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Archive for the ‘Buffalo Springfield’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Harvest (1971).

I like loud rocking songs and I dislike most country.  So really I shouldn’t like Neil Young’s Harvest (at least compared to his more rocking albums).

But Neil is Neil and while I would never say he can do no wrong (he definitely can), I give him the benefit of the doubt.  And on this album he delivers.  Plus, it’s really not a country album at all.

I think what I particularly like about Harvest is the looseness of it, which I see signified primarily by Neil’s harmonica which is never off, but which is never perfect either.  Plus, and I’m sure this has a lot to do with it–I’ve heard these songs a lot and they have really sunk in.

“Out on the Weekend” is the opening track and it was one of the songs I knew least well–which is odd certainly for an opening song.  There’s slide guitar and harmonica.  But it’s followed by “Harvest,” which is so simple and so notable–bass, a gentle acoustic guitar and basically a snare drum play that simple up and down melody as Neil sings “dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup with the promise of a man.”  It’s those steel guitar lines that seems to fade in from nowhere that really rather make the song.

“A Man Needs a Maid” is one of those weird songs that is so odd to me–the song is literally about him getting a maid (but much more): “keep my house clean fix my meals and go away.”  Neil sounds like he is singing from a mile away as he plays the melody on the piano.  And then after the first verse all kind of orchestration fills in–bells and strings and the song gets really really big.  By the time the song comes around again, the chorus is swallowed by the strings and bells.  It feels much longer than its 4 minutes.  I sort of hate it but kind of like its oddness at the same time.

And then comes the wonder that is “Heart of Gold,” another simple melody with soft bass notes and that harmonica.  Incredibly catchy and undeniably great.

Harvest is more of a folk album with slide guitar (and orchestration), but a song like “Ready for the Country” certainly leans toward country (or is it mocking country?).  It’s got a good beat and is kind of fun, with a lighthearted joshing about the country.

“Old Man” is a another slow classic.  When the harmony vocals come in later in the song it’s really wonderful.  I never knew that James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt sang backing vocals on this song and that that’s Taylor on the banjo.  “There’s a World” is a ponderous song from the get go–almost as if it left off from “Maid,” with strings and kettle drums.  After a verse a harp swipes away the song and plays a delicate melody which is just as quickly wiped away as this song which seems so big comes to a rather quick ending–only 3 minutes in total.

“Alabama” introduces a fuzzy electric guitar with what seems like it should be a classic riff but which …isn’t.  It doesn’t quite resolve into anything and the chorus is almost satisfying–it starts really big with a chorus of “Alabama!” but it also doesn’t exactly resolve into anything.  I think I keep thinking it’s other songs, and yet it is distinctly its own.

“Needle and Damage Done” is just great.  A terrific riff and a poignant song simple and brief (2 minutes!) but really powerful.

“Words (Between the Lines of Age)” is nearly 7 minutes it’s the longest by far on the record.  It builds slowly with a big chorus.   There’s a great instrumental section with a nice piano melody.  The song ends with a very Neil Young guitar solo as well.  Pretty great stuff.

I’m not gushing about the album only because it is a classic and all classics have flaws.  But I could listen to this any day, even “Man Needs a Maid.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] Harvest

I have often thought I should read this series.  Of course, the last time I thought about it, there were 50-some books in the series and that seemed like way too many.  Well as of June 2017, there are 120 books in the series, which is an insane series to jump into.  But at work, four of the books came across my desk and if that’s not an invitation to read something, I don’t now what is.  So I’ve decided to read these four and we’ll see if that leads to more.

This story gives a lot of history of Neil himself and a lot of context of the albums surrounding this one.

Inglis starts by talking about how when Harvest Moon came out in 1992, it was a call-back to Harvest and it was highly regarded, even though Harvest itself wasn’t at the time.  Even Neil himself seemed to recoil from the unexpected success of Harvest by playing every kind of music but folk/country for decades.

In fact, Harvest was panned when it came out–described as superficial and without meaning.  It was deemed pleasant rather than passionate.  It also worked to define Neil Young as a melancholy songwriter full of catchy tunes, smiling with prairie straw n his mouth.  Meanwhile other fans dismiss this picture entirely, preferring the gritty songwriter from Tonight’s the Night. (more…)

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McSweeney’s 49: Cover Stories: Contemporary writers reimagining classic tales (2017)

SOUNDTRACKBIG K.R.I.T.-Tiny Desk Concert #714 (March 5, 2018).

A while back I downloaded one of Big K.R.I.T.’s mixtapes and rather liked it.  Since then he seems to have become pretty huge and I feel like he has really expanded on his style.

K.R.I.T. sings/raps three songs from his new album.

4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double album in which he covers everything from blessings to depression while plumbing the carnal and spiritual depths of his own duality. All three songs performed here come from side two, titled after his birth name Justin Scott.

The first song “Mixed Messages” is really thoughtful.  He sings and raps

I gotta whole lotta mixed messages / in my songs am I wrong / to feel this way
I got me a lover but I still wanna cheat / I wanna be saved but its fuck the police
i never really liked the fake shit / but I’m attracted to the fake ass and fake tits
i really wanna sing but id better rap

K.R.I.T.’s backing band, which includes Burniss Travis II on bass and Justin Tyson on drums, also features on keys Bryan Michael Cox — the hitmaking producer and songwriter behind a slew of Billboard chart-toppers. Together, the trio delivers stripped-down versions of the latest thought-provoking material in Big K.R.I.T.’s catalog.

Introducing the second song, “Keep The Devil Off” he says his grandmother introduced him to gospel.  She brought him to church and “she would wake me up when i fell asleep saying wake up you gotta hear this.”  He sings beautifully.  And then the rapped verses are really well structured.

And when he stops to pay homage to his church-going grandmother before performing “Keep The Devil Off,” it’s clear that everything she instilled in him is keeping him alive, too.

Definitely in these times we need to keep the negativity away–keep the devil off.

His grandmother was clearly very important to him.

Big K.R.I.T. has kept her spirit alive through his music since his breakout mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which he released in 2010, the same year she died.  So it only makes sense that he would bring her with him for his Tiny Desk concert.

Halfway through his three-song set at NPR Music headquarters, K.R.I.T. stops to pull out an old-school tape recorder — the same one his grandmother would use to record him singing and reciting poetry as a child. “I have to feel like my grandmother was my first mix engineer,” he says before pressing play to reveal him and his brother as kids singing a duet of R&B crooner Donell Jones’ 1999 slow burner, “Where I Wanna Be.”

He plays the tape and cracks up listening to it.  He gets the audience to sing the refrain with his younger sell.  And then his grandmother introduces he and his brother as an R&B singer, “but I’m sticking with the rap thing.”

It’s a sublime interlude — one that resonated so strongly with K.R.I.T. that he had to start his last song, “Bury Me In Gold,” over to catch the proper beat. “I’m super emotional from this, too,” he says, laughing in a moment so genuine it was only right to leave it unedited.

He says “Bury Me in Gold” is not about gold really, it’s about having something so that in the event he gets to heaven he’ll give everything away.

He tells us to remember that peace of mind and your soul are more important than gold.

I’ve always enjoyed thought provoking rap and K.R.I.T.’s lyrics combined with his voice really work wonders.

[READ: May 29, 2017] McSweeney’s 49

It has been a long time (three years or so) since the previous McSweeney’s volume.  During that silence, the publishing house went non-profit and that seems to have taken up a lot of their resources.  They even address this a bit in the interdiction to this book.

But regardless of the reasons why, it is great to have them back.

As the subtitle says, this is a book of “cover stories.” What that means is a little vague–the contemporary writers model their story after a classic story.  I try to compare it to music covers, although in music covers the music and words are typically the same with some kind of variations.  Typically, the words are the same but the music is different.  I liked to flip this idea on its head for describing these stories in that the words are different by the music is the same.

Since I don’t know most of the original stories here I don’t know how similar these are to the originals–same character names?  Same ideas?  Same plot?  I don’t know.  And perhaps it would affect the way I read these stories if I was familiar with theory original pieces.  But without knowing them, these just turned out to be good stories from good writers.

Interspersed between the stories were poems and, in a wonderful commentary on our current shitty president and the cowardly house of representatives who on the day I finished this voted to strip 24 million people of health care, are comparisons of classic historical figures’ speeches with the petty garbled tweets of out current crap in chief.  Can we impeach this motherfucker already?  And send the whole lot of them to jail, please.  #ITMFA

As many McSweeney’s do, this one opens with letters.  And of course they aren’t really letters at all, even if they are addressed to McSweeney’s.  Many deal with cover songs, but a few are much more serious, political and right on.

WAJAHAT ALI writes from Camp FDR in Washington DC where he and his fellow prisoners were finally able to cobble together WiFi.  Ali explains that the Executive Order was inevitable the ban, the vetting, the registry were all just prelude. The need to protect against terrorism outweighs the individual rights and the rights of American Muslims…read the Supreme Court decision.

NICK JAINA writes about the Sept 23, 1970 episode of The Johnny Cash Show in which Ray Charles appears and plays “Walk the Line” and then “Ring of Fire.”  The letter states that the creator of “Ring of Fire” is actually mis-attributed.  The story is that June Carter wrote it after seeing a page in her uncle’s book of Elizabethan poetry.  But Johnny first wife claims that Johnny wrote it while drunk about a certain female body part: “all those years of her claiming she wrote it and she probably never knew what the song was really about.”  Then it reverts back to Ray Charles’ performance with an unseen band playing behind him–especially a great baseline–and as the song ends he lets out one last shudder and cackle like he just invented the orgasm.  “Johnny returns to the stage looking like a man who just watched someone have sex with his wife but was so in awe of how good he was at it that he could only thank him.”

ROBIN TERRELL talks about trumpmania in the Czech Republic from the perspective of a black woman, lesbian, child of civil rights activists, mother of a black man living in Prague.  The look in the eyes of people after the election: The U.S. is going to fuck us over again.  It stunned Europeans that the U.S. could generate someone fouler than Europe’s own crop of white male extremists.  She is now a refugee from her own country.  #RESIST #ITMFA

KIMBERLY HARRINGTON says she always believed that even in the darkest times humor has its place.  But lately she’s been bursting into tears rather than cracking a smile.  She hopes she can find things to laugh at–even death in these horrible times.

MARY MILLER says that for the longest time she thought her uncles wrote “Stagger Lee.”  Her uncles were musicians who wrote songs but also threw some covers into their shows.  She believed that “Stagger Lee” was one of theirs. She realizes that they are not famous and that no one will remember them–but she promises them that she will remember them.

RICK MOODY writes at length about Elektra’s 1990 tribute album Rubaiyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary.  I remember it coming out and I remember not getting it because it was too expensive. But Moody talks about what a great conceit this collection was to have contemporary artists cover classic songs.  He also talks about how the tribute album was quite popular in the 1990s (was it ever).  Some thought: He loves Bjork, but he thinks of the Sugarcubes as a cheeseball imitation of the B-52s (and that their “Motorcycle Mama” is pretty bad.  He mentions a few great tracks, like Kronos Quartet covering “Marquee Moon,” Metallica doing “Stone Cold Crazy,” and even a Howard Jones cover of “Road to Cairo” by the cult hero David Ackles.   But he says fully half of the collection is bad, some of it even awful–not worth its list price at the time but it has a great number of masterpieces on it.

Will Buttler (from Arcade Fire) wishes to make some amusing corrections: some errors during concerts, and apologizing for singing “I’m So Bored” with the USA because he is not.

ARIEL S. WINTER-This is an interesting philosophical question wondering whether or not Marty McFly actually created “Johnny B. Goode.”  How could he cover it before Chuck Berry had released the original.  As a child this blew her mind.  This facile beginning then goes on to say that before recorded music the notion of a cover didn’t really exist.  And indeed in the 1950s people recorded songs without concern for copyright.  It’s also true that when Chuck Berry plays Johnny B. Goode live, it’s not considered a cover of his original.  She concludes by that the Back to the Future is probably the first time she ever heard Johnny B. Goode.  So Marty McFly’s is the original to her (as it is to all the kids at the dance).  So in addition to a song having an original for the performer there is also an original for the listener.  Anyone who has loved a song for years before finding out that it’s a cover has had that experience.

INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITORS

This introduction talks about how the first time they did a “cover story” was in 1999 in issue 4.  Rick Moody covered Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg.”  They had been planning to do an entire issue of covers as far back as two years ago and then things happened in the McSweeney’s universe to delay it.  And now : this issue is being born in a moment of racial, social and economic reckoning and imminent fascism…into a country that looks much different from the one in which it began, fronted now by a mean and disingenuous imitation of a president.   As such: Tucked between these thirteen beautiful renditions of thirteen classic stories are instances when a cover is not an homage but rather a perversion of its predecessor”  And by that they offer examples of eloquent speeches by former leaders and then tweets from our pervert in chief.

GARY BURDEN-excerpt from Nobody Knows (an autobiography)

Gary Burden created the cover images for this issue.  I had no idea who he was, but this autobiography tells me just how interesting a fellow he was.  He has been responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of the last 60 years!

These excerpt shows his origin story–he was 8 on December 7, 1941 and he has had vivid memories of WWII.  When he was 16 he joined the Marines.  But he was restless, got involved in bad things, was dishonorably discharged and got mixed up with even worse people (he says he can’t believe the things he did back then).  In 1964 he met “Mama” Cass Elliot. They spent a lot of time together and this opened him up to meeting all kinds of people: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash.  Eventually he met and hung out with Jim Morrison and designed Morrison Hotel (a fascinating story that).  In one of the nicer things I’ve heard someone say he says that Jim was a real poet, someone who was unafraid of delving deeply into life irrespective of the personal cost.  Then he met Neil Young. He says that Buffalo Springfield has been his favorite band and then one day Neil came to Mama Cass’ house in his 1948 Buick Hearse.  He was also hanging around when CSN decided to become CSN&Y and then he and Neil became friends. and Neil sold him his house in Topanga.  Eventually he made the cover art for After the Gold Rush (and he gives a little story about the old lady there on the cover).  I’m kind of curious to read this whole book now, especially if it includes album covers.

EMILY RABOTEAU-“The Babysitter” after “Some Women” by Alice Munro
This is the story of a babysitter for Mrs Fagan.  She is a young girl and her employer is very rich and locally famous.  And quite eccentric (she went to East Africa and allegedly witness the Ark of the Covenant and then wrote a controversial book about it).  But in their town she was known as the white lady with black kids (Maya 3, Eddie 10 months old).  The story reflects back on the babysitter as child (she is now the same age as Mrs Fagan was when the babysitting began.  The babysitter’s mother is kind of jerk and is very sarcastic about this babysitting arrangement.  She is also a very strict Jehovah’s Witness, so when the narrator gets her first period rather than tell her mom, she just takes products from Mrs Fagan.  As the story opens Mrs Fagan’s son has just arrived and that changes the dynamic in the house.  How will Mrs Fagan take it when the narrator accidentally sets fire to the kitchen? I really enjoyed the way the end of the story plays on the notions of memories and the impact people have on others.

MEGAN MAYHEW BERGMAN-“The Lottery, Redux” after “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” seems like a pretty easy story to cover–I think everyone knows everything about it and it has been covered in things like The Hunger Games in their own ways.  I don’t know if this story references the original (with the redux),  for this story the people of the island of Timothy were exiled from America fifty years earlier for crimes against the environment.  They were gathering on July 27th, the day of the lottery.  And indeed the lottery is a death sentence, although it’s not entirely clear why.  Interestingly, the story is more about the girl chosen and what her life up to that point has been like.

ANTHONY MARRA-“The Tell-Tale Heart” after “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
This story doesn’t diverge all that much from the original except for the wonderful modern twist on the beating heart.  It’s hard to say more without giving things away but I loved the modernization.

JESS WALTER-“Falling Faintly” after “The Dead” by James Joyce
I didn’t know all that many stories before hand, but I knew this one very well and this is wonderful homage.  It is not in any way rewriting the story–it’s a very different story, but it alludes to the Joyce story and directly mentions it and it is quite clear where the connection between them is.
Michael is a writer.  He is married with kids but has moved temporarily out to New York to write for this new police procedural.  The show is doing well and the female star is quite beautiful.  They bond over cigarettes–she is foreign and smokes like a European, he recently started again.  As stories like this tend to go, Micheal gets the wrong idea about this young, hot actress.  And given that she is not American she misunderstands the subtleties of his behavior (which isn’t very subtle admittedly).  But he wants her to know that his story is a tribute to Joyce’s “The Dead.”  When he talks about the dead she thinks he means real dead people and is pretty freaked out.  This leads to a restraining order and a police intervention–not how he thought his life in New York would go.  What doe sit have to do with “The Dead”?  Well they are standing smoking in the snow as it gently floats to the ground falling through the universe, faintly falling.

LAUREN GROFF-“Once” after “Wants” by Grace Paley
I loved the way this story started.  I saw my enemy at the beach.  With that as a groundwork we slowly learn just how this woman has an enemy (it’s an old boyfriend’s mother) and how they have grudgingly begun to respect each other decades after the two broke up. I really enjoyed this short piece.

ROXANE GAY-“Men on Bikes” after “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood
I can’t imagine what the original of this story is.  The actual story of this is pretty peculiar itself.  Basically, the men in town have all started riding bicycles everywhere.  It started when one of them was arrested for drunk driving.  He didn’t lose his license but his wife took it away from him.  He dug out a bike and began riding it.  She thought he looked ridiculous, but when another man had his license taken away, they began riding together.  It was quite a sight, although I’m not sure what the point of it was.

NAMWALI SERPELL-“Company” after “Company” by Samuel Beckett
I like Beckett, and I know that he can be confusing.  I don’t know what “Company” is about so I have no idea how it relates to it, but man I did not get this at all.

It was confusing and really long.  It is broken into many small sections which might be connected.  The first is about the brightening which happened although many people missed it. Then we learn about the ship which is electro epidermal, which is cool but not really explained  and then the story turns into a quest for melanin and just when you think it’s a sci-fi story, it becomes a story about race.  There is a pale man tied to a tree hitting a sack (pound pound).  There’s a lot of vomit.  If the white man inseminates even one person, finding pure stem cells is impossible.  Dark skin marked you as  lucky when the darkening came.  But then she says the mission is over.  There’s more vomiting.  A fellow is supposed to be invisible in the village but Pound sees him.  There’s more vomit, a section titled rape, where Pound rapes Lila every once in a while and then who the hell knows what happens at he end.

KIESE LAYMON-“And So On” after “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
Weeks ago 64 black folks changed the world.  You are the 11th.  Aside from the direct address to the reader the story is pretty straightforward and interesting.  Chanda Stewart was 8th, the narrators research assistant was 9th and Doug E., Chandra’s boyfriend was 1st.  They are at a fancy restaurant, Chandra, the narrator and you.  She swears that Doug is a porn star, but the narrator argues that having 1089 twitter followers and awkward consensual sex with a few white women filmed on an iPhone 2 in his fake Timberlands, blue knee brace and yellow wrist bands makes you a porn participant, not a star.  The story comes down to which side the narrator is going to choose.   sides or run for our lives.  Because while they were talking, Doug E. and about sixty young black kids were marching down the street.  To the school.  They each had an ax and a shovel.

MEG WOLITZER-“If You’re Happy and You Know It” after “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” By J.D. Salinger
I haven’t read this Salinger story in a long time, so I don’t really know how it connects to this, but I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the way that it was written which was a little confusing but in an intriguing way.  Set in a hotel on Miami there is the young woman in 609 who arrived with her new husband.  She’d sent him off to the beach.  We see her telling her parents that he is taking it easy, but they want to know if he is taking the Klonopin.  Later that night in the lobby, a four year old girl, Chloe, is in the lobby of that hotel watching a man play piano.  The man is a guest also and he is playing and really getting into it.  Another boy asks if he can play This Old Man and the player jokes about the boy calling him old.  But Chloe asks if he can play “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  He says he might be happy but he may not know it. She is puzzled by that.  He says she is breaking his heart.  We soon realize that the pianist is the Klonopin man, and while things don’t get dark exactly, they certainly get strange.  And Chole’s parents have foisted her off on a poor babysitter the whole time.  This was one of my favorites in the book.

T.C. BOYLE-“The Argentine Ant” after “The Argentine Ant” by Italo Calvino
I can’t imagine what the original story is like, but this one from Boyle was really icky and really fantastic.  Its’ a fairly simple premise–a family moves to a rental property in Argentina, only to find that it is swarming with ants.  The ants are everywhere–even crawling all over their baby.  They run to the next door neighbor’s house only to see that they know about the ants and might have a secret weapon.  But mostly they just seem to be putting their furniture in jugs of water–presumably as a deterrent.  There is also an Ant Man who might be fighting the ants or who might actually be bringing more.  What is great about the way Boyle writes this is that the guy renting the house is working on an academic theorem that his wife thinks is rather frivolous.  And that tension underpins everything.

ALICE SOLA KIM-“One Hour, Every Seven Years” after “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
Again I don’t know the original, but this story was great, and also weird. The weird part is that the story seems to start over multiple times. And that’s because there is a kind of time travel component to it.  The title refers to how often the sun comes out on Venus.  There is a girl, the main character, named Nargit. She was born on Earth and so she saw the sun.  The other kids are pretty angry at her for it (as if it’s her fault).  They are abusive to her, and the time travelling is the girl’s attempt to protect her younger self.  Many things go wrong but they bring about different results.

CHRIS ABANI-“Sleepy” after “Sleepy” by Anton Chekhov
This story was pretty horrific.  Kemi, a sixteen year old black girl who is now an orphan is working for a white family.  The family has two little children, one of whom is a baby.   The family is horrible to Kemi.  Pretty unrelentingly horrible.  Kemi is tired and never gets a break and the baby cries all the time.  She can’t soothe the baby and the family blames her for her failures.  Her exhaustion builds and builds until you pretty much know the ending several pages before it happens.

TOM DRURY-“The Yellow Wallpaper” after “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I know the original story although not super well.  But this version feels almost exactly the same. I honestly can’t tell what the difference is (without having re-read the original again to compare).   Jane and John are renting a place on an island for the summer.  John thinks Jane is not strong and keeps her hidden away in a room with yellow wallpaper.  He more or less runs everything in her life until she starts seeing people through the wallpaper.  You know things can’t go well from there.

POETRY:

REBECCA LINDENBERG-“Having a Coke with You” after “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem for Keats” after “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

STEPHEN BURT-“A Nickel on Top of a Penny” after “Piedra Negra Sobre Una Piedra Blanca” by César Vallejo

BRIAN TURNER-“The Metaphor Program” after “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

STEPHEN BURT-“Roofers” after “The Armadillo” by Elizabeth Bishop

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem on the Occasion of a Weekly Staff Meeting” [the first two lines are taken from “A Poem on the Occasion of the Consecration of Sandford and Shippon Churches” by Rev. F. Wilson Kittermaster, 1855]

STEPHEN BURT-“Suspense” after “To Brooklyn Bridge” by Hart Crane

KEVIN MOFFETT-“Second Wonder”-a monologue that will air on The Organist.
I found this puzzling at best.

PATTY YUMI COTTRELL-excerpt from Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
I read this book not too long ago.
This except was about two young children who invented a game called “Confession” in which the boy confesses his real or imagined sins to his sister.

~~~~~

The comparison quotes are called Great Speeches from History vs. the Tweets of Donald J. Trump:  I can’t bring myself to write any of the jerks tweets.

Mahatma Gandhi from the “Quit India” speech, 1942 vs. a Feb 4 2017 tweet

Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” 1863 vs. a Feb 18 217 tweet (about fake news)

Martin Luther King Jr from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” vs. Feb 21 2017 (crowds planted by liberal activists)

Frederick Douglass from “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” 1852 vs. Feb 6 2017 (negative polls are fake news).

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inauguration speech 1933 vs. Jan 22, 2017 (including all my enemies)

 

The bad thing about this issue is that the last four or five stories were all real downers, making it a pretty tough slog.  But I loved the idea, and I liked that they found the time and space to point out how stupid trump sounds and looks and is.

For ease of searching, I include: Cesar Vallejo

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[ATTENDED: July 16, 2015] Neil Young + Promise of the Real

2015-07-16 22.28.13Sarah has always wanted to see Neil Young.  And she finally got to, back in October.  And now here it is just nine months later and she gets to see him again.

I enjoyed his previous show quite a lot, but said I didn’t need to see him again unless he was with a band (which I assumed would be Crazy Horse).  But here he was with a new band (just what does Crazy Horse do in their off years?).  The band was Promise of the Real, which features Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) and for this tour also featured Willie’s other son Micah (whom I gather is not usually in the band?).  I knew nothing about POTR, but I did get the new Monsanto album, so I got a sense of what they sounded like.

Speaking of the Monsanto album….  Lyrically it’s strident and a little obvious, but musically it’s really quite good–a lot of variety with some good loose rock.  And when they played it live, where it really loosened up, it sounded even better.

But back to the show.  Sarah and I predicted that he would play the entire Monsanto album, talk a lot about GMOs, and then maybe play a few classics.  We could not have been more wrong.

The show opened (well, actually, the concert opened with a Native American dance which we missed–I gather they were going to march on Washington and asked if they could address the crowd first) with two people planting seeds along the stage.  They put out plants and scattered seeds all over the place (I can’t believe no one slipped on them!  And then Neil came out.  It was like the previous show.  He played a few acoustic pieces on his various instruments: (more…)

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sumoSOUNDTRACK: YES-Time and a Word (1970).

yes timeThe second Yes album feels like a step towards what we know of the prog masters, but it’s more of set sideways as they have added an orchestra to the mix. Chris Squire’s bass sounds a lot more like the Yes we know, but those strings kind of mess with the synergy.

Opening track “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” is a cover of a Richie Havens song (it’s hard to imagine such an original band doing so many covers). In this one, Chris Squire shows the kind of bass he’s capable of—big deep bass notes, high fast riffs and far more complex rhythms. It’s just odd that the song opens with a string version of title music from the movie The Big Country. There’s some cool bass sounds and drum fills. It’s a great opening song. The strings are a weird addition but I think they work here (mostly).

“Then” opens with some interesting descending keyboard chords. There’s some wonderfully dramatic moments in the verses and the chorus gets nice and big and catchy.  The middle section has some good rumbling bass (with a strange addition of horns that give this a kind of soundtrack quality) and lot of keyboards. The lyrics are still pretty hippy “Love is the only answer hate is the root of cancer, then.”

“Everydays,” is another cover (Buffalo Springfield) is a kind of jazzy song with 70s keyboards and quiet jazzy drums. But after two minutes it turns into a heavy staccato riff that’s all bass and keyboards (and very cool).  This is followed by a big jam with wild drums, keys and bass. It then jumps back to a mellow section of mostly vocals. It’s a pretty wild song.

“Sweet Dreams” opens with some very distinctive Chris Squire bass.  The keyboards are big again.  “Prophet” opens with some ponderous keyboards and then the string section playing.  Then there’s some great loud bass playing.  The main body of the song is nearly all strings, which is an unusual sound for Yes.  But it’s just waiting for the bass to rumble in (opposite horns again). “Clear Days” is a 2 minute song which is all strings and Anderson’s voice.  It’s an unexpected track on this album for sure.

But the final two songs are once again real highlights.

I love “Astral Traveller” or (as-ter-al trav’lr as it is sung).  The opening chords are sharp and unusual. There’s some great rumbling bass and the chorus has some really interesting dissonance–really the first for the band who is usually pretty sweet up til now. There’s a keyboard section which feels a little displaced from the rest (later albums would make this kind of segmentation a bit more seamless) although Squire’s super high bass riffs are a fun addition. There’s also a great bass riff as the song heads to the final chorus.

And “Time and a Word” ends the album quite nicely.  Although this song is more delicate than others, it has some great elements—guitar harmonics, some cool bass and a very catchy chorus.  This record is pretty well overlooked (and is deservedly in the shadow of its successors, but there is some real quality stuff here).

Yes_-_Time_and_a_Word_-_UK_front_coverI also just leaned that the original album cover was quite different from the one that Americans are familiar with.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  Interestingly, it was the same lineup for these two records, but Peter Banks left right at the end of recording to be replaced by Steve How on the next album:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Tony Kaye-keyboards
Peter Banks-guitar

[READ: January 15, 2015] Sumo

I loved this book.  I loved the illustration style (which was so very cool) and I loved the story which was simple but poetic.

The simple story is this: Scott is a football player with potential.  But when things don’t pan out (and his girlfriend dumps him) he decides to try a different route.  What if he becomes a sumo wrestler?

Scott is a blond haired American, but evidently this is not an unheard of transition, and so Scott decides to fly to Japan to try it out.  Scott is blond with a big square head.  Actually Pham’s drawing style is very blocky, which give it  an especially memorable and interesting look

The book si told in 4 sections (and the pages are designated by the color/symbol of that section.  The first is a circle in a square, which is primarily where we see Scott, in Japan, working out with the sumo.

The section (set off by a water tower) shows Scott on his last night at home–getting drunk with his friends.  They are sad to see him go, but wish him well. Until his ex girlfriend comes in and wants to talk to him. (more…)

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greatestSOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“The Hard Way” and “Wine Glasses” (1974).

glassThis book informed me about these two unreleased Pink Floyd songs (there’s a Wikipedia site that lists some fifty more !).  While the were unreleased in 1974 (from the abandoned Household Objects album), they were eventually released in 2011 on expanded versions of albums.

“The Hard Way” features some “percussion” that sounds like someone taking steps.  There’s a bass riff which I gather is from rubber bands (but very well tuned).  There’s clocks ticking and chiming and tape being unspooled.  It’s a neat idea and while it is absurd to think you could make a whole album with this kind of stuff (in 1974), it’s a surprisingly good sounding track.

“Wine Glasses” was apparently made with wine glasses.  It is all of 2 minutes long.  It was designed to be a full song but was eventually used in the introduction to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”  I never really considered that there were wine glasses making the sounds (and clearly there are synths added on top), but yeah, so that ‘s kinda neat.

[READ: November 25, 2014] The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear

I found this book at work and knew I had to read it.  I was actually surprised at how long it took me to read (there’s a lot of entries).

The title and subtitle pretty much say everything you need to know about this book (and if you need to read it or not).  This book collects a series of writers who give a brief history of some of the more famous (and some not so famous) albums that were never released.  It explains (as best they can) why the albums weren’t released and even gives a percentage chance of likelihood of the album ever seeing the light of day (interestingly, most seem to be a 3/10–they may have been able to use a 5 point scale).

I knew some of the records they talked about (The Beach Boys’ Smile, Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams), but was ignorant of quite a lot of them. And while big fans of the artists may know all of the details about their favorite lost album already (these are sketches, not exhaustive research), there will certainly be some new information.  For instance, I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan but had no idea about the two shelved works mentioned here.

I liked the way the book was done chronologically and grouped by decade.  It was also interesting to see how the “reasons” for the non-release morphed over the decades from “the record label didn’t like it” to “it was leaked online.”

The one major gripe I have with the book is that it is chock full of “imagined” album covers.  This in itself is okay, but it is not made explicitly clear that they are all imagined (credits are given at the bottom of each image, but it took me a few entries to realize these were just people’s ideas of what the covers could look like).  And most of them are gawdawful.  Just really lame and dull (as if they had 20 minutes to come up with an idea).  They mar an otherwise cool collection,especially since some of the unreleased records actually do have proposed covers (even if they were never released).  I see that there is in fact a paragraph about the covers in the front pages of the book, but it is almost hidden away.

In addition to the albums I’ve listed below, I learned some fascinating things.  That Bruce Springsteen has hundreds of songs that he wrote but never released for various reasons.  That Pink Floyd did try to make an album out of household objects (with no instruments).  That the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks was almost simultaneously released illicitly as Spunk.  And that Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album was recently remastered.

The end of the book includes two small sections: other favorites that were never released.  Not sure why they earned only a small column instead of a full entry, but that’s okay.  The second was albums that we eventually did see, like My Bloody Valentine’s MBV and Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

So if you ever wondered what happened to that long lost album, this may be the book for you.

A sampling of the unreleased records include:

  • The Beach Boys-Smile
  • Buffalo Springfield-Stampede
  • The Kinks-Four Respected Gentlemen
  • The Beatles-Get Back
  • Jeff Beck-The Motown Album
  • Jimi Hendrix-Black Gold
  • The Who-Lifehouse
  • Wicked Lester
  • Rolling Stones-American Tour ’72
  • CSN&Y-Human Highway
  • Pink Floyd-Household Objects (1974), Spare Brick 1982
  • Dusty Springfield-Longing
  • David Bowie-The Gouster (1975), Toy (2001)
  • Sex Pistols-Spunk
  • Neil Young -Homegrown (1975), Chrome Dreams (1976)
  • Frank Zappa-Läther
  • Beastie Boys-Country Mike’s Greatest Hits
  • Weezer-Songs from the Black Hole
  • Jeff Buckley-My Sweeetheart the Drunk
  • Van Halen-IV
  • Foo Fighters-The Million Dollar Demos
  • Green Day-Cigarettes and Valentines (the author doesn’t believe it was actually stolen)
  • Tapeworm (Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan among others)
  • Deftones-Eros
  • U2-Songs of Ascent
  • Beck-The Song Reader

 

 

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2014] An Evening with Neil Young

2014-10-08 22.40.54 Sarah has wanted to see Neil Young for decades.  However, we’ve had bad luck (or high prices) with tickets so we never went.  But when I saw that he was performing in Philly for not too too expensive, it was time to get Sarah to see her man.

I myself have enjoyed Neil Young for a while too, so this wasn’t like a sacrifice or anything.  I had just never gotten around to seeing him either.  Over the years he has played with some amazing other bands (not to mention Crazy Horse), like Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam–two tours that I should have gone to but didn’t.  But this night was all about Neil.  It was just him and his guitar and his guitar and his guitar and his guitar and his guitar and his guitar and his guitar and his banjo and his piano and his piano and his organ and a bunch of harmonicas.  (He had about 8 guitars on stage and he played every one of them).

I don’t usually check setlist before shows because I like to be surprised, but with Neil, ever the curmudgeon, you never really know what you’ll get–perhaps he’ll do an all Trans night.  So I scanned a set, saw a few hits and felt secure in letting him give us whatever he wanted.

2014-10-08 19.42.37-1Outside the theater–the Academy of Music, to which I had never been–there was a big silver bus (not an Econoline van) with the license plate ZUMA, and we knew we were in the right place.  Then we entered the old building and went up the less than impressive stairs (it looked like a middle school stairwell).  And we proceeded to go up and up and up and up to our seats.  We were about ten rows from the top of this building.  And the theater was breathtaking (especially since we were out of breath from climbing 8 flights of stairs).

But it 2014-10-08 19.52.35was stunning to be eye to eye with a chandelier.  However, the building is not deep, so we weren’t that far from the stage.  Of course, mostly we saw the top of Neil’s head (and the top of his piano–which was cool).

Before the lights dimmed we got the great announcement to “please refrain from shouting out song titles,” which I loved–if only the latecomers had heard that message as well.

And then, lights went out, flashlights appeared and Neil shuffled on stage–in jeans, a T-shirt, a flannel type shirt over it–and sat down in the middle of the stage.  He picked up one of the guitars (he already had his harmonica clipped on) and busted out “From Hank to Hendrix.”

Okay, so I’ve been listening to Neil for a long time–I’ve gotten nearly all of his records, I’ve heard a bunch of live things, saw him recently on Jimmy Kimmel–nevertheless I was absolutely blown away by how good his voice sounded.  It was clear and strong and nothing like the 68 year old guy shuffling around on stage should be able to possess.  And his guitar playing sounded crisp and clean, his harmonica was spot on–it was so perfect sounding.  Perhaps it was the venue, but it was the purest sounding concert I may have ever heard.

When he finished the song, Sarah, overcome said, “Okay we can go now.”  That’s how good it was.  [You can read her review here].  But of course we didn’t go.  We sat, rapt as he picked guitars to play, “This one was a gift from Stephen Stills.” [Audience guy: How is he?] “He’s good.”  And on that guitar he played a Buffalo Springfield song.  Then he played “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.”  At this point I stopped trying to keep track of the guitars he played. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG AND THE INTERNATIONAL HARVESTERS-A Treasure [NY Archives 09] (2011).

Continuing with the randomly numbered Archive releases, Neil Young has released A Treasure, the sixth release (which is labelled #09) in the Performance Series.  This is with the Neil Young band called the International Harvesters.

I had never even heard of this iteration of a Neil Young band–they toured during 1984/5 for the Old Ways album.  This is an album that I barely knew but is one that Sarah loved, so this one is more for her than me.  The band is a very country band–fiddles and slide guitars and all that.  Neil’s even got a twang in his voice.  But even with that, (it’s not my music of choice), this album has a lot of great stuff on it (including five previously unreleased songs).

There are a number of real country songs on this disc–“Amber Jean” and “It Might Have Been” are straight-up country.  Although “Are You Ready for the Country” (which has some major country trappings like that fiddle solo) is actually a bit more of a countrified Neil Young song than a country song per se.  “Nothing is Perfect” is a kind of group sing along.  The kind of song that you might hear at the end of the night at a pub.

Despite this being the Old Ways tour, there are only two songs from that album here.  “Bound for Glory” is the song I knew best from this era.  And it is indeed a very country song (that steel pedal guitar!). “Back to the Country” is the other one, and it, too is a true country song.

“Let Your Fingers Do the Walking” and “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” are different takes on country songs.  The funny thing is that “Flying” (which was originally a Buffalo Springfield song) has a very Neil Young guitar progression built in, during the “I miss you” parts.  He does this very simple chord progression which he uses quite a lot in his songs.

“Motor City” is (another) song about cars.  He may have more songs about cars than Springsteen.  This one is all about his old cars and how “there’s too many Toyotas on the road.”  It’s super catchy, even as I listen to it in my Prius.  “Southern Pacific” is another song that gets a good honky tonk treatment.  It’s seven minutes long with lots of solo.  This is the kind of country-style music I prefer and this one is great with wonderful runs from the fiddles.  Both of these songs appeared on Neil’s Re*Ac*Tor album.

“Soul of a Woman” is more of a blues song, with some country inflections.  And the final song “Grey Riders” is a wonderful stomping track.   It has a great riff and the strings really complement the song.  After all of that country, this song has some awesome screaming guitars on it.  And if you like your Neil rocking, it is absolutely worth it for this song.

The newspaper article that’s included with the set refers to a show during this tour and, not to grouse about a record, but the show it describes sounds awesome–a few old Neil classics at the end of the set which really whetted my appetite for some of those other songs with this band.   But this seems to be a truncated version of that set list.  Nevertheless, as I said, this isn’t my favorite era of Neil’s music, but the band sounds really great.  And these songs shine very nicely.  It’s an enjoyable and unexpected addition to his archives.

[READ: October 20, 2011] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

I managed to get on the promotional mailing list for this book and so in addition to the free pencils (awesome!) and posters (3 in my son’s room), I also received an email update about the release almost daily.

I was a little less than 100% happy with the previous Wimpy book.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it as much as the first couple.  But man, this one came roaring back on all cylinders and it is one of the best in the series.

Three things really work to make this one so great:

One:  the return to school and a host of new school-related problems.  Although it’s funnier for me since my son is in school now, the issues are general enough that anyone can really laugh about them.

Two: the return of Rowley.  I feel like he was sorely missed when he and Greg were fighting.  He’s not a great character on his own, but he rubs Greg the wrong way enough to bring out some great humor.

Three: The increasing power of Manny.  I don’t understand Manny at all, I don’t even know how old he is.  He’s like a really really tiny kid, which makes me think that he’s a baby.  And yet he is so smart and totally has the run of the family.  That has been obvious in the past with the tantrums he threw to get what he wanted, but now he is combining his evil genius with a sophisticated mind to really wreak havoc on the Heffley household (he changes passwords all over the house, for instance).

So this book is all about Christmas break and snow (hence the title).  I love that it starts with the Heffley version of Elf on a Shelf (but this one is even more creepy because it’s a homemade doll from Greg’s mom’s childhood). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK : BLACK MOUNTAIN-Wilderness Heart (2010).

As the Tea Party showed, it’s never too late to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin.  Of course in 2010, it seems really uncool.  So, why not go whole hog?  The opener, “The Hair Song” sounds uncannily like Led Zeppelin, from chord structure to guitar sound.  And then just wait until after a verse or two and you get the guitar solo which comes straight from a Led Zep song.  And, amusingly enough, the duet vocals of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber combine to sound an awful lot like Robert Plant.

It may not be fair to compare them to their forebears, but they seem so intent upon referencing them.  “Old Fangs” sounds a ton like Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” (at least they’re fellow Canadians).  But the wonderfully 70’s-style sound of the keyboards raise the track above any mere copycat.

“Radiant Hearts” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad where you can really appreciate the split vocals of McBean and Webber (and which should make you go back to the first two songs to really listen to how great they sound together.  This is that rare ballad that doesn’t feel like a kind of sell out track.

“Rollercoaster” returns to the 70’s-lovin’ with a monster riff (and a solo) that Tony Iommi would be proud of.  But rather than simply bludgeoning us, the riff stops in its tracks and then slowly builds itself back up.  “Let Spirits Ride” moves out of the 70s and sounds a bit like a Dio riff circa 1983.  But there’s some cool psychedelic vocal processing on the bridge (and a massive organ solo) to really mess with your retro time frame.

“Buried by the Blues” is followed by “The Way to Gone.”  They’re both folkie songs (although “Gone” features a re harder edge).  After the heaviness of the first half of the album , these tracks seem like a bit of surprise but they match the album’s retro feel very nicely.  “The Space of Your Mind” reminds me in many ways of Moxy Fruvous’ “The Drinking Song” (you won’t see that reference too much to this album).  Until the chorus comes in, when it turns into something else entirely.

But it’s not all mellow for the end. The title track has some heavy riffage (and great vocals by Webber–she reminds me of some of the guest vocalists on The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love, although she really sounds like any number of great 70s rock vocalists).  I love the way the track ends.  The disc ends with “Sadie” another folk song (which makes the album half delicate folk tracks and half heavy rockers). It’s a fine song, but the album is kind of ballad heavy by the end, and the teasing drums and guitars just never bring forth the climax I was looking for.

Despite the obvious homages to classic rock bands, (if you can get past that, the album actually sounds fresh (or maybe preserved is a better word) and strangely original.  Like the preposterous cover, the album is preposterous–over the top and crazy.  Yet unlike the cover, the pieces all work together to form a compelling picture.  Obviously it helps if you like classic rock, but there’s nothing wrong with good classic rock, now is there.

[READ: February 14, 2011] Literary Lapses

Despite the cover picture above, I actually downloaded this book from Google Books (and the cover of that one was boring).

So, obviously, reading the biography of Stephen Leacock made me want to read some of his humorous fiction.  True, I also wanted to read Mordecai Richler, but his books are much longer and I wanted this done by the end of February!

So, according to Margaret MacMillan, it is this book, specifically the first story, “My Financial Career,” that solidified Leacock’s reputation as a humorist.  And I can totally understand what she means (without having read the other books, of course).  “My Financial Career” is indicative of the others stories: not laugh-out-loud funny, but clever, kind of silly and very smile-inducing.  The gist is that the narrator is very nervous about going into a bank with his large amount of cash ($56!).  He asks to speak to the manager who thinks he’s Very Important and then proceeds to embarrass himself further. And further. It’s quite amusing.

“A Christmas Letter” is one of my favorite in the book.  It’s a very snarky look at a friend’s Christmas Party, with a great punchline.  And stories like “How to Make a Million Dollars” or “How to be a Doctor” are wonderfully amusing tales in which the narrator mocks the wealthy and “professionals.”

There are 42 stories in this book, so there’s bound to be a few clunkers.  Some were mildly amusing, some were mere trifles, and some are crazily out of date for a 2011 audience.  This book turned 100 years old last year.  (Neat). (more…)

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