Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cover Me - The Politically Incorrect Album Cover

by Joe Schwab

While returning to St. Louis from the WFMU Record Fair in New York City last week I decided to break up the boredom of the Ohio interstate system with a couple stops at the antique malls along the route. Normally I can't recommend these malls as great places to find records (unless Andy Williams is your cup of tea) but oddball titles do pop up from time to time. Now, I'm not going to say anything disparaging about the fine people of Ohio, our friends to the East, but I do tend to find a number of...um, how should I put this, politically incorrect records. So, here we go, this weeks finds are "heap big fun" and very "rucky finds'.

First we have Billy Thunderbird and the Chieftones, a lounge band with Billy on guitar (he's the Indian of the group) and his cohorts dressed up in full head dress'.




Next is Arnie and Chise, another lounge act from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with their album "Rotsa Ruck". Hot guitar player Arnie jams while Chise (who signs the record "I'm made in Japan") sings and plays congas. They certainly like to play up their East meets West image on their covers. Somewhere I have another Arnie and Chise record which I'll make sure to post once I dig it out.

Friday, October 30, 2009

RIP Recycled Sounds Anne Winter


This week news of the death of our friend Anne Winter crossed the state from her home in Kansas City. For most of the last 20 years Anne owned and operated Recycled Sounds, a great record, poster, CD and magazine stand on Main Street in KC. The store shut its doors for good about a year and a half ago, much to the dismay of the Kansas City music fans, musicians and hipsters. Anne regularly employed KC musicians to use as day jobs. She was a proponent and big influence on the KC music and art scene as well as an advocate for free speech.

Friends in Kansas City have begun a fund to help defray the costs of funeral arrangements as well as starting a trust fund for Anne's two children ages 9 and 12. Any St. Louis friends interested in donating can do so here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1993 - Janet Jackson "janet."



by Steve Pick

1993 was kind of a watershed year for me - I spent most of my time at age 34 discovering things people did in high school, getting drunk, getting high, dancing til all hours, pursuing pleasure anywhere I could find it. And, while there was certainly other music that year, it seems like r'n'b followed me everywhere I went. En Vogue, TLC, Bobby Brown, SWV, Boyz II Men, and most especially Janet Jackson conjure up the best memories for me.

Most critics agree that Janet's two previous albums, Control and Rhythm Nation were her best, and I can't argue that they are dance classics. But, for me, janet. is the one with all the personal resonance. I had been dumped the year before, so I certainly understood "That's the Way Love Goes," a song that floated in and out of the mind and body on a bed of sultry jazz guitar licks and a sexual come-on from Ms. Jackson (cause I was nasty). Sure, it was a fantasy song, but at the same time (and despite the sophomoric moth and flame metaphor) it was a song as much about getting past your pain as it was about finding new pleasure. "That's the Way Love Goes" didn't promise permanence, but it did promise connection, and that connection was what I was looking for everywhere that year.

That line about the way love goes comes up in several places on this record, which looks at love from intense sexual expression to contentment and immersion between two people. Sometimes it's described in the past tense ("Where Are You Now," "Again"); sometimes it's as immediate as an orgasm ("Throb"); and sometimes it's a distant illusion ("If" - how many people besides me convinced themselves this song was really about the person listening, who knew just what Janet could do for us if she had the chance?).

Musically, the album is a tour de force of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis production skills. These guys, who got their start in the Time a little more than 10 years prior to this, were simply on fire by this point. Their beats were fresh and ecstatic, and their ability to layer sounds into rhythmic extravaganzas was unparalleled. At first glance, for example, "Throb" sounds like a generic gay disco number, but, my goodness, there's nuance on this track. Yeah, it's nuance that includes Janet moaning a lot, but there really are so many other things happening that every time I hear this, it sounds like a different cut.

Then there's the Lionel Hampton samples on "Funky Big Band"; the Supremes samples on "If" and "You Want This"; the coy Rolling Stones reference in "What'll I Do" co-written by Steve Cropper and proving that Janet could have pulled off a credible Carla Thomas level soul career if she'd been born earlier; the Chuck D guest appearance on "New Agenda" as Janet preaches positivity about being African-American and female; "Whoops Now," the bonus track I never even noticed until I played this album again this week, which sounds as much as anything like something Brian Wilson might have had in mind for Smile. There are so many musical joys in this record, and the combination of Jam, Lewis, and Jackson never reached so far and wide as it did here.

Now, let's come to a downside of buying albums in the early 90s. By this time, LPs were essentially not being made, cassettes were fast disappearing and CDs ruled the marketplace almost by their lonesome. Somehow, artists got the idea that because a CD could hold up to 80 minutes of music, they should cram as much as possible onto every album - this one runs over 70 minutes. As a result, there are cutesy little interludes between almost every track, none of which bothers me. But, there are also about four or five songs I would leave off if I were in charge of things. "Again" was actually a hit, but it was a rare example of Janet borrowing her brother's treacly approach to balladry - I'll admit the melody is capable of drawing me in, but by the end, when she takes the jerk back, I'm shuddering. "Because of Love," while pleasant, is almost Control by the numbers. "Where Are You Now" and "The Body That Loves You" don't stick in the head. In fact, were it not for the masterful and sexy "Any Time, Any Place" the last real song on the record, I'd recommend cutting this whole project off after "New Agenda."

I saw Janet Jackson on her tour behind this album, and I've seen her a couple other times. People complain that perhaps she's lip synching on stage, and I'm guessing she probably is, but the shows are so exhilarating I don't care at all. Janet Jackson may not be a vocalist chock full of chops, but her performances are about joy and sex and love and passion and movement and life. I'm in favor of all those things, whether on record, or interpreted on stage through stunning choreography.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stuff That Jack Likes, Volume 2

A new weekly posting of the stuff that Euclid's own Jackieboy likes...

1. "Surf Solar" by Fuck Buttons from their new record Tarot Sport:



2. "Don't Give Up" by Lake from the album Let's Build a Roof:



3. "So Fine" by Telepathe from the album Dance Mother:



4. News about the Jeff Smith's Bone movies for Warner Brothers!

5. I really, really liked Where The Wild Things Are, but it also made me kinda sad and need hugs.

6. "Berlin" by Alaska in Winter from their album Holiday:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ponderosa Stomp - the Movie



by Joe Schwab

It started as a foundation and then an annual concert in New Orleans featuring the neglected Blues, Cajun, Rock-a-Billy and R&B stars of the 50's, 60's and 70's that had their taste of fame and fortune but sadly, for various reasons never maintained the momentum that shot them to the hot 100.

The Stomp Foundation has just put out a press release and trailer for an upcoming documentary featuring founding father Dr. Ike with the help of Stomp regulars Lil Buck Senigal, Roy Head and Classie Ballou. The trailer entertains, teaches and gives an overview of what the foundation has meant to the musicians, fans and the people of New Orleans.

If you haven't been fortunate enough to attend the annual show, make it a priority. The foundation depends on public support, it's not for profit and it's done solely with the intention of helping to resurrect and protect the music and musicians who are growing older by the day. The great audiences at the shows bring out the best in these legends but even more so, they represent at seminars and conferences devoted to the subject of great Rock 'n' Roll.



Below is the press release sent out by the foundation:

While the Stomp crew was in New York City this July, a crew of music lovers, including Brian Gourley, the Butler Brothers, and acclaimed director Jeff Nichols, was putting the finishing touches on the first Ponderosa Stomp film.

Classie Ballou, Lil' Buck Senegal and Roy Head are integral Stomp performers—these three exemplary artists enjoyed early success, but found themselves toiling in obscurity later in life. Their first-person remembrances of their careers, their experiences playing on the Stomp, and the impact the Stomp has had on their lives are at the core of this riveting piece. The film also includes live concert footage and additional interviews with the likes of musicologist Peter Guralnick offering a rare peek inside the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation.

This film would not have been possible without the generous support and time of music fan, volunteer and the film's executive producer, Brian Gourley. Brian attended the Stomp and was transfixed by the music and amazed that such a small group with limited resources was able to bring so much music and cultural information to the fore. So, Brian asked what he could do to help. We are thrilled to share with you the realization of his hard work and vision -- Ponderosa Stomp: The Film.

The film was shot in Austin during 2009's SXSW, in Artists' homes, and at the 2009 Stomp Concert and Conference. Gourley explains, "The film presented itself at the right time; it let me pour my love of music into a project that I thought would help give props to its roots. Without roots, there are no trees." This moving film clearly shows the impact your support and our work has had on several of the hundreds of artists we have worked with.

We are asking for you to be a part of the music, to build upon our recent successes, and to continue to expand our unique and vital work. Our cultural preservation efforts require the technical skill, time, and expertise of our small, committed staff and volunteers.

It also requires the help of everyone who enjoys our shows and events; we need your help to ensure we can continue our work in the coming year. Please support our efforts and help us reach our fundraising goal of $40,000.00 by December 31st, 2009 with a donation in any amount that is meaningful to you. We look forward to you joining us to guarantee the music lives on.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We Didn't Say These Things, But . . .

We're gonna redouble our efforts to turn you on to some of the best music writing out there on the internet.

First up today, is a piece that does more thinking about the Black Eyed Peas latest record than probably most everybody we know has done collectively. Charles Hughes is as good a writer as there is working today, and whether you dig the Peas or not, he's gonna make you think there's more going on than you suspected.

Here's a fascinating interview with Clint Conley, bassist of Mission of Burma, that Boston-based noise-pop machine that took more than 25 years off in its career only to return pretty much as strong as ever. We love the part where he mentions the equipment they don't own.

Alright, this link isn't to writing, but my goodness, these are gorgeous photos of some great musicians in the process of creation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cover Me - Yellow Birds




Albums of My Life - 1992 - Los Lobos "Kiko"


by Steve Pick

There's something special about an album that opens with a song about a dream and ends with a Mexican band number careening a bit out of control. In between are blues, and rock and saints and children and a circus and saxophones and high-strung Mexican stringed instruments. It's Kiko, the greatest effort in a career of great efforts by Los Lobos.

By 1992, Mitchell Froom had established a track record as the go-to producer for critically acclaimed rock artists who wanted to push their envelope a bit. Froom was not one to let musicians come into the studio and simply record their stage shows. He liked to pile on overdubs; I think there are a couple dozen keyboards on "The Other Side of Summer" from Elvis Costello's 1991 Mighty Like a Rose album, to use an extreme example.

Los Lobos had made a name for itself as the American Mexican-American roots band. They rocked, and rocked hard, or played lovely traditional Mexican songs, but they always stayed connected to the basic styles they played when they first came up. Their 1990 album, The Neighborhood, may have stretched things a little bit, but Kiko was still a magnificent surprise to long-time fans.

Interestingly, the drummer for Los Lobos, Louie Perez, didn't play drums on most of their records. They always hired session musicians to pull off that job, and Froom's connection to Costello paid off handsomely when Pete Thomas of the then-disbanded Attractions sat behind the kit for this record. Thus, the album starts off with a tremendous rhythmic push on "Dream In Blue" that didn't sound like anything the band had done before. Immediately, Steve Berlin's double-tracked baritone sax and flute join with David Hidalgo's and Cesar Rosas' intertwined guitars to create an atmosphere not quite rooted to the ground. Kiko was to be an album of dreams, of essences, of impressions. Oh, it rocks when it needs to, but it's not going to stick to any formal script.

Rosas contributes "That Train Don't Stop Here," a roaring twist on the blues trope of the train that takes ones lover away. Sure, she's gone, but times have changed, and there is no way for her to come back, even if she wanted to. And, while the band careens madly down the clackety rhythm track of a typical train blues, after every couple of verses, Rosas and Hidalgo go wild on guitar solos which sound like jet planes roaring low and crossing the train below.

"Kiko and the Lavender Moon" reminds me of the classic comic strip by Winsor MacKay, "Little Nemo in Slumberland." Well, that and some early Duke Ellington, as Berlin multi-tracks his own reeds into a section quite reminiscent of the Duke scoring variations on "Three Blind Mice." Hidalgo gently sings of the little boy in the title, who plays non-stop, even in sleep, where he seems to control his surroundings to the point of wishing the world away. A very enticing, very bizarre, slightly eerie little song which may be the band's greatest moment.

Although it's made even greater by juxtaposition with Perez singing "Saint Behind the Glass" immediately afterward. Here we have a man in bed, telling of the iconic object in his room. Or is he a boy? Or is he a man remembering his boyhood? Or is he dead, remembering what was in the room when he was alive? Heck, I don't know, I just know those high-pitched strums are gorgeous, and Perez sings this mysterious song with the perfect pitch of awe.

So many great songs here - the near Band-like "Short Side of Nothing"; the raucously infectious "Whiskey Trail"; the lovely instrumental "Arizona Skies"; the ironic, caustic, prayerful ode to "Peace"; the percussive delights of "Angels With Dirty Faces." Froom encouraged Los Lobos to orchestrate their songs, and they are not afraid to put extra instruments in, even if they're only there for a couple of spare notes to provide background on certain songs.

Somehow, the five members of Los Lobos - Hidalgo, Rosas, Perez, Berlin, and Conrad Lozano - came to a perfect storm of creativity here. Hidalgo and Perez would soon go off the deep end with the Latin Playboys, a side project that had all the open-ended ideas of Kiko and none of the musical or emotional resonance. Rosas would after a few years release a solo album of virtually pure blues and r'n'b. Los Lobos would continue to record good records without ever really achieving a level of equality like this, where every member of the band supported each other without question. Kiko was not only the best album of a very good 1992 - it's one of the best albums ever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stuff That Jack Likes, Volume 1

A new weekly posting of the stuff that Euclid's own Jackieboy likes...

1. Mike Doughty @ Blueberry Hill's Duck Room Sunday, October 17th - Tickets are only $16, people! An acoustic evening in support of his new record, Sad Man Happy Man.

2. Where The Wild Things Are - Haven't seen it yet, but I am super excited! Spike Jonze directing, Dave Eggers writing, Karen O making the music. Sounds pretty perfect to me.

3. Wave Machines - This is the band to watch. Their album, Wave If You're Really There, isn't available domestically yet, but hopefully it won't be too long before people over here catch on to how good these guys are. Check out them out:



4. The Flaming Lips' new album Embryonic. It is epic.

5. Everything is terrible.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Live At Bonnaroo DVD Coming Soon

In June of 2009, Bonnaroo celebrated its eighth year with what was widely considered to be a banner year in the event's history. The dazzling array of performers ranged from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to Phish and also included artists such as The Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, Zac Brown and many, many more.

"Live From Bonnaroo 2009" on DVD will allow viewers to experience the event again or for the first time. "Live From Bonnaroo 2009" will feature select exclusive performances and atmosphere footage along with pristine audio presented in 5.1 surround straight from the Bonnaroo master tapes. The release date is yet to be determined, but you can get a lot more info, not to mention some sneak previews, at Bonnaroo. And you can pre-order it right here from Euclid Records.

Shared via AddThis

Tracklisting:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Outlaw Pete



Phish

Down With Disease



Beastie Boys

Intergalactic



Snoop Dogg

I Want to Love You



Elvis Costello with Jenny Lewis and Her Sound Go Away



Ben Harper and Relentless7

Fly One Time



Andrew Bird

Fitz and the Dizzyspells



The Decemberists

The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid



Del McCoury Band

Moneyland



Coheed and Cambria

Welcome Home



Amadou & Miriam

Masiteladi



Santigold

LES Artistes



Zac Brown Band

Who Knows



Passion Pit

Little Secrets



Raphael Saadiq

Keep Marchin'



Cage the Elephant

Ain't No Rest For the Wicked

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1991 - Matthew Sweet "Girlfriend"



by Steve Pick

In 1991, I was working at a different record store. Every Sunday morning, I would go into the store by myself to perform some inventory work. On one particular Sunday morning, two 12-year-old girls out in front of the store were jumping around like crazy when I suddenly realized they were re-enacting the performance Nirvana had given on the previous evening's episode of "Saturday Night Live." That was when I realized that everything I loved about popular music stood no chance.

If Nirvana could capture the youth - and, if you'll recall, they certainly did that - without anything resembling songcraft, vocal interest, or guitar playing beyond a rudimentary approach, then I was suddenly old. Yeah, I had loved punk rock, but Nirvana struck me as a fairly weak version of things I'd heard before (albeit with a great drummer).

So, we now come to the section of my life where, despite the fact I was still an active critic with a pretty sweet public gig at the local newspaper, I was fighting a losing battle against the counter-culture. I'd been used to trying to change the mainstream culture, but suddenly I was in trouble at both ends.

Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend managed to straddle all this, giving me at least a tenuous connection with those much younger. By using two of the best guitarists of the late 70s New York punk / Wave explosion - Robert Quine, once of Richard Hell and the Voidoids and then of Lou Reed's band, and the astounding Richard Lloyd of Television - Sweet found a way to school the grunge crowd in the kind of noisy, explosive rock it loved while holding true to the aesthetics we old school rockers valued as well.

Girlfriend is an instantly enjoyable pop rock classic album, one that appeals in some way or another to almost anybody who's heard it. Sweet had released two previous solo albums which had not even begun to hint he had this sort of thing in him. With Quine and Lloyd providing the punch, along with Ivan Julian and Lloyd Cole on guitar, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, and Fred Maher (sometimes replaced by Ric Menck, who was as good, though I didn't know it yet) on drums, Sweet offered up epic tales of love desired, completed, and lost. And, while Sweet has never been the most developed melody writer, he demonstrated here a way with hooks that makes him a true inheritor of the power pop tradition.

Now, I will say that out of fifteen songs, there are maybe five or six which could have been left off without harming the record. There's nothing wrong with them, but the best material - "Girlfriend," "I've Been Waiting," "Evangeline," "Divine Intervention," "Looking At the Sun," "I Wanted to Tell You" - is so chock full of pathos, guitar incandescence, and singable choruses that the other merely good songs seem a bit devalued. Eighteen years have passed, and Matthew Sweet has made some really good records since, but these particular songs remain the high points of his career after all this time.

I still don't understand what made Nirvana resonate with kids so much that they overnight developed an entirely different aesthetic for music. But I understand that Girlfriend works for them, and it works for me, and it works for just about anybody who likes loud, passionate, and especially catchy songs played and sung by extremely talented musicians.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1990 - Public Enemy "Fear of a Black Planet"


by Steve Pick

They could be infuriating, enthralling, thrilling, hilarious, frustrating, unifying and dividing. But, for a few years there, from roughly 1988 to 1992, Public Enemy were the lightning rods, the litmus tests, the focus of so much attention. Heck, a good chunk of Fear of a Black Planet is taken up with samples from media types talking about how controversial these guys were, always placed against the thickest slabs of funk concrete ever assembled.

It wouldn't be much longer after this record that copyright laws made the piling on of samples beyond the financial reach of the average hip hop producer. Listening to Fear for the first time in ages, I was once again captivated by the sonic amalgamation from dozens of records familiar and obscure, not to mention assorted voices and sound effects pulled from every possible source. This was not music made on the backs of previous musicians; it was a radical re-arrangement of sounds found throughout the world. Sure, you get the occasional nod of recognition - those two seconds were from Diana Ross; that phrase used once was from James Brown - but the samples are blurred together in fresh juxtapositions creating something unique. When the kidnappers send the ransom note, nobody's too concerned about what newspapers the individual letters originally appeared in.

But the law is the law, and hip hop changed inerexorably within a very short time. The Bomb Squad, working in tandem with the astounding dj Terminator X, created sonic backdrops for Chuck D and Flava Flav which reinforced the themes they were rapping about. This was not a case where the beats could be recycled and an entirely different rap could be dropped in. Public Enemy was a group effort, and nothing was wasted.

Which is not to say I don't wish they wouldn't have said some of the stupid things they said sometimes. There is no justification for a complaint that men having sex with men is wrong because the parts don't fit. Jews didn't get Chuck D like Jesus. Elvis Presley wasn't the simple racist cracker Chuck makes him out to be. I can't defend any of these lines, but they aren't the most important things about the record. Chuck D has always been among the most intelligent thinkers in music; that doesn't mean he hasn't been free of prejudices which contradict his basic message that we're all victims of the power struggle which gives some people legs up based on money, race, gender, or other factors.

Remember how it felt to hear "Fight the Power" at the end of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing? "People people we are the same / No we're not the same / Cause we don't know the game / What we need is awareness, we can't get careless." As the beats pump us up to raise our fists, Chuck D isn't telling anybody to go out and throw things through windows, no matter how much that might feel good for a few seconds. No, he's telling us that the powers need to be fought through knowledge of how they work, so they can be taken down by a refusal to do what the system requires for it to hold people in its thrall. Within this context, I understand why Chuck felt the need to slam Elvis and John Wayne, heroes of the white power structure; he just forgot that the rules of the game require the underclass to fight amongst itself. Seeing Presley as a powerful rich man beloved by so many, he forgot the poor truck driver who loved so many different kinds of music and helped break down the wall between the races put up by the elites.

I could listen to Chuck and Flav rap the phonebook, the sounds of their voices and the rhythms and tones they command are so intoxicating. Chuck D, whose rhythmic dexterity is at least partly derived from his love of basketball announcer Marv Albert's delivery, hammers away at the issues he sees around him, trying to make his audience think as hard as he does while the music hits with physical dynamite. Flava Flav, normally the comic relief from Chuck D's stentorian seriousness, gets a couple of stabs in himself, especially on "911 Is a Joke." On this song, Flava calls out the police for ignoring crimes in black neighborhoods. When the jester gets up to speak truth, especially using the word "joke" in the title, it's even more powerful of a blast.

I haven't spent nearly as much time with hip hop as I could have, so I'm leery of calling the period when Public Enemy ruled the genre some sort of golden age. That was a period when I was listening to a lot of it, when it was on MTV all the time, when I worked with people who played it around me. I heard more, and fell in love with more than I have since. I will say, however, that there has never been another hip hop performer or group, and few of any genre, which has commanded my attention in the way Public Enemy did in its prime.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

POETRY TO BEGIN THE NEW MONTH


From our friend David Greenberger of Duplex Planet

OCTOBER
by Ernest Noyes Brookings

October the tenth month thirty-one days
Frequently trips to view autumn leaves
Occasionally a light fog or a dark haze
But not a detrimental cough or sneeze

In a large several room family home
Dad -- would you like to view nature's grandeur?
Mutually yes, lead us to the place to roam
The foliage was beautiful not manufactured

In a women's modern cooperative home
Quote mater -- gals, like to view nature's beauty?
All quote -- yes, it's a great place to roam
And we consider it as our mutual duty

In a boy's general education school
Master -- would you like to view the beauty of God's art?
Yes lead us there and we'll obey the rule
And from our comrades we will never part

At a men's industrial products meeting
Speaker -- should we enjoy this autumn day?
Group -- let's go but no speeding
We all enjoyed the view, there was hay.


(this poem first appeared in The Duplex Planet #53, 1983)
---

Introduction to Ernest Noyes Brookings, poet and engineer:

By David Greenberger

Ernest Noyes Brookings was born in 1898 in Newbury, Massachusetts. He
served in the Navy, attended MIT, and settled in Springfield, Vermont,
where he worked as a designer of machine parts. When not designing, Mr.
Brookings avidly pursued astronomy, the game of tennis and ham radio.

In 1979, while residing at the Duplex Nursing Home in Boston, he met David
Greenberger who was employed there as activities director. Seeing his
interest in the poetry of others, David suggested he write some of his own,
which he immediately began doing provided he was supplied with a theme to
write about. Emerging with a style of his own from the outset, his poems
began appearing regularly in The Duplex Planet as well as numerous other
publications. His book, We Did Not Plummet Into Space, was published in
1983.

In the last seven years of his life Ernest Brookings took to writing poetry
with the vigor of youth or of a man with little time to spare. He wrote
several hundred poems on a wide variety of subjects - from Frankenstein to
Harry Truman, from broken hearts to kissing, from chairs to rockets - all
receiving equal attention and all arranged with his gentle mixture of faith
and logic.

Ernie died in 1987.

More info here.