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.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

We Love Our Audience

It's Sunday and I'm working. Today is usually my day off but I took off on Friday to go see Bauhaus, and they put me on the schedule today.

Playing right now: I think it's the blues satellite radio station.

I was talked in to going to the PG Pavilion by the wife because she really wanted to see Bauhaus. They were opening for Nine Inch Nails, who I don't care for either. But she offered to pay for the ticket if I would drive out to that vast wasteland of authoritarian money grubbing (no lawn chairs, no umbrellas, you can bring in your own water but we have to pour it in a cup at the security gate and you can only bring in one water, buy our overpriced lame-ass food, but enjoy the show!).

But all told it wasn't so bad. We were on the lawn and while the jumbotron wasn't working at least we could see the stage from a distance. Peaches played first and she exceeded all our expectations too. The first song, which we heard from the foodcourt area, sounded like a Kim Gordon shriekfest, but by the time we got our, um, seats, she sounded pretty good. She had a live band with her, included a dame drummer who had double-bass drums (badass!).

For a true, detailed account of Bauhaus' set, it'd be better to check out Jennie or her pal Sheryl's blogs (don't know the urls at the moment). I don't know their material really really well, although I have heard a lot of it at home, when Jennie has put it on. But I know enough to say that they rocked. And Peter Murphy is quite the consumate professional. Shimmy in place, sashaying across the stage, standing on a riser and bending to the waist so that, from a distance, he looks like he's going to fly away and then he has you believing that he will. I was impressed.

To make sure a good night wasn't spoiled, we decided that, yes, we wanted to leave before Trent and the gang came on. So we did.

Oh by the way: no Bauhaus encore. No "Bela Lugosi's Dead." I was disappointed but I got over it.

I want to write about Henry Grimes but I feel like I should go get a coffee and get ready to start my shift. I'll write about Henry later. It's a long story -- a good one, though -- anyway.

PS It's not the blues station, it's the montage of blues, lame folky acoustic stuff and Cat Power.