Archive for the ‘Dagoberto Gilb’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BRANDEE YOUNGER-“Hortense” (Field Recordings, June 6, 2013).

I had never heard of anyone playing jazz harp before.  At first I thought that it was just going to be harp music with an upright bass giving it a jazzy feel, but no.  Younger is playing a beautiful lead melody on the harp while Dezron Douglas’ upright bass adds a real boho jazz element.  Basically, this is in no way new age harp music.

But this Field Recording [Brandee Younger: Taxidermy, Two-Headed Skeletons And Jazz Harp] seems to get more than a little distracted by its surroundings.  And who can blame the filmers?

Among the vestment racks, satchel purveyors and art galleries of New York’s SoHo neighborhood lies a small merchant unlike its neighbors. It’s called The Evolution Store, and it peddles, um, natural-history collectibles. You know, preserved insects, taxidermy, skulls and bones, remnants of marine creatures. It’s as if a museum ran out of space and started putting its sloths and tarantulas in the gift shop.

We’re not quite sure what any of this has to do with Brandee Younger [who doesn’t know a sloth when she sees one], though she is a rare breed in her world: a jazz harpist.

A bit more about Younger:

She’s classically trained, and plays her share of freelance and wedding gigs — in her C.V. are recordings for rappers Common and Drake — but like predecessors Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, she’s also developed a way to improvise and truly groove on the harp.

I really enjoy the minimalism of this piece.  I am quite fond of the harp. So I’m intrigued to read:

With a full band, the song heard here, “Hortense,” takes on a distinct Caribbean bounce, a one-drop reggae beat anchoring Dezron Douglas’ bass line. Stripped down to a duo, it wafts and glides, all arpeggios and plucked wires.

I’m not sure I would enjoy the full band version as much, so I’m glad I got this one–bizarre as the surroundings may be.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Willows Village”

This is the story of Guillermo, call him Billy, who has moved to Santa Ana to live with his Aunt Maggy.  Billy has a wife and a child in El Paso, but he doesn’t have a job and he thought he could move to a more wealthy part of the country, get a job and send a lot of money home to his family.  His Aunt Maggy is his mother’s sister and while he has heard a lot of gossip about her, he will still ask for the favor of her hospitality.

He hasn’t seen her in years and he is surprised at how good she looks–she’s actually pretty hot, which he finds disturbing but true.  And she welcomes him with open arms.  She gives him a room and whatever food or drink he wants.

Maggy proves to be quite the character  She drinks.  A lot.  She has a ton of money–when she opens her purse to pay a delivery guy, money just falls out of it.  And she seems to eat one bite  of food and store the rest in the fridge, until it spoils.

She tells Billy that Lorena is also staying with her.  She is a good friend and has been having marital trouble, so Maggy put her up in the guest room.  She put Billy–Guillermo she will call him–in her “playroom,” a pink room with dolls and make up boxes and photos.  It was weird. (more…)

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At last, a Beatles album that I knew from start to finish.  And here it is, another soundtrack album.  This disc is the first that starts to really embrace the diversity that The Beatles were capable of.

The title track starts out with the fairly shocking screams of “Help!” but it settles nicely into a poppy Beatles track.  Of course, I’ve yet to see the film of Help, so I don’t know how these songs fit in the movie. But as with A Hard Day’s Night, the first half of the songs were in the movie and the second half were not.  And somehow I’m surprised that “Act Naturally” (one of their funnier songs, even if they didn’t write it themselves) was not in the film.

Their other cover, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” is probably my least favorite track (I just don’t like their cover choices).  But by then, the disc has well proven itself to be fantastic.

This also leads me to my first “huh?” moment with Beatles lyrics.  I have never understood “Ticket to Ride.” “She’s got a ticket to ride and she don’t care.”  Okay.  Why should I care, then?  I suppose the verses reveal more of the story, but from a chorus point of view, that’s a head scratcher.

To me, this is where The Beatles became THE BEATLES.

Oh, and did you know the semaphore doesn’t actually spell “HELP”?  They were going to do that, but the photographer didn’t like the way those semaphore letters looked.  So, he created this arrangement, which spells “NUJV.”

[READ: May 25, 2010] “please, thank you”

This story is written from the point of view of a stroke victim.  Mr Sanchez had a stroke and is hospitalized.  And we see him watching, unable to communicate, frustrated as people–nurses and others–hover around him, asking questions, turning on lights when he’s trying to sleep, and–the nerve–speaking to him in Spanish as if that was why he didn’t answer.

As the story progresses, we watch Mr Sanchez get stronger, go to therapy, feel better about himself and even, kind of, become friendly with the nurses and others who work in the hospital.

The story is basically that simple: regrowth after a stroke.  However, the writing style–the first person narrative–was absolutely compelling.  I enjoyed that the story was from his point of view, so we learned details as he felt they were worth revealing.  I enjoyed slowly learning more about his family.  And I really enjoyed learning why the story was written with no capital letters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BEATLES-Please Please Me (1963).

I was never a big fan of the Beatles.  I think I was too young for them.  By the time I got into music, the Beatles were passe.  I’ve always enjoyed the later psychedelic stuff, but that “rock n’ roll” stuff was never my thing.

Sarah on the other hand was a huge Beatles fan.  HUGE!  When the remastered discs came out I got Sarah all of them over a few different holidays.  And, I thought it would be worth it for me to see what this Fab Four was all about.

The first thing I noticed about this disc was how many songs I didn’t know on it!  Now, I was fairly certain that I knew every Beatles song.  I mean, I’ve listened to classic rock radio since I was about 10, so how could I not have heard every Beatles song?  But in this disc, I did not know: “Misery,” “Chains,” “Boys” (how could I never have heard Ringo’s first ever vocal attempt?), and “A Taste of Honey.”  Shocking.

I’m still not a huge fan of this period, although after listening to the disc a few times I do see what the fuss is about (the liner notes also helped contextualize for me).  For some reason, I really don’t like the harmonica sound on a number of tracks (“Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”).

But having said that, “Please Please Me” is a really great song–the harmonies are tremendous.  And the liner notes led me to understand that this style of pop/rock n’ roll was fairly new to audiences back in 1963.  Contextually, “Twist and Shout” must have sounded like Metallica to them.  John is screaming his head off, the ah’s (in 4 part harmony) with John’s high pitched scream must have had people running in fear.  Even now, 47 years later, that song still packs a wallop.

And, man was George funny looking back then.

[READ: May 5, 2010] “Uncle Rock”

This very short story started out simply enough: Erick’s mother is clearly very hot, and she gets hit on, like, all the time.  Since his mom is single, she considers many of these suitors, and if he is dressed sufficiently well, she will even accept his request for a date.

Erick is 11 and doesn’t speak to the suitors.  He doesn’t give a reason for this (his mother says it’s because he doesn’t speak English so well, but that’s not true).   Over the course of the story, we learn that Erick’s mom has dated quite a diverse group of men, and in many ways Erick has benefited from their largesse.

It is only when we meet her new boyfriend, Roque (known as Uncle Rock) that Erick’s life appears to settle down, and the story shifts dramatically. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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