Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Funny enough - I have some nice memories connected to this Dylan record, as cynical and bitter as most of the songs may be. I played a cassette tape of the album in the family car around the time I learned to drive - especially the summer of my graduation from high school. Driving gave me a new sense of freedom - a hope for the future I hadn't felt before. And Infidels provided some of the soundtrack to that time in my life. And, on an objective note, this Dylan record was one of the best of that era for him. Probably the best Dylan record before his 1997 comeback with Time Out Of Mind (though I think his upswing started with the first Traveling Wilburys album and the 1989 release Oh Mercy!). Infidels is a strong release with memorable material. I don't know how often it comes up among the Bob experts, but I dig it. But it sure is a long time away from 1983 to now.............
Time. It has also been awhile now since I started this blog. Back in 2011 the vinyl LP revival had not yet hit its stride - now the whole Record Store Day event happens twice a year. There are more local record stores thriving in the last few years - certainly more than there were in 2011. There is plenty of great new music and old music coming out on vinyl - no shortage of great discoveries to plunder for years and years to come. And the new product isn't letting up. I am confident my thirst for new sounds will continue to be satiated for, well, the rest of my natural life - with any luck a good long while down the road!
Speaking of Record Store Day 2018, I didn't realize a release of particular interest was seeing the light of day - a nice LP collection of Beverley Martyn's early singles pressed on cloudy-clear vinyl!
A. The music is awesome and.......
B. The records look fantastic!!! See here:
Polygondwanaland is a totally unique situation. Follow the link to get the whole story, but suffice to say it was released as a totally Public Domain item to encourage anyone who wanted to press their own copies on vinyl. The version I bought was merely one of what some estimates suggest are up to 169 different variations on this record. And, oddly enough, the music is WONDERFUL. This is a totally unique approach. I certainly never heard of such a thing. Yet, I get it. Good on these guys. Where does it all lead? Only time will tell. I actually saw a clip of the group performing on a late-nite TV show (can't remember which) and was fairly baffled. With two drummers and lots else going on from a pretty large ensemble, it really seemed like cacophonous racket. Which is all well and good, but I figured (accurately) perhaps not all these folks had to offer. What will future people make of all this? Well, I just hope there's a future available for inconsequential concerns like that to exist in. Remaining hopeful in that regard...................
More recent vinyl adventures have included some great jazz music scores like these:
Well, there's a fair more to tell eventually - more great stuff to put the word out for. I'm kinda tired out for now though. No worries......I'll be back. I'm in it for the long haul. Catch you next time.......
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
|Original artwork by John - who I'll always remember as one cool dude|
So when I saw this Papa John solo album at a flea market for a dollar – heck yeah! And I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality – wow! A great album! Interestingly enough, Papa John’s guitar player in this band was Kevin Moore – who in the 1990s would launch his own renowned solo career as KEB MO’. Far out! Anyway – I thought this was Papa John’s only solo record. Of course – WRONG! A few years ago I bumped into this one:
Did any of Papa John’s albums ever get issued on CD? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know his first LP got reissued recently along with some other Grunt / RCA albums. Actually saw a copy in a record store recently, though I didn’t snap it up quite yet. I may hold out for an original which is not unlike my way of thinking, generally.
But I’m no snob when it comes to reissues. In many cases I’ve been easily satisfied with reissues, as long as they’re done with care. And sometimes the reissues are more cost effective as in the case of Sun Ra. If a person has a hangup when it comes to finding only original pressings of Sun Ra albums, that person better be a hedge fund manager! A cursory glance at the prices original Sun Ra albums command on ebay and elsewhere is all a person needs to know – ASTRO-nomical prices for the original Astro Black and Cosmo Dark records, people!!
Now, in another instance – a pending reissue may be the best option as well, yet the nature of the release has raised a few eyebrows along with the well-deserved interest. Only last week the announcement came from the Frank Zappa Family Trust and Third-Man Records that a new reissue deluxe version of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica was due to drop – though only available as part of a subscription to a Third-Man “Record of the Moment” program.
First of all – I have this on LP and CD already. So I don’t need it. Another reason for me is – once again, the players who contributed to the music are not being compensated for the work. The tapes are owned by the ZFT and somehow even the original negatives for the cover pictures are in their possession as well. So, in a legal sense, the ZFT has every right to license all of this to Third-Man Records for manufacture and whatever. Yet, it’s STILL a deal made in “Frownland”. So much suffering went into this album – as detailed in several accounts from those who were there – it really is heartbreaking that some folks will continue to make money on music they had no hand in creating while those that DID will continue to get bupkiss.
Now, for the average consumer, the new Trout Mask Replica reissue may be a welcome alternative since even crappy, grey-market reissue vinyl copies have been going for big bucks on the used market recently. That, too, is a total travesty. So, here’s my advice: if you really want this album in its newly reissued form because you want the best available new copy – dig in. Then, while you’re at it – take a few more steps:
Seek out some very worthwhile product from current living members of the Magic Band and BUY SOME GREAT STUFF from them. Here are some links to what is offered from the folks who made Trout Mask Replica. They are still here and active and their work will delight you to pieces – if you are a Beefheart fan. Click away and get some more good stuff from the source(s):
Seriously! Buy their stuff! They have to put food on the table. The good Captain himself has moved to the great beyond and isn’t worried about feeding a family or paying the bills.
Ya dig Zoot Horn Rollo?
Ya dig Drumbo?
How ‘bout Rockette Morton?
You’re shelling out for the deluxe Trout Mask? You can spend some extra bucks for good stuff from the ACTUAL PLAYERS. And while you’re at it – head over to Cal Schenkel’s website and get a personalized piece of art from the ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHER (and Zappa cover designer) of the Trout Mask album cover we all love so much from the GUY HIMSELF!
How cool is that? At least as cool as Jack White (I think cooler, really).
Not to down Jack White, since he is obviously a Beefheart fan and a music fan. I’ve even given his music a chance too (though I was kinda suckered in by the gimmicky LP he put out a few years ago – that Lazaretto album with the backwards-etched grooves and so forth).
Trout Mask Replica is – what I like to call – the most high-profile piece of true avant garde music ever unleashed on a semi-unsuspecting public by a major music outlet (Warner/Reprise). Even though the original release was via Zappa’s Bizarre / Straight imprints – these were just designer labels for the Reprise parent company that was owned by FRANK SINATRA. Let that sink in for a minute………
Trout Mask would be reissued with regular Reprise labels in 1977 as part of the severance agreement between Zappa and Herb Cohen (former manager who had rights to some Bizarre / Straight stuff). Since Beefheart was back as a currently-contracted artist to Warner Brothers by 1977, it was probably considered good business to strike whatever deal was struck to re-affirm Reprise’s rights to Trout Mask in that time period –which extended well beyond the 1970s into the 1990s and the CD era. Truly – I wish I still had the CD longbox that came with the CD copy I bought all those years ago – DUH! Can you imagine what that thing would be worth today??? Ugh……..Anyway – consider that part of Trout Mask’s “magic” was being released by a major record company –WORLDWIDE! Right alongside of Frank Sinatra records and Sammy Davis Jr. records. I don’t care what obscure platter you can dredge up from the same time period – 1969/ 1970 – there is nothing close to Trout Mask.
To illustrate my point, I like to call the track “Revolution 9” on The Beatles White Album the most widely-heard piece of true avant garde music / art ever in the history of the 20th Century. Yet, Revolution 9 was the glaring exception to the otherwise accessible rule of The Beatles popular music – even in those hyper-excited times of 1968. If that baffling track reached the MOST people it was only a part of a larger, more accessible work. Trout Mask, by contrast, was a through-composed entity. Maybe not as widely heard, but certainly as AVAILABLE to the same public that would have purchased The Beatles White Album. That’s my point – is the new release on Jack White’s boutique label anywhere near the intent of the original release: to hyper-beam this uncompromising piece of total weirdness through the massive conduits of industry of the 20th century? I don’t think so. I mean, really – does Jack White occupy the same position in our current culture that Frank Sinatra held in 1969? I thought that position already belonged to BECK! Ha ha!
Okay – maybe I think too much about this stuff. Fair enough. Though, lately I’ve been feeling slightly more in tune with new music than I’ve had for a while. Taking risks on new sounds has been a rewarding experience for me the past few years. Some discoveries have been more compelling than others, but that’s to be expected. I haven’t been totally offended or let down by the new music purchases I’ve made, thankfully enough. Maybe the most critical thing I might say in some cases would be “lackluster” or “predictable”. Yet, music is such a subjective thing when it comes right down to it. Like Duke Ellington said – its either “good” or “bad” and that’s up to you.
A bunch of entries ago I was mulling over whether or not I would buy a new release from Calexico were that to appear. Well, appear it did:
It’s a funny thing – listening to this album again it seems that the ethnic element of the band is played down to give greater attention to the modern alternative rock sound. The identity of the band sound is retained which creates continuity at least across the three albums I’ve listened to. Within that core sound there are slight deviations from the formula that creates a bit of variation, but not too out there – just enough to be interesting, but not jarringly different. The safety zone.
What I’ve also discovered with this band is – I don’t get sucked into the songs so much as the overall sound of the music. Songs from one album could easily be from another album – and I can’t say any of the songs grab my attention and communicate something that I’ve never considered before. It’s pleasant music with little “depth”. The singer has an enjoyable – if emotionally detached – voice. Or its safe to say – there isn’t a wide RANGE of emotion. The dominant emotional vibe is – calm sadness. Even when the music picks up the tempo the vocals are mellow and calm. Not bad, just unexcited. It has a function, for sure. Sometimes that’s exactly what I want to hear. In some ways it may be the best soundtrack for the current climate of things……
Yet, I think this is where I hit the exit ramp with Calexico. I have three albums of a style I like to hear once in awhile, though no one song jumps up and says “play me again – aren’t I AWESOME?!” Nice albums, though I’d hate to be the guy with the task of picking a “single” off any given LP. If anything I’d be interested to hear the earlier albums – how consistent has their sound been and for how long? Well, aside from that level of curiosity I think I’m ready to say “Thanks amigos! Been fun following you for a few years. Best of luck to ya! Cheers!”
And saving my favorite new music for last - THE PINEAPPLES new LP "Twice on the Pipe"!
And keep an eye out for their live performances - I hope to catch them soon myself! I've only waited 20 years!!
Until next time - keep that lamp trimmed and burning..............
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Ochs was arguably the most melodic yet uncompromising socially conscious songwriter of his time. Not a small accomplishment given the level of sophisticated competition he was up against – from Bob Dylan to Arlo Guthrie and beyond. Although he never managed to score an evergreen hit song to carry him to the next level of fame and stardom, Phil Ochs did write some genuine classic songs and timeless melodic material. If any criticism could be laid at his doorstep, it would be an occasional restlessness in his melodic singing lines. Well, if you had as wonderful a voice as Phil had, you’d probably want to show it off too! What’s more – he had the literary chops (way better poet than Jim Morrison for sure!) AND a visionary idea of melding the folk tradition with a more sophisticated, “serious” (classical?) music tradition. His brilliant album Pleasures of the Harbor was a bold statement lyrically and musically. Was the decision to place his songs in a more mature, sophisticated kind of production a result of this idea to “beautify” the art to contrast the ugliness of the times?
When I was just getting out of high school I had the opportunity to see the reformed FUGS in Woodstock NY (close to where I lived). Over time I started adding Fugs records to my collection. The earlier albums were more raw and rock-n-roll oriented. When I found an import LP of “It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest” I was surprised at the somewhat overproduced nature of the material.
As John Fahey once pointed out - it is more commercially viable to write songs about the vague, sentimental side of American life (like happy train songs) than it is to write about the difficult topics like what fears people harbor that prevent them from speaking up when fellow humans are being mistreated or worse (A Small Circle of Friends)! Phil’s talents – as potent as they were – didn’t generate that one song to endear him to mainstream America. His audience was specialized and held him to a particular standard. Did this impose a limit to his appeal? He was good at being who he was. To be something else would be false. Maybe this partly explains the “Greatest Hits” album?
Between the release of Nuclear Furniture and his re-generating of the Jefferson Starship in the 1990s, Kantner wasted no time in re-assembling some Airplane alumni for a record as the KBC Band. And what is the very first song on side one of that album? A brave homage to Phil Ochs’ musician friend from Chile – Victor Jara – who was brutally murdered during the Pinochet overthrow in the early 70s.
So – for any of Paul Kantner’s critics who say he sold out with all those Jefferson Starship hits – it wasn’t Kantner who sold out. Those hit songs were good radio friendly songs and if they lured people into buying the albums with the message songs on them – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Maybe Kantner’s stuff wasn’t always melodic and catchy music – true enough. As a vehicle to get people to the Jefferson Starship shows, those hit songs were essential to the cause. And, at least until the 1990s, Kantner had enough clout with major record companies who were willing to put out his stuff with the less commercial material intact. In the continued era of “lowest common denominator music” such a feat is unthinkable. What major company would be willing to take that kind of calculated risk now? All that’s left is the steady corporate hummmmmmmmm of complacency and apathy. Or so it seems. I’m convinced Gil Scott-Heron was right – the revolution will NOT be televised. The corporate conglomerates would never allow that to happen.
Over the past bunch of years I’ve been checking out some new bands and new releases just to see if there is anything worth listening to. And, certainly from a musical standpoint, there is a LOT of great new music. Even if I’m missing where the protest music is hiding (does it exist at all??) – here are some musically worthwhile platters to take note of:
Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Randy Newman – Dark Matter
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Power in the Blood
Beck – Colors
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
The Above – There Is A Reason
Dany Laj and The Looks – Alive & Kicking
Terry Adams – Talk Thelonious
Heron Oblivion – The Chapel
Willa and Company – Better Days
Speaking of great singers - please do yourself a favor and snag a copy of this wonderful blues and soul singer's first release at the website above. Willa is a very talented singer and songwriter. Her songs have appeared on the blues charts since the summer and continue to generate well-deserved attention. Few new artists are taking American roots music forward like Willa is doing. Highly recommended for positive vibrations in rough waters ahead!
Thanks again for stopping by my little spot on the net. Take care and keep listening!