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Archive for the ‘Liars’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MELANIE CHARLES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #165 (January 4, 2021).

I had never heard of Melanie Charles and boy was I in for a treat with this being my first exposure to her.

A Brooklynite proud of her rich Haitian heritage, Charles is conscious of the giant shoulders upon which she stands and takes steps to both honor and advance this music. Behind her, smiling pictures of her guardian angels, Mary Lou Williams and Billie Holiday, encourage Charles while she and her musicians blend the mystique of Haitian folk music with the sorrowful optimism of negro spirituals and the free space for elevation that jazz improvisation allows.

The video opens on a dark screen with samples being manipulated and twisted.  It’s amazing to have the camera fade from black into this really old-fashioned looking scene–upright bass, snare drum and a nearly sepia filter on the video.  And then there’s Melanie Charlie dressed in a beautiful but old-fashioned looking ensemble manipulating all of the sounds.

She is playing from the

Williamsburg Music Center, one of Brooklyn’s last surviving black-owned jazz venues… This performance was a full circle moment for Melanie Charles. The Williamsburg Music Center is owned by Gerry Eastman, a celebrated musician and composer who taught the jazz class Charles and her brother and saxophonist, Rogerst Charles, attended when they were in high school. According to Charles, Eastman “represents a special era of Brooklyn jazz musicians” and created a space that gave these artists a place to perform when all other doors were closed to them.

Then she starts singing French while Jonathan Michel plays a bass solo /melody.  This song is

“Damballa Wedo,” [in which] Charles channels her Haitian roots and delivers a modern twist of a traditional vodou song by Toto Bissainthe. She sings that when we seek transformation, we may become someone who those around us no longer recognize, but that the change is necessary and part of the ancestors’ divine plan. “C’est bon, c’est bon,” she sings.

Up next she offers a little Sun Ra vibration.  She plays a sample and dramatically shuts it off as it loops.  The starkness of the silence is very dramatic.   Then she starts singing

Charles’ arrangement of “Deep River” is inspired by her admiration for Sun Ra. The biography of the eccentric composer, arranger, musician, and early pioneer of Afrofuturism, Space Is The Place rests on a stand behind her. By really digging into his approach and arrangements and using his “spaceship setup as a performance guide,” she breathes new life into this spiritual, injecting it with a potency that is simultaneously somber and otherworldly.

While the sample continues the band picks things up.  The bass and sax play the main melody while Melanie plays some sharp and cool flute accents.

And what a voice!

Before the final song, she introduces the band:

Jonathan Michel: who looks like an upright bassist–he’s got that Ron Johnson turtleneck.  Shout out to Ron Johnson.  On drums, Diego Ramirez: coming in at the last minute and learning the songs over night.  On saxophone, Rogerst Charles, my blood brother, my heart.

The final song is “Dilemma.”

She finishes the set with “Dilemma,” a new song written to find the balance between self-care and showing up for those you love amid the cries for justice during the first summer of the pandemic. On our phone call, Charles explained that the song is an anthem that reminds us to not to “dim your light for anybody” and “remember how vibrant we are, despite what we as black people had to deal with in 2020.”

She plays keys and sings a soft song until the whole band joins in.  After a couple of minutes she she sings a high note and the sax plays the same note a wailing harmony of greatness.

With about two minutes left she starts singing the coda “we’ve been doing alright be we still shine bright.”  The band sings along and she interjects:

We’ve been doing alright
even though we didn’t get our stimulus.
But we still shine bright.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Only Righteous Fights

On December 31 of 2020 I donated some money to Elizabeth Warren (I’m not actually sure to what end it was used–presumably her Senatorial campaign?) to pre-order this collection of speeches (and get a laminated bookmark!).

There are few things more disappointing than reading amazing, inspiring and truly moving speeches by a person who lost a candidacy.

Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were my number 1 and number 2 choices for President.  I didn’t have to worry too much about which one I would ultimately choose, I was just happy they both were so successful (until they weren’t).  Having Harris as V.P. is pretty awesome, and I will acknowledge that Biden (who was my last choice) has been doing a good job thus far (apparently having taken ideas from all the other candidates…which is rather a good idea).

But reading this book and seeing how genuine Warren was (or came across) and how much she cared (or appeared to) for the people she spoke to and about, it is crushing that her campaign didn’t last.

There are five speeches in the book as well as lots of photos.  There’s a few smaller sections as well, like photos from the Selfie Line, Letters to Elizabeth and Pinky Promises.

What’s impressive is how she manages to hit all of her main bullet points and yet how each speech is quite different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MR. BUNGLE-The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (2020/1986).

In 1986, Mr. Bungle released a demo tape called The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny.

In 2020, after a reunion tour of sorts, the band rerecorded the album, with some slight personnel changes. Original singer Mike Patton was still there as was masterful guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Dunn.  But they had two impressive guests stars (who also performed live with them), Scott Ian (from Anthrax) on rhythm guitar and Dave Lombardo, drummer extraordinaire.

And thus they re-recorded the initial demo.  Fans of Mr. Bungle’s later genre bending work would be a little disappointed because this was pretty much a heavy heavy metal record.  But it is Mr. Bungle so you know there’s gonna be some weird stuff too.

The only song they don’t play from the original is “Evil Satan” which is more or less a goof anyway.

“Grizzly Adams” opens the album with a very pretty guitar instrumental. Spruance really shines with this moody, weird piece.  But even when the full band joins in in the last 30 seconds, it doesn’t prepare you for the heaviness to come.

“Anarchy Up Your Anus” is old school metal–heavy guitars with an Anthrax/Slayer vibe.  There’s even a lengthy scream after the opening drum fills.  This song has an opening narration by Rhea Perlman.  Yes.  Rhea Perlman.  The narration comes from the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House Disney album (on the demo they just played the audio from the record).

“Raping Your Mind” is out of sequence from the demo (it was originally song 6).  It continues with the heavy Anthrax-like riffage and some serious drumming.  There’s a cool middle moment where there’s two guitar solos and just bass and drums in the back–there’s some seriously wicked guitar soloing going on.

“Hypocrites /Habla Español o Muere” was originally a longer song, but they decided to shorten it and add this humorous cover of the Stormtroopers of Death song.  The title is mentioned in the first few seconds, then after 30 seconds, the song jumps into a bit of “la Cucaracha” and then segues into “Speak Spanish or Die.”

“Bungle Grind” is really heavy with some classic mosh sections and faster riffage.

“Methematics” is a new song.  It’s a bit more standard heavy metal and not so much early thrash until the double bass drums kick.  There’s lots of parts including a classic punk style in the middle.  This is more akin to the later, adventurous Mr. Bungle, but at 8 minutes it is a little long.

“Eracist” is another new song.  This one is great.  Really catchy with some good old fashion metal riffs and chanted chorus.  There’s a seriously heavy middle section, too.

“Spreading the Thighs of Death” was the third song on the demo.  It’s some good fast thrash with wicked chord changes and massive double bass drum.  There’s some really wild guitar soloing too.

“Loss For Words” is a Corrosion of Conformity cover.  It’s a pretty serious cover version.  Patton’s vocal delivery is even a little different.

“Glutton for Punishment” is another new song that fits into the classic riff an thump thrash.  There’s a whispered vocal part where you can actually hear the words!  And a fascinatingly fiddly guitar solo that left me wondering how he did it.

“Sudden Death” ended the demo and ends this as well.  A heavy chugging riff and super fast thrashing–it’s impressive that they can keep it up for seven plus minutes.  I rather liked the “yes/no” chanting at the end.

This album isn’t for everyone (as most Mr. Bungle albums aren’t).  But it does show off some quality old school metal and some serious skill for a band covering themselves 30 years later.

[READ: March 24, 2021] Zed

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble and fell in love with the cover.  I made sure to look for it at the library and was pretty psyched when it came in.

And I was pleased as soon as I started reading.

Set in the not too distant future, one tech company, Beetle, dominates the world.  I thought that Beetle was pretty inspired name.  It could be Apple (who have a connection to The Beatles, with Apple Records) and it looks a lot like the word Google, although I suppose it is probably closest to being about Amazon–with their online assistant Athena.

Nearly every citizen (the book takes place in London, but Beetle is global) wears a BeetleBand which monitors everything you do–like a Fitbit or Apple Watch on steroids.

It tells you when you are stressed or when you should hydrate or that you shouldn’t have that donut.  Indeed, everything is now really “smart”: fridges, doors, cars.  Everything in your house is monitoring you. And everyone has a Veep, a personal assistant who does everything for you (except for physical things, since it has no body). You pay for all the best stuff in Beetle bucks–the cryptocurrency that replaced actual  money as the dominant currency.  If you didn’t convert your pounds, euros or dollars, when the rate was good, you’re just stuck.

When the book says everyone, it’s really mostly everyone. There are some people who can’t afford such extravagance.  People who don’t work for Beetle get paid in regular money which isn’t very useful.  There are also neo-Luddites who want nothing to do with Beetle.  But they are carefully monitored by Beetle.

Most people work and communicate in a virtual world with avatars that are some version of themselves.  And most importantly, every person has a Lifechain–the algorithm that determines the longevity and happiness you should experience.  This predictions are pretty much never wrong and everyone uses them to judge people–employers, police, etc. Everything you do, every decision you make changes our Lifehchain, which changes you likelihood of doing x y or zed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Beverley Tavern (October 28, 1983).

This is one of the first recordings of the Rheostatics live.  As the blurb says, the band was only a trio at the time (Martin Tielli had not joined yet).

It is amazing that a show this old sounds so good – not great but considering it is from 1983 not too bad. It is also weird as hell. I’m not sure if it was the 27, 28 or 29 of October 1983 but since the 27th is my birthday I’ll go with that date. [They later say it’s Friday night, which was the 28th].  I think this is a Triostatics show with just Tim, Dave B and Dave C.

Some of these songs don’t appear anywhere else.  Like the first one “Get Rich, Get Bored” which really shows off how new wave they were in the beginning.  It’s got a funky bass line with jagged new wave guitar from Dave and I assume Tim singing.

The band was really goofy back then too (not that they aren’t now, but a sort of wild goofiness pervades this evening.  Like Clark saying “I don’t know what the hell’s sitting behind the drum kit” and Tim letting everyone know that “anything’s possible on Halloween.”  Until someone helpfully yells “It’s not Halloween yet.”

“Chemical World” is one of those early new wave songs that they played a lot but which never made it onto Greatest Hits.

There’s some peculiar banter that is hard to hear but it sure sounds like they thought it was funny.

“we’re gonna change our name to R and then to H and then K?   What’s up next on the bill Mr Vesely?  It’s in the key of C.  You’re cheap, like your clothing.  Woman in audience: “but he’s not easy.”

Dave Clark says “Straight to Hell” is about Dave B’s father.  Tim sings in a weird style, over new wave guitar chords and a seemingly random bass.  The middle has a spoken word part with a drum and bass breakdown: “Now Richard, what seems to be the problem…   doesn’t know what to do–he’s going straight to hell.”

Dave B asks, “Satellite Dancing” Someone: “No!”  “Satellite dancing” “No!”

So instead they play “National Pride” another song that they played a lot but which didn’t make it onto the debut (which in fairness came out four years later.  Dave B says they released this song a long time ago and nobody bought it so they’re going to play it tonight and hope someone buys it.  Midway through Dave says “specials effects, Julia Child” and then sings in a crazy falsetto.  Then Dave says “What was Reagan doing on TV the other night?  Explaining why he had invaded a country the size of East Toronto.”  The song ends with a mangled opening of The Star Spangled Banner.

Dave says someone complained they weren’t going to come to the show, “aw you guys play funk. I don’ want to see you play funk.”  So they play a funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  They thank Rick the amazing man with the echo machine.  Tim says, before you take anymore pictures let me put my hair on.  As the song ends, Dave says, “who said the 70s are dead?  Not us I tell ya.”  “It was you!  In a drunken haze you said the 70s are dead.”

Clark: lets do all 70s songs about the word Monday.

Up next is “No Religion,” the b side of our National Pride single that nobody bought.  It’s a bouncy song with la la las, although I can’t really make out words.
Clark: The b side of Tim’s underwear.
Tim: “The dirty side. Oh my gosh I don’t say things like that.

Someone shouts, “chicken rap.”  Then they say “Do ‘Walk the Line.’  It’s Friday night!  Tim plays a minute long bass riff “okay, that was our cover of “I Walk the Line.”
Clark: “we play both kinds, country and western.”

It’s crowd participation night we want the guy who was dressed like an albino up here. (dressed like an albino?).
He left.
They play “Louie Louie” and ask for volunteers.  Someone comes up” “Ladies and gentlemen the Prince of Toronto.”  The guy sings a made up verse.  It comes to a wild crashing rumbling ending.  You can almost imagine them smashing things.

Clark: “Okay that means we have to do an encore.”
It’s a song by Chic called “Good Times.”  Tim plays the bass line more or less the right way but the song sounds different the way they play it.  Then comes “the highlight of the evening” Dave Bidini singing “Fly Robin Fly” in falsetto!

Definitely an unusual show, but I love Darrin’s name “Triostatics.”  I’m glad they didn’t stay a new wave band.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “The Specks in the Sky” 

I had put off reading this story because it was so long (19 pages!).  But I regretted putting it off as soon as I started it because this story was weird and wonderful. Until the end.

Set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, “two-hundred and twenty-five days after my father left home” the young narrator Ryder, along wither her older sister, Aileen, and her mother are outside when they see specks in the sky.

They don’t know what they are until the get closer and it becomes clear that these are men parachuting to the ground.  The parachutes are pink, the men are all in red jumpsuits.

The first man lands mostly gracefully and clears his parachute away.  He introduces himself as Commander Kyle Cheshire.  Slowly, thirteen more men fall out of the sky.  One of them is immediately taken with Aileen “a real beauty with long hair and breasts and everything.”  But before anyone can say anything the commander takes roll call.

That’s when they realize that Chip Gainsborough didn’t make it.  His parachute must not have opened. The men are very upset, none more so than Bud who bemoans his oldest friend–they used to go crabbing in Maine together when they were little.

Finally the mom asks them who the hell they are–army navy, what?  The commander regrets that everything is classified, he can’t say anything,  The only thing he can relate is that their plane had trouble 20,000 feet in the air and they all had to jump out.  But they will be acting lawfully under the terms and conditions outlined in Section 15 of the Parachuting Handbook, Landing Upon Civilian Property Clause No 33B where it sates explicitly that we are to assist the said civilians in any way we can during our stay on the civilian premises. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSEVDALIZA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #130 January 5, 2021).

Sevdaliza is the first Tiny desk Home Concert to be published in 2021.  Let’s hope she signals a great new year.

Sevdaliza is Iranian born although this concert is filmed in a culturally significant bookstore and publishing house in Amsterdam called MENDO.

Her collection of music is a wonderful mix of the organic and the electronic all centered around her gorgeous voice.

The set opens with “an old reel-to-reel tape machine spinning some Brazilian bossa nova.”  Then it stops and she starts singing “Human,” a song which

casts away the notion of artists — particularly female artists — as products.

It’s a moody Portishead-like track.

It opens with synths and drums as she sings achingly.  Her voice sounds a bit like Beth Gibbons as well.  Then in the middle of the song, the electronics drop off and she recites

I am flesh, bones / I am skin, soul / I am human /Nothing more than human.
I am sweat, flaws / I am veins, scars / I am human / Nothing more than human.

While she speaks, the strings of Jonas Pap (cello) and Mihai Puscoiu (violin) play an eerie backdrop.  When the strings stop a very cool electronic section takes over.  Leon den Engelsen manipulates sounds, making voices sound mechanical and machines sounds human–it’s really cool watching him do this.  Meanwhile, drummer Anthony Amirkhan adds some complex electronic and analog drums.

Then den Engelsen resumes the bossanova tape as Sendaliza announces:

“Good afternoon humans, my name is Sevdaliza, you’re very welcome on flight 808; our destination is Shabrang.”

I feel like “Dormant: sounds even more Portishead-like.  Her voice carries Gibbons’ ache as she sings “I need a different type pf caring, a different type of sharing.”  The percussion is minimal but interesting.  Meanwhile the electronics are buzzing around while the strings ground the song in melody.

As the song fades out she sings notes and words which I believe the keys are manipulating in real time.

“All Rivers at Once” opens with a pre-recorded guitar melody.  The song is just full of samples and interesting melodies and then the middle falls into place with a lovely violin solo.  It ends with a deep resonating cello note

“Gole Bi Goldoon” is sung in Iranian (I assume).  It sounds much more like an old folk song–strings and piano.

I really enjoyed this set and want to check out more of her album.

[READ: January 9, 2021] Do the Macorona

I’m not exactly sure why we have been getting so many books from South Africa at work lately, but it’s fantastic.

This book is a collection of editorial cartoons from South Africa’s Daily Maverick newspaper.  Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) has been making editorial cartoons and caricatures since the early 1990s and has 25 books of cartoons published.

Although I have been reading some novels from South Africa, I really don’t know very much about the country.  I have learned, however, that reading about a year’s worth of editorial cartoons is a pretty great way to learn about a country.  I don’t understand all of the jokes in here, but I do feel like I have a vague grasp on the country now. However, it’s when Zapiro turns his pen abroad–especially against trump, that I can see how good of a satirist he is.

It feels especially timely to include this post now as we prepare to get the corrupt traitor out of office for good.  He has, in fact, made a cartoon out of the insurrection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HAYLEY WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #124 (December 9, 2020).

I basically missed Paramore entirely.  I’ve heard a few songs not realizing it was them and really liked them.  I listened to a bit more recently and really like the pop punk energy.

So this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert came as a real surprise. The music is stripped down and really spare.  There’s a real dancey element (funky bass and drums) and the guitars are really quiet.

The second big surprise came when Hayley introduced her band.  Becca Mancari on keys and backing vocals!  And Julien Baker on guitar!

This change in musicians and sound is intentional.

Petals for Armor is a soul-cleansing exhale from years of holding her breath. Originally released in a series of EPs, her solo debut sings through heartache in a tangle of triumph and hard-earned wisdom. It’s a pop album that knows sadness can simmer, but also shout over an ever-shifting sonic palette.

She plays three songs in ten minutes.

During the pandemic and protests, Williams has played these songs from her couch with muted restraint, and self-serenaded with acoustic covers — sad songs really can be sympathetic companions during dark days. But in her home, surrounded by blank canvases, Williams and friends splash a bottled-up energy.

The joy is infectious, as “Pure Love” bursts from first bloom

Aaron Steele counts off on the drums, while Williams gives a Huh! and Joey Howard introduces a funky bass line.  Her voice is powerful and soars throughout.

I’m disconcerted by the high fiving after the song–I hope they’ve been safe.

“Taken” shows off Baker’s jazzy-funk licks.

It opens with an outstanding bass from Joey Howard line that repeats throughout.  The song feels quintessentially dancey and a very different sound from Paramore.  Baker plays quietly wah-wah’d guitar as Mancari sings the backing bah bah bahs.  Williams plays a keyboard on a very tiny stand (I feel for her back).  The best moment comes with the five seconds of silence while Williams looks around and then jumps back into the danciness.

For the final song, Williams leans into the “Dead Horse” kiss-off with gleeful abandon.

The foundation of this song is the funky drum and bass once more. Williams picks up the guitar, but it’s Baker who plays the slightly askew riff that opens the song.  Baker plays lead licks throughout while Williams adds grace notes.  The best of which comes at 10:08 when both Williams and Baker plays a single note in harmony to make it really stand out.

And that kiss off?

When I say goodbye, I hope you cry.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “A Philadelphia Local is Unamused by the Fuss”

Today seemed like an ideal day to post about this election-related essay from Dave Eggers.

Today, a bunch if seditious Senators are going to pretend like our election was unfair.  They are going to make a spectacle of themselves and question the integrity of our very democracy.  They should be removed from office immediately.

This essay shows, in a small aside, how this phony scandal, this manufactured outrage, was created by the trump team long before the election happened.

On November 5th, while the election results were being tabulated, Eggers was in Philadelphia talking with Anna Palagruto.

Palagruto is the quintessential Philadelphian:

Palagruto has an accent so acute–“gonna” was “go-won-a” and an attitude so Philly-specific, that, if the city ever wanted a no B-S tourism spokesperson, no one but her would suffice. Come to Philly, she’d say. Or don’t.  No one cares.

Palagruto is fed up with the protesters on both sides. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY RAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #125 (December 11, 2020).

Ashley Ray is a singer from Kansas.

Her voice is raw and harshly accented–purely from Kansas.  But her voice goes beyond country into what sounds like ancient folk music.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Ray is

sitting on a screened-in porch with producer, songwriter and longtime friend Sean McConnell (and a distant chorus of crickets chirping in the early evening light).

I don’t know what her music normally sounds like, although this blurb says the songs 

all from Ashley Ray’s latest album, Pauline feel like a breakout release for this Kansas native, but she’s been putting in the hard work for close to 20 years now, spending much of her time waiting tables while writing songs for better-known artists.

All three songs feature Ray singing.  She plays guitar on the first one.  She is accompanied by McConnell.  He plays guitar as well, but it’s when he adds his harmony vocals that the songs really flesh out.  The second song, “Dirty work” almost feels like an X song (or many a Knitters song) with Exene singing lead and John Doe adding the harmonies (and playing the only guitar).

It’s interesting that Ray’s speaking voice is almost unaccented, when a song like “Pauline” is so clearly Southern.

“Just A House” feels more country than the other two–the melody of the chorus, I’m sure.  But I like the understatedness of it.

I do not like country music (duh), bit I really enjoyed this.  It was devoid of production and twang and felt real.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “Delaware Voters Await Joe Biden: ‘We Just Need Him'”

Today Georgia voters get to decide if Joe Biden will be roadblocked by The Worst Man in America, Mitch McConnell (he may have actually done more damage than trump).  

They get to decide if two trump supporters, who have already proven that their role in government is exclusively to get rich and screw the rest of us, should be thrown to the curb (preferably from a moving car).  

This election shouldn’t be happening.  These two horrible people should in no way be close to winning an election for anything.  And yet here we are. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Flowers of Neptune 6” (2020).

After a series of much harsher, darker albums, The Flaming Lips’ new record, American Head (due out next month) promises a much brighter, warmer experience.  Perhaps one indication of the change is that the guest singer on this song is Kacey Musgraves.  Sadly, she is barely audible at all and doesn’t really add any of her own flare to the song.

“Flowers of Neptune 6” opens with a quiet piano melody.  There’s slow (albeit loud) drums and acoustic guitars–it’s a Flaming Lips ballad.  This one feels almost sixties-like with the echoing voices and the primary melody.  Not to mention the content:

doing acid and watching the light bugs glow -oh oh oh
like tiny spaceships in a row-oh oh oh

The chorus is slow but catchy and the end of the song is a minute of instrumental fade out with slide guitars, choruses of voices of a moment for Kacey to hum a solo.

[READ: August 1, 2020] “My Widow”

This story is broken into shorter sections as the dead narrator relates a story about his living widow.

First we learn that his widow is a cat person.  Or, perhaps more correctly, a crazy cat lady.  She has about thirty.  She feeds them and cares for them, but really doesn’t care about anything else.  So when the roof develops a leak, she ignores it and allows the water to drip right onto her bed.

It doesn’t seem like much is going to happen in this story. She ignores the roof until she can’t any longer and then calls a roofer in to repair it. But nothing much happens with that.

The scene shifts to shopping.  “In her day, my widow was a champion shopper.”  She has a collection of antique jewelry, glassware, china figures and the like” which the deceased says would be truly valuable if she took care of the house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FOGERTY’S FACTORY – JOHN FOGERTY + FAMILY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #14 (April 24, 2020).

I’ve never given much thought to John Fogerty.  I like some CCR songs; dislike others.  He’s a legend for sure, but I never thought about him.  I certainly never thought about whether he had children (much less grown children).

Watching this Tiny Desk where Fogerty and his three grown kids are playing along to some utterly classic songs is pretty weird.  Imagine if your dad wrote “Centerfield”?  It’s not my favorite song.  I don’t even especially like it, but I’ve heard it a million times.

And there you on video playing guitar and bass with your dad who wrote the song.  Is that surreal and wild or is it just what dad does?

When John Fogerty breaks out his baseball bat guitar and swings into that famous guitar lick from “Centerfield” to open his Tiny Desk (home) concert, I can almost taste the Cracker Jacks. Welcome to Fogerty’s Factory, the tricked-out basement where the Fogerty Family (John, his sons Tyler (mustache) and Shane (no mustache), and his daughter Kelsy) make music in these quarantined times.

Fogerty jokes about his own tiny desk.

His desk is the road case his band Creedence Clearwater Revival used when they played Woodstock, and John shows off a guitar he played at the festival as well.

After “Centerfield” he plays

three of his CCR classics from 50 years ago (still singing in the same key), surrounded by family and sending out words of encouragement to all of us.

I have a hard time believing he wrote “Down on the Corner” if only because it seems like a song that’s been around forever (which it has).

It’s amusing hoe much he acts like a grandpa (which he just might be), when talking to us and to his daughter (who has wise words to say about missing her graduation).

I don’t really know “Long As I Can See the Light.”  Maybe I do, it sounds vaguely familiar, but all CCR songs sound vaguely the same (his voice is unmistakable–and he still sounds pretty good).  he plays organ on this song, which is a slight change of sound.

“Proud Mary” is another song that I just can’t believe he wrote. Can you imagine being the guy who wrote that song?  Again, not a song I especially like, but everyone has sung it.  Everyone knows it.  It seems like it was a blues standard or something.  But this guy wrote it.

That’s pretty wild.

[READ: April 26, 2020] “Bedtime Story”

Ezra Washington’s wife walked in on him telling a story to their younger child.  It was about the time he was rollerblading and Julia Roberts crashed into him.

At first she doesn’t realize that he is talking about Julia Roberts, she thinks he is talking about her (“That laugh you’d know anywhere”).  But none of the details sound familiar.  It’s when the child says, “She’s the one that plays the mom…with the big teeth and the long brown hair?” that she realizes it’s the Julia Roberts story.

The dad confirms and the child reiterates, “Julia Roberts went right between your legs?”

“Yes, but don’t repeat that.”

She was the biggest movie star in the world.  Back then. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TAIMANE-Tiny Desk Concert #956 (March 6, 2020).

This Concert opens with super fast percussive guitar. No!  Not a guitar, a six-string ukulele!

Taimane wears a crown of flowers.  There are flowers in front of the desk and in other places.  Taimane is from Oahu Hawaii so this love of colorful flowers makes a lot of sense.

So much magic unfolded in such short order. Within the first moments of Taimane’s stunning set, we hear her play fiery flamenco, a famous phrase from the opera Carmen, a touch of Bach and more than a nod to her Hawaiian homeland, all on her ukulele.

As she plays, this medley of “Carmen,” “E Ala Ē,” and “Jupiter” Ramiro Marziani adds some guitar and then Jonathan Heraux adds in percussion on the cajon.

After a brief introduction the Marziani stars playing the bass line to Carmen and she starts playing the lead on her uke.  She also plays an amazingly fast flamenco “solo” on the uke.

The playing and percussive style are not unlike Rodrigo y Gabriela.

As Taimane starts singing, violinist Melissa Baethoven adds harmony vocals and then Li’o comes out to do a Polynesian dance.

In what is a first at the Tiny Desk, a dancer named Li’o performed in a hau skirt made from dried lauhala leaves, with a lei of white conch wrapped around his neck. His Polynesian dance, along with the stick percussion, added to the beauty and the intensity.

After a brief cajon solo, Li’o returns without the skirt to show off his impressive legwork as he dances to a super fast ukulele melody.

Taimane is a an amazing ukulele player.  She began playing ukulele at age five; these days, it’s seemingly become an extension of her body.

Taimane has five albums out.  She

chose to represent the elements of the earth on her latest album, Elemental, and she brought the most feisty of those elements to the Tiny Desk: “Fire.” This music draws inspiration from Cuban traditions, with moments that are sensual as well as ecstatic.

This song is fast and fiery, including some impressively fast strumming from Taimane.  Then Ramiro takes a solo as everyone claps along.  Then after another impressive solo from Taimane, things slow down: “this is the sexy part,” she says.

The final song came as surprise because she does not play anything, she sings.  This is a lovely slow song called “Maluhia” which means peace.  It’s like a delicate cool down after the fire of the previous song.

I never knew a ukulele could sound like that.  I realize that this is a six-string and is considerably larger than a tiny four-string, but it’s still amazing to hear (and see).

[READ: March 29, 2020] “The Interpretation of Dreams”

This is a fascinating story set in 1924.  A thirty-three year old man, Gūnter Zeitz tracks down Sigmund Freud to talk to him.

Freud has a lisp and seems cranky to be interrupted by Zeitz.  But Zeitz starts flattering Freud’s ego and starts talking about dreams.  And by the end of the conversation, Gūnter says what he has wanted to: “I want to be a psychoanalyst, and I am hoping you will train me.”

Freud agrees and says the training will consist of Gūnter’s own analysis and Freud will be his analyst. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ORQUESTA AKOKÁN-“Mambo Rapidito” (2019).

Since this story is about something shameful in Cuba, I thought I’d tie it to something that is wonderful in Cuba: Orquesta Akokán

Orquesta Akokán is a band comprised of Cuban musicians and “Latin music freaks” from New York.   They play the kind of Cuban music that filled New York nightclubs in the 1940s and 1950s.  As their website explains:

Robust, time-tested musical architectures of son cubano and mambo are honored and modernized through a synthesis of the rich compositional styles of Havana, New York, and beyond.

This song begins with a descending piano riff that quickly gives way to horn hits and a cowbell that doesn’t stop for the whole three minutes.

The main melody comes in as a swinging, wholly danceable riff with shouted refrains of “baile!”

Then lead vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez shows where the rapidito comes in as he sings an insanely fast vocal part ( I wouldn’t even guess what he’s saying).

The song is fun and swinging and should make everyone want to baile!

Then comes an awesome flute solo.  There’s a cool swinging instrumental sections in the middle before the call and response of the backing vocalists and Pepito.

Then a wild and cacophonous piano solo sprinkles the end of the song.  It is a ton of fun.  The NPR blurb says that

when globalFEST decided to host this year’s edition at New York’s Copacabana nightclub — a venue with a history that stretches back nearly 80 years and boasts a long association with Latin music — the festival’s organizers decided that Akokán had to be the first group they invited this time around.

Mambo!

[READ: December 23, 2019] Guantánamo Kid

This is a story of injustice.

Injustice at the hands of Americans.

Americans should be humiliated and outraged by this injustice.

Injustice that is utterly horrific to behold–and I suspect that this graphic novel holds back a lot of the really unpleasant details to make it readable.

This is the story of Mohammed El-Gharani, an innocent kid who was sent to Guantánamo Bay for seven years.

At the age of 14, Mohammed El-Gharani made money in the streets of Medina, Saudi Arabia.  His family was from Chad and, as such, he was treated like an outsider in Saudi Arabia.  He wasn’t allowed to go to school and the locals treated him badly.  He and his friend knew this was no way to make a living.

One day his friend told him that if he went to Pakistan he could learn how to fix computers.  He even knew people there who would put him up while he studied. (more…)

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