Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last entry of the year

Playing right now: Marty Krystall - Plays Herbie Nichols

Looking back on 2006, we lost a lot of good music folks. Locally, WDUQ personalities Ken Crawford and Len Hendry, and pianist Walt Harper passed on. D.C. Fitzgerald. On a national level, the year had barely started before Jackie McLean died. Maynard Ferguson, Dewey Redman.......I know I'm forgetting a lot of important folks. These are all coming off the top of my head. And I know remember several times this year saying "Oh no," or "damn" everytime I turned around and saw that someone else had died. At this point, I can't recall if Jimmy Smith died in 2006 or at the end of 2005.


Last night Amoeba Knievel played at the Brillobox. We tore the joint up, but unfortunately, by the time we started tearing, the crowd had thinned to just a few devoted and loyal listeners, so there were only a few select minds left to tear at.


Tonight at midnight, I'm hoping to crank up the old victrola and blast (there's only one volume and "blast" is a pretty accurate description) Guy Lombardo's "Auld Lang Syne." Hopefully that mickey mouse arrangement of it won't put us to sleep. It's pretty doggy.

Be safe out there tonight, folks. Or if you're reading this in 2007, it means you were safe, so good going.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Catching up, with a look back....

Playing right now: Charles Tolliver - With Love
(It's a new album that Blue Note is releasing, but it's not out for a few more weeks.)

So the holidaze kept me away from here for a while, so I'm going to catch up by posting some old reviews. I wrote these three reviews in 2004 for a magazine that never published them. A couple weeks ago, I came across them on my hard drive and thought it couldn't hurt to bring them back now. They're three far-flung albums deserving of more attention. And I always felt like Azita's cheerleader anyway.

Junk Magic
Thirsty Ear/Blue Series

Keyboardist Craig Taborn’s musical experiences include time with straight-blowing saxophonist James Carter, Detroit techno whiz Carl Craig and avant-garde saxophonist Tim Berne, so Junk Magic brings a lot of expectation to the table. The intrigue gets raised even further with a glance at Taborn’s band: drummer David King of the Bad Plus, violist Mat Maneri – an equally experimental microtonal jazz improviser - and tenor saxophonist Aaron Stewart, who has worked with Anthony Braxton and Steve Coleman. Like recent discs in Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series, the album Junk Magic strikes a balance between groovy textures and heady improvisation. The opening title track is something of a misfire; an off-center groove, with a programmed beat that sounds like a CD skip, quickly gets under the skin since no soloist jumps in for contrast. But “Mystero” quickly changes the scene. Taborn’s keyboards create a sea of texture over which Maneri and Stewart add dark solos. The drums initially sound looped, but by the end King definitely sounds live as he alternately holds the pulse together and breaks it apart for fun. Later on “Prismatica,” roles change when Taborn takes a solo and Maneri and Stewart hold down the fort. Sometimes the album’s sea of sounds is hard to penetrate, but the closing 11-minute “The Golden Age” indicates that Taborn’s crew is on to something when they have a chance to stretch out. (

High Two

For its first release, the Philadelphia imprint High Two chose to spotlight a musician whose all-encompassing approach to the piano has probably been heard in supporting roles more than as a leader. Dave Burrell has appeared on albums with Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp and David Murray and while he has led sessions, none have appeared domestically since 1966. Accompanied by bassist William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille - both prolific heavyweights in the world of avant-garde jazz - Burrell turns in seven challenging, diverse tracks that put this gifted solos and compositions in the spotlight. In “Double Heartbeat” the group sets up an interesting dynamic with Cyrille exclusively playing toms and bass drum while Parker plucks away and Burrell adds splashes of notes that evolve into clusters. Cyrille shifts exclusively to cymbals for “In the Balance,” a meditative piece that also has Parker switching to kora, a West African harp, to add to the texture. “Cryin’ Out Loud” is a piano and bass duet, in which Parker’s skilled bowing technique creates emotional wails and scrapes. It contrasts with the following track, a bright solo reading of Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful,” with Burrell showing of his stride technique. “Coup D’etat” closes the album with a jaunty theme that evokes both Thelonious Monk and “Giant Steps,” although Cyrille ensures the trio puts their own stamp on the sound with the way he drives them. Hopefully more people will discover Burrell with Expansion. (

Life on the Fly
Drag City

From its clunky title to the obtuse mouthful-of-marbles vocals, Azita’s 2003 album Enantiodromia was an intriguing listen, and one that made listeners either love or revile the pianist and songwriter. At this point, I still haven’t found a kindred spirit who shares my fascination with Azita Youssefi, who once led the Chicago no wave band Scissor Girls. While her previous album sounded more like a pianist who enlisted friends to flesh out her songs, Life on the Fly sounds more like a band effort. Drummer John McEntire and bassist Matt Lux, of the bands Tortoise and Isotope 217, again play on all the tracks, with guitarist Jeff Parker and cornetist Rob Mazurek dropping in on a few to add to the texture. The sound shifts away from the noirish approach of its predecessor, but it in no way merits the Steely Dan comparison Azita has already garnered, in both the pejorative and positive sense, ironically. Granted her vocal delivery can be a challenge; when she sings off-key it sounds more like missed notes than intentional dissonance. The shifting rhythms and clipped quality to some of the musical phrases make standard verse-chorus hard to ascertain. But that again makes this music worth the challenge, from the catchy “Wasn’t in the Bargain” to the suspended “Antarctica.”


So many people are flooding the atmosphere with year-end lists. I submitted one to
JazzTimes a few weeks ago, but I haven't done a rock one yet. I'm not sure how many new rock albums I heard this year anyway. A lot of what I bought at the start of the year came from 2005. Plus some friends were swapping lists to Best ofs and I never replied to them. So I think I should reply to them first. But we'll see.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle

Playing right now: Some anonymous Christmas Brass record that I had when I was a kid.

This is a cassette I made of the album a few years ago. The original record is in no shape to be played, so putting it on tape was the only solution back then. Maybe someday soon I'll put it on disc.
This isn't chamber brass Christmas songs. This record probably came out in the late '60s and has a very pop-rock backbeat feel to it, along with brassy arrangements that sort of bring Herb Alpert to mind, in tone not in feeling. Plus there's a lot of marimba and xylophone. I've been thinking of this record all week at work. The tape just happened to be sitting here next to the computer, probably having sat there for the last 11 months, so playing it was a natural.

The version of "Jingle Bells" has a solid beat, a walking bass line and more of that great marimba. Along with the classics (a Floyd Cramer/Roger Williams-style version of "Silent Night" in 4/4) there are originals with titles like "Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle" and "Mama Santa's Surprise," the latter including some great trombone-plunger mute action.

If I could stay at home and do nothing but listen to CDs for, oh.....a week, I'd be happy. I have too much I want to listen to. And I don't mean put-on-while-I-do-the-dishes listening, I mean really listen to: get to know, start music to memory. Between things people have lent to me, promo releases and stuff I've bought, there's too much. Charles Tolliver and Steve Kuhn both have new things out on Blue Note and I haven't gotten to either one yet. I finally listened this week to a CD I got from trombonist Brian Allen that he did with Tony Malaby (tenor) and Tom Rainey (drums), which is pretty free and pretty interesting. And I'd like to post a review of it here sometime soon. Which, again, requires that I get to know it.

But then Tim Berne's new double CD with Big Satan just showed up this week. JazzTimes also sent me a package of stuff they want me to review.

A couple of weeks ago I bought Andrew Hill's A Beautiful Day which I've been meaning to get for a while. It was a session with a larger group and it was also the disc that seemed to really stir up renewed interest in him.

Plus I want to get back to that Odean Pope disc from a few months ago. Oh yeah, in case you thought I've totally forsaken all non-jazz music, I have a copy of the latest Pernice Brothers album waiting for me at Paul's. And I'd like to check out the Naysayer's new album again. I reviewed it for Harp and it's now on the "stuff I reviewed" pile, most of which I don't get back to, out of time and an ongoing quest for new music.

I don't like to think of this music as disposable. But there is this quest when writing about music to say, "Next!" as soon as you're done with one release, knowing that another one is sure to be on the way or is sure to be discovered in a used bin somewhere near you. When I worked at Pulp, opening the mail was always the most exciting part of the day because I never knew what musical excitement was waiting in the morning's pile. What would join the pile on my desk or the upcoming shows box, and what would wind up in the pile of CDs that would languish in the corner?

So much music, so little time. It's too bad more people don't release albums like this Christmas Brass album (I think they were called the Monterey Brass, I'm not sure): at about 35 minutes long at the very most, I could easily spin another disc after this is over adn still get to bed by two.

But it's off to bed soon.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mysterious Mann song

Playing right now: Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet - Here & Now

While I was compiling the CDs last week for my parents' party, I wanted to pick a song from one of their albums by Pete Rugolo. He was an arranger for Stan Kenton who started his own group. When I dropped the needle down on the first song, the melody sounded kind of familiar to me. Then I realized it was a song that Herbie Mann played on a cassette by that my dad had by the flutist (or "flautist"). I used to play the tape all the time when I was a little kid, but I never knew the name of the song because I didn't know how to read yet. (I was probably about three or four at the time.) 30+ years of mystery solved. The name of the tune is "Here's Pete."
I looked it up on and found out it came from an album called Hi Flutin' that Herbie did with Buddy Collette, where they both switched off on a number of reeds. And then some of the titles looked familiar. Most notably there is one called "Theme From 'Theme From.'" They also do "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" which really perplexed this young reader way back when.
I went to Jerry's Records on my day off to see if I could find it. There is a BIG Herbie Mann section there, in part because he did a lot of albums and also because a lot of people resold them. There were at least half a dozen copies of the late '70s album Super Mann (cover has him emerging from a phone booth pulling off his shirt to reveal a Superman outfit), along with other bad-pun titles (Our Man Flute, Family of Mann, Et tu Flute).
Among them I found just one copy of Hi-Flutin'. It's a little beat up, but I had to buy it, regardless. I know I would've gone home craving it if I hadn't. It's a pretty straight ahead session, but they mix it up by switching instruments. In "Herbie's Buddy," they play a chorus each on one flute, let a member of the rhythm section take a chorus, then they come back on sax and then clarinet. I thought it was a pretty clever way to approach the blues. And the rhythm section consists of Mel Lewis (drums), Jimmy Rowles (piano) and Buddy Clark (bass), who are all pretty solid.

Monday, November 27, 2006

And there ain't NOTHING I can do.....

Playing right now: Paul Bley - Copenhagen and Haarlem
I've always wanted to check out more stuff by Paul Bley, because he's always seemed like someone I'd like. This album collects two trio sessions that were released in Europe, and compiled here in the '70s by Arista-Freedom. A number of the songs are written by Annette Peacock, and I have a CD by pianist Marilyn Crispell where she interprets them too.
This album is something that I need to listen to a lot before I'll fully grasp it. So far, it's pretty interesting. Not as harsh as Cecil Taylor but definitely open.


Last night while I was doing dishes, I was listening to the first album by the Vanilla Fudge (I have a thing about reattaching "the" to some bands who jettisoned it: the Sweet, um.......maybe that's it. I don't normally say "the Pink Floyd," or "the Cream.")
Anyhow, side 2 of that album is kind of interesting. mainly because their version of "You Just Keep Me Hangin' On" is on it and it has some great, foundation-rocking moments.
Then I put on Side 1. I forgot how awful it is. REALLY awful. "People Get Ready" is over the top, white boys trying to sound like soulful choir boys (which kind of reveals the implication of their name). "She's Not There" is warbly.
There was a time, in fact right around this time of the year, during 9th grade that I was really into Vanilla Fudge. I had The Beat Goes On on cassette; I found In the Beginning with its side-long jam (in which each member got a solo [ugh] and Tim Bogert played fuzz bass, [yeah!] and they did a slammin' version of "Shotgun," which I wouldn't mind hearing again someday soon; and I got a copy of Renaissance, which includes their 10-minute version of "Season of the Witch" which seems to channel the movie The Fly, with the "help meeeee" plea after each chorus. (Anyone know if there's some bigger reference I'm missing?) Other than that, that record sucked and I started to realize these guys weren't as good as I thought. Surprisingly, I never bought their landmark debut. This copy came from an estate sale over the summer.
So before the Fudge plodded into "Bang Bang" I decided I needed to hear something that was a little more bearable.
Call me crazy, but I threw on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's first album.
True story.
(Someday I'll explain why I still have a soft spot for that album.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Music for a 50th Anniversary

Playing right now: Art Ensemble of Chicago - Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City (Disc 2)

Last night was my parents' 50th anniversary shindig. It went really well; all of my siblings were there, with significant others and kids, along with many guests. In the context of this blog, I have to say that my music choices went over well. I made 2 discs, almost a total of two hours, from the albums that I borrowed from them. There were also CD-Rs for all the guests, which had 12 songs that had some connection to the folks. The cover had a picture of Mum and Pop leaving the Arlington (corner of South Aiken and Center - still there!) where their wedding reception took place.

Here are the tracks on the giveaway CDs:
Chet Baker - Imagination (their song)
Bud Shank - Shank's Pranks
Shorty Rogers - Popo
Dave Pell Octet - Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee
Laurindo Almeida - Blue Baiao
John Haas- Egypt
Gerry Mulligan Quartet - Bernie's Tune
Chet Baker With Strings - I Married an Angel (see the last entryfor an explanation)
Stan Kenton - The Peanut Vendor
Sauter-Finegan - Finegan's Wake
George Shearing - September in the Rain
Chet Baker - There Will Never Be Another You

In looking at all the albums I borrowed from them, the West Coast jazz cats were like indie rockers: Everybody shows up on everybody else's albums. Saxophonist Bob Cooper especially. He played with everyone. I guess it was because they all came out of the Stan Kenton band, but damn: Shorty Rogers, Bud Shank, Russ Freeman, Shelly Manne, they're everywhere.......It was all pretty good stuff, but some of it started to sound the same after awhile. Lotta similarities to "Birth of the Cool."

But it made the folks really happy. They had a good time and I'm glad the soundtrack fit with that.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The songs of my parents' courtin' days

Next weekend there's going to a party for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. I'm in charge of programming the music, so I borrowed an armful of their albums this week. They're all old jazz albums from the '50s, some of them on rare labels like X and Brunswick and Coral. A copy of Chet Baker With Strings is allegedly THE album that got them together. My mum borrowed it from Pop, who had to marry her to get it back.

They even have a 10" copy of the music from the Brando movie The Wild One. That one hasn't been played in years because there was crayon or something on the grooves. (I didn't do it.) I cleaned it off and, while it's still pretty scratched, it plays okay. Too bad it's beat up. I've seen copies of the 12" version go for three figures. I can only imagine what this would go for. Not I want to sell my parents' records and memories.

I'm just saying.

PS: No music playing right now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Estate Sale Booty

Playing right now: Vandermark 5 - A Discontinuous Line
I bought this and the new Art Ensemble of Chicago album last week. I haven't gotten through the whole V5 disc yet, so it's kind of out of character for me to put it on as background music while I'm writing, but I figured it's so rare to have time to just sit and listen to it with no distractions, so I might as well spin it now to get a feel for it.

Upon perusing some old entries, I realized that it's been awhile since I listed my finds from the weekend's estate sales. The past two weekends yielded some interesting discoveries. Last weekend I drove all over hell's half acre to a total of three different estate sales. The final stop on the morning's excursion brought me to a house that had boxes of reel-to-reel tapes in the basement along with 78s. I usually ignore the 78s because it's always the same things: Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane" by the Ames Bros. (come to think of it, my copy of that song is busted last time I looked, so if I see this one, maybe I should pick it up), and worse.....but since the morning had been disappointed, I decided to check out the small stack. First I came across some Jazz at the Philharmonic 78s. One tune typically stretched over at least two and maybe three records because there were so many solos. Unfortunately, all these records were cracked.

But then I started finding all these homemade 78s made, presumably, with a record cutter. They all featured a pianist who I'm assuming was the owner of the house, and he was sitting in with bands or playing with what looks like an army or navy band. (Honestly I haven't played them yet.) And there were a few with labels from George Heid Studios with "Transcription" being the only information on them. George Heid owned a studio downtown in the '40s and '50s (I think my timing is right) and I know his son, who has a studio with all of the antiquated equipment needed to play these records (he's also a good jazz drummer). I bought about seven or eight of these records. Maybe tomorrow during my day off, I'll try to play a few on my victrola.

The big find came after I paid for the records and a few reel-to-reel tapes that I fished out of a box. The seller pointed to three more boxes of reel to reel tapes and I decided to check them out. The ones I sort through consisted mainly of 78s transferred onto tapes, but now I was finding recordings of the Silhouettes (a local jazz group that put out an album on Segue Records) playing on WQED-TV; there was also a tape of Walt Harper playing on WQED. The seller told me I could take everything for $10 and I went back and forth in my mind about five times before I finally decided to just go with a total of five tapes instead of stacks of tapes that I'll never listen to.

On my day off last week, I listened to the Silhouettes tape. The sound is really good. I thought it might have come from a microphone stuck in front of a tv set, but it sounds like a direct copy from the original tapes. They hadn't been joined by the female vocalist who's on their album. It was just vibes/flute or sax/bass/drums. They sounded good, playing Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" and some tunes that might have been originals. The other side had a pretty good Woody Herman big band performance. The writing on the box says it came from WQED, but it had to be a national show since Ralph Gleason was the host.

So nothing for resale, but some nice treasures nonetheless.


This past Saturday, I finally got back in the Estate Sale Booty Saddle. It's been quite a while since I've come home with either an armload of records or one wild find.

Jimmy Smith - Respect
Jimmy Smith - Got My Mojo Workin'
The Impressions - People Get Ready
The Impressions - The Never Ending
The Modern Jazz Quartet - Blues at Carnegie Hall
Modern Jazz Quartet- Jazz Dialogue
Temptations - Temptin' Temptations
Drifters - I'll Take You Where the Music's Playing
Drifters- Up On the Roof
Brother Jack McDuff- Walk On By
Ahmad Jamal - Heat Wave
Ahmad Jamal - Standard-Eyes
Ahmad Jamal - Rhapsody
Carla Thomas- Comfort Me
Carla Thomas - s/t
Gerry Mulligan- Gerry's Time
Cannonball Adderley - Mercy Mercy Mercy
Fontella Bass- The New Look

All for $1 each. Some, or maybe most, of the covers have some water damage, but a lot of the vinyl is in really good shape. All the albums on Atlantic are original pressings, I think. No mono albums, but I thnk these are the types of albums where stereo albums are the more rare of the two. The Cannonball album is a UK pressing, as is the Jimmy Smith Mojo album. I told myself about three years ago that I didn't need any more Jimmy Smith albums, but for $1 each, I would've been a fool to pass them by. Besides I don't have any of his stuff on Verve, which released both of these albums.

There was more Ahmad Jamal too, but they were too beat. Plus there was a Jackie Wilson album with the wrong record in it. FIE!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Yeh-Yeh Girl's second phase.

Playing right now: Francoise Hardy - Loving
I won this album in an auction several weeks ago and it finally arrived earlier this week. Francoise's Reprise albums have been described to me as having more questionable quality when compared to the ones that came out on 4 Corners (on Vogue in Europe). Over the summer I won her self-titled Reprise album, but it was pretty good. A little more orchestrated, but still pretty catchy. And the cover had the lyrics translated into English, which revealed how much angst factored into her writing.
So I figured Loving couldn't be all that bad, especially since she's singing in English and covering other people's songs. Well, it's not as if she went the Claudine Longet route and got all fluffy and poppy on us, but there is definitely a middle-of-the-road quality to the album. "Let It Be Me," Tim Hardin's "Hang On To A Dream," Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town,".....heck even Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune" is done in a sweetened-up manner.
And then there's the French enunciation coming and going: "There's a town where lover's go/ to kwy their twoubles away"; "Show me a pwison...." But "That'll Be the Day" is fine. It'd be a good song if the rhythm section wasn't so stiff. They sound like they're playing a bump-and-grind stripper routine.
It's not an awful album though. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is played with an upbeat kind of boogaloo rhythm. And she covers the Kinks' "Who'll Be the Next In Line," which, if Reprise had exercised their PR department, could have been as big a hit as "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'."
I swear that one of my French Francoise albums has a version of the song "Never Learn to Cry" on it. The opening organ riff sounds so familiar. But I've gone through almost all of my albums and couldn't find it. I have one more to go, but my hopes are high for it. Maybe I'm crazy.
Francoise's career is strange because she started out playing breezy '60s pop, then she got more easy listening with this stuff (not sure exactly when it came out). In the late '90s/early '00s she released Le Danger, which had some rocking moments, along with some stuff that was kind of like Suzanne Vega (a good thing in my book). But the more recent Clair-Obscure was more MOR despite a duet with Iggy Pop ("I'll Be Seeing You," in which Ig sounded terrible). Now I read that Julio Iglesias is her latest duet partner. I want to hear it, and yet I don't.

By now, every one probably knows that the Dave Clark Five are nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Whoopee!

The new Fiery Furnaces album, Bitter Tea, which is not quite so new now, is really good. Still weird as hell, but I'm glad I got it on vinyl. Having a break every three songs help to me to retain them better. I actually got one of their melodies stuck in my head this week.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dispatch on the Fiery Furnaces

Playing right now: Silence, which is good because I just had my ears blown out by the Fiery Furnaces.

Luckily I found out before it was too late that the Pernice Brothers show is tomorrow, so I didn't have to choose between them and Fiery Furnaces. (The bad news is that I work the closing shift tomorrow at work, so I can't see Joe and Co. FIE!!)

On the other hand, I made it to Mr. Small's to see the Furnaces. Now, the last time they were here, they were a RAWK band. Matthew played guitar, as did Eleanor on a couple songs, and a rhythm section rounded things out. [Matt had some cool stereo effect going where his guitar sound was bouncing between the left and right speakers too.] Tonight, Matthew stuck with a keyboard that looked like some old Vox or Acetone organ. They had both a drummer and percussionist; and ex-Sebadoh member Jason Loewenstein (the bassist on the last tour) was handling guitar duties.

Man, were they tight. The FF's songs have all sorts of twisty-turny melodies to begin with, and to hear a full band play them can be pretty astounding. Everyone was on the same page, making every change together. Not only that, they seemed to segue one song into the next for about 40 minutes straight. My friend Brendan compared it to seeing a rock opera, which is true: There were individual parts, but it kind of seemed like one whole piece. Until they took a breather after the 40-minute mark, the set was all from their latest album Bitter Tea, which I haven't heard yet, so it was all new to me. The only problem was you couldn't discern what Eleanor was singing, but as a person who's been going to shows and dealing with that situation for years, I was fine with it.

Afterwards, Matthew and Eleanor were hovering around the merchandisc table. Actually I was hovering, they were just standing there. They were both really nice and chatty, which I think says a lot for them after such an intense set. (I think they played at least an hour.) One would think they'd need more downtime. Eleanor had been to Whole Foods today and bought some club soda that Matt was drinking. I wonder if we passed each other in the aisle today at all.

The vinyl copy of Bitter Tea was $20, but I couldn't resist. I know I want it. And it has a beautiful cover. So I bought it.

Then I asked Eleanor if Jason was going to come out to talk to people. She brought him out and I had to tell him about my fond Sebadoh memories (see previous installments). He said they're getting back together early next year (WOO HOO!). He was really nice and down to earth, though he still looks like he has a wild gleam in his eyes. His solo album Sixes and Sevens, came out a few years ago and it really should've gotten more attention. It's really heavy and raw, but it has a great sense of melody without sacrificing what's good about either hooks or noise. And he played everything himself. It's not often that you come across an album where one person handles everything and it sounds like a band, with fully realized arrangements. Usually one-person solo = doodle fest.

I gave him the url to this site. I wonder if he'll check it out. Hi, Jason. Make another solo album. I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd dig it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Flip a coin?

These days, it takes a lot to get me out to see a show, unless it's at Gooski's, which is right around the corner from me.

So today I realized that not one but two indie bands that I really like are in town on the same night (tomorrow) at opposite venues: in this corner, the Fiery Furnaces at Mr. Small's.

In this corner, the Pernice Brothers, at Club Cafe. (That's Joe Pernice below).

I'd get off my duff for either of these bands........and now they're playing on the same night? What ever will I do? makes me happy

Playing right now: Odean Pope - Locked and Loaded

Tenor saxophonist Odean Pope has shown up in my house twice recently, in the form of this CD and also as a support player on Max Roach's early '80s album, Chattahoochee Red. My friend Rob told me a couple years ago that if I ever saw a copy of that album to immediately pick it up. So a few months ago, I found a vinyl copy of it at Jerry's. (It probably hasn't been reissued on CD yet, as it was released by Columbia. If it was, probably only appeared in Japan.)

This was a pianoless quartet (except for one song which addsa 88s). And it is the kind of album that, at times, might make you say, "That's Max Roach?!" because it gets a little wild. It starts off with Max playing a solo over excerpts from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This is the kind of thing that only someone with Max's vision and taste could pull off. There's a version of "'Round Midnight" that takes some liberties with the melodic structure and makes it rise above all the other versions of the Monk classic.

Some jazz musicians have been around forever and we kind of take them for granted, not realizing how tremendous they are. Max is one of them. Clark Terry is another. Listen to either of those guys and you will be have to pull yourself up off the floor and say "Goddam" several times. Because these guys play with the kind of excitement and passion that makes you feel glad you're alive to hear this music. And really that's what it's all about: hearing something exciting that makes you glad you're hear to take the time to listen to it. And Max & Clark did an album together about three years ago that proves both are still capable of blowing minds as they reach the eighth decade of their lives.

But I started out talking about Odean Pope. He's truly a tremendous saxophone player. Last year he played on an album by saxophonist Prince Lasha that I reviewed for JazzTimes magazine. This year, JT did a profile on him that coincided with the release of an album by his saxophone choir: three altos, five tenors (not counting guests Michael Brecker, James Carter and Joe Lovano), one baritone and a rhythm section.

The album is called Locked & Loaded on HalfNote and I hope to see it on numerous Best Of Lists this year. I mean, the sound of all those horns together is powerful enough, but you get Lovano, Carter and Brecker tearing up the scenery along with Pope (who's a monster), and you have a pretty good time.


I recently came into a copy of the Go-Go's Beauty and the Beat (which I REALLY wanted for Christmas in 1981, but quickly forgot about soon after) and I decided I LOVE LOVE LOVE the song "Our Lips Are Sealed."

Up until that point I thought it was a catchy little number but a few Sundays ago, I decided it's one of those pieces of pop music bliss. And even though I'm not too keen on the rest of the album, that one song is reason to hold onto it. The same way I'm holding onto the second Fun Boy 3 album because it includes their version of the same song.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Truth is Marching In

Playing right now: Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost (disc 6)

I often look at the beautiful Ayler box and think, "I need to listen to that more often. I've only gotten through most of it about two times. But not now. I need to listen to something else now."

So now I'm on it. I wish the violin player wasn't on so much of it. There are so many pieces where he saws away and sounds like he's playing between C# and D while the rest of the band is blowing in C.

Last night, Amoeba Knievel played a show at Quiet Storm. Sunday night shows can be a little weird and this was the fourth show in as many nights that celebrated the release of a local compilation of bands doing Halloween songs. Weird Paul was also on the bill, along with Marvin Dioxide and an out of town band.


Last Tuesday, Petra Haden performed at the Andy Warhol Museum, bringing her a cappella tribute to The Who Sell Out to life. She had 6 other female vocalists with her. It was a really great time. I always thought the opening seconds of "Armenia City in the Sky" were some of the best sonic moments in rock history............the whining guitar chord that leads into the thumping bass line, which sounds especially crisp and clear for such an early recording. Petra and crew replicated that bliss, even though it was done in a different manner. And "I Can See For Miles" was another level of bliss.


This morning, we had an 8:00 meeting at work. Then I'm done until 1 p.m. So there were 7 record boxes that I needed to mail at the post office. And they have to go to the Sq Hill post office because -- no I'm not making this up -- the people at the one closer to my house always insist on charging more to send records airmail. They claim they have to go parcel instead of letter.
So I get up to the Sq Hill post office, only to find that they're closed due to a power failure. Grrrr. Hopefully they'll be back up and running before I go to work.

If anyone reading this has a copy of the Nirvana/Melvins split single on Communion, in which both bands cover the Velvets, hang onto it. Especially if it's on purple vinyl. I just auctioned a copy for an insane amount of money. INSANE, I tell you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mr. B and Cecil & Derek

(Nothing playing right now)
This morning I listened to a Billy Eckstine album that I bought at an estate sale a few weeks ago. The album is called Don't Worry 'Bout Me and it has a picture on the front of Mr. B smoking a cigarette in a long cigarette holding. And he's looking off to his left.

There's a song on the album called "Stranger In Town" where he keeps repeatingthe lyric about being "a stranger in my home town." I realize it's only a song, but it's odd to think of that because for one thing, Pittsburgh is his hometown. And in his last days, he was living with a niece, who lives about 5 minutes away from my house. Stranger, my butt.


I should have known what I was getting into when I bought a used copy of the Cecil Taylor/Derek Bailey performance Pleistozaen Mit Wasser (Shakin' the Glass). Several years ago I remember hearing it described as very pointilistic music. Bailey makes all kinds of weird scraping, plinking noises with a guitar, Cecil plays all over the piano............what would it sound like together?

I didn't figure that I'd like Bailey's work and be disappointed with Cecil. He doesn't even touch the piano until about 10 minutes into the performance. Prior to that he does his "poetry" thing, which isn't miked so you only hear him in the distance, that is when he's loud. It's 62 minutes, broken into 2 tracks and while some of it is intriguing, I wonder how often I'll play it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More songs of my youth

So today was my first day back to work after four mental health days. During that time off, one of the things I did was spend a lot of time on YouTube looking at vintage clips from Sesame Street. Now I came of age when Sesame Street was just beginning to get its sea legs and some of the things on it were rather edgy and experimental.

Now stop for a minute and think: when you're three years old, you don't know what the words "edgy" or "experimental" mean, let alone do you know cutting edge educational tv when you see it. All you know is the pleasure principle, which I find myself again fighting against when I have free time and am not at work. But that's another story.

So here I am on youtube and I stumble across some listings with the title "Jazzy Spies." These were animated bits that emphasized counting up to 10, with each clip showcasing a different number. I ought to find some links to the youtube clips so you'll know what I mean. Maybe some of you will remember the melody if I can type out the phrasing:
"Onetwo three four five sixseveneight NIIIIIIIIIIIIINE Ten........"
And the animation always ended with 10 spies opening their coats w/each one having a number from 1 - 10. And the featured number showed up in all these weird scenes while the woman singing would kind of wail like Patty Waters or someone like that.

And dig this: the woman singing was Grace Slick! Ms. Counterculture was melting our minds with her heavy wailing about numbers.

There was another animated bit about the letter O and it's so fragmented and nonsensical, but you know what --- I knew 90% of the lyrics to the song all these years later because it was a risky piece of art that didn't kowtow to convention.

It's been a couple days since I've looked at this stuff but it's had a really positive impact on me. Meaning, it's made me happy. Kind of like meeting a friend you haven't seen in 10 years and in that time you've wondered if they thought you were a jerk only to find out that they really care about you. Maybe that's not a good metaphor. OK I'll be literal. It's nice to know that these stuff isn't totally lost to the ages or that I didn't just imagine it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Songs of my youth

Playing right now: Human Sexual Response - In a Roman Mood
(see previous posts for gushing praise of this album)

When I was a kid, probably around the ages of, let's say, 5 or 6, every so often my mother would buy an album for me out of the blue. Maybe when I was home sick from school. I was young enough to not remember the details surrounding them.
I'm guessing they were things she'd pick out of the 5&10 bargain boxes thinking "He might like this." But unlike a parent thinking a Connie Francis or Jerry Vale album was a good idea because there was a Beatles song on it, Ma Shanley had a good track record for obscure garage albums.
One was an album by a band called the Hassles. Funny name, so I dug that. Gatefold cover - always cool. Pictures and liner notes, which I couldn't read. And the music......half of it sounded like the band wanted to be the Spencer Davis Group (although they covered Traffic, they were into Mr. Winwood's soul side, not his trippy side), and other times, they sounded like Vanilla Fudge (a ponderous version of "A Taste of Honey" with stops, starts and all sorts of dynamic shifts).
Years later, I discovered that the keyboard player in the band, who was i.d'd as "Billy Joe," dropped the second part of his nickname and brought back his surname, which was the same as the jettisoned name, plus the letter L..............that's right: Billy Joel.
Now, I can't stand that guy. Yeah, some of his '70s stuff was kind of cool, but overall I find him to be dull and arrogant to such an extent that it overrides any good accomplishments. But I busted out the Hassles album the other night and I keep coming back to a couple songs on it. Twice today. "Giving Up" is a slow number with woodblocks keeping the beat along with the drums and a dramatic vocal (not by Mr. Joel, I believe) and I can't get enough of it. I think it was written by Van McCoy, who would bring us "The Hustle" in the '70s.
They also cover the Sam and Dave song "You Got Me Hummin,'" which sounds pretty damn soulful for a bunch of not-quite 20-year-old Long Island boys. That is, after they get past the "ehhhh"s at the intro, which always sounded to me like two guys trying to move something that was too heavy. As opposed to sounding ready to get it on.
Along with the Sugar Bears and the Rugbys (the other great Ma Shanley find), I hold a special place for the Hassles.
Oh yeah, their bassist, Howie Blauvelt (which is probably German for "a surname that will keep you from fame and fortune") was later in the band Ram Jam that had a hit with Leadbelly's "Black Betty."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Someone left the cake out in the rain....

Playing right now: nothing, but I just finished listening to "Thursday Night at the Vanguard" by Art Pepper.

A friend told me that he forwarded this blog link to another friend, whose comment was, "He doesn't post very often." Not to give in to peer pressure of the thoughts of one reader, but I do need to post more often. I've bought so much music lately that I have something to write about on a daily basis. It took me awhile to catch up with all of it, plus I had to write 4 CD reviews last week.

[Upon taking a bathroom break, I switched on the b-room radio, which is almost always programmed to old folks' station WJAS, which was playing "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris, an odd choice in general but especially for them. of course it was 1:20 a.m. when it came out. Anyhow, that explains the title of this post.]

So anyhow, I've been meaning for a couple months to talk about the new Nothing Painted Blue album Taste the Flavor (Shrimper). It's actually not new per se, because it apparently was recorded in 2001 and had been sitting around until earlier this summer when it finally hit the street. The recording time was three years after the last official NPB album, The Monte Carlo Method, came out. At the time that album came across as something of a disappointment. It was marked by some great pop hooks delivered with heavy abandon, and of course some great couplets courtesy of Franklin Bruno ("They confiscated my library card when they caught me in the shelves with a knife/ cutting out pictures of Curtis LeMay froma 1940s volume of Life"; another song rhymed "messiah" with "We Didn't Start the Fire"). But some songs didn't really achieve the usual brainy ends that I at least was used to expecting from the band.

In the meantime, Bruno (guitarist and vocalist, in case you missed previous posts) released one absolutely stunning solo album (2000's Kiss Without Makeup) and one really good one (2002's A Cat may Look At a Queen).

Just when it seemed like Bruno who disappear off into the sunset, doctorate in hand, NPB reemerged.

And Taste the Flavor has all the things that made the band great in the first place. They manage to rock out (thrash, even, on "Self-Contained") and keep a delicate poppy feeling going at all times. On first listen, "Back In Town" almost sounds like it could be any Middle American rock band, especially when the harmonica solo kicks in. But Bruno's narrative and the band's determination to not play it totally simple make it stand above the rest.

The lyrics are pretty remarkable too: ("I had an atom smasher/I used to use it to mow my lawn/ I was a party crasher / I used to stay until all of the guest had gone" ("One Who Fell"); "She looks like she's going to play tennis with a corpse and lose" ("[Jessica's Got A] Ropeburn").

All the words can be found at, where I might just print them all out. "Swansong" seems to be about the end of the world, or the possible breakup of the band, or both. Listen to this album before either happens.

PS I pulled out The Monte Carlo Method a few weeks ago since it's the one NPB album I don't play very often. Much to my pleasant surprise, it sounded better than I remembered. It's not as consistant as Placeholders, but it's a good listen.

wow, that title really looks like red herring now......I wonder what All Music thinks of Richard Harris..........

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Back to Tottenham; Playing on the radio

(Note: I wrote this last night but for some reason, it wouldn't post.)
Playing right now: Dave Clark Five - More Greatest Hits

Yeah, I finally found it for a reasonable price at Jerry's. $4. And you know what? It's pretty good. Once you get past the 3 songs they're best known for ("Bits and Pieces," "Catch Us If You Can," "Over and Over" [which I hear at work any time they play '60s songs]) and get into the deep cuts, they aren't as lame as some folks might have you believe. And kind of garagey. "I'm Thinking" has a raw riff underneath. And Rick, or Denny, whoever the sax player was, sounds like he's blowing baritone instead of tenor on a couple tunes, which gives it a little more oomph. The bass has no sustain, and sounds clunky, but some of the bass lines are pretty good. Their version of "Reelin' and Rockin'" is pretty good.
And then there's "Try Too Hard." Now I want to cover it.
The record is in mono too. I've been getting back to mono lately. First I found a mono copy of Sgt. Pepper at a yard sale. Then a friend dubbed me a copy of Piper at the Gates of Dawn with the original mono mix. And let me tell you, both of these albums sound a lot more vital in mono.

I played on the radio tonight with the Living Praise Choir. It was on WRCT, CMU's station. Each week at 9 p.m. EST, they feature a different local band. (Check 'em out at, you out of towners. They stream live.)
Playing on the radio is always a little dicey because it's often hard to hear the vocals in the room. Plus they put baffles around the drums and some of the amps, so there's a little bit of a disconnect between the instruments. Tonight we couldn't hear the vocals, but Bob our singer had headphones on that worked intermintently; just enough to keep him on track. I was a little sloppy on a few songs, but for the most part, it was a pretty spirited performance. At the end of the last song we did our traditional thing of hitting the final chord, letting it ring and turn into feedback, then Bob yelled, "Onetwothreefour" and we made a noisy racket, then he cued the final chord, yelled "onetwothreefour" a couple more's a blast.
Since we covered two Syd Barrett songs, I concluded this racket by bellowing another one of his lyrics that I kept wailing at practice: WOULDN'T YOU MISS ME AT ALLLLLLLLLLL???
Maybe you had to be there, but it made me feel good.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lou Reed wants to hear my songs

Playing right now: Henry Mancini - Uniquely Mancini (a rather unsyncopated, but kind of swinging version, of "Green Onions," specifically)

I've been having all kinds of weird dreams lately, many of them taking place at work. Which is weird, because I don't think that's happened since I first started there.
But last night, sleeping at my in-laws' house, my dreams took another twist. Not sure where I was, but I was talking to George Harrison, who was something of an acquaintance in this dream. At least well enough that I could chat freely with him about music. I told him that I was listening to one of his albums and that it was helping me in writing songs. My problem, I said, was I can come up with words and chord changes, but when it comes to a melody for the lyrics, I always end up singing a fairly monotonous part. But listening to him was giving me ideas.
Lou Reed was in the room. And when I finished talking to George, who seemed interested and supportive of my efforts, Lou chimed in, "Hey, Mike, why don't you ever show me your songs?" I was kind of taken aback, because Lou has such a rep for being a bastard. And all of a sudden, he seemed willing to help me.
"Because I just figured you'd hate them," I said.
"No, that's not true."
"Sure, you'd go through my lyric book and say, 'This one sucks.' [make a gesture of flipping to the next page] Boring. [Next page]. Oh geez.'" I really wanted to do my Lou imitation for him, but, worrying that it might piss him off, I kind of couched it in a low mumble.
But Lou was really encouraging and said he'd really like to hear or take a look at my song ideas on Monday.
Tomorrow's Monday. I better get some songs together.
Oddly enough, I have a song idea that I want to get down on paper with chord changes and lyrics. Last Thursday, the synapses were firing and I came up with an idea for the final verse [I already know what the chorus and first verse are going to be], and a bridge.
Not sure why I dreamt about Lou Reed. George might've been in my head because I recently dug out a Let It Be bootleg and, a couple weeks ago, I was revisiting his 2 songs on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time to gush about my peeps

Playing right now: The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi (by Damon & Naomi). Features a cover of Country Joe & the Fish's "Who Am I," which is probably one of the saddest songs ever written, at least when Damon Krukowski sings it. It's really beautiful too.

The past week has been a fairly steady diet of John Vanderslice and Nothing Painted Blue. Especially with the weather getting gloomy, Vanderslice's Pixel Revolt has been good listening. The new NPB album, Taste the Flavor, is their first in 8 years, and it's been sitting in the vaults for about four of them. It was worth the wait. I might review it next week if I get the chance. Maybe I'll MAKE the chance.

I want to go on record saying John Vanderslice and Franklin Bruno are two of the greatest songwriters of our times, and anyone reading this should buy anything they can by either of them. Ask me and I'll be glad to tell you where to start.

I actually had a song storyline crystallize in my head this morning at work. I mean specific ideas about what the final verse will say, how it will end, etc, plus a bridge idea. Now all I need is a melody and some words to fill in this outline.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sebadoh III, Second Installment -- the CD reissue

Sebadoh III (Domino)

Sebadoh III is not the strongest album in the Sebadoh catalog. That honor should probably go to either Bakesale or Harmacy. But like the early stages of a relationship, where the awkward moments coexist with the new, uncharted moments of bliss, the album's highpoints keep things at an exciting level. And also like a couple who are just getting to know each, the band's members - Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney and Jason Loewenstein - were evolving from a bedroom project into a real band as the album took shape. This resulted in something a patchwork quality to the 23 songs. (The length made it the first Homestead Records album that was not released on both vinyl and CD). Within a few years, Guided By Voices would be making this sonic gear shift de riguer.

Instrumentation went from solo Barlow recordings to full tilt power trio, with all three getting a chance at the mike. And even when it song didn't make the grade -- or in the case of Gaffney's material, when it got under your skin -- there was always the reassurance that things would pick up within a track or two.

After two albums of lo-fi home recordings by Gaffney and Barlow, Sebadoh III's opening notes come as a pleasant surprise. "The Freed Pig" comes out of the gate with an especially catchy one-string guitar lead that immediately hooks the ear, before Barlow calmly unleashes an open letter to his former Dinosaur, Jr. bandmate J. Mascis. Messy as the lyrical message is (so much so that Gaffney refused to play on it once he heard the words), it sounds like a pop hit.

Many of the album's best moments come in three-song stretches. The best is Barlow's confessional trilogy: "Truly Great Thing," "Kath" (a love song to his future wife, recorded at home as she slept on the other side of the bed) and "Perverted World." Long before emo made heart-on-the-sleeve songs common, here was a guy who sounded shy as he expressed his deep emotions in a way that sounded genuine, playing them over fragile semi-acoustic riffs. "Kath" in particular has a compelling Beatles-cum-flamenco minor riff to it. Then, as if to prove he's not so timid, Barlow grabs Gaffney and the dangerous duo performs a murderous version of Johnny Mathis' "Wonderful Wonderful" where only the lyrics remain from the original.

Loewenstein's trilogy comes in the middle of the disc and presents his sole contributions to the disc. The faux jazz of "Smoke a Bowl" offers a respite from Gaffney's drug-laced scream fests and proves some yuks. "Black Haired Girl" and "Hoppin' Up and Down" are nowhere near as strong as his later material, but they work as sketches in progress.

By the time Eric Gaffney left Sebadoh a few albums later, he had digressed into the one-dimensional screamfests that would become the norm for indie bands that couldn't do Sebadoh's laundry. But on this album, he managed to temper the lung workouts with dreamy riffs and some whacked out Syd Barrett-like imagery ("Fritos roost on dancing wire/ puzzling out a selfish high/ commandment of meadow mouth/ kiss the ground, lift up the house" - "Scars, Four Eyes").

Gaffney's epic "As the World Dies the Eyes of God Grow Bigger" stands as something of an endurance test with its quiet-to-loud shifts, along with similar vocal work and a hard-to-follow narrative that's part narrative and part stream-of-consciousness (due to the bottle of whiskey Gaffney downed during the sessions.) The song, and the album, end with the singer repeatedly screaming "Blood on the walls," which gets lost in a wall of echo as it fades out, making him sound like he's put the blood there himself and he's off to continue the carnage.

The first time I played this album, I nodded off sometime during that song, waking at the climax only to be freaked out, fearing the end had come. In a certain sense it had, since indie rock was turning a corner. Nirvana released Nevermind within a week or two of Sebadoh III's hitting the streets, and we all know what happened there. But Sebadoh was now a living breathing band and at that moment, that was all that mattered.

The reissue's bonus disc contains a few demos of songs that eventually wound up on the album, without offering too different a picture. The real treasure is the "Gimme Indie Rock" EP, which kicks off disc two. That song still packs a sarcastic whallop 15 years down the line.

"Showtape '91" the 12-minute track that closes the disc, is probably for diehard fans only. When the band set-up or switched instruments during the 1991 fall tour, Barlow would flip on a tape of bogus band introductions: "Your post-modern folk-core saviors, Sebadoh!"; "Your new favorite dope smoking renaissance threesome, Sebadoh!" All of them appear here. Self-indulgent, yes. But like the song that launches the second disc, it isn't afraid to lampoon the categorization that indie fans took so seriously at that time, and still do today. So I'm glad it's there.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lester Bangs, the singer

Playing right now: Lester Bangs & the Delinquents - Jook Savages on the Brazos

Yes, Lester Bangs was one of the most original voices is music journalism. Many have aped him, but few get to the heart of what made Mr. Bangs unique -- his love for music.

But how did he stand as a performer?

Well, he wasn't Wild Man Fischer, but he wasn't Lou Reed either. The songs on Jook Savages (which came out in 1981) are better than the performances, I think. The one playing right now, "Day of the Dead" is one I've always wanted to cover. Musically, this might be his "Roadrunner," because it has the same chugging perfect-4th interval. ("Legless Bird" kind of sounds like "Run Run Run"; "I Just Want to Be a Movie Star" has a little Neil Young.)

But while the members of the Delinquents all play the music correctly -- i.e. they hit the notes and make the changes all at the same time -- it doesn't always seem like they're playing together. They kind of sound like the late Columbus band Great Plains, only not as tight. "I'm In Love With My Walls" is built around sort of a conga-line beat which the group seems to try to emphasize, which is a bad idea. "Grandma's House" is a cover, possibly by Ronnie Hawkins. Hard to tell if Lester's trying to mock the song or do a sincere delivery on it.

But I'm never going to sell this album. I have a soft spot for it. Maybe it's because I write about music and play it too. Of course I played it before I wrote about it, so maybe this doesn't count.

Nevertheless, it has the charm of most albums on ESP, the indie label that brought us Albert Ayler, the Fugs, Pearls Before Swine and Patty Waters. Wonder what Lester would think of that comparison.

Great song title: Life is Not Worth Living (But Suicide's a Waste of Time).


At a lackluster yard sale a couple weeks ago, I managed to score 7 albums for a buck. One was a budget line album that looks like it's all Louis Prima and is called Italian Favorites. Turns out Louis on one side and some cat named Phil Brito on the other. "The Tops Collectors Series," the cover brags. What - the company that makes baseball cards decided to branch out into cheapo reissues.

Anyhow, it was worth the 17 cents (or whatever 7/$1 breaks into) for the first couple songs. My fave is "Please No Squeeze Da Banana," the song the fruit vendor (probably an Italian) sings to the cop who filches his produce everyday (obviously an Irish cop; we micks are mooches). He also does "Josephine, Please No Lean on the Bell," which isn't as good as Jerry Colonna's version (I have it on 78), but it's still good. So is "Bacciagaloop Makes Love on the Stoop," which is about the umpteenth song that makes reference to some kind of pasta.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Like ! You Like?

Playing right now: Human Sexual Response - In a Roman Mood

I thought about this album because one of the bands that played at the Repunk Throwdown (i.e. the reunion of the first generation of Pgh. punks) was the Shakes, who played really tight edgy clever pop. And HSR was quite a bit like that. Except that HSR had four singers and played really really tense music, like they were trying to musically capture sexual tension and make you sweat somewhat uncomfortably as you listened.
I can't say for sure because I wasn't there. (They were together in early '80s Boston. That's another Pgh punk connection because HSR guitarist Rich Gilbert later worked with Frank Black who also worked with one-time Pittsburgh punk denizen Reid Paley. He wasn't at the Throwdown since he was played w/the aformentioned Mr. Black that night in Brooklyn.)

So maybe they're nothing like the Shakes. All I know is I love this album and tonight I did something that's a rare thing for me -- I played it twice in a row. And I really loved the Shakes' set the other night.

Repunk was a two-night event. The first installment took place at Quiet Storm, the coffeehouse/BYOB/live music joint. I played with Michael Butscher only 24 hours after seeing him for the first time in about 23 years. On the phone a few weeks prior, we had made tentative plans on covers to play, including one by the Five. We wound up the bills for Friday and Saturday nights, so Friday was going to be mostly Butscher originals, with one by Richard Hell ("Time"). I'm a quick learn so we got them down.
The next day we talked about (well I talked about, I guess) doing the Five, Pere Ubu and the Buzzcocks, and talked Brian from the Five to drum w/us. Turns out we got bumped on Saturday. But it was okay because the night wasn't about me. Besides, by the time things wrapped up, I had played with two other acts.

And another thing, Friday, in addition to getting all those folks together, was about my brother Johnny getting onstage with the Reid-less Five and tearing it up. They reprised their set in a short form the next day, but the power went out 2 verses into "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene." Saturday the Shakes stole the show.


I took off work on Saturday which meant I had more time to traipse over hell's half acre to find estate sales. The first one I went to was in the deep bowels of McKeesport. I got nervous when I drove up and there were hardly any cars there. I had figured the folks would be lined up outside. W/no one there, I thought it was a dud.
Not that I was totally wrong....
The ad for the sale mentioned records and there were a bunch on the front porch. Almost all were beat to crap. Lotta Beatles. I almost picked up a mono Rubber Soul, but it was way too beat, with the cover falling apart. I did get a copy of the album that has the Beatles playing with Tony Sheridan. Thing is, it's not that good. It's beat too.
But I got 7 records for a buck, so I can't really complain. Jerry Colonna was among them, and I'm glad I only paid that much because it's not that good either. Maybe I'll give it to my dad. It's worth it for the song "I Like! You Like?"

From there I drove out to Mt. Lebanon. The ad for the sale I was looking for didn't mention records but I thought, why not check it out anyway. Smart thinking. I found a mono copy of For Your Love by the Yardbirds, a record I had when I was high school. It too is kind of beat. Don't know if it has resell value but when I played it, it took me back. I like it better than I did back then. The real treasure was a copy of an album by The Silhouettes, a Pgh jazz-pop band on Segue records. Those things are kind of coveted by collectors now, and this one's autographed.

Oh, I forgot, I found an original copy of the Mothers' Absolutely Free album at the first sale. That was on the upstairs turntable quite awhile. Now it's stuck in my head.

Well Human Sexual Response is winding down, so I will too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm still here

Playing right now: Mothers of Invention - Absolutely Free

(Found this at a yard sale over the weekend. It was really really beat with what looked like mold growing on the vinyl. It cleaned up okay but I wanted to see how it would play. And now I can't get it off the turntable. I first bought it [I have another copy] when I was in high school.]

If I wanted to give an update on what has happened since the last post, I would take all day. Hmm...maybe I should call in sick and spend the day blogging.......naw, that wouldn't work.

Last week was the Repunk Throwdown, a reunion put together by my brother John, along with Tom and Stephanie from the Deliberate Strangers. It was mostly people who were part of the punk scene from 1978-1982. I didn't know a lot of the people who attended, but I really hit it off with them. Really nice folks. Plus I got to see folks who I hadn't seen in ages: Michael Butscher, John's one-time roommate who took me under his wing and stoked the fires of my music enthusiasm; Laurence Goodby, the guy who made the Five live up to their name before he left the band, and the guy who I was often mistaken for back in the day (Laurence was also a catalyst in what would become Bone of Contention); I also met and played in a musical project organized by poet/author Denise Dee.

I thought I should've encouraged more people my age to come to the thing because for one thing I thought they'd be into it, not having a "you had to be there" feeling, and also so I wouldn't just be sitting on the sidelines while everyone reminisced about such and such a show at the Lion's Walk or Phase III. Turns out these were non-issues. Jennie came with me to the first night's events for one thing and on Saturday I ended up talking to so many people, and sitting in with enough bands (Johnny said I played with more bands than anyone else) that it didn't matter.

More to come.....more estate sale tales.....maybe even a review or two.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sebadoh III First installment -- the show

Playing right now: Nothing, but Francoise Hardy's self-titled Reprise LP is on the turntable. I won it in an auction and it finally arrived today, along with her album Francoise..., which I also won.

Sebadoh's third album, Sebadoh III, is being reissued in a remastered form, along with a bonus disc of music from that band's era. That album came out at a very significant time in my life (fall of 1991), a time which I remember quite vividly in some regards. I plan on writing at least two entries on it. This is the first one.

It chronicles Sebadoh's October '91 performance at the Upstage Lounge, and what it meant to me.

I'm not sure of the show's exact date, but I believe it was October 13. And I recall this not because I'm Rainman or because I looked at a 1991 calendar but because my birthday is October 7 and I know they came to town within a week of me turning 24. I had been dumped in the previous month by a girlfriend to whom I was quite attached. Thus began the worst semester of my college career and any excuse to go to Chief's, the cheap watering hole for the indie rock college crowd (though not limited to that demographic). I started college late so I was somewhere into my second-and-a-half year of full-time studies. The previous semester had proven to me that good grades weren't out of the question if I put a sincere effort to work, reading assignments on time and diving deep into term papers.

Then the dump came and I was directionless yet again.

Sebadoh came to town on a Sunday night. The previous night I broke off a week-old budding relationship with a co-worker who was a really cool friend who had great tastes in music and books and had the sense of humor to tie up the package. She had a cool cat too. It was hard to do but I didn't feel ready go into something that new just yet. (We'll come back to her later).

I worked that Sunday and when I made it to the Upstage I realized that I had drank a LOT of coffee at work and was really really wired. It was the good kind of wired ("WEEE! I'm flyin'!"). All the other bands had played and Sebadoh was just getting up onstage. My timing was perfect. But the audience, perhaps coupled with the caffeine, had me a little nervous: three of my ex-girlfriends were there, including the one who had dumped me. I think I said hi to her and tried to play it off. One ex, two years after the fact, was a little friendlier and when I did talk to ,it was mostly to her. The third ex was at that time engaged to someone else and since we had a bad breakup, I tried to avoid her. She quickly said hi, though, and there was no drama.

This show was one of the loudest --- no, THE LOUDEST -- show I've ever experienced. A few days later, when sitting at home, I realized I wasn't hearing crickets outside my window. The window in fact was closed and what I was hearing was the ringing in my ears. Sebadoh's bass was rattling my nasal cavities and my sternum. It was painful in a way but the music they were playing was worth the loss of hearing. It was loud and overblown, yet it still had a strong sense of melody, not unlike Mission of Burma or the Volcano Suns. Even when Eric Gaffney was screaming his head off, things could still sound hooky. I think they played "As the World Dies The Eyes of God Grow Bigger," a two chord/quiet-to-loud-back-and-forth opus that gets increasingly more chaotic as it progresses. The wilder things got, the more happy I got. I didn't think any new bands were doing music like this. And up until that point, I thought Sebadoh was just an acoustic oddity/homemade tape act that didn't play rock. Turns out they could do both, and they did it better than most.

I didn't own a CD player, so I wasn't well versed in Sebadoh III just yet. (It was released only on CD, a first for Homestead Records, their label.) But when I finally did play the album, songs like "God Told Me" and "Violet Execution" took me back to that night. They were the perfect combination of tight and teetering on the brink of chaos.

The band changed instruments a lot, but to sustain the momentum they kept switching on a tape of goofball introductions of the band that Lou had recorded. (Among them: "SEBADOH! Featuring the guy who used to play bass in Soul Asylum" and mispronounciations of the band name.) The nearly 12-minute tape of this blather wraps up the bonus CD of Sebadoh III and took me back to that night. Clearly you had to be there to appreciate this track, but I was there and I did.

In the liner notes of the disc, Gaffney talks about the guitar he played, a 5-string low drone open-tuned Sigma acoustic, and while I thought it was Lou Barlow that played it, I do remember such an animal being strummed that night because it seemed like it was hell getting that thing miked.

1991 is known as the year punk rock broke, in part because a couple months later a song called "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was all over the place. But '91 was also the year indie rock completed its gestation period. The term was solidified by Sebadoh's song "Gimme Indie Rock" (also included on the new disc), one of the few instances in which indie rockers were able to poke at themselves in a good natured manner. (Usually indie rock humor relies on jokes that only the jokester and his friends get.) When Sebadoh finished playing that night, along with the shattered ear drums, boundaries were shattered between loud rock and quiet introspective music. They weren't mutually exclusive anymore.

At the end of the night, the heartbreaking ex gave me a ride and before I got out of the car, she leaned over and kissed me, thus beginning a few more months of drama and a slightly rekindled relationship.

But when she left town for school at the end of those 2 months, the friend from work made a pass at me and we've been together ever since. (And she even had an appreciation for Sebadoh III when I played it for her.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hey...I'm in a band....

Playing right now: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (see my reply to the last posting)

Old news: The name of the Nothing Painted Blue album mentioned in a previous post is Emotional Discipline.

Recent news: Saturday night was the Amoeba Knievel show that was part of Quiet Storm's Pabst Blue Ribbon party. Normally QS is an all ages coffeehouse where you can byob, but on that night it was an over-21 affair. With free PBR.

The first band was Flotilla Way, who, I realized as they set up, I saw at Modern Formations a few months ago. They're an all-female trio with the guitar/bass/drums lineup. The drummer did a good deal of the singing, which is always good in my book. They kind of reminded me of raw, poppy bands on K. They didn't always sing into the microphones, though, so sometimes their cool harmonies got lost.

We were up next. The last couple Amoeba Knievel shows have been cut short by miscommunications and hassle by the Man, but on Saturday we got through everything! Of course we only put 9 songs in the set, so we planned well. I think we're getting to the point where we're comfortable onstage and we can roll with any spontaneous moments. As we were setting up, Mandee came up to the stage and asked us to vamp so that Tommy could make a grand entrance. The last couple shows started with a song that encouraged that, but the first song in the set was the a cappella "Ballad of Tommy Amoeba." So we played the riff from "I Can't Turn You Loose" (yes, the Otis Redding song; I try to play that any chance I get), and Tommy made his an octopus suit. Mike, Red Bob and I joined Tommy of the choruses of the Ballad, which was a nice touch.

Just remembered: we did 10 songs, because Tommy launched into "Hanky Panky" after "Broken Record" finally fell apart. (For those who don't know, "Broken Record" ends with Tommy repeating the phrase "THis is the way the world ends," ad nauseum. Going into the next song is a tradition from the old lineup's early days.)

The New Alcindors played next and they were totally badass. Harp, baritone sax, trumpet, organ, guitar, bass and drums. Part garage, part soul -- they were a really good time. I always liked the band, but when they were a trio, sometimes my mind would wander because the songs seemed to last just a little too long -- maybe a verse too long -- to keep thing at a high level. Having the horns fills out the arrangments.

Hmm. I don't know if The Umbrellas of Cherboug is something I'll come back to very often. Maybe I need to be following the dialogue in the booklet. Sometimes I worry that record auctions are starting to make me a little dispassionate about albums. Sometimes the feeling of "Hey! It's mono! It's probably really valuable," overrides the feeling of "Wow! Look what I found!" (See, this is a mono copy and I started thinking that if I put it up for get the picture.)

I've been listening to a couple things I bought over the past week. One conclusion I've drawn is that The Beautiful Phyllis Diller is most likely going in the sale pile.

Went to Jerry's today and saw a copy of Try Too Hard for $7. Couldn't do it. Mainly because I'm going away this weekend and I should watch my money. And because the record could really blow. I looked for the other greatest hits album but couldn't find it. SHould've looked for the single w/that song. I bought one of the trilogy of Art Pepper's legendary Village Vanguard albums (Thursday night).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Weekend dispatch

Playing right now: Hank Mobley and His All Stars

(When I first started this blog I was on a Hank kick, but it's actually been awhile since I pulled this album out. Still sounds hot.)

Damn, it's after 2 a.m. The wife is out of town and I just got back from karaoke a little bit ago. And wouldn't you know it, the phone started ringing no more than 2 seconds after I got in the door. That was a good thing. I was hoping I'd talk to her tonight. She's in DC for a conference. I have the house to myself (w/the cats) until Friday when I head down there.

There were estate sales on Friday (!) and Saturday that both lead me to some goodies. On Friday there was one out in Oakdale, which is south, kind of far out there. The house was in the middle of this pre-fab village that was probably the site of a forest 20 years ago. At first all I was finding among the records were musicals and radio shows. Then I pulled out a copy of the Electric Company album, the soundtrack to Exodus, the soundtrack to a movie called The Interns which looks like a stag movie or some sensationalist thing to make you think about letting it all hang out, Frank Sinatra's The Voice (6-eye Columbia label) and.......the real treasure among the bunch....the Music Explosion's Little Bit of Soul album.....SEALED!!

The husband hosting the sale worried me because when I first came up he said he'd give me a deal on all the records, about 200 total. So when I pulled 5 I wondered how much he'd want. Three bucks. Ha cha.

And, 2 days after I got a package of record mailers that I had ordered, this guy had 25 more that he sold to me for about 1/5 of what I paid for the others. All this and I still made it to work on time.

On Saturday there was an estate sale across the street from the former church that I grew up in. (It's now a Jewish senior retirement home and prior to becoming that, it was used for the set of Sharon Stone's lame remake of Diabolique. ) It stated at 9 and I couldn't have walked in later than 9:01 only to see a guy with John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album under his arm. And a customer I recognized from work was walking around with some albums under his arm. There were a few in a cabinet upstairs but more downstairs. I rummaged through both sets and found some weird stuff:

* The soundtrack to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg which includes a color book with it
* This is My Beloved, which I bought mainly because it was on an original Atlantic label. It's music and narrative I think, based on the book by Walter Benton.The cover looks more like it should be called This is the Woman I'm stalking since there's a doll (dame, that is) in capris and a sleeveless top opened to the midriff, and she's leaning against a wall like the cat in the Pepe le Pew cartoons. Off to the left is a guy w/his back to the camera, holding his arms out like, "'eh! C'mere!"
* Les Baxter's La Femme, played by Franck Pourcel. Too muzaky but cool cover of a nude posed all arty-like
* Sim Shalom - Jazz Rock Service. I don't know either, but it was recorded in Pittsburgh in 1970 at Rodef Shalom
* Harold Betters- On Your Account. 2LP put out by Dollar Savings Bank, hence the bad pun in the name. Would First National ever do something like this these days??
* Duke Ellington Presents. '80s Japanese reissue of a so-so album on Bethlehem.
* Adlai Stevenson - The Man, the Candidate the Statesman.
* A Treasury of Ribaldry - Readings by Martyn Greene. It's on Riverside, Monk's label, so that's where the appeal lies.
* Julie London-Calendar Girl.
* Frank Sinatra - Where are You?
* George Shearing Quintet - When Lights ARe Low. This is some of his best early stuff.
* An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer
* Patsy Abbott _ Have I Had You Before. On Chess Records and autographed.
* Threep[enny Opera . Sealed.
* Nat "King" Cole - St. Louis Blues
* A sort-of lame 70s Sammy Davis Jr. comp that you could order off of tv. It's lame because there are remakes of tunes like "WHat Kind of Fool Am I" but it DOES have "Shaft" on it. Same won't do the "bad mother-shut your mouth" schtick but he does keep referring to Shaft as a black dick.

Everything was in incredible shape. After about the 5 minute record, I just figured everything was cool.
I had a 7" copy of Pearl Bailey sings for Adults but I must've put it down at the sale because I totally forgot about it until last night. And it wasn't with my purchases.

But that whole booty only ran me $10. I could've paid $16 for as many records but there were "make an offer" signs all over the place, so I did and they said yes.

I have to work the closing shift tomorrow at work, something I never do. I'm going to sign off but I know I'll be online for awhile, dawdling.

Remind me to write about last night's Amoeba Knievel gig next time.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Moving beyond Tottenham at last

I haven't written long has it been? 10 days? I know it's been more than a week. I'm not able to do a full-blown music entry, but I'll give you a couple tidbits of stuff that I'll elaborate on as early as tomorrow morning.

WE GOT DSL! At long last, we finally moved into the 21st century. Of course, for that reason, I should've added some more entries last week.

I listened to an mp3 of the Dave Clark Five doing "Try Too Hard" several times. I think it's better than I remembered. Thanks, Rich. Thing is, I have to use a version of WinZip to listen to it, or download and pay $29 for WinZip. Rich, should I have saved the mp3 differently?
As I type there's some freakin uber bug crawling on the screen and now on the desk that won't die. [struggle to kill it ] I think I crushed it under a slide that's been sitting here for awhile. I'm afraid to look. That reminds me -- last week when it was really hot, the cats' fleas seemed really really awful so I got some Advantage and it must've really dried Brisbane out because for about 12 hours he looked really frail. I was kind of worried about him since he's at least 12 years old and hasn't been to the vet in about 3 years. But the next day, like Don Gato in the song, he got up when I was making a tuna fish sandwich and he meowled for a sample. Which of course he got.
Mike, my Amoeba Knievel bandmate, said there was not one but two copies of Try Too Hard at Jerry's the last time he went. Mono AND stereo. So maybe I was wrong about its rareness. Should I buy it? And of course the inevitable question, which do I buy - mono or stereo? I should probably hold out for a copy of More Greatest Hits, or better yet, 25 Thumping Greats, which compiles all the DC5 singles. At least I know what I'm getting for my $7.

But I've honestly moved beyond Tottenham. I bought the new Mission of Burma album, which is great and which I'll opine about soon.

Sebadoh III has been reissued with an extra disc of material. That album played a major role in my life during the fall/winter of 1991/1992 and you can believe you'll be hearing about it soon.

The past week's selections while washing dishes included Jethro Tull's A Passion Play and Nothing Painted Blue's singles compilation which I should remember the title of since I love it so much, but I don't. People either love NPB unconditionally or they think Franklin Bruno is really annoying, too wordy and too much like Elvis Costello. I'd hesitate to call him a songwriting genius because, having met the guy, I know that the word would probably make him uncomfortable because he's such a matter of fact dude. But, man, do those couplets send me.

When I was at Paul's CDs yesterday I totally blanked on looking for the new NPB album. D'oh.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In defense of the Tottenham Sound

Playing right now: The Verve/Philips Dizzy Gillespie Small Group Sessions (on Mosaic!)
(Mosaic is a label that specializes in boxsets that span one certain period of an artist's career. And they've been doing this since the early '80s. Their releases - which have expanded to include smaller, 3-disc sets [Mosaic Select] and single album reissues of stuff that nobody has bothered to reissue yet - are really nicely packaged and something that people like I covet. And JazzTimes is letting me review this box for them. I'm thrilled. It's my first Mosaic big-box set, as I reviewed one of the 3-disc Mosaic select sets earlier this year.)

Last night I was seized with the idea for an entry that I decided I'd write this morning....

I like a lot of music that some folks might find questionable. "Nobody Does It Better," the 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night....I can't think of any big perpetrators at the moment, the kind that would make you say, "Now I can sort of understand the others, but you really like _____?" (Herman's Hermits might fit that line, but their strength can be explained by the fact that their songs were written by people like Carole King and Gerry Goffin.)

But there's one in particularthat comes to mind: The Dave Clark Five. It probably has to do with the fact that when I was about six or seven, there was a flea market at the Mary S. Brown Church, which is still standing in the highly residential neighborhood where I grew up. My great aunt Mary, knowing that I liked records, bought the whole pile of them for me: Sam the Sham, Tom Jones, Warren Covington (Tea for Two Cha-Chas) and More of the Best of Dave Clark Five. So my first exposure to the Tottenham Sound came at a young, impressionable age.

These days I can get a kick out of hearing "Catch Us If You Can" and especially "Bits and Pieces," but I know in listening to these songs, they really aren't that well written. The other British Invasion bands really looked down on Dave and the lads. I think in part because they started as a project to make money for a soccer or rugby team and they just kept going. So they were the first band of that area where the $$ came first, or at the very least it came before the cred. In an article on the Brit invasion, Graham Nash in particular sounded off on how "We haaated the Dave Clark Five." Not that he's one to talk.

Anyhow, I've had a song from More of the Best in my head lately, although I haven't heard it for over 20 years. It's called "Try too Hard." It's the perfect example of a song that is only half-written. It starts off with two piano chords, similar in a way to the start of "Eye of the Tiger," but nowhere near as thunderous - "first chord, second chord, first chord again," followed by a weak boinng going up the neck of the guitar. The riff kicks in and a few of the boys sing in harmony:

Teeeeeeell me do you want my life [drum roll]
Telllllllllll me what you're thinking of [drum roll]
Iiiiiii've been waiting 'round so long [drum roll to cue chord change]

Then it gets quiet again. That's the verse AND chorus. It's just getting started and it shuts itself down before it gets near anything resembling the kind of climax that you'd find in a Beatles song. And those words (I might've gotten them slightly wrong; it's been several years, y'know) - pure poetry, eh?

Nonetheless it's kind of catchy. Laughable and catchy. On that comp lp it was followed by a ballad called "Come Home," which a former bandmate of mine, a person who wouldn't cut the DC5 1/8 as much slack as I would, really really liked. In fact she bought a copy of Weekend in London used just to have that song. So even in their overly simplistic ways, the DC5 had something going for them. Lead singer Mike Smith often sang with what sounded like a bad Kirk Douglas imitation, as if his teeth were clenched together.

I got rid of More of the Best many years ago although I somehow wound up with their first Best of lp, and I have both mono AND stereo copies of the first album Glad All Over, although I can say I've never listened to either of them all the way through. Why? They're terrible. They blatantly plagarize "Camptown Races" in a song called "Doo Dah." That's enough to make anyone run from them. Me? I thought I could use them. Paid 75 cents each. I think the only other thing I did with them was compare the mono and stereo sounds of "Bits and Pieces."

While that album is very easy to find, More of and especially Try too Hard don't show up very often. And I don't really feel like paying more than $5 for either. But I'd like to hear that song again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Meditations in the morning - on original Impulse

Playing right now: John Coltrane - Meditations
I wonder if my neighbors can hear the music coming out of the window, which is near one of the speakers. This is pretty loose, unrestrained Coltrane, with two drummers flailing away and Pharoah Sanders blowing his tenor sax like there's a demon in it that he's trying to exorcize. I didn't feel right playing Ascension, which has about seven horns playing that way.

My JazzTimes article is done! I finished it and filed it yesterday morning. I doubt the magazine's editor is reading this, and if so I don't know if he'd care anyway, but I didn't start actually writing it until Sunday afternoon. Reason being, I was waiting to hear from a couple potential interview sources up until the last minute. I could've started writing it earlier, but I kept thinking that one source might change the whole angle of the article. And if there was more time, a lot of it probably would've been spent staring at the computer screen or out the window at the birds that land on the wire here. (I've become quite fascinated by birds as of late. There are a couple in the parking lot at work that have incredible long, complex songs.)

But about the usual, I won't give much away because I never talk extensively about my published stuff (or to-be published stuff) in this space. Since I've had most of the interviews in hand for several weeks, I kept losing sight of the fact that the reader wouldn't know the basic information on these people: what they do, why, how it works etc. It's for JT's education issue that comes out in November. So it wasn't musicians. They're easy to talk about.

This was the first feature I've written for JazzTimes in about two years. Since then, it's been all CD reviews, with the occasional quick feature on somebody.

A week and a half ago, I finally got to write some CD reviews for Harp, JT's sister magazine that focuses on indie rock and singer-songwriter types. I wrote two small articles for them in January 2005 and since then I've been pitching stuff that has either been politely declined or blown off. (DOn't worry, guys, I know what it's like having been in that position.) But lo and behold I got three CD reviews, including the upcoming Yo La Tengo, a best of Luna CD and a disc by P.F. Sloan, who was a songwriter in the '60s and wrote "Eve of Destruction" among others. It was a really tight deadline and I had to search around the Matador website to find the person who could get me a copy of the YLT CD. But I got it in just enough time to give it 2 thorough listens and write about it. Of course I only had 150 words in which to say it. My stock line is "200 words? It takes me 200 words to clear my throat." So I guess with 150, the phlegm is still there but has been loosened.

Sorry. Metaphors aren't my strong point.

At last night's Amoeba Knievel practice, the original lineup was invited to drop by since original bassist Dan Barone is visiting in town. Tommy didn't tell them a specific time, but no matter: When we got to practice, we found out the guys weren't coming after all.

Just remembered I owe JT a live review of the Henry Grimes show. Maybe if I hustle I can do it before work. If I get offline soon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Beaver O'Lindy's 16 tons of Cut out Witches

Playing right now: Nothing, because I can't decide what I want to hear. And I'm hoping this'll just be a quickie entry so there's no time to pick out background music.

At breakfast, I pulled out one of the two Tennessee Ernie Ford albums I bought at a sale a few weeks ago. I decided I wanted to hear This Lusty Land. With "John Henry" kicking off side one, it seemed like it'd be fun. Turns out This Lusty Land was not the record in the sleeve. Said record was something Tn. E. F. FAvorites, and it was really beat up. But since "16 Tons" was the first song, I put it on. Didn't realize that Ern could get a little sappy. It wasn't the rugged country croonin' that I expected, but more like someone you might hear on Sing Along with Mitch and the Gang. And Billy May did the arrangements on some of the songs!

Last night I put on Sparks' A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing. A fired synapse in my head got me thinking of their version of "Do Re Mi," which sounds more like the Who than Julie Andrews. And that started me thinking of that whole side of the record, how beautiful and surreal "The Louvre" is. A song about a painting taunting tourists to steal it! Has anyone ever written something so unique?

Anyway I had to get it out and play throw it on. That album is a real underground classic. I hope that somehwere there is a legion of record collecting geeks that have sung the praises of the Mael Brothers, and how those first two Sparks albums (this being the second) are unequalled pieces of weird pop. They have very few precedents, except for maybe the Kinks, but Ron Mael's take on his subject matter takes that British approach and filters it through a distinctly American upper middle class/come-of-age-in-the-'60s voice.

Over dinner last night I put on Guided By Voices' Under the Bushes Under the Stars, which was the last album done by the original lineup. (OK GBV, experts I know it wasn't the "original" original lineup, but it still had Tobin Sprout and the other Dayton dudes on it). I haven't played it in years and I was really taken with it again. "The Official Ironmen Rally Song" comes on the jukebox at Gooski's all the time, and I'm reminded of how catchy that is, but this album is full of simple hooks and slightly lo-fi guitars that serve to make the riffs grab onto you. I had it out because I lent it to a friend of mine and I'm glad it didn't just shelf it when I got it back.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July listening

Playing right now: Johnny Cash - At San Quentin

Tonight, I went to put on a record downstairs and the Andrew Hill record that I listened to this morning (Andrew!!) was still on the turntable and still spinning because it never rejected when the side was over.

To quote a cartoon character I really dislike: "Aaaaack!"

I decided I needed to listen to a couple albums that I bought at estate sales recently, so I pulled out Sinatra's My Way. I skipped the title track, but it has some good and ridiculous cuts: "If You Go Away," "Didn't We," "Mrs. Robinson." His version of "Watch What Happens" is really cool. My first real girlfriend had a copy of it and she had a turntable that could play the song over and over if the thing wasn't hooked over the spindle. And we used to listen to that all night. Until I got really sick of it.

Then I came up here and decided I needed to make a list of all the records I've bought at estate sales, along with how much resell $$ I've made. I can't remember some of them - even ones I bought this weekend. There's one that escapes me.

Another one I forgot about was a Flatt & Scruggs record. So I put that on while I was working hear. It's all sort of religious songs, but it's cool. Not enough banjo though.

I can't tell if this Johnny Cash album is worn out or if my speakers are shorting out but it's all buzzy.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Now about Henry Grimes

Playing right now: Bud Powell - Portrait of Thelonious
I took a pile of albums purchased at an estate sale to Jerry's today. Last week he told me he needs "best sellers": Beatles, early Stones, Grateful Dead. Well I found some McCartney albums, Emotional Rescue and two LPs by that band that you would never see in my possession unless there's something in it for me. Jerry said later Stones and solo Sir Paul don't move, but he gave me a decent chunk of change for all of them, so I made a little dough in the process. (I threw in my U.S. copy of Help!, a couple Tony Bennetts, and 4 Grandmaster Flash 12"s I had sitting around. All but the Tonys padded out the filler.) Plus I got $5 in trade. And that's how I wound up with this Bud Powell album. I kept nodding off or getting interrupted when I played it earlier this evening so I'm trying to check it out now. He was in good form on it, although his version of "Monk's Mood" seems kind of tedious. 7 minutes and nothing but the theme repeated over and over. Maybe it'll grow on me.
So on Saturday I met up with Henry Grimes to give him a Before & After "test" for JazzTimes. Henry is an interesting person since he played with a lot of avant-garde jazz guys in the '60s (Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor -- hey, who else do you need to mention?) as well as Thelonious Monk and others. Then he disappeared. Well, he moved to LA and a lot of people thought he dropped of the face of the earth. About 4 years ago, a social worker found him and a number of people helped him get a new bass (William Parker mainly) and now Henry is back in New York making music.

The Before & After is like what downbeat calls the Blindfold test: Play the musician a recording, ask them what they think of the music and who it might be. Tell them. Get more reactions.

At first I was worried the thing was going to fall through since I wasn't able to get into the apartment where he was staying. I banged on the door for about 10 minutes and then went to the payphone across the street to call Henry's girlfriend/manager. No answer. And I think I freaked out a friend who happened to pass by right as I was trying to figure out what to do. I felt bad because he wanted to help me and there was absolutely nothing that could have been done to alleviate the problem. After driving up to ModernFormations (the show was there) I got in touch with Ed, whose apartment it was, and he told me to come to the back fire escape. Finally, contact was made.

I don't think I should tell you how the B&A went. You should read about it in JazzTimes when it comes out. Although that might not be until next spring.

Allow me to skip ahead to the performance and say that Henry is league with any big time, bad ass player you can name. Mingus, Ray Brown, no kidding, this guy is solid as a rock. He played with Oluyemi Thomas, a multi-reedist from California. That guy started on bass clarinet, switched to musette (which sounded really wild, like an adolescent soprano sax) then onto soprano sax, on which he had a really thick strong tone. Henry moved all over the bass, played with a bow, held the bow w/a couple fingers while he plucked the strings. He was everything you would've hoped.

Got the new issue of JazzTimes today and I have a whole bunch of stuff in it. I wrote 11 guitar player reviews (god help me) for the Guitartistry column, plus 3 separate standing reviews. Look for it on your favorite newsstand. And if you only want to read one thing that I did, go to my review of the Dom Manasi CD in the Guitartistry column. I've rather proud of my ending line.