T R A C K
MUSIC REVIEWS by Carson Arnold ~ 2001-2002
New reviews for 2003 at H(EAR)
Weekly I'll be posting a musical paper called Track - (as the weeks continue on, Track will proceed as Track 1, 2, 3 .... 30 and so on). The purpose of Track is to concentrate on music, and all music. Whether an artist, controversy, idea, or event, I'll try to keep an open mind and hope you do, too. As a student and musician, I hope to invite the public's opinions and that of other musicians. Feel free to comment on my publication by writing to: Carson Arnold, 1604 River Road, Guilford, Vermont 05301 or email me at: email@example.com ~ thanks!
Track 1 ~ Oasis
Track 2 ~ BAABA MAAL - Live at Pearl Street, Northampton MA, August 26
Track 3 ~ CALI-FAUX-NIA DREAMING - Live At Look Park, Northampton MA, August 29
Track 4 ~ Who Are These Muldaurs?
Track 5 ~ Is It MTV Forever?
Track 6 ~ Not Really A Heartbreaker
Track 7 ~ Remembering Mississippi John Hurt
Track 8 ~ Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box
Track 9 ~ Leon Parker
Track 10 ~ Recommended Recordings For You
Track 11 ~ The Ones Who Play It All
Track 12 ~ Classical : Perspective From A Beginning Lover
Track 13 ~ It's A Girl Thing
Track 14 ~ Dipper
Track 15 ~ My Favorite Beatle
Track 16 ~ Artists of the Underground
Track 17 ~ Two New Recordings I Can't Stop Playing
Track 18 ~ Great Moments of the 20th Century
Track 19 ~ Veterans of Venice Beach
Track 20 ~ 2001 Treasures - What I Recommend and What I Don't
Track 21 ~ Planet Zero
Track 22 ~ Vinyl
Track 23 ~ The Rider of the Storm
Track 24 ~ Side A & B
Track 25 ~ Of The Times
Track 26 ~ The Grammys
Track 27 ~ Running With The Wolves
Track 28 ~ Teachers
Track 29 ~ Time For Some Reading
Track 30 ~ Mose
Track 31 ~ Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers
Track 32 ~ A Day In The Record
Track 33 ~ Are You Passionate? Neil Young Wants To Know
Track 34 ~ Let's Talk About A Few Tributes
Track 35 ~ Music's Natural Sound
Track 36 ~ Discoveries
Track 37 ~ Give Your Ear A Break
Track 38 ~ Part One- What Is It?
Track 39 ~ Part Two- Who Am I?
Track 40 ~ Part Three- My Ten Most Influential Albums
O A S I S
I was ruffling through my CD collection the other day and came across an album I hadn't listened to in years. Oasis, "What's The Story Morning Glory?". I remember the title well. 1996 was one those years stuck between two different worlds of rock music. You had the smoke of the post-Seattle scene quickly dying down, and then the start up of a newer "metal" (kind of equivalent to the eighties). But in the midst of these changes there was all these "one-album" bands that were charging the atmosphere with fresh sounds and hope. Particularly my favorite Oasis, added a mid-decade flavor to the air waves that shouted the last of a realness in rock. They weren't eclectic with their sound, but that's what I kind of miss....the rock 'n roll. After '96, the rock sort of lived on, but the roll part died. Bands either got too messy with success and minimized their talent, or got wound up in uniqueness; desperately trying to come across "original". Blending everything until it became almost boring.
The word rock 'n roll is quite a beautiful compound. It means quite literally what it sounds like, but it's when you hear rock 'n roll, that's when the full definition hits you. Like listening for the first time to The Beatles, or The Rolling Stones or even The Smiths. Now, in 2001, my ears only hear a few bands that can still make that delightful rock 'n roll speed. Most so, Oasis.
When I was eleven I first pondered across "What's The Story Morning Glory?" The CD slept through my backpack during school and sang to me on the bus ride home. After I had played the album to death I bought all their other ones until I too played those to death, then eventually selling some (stupid me!) "What's The Story Morning Glory?" sat on my bottom shelf for nearly five years. And in those years music had really changed, and so had I. Maybe that's why it appealed to me more than ever when I recently listened to the album again. I wiped away the square of dust that it had left and thoughtfully placed it into my stereo; almost not knowing what kind of surprises the disc would hold. And then it started. There was such a vibrant feeling of rock 'n roll enthusiasm that really made you move like you were rolling right along. I don't want to get too complicated about Oasis, because their music isn't complicated. They're just one of the few bands that can still capture that original rock 'n roll heart that Chuck Berry, The Beatles, and Elvis once created. Bands or artists like Oasis should be looked upon a little more so we can preserve the heritage of rock 'n roll that they carry.
~ Carson Arnold
Recommended Recording: "Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants" (Sony/Big Brother)
BAABA MAAL - Live at Pearl Street, Northampton MA, August 26
Over the heads of anxious fans curious with spunk and lingering with expectations for the long awaited Baaba Maal concert, the stage engineer shines his flashlight across the ballroom into the face of the woman running a hefty soundboard, who in return sticks her middle finger in the air for a long minute. And honestly, that was the general attitude of Pearl Street. Immature. The sound system was awful and appeared cheap. With the attention and time they have put into their two open bars - lit and polished with thirsty drinkers and crafted with rows of liquor - they really could have developed a crisp sound and a clean club. Any why slack off on a opportunity as this one (never mind the ticket prices), when there's a powerful African band ready with immediate percussional rhythms that need to be heard - rather than drowned or raised - you choose one.
Nevertheless, I went to Baaba Maal not to examine the Pearl Street life. And I wrote this to explain, not to complain.
On came ten performers to a cramped stage, walking out with a brisk happiness to their profession and a friendly wave. Two hand drum sets stood alert left and right of one another. Both players erupted a thunderous attack, feeding off one another like two frequencies, colliding with sharp fills to promote their African sense to the mostly white audience. Dressed in a full gown (as were the other players), Baaba Maal seemed to have snuck into the large cast of musicians, as he patiently waited for the right time to strike his microphone. I noticed that Maal was a cautious singer, almost choosing his notes carefully and singing as if he were an instrument, communicating with the hand drums (which is typical in African culture).
With a little scent of pot in the air from a school-size crowd, Maal picked two solo acoustic guitar ballads, fitting right for a gradual transition back to a monstrous line of playing for that night. Two teenage boys of Maal's musical crew thrusted out in an engaging beat/dance, inviting people from the audience to join for a few steps. Baaba Maal wisped in and out of vocals during long verses, siding along with two backing vocalists, at times placing his mike into the hand drums as they fed a frenzy of rolls. Not much guitar presence, and the drummer behind his kit played at a steady, almost American style rock beat. Maal made sure he wasn't the only one being noticed, and he wasn't. Except for a clashing and echoing sound system, this was a terrific performance.
And now a little history. In case you've been really wrapped up in the limited murk of America's current offering, Baaba Maal is a real refreshment and a starting point. Maal is from Senegal Africa, but was raised in Sahel (the region between The Sahara Desert and the southern Savanna, around Senegal). You see, in Africa, rhythm is something of the heart and mind. However you wanna look at it - your heart beat or the way you walk, it's there. Senegal's music plays in a "Wolof" style, which bases it's surroundings upon drums or rhythm. Maal took this into his vessels and searched for music in the Sahel, the Niger River, and Guinea that is contrasted into more of a melody formation (this is very evident on the CD "Firin' In Fouta"). He won a scholarship to study in France, where his intellectual stance evolved. Mix all this into the beat of the acoustic guitar ( especially heard on "Djam Leelii"). Unlike the great Fela Kuti, whose roots are steeped in a political atmosphere, Maal (decades younger) is determined in a peaceful coming, welcoming the African harmony to global musicians ... and you.
~ Carson Arnold
Recommended recordings - "Firin' In Fouta" (Mango) and "Djam Leelii" (Mango)
CALI-FAUX-NIA DREAMING - Live At Look Park, Northampton MA, August 29
Despite the rustic pine trees behind the stage, a California vibe was definitely recognizable for the next six hours of the remaining afternoon and evening. My family and I had gathered on a grassy spot in the front row of Look Park's sloping alcove to catch the first local band, Kahoots, take the stage for a three song set as Guns 'N Roses. Dressed like the crew and playing like them, Kahoots did remarkably well as the dirty rock band of L.A., capturing somewhat close to Axel's screech and Slash's fast licks. It was a great way to introduce the evening on a gritty note.
A five minute interlude followed each band, which consists of disc jockeys/entertainers (playing "Don Henley", "Richard Nixon", and a bubblehead valley girl - don't ask). This got a little annoying after awhile, but it was fascinating to see the bands flee from the stage and the next act step up in just a few short minutes. It was pretty silly to think of the large venues I've been to, where they take - what feels like - hours to prepare.
So to continue on in a quicker manner, just about every band was solid. The only lagging spot was a surprise visit by Jackson Browne (Mark Erelli - just didn't cut it). Buffalo Springfield (Ray Mason Band) seemed unenthusiastic. But I liked how Mason later commuted to other bands to play. Also, Santana (Alfonso Lopez, Jr. and his 11-piece Salsa Band "La Perfecta") - a huge disappointment. First off, there was no drummer to take the place of Michael Shrieve's fabulous rolls. And, well... where was Santana? It sort of drifted into a New Yorker salsa dance. Thrilling, but not California. The Jefferson Airplane (Northampton's Mayor Higgins and Co.) were supposed to be a parody, but The Airplane are a very vital signature to the psychedelic sound. It would have been great to see someone work the wah-wah pedal as Jorma Kaukonen once did.
But there was everybody else. Like Creedence Clearwater Revival (Big Ugly Wrench), who were more in a punky style rather than the Fogerty range, blasting a set which included Dinosaur Jr. frontman, J Mascis, professionally carrying a guitar solo of growls into fifteen minutes throughout "Susie Q". As I remember, the next best thing was The Byrds (The Maggies), who were incredibly tight, nailing those Byrd harmonies (which The Maggies already have running in their own albums), especially on "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star".
The ultimate California band, The Beach Boys (as done by The Drunk Stuntmen in their Hawaiian get-up), proved to be vocally well-scripted, and precisely in tune. Probably one of the best performances of the night was stolen by, of course, The Doors (Aloha Steamtrain). I was particularly surprised by Ken Mairuri (playing keyboardist Ray Manzarek), hitting those notes to "Light My Fire" with the same absolute zeal to the original song. The mannerisms done by Lord Russ (singing Jim Morrison) sparkled an exciting moment in the night's events. Russ was last seen prancing and dancing through the audience.
Although not a fan of Bonnie Rait, Kate O'Conner and Blue Rendezvous did a near cutting performance that made Rait fans pleased. Another excellent set was Mark Erelli who drowned as Jackson Browne but lightened wide as Sheryl Crow. Erelli came out dressed like Crow with just an electric guitar, and breezed through her three famous songs fashionably. But since he performed in such a courageous way - flirting with the spice of Crow's poppy-rock songs - the tunes almost came out like Erelli had written them himself.
The last three and shiny performances were by the Go-Go's (The Nield's - crafty with an edge, mimicking the screechy girl band). Randy Newman (Young@Heart Chorus) - you definitely have to hand it to them - very clever skit, combining Newman's satire with a punchy on-stage musical done by eager senior citizens. And lastly, The Grateful Dead (Chamber Of Faces), were almost identical to any live Dead show I've heard. An excellent finish to end the night with a groove; and what's a 60's show with out the Dead jamming the late night away?
So there it is, Cali-Faux-Nia Dreaming on such a summer day. It was the first time I've ever gone to one of these events. A great time, as good as any concert that you may find in any big city. And all ticket funds drummed back into local school needs. With a chill of the New England Fall on the way, it was a nice finish to end a dry summer with a breeze of warm applause.
~ Carson Arnold
Recommended recordings : Aloha Steamtrain, "Now You Know The Aloha Steamtrain" / Mark Erelli, "Mark Erelli" (Signature Sounds) / The Nields, "Play" (Uni/zoe) / The Maggies, "Breakfast At Brelreck's"
Who Are These Muldaurs?
The Muldaur "family" has a history of polished and glitzy vocals. Each musician has a certain soar of expression that soaks through their notes and leaves the audience in a realm of comfort. There's no boring presence in any of the Muldaur's songs. The music is solid and fresh, quick to the point, with tracks that linger in almost a live performance.
Geoff Muldaur first made his name a fluent source in the music world with Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band. Formed by Cambridge student, Jim Kweskin, during the early sixties, Jim and Geoff hit it off with an applause at local Boston clubs, sharing their acoustic abilities with one another. From then on, they adopted Fritz Richmond (wash-tub player), Mel Lyman (banjo and harmonica, later replaced by Bill Keith from Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys), and eventually Maria D'Amato (soon marrying Geoff to become Maria Muldaur). For five years the jug band toured around inspiring young folkies with the sounds of traditional Appalachian tunes, bearing all wounds with low-budget instruments and hearty attitudes.
Geoff brought out his first album back in '63 with Sleepy Man Blues and still continues to throw out excellent material to this day. After Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band, Geoff and his wife/band mate Maria recorded three solo albums together, contributing their effort of love and duo of talent. Soon, Geoff broke loose from Maria to collaborate with Paul Butterfield (another deeply well scripted voice). Geoff had taken his intense early blues influences of Charlie Patton and Skip James to the studios, recording his versions of their songs as well as his own delicate work. In 1980, his release of I Aint Drunk was his last until 1998 - dishing out Secret Handshake - a wise mix of tracks dedicated to the footprints of blues. I'm guessing he disappeared for that time to raise his daughter Clare, with his new bride Sheila. In 2000, he followed up with Password - yet another classy formula of style - this time strumming along with daughter Clare on "At The Christmas Ball". What hits me the most when listening to Geoff is his voice. To describe it in more of a natural way, it's like crisp rain pattering on leaves in the late afternoon. His unique form of harmonies and guitar patterns are quite out on their own, quite definite and quite sublime.
Maria Muldaur went on to become extremely popular in the seventies, especially with Midnight At Oasis (it went platinum in two years). She grew up hanging out with the new wave of folk and blues in Greenwich Village during the fifties and sixties. As a school girl, Maria immunized her ears to the quick and flashy sounds of the radio. When a little older, she moved to North Carolina to learn the fiddle from Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton. Along this time she developed a wisdom of mountain music and traditional sagas, lapping up everything that had anything to do with it. Bringing this energy back home, she joined "The Friends Of The Old Timey Music" which pulled blues legends like Mississippi John Hurt up north to present to the eager public in need of an unknown heritage and a unique sound. Later, after Kweskin and the Jug Band and the albums with Geoff, she scooted off towards L.A. to work with Ry Cooder and Dr. John to pursue her dreams in the solo world. And it worked! Her voice can be a little too high in the scream of pitch, but with the sparkle of her lyrics, poppy textures with distinct traces of old time musical horizons, her albums lie in a joyous sunset.
The youngster, Clare Muldaur (daughter of Geoff), continues to surprise me with her soulful style of expressing and playing. Her singing preciously rolls through seasons of verses, and has quite definitely developed her own texture and sound. And here's the ironic thing, her voice sounds almost identical to Maria's (and there's no relation between the two). Pretty interesting. Her father's impressive stance of structure and changes is evident throughout Clare's songs, and influences of Elvis Costello and Billie Holiday weep in and out. Although I haven't heard any of Clare's material in nearly two years (the most recent was a four-song single when she was attending Berkeley School of Music), I hear that she is recording an album in LA and is currently out on tour. For more information on Clare, visit www.claremuldaur.com.
All three Muldaurs have casted beautiful works into the air. The strong movement of background in the musicians make the backbone of their songs even more sturdy and delightful than they already are. Hopefully in the near future perhaps we can await a collaboration between the three. But in the meantime, preserve the past of Geoff and Maria and be on the look out for Clare.
~ Carson Arnold
Recommended Recordings: Geoff, Secret Handshake - or any of the material with Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band / Maria, Richland Woman Blues / Clare, nothing released to date yet, but be on the look
IS IT MTV FOREVER?
About twenty years ago, MTV launched it's first video by Buggles,Video Killed The Radio Star. It's kind of ironic, isn't? Have you checked your local radio stations lately? The disc jockeys don't even take a second of air time to announce the artist they just broadcasted. And can you really find a station that plays everything? Also, somebody should make a video called "Video Killed The Musician". It's almost like you don't have to be a talented artist to succeed in the spotlight anymore. You just have to have a campaign of friends to shoot an expensive video, falling into the slot of an angry individual with too much cash and a fast car. To concentrate on the subject, I dislike MTV for a number of reasons. It appears to be a corporate and materialistic network that serves a lack of culture and airs too much of the same music with no direct message, relating a non-existing reality, and produces a pointless frame of mind to the young. What scares me the most is that music like folk, blues, jazz, soul and so on, will not be kept in store for future generations- there'll be no need to, no interest. Thus where will music go? Is it MTV forever?
350 million homes have MTV on their sets, being the largest network on earth. 82% of its audience is between twelve and thirty-four. 73% are boys and 78% are girls, both tuning in on average, six hours a week. Not too bad. I guess that could qualify that they tune into TRL (Total Request Live) everyday, airing the top ten videos in the country. 75 % of the videos that follow a story line involve sexual content, usually acted against or by women. Nevermind the immense impact videos, and these reality tv shows like The Real World Inc., have casted upon teenage girls; an exaggerated image of fake appearances based on sexy glamour and attitude that's drifted into a hazardous trail of vanity.
I won't go blaming the whole downfall of the music industry on MTV. We must keep in mind everything else. Take your average family of four. Most parents threaten their kids if they ever catch them watching MTV. Some even install digital security locks on their television sets so their children can't watch it. It's weird, they really freak out. Of course there are those who totally let their kids stare at it, but these are usually the ones who hardly hold a conversation amonst one another. So why can't the studios of MTV and the parents with their kids handle the network in a mature fashion? If parents actually talked to their kids, say: "Sure, go ahead, it's your choice.... but first, could you rake the yard for a bit. Or here's this book I checked out at the library, I recommend it." Now obviously everyone won't do that. But why not try? MTV promotes, for the most part, a pointless cause. True. But remember the videos and the programs on MTV are only going to be full of nonsense if the need inside the youth market has no structure and discipline, and too full of nonsense. And where could a lot of this come from?
So is it MTV forever? Will the original music fade away? What kind of generation is in store for us? Has music finally been carved into a corporate system with no heart to bleed or no throat to sing? I can think of a few other things to fuss about before I scream all day about MTV. At this point I believe it's a cultural thing, it comes with our time. It's not a coincidence that MTV has brought out the bad in youth, and the worst in the music. If society is in a rough spot then it shows through the entertainment. I mean did you even catch or hear the stuff that happened at Woodstock '99? A minor example. As a music lover it's a struggle to swim around things like MTV. I tread the best I can, but sooner or later a larger wave will knock me down.
~ Carson Arnold
In the meantime check out: World Link TV ( (music television inviting music and history from all over the globe).
NOT REALLY A HEARTBREAKER
Most modern rockers who sing to a substantial crowd and then suffer a series of collapsing breakups, never usually hold strong in their own solo field. Like Chris Cornell. Just didn't sound complete without the Soundgarden boys. Rather someone like David Byrne turned counter- clockwise from The Talking Heads to experiment in world beats and odd time signatures. And then somebody like Morrissey, who from The Smiths, didn't really make a noticeable turn to rehabilitate a new feeling, but rather made it stronger; strumming a whirl of intellectual lyrics album after album for a gasping audience. And that's why I like Morrissey. And maybe Ryan Adams, too. For Adams opens up his solo debut, Heartbreaker, with a thirty-seven second disagreement with guitarist, David Rawlings, discussing Morrissey's single, "Suedehead" - if it's either on Bona Drag or Viva Hate. It's actually on both.
Off Bona Drag, I just sat through "Suedehead" a few minutes ago, to see why Adams would mention the song and the artist at the beginning of his record and if there's any importance. I didn't quite hear any resemblance between the two artists. Instead, Michael Stripe of REM came to head when listening to "Suedehead" (or any of Morrissey records). Enough said, Morrissey is an influence on Adams. In fact a lot is (they range from The Stanley Brothers and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to Husker Du and Sonic Youth).
After the little argument disperses, it immediately rolls into "To Be Young", possibly the best track on the whole record, which opens up surprisingly close to Dylan's slide riff on "Subterranean Homesick Blues". The album bounces between acoustic ballads and simple, but meaningful, tunes that mingle the whole bit of the alternative/country chamber, (faint electric guitars, chords, drifty slide runs, waltzing drum patterns, plucking bass structures, harmonicas - the whole deal). But unlike Adams' former band, Whiskeytown - who are a grade better than Wilco, but nobody beats Steve Earle! - Heartbreaker is more confident, subdued, and unique in its own way. Lyrically, Adams has obviously gone to the Steve Earle school of hard-hitting "don't care 'bout me, I care about you" lyrics, but in time, along with growth, he may master Earle's presence (and in the future perhaps season to sing as Tim Hardin once did). But for now this troubadour seems to be creating something from something, and is definitely driving to become a somebody.
Adams seems to be running on a full tank of songwriting adrenaline, pushed by a still youthful attitude that's actually throwing fixtures of consistent songs and material out. His second album, "Gold" - due out very soon (and also last heard having enough songs to fill a truck, so to speak) - hopefully will tie a second knot around Heartbreaker. But if not, at least an artist is supplying music for the music.
~ Carson Arnold
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker (on a shorter note you - should really take a listen to the music he was influenced by - especially The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will The Circle Be Unbroken. And take a listen to any Steve Earle record, too).
REMEMBERING MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT
Doesn't the name "Mississippi John Hurt" just sound so bold? Maybe it's the strong image of landscape in the "Mississippi" and the cry in the "Hurt", with the friendly "John" in the middle, that makes it seem like a legendary statement. Kinda like "Son House" or Howlin' Wolf. And similar to - particularly Son House, John Hurt was rediscovered in the early sixties, thirty-five years after his first original recording.
Hurt was born in Teoc, Mississippi in 1893. When he was two, his family moved to Avalon, Mississippi where his feet rested for a good chunk of his life. From then on Hurt picked up the guitar and taught himself how to play; establishing his very own technique that was already being mysteriously questioned by the town folks who admired his performances at local dances and different community get-togethers. Making a hard living under the sun as a farmer, Okeh Records came forward inviting Hurt on a good note to record with them in both Memphis and New York in 1928. He laid down thirteen tracks that clung to him throughout the live shows for years to come. Instead of taking the few hundred dollars that he earned from his record into "luxury", Hurt traveled back to Avalon and tended to his farming. Some might ask why? He'll actually tell you on the song "Avalon Blues". Although he did try to record again with Okeh, The Great Depression sunk any further dreams in that period of time. For thirty-five years Hurt kept working as a farmer in Avalon and raising a very large family (fourteen children!), while continuing to play at local venues.
A determined young man by the name of Tom Hoskins decided to track down Hurt after not even believing the rich tones that Hurt had offered in the 1928 sessions. Hurt at first was hesitant on cooperating with Hoskins, almost convinced that he was the FBI. But after thirty-five years, now in 1963 at the age of seventy-one, John Hurt's natural talent was itching beyond his Avalon homeland- it was now time to take full advantage of the beautiful songs that the people up north were shouting for (especially at a time before folk and blues was trampled by the modernization of new wave production). The audience, mainly white, absolutely adored Hurt. For the next three years he performed between coffee houses, colleges, twice at The Newport Folk Festival, and other assorted festivals in America. Hurt put out a few more albums of new material on Vanguard and continued to play his original tunes from 1928, this time a little more concise and sure. In his last remaining days he settled down in Grenada, Mississippi. He died on November 2, 1966. His life seemed to be one big beginning that spawned a start in every fan's heart.
Mississippi John Hurt's subdued style isn't much like any other blues artist (fierce verses mixed with attacked strings are rare if not extinct in Hurt's songs). In fact his playing drifts towards the edges of the folk shores, and if it wasn't then, it sure inspired batches of musicians from the sixties (or even earlier), up to the present time. His soft three-finger picking is an obvious influence on artists like John Fahey and the aspiring folk stars of the sixties. I'm almost certain I hear someone plucking a John Hurt tune every time I enter a guitar shop. His technique appears mountain water smooth. When I first started to listen to Hurt, I was astonished that I couldn't really recapture any of his tempos or lyrics afterwards. People should listen to John Hurt because of the immense inspiration he's erupted to a global wide range of musicians in the many years. He not only had one of the more interesting lives, but like most blues musicians, his music was his life! If you're someone who hasn't heard Mississippi John Hurt then you should, and if you haven't yet, then listen to some of the folk legends and you will.
~ Carson Arnold
1928 Sessions (Yazoo Records)
The Best Of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard)
PACKT LIKE SARDINES IN A CRUSHD TIN BOX
Maybe I'm completely wrong, or perhaps this has been asked before, but wasn't REM's 1998 release Up generally on the right pathway to two or three years down the way to what we call the signature sound of Radiohead? - Especially heard on the latest releases of Kid A and Amnesiac.
To tell you the honest truth, I sold Up within weeks of my purchase. Like a lot of folks, I was expecting another Automatic For The People. Instead, I was punched in the ear with dizzy ballads, filled with weeping organs, keyboards, jazzy guitars, and clear and understood lyrics (wow, that's a rarity). True, it's pretty much filled with all that. But then again, add on three years of mature youth, a strike of bad popular music, and an immense hype over the sounds of Radiohead's newly woven creations, and Up becomes almost a genuine album. Pretty funny. I guess I'll have to go buy it again.
Radiohead is musically a very intelligent and talented band with a lot packaged in between their notes. No doubts on that. And to organize your opinions to decipher whose band is better (Radiohead or REM) is like asking a monkey to speak French. But what would be more practical is to try and understand the sound both have obviously sketched in their deeply-rooted canvas. And to also remind, especially critics, that REM and, most so, Radiohead aren't the first bands to achieve that boundary of sound and music. Who comes to mind immediately upon thinking of the comparison, is a lot of semi-popular acts played throughout the seventies and eighties; like, and especially, Neu!. From the crystal beats of Neu! you might find those of noise-pounders like Can somewhere in the lurk of sound. As might follow Brian Eno, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, or maybe even The Talking Heads (from which - in a Talking Heads song - Radiohead adopted their name). In the sixties, The Beatles - definitely heard on Revolver and Rubber Soul - mixed a sound that was really drawn out from a real simplicity of innovation and an observing eye to the society of their day. That whole quality of human noises, trippy guitar loops, effects, and clean drum patterns were really transcribed from a heritage of talent and art - similar to what Surrealism is.
Both Radiohead and REM took that "everything", made a collage and then drew it out into a painting bright enough for the popular youth commodity to grab in interest delight. On Radiohead's last two releases I hear a lot of thought tapped in their instruments, rather than expression (to borrow Lou Reed's title, Between Thought And Expression). Quirky time signatures relating to the percussion, breathe a real communication; which goes back to the theories of African culture of speech interpreted by the drums. Thom Yorke's fluid singing is a definite relation to the cool sounds of chords played on a saxophone. A real jazz immediacy. The rest (keyboards, guitars, what have you), swarm like an army of seated cellos, level with a hysteria of psychedelia. (On a strong personal reference, I believe Radiohead's strongest work was shown on 1997's Ok Computer. Absolutely no artist nor band has stepped near to what the atmosphere and quality is on Ok Computer. The band lacks nothing on the album, because the accomplished work is nothing that nobody could improve to show better - in my opinion).
What REM's highlighted strong point is, is that they preach hope. And if there's anything that an audience needs more, it's the idea of color and hope ... brightness. This could be the same reason why poetry, in a long-lasting sense, is a stronger form of expression than what music itself could ever be.
Starting this paper off, I thought I was going to develop some sort of argument, but there really is none. All of the artists and bands mentioned above are terrific and are complete examples of sheer high-taste in the last few decades. I just wanted to shout out a little reminder about a popular band, like REM with Up, who are a fair starting point and reference to retrace the road of unique quality (the mentioned crucial acts played through the sixties, seventies and eighties), that a contemporary band like Radiohead has pulled out and polished productively.
-- Carson Arnold
Radiohead, Ok Computer
REM, for a wanting rock clash - anything before Automatic For the People. For something more innovative and broad- - Up or Reveal may please you.
Neu!, Volume 1 and 2 and 75 - all three equally excellent
Can, Tago Mago
- Also for all you Radiohead kids, give the heritage of Jazz the listen: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Mingus, and so they go ...
See if you can picture yourself on a Sunday evening drive on the back roads of some country lane, admiring the swaying evergreens and the peak of the maple foliage cleansing for early frost that next morning. The road seems to unravel mysteriously as you push on, slowing at corners, unaware of the fast traffic that might frighten your way. But all is well in that course of time, for nature has supplied you with a new focus and a bright memory. Leon Parker's latest, The Simple Life, is a pleasing subsistence to any drive in the country, and its feast of expression and ambition lets you sit and observe the landscape, while the tunes drive your way to a free ticket of musical seduction.
Leon Parker is said to have commented on how "he hears everything as a rhythm or beat" (I'm paraphrasing). Indeed true. As a jazz drummer, Parker hits a fine line between the strokes of an Elvin Jones or Max Roach and the attention of African rhythm and their culture. Yet somewhere, Parker plays in between the cloud, producing a confident element of lingering fantasy in his songs, siding with a coalition of subtle instrumentalists, dressed in the suit of jazz get-up. Saxophone, trumpets, piano, bass are intact (and a very influential style of "body rhythm"- have that be Parker's trademark or not, he does it masterfully adjoining street noises and, a real fine treat on the album- vocals, done by Elizabeth Kontomano, who introduces a new wave of almost Arabic and scat-singing melodies, heard beautifully on Parker's first track of Duke Ellington's groove hit "Caravan"). I also give a noticeable applause to Parker who orchestrates sharply behind the band with no course to show-off, but rather to keep the flame alive, similar to how Mingus played. From the past teachings of all great musicians, Parker knows that by establishing an invented disciplined pulse of sound and music, it could never be fully mastered nor criticized by any worthy arbitrator, but merely copied.
Like Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan's simple, but sincere chords, Parker pushes this pose of simplicity, creating a fine quality of striking beats. But by assembling his fresh idea of music, he makes the practical immensely bold, placing the instruments in full formation of a telling story. Legends are recognized. Like Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys", but done in such a vast region of strength and completeness; I might not have even recognized the songs to anyone else. Leon Parker plays his drums as Ry Cooder does on the soundtrack to Paris,Texas (a great film by the way); organized and treated with a risen attention and depth of life and music as it is. Those of you who have feared that the saxophone (which is played graciously on this album like a miniature Hank Mobley) is a despotism to all jazz music and the drums are always fed with too much speed, are equally in for a new wind coming their way. On all of Leon Parker's albums, it's not ever a matter of how to end the last track of the record, but how to start the next one - still keeping the simple life.
-- Carson Arnold
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: All of Parker's albums are a shared experience, but I most so recommend his latest, The Simple Life.
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS FOR YOU
~ OK folks, here's a few albums that I can't get enough of lately. Enjoy!
Eric Dolphy, Other Aspects - During the fifties and sixties jazz seemed at its heighth, defining the word "original" through polished ideas of chord combos and the newer methods of Zen (a way of digging through your inner soul to achieve your one being through music). All words aside, Eric Dolphy, as shown on Other Aspects (an album pulled from his private stash), is a pure meditation to the homage of sound and the global expression of music. Strikingly fierce and patiently deliberate, Dolphy pays tribute to the instrument like no other.
Skip Spence, Oar - OK, for all you multi-instrumentalists, Oar could well be your next bible for your experiences to come. After Jefferson Airplane (a beginner drummer) and Moby Grape, Spence released this applause of songs in a quick period in '68, throwing an obstacle in front of the charts and was regarded obliviously in the eyes of most. But after being rediscovered by present-time seeker musicians, this so-called "cult" figure plays everything on the record with a sheer energetic push needed from The Airplane and Moby Grape. Spence seems to have almost accidentally created a genius album that only blooms stronger as the years tail on.
Eurythmics, Peace - After having an immature sneer for quite a while against The Eurythmics (dismissing them for aisle-to-aisle grocery store tunes), I woke to the vital importance of this band, and especially singer Annie Lennox, who has had an immense role for the independence of women rockers - and nevermind the crystal production the music carries throughout the extensive layer of ability. Peace is yet all this, and, as brilliant as the material done back in the 80's.
Fela Kuti, Shakara - To describe Fela Kuti in just a few lines is merely impossible. But I say, "you haven't yet heard music at its finest until you've heard Fela Kuti". As more and more curious musicians walk the pathways to African music, they will be greeted by Fela at the door. To all kids who think Rage Against the Machine is as political as music gets, check out Fela Kuti.
Bob Dylan, Love and Theft- He's back! And just his luck for this long awaited pleasure released on September 11. Oh well, perhaps we may see a few political tunes once again coming our way. This is one for Dylan fans. Unlike his recent tasty but thinner records, Love and Theft feeds you an actual sound- very similar to the multiple number of albums back in the day (Bob Dylan, Blood On the Tracks, Highway 61, John Wesley Harding and so on). Dylan has come a long way since "Song To Woody" (a song I love) and finally mixes his roots into one equal whole - a choice of wise and healthy material for Beck and others to take in consideration.
Tori Amos, Strange Little Girls - Seriously quite a solid album. It may not be one for her regular fans, but that could be just the point. Written from all masculine cover songs (Neil Young, Lou Reed, Eminem, Tom Waits, Slayer and others), Amos uses her feminine touch and sensibility to add this strong message of "male testosterone leadership" to both women and men. Perhaps this could be a recording for us guys of the world, and would be a fine hearing in town macho-hangouts at cd stores and guitar shops. Amos crosses new boundary in her field producing contemporary uniqueness at its crisp.
Tim Buckley, Starsailor - Upon its release in the seventies, Starsailor collected dust. And was only wiped away until fairly recently (like Skip Spence) when it regained attention among a more eager generation of critics and fans. Buckley has one of the best voices ever to inhale the microphone from the sixties. Starsailor is rough (for its gritty strikes of music improvisation and mind-fantasy) for us Goodbye and Hello or Happy Sad listeners (although you can see the direction Buckley wanted to lead in Happy Sad ), but well enough an experience for fans, and a guide for musicians to hear such an album that's still held its presentation of purity and fierce edge for the last many decades.
Cassandra Wilson, New Moon Daughter - If Tori Amos does, or didn't, do it for you, Cassandra Wilson should make the wild wonders of your head attentive to all tracks on this fine record. A superb voice that traces the scratchy beauty of Nina Simone, and the whole Motown experience altogether, and the background texture of blues and jazz. Done from cover-song material (Son House, Hank Williams, U2) and her own cry of written songs, New Moon Daughter remains peacefully in all possibilities for any audience with the patience to listen and understand.
- Carson Arnold
The Ones Who Play It All
Music is beautiful. And there's something even more beautiful, more powerful, and more deliberate when the musician plays all the instruments on their quest of songs they wish to pursue to please the vast concentration of the world. Track by track, perhaps home-recorded, laying the first backbone of rhythm, and later traveling back to weave tiny surprises of musical delight for all us fast listeners. The ones who play it all mingle patience and the well thought out structure from their own inner wisdom bleeding this life into their sounds. There's nothing like it.
The question is, what fuses the artist to choose the role of multi-playing? The talent for this opportunity can't be an overnight success. Thus, it must be a mind-setting directness and strength to find achievement in some boundary of their self, developing their true soul sound in the music. For instance, Skip Spence's Oar is a fabulous guiding example to a dream collection of songs that show honest confidence within this all-instrumentalist, despite his lacking knowledge to the instruments. Spence first lived, then planned, and when the time opened, he created.
Quite certainly, there's a handful of artists I can mention who carry the torch of the one-man band personality (wait a minute, what's this one-man-band? I've yet to find any women who play all their instruments, and it's driving me nuts. So if any of you know, share it. I guess Ani Difranco in many ways is her own full set-up. Her ballads ring meaning far beyond any classy production you may hear today.) The composers who touched the unscaled territory for their time, reaching into the likings of the present in both Classical and Jazz music (especially Roland Kirk - as a blind man he played three horns at once! And Eric Dolphy sharpening the teeth of dissonance with the fierce quarter-tones of a sax and flute), is a peak that might not be easily questionable in the tones of pop-rock - but only well-definable through hard thought and the timely living of the artist and their work (in all other words: people are born as people, somewhere in their existence the idea of their own uniqueness might greet their way ... and suddenly, creations are born, great in any form of our daily pondering and walking stride).
One must never forget the legendary Shuggie Otis, who plays, if not all, the instruments on the beautiful landscape of the funky psychedelic refugee album, Inspirational Information. And if you scout long enough along side with the lonesome faces in the thick blues bins, you will sure enough be mesmerized by the great Jesse Fuller - who has spawned a life of high-hat and bass drum revolution throughout your typical scurrying city street. Accompanied by a sick guitar, kazoo, hoarse harmonica, sincere voice, washboard, and his own stomping invention called the "fotdella", Fuller proves the wisdom to not lay down musical tracks one by one ... but to do it all at once! But Fuller is in good hands. Duster Bennett follows in the league of on-stage drum thumping, guitar and harmonica, and singing a sweet blues that may make Fred McDowell cringe, but a folkie youth is drawn by amusement smiles. And never overlook the powers and intelligence of Zappa and his composing pieces fired by his calvary of untame group talent.
And then we move into the day of a lesser in depth mind-motivated musical technique - but rather a swampy class of marketing, and one's expectations of industrial entertainment, rocketing the audiences standards of tip-top shape production ... but there are still some who can really play. Particularly a real unexpected surprise of present time all-instrumentalist is Chili Pepper guitarist, John Frusciante. After years spent kicking addiction and rediscovering a brighter side of humanity vs. success, he wrote, played and recorded To Record Water For Only Ten Days, literally jamming with himself filling his eight-track with drum machines, guitars, keyboards, vocals and whatever else fits the eye. A remarkably refreshing straight forward record for a wounded rocker and an influential importance for this time.
Of course I could never leave out Beck's name without full recognition to his striking style of playing and the fusion of multi-instrumentalism he's carried proudly for the last many years. Delicate pop-rock seems to become more of a harder uniqueness to try to light, but Pete Yorn leaves me with good impressions with his delicate but well structured record, Musicforthemornigafter (playing most of the instruments in a safe light of rocking). And in my local area, solo artist Joshua Burkett meditates tranquility, siding with his confident pose of experimental folk (some new material expected soon, but in the meantime look for the LP, Owl Leaves Rustling). Some may count the whole Dj experience as a one "who plays it all" (I accept Moby, who may run his verses in the fog of fancy keyboards, but at least sings, plucks a guitar, kicks a drum, and teaches us groovin' blues samples that sign his new trademark with a popular applause). But when I subtract the fun pulsing beats of the club-room mood, all I see is toys run by an almost robotic pattern of computers that rob the real purity of the "instrumental hands on" atmosphere that talent has always been colored by. Since when did computers kidnap music?
But as long as these artists linger on the shelves of owners and purchasers, we are only hoped to be promised a great evolution to come from the ones who play it all.
Skip Spence, Oar
Jesse Fuller, Brother Lowdown
Duster Bennett, Jumpin' At Shadows
Roland Kirk, certainly quite enough material, but We Free Kings is always a joy
Eric Dolphy, Out To Lunch, Other Aspects - all consistent
Shuggie Otis, Inspirational Information
John Frusciante, To Record Water For Only Ten Days
Beck, I always loved Mellowgold (earlier), but the deserving attention to his sound shows well on Odelay and Mutations
Ani Difranco, Not A Pretty Girl, To The Teeth
Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter
Joshua Burkett, new album expected shortly, otherwise Owl Leaves Rustling
Moby, Animal Rights, Play
- Carson Arnold
CLASSICAL : PERSPECTIVE FROM A BEGINNING LOVER
Upon starting off my first article of Track (discussing the realness of a "once was" rock 'n roll sound, neatly refrigerated by contemporary rollers like brit-band, Oasis), I received a letter from an old friend of the family. It was a simple line showing the gracious thank-you in regards to a good paper, and also stating bluntly that he preferred only Fats Domino and Schubert. All right ... all friendship aside, Track to me is an idea to invite your nose into further record bins other than the usual and typical comforting taste. His line was too perfect. It was a sheer example of intellectual snobbery from an educated man vs. the rebellious empire of youth that may not be understandable to elders, but is of high importance to the population of "any day" music. I accepted it in a positive manner and constructively built another step onto a beginning stairway, to de-code: why only Fats Domino and Schubert?
Since I already was fond of Fats, I chose Schubert as a main source to haunt my ears in the listening hours of the day. Shortly after, I was pulled under the waves of classical music and was amazed by its beauty of movements and strengths, that ring farther than any sound I've ever witnessed off an instrument. The melody of strings created another cell of influence inside me that may never leave but only meditate longer. And if you just listen... just listen, there's something for everybody in a classical piece.
Everyone has heard the name Schubert. Whether in the sludgery of sing-a-long grade school music class, or perhaps a young kid amused that the composer's name has a similar rhyme with the tasty "sherbet" dessert. Whatever it might be, his name has been presented in front of everybody's eyes in some mental statement of word fashion. And sadly to say, myself, knows jack in the first place about classical, never mind the symphonies and movements of Schubert. But by observing and flipping countless pages...the knowledge soon evolves.
To all you who may now be interested in Schubert's work you may also be intrigued by a little history, which at all may be boring to a one-page perspective of classical music, but to develop an understanding of the artist you must know the cave they came from (in other words, Van Gogh's "Starry Night" may be a finished excellency to your arty vision, but to have the knowledge of his peasant background, the painting begins to grow a thicker spine... and so do you). Franz Schubert, a Vienna man, lived a relatively short life, reaching the ripe age of thirty-one, dying with a pale heart and a wretched illness of un-confidence and disease (deceased in the year of 1828, began from birth in 1797). Like Van Gogh, Schubert never had a marrying lover and was a quiet bachelor, this appearance questioned the public of an uncertain homosexuality (the same remarks lingered behind the back of sixties folksinger, Nick Drake). Coming from an educated family, and pushed by an eager bond of fatherhood to teach school as well, he declined this life and pursued the evolving talent that Schubert had remarkably built in himself since a youngster. Experiencing poor living habitats, he dwelled his struggling into dream compositions, killing the beastly environment at that time. He became quite a well-known piano-soloist in the Vienna region, but never achieved the credit as a vast icon in the hemisphere (having no symphonies published until fifty years following his death...and none were performed in his lifetime). After his liberal tongue got him arrested, his spunk and drive plummeted, but he continued writing and composing from concentrated ideas throughout the days. These pieces were mostly all unfinished, being his true and strongest work in the short lifetime he had left - showing a utter mysterious depression that possessed an unhealthy state, but contributed a heavenly and romantic skill - more poetic than music. But there were consequences...he died November 19th, 1828.
With a strong feeling to my recent, yet short listenings, I give the highest credit to the unbelievable talent Schubert flared in his compositions, translated by piano through ten simple fingers that somehow leaves us stunned centuries later. Yet in my own ears, I always find Schubert to be running away from his notes almost rushing to the perfect finale of applause. Beethoven at that time was an icon - everyone was under the influence of his works, including Schubert (similar to Picasso and Pollock). And I can see why. As I search my vocabulary for a quick analogy, all I can think of is this: Beethoven creates a deep feeling, a mood, a horizon - be this a "block of ice". Lets say if this block of ice were to be smashed into pieces, Schubert would then arise from this chaos. Of course that's one theory to mull over (and I'm of course forgetting a dozen other composers that fit the bill).
Classical music is a handshake to all music-- its melodies show us the past and yawn into the future. The music is almost a secret chord that lurks in all of our souls, but only strummed understandingly once one's living rudiments allow it. For instance, a kid who walks to nothing but Metallica or Slayer, may realize that Metallica (especially Master Of Puppets), is almost more classical than it is metal. And perhaps the lonesome full grown adult who has refused to color their self with anything but opera, may take joy with ambient beats or find solace in a Pink Floyd record. I myself now remain in dedication to the spirit and body of classical music - don't worry I won't turn into a craving-crazed character like Alex in A Clockwork Orange. For I love Sam Cooke, can't wait to hear Iggy Pop, stare mesmerized at a spinning record of Coltrane, and wish I could play like John Lee Hooker. And perhaps these mentioned artists have been all harmonized as a blown-up version of a single idea Schubert tapped in some fine print of a deadly composition written centuries ago. So with that in mind, in a sense ... everything I hear now is beautiful.
Schubert's "Unfinished" (Symphony No. 7 B Minor) is bolder than terrific.
IT'S A GIRL THING
I'm not an elitist to popular music. In fact, there's a tremendous amount of contemporary pop that still plays a gripping role - no matter how much I may dislike its territory. If it works, it's important. Now everyone could justify all the MTV videos as "important" because they air in a rotary of daily spin, thus they work? Not really. Too many of them air a lot of nothing, lacking vision and thought. In fact, I tune into MTV now and then to keep up with the popular forecast. (First off, so you're not confused, this article reflects on four key and important women in the popular trend of hip-hop and soul). Let that be said - every time I land on a video I always see Destiny's Child. Now, I've been studying them, struggling to decode the whole atmosphere they're trying to express. But like the three piece women groups before their broadcast - Salt 'n Pepa, TLC, now Destiny's Child - they all sing in the same closet - except each trio dances in the hip clothing according to the hip trend. It would be great if we were delivered another Supremes. But in the realm of soul and hip-hop, I doubt it's any time soon (but hey, it could always show in some other radical form - Sleater Kinney as the Supremes?)
Of course there's always the solo artist Diana Ross. But Janet Jackson does a somewhat comforting job of adopting Ross's looks and voice. My main soul attraction has always been the direct push and concentration of Nina Simone and Irma Thomas (and please allow yourself to backtrack to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday etc). Now in the Millennium, the soul politics of once upon a time are brought forth in the spunk of hip-hop and in the energetic stride of soul production. There's four women who own this newer club, who yet have found a name for their liberation: Lauryn Hill, Jill-Scott, Macy Gray, and Ereykah Badu.
It could have started earlier in a past generation - and in fact it did. But since the early seventies, black women have had a difficult time maneuvering into the class of popular music. Through the lost disco bounce, the commercial Donna Summer era, the giggling Salt 'n Pepa looseness, and posing skimpy in a Jay-Z video, you can't say it's been easy. Men have conquered this more steadily. America accepted you if you jumped around in Bad Brains and applauded you if you wore a jersey and a gold chain in a rap video. Some may disagree, but Lauryn Hill (formally, adding a third sweetness to the Fugees, along with Wyclef Jean and Pras) broke loose from the decades of class chaos and backed away from the marketed sneer of Lil' Kim and Missy Elliot. Instead, releasing the hip-hop bible for the future women howlers of global concern,The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she dove back to the politics of civil rights and societal amendments, to present to a stunned youth who took on her cry. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is packed neatly with verses of "yo's" and drum machine breaks, but in this sturdy composition, lays a text of positive and influential spirit to the hurt of love, racial movements, bigotry, cultural misunderstanding, class struggle, prejudicial rudeness, and the all around importance of humanity and living. Quite a record.
Ereykah Badu, who seems to be still gravitating to a confident sound, I admire. Visually, she is quite fetching, and carries the spirit of a cool Diana Ross with an intellectual rhyme that sparks and allows certainty to her climbing career. I ran across her latest, Mama's Gun, in the town library and found myself interested in the daring political cover. However, the record wasn't too political, rather an anxious outcry to society's standards (the first track being a thrilling tune - making the record). Her voice is the sweetest and most trained in the bunch, but my hopes for future is that Badu steps the correct degrees away from the drum machine and takes her sincere words to the raw edge of experimental hip-hop (perhaps fluctuating a whole new rhythm of her own; which she could very easily do in full strength).
Next (by the way, these aren't in any specific order), we arrive at the musical mastermind - Macy Gray's The I.D . She opens her album with a verse grooving: "hot like hot wings with hot chocolate in hell" (you can decide from there. The whole album is like one big Edward Lear poem, backed with a brass section on a fast carnival ride). It's incredibly rare to hear a stardom pop artist like Gray, to really soak themselves in their influences. I usually take dislike to the topping production in albums, but in this interesting case, it is used in equal excitement. Similar to Louis Armstrong's background dream symphonies, there's perhaps nothing like Curtis Mayfield's orchestra, heard in the most clashing chill of "Beautiful Brother Of Mine". There's a lot of this in The I.D. At the attention of the Sly Stone march, screeching horn line-up, muffling fuzz-boxes (used at the height of a Sgt. Peppers pluck), reggae wah, and Gray's Disney voice (sounding off between a baby's scream and a cat purr), this a remarkably fine coat that shines bright. Beck hopped over this idea in Midnight Vultures , but Gray rolled around in it.
Lastly, we give light to a new artist, making the crowd a number of four - Jill-Scott. Scott , who appears at a modest educated level of lifestyle, delivers a poetic hop of spoken word performance, backed by the usual line-up of a snap drum machine, keyboards, and a burping bass; remoting in the similarity of the Gil-Scott Heron directness. But unlike Heron, Jill-Scott cuts a record of eighteen songs that rambles the laid back chill of waking up next to her lover in a clean apartment and walking to the corner market to cash for some orange juice. I mean, c'mon! With the confidence she's gained with spoken-word blatancy, she could sure topple our minds with words of liberation and questionable politics. Of course I need to draw the right line between what I personally admire and what's important to diverse fans. But in Scott's case, I believe the activism tale is missing between her art. Poetry that's sung in the acclaimed entertainment of pacing music, is always rode for a cause. But who knows, it's only her first album. Well enough a smile for starts.
All four have lighted a flame that may be thrown up in the air by musical over-lookers (or better yet, musical elites). But if there's any class of sound in today's bins that awaits no hesitation of ending in the paranoia in lasting "dried-up", it's the howl of Lauryn Hill Inc. In a way, the tales of traditional folk, blues, and the longing soul have sketched itself neatly in a society and womanhood of oppressed thinkers that has only begun to shout.
Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Ereykah Badu, Mama's Gun.
Macy Gray, The I.D.
Jill-Scott, Who is Jill-Scott?
The silent "s" will always fool you - but his music won't. Constantly I hear folks add this sound to Louis Armstrong's name, almost then producing him to a whole different persona. It's a drastic image when you want to ask a clerk for a specific artist, and you can't recall the two right directions to spit the name. Unfortunately, there's been some names like Hoagy Carmichael who I've battled with in question at a sad glance. But indeed I'm well to know Louis's "s" is skipped to silence. And who doesn't? Louis Armstrong continued to shuffle the Billboard decades after his death in 1971. And before those last thirty years of the twentieth century, he defined, and some might like to say, similar to the Beatles, shaped the generations of sounds and influence ... no wait, he did do that.
It was almost like Armstrong couldn't have been born in a more perfect time. One hundred years ago in 1901 - a world was beginning to deliver a message of importance to financial marketing and global industrialization. And from this murky chaos why wouldn't forms of beauty emerge? (After all, it is said that's how the Earth arose). Anyway, Armstrong put his arm around the trumpet near the early teen years while serving time at a reform school for firing a gun (a rather silly conviction). As we all might imagine, tailing the arts and being black at the same time, during a crisis of racial outbreaks and silent cries, is something out of bounds of risky - perhaps suicidal. Armstrong was balanced with great company, though. After all, field and street blues were the soul of natural existence at this time for povern bodies, and Armstrong being a New Orleans walker, a city where cultural folk and blues shook hands with a new form of ragtime (with future bebop and jazz scaling in the shadows), he was in a safe comfort zone for the determined black musicians (perhaps dealt in a harsher complication than that, but said well in all other words).
God, this is a troubling frustration trying to highlight a musical god like Louis Armstrong. Let's dash forward a bit. While running the pure learner notes through the cluttered streets of New Orleans, Armstrong met the eyesight of King Oliver (composer, player of the cornet). Like the first meeting and relation between Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin' Hopkins, Oliver targeted a talent in Armstrong that he might possibly had no inclination of. Giving him a fatherhood birth of confidence, simple teachings, and self-innovation, Armstrong was ready for the soloist career that met him at stride. During these slow times in the early twenties, Armstrong waved a hand of new standards to trumpeters. His reputation was slowly rising to sudden furies, and musicians almost grew cautious to the man with the silent "s" (a nickname was also handed to Armstrong: "Dippermouth". A tribute statement to the size of his mouth). The solos he carried with a big-band bustle, the Hot Five (later changed to the Hot Seven) are in a speculated relationship to the blues licks, past and present. I now find where Miles Davis came to the idea of "So What" and how John Lee Hooker masterminded "boom-boom" for a restless lifetime. To me, that "cool-jazz" (boy do I hate that name, but I'll use it anyway) era of Miles Inc. was beyond a gape and too beautiful for a stare. But like the American sadness of blues, this jazz was ghostly in its appearance. Frosty, chilling, haunting, whatever so. Armstrong presented this idea decades back ... but Armstrong's movements are alive! Of course the ferocious "cool-jazz" would have to set their instruments down to be influenced by the explosive hearings of Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker, who followed the bust of Armstrong's conquering philosophy.
The Hot Five dazzled a white audience, putting a spotlight on profiting record companies, where they were forced to choose along the boundaries of this new influence. Armstrong being the prominent figure gave the producers the option of fascination among black talent and the open-door to profit from it. This in all forms remained safe, but still a jokingly racist maneuver from the record companies - quite similar to the blackface movement (for a vivid definition, check out Spike Lee's recent flick, Bamboozled).
But to the true musician like Louis Armstrong, racism and financial profit jokes left no burns - instead he took the full-fledged advantage from this opportunity.
Perhaps without the team ship of pianist, Earl Hines, Armstrong might not have found the route of his future musical enterprise. In the songs and compositions with Hines, you can hear the first real tones of innovation and dissonance sparkling bright. Bebop is defined, jazz is created, orchestra soothes a mint melody, trumpet solos are thick with life, scat-singing and yodeling says its hello, a piano sounds like nothing touched with fingers (hence, the introduction to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans). Hey, there's just as much country-westen as there is blues - tunes like "Basin Street Blues" hold the Gene Autry humming glide and blooms the Judy Garland sweetness. Armstrong delivered a creation of support that literally put Bing Crosby in Hollywood and even Frank Sinatra on TV, following so many others. And then there's the fine trademark of Armstrong's voice. I mean, nothing beats that. Its crackle and innocence on both early and later works, perhaps heard in the highest fashion on "Stormy Weather" (Armstrong's "Smells Like Teen Spirit") makes the grumbling husky growlers of today, like new sung Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits, look like cocktail thumb-snappers (well perhaps not cocktail snappers, but definitely thumb-snappers). Adding another fresh sound with a very intimate feeling to its mood, done with women singers like Velma Middleton and the great Ella Fitzgerald (who stood an ever so important role for Louis, lifting him from the lone trumpeter oblivious to his band), is perhaps a whole other style to talk sweet in the future.
With all that ... that is exactly what shaped music for the next, and still everlasting, cycles of musical voice to sing our ways. Louis Armstrong is music. Despite the character image the media has plotted him under, whether stated as a "sell-out" to jazz, he was the first to swim along side the greed of record companies and fame. But unlike most, he didn't drown. Instead, he worked constructively; showed the world something they've never seen before and ignored the spin of nuisance fame. A role model if there ever was one.
Armstrong's work can never really be separated from the good or bad. His work grows off itself. The material done with Earl Hines is excellent, and the big band days of the twenties is beyond my comprehension. Plenty of sources to look into. Mystery Train Records in Amherst, Massachusetts (for those reading the posted text) has a strong stack of vinyl - which is the way I recommend listening to any jazz and Armstrong material.
MY FAVORITE BEATLE
It was all a bit too strange. A long awaited rain shower had finally drizzled its way all night and into a bleak morning. I had just finished a terrific novel (In The Lake Of The Woods) and was listening to some excellent material done by the Brazilian artist Moreno Veloso (I indeed recommend him). Remarkably, both ended at that same time (though not the rain). Thinking this was such a peculiar coincidence and on top of that, my parents informed me of George Harrison's death (a dragging battle with cancer - ending at fifty-eight years old). I wasn't quickly saddened. More questionably shocked - astonished by the cruelty of the news versus the bitter timing. After all, I hadn't had quite the experience to feel such a sudden grief for a musician as George was. Born in the mid-eighties, a few years after John Lennon was murdered, I grew fit (and 'am still growing) into the likes of Nirvana and Sonic Youth (first running my ears across Harrison at a early age, with his messy, but "full", middle-aged band, the Traveling Wilburys - accompanied by Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty). But years later, at the arrival of Kurt Cobain's death, I was still on the verge of discovering In Utero and was too young to capture any sort of loss to the heart. So really, as part of a generation that fell too late for the early nineties and feels "duped" to the charts now, may finally catch that honest passion to such a true icon of Harrison's character and his years of immense performance ... I know I will.
Around nine in the morning, the television talk shows really start to fly at you. There was Regis and Kelly who for nearly ten minutes uttered every possible syllable except Harrison's passing (really disgusting). CNN did a better job combining "war news" with fond Beatle memories. Quite a juxtaposition! An obscure comparison caught me as a shaky surprise. One station asked its viewers if "peace was possible?", while another mourned the years of George Harrison (I betcha' none of the Beatle members would ever think those odd statements to greet them in future time). Even a visit to a town that day revealed an oblivious stage to the fact of Harrison's death.
But enough about the woes ... George Harrison was my favorite Beatle. The subdued honesty (or as it's been put: the "quiet Beatle") and the confidence of his passionate character battling the fling of such global stardom compelled him as a real role-model. He was not a power guitarist. But his assurance that he could make me enjoy the guitar no matter what, was like no other. In fact, his strongest solo point was drawn into his spectacular album, All Thing Must Pass - an actually pretty under-rated triple record set that no doubt is as superior as the years spent with the Beatles (which are described by George "as hell"). The few songs Harrison wrote with the Beatles are indeed the most predominant to natural feelings (in fact, I just watched Bill Flanagan of VH1 describe Harrison as writing "eternal songs". That's it!). "Here Comes The Sun" bleeds true exotic ability that added the beauty to Lennon's sassy rebel sneer and created human character to McCartney's "good times". The avant-garde charisma of psychedelia in the later years showed guitar playing didn't have to be all about soloing as a sex symbol, but rather communication (don't hit all the strings, just hit one). Harrison's will for interest in Eastern music and philosophy (the sitar, taught by Ravi Shankar) - though he wasn't the first - invited minds to reach further than America's coast. Someone who enjoyed the partial moments of rock-star popularity, but left things in simplicity and practicality. To me, George Harrison was a person - then he created music. That's my type of rock star.
But not to mourn forever. Like the recent departure of John Lee Hooker, Harrison leaves us with dynamic "roots". The Beatles can never be erased from our ears, nor texts. His romantic, yet desolate, solo albums soak in the blissful fantasy of inner happiness and an optimistic lifestyle. He presented a fresh sighting - that you don't have to be a magnificent musician to create tasty music - simply be observant and concerned. Harrison, as we know, bonded with spirituality. And what finer example than his beliefs could be shown, that new horizons are always here, and all things must pass but should be still remembered in all natural forms ... George Harrison.
All Things Must Pass (Apple) - George Harrison with Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Dave Mason and many others.
ARTISTS OF THE UNDERGROUND
It has been well into a few months of my Track essays, and I believe it's now time to recognize not an artist, but a particular phenomena. Little is known or mentioned in the music biz about subway music. No, not the interior subway car muzak. Subway musicians. The artists of the street. While city folks bustle into the revolving doors of New York's frantic subway tracks, musicians work hard hours singing their lively soul, and entertaining the passing commotion, hoping for a spare coin or comment to travel in return. Hipster record stores like to tag their gritty hip-hop sections with a fine color stating: "underground". But literally speaking, subway musicians have no record in any bin, and they're tremendously lucky to get a gig by a curious ear in the audience of waiting transit riders. Dozens of feet under traffic pavement in an hourly claustrophobic environment - everyday and any day- is some magnificently wonderful and daring, (musicians at work), yet sad that these artist are silenced by shaking heads above, on higher ground.
How many times have you walked in a busy town on the warm chill of a summer day and heard someone strum a guitar or mend in the rich tones of a steel drum, and wish you had stopped your eyesight of destination to comment on how their playing is an appreciation to your day- or, just how they're playing so damn good!? Perhaps this hesitation is why street musicians are kept meager in the artistic field. Maybe it isn't arrogance that the public has against "these bums who happen to pluck a guitar" (and many are not homeless - in fact, a majority still work in another occupation and some have left their job to pursue subway performance), but the quiet admittance of talent that we don't dare pass on about these characters. From my research, I happen to believe that the subway musician hauls an importance far more than your average radio rock star. And why wouldn't they? Four-piece musicians carry glum looks album after album, writing the same tune - built from a frustrated lacking communication - even though now, they have all the money they need to be finally spoiled upon. MTV host Carson Daly launches another day of TRL, signing off the same ten videos he aired yesterday, while below that street in Times Square sits a tarnished life of actual artists who have lived every breath they play with the same excitement and enthusiasm when they first let loose their beginning note that began a conquering beauty to the industrial machinery underneath.
Two popular subway systems that hold multiple number of musical talents and never ending charisma of excitement, is the Metro in Paris and our own - New York City's Grand Central Station. A rare combination of ethnic groups and street citizens gather in these terminals, keeping a decent even-distance for subway walkers to gaze at this beautiful musical spectacle. Most people agree, that even though some get annoyed by the urgency of panhandling after songs, the musicians keep the terminals openly refreshing with ranging sounds (everything from a natural blues growl to a community of hip-hop tellers to Argentinean guitarists to Chinese instrumental works).
I talked to Clare Muldaur, a well-acclaimed musician (you may remember Track 4, sorting out the steam of the Muldaur family) who spent her time playing on both streets and subway lines in Boston. Her memory is that people wanted to grasp the fast entertainment, gracious with smiles if they were able to recognize a tune - like jazz. When it came down to her own solo street performance, she states: "[if it's] much too personal, no one notices, not the right situation for originals".
All this comes not entirely easy for the musicians themselves. Not forgetting the sickly poverty line many of these jobless artists dwell in, an organization was formed early in the last decade (beats me if it's still active) - after musicians could play legally without worry of harassment. Of course after this act was approved, there was still a pesky fuss from the law, who were not accustomed to the sound barriers - and perhaps were not amused by the new happiness of the subway and the public's positive reaction. This gave musicians a further grief to their daily cycle of "working while playing" (on a good day, a musician can scrape up about fifty dollars). A somewhat freelanced group originated at this time to draft what they thought were the ranking professional musicians of the subway culture (this was done by a testing audition). Not many were signed in, but the small group that were received permits for the area. This was a safe agreement with the city's police, and no more were at odds with ticketing abuse. But really, whose to underline the professional and the unprofessional in art? It makes me wonder what happened to the few suppressed souls that weren't achieved "worthy" by the table of judges. Even so, to this day, musicians are hassled by the interruption of the enforcing authority. Don't ask me why.
Most would be surprised by the majority of culture and talent that performs in the subway systems. Some are astonished by the freshness and playing of ones individual spark without the attention of money or stardom. Many have been offered record deals, club gigs, and a few have been invited to play a small scene in a film. Be this what the musicians want, their only will is to make music and find the pleasure to please the public, keeping the underground subway cough coated with a natural beauty. It's as if they're the jesters of the city street. Living proof of a positive turn-out to the corrupt city politics. As they keep the air tuneful underground, their only hope is for the people above ground to remember to grasp the legend and name of subway music.
To read more: Underground Harmonies , by Susie J. Tanenbaum.
Also, internet access to listen to subway musicians is accessible: www.subplay.com
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: Ted Hawkins (played for most of his life on the streets, until recently was led to discovery-- but passed away in 1995).
TWO NEW RECORDINGS I CAN'T STOP PLAYING
CLARE MULDAUR- SWEETHEART
Clare Muldaur hits the vast when she's under the influence of a higher challenge. Most of the songs on her debut album,Sweetheart, remain challenges. Unlike her generational musicians, she burrows past the average hassle of pop-song blatancy, and instead, begins her steps to the linear focus of jazz-rag, folk soothe, and the flailing rock pulse. Clare's determined self-assurance is there. Yet her heritage of roots appear to be at the beginning step of construction and maturity - gently brushing the many soul categories of music, leaving perhaps the patient experimentation aside for verse-chorus motivation. Singing almost like a female Rufus Wainwright, she indulges in the erratic disney-vocal pitch of Billie Holiday, cleanses in the jug-band shine (of her father's- Geoff Muldaur- taste), tampers with sweet folk, and leaves us in good after taste in rocker flamboyance - all along siding with a rambling line-up of musicians and tight production. Where Clare peaks at the height of challenge is in the wild energy brought forth in songs like "Emotional Lab Toy" (possible "single" material, tide in with a phenomenal chorus), the passionate coo of "How It Should Be", and the twist catch to "Cactus Tree" (singing an exotic chorus in French). By the rustic texture of Sweetheart's cover (painted by Eric Von Schmidt, no less), you can immediately taste Clare's youthful ambition will be musically relishing (instruments leak sounds for everyone) and, in future reference, require lasting patience.
Joshua Burkett- Gold Cosmos
I never knew anybody played this sort of music. Well, I did. But Joshua Burkett's very influential rooted simplicity and infinite experimentation in Gold Cosmos highlights a new meaning. His previous records (Owl Leaves Rustling and Lost ), escalated a lot of beginnings that still flow naturally; throwing in odd sample voices, uncontrollable strings, and romantic, yet faint, vocals that whisper more as an instrumental effect (never mind most instruments are all played by Joshua, sometimes with the accompanying help from friends). Gold Cosmos brings in all of this, but drawn forth more at a professional stance of playing. The songs penetrate an unbelievable dream feeling as each piece of work (and you know this album had to take work), and relates further interest to acoustic guitar as we know it. The first track of Gold Cosmos clips a quick voice growl and rolls into the powerful opening of "Lavender Eagle" - tune to the likes of Ravi Shankar (whether Shankar or not, Joshua indeed plays his stringed instruments in fine resemblance to a sitar). Out of the fourteen pieces collected on Gold Cosmos, I can't pick a chosen one that shows Joshua's strengthening point. I can merely say it coils in experience. The first half of Gold Cosmos drops an evening spell of dreamy mood echo (intact to say the rightful march of a Kendra Smith...). The second side (this recording was released as both CD and record - artwork by the musician), relieves itself into morning, with the limbering tame of vibes (similar to Buckley's Happy Sad ), closing the record with a fabricating piano, that seems to end Gold Cosmos at an awaiting pause. A harmonious monotony plays through Gold Cosmos; sometimes wishing Joshua's lyrics could be fully heard, or at least treading above distortion. But never mind technicality - the album is a blast of joy and a cosmological trip all in the same swig. In fact, I've completely forgotten all the songs on both records I reviewed ... dreaming along. I better go listen again. And again.
CLARE MULDAUR- Sweetheart..... (website) www.claremuldaur.com
JOSHUA BURKETT- Gold Cosmos..... (address) feather one's nest (c&p) 2001 c/o M.T. 12 no. pleasant amherst ma. 01002..... (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Everyone: I'm taking a some weeks off for the holidays, but will return after the New Year with weekly issues of Track. Thank you all for your input, advice, recommendations, and more .... Happy holidays!
GREAT MOMENTS OF THE 20th CENTURY
For those of you who aren't a hundred years old yet, here's your ticket to live the last century in just a few short hours. Rhino's three-cd box set compilation Great Moments of the 20th Century returns the lost moments, speeches and events that made yesterday's history our future. Not only is it a far unbelievable source for history remindment (the package comes with a century synopsis book - complete with full detail needed to know your ancestral past), but an ideal tool for musicians (and others) to basically "fool around with". But for the ones that don't use this material for self-creativity, you will sure be intrigued by the "packed" movements the discs hold.
Though, after reviewing my notes, I do have criticism over the broad aspect of history that the box set mixes. I found it deliberately "Americana", signaling the main events of the "white man's heritage" of speech. The fears of Communism, the mystery of the Rosenbergs, immense wars, enduring the country's freedom, the rise of organized youth suburbia, and the questionable Nixon scandal-to-the heroic statues of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, JFK, James Dean, Paul McCartney and the cheering baseball culture. But it seems to brush by the raw liberation of the past. Political assassinations are covered in the daring range of reporters, but both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King's murders are not mentioned (but they're sure to cover all the Kennedy deaths). The Civil Rights movement and the later revolution of the sixties boom almost remains "skipped" out of date. This matter was a bit startling to continue on after the sixties, but where Great Moments of the 20th Century holds its prime advantage into our ears, is the essence of the early twentieth century - particularly the voice before the Second World War. The end of the "horse and buggy" and the dawn of futuristic advancement seemed to correspond fresh knowledge into airwaves, thus contributing an entertaining patch of events to fold the years as an inventional existence. The spark of new literature, philosophers igniting their beliefs, the secrecy of wars and future dictators, and tragedies due to the sudden technological spurt - all these paid homage to an excellent fit of time, captured in all rarities on the discs.
But, an absolute major downfall to this box set is the total absence of racial voice, other than the Anglo-Saxon Americana justice. During all time periods, the positive African-American shout (whether arts or in public field) lingers in no form. The same goes with all nationalities and races throughout the world. Most racial groups that are brought to eye, are the pessimistic out-lashes of "Battle At Wounded Knee", or O.J Simpson, Clarence Thomas and Rodney King. And all the Middle-Eastern life is portrayed as basically "confused terrorists". This, like I said before, is a total shame to not only the box set, but to American history itself. But maybe this figure is useful to the fact that maybe this is history. Racial groups are silenced and are continued to be muted in all economic and mental grace.
To mention all events and names from the box set could get tiring. You could take on your own to simply know that the first disc starts with an advertisement for the "double-sided" record in 1904, and it ends in the event occurring during the Millennium celebration a couple years back. Simply you should understand the history (and more) that parts in between these long years. As you might guess, everything captured is basically rising to the war of "bloodshed", the fear of bloodshed, and yes, bloodshed itself. Mostly the extreme battles of war, puncturing societal conflicts following, and conspiratorial scandals lurking out of truth. But despite all the carnage and complication arisen (and the ignorance of other races), history is presented in full dedication for one's (perhaps) much-needed learning comprehension. Textbooks and historians gladly presented extinct generations in the tangent of words - but finally, we've been offered the opportunity to stand the entertaining witness of a world, once again, heard in its "voice". But for the sake of eternal understanding, you're in a better global environment by reading many more books.
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: Great Moments of the 20th Century . (Rhino) 3 CD box set. Date release: August 15th, 2000
VETERANS OF VENICE BEACH
Two men. Both dead. And both have shared the thrive from the tan scene of Santa Monica's ocean daze. For Tim Buckley it was certainly a spoiled tan. Not to say Buckley was privileged (his father was a complete loose cannon - perhaps Buckley adopted this dis-correspondence with his future son, Jeff - another intriguing musician, also dead). But for another Venice Beach veteran, Ted Hawkins, the boardwalk, the street, the people, and the sun, was all he had. The past mourning of blues poured notes for strugglers like Hawkins and Gospel preached for the safe-being of his soul. Buckley and Hawkins seem at an odd duo comparison, and are met in no distinct reason, except for the good sake of musical recognition.
It's a bit difficult to figure Hawkins in a few short lines. But the first thing you should know, is that he was a street performer. All his life. Just a few years before his death in 1995, did he finally get the gracious glance from record executives, commuting the Santa Monica pave on the way to congested office space. The Venice Beach smog has said to have given Hawkins the utter hoarse voice that plays interest to his independent stance (a signature that singers, I should think, would give anything for). The sweet gargle resemblance of Howlin' Wolf, the Richie Havens instructionary poise (if only those two had met back in the sixties...), and most so, the man and his music, Sam Cooke (Hawkins covers Cooke's tunes, chiming soul livelihood with only guitar and voice) - all these fruitful recommendations are only the first light to Hawkins's confidence. Not to hail everything as a masterpiece. Many albums, including Happy Hour, were later over-dubbed by a professional band - totally losing the natural sound that was sought to express. Like Hawkins cared - where the real heart of talent and individual rests in musicians like Ted Hawkins, is the lifestyle that brews the recipe. In this case, a lone street performer, for decades, throws out the industrial standards of public expectations and needy attention (give or take the poor contributing upbringing), and instead, seated himself to color streets with dignity and faith. There's not much more than that. He just makes good music.
Tim Buckley, on the other hand, was lost in moodiness. His taunted personae led imagination to the passionate bursts of the popular sixties folk song. Though most lyrics were written from fellow friend, Larry Beckett (heard in the highest poetic honor on Goodbye and Hello), Buckley's twelve-string fuse and feminate yawn (which stands remarkably close to Odetta's), independently stood in well distance from the competition of the lonesome singer. In the sixties, Buckley hinted the strengths of psychedelia, avant-garde jazz, and delusional vocals - all along - colliding, in no hesitation to the pop-song delight. In Happy Sad (1969- right before the questionable slump of folk devotion), Buckley strums a timeless release of folk and jazz, showing an "era" at its final gasp of beauty. Soon after Starsailor (a stressing flop for its time), later granted Buckley excellence in innovation and seeking attitude, presenting the guitar in saxophone form (only now is Starsailor hailed as a pure classic). After an amounted stack of gorgeous tunes under his wing, Buckley threw himself into the flimsy splash of bad rockabilly-soul with Look At the Fool and Greetings From LA. The annoying guitar licks, screeching back-up vocalists, and a stinky production, probably sent fans in lost question (an actual similar route of folk troubadours at the time - Donovan, Roy Harper...). Following his latest refugee albums, Buckley suffered a fatal drug overdose in 1975.
I've never been able to deny the influence Buckley has captured in his longevity of material. To my ears, he always appears at the height of pursuing an infantile creation of blooming new folk - and he did. Buckley's tame of experimentation and odd effects mold the very introduction of innovation today - and yet still swimming along with the popular folk song. It's an everlasting enjoyment listening to Buckley's works, and he continues to perspire "attitude" to the instrument and the voice with concerning excellence to the celebrity fashion.
Ted Hawkins and Tim Buckley. I equally admire both. With the years that have ventured by, we can safely say these two Venice Beach veterans have given us warm sunlight that will, perhaps, forever be in gracious keep of folk music.
Tim Buckley - Happy Sad and Starsailor
Ted Hawkins - Songs From Venice Beach and The Kershaw Sessions
~ Carson Arnold
2001 Treasures - What I Recommend And What I Don't
David Axelrod, David Axelrod - This may not be in the terms of your overheard popular billboard sound. But the chances you've heard David Axelrod sampled in rap or techno music (thanks to Dj Shadow and other turntable conquesters) is probably pretty likely. I had no idea who David Axelrod was three months ago, until a friend shuffled David Axelrod to my Dad and me and left us tangled in a brighter interest. Quite a long tale can be served to Axelrod's musical span. He's a sharp composer as well as a musician that's probably among the few living souls left from the sixties that still is on a direct musical missionary to quench our ears in all original proposal. In the late sixties, while improving with the Electric Prunes, he laid down rhythm tracks to play duty for the Prunes. The band separated shortly after, leaving the tracks in deep storage until, more than thirty years later...discovered! Thus creating David Axelrod, intact with orchestral grooves (almost feeling like Sgt. Peppers stopped in for a chat), jazz instruments and melodies, and, most of all, psychedelia at its finest hour, you can be sure this is great.
Tampa Red, Guitar Wizard - Tampa Red has influenced so many with his brute subtlety of slide guitar. The list travels on... Skip James to Keith Richards. These 1920 and 1930 recordings offer blues at its earliest form of sexy glide that charmed future guitar pluckers like Chuck Berry. Discovering Guitar Wizard from my parents this past year, this record is a sure item to select wisely very very quickly.
Alanis Morissette, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie - It's too bad, I'd love to give Alanis a thumbs - up approval to her fairly latest album. But I can't. The first three songs thrash in powerful formation - but due to this affect, the rest of the songs can't live up to their expectations (yes, one of those albums), leaving them in a bucket of Alanis tears. If she could only get over whoever she's hung up with, quit the bewildered indulgence, and stop being afraid of rocking out too long, she could really have a chance to gather fresh wind to her crafty intentions. (See: Sinead O'Connor)
Moreno Veloso, Music Typewriter - Son of Brazilian legend, Cateano Veloso, Moreno lives to the homage of his father with sacred folk melodies and much much more. Music Typewriter is accompanied with dance beats (using drum machines at a patient stride), guitars that never sound like a guitar, and other tiny "sounds and noises" that pushes you into the Brazilian current . One of my favorite albums of the year.
Charles Mingus, Mingus At Carnegie Hall - Live jazz albums are always great. It's where our fascination of improvisation usually shows. And Mingus At Carnegie Hall is of no exception to this. To state in short - two songs, both twenty minutes a piece... great jazz.
The Strokes, Is This It - It's fascinating to hear all this hype about The Strokes. "They sound like Lou Reed", and "they're the saviors of rock n' roll". Umm...no. They sound like Television or Rufus Wainright. I'll give them that. But then again, they only sound like Television for the sake of sounding like Television. Original attitude and creativity The Strokes are not. I admire them because they show off their roots with the loose effect of garage band electric guitar. But other than that, mop - hair doos and dribble - drabble lyrics don't seem quite enough to deserve the attention The Strokes have received. Especially since there's a dozen bands in my local area (and beyond) who carry that same drive (perhaps better), and will probably never see the light of stardom or popularity.
Johannes Brahms - After my Schubert essay (Track 12), I threw myself into a classical craze and have to yet recover from it, especially after discovering Brahms. Brahms's symphonies show the very romantic renaissance of classical music that falls lost in its wild desperation of feeling. A real edge is played throughout Brahms's pieces, especially in the rendition of Leonard Bernstein's takes.
New Order, Get Ready - This album is how a big rock band should sound. A perfect choice.
Rachid Taha, Made In Medina - My father discovered this guy off a great compilation called Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms. Judging by his immense popularity overseas, I imagine he's the Chemical Brothers or Moby of Europe and Asia. The thing that is specifically special about Made In Medina (beside its roller - coaster excitement), is that his techno layer pulls the international club rhythm and the very heart heritage of Arabian music into a controlled environment of dance enthusiasm. Oh yes, he sings too.
Madonna, Music - I never was really a fan of Madonna until I actually listened to her. Music proves its raved hype, and shows that Madonna is indeed absolutely a talented artist that uses her opportunity of extreme production in its highest uniform (why not do it? especially if you can). She teaches us what a pop song is. Madonna has set tradition to pop music with her steady creations for nearly two decades... of course this album is good.
George Harrison, Wonderwall - As a musician, this one has had a gigantic influence over me. Recorded in India, and equipped with the eastern tongue of sitar speech, Wonderwall purifies a sound of artistic confidence and free habitat to the instrument. One might not even know this came from a Beatle member - which makes this record even more of a gracious musical importance to remember George Harrison by. As time will tell, I can surely suspect younger musicians will find a bright heart inside Wonderwall.
My Ten Favorite Albums Of 2001 (in no special order): * Bob Dylan, Love and Theft * Moreno Veloso, Music Typewriter * Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator) *David Axelrod, David Axelrod * Mano Chao, Esperanza * Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs * Joshua Burkett, Gold Cosmos *Shuggie Otis, Inspirational Information * Leon Parker, A Simple Life * Madonna, Volume 2 Greatest Hits
~ Carson Arnold
Hello. You and I will always remember exactly where we were when we heard of the Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. I was fiercely searching for a kazoo under my bed when the TV (downstairs) abruptly stunned my ears in such a damaging surprise that I thought I had misplaced my hearing. As we remember, September 11th was a sparkling Autumn day - thawing from the previous night's damp rain - and with the new chaos the TV was burning, nature and all its surroundings seemed out-of- place to anything that was encountered. The amount of casualties and the lost lives under September 11th are so incredibly overwhelming it's too abstract to think of an "amount". I'm still young, and with that, inexperienced, to realize the matter of the tragedy - but perhaps as time goes on, I'll come to better terms with the loss of life. (I failed miserably before trying to write a letter to you. I labored the writing with too many wooden facts and opinions. So I'll try to keep it punchy with memory and thoughts).
By that afternoon, I had a strong inclination that Bush would declare some sort of war when the static mellowed down. Opinions are tough to measure as facts, but I still firmly hold onto my views. Since Bush took oath into office things have been rather messy - whether in the 2000 election or in our mysterious economy. And with the Bush stroke the world was suffering. War, as we know,was declared nearly a month after - and basically the United States announced it to the entire world. Even Americans. This created a spur of American patriotism and also embodied a hateful relation to seemingly all Arabic culture (fanatical groups in Afghanistan of course being the central target in our "war against terrorism" - I'm still unsatisfied in our government's prosecution towards these groups, being perhaps the meager proof that we've heard makes me embarrassed by our conduct). War was the ticket to overcome. Negotiation and communication seemed irrelevant to Americans, who mostly backed the support of revenge at no restriction (to me, it was almost as if Americans didn't care who the government said was at fault). Everyone was behind this deadly focus of clamping down on "suspected countries that harbor terrorism", - even musicians supported this - which was incredibly weird to see. And speaking of musicians (to get this essay musically rolling), since September 11th I've been focusing on some important artists who flare the societal politics alive. From the many who risked their careers, and in some cases, their lives, John Lennon's post - Beatle days, Curtis Mayfield, Ani Difranco, Fela Kuti (perhaps a grandfather to protesting), Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan (in fact, all of sixties folk serves rebellion to the war effort), Gil-Scott Heron, Patti Smith, Public Enemy, The Last Poets, Woody Guthrie, and the burning punk influence with The Clash and The Dead Kennedys - all of these, and many more, have soothed remedy to my frustrated gapes to the deadly submissive power the world is now venturing into. Another very worthy note to pluck is Neil Young's cover-tune of John Lennon's Imagine on the benefit concert for September 11th victims. Done in Neil Young mode - the original Imagine was of course banned from radio stations after September 11th - and with Young's soulful and concise approach, he recognizes Lennon, stands up to the pig - headed radio stations, freezes all war-mongrels and satisfies the hurt with emotional satisfaction through a great song.
After witnessing the chaotic tragedy of September 11th, and living between the aftershocks and the declaration of war, a somewhat positive affect had influenced me. Finding pleasure in the intensity of historical reading (Howard Zinn is a fabulous author), September 11th raised some questions in terms of "why did this happen"? First off, I certainly don't advocate war as any resolution to our troubles. Who is suspected or responsible should be tried like any other criminal in a courtroom, and dealt with firmly. But as I said, "Why did this happen"? If parts of Afghanistan hate us, there must be a reason why. I started to wonder if it was indeed terrorism - in the sense to cause a wild disturbance of fear - or if it was a "wake-up call" for Americans to once again question our policies. Was the Middle East disheartened by our capitalistic globalization? Have we used them in the past (and have we created our enemies)? Has there been support from America to other countries (such as Israel) that have cause rapid bloodshed to the Muslim culture? Have we caused an extreme rate of casualties in the Middle East (the Persian Gulf War) for maybe the price of oil and other profitable resources? And lastly, is this history of fanatical actions by both sides at fault for such a high catastrophe of September 11th?
No country deserves war or terrorism, especially at the expense of innocent civilians. Truth needs to be recognized, and an equal international idealism has to be established in order for global beauty - music as well - to forever stay alive.
-- Carson Arnold (January-February 2002)
RECOMMENDED ACTIVISTS - (with appropriate song titles):
ALL Fela Kuti, Phil Ochs - I Aint Marching Anymore, Bob Dylan - Masters Of War, ALL Patti Smith, John Lennon - I Don't Want To Be A Soldier, Gil-Scott Heron - Home Is Where The Hatred Is, ALL Woody Guthrie, Ani Difranco - Your Next Bold Move, Public Enemy - Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos, Neil Young - Ohio, Rage Against the Machine - Testify, Victor Jara and so many others ~
If I could, I would transfer my entire CD collection to the craft of vinyl records. Why? Because I believe vinyl is pure.
First, let me make the fine distinction between our present day recording tools. Leaving aside the pale connection of internet recording for another Track judgment, I'll take the first glance to the aspect of the ribbon effect of tape cassettes. They're cheap (both in price and in the, sometimes, slurred quality), and they're flexible in transportation (serving good duty to musicians with meager equipment). I have found personally that tapes also present themselves in a mysterious image- hiding an almost hidden source inside its simple ribbon (the same cassette that holds some blues classics, can later be replaced by raunchy death-metal, and still look like any ordinary tape! Fascinating). But unlike CDs or vinyl recordings, there's no defining art work or skill to the tape, leaving them in the outside fragrance of dull temperature.
CDs, on the other hand, pick up the speed in the modern day advancement. They're quick, clean and presentable. Some of our favorite classic albums have been boosted up as digitally remastered to a mint color (sometimes a little too clean). And with the uprise assist of "CD burning" (or pirate recording), you can count these little discs will be around for a long time. But where CDs seem to fail in the craftsman's ship, is the psychological state and the very handling of the CD.
One, they're are humorously way too much money. I realize the world must turn in the exchange of the dollar bill, but if you're bound as a desperate teenager in the seclusive Midwest (or anywhere far from the city), your best bet is hitting the nearest conglomerate (say Wal-Mart or Strawberries), and purchasing music that's between sixteen and nineteen dollars (and better yet, on top of that, it's probably even censored!). In other words, a shear rip-off.
Secondly, they scratch, break, bend, drop, skip and in time lose their certainty of interest, opposed to when you first buy it. And for the infinite lastly, the plastic case that coats the CDs, not only breaks within days (if you're clumsy), but mentally, gives you no natural spirit to the art form (oh yes, have you ever found that you lose the desire for the music when you're trying to open the saran-plastic of the CD?). CDs appear to be merely an artificial soothe to our ears, with no artistic backbone that serves tribute to the artist. One positive note to the cycle of CD invention, is the transport flexibility of basically listening to them "anywhere".
You can't listen to vinyl anywhere- unless you're lucky to have one of those traveling record player suitcases. But why be spoiled by listening to music anywhere at anytime? You'll lose the vigorous enjoyment of music's character. This is the beauty- skill of vinyl records... patience. If I'm discovering The Clash on vinyl, I'm going to have to wait, to not only when I get to the nearest turntable (indeed a great gift, which I received from my parents this past Christmas), but I'm going to have to wait until I can listen to it in its full length (besides, who stops their records while they're playing?). And not only that, I'm going to have to get up and turn it over mid-way! I believe this patience is the ideal understanding to the artist. I can feel the record, watch the needle slowly glide across the surface, be part of the experience by flipping it over, and in the long run, enjoy the richness of vinyl recording in its- beginning-to-end- entirety. Whereas CDs give you the opportunity to skip through the album in a hyper-mess- damaging the essence of the music. And, by purchasing vinyl records (or in the earnest interest), you're also benefiting your community record store, and not the throne of the conglomerate kingdom- which hardly carries vinyl anyway.
Another key point to vinyl is the art work, that identifies the record and the music, physically and emotionally, and it's attractive. Vinyl is structured to give you that gritty handling that organizes your state to make you feel like you're there. Also, the cover photos are roughly five times larger than a CD- so not only is the artwork like a painting, but if you have some great records, like the Beatles Revolver, or even better yet Led Zeppelin I, you're in for a lasting dynamite image.
Vinyl of course is intoxicated with minor downfalls in the way of dust and the eventual "warp". The determined record collectors/dealers, who have spent a lifetime hunting an antique record, have definitely brightened the likelihood of vinyl staying everlasting. And perhaps the DJs of our newer generation with the broadening popular rise of the turntable and sampling, have kept vinyl from becoming an extinct colony to the record bins. My main love for vinyl is the feeling that includes you while listening. It brings you back in time to a distinct period- like literature. If I want to learn all I can about Thelonious Monk, I can surely stroll to the pleasing gesture of CDs. But if I want to know Thelonious Monk, I listen to vinyl. And if you have some Billie Holiday or Bessie Smith record, you're in for a treat to hear that hoarse murmur of crackling that signs vinyl's signature with tasty introduction. It's so rich, that it almost makes you feel like Bessie Smith walked in and gave the record to you.
-- Carson Arnold (January-February 2002)
RECOMMENDED RECORD STORES:
Mystery Train Records- 12 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002. 413-253-4776
The Ecstatic Yod Collective- 221 Pine Street #4 B1 Florence, MA 01062 or www.yod.com
THE RIDER OF THE STORM
The greatest part of my day is when the house is empty. It's not the refuge of peace or anything- it's when I play my drums. Now my parents really don't care how loud I bash my drums, and I never was totally insecure before about performing ear-pitching volumes in the corner of my room. But usually in the afternoons when my folks leave on a hike (another beautiful element of playing music and living in the woods- no neighbors to complain), it's always the time when Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce come to play a session or two. Throw your earphones on, grab your drumsticks, and close your eyes, and it's almost like you're on-stage. All last year, I kept my drumming-mates strictly in rock get-up. And let me tell you, that half hour of lost drumming to some of your favorite rock songs can be the one of the most pleasing natural rushes ever experienced. The thing is, I always chose the most hyper hair-raising songs to roll around with. Janes Addiction's "Stop", Jimi Hendrix's "Fire", all of Cream, and the list screeches on. But not until a few days ago, I realized there's one lone drummer who punctures all these mentioned finales and a thousand other various licks into one steady ride- John Densmore of The Doors. Yes, it's quite obvious, I'm convinced of it more by the second. So convinced, I decided to turn my overwhelming Densmore specifications into a Track .
The thing about Densmore is he knows when to hit his cymbals. You ever listen to drummers these days? They thrash the crash every verse- leaving the song in stale formula march. Also, much of modern rock is made of a derivative power-house rhythm. Pearl Jam's second album has the same drum-beat the entire record (just slowed or sped up at times)! The murderous jazz rolls of Keith Moon are rarely heard now. The hip-hop bounce has definitely infiltrated behind the drum set, which was fine, but unfortunately the robotic drum machine seems to have spiked the human percussionists, catching people more at pleasure with this effect. So... for the sake of more arguments, drummers appear chained to their sets battling with the audiences rhythm expectations, and seeking cover from the machines.
Ringo Starr is a whole other paper. For I believe both Starr and John Densmore are the two talents of sixties drumming. Right about now, people are probably asking "what about the fills of Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, or John Bonham?" All great drummers in my opinion. And if you mentioned Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, I'd say Hendrix holds both their talents behind the plucks of his stratocaster. Now John Densmore's drums isn't what Hendrix is to guitar. But, as I said before, Densmore captures perhaps more maturely Baker, Mitchell, Bonham, and everyone else in between, in a soul unison- except for Ringo, who plays under nobody, and has definitely created parts of the hip-hop beat we all are familiar with today (remember this all you rap fans who demand that The Beatles suck).
Densmore has incredible patience. Through all The Doors songs you can hear his little sanctuary of secrets and tricks that separates his talent from showing-off and putting up with the stride of The Doors egos and solos. I'm not too certain, but I can't think of too many other rock drummers that play both jazz and blues under the same heat- of course these matters were also no doubt pushed by an incredible talent of the other Doors members. I can't say if Densmore hit the skins with Buffalo Springfield he'd respond in the same performance.
John Bonham's signature was the shotgun blast of his bass drum- it's almost like his kicks shove you away from the song, but you're safely invited back by Jimmy Page's sensual swarm. Although I find Bonham's style of playing completely wooden and rigid with flams of sorts, he's by far an ever so important drummer to stare at (he too knows when to hit the crash cymbal- take note Lars Ulrich). But Densmore grasped the killer Bonham approach in various pots. Since The Doors didn't have an individual bass player (except from Ray Manzarek on keyboards), Densmore made sure his bass drum brewed a whirlwind of punch to the rhythm. Tracks like "Five To One" or "Break On Through" peak the John Bonham introduction before Bonham had miked his drums with Led Zeppelin. Jazz was an obvious influence to John Densmore. The fact is, he wasn't great at playing jazz. He wasn't near the caliber of Elvin Jones, couldn't quite strike the violent swing of Ginger Baker, and probably didn't want to end up insane with Mitch Mitchell's fills- you ever notice how Mitchell always escalates the songs like he's trying to light a camp fire? But then again Densmore didn't play in back of Clapton or Hendrix- he was with Robby Krieger, who is the identical duo with Densmore; both sharing unique subtlety on the verge of bursting temptation (Krieger always ends his solos when he's just begun!)
John Densmore is the ideal rock drummer to study. A thousand movements seem to hide behind his rides- and maybe it's because of The Doors. I really don't know. It could always be the fact that The Doors could still bring a record out now and shock the charts, and Densmore was just extremely reluctant to fit the suit of four excellent musicians. Densmore is like John Lee Hooker. He narrows down the extra luggage of drumming to wrap the rhythm into the feeling sought to find. It may be simple at times... but how many times do we listen? Or drum to it?
Listen to Densmore's drumming on "L.A Woman", "Strange Days", among others.
Levon Helm of The Band is another example, as is Ringo Starr, Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones, Mickey Hart, Ahmir "?uestlove" , Thompson of The Roots, and then the entire world of international music- like Tony Allen of Fela Kuti's Africa 70- and many jazz percussionists.
-- Carson Arnold (February 2002)
Side A & B
You can be sure that I used Napster. Despite my bias politics against its organization, why wouldn't I, or any kid, take part in seeking out material on Napster, MP3 files, or any other internet network that holds free music? For young music lovers with a meager salary the attention of Napster can be almost paradise to your musical hunts- never again will you waste money on a dreadful album. Yes, I realize it can be a suffocation to the artist under the influence of record companies, and perhaps swindles the very idea of purchasing music with social commitment. I certainly agree. After using Napster for a brief time, and later watching it give its last words fairly recently, I can safely say to Lars Ulrich (Metallica drummer, and servant prosecutor against Napster) and all other angry mega-musicians, that they all hit a wall striking a blaming curse toward kids who use its resource. These people actually think we're going to buy their CD's for seventeen or eighteen bucks? As a youth with your parents computer in the back room, you'd be a moronic-fool not to scoop up all the music you can. But, to switch apparent views, the best thing that could ever happen is that if Napster was never even invented. Better yet, to dream further, if record companies weren't in such a high imperial profiting progress, who knows what sort of balance would be in store for us in the art world today (something rather pure, I guarantee). To see platinum rich rock stars blame the entire nation of harmless fifteen year olds for "ripping off their music" is about as stupid as their opposition of argument. For there's one thing that separates the two sides of the fight- the corporate world. It's difficult for me to figure roughly how much the price of cutting each CD is, but from by research of recording, to distributing, to paying everyone in between- is some place near the margin of ten dollars (correct me if I'm wrong), leaving the artist in bear hands with hardly any of their royalties. Why should a thousand other establishments profit from the musician's work?- they created it. The money-chain didn't. Obviously the most asked question in music business. How about the impossible- somehow limit your supply and demand and subtract this corrupt profiting funk the music world has slipped into, leaving all suffering annoyances and baggage mega-popularity. Leaving music what it should be- art. Because isn't that what art is supposed to be- independence and free focus? Why should music be fondled as such a packaged demanding commodity?
I read so many people who say boycotting your local record store will help drown the system. Sure. Except for every one person who shuns the nearest record shop, there's three-hundred who don't. It throws you nothing to nowhere. You drown instead. Music is social. By boycotting its resources leaves you just an elitist grump. I have a better idea- sharing music. Through mail, through voice, through contact, etc. I've mailed music back and forth with a friend in Arizona for more than a year now, sharing whatever we have that fits the ribbon. And I must say great territory has been discovered from the packages that arrive every once in a while. Unknown sounds, inspiration, things I've been searching for- a whole new world. Unlike being plastered to a computer screen watching chosen songs load their way to your up-coming satisfaction, sharing music via mail hails social groom, mysterious influences, patience, expression and a hundred other positive affects that contribute music as a humanitarian art form.
So with the twenty-first century advancement of on-line music- available with the quick push of a button- leaves me scared to where music is leaning. We already have people who don't play any instruments what-so-ever (only running along a computer) and still sell thousand of albums that hit us fast in immediate entertainment. It's not so much Napster that cringes music- the root of that problem is already standing responsible. No. It's more the instantaneous pleasure of finding and conquering music at any time at no expense. People no longer carry the heart to find and purchase music, and no longer actually perform their own music. They rather rely on super technology to surf their way through art's social identity. Who knows, a decade from now concerts might not even take place, musicians won't have to even sweat a thought to create a song (already done).
A remedy to a perhaps ill musical future? Like I said, share music. Share your own music, share other music, and share not by computers. The Grateful Dead are an ideal example that swam along the industries current, but cared most about delivering and sharing music for the people. Some of the Dead's profits contributed to the unknown artists that weren't fortunate enough to be fully recognized, and their positive connection to concert "bootlegging" should show perfect inspiration to all musicians. Lastly, pay attention to the community, artists scraping the real dirt. Admire the outlook of independent labels and such; from Harry Partch or Frank Zappa to Ani Difranco. George Harrison once threw his words in commenting on all excessive material, saying: "The idea is to be unattached to it but still experience it. It's all part of life's experiences." People have always found admiration in that. I believe those words are a sure philosophy to inspire and create art in rational focus, despite the corruptive hooks and surrounding toys.
This one has been brewing for a long time. Bono of U2. Does their home land of Ireland still like these guys? Despite the fact that the other three band members are actually talented and make a point of delivering years of decent riffs, it's all the more reason to despise Bono. He treats his bandmates like absolute wall-flowers! As a supposed musician he's a total joke. At every concert I've seen, Bono jogs a very long heart-shaped runway delivering pounds of cringing theatrics into an audience of middle-school students and their parents. The result? A dreadful performance. The camera then zooms away (I take it avoiding the appearance of Bono's small stature) to the band members who timidly quiver like they're auditioning for the high school marching band in front of a Superbowl crowd. Instead of singing, Bono crouches on his ramp at every chorus he gets to arch his hand to the sky in exhausting holy symbolism (he can't do the crucifixion pose, that's already being framed by the Creed singer), making the music sound like noisy arena.... junk. The "heart-shaped runway" is a bit stretching. That sort of effect is only ideal for obvious acts- Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, even Chuck Berry. I take it that Bono is attempting to relate to the audience by this "dog show" strut. How sweet. But at least be a rock star and crowd surf once in awhile.
The reason why I'm barking so loud about U2 is that they were once something. It's too easy to shred pop-culture stars of today- that sort of deal is only presentable for them. But like Paul McCartney, something happened to U2 that divided wisdom into dynamite ego. I mean, Bono's a guy, who more than a decade ago, was pretty much a complete pop anarchist. The Rattle and Hum days were spent playing rooftops and inspiring concert goers to rebel and shout liberation. Bono still dashed his drama all through the stage, but at least then he was telling us how much real freedom could mean to you and I. Now, he throws on cops hats and sews an American flag inside his leather jacket. On the days he wants to be a rebel he dresses in all camo and shakes hands with Tony Blair. And on the days he want to act cool he buttons his leathers and grins with his light shades. It's not the Superman/Clark Kent pose- it's more the idiot hypocrisy. He spits up his words at a conference concerning the submissive torch of capitalism and globalization, and the following day does a gig at the Superbowl half-time. Isn't the Superbowl franchise as capitalistic as you can get? What happened to this guy?
Another thing that really makes me disgusted is how U2 has commercialized September 11th. They've used the very "tragedy" of 9-11 and turned it into a sappy fiesta of pop-culture taboo. Can't they leave the music to muse the audiences feelings? Like an explosive Hollywood film, U2 thinks they have to show-off large in order to demonstrate something.
U2's guitarist The Edge is U2. Joshua Tree is The Edge. And lets face it, no one cares about him. I believe Bono is expendable- he can surely be replaced with ego-driven Scott Strap of Creed, or any number of dramatic heart-ache expressionists with Eddy Vedder baritones. But, everyone has to see Bono strut through the audience singing the beginning verses to "Beautiful Day" and climb aboard his heart-shaped throne just in time for the chorus! The band is forgotten! Terrific!
Bono appears stoned on America's glitter. He kidnaps our television sets and rolls around in every major American event he can jog to. Somebody must warn him of the fatal image he's setting for his pal bandmates. I mean, they're all almost a gone-to-college version of Spinal Tap- and a lot less fun at that. More or less boring.
--Carson Arnold (February 2002)
OF THE TIMES
(Dedicated to Dave Van Ronk)
Where to begin? Folk music is of the times. It is said to be the "roots music". When world globalization shifted the soil to industrial cultivation, it left a desolate culture, but arose stories that are forever a bleeding heart. The working man found his voice and his voice found the instrument-- and all three spoke of opportunity for the people. The early part of the twentieth century was a screaming time. The conquering wealth forced souls to a deprived class, finding fit in the rest of Socialist support. The rebellion of hero cult musician, Joe Hill (political singer for the working strugglers, having a potential fear being nailed "blacklisted", and found guilty, soon executed, for murder in 1915-- who knows if he lays innocent), was not only a tall influence, but a voice for the people-- one of the first. But who knew, shortly after, the rise of Woody Guthrie, carving shape to America's shout, would strum the future music and sing for the dead, living, and still to come, generations. Guthrie set the radio straight and influenced the power of rebellious acts like his later side kick Ramblin' Jack Elliot and early pal Pete Seeger. Giving light and opportunity to spoken rights, musicians like Big Bill Broonzy tampered with questions of racial insight during the time of a cold Civil Rights movement. And along with Guthrie, through all the rough downs, is the great Pete Seeger-- composing traditional ballads with full tone to his banjo crisp (and he's still around!). Alan Lomax shared his spirit saying: "Woody Guthrie's music had the sound of movement". And after decades of careful listening, we can safely say this is true. Without Guthrie, Dylan would have stayed a sarcastic school boy, and the post-Beatle years for Lennon and Yoko may not have found its light (you can imagine what's subtracted after losing those guys--as we know it, music would be a mouth with few teeth). Greetings to the folk.
Things got moody after the Kennedy assassination. The shock of the Civil Rights movement gave rightful questions to anxious white folkies (already an old hat for blues guys), and with the on-going final damper of a pointless salute to the Vietnam war, art found new expression. The pain anthems of yesterday's youth arose, rock 'n roll lit a future definition, and the passion of voice and politics were at a beginning status of societal aggression and global concern. Hence, the presence of statue from Dylan and Joan Baez, Phil Ochs's incredible call for freedom, and Tim Buckley's human love murmur (of course I'm forgetting others); these icons playing openly for a generation for willingness and wonder. As I said, things brewed moody-- but self-indulgence had no reckoning (that came later). Music and its audience were there for a cause. The angst of silenced questions begun to be mysteriously answered, almost then, leaving this new community of youngsters in amazement to a new isolation of hope-- (perhaps this force fell back to tepid after Altamont). But the music still rolls on and its feeling still there.
Earlier, when I brought forth the span of Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie, don't leave me wandering without mentioning The Weavers, who were the early folk rise of left-wing rebellion that satisfied the public's taste and even pleased deep conservatives. But throughout cautious performances , The Weavers were blacklisted destroying their peak of career-- I guess the government got fed up. The Mc5 of their time. Communism before the sixties boom, shaded music's artistic boundaries (up to present day, this is still a serious opinion to right-wingers; contradicting the Woody Guthrie ballads as "un-American" or tagged as a "communist").
But as global crisis continued and the "safe" being of plastic Americana wore on into the late fifties, changes started to rattle the ears and eyes. The radical content of speech bloomed the Beatnik ear, setting a new conscience to art and poetry as we know it-- its mood, founded a youth whose likes created the interest of people in commune, people with communication, with bright hopes of some new understanding... at least fresh.
There is no exact pinpoint, but with the recent purge of expression and self-determinization, Greenwich Village (a chunk of streets in New York City. Now, pretty much like any other sidewalk), could be perhaps one of the heartland of popular folk. This "boom" came relatively at a slow unexpected surprise to this young culture-- but as the rambunctious fit of knowledge and spunk played through, the companionship for performance and applause, while breathing hesitantly to the future, crafted the musical liberation and independence and (perhaps mistakingly and unfortunately), shaped the commercialization of "the hippies" (soon traveling the way). Greenwich Village (or, Washington Square), is where the future stars of America's interest in rebellion, rattled the streets with fresh optimism and new musical ability. Seeking a cramped heritage of aging traditional tales (once established as a phenomena, many retreated to the findings of legendary blues men; Reverend Gary Davis and John Hurt-- may we thank them), sharing the feud stir of conservatism and most so, Vietnam, these young folkies, narrated with the Beat push and the inspiration and hope of future poets, really saved an era of music and determination for a final true cause-- perhaps one of the last revolutions.
Again, where to begin? Perhaps, there's nothing better than a box set for your seeking pleasure. The Rhino release, Washington Square Memoirs (1950-1970), gives full headline to decades worth of folk impulse; opening with the traditional bruises of Woody Guthrie, to sixties harmony-- closing appropriately enough with Arlo Guthrie. The steady middle years of the Greenwich Village bust, seemed the most at ease-- open to the richness of any musical pluck. After all, these are the times when Bob Dylan (actually, not quite a popular item at the scene-- the audience sneered at his voice, and perhaps the rare and new broadcast he was presenting. Not until Richie Havens and others began covering his songs, was the recognition fully ignited), to the trio of tuned voice and solo instruments (hence, Peter Paul and Mary), and the explosive sound of adopted jug band improvisation (remember the Mulduar Track- Jim Kweskin?). We arrive at the simple passion of soloists including Tom Paxton's purity of voice and both Dave Van Ronk's and Richie Havens's dynamic strike still remain in no conclusion to following decades of music (these are only examples, it only follows with Nick Drake, Buckley, and Roy Harper). But like the Beat poets, the folk scene seemed at the most passionate spirit when the women musicians took the stage. After all, women still have to push through the sludge of sexism and non-tolerance to this day, whether in an occupation or the daily dabble. During the forties, fifties, and sixties, life was pretty much a man's democracy-- women had recently been given the right to vote in 1920, and nevermind the stench of a bloating struggle through racism and prejudice, women had lived too many generations of oblivion. This very agony, yet the exotic beauty, is heard in the most clearest of emotion and instinct-- through Odetta, Judy Roderick, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Judy Henske, and Bonnie Dobson, to the pull of politics of Joan Baez, the smile of Judy Collins, and the exciting twist of Joni Mitchell.
As time played on through Greenwich Village, and fluctuated itself throughout new landscapes (with help of New York publishers and the draw of crowded clubs-- thanking the intuition of Izzy Young), the folk hipsters got too accustomed, or spoiled, by the three-chord purity, and felt no safety in outside territory-- this being the maddening "boo" of Bob Dylan's on-stage electric guitar performance at Newport. But as Dylan and others felt parallel communication with the amplifier, and John Lee Hooker baffled the audience with mysterious reason-- nevermind in-coming jaws of Hendrix feedback-- the folkies soon found realization to an outside groove. This groove led to where ever may be. Like the old day of hip-hop, folk transcribes a message of reason and motivation-- a movement. To me, be it poorly played or sweet and virtuous, this is the most exciting thing art has to offer. It just makes you wanna....pick up a guitar.
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: It's exhausting how much there is on folk. But it's there. Most of the information on this paper was pulled from a few books, and, out of repeated sessions of the Rhino box-set, Washington Square Memoirs . Packaged with three brimming cd's, the early rise of the folk boom is outstanding, and the late sounds of the sixties are without words.
--Carson Arnold (February 2002)
THE GRAMMY AWARDS
I guess the question you have to ask yourself about the Grammy Awards is have they lived up to their initial goal? Their pursuit. Their achievement. Now it's incredibly easy to denounce the whole situation and scream that there's a million artists that should get recognized and don't (very true). But actually the answer is "yes"- the Grammys have kept their vision in full fluidity.
It's quite an obvious vision that bears no surprises to the corporate cycle. Simply, back in the late fifties, record companies discovered the in-coming societal threat from the forceful preview of rock n' roll and its running attachments. From there, these business men decided to create an establishment that kept pop music licking the surface, and more or less, conquering the surface, perhaps forever- thus, the Grammy Awards. Children will be refrigerated from the cutting-edge message of rock n' roll, the poetry, the liberation, and the art. After all, all of that is a total nuisance to our already spun music business. Instead, we'll give them a Christmas morning for popular music that kidnaps their eyes with gorgeous glitter, reminds them of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, and commercially convinces you of buying all the Grammy winners the next day.
Has any of that changed in the last forty-four years? Record companies couldn't help but notice they could both profit from sixties rock (but of course hardly any of that received any Grammys), and uphold the Grammy billboard image in bright conviction. So financially, and perhaps internationally, combine both Perry Como and Jimi Hendrix and you may arrive at the red carpet during the 44th Annual Grammy Awards brought to us a few nights ago.
As you might know, the Grammy Awards are more homogenized on business and fashion than anything else. The event seems to throw so much extra packaging at you before it even arrives at the actual music. And the music is what I want to write about. But after watching the Grammys this week I feel completely exhausted and torn between appreciating the event's performances and partially angered at the politics, both financially and musically. When artists walk on the red carpet, they're held at "microphone-point" to advertise the clothing they wear. Musicians that are interviewed during the walk-in are only framed for promotional reasons (my favorite is when Joan Rivers' asked, I believe it was Nelly, what he's going to do "when rap is over?"- huh?) When a personality presented an award on-stage they received "Grammy giftbags" that value up to $17,000. I mean, does somebody smell money more than they do music? The only humane segment of the show is when Kid Rock paid respect to the late Waylon Jennings and got a very meager applause from an audience of nominated musicians. And above all the corporate bucks, the president of the Recording Academy makes a speech to all us kids that basically reads: "don't use Napster, it's illegal. Buy CD's, I don't care how much they are". Can we ever get to the music!?
Strangely enough, O' Brother Where Art Thou's compilation soundtrack walked away with album of the year, making a good promotion to the youth for bluegrass and mountain music. Alicia Keys held five Grammys by the end of the show, U2 had a few here and there, and Bob Dylan walked away with nothing. Dylan's performance was quite, perhaps purposely, bad. He and his bandmates performed inside some sort of vacant shoe-box playing off key, while Dylan scrambled other lyrics inside their congested song of ghoulish grumbling- whatever it was. A person just wrote to me sharing his view of Dylan's performance: "Now he stands into the camera, looking like a runt Bill Monroe. Pencil mustache. His bandmates all look hopelessly hooked into the Dylan intravenous. It is the very last of rock 'n roll." Like the Grammy host of the night Jon Stewart, Dylan didn't fit the venue. But something was odd about both Dylan and the humble nominated India.Arie receiving no awards. Aside from the very tight O' Brother performance- Dan Tyminski, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, and others- Dylan and India.Arie might of have been the only rooted music in the entire crowd.
And after the very bare recognition that was shown when Kid Rock presented the memory of Waylon Jennings, I knew there was hardly any roots inside most of these seated artists. Though talented, the recording academy has now dehydrated the twenty-year old Alicia Keys with five Grammys, making me have doubts if her next release will hold equal innocence to her small debut. After the three-and-a-half hour show I too was dehydrated with commercials and confusion to the nominations (what's the difference between "record" of the year and "album" of the year?) I had forgotten who The Velvet Underground were and my father later that night asked me if this stuff "is really...music?" I slept on that one, and woke feeling rotten, not towards the heart of the music (that works anywhere if it's balanced)- but at the business angle and the imperial philosophy of the Grammy Awards.
A one-night establishment like the Grammys controls all of music. It controls Bob Dylan, it controls various indie labels, and it controls your local musician downtown. The hearts of music money land, record companies, throws in artists and bands who they want to be voted upon by the people of the Recording Academy- thus, being the top, perhaps billboard, musicians who'll scrape up profiting consumer money if they so happen to win anything- thus, giving the record companies more loot to stash under their name. A few hundred supposed music experts- who are part of the music biz. and have to have six popular credentials to their name in order to vote, meaning, having already played the ball game of the music industry- then sort through the list of artists, and together, these people justify who they think should be nominated for a Grammy award. The package is then fondled by Delloite and Touche (an accounting firm) and then finally delivered to the actual ceremony for the awards. This whole cycle winds down to be aired on television to 1.5 billion people, a vast portion of whom buy the artists they see, who all are derived from the puppet voters and the empire record companies. This entire process is big business in secret forms, and by contributing in the part of consuming, it only expands the capital current that really isn't about music.
At a quick glance, the Grammy Awards and our electoral process are about one. A solution to all this, I think, is artists creating their own awards instead of dictator business' deciding. I'd like to see a ceremony where all different musicians are nominated- from the experimental to the popular rock. Finally, we could throw out business and balance international art in brotherhood acceptance. Where's the jazz and blues in today's Grammys?
The bottom-line is, the Grammys will probably never disappear, and we as viewers should try and enjoy its spotlight. But just like you don't have to go to Disneyland in order to have fun, and you don't have to wear Nikes in order to feel comfortable, you don't need to pay much attention to the Grammys in order to love music.
--Carson Arnold (March 2002)
RUNNING WITH THE WOLVES
If there ever was a rock band it is Los Lobos. But perhaps placing them strictly into rock is a little limited for the guys out of East L.A. Rock-a-billy, buckets of traditional Mexican tunes, scorching blues, experimental twists, alt-country long before there was alt-country, sweeping international heritage, and a classical grunge has neatly baked Los Lobos into a land of wild simplicity and talented mechanics that shines unlimited chorus to their name, Los Lobos (The Wolves). Their insulated sound is almost an organic feast to your ears. And hey, now almost twenty-five years together, they're only aging stronger. Lets just say, for the sake of a new paragraph, once you hear a Los Lobos song you can be sure you'll never forget it- they're like that memorable equinox mountain breeze.
Los Lobos is music. The Beatles and Bob Dylan have performed and packed a jungle-gym of inspiration and capability with the same ideal zest of creativity. But even those two seem to move with a yanking shadow that stops the rest of the world from climbing aboard. Los Lobos appears to have graduated from the school of Elvis Presley or the companionship of The Band- relying on nothing, fearing no opportunity, and makes us have little doubts to our questions (but then again so does Dylan and The Beatles). And like Elvis, they come across invincible- each one possessing some sacred spell that collectively feeds an infinite potion of sound to their pounds of thick albums (of course all band members are multi-instrumentalists)- starting with their debut in the later seventies, Just Another Band From East L.A .
Hearing this album, you might not even recognize the band if you're accustomed to their later weldings. Be assured though, Los Lobos might not have turned their turns the same direction without the concentration of Just Another Band From East L.A. Los Lobos started their distant travels with deep culture and roots- presenting traditional Mexican strums and Spanish tongue to the American streets at a time of Sex Pistol mania- you can be sure the audience harassed them.
Despite what the kids thought, Los Lobos had formed a community within themselves and had quickly developed an independent reputation throughout the word of mouth of music conversation. Both Slash Records and T-Bone Burnett grabbed them to work out songs with this new talent that was an awaiting scene ready to be promoted in the right fashion. Soon, the Hollywood hills couldn't help but ask the group to play some music on an up-and-coming portrait, La Bamba- a film about the life of Spanish musical legend Richie Valens. The band accepted, and found themselves with a commercial success with their interpretation of Valens' hit, La Bamba (peaking at number one on the charts) . Ironically, at this same time, their recently released album By The Light Of The Moon (an excellent pack of rockster production and reserved heritage), was hardly poking any holes, while La Bamba was running wild with sales and commercial attention. Los Lobos quickly realized that they didn't want to become fat and lazy from the sell-out Billboard frenzy- they wanted to work, and they wanted to work hard. So, in the most polite fashion possible, the group turned from fame and sickly fortune to retrieve their roots, but steadily conquering a specific sound and instrumental ignition that's created the mastermind material of Los Lobos.
The pivotal move the band made came in 1990 with the release of The Neighborhood. Drenched with both Mexican harmony, instrumental tampering, and their loose rock independence, The Neighborhood housed a band digging to a further beyond. With its title and the lyrical expression, The Neighborhood resembled a community heart to Los Lobos' audience. But no one would have to ask or answer anything when Kiko made its way to us. Possibly, there's nothing in the world that sounds like Kiko. Individually, the group seemed to master both sound and space in its unbelievable complex figurations. It's almost as if each instrument or noise was followed by a shadow, which was followed by another shadow and so forth- somehow Los Lobos caught each shadow and its echo and derived sixteen tracks of earthly melodies, leaving us freshly bathed in its effect.
Los Lobos returned tradition and Mexican cradling with Papa's Dream, and went full-throttle in the industrial approach of Colossal Head- this is the time where I knew, and was amazed, by David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas absolute juicy guitar performances, producing sounds from a guitar that paid the gritty respectful touch of John Lee Hooker. Their latest release, This Time (one of my favorite), appeals almost like a debut album! Los Lobos recreates the atmosphere of grunge guitars that would serve ideal duets with Neil Young, Vernon Reid, or Pearl Jam. Distortion pedals, themselves, seem to hold conversations, the saxophone currency are in the midst of grunge as well, and percussional cycles seem to hit specific melodic notes (done by drummer Louie Perez, someone I forgot to highly recommend in my Rider Of The Storm piece). This Time is perfectly sketched together in its mixed collaboration. When you least expect it, they perform a beautiful storm of Hispanic harmonies, and when you most want it, they pour rivers of amplifier blast. The album plays everything perfectly fitted in unison- but then again, so does every Los Lobos record.
Some friends, my parents, and myself, were able to catch a small show of Los Lobos in Lenox Massachusetts right around the Kiko break in '94. All five members stepped out from behind the auditorium current in humorous disbelief to the quiet and tiny hip-town crowd. By the third song, David Hidalgo comforted the audience, assuring us that: "you know, it's okay to dance right here in front of the stage, we don't mind". Everybody did. And from that moment on, it was a perfect concert. One of the best I've seen.
Seeing them live, hearing their music, or catching draft of them through word, will no doubt interest your curiosity to the wind of Los Lobos. Their influential sound and their community nature clashes freedom and independence without even saying a single word. Beside other international hemispheres, there isn't too many groups who express several worlds into one patient finale- producing culture in the richest art form. Everybody's accepted in the eyes of Los Lobos, making them a true band, true humans, and true music.
All Los Lobos albums (especially Just Another Band From East L.A, Kiko, This Time, and The Neighborhood). Various Soundtracks: La Bamba, Desperado, Feeling Minnesota, Mambo Kings. Side-projects include: Latin Playboys (Latin Playboys, Dose), Houndog (Houndog), Cesar Rosas (Soul Disguise), Kambra Music In Native Tongues (a David Hidalgo project). Also, Los Lobos' saxophone player Steve Berlin-among other instruments- has produced some highly extreme albums- look for his name.
Official Website: www.loslobos.org
...and a new album due out soon!
--Carson Arnold (March 2002)
"Tell your teacher I said princesses are evil, how they got all they money was they killed people", clearly states Boots Riley, singer of the rap band The Coup (two main members only) with their latest storm of anti-capitalistic artillery in Party Music.
The first track, "Everythang", can't be denied with its opening verse punching instant realization through you: "Every death is an abrupt one, every cop is a corrupt one". When you catch up to the second song, "5 Million Ways To Kill A C.E.O", you know what Party Music is, where it is, and why it is. What it will mean to you is another thing. Hopefully Boots Riley will have inspired some powered truth into you after your first listen. I personally found Party Music completely educational in its lyrical movement. One could easily stay out of school for days dissecting Party Music and later derive its message into literature and other sources of political vocabulary. Its expression tributes the fierce complexity of Public Enemy, but really runs deep in the concise truthful anger of The Last Poets or Gil Scott-Heron. Riley patiently speaks his words abruptly in both the music and in interviews almost like a close relative of the Blank Panther leader Huey Newton and reminds me of the very distinct street tongue heard in the poetry of Amiri Baraka (the collection of African American poetry Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers chambers much of this same fluidity).
The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron were raw in their instrumentation, using the simple bones of bongos, piano, flute, etc. The Coup's sound is more-or-less flighted up to today's produced technology, but Pam the Funkstress formulates odd stone age sounds into her turntables that we haven't heard in hip-hop for decades- creating an atmosphere that serves the finest hip-hop music I've heard since De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising (or early Guru's Jazzmatazz). The Coup thank both Prince and Fela Kuti inside their liner notes, which indeed entitles their music- using the ideal funk rhapsody of Prince and the lyrical infinite beat of Fela Kuti with multiple-vocal choruses.
Boots Riley freely announces he's a communist, doing it openly for it's his essential belief. The bottom-line is, The Coup sing and warn us against the stem of capitalism's empire, which flaunts the packaging of wars, drugs, racism, financial murder, big-businesses, class oppression, military justice, and... you know the rest, basically the down right atrocity to humanity's original body and soul. And yes, capitalism also supplies us with its sweetness of surroundings and a comfy record contract for The Coup. But like Riley said on Fox's Hannity & Colmes (which is where I discovered The Coup- conservative television pays off), you can't escape the excess of capitalism and its roots, if your message is direct, why not use companies as puppeteers? The Coup have taken their discipline to present to us that the infection of the economy is among us in more ways of mental and physical abuse than one might be able to think. For the first time in years, music (The Coup) is connecting into the arms of the people organizing a community of reasons, questions, beginnings, and actions. The youth of today, my generation, needs Party Music more than any other group of the present day. In an age of the internet jungle, kids will perhaps wind up lacking truth in their eyes as a manic future begins to evolve. Art forms including The Coup, literature, and philosophy might be the only remedy to the understanding of today's noisy current events.
Unfortunately, I pity the Coup. We're at a dusk where the acceptance level of free minds and direct motivation is, once again, no longer tolerated. Before 9-11, The Coup's original cover for Party Music was the World Trade Center blowing up with Boots Riley and Pam the Funkstress holding a guitar tuner at the bottom plaza (again, this photo originated long before September 11th). Party Music, released in November, was forced to change its front cover to a molotov cocktail, signifying action to struggle. Of course nowadays nobody is going to attempt to understand that the first Trade Center cover was a satire to the quarters of capitalism, unleashing the power of music to destroy its presence. No person now who buckles a flag on their car is ever going to appreciate The Coup and the shadow they stand for. But they've confidently convinced me, and have debated me further to learn the wild questions of today's establishment. Music in its expression hasn't relished as a teacher towards the people for years. For too long now, music has been served as laxative to the ears. The Coup's Party Music creates a revolution inside that leaves the asset up to us to decide.
The Coup have three other albums of which I've never heard because, for some reason, record stores never have any in stock: Kill My Landlord, Steal This Album, Genocide And Juice, and their latest, Party Music
--Carson Arnold (March 2002)
TIME FOR SOME READING
FARGO ROCK CITY, by Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman could be one of our best rock writers of today. Unlike most music critics, youth still charges Klosterman's writing, dawning on no limits, yet grasping young dedication and flawless excitement in a hood of hard raw talent.
Motley Crue to Klosterman is what a briefcase is to a brochure. Or better yet, what a seeing-eye-dog is to a blind person. Not that Klosterman can't breathe or exist without the band, but like he says (as do so many), discovering Motley Crue changed his whole life- and whose to say that's wrong? He didn't choose to write an entire book about John and Yoko, nor another biography of Miles Davis. No, he chose the fever of "glam metal" in his recent pages in Fargo Rock City. Hundreds of pages of glam...and it's good too. Glam metal (I don't know what you call it, but I'll just say that)- is something I really didn't like. AC/DC are fine, parts of Van Halen strike me in belief, and Alice Cooper is sort of interesting. But most of eighties metal has little offering to my ears (however, it does appeal more than the metal that bashes around today).
Fargo Rock City didn't make me actually like glam metal any more than I already did, and I didn't get the impression that Klosterman thought most of it was relatively important, or that it served a history of grit roots to the on-coming future (but maybe it does). And Klosterman doesn't ever shove values down your throat. In no way does Fargo Rock City appear elitist in its attractions. What the book did to me- and this is why I'm sure he wrote the book- is made me really think as if I was glam metal itself. I dissected its organs. Questioned why did this obnoxious movement occur? Why did it end? Why do I hate glam metal? Do I really hate glam metal? Because after all, no one ever even budges a wink to the noise of glam. Somehow, unbelievably, it's embodied as a forgotten, rather embarrassing, memory to the past and present listening youth. And who would ever think you'd get a die-hard listener crawling out of the boredom of the dysfunctional Mid-west eighties writing an entire book trying to dig and present the soul heart inside glam metal?
I guess the best line that signifies this review, and particularly all of music itself, is when Klosterman describes how heavy-metal is "an open party for everybody, anyone's invited". Very true. And from these words, I can't imagine why more and more of all the "cool music collectors" wouldn't throw glam metal on their wagon of record pride. Maybe it is junk. But it's certainly part of time. So really, I'd be the junk to dismiss it. But I suppose I can't babble about anything until I really listen to a Motley Crue album.
A FEW MUSIC MAGAZINES OF TODAY
Wire- A beautiful source for the underground font and the latest new noise.
Rolling Stone- This magazine is cotten-candy for even the pop-culture- I don't know why I still subscribe to it.
Mojo- Thick with music of any time, Mojo is clearly the best pages for the treasure archives. The only fall to its cover is that it's entirely way too expensive to purchase every month at a price of nine dollars- but at times, worth it.
Dirty Linen- An ultimate mag for the folk hills and beyond.
Spin- Absolutely way too many advertisements, with the cover story usually turning out to be not really a big story at all.
No Depression- This is the all-around perfect magazine for the listeners who want the price cheap and the music between the margins of contemporary folk and off-sides.
Circus- Circus has deteriorated itself into pop head-banger heaven, remembering Kurt Cobain on every single issue for the past eight years.
Goldmine- The pages in Goldmine are ideal for concert thrills and a marketing source for purchasing music- probably in the most useful fashion if one lived in the heart of the city.
The Source- Actually not a bad magazine for those of the hip-hop current who also share fair interest in the footwear of Allen Iverson.
SONGS IN THE KEY OF Z, by Irwin Chusid
I doubt Motley Crue and Twisted Sister are even mentioned once in these strangely fascinating pages of the unknown musician. But I can assure you, much can be discovered throughout this obscure exhibit. Some, such as Captain Beefheart and Syd Barrett, are familiar. Others we might not know, like Jandek with his decades worth of exhausting innocence (nevermind all the other artists whom I've been unable to locate anywhere). And some who we should recognize- Harry Partch, Joe Meeks, etc. This book gave me a certain familiarity with the hidden world of closeted music, and released comfort knowing that this act hibernates safe somewhere.
Songs In The Key Of Z is packed with music that can either be the lost charm to your ear, or the most beautiful trash you've ever heard in your life. You decide.
--Carson Arnold (March 2002)
After writing a series of Track individual remembrances, it would only serve the appropriate respect to recognize Mose Allison- the vagabond jazz pianist and vocalist of over seventy patient years and many sure notes in between.
There seems to float a thick syrup of philosophy and guide when Allison sings. "If you stay up in the city/ there's two things I hope/ that you don't take money from a woman/ and you don't start messing around with dope" , tells Allison ending "If Your Going To The City" with this wise presence that lurks throughout all of his songs. Allison approaches the question of most things without the acceptance of answers, but rather a solace inside his music and the listeners abroad. It's as if he's a jester of life, singing of concern, hoping for passion, but able to wrap a soul-remedy around us and to us. Of course not forgetting that Allison is a great pianist, it's his lyrics that jump-start a particular movement inside me. His words came out of a time before anybody knew what to do with words in songs- circling the conservative loneliness of the Frank Sinatra globe and driving the endurance of slick-rap-poetry before Beefheart and others arrived into the vast creations (definitely though, Bob Dylan and Allison should get together some time soon). All of this from yesterday to tomorrow, is treated with a fine simplification of delicacy piano and the usual cool line-up of drums and bass wits. When Allison finishes a verse and rolls into a solo, his piano moves like a shadow in the night, speaking the tongue of classical verve in such as Bartok, tampering with the release of Duke Ellington's skyline, and playing in the fashion of a bare guitar- almost as if Keith Richards, Doc Watson, Skip James, and Wes Montgomery all traveled to Middle Earth, took piano lessons, and came back home transformed as Mose Allison. Allison engages an equal bond with his listeners that doesn't ever once let you go- similar to the personal effect of Roy Orbison or any other musicians that play with care and importance.
Mose Allison is actually a white guy. His first recordings baffled ears in wonder that fingers like his could play notes like those, and a voice like that could sound like this and still be accepted by the jazz throttle, even though differing from the normal clique of black musicians. However, like fellow white pianist Bill Evans, Allison welded a talent far unreachable to criticize other. The unique aspect of Allison's ground is that his roots are the season of the Delta blues. Born in Mississippi in the late twenties, he swam the southern culture, breathing the trails of tradition and immersing himself to the natural nutrition of the blues. Taking culture accent and the ragtime feel to the mouth of the city along with the influences of Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong, and the sure classical fire of his piano, Allison sat determined, creating the Mose Allison we know today- honest, patient, and simplified.
Would I surprise you if I told you that he sounds exactly the same now as he did in 1957? Absolutely true. The evening breeze of Allison's piano never fails to raise heads in his latest release last year, The Mose Chronicles- Live in London, Volume 1 and 2 - both nearly a twenty-two song concert recorded at the Pizza Express in London. Accompanied by his signature canter of stand-up bass and the icy craft of jazz percussion, the concert plays no different than Allison's beautiful 1968 recordings in I've Been Doin' Some Thinkin'. His rhythmatic dry voice is yet purified, moving like a high body of water with help of an ever so sly and wild piano. Allison crosses the junction of, at times, an exhausting amount of too many things to discuss written. His high accent voice weaves like Skip James, Jesse Winchester, Arthur Gunter, and even Lou Reed with some hefty amount of melody. Mose Allison is a true survivor and hopefully his listeners will adopt his personal and musical nature into the light.
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: Like my previous Los Lobos paper, all of Mose Allison is fabulous. However, the "Allison sound" is heard in excellence in the three-piece suit in the early recordings of the late fifties and early sixties (as opposed to the various horn sections and electric keyboard heard in a few). I've Been Doin' Some Thinkin' is your ideal introduction (1968) to Allison's prime. Rhino's Allison Wonderland The Mose Allison Anthology plays some hard history, and of course the latest, The Mose Chronicles- Live in London, Volume 1 and 2.
--Carson Arnold (April 2002)
Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers
This is where Rhino's Great Speeches of the 20th Century dramatically left off- words spoken by other racial groups other than white man. Rhino cures its punctuation with a double-disc anthology of African-American art (mostly filled with poems)- Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers- is an ideal ceremony for your broadening interest in African-American heritage (I then recommend books after listening). Some of the material on the anthology is individually worth, or ties the ribbon around, the entire set. You get that sensual confidence by just glancing at the cover of Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers, which perspires a full and muddy history (hence the title and reference).
You could probably end up asking "why should I be interested in this compilation if I can simply read all the poems in various books?" A very good question. Something I asked myself the first time I wandered across it. The first thing that is obvious and yet very fluent to your understanding, is you can actually hear the poets read their work. An incredible fortune. Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Brooks, or Amiri Baraka (once known as Leroi Jones) are only a few of the artists that can be heard off seventy-five tracks of this poetic landscape. To cut through the corners of of hailing drab, I leave my avocation in high regards to Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers because of the extreme inspiration and, almost secret, history it reveals in its cast. The intentions of the anthology is for the listener to take deep concentration in evolving in its literature (a great resource while listening is to read the poems in assorted books- I recommend In Search Of Color Everywhere).
Of course this compilation is more or less a fine tribute, or reminder (I like that one better), to the Harlem Renaissance- the evolution of voice that was publicly heard from African-American artists during the 1920's. While still in highschool, Countee Cullen produced his poem "Magpie", which then sparkled new and further ideas of hope for African-American art to be finally recognized in all fair ideology. The first foot had been stuck in the door as fellow daring poets such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and W.E.B DuBois found a view to shed their work for a causing insight. A number of years sailed through, pushing the creativity and hopeful opportunity of poets, publications, theater, painters, and musicians- all known as the Harlem Renaissance (though, ironically, many of the artists were not even from the Harlem area). Unfortunately, during the dawn of the industrious thirties the stock market crashed, leaving the city profiteers desperate in no interest in African-American art or spirit- let alone any artwork. But coming soon, the impact of jazz music recovered the remains of poetry and speech- except this time it had found a rhythm.
One thing to be noted about Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers is that it's strictly intact with poetry. Political leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, or Eldridge Cleaver aren't found. Rap music does momentarily show itself off towards the end with Public Enemy, Gil Scott-Heron, and Carl Hancock Rux (Hancock scores one of the best tracks on the anthology with exuberant modern day focus). But where the anthology holds its thickest remains, is the poetry written during the Harlem Renaissance, and showing again through the sixties. Most importantly, the anthology rises into the opening of Langston Hughes "The Negro Speaks Of Rivers" (which is where the title Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers is pulled from. You'd also be surprised on how much Hughes resembles Jack Kerouac, especially with the jazz dialect done with Charles Mingus). After Hughes, W.E.B DuBois chills you to the inner bone when he dramatically and coldly raises the uncontrollable issue of lynching- back then, there was about one lynching every week- soon followed into Claude McKay's honest plead of lines with "If We Must Die". But when track ten rolls through with Countee Cullen's- and his evident Jamaican roots- epic cry with "Heritage" you know Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers is about as full with history, creativity, inspiration, and knowledge as any historical literature or feature film you would ever find. Within several minutes the anthology presents and prepares you for all artists and their words soon to current your mind.
My favorites? The whole thing. But I'll spare frustration to quote a few names in return. As I said, the beginning of the anthology moves the strongest. But as time travels on, you begin to notice the switch of styles- particularly, the formula of the poem and the general attitude served with the advancing time period. In Melvin B. Tolson's "Dark Symphony", he separates W.E.B DuBois's passionate outcry to more of the aggressive anger towards racism and the banished Civil Rights. After the Harlem Renaissance, poetry seemed to lean more technical losing some of the folk and roots. Though revolutionary poets of the sixties did produce their own re-newed roots and essential activism- their poems literally make your hair stand on end, and should be read. They're that good! Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers picks this up. Instead of the "voice", it's how the "voice" is spoken. But along the verses of technicality, the fluent "rap" (rap music) of words pushes to a precise expression. Margaret Walker's, "For My People", and Maya Angelou both deliver the questionable wonders of society, all along bringing the sincere treatment of womanhood to poetry. And if June Jordan hadn't received attention to be listed on this compilation...I don't know what it would have turned out to be. Any downfalls? Negative remarks? Perhaps Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers concentrated too firmly on the intellectual side of art. It might have been grateful to hear a few Black Panthers or unknown street singers caught on the footage- in other words, hearing the street, the page, and the voices all in one unison. But forget minor criticism for now. Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers is a rich ideal for all fashions of entertainment and research. I recommend actually listening to the anthology first, before going on to discover (or rediscover) the literature these poets and artists all, and hopefully forever will, hold so tightly.
--Carson Arnold (April 2002)
A DAY IN THE RECORD
I had some time with my family to scavenger some LP's out of Mystery Train Records in Amherst Massachusetts. I took a bit to pick out a few that are either rarely mentioned or not mentioned at all. Here's what I found:
Sandra Bell- Torn-jean New Zealand street frowner- Sandra Bell- is just the type of girl Kafka superhero- Joseph K.- would fall in love with. Without a further example, Bell's music is a sure note to remember nineties rock with. Her psych mirage of vocals taunts distortion in a eerie hover, reminding me of the insomnia beauty of a Nico character- posing in the flare like Patti Smith and Joan Jett. If you want grunge choruses in their ultimate massacre, Bell's will ring in a feverish finale. Sandra Bell kidnapped rock music without ransom, without a word, and with just the right attitude.
Queen- Yes, the Queen. I once hated Queen- remembering them only for the fourth-quarter basketball mocks, where thousands of wall-to-wall fans clapped in rhythm with "We Will Rock You" against a team who always was the team we were rooting for. You know, stadium garbage. But after listening to them unbelievably closely (and unbelievably loud), when my father came home with Queen's Greatest Hits, freshly baked from the bargain bins, we were soon shaking our heads in utter amazement to the collection of songs. Not only was this Greatest Hits defining absolute "rock", but it reminded me of how closely Queen resembles The Beatles, showed me how far production talent can be pushed to the thrill of insanity, and Queen also does that opera-rock thing which you just can't beat. Yes, the Queen.
Michael Galasso, Scenes- This one is one of my favorite finds of all time. I chose this record completely by the silence of its cover art- a spacious white room with a shadow and its violin beaming from a tainted wall, quietly hidden from the afternoon sunlight. Recorded in 1983, Galasso's Scenes would mate gorgeously in the fit of a Mike Leigh flick. Over-dubbed violins trance various colors into assorted and familiar realities that crafts a sound(s) to our existence. Think Philip Glass sunbathing.
Elliot Sharp- This guy is a regular in the spine of modern Avant-garde rock, but most of Elliot's work is just too complete not to be discussed. Throughout Elliot's songs, he conducts the perfect autopsy of ear-bending tablesaw instrumentation, using his diploma wisely from the obvious influence of John Zorn. Whether his guitar is fretless or not, Elliot will be sure to use all of them- sometimes at once.
Alex Bradford, Black Man's Lament- From now on, every time I walk into a church I want to hear either this guy or the Clara Ward Sisters singing at me. Alex Bradford is the working-class-hero's Al Green. In Bradford's husky pitch and through the meager instrumentation,Black Man's Lament rinses our mind clean with gospel-soul like that frozen moment before dawn.
Kid Creole and the Coconuts- I, Too, Have Seen The Woods- Like some of you, I read my father's Woodburners where he's recently shared our giddy excitement over Kid Creole- and I knew I just had to get a copy for myself. Since every record store in the world stocks this eighties-drop-out at a buck, between the two of us, we spent two dollars for a lifetime. Not bad. Buy why? Kid Creole could very well be reissued along side with Prince's Dirty Mind and spin the earth with never-ending tang. I, Too, Have Seen The Woods is the golden emerald city of soul-disco with plenty of lions, tigers, and bears as well. If you don't feel like you're endlessly screaming inside a disco ball after listening to Kid Creole, turn clockwise and try it again. The hits keep on rolling...
Jeremy Storch, From A Naked Window- The eternal cover of this record was just pleading to be taken home when halting at it. Listening to Jeremy Storch reminded me of a Thomas Tryon novel- freakish and silent, yet wandering exotic, full of infinity. Journeying through the forest of a lonely hearts folk composition, these 1970 cuts seem to secretly hide from the previous sixties and sadly stands as a culture begins to depart their colors and dreams. As the liner notes say inside the record: "the secret is simply to listen... not just to hear".
-- Carson Arnold (April 2002)
ARE YOU PASSIONATE? NEIL YOUNG WANTS TO KNOW
What in the world happened to Neil Young? He's a square with long hair. I've never had doubts to Young's off-the-wall politics- known to drape in the colors of conservative falsetto and at the same moment, find fit in the drug deranged "t-bone mash potato" days. Falling into the class of either a liberal or a conservative are two balances with individual character. However, the in-between "square with long hair" margin is where I'm afraid Neil Young is scaling, perhaps alone. Not quite near the new-day yuppified Loudon Wainwright and not quite near doghouse blue Bob Dylan. Young's latest release, Are You Passionate?, exposes itself like it airs: a bothered middle-age man with a record-contract- lazy, flat, cranky, but...almost there.
Young and fellow producer Booker T. Jones obviously thought way too hard about this album; cradling both the human and commercial reins of September 11th, smile to shmooze with the middle-age market, and still try to keep the long-hairs happy. Hey, we all know what Neil Young does best, and it's never been thinking, but something more savvy- heart, soul, and blood- heard on the lovely birch of Harvest Moon, the cultural wave of On The Beach, the buttery youth in Buffalo Springfield, and the creation of inaccessible grunge with Crazy Horse. Young is the absolute individual, a world within a note, a note within us, my family and I devoted to his work. Not that Are You Passionate? changes any of this- nothing could- but unfortunately the album defies every movement created on the epic working-class verses in "Crime In The City", and for that matter, much of anything else. Listening to Are You Passionate? back-to-back with After The Gold Rush oppresses a caged sadness upon the shadow of Young's sun and shade and the emptiness of time within an era and age.
Hearing a cell phone ring abruptly at the beginning of "Let's Roll"- Young's dedication to the events of September 11th- is as scary as seeing Patti Smith on Regis and Kelly the other morning. Let Bruce Springsteen do the middle-America anthem of tragedy, hope, car hoods, and war; yours as always been there, but tarnished in a subconscious fantasy, adaptable to anyone. Like I said before, the lyrics are unbelievably lazy (and I mean, real lazy), with the music moving more freely than Young's whine of nonexistence and confusion. This seesaw mechanism drags the record and myself into an exhausting whirl pool. When Young bores tired of the lonely love ache- swimming like a hangover from the hay loft feel of his previous Silver And Gold- he tools around with the idea of R&B, unleashed comically, plucking an annoying tremolo without any warm technique to translate an "identity". When that gets lost in the night, he drags in that old "Neil Young sound", grinding his A-string in a smokey throttle, which all plays fondly until Young's lazy lyric lungs arrive. And hey, when all else fails, just repeat the title track over and over again at the end of the song! Yes, I'm afraid there isn't much going on in Are You Passionate?, not even passion itself. For I can't begin to see passion within, especially when Young literally shows admiration for the character of General Custer in the songs, tells us missiles can keep us free, and perspires the album so heavily in the most pro-Republican hippie John Wayne uniform that it would only be right to be thrown from fans and captured by the goods of the Bush administration to coax and enjoy on their off-duty. Strip down the messy music and hand Young an acoustic guitar, and he's either playing on the bleachers at an air base at Fort Myers, or a Tuesday morning sing-a-long at your local daycare center- no difference. Young obviously no more believes that soldiers are made of tin, just as Mick Jagger should band-aid his lines that "every cop is a criminal" if he decides to play a gig honoring thousands of front row New York City cops and firefighters. Lazy lyrics, broken words, lost music- what's next, we should move quicker on cutting down the rain forest to benefit paper for such beautiful work?
The cover of Are You Passionate? has a tasty leafy rose draped next to a young lover's photo, both dipped in the chintzy background of army camouflage, asking all of us, "are you passionate?". This is either a hard surreal expression of anti-war, or a gung-ho portrait of strong nationality. It's all very confusing, and I'm just praying Young doesn't stop by for lunch at the White House along side the suit coat of Bono, train hat and all. Call it one of the many Neil Young phases, call it perhaps the end of Young as we once knew, or, simply call it one bad record out of a dozen classics.
--Carson Arnold (May 2002)
LET'S TALK ABOUT A FEW TRIBUTES
Victoria Williams' asylum version of "Since I've Laid My Burden Down" on Avolon Blues: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt is my idea of an excellent tribute. Hurt's sweet country-blues is coaxed with the cracked insanity of Williams' innocent crazed blues, creating an experience that musically bonds both artists and minds together. Williams' "indie-gospel" version treats a thick coat of cries and screeches with soggy sounds lurking somewhere- using the simplest of instruments that allows anyone to jump into the clap of Williams' timeless performance and into Hurt's legend. Unfortunately, collectively, the rest of the tribute blows a stale front, never surely convincing me of any inner blues, and deeply canceling-out the inspiration and soul that should weave between the artist and Mississippi John Hurt. Nevertheless, Victoria Williams plays the philosophy of a tribute organically.
And I believe that's the most important existence when tributing an artist- communication between the two. A true tribute must be heard to find, though. Think about it- the cover art, the arrangement, the artists performing, the producer, and so on, must be tightly rinsed so no false impressions are taken by an audience of little knowledge to the honored artist. So through all the stormy weather, what is the big deal about a tribute album? Would most rather listen to the real thing? Through my wandering uncertainty, I can only imagine that it's the mere magic that can perspire throughout.
For instance, the songwriter of a century-Townes Van Zandt- didn't pass away recently with any broken ballads, for the honest delicacy of a tribute album (and with all the sweat and tears) was planted beautifully last year. My parents scooped this one up the moment our eyes grazed its awning with Townes swaying freely, sleeves rolled up, and the title- Poet- already singing to you. We knew this would tread honesty before listening to the final opening. From Guy Clark, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, and a weep heartening closing from John T. Van Zandt (Townes' son), Poet made anybody immediately miss both the person and musician of Van Zandt.
I've never been a huge fan of solo Roky Erickson, but Where The Pyramid Meet The Eye is the complete fashion of what a tribute album is. With an outstanding earlobe cover and a fizzle arrangement from The Jesus & Mary Chain to REM renditioning Erickson's thunder rock, it's an all too deadly of an appreciation. And like cult-hero Erickson, comes Skip Spence. Spence's tribute relays his Oar recordings with Beck and followers pasting the spirit with updated versions and different lighting. Unfortunately, I thought they should have left the act alone. Leave the spirit and story of Spence's three-day twisted creation to the thought and community of everyone rather than ----- (however, without this tribute, Spence might not have adopted such a following as he has at the present youth).
Like Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams was another songwriter of a century- indeed perhaps one of the most influential next to Woody Guthrie. With excellent openings and closings on Williams' tribute, Timeless (Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, and a very refreshing Johnny Cash), the throat of the album gets a little drunk on noise and guitars through the middle with Beck and Tom Petty. With such a figure as Hank Williams, the tribute should have turned the memory and inspiration into a warmer experience, gathering dialogue and a loser outfit so you don't feel that there's twelve tracks but rather a comforting one- in other words, like a Hank Williams record. A mesmerizing taste about Timeless is the inside lyrics, the clay photography, and also the ghost friendly stance of Williams on the cover.
Perhaps more of a gift than an album, is the tribute to Cole Porter back in 1990. Red Hot And Blue is a colorful fiesta of exotic artistry, honoring and aknowledging Cole Porter and benefiting research of the AIDS virus, using the hearts of Aztec Camera, Kd Lang, Tom Waits, and the high canopy of Sinead O'Connor- who sings so terrific it's unfortunate that Porter wasn't there to shine on a duet. The lay-out is sharp and the the cause is clean. As are many of the Bob Dylan tributes such as May Your Song Always Be Sung Again - a history of various musicians using Dylan's work from Odetta and Patti Smith to the hoarse of Elvis and... Harry Belafonte.
Most of these mentioned tributes by far deserve entire pages. But through a few of my recent examples, it's evident that a good tribute must establish a firm heart and soul when honoring an artist. Whether in the warmth of artwork, memory, musicians, and the pattern of songs, an interior balance of communication has to exists between the artist and the listener. For the deceased (which are most of the tributes), a tribute can affect a world. In order for time to tamper with John Hurt's toolbox, it has to be done exactly. Usually, as we know, the surprise tributes are always the ripest in the batch, like John Zorn covering the work of Ennio Morricone or Wilco and Billy Bragg drifting through the dustbowl of Woody Guthrie in Mermaid Avenue . Nevertheless...
Avolon Blues: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt- Vanguard Records.....Poet: A Tribute To Townes Van Zandt- Penvenales/Freefalls...... Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson- Sire/Warner Records..... More Oar: A Tribute To The Skip Spence Album- Birdman....... Timeless (Hank Williams)- Lost Highway...... Red Hot And Blue (Cole Porter)- Chrysalis.....The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays The Music of Ennio Morricone- Nonesuch/Icon...... Mermaid Avenue: Billy Bragg & Wilco (Woody Guthrie)- Elektra..... May Your Song Always be Sung Again (Bob Dylan)- BMG
--Carson Arnold (May 2002)
MUSIC'S NATURAL SOUND
So what is music? Why are we so inclined to be entertained by formula, arrangement, complexity, scales, and the laxative of artificial sounds? Why are we so amused by the fragrance of top-production? What in the world is a guitar solo supposed to be? Or what are choruses meant to prove? Why must I write better than I speak? Is the interest of only cave-cult records an isolation from that of the popular norm? Or are both classes the same in their individual space? Or maybe my modern day mind is wrapped too self-conscious to the origins of music and the past of its time. Or am I?
Take any pop song from the years and what's identified? A canon of repetition, perfection for pleasure, the derivative circles of instruments, the either tipsy or hard-edged lyrics of a particular scenario(s), beginnings, verses, choruses, finishes- all shuffling to the fine shout of yesterday's standards. The classical avant-garde position in Bartok or the wips of free-jazz in Sun-Ra or later Coltrane, innocently new, courageously beyond, and effectively sweet- or- maybe ignorant, hiding from the responsibility of a demand, different to be different? And if it is stripping down the applause of commercial excess, then why are educated college kids getting a fond kick out of it? Beethoven's Ninth or Schubert's Unfinished? Hendrix igniting and smashing his guitar to bits at Montery Pop or Joni Mitchell cherishing the color of a chord? Should I play techno music on my new car speakers or hip-hop? Are you the same person that scolds someone when they disrespect you in public, and at the same time gets amused by Miles Davis when he would turn his back to the audience? Take part in a mosh-pit? Join the fun in crowd surfing? Cry during the performance of opera? Start jumping again when they hit the chorus? Or continue jumping when they stop? Many notes, or just a few? Am I tuning my guitar to drop-d-tuning, or am I tuning my guitar to the key of life? My question is, does any of this exist? In the light of nature, in the eye of reality, the communication of a crowd, the bustle of streets, or the evening sun, does the human soul outside of commercial society develop in any of the above questions? So what is music supposed to be?
If I listen to Fats Waller or a Chopin etude- piano rolling, moving, fast, gorgeous!, exact!, and perfect!- and I then glance to my right outside a window at a maple tree, standing before I was born, growing before my parents were born, perhaps planted earlier last century- blossoming like Vivaldi's spring, patient during the dark of a storm- what starts to make more sense? Therefore, do you prefer Ginger Baker's "Toad" or rain falling on dry leaves? Anthony Braxton's heaving bassoon or the ripping wind on a sunny beach? Ozzy Osbourne's voice on "Paranoid" or a wailing siren? This only concludes all of my questions to the essence of John Cage's writings and compositions.
Take Cage's theory that everything is a sound- music is made up of sounds- therefore, everything is musical- your heartbeat, the wind, the sound of traffic, etc. This first eliminates all insecurity directed towards music (and your own creations), and also answers everything I've asked so far: music, whether in the form of a drum or the crackle of branches, is organic, natural, full of individual personality, responsibility, and presented to us for a lifetime. Cage's theory also immediately bonds together all music in the fashion we accept them- Varese, to the Beach Boys, to Asian classical, to Delta blues, to the Spice Girls- all fruit of the earth, heard with the thirst of two ears. Remembering this, in a class society in which we live today, modern man has made a large effort in dividing music into its each and own separate classes- developing a separation of personality between humans, categorizing interest into cliches and groups- causing a tattoo of limited cerebrums. This narrow act leaves a Schubert buyer and a Black Flag listener little to discuss on a warm afternoon. Take Cage's theory of natural sound, and there should be no problem with a pop conglomerate buyer and a cult bounty-hunter talking away the rare hours. On the basis of his words, this proves to show that if one calls his or herself a John Cage believer and rudely dismisses disco into an underclass, they only present hypocrisy to their supposed beliefs- in other words, who are you? If all things are musical, and you believe that, then there should exist admiration with everything, interest, and acceptance. Realizing this, music would no longer be demanded in artificial formation, no longer stereotypical, no longer house sitting in the commercial current, and no longer elite, but rather here . There wouldn't be any anarchists, no strict jazz musicians, no coffee house folk crowds, no music schools to instruct standards and pass you on, etc. etc. If society keeps repeating a web of formula and class structure, and ignoring the very music lasting in front of our eyes and through our ears, the instrument and the voice is only guaranteed to dry cold quickly. And you know what? I betcha' that maple tree will still be next to my window.
-- Carson Arnold (May 2002)
D I S C O V E R I E S
Patty Waters- Patty Waters sings when birds dream. Sings for the moment of honest silence. The deep of low piano chords and Waters' heavy voice move an earth of patience and simplicity, and showers the cool of the esoteric with the heavens of sensual melancholy of lonely love. Vagabond of sixties free jazz, archival favorite under the ESP disk, Waters is sure to expand the corona of sound and feeling. I mean c'mon, with songs like "Moon, Don't Come Up Tonight"- how can you not resist? Waters sings the early hours of conscience and thought, and shows just how light the dark can get.
Georgia Sea Island Songs- One of the vast many earthly pieces of work from Alan Lomax's recording travels. On the coastal islands between Maryland and Florida (probably imprinting the oldest footprints of our soil), the cultural voice is hard, yet, like most music singing out the shores of water, beautifully unique, foreign with familiarity, hearing all of history within a voice. The real souls of the land.
Moby, 18- Yes! This is it! Gospel samples harmonized and dubbed with a synthetic arrangement of keyboards, large beats, and the overall succession of the perfect pop song. Sounds lame? I hope not, for Moby does it again. Like Madonna's Music or Rachid Taha, 18 is exact and mature, controlling the button toys of modern technology into a direct and individual presence, leaving the listener refreshed by its confidence and eternal escape. Both Moby's previous Play and present 18 are gorgeous classics of the Millennium generation. The Amile of popular music.
Paris Pilot- This superb collage of studio talent soaks a sixties underdog of psychedelia and pop. Southern bullfrog Don Nix on lead vocals, a zesty organ hovers tasty color, from start to finish, you'll be sure to find this great.
Peter Siegel- New England warmth is found in Peter Siegel's floorboard contra-dancing tales done in a grooming stomp with the Beverwyck String Band (Kristen Brunner Hislop on the fiddle and piano, Britany Orlebeke on lead fiddle, and Siegel attending his talent of a multi-instrumentalist with guitar, vocals, mandolin, bodhran, banjo, and a very Fred Astaire scale of feet). The Beverwyk String Band calmly orbits international tradition and folklore, chambers the town hall roust, and presents themselves as very sophisticated and determined musicians.
The primary focus in Peter Siegel's own work is heard in the punch-political satire in his pursuit of solo career on Move The Mob. Radical art and independence naturally invites mouthfuls of trouble, however, Move The Mob attracts a very vague controversy in Siegel's paragraphs of capitalism, globalization, societal evolution, corporations, and materialism vs. the decline of organics. The music that airs on Move The Mob is a ripe and talented act for the very "sound" it's seeking to propose. Unfortunately, Siegel's words seem to be abducted by this same production, unleashing a higher attraction towards the "sound" rather than Siegel's much needed lyrics, leaving me skeptical towards which direction he wants to strum- the cutesy cafe fudge or the voice of a lone acoustic. It's evident that Siegel swam from the school of Pete Seeger, grandfather of revolutionary optimism. But Siegel has the knack to sing deeper than most Pete Seeger river buddies. I hear the very faint killer observation that has bloomed the buds of satirical Billy Bragg, Utah Phillips, Ani Difranco, and of course Woody Guthrie. Expose the streets with the single radical rhapsody of words- you don't need to bother telling us that you're talented with instruments, for words from the heart are richer than that of talent. Isn't the loneliest tree in the forest the most beautiful?
RECORDINGS: For the best information check out Peter Siegel's website: http://www.petesiegel.com or contact him at email@example.com. Beverwyck String Band, Cat Out of the Bag (2001)- Peter Siegel, Move The Mob (2001).
The Yellow Payges, Volume 1- More sixties underdogs, this time a little more punky. With odd combinations, they scatter a very Claptonish-wah, ramble a few Led Zeppelin traces, show that they're more rockin' than The Who, and shower an excitement of powerhouse garage rhythm that mixes a chaos of Creedence/Box Tops derangement. Quite possibly nothing like it.
Jandek- I own Jandek's Ready For The House, his debut, not his best, and... I don't really care. The musty story of Jandek being the worst thing you've ever heard is entirely unproportional- in fact, a great many tracks wobble like a neighbor-friendly Syd Barrett, or even Marc Bolan without dance. I admire Jandek's solo approach, the quiet homemade room, his decades of devotion to music. However, I don't think I'd ever purchase Jandek if it wasn't for the immense myth built on the googlie-eye frame of cult fingers. The hype spin of Jandek has turned his before artistry into a closet for a certain and distinct crowd to crawl into, never to look further. Jandek, Beck's loser limbo in One Foot In The Grave, the millions of chaotic membranes in the out-rock category...ok, but, whatever happened to Judy Collins? I believe Jandek's work is delicate and sincere, innocent and warm. But to mantle it as a work of timely magnitude... I'm just unable to find it. Jack Logan... almost. Hey, perhaps Jandek and Brittany Spears are the same reasons why I've been finding Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and The Jefferson Airplane's Crown Of Creation in the dollar bins.
-- Carson Arnold (June 2002)
GIVE YOUR EAR A BREAK
Before writing this, I attempted a paper discussing the itchy matter of experimental music in contrast to the rest of the world. I drew out a conclusion that modern-day experimental music (or the avant-garde) that has the tendency to run on the chaotic consistency of destructive noise, fleeing from the responsibility of structure and standards, is hypocrisy to its opposition. This idea came about from realizing that the sometimes musical burden of standards and the overwhelming dilemma of structure plays all through the evolution of the natural world (rivers need rain, birds fly south for the winter, all hearts share a beat, sometimes at a different rhythm- these cycling as organic standards and structure to our human life). On the basis of this theory, the avant-garde musician that runs from the shipment of structure and the hood of principles, annihilating their way into an illusion of free-hassle and a supposed stripped and realistic sound, and lastly, dedicating themselves far from the beat of the artificial, may as well be artificial and synthetic, for they trace within no human emotion nor tribute any realistic essence to the structure and standards we as humans organically are sought to live.
However, after re-reading the essay a day later, I found this theory a bit immature, silly, and rather unnecessary. But don't get me wrong, I still hold a firm belief in that statement, for the avant-garde field doesn't get criticized, if ever, enough. I came to realize that I, and many, think within the forest of sound with too much of our eye rather than our ear. Perhaps if I closed my eyes while listening (and not only to music), the boundaries of definition would drift into a broader spectrum of philosophy, clarity, and principle- adapting a non-relationship with the fix of insecurity, and bonding collectively the artificial, the realism, and naturalistic- a unity of life in art, art in life.
Ever get the feeling we are just being told what to like all the time? Whose to attribute this right or wrong? Perhaps this is why there is experimental music, testing the reach of our imagination or unimagination. Music seems to suffer from a almost class war, filling a certain amount of friction into the vacancy of modern life. Music, as both a commodity and a emotion, depends on society's existence of structural evolution and standard rule at present point, establishing the elements of current, good, bad, and old into this arrangement. This is served by the words of the critics, eaten by the feast of the crowd, and only again to return to the hands of the categorized musician, who plays the role as jester to the entire cycling act of societal vibrations. Critics have the reputation to be extremely judgmental and elite, criticizing art on the basis of their level of understanding and social economics. So in a very surreal and ironic way, you're never too sure whose the creator in art- maybe everybody.
I've come to think what possibly is more avant-garde than that of what some may call, "normal" music? The early forms of blues, jazz, and rock were refugee's from the detainment of time, sought a warmth from the post and pre of wars, and gave sound an emotion and identity that all classes of culture could appreciate while under the whip of coformity. What's more experimental than a mass movement? Unfortunately, business packaged these feelings into a market of profit, abducting original imagination and sound into a commodity for a controlling industry of supply and demand, advertisement, and wealth. In the Millennium, the eye and the ear are no longer free to think. For the corporate modern role of both music and the cinema are commercialized into an entire industry that has shaped a racket guideline of technology, advertisement, fashion, rule of standard, and rule of attitude- all of which tamper with the elements of experience. The avant-garde is supposed to expose the moment of doubt and reason, but I've always hesitated at its nihilism (unwhich, without its opposition, its creations wouldn't exist quite freely) and the fact that it burns down a house so quickly, but never makes an attempt to at least build one, especially when so many are missing its flames.
Experimental music is a rough subject, and perhaps less complicated than my infinite theoretical point of view. I find its destruction of noise and chaos inspiring on some level; however, quite empty, especially in a present society and time of bleak and vacant relations. Simply, to level the stump so to speak, from time to time, give your ear a break.
--Carson Arnold (July 2002)
PART ONE- WHAT IS IT?
Sounds. It's all sounds. An entire entity of earth packed into a solid sphere by absolute evolutions after evolutions of individual species, creating their ivy of mind, allegiance, and nature, thus blooming a society of consistent "sound"- everybody, all at once, without knowing- the ideal composition.
And why should these sounds indeed be enveloped into classes of rhythm, tone, structure, or skill? Every sound ever murmured from either culture or environment are packaged into six strings of a guitar? Graded into a few piano notes? The ever flowing evolving "movement" is framed into a rhythm in which we call "time", slowed or sped for emotional purposes? Obviously, there is indeed a fine line between the definition of "sound" and that of "music", a difference between the mind and body. However, when a pitching frequency travels through our ear, we call this "sound" or "noise", but when headphones are suddenly replaced and a fleet of "organized" sound surpasses, mastered in its acceptance of principle and skill, we call this music.
I've come to a point where this rule of musical obedience is difficult to understand. Clearly, music has patterned itself into a cozy housing development- perhaps similar in math to the one you're in now- built with tradition, built with style. Built to shelter one from the "outside". Either from a hard rain, or an honest rain. Music stays indoors most of the time, except for an occasional tan, or grass cut. Music hangs paintings and portraits on its walls to symbolize its conscience, carpets its interior for an eloquent public and private positive opinion, fills the heart of its housing with deliberate demand of consumption, and chooses an outside occupation to fulfill the standard pulse it circulates to- investing into the investment to invest. Music safely raises its kin into a legitimate idealism on the basis of mass habitat, attributing them from right from wrong, the this' from the thats', sheltering them from questionable exposure. Music beats the drum of day steadily but never asks why, though aware of a rippling authority. It houses on a street built by the authority next to neighbors who plot the same to similar traits as you, give or take the different posture of stance. Together, the nation of music departs and arrives to various designations like choruses, mingles within the barrier of scales and verses, and judging on your acceptance or tolerance to the scale and rule of verse, you might even be invited to a neighborhood barbecue.... or a concert. Everything else lurking outside music's advancing wheel is sound. Truth. Without sound, no music. And no matter what, no matter if all the what's turned to where's, sound is forever.
That's where I am now.
Fortunately, it was never quite like this. Younger adolescence was spent gobbling up as much mid-nineties radio rock as I my lawn mowing money could expire. If it was loud, angry, and a fashionable demand, it was mine. I don't nearly regret this phase. I simply learned that I'd never get anywhere listening to what was comfortable. Rock n' roll died a long time ago, and the counter-culture which defines our modern day "rock" are only rebelling against one another and themselves, and in the long run destroying their identity and useful frustration, for limited anger in a market which profits from the very limited anger only self-perpetuates more water to the flood and numbs the lack-of-culture and sensibility in which most MTV participants need. Jazz and classical music are wound so tight into a partially elite chamber of institutes, conservatories, and the overall "blackboard rule" of one-track idealism, that the ones who haven't had the economics or ethics to see a deeper shape into society and heritage, will only continue to be stuck to the swing of market and fat. Until the classes of the world begin to recognize and understand one another, everything might be going nowhere fast.
And folks, music as a popular trend, as a demanded satisfaction, and as a profit... what, in the twenties it erupted, but didn't really explode hot until the fifties? So from Little Richard to the Ozzfest? Only a few decades! Think of all the critics selecting what is truth and what is false in this very short time, all the artists forgotten, all the money made and what it was made on. Our acceptance to a simple chord, and our acceptance to what we are hearing is the only way to hear what we are hearing. What a fuss! God, the Renaissance lasted two hundred years, followed by the Baroque period which lasted about another two hundred. Think we can compete? I dunno.... music technically is getting a little scary. Albums now max millions of dollars just by some kid who pushes various buttons on a laptop. People's emotions are now relieved when a source of sound is sampled for a brief second and repeated on a consistent loop (for those of you unaware, imagine a record on an endless skip), followed by waves of artificial machinery and studio gimmicks, and though rather interesting in the photographic sense of sound, you can't help but see the dollar signs leak through when an album like this is played. Dance to the computer...
I've rambled far longer than expected, and have shrugged the initial idea for this paper, which was to discuss the musical influences over the years before laying Track down at a pause. However, things must be said before dabbling at the references. I believe it is unethical to accept the limitations of an instrument as the only limitations available for use. As if everything else doesn't matter- only yesterday's morals, standards and skill. And in its medium, yes. But wait, what standard and skill? And whose? Perhaps there is no sing in a song, for we live without the Live.
--Carson Arnold (September 2002)
PART 2- WHO AM I?
You know, it's funny, was I really influenced by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Hendrix, etc.? The early years raised with my Mom and Dad, anything sixties, I was absolutely immune to without much thought. Frankly anybody born during and particularly after the sixties is only automatically influenced by the entire era, and most so, The Beatles. In the rubble of the crummiest television ad, you can still just catch that glimmering undertow of "I Wanna' Hold Your Hand" fading beneath the current of modern-man's decade. Their brief presence changed music overnight as well as the mass society and lifestyle, where one could feel what an entire movement could do, and go.
Add on the now lonely and desperate idea of the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, the Millennium generation of computers and toys, and, well, you've arrived here. One gets a feeling that all the music since the sixties has just been a reaction, for or against, the era of beautiful redemption. The problem is, there's no cause for music to stand anymore, except the always and ever-flowing system that has since long been the crying repression in literature, cinema, and music. Since music, and perhaps without direct intention, has been cleverly packaged under the throne of this same system, the shout within freedom or revolution, anarchy or destruction, becomes merely a figure shouting at its reflection. The cry for spirit is the only reality left for shedding tears.
Ah, but let's talk about music.
Those five precious years of blossoming reality before isolated into the damp school life was filled with music. I was immersed into my parents' everyday and all day lifestyle of devoted musical love. There were really just a few main friends or figures heard throughout our household that my young childhood was fixated upon. Singing along to Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" on a living room doorknob, my parents leaving me with a tape deck of Neil Young as we journeyed to bookstores, and the absolute fascination of The Doors were my earliest fond memories. My dad used to set up pots and pans on the couch and taught me how to make rhythm while Van Morrison waited for me. From then on, I was attached to the drums. Everything that was played in our house came to me fresh and immediate, without thought, and beautiful, for without the inclination of an outside world.
The sixties stayed young in my vessels for well over a decade. My first exposure to modern music was the very memorable day when my father and I watched The Year Punk Broke Out, for the first time, feeling this incredible revolution of freedom escalated between my mind and body. Soon here after, my dad taped me a still survived copy of Sonic Youth's Dirty and Dinosaur Jr., their ribbon's tattered on any given bus ride to a second grade day. My best friend and I in those days used to daily exchange tapes for one another, mostly sixties music, Hendrix, Dylan, Cream, and tons of early-to-mid nineties rock. In fourth grade, under the class time rule of "quiet time", instructed to read along to some juvenile-fiction cassette tape, my friend and I were secretly blasting "Are You Experienced?" over and over again (somehow our teacher never found out), or freely rapping lyric's from Nirvana's In Utero at any given moment. Our musical anarchy got so phenomenal and influential throughout the class, that the school separated us in sixth grade, which unfortunately, crumbled our tape correspondence and much of anything else.
Junior high on to the end of ninth grade was my rebellious phase toward anything that was particularly intellectual and different to my immature shade of judgment. Any music that was presented by my parents, if it wasn't popular, I had no intention of interest. I dressed the look, walked the talk, and consumed every piece of modern distorted garbage music available. I was literally brainwashed by an entire time of materialism. I didn't need to talk about the market, I was the market. Sure, I was cool, but I hadn't read a book in years, and had no further interest in really anything besides dreaming that rock music and a C+ average was going to take me somewhere (well...).
Late in eighth grade, my parents and I caught a solo show of Jesse Winchester at a downtown club. With one sweet chord and all of life's innocence, he shifted my entire frame of thought in one very long second, where the inspiration was so powerful and free I almost wanted to yell wild words of nonsense at the audience. From the previous night's high, the next day, I remember recording a dozen songs of overdubbed instruments using a couple of tape recorders (a method I would use for years), and I never stopped. Leaving high school a year later to learn at home with my parents, I remember one particular Autumn night when The Velvet Underground's Andy Warhol was spinning at high volume on the downstairs turntable. From the floorboards, I heard this incredible flood of sound pouring through, the violin on "European Son"- that moment changed everything completely. All influences I received from the last few years of modern-rock, I merely forgot. Suddenly, my mind was in a pace of patient solace to the world of creativity and intellect, reborn or baptized into a deep heritage of culture.
So I grew my hair out, my parents helped me put together Track, my father once again introduced me to John Cage, soaked in all possible colors of music (and later sounds), together, building up walls after walls of vinyl lp's throughout our house, and collapsing into the warm welcoming history of classical music. Almost everything listened to during the nineties carries little to no affect inside me, musically, except for the early part of the decade, all of it is entirely forgettable.
As a musician and a listener, I have found it rather difficult to obtain a comfortable focus in music, bewildered on how we accept a fleet of controlled or organized sound (music) surpassing through our ears, while watching a world of a uncontrolled environment perform in front of our eyes. Has it become that music is merely just a intoxication for our emotional repression? All else is noise, including us? We are all just noise, so we must all clap to a figure on stage who is superior? Music in a box? Music with gravity or without gravity? Music as just an object?
We must subtract principle from purpose. It is our only hope for a communal understanding. The earth is forced to orbit, by whom is unknown, but as we watch stars burn to their final beauty and material become the mind, all have a right to question why it is the way it is.
--Carson Arnold (September
PART 3- MY TEN MOST INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS:
It's difficult to gather your entire livelihood into ten simple names of presenting, you almost feel like you've left out everything that is currently inspiring you, and at its present, means a little more. However, I wouldn't have folded into this direction if weren't for the following:
Nirvana, In Utero- It seemed like everything in the early nineties was beautiful. Mostly all was important to me from the time I was eight to twelve years old, but I'll never forget the time when my father taped me a copy of In Utero while shoving off early to school. Needless to say, a wonderful day. I've come to be certain that In Utero is pretty much a landmark wave goodbye, the last rock album for a thirsty counter-culture, the explosive honesty exposed, leaving us with the ending phrase "all in all is all we are"- imagine being ten years old.
Roy Orbison- You know why David Lynch continues to use the dramatic theme of Roy Orbison in his films- there's a little of Roy in all of us. Orbison is one of the first figures in my life, my parents' always traveling back to the times when I'd sing "Pretty Woman" on a doorknob as a growing infant (sometimes I still do that). There's something majestic yet sci-fi about him, like he should have been Elvis, yet didn't have the sex appeal to clap an applause, though his voice still haunting a truthful chill to our modern time.
The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol- As I said before, the record spinning on my parents' turntable, the song, "European Son", me in my room listening to heavy-metal, suddenly, I hear the wild call of violin, me downstairs in a frozen disbelief, the banana on the cover, instantly, my life changes.
The Beatles- Duh. It's amazing how nobody puts The Beatles of all bands on their lists of favorites. It's almost as if it's everything but makes it on. Anybody living or any soul dying is consciously or sub-consciously influenced by The Beatles just in which the cycle of our culture turns. Anyhow, whether their unbelievable landing of rock n' roll or later translucent psychedelia, I never not find it irresistible. I continue to cry "Jesus" whenever "Help" opens up.
Ornette Coleman, The Shape Of Jazz To Come- A fistful of jazz heritage in thirty-eight minutes. Either a summation or a beginning. One of the first jazz albums I was exposed to by my parents, it has always been a huge influence on me, even during the days of strict rock nutrition, the record always acting as the undercurrent to most things inside. I must have been born to the idealism of the avant-garde (isn't everybody?), for the moment I heard "Lonely Woman" I realized I didn't need to go anywhere, I was already there.
Son House- So far, my all time favorite blues vagabond. I first had the soul of either Otis Redding or Nina Simone in his place, but quickly realized the utter astonishment I felt when first discovering and hearing Son House- the myth, the voice, the lyric- like Roy Orbison, there's a little of Son House in all of us.
Beethoven- I forget when and how I decided to rest heavy in the thick of classical music, but I remember borrowing my mom's cd set of Beethoven symphonies numerous times, listening to them always all at once. Although there were many like Stravinsky, Erik Satie, and the broad of avant-garde of Varese, it's Beethoven who never fails to capture my insides with depths of emotion that words nor intellect could ever begin to do.
The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream- I'd be a damn fool not to put this one down. With at times horrible vocals, and the sometimes immature way of expressing, I've to this day have never found The Smashing Pumpkins lazy- and in particularly rock music, that's something that must be respected and not ignored. There's just a new fragrance of creation in Siamese Dream that would instantly grab any wondering eleven year old in the nineties.
Bob Dylan- Both my parents have lived the open and simplistic philosophy of Dylan since the sixties, and as their son, I've never once had to question if I liked him, he's been in me since the start. As our culture advances and advances, and Dylan's words only reveal more and more of a raw truth and human exposure, sometimes it's almost like: who needs any more music when there's Bob Dylan?
John Cage- The last figure to breathe a vast influence through and out my mind. It's mostly his writing that has clearly transfixed and broadened my attitude towards music and sound, remembering the recent day when my dad once again introduced me to Silence, and it took no more than a few words of the first page to reveal that I understood. An ever so important mind in the psyche of music, hopefully going down as one of the great composers of our time.
-Track will depart its correspondence to all of you at an awaiting pause, sometime in the future, to be perhaps picked up once again. My plans are to edit all Track issues with new attachments into a book- my senior high school project as a homeschooler music vagabond. Thanks for reading!
--Carson Arnold (September 2002)
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