Monday, December 31, 2007

Frank Sinatra - One For My Baby

On the cusp of the year, an offering to you. Perhaps the best expression ever of that after-the-crowd-has-left feeling, this was one of Sinatra's signature songs. Don't stay out too late tonight.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

September Song Jimmy Durante 1955

Another version of "September Song" to mark the passing of the year.

For a while, Jimmy Durante was probably the best-known performer of this song. It's easy to see why. It's a song for a man past his prime, and Durante had no vanity about his appearance. And the wistfulness at the heart of the lyric matched something in his personality. The fact that his technical gifts as a singer were nowhere near those of, say, Sinatra, in this case actually reinforce the song's theme. Sure, the backup vocals now seem too sweet by half, but hey, perfection is for some other world, not this one.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Willie Nelson - September Song

It's true that we're nowhere near September, but this song is about approaching the end, which makes it appropriate for December 29th. Written by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill, the song probably owes its existence to Walter Huston, father of John, grandfather of Anjelica.

According to Joshua Logan's memoirs, when Knickerbocker Holiday was in the planning stages, Huston, who had been selected for a lead role, suggested that his character have a song to sing to the ingenue as he made a hopeless play for her love. Maxwell Anderson liked the idea and worked with Weill to create this oft-covered paean to a dwindling life force. Here is Willie Nelson's version from 1978, produced and arranged by Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.s, thus proving once again that You Just Never Know.

Friday, December 28, 2007


It's Friday, I'm not qualified to post anything worthwhile on the Bhutto assassination (although that isn't stopping a lot of other bloggers), nothing else comes to mind, so I guess it's cute cats today.

Funny Pictures
moar funny pictures

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blue Jay Way - The Beatles

Actually this is a continuation of the holiday theme. When I was growing up a regular part of the average Christmas vacation was listening to the newest Beatles album, since one was always released in time for the holidays. Here's a psychedelic-era George song.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Percy Mayfield as interpreted by Mose Allison - Lost Mind

This song is a great example of why there is a cult of Percy Mayfield fans. Utterly cool in the sense of keeping one's pulse low even though it's about a burning love affair, it manages to convince on both counts. I don't have any of Percy Mayfield's own recordings handy, so the cool-in-his-own-way Mose Allison will fill in.

Percy Mayfield (not to be confused with Curtis Mayfield, which is easy to do in conversation since they have not only identical last names but similar-sounding first names) was at one point Ray Charles's favorite songwriter, most notably for creating "Hit The Road Jack." He was not represented in the movie Ray--I guess there was only room for one genius. But he had a true songwriter's gift: he could take the simplest elements and craft something memorable from them. Enjoy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Blessed Relief

To convey some sense of Zappa's musical breadth, compare the previous clip with this one. This is the original studio recording of this song with someone's homemade video added, but the music--well, it's blessed relief.

Frank Zappa: King Kong (BBC records 1968)

Today is the birthday of one of the heroes of my teen years, Frank Zappa. My feelings about him grew more complicated over the years, as I felt his knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism would sometimes lead him into folly. (An attack on Surgeon General Koop's anti-AIDS efforts? What the hell was that about?) Still, there was no doubt that he was most often on the side of the angels, and the last thing he ever was was a phony. Rare enough in public life in any era, today it is apparently nearly unknown.
And he genuinely loved music, which is rarer than you'd think. Here he is performing a medley on British TV in 1968, with my favorite version of his original band, the Mothers. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ry Cooder: At The Dark End Of The Street

Great vocals, and a guitar solo that showcases Cooder's slide technique while being carefully restrained. Here he covers the (oft-covered) soul classic from 1966, written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn and originally sung by James Carr. From English TV circa 1976.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Political Outsiders and You

I don't really feel good about linking to Glenn Greenwald three days in a row, but he's on a roll and...I'm not. He's hitting on all cylinders in his analysis of a variety of topics. Here he talks about why the Huckabee, Paul, and Edwards campaigns are treated as jokes or freak shows by the traditional media, no matter how much success they achieve on the ground.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Telecom Immunity vs. Bloggers et. al.

I hate to keep putting up brief posts that basically do nothing but point to Glenn Greenwald's blog, but: 1) I'm not in a position to put up longer posts, and 2) Glenn Greenwald is saying a lot of good things. For example, here he is on the lesson to be learned from yesterday's derailing in the Senate of the telecom immunity/FISA bill:

The most important lesson to learn here is that it is always possible for citizens to influence and disrupt even the most fortified Beltway establishment schemes. When that fails to happen, it's never because it can't be done, because it's impossible, because the deck is too stacked against it, etc. Rather, when there is failure in this regard, it's because the right strategy wasn't discovered, or because not enough pressure was generated, or because there were insufficient tools of persuasion deployed.

Read the whole post here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Democracy and Democrats

What Atrios said:

We need a Democratic president so that the Republicans and their Blue Dog allies in Congress are finally inspired to take back the executive power grabs that they temporarily thought were necessary for the survival of the nation.

What this will mean in practice is that Democratic president will face a firestorm of "scandal" which will make Monica Madness pale in comparison. The powers that Bush claimed will be turned against a Democratic president and will likely be their undoing.

And this scenario is much better than the alternative.

I think that last sentence is the key point.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pack Up Your Sorrows

Thomas Pynchon's good friend (and dedicatee of Gravity's Rainbow), Joan Baez's little sister, and Bruce Springsteen's inspiration for his next-to-most-recent album. Probably about 1964.

Friday, December 14, 2007

HRC, consultants, and inevitability

Ezra Klein comments on the significance of "the absence of message within the Clinton campaign. When the rationale for your campaign is that you're the frontrunner with the experience to win, losing your lead in the polls doesn't only put you in second place, it actually shreds the argument for your candidacy. What we're beginning to see here is how underdeveloped the arguments for Clinton were when separated from her aura of inevitability."

I'll vote for HRC if she's the candidate, but if any one of the current Democratic frontrunners is likely to pull a Kerry or Dukakis-style massive droop in the general campaign, it's probably her.

H/t Atrios.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tanita Tikaram - Twist in My Sobriety

I know Tanita Tikaram is still alive, but Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation of Villon, "The Ballad of Dead Ladies."

Since there was no post yesterday, two today.

Thanks, my blood wasn't already boiling--part 8

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, Glenn Greenwald.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Teppum (Sad Lisa)

Even Kermit gets sad. But few of us get played like a violin.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jeff Beck - Cause We've Ended As Lovers/Stratus - 7/28/07

You probably have to be a guitar player to really appreciate some of the things Jeff Beck is doing here. His use of the volume knob is particularly fine--most guitarists (like me) don't even try to do such things. If you watch, you can see that he sometimes uses the little finger of his right hand to create swells, so that instead of a plucked note you get a note that seems to start from nowhere then rises in volume, in a way that sounds a little like a bowed instrument. The first song is by Jeff Beck's old friend Stevie Wonder, and at one point JB throws in a downward-moving lick that he also used when he guested on SW's song "Looking for Another Pure Love." If you're not into such things, well, the first song is pretty and the second one rocks in a fusion-y way.
The bass player is the twenty-one year old Australian phenom Tal Wilkenfeld, who has taken the small but devoted world of electric bass players by storm in the past few months. Listen here and you'll see why.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gesang der Jünglinge - Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen died on Wednesday at the age of seventy-nine. He was, among other things, a pioneer in the composition of electronic music, and since nowadays upwards of ninety-five percent of the sounds heard in the most popular of pop music are all electronic, his passing merits a mention. Not that his music sounds the least bit like Britney Spears's backing tracks. To see how unlike, listen to his Gesang der Jünglinge, the first piece of his I ever heard. (Paul McCartney has said that this piece was a big influence on the Beatles in their studio experimentation phase circa 1966-67.) "Gesang der Jünglinge" means "Song of the Youth," the youth in this case being the boys in the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel, from which the text is taken.
It's noted in his obituaries that he made a foolish remark in the aftermath of 9/11, calling the attacks "a work of art," which was seen by many as cold-blooded at best. I thought it was a case of an intellectual ruminating in public, which if you've ever been around ruminating intellectuals you know is an enterprise fraught with pitfalls. Ruminating over the meaning of recent tragedies is something best done by intellectuals in private. He soon apologized. Now he's gone, and in Auden's words in his elegy on Yeats, he has become his admirers. Listen to his music and see what you think.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Woody Allen Explains the Importance of the WGA Strike

Woody Allen explains the importance of the Writers Guild of America (movie and TV writers) strike while simultaneously expressing once again his distaste for laugh tracks.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Roscoe Holcomb - Graveyard Blues

When John Cohen coined the now widely used term "high lonesome sound," he was trying to come up with an adequate description for Roscoe Holcomb's voice. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dad's Gonna Kill Me - Richard Thompson

This song has actually been out for awhile and has appeared in many different places on the Web, but I came across it again, got reminded of how good it is, and decided to post it. Richard Thompson found out that troops in Iraq would refer to Baghdad as "Dad," and would make the sort of grim joke that is found in the title of this song.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Call Me - Aretha Franklin

This song makes more sense if you know the story behind it. Aretha Franklin was on the street in New York City when she overheard a couple, clearly crazy about each other, talking. One of them was about to catch a plane to someplace far away. The opening lines are what they said to each other.
Aretha Franklin needs no introduction by now. This is one of her less-known chart hits from the 1960s, and proof of just how good even that less-known work is.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sexy Beast - Don Logan on Airplane

This linked pair of scenes show why Ben Kingsley got so much attention, including an Oscar nomination, for his work in Sexy Beast. In the first part he's the barely-under-control psychopath that he portrays for much of the film; in the second, he's a supremely smooth and facile liar, talking his way out of trouble with a story just plausible enough to free him. It's the breadth of the range within one character that really stands out. And yeah, I know it's an old movie by now, but let's face it, if you're here for the absolute latest in the arts you're not in the right place. But you knew that.

Saturday, December 1, 2007