The Roots Canal (guest blog): Curtis Eller's American CircusCurtis Eller's American Circus -- Taking Up Serpents Again
I've always had a weakness for oddball banjo music. But I still don't know quite what to make of this guy. He's got a haunting syncopated style. He calls himself "New York City's angriest yodelling banjo player," but I'm not sure that description quite fits. This song, in particular, doesn't sound angry as much as mournful.
The banjo is a superficial instrument. It makes happy music, all sheen and brightness without the resonance or nuance of more complex instruments. But there's also something sad about a banjo. A minor key, like this song, brings out the underlying melancholy. My friend Jennifer Kelly wrote that "there's an intensity, a focus, a concentrated vision that permeates all the cuts on this odd, very compelling album."
Banjo players have always been a little weird. You know, like they just don't fit in. There was a time when banjo players were considered outlaws. Sort of like the original gangsta rappers. Dangerous.
Of course, that was a long time ago. A long time ago.
[Taking Up Serpents Again]
Kleptones & Patsy & offers you can't refuse
The Kleptones -- Down on Bennies
Patsy Cline -- You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It)
The Kleptones have released another mashup album--it doesn't impress me as much as From Detroit to J.A., but it's got some tracks I like a lot (like "10:25 Sixteen Sisters," once it starts, and "21:00 Uptight Jet"). And then there's this one, which takes the vocal from "Bennie and the Jets" and puts it over some grinding distorted guitar (at least some of it from The Stooges' "Down on the Street"), making Elton sound like the don of the gay mafia that Will and Grace apparently says he is.
The rest of the mashups remind me of the notes of a brilliant professor: an elliptical mention inside a matchbook, an uncited half-erased quotation, a mathematical proof ranging from one side of a sandwich wrapper to the other, carried over to the back of a FedEx envelope. I wonder how they'd do with a bit more focus. (Exhibit A: the "Superstition"/"Sledgehammer" tease is, well, a tease. It works beautifully, what little there is of it; it deserves a full track.) But it manages to make Phil Collins sound interesting, which is no mean feat.
Patsy doesn't need an introduction, does she? An amazing voice, a staple of music collections.
[The Kleptones -- 24 Hours]
[Patsy Cline -- True Love: A Standards Collection]
The Roots Canal (guest blog): Brazilian soul foodKenia — Sina
Manhattan Transfer — Soul Food to Go
I have a confession to make. I listened to these records separately for years before I made the connection that they were the same song. How lame is that?
The Brazilian-American singer Kenia does the popular Djavan song Sina. Since my Portuguese doesn't go much beyond hello and goodbye, I ran the lyrics through Babelfish and was surprised by a couple of words that didn't translate. One was the title. I still don't know what "sina" means. Another was an interesting word, "caetanear." According to this article, it's a unique Portuguese word derived from the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso. It's as if English had a word like "dylanize." Maybe "kafkaesque" comes closest. (Curiously, Caetano once recorded this song, too.)
Is Manhattan Transfer still around? This song comes from their 1987 album, Brasil. When I first realized it was the same song as Sina, I assumed it was a direct translation because it included the only words I could recognize from the Portuguese: "Art Nouveau." Only later did I discover those were pretty much the only words that survived in the English version. "Soul Food to Go" has completely new lyrics by Doug Fieger, better known as lead singer of the Knack.
Bonus track: Kenia's English rendition of the modern Brazilian classic, "Madalena," is the best interpretation I've heard. (Not that I've heard too many.) This song is from a 1984 jazz album she made with trumpeter Claudio Roditi and Paquito D'Rivera. To my knowledge, this album has never been released as a CD.
Kenia — Madalena
[Kenia — Initial Thrill]
[Manhattan Transfer — Brasil]
[Claudio Roditi with Kenia — Red on Red]
lovers and friends (and women, wives, temptresses, and mothers)Eddie Bo -- I'll Keep on Trying
Eddie Bo -- Lover and a Friend (feat. Inez Cheatham)
O.C. Smith -- Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife
I stumbled onto Eddie Bo through DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's work on Brainfreeze, which saw a very short print run followed by a much longer run of bootlegging: the mix sampled from a commercial jingle 7-11 had released on 45, and the company sent a cease and desist. Brainfreeze Breaks, which collected the 45s sampled in the live mix, is also out of print, which is a real shame: most of the songs sound great, and some of them are just short of impossible to find (like Fried Chicken's "Funky DJ," which is rare enough that the 45 goes for >$100).
Eddie Bo is still in print, though the only disc of his I have has minimalist packaging and the sort of liner notes that look like they must have been written in the empty space on the two of clubs. Bo is a New Orleans pianist who started in the 1930s in jazz, moved on to R&B, and from there to funk, with the occasional dip into blues. He's still alive and still playing, and after the requisite label hopping he formed his own label so he could quit getting ripped off. Most of what he has in print was released just recently, and I've yet to catch up with all of it (so far I've heard only I Love to Rock 'N' Roll, which I like quite a lot ... and which, in the two weeks since I got it, has also gone out of print).
"Lover and a Friend" comes in about six and a half minutes into "First" on Brainfreeze. The drumbeat and interplay of the vocals, even on the very little bit included, was enough to convince me I needed to hear the full song.
"I'll Keep on Trying" isn't in the mix--I just love the piano on it, and that vocal floating over it, with the horns swinging back and forth in back.
"Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife" is here thanks to the sharp eye of the mysterious Mr. X (not Peter Straub's Mr. X; this one has a different rare talent--he has a good eye for LPs that might have a good track. "I bet this has some neat things on it" he said, standing in front of a bin mostly full of holiday, novelty, Carol King, and Carly Simon cruft; and for $1 I was willing to give it a shot.)
"Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife" is a Mac Davis song. I remember liking Mac Davis quite a lot when I was younger, and so I thought I might post both versions. I took out Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me to give it a spin, and I decided shortly that I wouldn't.
This version is quite different from the original: it's got the same lyrics but with a much faster tempo, and I think it works better as a brassy R&B number with a funky guitar line and some drums to keep it clipping along.
Allmusic.com biography of Eddie Bo
Allmusic.com biography of O.C. Smith
[O.C. Smith -- Greatest Hits / Help Me Make It Through the Night]
[Eddie Bo -- I Love to Rock 'N' Roll]
I saw Inside Man yesterday and quite liked it, and think I understood most of it, but a (spoiler-heavy) chat on AskMe shows me I missed something important. Two things, though:
1) "Chaiyya Chaiyya" on the soundtrack, as opener and closer--why? I've seen Dil Se and I don't get it. What's the relevance?
2) Can the whole dolly zoom thing be put to rest already? It was neat in Vertigo, the first time I saw it, and okay the second, but by the end of the film it had been used once too often. Goodfellas made a neat use of it, when the lengthening distance actually corresponded to the story development right then: the massive shift in Hill's life on receiving that last assignment and realizing what it meant. In every film since then, it's either served as a purely visceral thrill or as something downright distracting. In the opening (and closing) monologue here it has no purpose, unless the purpose was to distract us from what the character was saying. It could be a useful technique again if someone actually used it for something new--like having the narrator speaking directly to the camera while a flashback goes on behind him, in different lighting--maybe a story about the police chasing some criminal: criminal runs from right to left; the camera continues dollying and zooming; police run across the screen after him, following the exact same trail but now seeming miles away. It could be done for comedy, or it could symbolize a trail gone cold. That visual depth has meaning, though; it's not just a geegaw to tuck in when you're afraid of looking too much like Ingmar Bergman.
... I guess while I'm working over cliches, I might as well do something for bullet time. How about having someone (Steve Carrell or Will Ferrell) get some shocking news in full-on body language mode--head back, eyes wide, mouth open--the camera circles him, and then he says, incredulous, "what!?"
The Roots Canal (guest blog): Slim FatzSlim Fatz — Southern Christmas
I'd love this guy for his name alone, but he also has his own unique take on the blues. If Tom Waits played slide guitar, this is what it might sound like.
I first heard him on a discount CD I picked up one day called "Red, White & Blues." It's not a very good CD, actually, but it's cheap. I really liked this song, so I looked for him on the Internet. It turns out he's got a couple of CDs out on Second Heaven Records. He also has his own small site with a few songs on it.
It's probably not to everyone's taste, but I like it.
[Red, White & Blues]
The Roots Canal (guest blog): Radio was great, but it's out of dateDianne Reeves — TV Is the Thing This Year
Dinah Washington — TV Is the Thing This Year
Did you see Good Night, and Good Luck? It opens with a live performance by Dianne Reeves giving us a laugh with a lively number called "TV Is the Thing This Year." (If you're an eMusic subscriber, you can download the whole soundtrack here.)
The critics like to complain that Dianne Reeves doesn't stick to jazz. I think they're full of shit. This song shows off one of the all-time great R&B voices. Her duets with Lou Rawls on his At Last album — the title song and "Fine Brown Frame" — are R&B classics.
Ironically, the original singer of "TV Is the Thing This Year" was also controversial for her genre-switching. The great Dinah Washington was "Queen of the Jukeboxes" with her swinging bluesy jazz for more than a decade before she started a second career as a pop star singing lush orchestral ballads. If you just know her from her later pop, her earlier R&B is a revelation!
You'll get a kick out of the original. They really cleaned it up for the movie. Dianne Reeves left out the best part, as Dinah turns up the dial from Channel 1 to Channel 11.
While we're on the subject of TV, check out this unusual track from 1954 which pairs Big Joe Turner with the great slide guitarist Elmore James:
Big Joe Turner — TV Mama
[Good Night, and Good Luck]
[The R&B Years, 1953]
[The R&B Years, 1954]
music's gonna get you home tonightThe Stooges -- Down on the Street
The Stooges -- Search and Destroy
Iggy Pop -- Lust for Life
Iggy Pop -- Mixin' the Colors
Thanks to your favorite Reverend and mine, I've been turned on to the primal proto-punk of Iggy Pop. How to sum him up? I guess you could start by talking about giant turbines, haphazardly oiled and endlessly churning, or maybe semis on the interstate loaded with 12,000 lbs of freight, cruising along at 70 miles an hour (the left side of an equation that equals "good God almighty"), or maybe dynamite forgotten in some shed and beginning to sweat.
Some of his music is oddly narcotic, some of it exhilarating and amphetaminic, and some of it sounds like it must be a bad trip, the kind that might leave you shaken for days (David Bowie and your awful misbegotten mid-80s synth sound, I'm thinking of you ... but thank you for Lust for Life).
When it's good, it's very good indeed; and so far I've missed the bad, thanks to a record store that lets you listen first.
But I've yet to hear all the good: I haven't heard all of The Stooges or Raw Power, not to mention The Idiot and Brick by Brick.... Iggy/Stooges fans, what else would you recommend?
[Lust for Life]
The Roots Canal (guest blog): How Rock Really BeganRoy Brown — Good Rockin’ Tonight
Wynonie Harris — Good Rockin’ Tonight
Roy Brown — Rockin’ at Midnight
In my last post, I promised you the first rock song. Yes, I know, that’s a pretty bold claim. But hey, I’m not afraid to go out on a limb.
In fact, Jim Dawson wrote a whole book on the subject called “What Was the First Rock’n’Roll Record?” where he listed 50 different candidates — apparently without choosing any one of them. I say “apparently” because I didn’t shell out the 60 bucks for a used copy of this out-of-print book. I did find a list of his 50 songs (I have 44 of them in my iTunes library) but I still don’t know what Jim wrote about them. (He emailed me that he’s hoping to bring out a new edition soon.)
Personally, I don’t think it’s such a tough call. I subscribe to Morgan Wright's point of view. Once you hear it, it becomes blindingly obvious: Rock’n’roll began at the exact moment when Wynonie Harris added a back beat to Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
These three versions of the same song tell the whole story. First, listen to Roy Brown’s original jump blues from 1947. Brown was an unknown who actually offered the song to Harris, an established star, before he recorded it himself, but Wynonie turned it down until Brown’s version hit the charts. Roy had a strong, silky voice with a touch of quaver and phrasing that uncannily anticipates Elvis. You might even think he was an Elvis impersonator until you realize he started seven years earlier — which actually makes Elvis a Roy Brown impersonator!
When Wynonie covered “Good Rockin’ Tonight” that December (it was released in 1948), he did something that changed the history of music. “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was a satire of church people who weren’t just “rocking” (i.e., swaying to the music in church) but also “rocking” (i.e., dancing, and worse). Wynonie ratcheted up the satire a notch by adding a church rhythm, clapping hands on the back beat as they do in gospel. Listen to the back beat kick in, about 15 seconds into the song. That’s the sound of rock’n’roll being born.
“Good Rockin’ Tonight” was a mega-hit that sparked a wave of rockin’ R&B songs distinguished by a heavy back beat — hand-clapping at first, but before long laid down by the drummer. (You can still hear hand-clapping on the back beat as late as 1956 on Elvis’ “All Shook Up.”) The years from 1948 to about 1954 were the heyday of what could be called “adult rock’n’roll,” a wild, sexy music with a screaming saxophone, boogie-woogie piano, Texas-style blues guitar, an infectious rhythm emphasizing the back beat, and bluesy lyrics that could get pretty raunchy at times. White kids started listening to it from the very beginning, a few disc jockeys picked up on the new music, and Alan Freed named it “rock and roll” around 1951. It was already starting to go out of style on the R&B charts (in favor of doo-wop harmony groups) when white teenagers claimed it as their own and cleaned it up in the mid-1950s.
Rock’n’roll was already fully formed by the end of 1948. That December, Roy Brown re-recorded the same song with just a few words changed under the name “Rockin’ at Midnight.” Same tune, almost the same lyrics, and with the same hand-clapping on the back beat that Wynonie Harris had introduced.
But something really interesting happens about 45 seconds from the end. All of a sudden, Brown starts repeating the phrase “We’re gonna rock” over and over again with a hard-driving rock’n’roll rhythm behind him. Wild Bill Moore had only just recorded the original version of “We’re Gonna Rock, We’re Gonna Roll” in November, and Jimmy Preston wouldn’t even cut the original “Rock the Joint” (which is what Roy comes closest to, except he sings “We’re gonna rock this house” instead of “rock this joint”) until the following year.
That was it. Rock'n'roll was here to stay.
On Hoy Hoy, Morgan Wright nominates Roy Brown as the true founding father of rock'n'roll:
While others were rocking their boogies and jumping their blues, Roy Brown was writing songs and cutting records that were so far ahead of their time, it's as if he jumped into a time machine and left the 1940's, attended a Led Zeppelin concert, got dazed and confused, and went back to the 1940's, all shook up, and with a mission. Roy Brown took all the pieces of the puzzle and put them together into the first full-blown rock and roll.Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. “Good Rockin’ Tonight” made history one more time in 1954, as the second record released by a guy named Elvis. Here’s the bonus track:
Elvis Presley — Good Rockin’ Tonight
[Good Rocking Tonight: The Best of Roy Brown]
[Bloodshot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris]
[Artist of the Century: Elvis Presley]
James Carr -- I'm a Fool for You / Pouring Water on a Drowning ManJames Carr -- I'm a Fool for You
James Carr -- Pouring Water on a Drowning Man
I bought James Carr's You've Got My Mind Messed Up on strong recommendation, listened to it once, and set it aside. "Someone's cup of tea," I thought. "Not mine."
Recently I found it again and gave it another spin. I was amazed--"I didn't like this?" I thought. "That's like not liking brownies, or oranges, or cold water on a hot day."
Which points to the issue of subjectivity. It's something filmbrain discusses in a thoughtful post about the critical reaction to L'Enfer, a movie he'd quite liked in spite of its critical drubbing, and which Girish discussed in his post about Lost Highway, which he'd watched again several years after the first time, finding a different film entirely from the one he remembered. I point you there because there's little point restating the case when it's been stated so eloquently already.
Carr was a Southern Soul singer on the Goldwax label, until its bankruptcy. Sometime after the release of his first album, You Got My Mind Messed Up, Carr apparently began suffering intense depression (or, as the A Man Needs a Woman liner notes so tactfully put it, "James' mind went out for a packet of fags and didn't come back for a few years.") Apparently he spent some time in a jail in Florida and had no account whatsoever for what he'd been doing from 1971 to 1977. He resurfaced in the late 70s, attempted a tour of Japan, and quit touring again, after which he moved in with his sister, released a new album, was diagnosed with lung cancer, had a lung removed, and was committed to a mental hospital. He died in January 2001.
In all that time he had just a handful of charting singles, but they're powerful work and there's brilliance throughout the first two albums--the intense singing, yes, and the lyrics, but also smaller production touches from the horn embellishments to the way the notes go sour at the end of "The Dark End of the Street."
"I'm a Fool for You" is not typical of Carr's work. It's joyful, sassy, snappy, infectious fun. Most of his work on these first two albums tends towards the tortured ballad.
Now, in listening to it again, the work strikes me as solid, impressive, thoroughly enjoyable (one notable exception: the world most likely did not miss the cover of "Ring of Fire"). I think that at his best, Carr's on par with Otis Redding and the other great soul vocalists. And if it wasn't my cup of tea earlier, it's most likely because I expected mint and was served Earl Grey.
[You Got My Mind Messed Up re-release, with 11 bonus tracks]
[A Man Needs a Woman re-release, with 13 bonus tracks. There's some overlap between these two....]
Here's a fascinating and often horrifying writeup about how not to commit suicide, written sometime in 1981. And then there are the notes. (Found at metafilter.)
Chris Bliss juggles to the ending medley on Abbey Road.
Jason Garfield is unimpressed, and submits it to a parody. By the time he pops a ball back into the mix with his foot and executes a few pirouettes, it's turned into a world-class beatdown--like Jimi Hendrix coming to your guitar class to give your song a run-through and spice it up a bit. Except, you know, Hendrix would be too humble and polite to do it. (youtube version here).
Guest Post: RootsCanalAfter my last post, rosswords wrote me about Lalo Guerrero's original version of "Marijuana Boogie"; in the conversation that followed, his knowledge of and passion about roots music quickly became apparent. I thought some guest posts would be a fine idea, and I was quite excited when he agreed to give it a go.
Please make him welcome.
Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats -- Rocket 88
Thanks for asking me to guest blog, Tuwa. My posts will be about the roots of rock’n’roll. But to start out, I thought I would tell you about the roots of my own obsession with this music.
I’ve been a fan of roots music for a long time. I grew up on rock, but eventually started to prefer the original kinds of music that it’s based on. You know, blues and jazz and folk and country and bluegrass and New Orleans music and so on. But I never really understood the true history of rock’n’roll until I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. Not because of what I saw at the Museum — but because of what I didn’t see.
In three different places at the museum, it said the very first rock’n’roll song was Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston in 1951. I was amazed. I’d never even heard of that song. Or even the artist.
That was just my first surprise. To hear the song, I went back to the beginning of the museum where you could listen to 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It wasn’t even listed there! That didn’t make sense to me. If it was the first rock song, why wasn’t it one of the 500 songs that shaped rock’n’roll?
Next, I went upstairs to the museum’s terrific record store. I scoured the entire collection — even reading all the labels on the oldies compilations — and couldn’t find the song on a single one!
That really got me going. When I got home, I went online. That started my journey into the secret history of rock’n’roll. It’s not really secret, of course. But it might as well be, because of all the mythology that’s grown up around it.
So for my first song, I thought I’d let you hear the song that Sam Phillips claimed was the first rock’n’roll song. It’s not, of course. Sam Phillips liked to tell people it was because it was the first rock song he ever recorded, before he founded Sun Records and discovered Elvis and all that. When he recorded Rocket 88, people had already been playing and singing and dancing to rock’n’roll for about three years. But it’s a great song, anyway. Here it is.
So what was really the first rock’n’roll song? Wait ‘til next post. (Or if you can’t wait, visit Morgan Wright’s great Hoy Hoy website which opened my ears to a whole world of fabulous music that hardly anyone knows about.)
By the way, Allmusic repeats the same false story about Rocket 88. They got something else wrong, too, along with Phillips himself: It’s not really a Jackie Brenston song. Brenston was a sax player and singer with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Yes, that Ike Turner. When Phillips sent the record up to Chess Records in Chicago, he told them it was by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats instead of Turner. The rest is history.
Posted by rosswords (dan at rosswords dot com).
[The R&B Years 1951]
Daniel Valdez & Edward James Olmos -- Marijuana BoogieDaniel Valdez & Edward James Olmos -- Marijuana Boogie
Last post's Asha/Kronos track was in context of a disapproving film, but I'm not so sure about this one--I haven't seen Zoot Suit, the film it's from. Side one of the soundtrack is mostly Chicano swing (half of it, including this one, composed by Lalo Guerrero), with one then-modern rock song, all of them with vocals; side two is entirely instrumentals, most of them swing standards.
This one is from side one and features Edward James Olmos doing his best Dr. John impression. Or maybe he's imitating Tommy Mooney, whom allmusic.com lists as the only other performer of the song--but I have no idea who that is, and allmusic.com doesn't seem to know much about him either.
(update: rosswords writes in to say that allmusic.com attributed the song wrong on that page--that Tommy Mooney sang "Bingo Boogie" on the CD, but that "Marijuana Boogie" is performed by Lalo Guerrero. Also: "Neither of those two songs are really boogie-woogie, which is a wild eight-to-the-bar piano music. In those days, you just added the word 'boogie' to a song and sales doubled." And, finally, the version here isn't properly boogie woogie either, but more a Tin Pan Alley/Dixieland/showtunes version.)
My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I'm not sure I ever knew what a zizivato or a calco is. I understand the rest, though, and quite like the piano. And I can forgive a song about marijuana for not working itself up to a flashy conclusion.
For fans of Cronenberg and "body horror" in general: Ascaris lumbricoides, complete with pictures and video. I've been having nightmares about this three nights running.
There are a lot of complaints you could make about the Barnes & Noble website, but this is a neat feature: searching by instrument. These CDs in the catalogue have theremin on them (or, in the case of Portishead, a convincing synthesizer); these have pipa. Gentlemen, start your mixtapes.
A record exec answers, in general, "Why isn't $Awesome_Thing_X on CD/DVD?" Which leads, naturally enough, back to the question of whose purposes copyright is serving when the artists can't keep their work in print even though their audience wants it. I wonder if the current system is doing as much as it should for furthering the "progress of the arts and sciences"--it seems that scientific and artistic progress would depend on keeping works in print so those ideas can circulate through society and be challenged or built on. And things aren't valuable only because they can be sold; I'm sure we all have things we could sell (CDs, food, family) that we decline to because we prefer their function to their theoretical market value.
box.net has recently changed its prices and instituted a bandwidth cap. It seems they want to compete with Google's upcoming GDrive, probably as part of a larger quest involving disenchanting maidens and tilting at windmills. At any rate, by Friday I'll probably be out of bandwidth for the month, which means that I'll need to decide whether to pony up for more bandwidth, post less, or find some other solution.
Asha Bhosle & Kronos Quartet -- Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke)Asha Bhosle & Kronos Quartet -- Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke)
There are things I like and feel mostly unqualified to talk about. This is one of them.
This track is originally from the film Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, which is apparently about the hippie culture in India at the time. It's the first track on You've Stolen My Heart, a collaboration between Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle which features Asha Bhosle, in her 70s, re-recording songs from earlier in her career (sometimes decades earlier) composed by R.D. Burman.
Apparently there was some controversy around Bhosle's re-recordings (here and in other CDs), as she changed sometimes the melodies. If anything, that makes me more interested in the originals, not less, because I think the ones here are all great. There's something about the texture of these songs that appeals to me a great deal, and Bhosle's voice is in fantastic shape for her age; if I didn't know otherwise I'd have guessed she was 30 or so. To me the entire album sounds great, and it's refreshing to find an album so solid that I'd be happy posting any track at all off it.
The liner notes tell me that "Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke)" features two violins, a viola, a Farfisa organ, a cello, an Indian trap set, a tambourine, a madal, finger cymbals, breath, and--the instrument I'm guessing sounds almost most like it might not belong, but which somehow does--a pipa.
[You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood]
[wikipedia article about Asha Bhosle]
Found at boingboing: Radiohead's "Just" reimagined as a party-hopping song with animated graffiti interacting with its environment--a Lego castle broken up, turned into a terraformed space colony.
And here's this video of a skateboarding dog, which for some reason makes me giddy with happiness. (link found at metafilter, though I've had a time trying to find the thread again.)
"Look, if you want to stop theft, you can't think like a security guard, you've got to think like a thief. Same thing with terrorism. You want to stop terrorism, you've got to think like a terrorist."
He did not mean, as the Bush administration seems to think, that we ought to adopt the methods or the morality of the terrorists -- embracing indiscriminate killing, abandoning the rule of law and dismissing the Geneva Conventions as a "quaint" luxury we can no longer afford. He meant getting inside their heads and imagining how and why and what they're thinking.
Slacktivist has an interesting post and discussion on the nature of storytelling and the systemic forces against empathy inherent in conservative/free market capitalist ideology. This is the second on that theme, with the earlier post as interesting but saddled with train wreck of a discussion.
... There's a small movement afoot pushing for Bush's impeachment, and I guess it's a sign of my compromised ethics that I don't think it's worth it. I wonder if, hundreds of years ago, anyone seriously imagined a situation where the entire Cabinet isn't worth a shit. At any rate: Congress doesn't even have enough courage, integrity, and tenacity to vote down the PATRIOT Act, much less to do things up right, which would go like so:
Impeach Bush, swear in Cheny
Impeach Cheney, swear in Hastert
Impeach Hastert, swear in Stevens
Impeach Stevens, swear in Rice
Impeach Rice, swear in Snow
Impeach Snow, swear in Rumsfeld
Impeach Rumsfeld, swear in Gonzales
Impeach Gonzales, swear in Norton....
Personally I think that Congress would probably, at best, get as far as impeaching Bush, leaving us with a President who radiates evil more clearly than Hannibal Lecter. The satirist at the back of my mind keeps suggesting that maybe the hunting accident wasn't even an accident--maybe Whittington let it slip that his Ayn Rand shrine had gotten a bit dusty--or maybe he made the mistake of calling the Civil War justified, and preferable to letting market forces put an end to slavery....
Morningbell, Mittens, Tigsfrom the "I really love this band and I have them on a mix CD I'll be posting eventually and I didn't want to post them twice but, you know what, I really love this band" department:
Morningbell -- Me Bastard 2003
Morningbell is a band from Gainesville FL who introduce themselves in their second release as "a rock band that wants you to be a happy person" and follow the introduction with the request "Please be nice to people today." I can dig it.
A musical genetic analysis of their work shows White Album Beatles crossed with the Flaming Lips, dipped in Amnesiac-era Radiohead and dusted with Pet Sounds: somewhat moody work that tends to float downstream skystruck, running slowly ashore, pushing off again gently, drifting, sounding odd and effortlessly beautiful. The harmonies, the melodies, the instrumentation, the arrangements: all top-notch.
And this song: melodic passive-aggressiveness. "I will be there if you call me / I will be there if you call," with "call me, bastard" as a lovely singalong. Bonus points for bass solo spotlight, guitar freakout, and Wyld Stallyns ending.
I think Morningbell and Bishop Allen are vying for the title "Best Unsigned Pop/Rock Band in the States."
[Morningbell's Myspace page, with some other great tracks]
[Morningbell's website with some songs which are, well, mostly live and not nearly as good]
from the "Here's something neat in my inbox" department:
Tigs -- Don't Tell Me
Alicia "Tigs" Huertas plays punk tinged with country and touches of Siouxsie and Television.
From the press release:
Part Spanish and born into a bohemian musician family Tigs grew up in the sleepy Gloucestershire town of Woodchester. She started writing her songs as an 18 year old college drop out bumming around Bristol on the dole. A family friend put her in touch with French producer Dimitri Tikovoi (Placebo, Ravonettes) and together they started recording her dark, brooding songs.
Going to New York in 2004, Tigs blagged her way into an aftershow party and met Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner. Within weeks, they were recording together in former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha's Stratosphere Sound Studios in New York.
What the press release fails to mention is that Nick Zinner's guitar can scorch your eyebrows and that Huertas can sing with hurricane force, blowing out your windows and crashing a tree on your house.
I can't decide if that guitar solo is brilliantly jarring or just jarring, but it's definitely strongly felt, to the point, and in service of the song. And the song is much too busy kicking ass to stop and smell the roses. So maybe brilliant?
It seems Tigs doesn't yet have a website. [Tigs' myspace site]
Mittens -- Big Decisions
Mittens are a Boston trio priding themselves on "melodic, enduring, concise" music. They cite Squeeze and Violent Femmes as influence, sensibly enough. This is a pastoral song: an oak tree, a breeze, warm sun, lying on a spot of short grass with fields on all sides. There's an understated serenity to the song, the lyrics about living in the moment.
[Mittens' official site, with three more downloads]
[Mittens' Myspace account]
from the "palm/forehead" department:
•Red Ruin did a noteworthy post on international hip-hop some time back that I've kept forgetting to post about. Apparently there's another in the works.
•Birdy Nam Nam plays some neat turntablism, but either myspace is choking yet again or Birdy Nam Nam doesn't allow downloads. Their official site has a Flash-only interface, some videos, and also no mp3s. Ah well.
•Here's MORESUKINE, the weblog of a German comic artist living in Tokyo, accepting assignments and drawing them for his comic strips. Nice work he has up. I especially like the roller coaster assignment.
From the "you might not care" department:
I got a volunteer job recently with a boss who makes William Faulkner look concise. It's making me rethink my approach to writing--luckily, purposeful self-reflection is usually not a bad thing.
James and Bobby Purify -- You Left the Water Running
James & Bobby Purify -- You Left the Water Running
James Purify and Robert Lee Dickey are two soul-singers from Florida, best known for their version of "I'm Your Puppet" (which Soul Sides posted some time back).
James Purify started singing in a local band in Tallahassee in the late 1950s; Bobby Dickey joined on guitar in 1965 and the two of them went to cut some tracks for Papa don Schroeder, a songwriter and producer, not long after. Their first big hit was "I'm Your Puppet," which reached #6 on Billboard's pop charts in 1966. By that time Dickey had been renamed to "Purify" in a phone conversation between Papa Don Schroeder and Larry Uttal, and the two of them began cutting more sides. Most of them charted; there's some difference in sound throughout their work--from deep soul to Philly soul to protest songs to rocking throwbacks to 1950s music--but they all tend to be solid work.
After awhile resentment over money got in the way of the band's recording and Dickey left. The Shake a Tail Feather liner notes mention some speculation about whether Purify double-tracked his voice on the last recordings or if he had Buddy Grubbs in to sing; allmusic.com doesn't mention double-tracking or Buddy Grubbs, but says that Purify replaced Bobby Dickey with Ben Moore.
"You Left the Water Running" has been covered by a number of others, including Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. The performance is great, but I think I like the lyrics most for their implied puzzlement, the love that remains, and that defensive impulse shown in the wrongs recited--all the reasons he's trying to convince himself he shouldn't care. He's not doing such a good job of it.
[Shake a Tail Feather: The Best of James & Bobby Purify]
Short Eyes and normal onesCurtis Mayfield -- Do Do Wap Is Strong in Here
Curtis Mayfield -- Freddy's Dead
Today I saw Short Eyes for the first time, though I'd bought the soundtrack on LP at Aemoba Records in December. I bought the soundtrack mostly because it was by Curtis Mayfield, I hadn't heard of it, and it was cheap ($2). The soundtrack has a couple of stinkers on it, but I like this one a lot. The lyrics are a bit crude, in keeping with the film, which is about a group of prisoners and their reaction to a new inmate at the prison: a convicted child molestor.
The film paints a sordid picture of prison life, with the inmates spending most of their free time on drug abuse, pointless arguments, pointless fights, attempted seduction, and attempted rape. They spend the rest of their time reading or playing cards. Given that Miguel Piñero wrote the play while in a writer's workshop for inmates in Sing Sing, I'm willing to bet it's an accurate picture.
There's exactly one light scene in the film, the one where a prisoner tells Pappy (played by Curtis Mayfield) that he can probably sing better than the man on the radio (Curtis Mayfield). So Pappy sings along (read: lip synchs fairly convincingly) and the prisoners join in with background harmonies and handclaps.
The film has an O. Henry ending that, unless I missed something very important, makes no sense. It doesn't seem to fit with the dialogue in a longish scene in the middle. I guess it would be a spoiler to say it's like a certain classic western (<rot13>: Gur Bk-Obj Vapvqrag</rot13>).
While I don't think the soundtrack is as good as do the slightly manic reviewers at amazon.com, it does have some good tracks on it--this one and "A Heavy Dude." "Short Eyes" and "Back Against the Wall" are slower and less fun/funky than I'd hoped for, but they're not bad songs either.
I still haven't seen Superfly, though here's "Freddy's Dead." I guess that's a spoiler. Unless he's like that Christmas-sweatered one, in which case it's only temporary.
... Is that a gear-change at 2:15? Curtis?
The Impressions -- Keep on Pushing
And here's a bonus Curtis track, 'cause my prose isn't exactly on top of its game lately.
[Short Eyes soundtrack]
[The Very Best of The Impressions]