Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Dream Lives On

I heard this track on WFMU the other day and was so bowled over I emailed the DJ, Todd-o-phonic Todd, who directed me to the source, the 1974 Hollies album Another Night (above). Just when you think you can't be surprised and delighted by another third-tier, off-track moldy-oldy, along comes the disco-era Graham Nash-less Hollies covering Bruce Springsteen. Prepare to be wowed, it's a major winner.

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) - The Hollies

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mind Games

1. The other night I was telling Dewey about a new band called Lake who had a new song I really loved, called "Madagascar." In the course of this same conversation, the so-called Monsters of Folk also came up, that supergroup featuring Jim James, Bright Eyes and M. Ward. Next thing you know, Dewey plays a song clip from the iTunes store and I couldn't believe what I was hearing: the Monsters of Folk had evidently taken a wildly artistic left turn into "Wasted on the Way"-era CSNY, complete with sleek disco-era production, pristine and feather-light six-part harmonies and Styx-like prog instrumentals. I thought, Brilliant move, fellas. Wow. Who's the genius in the group? Jim James?

Well, of course, it wasn't Monsters of Folk at all. It was Lake -- but NOT the new band called Lake, who are on K Records. Dewey had tripped upon a 30-year-old German prog-pop group called Lake, who some apparently consider "one of the great unknown bands of the 70s." As it happens, two days later I was flipping through some vinyl in Manhattan and happened upon their second album, which I bought immediately, if only to make Dewey laugh. It's entitled Lake 2 (1978). Without saying too much, let me ask that you simply listen to this from beginning to end. Yeah, I know, unbelievable. Paging Ween! But then imagine for a moment that it's a brand new Monsters of Folk single -- and then see how you feel about it. For a moment, if you can suspend disbelief, it almost reveals something corrupt about postmodern taste-making and the way the mind forgives when it forgets.

Scoobie Doobies - Lake

2. A long time ago -- in fact, my very first post in 2005 -- I surmised that my musical tastes might have been formed listening to AM radio in the back of my parents' VW microbus on family vacations in the late 70s and early 80s. But there was another sacred location: laying on a sheep skin rug in front of my dad's Kenwood in the living room at night while gazing at LP covers and listening through those massive 1970s headphones. Some of the first inklings of what adult love and lust must be came to me while staring at the pictures of Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt inside the gatefold of the Endless Love soundtrack. I was 10. When I hear it now, wow, it envelops me totally, revealing an unexpected pocket of warmth beneath the cold surfaces of present life, one so deep and pure that calling it nostalgia doesn't even begin to touch it. It seems to bend time like light through curved glass and suggests for a brief moment the impossibility of mortality. So close, yet so far away. This, my friends, is why I love pop music.

Dreamin' - Cliff Richard

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


For the first time ever I plunked down a large sum of money for a record. As a rule, I pay no more than $15, usually between $1 and $10. I'm what is known as a "bottom feeder" by the record store geniuses who sell vinyl LPs. What happened was I was walking down a hot August street thinking of other things when blammo, here's this record store. A RECORD STORE! A rare discovery in Manhattan, where rents have killed off most of them. So next thing I know I'm flipping through the stacks and listening to this clerk, a pink-Izod-wearing 50-something effete stereophile snob in Lenscrafters faux-architect glasses, groan to a customer about people who think they're getting a "bargain" off the Internet only to find the rare Blue Note album they ordered has a huge gash in it when it arrives. "Idiots!" he declared. "They get what they deserve! Yeah, I'm sure an album graded 'excellent' sounded super on a $99 record player in Texarkana."

OK, on-site perusing has its virtues, sure, but this is a guy who charges $65 for a Glenn Danzig album on vinyl. If I could sell my own collection for the prices he's charging I could retire right now. Thing is, so rare are these bonfires of 20th-century vanity in the digital age, these record stores, it takes very little time for you yourself to become warped into thinking this is a reasonable reality. The kids are really into vinyl nowadays, this guy argues to a customer, so the prices are going up, up, up, up, UP!

All of which is to say I bought Money Jungle, a 1962 United Artist import of Duke Ellington with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, for $60.


I don't know why. I was about to stick with a $10 copy of a lesser Jerry Butler album, but then I saw this sitting up there on the wall, beckoning. I'm sure Mr. Poncho bought this album 10 years ago for about $7, if that. And it's not like I wanted to impress the Pink Architect. I pretty much despised him from the minute I walked into the place. But I despised him for a very specific reason: out of a visceral fear that we shared some essential DNA. Or rather, a rare and alarming disease that leads to the belief that collecting vinyl LPs is a worthy way to pass the time -- a life's pursuit in which there are winners and losers, and not just a bunch of suckers all the way around.

A bright spot: the Ellington record is totally and utterly awesome! And Mr. Poncho says we might fund our kids' college degrees when the vinyl bubble comes and an early Bee Gees record is suddenly worth $50 (thanks for that, Mr. Poncho, but here's my projection for that scenario: the year 3033). In any case, the very least I can do is bring pleasure to my friends now. Herewith, the sound of three giants of jazz in a bare bones trio, egos a-blazing, bass, piano, drums, sparring, ribbing, jabbing, winking, rocking, tearing it up, then going placid and blue and profound, Mingus and Roach making room for master Ellington, Ellington trying to prove he's still got chops beyond the conductor's baton. Mingus levels entire modes of Western thought with his fiercely monosyllabic bass solos against Duke's basso-profundo left-hand jabs and Roach's shimmering minarets of cymbol-work. The name of the record feels right, too, timely, fatalistic and ultimately clear-eyed, an agreement on plight, a killer jam session the only route to existential detente. And maybe that's what I'm seeking from it: a vision of clarity and piercing recognition of what matters in the age of meltdown and reappraisal and thrift. Money is what ails us, but music is what matters, what cures, what calls. Right? I hope so. I just spent $60 for it. Anway, listen.


Money Jungle
Le Fleurs Africaines (African Flower)
Very Special
Warm Valley


Wig Wise

Recorded: New York City, Sept. 17, 1962