Categories
Music Suggestions

Group Doueh – Treeg Salaam

Feeding My Addiction

Desert blues news from all over…

Western Sahara’s story is a sad but typical one for a post-colonial land with bigger, stronger neighbors. In the ’70s, a nearly century-long episode of Spanish occupation gave way to bruising jockeying for possession between Morocco (which currently holds sway), Mauritania, and the homegrown Polisario movement of nationalist liberation. Episodes of war have generated a civilian diaspora that’s spread from refugee camps in neighboring countries to Cuba, but life for the people who have stayed behind carries on like it does anywhere. Folks still like to marry and party, and if they do so in the coastal city of Dakhla, they’re likely to hire Group Doueh to bring the tunes.

The group is part of a family entertainment business run by Doueh, a Dakhla native whose birth name was Salmou Baamar. As a youth, he took a shine to the sounds of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, which he heard on cassettes imported from Spain. His first experiences as a professional musician playing at local parties coincided with Mauritania’s occupation of Dakhla, and you can hear both Western rock sounds and Mauritanian rhythms in his music, which he’s been performing throughout the region and marketing on cassette for over a quarter century. Doueh plays the tinidit (a.k.a. tidinit), a Moorish four-stringed lute, and electric guitar; according to a recent Wire article, he favors a Fender run through a few pedals. The rest of the group includes vocalists Bashiri Touballi and Halima Jakani (his wife) and keyboardist Jamaal Baamar (his son). Rhythm duties are shared between collective handclaps, Halima’s tbal (a hand drum), and the keyboard’s drum programs.

When they aren’t playing at local festivals and weddings, Doueh runs a cassette dubbing shop, and that’s where Sublime Frequencies’ Hisham Mayet located him after a search up and down Morocco to find the musician responsible for “Eid For Dakhla,” the raucous, backbeat-heavy ruckus that opens Doueh’s first LP Guitar Music From the Western Sahara. That record also kicked off Sublime Frequencies’ series of vinyl-first releases of contemporary guitar music heard around the Maghreb. Although Group Doueh’s music enjoys the same no-budget recording quality as the rest of the series, it differs significantly from the Touareg-rooted approaches of Group Inerane and Group Bombino. The music of the desert interior sounds like the blues, sometimes jacked up to rock distortion and intensity; Doueh’s has a more complex rhythmic underpinning, closer to the Master Musicians of Jajouka or flamenco, and adheres to traditional Mauritanian modes that spin the melodies down different paths than those of their deep Saharan brethren, more elaborate but less open-ended.

(click here to continue reading Dusted Reviews: Group Doueh – Treeg Salaam.)

Interview:

It’s hard to imagine what the four Muslim members of Group Doueh thought about their first gig outside Western Sahara, playing inside an Anglican church that served cold lager within the gay neighborhood of one of the most flamboyantly gay cities in Europe, Brighton, England. A couple of hours beforehand, Terminal Boredom got a few moments to sit down with the band in the church basement after sound check as the musicians ate takeout chicken and tabouli. Sublime Frequencies Co-founder Hisham Mayet translated from English to Arabic and back: vocalist Bashiri Touballi provided answers on the band’s behalf while guitarist Salmou “Doueh” Baamar stood squarely in front of and pointed a video camera directly at their English-language-only interviewer. Outside, a peculiar mix of middle-aged, upper-middle-class world music fans and scruffy weirdos on drugs lined up — an audience peculiar for most bands, sure, but not a Sublime Frequencies one.

 

(click here to continue reading Terminal Boredom – DOUEH.)

I’d usually link to Amazon’s copy of this album, but since they ended my affiliate program in a tax-dispute snit with the State of Illinois, I’ll let you discover the album on your own, from wherever.

Categories
Music

Hal Blaine the Wrecking Crew

The secret behind many hit songs of the 1960s and 1970s – Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew:

Hal Blaine put his hand on my shoulder. “This is going to break your heart, but much of the music you heard in the ’60s and early ’70s wasn’t recorded by the people you saw on the album covers,” he said. “It was done by me and the musicians you see on these walls.”

Talk about a “Wizard of Oz” moment. Last week I traveled to Mr. Blaine’s home here to talk about his prolific career as the Buddy Rich of rock and pop recordings. I also wanted to know more about his role as the ringleader of the Wrecking Crew—an ad hoc group of about 30 highly skilled Hollywood studio musicians who played the instruments on thousands of hit records released between 1961 and 1976.

Many baby boomers still remember the outrage that followed a magazine’s revelation in 1967 that the Monkees didn’t play on all of their recordings. It turns out that neither did the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, the Byrds, the Association, Jan & Dean and dozens of other rock groups of the era. That honor belongs to Mr. Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, whose members included Glen Campbell and Leon Russell.

If rock is about a beat, and a beat is about the drums, then the 82-year-old Mr. Blaine is arguably one of America’s greatest living rock musicians. Wednesday marks 50 years since he recorded his first No. 1 hit—Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Mr. Blaine went on to appear on 38 additional chart-toppers, including the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Mamas & the Papas’ “Monday, Monday,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You.”

Those represent just a fraction of his output. Mr. Blaine’s beats set hips twisting on upward of 5,000 songs—many of them also hits. He even was the drummer on the Grammys’ “Song of the Year” for six years in a row from 1966 to 1971. In this regard, Mr. Blaine has no living peer. On Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, Mr. Blaine’s nearest rival is the Beatles with a measly 20 No. 1 hits.

(click here to continue reading Hal Blaine, the Wrecking Crew | Who Else Made More Hit Songs? | Cultural Conversation with Marc Myers – WSJ.com.)

From WIkipedia a list of #1 hits that Hal Blaine played on:

#1 hits

plus a list of songs that he played on (damn, he was busy!)

Categories
Music politics

Artists and Payoffs

Romans Discussing Motor Scooters 1993

Justin Moyer tries to point the finger at artists who play for “undesirables”

Paul Robeson penned a tribute to Stalin. Bob Marley played for Robert Mugabe. And Paul Simon and Queen performed in apartheid-era South Africa. Chart-topping musicians don’t just win Grammys and score endorsement deals – they get paid mega-bucks to perform in unsavory places for unsavory people. Usually no one pays attention.

But not last week. When the big paydays that R&B stars got from the Gaddafi family became public, critics lashed out faster than Naomi Campbell denying taking blood diamonds.

(click here to continue reading Beyonce and Mariah Carey sang for the Gaddafis. Now they’re changing their tune..)

Well, except all of the examples Justin Moyers cites were big deals. I had heard of all of them, and so did you too in all probability. Not to mention that these incidents took place in the quaint era before internet gossip rags, and before the 24 hour cable news networks set the agenda.

Let’s peek at how big of a deal, via the magic of Google.

  1. Paul Robeson and Stalin yields: about 149,000 hits
  2. Bob Marley and Robert Mugabe: about 47,000 hits
  3. Paul Simon in apartheid-era South Africa: about 382,000 hits
  4. Queen Plays in South Africa: about 15,600,000 hits, some1 of which are about the performing artists who performed as Queen.

So, on to the bigger point: should we criticize the artists who took money from dictators, and bankers, and other undesirables? Or the Medicis, or Bill Gates? Even if the artists are already wealthy, like Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent? I don’t like the music of any of these pop stars who took Libyan blood-for-oil dollars, but that isn’t relevant. Unless the National Endowment of the Arts suddenly becomes a pet project of the G.O.P.2, artists should be able to get paid without sniping from the chattering classes.

Footnotes:
  1. most? []
  2. ha ha, I know, bad joke []
Categories
Music Suggestions

Natural Mystics: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer

On my reading list:

 

Over one dramatic decade, a trio of Trenchtown R&B crooners, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley, swapped their 1960s Brylcreem hairdos and two-tone suits for 1970s battle fatigues and dreadlocks to become the Wailers – one of the most influential groups in popular music. From youth to early adulthood, they had been inseparable; united in their ambition, through musical harmony and financial reward, to escape Jamaica’s Trench Town ghetto. On the cusp of success however, they’d been pulled apart by the elevation of Marley as first among equals and by the razor sharp instincts of Chris Blackwell, the shrewd and charming boss of Island Records. “I & I: The Natural Mystics” examines for the first time the story of the Wailers, arguing that these musicians offered a model for black men in the second half of the twentieth century: accommodate and succeed (Marley), fight and die (Tosh) or retreat and live (Wailer). It charts their complex relationship, their fluctuating fortunes, musical peak, and the politics and ideologies that provoked their split. Following their trail from Jamaica through Europe, America, Africa and back to the vibrant and volatile world of Trench Town, Colin Grant travels in search of the last surviving Wailer. He unravels the roots of their charisma, their adoption of the cult of Rastafari, their suspicion of race pimps and Obeah men (witch doctors), and illuminates why the Wailers were not just extraordinary musicians, but also natural mystics. “I & I” is a remarkable story of creativity, squandered talent and fierce ambitious rivalry – a mix of reportage and revelatory history by one of our best and brightest non-fiction writers.

And from the Guardian U.K.

Fans of the The King’s Speech could gain a different perspective on its pale-hued study of the British monarchy in the 1930s by reading this vivid biography of the Rastafarian reggae artists the Wailers. Colin Grant includes the story of Leonard Howell, imprisoned for two years for sedition in Jamaica in 1933. His crime? As a believer in the divinity of the recently crowned Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, “Ras Tafari”, he had been urging mass meetings to think of Ras Tafari rather than George V when they sang “God Save the King”. Black Jamaicans were already impressed by reports of white European royals such as the Duke of Gloucester kneeling at the feet of the diminutive black emperor. Were they at last, after centuries of oppression, seeing the beginning of “black man time”?

In fact, the society that produced Bunny Livingston (later “Bunny Wailer”), Bob Marley and Peter Tosh took three steps back for every four forwards in its restless search for an indigenous sense of self-worth. Rastafarians risked alienating other black Jamaicans who believed in more orthodox forms of improvement such as paid work, as well as the white settlers who lived in balmy luxury far from the filthy, overcrowded slums where the Wailers grew up. In Grant’s hands, life in Trench Town in the 1960s is energetic and theatrical, rich in comedy and tragic irony.

When Haile Selassie made an official visit to Jamaica in 1966, the airport was so thronged with would-be adherents that the emperor took one look and went back to his plane. The call went out for the charismatic local Rastafarian leader Mortimer Planno, the Wailers’ spiritual mentor, who climbed the plane’s steps and recited the second psalm to the multitudes. Then he stretched out his arms and said: “His Majesty want to come off the plane now.” The crowd miraculously parted, and Haile Selassie began his visit; but later the same day, Planno was turned away from the official reception at Government House.

(click here to continue reading I & I: The Natural Mystics, Marley, Tosh and Wailer by Colin Grant – review | Books | The Guardian.)

Categories
Music

Never Heard Of It Grammys

Kaulana O Hilo Hanakahi by The Kalima Brothers

I was amused that so many folks twittered complaining about their lack of knowledge about Arcade Fire that some wag created a tumblr blog devoted to the phenomenon. For the record, if you pay attention to a certain kind of music critic, you had heard of Arcade Fire. I mean, they’ve appeared on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report fer christsakes. But not everyone pays attention to these sorts of cultural signifiers.

Arcade Fire hasn’t sold enough units to be a household name apparently.

Nitsuh Abebe of the New York Magazine’s Vulture blog ruminates why, and what does it mean to be proud of one’s ignorance?

There are some obvious jokes to be made about people with Internet access using Twitter to complain about not knowing something, as opposed to using Google to look it up. But for the most part, this reaction — all these examples cherry-picked from teenage pop fans and bemused adults — is just plain normal. “Never heard of it”: This has been the natural and traditional response of all sorts of ordinary American humans to all sorts of phenomena. It’s not really about knowledge or information. It’s an argument, for the most part, and a faintly aggressive one — a way of insisting that what you pay attention to really does define the world. What you’ve heard of is real, and everything else is marginal. The center holds, and you are that center. You are normal and aware, and not just some tiny atomized entity that can only hope to know one tiny corner of the universe.

It used to be a little easier to get away with that. You could presume that you were an informed person and anything truly notable would have been brought to your attention at some point — and enough people would share your vantage point that you wouldn’t often be challenged on it. (The truer this was, the more attractive it was to pull the reverse move: that of the music aficionado who’s proud to have never even heard of the most popular artists in the country.) I feel like I can remember people acting baffled, twenty years ago, when some “weird” band called R.E.M. won a few Grammys — and this was an act that had multiple top ten singles, videos on MTV, and all the other monocultural perks that are no longer available to any but the most successful musicians. (They would have also had some underground haters looking at them as over-popular, middlebrow college-rock sellouts who’d stopped being good sometime in the mid-eighties; it always goes both ways.)

But that “never heard of it” chauvinism is harder to pull off these days, and it’s a real problem with talking about music. The funny part is that while the Internet tends to make people feel like they’re more aware of what’s happening in music, and what “everyone” else is talking about, it’s just as effective at doing the opposite — sustaining all different kinds of huge and vibrant music worlds, to the point where whichever one you’re aware of is surely just a single weird corner among many, many more. Look at any forum or comments box where random strangers find themselves talking about music, and you wind up peering into some kind of chauvinistic Tower of Babel: so many people fiercely sure that their vantage point is normal, despite being surrounded by so many staggeringly, radically different backgrounds, perspectives, and frames of reference.

(click here to continue reading Arcade Fire, and the ‘Never Heard of It’ Grammys — Vulture.)

For the record, Arcade Fire isn’t my favorite band, but I like them enough to own three of their records, including the one that won them a Grammy.

Categories
Music Sports

Black Eyed Peas Are Horrible

The Super Bowl’s half time show is always lame, but of all the spectacles I’ve seen1 the Black Eyed Peas was by far the worst. They weren’t even good lip syncers, much less musicians, or anything resembling entertainment. My focus group were laughing hysterically at the Black Eyed Peas antics, and not with them, at them. So bland, so mediocre.

And there was not even a chance at a wardrobe malfunction since Fergie seemed to be wearing some sort of breastplate to protect her nipples from destroying the nation.

Fergie Breast Plate Black Eyed Peas Super Bowl 45.jpg

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Black Eyed Peas began life a decade and a half ago as a socially conscious, dance-friendly underground hip-hop group and are now the ambassadors for hip-hop to the rest of the world. Their fundamental tenets remain — good cheer, movement, gauche taste — even as they churn out supersize, occasionless songs, at breakneck tempos, designed for maximum impact.

Theirs is music that works harder than the performers, which was a liability during the early part of the set, especially on “Boom Boom Pow,” one of the most limber pop songs in recent years, which the group delivered largely standing still, letting phalanxes of dancers around them do most of the work.

Those clusters of bodies were key. Unlike in previous years, in which fans were allowed on the field to suffocate the stage, this year, there were hundreds of dancers in illuminated unitards helping round out the Black Eyed Peas’ space show. They formed arrows to direct the eye to the stage, and during “Where Is the Love?” formed hearts, lit up red and scattered across the field.

After two songs, Slash was inserted into the setup for a jolt of arena rock, playing a crisp version of “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” dodging Fergie’s vocal and physical histrionics. That was for hip-hop novices, even though the Black Eyed Peas know how to service that audience on their own. They played “The Time (Dirty Bit),” which borrows from “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (the theme from “Dirty Dancing”), and “Pump It,” which samples Dick Dale’s “Misirlou,” popularized in “Pulp Fiction.”

These are the group’s dimmest songs, the ones on which they pander the most. Stiffness aside, “Boom Boom Pow” was better, as was the relentless “I Gotta Feeling,” which opened and closed the set. The show peaked when Usher joined in, performing his hit “OMG,” which will.i.am produced and is featured on. But Usher’s spectacular choreography, including a high leap over a kneeling will.i.am, landing in a split, only highlighted the headliners’ weaknesses.

(click here to continue reading Hip-Hop Comes to the Super Bowl – NYTimes.com.)

At least they didn’t get paid:

In 2010 the group grossed a whopping $81.6 million from touring alone…So it may come as a surprise to learn what The Black Eyed Peas are earning for their halftime show at Super Bowl XLV: Nothing.

That’s right. Fergie, will.i.am, and those other two guys whose names you can never remember (for the record, they’re called Taboo and apl.de.ap) will not be receiving a performance fee for their efforts in Dallas. So why the charity? Because the acts that play Super Bowl halftime shows traditionally don’t get paid. A better question: Why have dozens of other high-profile acts agreed to play the Super Bowl for free?

The simple answer is exposure. At first glance, that sounds preposterous. Turn on any pop radio station and you’ll be hard-pressed to go more than seven minutes without getting the echoey, bass-laden, auto-tuned strains of The Black Eyed Peas firmly implanted in your brain. A remarkable 1.3 million people paid to see the Peas in concert last year alone

(click here to continue reading Why The Black Eyed Peas Aren’t Getting Paid For Their Super Bowl Gig – Zack O’Malley Greenburg – The Beat Report – Forbes.)

Greg Kot writes of the BEP:

The Peas didn’t exactly perform so much as cheerlead, their “Boom Boom Pow” just a centimeter or two removed from “sis-boom-bah.” With lyrics like Madison Avenue slogans plastered over relentless beats, the quartet’s big, proudly superficial music advertised and celebrated itself. It’s not meant to be scrutinized, but blasted over big speakers at Cowboys Stadium or in saloons worldwide hosting Super Bowl parties.

Coming in short minute-long bursts, the Peas’ songs actually benefited from the nervous, jump-cut energy of the medley, exiting long before their repetitiveness and trivality could become apparent. Even the second-tier Peas, Taboo and apl.de.ap, inexplicably got some screen time.

and of the National Anthem, as warbled by Christina Aguilera…

The National Anthem, as pole-axed by Xtina: At least Christina Aguilera looked dignified in a black outfit, in contrast to the dressed-down pole-dancer look she favors in concert and video. But after that things went downhill quickly. She bungled some words, leaving out the line, “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming,” and instead repeating a line from earlier in the song. She stretched the approximately minute-long song to twice its length by making sure to punctuate just about every phrase with an inappropriate growl or melisma. On the first line, she transformed the word “night” into about seven syllables. On the final “brave,” she lingered on for more than 10 seconds before being drowned out, barely, by jet fighters zooming the stadium. As usual, Xtina managed to make even this most revered of songs sound like it was all about her.

(click here to continue reading Turn It Up: Super Bowl halftime review: Black Eyed Peas, plus pre-game music.)

eww.

Footnotes:
  1. I’ve watched most since 1982 or so, even in the hipster years when I didn’t own a television []
Categories
Music

Robert Plant – Ethnomusicologist

Long, if somewhat laudatory, interview with Robert Plant in Toronto by Ed Vulliamy1

 

Robert Plant’s music-making is like an hourglass. At the source of the process is a wider, more rapacious range of influences than those of any other singer, which converge through the bottleneck of Plant’s remarkable voice and muse, only to widen again into a delta of sound, incorporating and interweaving all of them. Plant once talked about “subliminal flutters passing Beefheart, Son House, Terry Reid and the call to prayer from the minaret of the Koutoubia in Marrakech, all waiting to contribute to the next sound”. “Every 16 bars, we visit another country,” Plant had told me while rehearsing in a barn in Wiltshire with his excellent band Strange Sensation in 2006, and he still does.

It starts with Delta blues, then follows them north with the migrations to southside Chicago, where Elmore James plugged the black man’s blues into the white man’s amplifier. Into that mix add “Jimmy Powell, Chris Farlowe, Steve Marriott and John Lennon” – the latter of whom haunts the Band of Joy’s track “Falling in Love Again”. The trails of Victorian explorer Richard Burton (whom Plant read as a boy) took him to north Africa and the discovery of those Indo-Arabic sound tapestries, and then there’s that often forgotten ingredient, on which Plant draws for his encore in Toronto: the lovely “I Bid You Goodnight”, an a cappella gospel song resurrected in the 1960s by the Incredible String Band. People often forget that Led Zeppelin were a folk band, too, drawing in no small part on the mystical history and song of the Welsh borderlands where Plant grew up and lives (at least nominally) — Celts, Saxons and Britons overlaying one another’s pagan and early mystical Christian roots. But, as Plant says, the String Band got the song from Joseph Spence and the Pindar family, who were Bahamanian.So a conversation with Plant in Toronto about the tributaries feeding the Band of Joy is a wild musicological crisscrossing of the Atlantic.We talk about young Plant in England, the son of civil engineer, with a passion for Wolverhampton Wanderers; but “with receptors wide open to everything”, too, transfixed by visits of Son House and the Delta bluesmen, “though it if it hadn’t been for people like Mike Bloomfield in America, Son House would never have been found driving a school bus, as he was”.

Particular concerts are recalled: Bukka White, Son House, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at Birmingham town hall between 1963 and 1966. “When I met Sonny Terry,” says Plant, “he was blind, and I had to help him guide the rubber stamp he used to autograph albums”. But American bands of the 60s were meanwhile “doing things with songs like ‘The Bells of Rhymney’, and music that had come to America from the UK and Europe catalogued and collected by Cecil Sharp to Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress”. This is the music that, essentially, became Americana, that rich, mercurial gathering of folk, country, gospel, bluegrass and r’n’b.

In his introduction to Led Zeppelin’s “Gallows Pole” in Toronto, Plant gives the headbangers in his audience a brief lesson in its trajectory as “an English folk song” which came across the ocean “with the Pilgrim Fathers to Virginia, and down into Louisiana, where it was taken and made into a black song. We heard this song by a guy called Lead Belly back in the 60s”. Following three Atlantic crossings, from Plymouth to the deep south via Virginia, back to the Black

(click here to continue reading Robert Plant: the showman must go on | Music | Music | The Observer.)

I am a bit of a fledgling ethnomusicologist myself, and perhaps this is why Robert Plant is still interesting to my ears in a way that others from his era are not. I like his current Band of Joy album, you should give it a spin…

Footnotes:
  1. who admits:

    it was my great honor to be writing liner notes for Plant’s collected solo albums.

    []

Categories
Music Suggestions

Singing the Perfectionist-Folkie Blues

I don’t know much about Alan Lomax, other than he was the son of John Lomax, another famous ethnomusicologist, and that he collected musical artifacts, and hung out with Bob Dylan. This biography sounds interesting…

Years later, when they had gotten to know each other, Mr. Szwed accompanied Mr. Lomax to the Village Gate to hear Professor Longhair. The set began with “Jambalaya.” Lomax vanished. And then, as Mr. Szwed writes in his keenly appreciative, enormously detailed new Lomax biography, “I felt something brush by my leg, and when I looked down there was Alan crawling on the floor toward the bandstand so as to stay out of people’s vision.” Lomax reached the edge of the stage, knelt worshipfully until the set was over and then pronounced Longhair the greatest folk musician in the Western world.

Alan Lomax had astounding energy and enthusiasm. He was both an exhaustive and exhausting force in American music for almost 70 years. When he died in 2002, he left behind at least the following, which Mr. Szwed has dauntlessly tackled as source material: 5,000 hours of sound recordings; 400,000 feet of film; 2,450 videotapes; 2,000 books and journals; numerous prints, documents and databases; and more than 120 linear feet of paperwork. It’s not hard to see why detractors called Lomax “The People’s Republic of Me.”

On the evidence of “Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World” his enemies and admirers were equally well armed. Lomax may not have courted controversy, but his work and methods made argument inevitable.

(click here to continue reading John Szwed’s Biography of Alan Lomax – Review – NYTimes.com.)

 

Categories
Film Music Suggestions

Netflixed: The Soul of a Man

Took me a moment to get used to Wim Wenders utilizing Chris Thomas King as a stand-in for Blind Willie Johnson, but eventually warmed to the idea of reenactment filmed in black and white stock. The film covers three of my favorite blues musicians: Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James and J.B. Lenoir, and there is some actual historically significant footage later in the movie which is worth renting just to watch this, especially if you are a J.B. Lenoir fan1.

This disc includes the film “Soul of a Man,” in which director Wim Wenders delves into his personal music collection and takes a look at the histories of some of his favorite artists — including Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir — as told through music (what else?). Footage of James, Lenoir, John Mayall and inspired covers by contemporary artists such as Eagle-Eye Cherry, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt and Lou Reed are featured.

 

(click Netflix Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues: A Musical Journey: Disc 2: The Soul of a Man.)

There is apparently a audio CD containing 20 songs from the movie

The DVD would have been better if the full performances were also available as an extra feature: with so many interpretations of these seminal blues songs by well-known artists, it is a shame that most clips only last a verse or less. I would have enjoyed watching the student film recording of J.B. Lenoir in their entirety as well.

Cassandra Wilson’s Vietnam Blues, Lucinda Williams’ Hard Times Killing Floor Blues, and Bonnie Raitt’s Devil Got My Woman were2 quite good, as was a trio consisting of Eagle-Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer performing a version of Down in Mississippi.

On the other hand, a few performances were cringe-worthy, including Beck’s version of I’m So Glad, and Lou Reed’s Look Down the Road. Beck released a pretty good album, One Foot in the Grave, recorded before he got famous that included a good cover of “He’s A Mighty Good Leader”, unfortunately Beck phoned in his performance on The Soul of  A Man, I couldn’t listen to even the portion excerpted.

From the Wim Wenders website:

In “The Soul of A Man,” director Wim Wenders looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage, the film tells the story of these lives in music through an extended fictional film sequence (recreations of ’20s and ’30s events – shot in silent-film, hand-crank style), rare archival footage, present-day documentary scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys, Chris Thomas King, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Cave, Los Lobos, Eagle Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lucinda Williams and T-Bone Burnett.

Says Wenders: “These songs meant the world to me. I felt there was more truth in them than in any book I had read about America, or in any movie I had ever seen. I’ve tried to describe, more like a poem than in a ‘documentary,’ what moved me so much in their songs and voices.”

The rasping voice of Blind Willie Johnson, who earned his living on street corners and sang the title song, was sent into space on the Voyager in 1977 as part of the CD recording The Sounds of Earth, which had been placed onboard for posterity and/or examination by extra-terrestrial beings.

With the voice of Laurence Fishburne – Morpheus in the Matrix films – narrating, the film recounts the lives and times of the three using both old recordings and archive footage as well as fictional scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Beck.

Because there was no archive footage in existence of either Blind Willie Johnson or Skip James, Wenders used actors to play their roles but shot the scenes with an old 1920s black-and-white camera that lends realism, later using digital technology to fit the music to the pictures.

“I had to use old techniques but new technology,” Wenders said at Cannes. “This would have been impossible in the past.”

In the film, Wenders recounts that he first heard the name JB Lenoir when John Mayall in the late 1960s sang The death of JB Lenoir, a song that impacted a generation at the time.

“I wanted to know who this person was,” Wenders said, who crossed oceans to find information on Lenoir.

Music has long been a mother of cinematic invention in Wenders’ career. The title of his debut 1971 Summer In The City was from a hit by Lovin’ Spoonful and The Million Dollar Hotel was inspired by Bono of U2.”

(click here to continue reading The Soul of a Man/ Wim Wenders – The Official Site.)

Footnotes:
  1. and you should be, if you aren’t []
  2. predictably []
Categories
Music

Reggae the sound that revolutionized Britain

Reminded me once again that Eric Clapton is an asshole:

The summer of 1976 brought another pivotal event, Eric Clapton’s drunken rant on stage at Birmingham, in which he acclaimed Enoch Powell as the politician who would “stop Britain from becoming a black colony… the black wogs and coons and fucking Jamaicans don’t belong here”. From a man which had topped the US charts with a cover of Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, this was shocking stuff and inspired the formation of Rock Against Racism (RAR).

British reggae swiftly acquired a new militancy and ubiquity. Steel Pulse sang “Ku Klux Klan” with the Klan’s white hoods on their heads. Linton Kwesi Johnson proclaimed it was “Dread Inna Inglan” and warned “get ready for war”. The growing roster of home-grown acts – Misty in Roots, Reggae Regular, Black Slate – found exposure on RAR stages and, after John Peel’s conversion from prog rock, on his Radio 1 show and its live sessions.

Aside from its social commentary, reggae became chic due to its sonic radicalism, with its dub, rap and special disco mixes picked up by rock and soul. “Reggae taught us about space, leaving gaps. It was such a relief after the strictness and minimalism of punk,” says Viv Albertine, guitarist with the Slits, whose 1979 album, Cut, was produced by Dennis Bovell.

In the post-punk era, the Clash, the Members and the Ruts were other rock bands incorporating reggae into their sound, along with the Police, who deftly integrated reggae on hits ‘Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon”. “We plundered reggae mercilessly,” acknowledges drummer Stewart Copeland on Reggae Britannia.

(click to continue reading Reggae: the sound that revolutionised Britain | Music | Music | The Observer.)

And always a good excuse to play music by Linton Kwesi Johnson, the political, poetical reggae master.

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji4hdnCEEUM

or:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fU2yFsW9NI

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4QCYQfov6I

 

Here’s a transcript of what Eric Clapton said, btw.

Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you?

Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man.

Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards.

This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

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Business Music

Wilco forms own label called dBpm Records

Six Planes Over Marina City

Good for them: artists should take control of their own destiny in the 21st century: major labels may have distribution power, and vertical integration clout, but so often the corporations don’t have the interest of the band, or its fans, as part of their mission. Can Wilco revise the Lounge Ax too?

Wilco took another step Wednesday toward becoming a self-contained music company when the Chicago band announced it was forming its own label, dBpm Records.1

The label will be based in Easthampton, Mass., and run by the band’s manager, Tony Margherita. Distribution will go through Anti- Records, an offshoot of Los Angeles punk powerhouse label Epitaph. In recent years Anti- has released albums by a wide range of acclaimed artists, including Tom Waits, Neko Case and Mavis Staples.

The sextet is working on its next studio album in its rehearsal space on Chicago’s North Side. No release date has been set. The band’s 2011 tour dates include an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and a reprise of its Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Mass., on June 24-26. 

(click to continue reading Turn It Up: Wilco forms own label, severs ties with majors.)

 

Footnotes:
  1. no website yet []
Categories
Music Suggestions

Wanda Jackson and Jack White

Sounds interesting. I liked Jack White’s collaboration with Loretta Lynn from a few years ago too

In the years since, [Wanda Jackson] has swung from rock to country to gospel, earning a cult following as the Queen of Rockabilly. Now, like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Mavis Staples before her, she is the latest veteran artist to work with a devoted younger producer, in the hopes of a third-act career shift.

On Tuesday, Third Man and Nonesuch Records will release “The Party Ain’t Over,” Ms. Jackson’s first studio album in eight years and the first produced by a paragon of contemporary rock: Jack White. The collaboration, with Mr. White playing guitar, is largely retro, a collection of covers recorded live with a 12-piece band. But everyone involved hopes it will introduce Ms. Jackson to a new audience, affording her a level of attention that’s closer to her more famous contemporaries like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, all of whom she performed with. “She’s influential to every modern female singer, whether they know about her or not,” Mr. White said. “She broke down those walls in the beginning, when it was the hardest to do.”

Since she was discovered at 15 in Oklahoma City, Ms. Jackson’s career has been etched by men: Hank Thompson, the country star who got her signed after hearing her on local radio; Elvis, who encouraged her to wield her singular voice — a graveled purr — in rock instead of country; Wendell Goodman, her husband of 50 years, her tour manager and constant companion; and now Mr. White. But through it all she has become a shimmying emblem of female independence in a male-dominated industry, testing boundaries with her forward style and lyrics about mean men and hard-headed women (and those are the love songs). As she allowed, winkingly, at the Knitting Factory show, “No wonder I have a bad-girl reputation.”

(click to continue reading Wanda Jackson, Rockabilly Queen, Prolongs Her Party – NYTimes.com.)

Jack White and Ms. Jackson seemed to have gotten along:

Initially Ms. Jackson and her husband hoped to make a Sinatra-and-friends-style duet record. “I think those kind of albums should be made illegal, they are such a bad idea,” Mr. White wrote in an e-mail. Instead he preferred to get Ms. Jackson in the studio at his home in Nashville, recording an album of her own.

She was reluctant at first. “I was nervous about it because I didn’t know what he was going to expect,” she said. And she worried that her rockabilly fans would rebel at more contemporary stuff. “Wendell kind of had to drag me into the studio kicking and screaming,” she added.

Mr. White, who first heard “Let’s Have a Party” as a teenager in a cover by the 5678s, an all-girl Japanese garage-rock group, put her at ease quickly, helped by the familiar songs he selected: the Andrews Sisters’ “Rum and Coca-Cola,” Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain” and the country staple “Dust on the Bible.” Ms. Jackson suggested an Elvis tune, “Like a Baby,” and they both loved “Teach Me Tonight,” recorded by the Cuban-born De Castro Sisters.

One song that Mr. White offered made his singer balk — Amy Winehouse’s “You Know That I’m No Good.” Some of the raunchy lyrics were too much for Ms. Jackson, a born-again Christian since 1971. So Mr. White rewrote them. “He sang in my headphones with me to teach me the melody,” Ms. Jackson said, “and then once I got it I said, ‘Oh yeah, this is a great song.’ ”

But he was a demanding producer. “I’m not really used to that,” she said.

In the studio Ms. Jackson likened his approach to a “velvet brick,” which he said was one of the best compliments he’s ever received. (“It’s got me wondering about coating my tombstone in red velvet flocking,” Mr. White said. “I’m looking into that.”)

They played with the song selection to achieve the right mix of inspiration and believability. “Making an album of rockabilly covers would’ve been too easy and boring,” he said. “The idea was this woman has an attitude in her that can work in calypso, funk and yodeling, just like it can in rockabilly. Wanda and I wanted to get someplace further out there and see what she could pull off at this stage in her career.”

Categories
Music Suggestions

Bob Dylan signs six-book deal

Wild mercury

Bob Dylan has signed a deal to write six more books for his publisher Simon & Schuster, including two works of autobiography to follow Chronicles: Volume One, the highly-praised memoir of his early years published in 2004.

The prospect of further Dylan memoirs will create great anticipation even though publication date remains tantalisingly unconfirmed. Fans have been agog since Simon & Schuster revealed in 2008 that Dylan had begun work on the next book.

Waterstone’s spokesperson Jon Howells said it was “hugely exciting for any Bob Dylan fan and for any aficionado of rock history” to hear that two more books of memoir were definitely on their way. “Chronicles set a new standard in what people expected from a rock’n’roll autobiography, and was a revelation,” he said. “No one expected him to be so open, and the writing was completely in his voice, and essential reading. Another volume is great, two more is fabulous news.”

(click to continue reading Bob Dylan signs six-book deal | Books | guardian.co.uk.)

 


“Chronicles: Volume One” (Bob Dylan)

Chronicles Volume One was surprisingly good

and of course, Bob is Bob:

Dylan’s publisher has suffered a hiccup in obtaining a follow-up. Hannah Corbett, a spokeswoman for S&S, said the initial arrangement with Dylan had been made on “shifting sands”, with the singer-songwriter “very hard to pin down” on how many books he wanted to write.

Categories
Music

Bukka White – Aberdeen Mississippi Blues

 

Amazing tune, really, from an amazing guitarist. Sounds simple, but yet it isn’t.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsMpHHSLSlc

I’ve studied this song for a long time, and cannot get this phenomenal right hand rhythm string-slapping pattern down. Probably why Bukka White is a guitar god, and I am not.

Bonus: Poor Boy Long Way From Home, lap style.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0jRX69mxcE

And since I looked it up, since it is Booker T. Washington White’s hometown:

Aberdeen is a city in Monroe County in the U.S. state of Mississippi. The population was 6,415 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Monroe County.Located on the banks of the Tombigbee River, Aberdeen was one of the busiest Mississippi ports of the nineteenth century. Cotton was heavily traded in town, and for a time Aberdeen was Mississippi’s second largest city. Today Aberdeen retains many historic structures from this period, with over 200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. In the spring of each year, Aberdeen hosts pilgrimages to its historic antebellum homes. The most prominent of these antebellum homes is The Magnolias, which was built in 1850.

(click to continue reading Aberdeen, Mississippi – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

One version of the lyrics goes something like this (but not the song above, some is the same, not all):

I was over in Aberdeen

On my way to New Orlean

I was over in Aberdeen

On my way to New Orlean

Them Aberdeen women told me

Will buy my gasoline

Hey, two little women

That I ain’t ever seen

They has two little women

That I ain’t never seen

These two little women

Just from New Orlean

Ooh, sittin’ down in Aberdeen

With New Orlean on my mind

I’m sittin’ down in Aberdeen

With New Orlean on my mind

Well, I believe them Aberdeen women

Gonna make me lose my mind, yeah

(Slide guitar & washboard)

Aber-deen is my home

But the mens don’t want me around

Aberdeen is my home But the men don’t want me around

They know I will take these women

An take them outta town

Listen, you Aberdeen women

You know I ain’t got no dime

Oh-oh listen you women

You know’d I ain’t got no dime

They been had the po’ boy

All up and down.

Categories
Music Suggestions

The Pope Finished Reading Keith Richards Life

The Pope reading Keith Richards autobioThe Pope finished reading Keith Richards autobio, Life.

I did too.

I’ve consistently done a horrible job memorializing the books I read and films I watch1 because I’m a damn lazy blogger. Before I started working for myself, which coincidentally was also before the omnipresent distraction of the internet and Netflix, I easily consumed five or ten books a week, every week, for years and years without fail. Those days are gone, but still, I do manage to read a few dozen books a year, too bad I haven’t been more diligent about recording which ones.

Films aren’t so hard – I don’t have a moral objection to posting the blurb about movie with a sentence or two of my own reaction, and in fact, expect to see more of those sorts of blog posts in 2011, but book posts are more difficult.

I assume part of the problem is that I always am juggling ten or fifteen books at any given moment: I keep a stash of books in most places I might snatch a moment or two of leisure time – office(s), bedroom, living room, camera bag, iPad, wherever. Unfortunately, this often translates into me *not* finishing books nearly as often as I finish.

Also, since I have fond memories of being a history student at UT, I catch myself wanting to delve a little too deeply into my reviews, instead of tossing out a few thoughts. I’ve had a blog since 20032, so know myself well enough to be cognizant that long posts are rarely completed. Nobody is issuing me a grade based on the profundity of my thoughts, I need to stop pretending .

Long winded intro aside, new year, new rules. Well, attempted new rules. Check back in a few months, and see.

—————-

Keith Richards and James Fox wrote Life, an enjoyable romp through the 1960’s, 1970’s, and beyond through the eyes of the most interesting member of the Rolling Stones. Richards frequently claims the reason he survived his decade of being a junky was because he was never greedy about trying to “get more high”, but a few pages later, Richards is so out of it, he’s nodding off while driving a carload of people. Internal contradictions, and unreliable narrator, in other words. Some of Life is a bit self-serving, especially when Richards boasts of his drug-induced stamina, and some is cringe-worthy such as when describing his relations with women met on tour, but fun nonetheless. By the mid-1980’s, Richards runs out of interesting things to say, and the last chapter is even worse – less recollection directly from Keef and more from various compatriots in his circle, or his son, Marlon.

Patience please

No matter, the Rolling Stones made three great, desert island records,3  another near great album,4 and a bunch of great songs on various other albums, or as singles, and Keith Richards would be a fun dude to be buddies with, if you could handle it. If they would have broken up as they released Tattoo You, I’d respect them a lot more, since nothing released since then5 has been much good. I cannot really criticize musicians for continuing to do what they love, we’ll just say I’m not interested in the current incarnation of the Stones.

Liz Phair:

He’s been a global avatar of wish fulfillment for over four decades and managed to eke more waking hours out of a 24-hour day than perhaps any other creature alive (thanks, Merck cocaine and amphetamines!). As Keith puts it: “For many years I slept, on average, twice a week. This means that I have been conscious for at least three lifetimes.”

You better believe it. This cat put the joie in joie de vivre. As the legendary guitarist for the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards has done more, been more and seen more than you or I will ever dream of, and reading his autobiography, “Life,” should awaken (if you have a pulse and an I.Q. north of 100) a little bit of the rock star in you.

“If you want to get to the top, you’ve got to start at the bottom,” he says, “same with anything.” Born in 1943 to parents who met as factory workers, Keith was raised in Dartford, an industrial suburb of London. Through the marshes behind the many “lunatic asylums” that seemed to populate Dartford in disproportionate numbers, Keith learned what it felt like to be helpless and afraid, serving as a daily punching bag for bullies on his way home from school. By the time he fought back and won, he’d discovered a fury in himself for which he would later become infamous. The plight of the underdog was his passionate crusade, and anyone or anything that represented injustice in his eyes was fair game. Kate Moss recounts a hilarious anecdote from 1998 in which Keith, sidestepping the festivities of his daughter Angela’s wedding at his manor house, Redlands, finds he’s short some spring onions he laid on a chopping block while fixing himself a light nosh of bangers and mash. When the thieving guest totters into the kitchen with the greens playfully tucked behind his ears, Keith grabs two sabers from the mantelpiece and goes chasing after the poor guy in a homicidal rage. I won’t even touch on the incident involving shepherd’s pie.

(click to continue reading Book Review – Life – By Keith Richards – NYTimes.com.)

Janet Maslin:

It is 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the New York office of Keith Richards’s manager, a place that might look ordinary if every wall and shelf were not crammed with some of the world’s most glorious rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. Mr. Richards has a 3 o’clock appointment. “Come on in, he’ll be here in a minute,” an assistant says — and here he comes in a minute, at 3:01. This from a man who once prided himself for operating on Keith Time, as in: the security staff ate the shepherd’s pie that Keith wanted in his dressing room? Then everyone in this packed stadium can bloody well wait. The Rolling Stones don’t play until another shepherd’s pie shows up.

Chalk up the promptness to the man’s new incarnation: he is now Keith Richards, distinguished author. True, he is far from the only rock star to turn memoirist, and far from the only Rolling Stone to write a book about himself — very much about himself. The raven-haired Ron Wood wrote “Ronnie,” in which he described Brian Jones as “me in a blond wig.” Bill Wyman, the band’s retired bass player and bean counter, wrote “Stone Alone,” in which not a 15-shilling demo disc went unmentioned. Now Mr. Richards has written the keeper: “Life,” a big, fierce, game-changing account of the Stones’ nearly half-century-long adventure.

“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” he says about the book. “I’d rather make 10 records.”

(click to continue reading As Keith Richards Remembers It, and He Says He Remembers It All – NYTimes.com.)

Michiko Kakutani:

For legions of Rolling Stones fans, Keith Richards is not only the heart and soul of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, he’s also the very avatar of rebellion: the desperado, the buccaneer, the poète maudit, the soul survivor and main offender, the torn and frayed outlaw, and the coolest dude on the planet, named both No. 1 on the rock stars most-likely-to-die list and the one life form (besides the cockroach) capable of surviving nuclear war.

Halfway through his electrifying new memoir, “Life,” Keith Richards writes about the consequences of fame: the nearly complete loss of privacy and the weirdness of being mythologized by fans as a sort of folk-hero renegade.

“I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me,” he says. “I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.”

(click to continue reading ‘Life,’ Keith Richards’s Memoir – NYTimes.com.)

You get the idea…

For me, the gossip about Mick Jagger’s “tiny todger”, and Brian Jones beating Anita Pallenberg and that Chuck Berry was kind of a dick, and so on, was less interesting than discussion about the music. Keith Richards figuring out open string tuning, for instance, or that multi-track recording is less interesting than pointing microphones at the wall and collecting what bounced off it.

Footnotes:
  1. unlike Geoff for instance []
  2. or maybe 2004 []
  3. Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky FIngers – by my estimation []
  4. Exile on Mainstreet – as much as I love this album, I listen to it less than the other three classics mentioned previously []
  5. that I’ve heard, anyway []