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Alvin, no chipmunks

I know I've spent a lot of bandwidth on these pages extolling the virtues of Dave Alvin, former Blasters guitarist and songwriter. Last year, I posted about his excellent King of California album from several years back, and I raved about his concert at the Roxy back in September.

The last month, I've had his Blackjack David in my car's disc changer. It might be my favorite album of his; King of California is wonderful, but much of that record is Alvin recasting older Blasters and solo songs in a more acoustic, intimate setting. Blackjack David is all originals (except for the title track, Alvin's singing of an old folk song) and at least six or seven of the songs are terrific. "Abilene," the first rocker on the album, has a great melody and tandem of organ and guitar; it's a roll down the window while driving 70 mph kind of song. And "1968" is one of the best songs I've ever heard to deal with Vietnam and veterans. "California Snow," about a border patrolman, is much better, for my money, than the Springsteen Tom Joad-era songs about similar subject matter.

But even better are the frank and honest love songs, capturing quiet sadness and inabilities to communicate. Take "Evening Blues":
Standing in your kitchen door
listening to the soft evening rain
watching you dry off from your shower
and look at me like you don't know my name

Then you heat the coffee on the stove
and pull a cup down from the shelf
and slowly turn your back to me
as I sing a blues song to myself

Alvin's voice, with its smokey textures, takes some getting used to. But it doesn't take much to get into his strong, strong songwriting. See for yourself, and buy this fine, understated record.

posted by Anon. 9:37 AM


Come on up for the rising

This press release was emailed to me today:


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are set to headline their first
broadcast network television special, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET
BAND, which will be broadcast on Friday, Feb. 28 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on
the CBS Television Network.

The E Street Band, made up of Roy Bittan (keyboards), Clarence Clemons
(saxophone and percussion), Danny Federici (keyboards), Nils Lofgren
(guitar), Patti Scialfa (vocals and guitar), Garry Tallent (bass), Steven
Van Zandt (guitar) and Max Weinberg (drums), will perform with Springsteen,
along with special guest violinist Soozie Tyrell.

The concert special features “The Rising,” “Lonesome Day,” and “You’re
Missing” from Springsteen’s album The Rising, in addition to “Darkness on
the Edge of Town” and others. The Rising has been nominated for Grammy
Awards in Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Rock Performance,
Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album categories.

The Rising marks Springsteen’s first album of new songs with the E Street
Band since 1984. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, has
been certified double platinum, and was recently identified as one of 2002’s
best albums by Rolling Stone, Blender, Entertainment Weekly, and others.

Springsteen has previously won seven Grammy Awards: Best Male Rock Vocal
(three times, 1985, 1988 and 1995), Best Song for a Motion
Picture/Television in 1995 for “Streets of Philadelphia,” Best Song of the
Year in 1995 for “Streets of Philadelphia,” Best Rock Song in 1995 for
“Streets of Philadelphia,” and Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1996 for
“Ghost of Tom Joad.” In addition, Springsteen won an Academy Award in 1994
for Best Song for “Streets of Philadelphia” and was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Jon Landau and Barbara Carr are executive producers of the special. The
show was produced by George Travis, directed by Chris Hilson and edited by
Thom Zimny. All music was recorded and mixed by Brendan O’Brien.
One reason to stay home on a Friday...

Update: Josh emails with a good point regarding the hipness quotient (or lack thereof) of Bruce's network and timeslot:

"I'd love to hear some background on whose idea this CBS show was. Who the hell watches CBS from 9-10 on a Friday night? Isn't when they usually show Murder She Wrote?"

posted by Anon. 8:22 AM


Live or Memorex?

Very funny piece in Slate on a crucial question: did Shania Twain lip-synch her Super Bowl songs? From the story:
Paul Liszewski, who produced the sound for the show, says Shania's mic was hot and her vocals were live. (Other audio engineers who watched the broadcast agreed.) Twain's accompaniment, however, was what's called a "band in a box," which means the back-up vocals and instrumentals we heard were prerecorded. So while the diva was belting out show-stoppers like "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," her onstage drummer was thrashing away merely for effect.

posted by Anon. 4:19 PM
The reason why, oh, I can't say

And this, too: Petty's cover of "Feel a Whole Lot Better," probably on my shortlist of favorite Byrds songs. But more importantly, one of the more fun classic songs to play with sustained chords -- up there with "Needles and Pins" by the Searchers.

posted by Anon. 4:18 PM
I'm free

Working on a draft at the office, and just put in Full Moon Fever. Even with the Jeff Lynne glossy production, the quality of the songs is undeniable. I had just bought this record before heading out to summer camp, the last year I did summer camp, when I was 14. I don't think we had discmans up at camp, so I didn't have CDs with me to listen to, but I remember thinking about these songs up there, when I had my first major kisses. (I was a late bloomer, okay?) I then came back from camp, heartbroken -- the girl the next day instead started dating this Joel guy, who wore combat boots and had Metallica patches sewn onto his jeans jacket -- and listened a lot to the Petty record. (What can I say, I had yet to discover Nick Drake.)

It's hard not to listen to these songs and think about foolish me back then. And yet, while connecting to the past memory, also still finding things in my current life to connect with the music. You gotta just love how music fits into the whole sense memory thing. Roll over, Stanislavski, and tell Uta Hagen the news.

posted by Anon. 4:16 PM



From the David Johansen live disc, full of great patter:

"We wanna dedicate this song to Richie Valens -- a man who died for our sins."

posted by Anon. 9:37 AM
Conversation with my mother

It's been a while since I posted an AIM conversation with my mother. Voila, today she delivers!

Oatsie: i am going to buy some cds today from amazon via palmermix
MOP: okay
Oatsie: like the new kdlang and tony bennett. x made me a copy, but it is shitty
MOP: you should ask me before you buy, i don't know what you'll like
MOP: you'd like the norah jones record
Oatsie: okay. i like the guy with the bandaid on his face
MOP: i don't know who that is
Oatsie: kelly? helly? whats his name?
Oatsie: hes like a soft rapper. cute young guy
Oatsie: he always wears a bandaid
Oatsie: his video w as like number three on mtv
MOP: you've been watching MTV?
Oatsie: just a little

posted by Anon. 8:10 AM
About a soundtrack

I have many friends who have been drawn into the Badly Drawn Boy cult. Some of them are friends who are now frustrated that their secret is more widely known, since BDB did the soundtrack for About a Boy. It happens -- we wish enough success for our secret musicians that they can keep on what they're doing, and we love being able to complain about "how the hell Eric Clapton can be a 'legend' while Richard Thompson still toils in relative obscurity," but the fact is, it bothers us when one of our cult favorites hits it big, or even moderately big. Even if the guy is dead. (Nick Drake)

I somehow steered clear of BDB, which is strange given the acoustic, Elliot Smith-lite sound he has. But I watched About a Boy this weekend, as Universal sent free DVD copies to all WGA members. The movie is okay -- nowhere near as good as High Fidelity, the previous cinematic take on a Hornby novel. But the soundtrack is lovely throughout the film. That said, it works as score and as background noise; I could see that upon buying and listening to it, it wouldn't hold up much. Kinda like how I loved the Jack Johnson album when I heard it played in bars, and then once I got home and got up close and personal with it... it fell apart in my hands.

One great soundtrack I thought of recently was the soundtrack to the bizarre Lindsey Anderson - Malcom McDowell film O Lucky Man. The movie itself is a strange one, one that would be much more enjoyable had it been 2 hours instead of 3 -- but the soundtrack, by former Animal (and participant in Pennebaker's Don't Look Back) Alan Price is pretty damn great, a strange median between Harry Nillson's old Tin Pan Alley bit and the bar blues of the Faces. Sadly, the record is only available on import right now -- at a pricey $22 bucks -- but it's well worth finding if you enjoy that British piano and organ sound...

posted by Anon. 8:07 AM