Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Greenwald on Jeremiah Wright

I was going to post on something else, but this is too good to let pass. Here's Glenn Greenwald on the latest Jeremiah Wright kerfluffle.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

nada's the word

Rough day yesterday, no time to work up a post. Hey, look over there, isn't that...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rocket From the Tombs Live Sonic Reducer

It's a good idea to know history. Here's a song written over thirty years ago, even though this performance is less than two years old. The history of the writing of the song is in some dispute, but Peter Laughner seems to get credit from most people who were there at the time. Apparently no one has managed to find any visuals of Peter Laughner to put up on YouTube. If I can, I'll post some audio of his solo work soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nord C1 Sunny

I was watching this and realized that it was a good example of what I love about the twenty-first century.

First, it's a typical amateur clip on YouTube, but I get more pleasure out of watching it than I do out of most big-budget movies that I see. It's a guy in his spare room--you can even see a power outlet and some random mundane household stuff left in view. He's playing a portable keyboard and is accompanied by a machine instead of a real drummer. Not exactly top of the line in terms of expense. But what comes out of all this is a glimpse of someone who, however laid back (note the cigarette dangling from a corner of his mouth) has an obvious passion: he does this stuff because he loves it. Sometime in the past he spent a lot of time mastering the Hammond organ, including use of the pedalboard, plus the requisite Leslie speaker. His other YouTube clips include such early sixties standards of the B-3 playlist as "Summertime" and "Georgia on my Mind." So he knows his stuff. Now he's in his home, making his own clips for YouTube.

Second, if I understood correctly, he lives on the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel. That's about as far off the beaten path as you can get and still be near civilization as the term is generally understood. His talent as it is displayed here is not accessible to most of us under most circumstances--but now we have the Web, and he can set up a little camera in his spare room and let people like us see what he can do.

Third, the keyboard he's playing is a Nord C1, currently considered to be the best of the "clonewheel" keyboards, designed for one purpose: to emulate as closely as possible the sound and experience of playing a Hammond B3 with a Leslie speaker. This keyboard has been on the market only about a year. For quite a while musical instrument makers have been trying to get to this point. I know, because I've owned two earlier attempts, a Hammond-Suzuki XK1 and a Native Instruments B4/B4D. Both were very good, but both had drawbacks (but did have drawbars...sorry, that's an inside joke).

So in short, this clip provides you with an auditory and visual experience replicating one you might have had forty years ago, but it's all done with technology that is nearly brand new.

A friend of mine told me about one of his teachers, a man who knew the history of Western civilization very well, and taught it for many years. Sometimes a student would wistfully say that they wished they'd been born in some beautiful but long-gone era. The teacher was always firm. No, he'd say. Things are better now in so many ways. This is the best time to be alive. He lived to be ninety, and died just five years ago. At an age when some people retreat into memory, he stayed in touch with the present, and never wavered in his belief that, for all its real and tragic flaws, right now is the best time of all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lena Guerrero and Karl Rove

Lena Guerrero died this week. Here is the best article I've been able to find about her, from the Brownsville Herald. Like many longtime politicians, she worked hard for many years but is probably best known for one dramatic scandal attached to her name.
In 1992, she was running for re-election to the Texas Railroad Commission. In a practice common in statewide Texas offices for many years, she had gained the seat by appointment after the previous commissioner had resigned to make way for a replacement. And the Texas Railroad Commission is, in fact, one of the most powerful institutions in the state government--due to a quirk, it is the state agency that regulates the production of oil and gas, for many years the biggest part of the Texas economy and still very important. So for a Hispanic woman to be one of its leaders was a big deal. She may have been the best example of Governor Ann Richards' drive to make state government less of a good-old-boy network.
So in 1992 Guerrero is running for re-election. In May a political campaign expert working for a Republican opponent has been working to dig up dirt on her, and he strikes gold. Guerrero had been a student at the University of Texas at Austin and claimed to have graduated Phi Beta Kappa. It turns out that not only did she not make PBK, she did not in fact graduate, being so dedicated to the birth of her political career (she had been the youngest-ever president of the student Democratic group) that she blew off her last semester.
Here's where it gets interesting. The Republican campaign operative takes the information and puts it in a file and lets it sit. Four months later, when it is timed to do the most damage, he releases the information to the press. The results are predictably spectacular. The info is all over the news, Guerrero resigns her seat, but it is too late by law to put another Democratic candidate up for the post. She runs anyway and loses.
Obviously the timing of the release of the information had been calculated by a person both smart and ruthless. As the title of this post has already told you, that person was Karl Rove, not yet a White House aide. As is often said, politics is a dirty business. But whenever I read an article suggesting that Rove is basically a decent person with high ethical standards, I remember this story, when he gained information about an opponent's wrongdoing and, instead of immediately announcing that wrongdoing to the world, exposing it to the light as quickly as possible as someone with high ethical standards would feel compelled to do, he sat on it until it could serve as the most effective weapon possible in a political campaign. Karl Rove loves dirt, and any concept of fairness is alien to his nature. RIP Lena Guerrero, who acknowledged and paid for what she did. Karl Rove is still alive.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Area Code 615 - I've Been Loving You Too Long

Area Code 615 was a group of Nashville session musicians who released only two albums as a group in the late sixties/early seventies. They were pretty much the cream of the crop at the time, several of the eight or so members working not only with country performers but also with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, etc. Like most musicians, their interests ranged beyond their own specialty. For instance, the fiddler Buddy Spicher had classical training, and based on this recording, obviously loved Otis Redding as well. The plaintive wail of country fiddle and the plaintive wail of soul singing blend very effectively, at least in this case. If you're not familiar with Otis Redding's version of this song, you really should listen to it first, to hear how close this homage is. Hat tip to Undercover Black Man for stirring things up and making me think of this piece.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sir Douglas Quintet - I Don't Want

A lesser-known track from the Mendocino album, with some of the more common attributes of that era of the SDQ--Doug has double-tracked his vocals, Augie is playing what is almost a string part on the Vox organ, the influences are a seamless blend of C&W, R&B, and much else besides--all prominent. The twelve-string guitar adds a lot to the final blend as well. This is a sound that, while not being all that unusual, is really not quite like anything else.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thanks, my blood wasn't already boiling--part 15

Life expectancy has been going up for decades in all developed countries in the Western world. Now there's an exception to that trend. Guess where.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jefferson Airplane - Somebody To Love & White Rabbit

The Smothers Brothers show was one of the few places where you could watch bands like JA on TV, and those freaky visual effects were definitely not used on Hollywood Palace. But the versions here sound like they are the original instrumental tracks with re-recorded vocals, so maybe the audacity/authenticity level wasn't quite as high as we were led to believe. Anyway, here you go, the eyes, ears, and minds of America's youth being polluted in 1967 or '68.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Meters - Tippi Toes

Over at Undercover Black Man's blog he had a recent post on Tiny Tim, the remarkable showbiz phenomenon. (I didn't say good, I said remarkable. But I didn't say bad, either.) That reminded me of this song by the Meters. Cultural cross-fertilization can yield surprising results.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

icanhascheezburger rules my world 2

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics
I'm sorry, I've fallen way behind on my mandatory quota of cat blogging. Must catch up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lovin' Spoonful - Voodoo in My Basement

When I was a young Lovin' Spoonful fan, I thought of them as a New York City band. What I came to understand years later was that they were, more significantly, a Greenwich Village band.

They drew on a group of influences largely unfamiliar to their peers like the Beach Boys and the Beatles. The folk and roots musicians popular in the Village of the early sixties were deeply important to them. The band's name came from a line in a Mississippi John Hurt song. And this song shows the strong musical influence of Howlin' Wolf, another g-dropper like themselves.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Great Debate--Okay, It Wasn't That Great

Like Digby, I passed on watching the Democratic debate last night, so therefore D is qualified to speak for me on the subject.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunny & The Sunliners - Smile Now Cry Later

This is a song from my youth that sometimes appears in my head and stays for awhile.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Muddy Waters - Standing Around Crying

The fact that this is a great song is reason enough to post it, but it also serves as a reminder of one little bit of rock music genealogy that is often lost.

No one would argue much with the idea that the biggest single sonic innovation of the late-sixties rock era was the sound of distorted electric guitar. This sound was pioneered by fifties guitarists like Hubert Sumlin and Pat Hare, among others. But another influence was the sound of electrically amplified harmonica players like Little Walter, heard here backing up Muddy. Duane Allman in particular was very clear that he tried to model his tone for his slide work on the sound of Little Walter's harp. Listen here and you can hear the connection.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why News Sucks

Over @ DailyKos, Devilstower provides as good a synopsis as I've seen of what's happened to the large US media outlets in the last twenty years.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Still Raining, Still Dreaming

So it only makes sense to bring you part two of the song posted yesterday. If you're a guitarist, Hendrix's use of the wah-wah pedal is one element that stands out. Many guitarists basically just tap to their foot to the rhythm--Hendrix carefully uses the tone-shaping aspects of the pedal in a very musical way. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Clifford Brown on Soupy Sales TV Show

Can't remember how I heard about this clip, but it is apparently the only footage of Clifford Brown playing trumpet.

The great trumpeter Lester Bowie said that if Clifford Brown hadn't died young, then he (Bowie) would have stayed in St. Louis and gone to work in the post office...and Miles Davis would have been his supervisor. That's hyperbole, of course, but Lester Bowie was, among other things, a funny guy. He was also a very talented trumpet player, and he idolized Clifford Brown. This clip should give you some idea why.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

SWANS - Beautiful Child (Live '87)

On other blogs, I frequently see YouTube videos of happy, poppy eighties bands. When I see a trend, I have to respond somehow. So here you go, that happy, poppy eighties band: Swans.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The History of Deconstruction in America

If you went to grad school in English in the nineties then this will interest you. Otherwise, probably not so much.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Band - A Change Is Gonna Come

Just to keep this thread going a little is the Band's version of "A Change is Gonna Come." They were a working bar band when this song was on the charts, so they would have learned it for the same reason they learned any other song--so that they could play what the audience wanted to hear. But years later at the height of their fame, they recorded an album of covers, and picked their favorites from their early years. Obviously this was one that had stuck with them, and they used it to close the LP.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Otis Redding - A Change Is Gonna Come

Let's take off at a tangent from yesterday's post, and follow this song a little.

Considering their differences as vocal stylists, it may be surprising to learn that Otis Redding was a huge fan of Sam Cooke, but he was. Sam the smoothie, Otis the powerful force of nature--a dichotomy so pure it must be mistaken, and in fact it is. Here the composer of "Respect" brings his powerful voice to bear on this slow, sad (but far from hopeless) song, and nails it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come

Forty years is a long time in any human life. And he didn't even make it to forty.

One of the (then) freshly written anthems of the civil rights movement, this song's mix of sorrow and hope captures perfectly an emotional blend that typified much of that struggle. Used to beautiful effect by Spike Lee at a pivotal point in the movie Malcolm X, it has been covered often, but the original has not been surpassed. Sure, the orchestral arrangement seems overblown, but even that had a political point--that the finest things in life are for everyone, and that everyone deserves dignity.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Impressions - People Get Ready

Covered by zillions, appropriated by Bob Marley, a gospel-based anthem of the civil rights movement, one of Curtis Mayfield's shining moments as a songwriter. Here's the original version.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Booker T. & The MG's - Time is Tight

Undercover Black Man on his site notes that the film director Jules Dassin has died, and that in 1968 Dassin directed Uptight, one of the first big Hollywood studio films attempting to portray life in the inner city. Although white himself, Dassin was the sort of old-time lefty who felt that his responsibility was to be as authentic as possible, so rather than hire well-meaning white artists, he did his best to see that the script, music, and of course acting were almost entirely the work of African-Americans. For example, the great Ruby Dee co-wrote the screenplay, and Booker T. and the MG's provided the soundtrack. Here's a song you've probably heard before, in a version you probably haven't.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Press Coverage of the Presidential Race 2008

I believe the correct term is: What Digby said. So read it, although I have to highlight my favorite line, because it's something I've only recently figured out myself: The younger ones don't even know how much right wing cant they've internalized and the older ones are still trying to justify their previous bad behavior.