Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Posted by paadoty at 1:45 PM
Monday, May 20, 2013
Adrian Belew (w/ David Bowie): Pretty Pink Rose
Adrian Belew is an incredible, inventive guitarist, and deserves all of the critical and commercial success that he has achieved. The story of his career is amazing—where other talented musicians toil in obscurity their whole lives, once he got his big break, Belew has consistently been able to obtain work with some of the biggest and best. To be clear—I’m not saying he isn’t worthy, because he assuredly is—I’m a big fan and really respect his music. But still, it is pretty incredible.
In short, Belew was 27 and playing with cover bands in the Nashville area, when Frank Zappa heard him play, apparently tipped off by his chauffeur. This led to an audition for Zappa, and a spot in his touring band. Brian Eno saw one of the Zappa shows and recommended Belew to his buddy David Bowie, and when Zappa went on hiatus, Belew joined Bowie’s band.
After that, while visiting New York, he became friendly with the emerging Talking Heads, and even sat in with them occasionally. During this period, he met Robert Fripp. Eventually, he joined the Talking Heads for their Remain in Light album and tours and contributed to a number of Talking Heads side projects, including the Tom Tom Club. In fact, he was supposedly asked by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz to replace David Byrne as front man for the Talking Heads.
Belew was then asked by Fripp to join a new band that ultimately became the rejuvenated King Crimson, and played with that band while also putting out a number of solo albums that careened among pop, rock, world music, experimental arty music, and acoustic songs. Yours truly, while working at Atlantic Records during the summer of 1982, attempted to convince the dance music person to remix a song from Belew’s first solo record, Lone Rhino, to see if it could cross over into that market. The guy actually considered it briefly before realizing that it was a pretty bad idea. Nevertheless, Belew has had a few hit songs (although not dance hits), including “Pretty Pink Rose.”
In 1990, Bowie attempted to hire Belew to tour with him to support a career retrospective box set, Sound + Vision. To help convince Belew, who had some reluctance to put his solo career on hold, Bowie offered to provide some songs to Belew, and sing on his next album. He sent over some demos, including one for “Pretty Pink Rose” which Bowie had cut with, Bryan Adams’ (!) backing band. Belew hated it. But instead of throwing up his hands, he went into the studio and reworked the song. Bowie loved the new version, and they recorded it and it hit #2 on the Billboard “Modern Rock” chart.
The performances are exuberant. The lyrics seem to be about the Cold War and include a bunch of very inventive lines—even if they are somewhat cryptic—for example:
She's the poor man's gold, she's the anarchist crucible
Flyin' in the face of the despot cannibal
You rarely hear a pop song with the words “anarchist” or “cannibal,” much less “crucible.” And Belew’s guitar screams and squiggles wildly (and I mean that in the best possible sense). I suspect that had this been released by Bowie, it would be considered a classic, but instead, it is now just a hidden treasure.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Shankar returned to India in the mid-70's and recorded more classics as well as soundtracks. According to Alan James's liner notes for a much later album, Ananda used to say: "My dream is to break barriers, any kind of barrier - through music, love, affection and compassion. I have this dream of musicians from all over the world playing for an audience all over the world. When we are all here we are one, and when we go out I am sure we will all be one."
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Keith Richards, Willie Nelson: Dead Flowers
[purchase Sticky Fingers version link]
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Blues Traveler: Canadian Rose
Confession time; whilst this post is, nominally, about a flower, I think I would be hard stretched to claim any link with Mothers day, and I'm not even going to try. Hell, it isn't even Mothering Sunday, as we call it, on this side of the pond, that was weeks ago, March 10th. I guess the deadline for using up surplus print and card for Hallmark depends upon which side of the atlantic you reside. Anyway I'm an orphan these days. So flowers was always going to be thinking of a flower and seeing what the i-pod can produce. Lilies, poppies or roses were my starters, with the express aim, as ever, being to see if I could find something slightly off the beaten track. Somebody once told me lilies were associated with death, so I skipped them, and most modern music equates poppies with drugs, that seeming too outre, albeit tempting. God old roses it was, and there are soooooo many available, from George Jones' Good Year for 'em to the New one of the Damned. Too too obvious.
I don't understand why Blues Traveler weren't bigger or better known. Going since the mid to late 80s, arising out of New Jersey, astonishingly, given their usual filing alongside southern states Jam bands, they play on to this day, with most recent record coming out last year. The centre point was always going to be the striking central figure of John Popper, harmonica player par excellence, with an astonishingly nimble style that ought to have had him in the top 3 best known players along with Stevie Wonder, the fella from J. Geils and, um, Bob Dylan. Instead of one of them. Maybe the look was wrong, and having to have a gastric band was never going to be rock and roll. But it matters not a jot. He can play like the clappers, over lively chugalug riffing, good tunes all round.
This video looks as if it comes from a film, and for all I know, it does, but not, I feel, a film that looks as if it would hold much appeal for me. Standard doomed teens, enacted by twenty-somethings, opposite side of the tracks, coming good at the end. Yeuch. No doubt I have, at a stroke, offended, if nobody else, the mothers of the two lead protagonists. Which, neatly, takes me full circle. So, ladies both, if I have offended you, have you both a wonderful mothers day. From me.
Posted by Retropath at 11:20 AM
Monday, May 13, 2013
Okkervil River: Blue Tulip
When it comes to mothers, I am incredibly lucky. My mother is a wonderful woman—she was a great mother to me and my siblings, immediately considered my wife to be another daughter, and has been a great grandmother to my kids and my nieces and nephews. My wife is amazing—she is my best friend, and has been everything I could have hoped for as a mother for our kids. And my mother-in-law is also a remarkable woman who has welcomed me into her family unconditionally and is also a superb grandmother. So, Mother’s Day, earlier this week, was an opportunity for me to celebrate with these three paragons. It was also my birthday, so I got some attention, too.
My mother-in-law is of Dutch descent, and she and my wife both embrace their heritage. I suspect that is why the tulip is my wife’s favorite flower (also, they are beautiful). And no, I wasn’t smart enough to buy her tulips for Mother’s Day, but I did cook a really nice brunch for everyone. Instead, I decided to write about this song, despite the fact that my wife doesn’t know it, will probably not love it once she hears it, and it isn’t about tulips at all. Because it is, we are always told, the thought that counts.
Okkervil River is one of those bands who I like and respect, for their sound and songwriting, but who I admittedly haven’t spent an enormous amount of time thinking about. My guess is that if they existed when I was in college, I would be totally obsessed with them, but now I’m (just) 52, and don’t do that as much anymore. I do, however, own a good chunk of their music. The band was started by some high school friends from New Hampshire who got together after college in Austin. I was hoping, based on the name, that “Okkervil River,” was in Holland, because that really would have tied this up nicely, but it is actually in Russia. The band took its name from a short story by Tatyana Tolstoya, a Russian author who is a distant relative of both Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev (which I mention because I read both of those authors when I was in college, between shifts at the radio station where I obsessed over various bands that did exist at the time).
In 2007, Okkervil River released The Stage Names, an excellent album about pop culture, fame and death. Originally conceived as a double album, the band instead released a second album in 2008, The Stand Ins, containing the unused material, and continuing the theme. A couple of years ago, my colleague Darius posted a piece about these albums and the way that their cover art is related, here. This song clearly explores the issues of celebrity and fame, and does so with music that builds to an intense climax before ending in an electronic drone.
Having listened to it a few times in preparation for this piece, I have to say it is a very good song, by a very good band. I can pretty much guarantee that neither my mother nor mother-in-law will like the song, if they listen to it, and I can’t say that my wife will love it, although I suspect that, at least, she won’t hate it. And sometimes in a relationship, that is good enough. Remember, it is the thought that counts.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Flower Kings: The Flower King
Free download from the Internet Archive
(if the direct/mediafire link isnt working, try the "freedownload" link: it's the same file at the original host.)
Our current theme comes to you partly inspired by Mothers' Day and partly guided by input from JDavid (once again). Flowers for your mother, flower-related music from us. Besides ... it's Springtime for most of us.
I was searching the Internet Archive for something legal/free that could start us off on our new theme, doing a search for <flower> in the live music section, when I ran across this piece, the aptly named song "The Flower King" by the Flower Kings.
I will confess previous ignorance of the band, but a little Internet search brought up a plethora of data about the group: enough to make my ignorance appear to be a personal fault. Never heard of them? Neither had I. The official web site for the Swedish group Flower Kings notes that the band is a natural "like" for anyone who listened to Genesis, Yes, Zappa, ELP and others. That's me. Correctly categorizing their music as progrock, this live performance appears to be from a 2003 show in De Kade, the Netherlands. Much about the musical style calls to mind Genesis: the way the song builds to various crescendos, the harmonies... For a live performance, it's pretty good.
Begun in 1994, the group is still active today: see their website to purchase tickets for and see the calendar for their upcoming shows. Once again, many thanks both to the band and to the Internet Archive for making some of their media available for free.