Archive for the ‘Joy Williams’ Category


Drummer Viola Smith died a couple of days ago at the age of 107.  ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN (a month shy of 108). That’s pretty fascinating in itself.  But even more fascinating is that she was an amazing drummer at a time when women didn’t play drums.  And not “amazing for a woman” or anything patronizing like that, check out the video of her playing “Snake Charmer.”

Check out her drum kit, check out the speed, check out the power.  Check out the arial toms and the way she hits them without it even seeming like she is. Wow, I wish I’d heard of her sooner.

Here’s some relevant quotes from an obituary in The Guardian

Smith took up drumming as a teenager in Wisconsin, when her father assembled the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra with his eight daughters. Her showcase was “The Snake Charmer,” a jazzy arabesque with explosive drum-fills.

Because she was the sixth daughter in the family, she said, her older sisters got the strings and brass.  “My dad said, ‘Now, we need a drummer!’ Thank God, I was it.”

In 1938, Smith formed another all-female orchestra, The Coquettes, with her bass playing sister Mildred. The band moved to New York in 1942, where Smith studied under the legendary snare-drum innovator Billy Gladstone.

In the same year, as men were being drafted to war and women taking their place in factories, Viola wrote a now-famous article for Down Beat magazine, arguing for the inclusion of women in the big bands of the day.

“Many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted,” she wrote, under the title Give Girl Musicians A Break! “Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their places?

“We girls have as much stamina as men. There are many girl trumpet players, girl saxophonists and girl drummers who can stand the grind of long tours and exacting one-night stands. The girls of today are not the helpless creatures of an earlier generations.

Smith found it difficult to lead the orchestra from behind the drums, so she turned over those duties to Frances Carroll.  But at the height of her success, Smith performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb, as well as at the second inauguration for the 33rd president, Harry Truman, in 1949.

I haven’t even mentioned how good The Coquettes are.  They swing big time and this song is really fun.  The only thing worse than hearing about a great musician after they have died is realizing that there are almost no recordings of her playing.

Here’s another page from The Future Heart with lots of videos and interviews with Viola.

[READ: October 26, 2020] “Nettle”

I really enjoyed the way this story opened.  It is about Willie, who, as the story opens, is a young boy.  Willie’s teacher told the class that she would be guarding them and that “not one of them would be lost, except the one who was destined to be lost.”

When the boy told his mother what Miss Rita said, his mother replied,

That happens to be from the Bible… When people take words from the Bible and repeat them to young children, or to anyone, for that matter, they’re nuts.  Don’t pay any attention to her.”

She says that maybe when he’s older he can leave that school and go to the one his daddy went to.

He would visit his daddy often in his room. His daddy was always playing the same piece to music.  He told his daddy about a book he was reading in class. His daddy replied that he had read that same book when he was younger: rewrite the whole thing. (more…)

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302019SOUNDTRACK: BETHLEHEM STEEL-Audiotree Live, Chicago, (September 5, 2018).

a1746670660_16It’s a little disappointing that Bethlehem Steel comes from Brooklyn and not Bethlehem (it’s a terrific name).  But the name describes their sound really well–especially if you have ever been to Bethlehem.

They describe themselves as an indie/alternative rock band whose sound pivots around anger and frustration with the current political climate. The project is primarily written by lead singer/guitarist Rebecca Ryskalczyk whose aggressive, experimental sensibilities push Bethlehem Steel’s punk roots into off-kilter pop territory.

In addition to Ryskalczyk, there’s also Christina Puerto on lead guitar, Jon Gernhart on drums and Patrick Ronayne on bass.

They play six songs.  I love Audiotree sessions.  The sound is always really good.  This one is a little odd though because there’s audience applause between songs.  I think later ones did not have that.

“Finger It Out” opens with some feedback and then a some fast chords as Ryskalczyk sings.  Her voice is a little low in the mix, but it works perfectly with the music.  There’s a  quieter middle section where Puerto plays a solo.  The end is just Rebecca singing over her guitar: “if I sit still, I can feel myself dying.”

“4 Aliens” starts slower with both Ryskalczyk  and Puerto singing the lyrics in close harmony.  I love the way the bassline intertwines with the Ryskalczyk’s guitar while Puerto adds a lead line over them both.  The middle part rocks out with some great harmonies from Puerto and another solo.

“Fig” opens with a cool fast riff and then pounding chords. It rocks out and segues nicely into “Florida 2” which tweaks feedback and quiet guitar and adds in crashing chords and drums.  I love before the solo that while Ryskalczyk plays chugging guitars the drums and bass add in this off-beat thumping rhythm.  Ryskalczyk plays a solo on this one too.

“Alt Shells” opens quietly with just Ryskalczyk’s guitar and voice.  This song rocks propulsively.  I really like in the middle when everyone plays a fast crescendo and the song seems to ratchet even faster.

“Untitled Entitlement” ends the set with a cool rumbling bass that is like Pixies “Gigantic” but a little diffident. Ryskalczyk took off the guitar and recites the lyrics while Puerto generates feedback.  The chorus is wonderfully aggressive with crashing cymbals and roaring guitars.  Ryskalczyk screams the lyrics.

The song ends with her a squall of noise and Ryskalczyk screaming

I know what it feels like to have someone else feel entitled to my body.  The only people who truly made me feel uncomfortable are  middle aged white men.  The fathers of my friends.

As the feedback fades she speaks clearly, “Stop letting your sons rape your daughters.”

The last seconds are more feedback and drums as Ryskalczyk screams stop handing out free murder until she has no breath left.

It’s pretty intense.

[READ: September 28, 2019] “The Fellow”

The narrator is the assistant director of the project with the important qualification that she was not afraid of water.  The guests (called The Fellows) weren’t supposed to be afraid of water either, but some lied.

Philip was her third Fellow.  The residency came with a small house that was on the other side of a small creek.  If it flooded, the way was impassable, but it hadn’t flooded in years.

Philip arrived with a dog.  The dog had “a melancholy air.”

She asked what the dog’s name was and Philip just replied angrily, “What?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NICHOLAS PAYTON TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #801 (November 2, 2018).

I feel like the Tiny Desk hasn’t had a good old-fashioned jazz trio on in a while.  With the Nicholas Payton Trio you get drums, upright bass and Payton on organ, trumpet and sampler.

All three compositions in this set are from Payton’s 2017 album, Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. “It is often said that New Orleans is the northernmost region of the Caribbean,” says Payton on his website. “Africa is the source of all rhythms. The Afro-Caribbean Mixtape is a study of how those rhythms were dispersed by way of the Middle Passage throughout Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, then funneled through the mouthpiece of New Orleans to North America and the rest of the world.”

The first song is “Kimathi.”  I love the simplicity of the organ that he plays while the rhythmic precision of his band mates keeps the song going.  Drummer Jonathan Barber is going pretty nutty (albeit gently) on that minimal kit and bassist Ben Williams is playing nonstop.  And then around four minutes, Payton switches to trumpet, playing a melody and then echoing it on the keys.

Just to impress even more, while playing a melody on the keys, he holds a note on the trumpet for 25 seconds.

Payton dazzled the audience, simultaneously playing his trumpet and a Fender Rhodes. It’s his signature, resonant sound.  Payton’s genius virtuosity captivated both faithful fans and anyone in the NPR crowd just discovering his music for the first time.

The nine-minute song is an incredible start.  It’s followed by “Othello” a song that starts off so quietly that Barber plays the cymbals with his fingertips.  Even Payton’s trumpet feels subdued on it.

This song has vocals (from Payton) which I like less than a good instrumental.  While this seems like it would fit well in a smoky night club, it’s too slow for my tastes.

The final song “Jazz Is A Four-Letter Word,” comes from the title of a book Max Roach was working on before he passed away.  The song features samples of Roach speaking.  There’s a great bass line and gentle keys as Roach speaks.  I feel like Payton singing the title is a bit redundant since the samples are so effective (if not a little overused).

Racial constructs are notably relevant in the last tune, “Jazz Is A Four-Letter Word,” which was inspired by the autobiography of drummer and activist Max Roach. You can even hear Roach’s sampled voice, fused into the infectious groove, a narrative of black consciousness on display. Ideology aside, the music was on point and the audience couldn’t help but sing and clap as the trio took us out on a soulful rhythmic vamp.

The middle of the song is great as the tempo picks up and the bass is just walking all up and down the fret board as Payton jams along.  And although I initially dismissed Payton singing the title, the end sing-along is pretty cool.

[READ: December 10, 2018] “Chaunt”

“Chaunt,” the story tells us, is a place.  A place where there was an old chapel–more rubble than chapel now.  It was a place that Jane Click’s son Billy and his friend Jerome rode their bikes to all the time.

The boys say that the place is full of animals and not made-up animals, either.  Not an elephant or a lion or a polar bear, not exactly.  “They were waiting, but they weren’t waiting for us.”  The boys watched the animals and then the animals became motionless “but still animals.  All the animals you’d ever hope to see.”

It’s a weird story.  But it’s also a horrific story because we find out pretty early on that these two boys have been killed.  They were riding their bikes home from Chaunt and were both struck by a car.  The driver was not found at fault (which I think is impossible) because he couldn’t see them in the dusk. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE CIVIL WARS-“Kingdom Come” (Field Recordings, November 8, 2012).

I discovered The Civil Wars after they had broken up.  Which is such a shame as they make such beautiful music.

They were Joy Williams and John Paul White and

the two [had] built a gentle, harmony-rich folk-pop sound in which warm chemistry more than counteracts the tension under the music’s surface. Though not a couple themselves — each is married, and Williams just had a baby — they convey many hallmarks of a loving union, particularly in the way she stares at him sweetly as they sing.

That staring is really uncanny–she seems so happy with him.  So it is amazing that at the time of this airing

Williams and White announced that they’ve canceled all of their tour dates in response to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” This, naturally, has fueled talk of a breakup — the assurance that “our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013” doesn’t specify whether that music would be made together or separately — which is a pretty crummy development

This Field Recording [The Civil Wars: A Song Of Loyalty, Before It’s Tested] was done in (presumably) happier times — during the Sasquatch! Music Festival in George, Wash.

The pair sing in a field of grapevines.  Just as John Paul arrives, the wind picks up incredibly, almost comically.

Amazingly, given the setting, this song sounds fantastic.  I love that you can hear whistling wind faintly (it might even be cooler if the wind was a bit louder).  But you can see the grapevines (and their hair) blow as the wind picks up.  But their voices and guitar sound perfect.

This song, like every song from The Civil Wars is wonderful.  Their voices are just magical together.  Even if there’s not a lot going on musically (it’s a single guitar although the melody is great), it’s the way they loop their voices together that is just out of this world.

I love them on record, and they sound even better here–White just lets his voice soar at one point and it’s fantastic.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Back the Way You Went”

I was really puzzled by this story.  I couldn’t tell if it was one story with three parts or three separate stories.  I hoped it was three separate stories because the three pieces don’t seem to go together at all.  But at the same time, the internal parts of each story isn’t entirely coherent either.

D and F take a woman with them on a weekend getaway.   The woman’s mother recently died.  They go to a honeycomb.  Bees stream through the streets and the night.  D and F are bees too.

But they aren’t, of course.  Because the next day they ride bikes (the woman never learned and is quite bad at it).

Years later she wonders “what it was like for D and F to be thugging her around.”  Thugging?

The next paragraph is a flashback and is a good one.  But each paragraph seems to be separated from each other.  The title appears in the body.

In this part “they” go to visit Dad in a home.  He is  in a room with a man whose eyelids don’t close–doctors don’t want to touch them in case they stayed permanently closed.

One Sunday they were coming home from visiting Dad–it was no different from any other visit. but her insides had gone bleak and dangerous. She sat in the back of the taxi thinking about an art work she saw in Mexico

The title of this piece appears in this section as well.  And, again, I enjoyed the part about the art piece and I enjoyed the way her dad tells her this bon mot, but I don’t see how they connect

Trouble in Paradise
Her mother in law Verna is four feet nine.  She feels big and bestial hugging Verna.  Her own mother was also short, but otherwise unalike. She is unlike her own mother except that they both think she needs to shop for clothes because they don’t like the way she dresses.

Vera is telling stories about her best friend Mildred who died.

But the narrator is thinking back to drying dishes with her own mother.

And then the narrator snaps out of it and asks Verna a question about Mildred which she finds quite surprising.  The ending in which she mentions the filmmaker Lubitsch, is just as puzzling as all the rest f the story(ies).

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SOUNDTRACK: FEDE GRAÑA Y LOS PROLIJOS-“”El Gigante” (Field Recordings, May 5, 2015).

Fede Graña Y Los Prolijos are from Uruguay and play a stomping bluegrass (which is why this is called A Bluegrass Ditty By Way Of Uruguay).

Every year SXSW hosts a night of music from Uruguay.

Nestled between Argentina and Brazil way down on the southern tip of the Americas, Uruguay spends way too much time in the shadows of its better-known neighbors.

But a closer listen reveals something for just about everyone: rockeros, sure, but also fans of hip-hop, folk-influenced downtempo music and singer-songwriters with distinct voices and stories to tell.

With an electric bass and a small hand drum laying down the thumping rhythm and an accordion adding to the flair, the fascination comes from the very American-sounding guitar solo that introduces the song.  But once you comfortably know that this is bluegrass, it’s even more surprising when they all sing in Spanish.

After a couple of verses, there’s an accordion solo followed by an acoustic guitar solo (from the other guitarist).  There’s a slow down that seems like an ending but it’s a fake out as the song takes off once more,.

There’s some great guitar fingerwork by he singer as the song races to an end

What a fun song, although I never heard the word “Gigante” once..

[READ: January 5, 2017] “Chicken Hill”

Joy Williams’ stories never do what I expect them to do–for better and worse.

This is the story of Ruth.

It begins with Ruth going to a memorial fundrasier at the Barbed Wire, a biker bar “in a somewhat alarming part of town.”  She had donated $30 to the memorial of a boy, Hector, who has been run over by a sheriff’s deputy.

Ruth was pleased that the father was suing the sheriff–then she found out it was the boy’s fault–he had run in to traffic against the light.

The transition is a strange one: “It was probably just a coincidence that a child appeared not long after that.”  This was a girl who lived in a house nearby.  She was the daughter of a doctor and rather than introducing herself she said to Ruth “I would like to draw you in plein air.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BECKINGHAM-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I don’t know Beckingham or his main band Hey Ocean.

Beckingham says that he and Ashleigh Ball from the Hey Ocean started playing together in their early 20s.  They met Dave and formed Hey Ocean and it took off in a surprising way.

He’d always wanted to do something solo but felt he wasn’t ready and then they took time from Hey Ocean and worked on it.  But he never expected to play Massey Hall.

The show begins with “Explosion” which has a sweet vocal line and a very friendly sound with strings.  As he starts “Window Frame” they interrupt it with an interview in which he says that Hey Ocean is more around Ashleigh and her vocals while the solo stuff is more personal.  He feels a lot more exposed physically as well as with the material.

Adi’s Song is a quiet powerful ballad

Late in the evening
She starts to cry
She’d been down on her luck since summer now she’s stuck
In the longest ever winter of her life

She called the doctor
Asking for pills
To make it all seem far away like the stars in outer space
She says the feelings doesn’t hurt, she says it kills

And the salt in her tears carves a line down her cheeks
So when the drops reach her mouth, well you’ll almost believe she was smiling

Just when the light hits it right

During “Slowly” he gets the crowd to sing along “don’t it take the words from you sometimes.”

The final two songs are his biggest: “Soldier” and “Forest.”  His music is quite consistent–pretty and folkie without a lot of drama.  But these last two songs have something extra.  The bridge in “Soldier” bombs overhead / trying my best to find you / I was blind and deaf is really powerful with the strings.  “Forest” has a distinctive catchy melody up front, which a lot of these songs don’t.

He’s joined by Mike Rosen on the keyboards and a small string section Michelle Farhermann (cello) Rachael Cardiello (viola) and Kelly LeFaive (violin) and he thanks them for pulling this all together in a few days time.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Stuff”

“Stuff” is a terrible name for a story.  But this story is pretty much full of stuff, so maybe it does work here.

I’m not really sure what happened to this story because it started out so linear and interesting (a little weird, yes, but interesting) and then it turned into something else–much more weird.

Henry was in the doctor’s office.  His own doctor was not there, so he was seeing a new doctor.  This new doctor told Henry that he had lung cancer and would die soon.

Henry talked about the cigarettes he smokes–called the work sticks because they help him write. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHANCE THE RAPPER-Tiny Desk Concert #633 (July 5, 2017).

I first heard about Chance the Rapper from NPR–what Robin is talking about in the blurb below. I downloaded his free album and liked it enough.  But I didn’t think much about him beyond that.

So I was really surprised a year or sop ago to see him in a Kit Kat commercial and then to discover that he was apparently huge.  Like mega huge.  I know many people who have gone to see him with their kids, he’s that big.  I’m puzzled because his album Coloring Book is the one that came after the free one I downloaded.  How did he become famous?

Well, good for him.  He seems like a really nice guy.  He’s wonderfully calf and understated as he comes out.  He introduces everyone nicely, with special attention to the drummer, “my good friend, Stix.”

He says “I’m a big fan of the series.”  Bu then admits “I didn’t know it was actually actually in an office.”  How?  But he later mentions some performances that he likes, so maybe he just never thought about it.

The night before arriving for his Tiny Desk set, Chance performed for more than 23,000 people at Jiffy Lube Live, an outdoor theater in Bristow, VA. The sold out arena and amphitheater shows of his current tour offer a stark contrast to the first time I saw Chance in concert back in 2013. Then, he was a 19-year old upstart rapping and singing for a handful of people at a tiny club in Austin, Texas. A lot has changed since then, and quickly. Chance’s most recent mix tape, Coloring Book, was widely ranked among the best albums of 2016 (some called it a masterpiece) and featured collaborations with a cast of hip-hop luminaries, from Kanye West to Lil Wayne and T-Pain.

Maybe that’s how he got so famous.

He plays two songs.  The first is “Juke Jam.”  It’s got a cool 70s sound on the keys and some popping drums–I’m really taken with the drummer.  I didn’t notice until about half way through the song that the only instruments are the keys and a trumpet, which is pretty interesting.  Chance has an infectious smile as he raps/sings.

I didn’t love the song on first listen–it’s a little too smooth/r&b for me.  But on the second listen I rot to appreciate the words.  and how it’s kind of a sweet (but dirty) tribute to roller rinks.  I enjoyed this section:

All the kiddies stop skating
To see grown folks do, what grown folks do
When they grown and they dating

And the backing vocalists really bring it all home nicely.

Chance The Rapper knew he wanted to try a different approach for his Tiny Desk performance, so he decided to do something he said he hadn’t done in a long time. He wrote a poem. More specifically, he wrote a poem in the short time it took him to ride from his hotel in Washington, D.C. to the NPR Music offices. Calling it “The Other Side,” Chance debuted it in the middle of his remarkable set, reading from his notes written out in black marker on sheets of typing paper.

I really liked this poem.  It was real and it was funny.  He also didn’t read it in that awful coffee house style of reading that poets love these days.  And before starting, he says, “Forgive me, I haven’t written a poem in a long time.”

“I still have all the keys that are of no use to me,” he began. “They used to, though. On the other side was a mansion on a hill, complete with L.A. pools and fireplaces and a rim made specifically for people that lie about being six feet to dunk on.”

Chance didn’t get much further before he was interrupted by one of the hazards of performing in an actual, working office: a building-wide page for someone to call the mailroom. But Chance rolled with it, cracking a quick joke before starting over again.

After the announcement, he paused and said, it’s all right, I’ll start again.  Then he smiled and covered his mouth and said, “he’s like shut the fuck…no more poetry!”  He also tells everyone, “There’s humor in this poem so you can laugh at it. Unless it truly offends you.”

Chance’s poem “The Other Side” was sandwiched between an opening version of “Juke Jam” from Coloring Book and another special gift just for his Tiny Desk appearance, a moving cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1974 song “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

“They Won’t Go When I Go” (written by Stevie Wonder) is gorgeous.  He has Stevie’s vocal stylings down, but he makes them his own.  The music is really lovely-minimal and spot on.  And when the backing singers kick in, it  elevates his own singing even more.

I kind of thought he’d do more, but he really did a lot of interesting things in those 12 minutes.

As the credits roll, he says, “Give it up for Third Story.  Give it up for the Players of the Social Experiment and the beautiful Rach Jackson on vocals

Not sure which people are in which “group”. but here’s everyone: Chance The Rapper (vocals); Nico Segal (trumpet); Peter Wilkins (keys); Rachele Robinson (background vocals); Ben Lusher (background vocals); Elliot Skinner (background vocals); Richard Saunders (background vocals); Greg Landfair Jr., aka “Stix” (drums)

[READ: May 1, 2017] “My First Car”

I just don’t see the appeal of Joy Williams’ stories. This one absolutely feels like it is an excerpt and yet I am fairly certain it isn’t.  It also feels like a couple of stories wedged together, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that either.

In one part of the story, the narrator is asked by the caretaker of Mrs B’s Baby Village Day Care to look after the babies there.  She has no experience (except that she was once a baby) but agrees anyway.  Mrs B (Mr B is dead) needs to go pray for the world.

Mrs B had for some time wanted to go visit the great barrier reef.  To see it in its full bloom.  But then she found out that it was mostly dead.  She was made about that of course, so she was going to pray for the world. (more…)

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lp14SOUNDTRACK: YES-Relayer (1974).

Relayer_REMUS_spine_Layout 1After Tales, Rick Wakeman left and the band decided to get back to business.  So they made an album kind of like Close to EdgeRelayer is a dark album which didn’t quite bring the band back from the brink (even if there were only 3 songs and one was 20 minutes long).  It did sell well, though, even if there wasn’t any real radio airplay.

I happened to really like this album in college (my friend Sean introduced me to it).  And there are moments here that I think are great, but I can also see that it is not quite as user friendly as CttE.

I love the way “The Gates of Delirium” opens with guitar harmonics and some loud bashes of noise (good to see Squire and White asserting themselves again).  The lyrics come in around 2 minutes in and it’s a very sweet and interesting opening.  The guitar lines grow more complex as the song progresses.  Anderson says that it is a war song, with a prelude, a charge, a victory tune, and peace at the end, with hope for the future.  The “listen” section is quite catchy and moves along very well.

Around 5 minutes, the song changes into more of an instrumental sound (the charge, perhaps?)  A great riff begins at 8 minutes with a very heavy section (the battle?) beginning as well.  Squire takes over around 10 minutes and then the chaos befalls the song.  Anderson and White stopped by a scrap yard and bought metal car parts which were used as percussion during the song’s battle section. During the battle section, White formed a tower of the parts and pushed it over to make a crashing sound.

Patrick Moraz (who later played with the Moody Blues) took over for Rick Wakeman on this album and the difference is notable.  Moraz adds good keyboard sounds, but it is so clearly not Wakeman–there’s no flourishes or frills  (one imagines he would have added some pretty impressive things to this battle scene).

At around 13 the battle ends and a new riff comes out–uplifting but not overtly so.  Then things mellow out at around 15 minutes, with some washes of sound.  The biggest surprise comes around 16 minutes when the song turns very pretty with a slow echoey section known as the “Soon” section.  This section, which is about 5 minutes, was released as a single.

Track 2 “Sound Chaser” opens with a weird keyboard sound and then some chaotic drumming and bass (it’s loud and cool).  This is their jazz fusion song with drumming that’s all over the place and some cool riffs.  There are vocals (it’s hard to imagine them fitting vocals on to the riffage).  And then around 3 minutes the song turns into a big time guitar section with a lengthy dramatic solo and then Moraz’ keys underneath.   At 5 and a half minutes the songs mellow out an Anderson begins singing a gentle passage.  Then a little after 6 minutes the songs repeats with the chaos of the opening and that cool riff.  But this time, a noisy guitar picks up afterwards and a new riff begins and slows down until the unusual “cha cha cha/cha cha” section begins.  It’s followed by a wild keyboard solo from Moraz.

“To Be Over” opens with some more gentle notes as it slowly builds. Sitar plays over the notes.  This is a mellow track with lovely harmony vocals.  There’s an interesting slide guitar section in the middle of the song.  It shifts to a very typical Steve Howe guitar solo after that (very staccato and interesting).  By 5 and half minutes there’s big harmony vocals and then around 7 and a half minutes the song breaks into a new, catchier section, with a cool keyboard outro.

It’s not as immediate and grabbing as previous Yes albums, but I still think it’s pretty great.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.   Here we have a new keyboardist, although Wakeman would soon be back.

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Alan White (#2)-drums
Patrick Moraz (#3 replaced Rick Wakeman)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: March 24, 2015] “The Route”

I’m generally puzzled about the fiction in Lucky Peach.  It’s usually food related, which makes sense. But this one wasn’t especially.  And then at the end of the story to see that it was originally published in Escapes in 1990 just makes the whole thing seem odd.  But hey, they can publish what they want, right?

The story is about a married couple–she is a youngster and he is middle-aged.  Their marriage is poor and so they go on a road trip from New York.

Each entry in the story is about a spot and what they did that day–traveling through Connecticut and Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Until they get to North Carolina where he is bitten by a bat.

And this is evidently, fatal.

They continue on South, with this soon to be fatality proving to be an aphrodisiac.  They go through Georgia and into Florida. And they finally get to Mile 0 in Key West.

The whole story was strange and unsettling and I really didn’t get a lot out of it. It seems odd that they would bother to reprint it here.


The rest of the issue was, as usual, excellent.

There were several articles about wheat and other grains and interviews with different chefs.

But my favorite article was the one about Colonial Chocolate (and how Mars got involved).  And my second was about the Monopoly game at McDonalds which I’ve never played and had no idea was over 25 years old.

The theme of the issue is obsession, and there are obsessions about endives (pronounced ondeev) and Pizza (including the guy with the record for most pizza boxes) and so much more.

The story about a Jewish man and his love of pork was interesting, especially the part about pork roll:

She takes a bite and her eyes roll back.  Then she hands it to me.
As I dig into my first Taylor Pork Roll I realize that everything I appreciated in the ham… is more concentrated in this superior sandwich.  It’s saltier porkier and smokier and the flavor lingers on the tongue….  It’s like a ham sandwich squared.

There’s also a fascinating look at Ranch dressing and its belovedness in West Virginia.

I may not always love the stories, but Lucky Peach continues to be a great magazine.

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inxsOf the four Record Club releases, this is actually the album I like least.  And that is mostly because of my college roommate.  He believed that rock music was the devil’s music (or so he told me).  And so he only had a couple of albums.  Most of the Beatles records (amusingly enough) and, totally randomly–INXS’ Kick.  So I got sick of this really fast.  It’s nearly 25 years later, so I’m okay with the album, and I do like some of the songs again, but boy can I pick out flaws.

This recording seems a lot more causal than the other Record Club releases—the original recording bleeds in front of some of the tracks and I believe they play around with the lyrics on a few.  They also really rearrange some of the songs, making them quite different from the original.

Form the Beck/Record Club site:

Record Club No. 4 is here…! Joining in this time we had three of my favorite bands— Liars, Annie Clark and Daniel Hart from St. Vincent, Sergio Dias from the legendary Brazilian band Os Mutantes, as well as RC veteran Brian Lebarton, just back from the Charlotte Gainsbourg tour. The record covered this time was 1987 blockbuster ‘Kick’ by INXS. The record was chosen by fellow Aussie, Angus from the Liars. It was recorded in a little over 12 hours on March 3rd, 2010. It was an intense, hilarious, daunting and completely fun undertaking. Thanks to everybody for being there and putting so much into it. Many classic moments, inspired performances and occasional anarchy.

Overall, I enjoyed this release quite a bit and found St. Vincent’s contributions to be quite excellent.  I didn’t know Liars before this, but I really like his voice.

Guns In The Sky (2:21). Loud drums open the song and the synth is buzzy and noisy. Angus’ vocals are very similar to Michael Hutchence’s.
New Sensation (3:40) Begins with a poppy synth rendition (and people rapping over it), but that’s like a teaser version. The real version is quite mellow and interesting—a very slow song sung by St Vincent and Angus from Liars.
Devil Inside (5:16) This sounds very different–it’s slow and menacing with a sax section.
Need You Tonight (3:06) St Vincent on vocals—a rather sexy version.
Mediate (2:32) The intro has them talking about the words they’ll use, like “shake and bake and wake and bake.” With much giggling.  Done as a simple rap over a handclap drum
The Loved One (3:37) This sounds like a sixties song–acoustic but kind of psychedelic.
Wild Life (3:10) Slow and a little creepy.
Never Tear Us Apart (3:06) This one has strings and synths–St Vincent sings this in a very beautiful way.
Mystify (3:18) Sung well by Angus with a slow picked guitar.
Kick (3:14) This is a buzzy punky version with an aggressive feel.
Calling All Nations (3:04) Acoustic guitar played and sung by St Vincent–it sounds very much like a St Vincent song.
Tiny Daggers (3:30) This is a silly electronic ranting song that ends up lasting 12 minutes (which is about 9 minutes too long).

Overall this has a raw feel that I like better than INXS’ more polished version. And anything with Annie Clark participating is a plus.

[READ: March 14, 2014] “The Mission”

This story started out as an interesting personal drama, with a very memorable scene.  A woman is sent to prison.  She will only be there for nine days (which the other inmates hear about and which causes them to grumble).  The drama comes when the try to remove her wedding ring but cannot (they have to cut it off).

The memorable scene is the reason why she was sent to prison in the first place.  She was drunk driving and drove into a cemetary. She crashed through the fence and into several gravestones.  The arresting offer’s opening remark was “You’re lucky you didn’t kill somebody.”  After a few days, she believes she is going to be released, but her lawyer informs her that things are going to be really rough for her out there–the people whose graves she broke are super mad.  So she should just hold tight and be happy to have some freedoms in here. (more…)

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hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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