Random Shuffle – 08/30/06

This week my excuse isn’t forgetfullness, but rather being out of town with a super slow internet connection. I wrote most of it out on Monday, but there wasn’t a chance I would be able to upload the pictures on a 33.3 k connection.

b000007q8j01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” – Lucinda Williams
From Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Lucinda has a voice that is country, earthy, sad, and beautiful all at the same time. She writes lonely songs about country roads, failed love and all the pain and hurt that makes up a life. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the album, is about as perfect as an album can be. There simply isn’t a bad song on it.

The song is just exactly the kind of song I love. It has jangly guitars, a nice little rhythm section to it, it is country without being too country, it rocks without really being rock and has a great sing-along little chorus.

If it was socially acceptable, my wife wouldn’t kill me, and my God damn me, I’d take Lucinda Williams as my mistress and make her sing this song to me.

b000089rv501_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg“Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings” Lucinda Williams
From 05/16/03

Originally this is off of Lucinda’s World Without Tears album, and album I have never found myself getting into all that much. There are some good songs there for sure, but overall it never really catches me, not like Car Wheels anyways.

Upon listening to this live version I may have to reconsider the whole album again. The bootleg itself is exceptionally good, which is tremendous considering the other Lucinda boots I own sound like crap. A terrible thing, in my opinion, to get a bootleg of an awesome live artist only to be let down by the sound quality.

This is the show closer of that boot, and I get a couple of minutes worth of crowd noise before, presumably, she comes out for the encore. An interesting thing that comes from listening to a bootleg that is still on the computer in a random order. You get every note and every pause.

b000002hki01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg“May This Be Love” – Emmylou Harris
From Wrecking Ball.

Emmylou Harris has a gorgeous, moving voice, but to be honest many of her songs leave me with little impression. Which is doubly strange when I consider that she does convey a great deal of emotion in her songs. They just don’t tend to stick with me.

This is from her second album, I believe, with producer Daniel Lanois. There are lots of his trade mark ethereal sounds throughout, but to be honest once again, most of the album doesn’t leave a mark.

Take this song for instance, it is four minutes of guitar fuzz and Emmylou singing what must surely be a great, tragic song, but while listening I keep wondering when it will end. It is moving in its own little way, and perhaps if I had the head phones plugged in and a starry sky to look upon, I would be moved. But as is, it seems nice, but it is nothing I’ll remember.

b00005b50h01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg“Single Girl” – Pat Carrell
From Songcatcher

Songcatcher, the movie always seemed like a way to cash in on the whole O Brother, Where Art Thou? buzz. The soundtrack carries a number of lovely songs, and a number of irritatingly country songs.

“Single Girl” is a funny, very country little ditty that reminds me of both my grandma and a lady who tells stories on the local radio station on Saturday mornings. At just over a minute it isn’t much more than a snippet, but one that sticks with me.

b000002or201_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg“Rainy Night in Georgia” – Sam Moore and Conway Twitty
From Rhythm, Country and Blues

This is a great old, sad, soul song made famous by Book Benton. Here it is covered by Sam Moore of Sam and Dave fame and country legend Conway Twitty. It is from an album that coupled country singers with their soul singing counterparts. Mostly, it stinks but this and a version of “Aint It Funny How Time Slips Away” by Lyle Lovett and Al Green make the album worth any money you might spend.

Sam and Conway are obviously having a lot of fun singing this old song, and they even throw a little banter midway through that sounds natural and fun.

Movie Review: Unfaithfully Yours

unfa.jpgWhile trying to explain the type of film we were about to watch to my in-laws, my wife said it was a Rex Harrison film. I immediately began thinking that I would explain that it was a Preston Sturges film, starring Rex Harrison. Not really much difference there, when you think about it, especially since the in-laws have probably never heard of Preston Sturges, not being much for film watching.

It’s not that they are opposed to film, but rather they don’t ever go to watch movies, being too expensive, or read up on them, or study weekend grosses or any such thing. They don’t really go to rent them either. They are just not that type of folk. They are pretty simple, country folk, and don’t get caught up in those things.

I mean they still watch regular TV, no cable or satellite, still use the internet via a dial-up. They only have a DVD player because I bought them one, and only then because I was tired of watching the same old VHS tapes when we came down. And that’s just it, when we come down we watch movies, and they enjoy them. So, they aren’t opposed to movie watching, they just don’t go about seeking them out.

Anyways, I would have said it was a Preston Sturges film, because when I think about film I think more about directors than stars. Directors, it seems to me, have more effect on the final outcome of a film than an actor. If I had to choose, I’d go for a film with a bad actor and a great director, than a great actor and bad director. Odds are a director can elevate a bad actor’s performance, more than an actor will elevate bad direction.

This isn’t always true, especially in older films, say starring Humphrey Bogart. I might be able to tell you who directed Casablanca if I thought about it (its Michael Curtiz right?) and I know that Howard Hawks directed The Big Sleep and John Huston did the Maltese Falcon. But still all of those pictures, and pretty much everything starring Humphrey Bogart is a Bogart picture to me.

This is all a convoluted way to say that I picked up a copy of Unfaithfully Yours at the library (man you’ve got to love a public library with a massive collection of excellent films) on the basis that it was a Preston Sturges film. Really, I only know Sturges because of the Coen Brothers. Their hilarious film, O’Brother, Where Art Thou? Gets its title from Sturges film, Sullivan’s Travels. Loving the brothers Coen and wanting to see their inspiration I rented Sullivan’s Travels and found it to be beautiful.

Check, Preston Sturges is now on my list of directors to watch.

Unfaithfully Yours is an odd little picture. It’s starts out as something like a fast paced comedy in the styling of Bringing up Baby or His Girl Friday and then heads into surrealistic art territory before slipping over to a slapstick farce.

The plotting involves Rex Harrison as a celebrated English conductor , Sir Alfred De Carter, living in New York with his beautiful bride. Things are going pretty well for the old man, too. He’s has fame, fortune, success at something he loves, and a beautiful woman to fawn over. Sure he must put up with his petulant brother-in-law, but he’s got his wits and they are enough to take care of him.

That is, until he finds out that when he had to take a recent trip abroad and told his brother-in-law to “look after” his wife, he was taken quite literally. The brother-in-law hired a private detective to look after the wife and the detective found out a few things. Mainly, that said wife spent some time in her negligee late one evening in Sir Alfred’s secretary’s bedroom.

This information naturally outrages Sir Alfred and moves our film into the surreal. During an evening concert Sir Alfred begins to fantasize what he will do. The camera moves into his eyeball, and into his mind.

Three fantasies of revenge, remorse and self-loathing play out during the course of three songs that the actual Sir Alfred is conducting. During the interlude between each song, the real audience goes mad as if the music performed is the best Sir Alfred has ever conducting. Giving us some commentary on the passions and art.

When the concert is over, Sir Alfred rushes home to implement his first, and most devious fantasy – that of killing his wife and framing his secretary. But all does not go as well as the fantasy and we move into the final act, which is pure slapstick.

Nothing goes right for poor Sir Alfred, he cannot find anything, breaks everything and is to inept to work a recording machine.  It is all perfectly paced and consists of the funniest parts of the movie.

In the end misunderstandings are worked out and everything becomes a happy ending.

Unfaithfully Yours is an odd little film and not for everyone, as can be seen from a fairly dismal box office at the time of its release. The ever changing tone of the film may turn some people off, but for those willing to stick it through and enjoy a film that is experimental but well made, the payoff is worth it.

Random Shuffle – 08/25/06

My only excuse for being so late on this is that I forgot.  Yeah, totally freaking forgot.

b00000294701_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v54150550_.jpg

“Kiss to Build a Dream On” – Louis Armstrong
From Sleepless in Seattle

I periodically think of myself of a great jazz lover. In fits and spurts I try to be. Back about ten years or so I was with a friend at my friend’s friends’ house and the subject went naturally to music. Well, it went natural there because I was checking out his CD collection. Music turned to jazz and I mentioned I liked Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. Condescending with a whisper he said “oh so you like vocaljazz?”

I had never thought about it like that. Isn’t jazz jazz? I had just begun to listen to the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and by that I had heard talk about their frenetic awesomeness amongst deadheads. I got the knock of vocal jazz not being real jazz and split. I have since much dug what this guy would dub real jazz, but it is a moderated digging. I whip out all that cosmic jazz once in awhile, but I can’t take in more than smaller doses.

Louis Armstrong started in the real jazz category, being a trailblazing blower, but in latter days became the unique voice singing such family hits as “Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly.” This song falls straight in that camp, being off of the soundtrack to Sleepless in Seattle of all things. It’s a darn fine song though, and one I stuck on my wedding CD.

Most days I’ll take this version of jazz over the real stuff, hands down.

b00004zdti01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v65985559_.jpg“Rainbow’s Cadillac” – Bruce Hornsby
From 11/06/98

I didn’t really get into bootleg trading until just after I graduated college. I had moved to Abilene, TX to start graduate school – start over really, as I didn’t know a soul. Actually I never really got to know many people and left after a semester. But while I was there my refuge was bootlegging.

During this time Bruce Hornsby played a long run at Yoshi’s in Oakland California to promote his album, Spirit Trail. The tour was highlighted by guitar work from Steve Kimock, and a couple of guest spots from Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. This was one of the few performances Lesh had given since Jerry Garcia’s death a few years back and really marked his return to music.

This run came out on tape quickly and with a fantastic sound quality. In those days we were still using analog tapes and the sound quality often degenerated quickly through each generation of recording (unlike CDs where you can get an exact copy of the music, with analog the quality of a recording digressed every time you recorded it). This was an amazing thing to me to have so much high quality music so quickly after it had been performed.

Now that I’ve moved to the CD world and almost everything is high quality, such recordings are no longer rare. In fact I’ve only got a couple of these shows on CD and the tapes have long since been given away. But it still brings fond memories. Some of the only ones from that small chunk of time I spent in Texas.

It’s a great performance too. “Rainbow’s Cadillac” is one of Bruce’s finest songs, and an excellent jamming song done live. He pretty much nails the sucker. The sound is great and there is an energy at these shows that this was a new Bruce. Great stuff folks.

b0002l581i01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg “Can’t Stand Me Now” – Libertines
From the Libertines

Peter Doherty, lead singer f the Libertines, and now Babyshambles, is a pretty danged good musician/songwriter but has so thoroughly screwed up his life that it’s all kinds of sad. We don’t hear much about him on this side of the ocean, but in England he’s all sorts of tabloid fodder, what with the heroin addiction, the multiple arrests, and his off and on relationship with Kate Moss.

The Libertines were an excellent British, indie rock outfit, that broke up in, well, tabloid fodder. This is a really great upbeat, heavy drum, pop song. Maybe that’s not very indie rock of them, but a good pop song is a good pop song. And 9 times out of 10 I’ll take a good pop song over a great classical, or jazz, or obscure rock song.

b000000w5n01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg “Dead Flowers” The Rolling Stones
From Sticky Fingers

The first time I ever heard this song was through a live performance by Townes Van Zandt over the closing credits of The Big Lebowski. I hunted the song down and eventually got the Rolling Stones album. Yeah, I know I’m a little behind on the Stones, but I’m slowly catching up with them.

Great freaking song. What more can be said? One of my all time favorites. It’s a favorite daydream to learn to play this song (when I learn to play an instrument) and please the crowd (for of course I’ll make it big as a musician) when I whip it out.

b000005b0u01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v50802577_.jpg “Turn On Your Lovelight” – Blues Brothers
From Blues Brothers 2000

This is an old blues number, but I know it mainly through the Grateful Dead. Pig Pen used to do these half hour rave ups to it. He’d rap along about women and drinking and whatever while the Dead freaking took off behind him. If I could go back in time I’d go back to 1968-69 San Francisco and groove to Pig taking off on this song. The tapes simply can’t do him justice.

The Blues Brothers don’t do the song justice. Man I dig the Brothers, and the original movie is a classic. The sequel had some good moments, but sorely missed John Belushi. I miss Pig Pen on this song. It’s got all kinds of cool bluesmen playing along, but it aint got no soul.

RIP Ron “Pig Pen” McKernan

Bootleg Country: REM – 06/09/84

I have somewhere around 1,000 CDs in my bootleg collection. I usually get one or two new shows a week. I simply don’t have the time to listen to all of this music. Because of this, a lot of bootlegs get lost in the cracks.

From time to time when I am fingering my way through my collection I am completely surprised by something. Either I have forgotten that I owned a certain bootleg or the music contained therein, while previously dismissed, kicks the tongue to the back of my head.

One of the great things about this series is that I am forced to look closer at music I may have previously ignored. I am a musical creature of habit. Even though I have thousands of CDs in my collection, there are maybe a few dozen that actually get any type of heavy rotation.

It’s not that I’m opposed to new music, for there is plenty of that that rolls across my eardrums every week, but for certain moods or events I have a select set of music that meets my needs. When I’m feeling sad or introspective I grab Willie Nelson’s Stardust. Or if I want something a little off kilter that makes me smile I’ll grab some Wilco. In the mood? How about Norah Jones.

This rotation changes over time. New stuff finds its way in, while other music slips away to collect dust until I rediscover it.

With Bootleg Country, I’m continually walking outside my normal musical boundaries to find something different. One of my initial goals in this series was to show the diversity that can be found in the bootleg community. It’s not just a bunch of hippie, jam-band music, but jazz, folk, punk and every other genre you can think of.

06/09/84
Capital Theatre
Passaic, NJ

My first full length memory of REM is coming out of play practice in the eighth grade. It was well into dark and I was looking for my brother amongst all the headlights. Moment later he rolled up in hi K-Car and as I opened the door “Stand” blaringly filled up the night air. I jumped in singing along at the top of my lungs.

I was not a popular kid in junior high and by singing along with such a cool song I felt that, I too, was cool. As by simply knowing the music, it’s popularity might somehow rub off on me. It was a perfect moment and I savored every minute of it.

It didn’t last, of course, the next day I went to school and I was the same pimply faced shy kid. No one had even noticed, or cared that I dug REM.

Dig I did that band, for many years. They were one of my first true musical loves and I remained faithful up until a few years ago when they become so maudlin as to nauseate.

I’ve had this show now for many months and not given it much attention. When I would see it I would skip past it feeling it wasn’t worth any more listens. Thinking about that now I’m not sure if this is because of a general distaste I have for the band, or because I have another bootleg from 1995 that’s not very good at all. Whatever the reasons, I haven’t given it a spin in a long time.

Actually listening to it now, I don’t think I ever gave it a spin. The music is completely new to me, so it must have been something that was acquired and immediately put into my collection.

What a shame because the music contained here is as fresh and vital as it must have been when it was originally performed some 22 years ago. Wow, if that doesn’t make me feel old.

This is a band on a mission; they are on fire playing like Greek Gods before the Vestal Virgins. This is well before they become the biggest rock band on the planet, and a few years before “alternative” became an overused buzz word. This is indie rock at its finest.

They open with a sweet cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” which isn’t as pretty as the Velvet’s version but a lot more tight than REM’s drunken version on Dead Letter Office. Anytime you hear a band cover the Velvet’s first thing, you know you’re in for a good night.

Like a lot of early REM, the music is heavy on the lower end, and light on the high end levels. Mike Mill’s bass trudges, and thumps along like a Chihuahua on sugar tablets, while Peter Buck’s guitar slithers like a snake. Michael Stipe’s vocals are as muddled as ever, but it all assimilates into a growling, beautiful piece of rock music.

Highlights include a howling “Hyena” that reverberates into my jowls and“Gardening at Night” for the ages.

It is a great bootleg, and one that I’m knocked out to have found again, for the first time.

First Sign of the Apocalypse: Jessica Simpson Makes Britney Spears Look Like an Intelligent Mommy

jessica-simpson-picsBackstage at her hosting gig at the Teen Choice Awards, Jessica Simpson innocently asked a heavily pregnant Britney Spears if she could kiss her belly.

“Hell no!” was Britney’s reply. Simpson is said to have been “really insulted” at the denial.

A little background on the writer here. I do not currently have any children, and have not impregnated any ladies in my lifetime. So, I can only speak as a middle aged male who has been witness to such requests upon friend’s pregnant bellies.

Cheers for freaking Britney Spears. For the love of Sidney Portier, what was Simpson thinking. If these two were the best of friend’s and they were at home, this might be an ok request, but you don’t go around kissing acquaintances’ bellies, even if they are nice and round. That’s beyond rude. And yet not all that uncommon.

From time to time friends of mine find themselves with a belly full of baby, and it is amazing to see how many complete strangers approach them asking to feel the belly (no one has had the gaul to ask for a kiss, but copping a feel is still pretty danged intimate). I mean I get the miracle of life and all, but if you don’t know the belly, stay away. Heck, even if you know the belly fairly well, don’t come knocking unless you’ve been invited.

Perhaps Simpson, feeling a little Japanese, was simply too stimulated by the pregnant belly. The belly kiss denial comes just after Tokyo censors deemed Spear’s August cover photo for Harper’s Bazaar ok to display as advertisements in the subway.

nw_gal_preggostars_introwidec.jpgThe photo, showing a nude and still heavily pregnant Spears was originally deemed too stimulating by officials. With legs crossed and arms covering her breasts, does not actually show her goodies, but officials still decided to censor the image from below her elbows. The censored image was to then have a note stating “We apologise for hiding part of a beautiful image of a mother-to-be.” That is until officials changed their minds. Finally getting it, or losing their mind after being overly stimulated, Tokyo officials announced they would allow the image as is, noting they understood the publishers intention was to display a happy mother, and not to sexually stimulate.

So, perhaps Simpson was just stimulated by the beautiful miracle of a belly and simply had to kiss it.

If you’re not buying the stimulated story, would you at least accept that Simpson was feeling a little awkward and downtrodden, and just needed a little Spears belly love? nick_lachey_150Simpson ex, Nich Lachey picked up an award at the Teen Choice ceremony for his love song, “What’s Left of Me” which is about Simpson.

The two tried hard not cross each other’s lines, but bumped into each other backstage. It is reported that they both looked at each other briefly before walking away quickly. Simpson then “freaked out” and had to be fanned by her hair dresser.

So see, there is the pressure of hosting a national awards show, an ex-husband wandering around, who can blame Jessica Simpson for wanting a little stimulating belly love? Me for one, and Britney Spears, and anyone else who has ever had a stranger ask to kiss their belly. Seriously, Jessica, the next time you see a stimulating pregnant belly, smile politely and pretend it is Nick Lachey. Oh and keep your hair dresser nearby with a fan.

TV Review: Vanished

Fox has been hyping their new mystery series Vanished for weeks. Hoping for something like 24 meets The Fugitive I forwent the conclusion of Italian maestro Dario Argento’s slasher epic Deep Red to watch.

The first episode of any series is difficult, double for an ongoing mystery series where presumably each episode will lead in the next without any loose ends being tied up until much, much later. With all of that introducing of characters and establishment of plot, it’s hard to really get into the meat of the show at first and create enough suspense to keep everyone tuned in next week.

By the midway point of the first episode of Vanished I was ready to write the show off and was missing my Italian blood bath.

We are quickly introduced to Senator Jeffrey Collins (John Allen Nelson), his wife Sara (Joanne Kelly) and son Max (John Patrick Amedori) before Sara gets a phone call and just like that, disappears. Just as fast an investigation is brought down and the poor Senator’s wife is suspected as being kidnapped.

FBI agent Graham Kelton (Gale Harold) is running the show and is, of course, as brash as he is awesome. He’s introduced with a flash back doing some type of hand off of copious amounts of cash for a small boy. A sniper shoots the bad guy but not before the boy is blown to bits by the bomb planted on his body. This is supposed to give Agent Kelton a dark, somber side and an attitude that says ‘let me do it my way’ because he didn’t actually want the sniper there, and without the sniper, the boy would have been in one piece, not a thousand.

The problem, midway, was that we’d been introduced to the characters and the core problem, but I didn’t actually care about any of them. The show rests upon the fate of Sara Collins, yet we only actually see her for about 10 seconds, not long enough to develop any emotional attachment to her. The senator and his family are more developed, but in an attempt to make everything more mysterious (and presumably to add more plot twists later on) they don’t come off too sympathetic. The agents back story was just kind of dumb, and there are so many obnoxious but genius crime fighters on TV these days it’s hard to notice one more.

“>Ah, but post midway things got more interesting. It seems young Sara was previously kidnapped 12 years ago but the media coverage is either non existent or has been covered up. She also apparently had another name as some stranger in a bar tells us after seeing her picture on the television.

gale_017_jwr_v1hi.jpgTwelve years in the past is even more mysterious as Agent Kelton uncovers the body of a woman who was also kidnapped that many years before. Her body had been frozen since then and has now been thawing in the house registered to a man who happens to own the same type of gun that shot the waiter who told Sara about her disappearing phone call.

And the body has a card on it bearing the number 9:29. The number nine was also tattooed, post mortem, on the waiter’s hand.

That’s suspense, and has me interested in next week’s show.

While not exactly 24 meets The Fugitive, it’s more like a poor man’s Lost meets Matlock, it has enough juice to make me want to turn in next week. Unless Blockbuster sends me Dario Argento’s Suspira, then all bets are off.

CD Review: Dirty Dozen Brass Band – What’s Going On

b000grtqs401_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v63027077_.jpgIt’s been a year since Hurricane Katrina blew away much of the Gulf Coast and pummeled New Orleans. There is still much work to do in the city to bring it back to its once renowned glory. To help benefit the clean up effort, New Orleans own Dirty Dozen Brass Band has released a song-for-song covering of Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On.

It is more of a reimagining than a straight cover version for they have added in fatter beats punctuated by brass horns and brought in a number of guest stars including Chuck D, Ivan Neville and G. Love.

My perceptions of this album changed during the course of the numerous listens I gave it in order to write this review. In fact I wrote a totally different review before giving the album one last spin and deciding my initial thoughts were completely wrong.

That’s an interesting side thought, actually, how perceptions of something can change over time. I’ve been writing reviews for about 18 months and periodically I’ll go through my files and check in on what I thought of a piece. Generally I agree with what I thought back then, but sometimes I’ll totally disagree with myself.

Case in point I wrote a review of the zombie spoof, Sean of the Dead and in the review I was rather unexcited about the whole thing. I didn’t give it a big jeer, but neither was I particularly enthused. Watching it again, recently, I found myself wondering how I could not have been bowled over by the hilarity within that film.

So many things can effect our consumption of an artwork, and then our own critique of that work, that a review – something set in stone for the ages – is an odd thing. Does Ebert ever go back and admit he’s wrong, I wonder.

For What’s Going On, I initially dismissed large part of it as having hip hop and rap roots. I am too old, too white, and too from Oklahoma to ever really get rap music, and it wasn’t pleasing to my ears to have rapping over one of the classics. In my reviewing minds eye, all of the songs had some kind of rapping going on over what was actually pretty good back up music.

Listening to the album again, I realized that only the first and last songs actually had rap artists laying down rhymes over the music. The rest of the album is either instrumental, or has guest artist actually singing along. Some of the beats are deep and fat, and certainly there are hip hop influences throughout, but very little actual rapping. I suspect the bookended rapping caused me to believe there was more on the album than there actually is.

So, my review changed and was updated to reflect the new reality.

Covering a well known song, little less an entire album, is a difficult task for any artists. If you stay too close to the original then critics will say it is frivolous and redundant. If you completely rearrange the song making it your own then fans will cry sacrilege and call out for the Inquisition. An artist must ride that line, staying close to what made the original a classic while still maintaining their own uniqueness in the song.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band manages to find sublime methods of doing this. Often the horns will blow out the lines normally sung, and in the case of the titular track, Chuck D raps his own lyrics, while the musicians stay on track with the melody.

The title track is where I previously spent a lot of negative energy over knocking the album. “What’s Going On” is a classic, beautiful piece of music. You can’t not like that song. In this reimagined version, Chuck D gets his rap on and throws down some hard political lines dissing the aftermath of Katrina and the US government’s response to it.

It’s not that I’m against political statements in art, or even specific words towards specific situations, it’s just that Marvin Gaye created a song that is universal. Though he was speaking about the Vietnam War and the political, racist environment of his time, his lyrics maintain a resonance to today. His statement speaks out against our current situation and will continue to speak to generations to come. I’m not sure Chuck Ds words will hold up as well.

However, what the Dirty Dozen Brass Band lay down behind the rhymes shakes me inside and out. Like their name implies they hit some brassy, dirty beats with a little Dixieland thing thrown in for fun. They aren’t afraid to lay down deep, heavy beats either, and I’m not afraid to like them.

I can see myself cranking this disk at full volume and shaking my middle-aged-white-boy heiney all night long (or at least until 10:30 which is still past my bedtime.) What’s Going On won’t make you throw out your original copy, but it stand enough on its own to find itself in party rotation or anytime you just want to groove.

Smashing Pumpkins Back in Studio

facts6bAcross the land, pumpkin patches let out a collective shudder as a reunited Smashing Pumpkins are back in the studio. The orange vegetables have hit cathedrals in record numbers praying to make it until Halloween when they’ll at least get to become jack-o-lanterns. With Billy Corgan’s track record, odds are they’ll make it on to become Thanksgiving pie.

This news, officially posted on the bands website, comes some 14 months after Corgan stunned fans by taking out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times stating his intentions of renewing the band.

At this time it is only known that front man Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain are returning to the original line up. Bassist D’arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha are still MIA and it is unclear as to whether they will join the reunited front.

Rumor has it that former Janes Addiction bassist will be joining the band, as he recently noted he has been working with Corgan for awhile now. Roy Thomas Baker, famed producer of such notable acts as Queen, The Cars and Darkness, has signed on for the recording sessions.

simp31The Pumpkins rose to fame, glory and riches in the early 90’s along side all those grungy grunge bands. They often get lumped in with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains but their music was far from grunge. Oh sure, they had loud guitars and depressing lyrics, but their music was more ethereal, creating densely layered landscapes of music. It was more of an updated version of prog rock than rain soaked flannel music.

Billy Corgan quickly took creative control of the band and they say he not only wrote most of the music for their second smash album, Siamese Dream, but essentially played most of the instruments on it too. On subsequent albums he became more and more of a control freak sending himself into depression and causing great tension with his band mates. By 2000, with D’Arcy and Chamberlain already having quit or been fired, Corgan officially disbanded the Pumpkins.

He quickly formed a new band, Zwan and disbanded it less than a year later. Feeling no love from bands, he released a solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, in 2005.

“>pumpkins.truckNo doubt the man is a prolific and talented musician, but dude, you’ve got to relinquish control once in awhile and let your mates contribute.

Man, I love the Pumpkins as much as a 90’s music loving alterna-dude can, but I’m not counting on anything stellar with the new album. I’m kinda thinking it might be another Chinese Incident à la Guns N Roses. Axl Rose has been promises that album for ten years now. Having already taken 14 months to get into the studio after he released the newspaper ad, he’s already on track with GnR.

So, go to you garden and tell your pumpkins they’ll be fine. There will be no smashing again this year.

Bootleg Country: Jimmy Cliff – 12/17/01

jimmy cliff 4Before I begin talking about Jimmy Cliff I must first admit I know none to very little about reggae music. Sure, I’ve got Bob Marley’s greatest hits package, Legend, and do dig it from time to time. That live version of “No Woman No Cry” is a marvel to hear. I’ve got a couple of other Marley bootlegs that are also quite awesome. But other than those, I’m pretty useless when it comes to Jamaican music.This is most probably because of the sheer crappiness of the non-Marley reggae music I’ve heard. Anytime I’ve heard reggae music being played on the radio or some city festival somewhere it’s all heard like generic, worthless garbage. It all has the same monotonous, rhythmic beat that makes everyone in the near vicinity move up and down like ducks on a pond. It’s just inane and annoying.

I realize that’s not particularly fair to reggae music. It would be like writing off pop music after listening to nothing but Top 40 radio, or 70’s rock from the Classic Rock stations that play the same four Led Zeppelin songs over and over again.

I only happen to have this Jimmy Cliff bootleg due to Nick Hornby’s book, High Fidelity (or maybe it was the movie) where the main character notes he would like Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” played at his funeral. I quickly found a copy of the song and came to realize he was right – that is one danged fine song to go out on.

From the single I put myself on a bootleg vine for this very recording.


12/17/01
Recher Theatre
Towson, MD
4-out-of-5-stars.gif
Coming into this bootleg I thought “Many Rivers to Cross” was the only song I knew of Jimmy Cliff, he quickly finds fault in that belief, running through a stream of familiar songs.I have multiple recordings from a series of shows in the early 90’s with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman playing “Sitting in Limbo.” I dug the song enough to include it on a Christmastime mix tape for my wife, and never even knew who wrote it. Cliff shows me who is master of that song and performs it beautifully.
Later he brings rises up for “Many Rivers to Cross” and brings it to the people on a hymn. It lifts and praises this beast called man as we journey to our final destinations. He then tears through a version of “The Harder They Come” that leaps and roars across the land.Coming but three months after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers there is both a somber and angry political tone attached to many of the songs. His song “Terror,” written specifically about those attacks, speaks out against both the acts of terror by Osama Bin Laden and the retribution from the USA. Terror, he says, comes from every side, and must end for there to be peace.

With other songs he finds hope. With “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” he’s sees the beauty in all people. Covering Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” he seems to point to a brighter future for us all.

And with that I think I’ll go back to the record bin and find some more reggae music. For if this is the sound of Jamaica I need to do some exploring.

Set List:
Samba Reggae
Sitting in Limbo
You Can Get It If You Really Want
The World Is Yours
Many Rivers To Cross
Terror
No Problems, Only Solutions
Wonderful World, Beautiful People
I Want, I Do, I Get
The Harder They Come
I Can See Clearly Now
War in Jerusalem
Black Magic
Vietnam

Music Review: Poison 20th Anniversary Remasters

Slide into your leather pants. Strap on your stiletto boots. Fray your hair out with 12 gallons of hair spray. That’s right boys, it’s hair metal time.

Hair metal, or glam metal as many like to call it, arose in the late 1970s but became the dominant form of rock music in the 1980s. Equal parts heavy metal and glam rock, hair metal ruled my school for many a year.

Mötley Crüe has been cited as the world’s first hair metal band, and certainly they brought it to the masses. With the Crüe reaching sales in the millions many bands soon followed with wild hair, more make-up than a cheap hooker, and plenty of loud cock rock oh, and power ballads.

Ah, power ballads, the way for the tough, ultra manly boy bands to show their sensitive side (for what better way to get some slutty nookie than show your feminine side – besides the mascara I mean)? I recently made a hair metal mix tape and was kind of shocked to find that the vast majority of it was made up of power ballads.

Here’s the big rockers, with the three neck guitars, the heavy riffs, the super powered machismo and the songs that I remember are the slow, sappy ones like “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” “Home Sweet Home” and “Heaven.” Mary Louise Parker, what the crap is up with that?

My favorite hair metal band has always been, and will always be, Poison. They didn’t have the cops of Mötley Crüe or the longevity of bloody mother scratchin’ Bon “wuss boy” Jovi, but they sure beat the spiked boots off of Warrant.

With the 20th anniversary of their first record, Look What the Cat Dragged In, Poision have re-released their first three albums (Look What the Cat Dragged In, Open Up and Say…Ahh!, Flesh and Blood) in souped up remastered versions with bonus tracks.

If that doesn’t make you want to tease your hair and put on heavy mascara, I don’t know what will.

The disks all sound great; this is Poison sharper and more glammed up than you’ve ever heard before.

Look What The Cat Dragged In Cover1986’s Look What the Cat Dragged in fell in the middle of the hair metal glory days. Everywhere you turned it was nothing but heavy metal and big hair. Poison maximized everything that was right about the genre. The guitars were loud, the drums were pounding, the lyrics were juvenile, and the music was all metal all the time.

You really can’t blame young men in metal bands for singing about what they want. With songs like “I Want Action” and “Talk Dirty to Me” Poison left little to the imagination in terms of what they want, and how they wanted it.

With their first album they immediately established their mastery of genre with balls out rock followed by a big power ballad du jour.

The bonus songs on the disk include two 7” singles of “I Want Action” and “I Won’t Forget You” which, honestly, I can’t tell the difference between this and the regular album cuts. There is also a electrified, hair metal cover of Jim Croce’s “Don’t Mess Around with Jim.”

Open Up CoverIn the 20 years that have passed between the release of Look What the Cat Dragged In and Open Up and Say…Ahh! the differences in those two albums have blurred significantly. I’ve been a fan of Poison since their first beats hit the Top 40, but I really can’t remember hearing Open Up and Say…Ahh! for the first time.

I remember quite fondly the heavy rotation of “Nothing But a Good Time” on MTV with it’s slave to the grind restraint dishwater beginning, but in my memory “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” and “Mama Don’t Dance” were already big hits, and they were not released until afterwards.

This is it for me. This is the cream of hair metal. Give me Open Up and Say…Ah! Along with Dr. Feelgood and you can put me on a deserted big hair island forever.

“Nothing But a Good Time” is cock rock at its finest. It’s sing-along party music and there aint nothing wrong with that. “Every Rose” is the greatest power ballad ever written, period. I mean, Brett Michaels has it tattooed on his arm, and he’d never do anything stupid.

In 9th grade a long haired chap pulled out his acoustic guitar and lipped synched himself a performance for drama class that left us all teary-eyed. You can’t do that with”When the Children Cry.”

The disk’s bonus tracks include a previously unreleased track “Living for the Minute” and an interview with Brett Michaels.

Flesh Blood CoverWhen Flesh and Bone came out in 1990 I wrote it off pretty quickly. It seemed to me like a couple of hit singles thrown in with a lot of lousy filler material. I wondered if the band wasn’t falling back on it’s hit making formula for a few numbers then just throwing together any old crap to fill out the album.

Listening to it again I can’t believe how wrong I was. This is a band at its most mature. They have grown as songwriters and musicians. The music here is more than just cock rock, it’s infused with the blues and incorporates a range of styles and musicianship.

I can see why I didn’t like it to begin with, for it is quite different from their previous outings. And different is no good to a 14 year old boy who wants to rock.

Sure the cock does peek its head out to rock here and there and especially on the hit single “Unskinny Bop,” but they also play with odd experimentation, (Strange Days of Uncle Jack), bluesy acoustic instrumentals, (Swamp Juice (Soul-O)), and Eagle-esque harmonies, (Let It Play).

Together it makes for their best album to date and a movement away from the shallow depth of hair metal and into something, if not exactly deep then a more mature musical entity.

The extra tracks include a blazing instrumental, “God Save the Queen” and a acoustic take of “Something To Believe In” with a few different lyrics.

With the re-release of their first three disks, Poison is giving their fans a better sound than they’ve ever had before, and a pristine example of why they were the kings of hair metal to those who’ve never heard them before.