Friday, May 31, 2013

The Late Train

Daft Punk's new vid for Get Lucky features a nostalgic compilation of Soul Train line dances of a 70s vintage. Kind of makes me yearn.

I used to love Soul Train. I admit I probably never watched an episode to the end. The show's arc tended to drop in the bucket during the last two-thirds, especially when the B and C list featured guests were cycling through multiple lip-synchs. (Cornelius wasn't the most dynamic of interviewers.) On rarer occasions the show did feature just about every likely A-list guest in history––Stevie Wonder, Arethea Franklin (singing live, including miscue), Public Enemy (they can't even rap live?), David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Al Green––but it was the dancing that made the show. To my then adolescent biology, I found some of the dancing to be downright aphrodisiac. It seemed to get only hotter in the 80s when the ladies dropped their baggies and wedgies for the spandex and short skirts. Aside from the erotic element for the overzealous, without the dancing, Soul Train might've been a slower jammed version of Solid Gold, albeit far more funky. And hip.

The iconic theme song, redolent of wide lapels, platform shoes, and beach ball afros:

TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (Featuring The Three Degrees) by MFSB on Grooveshark

Many of Soul Train's dancers were, if not professional, of a professional caliber. Many of them—e.g. Jody Watley, Rosie Perez, Toni Basil, Cheryl Song, and Paula Abdul—found fame beyond the Train. Despite the raging dynamism of the style changes, one thing remained consistent (at least until the twilight of the show's run), Don Cornelius. He remained its epitome-of-cool figurehead. You'd think with his Paul Robeson baritone and his ever present Xanax chill, he was imperturbable. But as we saw near the end, apparently this was not the case. (To his credit, he did have a physiological brain deformity.) Sadly, he'd eventually take his own life.

Here's a funky time capsule of almost an hour and a half of non-stop Soul Train line dancing. You definitely need this: Consider it like an audio-visual and inguinal Red Bull and plate of oysters, if you know what I'm saying.

If you hunger for more, there's now a Soul Train Cruise.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rockin' The Lord's Prayer

Not only the first Australian recording to sell over a million in the U.S., this rendition by Sister Janet Mead also brought the gospel to the top of the Australian charts in 1974. (This is the second top ten smash in history by a nun, though Sister Janet's story is a far happier one than Sister Smile's. Sister Smile did have the distinction of blocking Louie Louie from going to #1.) Here, The Prayer limbos somewhere between post-Psychedelic folk and a kind of Broadway gospel cum proto-Disco. (I love that she chose the Anglican version with its use of the awkward forgiving trespasses wording. It kind of drops like a mouthful of whipped frappé which doesn't happen in the more musically streamlined forgiving debtors version.) 

Anyway, it's much better than anything you're going to hear on a Christian rock station today. (Not that I'd know firsthand...)

And then there's this: My kind of flava and more than a wimple's-full of subtext:

Knocking on Heaven's door/ Who's that knocking on my door/Let me in! Let me in!/Ding-a-ling/Ding-a-ling/Ding-a-f**kin'-ling-a-ling

There's More to Dudley

For those who don't know, the Most ExcellentDudley Moore (d. 2002) was known in the U.S. primarily as an actor and comedian with a few hit movies and several tall girlfriends. His comedic work on British telly in the '60s was legendary and would influence at least one other similarly inclined outfit, Monty Python.

*While not knighted, the Queenie did pin him with the honor of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Larfs aside, Moore was also a musician with some mad skills. In fact, music was where he began his professional career at age 14. In college studied the organ on scholarship and would play with his own jazz trio for many years. The career that he would be famous for began while working as a musician, producers noticing his impeccable comedic timing. He was soon pulled from the stool to go toe-to-toe with British comedy's "leading light" Peter Cook.

But as you'll see here, Moore also knew his way around a long hair tune and could put the feather to an otherwise dour Schubert lieder. See here as he "plays with himself":

Friday, May 17, 2013

AladDon Sane, Etc.

Some things dredged up from the interwebs:

Stranger still, there was once an America where you could buy this album at Kmart for $3.57.

The peanut butter reference is apt. See why here

Not all shitty local bars are the same, of course: I've lived in the New York's East Village and done my time at Spaceland so I may be a little jaded. 

Jimmy Page's record collection:

Lemmy and Samantha Fox: There may be a perfectly good reason for this I just can't imagine what it'd be.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The possibilities of Tarantino doing Sesame Street

Tropical is the name of the band, the tune is The Greeks, and the vid (another "Director's Cut") was directed by a French team called Megaforce. Here's some perspective and info from Pitchfork

You're going to be carrying these images around in your head for a while.

These Are What Subversives Look Like?

 World renowned subversives and Putin critics Pussy Riot seen here awaiting trial in a cage. 

So, this unassuming three represent a threat to a world nuclear power? 

In that way they're not so unlike that black seamstress who refused to give up her seat on the bus or the Tunisian street vender who protested by setting himself on fire to began a multi-nation chain reaction. It's awesome how much power can be wielded within the relatively small human scale of big ideas. As Ghandi proved, one person's idea––in his case, non-cooperation––can be a weapon sufficient for destroying an empire when transferred through enough bodies. Below is another small idea, here projected through loud voices and loud guitars, laid at Putin's trembling feet by the three women above. He's right to tremble. 

Let's hope there are more ideas to come.

Anyway, this is what Pussy Riot sounds like. The language is Russian but the attitude is clear. Go sistas.

An update to their story in their own words, herePeople fear us because we're feminists.

Friday, May 10, 2013

So Much Closer than MTV

Sepia-toned delights abound: a frustrated monkey bound on a crucifix, disembodied and mounted animal parts, some female nudity, levitation, a setting of implied rough sex at the slaughterhouse, and a Brothers' Quay style steampunk aesthetic––a style reminiscent of the French film Delicatessen that would've preceded this by three years and a film that hipsters like Reznor would've surely been aware. 

Closer was director Mark Romenak's vision (he was best known as the director of One Hour Photo with Robin Williams) and this was his full-flavored Director's Cut of the 1994 song of the same name, AKA the I Want to F**k You Like an Animal song

If you caught a version of this back in the day when MTV was still MTV, you can be assured it wasn't this one.

As Long as Someone Is Doing It

Avant-garde music is sort of research music. You're glad someone's done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it.

Brian Eno

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Music that Matters, Pt 11

Art by John Gomes: Find him here.

104) Faith No More, Ugly in the Morning: I've been amused but not particularly a fan of FNM prior to King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime. This was an album unlike anything they'd done before or after. It's here the afterburn of Mike Patton's ingenious other project, Mr. Bungle, begins to find its way in. The results found FNM scaling new reaches. As he proved in Bungle, Patton doesn't shrink at boundaries even those regarding his own voice. As a fan of the well executed scream, I find Ugly in the Morning to be a masterpiece of the barely controlled shriek. Even in this album's more pedestrian moments, there's always a spectre of Bungle just scratching beneath the surface. For me, this takes the ore that was Faith and refined it into something much more golden.

Ugly In The Morning by Faith No More on Grooveshark

105) Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle, Disco Volante: Wiki describes Bungle thusly: ...known for its distinctive musical traits, often cycling through several musical genres within the course of a single song... As a starting point you could call them a cross between a kind of homeopathic version of John Zorn's Naked City and the buffet style eclecticism of Lumpy Gravy Frank Zappa and metallic funk––a distilled version of Chili Peppers meets Sun Ra meets Carl Stalling meets Ramones meets Bebop meets...––you get the picture. The cycling through musical genres, even abruptly, appeals to me and foreshadows the smörgåsbord possibilities that'd come out of digital sampling. This is the band that got Mike Patton the Faith No More gig. His voice proves to be a wonderfully flexible device containing intermittent child-like qualities. A much underrated and innovative outfit. 

Love Is A Fist by Mr. Bungle on Grooveshark

106) XTC, GO2: My favorite XTC joint and the one that caused keyboardist Barry Andrews to depart soon after. His two song contributions here, while worthy, fit uneasily. That aside, he was an amazing keyboardist and his work with XTC was some of the best of his career––following his departure he'd go on to form Shriekback, a band whose sound mostly eschewed the kind of playing showcased here. Altogether, the band's playing is pretty inventive making XTC stand apart from their synth soggy New Wave brethren that would follow. And unlike those peers, this album suffers no loss with the test of time. XTC wasn't particularly diminished without him, a mite less distinctive maybe, but I've always had a soft spot for the Andrews years. 

Are You Receiving Me by XTC on Grooveshark

The Rhythm by XTC on Grooveshark

107) Miles Davis, All Blues: You know, that so-called monster jazz bomb of all time. On this 50th Anniversary promo, one talking head compares the album's musical importance to Scripture. Maybe, to me it's just a swinging li'l tune that's burns as cool as a freshly stirred habeñera martini. Released during the raging peak of Bebop, All Blues is the model of jazz restraint and economy––Bebop's opposite––that shows itself to be more of a parable than a whole scroll and that's a very good thing. 

108) Deep Purple, Lazy, Child in Time, Highway Star, Burn: Deep Purple was part of the industrial dinosaur legion that was at the heart of what punk railed against: Long noodle sessions of guitar wankery and other self-indulgences––and less frequently, keyboard wankery––and idiotic lyrics from guys in tight pants who didn't care enough to be literate or thought they could out Tolkien the master himself. To wit, some Highway StarNobody gonna take my girl...  Oooh she's a killing machine/She's got everything/Like a moving mouth body control/And everything/ I love her/I need her/I seed her. That aside, Machine Head was the classic peak of the golden age of rock and roll noodlery and the two-fisted attack of Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord was the deepest trick bag of the genre. Very few bands wanked so eloquently or melodically as Purple and all four of the above tunes are radiant examples. I especially enjoyed their schtick of a few bars of improvising leading into a few more bars of a kind of rock concerto of which Highway Star and Burn are the extant examples. Lord's signature was a keyboard sound sculpted in a fuzzy Marshall stack wash. His dense, fuzzy tone removed all traces of the calliope and skating rink from the Hammond and in its place poured in a bucketful of molten lead and broken glass. Ian Paice was a drummer's drummer and Ian Gilliam's voice had impressive range and a monumental falsetto scream. The fact that his voice also inspired the many Sebastian Bachs to follow may be debatably unforgivable. David Cloverdale was their transition into the hair metal years but even at his worst he still had Purple behind him. Child in Time is their classic full blown box-of-Kleenex circle jerk and the masterpiece of the form. For a time in the bible of proto-metal/Hard Rock wankery, Purple and Led Zeppelin were its King Davids.

Child in Time by Deep Purple on Grooveshark

Highway Star by Deep Purple on Grooveshark

Burn by Deep Purple on Grooveshark 

Lazy by Deep Purple on Grooveshark 

109) Count Basie, Jumping at the Woodside: What do you get when you forge swinging and rocking together? Whatever it is, this is all over it. The arrangement is streamlined and aerodynamic and as smooth as a porn star's pudenda. There's nothing extraneous or nonessential here, just the pure raw essence of a bangin' boogie. When it came to big band boogie, the Count was king.

110) David Bowie, After All: With a canon loaded with classic albums, Bowie's 1970 joint The Man Who Sold the World is certainly one of them. This album was the first to feature the core of the great Spiders From Mars ensemble. The songs on the album retain some of Bowie's earlier space age folk, adds a creepy horror movie vibe while transitioning into the shiny glam that would rule his next few albums. Much more guitar than would ever get the spotlight again and according to Wiki this may be for the fact that producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Mick Ronson were allowed heavy input. Whatever: In a career with many peaks, this was one of the masterpieces.  

111) Nature Boy: Simply, an ingeniously sweet and melancholy melody (a publisher claimed it was pinched from a Hebrew hymn) paired with a gushy hippie message written by a long haired raw foodie and cycling proto-hippie in 1947. The story of how the song was brought to Nat King Cole's attention may be folk legend, but in any event, Cole would love it. To get permission to record the song they had to track down the composer camping under the Hollywood sign. The composer would write other tunes––most of them are in a gray area between schmaltz, cheese, and cornball (some can be found on YouTube) and besotted with his moonbeam philosophy––but Nature Boy was a bolt of genious creative lightening. Cole's recording stayed at #1 for months and since has been recorded by multitudes. This Bowie version may be as good as any: 

Nature Boy by David Bowie on Grooveshark 

See Nature Boy introduced in 1948 by composer Eden Abbez from an apparent script. and then in 1959 Nat King Cole and Pat Boone give it their signature velvet and tryptophan sauce while sporting classic hipster toppers. (Cool? Nat, yes; Pat, no.)

112) The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eyed Blonde: George Clinton was an inspired choice for producer (Rick James might've been interesting). To me, this was when the Peppers captured their distinctive punk funky cocktail best. When the music drops out and it's just Flea's popping bass and the band's staccato scream-grunts is when this song exploded into my brain; it's pure crude ecstasy and some of the greatest seconds in musical history.

Blackeyed Blonde by Red Hot Chili Peppers on Grooveshark

113) Kronos Quartet, El Llohar (Crying): A world without Kronos would be a much less interesting place. They bring a cask of well fermented elixirs that might otherwise be ponderously academic or too remotely avant garde. This is curated alongside the odd rock nugget and international composers you'd never have discovered on your own and pairs them up like the right wine and entree. The effect is a sensualization on your musical palate in an unforgettable way. Add some musical fossils and new commissions and you'll get all the cultural fiber and nutrients your mind needs. And, they do this all without the slightest hint of colonial musical tourism. The secret is passion, it's all over the material. And you learn stuff: They're albums are like cocktail eyeopeners that bring you back to life in those difficult morning afters. El Llohar had that effect on me: The vocals and arrangement are the kind of stuff that make you drop whatever you're doing and listen. Listen and prepare for a lapdance on your brain pan.