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I've never been a Bonnie Raitt fan. Her bluesy stuff always sounded too weak to me; her recent albums all were drenched in too much gloss. Tailor-made for Vh-1. That said, today I put Nick of Time on for the first time in years. I'm not a huge fan of the album. But I am a huge fan of the title cut, the album opener, Bonnie's own composition, which is an honest, naked expression of gratitude for finding love and joy in a world which too often discourages such discovery. The rest of the album does little for me, but that song alone keeps Nick of Time in my main CD shelves.

posted by Anon. 4:12 PM


Guilty pleasures

A frequent topic here in Palmermix is guilty pleasures. What are your favorite guilty pleasure songs from the 60s? A big one for me is Tommy James and the Shondells "I Think We're Alone Now." That thump thump of a drum, and how everything kinda quickens when he gets to the "running just as fast as we can" part. I've been singing that song a fair amount lately. No one has yet punched me in the face, but give it time. Another guilty pleasure of the 60s? Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Rarely has a band so bad produced a song so timeless. I'm referring to "Everlasting Love," which has been covered by everyone from U2 to Gloria Estefan, but hey, "Lady Willpower" has its moments, too.

Another one I never get tired of is The Searchers' "Needles and Pins," the best use of sustained A chords this side of the Byrds. And Sonny Bono wrote the song. I love America.

posted by Anon. 10:34 PM


Daily record

Here's a record I hadn't listened to in ages, and yet should have listened to more recently than yesterday, when I plucked "Poor Boy Blues" off of it for the mix I was making. The late Chet Atkins -- famed Nashville session guitarist and then gigantic record executive of 70s country -- playing guitar with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler. Weird combination, but somehow it comes together on Neck and Neck as a tasteful, warm affair, with lots of great acoustic licks and some damn good songs.

There are covers of "Sweet Dreams" and "Yakety Axe" (that's the Benny Hill theme song, for those keeping score) and a Django Reinhardt number. But the strongest songs are a Knopfler original -- "The Next Time I'm in Town," which Johnny Cash used to close a show I saw him give a few years ago -- and "Poor Boy Blues," a song by the second Mr. Emmylou Harris, Paul Kennerly. (Kennerly also wrote one of Emmylou's best songs, "Born to Run" -- no relation to the Springsteen version.)

It's a great sounding record, and lacks the sterility of the other country project Knopfler did at the time, the one-shot Notting Hillbillies. For anyone into guitar, and particularly country or acoustic guitar work, it might not be a must-have -- but it's a certainly a should-have. Check it out.

posted by Anon. 7:20 PM

In his newly posted Real Life Top 10 at Salon, Greil Marcus takes on Laurie Anderson and the Pet Shop Boys, but his thoughts on a key music scene towards the end of About a Boy are enough to make me want to go see the movie, despite the fact that it's a date movie and my favorite date already saw it without me (She didn't care for it.)

posted by Anon. 3:34 PM
Galaxy war

RIAA has set its sights on a new file-sharing target. No, not Limewire, my beloved barely functional file-sharing software that bothered to have a Mac platform. Instead, it's Audio Galaxy that seems to be next in line (or in the sights.) Here's the story, from Variety through Reuters through AOL...
Audiogalaxy to face legal music
May 29 2002 2:15AM
NEW YORK (Variety) - Despite mounting criticism over its scorched-earth tactics in dealing with online file swappers, the music industry isn't letting up in its campaign to sue would-be pirates out of existence. Last week, Austin, Texas-based Audiogalaxy found that out the hard way.

In a complaint filed jointly in New York federal court, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the National Music Publishers Assn. claimed Audiogalaxy's peer-to-peer system is "knowingly, willingly and intentionally designed to facilitate and encourage millions of anonymous users to copy and distribute infringing copies of copyrighted works."

The complaint is similar to the action against file-swapping progenitor Napster two years ago, which brought that service to its knees with an injunction last summer -- and a more recent suit vs. Napster scions Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus.

But the RIAA and NMPA said in Friday's complaint that the Audiogalaxy service is "even more egregious than that of Napster," noting it offers more user-friendly features for reproducing and distributing copyrighted files. The complainants added that Audiogalaxy has flouted labels' and publishers' requests to filter copyrighted work out of its network.

The industry is seeking an injunction against the file-swapping service, as well as statutory damages of $150,000 per work infringed and any punitive damages that apply.

Audiogalaxy reps did not return calls seeking comment on the suit.

The music and film industries have been on a litigious tear in recent months. In addition to the Napster suit, the RIAA, along with the Motion Picture Assn. of America, late in November filed complaints against Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus.

The three services, which at the time all ran on a Netherlands-based network called Fasttrack, argued their services are far more decentralized than that of Napster.

So far, however, not even the Fasttrack-based companies have been able to dodge the industry's wrath.

Kazaa BV, which runs the Fasttrack network, recently said in court documents that lawsuit-related expenses are likely to put it out of business. Grokster and Morpheus have complained of similar strains on their finances because of the suit.
I'm not crying too many tears for Kazaa, which has been quietly tapping its users hard drive capabilities in almost Matrix-leech like fashion.

posted by Anon. 8:03 AM
Here we go... to the Lower East Side

You've got to hand it to Moby: the lad's got ambition. Releasing his new record,18, and opening a hip teahouse all in the same month. The Lower East Side's Top Blogger, Lockhart Steele, who seems to be back after a May-long hiatus from active posting, offers up this review of Teany on the Below 14th section of his site:
Finally got around to trying Moby's new teahouse, Teany, just down the block... Notes: 1) Too many staff members doing too little. 2) Surprisingly tasty blueberry muffins. 3) Teany tea merchandise aready available for purchase. 4) Yes, a pot of tea can set you back more than $5. 5) Good coffee.
No word on the aesthetic: clearly, Mr. Steele's priorities are in the products, not in the packaging!

posted by Anon. 7:51 AM


Soul man

There can be a case made that Sam Moore is the greatest soul singer still living. According to this bit in Liz Smith's column today, Miramax is releasing a documentary in September, Only the Strong Survive -- hey, gotta love a good Jerry Butler reference -- that features Sam. Can't wait.

posted by Anon. 9:04 PM
Cover story

Didn't drive much today, but when I drove, I test-drove the new mix I just made yesterday. There are a few interesting covers on the mix: one is a jubillant cover of the Kinks' "Better Things" by the usually dull Northeastern folksinger, Dar Williams; the other is "Sugar Sugar," but done by Wilson Pickett in a way that destroys the Archies' version to smithereens.

Then there's Elvis Costello's bouncy boyish version of Smokey Robinson's "From Head to Toe"; Loudon Wainwright III and Shawn Colvin doing Richard Thompson's "A Heart Needs a Home," and, one of my all-time favorite soul tracks, the criminally underrated Clarence Carter ripping through the old Alex Chilton and the Box Tops classic, "Soul Deep."

I don't know what it means that I'm putting so many covers on this mix. Maybe it's coming from the affection I have for the future recipient of this little mix CD -- as the best covers show off a lot of affection for the original versions? Could be.

posted by Anon. 8:14 PM
Everyday I write the book

My friend Jessica called me up today to see if I wanted to go see Elvis Costello. EC is playing two different venues this week -- tonight, he's playing at UCLA's something-something Ballroom, and Thursday he's playing the Kodak Theater in Hollywood (which also hosts the Oscars). Tonight was the show I'd have been interested in, as it's standing room, in the style of his famous Hollywood High shows of the 70s. But sadly, the tickets were $45.

There was a $20 student rate. $20 for an Elvis Costello show? That I can handle. But wait. Jessica, a graduate student at UCLA, tried to get two student tickets, but the person at the box office explained that the $20 rate was only for tickets in advance.

"Well, hey, technically, isn't two hours before the show considered in advance?" she pleaded.

Nice try.

posted by Anon. 8:09 PM


A matter of Trust

In a follow-up to my recent Elvis Costello post, Steve Hanna writes:
I think "Trust" is also essential, though I would hesitate to say it outranks "Imperial Bedroom" or "King of America." It might edge out "Get Happy!!" by a nose, but only because the songs are more idiosyncratic. It comes from the first time EC ever found himself low on material, and pressured by his record company to produce. Now, this situation can produce amazing things -- like "Rubber Soul" -- or
awful things -- like any number of quickie Christmas albums by any number of artists -- or some truly, truly weird things -- the Beach Boys' "Party!" album, which is unlike any other album ever produced by anybody -- but in Costello's case he reached into the front pages of his notebooks and pulled out old lyrics from his early days as a songwriter, and rewrote and reworked them into a very cool album. It's fascinating because the songs are clearly ones that were initially half-baked, but that were then carefully pulled into songs unlike any he'd produced before or would produce thereafter. Songs like "Strict Time," which you mention, are experiments in placing somewhat inflexible lyrics into some very unusual musical settings, and tunes like "Watch Your Step" or the magnificent "New Lace Sleeves" are just triumphs of creativity. It's an essential album in that a lot of the seams are still visible, and you can kind of see into the cracks and figure out how this guy, who would grow increasingly opaque over the years, ticks. Just recommending one you might have overlooked...
Fair enough. But I actually am posting Steve's letter less for his saluting of Trust (I mean, really, I think someone could make a case for every pre-Spike EC album, except for Goodbye Cruel World and Punch the Clock) and more for his reminding me of one of the stranger tapes I ever owned as a 13 year old.

The Beach Boys' Party -- where the Beach Boys basically recorded their hanging out and playing silly versions of some of their favorite songs in a house full of adoring friends and women and women friends -- is something I haven't listened to in years. Yet I remember owning it -- and wondering why the lyrics to "Barbara Ann" were so crazy. With all the continual Pet Sounds/Good Vibrations worship, Party gives people a rare chance to see the Beach Boys without the eight thousand layers of Brian Wilson Genius to chop through, but also without the boring Mike Love surf wax and Woodys of their early records.

Me, I've never been a huge Beach Boys fan. But for those keeping score, my favorite tracks of theirs are, indeed on Pet Sounds: "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and their version of "Sloop John B." I used to own Pet Sounds, and the one time of my life I ever traded in used CDs for credit, I parted with my copy. Yes, okay, stupid move. I regret it.

Worth noting that Elvis Costello's Trust is out of print. My guess is that, as Rhino takes over the control and repackaging of EC's catalog (after Rykodisc handled the first reissue/repackaging of the Columbia Records with bonus tracks, Rhino is now re-releasing albums from all over his career with complete second discs of bonus material), they haven't gotten around to re-doing Trust yet. So perhaps hold off on searching for a Ryko version, and pick up the Rhino.

posted by Anon. 2:45 PM
Something about what happens

B was in control of the music Saturday night, and I knew I was in good hands. First up, she put on Lucinda Williams' Sweet Old World. This is the Lucinda record that came out between the self-titled landmark record (the one with "Passionate Kisses," "Change the Locks," "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad") and the breakthrough Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. It's not as full of hooks or huge melodies as the others, and is instead a more ballad-heavy affair. That said, it has one of my favorite Lucinda songs, "Something About What Happens When We Talk," as well as the title track which Emmylou covered on Wrecking Ball. But perhaps my most favorite moment of the album is the closer, Lucinda covering Nick Drake's "Which Will" -- Drake's version, also great, sounds delicate and soft. Lucinda's instead sounds fragile and torn. Beautiful.

We then listened to Spyboy until a few scratches on the CD forced us to pull it off -- not until after we had enjoyed the live version of "The Maker." B turns to me and asks, "What's your favorite version of this? This one, or the version Lanois does on Acadie?" I think I have waited half my life for a woman who can ask that kind of question.

posted by Anon. 8:33 AM
Move on up a little higher

Happy memorial day. My plans for most of the day involve cleaning and reading -- I'm about halfway through Barry Hannah's first novel, Geronimo Rex. Next up, I'm going to finally read Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop or Richard Russo's Empire Falls. I also still have to finish Julian Barnes' Talking It Over. But this is a music blog, not a reading blog, so...

What I'm listening to right now is the two disc set that Columbia/Legacy released in 1991 of Mahalia Jackson's best work in their archives. Called Gospels, Spirituals, and Hymns, it's a must-have not just for anyone interested in gospel history, but anyone who loves great voices and loves soul music or R&B. It may be one of the better $20 you spend this month.

posted by Anon. 8:17 AM


Live through this... or don't

Also on Rolling Stone.com: Hole apparently is no more. Courtney Love blames the demise on lawsuits and contractual problems, and not on actual disharmony within the group.

posted by Anon. 4:12 PM
For shame of doing wrong

Big news that I only just read: Richard and Linda Thompson have reunited. Well, kinda. The big news is that Linda -- who famously lost her voice after releasing one solo album after her and Richard's mid-eighties break-up, and then retired from music, making a living as a literary agent -- has somehow found her voice and is releasing a new album. (Ryko released a very good anthology, Dreams Fly Away, a few years ago. Worth picking up.)

Richard sings with her on one of the songs on her new album. Here's a classic quote from the story:
"Richard is and always was a pleasure to work with," says Linda of Richard's guitar work and backing vocals on "Dear Mary." "Plus, he worked for free. I could love Stalin for that!"
This is a couple, after all, whose marital disintegration made for one of the best albums of the 80s, Shoot Out the Lights.

posted by Anon. 4:03 PM
Tired of waiting

Much over-due, but still appreciated, piece on the Kinks in the New York Times. My favorite Kinks song? Their original version of "Stop Your Sobbing." But "Better Things," from their later Arista years, is terrific, too.

posted by Anon. 3:54 PM