Sunday, January 25, 2009

Free and Clear

I just learned about Jimmie Spheeris, in a quest for dusty unexplored corners of Soft Rock wilderness (cursory web searches failed to even find a Wikipedia page – the true proof of obscurity). My brother gave me Tom Moon’s “One Thousand Recordings You Should Hear Before You Die” and Moon gushes nice about Spheeris. There’s a lot of muskrat love flowing through this music. Spheeris was something like the male Joni Mitchell, writing tender art-folk complete suspect clarinet glissandos tootling through the mix. It’s nature-love music. These others come to mind: Carole King, Bread, Gary Snyder, James, Walt Whitman, John Phillips, America, Charles Wright, Chicago, John Denver, even Nick Drake (sort of a sunny, gay, Cali incarnation). (I think I just heard a line that said “Isn’t it sublime to lay you’re your load… This planet is a’swellin’ like a salty summer melon.”!!) Further web exploration indicates he may have been a Scientologist, which I kind of dig, and which may explain everything. Spheeris died in 1984. Get this for a dangerous confluence: he toured opening for the Moody Blues AND the Jeff Beck Group. He recorded with Chick Corea AND Jackson Brown. Potent.

These are from 1971’s Isle of View.

“Seeds of Spring” – Jimmie Spheeris

“I Am the Mercury” – Jimmie Spheeris

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Negative Certainty

Initially when planning the post about honorifics and songs about “Ladies,” I’d intended, as an aside, to include Neil Young’s “Borrowed Tune” off of Tonight’s the Night. “I’m singing this borrowed tune I took from the Rolling Stones,” he sings. The tune he borrowed was the one from “Lady Jane.” I guess the irony had never occurred to me that Neil Young came out and acknowledged that he’d jacked a melody from Mick and Keith, and he got away with it. Others haven’t been so lucky – like the Verve, not that they didn’t have it coming. The Stones weren’t always so up-front about their appropriations, not that they needed to be. They swiped what they liked, and if they could get away without paying royalties, they would. They certainly weren’t going to say, “I’m singing this song I borrowed from Slim Harpo.” But they sure did know what to steal, what to borrow and what to artfully model their work after. And some people outdid Jagger/Richards at their game. Chris Farlowe, at least, seems to have launched his career by covering the Stones.

I’ve been having something of a snowy sort out here this weekend. Muffins in the oven. Bunch a CDs in the rotation platter. I dug out an old Mojo Stones compilation and was struck by how awesome Farlowe’s cover of “Think” was. Then, all chance-like, I stumbled on this great Shuggie Otis tune and was reminded that Otis had allegedly been invited to audition for the vacant seat as guitarist in the Stones after Mick Taylor left the group. Evidently Otis decided to pass.

Also percolating in the wintry mix was this record by Dolorean. I’m down with dolore. And they keep true to their name. The record is called You Can’t Win, a title that deserves awards for its simple truth. Dolorean are definite miserablists, but that’s part of the up-lift. There’s something comforting about the negative certitudes of songs like “You Can’t Win” and “You Don’t Want to Know.”

“Think” – Chris Farlowe

“Knowing (That You Want Him)”- Shuggie Otis

“You Can’t Win” – Dolorean

“You Don’t Want to Know”- Dolorean

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reflections, Ruminations, Regurgitations

Greetings, friends! (Sorry, I just couldn't resist). It's been a wild and wooly time, hasn't it, and I suppose it must be 2009. Yes, it sure is, quite so. I think I've joined the legions of Slow Bloggers (there was an article about it in the NYT recently--I'm forever seeking legitimacy)... So what did I learn, musically speaking, in the past year? Well, for starters, I got "turned on" to Terry Reid (by listening to the soundtrack to The Devil's Rejects, oddly enough), and boy, am I glad that he didn't become the lead singer for Led Zeppelin! (It was better for everyone involved, I'd say). This song is so damn beautiful it almost makes me cry. (I'm comfortable enough in my putative manhood to say that).
Brave Awakening--Terry Reid

I know, I know, I'm a little slow to see things sometimes, but I've finally come to realize the brilliance of ELO. This song is just about perfect, pop-wise. They out-Bee Gee the Bee Gees, if I may coin a phrase (sorry, Lefty!) But, you know.
Strange Magic--ELO

Oh, and by the way, had I mentioned how great AC/DC is? were? am? I'm talking about the Bon Scott years, of course. Fucking brilliant, my friends.
Problem Child--AC/DC

And my favorite song of 2008? This one, okay? It's, well, really good. Just go with it. (Nitpickers: The album was released in 2007, yes, but the single didn't come out until January of last year. So there).

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Many Fat Men Listened

I ended 2008 with a feat of holiday gluttony – all three meals on New Year’s Eve consisted of sausage. A chorizo and egg taco for breakfast, a spicy Italian sausage grinder for lunch, and kielbasa for dinner. It was unintended, but I can still take pride in it. The end of the year and the end of the holidays is a time to reflect on overdoing it, overeating, overdrinking. When it comes to eating, I like to think that I can sometimes pack it in – not like Jim Harrison or A.J. Liebling, but still, I can compete with most quahogs. The Times ran a piece yesterday about the alleged eating prowess of Diamond Jim Brady, and it contained this hopeful bit of information:

“The stomach … is simply the digestive system’s holding tank — ‘a receptacle equipped with the intelligence to meter out molecules to the intestine at a prescribed rate.’ While the intestine can’t handle an overload of molecules, the stomach, a highly elastic organ, can be gradually enlarged, via progressive overeating, to hold more and more food.”

So there’s something – stomach expansion – to look forward to for 2009. And here’s something more, a reminder from some mystic Canadians. The words are by Leonard Cohen and the music is by Buffy Sainte-Marie. It’s the first track off the record Illuminations, which has Buffy in full witchy-woman mode on the cover. The record also includes an “electronic score by Michael Czajkowski: realizes at the electronic studio of N.Y.U. School of the Arts. .. synthesized from the Buffy’s voice and guitar.” Let’s hope Buffy and Lenny were on to something, god is alive, magic is afoot.

“God is Alive, Magic is Afoot” – Buffy Sainte-Marie