Archive for March, 2010

Apocrypha Now! Fan Fiction, Vol. 3 – Hey Look, Hendrix Is Back!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 by pulmyears

Recently, we told you about that new Elvis Presley / Rick Rubin joint.

Today, we continue through the New Releases stack with a new one from a great left-hand Strat-egist, Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix – Vertical Bridge (Anti) (available April 1st, until noon).

The long and painful road to Vertical Bridge – produced by Jeff Beck, with select string arrangements by Van Dyke Parks – has almost as many bends and distortions as a Jimi Hendrix solo. After a near-fatal overdose in his Kensington, London flat in 1970, the American-born guitar legend was in a coma for nearly five months, after which he emerged a staunch anti-drug crusader in 1972, even appearing, clean cut and sober, at a Seattle fundraiser for Richard M Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign. Watergate, however, left him disillusioned with Nixon, and politics in general, and when he finally did re-emerge in the music world, his attention had drifted from heavy rock, which he famously called “passé, man, strictly passé,” in a May 1973, Rolling Stone interview. Egged on by his friend and mentor Miles Davis, Hendrix made his first jazz rock fusion album, Other Voices (Distant Echoes), for Columbia.

The album was not well-received, however, and for the first time in his career, Hendrix was the follower – not the leader – of progressive recordings from John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and Davis’s own, funk-tinged On The Corner album (also featuring McLaughlin). Sensing that he’d strayed too far from his rock roots, he tried his hand at a more progressive rock sound and, in 1974, entered New York’s Secret Sound studios to begin a tumultuous session with Todd Rundgren, backed by the original six-piece lineup of Utopia.

A distracted Hendrix (left) stares into Chinese food container, as Rundgren (center) runs the tunes with Utopia's Ralph Schuckett (right) at Secret Sound Studios in mid-town Manhattan.

It  was clear, however, that Hendrix was using again, and despite Rundgren’s noble efforts to cover for him, writing or co-writing nine of the twelve songs, the album, Sun Voyager (Bearsville) was a disaster, mocked by Lester Bangs in Creem: “Impudent, snide and phazed to death” and only mildly praised by Cameron Crowe, who reserved his highest praise for the Rundgren in Rolling Stone: “Unfocused it is, but at least he’s on the road to Utopia, where Todd and company keep his wandering from straying too far off the melodic path.”

An ill-advised move to Los Angeles in 1978 saw him mainly composing commercial jingles and TV show themes, notably the Sanford & Son spinoff “Lamont” starring  Demond Wilson. Work as a session guitarist included scores for Three’s Company, M*A*S*H and various feature films.

Fed up,  he took what money he had saved and moved back to Washington state, retreating to a small cabin on his childhood refuge, Bainbridge Island,  across Puget Sound from Seattle, where he has remained to this day. In 2000, after a high profile set backed by Prince and his band, at the opening of Seattle’s Experience Music Project, he signed a one-off deal with Prince’s Paisley Park label, but the album I C U B4 Me was only released for a short time and then only in Japan and today remains a highly sought after bootleg.

Cut to 2007: Guitarist and producer Jeff Beck was preparing to do a week of shows at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club when he heard that Hendrix was in town to receive a Mojo Award. Beck tried to coax Hendrix, whom he’d long admired, into joining him onstage at the live recordings at Ronnie’s, but the humble pioneer demurred, owing to a combination of  shyness, rustiness and the professed fear that Beck would blow him off the stage. Hendrix politely vowed to meet up with Beck in a years time, after he’d had a chance to polish up his chops.

Jimi Hendrix, now age 67, poses with producer (and fan) Jeff Beck, Marble Arch Studios, Jan. 12, 2010

This past January, Hendrix made good on his promise and entered Marble Arch Studios, which is actually in Earl’s Court, to record Vertical Bridge, with Beck’s current crew of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Jason Rebello on keyboards and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass.

“There Is A River With Your Beautiful Name On It,” seems to take up where “Little Wing” left off, only this time Beck has provided Hendrix with a darker, synthetic ambiences and moody bass drones from Rebello, whose textures overall provide just the right amount of colour, and never seem to obfuscate the main point of the record, which is Hendrix’s return to form. Wilkenfeld and Colaiuta bring the funk, while Jimi brings the noise, on “Hey Mister Dream Killer,” the album’s only protest number: “Hey mister dream killer / I was wanderin’, wonderin’ / Are your bloody hands to no avail? / Now the master is the servant /And my dreams are not for sale.” An elegant southern gothic string section, arranged and conducted by Van Dyke Parks, lends a vaguely Dixieland backdrop to “Peace Plantation” on which Hendrix debuts on the banjo. A spirited duet with on “Freeway Jam” is a rare moment of indulgence for Jeff Beck, who is clearly having the time of his life paying tribute to Hendrix. All in all, Vertical Bridge is a triumph and a rare career resuscitation for one of the pioneers of the electric guitar aided and abetted by acolyte Beck, who just kept getting better and better himself. Hendrix is back, baby, and thankfully we won’t have to wait another ten years for more, as he will begin work on a new album with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner (to be produced by T-Bone Burnett) next month. Of his resurrection, perhaps Hendrix describes it best on the closing song, “Echoes From A Vertical Bridge”:
“Too many are the heartaches / Like the fishes in the sea / But like morning comes tomorrow / Will you stay and wait for me?”

Yes indeed, Jimi, some things are worth waiting for…however long they take.


Terry Kath: Passion Was His Amplifier

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 by pulmyears

Just noticed that Rhino is putting out the early albums by Chicago.

Prepare yourself for the reappraisal, as the early stuff features real players, really playing, and I think a lot more people may soon discover the late Terry Kath, the fiery singer guitarist whose guitar screamed like Santana or Hendrix but who sang like Joe Cocker doing a Stevie Winwood impression. A true original, he took his own life with a handgun, at age of 31, on January 31, 1978.

I’m out the door but I’ll send you to YouTube to check him out on these Chicago clips. Do check him out.

Apocryhpa Now!: Fan Fiction, Vol. 2. – Made Up Records

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 by pulmyears

A while back, I gave you my first foray into apocryphal and totally made up rock reporting otherwise known affectionately as “Fan Fiction,” with an excerpt from my “script” for my non-existent biopic, Hey, Who Moved My Fake Blood?: The Completely Untrue Story Of KISS.  In another post, I told you about the wonderful world of fiction based on the concept of wrapping up the late Roy Orbison in cling film.

Today I make my second stab into fan fiction with something I call “The Record Reviews That Never Were. Oh and before we go any further, this piece assumes a world where many of the great departed artists of rock and roll had never died.


Elvis PresleyThe Big Light (American Recordings)

By now, everyone is aware of the story of how 75-year old Elvis Presley, the long retired, and long recovering, rock ‘n’ roll legend, hooked up with producer Rick Rubin. Late last year, Presley’s Memphis AA  sponsor (he still attends regular meetings ever since his celebrated 1977 brush with death when a fast-thinking Memphis paramedic saved his life) was telling the King about a record called 12 Songs, by Neil Diamond. Upon returning home after the meeting, Presley had his 22-year old assistant Lania download the album from the iTunes store. As Presley says in the short liner note to The Big Light, his first recording in over 30 years, he found that “for the first time in a long time, I was tempted to go to the music room and pick up my battered old acoustic guitar. I knew how that old guitar felt, it may have been scratched and beat up, but it still had some beautiful music in it. I was feelin’ it again.”

Reluctant to make “a big, showbiz thing,” Presley sought out Rubin to just “make a nice clean recording of me singin’ some of my favorite tunes.” Rubin would play a pivotal role in his artistic rebirth.

Rubin (left) and Presley (right) photographed November 12, 2009, at Memphis Sound Studios.

After Lania provided him with a few other recordings made by Rubin, including the Johnny Cash American Recording series, Presley summoned Rubin to his modest home in the Memphis suburbs (Presley, of course, famously sold his palatial “Graceland” in the mid-nineties to pay off back taxes, his former home has now been converted into a museum of sorts). By mid-November, the pair were camped out in Memphis Sound Studios to lay down the tracks.

The ten songs on The Big Light (plus a free extra tune if you buy it from iTunes)  demonstrate that, while Presley has understandably lost some range and power over the years – being 75 and the lost years of drug abuse have taken their toll on the man –  he has not lost the passion, the fire and – are you listening Hugh Hefner – the raw sexuality that, even now, smolders in the tracks.

Rubin hand-picked the songs from a list provided by Elvis himself. In the notes, he Presley says that while some of the titles, such as  Cash’s version of “The Big Light”, written by another Elvis (Costello), regularly popped up on his iPod during workouts, others were more recent discoveries. The only “gimmick” to this simple, live sounding tracks appears to be the decision to employ big-name backing musicians, but given the stature of of the man and the quality of those sideman, all is forgiven as Rubin’s production presents Presley in a way he has rarely been heard before. The only question is, why didn’t he do this 30 years ago?

Presley’s gospel-tinged  take on John Lennon’s “Imagine” features an obviously thrilled Lennon on a stark acoustic guitar with Allen Toussaint and Garth Hudson on piano and organ respectively, leaving tons of space around the cracked, world-weary lead vocal. I defy you not to shed a tear. It’s not all church though, and a straight ahead reading of Jeff Tweedy’s “Monday” brings to mind his old buddy Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman,” while a rollicking “LearnTo Fly” features a simple backbeat by Jim Keltner, and the chiming Rickenbacker of the Heartbreaker’s Mike Campbell and Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl, himself.  Somehow, with all of Elvis’s well documented attempts at recovery over the years, this Dave Grohl song truly takes wing where the Foo’s original merely spoke of flight. One wonders if it was Rubin who suggested a song by the late Elliott Smith, but regardless of how he came to it, Presley brings an artists, and addicts, empathy to the depths of pain and misery in Smith’s “Baby Britain,” which features a lovely Chamberlin flute part by Jon Brion. We probably didn’t need another version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but having said that, Presley’s version takes down the dark road of John Cale’s and Cohen’s original, as opposed to the histrionically emotive Jeff Buckley version. The most off-the-wall choice here is the  Paddy McAloon (Prefab Sprout) tearjerker “When Love Breaks Down” which is as unexpected as closing with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” was predictable. It’s a reverential, sober occasion but not without a little self-deprecation and humor, as on the bonus track (available only on iTunes) the comedy number, “I Never Cared For Robert Goulet” written for him by Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (Flight of The Conchords) who also appear on the song. It probably didn’t belong on the album, but it’s nice to see that while he might not be the King of Comedy, he’s still the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

SoundCloud is Playing On My Blog: I Am An Embedded DJ

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 by pulmyears

Lately, posting YouTube clips has been a big part of what I put up here on the Pulmyears Music Blog. As you may have read in previous entries, however, I have been trying to find a better way of putting up Audio Only content and have been researching it. You may have read my piece on SoundCloud. Well, today I’m just testing the idea of embedding tracks from SoundCloud to my page. I quickly went in to their library and found a few tracks I’m familiar with already:

Like this Joanna Newsom song “Good Intentions Paving Company”, which I’ve been obsessing over lately.

And here’s the SoundCloud for Neon Indian’s “Deadbeat Summer”, a track which samples Todd Rundgren’s “Izzat Love:

Neon Indian's chief: Alan Palomo

And yesterday I told you about that new New Pornographers track, “Your Hands (Together)” from their forthcoming album Together.

Well here it is on SoundCloud:

The other night Jimmy Fallon had The Besnard Lakes on the show, and I liked them. So here’s a song called “Glass Printer” from their new album The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night.

By now I’m thinking this is fun, so I’m digging into their library like a DJ dipping into his milk crates.

LCD Soundsystem a/k/a James Murphy

How about that LCD Soundsystem from 5 years ago, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”? Hey they GOT it.

Here’s “World Sick” a recent track by Toronto’s Broken Social Scene from their upcoming Forgiveness Rock Record:

And the other day we mentioned Bahamas, the man not the tropical paradise, and here’s a song called “Hockey Teeth”from his album, Pink Strat.

Okay, SoundCloud works. Hope you had fun listening. One more, for old times sake, how about this sick remix from Frost Dj Sexx of The Beatles “Taxman” for all the party people in the house doing their taxes this weekend…

Swimformation: Wading Through The Stuff On My Desk

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 by pulmyears

People send me stuff. Short sound files. YouTube clips. They send ’em all day on Facebook, by email. You probably get ’em too. Some of this shit is good. Some of it is just coming out now, other stuff happened years ago and I just got it now. That’s how fragmentation and oversupply works. It is what it is and we swim in this stuff all day now. Swimformation?

So I make no claims to style making, I’m not a tip sheet, and Pitchfork shouldn’t troubled by what I have to say. But I figure, when I get something that seems, well, “cool” to me, I’ll pay it forward now and then with short mentions here on The Pulmyears Music Blog.

The New Pornographers.

The New Pornographers: their new album, Together, is released May 4th.

I’m a big fan of Carl Newman both as a solo act and with The New Pornographers, so I was happy to hear some new stuff from that band. If you’re on Facebook, join their Fan page (here) and you can gear two new singles from that album, “The Crash Years” and “Your Hands (Together).

The School.

According to their own bio, Welsh pop band The School are comprised of main singer and keyboard player Liz  Hunt, with first name only folks such as Rosie: acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Steph: violin, Josh: drums, Ryan: bass, Ceri: electric guitar and backing vocals and Filmryan: glockenspiel and percussion. There’s not much more information than that.  What we have is a twee-pop chamber ensemble that plays delightfully cute “throwback” pop, not unlike Belle & Sebastian or the band they get most compared to, Camera Obscura. Actually the band admit as much on their Myspace page, adding that they think they also sound like Saturday Looks Good To Me, Lucky Soul, The Beach Boys, Little My, The Beatles and “60’s girl groups.” Tim Sendra at AllMusic Blog says he also hears strains of Talulah Gosh and Dolly Mixture. True enough.

Their album, Loveless Unbeliever (Elefant Records) drops soon, and a couple of my friends linked me to this YouTube leaked video for “Is He Really Coming Home.”

The Casbah Club.

I guess I sorta knew about these guys, a UK band formed in 2005 around  Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother, I bet he hates that, ha ha), Mark Brzezicki (the amazing drummer from Big Country and The Cult) and good old Bruce Foxton (bass player for The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers). I guess I’d heard that Pete had them open for The Who in Europe four years ago, but I guess I was skeptical, the prevailing wisdom was that they were probably crap and just living in the shadow of the lineage an former glory. What a stupid assumption. It took until yesterday for me to finally hear their single “Any Way She Moves,” which is essentially a mash-up of The Jam’s “Start” bass line with drum fills from Big Country. Only it’s not samples. It’s the real guys, with Simon  T on top. And it’s danceable. The net effect reminds me of the time when Mick Jones sampled The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” in Big Audio Dynamite’s “Rush” (which, perhaps ironically, sampled The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.”)

Joanna Newsom & Fred Armisen.

Finally, Pitchfork reports that Fred Armisen did his hilarious Jens Hannemann “Complicated Drumming Technique” character as an opening act on the Joanna Newsom tour. Apparently, he’s also playing real percussion, later in Newsom’s set, as himself. The guy’s a real drummer so I wouldn’t be surprised, and he’s very indie friendly too, as this video for St.Vincent (link) demonstrates. Here’s Armisen doing “Good Intentions Paving Company” at Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA, on March 24th.

This is also a good time to remind you that you can still stream a live Joanna Newsom show over at NPR.

Stopping Time: Jim Marshall Has Left The Dark Room

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 by pulmyears

Yesterday, we learned of the passing, at age 74, of Jim Marshall, one of the pioneering veterans of jazz and rock photography, in his sleep on Tuesday while staying at a New York hotel.

Jim Marshall: February 3, 1936–March 24, 2010 (photo credit unknown)

He was in town to promote Match Prints, a book he had recently finished with his friend Timothy White (according to the New York Times, a gallery show opens this coming Friday at SoHo’s Staley-Wise Gallery).

I was always drawn to Marshall’s shots of the greats of the 60’s and 70’s, and the unforgettable work of Jim Marshall proves that, while anyone can hold a camera up to a musician, it takes an artist with a special vision in their eyes to make that photo sing. Living in the Bay Area as I do, I also appreciate that so many of his most well-known photographs were shot right where I live, work and play. I’ll personally never forget his indelible images from what turned out to be the final Beatles Concert in America, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.

© Jim Marshall 1966

© Jim Marshall 1966

Elsewhere, how about this Marshall shot of Keith Richards practically nodding off with a smoke in Sunset Studios in 1972:

© Jim Marshall 1972

A few years back, my wife (who works for Chronicle Books, full disclosure) brought home a copy of Proof, the 2004 book Marshall had done with Chronicle.

Proof contains many of Marshall’s most iconic shots, with captions and notes by esteemed Bay Area rock journalist Joel Selvin.

There’s the classic Bob Dylan “rolling tire” shot from 1963:

© Jim Marshall 1963

Of the Dylan shot, Selvin wrote that Marshall and Dylan, along with Dylan’s then girlfriend Suze Rotolo, and Dave Van Ronk and his wife Teri had been “walking down Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village, going to breakfast. Dylan spied a discarded tire and Marshall clicked off these frames with a morning haze filtering the light. The world-famous photograph could never have been created in a studio—another example of Marshall’s ability to stop time.”

Then there was the extremely popular and equally iconic single finger salute of Johnny Cash in 1969:

© Jim Marshall 1969

Selvin, again: “When Johnny Cash went to San Quentin Prison to record a live album, Marshall, who took the cover shot of Cash’s previous At Folsom Prison, went with him again. At Q, Marshall caught another one of his classic ‘finger’ shots during sound check by saying to Cash ‘Let’s do a shot for the warden.'”

Marshall was at the soundcheck when Jimi Hendrix prepared for his memorable 1967 appearance at The Monterey Pop Festival, shooting such a classic image that Marshall forever memorized its index number.

© Jim Marshall 1967

Selvin: “Marshall introduced himself to the guitarist and started taking pictures while standing alongside Hendrix on the stage, unwittingly documenting stage manager Al Kooper turning down Hendrix’s suggestion that he play organ on ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ ‘Roll No. 4078—The Arm, frame number thirty-two,’ said Marshall. ‘These are my children.'”

Outside of rock and roll, he shot quite a few jazz innovators like John Coltrane, or this boxing ring shot of  Miles Davis,  which made for a particularly arresting image.

© Jim Marshall 1971

Selvin: “Davis saw photos of ‘Trane that Marshall took and let Marshall into his world. Marshall made album-cover photos for the slippery jazz great, attended Hendrix’s funeral with him, and followed him around town during a Fillmore West run, where he caught this shot of Davis with his guard down, working out at Newman’s Gym.”

Chronicle also published many of Marshall’s jazz shots in a book called Jazz, in 2005.

Two of my favourite shots in that collection are those of John Coltrane, left, and Thelonious Monk, right.

Coltrane, 1960. Monk, 1963 © Jim Marshall

My Chronicle friends tell me that they were already planning the fall release of  Pocket Cash, a collection of Marshall’s shots of his good friend Johnny Cash, with a forward by John Carter Cash and additional text by Kris Kristofferson and Billy Bob Thornton.

According to reports, Marshall was no shrinking violet, and could be a handful if you got on his bad side, but  I imagine it takes a larger than life personality to get backstage and in the faces of some of the biggest personas in the world’s of rock and jazz.

Marshall in 1967 captured by © Henry Diltz one of few peers.

He had few true peers, but only a handful, such as Henry Diltz, Annie Leibowitz, Bob Gruen, or maybe Lynn Goldsmith or  Mick Rock and scant others, had the kind of intimacy and access that he brought to the performers.

Brooklyn Museum curator Gail Buckland, who mounted last October’s  show, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, said in Tuesday’s New York Times that Marshall, one of several photographers featured, “wasn’t really manufacturing an image, he was trying to see who that person was, and understanding that we care about these people with the way that they touch our lives with music.”

Jim Marshall’s own words sum it up perfectly, from the forward to his 1997 book for Little Brown, Not Fade Away: The Rock & Roll Photography of Jim Marshall.

“Too much bullshit is written about photographs and music. Let the music move you, whether to a frenzy or a peaceful place. Let it be what you want to hear—not what others say is popular. Let the photograph be one you remember—not for its technique but for its soul. Let it become a part of your life—a part of your past to help shape your future. But most of all, let the music and the photograph be something you love and will always enjoy.”

Finally, you will note that I have attempted to simultaneously assert Mr. Marshall’s copyright on all these images, and yet have not sought permission to include them here. I am hoping that it is understood that I am merely trying to show proof, in a journalistic way, of Jim Marshall’s amazing vision, and I am not receiving any payment resultant from the borrowing of these images. I’ll take ’em all down if the appropriate order comes to me.

Tales Of Mighty Zeus: Behold The New Toronto Gods Of Rock!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by pulmyears

A couple of weeks ago I told you that I had been intrigued by some online music I’d heard by Toronto band Zeus.

Zeus (L to R) Carlin Nicholson, Rob Drake, Neil Quin, Mike O'Brien.

Well last night, I went down to the Cafe Du Nord here in San Francisco to catch something they’re calling The Bonfire Ball, a kind of rolling thunder revue comprised of Zeus touring with fellow Toronto songwriters, and Arts & Crafts labelmates Jason Collett and Bahamas.

Sadly, last night’s San Francisco show was absent Bahamas (a/k/a guitarist and Feist accompanist, Afie Jurvanen) who we’re told had “a funeral to attend.” Apparently, he’ll be back in time for dates in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC (consult this link for tour dates). Bahamas’ album, Pink Strat comes highly recommended FYI. This audio only YouTube clip of “Already Yours” proves him to have a laid back sound reminiscent of a couple of other favourite Canadians, Ron Sexmith or Daniel Lanois. I’ll try to catch him live if he comes back through here.

The night was far from a loss though, as the rest of the tour team put on one of the most musical shows I’ve seen in a while. The loose jangly ghost Big Star was hovering in the room, Jacob Marley-like, regardless if any of the band members had intended it. Somehow, it just seemed like the Chilton mantle, or the torch (or whatever we’re calling it) has safely passed to the another generation of guitar-based sad young men. I really like Jason Collett’s stuff, (here’s a link to info about his new album  Rat-A-Tat-Tat), and have for a while, here’s a video he made for his song he played last night, “I’ll Bring The Sun”:

Things get really cooking when Collett is backed by Zeus, playing The Band to his Dylan if you will, the result is a kind of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco like meshing of rustic 70’s rock (Nilsson, The Band, with shades of Bob and even a dash of Robyn Hitchcock) that blows away most of the Brooklyn beard bands I’ve heard this year. These are all accomplish, but no show-offy, players who each know how to leave tons of space and lay out whenever they can, yet when it’s time to fill the gaps, I’d swear I was listening to vintage, Fragile era Yes. (Maybe it’s the fact that regardless of who has the bass on a song, Zeus always employ a mildly overdriven bass sound played with a pick!)

The set was structured so that, throughout two hour set, Collett would frequently relinquish the stage to Zeus, so they could showcase songs from their excellent new disc Say Us (Arts & Crafts) which came out last month. I heartily recommend it.

The band is comprised of  Mike O’Brien, Carlin Nicholson, Neil Quin who all sing and switch between guitars, bass and keyboards, with Rob Drake on drums (although even he jumped on the synth for one song last night). According to the Arts & Crafts website, the band recorded Say Us at their own Toronto studio and had it mixed by Robbie Lackritz, who worked on recordings by Feist.
Here’s a clip Zeus made for the song “Marching Through Your Head”

Zeus have a lot of what it takes to be my new favourite band, and certainly the Onion AV club had it partly right when they said that this music will appeal to fans of Sloan or The New Pornographers (AC Newman et al) but I also hear the handmade quality that made those early Nilsson records or Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” era recordings so cool.  There’s so much good stuff here, you should really check it out yourself. And did I forget to mention the cover tunes? Man, they did a stellar version of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” with Drake replicating the drum machine sound on real actual drums while maintaining Minogue’s dark danceable authority. But the most unexpected and brilliant moment was how they breathed rocking life into the later Genesis hit “That’s All”. I noticed a clip on the YouTube of them doing this at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto, forgive the audio quality, but this clip suggests one tenth of how much fun it was.

For more information about Zeus, Jason Collett and Bahamas go to the Arts & Crafts website.

How Now Soundcloud?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by pulmyears

I was doing some web-vestigation about musicians blogs and I noticed that Moby had a SoundCloud box embedded on the journal at site. Then I saw that Ted Leo used a lot of it on his site too. The name rang a bell as did their trademark waveform graph thingy, so I decided to check it out.

According to the SoundCloud website, their platform lets “you move music fast & easy” and “takes the daily hassle out of receiving, sending & distributing music for artists, record labels & other music professionals.”

I read somewhere that this could finally knock Myspace out, as far as being useful for bands making tracks available, something I’ve been curious about for a while.

Watch SoundCloud’s three-minute video introduction:

As you can see, it’s a pretty nice looking format (the Australian accent helps I think).

There’s a SoundCloud blog and  also the official SoundCloud tumblelog run by David Noel.

I guess all they do is listed on their site, so do go and read it all for yourself. I like their graphic simplicity, including the selection of what they call “Arty Widgets” to embed.

click on this for more info

And they offer Private File sharing options too, which is useful for…anyone really. So check it all out at their site. Do let me know what you think of all of this, as always, in the Comments section of My blog.

Afghan Star: Kabul Kids Beat Back The Blue Meanies

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2010 by pulmyears

This past weekend, I finally got a chance to see the documentary Afghan Star, on HBO.

If you haven’t heard about this remarkable film, the feature documentary debut by director Havana Marking, it follows the contestants in Afghanistan’s first American Idol-style TV contest. Post-Taliban Afghanistan is still learning about public displays of singing, and don’t even ask about public dancing, but already this program, seen on the local Tolo TV channel, has taken off big time.  As the film explains, the program is teaching the nation – a large percentage of whom watch the show and vote for the stars by texting on mobile phones – how to move people “from guns to music.”

Havana Marking, left.

Rejecting the repression of both the Mujahiddeen and the Taliban, the show and its singers represent a peaceful opposition to old ways. Still, old habits die hard and we see, in the film, the daily challenges to the shows producers and the life threatening dilemma it sometimes presents to the contestants, particularly the women.

Here’s the trailer for Afghan Star:

Whereas American Idol holds its finals in a lavish studio in Hollywood, the big show here is set in a modest hotel room in Kabul.  Eventually we focus on a few choice competitors, including a 25 year old Kandahar woman named Lima, who has to keep her music a secret lest her disapproving neighbours turn her in. We also follow a Hazara boy named Hammeed, who  has classical musical education, and who has a natural charisma and a politicians zeal for networking. 19 year old Rafi is the Nick Jonas of Mazar e Sharif where he is a local phenomenon. According to the film’s producers claim, Rafi has all the local girls  sneaking looks at him “from behind their burqas.”

It is the story of Setara, from Herat, which is the most troubling in the piece. She’s a 21 year old Bollywood-friendly wannabe pop chanteuse whose body motions -timid gyrations by Western standards – have generated in the Muslim world the kind of controversy that Madonna got over here for her lame “lesbian” kiss with Britney Spears on the MTV awards. It’s a riveting moment when, in the competition she unrepentantly continues dancing – dancing of all things – during the big finale show. The looks of the other contestant range from disapproval to disgust, Setara has to go into hiding with her crying family in Herat.

When I saw that the film was 93 minutes, I honestly thought that 20 minutes in,  I’d want to switch it off (we were watching it On Demand on HBO remember), but it gripped me all the way through, just as films like Spellbound or Wordplay had done for their respective subjects (spelling bees and New York Time Crosswords).

It may seem a little trite or hokey to say it, but it must be restated: the freedom to express ourselves with music, in whatever form, is not to be taken lightly. Oppressors know this, music is freedom itself and the act of cherishing, preserving and celebrating music can be a political act in the face of those who would silence us. It’s not for nothing that the villains in The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine were “blue meanies” who wanted to a world without music. The real blue meanies, be they Taliban or Christian Fundamentalists, won’t come for your guns first, it’ll be your music. Okay, maybe both.

Afghan Star reminds us that protecting music and freeing the arts is not some hypothetical struggle but a matter of life and death.

Saturday In The Blog: Songs For Saturday

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2010 by pulmyears

It’s Saturday. I don’t want to write a whole blog entry today, when I could be out in the partial sunshine or seeing The Runaways or something.
So here’s a “mixtape” of clips of Songs For A Saturday, a popular topic for all kinds of songwriters.

Let’s open with those Ska-riffic skanksters, The Specials, and the bleakly perky “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”:

Then there’s Tom Waits, seen here on Soundstage in 1975, doing “The Heart of Saturday Night”, I mean, after he’s done talking:

De La Soul had a great song a few years back called “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'” here’s a cool remix:

I always loved this Eels‘ song a few years back,  “Saturday Morning”:

I think Spike Lee directed this Fishbone clip for “Sunless Saturday”:

And even Nick Drake got in on the act, and with “Saturday Sun” (doesn’t this sound a lot like Howard Shore’s gospelly piano music they play over the “thank yous and goodnights” on Saturday Night Live? hmmm…)

Elton John also does “Saturday Sun” FYI, and on this 1968 demo it sounds even MORE like the SNL closing music:

Of course, speaking of Elton, we can’t forget “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” seen here in a live solo piano take from 1976:

Or The Bay City Rollers:

Earth Wind & Fire jammed out “Saturday Nite” in 1976:

According to Frank Sinatra, “Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week”:

And  while I always have a softspot for Chicago’s “Saturday In The Park” I’m gonna leave you with Jill Sobule’s “Cinnamon Park” which samples the main piano hook.

Get out there, before Sunday Morning hits…

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