It's going around town
I slept in until 11 AM this morning -- first time I'd been able to do that in months. (Not due to having to wake up early with an alarm clock -- but just due to being unable to sleep in any further than that, with the birds outside or the sounds of the City bringing me out of slumber.) Woke up, and couldn't find my running shorts. Side note: I live in a one bedroom apartment by myself. It's not that large. It's certainly not large enough to lose a pair of running shorts. And while I've certainly left my apartment in a mess before (think Chernobyl, but with better light), it's currently fairly neat. So where did the running shorts go? It's a mystery.
Found another pair, though, and headed off for my three mile run of the day. If you've ever had trouble getting into a running groove, or just hate the boredom of any kind of "endurance" aerobic activity, I actively recommend purchasing a Discman. It changed my entire exercise regimen. So today, I listened to the first disc of Elvis Costello's Girls Girls Girls anthology.
Girls Girls Girls was Columbia's anthologizing EC's work after he left the label for Warner Brothers (and before Rykodisc started re-releasing all of the Columbia albums with bonus cuts). Ryko also more recently released a single disc anthology covering the same period of EC's career, and, surprisingly, given that the Ryko anthology has less than 20 songs total and the Girls Girls Girls has more than 40, the Ryko is better.
Why? Because for some reason, Girls Girls Girls doesn't include two of Elvis' biggest hits from this period: "What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?" and "Everyday I Write the Book." You do get a few great ones, though, like "Strict Time" from Trust and "Temptation" from Get Happy!
The next question is, of course, is EC an artist where you should even be picking up an anthology, instead choosing to pick up all of his albums individually. Well, I certainly wouldn't go buying one-by-one all of his Warner Brothers records, which, except for All This Useless Beauty and Brutal Youth are on the whole pretty lousy. And Punch the Clock, the album featuring "Shipbuilding" and "Write the Book" is weak. So, you make the call.
But as for me, my favorite EC albums are Get Happy, King of America, and Imperial Bedroom. Well, and the first three. I think those are the essential six Elvis Costello albums. And yes, all from when he was still a rocker, and not a crooner.
posted by Anon. 1:43 PM
You ever have weeks where it feels like the muses, angels, and cherubs decided to put aside their differences and team up to shower you with rose petals and glad tidings? Yeah?
Well, I've been having a week like that. And just as there are few better things to listen to when you're down and out than soul music, there are few better things to listen to when your neighborhood starts feeling like Happy Town than... soul music.
This morning, it was Sam and Dave on the turntable, in the form of Sweat N' Soul, the two disc anthology Rhino released in 1993. Sam and Dave, of course, were the other great act from Stax, next to the Big O, and Sam Moore and Dave Prater melded the gritty, stripped-down soul of Otis Redding and Booker T and the MGs, with the strutting rhythms of James Brown. Sam Moore has one of the sweetest voices in soul music, and the essential "Soul Man," "Where Something Is Wrong With My Baby," "I Thank You," "I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)," and "Hold On (I'm Comin')" are brilliant.
That said, my favorite song of theirs is the lesser known "This Is Your World," where the chorus is, "This is your world, I'm just living in it." It pleads, it boasts, it conquers the territory and then throws it all up for grabs.
You can find that on the 2-disc anthology, or you could get the 21 song single-disc Atlantic Best Of Sam and Dave, which has all the songs you want, anyway. I'd stick away from the Very Best Of Sam and Dave -- the Atlantic Best Of instead has all the hits and Amazon's selling it cheap. Get more for your money. Can I get an Amen?
posted by Anon. 3:13 PM
Maple syrup and jam
More than a month after I extolled the virtues of Sign O' The Times in these pages, Salon has a piece up calling the two-disc set a masterpiece. I haven't picked up any Prince album since Emancipation (three discs of mediocrity), but in my opinion, his last close-to-great record was the glyph record -- y'know, before he changed his name to the symbol, he recorded an album with the title of the symbol, the one with "Sexy M.F.," "My Name is Prince," and especially "Blue Light" and "Seven."
"Seven" is such a good song that I'm able to still enjoy it, even though I still have the nasty aftertaste of it being performed by a cappella groups on my college campus. In terms of soul, collegiate a cappella groups made the Ramones look like Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.
posted by Anon. 2:59 PM
She made it through the wilderness?
Despite the experience of Bloodhounds of Broadway, Shanghai Surprise, The Next Best Thing, and Who's that Girl, Madonna still hasn't given up the acting bug. That said, because of the experience of Bloodhounds of Broadway, Shanghai Surprise, The Next Best Thing, and Who's that Girl, American film audiences have given up on the Madonna acting bug. So she's starring in a play in London. According to this wire piece, things don't sound so good. So perhaps she'll quit speaking in that British accent. Soon.
posted by Anon. 2:53 PM
The good news
Light posting lately, but I found out on Wednesday that I got the job. Hooray!
posted by Anon. 6:56 AM
Albums I feel guilty about enjoying but seem to often enjoy anyway: John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow. This was the album where Mellencamp strove to be "relevant," in tackling material related to the crises and problems facing America's family farmers. One problem: the political songs, for the most part, stunk. Mellencamp has all the subtlety of a grenade when it comes to that brand of songwriting. What was left were some wonderful rockers, namely "Lonely Ol' Night," "Small Town," and "Rumbleseat." And "Justice and Independence," a song which somehow manages to have enough of a melody and driving guitar to make up for its completely insipid lyric. (Sample: "She was born on the fourth of July, so her parents called her Independence Day. She met a boy named Justice, they had a baby named the Nation and then she walked away." Whoa.)
Mellencamp in general is a guilty pleasure. He has always been far too prolific for his own skill set, but songs like "Key West Intermezzo," "Cherry Bomb," "Authority Song," and yes, that song he did last year with India Arie, forget the name, are the candy of heartland rock.
He's always been depicted as a third-rate Springsteen knock-off; there was a famous Rolling Stone cartoon that depicted Woody Guthrie's classroom, with Mellencamp cribbing off of Springsteen, who was cribbing off of Dylan, who was cribbing off of Woody Guthrie. But Mellencamp has always been more in love with the pop hook than Bruce ("Dancing in the Dark" and "Two Hearts" not withstanding), so in some strange way, he might be less the heir to the Dylans of Rock and Roll, and more an heir to the Neil Diamonds and Johnny Riverses.
The best thing I've ever heard Mellencamp do is a song called "Sweet Suzanne" from the soundtrack to that movie he directed, Falling from Grace. It's a one-shot, one-time only superband: Joe Ely, Dwight Yoakam, John Prine, and James McMurtry join Mellencamp. And, somehow, against all karmic odds, it's great.
Good luck finding it, though. But you might stumble upon the soundrack in a cut-out-bin somewhere. Be forewarned though: there are audio clips from the movie on the CD, and instead of giving the audio clips their own tracks, they're tacked on to the beginning of songs. Which especially stinks if you have low-grade CD burning software like I do, because you can't edit out the movie dialogue at the beginning. Why does this even matter? Mix CDs, baby, mix CDs. After all, that's where the phrase "Palmermix" had its genesis.
posted by Anon. 12:49 AM
In God's Country
I think one of the reasons why U2's Joshua Tree stands as such a great album owes some of its greatness to its front-to-back consistency. Most of my favorite songs on the record aren't the singles from the album. Yes, "With or Without You" is sexy and good (and remember when a song like that could be a top 10 hit?), "Where the Streets Have no Name" is driving and urgent, and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is great in its longing.
But "Running to Stand Still," "In God's Country," "Red Hill Mining Town," and, especially, "One Tree Hill" -- all terrific. The only duds on the album are "Bullet the Blue Sky," which suffers from the bombast and histrionics that would hamper Rattle and Hum (before the band made the worse turn into irony for their next three records) and the closing two songs, which are just unmemorable.
True blue U2 fans swear by Unforgettable Fire, but I think that album is boring, except for "Pride" -- which is a good song as long as you ignore its offensive sentiment, that assasins might have been able to take away Martin Luther King's life but they couldn't take his... pride? Huh? And "Bad," which might be one of the two or three best things U2 has ever recorded.
Strange to note that U2 and its members rarely appear on other people's albums any more. (Well, that's not quite true -- Larry Mullen Jr. seems to often play on the Lanois productions.) But there used to be a time when U2 often appeared on others' records. Remember "Sweet Fire of Love" from the first Robbie Robertson album, where Robertson and Bono traded pleading "Didn't we"s? Or "She's a Mystery to Me," the stand-out track from Roy Orbison's posthumous Mystery Girl where those Edge guitars created a brittle canopy around Orbison's one-of-a-kind pipes.
Come to think of it, the late 80s was also a time when Michael Stipe made frequent guest appearances -- on Kristin Hersh's "Your Ghost," 10,000 Maniacs' "A Campfire Song," Indigo Girls' "Kid Fears," Billy Bragg's "You Woke Up the Neighbourhood."
No longer. Was the late 80s just a high time for cameo guest-star appearances? (Sheryl Crow, for one, seems to still bring in a bunch of friends to sing and play on her albums. Who else?)
posted by Anon. 12:14 AM
At least it's not a Doors reunion
This off the wire:
NEW YORK (AP) - The Grateful Dead have been reincarnated.
Well, there you go. Me, I've never found the Dead interesting. Much of that lies in my problem with the entire notion that the longer a jam, the better it is. Much of that lies in my antipathy towards the trust-fund hippie contingent. And much of that lies in my just finding Jerry Garcia's voice grating.
The surviving members of the jam band announced Tuesday they were reuniting as The Other Ones for a two-day concert in East Troy, Wis.
``Terrapin Station - A Grateful Dead Family Reunion'' will mark first time Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir have staged a concert together since the death of Jerry Garcia, the Dead's leader and founder, according to their spokesman. Garcia died in 1995 of a heart attack.
``We started rehearsing this week and I'm excited. This is going to be very, very good,'' Lesh said in a statement.
The festival, which takes its name from a 1977 Grateful Dead album, will be held Aug 3-4. The concerts will feature performances by the four surviving members as a band and also with their separate projects: Phil Lesh & Friends, Weir's Ratdog, Hart and Bembe Orisha, and Kreutzmann's TriChromes.
Other performers slated to appear are Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Warren Haynes and Jorma Kaukonen. The festival will feature two concert stages, as well as a memorabilia tent with Grateful Dead items.
During their 30-year history, the Grateful Dead attained a fan base so devoted it reached cultlike status. Some die-hard fans, nicknamed Deadheads, followed the band around the globe for the jam concerts that became the Dead's trademark.
That said, one of the things the fine Deadicated tribute album about a decade ago proved to me was that there were some great songs waiting to come out of the Dead's interpretetations of them. I especially liked Los Lobos' version of "Bertha," and I found through file-sharing last year a cover of "Ripple" by Wilco. Worth checking out.
posted by Anon. 4:31 PM
Big Movie News
This just in from Variety, courtesy of Brian in LA. (Thanks, bro)
Jackman digs role in 'Parsons'
'Leopold' thesp eyes part in rock biopic
By ADAM DAWTREY
Hugh Jackman is in talks to star in "Grand Theft Parsons," a $5 million pic based on the true story of what happened to the dead body of country-rock icon Gram Parsons.
Jackman would play Phil Kaufman, the road manager who decided to fulfill his friend’s dying wish of a burial in the desert. Film charts his bizarre journey.
David Caffrey will direct, with a script by first-timer Jeremy Drysdale. Producer is London- based Frank Mannion. Pic is expected to shoot once Jackson is clear of his duties on "X-2," the "X-Men" sequel, in the fall.
Phil Kaufman is a semi-legendary figure, and he still acts as Emmylou Harris' "road mangler." The story about the theft of Gram Parsons' dead body is a great one. Parsons O.D.ed in a Joshua Tree motel. His stepfather -- a crook and a rook if there ever was one -- wanted to bring Parsons' body back to Louisiana, because at the time there was a deal in Louisiana with estates etc that the stepfather would have gotten any money from Gram had Gram's body been buried there. (I don't remember, but it's all in Ben Fong-Torres' Gram bio, Hickory Wind. Phil Kaufman and another guy, under the influences of several substances, promptly stole the coffin containing Gram from LAX before it was shipped back, and took it all the way to Joshua Tree, where he set the coffin on fire.
I like Jackman, actually, though he sometimes has a little trouble with the American accent. The fact that Kaufman is involved in the project is a good sign; it means that Emmylou will probably support the project, which means they'll get full use of all the Gram classics.
posted by Anon. 9:34 AM
Send lawyers, guns, and money
Warren Zevon's newest collaborator is... Florida novelist Carl Hiassen? It's all true, and Zevon's new record, My Ride's Here, also features lyrics written with the help of Hunter S. Thompson and... MItch Albom, of Tuesday with Morrie fame?!
posted by Anon. 8:43 AM
A matter of trusts
In case you didn't hear it already, the attempted merger between Clear Channel and House of Blues -- which probably wouldn't have been good news for any of us consumers -- has failed. You know that it would have been bad news if the Bush administration's notoriously merger-friendly Justice Department (not that Clinton was much better) were concerned about a possible trust issue. Here are the details from the Rocky Mountain News.
posted by Anon. 8:38 AM
Jon Pareles writes in with a piece about the current NYC retro-punk scene. Warning: Strokes content ahead.
posted by Anon. 8:31 AM
If you're actually trying to play Celine Dion CDs, you don't deserve to have an operable PC
The New York Times has a piece, a little belatedly, on the anti-copy-protection barriers on the new Celine Dion CD. Not only can most computers not play the disc, but apparently the disc cannot be ejected from an iMac. So not only can you not listen to Celine, you also can't get her out of your system, so to speak. The phrase purgatory comes to mind.
posted by Anon. 8:24 AM
Spent a lot of time this weekend banging around on my 1966 Rickenbacker 6-string. It's a gorgeous guitar, and because of it's being semi-hollow-body, it has a fullness to accompany that trademark Rickenbacker twang. At best a runner-up for the third guitarist in any large band, I'm completely undeserving of it. I spent the entire summer before tenth grade saving up for it, and picked it out of a store in Washington, DC.
This past weekend, I've been crying, waiting, hoping on a job interview I had on Friday. I find out today, they say. I spent a good deal of time this weekend banging around on the guitar, which mostly consisted of my linking around to various sites for chords. And mostly I was playing a lot of Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, and Wilco songs, though I threw in a little Steve Earle in there, too.
The best source for chords altogether is the Online Guitar Archive, or OLGA as it's popularly known. But my favorite site for the music I love to play is AltCountryTab. Despite its title, the site extends past the usual alt-country suspects and includes a larger range of acoustic and electric singer-songwriters, and not just those with twang. Check it out.
posted by Anon. 8:18 AM
What a Rush
Saw Tom Rush last night at McCabes. If you ever come to Los Angeles, and you like small acoustic concerts, always look and see what's playing there -- it's a terrific space, and as, yes, it's a real guitar shop, you have guitars hanging on the walls for purchase.
Rush was charming and, at times, sublime. He did play a lot of jokey numbers -- John Prine's "Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian" comes to mind -- but he also played his version of Joni MItchell's "The Circle Game" and, in a brilliant, beautiful acoustic arrangement, Dobie Gray's "Drift Away." He also did a Jackson Browne number, and ended with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," but the highlight of the evening was Rush doing his amazing "Panama Limited," a train song where Rush makes his guitar turn into the chugging and whistling of a Southern train -- I had heard that Rush had stopped playing this live, due to it being too complicated and hard to play. I was glad to see that he had picked it up again. Only regret in a lovely show was that, well, he didn't play "No Regrets."
posted by Anon. 7:53 AM