -- Ruby Baby.
Chicago -- Critic's Choice, In Terms of Two.
Donovan -- Season of the Witch.
Fleetwood Mac -- The Green Manalishi.
Donna Summer -- I Love You, Heaven Knows.
Stones -- Worried About You, Waiting on a Friend.
Elton -- (Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket, Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Teacher I Need You.
Dave Clark Five -- Catch Us if You Can, Any Way You Want It.
Crabby Appleton -- Go Back.
Beach Boys -- Trombone Dixie, Let's Go Away for Awhile, The Trader.
Boston -- My Destination, Can'tcha Say/Still in Love, Hollyann.
Pete Townshend -- Give Blood, A Little is Enough, North Country Girl, Prelude, Face Dances Part 2, Slit Skirts.
Waterboys -- A Life of Sundays.
Paul McCrane -- Dogs in the Yard.
Stories -- Darling, Love is in Motion, Hey France, Changes Have Begun, Top of the City, Circles, Words, Believe Me, Please Please, What Comes After.
Rollers -- Hello and Welcome Home, I Was Eleven, Stoned Houses #2, Washington's Birthday.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Passionate Kisses, This Shirt.
Tricia Yearwood -- Wrong Side of Memphis.
B.J. Thomas -- Rock and Roll Lullabye.
Poco -- A Good Feeling to Know, Here We Go Again.
Queen -- Need Your Loving Tonight, I'm in Love With My Car, You're My Best Friend, '39, It's Late.
Linda Ronstadt -- Party Girl, How Do I Make You?, I Can't Let Go, Talking in the Dark.
Barbra Streisand (with Fanny) -- Stoney End.
Supertramp -- From Now On.
Steve Winwood -- Valerie.
John Lennon -- Stand By Me.
Bowie -- Suffragette City.
Roxy Music -- Over You, Same Old Scene, The Thrill of it All.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- For You, Heart on the Street, Stranded.
The Who -- Daily Records.
Tommy James & the Shondells -- Ball of Fire.
Genesis -- Like it or Not.
Rare Earth -- Under God's Light.
Bread -- Let Your Love Go, Look What You've Done, Truckin', Guitar Man, Been Too Long on the Road, Everything I Own, It Don't Matter to Me, Mother Freedom, Down on My Knees, Too Much Love.
.38 Special -- Caught Up in You, Chain Lightning.
Cyndi Lauper -- Money Changes Everything, When You Were Mine.
Bonnie Raitt -- I Can't Make You Love Me.
Paula Abdul -- Blowing Kisses in the Wind.
Travis Tritt -- T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
EnVogue -- Free Your Mind.
Boz Scaggs -- You've Got Some Imagination.
Journey -- Spaceman.
Bob Seger -- Feel Like a Number.
Cars -- Dangerous Type.
Heart -- Mistral Wind.
Clannad -- In Fortune's Hand.
Foreigner -- Do What You Like, Rev on the Red Line.
Crack the Sky -- Lighten Up McGraw (live).
Bram Tchaikovsky -- Let's Dance.
Jim Croce -- It Doesn't Have to be That Way.
Deborah Allen -- Baby I Lied.
Love -- You Set the Scene.
Albert Hammond -- I'm a Train, Names Tags Numbers and Labels.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur, Three Primates, You and It.
Glass Moon -- Solsbury Hill.
REO -- Roll With the Changes, Blazing Your Own Trail Again.
ELO -- Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be.
Wigwam -- Bless Your Lucky Stars, Kite, Do or Die, Simple Human Kindness.
The Pop -- Go!
Golden Earring -- Snot Love in Spain.
Three Dog Night -- My Impersonal Life.
Suzanne Vega -- Small Blue Thing.
Pentangle -- Light Flight.
Jane Wiedlin -- Rush Hour.
Traffic -- Glad.
Mark Knopfler -- Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero).
Dream Academy -- Life in a Northern Town.
'Til Tuesday -- Maybe Monday.
Tracey Chapman -- Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution.
Joni Mitchell -- Coyote.
Byrds -- I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better.
Rush -- Show Don't Tell, Manhattan Project, Time Stand Still.
Monkees -- Porpoise Song, Tapioca Tundra.

I of course vouch 4 the mostly high quality of all the stuff listed above -- & ESPECIALLY the stuff you've never heard B4.
...Most of this went down pretty well. A lot of my customers seem suprised that I'm now rocking out EVERY NITE after about 8 pm. It sure keeps me happier, & energized so I keep movin' & get my work done. Works WAY better than a strong cuppa coffee. & it's probly healthier, 2. Seemsta make my customers happier, 2....
Don't remember much about specific responses -- it was a busy week -- but I remember 1 woman telling me I "always have the most awesome music playing" whenever she comes in2 the store -- thanx 4 that -- & I remember having 2 Xplain that "Life in a Northern Town" was my son's Favorite Song In The World when he was 2. & I remember a young couple saying they enjoyed Manfred Mann's Earth Band (I think it was), even tho the music was older than THEY were.... 1 woman said she was "trippin' out" 2 hear Bread's "Guitar Man" again: "I think the last time I heard it I was about 17 years old, drivin' down the road ... probably smokin' a joint...."
That's about all I remember. This shoddy handling of incoming data isn't gonna do my federal grant application NE good....

Mike Zwerin's CLOSE ENOUGH FOR JAZZ (1983) is an often-hilarious memoir by a jazz-trombonist & VILLAGE VOICE columnist who toured Russia in the '60s with Earl "Fatha" Hines, played alongside Eric Dolphy in Orchestra USA in the early '60s, & tried 2 masquerade as a steel-company president until he realized he was turning his back on his True Calling.
When I 1st got the book & saw Zwerin was gonna open with his (brief) steel-company Xperience, I paged idly thru the resta the book looking 4 something 2 grab me, & the 1st sentence I read in full made me laff out loud. Oddly, this sentence was about 1nce seeing jazz-saxophone legend Charlie Parker throwing up in a gutter. Zwerin immediately adds: "I was 16, anything Bird did was all right with me."
If you're a big jazz fan, I'd urge you 2 start on pg. 169, with 1 of a series of pieces about touring Europe with various bands. These write-ups Rn't all fun&games, tho they mostly R -- but Zwerin's recounting of the Russian tour is pretty grim, & politics plays in2 it heavily.
Europe clearly appealed 2 Zwerin -- he moved 2 France the day Richard Nixon was inaugurated, & was still there when this book was published in '83. That doesn't keep him from looking at the worldwide jazz scene, or from going all the way back 2 the invention of the saxophone in 1840.
Zwerin has a very funny, punchy writing style with a good handle on the Jazz Attitude. The book is full of hilarious jazz stories, + recounts his Xperiences as the VOICE's jazz columnist -- a gig that didn't work out quite the way either party Xpected.
Zwerin sez the VOICE kept pushing him 4 more "hard news" -- the features & profiles that make up this book prove he was on 2 The Right Stuff. ...& it's not all about jazz: 1 long section near the Nd gets Xtremely personal (marriage problems, affairs, etc.), & even offers some tips 4 Growing Old Gracefully, tips I can use.
From his 1st tour of the South with Claude Thornhill's band in the late '50s (all the band's members may have been nuts), thru a stint with Maynard Ferguson's blaring jazz band, 2 his later adventures in France, this is mostly hilarious stuff. There's a great-but-2-short chapter on the uselessness of jazz critics. + there's 8 bonus profiles or "tags" that close the book, & some of them (Chet Baker, Elvin Jones, John Cage, Jaco Pastorius, Sun Ra, ECM Records chief Manfred Eicher) R brilliant jazz-writing miniatures.
Wouldn't have minded if it'd bn 2wice as long. Worth tracking down....

Also read most of Philip Harbottle's VULTURES OF THE VOID: THE LEGACY (2011), which I thot was a history of bottom-dwelling British pulp-science-fiction publishers of the '40s, '50s & '60s. & there is SOME of that. But mostly the book (which I'm pretty-sure is self-published) is a reminiscence about Harbottle's lifelong efforts 2 get forgotten British SF writers like John Russell Fearn back in2 print. There's also an Xcellent LONG chapter about Harbottle's adventures editing the British SF magazine VISION OF TOMORROW at the end of the '60s.
There R neat insights from SF writer E.C. Tubb & others. & tho I'd hoped 4 lots more dirt on low-level British SF publishers like Curtis Warren -- companies that had writers cranking-out 120-pg novels in 2 weeks for $60! For YEARS! -- there is unfortunately not enuf of this.
This is an intresting book about a lost time-period in British SF, & some of Harbottle's memories about The England That Was R pretty neat. But I think you'd havta B a pretty hard-core SF fan 2 get much enjoyment out of it....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#532: A Jazz Moment

Most acoustic "Real Thing" jazz goes right thru me. Most electric jazz-rock sounds like noise 2 me. So this should be fun....

Florence + The Machine -- Only if for a Night, Shake it Out.

John Coltrane -- GIANT STEPS: Giant Steps, Cousin Mary, Countdown, Spiral, Syeeda's Song Flute, Naima, Mr. P.C.
Weather Report -- Birdland, Mysterious Traveler, Boogie Woogie Waltz, The Elders, Night Passage, Freezing Fire, A Remark You Made; Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz (live).
Miles Davis -- KIND OF BLUE: So What?, Freddy Freeloader, Blue in Green, All Blues, Flamenco Sketches.
John Coltrane -- A LOVE SUPREME: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, Psalm.

In case you missed my previous raves, Florence's "Shake it Out" is still the best thing I've heard in years. "Only if for a Night" gets better with each listening, 2....
Now then, Coltrane's GIANT STEPS is 1 of my favorite jazz-blowing albums ever, right up there with Thelonious Monk's UNDERGROUND. It's got great, memorable themes & lotsa activity; I love Coltrane's sax & Art Taylor's breezy drumming, & just the SOUND of the thing. It's not 2 heavy, & it makes great waking-up music. Not much more 2 say, Xcept that you can go YEARS Btween listenings & still remember the themes -- I know, Bcos I DID. "Giant Steps" is probly the most memorable track here -- but as they say, it's all good.
Weather Report. Hmmm. Wish I could like them more. The "live" version of "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" on their 8:30 album is an absolute screaming monster -- I put it on as a comparison against the 1st 7 above-listed trax on WR's BEST OF. NE rock or prog-rock fan would probly love the live track, which is probly the best thing these guys ever did, near as I can tell. In the studio, well....
"Birdland" sounds like a TV game-show theme, but it DOES build up some bouncy drive. I still think Manhattan Transfer's vocal version is marginally better. It should just HIT HARDER, & it doesn't.
"Mysterious Traveler" ... is mysterious. "Boogie Woogie Waltz" bubbles & simmers 4 a LONG time -- almost 9 mins -- B4 it gets where it wants 2 go, but the beat is unstoppable & tough 2 ignore. These guys R at their best when saxist Wayne Shorter is screaming & keybsguy Joe Zawinul's massed machines R burbling away. But there's no big finish here. This just sounds like a blueprint 4 the screaming live version.
"The Elders" is a little eerie & inconclusive. "Night Passage" features an almost big-band horn sound. "A Remark You Made" has some nice soaring sax. But overall, all this stuff is 2 lite & airy, not heavy enuf. It should HIT HARDER. Check out the live album instead, you'll have no complaints....
As I said, most acoustic "Real Jazz" leaves me cold, I miss the electricity. But Miles' KIND OF BLUE also makes 4 good waking-up music. "So What?" has nice bass work from Paul Chambers & good sax from Coltrane & Cannonball Adderley. The horns jump right out at you. There's also swinging backup from Chambers & drummer Jimmy Cobb.
"Freddie Freeloader" has swinging Xtroverted piano from Wynton Kelly, & Miles plays more here. There's more nice sax from Adderley & Coltrane, & the brief theme statement at the end with all 3 horns blending 2gether is really nice.
I should note that my only previous Xperiences with Miles R the moody IN A SILENT WAY, the unlistenable LIVE/EVIL, & the rather nice AURA. I'm tempted 2 say the rock&roll influence didn't do Miles much good, but mayB I've just heard the wrong stuff. KIND OF BLUE is much more open & approachable than the later electric stuff -- that's probly why it's a jazz classic, right?
"Blue in Green" has Miles on muted trumpet in a very quiet duet with pianist Bill Evans. Moody late-nite jazz. "All Blues" starts swinging about 4 or 5 mins in -- after 11-1/2 mins it still seems like it gets cut off 2 short.
The closing "Flamenco Sketches" is hushed & beautiful, & again the horns jump right out at you. 9-1/2 mins seems 2 short....
Onward. Coltrane's A LOVE SUPREME is VERY diffrent from GIANT STEPS. It's WAY noisier & a LOT more active. Elvin Jones's drumming is all over the place on "Acknowledgement." So is Coltrane. Sometimes he screeches. & I LIKE the chanting by the members of the quartet.
"Resolution" is amazingly active, with Coltrane SCREAMING & Jones all over the drum kit. 7-1/2 mins of this seems awfully short.
"Pursuance" opens with a torrential 90-second drum solo from Jones, a brief statement from Trane, & then FINALLY some nice McCoy Tyner piano -- he's bn in the background 4 the whole 1st 1/2 of the album. Jones is still all over the place. These guys R FEROCIOUS -- like they've got energy 2 BURN. Certainly they didn't need NE electric instruments 2 get their point across. There's another brief solo from Jones, then a rather Indian-sounding bass solo from Jimmy Garrison -- a chance 4 everybody else 2 take a breather?
"Psalm" has lotsa hushed drama ... that doesn't really lead 2 a big finish. This is more like letting out a deep breath, a sense of resolution & not-quite-calm at the end.
It's gonna take me a few more listenings, but I can see why this was acclaimed as a jazz classic -- even if it's just 4 Jones' amazing drumming....

COMING SOON: Another Jazz Moment....