Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I'm Back

If you were a regular visitor to Brewster's Millions but not someone I know how to contact personally, well you must have thought I died. I didn't, but my blog did. Something got screwed up in the template, rendering my blog useless. I just now figured out how to fix it.

I had to choose a new template, erasing all of my modifications in the process.

In the meantime, I moved. You can now find my blog at https://midnightcafe.wordpress.com/.

Wordpress is proving to be a decent place to live. I love their ability to categorize all of my posts. They have some built in feeds that are super cool as well. However, I have yet to figure out how to modify my template, so it all looks rather boring. Plus, some of the formatting for posting totally sucks.

I'm actually looking at a more permanent solution with my own server and url. For the meantime, come on over to Wordpress to see the new me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Freak Happening

On my way home from work today I’m stopped at a red light at an intersection between 2nd street and highway 37. Both streets are always very busy, and on Friday afternoon just after 5 o’clock, they are crammed with traffic.

So, there I am waiting at the red light amongst all the other saps trying to get home for the weekend, when out of nowhere this big, fat tire comes flying out of the sky. It was a good twenty feet in the air at it’s peak and came crashing down right onto the back windshield of this little silver car.

SMASH!

The window went out with an explosion of shattered glass and panic. The tire then leaped back into the air, crashing down onto the trunk of the next car then rolled across the rest of the road resting at a curb.

Looking around I couldn’t see any car crash or anything else that would indicate where the tire came from. It wasn’t like there was some wheeless auto lined up on the exit ramp, or a big truck hauling tires. Absolutely nothing around that could have lost a tire.

The lady in the car was unhurt and pulled to the side of the road. The rest of us drove off quietly, stunned into silence at the sheer oddity of it all.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Calendar Movies: North by Northwest

Recently, I had lunch with the human resources director at my place of employment. Both she and the chief operations officer were down to my office for the day and I invited them out to Cracker Barrel (it was a cheap maneuver as my boss was out of town, and I knew they’d pay for the food.) I needed the COO as a buffer between me and HR because last time I had lunch with Human Resources I got drilled on my opinion on everything from our company values to how the janitorial staff is doing.

It worked perfectly, I got a good meal paid for, and the COO kept us distracted by trying to win that little triangle peg game all Cracker Barrels leave on the table. It’s quite a thing to see your boss’s boss’s boss cursing at a children’s game because it says he’s an “ignoramous.”

The toughest question I had to field from HR was about my favorite movie. I chose Casablanca much to the surprise of my questioner. Now, at 30, I’m not anywhere near a young whippersnapper, but I guess I’m still pretty far removed from an ancient classic like that.

The thing is, I really dig the old movies. I’m the kind of guy who goes to Blockbuster and heads for the center rows, not the outside aisles with new releases. I suppose this is a strange thing, where kids today haven’t even seen Star Wars much less The Third Man.

Seriously, the first time I found out someone at work had never seen Star Wars I nearly fell out of my comfy office chair. It is as bewildering to realize that a film that means so much to me and my generation could be a relic to a new generation.

But maybe this is just me. I prefer Turner Classic Movies to HBO. I’d rather watch Humphrey Bogart than Tom Cruise. Black and white is much sexier then high definition super color.

Watching a movie like this month’s Calendar Movie, North by Northwest I’m struck by the notion that it’s not so different from your summer Hollywood blockbuster these days.

You’ve got one of the biggest stars working at the time, Cary Grant, working with an A-list director, Alfred Hitchcock; that’s like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg working together. The story is full of big action, lots of laughs and brimming with sexuality. It would play perfectly in today’s multiplexes

It’s the sex that struck me in this viewing. No, there isn’t any nudity, or hard core action. There isn’t even any soft core action, or anything more than some kissing. But the dialogue is boiling over with innuendo and double entendres. And if you’re going to have double entendres, who better than Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint to do it?

Beyond the sex there is more action and twists than a porno staring Gumby and Pokey. The famous crop duster scene still excites beyond what most CGI adventures can muster in an entire film.

So I ask myself again, why do brilliant, solid pieces of filmmaking like this get left on dusty shelves to be replaced by boring, repetitive, unimaginative showcases of mediocrity? Is the movie going public so stuck on adrenaline pumping, computer generated eye candy, that the classics are above their threshold of understanding?

Partially I think that it is part of our cultural existence to get the newest, freshest product. We buy the new models of cars even though our old one rides just fine. We purchase the top of the line, brand new computer products because our 6 month old lap top is “outdated.”

No one stands around the water cooler talking about Hitchcock or Billy Wilder. We talk about box office receipts, and the new weekend releases. Hollywood asks us to. They can’t afford for an audience to sit around watching worn out VHS copies of Ninotchka when they just spend 100 million dollars on the new Vin Diesel picture.

Kids don’t get hip credibility by wearing t-shirts with Peter Lorre on them. That’s not the kids fault, for if they had the chance to watch Lorre in M his picture would be right out there like Al Pacino in Scarface.

I can’t help but think if more people were exposed to classics like North by Northwest there would be no surprise when a young man stated his favorite movie was Casablanca.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Random Shuffle - 4/24/06

“When Stars Go Blue” - Ryan Adams
from 05/07/05

I mentioned last week that Ryan Adams writes a lot of slow tuneless sad songs, this one is actually one of his sad songs that I really like. The reason why? He actually writes a melody. It’s a lilting little melody that floats like a paper boat on a lake. It’s a beautiful song, really. This version is with the Cardinals, his most recent touring band. This band rather rocks and so even this ballad has some loudish guitar noise with it. I like the earlier version with the acoustic guitars and the sadness.

But this is a nice version and the electric guitar solo here is quite fine. The Cardinals remind me in some ways of the Grateful Dead, and they are obviously fans since on this last tour they covered several Dead tunes. They also keep Adams expanding on his songs improvisationally, giving this tune a real jam. Something it has never had.


“Hole in the Backyard” – Keller Williams
from Grass

Keller Williams is generally a one man jam band. He tours as a solo artist, but creates a thick, layered song with just him, a guitar and a looping machine. With the machine he can record a quick guitar lick or vocal sound and then continually play it back over and over, while he creates new music on top of it. Add more layers and you get a sound that is unique in the business.

This is one of the better songs off of his latest bluegrass disk, Grass. It’s full of clever, pun filled lyrics about what they’re going to do with a giant hole in the back yard. The music is foot-tapping, shake-your-hips marvelous. It’s the kind of song that means absolutely nothing, but is still a joy to crank up and boogie to.

“Midtown” – Tom Waits
from Raindogs

This is Tom Waits that I can dig. It’s an instrumental electric jazz number that sounds like it could be an outtake off of one of Miles Davis’ later albums, or part of a movie score circa 1970 detective stories.

It is only about a minute long, so I’m sure it’s part of a larger whole that I have yet to really listen to.

“The Man Who Would Be King” – The Libertines
from The Libertines

As I start to listen to new music again (as opposed to my countless bootlegs) I find my musical tastes migrate across the sea to the shores of the United Kingdom. This is either because we’re experiencing another British invasion or that several of my writing buddies are from the UK.

These days Pete Doherty gets more press for his narcotics arrests than for fronting Babyshambles or previously, the Libertines which is a shame because he’s responsible for some of the best indie rock to hit the airwaves in some time.

This is a pretty straight out rock number that takes some interesting changes in the bridge, and some impressive “la la la’s” in the chorus. And who doesn’t like la las?

“Train Under Water” – Bright Eyes
from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

I swear I’ve written about Bright Eyes in Random Shuffle before, but looking through the archives I see nothing. Age is creeping in faster than I thought.

Bright Eyes is basically Ohioian Conor Oberst’s band with various side players thrown in when he wants. He writes painfully beautiful lyrics with a generally acoustic, folk laden musical background (although Digital Ash in a Digital Urn is his attempt at Radiohead inspired electronica).

Bright Eyes are one of my new favorite bands out there. Their lyrics are so often incredibly raw and honest to make one embarrassed while still being inspired. “Train Under Water” is a nice acoustic number with Conner whisper whining right along with the strums of the guitar. But there is enough of a melody and changes in the chorus as to make it head bobbingly terrific.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How Did I Get So Fat?



Planning to ship a couple of boxes to some friends in France, my wife asked me to help her weigh them to get an idea of how much this would cost. Having only a bathroom scale and the boxes being to big to fit on it; we decided I would weigh myself, and then I would hold onto a box – the difference between me and me with the box should be the weight of the box.

I stood on the scale and looked down.

200 pounds!

How can I weight 200 pounds?

It’s true I have been weighing in at about 190 pounds for the last several weeks, but where did the extra ten pounds come in?

Like so many others I have a job that keeps me sitting sedentary for most of the day. The hours of sitting are moved along with mouth fulls of junk food: carbonated soda, salty chips, chocolate bars and doughnuts.

I have a moving and rather odd shift that doesn’t allow for too many daylight hours in which I can be active. By the time I do get home, I’m often so exhausted that all I want to do is sit on the couch and vegetate.

Even on a day like today when my shift gets off early and I start the day with plans of eating right and maybe hitting the gym on my way home I am sabotaged by the local vending lady and her pies.

As a way to say thank you for using her services, she brought in a dozen or so lovely, delicious pies. Chocolate pies, lemon pies and scrumptious, coconut cream pies.

How could I resist?

It’s like this all the time. Folks go to Steak and Shake and pick me up a caramel vanilla milk shake. The boss brings in pastries for a Friday morning meeting. One of the supervisor orders pizza for her meeting. On and on it is a steady stream of sugar, salts and fats paraded in front of my useless will power.

I used to live on the other side of town and so would bring my lunch to work. I’d spend the rest of my lunch hour taking power walks down the sidewalk. I now live about a mile away and take the five minute drive home for lunch. Which means I go home, check my e-mail, and play a quick game of Zuma ending my hour with a quick meal and absolutely no exercise.

200 pounds of this and I have got to find a better way. I have vowed to take my lunch to work each day, a sandwich or a salad. I’m ordering an i-Pod which I plan to fill with good tunes and some audio books which will motivate me to walk again. Then I’m swearing off sodas (again.) Sodas are killer. I despise coffee so soda has become the method of choice for my caffeine addiction. If I can manage to get over the three day hump of no caffeine and convince my body I wake up better, and healthier with a glass of juice or some herbal tea.

I’ve always known I’d never make a good muscle bound stud. I don’t have the personality for it. Seeing that scale tip the 200 mark has punched me in the solar plexus. If I can’t be on the cover of Muscle Magazine, I hope I can at least lose a few pounds and become healthier.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bootleg Nation: The Rolling Stones 02/24/73

Sound quality is always an issue with bootlegs. We’re not dealing with official studio recordings here. The music isn’t mixed separately, onto individual tracks. A record producer isn’t standing over a mix board going through the music note by note painstakingly manipulating the sound to produce the optimal sound.

This is in the moment, live music. A singer’s voice is unfiltered and raw. Guitarists hit wrong notes, strings break, and a myriad of other problems can affect the final product. Soundboard engineers must make decisions on the fly to get the best possible product to an audience.

Bootleg sound comes in all shapes and sizes. The best come straight from the soundboard, mixed for the band. Many bands record their concerts so they can be played back later, and the performance can be reviewed by the musicians – much like a sports team will watch game tapes.

Other times concerts will be recorded with the intention of a later, official release. These tapes are sometimes leaked into the fan base, or stolen and slipped into trading circles. The sound quality is pristine and the tapes are treasured by fans and collectors.

FM radio is a treasure trove of concert recordings. Live music has been a staple of radio since the first transmitter released its madness. It is also an easy method for fans to get their first bootlegs. Landing a pre FM version of the same show makes it even more stellar for the sound must be compressed a great deal before it makes the airwaves.

Taper friendly bands will often allow their fans to patch straight into the soundboard allowing phenomenal recordings of the show, recorded on DAT machines and then traded to the masses.

The worst sound comes from audience recordings. These come from microphones set up by fans smack dab in the middle of the audience. Depending on the equipment used, and the ability of the recorder these tapes can either give an excellent feel of what it was like to actually be there, or give an intimate portrait of the stoned out, screaming fan sitting next to the taper.

There are also mixes between audience and soundboard recordings called a matrix recording. This usually consists of a soundboard patch with an audience mike filtered in. When done right this can produce the remarkable sound of a soundboard tape with the live feel of being there on the ground with the rest of the audience.




The Rolling Stones
02/24/73
Western Australia


I only recently would consider myself a fan of the Rolling Stones. All I ever really knew of them were the radio hits. Tunes like “Honky Tonk Women,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” are classics songs and I would never have knocked them (though for my buck, Otis Redding blows the Stones out of their own water on “Satisfaction”). But, they are so overplayed by classic rock and oldies stations as to make them tired and old.

For reasons I can’t remember I started making my way through their catalog and was blown away by the sheer magnitude of their collection. I’ve still not found an album that I love all the way through, but there is enough incredible music on albums like Exile on Main Street to make me put them on a Beatles like level. I’m amazed that the radio only plays a handful of hits, when songs like “Rocks Off” and “Dead Flowers” are rolling out there all by their lonesome.

Watching the Stones at the Superbowl at what must be their twelfth final tour makes me roll my eyes in disgust. Mick Jagger working the crowd like a teenager in his 60 year old body just isn’t a pleasant sight. Keith Richards can still pack a power punch, but I still want to scream “Retire!” over and over.

This shows from 1973 shows the boys at what they could once do. This is a band at the top of their game, knocking the rocks off our collective socks. It is balls out thick and dirty sex rock. You can hear the lust oozing out of every pore of Richards proud lips.

They produce a rumble straight out of Thor’s gut.

The sound is from a soundboard, but you can tell it’s passed through a few generations. It’s a bit muddled in the mix and some external tape hiss is present, but what it lacks in sonic quality is made up for in the ferocity of the playing.

My copy is actually a liberated bootleg. Which is basically an illegal bootleg that has been released from its illegal bonds and passed through trading circles. Some punks got a hold of this music, threw a cheap cover on it and sold it for way too many dollars. Smart traders, and self-appointed police of the legal bootleg world, took the recording out of the thieves’ hands and passed it along freely through trading circles.

Because of this it is only a partial show, official set lists include four songs not included in my bootleg. What is included are scorching renditions of some hits, and those that should have been.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Concert Review - Wilco (April 17, 2006)

The last and first time I saw Wilco in concert I walked out. That’s right, walked right out the door on one of the best bands playing rock and roll today. This was just after A Ghost is Born came out, so it was well into all the hoopla over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Frankly, at the time I wasn’t much of a fan, I had only heard the Being There album and attended the show more out of something to do, than any real relationship to the band or their music.

They were playing a club way too small for them at the time. It was standing room only, and within a few songs into their set, the place was swelling. Everyone was jostling for position, pushing, squishing, and elbowing in every direction. It was more than my wife, and our friend could take.

The final poke was from an enormous young man who was not only pushing for the front row, but talking obnoxiously loud on his cell phone right in front of us. My two companions moved way to the back of the small club. I moved to a friendly section of the crowd but knew my time was coming. After a few more songs I found my people and we decided to walk out. The band was good, but not knowing any songs and the rotten crowd overruled anything our ears were hearing.

Fast forward to last night, I have since become a convert to the Wilco idolatry religion, and am very excited to see them again. Hoping to finally rid myself of the stigma of having once walked out.

This time the venue is much larger and more fitting to the band’s status. The IU Auditorium is a medium sized auditorium with lots of seats and space.

The opening band was local and an odd mix of the Meat Puppets, “Space Oddity” era David Bowie and Radiohead. They started promptly at 8:00 to a crowd at less than half capacity.

Opening acts are an odd thing to me. They say they are there to get the crowd jazzed and loosened up, but the crowds I’ve seen are usually bored by an opener and keep looking at their watches hoping those fools will get off the stage so the headliners will appear.

I guess it’s a good opportunity to hear bands you might not have heard before.

The opening band played a good 40 minute set. After a long 40 minute pause, Wilco finally took the stage at 9:20.

The crowd now at full capacity gave the auditorium a good holler.

They opened with a rumbling version of “Airline to Heaven” followed by a scorching “Kingpen.”

The crowd was pretty tame. My section of the balcony was half standing, half still in their seats. Songs from Yankee Foxtrot Hotel got the biggest cheers of the night, but songs from all of their other albums got noticeably less participation in the sing-alongs.

Actually my realization for the night is that Wilco has very little in terms of sing along lyrics. Sure, they have a few good belters such as the hillbilly bluegrass chanter “Forget the Flowers” and the nonsensicalness of “I’m a Wheel” is a hoot to scream a long with, but so much of their music has these sorts of odd tempos and changes that render any typical sing-along too difficult to enjoy.

They more than make up for this with the music. There are so many great hooks in their songs as to get lost in them trying to count. The quiet beginning of “At Least That’s What You Said” followed by the loud, pounding rhythm which is then followed by a louder, more pounding rhythm is a slice of pure rock and roll heaven.

More than once I reached the point of ecstasy where my body shook to the beat as only a white boy can, my eyes closed and my smile took over my whole person. Surely the sign of a great rock concert.

Lead singer/guitarist/primary song writer Jeff Tweedy goaded the audience by saying we were acting rather mild for an audience he had been pre-warned would be rowdy. This was the beginning of Little 500 week at Indiana University, the loudest, most party-rific week at a school which has often won the title of “#1 Party School.”

The audience responded by jumping over the rails at the front row and cramming right up against the stage.

The band closed a second encore with “California Stars” and we walked out into the cool spring night under lovely Indiana ones.

Setlist:
1. Airline To Heaven
2. Kingpin
3. Handshake Drugs
4. A Shot In The Arm
5. At Least That's What You Said
6. Hell Is Chrome
7. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
8. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
9. Forget The Flowers
10. War On War
11. Jesus, Etc.
12. Hummingbird
13. The Good Part
14. Walken
15. Heavy Metal Drummer
16. Theologians
17. I'm The Man Who Loves You
18. Monday

Encore 1:
19. The Late Greats
20. I'm Always In Love
21. I'm A Wheel

Encore 2:
22. California Stars

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

DVD Review: Millions

In many of the reviews for Millions, critics have discussed how director Danny Boyle has departed from his usual violent, bloody, adult fair into a whimsical children’s story. It is a fair discussion since Boyle’s other work include stories of greed and murder, heroin addiction, and a modern take on the zombie movie (and yes I know the villains in 28 Days Later weren’t technically zombies, they were infected. But if you look like a zombie, eat flesh like a zombie, and smell like a zombie, then you’re a zombie in my book).

That’s a far cry from your normal kids' flick.

Upon closer look at this film, Boyle has not stretched that far from his normal themes than you might suspect. He is still dealing with greed, the darkness of the human soul, and the things that make us human, only in a manner more childlike and full of wonder than usual.

The story involves two young brothers, Damian (Alexander Nathan Etel) and Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon), who chance upon a bag full of British Pounds, when it literally falls from the sky and onto Damian’s playhouse. The boys must quickly spend the money for Britain is only days away from converting to the Euro, thus making the Pound worthless.

Boyle creates a fantasy world that is effervescent and joyous. It is a joyful film that is alive with buoyant colors and so unique in its ability to remain enjoyable to children as well as adults as to render it uncommon in today’s everything must be a blockbuster world.

The two brothers differ greatly in how they see fit to spend the money. Anthony, being a bit older and perhaps more world wise, spends it at his new school bribing his classmates into a kind of mini-mafia, purchases the coolest new toys for tikes, and looks to invest in real estate to parlay his fortune a little farther.

Damian is something of a dreamer and often is visited by famous saints such as St. Peter and St. Francis of Assisi. The saints point Damian to a different road where the money can be put to better use than selfish gain. So he sets about giving the money to a homeless man, a group of Mormons, and other charitable organizations -- much to the chagrin of Anthony.

This sets up the moral of the tale, where nearly everyone is affected by greed. The boy’s father finds himself trying to spend the money even after he has learned it is stolen property. Boyle tends to wear his morals on his sleeve a bit too much -- especially at the end -- but it is told with such jubilation it is hard to knock him for it.

It is a lovely family film, one that is well made and neither panders to the kids, nor is too insipid for adults.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Random Shuffle 4/17/06


“I’m Lonely (But I Aint That Lonely Yet) – The White Stripes
from Get Behind Me Satan

There was a period of about 3 years where my live music lust pretty much blocked everything else out. I had no interest in new music. The stuff I periodically heard on the radio was trash. Boy bands and Britney Spears, my life can totally live without that.

The thing was, live music moved me in ways that the typical studio album didn’t. Plus it was a lot cheaper to buy a blank CDR at about ten cents a pop, than spend $18 for a studio album I wasn’t even sure was any good.

Slowly, I began coming out of my hibernation, and came around to the idea that there was some good music out there that wasn’t live, that was produced in a studio, and that was worth my $18.

It is during this reemergence that my sister’s husband, Brian asked me if I had heard the new White Stripes album. I replied I hadn’t and he said I should check it out, that I would like it. I’m always a little annoyed when people tell me I’ll like something – whether it’s a song, or a movie or book – most people have no idea what I really like, and to presume I’ll like something based on whatever is annoying. But Brian is usually pretty spot on with his recommendations (well except talking me into seeing Shallow Hal, for which he will never be forgiven).

So, I got a copy of Get Behind Me Satan and freaking loved it. I had been hearing about the White Stripes for awhile, about how they were the saviors of garage rock, but had pretty much ignored them. The album was so much more than garage rock, or punk, or just loud guitars. These were well thought out tunes, with insight into melody and song craft. The band could use a little filling out from their trick 2 person lineup. The songs needs little more than guitar/drum, piano/drum, solo piano. Would it kill Jack White to hire a bass player, and maybe a rhythm guitarist?

“I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet) is a nice little piano ballad. It is a far cry from the pumped up boom of “Seven Nation Army.” It’s also one of my least favorites from the album. There just isn’t enough to it. It’s got sad little lyrics, but it’s just pling pling on the piano and mopey singing from Mr. White. This seems to be a trend in ballads these days – write moody, poetic lyrics and a bland, unmelodic bit of music to go with it.

“So Alive” – Ryan Adams
from Rock N Roll

Ryan Adams came to me in this same musical awakening period as the White Stripes. I forget when I actually started to dig him. I absolutely loved “New York, New York” that got all sorts of air play just after 9/11 what with the timely lyrics and the video on the bridge just overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

But after that song I looked no further into the Ryan Adams play list. All the cool people seemed to dig him. I think I couldn’t get past that sloppy hipster hair. But slowly, somewhere I heard another song and another and became a fan.

Adams is the king of the no melody, just pluck on your instrument while singing super sad lyrics ballad. He’s drives me crazy with that stuff, especially since he can write a darn fine piece of pop music.

“So Alive” is a rather upbeat, lively piece of tunage. It’s actually a bit U2ish in it’s grandiosity, albeit with a Morrissey kind of vocal thing going. The results are interesting. It’s a good song, something that could easily blare out of my car speakers on a warm sunny day. It’s not really what I expect, or want from Ryan Adams though. He has the ability to write a real hook. His best songs keep me singing them for hours after I’ve heard them, this one leave my head soon after the last note is played.



“Hello in There” John Prine
from Souvenirs

God bless John Prine. He’s been writing songs like a mystic sage living on a mountaintop since he was but a young man. His lyrics are some of the most beautiful, moving words sung this side of Bob Dylan. He likes to say that he is an old rock and roller who has made a living writing folk songs. We are better people because of it.

Souvenirs is Prine covering himself. It is a collection of songs he wrote some 20 years before, reworked for a voice that is much more mature, and a man who has lived enough life to live in lyrics written by a man to young to know better.

“Hello In There” is a song written for old people. It’s a sad, beautiful thing that makes you want to call your grandmother after a listen. I have to admit, this new version nails the song in ways the original just couldn’t. Prine’s voice, while never smooth and pretty, has taken a rougher edge, with a maturity that fits the loneliness of old age perfectly.

“I Am Mine” – Pearl Jam
from Riot Act

Speaking of Brian turning me onto music, he’s one of the last few die hard Pearl Jam fans out there. Like a million other teenagers I fell in love with the band with their first release, Ten. The music was straight out of the 70’s hard rock box, with lyrics that spoke of alienation and hard times. It was perfect for a long haired, mixed up 17 year old.

I listened to their second album Vs for several weeks straight, without playing any other album. This was my band.

Then I went to college, met a girl who was too punk for grunge, and Pearl Jam left me behind. There very different, and ungrunge like third album Vitalogy didn’t help much. Periodically I heard a new single from the band and had a brief thought that I should get back into them, but never got around to it.

As stated, Brian is one of the last of the die hards. The boy loves him some Pearl Jam. His enthusiasm for the band always gets me and always makes me want to listen to the band fresh again. So, I buy an album, or download a single and dig them for a little while.

“I Am Mine” is fairly typical of what I’ve heard from new Pearl Jam. The hard rock edge is lessened by a better melody. Eddie Vedder’s deep baritone sweeps the song along. The lyrics are mysterious, sounding vaguely political and meaningful yet difficult to decipher and make sense of, yet remaining anthematic and full of sing-along ability.

“Not Fade Away” - Grateful Dead
from Dicks Picks 4

My first time seeing any member of the Grateful Dead was at a Furthur Festival in Atlanta. This was a couple of years after Jerry died, and the surviving members were just starting to play music again. Bob Weir played a set with his band, Ratdog. Mickey Hart played all kinds of worldly drums with his ensemble, Bruce Hornsby had his band, and a few other Dead like bands were invited along as well.

At the close of the night all the bands joined together for a jam session. They closed with this Buddy Holly classic, and Dead staple. . As the song ended the musicians left the stage one by one, while those still onstage kept up the beat. Lastly, there were the drummers, banging out the bop, bop bop-bop back beat. As they, too, left the stage the entire audience kept rhythm with hand claps and their own voices. I stood there in the hot Georgia night smiling in the knowing feeling that I’d just had the time of my life. Even if the band had played that song a million times, and a thousand other audiences had sang along in the exact same way, I felt special. I felt a part of something. It was magic.

The Grateful Dead did play this song a million times. It was a concert staple from their early years. This version, taken from a show in February 1970 exemplifies the Deads ability to take a very simple pop song and elevate it to something far more. It is some 13 minutes in length and never has a misstep or a dull moment. The Dead never take it to the cosmic heights of say “Dark Star” but it is transcendent just the same.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Random Shuffle - 4/10/06

“Willin’” - Linda Ronstadt
From Heart Like a Wheel

My perception of this Little Feat ode to truck driver’s comes from the James Cameron underwater sci-fi flick, The Abyss. It is the Linda Ronstadt version that plays when the underwater oil rig crew is shown doing their blue collar work. The song plays as background music to the scene, but is also part of the action, being lip synched by nearly everyone in a joyful montage that defies explanation.

It is a great sing-along song. The lyrics are all about being on the road for too long, with nothing but drugs and alcohol to keep you moving to that next stop, that next destination somewhere down the road.

The music is pure outlaw country. Ronstadt has that rock n roll vibe, with the country girl twang that just fits the song perfectly.



“One From the Heart” – Tom Waits/Crystal Gail
From One From the Heart

This is from the soundtrack to an unseen (by me) Francis Ford Coppola movie of the same name. Waits actually sings with a croon, rather than the drunken hobo ran over by a train voice he usually sings with. He’s accompanied by the sweet voice of Crystal Gail.

It’s all soft porn smooth piano and saxophone musically. It’s slow and sad, and probably romantic, but I’d have to see the movie before I let my vote out on that one. There isn’t much to it for me, honestly. It’s Waits with a better voice, but not much of his lyrical poignancy. At least that’s what I get from the casual listen I gave it.

“I’m Gonna Live Forever” – Highwaymen
From 06/04/96

The Highwaymen were country music’s version of Mount Rushmore. With Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson and Waylon Jennings in their own super group, it’s too bad that most of their albums were only just ok.

It’s like the Beatles effect in reverse. Where John and Paul continually pushed each other to strive harder and create an even more perfect song, the Highwaymen seem to play yes men to each other creating music that while not bad, isn’t up to any expectation they create. Instead of Abbey Road we get something more akin to McCartney’s post Beatles solo work.

This is a pleasant Billy Joe Shaver tune, performed quite nicely with all of the Highwaymen trading versus and harmonizing on the chorus.

“Wendy Time” – The Cure
From Wish

A lively, upbeat song from the master’s of gloom. Well the music is fun and frilly, but being the Cure the lyrics are all sad and depressing. It is the story of a well meaning lass trying to cheer up the gloomy singer by offering to be a friend or sister. Being Robert Smith, the singer continues to push her away to mingle and drown in his own misery.

I mentioned in a previous Random Shuffle how this album reminds me of a specific time and place. It is amazing how music can transport us to places. I would never call my high school years happy ones, and yet I am often drawn to that time, filled with nostalgia.

The intensity of emotion I felt during those years is something I’ve never come close to in the 10 odd years afterwards. Those days it seems like every moment was filled with incredible highs of joy or immensely lows of sadness. The perpetual word days of drudgery keep me on a pretty even keel in these times. Oh, I’m not nearly as depressed as I was then, but I rarely feel as completely free or happy as I did on those good days either.

Wish reminds me specifically of a girl named Elise who I used to sing songs from this album to. It reminds me of sitting in my room (having lived in 20 odd houses as a kid, it is a very specific room, but one I am unable to describe here) arguing with my sister about whose month it was to get the TV in their room and feeling all those emotions on my sleeve.


“Ride Into the Sun” – Velvet Underground
From Acetate Demos – 1969

Speaking of nostalgic memories the Velvet’s always remind me of my first love, Candy Sizemore. If my feelings were worn on my sleeve, if I felt things with more passion then, she felt them 100 times more.

She was a lovely girl who taught me it was ok to believe in God and listen to wild music and live outside the cookie cutter. We used to write long, passionate letters to each other with the margins filled with song lyrics.

She loved the Velvet Underground. We spent many an hour lying on a bed listening to Lou Reed sing about love, drugs and the underground. We’d play “Heroin” over and over and see who could get every lyric, every note exactly perfect.

This is a sloppy, loose demo version of “Ride into the Sun” off of their Another View album. It’s really for completists only, of which I am not. I got this along with other demos and live tracks from a download a few weeks back. I’m addicted to downloading perfectly legal live music and the like and so when I see a Velvet Underground set, I simply have to have it, even if I haven’t been much of a fan since high school.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Hot Topic: Foreign Language Films

From the ardent minds of loudish gawks comes the suddenly fairly often meanderings on the current topics of the day.

Sharpen your pencils, and sprinkle your thoughts with lighter fluid, for this is the Hot Topic.




From: Mat Brewster

To: The Hot Topic Team

Re: Foreign Language Films

“I don’t want to read a movie,” said my mother.

“But it’s a Kurosawa marathon,” I replied. “They’re showing the Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress and Throne of Blood. That’s like the greatest movie ever made, the movie that inspired Star Wars, and a bloody Shakespeare adaptation!”

“I don’t care if it is Jesus nailed up on the cross, I don’t want to read a movie.”

“Jesus nailed on a cross? No, mom that was The Passion of the Christ which by the way was in a foreign language with subtitles, and you saw it.”

“Oh, whatever,” she replies, “that movie was all blood and guts and birds pulling out eyes. There was hardly any talking in it, just a lot of screaming. And it don’t matter what language you’re screaming in, it’s all the same.”

“Fine, what do you want to see?” I ask.

“How about that Pink Panther movie? That looks funny, and you like Steve Martin.”

“Fine, we’ll see the Pink Panther.”

I have had this same argument with my mother countless time. She refuses to watch any foreign language movie because of the subtitles. She says she doesn’t want to read a movie and all the writing keeps her from watching the action on the screen.

Repeat this conversation with literally dozens of coworkers, friends, and acquaintances.

I continually ask myself why this is, and I cannot come up with a reasonable answer. Sure, it’s true that by reading subtitles you do miss some of the visual imagery of a film; you might miss an important bit of action. But that’s why god invented the rewind button.

Sometimes I want to mention that most foreign language films are dubbed into English. But that’s just sacrilege. Dubbed movies are crap. The voice actors are about as good as porno actors.

This argument is senseless to me anyway. By not watching the film you miss all of the imagery, you do not see any of the action. You are missing some of the greatest films ever made.

By not watching foreign language films, you’d never see the Seven Samurai, my all time favorite movie. What with the stunning action, the comedy, the romance, the Toshiro Mifune, it’s really freaking brilliant.

No foreign language films=no 400 Blows, no Wild Strawberries, no Seventh Seal, no 8 ½, no Band of Outsiders, no…

Is this an American thing? An English language thing? Is this just something with the people I know? Why are so many afraid of subtitles?

What do you guys think? Do you watch foreign language flicks? What about you fellas across the pond think about this? Is the UK more enlightened when it comes to foreign language flickery, being so close to foreign languages and all?




From: Bennett Dawson

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films

I'm really with Mat on this one. If you refuse to do subtitles, you miss a lot of great films. It works for me because I'm a speedy reader, and quickly fall into a mode where reading the text is just part of the experience. It stops bothering me about two minutes in.

That said, my wife is French Canadian, and English is her second language. She would love it if the films with heavy English accents or Irish accents (Snatch) were subtitled in English so she could figure out what the hell everybody is yacking about.

I vote 'Yes' on English subtitles for anything from Scotland, Boston, or New Jersey...




From: DJRadiohead

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films


Books are work, movies are easy and I am a lazy cunt.

I don't want to work hard when I watch a movie. Two hours and I am done- that is the appeal. Movies are, in that sense, like poetry. Condensed. Tell the story of a man's life in two hours. Tell the story of 12 hours in two. Great films stick around with you longer than that but still only take two hours to revisit.

That movie watching is so easy makes me even less willing to put any kind of effort into watching one. If the movie is two hours and the first 30 minutes blow, I am probably out of there. I have little invested and the chance for redemption drops with each passing minute. Fuck a lot of that noise. I will go do something else.

It might sound to you like I don't like movies. Not true. I did, during the dark days of college, work at a video store. For a few years, I got to see everything. I guess I got burned out on it all. I still watch more than a few each year but I generally get less and less excited about them. You will probably be able to guess what I think of foreign film viewing.

Movies are moving pictures. Every picture tells a story. I don't really want to try and read and watch the movie at the same time. I admit it. I have been told by people all my life I am terrible at concentrating. I can't focus. Ever. I mean, let me tell you about this time when I was in a play in college and- see what I mean? Do remind me to tell you that story sometime. Anyway, I do find it disconcerting to watch a film I also have to read. I have done it. I have seen some Kurosawa and a few others in my life. I just do not enjoy the experience.

Movies are also sound. They are aural experiences and I apologize in advance to the denizens of hypersensitive PC fucks everywhere: foreign tongues sound foreign. Sometimes they even sound funny to my ears. It can be really hard to let myself get sucked in to an intense scene when I hear those sounds. The dramatic use of facial expressions, other visual scenery, and the score in the background are cannot always overcome the fact those sounds can sometimes make me laugh. Even when they don't, there is something lost in translation.

Harkening back to my college days, I learned in my nonverbal communication class 93 percent of meaning is transferred by nonverbal means. I guess the 7 percent I have to read rather than hear is the difference between loving foreign films and waiting for Hollywood to take them and fuck them up in English.




From: Mark Saleski

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films

The whole foreign film/subtitles thing seems to be a love it/hate it phenomenon.

Personally, I've always loved foreign movies. And while I don't love subtitles, I'll put up with them because the films themselves resonate with my inner-directed self.

Kurosawa being one exception, most of the foreign language movies I love are full of dialogue and not much else. Subtitles? Ah, I don't care. There are just too many great films out there to allow some text on the screen to make the decision (to watch or not) for me.

Interestingly enough, my favorite foreign movie—indeed, my favorite movie of all time—combines moments of highly nuanced character development with segments of heart-stopping action. It's a French film called Diva. A Parisian courier's love of a particular opera singer gets him wrapped up in a white slavery and drug ring, plus some other creepy underworld types. The characters are so interesting, the plot so engrossing, and the music so beautiful, that I completely forget about the subtitles.

Oh...as for the sometimes proposed "solution" to subtitling: dubbing? That's more distracting than subtitles. That I hate.




From: Aaron Fleming

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films

Ah the old `foreign films with those word things on screen' topic, an
area close to my sensitive parts for sure. A subject worthy of many
fucks flung, as they often are, but perhaps this time with a
fuck-catapult built out of the flaming phalluses of a group of
Mahavishnu Orchestra-obsessed Pharisees.

But with a slight restraint in the flinging, maybe some put aside for
the time when the new Paul W. Anderson flick slides out his back
colon. This is due to our good fellow DJRadiohead's comments regarding
this here discussion, which are quite antithetical to my own views,
albeit at the same time being very honest and pleasant.

Of course, it doesn't matter where the film's from, what the hell
language it is in, whether the characters are speaking in the finest
and most expressive of the queen's English, or in something more akin
to Microsoft Word's Wingdings font. It doesn't matter. Plenty of crud
encrusted French movies out there. And best remember, not all foreign
language movies are the high-end of culture, where's the art-house
praise for Banlieue 13? All that Parkour and elbows to groins not
titillating the pretensions of bereted and bearded critics? I guess
not, I thought it was fun though.

But to restrict yourself to only English language films is to miss out
on so much brilliance, not just the aesthetically glorified cinema of
a Tarkovsky or a Bergman, but great entertainment pieces like Ong Bak. I'll admit to emitting a plethora of sneers towards the "subtitles? Fuck that, I'm going to watch rugby and get drunk" crowd, it's a shame.

My occasional moonlightings as a video store clerk have brought me
many painful moments related to this very topic. Like that time
someone brought back Ong Bak complaining it was in "Chinese or some ol' gibberish" and demanding nothing short of a refund. I of course corrected his erroneousness by blasting back with a negating stare and mouth movement forming "it's actually Thai, cunt." Then I told him to fuck off and how my day would have been better if he had been born still.

What can you do? Only attempt to spread the good word of Chan Wook
Park by recommending his flicks at every opportunity; maybe, some day,
one person might say, "by Mike Patton's very beard thing! This is
actually quite brilliant, now I must track down every Godard I missed
while I was watching the latest mass-produced offering featuring The
Rock, what a fool I have been."




From: Mary K Williams

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films


You know, there is SO much good art out there – be it music, graphic (oils, watercolors), literary, or film – that what I’ve experienced could fit in a wee thimble. Sure, now I blame my lack of art exposure on trying to raise a family and all, and well that’s as good excuse as any I guess. But lately I’ve felt so deprived – so lacking. I know my life is continually being enriched through my home life experiences, and as much we can all cram in as a family. Yet, I hear tell of these interesting quirky films, or offbeat but breathtaking musicians – and I think – ‘Wait, stop, the world is going much too fast, I’m going to miss it all!’

I do know that in the imaginary perfect world of not having to earn a living, not having anyone depending on you, a person would still be hard pressed to go out and manage to ‘do it all’.

A thought ocurred to me today - that I consider foreign films complete with subtitles like delicious fancy food. A little intimidating at first, but then quite delicious if prepared well, and if you have the right attitude.

But you have to be in the proper frame of mind for the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hero, or The Passion of the Christ (These being the few I’ve seen and enjoyed). If not. you may not be able to really appreciate the subtleties of flavoring, or the magic of lighting and direction.

Sometimes, when you feel like I did today, exhausted after a very busy week, and with a cold on top of all that – sometimes you just want comfort food. And sometimes too, you just want comfort flicks. A movie that you don’t have to have all eight cylinders cranking for – like my picks of the day, Lethal Weapon 2, Scary Movie 2, Sixteen Candles and Two Weeks Notice.





From: Duke de Mondo

To: The Hot Topic Team

Subject: Foreign Language Films

Ah, the old “Balls! It’s subtitled!” hollering.

How many times have I heard this? Far too many to be bothered thinking about.

…The lass in the video-store who, with rather lovely yap all twisted up the jaw, handed me Amelie with the cautionary aside; “This is subtitled, y’know. Is that alright?”

…The copy of Irreversible tossed back at my mug, fella tutting, “Watched five minutes. Fuckin’ all that writin’ an stuff, the hell kinda shite’s that?”

…The ex-girlfriend lamenting my choice of viewing material for the evening. “The Seventh Seal!” I cheerily announce. “For God’s sakes!” comes the anguished reply. “Can’t we watch somethin’ normal? Somethin’ without subtitles!”

…The mate all high on the beery-brew, eyes all uncertainty couple minutes into Funny Games. “Is it like that all the way through? With the subtitles?” (He did watch it mind, and quite enjoyed it. I thought it was shite and threw a shoe at the telly.)

Aye. Who knows why, or for what reason, but plenty folks who wanna be sat front the screen for a couple hours, most likely they wanna see something doesn’t piss all o’er their ears wi’ some gabble they can’t understand and a buncha text they can’t be arsed reading. This isn’t to say that folks who don’t like subtitles don’t like film, that right there is a horrendous misconception. I know people got the damn house comin’ down with 1940s comedies, for example, but it’s rare they’ll bother with anything ain’t got English as the primary language.

It’s easy to get all sortsa snobbish regarding viewing types who’d puke their faces raw if’n they had to sit front a Bergman for any length of time. But it’s also incredibly easy to get ones own perspective fucked just as bad.

There is, whether or not we care to admit it, a consensus among certain flickology types that runs along the lines of; A foreign film is inherently superior to a Hollywood number.

This is bullshit, of course.

I remember a conversation with a lady way back when, was asking her if she’d seen Pale Rider.

“No” she said. “I don’t watch those kindsa films. I only watch World Cinema.”

There are, of course, a number of reasons for why a fella might wanna claw his own ears off after hearing such a statement. For one thing, it’s fuckin’ Pale Rider. For another, fuckin’ Pale Rider was made in America, which, last time I looked, was part of the World. Also, World Cinema? What horrible ghettoised mindset has done gone soured your very arse, m’dear, for to have you using terms like World Cinema. Like “World Music”, World Cinema ain’t nothin more than a wretched, patronising, elitist-yet-incredibly-ignorant half-arsed nonsense.

Bein’ the kind of fella who cums himself in five at the thought of a couple extra minutes of Manhattan might be hidden away in a vault someplace, i.e, a Flick Geek, I’ll watch anything, and if it’s good, it’s good. Subtitled or otherwise, horror or romantic-comedy or documentary about some goof made a record one time and some folks liked it, whatever, if a fella wants to find the gold, he can’t go lingerin’ round a handful o’ rocks.

Wonderful flicks are a universal phenomenon, as is guffy ol’ shite.

Also, it ain’t necessarily the fault of the audiences that they don’t watch these flicks. Time and again, it’s been proven that a subtitled flick can be incredibly successful provided the studio flinging it screen-wards puts the effort in. The Passion Of The Christ, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful. Three flicks right there that proved enormously popular theatrically and on video / DVD. If folks could see, say, Paradise Now as easily as they could see Munich, I’d wager they would. They have done.

Studios tossing brilliant films into horrible ghettos like World Cinema, marketing them to select audiences and ignoring everyone else, well, they’re as much to blame as the fella sat front the telly choosing Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels over Ikiru, or Anchorman over La Cage Aux Folles. More so, in fact, because most likely the fella would go with Ikiru, had he ever heard of it.

A flick they’ve heard about, they’re more likely to watch. Stands to reason. How many flicks do we ignore, us enlightened cinema-fiends, on account of we don’t know shit about them? Plenty manys, is how many.

Market these things right, and it’s more likely folks’ll take the chance.

Folks take the chance with that one, there’s more chance they’ll opt for La Cage Aux Folles next time.

They’ll probably still enjoy Anchorman more, though. And they’d be absolutely right to do so. Anchorman fuckin’ rocks.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bootleg Nation: David Nelson Band - 07/21/01

For years I have been collecting what I’ll call bootleg CDs. Though the term bootleg gives all kinds of wrong impressions, as if I’m selling cases of scotch under the table during Prohibition.

The bootlegs I am referring to are not only legal, but highly condoned in some circles. I’m talking about live concert recordings unreleased by the studios or the bands.

People have been recording concerts since there has been portable recording equipment. Alan Lomax was traipsing around the country recording folk and blues artists in the 1930s. Today, some bands allow fans to patch directly into the soundboard with pristine, lossless DAT machines.

The Grateful Dead were pioneers of bootleg trading. Instead of spending thousands of dollars trying to hunt down thieves and bootleggers selling live recordings of their performances, they killed the opportunity by giving their live recordings away. They set up a special taper’s section in the audience allowing anyone with a portable mike to set up shop and record every note. On many nights they would allow fans to patch directly into their soundboard. They always recorded their own shows, and often “leaked” copies to fans and allowed everyone to make copies, as long as it wasn’t sold for profit.

It became a profitable marketing adventure. Fans would turn on others to the band by sharing the live music, thus creating other fans who would then buy the bands albums and pay to see their concerts in person. Through the years other bands have seen the wisdom in this policy and have followed suite.

There is a whole underground movement of fans trading live concert recordings. It is quite an addicting hobby, let me tell you. I’ve been trading for about 8 years now and have well over 800 hours of live music CD.

My collection is more live music than I could ever listen to, and yet I am continually in search of more. With the advent of cheap, fast broadband connections there is more live music available than ever before.

Live music feeds weary ears. With the decline of actual music on the radio, and the rising prices of studio albums, finding mind moving, completely legal music available for the price of your time to download is an absolutely beautiful thing.

In Bootleg Country, I will attempt to go through my collection of live music and review every note.




David Nelson Band
07/21/01
Honeydew, CA





A few years back I worked with a guy named Bob. Bob was somewhere in his middle fifties, with a nice beer gut hanging over his belt loop and long, curly gray hair. He was a throwback from the 1960’s summer of love. He was a genuine hippy, and remained true to those ideals even into the year 2000.

The David Nelson Band reminds me of Bob. They are still waving their freak flags, and playing music as if it could save our souls.

A David Nelson Band show is like a picnic on a sunny day. They mix old time country music with the folk wisdom of 1960’s San Francisco and sprinkle it with psychedelic jams.

You can picture yourself sitting in a city park, spread out on a blanket, belly fully of fried chicken while listening to this band. They have the homely feel of any small town local band playing songs that you’d sing to your kids. Although they have the chops to blow any local players through the roof, they maintain that intimate, down home feel to their concerts.

It’s a band that can make a medley of “All You Need is Love” and “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” and play it without a twinge of irony.

Songs like “Panama Red” and “Ragged But Right” start off the show and they are just the type of songs I’m talking about. They are blue collar songs with the kind of lyrics that truck drivers, hippies and grandmothers could all sing along with and smile. The music is country swing that would feel at home anywhere the grass is green and the sun is shining.

As the set carried on, some of the songs mixed in try way to hard to be meaningful. Songs like “Last Lonely Eagle” just have cringe inducing lyrics like

If you go down where the lights push the nighttime
Back far enough so you can't feel the fear
Remember the boy who you left on the mountain
Who's sitting alone with the stars and his tears


The second set really scorches it up with some very stellar improvisational jams. The music jumps into interstellar overdrive with a sweet instrumental jam of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain,” sending the grandmas to the snack shack and the rest of us into twirling heaven.

The third set brings us back down to earth with the aforementioned “Love Medley” and some more silly, hokey hippy music.

I don’t suspect the David Nelson Band will ever make onto MTV, or Billboard’s Top 40 list. You won’t see them headlining a world wide stadium tour in this lifetime. But as they continue to travel the country, small venue tour at a time, they’ll continue to play real music from the heart, with the chops to back them up and keep audience of all sizes smiling and dancing through the night.

If you’d like a copy of this show, leave me a comment, and I'll try to work something out for you.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Random Shuffle - 4/3/06

“I’ll Be Your Mirror” – Velvet Underground
From a live show in Paris on 1/29/72

This is off some live Velvet shows I got in a vine a few days ago. I’ve not really given any of it a real listen yet, so I don’t know if it is any good.

The song is an absolutely beautiful one. Nico sings lead vocals and she’s got the voice of a broken angel. It is a simple, lovely song about seeing the best in someone. I’ve put it on numerous mix tapes for friends and lovers a like. It’s that kind of song. One that’s simple message of love speaks to anyone of any size, sex or creed.

This live version is nice, a little unpolished, but still sweet. Nico’s vocals are still sparkling, but the backups from the Velvet’s are a little rough. I’m a sucker for the in studio, soft and fuzzy sound for love songs. They never sound the same live.

“Your Mother Should Know” – The Beatles
From Magical Mystery Tour

A throw away song on a throw away album. Ok, that’s sacrilege; there are tons of great singles on the album. Maybe that’s just it, Magical Mystery Tour sounds like a collection of singles instead of a cohesive album. It’s like a greatest hits package, and “Your Mother Should Know” is the new song added to give real fans a reason to buy it.

Really its not a bad tune. It’s actually pretty good, but when it’s a Beatles tune I expect greatness and this one just doesn’t live up. I mean, which would you rather listen to, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I am the Walrus”, “Hello Goodbye”, or this? Not a touch choice, is it?

“Lay Lady Lay” - Bob Dylan
From Hard Rain

Rough, ragged, and ready to rock is how I would describe Dylan’s live album from his 1970’s Rolling Thunder Review.

I’ve never been a fan of the studio version of “Lay Lady Lay.” Bob Dylan on the make is just kind of creepy to my ears. This is a balls to the wall, sweat drenched rocker. The vocals are out there, the whole band singing back up, nearly screaming every refrain.

If the studio version is a crooning, slick, sleazy Dylan trying to cajole some lady of the night into his bed, then this live version is the command of a rough and tough bastard keeping his lover for seconds after a long night of sexual activity

“I Know Your Married” – Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglass and the Bluegrass Sessions
From the Strawberry Mountain Festival – 09/05/99

From an absolutely scorching show at a bluegrass festival. This is master’s of newgrass pickin’ and sangin’ for the sheer joy of it. You can hear how much these boys are enjoying themselves throughout the show, and trying to show each other up a bit.

This is a slow, old timey song towards the end of the show. It’s a front porch in the middle of summer kind of song. Something to sing along with your pa on a family reunion. They boys goof it up in the middle and everybody laughs a long.

On my version there is a couple of minutes worth of banter after the song that is priceless. Sam Bush ripping on Bela Fleck and Bela ripping right back. This is true, real music. Not the processed, stylized junk you hear on the radio these days.

“That Feel” – Tom Waits
From Bone Machine

I’ve never been much of a Waits fan. They guy can write some brilliant music, but that voice just gets me every time. He sounds like he needs a really good hacking cough. I know it’s styled that way, I know a lot of it is purposeful, but I just can’t get past it.

I’m not really much of a lyric man. I mean there are thousands of songs with great lyrics that I love, that move me to my very pancreas. But as a general rule I don’t pay much attention to them. My mind concentrates on the music, the instruments and melodies. If the lyrics are clear and understandable I might catch on and enjoy them. However, most songs I just don’t understand what the heck people are singing about.

Start naming songs, and I can probably hum the melody, maybe sing the chorus, but after that I’m at a loss. Add to it a singer who mumbles, or mutters or distorts his vocals and you can forget it. I just won’t hear a line of it. This is a good example of that. I looked up the lyrics and they are actually kind of movie. But after multiple listens, I couldn’t gel what I was reading on the page to what I was hearing.

The melody here is pretty simple, its kind of a slow dirge, and Waits does his usual garbled garbage disposal vocal take which pretty much ruins the song for me. Find a sweet soul singer, add a couple of flourishes and this could be something amazing.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Love Affair With Doc Martens

For my 30th birthday a very dear friend gave me a pair of shoes. They were dirty and ripped, the soles were completely worn out and they smelled of fifteen years worth of feet. In fact they used to be my shoes before I gave them to this friend. Yet as he passed these old, degenerate shoes to me I couldn’t help but beam with appreciation.

This is the story of my love affair with Doc Martens.

Rewind about 12 years to 1994, I was a senior in high school. Nevermind had been out for a couple of years, Grunge and Alternative were still all the rage. My wardrobe was full of flannel, t-shirts, baggy pants and sneakers. At the time I was well into a pair of skater styled Vans. The hair was long, the attitude sullen.

Enter Doc Marten. I had eyed many a pair of those brown leathered beauties many a time. But at over $100 a pair neither my wallet nor my mother was willing to shed that kind of dough.

Ah but my brother, the savior of footwear, the beater of siblings, tormentor of all things me, came through like a mackerel in cheese. He gave me my first pair of Doc Martens, and he didn’t even charge me a dime, or a wet willie.

It seems my brother had received the shoes as a gift from a buddy. The buddy had bought them and worn them for a year or so before he decided to buy a new pair. My brother, likewise, wore the shoes for another year or so before decided to buy his own new pair.

I loved those shoes. They fit so well with my whole style in those days. They were comfortable, wore well, felt great on my size 11 feet, and looked pretty stinking cool.

I wore them every single day. No kidding, for 3 years those shoes were on my feet everyday, with the rare exception of really special occasions like weddings, proms, and the odd couple of months right before I got rid of them, that I finally decided to start donning sandals.

I have a picture of me wearing the Doc Martens, black socks, a pair of plaid checkered shorts and a horizontally striped shirt. Besides the slacker, Generation X grunge look, I had the I don’t give a flipping flop how people think I look look. And those shoes didn’t leave my feet.

After three years, I finally decided to get myself a new pair. I did the loyal thing and promptly gave the old pair to my roommate.

He wasn’t quite so dedicated to the now 5 year old, 4th generation shoes as I was, but they were donned by his feet at least once a week for the next year.

Yes, he liked them so much he bought himself a new pair of Doc Martens. Yes, he gave the old pair to a mutual friend.

At this point I lost touch with the shoes. The new owner split the heat of Alabama to the hills of Tennessee. He tells me he wore them often and with love. He dropped me a note of sorrow when, while playing a game of football with buddies, the shoes scored a large rip through the toes, rendering them unwearable.

When I opened the bag that was my birthday present and found those shoes, I couldn’t help but get a tear in my eye. Once the smell of 6 pairs of feet over many sweaty years wafted away, I got a big grin on my face and knew I was looking at the best present ever.

Coming home to my little den, I placed the old Doc Martens next to the pair I bought in their stead, some ten years prior. A pair I still wear to this day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Random Shuffle - 3/27/06

“Boots of Spanish Leather” – Nanci Griffith
From Other Voices, Other Rooms

I first discovered Nanci Griffith on a whim. I was involved in one of those BMG get 8 CDs for the price of one kind of deals. I needed to buy a few albums to finish out my contract and her Blue Roses from the Moon album sounded very interesting. I was just starting my infatuation with folk music and so I ordered it. I quickly became a fan.

Other Voices is Nanci covering all her favorite artists and songs. “Boots of Spanish Leather” is a slightly obscure Bob Dylan tune off of The Times They Are A- Changin’. Nanci’s sweet, country voice and plaintive guitar picking turns a mournful song into a gorgeous dirge. Dylan plays harmonica on the track simply, understated so that the music is bettered by it without having to make some kind of statement of notice. If it weren’t for the acknowledgement in the liner notes, I wouldn’t even know he played on the track.

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Paul Simon
From MTV – Unplugged

Unlike say Eric Clapton, I don’t believe Mr. Simon ever released an album from his Unplugged performance. There might be a song or two available out there on some of their packaged disks, I don’t really know. It is a shame though because the disk is quite nice, and well worth seeking out from traders.

Being this is Simon without Garfunkel this song had to be reworked a little bit. Naturally, Paul sings it a little lower and the “Sail on silver girl” part get a little bit funky. It’s still a cool version, and while not as touching as the original it is nice to hear it a little different angle.

“A Little Less Conversation (Radio Remix)” – Elvis
From 30 #1 Hits

I’m somewhere in the middle of the Elvis fence. While I would fall greatly on the Beatles side of the Beatles/Elvis question, I still dig the King a good bit. I really dig some of his very early rockabilly tunes, but there is a special place in my heart for the big Elvis via the come back specials.

This remix of a slight classic was a pretty big hit for Elvis a few years back. I dig the crap out of it. It’s got a nice dance groove while still maintaining that Elvis cool.

“A Letter to Elise” – The Cure
From Wish

Like a lot of unhappy, mixed up, gloomy teenagers I too had my Cure phase. Wish was released during the post Nirvana everybody’s Alternative years of the early 90’s. I believe it is there highest selling album ever.

I listened, obsessed and loved every note. “A Letter to Elise” is a sad, heartbreaking affair that became a favorite of mine from the album. I used to dream of singing this song on those lonely nights after a painful break up. The problem was always I never had a girlfriend, much less a painful break up. After 10 years, a few loves and a couple of hard break ups, the songs stands up quite well.

I hate to admit that I cheated a little for this weeks Random Shuffle. Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc” came up in the shuffle again this week confirming what I had previously believed. My MP3 player’s shuffle ability really sucks. I’m working on a method to keep that from happening in the future, but for now we’ll have to settle with a 6th choice.

“Got My Mind Made Up” – Bob Dylan
From Knocked Out Loaded

I know, I know more Dylan. Man, what can I say, I have nearly all of his albums on my hard drive and they come up a lot. (see the aforementioned suckiness of the shuffle function).

This track was cowritten by Tom Petty (the Heartbreakers backed Dylan up on the album and a tour during the same late 80’s early 90’s era). It’s a decent rocker but pretty much a throwaway as far as Dylan is concerned. The album is often considered one of Dylan’s worst and I’ve never managed to give it a real listen.